Please note that all screen shots displayed in this blog are works in progress and in no way represent the appearance of the final game. Check out the main site here.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Marketing Outside the Box

So, as an indie developer new to the scene, the thought of marketing my game has proven to be a daunting one. There are many avenues for marketing available through third parties, but indies rarely have the money for that sort of thing.
Many excellent blog posts before have gone into the various ways in which an indie can get their product out there on the cheap, but I want to talk about going a little bit deeper, and tell how you can use gamer psychology to your advantage to do a lot of your marketing for you.

But before we go into that, the first thing that an indie developer really needs to do is to have their product displayed in as many places as possible. When starting work on Malevolence I started out with just a simple BlogSpot account and did all of my updates on there. Guess how many people cared? None. And why should they? How could they even FIND the blog unless they were told about it?

Take a search engine like Google. It has a "crawler" that goes around the web, finding pages, and finding all of the links on those pages. It analyzes where the links link to, and finds which pages have lots of links heading to them. If a page has hundreds of other pages linking to it, and lots of visitors, then it must be important, right? Well, to make your game more visible, you need to have lots of people visiting your page - a bit of a catch 22 - but you can help it by having a presence in many different places. Oh, and good news everyone... The Internet has many, many viable, justifiable places where you can put your game on show.

For Malevolence, the first big step after BlogSpot was to create a profile on IndieDB/ModDB (creating a profile on one creates one on other other, too). They get quite a lot of traffic on there, and it will actually rank your game against others (a library of about 6000 games) in terms of how much traffic you get. It also rewards your dedication to the public by putting you on the front page whenever you write up a new update post. Given the way it works, and the attention that it gets, it's very much worth taking the time to make your profile page attractive and thorough. That's where a bit of the psychology comes in. I have noticed that gamers who browse ModDB for new indie games are a little bit like channel surfers. They flick through profiles quickly - bam bam bam - until they find one that appeals to them very quickly, and then they'll stop and take a deeper look. So having lots of nice, bright screenshots, thorough videos and lots of clear, solid information about your game readily accessible for them will entice them to stay and take a proper look at your game.

Once you notice that you're getting more traffic, you can make a move towards putting links on your IndieDB/ModDB profile to other networks that you're operating on. Some examples of which include YouTube channels, Facebook Fan-pages, Twitter accounts, etc. Any and all are good. Just be sure to make the links subtle. Some nice clean icons, perhaps. Gamers, I have found, dislike feeling like they are being bombarded. Do some research, take some time, look at successful pages and the way they've done things. It pays off.

The social media avenue was the next step for me with Malevolence. It started with a YouTube channel where I would make a point to do screen-captures fairly regularly showing the progress of the game's development. Many people either don't enjoy or don't have the time to sit down and read lengthy blog posts (he says in a lengthy blog post) and a nice, quick video can get the whole point across much faster and with more of a sense of interaction. Even taking the time to narrate the video can easily double or triple the amount of information translated in the same time frame. Things to think about there.

After that came the Facebook and Twitter. I actually expected these to be the most active of the network avenues for promoting the game, but in the end they fell into roles of keeping CURRENT fans up to date, and didn't really do much to draw new fans. Though it seems obvious now, it took me a while to work out why this is. Most people on Facebook and Twitter these days use them on their smartphones, rather than their computer. While it IS possible to go browsing for new content via the smartphone interfaces, they are much more designed to just keep up with what their already follow. That's not to say that you can't still make use of these avenues though, as they offer quick and easy mini-update portals for you to address your current fan-base en-masse, and quickly spread links to any major blog updates you do elsewhere.

For the longest time, Steam was one of the holy grails of indie games "making it" and their new Greenlight process has taken that from some dark, incomprehensible process to something more tangible. As soon as it went live I create a profile for Malevolence on there thinking "wow, I might be in for a chance", and things went fairly well for a time, but then started petering off quick quickly. Valve kept altering and adjusting the vote process for getting games approved and it was quite drastically affecting my game's ability to get noticed on there. It's been quite frustrating until it got me thinking... How WOULD you make an unbiased system for gauging a game's popularity in the middle of a firmly established community of over 50 million users? The more I think about it, the more complex it becomes in my head. Sure, I have lots of problems with the way the Greenlight process works, however, since I can't come up with a better one myself, I'm happy to leave it up to them to sort out. I've had many heated discussions with fellow developers about how the system should work... Mainly about the apparent pointlessness of having a "no vote" button (which I'm sure will create some lovely 'discussions' in the comments) however, as I said, I'm happy to leave the process up to Valve, as they would certainly know best. Of all the networks I've gotten Malevolence onto, that's the only one that hasn't really gone anywhere yet. As the owner of it I can watch the percentage of votes go up and down, and I can't really make sense out of it, so I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and hope for the best. The only advice I could give to other indies attempting it would be to make sure that all of your avenues (Facebook, IndieDB, dev blogs, etc) point to your Greenlight so that you can funnel as much of your traffic into it as possible.

HOWEVER, all of that only depends on how badly you want to get onto Steam. I'm aware that some people don't. Some because they just don't like how Steam operates, others because they're making mobile games and it's kind of useless to them. I, personally, am trying to get on there, but that doesn't mean that everyone SHOULD.

But I digress. What about the psychology mentioned earlier? Well, that is where your marketing plan comes from. Just sticking your product on some blogs and social network sites isn't really a marketing plan. It's just a means to give your game a 'presence' on the Internet. A solid presence is a powerful thing, but it takes constant maintenance. It's not something you can set and forget until you have a large, strong, dedicated community to do it for you. As an indie, that's just not something that's likely to happen straight up, so it's something you're going to have to do yourself. KEEP your blogs updated. RELEASE lots of screenshots. RECORD lots of videos. ANSWER lots of questions, and above all, MAKE SURE that your community is reminded regularly that you are still working on your game, lest they lose interest.

But what about expanding your community? That's where your marketing plan comes into play. You've got your presence sorted out, you're maintaining it well, but how do you bring new people in? That, in itself, depends on many different things:

TARGET AUDIENCE: What is the target audience for your game? You can't just say "gamers" because not all gamers like tower defence games. Not all gamers like FPS games. Not all gamers like RPGs. And then, even within the types there are sub-types. In the RPG player genre there are gamers who like first person RPGs, but don't necessarily like isometric RPGs or turn-based RPGs. So it's a matter of specificity. Take the time to work out precisely what your target audience is with your game and market mainly towards them. There's not much use in wasting energy trying to talk to people who aren't interested in listening!

ANALYZE: Take the time to analyze the way your target audience acts. Do they talk amongst themselves? Do they operate vocal communities? Is theirs a community of sharing, or of bragging? As an overly abrupt stereotype, FPS gamers tend to have communities that are much more vocal and aggressive than communities of RPG games. I realise that's a massive generalization, and it is most certainly not ALWAYS the case, but if you look into how the communities of your target audience operate, you can use it to your advantage when creating your marketing plan.

ACT AND REACT: As an indie, much of what you learn, you will learn on the fly. If you make a marketing faux pas, you will learn about it pretty quickly. Try not to be too stubbourn about things. While it can be trying at times, an indie game without fans/players, is nothing. It's like owning a coffee shop that has no customers. Don't be too hard-headed to change the way you operate if it's something small and it keeps people happy. You need to be adaptive, you need to listen and you need to communicate.

