Archive for August, 2010

Hideout! Downloads: First Four Days

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Hey Everyone! The “estimated” data for the first four days of downloads and sales for Hideout! are in! We’ve had over 1000 people try out the game, which definitely shows that people like the game box and marketing material! And 28 full game copies have been sold! To be honest, these are pretty much the numbers that I was hoping for, maybe even better, especially considering the game was originally designed without sales in mind. But I’m really most happy because of the sheer number of people that have had a chance to try it out! :D I hope you’re all having fun with the game!

HideoutSales_FirstFourDays

Date Trials Purchases
8/26/2010 385 8
8/27/2010 296 4
8/28/2010 219 10
8/29/2010 176 6
Grand Total 1076 28

Purchase/Trial Ratio: 2.60 %

Hideout!: Designing Lasting Arcade-Style Gameplay

Monday, August 30th, 2010

When I initially designed and implemented the gameplay of Hideout! I had created a game where the best players would consistently get to about level 5 or 6, while beginners would typically achieve level 3 or 4. This wasn’t very good – I wanted experienced players to be able to get much higher up, maybe up to around level 25.

During the update and port to the Xbox 360, I spent some time working on this problem and was successfully able to create a very effective solution that kept beginners at around level 5, but enabled skilled players (myself) to reach level 23!

The Problem

When I had initially programmed the level progression, I had designed a number of the gameplay mechanics to progress in a linear fashion, such as the UFO speed, the time it takes for a UFO to discover you, etc.

I wanted the experienced players to be able to get to a “high” level, maybe in the twenties or thirties. This essentially resulted in the following scenario:

problem1

Interestingly, this implementation presented a huge problem: Players couldn’t tell that the levels were actually getting harder. Said differently, the difficulty steps were too small at the beginning levels. This meant that the players would easily become bored of the game because they assumed that it was the same thing over and over, with no difference in challenge from level to level.

To resolve this problem, I simply made the gameplay mechanics become harder much more faster than in the first design. This resulted in the first version of the game:

problem2

This caused a second problem, which I described at the beginning of the article: Even advanced players were not able to get very far in the game, compared to the beginners. It became impossibly hard to get past the low-to-mid range levels.

The Solution: Using Asymptotes!

After looking back at the game and performing this analysis, it was quite easy to come up with a solution to the problems: Instead of using a linear progression of gameplay mechanics, I simply implemented a function with an asymptote. This asymptote was positioned approximately around where I had determined that the gameplay mechanic was essentially impossible for humans. I also scaled out the function to make the curve start levelling out around the level 100 mark:

solution

This new approach enabled the players to both feel that the game was getting harder and allow them to slowly creep their way up to the highest level they could, anywhere between levels 10 and 25. This gave players a feeling of accomplishment as they played the game, because they could really see themselves getting better and better the more they played, but also understand that with each level the game was actually getting harder.

It’s nice to use a graphing calculator to help you make your function just right (Microsoft Math is one example). In the end, I feel that this approach has really made the Hideout! experience all that it could be and I’ve seen lots of players really get hooked on it and have a lot of fun.

Make sure to check out the new Hideout! to see what level you can get to! (And, of course, brag to your friends.)

Hideout! Now Available on Xbox Live!

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Hideout! has now been released on the Xbox 360! You can find it for download (with a free trial game) in the indie games section of the Xbox Live Marketplace or visit the game’s website at hideout.allenwp.com to watch the game trailer and find out more information. I had a tonne of fun making this game, so I hope you have just as much fun playing it!

Hideout! box art

If you have a moment to rate the game, it would be greatly appreciated as ratings strongly impact the number of people who will try out the game. Special thanks to everyone who helped with the development and testing of this game — It’s because of you that this game grown into such a fun experience! Happy gaming!

Hideout! screenshot

Links:

Visit the website
View the Xbox Live download page
Join the Facebook group
Follow on Twitter

If I say a game is too short, what do I actually mean to say?

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

The following text is actually a comment that I posted in response to a post by Ron Carmel of 2DBoy.

In response to “If I say a game is too short, what do I actually mean to say?”:

I think that many players and critics may base their definition partially off of the classic childhood meaning of “too short” which means that the game did not fulfill its purpose as a time-wasting mechanism… From personal experience, as a kid I played games to waste time and be mildly entertained at the same time (entertainment quality was less important back then). Being a kid, I became bored quite a bit and video games were my simple solution to this problem. Pokémon Blue was a good game because it wasted 143 hours of my life. It fulfilled its purpose… at the time.

To assume that all players expect video games to fulfil the purpose of “wasting time” is ridiculous, as most adults (I would guess) would not be looking for this element as strongly as when they had “all the time in the world”.

To go back to the original question, here is what I personally would be saying if I was taking this lazy shortcut:

“Because of the price that I paid for this game, I was expecting to receive more raw time in fresh, new experiences.”

Interestingly, this statement has a natural contrast which is: “This game was too repetitive”. In this contrasting statement, the meaning is actually /exactly/ the same (“Because of the price that I paid for this game, I was expecting to receive more raw time in fresh, new experiences.”) — but in this case, the game is “too long”. Or, said differently, it stretches the game experience too thin so that it does not maintain a “fresh”, “new”, or “novel” experience throughout.

I agree with William’s comment that it is definitely something that is an audience problem more so than a critic problem: But, that said, critics should also be careful of using these lazy shortcuts because they may not totally understand their audience and therefore may be failing in communicating effectively with them.

Sadly, today, “too short” inevitably spawns directly from price in the video game world. If all games were free, we would never hear of a game that was too short unless we were simply saying that we wanted more of it. In terms of marketing and finding the right price for a game, I think it is not possible at this time to have the general audience of the world (and therefore the critics) to change their mind about what they feel is the right amount of “fresh experiences” for the price that they pay. It’s something you have to feel out, understand, and get lucky with as a developer.


I’m not sure how this series of posts came to be organized, but I thought I’d record my thoughts as a developer – Other posts that were part of an industry-wide commentary by indie developers on the subject of short games are as follows:

Ron Carmel of 2DBoy

Jonathan Blow of Number None

Chris DeLeon

Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye Games

Matt Gilgenbach of 24 Caret Games

Michael Todd
Eitan Glinert of Fire Hose Games

Cliff Harris of Positech Games

Chris Hecker of Spy Party

Scott Macmillan of Macguffin Games

Noel Llopis

Peter Jones of Retro Affect

Lau Korsgaard

Martin Pichlmair of Broken Rules

Greg Wohlwend of Intution Games

Jeffrey Rosen of Wolfire

Steve Swink