Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hidden in Plain Sight for Windows

I have successfully created a version of Hidden in Plain Sight for Windows.  It is still multiplayer ONLY, and it still REQUIRES Xbox-compatible gamepads for all players!

It is for sale on Indievania in a "pay what you want" model.  You can even get it for free.

I'm also working on getting it on IndieCity.

Hidden in Plain Sight is now for sale on Steam! Go buy it!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

It's OVER 5000!

I just checked all-time sales, and I'm up over 5100 now, thanks to that serious bump in the last few days from the SourceFed video.

The bottom sales graph is really weird to me.  I can pick out various events that caused little bumps, which is cool.

Initial release Indie Pitch article in December
Reddit review in late January
Chez Marcus in July (look at all those French sales!)
SourceFed in October

Monday, October 15, 2012

SourceFed Coverage

A video with 100K views with a cute young lady talking about how awesome your game is?

Yeah, I'll take that.

The day after this video was posted, I got about 275 sales.

I love at the end of the video when she says "Hidden in Plain Sight was just ONE GUY, and that's awesome!"

That's me!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hidden in Plain Sight vs. Spy Party

“Did you rip-off Spy Party? Looks like it.”

I just got this comment on my YouTube video preview for “Hidden in Plain Sight”.

This is not the first time I've heard this comment, so I thought I'd take some time to officially address this.

First, it’s no secret that Hidden in Plain Sight was inspired by my discovery Spy Party.  I first read about Spy Party probably close to two years ago, and I thought the idea sounded fascinating.  I've been following along with its progress since then.

Shortly after reading about Spy Party, I wondered if it needed to be a complicated 3D game.  I wondered if the main essence of the game could be created in a simplified 2D format.  I actually created a little prototype called SpyParty2D.  Now THAT was a ripoff of Spy Party.  It was a two-person networked game where one person was the spy trying to open boxes, and the other person was the sniper, trying to find and shoot the spy.

I only showed that prototype to a handful of people (including Monaco developer Andy Schatz, who introduced me via email to Chris Hecker, Spy Party’s developer).  I never did anything further with it.  This was in September, 2010.

I then went on to make and release two Xbox Live Indie Games (“Bad Golf” and “Battle for Venga Islands”).

Then, near the end of 2011, I returned to the idea of Spy Party.  I boiled the game down to two main mechanics that I wanted to play with.  First, I wanted the player to have to blend in with NPCs or risk elimination.  This is not unique to Spy Party.  This has roots in board games (Saboteur, for example), Mafia/Werewolf, etc.  Second, I wanted to put the player in a state of conflict.  I wanted the player to want to accomplish goals, but in a way that introduced some risk.  Again, this isn’t specific to any one game.

With those two key concepts in mind, I came up with the game modes for Hidden in Plain Sight.

1)  Ninja Party -- this is highly influenced by a web game called Puji.  However, I believe Puji has a key flaw.  Imagine Ninja Party, but without any statues.  There is nothing for the player to do.  It’s easy to look like an NPC, so basically someone just has to wait until someone gets bored and does a random attack.  By introducing statues and an alternate path to victory, I believe this enhanced the depth of the game a lot.

2)  Catch a Thief -- If anything, this is the most straightforward “rip off” of Spy Party.  And frankly, in my opinion, it’s the least fun game mode.  However, note that this is a four-player game played on the same screen.  That alone should considered enough of a distinguishing factor.

3)  Death Race -- This is a wholly original idea, and commonly accepted as the best, most fun game.  Death Race is a total thought experiment which I came up with independently and without any inspiration.  I was thinking “What if there was a race, but everyone in the race had a gun with one bullet.  How would it play out?”  I've never heard of anything like it, and if another game came out within the next year that had a similar mechanic, I'd wonder if they got the idea from my game.

4)  Knights vs. Ninjas -- Another original game idea, arrived at without any specific inspiration.  First off, I love the name of the game.  I’d done an online version of this game as a prototype, and folded it into Hidden in Plain Sight.

5)  Assassin -- this is a computer version of the Werewolf/Mafia type gameplay.  Also the “wink” game I used to play as a kid, where people would look around at each other, with one of the people being “it” and winking to kill other people.  It was suggested by Andy Schatz.

So there you go.  The motivation for each of the game modes.

Now with specific regard to Spy Party, let me address some issues.

First, I contacted Chris Hecker before releasing the game to let him know I was working on something that was similar to his game.  He wrote a very eloquent email in which he said:

My attitude towards derivative game designs is that they can contribute significant value to the art form, they simply have to move the game design ball forward.  If they're just clones of an existing thing without pushing in any new directions, then that can be fine for game development practice (just like copying a painting at the museum while you're training to be an artist is an effective learning tool), but it's not something you want to focus on as an end goal.

