Saturday, September 29, 2007

Big Brain Academy Board Game

I thought this was rather interesting... the Nintendo DS game, Big Brain Academy, has been made into a board game by University Games. It even keeps the gimmick of weighing your brain from the DS game - you earn chips for answering questions and weigh them at the end of the game on the "weigh-o-meter" to see who has the biggest brain.

Speaking of video games making the leap to board/card games, the new Halo ActionClix is out now. So when you've finished the fight on the 360 you can get further doses of Halo action sitting around a table with some buddies, a bowl of snacks and some Halo soft drink.

Of course Big Brain Academy and Halo aren't the only video games to be made into board games - there are plenty of others including Sid Meier's Civilization, Tomb Raider and my favorite - Doom: The Board Game.

I wonder if anyone is up for turning Brainiversity into a board game?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


fl0wer is the next game from thatgamecompany, the developers behind the entrancing fl0w. I'm not quite sure what the game is all about but you can check out the trailer here.

If it's anything like fl0w it will no doubt be a very beautiful, hypnotic experience. It's good to see some interesting stuff in development on the major consoles. The download services that Xbox Live and PSN offer really opens the door for creative projects with smaller budgets.

thatgamecompany aren't the only ones producing some interesting results. Echochrome is another game that is pushing boundaries. It's best described as an M.C. Escher puzzle game that you really have to see to appreciate - check out this youtube clip of the game.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Weekend DS Action

I picked up two DS games this week - Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time and Elite Beat Agents.

They're both older games that I somehow managed to miss first time around. But I wanted to play them before the new Zelda hits the DS - a game that I am really looking forward to. No doubt my DS time will be totally consumed by it when it launches in around 3 weeks time!

In other news, the whole family is off to Australia Zoo this weekend - Ella is excited about seeing the crocodiles and elephants. Should be a fun day!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Making Games On A Budget - Part 4

This is the fourth and final part of the Making Games On A Budget article that I wrote for PC Powerplay, an Australian gaming magazine. I hope you got something out of them!

Selling Your Game
So, you made a game. You’ve tested it. People like it. Now what?
It’s time to sell it to the world!

There are a number of services that will provide digital rights management (DRM) solutions and handle payment transactions for you. Most have no initial set up costs but will charge you a fee for every unit you sell. Trymedia, RegNow and Plimus are just a few options.

You can also elect to sell your game via affiliates. These range from big portals to fan web sites and every game you sell you will have to split the profit with the DRM provider and the affiliate - but the upside is you get immense exposure.

I chose Trymedia’s ActiveMARK technology for Word Shake and Brainiversity due to its simplicity. Once you sign up it’s a simple process to start selling online. You upload your exe file to their site for DRM wrapping, create an installer, test it, set your pricing, then upload the installer for verification. Within minutes they will send you a link that you can start selling your game from.

Okay, so if you've read parts 1,2 and 3 then you should have the tools to make a game, test it and start selling online. Except it doesn’t end there. Having your game online doesn’t guarantee that people will know it exists or that they will buy it. To let people know about your game you’ll need to market it.

Marketing games is a whole other topic, but there are some resources that you can look up online that will help point you in the right direction. Resources such as and Video Game Marketing, a site run by Joseph Liebermanm author of the Game Marketing book. Even if you don’t use their services you may be able to get some useful marketing tips from their sites.

So, what are you waiting for? Go and make a game!

Brainiversity Statistics
Genre: Brain Training
Number of Mini-Games: 16
Beta Testers: 100+
Development Time: 6 months
SDK: PopCap Framework
Distributed By: Oberon Media

Here are the links again in one convenient location!

