Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 19/06/17

A little late this week. We're having a heatwave in the UK so we had a family trip to the beach on Monday and I was really busy yesterday so here we are. It's actually a good job I delayed as last week had been pretty quiet again, I started the week recovering from a little tummy bug and then family birthday/Father's day celebrations took up the end of the week so there wasn't too much to report.

It bloody works! Yes! yes! yes! ... ahem. 

However I've been mainly working on integrating the in-app purchase plugin for Zombie Cannon Attack! and I made the decision to switch to a different plugin with better documentation, I finished integrating the new plugin yesterday and it finally works!! Woohoo, or indeed, Hurrah!
There's still a little UI work to do but I've set up $1, $2 and $5 bundles and they're all working fine. I'm now working on integrating rewarded video ads with Admob. Hopefully that'll be a much quicker process, from the work I've done so far it certainly seems simpler.

I was so happy when I finally got this working, I did get a little epotional (sorry).
It's not the end, but it's the end of the beginning of the end

Once the infrastructure work with the plugins is complete I'll return to the game itself. I want to implement the second stage before launch but hopefully that won't take too long. Much of the work will be swapping out backgrounds and tweaking the difficulty, but I also want to add at least two new upgrade options as well as two or three extra characters including a couple of mini-bosses. I don't have a set release date I'm aiming for, but I'm really hoping to be ready by early July if not sooner. As ever I'll keep you updated on this blog.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 12/06/17

Last week was a bit of a write-off - between parenting, gardening, illness and the UK General Election I managed about half the work I'd hope for. In terms of hours it was actually the lowest of the year so far. Still I did manage to make a little progress, so I'll start with that.

Plugin Baby

I'm still working on integrating the in-app purchase plugin for Zombie Cannon Attack!, it's been slow going as I wasn't feeling up to doing anything complicated most days but I'm making steady headway. The coding is basically all done but now needs debugging and testing.

Anyone can pixel art
Ignore the bouncing Zombie, you're supposed to be looking at the house.
Instead of tackling the complicated coding I spent time working on updating the artwork. I've updated the red brick house in the first stage and added a few background buildings for the next stage, Brainsville. I still have a few more characters to create and/or animate but I've nearly got enough to launch with now and whether I do any more than the first two worlds depends on how the game is received.
Your typical city at night picture - tower blocks, supermarket, buried skulls of the dead, superhero zombies etc

What's it all about, Zombie?

Because there's not that much to tell this week I thought it might be a good opportunity to give an updated overview of Zombie Cannon Attack!
As I've mentioned before the game is a zombie-themed endless runner variant. You begin each run with a single Zombie, you then fire said Zombie from your cannon, your Zombie flies, crashes and bounces as far as it can before starting to run towards the closest citizens - but you need to hurry as it's decomposing quickly, it's a race to pass on the infection before your Zombie collapses.
Zombie hurling is actually a very popular sport in some countries
There are various obstacles to overcome, from inanimate objects such as crates and walls to the town citizens who are your intended victims. Some citizens run away, but others join the Police and Army to try and fight off your attack. The main aim is to build a large horde that can overwhelm opposition and infect citizens faster than it's constituent zombies die off.
Due to it being a 2D world, if you zoom in it appears that the cop is firing cans out of his gun while drinking from a bottle no-handed. This is, of course, exactly what is happening.
During each run you collect data, your mad scientist partner uses this data to build a better zombie virus that will make the zombies stronger, faster, bouncier and more agile. Rinse and repeat until the entire world is a rotting green mess.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 05/06/17

All in all, last week was pretty satisfying. I maintained my work rate despite the nice weather and school holidays. I also released a working closed-alpha version of Zombie Cannon Attack! to the Android Play Store and started work on in-app purchase and rewarded video ad integration. It's fairly complicated and time-consuming work, but after I've done it once it should be much easier to replicate it for future games.

Bushes now 30% more bushlike
This zombie has clearly been fired from a cannon and not fallen off the roof, I mean what would a zombie be doing on the roof?
A few weeks ago I decided the game was basically finished - there was plenty of polishing to do but I didn't anticipate making significant changes to the way the game looked or played. Obviously no sooner had I said that than I started making some pretty major graphical changes, and once again I spent time last week reworking the graphics. I've redrawn the ground tiles and the bushes that occupied a large part of the background (see here for what they looked like before), I'm pretty happy with the improvement but I'm not ready to say I've finished this time. I'm also working on the background for an unlockable second stage, Brainsville.
Don't worry, those towers are very far away. There are no giant superhero zombies in the game ... yet

