Friday, June 24, 2011

Notice anything different around here?

We've had a website... "redesign". I can hardly call it a redesign, though, because it's the exact same design. We've just made it a bit sexier.
What Ethan and I have done, basically, is taken out a few things that we don't need, added in a lot of things that we do need, and changed a couple of things that we didn't like. You may notice that the Abscure logo is a little crisper, or that the text container is a little darker, or that Alec has a temple to explore in the desert landscape. So we've made things cleaner.
As far as functionality goes, we've added a lot. The front page has a slideshow of recent news, a twitter feed, and links to our most recent games. We finally have a decent about page!
What Ethan and I are most proud of is the new games page. We've had a lot of feedback involving how clunky and useless it is, so we've improved it beyond recognition. You can now see what game you're going into, instead of selecting a tiny screenshot. Games are split up into categories and you can select whether you want downloadable/Flash games, or games that work with Linux/Windows/OSX. Things only get better with game specific pages. We've upped the page size, made massive logos, put in a quotes section and given each page an area for comments. You guys can give us proper feedback on all of our games now!
Check out that delicious poster for Propel.
I've ranted on long enough, seeing is believing. Go to and try out our latest features. And if you find a bug with the site, it would be great if you could tell us.

Happy exploring!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Christian's Game Idea Journal 1

Like Ethan, I come up with crazy game ideas from time to time. I'll use his idea format to keep things consistent. Enjoy!

Game name: Boss Run

Genre: Arcade/platformer (score based)

Camera view: Platformer (or 3/4)

Graphical style: Cartoon realistic

Gimmick: You are the boss

Gameplay: Imagine you're playing any random game, and you reach a boss.  First time you reach it you play around a bit and figure out how to hurt it. You probably die. Second time through you've figured it out and you start doing some decent damage. You die again. The process repeats and you steadily get better until you can finally beat the boss. In Boss Run you play the role of the boss, and you watch that process. The player comes in for the first time, a cutscene happens, you maul the player. The second time the player skips the cutscene and is a bit smarter. It steadily gets harder and harder until the player beats you, and you are given a score based on something. You'll be able to select from different bosses all over the game, but the bosses that would usually occur at the beginning of the game (the really easy ones) would be the harder ones.

Plot: A generic plot, player is trying to save the world or something.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Junior Research Paper 1

Last year in high school (my Junior year), I chose the video game industry as a topic for research. Now I am posting it on this very blog to be looked at. I've taken out the sources that I used (because I feel like you guys don't care, but if you do, let me know). Anyway, not all of the views that I show in this are ones that I still hold today. But nonetheless I thought it was interesting.

At midnight, in a convenience store in the middle of a restless city, a woman walks in and buys a pack of cigarettes. Following her in line is a man waiting to buy a beer bottle, another man with a cup of coffee, and finally a man who is about to purchase the game World of Warcraft. All of these people have something in common; they all are feeding an addiction. The man with the online game won’t be looked at by society in the same way as the woman with cigarettes. Nevertheless, gaming addiction has become an increasing issue as the industry itself grows. Adolescent minds are being morphed and influenced by the videogame industry; an industry that is similarly young and constantly changing.

The child of increased technological innovation and the desire for a quick fix of entertainment, videogames started as a way for developers to entertain the masses and make money, similar to other kinds of media. In arcades, players would be required to use a quarter for one play, which was not a very long time per quarter. Developers needed a way to draw kids to their industry, and the way to do this was by making the games addicting, and giving them the ability to be replayed and repaid for.

Although games can convey emotion and are assembled using several art forms, a main focus of games, both past and present, is to grab a player by his collar and never let him go, and, perhaps, stealing his pocket change along the way. Developers have an almost bully-like relationship with players, making the story of videogames a story of corporate manipulation.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ethan's Game Idea Journal 5

Every Wednesday (at least, for now) I will be releasing game ideas. Some of these will be from an actual document that I have these ideas in, and eventually I will just be using this format for new ideas that I make up on the spot. If you wish to use one of these ideas for a game, please ask me in the comments section. In reality though, I realize people could do anything with these, so I'm not really planning on using these ideas anytime soon.

Game Name: Deadly Wager

Genre: Platformer (Hub)

Camera View: Platformer

Graphic style: Cartoony

Gimmick: Every level is a speed run/ghost trial.

Gameplay: You have to race a ghost (not a copy of yourself, literally a ghost) who is very fast across lots of levels. This is a take off of time trials in certain games where you race a “ghost” who has done the course before you and can be seen during your run. In the case of this platformer, it will play a lot like RunMan/Sonic, so speed based. You will have to beat the ghost to the finish, of course, to beat the level.

Plot: The ghost is a man who has recently died, and the ghost came out of his body. You are the Grim Reaper. You tell the dead man that he has been damned, and he argues his fate. You tell him that if he beats you on a series of obstacle courses in hell, he can go to heaven.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


In the past, I talked about how I was first introduced to the pixel art universe on a forum. I was introduced to that forum because of another forum. I love forums- first of all, it's a place to meet people with similar interests as you (it's like a bar, except without all the attractive females). Furthermore, if you make a post or a new thread, it's likely to be seen by a lot of eyes (unlike a blog, where if you post a comment, it's second fiddle the post itself). Also, like a Wiki, it's an archive of information; don't know how to do something in Photoshop? Before you make a post, do a little search, and it's possible that you won't even need to wait for a response.

Something you definitely didn't know- Abscure itself started off as a forum. And yes, that was really stupid. But here's the thing- I didn't know how to make a website! It was just the best option available to me. I used the forum to build up "hype" for a crappy FPS I was making with FPS Creator. I advertised the crap out of the forum, and in like half of a year I got less members than I have gotten Twitter followers in like a month. Point is, it didn't work out. So forums aren't perfect for everything. On the other hand...

With Stencyl, the forum was an absolute necessity for me to learn. Yes, I know it's supposed to be easy, and maybe I'm just stupid, but I did need all of the help I could possibly get for the simplest of tasks. But the community there is awesome. Have a question? There's a place to ask. Have a suggestion? It's likely that your suggestion will be seen and maybe even taken into consideration. Have a work in progress? Post it away and get feedback. Have a finished game? Hell yeah! Post it.

In the end, I spend a huge chunk of my time on forums, in terms of my Internet usage. I've never been a fan of chat rooms (eww) and I'm definitely not a Skype guy. I like Facebook and I like Twitter, but for different reasons than for forums. I like blogs, and I like blogging, but there's a different kind of community when it comes to forums. We need all of the different types of social networks we can get, and some of my favorite communities are forums.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The "Jak and Daxter" Series

I've said it a billion times on this blog. I love Jak and Daxter. And now I'm going to break down why I love this whole series.

Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy
The first time I played it, the bright and beautiful Sandover Village sucked me in and never let me go. I remember struggling the first few times I played it all the way through. It's kind of a tough game- some missions are pretty hard.

But it's all worth it. After all, the environments, characters, and everything else are all working together. The game is kicking on all cylinders. I can keep playing the game over and over because it's almost like I miss some things that go on- every time I play it I love it even more.

Once I got all of the power cells in a save file. That unlocked a custscene that was the link between the first game and Jak 2! It shows how they find the time-machine thing. Which is cool. I didn't really follow the hype for the new game, and was surprised when I found out that...

Jak 2
It's in the future! There's guns! Jak can talk! When did this all happen? Why did this all happen? This is change! I don't like change! Make it stop! Why can't this just be Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy 2?

This ran through my 10-year-old mind as I opened up my copy of Jak 2 on release day. That was a big day in my life. October 14, 2003 was not only when Jak 2 came out, but also when a horrible, horrible disaster occurred.

Point is, I was scared. I was scared this game would let me down. It was a long and difficult game, but... it awesome! I loved racing around the city, and the open world part/GTA thing made you feel like a "renegade".

