Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Our GDC 2016 Picks

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Hi all! Augusto, Graham and me just got back from GDC 2016 and we’re here present some cool games we saw:


 

Graham:

LineWobblerBlogimage-color-edit

The best game at GDC this year was Line Wobbler.

For those unfamiliar with Line Wobbler (e.g. most people), it’s a physical installation made up of an ultrabright LED strip connected to a springy joystick. The game is described as a 1-D RPG. You play as a dot that’s climbing up the line, that has to deal with threats like enemies (red dots), lava (yellow blocks) and a bunch of other interesting hazards. You dot has a “wobble” attack that is invoked by releasing the springy joystick so that it wobbles around.

This video introduces the game nicely: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2h8AtDR85Y

Augusto:
ObraDinn Dek
A lot of games at GDC 2016 were noteworthy, but the one I’m most excited about is Lucas Pope’s Return of the Obra Dinn. Not only the 1-bit art direction is impeccable, the games he makes play like no other. Just like its aesthetics, the gameplay and narrative have depth in its simplicity. The game guides the player elegantly through its mysterious setting: an 1800 cargo ship with a missing crew. With the aid of an equally mysterious device, you can transport to the time of the crew member’s deadly fates.

Part detective story, part ghost ship, the somber atmosphere puts death at the center in a way not even shooters with 100 headshots a minute can do.

Check it out here: http://dukope.com/

ChrisM:
Handy
I don’t like heights. Standing on ledges makes my stomach fall onto the floor. I think that’s why I got such a kick out of the VR game The Climb. At first it started off fairly straight forward – players use the shoulder buttons on a controller to move their hands from one hand hold to another. The real shocker took place when I spent a moment to look over my shoulder to see that there was a LONG drop behind me. My heart started to race and I had to take a moment to remind myself it wasn’t real. I’ve become sold on VR because I keep on having little conversations like this in my head when playing such games. It feels really really fresh and unfortunately means I’ll be one of those (sucker?) early adopters.

Terror to be seen here: http://www.theclimbgame.com/

Finger Training

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016

Hi everyone, Jason here, and I’m really excited for everyone to play Severed.

Severed will be ready for you soon… but more importantly, we want to know if you will be ready for Severed!

Severed is a game that puts players in the role of a young warrior travelling through a fantasy world, exploring dungeons and fighting strange and deadly creatures.  The combat in Severed requires a keen eye, sharp reflexes and quick thinking. Enemies are varied and their attacks can be misleading. You’ll need your wits, but you’ll also need fast fingers. Combat in Severed is done with touch controls, so if you’re going to survive, you’ll need to make sure your fingers are tough and ready!

fingerVSstrongarm

If you want to survive in Severed’s world, your fingers are going to have to be in tip-top fighting shape! Luckily, the internet is your friend, and there are many resources to help you strengthen your fingers and prepare yourself.

 

wikihow_fingerexcercises_link

The benefits of strengthening your fingers will provide you with many benefits, such as the ability to climb small to large mountains.

 

finger_strength_2

In conclusion, mountain climbing may (or may not) help you play Severed, and playing Severed may (or may not) help you climb mountains!

DrinkBox PlayTesting

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

This week we just finished up our 20th playtest for Severed! As a studio one of the most important practices we’ve learned is: playtest your game early, and often. As a designer, you are constantly making assumptions about how people will play your game, and you quickly learn how wrong these assumptions usually are. For example, what may seem like an obvious path within a game can be vastly missed by the majority of players – It’s very easy to make a poor judgement call about how people view a scenario I’ve created.

 

Subsequently, we’ve also learned that it is difficult to create a natural playtesting environment if your entire studio is standing over a playtester’s shoulder like a bunch of weirdos… This can affect the playtester (positively or negatively) by changing the way they would “normally” play the game. For example, a skilled video game player might feel self conscious, resulting in them struggling during a demo, thereby giving us the impression we’ve made the game too difficult.

pressure

credit: koen deetman

One solution is to record the playtest for review at a later time. A drawback to this method is we don’t have the opportunity to ask the playtester about certain moments of their play session. “Did the trapdoor puzzle feel rewarding, or was it too easy?” Asking questions much later after a playtest sometimes leads to a playtester having trouble recollecting their experience.

 

Our solution is to record the playtest AND stream video of it across the office to the design team. This allows the team to have a live discussion during the playtest, pointing out possible improvements, or observing unforeseen challenges the player is experiencing.