I firmly believe that Hidden in Plain Sight is “moving the design ball forward”.  Or, at least, that was my honest attempt to do so.  But regardless of this, even if he ranted and raved that I was copying him and I shouldn’t release my game, I still could have been well within my rights to do so.  He does not hold a monopoly on this idea, and I am not infringing on any copyrights or patents.

In addition, I was recently accepted into the Spy Party beta.  I haven’t played too many games, but as soon as I did, I was immediately relieved to know that my game wasn’t anything like it.  Spy Party is a brilliant game.  It is a 1v1 game, played over a network (most often).  To that end, you are sitting in your room, probably by yourself, staring at your screen with intense focus and concentration.  It’s very tense, and very well executed.

Hidden in Plain Sight, by contrast, is most rightly characterized as a “party game”.  Each game mode supports up to four players (and, in fact, plays exponentially better with more players).  It’s is local-multiplayer only, which means you are necessarily in the same room with your opponents.  So while it shares some vague similarities with Spy Party, the whole vibe of the game is totally different.  Game rounds can be tense, but are generally short and light-hearted.  There is usually lots of laughing and friendly yelling involved. It's like the difference between chess and Hungry-Hungry-Hippos.

So there you go.  I hope that clarifies some of my design choices, and answers the “Spy Party ripoff” claims.  It was never my intention to make a quick buck by stealing anyone else’s ideas and making a CLONE of a game.  But I freely admit that I did draw inspiration from some sources (who doesn't?!), and in each case tried to enhance those ideas with twists of my own (the addition of statues in Ninja Party, for example, or making design choices that allow for four players to share a single screen (which was more difficult than it sounds, by the way)).

If you have any questions, please let me know.

Monday, October 8, 2012

IndieCade Wrapup…

Friday morning was pretty quiet.  I got to the place where my game would be shown.  It was in a big garage at a fire station with a bunch of other games.  Some of them were on laptops, some on TVs, some were physical games where your body was the controller.  It was a great space.

I had a computer with my game on it, and a TV which would be the monitor, but no cable to go in between.  There were two hours to get everything set up, and then was “VIP/Media Walkthrough” time.  So I was starting to get a little stressed out when we couldn’t find any cables anywhere to actually connect the computer to the TV.  But eventually someone found an HDMI cable in their car, and all was well.

I don’t remember much of the Friday afternoon walkthrough.  I do remember that John Romero (cofounder of iD software, creator of Wolf3D, Doom, and Quake, etc) played briefly and laughed a lot.  That was cool to see.  After showing the game for a while, there was a tent set up with tacos and beer.  I didn’t really know anyone, so I enjoyed a free dinner and headed back to the hotel.

Saturday was the big day.  The games were all on display for the public to check out.  After making sure everything was set up correctly, I spent most of the morning showing the game to people.  For the most part, they picked it up well enough on their own.  Normally there would be four people playing while a small group was watching.  During this time, I’d look for new faces in the group and stand next to them and asked if they knew what was going on, and explain whichever game mode was currently playing.  Death Race is by far the most interesting and engaging mode, so I encouraged people to play that most of the time.

When explaining the game to new people, I’d develop a bit of a script:  “Ok, you’re in a race.  You want to get from the left side of the screen to the right side of the screen.  However, each player has a gun with one bullet in it…”  At this point, I’d pause to let the ramifications sink in.  Usually the person would get it and a big smile would show up.  “So you can’t just bolt to the end of the screen.  You have to blend in with the AI opponents.”  That was enough to get people off and running.

I didn’t realize how much media there would be.  I gave some more interviews, some video, some just talking.  Most were from (I found out afterwards) low-traffic indie game review sites.  One was a nice lady from the LA Times who had hand-picked a few games to feature.  So I’m excited to see what happens with that.

My voice was tired and my throat was sore.  Eryn showed up, and it was great to see him there.  I met my indie developer email buddy Ian in person, so that was cool.  Eryn and I had a brief lunch, and it was nice to sit for a while.  By the time we were done, Andy Schatz showed up, and he and Eryn cruised around while I did more talking.

At some point, I turned around and recognized the lady behind me with her two young kids.  I was Julie from the Ouya Kickstarter video.  I said "You're Julie from Ouya!"  She indeed was.  I told her that I'd emailed her (and gotten a response) about putting HIPS on the Ouya.  She was being dragged around by her kids, but seemed interested in the game and getting it out there.  So that was neat.

By the time the afternoon was over, I grabbed a quick dinner (and some whiskey) and headed back to the hotel.  There were evening activities, but I was exhausted.