The story was good, and it got me excited for...

Jak 3
For some reason, I didn't even buy this game. And honestly, I'm glad I didn't.

I played a lot of the game, but didn't finish. I liked the feel of the desert, the feel of the temple, and the gameplay wasn't all too bad. But it just... wasn't as good. And I needed it to be good.

Maybe if it were an IP, with different characters, I'd like it. But I was comparing it to the earlier games. Relative to the past entries, it just didn't compare. I've recently watched an LP of this game, and now I know everything that happens to our friends. It was a funny ending, but...

What if the series would have just stayed on the course of Precursor Legacy? What would happen? I think a similar thing would happen. I would just compare the series to the first game. Jak 2 gave me a totally new flavor, something completely different. Because of that, I was able to look past the first game and not compare it to the first game. But when Jak 3 was so similar to Jak 2, it failed in comparison. This is pretty interesting stuff, I guess.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Leap of Faith Looking Back: Part 1

It's almost as if there are two versions of this game. You see friends, for a long time during the development of this game, there was a totally different engine being used. This engine was controversial, frustrating, yet at the same time hard to get rid of.

First, let me tell you about how this game's idea came about. As you might know by now, my favorite game is Jak and Daxter. In the final level, there is a puzzle-like platforming thing that you use to get around. You jump on a blue tile, all the blue tiles go away. Same thing for all the other colors. I loved that.

So that's the first gimmick of The Fall Game. It's that dynamic of Jak and Daxter. Originally, that was supposed to be the main gameplay of the game. When I was brainstorming the game, I imagined the jumping to be something different, something based on another game.

This game is called Core Dase. You hop around, up and down, up and down. You never stop. I love that engine! But when I posted a team request on the Stencyl forums, things changed. Epic428 (the programmer of Leap of Faith) correctly hypothesized that using this kind of jumping engine would make the game too easy.

Way too easy. So he came up with a new idea- how about you can't walk? What if you just pressed down the jump key (with variable jumping) and that was how you moved?

Here are the pros and cons of this jumping system:
• Landing a jump is rewarding
• Finishing a level is EXTREMELY rewarding.
• On the easier levels, hopping around can be a lot of fun.

• Landing a jump is sometimes frustrating
• Dying is at times EXTREMELY frustrating.
• On the harder levels, especially ones with lots of spikes, it can get pretty ridiculously annoying (and that's bad.)
• It got a lot of complaints.

So the cons outweighed the pros. It was time for a change. Epic went back to the drawing board, and after a while came up with a new idea.

What if we gave the player complete control over the character? So that's what the current control scheme is. This of course has its own problems (and benefits).

• Player has total control over character.
• It's easy to play!
• It's still addicting, even though it's easier.

• It's too easy.
• The jumping can sometimes feel a little stiff or weird.
• People complained that it wasn't challenging enough, and one person even said they thought the game was insultingly simplistic.

One was too easy, one was too hard. That's life. We're still trying to find the happy medium, and I think we're on to something (and you'll see it in the sequel!)

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ethan's Game Idea Journal 4

Every Wednesday (at least, for now) I will be releasing game ideas. Some of these will be from an actual document that I have these ideas in, and eventually I will just be using this format for new ideas that I make up on the spot. If you wish to use one of these ideas for a game, please ask me in the comments section. In reality though, I realize people could do anything with these, so I'm not really planning on using these ideas anytime soon.

Game Name: Diamonds Aren’t Forever

Genre: Platformer (Metroidvania)

Camera View: Platformer

Graphic style: Retro

Gimmick: Countdown/timer thing once you get a diamond.

Gameplay: There are 8 diamonds on a giant map (this is a Metroidvania). In the middle of the map is some sort of home-base thing (in this case, the crown that your jewels belong to). Your goal is to bring the diamond to your crown. Here’s the problem. The diamond is actually a bomb. You have a certain amount of time from when you touch it to when you bring it back before it goes boom and you die.

Plot: You are the king. Your jewels were stolen from your crown, and scattered across your kingdom. And now they are under a curse... put them back in your crown to reverse the curse.

New Game! (sort of)

It's been a rumour around the blog lately, mentions of a certain cannon firing game becoming free for everybody.
Well those rumours are true! And Launch is completely free for download on our games page.
Get it here. (if you get a "down for the moment" message, refresh and it should be back to normal)
I'm calling it a new game because next to nobody actually bought the game and it'll be new to most of you. I've programmed new online highscores that are based on our website, and soon there'll be a webpage where you can view all of them. For now they're in-game only.
It's also the first game to feature the Abscure Owl, that Ethan posted some days ago.
Isn't he cute?
Onto the juicy info!
Launch is composed of three games where, you guessed it, you launch a ball out of a cannon! See what we did there? Cunningly putting the purpose of the game in the name of it. Abscurians are such geniuses.
I present to you, game one, Far.
In Far you must launch the ball as far as possible (more magical titles), and you get money on your escapades, which allows you to go further and end up thousands of metres in the sky. It's so addictive it's not funny, ask Ethan.
Go far, far into the sky!
Now for game number two, Long.
Long is a game of defence, where you must survive for as long as possible. See a recurring pattern here? Complete coincidence!
Battle away the incoming triangles as they try to destroy your cannons, with more cannons. And of course this gives you money, which lets you make your cannons better. Awesome.
The triangles are coming to get you. Stop them!
And now we have reached the third and final game, Many.
In Many you have to unlock and create as many levels as possible.
It's a physics puzzle game where you need to fire cannon balls into a certain area, and things get more complicated from there. Before a level you can move some blocks around, and some blocks do different things, and... you can go into space!
With 60 levels and a level editor you won't be running out of things to do soon.
Physics are a great invention.
There you have it, Far, Long and Many. Forming a combination of cannon firing madness.
But wait! There's more! 112 achievements and four super secret unlockable games. Something to do with a duck, and an impossibly stupid quiz.

And because you probably can't be bothered going back up to click the link, here it is again.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Data Analysis Week 3

This weekend I collected data from Abscure's download tracker, took the percentages, and compared them to the last time I took this data (about four weeks ago).

1. Propel: 34% 3% from last time
2. The Courtship: 22% 1 % from last time
3. GAMMACART: 21% 1% from last time
4. Ruined: 16% 5% from last time
5. The Fall Game: 7% NO CHANGE from last time

So now I will explain what I did to try and get these games noticed, and why these percentages turned out the way they are.

1. Propel 3%
Propel became the most-downloaded game on the site for a few reasons. I posted it on Reddit. For a while it was the first game on our Games' page, at a time where there was a boost in traffic. It's our Twitter page's theme. And most importantly, it's gotten a lot of press.

But as of late, there's been no press, nobody coming from Reddit for it, and although it's till the Twitter page's theme, its stock has fallen the most this week.

2. The Courtship 1 %
The Courtship is responsible for a lot of the traffic that we get. This steady flow of traffic comes from the fact that this game gets a lot of plays OFF of Abscure; it's on a lot of different Flash sites, and I guess people click the "Play More Games" button on it.

However, I only count the downloads that happen ON the site. So although it's possible that this is our overall most-played game, this isn't what we're analyzing here.

I've done nothing to pimp this game.

Haha, I said pimp. Note: In this context, it means "advertising." I've done nothing to advertise this game.

4. Ruined 5%
Yay Ruined! In the last article I talked about how I wanted to make this game noticed a little more. Well, I did that.

It's all because of Reddit. Oh Reddit, how I love thee. I posted Ruined on there, and it got a lot of up votes, and next thing you know it's going up. Reddit is so awesome- with other social networking sites, no one notices what I put up. But with Reddit, you automatically are on the front page (of the category) once you post something.

Of course, after a while, it died down, and now it's back to normal. Oh well.

5. The Fall Game 7% NO CHANGE
I've done nothing to advertise this game.

Kinda sad this hasn't gone down in the percentages.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


According to Wikipedia, the word nostalgia stems from the Greek words nóstos, "returning home", and álgos, "pain" or "ache". I just felt like I should say that. When I was first thinking about this post, I thought I could take the definition and come up with some brilliant line comparing the origins of the word to my experience with games. But I guess I'm not that good.

I think now would be a good time to tell you that I don't have an Xbox360 or a PS3. I have a Wii, which I only use to watch Netflix with. I haven't bought a game for a current-gen system in a long time... maybe 2 or 3 years.

This brings me to my PS2. I had a GCN too, but eh... Oh PS2, I wish I had a name for you (but I don't) but you are so good to me. I've had you for what, 10 years? My first game that I got was like Madden 2001, (Eddie George was on the cover) so that tells you how old it is. Anyway, this is the system I use the most.

Now I do have recent games for the PS2 (Madden 11, and the most recent edition to the FIFA series) but recently I've been playing a lot of the old Tony Hawk series.

And this brings me to nostaliga. When I was still buying games regularly, I was happy with them, but when I remembered games that I played when I was really young, I was overcome with an ache. I was overcome with this feeling... when I would think about the Canada level in THPS3, when I would think about the first few levels of Jak and Daxter, when I would think about the island level (the very first level) in Kingdom Hearts, I felt that aching pain.

There's no spine transferring! Not as good as I remembered...

It was like I actually was at those places. Like I had visited them on vacation. It was like I had the time of my life on those vacations, and I wanted to go back. But something was stopping me... for some reason, when I was playing games that were new at the time, I couldn't put these old games into the PS2. I couldn't put my finger on it then, but now I know...

Now I know exactly why I didn't play them at first. I played THPS3 recently. The levels aren't as great as I remember them. I played Jak and Daxter recently. The game is still awesome, but at times the game can be a little boring. I played Kingdom Hearts recently. There's nothing to do on that island (talking about the first level again)! But it does look really cool. Anyway, point is...

My mind was playing tricks on me. In my mind, these things in the past were just being hyped up. I was comparing all of the games that I was playing to these games that existed in my memory- a memory that is either false or convoluted. Now I have to teach myself to dismiss that nostalgic aching sensation, to say "no Ethan, it's not that good."

I have to realize that sometimes "returning home" is worse than letting something live on in your memory, live on while being put on a pedestal and cherished. Thanks for reading.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Propel: Looking Back Part 1

This is the first post about Abscure's colorful puzzle-platformer, Propel. In this first post I will discuss something different- I'll talk about the marketing effort me and Christian put together, to try and get this game noticed.

Something I've always struggled with is getting my games noticed. With Ruined, it was designed for YoYoGames' Competition05. Which meant that we'd automatically get the attention of that community. And that was what happened, even though it didn't win. It got attention, because of the competition alone.

Beyond Ruined, we just used different forums to promote our games. And when we were finish Propel, it was important to get it out there in the public. It was important because sometimes I feel like if no one plays the games we make, it's pointless. Maybe that's sad, maybe that's true. Anyway, we decided to make a mass email to publishers containing a PDF and a special download that has all of the levels and everything unlocked in the game.
Email we sent to reviewers:

Hello [insert name here],

[insert compliment here]. I'm an indie developer, and I have a game that I think you'd be interested to check out. Below is a link to a reviewer copy of the game, and some information. I hope you can find some time in your busy schedule to give that a download.

Download: [censored]
Username: [censored]
Password: [oh, totally censored. no way we'd let you see this]

Thanks in advance!
There you have it. Actually, "mass email" is the wrong way to say it. We each individually emailed each website. Sites like Jay Is Games, TIGSource, and many others. For each site, we added a special individualization. We used reciprocity. So, for example, here's how I would write to myself. "Hello Ethan and Christian, I'm a big fan of your website. Your game Ruined is awesome, and I love how you incorporated its art into the design of your site."

In my opinion, Propel looks good enough to get attention.

In my example, if I were reading this, I would immediately be attracted to this person. I mean... I'd think, "I'll bet this guy has great taste." And then I'd read on.

And then they'd download the file. The ZIP includes the EXE and PDF. The PDF was really cool. Christian put it all together and made it look pretty, and included graphics from the game and screenshots. I wrote all the text. The text was really stupid.
And the PDF went a little something like this:

Remember the old days of videogames? When you could only play games in arcades, shoveling quarter after quarter into a machine? Well, I don't. In fact I wasn't born then. But that doesn't mean I don't know what makes an arcade game a GOOD arcade game.

Let me introduce you to Propel, a new arcade-style game from Abscure Games, the guys who brought you… a lot of games you probably have never heard of. But pretty soon, we will be known because of this very game. Hopefully. Maybe. Sorry if that sounds cocky.

Okay, on to the good stuff. Propel is a game that is similar to a platformer. You move across a screen, left and right, up and down, to get to a goal. The catch? You can’t jump. That’s right. You must maneuver yourself by manipulating gravity. When you hit an arrow, you move in the direction of that arrow, and some arrows will change gravity. Others will give you the boost you need to compensate for lack of jumping.

That’s the basic gameplay of Propel. The game has 25 levels, and each has a collectable. Collectables, as well as beating levels, will unlock… unlockables. The unlockables are completely secret. But I’ll let you guys in on the secret. And in your version, everything is already unlocked. First, there’s the level editor. Then, there’s an arcade mode. And you can’t forget the inverted graphical mode.

You might also notice the cool graphics. People are really weird, and for some reason, they think games are more fun when they look cool. That’s weird because games are essentially behavioral psychology, just a sequence of rewards and punishments. The graphics don’t really have much to do with it.

Well, I’m honestly running out of things to say. I guess it’s time to reveal my intentions. I want you to give me… ONE BILLION DOLLARS. Just kidding.* It would actually be really cool if you guys could give Propel a review on your site. I know, I know. You get a ton of requests do this kind of stuff… yeah. I know. It’d be great if you could do my team and I the favor of responding to this by emailing back. Thanks. Oh, and thanks so much for taking the time to read this and play the game.

*The one billion dollar request is still an option.

That's it. It's a little cheesy, a little stupid. A lot of crap. I imagine people just looked at the pictures, or just played the game.

On to the fun part. Eventually, people actually responded. Let me tell you, getting an email back that is some sort of "yes" letter is the best feeling ever. I was so happy. I'm not going to break down all of the traffic and all of the places that reviewed the site. But it was awesome, and a total and complete success.

Here's what's we did right in our PR campaign thing:

• The reciprocal introduction. (Hello, [insert name here], [insert compliment here].)
• Not sending a mass email. (could get detected as SPAM)
• Unlocking everything.
• Sending it to a lot of review sites.
• Making the PDF look pretty. Appearance is everything!

In the future I plan on trying to duplicate this success. Should be fun.

Anyway, thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What We're Working On

This week I picked up an ebook about game design. Sometimes when I'm bored I feel like reading about that kind of stuff- lounging around and watching TV all day is awesome, believe me, but sometimes I feel like being productive. That being said, in terms of this post, reading doesn't give me a lot to show you.

However, I took what I learned from this ebook and made a design document. Whether or not this game was going to come into fruition was moot- I just wanted to start designing a game. I've always loved the SEGA Crazy Taxi games- so I decided to kinda copy that, excecpt put it in a top-down space shooter setting. Fun, huh?

So I wrote up a game design document. After a while, I decided it would actually be awesome to try and produce this game. I've started to make spaceships as the player characters. I've always loved to make ships, because it's okay to make something abstract and funky, because in reality these kinds of ships don't really exist. So I can do whatever I want.

I posted a team request on the Game Maker Community, and someone bit. And now we are working on actually making this game. Cool, huh? So sometimes it's worth it to just open up Word or Google Doc (which I used) and type away.

