Director, Assistant, Janitor and Slave at Pixel Cows Studio.
Currently working on "The Journey of Eko", a platformer action-RPG for PC.
About Gabriel (twitter: @pixel_cows)
Director, Assistant, Janitor and Slave at Pixel Cows Studio.
Best end of level goal
Awarded by hamster_mk_4 on August 29, 2012
What’s up, fellow jammers!
A couple weekends ago, a part of our community – more specifically, many Brazilian Ludum Darers + other devs + some special international invitees – have gathered (virtually) for a weekend and created games to support a charity institution that provides education and health assistance to poor children in Brazil. The event was called Super BR Jam, and the games that were created were bundled and are now on sale. Ah, and 100% of the proceedings are being donated to charity. Yeah, it was practically at the same time as the Charity Game Jam, so all hearts are on the same place!
This jam also holds special significance for us Brazilian indie devs. So far, Brazil hasn’t been known for a strong development community, and with our sweat and blood we are working to change that! Unlike two years ago, when each developer probably thought he was the only guy developing games in Brazil, our community is now becoming increasingly united and developed, with indie events and joint efforts such as Super BR Jam becoming less and less rare. Really guys, this is a HUGE step forward for us! So, as if helping charity wasn’t good enough, Super BR Jam is also full of that special meaning for us Brazilian indies!
So, if you’ve watched the video above, you know the deal - it is a pay-what-you-want bundle containing a handful of great commercial games including Magicka, Dungeonland, Out There Somewhere and others, plus all the games that were created specifically for Super BR Jam! Below is the trailer for 49 Bullets – the game we created. It is in fact a spiritual successor to Super Fair Trial Show, which we developed for Ludum Dare 27. As of now, there is another video in production that contains gameplay footage from all of the jam games – I’ll add it here as soon as it’s available!
So, how can I help?
- Well, first off, you can always buy the bundle and have access to all of these neat games!
- If you can’t or don’t want to buy it for any reason, but still want to help, then spread the word! The bundle will remain available only for a very limited time, and any help getting the word out will be greatly appreciated! Once again, this is a charity bundle and all of the proceedings are going to Solar Meninos de Luz, so even promoting this bundle is a way of making a difference on these kids’ lives!
Thanks so much, and see you all in Ludum Dare 28!
Gabriel – @pixel_cows
Hello, everybody! Better late than never, here goes a quick post mortem for Super Fair Trial Show! You can find a more complete description in our blog, if you’re into blogs and stuff.
What went right:
- Most people seemed to enjoy the shoot-dodge-shoot-rules changed oh crap where’s my weapon-dodge some more gameplay!
- Tons of procedurally generated stuff! I know, replayability doesn’t count too many points in Ludum Dare since most people play each game 15 minutes or less. Still, I always love making it! Why? Because!
- Low res + pixel grid + realtime lighting. It even makes our rushed pixel art look passable!
- Multimedia Fusion. I’m always complaining about it, but truth is it just wouldn’t be possible to make all these systems work in 72 hours in a platform we didn’t know so well…
- Tweets! Everyone loves tweets! BTW, here, have some more tweets!
What went wrong:
- Difficulty curve. The game does feature progressive difficulty, but we didn’t have time to make the procedural AI follow a smoother progression, resulting in some levels being too easy and others ridiculously impossible!
- Controls (or making the controls more clear). Many people didn’t get the “Hold J to shoot without turning your character” command and thought it was some control glitch
- Enemies are too damn ugly! They were designed to be ugly, but they turned out much uglier than I planned! hahaha
Hhere, take another screenshot. People love posts with screenshots!
A couple remarks on the ’10 Seconds’ theme
When the theme was announced, we honestly didn’t like it at all – 10 seconds sounded like too little time to convey any relevant gameplay! Of course, it is totally feasible to create good games that somehow only last 10 seconds, as proven by many great games developed by fellow Ludum Darers! I guess we just wanted to make an arena shooter where each match lasted longer than 10 seconds, and that’s why we ended up going for the “every 10 seconds the rules change” approach. We think it worked well!
This is one of the great things in Ludum Dare – by committing to the restrictions, you have to leave your comfort zone and experiment. In the case of Super Fair Trial Show, the constant rule changes during the fight really spiced it up a lot and made the game much more interesting than it would be if we didn’t have to fit the theme at all!
