Tag Archives: steam

My Presskit, GMS2 and Steam +More Game Trailers

I’ve finally got my presskit together! I’m quite proud of it. It’s on github here. https://dylanfranks.github.io/

It currently covers all my games and music software. I won’t have much more to add until I start a new game project. And who knows when that will be.

 

Trailers

Here are some new videos of Algorithm for Angel Wings. 🙂 This one shows the game generating elaborate piano melodies in 7/8.

 

This one shows a marimba playing in 10/8.

 

This one shows a harp playing in 4/4.

 

And this one show the autoplay feature, which goes on forever. 😛

 

Here’s a Gosper glider gun generating music in Celody Life. I updated the software with a larger grid, pause and mute buttons, and more tempo options. The larger grid is nice because obviously now you can make larger structures and see how they “sound”. I may update this again in the near future.

 

Game Maker Studio 2

I’m surprised Game Maker Studio 2 is out of beta when it clearly needs a lot more work. The deprecation of certain ubiquitous functions really kills my enthusiasm for the new software – specifically instance_create() and draw_background(). Transferring my old work would honestly be too much of a pain. I’m better off continuing in “GMS1”, as it’s now known.

And the only reason I prefer that over Game Maker 8 or older versions is simple – dark mode is easier on my eyes and allows me to work longer. It’d also be cheaper to just upgrade exports for GMS1 than buy GMS2 – Linux export is the only one I still want to get and haven’t. My experience with making games for Android tells me iOS would just be a pain to work with.

The new work space also looks really weird. A bit too much like Unity. I’ll admit what they’ve done with GM’s image editor is impressive. But that can always be substituted with another image editor like Aseprite. You can do plenty with the image editor in GMS1 anyway.

 

End of Steam Greenlight

Steam Greenlight shutting down was quite a shock, but also a huge relief in a way. It means I don’t have to deal with their toxic community to get on the platform – if Steam Direct has a reasonable fee. If not, fuck them. There are other distributors.

Jim Sterling deserves the most credit for continuing to say “No, this is not okay, and don’t accept this as being okay.“ I may miss his series of Steam lowlights – but for every one hilarious game he covers, there are 10-20 that are just appalling.

I hate the way Steam has shaped the game community for worse with their utter disregard for quality control. Valve has lowered the bar too much with their storefront of trash games. I hope this is the year we recover from tactless joke simulators, meme games, scatological humor, and all the other plagues that fester in Steam’s catalogue.

I’m obviously setting my expectations for other people too high, but we’ll see. I’m not too concerned about PC distribution at the moment, as I’ve been experimenting with porting my games to HTML5.

 

Dev Blog Incoming

This blog turned quite sour, sorry about that. I will write about the updates I’ve made to Iridescent Crown in the next blog, once I’ve compiled some new trailers. Here’s a shot of the updated version.

 

You can find more screenshots on the presskit. 🙂 Till next time.


Iridescent Crown and Zephyr 3 are officially complete!

Iridescent Crown

Play it here!

I uploaded a new HTML5 version of Iridescent Crown with a few important bug fixes. The soundtrack has been added, and the Windows version is now available to purchase.  🙂

The release has been somewhat marred by ISP problems, but at least I had the game up in time for Christmas (and Diablo’s 20th anniversary!). One of the bugs screwed up the ending sequence, which, along with missing the soundtrack, made me feel less than comfortable sharing the game around. But now everything’s cool.

I’m really glad to have this game out of my way. I started it way back in 2010, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted it to turn out until recently. A lot of things just happened to come together at the end – like the final boss and ending sequence, which I’d been turning ideas over for years, but ultimately only needed a few hours to throw something together.

Finding the right graphics+sfx resources to fill in certain roles was also essential in speeding up the creation process. I don’t feel too bad about using cc0 enemy sprites in my game, because the alternative would be a game that’s still unfinished.  😛

I’ll follow up with a more complete dev blog when I have some time. Right now I’m working on trailers for the game. Stay tuned.  🙂

 

Zephyr 3 bug

z3x

As I suspected, there was only one line glitching up this game and keeping it from running in HTML5. As soon as I dropped “direction_to_object” and changed it to “point_direction” – essentially the same function with a different approach – the damn thing loaded up fine in HTML5. It even lags less than I expected. You can play it in your browser here.

Game Maker Studio is weird sometimes. Only 173 lines of code in this game, and it took just one to break everything. To contrast, Iridescent Crown’s engine is +6 years old, bloated as fuck yet somehow works fine in HTML5.

The source code is available for anyone who wants to learn how to make this type of game.

