Phew, it’s been awhile since we’ve had an actual developer update! Last time we checked in was back in January (!). We were planning on creating all new backgrounds for each level, but after much consideration we decided to stick with our old backgrounds with a few tweaks. We are, however, updating our tiles as we’ve ended up with a much better level creation system that is much more flexible than our previous solution. Aside from this, we’re updating some animations and even planning on adding some perks to add a new layer to the gameplay.
As you would expect, we’re plugging away on the levels so we’ll hopefully have the levels done soon-ish. With that said, we plan on having some closed beta testing starting in August, so if you’re interested, be sure to sign up for our newsletter where we’ll make the announcement.
What Else Are We Up to?
Besides The Painter’s Apprentice, we’ve also been working on two other games. The first is an educational game for a competition. It’s a turtle racing game where you must answer questions correctly in order to increase the speed of your racer. As you progress through each level, the questions get harder and will go from addition and subtraction to multiplication and division.
And, of course, we’ve been working on Fairy Trails. There’s new direction for the characters so we’ll be updating the enemies and heroes to a more consistent style. What else? Well, we’re hoping we can release some small games while working on the longer games (like Fairy Trails) so we can have a larger portfolio. This means we’ll need some more artists, so if you’re interested in joining the team or know someone who is, please feel free to reach out firstname.lastname@example.org
On the surface, The Painter’s Apprentice might look like a straightforward platforming game with a simple gimmick. In terms of the mechanics, that might be the case. What allows us to stand apart is our emphasis on art styles. You get to travel through different paintings based on Impressionism, Cubism and more. And, of course, there’s the attacking element where you must match your paintbrush color with the color of the enemy to defeat them. To many, this might seem a bit simple or basic. After all, there’s a lot more you can do with paint and colors, etc. We could have had different attacks attached to the different colors. Or maybe we could have added in more elements of painting where you draw your own platforms/paths to the end goal (*note to self for future game). I ended up going the simpler route because I love old platformers and I wanted this to be a bit of an homage to them, with my own twist.
With all that said, we wanted the overarching experience to feel like you were actually playing through these art styles. How would an Fauvism level feel? What about Surrealism? I researched the themes of each of the styles and realized that I could incorporate those into the level design. While some were certainly harder than others (Impressionism, I’m looking at you), the others fell naturally in place.
For example, Pop Art takes things from mass culture and then tries to show off the kitschy/banal elements of culture. While that would be difficult to really do in level design, I figured the closest we could get was to take levels from popular platforms and then place it in our game with our assets. Obviously it couldn’t be 100% exact, we had to have more obstacles and enemies, but the general layout should make people think that they’ve played something like the level before.
Other styles are more difficult. For example Fauvism is more about emphasizing strong colors over realistic values. That’s too abstract for level design. Instead, I looked at the term Fauvism, which means the wild beasts in French. Fauvism as a style was also very short-lived. Thus, I designed my levels to be short but also “wild” in that levels would have a lot of unpredictable obstacle and enemy placement.
Something like Impressionism is about depicting light as accurately as possible while providing interesting visual angles. Again, kind of hard to incorporate with level design. However, it’s also about the passing of time and movement, something that you can absolutely bake into how you approach each stage. I tried to emphasize this point as much as possible by making the levels a test in patience, of letting the time pass. Did it work? Not always. I also had to keep in mind the difficulty level. Impressionism is World 2 after all so it can’t be too difficult.
To really make sure players felt immersed in the art style the sound design had to be on point. I researched popular composers and styles of music during these styles and forwarded them to the composer. From there he was able to provide an amazing soundscape that could work just as well as a regular song track as it does in a game. Some soundtracks might seem like an odd choice. For example, we went jazz for pop art versus the more obvious pop/rock sound. Why? Well we wanted it to fit in smoothly with the rest of our smooth, classical tracks, but the 1960s were also a huge time for jazz with Charles Mingus, Dizze Gillespie, John Coltrane and more – so it fit.
Put together with the backgrounds and the level design, the music adds that additional layer to make the game feel like an experience rather than just a simple platformer.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with seeing it as just a simple platformer either. So long as you have fun 🙂
One of the things I love about showing my game off to a crowd is that it acts as an amazing, live QA session. We’ve been able to fix a lot of different bugs thanks to events like Playcrafting. Just recently we went to MAGFest to show off The Painter’s Apprentice and we found even more items that need some fine tuning. Some we were already aware of. Others, were a bit of a surprise. We’ve made notes on all of the comments and while we can’t implement all of the cool ideas in this game, we may consider it for a sequel or prequel (yes we’re already looking at a franchise of sorts).
