King's fortunes falter as Candy Crush Saga grows older

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Newly-acquired Activision Blizzard subsidiary King has reported its revenues for its holiday quarter, the three months ended December 31, 2015, as well as its full 2015 fiscal year, and everything seems to be trending downward.

The (non-GAAP) numbers are notable, so let’s start with the quarterly results: Payments made by players in King’s free-to-play games (what the company calls “gross bookings”) fell year-over-year, down to $509 million from $586 million it saw in the same period a year prior.

King blames the drop on a few things, including fluctuations in currency value, but it primarily places blame on the decline in gross bookings from its more mature games — including company flagship Candy Crush Saga.

“The year over year decreases in both gross bookings and revenue were primarily due to lower gross bookings from our more mature games, in particular Candy Crush Saga,” read an excerpt of the company’s earnings report, which went on to note that the drop was “partially offset by increased gross bookings from our newer games, in particular Candy Crush Soda Saga.”

The company still posted a $91 million profit for the quarter, though that’s $50 million less than it reaped in profits during the same quarter a year prior.

During its fourth quarter King also saw year-over-year drops in both its daily and monthly active users (down 21 million/14 percent and 84 million/16 percent year over year, respectively), which it once again blamed on the growing age of its popular games — most notably, again, Candy Crush Saga, which was first released in 2012. More of the decline is among web players than mobile players, something King believes is tied to the general decline of Facebook desktop game players.

Incidentally, the company said much the same thing three months ago to explain similar drops in monthly and daily active players.

King also saw a year-over-year drop in revenue and profits for the full 2015 year, though it still managed to report an adjusted profit $617 million on $2.02 billion in revenue. That’s quite a chunk of change, but it’s a bit smaller than the $738 million profit it reaped from adjusted revenues of $2.38 billion in 2014.

The company also saw a relatively minor slide in active player counts in 2015 compared to the prior year, slipping to 494 million monthly active users and 141 million daily active users from the 499 million and 142 million (respectively) it saw in 2014. 

However, the company reports a marked year-over-year uptick in in how much its getting out of each paying player; in 2015 King’s monthly gross average bookings per paying user hit $24.20, up from $20.21 the year prior.

Source: Gamasutra

Activision Blizzard earnings down, and some painful indicators for 2016

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

For the fourth quarter of Activision Blizzard’s fiscal 2015 — the three months ended December 31, 2015 — the company’s earnings are down year-on-year, though digital revenues have increased to a healthy 57 percent of the company’s net revenues for the full year. For the first time, the company’s digital revenues outpaced its physical revenues, COO Thomas Tippl pointed out on the company’s earnings call.

Activision pulled in $2.12 billion in revenues for the quarter, as compared to $2.21 billion for the same period of 2014. The company recorded overall annual revenues of $4.62 billion for 2015, as compared with $4.81 billion for 2014.

It’s worth noting that these numbers, including that digital statistic, do not include Candy Crush developer King Digital Entertainment, which Activision Blizzard moved to acquire late last year. The acquisition of King is expected to close later this month.

Analysts had expected the company to record revenues of $2.2 billion for the quarter, and Activision itself had projected revenues of $2.15 billion, so the miss was fairly large. The company blamed some of this on currency: the miss on revenues was “largely due to foreign exchange.”

Earnings per share for 2015 were $1.32, compared to $1.42 in 2014. The company’s stock fell 15 percent in after-hours trading, as of this writing, probably also affected by King’s numbers — both revenues and active users — taking a tumble

Of course, that wasn’t the whole story; “lower than expected performance on Skylanders and Guitar Hero” also contributed, and Skylanders is expected to shrink in 2016, too, thanks to “the challenging competitive environment in the toys to life category.” No new Guitar Hero console game is planned for the rest of the console generation. 

Call of Duty had a good year, on the other hand, with Black Ops III capturing record monthly active users and digital revenues for the franchise. However, the company is projecting Call of Duty sales to be down for next year (though franchise revenues to increase).

