Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Atomic Super Lander Update #16 Card House - Behind the scene

I’m glad to tell you that development of Atomic Super Lander is moving along pretty nicely, and we are hoping to ship the game soon.

One of the last things missing from the game was an achievement system: something to give the player feedback on their career development as a cosmic bomberman. Our initial idea was to reward the player's skill and dedication with unique collectable cards, but after a while the idea of simple achievements alone started to feel a bit too ordinary.

Then someone had an out of the cardbox idea: what if you could play a mini-game with the achievement cards, like build a card house out of them. The card house could be built and destroyed by the player and the more cards you had the more elaborate the house would become. Also building a card house in zero-g environment could be even more fun.

Although the game itself is completely 2-dimensional we wanted the card house to have a 3D feel to it, so that individual cards could float around the room and towards the camera. At the same time we wanted the card room to fit the graphical style of the 2D gameplay. The solution was to combine 2D backgrounds, and 2D animated character with "real" 3D cards rendered on a perspective camera.

We ended up ditching the idea of the player building the card house in favor of simplifying the user experience. Hence we introduced the mysterious Card Wizard! This character would build the houses for you with his inexplicable space magics. You could then poke and punch the creation as much as you liked. Part of the fun in cardhouses is to watch them fall to pieces, especially when someone’s carefully built them.

After a while it became evident that building a steady card house in physics based game engine is every bit as hard as in real life. Still we didn't want to "cheat" or "freeze" the card structure at any point: instead we wanted it to be naturally stable and have organic feel to it, so it would react to the smallest actions of the player in a realistic manner.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Atomic Super Lander Update #15 - A Brief Look-See!

Hello! This is a little update on the current state of Atomic Super Lander, and where our development's going. Our longer, featured blog posts are sometimes a little behind on current things.

There's still some placeholder graphics stuff left that we're working on finalizing. We wanna try and make the game look as beautiful and eye smothering as possible before release. At this moment, two fully animated enemy characters and some cutscenes are on the drawing board.

This phase will be shortly followed by tweaks to the level generation and some gameplay mechanics. Our best code mechanics will be sent to the oil pit to crank the most out of our space ships, to give you the absolute finest vehicles possible.

On the works is also the game's dialogue. The dialogue is meant to convey some extra instructions and light humour (like politics!) without interrupting the player. We've already made some ground work by writing descriptions of the game world and it's characters. This should help with starting the script.

We thank everyone who've been following our blog, and the development of the game so far! See you in the next update! In the meanwhile, have a look-see at these new products!

Click to see a larger version!
Completion of an in-game achievement system is nearing completion. What!? Achievements? Unheard of!

Monday, 5 October 2015

Introducing GhettoRift™

Last week, as a side project, we dived into virtual reality using the GhettoRift™ VR-glasses, developed by our resident Gyro Gearloose, Juho.

These high tech glasses were created one rainy afternoon a couple of years ago, using various international parts: 3D viewer lenses from Russia, safety goggles from China, a toilet paper cartridge from Finland (to hold the phone in place), a ‘Tupperware’ box from Ikea (Sweden), and of course lots and lots of duct tape giving the Rift a futuristic silvery finish.

Lo and behold the new GhettoRift Bundle™ including a bluetooth controller, a smart phone and a spare toilet paper cartridge (not pictured here). Fun for the whole family!

Our revolutionary technical innovations include:
- Ultra modern wireless technology
- 100% recycled materials
- Resizable neck strap for almost all head sizes

Using Unity, a mobile phone, the GhettoRift™ and a bluetooth controller, we were able to start prototyping Virtual Dogfight, a game that puts you in the cockpit of a WW1 plane.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Pocket Gamer Connects Conference Aftermath!

This monday our team went to promote Atomic Super Lander in the Pocket Gamer Connects, Helsinki. Big thanks to IGDA-Turku for making this possible.

Pocket Gamer Connects is a global mobile games conference held previously in San Francisco. The conference offers something for both big corporations and indies alike. In our case indies can make new contacts, pitch their ideas and join lectures by industry experts. The place was packed full and it was great to see so many devs under the same roof conversing and showing their products. More stuff like this please. E3 to Finland next? o3o

The event went great on our part when you consider we had only the preceding friday to prepare for it, and it was the first time we ever had a booth to begin with. We shared the booth with Poppaa Entertainment who are a great company, and were cool about the little space we shared. They were promoting Battle Buzz, a mobile fly swatting game taken to an extreme and fun stylized direction. On our side of the booth, interested people could watch or try out Atomic Super Lander with either an oldschool SNES controller or on a mobile phone. The big display clearly caught some amused looks, which was perfect! The only thing missing was a banner... maybe next time?

