Why Freak Factory?

You may be surprised if I tell you that Freak Factory is about life, but it is.

Every time you play Freak Factory you lose, eventually. You may prolong the game, you may get a high score, but eventually you will lose. Losing is inevitable and every Freak you make reduces the space you have, reduces how much game you have left. While you play it the game doesn’t get harder, it gets less. With every move you make you see the end approaching. Continue reading

Bubble Pack becomes Freak Factory

I’ve been heads down building stuff for Bubble Pack for a while now, which is why I haven’t talked about it much. A lot of news has built up.

A New Name

The game now has its final name and art style. The name is Freak Factory. What were bubbles are now little critters called Freaks, and what was a simple box is now a factory in which you make these Freaks. And if you don’t keep them contained they will escape and the game ends. Trust me, it all makes sense and looks wonderful. Continue reading

Bubble Pack update – monetisation

It used to be the only question about monetising your game was how much to charge, and you could leave that decision until quite late in the development. But in this era of free-to-play we have to ask ourselves how we propose to charge for the game, and we have to ask early because the decision can have significant ramifications for the game.

How to charge for your game is sometimes very simple and other times very hard. With Bubble Pack I have always known that I want the initial download to be free. There are two reasons for this Continue reading

Bubble Pack update – gameplay

I have been playing around with the gameplay for Bubble Pack, adjusting it to get the right difficulty balance. There are lots of small adjustments that can be made to make the game a little easier or a little harder and I also tried a couple of bigger changes.

First I tried letting the player set the power at which the ball is thrown. Unfortunately, this made the game far too easy whilst also making the controls more complicated, so I ditched that idea. Continue reading

Bubble Pack – my first indie game

Wow, setting up a company is a lot of work. More than I remember from last time I did it (fourteen years ago!) but I’m getting there. All the admin has had a substantial impact on development of my first game, so progress is slow. I have also neglected to tell you about the game I’m making, which is remiss of me. That changes now.

My first game is called Bubble Pack. It is a physics game – how many bubbles can you pack into the screen. You launch each bubble to bounce around the screen, and when it stops it expands until it touches the side wall or another bubble. You have to pack as many bubbles into the screen space as you can. Continue reading

A Whiff Of Christmas

The Christmas web game season is here once again and I’ve just finished “A Whiff of Christmas” for I Want One Of Those.

The game features all the usual Christmas favourites – snow, presents, elves, flying reindeer, and of course Father Christmas – along with some more unusual elements – body odours, death and cannibalism. Have fun, and do comment on the game below.

And every fortnight one lucky player wins a remote-controlled micro helicopter.

Casual Multiplayer Gaming

Until recently I wasn’t sure if casual multiplayer gaming was possible. In my experience, multiplayer gaming required a serious investment of time and energy. Even with the simple multiplayer flash games you have to choose a user name, set some options, read the instructions (I don’t want to look stupid in front of the other players), choose a room in the lobby and then ask to play with some one or more other people. At which point I often wonder, since I’ve not played the game before and so am probably rubbish at it, will they wish they’d said no when I asked to play with them?

But I spent most of yesterday afternoon playing Zwok, a multiplayer game that is so simple, and so much fun, I figure there may be something to learn from it. (And if I do learn from it I won’t have to write off yesterday afternoon as wasted time). So here’s a brief summary of my thoughts so far.

  • Joining the game is very simple – just click the guest button (here called “quick play”) and you’re in.
  • There is no lobby, no decisions to be made, no worrying what others think and if they’ll play with you – having clicked the guest button you are dropped straight into a game. It couldn’t be any simpler – click one button and start playing.
  • The game is played in two teams of three. As a player you’re not totally reliant on your team-mates (as I got better I won some games with little or no help from my team-mates) so it really doesn’t matter how bad you are when you start out.
  • The game play is very simple – throw stuff at the other team. We all understand that and have enough experience with gravity in the real world to figure out roughly where our chosen missile will land.
  • Games last between two and five minutes, so it’s perfect to slot a few games in at lunchtime.
  • Registered users get to design their own character, build a reputation and gain access to some additional styles of missiles, but the game-play and fun are not limited for unregistered users.

So, in a nutshell, make it as simple as possible to start playing. I know we apply that to single player casual games too but I’ve not seen it applied so effectively to a multiplayer game before. Add to that the standard “make it fun” and “make it short” and it sounds like a recipe for a successful casual multiplayer game.

Finally, one sour note in the game – who thought it would be a good idea to show the message “You have been kicked out of the game for poor performance” when your network connection is too slow or unreliable? I can’t be the only one to have thought the other players had decided I wasn’t good enough to play with them.

Is this the best soccer game on the web?

Stick Sports Soccer launched today over at Stick Sports and whether it’s the best soccer game or not, I’m proud to have built it. I didn’t build the whole site, just did all the actionscript programming for the game (Brian did the graphics while the Stick Sports team built the site itself and the back-end for the game).

It’s the most complex flash game I’ve created and was both difficult and fun to do. Before this project I wasn’t particlarly in to Soccer games. On the web, all the socer games seem simple and dull (another keepy-uppy game anyone?). Console games like Pro Evolution & Fifa Soccer, on the other hand, seem very complex and consequently dull for beginners as one struggles to learn the necessary skills to enjoy the game. I know a lot of people love them but I don’t have the time to devote to learning the skills needed to play these games well. I hope, with Stick Sports Soccer, we’ve created a good in between game where it’s easy to pick up and hard to master – simple and challenging in equal measure. Give it a go and let us know what you think – here or at the Stick Sports forums.

As the programmer, the most interesting bit was getting the AI right. I started with various code for manage complex state machines, then built the code for the different states and finally played with the parameters to get the feel just right. All the while remembering that I’ve played it so much during development that my opinion on difficulty level is not a representative one. So thank you to the beta testers for their feedback. I’ll write a little about the AI code another time. Meanwhile, go play the game.