Zephyr 3 basically marks the end of the Zephyr series. But not the engine itself – I plan to use it again in the future.  🙂

 

Planning for Steam Greenlight

I should be getting better internet in mid-February. So for now, I’m going to focus on recording gameplay footage of my projects. Then I will upload the videos and see where to go from there. I’ve recently managed to get OBS working with my computer – though not with the best quality.

Every article about “indie game marketing” stresses the importance of Twitter, but I don’t think Twitter is as helpful as it seems when it comes to getting your game out there. I get a good amount of likes and retweets whenever I post screenshots or links, but honestly they don’t translate to people clicking on my game often. So “marketing my game” usually feels like wasted time that could be better spent on development. It does help to chronologue my development, but that’s about it.

Gamers make ~93% of their purchases on Steam. So… I probably need to get a game on Steam. People don’t buy games often enough on itch.io.

I’m most proud of Seraphim Automata, but it may be too weird / experimental for Steam. I’m also not sure what audience it appeals to in its current state. What “genre” is it, for instance? It lacks a certain long-term replayability that could be solved with more musical variations (read: a sequel). I may revisit it some time later and add more traditional gameplay features.

I’m also proud of Iridescent Crown, but wary because I haven’t gotten much feedback. And it’s definitely not as unique as SA. It’s really hard to strike a balance between innovative and traditional in game design. Any ideas people give me for IC will probably be saved for a sequel as well, since I’m happy with it in its current state.

While I do have more “work” ahead as far as marketing and making trailers, for once I can finally say that I have nothing left to work on in the field of game design. My existing projects are 100% complete. Which means I can let myself take a break.

… I hope.

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Source Codes, Short Stories, and Steam Reviews #4

Source Codes

I’ve made the source code for my two music tools available for purchase, as well as three of my games: A Starspangled Zephyr, Cosmic Zephyr, and Eden’s Prison. They all run in Game Maker Studio.

Celody Life includes the keyboard code that I use in my newest game Seraphim Automata. The source code for NanoTone Synth may be interesting for those who want to see the mathematics behind the music. If you’d like to support me, buy them!  🙂

The source code for Deadman has unfortunately been lost for years. I’m holding onto the source code for Seraphim Automata until I polish it up more.

 

Short Stories

I wrote my first sci-fi story a few weeks ago, called Eyes That See Across Time. It’s pretty easy and fun to write sci-fi, if you just look at the world’s current problems and then completely blow them out of proportion.

I’ve also been working on a few horror stories like Bury My Body. I’ve noticed I tend to write out several versions of my horror stories until I get the version that I like.

There’s also a series of fantasy stories I’ve been writing, inspired by Christian gnosticism, apocryphal scripture, the Devil, and related subjects. My favorite entry so far is The Birth of Lucifer.  🙂

You can read more stories in my Writing section!

 

Steam Reviews

This will probably be my last blog about Steam games unless I write one final summary later. I’ve discovered I don’t really care for some of the most well-known indie games like Super Meat Boy, Hotline Miami, Don’t Starve, Spelunky, Terraria, VVVVVV, etc. Even popular games I’ve reviewed like LIMBO only hold my attention span for a limited amount of time. It’s mostly been strange, innovative new games like To the Moon and Her Story that have impressed me.

Only a few traditional style video games like Nidhogg have truly stood out. And maybe a few others…

ror

Risk of Rain is a simple looking game with surprisingly deep mechanics. You basically start out in a random place in each level and begin fighting off enemies, which get stronger as time progresses. Getting money to buy upgrades becomes a key factor to survival. It can be a bit disorienting deciding what to spend your money on while fighting off enemies. I occasionally wish the shops were separated into enemy-free sections like most games. But of course that wouldn’t really fit the gameplay, which wants you to make quick decisions.

I love the soaring guitar solos that drive the soundtrack. This game has some of the best music I’ve encountered in an indie title, and reminds me of the early Sonic soundtracks.

With the overly simplistic art style, it’s taken me a while to get into the game. But I’ve discovered it can be a lot of fun. Sometimes I feel the game could use a function to zoom the camera in. The player character appears way too small on screen, as well as the enemies. Sometimes I feel like I need to squint to see the details. It feels like the exact opposite problem that early mobile games had. Mechanically, the game has very broad appeal. I just wish it had better graphics! But I recommend the game nonetheless.

aquaria2

Aquaria is a relaxing side-scroller that takes place underwater. The most interesting feature is the ability to play notes and melodies that affect the surrounding environment. The game has a well-produced story with a voice actor that guides you through the game, speaking for the main protagonist’s perspective. The camera zooms in and out depending on the situation. There’s a neat recipe system that lets you cook with items you find. The game rarely becomes challenging enough to frustrate you.

