Games and prototypes by Ciro Continisio

Still thinking about the Global Game Jam

More than a week after the Global Game Jam ended, I am still thinking about it and what a great experience it was. I know that maybe someone, reading this post, may think that this is childish. I can hear them saying: “Haven’t you ever been to a serious event about videogames before??”

Well, no.Actually, to be honest, I’ve been to a couple of conferences, like the IVDC in Milan last year. It was ok, it was interesting now and then, but it was also full of lecturers that were only trying to advertise their company or product, disguising their spot as some lesson or post-mortem.

What I felt at the GGJ in Catania instead, was a real love for videogames: people had gathered there ONLY to make games, to talk about them, to breathe them. No one had commercial interests, and also our chapter (unlike others, I read) didn’t have a competition going on. No winners, no losers, all for fun. And fun is what we had!

I teamed with a couple of guys that I met last year at the above mentioned conference, and we created a small platformer, nothing revolutionary to be honest (you can find it here). We worked well though, and it’s not excluded that we will be working together again.
Moreover, the day after the GGJ I took part in a very funny Micro Jam with another guy in the train back to Naples. The tales of those moments are narrated here. In those 4 hours of creativity, we created a small game, Battery, that will maybe see the light of day in the near future, if I can find a moment to finish it. In the meanwhile, here’s a couple of screens of the graphics:

This improvised Jam concluded my 3 days of sick game development, leaving me wanting for more. Anyway, it’s in these moments that I really feel that games are the right way to thread for me.

Spotlight: David Lanham

David Lanham is a graphic artist that has worked for years in the icon design. He also devoted his life to vectors, it seems. I first discovered his works in 2005 when I was starting to use vector drawing softwares, and since then he became one of my inspirations everytime I find myself in front of an empty Illustrator canvas.
He also made some incredible icons working at the Iconfactory.

But… he’s a graphic artist, what am I talking about? I should let his works speak for him, enjoy! David’s works

Spotlight: Niklas Jansson

Niklas Jansson (no, he’s not the guy above) is a factotum: he draws beautiful concepts, he is a good game designer, and he knows programming too (for what I know). His website, PSG, is not updated anymore, but you can find his latest works (and ramblings) on his blog.
I will always remember him though for his original rendition of old concepts, there’s a lot of them on the site of his company, Android Arts, and they really stand out.

He’s also the guy behind the spectacular pixel art of Cortex Command, which was covered some posts ago. I don’t know how he managed to produce alone all of those pixels, but hey, that’s why I’m mentioning him right now.

Spotlight: Moonloop

This time it’s the turn of Moonloop, a dynamic duo based in south Italy: Giuseppe Navarria and Rosario Milone.
I’ve met them at the IVDC last year in Milan, and beside being very nice guys they also know what it takes to be an indie developer, and they are really focused on the work and know what they’re looking to achieve. Self confidence is ok, but you must admit your limits and, moreover, the limits of the industry you work in (someone said Italy?)

I’ve had the chance to team with them at the recent Global Game Jam in Catania, where we created the game The Secret of Donkey High-hat.

Moonloop’s first big project is a platformer for XboxLive, ZombieDog. The game is still in the early stages, but you can already find the main character adorable, and assess the quality of Moonloop’s work.

Their website may be a little empty at the moment, but if I were you I’d check it regularly because Giuseppe and Rosario are working hard and will publish new materials soon.

The universe of UFHO

Things happening in the UFHO universe are set in a very far galaxy. This galaxy, whose name is Sticky Way, is a conglomeration of stars just like our Milky Way, but its laid out in the form of a hexagon.
In this galaxy exists a great source of power that was created many ages ago by a race now exinct. This power has been sealed inside the Gems, which look exactly like very shiny and bright blueish gems.

The most intelligent living forms in the Sticky Way galaxy are all jelly-like, like the Gooys or the Jeevils. They have learned in time how to harness the power of Gems for their daily use, powering their technology and giving them comfort and power over the other life forms.

In time though the Gems have become more and more rare. There seems to be a shortage of them and all the jelly aliens are setting out from their respective planets to seek for a new source of Gems in the center of the galaxy. It turns out (but they don’t know yet) that the center of the Sticky Way is not a star but a planet, an enormous blue planet called Spacebook. The planet is emanating a lot of energy and this could mean a lot of Gems.