The event main lobby

Our little IGDA corner

Samsung VR-Headgear. Amazing piece of tech!

Monday, 24 August 2015

Atomic Super Lander Update #14 - Making of Title Card

Yo future astronauts!

Our game needed a new opening image. I wasn't fully satisfied with the old one since it didn't properly portray the things I had intended. So first things first, I had to come up with some idea for the picture. Something that would describe the game and feel exciting as the first thing the player sees. Maybe it could be somewhat funny, or outlandish?

I thought to myself; Okay, the game is about flying in space, punching aliens to death and blowing up asteroids, how the heck am' I gonna fit all those themes in a picture that's easily understood? I tried to think whether one of those aspects was more important than the other, but choosing one made me feel like I was leaving out something important.

After a bit of aimless searching for inspiration I ended up looking at pictures of old SNES game box art. I had always thought those were really captivating with their details, colors and action, as crazy as some look today =D Many of them seemed to follow the same concept, they had the huge bulging hero in the front and a wave of evil goons charging at him from further back. This really makes sense and it works. You want to hype and show people; "This is your hero, look how swoll he is, he's afraid of nothing. Wanna be this guy?".

This kinda box art is delightfully retro to me and I kinda wanted something similar for our game.

On the contrary, I never saw the player characters in our game, the astronauts, as your typical Arnold Musclebags. I felt like behind the helmet was your average Joe, some poor unlucky bastard who doesn't care about being a hero, but who also can't turn down a good fight =P These guys are just unlucky victims of their situation and they're awfully outmatched against the aliens. So instead, I decided to have a tiny, but feisty, astronaut being overshadowed by a horrible reptilian alien. A perfect example of their situation and an iconic demise of many of them, as alien chewtoys. Here's a quick first sketch based on this:


I remember there was some secret rule out there about placing characters into a picture. Usually the hero is on the left, and the bad guy is on the right if they're facing eachother. This doesn't always seem to be the case though, looking at some of the boxes. If someone knows what I'm talking about and has a cool link that talks about this, please share. I'd appreciate it =)

Next up was lineart. I utilize thick outlines, and as a rule of thumb; the closer an object is the thicker the outlines. Backgrounds don't usually have lineart though I'm not always consistent with that. I usually keep the lineart in the topmost layer:


Next up are flat colors, or "flats". I keep them in the lowest layer and just carefully fill in the areas manually. It's how I like to work:


Next are shadows. Since I have a "cellshaded" style I handle them with a single solid color, and adjust the layer's opacity to something nice. I try to think of where the light source is located and draw the borders of the shadows according to shapes of the objects, then fill up the rest. If there are multiple sources I make separate individual shadow layers. Here there's a strong light source behind the characters (the sun) and another weaker one to the front and up. I usually put the shadow layer right under the lineart:

Background light shadows
Top down light shadows
Combination result

Some years ago I learned that having an extra gradient shading layer for your characters helps them blend in the surroundings a little better. I've kept this method and use it here with the reptilian, the astronaut and the drill. You can see how they get darker towards their feet, although without a coloured background you can't really tell the difference yet. I place the ambient layer below the shadow layers:

Ambient shadow layer

Since I'm just using white light here I'm making another layer for white highlights; places where the light would reflect the most intense. I'm also trying to think which surfaces would reflect light, like metal and claws and stuff. Since I have two light sources I also make two light layers, one more intense than the other. I place the light layers under the shadow layers since sometimes some light in the darkness is nice:


I decided to keep the background from the old picture, since I felt it was suitably spacey and had a nice angle already. I just added some more stones to the ground to give it more texture. I also added in a title I had made previously.

Here's a side by side comparison between the old and new title cards. Overall I'm pretty happy with the new one. I think it better shows some major things like the bomb drilling and fighting while still being very spacey. It's a lot spookier than the old one too =D

I still wanted to incorporate the Lander game aspect in the game's opening somehow. Luckily there was an easy way to do this since the camera just pans up to the menu screen from here, making the title and the menu one BIG picture that could tell a story of sorts. That meant that I could fairly easily incorporate the lander ship in the main menu screen. I decided to just try and update the current main menu background so that the astronaut here would be sitting on a lander ship instead of on a rock =P But that's probably a story for another time.

Menu screen

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Atomic Super Lander Update #13

Hello boys and girls,

Today we are going to reveal some of the in game music that has been added to Atomic Super Lander.
There will be around 20 unique tunes, randomly played in the game.
Here are a few samples (I threw in some gameplay footage, but don't look at it, just listen to the music :)

Agent Trooper (Tutorial music)

Eastern Skies

Space Action Hero

The Lander

These tunes are made with free software, on my old MacBook, mostly recorded in my basement.

