Better Living Through Generativity

Hi! This post is probably better-suited to my research blog, but it’s having a technical blip right now, so it’s going here instead. Also, it’s #procjam right now!

Tonight there are two things circulating my Twitter feed: the creative joy of the Procedural Generation Jam, and a Medium post about the horrors of semi-automated YouTube kids videos. I recommend reading the Medium post, but to reduce the relevant bits down (massively) it describes a kind of nightmare scenario brewing on YouTube, where algorithms churn out bizarre and disturbing videos based on trends and popular characters, which in turn lead human creators to warp their content to suit, and all of it is poured into an algorithm-sorted mess that kids wade through every day.

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Stealth At Breakneck Speed

In my last post I talked about how stealth games use safety zones to shape gameplay, either by challenging the player with navigating between spaces, or letting the player compete to make new areas safe. In the post I said that Rogue Process isn’t a stealth game in the most traditional sense of the word, and in this post I want to talk about that a bit by discussing active stealth, the idea that games can still be about stealth even when their world is full of explosions, fighting and alarms. I want to start by talking about one of the most underrated stealth games of all time: DOTA 2.

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Stealth & Safety Zones

One of the tricky things about designing Rogue Process has been trying to capture right mix of action and stealth. Rogue Process is a game about infiltration and thievery, but it can also be a game about showing off, about huge bursts of energy, about blowing the side off a building in order to escape. You go into every new building unseen, undetected, but you often leave with a trail of destruction, bullets and broken technology behind you. There’s many different ways to think about stealth in games – today I want to talk to you about safe zones, and how Rogue Process (and other stealth games) fit into this model.

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GDC & Greenlight

Hey everyone! Let’s get right to the exciting news: Rogue Process was Greenlit last week! At the end of our first week on the site, halfway through our GDC trip, we got the notification from Valve that we’d be accepted onto Steam. Thanks to everyone who voted for us, tweeted about the game, or just gave us some support. It’s a huge relief to have that process over and done with.

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Greenlight, Cameras

Rogue Process is now on Steam Greenlight! You can see our page and let Valve know if you’d buy a copy, and help us get onto Steam – just click here. This is a long time coming, but I’ve been so busy preparing for GDC that I haven’t had a chance to go live before now. I have no idea what the future of Steam is like, but we reckon it’s a good idea to be a part of it.

Elsewhere, I’ve been tidying up Rogue Process in anticipation of watching real human beings play the game at the Indie Megabooth next week at GDC. It’s nervewracking and the kind of development that lurches back and forth between adjusting text boxes by single pixels, through to rewriting a major AI routine to stop breathing life into dead bodies. Even though this kind of game development feels very slow, it’s reassuring and healthy to do this from time to time. The game goes through bursts of progress where dozens of things are added to the game and it all starts to heave a bit at the seams, and it needs these periods of gardening and pruning to get things back under control. The game’s looking better than ever, and the new changes to how the game controls (which I’ll write about next week) are feeling good.

During GDC I’ll be trying to tweet (and hopefully more) about the game, the booth and what I’m up to. When I get back, I’ll be pushing ahead with a lot of new things – the basic corporate infrastructure is in place now, which means I’m free to add the dozens of scripts, enemies and hackable systems that make up the game’s more complex settings, like research and development labs, or giant hollow industrial warehouses. It’ll be full speed ahead, and I can break the game as much as I like (until the next event comes along). I’m also experimenting with recording some of this development process so you can see features get added to the game, and how bad I am at making things. Here’s a trial I did, where I added two new scripts to the game, below:

Rogue Process @ GDC Indie Megabooth!

Here’s some exciting news I’ve been itching to tell you about: Rogue Process has been selected for the Indie Megabooth at GDCThe game will be playable all week at the Megabooth stand, and I’ll be at GDC working on the latest build of the game, talking to people about our plans and giving away cool things. We’re featured along with an incredible selection of games, including Cosmic Express, Monster Prom, Perception and lots of others. I’m so excited and proud to be there, and I really hope everyone enjoys playing the game.

If you’ll be at GDC and you’d like to talk about the game, let me know on Twitter or email me: cutgarnet -at- gmail.com! If you can’t make it to GDC, don’t worry – I’ll be posting updates about the game and the show, and plans for beyond GDC, over the coming weeks. In the meantime, check out this teaser trailer we made for the Megabooth below, and head on over to the Megabooth site for more pics and info!

 

 

The Difficulty With Difficulty

In between bursts of Rogue Process work, right now I’m poking at a couple of really cool games: Shovel Knight, a Nintendo-fused platformer that looks and sounds just gorgeous, and Ori and the Blind Forest, a more graphically complex affair but just as lush and beautiful as Shovel Knight. Both games trade on being quite challenging to play, and even though I really like hard platformers it’s tricky to walk the line between difficult and frustrating. It’s gotten me thinking about how difficulty works in games, and how I want it to work in Rogue Process – let me tell you about my plans!

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Moon Hunters & Procedural Space

Today I want to talk about Moon Hunters, which is an action RPG by Kitfox Games that came out earlier this year, and recently had a huge free content update. I’ve been meaning to talk about this game for months, and I’m only getting around to it now, but here’s my advice: if you like procedural generation or are interested in thinking about procedural generation, I think you should get this game. It’s beautiful, it sounds great, it’s charming but most importantly I think it has something to say about how procedural generation can be used in a game, and it’s helped inspired some of the generators at work in Rogue Process. Today I’m going to tell you how!

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Rethinking & Rewriting

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It’s been ten years, almost to the day, that I attended my first programming lecture and learned how to code. I was really lucky to be able to spend years of my life learning how to do that and not worry about much else. Most people don’t get that opportunity, and that can make it hard to think about how software gets made, or what programming even is. Lately I’ve seen a few cases where people have made guesses at how hard it is to make games, and while it’s easy to laugh at these claims, it makes a lot of sense to me that people think multiplayer could be added to No Man’s Sky in a week. After all, the main way a lot of people experience games development right now is Early Access, where features are rapidly prototyped and added into games, often at high-speed.

This way of adding features to a game is one particular approach to making games, and it has an impact on your game in a way that’s hard to see if you’re just reading patch notes or occasional developer tweets. So I thought it might be interesting to talk briefly about what it means to write a single line of code, and how Hello Games probably could write multiplayer code in a week, but you might not want them to. If you’re a programmer yourself, this post might not have much to interest you, but if you’ve never seen the insides of a program, it might offer a quick thing to think about.

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Procedural Snake Eyes

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I spent a good couple of weekends last month playing alien-busting strategy sequel XCOM 2. I enjoyed a lot of my time with the game, but it also frustrated me a bunch of times as well – in particular, it frustrated me in a lot of ways that Invisible Inc, Klei’s 2015 sneaky masterpiece, didn’t. After completing my XCOM 2 campaign and going back to Invisible Inc for a bit of mulling, I think I’ve come to some conclusions about an important way the two games differ, and how it reveals subtle problems with how procedural generation interacts with other game systems. I want to tell you why I think Invisible Inc structures itself better around procedural content and why I think it’s important (and why my opinion might not matter, too).

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