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12 Days
Aug 1st, 2013 by Joe

Still working like crazy, but I’m starting to get more confident about things. I went through all the levels last night and refined them and really figured out how many acceptable levels that I have. I counted about 66, so I don’t really need to make that many more. I also start ordering them a little bit, but I will probably tackle the majority of that this weekend.

Today I spent some time working on some general polish. I added a toggle button for music and sound effects to the main menu screen. I cleaned up the level pack display when you are browsing for levels. Here is an image of the change.

downloadBox

The old style is on top and the new style is below. It obviously has more information, but also looks a little betting in my opinion. The yellow bar on the left indicates that the level pack has already been downloaded, as opposed to actually writing it out in the old style.

13 Days
Jul 31st, 2013 by Joe

As you can see, I missed the 14 days post, so I’ll combine it with this one.

This big news is that the Humble Store widget is up and you can now pre-order the game! I spent a decent amount of time yesterday working on that site.

>>Click Here to Pre-order<<

I also fooled around with different graphical themes. I really shouldn’t be fooling around with the graphical style this close to release, but I just wanted to see what it would look like if I mixed in some of Oryx’s 16 bit tilesets. It looks pretty good, but I’m not sure if it is worth it, because it kinda clashes with the UI. It might be an option that can be changed, or perhaps custom levels could change their theme.

Today I’m going to be working on polishing levels and probably do some ordering of them. This is a slow process, but probably the most important thing that I have left to complete.

15 Days
Jul 29th, 2013 by Joe

Apparently I’m writing a post everyday and documenting the process of releasing my game.

Today I worked a lot on the Server Browser, and web services that are needed to support it. I also added the web services for voting on a Level Pack. Users will be able to rate level packs in two categories, difficulty and how enjoyable it is. I’m hoping this will provide a good way for the better level packs to rise to the top and be easy to find.

Also, you can now delete level packs that you have installed, so that is good.

Hoping to have the preorder widget working sometime in the next couple days.

That’s a pretty good rundown of the stuff that I got completed today. The really big items that I still need to finish are cleaning up the editor and getting the levels ordered correctly. I also have a TON of small things that I need to do. I think it’s doable, but it’s going to be a lot of work over the next 15 days. Wish me luck!

16 Days
Jul 28th, 2013 by Joe

I am 16 days out from releasing A Game of Numbers. It still seems like I have a ton left to do so I am a little nervous that I’ve officially set a date, but having a deadline can be nice sometimes. Also I will be done in time for the next Ludum Dare!

I noticed today that on twitter there were a ton of tweets about my game in Spanish and I couldn’t figure out where they came from. It turns out it was posted on this site: http://www.microsiervos.com/archivo/juegos-y-diversion/laberintos-matematicos.html. It’s so cool to watch something spread and see that people are enjoying it enough to share it with others. I also added a notice and link to the Web version so that people would be aware that an enhanced version is on the way. I won’t know for sure exactly how many people have played it last few days (web stats take a couple days to update), but it appear to be at least 3,000 people, so that’s pretty awesome!

On the development front, today I will be working on finishing the UI for browsing and downloading levels and level packs from the server. I already have it parts of it functional,  but I need to clean it up and make all of it work. This is pretty boring work, but stuff that needs to be done.

On another note, I did get the porting to Mac and Linux done yesterday. It pretty crazy how easy it was thanks to monogame. I will probably write a post about setting up the linux development environment for monogame because the documentation about getting up and running is all either incorrect or outdated, it was basically a lot of trial and error on my part.

Quick Post
Jul 27th, 2013 by Joe

I’m in crunch mode because the game will be releasing August 13th. You should be able to pre-order it at http://agameofnumbers.com soon.

Also today I got the Mac and Linux build both working, which is great news!!

