Sorry if the website looks weird

Posted on: April 9, 2016 at 3:33 pm,

I’m changing lots of stuff so it might look really bizarro while I do that. Soz

Why Ludum Dare was the best.

Posted on: September 1, 2014 at 2:21 am,

Last weekend I took part in a fairly well known 48 hour game jam called Ludum Dare. I love rapid game development and being challenged by themes and restrictions but have never really had the opportunity to take part until now. It was very fun.

One of my motivations for entering was to try and make something a bit different from my previous games. I was hoping that because LD games have to conform to a ‘theme’ at each event, this forced restriction would make me come up with something totally new and as different from Another Perspective as possible. You might imagine then that the voted theme for Ludum Dare 30 ended up being a little disappointing for me specifically. Having just released a game on Steam about changing characters and perspectives and solving puzzles using multiple connected worlds; I was now faced with quickly coming up with and building a game that must fit the theme of: Connected Worlds.

There’s a lot I could say about the development process for the game I made, what went well, what didn’t, what decisions I made and why, but that’s another story for another time. While the experience of making and finishing a game in 48 hours (while livestreaming the whole thing) was fantastic in its own right, there’s something else about taking part in LD that ensured I will be taking part in as many of these events as I can until the end of time. The community.

Making a game in 48 hours is incredibly hard. A lot of people don’t finish. Almost nobody finishes everything they wanted to build and it can take upwards of 10 hours for some just to settle on a game idea and get going. This is stressful. But for me, all of that stress would always subside just by hanging around the IRC channel. Seeing everyone going through all of the same emotional madness (and also having all the same crazy fun) that I was. Everyone there is a developer taking part. The chat was always filled with an incredible amount of support, camaraderie, advice and common emotional ground to be had. Not only that, but people in the community frequently offer up code libraries, plugins, middleware and amazing tools (such as the totally awesome sfxr) to help other developers taking part.

After the competition ends, games are rated and judged and people can play games and leave comments. Importantly, the games can only be rated by other developers that submitted a game. The result of such a simple rule is something beautiful. I have never in my life seen a more positive, and supportive response to such a large and massively varied collection of amateur creative works. The amount of positive comments, really thoughtful and detailed constructive feedback, and appreciation shown for every developer just for having taken part was absolutely staggering. And the reasons why were obvious. Every single person who plays your game, who leaves a comment, and rates your work was also just faced with the challenge of making a video game in 48 hours. They completely understand the restrictions you faced and they know all too well the challenges, pains and mind melting stress of taking part, and of actually finishing a game.

In an ocean of games where the developers often ran out of time to build feature X, or where the graphics are only half done, levels are broken, glitches are everywhere, tutorials are rushed in or sometimes entirely absent, and difficulty and balance tuning are all over the place; I’ve never seen so many people rush to give positive encouragement. To talk about how cool your idea was, how much they like where the game is heading, and give advice on where the developer could take the game next. It was incredible. It was like some kind of comment utopia where mankind had learned completely what was actually important, useful and awesome about discussing creative works. I’m sure there may have been exceptions but I really didn’t see anything negative, or toxic across all the games I played and rated myself. (And I’m not done playing and rating, there’s been so much cool stuff made and playing these things is awesome and inspiring.)

After a week of very depressing news in the world of video games where comments and social media are concerned; I’m so, so happy to have taken part in something so completely awesome with the exact opposite vibe. Filled with people who love to make games. Filled with people who all want to see one another succeed. Filled with people who don’t care who you are, or where you come from, because they’re only interested in what you create. This is what games should be about. And I could not be more proud to have been a part of such a totally bad ass community.

Another Perspective – Launching on Steam!

Posted on: August 5, 2014 at 2:16 pm,

So a few months ago my game Another Perspective was greenlit on Steam. This week it’s (finally) getting released! I made an exciting new trailer for the Steam launch so that everyone else can be just as excited about all the excitement:

As mentioned in the trailer there’s some new stuff although a lot of it is polish. All of the features from 1.2 like windowed mode, fullscreen and believing in your Dreams™ are ofcourse included along with a few new little things. Some extra levels have been sneaked in with a few little changes and corrections here or there (largely in Mystery mode) and there’s eight fun Steam achievements and a couple of new secrets to find. There’s also localization for a few languages that some cool people volunteered to help me out with. Not all of them will be in the game for release, but they will get added to the game one by one once the game is out.

