Final Stretch: Gemstone Keeper’s Release

Back in May, I made a simple demo for a University Thesis, now it’s less than two weeks away from being released onto Steam. This is such an exciting occassion for me, but also a nerve wracking one. If all goes to plan, Gemstone Keeper will be available on Steam on March 31st at 6pm GMT.

For the time being I will be working hard on polishing the game and getting the word out, I appreciate any help from that. There have been several updates from when the game was shown at LAGC, especially thanks to the feedback I got of the game from both GEEK Play Expo and GDC. Game has been balanced (repeatedly), boss battles have been redone and several bugs have been fixed.

I’d also like to give my thanks to Gemstone Keeper’s composer for the soundtrack, Vincent Rubinetti. He is probably best known for producing the music to the game INK, the colourful yet minimal platformer by Zack Bell. We’ve been in regular discussions both online and at GDC about the game’s music, and you can hear one of the tracks from the game’s brand new trailer above, I think it’s some brilliant work.

I’d like to thank everyone who has shown support for Gemstone Keeper over the last year or more, this game has been a huge milestone to conquer and I hope all those who try it will have a great experience.

It’s just amazing to think of how it all started…

Gemstone Keeper at LAGC 2017

So I had a great time at the London Anime and Gaming Convention, even despite some unfortunate setbacks. Indie Zone Administrator and developer at Grandpa Pixel (Folks behind the RPG Legenda series) was unable to make it at the last minute. What made it all the more unfortunate was that there were only three indies at the Indie Zone this year: myself, Crystalline Green (developer of Flight of Light and Atlantis Dare) and Hei Stories (Indie Animation Studio working on Seeking Scarlet At The End Of The World). Needless to say we brought attention to the many attendees who were walking around the gaming area, looking for something to play outside of the retro games in store.

  

I also did a short talk on game development in general, talking about my game development process and answering questions on topics such as piracy, game engines, looking for feedback and much more. Despite the small numbers, demoing the game did help find a few bugs and it was great hearing people say they love the visuals and the challenging gameplay. There was one kid who went back to the game multiple times, which was unexpected.

In a weeks time on Saturday the 18th to the following Sunday I’ll be at GEEK Expo in Margate. Unfortunately unless some other plans come up this will be the last event I’ll be exhibiting Gemstone Keeper before release, as I was unsuccessful with my application at the Leftfield Collection at Rezzed. I will be sure to attend Rezzed as well as GDC in San Francisco so there might be a chance to see me around. Till then I’ll be making my usual posts on social media.

Where to play Gemstone Keeper?

On March 31st, Gemstone Keeper will be available on Steam. However before then there will be a few opportunities to play Gemstone Keeper at some game events, at least in the UK. These events are beneficial for getting feedback, so the game’s quality will improve before release. Here are two gaming events which are currently confirmed places to try out the beta version of Gemstone Keeper.

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Feb 7th and 8th – The Rocket Complex London Metropolitan University

LAGC is a bi-annual anime and gaming convention run by AnimeLeague, and specifically I’ll be in the Gaming Area where the Indie Zone is. I have attended the convention several times in the past, and have enjoyed the many events and stalls available.

Feb 18th and 19th – Marine Studios

GEEK is a gaming and comic book (among other things) festival, featuring retro and modern games, as well as pinball and of course, indie games. Gemstone Keeper will be present at GEEK’s Indie Zone. This will be the first time I have attended an event in Kent, so I’m looking forward to what this event has in store.

Now while I won’t be exhibiting, I will also be reaching outside the UK as I go to GDC in San Francisco, (Feb 27th – March 3rd). While I won’t be showing off Gemstone Keeper on the show floor, I’m hoping to meet several other indie developers and attend meetups around the conference, so there may be a few opportunities for Gemstone Keeper to be played during the week in the USA.

While it hasn’t been confirmed yet, I am hoping to once again, attend Insomnia Gaming Festival in April. I last attended Insomnia’s Indie Zone at i58 and had a great time there, so it would be great to present Gemstone Keeper there once again.

Finally, I can now confirm that Gemstone Keeper now has it’s own official website. This will be a central place to describe what the game is about and to see the latest screenshots and videos, such as these ones below.

Gemstone Keeper Underground

Gemstone Keeper Ice

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Gemstone Keeper Fire

New Years Update

It has now been one full week of 2017, and a lot of people (including myself) have slowly gotten back to work. Since Gemstone Keeper has been getting close to release, I’ve started work as soon as we can to get stuff done.

