Popopop 2

I had wanted to make a sequel to Popopop for a while before I finally got around to it. I wanted to take on board some of the criticisms from the first game and listen to some of the fans’ suggestions to try and improve on it. I totally reworked the graphics and, I hope you’ll agree, they are a huge improvement on the first one.

I also reworked the level editor system, improving it so that it didn’t struggle with downloading the data. In the first one I had no experience of saving and loading data in Flash and so the level editor simply loaded all the levels in one go. This wasn’t a problem at first but with more and more levels it became more and more of an issue. I worked out how to deal with this for Popopop 2 so that it only loaded the levels 10 at a time. Having done that I went back and updated the first Popopop so that people could continue using the level editor there.

I also added a feature that allowed you to view the levels by rating so that the more popular levels could be shown first and hopefully the poor ones would be buried.

In terms of level design I tried to make it a bit easier than the first Popopop. I would say that some levels are probably still needlessly difficult but in general I think it’s an improvement on the first game. I also included a new type of bubble, the cannon bubble, which added an extra element to the level design as well as being good fun to pop.

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September 23rd, 2010 Games Tags: , , , , 2 Comments

Planet Basher 2

Planet Basher 2 got made because I received a lot of positive feedback on the first one and I wanted to build on it to make an even better game. I corrected the mistakes that I made in the first one and added some extra features to, hopefully, make the experience more fun. You can no longer get trapped between planets because each spaceship has health and so will be destroyed if it hits too many planets. You can also buy armour upgrades in the game shop.

I improved the graphics from the first one by quite a lot and was really pleased with the overall level of polish on the game once I was finished with it. I also added more upgrades to add an extra element of strategy, and achievements to give players more to aim for and rewards for their endeavours.

All in all I felt that it was a big improvement on the first game… so of course it got (slightly) lower ratings! Perhaps people were just a bit bored of the concept after the first one (it’s a fairly similar game in all honesty, just with some improvements).

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September 23rd, 2010 Games Tags: , , , , , 14 Comments

Panda’s BIG Adventure

I took on board some of the comments about how people were frustrated by the fact that you couldn’t kill things in the Panda Sniper games. Rob (robotJAM) and I decided that perhaps we should go for a different style of game for the next in the Panda series and since we were both fans of point-and-click adventure games, that seemed like a logical direction to go in.

I grew up playing games like the fantastic Myst series and the Discworld point-and-click games and so was naturally inspired by these when I came to make my own games. The humour in the Panda games is quite similar to that of the Discworld games and there is at least one direct reference to them in this particular game.

The plot for this one took us quite a while to properly nail down. We liked the idea of including film references as we had started to do on the previous Panda game so for a while we considered setting it in a film studio and having Panda wander through different sets. I can’t remember why exactly we ditched that idea but we decided that we could achieve all that and more if Panda discovered a time machine. We came up with a plot that saw Panda stumbling across a time machine, promptly breaking it, and then spending the rest of the game trying to fix it so that he could get home.

It soon became clear that there was enough scope there to make two games so we split it in half, a sensible decision for two reasons. One, there really was far too much content for just one Flash game and two, we could get two sponsorship deals this way!

We also made a half-hearted attempt to inject a little replay value into the game. The trouble with this type of game is that it doesn’t really offer the player much of an incentive to play it again. We make a reasonable percentage of our income from adverts in our games so it’s in our interest to get as many plays as possible.

We included hidden critters in Panda’s BIG Adventure as a sort of extra bonus, some of which require solving mini puzzles to find. It’s hard to say what kind of effect this has had on how the game has performed, I suspect very little, but I still think that it’s a nice little addition to the game.

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Planet Basher

Planet Basher built on the Orbit concept, changing the focus of the game completely. In Orbit you had to aim your cannon and hope for the best. In this game, you get to buy your own planets and place them where you want in an attempt to stay in space for as long as possible.