I'll keep you guys updated on this project, but for now, I'm going to keep the details under the table...

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ethan's Game Idea Journal 3

Every Wednesday (at least, for now) I will be releasing game ideas. Some of these will be from an actual document that I have these ideas in, and eventually I will just be using this format for new ideas that I make up on the spot. If you wish to use one of these ideas for a game, please ask me in the comments section. In reality though, I realize people could do anything with these, so I'm not really planning on using these ideas anytime soon.

Game Name: Untitled

Genre: Platformer/Puzzle (Hub)

Camera View: Platformer

Graphic style: Cartoony

Gimmick: You must collect/eat items to keep energy up. Run out of energy and die.

Gameplay: You are a trash collecting robot that runs on the trash you collect. Certain trash is more valuable than others. Enemies that are killed leave trash after they are killed, and the kind of trash depends on the difficulty of the enemy. The robot has a laser that is upgraded as the game progresses…

Plot: There isn't one.

• The gimmick is pretty cool.
• There's room for a lot of experimentation.
• There's room for a story/any kind of graphics possible.

• I'm sure it's been done before.
• Yeah it has been...
• Isn't it called N+ or something?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.

I always keep Google Analytics open. When I think that it's possible for me to get new traffic, I refresh. I refresh all the time.

I need to have traffic. It's like a videogame- I need to get my numbers up so I can get better, and I keep doing it over and over again. Unfortunately, I don't get a lot of it. So this post isn't about how to get traffic- it's about what I've learned when trying to get traffic.

This isn't mine.

At first, Abscure was a forum. I was making an FPS with FPS Creator. It was a bad game. But it was relatively marketable, as noobs liked that it was 3D and a shooter. So I would post a link to the forum on other, big advertising forums. I would get a ton of traffic, but I didn't care. I just wanted people to join the forum- that was the ultimate goal. So although I got a ton of hits, I wasn't proud of it and I wasn't satisfied. Oh well.

The first few layouts for the site where awful. They were red... not that it's a bad color, but it just made it look awful. It was way too complicated, and of course, the games were bad. I put a link in my signature so people could visit, but I couldn't make topics on forums for it. Honestly, I don't remember how bad the traffic was back then, but it was bad.

Fast forward to the current layout/theme. We had a great opportunity to get tons of visitors. Ruined was featured on Jay Is Games. That would have to bring in a ton hits, right? Here's the problem. They linked to GameJolt, not Abscure! So all of the hits went there. I could have had so much traffic that day... but, alas, nope. But that day gave me hope. It told me "if you make a good game, they will come."

Recently traffic has been better, relative to how it used to be. At the same time, compared to most other sites, it's pretty lackluster. Now, while typing this, I was thinking, "why is traffic so important?" I mean, it's not like I'm selling anything. I think it's because of the advertising- whether it was AdSense then or Project Wonderful now, traffic= advertising, and in some rare cases it can mean money.

So that's why I am addicted to getting traffic. Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chao Garden

Last week I mentioned hating the story in Sonic Adventure 2. I also mentioned playing through the entire game.

Not only did I play through the entire game, I spent a ridiculous amount of time playing the game afterwords (note: this is the GameCube version) and it was all because of one thing...

The Chao Garden! Today I'm going to dive right into this part of the game, and figure out why I loved it so much and see what I can take from it to make my games better (the point of every post on this blog.)

I like building things. And building a Chao is right up my alley. I'm a sucker for building up something's stats- like in Tony Hawk- and it's just a great way to keep me motivated.

Here's the thing- the actual competitions are actually really stupid. You don't control it. You just watch these blue things run up and down or fight another blue thing. Now that I think about it, it's not fun.

But here's something I still think is awesome- the evolution of Chao. I like how over time they go into a cocoon thing. In Pokemon, I loved "breeding" the Pokemon. When there was an egg, I would just ride around on a bike until it hatched. I'm a sucker for these kinds of things. The idea that something in a game grows older over time and eventually dies is something I really enjoy.

Aww, there's so cute!

I still haven't figured out why I love this so much! I remember that I loved the atmosphere of the gardens. I got into all of the gardens, and had lots of different types of Chao. I liked just running around and just being there.

Damn! How the hell did I like this crap? I even bought a GBA game so I could get special Chao or something. But I didn't even do anything competitive with Chao! This is so weird.

Well, this blog post is failing. I don't even know why I liked it, so how can I relate this to my games?

Well, I'll try to relate it to my games anyway. What if there were a game where you could raise a Chao-like thing, and then it's a platformer? Or it's like an RPG? The reason why I wouldn't want to play the Chao Garden now is because there is no incentive, nothing that all of the training leads up to, no real competition, or at least nothing good enough.

What about an online Chao Garden-like game? Where you raise _____ and then compete against people online that have other _____s in a ______ competition? If you fill in the blanks, you could have something awesome on your hands.

Well, this is the best I can do for this post. Hope I almost did a good job of almost describing how I feel about this game.

Thanks for reading (really, thank you for getting this far.)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How to Get Me to Like Your Platformer

You might look at this title and think, "what is this guy talking about? Does he think that what he likes is what everyone likes? Does he think he represents every gamer's interests? Does he think that he's super-important?"

I don't think any of that. But here's the thing. I can't possibly write about what you like in a game. I can't possibly write about what everyone likes in a game. I can only write about my own interests. So it's up to you to take my opinions and tastes and decide which ones you agree with and disagree with.

So here I go! Oh, I guess you could say this is going to be a series, where I go through what I like in different genres. This one is about platformers.

1. I don't care how it looks.
Although I do admit that I'll pick the games that I play based partially on how they look. But this isn't about that. When I'm focusing on playing a game, I don't really give a crap about how it looks. Of course, I like it when a game is pretty looking. But if it's simple, that's okay too.

2. Make sure the controls are simple.
I don't like long learning curves. Especially with indie games. You have only a few minutes, maybe even seconds to suck the player in. If the player doesn't understand how to play, you're screwed.

3. Make sure the collisions are solid.
This morning I was playing a platformer. I was wall jumping around, having a good time. I liked the game, and was about to really get into it. All of a sudden, I wall jump too close to some spikes that were sitting on a platform away from the wall. I mean there was a lot of separation between me and the spikes. I had no idea I was going to die. This is a problem.

4. I don't care if there's a gimmick.
I like games because they're fun. I don't care if they're original. I'll play your game if it's a solid platformer, not if it's original. So keep it simple, stupid.

5. I love it when there are a lot of levels.
The Courtship has 80 levels! 80 levels is a lot of levels. I've heard complaints about it getting repetitive, but I don't care. I love it when there's a ton of levels in a game.

6. I love it when I beat a hard level.
See: Meat Boy, Super. Make sure, though, that the controls are perfect before you make the game tough. I've heard some of our games are unplayable because of the combination of frustrating controls and challenging levels.

7. I hate it when I don't feel like I'm being challenged.
I'll admit, I love playing platformers even if I'm not trying. Even if I'm just screwing around. But when I do feel like trying, I want to be challenged. Often I'll quit a game if I haven't died in a while. I need a challenge.

8. I hate it when the game starts off too hard.
On the flip side, if the game starts off too hard, I'll quit. It's tough to find the balance! Trust me. But that's life.

Well, there you have it. This is kind of my wishlist for a platformer.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Question We Should be Asking (GO!)

Lately this is all I can think about. That whole, "are video games art?" debate.

And I just have to get this off of my chest. I think it's such a silly thing to talk over. Yes, I'm talking about Ebert's infamous "never be art" post. There are currently 4819 comments on that blog post. That's a lot.

Now, I hope this resonates with you, even though I'm totally not at all an authority on this and I only have one game that has something that even resembles a story.

