Folks, the time is here if you're an OUYA gamer: the Jumpman Forever Beta 1 is now available on the Ouya! You'll be able to find it in the New Releases, or, under the Alphas / Betas section of the market.
Now, we're looking for feedback on this release: we've paused at 14 levels for the beta because we want to know if the game levels are too hard. Seriously, we've got sort of a split-decision going on here on if the next set of levels need to be easier, the same difficulty, or harder (somehow I doubt harder is going to be required for a while.) That's one of the most major pieces we need to know - we already have some harder levels laying around, and we've got some easier levels laying around: finding that "sweet spot" where a new player is comfortable with the game is incredibly important.
How about other beta releases? No iOS or Android releases for 6 months. PC and Mac, on the other hand, we'll be shipping in 1 - 2 months, depending on feedback we get from the Ouya platform players. We really don't want to have to fight bugs on multiple platforms all at once :-)
One big thing didn't make it for the first beta: new music isn't there. We also had an "oops" that the team noticed AFTER it already shipped - some of the re-edited graphics aren't in the beta. Well... that's why it's a beta, right? :-)
Also: if you've played through the levels in the Preview version, and assume the levels in the beta are the same - nope! :-) We still have the levels from the preview that will end up in other level packs, but, for the most part we wanted to ship with levels that have a better ballance. Rocket, Rocket!, for instance, ended up being a wipe point for a lot of players in the Preview. Balance is one of the hardest issues with this game, now :-)
Since someone asked me today: yes, we're still on for a February release of the Ouya beta of Jumpman Forever. I was hoping for late January, early February, so the team is running a bit behind schedule.
So, where are we?
All the levels for the first Ouya beta are done! We actually backed off on the original plan for 15 levels per "station" - instead, it's 7. Ends up, sticking with 7 - 10 levels works better than 15 - 20 like we were thinking. If the stations get too long, it's extremely hard to finish a station. The original Jumpman had 8 levels for the Beginner, 10 for Intermediate, and 12 for Expert. We're going with 7 - 10, to make it possible to get through all the levels for people who aren't flat out experts at Jumpman ;-)
The first pack of levels also acts as a "difficulty test" - are we making the first pack of levels too hard? Too easy? Just right? That gives us direction for future stations.
For people who figure that we're just re-using all the levels from the demo, well, we're not. :-) The first couple of levels for Jumpman are from the demo, but, the rest of them have been kicked out for now, to be re-used throughout future stations. So, you don't have to worry about wiping out on "Rocket, Rocket!" for a while :-) I think only 3 of the demo levels are in Jupiter Station Alpha, the first Jumpman level set.
Red's levels are flat out amazing. Honestly, from a gameplay standpoint, I'm enjoying playing her levels more than the Jumpman levels. Part of it ended up being a lot of gameplay changes to the character - we went back and rethought her abilities and the interactions she has the environment, and tweaked them over and over. Then, I resurrected an idea I had early on, which was a new form of Alienator Smart Bullet (or Smart Darts - depends on which copy you read from the original game marketing stuff) These also interact with the environment.
Suddenly, we had all sort of new types of levels we could create, with whole new ways of driving the player nuts. I think the levels are absolutely awesome - there's a whole lot more feel of "danger" to the levels as they fall apart around you, not just because of the actions you took, but because of the actions the bullets are taken. They still follow the same rules (move slow until lining up with the player, then shoot out at high speed)
Jumpman's levels have stuff that harasses you, and you deal with it while figuring out the puzzle. Often times you can just side-step the smart bullets while figuring it all out. Red's levels, on the other hand, don't allow you to just side-step the bullets - you have to be concerned where they are going to end up. Simply put, you've got to take the entire level and every enemy into account all at once. Jumpman levels are a game of Checkers where you ponder your moves, and Red's levels are a game of Chess run on a short timer.
Some people will disagree with me - and, Red's levels are optional (so are Jumpman's - to progress to the next set of stations, you'll have to beat either Red or Jumpman's levels, and it unlocks the next two stations. The first stations, BTW, are Jupiter Station Alpha and Saturn Station Alpha - Jupiter & Saturn stations were where the first games took place.) So, if you don't like the pacing or utter destructive setup of Red's levels, it's OK, you won't be forced to play them all :-)
What happens if the levels are too hard? Well, it means our next set of stations will be much easier. We're not going to completely re-do the existing stations, but, we are going to
So, right now, we're cleaning up interface issues, and finalizing for the first beta release. There's one thing missing: music. While Jumpman Forever is only going to have musical snippets between levels (or, that's the plan), we still don't have what we're looking for. In fact, until today, I haven't had the inspiration I was looking for - something that fit with the genre and the era the game is set in (IE, the 1980's, game design wise) Now that we FINALLY have that, we'll have music before the first full release.
