Friday, February 22, 2008

Logo. Done. (mostly)


Here is the high detail raster version of the logo.....that I wasn't supposed to make. It's mainly for the title screen and posters if we ever decide to make any. I felt that it was really important to work the logo more for those things. I'm really happy with it.

And yeah, I paid for that piñata picture. It was worth every penny.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

GDC 2008 Day one: Podcast teaser and other hijinks

Hey reader, we're broadcasting deep within the bowels of the bay area. We made another podcast last night, hopefully we'll have time to edit it and maybe make another one. There's so much to talk about with the IGS, we tried to hold it in as best we could until we could talk about it "fresh" on the podcast. So in lieu of an edited podcast we give you this gem. Man, ever since I learned how to spell that, it's been open season on "lieu." It has surpassed "purview" and "ilk," at least in written form.


On the night of day 0, I decided to search out a mysterious beep that seemed to emanate from Ted's bag. Apparently Josh captured my safari on camera.

Turns out it wasn't the bag, or even in the room, but outside somewhere. Next day, we posed for our book-nook picture at IGS.

Later... lunch. Where we learned a crafty new way to make a cube out of 6 business cards unbeknownst to us that it would destroy them.

Then sushi and talk with Tyler Streeter, our mutual friend from the VRAC. He does research on A.I. specific to the human brain. He's the one in the 2nd picture on the left, blurried. He's brilliant. And married... sorry ladies!

Oh yea, bonus picture. We found a guy with a ghillie suit laptop mod/cover thing. Anyway... pretty cool. Hope you liked the podcast. We really tried to cut it down to a reasonable length, and well try to get out a real one soon.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Oh what a long strange trip it's been. GDC 2008: day 0

Well, today was a work day, even though it was the Sabbath we worked just like Mike said. User stories, a little Orbit Room cafe, and so on. But that, was but the beginning. Awhile later we met up with Ted and we fumbled around San Francisco, going to two predetermined restaurants that ended up being closed. Blah blah blah, long story short, Mike made this vs. screen mockup that's probably going to change the way we think about gaming.

Soon after Mike's out-of-body inspiration his eyes went blank and he ran into the Moscone center stripping off his clothes. We were able to recover his clothes after finding him dripping with cold sweat in a fetal ball. We clothed him as best we could and decided he'd just sleep there. He kept spouting gibberish about Warren and his mother, we're not sure, but hopefully we'll see him there in the morning. We may have lost Mike, but we've gained a vs. screen beyond imagination.

West Coast Baby!

We got into SF last night and got to our hotel room at about 11:30, watched "They Live", and went to bed. See quotes below.* A pretty easy day overall, we didn't get on the plane in Des Moines until about 7:15 but got to Denver on time. Greg did get cavity searched at the security checkpoint, but he's pretty used to that anyway ;-)

So, the flight was uneventful and gave me a lot of time to puzzle it out with my new pal Layton. I bought the game yesterday just for the flight, and everyone crowded around through the entire flight, trying to solve the puzzles together. All in all a fantastic little game and perfect for the flight.

San Francisco is an awesome town so far, just as an example we walked out of our hotel this morning and found we were directly next to a sushi place. And a crazy Chinatown gate thing was not 20 yards up the street. Now we're at the Orbit Room Cafe, drinking fresh squeezed juice on these concrete inverted cone table things with a great view of Market Street. And we're working on user stories for Dinowaurs :P

Here's a horrible picture:

Anyhoo, back to work I s'pose. We're going to head toward the Moscone to register early later on and then hopefully grab some sushi.

* "Life's a bitch, and she's back in heat."
* "I'm here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. I'm all out of bubblegum!!!"
EDIT [Greg]: We weren't sure if "They Live" was the origin of this gem since we've heard it in other places, markedly, Duke Nukem. If anyone has further information on this matter, please contact poison control. Or comment.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Super Mario Galaxy co-op is better than you think

