This weekend I finished level 125 for my new game Noedz and thought I'd take a few minutes to introduce it to the internet.  So here goes…

Noedz is a puzzle game where you connect spherical nodes in a 3D matrix to build paths that connect like colors.  Basically a 3D game of connect the dots.  Sure, there are plenty of other games where you connect like color dots, but I think Noedz feels different because you manipulate the play space and navigate in all directions.  I know this sounds confusing so here's a video that hopefully makes more sense…

I started Noedz as an educational project to learn more about working with Unity, manipulating 3D objects in code, and working with touch based user interfaces.  I feel I've come a long way on in all of those areas and I think it's turning out to be a kinda cool game to boot.

The 125 levels are separated into three difficulties;  50 Easy, 50 Medium, and 25 Hard.  As I've built more levels it has become more difficult for me to objectively classify the difficulty so I'll be doing a lot of play testing in the coming weeks to make sure I've got levels segregated properly.  For the first forty or so levels I created, I did not have a level editor so I was actually creating new levels by editing a text file and running the app to test.  This was a serious pain and led me to create a simple in-game level editor that would also create new random levels for me to use as a starting point for new levels.  This has been a tremendous help as there's no way I could've come up with this many variations on my own.

I really like the game play that's evolved in Noedz although I'm pretty sure it's not for everyone.  It certainly is a path finding puzzle game, but when I play I find myself having to think several moves ahead to make sure I'm not doing something that will cause problems later similar to many strategy games.  Add in the fact that the path finding occurs in three dimensions and it can be down right brain melting at times.   I'm looking forward to getting it into the hands of players and hearing feedback.

Thanks for stopping by and I'll have more to say about Noedz as it gets closer to release.


Now What?

Human Subject released on August 17, 2012.  That was about two weeks later than I would have liked because I printed several Human Subject t-shirts and handed them out to random people at the Chicago Comicon and it would have been nice to have a game available for download to give out as well.  Regardless, it was a good time and I even got to hook up with the social media guys from Wizard World and they gave away some of my shirts throughout the weekend.

One thing that shocked me about releasing a game is that reviews immediately started popping up around the interwebs.  I sent a few emails out to XBLIG sites but it was a very strange feeling to have people actually spending the time to write articles about something I created.  Regardless of how good or bad they may have thought it was, I was really flattered that they had anything to say at all.  Here's a list of the ones I could find while writing this article:



For the most part I felt pretty good about what the reviews had to say.  The biggest complaint is that the graphics were bland and the atmosphere is trying to be too much like Portal.  I can't disagree with those comments so I'll just focus on what I thought was the most positive comment throughout which was that it had fairly solid platforming level design.


From a sales perspective, Human Subject has been a bit of a downer.  I released MathFlash in 2010 and almost 3 years after its release its selling about 4x what Human Subject is selling.  I've come up with a few theories as to why that is, but I'm not sure I'll ever know for certain.  My main thought is that the platformer genre is much more competitive than the educational genre and therefore there's just many more games available that are of at least a similar or higher level of quality and fun.  Poor sales or no, I feel pretty good about coming up with a concept and seeing it through to implementation.


What's Next?

Microsoft has announced they will no longer be supporting XNA.  As a reaction to this I let my subscription lapse.  I still think there's plenty of opportunity on XBLIG but I'm starting to look forward to other platforms and development tools.  I also think monogame is interesting and could be a way that I could use my XNA skills on other platforms. 

I recently picked up and Lenovo Win8 touchscreen laptop and I really like it.  I'm excited about the Win8 platform so I'm planning to release a few apps there and test the waters. 

I've also started playing with Unity and I have to say that it may be the coolest piece of software I've ever used.  From a game development perspective it removes so much of the required plumbing work that all you really need to focus on is gameplay.  It's a bit confusing because I normally coming up with gameplay concepts while I'm doing the plumbing stuff so I'll have to change how I approach projects if I want to publish something .  And, Unity opens the door for publishing to just about any platform you want so that's also really exciting. 

