Games and prototypes by Ciro Continisio

Splash Clash post mortem (GGJ 2017)

(This is a repost of an article I made for the Unity blog, which can be found here)

Global Game Jam 2017 recently ended. It was a mad weekend where 36,000 game makers gathered in more than 700 venues around the world, and made 7000 games based on a common theme: “Waves”.

Instead of organising in Rome, this year I flew to Prague and made a game with a graphic artist named Jana Kilianová. Our game is called Splash Clash, and it’s a 2-player brawler on a tiny island, where two pixel characters jump to produce waves and bump each other out. This final concept is just one of the many we got during brainstorming: for instance, we toyed for a while with the idea of having players produce waves by making a sound in the microphone, but after some experiments we settled for this one – the one that seemed achievable in 48 hours.

Read the rest of this post on the Unity blog

Demium Games and their “selection game jams”

 

Final presentations

I’ve known the guys behind Demium Games – namely Alejandro Miralles and Carlos Garcia – since when they summoned me to their office for a mysterious interview at the end of 2014. They were asking a few game developers about their view of the market, about their expectations of a game incubator, and in general for advice.

A few months later, they setup Demium Games, a game incubator that had to be for game developers what Demium Startups was, in a more general way, for start-ups in Valencia. They wanted to foster the creation of small teams of aspiring and promising game developers, and help them to develop and market their first game.

It sounds crazy and in many ways it is, since the developers have little development experience (and also because today’s market is harsh!) but I really like the job that these guys are doing and the contribution to the local development scene. Thanks to the office space, coordination, advice and network of contacts, the teams hosted inside Demium Games have much better chances than just a team of students who just came out of school.

AllStartup Games

Alejandro and Carlos organized, together with the Demium Startups team, the first game jam in fall 2015. The event, named AllStartup Games (the name coming from the similar “All Startup” event, already tested 8 times inside Demium Startups) is a game jam that aims at selecting a batch of game developers to enter the Demium Games incubator.

The AllStartup Games starts with a call for participation, and the prospective jammers are interviewed to check that they really have what it takes to join Demium. In the first two editions around 25 jammers made it through this first screening.

Speed Networking
Speed networking

Once the event starts, the jammers initially play meet and greet activities such as the typical ball-passing exercise and later a round of speed networking. They get to know each other a little bit, and then they voice their preferences on who they’d like to be their team-mate during the jam via a custom-built mobile app.

The ball exercise
The ball passing exercise

The Demium guys then organise the jammers into teams of 3-4, typically while the mentors (me, Luis “Ludipe” Diaz Peralta and Juanma Moreno) give a brief speech on game jams and what to expect from this one in particular.

At this point, the theme is revealed and the boys start working. They would do so for the next 40-42 hours more or less, only briefly interrupted by a couple of interesting speeches (this year one by José Arcas, and others).

The “Destroyer Feedback”

Starting from Saturday afternoon, there are two sessions of what the Demium guys call the Destroyer Feedback.

First, the mentors go around the tables to see how the teams are progressing and what’s the state of the game. Then, the teams take turns and come into another room where, in front of all the mentors and the Demium people, they explain again their game and receive feedback.

Jose Raluy and Julio Braceli
Taking notes during the Destroyer Feedback

This feedback is quite hard (read, candid/honest) and usually the jammers are taken aback by it. After that, mentors discuss briefly in private and note what they did/didn’t like about individual members of the team.

What the jammers usually don’t see until the end (even if I did mention it during the pre-jam speech!) is that this whole process is not intended to have them make the next hit during the jam, but it’s more about the process, the teamwork, the ability to receive feedback and improve on it.

This feedback is a very important part of the jam, something which can be important experience hopefully even for the ones who eventually are not selected.

Thankfully, the Demium guys are usually good (I’m not!) in seeing through the confusing layer of performance anxiety that the jammer display, to assess who is a good developer and a good team-player, worthy of going to the next step and join the Demium Games incubator. This year, out of the 20 people who participated they selected more than half of the jammers to form teams aimed at creating mobile games.

At the end of the day

As I write this, a new batch of developers is entering Demium Games and is getting ready to create their first commercial game, with the guidance, marketing, and advice on metrics by the Demium team. They’ll be working alongside the teams who are already in:

  • A team of two, Enzo and Borja, who are outputting a small free game every two weeks as Mr. Melon Games
  • Miguel as designer of the team Iter Games, who all come from the previous AllStartup Games, working on an unannounced game
  • The programmer Cristina, who lost her graphic artist but will be joined by a couple of the “new recruits”

In 3 days I’ll be giving a talk to the newbies to get them up to speed with Unity and Git, so even graphic artists and designers can collaborate and share assets with no friction. Every Friday, they hold playtesting sessions open for everybody to join – as a player or as a developer who wants to show their game.

The game industry and developer community in Spain is still lagging behind (just like in Italy), and it can really benefit from initiatives like Demium Games and the AllStartup Games. I’ve been following these guys very closely and I hope they will succeed in launching a successful game in the near future.

If you’re in Madrid, get in touch with them, go visit their incubator and check the game that they are developing!

