Archive

Monthly Archives: January 2015

drm_print_photo_1024

Ste has some lovely prints of the Death Ray Manta cover artwork for sale. Go for the Death Ray Manta artwork but stay for the Night & Day prints which nail game development far better than thousands of words ever manage.

I might have mentioned before how happy both myself and Andy are with the cover art but just in case, I’ll mention it again because man, we’re so chuffed with it. Thanks again, Ste! It’s brilliant.

You can buy the DRM cover art here and have a read of Ste’s blogpost about it here. Read why I wanted Ste to do the art and read what it was like for Ste to do the art.

woahartwork

One of the important things I want to do, for myself as much as anything, with New Death Ray Manta is to let it be shaped in some ways by other people. I hope this will show in the soundtrack, I hope it’ll show with Andy’s contributions to what happens under the hood and I hope it’ll show in other parts of the game too which other people have contributed to.

I wasn’t kidding when I said that I want to rag a few heroes of mine along for the ride and to see what happens, y’know? I want New Death Ray Manta to be about more than just me. That’s important to me. Whilst the game itself, the design of the game at least, is very much the work of myself and Andy, there’s a lot of peripheral stuff that doesn’t have to be. Doesn’t need to be. Yeah, yeah, I could wing this alone, I could go on a characteristic obsession over ever last detail of the videogame or…

…or I could have some genuine fun with it.

I’m having fun with it.

I have an idea of some people I’d really love to see in the credits of the game and if I can, where I can and with their blessings and assistance, I’d like to see if this ride can be a bit of fun for them too. There is, however, one really important clause that comes with them contributing to the game. I don’t tell them what to do. I know what part I’d like filled but how they fill it? Well, that’s where the fun comes in. You see, I don’t think there’s any point in asking for someone to contribute if they can’t contribute a bit of themselves to it. A bit of what they’d like to do. What they think is appropriate. They are, after all, the fucking experts at this, not me.

I know, I know, games don’t necessarily work like this being all “oh the single minded auteur” and all that or whatever else we’re currently banging on about but do you know what’s really fun? What’s really fun is saying to someone “Look, I value what you do, I *love* what you do and I’d love to have you do something with my game” and when they ask “OK, what would you like me to do?” going “I don’t know, what would you want to do for this?”. OK, ok, that’s not the really fun bit, the fun bit is where you get the piece back and with an absolute 100% success rate to date, they’ve left me grinning like a lunatic for hours. I’m not kidding either. Like last night when I got the cover art through for DRM, I couldn’t believe it. I was grinning for hours and jumping around the place excitedly like a child who has just secretly finished ALL the smarties and you can’t have them, they’re gone now.

Part of it is disbelief. Before Xmas, I knew I was chancing it but I couldn’t resist, I asked Ste Pickford of The Pickford Bros would he do the cover art. If you’re going “Who?”, get out. Just leave. If you’re not, well, you know why, yeah? He’ll slap me for this but he’s a genuine inspiration to me. At peak-Spectrum, I’d excitedly run out and buy new Pickford Bros games because whilst they may not have always been amazing (I’m looking at you, Rasterscan), they were always different and worth it. Look, I bought a fucking darts game because John and Ste wrote it and look at me, do I look like the kind of guy who plays darts videogames? Actually, these days I probably do so don’t answer that.

I honestly expected him to tell me to fuck off or make excuses. So when he said yes, I was already leaping around excitedly. Maybe it means nothing to anyone else out there in the world having a piece of Ste Pickford art to put alongside your game but it means something, it means a lot, to me.

And somehow, here I am at the end of January sitting here with an actual, frankly amazing, piece of art to bolt onto the promo stuff for my game. And you know what? I’m honoured that Ste agreed to it. I love it, I really really love it. I love it so much that I’m kinda aching for Ste to let me buy a print of it so I can have it on my wall and all that. I showed Mrs B and she gawped at it. I showed Andy and he asked me to fuck him with a broom. I declined, naturally, but I understand the sentiment. I shown a few friends and they all, uniformly, said that they thought it was gorgeous.

I then spent the night butchering it to fit into different containers on stores and slapping a logo on top. It’s not all sunshine, like.

toottoot

As I say, there’s other people I’d like to bring along for the ride as time goes on. I can’t wait to share some of the soundtrack with everyone, it’s amazing. Like proper amazing and so daft that I can’t believe it’s a thing that exists and that I find myself walking down the street singing songs from the soundtrack to my game because what is that all about? There’s someone I asked a few years back when I first started this who I’d love to go back and see if they’re still willing to throw something in the pot and on. Because you know what’s great? Having something frankly amazing land in your inbox is great. Getting to share that amazing thing with the world is the greatestTM. Lord help me if I ever strike it rich because I’ll just throw money at everyone for things like this because why the hell wouldn’t you?

