Feature Polish and the 80/20 Rule

In our silence, we have still been closing in on a beta version of Equilibria.

I’ve spent the last few days implementing a “swipe” (or “flick”) gesture. You’ve all used swipes on your smartphones before. In Equilibria, it will be used to scroll through the pages of levels available. It will also be used to scroll through text. We were originally going do user testing without this feature, but we decided it was a big enough part of the user experience it must be included in anything labeled “beta”.

Now that that’s finished, our tasks lists are down to communication, user interface polish, and performance optimizations.

Our tutorial text is in the game and Dustin is working on the best way to present you the reference/rules guide. All during our discussions on communicating to the player, I’ve kept this article in mind. Plants vs. Zombies has a fantastic tutorial mechanism and should be an inspiration to developers. In the meantime, Laura is analyzing the rules and balance of the first group of levels, changing anything that doesn’t make sense or feel right.

Dustin is giving the user interface some TLC, polishing the graphics and switching out old for new.

I am working on delivering the best performance possible. I’ve fixed a resource leak, tweaked particle generators and am now optimizing sprite sheets to reduce draw calls. I have the game running at a good 45-50 fps as of this writing. I am hopeful we’ll achieve 55-60 fps before the beta.

Thanks for reading! Talk to you soon.
-Fritz

Update and Eye Candy

We are now on Twitter as #AntEyeGames with 62..er, make that 64 followers. Our first goal is to reach 100 followers by this weekend (April 27). If you are on Twitter and can send some indie game appreciators and reviewers/PR our way, we’d be grateful.

We are still working on getting some visual details and scoring mechanics feeling just right, but the game itself is very close to ready for a first round of beta testing!

There are a couple technical things I still have to do before testing can begin:

  • Laura had the great idea to collect information from the test players to see how well they can understand and play the game. I am going to automate this by having the game anonymously submit high scores from each tester.
  • Historically, app testers on Apple devices had to mess around with Provisioning Profiles and .ipa files and all that. I’m the engineer and any mention of Provisioning Profiles makes me want to shoot myself. Nowadays, Apple supports an “over-the-air” delivery of apps, which means we’ll be able to email our testers a link so they can download the app right to their devices in one click. I do have to do some work to get this feature working in our automated build system.

Now, away from the technical stuff and on to the eye candy. This is an early screenshot of gameplay and may or may not reflect the final game:

Screenshot of an alpha version of Equilibria

Radioactive cloud not final

Finally, here’s a visualization of my work to date on the source code for Equilibria. This visualization was rendered using Gource on my Git commit log.

Thanks for reading! Talk to you soon.

-Fritz

Now Preparing to Test with Real, Live Players!

AntEye uses Google Docs spreadsheets to track our to-do items. While not as comprehensive as some of the project management workflow offerings, it has suited our needs so far. There are just a few more HIGH priority items on my list to finish before the code is ready for user testing. The only problem is I end up adding one more item for every two I complete.

The lists are getting shorter, though, and I’m optimistic we’ll be asking people to test our first set of levels as early as next weekend. We’re hoping to get a good mix of testers, including casual gamers, game developers, and competitive gamers/high score chasers. Our goal is for Equilibria to appeal to both casual and competitive gamers, so it’s important for us to get feedback on the difficulty, pace and scoring mechanisms of the game.

After evaluating that feedback, we’ll be able to set and subsequently miss our first release date!

The Game Nerd Cometh

It is still a vivid image. I pulled back that shiny green and red paper to finally break through and see the fresh, but already familiar, logo. It was a logo I had seen countless times before in the dingy, six-machine game room of the local grocery store. I kept swearing I could hear Mario calling to me from the box while I was forced to sit through a holiday dinner I had no time for. Nintendo had entered my life completely.

Nintendo Dustin

Me in the 80's. Oblivious to anything but 8-bits.

I do wish I could say I knew I wanted to be a game designer since that fateful day, but my path meandered from baseball prospect to garbage man to oil fields to Hollywood and all forms of pit stops in between. A slow beginning in Graphic Design followed by a few tyrannical, non-deodorant wearing bosses — Okay, it was just one non-deodorant wearing boss, but you get the gist — led me into the polygonal arms of Computer Animation. Straddling the animation line between production and gaming was how I spent the infancy of my career. After a brief stint working with one of my childhood idol’s company on an award winning children’s show, I came to a crossroads of that line.

“A hundred miles long, and an inch deep.”

That is how I felt about my fledgling career. I had a wealth of knowledge, but no true deep ends to my talent pool. That had to change. Along came mobile gaming. Combined with a retro gaming passion, my gaming senses slowly began evolving into a long awaited burst of cohesive ideas and artistic flourishing.

Following the mighty Mississippi north, I somehow ended up literally feeling Minnesota. A Craigslist ad later and AntEye Games was spawned.

AntEye Games is the start of waking myself up in the middle of a childhood dream and forcing it to be real. It is an honor to get to begin the journey with two teammates that exude the same excitement and passion for quality gaming and endless ideas. We already have a plethora of ideas in the barrel and I am ecstatic to see how these seeds blossom.

This brief, goofy introduction post should serve as telling for my future thoughts and posts. Hopefully, it won’t come across too pompous, but will reinforce just how much I love creating, playing, and living video games. From here, I will share my art process, design methods, and whatever other relate-able silliness I can come up with to entertain the masses.

I truly hope everyone will enjoy…

AntEye Games!

We are AntEye Games. Equilibria is coming.

It’s an exciting time because our small team finally found our identity. As of today, we are officially AntEye Games. The past few months have been feverishly spent working on our first title, Equilibria. We are quickly approaching the point at which a playable, stable alpha or beta version will be released to a small number of testers.

The plan, until we change it, is to first release Equilibria for 3rd and 4th generation iOS devices, including iPhone and iPod Touch. An iPad version should follow shortly after the initial release (and subsequent bug fix session!). The Android release will follow iPad.

Some technical notes about development:

  • I use the Orx Portable Game Engine to develop Equilibria. After researching several game engines, I decided on Orx for my 2D gamedev needs. Orx is cross-platform, which means I can write one piece of C/C++ code and run it on all my target operating systems. Orx is also data-driven; game objects and logic can be defined in configuration text files. I have made use of Orx’s config system as a weakly typed scripting system, too. Finally, there is a very friendly community.
  • I prefer git as my version control system. Its syntax is very easy to learn and it is well-supported by internet providers. Using a git repository makes it very easy for me to synchronize repositories between my Windows and Mac dev machines.
  • Development mostly happens on my Windows machine running Visual Studio 2010. When it’s time to make a new iOS device build, I sync the source code to my Mac and use a build script to build and upload the new build file to a web server for the team to download and test.

That’s it for now. Subscribe and get the latest news about Equilibria here.

 

Hi!

I’m Laura and I’m responsible for a lot of the design work for EquilibriA. The base gameplay is taken from a game I invented as a child with multi colored candy like Skittles and M&Ms. It’s a dynamic puzzle game with the goal of “equalizing” groups of pieces within a few simple rules. We’ve added to the original gameplay with different pieces and fun level effects to make a unique and addicting mobile game. I am very excited to share the finished product – we will add more updates soon!

Hello world!

This is the development blog for the work-in-heavy-development game Equilibria, which will be published for iOS and Android devices sometime in 2012! I’m Fritz and I program things.

We’ll use this space to give updates on our progress and make exciting announcements about the progress of our team’s first game!