We all have our own definitions of art. "It's something that makes me feel," I hear. "It's something that's beautiful," I hear. "It's something that makes me think," I hear.

Let's stop with all of this definition bullcrap. Let's stop with all of this debate.

Here is the question we should be asking- "HOW can we make our games as great and powerful as they possibly can be?"

Let's stop dancing around. Let's stop using vague words... let's stop generalizing this crap.

Let's make some goals. Let's make some clear objectives, some things that we want to obtain as a collective group of, dare I say it, artistic peoples? I guess I'll just say developers.

I think Ebert makes a good point when he says, "No one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great poets, filmmakers, and novelists." That could be true, or it might not be true.

But let's just focus on making games worthy of "comparison with the great poets, filmmakers, and novelists" and stop debating over if his statement is correct or not. Although we should look in the rear-view mirror every once in the while, I think we should be spending most of our time looking forward.

So if you think that games are already at that pinnacle, I say to you "now we must try to improve what has been done before us, and make games even better." If you agree with Ebert on his point about not being able to compare games to these other mediums, I say to you "now we must try to get games to that point." If you agree with Ebert on that whole "never" thing... I say to you "it's worth a shot, let's at least try to reach those heights."

So here's the thing. I'm not going to pretend like I know what it takes to do this. I'm going to be an English major at college, and I'll be lucky if I ever know how to make ANYTHING worthy of that. It's highly unlikely and ridiculously tough to do that.

But here's what I'm going to tell you to do.

Read the great poets! Try to write some poetry! I spent a good amount of time today trying to write a Shakespearean sonnet in iambic pentameter. It was a lot of fun- but my sonnet's awful. It really is. But I know that it's awful and that I'm willing to do whatever I have to do to get better.

Watch the best films! There are so many lists of the best movies ever out there. Over the summer I decided to start living life, and I watched Citizen Kane and Casablanca. They were so good! I don't watch enough movies. I really don't. But I know that if I want to be able to make a videogame that is close to even average films, I'll need to start watching a ton of (good) movies.

Read the best books! I'll admit that the books I read are because of my English class. But the books they choose are the classics, the ones that they want every kid in the world to read. So go out and read the best books.

Live life! Get out there and talk to people. Get out there and be a human being. Make mistakes. Get your heart broken. (Not assuming that you don't do this already, but if you aren't, go and do it now! Especially the bad parts.) When you're a writer, anything that happens to you, good or bad, can be used in your writing. When I feel down, I can get myself out of that funk by thinking, "hey, you can write about it."

They say to "write what you know." If we want games to be viewed like movies, novels, and poetry, and any other kind literature there is (who knows) we have to keep learning. The more we know, the better. Don't get me wrong- we need to practice designing games, too. We need the games to be fun. We need to practice writing, too. We learn through experience, too.

But don't assume that you know what makes a good story. Don't assume that you know what makes something art- go out and feel art, go out and live life, GO! GO! GO!

GAMMACART Looking Back Part 1

This is the first of a series of posts looking back on my Flash racing game called GAMMACART. This post is about a lesson I learned, relating to the saying "make the games you want to make."

On TIGSource's front page, at the way bottom, there's a robot that has only one thing to say- "make the games you want to make."

It's like the game making motto... tattooed to the behind of the model indie dev. It's a value that has given us games that we wouldn't see otherwise- like Dwarf Fortress or Minecraft, freaks of nature that are the products of pure passion and pursuit of completion.

GAMMACART is the furthest thing away from that. Let me first say that this is not my engine. This is the product of Rhys (a member of the Stencyl community) and I just made the levels and graphics for this version. His version of the game is actually good- it looks good, plays good, the enemies don't get stuck.

Blech, I wouldn't want to play this either.

And that's why I made this game in the first place. I made it because Rhys' version was good. I made it because I thought I could easily duplicate that success.

But I didn't like the game itself too much. It's not that it was bad, it was... not my thing. My kind of game is a platformer, or some kind of action-y game where you need to make quick moves and you need good reflexes. This is not like that. It's slow... kind of laggy, kind of buggy.

So why is it important to be making the game you want to make? I'll throw in another cliche. "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration." Told you it was cliche. While not all good games would be considered "genius", they are the product of a ton of hard work.

Make the games you want to make... OR DIE! *gasp*

So here's the point. If you are making the game you want to make, you will be motivated to work on the game. If you let a small thing like a bug go past you, if you just forget about it, it will be noticed. If you let a huge bug past you, the player will stop playing the game, and forget about it forever and or leave with a negative impression of the game. So if you don't put enough effort into the game to polish it fully, even if you put in the extraordinary amount of effort to finish it all the way in the first place, all your work could be for naught if you don't put in that final push to make it great.

And because I wasn't making the game I wanted to make, GAMMACART is guilty of the aforementioned crimes, which were the product of my incompetence. The good news is that although this game did happen, I can still make games, other games, good games... And maybe I can make up for this one.

Alright, thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What We're Working On

Let me introduce you to Abscure's newest character.

He's a frog.

He's awesome.

Here he is:Oh yeah! I'm finally proud of a main character of a game. This lil' guy will be the star of "A Second Leap of Faith", sequel to Leap of Faith. So yeah. That's all for now. I feel like the frog is good enough for me to just write like a few sentences. I can get away with just writing a few sentences, right? I mean I do write a lot.

Thanks for looking at the frog.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Why I Love Stencyl

Are you a spriter? Have you had bad experiences with working with others on games? Do you suck at programming?

I do. And before this summer, that meant that I had to rely on others to make my games. I would just make the sprites, sprinkle some ideas in, and let the programmer do the work. This was a great deal with the great programmers I've worked with in the past (and present). But there were times that I've just wanted to make a game.

There are times where I don't feel like waiting! I don't want to rely on someone else. But because I can't program... what can I do? I can make sprites, and then make a team request. But what if I want to make levels?

I can't remember how I found Stencyl, but I'm really glad that I did. It's currently in a closed beta (I think that's what they call it) so I had to make a request thing to sign up. I got in pretty quickly (if I can get in, you can too) and I got to work.

Being able to make a game by yourself is such a great feeling. Here's what Stencyl does to help non-programmers like myself. There are things called "Kits" that you open up and start working with. It's like a pre-made engine. You just go in there and replace your sprites with the placeholders, and you've gotten your work into a game.

Here's the first issue that I found with Stencyl. The kits are very bloated- when I opened up the Platformer Kit, I was intimidated. There were tons of "actors" (objects such as player characters and enemies) and "behaviors" (scripts that you can assign to different actors) and I didn't know where to start.

So I had to do something that I didn't plan on doing- I had to adjust, and practice. I deactivated behaviors to see what would happen to the game if they weren't there, I played around with the physics, and stuff like that. I learned through trial and error. And because of my excitement for Stencyl, I was able to work through these things.

The number one thing that Stencyl has going for it, in terms of people who can't code, is StencylForge. That is where you find the kits that I talked about earlier. It is also where you can download games, games that have been made, and look at how they did things. If you're making a game and you need a behavior, you can go into a game that has that behavior and plop it into your game. It's beautiful.

Now, I can't give you the coders perspective of Stencyl... because I'm not a coder! But there are tons of programmers that are part of the community (obviously, because that's how we get the kits and stuff in the first place) and it's all built around collaboration. If you are a coder that needs sprites, you can look on StencylForge. If you're a person who just wants to make games as a hobby, and can't make resources or code, you'd be able to make games with Stencyl!

In my experience, it seems that Stencyl is built around this one fact of life- no one can do everything. But everyone can do something. And with StencylForge, you can compensate for your humanly imperfections and create things that you haven't before- all because Stencyl gives you a place to find these resources.

I've made and released three games with Stencyl (and of course, I coded none of them.) I've released all of these games on Kongregate and Newgrounds, and I'm proud of them. The flaws in the games are because of mistakes made by myself, not flaws in Stencyl (as far as I know).

