Rich's Thoughts from PAX East 2019

This blog post was written by Rich, the only member of Clever Endeavour who was at PAX East. The opinions in the post don’t reflect the opinions of the entire team, only of him!

Hi there!

Last week, I went to the massive game Expo PAX East, in Boston. I went partially to see what’s going on in the industry, see what trends I could find, and keep up contact with some developers our team knows. It was nice to see the progress that some games have made since last year, and see some new creative ideas spawning from both experienced and new developers. I’ll talk about some things I noticed, then a few games that I’d like to highlight. There were around 40 games that I had already seen, so even though they may be great I’m not going to mention them here!

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Overall I did see some trends, both positive and negative, that I’d like to discuss here. First, the positive.

I found the quality of games and the polish level to be much higher than it was last year at PAX East. A lot of games had impressive looking art that was either really well executed or really creative as far as art direction goes. Lastly, there were some more party-style games that I would put in the same realm as Ultimate Chicken Horse, which I think could do well. It was surprising to me that in the last year or two, there haven’t been many stand-out party games that performed as well as games like Move or Die, Duck Game, StickFight, and Ultimate Chicken Horse. I think that trend has changed, and two of the games I’ll highlight are proof of that.

I had some criticism of what I saw to share as well. Most importantly, I found that a lot of games could have used more critical analysis early on. The execution might be there, but there’s nothing about the game that shows me that it should ever have been made in the first place. What makes it interesting or different? Why would I want to play it at all? In my opinion, some of these games should have been killed early on in their development, and yet will go on to spend 2 years of development money and inevitably flop from a financial perspective, despite being good games. The trick then is finding the great idea and executing well, and it’s a very hard thing to do (and I’m not saying our studio necessarily knows how to do this reliably). The execution without the creativity can sometimes lead to games that perform decently, but won’t truly excel unless the execution makes the game the best in its genre in the last few years. The creativity without the execution won’t work either, as the game will fail if the feel isn’t there.

I also noticed that a ton of games use pixel art, and while in some cases that’s clearly the best choice for the aesthetic, it seems like in other cases it was simply “the thing to do for an indie game”. As someone who loves pixel art graphics (Dead Cells ftw) I still found that a lot of games blended into each other in my mind because of their use of this style.

Okay, on to a few exciting things I saw!

Fling to the Finish - SplitSide Games

This co-op racing game has two players sharing a controller, and each controlling one round character attached by a string to their partner. The players can fling themselves and control their movement, but they pull the other along with them, so it takes serious teamwork. I see a lot of potential for this game if the online play becomes tight and if the game is interesting online while playing solo vs friends, for YouTuber purposes.

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One Step From Eden - Thomas Moon Kang

This game calls itself “a deckbuilding roguelike with relentless real-time grid combat”. I didn’t get a chance to play but I watched a bunch and was really interested in it. I didn’t catch the “roguelike” part of it, but I understood that you move your character on a grid to fight using abilities that you draw from a deck. I really liked the look and the gameplay seemed tight and deep, despite the fact that it was a bit hard to understand when looking at it quickly from afar.

Killer Queen Black - LiquitBit

This competitive team-based game is about defeating the other by one of three methods: kill their queen, gather berries, or ride a snail to your finishing flag. It made me think a bit of Awesomenauts in how a team needs to participate and contribute in different ways to their team’s goal, but it had a shorter play time and I felt it was easier to understand. I could really see this working if the balance is right, as it offers and almost MOBA experience in a small, presentable package (disclaimer: I don’t play MOBAs so I’m not sure how accurate that is).

Sayonara Wild Hearts - Simogo

This self-proclaimed pop album video game is a blaze of colours and movement, with a flow unlike any game I’ve seen in a while. I actually found their reveal trailer to not be very representative of the game, though I understand they were trying to showcase the artists who make the music for the game (I think). The game takes you through a series of somewhat easy movement challenges and quick-time events, as you basically play your way through a neon music video, and it feels great.

That’s all for my thoughts about PAX, hope you enjoyed it if you were there, and I’m excited for you to play some of the great things that I saw if you couldn’t make it.

Cheers!
Rich

GDC and the Transformidable Patch!

Hey friendlies!

The team just got back from the Game Developers Conference (GDC) on Saturday, and we are back at work this week finishing up and releasing the patch for the Transformidable Update.

GDC was, as always, a great time. It’s a week full of inspiration, conversations with developers, interesting conference talks, team bonding, partying, and of course GAMES! Our goals this time around were simply to keep up our relationships with important partners: Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, Valve, etc. as well as meeting more developers and enjoying our time learning and socializing with some of the best minds in the industry.

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Apart from the meetings, I (Rich) gave a talk called “Tough Questions to Improve Your Leadership”, despite having slept only about a half-hour the night before due to a crazy migraine. According to the team members who were there, I didn’t appear to be falling asleep while talking, and it was generally very well received. Earlier that day, Gen had to step in for me on a panel about being indies in Montréal. It was her first time giving a session at GDC and she had approximately no time to prepare for it, but all signs point to it having gone well! If you have access to the GDC Vault, you’ll be able to find both of our sessions there whenever the talks go up and tell us what you think.

