Guess which is our favourite Git client

We’ve been implementing Git for quite a while on our HTML5 games projects and we love its code management possibilities and its collaborative features.

Using Git with the command line is too hard for us, that’s why we need a client. Until recently we were using SourceTree. SourceTree is a great product and it’s free, however there were 2 things we don’t like. First, the theme is white as siberian snow, and our tired programmer eyes really favour a dark theme. Second, SourceTree seems to work better on Mac than Windows. That’s why we’ve decided to test the free version of GitKraken.

git clients compared

The team of programmers developing each of our game projects usually consists just on 1 or 2 guys, so  the free version is enough for our current needs.

GitKraken is based in Electron. It’s coded in javascript and uses html and css, which means it’s cross platform. Its GUI besides being nifty, is dark. Fonts are nice and the icons and its diagrams makes it easy and intuitive to use. Branching, stashing or checking out a branch just requires one click.

Do you already have your own favourite Git client? Have you also suffered from white backgrounds and bleeding eyes?

Jscrambler helps to protect our HTML5 games

jscrambler_protection

We love to code HTML5 games and JavaScript is a nice programing language but unfortunately everyone can access to the source code of our games. And that includes those cheeky guys who doesn’t want to respect existing license agreements or those just looking for “inspiration” for their next cloned game.

Luckily we have a powerful ally called Jscrambler.

Jscrambler is quite intuitive and it’s web based. There are some other javascript obfuscators but JScrambler offers the most complete and secure solution. Its version 4 has just been released. According to Pedro Fortuna, CTO of JScrambler:

“Version 4 brings the product from a code protection solution to a platform that provides a tamper-proof environment to the application, making sure it is executed without interferences and by legitimate users only.”

We’d like to show you an example of the level of protection that Jscrambler offers, we’ll take a function of our game “Alien Kindergarten” and obfuscate it.

We can see that even after using JSbeautifier the code is quite difficult to understand. Besides site-locking they offer some interesting transformations such as dead code insertion (that’s why the obfuscated code is longer) and member enumeration.

Mission accomplished…. it looks like that doing the whole thing from scratch is much easier than attempting a reverse engineering.

Ahhhh! forgot to say that Jscrambler is optimized for games and doesn’t affect performance.

New Foot Chinko game with new tricks

We are happy to announce we are working on a new Foot Chinko chapter.

 

new-footchinko-eurocup 

It’s been a long time since the original game was launched and we were excited about the possibility of developing a new Foot Chinko game. During this time it seems that our little creature has been growing in popularity. Although the game was released over a year ago, enthusiastic players keep on uploading videos: Foot Chinko on youtube

Is it our imagination or does it look like searches on google for the keyword “foot chinko” are growing? Results on google trends

We are going to release an HTML5 exclusive version of the game for Spil Games. This version will feature the Eurocup 2016 and will include a couple of new mechanics.

We are also considering a native version of the game for iOS, Android and Windows phone using Unity. By combining the old game levels with the new ones, we could have almost 150 different levels, but the truth is, in this time we’ve learned so much about level design that designing a complete new set of levels is an interesting challenge.

So, what kind of publisher do you think would be a good partner for this adventure? We would love to hear your thoughts…

Help phaser development

 phaser_logo

We’ve been using an html5 game engine called Phaser for over a year. It’s open source and was created by a photon storm.Our experiences with Phaser have been fantastic. We’ve tried several frameworks but found Phaser the best game engine to develop our games from the usability and performance points of view.Now Richard Davey, the man behind Phaser, has started a campaign to collect money to be able to dedicate more time enhancing his incredible framework.Please check this out:

>> Phaser on Patreon

Using Trello in game development

trello_screen_captureAs game development technology evolves, so do work methodologies. One of the up and coming ways of organizing work, used by an ever increasing number of studios, is scrum.

Scrum is an agile development method that allows for quick iteration and offers great adaptability to suit the needs of the project or any sudden setbacks. It mainly focuses on … getting a working game as soon as possible, and then improving upon it. As such, it can be an invaluable tool for studios wishing to save time otherwise spent redoing previous work all over.

