Post lifted from www.starlingsgame.co.uk
New gameplay details…
First off, as a developer it’s important to recognise the weak areas of a project. Once these weak areas have been noticed, it’s then important to work out how to strengthen them… One of the issues that people seem to have with Starlings is understanding what exactly the game is about…. and I’ll be honest, I’ve had a hard time deciding on exactly what it is beyond building a flock. I’ve spent that last few months playing with a few different ideas, but I didn’t want to say too much because they were all subject to change. The time has come to outline exactly what you should be expecting from Starlings, and I hope you’ll be excited about the direction it’s going in.
Yep, that’s right, Starlings is going to be an online multiplayer game with a heavy focus on community building and content sharing. “Content sharing”? I hear you ask… yes, you can share your photographs…”photographs” you cry…yes, you can take photographs…”but birds dont use cameras” you scream… no, they dont, but people do.
Players can choose whether or not to explore from the air or on foot, each offering a unique way to experience the game.
Build up your photo album by photographing unique locations and events within the environment. Photographs that include other players offer the option to share your content with that player.
Players on foot have the option to use the various transport options available. Not only does this speed up travel speed, but also offers unique photo opportunities. Share a hot air balloon ride or sail solo around the island… the choice is up to you.
Each photograph which includes another player allows you to contact directly with that player through various social network sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Share your content both inside and outside of the game to build communities and friendships that go beyond the game.
Start off with a flock of 1 and build it up to over 100 strong. Interact with other flocks and players to provide the photographers with beautiful moments to capture and share.
An initial piano melody evolves into a beautiful full orchestrated soundtrack as you build your flock. Interacting with other flocks is rewarded by combining each unique piece to create a unique, shared experience.
I’ve been wanting to announce this for a while, and now I can finally do it.
A big part of the Starlings experience is down to the way in which the music interacts with what is happening on-screen. As your flock grows, then so does the accompanying musical score. What this does is offer a sense of progression whilst rewarding the player. It also serves as encouragement, reminding the player that the more they play, the more they will experience.
In order to effectively immerse the player within the experience the music needs to be good. I mean, REALLY good. This is where Christopher Chong comes in!
For those that you that played Beatnik Games’ ‘Plain Sight’, you’ll already be familiar with his work as he provided the soundtrack. For those of you who are not aware of Chris, well, he provided the music for Beatnik Games’ ‘Plain Sight’! :)
I’m hugely grateful that a talent such as Chris, who has provided work for a commercially released video game, would agree to work on Starlings, and the way in which his work has benefited the experience is huge!
If you want to find out more about Chris, and his other work, then head over to his site.
This ties in to a gentle reminder that Starlings will be shown to the public for the first time tomorrow, as part of Unity3DLondon, complete with the inclusion of Chris’ music. Hope to see you there!
Unity is fast becomming the engine for indie developers. Partly because it makes game prototyping and creation an accessible experience for newcomers and seasoned professionals, but also because it has a fantastic community
TornadoTwins are celebrities amongst the Unity community and have strived to contribute excellent tutorials that I’m sure have helped countless individuals to realise their goals, and now they’re going to make it a hell of a lot easier, again.
Unityprefabs.com is a collection of pre-made assets and scripts that allow customers the ability to speed up the game creation process. It’s essentially a giant toolset.
Currently users are able to purchase camera kits to make starting that FPS, RTS or 3rd person game that little bit easier. The cynical amongst us can think “oh, but setting up a FPS style camera/control system is EASY”, sure, it only requires about 30 minutes of tutorial following, but compare that with 30 seconds and $9.99 (current, discounted price). A quick look at the upcoming list of prefabs offers an insight into the exciting future of unityprefabs.com that will feature advanced particle systems, AI, Facebook implementation, twitter integration and more.
There’s no doubt that is’ a useful service, but even if you don’t end up using it, you have to applaud what TornadoTwins are doing and it only helps to improve the positive aura that surrounds Unity at the moment (iPhone OS4 panic omitted). I only hope that they continue to offer free content for the absolute beginners as that will act as an avenue to their paid content.
Head over to UnityPrefabs.com to check out their store.
Production on Starlings took a turn for the worse last Wednesday. I woke up like it was any other day, stumbled down stairs, filled the kettle, put coffee in the plunger thing…pushed the power button on my Macbook pro…and that’s where it all went wrong.
It just didn’t boot. Well, it tried to, but just stopped after about a second. A few calls to Apple customer care later, probably an issue with the logic board. No worries, I have Apple care…I’ll get a genius bar appointment. NONE UNTIL A WEEK FROM NOW?!?!. Double-ewe, Tee, Eff.
Thankfully I found a reseller in Watford North (www.twilight-zone.co.uk) and it’s been sent for repairs, it just means that I’ll be without it for 2 weeks.
