Your Feedback Matters – Please answer a couple of questions to help make my game better!

Hi.

I really want to make The Lost Resort as good as it can be, and to that end I’ve created a mini-survey in a bid to gather feedback and suggestions from the wider gaming community. This feedback will influence all design decisions and will have a big impact on the game going forward. Both positive and negative feedback is useful!

Everyone who takes the time to answer these questions will not only receive my eternal gratitude but can also choose to have their names included in the ‘Thank You’ portion of the game credits on launch.

There are 8 very short questions which should take around a minute to complete, just click on the link below to begin…

Thank you!

The Lost Resort – Have Your Say!

NOT Made With Unity – The Madness Of Building a Custom Game Engine in 2018

“Moses Ngobeni from South Africa has always dreamed of owning a sports car. So he decided to take matters into his own hands and build one.”

So back in 2015 or so when I started writing my game, after a lot of thought, I decided not to use an off-the-shelf game engine. The jury’s still out on whether that was a wise choice, but I did at least have a couple of reasons which I don’t think are totally crazy.

There are obviously many good/sensible/sane reasons to use an off-the-shelf engine, including stability, features, and multi-platform support. So why would anyone choose not to use one?

If I was making a 3D game with state-of-the-art graphics, I wouldn’t even consider making my own engine for a second – it really would be madness. There is simply no way I could hope to match the feature set of Unity or Unreal even if I had 100 years to work on it. But my requirements are different, and on balance I still feel I made the right choice.

Also, just for clarity, I am using some middleware libraries such as FMOD – just not within Unity.

Some Reasons Not To Use Unity

Learning Unity Takes Time

This wasn’t the deciding factor, but it was an issue. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean the initial curve while getting to understand the basic systems and workflow. I mean the time that would be required for each and every individual feature I wanted to add to the game. Let’s say I want to build a laser cannon – I’ll want to build some sort of triangle strip for the laser, there’s an investigation into how to accomplish that in Unity. Then I want to make the laser damage baddies – there’s another investigation.

It felt like the list of investigations would be never-ending and  the whole process would be an endless slog through tutorials and message boards to find out how to accomplish things in Unity that I could easily just build myself. At the end of the process I would no doubt be pretty good at working with Unity, but that’s not really my goal (see below).

Using Unity Might Encourage Me To Make Compromises

I have used a fair amount of game middleware in the past. I used Renderware commercially in the early 2000’s, as well as Ogre3D , XNA and a few others over the years. These were just render libraries however that required the developer to build their own tool set. Game logic, physics and audio were kept separate too.

I naturally like this approach because it’s supremely flexible. I can build tools that are exactly what I need for my project. If I used Unity then even if things went well to begin with I couldn’t be sure that further down the road I’d try to do something and wouldn’t be able to. If/when that situation arose I’d have no choice but to compromise and do things the way Unity wanted me to do it.

Using Unity Might Make Me Lazy

Let’s say I wanted to achieve a very particular visual effect. If I have to build it from scratch then I know I’ll get exactly what I was aiming for, even if it takes some time. What I’d be afraid of with Unity is that I could find a code sample or shader that someone else has written that nearly gives me what I want, and I’d just go with it. Maybe that doesn’t really matter, but I think it probably does.

Investment In Technology

There is a lot to be said for actually owning the technology that you use. If I wanted to write a sequel to The Lost Resort then I’d know the tools and libraries will be right there, and I’ll know them inside-out because, well, I wrote them. If I do manage to take my game development forward then I can build on the foundations I’ve put down to build ever greater things. I won’t have to worry about licensing costs, supporting features or API changes or obsolescence. No 3rd party will be able to pull the rug out from under my feet.

No Deadline, No Costs

When I started this project I had no particular deadline to work to. All of the work was happening in my spare time with no particular end-date in sight. I think a lot of companies will decide to use Unity for two (very sensible) reasons – development cost, and development time. Fortunately neither of these pressures applied to me so I was free to do whatever I wanted.

Building Your Own Engine is Fun!

Really, would you rather spend your evenings watching NCIS re-runs or wrestling with low-level software engineering problems? It’s more fun than any Lego set.


Of course there are many, many good reasons to use Unity, and for many developers that’s the correct and obvious choice for them and I wish them all the best. For me it was a tough decision, and I haven’t gone through any serious testing or bug fixing yet so might live to regret it – let’s see!

Chris.

