Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Further Adventures in Game Development

Lots of things have happened since I last posted - not all of them good, and some of which are at a personal level and shall not be delved into here. Suffice it to say that much like many struggling developers in this economic climate we find ourselves struggling too.

Up until January it had been fairly easy to support development of games on the side due to an ongoing lucrative contract, but unfortunately that came to an abrupt and unfortunate end round about that time. Since then we've been managing on savings, and they are close to running out.

Still, I'm not one to give up that easily but I also realize that I'm also not a "hit maker". I make games that I want to make - because I want to make them, not necessarily because I think they'll be popular. As such, the three games that we have been working on for the past few months may well have been rewarding to work on, but I sincerely doubt that they will reap any real financial benefit.

Two of these games have been previously mentioned in the blog; Chromatic Aberration II and Zen Accumulator. The former is an old-school 80s/90s style platform adventure with some modern touches (i.e. not very marketable), and the latter is a relaxing math-based "brain-training" puzzler (i.e. not very marketable).

The third game, which has not been previously mentioned is, I suppose, slightly more marketable, being a frenetic arcade game in which the player takes on the role of a pair of bungling bank robbers making their getaway from a heist in a stolen roadworks truck, making use of the traffic signs they find in the rear bed of the truck to redirect the pursuing police vehicles away from the chase.

I've also been giving some thought to resurrecting an updated version of our first game, Creatures & Castles, with a new "Time Trial" gameplay mode and additional levels for the children to adventure into. Originally, this was planned for an update to the iOS version, but I've become somewhat disillusioned with iOS of late. Too much crapware to make a mark in games. (Now, applications are another matter - and that's something I may investigate at a later stage, but for now, no more iOS games, I think).

Instead, I find myself considering the following targets: PS Vita (yes, I know it's not doing great right now, but I find it hard to believe Sony will let it languish), 3DS (if I can stomach the cost of a development kit, and the corresponding switch from c# to c++ again), and PC/Mac (simply because most of the games are initially prototyped on PC, so we have a build ready to go at most stages in development). Now, this doesn't mean that we will never target iOS again. I have specifically developed our in-house libraries to be as cross-platform as possible, such that building for iOS should be a simple matter of just changing the target (as well as adding in any boiler-plate setup code and taking into account the different control interface). However, for now, it should be assumed that our primary targets will be those mentioned above, probably starting off with the handheld devices and then releasing the games for PC/Mac shortly thereafter. Obviously for the latter, we'd rather go through Steam - but honestly, I think that's going the way of the iOS store these days. Chances of getting through Greenlight (particularly with the niche nature of the games we make) would be remote to non-existent.

Luckily for Hiive, things are looking up due to a recent development. At least for the next year, we will have enough money to keep operating comfortably. Hopefully we'll be able to produce a game in that time that warrants the expense and effort that has gone into it. Although, with my penchant for writing games that I want to play, I'm not sure that'll happen but there is always hope...

In the next month or so, I will decide whether to pull the trigger on the 3DS kit (although it would be nice to get some idea of typical downloadable sales before I do), and delve much deeper into PS Vita development (using the PSM framework). I also have a crazy idea about producing a board game based on Creature & Castles, but I have no idea whether I'll take that any further.

Watch this space over the next month or so for more news on these and other things Hiive-related.

Oh, and after a long hiatus due to a server crash, our sister site Hiive Books is now back online. Take a look (if you're over the age of 30 and have a hankering for some retro-gaming joy).