It's been a while since the last post. Several months, in fact. Firstly, I apologise for the scant amount of information revealed about BeMuse. The whole move to Unity has been taking a lot longer than I'd like.
Fear not - BeMuse is still coming along - I've just had to restart it about 3 times so far, as my ambition exceeds the ability of one lone developer, requiring redirects and re-thinks about what it is I'm trying to do, and if I'd like to finish it before I turn... old.
In other news, Fluttermind is moving to San Francisco. I just thought I'd toss that in there.
The reasons are numerous, and complex, mostly circle around the fact that:
a) My wife's work is largely based in the US these days. As is she. This is not ideal for a Londoner.
b) The indie scene in San Francisco is healthy. I am a hermit. I hope to change this in a place where...
c) ...Great vegan food is available in quantity.
d) Oh, and I have some really nice friends out there, too, which makes it better than New York.
BeMuse - The Story
BeMuse is proving a tricky mistress at the moment, so I thought I'd take a few moments to tell you more about the game.
BeMuse is primarily set on a friendly-looking, Moomins-like Island. It is the story of a small child who is washed up on the beach one day, with no memory of where he came from or what he is doing there. Over the course of the game, the hero will learn a key fact about the island: there are Demons everywhere.
Behind every bush.
In the heart of every tree.
Sometimes their presence is given away by the soft tinkling of bells.
Sometimes they disturb the leaves.
Sometimes they cause a ripple in the water.
Sometimes they just watch, the pale green orbs of their eyes glinting in the night.
They are everywhere.
The first Demon the hero meets is a giant bunny-like creature who serves as your point of contact. She says that if you can summon and then banish every other Demon, she'll recover your memory and help you escape the island.
Of course, nothing is as it seems, and over the game's span, you'll encounter many different Demons, and have to re-evaluate what you're doing and what recovering your memory really means.
Demons, RNGs, and Why You'll Probably Hate This Game... and Moomins
"What's that? Demons? You mean Pokemon, don't you? Ahahahahaha!" said nobody.
No. These are Demons. These things will rip out your heart and feed on it just to watch the light in your eyes flicker out.
These are beings that will mislead you and get you to do things that kill you. These are the most evil, tricksy, mercurial beings in existence. Most of them want you to die... while they applaud. Summoning a Demon is a potentially life-threatening event you need to take very seriously. You'll have to learn rituals to protect yourself, and hope that you've done enough to not have your spine removed through your nose. Think 'Hello Kitty meets The Exorcist' or 'Dark Souls with bunnies'.
It's actually likely to be nastier than Dark Souls. Each time you die, you will forget much of what you knew.
Yes, that's right - I'm toying with permadeath, procedural generation and a whole host of other things that make people go "EEP!"
So why am I doing this? WHY!???? WHY NOT JUST MAKE A FIGHTY-KILLY GAME?!!! YOU PRETENTIOUS ARSE!!! AAAAAGHHH!
Well, I want to create a world people love to spend time in, regardless of whether they are actively playing the game or simply wandering about. That's how I felt about the Moomins when I rediscovered them some years ago (yes, I really said Moomins again). There's a warmth and a cosiness to knowing you're living on a pretty but dangerous island and that darkness and lethality lurk just around the corner. Ask the residents of the Isle of Man. Carefully. While backing away.
As a developer, I view this game as an ongoing relationship, rather than the 'fire-and-forget' of Incoboto.
I'm personally going to love this island, but I'd like to keep building it and its inhabitants for years, and for players and the community to help me add to it as time goes on.
This last point is important: I'll be asking for ideas for rituals, suggestions for how I can use the island's assets in a novel way, and even for other activities you'd like to be able to engage in. Ultimately, if I do things right, it's going to be your game as much as mine.