Indie Game Forums/News

Indie Gamer Forums –

Development Environment
Visual C++ 2005 Express Edition -

Game Engines/3D Engines
PopCap Framework -
Play Ground SDK -
Irrlicht engine -
Ogre3D -
Blitz3D (USD $100) / Blitz Max (USD $80) -
Torque Engine (USD $150) -
DarkBASIC (USD $39.99) -
Protean IDE -

Graphics Tools
ArtRage 2 (FREE / USD $19.95) -
Pro Motion (USD $29.95) -
GIF Movie Gear (USD $29.95 ) -

Sound Tools
Audacity -

Music Resource
Game Audio Australia –

Other Resources
ActiveMARK DRM technology -
RegNow DRM technology -
Plimus -
Survey Monkey -
Game Release Press Release Service -
Video Game Marketing -

Brainiversity game -
Word Shake game -

Copyright (c) 2007 John Passfield

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Making Games On A Budget - Part 3

This is part three of an article I wrote for PC Powerplay, an Australian gaming magazine. This time I discuss how to produce graphics, sound and beta testing on a budget. The next and final installment is due soon. Enjoy!

Okay, we’ve got our programming sorted out. Now how do we create graphics on a budget? Luckily there are some inexpensive options available.

Photoshop is a great art package, but is probably a bit too expensive for the average hobbyist. For Brainiversity I also used ArtRage 2, which for my below average art skills provided a better result with freehand drawing than Photoshop. The limited edition of ArtRage 2 is free but for USD $19.95 you can get the full edition which lets you use layers.

For more pixel perfect art I used a package called Pro Motion. It’s USD $29.95 for the lite version and is great for creating traditional 2D sprite graphics and animation.

I also used GIF Movie Gear to create my desktop icons. You can use the free trial version to create a set of icons, but if you plan to make a few games I’d recommend buying it. It costs USD $29.95 from gamani productions.

When it comes to audio I only use Audacity. It’s free and allows you to sample sounds using a microphone then do cool effects and save them out in different sound formats. It also supports the royalty free ogg vorbis format that the PopCap Framework uses.

Music is the one place that I spent real money. I wanted the best, so I chose Mick Gordon from Game Audio Australia. However, if you still want to keep the budget low, then there are plenty of good budget musicians to be found on the Indie Gamer Forums.

Beta Testing
You should constantly test your game with friends and family as you develop it. Even if it’s not the sort of game they usually play you can still pick up critical issues such as a confusing interface, poorly written instructions or even bugs that you miss when you play.

I also recommend holding a public beta for your game as you approach completion. To capture user feedback I used Survey Monkey, on online survey system, to collate player’s thoughts as soon as they exited the game. The service is free, but capped to 100 users. You can increase your survey group size for a nominal fee.

For Brainiversity I used the survey to ask some key questions about the game and used the feedback to change some things before release. For example I discovered that people weren’t aware of the game’s charting function, so I made the hint system tell the player about it at the start of the game.

Next... Selling your game

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Making Games On A Budget - Part 2

This is the second part of an article I wrote for PC Powerplay, an Australian gaming magazine. More to come in the next few days. Enjoy!

How To Find Time
Before I start talking about the development environment and tools, there’s another really important aspect of game development to think about. This is finding time to actually make a game.

Chances are indie development is not your full time job, so the key here is to find small slices of time and use that time well. It might mean giving up an hour of TV a night or spending less time in World of Warcraft. Now an hour a day may not seem like a lot of time, but over a week it almost adds up to a full working day. Use the time wisely. Resist the urge to surf the web and get stuck into work as soon as you sit at your PC. If you’ve kept your game small enough you’ll be surprised at how quickly it will start to come together. For a cool tip on how to be more productive check out this article from Life Hacker about Jerry Seinfelds' productivity secret.

Now that you’ve got an idea for your game it’s time to start making it. I love puzzle games and brainteasers, so as a follow up to Word Shake I decided to do a brain training style of game with 16 unique mini-games. Because this was my second game I felt okay with the increased game scope - I already had an existing game engine and was comfortable with my tools and programming environment. Again, I want to re-iterate that for your first game, start small.