The game is out on Friday August 8th, 5pm PDT (which is August 9th technically in Europe, so you can buy it when you wake up!) If you’ve already bought the game before you do not need to buy it again. As I’ll be trying to make sure that everyone who has bought the game from my site, desura, itch.io, etc will get a Steam key for the game. If you feel like buying it again anyway though I am definitely not going to stop you.

This is probably the final ‘major’ update to the game as I really want to move on to new projects. I’ve had a bit of a ‘never finished’ disease with this game and even to this day there’s still a lot of ways in which I feel the game is flawed or could be made into something more, but I’m at the point where I’d rather build a whole new, better product from scratch. Rather than keep trying to lift this game up to meet ever increasing standards, because I could do that forever and be just as trapped in a maze of dark clouds, doors, keys, text and bricks as the character is.

I’m very excited about simply releasing something on Steam. It’s a pretty big milestone for me even with so many other titles getting greenlit these days.  We don’t live in an age where ‘out on Steam’ is synonymous with financial success anymore, but thankfully my tutorial content and patreon are starting to free me up to care more about people experiencing the game than people buying it to keep me alive. Which is a pretty cool place to be.

-S

The stuff nobody notices, but is still totally worth it.

Posted on: April 30, 2014 at 6:21 pm,

[spoilers about Another Perspective to follow]

When I made Another Perspective I tried really hard to theme it in a particular way. A lot of the game’s story is about identity. What it means to be a video game character or a ‘fictional’ character in general. That ‘story’ and idea is ofcourse wrapped underneath the mental challenges of a puzzle game, which is the first thing most people playing the game are interested in. I could go into depth about how I came up with the story and what it means to me but that’s a whole article in itself. What I want to talk about here is some of the things I did to try and convey specific ideas and how a lot of them ended up not so much being “mis-interpreted” but simply not interpreted at all.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t see this as some sort of huge failing on my part. Every game and piece of art in general is coated with details that nobody notices or seems to care about. Things that often took a ton of work too.

It’s interesting to me to think about though, because even though it seems from an objective view that some of these things were a waste of time; I still don’t see myself doing the game differently if I went back and made it again*. Because there’s something about adding in dumb stuff that nobody will notice that’s insanely exciting to me. Because every now and again, one person notices and it resonates with them in a powerful way and makes everything completely worth it.

Even if it doesn’t exactly equate to more sales.

That said I want to share some of these things with the people that didn’t notice them. So if you’ve already played the game to it’s completion, here are some fun details you might not have noticed. If you haven’t, don’t spoil yourself! Or do. Up to you really.

[SPOILERS START HERE]

Theres a few other things too, but you get the idea. A lot of the stuff I’m actually most proud of in this game is the stuff nobody ever particularly notices. Which is a very strange way of thinking and I’m not sure is one that is conducive to me ever making a profit. Haha.

OH WELL. VIDEO GAMES.

*Actually there’s a lot I’d do differently, but not in the sense of “not doing stuff like this” rather than making it more visible and drawing more attention to it.

**Except when you fall out of the screen or restart the level.

***Every level had to have the player start where he left the last level. This made it really hard to move the order of levels around whenever I wanted which was a big pain. It also made it hard to create certain styles or themes of level wherever I wanted. I had to get creative a lot of the time. Levels often end with big pits/falls before the door, or big climbs/stairways. This is often done just to set up the next level.

Another Perspective PC launch!

Posted on: November 8, 2013 at 7:22 pm,

It’s out! It’s out! Finally releasing Another Perspective into the wild. You can learn more about the game on it’s official launch page. Then if you are so inclined you can choose to purchase it for the price of five american dollars. You can even purchase the game right here in this blog post! Does technology know no bounds!?


If you have any technical issues with the game feel free to contact me at shaun.spalding@gmail.com and I will do my best to help out. If you are press and would like to know lots of useful information about the game or request a press copy among other exciting things, visit my presskit page!

