Blar

July 27th, 2011

I recently stumbled upon NewsBlur, a fancy web based RSS reader, and I liked it so much that I sat down and made an Android app for it in under two days. You can get the app here.

Designing a City-Building Game

March 8th, 2011

Little Tuduhe collecting some rock in TropicalRocket.

 

For a little over a month now, we’ve been working hard on our latest project. It’s a city-building/RTS game, not entirely unlike Dwarf Fortress or Stronghold. I’m quite inspired by these games.

Not the friendliest looking game, eh?

 

Dwarf Fortress, for example, can provide some truly amazing entertainment. It’s incredibly deep and perhaps one of the most interesting games I’ve come across. Only a game with systems this complex could generate outstanding emergent stories and procedural content that’s as good as something that was designed by hand. Of course, it’s also quite difficult to get into and can appear rather impenetrable to the innocent casual gamer. We’d like to bring a chunk – a taste – of that sort of fun to a wider audience. Dwarf Fortress, in all it’s greatness, can sometimes feel frustrating to even adept players. The UI can be unintuitive at times, and some systems are just plain complicated. I should note here that this doesn’t mean it’s not an amazing game, and you should go try it out if you haven’t. Anyways, our goals for TropicalRocket from this source of inspiration are:

  • Exploration – There are so many mechanics, systems, and procedurally generated things to explore in Dwarf Fortress. Just seeing it in action is quite amazing.
  • Satisfaction – Designing a complex system and watching it succeed can be very fulfilling and enjoyable.

There's one happy looking scribe.

 

Another inspiration for TropicalRocket has been Stronghold. This game is much simpler. Simply put, it’s a castle building sim. Make a granary to store food you collect by hunting animals to feed your people to raise your approval rating to attract more people to your castle so you can build an army to defend it and so on. It’s actually pretty relaxing and fun – not really a fast paced or stressful game. Most importantly, it’s very approachable. Here are some of the points we took away from it:

  • Simple stats – Happiness, income, food, and any other resources are displayed readily as numeric values. If a number is low, you instantly know what you’ve got to fix. Plus, all of these stats are zero-sum, meaning you could be taxing your citizens to poverty but also feeding them double rations, and they’ll still be pretty happy with you. In other words, if you can’t directly alleviate a problem, you can often do something to offset it until you can.
  • Intuitive design – This is Stronghold’s.. er… strong-suit. Need more wood? Just place a Woodcutter’s Hut near some trees and an idle peasant will start to collect wood near it automatically. How happy are your citizens? Just look at the expression of your scribe in the bottom right of your screen. Want to control the population of your castle? Add or remove hovels. There’s really very little room for confusion in this game.
  • Control – Citizen automation is great, but you probably will want to control your military a little more precisely. After creating the needed supplies, you can turn peasants into military units. You can simply drag a box over these units to select them, peasants won’t be included in your selection. From there, you can control them just like in any other RTS. It’s a really smart system that lets you get at what you want to control easily.

Looks approachable!

A final and slightly surprising source of inspiration has been A Kingdom for Keflings. This is a casual game sold on Xbox Live Marketplace. It’s probably the simplest of the games I’ve mentioned, but has a few interesting qualities. Like stronghold, it’s quite approachable. There’s always a “What Next?” button, so guidance is never out of reach. One aspect of particular interest is the “goal” of the game. The goal is simply to complete the tech tree. This seemed a bit weird to me at first, but I found that I had quickly started looking forward to the next thing up on the tech tree, the next resource to manage, the next thing to make. It sort of capitalizes on the exploration aspect I mentioned about Dwarf Fortress.

So now that I’ve talked about other games for all this time, I should probably say a few things about our game! We’ll go into detail about it, particularly the gameplay, in next week’s post, but here’s a bit of info for now. We’re coding the game in XNA and intend to release it on the PC, and perhaps the Xbox 360 and Windows Phone 7 further down the road. It’s in a very early stage at the moment, but we’ll be sure to keep you updated with our progress as we continue developing the game. We don’t have a release date yet. TropicalRocket is, of course, a temporary code name and does not represent the final title. We’re currently using some beautiful placeholder art from Lost Garden, until we get around to finding an artist (please don’t hesitate to contact us if you’re interested!). We’ll talk about the gameplay some more next week.

Until then, add us to your feed reader and twitter. Here are a few more screenshots. Please remember, this is an extremely early build with placeholder art!

 

Zoomed out a bit.

 

Ack, clones!

LanNote

December 6th, 2010

The other day I was faced with a problem I often run into. I had a link on one computer that needed to get to another computer on the same network. The only way I can get it to the other computer is through email, memorizing a URL, or setting up some kind of software. It’s 2010 – I should be able to move a simple piece of text to another device 5ft away in a few seconds, not a few minutes. So, I decided to fix this problem by creating LanNote. LanNote stores any text or links you send it based on your external IP, so any device you access it with using the same network will show everything you’ve sent. This makes transferring some text as easy as going to http://lannote.com on computer A, pasting it, and opening http://lannote.com on computer B. No unique URLs to memorize, no accounts to make or log in to, no setup.

Give it a try:

http://lannote.com

RocketJump

August 29th, 2010

RocketJump! It’s our first game; a challenging retro platformer that involves spikes, hats, and rocket jumping. We think you’ll like it.

Spikes!

Play it now: http://bitwrit.com/RocketJump

Giant Bomb for Android

November 22nd, 2009

Giant Bomb for Android is an Android app you can use to browse the excellent video game site, Giant Bomb. It’s open-source and free, too! Here’s a screenshot:

Grab it on the Android market by searching for “Giant Bomb” or scan this QR code:

On your phone right now? Click here!

Don’t have access to the Android market? How strange. Check us out on an alternative market like SlideME or AndAppStore.

Just want the raw APK file, or want to check out the source? Hit up our Google Code page!

If you’d like to work on the app (it is open-source, after all), hit the contact button in up above. We’d love to hear from you!