We’re thankful for everyone who has taken the time to play the game and provide us with feedback. I also know we’re doing something right when multiple people spend the time to play the entire demo all the way through. It’s exciting and always great to see. It means we’re doing something right.
We can’t really show too much of what we’ve been up to because it’s mainly just been small tweaks to the code here and there to make it run smoother. But believe me, even from last year to now, there’s a huge difference in the way the game looks and feels. For starters, we’ve switched gears to focus on PC first so you can play with a controller versus touch screen. While our mobile version works well, there’s just something about playing the game with a gamepad in hand. And of course, there’s the coloring effect. It definitely adds a whole new element to the game. People loved it and it was a joy watching gamers jump around and color everything in.
Here’s what our MAGFest 2016 trailer submission looked like:
Here’s what our latest trailer looks like:
Pretty huge difference right?
With that said, there will be some huge changes in the future. We’re updating the art to fit both the art movement AND the character a bit better. We want people to be able to look at the backgrounds and immediately realize they’ve switched to a different art style. So we’ve brought on an art director who has extensive knowledge of the various time periods who’ll help out. We’re hoping to still stay on track with our planned release date…at least that’s what we hope! If you’d like to see some of the changes, then subscribe to our newsletter. We’ll be updating you on all of that and more!
We’re really excited for how everything is shaping up. If you’d like to try out the game, head on over to our downloads section to try it out.
As you may have guessed, we’ve been working super hard on improving The Painter’s Apprentice. We’ve demo-ed at some great places such as GaymerX East and we’re headed for our second year at MAGFest. Even more exciting, we were selected to show off the game at PAX South at the PAX Rising booth! How cool is that?
Since our last development blog, we’ve gone through a lot of changes. We’re releasing first on PC (hurray!) so we’ve been tweaking the controls to fit the keyboard and mouse as well as the controller. You can actually download the demo we show off at these conventions to try it out yourself at home. And if you like it, vote for us on Steam Greenlight.
So what’s changed since the last time? We’ve added an amazing parallax effect that you can see a gif of here:
We also added in some platforms that now don’t just move in a linear line but can go around in a box.
We’ve also updated the animation for the little blob so it stands out more. Here’s what it looks like now:
We’ve also cleaned up a couple items on the backend that makes the game run much smoother. You might not see it, but there’s a whole lot that goes on behind the scenes.
We’ll be updating this blog more often as things heat up. Of course feel free to follow us on Twitter and Facebook. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter as you’ll be the first to get access to our builds and learn about some cool news.
If you haven’t been following our social media, we’ve finally launched the Painter’s Apprentice on Kickstarter and Steam. To be honest it’s a pretty nerve-wracking experience opening up The Painter’s Apprentice to public scrutiny. Still, we’re quite proud of the game and can’t wait to get it to you guys so you can experience it as well. With that said we need your help in bringing it to life.
We were a bit hesitant to go on Kickstarter at first. After all, we’re not a big name and over the years we feel like there’s been some crowdfunding fatigue. Still, we’re hoping to raise some money so we can offset the costs of the various events we go to, materials we purchase for the company and of course to compensate everyone on their time. $2,000 might not seem like a lot, but it’s a way to legitimize what we’ve been doing and hopefully show others that there’s enough people interested. With that said, even if we don’t reach our goal, we’ll still work on the project. It might just mean we can’t do too much travel to other parts of the country. Please head on over to our site and support our campaign! Even $1 helps
Steam is the biggest platform for indie game developers on PC. It’s therefore extremely over saturated – kind of like the app stores. It has over 100 million active subscribers, making it a perfect place to hopefully gain some new fans. Still, there are so many games released every day on the platform it’s easy to get buried. We’re hoping that with a lot of hard work and little bit of luck we’ll get our game on there. You can help with that as well by heading on over and voting!
We really want the game to be successful not just for us but for you as well. If we get on Greenlight we can reach even more people and it also means the game will be much more accessible to almost everyone. Of course we’ll still release for iOS and Android later on down the line.
Any questions or comments? Let us know in the comments. Please be sure to share to your friends as well when you vote and/or pledge!
The past 3 months have flown by and we’ve been busy showing off our game at various places like the Playcrafting Expos and, most recently, MAGfest. We even spoke to some college kids at The Wharton School of Business at the Univeristy of Pennsylvania at a Games Industry Panel. All that to say we’ve been super busy and we’re using these events as excuses as to why we haven’t been updating our developer log.
That doesn’t mean we haven’t been hard at work. We received a lot of valuable feedback not only from the gamers but from the judges at MAGFest as well. While it’s always hard to hear the negatives of a game, it really helps us figure out ways we can improve it. It’s also great for bug testing and we found a few new bugs that we’ve been able to quash.