What ever I end up doing and where ever it gets published I'll be sure to post an update here.


Thanks for stopping by…


One Step Closer

I just released a second build of Human Subject for playtest.  In this build I've addressed many of the tweek type changes that people have suggested.  I also think I've resolved the Code 4 crash that had to do with the storing/reading floating point numbers while playing on an XBox set to a language that doesn't use the period for the decimal separator.

The other change I made, and probably the biggest, was that I remixed all of the voice audio.  In Human Subject I use a text to speach tool to read dialog at the beginning of each level.  In the first build I was concerned that it sounded muffled and somewhat difficult to understand.  Based on the feedback I received, this was confirmed.  In the original build, I reduced the pitch by 20% and also added a lot of reverb in an attempt to make it sound like the sound was bouncing around a large test chamber.  It was a cool effect, but made it kinda hard to understand.  In the new build I didn't lower the pitch at all and I lowered the reverb by about half and then used an echo for effect.  I think it's much easier to understand now and still has the feel of being in a large space.  Unless the feedback I get says it sounds horrible, this is what I'm gonna ship.

If this round of testing looks good I'd like to move on to Peer Review by the end of the week.  That would give me two weeks to get approved before Comicon in Chicago.  Thanks for stopping by.  Cheers!



Play Testing So Far...

So far so good with play testing.  I've gotten some positive responses around gameplay and presentation.  I've also gotten some good suggestions for things that could be done to improve.  Here's a few:

  • Gamefarm commented that the backgrounds were a little too busy and suggested I darken them up and make them a little out of focus.  I was skeptical how much of an effect this would have but since it wasn't going to take much time I gave it a try and I'm glad I did.  I darkened most of the images by 20% and added a 2 pixel blur and thought it turned out pretty cool.
  • Gamefarm also was annoyed that the long teleporters were too much of a penalty because the timer was running while the camera tracked back to your new location.  I paused the timer during teleporting and I agree, this feels better.
  • Obskewer games suggested adding something that explains the purpose of the power ups.  In the current version in test the game just plays a sound and subtracts time from your score.  Based on this comment, I added some text that floats up and fades out displaying the # of seconds that was subtracted.  I think this provides good feedback to the player.  Thanks @ObSkewerGames!

But... I did some more testing on my Xbox to prepare for peer review and found a crashing error that occurs when playing in a language that does not use the period as a decimal separator.  The problem occurs because both my config file and the high scores file store durations accurate to 1000th of a second using the period for the decimal point.  As a code change, it's not huge.  The challenge will be making sure I get it fixed in all the appropriate places.

That's what's happening.  Until next time, here's a screen shot.


I'm Back

So, a lot has happened since the last time I posted here.  Where to begin...

I got a new job!  After 14 years of doing application development work for State Government, I left to do basically the same thing for a mid-sized financial services company.  Ironically, my new office is about 1/8th of a mile from my old office.  It was very tough to leave the State.  I've made a lot of really good friends there and, contrary to popular stereotypes, there are many very intelligent, hard working people working for the government trying to make a difference.  Sadly, there are also many forces working against them.  As for the new place, I've been there for about 5 months and everyone has been pretty cool about making me feel welcome.  Other than the fact that I'm also over the help desk, it's not much different than my previous jobs.  Lots of meetings for requirements gathering, determining priorities, and I'm always working on processes to make work more methodical and transparent.  So far, so good.

Shelly got teacher of the year!  That is correct, I am married to a dignitary.  She received the award at the end of the school year and had to speak at the schools retirement dinner as well as the Chamber of Commerce annual gala.  It was a big deal and I feel it was definately deserved.  She works her butt off all year long and takes her profession very seriously.  I'm very proud of her...

Human Subject has been submitted to playtest!  Yes, after over a year of on and off work, my second game for XBLIG has finally made it to playtest.  I'm starting to get some feedback now and I'm sifting through it to see what makes sense to change/implement.  I planning to post updates throughout the process to give a peek inside for anyone that's curious.

That's all for now.  Wish me luck on the new game, and thanks for stopping by.