The future of Super Fair Trial Show and other random stuff
We’re making an action-RPG-exploration-something game based on Super Fair Trial Show’s gameplay and systems. As you can guess it’s not an arena shooter, but it will inherit a lot in spirit from its father game! By the way, by all means we haven’t abandoned the development of The Journey of Eko! It’s going strong as always; this other game is a faster, parallel project that doesn’t rely on difficult-to-create content as much as Eko, so we saw it as a nice project to fit between Eko’s builds. There’s a little more info on this side project together with Super Fair Trial Show’s complete post mortem in our blog – feel free to take a look!
Other than that, I just want to thank the whole community for all the encouragement and support. As always, it is a pleasure to jam with you guys!
Gabriel and JP
aka Pixel Cows
So, Ludum Dare is getting bigger and bigger at each edition. This is AWESOME! More cool games to play, more insights gained, more great people to meet!
With all these newcomers around, I noticed that quite a lot of people in this edition don’t have a clear understanding on how to get their games played and rated. We veterans know that, but it might not be as obvious for newcomers. Anyway, the ‘strategy’ to get a lot of ratings and comments on your game is quite simple:
Go play and rate a lot of games yourself!
I’m not saying this because this is ‘the right thing to do’. I mean, it *is* the right thing to do, cause you’ll allow many other developers who worked as hard as you to also get feedback about their games. But it’s more than that: Ludum Dare has a ‘the more games you rate, the more you’ll get ratings for your game’ logic embedded into its workings.
It all starts with the games that are shown when any Ludum Dare participant clicks on the “Play and Rate Games” link. This is the screen that is shown:
In order for your game to receive ratings, it must show up on this screen. And what is the criteria that the system uses to pick which games show up here?
It’s actually simple! Have you noticed these little numbers below every game’s thumbnails?
The games that currently have the lowest Default score (the “D” among those numbers) show up on that list. Almost everyone who’s navigating on the Ludum Dare site to play games will play one of those games shown on that list – therefore, they will be picking one of the games with the lowest Default score. Getting your game played and rated boils down to keeping your Default score low. (yeah, in this case, the lower, the better)
The Default score is calculated by considering 2 basic factors: how many games you have rated (your Coolness score, show as a “C” in those little numbers below the thumbnail), and how many times your game have been rated (your “Ratings” score, shown as an “R”). The most games you rate, the better will your Coolness score be, and therefore it will go up in the priority list to be shown among those games in the “Play and Rate” screen. Your own game will be played and rated more or less proportionally to that – when someone rates your game, your game goes down in that priority list a little bit, so that other games can also receive a fair amount of ratings.
tl; dr: you keep playing and rating games, and your game will keep going up in the priority list that decides which games appear on the “Play and Rate” screen. As your game gets there and is played, it will go down in the priority list, and if you want to receive even more ratings, you have to keep playing and rating games too!
A WORD OF ADVICE (for people considering exploiting this system)
So, we are all gamers here and when we see a system, the first thing we do is start thinking on how to exploit it. “Duh, I will just open a thousand games and give them random ratings, preferably low rates so that they don’t compete with mine, and my game will be played thousands of times and I’ll be rich and conquer the world!”. If you think like this, you are in the wrong community. This is not even a proper competition and the winner doesn’t get a prize, and also cheating the rating system won’t make your game go well in the ‘competition’ (what makes you do well in the competition is making a great game). You should be here in a humble spirit, more than anything else to learn from others, make some friends and improve your craft.
With the ugly stuff out of the way, that’s it!
My most honest and warm welcome to all newcomers! I still remember my first time here last year (hell, I still feel like a noob, to be honest), and one of the greatest things I took from my first participation was the feeling of belonging to a community made of such nice, smart people. If it’s your first time here, I want you to feel the same way! It is awesome and beautiful how this event is growing at each edition.
So, every one of you newcomers, I can’t hug all of you in person, but please feel hugged. And now go play some games, give them honest ratings, be sure to leave a nice and thoughtful comment containing some honest and useful feedback! We’ll be doing the same for you!
So, I realize October is gone for a while, which ultimately means I failed at the October Challenge. Oh crap!
Still, I’d like to share some of our progress here, since this game started as a Ludum Dare game and at this point I feel our game owns so much to this community. This is how it’s looking nowadays:
Now here’s a little visual story of that. Back in August, 2012 we participated in Ludum Dare 24 and made a little game called Singularity, which was born from our desire to test some ideas on procedural generation. Not a particularly great game, for sure, but I think it turned out fun considering it was basically a tech test! Here’s how it looked:
Still, I felt the melee combat mechanic was really lousy. We were already developing The Journey of Eko back then, but it was essentially a physics-based platformer with linear progression and no procedural generation whatsoever – and in Eko, the combat also felt lousy despite the time we had put into it! I felt bad that we couldn’t manage to get it right, so during a 2 weeks vacation I took as a small side project to tweak Singularity’s combat mechanics and feedback, so that if I struck on any insights I could apply those to Eko. I imported some of Eko’s art assets and made this little test:
It is Singularity with improved combat and Eko graphics instead of silhouettes. It was almost October, and we decided to take the October Challenge and try to make something that we could sell out of this test. We worked on it and, eventually, what we were calling The Journey of Eko was this game, not the old, sluggish, overcomplex physics based thing we had before. Oh yeah, October was gone and of course we didn’t have anything to sell, but it’s ok! It became our main project, after all, and it surely deserves the extra time.