No “full game” Destiny release will hit in 2016, the company confirmed, planning for the next major release in the franchise for 2017.

Source: Gamasutra

Get a job: The Workshop seeks a 3D Animator

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

The Gamasutra Job Board is the most diverse, active and established board of its kind for the video game industry!

Here is just one of the many, many positions being advertised right now.

Location: Marina Del Rey, CA

We’re looking for a talented artist to add to our animation team. The animator will be well-versed in all aspects of animation development, from cinematic cut-scenes to character animation. We are especially looking for someone with a keen technical acumen with experience in character rigging.  

Every member of our team is involved in all aspects of our project’s creation. We believe that a small, focused, and dedicated team of talented people can create exceptional games.


  • Create high quality 3D animations that adhere to the Art Direction and style established for the project.
  • Artists must be able to work independently or in small groups to troubleshoot and provide solutions to production issues related to asset creation and migration across engines.
  • Work collaboratively with designers and engineers on a daily basis.


  • Experience rigging and animating with Biped in 3DS Max
  • Demonstrated proficiency in technical animation
  • 2 + years experience in the game industry
  • At least one shipped title
  • Strong demo reel showcasing your most recent work


  • Experience with Crytek Engine strongly preferred
  • Experience using the Unreal Engine 3 and Matinee
  • Experience with rigging characters in 3DS Max
  • Traditional art skills (figure drawing, landscape, animals, painting, composition, perspective, etc)
  • BA, BFA or an equivalent professional certification

About Us:

The Workshop a small company started by industry veterans. We are a tight-knit group looking for talented new faces, people who work well in small creative environments. Our intention is to involve everyone in all aspects of production, to bring creativity back to everyone’s day.

We are working on an exciting new console games, VR, PC and other exciting opportunities. Every day is a little different and very exciting as we are pushing our debut project forward.

We offer competitive salaries, insurance and a small independent studio environment.

Interested? Get started here. Are you a recruiter looking for talent? Post jobs here.

Source: Gamasutra

Don't Miss: How to make insane, procedural platformer levels

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

[In this article, Cloudberry Kingdom developer Jordan Fisher explains precisely how he created the algorithmic level design system for the procedurally generated platformer — and how you can design your own AI. You can back Cloudberry Kingdom on Kickstarter right now.]

So you want to make a procedural platformer. You want it to spit out levels on demand, and you want the levels to be awesome, challenging, and fun. You want the algorithm to be flexible, so that you can design a new obstacle or change the game physics and instantly have new levels created with your new content. You want it to spit out easy levels for new players, hard levels for core players, and brain melting insanity for leet StarCraft gods with APMs over 9000.

Oh, and all this insanity had better be possible to actually beat, or the players will organize a coup and destroy your reputation via Reddit, 4chan, and probably their personal blogs that they started just to pummel you.

Basically, you want a silicon imprint of Miyamoto and team that you can capture in a box of software to distribute to the masses.

That, or a well-trained level design AI. As lead programmer at Pwnee Studios, my job has been developing such an AI for our first platformer title.

Procedural content has done wonders in genres other than platformers. The expansive plains and dungeons in Diablo, the beautiful landscapes in Minecraft, the creature animations in Spore. Dungeon crawlers and sandboxes in particular have a long history of awesome procedural generation. There are side-scrollers with random levels too, such as the amazing Spelunky and Terraria.

In this piece, I talk more specifically about random levels for a faster paced style platformer (Mario, Sonic, Super Meat Boy). This is a relatively unexplored area for procedural algorithms, and is in many ways much more challenging. We want pixel-perfect jumps, death-defying brushes with lasers, and tunable difficulty for any skill level, all while guaranteeing the levels generated have solutions.

