Great news everyone, XCOM 2 is about to deploy to everyone in 7 hours! I have spent over 50 hours playing the last XCOM (enemy unknown), 30-40 of them where on my Steam Machine (Gigabyte Brix Pro)! So I’m understandably excited for the sequel. However, I have a small PSA for you guys: At launch time, AMD and INTEL GPU’s are not supported. I repeat, Intel and AMD GPU’s are not supported! So you might want to temper your expectations for a bit and wait until official support for non-nvidia gpu’s come our way!
2015 has gone by and here I am engaged in a head on, eyes locked, grade a+ premium organic non-gmo, gluten free royal battle with the remaining 363 days of this year! So I decided to celebrate it by opening up my twitch stream to the public after about 1.8 years of inactivity! What’s on the menu? Unity 3D, Mono Develop (and/or sublime), royalty free music and an attempt to design and develop a Tower Defense game with an Adaptive Path for mobile devices! Since the new office is still under development
(get it? I’ll show myself out) I’ll have to do some creative work from home. Asked our lovely producer for permission to stream some development and he said ok (give him a follow, just in case I screw something up)!
Those that follow me on twitter know I opened up a reddit post some time ago asking about people’s expectation from a premium mobile game. Those that don’t, read that post and then come join, bitch and yell at me via twitch.tv’s wonderful chat system. If you are interested you can follow the original post here on /r/androidgaming! Point is this may-or-may-not be one of the games I plan on making using and following the guidelines extracted from the /r/AndroidGaming Q&A session! If you were active in that thread let me know! Rest of you guys? I accept back-seat deving :)!
Stream Time: Hopefully ~24hs since this post goes up! Give or take depending when the new office is done! I’ll take quite allot of breaks, but I’ll do my best to be in front of you guys constantly!
Twitch Channel: Zapaman – clicky here
Twitter Feed: @zapakitul
Last year I skipped the looking back on 201X and plans for 201X+1 post. Didn’t feel like I had to! New year, new city, new people and new projects! With so many unknown variables it would have been a fool’s errand to try and plan ahead. So I went with the flow, winged it and it was a sweet ride, most of the time. But now I’m sitting here reading what Noppy did through out the year and the dude has it figured out (the link is on his twitter feed with the password).
To be honest I didn’t feel like writing a review post this year. Not since October anyway! My coach keeps telling me to keep it light and positive and never blab about negatives. I agree with him. So here’s how this year went and what’s going to change after the clock strikes 00:01 on 1st of January.
I travelled! I travelled a lot this year! Saw Switzerland (Zurich), Germany (Frankfurt), Spain (Barcelona, Esparaguerra) and Andorra. Travelled to Cluj and talked about attending game jams and finishing something. Meet some lovely people and rekindled old friendships. Toasted beers at the base of the Montserrat, had coffee with people from twitter in Zurich and took a cab ride to a destination about 100 KM away.
We beat cancer. TWICE! You guys who follow me on twitter know why I ran away from Bucharest and Buzau and dropped the indie scene. Well, it turned out there was a god-damn round two but we ended up victorious – again! That’s why I dropped MGL and passed everything to Thomas. Couldn’t deal with it. Looking at what Thomy is doing right now I say it was the right call. So that worked out!
I took part in the Global Game Jam and got 2nd place with Roguesweeper. Got a letter in the mail from someone who was inspired by that game to roll his own. Received an award for the game with the Best Design at work and released my first android game developed during a 1 month game jam.
Broke a couple of hearts this year and learned to walk away from things I don’t like. Etched the words “Never try to keep someone who doesn’t want to keep you” in my brain. Mourned the loss of my friends to a Nightclub Fire in Bucharest and dropped my long hair for good. Bought a 45” tv and invested in technology like never before. Spent a few hundred bucks on a HOTAS (Hands of Stick and Throttle for Elite Dangerous) and got my hands dirty with VR. Installed SteamOS and never looked back to Windows for gaming. Donated blood twice this year without knowing the recipients. Got my house flooded and two laptops stolen. Got them back and changed the pipes.