Cannon 'just for a laugh' says Developer

I also reworked the cannon mechanics. For those of you that haven't been paying attention, Zombie Cannon Attack! is a zombie themed endless runner variant, The cannon is not actually that big a part of the game, it's more of an interesting way to start a run, but it is important to get it feeling right as it's the first thing players will see. As part of making the initial fire/fly/crash & bounce mechanic feel right I've worked on improving the games overall performance on mobile devices and managed to get a 20% or so boost to mobile frames per second. On desktop browsers I get a smooth 60 fps and it'd be great to get the game working as well on mobile (as the game is primarily designed for mobile), but it's not too far off now.
May the stats be with you

May was a good month overall, I passed 1000 Twitter followers which is a nice milestone. Early in the month this blog passed 1000 views, and views are still growing at a decent rate which is also nice to see. Personally though I'm most satisfied that my hours worked is back up to the level it was before April, there's still room for improvement there however.

May Stats:
Twitter followers: 1037 (+233)
May blog views: 427
Blog views/day: 13.8 (April was 12.2)
Hours worked 123 (4/day) (April was 3.3/day)


Monday, 29 May 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 29/05/17

I've had a pretty productive week. My hours worked were up again and I feel like I've got a lot to show for it too. Having said Zombie Cannon Attack! was nearly finished and I wasn't expecting to make any changes to the visuals or add new features, I then changed most of the background and added another obstacle for the later game. You can see the latest screenshots below, I'm still thinking over whether this is the final version or not. I felt the old version of the sky looked too empty, but now I'm wondering whether the new version is a little dark.

Yes, that is a UFO behind the giant floating brain


Pixel Art at a Premium

For most of the week I worked on building the premium currency store and the front end for the in-app purchase store, I've added a few images to stop it looking too plain and I'm pretty happy with them. One of the many bonuses from this project has been making my own pixel art, although it is really time consuming and I'm not up to professional standards yet. I'm planning to buy assets for the next few projects, but eventually I'd like to be able to do my own art without having to worry whether I'm sacrificing quality.
The in-app purchase screen in all it's money-grabbing glory



A Look at What's in (Play) Store

I spent most of Sunday working on getting the Android version ready for the Google Play store. It was a lot of work but I managed to publish a closed Alpha version, however due to a testing fail it didn't actually work. The problem was pretty minor and is now fixed, but I've made a few other changes to boost performance so I'll wait before re-releasing. I've then got to work on integrating the in-app purchases and video adverts, which is something else I've never done before so it could take days or weeks. I'll be glad to get ZCA released, although I've learned a great deal on this project I'm a few weeks behind the initial schedule I set when I started back in March and I don't want it to eat up too much of next month.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 22/05/17

Another week of steady progress, productivity wise my hours worked were up a little again, I'm still slightly below target but May is looking much better than April so far. I spent most of the week polishing Zombie Cannon Attack! and working on the Android version.

Two versions are better than (n)one

I'm strongly leaning towards releasing a demo web version and an Android version with more content, possibly with an iOS version to follow. I've made the decision to add a premium currency shop even though the game may be a little small for it, it'll be good experience for later games. I got to know the Phaser engine and web portals pretty well with my first game (Super Endless Kingdom), now with ZCA I'm learning a lot about mobile development including touch screen controls, scaling for different screen sizes and using Cordova to make an Android version with Play Store integration. Hopefully this will make things easier for my next project, so I can do something a little larger in scope without it taking too long.

Young and Gif-ted

I also made my first ZCA gameplay gif this week for Screenshot Saturday, using a great little program called screentogif. It was really easy to use and I highly recommend it.

This gives you a good idea of the visuals, but for the full experience you'll need someone to scream at you and make gunshot noises while you watch this.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 15/05/17

Not much to report this week I'm afraid, my hours worked were slightly up again but I don't feel like I've as much to show from it this time. This is largely because I spent most of the week doing boring business stuff like researching potential license sales for Zombie Cannon Attack! but I do have a decent size spreadsheet of contacts who I can start, er, contacting soon.

Androids, everybody needs good Androids

I then spent the weekend wrestling with Apache Cordova, for anyone not familiar with this it basically turns my HTML5 browser games into a phone/tablet app. Most of the problem was getting everything installed correctly, but now having done that I have a basic working Android version. It still needs a lot of work to integrate with Android API etc and add the features you'd expect to see in a mobile game, but up until now I wasn't sure it would work at all so it feels pretty good to have got far enough to know that it will work eventually.

Pic me up
Spot the subtle advertising if you can. No, not the apples.
I'm planning a fairly detailed post on Zombie Cannon Attack! soon, but in the meantime I'll share a few new screenshots.
You have the right to remain ..,. dead!
I still feel the sky looks a little plain. As well as the clouds there are also stars but they don't show up very well in these pictures. I've actually spent time today making the stars a little more visible and also making them twinkle, it's the little things that matter (though possibly not this little).