And this is where Trello comes in. Trello presents itself as a board, accessible to all participants in the development process of a game, where tasks to be done get pinned for everyone to see. This allows everyone on the team to be up to date on what must be done, or what’s already been done, as well as swiftly assign new tasks.
There are no bosses in Trello: anyone can add their own cards and assign people to them, move them around, or edit existing ones to add extra info. For example, if a task requires certain assets, such as an image or a code snippet, you can add it so whoever is in charge can get it without needing a file transfer.
Typically, a Trello board is split into three sections: “To Do” – where tasks planned are stored and are assigned or picked up by different workers, “Doing” – for tasks currently in development or subject to change, and finally “Done” – for tasks completed and awaiting approval. Additionally, we make use of an extra column dedicated to bug reporting “Bugs :(“. This way, if anyone involved on the development finds a bug in the game, they can file a ticket immediately.
Another obvious advantage to Trello is knowing at any time who is working on what, avoiding unnecessary overlap due to poor communication between team members while also being able to gauge each worker’s workload at a simple glance.
All in all, Trello has become a must for our studio, and we encourage others to try and use it on their games, we are sure you’ll see an improvement!

Working on our first pixel art game

starving_gorillaRight now we are involved on the production of an addictive mini game in pixel art.

Creating Foot Chinko took really long for our standards, almost 3 exhausting months. This time our goal is to develop a more agile game and why not? A bit crazier.

Hopefully we won’t deceive our fans, this new title will contain high doses of humor and surrealism.

Stepping up performance with TexturePacker

Companies are always thriving in order to step up their performance, and every little bit helps. In fact, we are no different. Thus, we like to pick up proper tools, matching to our needs. And our last decision was to implement TexturePacker.
texturepacker sprite sheet
TexturePacker is a spritesheet building software. And the best at it, if you ask us. Why? May you ask. Well, there’s a lot say then. We’ve tested pretty much all other options, both browser based or native software, and we came to feel what makes it different.
First of all it’s fast. Ridiculously fast. It takes less than half a minute to just take all your sprites and convert them into a functional spritesheet. Moreover, it’s also easy. Default settings fit in most scenarios, which really helps with newcomer fellows. And this can be extrapolated to anyone who wants to start building spritesheets as well.
Then, it is a powerful tool too. It lets you save your spritesheets in a wide pool of over 40 supported data formats. We mainly use JSON files, as we work with HTML5, but it also supports the most popular frameworks, like Corona, Unity or Cocos2D. It really has a lot of options to toy with in search of the blending or look you’re after, be it with preloaded settings, or adjusting values one-by-one. Special mention to the “Reduce border artifacts” option that prevents halos from appearing in OpenGL, which we found utterly helpful.
To sum up, it’s continuously being updated, keeping up with all the frameworks it works with, preventing those pesky incompatibilities that happen from time to time and mess up your day.
And last but not least, it’s low priced. We like to see it this way: A lifetime license that includes one year of updates costs around 30€. Then you can add up more years of updates for the same price.
Summarizing, we invested in TexturePacker because it  offers us ease of use and performance, at an affordable price for an indie studio.

TexturePacker is available on www.codeandweb.com.

It’s time to optimize the loading time of html5 games

Loading time is critical on mobile html5games. Some optimizations can be achieved by reducing the size and the quantity of the assets to be uploaded without giving up quality.

We’ll describe some of the basic things that can be done to minimize loading time. They are quite standard, followed by most developers and include optimizations on these fronts:

 

Audio – Code – Graphics

 

Audio

Our game Foot Chinko contains more than 30 audio effects, that’s a lot. We wrapped them in just 1 audio file with this open source application:
Tõnis Tiigi Audio Sprite on github

The resulting file is called audio sprite. Size wasn’t reduced but the amount of assets indeed, and this helped a lot to keep loading time low.

Game Engine – code

We are currently implementing Phaser for all our html5 games. Our cute Pocahontas Slots doesn’t make use of all the capabilities of this great and robust framework. It doesn’t need the physics module, for example. Instead of referencing this file in the index.html:

phaser.min.js (709kb)

we include the smaller:

phaser-no-physics.min.js (472kb)

Don’t forget to minimize your code too.

Graphics

Choose a good and unique resolution, all assets of your game will be dependent of this initial decision. We usually work with the iPad2 resolution, that is 1024 x 768 px. Our games look alright on desktop and devices with a big display without punishing players with smaller resolution devices.

Did you know about texture atlas?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Texture_atlas

A good program to generate them is Texture Packer. Once you’ve packed all the images into a texture atlas is time to compress the resulting png. We use an online tool called tinypng for that. This is the last step before releasing the production game.

