My good friend Spencer Nielsen recently added game pad support for the iOS versions of Caster. It should be in the App Store soon. While you’re waiting, be sure to check out his new game Invader Zurp in the App Store. Definitely worth a play through or two.
Following a temporary price reduction of Caster from 4.99 to .99 for the remainder of February, Caster has moved into the top 10 selling games in the Mac app store. If this trend keeps up, I’m tempted to put Lexov on hold and go back to working on multiplayer for Caster.
Working on this game with C# on the 360 has some interesting problems that have been quite a bit of fun to try and overcome. For example, say I have a 128 x 128 x 64 volume of voxels. Simply walking across that volume of voxels requires over a million operations. Doing one million operations alone in C# on the Xbox brings my frame rate down to less than 30 frames per second (just write a for loop and increment a local variable to see what I mean).
Here is an early version of Lexov where I am evaluating the voxel volume and adding the appropriate geometry for rendering:
Because of the performance issues with C# on the Xbox, I’ve had to get pretty creative in my approach. I’ve started using approaches that reduce the number of operations that need to be done while favoring doing more work on the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit). For example, in C# on the 360, it’s faster to draw an extra million triangles to save several thousand instructions per frame.
Currently, I’m using several dynamic vertex buffers and updating changes to the buffers as they happen in the game rather than evaluating the entire voxel volume each frame.
One important difference when using this approach is that I no longer have to render cubes on voxel boundaries. This breaks some of the retro feel from being a true voxel volume, but allows for much smoother movement.
At this point I had to ask myself what it was that I really wanted to do with this game. I decided that what I really wanted was a simple fun destructible environment game at 60 frames per second on the Xbox 360. As cool as evaluating a single voxel volume would have been, it was secondary in importance.
Still, it’s hard to sacrifice the simplicity and beauty of the single voxel volume approach. In the end, I’m actually very happy to have sub voxel movement in the game.
Here are some more videos of progress I’ve made.
And earlier today:
I’m going to try and keep an active blog on my Lexov’s progress. I’ve been debating if the extra time to write blog posts is worth it when I could spend that time working on the game. I’ve decided that if I get extra feedback and community support from doing the posts, then it will make for a better game. Caster is a great example of this. Caster would have been pretty lame and boring were it not for the amazing feedback I got while showing the game off to friends and colleagues.
More details on the plans for game play and design forth coming.
I just finished Hyrophobia on Xbox Live Arcade. I really enjoyed the game! It had a few things that could have been improved to enhance my play experience, but I liked it enough to play completely through the game which is more than I can say for most games.
The sad thing is that this game did very poorly on Xbox Live Arcade. According to Wikipedia, only selling 17,000 copies by the end of October 2010.
It appears that the main reason for this is that many people were disappointed in the game when it was initially released at the end of September 2010. You can see some reviews here on MetaCritic.
Dark Energy did an update to the game about a week ago that addressed numerous issues the people found with the game (see the list here).
Had the studio made these updates to the game before release, I have no doubt it would have done much better in the market.
Based on Dark Energy’s initial reaction to the feedback, I think the problem was that they either didn’t do enough external play testing or just ignored people’s feedback. It’s difficult to keep an open mind about a game you’ve been working on for quite some time. Fresh players are an invaluable source for a clear perspective on the game experience and you discount what they say at your own risk. Obviously you should not change your game to adapt to every whim of every play tester, but if someone is getting frustrated or confused while playing your game, that’s a clear sign that something should change.
I’m sure they’ve learned their lesson, but what a price to pay!
So like I said, I really enjoyed the game and I hope they will release a sequel. But this time, I hope it’s after addressing play test feedback.