So, with these things, you can create your marketing plan. As an example, my marketing plan for Malevolence was to make use of the RPG communities idiosyncrasies. I did my research, joining forums and following blogs, doing the whole Jane Goodall thing and "living with the apes" so to speak (not calling RPG players apes, by the way. Just using a metaphor) and I found that a common trait among them is that they are excited about indie RPG development and will quite often share links to interesting indie RPG projects that they find. BUT, at the same time, while there is a lot of link sharing going on, there isn't much response to it. Many RPG forums will have an entire section just for sharing indie RPGs that people have found. These sections are often filled with lots of posts with links, but the posts won't often have many responses. That doesn't mean that people don't follow the links, but it means that there is more excitement about sharing the links than there is about the games themselves. RPG fans seemed excited about the IDEA of new RPGs, which is cool.

I made a note of this and built my strategy around it. I planned to start my marketing push at the same time that Skyrim came out. Sounds crazy, right? Well, there was reason behind my madness. I started pushing the links to my various blogs, etc, on forums and other hubs while people were busy getting fussy over Skyrim. The community saw my links and shared them around, but, as expected, not much action happened other than the spreading of the links. Because of this, there ended up being many, many sites with references to this infinite indie RPG. As it spread, more people heard about it, but they didn't focus on it because... Hey... Skyrim... But that was precisely my plan.

The excitement over every game, no matter how groundbreaking the game was, eventually wears off, and once the attention for Skyrim had started to dim, I was in the position where links to my game were ALL OVER the Internet, and a vast portion of the RPG community had heard something about it. Even if they couldn't recognise it by name, when someone mentioned "Have you heard about Malevolence, that infinite indie RPG being made" more often than not they would be met with a reaction of "I think I heard something about that, yeah... Can't remember where though."

This is where the psychology of my marketing plan came in. Having another person bring it up makes them remember seeing it somewhere which inspires them to look for it again. They hit the search engines and start typing in the word "Malevolence" since they have no idea how to spell "Ahkranox" and, since I have made an effort to have a VERY strong web presence, they see this:

They barely have started typing the word Malevolence, and it shows up. Marketing plan complete. That being said, they may go to the site, look at it and hate it. I unfortunately can't help you with that. Marketing is one thing, but your product still needs to stand on its own. I was lucky enough to have this strategy work quite well for my game, but sometimes even the most well thought out strategy will fail. Not having a strategy at all, however, will pretty much guarantee that you'll fall short, so start early!

But that's where I'll leave off, I think. In conclusion, when marketing your game, you need to take the time to establish a web presence, develop a marketing plan based on research and analysis of your target audience and attention to detail when looking into the psychology of the way they act as a community. Stick with it. If you believe in your game strongly enough, you won't have too much difficulty in translating that to your viewership!

Monday, November 19, 2012

What they DON'T tell you about being a game developer

So I'm in an interesting position. Malevolence, while not my first game by a long shot, is my first RELEASED game, and I've been lucky enough to have it gather a lot of attention (for an indie title) early on in its creation. From what people tell me, this does not normally happen. Normally, a developer will hit on gold after they've tested the waters with a few titles first, or had a hand in other game development, such as working for a AAA company.
Because of this unique perspective of having a relatively successful title (despite not yet being released) on my first ever attempt, I haven't yet developed the pessimism that often comes with being an experienced indie game developer. This has led me to want to write this new thought piece, which goes into all of the things that they DON'T tell you about being a game developer. If you want the short and sweet version, feel free to skip to the end.

Going through university I had the same delusions as most people that I would get my qualifications, build a folio and get a job at a AAA game company. Shortly thereafter, fame and riches would ensue and I would live happily ever after, making games that I love, and having everything right with the world.
I finished university to find that all of my hard work would get me on a "consideration" list for a baseline, entry level QA job which would mostly consist of me being locked in a cubicle for 70+ hours a week doing some of the most repetitve, soul destroying work known to man.

Sure, that would give me a foot in the door to have my true skills recognised later on, however, most game companies go through and trash their QA teams at the end of every project after smothering them in NDAs which make their soul now below to the company. So that's a minefield in itself.
If, and I really mean IF, I was to be plucked from QA and given a position within the company, one of two scenarios would have happened:

Programmer Position - I would be sat down and made to do scripting work for 70+ hours a week on someone else's proprietary engine, since using third party products "speeds development" and I would learn that there is such a thing as an "acceptible sacrifice of quality for speed" which would slowly destroy my integrity as a programmer. My passion for creating new features would slowly be vampirically sucked away, and anything I made in my spare time would be contractually owned by my employer which would sap my enthusiasm for innovation even further.

Artist Position - I might be lucky enough to get assigned work that interests me. I might be having a great time designing and modelling sci-fi assets for an amazing new shoot-em-up and enjoy watching them come to life within the engine. But one day the producer (who is computer illiterate and whose only gaming experience is with Bejewelled) would pop by and say "You know, my 10 year old niece is really into ponies right now. Change the game to be about ponies". Because he is the money behind the masterpiece, I would now be forced to abandon all of my work and create ponies and handbags all day every day. Also, everything I make outside of work would be contractually owned by my employer, limiting my folio and preventing me from moving to another company.

So, having this realisation, I then turned my attention to the indie game dev scene, which was far more attractive as I was beholden to no-one, I could work on what I wanted and do it in any way that I pleased (so I thought) but there were certain demons there which no-one told me about, either.
I got myself a day job to take care of living expenses and turned my spare time towards my magnum opus... Malevolence: The Sword of Ahkranox - the game of my dreams that was everything that I wanted to see in a game. I was out to show the world what a game COULD be. New technologies, new gameplay mechanics and a dash of old-school to reel in the retro crowd. It was going to be amazing and the world would be changed forever.

I was young. I was naive. And no-one had warned me what was coming.

First off, I had been playing around with a new method of procedural generation to create infinite worlds, and my favourite gaming genre was always RPGs, so I figured "why not make an infinite procedural RPG?" it seemed a good idea at the time, so I started work on it and found that it worked. I started a blog about it, more for myself than anything. Things were going fairly well.

It was at this point that I started meeting a couple of other game devs. Before this point I didn't really know any, and one with quite a long resume happened to start work at my day job. We got to talking and he introduced me to more people. They all seemed quite interested in my project and thought it was great that I was trying new things. This reaction gave me the motivation to make my development process a bit more public, so I started promoting Malevolence a bit more and getting more of a team together to work on the game's shine.

Much to my amazement, it got quite a lot of attention (for an indie game being made by a nobody in the industry) and that made me happy, so I kept at the PR. But with positive attention comes negative attention, and it was then that I learned two important things:
  • People, when given the anonymity and audience of the internet, can be truly horrible.
  • You can read 1000 praising comments, but if just one of them is bad, it will ruin your whole day.
The fact that I was trying to do something new with my game was evidently a horrible crime to many people and I would get utterly horrible comments ranging from put-downs to persanal abuse that would get them arrested if said in person... Even one or two death threats. It's a sad fact of life that people who are too scared to follow their own dreams will often try to talk you out of following yours. It's easy for people to say "just ignore those comments" but that's simply not possible.
Some people who disagreed with the game's concept gave thorough and well-written justifications for their feelings, which was good to see, but they were few and far between.
I had decided early on to keep an open-doors development policy and be extremely communicative with the public. I even developed somewhat of a reputation for answering every question asked of me. Many people loved this, others took it as justification to send more abuse, because they knew someone was listening.

