If you’re already a proud owner of the Energy Hook alpha, you can download the update now. If not, you can become an owner at http://energyhookgame.com. With this update, I’ve upgraded to Unity 4.6 and introduced a lot of new bugs which I could use your help finding all of. So, if you’re willing to do a little unpaid QA work, give the game a go and report your bugs either here in the comments or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
But there is a little new content in there as well - Keegan O’Rourke has finished his Sky Gardens level, lighted it, done the post effects, and finished the challenges. They’re pretty hard! We may have to ease up on them - or at the very least make a ‘retry’ option.
FWIW, here’s a preliminary list of bugs I’ve found as I was getting it ready to launch - but don’t worry about posting duplicates, I like to get an idea just how pervasive a bug is.
Mt. Industry always unavailable
Some races are in wrong order now
UI for challenges in New Atlantis messed up
Challenge levels lost their backgrounds
Starting race challenge after trick attack challenge showed wrong leaderboard
Trick attack score reported as 0 when it wasn't
Gamepad isn't working on pause menu
Going to gear menu takes you to main menu instead
Going from 1st to 3rd person leaves you invisible
Energy Hook maximum distance level
Race marker at start of Dark City is really dark
VR Challenge 03 from Dark City doesn't load - and then it locked up going to Tune Equipment
Loses audio levels whenever we change levels?
The over large minimum jump makes it really hard to jump into teleporter tubes
On landing in continuous mode sometimes holds crouch pose
Friction too high on rooftop in Dark City with Future Island teleporter.
Running up some building sides harder than others? (Dark City, building with Future Island teleporter)
Trick attack on New Atlantis - UI looks wrong
Strange intermittent sheen on floor in Dark City
Trick attacks should bank your last in-progress combo
Starting teleporter in Future Island should go to Dark City
Misty City trick attack didn't keep score correctly
I'm through the woods with the update to Unity 4.6, so I'm going to call the next patch alpha 4.0. And in the spirit of Team Fortress and Awesomenauts, I'm going to name it: Buggier Then Hell.
At this point it's pretty much a complete experience, with every level being available and accessible, but I could definitely use your help this update, because the number of bugs that got introduced with the transition is staggering. (Notice my clever use of the passive voice there. Bugs were introduced. Let's avoid blame.) I've found a bunch of the bugs but I could use more eyes to find more. So when Buggier Then Hell is ready, I'll let you know, and hopefully you'll take a look and send me a report.
In other news, Irene Nelson (@Irene3d) has been working on a new character model. I think only one person complained about the old stock model but I was never happy about using such a common asset in the game, so I'm really glad that Irene is helping me out here. Here's a color test she's mocked up:
Possible New Delilahs
New Delilah won't be in this update but maybe we'll have a rough draft of her in the next one.
Expect another Kickstarter update soon with news about the new version! And thanks for putting up with the delays!
I'd like to remind everyone that I'm shutting down the forum - so the comments section here is the perfect place to ask questions about the game or the upcoming patch. So think of some questions and ask away!
It feels a bit like fighting fire with fire but I don't see what else to do - I've followed in the footsteps of Brett Douville and others and contacted Intel. Here is the letter I wrote. I urge you to do the same. You could adapt Brett's or my words or come up with your own.
Dear Intel Corporate Responsibility,
My name is Jamie Fristrom and I am a game developer - I’ve worked both in corporate game development at Activision, where I was a technical director on some of their Tony Hawk and Spider-Man games, and for the past several years have been independent, creating games for the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. I say this in order to let you know that I’m a real person and not a manufactured e-mail address. I’d like to echo the thoughts of my friends Brett Douville and Richard Lemarchand and say that I’m very concerned with Intel’s recent seemingly anti-feminist actions.
I couldn’t believe it when I read, a couple of days ago, that Intel had pulled an ad campaign from Gamasutra because of their pro-feminist, anti “GamerGate” stance. As far as I was concerned the “GamerGate” crowd was a very tiny though very vocal minority (made more vocal with fake twitter and e-mail accounts) and I thought they had already been thoroughly discredited. So imagine my surprise when they continue to wreak havoc - they got one of the top companies in the Fortune 500 to seemingly take their side, publicly, with Intel’s own Bill Calder confirming that the decision was made in response to user complaints.
