News from F5
Mario Maker Challenge: Week 3 - Overgrown Tunnels!
posted on: Friday, January 13, 2017

Today we are going to take a look at the third level in our Mario Maker Challenge, Overgrown Tunnels! This level was released a little behind schedule because of Christmas, and the fact that my wife and I were blessed with a new baby girl on December 27th! It took a few days for things to settle down enough for me to get back in the level design swing after that.

Overgrown Tunnels

For this level I wanted to do something different from the previous two weeks. Both of my previous levels were in the New Super Mario Bros style so this week we are back to old school Super Mario. I decided to place this level underground since both of our previous levels took place in the standard over world. The final change was to make a more 'traditional' Mario level instead of trying to theme the level around something specific like I have in the last couple weeks. So this is my first take at making a standard Mario level, let's see how it went.

If you haven't played Overgrown Tunnels yet, and you want to give it a shot before I dissect it, you can click this link to check out the Mario Maker Bookmark page for the level or you can use the code in the image below to find it in Course World.

Overgrown Tunnels! - CC96-0000-02E6-260C
Overgrown Tunnels! - CC96-0000-02E6-260C

Playthrough

Check out my complete playthrough below, with locations for all 3 1-Ups, and then we'll take a look at some of the different design aspects that went into this level.

Secrets

My favorite parts of the old underground levels was busting through blocks and making it to the top of the stage, so I had to include that in this level. Jumping up through the ceiling not only gets you a nice coin haul but it also gets you access to a secret room that is packed full of Piranha Plants. Making it through this nightmare will net you one of the 3 hidden 1-Ups in the level.

Feed me Seymour

Platforms

Another aspect of the underground levels that always sticks in my mind is tricky jumps on moving platforms. The latter half of the map plays with this concept and forces the player to time their jumps over a bottomless pit. My goal wasn't to make anything that was too challenging but to make the player feel that they needed to be careful.

Wait for it, wait for it

Level Stats

I wasn't trying to create a challenging level for this week but the completion numbers ended up being much lower than I expected. There also were just fewer overall plays and no stars for this level. I'm not sure why that is the case, it could be an aspect of not building the level around a theme, or perhaps traditional Mario levels are less appealing to players. We'll have to get more results from other levels as we more forward to see.

Conclusion

This was my first stab at making a standard retro Mario level, and I really enjoyed it. I'm not sure exactly why it didn't seem to be as well received by the Mario Maker community so if you have any feedback for me let me know on Twitter @f5games.

Looking back at 2016 and ahead to 2017
posted on: Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

It's that time again. We've made it through 2016 and now it's time to reflect on last year and think about what we can expect in the next. If you're interested, read on for my thoughts on 2016 and hopes for 2017.

Best of 2016

2016 was a strange gaming year for me. As a father, husband, and business owner I have less and less time to sit down and enjoy gaming like I could in the past. Because of that I don't know that I can say what the 'Best Game of 2016' really was, because I may not have played it. Instead I'm going to talk about a few games that I did play this year that I enjoyed or made an impact on me.

Game I Played The Most (and kinda wish I hadn't) - Clash Royale

Clash Royale took hold of me early in 2016 and never really let go. Based on my number of games played I have logged at least 350 hours in Clash Royale since it's launch, and that boggles my mind.



Don't get me wrong, Clash Royale has some fantastic gameplay elements in it, but overall the game is a grind and at this point it really feels more like a compulsion than a good time. This is the first time a Free-to-Play Gacha mechanic game has pulled me in and I don't know that I'm happy with the outcome.

The matches are fun, the interplay between the units is very well thought-out, the skill of placing units in the correct place and time is real, and it's perfectly suited for mobile. It's really a great game, but it's missing something in the later stages as the monetization really starts to kick in that makes it feel more like work than I would like.

One of my resolutions for 2017 is to play less Clash, we'll see if it sticks.

Game I Didn't Start Playing Until a Week Ago But Really Love - DOOM

Confession: I'm a huge fan of the original Doom. When Doom was released I didn't have a PC that could run it but somehow I got ahold of a strategy guide for the game that had maps for every level with all the tips and tricks. I would actually read through that book and imagine that I was playing the game, that's how much I wanted to play Doom! I begged my parents for 4 Mb of Ram to upgrade my PC so I can play Doom. Months later when my birthday rolled around I finally got my Ram and started my journey into Doom and all the mods, multiplayer, coop, and map making that came with it. Doom was a huge part of my early teen years.



But, for some reason, when I first started to see trailers for the new Doom I wasn't all that interested. I think the 'Glory Kills' turned me off to it. It seemed like senseless gore for no reason, which fits right in with the vibe of Doom but because of the high-def graphics and the fact that I'm not 13 anymore it seemed un-necessary to me. So this summer Doom was released, and it got pretty good reviews, and I thought I might rent it, but I never did.

