Friday, August 26, 2011

Highborn Chapter 3: The Audacity!

It occurred to me today that I was so worried about the blog artwork that I never did a post about Highborn chapter 3: The Audacity, which has been out for iPhone and iPad since late June. I really think it is the best Highborn chapter so far and you'd be a fool to miss it. Remember, Mr. T still pities fools, you wouldn't want Mr. T to pity you, would you?

When brainstorming the backstory Joe, my co-designer and the head of our playtest department, it started with, well Floyd the Arch-Lich has been defeated. Well, what does that mean? We didn’t even get halfway through that sentence when we realized we had hook for chapter 3. You play as Floyd and the forces of Decay as they predictably escape from prison. This also meant interior missions which we thought would be a cool change up. After a round of high-fives, Joe and I set out to plot the missions. We quickly came to the conclusion that the escape from prison plot would start to wear thin very quickly. What would Floyd do once he got out? Would get spend the rest of the missions on the lam or would he have another wild scheme for taking over the world? That is when the second thunderbolt stuck and I realized what the plot would be. He would run for President, which I later changed to Imperial President just to be loopy.

First we needed a new boss. Although we did want to use the old Highborn gang, we didn’t want to make Archie the big bad guy that you had to defeat. We needed somebody that was on the good guy's side, but could still be the bad guy of the story. It took me awhile to figure out who the incumbent Imperial President would be. I have no idea what reminded me of the term “foozle,” which we old-school gamers used to use to describe the generic evil guy you had to defeat in all early role-playing games. Anyway, Foozle became his name he was initially going to be the love interest for Trillian. The reason Floyd was going to run for office was that he had a secret crush on Trillian and was jealous. After awhile I realized we had overdone the lovey-dovey stuff in Chapter 2, so I dropped that storyline. Danny came up with the concept that Foozle was just a punk, emo kid with a big crown, cape and chest full of dubious medals.

Rade had already expressed desire to have a unit that had combat support like the towers and forts, so we created the siege towers. They are basically mobile combat support for your units, though they can still attack like other units.

We also wanted to close out the Enzo and Jessica story with regards to their kids, and I thought it would be great to have Floyd trying to get back home only to have to chase those damn kids of his lawn. This lead to the Worgons, half wizard and half gorgon.

The third new unit came about when we were creating map spells for the Decay Heroes (anti-heroes?). All the Highborn Heroes you’ve played before have had maps spells, Archie can heal all units for 2 points, Trillian can stealth out, Enzo has his Freeze spell that slows down all enemies by one movement point, and even Floyd the Dragon has his Fear spell (which he had even when he was a Decay Hero in chapter one.) Cabus was given a spell to summon Dire Wolves, which means we had to create those as a unit.

Oh, we also set the Horrors on fire which kinda makes them a new unit too, but man the smell is bad.

The other Hero spells are Mind Control for Floyd which allows him to turn any non-hero or mechanical unit into a decay unit. Icky got Sacrifice which allows him to heal like Archie, only the player has to sacrifice the life of another Decay unit to do so. We were a little stuck on iB until I got the bright idea to match the random behavior of his combat spell. iB's map spell is Random which literally randomly casts one of the other hero’s map spells.

There was some initial worry about how we would do interior mission map artwork with our off-set grid, but it wasn’t a problem and Danny’s maps look great! It appears to be really hafd for me to write parody stuff without including more Star Wars jokes. This time we went all out and even drew one level of the highborn dungeons, the kitchen, with Star Wars themed art. It's all Star Wars parody wrapped around Foglio cooking humor; he is trying to cook iB who is in the Princess Leia role. Don't worry, no gold bikini.

This was also about the time Portal 2 came out so we turned the Highborn vault into a portal parody where you go up against MaDOS. Danny really nailed this nailed a retro, steampunk inspired version of the Aperture science labs.

On top of the maps themselves, Brad spearheaded an effort to make new 3D combat backgrounds that match those interior maps like we did for the moon in Chapter 2. He’s right that it would have looked silly to have the outdoor 3D environments when you were indoors, and doing them to match the theme of the map was more than I hoped for.

