A Walk in the Dark

Bruno Vidal and Paulo Silva started working on “A Walk in the Dark” while they were working with me at ZPX. I saw this project evolve from the very beginning and was always eager to test new builds and levels they were working on. In the meanwhile they left ZPX and continued their work on AWITD.

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Since then, the project had massive improvements in every direction, gameplay, art, music, etc.. Recently I was asked to help in the project and I gladly accepted to join the team in that effort. Unfortunately the time available isn’t much but I hope to help wherever I can.

Announcement trailer

 

Flying Turtle Software is the name of the company behind A Walk in the Dark. The game is supposed to come out in 2012 for the PC.

Jumping Jack for WP7 – GameDev Fun Facts

Last night was time for another XNA Pizza Night event at Microsoft Portugal (Tagus Park). Once again ZPX presented a “new” game. “New” between quotes because the original game is from 1983 and it was older than 90-95% of the people in the audience. The game is none other than Jumping Jack for ZX Spectrum.

I played this game for the first time almost 27 years ago when I had just made 5. In fact, this was the first game I ever played on a computer and it’s probably because of it I’m here making games.

I want to dedicate this game to the memory of Nuno Sabino, my brother. It was him who received the ZX Spectrum 48k as a Christmas present and it was him who got this great game and so many others that influenced me and made me want to program and make games since then. Thanks for everything bro.

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Let’s get into the development fun facts:

  • It took me about two weeks working after my daily job to get this working for the demo. This would take less time if I worked on it regularly everyday, I would say 1 week. I don’t know how much time it took Albert Ball to program the original version but my guess is that it took him a little longer. He had  to program it in Z80 assembly and didn’t have help from tools we have available today, specially for debugging, it must have been a challenge at that time.
  • Although we had the Spectrum 48k, the original version of the game ran on the Spectrum 16k, i.e., it ran in less than 16k of memory. The actual version for WP7 takes about 10-16 MB, more than 1000 times larger than the original version. I didn’t and won’t make an effort at this time to make the game as smaller as the original version and I probably couldn’t do it for the WP7 but I think I could do it for the PC version if I had some time. Maybe someday, who knows.
  • The game took around 23 seconds to display a splash screen and 55 seconds to load the game making that 1 minute and 18 seconds total to be able to play it. The WP7 version takes about takes 3 seconds to load (and that’s because it displays the splash screen for 3 seconds otherwise the splash screen would pop in and out too quickly.)
  • At this moment this version has about 2000 lines of code. Once again I don’t know the exact number of lines for the original version but I think it will probably be more than 2k lines of Z80.
  • I started by using Farseer Physics but during development I realized that doing the “physics” by hand would be easier than tweaking Farseer Physics. In this demo I’m still using Farseer doing raycasts to see if the player can jump or falls and the debug to draw the lines “Fixtures”. I will probably end up removing Farseer completely in the final version.
  • The graphics and sounds are exact replicas of the original game. I took screenshots from the game playing on a Spectrum emulator and edited them to adjust the transparencies. I was going to record the sounds from the emulator but Zalo had already done that and I used the sounds from his 3d version.
  • The last thing I want to talk about comes from a Spectrum limitation in the graphics display. Spectrum machines had a 256×192 resolution and 15 available colors (3-bit palette that makes 8 colors and another additional bit that says if a color is bright or dark but since one of those colors was black, that didn’t have the bright version making the 15 colors.) The way the information was drawn on the screen was in blocks of 8×8 pixels known as attribute blocks. Only two colors could be used in each of these blocks and if a program tried to display 3 colors in any attribute block one of the colors would change to match one of the other colors, this was known as attribute clash. In Jumping Jack this problem was evident in various situations, one of them was when Jack crashed against a line/wall as seen in the following image:

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Jack was rendered in red due to this limitation and I decided to keep it rendered in red as I thought it was funnier and made sense to show the shocking moment.

And that’s it, Jumping Jack for Windows Phone 7 will be released eventually (soon I hope), maybe by other name.

SimKids (2009)

Simkids is a captivating videogame from ZPX Innovation labs that promote healthy habits for young children between ages of 5 and 12 years. I worked as lead programmer and also contributed as game designer in this project.

