Mommy's Best Games, Inc. is an independent game developer founded in 2007. Our seventh game, currently in development, is Pig Eat Ball on which we started working in 2013. This is behind the scenes thoughts about game development and marketing.

Nathan

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Pig Eat Ball Greenlit for Steam!

It's official--Pig Eat Ball has been Greenlit by the community and approved for sale on the Steam digital marketplace!


This is great news, as the 'Steam' store is where around 90% of all PC game sales occur, so it's great to have the game set to be sold there.
The game is still in development and we're targeting a Spring 2015 release. You can pre-order the game, for a early-bird discount, here: www.pigeatball.com.

And to accompany the Greenlight announcement, I've recorded a playthrough of one of the levels in the second world in the game. This is from world 2, the Sushi Gardens, and it's the 8th level, which is named "The Barfopolis".

Usually I cut a much shorter, quicker trailer, but because Pig Eat Ball is so strange, and sometimes tough to understand in a standard trailer, I wanted to show the un-cut gameplay so people can better get a sense of it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

"External Power-ups" for All Unity Games

And now something from the blue sky department...

I had a thought the other today, watching two people playing two tablet games. Wouldn't it be great if the players could help each other out, even though they were playing two different games?
Two *completely*, unrelated games?

Baby wants a tablet too!
Well, here's how I imagine it could work, in very general terms. When players are in close proximity of each other (10 feet, or so), similar to the Nintendo StreetPass/SpotPass system, the mobile devices are made to automatically communicate with each other.
The devices do this in order to trade "external power-ups" or let's say "extra-ups". This would be a form of help from each player, to the other player, in their respective games they are playing. The idea is to have players helping each other, as they sit around playing their games (imagine in the airport, or coffee shop). 

Example

Imagine one player (X) is in Cut the Rope, playing a few levels, and another player (Y) is playing an arena shooter like Inferno Plus (also a single-player game).
Cut the Rope

Both games are designed to handle an "external power-up" or "extra-up" from this system.
In Cut the Rope, for instance, let's say Player X beats a level with 3 stars, then their game would automatically send an "extra-up" to anyone playing *any games* around them.
Player Y, playing Inferno Plus on the bench nearby, could get a message like "Mike sends an extra-up!". And within Inferno Plus, Player Y suddenly has a new shield.
Inferno Plus

Now with Player Y in Inferno Plus, let's say they beat a level, and now send an extra-up back to the Cut the Rope player X, which could be a freeze-style powerup or perhaps their level slows down so as to allow player X more time to react.

Extra-Up Integration

Each game would implement what an 'extra-up' does when received from an outside player. Obviously the game could simply ignore it. Or the game could work within its particular design structure to add a very small, but still noticeable bump to the game, to the benefit of the player.

Of course, it could be much more complicated than all of this; as it could allow for more information to be sent. Perhaps a simple magnitude of help could be sent (such as a number), allowing the game to do more, if gamer X did something great, and to really help out gamer Y.
The key would be to keep it basically invisible on the players, so they don't have to do anything additional, except play their games around someone else.

Real Social Benefits?


Facebook game requests
To me, this could invite actual, positive social benefits. Sitting next to someone playing another game, and having them help you out could naturally lead to talking about the games and potentially making a new friend. Contrast this to the feeling of being nagged by Facebook-style games, in which players are always directly asking for help through their games.


In this new "Extra-ups" situation, by design, players must be in the same physical area to get any benefits. Their games do not request anything from them, they only give positive help. Players are next to each other, able to talk and enjoy their company all the more if they so choose.

Implementation In Unity?

There *currently* are many barriers to this working. Tablets/mobile devices would have to make this an option for apps to tie into--the "always-on, light, background internet connectivity" required to notice each other in close proximity.

Another big issue would be a necessary 'platform', or SDK, or general system to tie into, for all games in the background. I can imagine Unity working well  here, as many mobile games are built in Unity. Here it could be as simple as a behavior function that is overridden, and hooked into.

Nintendo has games that use a similar system, with some games exchanging characters, scores, or even initiating special battles. But the trick to all these exchanges, is both players have to have the same game. In this new system, the gameplay exchanged is very simple, and in some ways less impressive, but it differs in two important ways:
1. An extra-up is sent during active, current play.
2. The extra-up is not tied to the game it's being sent from, but from the game that accepts it.

