Archive for the ‘Vintage Pachinko’ Category

Oct 9

Deus Penguin 2 Vintage Pachinko version 2.2 has been released for both Appstore and Google Play Store. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, this new update includes two new pachinko cells to play from the developing Deus Penguin series, each with their own center animation. Both cells feature a seven pocket, two tulip layout that is popular in real vintage machines, but has been missing from Vintage Pachinko until now. Both cells are configured for All-13 payout, just like the first chapter of Deus Penguin.

“Inside the Shrine” features a look at the approach to the Deus featured in chapter 1. A huge debate is getting ready to erupt among the penguins, but who is concealed and watching these debates with great interest?

The center feature is activated by the pocket immediately above it. Hitting this pocket will be a bit more of a challenge for the player over the first Deus Penguin cell. The two tulips, of course, will help to get your ball total up while trying to hit the trickier center pocket.

Deus Penguin 3 “Frozen Fjord” captures the aftermath of the escalation of the great debate. Matters are still deadlocked, though maybe the respite of some sleep will inspire thought on some sort of compromise.

“Frozen Fjord” debuts with a brand new frame design, the “Snowcat”. Designed to complement the icy feel of this cell, “Snowcat” presents many sharp angles and a sparkle to give an Antarctic impression to the whole machine. The furnace center feature is the first center feature to be animated full-time, though hitting the pocket immediately above will trigger a second, special animation.

Though sharing a theme in common, these two machines will help bring more variety to Vintage Pachinko. The new pocket layout and new frame design will help to keep gameplay fresh, and I hope to keep adding enhancements like these in the future.

Meet Joe When not getting ready for the Ohio Game Developer Expo itself or working to deliver the next update to Vintage Pachinko, I’ve been working on getting the story eventing and scripting in a good place for Dehoarder 2. I now have enough functionality to take the player through the first 5 minutes of the game, with a scenario involving waking up, getting out of bed, finding your way blocked by the fallout of an earthquake, undertaking mission to search for a missing cellphone, then using said cellphone to call for help.

My goal for the expo is to provide enough gameplay for players to go through two missions (not necessarily linear – I might have the demo teleport to a later mission), so I am almost there. Once the second mission is in place, I will spend remaining time before the expo making the game look as good as possible.

Dehoarder 2 will be the first Smiling Cat game to feature actual humanoid 3D models. Artistically, I find myself unable work with the human form worth a crap, which is why such models have been missing for so long. The Dehoarder 2 story requires a friend for the main character, though, so there was no more getting around it. Luckily, I don’t need to do much yet in terms of animation, and the models I acquired are very pleasantly functional. I was very surprised when I dropped one in the game, ran the game, and found the model automatically cycling through some idle animations.

Deus Penguin 3 I mentioned a Vintage Pachinko update. Yes, after a small hiatus, Vintage Pachinko will soon receive an update with two brand new cells from Phil Peer of Dioram, both from the Deus Penguin series. The second new cell will also feature a brand new frame design, codenamed “Snowcat”, angular and icebergish in appearance. Final builds are being generated now, and I’m going to try again for a simultaneous Appstore and Google Play release.

Speaking of Google Play, Google is not my favorite company right now, after adopting a couple of rather indie-unfriendly policies. First is the 3-day response time for support requests. While I have never taken more than 24 hours to respond to the two support requests I’ve received in 17 months, I’ve also never had one come in while I was, say, on a cruise or elsewhere that a connection to the digital world is tenuous. What this is going to force me to do as a one-man shop is to put up an impersonal support auto-responder just to cover myself in case a request comes in while I am digitally indisposed for a duration. I know that Google is trying to combat developers that NEVER respond to support requests, but the vast majority indie developers impacted by this policy take great pride in their work and already make all possible efforts to respond to support requests in a timely fashion. To chain everyone to a 3-day SLA under threat of ban because of a few bad developers is ham-fisted and overreaching because it affects too many good, decent developers outside of Google’s area of concern.

The second objectionable policy is the public publishing of developer physical addresses on the Google Play store. It is supposedly to comply with consumer protection laws, but I don’t seem to be able to find any such laws that require that a physical address be provided to a non-customer (with Google Play developers already provide an address to paying customers). Given recent events in indie gaming, it is a significant risk for any developer based out of their home to expose this information to the general public, and Google seems completely tone-deaf to that concern. While I’ve already taken steps to protect myself and my family, many other indie developers may not have the resources to do so, and they should not have to undertake such unnecessary risks or expenses just to get their work out in front of the public.

