The Blog of Ryan Foss

It's a start!
iPhone

Review of the AppJudgement Review of Deadly Chambers

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!

iPhone Card Game Art


I’m working with another iPhone developer for a card game. Here’s what I have so far for the cards.

I was trying to go for a more modern theme, hence the shiny look. It looks good on the phone. Oh, the characters are part of the theme too.

I updated my iPod Touch for Free

F! Apple. Why would they charge iPod Touch owners $10 to upgrade to the new 3.0 firmware but its free for iPhones. It’s another example of their smarmyness. You can buy a brand new iPod Touch, get home and find out there’s another $10 fee to get it to be current.

Regardless, I’ve been adamant about waiting until the price dropped to free before upgrading but circumstances required I upgrade. I started working with a developer who’s targeting the new 3.0 and his app wouldn’t install. I went to the internets for options.

I found many sites listing how to upgrade for free which sounds great but the comments are sprinkled with many fails. After a few fails of my own, and a restore or two later, I managed to get the 3.0 Firmware onto my iPod Touch 2G without shelling out $ to the man. Here’s how:

1. Be sure you have iTune 8.2 or newer. This is one of the big problems I suspect since the 3.0 Firmware will not work in older iTunes and the error it gives is confusing.
2. Go here http://www.felixbruns.de/iPod/firmware/ and download 3.0 firmware. If you have a 2G Touch, get the 2G ispw file.
3. Start up iTunes and plug in your iTouch.
4. Select it in the iTunes devices list.
5. Click on “check for update”. It will go to the sales pitch but just click cancel on the borrom left. It will return to the devices page and “check for update” should change to just “update”.
6. Hold shift and click “update”
7. Select the ispw file you downloaded.
8. let it run its course like normal.

This should update the firmware and you wont lose any files.

I’ve only done this with my iPod Touch 2G. If you’re wondering, the 2G Touch has physical volume control on the side and speakers, whereas the 1G has no physical volume control and requires headphones.

Sales Slump

The idea that you can just drop your game in the iTunes App Store and make millions is probably a fallacy. Perhaps with the right marketing, and a good circle of friends and family, and a little luck, it is possible. I think we may have lost our chance for momentum. To my credit, I haven’t done this before.

Here’s a little detail on how the game, Board@Work, is doing. Its not as hot as I had hoped it would be. I found this cool website called MobClix that does some tracking. Below is a picture of it, along with our sales figures.

Apple takes a day to let you know about sales, so I’m hoping this gives a little insight into the future. Essentially, after a big slump on the 5th, we’ve started to climb. According to the ranking, its higher than previous so hopefully that trend will continue.

I think its a fun game, but I can understand why people might not give it a chance. I think

I’ve sent some free codes to some of the podcasts I listen to and enjoy the most, hopefully that will pan out. I’ve sent codes to Chad and the gang at the Video Game Show and Lono at his new gig, Respawn Radio. If we get mentioned, we may be able to get some traction.

More Board

Ben wrote on the Touch Arcade Forums something that I think is worth sharing, and getting it out so it doesn’t get buried in a forum post.

Quote:
Just wanted to give a little background on the game… When we set out to make this game, we fully realized that there were a ton of match 3 style apps in the App Store. But, we didn’t feel that any of them took it to the next level of fun… Some of the match 3s out there feel more like a chore than a game.

So, Ryan and I each came up with a ton of ideas on what could make such a classic game style (match 3) as fun as possible. We tested out a lot of different game play methods and different power-ups, and ended up getting rid of a lot of our ideas as they didn’t add to the fun or strategy. What we ended up with was a bit of Tetris, in that the blocks keep coming at a set interval, mixed with name your favorite match 3 (Bejeweled, Trism, whatever), but with power-ups that actually are useful and make sense. We feel the useful/strategic power-ups (office supplies) are a very unique feature in the match 3 genre – not many have power-ups and those that do seem like they were an afterthought in the development of the game…

We also brainstormed on a lot of theme concepts – Ryan started off with a design concept of the game as if it were played on graphing paper, which got a lot of discussion started, but we went through a few different concepts that were more iPhone-standard design concepts, where the artwork would look great, but wouldn’t have done anything to set it apart. Then we hit upon an epiphany based off of Ryan’s initial idea and our thinking that there wasn’t enough humor found in the App Store. So, we ended up with an “office” theme that we feel (obvious bias) fits well with both the game and the humor element. We took inspiration from some of our favorite movies/shows such as Office Space and The Office as far as the style of humor goes.