What I did instead was go back and play through the original Doom on my iMac. I was blown away all over again! After more than 20 years Doom is still incredible. Coming back to it after all these years with more experience in game design makes it even better. The level design is incredible, the action is fast and fun, the arsenal is perfect, the puzzles and secrets are great. Doom is absolutely one of the greatest games ever made, and I got to experience all of that again this year. That made me give Doom 2016 another chance and after playing through the first few levels I have to say, it doesn't disappoint!

Doom 2016 captures the fast action, exploration, and attitude of the original Doom and layers newer game mechanics on top of it in a way that enhances the original material. You can tell that every decision Id made while making Doom 2016 was looked at through the lens of the original Doom games. The fat has almost all be cut off of this game in a way that just doesn't happen in modern shooters anymore. Those 'Glory Kills' that turned me off in trailers? They are actually a brilliant addition to the game because they reward you with health each time you execute one. This make you constantly push forward from enemy to enemy in an attempt to keep your health full and clear out all the demons that are breathing down your neck. There was one point in the second level where I was in a large room with, I kid you not, 6 different paths that I could take to move forward, that never happens in modern shooters anymore. I looked from one doorway to another and thought 'This is Doom!'.

Doom 2016 is an absolute blast to play and I am really enjoying my time with it so far. If you have any affection for the Doom of old you should give this new Doom a try.

Best Mobile Game - Super Mario Run

You can play Mario on your iPhone with one hand. Those are not words I thought I would be able to write when 2016 started. Super Mario Run is a great game and an important release for several reasons. Maybe the most important reason is; in 2016 it became clear that mobile gaming is now so large that even Nintendo can no longer afford to ignore it.



Another aspect that I find really impressive about Super Mario Run is that Nintendo's designers were able to completely recreate the 'Mario Experience' after changing nearly every aspect about how players interact with the game. What is most impressive about this is that it's done so expertly that as you play the game it doesn't seem like that much has changed. You make Mario jump, just like you always have, and you move left to right to complete levels. It wasn't until I tried to create a Super Mario Run style level in Mario Maker that I realized how perfectly the level designers had to craft each of the levels in Super Mario Run to make this game feel like a Mario game.

Super Mario Run is a great game in it's own right, it could be better, but I have really enjoyed all the time I have spent with it. It's also great to see Nintendo bringing their un-beatable game design to Mobile and helping push the entire industry forward as a result.

Notable Mentions

I'm still playing The Witcher 3, my best game of 2015, and it's still incredible. Maybe by my end of year 2017 post I'll have finished it.

I've been slowly putting time into Uncharted 4 and it has that same level of game development mastery that we come to expect from Naughty Dog each and every time they release something. I'm only about a quarter of the way through the campaign at this point but it's been a fun ride.

I received No Man's Sky as a gift at Christmas and have really enjoyed the first 3 hours or so that I've played it. It is something that I can play with my kids and they have enjoyed finding new creatures and flying to new planets quite a bit.

I've decided that I'm done with 'Rogue-likes'. One of our best received games, House of the Lost, is a rogue-like and I have been all about playing them over the last couple years; but I just can't do it any more. After playing Doom (classic) and Teleglitch this year at nearly the same time I realized that I just enjoy a level based campaign progression much better than a game that forces you to play through random levels with permadeath. If I put permadeath in a game again it will only be as a super-hardcode difficulty level that you unlock after completing the game.

Looking Ahead to 2017

I think that 2017 is going to be another fantastic year for gaming, with mobile gaming in particular. The market for mobile games just continues to grow and there are more and more players available each and every day. I'm also very excited about jumping back into game development and releasing a new title for mobile this year!

I am very excited about the Nintendo Switch, and I can't wait to see the full reveal that Nintendo has planned for us in a couple weeks. I'm hoping that Nintendo will do a better job of marketing and reaching out to lapsed gamers to let them know what the Switch is, and based on what I've seen so far it looks like they will.

VR will continue to not be nearly as huge as everyone thinks it's going to be in 2017. In fact 2017 may be the year when people finally realize that it's not the next big thing and start to sour on it. There will probably be a few interesting titles but the market isn't there, the tech isn't there, and not enough people want to play games like that. It's a dead-end for mainstream gaming.

I hope we see something real from Magic Leap and that their AR tech can actually deliver what they have shown in demo form. Augmented Reality that can fit seamlessly into the real world could absolutely be the 'Next Big Thing' in a way that VR can't be and I hope we can start to make some progress toward that this year.