Well, enough of getting that off of my chest. There’s a lot of work to do today, so I’m going to go focus on that instead.

Apr 12

Deus Penguin - Penguin Shrine Vintage Pachinko is now available for iOS in addition to Android. The iOS version contains everything the Android version does, and is available for both iPhone and iPad.

Work is still underway on the iOS version of Prepare for Warp. Most work remaining now centers around in-app purchases, so hopefully the 1.0.10 update of Prepare for Warp will be available in a couple of weeks.

Deus Penguin - Penguin ShrineVintage Pachinko 2.1 is now available in the Google Play Store. This must-have update marks the first collaborative project undertaken by Smiling Cat.

The new “Penguin Shrine” pachinko machine is the first in our new “Deus Penguin” series. Deus Penguin unveils a curious narrative of a deified penguin, and Phil and I look forward to developing this concept further in the coming months.

Phil Peer of Dioram is the artistic force behind Deus Penguin and the new Penguin Shrine machine, and I think that his work is a great contribution to Vintage Pachinko. While my prior machines had been built mostly from creatively-arranged clipart, Phil has used his talents to create fully-integrated pachinko artwork for this newest release. He also did quite a bit of work on the UI textures so that they weren’t so plain and boring.

Automatic updates should be rolling through by now, and if you don’t own a copy yet and remember these machines from way back when, you should really grab the game now from the Google Play Store. It is hands-down the best Pachinko app for Android, and it is only getting better with each release!

The iOS release of Vintage Pachinko will be coming very soon, just as soon as I successfully navigate the app approval process.

Please look forward to the next installment of the Deus Penguin series, coming in version 2.2.

Deus Logo

Mar 22

A regular check up has revealed that piracy of Vintage Pachinko has become much more aggressive since the release of 2.0. Some of the piracy I am now seeing is quite frankly very brazen. No longer limited to back-alley file sharing channels, it seems that some operations now have no problem with putting a full, searchable, attractive web site together offering direct downloads of many paid titles.

I was hoping to release Vintage Pachinko 2.1 this weekend. I will unfortunately need to delay that plan while I implement some countermeasures. Rather than freeze potential players completely out, though, I hope to use this as an opportunity to convert some of the purveyors of these pirate sites. Starting with this new version, unlicensed installations will operate in a reduced-functionality mode. In this mode, winnings will not be saved, players will be unable to unlock new pachinko machines, and a nag message will appear fairly frequently. Properly licensed users will notice no change aside from the additional permissions required licensing and integrity checks.

The beauty of the scheme I am using is that none of this is announced in-game until a couple of minutes into play, so a quick spot check by a malfeasant distributor reveals nothing amiss. They release the app to their sites, and unwittingly become part of the underbelly of my marketing network when my app convinces unlicensed users to convert.

I really hate having to focus attention on things like this when I could be spending time providing a better gameplay experience. However, this is the world we live in, where theft from small merchants like me is seen by some as a way to get ahead, so some basic measures need to be taken. I know anything I implement could probably be broken, but hopefully it will not be found to be worth the effort, with so many other apparently easy targets out there.

Upping My Game

posted by Duke
Mar 8

Wow. I’ve ended up with a lot of irons in the fire right now. I’ve just been methodically working with each one. Here is a breakdown of my progress, in order of priority:

Vintage Pachinko Deus Penguin / iOS Release (Version 2.1)

Penguin Temple ResultPhil and I are wrapping up work on the first pachinko machine in the Deus Penguin series. It is really looking sharp, and we have just a little work left on the pockets and center feature. I am now in the Apple Developer Program, and have a working iOS test build of Vintage Pachinko. I’ve been overhauling the UI to better accommodate iOS devices (Why you no have back button?!?!?!), and applying some of the more mobile-optimized shaders I’ve been developing. I’m hoping to release this update on both Android and iOS within the month.