One of the biggest comments we’ve received from judges is the fact that the game doesn’t fully utilize the mechanic of painting. Right now you just match the color to the paint blob to defeat them. Most people wanted to utilize it more so we’ve come up with a couple more mechanics to introduce some more depth to the colors. For example, we’ll have platforms that move across a track and in order to stay on the right track you must hit a switch with the right color otherwise you fall off. We’ve got some other ideas brewing too, but these might be something we add on for later updates.
The biggest change we’ve made is the move away from a store. Rather than purchase upgrades you now collect paintings to unlock your perks. This means there’s more replay values to levels and lets us go even crazier with our level design. Hidden areas anyone?
So what about those paint tubes you collect then? These will basically tie to your paint meter. The more you collect the higher the meter so you can then pull off paintball attacks and the powerful rainbow attack.
Of course we’ve also gotten rid of some other aspects of the gameplay. There is no longer a dash attack or dive attack. There was just no easy way to bind these to keys and they weren’t really necessary to the gameplay. We’ve also adjusted some of the enemies to ensure players can actually defeat them with the melee attack. The jump sound effect will also change as a lot of people had issues with it. Maybe we’ll stick with a more subtle sound than what we currently have.
Besides that, we’re plugging along. We’ll be looking for some alpha testers probably by the beginning of April. The demo will just be the first two worlds and we’ll want to know your thoughts on the levels, bosses and if you found any bugs. Speaking of bugs, we’ll be writing up an article on proper bug testing procedure soon so stay tuned!
Phew, it feels like forever since we’ve posted an update. It’s taken us a while to get situated again after the four-day weekend that was MAGfest, but now that we’re finally back in the groove of things we wanted to write up an article on our experience there and what went right and wrong.
What is MAGFest?
If you’re unfamiliar with it, MAGFest is a four day music and gaming festival held in National Harbor, Maryland. The main features are the amazing musicians who literally fly from around the world to play their video game music. The gaming section of it comes in the form of arcade games, board games and indie games. The Painter’s Apprentice was accepted to take part in the MIVS (MagFest Indie Video Game Showcase). We were one of 55 other indie developers chosen to exhibit at the festival, which was super exciting especially since there were thousands of people who attend MAGFest. If you’re an indie developer I highly suggest submitting here. Not only is it FREE to submit but also FREE to exhibit. All you need to worry about are travel expenses and promotional materials.
Every developer was given a 10 x 10 space, two tables, two tablecloths and two chairs. After that, it was up to us to decorate and arrange our booth to attract people. We also worked with a Yogibo representative and were able to get two of their bean bag chairs and holder for one of our tablets. I’d say that definitely helped draw a crowd as people were drawn to the comfort of the bean bag. Plus they were kind enough to let us developers use their products for free so long as we had their flyers at our table. It’s a pretty good tradeoff.
There were some pretty amazing setups for the booth and if we were to go again next year, we’d definitely rent a car so we could bring some more items like a projector and screen, a rug, some large screens playing some gameplay videos of the game and some more devices. I think we could have attracted far more people with videos of the gameplay as most people had no idea what kind of game to expect. Once I told them it was a platformer they were much more interested in trying it out. Our banner (printed by Vistaprint) did attract several people so I’m glad I invested the money in it early on.
For the first two days I had a PC which was a huge crowd draw. People would just stand and watch others play so at one point I had a nice little ground set up around the booth. Then my computer died. Needless to say I freaked out. I don’t know if there was anything I could do to have prepared for that. Carrying two laptops would be ideal but I just didn’t have the space (or money). Still, I had my mobile devices and managed to make it through the rest of the festival with those. I have to say though I saw a sharp decline in players once the PC was gone.
My devices included a PC (for two days), a Kindle Fire HDX, LG smartphone and Kindle Fire 7″. If you have an Android game, consider getting a Kindle Fire 7″. It’s $49.99 normally. I was lucky it was on sale for $39.99 and I got and additional $10 off thanks to a one-time deal for signing up for Amazon Now. It doesn’t have the best screen, but it managed to play my game without a hitch.
As someone who worked as a canvasser for almost a year and a bartender for over 5, it has almost become second nature to me to simply call people over to the booth once I established eye contact. This was especially critical for our booth if there was no one there as passersby couldn’t see what the game was all about. Once we had a few people playing on the devices others gravitated to check it out. If all the devices were being used I would hand them a postcard with our information on it.