Sunday was a half-day.  We had a few hours to check out the other developers games, which was a nice opportunity.  I then joined a panel with three other developers and a moderator to talk about Game Mechanics (a purposefully nebulous and undefined term).  With some prompts from the moderator, we shot the shit for a while about depth and gameplay and conflict and tension and game design.  I wasn’t nervous at all speaking in front of people, and felt I was able to say some insightful things.  The other guys on the panel were pretty smart guys, and it was an honor to sit next to them.

After the panel, I got some lunch and wanted to get ready to leave.  I was going to be taking my Xbox controllers home with me, so I needed to find some replacements.  That took some time.  On the way, I ran into Brad Muir, a prominent game developer who I’d met briefly the day before.  He was so nice and enthusiastic about my game, it was really cool.  He really wanted to see it succeed, which I think means sell more copies and be on more platforms.  I told him that I’d already felt like I’d won, and this was all beyond my wildest expectations.  It was a fun little sharing of perspectives.  He’s a big name, but said he hated the industry.  I’m a nobody, and love doing what I’m doing.

I also ran into one of the guys who was on the Game Mechanics panel, and we talked more about some of the stuff we talked about on stage.  I think we really connected well, and I look forward to following along with his developments.

When I got back to my booth to collect my stuff, John Romero was back.  He was taking an iPhone video of the game while people were playing Death Race.  I waited till he was done, and then took the opportunity to tell him what a fan I was and how huge his games were in my life back in the day.  We chatted for a bit about the role of indies in the industry from the 80’s to the present.  It was so cool to talk to him.  I then discovered that I was kind of eager to get on the road and get back home, and that Romero is kind of a chatterbox.  In my mind I found it amusing that I was trying to get myself OUT of a conversation with a god into the industry.  But I stayed and we talked and parted ways.  That was a highlight.

I got stopped for two more interviews before I could finally leave.  It was a tiny, TINY taste of being annoyed by media when I just wanted to go home.  Ha.

I left in the early afternoon and got home, tired and happy my mind buzzing from the morning.  Happy to see the family.

In the evening, I followed along on Twitter as they announced the “Audience Choice” and “Developer Choice” awards.  I was starting to think I had a chance at the Audience Choice award, but it went to a more deserving game.  Ditto with Developer Choice.  I would have liked to have won an award, of course, but I’m not too surprised I didn’t.

And now back to work.  It’s been a wild ride, but I had a lot more fun (and am a lot more tired) than I thought.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

IndieCade Awards

So the evening went well...  I showed up to the event and got checked in and was placed in a line with other nominees.  At the front of the line was BRIGHT lights and cameras and microphones.  Pretty scary.  Chatted with the girl behind me who was alone and also looked scared, so we were scared together.  Then saw that Kellee Santiago was standing next to me.  She's the CEO of the company that made the Journey game (beautiful desert game with hooded guy jumping around that I played recently), as well as some other big names.  She also knows Andy, and has tweeted nice things about my game (and is also chairperson of the jury).  So I said hi to her and chatted for a bit.

Then I got to the front of the line and got asked some questions about my game which I don't remember and totally was awkward and nervous.  I seriously have no idea what I said, and I'm glad I didn't win 'cause the footage was unusably bad.  :)

Then I got inside and there was loud music and a crowded couple rooms.  I finally got a beer and just kind of camped out until the show began.  Felicia Day was the host, so it was cool to see her.  I'm jumped on her bandwagon recently.  But she (and all the other presenters) were given cards to read, so it didn't really have a natural feel to it.  She just kind of read through her lines.

There were various categories, and while they made it very clear that all nominees were up for all categories, they read off three games per category.  My game was nominated for "Game Design", and my heart was POUNDING.  Then they couldn't find the envelope, which prolonged things.  But I didn't end up winning.  It went to Armada D6, a tabletop game.  I held out a little hope for the final Special Mention or Grand Jury prize, but alas.

I'm both disappointed, relieved, and not-surprised, I guess.  Disappointed in that it would have been a dream to win, but I didn't really expect to, I guess.  But I hoped.  Anyways.

There was an after party with dancing and stuff, but not really knowing anyone and with the crowd thinning, I left.

Tomorrow is pretty open in the morning, then setup and media/VIP walkthrough in the afternoon.  Having someone as influential as Felicia Day play and like your game would be amazingly huge (she has 1.9 million followers), so I hope I get a chance to show it to her.  (I'LL SHOW IT TO HER!!!  Sorry).

And now, a nice big bed to myself.  Blinds are drawn.  No one to wake me up and no morning plans.

So this just happened...

Two big names in the business praising my game.  Psssh, happens all the time.