Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Hey, Party Animals pt2

It's been brought to my attention that one of my #screenshotsaturday posts was picked up by Indiestatik, and they seemed very taken with Party Animals.  Which is great, except oddly enough they posted to my personal blog instead of the devlog.  They did have some very nice words about my other artwork, so I'm not miffed or anything, but anyone who was interested in actually finding out more about Party Animals might feel mislead.  To rectify that and to show off some of the art that's on the devlog, I figured I'd write a new post here.

Party Animals

These are the titular Party Animals, who you will interact with and possibly recruit during your political campaign.

Ka Eldereta is a tribal chieftain that represents the interests of the original inhabitants of Summer Island.  His name is a pun on "Caldereta", which is a tomato based stew normally made with goat meat.

Boo Tee Kee is a businesswoman that represents the interests of the merchant class.  Her name is also a pun, in that "Butiki" means lizard in Filipino.  The spelling Boo Tee Kee is the Sinicized form, which I did because the Chinese are the primary merchant class in many Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines.  I'm obviously a sucker for word play.

Summer Island

I recently gave our world map a more board-game or pop-up type look, which I think works very well.

My idea was when you zoom into a district, the special buildings in that district will have cute little animations like the bell in this cathedral...

...or this fish trying desperately to escape its farm.

Comic Strips

I also tried making one panel comic strips for the blogs that don't naturally have images to go with them, like this one for Julius' series on winning local elections...

...and this one for my pained attempt at profundity in figuring out game mechanics.

Anyway if you've been intrigued by any of this then please do hop on over to the Party Animals devlog to find out more!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Rocket Race! is Launched

Aegis of Terra
A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to work on an exciting new project by TripleAce games called Rocket Race!  It was a little last minute but it was a card game based on a Steampunk theme, and I jumped at the opportunity to do some work for them.  Turns out it's just been released, and even better, 3 of the cards I worked on (with some help from Robot With a Smile to meet the deadlines) are featured in their announcement marketing.  My favorite (Aegis of Terra, seen above) was not included in the announcement image, but Anti-Gravity Painted Vanes, Martian Salvage, and Automatic Ballast Ejection System were included.  I really like how the final product turned out.  Somehow being framed as a card always seems to make the artwork look more awesome.

Looks like the game did quite well, as the initial batch of special edition copies was sold out, according to their Facebook page.  This means that they'll start thinking about mass distribution, and that might mean I get to make some more work for them!  In the meantime, check out some of the art I made for the game, and keep an eye out for Rocket Race! at your nearest games store.

Anti-Gravity Painted Vanes

Martian Salvage

Automatic Ballast Ejection System (colors by Robot With a Smile)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Minor Blog Updates

Hi folks, just a little update to let you know some changes I've made to the blog.  I've removed the Personal Projects Page and replaced it with a Party Animals page.  Since Party Animals now occupies most of my personal project time it made sense to make the switch.  Party Animals is a deceptively cute political strategy game.  If any of that floats your boat why not read more about it on our devblog?

I'm also happy to say that some of my illustrations are now being sold as royalty free stock art by Misfit Studios and I've updated my illustrations page to reflect this.  They've actually been up there since January but since I finally made my first sale I thought I'd finally announce it here.  I've been thinking of selling stock art for quite some time now to satisfy the itch to draw and paint while earning a little extra cash on the side.  This will never be my primary income, but a couple bucks here and there sure can't hurt.

That's all for now, hope to have more updates soon!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Urban Sketching : Japan and Hospitals

My last post on this blog was a couple of months back, when I was excitedly preparing to attend Bitsummit 2014 in Kyoto, Japan.  Since then I've been mostly bedridden with a knee injury that simply refuses to go away.  I've been keeping myself busy,but I thought it was high time I updated this blog.

The first sketch was just a guy in the plane.  I got bored because we were delayed 30 minutes inside the plane. I did the second sketch in the basement corner of a bar called Chikuya (sp?) in Kyoto.  I was tired as hell and but the energy in the room full of game developers was intoxicating.  My only regret is that I didn't go around to chat up more people, but I'm glad enough to have met awesome devs like Alvin and Yuji, both of whom are in the sketch.  Sorry other guys, I don't recognize you.  

Coming from a tropical country, I always romanticized snow in my mind as beautiful and far more comfortable than the burning tropical heat.  I've experienced snow a few times before but for some reason this trip really soured me on it.  The old Japanese machiya that I stayed in had no insulation and it was a pain to have to dress up in three layers just to go to relieve myself in what might as well have been an outdoor loo.  The first sketch is of the machiya garden, which was lovely but also a terrifying window to the outside world being blanketed with snow.