On all these podcasts, reviews and critiques I keep hearing about how the co-op option in Galaxy is "girlfriend mode." This may seem so at first, but it would appear that these people, many of them game critics, never pressed the A button while the cursor was over an enemy or over Mario himself. The A button can hold enemies in place for the other person to bop them on the head or what have you. Alternately, the 2nd player can be a playful (and sometimes maddening) type of nuisance during the game. By hitting "A" whilst hovering over Mario with the cursor, you can make him jump, and this will most often result in either Mario incurring damage, or falling into a black hole. This gets particularly interesting while switching off every death with a friend when trying one of the more challenging levels in Mario. Since the other player will be tempted to exact revenge for their un-sportsmanlike conduct, and the cycle continues... Call it immature, but there's certainly much more to Galaxy co-op than just collecting and shooting star bits. [/rant]

When we discovered this (by accident) I asked frequent players of the game, and most, if not all, said they didn't know about this option. So, this is more of a public service announcement than it is a tirade against Nintendo's inability to explain all gameplay options in the manual, or the hasty judgements of the gaming media. Enjoy your "A" button Galactic Marioers.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

In Search of the Oracle: Indie Developer Productivity Snacks and Calisthenics

Mike's parents were kind enough to bring us some developer rations on Thursday. None of us really eat very healthy in the office, except for Josh, who is all into flax seed. So here are our favorite bits of sustanence.

Daddy Ray's Fig Bars. This is one of Josh's staples, the rest of us still don't know where he gets them, but we think they're delicious.

2 lb. box of Pepperidge Farm Cheddar Goldfish - Whole grain if you can find it. This is a classic, and therefore manditory.

Sam's Choice Mountain Trail Mix - recovered deep within the belly of the beast, these precious nuts, chocolates and raisins are tainted with corporate shame, but are oh so fortifying.

Gatorade lime Rain, 64 oz. - Possibly the finest drink to ever grace the Earth. I'm really the only one who drinks it. But we use the old bottles for water bottles now.

Red curry rice and beans. I've got a recipe on my site, it's cheap and easy and can stretch a long ways over a large amount of rice. We have some form of it once or twice a week here at the office.

Oh yea, Nerf hoops are the new pilates...

Friday, February 8, 2008

Today's Office Tunes - Old School Amiga

Josh found this sweet music today while sifting through some dusty bookmarks of his. It's freely distributed music (under the creative commons license) and would work for our game if we wanted it. Mostly it's just kick-ass and old school, and we listened to it all day. Check it out. This one too. The recording label, Monotonik, has other cool compilations that have albums beyond the Amiga stuff.

Internet Archive rocks, it's easy to forget about; but so is Mike, so we forgive you.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Progress Update #2: Intuition has a Podcast

"Hey, we're back!"

No, it's not Dr. Katz, but instead a much drier, less-squiggly version here to bring you our next segment: way more recent stuff. We haven't been showing as many pretties as we should, so above, I give you the very unofficial, unfinished Dinowaurs logo. It'll probably resemble something like that above.

Design Changes
Throughout development we've tried to implement the agile attitude into our process. For those not hip, we've loosely interpreted the milestone system into what many would call a bastardization, but it's been working. By staying loose about the design and not adhering to waterfall type milestones, we've allowed ourselves freedom to completely change the design of the game. Now this doesn't come without a price, and it may kick us in the behind, but we think that this is the way to go in the web-games space. Iterate and push until we can convey the best version of our game's high concept possible within the time-frame given. Credit Johnathan Blow's recent speech on Conveyance and Pushing at the Nordic Game Jam.

Now onto the changes to Dinowaurs. Basically since hitting "alpha" we've decided that too much of the game goes on in the middle of the map in the very first encounter, ultimately leaving the other, stronger tiered villages to collapse given the upgraded weapons awarded to the player overtaking the first, and their fourth, village. To aid this, we've decided to change a number of things. This makes our third complete overhaul of the game's mechanics, and each time we've done this, we feel better and more excited about where this game is going. Change is good. For our country too ;)

  1. Resources - They're back and they accumulate at a rate based on the amount of villages the player has (represented by "gold" or the like).
  2. Tiered Weapons - Tech tree for weapons is now based on the village the dinosaur is at, instead of the amount of villages taken.
  3. Village Tiers - Each construction site is intrinsic to it's original tier level. No other level village can be built there.
  4. Ammo - Ammo is no longer unlimited, but tied to the resources and charged against the total value with each shot, at a value determined by the ammo type.
  5. Weapon Production - Weapons are purchased with resources (e.g. gold) when the player chooses to produce them.
  6. Upgradeable Village Guns - Villages can be equipped with more guns (or maybe upgraded existing guns) to propagate more of a defensive strategy.
  7. Shooting - Removing the pause after shooting a weapon. The shot can cost resources now, forcing the player to consider each shot carefully, and besides, it will speed up the game.