I dropped MOAI and moved over to Unity. Learned to rely on team mates a bit more. Wrote a design document before any line of code. Said thanks and gave credit when it was due! Bought the new Disturbed album and listened to it every night. Stopped using city transport and opted to walk towards all my destinations (while in the city).
So what’s next for 2016? It’s funny, I have no idea. There’s a big fork in the road round the end of January so I’ll wait and see before making any plans. What I know for sure is that I want to buy a bike. Been eyeing a Harley-Davidson Iron 883 for a while now. And I also want to visit Italy. If the bike thing works out, I’m pretty sure I can shoot two stones with one bird nest! Ended up buying a pillow with these two goals in sight. It’s quirky but so am I!
It’s been a good year, most of it anyway. Since October my daily life was marked by tragedies and disasters. Went to more funerals than weddings this year. I feel guilty for a couple of things. But I’m looking forward to 2016. I spent this last week together with friends from the Highschool / College era. They seem to still love me. Can’t blame ’em. A fresh start is right around the corner and more challenges await there. It feels like facing the Elite 4 for the first time all over again! Hopefully, no bad days will cross my horizon again! As for a new year’s resolution? For now, let’s go with “I’ll get better at bowling”! Seems reasonable 🙂
Valve released an update for SteamOS available from the brewmaster-beta repository! Happy to confirm that the BETA update fixed most, if not all, of the issue I had with the previous 2.49 release. No more screen lockups,freezes and client crashes on the Brix Pro with Iris 5200 and, as a small bonus, the game list from the STORE finally only totally shows SteamOS games by default! In order to celebrate the update I went ahead and bought Bound by Flame, a cute looking RPG with decent requirements and full controller support. Ogh my did I get myself in a world of pain trying to play through it!
I initially heard about Bound by Flame from Total Biscuit’s coverage of the game from way back in May 2014 and later on from Liam’s article on the game up on GamingOnLinux! I suggest checking out the article for a more in-depth look on the game. As far as the game goes, it’s a good port in terms of features, graphics, usability and control. Works well bundled with Steam Big Picture’s Mode and, as opposed to Liam’s initial experience the 360’s gamepad works right off the bat! Only downside? Performance is terrible on my Brix Pro. How terrible? Let’s say that I cannot hit 30 FPS even with all the settings set to low ( ALL OF THEM)! The game’s requirement are extremely low (Nvidia GT 8800, a card older than my drinking problems) and yet I cannot seem to hit even the bare minimum FPS for enjoyment. Since I already did a fresh install (+update to beta 2.55) I decided I can stomach another ~120 minutes of downtime so I grabbed my Win8.1 disk and installed it on the Brix! 45-50 minutes of painful restarts later (Windows install? Restart! Intel Graphics? Reboott! Audio drivers? Downtime! Wifi card? You bet!) and ~10 minutes more to download the game and I’m sitting here hitting 60 FPS without many problems on medium settings and Antia Aliasing enabled on 1080! What the loving *fluff-ball* Intel? I went ahead and enabled Debian Jessy’s experimental repository and updated xserver-xorg-video-intel to the latest version available and no changes were noticed. As of now the Driver Version that comes wth SteamOS is 3.0 Mesa 10.6.3 and I haven’t tried (nor have any knowledge on how) to upgrade to the latest Mesa Version 11.0.6. Might be a while before that hits my setup.
So if you are running SteamOS on a Brix Pro might want to hold back on Bound By Flame until better drivers hit our neck of the woods. If you can stomach 20-ish FPS then by all means go ahead and grab it! I have 97 minutes spent on the game even under those poor conditions and I like it! Might grind my way through it step by step just to experience it a bit more.
And yes, I installed SteamOS again after trying the game on Windows 8.1.. The OS is meant for my living room even though, so far, most games I can enjoy decently are indie games or older titles! Hopefully things will pick up and I’ll be here to report on the improvements! Till next time o7!
