DevLog Watch: Kaiju Panic, Somewhere, CrossCode, More

By Graham Smith on March 17th, 2014 at 1:00 pm.

Reason to do this column #1: making these header images is fun.

When I was first following along with videogames on the internet, there were these things called .plan files. They were essentially blogs, or Twitter before Twitter, but they were updated by game developers like John Carmack, Cliff Bleszinski, Randy Pitchford and more before everyone grew too busy, too old, or too ensconced in the PR machine to speak so openly and frequently.

They were great, because they were a glimpse both into the development process (“Post Q3A, I plan on doing a research engine that is fully dynamically lit and shadowed instead of using lightmaps,” writes Carmack in one 1999 post, marking the moment he worked out how to make Doom 3), but also into the people making those games (I only understand half of everything Carmack writes; he must be very smart).

It’s a good thing that indie development and Kickstarter have brought back regularly updated development blogs, then. It’s a sensible thing, then, that I write this still-not-sure-it’ll-be-a-regular column charting some recent updates from those devlogs.

Kaiju Panic

A tower defence/real-time strategy game in which you defend cities from giant monster attacks by researching tech, placing defences and deplying “calming measures such as ‘Keep Calm And Carry On’ mugs”.

It’s early days for the game, but there’s plenty of cute artwork in its TIGSource DevLog. Like so:

Developer Kevin Tsang will be at Rezzed later this month with a playable version of the game. He’s currently polling people as to whether to name of the game should change, perhaps to Monster Panic. I vote no, but you can tell him otherwise in the dev thread, or in Birmingham.

CrossCode

CrossCode is an action RPG described as having the theme, “Throwing balls against everything.” That’s pretty accurate. It’s also snappy, both in its jumping and moving mechanics and in the physical way things slide around or smash when you hit them with those balls.

Most exciting/necessary for the purposes of this column is the lengthy development blog its creators have been keeping. It contains 43 updates thus far, covering art creation, code optimisation and, of course, GIFs.

Everything the team make is made using HTML5 and the Impact engine, meaning i) it’s especially interesting to read about the programming of the game and ii) there’s an early tech demo of CrossCode playable in your browser right now.

Risk of Death 2

Warlocks

A side-scrolling wave-attack combat game, best conveyed via this single GIF:

New art and GIFs are appearing regularly, as always, on the TIGSource forums.

Somewhere

Somewhere is a first-person stealth exploration game in which you overcome obstacles by possessing and becoming other characters within the environment. There’s a Tumblr, a TIGSource Devlog, and a pre-alpha chunk of the game available to play now, called Fictions.

There’s a lot of interesting writing on the devlog about the power of stealth games to draw you in to a world, and the complementary nature of the ability to inhabit specific characters in order to explore their world further. But I’m following along to watch the art develop, which is stunning whether in-game or not:

From the archive

The Blue’s News archive of .plan updates (based on a system my brother wrote, like, fifteen years ago) is incomplete, but there’s plenty there that seems historic and interesting in retrospect. Or just odd. Here’s Gearbox’s Randy “DuvalMagic” Pitchford before their first game came out:

Gearbox is within days (hours?) of “Release Candidate 1″ for Half-Life: Opposing Force. But, that’s not the cool news. The cool news is that Brian’s been working with the Sierra marketing and art dudes on a Corporal Adrian Shephard stand-up/cut-out display for the stores.

It’s planned to have an animated Pipe Wrench that he brandishes… The whole thing is supposed to run off of solar power. It sounds very cool.

Was this ever made? In the back of someone’s garage is there a solar powered Adrian Shephard, his stiff hand still grasping a wrench, dreaming of the day when sunlight again strikes his face?

More important questions: should this be a regular column? I wrote it last week because I had two neat games that didn’t quite deserve a post on their own. I’m writing it this week because I got about 15 emails from indie devs containing links their devlogs, and so I’ve already got material to last me a month.

But is it worth your time? Should these games be posts unto themselves, or not featured at all? Is “DevLog Watch” really the best name we can come up with?

Edit: I said I’d link this last week and then forgot. If you like this sort of thing, you might like the TIGSource DevLog magazine, which does something similar but with nicer pictures.

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38 Comments »

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  1. gp says:

    yes absolutely make this a regular thing. please thank you

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    Gap Gen says:

    I like this idea for a column a lot! Could just call it Dev Watch, which could admittedly sound like a TV program where a greying TV presenter whispers about indie devs whilst looking at them code through binoculars in a wooden hut.

    • Chalky says:

      That would make it even better.

    • Jim Dandy says:

      I want to see how one codes through binoculars. Also, is the wooden hut an essential component of this unique input method?

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        Gap Gen says:

        Imagine General Patton but for software. “I want semicolons deployed on that line stat! And someone get me Q&A, if that code isn’t on that hill by sundown then some goddamn heads’ll start rolling!” As for the wooden hut: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_hide

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      Anything with the words “Log Watch” in the title immediately makes me think of Gillian McKeith. But yeah, this is quite interesting. Who knows what gems may be unearthed.

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    Tom-INH says:

    Agreed, I probably would just skip over these if they were individual posts but it’s handy to have a compiled version to skim over in case anything catches my eye.

  4. Stardreamer says:

    This is a great idea, Graham. Since pledging towards its Kickstarter all those months ago, I’ve been reading the Limit Theory devlogs on a daily basis and loving every moment of them. In real life I’m approaching 40 (In my head, I’m Immortal), and have been playing games since I was five but, shockingly, have never completely understood what actually goes into the creation of a game, particularly one as involved as Limit Theory. Josh Parnell manages not only to communicate the sheer difficulty of literally crafting a believable universe out of thin air with not just intelligence and clarity but also a fair amount of wit as well, all without condescending to anyone. I feel like I’m learning something every day, and watching Josh solve his problems in such a public fashion is unendingly fascinating.