Here's To a Great New Year!

That's all I've got for now. Keep checking in on our Mario Maker Challenge over the next few months and be on the lookout for an announcement of our next game around the time that challenge comes to an end.

I hope you had a great 2016 and I wish you an even better New Year in 2017. Thank you to all of our players and fans and I hope to give you something new to enjoy later this year!

Mario Maker Challenge: Week 2 - Mario Maker Run!
posted on: Tuesday, December 27, 2016

It's time to review the second level in our Mario Maker Challenge, Mario Maker Run! Even though we are only in the second week of this challenge things have already become difficult. In this post I'll take you through some of the aspects of this level design that made this an especially tough one to complete

Mario Maker Run!

Because of the world-wide release of Super Mario Run last week I decided to base this level on that style of fast paced gameplay. In Super Mario Run you are constantly being driven forward to the right and you must time your jumps just right to collect all the coins spread around the level. To try and accomplish this I went through several false starts of levels that just didn't work for one reason or another. In the end I had to settle for a level that moved at a fast pace like Super Mario Run but that didn't stick as closely to the restrictions as I had hoped.

If you haven't played Mario Maker Run yet, and you want to give it a shot before I dissect it, you can click this link to check out the Mario Maker Bookmark page for the level or you can use the code in the image below to find it in Course World.

Mario Maker Level - 34D6-0000-02D2-460F
Mario Maker Run! - 34D6-0000-02D2-460F

Playthrough

This level moves fast! I added in key coins to take the place of the collectable coins in a Super Mario Run level and also placed my usual 3 1-Ups. If you want to grab it all in one run you have to quickly jump around the level like a jack-rabbit. Check out my run below and then I'll explain all the aspects of how this level failed to really capture my plans for this week.

Movement

My first struggles with this level design were because of the constant movement requirement. Originally I tried to build a level where the ground was covered with conveyor belts that were constantly moving the player forward. That worked in small sections but as you jumped from one conveyor to another your speed continued to increase. After a few jumps you were nearly flying off the edge of the screen. Another problem with the conveyor belt world is that enemies can't traverse the terrain correctly. This meant that I would either have to rely solely on flying enemies or build my level without enemies at all.

Using conveyor belts to force forward movement
Using conveyor belts to force forward movement

After a few failed attempts at making the conveyor belt level work I decided to go with an auto scroll level. While this doesn't completely match the limitations I was going for it seemed like the best I could do with the tools I had available.

Spacing

Another aspect of the level design that stems from the constant forward movement is the spacing of elements within the level. If you are going to force the player to be in constant motion you have to space out the level so that they have time to identify what action they need to take. I originally spaced the level with this concept in mind but then filled it up with collectable coins and 1-Ups mushrooms that made the level feel too small. Once all the elements of the level were placed it felt like some of the sections are almost stacked on top of each other.

Levels need room to breath
Levels need room to breath

To combat this in the future I'm going to try and do a better job of 'blocking' out the level and placing all the level elements to make sure they have the room they need before adding in enemies, coins, and collectables.

Level Stats

One of my goals for this level was to make sure that it had a higher completion rate than my last level. I wanted to offer an easy path to the flag but still provide challenge in collecting the coins and 1-Ups. I think the stats reflect that I was successful in that but I honestly would like to have seen the percentage in the 40s or 50s.

The Genius of Super Mario Run

Trying to make this level made me really appreciate how incredible the level design is in Super Mario Run. Because everything in the levels is placed in a way that makes it a power-up or boost for the player to reach different areas. That they were able to transform how the levels work to that degree and still make it feel like a Mario game is really a testament to the brilliant level designers working at Nintendo.


Super Mario Run
Super Mario Run sets a high bar

Conclusion

This was a very difficult level to complete and I don't really feel like it lived up to my initial expectations. Because of that this design theme may be something I try to revisit at a later date in this challenge. In the end I just don't know that Mario Maker has the tools, or that I have the level design talent with Mario Maker, to pull off a level of this type. Hopefully as we move forward in the challenge I will get a better understanding of what Mario Maker is capable of and I will also improve my skills so I can give it another shot.

Mario Maker Challenge: Week 1 - Super Mario Boy!
posted on: Friday, December 16, 2016

The first week of our Mario Maker Challenge has been completed! That means it's time for a review post that talks about the level design as well as what when wrong and what went right with it out in the wild.

Super Mario Boy!

Our first level was inspired by the awesome indie game Super Meat Boy. Super Meat Boy is a tough as nails platformer that countered it's insane difficulty with almost instant respawns and the incredible payoff of seeing all your failed attempts at a level when you finally completed it. The gameplay elements that stick out in my mind most about Super Meat Boy are one hit deaths, wall jumps, and spinning saw blades; so those are the elements I built my first level around.

