blog - Doomlaser

Our Sketchbook

Kevin and I are both proponents of the tradition of carrying around multiple sketchbooks and scraps of paper, to jot down ideas and inspirations for future review.

Evoking an idea often requires a prompt commitment of ink to paper, or text to keyboard, or it can be lost into the noise of modern life.

I’ve found it fun to give whatever sketchbook I’m using at the time to other indie game designers when we’re hanging out together. I’ll usually ask these fine ladies and gentlemen to take a page and draw whatever they want. Here are some of the hidden treasures contained within my current primary sketchbook.


Link to Full Set.

It features scribbles, elegant and crude, from Erin Robinson, Phil Fish, Adam Saltsman, Brandon McCartin, Kyle Pulver, Petri Purho, Jason Rohrer, and of course, sketch work from Kevin and myself.

Das Cube!

So I’ve just finished a little iPhone game with my friends Alec Holowka and Danny B. It’s a simple physics-based color smashing kind of thing, with lots of explosions.

Get it in the App Store

The Lowdown

Way back when the App store first rolled around, Alec and I put together a game engine and started cooking up some projects. One of them was this game. In the interim, I started doing a ton of iPhone contract work, and Alec put out Paper Moon, and forged ahead on Marian.

But we finally came around and polished this one up, and Danny (composer for megahit Canabalt, and future megahit Super Meat Boy) wrote us some apropo music.

I think the game turned out really nice. It’s a little more casual than anything I’ve ever done, but in a good way!

And the actual game framework we’ve built is kind of cool. It allows for a fairly rapid prototyping of games on the device — I feel a little sheepish that we’re only releasing our first project based on it now. In any case, check out the game and let us know what you think!

Screens



The Ambition of the Independent Video Game

This is a cute little essay on indie games, created by taking this NYTimes essay, and substituting ‘indie game’ for ’short story’.

The independent video game is always ducking for cover. The Triple-A game buys up the land, cuts down the trees, puts up the condos. The independent video game scampers across a lawn, squeezes under a fence.

I think it works really well! It’s funny how an essay about another medium verbalizes my fuzzy thoughts about the indie game scene so neatly, although maybe it works better for creators of short-form games like Cactus, Nifflas, Rohrer, and Messhof, than with games like Bit Blot’s Aquaria.

I don’t know what Braid would be… maybe a novella?

Found via kottke.

Hmm, Seems To Be Owl Season

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

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.