Archive for the ‘Company Life’ Category

Creatures Online Update #51

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Weekly Update #51: Rewarding bug and departure of Marc

Read it on the forum

Hello everybody :) ,

This week we fixed an issue with the Norns being rewarded at the wrong time: when using a toy, they were sometimes rewarded while they were still using that toy. So they learned to use the toys being used instead of learning to use those which are available.

Last week we implemented the Norns reactions (Norns having a surprise animation when a new toy appears near them), but there was still a weird delay, the animation being triggered some time after. It is fixed now.

It does not really concern the game as such, but we are also now able to manually send an iOS notification to the players, for example to do some announcements to all the players in the future.

Lastly, this week we see the departure of Marc, a programmer who did a lot of bug fixes as well as helping us with the Norn genomes. I wish you the best of luck for the future, Marc!

Have a nice week! :)

 

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Some previous updates:   

Weekly Update #50: Navigation mesh issue and new toys

Weekly Update #49:  “Surprise” animation and Android version

Weekly Update #48: a bit about the science kit

Weekly Update #47: Display Tweaks

Weekly Update #46: Resources and genome issue

Weekly Update #45: The Crafting Machine in detail

Weekly Update #44: Technical features

The traditional Christmas newsletter and our wishes for 2014

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

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Dear Santa,

We have been very good and prolific this year. Now and then we have been oddly and spiky but most of the time as jolly as a cactus can be.

The Cacti worked so hard this year, I am afraid they are just about to turn a little bit grinchy. You know how it is, especially at this time of the year. I guess your elves are busy and grumpy too. At least, I hope your reindeers, penguins and polar bears are getting along. Talking about penguins, we may have got something for you: it’s a game called Learn 2 Fly. We’ve been working on it for a year now and it’s almost finished. Don’t hesitate to spread the word!

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Fortunately, we will invest the new building by the middle of January which should make us merry as crickets. It will be the perfect occasion to rest and have a joyful feast.

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Our planning for 2014 looks promising: There is an opportunity to develop more Fishing Cactus branded games.

We started with Algo-Bot. This serious game has been developed for Technobel with the participation of the EU. They were so satisfied that they allowed us to extend the development and commercialize as a full game. That brings us to a brand new adventure: crowdfunding. If by any chance you are interested in coding, Santa, it’s the right game for you. Cherry on top, the game recently won two awards: Top 5 best indie game at Indie Prize Showcase and Best Serious Game HR – Training at Serious Game Expo.

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Not to be outdone, our other projects are making good progress. In particular, the game we are developing with Child Focus. This one is going to be pure genius. It’s a serious game meant to make teenagers responsible and aware of their use of social networks.

Let’s talk less serious! We just signed a game that will keep us busy in 2014. This game officially gave us the Wii U developer status. So, don’t be surprised if you find our games on your list in the future.pelican_pano_north_pole

So many different games, wonderful universes, beautiful ornaments that are Fishing Cactus’ pride with on tree-topper, Piratoons an awesome pirate game that will also be released under Fishing Cactus brand early 2015.

All this blabla to tell you something, Santa, we have been very kind this year but we don’t need anything for ourselves. If you really want to give us a present, it would be great if you could visit our friends and all the people we had the chance to work with and fill their socks with Candy Canes and beer because we want nothing more than thank them this year.

Thank you and best wishes for 2014.

The Fishing Cactus Team

Tales From the Gaming Trenches

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Creatures_iOS_thumbNo need to tell you that we have been quite busy these days. Most of our teams are working on several projects at the same time excepting Creatures’ team who is focusing on finishing Creatures Online. That game really cost us an arm.

Talking about Creatures Online,  we have been releasing a “weekly update” on the forum every week for 4 months now  . The point of those updates is to show to the community where the development exactly stands. We should have done that from the beginning but the community management was not that effective back in those days. It was the first time we had to manage such a big license with such an active community. We did our best and I really hope that the community noticed it. As you certainly know, Fishing Cactus doesn’t take care of the CO page on Facebook nor the Twitter account anymore.

Algo-Bot_SGE13_award_thumbAndrea and I talked to Raphaël “Ulandar” from ProsiebenSat.1 Games, who is in charge of the whole community management of Creatures Online. A bunch of good ideas came from that conversation such as making videos to show game improvements, talking about CAOS, etc.