The view from before the talk!

The view from before the talk!

Then there were the parties! We started the week with the Pixelles’ cozy gathering, where we had tea and heavenly cupcakes. It’s one of the best ways to kick off GDC and a nice opportunity for us to meet the year’s cohort for their GDC Ensemble, which we are proud to sponsor. Later in the week, Discord had a big party in a nightclub that had arcade games set up, and the ID@Xbox (Indie games team) had a nice mixer as well. A few of us also snuck off to something called Dumpling Fest which had dancing lions, an ice sculpture through which Ben took a shot of vodka, and an entire roast pig that was both fascinating and unsettling. Oh and there were also dumplings, and they were definitely worth the 40 minute wait outside before the event.

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Of course, a lot of GDC is about the games. We saw and watched and played so many of them, but we’ll only mention a few here for brevity’s sake.

Twincop touts itself as “the most cooperative game EVER” and that might literally be true: in this game, two players are one cop. Each controls one arm. Hilarity ensues.

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Shadow Brawlers caught Gen’s eye because it seems to take on the same aesthetic inspirations as our beloved (ahem) Dance Party level, and executes on it beautifully to create a fun-looking local multiplayer experience. Very importantly, it features a Dance button.

Last but not least, Sloppy Forgeries is a simple yet ingenious game where two players have 90 seconds to recreate a famous painting with a mouse and a five-colour palette. The most accurate sloppy forgery wins. For example, Alex’s programmer art (below) defeated our artist Fabio’s attempt at imitating The Scream, but his Mona Lisa’s lack of a background was a dealbreaker.

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2019-03-27 Mona Lisa.png

In Ultimate Chicken Horse news, we put out a patch this week to the Transformidable Update which we released a couple of weeks ago. In case you missed it, here’s the trailer! After the update, there were some bugs that popped up that we didn’t catch in testing. Even though we try to test as extensively as possible, there are always strange things that happen when the game gets into the hands of the masses, with different computers and connection speeds and controllers and ways to break the game. This patch should fix all of the major problems and some of the minor ones as well, and you can see the full patch notes here.

As we move on from this patch, we’re starting to prototype new things and brainstorm new ideas. This next period is an exciting one, as it’s the first time we’ll be coming up with brand new stuff since a few years ago. This doesn’t mean we’re giving up on Ultimate Chicken Horse, but for the near future we’re going to work on new things unless any major bugs come up and need fixing. Sometime later, we plan to revisit and add some more content to UCH, but there’s no schedule for that now. Nevertheless, as you can tell if you’ve hopped into the Discord, the community is still very alive and there are tons of active players across all platforms, and we’ll make sure that stays true by remaining as engaged as you all are!

See you out there on the Chicken Horse field!

Much love,
Clever Endeavour Games

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Fixes and Tweaks: Working on a Transformidable Patch

Hello Everybody,

It's been really exciting to see everyone play with the new update and modifiers. We've been monitoring the discord, the bug report system, Twitter, and other channels for all the bugs and problems that may exist in the Transformidable update.

We are working on fixing those issues in a small patch that will go out relatively soon, once we can do more internal QA and send it out for platform certification. We just wanted to list the things we are working to fix, and hopefully make sure we aren't missing anything significant that the community knows about.

  1. All of the blocks in the level collapsing into 1 spot, the game lagging, and sometimes crashing. Caused in online games by all clients leaving the game.

  2. Jetpacking upwards into certain ceilings or blocks will kill you. This is most notable in the underground area of Jungle Temple.

  3. Characters getting pushed up into blocks or ceilings have their colliders set to crouch, making them 1 block high, allowing them to sometimes fit in places they shouldn't in certain complex modifier + level designs.

  4. Dying in certain situations while playing with Ghosts and Respawns can be buggy, usually resulting in the UI not displaying correctly.

  5. Dead bodies are duplicated on retrying in challenge levels with the Ghosts modifier turned on, leading to levels filled with bodies, and terrible slowdown.

  6. An issue where sometimes a player couldn't pick up a jetpack from a jetpack dispenser.

  7. Improved the diagonal input on analogue controls sticks, so it better matches the result of holding up and sideways on keyboard.

  8. Prevent Dead Hop after holding B to retry in challenge levels.

  9. Fixed an issue with a certain special characters in save file names.

  10. Jetpack dispenser will be infinite, instead of only 4 jetpacks per round.

  11. Fixed issue with crumbling blocks saving in an incorrect save state

  12. Flower will no longer be mirrorable, as they don't save correctly in challenge levels, and it isn't required to use them as puzzle elements.

  13. Fixed Doomsday sound effects not being controlled by in-game volume settings.

    (more added late 2019-03-08)

  14. If you hold reset in challenge mode and die before fully reseting, you need to press reset again

  15. Targets of block duplication stay highlighted after duplication occurs.

    Cheers from the Clever Endeavour Team!