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It’s been quite the few weeks or so here in Drop Dead land; Xbox One, GameCity and maybe, just maybe, something to look forward to. The big news first and something we had confirmed just before GameCity; Gear Gauntlet is coming to Xbox One next summer! Talk about a whoop whoop moment! We really hoped we’d be able to bring Gear to Xbox One first as Xbox has always been our console of choice, to be officially told that we could focus on bringing Gear to the console was bloody brilliant! As you can tell by the somewhat liberal use of exclamation marks above.

In a wonderfully joyous mood we continued to get the demo ready for GameCity in Nottingham for the 25th and 26th of October. We wanted ten levels with a variety of mechanics for gamers to play with so went about selecting those from the fifteen or so we had. We then redesigned some in part and set about painting the foregrounds, which takes a serious chunk of time. It’s basically a matter of using layers below or above the player to create the foreground details using tile art.

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So a base earth tile first, then maybe a variation on top to break it up, grass in two parts, darker dirt areas on the outside, and then rocks, mushrooms, cobwebs and a few other details. Jay saved us a bunch of time by creating an option that randomised all of the base tiles on an unpainted level, many hours of painting became a button press, yeah. Although, we still had to then go and paint the outer bits, grass and other bits. Jay was doing this while also working on other systems in the game such as the leaderboards and UI but we were getting there.

So off to Nottingham I headed for my first game event thingy! I’m 6”5 and the train was rather cramped, like sardine tin cramped. Who cares though I got there and Jay and I met for the first time in actual reality, you know that place where post written on paper is a thing. It was great to meet him after more than a year of Facebook chat, Xbox parties and Skype, we proceeded to eat much Chinese and get the Gear demo ready for the following morning.

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Jay was up a touch before me and was already making a few alterations to the demo build, bloody coders and their last minute coding eh. Grabbed the PC, tablets and all those bits then headed to GameCity where we set up on the 2nd floor. Jay already knew a good few devs as friends or from previous events so introduced me a little and then gamers started rolling in. It really was great for us to see players properly negotiating the levels, no one seems to get frustrated because of the games design and instead most wanted to keep playing.

All very good signs although level six was proving trickier than we anticipated due to the necessity to keep enough charge to break through the barriers. That first day was cracking, we met a few members of @DecoDigital bringing @PneumaGame to Xbox One early next year, as well as the lovely Nicol Hunt and Alan Zucconi. Loads of retro coolness going on along with games like Raging Justice by @makingames that echoes games like Street of Rage and Final Fight. We then had a merry night with good company, food and frol.

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We only made one change to the build for the 2nd day and that was to move the charge bar over to the right as players would naturally ignore it on the left, rookie mistake. The 2nd day was in many ways better than the first, we had a lot of kids playing and doing really well and were busy throughout most of the day. Finally, one player sat down, picked up the pad and eventually kicked the demo’s ass while gathering a crowd to watch. Just the kind of awesome thing we wanted to see but that level six was still a major sticking point for most players due to that charge bar.

When we got back to Jay’s we both decided there really wasn’t a need for the charge bar and so the GameCity feedback helped us improve that aspect the game.  I got to try an Oculus Rift for the first time as well, a very odd feeling indeed, the experience was called Deep and required me to inhale and exhale to move vertically in a calm underwater environment. It was certainly very calming but the sensation of standing still while my mind believed my body to be moving was a wonderfully weird experience. It was lovely to finally meet Jay, attend my first game event and know that we can now go at bringing Gear Gauntlet first to Xbox One. Much work to get done but the glorious kind.

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