Developer Blog

Cross Platform Mobile Development

As Epiphany Games wants to give players an experience in a variety of platforms; one world but many ways of interacting with it, I thought I would take the time to make some points about tools that can assist our vision and bring that experience to multiple platforms. I’ll also talk about how those tools help our projects which are not in the same setting; some of which are revenue sources for our company.


Our goal of cross-platform games requires us to have a higher level of understanding and deeper level of integration than many other companies. We have pushed out many games this year and last year on iPhone and Android; before that we were developing engine technology to enhance our ability to make the games we wanted to make. Early on, we found that to enable a certain level of cross platform development C++ was the language that gave us the most bang for our buck. We have a strong team, well versed in C++ from Frozen Hearth and GameBryo development. Frozen Hearth uses a combination of C++, C#, and LUA script. Our mobile title ‘Runic Rumble’ uses C# almost exclusively because of the engine choice; I would have liked to have the development in C++, but the project was too far along and we decided to stick with C# on Unity.


At Epiphany we also develop many mobile games for companies in Australia and Japan, and on these projects we tend to use C++ to get the project done in a tight deadline. This month we developed three games in two weeks to an Alpha stage using a very small mobile team. These games functioned on both iPhones and Android phones and were skinned with different themes for different levels. Using an objective-C wrapper or a Java Wrapper on the different platforms allowed us to release the games at the same time on the different platforms. When we partnered with Flat Earth Games, and we are using the same cross platform techniques in this development and I think it will help us a great deal. The project is really cool and we are making some great progress, and I think our approach is going to help Flat Earth Games and ourselves get the game out to a variety of platforms and market places. The next step for us is to take some of our free games and our paid Android games to the various market places; we use is a company called Codengo to deal with the plethora of mobile stores. For the App Store we must still submit ourselves.


One of the hardest and most time consuming components of mobile development is submitting your game to a store for review and then tracking the results across stores and sectors, there are many stores that game developers never even think of like the Samsung store. Codengo is a new distribution service that puts the mobile submission and tracking of games in the hands of the developer, for a small fee and no percentage of the games revenue  Codengo will submit your game to over ten stores, Google Play, Samsung and others. The service can track the results consolidate the marketing material and within a few clicks your game is submitted across the world to a variety of market places.  Codengo isn’t free; however the benefits of a one-service submission will be attractive to cross platform developers who distribute in multiple markets.


By using this cross-platform approach we hope to service our customers on both platforms, in a variety of market places, and enable them to experience our games in a variety of ways. I really think this cross-platform approach services our customers better because we can give them a variety of experiences on multiple platforms. It’s imperative that all Australian Game developers look at how they are dealing with multiple platforms because the need is never going to disappear.

Developer Blog

Catchy Pitching

Recently I had the privilege of sitting on a panel of judges as some small local game developers pitched their game concepts at us. We were there to discuss their ideas, not just on a gameplay front, but also (and probably more importantly) from a business standpoint. Sitting in a smallish room, the other judges and I watched these guys and girls show us their ideas. While the ideas were pretty much all solid – though they could all have done with a bit more time on their design, which is understandable as they had all only had a few weeks to develop – it was the pitches themselves that needed the most work.


This in turn caused me to think about pitching. For most devs, it’s not really something they have to do – yet at college or uni, or in this case an incubator, it was expected that these programmers and designers jump up and give us a 5 minute (which is a very small amount of time to convey as complex a subject as a game design) spiel on their work.


Good pitching is really a direct-experience thing – something that takes a long time and a lot of attempts to get right – or at least get to a point where it’s acceptable. While there’s not really any class or book or advice that is going to be anywhere near as good a teacher as just doing it a whole lot; I myself have had to do dozens and dozens of them, and while I am in no way a pro at it, I’ve definitely gone through enough of them to have figured out a few things which I thought I’d share…


When pitching your game, don’t tell us how passionate you are about games. The people you’re speaking to will assume this is the case. You also don’t really need to mention that you’re gamers. Almost everyone who works in developing games is into games. You have limited time to impress your audience, and there are better ways to use this time.


Try to focus on talking about your game. Always open with an introduction of your company – not yourselves – but keep it quick. Discuss the gameplay, and the elements of your game that are interesting and different – in the typical ‘why would I play your game over *insert other game here*?’ sense. Be prepared for this question – whether they ask it or not – you’re still going to have to cover it in one way or another.


Keep your introduction to the narrative and any world-setting brief. Publishers don’t really care too much about the narrative; they want to know you have a narrative and a rough idea of it to see if it’s an original concept. If you have a game with a campaign, just stick to the dot points, keep it to a sentence or so.


