2015.07.05 Boss 101 making movies!

Cinematics and Boss 101!

You asked and now you will know! How do we do that magical cinematic storytelling? Let’s see shall we!

For setup – We use a combination of Esoteric’s Spine software for animation and GameMaker Studio. Obviously you could do all we do without Spine but for us it’s a huge timesaver for setup and quick iteration.

First – well, to be frank, we plot out the script. Any old word processing program or whatever you like works at this stage. Just layout the idea and the plan out the art assets you will need. From there we move into Photoshop for basic pixel artwork. We also reuse sprite and assets from the game (huge timesaver). We can call in any asset previously made and have it run any animation we like. For the most part we are running talk idles and general motion idles during cinemas. Background objects have their own idles for things like blinking light panels or machinery.

Second – we bring it all into Spine for basic layout. Here’s the magic of our system in place. We can position all the assets and place all the bones for things like dialog balloons (both the tails the main balloon can be positioned in Spine). The reason for this is to allow a nice level of precision. During gameplay the balloons are dynamically placed and that’s fine for high action but here we want composition and control.

This image shows the setup in Spine of the various assets

Third – We take the rough script and convert it into ‘cinema-code’ in Excel. This is just an easy-peasy way to get the code all straightened out and cleaned up. It’s WAY easier to enter and edit in here than most text editors especially if you are dealing with code snippets as part of the input.

Fourth – The code is simply cut and paste from Excel and BAM! Cinematic script is all done!

Fifth – then we test things out. The assets are called out from a script and loaded up. Here’s a snip from some game dialogs.

Asset loading

The above script tested

Some later dialog during this cinema.

Bringing it all together.

Kite Hill time! It all comes together when we get to watch our characters in action. Sometimes simple questions are the most profound…

Hope you enjoyed this look and come back next week for more! Remember to live your dreams!


2015.06.28 Boss 101 Making Achievements

Creating Achievements and Quests for the player

While working on Boss 101 we’re always looking for things to add which increase the playability of the game for the player. Things like mini-games, quests and achievements are a few of the tried and true ways we keep you in the experience and tell more story.

You already know about hats in the game. These are the basic player buffs you buy which increase various aspects of the main character (firepower, immunities, money gained, etc). One of the things we thought might be neat was to hide hats across the game levels. The FIRST idea we had was to make these hidden hats tied to some level of damage or characters defeated. That would mean the achievement could come up any time you met the requirements and probably during a moment you were not expecting. That’s cool and all but for us it took away some of the fun behind the achievement.

We ended up modifying the idea to require the player to be actively looking for these secrets. Kinda like a miner searching for gold. With this in mind we created what we call ‘achievement hats’. These are things you buy then USE to actively search for the hidden hats in the levels.

A few things come from this. One is we make the whole thing a much more active process. The people finding these secrets are LOOKING for these secrets. We can also tailor the rewards accordingly knowing people went out and worked for it a bit harder than those who might have gotten it otherwise.

Now, of course this is all debatable and the way achievements are set up in any game is open to interpretation. We do think for us on Boss 101 we have a nice system here which allows players to not only play a great game with a fun story but also spend a little more time using the skills and weapons they mastered doing fun side jobs.

Some images:

First – the achievement searching hat itself bought in the player store:

Second – Here’s the hat with its phases of animation:

Third – the player wearing the hat during a round and searching for a secret:

Fourth – When you win the achievement it shows up at the end of the round win screen:

Fifth – The achievement is then transferred to the player map screen where he can see how far along he is for round completion:

Hope you enjoyed that little look at the way we are setting up but one of the many things you will be doing in Boss 101.

Tune in next week and remember to LIVE YOUR DREAMS!


2015.06.22 Boss 101 Update: Hats and Bullets!

Hello and welcome back to the Boss 101 weekly update!

Hats and Bullets!

This week we are talking about one of my to-date favorite touches we put in the game. Yep, you know it’s gotta be hats, but WAIT, there’s more! So you know we have the ability to dress up your character with cool little hats which grant you benefits. Thing like more money, health or other SECRET things I can’t talk about here. Needless to say they are cool and can help you through the various bosses in the game.

One thing we decided to do was not only add in the ability for the hat to change your outward look but it also will affect the look of the bullets on the player’s main machine gun. The whole point of the system is to give you the player more bang for the buck when you buy a hat in the game. We want  you to get as much possible from you purchase and really feel like it was money well spent. We know a lot of times we fall in love with accessories in games and will wear them long after they have served their main purpose simply because they are cool to look at. Well, this is our way you make sure these hats are as cool to you (and us) as possible.

It’s all part of our plan to give you the best Boss 101 experience we can give you. We want to tell an awesome story so YOU have awesome stories to tell when you’re done playing!

Check it out.

Here we have NUTZ, one of the hats you can buy in the Hat Store. See that acorn thing? Well that is our current pass on the way this hat will alter your machine gun bullet.

Let’s see one of the first tests of this system in action shall we? Check him out just firing away here:

And then him against a Boss:

I think you can see this is a pretty dope system with a LOT of cool upside. I mean, can you imagine what all THESE hats might change your bullets into?

We will keep you posted on the system as it goes in and drop in some more previews as we shake things down some more.

Boss Health Bars

It’s not all bosses and hats with the game. Sometimes you gotta dig into the little things to make sure everything gets polish. Check out the snazzed up boss health bars. These are just 4 of the 6 possible boss bars. The early ones worked but the new ones give a much better impression of progression and differentiation. Heck, they just look cooler too!

We hope you like this little look at the way things are shaping up. Check back next week for the latest news!

Remember to always LIVE YOUR DREAMS!


