Sunday, 9 September 2018

User Stories: Bookend Team - Why do a VR Game?

The whole Bookend team has never worked on a VR project nor have ever been avid VR connoisseurs up until the creation of Bookend

"a pop-up book" in VR
What we did know, however, was that we wanted to create a unique, well-designed project meant to wow everybody within the University of California: Santa Cruz’s capstone series.

Our first thought was to develop a VR title. 
This idea was two-fold: first, it was supported by the fact that many of us believe that virtual reality as a concept is only budding. We have yet to see the huge mainstream appeal of virtual reality and the technology is only going to improve. We, as the Bookend team, want to be there for the ride (and get a portfolio boost). Second of which, virtual reality was a means for us to truly create an immersive experience allowing the designers within the group to truly flex their design muscles, and the developers to experience developing with virtual reality in mind.

In an attempt to explore this idea, we began iterating on Beloved, an atmospheric horror game set within a virtual reality space. We iterated ideas over the course of a couple months such as the player having ghost hands and using telekinesis to guide another individual around puzzle situations akin to a second person exploration game. Although the game was only supposed to take place within a household, the project quickly got out of scope within its narrative, art direction, and programming months into our development cycle.

Winning the the Peer Choice Award
We persevered through months of dead-end conceptualization, eventually leading us to create a narrative-centric puzzle game meant to subvert the expected conventions (grab objects and throw stuff) within a virtual reality space. Although started by a core team of ten students for Beloved, we quickly ballooned our team into twenty (ten core members and ten auxiliary members that helped with art, sound/music, and programming) for Bookend’s rise.

We definitely wanted the gameplay to be reminiscent of reading through a pop-up book so heavy design iteration went into honing in on that particular feeling. As such, many of our mechanics are analogous to the features of a physical pop-up book. The music and narrative direction, in particular, serve to enhance the whimsical and enchanting nature of Bookend’s aesthetic.

Creating Bookend was not without its problems, however, as developing through the affordances of VR. We ran through multiple problems that the affordances of a mouse and keyboard avoided. Namely, controls were our number one issue. We changed our controls scheme multiple times due to player confusion with the Oculus controls. At first, we had it so that the player navigated the game space with their headset, looking at objects they wanted to interact with. We quickly realized that this idea was more trouble than what it was worth. Players quickly grew frustrated at the fact that they had to pinpoint their headset at a small object in order to select it. 
We then changed the controls to focus on the Oculus Touch. 

Bookend Team
Our first iteration of this was too focused on the Oculus face buttons (A, B, X, Y). We had players press the grip button on the controller and confirm their selection with either A or X. This caused the issue of the player not knowing which button was A or X causing them to become increasingly confused and frustrated. Through a lengthy design discussion, we finally decided to change the controls to what we have now: Point in VR by closing the grip button and confirm the selection with the trigger button. This was due to the fact that the grip and trigger buttons are the largest buttons on an Oculus Touch controller. This changed proved beneficial as when players would get confused about the controls, they would first attempt to press the trigger and grip buttons. 

Wanting to create a project that mattered to us, the team decided to make a VR project that doubled down on immersion and unique gameplay features. Developing through VR is difficult, especially in the controls department. (Try getting someone to press the A button while they can’t see!) Nonetheless, through multiple months of hard, dedicated work, Bookend slowly yet steadily transitioned from a concept born from the fall of Beloved into a concept that carried its own weight. The last-minute scrapping of our original idea left our team scrambling, but we’re extremely proud with our work thus far. 

We hope that you enjoy playing through Bookend as much as we enjoyed making it.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Is there a website with free games for kids?

A lot of parents are looking for free games for their kids on internet.

On TV or newspapers a lot of time we read about "violence in video games" or "games with sex and blood". And we know that the PEGI was born to create safe categories for kids.

So we introduced, few days ago, the Adult Contents filter.

Now the developers, uploading their games, can check this box and the games will be visible only to +18 years users.

If you are not logged or you didn't change your age in your settings page, you will not see those games.

Enjoy and discover new games every day!