Lastly, you can’t ever fully prepare for a given pitch – different people are going to react differently and ask different questions – so you need to develop (or be one of those lucky people who have it naturally) the ability to think and talk on your feet, and one of the best ways to achieve this is to Know. Your. Material.


At the end of the day, pitching is not really something that can be taught, or leaned from a book. It is something that is best learned simply by doing it. If you’re in the position at Uni/College, or even work where you’re having to give one or more of these sort of presentations, the best advice I guess I can possibly give is just to believe in your concept – the confidence in your voice and your manner will come with a bit of time and practice, and confidence is a key to success for almost anything.


– Sam

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.




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

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.





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!



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

Developer Blog

Lessons in game design and game writing

Being somewhat of a newcomer to this racket, it has been a steep learning curve. I didn’t attend any game design schools, I didn’t even do a single game-related unit when I was at uni. My honours thesis, which was on (roughly) online games and literary theory, was met with dumbfounded looks by the teaching faculty at my school – I really had no guidance, no-one knew what to do with me or my thesis. I jumped into this knowing one thing – I like games.


As such, if I had one thing to tell any budding game designers of you that happen to read this, it would be this: make sure you like games. Make sure you know games – a LOT of games, a lot of different games. In my research, I ran into too many theorists and ‘game designers’ who quite simply didn’t appear to have the slightest clue what they were talking about. They weren’t/aren’t Gamers. To me, that is the most important part of game designing: being a Gamer.


Certainly, game design can be tough – there is a lot to manage and think of and your ideas have many different constraints upon them that you won’t even remotely think of. But at least as far as writing goes, you don’t have to be creating the next great novel – people play games to play games, not to read heartbreaking works of staggering genius.


At GDC I sat in on a ‘writing for games’ roundtable. It was exactly the waste of time and oxygen I thought it was going to be. One guy, who has worked on a number of published titles, claimed in relation to getting the tech team interested in the game story said: “If the story you’re writing isn’t blowing the minds of the tech guys, then you should probably get a new job.”


What a toolbag.

Let me tell you what the tech guys I’ve met get excited about:



They get excited about tech. They get excited about solving puzzles and proving how clever we already know they are. It’s not that they don’t like your story, just to them it doesn’t have the meat that a nice tricky algorithm does, or the elegance of a great piece of code.


At the end of the day, like most writing you’ll ever do, the only judge you can rely on is yourself. If you’re writing comedy and you’re making yourself laugh, it’s a decent shot you’ll make at least some other people laugh also. If you’re writing and you’re generally interested in what you’re writing, it’s a decent bet others will also.


If you like what you’re doing, it’ll usually come through in what you produce.

Developer Blog

Baby Steps

Considering its been about 5 years since this company first made its gasping crawl from the protoplasmic miasma of simply being ‘some dudes sitting around a loungeroom table slinging around some ideas’, and into being an actual (if small) moneymaking venture; we here at Epiphany finally made the staggering intellectual leap that, you know what: maybe it’d be a good idea to have a website with some actual stuff on it, and maybe get some of us to record a few of our experiences for the 2 or 3 people out there who may be interested in the trials and tribulations of a growing game development company.


Being the resident writer in this company, it was left to me to start this off, and I’ll likely be doing most of the blogs, but for anyone interested in the tech-ish side of things our programmers will also be dropping the odd word in here and there. Course, like most programmers, those words probably wont make any sort of normal syntactical sense, but they’ll be giving it a shot anyway, bless them.


Epiphany, as I said above, started roughly 5 years ago, with some friends sitting around a loungeroom table, talking about things they’d like to see in games. Slowly this became more and more serious and turned from some friends sitting around a loungeroom table discussing game ideas, into discussing HOW to implement these ideas. Cut to here, a few years later, and we’re developing our demo for our first title and assembling the tech we’ve been building over the past 2-3 years into something we can play. Woo!


Our original concept was an MMO. Specifically it was an MMO based in Greek mythology – that base has since changed, due to a lot of factors, but our desire to create an MMO has not changed. Looking back, it was probably a bit insane to go straight to developing an MMO as a first-up title, akin to skipping learner driver school to jump right into an 18-wheeler; which isn’t to say we have scrapped the idea – far from it. Indeed we have expanded on our MMO idea, evolved it and created at this stage no less than three separate game projects, all set within the same world as the MMO, all designed to immerse players not just in our games, but in our World.


Frozen Hearth is the first of our titles – it is an RTS, and introduces players to the PC-race of our MMO. You can check out more about it here.