A small game, with small animals.

Meet Soul Brother. This is just something I’m working on as a kind of filler (need brightness to break up the darkness of Amnesia)…

It’s done for an imaginary computer that was like a ZX Spectrum, but with a programmable 8 colour palette and no ‘colour-clash’ (the 2 colour per 8×8 tile limit)… although features colour-clash of a whole different kind… behold:



To be released soon!

I got myself a tablet!

Greatly enjoying my new Wacom Bamboo.  It’s white and feels like writing on paper.  You’ll gave to forgive my inexperience with it, though: but anyway, here are a couple of sketches for Amnesia Stories (working title for prequel series.) You can click to enlarge them…

New location...

New location...

Floorman (early sketch)

Floorman (early sketch)

Teaser image…

Here’s a shot of the current state of things.  Been refining the look, and heading in more of a painted direction.

I’m probably going to do this in stages… Perhaps there will be a series of small (freeware) vignettes, each giving a preview of a bigger chapter in the final game, which I’ll make if I feel these are popular enough.

[Click to enlarge]

Either way, after another period of doubt, I’m back at it and more focussed than ever!

A history of Amnesia

This is my ongoing project I first came up with the story for about six years ago.  I’ve tried and failed to make it many different ways before, most of the reasons came down to having an immense amount of assets to produce.

Version 1: BlitzMax Pure Point’n’Click Adenture

I wrote the full engine for this including a windows GUI for the editor and a script language you could enter with code highlighting etc. The problem was animation… I could do a walk cycle fairly well, and render characters out of poser and use Max for the backgrounds, but the animation was beyond me in Max.  Left it to simmer.


Version 2: XNA Survival Horror

After Soundless Mountain II I hoped I could use some of the apparent popularity of it to launch an indie career with a similarly designed game.  I felt I could adapt Amnesia really well to this style. I had a great like-minded artist to work with, Phil Duncan on monsters and environments, and the mighty Dock (Tumbledrop / Sweatdrop Studios) to help out with portraits.  But I didn’t really know where I was going with it at the time, partly because I still hadn’t fully figured out how it could survive as a survival horror but keep the story in-tact.  But again, it wasn’t so much that but the fact that I felt the need at the time still to make it commercial, and that to me meant writing off a lo-res look we initially mocked up like the one above.  

I learnt XNA and then we decided to use 3D models all because I wanted shadows.  This was at the edge of our skills though (Phil & I certainly as Dock was busy with Tumbledrop – and rightly so!)  Phil’s a great 3D modeler, but not yet that experienced with animation. In the end the prospect seemed too daunting, especially combined with other life pressures.  Put on hold again.

Version 3: Lo-Stress, Lo-Fi BlitzMax Hybrid

I’ve begun again.  I can’t help it. I keep coming back to it even though right now I have a really cool game coming on the iPhone that I really have to finish.

Above is a shot of the new tech I’m using for it – a way of applying a sort of 2D dynamic pixel-lighting. It comes out really organic and it feels more ‘magical’ than doing it by bump/normal-mapping, even if it is quite time consuming.  I keep getting effects I don’t quite expect.

Anyway Phil is excited and has already started putting our main baddie into the new format.  I’m excited too! 

The idea this time is to keep it simple, hence going back to the BlitzMax language.  So I’ll be working on it on and off, and I’m just trying not to consider money or anything like that.

Anyway just thought I’d share the story with you guys, I’ll keep you posted on it…  For now, please enjoy this short video of the new lighting in action (it’s a really poor quality video, I’m afraid):

Back to work!

Besides making Rockabilly Head, I’ve allowed myself to have a month or two’s break, while I went through the stressful process of getting my fiancee over from her native Japan with official visas and whatnot, and found a nice new house for the two of us.  It’s been good for me though, as I’ve had a lot of time to think about where I’m going with iLoveWar [far less likely to be the real title now, as the story’s taken shape.]

I’ve finally decided on the balance of gameplay I want to achieve.  When I look at similar-genred games, such as the Advance Wars and Fire Emblem series’ I see them veering either one way or the other – the AW-like chess-style pieces (closer to RTS, really) which are completely chosen by the player, or the FE-like story-based characters, which makes for a far more puzzle-based experience.  FF Tactics seems to go for this too.

I want to somehow combine a strong story with the flexibility and strong ‘building strategy’ of a unit-based game.  I think I’ve finally got there!  Basically, all units will be of one of six classes (two variants of three types), some will be ‘Character’ types and some will be ‘Drone’ (or AW-style) types which are like characters with a low level-cap who all look the same (I have a good way to explain this in the story, too which is important to me.)

Anyway, I’ve got lots of solid design done which I’m keeping in a proper document, with a semi-formal schedule and everything, now that I have the talented miss Selina Dean (from UK manga collective, Sweatdrop Studios) to help me with portraits and background art.

Here’s a mockup with a portrait based on one of her sketches to whet your appetite.  It’s showing our lead character, Mono:

What’s Rockabilly Head all about?

You can download Rockabilly Head here: Rockabilly Head [PC / OSX Download!]

I thought I’d do an analysis of my own game, as it sprung up so quickly I almost didn’t know what it meant*.

* but then i changed my mind.

Meat & potatoes

Hi there,

I’ve been away from the blog for quite a while, mainly due to two months of net downtime (damn you, Tiscali!)

It’s been a busy few months, tinkering on various projects.

