New Year! Welcome 2013

Happy New Year! This should be a very big year for Backward pieS as we have multiple projects in the works. We are moving away from the flash game portals and stepping into 2013 with mobile gaming,  while still developing “Dukes and Dirigibles” for the PC .We have also started working on a children’s game for Android using Unity3D. We are looking forward to a prosperous new year and wishing everyone the same. :)

 

Desura Prospects

Okay, so I mentioned Desura in my previous post.

Here’s what’s going on: the editor there played Dukes and Dirigibles, liked it, and is interested in having on their website. So now we will be spending the next couple months updating the graphics to add new bosses, level tiles, and more (so it’s actually worth paying for, as opposed to playing for free on game portal).

A week or so before it’s released, we’ll probably open up for pre-orders at a discounted price. We don’t know what the final pricing will be, but the pre-orders will cost about 20-40% less than the full price.

Exciting times, but  there’s a lot of work to do!

-Jay

But Wait, There’s More…Waiting

In our last post (which feels like roughly one million years ago) we stated that Dukes and Dirigibles was up for active bidding on FlashGameLicense.com.

We’ve since accepted an offer and have been working on preparing the game for the winning bidder’s website. This includes additions such as a pre-game splashscreen for his game portal, as well as some links to his site within the game’s user interface.

It’s been a very slow process, with emails usually taking 2 or more days each for a response. And with a host of change requests going back-in-forth, you can see how this adds up to weeks of development.

In a nutshell – we’re close to being done, but the game is not up yet. I plan to write a postmortem about the whole process sometime soon.

In more interesting news, we showed Dukes and Dirigibles to the editor of Desura, the digital marketplace for games. He liked the game and is interested in publishing it. :)

Now, we’re still ironing things out. Our vision is to place a version of DnD on Desura that includes enhanced graphics and additional levels. This is going to involve some careful planning, because we need to estimate how much time is truly worth investing to maximize sales without wasting our efforts.

Honestly, I have no idea what kind of sales we’ll get over the lifetime of the game…a thousand? Ten thousand? More? Plus, if we can get into one of their bundles, that would nab us both sales and exposure, which would be great.

I’ll be posting more on our Desura efforts in the near future (no, for real, it actually will be soon!), and keeping everyone up to date. The game itself won’t appear on Desura until available for purchase (or at least pre-order), but you can check it out on Desura’s sister site, IndieDB right here.

-Jay

The Waiting Game

Just wanted to let everyone know that Dukes and Dirigibles is now in active bidding on Flash Game License (www.fgl.com). That should wrap up in another week or so. Then you should be able to find it on the web for play (finally!).

The auction process is pretty nerve-wracking. Unlike the auctions we’re all familiar with, bids increase slowly over days, not seconds. Refreshing the browser and seeing a jump up is exhilarating, but it’s heart-breaking when there’s no change (which is most of the time).

More news: we’ve updated the game page info for Dukes. The screenshots now show the final graphics, so what-you-see-is-what-you-get! Also, we’ve posted the video that was created to promote the game on FGL. If you’re not familiar with Dukes, it should give you a broad idea about what’s going on in the game (but you should still play it for yourself, of course).

-Jay

TooManyGames Wrap-up

I think we’ve finally recovered from the hard work of showing off Dukes and Dirigibles all weekend to the attendees of the TooManyGames convention. Things went very well and we appreciate all the people who took some time to sit down and try out our game.

We’ve put up a post about the weekend in the “Past Events” section of the website, and a gallery of images that were taken at the show.

Check ’em out!

-Jay

Busy, Busy, Busy

Ever visit a game developer’s website and wonder why it hasn’t been updated in forever? Are they still working on the game? Are they still alive?

The short answer: YES!!

We’ve been really busy here lately. Dukes and Dirigibles is really close to being done. It’s actually driving me kind of crazy. But I keep getting pulled in other (important) directions. We put together a submission for the yearly IndieCade Festival (http://www.indiecade.com/). We’re also going to submit to the Fantastic Arcade festival (http://fantasticfest.com/arcade/). Haven’t submitted yet, because we need a video as part of the submission.

Speaking of which, I was also busy last week trying different software packages for recording gameplay and editing it into a promotional video. That’s also something we need for our auction of Dukes on Flash Game License, and just makes for good promotional material in general.

This weekend, we’ll be attending the Steampunk World’s Fair (http://steampunkworldsfair.com/). We’re not showing Dukes, though they were kind enough to feature our game/company on their website. We’re mainly going to the fair to relax, maybe schmooze a little and spread the word about ourselves.

Okay, that’s enough for now. Remember, if you haven’t seen a post from us in a while, it means we’re getting a lot done!

