I'm developing Windows and XBox Indie games as Smudged Cat Games. I released an XBLA game last year called "The Adventures of Shuggy" and various other Indie games. I'm currently working on a title called Gateways.
So, Gateways launched on the 13th. I mean, yes, it was already available on the website in June but the 13th felt more like a proper launch with it appearing on XBox, Steam and Desura. Feedback about the game has been almost entirely positive, people seem to really like it, which makes me smile. I'm still expecting to see more reviews appear in the next week or so but I'm pretty happy with the coverage it's had so far.
It appears the one thing most people (although not quite everyone) agree on is that the game gets,... how can I say, a little bit tricky towards the end. OK, I may have gotten carried away at the last puzzle but I still quite like the idea that it uses everything and takes people about 4 hours to work out a solution. Sadism does tend to be quite a popular trait among indie developers. And I mean work out "a" solution, the game gets very open-ended by the end so it's really a case of using the tools you have available to you.
I'm planning some changes to the game which will hopefully help some people out. First of all I'm adding in some decent help screens because it seems the tutorials for the time travel gun go by a bit too quickly. I'll be adding help screens explaining all the guns of course, not just the time travel one. I'm also planning on adding two different difficulty modes in the game. The current game will become the 'hard' difficulty and I'll be adding a new 'normal' difficulty in which the puzzles are a bit easier. The layout of the map and everything will be the same but the puzzles will be slightly reshuffled to make them more digestable. You can have a look at my plans for the 'normal' mode here in fact, I'd be interested to know what people think. Be warned, it contains details of the later puzzles if you haven't played the game and don't want to ruin the surprise.
After reaching the top 20 of the Dream Build Play competition with Adventures of Shuggy back in 2007 (yes, 5 years ago) I've finally made it to the winner's podium with Gateways. It made 3rd runner up in the competition, which is brilliant! It's changed so much since the version I submitted, I just wonder how it would have gotten on had I submitted the version I've got now. It's great to see it up there on the winner's page though! With a bit of luck it should give it a boost when it launches on XBLIG on the 13th.
I know the winner's have "The chance" for an XBLA contract but given how things went with Shuggy I think I'll stick with my plan of releasing on XBLIG as part of the Indie Games Uprising. I guess things might go more smoothly if I had Microsoft backing me this time but I'm not prepared to take the risk and the thought of going through XBox certification again fills me with dread. The hassle of providing updates to the game worries me as well, like the recent Fez problems. It's such a different experience releasing a game on the XBox compared to Steam. On Steam, if someone reports a problem I can fix it and upload a patch within the hour!
Speaking of Steam, it was great to see Shuggy appearing as a Daily Deal last Sunday. It provided a much needed boost to the game's sales and almost managed to double the lifetime revenue of the Shuggy on Steam. It's great to think of all those people taking a punt on Shuggy and (hopefully) finding out what a great game it is. Although I suspect a lot of people, like me, have a backlog of games they need to play and might not get round to it for quite some time!
It's been a while since my last post but I've been busy making lots of changes to Gateways. I had to get the XBLIG version into peer review to be sure I made the release deadline of the 13th of September. Gateways is part of this year's Indie Games Uprising which should be pretty cool, there's already been a fair bit of coverage about the event. A big thanks to Michael Arts, Dave Voyles and Ryan Donelly for their great work on it. I decided to coincide the XBLIG, Steam and Desura releases so it'll be appearing everywhere on the 13th of September. Of course, it's still available from the Smudged Cat website which now includes the recent updates.
Quite a few things got changed round based on some of the feedback I had about the previous version. There are now shortcuts around the map that get unlocked as you progress. They all lead back to the central area of the map which means it now acts as a kind of hub for the game. It cuts down a lot on backtracking which has made it easier to playtest through the whole game which I end up having to do rather a lot! It only costs 5 orbs to find out if a puzzle is solvable or not at a help point now. A few graphical additions have appeared like a gradient in the background and black borders round the views through the gateways. There have been several changes to the map as well to try and help make the game flow a bit better. Players now get trapped whenever they collect a power up and have to use that power up in order to escape. Hopefully it helps teach the player how each new power up functions and what it can be used for.
Shuggy on XBLA is now half price at 400 points! No-one thought to tell me this was going to happen but hey, I'm only slightly bitter. It still represents a great bargain and I think most people would be surprised to find how great the game is if they'd give it a try. The Windows version is being distributed even further with it recently being launched on Desura and at the end of the month it should be available on OnLive as well. It's great to see it available in a variety of different places.