My meat and potatoes has been ‘iLoveWar’ an SRPG for iPhone, which hopefully attempts something new within the genre, rather than being a straight-up Advance Wars clone.

It’s played from left to right.  There are two campaigns, one for the Fish People, the other for the Bear People.  You must protect your Queen and get her to the next temple to summon units to aid you in your quest.  It’s about 30-40% done.

So far it’s been an interesting learning process, as I’m new to OpenGL and Objective C.  After a couple of months, I managed to build a pretty solid isometric tile / sprite engine which is actually true 3D, but looks like pixel art (everthing is in half-resolution.)  I feel it adds charm to the game!

Here’s a screenshot of the control system…  It’s fairly intuitive to use so far!

Meanwhile, I’ve finished a very short game this weekend called ‘Rockabilly Head’.  I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a sort of Lynchian nightmare wrapped up as a dancing-adventure-game.  It has four endings, which tell quite different stories, and has many branching dialogue paths, depending on the player’s actions.  There’s also five or six original pieces of music!

You can find it here:
TIGSource Forum Thread

Keep being awesome, people of the world!

Short Update

Just to let you know things are ticking over on Amnesia, but the game has reverted to more of a point’n’click adventure format. For this reason we’re reverting to a different language that’s more friendly to cross-platform PC / OSX. It’s also one I’m much more familiar with. The game’s going to take a long, long time and for that reason it’s on-hold for now, at least in the development sense. This gives me more time to think about the script and puzzles I want to include.

The story is really taking shape though, and it’s the reason I still want to make this game. I’ve also got onboard officially my good friend and co-worker in the games industry, Dock, who is also the founder of Sweatdrop Studios, the leading UK manga company. I’m luck enough to have got him excited about the project which really needed someone skilled in Japanese-style art. As both he and Lord. P Duncan live around the corner we have a good opportunity to keep each other motivated!

For another of my projects, I’ve been working on a sort of rhythm-action-dance-music shoot-’em-up game provisionally called ‘Tempo’. It’s a chance to use some of my history as a drum’n’bass producer, and hopefully will wow and excite! ^-^


Here’s a mockup, but it already looks close to this in-game:


technical stuff

I’m starting to get to grips with XNA, but it’s by no means a walk in the park.  3D-wise, I’ve only really used Ogre and Blitz3D, and only mildly dabbled in shaders in Ogre.  XNA is lower-level than Ogre in most ways, but then again C Sharp is higher level than C++, this means less stress with pointers and free garbage collection, but I have to learn shaders from the ground up, and re-write a lot of Ogre’s functionality.

The good thing is that shaders use the industry standard .x format, none of Ogre’s proprietary stuff to deal with, and I can test things out in RenderMonkey without having to re-code them.  Also, luckily, most of the stuff I want to do has been done already in XNA, shadows and cel-shading in particular, although skeletal animation support is non-existent out of the box and there seems to be little online knowledge about it (although I’m looking into XNAnimation…)

I’ve got the first model by my artist, Lord P.Duncan, and boy is it a beauty (you can see him in the background of the website image.  We call him The Bully.)  I’ve plugged him into the cel-shader and shadow system and he’s looking fine, fine, fine.  The time is not right to post him yet though…

I have the odd cabinet projection working too (think Final Fight perspective), that wasn’t a bit of a headache because I had to re-learn about projection matricies.

The next step is to get skeletal animation up and running, and the overlaying of shadows back onto a 2D image (should be one line in the shader with any luck.)

I’ve also written what may end up being the main musical theme, it’s orchestral, kinda Zelda-ish but dark and foreboding, with only a thread of hope in it.  Look forward to playing it to you guys many moons from now!


what’s Amnesia all about?

Amnesia is a game I’ve wanted to make for ages… It’s in a pre-production phase and has changed from being a classic point’n’click to more of a Survival Horror title, partly due to the fun we had making Soundless Mountain II, and the fact that I now have a great artist to work with, ‘Lord’ P. Duncan.  The story is essential the same as the point’n’click I imagined, though – it’s about a Japanese man called Aruku re-discovering his identity through dreams and nightmares, in a recurring Groundhog day.  Solving puzzles ‘positively’ will give you a piece of a jigsaw puzzle that is white, solving them ‘negatively’ will give you a red puzzle piece.  When the puzzle is assembled you will regain your memory, although the ending depends on the makeup of your physical jigsaw puzzle.  

It deals with the theme of isolation from society so present in modern Japan (I lived in Tokyo until recently.)  In fact we hope to really tackle some issues about modem life with this game, the distance and loneliness people can feel even when surrounded by others.
Visually we’re using what we call a ‘Moving Mosaic’.  This is our tech term for chunky, grainy, dirty hand-drawn pixels with lots of noise and filtering.  As well as this we have dynamic 3D shadows, so the torchlight will be spectacular!  It still is very self-consciously low-res pixel art, but with a modern twist, scaled up 4 times as in SMII – although it is in a higher resolution than SMII and with no colour restrictions.  We’re using 3D cel-shaded characters, with a slightly Prince of Persia feel to the moment.  There will be a lot of ‘being chased’ in the game, and you’ll have to escape this unkillable antagonist time and again by any means necessary, pulling obstacles in his path, cutting rope bridges etc.  Dreams will range from flying to escaping a filthy prison, and that’s all I can give away at the moment!