There are three things a good procedural algorithm needs to nail:

1. Feasibility. Can you beat it?

2. Interesting Design. Do you want to beat it?

3. Appropriate Skill Level. Is it a good challenge?

Satisfying any one of these is actually pretty easy. Satisfying them all simultaneously forms a very tight constraint problem. Feasibility, in particular, is a constraint that has greatly hampered efforts to make good procedural platformers; however, the other two requirements are just as difficult to perfect.

The first constraint, feasibility, is the most brittle requirement, so we will start there.

There are simple techniques to guarantee a dungeon in Diablo has a path through it, analogous to how one assures that a generated maze has a solution. In a maze, the player has absolute control over their position, not considering the constraints imposed by walls. In a platformer, a player has a much looser control of her position and must factor in the game’s physics: momentum, gravity, friction, and so on. This greatly exacerbates the difficulty of the problem.

If you generate a maze with no solution, then you can knock down a few walls until a solution appears. If you generate a platformer level with no solution, it’s not at all clear how to fix things.

We need to make sure our levels are possible to beat. To satisfy this need for provable feasibility we rely on a very good computer player that we can hand off levels to. The player AI directly proves the levels are possible by beating them. This is easier to say than implement, but luckily good platformer player AI is a well-researched topic, with some notable implementations, such as this one. Implementing a good AI is non-trivial, but fairly straightforward.

Now that we have our awesome ninja AI, we can test our levels before throwing them at our players. Even better, if a player gets stuck on a level, we can let them watch the AI. The player can learn and improve, or at least suspend their incredulity.

We still have a problem, though. How do we actually make a feasible level in the first place? Like NP-complete problems, it seems like it’s easy to verify a solution, but very hard to find the solution to begin with.1 What we need is for the AI designing the levels to itself have some notion of what is and isn’t possible.

The simplest way to do this is to give the AI knowledge about the player physics. Starting with a player standing on a block, we can pre-compute all possible destinations a player may arrive at by jumping in different directions.

Enumerating possible destinations.

The AI then takes this information and uses it as a constraint. Each block it places must be within a certain range of some other block, dependent on the relative heights of the blocks. For simple player physics this is a good model, but if the physics also has momentum, friction, and variable jumping heights, then the pre-computation suddenly becomes a lot bigger. We need to know where the player can end up depending on every start configuration: running at half speed, running at full speed, doing a full jump, a half jump, etc.

Short jump

Imagine a simple situation where a player is about to run and jump from one block to another. In the first case, a passing fireball forces the player to stop before proceeding to jump. The player now jumps, starting from a standstill, with no initial momentum, retarding the full extent of the jump. The player could first backtrack to get a running start, but perhaps there is an advancing wall of doom impinging on the player.

Long jump

Now imagine a second, simpler case without the fireball. The player can run at full speed and can clear a longer jump. Good for the player, bad for the AI designer. Now it’s not enough for the AI to know the relative positions between pairs of blocks, the AI must also know what the player context of each block is. The AI needs to know what state and situation a player will be in when the player is on Block A, so that it can calculate how far away it can place Block B.

Unfortunately, things are even more complicated than this. It turns out it’s not enough to know just the player’s state and how far the player can jump in different states. Imagine another simple situation, where a player is jumping from a lower block to a higher block. In the first case, the blocks are stationary, and the player can successfully clear the jump. In the second case, the blocks are moving in such a way that even though the final position of the block when the player intends to land is within jumping range, the block itself intersects the player’s path earlier on in the jumping arc.

Left: valid path. Right: invalid path.

Suddenly we need to keep track of the player context, the range of possible jumps, as well as how all possible player trajectories interact with every block we place and even intend to place. It may turn out that an obstacle we place at the end of a level affects the player’s path at the beginning of the level. This is known as a dense problem. Dense in the sense that where we should place each object in our universe is intimately dependent on the location of every other object, forming a dense tangle of messy dependencies.

