Astrobase Command, 1 Year On

The Ant Farm view: your astrobase at a glance.

What a year!

Just about a year ago, we were excitedly watching the numbers rolling in on our first ever crowdfunding campaign. Even though we didn’t manage to pull in the funds we were hoping for, we promised you all that Astrobase Command would go on.

And go on it has. The project is currently moving along at a good speed, and the team has grown since the early days when Adam and Dave were feverishly working on the project in the back of an Samorran deep space freighter.

Space is a dangerous place

The art has certainly come a long way since Adam’s early space-nouveau designs, with Daniel bringing a keen Swedish sense of design worthy of the finest offerings of the Spacekea catalogue.

Build the space station of your dreams

 Some new stuff

In addition to improving the heck out of everything you saw in our campaign pitch, we’ve been hard at work developing some awesome new features that will let you truly experience a new game every time you play.

Daniel has devised a procedural face generator that will piece together a unique face for every crew member. It is still very early on, but the results are already quite promising. Improvements will include hair, facial hair, more variations in eye and skin colour, as well as variable positioning of the features.

Face, the Final Frontier

Dave has also made some tremendous progress on our most exciting feature, the AI Storyteller. It builds sentence-by-sentence, and in some cases phrase-by-phrase, stories that link several events together. Each of these are threaded together to follow a story arc that will allow you to really get to know your characters, particularly since the results are generated as a consequence of the character’s traits and abilities. This means that two characters presented with the same situation will see it play out completely differently. As an example, here are two scenarios that were generated entirely by the Storyteller putting two different characters through the same situation:

Chief Blahuta

Chief Blahuta began to worry he was getting lost out in the middle of the frozen lake. He started to reprogram a portable probe to act as a locator beacon, but the circuits couldn’t handle the power differential and it caused a minor explosion. (2 Energy Damage) (Character has died)

Crewman Zezelic

Crewman Zezelic neared the completion of his journey through the frozen lake. He paused to admire a shimmering effect and realized a fine powder of naturally occuring ceramics was storing heat from the red sun. His mood changed for the better. (Collected 1 Ceramics)

find out more about the storyteller at: http://astrobasecommand.com/?p=3488

What’s in store?

We’re pushing hard towards a closed alpha test that will begin soon(TM). If you’re interested in taking part, make sure to swing by our forums to find out more when the time comes.

As most of you have probably heard, we were successfully greenlit on Steam Early Access before the end of the Kickstarter campaign. After talking with other devs, we’ve come to the conclusion that we need to make sure that Astrobase is sufficiently polished and developed to give players a decent play through before putting it up. Once we’ve had the chance to fix the problems our testers find and make sure everything is shiny enough, we’ll be putting it out on Early Access, so you’ll want to keep an eye on our Greenlight page for updates, too.

We need your help!

We are trending upwards on IndieDB (currently 45 of 20K+) and there is a vote going on for Indie Game of the Year. We’d really appreciate if you could take the time to pop in and vote for Astrobase Command.
That’s it for now!

Jellyfish Games YouTube Channel – Answering Your Astrobase Command Questions

The team has been busily working away, taking the rough demo code used as a proof of concept for our Kickstarter, and turning it into the production code that will power Astrobase Command once it is released to Steam Early Access. We’ve been tackling a slew of features, from developing detailed procedural generation mechanics, to setting up servers, to creating entirely new art with which to fill the inky blackness of space.

Of greatest interest to all of you, we now have a dedicated Jellyfish Games YouTube channel, where we’ve started posting a weekly development vlog.  The updates are only talk-throughs of community-generated questions for now, but as we move along, we’ll start adding WiP imagery, including stills and gameplay footage.

If you have any questions about the game that you’d like us to answer, head over to our forums, and ask away.

Astrobase Command Fan Art: Shore Leave Humour in Celebration of Upcoming Kickstarter

Even aliens need to have a laugh sometimes.

Today, Jellyfish Games announced the impending beginning of a Kickstarter campaign to support the development of their upcoming game, Astrobase Command.

Big news!

Big news!

In celebration of this momentous news, I thought it would be worth doing up a piece of fan art to support the small team of stalwart indie developers in their efforts.

Keep your sensors peeled for more info!

The finances of independant game design – Hitbox Team postmortem

Dustforce (www.dustforce.com)

Dustforce (www.dustforce.com)

The Hitbox Team financial postmortem provides a candid overview of one independent game developer’s financial status one year after the launch of their game, Dustforce. It is a rare opportunity to gain a glimpse into such typically closely-guarded aspect of game design. Anyone who is interested in game design needs to keep an eye on the business aspect of their project, since it does no one any good to have to can a project and dissolve the design team because there isn’t enough money to deliver a finished product. It is nice to see some concrete figures. They will doubtless prove invaluable to other indie developers as they tackle the challenge of bringing their visions to reality.

The key takeaway: if you’re indie, you’d better not be in it for the money. Design games because you love to, and you want to bring a unique experience to others. If you do a really good job, you’ll make enough to allow you to do it all over again.