The jelly aliens are leaving their planets in hexagonal-shaped spacecraft called UFHOs (Unidentified Flying Hexagonal Objects). Each UFHO is powered by one Gem, placed in the center of the ship in a hidden location. The UFHO is internally built like a maze, with hexagonal rooms connected by doors.
It’s not uncommon to see aliens board other UFHOs to get hold of the big central Gem that is giving energy to its engine. When this happens, aliens usually engage in a tactical battle to see who is the best at navigating the maze inside the UFHO and get the most Gems before the other party.

Global Game Jam in Catania

As everybody knows already, this weekend a lot of Global Game Jams will be hosted around the world. We didn’t want to miss this funny event, so I went to the nearest chapter in Italy, that is in Catania. Sadly, Francesco (the audio man) couldn’t join me because he was withheld in France for work reasons.

Speaking of the Catania chapter, the nice guys of e-ludo organized the event in the faculty of engineering in Catania. Incredibly, the university’s headmaster agreed in hosting the GGJ. Looking at GGJ experiences in other countries, one would think that this is something to take for granted. Knowing Italy, I think not.

At the time of writing, I’m listening to an XNA conference just before the start of the GGJ. The theme will be given in half an hour, and then we can start working! Wohoo!
The blog will not be updated in the next couple of days, so see you at the end of the GGJ!

Spotlight: Cortex Command

Cortex Command is an awesome game in the works by DataRealms. It’s a 2D scrolling shooter with a very interesting gameplay: you control an army of droids through a remote brain hidden in a bunker. The game is usually a skirmish, although in the campaign sometimes there’s more elaborated tasks to perform. There’s two things I love about this game:

  • The inspired retro-look: the game sports some beautiful pixel art, made by Niklas Jansson (I’ll cover him in another post). Everything is pixel, and everything is destroyable. And when pixel start flying… Mmm…
  • The buy/sell mechanic: things are delivered on rockets from the outer space, and you can even take control of the rockets and use them as explosives to bring the pandemonium to the enemy lines.

Yeah one last thing: the game is HEAVILY moddable, you can create characters, weapons, maps, the AI, campaigns, and program everything to create custom behaviors. I gave the modding a spin, and produced the Lost Boys mod, consisting in a rocket and a character, available on the DataRealms forums.

Cortex Command is far from completion but it had already got some awards, the most notable ones being the Technical Excellence and Audience Award at the IGF2009.
Personally, I bought the game a year ago although it’s really far from being complete. And who cares? It’s already incredible.

Introducing Jeevils

The Jeevils are the nemesis of the Gooys. They are wicked, and they’re only worried about Gems. They want them at all costs but, being cold and deceptive, they never lose their minds and are really focused when they meet a worthy opponent. They are masters when it comes to rotate rooms and areas to get an advantage, but they lack the brains to make a thoughtful use of powerups, like Gooys do. This doesn’t mean they are to be taken lightly.

Their appearance is similar to the Gooys’, but they look more fluid and less compact than their good cousins, and in fact often lose pieces and drops of jelly. They have two very bright eyes, without pupils, and spots on their back. Their usual colors are red, pink, brown, orange, scarlet, fuchsia… and all the variations of red.

Spotlight: Studio Evil

Today I’d like to talk a little bit about a fellow italian studio that has done some interesting things and, most important, has lasted for some years in the italian indie panorama without crumbling.
StudioEvil is based in northern italy, mainly in Bologna, and is composed of 4 members: Marco Di Timoteo, Christian Meneghini, Mosé Bottacini and Antonio Teglia. I had the pleasure of meeting two of them at the Italian Videogame Developers Conference last year, and they are really motivated.

Their best work (for me at least) is a small game called G, a Spacewar ‘relative’ with very interesting mechanics, and it was also nominated among the best 5 games in the XNA Dream Build Play warm-up contest of 2007.

One of the members of StudioEvil also worked on a side project under the umbrella of another company, but since he has put a lot of himself into that game it has to be mentioned… the game is Enua Online, a very good strategy browser game that is astonishing for the cure of details, at least for me because I know the size of the team.

Now the StudioEvil is working on a new, undisclosed project. Who knows this time may be their big hit, I wish them good luck.