It's Time Golf Squad Time!

It's the week of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. The GDC has some personal significance to me, because it's where I got my start in the industry way back in 1998. My start-up at the time was called NO2 Games (pronounced In-Oh-Two) and we entered the Independent Games Festival with a futuristic minigolf game called Miniverse.

 NO2 Games Miniverse Minigolf circa 1999

NO2 Games Miniverse Minigolf circa 1999

Well we are back at it this year, heading to the San Fransisco with my new studio Ponywolf and with a unique adventure golf game called Time Golf Squad. Click the logo below to watch our launch trailer.

Think of TGS as a "putt and click" adventure game. Your team of four heroes, each with individual talents, trek though space and time to save the universe. The kind of story that suits our visual presentation--a combination of the kinds of video games and Saturday morning cartoons you would have seen in the 1980s.

We also developed animation techniques to let us bring pixel-like characters to life with more expressions and range that traditional pixel art animation. We've been sharing our progress on Twitter and debuted the animated style in our Indie Speed Run entry Wasteland Golf--the spiritual predecessor to Time Golf Squad.

Our plan is to launch on both PC and Mac this summer via Itch, GameJolt and possibly Steam. Sign up for updates below or follow @ponywolf on Twitter.

Ponywolf makes the Indie Speed Run Cut

Last month we shared Wasteland Golf, our 2015 entry in the Indie Speed Run. This week we are proud to say we have been selected as one of the 10 finalist for Best of Show.

Also, the game portal GameJolt featured us on their front page last Friday generating over a thousand downloads in just a few days.

One of the reasons we love game jams is to get feedback from gamer and developers alike. Andrew “Redigit” Spinks, one of the nine ISR judges and the creator of Terraria selected our game as a finalist, commenting...

“The game feels the most polished and like it has the most potential to be fleshed out into a full game. I enjoyed their art style as well as the environmental hazards used”

Want to see what a gamer thinks, or just don't feel like playing? Check out SnowyGaming's play-though video on YouTube.

All in all, we had a great time making the game and it's been very fun (and informative) watching the community play and talk about the game across YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

We hope to expand the scope of this game and release it widely in 2016. Follow our site, or our Twitter for more information as we have it.

Golfing the Wasteland

We are happy to announce Wasteland Golf, our entry in the 2015 Indie Speed Run.

wasteland-golf-indie-speed-run-entry

The Indie Speed Run is a choose-your-own 48 hours game jam which allows some flexibility for busy teams to develop a concept without being locked into a rigid schedule. 

Relying on our suite of tools, we we're able to create flexible game world quickly and experiment with some mechanics that have been gnawing at the back of our collective skull. 

The end result is a simple, but fun take on golf. We hope you enjoy it.

Download and vote on the PC version here, or get the Mac version on our itch.io page. 

Nothin' but Net: NBA Escape

When Urthworx asked us to help the NBA bring the puzzle back to this internationally recognized organization, how could we say no?

 NBA Escape Title Menu

NBA Escape Title Menu

Urthworx's NBA Escape is a mobile puzzle game in it’s purest form, brought to life in the fictional universe of The Dribbler and crossing over into the real world with is inclusion (and participation) of 90 current NBA stars. Casual in play and presentation, there’s a rich and challenging puzzle element that requires accuracy and timing.

Targeted for Android and iOS, NBA Escape uses pseudo-realistic 2D physics engine combined with cartoon styling and simple gameplay that casual gamers have come to expect. 

NBA Escape is our first participation in a AAA mobile title and was very much a collaboration of talented people and organizations. Our involvement began when we were approached by Urthworx to help them create a game design that would appeal to both a causal mobile gamer and the core NBA fan.

Urthworx had built a rich universe both visually and in back-story with a clear vision of how the NBA players (and gamers) would play a central roll.

