Saturday, March 22, 2008

Dinowaurs in a (new) nutshell

Over the course of development at Intuition Games, Dinowaurs has gone through several design iterations. It's quite a different beast than when we started. This post is an attempt to explain the new Dinowaurs design in a nutshell.


Dinowaurs tries to recreate the childhood joy of dinosaurs fighting each other. In the game, two opposing teams of villagers attempt to gain each other's land by strapping crazy weapons to dinosaurs and forcing them to fight each other. The dinosaurs themselves are actually oblivious to the fact that they're fighting.


Dinowaurs is a free-to-play multiplayer online combat/strategy game played in real-time. It has MMO-like persistence and character customization, and can be played in your web browser if you have Flash 9.

You play the game by (indirectly) controlling a dinosaur that can be equipped with weapons meant to destroy the enemy's dinosaur and villages in an arena. Each village produces gold and allows you to buy and equip weapons there using a simple drag-and-drop interface.

Once your dino is equipped with up to two weapons, you can go out and attack the enemy. Be careful of enemy villages, since they'll attack you with some of the same weapons you have. The other player will of course be trying to do the same to you. If you kill the enemy dino, it will hatch out of a new egg at its nearest village.

If you destroy an enemy's village, you can build your own village there instead. Once you capture all the villages in the arena, you win.

Villages and their Tiers

Each village has a different tier rating tied to its location. The villages in the middle are tier 1 and allow you to only buy and equip the first 3 weapons. The villages outside of those are tier 2 and allow you to buy and equip the first 6 weapons. The outermost villages are tier 3 and give you access to all 9 weapons.

At tier 1, you start off with trajectory-based weapons, allowing you to shoot arrows, cannonballs, or rockets in an arc at your enemy. As you get access to higher tiers, you get access to more interesting weapons that allow you to create a strategy for attacking your enemy. Maybe instead of using a trajectory-based weapon, you'll use a tactical strike weapon to "drop the hammer" on a village deep inside enemy lines, crippling your enemy's gold production.

All of this is wrapped up in a cartoon dinosaur game that can be started and finished before your lunch break is over. :)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Mike smells his hand a lot

I've been documenting this for quite sometime. I had a mini-intervention with Michael a few days ago, but it was brushed off with a smirk and a giggle. I feel this has grown into something bigger than Mike, bigger than us. I can only hope the internet will serve as Mike's savior and purge him of whatever it is that's on his hand that titillates him so.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Des Moines Game Dev Meeting == Totally Cool. Dinowaurs play testing

Mike, Josh and I(Greg) scuttled down to Ankeny for a developer meetup that the DSMGG held at a local gaming place Cyber Ops Gaming Center. I got there a little late, but everyone's projects were really cool and the whole tone of the place was really exciting. I suppose anytime you get a bunch of passionate, smart people in closed quarters together we start feeding off each other.

Like I said, I got in a little late, but I was able to catch the last half of David Duke's presentation on his sweet trajectory shooter prototype, Mini-World Wars. It was super simple, but those can be the best prototypes. I keep seeing a bunch of these gravity-body mechanics coming out post Mario Galaxy, and it's really interesting to see the influence that's had. It's definitely a good thing. David's prototype was sweet because not only did it involve mass-based physics but also took into account the mass of the orbiting moon, which affected me in my trousers as well ;) We all want to play ASAP!

Later we were lucky enough to run a few play testing sessions with the guys that were able to stay longer. It was certainly an interesting experience, it being our first run through of the game with other people. I would say overall, while it wasn't what I hoped for, we uncovered a few new bugs, some UI issues, and a consensus amongst the room about the villagers. We've got a fair bit of work ahead of us, but that's good, we've built the stone now it's time to shave it down to a pretty marble dino. Hopefully the next time we play test we'll be to focus more on the fun and intricacies of the gameplay itself.

It was great to get some of that inspiration last night. Sometimes living in Iowa you feel a little isolated from the "happenings" of game development, and while there's TIGSource and RPS and so on, there's no substitute for real human interaction with developers. Just the slightest bit of someone else's project, or hearing about real development issues others are facing can help a great deal. We all left pretty wide-eyed and ready to plug in for another go 'round.

Monday, March 10, 2008

"Wild & Free: A True Story" or how we forgot about Professor Porpoise: Adjunct Faculty Advisor to the Apocalypse and learned to love the boto

Mike and I have been chipping away at a little weekend side project of ours for a month or so. He's got a prototype up and running, and while the swimming mechanic is similar to PP:AFAA, we've added some cool new stuff that I think will be pretty compelling gameplay wise. Basically it's a very simple deathworm-like, where you command the likes of a studious Boto (amazon river dolphin) and fight the evil river-polluting humans on their way to refineries and such. With the aid of schools of flesh-starved pirahnas, you summon the power of the riverbed to take on impossible odds.

I've mainly been working on the logo, (this is actually a school project, so the logo was our first assignment) but have started in on the rough art style to help me finish the logo. It's pretty close to done, hopefully we'll have an alpha posted up here pretty soon.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Inspired game idea: Stratastencil gameplay

My Paper Mind, by Javan IveyA friend of Greg's just linked this to him: "My Paper Mind," an animation of paper stencil cut-outs, using a technique referred to as "Stratastencil." The interesting thing is that the stencils are layered on top of each other, and photographed and lit such that the previous frames are visible behind the current one, receding into space and shadow. The effect is mesmerizing. Visit Javan Ivey's My Paper Mind page to view the video.

Now obviously, if you're a game developer, you'll likely think "oo, I wanna make a game like that!" At least that's what I thought. The easiest thing design-wise would be to copy the same visual effect, where the game world is a stencil, with previous frames in the background. It might take some graphics trickery to do the lighting such that it looks realistic. Or you could just make a sheet for every possible combination of object locations. Heh.

But what if you made a game based on the abstract concept of this, instead of the literal visual effect? What if you could see your previous actions in the distance, and that affected your current choices? What if you could go back to those frames to alter the current one? How could you design interesting gameplay by showing the past and the present at the same time? One draws parallels to something like Braid, but let's think past that.

Imagine the space that exists from the front frame to the back frame. What happens if you collapse that space? What happens if you connect it, creating a 3-dimensional form from that space? How do you explore such a space?

I think exploring some of the later questions could lead to some interesting game ideas.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Glitch art, tiny taste of Dinowaurs

Hey, just wanted to post a piece of "glitch art" we stumbled upon during alpha. Enjoy!

Hopefully soon, we'll have some real screen-shots with updated art and less explosive diarrhea. ;)