We always try to do something really cool for the final level and we had several ideas for Chapter 3. We tried to do something where you had to battle the Highborn for delegates to win the election but that didn’t work. We tried one scenario where both sides had nothing but Mad Wizards and Milita without their buildings to spawn from. The idea was to have a giant battle where you had to plan your moves really carefully because all those guys are one-shot kills. That didn’t work either, it just wasn’t fun. I’ll let you play through yourself to see what we went with.

Remember to follow Jet Set Games on Facebook and Twitter for up to the "whenever we remember to post something" news!

P.S. Jet Set Games is not responsible for the numerous grammar and spelling mistakes in the post that I'm too lazy to go back and fix.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Another Small Fix

I've gotten half a dozen comments on my last post via twitter, email and IM and yet not one comment on the post itself. would it kill you guys (and girl) to make a comment on the blog itself and make it look like somebody is actually reading this crap and I'm not just talking to myself!

I found the PSD file for the blog's background last night. I re-fixed it up. The previous fix was me just working on the JPG file. I am still skirting the edge of the overall file size. I had to up the JPG compression and remove the right side bit where I made it wrap, but at 3000 pixels wide I'm not too worried about it.

It is still doing that thing where it is showing half size on the blog when I upload it. I took a picture with the original picture over the top of the webpage so you can see what I'm talking about. It is cropped, but that is the left edge of the picture and the blog. See how the boxes would extend further out at full size. That way the logo, when I eventually create a new one, would tie in better.

I probably have to go into the template code to fix it, but I'm not sure how to do that with these templates. No time to look into now nor to redo the logo graphic, but I at least have a better idea of the color scheme.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Which In-App Things are Players Buying?

Flurry recently posted on their blog about the shift of revenue from paid apps to freemium (free with in-app purchases.) They noted that 65% of all revenue generated among the top 100 games now come from freemimum games.

They then posted that freemium players spend an average of $14 per transaction for in-app purchases.

Their latest post is about what players are actually spending money on based on a year’s worth of data of 57 million purchase transactions across a set of fermium iOS and Android games that averaged over 2 million daily active users.
Their data broke down as follows:
Personalization: 2% - lasting item that has no gameplay benefit and is purely decorative.

Durable: 30% - lasting gameplay benefit such as a piece of armor that your character wears.

Consumable: 68% - non-last benefit such as a health potion that is gone after you use it.

I have a small problem with how they broke this down. I want to see in-game currency and time separated out.

They state in the post that they included in-game currency as a consumable item. A lot of games only sell in-game currency. Players use that in-game currency to buy everything - personal items, durable items, and consumables. How much would that data change if we could see how much of that consumable percent was in-game currency and/or the data adjusted to show durable items and personalization bought with in-game currency?

Second, I also assume they have lumped time in as a consumable. For example in some games you can spend money to speed up tasks. A lot of times this is a a different in-game currency, such as energy, which you can buy separately from your main in-game currency.

Tiny Tower ONLY sells their in-game currency, Tower Bux. You use Tower Bux to move the floors in your tower, speed up the construction of new floors, buy new elevators, paint your floors, speed up sales of items in your stores and move a new tenant into an apartment. You can also convert Tower Bux into coins which you use to buy new floors, stock your items, and customize your tenants. According to the Flurry data, all that is getting counted as the player buying a consumable even though the player is using that consumable to buy durable goods, personalization, time and another currency which he can then use to buy other durable goods, consumable goods and personalization.

Another problem people have pointed out is that durable and personalization items can only be purchased once. Once you have bought a durable item, you have it and probably don't need a second one. Also if you game isn’t social/multiplayer, your players are probably less interested in spending money on personalization, because nobody else is going to see it. I remember reading an article about Farmville during the height of its popularity (which I am not going to spend hours trying to find.) It talked about how the main motivation of players was the perception of what other people might think of their farm when they visited. What percent of player purchases are for personalization in a game where you can show that sort of thing off, as opposed to a non-social game?

In the end I am NOT saying that consumable items that the player will want to keep buying isn’t the big money maker. I am just saying that it isn’t as cut and dry as the chart suggests. I really wish I could see their data based on game type.

Little Blog Fix-up

I did some little fixes on the blog the other night to at least make it readable.