Apart from that, nearly everything is done for what I’m calling the Starlings V 0.5. In terms of everything I wanted to create initially, it’s all there…but my ideas about what it could be, and the potential of it as more of a game mean that it is actually NOWHERE near what I actually want it to be….
Oh, and I’ve got a proper fucking musical genius to do the musical score.
But more on that next time.
“It’s kind of like a massive conga line,but each person is at various stages of drunkenness,so it doesn’t really work”
Today was one of the most boring, repetetive days I’ve had during the development of ‘Starlings’.
After putting in all of my flocks, the next ste was to assign each of them to a ‘flock follow’ point. There are roughly two birds for each follow point, so I not only had to keep track of which birds were connected to which follow point, but the damping values also, in order to make sure that the birds wouldn’t ‘merge’ together. It was also necessary in tracking how many times I’d used each value, to ensure that there was an even spread throughout the flock.
The way that the flocking works is that each bird follows a ‘flock follow’ point, each with a different ‘damping’ value, this is essentially the delay in time it takes for the bird to follow that point. Each ‘flock follow’ point then follows the main starling, with a similarly different damping value.It’s kind of like a massive conga line,but each person is at various stages of drunkenness,so it doesn’t really work.but it does for this.
Basically it took 5 and a half hours… and here’s the record for it.
Being an indie dev, or: How to make it on your own… Where Russ talks to Mark Morris of Introversion about hackers, the death of handheld gaming, and Blade Runner…[Part 2]
WARNING : THIS BLOG POST CONTAINS PROLONGED PERIODS OF ADMITTING NAIVETY.
There’s more to making a game than actually making the game. If you want the hundreds, if not thousands of hours you’ve spent putting it all together to be somewhat worthwhile, then a sensible, intelligent marketing strategy needs to exist. What markets do you target? Who are you making the game for? And how do you do it? If you’re anything like me, then you’re marketing budget is zero, but as Mark explains, it’s still possible to get your work out there.
The first, obviously, natural thing to do is think about who is going to be interested. Early during production, I had planned to release Starlings as a Mac only game. Despite Unity’s ability to natively compile to both Mac OS and Windows, I felt that the Mac gaming space is currently so sparse, and Starlings was a unique enough project, that it would be easier to create some waves, rather than being drowned in a combined Mac OS and Windows gaming space. However, one of the first comments to this decision was ‘’Why?’’. I wasn’t going to single handedly going to convert Windows only users over to the Mac platform, and I wasn’t being paid by Apple to keep it as a platform exclusive. In fact, releasing it as a Mac only game wasn’t important, people wouldn’t pick up on it.It was the fact that it was Mac compatible at all that was interesting, so why cut off from the Windows users?. I really overlooked the fact that, as a wannabe be game designer, you should be putting your work out to anyone that would want to play it.
“Games journalists are usually very busy. If they’re interested in a project, they’ll often ctrl + c, ctrl + v it, attach the screenshot and leave it up the community to decide “
Another trap is getting too excited about what you’re doing and showing work too early, which really doesn’t justify what you’re trying to do. I’m a lazy Internet user, I’ll only click on links based on the headline, and only if it’s something I recognise and I’m interested in. If it has an attached screenshot, I may just dip into something I’m not too familiar with… This process filters up to those that actually post news worthy content. During the earlier stages of Starlings, I released a few ‘press releases’ to some online news outlets that I thought would be interested in the project. There were two problems with this. First is that I didn’t really have any real content to show. No matter how interesting a game’s high concept is, unless you’re Rockstar, Valve etc, it’s not news worthy. Second was that I pitched it as a press release… Press releases are for large scale business’s that don’t have the time to tailor their news to each individual outlet, and probably have too much to say. A high concept and a very early screenshot from an unknown indie developer doesn’t count as a press release, especially when it’s obvious it was writing by you…at 2am, in your dressing gown. It wasn’t until I had completed a trailer based on the prototype version of Starlings that anyone took interest in the project. However, even this was too early in production to properly represent what I was trying to achieve. Feedback for the project focussed ‘muddy textures’, a static environment and an unclear message as to what they game was actually about. Not the best first impression, and user feedback can often dictate whether or not a site runs a relevant news story for the project in the future.
“An important part of marketing your game is building a community… We tried lots of directions with Uplink, we sent out physical copies to both the mainstream and student press, but we didn’t really get a return on that. Luckily Uplinks hacking theme meant we had a good crossover market, so we went on the hacking forums and just said ‘hey, take a look at this cool game I found’ ”
Through the hacking community, Introversion were able to start building a community of fans for the game. No matter how small the community is initially, when more mainstream news sites start writing about the project, the small community will help to shine a positive light on your project. I had tried previously to target potential crossover markets, and an obvious demographic to target was birdwatchers. However, it seems that birdwatchers aren’t as interested in games as much as hackers are, and I suspect that a large proportion of hackers aren’t interested in birds.