Cross-Platform

And of course while we're at it, one further amazing attribute would be if this system could be cross-platform. So if player X is on an Android tablet, and player Y is on an iPad, both their games could still exchange extra-ups.
If Unity were used, the game programming wouldn't be an issue. But I could see there being a hurdle in getting iOS devices and Android and WP devices to all 'talk' to each other in the background properly.

UPDATE:
In this article here (thanks to Jerrod Putman), it describes the app FireChat which is using Apple's "Multipeer Connectivity Framework" to have iOS devices see each other without wifi. It's exciting to know at least one small piece is already in place.
http://www.theverge.com/2014/10/16/6981127/firechat-messaging-app-accidental-protest-app-hong-kong



Regardless, I wanted to get this out there as an idea--of separate games that are able to communicate with each other to gamers' benefits. The general idea being: encourage potential socialization through gaming.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cavalcade of Cool




The temperature in Louisville is predicted to be back up to 50 degrees this weekend, and we have something fun for the whole family. A new comic con! Yes, this year there will be "Cavalcade of Comics" held in the Ramada Plaza Louisville, and Mommy's Best Games be there showing off our locally video games!

What: Cavalcade of Comics. It's a new comic con, from the people that brought you the 'Derby City Comic Con' in the summer time.

Where: Ramada Plaza Louisville - Triple Crown Pavilion
9700 Bluegrass Parkway, Louisville, KY 40299
Easy On Site Parking
Ticket Information

When: November 22nd, Open to the public 10 am - 5 PM


MOMMY'S BEST

 We'll have our next game, Pig Eat Ball, at the show with all new levels for multiplayer and single-player to try out! Pig Eat Ball won't be completed till this coming Spring but we enjoy bringing it to public shows to let people try it early and tell us what they think.

NEW SHIRT DESIGN

We'll also have custom T-shirts for sale at the show, including some very hip Pig Eat Ball shirts, and a new "Video Games Made in the Midwest" shirt.



Here's the order form if you're interested in the Midwest shirt. $17 to show your support for locally made games! https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Gi4DmDvkZwRCWYmndDeecUtZaO2_yM962qowcP9EsUM/viewform

WEEKEND WARM UP

The comic con will be the perfect place to pick up some early Christmas or Hanukkah gifts for the comic book/game lover in your family. See you this Saturday!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Indiana and Kentucky Public Game Events for Fall

Kentuckiana is the name for the region of northern Kentucky and southern Indiana. And our area will have two public game exhibitions soon!

Mini Making Games

The first show will be this weekend at the Louisville Mini Maker Faire.
The GameDevLou game development group will have a booth there, showcasing plenty of games made by developers from around the Louisville, Kentucky area. And we'll be there showing Pig Eat Ball with new single player content! (Okay, so Mommy's Best Games is in southern Indiana--but we're very close to Louisville :)

Details: Saturday, September 27, 10AM - 10PM at the 800 block of East Market Street, Louisville, KY. Free Admission




Full Roaming Action


The second show is the Free Range Arcade which will be in Bloomington, Indiana. This will be the second time they've held the event this year as it was a definite success.
Free Range Arcade will showcase even more Kentuckiana-developed games, this time primarily by developers in Southern Indiana. And we'll have Pig Eat Ball there as well--complete with more improvements which I'll implement after each playtest and show!

Details: Friday, October 3rd, 5PM - 8PM at the City Hall Atrium, 401 N Morton, Bloomington, IN. Free Admission


 

Bonus Bash


We'll also be showing Pig Eat Ball at the upcoming Cavalcade of Comics in November! Feeling good to have plenty of places to showcases games made around here.

Meet, Greet, Game

If you're a gamer to who loves to play something new--come on by these shows! And if you're a developer interested in the "scene" 'round here, these are great places to chat up active devs making games in Kentuckiana!


Thursday, September 11, 2014

New Logo and PAX Prime

First off, we have a new logo for Pig Eat Ball!
 It took a while to find just the right look, but we hope you love it! And that it makes you hungry.