Since then, we’ve been developing, developing, developing… The first video on this post is from a January build; I hope to soon be able to replace some ripped graphics of our current build, so that we can share our recent progresses!
The reason I’m posting this here is that I feel we own so much to this community. First, because our game in fact *IS* a Ludum Dare game (there’s still rushed comments made during LD24 in the middle of Eko’s code, and some of Singularity’s silhouette graphics can still be seen even in our latest video)! Second, because when we started participating in LD, we developed a certain way of thinking that ultimately made us much more capable as developers. We were all about looooong development cycles planned entirely on paper and we were always afraid of tossing away what was already completed. Now it’s all about getting things done, playing, having fun, getting feedback, redoing what isn’t working, and adding stuff that we feel is necessary or that would be fun based on our experience with actually playing our game (not only planning it in our heads). For that alone, I’ll always think of Eko as some kind of legacy from Ludum Dare.
Love you all! Keep doing what you do! <3
Gabriel – @pixel_cows
I’m not sure… The idea of not working directly on The Journey of Eko for an entire month is kinda scary, to be honest… But I admit I’ve been having a lot of fun working on a Singularity post-compo version for the last weeks! Here’s how it’s looking now:
For those who don’t remember, here’s what the LD24 version used to look like:
In short, what I did from a graphics standpoint was importing assets from The Journey of Eko, and adding some shaders and particles. And of course removing the silhouette look, revealing Eko as the protagonist once again!
As for gameplay, I did a new combat system from scratch, now based in directional sword slashes and combos. For those familiar with Smash Brothers Brawl, it now plays somewhat like a fast Ike (“We like Ike!”). I’ve also focused a lot on visual feedback for the fight.
I was very, very impressed by deepnight’s Strike of Rage. If you haven’t played it yet, you definitely should! He was able to pull off a great, professional level look and feel for his beat-em-up in only 48 hours, it’s really freaking amazing. I played it over and over again, and decided I would implement some of his ideas in Singularity’s combat – specially particles and camera shake. Deepnight, sorry for reverse-engineering your animations aesthetics – that’s the price you pay for being so good!
Anyways, the game that used to be Singularity is becoming quite decent now. I’ve been further developing it initially because I wanted it to be all it could be without the LD time restriction; then I continued because it was serving as a decent prototype for The Journey of Eko’s combat system. Now I don’t know the reason anymore, I think I’m doing it just because it’s fun!
So, I thought: maybe I could turn this “Singularity / Journey of Eko crossover” into my October Challenge game? I could work on it for a month, get some experience on actually trying to sell a game, and get community feedback that could then be directly applied in our main project. Or I could just stop working on Singularity and get back to the ‘real’ Journey of Eko. Ohh, cruel doubt!
Tell me what you think! And while I can’t decide but can’t stop improving my sword combat prototype either, do let me know (tweet to @pixel_cows or something) if you are willing to receive the most current build to test / provide feedback. It will be greatly appreciated!
You know what this is? Look carefully:
Yeah, that’s a weird haired dude pissing on an alien. But it’s also much, much more than that: it’s McPixel, a game developed by fellow Ludum Dare veteran Sosowski being sold on Steam!!! Wait, let me say it again: it’s on Steam! STEAM!!! Here’s the link, go see for yourself (and while you’re at it, support one of our colleagues and buy it!)
This game was originally created for Ludum Dare, then Sosowski gave it a real polish, added tons of content and submitted to Steam’s new Greenlight system (for everyone living in a bunker, it’s a new ‘popularity evaluation’ system that Valve put in place to detect promising indie games that aim to be sold on Steam, basically based on ‘how many likes the game gets’). And McPixel is the very first game to actually be added to Steam through that new popularity method. It all started here, right here where we stand, in the Ludum Dare community! How great is that?!
There are no words strong enough to describe how FUCKING PROUD we are! I’m sure someone who’s actually important in the LD community (maybe Sosowski himself) will announce it here with a better explanation, better English, better wording and useful links. So Sosowski, in the meantime we’ll just leave you with our humble encouragement message:
Congratulations, best of luck with sales! We’re really proud, and I’m sure I speak for the whole community on that.
