October 21, 2013

What's up, Interplanetary?

The game is actually starting to look kind of nice! After all the recent devblog posts, we thought it would be nice to get back to the basics for a moment and give a little update on how we are doing with Interplanetary and internal Team Jolly Roger stuff.

Interplanetary is prettier and more functional!

It's true, a big part of why I wanted to write a quick status update is to showcase some of the new graphics! We've been busy implementing a graphical beauty that we won't be ashamed to show around. Of course, this is still not final, but it's a nice improvement to what we've had in the past.

We've come a long way...
...and we're still not done!
We're currently working on creating something nice looking and playable for o
ur upcoming visit to DigiExpo in Helsinki. Something big is brewing and we'd like to have a nice slice of the game to show to people there, and maybe even let them try it hands-on.

As for the gameplay, we basically have all the basic features of the game present, one way or the other. For showcasing the game, we're concentrating on getting the targeting phase work properly and feel good. It is, after all, a major draw of the game. The other main feature that we aim to polish, is the building of structures and maintaining them. These two features by themselves already make a kind of a nice little game, but there's a lot more in store for the next version.

TJR is a company, for reals!

This is quite huge for us: we managed to break free from the grasp of our university and form an independent company, officially known as TJR Games! We're still the good old Team Jolly Roger, just a bit more official.

Starting a company wasn't a simple thing to do, and preparing for it has slowed down the game development considerably at times. There was a period, when we didn't actually have a work space to do our game development and the team was separated to work in their homes. This rarely works.

Was going to add a picture of the office, but who cares? The game looks nice.
Luckily, we found an office space for a manageable price and filled it with computers and other stuff needed for game making. For a new indie company, this wasn't exactly cheap overall, but at least the situation is more stable now and work can resume in normal pace. Or, extranormal, since we're in a full-on crunch mode! Busy, busy.

Hungry for more screens? Check out our stash of pics, from the oldest of versions to the new shiny ones.

October 14, 2013

Northern Game Summit 2013 & how to pitch a game

Full house!

Northern Game Summit was held second time last week, and we thought this would be a perfect time to share our experiences.

Kajaani is quite a remote place to hold a gaming conference at, but NGS was still very populated event. (And the only one to date that has started with karaoke!?) All in all the event was pretty excellent, we had a chance to meet lots of new people and keep in touch with old friends. The lectures we're interesting too, even after some technical difficulties.

Afterparty was a big part of the event as usual. The organizers came up with an interesting combination as the stands you would expect to see in most gaming events we're actually part of the party. Worked very nicely!

Ever played Alan Wake on 300" screen?

This time we took part in the pitching contest, which was probably the most important single event throughout the summit. While the pitching didn't go as well as it could have with proper preparation, it was well worth the trouble. Pitching an idea in front of real business people is an excellent way to get some free EXP, something we definitely recommend to any game developer. Since it's possible to learn from anyone, not only from the best, check out this short list of what we gathered:

-Prepare early. This provides you a chance to go through your presentation multiple times and in different mindsets, and gives you more time to...

-Practice. This one should be obvious, but it might still be just a little bit too easy to trick yourself into believing you know your idea/project well enough to present it spontaneously. Do this in front of someone not familiar with you as well, if you have a chance. There a second layer to practice as well: In addition to practicing every single pitch, you should practice pitching in general as often as possible.

-Gather your team, or at least consider doing so. Preparing a game pitch is something you can do alone, but it's almost always better if you can prepare it with your team or even a couple of friends. This helps you to cover multiple points of view, get more feedback and root out some hitches that might have gone unnoticed.

-Back it up. Do some research that prepares you for difficult questions about your target audience, competition, sales estimates, even tech. Including those things in your pitch in a simple format gives a feeling that you know what you're doing, as long as they are facts.

-Make it look good. Having some cool concept art can definitely help you get the point across. Mockups or bullshots are better, and if you have a chance to include a short section of gameplay video, you're all set!

In the process of preparing for a pitch one time too little.

PS. We haven't completely forgotten about Interplanetary either. The development effort is back on track and running smoothly now that we have settled in our new premises. More on that later!

October 2, 2013

Creative process and UI design, part one


I'm Tarita, one of the two artists in our team, and this is my first blog post here. My main task in Interplanetary is to help to make the User Interface fuctional, and hopefully, also pleasant to look at.

Thankfully, I have studied graphic design in the past, and my previous game projects have provided me with enough experience to understand that design work like this involves more than just throwing a few boxes here and there and calling it a day.

So, the theory side is pretty well covered, but my hands-on experience? Very little. Our team size used to be a lot smaller, and as the sole artist my attention was mostly directed at in-game assets. I had made some UI graphics, too, but there wasn't enough time to actually concentrate on them, not properly. Interplanetary is my first chance to redeem the hasty UI:s of the past, so to speak.

Despite this, my first mockup sketches for Interplanetary were conservative: Electric blue elements surrounded by a subtle shine of blue light. I wasn't satisfied. While the combination definitely looks appealing, it's also a very common sight in scifi games, and I wish to avoid sticking to the most obvious style choice. I was looking for something modern and sleek, simplistic rather than cluttered and glossy.
Pictured: creative process

After "some" time, blood and bitter artist tears, I ultimately came up with three different style options for us to choose from: a) A light and delicate combination of solid metal parts and transparent holograms, b) Solid, traditional boxes with a white color scheme, and c) A mix of typography and colourful, yet subtle elements that obstruct the game view as little as possible.

Based on the sketches, we decided to go on with C, but we dropped the main focus from the typography elements and I was requested to tone down the amount of colours. To compensate for the losses, I picked up the white colour scheme (originally from B) and decided to use partially transparent objects instead of plain text.

To be continued...
In my future posts I will shed light on some of the many hassles of designing a functional UI, and provide you with some images of the final UI style. See you there!