The plan was to compress songs to mp3-files and keep the shorter sound effects as wav-files.
Well, pretty soon we noticed that mp3-files get HUGE really fast. Fortunately Unity supports Vorbis Ogg files, which are a lot smaller in size, without compromising sound quality too much, so we converted all songs into Ogg-files.
All you musicians out there might also notice that the tempo in these songs is always the same, actually they are all 120 bpm (beats per minute).
Why, you might wonder. Well, it all stems from the fact that the songs need to be pretty short, and then they will be looping through the level. The tricky part is to crop the song precisely where it needs to loop back to the beginning. Even a millisecond askew will result in stuttering, or a slight 'jump' when played.
So, the easiest way to find the right position to crop, is to have songs that end exactly at a whole second. This is easily accomplished with a tempo of 60 bpm or 120 bpm. I chose the latter for this game, since it is an action packed upbeat game :)
Come to think of it, this allows me to merge them all into one long seamless medley for our next company rave party...

Monday, 10 August 2015

Atomic Super Lander Update #12

Hello future astronauts! It's time for a new update.

Not a whole lot to write about this week. Lots of things in the works but nothing finished yet. There was a bit of a bug bash and we fixed quite a lot of them, some of which have been with us almost from the beginning.

The oldest bug was a sprite sheet that had grown a bit too big. This had the effect that some older phones had problems displaying it's contents; things would look like purple boxes or were invisible altogether. Despite we being pretty careful with sprite sheets for some reason this one had gotten bloated. After splitting the sprite sheet draw calls took a small hit, but we are well within acceptable numbers.

Here's another somewhat interesting thing which came up this week. At the start of each level the player is presented with a briefing window. This map shows the location of bomb slots with “target markers” and the player has to memorize them before he starts. As we have tested and played our game, we had developed a habit of not looking at the briefing window at all. We simply pressed the launch button as soon as possible, after which we immediately regretted not looking where the “target markers” were.

This may be a developer's problem or it may become a problem for those who play the game a lot. Either way, the question was: How do we make the player look at the “target markers” naturally, without stopping the flow of the game? Well, eyes are naturally drawn to movement so we made the target markers pop up in the screen and made it to play a sound too.

So far it has worked. Also I think this feature complements the briefing screen nicely.

Anyways. Not much else this week. Have a nice day... It does look like it's a nice day. Maybe I will go out for a nice space walk...  

Monday, 3 August 2015

Atomic Super Lander Update #11 - Flight Training Site Report

"Dear Prof. Wunderbaum

In our effort  to find a suitable flight training site, we came across some old documents describing an old secret black site located on satellite A1, a big mass of junk launched into space. It was supposed to be used for filming some cheap staged moon landing footage, but when moon landing become ‘so last month’, the site was abandoned.

Later, a low quality bootleg copy of footage shot at the location was leaked to the public. Some conspiracy theorists claim this to be real landing footage, but everyone knows that the moon has been off limits since the fifties, when HammerCorp bought it and it's mining rights. Included in the documents were images of some objects at the filming site. I've included them in this report for possible danger analysis. A1's gravity seems perfect for flight training."

George Wingnut, Project Manager. General Aerospace (HammerCorp subsidiary)

A director’s chair.

A fake styrofoam lander.
An old Weller & Weller space-type film camera.
Libertica flag fluttering beautifully in the solarwind
A hotdog stand (Note: dogs propably well preserved in vacuum & preservatives)
A makeup table.

An old Weller & Weller space-type spotlight.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Atomic Super Lander Update #10 - Tutorial Work

From the start of the project we felt our game might need a tutorial to help teach the controls. Some actions didn't have their own button and some were combinations. Despite this we were fairly positive that the controls would be easy to figure out by just trying them out, since ours were similar to many other old games. We were proven wrong when random testers not familiar with our game were stumped, even after being told what the controls did. People had to use the controls somewhere to learn without getting frustrated.

So we began planning a tutorial and decided on some rules from our observations:
  • Keep it short, simple and straightforward. People want to get to the good stuff fast, especially on the go with mobile devices
  • Learn by doing. Text instructions will be forgotten, skipped or missed
  • Make it as intuitive as possible. Show, don't tell
  • Make the tutorial interesting and less like a chore. Fit story elements or make it funny

The next thing to do was to figure out what things were important to teach about the game. A lot of graphing paper and hours were used up in making drafts, tests and placeholder graphics.

In the end we had a single large tutorial that went from left to right, had platforming and flight practise. It was a little long, boring and the flight portion wasn't accurate to the rest of the game, which we felt was especially important to get right. It was time to step back a little and think things over.

