Beast Boxing Turbo is Greenlit, available on Steam VERY soon!

Just wanted to share the great news that Beast Boxing Turbo was Greenlit in the October batch of 100 titles! It will be available on Steam very shortly, and keys will be sent out shortly to all existing buyers. To everyone who bought our game, promoted us, played our demos, and voted for us on Greenlight – thanks for all your support! For the official announcement and to see the other titles that were Greenlit, visit the Steam Greenlight announcement here:

http://steamcommunity.com/games/765/announcements/detail/1515752692971060218

The Indie Royale Debut 2 Bundle

Beast Boxing Turbo is part of the Indie Royale Debut 2 Bundle this week!

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It’s a collection of up-and-coming games on Steam Greenlight, including:

You can get all 6 games cheap by spending the minimum price (currently at $4.57), or you can spend a minimum of $8.00 and get a bonus chiptune album!

2 Hando Commando – OUYA Store Testing!

The winners of the OUYA Create Jam were announced today, and sadly, 2 Hando Commando wasn’t amongst them. I’m still chugging along with the prototype, though, and I’m happy to say that the current split-screen build is now available for testing on the early OUYA store interface.

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I ended up cleaning the character textures a little bit and putting them on the main menu.

One of the major things I ended up doing was moving all UI elements into separate prefabs for each player, so that I could dynamically instantiate them in whatever screen area I needed. That should really help as I prep everything for online vs. mode!

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I also added in small target icons that help a bit with targeting, and also some health bars to replace the percentage displays. It’s a bit better, but the next step will be to implement laser sights on the guns to make the current target much more readable. The levels are super placeholder at this moment, with the only guiding philosophy being to create a little playground with some obstacles. I’m waiting for real players to decide what kinds of level geometry is interesting and usable, as this is brand new genre territory I’m stepping into!

TrainingGrounds

Finally, the game features a new character, and some new sound effects and cleanup of various bugs that had sat around unfixed for both my Create Jam and Experimental Gameplay Workshop submissions.

The new Riot Shield provides pretty effective (but not perfect) frontal defense against projectile weapons, but is really vulnerable to Rocket Launcher splash damage. The user can also perform a shield bash in place of other weapons, but its turning speed makes it difficult (and fun) to do melee at close range.

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This new build is up on the OUYA testing store at this point, so if you’ve got a devkit, I’d be really happy to hear from you if you get a chance to playtest with a buddy!

Rocket Launcher & Control Improvements – 2 Hando Commando Devlog

Rocket Launchin’ Heavy!

This is something I originally wanted to get into the prototype before submitting it, but just ran out of time to create. This is the temporarily-named “Heavy”, a slowpoke with a manually-aimed rocket launcher.

The big departure from auto-aiming is pretty interesting, and I haven’t yet figured out how to make it so that splash damage doesn’t hit enemies out of LOS.

Since posting this video, I’ve also gotten a riot-shield style character with a shield bash. The way I’ve been setting up things, I may end up splitting character customization even further into base character, weapon, and accessories/addons. Everything’s just modeled on basic weapon selections at the moment, which is where most of the variation comes from.

Controls

On another note, I’ve been pretty new at using the Unity-provided character controllers to handle movement for the commandos in the game. I wasn’t too happy with the way that movement felt laggy, and part of it was honestly that the SDK wasn’t taking a very performant approach to sending controller input to Unity.

However, in the past few days I’ve been able to make leaps and strides by both rewriting my input abstraction layer to communicate faster and also changing up the character movement to be more immediate, with a lack of inertia that feels much better for a top-down game like 2HC.

Playable Demo?

My next milestone is going to be playable online multiplayer through a web browser, because the next thing for me to do is to start playtesting with a small group of people. So far, this is splitscreen only and is more of a proof of concept than anything. I’ve got some server-side infrastructure to build up before that point, but if you’re interested in trying it out, please contact me and let me know!

What is 2 Hando Commando?

If you like this idea, you can help my prototype compete in the OUYA CREATE Game Jam by sharing this contest entry page on Twitter or Facebook. Thanks!

Ambidextrous activities, like playing piano and drums, require that you develop the ability to use both of your hands at the same time to do different things. My newest game prototype, 2 Hando Commando, does precisely that in the guise of a multiplayer top-down shooter.

You control a commando on the left with your left hand, and a commando on the right with your right hand. 

2HC-Instructions

How to Play

At first, this is an absolute brain-bender of a control setup. I found out as much when I mocked up a very simple control prototype and moved two guys around a small map with a few obstacles. At first you think, OK, this is going to be way too tough to play.

Add in another human to play against, and that’s where the fun begins. It’s like watching drunk newbies play Halo, except you’re watching yourself, or rather, your two selves try desperately to coordinate their moves against an opponent that is also running hopelessly into walls. It’s hilarious at first – but then, if you’re like me, there’s something in the back of your mind that compels you to try again. If only you had slightly better control, you’d definitely have won that round!

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God forbid you get your characters crossed over – try explaining that to your brain!