The rampaging zombie horde meets it's match, a guy throwing cans and a small wooden box.


Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 08/05/17

So, Zombie Cannon Attack! is very nearly finished and I'm into the final testing, polishing and balancing stage of development. I find motivating myself during this stage a bit tougher and that's reflected a little in terms of hours last week which were still a little below average, although they were higher than I've managed for nearly a month and once again I got plenty done.

You won't believe what happened to the to-do list!

I added a music track for the title screen. I really love the track I've found, it's perfect for the type of game I'm making. I finished and tested the save system, it's only a local save to your browser but that's enough for a game of this size. I also added a simple credits screen and finished the tutorial (although I have a little more testing to do on this), added a few visual and sound effects to emphasize power-ups and added a proper results screen. That was pretty much my entire to-do list from last week. I spent the rest of the week adding small graphical touches and adjusting the volume on the sound effects as they were a little overwhelming when a lot was happening.

Now with added social media/website links and a slightly higher version number!
User-testing Usually Useful

I've also done some limited user testing, although I haven't really got anything useful from the testers yet I still find it helps me focus on areas that need improvement. There's something about knowing other people are going to start seeing my game in action that raises the standards I set for myself and makes me more focused on the user experience, especially the early game. One conclusion I've come to is that the game was starting off a little too slowly. A common feature of endless runner type games is an upgrade shop that helps the player get further, I want the player to feel they're making constant progress but the first few runs weren't feeling particularly rewarding. The runs are pretty short but even so players have limited patience and goodwill, I don't want to burn through that limited supply before the player starts feeling rewarded. I've already made a few small changes to try and fix this, but I need to be careful not to unbalance the later game which is working fine.

Once I'm happy with the game I plan to talk to potential partners about licenses and get the game ready for an Android release while incorporating feedback. If you would like to test the game I'm looking to add a few more testers, and if you give me useful feedback I'll be happy to add your name to the credits section. Contact me via Twitter or email me (rubble.game.studio@gmail.com).

Thanks for reading. All the best 😃


Monday, 1 May 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 01/05/17

Another fairly quiet week in terms of hours worked, although with the school holidays over I was able to do a bit more. However I still feel like I accomplished plenty, which is pretty much the story of the month as a whole (see below)

Placeholders Re-Re-visited

I've done a little more work on the tutorial and made further improvements to the medals/achievements section (see last week's blog for more on this), it's now improved to the point where I feel I need to do more work on the shop/upgrades screen as this now looks a little plain in comparison. This is often the way polishing goes for me, I work on the thing that bugs me the most until I have something I'm happy with then other areas I was previously happy with start to look
in need of an overhaul.
This is the 3rd week running I've shown this section, you try coming up with 3 different 'amusing' captions. (No, really, give it a go, send me your ideas)
I love it when a (game) comes together

I've added a title screen and got to work on a basic save game function. I've also added a couple of music tracks that I'm pretty happy with, they fit the theme of the game really nicely. Finally I've been working on scaling the game for mobile devices and improving performance. I've a little more to do on both of these but it's really just to see if I can add a little extra, everything that's there works fine.

Hmm, a game about attacking with zombies and a cannon. What should I call it?
Still to do: I need a music track for the title screen, I need to finish the save system and add a small credits screen (just for music and few SFX this time). I have one more element to add to the tutorial and a few visual and sound effects to emphasize power-ups. That's really not that much.

Super Endless Kingdom update

Helpful citizens, generous dowries and a neatly laid out town centre. What more could you ask for?
I've done almost no coding on Super Endless Kingdom in April, but I've in no way abandoned the project. I now have enough ideas for improvements to hopefully finish the game and I'll get back to it before too long. The game was featured on the Phaser site recently (Phaser is the framework my games are built on top of), with Phaser's creator Richard Davey saying nice things and making the game his staff pick in his weekly newsletter.
It's not too late to give me your feedback, any ideas you have could still make the finished game so give it a try. The most up to date version is on Newgrounds here.

April Stats

In terms of hours worked, April was by far my least productive of the year so far. It's pretty easily explained by the two weeks of school holidays that meant I spent more time looking after my son, as well as birthdays and bank holidays where I took time to spend with my family, and a few days lost to illness. Still, it's something I need to keep an eye on.
I'm pretty happy with the work I did in April, as I've said Zombie Cannon Attack! is getting pretty close to completion. I've learnt a decent amount about optimising my code and social media continues to show healthy growth. Special thanks to my partner for getting the Rubble Games facebook page up and running, but it's also nice to see this blog continue to grow steadily.