The second sketch is rather poignant for me, since it's the last sketch I made while still being able to walk normally.  I thought that it was funny that it was me and two senior citizens hunkering down in this corner of Yodobashi camera resting our old bones.  I had no idea it would soon get worse.

These sketches were made more than a month later during a Saturday visit to Makati Medical Center to see my doctor about my knee injury.  I only thought of this now,  but the guys in the first sketch has a very typical  male Filipino pose.  I'm not sure I've ever seen someone in that position in other countries.

These two sketches were done just last Saturday, in what is becoming a weekly ritual for me.  The baller dude on the right had the most interesting outfit in the hospital.  Also, he was walking around with a half-inflated basketball.  What's up with that?  As I noted, I was very tempted to spoil Marley & Me for that lady reading it.  Am I a better or worse person for not saying anything?

These last two months have been very trying for me, and I'm only now getting my sense of humor back.  I've kept myself busy since I first got the injury, working on Prison Architect and Party Animals, but when I'm not busy the worry sometimes seeps in that I may never walk properly again.  I'm hopeful that this isn't the case and that the worst that will be needed is some minor surgery and rehab Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Hey Party Animals!

If you're interested in hearing about how Party Animals came to be, then read on.  But if you're just interested in learning more about the game, feel free to skip the backstory and just head on to our presskit at heypartyanimals.com

Disaster Relief

Last year, I co-created a game that broke my heart.  I released Elevator Joe with Kuyi Mobile and we were hoping that Kuyi's previous success with Streetfood Tycoon would somehow carry over to this new game. It didn't, and frankly speaking I've soured on the idea of making mobile games for now.  Around November last year in the grips of that depression, I reached out to my friend Julius to see if he'd like to join a gamejolt contest with me.  We'd always talked about making some dumb game together, and I knew I was in a funk and I wanted to do something light and funny to get me out of my mood.  Then right before the contest began, Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines.  Julius's home town is in Eastern Samar, just a few hours away from Tacloban City, which was ground zero for this disaster.  Suddenly my depression seemed rather silly, and making the game took on a new dimension.  Julius was having trouble reaching his family, what with communication lines cut and cellphone carrier capacities stretched to their limits. He needed to work on something to keep himself from worrying about his family, so we threw ourselves into the game.

One month later, we found out two things.  One, Julius' family was safe, but parts of his town were flattened.  Two, we didn't win the gamejolt contest.  That's all right though.  A game jam tends to favor very specific games : platformers, puzzlers, etc. where the interactions are fairly simplistic and gameplay is usually shooting something or fitting a block into the right hole.  Picking a political strategy game was probably a poor choice, but it was and continues to be the game we wanted to make.  I was terrified of committing myself to what might be another financial flop by pushing forward with this game, but a few factors swayed me to make this choice.  Any recognition I gave in the gamedev world comes from my work on Indie titles like Spacechem and Prison Architect (in fact, it was Space Chem that caught Chris Delay's attention and led him to contact me).  None of that matters to the mobile market, but I'm hoping that'll have some sway with the indie market. Games like Cart Life and Papers, Please have also proven that there is some interest in subject matter that goes beyond the traditional boundaries of game genres.  If we can help to push those boundaries and make a decent living I'd be very pleased.

Bootstrapping Bitsummit

As we hunkered down to start figuring out timelines and changes to the game design, an interesting opportunity presented itself : Bitsummit 2014.  The second annual Bitsummit had just been announced in Kyoto, promising a bigger venue and most importantly for us opening up registration to foreign devs.  Even more opportune was the fact that Cebu Pacific Airlines was holding one of their regular seat sales.  As I nervously scanned the available seats, I found round trip tickets from Manila to Osaka for roughly $130 dollars.  Bitsummit was free for indie devs and is one of the few conferences in our region that attracts Western press. There was no way I could waste the opportunity to have some face to face time with press.  So despite feeling financially fragile at the time I pulled out my credit card and within a few minutes I had tickets to Osaka.  I was going to Bitsummit.

Japan's hotels are traditionally quite expensive, especially to someone from a developing country.  Accommodations are even trickier for someone like me because I'm such a light sleeper. I would have roomed with a friend but that was a bit of an imposition and I don't know their sleeping habits.  Hostels are generally out of the picture because now you're in a room full of people with different sleeping habits, and you're not even friends with them so it's harder to kick them because they're snoring.  Hotels were way too expensive, though I did consider staying in a cheaper one since the breakfast buffets might offset the cost.  Ultimately I chose Airbnb, particularly because I was able to maximize a promo they had and saved $100 on accomodations.