[1] We could just randomly sample levels until we find one that works, but presumably the space of provable levels is much smaller than the space of all levels, which would make this method impossible in practice. I wonder what a truly random sample from the space of provable levels looks like, though.

Source: Gamasutra

Designing levels for mobile puzzle games

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are soley my own 

A Puzzling Challenge

How do you keep players engaged through 1000+ levels of content without continually introducing new mechanics?  This task is no small feat, yet it is the objective of many game designers working in evergreen games as service titles, such as the puzzle game genre on mobile.

I’ve been working on mobile puzzle games for the past seven months (at a mobile game company called Storm8), and it’s been an interesting experience learning about the way game design concepts are employed in this field.  In this post I want to focus specifically on game design in relation to content creation, the levels that ultimately make up the bulk of the player’s experience.  

As a game designer working on mobile puzzle games,  it is likely at some point you will be doing content creation in support of a live game.  In live support, eventually resources will become scarce for implementing new mechanics, but it will be necessary to continue to use the provided tools to create interesting and previously unseen combinations to keep players engaged.  Don’t despair! The match3 system is mercifully robust, and it is likely you will have a collection of obstacles at your disposal with some natural interactions that can elicit meaningful puzzles.  In this post I want to focus on a tool of traditional game design, the ‘Interest Curve’, and how it can be an asset for structuring levels to engage players.

The Interest Curve

As game designers, our goal is, generally speaking, to make games that excite and engage the player.  One way of thinking of each level in a game, puzzle games included, is a microcosm of the emotional arc of the full experience.  So, each level should provide the player with a similarly developed arc of interest. Enter the Interest Curve:

The image above (taken from The Art of Game Design by Jesse Schell) shows the conventional interest curve, in which each point represents a moment of strong engagement (i.e fun) for the player.  This is a concept that is probably very familiar to people working in games, so forgive me if I’m reiterating.  However, in the form shown, this is still a very abstract concept.  To make it work for us in practice, we need to map it to more concrete concepts within the games we are working on/discussing, in this case mobile puzzle games.

Feeling of Progress

The peaks on the Interest Curve could take on any number of forms of content depending on what game you are working on.  For example, in a first person shooter, both finding a rare weapon on the map or an enemy encounter could register as equally engaging to players depending on the context.  When considering puzzle games I have found moments of progress to be the most relevant mapping for those peaks.  This is still abstract but we can get more specific.  Anecdotally, a strong motivator and reward for most players is a feeling of progress.  This can manifest itself differently for different players and across different games.  A Startcraft 2 player may feel strongly rewarded when they detect that their skill at a certain opening is increasing, as reflected by a better competitive ranking.  In mobile puzzle games, the two main forms of progress within a level are progress on the board (visual progress, the changing of space) and progress towards goals (collecting required recipes, etc).

Board Progression 

Board progression refers to the difference between the visual state of the board at the start of a level and after a playthrough.  This doesn’t necessarily need to be tied to recipe progression, but I’ve found the effect to be strongest when altering the space through play corresponds to the player approaching successfully completing the stage.  The images above are of a level I made for Storm8’s Candy Blast Mania. I consider this level, level 1177, one my most successful designs. You can see a very noticeable difference between the opening game board and the board at the end game.  The player must clear jawbreakers (stationary obstacles that block the flow of pieces) in order to fulfill a recipe, but this also increases the usable space of the board and allows them access to the cannons at the bottom of the board which add a score multiplier.  Outlining the flow of the level, and how you expect the board to change throughout a playthrough is a good starting point for designing a level with a good sense of progress for players.

Goal Progression

In match3, bubble shooters and many other mobile puzzle games the player has a set goal count they are working toward collecting (a target score, 100 specific color pieces, etc).  Generally the player should be collecting these at a good pace so they can be close to victory at the level’s conclusion, whether or not they actually win.  However, it is possible to structure levels in a way to ‘spike’ the collection of certain of certain objectives so the player sees a surge of progress.  One way of doing this is to have the player gradually open the space of the level (such as in the examples above and below) so that towards the end of their playthrough they have more bonus matches from pieces that fall in. These ‘surges’ of progress towards objectives are another way to add or emphasize peaks of interest in engagement arc of your level. Believe it or not, watching the tiles drop in, and hoping enough matches come together to tick down the counter giving you the win can be a pulse pounding experience!