We had the game play code and 90% of the graphics finished almost two months ago, and could’ve submitted to the App Store then, but we just didn’t think we had the game balance just right nor the game’s polish completely right. Basically, the past couple of months has been spent getting the balance right and really make the theme fit and add the polish to the finished product we wanted. We could’ve released it a couple of months ago, but it wouldn’t have met the goals that we had when we set out to make the game – taking a classic game play genre/style (match 3) to the next level while adding some serious strategy elements and having a solid theme…

We’re quite proud of this game and so far the feedback we’ve gotten has been even more positive than we expected… The best compliment we’ve received so far is, “Wow! didn’t think I could get addicted to a game like this but i keep saying “one more time” i’m having a hard time putting it down – thanks!” The negative comments have been almost exclusively about there not being tons of players in the multiplayer mode, but it did just come out today…

Anyway, sorry for the long post, but just wanted to let everyone know what went into the game and our thought processes and goals. Maybe it sells 10, maybe it sells 1,000,000, who knows?

If you have comments or constructive criticism, please email comments@spigotgames.com and let us know… We’re always looking for constructive criticism to make our games even better – we may even make you a beta tester in the future…

Thanks again,
Ben

Don’t be Bored at Work with Board@Work

It’s on!

The game Board@Work for iPhone is available at the Apple App Store.

App Store

Game For Review, Board@Work

Ben submitted our iPhone game on Friday last week. He expects it to take about a week to be released, since his last game took about that long to be approved. Since then, we’ve made a video to showcase some of the gameplay.



I also helped him update his website. I’m not one much for web design, because its often frustrating and time consuming, but I think simplicity is nice. Hence, the design of his site conforms to that. You can check it out, along with info about the game, at SpigotGames.com

New Logo for Spigot Games


I offered to make Ben at Spigot Games a new logo for his game company. It was selfish of me because I didn’t like his existing logo very much. This is an improvement.

The drop shadow one is the one he is using. It helped give it some depth I think, though I’m 50/50 on which one I like more.

Board@Work

Board at Work
The game play is coming along nicely. The game is really fun to play. Game balancing and design is really an interesting subject, one that is undoubtedly overlooked by players. If we do this right, this should be one of the highest scores ever! (Only because the game score vs. time balance is in the works.)

FYI, Photo taken with my G1, ha.

Welcome to the Light Side


I own a iPod Touch now. Here you can see a development version of the game I’m working on. It’s been really exciting. Ben at Spigot Games is really open to my suggestions and thoughts; its really awesome. So much so that I’ve earned myself a game design credit in addition to graphics. W00t!

My wife is a little bothered by the purchase and rightfully so. Hopefully this gig will pay out well enough to pay for my purchase.

What do I mean by “Welcome to the Light Side?” Well, certain people who know me know my issues with Apple. I applaud them for their success and innovation, but I’m disgusted by certain sales tactics. Case in point, the iPod touch doesn’t use a standard USB interface. If you want to buy White cables to match your iPod, they cost 10x as much as the black ones. In all actuality though, the iPod is impressing me in certain ways. It’s snyc with iTunes is pretty cool and easy (though iTunes is a weird application IMO). It also suffers a little compared to my G1 with its “keyboard”. I can type 100x faster on the Android G1. See this.

Board@Work

We came up with a game name, I think it really works too.

Here’s one of the prototype icons for the game.

iHeart Valentines

Though I think my “partnership” with the iAlleyBall iPhone developer fell flat, my postings led me to another. I’m working on some block game related art for another local developer. This icon seemed pretty topical for today.

This plastic concept was rejected though, but rightfully so.


Things are going very well with this new developer. He was very open and up front about our working relationship, which I appreciated very much. I think it is going to be good.

iAlley Ball Release


I did some art for a local iPhone developer a while back. He just released the game. Its called iAlley Ball. I don’t have an iPhone/Touch so I haven’t played it yet.

This was rendered in Carrara (old) with 4 layers, where I used Photoshop to blend to get the results I wanted for shadows and lighting. It turned out better than I thought my old software could do.

I would have used Blender, but at the time I was struggling with the materials and camera, so I fell back on my old familiar. Note that the Carrara I have is 3.0 (ala 2003), and I made it do some things it isn’t capable of via creative blending of multiple renders.

2003! Man my PC is getting old.