And please vote for the game on Steam Greenlight!
This will help us sell the game on the Steam marketplace which is kinda a big deal for us :) http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=305804283
Please tell your friends too--every vote counts! 



 
And the other big news is PAX Prime 2014 was a big hit for us!
We had hundreds of people come through to play at the show and it seemed like everyone really enjoyed the game.

It was also great for playtesting. Each day I would watch people play the single player and each night I would tweak any levels they were having problems with. Definitely got some valuable information from it.

We also had some good media visits. Razer, the game hardware company, had a team on the floor looking for fun indie games to play and they said Pig Eat Ball was one of their 3 favorites!




Even Gamespot managed to find us and play the Party mode with our custom RMP SHKR controllers in their "PAX the Ultimate Show Tour" video.

Danny O'Dwyer is dreamy... skip to about 24' 45" to see him play our game.


Some other good press too:
http://drinkingcoffeecola.blogspot.com/2014/09/pax-prime-day-3-4.html


And some from Prima Games:
http://www.primagames.com/games/middle-earth-shadow-mordor/feature/games-pax-prime-2014






We had plenty of wild characters come through the Mommy's Best Games booth.
Toad and Toadette

Mr. Destructoid!

A man-princess? Not sure where the design is from...


And from the show floor, there was plenty of cool stuff to see as well.

Shovel Knight cosplay!

The Evolve monster was absolutely massive. 18 foot high? Bigger? It was hard to tell with the high show ceilings.

Pikachu keeping an eye on his collection.
 
Operated like a mechanical bull... but it was a dragon! (Or wyvern I guess, don't think it had legs).


They finally found me!




And Amy and I even got to tour a bit of Seattle.
We visited the "Troll Under the Bridge" which was pretty spooky! It's a huge concrete sculpture hidden under an in-use bridge in the city.

And another night we went to the Sony party which was in the Chihuly Glass Garden. It was gorgeous.







All in all, it was a great trip!


Monday, July 28, 2014

Pig Eat Ball Most Innovative at Casual Connect 2014


Just returned from the Casual Connect conference in San Francisco and it turned out pretty great. Pig Eat Ball won "Most Innovative Game" at the show! The awards ceremony was really nice too, like our own little Emmy's but for indie games at the conference. Each award had a video introduction, and the three finalist games had their trailers played, while the game and company were announced by the woman running the show. At the end, the winner was called and you went on stage, got your picture taken and even got to say a few words!


I was pretty surprised, but excited to win, so when I got up on stage, I was in a bit of a blur. I managed to say something about "liking barf and pie".. and "long live indies". It wasn't coherent, but hopefully entertaining.


The venue was amazing too. It was in the San Francisco courthouse which was gorgeous. It was filled with police officers whom I'm not sure if they were thrilled to be baby-sitting game developers that were drinking and carousing but then again nothing got out of hand.

I met some fun new devs there too. I shared a booth with Glowstick Games who ended up winning "Best in Show: Audience Choice" with their horror Oculus rift game. It's called Dark Deception and is definitely scary with the addition of stereoscopic 3D. There game is on Greenlight too, so give them a vote!

Also made friends with the Whispering Willows team who ended up winning the "Best Story" award at the show. And I roomed with Jon from Mijikai Games, who's game Heroes of Rune was nominated for "Most Promising". Turns out he's not only a good developer, but a fantastic dancer!

The Casual Connect show is an industry show which means no public was playing our game, but we had plenty of industry folks enjoy it. And between the award and new business contacts, it was definitely worth participating in.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Casual Connect About to Get Sick

Pig Eat Ball was selected to compete for the Indie Prize Showcase at Casual Connect!

I'll be showing the game next week in San Francisco at the Casual Connect conference. If you're going to the conference please stop by to try it out to see what this whole barfing thing is all about. And I'll have our one-of-a-kind "butt rumbling" RMP SHKR controllers there next week for the 4-player Party Mode!
Each too many barfies too quickly and you'll barf again! Just wait to burp a little after each.


