Summer Sale 2021

The summer has returned, so did our Summer Sale! During the next two weeks, between 24 June and 8 July, most of our packs and bundles are on a 25% discount. This is the first time that the PSD Exporter is included in a sale, so if you’ve been on the sidelines waiting to unlock this really cool feature, this could be the perfect opportunity to grab it!

If you are on our discord, you already knew about the fundraiser held by The Games Tavern last month, which resulted in collecting $8.215, which translates into 80.000 meals for hungry kids! They did a stellar job in delivering 15 different shows, each lasting for at least 3 hours.

Now as you can imagine, running these shows requires a good amount of planning, and of course, the whole thing is built around the people, and without them, it wouldn’t be possible to create entertainment for others. TGT is dedicated to delivering quality content and is now on the lookout to expand the existing cast & crew with individuals who are into roleplaying and streaming. Check out their call for action below, and get in touch if you are interested!

The Games Tavern Looking For Talent

And last, but not least, I teamed up with a friend of mine and we took part in the GMTK Game Jam this year too, which happened over the past weekend. If you are interested in what game we created in only a span of 8 hours, and also to learn more about the creation process, check out the most recent blog post.

https://overheadgames.com/gmtk-game-jam-2021-re-joined/

re joined screenshot

GMTK Game Jam 2021 – Re-Joined

In 2020, my colleagues from my daytime job planned to participate in the GMTK Game Jam and asked if I wanted to join, too. If you aren’t familiar, the GMTK Jam is the second biggest jam around the world. It’s a game-making competition where teams of any size can put together something playable in under 48 hours, and the game should be based around a specific theme that’s only announced at the start of the jam.

Eventually, we decided to give it a go, wait for the theme announcement, then do a brainstorming session, discuss all the ideas we got, and see if we wanted to make any of them. At that time, I also worked together with a writer and an artist on a game idea, so I got them on board, too.

After a long discussion, we eventually decided to move forward with the jam and start working on the game, which 48 hours later turned out to be Waste Waster. We had a lot of fun while making it over the whole weekend, and reached a place of 973 / 5416. You can read more about the creation process here.

This year I had the thought of the GMTK Jam in my mind but I’m pretty overwhelmed with everything going on in my life so I didn’t consider joining. I just knew I wouldn’t have the mental capacity of brainstorming, planning, coordinating, designing, and coding over another full 2 days period to make a game. So I didn’t actually note down the dates of the jam.

Fast forward to last Friday, I learned that the Jam is taking place over the weekend. I already had plans for Sunday so I knew I wouldn’t be available, but still, I was interested to see what theme this year’s jam will have, so after the announcement video premiered, I tuned in to find out the theme will be “Joined-Together”.

 

I’ve never been a huge fan of puzzle games, but lately, I started enjoying them. I already finished The Witness and recently got all endings in The Talos Principle. So maybe because of that, after seeing the theme I already got a simple puzzle game idea in mind, where the player can control two different characters, which react to the same input differently: while one character performs the moves as they were pressed, the other one is doing the exact opposite. And as an extra twist, the goal of each level would be to rejoin the characters at the same position, in the center of the level. It’s always nice to not only have the theme in your core gameplay mechanics but also in your setting, too.

Although the game is pretty simple, I knew I wouldn’t have the time to fully make it in only one day, especially since I wanted to put some more focus on designing and balancing the levels instead of programming this time. So I reached out to an old friend and ex-colleague of mine and asked him if he wanted to participate. The last time we worked together was 5 years ago, so we can say we Re-Joined (hah!) our forces once again. He was free on Saturday, so I quickly pitched him the idea, and then we decided to make the game in under a single day, and whatever the result will be, we will go with it.

On Saturday morning I started with looking at all the 2D tile maps I collected over the past years. I usually buy stock art in various sales as they usually come in handy for prototyping ideas, and it’s always more satisfying to look at properly drawn assets compared to blocks and circles. I was looking at two different settings: I wanted to make a game where the two characters were past and future selves of the same player, while the other idea I had was much more approachable: a boy lost his dog in the forest and they need to find each other. Eventually, I found I have more assets to support the forest setting, so I loaded up the tilemap and started painting a level.