In the above image of level 34 from Rovio’s Nibblers, you can see that the opening board has very constrained space, but as the board opens up towards the end game, the player has a high chance of special tiles forming from tiles falling in (these take the form of hungry, friendly fish in Nibblers).  These special tiles allow the player to quickly collect high numbers of their needed pieces.

Games like King’s Farm Heroes Saga and Candy Blast Mania have a built in bonus mechanic that amplifies the values of certain pieces based on adjacent matches, and Candy Blast Mania even has a specific on board fixture that can increase bonuses specifically for this purpose.

A Piece of the Puzzle

Using an interest curve for structured player progression is an important element of level design for match3 and puzzle games, but it is only one element.  Interaction between mechanics, robust existing mechanics that designers have to work with, and defying player expectations are but a few of the many that can come into play, and I hope to analyze some of these at a later point.  For now, I hope you enjoyed reading and feedback is welcome!

Source: Gamasutra

Roll for your life: Making randomness transparent in Tharsis

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Things are not looking good aboard the Iktomi. For the last few weeks, my crew of four (down from six after the meteor storm) had been doing an excellent job of repairing hull breaches, plugging radiation leaks and generally keeping the horrors of space firmly outside our humble vessel. Then our ship doctor was killed trying to fix our greenhouse, and our idiot mechanic failed to repair our life support center. Now the captain’s got to do it, and the odds are next to impossible.

Well, more specifically, the odds are one in thirty six.

Fixing our life support system will take twelve repair points, and our captain only has two six-sided dice left to roll. To repair the system, and save the lives of her crew, she has to roll two sixes. Anything less, and it’s game over.

I hit the “ROLL” button, and the dice clatter across the screen, tumbling as if over a glass tabletop. Underneath them, the captain of the Iktomi works furiously, jabbing some wires with a futuristic welding torch. I don’t realize it until later, but I’m holding my breath.

The dice settle,  and there they are: twelve beautiful pips of salvation. We just might make it to Mars after all.

But one second earlier, with all my plans unraveled, I had given myself up to fate. This moment, with the tension and stakes both at stratospheric levels, is what systems designer Zach Gage was hoping to create for the players of Tharsis. What he wanted, said Gage in a conversation with Gamasutra was “to build a game where the entropy and randomness of dice is exciting.”

“If something says you’re going to have a ninety percent chance and you fail, you think it’s unfair. But if somebody says ‘You’re going to be successful at this unless you roll a one on this ten-sided die,’ and you roll a one, it’s kind of exciting.”

Tharsis is essentially a game about crisis management. Each turn, various modules aboard the Iktomi will break; it’s up to your crew to repair them before the ship, or they themselves, suffer damage. But even though success depends on the roll of a die, Gage argues that Tharsis isn’t substantially more random than most games: “A lot of games use random number generation, but that’s usually under the surface…when you look at roguelikes, there’s tons and tons of dice randomness. How much damage your weapon’s going to do, your chance to hit, your enemy’s chance to hit. ” The difference, according to Gage, is that the foundations of randomness on which Tharsis is based are open and viewable to the player.

If anything, the team on Tharsis had trouble creating enough randomness with dice alone. “Something I didn’t see coming, with six-sided dice, is they’re actually not very random,” says Gage. “I know that’s sort of counterintuitive to say, but because they only have six possible answers, they start to shape into curves very quickly. The optimal number of dice you need to solve an event very clearly materializes.” If the player needs to roll a seven, they can reliably commit two dice to a module without having to account for much variety.

