Archive for March, 2008

Hmm, Seems To Be Owl Season

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Owl Country is a short game I worked on in collaboration with several TIGSource regulars. We hatched the idea for the project during GDC, wrote the bulk of it while we were there, and added the finishing touches in the weeks afterward.

Download for Mac OS X or Download for Windows

The premise is that you are an owl tired of the sea of pigeons plaguing the Montreal skies, along with the humans indifferent to their infestation. It takes place over the course of one night, ending in sunrise, and you must swoop as many pigeons as you can in this period.

How To Play?

Spacebar Swoops. Steer your swoop with the left and right keys. Don’t hit lamps. You get more points for successive pigeons attacked in the same swoop and extra lives for knocking pigeons into humans.

How Did We Do It?

Aquaria‘s Alec Holowka wrote the music. Adam Saltman, myself, Kevin Coulton, and Ivan Safrin did the art. Voice talent includes Goo developer Tommy Refenes, Fez superhero Phil Fish, and Raptor Safari troubadour Steve Swink, among others.

The game is written in straight C by Ivan, myself, and Alec, using OpenGL, SDL, FreeType for text, fmod for sound, and libpng for texture loading. Interestingly, the entire game was written on a sum total of five different MacBook Pros, and then the finished version was quickly ported to Windows.

Why An Owl?

After Gamma 256 ended this past November, a group of us were standing around outside Montreal’s Society for Arts and Technology chatting. Suddenly we heard a commotion above our heads and a pigeon dropped to the street beside us, freaked out for a second, and flew off. An owl had swooped in for an attack, failed, and had flown back several yards to perch in a tree.

And as we were all still processing this, pigeon feathers slowly floated down around us — eventually inspiring Owl Country.

Notes

It was a blast to work on a project with so many people I respect, and hopefully it will lead to other cool collaborative efforts in the future.

Read more on the Owl Counry TIGSource Forum Thread.

Apple’s Intriguing iPhone SDK

Friday, March 7th, 2008

Apple revealed details of its plan for third party iPhone and iPod Touch applications today. Overall, very cool. Gamewise, it’s fairly straightforward to get an OpenGL context up and running and to start playing around.

How powerful is the hardware?

The chipset and graphics coprocessor in the iPhone/iPod Touch is plenty powerful for creating games — It should handle several thousand textured polygons no problem.

The amount of RAM in the phone is equally impressive. And remember, the display is larger and higher resolution than the PSP, with more pixels than both of the DS screens put together.

Some Demos

Dan and I are working on some things for the phone and he’s put together a couple quick demos that show off the power of the hardware and the ease with which you can do cool things with the interface.

The first is a demo of bouncing balls which uses the touchscreen to spawn and the accelerometer data to define the gravity vector.

The second is a test of the hardware’s 3D rendering, which loads a few lowpoly textered meshes.

Distribution

What’s interesting is the distribution model. The App Store sounds like a marketplace similar to XBLA and PSN, except of course not limited to games. The 70/30 ratio is good, but it remains to be seen how content will be promoted in this store.

Apple already has a section of the iTunes store devoted to iPod games. So will there be a two-tiered approach where big-publisher projects get heavy visibility and other stuff has to fend in a flood of content? Sites like Versiontracker are becoming hard to use because of the volume of content they track, and sifting through it is tedious.

There has been some consternation about a flip-flop in the price structure on one of the consoles’ downloable games portals lately. Hopefully Apple’s 70/30 ratio remains stable.

Wrap-up

When you consider the novel interface, the straightforwardness of the API, and the access granted for anyone to develop for the device, it seems likely that we’re going to see some really amazing things made for the phone.

A Game By Any Other Name Would Still Be Shit

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

I recently returned from an epic West Coast odyssey, bookended by both Macworld and the Game Developer’s Conference. Somewhere in between those major events, I made this:




Download Shit Game (Windows)

I’m not really sure how to explain this little project. I developed it in about a week, and the initial impetus for creation actually came after watching this video on YouTube

I suppose if you wanted to be intellectual, you could look at this game as a statement about creativity in the game industry. Entirely too much time is spent meticulously recreating the gameplay of previously developed games.

This is true in both the mainstream and independent game development spheres. Look at the countless Cave Story homages, as well as the countless iterations of games like Super Monkey Ball, Madden, Smash Bros, etc

I’m not saying this is entirely a bad thing. Recreating the mechanics of a classic is a fantastic way to cut your teeth in game development. In fact, there’s something even endearing about this, especially when a game fails to accurately capture the finesse of the original and it becomes fun to discover and exploit all of the bugs in its engine.

But, as the name implies, it’s hard to take Shit Game too seriously. And I feel kind of silly talking so much about it already. Don’t be fooled by the trailer. The in-game soundtrack consists entirely of poptunes recreated in general MIDI.

Download the Windows version — Mac users can play the game through CrossOver or other virtualization software. I may do a quick OS X port when Apple releases Java 6.