About Jarcas Studios (twitter: @JarcasStudios)

Jarcas Studios is the software/game/media development company that is basically just Clarence Simpson. Come visit us at http://www.jarcas.com

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Ludum Dare 27
 
Ludum Dare 26

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A friend and I recently decided to enter the Indie Game Maker Contest and we just submitted our entry earlier this week. Would love for some of you to take a look at it and let us know what you think. We ran out of time to do everything we wanted, but it is in a very playable and fairly polished state. We plan on adding a few more features and then giving it a full release.

The concept is something I had considered doing for a previous Ludum Dare, but ended up not having the time. It is pretty unique, I think, combining the procedurally generated gameplay of an endless runner with the scaling mechanics of Katamari Damacy. Yes, you can play it forever if you’re good enough. It’s also got a very nice hand-painted art-style.

On our contest entry page you can find more screenshots, longer gameplay video, and links to either download (Windows EXE) Miopia or play it in your browser (via the Unity plugin).

Miopia at the Indie Game Maker Contest 2014

 

miopia-gameplay

King of All the Candies (my Candy Jam submission)

Posted by (twitter: @JarcasStudios)
Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 12:40 pm

CoverImage

 

screen2 screen1

The Candy Jam just seemed like a really good reason to make a game.

Originally, I had planned to just change a project I already had in the works to include candy… but that felt too easy. I wanted a little more challenge than that. I wanted to be much more sophisticated and experimental in my trolling.

So, I made a game about being a game developer that sues other developers for trademark infringement and also develops copycats of other successful games. You can play the end result at the link below. I hope you all enjoy it!

King of All the Candies

The Vengeful Baby-Men – Post-Compo on Kongregate

Posted by (twitter: @JarcasStudios)
Sunday, September 22nd, 2013 6:56 am

I just posted a post-compo version of my LD27 entry, The Vengeful Baby-Men, to Kongregate.

It’s largely the same game with a few minor fixes/enhancements. The biggest addition is integration into Kongregate’s High Score lists. See if you can get the best time!

The Vengeful Baby-Men on Kongregate

2nd LD = Bronze in Audio! Thanks!

Posted by (twitter: @JarcasStudios)
Friday, September 20th, 2013 1:19 pm

ratings

Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who took the time to play and rate my game!

My previous entry (LD26) was a decent game but was rated very poorly in audio because I ran out of time and didn’t get around to adding any at all. I actually managed to score a 1.31 in Audio that time. I guess there were actually some reviewers out there who felt that silence was worth more than a 1. heh.

Anyway, I knew I wanted to make sure that I didn’t have a repeat of my audio performance this time for LD27. I wanted to make something where the audio was central to the experience of the game. So, I got all crazy and ended up deciding to make a music game with some original music that I’d record over the weekend.

I knew I’d do better in Audio this time around… but I still didn’t have a full complement of sounds – no UI sounds or anything – just 30 seconds of original music. I definitely didn’t expect to get 3rd place in Audio across all Jam entries, and I’m not entirely sure that I deserve it, but I appreciate it all the same!

Anyway, this has been a great 2nd Ludum Dare for me. I’m very happy with how everything turned out and am looking forward to the next one!

More thoughts on compo music (and content generators)

Posted by (twitter: @JarcasStudios)
Saturday, September 14th, 2013 10:18 pm

This is actually written in response to all the comments that were made on a previous post I made about the surprising (to me) amount of high-quality music in the compo division.

First of all, thanks for all the thoughts and feedback on my last post everyone! Always nice to hear good discussion on stuff like this. Sorry for the late reply on my part, I hadn’t realized the post received so many comments (would be nice if the site notified me somehow).

Anyway, first of all let me say that I wasn’t assuming most people or even anyone in particular was cheating. I just saw a very high level of quality in compo music and that made me a little suspicious if it was supposed to all be created from scratch. Maybe it was just a statistical fluke based on the particular 30 or so compo games I played… maybe there actually was a high level of musical talent in the compo… maybe the definition of “from scratch” was a bit more lenient than I originally thought. I didn’t know. I guess I just wanted things to make sense.