The place that I ultimately found on airbnb was going for $35 a night.  That's already pretty cheap by Japanese standards, especially since it comes with bikes, which cuts down on your transportation costs.  But I noticed on my credit card bill that my bank had a deal with Airbnb to shave off $25 per transaction.  I'd already used this promo on a previous trip to Bangkok, but I wondered if I could use it again.  The promo specified that you input the first 4 numbers of your credit card as the promo code.  I tried using my credit card again and was informed that the code had already been used up.  But I also had an "e-credit card" that the bank gave me, and I tried its numbers : they worked.  I quickly realized now that the promo codes were dependent on the different credit card numbers, and that theoretically you could keep using the promo as many times as you had credit card numbers.  I scanned the rules and regulations of the promo and could not find anything saying that there was a minimum amount or number of days that you needed in order to use the promo.  I had just discovered a loophole.  Fast forward to a few days later after some discussions with the Japanese owner of the space, I had made 4 separate transactions at the place, saving me $25 dollars per transaction, totalling to $100 worth of savings.  I felt like a bootstrapping genius.

Trial By Fire

Now that everything was all set, all that remained was to try to craft a playable demo within two months.  It seemed simple enough at the time, but it turns out we vastly overestimated our capacity to do this.  I spent December and January were mostly spent working on Prison Architect, which is basically my bread and butter at this point.  I would have most of February to commit to the game, apart from a 5 days vacation in Thailand. Too much was going against us.  Aside from the time constraint, Julius was working with a cutting edge SDK called Loom that allowed rapid deploy/live reload workflow but was new and buggy.  To be short, we weren't actually able to make a proper demo, but we were able to cobble together a prototype of our sortie system, which will be the main interface in which the player tries to gather votes for his campaign.  It made sense for us to focus on that since it was integral to the game that it works.  If the sorties aren't fun, then there's no point continuing to develop around them.  Additionally, they are also the part of the game that has the most moving parts and animations, which is much more exciting to show off on the show floor compared to showing a character moving across a map screen.

To compensate for our lack of a demo, I decided that making an "explainer" document of some sort would help me to at least communicate what we want to do with the game.  In essence this would become a Kickstarter marketing pitch in PDF form, and in my mind I visualized it like an old school SNES Manual.  Not only would this be useful to explain the game to press, it also helped crystallize some of the ideas we had into words and pictures so that we can reference them in the future, kind of a like a loose design doc.  Since we are planning to crowdfund this some point in the future, this will all be very useful marketing material somewhere down the line.

In fact, it's already proven it's worth.  Pecha Kucha Executive Director Jean Snow is inviting gamedevs to do live presentations during Bitsummit.  The idea of putting together a Pecha Kucha in a day is terrifying to someone like me, who likes to plan out as many details as I can before getting on a stage.  But since I had the manual as a guide I essentially crafted the presentation around the points that I brought up in the manual, making it far easier for me to plot it out.  Anyway the great thing about a Pecha Kucha is that at worst you only look like an idiot for 7 minutes onstage and then it's done!

Helping Hand

Since there's no sense showing off a prototype during the public days, I also decided to make efficient use of my table space by turning it into a de facto "Philippine Indie Games" table.  I rounded up a bunch of local indie developers that I know (Kuyi Mobile, Keybol Games, Quickfire Games, White Widget, Mochibits, Studio Kontrabida)and said that if they could put together a brochure of their games and companies I would stack these on my table and share it with reporters and the public.  Getting Philippine games in front of a wider audience is an enourmous task, so I'm happy to be able to help them out while I can.  I even bought a Philippine flag and some local candies to entice people to drop by the table!

Hello Again, Kyoto

When my wife and I visited Kyoto last October, we met up with some awesome devs from Q games that invited me to attend Bistummit.  At the time I was skeptical, since it was mainly geared towards Japanese indies.  That all changed when they opened it up to foreign devs.  As I write this I am one day away from flying to Kyoto for Bitsummit.  I wish I had more to present, but my tickets and accomodations have been booked and there's no backing out now.  At the very least I will see some old friends and make some new ones too.  Opportunities like Bitsummit don't come along everyday for folks in my region, so I've resolved to absolutely throw myself into any possible marketing opportunities that I find, even if I'm already exhausted just thinking about it.