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Art stuffs October 22, 2009

Posted by Jesse in : Game Development , 3 comments

Three posts in one day? What’s going on here? 😛

A little while back, Nick Gravelyn posted about his experiments into pixel art. As it happens, that’s something that I’ve been messing with lately myself.

Meet Blobby:

Yeah, I know he’s rough. It’s programmer art, but I’m working at it. 🙂

I have two different 70% code complete games just sitting around waiting for art. I can’t afford to hire an artist. (I have a four month old daughter. I’m broke.) So I’ve been doodling alot. I got some art books, and I’ve read countless tutorials. There’s all kinds of neat stuff available online. Check out the demo video for one of the Don Bluth dvds.

I’m probably never going to be an artist. But maybe if I keep at it, I can have good enough programmer art to get the job done while I save up to hire a real artist.

Xbox Indie Platformers

Posted by Jesse in : Game Reviews , add a comment

Anybody who has read this blog knows that I love 2D platformers. I’m also really into fighting games and RPGs, but nothing is better than a good platformer. Lately there’s been an a steady stream of new platformers on the Xbox Indie Games service, and I thought I should take a moment and show a few of them.

Arkedo Series – 01 Jump!
It’s got a strange title, but Jump! is a really fun little retro platformer. There are bombs scattered around, and you have to reach them before the explode. Once you’ve collected them all, a door opens and you can go to the next level. There are no save points or continues if you run out of lives. It’s old school, baby! I really enjoyed this on, and recommend it.

Green Island
This is one of four games uploaded recently by Japanese developer DK Alpha. I don’t read Japanese, so I have no idea what’s going on in the story, but the gameplay is pretty simple. There are objects scattered around the level, and you need to collect them. You can fire out bubbles that you can climb upon. The bubbles only stop when they hit a solid surface, so it’s a puzzle to figure out where to fire the bubbles to get to where you need to go. It gets pretty interesting when your bubbles start getting blown around by fans. I haven’t purchased this one yet, but I’ll probably return to the trial and give it another go at some point.

Ninja Bros
Another one from a Japanese developer. You control (up to) four ninjas at once. If you push left, they all move left. If you push right, they all move right. You can control their jumping independantly, however. Each ninja is assigned one of the face buttons to control his jumping. The jumping feels a bit strange, since you can’t adjust trajectory once you’re in the air. It becomes obvious quickly that it’s necessary because of the puzzle nature of the game, and I got used to it. The goal is pretty simple. Get each ninja to his exit door. However, you’ll sometimes need to have one ninja help another, so the order you exit can be important. It’s a fun little game.

And finally, here’s a early version trailer for a game that’s still in development called Chris Unarmed. The developer tells me the game should be available in around six weeks. It looks fun, and difficult. I’m looking forward to it.

A good month for Being

Posted by Jesse in : Being,Game Development , add a comment

Every few days I still take a look at the sales data for Being to see if anybody is buying it. In the last few months, sales had dropped off to about one sale every day or two. Earlier this month, however, I logged in to find I’d sold nineteen copies on October 11th. I assumed it was some sort of fluke, but then on the 12th another ten copies sold. This left me wondering, “What in the world is going on here?”

I guessed that the game had been reviewed by a magazine or website, and that’s what had driven the traffic, but after much web searching I couldn’t find anything. (Let this be a warning to other developers. Do not use names for your game that are impossible to Google for.) It turns out that Being had been added to the “IGN.com Top Picks” on the Xbox Indie Games section of the 360 dashboard. Sweet! As far as I can tell, there’s no website or blog to go along with their picks, so I just grabbed a shot of the tv with my digital camera to add to my collection of press stuff.

Well, it’s been nearly two weeks since then, and I’m happy to report that Being has seen a tremendous spike in downloads. So far this month, I’m up to 1076 trial downloads, and 137 sales. I’ve almost had as many downloads in the last 11 days as all of the last quarter. Crazy!

The additional downloads have raised the game’s position on the “most popular” charts. Here’s a screenshot I just grabbed from Retronator. (Click the images for a bigger view. The layout of the blog isn’t really suited to wide images, and these versions are pretty hard to read. Sorry.)

Here is a chart I plotted showing Being’s sales stats since launch. There are a few interesting dates to notice. There’s a huge spike around November 21, 2008, which corresponds to the initial launch of the XNA Community Games. The next spike is around July 21, 2009, which is around the time of the rename to Xbox Indie Games, the addition of several new countries, and the price drop to one dollar. And finally, around October 12, 2009, you can see the spike that has me so excited. Whee!

Just for fun, here’s a chart showing the trial downloads. All of the same spikes are visible, but what’s really interesting to me is that the initial spike is so huge it makes everything else look tiny. It’s hard for me to believe that nearly 1400 people downloaded the trial in a single day, but I’ve got the data to prove it. Crazy.

And finally, last quarter’s sales have been tallied, and Being has now earned us over $1000. (That’s after Microsoft’s cut, but before taxes.) That’s pretty amazing for a game that I was expecting to get about 50 sales total.