NBA Escape Level Select Map

Various prototypes, level editing tools, in-game systems and physics models were built to provide an experience that feels familiar but has uniqueness all its own. Experimental versions of the game were built with minimal graphics as the team worked to find the gameplay “hook” and bring it to life.
 
Part of our game design process is rapidly creating something fun with minimal graphics. We play it to death, possibly scrapping it to start over—until we find a mechanic that works.

We were able to leverage open source tools and implement basic physics properties layered on top of the illustrations to provide level designers the tools to visually and rapidly construct levels from any desktop. Level geometry was abstracted from the visuals allowing for visually appealing designs that keep collision calculations to a minimum.

nba-escape-ninja-bot-ponywolf

Using 2D skeletal based animation we brought a host of creatures to life on various levels of hardware. Digitized illustrations of the “ballbots” were cut apart and trimmed then assigned to an animated bone structure. This kept processing overhead low but added a spark of life to residents of Dribbler’s evil fortress.

Many parts of the game world are complex physics simulations, like the hoop and net, made of multiple physics joints. They bounce and react to collisions in an exaggerated, but visually realistic way. Ponywolf also constructed a custom physics-based particle engine that adds another layer of cartoonish realism to the game. 

Disco Dungeon Hoop from NBA Escape in the Physics Editor

The final product is very polished and is a good balance of casual gameplay, top shelf visuals and licensed content. We couldn’t be more excited to see how gamers react to the uniqueness of Urthworx's NBA Escape. 

Games Done Quick

1-800-Monsters Title Menu

I have to admit it, I love speed.

Most creatives I know cower before the idea of an impossible deadline, but for some strange reason, I actually seek it out. That’s why I’m drawn to events like the 48 Hour Film Festival and the Ludum Dare Game Jam. The idea that you can create something from scratch in the same amount of time it takes to binge-watch a TV series is a rush unlike any other.

So, last weekend (after various permissions were secured) a team of three from Ponywolf stepped up to the plate and built an entire game in three days.

If brainstorming, designing and developing a game in a weekend doesn’t sound like fun, rest assured, there are thousands of game creators that love it. In this latest iteration of the Ludum Dare (LD33 for short) nearly 3,000 games were submitted. They fell in two main categories, 48-hour solo projects and 72-hour team projects.

The event is global and begins with the reveal of a crowdsourced theme that each game will need to incorporate. Voted on by the entrants, the theme is often a spin on a common game design trope—as it was with this year’s, “You are the Monster.”

After a Friday evening of brainstorming and mind-changing and sketching and re-sketching, we settled on the basic concept that our protagonist would be a costumed mascot named Jimmy. It wasn’t until Saturday that we decided that he would entertain at kids birthday parties with exploding castles and fireworks.

 What are you waiting for... get it here!

What are you waiting for... get it here!

By Saturday afternoon, the basics of the game functioned and we were able to do a short demo for some other local developers at a gathering of LD33 teams. We had stumbled on a game that played like setting up and knocking down dominoes. The puzzle had become pushing parts of the castle into place so the chain of explosions would destroy all the pieces. We had a long way to go, but our concept and engine were as strong as our team was sleepy.

Sunday everything came together. We got a late start and worked separately (both of which you don’t want to do in quick turn game) but with each new feature the game started to take shape. Our working title, 1-800 Monsters became our actual title and a quick logo, title card and menu system were built. Tutorials were added to help the player learn the gameplay and we started to weave in story elements.

The toughest part of these game jams is knowing when to stop. Should we add cake? Yes. Should we add kids? You bet. What about that bit where Jimmy overheats in his suit and has to take a break? Well, maybe not.

After leaving some good ideas on the coding room floor, and with a few hours before the submission deadline, 1-800 Monsters was published for PC and Mac. We also created a quick teaser trailer on YouTube and screenshots to entice prospective reviews.

The final result is without a doubt one the best game jam projects I’ve ever worked on.

Try your hand at 1-800-Monsters here if you’re feeling like blowing some stuff up and taking the cake too.