The implication is that the people at Intel behind this decision are anti-feminist. I know that can’t be true - it’s my feeling that those decision makers must have been duped by a coordinated e-mail campaign that is mostly sock-puppets.
Now it seems to be the top news regarding Intel and I imagine there’s a fair amount of discussion over there about what to do.
My suggestion would be to apologize. And not with a “I’m sorry you feel that way” false apology, but a real apology where Intel would:
Admit they made a mistake. Perhaps not enough due diligence was done when looking into this e-mail campaign; perhaps someone should have “smelled a rat.”
Tell us the steps they plan to take in the future to prevent a mistake like this from happening again. Perhaps more effort could be taken to make sure that the e-mail accounts that send complaints and concerns are real?
Make some kind of reparations. Maybe Intel feels that Gamasutra was out of bounds in publicly announcing that Intel pulled the ad campaign, and for that reason alone doesn’t want to reinstate it. Instead perhaps Intel could make a large donation to a women-in-tech organization?
I've been dragging my feet about making an update because, well, I just haven't accomplished anything of note in the last month.
I've been getting my ass kicked by UI bugs and decided to upgrade to the latest Unity UI system, which was just released in beta a little while ago, so once that's done I'll be able to get a patch out there.
To follow the progress of that in excruciating detail, you can follow my live streams on twitch - http://twitch.tv/happionlabs.
Good news is the kids are in school full time now, so in theory I have unprecedented amounts of time to focus on the game! Here I go!
I’ve written a couple articles on how to be happy as a game developer, but just realized I have yet to talk about why we should even try to be happy. I kind of thought it was obvious. But lately a friend of mine has been ranting about how happiness is for saps. The gist of his argument is that the world sucks and we should be angry about it, not happy about it, because maybe that will motivate us to Do Something About Things.
And, well, it’s hard to argue. All the sexist bullshit I see; the fact that one out of six women get raped; Gaza; seeing some of my wonderful friends struggle through their lives with hardly any income to speak of, yeesh. Yeah, it makes me angry. And sad. I used to be numb to that kind of stuff but the older me is like a raw nerve.
For a moment, after reading his rants, it made me embarrassed to have named my company Happion Laboratories, and to be so dedicated to the pursuit of happiness myself.
And then I remembered: seeking authentic, lasting happiness does not mean you’re a douche bag. In fact, it likely means the opposite.
A lot of happiness science studies confirm it - the people who are in good moods and score high on tests of happiness (and low on tests of depression) are often the ones who donate more of their money and volunteer more of their time. (Some sources: *How of Happiness*, by Sonja Lyubomrisky; *Happy Money*, by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton; and the movie *Happy*.) They’re people who are doing good and making a difference.
Take the Dalai Lama. He sure as hell has a right to be angry. And yet some people think he may be the happiest person on earth. Is he a sap?
Whereas people who chase status and More Stuff are often mysteriously unsatisfied and depressed. Since I’ve started reading about happiness science I try harder to give back more, and spend a lot more on charity and other people. My pursuit of lasting happiness has led me to become a better person.
So that’s reason number one to try to be happy.
Reason two appeals to logic. If we shouldn’t be happy as long as there’s some injustice or awfulness out there to be angry about … then that sounds like nobody should be happy until everyone is. Which means that nobody will ever be happy. Is that we want for each other? We don’t want each other to be happy unless absolutely everyone is?
There’s something to be said for putting on your own oxygen mask first. Maybe your anger will motivate you to help people but I think it’s just as likely that your unhappiness might motivate you to stay in bed all day and not lift a finger.
Finally, there’s another reason I try to be happy. I am super-fucking-privileged. I am a middle (or upper-middle, depending on how you count) class white male in the United States. Most of the world has it worse off than me. I have no right to complain. Although I suffer from dysthymia (or maybe it’s cyclothymia) and have had some bad crap in my life I feel obligated to work past it because I imagine the rest of the world looking at me and saying, “What does he have to complain about? He gets to make videogames for a living.” So the last thing I want to do is be unhappy about my personal situation.
