Supergirl and how not being so ‘super’ is cool, part 2

•November 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Hello again.

I couldn’t write this blog post before, but maybe it was for the best because I watched “Livewire” before writing this. That episode was interesting because it showed yet another part of the character: the family. In some ways, this show reminds me of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, because it was not just about stabbing vampires left and right, but about the Scooby gang, their lives, relationships and all that. TBH, as a writer, that makes the entire thing more interesting because you get to know who the characters are.

So, what about that game I was talking about last time?

I’ve been thinking about a game about a would-be super-heroine for some time, but rather than making it a Batman Arkham kind of game, I was thinking about making it about an origin story, and how that heroine gives her first “baby steps” into heroism.

Know that I love the Batman Arkham games that I’ve played, and I’d certainly like to make a Batman Arkham kind of game with a heroine, but there’s a small problem: there’s no chance our team could do something like that.

So, origin story and everyday life…


Maybe we have our heroine, and at some point she’s told about her true nature. She needs to learn how to fight, how to defend herself, but at the same time she has to deal with everything related to her “day to day” life, like going to school (or being home schooled, because her parents are actually trying to “protect” her, keeping her in a “safe” environment), meeting friends and at some point maybe having a boyfriend.

I keep going back to Buffy episode structure, where you have the antagonist’s introduction, and all the fights, but you have all the inbetweens when Buffy is doing “regular girl stuff” and then the whole “prepare for battle” stuff. It’s not about kicking ass all the time, since you do have enough time for character development.

Supergirl does pretty much the same. Granted that a lot of people know who Supergirl is, but there’s a lot of people watching the show who have never read a comicbook (like me). We can get into the whole debate about the Supergirl from the TV show being “faithful” to the comicbook version, but that’s not the issue here. The issue is letting the audience know the character in that specific world.

Also, what if the game was actually episodic? I don’t mean “episodic” in a gamey way, but rather in a TV format way, with around 20 – 30 minute episodes that are self-contained but also share a larger theme that holds the entire “season” together. Since you’d start from the origin story, you could see her changing from this “not so super” heroine into a stronger and more capable one at the end of the season. This could also help introduce new gameplay mechanics. She’d be getting more resourceful and skilled, but also she’d learn new secrets or “powers” and you could gradually put those into the game.

However, this could be somewhat difficult to pull off. The biggest problem I see is that maybe players wouldn’t like to wait 4 or 5 months for the next 20 minute episode to show up. Also, branching storylines could be a problem, because they add to development time and could be really problematic when managing a 10 episode season. On the other hand, this origin story could be treated as a slightly larger stand-alone game.

Personally, I’d like to see something like this being made.

Supergirl and how not being so ‘super’ is cool

•November 10, 2015 • Leave a Comment

So, I’ve been watching Supergirl. Some people like it, some people don’t, but personally I find the concept very interesting, specially after the catastrophe that was Meh of Steel.

Let’s just get this out of the way: Meh of Steel is trash. Thanks.

Also: I’m not a comic book fan, so I don’t intend to compare the show to the comic.


Also: I’ve seen some people complaining that Supergirl is some sort of feminist propaganda. TBH, I’ve only found a couple of lines that were completely pointless: one of them is when she’s training, being followed by missiles, and she demands if she has to go through training because she’s a woman. The other one, I can’t remember, but it was also very “yeah… whatever…” And yes, Calista Flockhart has delivered a couple of those, but I don’t care, because she’s Ally McBeal and she can say anything she wants.

Now that we took the obvious stuff out of the way…

The most obvious difference between Meh of Steel and Supergirl is the sense of humor. It reminds me of the Superman movie from 1978. Supergirl is actually nice to watch, because it’s fun when it’s supposed to be fun, and serious when it’s supposed to be serious. Superman (1978) was a very good blend of action, drama and humor (ditto for Supergirl, IMO), while Meh of Steel was like a single gritty tone for around 2 hours.

However, there’s another thing that really got my attention: the fact that Supergirl isn’t really “super” in the show. When she was going to rescue the plane, she had trouble flying, and then when she tried to do other things, she pretty much screwed up (like when she caused the oil spill). What’s interesting to me here is that sometimes she’s trying to do good, but she’s never fully in control so she screws up.

