Friday, 20 August 2010

We've moved to WordPress

Blogger doesn't offer the level of functionality we need, so we've moved to a wordpress site here:

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Coconut Dodge on GameTank TV

Here's a nice review of Coconut Dodge, which is going to be broadcast on Freeview and Sky TV!

Thanks GameTank!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

10 x Coconut Dodge Factoids

If you follow @FuturLab on Twitter, you'll have seen these before. They went down well, so we thought it'd be nice to feature them here too. We'll post more once Coconut Dodge has launched in the US at the end of this month :)

  1. Joris de Man, composer of the Killzone series of soundtracks features in Coconut Dodge credits for translating store text into Dutch :)

  2. The coconut crack sound took two people a day and a half to get right, layering wood blocks, fabric scratches and water sloshes.

  3. By far the most time consuming aspect of production was getting the font to work properly. It took three months to get right.

  4. The silly story about pirates stashing treasure in the trees was made up in 5 mins when faced with writing store description text.

  5. All the artwork in Coconut Dodge was drawn in two days by freelance illustrator, Ben Hooley:

  6. There are no loading times because all the assets are loaded into RAM at the start. We wanted no barriers for having one more go.

  7. Coconut Dodge levels were designed using a map editor that was knocked up in Flash in one afternoon.

  8. Only the brow of Clawrence can be hit by coconuts. He can therefore run behind them as long as they are below his brow.

  9. The Coconut Dodge theme tune was pinched for use in the game from a series of incomplete tunes by Weatherbrow. There are lots more...

  10. Coconut Dodge levels were designed in two weeks after all features in the game were implemented.

Coconut Dodge @ Gamescom 2010

We were delighted to see Coconut Dodge featured in Sony's promotional video for PlayStation miniS on show at Gamescom 2010:

Coconut Dodge appears at 1:15 :)

Thanks Sony!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Coconut Dodge US Release Date

We've just received the release date for Coconut Dodge in the US, and it's this month!

Coconut Dodge will be in the US PlayStation Store on August 31st!

Get ready to Crab some Gold! ;)

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Arctic Adventures: Polar's Puzzles

Whilst developing Coconut Dodge, I kept a close eye on the PlayStation Store to see where the bar was being set for minis games. It was exciting because I genuinely believed Coconut Dodge was a higher quality game in all respects than most games on there. Of course, Fieldrunners and Aero Racer were clearly awesome, but they were also ports of games already enjoying success on other platforms.

Coconut Dodge is an original IP exclusive to minis, and in that sense, I believed it was the best game I'd played on the platform.

That is until I played Arctic Adventures: Polar's Puzzles.

Three hours later I gave it a 5 star rating on PlayStation Store, and felt compelled to write this post.

It's the first minis game I've played (aside from Aero Racer, Fieldrunners and of course Coconut Dodge) that genuinely brings value and quality to the platform in my opinion.*

Hurray for Eiconic Games! The platform needs more developers like this to improve the reputation of minis.

Go and get it!

*If anyone reading this believes there are other minis games up to the standard of the ones mentioned here, please post your thoughts, and I'll check them out!

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Golden Viking Helmet!

Hello, I'm Shaun. I've just finished a games design course at City College Brighton, and I have decided to take a year away from education and gain some experience in the games industry as a 3D artist. FuturLab have kindly let me work on their Coconut Dodge items for PlayStation Home. I am aiming to post my progress up each week :)

The first thing I worked on was the Golden Viking Helmet, which gives a player invincibility in Coconut Dodge. Over the past few days I have been learning the process for putting the models into Home. Each model needs three LODs (Levels of Detail), which you can see below.

As you can see, each LOD model needs to have less and less detail, which makes them look a bit blocky... The further away you are from the helmet the lower in detail it gets, so you should never have to see the blocky models. 

The tricky part of this project is trying to get the same cartoony style as in the game. I would also like to mention that these probably aren't final until you see them in Home :)

Say Hello to Shaun Baker

One of the things I enjoy most about my role at FuturLab is spotting potential in people, and being able to cultivate it.