I hadn’t considered that music generators like Band in a Box or Abundant Music were legal, but that’s the impression I got from those that mentioned them. If that’s the case, then I think it’s safe to assume that they may be why so many compo entries have decent music that follows the conventions of popular music fairly well (similar to tools like bfxr/sfxr being the reason so many compo entries have decent sound).

Though that would explain why I see what I see, I have to admit I find the legality of music generators to be a bit odd. I have a Casio keyboard and it features dozens of different instrument samples and accompaniment in dozens of different musical styles. I can simply choose a musical style, give it a tempo, and it starts playing a 6-part track including bass, drums, piano, etc. including an intro, outro, bridges, and fills. I would feel like using that music would be cheating for the compo… yet, if Band in a Box is legal, I don’t see how using the keyboard’s features are that much different.

I guess the question is where does that line of “creating your own music” get drawn? Using music generators is kinda like taking a bunch of sound samples and musical patterns made by other people and rearranging and tweaking them to suit your tastes. Should that count as making your own music?

If you answered yes, I have a question for you. What do you think about this?

HeroMachine

HeroMachine is another content generator. It’s a tool to generate a character portrait for you. There are dozens of options for creating your portrait from different body parts, clothing, and other pieces and tweaking those pieces to suit your taste. Should it also be legal for me to use HeroMachine to generate graphics for my compo entry? I would argue that music generators and tools like HeroMachine are no different. They should either both be legal or both be illegal… but I suspect people would be a lot more upset about the usage of HeroMachine in a compo entry.

Interestingly, bfxr/sfxr feel like they are in a slightly different category of content generator. I think the usage of them feels (to me at least) a little more “pure” and legitimate than other content generators because the core content that the generators are based on are simply mathematical functions. These generators are not simply combinations of various “snippets” of art that were created by someone else. Though you could maybe argue that even the presets of “Pickup”, “Explosion”, etc. required the artistic input of someone to decide the range of mathematical parameters that made those types of sounds.

Well, regardless of people’s opinions on the various aspects of this topic, there seems to be one common thread. Everyone seems to agree that there should be some clarification regarding the rules of music production for the compo division. I don’t really care much either way, but I would like those restrictions to be more clearly defined.

Thoughts on music in the compo division

Posted by (twitter: @JarcasStudios)
Friday, September 6th, 2013 6:43 pm

Maybe I’m just a cynic.

I’ve been playing and rating quite a few compo games, and I feel like a disproportionate number of them have “good” music.

That’s a qualitative statement, of course, but music composition and production are skills unto themselves and I think those skills tend to fall pretty low on the game dev priority totem pole. I would wager that most compo devs don’t have much or any music skills, or even if they do, other aspects of the game take precedence with such a limited time. I would say that the music restriction is maybe the toughest part of the compo rules.

With that said, I would expect most compo entries to have no music, VERY simple music, or qualitatively-not-so-great music. I’ve been involved with hobbyist music composition and production communities and I know the typical results of hobby production from people that would actually label themselves as amateur music producers. Yet somehow, the compo music often feels like it’s a step above that. It’s usually fairly low-tech and synth-based, but very polished, and with good understanding of song structure, tempos, musical scales, and chord theory.

I find that very surprising when compo restrictions limit your pre-generated content to basic instrument samples, drum samples, and drum loops. Making music from those base elements is hard and absolutely takes skill. I can’t help but suspect that a lot of compo entries found some free songs or fully produced loops out on the web and used them rather than painstakingly recording every single note that I hear in their music.

Then again, like I said, maybe I’m just a cynic and there are a lot more talented musicians here than I give credit for.

40 Games Rated – My Favorites

Posted by (twitter: @JarcasStudios)
Monday, September 2nd, 2013 8:58 am

Well, I’ve managed to rate 40 games so far. People seem to like “Best Of” lists, so here are my favorites of the ones I’ve played:

  • Make a game Game – This is definitely my absolute favorite I’ve played so far in LD27 – a clever little game about making a game. This is the kind of thing that anybody who participates in Ludum Dare can really appreciate.