 

Here is the setup:

 

final_flow

First, Severed is recorded with an over the shoulder video camera with an HDMI out that contains the screen data. We lead this signal to the input of our Game Capture HD60 from Elgato. The HD60 is an affordable and versatile little capture device. The supplied software is simple to use and we’ve been happy with the quality of recorded video, even up to 1080p 60fps.

severed_HD60_sm

Now we get sneaky. The HD60 is connected by USB to a computer that records the playtest, but also simultaneously streams the computer’s desktop video via VLC Media Player to our local LAN via HTTP. We have tried a few different software solutions and currently use the powerful (and free!) VLC.

vlc_showing_severed

The way we setup VLC can be found in the below post, found here. Anyone in our office can easily pick up the HTTP stream feed by using their own copy of VLC on their respective computers. There is a slight lag since transcoding is taking place on the hosting computer, but we’ve had up to 6 computers watching without a problem. To improve performance one can reduce the desktop resolution of the hosting computer and also reduce the fps of the stream from within VLC.

 

There ya go! A little insight into our playtest sessions.

PlayTesting Supplement

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

Hey all, here are the details to how we setup our playtesting. This How-To is going to be a bit brief on detail, but should give you a general idea.

======Host Side========

Start the Stream

vlc01

Select your Desktop as the Capture Device

vlc02

Not sure about this page, just click Next

vlc03

You want to select HTTP, then click “Add”

vlc04

Select your preferred coding, H.264 is pretty good

vlc05

Change frame rate to what will be required, we go with 30fps or 15fps.

vlc06

Select port, the default is 8080 which works for our purposes.

vlc07

Click Next

vlc08

Last find the local IP of the Host computer. An easy way is to go to your Windows Start button, put “cmd” in the search parameter. Then in the console window that pops up type “ipconfig” and the IP address will be listed there. It’ll usually be 192.168.1.?, but, depends on how your network is setup. In the example below it is 192.168.1.124

vlc11

============ Client Side=========

Click “Open Network Stream”

vlc09

Enter the IP address of the Host computer with the port. In this case the hosting computer’s IP is 192.168.1.149, port 8080. Click “Play” and you should be good to go.

vlc12

Ketchup Stains

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

By Gary Corriveau, Lead Designer

As much as I love the whole process of making games, there are two phases during development which I love the most: Getting started and finishing up.

 

When embarking on a new project, quickly iterating on prototypes is the name of the game. Testing gameplay ideas, experimenting with art treatments, developing new characters and stories; quickly producing tests that allow the team to dip their toes in the ocean that they are about to dive into. This is fun stuff. The time between investment and reward is short and the possibilities for the future of the project are boundless.

ketchupstains

Another great time during the making of a game is the home stretch. This is where we’re at with Severed right now.

 

The final touches of the game are falling into place. We’re tuning numbers, tidying up animations, mixing the last of the sound effects and music; Polishing the game to it’s full potential. Make no mistake, it’s hard work! Not because of the hours put in or the nature of the work, but because you know you will have to stop at some point. Most of us have enough ‘final touch’ ideas to work on the game for an eternity. But we’re also anxious to get Severed in front of an audience with the hopes they will enjoy playing the game as much as we’ve enjoyed making it. That cognitive dissonance can be difficult at times, but the rewards are well worth it.

 

Here’s the thing with finishing a game: The last bit of polish impacts the game to a much greater degree than the many months of the work that led up to this point.

 

If you are trying to admire a beautiful painting, but someone has spilt a dab of ketchup across the canvas. What sticks in your mind the most? The artist’s work, or the ketchup? (Think Rembrandt, not a Jackson Pollock.) Removing those last placeholders and fixing those last bugs have a similar impact to cleaning the ketchup from that Rembrandt. You remove all the distractions and finally see the game for what it is; what the team has envisioned it to be.

Speechless

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

We have some great fans. Going to expos like PSX and PAX are a ton of fun because people come up to us and say “Hey, thanks for making your game”. And that feels great. It feels really good that somebody actually enjoyed our hard work.

 

And then there are other times – times where somebody expresses their enjoyment of our games that leave us stunned with awe.

 

Please enjoy the following uber cool image and excellent blog post found here:

Guacamelee! Arcade Cabinet

Guacamelee! Arcade Cabinet

 

 

Happy Holidays from DrinkBox Studios!

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

Ok Ok, we’re a bit late on this, but Happy Holidays from the team over at DrinkBox Studios (yes, we are working on Severed over the holidays) <3

Sasha

PlayStation Experience 2015

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

Next week Severed will be visiting San Francisco at the awesome 2015 PlayStation Experience along with a whole crew of other great games. If you live in the Bay Area, nay, the USA, you have no excuse to not come visit our booth #2042.

 

Last year’s PSX was a lot of fun – there is something special about going to an expo that is dedicated to a specific console. When you met someone you immediately had something in common because you knew they were a PlayStation fan.

 

Here is a time-lapse of our booth from last year: 

This year we’ll be giving away copies of Guacamelee! STCE upon completion of a special challenge, but those details will be at the booth. To entice you even more I’ve included some new screenshots from Severed:

 

Severed_1080p_Screen_A_50perc

 

Severed_1080p_Screen_B_50perc

 

Oh, and don’t forget to give us a high five.