But tonight? Tonight, it’s about saying an enormous thank you to Ste for his contribution and to let him know just how happy I am with it and how happy it’s made me to be able to throw this in alongside the game. Thanks Ste! Thank you so much.

You know how with videogames they spend a good hour, two hours, vaguely trying to work their way towards a set up before proceeding to spend another ten hours getting to the point a film can do in an hour and a half? Yeah, that’s a thing that puzzles me. Not that I’m averse to games that take their time to unfold but just y’know, how little we manage to cram into the time videogames consume out of our lives still surprises.

When I sat down to write the introduction to Death Ray Manta, I had Shack’s Neighbours in mind. In the space of eleven lines, Mick Head presents an entire slice of life, hopes, dreams and existence. An all encompassing thing that videogames struggle to do over their elongated run times. If Mick could do that over eleven lines, I could set up the plot to a game about a fish with lasers in his head over less, yeah?

“Look from your window, stop raining
Look for a fella who’s still outside
All he wants is to be a dealer
All he’s got left of the pride

Was it something you’re saying?
Is it something to tell me?
Are you scared of the neighbours?
Was it something on telly?

When you’re not with him it’s different
Look for a way it’s not inside
And all she’s got left of the pride”

I’m long of the opinion that Neighbours is one of the greatest pop songs of the past 30 years anyway but as a lesson in setting a scene, it’s hard to beat. Well, except maybe for the wonderful opening to “…Across The Kitchen Table“, another Head masterpiece. “In a cheap motel room, the miraculous way you bucked up when I said you were incredibly beautiful” is one fuck of a scene setter.

So yeah, with Neighbours in mind I spent some time trying to get the intro to Death Ray Manta down to 4 lines.

Death Ray Manta
Has lasers in his head
He blew up his house
Now he lives in space instead

Who, really, needs more? OK, OK, it’s no Mick Head but then *I’m* no Mick Head. Mission accomplished though, all the set up I need in less than 20 words.

Death Ray Manta was always about trying to make the pop song of videogames. I dunno, I don’t think I quite got there so this time round, I’m going to be writing a videogame with popsongs instead. Think Deus Ex Machina meets Robotron with a fish and you’re probably not even close. It’s still Death Ray Manta at its heart because how could it not be. What I wanted to do was just write a really good arcade game so that’s precisely what I’m going to do.

It’s probably a madness but that’s half the fun, right? Cool-as-fuck-electropop-vidkidz-videogames is a thing now. Or at least, it will be by the time me, Andy, Mike and Jen have finished.

And I’m going to rope in a few heroes along the way because why not.

“I can’t fit this jigsaw back together”

I dunno, I’ve tried. Really I have. I’ve got folders and folders of things. Things. That’s what they are, see. They’re things.

They’re things I did inbetween things. Things done hoping to scrape out a whole from parts. A year and a half of things.

That’s Death Ray Manta’s prolonged development. That’s why I’m heading into 2015 with bits, pieces, things and not anything coherent to show. Actually, that’s not why. Why is far, far more complex.

The why is that things got difficult.

When I signed a contract with Sony, I knew I had an operation coming up. The doctors had found a lump in my throat and well, you don’t really want to keep a lump like that in your throat just in case so out it comes. I’d read everything I could on the operation and it all seemed fairly straightforward. I mean, as straightforward as slashing someone’s neck open can be. Oh, did I mention that I really wasn’t looking forward to someone slashing my neck open? But hey, this is a regular thing that people do and it’ll be alright.

Fuck me, they don’t mention quite how much it hurts after it’s done. It’s the weirdest sensation, you move too abruptly and it feels like your head is going to tear itself off. I’ve talked about this before because making videogames is hard. Making videogames when you can’t pick your daughter up without it feeling like your head is going to drop off is really, really fucking hard because at that point, fuck videogames, I want to pick my daughter up and not want to scream out.

I’m looking at that post with its slight optimism about being able to sit down and write games again and kinda laughing a bit. A week later and I’m necking antibiotics like they’re going out of fashion. I dunno what happened but for a while, I had a run of illnesses. Ever since coming out of hospital a few years back, I’ve had a tendency to get kicked down a bit harder by little things and whatever this thing was, it kicked me down hard. Weeks of trying to shift it, weeks of discomfort, weeks of exhaustion as my body fought off whatever the fuck this thing was. There were other things too. It’s just been one of those years when things happen and you just ride it out to the next breathing space. And in those brief spaces, I made parts of a videogame because that’s what I do, yeah?