Jammers Don’t Use Drugs

This weekend is Ludum Dare #33 but as much as I wanted to take part, I couldn’t really get inspired by the theme “You Are the Monster” (not to mention that 4 LDs ago the theme was “You Are the Villain”… imagination much?).

But I definitely got inspired by this tweet where a mythical beverage by Luis Díaz Peralta is mentioned. You see, for us in GMT+1 Ludum Dare started at 3 am, and many people around Europe decided to skip the night of sleep, and actually get to work immediately. Personally, after more than 20 jams, I’ve decided to take it easy and not to “jump into the jam whatever time it is”, but let things take their natural course. My plan would have been: go to sleep relatively early, wake up around 8 am, read the theme, shower, get breakfast and start brainstorming.

So I came up with this:

It’s a silly modification of the famous graphic that appeared in the 80’s arcade cabinets before games, where the FBI prompted young gamers not to use drugs. I don’t want to syndicate on people use of drugs, but if you’re going to jam, don’t use “drugs” (and by drugs I include coffee too) to keep you awake when you shouldn’t be: trust me, your productivity will be greatly enhanced.

The Indie Speed Run is looming on us!

Just a quick blog post to tell you all that next week, I’m going to participate in the Indie Speed Run with two of the top-tier backers for UFHO2!

The original text of the reward description (among other things):

[…] we’ll have a brainstorming about a small game which then we will develop with your creative help.

As a part of their rewards, in fact, the backers of this tier were supposed to be able to brainstorm and create a game with me. We will use the Indie Speed Run as an excuse to do it, and to do it fast!

I’ll work with Bill, a musician turned web developer with years of experience, who’ll take a coding role – collaborating with me on Github. Nathan will join us, but since he’s very very busy with a day job in the game industry he will probably only be able to chime in for the concept part.
Here’s our team, Team Peach Pie (in honor of Bill, who’s from Ontario) follows my naming convention for jam teams, like GGJ 2010’s Team Focaccia or last year’s ISR’s Team Pastiera.

So, follow us on Twitter @ccontinisio and (if Bill feels about using it) @estrategylab, or on Tiny Colossus’ FB page. We’ll start around 23 GMT on monday, which will be midnight here in Rome and between 14 and 18 in Bill and Nathan’s timezones. Crazy!

New Alpha and IGF Submission

Submissions to the IGF 2013 are now closed, and we sent UFHO2 as an entry in the closing hours (so much near the end that we didn’t even receive the confirmation email :P).
The build we sent is also the new alpha version that I’m going to send to our backers of the campaign this evening, both on the iOS and desktop platforms.

Additions:– Tutorial!! An interactive and complete tutorial on the basics of the game.
– Voices for all the characters
– All the characters are unlocked
– AI is really though now, uses powerups LIKE A BOSS
– New improved Gem apparition, now 99% fair
– Posters on the walls in the main menu with references to our friend games (i.e. the ones where guest characters come from) – Can you spot them all 6?
– Minor improvements here and there, and also somewhere else

Also, on a side note, this morning the good folks at IndieDB/ModDB/Desura launched SlideDB, a new sister site specifically for touch/mobile games. And guess what, UFHO2 was 2nd in popularity right after his highness the Holy Minecraft! Cool!
(we’re third now, but well…)

So check your inboxes people, because UFHO2 is coming!

Bledge is complete!

The first LUNARCADE Factory event (read “game jam”) is over, and so is the game I made for it. Actually I went a bit over the limit, and the night I completed the game I stayed up until 5 AM just to put a final word on it. It didn’t come out too bad, to be honest!

The music is from the always good Francesco D’Andrea.

Bledge is in fact ready and downloadable from the event website! You can play it on the web (it’s a Flash game after all), or download it for PC or Mac (the Mac one has a cool icon :P).

      

      
(click on the images to see them bigger!)

Oh, and check the other games too! There were a total of 11 entries, which is not bad at all considered the “localized” soul of the event. It was an exciting experience all in all, and cool to interact from home with the guys at the jam.
Try also Cathode Rays, Codardo Bastardo, Line Avalanche, Sky Limit (by Santa Ragione themselves), SPIIIIILIIIIINE… to name a few… well do something, try them all! 🙂

Bledge and the LUNARCADE

I want to give you a preview of a small game I’m creating for the LUNARCADE game jam that is going on these days in Milan, organized by the always active guys of Santa Ragione and Cranio Creations.
The theme of the jam is LINEE (“lines”) and, unlike other jams, people had the opportunity to participate from home. Since I didn’t want to go all the way to Milan -> €€€ (although now that I see the streaming I really wish I had gone) I decided to take part from here in Madrid.

Bledge is basically a two player oblique Snake game, where each player has to guide a small spaceship and make the other one crash on his trail (tail?). Trails are made of three colors, variations in brightness of the same hue, and there’s a reason for this: the tricky part is that the other player crashes only if he crosses the trail on its dark side, otherwise he just passes over it.
Each player can always pass over (and overwrite) his own trail, so he doesn’t really need to bother about it (this is different from all the other Snake/Tron games).

