Canada Day at the Office

By chrism July 6th, 2017, under News

Howdy all, this week I asked around the office for anyone to share what they got up to on Canada Day. I mean, sure, people might or might not of watched fireworks. But what else do DrinkBoxers do on Canada’s 150th birthday? (which, honestly, is pretty young as far as countries go). Let me share:

 

Graham:  “I spent Canada Day back-country camping with my wife and dog at the amazing Bruce Peninsula National Park.”

 

 

Michael “I got the platinum trophy for The Last Guardian, yet again, on my girlfriend’s account, thanks Meghan!”

 

Steph: “I went antiquing and found creepy clowns.”

 

 

Ryan: “We found fish-ladies at Nathan Philips square while the Cuban-Canadian Jazz Collective was playing on Saturday.  They didn’t speak, but still managed to convince a train of kids (including mine) to follow them around.”

 

In conclusion quite a mix of everything for Canada Day. And, although this wasn’t a competition, I think we can all agree fish-ladies was the winner. Oh, and if you would like to see the actual Parliament fireworks, here you go:

 

 

Michelle Obama gave us an Apple Design Award!

By Graham Smith June 15th, 2017, under News

Alright – well – I might be exaggerating a bit with the Michelle Obama thing, but let me present you the facts and you can decide for yourself:

1) We received an Apple Developer Design Awards for Severed (WHAT?! Awesome!!)
2) Michelle Obama was at WWDC
3) We received the award at WWDC

Ergo, Michelle Obama gave us an Apple Developer Design Award. QED. (It’s basic science, really)

While you may or may not believe this exactly, let me at least PROVE that we were at WWDC.

I lined up early on Monday morning to pick up my badge before the Apple Keynote.

This was my first time attending WWDC, and I was really surprised by the size and enthusiasm of the Keynote crowd.

Even with my early arrival, the only seating left was in a back corner of the room. Experiencing an Apple Keynote in person was pretty cool!

A few hours after the Keynote, I met up with my Apple contact and went to the Platforms State of the Union.

Immediately after the State of the Union, I was shepherded into a curtained-off area of the conference building. There were a number of other developers in this area, including a few game developer friends. We were all lined up single file side-by-side, and told (under embargo) that we had won an Apple Design Award!

We spent the next hour talking with some of the top Apple executives about our games / apps, as well as the upcoming Apple features we were most excited about. We were told “no photos” but I managed to snap one quick one of our award 😉

On Tuesday morning, WWDC attendees were treated to a “Fireside Chat with Michelle Obama”. She spoke about her time at the White House, the programs she ran while there, and gave tips on how to stay focused and not become overwhelmed in today’s political climate.

Shortly after Michelle’s talk, we met up again at the same secret area to talk with journalists from around the world. Here’s a photo of John Geleynese giving the journalists a quick rundown of what they were about to see while the developers waited patiently.

Overall it was a really fun couple of days with a chance to catch up with old friends, as well as make some new ones.

Thanks so much to Apple for the Award, and for all their support both before and after the launch of Severed!

 

Zoomorphism

By chrism May 23rd, 2017, under News

Are we going to E3? Are we not going to E3? Back and forth! Well. Turns out we’re not going to E3, which is a bit disappointing – because one always needs their dose of spectacle once a year. That got me thinking, if I had to zoomorphise the different conventions, what would they all be? Let’s try:

E3 – Liocock

If I had to choose what animal pair represents E3 – it would be a lion and a peacock. A Liocock. First, a lot of big industry mover + shakers show up to E3 – the business folks, the “suits”. The top of the games kingdom so to speak (to some). Now, a peacock – because E3 is OVER THE TOP loud noises, bright lights, and sometimes not a lot of substance…

Gamescom – Wildeherd

There are so many people at Gamescom. SO MANY PEOPLE. I almost ran my first time looking out at the throngs of gamers. It reminds me of the huge Wildebeest migration that takes part in the Serengeti every year, it is truly amazing. (check out a video about it, or even better, see it in person!) I would cross a Wildebeest with a German Shepherd, because, I think of a German Shepherd when I think of Germany – where Gamescom takes place. This would be a Wildeherd.

 

PaxPrime – Sqotl

PaxPrime is a Sqotl. A Squirrel and an Axolotl. First – PaxPrime was the first convention to be “off the people”, a convention for gamers by gamers. And a squirrel to me is the most down to earth animal. Squirrels just seem to hang out with you whenever I’m outside. Camping – squirrel. Sitting in the park – squirrel. Pumping gas – squirrel pops out of the garbage to say hello.  Second is the Axolotl, because, PaxPrime can really get freaky, and, what is freakier than an Axolotl?