After a busy period at Rezzed and Develop a week or so ago I've been making some changes to Gateways. The changes have been inspired by reading some of the reviews of the game and also seeing people play it when I was a Rezzed. Probably the biggest change is the inclusion of warp gateways that get unlocked when you reach certain parts of the map and enable you to quickly teleport back to the central area. Once a few are open you can cross the map really quickly by returning to the central hub and then back out to a new location. I'm also dropping the price of finding out if a puzzle is solvable or not down to 5 orbs. There are a few changes to the map, mainly at the points where you collect a new power up. You now get trapped when you collect one of the main power ups meaning that you have to use the newly acquired ability in order to escape.
I uploaded a video showing how the teleport gateways work a couple of weeks ago - Youtube.com
Shuggy has been in the recent Steam sale and has sold quite a few more copies thought still not really enough to finance a sequel. I've been looking into other distribution sites so it should be appearing on some of those over the coming months. I still need to find the time to make a demo of the game to give people a taste of what it's like but I'm sure I'll have it done at some point.
In non-game news my son, Chris, just turned a year old a few days ago so apologies if my email replies have been a bit slow lately! It was great to have a party for the little blighter and get all the family over. I just can't believe it's already been a year.
There's anly a few days left before Rezzed now! Gateways will be part of the Leftfield collection so I'm looking forward to going along and seeing how people react to the game,... and probably what bugs they'll find! If you're coming along then keep an eye out for me, I've got a Gateways t-shirt printed with Ed on the front so you should be able to spot me. On reflection I should have got 2 t-shirts made as I'm guessing it's going to be a bit hot and sweaty at the show so wearing the same t-shirt two days on the trot probably isn't going to be a good idea. I'll probably have a Shuggy t-shirt for the second day.
I'm also going to be taking part in the 5th RPS Indie Mud Wrestling Championships which I've been assured won't involve actual mud wrestling but will be a rather silly quiz. I just hope I'm not feeling too "unwell" from the previous evening's activities what with it being on the Saturday morning. If you're going be around be sure to come along and see me make a fool of myself.
Shuggy has been out on Steam for about 3 weeks now and the sales haven't quite lived up to the hype I'd heard about releasing a game on Steam. In fact, they've been even worse than the sales for the XBLA version. Still, I've been getting some good feedback from people that have really enjoyed the game which always gives me a nice warm fuzzy feeling thinking that people out there are actually playing something I've made. I'll need to get a demo of the game out there so people can try the game before deciding to splash their cash on it!
See you all at Rezzed!
Shuggy is now available on Steam and through the Smudged Cat Games website. I'm getting set up to automatically distribute Steam keys with the version bought through the website but for the moment I'm happy to supply people with codes if they drop me an email.
There were a few minor issues with the launch as you'd expect from any PC game really. They weren't helped by the fact that I saw posts reporting the problems but couldn't respond because I had to set up a Steam forum account and then wait forever for the moderator to approve it. It was incredibly frustrating to be reading the problems and want to help but being unable to respond! Thankfully a kind person at Buy Some Indie Games posted for me, telling those affected to contact me directly. I'm all set up now and haven't heard any other complaints so hopefully the problems are all sorted.
The competition is still running! We've had the first main winner,... @sardoose. The second batch of winners will be drawn in a couple of hours but the competition will run each day until Tuesday so there's plenty of time to take part. Just follow Smudged Cat on Twitter or like us on Facebook and retweet or share the appropriate post to be in with a chance.
In other news, Gateways has been selected to apper in the leftfield collection at the Rezzed game show which I'm excited about. I'll need to try and get some accomodation sorted and head down there to see what it's like. Hopefully it'll be a good chance to meet some other indie devs as well.
Shuggy is all set for a Steam release on Wednesday. It's been tight what with work on Gateways still progressing but I'm excited to see what people think of the game when it's finally out there.
In celebration of the Steam release I've decided to run a competition during the first week. Each day (starting Wednesday) I'll be giving away Shuggy related goodies to one lucky winner consisting of a Shuggy t-shirt, bag, comic and Steam code for the game. 4 other winners will also receive a Steam code for the game. I'll be posting a tweet on Twitter and a link on Facebook each morning along the lines of "Adventures of Shuggy now available on Steam. RT for chance to win Shuggy goodies". Just retweet it on Twitter or share the link on Facebook and winners will be randomly drawn at the end of each day.
So, a few people have decided to pick up the Gateways beta after an excellent preview in Rock Paper Shotgun. Thanks to those showing an interest and for the useful bug reports I've had about the game. The main bug seems to be one where the game hangs if you run in windowed mode and the game window loses focus. It's fixed now and I'm hoping to have an update available sometime soon with a few other issues fixed. Sales are tailing off a bit but I expect things will probably be going pretty quiet for indie games like mine over the next week with E3 kicking off. Hopefully a few more sites will show some interest in the game after they've feasted on the AAA bonanzas that E3 brings.