Like many indies, I find developing games really, really hard. The way I work (and my brother, Simon, had to point this out, such is my lack of self-awareness) is to have an aesthetic/mood in mind, to develop that into a piece of representative artwork, and then to explore that picture as I go along, in game form. It's really, really sub-optimal, as the gameplay is one of the last things I think about. Yes, really.
Anyhow, this is *that* picture:
I know, it looks a bit like a painting. That's the idea. This is what I start from.
I also start off by trying to reject every single trope I can. Movement, death, menus, violence - all are sacrificed on day one. By the end, many will have crept back into the mix, but only after fighting their way in, not just by default. I think this is useful. If I were more intelligent, I'd make sure it was part of a well-honed process rather than a novel extension of ego and self-doubt. But that's just how it is.
I'm also aware that the approach I take is just so wrong-headed. If I were tutoring me, I'd give myself a good talking to. Luckily I'm not. For me, most good games have been done, in the same way that most stories have been told. Everything you see is likely to be 'Like X with a dash of Y'. I think it's important to take the opportunity to try something different, something that people won't just dismiss like that... or at least not immediately.
If it doesn't work out, you can just point to this post and tell me how stupid I am. That's what the internet is for. And cats.
If you've read this
article on 'releasing' and not 'launching' and found yourself nodding in agreement, then you'll be pleased to know that my aim is to follow this model.
I shall be releasing web versions of the game in VERY early forms, long before the first Demon sets up shop. Hopefully it'll give people a chance to feed back early on and tell me how much I suck, and how they hate my stupid face, how I have ruined their lives and... be all angry and internetty and stuff. Most likely they'll just ignore me to death.
In the meantime, as ever, if you have any thoughts at all, please feel free to contact me., or post on the forums. It's still early days, but they'll be critical as time rolls on.
Just don't ask me about timescale, or whether I'm ready to accept Jesus as my personal saviour. Come back to me after I've finished my game about summoning Demons.
In a surprise move, the BAFTA award committee have included my little game about loneliness, death, corporate power, consumer apathy, and planet-hopping in their nominations for Best Mobile / Handheld Game this year.
I'm really, really delighted, and somewhat humbled by the august company Inco and Helios are sharing; The Room? Walking Dead? Really, really amazing.
Now I need to make a video of Incoboto to be shown on a massive screen in front of a room of gaming luminaries...
...and Dara O' Brien.
For all you lovers of Fat Chick, clouds, bouncing, and endless flappy fun, Flaboo! just had a major update. It is now retina-friendly, supports 4-inch screens and all achievements have been shifted to Game Center.
A fair few elderly bugs were squashed at the same time. Did you know that once in every 256 games or so, you'd get NO enemies? Did you? Fixed. Also, the 'where did the 10 second time upgrade go?' question has been resolved. It was down the back of the sofa. It has now been returned, 'eeping' and wriggling in protest, allowing preposterously long games once more.
The leaderboard has also been reset, so happy bouncing!
Incoboto and Incoboto Mini have now been updated on the App Store - just in time for Christmas. The update increases the game's stability to a pretty rock-solid state. 'Woo', and indeed 'Hoo'. Thanks to brother Simon for helping find the cause, and Mr John Wilson for reporting it!
Enjoy the new version! Thanks to all of you who have supported me with advice, good wishes and kind words over the last year. Next year will be focused on getting BeMuse to a playable state, as well as finishing off the Retina-friendly version of Flaboo!. Exciting, fun times are ahead!
In the meantime, may your holiday season be as happy as Helios, and may your power not go out at a critical moment while you're cooking Christmas dinner*.
- Dene (Fluttermind)
*No, this isn't linked to anything. I just hope it doesn't happen. It would suck.
Rather wonderfully, the chaps and chapettes at the App Store have awarded Incoboto's iPad version a place in their 'Best of 2012' run-down.
It's tucked away in the 'Hidden Gems: Games' section.
Thanks to everyone for their support!www.itunes.com/appstorebestof2012
Just a quick update this time. Some people have had issues with the jetpack on the iPad version of Incoboto. This new version should fix them. Enjoy!