The same happens during her first battle: she is overpowered because, even if she has superpowers, she doesn’t know how to use them.

To me, that’s what makes the show interesting, because it’s more realistic. We’re talking about a girl that hasn’t used her powers in a long time (she didn’t remember how to fly, for example), and is trying to go through a crash course of super-heroism. On the other hand, in Meh of Steel, Superman puts on the suit, and next thing you know, he’s destroying an entire city like a badass…

This means we also get a completely different view to the whole “they are not Super yet, so that’s why they make mistakes.” Supergirl “isn’t super yet” so she causes an oil spill. Superman (in Meh of Steel, obviously), “isn’t super yet” so he destroys two or three cities, killing a bunch of people in the process.

We still haven’t seen how Supergirl would react to a situation where she needs to fight a foe in a more populated area, so it would be interesting to see if she is smart enough to take the fight away from the city, or if she’d go full Meh of Steel and destroy half a city.

To me, Supergirl makes kryptonians watchable again.

But the story doesn’t end here. I wouldn’t be much of a sorta-game-developer if this show hadn’t gotten me thinking about a game that follows this same formula (just like Cast Away got me thinking about how a different story could have served as an origin story for Lara Croft and her “a survivor is born” motto), and how such game could present the “origin story” of a super hero, or super heroine. After all, I’m all for story-driven games, and I believe a concept like this could be an interesting one for a game.

However, it is time for me to leave, so I will talk more about this would-be game next week.

The Renderosity Magazine launches

•September 29, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Hi all, just a quick update. As you know, I’ve been writing for Renderosity for A LONG time. Well, they recently launched an online magazine (AKA an online platform for articles related to art, animation, techniques and stuff like that). My latest articles have made it there: the ones about OneRender, Substance Painter, and an article about using Daz characters in Unity.

I really want to devote a lot of time to the Game Development Tips and Game Development Tools series, since that’s my main point of interest now. Besides, I think it can be a good thing to share some of the experiences I gain as I work.

The one about using Daz characters in Unity is about making things easier for small developers, so they can add human characters to their games without having to go through the pains of modeling those themselves.

And that’s it. Not much to share about the current projects, as we’re still testing, and finding bugs. Luckily, almost all bugs are gone D:

See you soon.

New Project: The Nightmare from Outspace

•August 17, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Well, some time ago I briefly posted about the new project. It’s been under development for some time but since I’ve been away I haven’t posted anything about it here. That new project finally has a title, it’s “The Nightmare from Outspace”

The idea for this game was somewhat of an evolution. I first got the idea after playing the Tomb Raider reboot and thinking “well, I didn’t like it.” Long story short: I didn’t like the game because it didn’t feel like a Tomb Raider game, but rather it felt like a Gears of War game with some tomb raiding here and there (at least they seem to be adding some actual tomb raiding to the upcoming game). So I thought “what if we could make a sorta-tomb-raider game where the acrobatics are the main point, not something that is used between the shootings?”


The first iteration was to take place on an island, then we moved on to some idea about an actual tomb raider girl, then that evolved into some sort of space-tomb raider girl discovering ancient alien tombs, and now you’re “doing acrobatic stuff” in some sort of space station.

The game will be some sort of fusion between Tomb Raider and Metroid, because you will have to do all sorts of acrobatics and platforming, but at the same time you will be exploring, finding items to access new areas, and unlock other areas with those items or skills.

We had spent a lot of time working on the story, but we have to change it because we had problems with a team member who had been working on the story (basically, she showed she didn’t really care about the project and not doing what she was supposed to do). That means we have to rewrite the entire thing so that nobody comes to us later saying “hey you, the story was mine so you owe me part of the revenue” or something like that.

We do know, however, we do know the story is going to be inspired by cosmic horror, specially from Lovecraft and authors like him. That’s not to say you will see Cthulhu (or some Cthulhu-like space brother), because, as you know, the Lovecraft mythos is not just about Cthulhu.


We will launch a Kickstarter soon-ish, so I really hope you can help us reach the goal and make this game possible.

And that’s it!

You can see more of the project here.

Postmortem: Enola

•August 10, 2015 • 2 Comments

It’s been a looooooong time since I posted, but that’s just because I’ve been very busy with a demo for the current project. Since it’s been a long time, I figured I’d post something really interesting this time.