Lastly, check out this Q&A I did with http://www.jumptogamer.com/indie-spotlight/a-game-of-numbers-qa-an-educational-puzzle-game/

A Game of Numbers Update
Jun 25th, 2013 by Joe

It’s been a while since I posted anything, so I thought it would be a good idea to detail what I’ve been working on. If you are unfamiliar with the game, or are interested, you can play the Ludum Dare version here. The Ludum Dare version was made in 48 hours as a part of a development competition. I have been working on an enhanced version of the game for the past couple months and I am planning on releasing it in august. To start, I’ll go over the elements that I have added.

Gray Operation Floor Blocks

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This is a new block that is similar to the Blue Operation Block in that it can be used multiple times, but it can also be passed over. I generally refer to it as a floor block. The use case for these are operations that must be performed when a user takes a particular path and this block allows for it. You can use this on a path and the player will be forced to walk over it and perform the operation, where as a blue block would have to be off to the side and would therefor be optional. You do have to account for the fact that the player would have the ability to walk over the block multiple times, but that can be dealt with in other ways.

Portals

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A block that will teleport the player to the matching  landing block. There can only be one portal landing block for each color per level and all portals of that color will link to it. These are not super necessary and I’m not sure they really provide any meaningful logic that couldn’t be done using other methods, but they do alleviate spacing issues in some levels, so in that way they can be useful.

Directional Arrows

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A block that forces only movement in a particular direction. You can step onto it from any of the 3 directions that it is not pointing, but can only move off of it in the direction that it points. This is a very useful block that forces the player to perform certain actions, or more often to not perform certain actions.

Wire

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Wire is an element that hooks up to different blocks (Any Operation Block or Gate) and will set their value to that of the player when a wire trigger is hit. Wire is the most dynamic element of the game and is something that I have just added so I am still working through all the possibilities. The key part of the wire is that it allows the player’s value to have feedback into the level. It also opens up the ability to demonstrate functions, substitutions, and probably more than I have actually found. It’s pretty cool to play around with. Here is one of the introductory puzzles for the wire that may help you grasp the concept a little better.

wire

In this puzzle, you need to plan ahead and figure out what you need to set the =block. It’s pretty obvious that it needs to be 7, so you can add 2, trigger the wire, which sets the =block to 7, then continue adding 1 until you are equal to 10. That’s probably a terrible explanation, but hopefully you got it. I’m excited about the wire because I think it will allow for some really interesting concepts and puzzles to be made.

Push Block [Not Implemented, but something that I am thinking about]

This would be a block that has a number that can be pushed by the player. All the rules that apply to the player would apply to this block. For instance, it can be pushed into operations, it must meet conditions to pass through gates, and it could be used to trigger wire networks or it could be the target of a wire network. I think the idea is that pushblocks would have a special place they would go in a level to unlock a lock. I don’t know if this will really add anything meaningful, but it probably would allow for some different type of puzzles, so I’ll probably implement it sometime soon.

 

Puzzle Philosophy

So I’m up to around 60 puzzles currently and generally have a pretty good feel for making them. It’s an interesting process because I honestly just wing it most of the time. Sometimes I will sit down with a piece of paper and just start drawing some things and doing a little math and see if I can make something interesting. Other times, I will approach it with a mathematical principle or theory in mind and try to base a level off of that. A very high level goal of mine is that each puzzle feels somewhat different and they aren’t just variations of the same idea. This makes things much harder, but I think will result in a much more satisfying experience for the end user. Take for instance the level titled ‘War of Attrition’ in the Ludum Dare demo:

image

It’s a neat puzzle and doesn’t really overlap with any of the previous puzzles. I like puzzles like this where you can look at it and almost immediately get the point. I need to hit all the switches and be less than 99. The actual puzzle is trying to figure out how to accomplish that task. I could probably take the simple idea of this level and make 10 similar,  and subtly different puzzles from it, but I have decided against it. (If players want more of that type of level, they are free to create them in the editor and upload a level pack) I want the official level pack that I release it with to really touch on a lot of different things, but not overuse any particular thing.

Another interesting thought when designing levels is how mathy (not actually a word, but it should be) they should be as opposed to how logical they should be. I’m using the term logical to describe levels with more of a dependence of switches, portals, and non direct mathematical elements. In general I prefer to make levels more mathy than logical, but I find that the levels that seem to work the best integrate them together.