We ended up splitting the tutorial into separate ground and space tutorials since the player controls both a character and a space ship. We also did a better job at figuring out the important content this time.

Ground tutorial content (controlling a character):
  • Moving and jumping
  • Punching
  • Jet pack usage
  • Picking up, dropping and throwing objects
  • Setting up and arming a bomb

Space tutorial content(controlling a vehicle):
  • Moving in a 360 degree gravity centric environment
  • Landing safely
  • Turning over a toppled vehicle
  • Navigation

From here we could then come up with more interesting ways to present these to the player. We threw some ideas and chose the ones we found most fun. Next, function was priority number one. The tutorial had to work before any time was spent on eye candy.

The ground tutorial became a tall, secret training facility you had to scale up. It has levers you have to punch to open doors, defunct elevator shafts that must be scaled with a jetpack etc.

The space tutorial became a junk asteroid you had to blow up in low earth orbit to cover up a fake moon landing filming site =P

Ground tutorial concept art:

And screenshots of the finished thing:

We are still working on the graphics of the space tutorial so only concept art of the filming site for now:

So far, the rules we came up with were followed like so:
  • Both tutorials are short individually and progress is saved. Changing location gives the player a sense of progress
  • Both tutorials have the player do tasks to proceed. Step-by-step progress helps narrow focus on the task at hand
  • Picture instructions in the background give the player an immediate idea of the controls
  • The tutorial locations, details and flavour dialogue are tied to the background story
More on the space tutorial as it progresses.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Atomic Super Lander Update #9 - The Great Lander Sale of the Millenium

Welcome customer!

I see you have an eye on the RX-40 Lander, aka “The Super Lander”. Isn't she a beauty? Equipped with our latest and best technologies. Supercooled magnetoplasma thrusters, pure chromed landing gear, and all-leather interior, 'cause you want to do your secret military space missions with style. Chicks dig the leather you know.

Looking for something more family friendly? Well have a look at this! The RX-50, or as we like to call it “The Party Van”. An economical two-seater with lots of room and a funky touch! You and the missus can take romantic landings on the moon, or have a picnic with the whole family, just throw the kids in the back. Someone may have to hold the landing gear... but hey! Real value for your buck!

You look like a big guy! Do you like something more durable? Well get a hold of this: The RX-60, aka “The Safe”. The safest, most durable and heaviest lander up-to-date. With this baby you can blast headlong through all obstacles. I mean, who wants to land when they can crash? Eh...? “The Safe” can really take a beating and can also function as a real safe! So you know your life AND your money are in “safe” hands with this one. Heh heh, see what I did there?

Oh but what am I thinking! I know why you're here! I can see that you are a true patriot. You are here for “The Eagle”. Never has there been a truer symbol of our ideals, our freedom and our guns! The Eagle is packed with two (not so) miniguns, giving you about as much firepower as a small nation. Infact, the only thing giving you lift is the recoil of those guns. No longer do you have to take flak from your rivals, your boss or your neighbor. A true expression of freedom and manhood!

Buy now, sir, and I will also throw in this set of steak knives! Pure stainless steel, look at the finish! Perfect for carving up that turkey or slicing up alien scum.

Still not satisfied? We have a bunch bunch more in our catalogue. How about a lander that moves by explosions? Or a badass rover with 200% more wheels? Interested?


A conscript from the archives of presidential recordings.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Atomic Super Lander Update #8 - Creature report: Zombifying Meat Flowers!

Our crack team of hackers from some eastern country have dug up a massive list of secret documents. Sadly the results didn't bare much fruit, except for one delicious nugget! From between hundreds of movie scripts we found another proof of alien life the government is trying to hide!


Report on EBE #2


The following report is based on the scans and mission logs of the central computer of SS Fatbird, from operation Space One.

From what I've gathered from the huge mess of binary and hex data, the organism is extremely dangerous and parasitic in nature!

Curiously, the scans suggest it sports both plant- and animal-like features. The organism feeds on the lifejuices of living creatures of any kind, regardless of origin. It grows a large fleshy barrel shaped flower that is capable of breeding small, hard-shelled parasites that look like pineapples. Harvesting these pineapples for a disgusting pizza variety is not recommended however, for they are surprisingly lively little buggers, and you'll see they are quite fond of your face instead, with their stabby beak things.

A computer simulation created from the scan data

Once the parasite has burrowed into the skull of an unfortunate bystander, he then becomes a host, a mindless zombie trying to protect it's parasite. Swinging and flailing it's fists. It's hypothesized that in time this parasite becomes a new flower, completing it's lovely life cycle.

Secret Bunker Street Nein, 10th November 30XX
Prof. Horst Wunderbaum