Inaugural Play Expo Glasgow
On the 11th & 12th of June, the Braehead Arena in Glasgow hosted the first Play Expo in Scotland. No longer would we all have to trek down to Manchester or Birmingham (or further afield) for our fix of pinball, old coin-ops, indie games, and classic console & computer games. There were other things there as well such as table top games, cosplay, merchandise area etc, but they’re not relevant to this article, so I can’t be arsed writing about them. I’ve got other things to do. Like helping get Fragmental finished!
Ruffian by name…
Usually at these things people set up their stand with maybe a poster, some sweets to entice the punters, If the budget allows possibly a free-standing banner. For an indie, these events can be expensive, so self marketing is tough. Then we turn up with our 2 large free-standing banners, stick a 3rd up in the seating area, and for good measure bring 4 bright red seats for players to sit on. Overkill? It certainly made us stand out, and hopefully brought a few more people into the indie area to see what was going on. We’re not subtle, but when it comes to selling games, you can’t really afford to be.
Having just mentioned those red seats, now seems the opportune moment to mention the most awkward moment of the day, and that award has to go to the sneaky little girl who stole one of our chairs while we were talking to somebody about to play Fragmental. On top of this, she picked up the iPad at the next demo station along (HEDRA), and promptly exited to the desktop, scanned through everything available, then started playing Candy Crush! Having zero interest in having to remove someone else’s problem child, we left it to Craig from We Throw Switches to sort it out. For the record, he looked ultra uncomfortable doing it. Good job fella.
So how did it go?
Short answer – exceptionally well. Our stand had a continual stream of players on both days, with virtually no downtime. Once again, our initial thoughts on Fragmental’s demographic proved wide of the mark, with at least half of the players looking like they hadn’t even been on the planet for more than a decade! The feedback was universally positive, and I think in terms of both this, and the amount of people wanting to jump in and have a game, this was up there with the best show’s we’ve done.
Except for the 2 young lads who took 96 rounds to win a 1-on-1 ‘first to 10’ game. Watching that was like death by 1000 cuts. Or 96 at least.
One thing we’ve learned from our last year working in the indie games scene is that its a very friendly, collaborative community where everyone wants to see each other succeed. From the one-person entrepreneurs to the established studios, everyone just wants to make games, and hopefully make a bit of money out of it too. So, I’m going to promote out neighbours from Play Expo here, in the hope that some of our followers will take a look and support them:
A remarkably simple idea, all you do is rotate 3D shapes, then drop them on a variety of inclines with the aim of them landing, and settling on the one coloured face. Simple, but ridiculously addictive, especially when someone insists on beating your score you just spent ages achieving. I thought I was pretty good at it getting 22, then
not at all competitive Billy went straight on and hit 35. Way to piss on my chips there Billy
Anyway, its available for free on iOS, so there really is no reason not to get hold of this.
I think this is actually called ~Ow~, though the phrase “Competitive Cuddling Simulator” on the blackboard next to the monitor is much more descriptive. How to describe this…
Essentially you control one person of a couple on a sofa, with the aim of matching the required body position through keyboard input. Think CLOP / QWOP, but where you have to first learn which key maps to which limb. It all leads to a confusing mass of limbs, which given I’m led to understand that a lot of Vaida’s work is based on her life experiences, makes me wonder about the origins of this game! When played competitively, ~Ow~ got quite frantic, which is pretty good for a game made so quickly. You should keep an eye on what she does in the future, as her current output level of games is crazy, and each one is something unusual and different.
With pretty much every home computer and console ever present, along with a good range of pinball machines and over 40 classic coin-ops, there were plenty of those “Holy Shit!” moments on seeing a piece of hardware or a game you’ve not played since you were a kid. From a personal point of view, I made sure I got some time on Hyper Sports (Coin-op), Paperboy (Coin-op), Robotron (Coin-op), Blastcorps (N64), Power Stone (Dreamcast), and 3D Bomb Alley (BBC B).
I’ll not bother talking about the now ever present at these events Vive or Oculus. Needless to say, the queues were as long as usual.
‘Ruffian’ v ‘We Throw Switches’ Team Deathmatch Challenge!
Just before the end of the show, Craig & Andrew from We Throw Switches challenged myself and Billy to a Fragmental Team Deathmatch. They talked the talk. But walked the walk? More like shambled like the undead, or crawled like a baby. Next time guys, you’ll get there…
…I can’t get no sleep…
The latest public showing of Fragmental happened a few weeks ago in Edinburgh, at Insomnia Scotland. Traditionally these large scale LAN party events take place in Birmingham, but for the first time it has branched out and this was the inaugural event in Scotland.
Insomnia Scotland – Edinburgh EICC
The event started for me on the Friday night, when I finished work then headed home to Edinburgh to what I thought would be a very quick setup, test, then off to the pub for a beer. What should have taken half an hour, took 3 and a half hours. After spending the first 15 minutes in almost total darkness, it turned out the wireless Xbox One pads decided they had no intention of binding to the PC. One change of wireless adaptor later, still no joy. The tech guys from Multiplay Events then tried it on their PC. Nope. In the end, the fallback was to go with wired pads, which is no real problem, just having wires everywhere is a bit of a nightmare and a trip hazard. And OCD hell for anyone so afflicted…
No beers were had that night.
Halfway through the day, comedian and host of Videogame Nation, John Robertson, wandered by our booth. He was performing his show, The Dark Room that night, and I’d already promised to go to his show in the evening if he played Fragmental (despite the fact I already had tickets. Shhh…). Fair enough, if I must go and see one of the best comedy shows of the last few years, then I’ll take that one for the team! He was immediately good at the game, and full of praise for it, and I’m inclined to think he meant it and wasn’t just being nice. As he wrote on Twitter…
He also went one further and at the end of his show that night, in a packed auditorium, told everyone they should go and play Fragmental on day 2. Cheers Robbotron!