The gameplay and atmosphere occasionally reminds me of The Little Mermaid areas in Kingdom Hearts, but with better music. My only real criticism is the game doesn’t have much variety. The game also really needs an auto-save feature, as well as a brightness feature. In the end, it’s a nice change of pace from the trend of very difficult side-scroller games.

valdis

Valdis Story: Abyssal City probably has the best graphics of any 2d game I’ve seen on Steam. The characters and enemies are all beautifully animated. The levels all have lush and vibrant colors. None of the areas suffer from mismatched color palettes like many indie games. The sword attacks feel very satisfying to use. Boss battles are challenging but not impossible. The magic system gives you a lot of interesting powers, which thankfully aren’t difficult to incorporate into fighting.

The game also has beautiful music. I personally find the story to be tedious and distracting, but you can skip through it. As a whole, the game is truly impressive. I would say this is one of the most polished 2d platformer games available on Steam.

bleed

Bleed turned out to be way more difficult than I expected. Gameplay can be very mentally and physically demanding, since you’re having to move, aim and shoot all at once. The checkpoints are the biggest saving grace for the gameplay, since it’s easy to die from a random mistake. The difficulty of the level design is fairly uneven, with some places feeling too easy and others feeling way too hard. The game desperately needs an auto-aim feature.

You can select the difficulty on each level, which is a nice option that keeps you from getting stuck in a particular place. You can also have a second player join in, which is nice and retro. The pixel art graphics are accompanied with pretty standard chiptune music. The levels are nicely drawn but the characters and enemies could be a lot more polished.

Bleed also has one of the cutest main menu screens I’ve ever seen, with the lead character at her desk writing, drinking a smoothie, and other idle animations. This is another game I can only recommend to those who are exceptional at 2D platformers. This game is either a daydream or a nightmare, never in between.

crypt-of-the-necrodancer

Crypt of the NecroDancer‘s most defining feature is undoubtedly the ability to choose your own soundtrack and watch the game synchronize itself to your music. The game is good at syncing up to anything in 4/4 and usually 3/4. Unfortunately odd meters make it go haywire, which rules out a lot of my favorite songs. The custom music system really needs a shuffle feature, since the songs you choose for early levels and the main menu quickly get old.

The upgrade system is a lot like Rogue Legacy, where you have to play the game many times in order to become strong enough to reach the deeper levels. The now-standard structure of 4 worlds, 16 levels is obviously a nod to Diablo and Spelunky. The dungeons are randomly generated (of course they are). Playing in sync with your favorite music is a novel feature but gets old rather quickly. Sometimes it feels unnatural, and I simply want to play to my own rhythm.

Maybe this game is only for people with dance pads. Or is it made for mobile phones? It’s hard to tell. The graphics are pretty bland and unspectacular. I’ve spent over 7 hours playing the game on Steam and I still can’t recommend it unless it’s on sale.

jotun

The graphics in Jotun are phenomenal. The camera zooms out when you encounter a monument or boss, which helps give you a sense of the world’s tremendous scale. Boss encounters can be pretty intimidating when you’re just a tiny dot on the screen. This can sometimes be annoying however, as it’s easy to lose track of where you are.

The voice acting is in Icelandic, which lends a rare, authentic feel to the game’s world. The soundtrack is also very good. It often takes the subtle approach, blending ambient noises with soft splashes of violin and droning echoes. Jovial and mysterious harp melodies are common. The ominous horn sections often remind me of Diablo’s darker moments. The music becomes more exciting and percussive during boss battles, while retaining a very orchestral sound.

The loading times in between areas can be pretty long (about 10 seconds), which is one of the biggest drawbacks of the game. I’ve also had to deal with some seriously frustrating bugs, like dying after beating a particularly difficult boss. The combat is way too slow for my tastes. Your “quick” attack takes about 1 second to execute, while your strong attack takes about 3. I often feel more like I’m fighting against my character’s slow timing, rather than the enemies or bosses.

And as nice as the voice acting is, I sometimes wish there was an option for English vocals. Since I can’t look away and receive the information audibly in my own language, I have to watch the screen before the subtitles fade. It’s a bit awkward when I’m just playing casually. The feeling is not unlike watching a foreign film.

Overall though, the game is pretty neat. If you like RPG games I recommend Jotun, it will definitely leave a strong impression on you.