Even More Guacamelee Fan Art

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Thanks to Inktober (and to a lesser extent, Inkvember) we’ve seen a spike in awesome Guacamelee! fan art. If you like a piece, click on it to see the artist’s page and tell them you like it!

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tumblr_nwh71a1euR1re2jw2o1_540tumblr_nweaugPinj1rmicmlo1_540tumblr_nw7qmz5vZo1tg4xe6o1_540 tumblr_nvvpet0i0u1qe6eszo1_540tumblr_nur1wnMii41uuqi4ho1_540tumblr_nuqh0gZzKI1ud5xs2o1_540guacamelee___juan_by_owenoak95-d8znk1ytostada_by_jdeberge-d96cetrpink_dont_stink_by_northtron-d98hk0b.pngguakamelee_juan_by_epicamiture2099-d9db7nxnext_gen_heroes_by_eddied0129-d9dqa7s__juan_el_luchador___by_fernandothehedgehog-d9g55n8.pngtumblr_nvmwl2BULX1qemngwo1_1280

Design Shift

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Hi, I’m Jason, Game Designer at DrinkBox Studios, specializing in Level Design. We’re all hard at work on our new game, Severed… and if you’re an eagle-eyed Back to the Future fan, you know that it’s coming out… someday.

 

From a Level Design standpoint, Severed is quite different from our previous titles, which were primarily Platformers. As a first-person action-adventure game, the player travels through, and interacts with the game world in a much different way than in, say, Guacamelee!. For the design team, this has not only created a few challenges for level design, but has also allowed us to learn some interesting new ways to approach level design and world building.

 

When designing a Platformer, you have to think about how the player will move through the environment from a gameplay perspective. The player has to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’, so you have to think about all of the gameplay opportunities that you can insert into the world to make that journey from ‘A’ to be ‘B’ as interesting as possible, and as difficult as you desire. The most important element of Platformer design is understanding, and leveraging the player character’s movement ability. If the player has the ability to jump, then make them jump! The more options the player has at their disposal, the more fun it is to move around the world.

 

LevelDesign_101

A (not at all exhaustive) overview of Level Design for Platformers

 

That takes us to Severed, which obviously, is not a Platformer, and therefore needs a different approach to level design.

 

Movement in Severed

View post on imgur.com

In Severed, the player doesn’t have as many movement options as in a game like Guacamelee!. Firstly, the player doesn’t move freely around the screen, the player instead moves through the world in steps. A movement action is a single “step”, a constant distance that separates all of the game’s rooms (also known as ‘nodes’). The design team quickly learned that instead of thinking of this as a limitation, it is instead a useful concept for creating levels in Severed. With this unit of measurement we can plan out levels much more carefully and create a finely tuned experience for the player. For example we know that the player will be exactly 3 steps away from a point of interest and the level designers can use that information to their advantage.

 

Severed_Editor_Nodes

Nodes connect to each other to create rooms in Severed

 

The world of Severed, as you have probably already seen, is beautiful, fascinating and sometimes terrifying. And being an action-adventure game, it’s very important that we allow the player to fully explore and take in this world we’ve created. There are many dangers in the world of Severed, but the player does not have to be afraid of moving around. The standard ‘step’ is not inherently dangerous… it can lead the player into danger, but the player doesn’t have to worry about falling into a pit or jumping over a flaming spike ball.

 

This has also affected the early concept and planning phases for level design. When designing a Platformer, I personally find it very useful to just roll up my sleeves and dive right in to the tools. However, Severed has required a great deal more planning before the actual creation of levels begins. It’s very, very difficult to simply jump in and begin creating. This is partially due to the way that the levels themselves are constructed but also due to the importance of what we want the player to see, and when we want them to see it. Something as simple as a path that approaches a deserted temple is carefully planned and structured to provide just the right feeling at that moment. This means that many of the levels in Severed went through multiple iterations of paper designs before any of the dev tools were used. Because of Severed’s node structure, I found that spreadsheets were incredibly useful in designing Severed’s levels.

 

excel_level_planning

Not how you typically use excel, but it worked great!

 

Severed is hardly devoid of level design gameplay. There are plenty of deadly enemies that inhabit the world. Deciding what enemies the player will face, and where they lie in wait is a very important element of the level design. And as with all other elements of the level design, everyone at DrinkBox has helped to inform these decisions. The enemy behaviors, combat difficulty tuning and reward systems have all factored into placing twisted creatures into the world of Severed.

 

So, what does all of this mean for the level designers on Severed? Well, for me, it has meant a shift away from pits, spikes, and Tule Trees, and shift towards building and fleshing out a world, one that is constantly telling a story. And don’t worry, there’s still plenty of opportunities to add traps, treasures, creatures and secrets! As a Level Designer you can’t always rely on your old methods… sometimes you do have to learn new tricks.