What’s in a name? At its core it allows something to be identified. So, when it comes to choosing a name for a game a name needs to be done carefully. The work in progress name for my current title had been one-hole golf. I thought this was a nice play on a “hole in one” in golf and linked to the key gameplay of the player needing to get the ball into a single hole rather than 18 individual holes in traditional games.
This title alone didn’t cover the unique elements from the game such as power ups and level exploration. However, I was at a loss how to incorporate these into the name.
Recently though my good friend Shuboarder suggested the title “Urban Golf: Hot Dog Edition” because in his opinion “a quirky game needs a quirky title”
The more I thought about it I realised he was right. Not only that, the name he suggested covered the fact that my game has both elements of golf and crazy enough to let the player know this is no traditional golfing experience.
What’s more I do have a character who is dressed in a hot dog outfit!
So, with this new name I set about creating a logo for the game. After several iterations, I settled with this.
I have started to brand all of my developer diaries with this new logo as you can see from the latest one below
Where to begin? I had plans in 2020 to start work on my next game after doing a final fix for Hitchhiker.
Of course, life changed almost overnight and, like many others, I found myself working from home. Luckily, I do have a dedicated office space at home so my working routine could resemble some remanence of normality.
I was conscious though of suddenly not having a definite split between work and home life. Normally I would leave the office and drive home where as now it was just the closing of a door that signalled the end of the working day. During the early months of the lockdown I wanted to support my family as much as possible so I decided that once I turned my PC off for work, I wouldn’t turn it back on until the following day so I could focus all my attention on them. As a result, all game development stopped.
Over the past few weeks, as life has started to move along once more, I have been thinking again about starting a new game. However, rather than trying to think of an idea that I think may get the most downloads or achieve the best review scores, I have decided instead to focus on a game that I myself would like to play.
The games I played growing always fell more towards the arcade style of gameplay. They had their challenges but offered the player a way of doing something that in the real world might be incredibly difficult if not impossible. I feel that games of this generation of lost that somehow. Games are now able to recreate complex physic systems that more reflect real life. An example of this would be the Forza motorsport franchise. The latest Formula one game also offers simulation modes for drivers who really want to test their skills. While I understand that some players enjoy this level of precision, I feel it takes something away from the enjoyment factor. If we as mere mortals don’t break at the exact right moment, we end up head first in a crash barrier. I know, of course, that there are a host of assists available which can help us by telling us when to break or even applying the break for us, but I’ve always thought that is just treating the player like an idiot.
On the flip side, cast your mind back to the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series. Here you could perform any number of crazy tricks while hurtling down a mountain side at break neck speed. All without a single “assist” in sight. The game naturally gave the payer a chance. Those who were more experience would naturally get better scores or open sections of the level that were difficult to navigate but the baseline gameplay was accessible. To my delight the recently released remake of these games has captured that baseline perfectly.
As a result, I had decided that for my next game the core gameplay will not be based on insane levels of precision or timing. Instead it will offer an accessible baseline on which the player can improve and master.
With the gameplay concept concluded I had to decide what genre of game I wanted to make. I decided on golf. Now don’t stop reading right away because contrary to what many might say, its not the most boring sport in the world… at least not in my opinion.
Growing up I played most of the Tiger Woods games from EA and loved them all. It was very sad when EA decided to no longer develop the series after there last team up with Rory Mcilroy.
HB Studios came to the rescue slightly with their game “The Golf Club”. However, like so many games these days they opted for a much more realistic gameplay experience.
Now anyone who plays golf will know that the game can be insanely frustrating at times. If I am then playing golf in a game, I don’t want to experience that same frustration. I want to be able to smash the ball in any direction I chose and for it to polity oblige by landing where I expect.
So as a result, I will be making an arcade golf game.
However, I do know that there have been many of these games before, so I wanted to try and add a twist to it. So for my version instead of the game being set on a golf course, it will be set in urban areas. I am also thinking of ways of allowing the player to explore the level on foot in-between shots with ways of improving / changing the gameplay experience for their next shot. In short think Tony Hawks meets Tiger Woods.
Here is a video of some early swing concepts and style
Over the Christmas period I had feedback from a player on the TrueAchievement website saying that since the last title update, the game had struggled to run on his tablet. The main feature of title update 3 was the day/night cycle along with the weather system. As a result, this was my main area of focus when investigating what could be causing the problem.
This system came from the Unity asset store and I noticed that a new version had been released, boasting some performance increases. As such I decided to update Hitchhiker to include this new version. While the performance did increase and allow the player in question to run the game again on his tablet, it introduced a strange bug with the car highlights.
When a player selects a car, it shows a blue highlight around it (green if the character is inside). For some reason this highlight could be offset from the car. In some instances, this resulted in the highlight not being visible.
I Investigated this further and found it only occurred when I was running the game in the mode needed to submit to Windows Store. In development mode everything was fine. Rather than trying to dig into this and find out what the problem was I decided to quickly try and replace the outlines with another package.
This new outline package offered all the same features but boasted some performance improvements over the version I was using. To my surprise adding this into Hitchhiker was very quick and on the face of it I do think it is a little quicker.