At first, I thought it was because of my new ideas and concepts that I was touting, but after meeting with other game developers I found out that it's just what the gamer community is like. Full of angry, hateful, rude, abnoxious people who feel entitled to say anything they want to the developers who are making games for them. That's not to say that they're all like that. Far from it! Many, many people have been very supportive, communicative and encouraging throughout the entire process, and you have to really cling to people like that because, as a developer friend of mine once said "Those people hating on your game will always complain loudly. That's just what they do. The fact is, though, that they'll probably still buy your game." and that's what you need to focus on. It doesn't matter if other people like your game. What matters is whether YOU like your game. If you love it, other people are bound to as well. Just look at how much hate has been poured upon Minecraft over the years, but Mojang have sold millions and millions of copies regardless, and you can tell that they're super proud of their creation!

Being proud of what you've made is very important. Whenever something happens around your game that makes you feel proud, then you've gotta grab a hold of it and not let it go. I've had John Passfield sit me down and tell me that he believes that Malevolence has the makings of an epic game, I've been called a "visionary" by members of the Guild Wars 2 team, I've been recommended by RockPaperShotgun as a project to watch... These things make me glow with pride, and whenever I'm getting slammed by ignorant haters, I remember these things to help get me through it, and that's something you've just got to do to survive psychologically.

So, looking back, I've realised there are a lot of things that people just don't tell you about being an independant game developer:
  • A large, loud portion of the public will openly hate you regardless of what you do. Learn to live with it.
  • No-one will ever take your project as seriously as you, or fully realise what you're going through.
  • Everyone will think they know better than you about your own project.
  • Getting noticed at all is incredibly difficult .
  • The odds of you making money out of it are slim.
  • If you want to succeed, you'll likely have to sell out. Just how MUCH you sell out is up to you.
  • You have to develop a VERY thick skin.
  • Being open with the public isn't neccesarily smiled upon 100% of the time.
  • You will meet many "game developers" but very few people who are actually developing games.
  • You need to have the ability to listen to all advice given to you. Remember that listening to advice doesn't mean you have to take it. But listening can't hurt and you never know what you might learn.
I've also learned lots of things to never do again which may help upcoming developers:
  • Don't make an RPG as your first released game, nor any other kind of large-scale project. Start simple. Learn the lessons. Once you're experienced, THEN you can work on something big.
  • Never announce your release date until you are 150% sure of it.
  • Never let yourself get so enveloped in your project that other parts of your life suffer.
  • Never engage the haters.
  • Get a test team and follow strict testing practices.
  • Have a thorough plan before you start working too hard on it, and then stick to that plan come hell or high water.
  • Think carefully about having a public development process. Depending on the target audience and the project itself, it may be better to develop it silently and only open things up to the public when you're nearing completion.
  • Never let anyone cause you to stop being proud of your work. The moment you aren't proud of it anymore, the moment people will stop respecting you for it. If you make the game, and no money comes of it, at least you'll have work that you're proud of.
Some of them are hard lessons to learn, but learn them well before you venture into the murky waters of independant game development. Consider yourself forewarned! Obviously, other people will have other bits of advice, or revelations of their own, so I'd love to hear them, too! Share them in the comments!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Huge Progress

So wow... Progress...

As you know, I've been working on the quest system. Well, a big part of that has been getting the map system working, because I need to be able to show quest markers, and location markers. That in itself is quite a feat in an infinite world.

But in adding that functionality, I stumbled across a problem. For some reason things weren't displaying properly at all... I knew how the map code SHOULD work, but for some reason it wouldn't behave properly, even though the code was correct. I decided to look deeper and what do you think I found? I found the bug that had been preventing biomes and oceans from working!


Not only does this mean that the game's scope is now finally on track, but it means that the game world can finally be locked down!

I won't get too technical on the topic, but here are a couple of videos showing (very, very early and basic) biomes and oceans working!



I'm very excited... Expect to see BIG things happening in the game's development now that the world is locked down... BIG things...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Where I'm up to

So here's a little glimpse as to where I'm at.

I was hoping to get the beta out tonight, but things just didn't quite come together. The main reason why is because I REALLY want this beta build to have at least basic quest functionality in it. That, however, involves more than I realised.

Firstly, there's the map. You've all seen the country map, but what you've been seeing is what is called the "immediate countryside map" which shows the area around you for about 200sqm (650sqft) which is about your visibility range. However, a step up from that is your local world map, which shows the world around you for about three and a half square km (around two square miles). Then, if you're thinking of travelling further, you can go all out to the greater world map. That's a biggun. It shows the world around you for about 250sqkm (150 square miles)

I just want to point out right here that one segment of greater world is over 30 times larger than all of Skyrim.

But anyway... I digress... Every time you find something - a dungeon, a town, etc - it will go on your map as a dot so you can find it again later. In order for quest locations to be "marked on your map" or even held in memory until you discover it yourself, I have to have the map marker system in place. Doing this requires disgustingly large amounts of data to be processed very quickly (because people get angry at long load times). So my next major task is getting that happening.

Currently the local world maps are working just fine (even showing the biomes that aren't really there :P) but world maps I still have to do. Shouldn't be too much of a chore, however, as I already have them being stored in memory in order to calibrate the player's location (you may remember that in order to facilitate a truly infinite world I have to maintain the player's location within 6 dimensions at once. Yay maths!)

But once I have locations being marked on the map and stored in databases, I can get to work on having quest givers be able to "mark things on your map". That way, when you have an active quest selected, you can go to your map and maybe, if it's that sort of quest, you'll get a hint of where to go.

But the world of Ahkranox is quite big, so I also need a search function. Only for places that you've been to, of course, but still. To help facilitate this, you'll be able to pay cartographers to update your map for the local area, which should help your detective work quite a bit.

After that, I need to put in the system that recognizes when a quest is completed. Normally this would be quite easy as in most games the quests are pre-written by people, so the completion circumstances are equally written. But Malevolence comes up with its own quests, so recognizing if a quest has been completed is a difficult task...

Either way, I have a LOT of work ahead of me tomorrow. It's 1:30am right now and my eyes are having a hard time staying open, so I'm gonna get some rest, then wake up, have a shower, crack open a can of Dr Pepper and try and work some programming magic for you guys :D wish me luck!

P.S. Oh, and at some stage this weekend, the new site will be launching. I'm REALLY excited!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Something to Point To

I thought I'd do up a bit of a thought piece to do a sort of "bulk response" to a question that I get asked quote a lot:

"Where do you find the motivation/time to make such a large-scale game when you have a full-time day job?"

I get asked this question an unbelievably regular amount of times, so I thought it might be worth doing up a blog post about it so I can just point people at it rather than having to repeat myself. Plus, about 50% of the people I explain it to turn around and scoff at me afterwards, and having it in a blog means that I don't have to see them do that.

Anyway, it's true that I have a full-time day job. I work Monday to Friday, full-time hours and, as of the end of 2012, have been doing that for eight years (the same job, too. Woo!) yet for the last three of those years, I have also been doing 10 hour days, 7 days a week, working on Malevolence - an incredibly large-scale project. I've done this while managing two mortgages, finding time to spend with my wife and friends, and maintaining a number of hobbies.