Before I get into Gemstone Keeper, I worked on a little game for Ludum Dare 37 where the player is stuck in a porta-loo balancing in the air. That game was Danger: Mondays, and after two weeks of voting the results are in. The results for this Ludum Dare were definitely beyond my expectations. While the amount of submissions for the compo were smaller compared to past years (901 compared to 1117 at LD35), that doesn’t devalue the fact that Danger: Mondays achieved a rank just a few places shy of Top 25 in the Humour category of all categories.

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Reading all the comments, I was glad people found the concept amusing, but I’m completely grateful at the how well I did this time around. Thank you to everyone who voted during the day. Apologies for not posting about Ludum Dare any sooner, but I was working on a bigger game.

To be a bit more descriptive, Boss Rush will have the player beating all five bosses as fast as possible, they are able to set the stats and weapons of their explorer before hand and they regain some of their health after defeating each boss.

Score mode allows the player to go through the caverns, and like the daily run mode, will try and get the highest score possible by collecting as many gemstones and materials as they can on a single run. This time however, the player is free to set the seed they want, which will effect all aspects of the game from the levels, player stats, which weapon they have and which items they’ll have at the start.

One of the benefits of working on these game modes (from a developer’s perspective) is that we go through all the main game modes again to not only ensure they work through both the main game mode and these smaller game modes, but to find any bugs or issues that was missed out the first few times.

Another update we’ve done is on the gemstones themselves, namely how they are rendered. Originally, the Gemstone Geometry was generated using a Gemstone Mesh Generator that was developed at PROCJAM, and then rendered using a custom software approach using SFML (you can read a comprehensive write up of this on my websites in part 1 and part 2). However, over the last week of December, it was decided that it was time to update this for performance and to improve quality by changing the rendering process to an OpenGL Hardware render approach.

Below you can see the difference, on the left is the software approach, and the right is the new hardware approach:

This weekend I’ve been playing around with post-process effects, as it would be nice to have some visual effects that would appear through the entire game, although it would be possible for the player to disable certain effects if that want to. To pull this off, the framework now has a multipass post processing system where it’s possible to disable certain effects.

This allows us to apply multiple post process effects at once, and allows us to add the options we need to allow players to enable/disable certain ones.

CRT Shader

Bloom Shader

This is only a small sample of what is being planned, leading up to Gemstone Keeper’s release on March 31st 2017. I’ll also be attending London Gaming & Anime Con in early February and GDC in San Francisco later in the month, however the latter will just be as an attendee.

Here’s to 2017 being a successful year for many people!

Graphics Overhaul and a Lesson in Font Licensing

So just as I was about to start on the next boss in Gemstone Keeper, an issue arose that I needed to resolve over the weekend. Due to licensing issues regarding the font I had been using to produce the graphics for Gemstone Keeper for over a year, I had to switch to another font. This would not be a problem for a vast majority of games, however when you are developing a game that uses ASCII art, with designs built specifically for that font in mind, this was a time consuming issue.

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Month of Updates

This was originally from an announcement made on Gemstone Keeper’s Steam Greenlight page. I’m ashamed to admit that I wasn’t being very responsive on the GL page and it wasn’t until a friend confronted me about it that I decided to make up for it. I answered (technically) two questions that were left hanging without an answer from the comments of the GL page on the announcement, and as of writing I have been attempting to reach one user who was especially frustrated by my lack of response. Here is the segment from the Steam Greenlight announcement:

Firstly, Would this game by any chance be based on the Gemstone Warrior and Gemstone Healer games of ye olde times?

Surprisingly, I was not aware of either Gemstone Warrior or Gemstone Healer before I first read this. I was looking into the ASCII designs of Dwarf Fortress and use of Roguelike elements found in Spelunky and Rogue Legacy. It’s remarkable that a set of ARPGs centred around Gemstones has been around while I’ve been working on this.

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Weapons of Gemstone Keeper

So for this week (11th – 17th January) I decided to focus on weapons, a pretty important element of twin-stick shooters. I didn’t want to stick with using one weapon for testing, so I decided to see if I could make a few more for the game. This should explain how I approached the problem and what the weapons system currently looks like for Gemstone Keeper.

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New Year

Celebrate what you have accomplished, learn from what went wrong, and most importantly you must move forward. Hope everyone has a great 2016!