 

GDC – Eleer

Finally GDC. There are a lot of wise people at GDC, some real creative legends. So a wise animal like an elephant seems fitting. Second is a deer, for all those young and innocent looking aspiring game makers wandering around, a bit stunned in the lights surrounding them. I will call this animal an Eleer.

 

Thanks for playing!

DrinkBox Fav YouTube Sites Part 1:

By chrism April 20th, 2017, under News

A lot of YouTube watching gets done at the DrinkBox offices. And I mean A LOT. Sheesh. I decided to take action – and see what folks at DrinkBox are subscribed to and watching these days. So, in no particular order:


George says:
Geek & Sundry
The go-to channel for geek culture. Weekly shows with Felicia Day, Wil Wheaton, and host of Critical Role – a game of D&D played by voice actors (DM’d by Matt Mercer).

BONUS: [George watches a lot of YouTube]

Adam Savage’s Tested
Adam Savage (of Mythbusters) and co. talk tech, model and prop building, makerspaces, cosplay, and a tonne of other cool geeky stuff, with a few new videos every day.

https://www.youtube.com/user/testedcom/

[And if you for some reason you’ve never watch Felicia Day’s beginnings, watched The Guild . It’s great. Well, ok, it’s only great if you played a lot of MMOs]


Graham says:

My pick for the Blog post is Youtube channel “Beyond the Guitar

This guy, who is INSANELY talented, picks music from games / TV / movies and transcribes it for Classical Guitar.

One of my favorites is his Castle Theme from Super Mario World:

He only has 10k followers. That makes me very sad

[Everyone, don’t let Graham be sad and make it 10001 followers]


Michael says:

My pick for the Blog post is the Youtube channel “noclip”

Danny O’Dwyer, known from his host and producer work at GameSpot.com, has created a crowdfunded video game documentary channel called “noclip”.

These are lovingly crafted features telling the stories behind great video game titles old and new. They have a wonderfully timeless feel to them.

This documentary on the development of Spelunky was very interesting to me:

There’s bound to be at least one story you’ll be interested in!

[Everybody, Michael is really enthusiast so you should probably listen to him]


Me says (Chris M)

Alright – well, I felt why not mix it up and have a channel not games related, but one I hold dear to my heart. Global Cycling Network is a funny group of “blokes”, who have videos on every aspect of competitive cycling. If you have a question they’ve probably answered it.

I mean, ever wonder how to ride and look like a Belgian professional bike racer? They got you covered:

[I don’t troll my own entries, c’mon]


Stay tuned for Part 2 which will appear, sometime in the future – or potentially never. xoxo DrinkBox

 

 

Random Quasi Game Development Tips

By chrism March 31st, 2017, under News

A little off beat post – I decided to ask a few people around the studio some of their top tips for whatever they were working on at the EXACT moment I asked them.

Graham is going to start us off with this little gem:

[Graham]

My favorite trick that I use pretty regularly is the use of “$” to flag rows or columns as absolute references in MS Excel / Google Sheets

By default, when you reference a cell as part of a formula by clicking on that cell, spreadsheet programs will treat the reference as a “relative reference”. This means if you copy and paste that cell, your referenced cell will change in the pasted cell. For example, if you copy the formula “=A1*B1” from row 1 to row 2, the formula will become “=A2*B2”.

 

This is great in many cases, but sometimes you don’t want the spreadsheet to change your referenced cell when you copy/paste. In our example, if you wanted to multiply cell A1 by each item in column B, you’d want the formula on row 2 to be “=A1*B2”, and on row 3 to be “=A1*B3”, etc.

 

To have your spreadsheet behave like this, you simply have to change the reference from a relative reference to an absolute reference by adding the “$” character in front of the row/column that you don’t want to change when the formula is pasted. In our example, “=$A$1*B1” would cause the B1 to change when pasted, but the A1 reference to always remain the same.

 

 

Some more complex examples can be found here: 

 

 

To be honest, I thought everyone knew that trick. Graham doesn’t get out much. Alright, let’s move on to Augusto – Augusto, what do you have for us?

 

[Augusto]
Paste Special in Toonboom allows a variety of settings. I like this because I can duplicate the art, but retain individual animation on each. So this is flexible for the animation team, and our Editor just reads the 1 drawing instead of quadruple-ying (?) it.
It’s great to make adjustments to the art later in the project and not go crazy

If I edit one drawing (I extend one vertix)…

 

…it updates in the other copies of the drawing.