Twitter followers: 804 (+253)
April blog views: 366
Blog views/day: 12.2 (March was 10.35)
Hours worked 99.5 (3.3/day) (March was 4/day)

Monday, 24 April 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 24/04/17

Well tl:dr - much better than last week. Which is strange really as in terms of hours I didn't really do much more than the previous week, however this time that was by choice as opposed to forced on me by illness (it was still school holidays so I took a little time off to enjoy it with my family) and that made a big difference. The hours that I did spend working felt much more productive, and we had plenty of sunshine which always helps.

Placeholders Re-visited

I've added extra sound effects and replaced most of the placeholder SFX and the game is sounding much better now, the effects I've found fit well with the humourous style I'm going for and help bring the game to life (I also spent time making all the characters blink, which makes me laugh much more than it should). There's still a bit of work to do as it can sound a little cluttered when there's a lot going on, and I need to add a music track, but overall I'm happy with my progress on this.

I spent far too long coming up with 'clever' titles for the medals, I'm sure you'll agree they're very punny (sorry)

I've also reworked the placeholder assets for medals/achievements, this is still a work in progress but looking better than last week. I've got a small issue with triggering rewards when more than one milestone is passed but hopefully I can sort that with a bit more testing.

Obstacles - not a problem

This is a crate that you click on to destroy, hence the sign. Don't click the sign though, it's not clickable.

Perhaps the biggest change this week was the addition of obstacles that the player needs to click to destroy before they block the zombies progress (zombies decompose pretty quickly outside the lab, as you're probably aware). I think this is the final gameplay element the project needed, previously I felt as a player I spent too much time watching and waiting but now it feels much more involved. Most of the gameplay work from now on will hopefully be small balancing tweaks.

Finally, over the weekend I started coding the tutorial, it's probably at least 80% done now but needs user testing. The gameplay and controls are pretty simple so I should be able to keep the tutorial pretty light.

As anyone who's ever cleaned a cannon will tell you, ripe zombies are not a good ammunition choice. 

The main to-do list items I've yet to start are the menu screen and some sort of save functionality. I may also add some sort of intro/story scene but I don't want to get bogged down so this might not make the cut.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 17/04/17

Well that was a pretty rubbish week. A combination of illnesses and school holidays meant I only just managed to avoid setting a new record for least hours worked in a week. However, it wasn't a total loss. I did manage to start setting up sound effects on Zombie Cannon Attack, I'm mostly just using placeholder SFX from my last project and it sounds a little cluttered at the moment, but with the coding done it should be pretty straightforward to switch out the old sounds when I have something better and then tidy up a little.

Medals & Achievements
Nothing says 'Medal Unlocked' quite like a big yellow button with 'Medal Unlocked' written on it
I also managed to do most of the coding behind the medals/achievements system. Again I'm using a lot of placeholder assets at the moment so the pictures don't look that great but swapping out assets is simple compared to implementing the achievements and making sure the awards trigger when they're supposed to. Not having the rewards coded was also hampering work on balancing the gameplay so I've been able make decent progress on that over the last day or so.

I'll admit placeholder assets don't make for the best screenshot, but it's much better than the sound effects picture turned out
All in all then, some progress made but I don't really feel any closer to release. Hopefully I can avoid many more weeks like this.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 10/04/17

Zombie Cannon Attack

I've mentioned my new project a few times already. I think I'm finally far enough into the development process to feel comfortable going into a little more detail. The project's working title is Zombie Cannon Attack, as this is a pretty good description of the gameplay it may well end up as the games actual title too, but we'll have to see.

A zombie in a cannon, (allegedly) preparing an attack

Zombie Cannon Attack sees you assisting a mad scientist as he attempts to conquer the world (or something) by sending his Zombie Test Subjects against the terrified inhabitants of a small town somewhere, presumably as a test run before moving on to the major cities of the world. You do this by firing Zombies out of a cannon so they can attack and infect the population, hopefully creating a full blown rampaging zombie horde that can sweep all before it. The gameplay combines aspects of throwing games such as Toss The Turtle or Learn To Fly with side-scrolling endless runner type mechanics.

The upgrade shop, where the mad scientist upgrades your zombies for points because something something plot.

All very interesting I hear you say, but will your game feature goths defending their town by throwing bottles at zombies? Well...