One of the ways Gage accounted for statistical curves was introducing the hazard dice system, which makes certain numbers bad or even dangerous to roll. A stasis die will lock a low roll like a one or two in place, preventing you from rerolling, while an injury die will result in lost health for your crewmember. “If sixes are costing you health, subtracting from your other resources, it makes sixes a lot less good,” says Gage.

“A lot of game designers have fled from gambling, and tried to make games that minimized randomness, or didn’t explore it at all. But gambling is really fun!”

Despite the challenges in designing a system around them, Gage stuck with dice because of their accessibility: he wanted players, no matter their familiarity with percentage and mechanics, to understand what they were risking. “If something says you’re going to have a ninety percent chance and you fail, you think it’s unfair,” said Gage. “But if somebody says ‘You’re going to be successful at this unless you roll a one on this ten-sided die,’ and you roll a one, it’s kind of exciting.” 

The difference, according to Gage, comes down to the physicality of dice. “We understand things that we can hold in our hand. When things get abstract, especially with math, it becomes very difficult. Human beings just have this innate understanding of stuff that we can touch and hold and turn, and look at. The dice in Tharsis are an analogue for something everyone is familiar with.”

Which, of course, made getting the dice right all the more important. The dice in Tharsis don’t actually function on a random number generator; they’re objects responding to physics. “I thought that was really important,” says Gage. “Games that use dice often use dice wrong. They don’t do it with physics, and I’ve never really known why.” After actually implementing this system, Gage learned the hard way, facing technical problems regarding the weight and colliders of the dice.  

There are benefits to recreating dice within a controllable system, though. “When you roll dice in real life, you feel like they have a settling moment, where you wonder what it’s going to be,” says Gage. “In reality, it’s not there–dice settle very quickly. With digital dice, we can give you that moment.” In Tharsis, the dice are less affected by gravity. which makes them settle in a slower, floatier way than their real world counterparts. It reliably creates heart-in-your-mouth moments, like in a sports movie when the basketball is rolling around the rim for what feels like eternity as the clock runs out.

Some would call the systems in Tharsis too close to gambling, but Gage doesn’t mind the comparison. “Gambling is really fun,” says Gage. “Obviously, gambling is rife with problems, but it’s something that humans enjoy doing.” Because of the unethical connotations that come with gambling, Gage theorizes, “A lot of game designers have fled away from gambling, and tried to make games that minimized randomness, or didn’t explore it at all.” In designing the mechanics for Tharsis, Gage hopes that other developers might choose to embrace the excitement of randomness once again.

Source: Gamasutra

Get a job: Sony is hiring an Artist to make PlayStation VR games

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

The Gamasutra Job Board is the most diverse, active and established board of its kind for the video game industry!

Here is just one of the many, many positions being advertised right now.

Location: Manchester, England

An exciting and rare opportunity to join an ambitious new studio to create original games exclusively for Project Morpheus, PlayStation’s VR platform.  Based in Manchester, in the North West of England, we aim to build a small but highly experienced team who want to build great games to showcase this exciting new immersive technology.

We are looking for experienced Games Artists able to create assets which are both visually stunning and highly efficient.  You will have a broad portfolio of real-time artwork from props to vehicles and environments, including lighting.  You will be excited by the challenge of finding the limits of what can be delivered visually within the constraints of Virtual Reality.

You will join the team early in pre-production so will have ample opportunity to make your mark on the title.  As the team will be relatively small, you will need to be flexible and fast, able to work quickly and efficiently across a variety of asset types.

Key Responsibilities

  • Model, shade then light a wide variety of real-time assets.
  • Support gameplay prototype experiments by creating low fidelity assets which are quick to build and easy change.
  • Produce final production art assets to quality
  • Follow the Art Direction and technical specifications, iterating on regular feedback to ensure excellent visual quality.
  • Troubleshoot issues that prevent the art team from delivering the Art Direction.  Collaborate with the Lead Tech Artist to help identify the cause then propose solutions.
  • Peer review and visually critique the game on an ongoing basis to drive continual improvement across the whole art team.