The sooner Creatures will be finished the sooner the team will be available to work on other games in production such as Algo-Bot which should hit Kickstarter in January. Yeah I know what you think! It’s a fact that we have deadline issues :-) I have to admit that I’ve never thought that launching a Kickstarter campaign could be that difficult. Meanwhile, you will find our Kickstarter video here and signup if you want to be informed the day Algo-Bot hits Kickstarter. Hope that this game will be funded because it really deserves to be finished. It’s not my only opinion, the awards below talk by themselves: Top 5 of the best Indie Game at Indie Prize Showcase and Best Serious Game in category HR – Training at Serious Game Expo. So, proud of our little fellow <3

To finish my post I would like to wish you a lot of Roasted Turkey, Mashed Potatoes and Pumpkin Pie! Happy Thanksgiving!

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Fishing Cactus at Casual Connect Kiev 2013

Friday, October 18th, 2013

badge_indieprizeIn exactly one week, Fishing Cactus will attend to Indie Prize Showcase with Algo-Bot in its pocket.

The Indie Prize Showcase will take place at Casual Connect Kyiv on October 23-25, 2013 with something like 850 industry professionals attending the event. Over 25 indie game development teams will be showcasing their games and two of them will win prizes awards from the showcase sponsors and Indie Prize committee.

I have the Conference content just in front of me and judging by what I read it’s gonna be very interesting and… Oh waww Fishing Cactus is a speaker!  “Algo-Bot: How Coding Can Be Fun” … wait! What?! Coding can be fun. Can coding really be fun? Of course it can and we will show you how we managed to do that :-) So, be sure to be at Casual Connect the 25 October at 10:30 to hear our Guillaume telling you how difficult it is to make a learning game without being boring.

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Also, you are warmly invited to read the article about the development of Algo-Bot  that we wrote for the occasion on Gamesauce.org. You will notice that this game taught us way more than concepts of programming.

All this blabla brings us to the most important thing about this event: What can we eat in Ukraine? 

Happy Programmers’ Day

Friday, September 13th, 2013

A few months ago, we celebrated the Moustache Day. Yesterday was the Video Games Day and we celebrated it, as well, the best we could by spending more time with games we like. But today is one of the most important days of the year for Fishing Cactus. Today is the Programmers’ Day and we decided to make a special post dedicated to our beloved programmers who are working very hard these days on a couple of secret awesome new games.  Also, we would like to thank programmers all over the world for the good work they do to improve our everyday lives.

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 Nowadays, coding is coming to every industry you can think of. From your Facebook page to your newspaper online, including games and apps on your Smartphone, it’s everywhere. Without even knowing it, coding turns out to be the most important and desirable skill there is. It’s huge part of our future. At Fishing Cactus we are completely aware of that and that’s the reason why our Artists and Game Designers worked hand in hand with our Programmers to create a very special game named Algo-Bot. Games are mostly related to coding, now discover a game that offers a real coding experience.

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Check out Algo-Bot’s Facebook page for more information about this coming game and feel free to spread the word all around you.

C4 update: Euro distribution of Creatures Online

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

shii_yeahOver the last few weeks, Fishing Cactus has received a few visits of the nice people from ProSiebenSat.1 Games. The reason behind all that brouhaha was Creatures 4.

ProSiebenSat.1 happens to be a proper media and entertainment mogul over here in Europe. “ProSiebenSat.1 Games GmbH is the games company of ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG. As a leading publisher, the company focuses on the licensing and distribution of online and mobile games, and acts as a strong digital distribution partner for the gaming products of premium partners all over Europe.” is what the press release lingo precisely says. Not only do they distribute in Europe several hit online games, including the great blockbuster games DC Universe™ Online, PlanetSide® 2, and the sequel of the EverQuest® franchise. They also run successful television stations (their original activity) in Germany and Nordic Countries, and have ties with massive French and Italian channels too (TF1 and RAI).

This is just the ideal partner for us, as small indie developer, and Bigben Interactive, as publisher. By partnering with this ideal fit, our respective companies will be able to each focus on what they do best: us making the game, Bigben Interactive making the toys and physical goodies and handling the logistics, while ProSiebenSat.1 Games makes sure that there are many people playing the game across Europe and that we can scale up the network properly.

Cause it’s now official, the ink on the contract barely dry: we have entered an agreement with ProSiebenSat.1 Games for the distribution, maintenance and marketing of our game on the Old Continent.

There are a few consequences to this.

The first one is merely cosmetic: the official launch title will be changed from the tentative Creatures 4 to the definitive “Creatures Online” in an effort to attract new players who had never heard of the previous episodes some good 15 years ago.

