9th Jan 2009
A keen Abombinaball player emailed to say that level 22 of the game was impossible. I checked it out and sure enough he was right! There were two missing blocks that were essential to completing the level. I have fixed this in the version spread via Mochi, and also hosted on Newgrounds and Kongregate. I also sent new XML files to the sites that sponsored the game, so hopefully this won’t be a problem any longer. Sorry about that! Just incase you’re playing an “old” version of the game, the password for Level 23 is “AFRICA”.
17th Dec 2008
Today I delivered the final source files to Candystand.com for my latest game Fruiti Blox. They should be releasing it in January 2009, so I’ll write again when it’s live for playing, but it was a great experience for me and they were fantastic people to work with. I can’t wait to see the game live.
Oddly enough today also marks the first anniversary of my journey into AS3 and Flash. It was a year ago today (back in 2007) that I started teaching myself AS3. I had never touched a single line of ActionScript in my life before. All of the AS2 code I saw scared the hell out of me, the sheer mess of it really went against my coding OCD! But AS3 was different. It was familiar, and powerful. I armed myself with Moock’s Essential AS3 bible, the AS3 Cookbook, a copy of Flash CS3 and set to work.
The journey has been incredible. I’m no stranger to programming, especially not games development, but I honestly have not had this much development fun for many many years. I’ve always said that limitation breeds creativity (a true mantra of the demo scene), and I found the limitations of Flash were what drew me in, but the sexiness that is AS3 captivated me and never let go.
My first ever game was called “Go Fish”, and it involved making a fish swim through an ever encroaching sea cavern. It taught me a lot about how AS3 worked, in particular how it handled bitmaps and mouse events, and the whole process of screen updating. Collision detection was ropey (at best), the graphics chunky and I stupidly set the frame rate at 60 fps. But it was a start.
From there I moved onto a few small demo effects, porting over my old DarkBASIC code into AS3. Starfields, morphing balls, sine-waves, that kind of thing. Seeing these effects come alive in my browser was awesome. It was like meeting an old friend you haven’t seen for ages.
By this point we were into the middle of January, and I wanted to create a game for one of the web sites we look after at work. I figured it needed to be quite simple as it was my first Flash game project, so I kicked off with a “match 2 cards” affair. The end result was Match Quest for the Shaun the Sheep web site. I did all the visuals and code myself. I was so green to Flash in general that I didn’t realise that you could set an image in the library to use say 80% compression and that it would still retain alpha levels (I figured it’d convert it into a jpeg and loose all alpha, like a browser does). This meant the game was massive, over 2MB in size so large I even wrote a pre-loader “space invaders” game for people to play as it loaded! But it was the first rung of the ladder for me, and I was pleased.
From there I moved almost directly onto my next game Colour Chain and it was released one month later. It was another puzzle game, this time involving more arcade style effects (nice particle trails, exploding blocks, etc) and yes – sound effects! (Match Quest is utterly devoid of any sound). People genuinely loved this game, and it’s played by thousands of people across the web still today. Something that amazes me.
I was now in my element and learning at an extremely rapid pace. I won’t bore you with a complete chronology of events for the year, but suffice to say we’re now 12 months from that infamous day and my coding life is a much richer and different place because of it. I wanted to release 12 games within one year, and I sort of failed to do this – I actually released 10. I guess if you include the early Go Fish and the Space Invaders pre-loader game then I coded 12, but I’m not one for cheating
Aside from the coding I’m really amazed at the Flash game developer community. I have met some truly great people this past year, not least of which include the dynamic duo over at 8-bit Rocket; quite frankly we’re like UK/US carbon copies of each other given our loves and pasts! Also a quick shout to squize / GYM. A total ActionScript powerhouse if ever there was one, a truly awesome coder, and dude your tenacity at capturing all Xbox achievements scares the hell out of me. Do you secretly own all Pokemon beasts? Also the great people on FlashGameLicense.com (both running it and using it), and the sponsors I’ve met as a result. FGL believed in my games, which lead to real world cash, which lead to utter surprise and amazement from me Full respect for all they do.
