So Def has been out on OUYA for a a little over six months now and it’s been great to get feedback from the people playing it, with a few Let’sPlays and some reviews popping up. But I know not everyone has an OUYA. Fear not ! I’m making progress on the PC / Linux / Mac version. An Android touchscreen version might also eventually appear, but there’s a Unity engine bug that impacts enough devices that means this may or may not happen. Why is it taking so long ? Given that Def is built Unity, many people would expect you can just press the big ol’ “Build” button and get a version for any platform. Well, Unity certainly makes multi-platform builds easier, but things are rarely that straightforward or simple (especially if you attempt to build for Windows 8 Store .. but that’s a whole other story).
Def level 25 work-in-progress, part of the mega-update
Early in the jam I had a bunch of different ideas. This is pretty normal. I liked the theme, so much so that it almost gave me too many options for achievable small games I would have enjoyed making. In the end I went for my ‘fallback idea’ – something I’d wanted to try if I could tweak it to fit the theme: a Descent-like game with visuals similar to Zombie Gunship.
What I wanted to achieve was:
1) Set up 6DOF ship controls that felt good. Not necessarily identical to the original Descent, but along those lines.
2) Recreate visuals similar to Zombie Gunship (essentially inverted greyscale, with object highlighting)
3) Incorporate this into a small prototype game, as a sandbox for something bigger.
All image effects applied
I’m happy since I feel like I largely met goals (1) and (2), with some detours, while the gameplay component of (3) isn’t nearly refined enough.
As the end of October loomed, and I realized I hadn’t made my #1GAM yet. I’d been digging back through very old projects looking for something I might be able to finish, and I found this old ‘tunnelrun’ game I’d made in Python (with overkill ODE physics !).
I decided that the original code wasn’t worth salvaging, and that I’d remake it in Unity as a quick ‘roguelike’ (which is apparently anything with procedurally generated levels and permadeath these days).
I had been working on implementing cellular automata for cavern generation during the month, so I pulled that code into the project and tweaked it for purpose. I ‘wasted’ a lot of time optimising this to prevent major framerate drops as levels are progressively generated in realtime, and dealt with some annoying room & exit placement bugs. I pulled in a spacecraft prefab I made almost 12 months ago for another as-yet-unreleased game. Generated a sky-sphere using some space assets I bought on sale a while back. Fired up Audacity, got on the mic, made some breathing sounds. Made some item pickup sounds with Ableton Live. Made a simple ‘generic item’ model in Blender – I need to practise it more and at least modelling something simple will mean those neurones remain active.
I had already decided that a core mechanic would be searching for ‘oxygen’, which would deplete over time, ultimately resulting in death. I also knew that I wanted to play with visibility, and use that to indicate oxygen levels, along with breathing sounds. Then I went searching for Public Domain literature written about space or the ocean, looking for some text to use as inspiration (or wholesale steal). I ended up reading this - A Hundred Years Hence : The Expectations Of An Optimist by T. Baron Russell, 1906, (Chapter 6: UTILISING THE SEA). Russell’s vision of the future and the challenges we might face with resources and continued human expansion set the direction for this game, and everything fell into place. I knew what I needed to do with this. It still blows my mind that this was written in 1906 ! I tweaked the colour to be ocean-like, so as to intentionally make it ambiguous as to whether the setting is space or the ocean floor. I tweaked the level generation to embrace the idea of increasing scarcity, incorporated Russell’s text as short random snippets, and left the player to fill in the gaps. I think it mostly works as intended - a short experience that I hope will make players pause to think for a moment.
TLDR; Inspired by some literature, I ended up dropping all plans for combat and made some sort of art-game roguelike.
Yep, you read right. I’m releasing Def on the OUYA first. I really like my little OUYA box, and once I refined the gamepad controls Def actually ended up playing very nicely on it. It’s not quite as easy as a keyboard and mouse (I’ve actually made the default difficulty on OUYA ‘easy’ rather than ‘normal’ to account for this), but panning around with the right stick and positioning the crosshair to place defences with the left stick and D-pad is more than accurate enough with just a little practise. In fact, playing with a gamepad just feels cooler for some reason – and this is coming from someone who can’t play an FPS using a gamepad to save their life.
Haters gonna hate
I’m always a little puzzled by the amount of hate that has been piled on OUYA in recent months. Sure the plucky little startup has made a bunch of missteps in the early days of their console launch, and some Kickstarter backers have a few legitimate reasons to grumble … but nothing’s perfect. Let’s not forget that from a developer and player perspective they are also doing a helluva lot of things right. Bottom line: there are a bunch of fun and unique games on the platform (soon to include Def !), it shines when it comes to local multiplayer games nights, and the hardware is cheaper than some AAA+ launch titles. I like my OUYA, and amongst a sea of naysayers I admire the tenacity of the ‘little console that could’. So Def will arrive there first, as a little nod to those trying to do something different.
Unless there is some unexpected delay, Def should be available on OUYA Discover on October 10th, 2013, with a special launch price of $1.99 to unlock the full game. That’s probably stupidly cheap, so get it before I decide I’m selling myself short and raise the price :) Oh, and check out the trippy trailer !