 Skills & Experience

  • You will have shipped at least 2 successful games in senior art roles.
  • You will have a strong background in traditional arts, able to demonstrate an in depth understanding of form, colour and composition.
  • You will enjoy the technical challenge and constraints of real-time game art and have a detailed understanding of modern rendering, shading and lighting techniques.
  • You will be skilled in industry standard art packages: Maya, Z-Brush, Photoshop, etc.
  • Experience using Unreal Engine will be an advantage 

Interested? Apply now.

Whether you’re just starting out, looking for something new, or just seeing what’s out there, the Gamasutra Job Board is the place where game developers move ahead in their careers.

Gamasutra’s Job Board is the most diverse, most active, and most established board of its kind in the video game industry, serving companies of all sizes, from indie to triple-A.

Looking for a new job? Get started here. Are you a recruiter looking for talent? Post jobs here.

Source: Gamasutra

Survey: Hearthstone appreciated as more strategic, less exciting than League of Legends

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Survey: Hearthstone appreciated as more strategic, less exciting than League of Legends

Consulting firm Quantic Foundry has synthesized data gathered from surveys filled out by over 140,000 game players to publish a blog post comparing the perceived challenge and thrill of popular strategy games.

The post is intended to drum up interest in the firm’s consulting and analytics services, but it nevertheless makes for interesting reading in light of the fact that Quantic Foundry effectively correlated self-submitted reports of what specific games people enjoy most with how they appreciate different aspects of game design — the challenge of complex planning, for example, or competing against other players.

Quantic Foundry plotted out (see below) some of that data for games in the strategy genre, with intriguing results. The firm reports that League of Legends proved more appealing to players who prize fast-paced action than Blizzard’s Hearthstone, for example, but less appealing to people who value complex strategic challenges than either Hearthstone or DotA

Moreover, Quantic Foundry posits that DotA marks the upper limit of the strategy game market’s “cognitive threshold” — the point at which a game’s design is too demanding, in terms of both decision-making and reaction time, to be enjoyed by most people. 

Developers interested in taking a deeper look at Quantic Foundry’s data or requesting similar reports should check out the full blog post.

Source: Gamasutra

Road to the IGF: Noio and Licorice's Kingdom

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

This interview is part of our Road to the IGF series. You can find the rest of our Q&As by clicking here.

Kingdom, from indie developers Noio and Licorice, could be called one of the quiet success stories of 2015. In an era where the phrase “procedurally-generated game” conjures ideas of huge, sprawling worlds like MinecraftKingdom soared to the hearts of Steam players with smaller, but ultimately holistic ambitions. 

If you missed Kingdom, you’d be surprised to hear it described as many other games it hardly resembles–tower defense, roguelike, exploration game–because it successfully integrates these game types into a completely two-dimensional space. That combination plus an Elysian pixel aesthetic that makes playthroughs feel slow and meditative, helped earn Kingdom an Independent Games Festival nomination for Excellence in Design.

We spoke with designer Thomas van den Berg, who operates under the Noio label, via e-mail to talk about Kingdom’s origins and the challenges of creating a procedurally generated game. 

What’s your background in making games?

I really got into making interactive things when I started programming in Flash. It has the ideal set of tools for making things both interactive and visual, from there it’s a small step to making games. Throughout my student years I was making little gimmicks as a creative outlet when academic work consisted of producing lots of text. But I really didn’t know I was getting into game development as a career until after the Kingdom Flash game got such good response and Marco Bancale (from Licorice) proposed to do an iOS port of Kingdom. At that time I was also making interactive installations for, games on a huge LED screen with motion sensors. Things just kind of came together and made me realize that making games for a living might actually be possible. Before that I always thought I would get a job as a developer and build games in my own time.