If you haven't played Super Mario Boy yet, and you want to give it a shot before I dissect it, you can click this link to check out the Mario Maker Bookmark page for the level or you can use the code in the image below to find it in Course World.

Mario Maker Level - 8DA7-0000-02CD-0427
Super Mario Boy! - 8DA7-0000-02CD-0427

Playthrough

One of my goals for the level was to make it challenging, just like Super Meat Boy, but honestly I may have taken it a little too far. When I went back to record a play-through video last night it took me at least a dozen tries before I could get a clean run. While that is par for the course in a Super Meat Boy level it's probably not what the majority of Mario Maker players are looking for if they run into this level during a 100 Mario Challenge. Check out my clean play-through below and they we can discuss some of the design elements in the sections below.

Saw Blades

Part of the extreme challenge in Super Meat Boy comes from the fact that it only takes one mistake to end your run. If I wanted to re-create that challenge in a Mario level it meant that I couldn't include power-ups of any kind. That means tiny Mario is the only Mario you get. The major threat in the level comes from the many Saw Blades placed in your path. While the placement of coins can help you understand where safe passage resides threading the needle can still be very difficult.

Mario Maker Saw Blades

Wall Jumps

The other requirement for a Super Meat Boy homage was Wall Jumps, and wall jumping is only available in Mario Maker with the Super Mario U play style. My plan with the level was to initially give the player a stable area to comes to terms with wall jumping around the blades and then put them in situations where they had to use the wall jump because there was no floor below them. As you progress through the level there are fewer and fewer safe areas to stand on and more and more instances that require precision wall jumps to make it through.

Mario Maker Wall Jumps

Another aspect of all my levels in this challenge is that I will place 3 1-Up mushrooms around the level as a collectable and added challenge. Since the challenge was already so high in this level I didn't go out of my way to hide them but the second 1-Up requires a very precise wall jump to reach.

Level Stats

The level stats reflect that I've built a very challenging level. With only around 1% of players able to complete it, and most of the deaths occurring in the first screen, I have really limited the number of people that can play and enjoy the level all the way through to the end.

I have thought about going back and tuning some of the elements in the level since I uploaded it. There are a few small changes I could make to the opening of the level that I think would greatly increase the number of people who can make it into the level's second half. For now though, I think I'm going to leave it as is. I want to be able to track my progress during this challenge by going back and playing my earlier work and if I'm constantly tweaking levels after they are uploaded it is likely to muddy the waters when you look at all the levels in relation to each other.

Conclusion

After reviewing the level I feel like I did a good job of capturing the play style of Super Meat Boy. I also feel that the difficulty is much too high. In the future I am going to try and do a better job of creating levels that can be completed by a much larger number of players and then use the 1-Ups and other collectables as a way to add a greater challenge for those that seek it out.

That's it for Week 1! I am already working on next week's level and it should be out on Course World this weekend. Because of the huge launch of Super Mario Run this week I'll be using that play style as my inspiration for Week 2.

Thanks for reading!

The Mario Maker Challenge
posted on: Monday, December 12, 2016

It has been a slow year for game development here at F5, other projects have taken much of my time and left very little to devote to new games. While I have a couple concepts in the prototyping stage, which I'll try to write about in the future, we don't have any new releases on the horizon. However, I do want to continue to improve my skills and I decided that a fun way to do that could be to use Mario Maker as a game design learning experience. From that idea I have created the 'Mario Maker Challenge'; and it goes a little something like this.

Mario Maker Challenge Rules

  • I will create and upload one new Mario Maker Level each week for the next six months
  • Each level will be built around a specific theme or inspiration which I will discuss in a post on this blog after the level has been uploaded.
  • I will also discuss my thoughts during the level creation process and if the final product met my expectations.
  • Level stats, times played, likes, completion percentages, will be posted here in the review post
  • At the end of each month I will take a snapshot of the levels from that month and how the levels stats have changed over time.
  • I will also keep a running tally of the highest 'rated' levels from the entire batch

What is the purpose of this challenge?

My hope for this challenge is that I will be able to greatly improve my level design abilities by consistently releasing new levels and then allowing the response from the Mario Maker community to guide my hand in future levels. There is a saying in the Game Development community that 'Your first 10 games will be awful', and I think it's pretty true. While I don't feel that all of our previous games have been awful there are definitely a lot of things that I would have done differently if I could go back and do it again. There is nothing wrong with that, this is a learning process just like any other, and I'm not embarrassed by any of the work that we have done. However, through this challenge I hope to make some of those level design mistakes quickly and out in the open so that I can get immediate feedback. With the final goal that when our next game is released the level design will be vastly better than it would have been otherwise.