Overall the first day went well, with myself, Dave and Alex on hand to help fill any spare slots to ensure all games had the maximum 4-players. We had always expected Fragmental to be a post-pub game, for people who remember these kinds of games from the 90’s, but surprisingly there were a lot more children playing the game and loving it. And a lot of parents who opted to just stand back and watch. (I took this to mean they were too scared to get beaten by their kids. Which to be fair, did happen quite a lot)
At the end of the day, Dave and Alex headed back to Dundee, leaving me to chat to some of the cosplayers, watch The Dark Room, and totally ignore Craig from We Throw Switches who was apparently waving for about a minute and like a blind idiot I never noticed. After that I headed off to the Beltane after party, which is a bit of an Edinburgh institution. I’ll not attempt to explain it all here, but as expected it went on until 5am, at which point I thought I should probably call it a night. Or morning…
Many, many beers were had that night.
The doors open time of 10:30 came and went on day 2, but nobody appeared. For a good half hour I thought this might be the most awkward disaster ever for an expo, then one of the organisers mentioned that there had been a brief power cut overnight, causing all of the competition PC’s to reboot then start windows updates. Pfffft! So they had to delay the opening to the public for an hour, which was a nightmare for the organisers, but quite funny otherwise.
Instead of Dave & Alex, who cleverly wanted to have at least some of their weekend to themselves, I was joined on the 2nd day by Billy, eager to show off his digital baby. The attendance was visibly lower today, but we still had a steady stream of people wanting to play Fragmental, including many returning for 2nd and 3rd games. My personal highlight was a girl of about 7 turning to her dad and proclaiming that he had to buy it because it was amazing. I agreed completely, which pretty much decided the issue, lest he look like a bad parent.
It wasn’t the biggest show in the world, but Insomnia Scotland had a good atmosphere, lots of good games on show from the past 4 decades, and plenty of kids playing indie games and not just Minecraft (although the area with rows of children all silently hooked up to Minecraft was an ultra creepy sight). Hopefully it returns next year, bigger and better!
An acceptable amount of beers were had that night. 😉
At this point in time, I think we’re pretty satisfied that we have a game that is fun, accessible and addictive. What we need to do know is get this thing finished and in the hands of the journalists! Until we have AI in and working (coming soon in the next update), we’re somewhat limited in the coverage we can get, as it is simply not a fully finished game experience yet, especially for the solo player. That said, media coverage is something we need to think about well in advance, and on that note, we got our first, albeit brief, write-up…
Stuart Cullen from The Scottish Sun took a few soundbytes from us at the show, and we made it into his final write-up. I was going to crop the image to just include our bit, but that would deprive you of the chance to win one of 20,000 holidays from Walkers…
I’ve spent the best part of a week out and about showing off Fragmental at various events. Here’s a roundup of each:
Epic Unreal Engine 20th birthday event
Epic Games recently celebrated the 20th birthday of their much used Unreal Engine. To mark this, they held an event at the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch, where they wanted to have a room showing off a number of different third party games currently in development, that are built using UE4. We were happy to oblige (even though it meant a 7:30am flight followed by the sleeper train back the same night!).
The day started badly, as after about 4 hours sleep, I managed to cut myself shaving for the first time in about a decade. It was one of those where it’s the tiniest knick, but within seconds it looked like a scene from CSI. One plaster later and I look like I’m auditioning for Shenmue 3. Still surely it’ll be fine by the time I get to London.
It did indeed stop. Then started again 5 minutes before the invited attendees were due to arrive. The only option to avoid looking like I’d been stabbed in the neck was to ask the catering staff for a plaster. Anyone who has worked in catering will know what comes next…
A bright blue chef’s plaster. Amazing. So I had to spend the first half hour talking to people looking like an idiot. Well, even more than usual.
UK Games Fund showcase
We were lucky enough to be selected as one of the companies to receive funding in the first round of grants from the UK Games Fund, and this event was a showcase for all selected companies to demo the games they had used this money to fund. While we were only set up for an hour and a half, as much as anything it was useful to meet the other dev teams to swap stories and make new connections. as well as catch up with old friends and colleagues.
EGX Rezzed 2016
We took the decision not to show Fragmental off at Rezzed. This was for a number of reasons, but chief among those was that it freed us up to spend the entire show with three main goals:
1) Attend talks & presentations, learn from those that have more experience in making successful indie games
While a lot of the talks were aimed more at startup companies, maybe embarking on their first project, one talk stood out as a must-attend for us – Mike Rose from TinyBuild talking about their approach to community building and Twitch integration. This was not something we had given much thought to before now, but what Mike had to say made a huge amount of sense, and his attitude towards taking small risks for potentially large rewards was refreshing and compelling to hear. We managed to grab him after his talk for a chat, and gave him a steam code for Fragmental, so it will be interesting to see what he thinks of it!
2) Making contacts that will help us further down the line when it comes to marketing, selling & publishing Fragmental
Through direct contact, and contact by association (talking to people, who then passed our details on), we successfully managed to get connections with the major platform owners, as well as a number of publishers and social media sites. Chief among these were the guys from Machinima who were a great bunch of guys and always up for a laugh.
3) Research what other developers were doing in the indie game scene
The sheer variety of games on show was impressive, though melee based multiplayer arena battlers seemed to be the most prominent. Just as well we went with a shooting based game then! Over the three days of the show, we tried to play as many as we could, and here’s a review of our combined favourites:
Super Arcade Football – This is without doubt the spiritual successor to Sensible Soccer (though the actual successor, Sociable Soccer is also in production). The first game we played on day one, and it remained our favourite for the entire show. We must have played about 20 games of it. 11-a-side, indoor 5-a-side, and it seems everything we asked about is already in their development plans. This deserves to sell so many copies…
Raging Justice – I was a huge side scrolling beat-em-up fan in the 90’s, and went straight past Rocket League and Quantum Break in the Microsoft room to play on this. Turns out its being coded by one guy (take a bow Nic Makin) in his spare time evenings & weekends, with help from 1 artist! There are clear inspirations in here from Streets of Rage, Final Fight, Double Dragon & maybe most prominently, Vendetta. If anything, it looks even smoother on iOS. Insanity! Those of you who have read my blogs will now realise this is an absolutely perfect segway to allow me to use that meme of Jackie Chan that I use in all my posts. As its too easy here, I’ve decided not to bother.
Snake Pass – The result of an internal game jam at Sumo Digital, and only 3 months of development time, I didn’t expect much as it looked like a run-of-the-mill 3D platformer. However the snake movement physics felt really satisfying as you navigated the scenery. Its something that can only be appreciated by actually getting hands on with the game, so if you get a chance, give it a go.
Manual Samuel – Initially I dismissed this as it wasn’t much to look at graphically, but its one of the few games that can actually make you laugh. You control a man back from the dead, who has to navigate a day in his life with all involuntary body processes now requiring voluntary input. So if you forget to breath periodically, you will die. If you forget to blink, the screen will fade to white. You need to keep your spine straight. Left and right steps are on different buttons (so a simpler version of QWOP). Simple processes like drinking a cup of tea, showering, or getting dressed all require thought and dexterity.
I know, it sounds terrible, but it actually somehow works.
Fugl – Hidden away in the Sega Leftfield room for slightly more unusual games, I found this gem. Despite thinking it had an awful name, I’ve since found out it means ‘Bird’ in Norwegian, which kind of makes sense as the developer, Johan Gjestland, is Norwegian. Still. A more interesting name couldn’t hurt… This is exactly the kind of experience I want from VR, and playing it on an Oculus was a beautiful experience – Diving through the clouds, skimming along a river, swooping between trees. Yeah, I’m sold. After this I didn’t feel like I needed to join the frankly ridiculous queue’s to try any of the other VR games.
Scanner Sombre – While only a very early tech demo from Introversion (the guys behind the great Prison Architect), Scanner Sombre was an eerie, experience. Set in pitch black, you have a scanner that shoots out hundreds of tiny dots of light. Wherever it hits something physical, it sticks to it. Through this method, you can effectively paint the world. The creepyness comes from when you realise there are human figures around you, but you don’t know if they are real, statues, or echoes. I’m not sure what they plan to eventually do with this, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for it.
Lumo – This kind of feels like I’m shilling for a friend, but Lumo is genuinely a great game. Tons of in-jokes / homages / references to games from the past, and a charming graphical style. What’s not to like? Though if all you ever play is COD or Fifa, maybe its not the game for you.
One final thing I have to do is apologize to Dara O’Briain. Yes, the Dara O’Briain from TV and comedy. As we were getting ushered out at 6pm with the rest of the scruffy people, the tuxedo and dress brigade were arriving for the Bafta game awards. Without realising I managed to wander into shot behind Dara while he was being interviewed on the red carpet for Sky news. Having watched it now, I noticed a clear moment where the camera pans away from where I was. Oops.
We’ve just made Update 2 live on Steam!
It’s been 4 weeks since our last Update, so we’re currently a little behind our planned schedule, but I promise it will have been worth the wait!
While Update 1 added new Weapons & Modifiers, this Update is a bit heavier in content, providing new Maps, Game Setup configuration options, and a new team based Game Mode.
New Game Mode
Now you can team up to Frag your enemies. Or more likely, argue with your Teammate as you realise that friendly fire is most definitely a clear and present danger!
Fragging your Teammate loses your Team a Frag, so don’t just spray bullets randomly or you might end up taking more backward than forward steps on the road to victory.
New Standard Maps
One of the tightest Maps in the game. The combination of windows and doors mean Rounds never last long here.
A high noon shootout, wait for the walls to drop and don’t get an itchy trigger finger.
Don’t be introverted here, run to the middle to fight!
Moving platform action where you can be fragged from any angle.
Curved walls everywhere mean you’re never safe from bouncing projectiles.
A racetrack loop with deadly spectators ready to join the action at the press of a button…
So. Many. Balls.
Lots of movement on this Map, try bouncing shots off the outside ring for skill frags.
This is all about deflecting shots off walls, or threading the needle down the centre.
Remember you can shoot through windows. There’s lots here to take advantage of.
It looks like Stonehenge? Really? Hadn’t noticed.
A large battlefield with irregular walls for unexpected ricochets and perfect aim long range shots.
Careful of the gaping chasm in the centre of this map.
New Survival Maps
This room hates you. The floor moves and the walls are deadly.
An evil Billiards inspired table with added laser death.
Aerial jousting with 4 platforms and 1 Jump Pad.
Game Setup Configuration Options
Something we’ve noticed during demos, and also something that has been requested on our Steam Discussions board, is to allow the Player to define the number of Frags that are required to win a Match.
Despite only needing 20 frags to win a Match as it stands, we’ve seen people play the game and have their Match go upwards of 70 Rounds. So yes, well done general public, you’re definitely right on this one. There are some other high level Game Setup Configuration Options as well as this, and we will continue to add more for Players to customise their game in future Updates.
Frag Limit (5 / 10 / 15 / 20)
You asked, we’ve provided! At present we’ve given the choice of 4 Frag Limits, but will possibly make this even more open to modification later. So if for some bizarre reason you really want a 13 Frag Limit, we might make that possible if enough people want it.
Death Walls (On / Off)
If a Round goes on for longer than 15 seconds, we trigger the Death Walls. This is to keep the action moving, and to stop Rounds becoming long, drawn out tactical affairs. Fragmental is all about fast paced action. However, if you really want to hide like a coward, this now means you can turn off the Death Walls and be a pussy to your hearts content.
Survival rounds (On / Off)
These are my personal favourite rounds in Fragmental. But if you really don’t like them – then I assume you are the kind of person who is crap at them – you can choose to turn them off. This would make me sad though, so don’t do it.
Modifiers (On / Off)
Modifiers are there to mix things up a bit. Who doesn’t like Infinite Ammo? Who doesn’t like Shields? Who doesn’t like Slow Motion? Who doesn’t like Reverse Runner… actually forget that, everybody swears at Reverse Runner. Anyway, if you want a really vanilla version of Fragmental, you can now turn these off.
Splash damage radius increased +100%.
Splash damage radius reduced -20%.
Splash damage radius increased +100%.
Player can no longer trigger their own Mines.
Splash damage radius reduced -17%.
Can now be fired through teleporters.
So, that’s update 2 out of the way now, on to update 3. This next one is a biggie, with the first implementation of AI bots meaning you will finally be able to play Fragmental single player.
As ever, if anyone has any questions or suggestions about these Updates or the game in general, add them to the Steam Discussions board and we’ll do our best to get back to you as quickly as possible.
With these updates, and the growing number of videos from Youtube and Twitch streamers, we’re beginning to see our player base grow. If you’re not yet one of them, head over to the Steam page and get onboard. The practise time you get will give you an advantage when we get to the update where we deliver the monster that is online play. It’s only a few more updates away…
So last Saturday we took Fragmental on the road again, all the way up to Dundee University Students Union to attend Dee Con 2016 (basically it’s about a 5 minute walk from our office).
It was great to get a chance to see people play Fragmental and get some feedback on their first experiences with it.
It didn’t take long before we had an epic 4 player Deathmatch from the cast of cosplayers walking around the event. Watching Mario vs Waluigi vs Fallout’s Vault Boy vs someone’s Dad is the perfect scenario for some Fragmental madness.
Once they got to grips with the controls they were killing themselves in no time!
Then once they stopped killing themselves, discovered what each weapon does, they started to really enjoy it (even killing yourself in Fragmental can be fun… well for those watching at least!)
We were setup in the Liar bar in Dundee Union, in among the best of the best multiplayer fighting games around today. Street Fighter 5 and Super Smash Bros for the WiiU took centre stage as we shared the area with the Dundee Gaming Society guys.
They had various competitions running throughout the day which meant that when folk were waiting to compete they could check out our little indie title. We essentially became the “Fluffer” for the fighting games, which was fine by us.
Throughout the day we got a great mix of people playing Fragmental, and sharing their thoughts on the game.
One person asked “Is this another Early Access Game?” to which I quickly jumped in to defend the notion an Early Access game is a bad thing, knowing only too well how the word “Early Access” has been tarnished over the last few years.
It’s a shame that this is the case; I’ve played tons of Early Access games that can stand right up next to their AAA counterparts.
Games like Darkest Dungeon, The Long Dark, Nidhogg, The Culling, Gang Beasts and of course Fragmental. The label “Early Access” shouldn’t be considered a negative thing, some of these developers are creating some amazing gaming experiences.
Although I do share in some of his complaints. I’ve played some games that have been in Early Access forever, feeling like they’ve never evolved… I’m looking at you DayZ!
So I had a Reggie Fils-Aime moment and told him to “Play the Game”, so he did and… he enjoyed it.
Reggie loves Fragmental
Overall Dee Con was a great chance for us Ruffians to showcase what we’ve been working on and how much fun Fragmental is, if you haven’t already bought the game then (
you’re dead to me) you should.
We’ve got Update 2 coming in the next couple of weeks containing 16 new maps (13 Deathmatch and 3 Survival), Team Deathmatch and Game Setup options allowing players to change the number of Frags per game. We’ll be continuing to update the game with extra Maps, Game Modes, AI and Online play coming in future updates.
Get Fragmental here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/424040/
Last weekend we ventured south to Comic Con in Birmingham to show off our Early Access build of Fragmental.
The last thing we wanted was for anything to go wrong, so we had decided to drive down the day before Comic Con, and we went with a belt and braces approach for our sat nav needs.
It took us a mere 7 hours to drive there, all the while listening to a mix of indie tunes and the amazing Emotion FM soundtrack from GTA Vice City (it’s a guilty pleasure!). We didn’t get lost, so doubling up on the sat nav did the trick.
Setting Up at the Event
On Saturday morning we headed to the Birmingham NEC to set up around 7:30 with the doors opening at 9 for the public. We got there nice and early with plenty of time to spare, the entire place was still being set up when we arrived.
Billy had packed everything going through his checklist, so when we unpacked, everything was there as expected.
PC – check, TV – check, Mouse & Keyboard – check, Controllers – check, Power and Cables – check, Promo Banners & Cards – check, Control Mapping Images – check, Batteries – check, Screwdriver – check, Black Tablecloth – check… Time to get set up.
Sorted, all setup, all we had to do was load the game and we were good to go. The game launched through Steam, everything was running as expected, we turned on the controllers and everything was working as expec… that’s odd, why is the light still flashing on the controller? Why are they not connecting to the PC? Why has Billy’s face started to change colour? He’s going white, hold on, the colour’s coming back, he’s fine… actually the colour’s not stopping, why has he gone all red and mental looking?
“Oh FUCKSAKE…” We’ll stop the commentary right there because he went to a pretty dark place for a wee while, he did show some serious swearing skills though, clearly worked on his technique for years.
So, Billy’s checklist had actually missed one thing – the little black wireless adapter that plugs into the back of the PC and connects the 4 Xbox One controllers to the PC. No Adapter. No Fragmental! Billy’s a Fanny!
OK no problem, we can handle this, we’re game developers, we solve problems every day. Surely there must be somewhere close that we can buy an adapter from. A quick look on Google Maps showed a Dixons store nearby, 20 minute walk in fact. Saaweeeet!
So what’s the plan?
We can get someone (Billy – because it’s all his stupid fault) to head over to Dixons, find the console section, buy the adapter, get back to the event, hook up the adapter, connect up the controllers, load Fragmental and boom, fun ensues.
Unfortunately things rarley go according to plan. Billy found himself stranded along the back of the NEC with a train track blocking the route that Google Maps had told him was fine. The bridge over and the underpass under the tracks were both blocked by padlocked gates! I would love to see a security camera catching Billy’s animated reaction to both padlocked gates – that would have been funny to watch. This wasn’t Billy’s day at all.
Luckily, Bert’s fantastic girlfriend Cali, was coming along to see him and she had picked up the adapter we needed and was on her way. I don’t think I’ve ever saw Billy looked so relieved. Cali – you’re a star!
We later found out that the Dixons we were attempting to get to was in fact situated in the departure lounge of Birmingham Airport. Probably just as well Billy didn’t get there, we didn’t need our Creative Director getting arrested for attempting to fight through airport security to get to Dixons.
So, we got Fragmental up and running and before long the place was packed, and we had a constant stream of people playing and enjoying the game.
All different characters went head to head, from Deadpool to Scooby Doo, to Portal’s Chell to Rey from Star Wars. It was great to see.
We were getting a real range of people playing; young kids and their parents, groups of teenagers, people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, guys and girls. The reaction was fantastic, they all loved the game and wanted to know when it was available and on what platform.
A lot of people are asking for a console version of the game, and we would love to get it on Xbox One and PS4, but our focus for the time being is PC.
Another thing we noticed was a lot of younger kids ranging from around 7 to 15 really enjoyed the game, they picked it up very quickly and before long they were giving us a few lessons. We didn’t expect kids so young to be able to play the game so well, so that was a really surprising and enjoyable thing to watch and realise.
On top of all of that, we also got quite a lot of valuable feedback and ideas for various Maps, Weapons and Game Modes. One idea that really got us thinking was to allow the environment to play against the players, so the environment could be added to a game as a 5th player, and would get a frag for every player that suicides. House wins!
Me showing them how it’s done.
Folk enjoying Fragmental
Billy vs. Dadpool
Back on the Road
So, we had a great time at Comic Con and the people who played Fragmental seemed to love the game, but it was time to say bye to Birmingham and get back on the road up to Dundee. We’ve got a game to finish!
We’re continuing work on updating Fragmental, and we just released our first Update for the game on Steam yesterday. You can check out what we’ve added here, and if you like what you see you can buy the game on Steam right now.
It’s time for our first ever Fragmental Update!
We hope you’re all enjoying the game, and to make sure you continue to have fun with it, we’ve just made Update 1 live on Steam.
Read below for some information on what we’ve added, what we’ve updated since we released the game last month.
The new content in Update 1 is focused on Weapons, Modifiers and some much needed UI and HUD improvements.
Fires a line of laser-like death that will bounce off any part of the environment it hits. It’s an instant shot, so there is no projectile to fly through the air towards the target. As soon as you fire the target you hit will be taken out.
There’s pretty much nowhere for your enemies to hide when you have the Sniper Rifle. The only thing it doesn’t do is fire through Teleporters, but we may add that ability in a future update.
Fires a burst of 5 bullets in a very short space of time, followed by a brief pause. Very little bullet spread, and the bullets fly faster than any other Weapon other than the instant Sniper Rifle.
What it lacks in fire rate, it makes up for in accuracy and bullet speed. So if your aim is good, even a target at the far end of a level is under serious risk of near instant death.
The Mine Launcher fires up to 8 Mines, which stick to the environment or the Character they hit. They are proximity Mines, but they don’t instantly explode when triggered, after a very short delay they eject a Homing Rocket which will track the target that triggered the Mine.
Placed Mines will automatically trigger after 6 seconds, and they will trigger for any Character, regardless who dropped them, so be careful you don’t drop them in your path.
This drastically reduced the amount of friction on any floor surface, making it very difficult to control your heading. The faster you move, the more momentum you will build up, making it very difficult to slow your slide and come to a stop.
Triggering the Black Ice Modifier on Maps which have holes or cliff edges can create total havoc.
This Modifier inverts the player movement controls, but not their aiming controls. Sounds pretty straightforward, but it can throw off even the most skilled of Fragmental players.
Similar to Black Ice, triggering the Reverse Runner Modifier on Maps with holes and cliff edges can create a lot of suicide, but it will create confusion and potentially give you the edge on any Map.
We can’t really show the Modifiers in motion – which is why we don’t have videos to show them off in game – this is purely because they’re all about input and control changes, so you need to feel them rather than just see them to understand exactly what they’re doing.
New Modifier Messaging
After adding the two new Modifiers – which can seriously screw you up if you’re not paying attention – we realised that we would need to inform the Player when a Modifier was picked up. So, we’ve added some new messaging for Modifiers.
The intention is to give everyone a warning that a – potentially dangerous – Modifier has been triggered – like the Black Ice.
When a Modifier is picked up, the icon pings from the position it was picked up from and scales up to the extents of the screen. This practically smacks you in the face if you’re simply watching others play, but if you’re actually in the game and focused on your targets, it’s just enough to catch your eye and give you pause.
Just before a Modifier is deactivated an audio sample “Modifier Deactivated” is played, which gives Players the warning that the – once again potentially dangerous – Modifier is about to turn off – like the Reverse Runner.
We updated the End of Round and End of Match score boards.
We created new artwork which is more in keeping with the Front End artwork.
We slide the scoreboard and text panels on and off screen to add a bit of ceremony to each too.
New End of Round Transitions
When a Round ends, we fade in a background image which serves two purposes.
It allows the End of Round / End of Match scoreboards to stand out more from the Map in the background.
It allows us to swap out the Map in the background without feeling like a glitch – basically adding a bit of polish to the Map transitions.
We still have some work to do to hide Characters, Weapons and Modifiers from appearing and disappearing, which will be fixed in a future update.
New Lobby Functionality
Players can now define their name using a classic arcade style 3 letter name.
This 3 letter name is then used to represent each Player in each of the 4 corners during a Round, on the End of Round Scoreboard, as well as the Map intro ping to show where each Player is located.
We’re not going to list all of the bugs we’ve fixed or you’d have an even longer scroll to get through, but we will list all of gameplay tweaks that will make a difference to your game experience.
Increased fire rate to make it run out of ammo faster.
It had felt a little overpowered before, it’s still incredibly dangerous, but the speed your run out of ammo balances this initial danger..
Increased projectile speed to be closer to the Player at full Sprint Speed carrying a Pistol.
We wanted the Homing Launcher to be a little more dangerous if you simply tried to outrun the Rockets – and we’ve succeeded.
Projectiles increased in speed to be faster than the Flak Gun.
We felt the Shotgun was simply a poor version of the Flak Gun. It’s now got the edge over the Flak Gun in a straight fight, but loses that edge if line of sight is blocked. This feels like a good balance to us.
Increased ammo from 3 to 4.
Quite simply, we love this Weapon and wanted the Player to have one more shot with each one.
Slightly increased projectile speed to be closer to the Player at full Sprint Speed carrying a Pistol.
We wanted there to be a little more danger to a Player trying to outrun the Redeemer in a straight line. Job done.
Accuracy increased and projectile speed increased to be faster than the Machinegun.
We wanted to beef the Pistol up a little to ensure it’s a dangerous Weapon in the right hands. It’s definitely meeting that demand now.
The Melee code was rewritten to make it move under physics rather than animation driven movement. This helped in various different ways.
The momentum of the Player can now be retained when performing an attack while running or sprinting – this makes the combat feel less stop and start when using Melee.
The physical connection with your desired target is now far more consistent – you can still slide through each other if you’re too close, but if you have the correct distance apart, you will always hit your target now.
The rate at which you can perform a Melee attack has also been increased and made consistent.
Thrown Weapon Updates
Like Melee, Thrown Weapons were completely rewritten to make them work in the way we had originally intended.
They will now fly from one side of the level to the other at a constant speed and not land on the ground – before this update your Weapon would tend to land flat on the ground a few metres from where you were standing.
The Thrown Weapon can now fly over any half height walls, and hit a target behind them – before they would tend to actually hit the half height wall.
You can now use a Thrown Weapon to defend yourself from projectiles as they will collide and break apart, taking out the projectile in the process.
You can also shoot a Thrown Weapon out of the air to avoid it hitting you.
Modifier Icon Updates
The Slow Motion Modifier icon has been changed to look less like the Camera Rotate Modifier icon.
DON’T LOOK DOWN
A fairly substantial update to the Map. The overall flow is the same, but the paths have been widened and the number of obstacles have been reduced, as well as making each of the corners a closer reflection of each other.
Improved Player and Weapon spawn positions, as some gave Players an unfair advantage, it’s a much better balance now.
The delay that was on the Infinite Ammo Modifier has now been removed.
Fixed a number of texture mapping issues on the walls and floors of the Maps.
Improved performance by optimising the materials we were using on the environment.
Player 1 used to be able to start a new game too quickly during the Match End scoreboard, which could cause some audio issue if the next Match was triggered too early, we’ve added a short delay to avoid that happening.
We’re still in Early Access so we will obviously still have a fair few issues, but the main one we want to point out right now is that the new pre-game Lobby can’t be navigated with mouse & keyboard, its controller only for now – rest assured that we will sort this out in a future update.
That’s quite a lot to take in, but if anyone has any questions about any of this, add them to the Steam Discussions board and we’ll do our best to get back to you as quickly as possible.
Right, that’s enough blethering about Update 1 – we need to get cracking on Update 2 now!
Thanks again to everyone who has bought and is continuing to play Fragmental. If you’ve yet to take the plunge, head over to the Steam page and see if it’s time for you to jump in.
We’re going to Comic-con baby!
San Diego here we come! Wooooo!
Ah, not quite. Still, Birmingham is sunny right?!
Meet the Team
Personally I’m gutted not to be going. I’ve been to a few comic-con’s myself, and the chance to go and exhibit at one would have been fantastic. But life gets in the way, so while I’m off doing other things, anyone who visits booth 882 in Birmingham will have the dubious pleasure of meeting some of the other guys in the team:
Billy Thomson: Baldy, sweary, cuddly Scotsman and also our Creative Director at Ruffian, so I probably shouldn’t have said those things. But given that most of them also refer to me, I guess I’m safe.
Dave Hoare: Designer. Irish. Inventor of some of our most enduring and creative soundbyte insults during internal office playtesting. To be fair, he’s also made way more levels in Fragmental than any of the rest of us, so if you enjoy the game, a lot of it is thanks to him. If you go along to our booth, please call him Ratweasel.
Bert McDowell: Senior Coder. Makes things work, and tells us how, even though it’s usually above our heads. Interesting trivia #1: Bert likes a night in the pub with friends so much, there are actually weekly nights out in Dundee & Glasgow named after him – “Bert Wednesdays”. Worryingly, that is 100% true.
Promo Material & Merchandise
One of the happy side-effects of taking our game to shows and expos is that we end up with some nice things to beautify our office. And holy crap do we need it. There’s a reason we affectionately refer to our office as the “Ruffi-bunker”.
So now we have two free standing banners, and pretty sleek they look too. Personally I‘d like us to get two more to complete the set of 4 different player coloured characters, but that’s why I’m not in charge of finance.
The t-shirts are another new addition, you can never have too much merchandise. The hat is Steve’s own, and the Nerf guns have been kicking around the office for a while now. Shame we lost all the bullets years ago.
MCM Comic-con Birmingham
Back to Comic-con then. Last year’s event had almost 35,000 people attend, so this will be by far the largest audience we’ve had for Fragmental. By a factor of about 100! The MCM events are a great mix of TV & film celebrities, independent comic artists, cosplay, and games. While America leads the way with their internationally renowned San Diego and New York Comic-cons, the UK is rapidly catching on to the popularity of these festivals of all things previously considered ‘geek’, and bringing it out into the mainstream.
This is the next step in our plan to ramp up public awareness of Fragmental. We’ve done a few smaller, local events, and will continue to do these, however there comes a time when we have to think bigger, and that time is now. Once we’ve seen how well MCM Birmingham goes, we’ll solidify plans for the events we want to attend over the next few months.
Again, I really wish I was going to this. I can’t imagine anything better than seeing Kryten from Red Dwarf, Hannah from S-club 7, a full size chaos space marine, and Deadpool playing a 4-player game of Fragmental. Check the MCM Birmingham website, it could happen. Someone please make it happen…
After pouring so much of our love into Fragmental (that sounded better in my head), we’ve finally released it on Steam Early Access, and now as we continue to develop the game, we also have the small task of making the wider world aware of the fact it actually exists – and that it’s a lot of fun.
Now, I’m good at what I do. I mean really world leading. I’m also the one writing this, so nobody can
tell you the truth say otherwise! However, I’ll admit that I’m not a marketing guy. In fact, none of us at Ruffian are. We just want to make games, and leave the black art of sales & marketing to someone else. That probably comes from years of working with publishers who are prepared to put a sizeable marketing budget behind a game, and have the clout and name to be able to put a game in front of a worldwide audience. We’re doing this one on our own, on purpose, so that this game will be 100% our own blood sweat & tears. So, time to learn how to sell a game!
Steam had already been chosen as the platform of choice, as it is far and away the most visible and used platform for releasing independent games. Not much else to say on that. Bit of a no-brainer really. Previous blog posts have covered our experience of going through the Greenlight process on Steam, so no point retreading old ground there. With the platform of the game decided, now we need to find a way to guide people towards it.
Where to Advertise?
How people find information on games has changed drastically during the very short lifetime of the games industry, and will likely continue to develop in this inherently tech driven field.
Ever since Play Meter launched in the US in 1974, there have been physical printed games magazines.
The UK has always had a strong games magazine scene, and I remember as a teenager spending ages on a Saturday morning in WH Smiths or John Menzies scanning through the racks of different games magazines. Then buying most of them when I could have actually just bought the games instead. Depending on your games history (and affiliation during the great Sonic V Mario war of the 90’s), the magazines you remember most fondly will vary, but mine went something like this:
80’s : BBC Micro User (because a BBC is useful, not like that rubber keyed Spectrum thing. Yeah, cheers dad)
90’s : Sega Power, Sega Force, Mean Machines, C&VG, Megatech, Sega Pro, PC Zone, PC Gamer
00’s : N64 magazine, Play, Official Playstation magazine, Edge
10’s : Retro Gamer
Yes, I actually bought all of those, and plenty more I’ve forgotten. And that’s only a small subset from my upbringing of mostly Sega & Sony machines, with an N64 chucked in for good measure. Every platform had a pantheon of magazines dedicated to it, with classics like Super Play, Nintendo Magazine System, GamesTM, Famitsu, EGM, GamePro, GameInformer, and Amiga Format/ Sorry for all those I’ve not got round to name checking there. And finally a big doff of the cap to our CEO, Gaz Liddon, who worked on the much loved Crash & Zzap!64
Photo may not be current
In the mid 90’s, the first digital games magazines appeared. There is some debate over which actually came first, so to avoid taking sides, I’m simply not going to bother naming any of them. While a slow start, the move towards this new medium of games journalism gather pace, eventually leading to a growing number of traditional print media titles either being cancelled, or at least discontinuing in physical form while moving online. Print titles still exist, but in general, sales figures are down from the heyday of the 80’s.
The last few years have seen another major change in the way people find their games related information, but this time it’s more of a power shift than a medium change. While originally created as a simple way to share videos, YouTube has provided anyone with a webcam the ability to create their own channel, talking about whatever they want. Back in the 80’s & 90’s, the magazine reviewers gained a level of fame amongst those of us who avidly read everything they printed. These days, the most successful youtubers are achieving the same kind of celebrity in their field, but are also now crossing over due to their ubiquitous online presence, and are beginning to appear side by side with more traditional celebrities. Last year saw PewDiePie appear alongside politician John Kerry and actress Clare Danes on the Late Show.
With the subscription numbers of some of these guys and girls hitting well into the millions, it’s clear that they wield a huge amount of influence over the game buying public, and have the ability to directly impact potential sales. A quick scan of the most popular youtube streamers shows the clear correlation between Minecraft and youtube. Minecraft was always going to be a huge success, but going hand in hand with youtube streamers, there is now such a massive community for that game that it just continues to grow. At this point, I want to give a big congratulations to our neighbours (literally next door), 4J studios who are responsible for the Minecraft conversions to Xbox 360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4, PS Vita and Wii U versions. Top work guys!
While YouTube requires videos to be created, then uploaded, the growth of Twitch makes it possible for real time delivery of content. Essentially what we are seeing is like a tv broadcast, but with an almost endless choice of what show to watch depending on who you like as a presenter.
So What Do We Do?
I’ll be totally honest here. Until recently I didn’t really understand the whole YouTube streaming thing. It just looked like very self-assured people overreacting to games. Since then I’ve had the chance to meet a few of them, and yeah, ok. I was wrong. These guys are massively passionate about what they do. And yes they overreact, but that’s good. If anyone’s watched our Twitch stream from the office of us playing the game, they’ll notice that when the camera’s go on, we go all quiet and reserved. There’s that damn British reserved nature coming through. Reserved doesn’t make for good viewing. So thanks to Lolrenaynay, ZeRoyalViking, GassyMexicanand EatMyDiction1 for opening my eyes.
With Fragmental, we have been reaching out to Youtube and Twitter games reviewers who have shown in the past that they play multiplayer games, especially couch play. Fragmental is at its best when played sitting next to your opponents, so we want that to be what people are first introduced to when playing the game – obviously this will change as the game evolves through future updates with AI Enemies and Online Play.
The point of this blog post (and every previous blog post on this site) is to give you an open, honest, warts and all insight into how we’ve gone about making this game. That same ethos will follow through into the marketing of the game. Once we’ve provided a Steam code to a reviewer, that’s it. We’ll be making no requests, restrictions or embargos into the content of the reviews. So far we’ve seen a few gameplay videos going up, and it seems to be getting the reaction we were hoping for, other than an unexpected aversion to using the right stick.
To this end, we’ve made a public information poster.
The other advantage of the YouTube route is that when they find a game they like, and that their subscribers take to, it’s not uncommon for an ongoing series of videos featuring that game to ensue. Fragmental is all about the gameplay the players create, and is in no way prescribed or narrative driven, so every game can produce unexpected moments of greatness or disaster. Ideal fodder for continued broadcast, especially as our plan is to deliver a continuous stream of updates over the next few months, both feature focussed and cosmetic.
Here are some of the videos we’ve seen so far:
The 2nd Wave
We don’t intend to be in Early Access for too long, our aim being to go to full release within the next few months. If we go through other media channels such as mainstream gaming websites, or print media too early, their review will be of a game missing features and it’s unlikely that they will return to publish an updated review later. While Fragmental is available to buy now, and is a fully playable game, there is still a lot of content we really want to deliver. The big 2 of AI enemies and Online play are still to come (though I saw an AI test today, and its already playing amazingly well), and we have a large collection of maps, weapons, modifiers, game modes, and customisation features still to reveal. Once most of this is complete, then we’ll approach the mainstream gaming press so that we can show it in the strongest light possible.
The Final Assault
By this stage we’d hope that Fragmental has gained a certain following and has made a name for itself. The final push would be to transition into more generic press, to expand the potential audience from just games players who read games related journalism, to anyone who reads anything.
After that, global domination.
Now that we’ve launched Fragmental on Early Access, the real hard work begins. Getting the game out of Early Access and into Final Release.
It’s fair to say that Steam Early Access has been somewhat tainted by some games that have never actually been completed and gone to Final Release. This leaves players who have been trusting enough to take the gamble and spend their money on these games, feeling understandably cheated.
In order for us to say that Fragmental is no longer an Early Access game, we need to add all of the rest of our planned features and content to have a final, fully functional and feature complete game. While the Early Access release of Fragmental shows the core game at a polished level, we still have a lot of content and important new additions that we need to add, and it’s going to be a lot of work.
Regardless of how much work it’s going to take, we have no intention of staying in Early Access for a lengthy period of time. We have a Roadmap that we’re working to that should see the game complete before the end of Q2 2016, and unless we’re hit by an avalanche of community feedback issues, we think we can make that happen.
Sharing is Caring
As you can likely tell from our previous blog posts, we’re big fans of letting the public know what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and when we’re doing it. So with all of that in mind, we’re going to share our Roadmap with everyone, so they can see what we’re currently working on, and what we have coming in the future, and hopefully from all of that we can get some feedback.
The Roadmap is intentionally high level. It lists only features, content or areas of polish that the will either be clearly apparent to the player, or something they can directly experience in the game. It doesn’t go down to the much larger set of low level tasks, that each individual on the team will need to complete in order for those individual features and content to make it into the final game. That’s where our project schedule comes in – and we’re not sharing that, because nobody should ever get to see behind the curtain – just ask the Wizard of Oz, he was never the same after that.
We decided to split the Roadmap into 8 future Updates, and our goal is to release a new Update every 2 or 3 weeks. We’ve tried to provide some form of theme to each Update, so that players get groups of features or content that compliment each other, and provide a kind of rhythm to the overall Roadmap. The actual deliverables for each Update might change from time to time based on community feedback or internal playtests, but we’ll try to stick to our original plan if it makes sense.
So, after all of that, I guess I should give you a link to our Roadmap on Trello.
We’ve also just added a Roadmap Discussion to our Steam Page for everyone to add any Roadmap based comments they have, and we’ll do our best to keep on top of them all and answer any questions or respond to any suggestions as quickly as we can. If anything happens that means we need to alter the Roadmap we’ll make that clear on the Roadmap Discussion.
If you’re already a Fragmental fan and you would like to help us in any way, you can spread the word about the game and link to our Steam page. Even if you only have a few followers, every little bit of support helps us enormously. If any of you are already spreading the word, it’s hugely appreciated, and please keep it going.