Lecture Time



And at the Casual Connect show, in addition to having Pig Eat Ball there, I've been asked to speak. July 22nd at 3:30pm I'll be giving a talk about transitioning a concept from a game jam entry to a full-fledged commercial product. Come by for an earful!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Shake Your Rump at Derby City Comic Con


Pig Eat Ball is heading to the Derby City Comic Con this weekend (June 28th, and 29th), along with our fabulous, butt-rumbling controllers we call "RMP SHKRs".

We've been working hard on the game, improving the 4-player mode, adding more levels, and the Solo mode as well. And I've constructed four new, "version 2.0" RMP SHKRs to take to the show. They now feature 5 motors in a pad, and each light up with 8 feet of LEDs!

If you're in Louisville this weekend, make sure to come to the comic book convention, then find us to play some. We've got some neat goodies to hand out, including these temporary tattoos of Princess Bow from the game!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Pig Eat Ball heads to Radius!

Pig Eat Ball won a slot to show at the Radius Festival coming up June 19th in London England!
Radius Festival is a festival of video games, including the best part--the public showcase of new games such as Pig Eat Ball!

Pig Eat Ball International

Who's demoing the game? Well, I looked and would really LOVE to go, but it costs around $1,700 just for the flight! (Indiana to London) That was a bit expensive, so I reached out to some friends and found my old buddy Moo, who lives and works in London. He'll be demoing the game for us. Cool, done!

But it's never that easy.
I wanted to show the game with our one-of-a-kind "butt rumbling" controllers. Called the RMP SHKRs, when you get attacked in the game, your butt vibrates in real life! We use these in the 4-player Party Mode, and it's a really unique experience. I made them specifically for public events like this--I really wanted to make this work!



So now I have to ship them to the UK in time by the 19th. After some crazy confusion at the Post Office sorting out post codes in the London, we got them sent.
Okay, done!


Special controllers, Pig Eat Ball balls, cards, and more!

Four controllers sent by postal mail, and the game was sent digitally, everything's ready.

But wait.. what about voltage conversion? Crap!
I've only made four RMP SHKRs so far, but I've started on a new set. The new set's AC adapters actually already account for 110V and 240V. But unfortunately the current set I've built only handle 110V. 
And with that, it was time to research voltage step-down converters.
The outlet plug shapes are different in the UK, and my friend Moo already has several of those simple converters, but he does not have any spare "voltage step-down converters" that actually change the voltage from the UK ~220V to the US 110V. I found this model, it seemed robust enough, and was fairly cheap, but the shipping was killer.

Approximate cost:
$91 to ship the controllers and box.
$120 for the converters and to ship them.
~$210 is costly, but I believe showing them there is worthwhile and and much cheaper than flying me out!

Special Spot

There's still some kinks to work out but at a minimum, Pig Eat Ball will be showing in some form, a week from today at the Radius Festival. And at a maximum, it will have butt-rumbling controllers with 4-player Party mode!
It's a lot of work to participate in a show like this, but knowing the organizers behind the festival selected Pig Eat Ball from hundreds of other entries feels really good.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Recursion Regret and Command Prompt Rescue

Our current game in development, Pig Eat Ball, is written in Java and uses a game development framework called LibGDX (which also uses LWJGL). The game's not been formally announced yet as I'm still getting it's pretty face ready for prime time, but I've been talking about the development along the way.


It's been running at a good framerate and seemed to run fine on many machines, except the one computer on which we really needed run well--our level builder's computer!
For reasons I couldn't figure out, Andrew's computer would crash with *no crash file* saved. We knew it was when he built a very big level and then tried to save it, or if he tried to play a big level from within the game (I can make big levels fine and I've made some which he couldn't run).

I try-catched and wrapped all the Save and Load functions tighter than a Christmas present, but I couldn't get the crash log to save. How was I to fix this if I couldn't get it to happen on my machine, and couldn't get any information out of his machine other than "it crashes here and here"?


Until I had a thought! Probably an obvious thought to some devs reading! I was already printing a log of certain actions in the game (when things saved, loaded, etc). But that was not saving correctly, especially not when I printed the callstack.

Command Prompt Rescue

So instead--I'd just have him run it from the command prompt! Yes, open a command prompt, run the game (set it to our new 'verboseLog' setting) and walla! Information from the game is shown in the prompt that can't be lost.
Except it can! Once I started printing each object loaded by the level, we quickly ran out of space in the prompt. The solution was to right-click the top bar, open the Properties, and select the third tab to the right--Layout. There, we could change Screen Buffer Size - Height to 9999. That gave us enough space to see the callstack during the crash!

