Pics from November BitFest Classic Game Festival at PopAllston

Back in November, BitFest made it south of the Charles River for a quick visit to PopAllston for a classic and indie game & maker market. Danielle and I were joined this time by my brother Doug, and we had fun exploring the many floors of PopAllston’s indoor skate park. Doug and I played a few co-op campaigns, got to see a few indie games being displayed (including the recent Emily is Away; Danielle’s favorite from BostonFIG earlier this year), and we learned that Klax is about as much fun as you could have when working on an assembly line… anyway, here’s some pictures of the event!

One thing we learned at the event was that Doug is exceptionally good at typing during the zombie apocalypse.

For more information on BitFest, including the new BitLab they’ve opened in Everett, check out the BitFest website.

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Boston Indies Demo Night and Overrwyrld v1.534 Update

On October 19th, I was able to take Overrwyrld to a local demo night in Faneuil Hall organized by Boston Indies to get to watch people interacting with my game in person.

I went in to the demo night hoping to gain a better understanding of how people spend their first few minutes of gameplay, as a recurring pain point for the experience has been a lack of up-front guidance. It was incredibly helpful to see people moving around and trying things I hadn’t anticipated (although I can’t help but comment on how many people were rubbing up against every wall like I were some kind of design sadist).

Based on the observations and feedback from the demo night as well as the continued feedback received elsewhere I’ve decided to try and nudge the player along a bit more at the start. With nothing to do but wander until you find the first power, the game is not the most engaging anyway, and I do want to urge the player on to experience the fun of the later parts of the game.

To accomplish this, I’ve released Overrwyrld v1.534, in which I locked down much more of the Overrwyrld so that the player is less likely to get lost, and where any wrong directions can be quickly corrected. On start, the player only has access to less than a third of the Overrwyrld, and will soon find themselves on a short path to the first power. As the player acquires new powers, I also changed a few previous walkways into barriers to keep players on track, and force players to walk by them after receiving a new power to hopefully entice them further. This increase in interactivity and guidance is still arranged so that all interactive rocks and shrubs in the Overrwyrld are required to complete the game.

I also made a bit of a course correction for an arrow of shrubbery I had lying around to point the arrow in a more promising direction while still keeping the secret end-game “surprise” puzzle of the arrow intact.

In fact, not only was I able to keep my existing puzzles amidst all these terrain changes, but I was able to add even more puzzles in to each of the three “phases” of the game, from power acquisition, to power toggling, to all powers being active at once. Many more rooms now come with hidden traversal requirements that will be revealed during the end-game phase, even though those requirements had been hiding in plain sight the whole time.

The result is a much more fluid introductory sequence with considerably less possibilities for aimless wandering, and leading into a more satisfying and interactive secondary and tertiary phase of gameplay.

I’ll be bringing the game back to the next Demo Night once its announced, but the latest version of Overrwyrld is already available online if you’d like to see the result of these changes first-hand.

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Boston Book Fest 2015

Last weekend was the annual Boston Book Fest over at Copley Square. Here are some photos from the event.

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Progressive Blogger Dinner

Danielle and I were lucky enough to join Blog & Tweet Boston for an evening of food drink and live music at not one, but two neighboring establishments in the financial district. A short walk from South Station, and about 10 minutes walk from the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (home of PAX EAST) are Bel Ari and Les Zygomates! Both restaurants are owned by Mark Tosi, president and co-owner of the Pastene Company; a brand featured prominently at the Bar over at Bel Ari.

First up on the progressive dinner was Bel Ari, which offers modern Italian cuisine. What began as a helping of sunflower cranberry bread with a whipped ricotta spread soon led to arancini del riso, and w terrific entree of shrimp & lobster gnocchi (made fresh on-site every day).

Next we moved next store to Les Zygomates which offers more traditional cuisine and wine bar; I got to order a large flat-iron steak as a seond entrée, and finished the night with a crème brulee.

Both restaurants featured art from Janice Lindsdale, who has done a great job pairing her work with each location to both match their own unique atmosphere and tie the establishments together.

Danielle and I had a great time; many thanks to Bel Ari and Les Zygomates for hosting and for Blog & Tweet Boston for organizing the event.

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Iron Throne Weekend – Game of Thrones at King Richard’s Faire

My family had some great fun back in September at King Richard’s Faire in Carver, MA. We’d been given free tickets to the annual medieval(ish?) festival that runs each fall and got to spend the day partying like its 1399, taking in the many shows and attractions found on the fairgrounds.

A few show highlights of the day were a performance by Jacques Ze Whippeur (who will soon hopefully be known as the “Guinness World Record-holding Jacques Ze Whippeur”), a series of jousting matches throughout the day (we rooted for Sir Jeffrey all three times), and the hilarious “Mud Show” which had us falling out of our seats with it’s hilarious and expertly delivered dialogue (These performers have been working at this show for years, and it shows)!