Why Mario Maker?

If my goal is to quickly create games and learn from the experience there are other ways to go about it. I could actually create very small and quick games that I launch on this website, or Pico-8, or even on the app store, why use Mario Maker?

After reading this post about the Lessons of Game Design learned from Mario Maker I realized that Mario Maker is set up to be a great level design 'classroom' for a few reasons. The first is because you can design and develop a level very quickly, which is what makes a weekly challenge possible. With the time I have available there is no way I could great a new game start to finish each week, which would mean that the number of times I go through the whole design, prototype, polish process would be greatly reduced and I wouldn't learn as much.

Another main reason for choosing Mario Maker is because of the community that already exists to play and rate levels. By creating levels for Mario Maker I can upload them and know that dozens or hundreds of people will play them and offer feedback in one form or another. If I was trying to release new games every week and get the same effect I would probably spend as much time 'marketing' my learning experiments as I did developing them. While that would also be a highly valuable learning lesson, it probably deserves a 'Challenge' all it's own.

So that is my thought process. Use Mario Maker as a tool to improve my game development skills while I'm in-between game development projects. I have actually already uploaded the first level for the challenge and I'll write a review post for it on Friday. I hope you'll check back each week and come on this game development journey with me. Thanks for reading!

Nintendo NX and the Future of Gaming
posted on: Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The recent report from Eurogamer about the next Nintendo console, the NX, has resulted in a lot of different opinions online. If you haven't heard the news already, the NX is expected to be a completely mobile console, more like a PS Vita than a 3DS, that has detachable controllers on either side of the screen. The reason for the detachable controllers is because the NX is also a 'home console', by docking the NX to your HDTV you can detach the controllers and play games from the couch just like you would with a PS4 or Xbox One.

In addition to the interesting form factor the NX also has another large break from conventional consoles, it is expected to run on a system on a chip build by Nvidia for tablets and smartphones. Specifically, the rumors are that the NX will run on the current Tegra X1 or an, as yet, unreleased successor the X2.

As you might expect, responses from the gaming public have been all over the map. I am very excited and intrigued by this, especially because it likely means that all Nintendo franchises will now be available for one device. Being able to play all of Nintendo's new releases on one device, either on the go or at home, is like a dream come true.

The Future of Gaming circa 2011

After reading the news I quickly remembered an article that I had written on the F5 Games blog years ago, and I actually had to go to the Internet Wayback machine to find it. At the time I was trying to decide what the 'future of gaming' would look like. Based on trends in mobile and console game as of 2011 I envisioned a future where mobile gaming would take over, even more than it actually has I'll admit, and that you would be able to use your phone as your on-the-go gaming device and dock it with your TV when you got home to get your high-def home console experience. While the NX isn't a smartphone, if the rumors are true, not only will it fit this usage style but it will also use the exact same chip family that I predicted would make all of this possible 5 years ago!

I'll post a link to the full article on the Wayback Machine at the end of this post but I want to quote a few sections below that are most relevant to the NX announcement.

On closing the hardware gap between mobile devices and consoles

The real reason that smartphones will quickly move up to fill the role of home gaming consoles is parallelization, or multi-core chips.

Recently, at Mobile World Congress 2011, Nvidia revealed their newest mobile chipset codenamed ‘Kal-El’. This mobile processor, designed for smartphones and tablets, is not only a technological monster, it’s a quad-core chip. This chip, which is planned to hit in products before the end of the year, enables not just 1080p video but 1440p, it has support for 3D video, and it has a 12 core Geforce GPU that will run circles around just about every existing mobile graphics chip on the market. Never content to rest on their heels, Nvidia also showed their roadmap for Tegra over the next few years which displays even larger performance enhancements coming on yearly cycles all the way through 2014.

The Nvidia Tegra X1 that is rumored to be in NX development kits has 8 CPU cores, 256 GPU cores, and can display 4K video at 60FPS. If Nintendo uses a newer version, the X2, it is possible that it could reach Xbox One levels of performance when the device is docked and not worried about draining a battery.

