Elemental Focus

May 9, 2012

Progress Report – 9th May, 2012
Filed under: Adventure from Tora,Diamond Digger,thecannon — Chris @ 11:48 am

I really need to think of better titles for these update posts…

After a long period of relative silence with little to report, I believe its time to give some updates on what’s going on in Elemental Focus world right now.

Firstly, as mentioned in the previous post, I’m preparing to relaunch The Cannon, waiting on PayPal support for IndieCity and just checking that v1.3 works fine in the meantime.

Secondly, Skies of Fire is coming along fairly nicely. The interface has been changed up and the graphics have improved a bit more as well. There’s also a new key gameplay element that I’ve added fairly recently that really changes the tone of the game. It brings back a bit of the silliness that I seem to work much better with. As IndieCity has now launched their underground system, expect to see a playable beta of the game by the end of the month, with release hopefully no more than a month afterwards (although if it comes to it, July 4th isn’t exactly a bad release date for a game about fireworks).

Adventure from Tora is still on the cards but is now going to be taken in a different graphical direction. Of course, this makes the clips from the showcase even more irrelevant because it was only really graphics that they showed. It’s not far enough along to talk about properly, but it should end up being our first non-XNA PC game.

Lastly, Diamond Digger should also see a new batch of levels reasonably soon and there’s another little thing in the works that’s a little different from what we’ve done so far…


February 29, 2012

More puzzles for Diamond Digger!
Filed under: Diamond Digger — Chris @ 11:17 pm

Diamond Digger version 1.2 is now available to download at IndieCity. If you’ve downloaded it already, just open up your client and there’ll be a little download button.

This update features 12 new puzzles and a new bonus menu, the first item of which will be unlocked when you complete the new set of puzzles.

This isn’t part of the sales incentive (sales have been too low for that to kick in) but updates will be on an as and when basis (unless the sales incentive catches up at which point the newer puzzles will go live as soon as possible).

I regret to say that this update is unlikely to go up on XBLIG, but if you’ve purchased the game, send me an e-mail and if you can answer a question about the game (which will be easy if you have the game), you’ll be gifted with a free version of the game on IndieCity once gift codes become available.


February 10, 2012

Progress report: 2012/02/10
Filed under: Diamond Digger,IndieCity,Skies of Fire — Chris @ 6:18 pm

Firstly, in case anyone was still wondering, my current main project is now Skies of Fire, the firework-em-up game that I announced when proposing my Game Season idea. You can find the first footage here.
That footage is now a little old, the interface is now slicker, the scoring isn’t so ugly (and probably clearer) and the fireworks themselves are a bit brighter. The game is coming together quite well and I’m looking forward to getting to see how the base system plays once the scoring system is completed.
I’ll go into more detail about how that’s going next week (if we’re we’re lucky then there may be a new trailer).

Secondly, IndieCity is now becoming my main distribution platform, I’m now putting my weight fully behind this growing site. This means that I’ll be building new games ground up for the PC (which will stop the difficulty I have in porting controls). My hope is that as IndieCity grows, the achievements and particularly the leaderboards become active and very competitive. Even as it is at the moment, it’s very easy for players to communicate with me about the games, with any issues or tweaks they may have, and I’m happy to oblige for the people who’ve spent time and money on my game. This is helped to no end by the extremely easy updating process, meaning that I don’t need to wait two weeks and put in a ton of effort to make a small fix. If there’s a bug report, there’s normally a fix before the end of the day.

On that note, both of my games will continue to receive updates as and when. The Cannon is unlikely to have anything major added to it as I launched it pretty much fully formed. On the other hand, Diamond Digger has the potential to grow a bit. While at the moment the sales incentive doesn’t look as though it’ll come to much, if I have the time I may add a couple more puzzles anyway. There are a couple of other little updates that may also be added depending on time and popularity.


February 8, 2012

Diamond Digger: Mini Review Round-up and Post Mortem
Filed under: Diamond Digger — Chris @ 4:15 pm

To start off, Diamond Digger has not been quite as succesful in the review stakes. I’ve always been of the opinion that its a tighter game than The Cannon, but isn’t quite so flat out fun and doesn’t have quite the same level of work put into it. The majority of my testers also seemed to thoroughly enjoy the game (I had to drag a couple of people off it), although its worth noting that they were all friends of mine, which is the second-to-worst group of testers you can have. I’ve also had good comments from peer reviewers and other people who’ve had the chance to play it. However, some reviewers so far have taken a different tone towards it and I’ve got some thoughts towards this.