The only return I’ve got from my attempts have come from the indie development community. The official Unity forums have an active community of independent developers of varying success. It’s possible to gather some interest in your project early on amongst fellow developers, and with a regularly updated, interesting, blog, you may start to build the first few members of your community. Documenting each step of the development process can be very time consuming, and also not very interesting to outside readers, but it can offer you the opportunity to honestly assess the production process so far, hopefully helping you to improve on the overall experience you’re trying to create. Although the development community may be the only people that would get excited about a game’s high concept, they wont necessarily be interested in the development cycle itself, as they’ve most probably been through the process many times before, or are too busy to care about how you’re making the game. In my honest opinion, the reason for this is that indie game development is a very competitive area. When another developer posts screen shots of their current build, my natural reaction is directly compare it what I’m doing. I’m either going to think one of the following: that it’s better than the work I’m doing and need to improve my efforts, what I’m currently doing eclipses someone else’s work, or that it’s of a similar standard. Whichever it may be, it’s not something that you want to post as a response on a forum.
In short, tell them what you’re doing, but don’t expect anything back until the game is in their hands.
To sum up the post, if you’re indie developer, ultimately people are only going to be interested in the game itself. They don’t care what you’re doing, or who you are, the only way that’s going to happen is if you make a good game at the end of it all. Think of it this way, if David Jaffe , Peter Molyneux, or Hideo Kojima wrote this blog post, you’d have got this far, but it’s me, so you’re not that interested and stopped at the top. If you did get this far, thanks.
Being an indie dev, or: How to make it on your own… Where Russ talks to Mark Morris of Introversion about hackers, the death of handheld gaming, and Blade Runner…[Part 1]
In December I was lucky enough to spend a day doing QA with Introversion, developers of Uplink, Defcon, Darwinia, Multiwinia, and the soon to be released XBLA title, Darwinia+. A few days later they were doing a talk at London South Bank University, where I was able to show them the prototype build of Starlings, and get some nice,constructive feedback.
Nearly 4 weeks to the day I found myself having a coffee with Mark Morris (he kindly paid the £2.20 for the grande Latte), talking about the current indie dev landscape, and just how much it had changed since Introversion uttered the words “We’re the last of the bedroom coders”.
The plan was to ‘interview’ Mark for the paper I’m writing on being an indie dev and get some insight on how they managed to make it, and compare it to my current efforts. Then I’d completely reevaluate what I’m doing with my life, maybe become a barista at Pret A Manger, or something.
Mark began by explaining how incredibly busy Introversion are at the moment, trying to get Darwinia+ marketing in place. Immediately I felt guilty, there were obviously an infinite amount of more important things for Mark to do. However, my offer to reschedule was met with such a sincere refusal, that I was truly appreciative of him taking the time to talk to me, of all people.
(For those that just want to cut to the chase now, I did end up completely reevaluating everything, but in a more sensible way…)
My initial plans to record the interview were scrapped, I felt that Mark would appreciate it being more of a casual chat, and hopefully I’d be able to get some more honest answers with it being ”off the record”.
Introversion’s early days are well documented, bolshy young upstarts, determined to put creativity back into an industry that had been stifled by the strict developer/publisher regime that dominated gaming development. Their importance to what I’m writing comes from being the first 3rd party developer to feature on Steam, Valves dominant delivery platform for digital content on PC. They own a significant chunk of digital distributions history, and I wanted to know how they got there.
Tomorrows part will look into marketing, and how I’ve pulled up Starling’s metaphorical handbrake, reprogrammed it’s metaphorical SatNav an heading down a completely different, metaphorical road…
First off, I’ve changed to tumblr for one simple reason, I prefer it…. right, that’s out of the way.
I saw today as my first official day back working on Starlings since the prototype was finished. Why today?… work, work…holidays…family…work… Finally all that is over with, I can get back onto working on Starlings again.
As mentioned in previous blog posts, I’ve started again with the Starlings environments. Many reasons contributed to this… a better understanding on Unity…the prototype environments were too ‘muddy’…the scale was completely wrong…and the end goal of what I want to achieve is significantly different from what I had originally planned.
Today was a case of outlining the map and planning on what goes where… All I’ve got to offer in terms of media is two screen shots. An updated version of the mountain I’ve been working on, and the map itself, which hopefully gives you an idea of the scale of the Starlings environment…
Away from this, I’ve been working on some of the game play aspects… Most people are still unaware of what Starlings actually is … (apart from being a Flower clone, apparently) … come the end of the month, when the demo is released, it should hopefully be a lot clearer.