Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Montreal Game Jam 2013: Day 3



Download Link (Mac and Windows)

Web Link (Unity Web Player)

  • W,A,S,D to move
  • E to pick up/drop hearts
  • Shift to run

The Montreal Game Jam ended with a 24 hour "crunch". Granted, my personal input was initial paper design and moral support, but still, we were all pretty tired by the end of it.

Our game came together a little earlier than planned. We made some sensible cuts in order to finish with something fully playable. One of our cuts drastically changed the design, and as it happens wasn't even necessary… but anyway, as basic as it was, we had something playable start to finish. The first public tester of Hjarta
The submitted build of what we called "Hjarta" differs somewhat to our intended design, though primarily the changes were in presentation and aesthetics.

The original design and brainstorm document is available to view here.

I feel I should address what went right and wrong for us at the game jam so maybe anyone reading this can learn from our experiences.

What went wrong

1. Not all of us had laptops

This wasn’t as big of a deal as we initially thought. With David and I focussing purely on game design we were able to come up with some new ideas and nail down existing ones whilst the rest of the team focussed on implementing content. We did briefly do some hands on work remotely to help out, but the team being together in one room really kept the ideas flowing, so that was short-lived. We could have made something a lot more polished had David and I been hands on for the whole project. More people generally means more polish – something I feel we lacked in our end product.

2. We playtested too late

By the time we were all playtesting, there wasn’t really an opportunity to make changes that would benefit the game. As I alluded to earlier, this was exacerbated by the fact that we didn’t find out that we couldn’t achieve the original vision of the game until late into development. One of our big mechanics was also a little late so we didn’t know that it needed a lot more work to reach what we had originally planned for it. This also effected our ability to see what signs and feedback were lacking, quite possibly one of our weakest areas.

3. We went too far pushing “form follows function”

We barely even had a form by the final product. We started out with a simple idea but ended up scrapping it entirely after we switched the design, never to offer a suitable replacement. The original idea had an old man wandering around a dark lonely house with only a small lantern to light his way. The lantern would project light in a small radius around him that matched his heart beat – the faster he moved, the higher his heart rate, and the larger the radius. The house would be inhabited by monsters that the player could see only by their heart beat, emulating the same behaviour of the old man’s lantern. The rest of the house would be in plunged into darkness, only to be revealed by the player’s or patrolling monster’s heart beats. The old man would navigate the environment trying not to cross his light with that of the monsters… this idea was scrapped mid way through development due to technical constraints. We ended up reversing the concept somewhat, having the levels fully visible but the enemies invisible except for their heart beats, an idea we never really gave a form to…

What went right

1. We had realistic goals

We didn’t set out to make something new, unique or crazy in scale, just something that we were likely to achieve in the time we had with the people we had, all the while sticking to the theme and making something that we could enjoy. Even with realistic goals we managed to create a fully working game that was mechanically sound. We even achieved a difficulty curve in our level design as well as managing to offer multiple solutions to complete levels for more skilled players. We had fun playing the game too.

2. We delivered with time to spare

Unlike a lot of groups around us, we were ready for the deadlines and had a first build uploaded as soon as the submission process had begun. We had enough time to test on multiple platforms and adhere to the submission rules then and there. We were also pretty tired by this stage so any more work on the game could have led to mistakes or erroneous decisions.

3. We rolled with the punches

Even after huge technical setbacks and the fact that two of us lacked laptops, we still kept high spirits and rapidly found solutions to every problem we came up against. We worked really well together, I’d work with any of these people again (that’s cheating a little, as I work with most of them already – but in my eyes, this is better than any LinkedIn endorsement).

Hjarta Level 1

Should we ever return to this little game to clean it up, I’d like to attempt to put a form to it…

You play as an ex-archaeologist trying to make a quick buck by raiding the tombs of fallen empires. You get a hint that this tomb will be the biggest score yet, however these riches come at a price… the tomb is inhabited by ancient evil spirits that patrol the crypts and hallways.

Using an ancient artefact that you “borrowed” from a local museum, you are able to detect the locations of these ancient spirits.You also learn that these spirits are dangerous but can be evaded if angered by seeking solace in blessed fountains.