Mobile Issues

Zombie Cannon Attack was designed from the start to work on mobile unlike my other project, Super Endless Kingdom. So when I started testing on mobile last week and found I was getting around 4 frames per second(fps) with nothing happening onscreen, having mostly had a solid 60fps on desktop browsers, that was a pretty major problem. I spent a few days refactoring code and redesigning the games core functions, on the plus side I ended up with a game that's can now theoretically go on forever without getting slower but on the minus side I had to strip out the Tilemap I'd spent a few days learning to use early in the dev process and just go with a background colour and sprites sitting on top. This got me up to 15-20fps on mobile, which was still not good enough. On a hunch I then forced the game engine to use the Canvas instead of webGL and suddenly I had 40-55fps, a huge improvement. It still drops to 30 on mobile during busy points so there's more work to do, but for this sort of game 30fps is still playable.

Is it a bird? No it's a zombie, you must have funny looking birds where you come from mate.

To-do list

As well as improving performance I still need to add sound and a titlescreen. I also want to add an achievement/medals system, expand the upgrade shop a little and add obstacles to impede the zombie hordes, but I'm trying to keep the feature list as light as possible so I can launch pretty quickly. Once these features are added I'll concentrate on balancing the gameplay and polishing the graphics. It'd be really nice to have at least a beta launch this month but that might be a stretch, development always seems to take longer than anticipated so it'll be ready when it's good enough to release.

These Army guys certainly are tough, I wonder what this Rampage button does (mwuhahahaha)

Monday, 3 April 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 03/04/17

Newgrounds

Last week saw the release of Super Endless Kingdom on Newgrounds. This is the second of the well known portals I've released to now after Kongregate at the start of March. The Kongregate release was pretty disappointing, the rating is currently only 2.2 out of 5 and the game has been played less than 300 times. Kongregate's reviews system has it's problems but I don't want to make excuses, it just didn't do very well and the platform was probably the wrong choice to release on first. However one plus point was that I got some good (and bad) feedback, enough to make 3 decent sized updates prior to getting the game ready for Newgrounds.
The Newgrounds release went much better, the game was rated a much more satisfying 3 out of 5 and all the feedback I received was very positive. Whether the difference was down to the changes I made or the sites themselves I'll never know, but from a developer point of view the Newgrounds approach to new releases is much better. After a week the game had received nearly 1500 plays and 80 or so ratings and I can now be reasonably confident the rating is an accurate reflection of the game's appeal. I released one more post-release update and I'm now planning to hold off until I have enough ideas to take the game out of beta.
As far as monetization goes, I can see that an online, ad-supported model just isn't going to make any money for Super Endless Kingdom. As a game that only really works well on a desktop I should probably be looking to sell the finished game as a download. It's something I'll be looking into more after I've taken a few weeks away from the project. It might seem strange to be coming to this conclusion so late in the development stage but it's in keeping with the way the project has evolved as I've learned more.

New Project

In the meantime I'm pretty happy with how my new project is progressing. It's been designed to be mobile friendly and much more accessible as well as much more limited in scope - a fun timewaster instead of a game that provides hours of content. The basic premise is that you help a Mad Scientist turn humanity into a rampaging zombie horde because <reasons>. I'll be posting more in the coming weeks but here's a quick gif of the villain for now.


New Stats (for March)

I've been keeping track of a few stats since I launched this blog and my Twitter account in early February as a way to help me monitor my progress (or lack of). There isn't a great deal to compare with yet but March seemed to go pretty well. It was a difficult month in many ways which is reflected in my hours worked but otherwise there was decent growth:

Twitter followers: 551 (+241)
March blog views: 321
Blog views/day: 10.35 (Feb was 7.5)
Hours worked 125.5 (4/day) (Feb was 4.4/day)

It's nice to see these stats keep going up but I'm not going to read too much into them. I'd like to get the hours worked back to February's level or a little higher provided I'm doing good work.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 27/03/2017

Well, it's been a pretty challenging week. I won't get into the reasons as it's not development related but it did delay the release of Super Endless Kingdom on Newgrounds. However, after spending the latter half of the week adding achievements and medals (only on Newgrounds for now but I'm planning to integrate them further for the final version) and getting to grips with a new API I finally managed to release today (hurrah!), see here for proof.

If you have a Newgrounds account please give the game a play and leave a review or rating, the feedback will really help as I prepare the next update, and if you don't have a Newgrounds account then by all means sign up and then restart this sentence. It'll only take a minute 😜

New Project

As I said last week, I've started a new project as a way to let off a bit of steam while I get Super Endless Kingdom ready for a full release. I'm still not ready to talk about it quite yet, but my intention is for it to be much smaller in scope (we'll see if I can fight off feature creep) and for it to be designed for mobile play while also still functioning in a browser. I do have some new artwork to share though, and I'm planning to have more to show on Saturday.