To the people who ask how I do it, it comes down to four key things: pride, passion, desire and sacrifice. And what I do isn't something unique to me. It's not some bizarre, TARDIS-like device I keep in my garage. It's something that anyone can do, many people DO do, but not many people WANT to do.

Let me break it down into the categories and explain myself further:

PRIDE: Pride is a big one, if not the biggest. Pride is essential to success. Too many people, when contemplating something unique, will not even start on it because they aren't confident enough in themselves to do it. They start to fill their head with excuses before they've even begun, and then it doesn't happen. Others might START the project, but hit their first roadblock and shoot themselves down. They'll hit a bug they can't fix or get stuck trying to work out a method that they can't figure out and they'll tell themselves that the entire project will be like this and that they can't finish it. This comes down to a lack of pride. There are two types of people: those who seek to find out what they're capable of, and those who don't care, or are too frightened to find out. I haven't listed people who KNOW what they're capable of, because a true seeker of knowledge should always be surprised by new things that they are capable of. If you were to tell a younger version of myself the things that I would accomplish some day, I would have told you that you have the wrong guy. I've always been confident in a lot of areas, but terribly shy and unwilling in others. But the more I tried, the more I could do. When I failed, I tried again until I got it right. If you don't have self confidence, you'll never make it. So the first step is to believe you can do something, and believe that you have the skill, or can acquire the skill, to make it happen.

PASSION: This is a must. If the thing you are working on holds no passion for you, then it is the wrong thing. A big project is like a marriage. You must be dedicated solely to that thing, and see it through to the end. But before you can do that, you have to be WILLING to see it through. That takes some self analysis before you even get started, and that is where pride comes in. Find something that you have just got to do in life. Something that you can't help thinking about. Something that, when uninhibited, gives you tremendous joy unlike anything else. For me, that is making video games. Particularly seeing people PLAY the games that I make. I said earlier that it's like a marriage, and this may seem controversial to some, but a marriage that ends in divorce, most of the time, wasn't thought through well enough in the first place. The same can be said of a project. If you are willing to drop a project half-way through, that means you should never have started it in the first place, because the level of passion that the project needed and deserved was never there. When you start a project, it can be fun, but you need more than fun. You need that deep rooted love of the idea. The dreams of your future with that idea. You need to be so connected with the project, and so dedicated to it, that when times get hard, you stick with it. You work on it. You fight for it. When you hit a bug that is IMPOSSIBLE to fix, you step back from it. You take some time to think it over. You clear your head, and you go back to it. If you do this, you will see the problem from a fresh angle and it will get resolved. If you hit that wall and just quit, then you didn't have enough passion for it. If the passion isn't there - and I mean proper passion - then don't even bother with the project, because it may just end up as wasted time and resources.

DESIRE: The motivational speaker Eric Thomas tells a story of a man who visited a wealthy, successful guru, and told him "I want to be successful and make lots of money, like you. Please teach me how I can do this" and the guru told him to meet him tomorrow, at 4am, at the beach. The next morning, the man went to the beach in his best suit and met with the guru. The guru told him "if you want to be successful, then walk out into the ocean". The man thought it was an odd request, but he walked out until he was waist-deep in the water. The guru called out to him and told him to walk out further, so he walked until the water was around his shoulders. He called back to the guru, saying that he didn't understand how this could possibly make him successful. He already knew how to swim. So the guru waded out to him and forced his head under the water. No matter how hard the man struggled, the guru held him down under the water. Just before he passed out, the guru lifted him up again and immediately asked him "when you were under the water, what did you want to do?" to which the man said he wanted to breathe. More than anything he wante to breathe. The guru nodded and said "When you NEED to be successful as much as you NEED to breathe, then you will be successful."
And that's just it. When you're suffocating, all you can think of is to try and get some air into your lungs. You don't think about catching your favourite TV show, you don't think about the football final that's coming up, you don't think about work... Your entire existence becomes centered around getting some air. Everything you do - every thought, every action, goes towards getting air.
Until you think that way about success, it'll never properly happen. And that links strongly into the final topic...

SACRIFICE: This is the one people can never get past. When Friday night rolls around, everyone I know goes out for drinks, goes to parties, goes shopping, goes to the movies, goes to dinner... I go home and work on my game. When the football grand final is on, everyone's having mates over, doing beer runs and camping in front of the TV to watch it happen (or are at the game in person)... I stay at home and work on my game. When people finish work at their job they go home, grab a drink, put their feet up and watch TV, resting after a hard days work... I get home, turn on my computer and work on my game. When it gets to 10pm or so, people go to bed to get their healthy 8 hours sleep before work the next day. I stay up until 2am to work on my game. When other people have their project up on one screen, they'll keep checking their Facebook or getting distracted by Farmville or wanting to play games rather than work.... But I'm there, both screens taken up by my project, surrounded by notebooks full of equations, entirely focused.
And that's just it. You have to be willing to sacrifice things that don't mean as much as the project. You have to be willing to give up sleep. People will tell you it's not healthy but you can get by on small naps. You have to feel like you CAN'T sleep in case you miss a chance to do something awesome. You have to be totally engaged. There have been many, many times while working on my game that I have completely forgotten to eat and my wife has had to intervene and practically force-feed me. I am lucky enough to have an incredibly supportive, caring wife who thoroughly understands and respects my level of investment. Having that sort of backup is a HUGE plus in this sort of thing. It doesn't have to be a partner/spouse, however. Often simply being surrounded by like-minded people is enough, and you should stick with those people, and avoid people who distract you by trying to get you to go out and get smashed on your evenings. Many people will stop at this point and say "hold on, hold on. You can't expect me to give up enjoying myself!", but to that I say that if this project that you're supposedly passionate about isn't as important or more important than those other things, then you can't be that invested in it.

Now, don't get me wrong - and I know people are going to ignore this part of my rant in the comments, but I think it's fine to have a casual project, rather than a full-on life consuming project. It takes a very special level of dedication to have such a life-controlling thing like that hanging over you. But my main point is to the people who say that they just "can't find the time" or "can't find the motivation" to get anything done... I'm telling you. the time is there. The motivation is there. You just don't want it enough. Perhaps it's time to stop blaming other things and start taking a look inward.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Let's Play a Game...

So, after many many months of leaving them out in the cold, I've opened the door and let the test team back inside. But only some of them...... Now that we're finally in beta, we've narrowed the test team down even further. It used to be made of 10 members, but we've kept only the most hardcore and dedicated people to be beta testers. There are now four of them. Mark, Matt, Tim and Carl. Mark (otherwise known as HyFrydle32) has already inundated me with things to fix, and I fixed as many as I could, and as a reward he has uploaded the first two episodes of a series of new beta "Let's Play" videos. You can watch them here :D

As you can imagine, what you see in the video is all beta footage, so many things will still change before the end.
In addition to that, Carl (CamioTheFox) has done up a gameplay video (no narration, just gameplay) for you to watch as well:

I've also put together a little showcase video for all of the incredible art being made for the game by Rachel, Carrie and Mihaela. The backing track is one of the many amazing tracks that will be on the game's soundtrack. The music was composed and performed by our amazing Nicolas Lee, and the vocals were actually done by our lead programmer, Alex. The backing vocals are provided by none other than the incredibly talented Mr Steven Kelly, whose voice you will recognise from the trailer.