Your task is to avoid the ancient spirits and use the hearts of those from fallen empires to pass through gates to get to the final treasure.

As well as a form, there are mechanical improvements I would like to make. If everyone on the team is interested in finishing it off I’d love to give it another try.

See you next game jam!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Montreal Game Jam 2013: Day 2

So the theme was…

…which we interpreted as…

Hjarta Brainstorm

…so now we’re working on something we’re calling “Hjarta”…

Sean Noonan, Video Game Designer, Hard Worker

…at least some of us are.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Montreal Game Jam 2013: Day 1

Just checking in before I get some shuteye. Today was the opening session of the Montreal Game Jam, part of the 2013 Global Game Jam.

Against all odds we managed to form a small team… unfortunately mainly comprised of people from Ubisoft. Not that this is a bad thing, but I was hoping for a little more random collaboration and chances to meet some new like-minded people. Not for lack of trying, I just found that most people were already in pre-formed groups or had a specific idea they wanted to develop, so were therefore unwilling to work with other designers. A disappointing start, but also a sign of how serious students and people outside of the industry are taking these events. With sponsorship of this particular jam being provided by Warner Brothers Montreal, it’s likely that this is seen as a foot in the door for budding developers – not that I blame people, but with other participants being relatively anonymous, they don’t know who they are “blowing off”.

Anyway, our little band of merry men consists of the following…

  • Aidan Green (Design)
  • Anshul Goyal (Programming)
  • David Baron (Design)
  • Jean-Sebastien Caron (Art)
  • …and myself, Sean Noonan (Design)

On the design side we’re collating our brainstorm session to support and create a prototype whilst our artist creates concepts so that we can hit the ground running tomorrow.

We rolled a d20 to decide on who has the deciding vote on any conflicts, which resulted in our artist, Jean-Sebastien taking the role as Creative Director.

More tomorrow, for now I sleep…

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

IGDA Montreal: January 22nd DemoNight

Tonight was my second time at the SAT with the IGDA (the first being when Arkane Studios President, Raphael Colantonio demoed Dishonored last September – audio available here). On this occasion it was for "DemoNight”, an event where Montreal studios display their work in various states of production, each within a 7 minute bite sized chunk.

Outside of Visceral Games’ Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel, the productions were all indie efforts. Some of which, tickled my fancy, whereas others were situated firmly in the “oh, just have a wank” territory.

One of the first up, and arguably the darling of the night was “A.N.N.E.”, an apparently solo project by one Moise Breton, an ex Beenox developer and Art Director on The Amazing Spiderman. A.N.N.E. is an adorable action platformer sharing DNA with Mega Man, Metroid and a touch of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. The game has a lot of heart and with the bleeps and bloops of the retro chiptune soundtrack, it’s hard not being reminded of Fez. I’m going to be keeping a close eye on this one.


Follow progress on A.N.N.E. here.

Soon afterwards an American team known as “The Circle Machine” shown off their cyber punk stealth puzzle game, “Neuro-Hack”. The premise involves the hacking of people’s brains to light up areas of the world containing hackable terminals. These terminals allow the player to lower security gates and allow escape from the level.


Hacking characters in the world to adopt their vision cone is a nice take on the rather tried and tested light/dark mechanics that have become commonplace since the days of Thief. It’s especially nifty that the hacking of an enemy allows the player to light up a moving path as said hacked enemy patrols an area. The music sets a good cyberpunk tone and the visuals, though simple, do a great job of setting the scene. A build of the game is currently available for free here.

Follow The Circle Machine’s progress on Neuro-Hack here.

Quite possibly the most intriguing game of the night came from “Contrast”, a 1920’s film noir inspired world, filled with puzzles and mystery. The player takes on the role of a young girl apparently alone in this stark monochromatic world, but her purpose and motives were unclear as the story elements were skipped in the interest of time. The mechanics seemed well polished, though I could see the kinks of the Source engine a mile away. The gist of the game is that the player is able to jump from a standard third person perspective onto/into flat surfaces in the form of a shadow, using other shadows as a means to explore the environment.

contrast_cabaretOne scene had the player using a spotlight to light up areas of a cabaret show one musician at a time, building up to a full musical number, featuring a Jessica Rabbit esque stage show in a silhouetted form. This classically ample breasted shadow then acted as a platforming stage for the character to traverse whilst the shadow conversed with a typical 1920’s era detective type. I’m convinced that said detective in the aforementioned dialogue was Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s Adam Jensen. Convinced!