Almost one year ago, we released “Enola” after 2.5 years of development, and this June we released a free update that adds more content to the game. The development of Enola was a somewhat difficult and problematic, mostly because it was about sexual abuse.

I’m going to answer the most obvious question before anything else: “Why did you decide to make a game about that specific subject?” No special reason, because the story simply evolved in that direction.

So, one year later, I think it is a good time to share what went right, what went wrong, and what we could have done differently.


What went right:

Being able to tell the story I wanted to tell:
Here’s the thing, when someone asks what the game is about, depending on the person I will say it’s a game about a girl looking for a missing girl and that’s it. However, the REAL answer is “it’s about a girl (Enola) dealing with the aftermath of her lover (Angelica) having been raped a few years in the past.” It’s not the kind of plot you find in a game, so I’d say that being able to tell the story I wanted to tell is a good thing by itself.
This doesn’t mean it’s some sort of “Rated M for Mature” or even “Rated AO” game. The game itself is not graphic, save for a couple of really crude parts, including one with a character tied up with razor wire. The assault itself is never shown, just narrated, so it’s not like you see someone sexually attacked (not even touched) on screen.


Making believable characters:
People would often tell me they liked the characters because they were believable and well written. When I write characters, I take the time to write the entire biography, even if the actual story only shows like 15% of the entire thing. That is useful because I get to know who those characters are, and how they’d act. I even wrote one for the “bad guy” even if we barely learn anything about him.

The music:
Nick, the composer, is a very talented guy. When almost everyone tells you how much they like the music, that says a lot.

Getting into Steam:
This may or may not sound like something to care about, but I’d say considering 90% (or maybe more) of the sales comes from Steam, I’d say it’s a pretty big deal. Actually, it was not easy to go through Greenlight because I suck as a marketer, and it took some time to get the game greenlit, although that didn’t delay our release date in any way.

Making a game that gained a small but nice following:
Truth be told, there are some people who hated the game. Truth be told, half of those gave very good and acceptable reasons  (others seem to have expected a different kind of game). However, there are people that really love the game, mostly because of the story.


In-your-face violence really worked:
There are times when a big shadow dude will come to you and beat the crap out of you. These “close encounters” were designed to show a very “in-your-face” experience of your protagonist going through a violent situation (again, it’s not like you’re raped or anything, just badly beaten). Some people would comment that those situations were very effective because it was really daunting to see some (big) guy come and attack you. Also, the sound helped a lot, because you can hear the girl’s pain when she’s being hit.


What went wrong:

A crowded release date:
For various reasons, we were forced to release the game in September, when our plan was to release it at a different date. That caused quite a few problems, because we released the game too close to The Vanishing of Ethan Carter (a game that gained A LOT of attention when it was released), and also a couple of other big games. That means a lot of people didn’t even notice Enola had been released.

Lack of marketing:
We are a group of devs from El Salvador, a country known for many things except its game development industry. We are still giving baby steps when it comes to game development and there are way too many things we still don’t know. That includes video game marketing. This means we don’t really have a lot of experience when it comes to promoting a game, building an audience, and other things, and it became pretty obvious when we’d read a lot of people say “I didn’t know that game existed” some months after it had been released.

Lack of art direction:
A few comments I’ve read are “I like the art direction/visual style” but I have to say that’s one of the most painful comments I usually read, because the game has no art direction at all. Yes, it has a visual style, and a very good idea of what it had to look like. However, we had zero pre-production so we were pretty much coming up with the look of things at we developed the game.

Nothing was finished on time:
Or rather “almost nothing.” One week before launch we were still finishing some stuff, adding voice overs, etc. On top of that, parts of the levels were not done, some voice recordings were not ready, and it had a lot of bugs. This was pretty much the reason why we released the small update I mentioned at the beginning. Some people told me “why even bother releasing that update?” but the answer was really simple: “so far we’ve released half the story we want to tell.”

Too many bugs:
Since we were rushing to finish things on time, we didn’t have the time to test and debug the game. The first weeks were all about patching the game, something we would have done if we’d finished everything on time…


What could have been different:


“First you do the safe game, then you do the art game”:
(Then sometimes you gotta do the payback game because your friend says you owe him)
Maybe the combination of an unknown group of developers and a very unconventional game was not very good. I’m pretty sure it would have been a lot easier for a more known developer to gain traction for a game like this, and possibly it would have been better to make a more conventional game before, so it wouldn’t have been such a risky move.