2015.06.18 Boss 101 Quick Update – Making Magic with Health

It’s not all bosses and hats with the game. Sometimes you gotta dig into the little things to make sure everything gets polish. Check out the snazzed up boss health bars. These are just 4 of the 6 possible boss bars. The early ones worked but the new ones give a much better impression of progression and differentiation. Heck, they just look cooler too! #boss101 #gamedev #indiedev #pixelart

Talk with you soon and live your dreams!


2015.06.11 Boss 101 Update: Tuning and spreadsheets!

Hello and welcome to another Boss 101 update! Thank you for stopping by.

This week we are in the SOUP with tuning. If you have been following along you know we are getting near the end of the tunnel and we can see the light of completion. A lot of what we are doing from here on out is tuning the user experience.

Tuning can help prevent things from getting too… ahem… CRAZY!

That means we aren’t just looking for bugs of UI tweaks. We are looking at the whole game from top to bottom and making sure the minute to minute gameplay is fun and engaging. Some of that is done through constant gameplay and some is done by gut feeling. A lot of it though starts with laying in a foundation based of the game progression you want to have. In our case we are telling our story with an arcade like wrapper. To that end we are looking to have a fun shooter experience and give the player things they will want to come back to like upgrades, new weapons, new abilities and many new challenges in each level.

When the web version of Boss 101 was made many Excel charts were generated about various mechanics and tunes. These weren’t the set in stone final things we used but they were the guides for all the things happening in the game. We wanted to share some of these ideas with you here so you can have an idea how it’s all coming together.

We want to stress these are from the OLD version of boss 101 but you will see from the examples and some imaginative thinking exactly how much effort might go into something as simple as an arcade shooter progression chart. Do you need to be this elaborate? Maybe not. Some people are naturals at various things in game making and maybe yours in tuning and balance.

Let’s get rolling shall we?

Boss Health Calculations: When we got rolling on what you would be fighting we realized it would be helpful to lay out exactly how many hit points the various “Make-A-Bosses” might have across the levels. It was pretty useful for us to create this handy chart of the level, the boss and the various pieces that might occur and then calculate the high and low hit point values. Made tuning guns a lot easier when you knew how tough the boss was!

Gun Values Across levels: Once we knew the boss health we did the same with the guns. We took all the guns, all the possible upgrades and made a min/max chart of the ways the player could have upgraded the various weapons. There were less weapons in the web game but you can see the chart was still extensive (and this is only a fraction of it)

Boss Weapons: Like the player weapons – we looked at the boss weapons and how they were used and buffed up throughout the game. Things like the firing percentage, movement triggers and various other pertinent data were captured in a large sheet for us to review.

Asset Use: Also help was a breakdown of the levels and how we were using the art assets. Pretty valuable to avoid time and effort wasting when you start seeing how often or how little some art is being used. I do recommend this kind of a chart for any game since you will often make a lot of good finds.

Hat Decoder: Many of the upgrades in the game came from the wearing of various hats to make your character look cooler ANY give him some robo-stomping powers. A list of the powers, the scaling and the various abilities granted was essential!

Boss 101 Fan Art by Ban Beaulieu

An old pal came through with some incredible art for Boss 101. Talk about an inspiring piece! Max and STEVE jetpacking with a boot gun!

Check out Dan on his Instagram account: here https://instagram.com/dbeaulieu77/

That’s all for this week folks and come back next for a look at the progress!

Remember to live your dreams!


2015.06.08 Boss 101 Update: Load Screens and Stores

Welcome back to the weekly update and thank you again for stopping by. This week we are moving into the polish phase for much of Boss 101. This includes the UI and the overall gameplay.

Today’s focus is on the UI improvements we are making.

If you recall last week, I spoke about the types of work you have on a game, they are:

-What you know you’ve done
-What you know you haven’t done
-What you DON’T KNOW and you HAVE DONE
-What you don’t know and you haven’t done

Today’s topic is really about the third category because when it comes to polish there are likely many things you have already done that you don’t know about. This was not scheduled per-se but resulted from a lucky bit of earlier work. An example – you create the UI for an inventory panel a while back. When you go to make the UI for the player store you realize you already had done the base work when you did the player inventory. It was matter of re-using the designs and ideas to quickly make the new store in a fraction of the normal time.

This type of work must be recognized for what it is when the time comes or you will redo things unnecessarily. Recognizing work you ALREADY did is the way to avoid remaking things over and over.

We have two things on the list. The Boss 101 start screen and the hat store. Both of these had a very good first pass in the game. They were functional and you could do all the needed things with them. The problem was they were some of the first things done in the game. What that meant was they were the product of the oldest thinking and design styles. This isn’t a bad thing but we had some new things in that were pretty spiffy so when it came time to polish we had an opportunity to drop in some of the new stuff instead of trying to make the old art work.

The reasoning here is the old art was just not part of the same process and thinking as the latest (and near final) game. So here’s what we did!

Start Screen:

The old start screen with the first pass load game menu. Nothing exactly wrong with this, it functions but it is kinda lifeless and blocks the main menu. No bueno!

So we made some adjustments and added in the Gopher scientists you work with in the game. Notice the new animations and the way it shows off the main logo. MUCH BETTER!

Hat Store:

One of the oldest UI screens in the game. Developed early with a lot of high hopes. Thing is. It is not really thematically linked to any of the new Command Center art. Mister Gopher to the rescue again! The thinking here is you have a large command center and it’s story is part of the game. Why things look a certain way is writing into the main story. The old hat store didn’t fit that mythos but the new one does in a way the player will be a part of. Here’s a place where we have done some work and unified many things under one umbrella of logic. We simply added the hat store to that list

Old Hat Store

New Hat Store prep work

New Hat Store

Minion Styled Hats

You can wear minion hats and maybe make some friends!

Ok – folks – that is it for this week but check back again.