Follow Compulsion Games’ progress on Contrast here.

The only other game of note to me was Mercenary Kings, which for all intents and purposes, was a Metal Slug clone with the addition of loot and crafting. It looked pretty fun and the art was solid, but I’ve had my fill with this genre, so it’s not something I can see myself playing. Though, if you’re interested, you can find out more here.

I feel tonight got me suitably “pumped” for the upcoming Montreal Game Jam. If you live in the area and aren’t busy this weekend, you still have a chance to sign up!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Crackdown 2: The Pacific City Archives

I was sorting through some stuff this weekend and came across a bunch of Crackdown 2 comics in PDF form. They were originally a pre order bonus but were also released in animated form as promotional material for the game.

The comics were written by fellow Crackdown 2 designer and series veteran, Ed Campbell with art by ex-2000 AD artist, Alex Ronald (who did some artwork for Ruffian Games in the past). They acted as a prequel as well as bridge between the Crackdown and Crackdown 2 games. In essence they were propaganda setting up the Agency in a sympathetic light – though as anyone who played the original Crackdown through to the final act can attest, the Agency was a much more sinister organisation.

I can’t say I was ever really overly attached to the story in the Crackdown series, I saw it more of an excuse to jump around a city and shoot some bastards, but these comics were well done and at least their intentions were good.

You can download the comics in PDF form or view the animated versions exclusively hosted at the Machinima channel on YouTube.

Episode 1 “Home Truths” – Comic Download

Episode 2 “Evil Seed” – Comic Download

Episode 3 “The Virus: What We Know” – Comic Download

Episode 4 “The Cell: A New Threat To Peace” – Comic Download

Episode 5 “Sunburst: A New Dawn” – Comic Download

Full Series Download

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Games I played in 2012

I’m not one for end of year posts, but it's been a pretty eventful year for me. I moved to Canada, started a new job at Ubisoft Montreal, began work on Watch Dogs (and had a secret previous project leaked/revealed in the form of Streets of Rage…), but that's all relatively obvious at this stage and I've already talked about it before.

So what did I actually do this year? Well, I played a pretty large amount of games, especially for someone engaged deep in development - quite a feat I assure you. I’ll list off what I managed to finish this year separated by system, a game of the year list, this is not.

Xbox 360

  • Goldeneye 007 Reloaded
  • Battlefield 3
  • Modern Warfare 3
  • Deus Ex Human Revolution
  • Far Cry 2
  • Rayman Origins
  • LA Noire
  • GTA IV: The Lost and Damned
  • Wet
  • Prince of Persia (2008)
  • Dante's Inferno
  • Assassin's Creed
  • GRAW 2
  • Batman Arkham City
  • Saw
  • TMNT

Xbox Live Arcade

  • The Walking Dead
  • Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
  • Sonic The Hedgehog
  • Raskulls

Playstation 3

  • Resistance 3
  • Killzone 3
  • Uncharted
  • Uncharted 2
  • Starhawk
  • inFAMOUS

Playstation Vita

  • Uncharted Vita
  • Lumines: Electronic Symphony

Nintendo 3DS

  • Zelda: Ocarine of Time 3D
  • Resident Evil: Revelations

Nintendo GBA

  • Zelda: The Minish Cap


  • Half-Life
  • Half-Life: Opposing Force
  • Half-Life: Decay
  • Half-Life: Blue Shift


  • 10000000
  • Plants vs Zombies
  • Batman Arkham City Lockdown
  • Rebuild

Not a bad stab at my pile of shame, huh? To summarise, it seems that my platform of choice is most definitely the Xbox 360, the Playstation 3 is reserved purely for platform and exclusives, and I didn’t play a whole lot of iOS or downloadable titles this year.

I hope next year I play a couple more up to date titles…