 

More Reviews

Steam Reviews #3: Outland, Dust: An Elysian Tail, VVVVVV, Vertical Drop Heroes HD, Waveform, Her Story
Steam Reviews #2: Nidhogg, Super Crate Box, LIMBO, Alpha Runner, The Sun and Moon, The Beginner’s Guide
Steam Reviews #1: INK, Downwell, You Have to Win the Game, Rogue Legacy, Tallowmere, EDGE, To the Moon

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Try to find me in Daniel Linssen’s game, Twitter Island!  🙂 Add me on Twitter too!

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Roguelike Platformers, To the Moon

Updates

I added some important final touches to Eden’s Prison, namely sound effects and smoother controls. Now I’m satisfied enough to call it “complete”. Download it for free here.

I’ve added brightness and gamma to Cosmic Zephyr, more resolutions, and 7 new languages. I’m currently bug testing it with some friends. Expect more news soon!

 

Steam Reviews

I’m still pretty new to Steam. A friend got me Terraria back in 2014, which I played for 16 hours and then quickly forgot about. I only recently rediscovered Steam through the winter sale. I got a lot of platformers and roguelikes to give me ideas for my own games.

ink2

INK is really good about stretching its core mechanic into a full game. The ink splattering effect is fun to play around with. It adds a layer of replayability despite the small, simple level design. My only major gripe is there could be more hidden objects, and other goals to keep you playing once you finished the game.

The three bosses are fun to fight once you learn their attack patterns. But they are traditional 2d bosses – it only consists of dodging attacks and jumping on their head. I feel like invisible bosses that exploit the ink splatter effect would have been a lot more interesting to fight.

Downwell is very simple and fun. Very few modern games feel genuinely retro like this. Switching guns adds a certain strategic element to the game, as well as the power-ups you gain between each level. I’m not very good at it, I’ve only reached World 3 a few times. But that’s beside the point.

You Have to Win the Game was a pleasant experience, with an interesting meta-narrative about winning and what it really means. It’s very short and can be beaten in an hour or two. It’s also the only free game listed here.

rogue_legacy

I have mixed feelings whenever I play Rogue Legacy. The game puts heavy emphasis on replaying in order to level up your character and progress further. So it takes several hours of gameplay to become strong enough to venture deep into the game. Contrast this to Spelunky or Downwell, where stats never increase so you have to rely more on skill.

Rogue Legacy’s graphics need work, especially outside the castle area. Specifically, they need more contrast. It’s often hard to distinguish the background from enemies in the foreground, which can lead to a lot of frustrating deaths.

I do not recommend Tallowmere. I got it on sale. It’s yet another roguelike platformer. The controls are really stiff and sometimes unintuitive. The graphics are bad. It could improve over time though.

I’ve been enjoying EDGE, it’s the first isometric game I’ve played in a while. I got it right before Two Tribes announced bankruptcy, which was sad news. I’m glad to see them pulling together for one last game, RIVE.

ttm2

Lastly, I just finished playing To the Moon. It took me 5 hours, which was longer than I expected. I warmed up to the dialogue once the character dynamics were established and the story got rolling. Without spoiling too much, I like the story and the themes it explores, such as traveling backwards through time, exploring reconstructed memories, and alternate futures. Where do our desires really come from?

The romanticism of space travel (and time travel) reminds me of Makoto Shinkai’s first film, Voices of a Distant Star. In To the Moon, the protagonists must travel back in time so the character Johnny can travel to outer space. The concept is a lofty one for a game to tackle, and ultimately the clever writing pulls it all together. The stellar music helps it feel more like a Japanese visual novel than an RPG.

My only gripe is that sometimes finding memory links can be annoying, but that’s a minor issue. Overall, the experience was very enjoyable and thought-provoking.

 

Marathon

Finishing a game is a lot of hard work. That’s why many indie developers only have a few finished games to their names. And these are often people with teams, not solo artists.

Jonathan Blow’s new game The Witness comes eight long years after Braid. Notch wasn’t exactly prolific outside Minecraft and Scrolls. Phil Fish’s small output led people to believe FEZ was his first game. Derek Yu only has a few games besides Spelunky, etc.

Vlambeer and Klei Entertainment probably have the fastest output of high quality games, and even they average about 18 months between releases. Which is by no means a short period of time. In the music industry, it only takes 18 months before music is considered “old” in the commercial sense.

I like to think game design is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a craft that takes years to develop, and you learn something new with every success or failure.

 

Prince

Some of the most important advice I’ve ever gotten was simply “be more like Prince”.

“Who else could have made Purple Rain? NO ONE. Who else could have made the thing you’re working on? Eight other writers? Fix that.” – Matt Debenham, What Writers Can Learn From “Purple Rain”

RIP Prince. You will be missed.

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