For level creation, I went with the simple idea of using separate layers of tilemaps. I first placed the two start positions (marked with the water lilies), then created the optimal path I expected players to follow (marked with the water tiles). While developing these paths I also had the option to define what type of challenge I want players to face. Once I got the paths figured out, all I needed to do was to add the obstacles to the level.

re joined editor screenshot

I had three different challenges I wanted players to face in this short demo of 5 levels.

1: The first two levels are pretty straightforward. The idea here is that each character has more space to go to, and none of them is restricted to a single path. However, when looking at both sides of the level at the same time, only a single path can be taken. So these levels essentially demonstrated the idea that a player needs to look at both sides of the screen and “overlap” the two different levels on top of each other to find the right path. 

2: The next two levels present the idea of the two characters not moving together, and that the connection in the controls can be broken. In both of those levels, one of the characters should be periodically parked in a corner or a dead-end while the other character could perform moves that won’t affect the first character. Finding where to park the characters while moving the other is the key here.

3: The last idea I couldn’t fully develop was to show that a character can move into the other character’s area to solve the level. I only made a single level here, where without moving one of the characters to the other side of the level, it’s not possible to solve it.

As I mentioned above, I really wanted to focus on designing for this jam, so I had a lot of fun creating the levels. After each level was done, I had to come up with a maximum number of moves allowed for each level. Without a max. move count, each level would be too easy, so I had to add some extra pressure to keep the tension up. After finding the right number of steps, I also added a few extras on top to compensate for possible errors, and also to add the option of finding alternative paths for each level.

At this point, I started looking for the characters, and while I originally wanted to make the game for a boy and his dog, I couldn’t find a good dog sprite around, but I eventually stumbled upon two goblins that served a different narrative perfectly: they were patrolling the area and got lost on a tiny island. They need to find each other, and the exit, at the same time! To account for the maximum moves, I also added the explanation that they can’t stay out of the village overnight.

re joined screenshot

By the time I got all the levels done, my friend also finished implementing the core gameplay and the controls, so all I had left to do was hook up the game flow, add the UI screens and overlays, as well as to select the music and the sounds for the game. A bit before the 8 hours mark we already had the game in a good shape we were both happy with, so I went on creating the store assets and uploading the builds for Windows, Linux, and OSX platforms.

There are tons of things we could further polish both in terms of presentation (better art, nicer UI, movement effects, etc…) as well as from a mechanics point (powerup that could give additional moves, that flips the control of one character so they move at the same direction, walls that can’t be touched, etc…), but like with every jam game, it’s a matter of balancing time and resources wisely, and since we only dedicated a single day to the project, we knew we wouldn’t have time to go the extra mile of polishing or adding more gameplay elements.

By the end of the jam, a total of 5806 games have been submitted. Public voting has been open for a week, where mainly participants, but anyone else were able to play the games and rate on various categories. Based on the above voting, the game has received the following results:

Presentation: 1700
Fun: 2126
Originality: 3718
Overall: 2540

At the end of the day, we are happy with the result, and we looked forward to seeing how others will find the idea. I think ranking in the top 50% isn’t bad at all considering we only had 8 hours to spend on the project, and especially that I’ve never worked on a puzzle game before. It was a really good experience.

If you wanted to give the game a go yourself, you can check it out here: https://overheadgames.itch.io/re-joined

 

Autumn Sale + first-ever video interview

Autumn is in full swing around here, and this gives us a perfect time to start staying more inside and dust down our favorite games again. This time, however, we can only do so much in a digital space. To spice up any role-playing games with exciting characters, we’re hosting our Autumn Sale between 25 November and 1 December. During this period, most of our packs and bundles will be at a 25% discount. Combining this offer with any of the Pro bundles will reduce the overall price of the packages a lot, so if you’ve been on the fence about letting your creativity flow, this might be the perfect opportunity to unlock endless character streams in your games or projects!

During November, we teamed up with The Games Tavern for a month of giving back. They focused on raising money to help Operation Supply Drop, and we were happy to provide some character packs they could give away during streams or on Twitter when specific targets were reached.

Since we were already in contact, we also organized a short video-interview, so viewers can get to know me, and the project a bit better. This was the very first time I took part in such an interview, so if you are interested in the story behind ePic Character Generator, check out the following video. I hope you’ll like it.