Also, we've been talking a lot about weapons since a great portion of the game's fun factor relies on them...

Four basic weapon types, upgraded with tiers (keep controls/weapon properties fairly consistent throughout tiers)

  1. Trajectory - hold to power-up, let go to fire
  2. Strike - hold to choose spot along terrain, let go to fire/drop
  3. Deploy - launch from dino
  4. Jetpack - use trajectory control to "launch" the dino and then float down
  5. Special - One special weapon, chosen as a dino's "special move" in the profile menu. This will be available via the third and final village tier.

Well, we were hesitant to add this feature, but quickly swayed after playing Off-Road Velociraptor Safari and noticing the community response to a casually-mentioned, fictional game "Jetpack Brontosaurus." The monocled raptor screen shot and a few posts on the TIGSource forums convinced us that this feature would not be too intensive and would add a much needed, mobilizing function to gameplay. After thinking for a handful of milliseconds, Mike came up with a way to use our current system to power the jet pack, which should work just like any other trajectory based weapon. We are in the process of implementing this now, but we're all excited to see our favorite Gov. Skittles, the stegosaurus, careen through the air dropping grenades o'er her enemy windmills!

Lately we've found ourselves tossing some ideas around the ol' water cooler ("What's the scuttlebug?") about Indie Dev podcasts, or lack thereof. All of us love listening to podcasts, mostly NPR and game industry stuff, but nothing that sates our thirst for independent game development.

Nothing official just yet, but we plan to cover the latest in indie dev news, indie games we've played and loved, and anything those topics might spawn. We like tangents, those were always our favorite teachers in high school. Not the circle kind, you know, the kind that go off on an unrelated subjects only to find themselves lost in a wood with no lesson plan to guide them.

We've recently recorded a dry-run podcast, testing how the recording setup works and getting our feet wet with talking like we know things. It's harder than you may think, but in the safety of our own homes, the insurance policy of audacity's editing power, and Mike's sexy chocolate vocal chords, we're going places. Maybe not fancy places, but places nonetheless.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Intuition & Dinowaurs Progress Update 1

It has been a little over 2 months since our last update. Many of you are probably thinking that the project has been scrapped or the company went under. Do not fear; we just took a blogging hiatus of sorts. Here's a rundown of some things that have happened over the last 2 months:

Multiplayer Prototype
We completed our 3rd milestone - a version of the game where 2 people could play multiplayer versus each other. At this point we realized that every game would consist of the players building villages as they went along, and then as they got close enough, they would just dumbly fire weapons at each other over and over again. It was pretty boring, actually. Overall, it was a good thing, since we were able to see what changes would make the game better. Furthermore, the prototype seemed to confirm that the game had a chance of being fun.

The Triumphant Return of Greg
Greg returned from Rome!! One of our team was studying abroad in Rome, and returned over the holidays. It was the first chance Mike and I had to work with him since we were working on PP:AFAA in August.

Design Changes 1.0
Based on our reaction to the multiplayer prototype, and a few suggestions by our (awesome) producer at Kongregate, Chris Pasley, we had a brainstorming session and came up with some improvements on our game design. This particular session was an interesting experience. At the time, we didn't really have any paper to write on, so we ended up using the backs of small, circular paper plates. Each idea was drawn on a plate, and then we'd discuss them. Those we didn't like, we discarded to the side. The system worked surprisingly well; in the end, we made these changes to the game design:

  • Object of the game
    1. "Capture" all villages by destroying the enemy's and building your own
    2. Kill the enemy dinosaur with no enemy villages remaining
  • Start of game
    • Dinosaurs start in the middle of the arena
    • All village zones are occupied by a village
    • Each player owns all the villages on his/her half of the arena
  • Dinosaur death
    • When a dinosaur dies, it spawns at the nearest built, friendly village
    • Delay for spawning
    • Unlimited lives (as long as you have built villages left)
  • Villages
    • Villages attack enemy dinosaurs, causing enemy dinos to stay back and use longer-range shooting
    • No more village modes (production/defense)
    • Villages have more health and attacking ability increasingly toward the edges of the arena, represented by tiers of more advanced technology in weapons and village tower architecture
  • Weapons
    • Weapons split up into tiers, which are unlocked for each new village captured
    • Delay between shots (dinosaur is dazed from firing)
    • Unlimited ammo

Dinowaurs Alpha
Several important things were delivered for our alpha milestone. Here are the most notable:

  • Persistent player accounts
  • GUI menu content and interaction
  • Accessory attachment system (!!)
  • Design changes implemented

Its pretty exciting to see these kinds of things coming together. Players can create a dummy account, create their 3 dinosaurs, and all of the options currently available can be saved to their account. One of the most exciting things is how well the accessory attachment system works.

We'll save the details for another post, but basically accessories appear to be attached to the dino, since they follow the same positions and rotations of the bones in the dinosaur's skeleton. In our case, since the dino skeleton is not officially in our engine, we just export the movement of the bones to a file and load that up for each animation. It has become an industry-standard way to attach objects to characters for AAA games (pretty much since the days of Half-Life - thanks Valve!!), and we've adopted it to great success considering Dinowaurs is a real-time multiplayer dinosaur combat Flash game. In fact, Mike just finished up refactoring the weapons to use the same system.

Implementing the design changes got us closer and closer to a really fun game. As of now, it's kind of fun, but we know that we're still missing something. We can all sense that we're getting closer and closer to the fun, though. :)

New Office Space

We finally moved into an official office! It's on the east side of campustown in Ames, conveniently very close to our favorite Thai restaurant Thai Kitchen. It's pretty comfortable for Mike, Greg, and I, and there's even enough room for a microwave and mini-fridge. Surprisingly, we've pretty much outgrown the space after just a month of being there. More on why next.

Intuition's 5th Member: Joe Bergeron
Greg and I have had several discussions over the past couple months about how we're worried that the amount of programming work for a game of this size would be a lot for one person. There's no doubt that's true, which just goes to show how amazing of a job Mike has done as the only programmer on our game. He wrote the Melba Toast engine himself and was able to get most pieces of the game put together so far. Go Mike!

However, we're now at the point where much of the game has been hacked together just to get stuff in. Most of the components of the game code need to be refactored in order to make it easier to do things like add new weapons and keep the game stable as we near release. With refactoring needed, added features still, and a couple bug fixes to help us test regularly, there are plenty of reasons why another programmer would speed up development to ensure a successful release.

Mike has been hesitant in the past to add a new programmer, simply because of the skill required to pick up Melba Toast and Dino Server (the implementation of our game that runs on the server) in a timely manner, and the time/money needed to find someone at all and then make sure they're going to be a good fit.

However, one name would come up over and over again as the right man for the job, if he'd only be willing: Joe Bergeron. Mike has worked with him in the past on their game Codename: HSI, and Joe has gained a reputation for himself at VRAC as "the guy who wrote the OpenGL renderer for the Linux version of the Unreal 3 Engine." At first we weren't sure if he'd be interested in completely jumping in and joining us as a partner. We've actually been (half) joking with him about it for the last couple months.

When we sat him down for a slightly more serious meeting and asked him last week, he decided that now was the time. Welcome Joe!! Everyone is really pumped about it, since we all get along with him really well and he's such a great fit in terms of skill set. To demonstrate, here's a breakdown of our unique skills and interests to show how well each member of the team fits in now:

  • Mike
    • Game programming
    • Gameplay prototyping
  • Joe
    • Engine programming
    • Graphics programming
  • Ted
    • Drawing
    • Concept art
  • Greg
    • Graphic design
    • Creative writing
  • Josh
    • Technical art
    • Business-y stuff

As you can see, that's nearly every aspect of game development, especially Flash game development. Woohoo! We have a pretty well-rounded team now.

This is getting pretty long-winded, so it's time to wrap it up. Next post: Progress Update 2, containing more design changes and a special treat for all you dinosaur lovers out there. :)