I’d have to say canvassing people to play my game at a gaming convention is way easier than getting people to fork over their credit cards to donate to Greenpeace. After all, I already know they have an interest in gaming so I don’t really need to come up with crazy lines to get them to stop. There are some tried and true techniques though:
Make eye contact
Wave them over
Speak loud enough for them to hear over the rabble
Give a brief overview/elevator pitch of the game
While I didn’t track exactly how many people I had stop by my booth I would say it was anywhere between 300-400 over the four days.
At any event you want to have something to give to visitors so they remember your game. I had big plans to have some buttons people could take, but unfortunately I ended up ordering them too late and wasn’t able to get them to MAGFest. With that said, I’d still recommend working with Pure Buttons. It was fairly cheap and the quality was very good. They’re also very responsive and helpful through email. Next time I’ll make sure I order all promo materials at least a month before the event. Luckily, I did have around 200 postcards and business (Vistaprint) from previous expos I had already attended so I didn’t really spend much money at all on swag. By the time Sunday came around all my postcards were gone. Luckily, Sunday was only two hours so I ended up handing out my business card instead. I would love to have more stuff to hand out and I think next time I’ll wear a Painter’s Apprentice shirt.
There are a lot of reasons to exhibit at these conventions, but the biggest one for most developers is to build a community and generate some leads. For me, I really wanted to expand my mailing list. My method might be a bit tricky – I collected emails by saying they were signing up for Alpha testing. While this is true, they’re also going on my mailing list. I had a simple notebook and pen for sign ups, which I’ve found work very well for me. Other developers prefer digital sign-up. It all depends. I was able to collect quite a bit of emails and have increased my subscriber list by 100%!
Besides getting emails, the other great thing about these conventions is the free playtesting! There are literally hundreds of people who played our game, which ended up uncovering several new bugs and inspired some added features to the animation, sound and even gameplay. It was also pretty awesome seeing people honestly enjoy the game. I had one person who played through all of the available levels and another one who was super excited about the collectibles and star system. It justifies all of the time and effort we all spent on the game and really hits home that people will like it.
I ended up not staying at the Gaylord Convention Center simply because it was just too expensive. For the first two days I stayed at a motel in Alexandria, which is only about 5 miles away from the convention center. Of course that mean I needed to use a car service, but Uber and Lyft both cost around $10 one way. Since my hotel was only $74/night that saved me a good $70. Luckily for me, I was able to spend Friday and Saturday at my sister’s place for further savings. Of course, even if I stayed at the motel for the other two days it would have only costed me $288 for the trip.
As for travel, I took the Greyhound down which was surprisingly cheap. At the end of the day my costs were fairly low.
Travel – $286.13 (hotel, Uber, Lyft, taxi and Greyhound)
Promo Materials – $62.50 (Buttons)
Food – $81.42
Kindle Fire 7″ – $30.44
Total – $460.49
In general, I loved being a part of MIVS and had a blast meeting other game developers, gamers and even some press. It also taught me quite a bit about how to set up a booth and what exactly I need to catch people’s attention. Next time I go to another large event like this, I know exactly what I’ll bring. You can see a video of our booth in action below!
Whew, it’s been awhile since we’ve posted an update. We’ve been busy fixing some bugs, making more and fixing those. We kind of felt like this:
Luckily, we’ve gotten it down to just a handful now. Most of the AI bugs are fixed (or so we hope) and we’re moving along with level creation. So far we’re halfway done with World 3, which means we’ve only got 57 more levels to make. That certainly sounds like a daunting task but that means if we make a level every day the game will be done in around two months, maybe less depending on how quickly we can work on the weekend.
So you know about our new color picker method we mentioned in our previous post? We’ve upgraded it even further to help streamline the mobile user experience. If you press and hold the color you now perform the paintball attack. See it in action below:
We’ve also fully implemented the rainbow attack as well. It’s a lot easier to pull off now that it’s connected with the collected paint tubes instead of uninterrupted attacks. We might need to rebalance later on and we still need to make a couple changes, but here it is now.
Speaking of combo meter, we actually changed it. So instead of filling via continuous attacks on enemies, it fills on how many paint tubes you pick up in the level. This should provide more opportunities to pull off the special moves. You also won’t lose all of the paint tubes either if you’re hurt. Instead, you’ll have a few seconds to collect them and refill.
Last but not least, we’ve added a freakin’ sweet painting function for the tiles and background so now you can literally paint the world! It’s something we’d been thinking about implementing for a while and we finally got it just right.
