Archive for 2008

A new designer in the team

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

We have a new designer in the team, and hell yeah she’s talented! She’s overlooking the creation process of the levels of Equilibrio and bark to motivate her fellow colleagues like any good project manager no? And uh, I’m talking about the dog by the way.

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Yeah this is also how we work at Fishing Cactus.

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And yeah, I nearly forgot about that, Happy New Year to everybody!

Equilibrio announced on WiiWare & iPhone

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Fishing Cactus is proud to announce the development of Equilibrio, a mind flowing, puzzle solving and gyrating game for Nintendo WiiWare and iPhone / iTouch platforms.

Equilibrio Screenshot

Co-jointly developed by Fishing Cactus and DK-Games, Equilibrio will hit both Nintendo WiiWare service and Apple Store in Q1 2009.

Equilibrio is our first mid-scaled project and we had the task to create the iPhone version of the game as well as designing the levels and some of the game mechanics for both versions.

Thanks to our multi-platform engine and, of course, talented programmers, we were able to get the first version of the game from the Wii version to the iPhone in less than 2 weeks, I think it’s not that bad. From that point started the work on the iPhone version to make it fun, playable and enjoyable modifying the initial design and levels enough to have an interesting game experience on the console.

The game features an easy and accessible gameplay, pick and play philosophy targeted for both hardcore and casual gamers (I assure you that the last levels of the conquest mode are still really hard). Thanks to its short levels the game asks low time investment from the player, you can play in the train or in the subway. One level often lasts from 2 to 10 minutes depending on your skill and mastery of the different balls. It is something that we wanted to push in the game as the iPhone is a handheld console. To increase replayability, the game features 4 play modes, cross profile high score tables and trophies which are unlocked under certain circumstances (like the one you can find on XBLA and PSN titles).

Also maybe you didn’t notice in the screenshot but all graphics of the game are in 3D, we have a dynamic minimap and intelligent camera zoom to help players see incoming obstacles.

You can find more information about the game on the official website (http://www.equilibrio-game.com). Enjoy!

Book review : The Art of Multiprocessor Programming

Monday, December 29th, 2008

The Art of Multiprocessor Programming Console has recently pushed a new paradigm in the hand of game programmers. Multi-thread programming is now in our everyday life. The transformation of a sequential game engine into a multi-threaded engine is far from being trivial, and no references exists on this particular topic. Even if multithread programming is far from being new, few books are focused on concept and theory. Books about API are good, but they don’t teach you the good way to use the APIs from a design point of view. This book introduces theory and then apply it with code samples. Everything is programmed in java, but it applies to C++ as well.

The first chapters introduce abstract theoretical concepts, such as memory models. The next chapters cover concrete datas structures that help understanding concepts exposed earlier. The approaches and concepts used will help the reader to understand the phase one must follow to transform a sequential algorithm into a multi-threaded one. Most of the book is oriented around collection, but the result is good: each collection touches a new problem and exposes a new solution. Going from lock-based to lock-free algorithm, the process shows step by step transformations of collections such as set, list, hash map. To finish, work distribution and transactional memory are explained. Those chapters also introduce concepts that may appear in future architectures. The book closes with a huge appendix that exposes platform specific knowledge that one must know to address unexplained behaviors.

Elegantly written, this book is a bible, the code provided is clear, and the difficulty increases smoothly chapter after chapter. This book must be putted into every game programmer’s hands. But if they do not have any multiprocessor knowledge, the dive may be hard to stand.

Amazon
Elsevier

Fishing Cactus is a Nintendo Official Developer

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

We recently received our access to Nintendo development tools. Dev kits have been ordered and are on their way. We are really excited to see our projects taking life on such amazing platforms. Until now our Wii targeted softwares have been developed on PC. We hope it won’t take long until our games run on the console as we’ve already quite an extensive experience on GameCube (it’s not that different from the specs point of view). The next step is to play with the Wii Remote and see if our concepts prove to be correct.

Stay tuned, news will soon flow about our first Nintendo project.

Thanks giving

Friday, November 28th, 2008

Thanksgiving is not something we usually celebrate in Europe, but I think every occasion we have to thanks people should be taken. First of all, I would like to thank our wifes and girlfriends. They agree to give us our chances, they suffer our absence from home, nights working on tight deadlines. All this without complaining. They also support us when things does not happen as expected.

After that, there is all the guys working with us, not counting on high salary but just there with the same goal as us: having fun creating games! I can’t count all the hours they spent on new projects, even to proof some concepts we had. We really have a wonderful team and we couldn’t have dreamt of any other.

