Gamenific

Naming Cubes

Naming something (or someone for the matter) is a horrible process experience. We feel amazingly guilty from even the possibility of choosing a bad name. After all, we could name it anything!
Worth mention that, when I was a kid, I used to create a lot of stuff (neighbourhood newspapers, games, plays, comic characters) and I simply loved the brainstorm sessions to name these things. I used to laugh out loud from the ideas. Such good time.
When I started to prototype Picubic, it was just GameCube (yep, the video game. Yep, it is a reference for the logo too). But one day I had that moment “hey… I can actually make something from it” them I had to baptize it with a good commercial name. Finding an available URL address played a huge part on the process, making it more painful.
Picubic was named after two concepts: Cubes (duh) and Images (3D objects). After loads of attempts, we came with Picture Cubes, or PIC Cubes or… PICubic.
But writing this name over and over and the name eventually changed to a easily spelling Picubic that we see now. A lot of people, however, could now notice the reference of picture. Sad. I totally biased pool with friends revealed that if I had the name back to PICubic, it would help.

PICubic

So now we are re-establishing the correct naming: PICubic. It highlights the Picture aspect also from the written name. I hope these friends were right!

Accidental Green Lightning

Holy smoke!
After a big sprint on Brazilian government’s game contest (I will write about it later), I went back to Picubic for some extra work.
The game is now on Alpha and available on Desura. I liked their work with indie and it was a good starting point. But I thought it was time to contact other outlets to know about their process, contracts and terms.
Some indie bundle stores (IndieGala and the Humble Bundle) ask for a Steam version because they essentially sell keys instead the game itself. So I started to fill the Steam Greenlight program form. Steam is the Titanic game store that, for the games that are listed, represent the single biggest sales driver.
But what I did not know is that, unlike other stores, the application was live immediately! I was not prepared for this. I thought Valve would first check the references, ask more documentation, credit card number, paperwork and stuff. But no! Suddenly, Picubic was on Steam Greenlight asking for votes!
The current trailer is 1 year old, with a very Alpha look. The new visuals and screens are not reflecting the current state. Also, I had not created enough marketing material for a campaign like this.
Breath slowly and think!
I need to hire someone to build a new -at least temporary— trailer and start to take some screenshots and enhance the site and reply all the comments and do everything!
Don’t Worry, Be Happy! As a part-time gameDev, there is a always a lot of work to be done. It is a great part of the fun.
So…
Now that it is done, please enter the Steam Greenlight and vote for Picubic!

August Ping

It has been about a month that I do not write in this blog. Sorry all. Let’s do a little fast report about what is happening here in Rio.

World Cup

During the mid June to mid July Brazil hosted the FIFA World Cup. It is the biggest sport event in the planet, bigger than Olympic games even (considering viewers). I could not go to a single game, but it affected deeply my productivity. I tried as much as I could to finish Picubic as promised, but I failed. I had to postpone the deadline to August/September. I’m working hard on optimizations and some annoying bugs. I will contact soon everybody that sponsored the game the delay

New job, in the same company

I am that kind of indie developer that have a full day job. Gaming is a hobby (but I plan to change that!). Starting July first, I have changed my company position. I came from IT department to a core Oil department. This was an important change in my life and it demanding a lot of work.
Now that a month has passed, I am much more confident to correctly balance my day job with my gaming job. I expect to regain full speed in a couple of weeks.

Vaults Inc

The Vaults Inc project, as announced, is our new game. It is a very cool strategy game and received a lot of good feedback since the prototype launch on Ludum Dare competition.
The business strategy that I will follow (soon detailed in a full dedicated document and post) is to reuse some base game mechanics into recuring universes. I tried to explore 2 universes (also to be announced later), but just one is mature enough to receive further investiments.
It is now in full pre production, with a lot of experimentation and visual identity creation. I will be a milestone in Gamenific’s history, since I will invest a lot of money on its development, using a lot of freelance and outsourcing several portions of the process. It will miss the Christmas launch window, but I am very confident that it could be a great franchise.

Picubic

Despite the missing dates, I am fully committed to finishing it. Desura and IndieGogo customers will receive it as soon as possible.
The curious thing that, because I do not close the project, I keep changing things here and there. I am particularly interested in altering the list of background musics that are deployed. After several months, I got annoyed with them. I will look for some freelance artist to compose a track or two. I always can reuse it later in a future venture.