Results are freshly out of the oven now, and once again, the winner games are AMAZING! Congratulations to the developers who reached top 5 in the Compo and Jam:
To make it that high in the list, one needs a great idea, attention to detail, skill and discipline. You guys rock!
Also, everyone here knows it, but it’s never too much to say it again: Ludum Dare is all about making games, and we all managed to get that done.
So, congratulations, everyone! It’s an honor to jam with you!
Gabriel – @pixel_cows
Hello, fellow jammers!
we’ve had a bunch of family appointments lately, but finally managed to write a proper post mortem! This time, we experimented with procedural level generation – this is at the core of Singularity’s design and was where we spent the most time during that crazy weekend of sleep deprivation and an unhealthy peanut based diet. We wrote a post in our blog explaining in details how the procedural level generator works, take a look!
In our postmortem we do talk a little about how we spent our time, but the main focus is on what we learned about procedural level generation. But there are dev screenshots too, for we love those things, don’t we?
Yep, that awful head was the avatar in our first tests! For the close observers, you’ll notice that the bizarre archer enemy that starts spawning at about Difficulty 5 is actually the silhouette of a placeholder enemy that we didn’t have time to replace!
Anyway, several hours putting background graphics together and programming particles everywhere, the game got a substantial visual overhaul mostly during the last day. Here’s another screenshot of how it looked by the end of the day:
So, to cut to the chase:
*The level generation technology works well, and is fun to create and to play!
*The brainless gameplay summed with infinite levels gave the game a good replay factor, despite its very limited development time.
*The open, non-content-based design enables us to expand the game more easily, if we want.
*The ease to test game balancing and incorporate new mechanics in the middle of real levels makes it much easier to balance and prototype new ideas. A new jump height can be tested in an infinite amount of situations, a new kind of cannon can be easily tested in all sorts of level topographies and in the middle of other obstacles.
What could have been different
*Specifically in the context of Ludum Dare, most players don’t play the same game more than once, due to the need of playing many other games. The levels being different at each playthrough isn’t something that makes a difference for those particular players.
*The enormous amount of time spent with technology and playtest left us with a short time for aesthetic polishing. The silhouette based graphics is interesting and easy to create, but we’d need more particles, shaders and color balancing to reach the level of quality that we originally aimed for.
*The possibility that the level generator could create impassable levels led us to create ‘conservative’ level chunks and less randomization than we’d like.
Take a look in our blog to see how the level generator works, to know more about us, or our main project The Journey of Eko, for which both Singularity and Tiny Shard are some sort of prototype. Or just find us in Twitter (@pixel_cows) and say hello!
And for you hardcore platformer fans who missed it, you can get Singularity HERE!
This is our second time in Ludum Dare, and once again it was a lot of fun! It is a true honor to be part of this great community. You guys ROCK!
Cheers from Brazil
Gabriel and JP
So it seems my game will be something like Spelunky meets Super Meat Boy. All I was needing was an excuse to test procedural level generation, and now that it seems to be working well except for a few over difficult parts here and there, it’s time to start adding win / lose conditions and balancing difficulty!
This is how it’s looking like so far. The placeholder graphics keep sucking, but hey, all that stuff was proceduraly positioned there! Even I can’t believe!
Now I can only hope a fun game will emerge on the other side.
Ok, got a functional ‘terrain chunk’ creator, and a procedural platform creator that is able to put all those chunks together. Still very basic, with just obstacle/non-obstacle distinction, but hey, I’ve been DREAMING about procedural level generation, so it’s a good start!
Now for replacing some placeholder graphics… This little ugly head jumping on platforms is almost making me throw up on my monitor.
All right. Several months after the last LD, yesterday I got an encouraging message from a “Tiny Shard” fan. Yehaaa! Someone actually survived “Harday” and now we got at least ONE fan!
He and someone else on twitter were asking if we were planning to participate this LD. Well, the answer was “no”. We LOVED it the last time, but we’re in a real rush implementing a new tech in our main project The Journey of Eko, and to make it worse, we have several family meetings that we just can’t skip. Your gramma doesn’t turn 96 everyday!
So sad not to be able to participate! So we thought, thought, though… And you know what? SCREW THAT! We’re in, mo’fo’! Even if we’re really short on time, if we have to skip sleep, bath and other useless luxuries! The theme is still to be announced, but I’m seriously tempted to create something procedural. I’ll go with Multimedia Fusion 2 again.