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A more important shift is the fact that ProSiebenSat.1 Games is now in charge of deploying the right server network for us, which they have booked already and plan to be ready with around July or so. Once that’s in place, they will be running a first round of beta, which at first will be CLOSED. Access to the beta will be as easy as creating an user account on their network, signing Non-Disclosure Agreements and then stick to confidentiality for realsies ;-)

If you live in another area of the World not covered by ProSiebenSat.1 Games, don’t worry about a thing — We have no intention of leaving you standing in the rain alone. We are currently on the look for Northern American and Asian distributors of similar magnitude and we are in talks with several companies for that. Announcements will follow in due course.

Last but not least, a lot of you have asked us to show video footage of the alpha version we’ve recently feature locked. We’d like to do that. But rather than taking a lot of time editing a trailer that doesn’t talk to you, we’d like to combine the depth of our game with the pleasure that was the Q&A session we recently had in the CreaturesCaves chat rooms, a few months back… So! How about a Google+ HangOut event with the team sitting in a sofa in front of the running demo, everybody? Would you attend to that? Say some time this June? Let’ s hook it up!

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Creatures 4: Q&A with the devs & Alpha-test

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

We’ll be holding a live Q&A session between game designers Andrea Di Stefano and Samuel Languy, from the C4 dev team, and you folks, from the vibrant Creatures community! You’ll get to directly discuss with them about the development so far, and about the inner-workings of the upcoming game. The event will take place in the CreaturesVillage Chat Rooms, also known as CC Chat, where most long-time fans of the series already have their habits. An active mIRC connection is required to attend. The dialog is scheduled on Thursday 28th of February 2013 at 7.00 pm G.M.T.

For those who can’t make it, a transcript will be recorded and shared publicly after the fact. Even better, you can register your question right here, ahead of the gathering and get a chance to have it asked by our Creatures 4 Ambassadors during the session, if its relevance catches their attention! The live session must be restricted to one language only, which will be English. So if you want to ask us questions in French, Dutch, German, Japanese, Swahili or any other language known to Man and Google Translate alike, feel free to do so in that same pre-show thread.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the #NornInvasion of Earth is gearing up, with little ones popping all around the globe. The limited edition figurines have been won by some lucky few during an Instagram Adopt-A-Norn give-away. If you missed the occasion, we’re prepping up more contests as we speak, so keep an eye on our social media in the coming weeks!

On the development side of things, March 4th has been formally set as the beginning of our Alpha-Testing phase. It has been decided that this one would still be internal for now and the target will be to get the game “feature locked”. The polish ‘n’ refine cycle will continue in parallel for a while (that will feel like forever to you, and like the bat of an eye to the devs), until we finally feel confident enough to open the testing to outsiders, therewith commencing beta. Alpha-testing will involve absolutely all Fishing Cactus employees, regardless of which department or team they belong to.

If you recently tried to comment to our blog articles in the section below and found yourself stuck because of not having an account, please note that guest-commenting was disabled by mistake earlier (we omitted to toggle an option off during our Disqus plug-in implementation)… Guest posts are now enabled again! So if you don’t like sharing private information at the same as your opinions, you can take it easy and feel free to speak out anonymously again!

Valentine Special: “Ultimate Care Bear Love Rampage” (Arcade title made in two days during Global Game Jam)

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

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Arriving At The Global Game Jam

That they work all day every day on Creatures 4 is normal. It’s their job. That they keep working on it overtime, long nights and during weekends is somewhat understandable. For it’s their passion too. But when we unleashed our Andrea DiStefano, Samuel Languy and Gauthier Billot for two days off so that they can relax and recharge the batteries a bit, we didn’t quite expect that they’d go ahead and build another game from scratch during their spare time. Yet that’s exactly what they’ve done two weeks ago during Global Game Jam. They were accompanied in their little escapade by our Fabrice Lété and Guillaume Bouckaert, though the latter both ended up working with other dev teams once on site.

 

 

IMG_2530For those who are not familiar with it, Global Game Jam is a regular worldwide effort organized by a central entity that coordinates all local chapters. The concept is both simple and amazing: on a given day, game developers and artists from around the globe, professional or hobbyist alike, set up locations in their region, where they meet and… Improvise the creation of video games on the fly. By the end of the event, the games must be finished.

The latest Global Game Jam took place between January 25th and 27th, and the Belgium scene gathered to the Design Center of Winkelhaak (Antwerp area) for the meet-up. Our three nutjobs only joined the partay on the Saturday ;-)  

 

doubleThe Ultimate Care Bear Love Rampage

Upon arrival on the set, two things immediately grabbed our gang’s attention. First, the camping tents in the corner of the room. Then, a fascinating object had already caught their eye:  the Winnitron indie Arcade system. Already existing in Canada, Shanghai and New Zealand, the collective-spirited retro system was introduced to Belgium for the occasion. A stick and two buttons over a stylish wooden cabinet. 