This version should fix the deeply annoying 'You're not logged into Game Center' crash bug caused by upgrading to iOS 6.
Thanks so much to those of you who have been patient. I know how irritating it was to deal with this issue.
This was a salutory lesson on the merits of testing even the most minor changes in a methodical, intelligent way. I didn't test in exactly the same way on the different devices, and paid the price. Never again.
On the other hand, this experience has also pointed out to me that no matter how much information you give people, and regardless of the medium, some simply won't read it, even when it's the very top of the application's description
***between big asterisks***.
Incoboto (both Mini and iPad) is a game that relies on quite a lot of reading.
You'll get the most from the game if you like reading. I like reading. I like other people reading. I got into games through far too much childhood reading.
Reading is good. We should embrace it, and not regard it as a burden, or something to be avoided whenever possible.
A picture may paint a thousand words, but if those words are trite or ineloquent, then give me a good book any day.
*** Crashes with V.1.0.0 and 1.0.1 ***
PLEASE READ THIS FOR AN IMMEDIATE FIX TO THE EXISTING ISSUE!
If you are experiencing crashes with IncobotoMini, please log in to Game Centre on your device. That will work around the issue and allow you to play while the next version is being approved by Apple!
Sorry for the inconvenience! I thought I'd squashed all the bugs - apparently there was another huge one I never came across because I was always logged in to Game Centre for the last round of testing, and missed this test-case. Yuck.
The good news is that you *can* play by logging into Game Center. If you don't know how, just follow the instructions below.http://www.pocketgamer.co.uk/feature.asp?t=how_to&c=23394
It's about a week since Incoboto Mini was released. It's also about a week since I realised there was an iPhone 5 bug. And fixed it. And sent it off to Apple. The sense of doom when you know that people are downloading something with a percentage chance of a crash (that might put them off your work forever) is quite unpleasant.
All I can do is wait and thank those people who are waiting for the fix for their patience. For those of you feeling angry or dejected: hang in there. It's coming.
In other news, I've decided to release another fuzzy teaser shot of BeMuse.
In case you're thinking: 'Hmm... looks like another side-scrolling platformer,' let me assure you - it's not.
I'll also give another hint by saying that my 3D skills are improving a great deal.
That's right folks - all scenes in the game will be in 3D. They'll rotate, pan and zoom - for reasons that will become clearer as I develop it further.
I'm using Unity this time around, and I think you'll start to understand why as details are released.
As for what kind of game it is... well, the icons at the bottom left and the strange amorphous thingy at the top left provide a clue. Plus... is that a beam of light in the background?
Key words for today: Illumination, Imprecation, Invocation. I spent a lot of time yesterday trying to define the difference between a friend, a pet and a deity. Fun stuff. For those of you who rejoiced in the death and entropy of Incoboto, you'll be pleased to hear that I don't lighten up a single bit with BeMuse. There is no Corporation this time around, but there is The Circle, equally faceless, bureaucratic and stupid... and useful.
This is going to be the most bizarre game I've ever made, and I hope you join me on my journey into the weird... or should that be Wyrd?
As ever, I welcome speculation, by mail, blog-comment, Twitter or even by posting in the forums. The forums will also where I'll be posting links to the web-version when it becomes available for testing.
Have a good weekend.
For those of you who desperately wanted to experience the vast, mind-staggering, interspacial galactic mood-fest of Incoboto on a tiny, weeny screen covered by your chunky thumbs, I'm pleased to announce that Incoboto Mini edition is out now.
It is identical in nearly every respect (bar a couple of level tweaks for performance reasons) and features the new 'normal-person friendly' joypad controls... if you turn them on.
Please click on the big fat picture above for a link to the App Store.
NOTE: There's currently a weird bug when running it on iPhone 5 that causes it to crash on some phones. An update is already with Apple, awaiting review! Thanks for your patience!