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Developer Blog

Ciaran’s Toolbench Blog, Part 2!

Hi, Ciarán here again, continuing my introduction to GameBase’s level editing software, Toolbench…

 

The newest feature of Toolbench is the water editor. It’s a brilliant feature that really adds an extra level of detail to the game and is easy as pie to use. Simply drag a water entity into your level, size and position it correctly. Assign a water flow .tga file to it and then edit the water flow direction and speed as you see fit. To edit the direction you simply draw along the direction you want the water to flow. If you want a river flowing into the sea then draw along the river to the sea, however if you want the waves lapping up against the shore then draw in the direction of the shore. There is no limit, just draw where ever you want, in whatever direction you want.

 

There is an option to control speed so a river can pick up speed as it approaches the sea or goes around bends. And you can control the alpha on the water for shallow and deep water. You can alter the colour of the water too so you can have sea water and swamp water. All updates are in real time too, so when you click save on your changes you can instantly see your changes in Toolbench without having to shut down the water editor, by turning on the animation in the tool.

 

Simple.

 

Beyond the water feature, Toolbench is just as simple to use in adding new props, new textures, new masks is all very straight forward, so there is so much scope for users to personalise Toolbench to their own needs. Additionally, Toolbench allows me to create multiple palettes so I can quickly jump between my ‘mountain creating’ palette and my ‘mountain painting’ palette to my ‘road paint’ palette and so on.

 

Also, prop placement is equally simple. You select a layer you want the prop to go into, you go to the props list and you drag it in. Manipulation tools allow you to do the standard things such as rotate, translate, scale but you can also check for duplicates and snap to ground. All of these commands can be put into shortcut keys to speed up development along with handy features like multiple views.

 

That about does it for my introduction to Toolbench, stick around for some updates on our other tech, some great screenshots and previews of our games and other news!

 

 

– Ciarán

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Developer Blog

Golden Rules of Mobile Game Development

So I’m very excited about Runic Rumble, I decided to write a blog post. Epiphany Games has done a bunch of mobile work for clients in Australia and Abroad but this is the first time we are creating a mobile game specifically for our own players. What’s more Runic Rumble players will receive some nice benefits and treats in Frozen Hearth, I won’t go into specifics but we have to create some serious technology to support our players of all platforms.  This got me to thinking – what are the Golden Rules of Mobile Game Development:

 

  1. Keep the Gameplay simple as possible, have one good game play idea and focus on that.
  2. Do what you can with the platform to make it easy for the player, people don’t want to have complicated sign-in processes – single click sign-in is preferable for multi user games.
  3. Make your narrative simple, yet engaging, draw the players in on one sentence.
  4. Test often on many devices. Even iPhone has several devices and many versions of the OS.
  5. Keep it small, the smaller the download quicker the player is playing your game.

So, onto the new technology. At Epiphany we have created some great pieces of tech used in over 100 games. This ranges from iOS to PC and Console. Today we have started an exciting project that many game developers will want, as what it does is allow developers to unite their players across games and platforms and share their achievements online. More importantly it utilises the services we like to use already: Steam, Apple Game Centre etc.  It’s not a replacement – it’s an enhancement, one that will be in the hands of the Studios who make these games. Secondly it has some nice features out of the box to get started, like high score tables, league tables and achievements you can use these and give your players a login quickly and efficiently using a JSON or XML API. Looking forward to sharing future updates about this new tool kit.

 

Cheers

 

Morgan

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Developer Blog

Ciarán Daly’s Level Designing With Toolbench!

Welcome to my first developer blog for Epiphany Games! Hi, my name is Ciarán Daly, and I’m lead level designer here at Epiphany Games. I’ve brought my experience with The Creative Assembly back in the UK over here to Australia to work with Epiphany. The guys here have asked me to write this to firstly introduce myself, and to discuss some of the amazing tech which we will be using on our upcoming RTS title, ‘Frozen Hearth’.

 

First of all… Me – I worked on level design for around 7 years with The Creative Assembly in the UK on the Total War franchise and on their console titles. In those 7 years, I learned so much about game development as I watched the studio grow from about 30 to 150. I then moved here to Australia in March 2011 and was thrilled to find myself level designing with an exciting new studio here. Having the opportunity to be a part of a company from its beginnings and to be one of the primary cogs in its wheel is exactly what I was looking for and have found that at Epiphany working with a great bunch of lads on a game that is precisely the type I’ve always loved playing.

 

As for our level editor, we use Toolbench, the main tool that is part of our engine, Gamebryo LightSpeed. It was incredibly easy to pick up and start using. After getting a brief demo as to how it works I was let loose on it. Within a few days I had created a level which is still in use today with a few minor adjustments as I learn new tricks as I go along. Among the number of features and tricks Toolbench has in its bag, I’m firstly going to talk about the Terrain Editor.

