Monday, February 29, 2016

[IndieDev] Back From Casual Connect Europe: Awesome Indie Games

So I'm back from Amsterdam and our trip to Casual Connect Europe 2016! I have to say that Amsterdam is a magnificent city, Europe is very different from North America, and Casual Connect had some freakin' awesome games.

Amsterdam has canals! And very narrow streets.
Cutting to the chase, sadly, Eon Altar did not win any Indie Prize awards, but to be honest our game felt a little out of place at the event. As per the name of the event, "Casual", we were probably not really the target indie audience. The grand majority of games there were the very definition of "casual", being mobile, or quick sessions, or simple mechanics, which Eon Altar is not really any of those three. But man, many of these other indie games were amazingly executed. Really cool concepts, gorgeous artwork, and so on. I'll expand on some of the coolest games I saw below.

I got to talk with representatives of all sorts, as well. My first real industry networking event that I actively participated in. Got to talk shop with one of the Unity engineers (probably my personal highlight, being a software engineer myself primarily); mingled with a bunch of folks running ad and analytic platforms; some publishers; translators; testing companies; others selling art, cloud, or programming services. Complete networking overload.

Indie Prize Participants
Many folks thought Eon Altar was super different and really interesting. Our control scheme was pretty universally hailed as innovative, and many commented on how smooth it felt, which for me felt really good. But at the same time, the same problem we have today with communicating Eon Altar via Steam cropped up at the event. How do we evoke the experience we're creating in our communications?

Many don't quite get Eon Altar when you describe it, because there's nothing quite like it on the market. But when they get their hands on it, everything clicks. So we still have to solve the issue of how to communicate what our game is and the experience without having to actively demonstrate said experience. We were originally mislabeled as a "mobile" game at the event because of this issue, and even advertisers and publishers approached us like we're a traditional mobile game because we use the phrase "mobile-enhanced". But we're very much a PC (and want to be a console) game, just with mobile elements.

Our Director with our "booth" just after we set up early. We had to squish in a little once other booths started arriving.
But that issue aside, it was a really interesting experience, and I met so many cool people. Awesome devs, neat games, fantastic city.

Some Cool Indie Games To Look Out For


This is totally not my usual faire, but the idea behind this education game was so freaking cool I was enamoured with the game immediately. Leon! is a game where you're reading a story, but words of the story can be swapped around to change the story. As you change the story, the illustrations and sentences change as well. It's basically a reading/puzzle game, but it's a beautiful, really well thought out concept.

Chatting with the devs, they figured kids in the 6 - 7 age range would be the target (along with their parents), but honestly if your child's reading level is high enough I could easily see a 5 year old managing just fine. I could easily see my nephews playing this with their mom. Also, bonus, you could swap between English and French in the demo they brought seamlessly on any page, which was pretty awesome.


Ellipsis is a physical puzzle/platformer game played on a touch device. It's similar to pacifist mode of Geometry Wars (and indeed, the neon geometric aesthetics of it definitely elicit Geometry Wars), where you drag your circle around dodging traps and enemies, collecting other spheres. Simple concept, fun gameplay. And good news, this one is actually available on app stores right now.


Slashy Hero

A point and drag action RPG of sorts, you're trying to retrieve all of the Halloween candy that's been stolen by a great evil. Enemies and environments all feel suitably cartoony Halloween, and even your character can wear different costumes. It's a bit of a puzzle as you want to create good slashing paths to kill enemies before they kill you, and of course in true ARPG fashion there are secret rooms and hidden portals. This one is also out on app stores right now.

Google Play:


A patty cake rhythm game. It sounds goofy, but oh my god I loved playing this game so much. It's basically DDR, except you're playing patty cake. Of course with my love of rhythm games I absolutely killed it on the harder difficulty (syncopation has nothing on me!). The booth with this game was pretty much busy non-stop for the entire convention, but I was really impressed at the use of the iPad camera as part of the game itself. Really clever.


A point-and-click puzzle game, with a little bit of Choose Your Own Adventure to it in the dialogues. Absolutely gorgeous 2D artwork (their trailer really doesn't do it justice), and I liked how you got to shape the story a bit by making choices along the way. There's no wrong choices as far as I can tell, but you do get to shape the story as you go based on said choices, which was a neat mechanic


I may do a post later on the differences I noticed between Europe (or at least, the tiny slice I saw in Amsterdam) and North America, because there were a lot, but hopefully now that's all over I'll be back blogging a bit more regularly. February was a bit of a wash, apparently. But really, check out the games I mentioned above if any tickle your fancy, because you will not likely be disappointed; they're all excellent games. To be nominated beside them is pretty amazing. #IndieDev, #EonAltar

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

[IndieDev] Amsterdam Bound! Awards and Conventions

Flying Helmet Games, myself included, have been pretty head's down the past few weeks trying to finish up our big Combat Update for Eon Altar, which should be coming very Soon™. I've personally also been working on a feature that should help bring our game up to more modern standards for RPGs, but that won't be until the patch after next.