The second half of the year was spent getting work done on the house. It’s a long story and not mine to tell of how we got there but we had one shot at improving our lot and we took it because we’d have been crazy not to. Before, we were all cramped up, 2 grown ups, 2 kids, 2 cats in a small room. My desk in the corner, the TV over the other side. The travel cot somewhere inbetween. We got chance to change that so we did. I’m still in the same corner but that’s OK because no-one else is in here now. Mrs B can sit in the front room that wasn’t there before and watch the TV, read a book or batter Bejewelled 3 for hours on end (Poker Bejewelled is her current Bejewelled of choice), there’s cats everywhere now. There’s 2 in the conservatory that wasn’t there before and they’re meowing at me right now, there’s 2 somewhere else about the house I have no idea where. We’ve got a summer house and a bathroom that’s not falling apart. It’s weird. We have no money again but fuck it, right?

I’ve got a chair that’s really comfortable to sit on and has a high back so I can prop my head up and it makes the remaining discomfort I have not quite as discomforting. We threw everything at doing this and the difference it’s made to everyone’s life is tangible, noticeable and something I’m thankful for every single day now. But it took up the entire second half of the year to get here and I tried making videogames around that but looking after kids at the same time as dealing with your entire house being torn apart and new bits bolted on? I just wanted to nap, y’know? And nap I did but when I got chance, I made parts of a videogame because that’s what I do, yeah?

I went away to a spooky house and doodled my heart out for two days and it was great. I got stuff done there and I enjoyed being out of the house for a while with amazingly good company too. Long overdue, y’know? So much I’m hopefully going to be able to do it again next year.

But it’s things again. Jigsaw pieces, I guess.

Because all this time, I’d never really stopped working on DRM or anything, it’s just its development was constantly broken up by other things happening. By operations, by illnesses, by what I do when I’m not making games, by looking after kids, by four or five months of none stop work being done on a house. It’s jigsaw pieces but there’s bits missing from the jigsaw and I don’t know where they’ve gone. To be fair, there’s parts of the past two years that I don’t know where they’ve gone either. Illness is weird like that.

Whatever coherent plan, whatever 2013 me was planning… well, it’s nearly 2015 now and I have genuinely no idea. I’ve looked at the notes, I’ve looked at what I have and it’s not going to work. Not like this. I can’t put the pieces together to finish that jigsaw because how can I do that? I just can’t. It’s going to drive me insane.

Not that I haven’t tried. I’ve spent the past few weeks going right up against it, trying to fathom out what the DRM I started writing in 2013 was going to be and truth be told, I don’t know and it’s not worth pursuing anyway. It was always meant to be a game that would exist in the absence of a new Geometry Wars and yeah, I don’t think the new Geometry Wars is all the Geometry Wars that it could be but it’s not my job to fix that shit, someone else can have a go. I wanted to write something that’d fill that void and well, that’s filled now.

That’s kinda what you get when it takes you a year and a half to get nowhere fast.

Regardless, I sat there just before Christmas and figured one last push at piecing these bits together to try and make them work but I already knew they wouldn’t. Not really. That’s why I started preparing.

It turns out that having to take long breaks means things do become fractured, parts harder to put together and well, as a person you change. What you want to make changes.

Sort of.

Because all I ever really wanted to do was make the best game I possibly could.

I just want to write a really good arcade game and one that I’m proud to put out there and you know what? I know I can write that really good arcade game because the bits Andy and I have fucked around with over the past year or so, I’m not one to brag but we’re fucking good at putting this shit together when life gets out the way.

And yeah, life hasn’t really gotten out the way but it never really will. I don’t lead the kind of life where peace is a thing I get for long. Not unless anyone has a magic “make people better” wand going cheap or whatever. But my health is the best it’s been in a few years. I’ve got space, my own space, to work in. I’ve got two extra cats to jump on the keyboard and really muck stuff up and they’re so good at that.

So that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to make the best game we possibly can.

It won’t be the game I thought of in 2013 because I don’t even know what that game is anymore. But it’ll be Death Ray Manta. It’ll be BEST Ray Manta, y’know? I hope you’ll like it because I’m going to like making it because that’s the thing, no matter what happens and a lot has happened and parts of 2014 really made me want to throw in the towel and say “fuck this”, I really like making games. So that’s what I’ll do. I can’t make these jigsaw pieces fit anymore but I can take everything I’ve learned in crafting these pieces in the first place and do something great with them. That’s what I’m going to do and I’m not going to ride this one out without help when I need it this time. I’ve already asked for some and I’m excited to see what comes from it.

And yeah, it’ll have all the fucking colours. ALL OF THEM. I don’t really know how to do this any other way.