You can also grow your planets and buy a star magnet upgrade which makes your job of collecting stars a bit easier. This game was a big step up from Orbit and seemed to go down well with players, getting some good ratings.

But it’s not without its flaws. One big problem is that it takes a long time to fill up the playing field with stars so if you want to do well you have to just sit there and wait in between shots. You can buy the Star Shower upgrade of course which brings the stars down much faster but that’s not exactly an ideal solution to this problem.

Another issue was that it is possible to get your rocket stuck in between planets meaning that you could rack up endless stardust… but the round would never end because you were stuck in limbo.

But the biggest flaw with this game was the fact that it plays completely differently on different machines. By this time I thought I was getting the hang of coding but I managed to overlook one issue; performance. I couldn’t understand how some people were setting such ridiculously good scores until I saw what was going on on a friend’s computer. On slower machines the game lags quite a bit, causing the playing field to fill up with stars. This means that on really slow computers it’s actually possible to get 200 stars in the first round and win the game straight away.

Since the game was well received I felt compelled to fix these errors and make Planet Basher 2. So I did.

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September 23rd, 2010 Games Tags: , , , , , 2 Comments

Orbit

Orbit was inspired by a similar casual pinball style game. It’s another fairly simple game, designed to appeal to the more casual gamers who like setting high scores. The trouble is, there’s not a whole lot you can do to make that happen and it seems mostly luck based.

However, I felt that there was something to be done with the concept and a lot of the comments on the game seemed to agree so I took the core ideas from Orbit and used them to make Planet Basher.

Hopefully you will be able to notice that by this time I was spending a bit more time polishing my games as I learned more about art in Flash. This game has a nice transition where the planets come in and out of view and I think the art is generally better than the other games I had made so far.

The game also features a really nice relaxing spacey sounding soundtrack which I had custom made by a fellow developer who also composes music, Oknavi. His game Cube-Race has a really great soundtrack which is what first brought his skills as a composer to my attention.

P.S. The popping sound in Orbit is the same sound that can be heard in the Popopop games. My younger brother, George, made the sound and recorded it so he will be very pleased to know that it now features in 5 games I believe.

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September 23rd, 2010 Games Tags: , , , , 1 Comment

Popopop

I came up with Popopop after thinking long and hard about what it was that made a game successful. The actual concept of Popopop does, I think, have some of the ingredients that go towards making a successful Flash game. However, in reality I made several mistakes that only became apparent later.

Firstly, I had set out to make a game that was fairly casual and didn’t get too taxing until the later levels. As it turned out I massively underestimated the difficulty of the game as I strove to make levels that offered several different kinds of challenge. This was another mistake. I was trying to incorporate skill-based puzzles in what had started out as just a puzzle game. By making levels that involved fast reflexes and difficult timing sequences I was just making the game very frustrating for people which is not at all what I set out to do. Oops.

Another area where the game is fairly lacking is in the graphics. At the time I thought they were pretty good but I don’t know why on Earth I would have thought that because I can scarcely bare to look at them now.

However, I did spend a lot of time making a level editor system which, although slightly flawed, I still believe was an impressive achievement for me at the time and a great extra feature for the game, meaning that the number of levels for it is potentially infinite.

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September 22nd, 2010 Games Tags: , , , , 2 Comments

Panda: Tactical Sniper 2

The second in the Panda series was a more ambitious project. By this time I felt more confident with the code and I had robotJAM on board from the start which meant that we could plan the game together and bounce ideas off each other. The first game had pretty much no story since I hadn’t bothered to plan out any levels from the start and just bunged them together as I thought of them. A story did materialise as I made the game which involved Panda trying to get back his stolen biscuits from a rival gang of Lions.

In this one we wanted to include more characters from Panda’s gang so we came up with a plot that involved assembling a team of bears and attempting to steal a huge diamond. Since the plot is essentially very similar to that of many classic heist films we started coming up with a variety of film references, a feature that we enjoyed so much that they became important additions to all future Panda games.