What was also great to see was the number of attendees that arrived in costume; many clearly went all in with period-appropriate(ish?) garb which really added to the experience. The last thing you need at one of these festivals is someone in the corner rolling their eyes, so it was great that so many came in as willing participants.

This weekend was also a special one for King Richard’s Faire in that as part of their scheduled themed weekends, there were some special events planned to celebrate Game of thrones, so of course we all showed up as characters from Westeros to join in the celebration (Sponsored by Disruptor Beam, makers of Game of Thrones: Ascent).

Danielle wore a crown of winter roses to dress as Lyanna Stark. I sported a yellow cloth to go as Lem Lemoncloak of the brotherhood without banners, but also decided to add in an additional family crest in support of a rather fun theory that Lem is secretly Richard Lonmouth; “the knight of skulls and kisses.”

Ok so we weren’t going to win any prizes for costumes, but I did at least make it through the introductory round of the trivia contest! It got a little complicated with people needing to switch teams to keep things moving (to the point where I had to answer two questions before some people had to answer any!) but it was fun all the same and the right person won (my sister Jen)!

We had a terrific time at the faire and will likely be back next year! King Richard’s Faire will continue with its weekend schedule until October 25th.


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Recap: August and September Bit Fests

Summer has come and gone, and with it the remaining dates for the Bit Fest Summer Nights event series at the Night Shift Brewery in Everett.

Nothing seems to be on the books for when the next Bit Fest will occur (watch the Bit Fest website for upcoming events), but Danielle and I will most likely be there when it does as this event has consistently proven a great time that’s only gotten better. Here are some pics from the past two shows:

Bit Fest Summer Nights: The Lost Arcade of Atlantis (August 6-7)

August’s Bit fest took on an aquatic theme.

Thankfully they started adding drink stands between the cabinets.

Danielle and I tag-teamed this wheel and stick driving/shooter by Taito, although I don’t think we were doing it right.

Bit Fest Summer Nights: Indie Invasion (September 10-11)

In preparation for Boston FIG (Which I’ll write about shortly), the September Bit Fest welcomed a few indie developers who were able to showcase their own projects one day in advance for a captive audience.

Sumer is a competitive resource gathering game where you race other players to appease the Gods to curry favor.

8 Bitty Games is a collection of games developed with the limitations of the original GameBoy in mind.

This month was so well attended that the event managed to spill over to a second location at the Short Path Distillery down the street.

Short Path was happy to participate; even mixing a special cocktail for the event.

It was at Short Path that Danielle and I found our next co-op experience of the fest in Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We died a lot, but that’s the joy of free play!

Well; so much for summer! Can’t wait for info on when the next BitFest will take place!

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Recap: Boston Comic Con 2015

Boston Comic Con was last weekend and I was lucky enough to win a trivia contest from Comicazi’s Newsletter that got me a free ticket for August 2nd. It was a great day, and the convention center was packed; here are a few photos of the convention floor.

An exciting development for me on the collector front was that after decades of bin-diving, hole-filling and checking off issues from lists, I finally got my comics wish list down to zero. The last issue crossed off my list; believe it or not, was the “Mutant Massacre” tie-in issue of Power Pack #27… it was a dollar, and yes, I’m content with that being the only issue of Power Pack I own.

So that’s it; I more or less have my comic books, which is kind of exciting. Outside of occasional impulse buys and anything new that comes along; my back-issue collection is more or less complete!

Speaking of impulse buys, I also picked up a few unexpected extras. Ever wonder when Beast of the X-men got all furry? It happened here in Amazing Adventures #11, which I managed to find an old copy of for just $2. It’s actually a pretty neat issue in its own right aside from the historical importance; while the Beast character is visible right from the beginning, it isn’t revealed that he’s Hank McCoy until about halfway through the issue when we see his nameplate on his desk. Pretty cool!

In addition to completing my collection, I also got to stroll the Artist aisle where I got to meet Laura Martin; colorist for Walt Simonson’s ongoing Ragnarok (which more people need to get behind!). I let her know how much I was enjoying the book, and she let me know there’s still a good number of arcs in development after the first 6-issue arc wraps up (#6 should be coming out soon, with a TPB later in the year as well).

Thanks so much to Comicazi for the trivia prize and thanks to all the artists and vendors this year at Boston Comic Con for a great show!

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Overrwyrld Mega Update: version 1.53 release

It’s been about a month since the release of my free browser game Overrwyrld, and since the launch in July I’ve passed it by a few different  groups of family, friends, and other developers. I was really excited to see what people thought, although it’s funny how certain things can get past you when you get too close to a project.

“I tried playing it, wandered around for a bit, and couldn’t figure out how to do anything” – Stephen Lavelle (Creator of PuzzleScript)

Feedback was mixed from the start, but the general message was that while the game had some good ideas (and the influence of Michael Brough’s Corrypt was happily being noticed), it was all a bit confusing as far as what’s going on. Couple that with my novice level knowledge of the PuzzleScript language and you have things that happen without really allowing the player time to comprehend the events on screen.