But in the meantime, a couple of us will be going to Casual Connect in Amsterdam for the Developer Showcase, where I'll get to man our booth along with our Creative Director. One of the benefits to being a tiny company. I've never been to Amsterdam, either, so I'm really excited to see it. Networking opportunities abound, as well, so I suppose I'll have to get over my social awkwardness for a week.

But on that note I'll be gone for nearly two weeks, so my blog updates are still going to be sporadic at best.

Awards and Nominations

Something To Behold - Most Unique Gameplay
The reason for going to Casual Connect Europe is that Eon Altar has been nominated for the Indie Prize, which judging by the other entries nominated is in fantastic company. I don't know if we'll win, given how many participants there are, but I think we have something unique to offer, and judging from other awards we've received so far, I'm not the only one to think so.

The Big Indie Pitch Trophy

Recently we showed at Montreal's Big Indie Pitch, and came in 3rd place for it. Curse Gaming gave us an award (with a physical trophy!) after PAX Prime 2015 for, "Something to Behold--Most Unique Gameplay." We're one of Pixelkin's Editor Picks for PAX Prime 2015 as well. Holy Grail From Hell put us on their "PCs Finest Games of 2015" list under the Unfinished/Early Access category. Ookpixels thought our story was interesting enough to write a massive article on the origins of Flying Helmet Games.

Pixelkin Editor's Pick Logo we have on our Steam page
Here's hoping the Indie Prize judges also think we have something awesome to offer, but either way it's a fantastic honour and opportunity to go to Amsterdam to participate in the event. We're starting to make (good) waves and I can only hope to continue doing so until our release and beyond.

Onwards and upwards!
#IndieDev, #EonAltar

Monday, February 8, 2016

[IndieDev] I'd Love To Support Your Platform, But I Can't (Yet)

One of the most frustrating things about being a game developer for me, so far, is people unable to play your game. Maybe they don't have good enough specs on their computer, maybe their networking setup doesn't work, or maybe they just don't have devices on the platforms you support.

Eon Altar has a bit of a double whammy on the platform part, because we're limited for both the main game, as well as the controller applications. Right now we're Windows or bust via Steam for the main game (though we're working on OSX when we have spare moments), and for the controller apps, we're on iOS 8.1+ or Android 4.1+ on 512MB+ devices.

Platforms and Market Share

We expected some folks to ask for their platforms, but I'm a tad surprised as to what seems to be the most popular requests. For OSX we had a large number of users at PAX ask us about it--I personally fielded about 5 - 10 OSX requests a day--and I think we've had maybe 3 people total ask about Linux (which given Steam's statistics show a 1% user base for Linux users, not really surprising).

Steam Hardware Survey, January 2016
But on the mobile device side, we're had a surprising number of users asking for Windows Phone (or to a lesser extent, Windows Tablets). More users asking than OSX and Linux combined easily. Given Windows Phone only has a 1.7% market share vs. iOS at 13.1% and Android at 84.7%, I'm shocked by how many people outside of Microsoft's bubble owns these devices. Although if you look at country-specific data, you can see Windows Phone market share is largely driven by a few European countries, where Windows Phone share actually rivals or even beats out iOS in some cases.

Zug Zug

However, market share is a bit of a moot point for us on the controller app side. We're a Unity 4.x shop, and Unity 4.x doesn't support networking on Windows Store apps. While Unity 5.x's networking stack does support Windows Store apps, converting Eon Altar to use the new networking stack is non-trivial work, which is programmer speak for it will take a really long time. Probably on the order of weeks, if not months, to get correct, let alone all the other things that will break when we upconvert the project.

As the only programmer on the job currently, that would mean cutting features, like checkpoint saves. If I had to choose between checkpoint saves and another platform--oh wait, I do have to choose, that's my job!--I'd pick checkpoint saves, as that affects all of our current and future users in a supremely positive, non-trivial way. Also, we've had more requests for checkpoint saves than for Windows Phone.

There's also a question of, well, couldn't you just port the controller app to a ye olde Win32 (or OSX, or Linux) application? Push a button and go? The short answer is no, not really. The longer answer is it still involves work to ensure that resolutions work out, how do we ship the controller, is hardware support there, how does it play with a mouse instead of a touchscreen if the device has no touch screen--as well as a lot more testing. Which still means cutting features to get out the door.

Never Say Never

That's not to say we'll never support these other platforms. There are clear paths to doing so in all cases, it's just a matter of time is money, both of which are in extremely finite supply currently. Supporting more platforms so more people can play our game is definitely on my wish list, but right now we need to focus on getting the game out on the platforms we currently support, and if the game takes off sufficiently, we can revisit the platform discussion.
#IndieDev, #EonAltar, #Programming