GMTK Game Jam 2020 – Waste Waster

In the last couple of years, we never took part in game jams, as we always preferred spending our time on actual projects rather than throwing away 2 days of development in an experimental idea we might not take any forward. A lot of things have changed in the past though, as in 2020 I started focusing my efforts on a new project with a new team, so when I was asked by two of my colleagues if I wanted to participate in an upcoming jam I was a bit hesitant. For those who don’t know what a game jam is, it’s typically a 48-72 hours game-making marathon, where each team needs to create a game from scratch based on the theme that was given to them by the organizers. For the new game I’m working on, Unity is being used, and I figured it could be a good idea to dig a bit deeper into the engine and potentially learn new aspects of it. I also figured it could help to get the team together a bit more, as I’m working with a narrative designer and a new artist on the game, so getting them involved in the jam with quick design decisions and project turnaround could also be a good idea. So I figured the team I would join the jam with my colleagues tentatively; we’ll wait for the announcement of the theme on Friday evening at 21:00 local time, then if we can come up with a good idea in the next 2-3 hours we’ll make the game, otherwise, we’ll continue working on our own project over the weekend, as we normally do.

The jam we took part in was organized by Mark Brown, who runs the Game Maker’s Toolkit youtube channel. It’s a really good source for game design, so I’d recommend it to anyone to check out. This jam was the biggest online-only jam ever held, so without further ado, here’s the theme announcement video.

 

Since the theme was Out of control, and I always loved simulation and tycoon games, we ended up creating a game (which was actually a bit similar to an idea I was prototyping way back in 2015) where the main character is driven by a basic AI, and the only influence the player has over the character is to place powerups in specific points of the map. When a powerup is placed, the character will move towards it, so this gives indirect control over the character, otherwise, it always tries to move away from the enemies and will cut through them when cornered. Powerups stack up over time, but the monsters get tougher too.

Waste Waster Gameplay

If you are interested in how we created the game and what stages we went trough during development, you can check out the developer diary I recorded. Our youtube channel has also just been launched, so hit Subscribe if you want to get notified of new videos.

 

After the 48 hours period has ended we were left with 7 days to play and rate each other’s games. We got lots of feedback and rating and people seemed to love the idea. We got quite a few coverages by streamers playing games created during the jam too. Once the 7 days period ended we concluded with 92 ratings and made it into the top 100 most popular games of the jam. Mark then played the top 100 community-rated games and picked the top 20 he liked the most. You can watch his recap below.

 

We finished at an overall ranking at 973. out of the 5416 participants, which puts us in the top 20%, which is nice. The originality of our game was ranked 473, which is in the top 10%. Considering how unprepared we were to the jam and how much time we wasted on things we could’ve finished in a matter of minutes if we were more adept in using the engine, we were more than happy with the results.

If you want to check out the game you can give it a go here: https://overheadgames.itch.io/waste-waster

All the feedback and the final ratings can be found here: https://itch.io/jam/gmtk-2020/rate/695723

Monthly Wrap-up: April

April has gone by and we’ve been busy building things we hope you will all enjoy. We hope you and your families and safe and healthy amidst the current situation.

Thankfully in the games and software industry, things didn’t change much. First, we kicked off the month with our 6th Birthday Sale, in which many of you participated. We also sent out a free pack to all our newsletter subscribers as a thank you for all the support we got since we launched. We also got a new logo, which we hope you like too. 🙂

We published two updates to ePic Character Generator during the month, where we fixed various issues. We focused a bit more on the Android version this month. After the introduction of Android 10, we noticed that saving files to arbitrary locations (for example the Documents folder) is no longer supported. Since they completely reworked how file access can be done, we spent over 20 hours trying to get this single feature alone right. But we couldn’t. Since the software is written in c++, and applications for Android are run in a Java environment, there are certain layers that are needed to enable communication between these two languages. Unfortunately, the way the new Storage Access Framework works on Android 10 and above is meant to be used by Java applications only, and passing a filehandle back to the native application to read and write the files is something that can’t be properly done without implementing extreme workaround which will also stop working once Android 11 is released. So after wasting so many hours on this, we decided to revert to restricting users to only be able to save and load to the app’s internal directory. We understand that this solution is not ideal, but it’s still a better way than disabling saving on mobiles completely.