On the power of the dock

The second reason it’s hard to think of your smartphone as a home gaming console is precisely because we’re talking about a phone. A phone is something you take with you on the go, it’s something you keep in your pocket and a device that you have a very personal connection with. Game consoles, however, are something that you bring home from the store, stick under your TV, and then sit down in front of when you want to relax and escape into another world. For the last 25 years, even with all the technological advancement, game consoles have stayed the same in one very important way; they plug into your TV and collect dust for 80%-90% of the day.
I think it is amazing that this standard view of consoles has persisted as long as it has. After buying my PS4 it sat under my TV for months just idling probably 90% of the day. Then in the evening I may get to spend an hour playing a game, or more likely, 2 hours watching a Blu-Ray. Why do we spend so much money for an expensive, hot, and power hungry brick to collect dust in our entertainment centers?
...the Dock doesn’t just have to be a dumb hub waiting for it’s brain to be plugged in. All of the media streaming functionalities that home consoles provide could be included in the hub itself and used when there is no phone plugged in at all. You could still stream movies, and music, and pictures, still watch Netflix and listen to Internet Radio all without needing to dock anything. Then when you plug in your phone you can tap into all that extra power for gaming and 3D movies, and video conferencing, the list goes on and on. Anything that you can do with a current home console you’ll be able to do with a smartphone and an HD dock in the next couple years.
This is all still true of mobile phones, but instead of a unified 'TV' interface appearing when our phones are connected we have settled on streaming content to our TVs on an app by app basis.

The Future ( predicted in 2011)

Imagine a near future where you bring home your new smartphone with 4, or maybe 8, processor cores and a multi-core graphics chip and you dock it with your HDTV. Beyond just providing a new media browsing interface the dock also connects your phone to a power source so it can really crank up the performance and not worry about battery life. That could mean that some of the cores on your phone only activate when docked, or just that the phone overclocks into a performance mode and offers better graphics, sound, and AI when it’s connected to your home system. The dock also acts as a hub for your wireless gamepads, so you can kick your feet up on the couch and start playing your favorite first person shooter, online with your friends. When a call comes in, or you get a text, you can see a little alert in the upper corner of the screen and either accept the call or ignore it until later. If you choose to take the call it could transmit it to your bluetooth headset while you continue to rack up kills in Call of Duty 6. When you’re done gaming you still have access to all of the features of your smartphone, just through a larger screen. You can watch movies, listen to music, check your email, send a tweet, etc. etc. And when you’re done you just pick up your phone and walk away, and you don’t have to leave $400 worth of gaming technology sitting on a shelf not being used 90% of the time.
So there you have it. I'm obviously excited about the NX because I predicted this style of gaming taking over the world more than 5 years ago. Here's hoping Nintendo and I had the right idea.


P.S. - Okay, okay, I'll admit that I missed the mark on what number Call of Duty we would be on by the time this happened. What is it now, 12?

Original Post cached on the Wayback Machine

2015 in Review and What's Next for F5
posted on: Thursday, December 31, 2015

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The year is coming to a close and that always puts me in the mood to take a look back and to set some goals for the year to come. Today I'd like to do just that; take a look at some interesting things from 2015 and talk about where I'm planning to take F5 in 2016 and beyond.

Best of 2015

While there is no limit to the number of 'Best of' lists out there I thought this would be a good space to add my own two cents. While I honestly didn't play as many games this year as I have in the past I still feel pretty confident that I saw the best 2015 had to offer. My choice for 'Best Game of 2015' goes to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.





The Witcher 3 has been winning awards all over the Internet for the last few weeks so you've likely already read about how great this game is. In short, the Witcher 3 is fantastic. The combat is fun and deep, the story is engrossing, the characters are interesting, there is very little of the open-world 'busy work' that you often find in RPGs, and the technology is incredible which makes this one of the most visually impressive games I've ever seen.





In addition to all of those points I feel like the game really excels at telling a deep and adult story. Not adult in that there is violence, nudity and sex but adult in that it shows a world that isn't idealized, and that reflects our own in ways many people may be afraid to admit. Your choices matter in the Witcher 3. They matter in determining what happens in your version of the story and also in determining who lives and who dies. They matter in determining who will be allied with you later on and who will be out in the world, either fighting for your enemies or dead at the hands of some other character. They also matter in how you interact with your adopted daughter Ciri in ways that few games have ever managed.

With all that said, there is one problem that I have with the Witcher 3 which is informing how I make my own games in the coming year. The Witcher 3 is BIG! It's such a hugely massive game that I've been playing it since release and still haven't finished it! I have three small children in the house running around and doing wonderful kid things all day, which means I don't have much time to sit down and engross myself in a game like the Witcher. I have to steal hours at night when everyone else is asleep so that I can live through the adventures of Geralt, and I think that is actually a pretty big problem, not just for me but for gaming in general.





If The Witcher 3 is the best game of the year, and it does have this incredibly deep and engrossing story that resonates with an adult audience, then I want the largest number of people possible to be able to enjoy it. But The Witcher is limited in the audience it can capture, both by it being released on consoles, it being a 'difficult to play' RPG ( in that it is intimidating for many people to try and play games of this type ), and that even after you jump those hurdles you then have to dedicate dozens of hours to the game to see it through.

