Designing the Characters

Thought I’d share the part of the process I’m most involved in. Designing the characters for this game went through a few iterations. At the beginning I took a completely different approach to what I usually do and decided to put down some shapes straight away. The main brief was small, cute and something that would look fun jumping around, ideally with a tail.

silhouettes

Basically I just put down a medium-ish sized brush and just let the shapes come to life. Fleshing them out and adding a bit of colour led to below.

character-design

There were some ideas there that I could have gone with but wasn’t entirely happy with any of them. So I went back to square one and the good old, old school way, just sketching out various ideas. Eventually, my fellow devs came to decision to work on something based on the Monkey King after much discussion. This led to the last line of designs.

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I decided I liked something between the two on the bottom left and so developed these into below, which is what the final design looks like.

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With the final colour version being:

characterconcepts

At this point one of my fellow devs gave me the feedback that this was too cute, and wanted something ‘cooler’ and less ‘chibi sized’ which led to:

monkeycharacter2

However, we had already built the prototype and when we implemented this version, it turned out to be too large for the spaces we had already worked out, and shrinking it made it far too small to see it details, rendering it a little weird. Realising that it didn’t quite fit the aesthetics we had already established with the BGs and the platforms we went back to the ‘chubby’ version.

However releasing that the colour of the larger design had more contrast and looked much better than our ‘first final’ design, I translated that over. And so the ‘final-final- design turned into this:

monkeycharacterfinalae

The process definitely taught us compromise, and not to have the game itself be slave to the art (also true vice versa).

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New Game in Development!

We’re currently working on a new game called ‘Super Jumpy King’. It’s a variation on the Frogger/Crossy Roads gameplay where you control a character to climb as high as you can by wall jumping between platforms and avoiding falling obstacles as you do so.

Pretty simple, but the difficultly lies in needing to focus and hone in on the gameplay; making sure it has the fun factor and it that feels right. This is the main reason we wanted to do a game like this. We wanted something simple that we could polish to the best of our abilities rather than something larger, more ostentatious with all the bells and whistles that might take forever (or will as we’re only three and not exactly full time game devs).

The theme is loosely inspired by Journey To The West, expanded with more characters from Chinese mythology.

characters
Monk, Monkey King and Pig

We currently have a working prototype and hopefully will get an alpha version done early next year.

The plan is to have Monkey King playable, with the other characters unlockable through coins that you accumulate through each play through. Unlocking new characters will also unlock new backgrounds and/or power ups. These power ups can be turned on or off through spending coins at the start.

Here are a couple of concepts for two of the backgrounds.
conceptmountainssmall

concepticesmall

There will be three different types of obstacles, each changing thematically in each background:

1) ‘Spikes’ that are static on the platforms.
2) Small, avoidable falling obstacles that fall down one side of a platform.
3) Large falling obstacles that can only be avoided by being in the rest areas. A warning will signify when these will arrive.

We’re probably about just under halfway through development at the moment, and will be keep you posted!

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Launching Tacheman and the Struggle Since

Note: One of my New year’s resolutions is probably to update this blog more regularly!

A little late posting this but we finally managed to release ‘The Adventures of Tacheman’ on October 29th on both iOS and android.

Unfortunately we did not go about the marketing side well… But lessons learned and all that, especially as this is our first time trying to tackle this side properly. Posting on forums seemed to generate little interest which can be quite disheartening from a dev point of view. Although offering promo codes did prompt some people to inquire about the game (the lure of free stuff is always strong I guess!) Asking for feedback was also met vastly with tumbleweed, although the little feedback we did receive was generally positive.

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There was a spike in sales immediately after release which is pretty natural for most app launches. Trying to optimise on this too (launching on a Saturday was recommended as the best time to do so) was something we tried out and may have resulted in this spike, which is one positive to take away. Another reason was that we had a review put up on ifanzine.com. However, this spike also naturally plummeted to basically zero soon after that. We could have paid for advertising but that kind of marketing was way out of our budget and quite frankly we were not sure if it would be worth it on this game.

When we were developing the game we made the decision to make it a premium game as we were sick and tired of freemium models, and having to find ways to monetise (yes that evil but unfortunate necessity to survive) with IAPs and whatnot. As a result we did our best to polish the game up to as much as we could to justify this decision-which admittedly was a really tough ask as the three of us were pretty sick of the game by that point. In a way, I guess we were resigned to the fact that maybe our game was simply not good enough which was the most obvious reason for it’s failure so far. It is a little confusing as no one has explicitly told us that it is a bad game so we are left in this weird limbo of not really knowing the ‘why’ of anything. I am personally of the opinion that negative feedback is always better than no feedback as at least you know what you need to work on.

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Another avenue that we perhaps naively did not choose to explore was to get in touch with a publisher towards the latter stages of the game’s development. They may be some indie devs that might be of the opinion that getting into bed with one of these is ‘evil’. But the fact is they’re not and as the app store has matured they’ve become more of a necessity. It is generally almost impossible to publish a game independently and come close to matching the marketing might that publishers wield. In a nutshell, would you rather have 100% of a small pie, or 50% of a very large one?