What’s a ‘Gamer’?

Posted on: September 26, 2013 at 3:03 pm,

I feel like the vast majority of this is stating-the-obvious stuff. But I think sometimes words change without people realizing it and it’s time we all tried to get on the same page.

Being involved in games tends to mean a lot of reading and hearing about the word ‘gamer’ in a near infinite number of different contexts. More recently however, I’ve been reading and hearing a lot of different opinions and stances on the word gamer itself. Or the collective that they imagine ‘gamers’ to be.

The problem is that the only useful, established and well understood meaning of the word ‘gamer’ (being someone who plays games) has become one of the most useless ways of describing a person there is. The people that fall into the category of “playing games” is so vast and huge that it’s barely any more useful than the category of people who “watch films” or “listen to music”. There’s next to nothing you can learn about a person when you’re told they play games.

So when I hear opinions like “I really dislike modern gamers”, “I don’t think of myself as a gamer anymore these days”, “such and such is not a real gamer” or “this and that is designed for gamers” I’m always left trying to work out who it is you’re actually talking about. What does being a gamer entail to these people? Because their opinion on “all people who play video games, ever” is almost never what these people are actually trying to express.

You could say something like “Well when I say gamer, I’m talking about people who are really invested in video games, are big fans and play all kinds of video games.” but not only is such a description really vague and subjective, (what counts as qualifying for ‘true gamer’ status is as ill defined and full of one-upmanship as the hypothetical contest for being a ‘true star trek fan’) but the culture you’re describing won’t match up to someone else’s vision of the word. You’re going to cause misunderstandings.

Sure I could (and probably would) say this about any noun that tries to describe a collective of people united under some kind of vague or widely interpreted culture. Like trying to define religious or political groups. But ‘enjoyment of video games’ has grown so widespread that the problem has gotten a little bit ridiculous, and it’s because it’s grown so much that the problem came to be. Ten years ago, if two people were ‘gamers’ in the sense that they enjoyed playing video games at all, then it was much easier to say for sure that they had some kind of shared interest. The number of games, genres and platforms that existed were relatively small, gaming wasn’t as accessible, or as accepted. It was a niche for nerds, who would sometimes feel forced to hide their interest in games from others. Back when in-joke stuff like this was being released. (and was awesome! shout outs to everyone from the Pure Pwnage era, you are totally My People.)

But ‘gaming’ isn’t really like that at all anymore. Sure this subculture still exists but it’s no longer useful or intuitive to describe it with the word gamer by itself. The problem stems from the fact that It didn’t use to be a subculture, it was the culture full stop. But now it isn’t. And that’s not a bad thing. It feels absolutely awesome to have been a part of something that has grown so massively and quickly. To have witnessed a niche grow, change, spread and evolve into worldwide appeal and to be able to continue to watch and help it to grow further today. We have league of legends tournaments being shown in bars now! We have arrived. But this community is now far too large and all encompassingly fantastic to be sweepingly described anymore. Having an “opinion on gamers” is like having an opinion on “people who go to the cinema”, “blue eyed people” or “women”. My own brand of “interest in games” is worlds apart from the next person who has one. The medium is just too enormous. There’s no need for me to try and safeguard the word gamer as if it’s somehow vital for the “protection” of my old-school gaming subculture.

These days if I tell someone I’m into games and they respond that they like games too I feel a little bit like we both just told one another that we liked listening to music. Sure there’s potentially shared interests, especially from my position as a game designer. But you’d have tell one another what bands/games you liked for the information to actually be useful.

So who are you talking about when you say gamer? What do you mean when you say that you are/aren’t one or when you say what you think of them? Try and think if there’s a better word to describe what you’re trying to express because you’re all confusing the life out of me.

“RPG Fans annoy the crap out of me” “I love the Fighting Game community!” “the 18-24 year old major console demographic gets on my nerves” are all sweeping statements but at least I have some place to start when it comes to understanding your opinion. Narrowing down from “I think X about everyone alive today playing games.” is more than a little bit impossible. There’s no single word noun for someone who likes music (A ‘listener’?) so why do we still need one for games. It’s useless.