The last level of this game sees you in a precarious situation lifted straight from the original Italian Job. In the film you never get to see if they make it out or not (apparently due to budget cuts) so we thought it would be fun for Panda to finally find a solution to the tricky problem.

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September 22nd, 2010 Games Tags: , , , , , 1 Comment

BubbleBot

BubbleBot was a small project that I made as I started to learn a bit more about animation in Flash. Up until then I had been animating frame by frame (or at least attempting to) but I learned from robotJAM that there is a much easier way to animate in Flash, using tweens. Tweens allow you to set the start and end point of an animation and it will fill in the details in the middle. This can be a very powerful tool if you know how to use it properly and you can achieve great results. In this game the menus were animated in this way as well as the movement of the character.

The game itself is again pretty simple but I actually found it really fun so I was a bit disappointed (although perhaps not all that surprised) that it did so poorly. The main complaint is that it’s a very short game but for me that was one of its appealing features.

I tend to prefer casual games that you can just jump right into and don’t have to worry about learning how to play the game, you just know instinctively. On its first play the game will be pretty challenging because you have no idea what to do but you quickly find out and want to go back and get better at it each time.

At least that’s how I felt… perhaps it didn’t leave such a great impression on most people although I got quite a few favourable comments on it from people who had enjoyed playing.

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Panda: Tactical Sniper

This was the first game in what was to become a series involving a character called Panda (yes, he’s a Panda, original I know) who fancies himself as a bit of a gangster. I wanted to make a sniper game (only partly because I was still finding my feet at writing code and it seemed like a fairly easy option) but I decided that I would make it non-violent because there’s tons of violent sniper games. Most of the criticism of the Panda sniper games came from people who got frustrated that they weren’t allowed to kill things in a sniper game, but I like the fact that it breaks the mould a bit.

By this time I had found out about sponsorships and that, apparently, you could make some pretty decent money from flash games. So I knocked up a few levels of a sniper game with some fairly poor artwork in and sent it out to a bunch of sponsors and somehow got incredibly lucky. A sponsor, Bubblebox, saw potential in the game and made me an offer that made me pretty much bite their hand off! Not only that but they also wanted to pay an artist to spruce up the graphics. They wanted a few more levels so I got to work making those while robotJAM did a great job polishing up the artwork.

Rob (yes, it’s confusing, we’re both called Rob) has become a good friend and we’ve made several games together over the years including three more Panda games. Panda: Tactical Sniper is the most primitive of them but incredibly it has actually had the most plays. I don’t know the exact count unfortunately but it’s around the 10 million mark now. It also won Mochi’s coveted Flash Game Friday award :)

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September 21st, 2010 Games Tags: , , , , , 2 Comments

Salmon Survival

Salmon Survival was only the second game that I made and once again it was a pretty poor effort. By this time my dad, Richard Donkin, a journalist who often writes about a fishing, had become interested in the potential of making games and suggested I make a fish themed one for his website. I was a fan of the classic Copter game and decided that I could make something along those lines without too much trouble. I tried to add something to the Copter concept by adding moving obstacles.

It’s a bit of fun although fairly simple and not much to keep people coming back. Incredibly it has actually done reasonably on plays at just over 2 million which is pretty baffling.

Annoyingly it doesn’t actually work as I had initially planned it because I made a mistake and had published it before I realised it. Now I test my games as much as possible before releasing them but back then I just wanted to get them out there as quickly as possible to see what people thought of them.

In the original game the river got shallower as you swam up it. In this version the water was coded to move slowly down the screen at a rate of a fraction of a pixel per frame. Unfortunately Flash seems to have trouble moving objects by very small amounts and so it doesn’t bother to move it at all which takes a lot of the difficulty out of the game.

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September 21st, 2010 Games Tags: , , , , , 3 Comments

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