So give this thing a try. If you're expecting to just get in there and start making hit games, you're mistaken. Like anything it takes time, and of course, practice. It's possible that because I'm taking the spriters perspective here that I'm missing out on some of Stencyl's major flaws, and it's entirely possible that I don't know enough about Flash libraries to judge this. Regardless, I love Stencyl.

Thanks for reading.

How to Deal With Negative Feedback

It happens to all of us. You have a game that you know is something special- you know that people are going to like it. You post it on a forum where you feel that the members know what they're talking about. You are close to finishing the game, and want to post a WIP/demo, because you want to get some feedback.

You keep refreshing, waiting for praise, waiting for someone to pat you on the back. And finally you see that there's been a post! You scroll down and start reading... Suddenly, your stomach drops. You feel an aching pain in your stomach. The poster politely destroyed your heart.

Now what do you do? Well, I'll tell you how to spin this "negative post" into a positive occurrence.

1. Let it sink in, and just chill for a while until you've calmed down.
Separate yourself from the situation. Get away from the computer before you respond to this post. Do what you have to do make yourself feel good. Get something to eat, watch TV, maybe work out. Personally, I like to sleep on it. But the point is not to do anything you'll regret (like lashing out). At first, it's best to get it out of your mind. But eventually, when you're ready...

2. Read the "negative post" in its entirety.
Sometimes I feel like reading the whole post will just make me feel even worse. But after step 1, we're ready to dive into this thing and start making it right. Make sure that you understand the criticism. Open up your game and play through the parts that the poster is criticizing. It's entirely possible that you already knew about some of the problems and were planning to fix it, or the poster was inaccurate with his criticism. But there's probably going to be something to change in the game.

3. Politely respond to the poster.
This might sound stupid and cheesy. But in my opinion it's crucial to make it at least appear that you are handling this maturely. Start with a "thanks for playing," and then go over all of the criticism piece-by-piece. Break it down. And then say how you're going to fix it. In the end, this person took the time to play your game and then help you. Show him some love! In the rare occasion that someone is intentionally attacking you or the game, DO NOT fight back. Starting a flame war will lead to your topic being closed, which you DO NOT want.

4. Fix it.
Now that we're done with all of this interpersonal relationship baloney, it's time to get it done. Make a to-do list in a different window, and make the changes you need to do. This is going to be different for everyone so I can't really help you here.

5. Post the update!
This is the fun part. Your game is now better than it was before. Did it hurt at first? Hell yeah. Did you want to retaliate? Maybe. Did you take it personally? Also a possibility. But your game is better now. Thank the poster for his help, and boast about all of the wonderful improvements, and post the update!

6. Repeat.
What's that? Someone else found something wrong? That's life. Time to do it all again!

So there you have it. I can't count how many times I've thought to myself, "oh man, this sucks. Every time I think I've got something good, they just take it spit on it." But that's the wrong way to look at it. Every piece of criticism is just another way to make yourself better. Think of it like a bodybuilder lifting weights or a basketball player taking 1000 shots a day. It can be brutal, but it's something we as game developers have to do to get better!

Thanks for reading.

Ethan's Game Idea Journal 2

Every Wednesday (at least, for now) I will be releasing game ideas. Some of these will be from an actual document that I have these ideas in, and eventually I will just be using this format for new ideas that I make up on the spot. If you wish to use one of these ideas for a game, please ask me in the comments section. In reality though, I realize people could do anything with these, so I'm not really planning on using these ideas anytime soon.

Game Name: Day and Night

Genre: Platformer/Puzzle (Hub)

Camera View: Platformer

Graphic style: Cartoony

Gimmick: Pressing action button switches from day to night, and visa versa

I suck at drawing Goombas.

Gameplay: Let's say you are in a field during the day, and there are too many enemies to kill. Press action to go into night, and all the enemies, which are dogs and other mammals will fall asleep. In a field, there is a giant animal sleeping (think Snorlax), blocking a cave. Switch to night to wake it up, and fight it to go into the cave. In the cave during the day, there will be sleeping bats (because they are nocturnal, right?), so they switch things up a bit.

Plot: Your village is being attacked by animals. You are chosen by the gods to go out and kill the evilest of all animals (I don't know what that is, but boy is he bad). Unfortunately, they are out of weapons to give. But they do have one special power- the ability to at any time turn night into day, and the other way around. With your fists and this power, you have to save the village. This is just a general summary of the plot by the way.

Pros: I really like this idea. It's awesome.

Cons: Will the combat be too weird without a long range weapon? Will it be too easy? Should there be a limit to how much you can switch? Will there be good platforming and good combat at the same time?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How to Brainstorm

When I was a little kid (well, relatively speaking, I'm still young) I subscribed to a silly romantic theory that I myself created. I thought that ideas for games would just come to me. I would lay down in my bed, put on some Pink Floyd, and think abstract, crazy thoughts, thinking some awesome game idea would come to me.

Obviously, that was ridiculous.

Here are some suggestions to help you create and organize your ideas- things that I've learned over time, and I obviously still have a ton to learn (so please leave comments on what you do to brainstorm!)

1. Start a game-idea journal!
I use a Word document for this. You could use an actual notebook, a chalkboard, or anything for your idea journal. I have a format that all of my entires follow (I like to be organized) but you don't have to be like that. The point of the journal is to make sure all of your ideas end up being recorded somehow. Additionally, it's important to have a sort of library for ideas, a place where you can come back to and your past ideas.

2. Come up with a chunk of ideas at a time.
I have a decent amount of ideas in my game idea journal. Around 50% of those ideas are from one day. It wasn't that I was in the perfect mood to make ideas, it was just that I forced myself to keep writing stuff down. I just kept writing idea after idea on that one day. It was exhausting, and some ideas were crap. However, I had some keepers, including the idea for Leap of Faith.

3. Start with a genre.
They always say to make the games you want to make- your ideas should belong to genres that you like. A large majority of my games are platformers. So most of my ideas are platformers. This is something that you can't just go back and change, so it's very important. Sometimes I combine genres, so go crazy with that kind of thing. After all, this is supposed to be fun.

4. Decide on a graphic style.
This is important because if you choose a retro, uber-pixelated style, then you are already picking what kind of people will play the game (awesome people! But sometimes you need to get losers to play your game too). If you pick an uber-realistic style, then you are choosing a different following. So think about this when you're choosing the graphic style- "who do I want to play my game?"

5. Come up with a tag-line, or a gimmick.
You are being held at gunpoint by a big publishing company. They want your best game idea or you'll die. Do you think it would be smart to give them a giant summary? No. You'd say something like "Italian plumber jumps and breaks stuff and saves a princess," or "partially eaten pizza is being chased by ghosts and picks up dots." Bad examples, but... point is, you need a simple gimmick that will create hype for the game and separate it from the pack.

6. Write a large description of the gameplay.
If you want to make the plot before you write the gameplay, go to step 7 before you do this step.
Explain the gameplay so someone could get a complete understanding of it. Be clear and precise, and make sure that it's good enough to be shared.

7. Write a large description of the plot.
If you want to make the plot before you write up the gameplay, go back to step 6 after this.
Not much to say here- just write a plot description.

8. Make a name.
For me, this is the last step, but for you it could even be the first. I just suck at making names. The good thing about it is that you can get a name from the gimmick, gameplay, and plot. You could even name it after the main character. So there's a lot of room to do something cool here. But there's also the chance that you make a bad name that just flops. And I've done that many times before.

Well, there you have it. That's how I brainstorm... I'm all about being organized. I've come a long way from sitting in my bed, listening to Dark Side of the Moon (or Meddle) and waiting for the next great game to pop into my head.

Thanks for reading.