Whoah, nerd alert amiright? George, good old George, what say you?

[George]
Hiding the damn canvas in the scene view of Unity:
If you’ve got a canvas in your seen set to camera/screen fit, you’ll be happy to know you can hide that giant monstrosity in the scene view via the “Layers” dropdown in the top right corner of the editor. You can use this to hide the UI, or any other Layers within the scene view!
 

 

Thanks George. Now trusty David, take us home with a major whallop of a tip:

[David]
It’s pretty trivial but seems not widely known: Gmail ignores any dots in your name, so coolmcguy@gmail.com  and cool.mc.guy and c.o.o.l.m.c.g.u.y are all equivalent

 


 

Well if tips were like baseball, that’d be a sure home run David.
Hope you learned something, and if you have your own tip, tweet us @DrinkBoxStudios or email us at contact at drinkboxstudios.com.

 

Drinkbox @ GDC 2017

By Graham Smith March 5th, 2017, under News

Hi all, Graham here. Just got back from GDC and thought I’d share a little bit of the experience with those who were not able to make it out this year.

San Francisco is a beautiful city, and we were lucky to have great weather for the whole week.

This year we spent most of our days meeting with potential partners to talk about our upcoming [secret] game. The walls in Humble’s offices are covered in characters from bundles they’ve published. Took us awhile to find Juan.

We were not nominated in the IGF, but we were in the IMGAs. Unfortunately we didn’t win anything, but were still happy to be nominated 🙂

The meetings kept me pretty busy, but even though I was not able to make it to any talks this year, during the after hours and between meetings I had a great time meeting up with old friends, and seeing some of the cool things they’re working on. Riverbond by Cococucumber is looking really awesome.

Also got a chance to play Embers of Mirrim for the first time at the Ontario Social. The game is incredibly fun and left me wanting more.

As usual, the IGF area was full of really cool games.

Our favorite section of the show by far was alt.ctrl.GDC, a section of the show floor reserved for games that use custom hardware.

In the first game I tried, you move an LED around a ring by rotating a small knob. There are 2 concentric LED rings, and pressing a button jumps you between them. You need to avoid moving hazards and try to reach a goal position. Simple but surprisingly fun.

 

The second one I tried with Chris Harvey was a 2-player co-op Bank Heist game where one person wears a VR headset, and describes visual puzzles that need to be solved by the other player by manipulating a series of switches, wires, and buttons.

This record-scratching game used the record needle to detect the direction and speed the record was moving. The game world was projected on to the record. This game was kind of like asteroids, where time only moved when the record was moving. The ship moved with the outer edge of the record, and “scratching” the record caused the ship to fire bullets.

There were many other cool examples that I didn’t get to play. Super creative stuff here.

We also spent a bit of time wandering around the retro arcade. The nostalgia was flowing.

San Francisco is a great city for food, and we had a few really good meals on the trip. Chris McQuinn and I found Garaje last year, and we definitely had to stop by there again.

All in all, a great GDC. Now, back to making games!

 

New York VideoGame Critics Circle Awards 2017

By chrism February 8th, 2017, under News

Hi all, Chris McQuinn here.

Recently Severed was nominated for the Battery Park Award for Best Handheld Game at the New York Videogame Critics Circle (fancy sounding) and WON!

What makes this awards ceremony extra special is that Augusto flew down to NYC to attend – lucky guy – and he decided to make a mini photo-mentary. No need to ever wonder what it’s like to be a nominee for a game award, we have all the pics right here. Below are his pictures with his comments, and then maybe my comments on top of that.

 

I started to hum Alicia Keys in ‘Empire State of Mind’ as I flew into NYC” (Augusto is actually a part time pilot and was flying the plane at this moment)

 

The awards ceremony was at the Abrons Art Center in Lower East Manhattan” (There was a cool test to get in, and obviously Augusto passed)

 

This was on the stage, and pretty sure it stood for Neil Young” (pretty sure it stands for New York)

 

Legend Award winner Lord British himself, Richard Garriott!” (Ultima X please)

 

 

I don’t have a pic of me accepting the award, but maybe you can get a screenshot from twitch?” (Oh, don’t you worry, I stalk you real good)

 

Best Handheld Game winners!” (I guess that’s proof)

 

Central Park with Canadian Geese pretending to not be their usual psychopathic selves” (True dat)

 

I’m at the MoMA in a cool art exhibit” (turns out he stumbled into the emergency exit)

 

Thanks Augusto for representing Drinkbox! And thanks again to the amazing show put on by everyone at the NY VG CC and we encourage everyone to support them however they can…or buy something nice from one of their sponsors.