We've also got at least one extra freebee we'll be giving away - a Jumpman Forever set of fonts. Part of the stuff that's in there for level titles is done via bitmaps. However, as we add more text, I really wanted to have a font to do it with, so, we've generated a nice retro-style true-type font that we'll be giving away for anyone who wants it :-) (NOTE: in the screenshots, we're not using the new font, nor are those the final interface shots - the score for Ouya screenshots, for instance, isn't very readable.)
We've already listened to a lot of ya'lls feedback from the demo - and thank you so much for that feedback! The changes and tweaks that happened because of that are important, but, not all suggestions could be implemented for various reasons (including suggestions that contradicted the project goals, contradicted suggestions from others, or, sometimes even contradicted suggestions already given by the same person.) For a product like this, we know we can't make everyone happy - so, if you find something to be disappointing because we didn't do it the way you wanted it, hey, we're worry. Game developers always face the "but, I wanted it to be my way!" problem, and this project is no exception! :-)
After we submit to the Ouya store for the beta, we'll be sure to send out an update saying it's live!
Someone posted a message asking for an update, and I realized they were right: I had been pretty quite on here!
So, what's going on with Jumpman Forever? Well, I now live in Tahiti, living off the proceeds from the Kickstarter, drinking these strange little drinks that come with umbrellas.
Naw, not really - actually, I've been working my butt off on Jumpman Forever, still here in Wichita, Kansas in my office.
One of the big holdups was getting the engine we use to handle the Ouya's controllers properly. But, we managed to get that working properly :-) One of the concerns with the Ouya was if the game would end up slow or laggy, and require optimization to get it to where we wanted it to be. An Ouya is really an Android device, without a huge amount of horsepower (compared to the Mac I have setting beside it that development is done on). After tweaking out the controls, I was surprised that it required zero adjustment for the amount of horsepower for the Ouya on a 1080 screen. Awesome :-)
All but one of Jumpman's levels are ready (15 levels), and we're currently working on Red's levels. Her levels are considerably more complex, since her goal is escape rather than just defusing the bombs. Plus, her double-jump ability makes for more open areas and is great for larger levels, but definitely takes more tweaking to get them just right.
And, since it was asked during the Kickstarter demo - yes, there are levels where bits and pieces of the level disappear or appear in response to the players actions. Jupiter Station level 3 is now the first time the player encounters it with "Deconstruction" - by the end of the level, there's not much left ;-)
Four of five game options are up and going - Advanced, which was locked out in the Kickstarter preview version, is active. Speed Run isn't active yet - we need to adjust a couple of things before we make that happen. I'm looking forward to that mode though, since it's going to end up pretty insane.
We also have almost the full team on board now - while almost all of the core of Jumpman Forever was written by me initially, this is a two-year release cycle. After the initial release with 30 levels, we'll still be doing releases roughly every 4 months that add new levels. For that, we have to have a team :-)
Stephen Lemlek - The angry nerd behind Unleash The Fanboy, and part of the PR efforts behind the Kickstarter campaign
Having a larger team to spread a lot of the work across means that over the next two years, we'll have plenty of time to juggle the various level design, artwork, and various other Jumpman Forever related tasks that happen during that two years worth of continued development (particularly since there's another two game projects coming up after Jumpman Forever)
We don't have new music yet. That's been one thing that makes me grimace a bit - I can never seem to find "what I want." We may release the Ouya beta sans music.
The team is going to have a couple of upcoming game releases outside of Jumpman Forever here shortly. The first one is Candy-Apple Snake Saga, a sort of trademark protest game (long story). Mark has sent over one of his games that is being used for publicity for Beard and Bean - he's done the artwork and programming on it, but ran into a couple of problems as he's gotten close to release. He'll also be re-using one of the existing game engines I have laying around for a second publicity game - mostly it's just new levels and graphics, though I'll probably tweak a little of the programming for him.
One big thing missing: JumpmanForever.com still goes to the Kickstarter page, instead of it's new home. I really want to get that done, so I can set up mailing lists for those who want to see weekly updates on the game, Work In Progress pictures, and more! For now, you can take a look at some of the updates that goes into my personal blog at MidnightRyder.org - you're welcome to check it out! (And, you can see part of this week's projects: quitting smoking. Oh, fun. :-)
OK, first off, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Festive Festivus, or your pick of holidays :-)
I've mentioned before I wanted to release a new version of Jumpman Forever's Preview, to fix up a couple of things. Well, Christmas is the perfect day for a little gamer gift like that :-) This is the final version of the preview: there will not be any more builds of it after this. Most of this is stuff I was working on for the first real round of Beta builds coming up, so I incorporated them back into the previous build :-) What's changed:
Better fall distance
Speed of Alientator Bullets reduced
Game speeds adjusted
Ladders work more dependably
Can now exit ladder without being at a girder (warning – you can can also trip and fall)
Level “Nothing Hidden” removed, replaced with “No Ground”
High Scores fixed
Score bubbles for collecting bombs (makes more sense, ’cause you can now see multipliers at work)
Lots more little fixes…
This should make the game a LOT more playable for mere mortals, not game developers ;-) The new level, "No Ground", is caused by the changes to how bullets spawn, and things like that. See, little changes can have BIG effects - and it completely broke the level.