I re-did the background graphic, darkening it to a shade of blue similar to my twitter background. Sometime between putting up the previous background and when I just redid it; it finally starting showing at its actual size. The current background is again NOT displaying full size and I don't know why.

I also changed the text and background colors a bit.

I want to reiterate that I changed the blog on accident. I was just starting to screw around with a new template, seeing what options I had available. I didn't mean to push it live. I am going to start over and do what I meant to do the first time, which is mock the whole thing up in Photoshop first and do a new title logo and everything. I will also do a mobile layout.

Finally, I wanted to post one last picture about the balloon prank. This is what happened to my finger after tying a bunch of balloons. It literally ripped the flesh off my ring finger.

BTW I hate how the preview function doesn't show me exactly how the post will look once it is published. I can never line up pictures the way I want without publishing it and then editing it which I'm sure all the people reading this through RSS feeds or the like must hate.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Balloon Prank at Jet Set Games

Again, blog layout and artwork still broken. Been too busy filling Josh's office with balloons to fix it.

Josh went on vacation and we thought about what we could do to his office while he was gone. There were some really good ideas floated about, the best of which was probably the one where we'd drywall over his door. The problem with that one, besides the cost which would have been totally worth it, is what happens next in that scenario? Think about it, you come in and your office is gone. There is just a wall and no office. What happens next? Sledgehammer? Crawl in over the roof from the next office?

What we decided on was a little more workable, we just decided to fill his office with balloons. Here are some pictures and videos:

1. Rade blowing up some balloons at the beginning.

2. Quarter way filled up.

3. View from outside as Josh is kicking them out of his office.

4. Paul buried in his cube.

5. View from down the hall.

V1. Josh Opening his door.

V2. Closer View of Josh trying to clear out the balloons.

Share and Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Dear Battlefield, "Я не говорю по русскому"

Alright, I know I still haven’t fixed this damn blog’s artwork. Any time I actually have the time lately, I’ve been playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2. A few of us pooled in at work and got our own server, you can find it as “JSG Clan Server” if you want to play with us. It used to be called, “Jet Set Games Clan Server” but the way we are kicking and banning cheaters, we figured we shouldn’t be so open about who we are.

But cheaters though, that is the thing. I found out that when I’m not playing on a server where a bunch of the guys on the other team are using aimbots and wall hacks, I’m actually not bad at the game. I pretty much always rank above 50% and often am right up top. I’ve also come to accept that the medic is overpowered and that is the class to play to rank up.

But I didn’t come here to whine about how cheaters are taking over the servers in Battlefield and that Punkbuster has failed. Instead, I decided to make a little post about voice localization in these types of games. Battlefield, to continue with that game as an example, has excellent background audio. Not only is there the voices of your teammates when they do something, but there is low level background radio chatter as well. It really helps set the mood. These games areset up as the U.S. forces verses some other nationality and at times in multiplayer, you take turns being the attacker and defender so you play both as the U.S. forces and as somebody else.. If you are playing the other nationality, you have the option of playing their voice audio in their original language or localized. I like playing the original language in these cases because, like I said, it really helps set the mood.

The problem is I don’t speak Russian or whatever nationality I’m playing and I need to understand what is being said. The game expects you to play a lot and start to recognize what phrases are associated with what gameplay element, but that takes a long time and isn’t really all that fun. Though, I always find it funny to hear things that aren’t there in the foreign phrases. I could have sworn one of the clips in Battlefield 2 was, “The cost of a sniper, is less than I thought.” Another in Battlefield: Bad Company 2, which I think is a “Ha, I got you message” in Russian, sounds like he’s saying, “Where’s Wolfgang Sally!?”

When you set the voice audio to play in English for the foreign forces, it just plays the U.S. forces audio. But what I would rather see is every language done in the original language and in English with an appropriate accent. I can pretend I am speaking Russian if the radio chatter is in English with a Russian accent. I also think it would be fun to have a nonsense/gibberish English version for the U.S. Forces, so I can play another nationality’s forces and NOT understand what the U.S. forces are saying.

That is my two cents, though I’d pay a quarter if they could figure out a way to remember my localization settings between games. Dice makes some good games, but they really need to work on their user interface.

P.S. I am hoping that if I post more I'll be more motivated to fix the artwork.