For all you’ve done and are still doing for Fishing Cactus, thanks! If it becomes a renowned studio, you will be able to tell that you’ve played a huge role in it.

Equilibrio Dev Diary #3: Pay the price!

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

This is the third Equilibrio Dev Diary posted on Fingergaming.

You can read our previous entries at the following links: Entry 1 and Entry 2.Today I’m going to talk about a slippery subject: defining the price of a game on the App Store.

As independent game developers and when you start the development of a new game, one day or another you’ll have to face the following question: what will be the price of this game? What will be our strategy to make a good game as well as a financial success? What?! This industry is not just fun and joy? Uh… in which world are you living? Developers are not only making games for the sake of humans’ entertainment, it is also a business and people are living of it.

For indies, careful thinking about the price, costs, Apple cut (30% of the price), marketing budget amongst other expenses is not really an option.

So defining the price is not an easy task especially if the price varies a lot like on the App Store where you have really good games at 0,99$ and some less good games at 7,99$… It is then difficult to define a price that will make your game stand out. You have to correctly analyze what other games propose and find a way to interest the gamers in buying your game.

There are different marketing strategies. Some “bigger” games have the following commercial principle: start with a very “high” price point which they lower every month or so thanks to the App Store’s flexible system. Other games remain at a high price point. Some other games offer different versions of their game with more or less content depending on the price (lite, normal or premium versions).

For Equilibrio, we are thinking about launching the game with a low price point (less than 5$). We also want to explore the option of additional content packs which can be purchased and downloaded with new bonuses and levels. We plan on making content packs available for less than 2$.

We think that this way the game stays accessible for a wide range of gamers and their budget while those who enjoyed the experience can invest more money if they want to.

Don’t hesitate to post comments if you want to share some ideas and comments about the price and trends in general on the App Store or for Equilbirio. I think it would be very helpful for Fishing Cactus and the whole iPhone developers’ community.

SESS : Data-driven Interactions of Characters with environment

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

At GDC 08, I had the chance to present the motion engine we developed at 10Tacle Studios Belgium. It was a great adventure and the results are really due to a fantastic team of programmers and game designers. Unfortunately, we did not survived to the 10Tacle financial storm. I really miss the mood we had in our office. This team was a family for a lot of us, with its good and bad days. But today, we need to walk forward.

The slides of this presentation were available on 10Tacle website, but everything vanished. I think it’s time to provide them again, as there’s not much chance to see Totems any time soon :-(

So from now on, the slides will be available from Fishing Cactus website

http://www.fishingcactus.com/blog/gdc-sess.rar

If you want to listen to my not-so-bad-English-with-a-French-accent, you can buy the talk audio here (Thanks to Julien Delezenne for the link )

Enjoy!

Defining a Coding Standard

Monday, November 17th, 2008

One of the first step a company must take is defining a coding standard, and possibly the last. The web and books are full of coding conventions, but you might want to specializes it.

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A fish in the sea #1: Funding

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

Here’s the very first short column I intend to write regarding Fishing Cactus company life. This column will talk about daily issues we face as a brand new company. We hope it will be interessting for any developer out there who dreams about starting his own company one day hahaha.

This particular post will talk about funding the company.

Funding is one of the first step when you’re starting a company and it is the time, using different tools, when the company tries to secure money to actually fund the studio (buy computers, rent offices, prepare its first project, this costs a lot of money). Most of the time people ask banks, investors or publishers to invest money in their company which leads those companies to start already with a loan on their back. This can be especially difficult if their first game is not a success (this can happen with original games for various reasons which aren’t directly related to game quality).

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Julien and I decided to go the “difficult” path, meaning that Fishing Cactus is self funded. We have no investors and no bank loan on our back. This makes things more difficult because we currently don’t have money to invest on our projects. We are starting out like a lot of independant game developers out there. Some are really famous, many of them aren’t just known (I hope it won’t happen to us though). On the other side we have the advantage of complete freedom.

After several years in the game industry, we see freedom as a real advantage.

Blobbies Wars XNA Dream Built Play contest

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

We submitted a version of Blobbies Wars in mid September for the XNA Dream Built Play contest hoping for a publishing contract with Microsoft. The contest has now ended, winners were announced and sadly we aren’t in the finalists.

Honestly the quality of the game was already pretty much there but there wasn’t enough polishing and content on the gameplay side to compete with other talented game creators. In fact there was only a two player game mode while other games had tons of modes, even multiplayer ones. The 1st game has even a level builder included! Difficult to stand against that…

In the end, I don’t feel so sad because we lost. I’m even more convinced that we can achieve something better next time, we just hadn’t enough time to invest on the project. Anyway this was a great opportunity to make an important step on the game.

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