These days I tell people that I’m really into computer game design/game mechanics. This tends to be the best way to express that I have some level of professional interest in more or less everything across all genres and have a big history with games. I would agree to being a ‘gamer’ if asked but it wouldn’t tell you anything about me or my interests. And I certainly wouldn’t answer what I thought of “gamers” or even “gaming culture” without having to ask who or what you were talking about.

I won!

Posted on: September 4, 2013 at 3:50 pm,

Those of you connected to me through some form of social media will have probably noticed by now that I won a competition and it’s some sort of big deal. So here’s the well overdue blog post about it and then I can get back to work!

won

Another Perspective, the remake of my 2011 game Perspective won the YoYo Games Win Big competition taking both the “Best New Game” award and first prize overall. This is really pretty awesome and I am super happy and totally mind blown by the result.

Another Perspective is a puzzle platform game with the very same concepts and ideas as Perspective. These concepts have then been taken further, mechanics and controls have been revamped and the game itself is of much higher quality overall. I was never happy with a lot of stuff that went into the first game and have wanted to remake Perspective for a very long time. So it’s fantastic to see that this work has paid off and the game is already doing well.

The game is actually only released on the Windows 8 store right now, I have not done anything to market the game although the competition win by itself has increased interest. I had to release the game on the store for the purposes of the competition, and planned to release the game on Windows 7 and Android immediately after the contest was over. However in light of the winning result I am adding further polish, content and tweaks to the game to prepare for a  super polished final Windows 7 release sometime in late October (I hope!). The android release will probably come some time after this but hopefully before Christmas.

In the mean time I’m going to be trying to actually market the game alongside development. Expect to hear lots more about it on the ramp up to the Windows 7 release!

For those who don’t know, I’ve been working as a game designer at Ubisoft Reflections for the past 2 years, however my contract there is coming to an end in October. While I’ve loved working with Reflections, I think most people who know me would agree that I’m an ‘indie developer at heart’. My plan has always been to try and strike out on my own and try to earn a living working on my own projects. The prize money from this competition has essentially funded me to do just that. This is why winning this competition is such a life changing moment for me, and I really could not be happier. I have the very real opportunity to just do what I love and I couldn’t be more thankful for it.

-S

Street Fighter Identity Crisis

Posted on: August 8, 2013 at 4:56 pm,

For the few who don’t know, I’m a big fan of Street Fighter 4, and fighting games in general this past few years. While it’s been a while since I’ve seriously practiced the game and really competed at my best it’s something I’ve been wanting to get back into.

I run and manage tournaments/events in the north east including Teesports, the major event I ran in 2012. We have a lot of people coming up for Teesports 2 and I’m very excited for it. Not only that, but I’m excited to start travelling out to more tournaments again and making another serious attempt to compete.

That said, most players that know me know of the tragic love-hate relationship I have with my ‘Main Character’ in Street Fighter 4, Blanka. Jimmy from the Jungle.

Now the misunderstood green jungle monster appeals to me no end. But the character by design has always had problems.

Blanka extensively crushes the weaker characters in the game. The characters that have holes and weaknesses to exploit are often very exploitable by Blanka. This includes T-hawk, Deejay and Gouken. Some of Jimmy’s strongest matches, where he has very clear advantages.

The problem comes from the characters who just play the game well. The characters with mechanics that exploit the system to its greatest potential. Or even just characters that have solid defensive games. These characters are the ones that make Blanka’s defensive and offensive flaws very obvious and that expose the character’s lack of real strengths when not given some kind of weakness to exploit. This includes characters like Seth, Cammy and Fei Long. Along with some of the defensive stalwarts like Honda and Balrog, who can merely play Blanka’s defensive game much better than he does, while also having safer offensive options.