Turning the tables: Aaron Diaz’ Zelda as a a protagonist

Dresden Codak artist Aaron Diaz explores Zelda as Link in this stunning illustration inspired by Anita Sarkeesian’s Video Game Tropes vs Women.

I think this clearly illustrates that there is plenty of potential to create strong, engaging characters that can appeal both to men and women in games. Exploitation of the female form in games is a crutch, not a mark of talent. It may certainly drive sales in a certain demographic, but undoubtedly turns off many more players (a hint for dudes: it’s the other 50% of the human race.)

It’s time for the entertainment industry to move beyond trying to appeal to the inner teenage boy’s sex drive and start delivering stories and games that can stand on their own thanks to substance rather than T&A.

The Beautiful Design Direction in ‘The Last of Us’

The Beautiful Design Direction in ‘The Last of Us’.

This video from “The Last of Us” is a wonderful find by the Gaming Grad. Work like this highlights game development’s inexorable move towards an art form and demonstrates that one can find beauty even in the deepest of horror.

On sharing inspiration – Ripples in the pond

Rise of the Redshirts

Rise of the Redshirts

I illustrated the image above back in 2009 as an entry to the “Be the Hero!” Game Career Guide challenge . I did it rather quickly, but am still quite pleased with the image, as I used it as an opportunity to try some new techniques with a Wacom stylus and Photoshop. The entry didn’t get picked up, so I may re-post it later for reference’s sake, but I did end up posting the picture on conceptart.org. I forgot about the image up until recently, when I was cleaning some files up in my computer in an attempt to speed my aging beast up.

I smiled as I remembered that in 2012, John Scalzi published Redshirts, a novel where one of a starship’s intrepid security staff decides that dying for the captain isn’t for him. As I sat there and thought about it, there certainly is some similarity in the concepts between the story and my image above. I started looking around the internet to see whether anyone else had caught on to the idea. I found that in 2011, a youtube channel called Star Trek Online: Rise of the Redshirts saw the light of day. The similarity between the titles does catch the eye. There is now a very cool game in development called Redshirt by the Tiniest Shark. There are certainly some similarities in the general layout and theme between the two images.

Redshirts game image

I am certainly not arrogant enough to believe that I am solely responsible for the ideas these highly creative people have developed. After all, if I had an idea, there is a high likelihood that someone else may have had the same idea before or after me with no external help whatsoever. In fact, I drew on inspiration from other short stories about the Redshirts always getting whacked to come up with my game pitch and illustration. There are only so many ways to illustrate a game cover, and there are some narrative illustration short hand techniques and tips of the hat that tend to ensure that there will be some similarity in imagery for science fiction posters. However, I do like to believe that the picture I tossed out without a second thought on the internet kicked off some spark in imaginations I’ve never met and ultimately served to enrich each of us. Like a stone cast in the pond, the ripples of inspiration can travel far and wide, touching distant and unseen shores.

So share your ideas. You never know how or who they’ll help.

Lost in Thought – an awesome game design blog

I came across the Lost in Thought game development blog this evening.

If you’ve got the slightest, mildest case of interest in game development, this blog is for you. A small development team is giving us a running insight into the creative process behind the design of a 2.5D platformer.

Here’s one of the shots from their site:

’nuff said.

Requiem for LucasArts

Old game companies don't die. They just get discarded by Disney.

It’s been a good run, Lucas Arts.

Yesterday we learned that LucasArts will soon be no more.

Although the company certainly hasn’t produced a game that lives up its glamor of old, I can’t help but feel a sense of loss at its passing. The games it made in its early days and middle years played a key role in developing our sense of what a game should be. They were master storytellers, comedians, and character designers. Who can’t help but smile at the loony greatness of games such as the Day of the Tentacle? It also kept us playing countless hours as X-Wing or Tie Fighter pilots.

This fondness remains despite many of its more recent releases generating a resounding “meh” at best.

Gamasutra has just released a collection of thoughts from leaders from around the game industry Why are we still talking about Lucas Arts? Many poignant thoughts emerge as to the impact it had on game development. The most important thoughts come from Lucasfilm Games alum David Fox:

“When I first started working at Lucasfilm in 1982, we had a heavy burden to bear. How could we create games that were as compelling as the Star Wars films but without mining ideas from the Star Wars universe? While other game companies of the 1980s had to rely on the income from their games to survive, we had the unheard-of luxury of taking our time to get our games right, with years to experiment, try new things, push the envelope, and with no pressure from marketing, focus testing, or even George Lucas. We also had time to develop our company culture, starting where the Lucasfilm culture left off.

So we’d spend months thinking about our games… brainstorming with the other brilliant designers, refining, reworking, revamping, tossing out the parts that didn’t work (or the entire concept) and starting again. One of our edicts was “don’t ship shit” and we wanted to make sure we never did.”

I can’t help but suspect that the degradation in the quality of the games they have been publishing may have resulted from a shift from such a pure ideal towards the quest for the almighty dollar. Regardless, if the loss of LucasArts does but remind us of but this one principle, then it was not for naught.