We Are SurroundedTitle

Ag8tZsx

One of my goals for 2016 is for Gemstone Keeper to be on Steam Greenlight. I’ll will be sure to have an alpha build ready for play within the next few months.

#GBjam, Game Development and Work Updates

I’m back and ready to update everyone on what’s been happening since I went to Japan last month, which was an awesome holiday where I got to go to the cities of Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and Sendai, with highlights including seeing foxes at the Zao Fox Village, walk around Akihabara’s arcades, game and electronic stores, dressing up as a Samurai, going to the Ghibli Museum and Nintendo’s Old Headquarters! Despite being in very humid weather, and both my sister and I carrying our bags from hostel to guest house to hostel almost every night, we were able to see so much and yet miss out on quite a lot. We talked with other travellers and heard about seeing Mt Fuji and Sumo Wrestling in Nagano among others, but I think I can see them another time.

But only a few weeks after I got back, I was out again for a week in Ireland…which is why the longer than normal absence. I got to see some of the big towns and cities from Cork to Dublin, as well as a lot of countryside, however it did help bring inspiration for a game I recently made.
Welcome to Kilkenny Pub Brawl!

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IRDC 2015 Review

So to sum up last weekend, when I went to Nottingham for the International Roguelike Developer Conference 2015’s UK event, I’m not kidding when I said I had little expectations, considering that the Roguelike genre is still fairly new to me, despite spending a year researching procedural level generation for my University dissertation. Despite this, I had a great time and was able to gain a lot from the games, the genre and the role of procedural generation from these two days.

Day Zero

Although I have met the event organiser Mark Johnson and Roguelike developer Darren Grey from the PROCJAM conference organised last year, I wasn’t sure if I was able to meet anyone at the pre-meetup, especially since Mark unfortunately went down with food poisoning before the pre-meet began. However I decided to head off to the Bell Inn and see if I could find anyone.

By chance, I went to the bar and a man sitting at the table asked me “You here for IRDC?”, that man was Johannes Kristmann, and with him was Paul Jeffries. We talked about games, had drinks, and they joked about IRDC events of the past and eventually more people showed up, including Alan Charlesworth, Tom Betts and Ido Yehieli. We all decided to have more talks and drinks at Darren’s apartment block until we all decided to head to our respective hotels to prepare for tomorrow.

Day One

These were all the talks that were given that day (taken from Mark Johnson’s blog):

1025 – “”And [my bot] vowed to return victorious!”: Spelunky as an AI Benchmark” (Tommy Thompson)
1050 – “Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup Development” (Pete Hurst)
1115 – “Alternative Death Systems” (Darren Grey)
1140 – “Generative Design” (Paul Jeffries)
1205 – “Modability and You” (DarkGod)
1330 – “Making a Roguelike that uses Twitter Data” (Sean Oxspring)
1355 – “KeeperRL Development” (Michal Brzozowski)
1420 – “The Curious Expedition Development” (Johannes Kristmann)
1445 – “Murder Puzzle – No Longer a Roguelike” (Ido Yehieli)
1510 – “Scaling Brogue“ (Flend)
1535 – “Creating a Procedural Level Editor” (Me)
1600 – “Sir, you are Being Hunted Development” (Tom Betts)
1625 – “Algorithmic Generation of Global Racial, Cultural, Religious, and Architectural Variation” (Mark Johnson)

There were so many great talks, some were really funny and others were really informative, I even managed my talk, despite all my nerves. I spoke about a part of my University dissertation, the Procedural Level Editor.

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If you didn’t catch them on Twitch, all of the talks will be online on Youtube in the coming weeks. These talks were followed by curry, and then drinks at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusulem, possibly the oldest pub in England.

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Day Two

This was an experimental part of the day, where members of the public got to try out some classic and modern roguelikes such as DoomRL, Angband and Incursion among others, as well as a selection of board games that possibly inspired Roguelikes.

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So I had a really fun time, and got to speak to a lot of talented game developers about procedural generation and gaming in general. I got to talk about my University dissertation, and I also got to speak on roguelike radio about the conference, which should also be online soon as well.

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So I think it’s time to announce my new main project, during my dissertation I wrote a short prototype game to demonstrate the procedural level editor. I’ve decided to extend this game to be Gemstone Keeper, the roguelike twin-stick shooter. It will use the Procedural Level Editor, which I will also release for public use when it comes to a stable enough point.

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