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!

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.

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. :)

Dev Diary: New Gear System and Character

There’s so much new stuff in Beast Boxing Turbo that it’s hard to keep track of! But I really wanted to upload a few preview images for everyone to see the crazy stuff that we’ve been working on behind the scenes.

In Beast Boxing 3D for iOS, we added a few holiday-themed characters as rematch-only content a few months after launch. In Beast Boxing Turbo, we created yet another brand new one, and brought all three previously rematch-only characters into the story mode as a new challenge – defeating the Monks of Monstralla! The indefatigable Chrystin Garland created new character portraits for each of them, as well as develop the idea I had for a “Zombie Pig” into more of a frankensteinish-monster with a hulk voice. That’s Frankenbeans above!

The three new characters were super fun to create and write for, and make for a nice interlude between the Pro and Ultra Leagues. They also give you a chance to earn a little more money to spend on our awesome new gear system!

The gear you can buy is pretty sweet – from arm bands to shoulderpads, from armor and pants to gloves, and even fancy accessories, this gear system is mix-and-match-able, so you can buy items from any one of the 6 new sets for more than 110 thousand unique combinations! They’re being beautifully illustrated by Jason Caffoe, and I’m happy to share a sneak peek of a complete set (the Initiate’s Garb) and a beautiful icon for a wooden breastplate:

There’s a lot more too, so stay tuned! Remember to give Beast Boxing Turbo on Steam Greenlight a thumbs-up!

Beast Boxing Turbo is up on Steam Greenlight!

If you’re on Steam and would like to see Beast Boxing Turbo there, please head on over to our Steam Greenlight page to vote for us!

Beast Boxing Turbo page on Greenlight

Greenlight is Valve’s way of crowdsourcing interest in upcoming games submitted by independent developers and others. They’ll be looking at the aggregate ratings for a game to determine whether to let the games sell on their service, and it just opened to the public yesterday. It seems like it’s a great way for indies to test the waters and see if the Steam market is accepting of their game concepts, even before launch. I can see it being very possible to develop some game test screenshots and description and figure out whether there’s community support, way before even starting development of a game. Beast Boxing Turbo is pretty far along, so there won’t be too many changes, but it’s very interesting hearing the feedback (both positive and negative) to the limited number of screenshots that I posted yesterday. I’m excited about working on a quick gameplay vid today to give the audience there an idea of what it’s like to play!

P.S. I’m also excited to report that I’ve been secretly at work adding in a customizable gear system with Jason Caffoe, and the concept art for it is badass! It’ll be a fun way to do more stuff and build up your character in the way that you want. Can’t wait to post more info!

Yum Num’s Galaxy for iPad, Available Now!

Help Captain Yum Num make delicious recipes for hungry aliens!

We’re happy to announce that Yum Num’s Galaxy is available now on the App Store for iPad! We’ve been cooking this one up for quite some time, along with our good friends Anthony Wu and Adam Robezzoli, and it’s our first official kids’ game release. Check out our official promo site for more information! Also, here’s our snazzy trailer!  

Dev Diary: Sea Life Game

We’re so excited to announce that we’ve teamed up with the amazing Kaori Takagi for our new kids’ game! She’s currently on her last year as a student at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. You can find out more about her here, here and here! Check out the work in progress!

Stay tuned for more sneak peeks!