Making a game can be fun and profitable (so I’ve heard), but its also a learning experience. One of the main criticisms of Deadly Chambers is the controls. It’s a mobile phone game granted, and a shooter at that, but we fell we did a pretty good job dealing with some of the limitations and oddities of Android and the numerous devices to make a control system for the game. Yes, it has its issues, it isn’t perfect granted, but it’s pretty ok. In some ways I think it works really well, innovative even.
Regardless of how much I pat myself on the back, or how close to the design and biased I am as co-inventor, it still comes down to the user experience. That made me think not only about how people play, but what they may be trying to do. If they are anything like me, they skip the tutorial, skip the control scheme image description, etc. and just jump into the game to figure it out. This isn’t a big deal I think, unless you make some misinterpretations about how it works, maybe even blame it for doing what you are telling it to do but not realizing it. Then I found a video on YouTube of someone else playing and it made sense. Of course people don’t play it the same as I do, but why don’t I show them.
You guys, Anthony Carboni over at AppJudgement recently reviewed Battery Powered Games’ Deadly Chambers for Android devices.
WAIT, don’t click play yet!
The review isn’t favorable even though Anthony is giving it the 5 finger solute there. In fact, considering all the positive reviews and comments we’ve gotten its surprising the level of which Anthony dislikes Deadly Chambers. If only he knew how much time I spent watching Bytejacker and playing Free Indie Rapid Fire games instead of working on level designs, improving textures and character animations… All the time I spent watching him with enjoyment and laughter, now replaced with a sour taste and sadness… He really didn’t seem to like the game. Oh Anthony!!! NOOOOOO!
We are really honored to be reviewed by AppJudgement, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been watching them for over a year now and I’ve come to enjoy their productions and trust their reviewers (was hoping for Jackie to review to be honest, no offense Anthony). I don’t know if Anthony, or the AppJudgement team got my requests for review, or if he found it as he stated (which would be awesome), but being noticed is a plus in and of itself. Even after the review I still love you Anthony, and we are taking many of your thoughts to heart. (WTF, ByteJacker biweekly, you suck! I mean that in the most positive way! I miss you.)
With that said, I have a few major contentions with his review. First off, he sets the stage by saying “a little gaming action for my hardcore friends.” Deadly Chambers was never intended as a “hardcore game”. It was designed to be a casual shooter, to give you a few minutes of shoot-the-bad-guys fun, and was designed accordingly. It is made for a phone device after all. We did decide to support the more hardcore gamer types by adding a lot of unlockable guns, achievements and a tough “Deadly” difficulty of course, but the designed and intended average time to play a level is pretty quick once you get used to it. Anthony reviewed Deadly Chambers as if it were intended for hardcore gamers so its no wonder he wasn’t satisfied. Additionally, he was comparing it to iPhone games. That isn’t a problem mind you, because its at least a more fair comparison than comparing it to Xbox360 or PS3 shooters and is appropriate, but it doesn’t really matter if you only have an Android Phone. What he also failed to mention was the total lack of any quality 3D shooters available in the Android Market because he was comparing it to iPhone games. If games like Deadly Chambers were easy to make, the market would be flooded with them. Deadly Chambers is one of a kind, for better or worse. It is not NOVA (ported to Android, and whose heard of it other than the hardcore), it is not Quake (this is an OLD PC game remember), and its not supposed to be!
Secondly, he never mentions the bosses. The majority of the game design came in the form of boss fights. From an angry Ogre who can repel your attacks with a giant smiley face shield, a giant spider knight, a mechanized robot with Gatling gun arms whose pilot is its only week point, and a giant dragon that flies around shooting fire at you in a huge castle. The game’s boss fights add much to the game as a whole and he never mentioned them. In the game there are 5 enemy models and 6 boss models. Sure, the room to room design isn’t the best and the AI of those monsters isn’t top notch, but he didn’t even mention the level bosses. You shouldn’t say something like “enemy AI is simplistic and slow” and ignore the bosses, which he does. (See how mad the Ogre is there, waving his wooden hammer!)