Data Analysis Week 2

I've decided to do this every other week. This time around, I probably should have waited longer to do a post, because there has been basically no movement in the downloads. In fact, I'm not even going to count the data.

So I guess the title "data analysis" might be a little misleading, because I won't always been analyzing any data, haha.

But here's what I've been doing to try and get the downloads up:

Ruined- I screwed up big time. I posted this to Indie DB, but I was too lazy and didn't make the page look good enough. I didn't have enough screenshots, didn't have enough media (whatever the hell that's supposed to mean) and in the end we got rejected. Rejection sucks!

I posted a link on Twitter. 5 clicks. 5 clicks, that's all I got (compared to other tweets I post with links, that's bad.)

And of course there was the Ruined Look Back Part 2 post I posted a while ago. That might have helped a little. I guess I've just gotta keep trying.

The Fall Game- I did nothing to try and get this downloaded more.

GAMMACART- This game has been spreading onto a lot of different Flash game sites! Unfortunately, there hasn't been a lot of clicking on the good ol' "Play more games" button in the game, so there hasn't been a lot of traffic coming into Abscure.

The Courtship- Same as GAMMACART. For some reason it seems like GAMMACART is being posted on more sites, but The Courtship is getting more plays and better ratings and stuff. Neither of these games are my personal favorite, but out of the two, I'd definitely say the Courtship is better.

Propel- I'm excited because two Fridays from now (the 18th) I'm going to be posting a little postmortem on the effort Christian and I put together to try and get sites to review Propel. Recently, though, I really haven't been doing much to try and get this game around the interwebs.

So the last few weeks have been okay. I'm excited to see what affect blogging will have on the popularity of these games. I definitely believe that every effort I put in that is related to Abscure will help Abscure in its whole, at least a little.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

How to Make People Give a Crap About Cutscenes

Let's use two scenarios for this post. Scenario A is something I love as a gamer. Scenario B is something that developers might want to think about changing.

This isn't about making cutscenes or specific cutscenes. It's about looking forward to cutscenes as opposed to getting annoyed and skipping swiftly through them.

Scenario A:

Let's use my favorite game, Jak and Daxter, for Scenario A.

First of all I just want to say that I love this game so much. Okay. Now, by itself, with just gameplay alone, this isn't as impressive of a game. But I love the atmosphere. I love the characters. Jak doesn't talk (I'm talking about the first game here) but Naughty Dog still gives him a personality. Hell, he's more of character than a ton of videogame characters that can talk. He's the classic hero, strapped with a no-nonsense, get-it-done attitude. Oddly enough, it's almost as if he has better social skills than Daxter. You can tell by how some of the villager NPCs talk to him that he's always been trustworthy and helpful, and that he's a stand up guy. When I was a kid I was entertained by his interactions with Keira (the girl, was that her name?) and wanted know if they'd get together.

This game is my childhood.

Then there's Daxter. Oh, Daxter. He is the talker of the group. As a lad I thought he was the funniest thing ever, so I wanted him to get turned back into his awkward-looking human self.

So this leads me to my point. You want people to read/watch your cutscenes? Make good characters! Make the player care about the characters! I won't care about a fictional character dying unless I care about them. I won't care about saving the world if I don't have anyone in the world to care about. I had to work really hard in Jak to get power cell after power cell, and I was motivated because I cared about the characters. The cutscenes weren't something I could skip- they were why I through played the game in the first place.

Scenario B:

Let's use the Sonic Adventure series for the example here. I didn't care about Sonic. There were so many characters to not feel a connection to, I almost didn't finish the games. The characters were almost not characters at all; they were just talking 3D animations, lifeless pieces of crap. I liked the gameplay though. I played through both games, but I'm pretty sure I skipped most of the cutscenes. I watched enough to get an idea of it. Trust me, I gave it a chance. But it was just too awful. It wasn't worth it.

Meh, who gives a crap about this?

So there you go. Characters are the key to capturing my heart. You might have the most complicated plot ever (which some would think by itself is a "story") but I don't give a damn. You have to have living, breathing people in your story. A lot of times when people talk about "stories" in games, they are just talking about plots. A lot of games I've played have awful acting, awful writing, and most importantly, awful characters. Games are long- and thus, it's okay for some of them to have complex plots, because after all, there needs to be conflict. But the conflict just isn't as important to the player if he doesn't love the characters.

How do you make "good characters"? Well, that's a good question. I remember once hearing that there are tons of failed superhero comics, and that the ones that survive (usually) are the ones that connect to the reader. For instance, Spiderman wants to get the girl, which is something that appeals to all of us. It isn't just about who has the most awesome powers, it's also about who I'd want to hang out with on a Friday night. And I'd totally want to hang out with Jak and Daxter.

I plan on being an English major at college (I'm a senior in high school) because I want to take literature and fiction in all of its beauty and fuse it with the entertainment of games.

OK. Thanks for reading. This one was fun to write, hope you liked it.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Courtship Play Through

Here is the entirety of The Courtship being played out!

Propel Trailer

Nothing much to say here.. just thought I'd show this to you guys.

Friday, March 4, 2011

How to Finish a Game

I've known a lot of talented indies who have had trouble finishing games- and many who haven't ever even finished one game. In no particular order, here are some suggestions to (potentially) help you finish. These are things from my experience, not necessarily things that everyone has done.

1. Make sure you like the game.
This might seem obvious, but I actually have started projects where I haven't liked the idea. Needless to say this didn't turn out to well. If you think your game is fun, it's likely that at least some people will also think so. If you don't think your game is fun... you're screwed.

2. Make deadlines and organize how you will spend your time.
By deadlines, I mean a schedule. Say "I will have the grass level done by Wednesday, and the fire boss done by Thursday..." The tough part about this is putting some actual importance in these deadlines. If you miss a deadline at your job or at school, there are actual consequences. If you miss a deadline made by yourself, nothing really happens. So essentially this is just a way to help you be organized.

3. Be disciplined- force yourself to get things done.
I'm sure a lot of people would disagree with me on this. But I think putting yourself in front of a computer and just getting something done is always important, no matter how you are feeling. You have to have a steady working habit; force yourself to get in there, open up the programs you use, and just do something. That being said, if it's crap, trash it. A day you spend doing absolutely nothing is worse than a day where all of your work goes to waste.

4. Get a demo out there- build up hype.
Something that gets me through the early stages of development is knowing that I will be posting a WIP of my project. I live for feedback- positive or negative. Picture, in your mind, people commenting on a topic about your game. We all love attention. A game is, among many other things, a way to get attention. Make sure that your game is actually fun before you put a demo out there!

5. Do tons of planning before you start your game (why isn't this number 1? I don't get it)
For one of my games I have like 5 pages worth of a Word document- and it's all plans about all of the levels in one game. Sometimes I like to draw pictures, sometimes I jot down everything I think on a piece of paper. But anyway planning is of the utmost importance. It's all about organization, and having a rhythm- once you finish one thing, you have to know what you're going to do next, and so on. Plan things out before you start making things.

6. Do whatever you have to do to keep yourself excited about making the game.
When I'm not feeling so hot about the game I'm making, I'll spend a day just playing the game. If it's a game worth finishing, it's a game that I'll have fun playing. Spending time playing your game is so important, I can't even explain it. First of all, you have to make sure you are the one who's finding bugs, and not the players. It will also give you an insight on what is and what isn't working for the game. Sometimes I'll even start a different project. After 10 minutes working on said new project, I'll realize that I have something good in the first place, and go back to the other project, with my lesson learned.

Well, thanks for reading.

The Courtship: Looking Back Part 1

This is the first of a series of posts looking back on my Flash platformer with a ton of levels called The Courtship. This post is about graphics, the comics, music, feedback, and everything else that isn't gameplay.

Flowers. Flowers. Flowers.

