Archive for the ‘GDEX’ Category

Oct 14

So, yeah. With the pre-GDEX crunch (during which I did NOT manage to get Dehoarder 2 to an alpha release state as planned), updates to this blog were pushed a bit down the perceived priority list. Now that the dust from GDEX has settled, it’s time to re-balance and get back to semi-regular updates on this blog.

GDEX and Dehoarder 2

GDEX was held on September 29 thru October 1. Aside from this being the 5th year, a significant milestone in itself, we also moved to a larger venue. We had simply outgrown our old digs at COSI, where last year we overflowed available exhibit space to some chagrin. So this year, we were at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. It was quite a step up.

For the Smiling Cat booth, I mostly revisited the Dehoarder 2 theme from two years ago, as the majority of my effort was focused on adding content to the game. We did have some new banners and signage, and 2 demo stations meant double the player capacity of the last Smiling Cat booth 2 years ago (remember that last year, I had a combined booth with a team of developers under the name “Ivory Skies”).

Dehoarder 2 had a phenomenal reception throughout the weekend. Some players were returning from prior years to see what was new in the game, and there were many, many new players. I even got a lot of compliments on the art style, which apparently at some point has evolved from “programmer art”, thanks to the combined efforts of myself, Arvex, and Isabelle. Many people were interested in buying the game on the spot. Keeping notes, by the end of the weekend I had enough material to create 52 distinct action items to further improve the game, and half of the items from that list were implemented last weekend.

This year’s GDEX was a very energizing experience. It has provided me with substantial creative momentum that I plan to carry through the next few months. Also, since I was in better physical shape this year, I wasn’t super-exhausted physically by the end of Sunday night.

As for what was shown at GDEX, Dehoarder 2 continues to mature. There are now a couple hundred object types, and a lot more events have been added, mostly in the realm of sidequest material. Rooms are much more populated with furnishings and junk, sometimes piled chest-high. Many new brands have been hilariously parodied, including a slew of vintage games. Also, there is now a goat, and a very pretentious robotic vacuum.

As far as a release date for Dehoarder 2, I’m once again hoping “sometime next year”. A lot of work is done, but there is still a lot left to do. One of my priorities over the next couple of weeks is going to be to lay out an updated and detailed roadmap for project completion. With everything that has been added, the game build is approaching 1GB in size, making this project over 10 times bigger than any other project I’ve released before. That’s been a huge part of my estimating difficulty, simply the sheer scale of what I am doing now versus what I was doing before.

Office Remodel

Between my day job, Smiling Cat, gaming, and other computer hobbies, I spend a LOT of time in my home office. So, earlier this year, my wife and I decided to remodel the home office, with the main goals of improving lighting and air circulation, and redecorating with fixtures and furnishings more befitting the current us (my wife in particular will be very happy to trade up her tiny corner desk that she has had since her teens).

After several months of planning, during the summer we made a lot of progress on this project in a very short time. Electrical and painting were done, and cabinets were hung. Then we discovered that we timed the carpeting portion of our project for the flooring business’s busiest time of year. So currently, our half-finished office sits empty while I write to you from our “temporary office” in the guest bedroom. We are on a wait list for carpet installation, so hopefully, in a couple of weeks, the logjam with the carpet installation will clear and we can finally order the new furniture!

One of the coolest parts of the remodel project will be the lighting effects that will be installed above the cabinets. I currently have a working prototype of a randomized light show powered by an Arduino and an RGB LED strip, and I plan to make a custom PCB/shield for it so that I can tuck everything neatly into an enclosure that can hang out of sight on the cabinet. The program driving it all is capable of running 2128 possible animated effect combinations, and is less than 5.2k of code and around 21k of data.

20161030_153942_resizedThis past weekend was another resounding expo success. Not only did our games show very well, but also our top secret “Castle Gateway” booth design was a huge hit.

Standing at an imposing 11 feet tall, our castle archway served as the entrance to our booth, making an impression on all who passed through. The free-standing wooden frame for the archway was my design, accompanied by a vinyl printed stone texture wrap designed by StarlightSkyes. Even on setup day as it was being assembled, word of our castle-booth spread through the expo like wildfire.

This was our first time showing MMMob, our very-early-prototype MMO simulator, to the world. While the game still has a long way to go, the reception was very positive to what we had to show so far.

Dehoarder 2 also continued to show well, and many are looking forward to the game’s release. The good news is, with GDEX behind me, I can now devote all of my game development energy into completing Dehoarder 2.

On Sunday afternoon, a T-Rex from the ARK spawned on the expo floor. It’s a good thing our entrance was made with stone! As a result, our booth made it through the incident with no damage.

Nov 9

Sunday was another solid day at OGDE, and a great close to the expo weekend. Traffic continued to be heavy throughout the day, and many more people got to enjoy Dehoarder 2. And enjoy it they did.