Prepare for Warp Argent Agora / iOS Release (Version 1.1)

In-Game StoreAfter some minor difficulties, I’ve managed to integrate Soomla into Prepare for Warp, and I am developing and testing out some in-app purchases. This release will include the ability to remove ads within the app, making the paid version of the app obsolete. I do plan to offer some type of migration plan to those who own the current paid version of the app, so that they can continue to enjoy an ad-free experience. Other in-app purchases planned so far are a token to double the rate at which Argen is earned, an Argen windfall that carries across game resets, and novelty tokens to change the appearance of in-game elements. I also have a working test build of Prepare for Warp on iOS, and have applied my optimized shaders to this project. The UI has been updated to support iOS (…mumble mumble back button mumble…), and the options menu is now available from the main menu in addition to in-game. Look for this update to be released a couple of months down the road for both platforms.

Breaking Block

This one is slow-cooking right now. There are still a bunch of changes I want to make to the in-game economy and the gameplay, and the two aforementioned projects have been occupying most of my Smiling Cat time the past couple of weeks. It does not have an iOS build yet, but might have one by the end of day today. I did write a bunch of optimized shaders that use only what I need, and nothing that I don’t, and those optimizations have benefited the prior two projects as mentioned.

Well, back to work for me. I’ve got lots of builds and stuff to do before today’s meetup.

Feb 22

Apple StuffA couple of days ago, I invested in all the hardware that I should need to start creating iOS builds of my existing and new games. I got it all set up, and began the process of joining Apple’s Developer Program under the Smiling Cat banner…

…And that’s where we still sit. One thing to know when joining Apple’s Developer Program as a company is that you will need to be verified by Dunn & Bradstreet (a company that maintains an authoritative business registry and issues credit reports on businesses) before you can successfully sign up, and it is not a particularly quick process. Getting listed in their database is not the issue – if your company has accounts at any financial institution, it probably already has a D-U-N-S number. However, if you have not worked with Dunn & Bradstreet before, it is likely that your company is in unverified status in their database, and you will need to provide them with proof of your business registration, as well as work with them to correct any inaccurate information.

Note that you do not need to do this if joining Apple’s Developer Program as an individual, only if joining as a company. I guess this is all an effort to keep the riffraff out of the App Store’s walled garden, but, WOW. After the ease with which I signed up for the Android Developer Program, this was unexpected. As of now, it looks like I will be clear to start iOS development the first week of March. In the meantime, I temporarily have some fantastic new paperweights that are shaped like useful development tools =P. Despite the delay, I’m still looking forward to releasing my full mobile games catalog on iOS in the coming months.

Penguin Temple Result Work still progresses on Vintage Pachinko. Phil from Dioram has created an awesome background that continues the “Deus Penguin” series, and we are just working on adding some of the finer details to the machine.

Breaking Block, as it is now tentatively titled, is coming along nicely as well. Last weekend it saw a transformative overhaul that took the gameplay out of the 80’s, and brought it up to today’s mobile gaming standards. One particular problem that has always plagued block breaker games is the tedium of trying to get those last couple of bricks at the end of a level. Introducing a bit of computer-controlled competition for those last couple of bricks solves that issue quite nicely, and even makes the end of the level exciting. (“Gah! No! You stay away from my bricks!”) Bonus scoring opportunities now occur throughout the level. This is not going to be your typical block breaker game. It’s going to be more than a bit madcap.

Finally, I’m creating a Prepare for Warp surprise, not ready to announce what that is yet, but it will be very soon.

Today I just got a preview of a new background for Vintage Pachinko, and it is really looking super-sweet. Phil from Dioram has graciously offered to contribute some artwork for Vintage Pachinko, and so far the results are stunning. I’m really looking forward to releasing another update!

Levels 1In order to help promote my paid mobile lineup and web games, I plan to release a couple of smaller free mobile titles. The first of these titles will be my take on the tried-and-true block breaker game. I already have many of the staples of the sub-genre implemented, such as power-ups, multi-hit blocks, and multi-ball play. It already has some nice features that make it unique, such as vertically-oriented blocks. This allows for some really creative board designs like the ones you see here. I plan on having a lot of levels, eventually hundreds. Right now I am using a really simple text format to define the levels, so that I can crank out new ones as quickly as possible. The game will also have some nice meta-gameplay elements, such as silver and gold coins to be found/earned in each level, persistent upgrades, and cosmetic unlockables. I MIGHT have this game support in-app purchase of the coins used to unlock items; on that I am undecided.

Why a block breaker game? Because Atari 2600 Breakout was Mom’s favorite. She wasn’t a frequent gamer, but for that game, she called in sick from work and spent six hours pursuing the achievement of clearing a board with only one ball. She did get to see a very early prototype of my game, even if she couldn’t play it. This game will be dedicated to her.