Aaaaanyhooo. We've been getting in the new voices for all of the extras for the game, as well as some very special new voices for certain new creatures, including the succubus, whose voice is being provided by the ever-so-beautiful Amber Lee Connors, who agreed to reach for her inner Marilyn and came up with an amazingly spectacular voice pack for her! So that'll all be coming in the next update :D

I hope you enjoy! And please remember to not only vote for us on Steam Greenlight, but share the link EVERYWHERE. Facebook, Twitter, Forums, neighbours... Shout it at people in shopping malls.... Everywhere you can!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Getting Real

So, everything just hit me tonight... The enormity of all of this... This whole "making a game" thing. I know it sounds silly, but it's caused me to have some revelations about it all.

Long-time fans may remember that this all started as me just playing around with a game idea based on a card game my wife and I was making and a technical concept that I invented years ago. Then it got popular... Well... Relatively popular. Malevolence is no Minecraft, that's for sure. But the results of the KickStarter and all of the media attention don't lie. We have a following. They like the game. They like the team, too, which is even more special to us.

It's humbling.

But when you start getting near the end of the game's development, like we are, you can't help but start thinking about numbers, and what they mean... More specifically, what they mean to us as people. After all, that's who makes games: people. What does it mean for us to make money off of a game? Especially when the game wasn't made in order to make money, but rather in order to make an awesome game?

One thousand and sixty people from all over the planet came to our KickStarter and - without any solid guarantee that they would get a game at the end - pledged money to the project, showing us that they had faith in us. I like to think that was because they could see the passion in my eyes when I spoke about this game that I have come to love so very much. And to have that reaction was amazing, but it was quite an experience watching the total amount pledged climb higher and higher. It made the entire team's collective jaw drop to see the total amount pledged bypass our requested amount so soon after the drive had started. It told us that people believed in our dream as much as we did. And that was cool.

But then the emails started. We got contacted by distribution companies who had seen the KickStarter. We already had an understanding with the people at Desura about distributing the game, and that was cool. We did some interviews that got onto Kotaku and Gamasutra which got the attention of bigger hitters like GamersGate who wanted to distribute, and that was cool, too. Then the KickStarter happened and even AMAZON wanted a piece of us, so that was even cooler. Now we're on Steam Greenlight pushing to get on there as well.

But what does all of that mean as developers? Well, as developers, any money that we make goes towards us being able to make more games. And that's great. I can tell you now that if Malevolence makes only $50, we will still keep making games. We can't help ourselves... But what if it made more than that? What would that mean?

Right now, I have a full-time job. I need to have one in order to pay my two mortgages, pay my bills, buy my groceries and take my wife to the movies. No job = no ability to live. But what if I didn't need to work for the man to do that?

My biggest expense is my house. It cost a lot of money and a certain bank is enjoying making me pay for that fact every fortnight for the foreseeable future... But what if I paid it off? The amount of money I need to live goes down (very) drastically, which means I can get away with working less. If I work less for the man, I can spend more time making cool games. As far as goals go, that's not a bad sort of goal: "pay off my house". It's a VERY ambitious goal, yes. No doubts there. No indie developer can ever really expect to make that kind of money. But it happens. Only rarely, yes, but it happens.

So that brings me to my earlier topic... I was doing some maths.

Taking into account distributor royalties, and income tax, etc, you know how many copies of Malevolence I need to sell to pay off my house completely and own it outright?

Thirty thousand copies.

Sounds like a lot, hey? I only know for sure that 1060 people are really interested in the game, and those people have already bought it in the KickStarter!

But here's a fact for you... The Steam community has fifty four million registered users. Do you know what percentage of them would need to purchase Malevolence in order for me to pay off my house?

Zero point five of a percent. 0.05%. One twentieth of a single percent.

Now, that's getting ahead of myself. Malevolence isn't on Steam. It's not even finished yet!

But if I was being optimistic - which I only allow myself to do once a year - I would think that Malevolence has a good chance of getting onto Steam, plus it's already definitely going to be on Desura, GamersGate, the Amazon Games Portal and being sold independently on the official website... That thins the herd even further, and presents it to a VERY large audience. Potentially over eighty million people (at most optimistic guess). So when you think about it like that, getting thirty thousand sales isn't that unrealistic. And that means me being a step closer to making video games as my full-time job. Not someone else's games. My games.

And that is cool.

Anyway, it's all quite a flight of fantasy and still incredibly spurious, I know. But I just wanted to write down my ramblings and let you know what buying an indie game means to the people who made it. Seeing all of the wonderful comments, the numbers of likes on Facebook, the retweets, the blog posts, seeing when you defend us and the game against the inevitable haters... I can't stress to you all what that does for us. It's incredible. It's worth its weight in gold, and you all mean so much to us for being that way.

You have all probably noticed, but I spend a considerable amount of time going through all of the various networks and answering as many people's questions as I can, and being involved in as many discussions about the game as I can, and I'm actually extremely terrified of the day that may come where there are too many fans, and too many questions, and I won't have time to answer everyone. I enjoy talking to you guys all so much that it makes me sad to think that I won't be able to do it forever. I'm toying with the notion of - when I get the forum set up - making a "Forum Friday" where I spend each Friday forum surfing and answering questions/talking to people rather than game programming, just so that everyone knows that's the day to watch for me... When it comes down to it, I'm just making a game, it's YOU guys that make it special.

I'll just finish off here by making a big apology to all of the fans who have tried to add me on Facebook. So far there has been about fifty or so. I actually reserve my Facebook page for very close friends and family, and I'm not one of those people that adds everyone they can. I use Facebook as a way of communicating with those closest to me since I hide myself away quite a bit in order to work undisturbed, so I like to keep it fairly clear of other people's posts and whatnot. So that way you know, I very much appreciate the friend requests, but I'm a bit of a hermit. I'll always try and answer you on the Malevolence fan page though :-)

Anyway, that's enough of my blathering for the night! I'm off to bed!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Trials of the Indie

Just as a forewarning, this is purely a discussion post, and not particularly about Malevolence. I just felt a need to get this out there.

Making games is hard.

Now, that in itself is a statement that many people would casually read and then scoff at, but it's very true and very serious. Making video games is one of the more difficult things that you can do as a profession. ESPECIALLY as an indie developer, because you don't always have the people to have your back when you need it.
Even now, still reading this, many people will still be under the impression that it is easy to make games, and the sad fact is that their minds won't be changed. But - in the off chance you keep reading - maybe I can help you understand just what we have to go through.

A game developer must be able to write software. That - in itself - is a feat. I often say that there are people who can program and then there are programmers. Anyone, given the right resources, can learn to write software. They can then go on to get a job writing software and make good money and reap the fruits of their hard work... But that doesn't make them a programmer. True programmers write software because they can't help it. It's in their blood. They see things and wonder about the algorithms that make them work. They don't stop at wondering HOW something works, but feel a compulsive need to know WHY it works, too. They will often dream in code, or search for that elusive "perfect combination" of sleep deprivation and caffeine that allows them to find their "coding zen" where they do their best work. When they're coding, they are 150% there, in the moment, focused. When they're not coding, they're planning out what they're going to write when they get back to their IDE. It's this sort of unnatural focus and necessity of expression that makes someone a programmer. They are a programmer because they have to be.