There was a second Dehoarder Live competition, this time for the BB-8 throw pillow. Amazingly, the contest ended in a tie, so we had to go to the first tie-breaker: Smiling Cat Trivia.

I actually got a chance to walk the show floor myself and try some games. The Pedestrian definitely lived up to my expectations after staring at it cattycorner from my booth all weekend. It was a delightful puzzler where you guide a pedestrian silhouette from street sign to street sign, where each street sign is a platforming segment of the level. Then you have to connect up the portals from sign to sign in such a way that the pedestrian can make it to the exit. The background environments are also beautiful and complement the more simple street-sign style artwork well. This one will definitely be on my watch list, and has my vote for “Best in Expo”.

I love marble maze games. Marble Madness was a favorite growing up, and the Kororinpa games for the Wii held my attention for hours. There never seem to be enough marble maze games out there. So I was delightfully surprised to find two marble maze games at our growing expo. Rad Roller was a fun play and had an interesting gravity mechanic – press a button to increase gravity to make the marble sit down after it jumps to a precarious ledge. Sphere Complex is a marble entry that seems to have a focus on speedrunning. In fact, there was a competition for best time in progress all day Sunday.

Another good, well polished puzzle platformer is Adventure Lamp. In it you use your lantern helmet to hit switches and stun enemies in order to advance. It has lots of timed platforming, and the levels themselves are very quick and small, giving the game a good flow.

There were too many games for me to try them all in the couple of hours that I was able to be away from the booth, though I really enjoyed the ones I did play and meeting all of the developers behind those games.

After three high energy expenditure days, I was definitely ready to close up shop when the floor closed at 5. It was another great year at OGDE, and I look forward to next year’s expo!

By the way – for all of those that did not get to see the booth, I have uploaded a video tour that I filmed Friday evening:

So I knew it was going to be a good day yesterday because the minute I walked in to the expo, Cody, one of the main organizers, immediately gave me a huge bear hug because my booth is awesome. Lots of traffic at the expo yesterday. Lots of people playing Dehoarder 2, some new players, some returning from last year to see what has been added. Lots of good feedback noted down. Several annoying bugs discovered, which will be slowly tortured to death for the embarrassment that they caused (nothing showstopping).

As planned, a “Dehoarder Live” race took place on the main stage for the day’s raffle prize. It was an awesome scramble:

Got lots of praise on the theming of the booth, and good remarks overall on the game itself. People were discovering Harry’s neighbors, doing gardening, and of course, dehoarding and recycling thousands of items.

After the floor closed, we had a nice little mixer with some drinks and awesome build-your-own nachos. We discussed many things, including procedural terrain generation and our hopes for Notch’s resurgence. We then closed out the night with an awesome planetarium concert that included the premier of a new 4k animation from computer animation legend Chuck Csuri accompanied by music from Sean Beeson, a set from the Super Guitar Brothers, and a review of the best works of game musician Grant Kirkhope.

By the time I got home, I was almost too exhausted to post and tweet about the video from the Dehoarder Live race. Almost. After a night’s rest, I’m ready to head down there and do it all again for the final day of OGDE.

2015 OGDE Expo Booth One of the interesting things about this time of year is that the borders between worlds weakens a bit, and the transmission of information and matter between those worlds theoretically becomes possible.

Taking advantage of this phenomenon, yesterday I summoned forth several dozen objects from the world of Dehoarder 2 directly into my expo booth at the 2015 Ohio Game Development Expo. The outcome was breathtaking. As a result of my extraplanar efforts, expo attendees will be able to actually feel the world of Dehoarder 2 around them as they try out the latest version of the game.

After months of planning and focusing of energies, the 2015 Ohio Game Development Expo opens today. I am excited to be sponsoring this event for my third consecutive year. I welcome anyone who is nearby to come out to the expo and try out Dehoarder 2. This is only the second time that this in-development game has been available for play to the public, and will likely be the last time until after my Steam Greenlight campaign (currently slated for January).

During load-in last night, I was seeing lots of other exciting booths being set up as well. Of course, Evan Todd is returning with his beautiful and well-refined parkour game Lemma, and Open Realms has brought their flagship RPG ForgeQuest. Two of my partners from our upcoming Ivory Skies initiative are presenting their works, Odd Occurrences of the Way, and Duck: Fall of the Aligator King. I also saw a very interesting looking game from developers I just met there yesterday called The Pedestrian.

After setup and a hearty Italian dinner that couldn’t be beat at the nearby Spaghetti Warehouse, I met several more up and coming game developers the Kick-off party at Strongwater Tavern. Then, it was time to return home to rest for the big day today.