As you might expect this causes quite a dilemma for the tournament player. The character excels at defeating the underused, lower tier characters in the game, and has decent match ups against most of the mid-range cast. But he is comprehensively crushed by the strongest characters in the game, the characters you need to be able to fight in a tournament. The problem is exasperated by the fact that Blanka has so many ‘extreme’ match ups. While most characters deal with 6-4s and 4-6s at worst, Blanka boasts the highest number of 7-3 and 3-7 match-ups out of any character in the game. This to me is a big indicator of inherently poor character design. He struggles to fit well into the game alongside the rest of the cast and either dominates or is dominated by a number of characters. It’s not as bad as I might be making it sound, but only with respect to the fact that the game on the whole is reasonably well balanced. Blanka however, feels like one of the worst designed characters in the cast from a tournament perspective.

I can’t claim to play the character to his maximum potential, but I am confident in my knowledge about the character and his options versus the rest of the cast. I know what I would need to improve about my game in order to perform better, but it’s the views I hold like the above which lead me to see Blanka’s potential as inherently limited. His role to me seems more and more as that of a ‘counter pick’ style character, that needs to be paired with a solid alt character in order for the player to succeed.

The question is who.

I’ve been playing a vast number of characters lately in an attempt to find someone that I might perform better with in the long run. While I don’t believe Blanka is the biggest problem in my play, I believe he is a significant long term problem that will only hinder me in the future. While there is a new version of SF4 in the works, I feel that Blanka’s core design will always inherently lend itself towards these kind of extreme match ups, and I want to offset this with someone more well rounded.

Here are the characters that after some time, currently sit at the top of my list as alts or replacements for Blanka.

Honda
Honda is seen by many as “Blanka done right.” and they’re not far off with that idea. He has great damage and a strong ground game often dominated by a single button. Cr.lp. All of his specials can be seen as stronger variants of Blanka’s tools, but in exchange he gives up the strong anti-fireball game that Blanka has. Honda feels like he could be a very strong replacement for Blanka but perhaps less suitable as a paired alt. Honda’s wake up game and reliance on charge gives him similar weaknesses to Blanka in important match-ups. But his similarity to Blanka with generally more well rounded and useful tools make him first in the running if I want to do away with Jimmy entirely.

Fei Long
Fei is a fundamentals monster and probably one of the most solid and ‘complete’ characters in the whole game. His buttons are great, his damage is great, Fei is great. No reliance on charge, a solid fadc-able reversal, decent match up against almost anyone in the cast, great normals and versatile specials make him an awesome choice for almost anybody. I would have a lot of execution to master if I wanted to pick up this character seriously though, including un-plinkable one framers. I also know a very strong Fei player that grinds me into dust on a regular basis. But while this might bias me into thinking Fei is the answer to everything, it’s hard to argue against his strength as a character.

Rose
Rose is a solid character whose great normals and strong anti-fireball game fits my playstyle really well. Her main weakness is already confirmed to have been addressed in USF4, which is the lack of full invincibility on EX Spiral. This alongside additional buffs makes picking up Rose seem like a very good long term investment. For the most part Rose has fairly easy combos and decent damage, but it’s normals like c.hp, cl.mk, and cr.mp that are most attractive. Having an airborne close normal which hops crouch techs like cl.mk is especially attractive. Rose has incredibly well designed normals and she’s straightforward to pick up and learn.

Ryu
The stalwart choice himself. Never really out of any match. And is good at more or less everything. There are no glaring holes in Ryu’s character design and that would certainly be a refreshing change. Ryu has all of the tools he needs to win pretty much any match-up, not the least of which is a three frame dragon punch. Being able to use your reversal anywhere on screen, without charge, as an almost infallible anti-air, to beat standard safe jumps, to land ultra and make it completely safe by spending bar is a totally alien concept to me. When I play Ryu I dragon punch or try to dragon punch almost anything I can think of out of sheer amazement at its versatility and strength as a move. Ryu will always be a solid character choice for anyone, anywhere.

Blanka
There are of course advantages to hanging on to Jimmy if only as an alt at least. I haven’t by any means played this character the best he can be played, and his underuse in the game, paired with nuances like his odd crouching hitbox and delayed wake up timing often give me competitive advantages over those who haven’t prepared for the match-up. The problem is this is kind of a temporary meta-game advantage that doesn’t help me as a player in the long run. As I said though, the character dominates some of the other underused characters in the game which makes having a solid Blanka a great option for dealing with these characters that I might otherwise be less familiar with. Having a powerful answer to wild cards like Deejay, Hawk, and Gouken is still a valuable resource, and blanka still contends very well against a lot of the middle tier.