Just being a programmer is one thing, but being a GAMES programmer is another thing entirely. Games programming is arguably one of the hardest forms of programming. It can be made CONSIDERABLY easier by the use of proprietary engines and pre-made modules which can be used so much as to reduce game programming to basic scripting. But for those of us who write our own engines, our own modules, it gets phenominally difficult, and it's mainly due to the fact that we have to become detailed experts in a variety of fields.

We must be physicists. Every little bit of movement you see in the game has been hand-crafted. When a box is knocked from a shelf and falls to the floor, most people take it for granted. In fact, many people will complain if it's not there. But someone has had to learn and follow precisely how nature affects objects with gravity and collision and friction to perfectly simulate that box falling off of the shelf. So much study, practice, research and code must go into doing something so very simple that it staggers the mind.

We must be psychologists. When the bad guy sees you, throws a grenade and ducks behind cover to lay down fire, that hasn't happened by magic. A game developer has studied anthropology and psychology to make the characters in the game behave in that specific way. And as games get more advanced, so does the AI. Even simple AI methods like the Dijkstra algorithm can become very complex to write out and be handled efficiently, let alone larger, more advanced and complex algorithms.

We must be artists. A game world must be visually appealing. It must conform to the desires of our senses, but this - once again - doesn't happen by magic. People have worked long and hard to smooth down all of the sharp edges of the world that you're running through, making sure that every object, every leaf, every light, every particle system is placed with utter perfection to bring the game world to life.

We must be lighting engineers. Do you see the way the light is shining on that pipe? That small effect is the result of long hours of study and coding to generate rays to simulate photons of light whizzing through the map and hitting surfaces, referencing their normals, comparing them to the viewing angle and illuminating the texture map accordingly, applying bloom if too bright, increasing contrast if too dark. Just trying to BEGIN thinking of the process that is behind this happening at 60fps is utterly bewildering, but game developers do this in their sleep.

We must be pyrotechnicians. We must understand fire, explosions, destruction of objects, projection arcs and the light and heat associated with it. We must make it feel dangerous. Read that sentence again. We must make it FEEL DANGEROUS. A thing that is not real, can - in no way - harm you. Not even a little. But it must scare you. It must make you reel in shock and make you feel like you are there. That you could get burned, or hurt. We must, as game developers, and purely through fancy code, make the virtual REAL or you won't play.

We must be tacticians. It isn't good enough for the enemies in the game to be able to move through the maps, or even "think" dynamically with relation to the players actions. They must employ tactics against you that will be effective or the game will be too easy. A good game developer must be able to think like a well-honed military unit - something that often takes years of training in harsh conditions - or people will be able to outsmart the game and will find it too easy.

We must be designers. The game must feel immersive. It must draw you in and make you forget the outside world. It's the key to success in a game. But to do this the game developer needs to understand layouts, composition, landscaping, interior design, use of colour, light, shadow. They need to study things like the golden ratio and apply it with precision or people won't become immersed in the game.

We must be directors. The game, after all, is almost like a cinematic experience. We must feel the adventure. The people must say the right things, the events must play out in the right way. This is made even more difficult in games with procedural content as the developer has no reference to make the game play out well. Therefore they have to make the game know how to play ITSELF out well. They have to teach the game how to be fun and then trust it to do its thing. Think about that for a second.

Lastly, game developers have to be emotionally strong. It is an incredibly personal thing for a person or team of people to invest so much of their time, money, energy and love into a project for a year to five years, lovingly honing it into their idea of a masterpiece. For them to finally build up the courage to display it publicly and let the world in to see this personal world that they've created - to see their vulnerabilities, hopes and fears made manifest takes real courage. What takes even more courage is to read and cope with the armies of inconsiderate punks on the internet who hide themselves behind a veil of anonymity as they methodically try to destroy this much-loved thing that someone has put so much of themselves into. But you build up a tolerance. You become immune to it after a while. The noise that those people make will never be louder than the call to play this wonderful thing that they've made. Neil Gaiman said it quite well - if you do work that you're proud of and the money doesn't come, at least you still have the work. A game developer must work to cope with having their soul destroyed a little bit more each time someone says something ignorant and hurtful about this thing that they've created, but they get built right back up again by the praise that they receive. People enter their little worlds and are truly amazed, and there is no greater feeling than that.

But one thing that always hurts is when someone says "Oh, you make games? Isn't that really easy?"

No. It's not easy. John Carmack, one of the greatest game developers of all time took a break from making games to do rocket science. Actual rocket science. For a break.

So basically this little rant was mostly to have something to point people towards who don't appreciate what it takes to make a game. For the people who are happy to whinge about the way a box falls off a shelf rather than just smile and enjoy the game.

For those who want further insight into just what it takes to be a game developer, I highly, highly reccommend reading this book and watching this movie.

I'm aware that this is an opinion piece and that you may not agree with me, but frankly I don't care. The dedication, skill and emotional investment that game development requires needs to be better recognised.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sad News...

Unfortunately we have to say goodbye to one of our team members here on Malevolence :( but he's on to bigger and better things!

We always hope that the indies working on Malevolence will be able to use their experience on the project to get access to bigger and better things, or - best case scenario - to use it as a foothold to get into the industry. In the case of one of our 3D team, Ethan, that has happened, which is fantastic news for him! But unfortunately, given the nature of the industry, it means that he can't continue to work on the project.
Ethan has gotten a job over at Lightmare Studio on the Gold Coast of Australia, and they've been kind enough to let him finish up the model pack that he was working on at the time he got the job, but once that is done, we'll have to say goodbye to him. It's a bit sad for us but we really do wish him well. He's an incredibly talented fellow and he deserves all the accolades we can give!

His remaining planned work is going to be divided up amongst the capable hands of the other 3D team members, Greg and Ian, but we may end up bringing someone new one (if you care to send us a folio!)
So yeah, sorry that it's bad news, guys, but we just thought we'd let you know. Regular blog posts will resume next time!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Making Kevin

So the gryphon is finished! Huzzah! They're one of the main forms of transportation in Ahkranox, and a safe way to get from town to town (when the town has an aviary)

One of our more recent additions to the team, Ian Atherton, has been working on the 3D model for the gryphon in the game, and just to give a re-cap on the process behind making Kevin (I'm calling him Kevin - not in the game, but just behind the scenes. I think it's a good Gryphon name) here are the development steps for creating an in-game character:

First, we had our lead artist, Rachel Birchnoff, design the concept art for Kevin:

Then, once we had that, one of our 3D team, Ian Atherton, started work on a hi-poly model (about 250mb in size!) as a base plate:

The trickiest bit was getting all of the feathers detailed:

Once the hi-poly character was done, Ian then went on to make the low-poly in-game version, which he used to hi-poly version to normal map, and create the final version of Kevin:

Then the textures were applied:

Pretty amazing process, don't you think? We're super happy with him!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Quick Technical Update