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The adventure starts with the player’s character setup. Children may customize the shape and color of their hair, skin and what clothes they dress, before jump in into the virtual world. They start in a friendly and colorful town populated with some charismatic characters. Interacting with these characters, the player comes to know some of their issues that could be overpass by solving quests or succeed in funny challenges. At time to time, characters presents small polls that test the player knowledge and if answered correctly give him extra bonuses for his character.

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As the storyline flows, the player faces topics that goes from basic food recognition to more complex nutrition issues or healthy eating habits. These topics are lined up with the school program for the first learning cycle.

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Places I’ve Seen for WP7

This summer I decided to build something for WP7 in Silverlight to learn something new. Places I’ve Seen was the result of my learning experience. It was fun to use Silverlight, it’s very easy and the Visual Studio Editor for Silverlight/WPF is amazing (didn’t try Express Blend yet) and the data binding of controls saves a lot of boring work.

Based on Where I’ve Been, Places I’ve Seen allow you to save a list of your visited locations around the globe, as well as a list of locations to visit (like a wish list). There are three ways to add items to your lists:

  • by typing the name and choosing from a list;
  • by picking a image from your library (only works if you have geo tagging on);
  • or by adding the current location using GPS (this only adds to the list of visited places).

In addition I thought it would be cool to view images from each place so I added that functionality that searches images on Flickr from a place of your choosing.

Here are a few screen shots of what it looks like on the phone:

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It’s available on zune here.

Think Fast!

Since I didn’t post here for a while I had to come up with a good reason for that. The reason is Think Fast! a new game from ZPX for the WP7 platform. Think Fast! started as an experiment to test the world of free apps and see how people would react to such a simple game. I can say that we’re happy with the feedback that received so far.

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Let me first explain why the visual contrast between (Orange Game or Puzzle Jumble) VS Think Fast!. The reason why Think Fast!’s graphics suck is because I was the one doing them. While the other two games have the gifted hands of Bruno Nunes (2D/3D artist and animator), Think Fast! has only my poor programmer’s hands.
Also, each one of the other two games took more or less 1 month to complete and the first version of Think Fast! took me about 14 hours to complete.

But besides its ugliness, we thought the game was fun enough as it was and that we should release it to see if people liked it. And from the reviews we can conclude that the people like playing it thus proving that gameplay is much more important than the graphics (as if there was any doubt in that!)

This game challenges your brain by presenting two opposite facts and forcing you to take quick action or risking to lose the game. The person who can hold on longer wins the game. At this moment there are two mini games you can try but you can expect more in the future.

Do you expect more challenges in Think Fast!? I’m sure you do! I’m planning on releasing more updates as soon as I can. The next update will have a “news” system to keep players updated about information related to the game and/or new features to come. You can also expect an update/upgrade in the graphics to make it more user friendly. There’s one review complaining about no help for the second level, so I’ll probably add an information panel to each level. And last but not least, more brain twisting challenges of course! Smile

Anyways, go download it for FREE here and try to beat the high scores.

SilverMenu library for WP7

Inspired by the menus of WP7 game Puzzle Jumble, I decided to write a library that would help me and others to build menus for WP7 games easily. The Puzzle Jumble’s GUI code is a bit of a mess because it wasn’t thought for this kind of interface from the beginning so I decided to write SilverMenu from scratch.

Puzzle Jumble’s GUI

 

SilverMenu aims to bring some of the Silverlight user interface that is now present on WP7 to the XNA. To make it simple to use you can build simple animated menus with just a few lines of XML. It has only one week of development but you can see some progress already:

First SilverMenu sample.

 

With time I hope it grows into something more complete and useful. I’ll still update my blog about this project but if you want to follow the project closely and keep up to date, as well as, download the last build, you can do it at http://silvermenu.codeplex.com. I hope you find it useful and I appreciate all the feedback I can get. Thanks!