What I’m going to do here is post the reviews I’ve got so far and add a couple of notes of my own, acting as something of a post mortem.

IndieGamerChick: “Maybe this game will be the opposite, where I thought it was a sleeping pill but others will think swear it’s a masterpiece that opened their eyes to the genre. I wouldn’t bet on it though.”
I think Kairi went particularly soft on the game given that she didn’t seem to enjoy it, but she does have a point that games like this are more fun to some people than others. Something like this certainly isn’t going to be universally loved.

XboxHornet: [4/10] “I feel there is some good game in here, the unique gameplay should be lauded but the neglect of some of the most integral parts of the genre let it down”
I think its bad form that the writer started with a bug report and tried to call me out for not doing any testing. Diamond Digger received well over 50 hours of testing between 25 people aside from myself. This is significantly more than The Cannon got and probably much more than the majority of XBLIGs. This bug never appeared in the final build of the game, but despite this I can understand how it looks when something like this happens twice to the same guy.
Anyway, aside from that, this is probably the review I can take the most away from. The reviewer mentions difficulty spikes, which is entirely down to the nature of the type of puzzle. The puzzles are all ordered in average completion time from my testers. However, the game is probably too bottom heavy, with far too few easy puzzles to ease people into the game. In addition, the tutorial should really have been incorporated into the first set of puzzles instead of being entirely separate and forced upon you at the start.

OtakuDante: “A Truly Challenging & Entertaining Puzzle Game”

Neogaf – Feb Ed: [Bronze Award]: “Diamond Digger is one of those games that is fun to play and can become very addictive.”

Armless Octopus: “This is a pretty standard puzzle game. You have to arrange the board in order to drop the diamond. The puzzles are well designed, but it gets a little old.”

Recensopoli: [3/5] “Really cute puzzle game”

I’ve got two main final thoughts:
-XBLIG
I don’t think Diamond Digger is well suited to the market of XBLIG. The types of people who buy XBLIGs are less interested in this sort of game (even if it does involve a lot of blocks) and its not the kind of game you sit down in front of a tv with a controller in your hand to play. From almost the very start, the intention has been to publish this on smartphones, which I think has a much better audience for this type of game and a much better mindset when playing them. My only problem with that at the moment is that I lack the facilities to do so. XBLIG is really on the down right now, which brings me onto the other thought.

-Sales
Diamond Digger has sold only 50 copies to date and has basically stopped going up now. This is less than a fifth of where The Cannon got to in a similar period. In fact the most shocking thing about this is that Diamond Digger has got here with a conversion more than double that of The Cannon. So, discounting differences in gametype (although The Cannon hardly set the trial number alight) between the two games, trial numbers are a tenth of what they were less than a year ago, which is very telling to how much XBLIG is on the down.
This is less than twice the revenue I’ve got from the game on IndieCity, a system still in beta with absolutely no other coverage from outside sources at the moment. It’s also less than a quarter of what I would be earning on minimum wage for the time spent just peer reviewing other games to get it through peer review.

I still have some decisions to make on the matter, but there’s a chance that Skies of Fire will be PC only.


January 28, 2012

Diamond Digger Released on Xbox Live Indie Games
Filed under: Diamond Digger — Chris @ 2:22 pm

Diamond Digger is now also available to download on Xbox Live Indie Games

You can find it here:
http://marketplace.xbox.com/en-GB/Product/Diamond-Digger/66acd000-77fe-1000-9115-d80258550a6c

The recommendation incentive is still in place, for every 1000 copies, up to 5000 copies, the game sells over all platforms, I will release an additional 12 puzzles,


January 6, 2012

Diamond Digger released on IndieCity!
Filed under: Diamond Digger — Chris @ 12:07 pm

http://store.indiecity.com/game/DiamondDigger

Available in free demo form, or the full game for only £2!