  • Lost Pixel – Underneath this unassuming exterior is an addictive little puzzle game that will really get your heart racing. You are given a grid of random pixels and tasked with finding one particular pixel in 10 seconds. Each time you succeed you’re given a little more time and a larger grid. I got to level 30! Can you beat that?

  • Royal Decree – There wasn’t much to this game, but it charmed me all the same with its wit and packaging. All you have to do is watch the story, and then click twice waiting as close to 10 seconds between the clicks as possible. What really sold me on this game were all the crazy endings. I also did end up having a competition with my wife to see who could get the closest to 10 seconds.

  • Impact – A 10-second endless runner… does that make any sense? I don’t know, but I still love the style that just oozes from this game. Fantastic pixel art that sets a great mood for the end of the world.

  • Time Slime Arena – Nice little arena survival game w/ a surprising amount of depth and player choice. Lots of nice touches of polish in this one.

The Vengeful Baby-Men: The Post-Mortem

Posted by (twitter: @JarcasStudios)
Tuesday, August 27th, 2013 12:48 pm

Well, my 2nd Ludum Dare has come and gone. I almost thought I wasn’t going to be able to do this one, but it worked out in the end. I ended up with a strange experiment of a game called “The Vengeful Baby-Men“. I guess if you had to categorize or label it, it would be an “audio puzzler”.

screen1

First, here’s a list of everything I used to make the game:

  • Game Engine/Language: Unity 4.2, MonoDevelop, C# (~350 lines of code written)
  • Version Control: Mercurial (TortoiseHg) and Bitbucket.org
  • Unity Packages: Orthello Free, iTween
  • Music Production: Reaper, Fender Strat guitar, a cheap Casio keyboard, Addictive Drums, and several free VST instruments and effects
  • Graphics  Production: GraphicsGale
  • Web Hosting: Dreamhost

Now, here are my thoughts on the whole development process:

What Went Right

  1. Unity – Unity is just the best thing to happen to indie game development ever… and I don’t make that statement flippantly. I am an unabashed Unity fanboy because Unity has empowered me to do things by myself, for free, that I couldn’t have dreamed of not too long ago.
  2. Theme – I knew up front that my participation time was going to be limited, so I decided that if I didn’t like the theme then I would pass this time around. Going through the theme voting, “10 Seconds” quickly became my favorite. I loved the possibilities that the theme presented. I loved how it seemed to push devs toward a style of gameplay that you might call “bite-sized”. I had ideas running rampant. When “10 Seconds” won, I had to participate. I had too many cool ideas and this was going to be my excuse to actually make one of them. That motivation helped me push through and submit something.
  3. Orthello – While the free version of this 2D package for Unity isn’t quite as good as some others, it’s becoming my go-to package for 2D Compo work since it is free. There’s really quite a bit of functionality in the free version including sprite animations, 3×3 sprite scaling, font rendering, etc.
  4. GraphicsGale – It took me a little time to get used to some of the quirks (especially related to alpha channels and transparency) of this lightweight little program but now I really like using it for making 2D sprites. It’s got Photoshop-like functionality without the massive footprint of Photoshop. I also like this GraphicsGale/Orthello combination a lot better than my RagePixel solution from LD26. RagePixel was cool, but, feature-wise, it just doesn’t compare to this pair of tools.
  5. Audio – My LD26 game, Tiny Runner, got quite a few complaints in the reviews because I didn’t get around to making any audio at all for it. I was determined not to let that happen this time, so I ended up swinging to the other extreme and making a music game. This allowed me to draw on my experience in amateur music production and get the music done quickly. I only took about 2 hours to go from concept to 3 finished songs sliced up into a bunch of separate audio clips.