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Saying NO

It's hard to imagine certain situation until meeting those.
Designers who create might encounter different request - which won’t fit with their values.

What if you’ll be asked to design an anonymous ad against a figure.
If you’ll be asked to work at the expense of your family time.
If you’ll be ordered to sabotage files before sending them to the customer.

What if someone will try to use your access to a database with personal details of subscribers from a minisite.
What if someone will use you to know how to take advantage of a young designer starting out.

When working with people we encounter bizarre realities.
Sometimes it’s hard to stick to principles
Becuase it might cause us out job or hurt it.
We need to know how to say no.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

What the hell is going on?

It's going very good!
Recently great free cool games, the new score system on games with a old fashioned Retro Style, new features, monetisation for devs, changing and so many other things!

So... What are the latest news?

  • LIVE Notifications!
  • AMP pages for the Users
  • improved AMP game pages also with the suggested games
  • Monetisation [BETA] for indie devs (it needs a separate post, no worry)
  • bugfix! bugfix! bugfix! bugfix!
  • now the Charts show only the games uploaded/updated in the last 6 months
  • Language problem on the website? Now you can select your language on Settings Area!
  • Improved Mobile View!

Social Goals?

And now?
Now we're focusing our energies on two elements: Bugfix & Players
Yes, we want to fix aaaaaall the bugs reported recently and gather new players!

Thursday, 5 July 2018

3 indie games that look like 3 famous Movies

Did you never play a game thinking... "Oh, it looks like that movie!"

In the last period we saw so many video games in the theaters. Like Warcraft (amazing!), or Assassin's Creed or Tomb Raider. Who loves this kind of games, loves also this kind of movie.
But sometimes happens also something of different... You're playing an indie game and it looks like one of your favourite movies.
It happens to me, playing those games:

Dex/Ghost in the Shell

In Dex, exploring with a girl the streets of a cyberpunk city as you run for your life from the mercs of The Complex hunting you down, I said "oh! It's Ghost in the Shell!" It is an American science fiction action film directed by Rupert Sandersand, based on the Japanesemanga of the same name by Masamune Shirow. It stars Scarlett Johansson, and set in a near future when the line between humans and robots is blurring, the plot follows the Major(Johansson), a cyborg supersoldier who investigates her past.

The Ledge/Man on a Ledge

In the Ledge you are a man... on a ledge. But, why are you here? And where did I see it? Oh, yes! Man on a Ledge is a 2012 American thriller film directed by Asger Leth, starring Sam Worthington and Elizabeth Banks! 

Noiz/Death Race

Not a simple race. Traps, weapons, explosions. Did you never see Death Race?  In the movie "Death Race", the racers, along with their navigators, compete in a three-part race over three days on a closed track. The track is littered with pressure plates that activate either the cars' offensive weapons, defensive equipment or deadly traps. Any racer winning five races will be granted freedom. Yes, a little bit as Carmageddon. But with...the aliens?

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

So many updates! New Languages, new Console, Score System and so on!

Hey indiexpors!
Here we are with other news about the website that it's growing up day by day!
When it was born, it was just another website with free games, not so sure to see a new day. But now it's smashing and there are over 2,000 games, so many feedbacks and a great community of crazy players and devs!

So the latest news/features/adds:
- website translated in Finnish (thanks to Virva) and Ukrainian (thanks to quizcanners)
- improved the Suggestion Algorithm
- improved the Notification System
- improved the Badge System for Devs and Gamers
- added Comments Area in the User Page (to show the latest games commented by the User)

- New subareas in the Indieconsole! How many players are in your room?
- added the link to the User Page in the Notification Area
- Score System Completed (now with Notifications and the author can delete the Fake Scores)
- added the Date in the Comments

- 30 Games that support the Score System!
- Over 2,000 Free Games!
- added new filters in the Advanced Search (Online Games and Games with Scores)

And now?
Now we're finally working on an original support system for the developers and the "Daily Challenge" for the best players!
Stay tuned!
We're planning to complete it in June/July!