Adding more "lines" to your command prompt.

And what was the crash? Well a StackOverflow of course! I think that makes sense now why it wasn't able to catch the crash--if the stack had already run out of memory. The good news was I got to see the callstack now in the command prompt (I had Andrew copy and send me the contents from his computer).

Recursion Abuse


And the problem was, I was using recursion to traverse the tree of objects to save in the level.
I had a nested tree system, in which there could be a 'child' which would branch the tree, and a 'next' which would simply continue the length of that branch.

From our Level Editor--here's how the broken version worked, with the lazy rescursion on every object.


Foolishly I just called the recursion function on both types--Child and Next, and let it do all the work. When a thousand-long branch of Next objects would be processed, that would be where the crash could happen. The callstack would have literally thousands of objects on the stack and on some computers it could crash.

Fixed version, in which I loop through most objects.

Simple Solution


The solution was simple, recurse into the branch (via the child) but simply LOOP through the Next objects! Just handle each one, then progress to the Next object, which means only one of those objects is on the stack at one time! Simple and the callstack is nice and happy.

Why didn't I do that in the first place? Pure laziness, but I wish I had known it was going to cause this much trouble or I'd have done it the more stack-friendly way the first time!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

GDC 2014

Last week was 2014 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and I was fortunate to get to take Pig Eat Ball there to impress the press! I was there from Monday to Wednesday and the first, and most important event for me was showing our game in the "MIX" show. The Media Indie Exchange was held Monday night in the IGN office and offered 47 indie devs a chance to directly show their game to a wide range of journalists.

Pig Eat Ball and the Rmp Shkr controllers set up before the crowd showed.
Pig Eat Ball was showing in Multiplayer mode with 4 spots available, and off to the left, there was a Single Player version available as well.
The "Rmp Shkr" controllers are specialty controllers I created to help promote the game at public shows like this. The idea is when a player gets his tail bumped in the game, his "tail" gets bumped in real life. Basically the Rmp Shkrs rumble your butt when you get attacked in the game.
Boys and Girls loved it!



Hey, it's Greg Miller and crew from IGN laughing it up!


Did I mention the IGN office is pretty cool? Yes that's a "Sharknado".


The night was a huge success, with lots of people coming to play the game, then running off and finding press friends and bringing them back with new people shouting things like "I'm supposed to play the butt rumble game?" Destructoid even said they liked the game with *and without* the special controllers (so that was a great sign!)


After Monday night I headed to the actual GDC show. I had bought a 'cheap' Expo pass (cheapest there is, at ~$200) so I could see the show floor, but it didn't get me into the talks. Still worked out okay as they had a variety of exhibits.


One fascinating area was arranged by the Videogame History Museum which put together collections of old, and sometimes rare game consoles and peripherals, and even design notebooks from old companies! Definitely made me think of a few weeks ago at the LAX show.

One talk available to everyone was by UbiSoft and happened to be about the editor for Rayman Origins--one of my favorite recent games! Their tech was very impressive, especially how it allowed for dynamic terrain deformation in 2D, while managing to keep looking gorgeous as it was adjusted.

Just outside the Indie Mega Booth I met the creator of the "Choosatron". It's a fun little game system in which it prints out a choose-your-own-adventure text game, and you press buttons on it to pick your direction. By the end you have a printed record of your adventure! No more peaking ahead to see what page to pick.
On the actual show floor I saw a few neat games. Enemy Mind reminded me of Gaiares--it's a shmup in which you can swap ships by capturing enemies ships, and basically get new weapons.
iPollute was made by Israeli game developers and featured clay-mation and a "reverse" ecology theme. Basically, you do better, the more you pollute, which makes players think about the worst types of pollution.


And finally, my favorite, completely-insane video game controller--the Rolfpillar. I would have loved to play it but didn't get the chance. Apparently you roll back and forth inside the tent to play the game!

Overall GDC was a great trip as I got to visit with Ian Stocker who just released Escape Goat 2, show off our work, meet old friends, and play some fun games!