Apart from that, we also started working on a very exciting and very frequently asked feature under the hood. To have a better understanding of what would be the best way to bring this new feature to you, we sent out a survey to our Pro members. Since they already have access to way more features than non-Pro users, and also they are our most dedicated supporters, we felt that they’d know best how to move forward with our idea. We received lots of great feedback and ideas which we’ll be able to use to launch this new feature. If you are a Pro member, we seriously suggest registering an account on our site to be able to receive specific communication from us, hear about new features we are working, and be able to communicate your needs and ideas so we can better steer the development of the software in a direction that would be the best for everyone. If you are a Pro member and haven’t yet completed our short survey, just launch the software and a message box would pop up offering the option to do so. We are working hard to take all your feedback in, and we hope to be able to launch the new feature by the end of the month.

We also received some questions asking what’s the best way to keep informed of all the stuff we are working on. The best way to keep updated is to be a subscriber of our newsletter, which we usually send once every 2-3 months. We also post monthly updates to our blog, share it on the project’s page, and on our developer hub. If you use Steam, make sure to follow us there too:
https://store.steampowered.com/developer/OverheadGames

You can also follow us on your favorite social media channel and keep in touch:
https://www.facebook.com/overheadgames/
https://www.twitter.com/overheadgames/

We are excited to see how you’ll like all the things we’ve been working on once they are rolled out.

Stay tuned!

Monthly Wrap-up: January

Among many other changes, we decided to start writing monthly wrap-ups, to look back on what has happened in the past month and summarize the most important bits of it. This is also exciting for us so we can actually see how many things we were able to achieve compared to what we planned, but hopefully it’d also provide some more insights on how we do things and what we are working on currently.

January has mostly been consumed by the process of transitioning to the new website. Our old one was created in 2013 at around the same time we launched our Indiegogo compaign for ePic Character Generator, mainly to provide a place to connect with people interested in what we were doing. The Forums were a good place to engage in conversation with us and the others, and it proved to be a very valuable tool for us, as we often got feedback which we were able to take into consideration when we needed to decide what to do next. Oftentimes we get bug reports which also help us tremendously in figuring out what’s working as intended and what’s not. A huge thanks to everyone who’s keeping a constant eye on the health of the software and letting us know whenever something bad happens!

After the release of the software the website operated as a shop, as it was the only place the generator was available. As we ported the software to Steam in 2015 we needed to add many extra functionalities to the site which helped new users get started quickly, like the FAQ page. We also created a Showcase section and started developing a Profile page, so users can easily manage their collections and exchange free packs to the ones they are interested in using the most.

The site worked okay for several years, but last year we started focusing on moving forward, and examined several factors in how we are presenting ourselves to the market. Our old site was based on Joomla, which was a quite popular CMS back in the days, but it grew old over the years, and we had a very hard time getting it to do what we wanted to do with it. We spent months on trying to get everything right on that, but in December, 2019 we realized we can no longer stick to keeping it, so we decided to transition to a new site based on WordPress, which is one of the most popular CMS today, with tons of plugins and addons available on the market.

We knew that migrating the site would not be an easy task, as this essentially meant that we’ll need to rebuild everything from scratch. Luckily we found plugins to be able to put together the existing functionality, as we needed to provide a way for users to register and log in, to be able to purchase packs, and to have a forum where discussions can carry on. As of now, we are quite happy with the results, but we also know that the site is far from finished. We still have plenty of areas we need to improve both visually and functionally. We also spent a significant amount of time on optimizing and caching, so load speeds would be more ideal, but this topic is also something that can continue on forever.

Although most of the time in January was spent on the website, we were also able to focus on the software a bit. We faced an issue on Google Play with devices using Android 10, as they are no longer able to download expansion files. We filed a bug report with Google and they are investigating the issue. We also received several feedback mostly from mobile users that linking accounts are rather difficult, so we improved how the linking flow works and today account linking both on Steam and Google Play are 95% automatic.

We were also able to spend some time on our next project. We know that finding the right setting for it was a crucial first step, so we did some research on what settings are trending, but the market is still not yet overwhelmed with different titles. We are pretty happy with the results, and we now have a basic introduction to the world it’s going to be placed in. We know this sounds exciting, but we can only reveal more details on it just a bit later.

In February we expect to flesh out most of the remaining issues with our website, as well as to deliver an update to ePic Character Generator and fix some of the known bugs.