Something something loose cannon blah blah bend the rules blah get the job done etc

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 20/03/2017

A little late this week as I've been busy with family stuff and getting Super Endless Kingdom ready for release on Newgrounds. After releasing on Kongregate and pushing out 3 update in a week I took a little break last week to start on a new, much smaller, project. I'm not quite ready to talk about it yet so for now here's a gif by way of sneak preview.

February Update

I've been tracking a few stats with the intention of releasing a quick monthly update without quite finding the time. As I don't have much else to write this week I thought I'd just stick it in here for now.

February saw me launch the Rubble Games twitter account and by the end of the month I'd reached 310 followers.

I also launched this blog, making 4 posts that gained a total of 165 page views.

In total I worked 122.5 hrs in February, which works out at roughly 4.4 hours per day. For comparison in January I worked 129.5 hours, but as that was a longer month it averaged out at 4.2/day, so February was slightly busier.



Monday, 13 March 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 13/03/2017

Last week I uploaded Super Endless Kingdom to Kongregate (play it here) and I mostly spent last week dealing with the feedback I received. As a proof of concept the launch went well, the Kongregate upload process and API are both pretty easy to get to grips with and I have a much clearer understanding of the rating system and the stages a new game has to go through. However, as an actual game launch it's been a slow start to say the least. I'll outline some of the positives and negatives below.


The Good

The upload worked with very little trouble. I've integrated with the Kongregate stats API to provide leaderboards for three separate stats and received no reports of bugs or crashes (so far). I've received a lot of useful feedback, so much so that I'm just about finished with the 3rd update of the last week (more on that below). The game has also earned a small (very small 😆) amount of money through Kongregate's revenue share scheme.

The Bad

While I still consider the game to be in beta, I found out too late that Kongregate's beta programme is only for a select few games. New games go through a review process but that was over in a few days, something else I wasn't prepared for. The most visible feedback I received was pretty negative and didn't really seem to take account of the game being a work in progress. Although I was able to find something useful even from a highly negative review it doesn't change the fact that it's still one of the most prominent comments, despite being several versions out of date. Still, all in all I've learned a lot about Kongregate as a platform and I'm very happy with the changes I've made over the last week.

Your tax <insert denomination here> at work.

The Updates

I've made a few quality of life updates to explain things better and remove some of the rough edges that people were getting snagged on, both literally and figuratively. I added separate hitboxes for collision detection to the player depending on whether the character is interacting with scenery or monsters to allow the player to move around scenery in a more intuitive way, this was simple in itself but caused other problems (the solution to which can only be described as an enormous kludge). I've also made many of the enemies spawn earlier on the game to improve variety.
However the major changes are the addition of a berserker style melee attack and the ability to move diagonally, both of these are pretty major changes to the basic gameplay that have only been tested by me over a few days. It does feel a little risky to make changes that affect the core of the game so quickly when that core has been in place for 6 months or so, but I feel I'm still early enough in the development and release process to take a bit of a chance. Once I've incorporated all the current feedback I'll be looking at uploading my game to other sites such as Newgrounds or Itch.io.

I'm spinning around, move outta my way - or else!
The Rest

Also this week I changed host for www.superendlesskingdom.com from heroku to github and removed all server side functionality (basically just a login system). The site already loads much faster and I'll be looking at ways to make further improvements this week.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 06/03/2017

There were some pretty major changes this week but for a number of reasons it ended up being fairly quiet despite that. I spent the first few days reworking the layout of www.superendlesskingdom.com and removing the login requirements in preparation for opening up the beta testing to all. There are still a few issues in some mobile browsers but overall I'm much happier with how the site looks now.


With the site redone I went ahead with a (very) soft launch of the open beta on 1st March and, unfortunately, as soon as the beta launched my domain went down leaving both my sites inaccessible for nearly a full day.

I'd been planning on putting Super Endless Kingdom on a few portal sites such as Kongregate and Newgrounds eventually, and the problems with my own site prompted me to bring this forward. I spent the rest of the week getting ready to deploy on Kongregate and after a little more testing I published there today. Please have a look here, ratings are very important for discoverability on Kongregate so I'd really appreciate it if you can spare a few minutes to play and leave a good rating.



Monday, 27 February 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, Feb 27th

Hello and welcome to my first weekly development progress report. Although I've been developing for around 8 months now it's only in the last month or so that I've started documenting and recording my progress. My previous blog posts should've brought you more or less up to date with where I am, so what have I done in the last week?

Studio Website

Over the previous weekend I'd got the studio website up and running (check it out at www.rubblegames.com) and I spent the start of the week finishing it off and adding details. I'm pretty happy with how it looks now - it's got a nice clean look and works well in different browsers and screen sizes. I'd had a few problems with the game site (www.superendlesskingdom.com) and I still feel like that site needs a rework to make the layout less cluttered but also add more content, so it was nice to get the studio site sorted in just a few days. If you have any feedback please let me know.