There are way too many subplots:
One of my biggest problems was trying to keep it simple, because there were way too many things that related to each other. Yes, the basic plot was about a girl dealing with her girlfriend being a sexual violence victim. However, the subplots are: Enola is an orphan who lost her family after accidentally setting her house on fire, Angelica lost her father when she was very little and became an orphan after she accidentally killed her mother, Angelica’s relationship with her mother, Angelica’s memories about her father, the relationship between Angelica’s mother and father, Enola’s so-so relationship with religion (that includes Angelica’s view on religion, dealing with good Christians, bad Christians, and ugly Christians), the entire story about the two girls meeting (and falling in love) in the orphanage, Enola’s life between 12 and 19 years of age, some subtle subplot about a prostitute named Mari… I think that’s it… so yeah, it would have been better to make it more focused.

The gameplay could have been different:
Enola is about exploration, finding clues and solving (weird) puzzles. That’s pretty much what we could do at the time since we didn’t have all the skills we have now. However, even with our limited knowledge, we could have done something different, with a more engaging gameplay.

The final “boss” sequence didn’t work well:
I had a pretty good idea for that end sequence: the Monster would tease you, trying to get a reaction and then you would go berserk, hitting him and all that, but at the end he’d say that no matter if you killed him, the damage was already done. That sounds good on paper, but the implementation was really bad.
First of all, Enola is not a “fighter,” so it made little sense that she’d grab a maul and hit the guy over and over. She’s not even strong enough to lift up the damn thing.
Second, it felt completely off because the game had no combat, so it made no sense that you’d suddenly grab a huge hammer and start hitting the guy.
Third, it just doesn’t “feel” right. The more I see that sequence, the more I think “this could have been better.”
This ending “sequence” could be different, while retaining the same basic concept: you can’t change the past.

Really taking the time to nail down the entire story beforehand:
It was really hard to figure out how to present the story, the entire time I was unsure if what was being presented was the right way to do it, and a lot of time I kept rethinking certain things to make it less brutal or harsh (mostly because I had no idea how people would react to the game). Since it had pretty much zero pre-production, we made some stuff and then scrap it because we would change how certain sequence was portrayed. Not the most efficient way of doing things.


Final words:


Enola was a challenging game to make. Not because it was hard to program, but because of the story and things it needed to portray. Maybe it wasn’t the best option for a “first” game, and maybe it would have been better to gain a little more experience in game development before working on it. Besides, there’s a lot of things that could be improvemed. However, in general we’re very happy with the result and we’d love to work on a remake one day, as well as other games that expand the entire Enola universe. Will that ever happen? No idea. Right now we’re working on the next (more conventional) project, a cosmic horror themed 3d platformer titled “The Nightmare from Outspace.”

Enola is available on Steam (and other places).

Teasing a future project

•February 3, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Well, you’ve seen a few videos about this “platformer-tombraider-ish-game” thing I’ve been working on.

I’m still working out a few details (mechanics, story, etc.), but my idea is to make some sort of sci-fi platformer. I plan to post updates as I have more to share. In the meantime, you can go to this page and download the tiny sandbox level I’m using to test and debug the mechanics.

Enola sequel, spin-off, whatever?

•January 27, 2015 • Leave a Comment

So, what am I working on now? I am currently balancing between the Nightmare mode for Enola and a new project (somewhat unrelated to the “platforming” thing I’ve been showing).

Some people have asked if I plan to make a sequel to Enola, or something like that. To be honest, I would love to make a sequel, spin-off, prequel or something like that, but that will greatly depend on how well the game does.

If you’ve already played Enola, you may have noticed there are some things that are not resolved, and there are a few characters that aren’t explored much. Actually I have the biography and backstory for pretty much any character in the game, as well as the story of what happens next. What I’d like to explore first is Enola’s backstory, because she comes from a very different background.

So, will there be a sequel, prequel, spin-off, something? Only time will tell. In the meantime, we finish Nightmare mode and work on the next game. If everything goes as we expect, we will be showing you the next game at some point in May.

See you soon-ish!


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