What development tools did you use to build Kingdom?

Kingdom was made using Unity, and the art was made in PyxelEdit.


How much time have you spent working on the game?

The Flash game was built as a side-project during the last years of my graduation (2012-2013). Since 2014, I worked on the desktop game full time. I’ve been seeing a lot of people quote hours on Reddit lately, so I’ll do that too: I spent probably around 6000 hours on Kingdom now. 

How did you come up with the concept?

This game wasn’t really planned out from the beginning, so most of its design was not the result of a conscious decision. I was learning pixel art animation about five years ago, which yielded the original horse animation. I added a king and this would become the seed that the game grew from. First I thought that the king needed subjects who do their own thing and interact with each other. They needed some kind of adversary to pose a challenge of course, and I wasn’t very concerned about being serious, so I drew the original troll-faced noodly-armed monsters. It being an endless game in theory was a nice solution to many balancing problems, and I just tuned the curve to make sure that every player would perish at some point.

Procedural games are sometimes at the biggest risk of overscoping their boundaries–how did you keep Kingdom‘s design tight and focused, and what had to be pruned away?

We definitely did overscope, but many features got naturally pruned due to time pressure as we got closer to launch. On paper there was supposed to be a lot more procedural generation going on, but In the end we limited that to basically shuffling the map. During development, we did stick to a few rules, to be true to the concept of the original Flash game, and as a fun design challenge. Things like not introducing an extra button mapping besides “pay” or adding resource types besides “gold”. When thinking about mechanics it can be tempting to complicate things. And we actually broke a rule because galloping is a separate button on controllers now.

What was your thought process in retrofitting mechanics typically seen in larger games to a 2D environment, to the point that tower defense, exploration, etc can all happen on essentially a straight line?

Honestly I just never thought about having anything happen on the Y axis while creating the world visually. I live in a very flat country.

This game started as a Flash game, then was showcased extensively at indie booth after indie booth—what effect did that have on your design process?

It was mostly a reassurance to see people enjoy the game! We had followed a relatively closed development process, involving only a few players. Putting the game out there and letting people play without as much as a ‘back of the box’ introduction was scary. We did get a few shrugs followed by a dropped controller, but those were far outnumbered by excited reactions. We ended up letting go of a few mechanics that I had been stubborn about, after seeing that those just really didn’t work in the wild. 

Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any games you’ve particularly enjoyed?

I’ve played many of them, but I’m trying to see them all before I go to IGF. Infinifactory and Keep Talking & Nobody Explodes are two of my favorite games at the moment, and I’m just blown away by the fact we get to be right next to them in the nominee list. I would just like to add, though, that Infinifactory is not playing fair: it’s so satisfying to create things that create things—which is exactly why I like to build games—that it’s taking time away from me building content for Kingdom. 😉

What do you think of the current state of the indie scene?

 I really don’t have anything to add to the complicated discussions about the big issues. I hope that we can keep shedding the stereotypes and make crazy new things. So far I met only great people in this “scene” and I look forward to making even more friends. I’ll keep making indie games as long as it’s possible for me to make stuff for an audience that I can identify with, regardless of whether it’ll make me a living.

Don’t forget check out the rest of our Road to the IGF series right here.

Source: Gamasutra

Investors pour $5 million into Marmalade as its CEO steps down

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Investor Bloc Ventures led a recent $5 million round of funding for Marmalade, maker of the Marmalade 2D/3D game engine that drives mobile games like SimCity BuildIt and Godus.

Game developers with an interest in Marmalade’s tech should note this development, as VentureBeat reports the funding will be used to improve the Marmalade engine and market it to more developers.

The same report states that the company is looking to go public. Marmalade CEO Harvey Elliott is stepping down and relinquishing his role as chief to Bloc Ventures managing partner (and longtime fixture on Marmalade’s board of directors) Bruce Beckloff, who will take over as interim CEO.

Source: Gamasutra