Take off your jacket. Code, draw, assemble. Don’t stop until they tell you to. Gauthier Billot took the lead on the actual coding, assisted in that by Sam Languy, who also handled sound and music on the side (he actually kept tweaking the main track for a week after, in the car-pool ride to work that he shares with Andrea every morning – note that his creation scooped the prize for “best sound”). Andrea drew the graphic assets to change his mind from his game designer routine. No real director to speak of, our three stooges pretty much decided the mechanics and the flow of the game collectively, in iteration and in consensus. 

The game was built upon the Love 2D multi-platform technology, using a Linux PC, a Windows PC and a MAC. It relies on the Winnitron Frameworks to run on Arcade machines. Maps were created with Tiled software. The underlying concept is clearly and blatantly borrowed from Halfbrick’s brilliant Jetpack Joyride. You press a button to go up, and release it to go down. But there’s a tiny twist that the crew borrowed from some frantic button-mashing titles of our youth, such as Track’n'Field: sometimes to floats upwards, you have to rapidly and repeatedly tap the A and B buttons at the same time until you break a sweat out of it. The action gets increasingly hectic as you progress. Levels are generated randomly. You can play the game alone or against a friend. 

In lieu of Barry Steakfries, the central character you control is an adorable care-bear made of thick and blocky 8-bit era pixels. Don’t be fooled by its cuteness though: it is out for rampage. There’s your title right there. Just throw in an “Ultimate” at the beginning for the wow-factor, and add the word “Love” somewhere in the middle because it’s got heart (and pixelated hearts assets too) — And that’s a wrap. Happy Valentine’s Day everybody!

You can freely download the game file from here

Special thanks to Wim Wouters for setting up the GGJ belgian chapter and making this wonderful weekend possible. Here below some more pictures of the event that he took.

If you recently tried to comment to our blog articles in the section below and found yourself stuck because of not having an account, please note that guest-commenting was disabled by mistake earlier (we omitted to toggle an option off during our Disqus plug-in implementation)… Guest posts are now enabled again! So if you don’t like sharing private information at the same as your opinions, you can take it easy and feel free to speak out anonymously again!

Creatures 4 Dev Update: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

The games industry is filled with notorious stories of underestimated development cycles, changes of scopes, technical hurdles… By now we all know Creatures 4 is certainly no stranger to all that.

Around April/May 2011, the plan was that Creatures 4 would be ready within 9 months… We’ve now officially entered 2013 and Creatures 4 is still a no-show. However, we’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Quite frankly, the whole first year of development has been spent on deciphering the A.I. code of the first three installments, making sense of it all, and merging all the stuff with our Mojito engine. That alone took us until the first months of 2012 and to this day we still notice bugs both old and new.

Furthermore, we were always conflicted about how to “restart” the Creatures IP in a way that would make it appealing to a new audience while avoiding the over-convolution that led to smaller sales and eventually the disappearance of the series after C3 (this is a fact, regardless of how fans or ourselves feel about it). We underestimated the complexity of striking the balance between staying true to the original IP and widening the game’s appeal.

And of course, since Creatures is a game series like no other, while exploring the source code of C3, the list of ideas and possible features that we could pack in kept growing longer.

Escaping Scope Creep

It’s only in the last eight months that we have felt like we were really making great strides tying everything together into a persistent universe. We’ve re-introduced the eco-systems (still working on this). The inner-workings of the Norns are all in place minus some bugs here and there. We’ve also set in stone most of the UI and tools you’ll be using in the game. Our next blog post will most probably be about what’s going on inside a Norn and what tools we developed to monitor our little creatures and debug their behavior, so that you folks can see for yourself that we have not dumbed down the complexity of the game one tiny bit.

Graphics assets are almost all ready and integrated too. There are some visual things that need to be taken care of like the fur rendering which is not optimal, “wet” skin on amphibious Norns ( what!? :-) ), various optical bugs and, last but not least, performance optimization. We’re happy with the world we’ve created and we think it strikes a good balance between familiar and fantastical.

We’ve just recently put great effort in reworking the way our procedural techniques work for Norn patterns generation. We want to ensure that no two Norns look alike and to guarantee a diverse range of patterns that can be merged to create cool-looking hybrids. This will also be the subject of an upcoming blog post to show you guys how things have improved since this summer’s public demo.

Important things like the Hatchery and Splicing machines are being completed as I’m writing these lines. They’ve both undergone several iterations but we’re very close to final now.