Gamenific new site

As you might have already noticed, we changed our home.
It took one year to get irreversibly annoyed with Blogger and Google Sites services. They are too basic and confusing. It was becoming counter productive.
Google Sites is weird! Not only it is very akward interface to build the site it self but also the administration structure is confusing. Also, there are very few professionals in the market that know how to customize and enhance a Google Site’s site. The result was a very bad looking website that could potentially hurt the brand.
Blogger is much better accepted. It is still had to find good professionals and tutorial and everything for a Blogger site but it is possible. Even that, the editor is so clunky that was taking too much time to just format and customize the post according my taste. It was a much less critical problem, but if the new product was able to nicely

The new platform: Weebly

After a quick search in the market, fake bloging and customizing testing sites, I decided to move, at least temporarily, to Weebly. I checked Wix, WordPress.com, SquareSpace but none offered a good low-cost solution with the power that I needed.
It is a constant experimentation process. We will try to include this site into our workflow.
I am particularly preoccupied with the blogging features. Weebly is notably weak in this area, with little-to-none administration controls. It will have implications in the long run, but until then the service might get better, so it’s better not to worry too much now.
I am very excited with the new home. What you do think? Did you liked?
This post was originally on Gamenific.com/Blog

Destructor iPhone

My plan for putting Creator Saga Story Tycoon in the mobile space has faced a bizarre obstacle: my iPhone exploded!
I was using a 3GS model just for developing. This Sunday, after returning from lunch, I saw the iPhone totally opened on the table. My first thought was someone let the phone fall and it broke. But looking closer I noticed that I could not even close the phone again: the battery was round and enormous.
I really don’t know what happened. I did not have the time to research about it. When telling my friends about what the incident, the first thing they asked me was: look at this battery! Was the phone in the plug? No. I charged the phones the day before, and it was just laying in the table.
I do not use the phone often, so my own hypothesis is that iOS was performing some kind of system update that was so intense, so intense, that phone super heated and the battery materials suffered some chemical reaction, like a popcorn bag in the microwave. But again, it is just a supposition, because the phone was not even hot when I found it.
Did it happened wit you? Does anyone know what should I do? I really wanted to make iOS a default platform for all my games. For now, no iOS games.
The post was originally on Gamenific.com/Blog

Picubic is now on Desura

The old modding community ModDB has a -now more famous- sister called IndieDB. It’s a community dedicated to indie games. If you are interest on the subject you definitely should pay them a visit.
Gamenific now will participate more actively there too. For now, all posts form the blog will also be reshared there too but we plan to give the community some exclusive content.
But even better news is that Picubic is now on Desura! Desura is distribution platform arm of the same group, similar to the almighty Steam but far more friendly to indies.
The entry was validated in January and you are be able to buy Picubic, have automatic updates and manage to install it in multiple computers (that you own ;)). Note that the game is still on beta.
We will post continuously the followup events of this partnership.

The post was originally on Gamenific.com/Blog

Mobile Creator

Since it’s release in Ludum Dare 28 competition, I keep receiving good feedback from the game Creator Saga Story Tycoon.
The game was created in response of the previous competition entry that was hammered for being complex. I created a brainless game, which will make the gamers just click in the main character for several minutes, even hours.
One of the common “requested” features was a port to mobile. So that is it! I will dedicate a couple of days just to port it to Android and iOS. It will require several updates but it might not take long.
Planned work:

  • fix old bugs
  • review the tutorial
  • rename some items
  • rebalanced
  • implement ads
  • review the analytic

These will be implemented a bit at time and expect version after version with these features.
As you can see, it is not planned for now a total remake. Just an enhanced port. I will revisit the game later in the year.
Essentially the only new “feature” is the inclusion of ads. I was planning to do this since the original version, but the competition time frame was too short. It will be the very first ad game.
The Android version is expected to this weekend (June 1st) and iOS to next week.

The post was originally on Gamenific.com/Blog

Unity game optimization means no LINQ

Last week I implemented the first version of the computer opponent for Vaults Inc. It is not very smart, but It might give players some challenge.
It uses a mix set of arbitrary rules (like “always try to buy the most expensive tile available”) and simulation (test each combination to get the most reputation possible).
Then I wanted to put 2 bot opponents to fight! I would be just an spectator. It worked fine. However… the performance is horrible! horrible horrible! Specially mid-to-final turns, the combinatorial analysis was exponentially slower.
It was making the game hang. The logical step is to make code optimization as a urgent task. Code branched and the analysis began.
The first thing I discovered was LINQ was performing VERY badly. So sad. I love using LINQ queries to create clean code; in one line it filters lists in very nice ways. But LINQ generates simple enumerators, which is perfect if you want later iterate all items, but very bad if you want some kind of management data, like the quantity of items found. If you ask it, it will iterate all items each time just for you. Surprisingly, the ANY() function, used to check if there is at least one item, was also super slow.
Removing essentially all LINQ from the game, It was still slow. The next thing I had to attack was the lack of cache on recurring operations.
The next target was the messaging system. To decouple each class from the other, I used a event system that was too generic. Each listener (hundreds of them) had to deal with all calls all the time. Just by rewriting some of the implementations resulted in a much better speed.
The last piece was the hex grid system. One of the most repetitive tasks was finding if a given tile is adjacent to another. The code was creating a list of possible tiles and them checking if the tile you want to check is among any of them. It was not good due the memory allocation it was generating each time. I had to remake the logic using just math.
There is room for many more improvements. I will just attack a few more points and them invest on new features again.