We’ll be posting dev news on Twitter, follow us! @pixel_cows
Good luck, you all!
ps.: some info on The Journey of Eko, for those wondering what the hell is that – http://www.pixelcows.com/p/the-journey-of-eko.html
Hello, fellow jammers! Being a strong believer that later is better than never, here’s a link to the Tiny Shard postmortem. In truth, I started it during the jam and finished it at some point last week, but totally forgot to post here.
Before all that, though, I just wanted to thank the Ludum Dare veterans and the other newcomers for the warm reception and awesome feedback! This is my first time here and I’m amazed with the great community. You guys rule!
In the Pixel Cows blog (www.pixelcows.com – no idea why I can’t make it a link), there is a more detailed narrative of our rollercoaster method, for if you like narratives, rollercoasters or methods! Also, Tiny Shard is vaguely based on our main game, The Journey of Eko. It’s not the same game or setting, but the style and main character are certainly similar! You can find more info about this game in our blog as well.
All right, down to business.
What went right
-Using tools that we’re familiar with, specially Multimedia Fusion 2. We didn’t have to spend time reinventing the wheel.
-Dedicate enough time for polishing. Small details such as the weekday sign, the next day’s shard being shown at the background, the opening and closing animation for the gates, etc, ended up contributing a lot to the game’s setting and message.
-Low res. We’re still shocked with how quickly you can come up with reasonably well polished content when you work with a 200×150 pixels screen!
-Creating the type of game that we like to design and to play. This makes it easier to immediately notice if a feature is important or not, if the game is well balanced, etc. Besides, since The Journey of Eko is mostly a platformer, Ludum Dare wasn’t the first time we had to meddle with the science of balancing jump height, gravity, inertia, etc, which is a good thing from a time standpoint.
What went wrong
-Initially planning a scope that isn’t feasible in 48 hours. We fortunately had the idea of merging our projects and redirecting our efforts to the jam, also gaining an extra day to finish the game; but if it wasn’t so, each one of us would probably have submitted a poorly finished compo entry.
-Underestimate the time that level design and content importing take. This was pushed to the last hours, and we really had a very real risk of not being able to finish the game in time because of that.
-Think that iNudge is a magical tool for creating music with no time and effort. Don’t get me wrong here, the software is really good, but a random sound made in 5 minutes will most likely not convey the atmosphere you want for your game. To use it to its full potential, it certainly takes practice and time (that we still don’t have and that we didn’t have, respectively)
-Balancing the game difficulty based on our own skill level. Many people found the game to be too difficult, specially the already infamous last passage in Harday!
We have overwhelmed by all the encouragement and productive feedback we’re receiving from the community, and truly amazed on how many talented people are here! In fact, it’s being such a great experience that it motivated us to finish Tiny Shard. We’re working on the main things: making the final levels of the game a little easier and with checkpoints, rebalancing the Gentleman’s Rage, making the slime less anoying, and expanding the ending. We’ll publish it at www.pixelcows.com when it’s done, check it out if you like!
Finally, let me just take the chance to thank the Ludum Dare veterans and the other newcomers for the great reception. You guys are just great!
All right, we did it! Almost can’t believe it, it’s among the most insane 72 hours I ever had!
Tiny Shards is a tiny platformer with multiple levels and enemies, a few power ups, a little plot and the hope of some meaning!
Feedback is more than welcome! Hope you people enjoy!
All right, about 8 hours away from having it finished (hopefully!) Sleeping is something to postpone, it seems!
This is some rough art, before bloom and pixel enhancing, and completed in about one hour. Funny thing about Ludum Dare is that there is no time for things such as temporary art! If this is how a level ended up looking after you moved on to something else, odds are that this is how it will look like in the final version. Gotta have faith!
Good jamming, everyone! Look forward to see what you guys are up to!
Hello, fellow jammers!
I’m in, and here’s what on the Bat Belt today:
-Multimedia Fusion (with its free extensions available at the Multimedia Fusion website)
-Photoshop / Paint / Corel
-iNudge / Otomata / BFXR for those things that make our ears happy.
That’s it! Good luck everyone, try to have fun – right, one game in 48 hours, no sleep and piles of cold pizza… Sounds fun enough to me, alright!
Hello, fellow jammers / Fala aí, rapaziada!
We’ll be hosting a meet up at the incredible garage-office of Pixel Cows, in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. We’ll gather on Friday night and will remain open until the end of Sunday. Free pizzas on us!
If you intend to join us, please send me an email at email@example.com. We’ll announce details here and on the Pixel Cows blog. Do join us if you’re brave enough!