Diamond Digger is a puzzle game where you have to shift rows of blocks to position them above other blocks that they’ll crush. Each block will only crush one other type, making the game like a multi-dimensional version of rock-paper-scissors. The aim is to the get diamonds (the toughest block) to the bottom of the screen to collect them. The main meat of the game is a puzzle mode with 40 puzzles, but there are also two ‘endless’ modes. That might not sound like much, but its a game that will both frustrate and entertain with a thorough ‘so close!’ vibe.

Thoroughly tested on Cambridge University students.

“Non-Trivial” – Robert May, Mathematician
“Like Bejeweled, but better” – Peter Newton, 7 Twitter Followers

For every 1000 sales the game makes (up to 6000), 10 more puzzles will be added, so if you like the game, tell your friends!!


December 14, 2011

Diamond Digger (XBLIG) goes gold!
Filed under: Diamond Digger,Uncategorized — Chris @ 9:59 pm

The XBLIG version of Diamond Digger has been finished and has been submitted to Peer Review.

Work continues on the PC version, which only requires mouse controls and IndieCity hooks, so will not be long.

(Yes, to people really paying attention, too many things are going on right now, there will be be some extra blog posts over the next few days to cover everything, I’m just tweaking the screws right now)


December 9, 2011

Diamond Digger Tips #5: Know your power-ups
Filed under: Diamond Digger — Chris @ 10:09 pm

The power-ups add a lot of variety to the puzzles. All of the puzzles which contain power-ups have solutions that were designed to use the power-up, although in a couple of cases there are a couple of alternative solutions. Any power-up can be used to make a move stick, but each one has other uses.

TNT

TNT blows up a fair number of blocks, so will often drastically change the position in which the important blocks of the puzzle lie. However, sometimes, the only way to remove the diamond from the puzzle is by using the TNT and if this is the case, you need to get the diamond (or other important block) in the right place before blowing up the TNT to avoid the hole it creates being plugged.

Lava

Similar to the TNT, the lava also changes the playfield by a fair amount and activating one under a diamond may be the only way to remove the diamond from the board. However, because it creates a column of gaps, activating a lava will also normally allow you to do several other moves following its use.

Crumble

Some of the most difficult puzzles use this block. It will remove the bottom row of blocks, so people often use it to make progress, but it’s often false progress as the rest of the layout remains the same. The only way to solve some puzzles with these in is to leave it until the very end and then activate it only when the diamond reaches the second row from the bottom.

Anti-crush

This power-up turns the logic of the game upon its head as when it’s activated, any block can crush the block that it would normally be crushed by. However, it just means that you can use certain blocks to crush things that they normally wouldn’t, giving you more options to solve the puzzle.

That wraps up the week of Diamond Digger tips, I’ve included a video of the full tutorial below:


December 8, 2011

Diamond Digger Tips #4: …but know when it’s over.
Filed under: Diamond Digger — Chris @ 8:01 pm

Flying in the face of yesterday’s tip, it’s also worth being actively aware of when a puzzle has become completely unsolvable.

There’s actually quite a simple way to work a lot of cases out. If there is are blocks all the way along the bottom row (no gaps), there are no blocks of metal (diamonds crush metal) left on the board and there are no power-ups, then it’s no longer possible to solve.

However, even if there is a block of metal, you need to make sure you can get it to the bottom row. You can apply the same logic as whether you can drop a diamond: if there are no blocks of stone (metal crushes stone), no gaps and no power-ups and the two isn’t already on the bottom row then the puzzle is no longer possible.

This creates a chain reaction through the entire string of materials, although it gets a bit confusing by the time you get to ice.


December 7, 2011

Diamond Digger Tips #3: Don’t kill it until it’s over
Filed under: Diamond Digger — Chris @ 11:34 pm

While watching people test diamond digger, one of the most cringeworthy things I see is people resetting puzzles from states which are still solvable, in a couple of cases only two or three moves away. Up to a point, it’s a lot more efficient to be resilient with the puzzles.

For example:

(I’d flipped the numbers when taing this picture, so in this one lower numbers crush higher numbers

This is a half finished puzzle and a position in which a lot of people I’ve seen testing would give up on. Moving the second row from the bottom to the left or moving the bottom row to the right wouldn’t cause a drop and the row would bounce back. At this point, realising that the diamond is too far away from the metal, some people would give up. However, by manipulating the above rows, you can still solve it from here, you just need to shift the rest of the blocks into a position which would cause a drop to occur when you move the second row to the right.


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