Other little things…
The levels are “bland and boxy” and the characters are “simple”. This is so very true, and Anthony goes on later in his video to express the potential fragmentation problem related to this which is also exactly true. To support the myriad of Android devices and OS versions, we were forced to aim lower than I, as the artist and partial designer, would like. However, given that the game has 5 levels, 11 character models, 18 guns and a shit-ton of other images (that is artist talk for amazing Photoshop skillz), all jammed into a 7MB file, its f’ing impressive and I’m super studly for making that possible! Add to that the fact that it runs on so many devices is a testament to the design. We could have made a killer shooter if we target a few phones, Anthony is dead to rights about that, but we would have been ignoring a large portion of the Android audience. Ultimately though, shouldn’t this sort of approach be praised instead of condoned. Robert (Battery Powered Games owner, president, etc., etc.) was adamant about supporting older phones (older OSs, back to 1.6) and I eventually came around to his way of thinking (because he’s right). Its too big a market to over look, especially at the date of our release. I’m still sporting my G1 for crying out loud! This also correlates tremendously to sales as well as recognition.
One of the major issues with the game is its controls. I for one, have tested on a number of devices, and perhaps I’ve grown accustomed to its quirks, but it works well for me. However, supporting so many devices causes a whole bunch of unfortunate problems too. Problems that I wish were not there and cause us headaches and stars in the ratings (X10 and Moment for instance). I wont really get into this because its a loosing battle and I’m half drunk, but part of the blame falls on the player, but most of the blame falls onto the Android hardware. Don’t believe me? Go to the Application Market and download the some of the Multitouch test apps (Multitouch Visibility Test and Multitouch Paint are a both good ones) and use them in a way you think controls should/could work and see what happens. Here’s a video on the Nexus 1 and Droid just for reference. The ultimate problem is that since the Nexus 1 and the Droid both support the same OS, but the touch interface behaves differently and you can’t really target a phone directly, you’re stuck deciding how to deal with the fallout (bad reviews because phone don’t work vs. trying to make it right for one device.)
What saddens me most is that I seriously doubt Anthony played much of the game and this is evident in the video. There are hardly any achievement unlocks and no video past the third level. Some of the complaints about simple models and levels are true, but once you get to the Castle or the Tower levels (levels 4 and 5) I think the levels are outstanding in comparison. The models also get better. I admit, this shooter isn’t the 3D Jesus we’re all hoping for, but its a step in the right direction. With some actual, honest, unbiased and unrushed gameplay, I think its a solid game worth a look. One worthy of more than the 10 minutes it takes to get to level 3.
Anthony also mentions the characters sliding and twisting awkwardly around the screen, which admittedly is very noticeable. It’s also one of those things that I notice and you know where else this is noticable? Fallout 3 and Fable 2, both of which have characters that when running around the environment don’t seem to be quite right. I will admit I giggled a little at his reference to Dr. Chambers’ running animation looking like something like a puppet from Team America. This was one of those things that I wanted to fix, but ultimately was good enough for what it was. Not too bad for 8 keyframes really. (Still bugs me deep in my core, but not enough to do something about apparently…)
In the end, we are being compared to NOVA and even Rage by AppJudgement, a reputable and respectable organization and I appreciate their time and effort in their review. I respect Anthony and we are taking his, and every other reviewer, blog, fan or mutant out there who took the time to give us a chance, comments to heart. In the end, you should watch Anthony’s review because he is good at what he does and I’m all sorts of jealous. Sometimes I wish A-Train wasn’t dead… (Insert inside joke here… wait, I already did.)
Oh, and BTW, we’ve started working on our next game and its going to be awesome!
Here’s a quick plot showing Deadly Chambers sales per month. I wish I had more resolution to the trends of this plot, but the only data I get is the monthly run down. It’s still enough to show the dramatic spike that we had during the month of September. This can be attributed some to our marketing efforts and getting reviewed on various websites. However, I think most of our success was from our Feature status. That, unfortunately, has ended. I hope we can do half as well next month without it.