The reason I’m really interested in the depth of this prototype is that your brain and muscle memory eventually do adapt! In my case, my mind started basically separating the movements of my characters into something akin to “rhythm” and “melody” – that is, I would keep close track of one character advancing through cover, while the other hand would pop out and give cover fire with a fixed back-and-forth strafing pattern while holding down the fire button.

I’m very interested in seeing what kind of weird proficiencies and strategies develop in this game. I’ve known gamers long enough to know that they’ll get good at some ridiculously difficult things in the name of competitiveness, and the multiplayer design of 2 Hando Commando makes it perfect for competitive masochists just like me. :)

Some More Game Details

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Of course I’m an excellent texture artist.

Controls are limited currently to movement, firing your weapon, and changing your character’s target (characters auto-target, but rotate/track at different speeds). There are two classes of characters in the prototype – an agile mover with a single-shot pistol, and a slower mover with a 3-shot burst and higher damage.

Clearly the art is 100% programmer-made, so I’ve got my eyes open for a good artist and perhaps a sound person to collaborate with on this game. If you think you’ve got the skills to handle it, shoot me an email!

My plans are to flesh out a few more special character classes, get in a couple of maps, and also see if I can put together a webplayer or downloadable build and get people online and 2 Hando Commando’ing right away. Right now the OUYA Create entry is split-screen 2-player, but I’m definitely planning for online multiplayer as well.

I’m also open to feedback – feel free to post in my new forums, which are totally sparse and could use the activity. :) If you register and don’t get confirmed, email me and I’ll clear it up.

Entry Trailer:

OUYA + Beast Boxing Turbo Pre-Release Demo!

I’ve been making a lot of progress on the OUYA Beast Boxing Turbo front lately! Getting controllers working at high speed meant diving deep into the alpha OUYA SDK, but it’s finally working and the game is a blast.

I decided to go ahead and publish a fully-featured 3-opponent demo for other developers to play with so that I could ensure that my code worked for a variety of controllers and devkits. It’s completely playable, optimized for the OUYA controller, and simply is limited by the content available. Here’s a video of me trying it out:

If you’re another developer, feel free to give it a shot! I posted developer information and a download link at the official OUYA forums (http://forums.ouya.tv/discussion/289/beast-boxing-turbo-pre-release-demo-apk-for-ouya).

Beast Boxing Turbo Price Drop!

As a new indie developer, it’s getting harder and harder to just get noticed by folks online. I’ve put in lots of work to Beast Boxing Turbo, and I’m not yet satisfied with the amount of people who have gotten to play the full game.

That’s why I’ve extended the demos twice now (you can now play up to an hour), and also why Beast Boxing Turbo is now on sale for $4.99! Ultimately, the most important thing to me is that people play the game, and I think my original price may have been too high considering how many other awesome indie games are out there at sub-$10 prices.

If you bought the game at $9.99, please contact me – I’m offering a free copy of the game to anyone who previously bought it at full price, as I really do appreciate your support as an early adopter.

Buy Beast Boxing Turbo for PC/Mac here.

Beast Boxing Turbo – Holiday Sale

Happy holidays! There’s lots of reasons to be happy today – we just released Version 1.1 for PC, we’re running a Holiday Sale on Beast Boxing Turbo until January 2nd, and I’m also sending out free gift copies to customers who bought the game before today (see note below if you’re not in the US!).

SantalasPose

If you’re a non-US customer, email regulations prevent us from emailing you directly about the free copies. If you bought Beast Boxing Turbo before December 18th, 2012, please use our contact form to send us your order id and I’ll hook you up with a free copy.

Have a great holiday season, everyone!

Posted in Uncategorized

How A Traumatic Experience with a 1998 PC Game Led to a Big Game Design Mistake

Gamezebo-rating

I woke up a few weeks ago to be greeted by a 3/5 star review from Gamezebo’s Mike Rose. It was tough to see criticism for my game, and it was even tougher to admit that he might be right.

Mike praised for the way that Beast Boxing Turbo felt to play, but wrote that it didn’t have enough variety because there was a single strategy that worked all the way through the game.

It was true – and it was an artifact of a thought process I went through when I was originally designing the gameplay for Beast Boxing. To understand why I’d keep the core mechanics relatively unchanged throughout the game, I should really explain why I went from loving to hating the 1998 PC game Thief: The Dark Project.

In Thief, gameplay in the first level was amazing. It started with creeping past, hiding from, and pouncing on guards to stealthily move through medieval environments. I was complex, tense and exciting, and I utterly loved it. Then I got to the zombie level.

Zombie_variations
Zombies. The pinnacle of game AI.

There, an effective strategy was to throw caution to the wind and run past hordes of slow-moving, near-invulnerable monsters. It was very upsetting to lose my connection to the fun aspects of the game when all the awesome things I had been trained to do were suddenly replaced with outrunning zombies.

With disappointment, I quit the game and never came back. Right or wrong, I was twenty years old and felt like someone had turned Robotech into GoBots. I couldn’t understand why something that was so much fun was suddenly changed so drastically. That memory seared itself into my sensibilities about game design.