We’re pretty psyched about these changes. Besides that, we’re looking into adding some more obstacles and puzzle gameplay elements to keep the game fresh, especially since we’re going to have 72 levels. If you’re interested in helping us out, sign up for our newsletter on the sidebar and we’ll get in touch with you once we start alpha testing. We’re looking for feedback on overall gameplay and user experience. We’re thinking the alpha build will likely be done in a couple months. Are you excited? We sure are. If you want to say hi, we’ve been streaming game development every night these past weeks. Generally we start around 8:30pm ET so tune in to our Luminosity Twitch. You can also get ahold of us via Twitter or Facebook.
Phew, after several different iterations of our color wheel, we’ve finally come upon one that we think works very well. In making this change, we have also kinda sorta updated a lot of the UI as well. You might have remembered our last version with little buttons. Now instead of buttons there are color regions you can press. This gives you a much larger region to press for more leeway when you’re pressing colors. I know in the last version I would occasionally press just to the right or left of the button and not pull off the color attack. To make the attacks faster, we’ve also attached the attack to the colors instead of having a separate button for it. This makes the combat a lot faster and also makes it easier to run and attack at the same time, which makes the overall gameplay a lot smoother. Besides this we’re also getting ride of the option to double tap to dash as well as the paintball button. Never fear, they’re not going to be gone forever. Instead we’re adding it as a special move set you can pull off via the color wheel. To do this, you’ll simply hold down a color to fire off the paintball and hold and slide to dash. You can pull off these moves so long as you have enough “combos” in the combo meter. If you run out, you won’t be able to perform them. Our mega rainbow attack will also be tied to the color wheel, but instead you will need to slide over all three colors to pull it off while also having a full combo meter. We are also planning to revamp some of the enemy AI to take these special moves into account. Now with certain enemies you’ll need to pull off these moves before you can do any damage to them. We’re pretty excited about these upgrades and we can’t wait to show you how it will work! Of course, the trick now is to figure out how to make it work on a controller for you PC gamers. Oh, did we not mention we’ll have a PC version because we will.
Speaking of which, we’re thinking of potentially putting this on Steam Greenlight in the future. While it will have some similarities to the mobile version, we will probably make it a tad harder and longer as we won’t be limited by space. Heck, there might even be some things to collect to unlock more story! At the moment we’re still debating a price point but suffice to say it won’t break the bank.
We’re getting closer to a really fun user experience, or at least so we hope. If you want to sign up as an alpha/beta tester to give us feedback on the overall gameplay design email us at contact [at] luminositymobile.com.
Check out below for the various incarnations of our color picker method:
Before The Painter’s Apprentice there was Once Upon a Runner (on Google Play and iTunes). If you’ve followed us for a while you’ll remember our first game featured a feisty fire mage named Ella. She traveled through different fairy tales and met both the heroines and enemies of each story. It was a great first project in that we learned A LOT about improving our team communication and really proved that we could finish a game.
Updates to Once Upon a Runner
With that said, there are a lot of problems still plaguing the game that we want to fix. Some of the biggest issues the game faces is large file size and poorly written code. We’ve brought on two new programmers to update the game and add in the features we didn’t get around to the first time including achievements, our secret level, objectives for endless mode and connection to leaderboards. Thanks to your feedback, we’re even looking into extending the main story gameplay to give you a longer and more enjoyable experience. We’re also moving over all of our UI and animation to the new system in Unity (we made this pre 4.6), which should make the game run smoother and reduce file size since we won’t be using plugins.
With all of these changes, we’re also looking into ways we can make our monetization strategy better for you. You’ve told us our interstitial videos are disruptive and long. They take you out of the gameplay especially when levels are only about 1 minute long. Instead, we’ve been looking into Appsaholic to add in their Perks system. This way whenever you open the app, complete a level or earn an achievement you can earn a perk. You can then use your perks for real prizes. The best part is you don’t need to view these ads immediately. You can put them off for as long as you want. This means your gameplay is not interrupted by videos or in-game ads. We’re looking into some other options that won’t disrupt the flow of the game for you including Unity Ads. For our in-app purchases, we’re looking to partner with Seeds. I had the opportunity to speak with them at PG Connects back in July and was very impressed with their company. In essence, the company takes the money you spend on IAPs and then microloans them out to entrepreneurs often in developing countries. That means any purchase you make will be directly supporting two businesses – these entrepreneurs and, of course, Luminosity. It’s a great and simple way for you to make a huge difference in someone’s life. Yes, even $0.99 can go a long way in helping these women fund their businesses.
We’ll be making a lot of changes to Once Upon a Runner but they’ll all be upgrades to your overall experience. While we’re not giving out an expected release date for this massive update, you can follow us on Facebook or Twitter for news, screenshots and more. We hope you’ll look forward to this as much as we are!