For today, I have confirmed that instead of our traditional direct-draw raffle, we will be having a contest involving the summoned Dehoarder 2 items to see who wins this year’s booth prizes, which are a BB-8 throw pillow from the upcoming Star Wars movie, and a Serenity plushie from Firefly/Serenity. Overall, it is shaping up to be a really exciting weekend. Hope to see you there!

So it has been a while since my last blog post, which was not intentional. In the preparation for the big expo, somehow a couple of blog updates did not fire as expected. The joys of being the absent-minded professor type.

The expo went very well. I was actually right on the corner as people entered the exhibit hall, which ensured a steady flow of traffic all day Saturday and much of the day Sunday. Lots of people got to try out the “Expo Cut” of Dehoarder 2, and I gathered a lot of good feedback both directly from players, and indirectly by watching their interactions with the game. Overall the game was well received.

A lot of what was learned has already been incorporated back into the game, and now that I am free of the need to code to the expo, I’m going back and redesigning some areas that were cobbled on quickly for the purposes of the demo. The story and gameplay are also expanding.

Recycling has been included as an additional option for disposing of appropriate items. Once you gain the ability to recycle, it is automatic as long as your recycling bin has capacity. Recycling items earns incentive points that you will be able to spend on in-game rewards. So, there is now more incentive to focus on certain types of items over others. Selling items is going to be overhauled, and I also plan to add a way to give items away, which will confer some type of bonus.

I also have a few ideas for mini-games, both modal-play and ongoing. By modal-play I mean playing the mini-game in its entirety before resuming the main game, and by ongoing play I mean that you work on the mini-game as you play the main game. The modal-play “item survey” game implemented as part of the alien encounter for the expo was only the first mini-game. I want to have at least a few absurd mini-games kicking around the house to be picked up. A few will revolve around pest control, a few more will be about various cleaning and home maintenance tasks.

I’m already wondering about my “early 2015” date. How late in the year can still be considered early? I’m confident that this game will take months rather than years to finish, I just don’t have a definite feel yet on how many months. Time will tell, I suppose.


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.

Ohio Game Dev Expo

posted by Duke
Dec 6

It is now only one day away, and the Ohio Game Dev Expo is shaping up to be huge! All pre-sale tickets for the speakers and panels are now sold out, last I heard the count for paid tickets was over 230, and that is not including everyone who is coming for the FREE showcase.

I am really excited to be part of this wonderful event. So much planning and preparation has been put into this event, on both my part and on the part of the OGDE staff. I am really looking forward to a full exhibit floor packed with both showcases and the people coming to see them.

Be sure to come join us for at least part of the day, and check out what everyone here in Ohio has been cooking up for the gaming industry!

Nov 9

Concept photo 2No blog post last weekend due to my latest home project (not gamedev related) causing the weekend to get away from me: It’s no secret, but I’ve always been a big fan of pachinko machines. I have three, and will soon have a fourth as a Christmas gift, and I want to display them properly and remove the need to constantly refill them. So, I am planning to build a cabinet system that will allow me to do both. To the left is a concept photo (created with Unity, LOL) of what this will eventually look like.

So, back to being more on topic, I am in the midst of a marketing campaign for Prepare for Warp. Everyone is loving the game, it just needs more exposure. Hopefully I can get some reviews of the game posted, I think that will help a lot. I’m also trying out some advertising networks.

Today I am preparing more for the Ohio Game Dev Expo which is now less than one month away. All printing is being finalized today, and I have made a final shopping list for supplies. All that really remains after that is to update the business plan, which is good, considering that the holidays and winter will begin to encroach on my time and motivation.

I can already feel it coming upon me, the need to take a short break and recharge my batteries. I think my rest is well-earned, with 5 releases this year, and effectively doing 55-60 hour work weeks every week between my day job and Smiling Cat. So, until the end of the year, I’ll probably cut back Smiling Cat to 5-10 hours a week rather than 15-20, and will be on vacation from Smiling Cat entirely for the last 3 weeks of the year. Then, I will be back strong next year, hopefully with another series of mobile releases.

As less will be happening with Smiling Cat until the expo, expect blog postings to be less frequent. I will try to make another update in two weeks.

Oct 6

Prepare for Warp - Screenshot 6This weekend has been filled with a lot of various Smiling Cat tasks, the most notable of which was the completion of development for “Prepare to Warp”, which now enters hard-core testing. More prep for Ohio Game Dev Expo was also done, and I now have designs for most of the promotional materials needed for the event.

Not content to rest there with so much weekend left, I brainstormed for a few hours, and then ended up prototyping a word puzzle game that is now a candidate for the final game release of 2013. Being a big fan of Boggle, Gill really enjoyed it, so with some work it could be yet another genre of game represented in the Smiling Cat stable.

I still have a week or so before I need to commit to a new project, so I may brainstorm and prototype a couple of other ideas as well.