Game Design – Going Deep, Not Wide

It’s Easy To Be Lazy

Like most people, my game design experience is limited. Relatively few people have ever designed a game from scratch and seen it through to completion. I did build and release a game around 9 years ago, but I spent far too much time thinking about programming and artwork and very little time really thinking about game design. I did what I suspect a large number of indie developers with a mostly programming background do and borrowed a lot of design ideas from other games. I got some decent reviews, but that project wasn’t very successful.

In the modern torrent of content that is the PC games market, even getting your game noticed has become a huge challenge. Developers have to invest a lot of their energy into standing out from the crowd. In this environment, does that mean the box art, game title and having a novel concept is now more important for sales than actual gameplay? I’m not sure, but I also don’t think they have to be mutually exclusive.

It’s too easy to be lazy and steal ideas from other people. Personally, I’ve decided not to let game mechanics be an afterthought this time.

Invest In Design, Pray For Returns

With a healthy dose of cynicism  I started building a game engine around 3 years ago, starting with some level editing tools and thinking about art styles. Game design was secondary for quite a long time. I knew I was building a platform-based shooter, but whether that would become a roguelike, metroidvania, or something completely different didn’t seem too important at the time.

There were some things I did know for sure when starting out:

  1. I wanted to make something I could look back on with pride. I want to put everything I have into this game because realistically it could be the last game I make. I don’t want to look back and wish I’d done things differently, regardless of how many people buy it.
  2. This project might crash & burn – that’s just the nature of the games market. Yes it’s nice to dream that this might turn into a long-term, successful business, but on the other hand I’m not prepared to take any needless financial risks.
  3. I wanted to make something truly unique and individual. Games have largely evolved into genres and sub-genres, and those genres have certain rules and expectations. It’s far too easy to say “I’ll make another one of those”. Of course I’m very happy to use gameplay elements that have already been established, it would be crazy not to, but I also want to create unique experiences that players can’t find anywhere else.

I’m happy to invest the time and effort in gameplay design to know that the final product will be my a result of my own effort – for better or worse!

Going Deep Not  Wide

I read about the idea of going ‘deep not wide’ a few years ago and it really seemed to make a lot of sense. The general principle is to spend more time on creating interesting gameplay mechanics and less time adding more & more content. Thinking this way has made a huge difference to how I’ve approached level design in The Lost Resort.

For example, there’s a room with a locked door – the player is trapped. Maybe we could place a key in the room and they could pick it up and unlock the door. That’s not deep at all and won’t require much effort from the player. It’s simple and obvious and frankly not much fun.

So instead I added some flowing lava to the room. The lava would burn through the wooden door, but can’t reach it because it falls though a gap in the floor. If only we could plug the hole the lava might reach it. We can see that there’s a tank of water and a metal block on a platform too high to reach. What if the player were to use an ice arrow to freeze the water, expanding it so it shatters it’s container and falls into the lava, creating an updraft of steam that the player floats on with their umbrella to reach the high platform. Then they could push the metal block onto the gap in the floor to allow the lava to reach and burn through the door.

Making this possible has meant designing quite a large set of items that interact with each other in interesting ways. A lot of my time has been spent making sure that every interaction is accounted for and more importantly, logical. Lava melts ice creating a steam updraft, ice freezes water, lava burns wood etc. The Lost Resort will have quite a large variety of these different elements and they’ll all interact with each other in different and interesting ways. My hope is that when all these elements come together players will have a lot of fun experimenting and trying different thing, and that the result will be something quite unique and engaging.

Cheers,
Chris.

The Lost Resort – Story & Gameplay First Look

Welcome to The Lost Resort!

I’m very pleased to finally be able to post some details about my upcoming game, The Lost Resort’. This has been a labour of love for the past several years, with a lot of late night coding, and it’s good to see it finally take shape. There is still a lot of work left to do, but hopefully this video gives some idea of what it’s all about.

Imboko Island, a legendary tropical hideaway for celebrities, royalty and the super-rich. Hastily abandoned during a volcanic eruption, and long forgotten by the outside world. An ancient evil was unleashed from beneath the volcano, trapping the remaining guests. But you have sworn to defend them, because you are… The Caretaker!

A fun retro-style action platformer with dozens of ingenious puzzle to solve and hordes of monsters to defeat, The Lost Resort will release on PC sometime in 2018.

Please subscribe to our YouTube channel or follow us on Twitter to receive further updates!

Cheers.