The great news is that I’ve taken a lot of the constructive feedback and have worked out various ways to make the game even better; not only to make the game a bit more user-friendly, but to expand on the game itself! In fact, with so many changes since July 1st, it’s practically a new game!

Overrwyrld Version 1.53 includes the following updates since launch:

  • A new hint system
  • Faster walking speed
  • Revised power tutorial areas featuring forced encounters
  • New animations for burning and swimming
  • Visible indicators for burned and burnable trees to eliminate guessing
  • A brand new ending sequence with all powers active
  • Story! There’s a story now! (a small one)
  • Many many more little adjustments and fixes

Old (Left) vs New (Right) – Random rock and tree interactions were removed; everything now serves a purpose.

Old (Left) vs. New (Right): Trees now contain a visual puzzle element instead of blind guessing.

Old (Left) vs. New (Right): Hints are available and tutorials were revised to force players into encountering the mechanics on purpose.

I was initially against the idea of making the game more accessible with text hints. Truth be told, this project started out as a game with no words at all; I’d hoped the player would make their way through the world relying on context clues with colors, sounds, and terrain to guide them. That may be a project for another day, as I’ve already moved past my own “kill your darlings” moment and have come to love the little hint signs I’ve left across the map. Instead of relaying where the player is supposed to go, I’ve used my hints to not only provide some needed context behind the mechanics, but to also inject a little humor into the experience making the game a little more lighthearted.

I’m also really proud of how the new ending sequence came out, as through various tweaks and changes (move this tree here, put another wall there, etc…) the entire map is now imbued with a collective sense of purpose. There’s a purpose behind every panel; a purpose behind every rock; a purpose behind every tree! With thanks to the various mechanics at play, there is eventually a puzzle that spans the entire Overrwyrld!

If you’ve given the original Overrwyrld a try, I’d say this new update is worth a go even if you’ve made it to the end in the past. And if you haven’t yet played Overrwyrld, there’s never been a better time!

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Recap: Summer Northeast Comic Con (June 20-21)

Getting ready for the Boston Comic Con this weekend reminded me that I never ended up posting a recap of the Summer Northeast Comic Con (NECC) the prior month; whoops!

Anyway, Danielle and I had plenty of fun in Wilmington back in June, and the event feels as though it’s gotten even bigger since we’d gone to the Winter NECC last year.

Guest of honor Adam West put on a great show in his interview panel with good cheer and a terrific wit, although he may have been outdone by a young boy from the crowd who approached the stage in full costume to greet him as “Old Chum.” If nothing else, the boy’s enthusiasm just goes to show how West’s Batman is able to reach audiences of all types even after all these years (although try not to bring up residuals).

I also got to hold a few enjoyable conversations with several of the special guests that reached right back into yesteryear for me personally. Animator Philo Barnhart commented on the Dragon’s Lair video games, and how he was proud to be associated with a project that’s now on display in the Smithsonian. Longtime Henson Company puppeteer Noel MacNeal held his own puppeteering workshop, and I found out that his history with the company went all the way back to one of my earliest favorites called Follow That Bird (among other things, he was Madame Chairbird). I also got to ask TV producer Jeff Kline if we’d ever get a proper ending to the short-lived Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles…  it’s in Sony’s hands, but that ship has pretty much sailed at this point.

There was plenty of fun for the gaming crowd as well with a larger console free-play area, Smash Bros Tournaments, and a competition held by Gemr using the original 1990 Nintendo World Championship game (I nailed the Super Mario Bros. portion, but blew my lead during Rad Racer).

NECC will return to the Shriner’s Auditorium in Wilmington, MA this Winter on December 5-6th.

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Recap: Bit Fest Summer Nights (July 9-10)

Lots of fun over the past few weeks, and I’m only now just catching up. Last weekend was the first of three Bit Fest parties being held over the Summer. Boston Bit Fest, which I’ve posted about in the past, is a pop-up arcade festival run by some great people, that since its origins in Somerville back in December has now been moved to Night Shift Brewing in Everett. The new space is great! With multiple rooms to fill the arcade cabinets have never been more plentiful, and with the revised business approach of suggested donations at the door, each of the cabinets are now set on free-play!

The console area was moved inside the brewery to be played right alongside the many aging barrels, although I feel this may have been a missed opportunity as an ideal spot for the Donkey Kong cabinet.

Arcade cabinets were spread out across the brewery so there was ample room to move around. A few new cabinets showed up this time as well; I got to try out an old Sega periscope game called SubRoc 3D, which is honestly cooler than you’d expect for something from 1982.

Can you spot the News Radio reference in this picture? It’s been a long time, Stargate Defender… <Yes it has, Dave>.

I also got to try another arcade game I’d never known about before; Hydra by Atari (1990). It’s pretty fun and fairly easy to get into, although I think I still prefer Roadblasters.

Bit Fest returns to Night Shift Brewing on August 6-7, and again on September 10-11. For more information check out the Bit Fest website!

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