This article reflects my opinion on the system, it’s place in (my new) living room and quite a few geek moments sprinkled here and there. For a secondary opinion check out GoL’s coverage of the system here.
I’ve been running SteamOS for the past few months and suffered through the 2.49 update head-to-head with other integrated graphics users! First time I installed SteamOS was in October on my Brix Pro system expecting a console-like experience delivered to my living room. I had the system connected to a 23” AOC Touch Screen display, a sofa moved closer to the desk, the 360 gamepad in hand and a beer at my side! I fancy myself as a GNU/Linux user (been rocking Ubuntu – and a few other Debian flavours – since 2006) so I got by most of the problems SteamOS threw my way without giving ’em too much thought but from a newcomers perspective, at this point in time, SteamOS is far from the console-like experience it promises to deliver. For once not all SteamOS/Linux-ready games RUN out of the box: Mount & Blade Warband and Shadow of Mordor were a pain in the proverbial arse with their missing libraries and launchers that failed to execute.
Let’s take a step back and start with the beginning! Installing SteamOS on a new box/custom built “Steam Machine” is easier than with most OS installs nowadays (except for Windows 10, never got to try/install W10). The Installer itself is based on the Debian installer and the process is extremely streamlined. The only possible hurdle might appear if you want to customize the partitions and install it alongside other OS’s. Shouldn’t be too hard but for someone new to this I would recommend going with the default settings if you only plan on using the machine in the living room.
As far as games go I’ve yet to see a System/Console Launch with so many titles available on day one! More than half of my library is playable from the get-go. Sadly my Steam Gamepad still hasn’t arrived and I have no plan on using a keyboard and mouse to game from the couch so my selection of games is limited to a handful! I’ve been surprised to see how well BigPicture Mode scales on my 4K display since I’ve seen a lot of complaints on the the discussion forums. The Interface has one big flaw though: as of the current version 2.49 the shop displays ALL games available on STEAM, even those for Windows. Finding a game for your platform is a nightmare! I don’t get if this is an oversight on valve’s part since the current downloadable Linux Client displays games available for Linux while hiding those that are not. Navigating through the UI is done via keyboard/mouse and/or gamepad.
There are some problems though: my 360 wired gamepad sometimes stops responding causing the UI to freeze and the client to reboot while other times the mouse just does not want to click on the system icons (settings, messages, downloads) on the top of the screen. It’s weird and it’s frustrating but I can live with it. What I can’t live with however is the browser packed with the platform. Valve calls it the “FPS Browser” and I have to give it to them: It does make me want to take it out the back and shoot it. Luckily enough I have a Chromecast plugged into the back of my tv so I can enjoy Youtube/Videos without having to reply on the built-in solution. Still a dedicated youtube app would be appreciated, even if it’s the standard youtube.com/tv offering with controller support added. Maybe Valve will get to it someday though I won’t be holding my breath.
Now for the ugly parts: If you are running on Integrated Graphics like me (Iris Pro 5200) then you might want to stick with the 1.0 release, dubbed Alchemist. Ever since the 2.49 update for Brewmaster SteamOS is unusable on anything that isn’t nVidia (though some report no problems on a few AMD cards). Problems range from the latest MESA drivers bundled with the update to the Linux kernel. In my case it’s both. The OS refuses to boot if ANY gamepad is plugged in. The Steam client fails on launch and enters an infinite loop of crashing, trying to restart and crashing again. Unplugging the gamepad leads you to a barely usable interface that locks up on you or causes the display to go black as if the system is afraid to disappoint you. Better shutdown rather than let you see that we didn’t fix the platform bug in the store. I don’t know why this happens but it’s a common issue, at least on Intel GPUs. And it’s mind boggling especially as the first Steam Machine Valve touted is a Brix Pro running Iris Pro 5200. Pretty sure their not lacking in the QA department so I have no idea how this escaped them. At least all Steam Machines available for purchase right now are running nVidia (to my knowledge).