We’re also nailing down the story details at the moment. In that respect, the work the community has been doing in the last ten years is a great source of inspiration. Nothing super fancy or too intrusive but we want to insert cool nuggets of info here and there for old-time fans and newcomers who want to dwell a bit deeper in the Creatures’ lore.

Throughout the project we have also laid out the technology that will serve us to go multi-platform on day one. But we have gone places with Creatures 4 that we as a small indie start-up had never visited before. For this to happen, our code wizards led by Julien Hamaide and Ramses Ladlani, had to give Mojito a major overhaul. This process has been a lot more strenuous than we anticipated and we’re not out of the woods on this one yet as our goal hasn’t changed: we want to be up there on-par with the best-in-class on touch devices when we release and to do that we still have to squeeze out slightly improved performance.

We sincerely and profusely apologize again for all the multiple delays this project has suffered. We probably should have hidden behind the letters T, B and A long ago. We made a bad call announcing the game too early (blame it on our own excitement about scoring the deal), and after realizing that this project needed extra care, we kind of moved into the “ship when it’s ready” mind-state that has been ours since late 2011, but then kept guess-pushing the estimate launch date every six months, which was both an amateur-ish and cruel thing to do. We thought we could deliver a game faster and better that anyone but in retrospect 2 or 3 years is simply what it takes to build this.

We reckon we could have handled the communication line much more smoothly. We thank you for your patience along this ride and are truly sorry if it all felt like we were playing with your nerves. This was never our intention!

We are trying to start the dialog anew with the will to be as transparent as possible in showing our progress and explaining how things work and gather your feedback, so hang in there a little while longer and keep an eye on this space, as we are about to unveil the specifics on Creatures 4 system/mechanics through a series of regular updates that will start in the following weeks, leading up to beta, then official launch.

Oh, and don’t bother trying to bribe us about getting into the beta just yet, details about that will be revealed in due time. Meanwhile, you can also subscribe to our drip-feed of the latest visual updates over at Instagram. And if you’ve recently decided that you’ll never visit them again because you hate their T.O.S., we’ve got an alternative for you up on Flickr.

If you recently tried to comment to our blog articles in the section below and found yourself stuck because of not having an account, please note that guest-commenting was disabled by mistake earlier (we omitted to toggle an option off during our Disqus plug-in implementation)… Guest posts are now enabled again! So if you don’t like sharing private information at the same as your opinions, you can take it easy and feel free to speak out anonymously again!

Best Wishes For 2013 and Happy Holidays

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

 

Time has come to thank every single person who supported Fishing Cactus during this smashing year. Last year, we were in a hurry for sharing our wishes but this time, and because it’s beginning to look a lot like 2013 (and because we survived the 21st of December of course!), it seems like it’s the right time to have a look at what we have done this year and what’s coming for the new year.

 

Walking on a Cactus Wonderland

The time when we’ll put our spiky foot on the floor of the Fishing Cactus brand new building is approaching. Santa signed our loans and validated our plans. All we have to do now is to place the first concrete block. Planned for early 2013, we’ll of course celebrate it accordingly!

Fishing Cactus goes to China in 2013

Fishing Cactus just signed for a video games training in China from the 4th to the 15th of March. For the occasion, one Artist and one Game Designer will fly to Asia to represent us there and coordinate small art teams (think GameJam).

Tales From the gaming trenches

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when at the glow of their screens, the cacti asked themselves: “what have we done this year?”

First of all, we worked for a very well-known publisher (soon to be announced). The work we have been delivering opens us doors to other collaborations. You’ll learn more about the game by the end of January.

We collaborated with Reak-Lab and White Laser Games on a web browser game called Thormae. It should reach beta stage just before February. The team in charge of the game has spoiled their baby and it is now time to see all pieces come together for the final polishing phase.

Next, we are quite glad to say that Creatures 4 which we have been developing with Big Ben Interactive for more than a year is finally on a roll. After quite long wait, we are on the verge of signing a distribution deal with a big player in the online games industry who will be responsible for the distribution of C4.

Then, as many of you already know, Fishing Cactus has been working for a while on Serious Gaming. Our passion and our faculty to simply turn serious things into awesome games, gave us the opportunity to work on many different projects this year.

One of those projects that makes us very proud is called Algo-bot. The game aims to teach you, in a very Fishing Cactus fun way, the basics of programming logic. But we’ll tell you more about it on a next post :-)

 

 

Last word

As you can guess, it has been a very interesting year and from the team point of view, things have been rockin’ around the Christmas Tree! Best wishes for 2013 and have a happy holiday!