I'm not trying to fault anyone for this, CD Projekt Red made the game they wanted to make, and it's fantastic. But as I think more and more about it I'm afraid that the traditional 'gamer' game is getting in it's own way and not allowing itself to expand to a broader audience. This is something that I want to try and explore at F5 in 2016.

My Game of the Year Runner-up is Super Mario Maker by Nintendo. I don't think any other game has been played more at our house this year than Mario Maker. Nintendo has done the impossible with this one, they turned a 'productivity app' into one of the most entertaining games of the year. Nintendo literally released a level editor as a game and it's a blast to play with. My 6 year old son has created dozens of levels and loves to see how many people have played or stared them online. He has also played hundreds of levels made by other users and it is incredible to see the inventiveness and imagination that people have come up with.





Mario Maker is obviously a very different kind of game than The Witcher but it excels at being easy to pick up and play either in short bursts or over longer periods of level design. It's depth comes from the constant discovery of new things you see in the levels of other or in trying to accomplish something that the tools don't quite allow and then being wowed at the outcome. It's absolutely a must play.

What's next for F5 in 2016

I'm very excited for 2016 as it will see the release of our next game, and our first release in over a year! As I mentioned above, this year I am very interested in trying to create a mobile game that has the ability to reach a massive audience but that can also communicate something more to them than just mindless or time-wasting action. To accomplish that we are currently working on a new RPG for mobile that will combine a tactical combat system with a story that I hope will resonate with players and engage them on a level that they don't usually see in a mobile game.

As this is a mobile game you'll be able to play it in short bursts whenever you have a couple free minutes but I'm hopeful that the story and character elements will stick with you in between sessions and not only entice you to play more but also give you something to think about and discuss with your friends.

It's a tall order, but I've decided that if I am going to continue making games they need to have more weight than the games I have created before. We'll see how it turns out, but hopefully at the end of 2016 I'll be writing a very different kind of year in review post.

Happy New Year! And thank you to all of our fans and player, I think you'll really love what we have in store for you this year.

The Hunted - Available now for iOS and your PC
posted on: Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Hunted for iOS

That's right, The Hunted is out now all over the world! If you have an iPhone or iPad you can grab the game from the Appstore right now and jump in the game!





The Hunted on PC

But, what if you don't have an iPhone? Are you just out of luck, is there to be no awesome online deathmatch action for you? To that I say NO. To that I say, you can play in your web browser! That's right, simply by visiting The Hunted's Online Player you can play online with everyone in the game directly from your computer!





So what are you waiting for? Jump in there and start hunting some people! Here are those links again, just in case you skipped over them.

Download The Hunted for iOS

Play The Hunted Online in your browser

Good Hunting!

The Hunted
The Hunted - Game Modes
posted on: Wednesday, November 19, 2014

We're taking a quick break from our 'Meet the Hunted' series to talk about the game modes that you'll be able to enjoy when the game launches tomorrow! (Nov 20).

Hunted Game Modes

The Hunted allows for both free-for-all and team gameplay in four different games modes. We'll take a quick look at each of them to explain how they work so you'll know what to expect when you start playing.

  • Deathmatch
  • King of the Hill
  • Krazy King
  • Skulls

Deathmatch

Deathmatch in The Hunted has the same classic feel that you'll remember from early 90s shooters. It's kill or be killed in the arena. Each player you take out rewards you with a point and the first player, or team, to hit the kill max for that game wins. You can play in a game from 2 to 8 players either as a free for all or on teams, and it's a blast.

One thing that is different in The Hunted is that when you take out another player their main weapon is left on the battlefield for any other player to pick up. When you grab another player's weapon you can carry it around as long as you like but you can only fire it for one full clip of ammo. This lets you change out your damage potential for a few seconds and gives you a quick boost as a reward for your kill.

King of the Hill

King of the Hill is another classic multiplayer mode that appears in The Hunted. In this mode there is a control point, or hill, that appears on the map in a specific spot. To win the match you, or your team, has to hold the hill for a set number of seconds.

To hold the hill only you or your teammate can be inside it. You'll know this is the case because the hill will turn green and a green '+1' will appear on the screen every second. If there is an enemy player in the hill with you then it will turn yellow and no one will receive points until one of you leaves. When one of your enemies controls the hill it will turn red and a red '+1' will appear on the screen for each second they control it.



This is an awesome team mode because it rewards teamwork and it helps to concentrate all the action into one spot on the map. This usually results in some pretty epic moments.