I've been playing some of the games from the latest Bundle In A Box, which I highly recommend people pick up as it represents some excellent value. There's probably more chance you haven't played those games than in the latest Humble Indie Bundle which also represents some fantastic value. I can't help but feel it might be drifting slightly from its indie roots though. Although I don't want to be dragged into yet another argument about what constitutes indie!
Sales of the Bundle In A Box are being used to fund an Indie Dev Grant. This is a grant that will be given to an indie developer to help them fund a future project. I'm actually one of the nominees, you can view the full list here. Voting for who receives the grant will start on Monday so be sure to have a look and vote for your favourite developer! ;)
I think Shuggy is pretty much ready to go for its Steam release now. If only those kind folk at Valve would actually answer emails and let me properly test it on the system! I recently managed to get the editor for the game working again. When first porting the game I hadn't really bothered with it and thought that all the levels would remain exactly as they were in the XBox version. A few niggles cropped up though that I decided I'd like to change leading me to get the Editor building again. Nothing major is changing, just a few minor tweaks here and there.
If you're going to E3 (I'm not BTW) then be sure to have a good time. If not, then enjoy playing the contents of those great value bundles (which I will be BTW)!
So, I've finally decided to let the world have a stab at Gateways by allowing those that pre-order the game access to a beta version. If you want to do just that then head over to the Gateways page.
I'm not sure how much the game will change between now and the full release on the 22nd of June. I guess it depends what kind of feedback I get from the beta. I'm sure there will be a few bugs in there that I haven't managed to catch yet but hopefully I won't be ripping apart the whole map and starting again from scratch! :) I'm still trying to get Shuggy ready for the Steam release next month so I'm hoping there won't be too much stuff I need to change in Gateways.
I'm excited to hear what people think of the game so if you've got any feedback then drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on this blog. Constructive criticism is much more welcome than just "Ur game SUX dude!". I'm really interested to know what order people tackle puzzles in. It's so hard when testing a game that you're so close to to try and view it with fresh eyes and think how someone might find their way round.
I hope the map and help points make sure that no-one gets completely stuck. I just hope people realise that there is a map. The few people I've heard from that played the game didn't seem to realise there was one. A tutorial dialog pops up explaining it but all my tutorials appear in the background so they don't break the flow of gameplay leading to people just ignoring them! I've got a funny feeling that regardless of how they appear people don't read tutorials anyway.
I'm not sure why I ended up trying to release 2 game at roughly the same time. Switching between the two is proving trick at times but at least Shuggy is pretty much there and just needs integrated with Steam. I'm based in the UK and it seems like summer has just started so sitting inside watching everyone having fun in their gardens really isn't helping things either. Hopefully I'll get the chance to really enjoy the sun once Gateways and Shuggy are out there and the support help dies down.
Well, if you do play Gateways or just try the demo then let me know how you get on!
I've decided it's probably about time I started doing a blog and I've decided to do it here on IndieDB since they seem to have made so darned easy. Now I just need to think of things to say,... errrr.
I guess you're looking at this because you're interested in either of my upcoming games, Adventures of Shuggy, a game published by Valcon and released on XBLA last year which I'll soon be releasing myself through Steam, or Gateways, a brand new game I'm aiming to release on XBLIG and PC on June the 22nd.
So, Shuggy is pretty close to finished. I'm working through the Steam integration stuff at the moment, the achievements are there and I've got the basics of leaderboards working. I can't quite figure out how to test my leaderboards though. I can upload a time using my own Steam account but I'd like to fill the leaderboards with test values so I can check everything works OK. Ho hum, I've emailed Valve so hopefully there's a cunning way to do it.
I decided to drop the online head-to-head mode from the Steam release of Shuggy. I guess mainly because of the effort involved in implementing that stuff but partly because I never felt the head-to-head mode was that great a part of the game. I regard the single player and co-op levels as the important stuff and that'll all be there. If it goes well I'll think about adding the head-to-head mode in an update but I'm more likely to add some new levels I'd hoped to release as DLC for the XBLA version first.
Anyone that enjoyed speed running in Shuggy will be happy to hear that the mozzies will no longer move randomly in the PC version. They will appear to move randomly but they'll move in the same way each time you restart the level allowing you to plan your routes properly. The Shmu will also always start moving in the same direction. Any other suggestion for things that should be changed in the PC version?
Now, Gateways, my 2D Portal-inspired game. It'd be nice to release Gateways through Steam as well, I have submitted it but if it takes as long it did to hear about Shuggy getting on there then it's likely to be a while. I'm hoping to release a beta version of the game very very soon so people will finally get the chance to try out the whole game.
The control system has been changed since I first released the demo since it didn't seem to go down too well. Ed will now aim wherever the mouse is pointing rather than moving his hand up and down as you move the mouse up and down. You can see it working near the beginning of this playthrough video.
Woo hoo, first blog post bagged!
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