In case you need a simple background image with a color gradient, for example, let’s say for the sky, generate a bitmap procedurally.

Foot Chinko: level design and game flow

Foot Chinko, our casual approach to football (soccer) games, has the biggest amount of levels ever seen on a Ravalmatic game (+90 levels). Editing them was a major effort per se, but then, arranging them properly wasn’t either a simple task. Without no particular literature about this specific stuff, here’s how we figured we could handle the task.

Foot Chinko level design

When you do level design it is key to have a tool that is visual and fast to use. The agility you have when building and testing the levels is very important to produce good stuff. If the task is a heavy and time consuming burden, the levels will consequently be designed in less iterations. That’s what happened in previous games of the studio resulting in more plain level design or an exaggerated amount of time invested on the task.

Enriqueto, had already used the Flash IDE as a visual level design layout that could be later parsed into data about items, their location and contextual level data (seconds, type of goalkeeper, etc.). Testing those levels was as easy as exporting the Shockwave file, running a json exporter, and testing the game on the browser.

Foot Chinko editing tools

Ivan then edited a huge amount of levels in several iterations, discarding some of them due to technical limitations, and getting the most out of sketched ideas and emerging game mechanics. Some of Foot Chinko’s levels felt more skill-demanding and some other had a more random development, but the general idea was to keep a wide variety of levels, offering contrasted flavors. While a random level could be more appealing for a casual player, as the game progressed, those levels should be gradually replaced by more technical ones. If the resolution of an advanced match was just in the hands of luck, the more experienced players could get frustrated. Speaking about Foot Chinko‘s difficulty, it’s really hard to keep objectivity, since your skills will probably be above the average user, so try to make some early testing during this stage of the level design process.

Finally, we printed cards of every single level we had. That helped us to have an overall look, and making groups of levels (passive/interactive, slow/dynamic, easy/hard) and then arranging them alternatively, considering the general difficulty progression during the whole game and the partial difficulty progression of each tournament. Placing the cards on sticky panels was really useful to identify visual patterns and also make agile tweaks. The final step is testing that level progression with players. With the help of metrics we’ll be able to notice if there are some particular tough levels that break the natural progression of the game.

panels featuring all levels in Foot Chinko(The plants had strong arguments about the game flow, but the plastic one showed a deeper analytic vision)  

There are probably better ways to deal with level designing and arranging, so we would be glad to hear your suggestions. Take care!

Producing game soundtracks

In this article we’ll cover the producing of game soundtracks and how to guide composers so their tracks fit your game and communicate important aspects.

In this occasion, Daniel Ara, helped us to create the OST of Pocahontas Slots, a light casual approach to slot machines with an indian flavour.

At this early stage you should focus on general aspects like music genre (something that fits your theme), tempo (that matches with the game pace), and duration of the track (in this case we are working on an HTML5 game, so we had to keep the main track below a minute in order to keep short preloading times).

Here’s what Daniel came up with as one of the firsts drafts. One of the other two was eventually used as a secondary track for Bonus Rounds. The other draft had a too dark, ominous spirit, so it didn’t match the game tone.

One of the cool things we found here was the ambient landscape using nature sounds. This is something to always keep in consideration. These kind of ambience sounds will reinforce the projection of the world in your game.
Although the composition was a cool draft, it needed a second iteration with a more casual and lighter ambience.

By the use of piccolo (tiny flute) in addition to indian flute, we not only gave the composition a happier feeeling, but also joined the two colliding cultures of the game: the american indians and the european settlers. Besides that, the low rank frequency of the indian drums that created a constant noise was also reduced.
So we definitely had the indian atmosphere, but still there was a music layer missing. The art, the ambience, the game itself, is a pop revision of the story of Pocahontas, so the music should also remind the casual approach to the theme by using a videogamey accompanying melody. An artificial sound opposing the organic instruments performing in the tune that also gave an even happier feeling.

And finally this is the final version of Pocahontas Slots soundtrack. A positive track that resounds like both indian and the settlers musical compositions (broad commonplaces), with a dynamic tempo, a semi-hypnotic pace, and a videogame touch which reminds that there’s no intention to deliver a pretentious or historically accurate composition.

I hope you enjoy Daniel Ara‘s work and appreciate the process which leads to a soundtrack that matches your game needs.