Difficulty

I’m hoping to have a fairly high level of difficulty, but I need to be careful that it’s not just artificial difficulty. I don’t just want to add a bunch of numbers and throw down a gate and say figure it out. I want levels to be somewhat difficult to solve until you grasp the concept that it is demonstrating, and once that is realized the solution will come naturally. Here is an example of a puzzle that does that.

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It may look a little foreign as it has some of the new elements in it, but basically you start out as zero and can add one as many times you want. You can then trigger a wire that sets the equal gate to your current value, then it performs some operations. You need to find the value you need to be so that after those operations are performed you will equal what you were originally. It is basically the function: (((x-2)-3)*2) = x, where you need to solve for x. This mechanic is introduced slowly by having a couple easier puzzles that build up and show that you can represent functions. I like puzzles like this, because solving it is going to result in some kind of deeper thinking. You probably aren’t going to just stumble upon the solution randomly, but you will need to look at it and think about it for a while.

Progression

When I release, I am planning on having somewhere between 75 to 100 levels and they will be split up into groups of 5. I am thinking that each group of 5 will be logically grouped in that they either introduce a new mechanic or that they are puzzles with a particular theme. The game will start off with some simple levels, like a lot of those in the Ludum Dare version, and then slowly start getting more difficult as more mechanics are introduced. It’s important for me that if a player gets stuck on a particular level, it won’t completely stop him from progressing further, so there is some flexibility built in on how the levels unlock. Basically, to unlock the next group of 5 levels, you have to beat at least 3 levels of the previous group. I think this serves a good balance of not being too punishing if you can’t solve a puzzle, and at the same time not too easy (You have to solve 60% to continue advancing). This will probably be something that I will get more feedback on when I get some testers to actually play through it.

Expectations

I would describe my expectations for the game as realistic, but  hopeful. This will be my first complete game that I will be trying to sell and just getting it out there will be satisfying to me. From my calculations, my total cost for the project will be around $1000, so I am hoping to make at least that much back. Anything on top of that will just be a bonus for me. I mean honestly, it’s a math based puzzle game and visually, it’s kinda boring.  It has pretty niche appeal, but I think it’s really good at what it does and it’s going to be really polished. I think it’s success will mostly depend on if I am able to market it effectively and get any coverage from some sites that cover indie games.

There is also the education aspect of the product. While I’m not really focusing on schools now, it is something that I’ll try to do after releasing it. I’m not really sure how to go about this, but I suppose that I’ll try to make contact with various schools or organizations and see if they are interested in the game. I also think I will make several level packs that focus more on simple math operations to solve. I think it could be cool opportunity to have students create their own levels, perhaps every student in a class creates a level and then as a class they make a level pack from it. I don’t know, there seems to be a lot of potential and I just hope that I can reach as much of it as possible.

I will be releasing it on PC/Mac/Linux for $5. This will come with the game, editor, and the ability to upload and download levels/level packs that others have made. I also plan on releasing it on iOS/WindowsPhone/Android, but these version won’t include the editor, as using it on the small screen would be a bad experience. The mobile versions would still have the ability browse and download levels that others have made though, so they still benefit from the editor. I’m thinking the mobile versions will be $1.99.

That’s pretty much the extent of my update. Things are going well and I am hoping to release it in the first week or two of august. If anyone is interested in doing any testing with some of the levels that I’ve made or would like to make some levels with the editor, I will probably have a build ready for some beta testing coming up. Just leave a comment or send me an email at: joe@joedev.net.

Logo
Jun 23rd, 2013 by Joe

I have been working on a logo for JoeDev Studios and I have finally created one that I am mostly happy with. I’m still playing around with it, so it could change a little, but for the most part I like it.

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Also I should mention that development on A Game of Numbers is still moving along as scheduled. I think I am up to around 55 puzzles now and I am planning to do some beta testing next weekend. If anyone reading this is interested in being a tester, send me an email or write a comment on this post. Thanks!