Some of Drinkbox’s favourite games of 2016

By davidr December 22nd, 2016, under News

Say what you will about 2016, but at least it’s been a heck of a year for games. January feels like about a decade ago, and with all the great releases since then it feels impossible to keep track. Here are some of the ones that stood out for us the most:

 

Inside

inside
This game was hotly anticipated in the wake of its predecessor, Limbo, and the consensus around here is that the long wait was worth it. We loved Inside’s puzzles, its surprises, and its jaw-dropping polish. The only complaint Graham could manage was that he wished it let him spend more time in such a well-realized world.

 

The Witness

witness

Speaking of long-awaited followups — several Drinkboxers spent weeks trading notes and expressions of awe about the unyielding, intricate puzzles of The Witness. Said Graham, “I’ve been waiting to play this for years, and it definitely lived up to the hype. Some of the most satisfying puzzle solving I’ve ever felt in games. Now I guess we’ll have to wait another 7 years for Jon’s next masterpiece?”

 

Thumper

thumper

Thumper proved every bit as intense and overstimulating a rhythm game as the trailers promised. David loved getting to play a fresh new take on this slightly calcified genre, especially such a lovely-looking and -sounding one.

 

Pony Island

ponyisland

Pony Island is the best playing-a-satanic-arcade-machine game we could have asked for. Graham called this ridiculous trip down the rabbit hole his biggest surprise of the year.

 

Hyper Light Drifter

hld

Hyper Light Drifter draws you in with fantastic music and pixel art, then treats you to a mysterious adventure filled with intense, snappy combat. There’s no words, no nonsense, and the sum of it all just feels immediately classic.

 

Dark Souls 3

ds3

As enigmatic, melancholy and hellaciously tough as ever, Dark Souls 3 kept some of us in its sadistic grasp for a good while. Cuxo praised the game’s “haunting and memorable imagery”; David thought From’s ongoing refinements to the combat mechanics made it the best-feeling Souls game yet.

Severed iOS Controls

By chrism November 2nd, 2016, under News

Hey, I’m Ryan, a producer at Drinkbox Studios.   The Blog Team has asked me to provide, for your reading pleasure (to use that expression loosely ;)), a summary of the steps we took working out our touch-screen controls for Severed on iOS.

Slashing, interacting with on-screen objects and player movement are all essential parts of the experience in Severed, and sometimes players alternate rapidly between moving and slashing / tapping objects.

On PS Vita, the game’s initial launch platform, slashing and object interaction was touch-based, while camera and player movement was controlled using the stick / d-pad.  On touch-only devices, this posed a bit of a challenge.

The process for coming up with a control scheme that would work on iOS turned out to be non-trivial…there was a ton of playtesting, a few meetings with some UX experts, and a lot of internal head scratching.

In the end, our final iOS control scheme can be summarized as follows:

ioscontrols

Click to enlarge

 

  1. Tap middle: Move forward
  2. Tap sides: 90-degree snap turn (quickly rotate camera to next cardinal angle)
  3. Drag with two fingers: Look around (free-rotation of camera)
  4. The middle tap-zone is slightly wider as a % of overall screen size for phones, narrower on tablets
  5. A limited form of movement queuing is supported, allowing players to queue up their next tap-movement as the current movement approaches completion
  6. Tappable pickup zones on most parts are a bit more generous on iOS than they were on PS Vita, making it harder to miss parts when tapping to pick them up
  7. A very short cooldown period is applied after part pickups to prevent players from moving accidentally after tapping frantically to pick up parts
  8. The length required for a slash to be considered ‘long’ is shorter on IOS, as a % of overall screen size, compared to PS Vita (with the difference being more substantial on tablets with larger screens)

Turns out what we thought would be a straight forward process ended up being much more of a challenge than what we had anticipated. The reception for the iOS controls was overall positive so let’s chalk that up as a success.

Game Design Deep Dive: How dark themes and bright art collide in Severed

By chrism October 14th, 2016, under News

The original article can be found over at Gamasutra:


WHO: Augusto “Cuxo” Quijano, Concept Lead at Drinkbox Studios.

Hello, I’m Augusto. I present outlandish ideas to the very talented team at Drinkbox Studios, and usually (after much struggle) we end up with an amazing videogame. I’m responsible for pitching the world and characters for Guacamelee, and a crude version of what Severed became.