So what does the future hold? Right now I’ve got 3 days left at work before I leave for Christmas, and I’m not back in there until January 5th 2009. I’m busy coding a MMO Flash based virtual world for a client, which is a whole new set of challenges believe me! This should see release in March 2009, and it will take up most of my commercial development time. But of course I’ll still be building games “for fun” as well. I have a number of ideas fleshed out on paper, one of which is well into production with art assets already underway. One thing I am determined to do is move away from puzzle games next year and focus more on action and arcade titles. Right now the game in production is a top-down shooter similar to Alien Breed / Gauntlet. So it’s requiring a mass of new technologies for me, and PixelBlitz is going to get some serious updates in the process.
There’s still a few weeks left until 2009 but I’m going to take them off, away from games coding and instead spend extra time with my family, read some books and hopefully finally complete Puzzle Quest on my 360. The stack of books I have here should interest a lot of you reading this blog, so I’ll write about them later on. Until then I hope you all have a great Christmas / Holiday season, and look forward to seeing what 2009 will bring us all.
5th Dec 2008
Sadly when they released the game they got the width/height of the SWF wrong, which meant the graphics distorted and it was really hard to play (as you couldn’t even see your status bar). I think this has had a negative impact, and while they fixed it on their own portals, the fixes didn’t carry to all the other sites that seed from them.
That aside I was happy to see that since November 20th (2 weeks ago today) the game has been played just short of half a million times (490,044 to be exact). That’s a healthy 35,000 plays a day. For me personally this is fantastic. The very thought that I took a really old and mostly forgotten Atari ST classic and bought it back to life so vividly makes me giddy with pleasure
Strangely which country do you think liked the game the best? UK? US? Actually it was Spain, easily in the lead with 22% of the total plays. Poland came a close second with 17%. The worst performing country? Malaysia with a lowly 117 plays. Awww!
As Spils exclusive deal is now over Abombinaball has started to be featured elsewhere, including being today’s top featured game on the excellent Gamezhero.com site. It’s only been live for a few hours but has a 4/5 rating from 80 votes already, which is great. The Gamezhero team did a wonderful job of making the game feel special on their site, so full credit to them. I have not included stats from this version in the above total, so it’ll be interesting to see how it compares.
I’ve also submitted the game to GameJacket and Mochi today. I’ll add all of these figures into the next update when one month is up, so we can see how standard distribution via Mochi compares to the likes of heavyweight portal owners such as Spil.
20th Nov 2008
Well I’m glad to say that after several months Abombinaball is finally out for the public to play! I put the development version on Flash Game License, eventually sold it to SpilGroup, had to translate it into 16 different languages (a hell of a lot of work) and it went live across the world today.
According to my tracking stats it’s going down well, SpilGroup certainly have a decent chunk of traffic. Sadly they got the SWF dimensions wrong when putting live, but I’ve emailed them and it’s being fixed now! So the high rating it currently has is despite the fact the graphics look a bit screwed!
Will keep an eye on play totals and report back how it goes in a few days.
I was pleased to see that Stickhead over at The Joy of Sticks blog (a superb Atari ST blog!) wrote a nice comparison of my version with the original including videos. You can read that here. Here’s a video of the game taken from YouTube (created by The Joy of Sticks):
Oh and Jeff/Steve if you’re reading this, you can now post about the little easter egg in it
You can play it on Agame.com or the translated versions at UK English, Netherlands, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Swedish, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish, Latin American, Brazilian, Indonesian and Malaysian.
24th Oct 2008
I wanted to create something quick and fun for Halloween, so I came up with Pumpkin Dash.
You are a candy collecting pumpkin, and you must zoom around the graveyard collecting as many sweets as possible while avoiding everything else. Skulls, ghosts, bats and tomb stones are out to get you.
The Witches Hats will give you either a trick or a treat when collected – so it’s up to you if you dare take them!
I had fun writing this, definitely my fastest turn-around for a game yet (although I could still do better if I didn’t tinker so much!)
Update: You can now play this game on Kongregate.
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