The post was originally on Gamenific.com/Blog

Game is Art and Code

I’m a one man company. Gamenific is, at least for now, Bruno Massa Inc. All my games are designed and programmed by me. And while I consider myself a man with a reasonable artistic eye, I have to admit that I don’t have the talent to make it a profession. If you see all my games, they tend to be very abstract and generic. I generally try to use artifacts and tricks to create a visual impact.
Now I am in the chase of an game graphical artist. Well… I am in this pursuit for quite long time. I tried several marketplaces with no success. As an indie, I don’t have a huge budget, and in this field you get what you paid for.
I know there are talented guys that are willing to go indie. I know many might work even for free, for the sake of participating in a full game production. They are out there. At each edition of Ludum Dare I see several guys making mediocre games with wonderful art.

Challenge

Now I created a challenge for myself: find a partner. It is now my new mantra. I just need to stop improvising and start to delegate some jobs to other people. I want to invest my time in things that I am good at and give other parts to other people. In my case, I need an artist that I trust and share my design decisions.
Important to say that partnerships take time. Trusting takes time. I need give people time to allow they to gain my trust. So I will, step-by-step, increasing the amount of delegated decisions.

First Steps

I will start to make systematic attempts to hire contractors for the next 2 months at least. I will go to oDesk (the best place to find somebody for almost any job), DeviantArt and ask other Ludum Dare developers. I plan to ask all of them to make small tests, to check their artistic veins and styles. If they are good and aligned to what I want, I will give them small lists of deliverables: icons, characters, background, GUI…
The current projects, Picubic and Vaults Inc, demand different skills. Picubic is mainly in 3D, so while it have 2D art, it needs someone with a minimum of 3D knowledge. Vaults Inc will need animated art and loads of images.
Do you have any experience on hiring artists?

The post was originally on Gamenific.com/Blog

The Power of Good Feedback: A New Game

Game jams, like Ludum Dare, offer a great opportunity to explore new ideas. And because they are very very time limited, like a weekend only, they generally generates poor-to-medium quality products, unless you act deeply in the scope in a way that it is clearly a quick bite game with almost no commercial future.
I always wanted to develop something to last. “10 Seconds to Speech” suffered from the lack of interest of the public. I still believe that the major flaw was the abstract theme and it would have a lot more audience if is recreated with a more palpable theme. The timing was not good for the Creator Saga Story Tycoon because the amount of work my day job was quite demanding. I could not invest more time even for making it a better free game.
But the game I created for Ludum Dare 29 will have a different fate. The quality of the feedback I’m having is great. Even with much less publicity than Creator SST, people that played gave me important insights and described everything that went wrong with a lot of care. I felt the game touched these people and they wanted to give to the author a feedback to actually make it better.
Since I personally believe in the future of this game, I’m announcing the next Gamenific project:

Vaults Inc

The ultimate post-nuclear-war-bunker-simulator. A turn based strategy game in which you take control of a underground facility that have to attract the most population possible. Each turn, your fame will be converted to more citizens.
Each building affects each other in a complex net: Landfill decreases Fame is placed next to a residential block; slaughterhouse generates more income if placed next to a restaurant; fancy restaurant decreases fame is other fancy restaurants are built. Timing and Location are crucial.
Bigger bunkers means bigger problems: the more you grow, your fame and income start to go down. The game has typically 50 turns and the player have to reach the biggest population possible.

Future development

The game needs to go back to design. Not only there are several features that I could not implement, but also I have to give a total remake on things that already done.
From a quick list, here are some items:

  • Save and Load functionality: auto explaining and the benefits are quite obvious
  • Graphical revamp: it was one top complains from LD players and not with reason
  • Bots: a computer opponent for single player
  • New game play features: challenges and empty blocks are among the things I want to implement to make the game richer
  • Campaign mode: for single players, with specific scenarios
  • Multi player: online and local
  • Social: comparing scores with friends
  • Multi platform: PC, Mac, Android an iOS for sure. Other platforms could be considered

I will keep a much more constant diary about this game. And I plan to release an Alpha version quite soon. Stay tuned!

The post was originally on Gamenific.com/Blog