Ultimately, all things considered it’s unlikely I’ll drop Blanka completely. But I seriously see it as in my interest to change main. I’ve never ultimately done this since SF4s release despite considering and claiming to swap to almost a dozen different characters.

Who knows what I’ll do, but I know for sure, Blanka will almost certainly never be solid. He’s just not designed that way.

-S

Two Months Later

Posted on: August 7, 2013 at 4:34 pm,

It’s been a long time since I posted anything, but not without good reason. A lot has gone on these past couple of months! More than I can really deal with in one blog post but I’ll try and summarize. First of all, I’m fully entered for the WinBig competition and I couldn’t really be happier about that. There were a lot of hurdles, certainly not the least of which was balancing dev time with a full time job.

I changed my original plan of developing a brand new game, to finally getting around to finishing the remake of Perspective. I’ve long felt that Perspective’s mechanics were only half explored, and that there was so much more I could do with the game that I never had the time, insight or skill to create back in early 2011.

So thus I’ve created Another Perspective.

Another Perspective

I promised myself a number of times I would never call the sequel something stupid like that, but it just turned out to be the best name. ‘Perspective 2’ didn’t really fit with what I considered a remake rather than a direct sequel, and as much as I wanted to avoid further confusion with a certain Digipen student game; “Perspective” was still the best word that summed up everything the game was about. And so, Another Perspective was born.

To be brief, it’s a complete remake of Perspective. A new story, more puzzles, more mechanics, better controls, better artwork (largely courtesy of Hannah Pretswell) better everything.

Working on this thing has totally thrown off my youtube videos. I haven’t put out any new content for 2 months, yet viewers and subscribers are still growing strong strangely enough. I’ll be looking to get back to those asap. Along with actually updating this blog.

Another Perspective is submitted for the competition, but isn’t directly released on Windows 7 and below just yet. I’ll be working towards that this month. More information about the game will be coming via this blog in the upcoming days.

-S

Game Maker: Studio – Windows 8 Competition

Posted on: May 9, 2013 at 6:19 pm,

The past couple of months have been pretty dry for me in terms of doing new stuff. I’ve been making videos, but often missing my release schedule and generally not getting enough done outside of work. My day job is starting to get more taxing and it’s increasingly difficult to come home still motivated to work. This is the advantage of starting this kind of work early, in school or university where you have more free time than you know what to do with. If you’re trying to establish yourself independently while still needing the income support of a tiring day job it takes a tremendous amount of self motivation to be successful. When you commit an evening to independent work you’ve committed a whole day to work. It’s pretty unhealthy to never have that regular space available to relax, socialize and so on but where I’m at right now it’s still the strongest way to see results. Just not the easiest. Luckily what I do is pretty fun, or I’d basically have no chance at all.

So I saw this yesterday. Exciting stuff. I’m in. My last foray into a game dev contest ended with an unfinished game and a deep sense of self-disappointment. This time I’ve adjusted for my mistakes and will hopefully do a lot better. The conditions are generally more favourable. (It’s not Christmas, for a start.)

I have about 50 days to go from nothing, to approved on the windows store. I’ve worked out a brief schedule of how I’m going to do this. Technically I’m not starting from nothing, I’m picking up from the work I did on my December 2012 Steam contest entry that was never finished. I’ve reworked the design into something I’m confident can be completed to a quality bar I’m happy with in the time I have and all that remains is to build it.

I’ll be keeping a bit of a devblog here about the game’s progress, and putting a lot of other things in my life on hold to try and make the best of this entry. I’m really out to do well in this thing so it’s going to get all of my attention. I’ll also be trying to live stream some development of the game from my twitch channel.

That said I’ll still be trying to put out tutorial content over the coming weeks because I don’t want to risk the channel losing momentum. But other than that I’m really just going to be putting all my time and resources into this project.

Wish me luck!