User Testing

I've no idea how long I've spent testing this game over the months, between testing specific parts and full playthroughs I would guess I'm well into 3 digits. Every time I've played for any significant amount of time I've come away with a decent list of fixes and improvements to make so I've been a little complacent about getting someone else to test for me. Last week I got my first really good dose of feedback and it was a bit of an eye-opener for me.
User testing identified that the beginning of the game needed more explanation and that the initial difficulty was way too high. As a result I fixed a few small bugs and added several lines of dialogue to explain more of the basics but also made the first levels much easier to give players a gentler start. I also added more visual indicators, for example I've made the mana bar flash when you try and shoot but you're out of mana, and added colour coded updates on yearly gold and population changes to the main city screen. All these changes came about from around 10 minutes of pretty informal user testing.
As I discussed previously, the game has a simple track where rewards boost your character to help you push further when questing and so get better rewards and so on, but the high initial difficulty was preventing my tester from getting on that track to start with and so was effectively game breaking. The game is still tough and the difficulty increases fairly quickly as you progress but seeing that reward cycle a few times before the difficulty really kicks in should provide enough incentive to push that little bit further and keep coming back for more.

Touch screen controls

As a special treat for mobile users - huge transparent arrows. You're welcome.
I spent the rest of the week working on mobile functionality. Super Endless Kingdom was designed primarily to be played on a desktop with keyboard controls, but adding touch controls is pretty simple in Phaser, I didn't have to do much more than follow the example and link the touch results to the existing outcomes of keyboard inputs. Once one touch button was working it just required replicating for the remaining buttons, which involved a fair bit of mildly tedious copy and paste followed by some more rewarding problem solving to fine tune.
Initially I repurposed an existing arrow button as a placeholder image before replacing it with my own pixel art loosely based on the NES control pad (see pic above). I haven't done much of my own pixel art so I was happy with the results, even if you can't really see some of the finer details as the controls are semi-transparent.
I've spent a few days testing and tweaking the results as well as working on the way the game displays in mobile browsers. I'm happy with how the game works on a tablet but I've come to the conclusion that a phone screen size is just too small to be able to properly control your character, so when I start developing the game as an android app I'll probably restrict it to tablets only.

Before I started writing this post I was feeling like I hadn't made much progress last week, but now I'm not so sure. As for the coming week, I have a few more changes to make but hopefully I'll be ready to launch open beta testing before the weekend. Stay tuned on twitter for an announcement.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Super Endless Kingdom Mega Quest Extreme: The Gameplay

Super Endless Kingdom Mega Quest Extreme is a top down 2D shoot 'em up with a similar control system and gameplay to Arena-based twin stick arcade shooters such as Smash TV, but adapted for keyboard controls (using WASD  for movement and →  to shoot) in much the same way as, for example, the Journey of the Prairie King mini game from Stardew Valley.

Yes, he has no nose. Where did it go? Who nose (sorry)
Stages are procedurally generated, there are several different settings each with it's own unique obstacles and enemy NPCs as well as a general set of monsters that appear across all settings. The type, amount and placement of monsters and obstacles is random within certain rules so (outside of a few set-piece levels) you'll never play exactly the same level twice, and in theory there's no limit to the stage you can reach. The Badlands are literally endless.

Someone should really do something about all those loot chests littering the place - Keep the Badlands tidy.
Clearing a stage of enemies moves you on to the next stage which either has more enemies or new, tougher monsters to face. When you lose all your health your grateful citizens will teleport you back to your city just in the nick of time with all your loot intact.

Stage 71: Proof that there are at least 71 stages
Your city itself features your Royal Castle and Departments of State, as well as your Royal Artisans. The castle allows you to set the tax rate and gather information on the functioning of your city. You allocate the funds from taxes (supplemented by all your lovely quest loot) to the yearly budgets of your Departments of State, trusting them to spend their budgets in ways that will boost your economy and help your population grow.

The poor guy can't even afford chairs and still doesn't want to raise taxes. Oh the feels.
Your Royal Artisans also contribute to the health of the economy but their main function is to improve your items and skills to allow you to push further into the Badlands on your quests and so gather more loot and experience. Raising your population helps your artisans to add better perks which allows you to gain more loot so you can raise department budgets which boosts the population and so on in one continuous loot-gathering monster-slaughtering cycle.