Severed’s Initial Internal Pitch Animatic

We’ve done a wide variety of games, starting with the stylish puzzle-platformers About a Blob and Mutant Blobs Attack!, to our most famous title, the mextroidvaniaGuacamelee!, but our latest endeavor Severed  is in my opinion the weirdest of them all.

 

WHAT: THE DARKER IT GOES…

For those unfamiliar with Severed, it’s a combat/exploration game that plays like an old-school Dungeon Crawler, but with touch control swiping used for the battles.

Severed Trailer

One of the first things I settled on with Severed was that the story and the world should be a deeper dive (!) into the protagonist Sasha’s psyche. The atmosphere is all about mystery, death and loss, and the story centers around Sasha coming to terms with these, so you would naturally expect it to look dark and gloomy.

Severed’s setting in not conventional fantasy either, even though I love euro-centric folklore and have drawn more than my share of orcs and elves, I felt that if we’re making a fantasy world anyways, we didn’t need to be bound to pre-established mythologies. We could do anything we wanted.

We also wanted it to feel visceral; I wanted to stress the “tactile” feeling. I remember being young and turning the pages of an old atlas in my grandma’s house and not wanting to touch the pages with worms and salamanders. I thought it would be great feeling to have a bit of a repulsive aspect to the characters. But the problem: this could be really distracting and off-putting.

 

aug01

A couple of our programmers felt uneasy working on this enemy when we added the holes in the mushroom caps.

 

 

WHY: …THE BRIGHTER WE GO

How did we decide to tackle the problem of making this gross, sad game fun to experience? Making the art style bright and colourful softens the impact of both these things! The game stays visually appealing and varied. Plus it plays to our strengths.

We discovered that if we packaged these dark themes into a world built with simple shapes and bright colors (a style that comes natural to us if you know the studio’s history) we found that we could push the themes further.

aug02

Shroomster’s character design process

 

I’ll give you a concrete example with one of our enemies we call “Shroomster”.

The first thing is to get something– anything, and having it working in the game. Like an animated sketch that we can test in the game.

Then we had to adjust art direction. In the case of “Shroomster” the direction involved ‘less cupcake’ and ‘more boils, tadpole eggs, and spores’. We also wanted to adjust the color palette to be bright, but not as friendly. Ben Thomas did some explorations with this and we picked one.

We did a polish pass on the animation file. (Sometimes several iterations because of gameplay tuning).

The stylization is a tool for both the gameplay and the story. We didn’t want to dilute the gravity of the situation Sasha is dealing with, but our aim was to portray the weight of the situation, not the gore of it. It was important the character felt the consequences of what was going on, but the player was not put off by it all. It feels like a great victory when a player slashes a monster’s eye, then chops off its limbs amidst spraying blood, and comments, “This game is so pretty.”

But settling on a visual design wasn’t easy, it was a constant balance. We didn’t know with how much we could get away with. Sometimes we had to tone visuals back a bit because they became distracting, and sometimes we had to add more.

In a way, the mindset was to make it real for Sasha, I mean, when you first meet her in the game she has just lost her arm and is given a living blade by a mysterious dark figure. The game is not ‘friendly’, so thematically we couldn’t allow ourselves to pull punches. But in the execution of the game and the art style, the character’s journey was always the beacon, and when things distract from that you’re no longer serving the desired player experience.

aug03

Sasha, Severed’s protagonist

It was also a challenge to get the team in the same page. After wrapping up Guacamelee, it took a while to get the tone for Severed. This wasn’t a Saturday morning cartoon fantasy. Instead, this was a dark story about a character letting go of guilt, and accepting loss. That’s quite a switch! I praise the studio for having the guts to make such a dramatic tonal shift successfully.

It was a goal of mine to not end up with enemies that looked like orcs, or ogres, or humanoids for that matter, since a lot of times nobody challenges these conventions. I also found out why: It is way harder to make up new stuff than to go along with established ideas.

This was also a very technically challenging game to build. There was so much weight being carried by the enemy animations having to be so tied to the gameplay. At the end of the day, the game is about communicating the atmosphere and story clearly, but more importantly, the art and animation needed to communicate the rules of gameplay clearly. Simple shapes, clear animation, and leading the player’s eyes is what MUST work for players to have a smooth gameplay experience.

Sometimes I wonder if we should’ve just gone with ogres and axes instead of a robed creature with no eyes and arms on its head, that transforms to a split-faced horned demon with intestines hanging out and wings and arms…

aug04

 

…but it looks so pretty.