Sorry it's been a bit quiet on the update front lately. It's been one of those months where everyone on the team has something else happening in their lives (including me) so productivity hasn't been at it's peak. Personally I've been dealing with a bit of illness coupled with some severe frustration at a particular engine issue (which this blog is about).
Ethan, our modeller, is aiming to have two full subterranean model packs done by the end of this month though (the abandoned mine and the ancient crypt), and I know that Carrie is working on a new character glamour pic, which will be cool. It's the first one of a male character, so I'm sure you'll all love that.
Rachel is busy with work at the moment but is very eager to get back to Malevolence soon and has a HUGE amount of stuff planned, including some more awesome armour and a MASSIVE amount of in-game items.
Work has also started on your character portraits. Nothing at "showing off" level just yet, but shouldn't be too far away!
But anyway! Technical issues. Basically, in game development, there is a process colloquially referred to as "garbage collection" where the engine finds and clears things from active memory to conserve system resources. Sometimes it's required that the engine complete something I like to call an "86 purge" where garbage collection happens to EVERYTHING stored in memory. In a normal game, an 86 purge would be used when the player quits the game and returns to the main menu. All of the in-game 3D models would have to go, then all the sounds, all the textures, all the music, all the shaders, all the heightmaps... Then each individual background process would have to be shut down, like the AI controller, the audio housekeeping, the animation updator, etc. There's no way to just say to the computer "remove everything from memory". You have to actually keep a running tab on everything that has been loaded or that is running in the background and then remove or shut down each one individually. Make sense? Pretty standard stuff in game dev.
Anyway... Malevolence, being not your average game, was developed in a strange way. It's built in three modules, with each module being used to handle each of the three environment types in the game. The first module that was developed was the subterranean module. It's loaded whenever the player enters a dungeon, crypt, mine, cave, etc. It has its own lighting systems, audio systems, etc, which all work to make the environment appear a certain way to the player. Then, once that module was all good and done, we worked on the overworld module. This one was probably the most difficult by far, as it's the only one of the 3 modules that is infinite in size. World chunks had to be loaded, heightmaps for terrain, water had to be handled, the movement of the sun and the procedurally generated sky system... Lots of things at once, and very different to the subterranean module. Finally we developed the town module, which was very similar to the countryside module, but without the heightmaps, water or... You know... Infinity... So that was a bit easier. But dealing with that many complex objects with a large view distance posed problems of its own. Dungeons are dark and cramped, so you can never see very far, so it was easy to get system efficiency in them. Towns are open plan, with big wide courtyards and lots of NPCs and buildings and props like barrels and statues all being seen at once. Much trickier, but we got it working.
The hard part (which has been giving me trouble lately) is linking the three modules together and handling the 86 purges that are required during the move between each section. A little while back I got very excited when I was able to walk out of the starting dungeon and into the countryside for the first time, but it was short lived as I realised that I couldn't go back into the dungeon, or into any other dungeons that I happen to come across, as doing so would cause a massive memory leak and crash the game.
But, last night, all that changed. I walked out of a dungeon into the countryside, then back into the dungeon again, then back out again. I then took a stroll through the wilderness until I came across another dungeon entrance. I clicked it and went into that dungeon, too! Then out of it. Then I walked and found a town and went into it, and then out of it! All seamlessly! Turns out that I had overlooked a couple of small things in the 86 purge that I was doing which caused a fatal memory leak between environments, but now it all works great!
So yeah, that's why there hasn't been much to see lately, sorry. Lots of background coding stuff going on. But now that it's working, I can focus on some really important things like having monsters in the countryside, putting in shops and other establishments into towns, etc. All the exciting stuff. And let's not forget, of course, the Kevin Bacon quest system!
So yes. Life will still be getting in the way over the next couple of weeks, but I'm taking time wherever I can to plug away at some more things, and as soon as new art assets come in, I'll do another update to show off the sexiness!
Thanks for being patient with us and for all the wonderfully awesome comments you all make! It really gives us steam!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Getting the Right Model

So we're welcoming two new modellers onto the team! Up until now it had been Alex, the lead developer also handling all of the 3D models, along with some very generous help from Steve at Arteria3D, but no more! Alex can focus on coding and the new modellers Greg and Ethan can do their thing.

First up is Greg Schneider, who has been working on his torture chamber subterranean tileset. So far untextured, but it's coming along great, complete with secret walls, blood-drains, wall manacles and torture implements:

After Greg we've also brought on Ethan Noble of Devour Games who has been hard at work constructing the abandoned mine tileset that you'll be able to venture through. Not finished texturing yet, and focusing on detailing the wall segments first, but already it's looking incredible!

We'll keep you posted on how both of these shape up, and post video run-throughs of them when they're completed! Stay tuned!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Quite a bit to cover

So, we've been super slack on the blogs, but with good reason!

Our KickStarter finished at over 500% of our asking value! We originally came in asking for $6000 and the final value was $33,506.13, an absolutely incredible effort from the supporters! Funnily enough, about 70% of that traffic came from people browsing KickStarter itself, too, so we're really happy with the result.
That money (once it's processed) will lead to some SERIOUS work getting done on the game. We have lined up about a dozen new people to do all sorts of various writing, 3D modelling, animating, texture art and promo art and it can all kick off at once now, rather than being drip-fed. It's amazing.

While all that's been going on, we've finally entered beta! And, as such, are working to prepare the first beta build to the test team. For that, there are 3 final things that need to be coded into the game and working smoothly. So most of my work lately has gone towards doing those up. Because that's mostly code, there's not much in the way of pretties to show you of all of that.In other news, however, we've been having some incredible new art rolling in from our art department as Rachel works on some of the new armour and shields:

We can't wait to see those coloured!

Carrie, one of our other artists, has been hard at work, too, making some of the amazing action shots of the playable characters:

As part of some of the KickStarter rewards for pledgers, some people are getting themselves put into the game by our art team, and we've started getting photos from everyone (and they're awesome) so you'll get to start seeing art from that pretty soon.
In other news, we went down to Supanova Sydney where we were running a bit of an info session about Malevolence as well as doing some guided tours of what it takes to be a voice actor for video games!We had to get up at an unholy hour of the morning to make the flight out, and I fell asleep on the plane. Woke up just in time to see the view coming in over Sydney:

But we had a long way to go yet. The show was actually being held at the Olympic Park, which is quite a way away from the city, and the trains were actually undergoing maintenance on the first leg of the trip from the airport, so 4 transfers later, we finally made it to the show, where we met up with the rest of the team that were coming:

We actually made it with not much time to spare, so it wasn't long before we started the show. Basically we introduced ourselves as the Malevolence team, and got started giving people some tips and tricks to help their voice acting careers:

It was lots of fun and lots of people got involved.
Then came the end, which we weren't really prepared for. Once the talk was done, I whacked some flyers up on the table and told people if they'd like to learn more about Malevolence they could come and grab a flyer and say hi.
Well... We were mobbed within seconds...

It was fantastic! Everyone wanted to hear about the game and learn more and get involved! It was such a rush of people that I wasn't able to get to everyone to say hi, but now I'm determined to get to more events so that I can meet you all in person! So much love for Malevolence... It's really quite a moving thing for a humble indie game designer!
People were hanging around for so long to talk that the staff had to get us to leave so that the next talk could set up, then I spent the rest of my time at the show responding to people calling out "Hi Alex! Hi Alex!" my wife tells me I should get used to that. Not sure if I ever will... haha
Needless to say, we were so exhausted by the time we headed back to the airport that I had no recourse but to pass out like a bum on the train! Apparently people were giving me a wide berth:

Can't say I blame them... 6'5" of game developer geek. Enough to put anyone off! :-P
So yes! Most of our work of late has been in code, so there's not too many pretty things to show for it, but very soon the amount of art assets we have is going to explode like a penguin in a microwave... So stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Progressing with Procedural Towns

We've progressed a bit with town generation, check it out!