Now, if you find yourself with a belief like “happiness is for saps” or “nobody should be happy until everyone is” or “I can’t help the world unless I’m angry” - those are the sorts of hyperbolic all-or-nothing thoughts that clinically depressed people often have. You may want to take a test for depression (there’s one on this website: it’s the CES-D under the Questionnaires) and if you score high consider therapy, self-help books, and/or antidepressants.
But how far do we take this? It’s good to be happy sometimes, but if we’re ecstatic all the time then something’s wrong with us.
Something I’ve been wrestling with lately is how much to expose myself to secondary trauma. When I hear about sexual assault or murdered children on my twitter feed, it does affect my mood. It does make me sad and angry. And so I sometimes wonder if I should tune out - after all, most of this stuff is beyond my circle of control - what can I do beyond retweeting and making pitiful contributions to rape awareness programs and the like? It seems I have to choose between being angry and numb. Is it really numbness, though? Although we are magnetically drawn to focus on what’s wrong, if we could step back and look at all the progress we’ve made over the centuries, and remember that most people are doing … okay ... most of the time ... maybe ‘numb’ is the wrong word. Maybe we’re just balanced, aware of the whole.
The balance I strike? I don’t read or watch the news. But I do pay attention when people rant on my social networks, and often ask, “So what can I do?”
I don’t want to tone-police. If something makes you angry, by all means, get angry. Don’t fight it - that can fester. Go ahead and rant and fix things. But don’t stay angry forever. And when you’re done … be happy again.
Now, I’m one of the cheapest game developers I know. I’ve been indie for almost nine years now and am still in the red, so I’ve gotten to a point where I’m loathe to spend another penny. Add to that I really had no idea how a game on the Xbox One would sell. So I wasn’t even willing to hire an artist for Sixty Second Shooter Prime (which could very well have hurt sales a lot as my logo screens were made by, well, me) so you can figure that when I approached the project I was doing it just about as frugally as possible.
So how cheap is cheap?
You might think, since Microsoft is giving away their dev kits to early adopters of the ID@Xbox program, as long as you have no offices and pay everyone with rev share you could ship a game for just about nothing. But that’s not quite the case: let's look at how our costs broke down:
So, about $5K. Not as cheap to make as a PC game - by a long shot.
What are those big expenses?
First: Errors & Omissions Insurance. Microsoft requires this; it’s in the contract. And it’s not just any E&O Insurance - it has to cover IP and copyright violations, so the cheap E&O Insurance you can easily find online doesn’t qualify. I went through an insurance broker (Parker, Smith, and Feek) and found the cheapest insurance that would qualify.
Second: Ratings boards. Again, Microsoft requires this - if you want to release in a given territory, you have to get your game rated by the official ratings boards of that territory. It’s sad but true, getting your game rated in some territories can be a lot more expensive than simply translating your game to that territory’s language! I spent about $700 on localization, all told, and spent nearly $2000 on getting my game rated by PEGI and USK. (I skipped Australia and New Zealand because they both wanted around $2K for their ratings boards...maybe I’ll launch in those territories later if the game seems to be selling particularly well.)
Obviously, localization and other territories are optional - if you limit yourself to regions where you don’t have to pay (which would mean skipping Europe) - you could get the costs of your Xbox One game down to well under $3000.
All that said, although those costs were somewhat daunting for a shoestring developer like myself, it was absolutely worth it. Although we haven’t gotten our first sales report yet, there were at least ten thousand entries on the leaderboards last we checked, so we’ve certainly covered our costs and made a living wage to boot - which is kind of rare in the indie game development world, in my experience - so I'm really happy we jumped aboard the ID@Xbox wagon.
The best superhero games of all time Game Informer Top five games of all time Yahtzee Croshaw Top five superhero games of all time MSNBC Top 100 PS2 games of all time Official Playstation 2 Magazine 1001 Games You Must Play Before You DieNomination for Excellence in Gameplay Engineering Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences
Penny Arcade PAX 10 Award Nominated for XBLA Best Original Game Nominated for XBLA Best Co-Op Game