    I’ve also read a fair amount of Jonathon Blow’s blogs on The Witness dev process. He lacks the humour Josh has but his work is still absolutely fascinating, even when discussing the bewildering technical intricacies of something like rendering shadows!

    Count this as another +1 for a regular column.

  5. Noburu says:

    Love this and hope this becomes a regular column!

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    Bluerps says:

    One more for the pro regular column faction.

  7. Noviere says:

    Really enjoy this idea for a feature!

    Played through CrossCode — a good foundation so far!

  8. pepperfez says:

    Indie Souls: Prepare to Dev Edition
    TIGer Raid
    Cave Story Clones

  9. STJamie says:

    Another Yes from me just to see the lovely art work and animation gifs

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      Gap Gen says:

      Despite the gif file format being not great, I will never tire of watching gifs of indie games. It’s often a great way to convey how a game feels that you won’t get from seeing a still image.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Well, MNG and now APNG have both died, and thankfully people still aren’t crazy* enough to try to use full-blown lossy video codecs for small animated elements.

        (* That said, I seem to remember that the flying-piece-of-paper-between-folders copying animation in Windows 95 was technically a video. So maybe it’s only crazy because we insist on making videos so heavyweight now. Ah, yes, Raymond mentioned it.)

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          Gap Gen says:

          Another downside is that, sensibly in some respects, phones often don’t display animated gifs. I suppose HTML5 has some stuff for this?

          • LionsPhil says:

            Not as far as I know! Your choices seem to basically be GIF, or hack together something horrendous with JavaScript and basically write an animation “manually”. At some point I saw someone had written a generator for turning a series of frames into a big PNG imagemap and a lump of Javascript to blit bits of it about to form an animation. Edit: It was the Sublime Text guy.

            Such things wouldn’t embed safely, though. RPS would be opening themselves up to all kinds of insecure fun if they start pulling in arbitrary JavaScript from places.

            (Needless to say, I think this is absolutely crazy. But this time there’s no evident better option. Web!)

          • Graham Smith says:

            Gyfcat is a pretty handy tool for taking GIFs and turning them into nice HTML5 videos. It means they play on phones, take up less bandwidth, and if the HTML5 version doesn’t work for whatever reason, it’ll swap in the original GIF on its own.

            That said, I’ve used them in the past and having two on the same page caused the browser tab to crash repeatedly. So for now I’ll stick with using GIFs as found (or made) directly.

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            The Sombrero Kid says:

            Ehh which phones don’t display animated gifs?

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            Gap Gen says:

            Yeah, gifs are mostly fine.

            On my android phone I remember certain gifs didn’t animate on webpages, but I could be getting senile in my late 20s. It’s animating fine on my current phone, though, so maybe that changed. Certainly when data rates were stingier and 4G wasn’t a thing, it was probably sensible to disable large gifs loading by default.

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    Mitthrawn says:

    Yes. Especially as the Kickstarter Katchup seems to be Kaput.

  11. GernauMorat says:

    +1 to a a regular column

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    Norskov says:

    Wondeful idea. And for those interested in Gang Beasts, the devs recently posted a vine of them testing climbing: https://vine.co/v/Mb3ExZF7eEa

  13. Frank says:

    Yeah, I’d like to see more of this column, and really like the art in the devlogs you’ve chosen. Maybe you want to draw attention to particular posts that discuss things that interest you (instead of the entire blog)?

  14. Niko says:

    It absolutely should be a regular column. Even if some of those indie games aren’t made, I’m sure there’ s a lot of (aspiring) game developers reading RPS, who might find this interesting.

    • Beastbaron says:

      It may be a bit morbid but a dev log of a failed game could potentially be a fascinating and educational thing to cover. I’m sure there is a proverb/Molyneux quote about learning more from failure than success.

      Also the potential for failure is why I don’t read dev blog individually, with the exception of Star Sector, as I don’t want to be invested if it goes belly up or takes a life time to produce. This column would be a solution to that.

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    quietone says:

    I love the idea but I don’t like unanimity so…no.

    But yes, please.

  16. SpinalJack says:

    Hey, thanks for writing about Kaiju Panic!

    Drop by and say hi if you’re at Rezzed, we’ll be there all weekend.

  17. Locohoco says:

    Kudos for the Twin Peaks reference!

    My log does not judge…

  18. guygodbois00 says:

    Excellent notion, this DevWatch business. The force is strong with that Risk of Death 2 gif. I wonder what its midichlorians count is.

  19. Bandreus says:

    Hey Graham, thanks for mentioning the TIGSource Devlog Magazine! Also big props for bringing the spotlight on more indie game projects, I’m definitelly for a big YES to a weekly RPS devlog watch

    • Bronxsta says:

      Yeah, I agree. Would love to see this as a weekly feature, shining the spotlight on promising indie titles

  20. R.D. says:

    Woa! Thanks for sharing our CrossCode dev blog! (One of the developers here)

    I really like this, since I love reading dev blogs and I get new ones from you guys. Awesome!

  21. oleo says:

    I am Dhruv one of the developers for Somewhere . Thank you for sharing our devblog.
    It is also wonderful to be able to follow (often in extensive detail ) the process of other developers. So I do hope that the column continues.