#FitTheBill – Making a video game for Essex Police

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Its not everyday you get invited to pitch ideas for a video game to the Police. So when the opportunity arose to talk game design with Essex Police, we grabbed it with both hands. The brief was “to create an online activity that offers a ‘policing challenge’ and form part of the #FitTheBill recruitment drive for Essex Police”, and heres what we ended up developing: Read More

Pendulum – Iterative Design

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Two weeks into the Open Alpha program for Pendulum, and we’re learning tonnes. Its reinforcing our thoughts about visual feedback, that is to say – we need more! Its also been helping with our level structure, by logging ‘amount of attempts’ per level – we can see all the bottle necks in the game. This could be potential de-installs, or rage quits…not the kind of experience we want to create in a game selling itself as mesmerising and relaxing.

When you’re making and testing your own game on a daily basis you quickly become a pro, so its hard to build control systems that are suitable for the average user – this is where testing has been invaluable. We’ve realised our tutorial is not fit for purpose, and we need to train the player in two very particular techniques.

  1. How to break (by adding momentum in the opposite direction)
  2. How to descend faster (by holding your finger down)

Theres also the fact that people forget you can ascend up the screen (by holding two fingers down), so we’re using the game over transition as an opportunity to offer tips – as well as motivational quotes!

Of course, we could always do with more data to draw better conclusions. With that in mind, Pendulum 0.2.0 should launch next week with a hoard of updates, fixes and improvements.

Things aren’t always what they seem…

The visual feedback for Pendulum has been a constant headache, finding a balance between something beautifully simple but yet not too sparse/plain. Coming in Chapter 2 (CH2) will be the new ‘bokeh’ design, taking inspiration from the bloom/dust particles you get in AAA games. Chapter 2 focuses on visual impairments, obscuring the players view of obstacles and forcing them to predict where they can cross paths with the pendulum.

Subtle bokeh effect adds depth and interest against the soft vignette background.

Another great piece of feedback from our online survey was because of our seamless transition between levels, it wasn’t obvious if had WON or LOST a level – Especially since we were randomising the colour of each level. So although you might have lost a level, the transition and change in colour made it seem that you’ve won. So to fix this, we’re now fixing the colour on each level and have now inverted the colour of transition on the game over screen.

White winning animation

Black losing animation

If you’ve got an iOS device, iPhone or iPad, then simply signup to our mailing list in the footer of the website and you’ll get an invite to install Pendulum in your inbox!

Pendulum – Chapter 1 – Alpha Demo

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After months of work, we’re thrilled to share the alpha build of Pendulum with you. This is a crucial step on the road to release and this first chapter we’re giving you access to is a perfect introduction to the experience.

What happens when the rules change, but the goal remains the same?

Pendulum is built around the idea of constant change. Throughout the game, you’ll always by trying to achieve the same goal, but different obstacles will get in your way – what happens when you can’t see the obstacle, perhaps the balance of the controls changes or even both.

We want Pendulum to be compelling through all of its 100+ levels. In this opening chapter of 30 levels you’re introduced to two different mechanics and as we progress through the testing period you’ll see more and more unique game mechanics. We want to make them as balanced and polished as possible, and to do this we need YOUR help and feedback.

Attention to detail

Blurring the line between sound design and music

Alongside a huge visual overhaul, Pendulum now has a soundtrack! As you can see from this gameplay video we now have sound effects and music in place. In fact, our sound effects are in the same musical key as the backing track. This means you compose your own melodies as you play and they fit perfectly with the music. You can even perform chords by collecting two zones at the same time!

Visual Overhaul

Practicing what we preach

Minimalism is hard. Our art style has been constantly evolving throughout development, but we really feel we’ve landed on something special here. The subtle gradient backgrounds leave lots of space for intricate level design and beautiful visual feedback – like in the video above.

We’ve got tonnes of ideas we want to try out to make Pendulum as stunning as possible, and thats why we want you to test the game – to help us make it beautiful.

Essex Big Bang Fair 2016

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This week Teaboy Scott and Aidan hit the road to visit Essex Uni and their popular annual Big Bang fair, which brings industry and academics together with a focus on promoting STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) to students aged 14 – 15 across the region.

As mobile game developers, we’ve always struggled at fairs/exhibitions because an iPhone screen doesn’t quite draw the same crowds as a 32″ flat screen. So this event was the first opportunity to try our new widescreen monitor setup, with the game running directly from a laptop with Construct 2 (our game engine of choice).

Standing out in the crowd

A second new addition was the use of Makey Makey. This simple circuit board turns everyday objects into touchpad. When you touch the banana, you make a connection, and Makey Makey sends the computer a keyboard message. The computer just thinks Makey Makey is a regular USB keyboard – therefore it works with all programs and webpages. So here, we converted our currently working title Pendulum to work with cursor keys and then hooked them up to some fruit – making EVEN more appealing to our teenage audience wandering past.


Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3

Our main purpose of the day was two fold:

  1. To inspire young people about getting into the games industry.
  2. To test the latest build of Pendulum in front of a young audience, testing our latest level design and difficulty curve improvements.

Events such as these are invaluable to us as developers, its so easy to get wrapped up in your own world so putting it into the hands of new users allows us to get instant feedback. Does our tutorial make sense? Does the UI make sense? Are the controls responsive enough? Etc. As such we usually take a note book with us that gets filled with notes.

The latest version of Pendulum will be available for public testing soon, so be sure to sign up to our mailing to best the first to play it!

Can Video Games Be Educational?

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Yes. Next question?

Video games are just another way of telling a story, and if that story is any good then theres no reason why it shouldn’t be memorable. Learning is a process of repetition, and with the correct game mechanics you can easily train a behaviour or teach a topic via the correct game design. Read More

Global Game Jam

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If you’re a games developer or you study something games related, then you probably know what a game jam is! If not, that’s okay. A game jam is a time limited event that typically lasts from 24h to a week. All participants in the jam are given a set theme, and they must make a game related to it. It’s not much different from musicians “jamming” together and recording the result! This post is Scott’s experience of Global Game Jam 2016.

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We’ve Fallen Onto Google Play

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Its with GREAT pleasure that we can announce Fallen will be launching on Android on Thursday 22nd October, alongside a bunch of awesome new features! After being featured in Apple’s ‘Best New Games’ in over 100 countries, Fallen racked up over 50’000 in just its first two weeks. With this our debut game, we garnered attention from the likes of Mashable, TechRadar and BBC News. Alongside a comprehensive content update, Fallen will now release on the Google Play Store on Thursday 22nd October for free.

Fallen Content Update Poster

 Content Update

In this comprehensive update we’ll be introducing TWO new power ups, a new origami inspired selector wheel and our first IAP!

  • Blackhole: This hypnotic portal will suck in the balls as they fall! As you upgrade the blackhole not only will it last longer, but it’ll grow larger and pull stronger!
  • Shield: With this personal defence system you’ll get three extra lives for a time limit. Upgrade to make this last longer, and take bigger risks spinning for more coins!

Alongside this fresh new content, we’ve continued to bug fix from the initial iOS launch and made further improvements. One of these is a new incentivised share feature, share your score to Facebook or twitter and get a massive 500 coins!