Friday, 11 May 2018

User Stories: How Founding An Indie Games Blog Changed Our Perception Of This Industry

As the term gained popularity, producers and consumers alike began to wonder: what exactly is an indie game anyway? Should we consider anyone who hasn’t been signed by a publisher independent? And if that’s the case, are solo developers and multi-million dollar self-publishing studios on the same plane?

Eventually, to answer these and other questions, my partner Elisa and I launched The Indie Toaster in May 2017. We began to review other people’s work, we attended events, we published summaries and - most importantly – we made an effort to meet as many creatives as we could fit into our schedule. Our final goal, you ask? To provide the community with all the guidance and assistance we could muster.

Almost immediately, we began to realize just how deep this specific rabbit hole goes. The indie gaming industry is not as simple as it might seem at a first glance. Whether you’re working on your first project or already have a few titles safely under your belt, here are three tips we feel could help you!

All Projects Have a Price

Once you open your door and let people know that you’re there to help, questions usually start pouring in. One of the most common we’ve seen in the last 400 or so days is about how much it costs to build a game from scratch.

Let’s be crystal clear about this one: there’s no such thing as a completely free effort to bring something to life. Regardless of your intentions to make money out of it, developing an indie game will cost you. Before you even attempt to move forward, you should get familiar with whatever requirement your project has.
If you’re only developing out of passion or are doing it to earn experience, time ends up being your most valuable commodity. In this case, the golden rule is to be as constant as you possibly can. Dedicating 8 to 10 hours a day into the earlier phases of your plan will serve you no purpose, if you can’t be persistent enough to see the end of it. 

Things get a bit more complicated when a commercial release is involved. You’ll have to acquire all needed licenses, invest in assets and marketing, maybe even pay your colleagues a few bucks to keep them happy. As such, building a realistic business plan remains one of your utmost priorities. 

Do that and you’ll be one step closer to becoming a successful indie games developer.  

Don’t Be The Jack Of All Trades

“Fine then! If hiring outsiders costs so much, I’ll just take care of everything by myself!” This too is an extremely common answer we get while talking to devs. Especially among first-timers, tackling every aspect of their project in a single sitting is seen as a final proof of honor and ability. 

Unfortunately, as players come to expect more polished and richer experiences, doing everything on your own often becomes impossible. Mind it: it’s not a matter of skills or willingness to sacrifice your free time. On the contrary, it’s the sheer amount of work that has the ability to trample your dreams. 

The average indie game takes several months to see the light of day. We’re only talking about the time needed to turn an idea into a working build. On top of that, you’ll have to account for marketing, community management, quality assurance, and shipping. Oh, and you should sleep too. You might feel invincible in your early 20s, but that won’t last forever. 

Once again, your final goal influences the way you work. For a non-commercial release, you can take as much time as you want. When you’re planning to sell your game, though, setting the right kind of deadline - and sticking by it - can make a difference. Delay your release too much and you might doom your title from the start! 

Maybe it’s time to drag a few more people into your project? 

Be Ready To Fight For Your Place

We talked about managing your resources, we discussed how you shouldn’t do everything by yourself, yet we left the most important question for last. “What exactly makes an indie game a success?”, we were asked more than a few times. Truth be told, there’s no clear answer to this one!

In its infancy, the interactive entertainment industry saw a couple of hundreds of new releases hitting the shelves every year. In 2016, SteamSpy counted more than 6000 titles seeing the light of day. The number was even higher in 2017, for which the site reports more than 7050 new product pages. That’s a lot of competition you’ll have to ride through. 

There’s no magic formula for success, but there are a couple of guidelines you should stick to. Among the others, always make sure you probe the market before you start working. Join development groups, visit events, ask fellow gamers what kind of titles they would like to play. You won’t have time for it once the project is underway. 

Finally, be prepared to fight for the attention of your crowds. Start marketing ahead of time, get in contact with the press - we have a guide on how to do both - and give your indie game as much visibility as you can; even if it means cracking open your piggy bank!

Alessandro Cossidente