Apart from that there’s two “special moves” to spice the game and create a bit of strategy: one is a boost that lets a player cover two tiles in one move, and the other is a spin of his spaceship which inverts the orientation of his trail (say, if the black side was on top now it’s facing down), so he can trap the opponent.
The special moves cost energy which can be gathered by picking up some powerups on the stage.
Simple as that.

Let’s see if I can finish the game by tomorrow at a decent hour, the guys at the jam will put it there to be played by all the bystanders if I make it in time. I’m so slow! 😀

Some links for the jam:
The threads for the jam on TIGsource and Indievault.it (There’s 19 concepts so far!! Although not all will be brought to completion…).
The live feed of the jam (when it’s on, don’t forget it’s italian hours, so GMT+1). There’s also a chat, although we usually dwell in the Indievault chat.

Global Game Jam 2011

Recently I found this nice blog post from William Dyce about the Global Game Jam. The lessons he claims to have learned are really useful, and it was nice of him to share them.
I will instead just post a recap and some impressions on the whole event. With photos.

Last week I went back to Verona, Italy (from Spain where I am at the moment) to attend the Global Game Jam 2011. I could have done it here, since there was a venue at the Universidad Complutense, but the occasion in Verona was much too interesting to lose it.

The fact is that Federico Fasce of Urustar is reorganizing the italian chapter of the IGDA, and he scheduled a meeting just before the GGJ, thanks to the University of Verona that granted a conference room.

The meeting was nice although a bit confused (some people didn’t really know what the IGDA chapter was about), and it was followed by some really cool speeches by people such as Federico himself, Paolo Pedercini of Molleindustria (in video form), the guys from Vae Victis, the guys from Darkwave Games, Paolo Tajè of BloodyMonkey, Bernardo Antonioni of Activision, Francesco Banterle, Vincenzo Lettera of Indievault, and many others.
Paolo Pedercini’s video, much discussed, was nonetheless very interesting. Most of all, I felt it was a very sincere contribution from Paolo to the meeting. This is the video (in italian):
Matteo Bittanti, a videogame scholar, translated the video for the ones who are interested (although seeing the video has an entirely different effect).
After the meeting/conference, we had the Global Game Jam (starting friday in the afternoon). After some confusion in group creation, I ended up with the aforementioned Paolo Tajè and the two guys from Santa Ragione (the creators of Fotonica), Pietro Righi Riva and Nicolò Tedeschi. I happened to join them almost by chance, but honestly, it couldn’t have been better.
For one, I didn’t have to program: Paolo and Pietro handled all the coding work with Unity (cool, my first non-Flash game!). They did a good job, the game as it was presented at the end of the jam didn’t have any serious bug.The Game Jam was an extraordinary experience. The atmosphere in the corridors, despite the people being destroyed by the 48h effort, was tangible. Everybody worked really hard, and the quality of the games in the end was generally high. There were cool ideas such as in “Survival Jam”, a game that used flocking algorithms to simulate some predator-prey relationships. Cool.
Worth mentioning were also “The Last Birthday on Earth” by Urustar and Leonardo Amigoni, which used the microphone to blow out candles on a cake, and “Happy End”, which used both webcam and microphone for interaction.

For our game, we came up with a simple idea in terms of gameplay, but we really faced no limits in coming up with the theme of the game. The premise is that some crazy priests are trying to take control of the Earth and perform some birth-increasing actions, like impeding people from using contraceptives, producing holes in condoms and stuff like that. On the other side, the gay people (called “Joy Empire” in our game because of some image that Paolo found) from outer space are trying to convert the cities to their cause.
The game is a one-button two-players game, and the only purpose of the controls is to fire.
Both sides fire with a cannon (the priests from the center of the Earth, the Joy Empire from a satellite orbiting around the planet) to the cities, and they are always aiming to the same point at the same time, so sometimes the projectiles may arrive together to the desired city. When this happens, the game enters a very short button-mashing minigame to resolve the tie.
When the priests conquer a city, the population goes up. Viceversa for the Joy Empire.
You can download the game from the GGJ website here.
Being the theme of the jam “Extinction”, I liked the idea that if the priests won the struggle, humanity would become extinct because of overpopulation. At the same time, if the gay side wins, humanity becomes extinct because no one is left on the planet.
This way, the only way for humans to survive is actually to have the players still play, but this – alas – doesn’t happen for very long.
A very personal side note: I always felt “Clergymen” has no real social critique intent, the introduction of priests and gays was a product of our wicked minds and of the fast brainstorming made at the beginning of the jam, and we took the images in the game to the extreme just for the sake of fun. If anybody is offended by the game, I apologize, but really nothing was meant to be a judgement on clergymen or gay people.
This time, it’s just a game 😀
There is so much more to say about the game jam and the meeting… in the meantime, you can take a look at the photos here.
Enjoy folks, and viva la Global Game Jam!

UFHO2 at the No More Sweden 2010

After rumors of my presentation being lost because the streaming was interrupted (with cries of people from Italy calling for an international scandal), it turns out that someone really captured my presentation (and others) on tape. I guess I have to thank Jeb from Oxeye Games!

Here we go: