July is here, and so are we. This month we’ve been working away on a number of things, including client work, but more importantly, we’ve been working on Stargazing.
Last month we gave you all a long overdue update on the game and we really appreciated the nice comments we’ve received on the new art style and how much people are looking forward to playing the game. It’s lovely to see. This month we have a little history of the development of Stargazing from our artist Amy, and also some games industry content from Vicky. Enjoy 🙂
Hey everyone, it’s been almost a year since Stargazing took its first steps into the world so we thought it was time to share a little of its origin and how the game has evolved to its current form. This is my first time writing for the blog so I’ll do my best not to ramble!
Back in the “Patterns” themed week of the Rapid Prototyping six-games-in-six-weeks scheme we did last year, I suggested the idea that would eventually become Stargazing, our cosy-constellation-discovery mobile game.
As for what the inspiration was, it feels a bit of a cop-out to say it just crept up on me! I’d been sitting outside in the evenings then as it was pretty warm, so the night sky had been on my mind a lot, meaning when I was thinking of natural patterns that could be made into a game I gravitated towards stars and found there was a lot that could be done with them. And where better to record those patterns than a star journal?
The element of an underlying visual narrative based on an ancestor’s journal is an element that comes from my love of old scrapbooks and albums, they tell a story with mostly only pictures – and leave a lot of details up to your own interpretation, allowing countless stories to be created.
Initially, for the game, the player had a journal with constellations drawn out, with a matching set in the night sky above. The constellations in the sky would flash in a pattern that the player had to replicate by tapping the journal’s constellations. If correct, an illustrated constellation would appear in the night sky, with the goal being to fill the night sky with constellations by completing the puzzles in the journal left to you by an ancestor.
From the first rough concepts, we decided a ‘connect the dots’ style puzzle would lend better to the constellation theme and the chill, cosy feel we wanted to achieve with the gameplay. We also wanted to try out a pixel art style, as neither Matt or I had worked in that style before, and we felt it was a good challenge for the prototyping week. This form of the game is what we showed you all back in January.
As touched on by Matt in the last blog, Stargazing has gone through a lot of changes since then! To expand on last month, we brought back the journal/notebook as a key element in addition to changing the art style. The core gameplay remains the same; connect the stars to form the constellation with a hint image available to help you. However, now the hints are items collected by the notebook’s original owner; it could be anything from a faded photograph of the constellation or a torn sketch on a napkin, all of which are collected in the notebook – documenting their stargazing and the moments captured from their life at these times.
As you complete each constellation puzzle, the hint is restored to its former glory and you unlock a page with the complete visuals and info on the constellation.
We felt these were important changes even though it took a lot of work to get to this point, as they created the cosy feel we originally imagined with an art style that would stand out more in the market, as well as giving the player a sense of accomplishment and warmth by restoring an ancestor’s journal – discovering their story as they bring the pages back to life.
So that’s been my quick update on how the game has evolved, hopefully it’s given you a clearer idea of what we’ve been up to and where we are with Stargazing.
On a personal note, thanks for your support and enthusiasm for the game, it gives me the warm fuzzies in my heart and I’m glad we get to share the experience of making it with you all! 🙂
“Working” from home
Vicky here! I’m going to write about some of the online game industry events I’ve attended recently, thanks to an industry shift from physical to virtual events this year. We’ve been working from home for a few months now – since March 12th, to be exact! Time flies when… well, yeah.
I saw a really good tweet that sums up the situation we find ourselves in, and I thought it was worth sharing:
You are not “working from home”, you are “at your home, during a crisis, trying to work.”
There are a number of huge lifestyle and working pattern changes that have come with this, which are both good and bad things depending on the tone you say them with, and the type of day you’re having:
For example, getting to and from work:
“There’s no commute time! ?” – when I can get from my bed to my computer in five minutes, with breakfast.
“There’s no commute time! ?” – when I realise it’s been six days since I last went outside and I haven’t listened to my morning walk podcast in three weeks.
Or, workplace attire:
“I can wear my pyjamas all day! ?” – enjoying this rerun of the “weird week between Christmas and New Year where time ceases to exist”
“I can wear my pyjamas all day… ?” – desperately missing what once was described as ‘jeans’. What is denim?
And, on the topic of this post, game industry events!
“I don’t have to travel to one of these events ever again! ?” – realising I don’t have to go anywhere near early morning flights until at least 2021
“I don’t have to travel to one of these events ever again? ?” – wait, what do you mean there will be no UKIE stall at Gamescom this year with the breakfast juice bar??? Where will I get Currywurst???
However, being in the industry we’re in, which is extremely online, we are blessed with an abundance of digital alternatives to the traditional game biz & dev events dotted across the world – so while nobody will be attending Gamescom in person this year, we can be there in spirit!
And this year, I’ve already been able to virtually attend some game industry events & conferences that I wouldn’t likely have had the opportunity to go to otherwise – and reach even more of the games industry & players to tell them about Murder At Malone Manor, Stargazing, and The Sphere ?
DevGamm is Eastern Europe’s games industry conference – with events previously hosted in cities in Minsk, Kaliningrad, Moscow, Kyiv, and now – thanks to the power of the internet – we can add Belfast to that list (well, my computer, in Belfast).
DevGamm used a platform called PINE, which allowed you to book meetings, see other attendees, and view talks live. It takes some getting used tobut offers more interactivity than other B2B conference meeting platforms like MeetToMatch.
I was lucky enough to win an online VIP Studio pass to Nordic Game 2020, a Sweden-based conference that caters to the Nordic Game Industry – I never would have had a chance to “visit” Malmö otherwise 😉 All of Whitepot signed up for this event, with events being live-streamed via their website, including a cool talk on Unity’s artist tools by Amel Negra.
My favourite thing was the companion Discord server, which was really bustling with activity throughout the Nordic Game conference. It also had channels for little events throughout the day, like posting your morning coffee, or drawing some programmer art!
PS Yes, I know, I’m using the Discord light theme. I’ve heard it all before. I’ve heard it hundreds of times. I’m sorry.
European Games BizDev Gathering
Unlike DevGamm and Nordic Game, the European Games BizDev Gathering wasn’t an offline event transitioning into an online event – rather, it was set up and hosted by the European Games Developer Federation in direct response to the pandemic and was one of the first online-only events following the worldwide lockdown. Doesn’t writing that out still seem kinda surreal? Like a leaf torn out of the back of a post-apocalyptic RPG lore book that’s a wee bit too on the nos-
Anyway, this event used ye olde faithful of B2B matchmaking industry events, MeetToMatch. This is a fairly standard platform that we’ve used previously at physical events like Pocket Gamer Connects London and Gamescom in Cologne, but this time without the frantic running around trying to get from Hall 7 to Hall 10 in the Koelnmesse (one of the largest exhibition centres in the world) in under 5 minutes the next meeting. It’s handy because once you’ve put your profile details into it for one event, you can reuse that across multiple.
I think new online-only events, like the European Games BizDev Gathering, will continue to be around post-2020. We’ll probably see hybrid digital/physical versions of conferences like DevGamm and Nordic Game in the future as well.
With GamesCom being the only large international event we would attend as a studio, the shift to online conferences – however temporary – has been a great opportunity to interact with others in the industry that we wouldn’t normally meet. Events with huge upfront travel, accommodation, and ticket costs, which were previously financially or geographically inaccessible, are now actually feasible to take part in.
A word of caution – an online meeting is much easier to unintentionally skip than a physical meeting. Also, online events are also much easier to sign up to and get carried away with – don’t sign up for everything just because it’s there. By June, I had already attended as many events and conferences virtually as I would normally attend in a full year – so I think I’ll sit tight and wait until virtual GamesCom for now.
I’m not gonna lie though, I do feel a pang of sadness thinking about the missed opportunities for catch-ups with old friends – but that’ll make eventual reunions even sweeter!
Here’s what we’ve been reading, watching, listening to and playing the past month.
Adam: “During the steam summer sale I made the mistake of buying Total War: Warhammer (1 and 2) and a load of it’s DLC so that has completely consumed my free time. I couldn’t even tell you what youtube holes I’ve been going down in the background while playing, it’s one of the most “one more turn” games I’ve played and I love it. I also watched “X+Y” (“A Brilliant Young Mind” in America) at some point. It’s about a kid going to the International Mathematical Olympiad and it was grand. Other than that it’s been a fairly uneventful month for me.”
Vicky: “This month has flown by, days have merged together, and I’m pretty sure it’s still some time in May? I got a bit carried away in Planet Zoo trying to recreate the Palm House in Botanic Gardens here in Belfast – maybe someday I’ll finish it! -adds to the ‘Unfinished Buildings In Games’ pile next to the Pixel Mill in Minecraft-“
Matt: This month I watched The Half of It which is good, Doom Patrol which is great and The Personal History of David Copperfield which was fantastic. I’ve been playing quite a few games this month, Red Dead Redemption, Star Wars: Racer, Superliminal, Grim Fandango, Psychonauts and Knights and Bikes. I’ve just been in a real Double Fine mood lately and I saw that they published Ks&Bs so I thought I’d give that a go also. Haven’t been listening to much, the new Future Islands’ single, Bell X1 have been on heavy rotation and I recently bought Raiders of the Lost Ark on vinyl.
Amy: I’ve been playing a fair bit of the Pokemon dlc and a lot of the solo games on Clubhouse Games this month, which are both a lot of fun. Continuing my trend of recommending goofy ghost hunting shows, I’ve started watching Paranormal Lockdown UK and have revisited Haunted Towns, both of which are entertaining in their own ways (once you get past the dodgy intro music).
Robbie: “My music recommendation for this month is Phoebe Bridger’s new record: Punisher. It’s a fantastic, if majorly depressing, album and my favourite tracks are “I Know the End” and the title track, “Punisher”. Over the past month I’ve played The Last of Us: Part Two, which I can’t recommend, and The Battle for Bikini Bottom: Rehydrated, which I can recommend. Battle for Bikini Bottom is a fun blast-from-the-past 3D platformer, whereas The Last of Us 2 is a grim, 25-hour slog with outdated 3rd person cover shooting mechanics.”
We really enjoyed making a playlist last month so here’s another playlist of our favourite video game music. Enjoy 😀
Chat to yous soon,