-Jay

The Aftermath

Wow, that title sounds dramatic. :)

Anyway, we posted a preview of Dukes and Dirigibles for other game developers to try out. The response has been very positive, but the requests for improving the tutorials hit me right in the gut. It was that kind of situation where you knew it in the back of your mind, but you needed to hear it from someone else to fortify your resolve to improving things.

If there’s anything I learned from this, it’s that you have to continually remind yourself that players will be coming into your game with zero prior knowledge of what will be expected of them. Sure, there are tropes in gaming that can be exploited (such as pressing the left mouse button to fire a weapon), but they only go so far.

So back to the tutorials I went. The main offender was the first tutorial. Right in the first “room”, we required players to recognize they are playing an omni-directional (as opposed to just vertical or horizontal) scrolling game from the right/left turning instructions alone. Without proper instruction, however, players were flying straight ahead into the first wall they came upon.

Though I didn’t change it to be so blunt as saying, “This game scrolls in all directions,” I did add a clear indicator that the way to continue was to turn to the right. I also added a hint box (we already use these elsewhere) that fades into view if the player has been in the first section long enough for the game to infer they he may not know what to do next (plus, it’s always good to give players clear objectives).

In general, I added more, but simple and direct, signage that filled in the gaps of what we were asking the player to interpret. The tutorial we had before these changes now seems to me like almost a puzzle game. But it’s not supposed to be a puzzle game – the tutorial is there to get the player ready for the actual game as efficiently as possible. I think a good rule for reaching clarity is to look at the tutorial and ask yourself what gamelplay elements are currently the least clearly explained, and decide if more needs to be done to inform the player about them.

In my next post I think I’ll talk about the types of things you should actually let the player figure out for himself.

-Jay

Whoosh

So our preview build of Dukes and Dirigibles is up on FlashGameLicense. If anyone is registered there please go take a look at the game and let us know what you think!

Prepping the game for upload has been an education. For starters, I didn’t know that even the preview would require a thumbnail, so I spent an afternoon just on that to get something together that I thought was eye-catching. Didn’t want people’s first exposure to the game to be a throw-away image.

Safe-guarding the SWF had its ups and downs as well. At first, all that would appear after the preloader (which showed our company logo) was a blank screen. Not a good start. Some searching revealed that there were issues with Flixel going on. I found that I had to leave some of the core Flixel classes unprotected, which wasn’t a big issue because they’re publicly available anyway. Then after that I read how unscrupulous types could still re-brand your game by not even touching the code, but just by swapping out the graphics! So I had to institute some protection code of my own that checks a variety of the game’s images to make sure that they are exactly the ones they are expected to be be.

Finally, I had problems with the default UI mouse cursor appearing. This happened in two cases: first, completely randomly. Um…yeah. That never happened in the Flash player, but it was now an issue when embedded in a web page. Second, and this I should’ve caught before, is that if the player pressed the RMB and that Flash dialogue box popped up, when clicking back to the game the default UI mouse cursor didn’t go away. At first I tried to fix that by simply setting the default UI cursor to hide every frame, and that worked, but if the mouse was moved outside the game screen it would flicker as you moved it until clicking somewhere. Very annoying, and players would not have been happy. So I had to make the code a little smarter such that it hid the default cursor every frame that occurred in the game screen, but showed it if the mouse was outside the game screen.

Fun stuff, right? :)

-Jay

Tension

We are going to upload a preview of Dukes and Dirigibles (probably on Monday) to the website where we will be putting it up for auction, FlashGameLicense. We’re doing this so other Flash game developers there can have a look at it, and hopefully provide feedback on anything else we can improve in the game before we release it.

Honestly, we’ve been surprisingly nervous about this. While we’ve shown the game publicly a couple of times, and it’s always garnered positive responses, things feel different this time. Maybe that’s because before we could always tell ourselves we have time to make changes, even major ones, if they’re necessary. Not this time. The game is damn-near done and pretty much is what it’s going to be.

It’s amazing how devastating any comment could be at this point. I think I would sink into a deep depression if someone on FGL simply said, “It was okay.” But I’m going to try to stay focused on the comments that involved something actionable. “It sucks” means nothing to me, because it doesn’t speak to anything specific, but if someone says, “The tutorials weren’t clear enough” I’m going to have to hunker down and figure out how make them even better.

It’s such a strange time. The game could turn out to be popular and successful and we’ll say to ourselves, “Well, of course, we already knew it was a good game.” Or it may not generate much attention at all, and we’ll berate ourselves for not seeing that coming. How two completely opposite results seem entirely plausible is amazing to me, and I hope we won’t have to ever live with such heightened uncertainty again.

-Jay