Ok, this picture was in the last post so I need a clever caption to justify using it again, um...
The game is currently in closed alpha testing. If you'd like to help and get your name in the credits there's still time (contact details are on the website, drop me a line), all being well I'll move to open beta testing within the next few weeks.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Super Endless Kingdom Mega Quest Extreme: The Plot

For those of you that read my last post, here is part one of the more in depth look at Super Endless Kingdom that I promised. For those of you that didn't read my last post, I promised a more in depth look at the game I'm developing, and here is part one. That should cover everyone.

The basic plot of Super Endless Kingdom boils down to the fact that people need decent public services such as health, education and defence but they aren't overly fond of paying for them via taxes. In our world the shortfall is made up by a combination of continuous exponential economic growth and the global market in sovereign debt, but imagine for a moment a world without either of these things (exciting I know). This other place is a world of rival medieval city states where dimly remembered legends of a glorious past of unity and co-operation have been replaced by fear and mistrust. The need to maintain a large army to defend against the large armies of your neighbours has each state trapped in a cycle of poverty and stagnation.

However, just beyond the borders of the Old Kingdom lie the Badlands, a place where magical wastelands and dark forests hide the ruins of civilizations that were already ancient when the Old Kingdom was at it's height. This is a land filled with treasure but, as those riches are jealously guarded by all manner of unspeakable horrors, no-one has been crazy or desperate enough to venture there for centuries. That's where you come in. As the Ruler of one small city state you must head out to face the horrors. Better make sure you're well equipped.

To compliment your Crown of Power, you wield the Ancient Wand of Power and Shield of Power, slip on your Ring of Power and Amulet of Power before donning your trusty Armour of Power and Boots of, um, Power. Your concerned citizens make sure you've mastered such advanced combat techniques as Walking in More Than One Direction and Destroying Inanimate Objects before sending you off for all that juicy loot.

How will you complete your quest? What challenges will you face? Find out in Part Two 😉
These people need your help!

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Introducing Rubble Games and Super Endless Kingdom Mega Quest Extreme

Hi, I'm Paul. I'm the solo indie game developer behind Rubble Games and I'm getting ready to release my debut game - Super Endless Kingdom Mega Quest Extreme. It's (past) time that I started documenting my progress so welcome to my first blog post.

About me

I left a moderately lengthy and largely fruitless career in local government at the start of the year to takeover childcare for my young son and work as a full-time game dev/web dev. My savings will last to the end of the year by which point I'll either need to bring in some money or get a proper job where I don't share an office with my cat. Fingers crossed.
I've been playing games for over 30 years, starting with the Atari 2600 and ZX Spectrum but really developing into a lifelong passion when my brother and I received a NES as a joint Christmas present. As the years passed the NES became a SNES, then an N64, Gamecube, and Wii/DS before the joys of PC/browser and mobile games broke my faithful dedication to Nintendo (that Switch does look pretty cool though, hmm).
After the birth of my son I started looking for a career I could enjoy, my previous approach of living for the evenings and weekends no longer felt viable now I was meant to be setting a good example. I quickly settled on web development and loved it from the start. I had vague notions of maybe learning C# one day and making games but nothing concrete until I saw a tweet from Github linking to an interview with Richard Davey, creator of the Phaser game engine. Seeing an engine for html5 games (I knew html) written in Javascript (I knew that too) was a real eye opener and led directly to where I am today, so thanks Richard, and thanks Github.

(A little bit) About Super Endless Kingdom

I won't go into it much in this post as it'll be pretty much the subject of the whole blog for a while at least. Super Endless Kingdom Mega Quest Extreme is a fast-paced retro arcade shooter with RPG and resource management elements. It's inspired in large part by SNES classics such as Link to the Past or Super Smash TV but also by more modern casual/indie games for mobile and browsers.
I'm at something approximating late-stage Alpha in the development process and I'm looking for a few testers to help with feedback and bug checking, check out superendlesskingdom.com for a trailer and to sign up.

Why Super Endless Kingdom Mega Quest Extreme?

My working title of 'That Game Where You Shoot Stuff and Try Not to Die' was starting to feel a little unwieldy so I tried to come up with something more concise. What started out as a joke based on a jumble of SNES-era game names eventually began to seem like a good fit for the type of game I was making and so it stuck.

Why Rubble Games?

While picking a game name was a simple, natural process, choosing a studio name was anything but. Eventually as the game and website started to take shape I just needed to pick something. Even then, meaningful ideas were few and far between and a quick google search would identify that all (both) my cool name ideas were already taken. In desperation I started looking around the room for inspiration, still google dashed my hopes (who'd have thought there was a Toast Games?) until I eventually settled on Rubble (I don't live on a building site, it's the title of a game asset I had open at the time). The rest is (very recent) history.