When developing Beast Boxing, I single-mindedly focused on the boxing gameplay. Once it was fun, I intentionally made sure the entire game played just that way. Looking back on it now, I can see a direct trail from this decision leading back to my fear of ruining a good experience from my time with Thief.

Beast Boxers each get their own set of spreadsheet formulas.
Beast Boxers each get their own set of spreadsheet formulas.

In the original release of Beast Boxing Turbo, I ratcheted up difficulty slowly by tweaking variables and changing attack patterns, but once I found a fun AI behavior, I applied it across the board to all opponents. At the time, it seemed anything that made a match more fun should just be present in every level. That’s how the gameplay ended up being so similar from opponent to opponent, and why a strategy that worked in the beginning also worked in the end. I didn’t stop to consider why this approach might be too extreme until I saw Mike Rose’s review, and then the mistake was clear.

I see now that I missed an important middle ground in my desire to hold tightly onto successful game mechanics. Spreading out the introduction of new stuff isn’t just useful for in-game tutorials or smoothing difficulty. It’s also really important for keeping the variety and pace of learning that modern players expect in a “real” game. I still think my experience with Thief was informative – in that one should take an incremental approach when introducing new types of gameplay, and take care not to vary things too drastically in the beginning.

Treimann is the first character with all of the new AI behaviors. And he's a doozy.
Treimann is the first character with all of the new AI behaviors. And he’s a doozy.

However, the Gamezebo review forced me to look for a better approach – which I instantly recognized as traditional gameplay element progression (duh). It’s not all about in-game tutorials – you need to keep your player learning the entire game if you want to fulfill the needs of the modern gamer’s brain. That is, to either start with the ideal core gameplay and layer on top of that, or slice it and recombine it throughout the game. In the case of Beast Boxing Turbo v1.1, I followed the former method by keeping what I already had and rolling out new opponent behaviors after each section. After every major accomplishment, the player is asked to adapt to new circumstances of behavior, expectations, or pacing.

The good news? These changes didn’t have to be content-based, and I got stuff done by hacking on the gameplay.

Improving the Game

For this update, I had multiple mini-goals – to eliminate the degenerate strategy of just blocking-then-punching, to introduce new behaviors throughout the game, and also to create a less difficult option for casual players. I added brand new enemy AI behaviors as you advance through the leagues. I tweaked the way that blocking works to make it ineffective as a permanent strategy, and introduced an “Easier” mode that offers itself up when the player loses a match. These changes are intended to keep players learning on one end of the spectrum, and prevent them from giving up on the other end.

The new progress / loading scene.
The new progress / loading scene.

For fun, I also added in a progress screen to replace the old static Loading image, so players can get a sense of how far they’ve gotten in the game at each fight, and give them a bit of context. It’s a small improvement, but it’s something I meant to do in the original release and now had time for.

In Conclusion

My final understanding of this whole experience is that players crave learning. We’re built to adapt to changing conditions, and so static conditions (even difficult ones) get boring without some kind of metagame or competition going on. It’s important for developers to question and explore industry standards, and perhaps do their own work in understanding why those standards exist.

In closing, it was tough to get that harsh review, but ultimately I have to express my gratitude for helping me understand what went wrong and improve as a game designer (Thanks, Mike!). It’s my sincere hope that the update will result in a much better game and a bit of rejuvenation for Beast Boxing Turbo.

Oh, and one more thing – to celebrate the holidays (and this update), I’m discounting the price to $6.99, which I think is an amazing deal for this quality of gameplay! Based on some aggregate gameplay analysis (perhaps the subject of a future post), I’ve also extended the time-locked PC demo to 60 minutes, so curious folks have a chance to really play and get a feel for upgrading and winning some harder matches.

You can buy the game here for $6.99 for a limited time, order it as a digital gift for the holidays, or go to the Beast Boxing website to download a demo.

The version 1.1 update is available now for PC. The update for Mac is coming soon! Feel free to Contact Us for support or questions.

The Complete v1.1 Changelog

  • New Easier mode (accessible from Tip Screen after losing match)
  • Blocking punches now consumes power, holding block slows power regen
  • New, improved pre-fight scene to show story progress
  • Enemies in Pro League+ now guard against punches in subsequent rounds
  • Enemies in Mountains+ now dodge away to recover
  • Enemies in Ultra League+ now speed up after each round lost
  • Matches in Mountains+ now best 3/5
  • Player punches do more damage, cost more power
  • Enemy misses no longer grant power regen
  • Increased prize money for losses
  • Reduced block effectiveness across all levels
  • NG+ replaced with settings from NG+2 for better challenge
  • Streamlined tutorial text, refer to new gameplay adjustments
  • Fix embarrassing bug where camera would be detached from gloves if you press Next in dialogue too many times

P.S. I was an impatient 20-year old when I played Thief. It would be great to go back and see whether I feel differently about it as a more mature gamer. :)