Dev Diary, Uncategorized, Wing Kings

Wing Kings Dev Diary Part 1

At Infinite State Games we pride ourselves on being completely independent. No publishers, no stakeholders, no nothing. It’s literally just two guys with a home-made game engine working out of our respective kitchens, making the sort of games we want to play, with no-one to answer to.

ISG

In November 2014, we released Don’t Die, Mr. Robot! on PSVita. It got some nice fat 8/10 scores and introduced a lot of people to the sort of games that we at ISG like to make: unapologetic, slightly unhinged, super fun, hardcore arcade games that require a bit of thought but not too much.

In this quick dev-diary, we’re gonna let you into the last 6 months of development on our next game; Wing Kings – due for release mid-2016 on PSVita and PS4 platforms.

July – The War Planning Committee

We’ve no shortage of games we want to make at ISG, so chucking ideas around at the initial planning phases is always an energizing process.

Looking through our big black book of secret game designs, we didn’t take long to agree that the next game should be one we’ve been planning for many years now. It would be a revisiting of the old 2D dog fighting games of our youth, but with modern game-play mechanics, rogue-like character development and procedurally generated landscapes. It would have to have replay value out the wazoo, a deep control scheme and gorgeous art.

We wanted the player to choose between a female or male protagonist. Charlie always likes to play as femme fatales in games, Mike always chooses a meat-head dude, so this way we both got to play as we like.

We also wanted to be conscious of the ethics of making a game based around war. Neither of us at ISG are fans of armed conflict in real life. Mike was raised by Quakers and is always casting his hippy eyes over everything to make sure it’s all morally kosher. But when you’re peppering enemies with a highly powered prop-plane mounted cannon, blasting them with rockets and pummeling their bases with bombs – there’s gonna be some violent depictions. We needed a rule. We needed internal guidelines. We came up with this:

As long as it’s fun, it’s fine.’

The fact is, there are many ways to dispatch enemies in Wing Kings. Not all of them pretty. What we do guarantee though is, it’s all great fun.

So with our joint vision clear, the time to make a new game arrived…

August – The Core Mechanic of Flight

 

Right at the core of Wing Kings is flying. If flying doesn’t feel right, the game ain’t gonna feel right.  So we didn’t mess about. At Infinite State Games we strongly believe that your core game mechanics need to be very tight: everything else is just icing on that cake. And as the son of an ex-RAF pilot and a huge fan of WW2 flight sims, Charlie wanted to get as much realism into the flight and damage models as possible, while still making it feel fun.

But neither of us are aeronautical engineers though, so it was over to the good people at MIT to provide some guidance:

http://web.mit.edu/16.00/www/aec/flight.html

September – Prototyping and Experimenting

September was the month we dropped the core game-play mechanics into our engine and started properly prototyping. Initially the focus was on getting taking off and landing right, getting the firing speed right, making the bombs and rockets feel exciting and ensuring the landscape generation routines didn’t make the world a horrid place to be.

We also started making the AI for our enemies. Making the enemy planes chase and attack the player in a pleasing way wasn’t too hard. Making them not want to smash into the sea or cliff edges took a little more persuasion. https://youtu.be/xJpGabrkRzc

The more we played, the more we realized that the fun of the game was not from specific instructions and rigid missions, but from breaking off and doing your own thing. When you’re making games, you look for those water cooler moments. The bizarre collections of random events in a game which made for a great war story.

As we both played the prototype in our respective offices, texts started to fly between us with shaggy dog stories of great battles, close shaves and near misses. If we had a water cooler at ISG (or even an office) – it would have been a very busy place. We were excited.

We even sent Mike skydiving to report back on how it felt to control a parachute in real life. Felt great! Made us realize quite how much say over where it goes you actually have which has been reflected in the game.

October – Art Drop Time

A man can develop in coder art for only so long. With October, so came the art.

We’ve worked on and off with our artist friend Tony for years. He’s a games industry veteran who cut his teeth making 8 and 16bit graphics when it was state of the art rather than an imposed limitation. This guy’s the real deal.

Tony’s a fan of the genre that Wing Kings sits in too, having played many of the same inspirational titles we did back in the day. Games like Wings of Fury, Sky Strike, Jet Strike, and more recently Glory Days on DS.

His style is somewhere between industrial and cute. Metal Slug meets Speed Ball 2. When the art delivery came (in glorious HD ready for the PS4 version) we resized it, dropped it in, and as you’ll see from the follwing video – its starting to look pretty cool!

Tony decided to use a technique where the plane was modeled in 3D, rotated to create the animation frames, then painstakingly touched up with hand painted pixels until it looked perfect. We love how it looks and we reckon you will too.

November – Death to all but Metal

Sure enough, as promised, November saw the arrival of the music we’d commissioned.

You ever listen to Iron Maiden? Specifically Aces High? That’s what we were after. Our exquisite circa 1995 32-bit pixel artwork needed to sit on top of music that took elements from 90’s metal, Iron Maiden, but with a unique proggy / modern slant.

Kevin ‘Kevvy Metal’ Black (bassist from Laeto, Fat Goth) and his producer Ross Middlemiss are based in Dundee. These two are so metal, they can make pink spandex look good. So metal they piss Mercury. Tasked with writing us several battle loops, a main theme and some stings – those boys have delivered admirably. In fact, their music is so perfectly brutal I just listened to a 10 second snippet of it and my palms are now covered in coarse black hairs.

Here’s a sneak peak of one of the tunes

We also had our yearly ISG meeting in November. Now, to the casual observer, it may have appeared as if we just sat on the sofa for 24 hours eating donuts and watching movies. Indeed, that’s exactly what we did do. It’s important as a team to just let your hair down sometimes and chill. You don’t want all your memories of the best years of your life being just working. Trust me.