This is where we were:

We then got the correct movement system happening and put in all 27 building types to see how well they assembled, which looked like this:

This really got us excited, since we started to see a glimpse of what towns will eventually be like! But then we got to this stage:

With textures starting to be applied, things started looking really quite cool, but still REALLY basic as there were still limited models and no lighting yet.
So, just to let you know where we're up to (and to show we haven't been lazy!) we have a (still early) video showing the towns with some of the advanced lighting in place!

All of the shaders are running at default settings for now, so it looks awful, and there are still only demo textures and no props, etc, but take a look at the progression we've made through these few videos, and imagine what it's going to look like in the end! Yay!
Also, our KickStarter is at $4200! That's 70% of our goal! And we still have something like 17 days left to go! So please, please, PLEASE keep sharing the link! Post it on forums, share it on FaceBook and Twitter! Let everyone know! You're doing awesome so far, so keep it going!
We've put up a heap of new reward levels, including one where YOU CAN STAR IN THE GAME!!! So be sure to keep checking back on it! Just click the image below!

Also don't forget to check us out on all of the social networks!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Back to Town!

Hello again!

First off, I want to do a GIANT thank you shout out to everyone who's helped out on the KickStarter page! It's only been one week and we've already surpassed HALF of our total goal! Thank you all so much!

So we've been working on towns a bit lately, and I thought I'd show you where we're at with that! If you follow us on Facebook you'll have already seen this image, but we've got some really cool town buildings thanks to our friends over at Arteria3D, which we've re-worked a bit for the game, and they assemble quite well into very fun-looking towns to explore!

They're looking absolutely amazing and they're really quite fun to explore! I've done up a very rough video showing them off a little bit. It's quite cool to wander around the towns, even if they're not yet textured or lit properly!

If you listen closely in that video you can also hear some of the incredible music that our composer Nicolas Lee has been writing for the towns! We love it!

Anyway, don't forget to share our KickStarter link around and go over to visit it. We've put up a few cool updates since we last mentioned it on here!

Also don't forget to check us out on all of the social networks!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Giving things a Kick-Start

So we've been quiet for a while, but we're back, and we have quite a selection of things for show and tell!
First of all, we've gotten some new artists on board, and have a few others on the side waiting to go when the time is right. First up, Rachel's back! You may remember Rachel's work in the character portraits, shop artwork and pretty much most of the architectural concept work from very early on in the game's development.

Rachel has been hard at work doing all of the new weapon art that you've been seeing, but has also recently been creating dozens of new sets of armour for the game, which are look SPECTACULAR. But I'll be doing up a separate blog post about that.

Secondly we would like to welcome Carrie Oglesby to the project. Carrie is a wonderfully talented young woman who has been creating some fantastic loading screens for us lately, but will soon be moving onto some really cool new stuff which we'll have to show off when she's done. For now, here's a personal piece of hers to show you just how awesome she is:

We feel very lucky to have her on board for the project, and can't wait to see some of the things she comes up with!

And lastly, we welcome on board Angus Olsen, who we met down in Sydney while we were presenting at the GAME convention. He was kind enough to come and visit us in person with voice actor David Doyle and help us pitch the game to the public. We've been very eager to have him involved as he has the distinct honor of having DISNEY on his resume. Not many artists can say that!
Angus is doing some character design work for us, and it's coming along fantastically. It's currently in rough sketch form for now, as the specific details are ironed out, but ALREADY it's looking incredible!

We'll be sure to show off some of the finals when they're ready to go! We really are honored to have someone of Angus' level involved with the art team!
Waiting in the wings we also have three other artists who will be revealed soon. They are quite high profile and do INCREDIBLE work. They will be doing some promotion-specific art for the game, including box-art and matte paintings for posters and banners, so we'll keep you posted on that when it happens! We're very excited!

On top of all that, our composer, Nicolas Lee, has been hard at work making some STUNNING music for the towns and buildings (which you'll get to see in some gameplay videos over the coming weeks) and you can get an early sneak peek of the tracks in this awesome showreel that he's put together for the project's musical score! Check it out!

Now, something a bit serious, I'm afraid...
One thing I didn't particularly want to have to bring up publicly is a bit of a trolling problem we seem to be having of late. One past team member - who will remain nameless - had to be removed from the project, and a large group of their friends seems to have taken it upon themselves to try and spam the project wherever possible. I have no desire to name names, point fingers or any of that, as that's not what I'm about - disagreements and conflicts of interest just happen - but in case some of the sometimes awful, hateful troll messages do slip through the filter that we try very hard to maintain, please accept my apologies. As I said, I didn't particularly want to make mention of it and have tried my best to keep quiet since it happened, but the trolling gets quite bad sometimes and you all should know that we're doing our best to keep it quiet and to recognize it when you see it.

But on to happier news. We've been working quite hard on putting oceans into the game. BIG oceans. They are quite imposing when you find the coasts. Sometimes large, sheer cliffs just loom out of no-where and drop into the rolling sea. It's quite a sight to behold but it IS quite buggy. We had no idea that the math of creating these things in 3D would get quite so complicated.
Regardless, here is a quick video showing the player wandering along a coastline. So that you can see it better, all of the foliage, debris, etc has been stripped away so it's just the raw terrain data and the ocean itself. Sorry it's a bit dark, it was night in the game when we recorded!

So they're coming along. As I said, they're still QUITE buggy, but they're getting there. Aside from some personal life nonsense, the maths behind these has been the main reason it's been so long between blog posts! However, we've decided to take a little bit of a break from these and move on to towns, so that you can all see the amazing plans we have for them, especially since we now have access to the incredible 3D assets from the generosity of Arteria3D! If you're a game maker, please check them out! They're great guys!

So we'll have more about the towns soon, too! But believe it or not, there's even MORE news!
Firstly, a big thank you to The Penny Arcade Report, which featured our Kevin Bacon article on their site yesterday. The blog got so much traffic from it that it actually crashed! Lots of fun and games... But it's awesome! Every little thing like that is a real plus for the traffic of the game! We've also had three separate stories run over at Gamasutra! We were also interviewed recently by Alistair Doulin of Bane Games, and the interview went up yesterday if you'd like to have a read of it.
Alistair is actually a good friend of ours and is the creator of the game BATTLE GROUP! Definitely worth checking out.

But the biggest news of all is that we're trying our hand at crowdsourcing again! Remember how we had a shot at it on IndieGoGo but just couldn't get the traffic? Well, we're trying again, this time using KickStarter! We know a lot of you wanted us to go with them in the first place, but we couldn't due to being based in Australia. However, we now have an American wing based out of Seattle thanks to Nicolas Lee, and are running the campaign through that! So please, head on over, check it out, and even if you can't contribute, share the link as MUCH AS POSSIBLE. The more eyes that see it, the more chance we have of reaching our goal! We've also got some new perks for you, and you can use it to PRE-ORDER THE GAME!
One special thing you'll notice... There is a limited offer, $1000 pledge (only 5 available) that will receive a prototype copy of the official Malevolence Card Game that won't be out until the end of 2013! So jump on board! Get involved! And Share the link like it's a flu virus and you feel a sneeze coming on!
Also don't forget to check us out on all of the social networks below. See you again soon with more cool stuff!