Krazy King

Krazy King grabs all the awesome-ness of King of the Hill and takes it on the move! In Krazy King you're still playing King of the Hill but the hill doesn't stay in one spot anymore. The hill will disappear for a small amount of time and then re-appear in a different location on the map. This creates a mad scramble to the new hill zone and usually creates running firefights from one point to the other.



Basically, it's great; you should play it.

Skulls

Skulls is a really fun mode that combines aspects from a bunch of different competitive game types. In Skulls each time you kill a player they drop a skull on the ground. Anyone who runs over this skull will pick it up and add it to their collection. However, to get points for the skulls you are carrying you have to take them to a control point that is randomly appearing at different spots on the map.



This creates all kinds of awesome gameplay opportunities because if you have collected a lot of skulls you'll want to start avoiding conflict until the next control point appears so you can deposit them and get your points. It also makes anyone with a large number of skulls into a huge target for the other players because they are basically a point piñata for the first person who can kill them.

Fortune's can swing pretty quickly in this mode because someone can accumulate five, six, or seven skulls before hitting the control point and leapfrog any players who may be ranked above them. Teamplay also becomes more interesting because you can get into situations where you need to protect a teammate who is carrying a lot of skulls so that they can make it to the control point and score for your team.

Skulls is probably my favorite mode in The Hunted just because it creates so many interesting gameplay opportunities. I hope you'll check it out on when the game launches on Thursday and let me know what you think.

I hope you enjoyed this quick look at the Hunted's game modes. If you have any questions or comments about the modes, or any modes you'd like us to add, you can let me know on Twitter ( @Readmore ) or you can join the discussion about The Hunted on the Touch Arcade forums here: TA Forums.

The Hunted
Meet The Hunted - Lurker
posted on: Monday, November 17, 2014

In our new game 'The Hunted' you will have the choice of nine unique characters to take into the arena. Each of these hunters have their own strengths and weaknesses and it will be up to you, the intrepid player, to determine which character best fits your play style. To help you make that determination we're going to highlight each hunter over the next couple weeks so you can get an idea about what character you want to start with.

If you missed our previous posts in this series you can catch up on them here:

  1. Human Hunter
  2. The Kid
  3. The Brute
  4. Ranger

The Lurker



Backstory

The Lurker belongs to an ocean-dwelling species that found itself being hunted and killed off by a land-based species on their home planet. Rather than retreat from this threat, their scientists developed war suits that would not only allow their warriors to breathe while out of the water but also allow them to burrow through the ground in much the same way that they swim in the water. The result of this amazing breakthrough was a quick turn in the war as their land locked enemy quickly had no place on their planet that they could hide.

Plucked from his native ocean to fight in the arena The Lurker is ready to take out his frustrations on anyone who crosses his path.

Playstyle

The Lurker is a 'medium' class character in The Hunted. This means that, like the Human Hunter, he has an average speed and average level of durability compared to the other hunters. While his base stats may sit in the middle of the pack he is definitely one of the most interesting characters to play. His main weapon can blanket the play field with fire, and his burrow ability opens up all kinds of interesting strategies that you can deploy on your enemies.

Trident Gun

The Lurker's main weapon is a Trident Gun that shoots out about a billion bullets a second. This very heavy rate of fire allows you to cover an area with shots that will give your target little chance to escape. While each of these shots does a small amount of damage their overall volume lets you keep your enemy on the run and move in for the kill.



Explosive Grenades

With grenades as a secondary weapon the Lurker is great at controlling an area of the map. He excels in control point game types as he can use his grenades to clear enemies off the point or to harass anyone trying to take his point away.

Landshark

The Lurker has the greatest, in my opinion, special ability in the history of competitive shooters. He can burrow into the ground and stalk his prey as a Landshark! Once burrowed you can tunnel under the ground and choose when you want to burst through the floor, biting anyone who may be above you.

With this ability you can approach a control point without taking damage from standard weapons, sneak up behind an un-suspecting target and chomp them from below, or retreat from a battle to grab a much needed health pack.



To counteract this awesome ability the Lurker moves very slowly while burrowed and he can still be damaged by explosions. This makes grenades, trap mines, and explosive darts shot on walls all something to worry about while you are burrowed.

As you can probably tell the Lurker is my favorite character, he has a great standard weapon and the ability to burrow really changes the landscape of a battle for everyone involved. I hope you'll give him a try this Thursday ( November 20th ) when the Hunted hits the Appstore.

If you have any questions about the Lurker, or the game in general, let me know on Twitter ( @Readmore ) or you can join the discussion about The Hunted on the Touch Arcade forums here: TA Forums.

Next Time: Stealth

The Hunted
F5 Games is an independent game developer in Tulsa Oklahoma. We strive to create the very best in tablet and mobile games.