I’m really excited to see how we do in the following months. If you have any ideas, or friends or acquaintances in the review field for an Android game, please have them contact me.
Today, my Android G1 phone informs me that there are 105 reviews for Deadly Chambers, running a 4+ star rating. Our Featured Game status is over and we had a pretty good month. It’s nice to get noticed. I’ll try and post a graph or something one I get some numbers. Meanwhile, here are some of my favorite comments:
And here are some of the more comic 1-3 Star reviews.
And just so this post has a graphic attached, here’s something I used to convince the developer to add an extra weapon.
Deadly Chambers is one of this weeks Android Games of the Week at Appolicious.com: http://appo.me/djit1
Deadly Chambers has been featured by Google in the App Market! This is great news since it helps us spread the word about the game in the best way possible.
It’s out in the wild!
Deadly Chambers exclusive to Android powered devices of all makes and models.
Battle your way through 5 levels of baddies and bosses in this epic 3D journey. Deadly Chambers offers stunning graphics, tight gameplay, unique controls and loads of unlockable weapons and achievements.
The following are actual screenshots from a stock Nexus One phone running Android 2.2:
Deadly Chambers uses OpenGL ES 1.0 and is compatible with most Android phones running 1.5 or higher.
Tips for play:
Try all of the buttons on your phone – by default pressing in on the trackball or dpad center button will fire and surrounding buttons will change weapons and perspective.
Check the game settings – Key bindings, graphics and sound settings are all configurable.
You don’t need to equip all 3 weapons – sometimes it works better to just equip one or two very powerful ones.
Enemies are resistant to different weapons – Experiment and find out what works best.
Bosses have weak points – Try shooting at different areas and with different weapons to beat the tougher bosses.
How to get this game? It’s available now in the Android market.
This is my newest creation. If all goes well, it will be added to Deadly Chambers. It is a shotgun that shoots lasers!
It was made using Blender and Photoshop. I rendered an AO layer and saved it, then a light layer, the blue glow, by rendering only the light on a dark material to the same UV map. I combined them in photoshop with some metal textures, photos, hand painting and some layer effects. I really like how it turned out.
It’s “beta” because Rob is going to Google I/O this week and he wanted it in the market before he goes. Makes total marketing sense.
I have to say its really fun.
This is the lightmap layer of the tower level for the game I’m working on with Rob of Battery Powered Games. This is the final level, the Tower, where the big show down with a magical wizard takes place. The game should be out in a month (estimated release second week of May, 2010). It’s called [NAME TBD].
I’ve been using blender solidly for about half a year now and I have developed a number of tricks. My favorite trick thus far is baking textures with shared texture space. Essentially I design a symmetric scene, set up the lights and UV only part the model. I then use this part of the model to create the rest of the scene, but I push their UV’s out of the main UV space. This is a trick, since Blender won’t bake the textures for these faces (when they would normally cause problems), and they are technically in the same place if texture mode set to repeat.
Here you can see the UV texture space. The faces pushed to the top are part of the stairs design, while the parts pushed to the right are levels.
In this image you’ll see that the stairs have essentially the same texture mapping from one level to the next. What is really nice is that since they are the same, they share the same UV texture space, I reap the benefits of the resolution only doing it once. It might seem really weird but its backfaces only. This means you see through geometry from one side, but not the other. So you can see the stairs through the walls so to speak. It’s so natural to me, but I expect some won’t know what they are looking at.
He should be appearing as the level two boss in the upcoming Android game.
I’ve started working with Battery Powered Games, a local android developer I met through IGDA. We’re making a FPS sort of game. The images above is a WIP of level two, a castle level.
I’m limited to around 1000 triangles and two textures. One texture, a 1024×1024 image is the diffuse and the other is a light map, only 512×512 at maximum quality.
I’m having a lot of fun working on this stuff.