 

Terrain Editor is a very powerful tool. To explain how useful it is I will show how I would typically manipulate the land in a few simple steps:

 

1. Create a new palette

2. Add elements to the palette, i.e. Elevate, Flatten, Smooth, Noise, Paint. I can pick any combinations of these elements to use on one palette. I can leave them on the palette and disable them if I decide not to use them.

3. Adjust your percentage strengths on each element. If you want a little hill, set elevate to 10%, if you want a mountain set it to 50%. I tend to hold the mouse down and draw in a mountain using a smaller percentage for more control, it may take longer than a single click on a high percentage but the results are better.

4. Chose a brush, either the in-built circle or a user made mask. I made 7 different masks in 5 mins for testing and they work perfectly for me so I kept them.

5. Decide if you want to randomise the size, rotation or both of the mask or brush.

6. Turn on the Terrain Edit Gizmo

7. Create your terrain

 

It’s that easy.

 

I’m not sure how many times I said the word simple, easily, or quickly so far on this blog but if it’s a lot then there is a good reason for it 🙂

 

Check back soon for my introduction to editing water in Toolbench!

 

Ciarán.

Categories
Developer Blog

SOPA is dead. Long Live SOPA.

So, you’re all aware of the recent shelving (a term appropriate in all its possible sub-cultural connotations) of the proposed SOPA legislation in the US, so I’ll avoid getting too far into detail about it.

 

As a game designer, I have a dog in this fight, and what I’m interested in is the apparent naïveté involved on all sides of the discussion. First, and foremost, the utter lack of understanding involved on the government officials’ behalf. Clearly this new internet thing is a little beyond their comprehension, a fact actually admitted at the time of shelving when one of the reasons given was that the senators needed further education.That the proposed legislation was utterly unsound and unfit for its purpose is a well-established point. That it took so much opposition, not just from script kiddies ’doing it for the lulz’, but from juggernauts like Google before it was realised that maybe, just maybe this was not the right course of action is concerning. That the US democratic process was so far advanced on this is plain scary.

 

However, what’s done is done. SOPA is dead. For now. However, it is important that in the self-congratulatory afterglow of victory we examine the issue, from all sides. It is vital that we don’t merely let ourselves be seduced by the heady highs of successful protest; and really look at what we’re wishing for before we actually get it.

 

Put simply, the issue at hand is that piracy is undesirable. As a game developer, Epiphany has to accept that a percentage of any profits we make from our games WILL be lost to piracy. This is not a complaint, merely a fact.

 

However, the other side of this is that the approach taken thus far by sections of the publishing industry of all media has been grossly out of line.

 

Basically, media corporations have been attempting to use the immense profits they’ve made over the past several decades of pop-culture to sway governments into legislating protection for their profit margin. Instead of accepting certain realities in the post-internet marketplace, they have stamped their feet, and spat their dummies, furious and clueless as to the fact that they no longer control the method of distribution.

 

Today, many still continue to try to lobby and litigate their way out of the problem, instead of understanding and adapting.

 

The undeniable fact is that the marketplace has changed. Not for better, not for worse, merely changed. There are many ways to bring a product to market, and many ways to make money. And this is the key – the approach that is needed to be understood by those who are pro-SOPA is that the emphasis those that want to sell a product should be upon enticing the consumer to pay money, not enforcing them.

 

Enticement, not Enforcement. This is the direction that must be taken by the distributors.

 

On the other side all of us, as consumers, must hold up our own end. Before we get all lovey-dovey about the collective achievement of stalling SOPA-style legislation, we have to firstly remember that this sort of response is merely stalled, not defeated, and we have to remember that these products *do* cost money, and that we *should* be paying for them, if we want them. Clearly the prices we are expected to pay currently are not in touch with what we are happy to pay (and accordingly, clearly the business models currently employed are broken). Despite this, the fact remains that in order for artists and others to keep on producing; they need to earn money for their work.

 

In my experience, the vast majority of people are more than happy to pay for products on the internet. The fact that many, many people DO in fact pay is clear evidence of this. Further, there are a great many publishers and related businesses who *are* taking a mature approach to this, in a lot of cases led by the game dev industry. There are many, many examples of this, that I won’t bother going into, but the fact of the matter is that there *are* market-based solutions.

 

At the end of the day, this issue is not going to go away. Piracy is undoubtedly a problem, one that requires a mature, pro-active response, not just from the publishing industry and from governments, but also from the people who are ultimately the ones who will bear the final cost of whatever outcomes result – we, the consumers.

 

– Sam