These days you either strike lucky through word of mouth (even Pokemon Go was an example of this- and that already had the weight of the Pokemon brand behind it) or pray that you get an apple feature. In the early days it was enough to have keywords to help you reach the top but this is simply not the case anymore. In hindsight, having made contact with publishers after going live we received some interest but either they don’t republish games or they simply had too many games on their hands already. Now I’m not sure how often a publisher replies but this could have been a missed trick. At the end of the day not only can they market your game, but they can also give you valuable feedback in order to make sure your game is up to speed.

So where does this leave Tacheman? I did a little experiment (and call me crazy for doing so) and made it free during Black Friday weekend, whilst posting about the offer in various forums. Downloads skyrocketed over the two days. It’s not exactly rocket science that people will download free things but this might just be the way forward.

There was this idea that we discussed very early on, almost two years ago, but somehow that idea was lost; basically to make the game a ‘free demo’ with an IAP for the full game (e.g Super Mario Run). It’s strange that more games don’t do this as it is a very effective way to draw people in. Again, perhaps we just couldn’t wait to get it out (this really was a nightmare in on-off development that took far longer than necessary) but that’s no real excuse.

In any case, hope our experiences will help inform other indie devs out there who are still developing their games. We are taking everything we have learnt from this game, and hopefully improve on it in the next!

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Tacheman- Back in Development

Gameplay clip

It’s been a fun, steep learning curve but Tacheman finally has a complete working version. I am very excited to show some of the new features it has. The GUI has been revamped – there’s now a health and ammo bar which makes the game more accessible than the one hit kill mechanic of before that became a little too frustrating at times.

Building from a raycast engine and looking at the code was an eye opener into how to do a simple 2D platformer the right way.

The multiple death animations

For something a bit different, I thought it would be good if the same death animation wasn’t played over and over for every enemy. So, it’s a little more contextual. Cannon fire? Gets incinerated. Razor? Gets sliced and falls off. Due to the simplicity of the Tacheman characters this was relatively easy to animate and implement into Unity.

Dangerous even when defeated.

With a newfound knowledge of the particle system, it has certainly brought the game up to a higher level of polish (as well as being a lot of fun to play around with!) I had one idea for an exploding enemy that would grow every time it got hit before unleashing a fairly sizeable and potent explosion when defeated (wonder where I got inspiration for that from…)

Jetpack from a moustache? Why not?

Collecting stuff for no reason is fun no? No? Well, coins in this game may give you a special surprise if you collect enough of them…which I may have just given away with the above gif. This special ability will allow you reach previously difficult to access/ downright inaccessible places as well save you from mistimed jumps.

Flip in style

The weather did not help with someone’s mood

There will be unlockable characters, each with their own unique abilities and narrative bits in the story.

So what’s left?

It’s currently going through some internal testing, there’s a few more art assets I would like to add as well as much more optimisation (bloody optimisation!). There will of course arise one or two, or a hundred bugs (bloody bugs!) that will need to be fixed, gameplay tweaks et al. But it’s finally getting there, and will keep you updated on its progress.

Unity Do’s and Don’ts

Mobile optimisation can be a pain, but here are a couple of things I’ve picked up regarding colliders (especially for a 2D platformer).

Static Colliders
Static colliders as you may or may not know, are colliders without a rigidbody. The number one rule with these is that you never, ever, move them. Ever. Even if you are moving them through code, you must always have a rigidbody on the game object. This is very expensive to do otherwise and especially on a mobile device, you may notice a massive drop in the framerate.

Static Gameobjects
Speaking of static, ever noticed that little tickbox up in the top right of the inspector? Well, anything whose transform, scale or rotation never changes should always be ticked as static. This saves the CPU a lot of calculations, bringing a noticeable increase in performance.

So if you’re game’s framerate seems to drop, or overall performance seems sluggish- before you start redoing your art assets or redesigning your levels, make sure to check these first!

Tacheman update

You may have been wondering what has happened to the old Tacheman. Well, truthfully it has been under development limbo for half the year, but the team is now back working on it and we’re overhauling the project to really improve performance and mobile.

With the help of a fantastic asset from the Unity Store called the Corgi Engine 2D, we’re cutting down on the amount of physics in the initial project and implementing a raycast system. (Lesson has been learned- for a simple 2D platformer- physics are generally a no no, not least for mobile optimisation).

Although we did somehow manage to tame most of the physics related problems, the fallout in memory usage (all those physics materials on all those colliders can’t have helped for e.g) was not worth it. And although it worked fine on more recent devices, it was virtually unplayable on older devices which seemed a little unfair.

Player Raycast
Tacheman raycasts

We’ll keep you updated on its progress.

Motuner is out!

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Tune your face and use fancy & cool moustaches to jazz up your photos!

Whether you want to rock it like a biker or twirl your moustache with air of sophistication, there are many styles for you to choose from!

The app uses intelligent face detection algorithms which allows the user to quickly superimpose a moustache with great accuracy. But not only that, it can still be resized afterwards to your heart’s content.

Multiple moustaches can be added to one picture, perfect for group photos, funny family portraits or if you simply just want to go crazy all on your own!

Now available from the app store. You can download it free or pay for the Motuner Overdrive free of adds and with all packs unlocked!