Button Bash: Thief UI

[Experiment: “Button Bash” is a series of micro-posts which will hopefully encourage me to write more frequently :)]

The recent(ish) Thief reboot is fun, but I have some UI niggles. The light gem, critical to gameplay, which used to be centred at the bottom of the screen, is now tucked into the left corner and easily ignored. Perhaps because the gem is now so obscure, crouching adds a dark vignette to the screen, reducing your field of view just when you want to pay most attention to your surroundings.

I would have done away with both the light gem and vignette. A far simpler gauge of your own visibility is Garrett’s own hands, which are always on screen and would provide a very natural indicator of how visible you are.

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Games Dev North Wales

A recap, because I haven’t been blogging as often as I should…

Shortly before Christmas my colleague Ralph and I founded Games Dev North Wales – a social meetup for North Wales students and developers to discuss the art, science and industry of games. It’s growing steadily, and we were recently invited to visit Cardiff to speak at our more well-established partner group Games Dev South Wales. We talked about the differences between working in small teams and large “AAA” studios, and had a chat with some South Wales students about their projects.

We were also lucky enough to attend a meeting of the Games Wales Group, a think tank of many parties all keen to develop the Welsh digital media industry. We heard from BAFTA Cymru, the Film Agency, S4C, Creative Skillset, local universities, local government and others. There’s a lot going on!

It’s nice to lift my head from the keyboard now and then to see what’s going on in the outside world. It’s even nicer to find that over the years I’ve picked up some tips that are useful to the students who are going to drive the next era of games development.

And so, the plug: the next Games Dev North Wales event is on Tuesday the 11th Feb – always the 11th – and it’s a quiz this time, as a change from the debate format we’ve established so far. Do drop in if you work in or study games and can get to Wrexham that evening!

BAFTA voting excitement

Towards the end of last year I was lucky enough to be able to join BAFTA, as a result of all the work my colleagues at TT and I have done over the years. I’m pretty chuffed with that πŸ™‚

One of the perks is that I get to vote in the Games Awards, so in the run-up to Christmas I had an awful lot of games I needed to play in order to make an informed decision. It was a very interesting experience – I played a whole lot of games I would normally have ignored, and most I enjoyed much more than I expected to.

Voting is still ongoing – the results of the first round have gone to the juries, who will spend another month or two playing the shortlisted titles in depth so that THEY can make an even more informed decision. I get one more vote for the Best Game, but the other awards are now up to those juries. It’s not going to be easy for them, as this has been an excellent year with a multitude of great titles.

Maybe next year I’ll volunteer for a jury. I’m really enjoying the opportunity to acknowledge the best work of the industry.

The Journey Effect

I’ve just enjoyed an epic weekend party with friends old and new, and I thought I’d share an awesome gaming moment that took place there.

We were all staying in a hostel for the weekend, with a number of small children who had very little to do during the day. I’d brought my PS3 for SingStar the night before, but my wife thoughtfully suggested I put Journey on in the communal lounge for the kids. No online features, sadly, but we thought it would be harmless fun for an hour or so.

5-year-old Ethan played it through start to finish in one sitting.

He struggled a bit with keeping the controller level, so I had to reframe the camera for him occasionally. And he asked me to take over briefly during the scary serpent sections, but bombarded me with questions throughout, which I tried to let him figure out for himself. In the background I heard a number of adults discussing the art style, mood and pacifism of the game appreciatively. But Ethan remained utterly engrossed, except to turn occasionally and tell me his interpretation of what was happening onscreen.

By the end of the game Ethan and the watching children were literally laughing aloud with glee as he sailed up the mountainside on the back of a cloth whale.

I felt wonderful just to have introduced him to the experience. ThatGameCompany should be very, very proud of what they created. It’s art like theirs that makes me proud to work in the industry.

Breaking another quiet spell

I really need to post more often…

So…you probably noticed that our ambitious Kickstarter didn’t reach it’s target. Disappointing, but we’ve learned a lot from our mistakes. We’re looking at a number of alternative ways forward – more detail as and when…

On the plus side, LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes won a BAFTA for the Best Children’s Game…which was nice!

And I recently did another Ludum Dare game jam, producing this shallow but reasonably elegant effort: Winter’s Bane. As usual, I spent a lot of time on feel and polish, but not enough on content – nevertheless, it was thoroughly enjoyable to make. I’m working on a post-compo version incorporating some of the features that didn’t make it into the 48 hour version.

Upcoming podcast interview with Behind The Steam

Quick update on The Lazarus Machine – next week writer/producer Steve, composer Chris and I will be interviewed by Alyssa and Kristin of Behind The Steam, a great music-oriented podcast focused on the rather diverse Steampunk scene. It was scheduled for yesterday but postponed due to flu – get well soon, Kristin!

Looking forward to that enormously, particularly since in the last few days we have managed to arrange three original tracks from Unwoman, Sunday Driver and Vernian Process. I love how approachable everyone in the Steampunk music scene is!

Remember to spread the word about The Lazarus Machine’s KickStarter campaign – we’ve had a lovely response from those who’ve seen the page – but we need to reach more people!

Kickstarting a Steampunk Webseries

The KickStarter page for “The Lazarus Machine” is now live!

The Lazarus Machine

And so begins our drive to build an audience for the project big enough to get it made. Crowdfunding is a wonderfully democratic method of funding, and it means there are no gatekeepers, no one person holding the purse strings and making a call on whether it is worth producing. If enough people want to see it, we can proceed. Simple as that.

The challenge now is making enough people aware of it’s existence so they can make that judgement. So if you’re reading this, please take a moment to let your social networks know about our little webseries. Some of your friends may be into steampunk, or independent film. Some might just like great actors like Timothy West and Sophie Aldred. Some might be keen on unusual music – and the bands contributing to The Lazarus Machine are as varied as they come:

  • retro-goth Vernian Process
  • cellist/vocalist Unwoman
  • anachro-punks The Men Who Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing
  • time-travelling raconteurs The Cog Is Dead
  • crazed chap-hopper Professor Elemental
  • and the indescribable The Tiger Lillies!

    And some of your friends might just like something a bit different πŸ™‚

    Whatever the case, please let them know about us so they can decide whether they want to see it for themselves. Thank you!

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/adaddinsane/the-lazarus-machine