Saturday, 28 February 2009

Head-Swapping Pet Dinosaurs From The Jungle!

That’s the name of our new iPhone MMORPG which will be coming out very soon! Obviously not, like, we’re just doing a bit of a roundup of couple of titles we’ve recently concluded (hopefully) or have in current development...

Keep Ahead

            Ivor and Yora are two explorers, they have got lost in the jungle (they’re not very good explorers) and have fallen foul of a curse which means they only have one head between them to share. You have to help navigate them through 50 levels over four different locations, collecting the totems as you go (which help break the curse).

The lack of mutually exclusive heads means that you can only control one explorer at a time, and you have to swap the head between the two bodies to change control between the explorers.  Along the way, there are natural obstacles and terrible enemies to avoid, man-eating plants will eat the explorers (shocker!), lava will spread across the jungle and absorb everything in its way. Shrunken heads will home in on a headless body and take control of it if they reach it, zombee’s will shadow the explorers movements and try to trap and devour either explorer. Worst of all, mischievous monkeys will chase you and try to steal your head, which means you have to follow them around; headless, trying to rescue your head back from them. 

You’d think that would be enough for these unfortunate explorers to contend with, yeah? WRONG! There are a number of cursed areas which, when stepped on, will affect the behaviour/mobility of the explorer, although there are cures to hunt out within the levels, but it all means recovering Ivor and Yora’s other head is not going to be easy!

Keep Ahead sees the visual stylings of our third art conduit, Jerry Carpenter. We’ve worked with Jerry since the early Morpheme days, and like us he’s took the brave step to stride out on his own as Magnetic Boots. You can check some of his stuff out at his link (along with the links of the rest of our conduits) at the bottom of the sidebar, he also has some top stuff which he coded in Flash himself on the Gimme5Games website.

When you’re done with all that, check out the game picture slideshow below, and don’t forget to check back here soon for information on when and where you’ll be able to play Keep Ahead!


My Pet Dinosaur

            Dinosaurs are nothing if they’re not versatile.  When they’re not bothering Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern, they’re coloured purple and singing songs to infants and buddying up with presenters of cashbox-lucky dip based gameshows. Would such versatility translate into being a good pet? Well, My Pet Dinosaur allows you to put that to the test. Look after your prehistoric pet by washing, feeding and stroking it. You can dress them up and go for walkies. Take good care of it and it’ll be an epic friend forever!

My Pet Dinosaur is in the early stages of development right now, so we’re keeping the best stuff under wraps for later, but we have some concept art below for your eyes to look at.

Rex Running
Bronty Walking

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Raid Galleries. Steal Paintings. Make Millions!

If you’re like me, then you’re an incomprehensible scouse idiot with a penchant for “hilarious” t-shirt slogans and, more importantly, you think the work of Mark Rothko is complete bobbins*, but then art is about emotions (in this case, anger) and, importantly, how much money you can get someone to part with for a piece of work.

In the event I ever found myself turning over some art gallery, I’d be stealing the lead off the roof rather than “Light Red Over Black”, but when you realise one of Rothko’s emperors new clothes pictures went for a jaw-dropping $73m in 2007, even I start to think again about pinching it.

A person without such a sniffy attitude towards art and robbery is the anti-hero of our new game, Ric Rococo: International Art Thief. You control our light fingered friend through a series of art galleries, pinching old masters and more contemporary pieces, all the time having to avoid guards and other surveillance, before handing them to your girlfriend, Nancy, who is suspended outside the window from your trusty RococoCopter.

One of the impressive things about this game’s development is the time it took for all the code, art and design to come together from the initial high concept. Fleshing out of the concept and the visual style was a couple of days and once we had that nailed, the level design, full art, music and coding all came together quickly, followed by a short testing phase. In terms of total man effort, the game took around 20 man-days, but the coming together of the project as a whole to the stage it is at now took around 7 man-days from the initial draft.

Once again, Ricky’s brother does a bang up job with the music, tipping a nod to the works of Ennio Morricone in the process. The excellent artwork is done by another of our art conduits Adam Schofield, and amongst the influences he has used is the fantastically cheesy 60’s film “Danger: Diabolik!” (for which Morricone did the music) about a master thief stealing off the Italian government and living in a palatial apartment surrounded by his ill-gotten gains. Other visual style references include the Pink Panther cartoons and that cartoon style from the 60’s of using simple flat characters and larger physical space.

* Just my opinion, like, not those of Nat and Ricky, who wander off into rambling guff about "brush strokes" and "all about scale".

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

How to Capture a Kahoot!

Character SketchesI’ve finally finished all the remaining design issues in Kahoots so now I can finally post something! There would’ve been more goodies in the game but...well let’s just say they didn’t last long enough... Anyway, enough talk about sweets (for now) and more about design and animation.

We knew we wanted to use claymation for the characters in Kahoots and, after much debate, finally settled on buttons, sweets (uh oh..that refrain didn’t last long!) and other random items for level graphics as they made for a more interesting aesthetic. After drawing some simple character designs, we chose the one we liked best, after which, I made the model. I started by making a basic wire frame skeleton for the inside of the model. This allows you to pose them far more easily than if they were solid plasticine, it also gives you an excuse to use glue guns! I used polystyrene in the frame to pad out areas without the need for tons of plasticine, which would be heavy and more difficult to work with. Once the frame was made, I sculpted my design over the top using white plasticine, that way we could manipulate the colours in Photoshop once the animationMORE character sketches had be done.

The Cardborg was made in a similar manner, although his wire frame was covered in plasticine and tinfoil. My advice now that I’ve experimented in animating something that’s covered in tinfoil is...don’t do it!! Absolute nightmare as the tinfoil ripped every time I moved its arm or leg! The Cardborg also has a cardboard box head and I made a selection of cardboard eyes and mouths for us to stick onto the box and decide what combinations worked best.

When the characters were complete, I set about animating them. I used a webcam, desk lamp and made a mini red screen area so the characters could be keyed out after animating. I used a program called MonkeyJam to take single frame shots of the models ( All you need to do is position the model in the frame, ensure its lit well and capture the image. Then move the model a little bit and take another picture...then move it again and’ve guessed it, take another pic! Repeat the process until you have all the frames you need, which you can then put together into what should hopefully be a full animation cycle. I animated all the basic actions needed for the game, a walk cycle, falling, smashing boxes etc. All of the separate frames are shown in a previous posting; below I’ve included a walk cycle of the Kahoot as I captured him and how he appears in the game.