It's not that I actually like flowers in real life. It's not that the flowers in the game are actually based on actual flowers. But they represent flowers.

The name of the game is "The Courtship". It's supposed to be somehow related to love (although it's stupid and basically a joke.) So the flowers kind of fit in to that theme.

At the same time, I like putting the flowers in levels. I like playing around with the different color combinations, working with the background and ground tile, and creating a great feel and using all of the graphics I have to make a great looking scene.

Ooh, purty colors.

In terms of the main character, I'm going to be honest. I completely half-assed it. You might notice that this is a common factor in my games, having a main character that is sub-par. In Ruined, I was afraid of the project not working out (and we decided to keep it.) With this, I just was afraid of not being able to make a good walking animation.

So I made a robot on wheels. Well, on one wheel. So then there was no animation walking needed. I apologize for the cop-out. I'm pretty sure some people have said that he looks good- he doesn't, it's just an oval with wheels and a gun. And no animation! Personally I dislike when games don't have a walking animation. I broke one of my own rules- that's a bad thing.

See what I mean? It's such a stupid design for a main character.

Anyway, the story of the game is just something I thought would be silly. I like silly. It's almost as if I'm not taking myself seriously for one second in my life (like that would ever happen.) Anyway, it's not supposed to be a game built for Valentine's Day (although it peaked in popularity at that time) and it most definitely is not supposed to be based off of real life experience (duh). It just is.

The music was something I cooked up a long time ago and recycled for this game. I kind of like it, but I hear that it's annoying after a while. That's understandable. I always feel like when I make the music for a game, people shouldn't like it, because I have no experience with music. I just make what I think sounds good for the game, but in reality, you shouldn't think my music is good, because it isn't. Hopefully someday music that I make will be good.

Well, feedback for the game was okay. I remember on Newgrounds I got one "5/10" and also one "10/10. I guess it's just that kind of game. The feedback on Newgrounds was really good. In the end I think the graphics looked pretty good and I'm happy with them. I wonder how much better it would be with an awesome player character...

Thanks for reading! To be continued in a few weeks.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What We're Working On

This is the first of a new weekly segment where I will ramble on about what we have been doing this week.

Well, honestly, I've been mostly doing this. I've been mostly blogging.

Is it just me, or is blogging the most fun thing in the world? It's like... taking everything that's on your brain and converting it into text. And then taking that text and sharing it with the world. It's pretty cool. So yeah, that's what I've been doing.

Epic428 (Go visit his site) who I worked alongside while making Leap of Faith, has been working away at a sequel to Leap of Faith.

Okay, honestly, I have a thing against sequels. I've never done a sequel to any game before. But we both felt like we were very close to making something really, really good with Leap of Faith, but we didn't quite get there with the first version. We got a lot of good feedback from a lot of different places, and now we're going to bring everything we learned into this newest project. Expect better graphics, expect the gameplay to be more rewarding and challenging, and at the same time the game is going to be really really different. The whole "only jump/can't walk" gimmick is a constant, but the jumping itself is getting a makeover.

Obviously you can expect me to talk about this in the coming weeks. In fact I imagine this will be in development for some time... Maybe I can hook you guys up with a demo before anyone else gets one.

Christian recently started school again so his ability to do stuff has been greatly affected. But I don't care, he has more game making ability in his pinky than I have in my whole body, so I'm happy with whatever time he puts into this whole Abscure thing. Right now he's working on converting Launch into GM8, and then making an online high score system thing, and then making the game free. So that's going to be fun. I'm planning a similar marketing assault as the one that I used for Propel, and hopefully the game will get the press it deserves, because it has like 3 awesome addicting games rolled into one download.

Okay, thanks for reading! And thanks for caring enough about this silly little game making team to read all the way through.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ethan's Game Idea Journal 1

Every Wednesday (at least, for now) I will be releasing game ideas. Some of these will be from an actual document that I have these ideas in, and eventually I will just be using this format for new ideas that I make up on the spot. If you wish to use one of these ideas for a game, please ask me in the comments section. In reality though, I realize people could do anything with these, so I'm not really planning on using these ideas anytime soon.

Game Name: Super Platformer RPG

Genre: Platformer (Hub)

Camera View: Platformer

Graphic style: Cartoony

Gimmick: Level up/customization system for basic platforming skills.

Yeah! Looking good.

Gameplay: The game is a regular platformer, with a level system like Jumper (Worlds-Levels). The levels would also be a similar size.
The player gets experience points based on completion, and stats based on that. There would also be some kind of coin/collectable system. Things taken into account would be deaths, time, and enemies killed.
Experience can be used towards stats: Jump, Double Jump, Strength, Health. Stuff like that.

Plot: You have always wanted to be a super hero. The problem? You are a weakling. Luckily, you also happen to be a ridiculously rich technology tycoon. Using your authority, you somehow construct a simulator that allows you to work on your super hero skills. (this is the setting for all of the worlds except the final world) Eventually you decide to film yourself running around the city, saving people (this is the final world).

Pros: I love RPG Elements. I love platformers. It's definitely something I'd play. It's probably something I'd play for a long time.

Cons: Is this really original? Would it be possible for the player to "break" the game easily by just loading up on a certain stat? Would it be difficult to make all of the stats of equal importance? Would the plot completely suck?

Thanks for reading.

Pixel Art

I remember when I started to sprite. I was... young, I don't remember how many years old I was. It was on a Pokemon site, a Pokemon spriting site called "PMF Inc." The most common practice was "mutating" Pokemon sprites, which meant taking features and colors from two different Pokemon and splicing them together. Sound easy? I was horrible at it. Even as I got older, even when I tried really hard, I was awful. Awful, awful, awful.

The unlikely hero of pixel artists everywhere (except those who don't use Paint.)

But it was fun. It was so much fun! And it introduced me to pixel art. These mutations taught me how to sprite. At first, my disturbingly bad works looked like a 3-year old's scribbles on a page; I remember a Golem/Charizard splice that really looked like neither of those Pokemon in the end. (Note: These sprites were on a computer I had a long time ago, so I unfortunately can't share these disasters with you all.) Over time, my sprites got cleaner. I still didn't understand how to make a color palette, I still didn't understand shading, I still sucked.

Later on I finally began to understand shading. Now, shading was at first something that I would dread, something that would make my sprites look just plain awful. And it was something I never could understand, no matter how many times someone tried to explain it to me. And then one day... it just came to me. I just understood it.

It all started with balls. I would practice shading spheres, trying different styles on for size. And that introduced me to shading properly and making things look good. I'm still not a great pixel artist, but I've improved and (I think) I continue to do so. I still have a ton to learn.

Anyway, enough about me. Pixel art in general is very attractive to me for a number of reasons. If you were to show someone a picture made up of pixel artwork (that wasn't made for a game) it's likely that they would say something along the lines of "oh, it looks like Mario," or "looks like a Gameboy!"

Smells like it's from a videogame.

If you were to show someone vector graphics, or like a logo or something, they probably wouldn't give you a similar answer. They might think about comic books or cartoons, maybe sports logos, and they might possibly relate it to Flash games. But they wouldn't think of games as quickly as they would if they were viewing pixel art.

So that's what I love about pixel art. You could almost call it video game's art, something you associate with games like you would with graffiti and urban culture, or a fresco and the Renaissance. (Note: The point of those examples is that they are not exclusive to these time periods or locations, but are regularly associated with them.)

If I were making comics, it's highly unlikely that I'd look to pixel art to do the job (but that would be really cool now that I think about it, and I'm sure it's been done.) If I were making a logo for a sports team (which I wish I could do) I wouldn't use pixel art. If I were making a website- wait a second, we used some pixel art for the Abscure website design. That might not be the best example.

Anyway, you get the point. Pixel art= videogames. And that's why it's something that I frequently enjoy and use.

Thanks for reading.