New graphics and sound didn't make it into this build - I decided not to spend that effort, 'specially because I want to keep some surprises for the first betas :-)
One of the bugs that got fixed with the 1.1 preview is the High Score tracking - it was reseting it's self previously :-) So, let's go for a quick, informal bragging rights competition. Here's my current High-Score (this isn't the highest I've ever gotten, just the one from my run-through today):
Simple contest: beat the high score, take a screenshot, and send it to email@example.com :-) Sure, you won't win anything, but, I'll be sure to post your name and score for the bragging rights ;-)
Christmas Cards Shipped
MOST of the Christmas cards shipped as planned, though a couple of people got my their addresses latter than I had hoped, so they'll have to wait to go in the mail tomorrow. Sorry for that!
Take The Money And Run?
Yeah, I'll admit: I went completely silent when we hit the Kickstarter goal - I kept intending to post something very important:
THANK YOU! Each and every one of you, thank you very much. I'd hug you if I could (well, for most of you that would be a man hug, you know, nothin' creepy.) Instead, I immediately jumped onto the Ouya builds, moving towards the beta!
Next week or the week after, the real JumpmanForever.com will go online, which will include a mailing list for those who want weekly updates on the progress of the betas, things like that :-) Hey, ya'lls did awesome, getting us this far: now, it's my turn to do the work, and get you a cool ass game - I want to keep you in the loop on progress, without spamming this page too much!
I got confirmation: tomorrow, I'll have one more commercial level contribution (though, unfortunately, not one of the big ones, it's just one of the in-game links) that will give us another $2,500, putting us over the $20,000 goal!
Now, only one hurdle left: 200 people! We've got 64 hours left to pick up around 15 more people to satisfy the Ouya Free The Games Fund portion of the Kickstarter - we're SOOOOO close! This is turning into a white-knuckle finish!
But, if we don't get that last 15, we don't make all the goals for the Kickstarter. And, if anyone is doing the math at the moment, we're at 187, not 185, which would be 13. Well, there's two contributors listed twice - one is my loving wife who contributed early in the Kickstarter, then later when I was down about it, contributed a second time to make me feel a bit better about it. When you're wife will plunk down $10 just to watch you smile, that's love :-)
The other was a commercial level backer - I had to get the story on it to find out what was up, but, he contributed once for his company, then contributed again with his own personal account for the Ultimate Fan Pack (that's one heck of a shelf item for bragging rights!)
So, I figure those two should only each account for one person. Thus, 15, not 13.
Which means: along with me bugging people to try and get some more contributors, plus the PR guy bugging people to get some last minute articles online, and I've got two more Podcasts to do before the end of the Kickstarter.
BUT - I need your help. Bug your friends, tell 'em it's a great project that you want to see succeed. Tell 'em to buy you the limited edition Christmas card. Or, you know, just tell 'em you think they're awesome, and that they'll do the right thing. (Actually, if they're your friends, tell 'em they're awesome even if they don't contribute - everyone needs that from time to time. :-)
Meanwhile, I'm going to go ahead and write out stretch goals for the project - I already had some, but, I never bothered to put them up. I don't THINK we'll reach them, but Kickstarters have a way of going weird after they meet their goal. So, no telling. One of those stretch goals will make people happy: the original Jumpman levels, transcribed to as close to perfect as possible in the new Jumpman Forever engine (that's A LOT harder than you might think.) (And, for those who are curious: No Jumpman, Jr levels. Specifically, Randy gave me rights to Jumpman. IIRC, Jumpman, Jr. actually is licensed to someone else currently, but I have no way of confirming that either way!)
Updates to Jumpman Forever Preview
I SAID I wasn't going to update the Jumpman Forever Preview. I lied. After watching video of someone else playing Jumpman Forever, I realized there were more problems with the ladders than I thought. And, while I might be able to make it through, not everyone can - in fact, I've yet to hear of someone completing the Preview. So, I'm tweaking the difficulty a bit (it was going to have to happen for the real version, anyway), and there's a number of little bug fixes in there, too :-) That should be out later today for everyone to download.
Since were this close to making it, I'm going to be gathering up shipping addresses, names, etc. for the Jumpman Forever Christmas cards starting tomorrow. :-) I'm going to throw up three designs for each person to choose from, so you get your favorite retro-inspired cards for your friends and family (or, yourself :-)