Going even further some games do not start altogether. You have to get access to the desktop, open up a terminal and check out why the game fails to start. In some cases it’s due to a missing BINARY for the game, like in “7 days to die”‘s case. Other times it’s due to some missing libraries (or in Mount and Blade Warband’s case – because you have a newer version of the library installed and it can’t find the old one). Again for someone with enough terminal years under his belt this is easy to fix but still requires you to plug in a mouse and keyboard, add in unofficial repositories and scour the web in search of some packages things that DO NOT CONSTITUTE a console-like experience. So let me say this – SteamOS is not a finished product! It’s for early adopters and/or people like me who refuse to buy a console and want to run linux on anything ranging from their toasters up to their tablets. But it will get better, hopefully. Valve has a huge chance to turn things around in the PC department. It already stirred up the Linux world and brought more games to the platform than ever before! It will take time however and if I were a betting man, I’d place my money on Valve getting it right in the end. Let’s just hope the final fixes and polishes won’t have to come in SteamOS version 3, we all know how Valve’s and 3’s go together.
However I like SteamOS. It’s a neat little living-room system that makes the geek in me jump for joy every chance it gets. How many of you guys can SSH into your console and play tetris in the terminal? On another done I’ve been mentioning on twitter that I’m wrapping up my living room. All I’m missing is a raspberry pi zero and a new monitor so I can setup my virtual fireplace. For now that task falls on my old 23” tablet. In the future I’m hoping on using it as a Skype Machine and hang it up on a wall somewhere. Ogh and I also bought some bean bags because why not? Have a great week everyone!
There’s a running gag between my twitter followers (and some co-workers/friends) that I’m a sellout for quitting the indie life ( read as “denouncing noodles and instant soup”) in favor of joining the Mobility-Games team in Iasi. But, let me ask you this: does it really count as selling out when you get to work on (this) something of your own choosing and design for month? Sure, I was paid for it but last i checked the term “indie” meant doing what game you want while having complete control over it’s direction without a publisher pulling the strings behind the scene. The entire time spent on Bestopia was a throwback to 2012 when I was hard at work on MGL/Pimps vs Vampires, a throwback so hard my nose is still bleeding pixels left and right.
So Beastopia, what the fudge is it?
To put it mildly, the brainchild of a designer, coder and a 2D artist. The initial concept was outlined in just two days over series of debates using the Design Box methodology Talin proposed. A concept that was completely and utterly assassinated over the course of 1 month of development thanks to our “that would be awesome, lets keep it” and “did you document that? No? Think we said it should work like this….” approach. And the approach paid off in the end ( as it usually does!). When we started, the goal was to develop a Turn Based Strategy game with a Board Game influence. By the end of development we kept referring to Beastopia as an RPG… funny how this works :). I guess the initial dream most developers have was trying to creep up on us. I guess we could have called Beastopia a TBSDBGWLRPGI ( Turn Based Strategy Digital Board Game with Lite RPG influences) but that would have been silly; we went with “Beast powered board game RPG” which sounds more catchy.
No really, what is Beastopia?
A short game with 3 game levels (boards) in which you assemble a party of 4 characters, fight beastly creatures, pickup and equip items and play card games to pass certain events. It also look like a billion dollars! As a bonus its free (as in beer), with no ads or in-app purchases and it works on any android capable toaster. So yeah, that’s Beastopia in a nut shell
How did development go?
I can’t speak for the other two developers but from my perspective it went smooth and, mostly, on schedule. I’m extremely proud we manged to reach all our milestones and goals. And most of you know how hard that is, especially when you pitch 3 different people from different fields that never worked so closely together ( we work as part of a larger team on the company’s flagship title but that is a different shtick). You’d think finishing something on a tight schedule comes easy with so many game jams under my belt, but a 1 month project is really hard. We couldn’t just go with “hack it in – balls -to-the-wall approach” most jammers use. Due to the much larger than you average game jam time span we wanted to end up with a polished product; none of that half-arsed barely stitched together with space-tape lump of features game that 90% of appstore releases consist of.