A Game of Numbers Update
Jun 7th, 2013 by Joe

Things are going great on the development front. I don’t think I’ve ever been as motivated as I am right now and I am getting a lot done. My target is a mid August release on PC/Mac/Linux, with mobile versions to follow shortly after. Here is everything that I have left:

  • Need to make about 60 more levels, but I’ve been making about 2-3 a day , so I should be able to hit the date a little early.
  • Server infrastructure for uploading and downloading user made levels. This is mostly complete, so shouldn’t take much more time.
  • General polish to the user interface, especially the editor.
  • A couple new mechanics that I plan on adding. These don’t really take more than a day or two to implement.
  • User interface for uploading and downloading levels. A lot of work is going to go into this to make it as intuitive as possible, as it adds a ton of value to the game.
  • Add some audio to the game. I need both background music and sound effects. I’m not sure how long it will take to do this.

One thing that I’ve tackled this week was slightly upgrading the visuals. Nothing drastic, but just a slight improvement that makes everything look a little less flat.

VictoriaLevelUpdated

I’ve added several popup screens such as a pause screen, level complete screen, and several others. Here is the level complete screen.

LevelComplete

Also have created a bunch of levels and added arrow blocks to the game. The arrows restrict movement to a particular direction.

arrowLevel

Thanks for visiting and thanks for reading this post. Leave a comment if you have any questions or have a cool level idea. Also you can follow me on twitter if you are interested @Joseph_Michels.

Ludum Dare #26 Results
May 21st, 2013 by Joe

Here are the results for ‘A Game of Numbers’

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I am absolutely amazed at how well the game was rated. There were 1610 games submitted and 1400ish were past the threshold of getting rated and to be ranked that high in the overall, fun, and innovation categories is just crazy. My goal with Ludum Dares has always been to get better and to try to make something that I typically wouldn’t.  I definitely achieved that goal with this game and I’m excited to continue working on it.

After the initial feedback was positive I thought the game would do ‘ok’, I was thinking somewhere in the top 200, but I didn’t think it would be this high. I think my game was deceptively enjoyable. For instance, my game never showed up in a single “favorite games played” post on the Ludum Dare page, but yet people still rated it highly and seemed to enjoy it. It’s as if it never really seemed great, but at the same time, when you were done playing it, you could acknowledge that you enjoyed it. I’m definitely reading too much into it, but I’m just excited right now and very motivated. Also I should mention how many great games were made. Seriously, just go through this list and play some of these games, they are great: Top 100 Compo

Game of Numbers 2.0
May 18th, 2013 by Joe

The response to A Game of Number has been amazing and honestly I didn’t really expect it. It’s hard to say exactly, but it has probably been played by around 7,000 people judging by the stats gathered from the Web version. Speaking of which, the web version is really what has enabled the game to have that level of reach. It’s just not super practical to expect an average person to download a .zip file to play some random short free game. That’s somewhat discouraging, but is understandable, you need to make it as easy as possible to play your games and if it just loads in a browser then there is very little barrier to get people to play it.

With that many people playing it I have received a lot of feedback and the majority of it has been very positive. In light of the feedback I have decided to go ahead and develop it further and make an enhanced version of the game. I’m still in the process of putting together everything and coming up with a plan, but my initial assessment is to create a game that will target the tablet form factor (iOS/Android/Win8). It seems a natural fit for touch input and would be something could be played in small bites. I would also release for PC/Mac/Linux as the game is being coded in XNA and using MonoGame to support other platforms works really well.

As for what the enhanced version means for the actual gameplay and game, the idea is that there will be a significant more number of levels. I haven’t come to an exact number of how many there will be because making them is a time consuming process and I want them all to have a certain unique feel. I don’t just want to create a bunch of similar levels that play on the same idea. I also plan on adding a couple elements to the game. Nothing really extreme, but just a few things that will open up the game to some more logic puzzles. The game will also feature a level editor and an ability to create and upload levels and level packs to a server, where they can be played and rated by other players.

And here is a sneak peak of the editor and a level I’m working on:

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