Jan 18

Screenshot 5 In preparation for the foreseen “Fever Pachinko” project, I’ve been doing a little work on Vintage Pachinko. I have redesigned a couple of things internally, and now I have interchangeable frames and playfield cells. From there, it was nothing to theme up two new machines as a test.

Everyone who owns Vintage Pachinko benefits from this research, as I have released an update that includes these two new machines at no additional cost – simply unlock them with your winnings! I’m hoping to add even further enhancements to “Vintage Pachinko”, which continues to be my number one mobile game.

The first new machine I’ve called “Penguin Sun God”. Why are the penguins honoring a sun god? Who knows! This was just my muse at work creating a theme from some adorable penguin clip-art. Landing a ball in the top pocket causes the penguin in the sun to dance, and opens three of the tulips below.

Screenshot 6 The second new machine was a little more deliberately planned, and centers around winning a random treasure from the bottom of the sea. A ball landing in the center feature may open the left tulip, the right tulip, or both middle tulips.

I hope everyone enjoys this free upgrade. I’d love to take Vintage Pachinko even further, so look forward to new features yet to come!


posted by Duke
Jan 4

2014 is now upon us, and the time soon comes to make more great games.

I have been more absent from Smiling Cat than expected, due to some family circumstances over the past couple of months. I don’t want to go into details, suffice to say that things have been so crazy that I have not even had time to post any sort of follow up from the game expo. Wait, that was less than a month ago? To Gill and I, it seems like ages past.

20131207_140218_720The Ohio Game Dev Expo was really awesome. It was great being there with everybody, and meeting lots of new folks looking to help create a gaming industry here in Ohio. My fleet of tablets got an extensive workout from everyone taking a turn trying out Prepare for Warp, and I received lots of positive feedback about the game. The booth was a big hit, as Phil from Dioram Games put it, it was the “most pimped out booth” in the expo. Hopefully I have inspired others to “go big” next year.

20131207_140221_720And it seems there definitely will be a next year. The attendance numbers were far better than we ever could have hoped for in a first-year expo. Talking with the organizers, we estimated that there were anywhere between 500 and 750 attendees, and all 30-odd showcase spaces were occupied; even the one that had a last-minute cancellation was re-booked. Hats off to all of the staff, especially Steve Castro, Chris Volpe, and Wesley Adams, who all went far above and beyond to make sure this was the best expo possible. They even secured some coffee for my wife when we arrived and found coffee to be strangely scarce at 7am in the OSU Student Union. As far as I could tell, everything was executed flawlessly.

OGDE 2013 Expo Booth SideHere you can see the Smiling Cat booth in all of its glory. The first shot is a side view. As a sponsor, we were in one of the larger showcase areas near the stage. As you walked down the rightmost aisle, right in front of you at the end of the aisle was a three-foot-high smiling cat head. It was really awesome.

20131207_094946_720The second photo shows inside of the booth itself, on the left are the Android demo tablets for the mobile showcase, in the back is the PC showcase kiosk, and the table in the front had most of the literature and swag. This was definitely a step up from our table at GMX earlier this year, and I hope to get many years of use out of this setup. I got a big surprise later in the day. The manager of my department in my day job was at the Union for another event, and stopped by my booth! He was very impressed by the setup.

So, lots of big plans for 2014 to follow on the successes of 2013. Vintage Pachinko has been resurgent in the past month, and there are plans for some enhancements to that plus a strong possibility of a second pachinko game featuring a more modern “fever” pachinko machine. Dehoarder has also been a pretty big success. It is my most played game on Kongregate, so it is highly likely that there will be a follow-up for that as well. Unlike the Earl’s Warehouse expansion, the Dehoarder upgrade is more likely to be a sequel.

Also, I plan to bring my growing mobile library of games to the iOS platform this year, as this has been a number one query at both the expo and at the COGG prototype and play events.

Finally, I hope to release a couple of new mobile titles this year. I’d like to release at least one free mobile title, and use it as a platform to market my paid mobile games, as well as possibly incorporating some form of minimally-intrusive external advertising. What form these new mobile titles will take is anyone’s guess, as I still don’t know.

It will probably be a couple more weeks before matters in my personal life fully settle out and allow me to resume moving at full speed on Smiling Cat. Once that happens, this blog will be back to regular weekly updates.