With that in mind, I'd like to introduce Shaun Baker to our blog. I met Shaun when he came to do some testing on Coconut Dodge with a bunch of his college friends. He had a go at designing a maze for the game, and came up with an idea that none of us had considered. His design was included in the game (Maze Level 27), and it's the one maze I still find challenging to this day :)

Around the same time we were talking to the PlayStation Home team about creating content for PlayStation Home, so I decided that we should give Shaun an opportunity to come in and make some Coconut Dodge items for Home.

So, here's a post from Shaun:

Golden Viking Helmet!

It would be great if you would give him some feedback and encouragement, and also suggest some Coconut Dodge items you would like to see in Home!

We'll aim to keep the blog updated each week with Shaun's progress, and we'll put a Poll up so people can vote on the items they would most like to see :)

Our method for addictive gameplay

Coconut Dodge has been a surprise for many people. When we first posted screenshots online, comments were scathing, and when we posted game play footage, most people's reactions to it were that of 'meh'.

It's understandable, because on the face of it Coconut Dodge looks like a free Flash game.

However, we've been making Flash games for over 6 years now, and during that time we've never had the opportunity to develop the kind of cunning game play that steals people's attention and never gives it back. This is because all of our Flash games have in some way been designed to promote other products.

Coconut Dodge is our first game for the sake of being a game, our product. Of course, we can't complain about the existence of Flash-games-for-marketing, otherwise we would have never been able to get started!

But in all these years of making Flash games with direction imposed by a client, the game play has always suffered.

So, with that in mind, how have we managed to make Coconut Dodge so damn addictive? What are the ingredients that give it the insatiable hook?

I can summarise them for you now:

1. Accessibility

Firstly, it has a very simple mechanic, which anyone can understand immediately. This simplicity is also disarming, and gives the player the impression the game should be easy. However, the game soon shows the player they aren’t as clever as they thought they were, which triggers an emotional reaction for the player to reassert themselves, and to continue trying until they’ve succeeded.

What's more, the game play is never too hard. This is because I designed and play tested the game, and I am not particularly skillful. I can practice a game to become very good at it (if Ken Masters were a real person, I'd kick his ass at Street Fighter), but I am not one of those people who can pick up any game and rule at it straight away. If we'd given the game play design duties to Dan for example, who is a wolverine of nimble finger skillz, the game would have been too difficult for most people.

Even without a simple mechanic, a reasonable learning curve helps to make the game accessible.

2. Prediction and Surprise

The next important ingredient is the combination of the predictable mazes and the random coconuts. The predictability of the mazes gives a player an opportunity to take ownership of them by memorising, and eventually mastering them, which is very satisfying. However, if it were just the mazes to deal with, the game would get boring rather quickly, so the random coconuts keep players on their toes.

3. A Precondition for Luck to Emerge

This final ingredient is something that we never designed intentionally: the way the beach balls interact with the coconuts.

Bouncy balls are compelling by themselves anyway, because the mind is constantly trying to predict where the balls will bounce when hit, and sometimes the mind predicts correctly, and sometimes it doesn’t. This balance of predictability and surprise makes it compelling.

But it's the interaction of the bouncy balls with the fall of coconuts that makes the game fun and interesting every time you play, and it's this lucky mechanic that permits the moments of joy that are unscriptable; the perfect dash under a coconut to grab a diamond, whilst putting a cheeky backspin on a beach ball that was heading off-screen.

It's these moments that make the player feel awesome, because they are unexpected, unpredictable and different every time. By definition, these moments simply have to be created by luck.

By trial and error then, we managed to create the conditions for addictive game play to manifest while playing.

Having analysed and recognised what makes Coconut Dodge so addictive, the question now is whether we can recreate these conditions for our next game.

Watch this space :p

Friday, 6 August 2010

New Game Teaser

Here's a teaser for our new game that we're very excited about!

Coconut Dodge submitted to SCEA

Coconut Dodge, our first PlayStation minis game has now been submitted to Sony's QA team in the US. We're hoping for a release date of early September. Coconut Dodge has been received really well in Europe, with a handful of 10 of out 10 scores from well respected sites :)