December – Tweaks, iteration and polishing hooks.

As the nights began to draw in, we had the guts of what would be Wing Kings, and it was now we were able to pinpoint what was fun, what wasn’t working, and what new ideas could be incorporated.

Playing the game solid for a month led us to find what would become one of the riskiest but most rewarding game-play hook in Wing Kings – the aerial steal.

We noticed that when you eject from your plane, those moments before your parachute deploys, quite often you’d fall past an enemy plane. It came to us in a flash:

‘Dude, we so need to rip the pilot out of that plane and have your guy steal it mid-air’

We implemented, tried it… and we saw that it was rad.

The tweaks and ideas kept coming. While drifting down on the parachute, we thought ‘hey, why don’t we give our player a gun here? No, not a gun, a big fat hand cannon. That way they can blast away any planes or troops that pose a threat on the way down. It’ll be fun!’ So now, after ejecting, you can fire in any direction you want as you descend. One word of advice though; don’t shoot your own parachute. That gets kinda messy. But ‘As long as it’s fun, it’s fine?’ right?

Wing Kings continues to be developed independently by Infinite State Games. They are currently investigating online multiplayer modes and tweaking missions until they’re so much fun they should be illegal.

Wing Kings is due for release mid-2016 on PSVita, PS4 and Xbox One.

Dev Diary, Games, Interview, iOS

Charlie chats inspiration and philosophy behind Adventurus Arithmetica

Hey gang!  How’s it hanging.
So, this is blog entry number two in our development diary for Adventurus Arithmetica.  Today, Barry Island throws some questions to the man with the plan, Charlie.  We’ll be talking about where the idea for Adventurus Arithmetica came from, our hopes for the project and some of the philosophies behind the idea.  He’ll also let us in on some frank and insightful commentary from the development so far.  Now without further ado, let’s get chatting!
charlie
Dude, it’s pretty out there… Where did the idea for a mental arithmetic adventure RPG come from?

Back on the ZX Spectrum, in my very early days of coding in BASIC, I made a little game where a fella was being made to walk the plank with a pirate asking multiplication questions. If you got it wrong, you got prodded one step closer to the inevitable game over splash. The idea behind that early game has bounced around inside my head ever since, picking up a whole load of various inspirations from my love of RPGs and other genres throughout the years. If I could figure out how to work an RTS, FPS or driving angle in there too, I totally would!

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 What ages will the game be suitable for?  Is it just for kids or do you see all ages playing it?

While we want to aim at a younger audience as they will stand to gain most from the maths based elements while at school, we are following our standard modus operandi at Infinite State Games and making games we ourselves also want to play. So the mechanics will be rich enough to satisfy the older gamer, while we will refrain from severed body parts and other non-child friendly themes that tend to accompany bladed melee based combat in order to keep our age rating down.

No doubt! We can’t be getting all Dark Souls.  Well, maybe a little. What do you hope people will get out of playing the game?
Apart from being a unique exploring and looting RPG with it’s own discernible art and animation style and unique combat system, this is one game where you actually level up in real life and become noticeably better at mental arithmetic. Even in the short time I’ve been play testing for I’ve notice a marked improvement in myself.

Any mental skill is just like a physical one – the more you practise it, the better you get. Maths is no different. And you’d be amazed at how much you use mental arithmetic in every day life, even if you don’t realise it… From working out if that shop keeper just short changed you, to working out how many times you can hit snooze before you absolutely have to get out of bed!

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As a professional coder, your head for Maths must be pretty good. Do you need to be good at sums to program?

A little secret: I’m pretty rubbish at maths! Certainly relative to some of the guys I’ve worked with over the years. But to be honest, you don’t need great maths skills to be a great programmer, unless you want to get into hardcore graphics programming or make it big in the finance trading platforms world. Programming is more about logical thinking and getting a good overall picture of what you are trying to achieve in your head.

How did you practice Maths when you were a kid, did you have anything like this?

I wish! No, we had nothing like this when I was a kid, except my simple Speccy based prototype. My maths classes just followed the tried and tested methods of working through dusty old text books. However, in my later years of school, I was required to get a fancy calculator that let you write simple programs. So I then spent most of my maths lessons sitting at that back writing really basic games.

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What’s the current state of the game, and how far away from completion is the game?

The game is pretty playable already, although it only has one environment prototyped so far. The combat model is largely in place, and so are the exploration mechanics. I’m a big fan of random map generation, because it adds to replayability. Especially in a game like this where exploring and looting are core components. But random map generation is a tricky thing to get right, so that is where most of the time has gone so far, and I’m pretty happy with where the geography generation is right now. There is still some work to do around environment specific generation, but the hardest part is done. Next up is loot though, then all the core components are in place so we can start building little ideas on the game’s main foundations while we tweak and add assets.

And of course, we’re just using place holder art currently.  We’re planning on having a very illustrated hand-drawn look to the finished product.  We’ll talk more about that in another dev diary post.

Is there any part of making the game you’re particularly looking forward to doing or dreading starting on? 

The random map generation was the part I was most dreading, mainly because I had a vague notion about how it would work, but hadn’t quite ironed out the actual nuts and bolts of it in my head. However I like to tackle the hardest problems first with any project, so I spent a few solid days getting the map generation outlined and am pleased with how it’s working now. There will probably be a few tweaks over the course of the project, but the hard part is done.

And with the hard part done, it means we can just focus on adding fun things which is what I most love about making games – the tweaking and the little touches that you always ad lib outside any official design document. They, to me, are what makes developing games so great.

Damn straight, man.  Cheers, Charlie that was awesome.