Two Game Releases

I’ve put a couple of games on itch.io in the past month…

Substream Beta

I’ve still been doing some sporadic development on Substream. I got a chance over the Christmas holidays to bring it to a point where I have something to share. This is a kind of playable preview version. It’s the first two levels of what is likely to be a three or four level game later in the year. I’m really happy to have something playable out there after several years development. It should work on Windows 7 or greater. Feedback welcome… Substream Beta on itch.io

Substream_Alpha_720_A
Substream

 

From The Top

I took part in Global Game Jam for the second time this year. I worked in a team of two over forty eight hours and tackled a new engine called Amulet, coding in Lua. We created a memory game where you learn a sequence of sounds, words and patterns that build over time. We managed to get the game playable by the end of the jam, I’ve improved it a little for itch.io. You can play this one in a browser or download it for Windows or Linux… From The Top on itch.io

From The Top
From The Top

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Asus Zenbook QHD Yellow Fix

This is a guide on how to help the Asus Zenbook laptop with a 13.3″ 3400 x 1600 QHD screen to display the color yellow. This is something a laptop screen should probably be able to do straight out of the box, but there are dozens of posts online asking why yellow displays as a dark mustard color and how to fix it.

There is an unofficial BIOS flash program on the internet that is supposed to improve this. I ran it on my own laptop but it didn’t do as much for the problem as I’d hoped. It’s not included in this guide as I’ve had several reports that it can stop a screen working permanently; it works for some people but it seems like a huge risk.

But I experimented further with a bunch of software and found a set of steps that gave me a good result that I haven’t seen described elsewhere. The steps below worked on a QHD Asus Zenbook UX303LN running Windows 10. My understanding is that this mustard problem still affects the newer UX303LB and UX303UB models. In theory I guess this guide would help the yellow problem on those laptops too…

Step One: Drivers

  • Install the latest nVidia GeForce drivers for your 840M or 940M.
  • Uninstall “ASUS Splendid Video Enhancement Technology”, if it’s installed.

Step Two: Intel HD Contrast

Download the latest drivers for the Intel HD graphics. One of these three…

HD Graphics Control Panel

The first thing you’ll notice is that this makes the screen dimmer, and you think it’s a setting you’re not going to want to keep. The antidote to this is to increase the screen brightness. But… if you use the Intel HD Graphics Control Panel to increase the brightness its software driver changes the color curve so that you end up with a smaller range of colors being output. Instead

  • I recommend increasing the screen brightness using the [Fn] and [F6] keys. This sends more power to the screen to make it brighter.

Step Three: Refresh Rate Nudge

If you have the same experience as me, setting this contrast just improved the yellow but when you unplug the power the screen somehow readjusts itself back again. (Watch the palette in MS Paint in the three seconds after you unplug). After a while I discovered one weird trick to make it permanent…

  • With the contrast set to 40, right click the desktop, choose “Display Settings”, “Advanced display settings”, “Display adapter properties”, then “Monitor”.
  • Change the Screen refresh rate to 48Hz, click “Apply”, then change it back to 60Hz and click “OK”.

Now this sticks even when I restart the laptop. There’s definitely something strange with the configuration of these screens. This is a lot of hoops to jump through to achieve something that should definitely be a standard feature of any screen. It took me some time and experimentation to find this solution but I’ve had some kind of yellow ever since.

yellow2

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#procjam 2014

This month I took part in a nine day game jam. #procjam was my second game jam, and the first one I took part in on the web, and where I worked solo. The theme was to “make something that makes something”. Making a game was optional though, so I made a ProcBreaks – a procedural breakbeat generator. It’s a Unity program that designs drum patterns, making a kind of dance music that mixes and evolves over time.

Drum Samples in Unity

I think I reached the goals I hoped to achieve with it. Since the jam I’ve found it actually quite listenable. Usually the first thirty seconds are a bit strange; I notice that, yeah, it’s not the best or most natural music I’ve ever heard, and the timings seem to be a little off. But once it goes through a few changes I get the jist of it and as musical “background noise” it makes an acceptable infinite mixtape. I definitely had fun making this, I feel like I finally “get” game jams.

I met up with some of the local Southampton game devs in the uni library to work on this. Joe made this infinite island explorer, Rob and Greg made a pixellated procedural mine navigation game. I played a few more web-based procjam entries today. There are many cool things, but I’d say Forska, Do Not Believe the Robots, Khrushchyovka and Empty Museum are all worth a look.

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Substream • Autumn 2014

The Kickstarter for Substream has ended. I could have let it draw to a close naturally, but I decided to cancel it in advance. There are a few related reasons for this.

I have recently been offered some interesting work; games programming university lecturing. This conflicts with the goal of the Kickstarter; to work full-time on Substream. I had to decide whether to take this work, or to see the campaign through to the end. It already seemed unlikely to me that the campaign would be successful, so my decision was made.

The campaign reached 15% funding. Backers included names of people I recognize as having followed the game through it’s unusually long development process, family and friends, and those who discovered the game for the first time at Kickstarter. The challenge with this particular Kickstarter has been getting the pitch & link in front of enough people. I read many many articles and postmortems before this campaign, but there is nothing quite like the real thing. However, those who did respond to the campaign and pledged did so generously and enthusiastically, and this has been extremely encouraging.


I see plenty of great games struggling on Kickstarter these days, so I’m not taking this as an instruction to give up on my own. My current thinking is an aim to release the game with a reduced scope; less than the eight levels, perhaps with some sort of alpha demo build to help with feedback and compatibility tests. I’ll set off with this new goal and see how it goes. This week I’ve finished working on the environment for what will probably be level two of Substream, “Messi’s”. The final quarter of this level came quite quickly as most of the end sequence was a reworking of former melodies, which meant animations could be copied and tweaked which speeds up the process nicely.

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Substream • Kickstarter

I’ve been pretty busy so I’m going to keep this one short. If everything continues to go to plan, I’m less than two weeks from launching a Kickstarter campaign for Substream. Crowd funding needs a lot of prep work. I knew this from reading a ton of advice articles and Kickstarter postmortems earlier in the year which gave me a good idea of what works, what to expect and why.

I’ve only done a little coding this month – polishing up sections of the game that will be in the trailer and fixing compatibility issues. Making a trailer has taken me a surprisingly long time; I’m letting the gameplay speak for itself for my main Kickstarter video, although I might still make a separate talky video. I’ve written about the mistakes I initially made with the trailer and the thought processes that lead to the final version but I figure it’ll make more sense to post that when the trailer is live.

Organising rewards so that they’re good value for backers, profitable for me, relevant to the project and interesting was a challenge, but actually kinda fun. I’m happy that I have a few unusual ones though; including Lego and handmade jewellery…

Subsilver
Subsilver

I still have much work to do. Images, press distribution planning, descriptions to write, and a few bugs I’d prefer to have fixed. But the day is definitely coming. See you on Kickstarter soon!

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