An update is currently in certification with the updated highlight feature, so I am looking to forward to see how it runs on players machines.
As always if you face any problems with Hitchhiker please feel free to contact me using the links at the bottom of the site.
In 2019 Hitchhiker was released on Steam. Ricochet was recreated and released on Console and Mobile and work started on my next title. As a thank you for your support I would also like to offer you a free copy of Ricochet! Let’s take a closer look
Hitchhiker was released onto Steam in early 2019 and marked my first release on the platform. I decided to implement steams cloud saves and achievements to keep things in line with the version released on Windows. I personally enjoyed re-creating the title artwork for the store listing. I feel the newly updated box art is a big improvement over the old version
After Hitchhiker was released I decided to re-create my old Xbox Live Indie game, Ricochet, in Unity. The initial aim was to complete the port in a few months. In the end, it took me almost double this time but the final result is a loving restoration of what was at one point the highest-rated puzzle game on the marketplace. The game was released as a creator’s title on Xbox One and Windows Store. Recently I also added in touch controls ad released the game onto the Google Play store. It was very exciting to have a game released onto a mobile platform once again.
I have had a few different ideas for my next game. I don’t have anything final to announce just yet, other than its not Hitchhiker 2. I can say that it will be based in a city like an environment again. So this time around I am creating a traffic system that will be much more versatile than the one found in Hitchhiker. I also plan to use 3rd party art assets straight from the off. I am hoping The higher quality level that these bring should help get the game noticed during development.
Over the last few months, I have been working on Ricochet’s resurrection. There have been a few hurdles along the way, but the end is in sight now. The aim was to get the game released as a Creator title on Xbox One. Today that aim was realized. The game can be downloaded here.
Below is the trailer that will be used for the games store page.
A few months ago I explained how I was introducing a day / night cycle into Hitchhiker. At the time this was purely to test out an asset for a future project that I had in mind.
However, it came together so well that I wanted to properly integrate it into the game and release it as an update. I toyed with the idea of just adding this feature in but there were some other tweaks that have been on the to do list for some time that could be included. As a result I decided to take the plunge and commit to a full title update.
Off the bat I can say that this update will not be include any expansion to the map size – If anything I am now trying to optimise the map I currently have. Instead this update focuses on refining what is already in the game with the aim to making it a better overall experience for the player.
There were 2 main areas that I wanted to focus on…
Hitchhiker has undergone a graphical revamp since the very first version. The game does look very different to what it was almost 4 years ago now. The UI though, has remained the same with each update. I figured it was time to move away from the default unity look and feel and switch to something that was more in keeping with the city environment.
After a long search through the unity asset store I found the “Grunge UI” pack. At first glance it looked like it would fit the theme of the game. I updated the main menu first and was really happy with the result. All of the buttons and dialogs in the game have been changed in some way. I think the final result looks fantastic and the UI no longer feels out of place in the game.
As part of this title update the HUD has been removed. The navigation options can now be accessed via the main game menu. This lays the foundations for a better game-play experience when using a controller. Before the use of the menu and HUD were disjointed and as a result I couldn’t use the same controller input for both. Having everything together now makes it much more intuitive for the player.
The characters should be the star of the show. Their the people who you need to get around the city, which is the whole point of the game! Up until now the graphical quality of those characters varied hugely. Many of the characters had low poly counts and basic textures. While this was good for mobile it didn’t really make the grade when running on a PC.
These lower detailed models have now been replaced with more detailed examples, all with a similar style. You might ask, “why do you need detailed characters?, you only ever look down on them from above!”. That’s about to change, but more about that later.
The personalities that each character had was designed to add to the strategic element of the game. The idea that each character could be suited to a particular car resulted in the player selecting which car to get in very carefully. At least that was the plan. If you got it right, and got in a car with a complementary personality, the driver would take you further. Get it wrong and you would be kicked out quickly.
In reality though the difference between the 2 could be too extreme. This was especially annoying if you waited a long time for a car to come along, only to get kicked out within 10 seconds or so. Coupled with the fact that in some areas of the map the car density is low, selecting from multiple cars was not really an option. I had feedback from players complaining that the higher levels were too difficult to complete as a result. I wanted to address this but didn’t just want to make the game easier.
The solution was to remove the charter personalities all together. Now this is not to say that they are still now charming human beings. They just no longer influence how long a car will take them around the city. This fixed the problem of getting kicked out almost as quickly as you got in. The issue now was that each character was effectively the same, it didn’t matter which one you played as.
Now each character has their own power up which is enabled when you select to play a mission with them. These range from extra xp or coins all the way to unlimited power ups or patience levels. As you level up you will unlock new characters and therefore a wider range of tactical options.
As mention, you select the character before the missions starts. Instead of a dull menu to select them, the characters are viewed up close within the city environment. This is why the higher detailed models were an important addition to this update.
Full change log
Here is the full change log for this title update
Day night cycle
Weather – Clear skies, cloudy, rain, thunder
Updated UI to Grunge UI
New loading screen images
Addition of street lights in all areas
Train sound effects now stopped when game is paused