3D Cascais (2010)

In 3D Cascais you can visit and explore the natural park of Sintra-Cascais. All the work in this project was made based on real world data. ZPX’s team members (me included) made several visits to the park and took some photographs to be used as reference. Detailed height maps and information about fauna and flora (including actual sounds recorded in the park) were provided by our partners SiQuant and Cascais Natura.

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This project took about 6 months, two programmers and two artists but one of them not fulltime. It was built using the Unity3D engine.

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Go on and visit the park:

http://percursos.webcomfort.org/PedraAmarela@26.aspx – Pedra Amarela – partial demo (faster download)
http://percursos.webcomfort.org/Pisao@27.aspx – Pisão – partial demo (faster download)
http://percursos.webcomfort.org/Global@30.aspx – full project online (slower download)

http://percursos.webcomfort.org/Viewer3D/cascais3d_1_1_8.zip – full project with better quality to download and test it on your pc.

Since the terrain is all generated on real data and is very highly detailed the builds became a bit big so bare in mind that the downloads can take a bit.

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Synopsis:

Visit Sintra-Cascais park
Sintra-Cascais natural park is now just a click away, offering an unprecedented interactive experience.

3D Cascais trailer

Ocean (2009)

This was my first 3D interactive project at ZPX and was developed for the EMEPC (Task Group for the Extension of the Portuguese Continental Shelf) aiming to captivate the interest of the general public to this project.

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All that you see is mapped using real data that took several months to gather. Visit the deep Atlantic ocean or follow the automatic trails to take a tour. It took about 6 weeks of development with two programmers using the Unity3D engine. All the graphic content was delivered to us by our partner. Unfortunately there wasn’t time to add more interesting stuff to the deep ocean, such as some fishes or plants.

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Synopsis:

See the Ocean as never before
An amazing journey to the bottom of the Ocean, illustrating the Extension of Portugal’s Continental Platform project. This project was the result of a partnership between ZPX and Caixa d’Imagens.

You can try it here! Click on “Modelo Virtual 3D” – gamepad icon and wait for it to load, it may take a while due to the dimension of the terrain. You may have to install Unity3D web player.

Puzzle Jumble (2010)

This project started as a personal project to test the XNA 4 and the Windows Phone 7 emulator. I made a simple prototype in just one day (2 afternoons to be more precise.) After that, 3D artist Bruno Nunes and I endeavoured in the task of making the game as fast as possible so we could release it on time coinciding with the WP7 release. The project took about 4-5 weeks to complete just the two of us and is available on the Windows Phone Marketplace.

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Puzzle Jumble appears to be a simple puzzle game where the user has to complete an image within time but there’s more to it. It mixes other gameplay elements such as doors, springs and bombs to make things more interesting.

Puzzle Jumble trailer

Synopsis:

Puzzle Jumble, the amazingly addictive puzzle game that takes picture puzzles to a whole new level. Make your way through delightful jigsaw puzzles full of beautiful colourful images… but watch out for the doors, springs, bombs and more as they are sure to create additional challenges and add to the fun.
Choose between arcade mode or attack mode and try to compete with top online scores.

We’re so sure you’re going to love Puzzle Jumble that we’re going to let you try it out for yourself – check out our FREE trial.

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Orange Game (2010)

Orange Game is a mini game of a larger game prototype that ZPX decided to publish for the iPhone and more recently available on the Windows Phone 7. It took about 3 weeks to a month and two people to make the first release to pc/mac/web using Unity3D. You can try it online for free at its homepage or at Wooglie where it is the most played mini game at this time.

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Synopsis:

Orange Game is a thrilling game that tests the player skills.

In a remote town called Farmocolis, Uncle Bob asks for his nephew’s help to catch some oranges. Little Zoy thought it was a boring task so, to make things interesting, he decided to retrieve the oranges in a rather unusual way. Instead of using a basket to carry oranges like a normal person, he uses a helmet with a spring attached. The oranges bounce on his head and he doesn’t know where they’ll fall. They either fall in an empty zone which Zoy has to prevent it from happening or they will fall in their final destination, the truck with an insanely deep cargo area.

As time passes by Uncle Bob will give more and more oranges to Zoy and this is where the fun begins!

Orange Game on the iPhone and WP7