A proud moment during development was going hands-on with unity and C# for a few days while Andrei, the programmer, was attending UNITE 2015 in Amsterdam. If you ever played MGL before and then tried Beastopia you probably noticed my trademark pathfinding behavior/implementation that relies on distance check to score tiles as opposed to the usual incrementing score approach. Someone should do a side-by-side video comparison on pathfinding from both games.
But in the end I’m extremely proud that I managed to generate some traction (marketing and articles) for the game, which now sits at around 3k downloads and 4+ score from ~200 reviews. I have to thank @Chris for being as lovely and approachable as always, and the guys from /r/android gaming for being so nice and genuinely interested in giving feedback. And of course all you twitter lovelies that keep putting up with all my shenanigans through all this years.
You know, I’ve been at Mobility for a bit over one year now. Wasn’t sure I’ll make it this long, especially since f2p games aren’t my cup of tea, but it comes to show that if you take a long-haired bearded bastard, throw a bunch of lovable team mates at him and mix in industrial amount of coffee and projects like Beastopia he might just cut his hair and stick in there for the long-run, f2p or not. And all-in-all being indie means following the dream, even if that dream ends up with you working 9-to-6 in an office.
As for Beastopia, no amount of words can explain what it is and means for me. So go ahead and give it a try. It’s free and it wants feedback – heaven’s sake we welcome the opportunity of crashing our mail server with kbTons of feedback from you guys. And if you hate it feel free to call me a sellout on twitter, I’m starting to love it.
P.s. Beastopia trailer
P.s.s I still s*#k at typing on a touch screen.
Spoiler warning: I s#@k at typing on a virtual keyboard.
Its been almost half a year since the last blog post. How the hell i still have upwards of 100 daily visitors is beyond me (and the scope of this post). I’m currently on a train waiting for the last 2 hours of my 6h ride to end. So i guess it’s as good of a time as any to update my blog.
What have i been doing since GlobalGameJam?
Slacking off from my independent development work to put it mindly. Some of you know that i passed along Mutant Gangland to @Thomas and that i hanged up on MOAI and all my other projects. Part of the reason is that i needed to free up some time now that i spend most of it in an office (surounded by cool kats and bunnies). Working @Mobility-Games has been fun and i guess it is as close as I can get to the indie dream without having to rely on noodles to satiate my hunger. Steady pay (and physical colleagues) are a godsend, especially when some days we get to play with real world 3D pixels:
Been a fun ride till now and i can’t wait to see what’s waiting around the next corner. (Mobility) work stuff aside I’ve been a pretty bad designer over the past few months. I’m pretty sure i broke most gamedev rules by rolling my own engine (MOAI i love you but i want to learn more), porting the engine to the NintendoDS (not the new 3DS), embedding Lua and using an archaic openGL version (glBegin/glEnd) + a half-arsed port of it on android. Why? So i can keep doing my own thing without having to commit to releasing and finishing a game, yet still improve a bit of my programming knowledge. Its been wonderful, yet a bit frustrating, working for the DS. Its the first time i ever spent hours knee deep in refference manuals, doing math to try and ballance memory consumption and learning to stay away from high res images with a high bpp (bit per pixel). Ogh and i wrote this little snippet that got half of my followers laughing their way to the unfollow button.
Now if only i could code my way into improving my team work and team related abilities. To this day i cannot hold my own in a game mechanic debate relying on just words to describe the behavior. Sure, i can hack a pretty good protype to back me up but in most cases no one is willing to wait 3h so i can show them what my words fail to represent. This is an area in which i still have a lot todo.
There is one more thing i’d like to say before i end this non-technical, indie-less blog post: keep an eye out on my twitter feed, we’re about to release a TBS/Boardgame prototype mashup that I have worked on with some co-workers.
Love you all o/