There are so many game-programming options available that I only have the space to talk about a few of my favorites. I recommend trawling through the Indie Gamer Forums to find out more. This is a great place to find programmers, musicians and artists who want to make indie games as well as catch up on the latest news.

For Brainiversity I used Visual C++ 2005 Express Edition as my development environment. It’s available from Microsoft and is 100% free.

If you don’t want to learn C you could try BlitzBasic, BlitzMax or DarkBASIC. They’re not free, but are reasonably priced and offer enough power to get you building a game fast. They also come with lots of example game source code to get you started. If you use Blitz Basic then I recommend downloading the Protean IDE. It gives you a cleaner interface to the fairly basic Blitz environment. Be warned that Protean is now a discontinued product, but is free. If you want to focus on 2D games then BlitzMax might be right for you – it has the ability to create Linux, Windows and Mac OS X executables. Blitz3D costs USD $100, BlitzMax costs USD $80 and DarkBASIC is USD $39.99.

If you decide to use Visual C++ 2005 you’ll need a game engine to get started. The good news is that there are a lot of excellent free engines to use. Each of these frameworks gives you an easy way to load and render your graphics, handle sound and a whole lot of other stuff – letting you focus on making gameplay.

I chose the PopCap Framework for Brainiversity. It’s free and has been used in many games like Bejeweled and Bookworm that have been downloaded a lot (over 200,000,000 times according to the PopCap website!) so it’s pretty robust.

Other free game engines include the Play Ground SDK from Play First, the Irrlicht engine and Ogre3D.

Garage Games has their Torque Engine but it costs USD $150. Garage Games also has a suite of other inexpensive game development products and is worth considering if you want to transition to Xbox360 development.

Next... Graphics and Sound

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Making Games On A Budget - Part 1

This is an article I wrote a few months ago for PC Powerplay, an Australian computer game magazine. I'm going to reprint it here in parts over the next few days. Enjoy!

Making Games on a Budget

We’ve all heard the stories. The days of the bedroom programmer are long gone. Now it takes a hundred or more people and tens of millions of dollars to make a game.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it ain’t true. All you need is a computer and some talent and you can make a game. Heck, you may be even able to make a buck or two while you’re at it.

Using my latest casual game, Brainiversity, I’m going to show you how you can use free tools and a little elbow grease to make games. I’ll be focusing on the tools I use to handle programming, graphics and sound as well as the digital rights management software I use to sell games online.

Getting Started
Everything I’m going to talk about is free, or close to it - but there is something you’ll need to bring to the table. That’s some ability in either the programming or graphics department. If you don’t have both skills then grab a mate or two who can draw or program and get them involved.

If you can’t draw or program and would like to learn you’ll find that there are plenty of books dedicated to beginner game creators – I recommend checking out and doing a search on “game development”.

Pick a Game
Okay, I’m not going to tell you what game to make, but I will suggest one thing. If this is your first game then pick something small and doable. You don’t have to invent a brand new game genre or make an epic RPG straight up. You can do that for your next game. This first game will be where you learn the ropes. In fact there’s no shame in doing a clone of another successful game. This way you can be assured that at least the gameplay will be fun leaving you to worry about the graphics and programming.

The first casual game I made was Word Shake, a simple 2D word game with a small set of graphics and a very basic game play mechanic. This allowed me to focus on learning how to program with a new game engine framework and learn my way around new software packages.

Next... How To Find Time

Friday, September 07, 2007

Brainiversity Out In The Wild!

Hurrah! Brainiversity has just started to hit the major portals on the web.

So far I've found it on Pogo and Comcast - and there are more to come. If you haven't played it yet, all I can say is "What are you waiting for?" - download it now!

In the meantime, another brain training game was released this week and while it rated well on Gamezebo, Brainiversity scored higher :-)

More news as it comes to hand.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Brainiversity Release Update

Brainiversity will be released on the wider Oberon Media network this Thursday, the 6th of September. So you'll see a lot more of Brainiversity on a number of different portals.

Woo hoo!