What Went Wrong

  1. Time – This will probably always be a “What Went Wrong” for me. The theme was announced at 9pm my time. I brainstormed for the rest of the night and set up an empty Unity project, but didn’t actually build anything. Saturday I had to practice for and play at a wedding reception with the Top 40 cover band that I’m in. That pretty much shot that whole day. Then, Sunday came and I had to do some shopping, go to a birthday party, and help with other things around the house. I was finally able to work on LD by Sunday evening, but there was no way I’d get it done in time for the Compo deadline. I worked on it a good 10-12 hours before finally submitting Monday night. So, even though I worked almost entirely under Compo restrictions, I had to submit my game as a Jam entry. For the next LD, I may just need to blackout that weekend and make sure nothing else is going on.
  2. Little Kids In The House – Don’t misunderstand… I LOVE my kids! But it is next to impossible to focus on anything for an extended period of time while kids (especially very young ones like mine) are in the house. I have a 4-year old and a 6-month old. I had toyed with the idea of just letting my wife deal with them by herself on Sunday, but my conscience wouldn’t let me do it after she had already had them all day Saturday while she was trying to do work herself. That meant trying to code with an infant in my lap… trying to compose music while also making sure the infant on the floor beside me doesn’t eat pennies… and trying to draw pixel art while your 4-year old wants you to read him a story. Ideally, I think I need to be away from the kids next time.
  3. No Testing – Related to the time problems, I wasn’t able to get anyone else to try the game before submitting. With my game, especially, I was worried about this. Being that I wrote the music, I know exactly how the music is supposed to sound. So, I’m not really a fair judge of how hard it is to put the slices back together. Luckily it seems to have gotten a fairly good response so far, but I still worry that it’s too difficult  especially for non-musicians.
  4. “Level” Design – Designing “levels” for this kind of game is difficult. I knew up front that I need to make sure that I did not slice the songs on the beat. I had to ensure that there was only one way to put the slices back together. If I sliced the songs on the beat, the slices could arguably be interchangeable. I also needed every slice to be the same length so they could be rearranged easily. This meant carefully selecting the tempo of each song before ever recording anything. I also realized that certain styles of music would be easier to rearrange than others. The drums are particularly difficult to rearrange because they are so repetitive compared to other instruments. I would’ve liked to have polished the songs a lot more if I had more time.
  5. Audio “smoothness” – The end result wasn’t quite as smooth as I wanted. As some reviewers have noted, even when the slices are in the proper order, you can sometimes still hear a little hiccup or stutter between slices. I had always envisioned those stutters as being the indicator that your slices are in the wrong order. Apparently, playing a new clip as soon as the previous one ends doesn’t quite work like I’d hoped. Although the first song sounds much smoother than the others IMHO. Maybe they just needed to be cleaned up somehow? Regardless, I didn’t have the time to mess with it.

Overall, this Ludum Dare was a fun little experiement and I’m looking forward to the next one and playing everybody’s games from this one.

You want audio?! I’ve got your audio RIGHT HERE!

Posted by (twitter: @JarcasStudios)
Monday, August 26th, 2013 6:00 pm

So, my LD26 game Tiny Runner got dinged a bit in the reviews/ratings because I didn’t get around to adding any sound to the game at all. I wasn’t going to let that happen this time around. :)

So, what did I do this time for LD27? I made a music game of course!

The Vengeful Baby-Men is an audio-based puzzle game where the goal is to take 10-seconds songs that have been sliced up and put them back together.

It’s kind of an oddball idea, but it was an interesting and fun project regardless. Plus, I got to spend a little bit of time composing/recording a few very short and simple songs.

I made the game basically under compo rules, but was unable to get anything in by the Sunday deadline so I’ve submitted it as a Jam entry.

Screenshots won’t do a music game justice, of course, but here you go anyway… Hope you all enjoy!

screen1

Jarcas Studios (me!) is in for the compo

Posted by (twitter: @JarcasStudios)
Wednesday, August 21st, 2013 7:26 am

Looking forward to this one. I’m actually still working on turning my previous LD entry, Tiny Runner,into a small but polished game w/ global leaderboards, updated graphics, new gameplay features, a refined difficulty curve, and sound and music. Hoping to release that soon on Ouya and possibly other platforms as well.

Really cheering for the “10 second” theme this time around. That one would result in tons of cool ideas I bet.

I will be using:

Engine/Language: Unity 3D and C# (MonoDevelop)

Sound Effects: bfxr and Audacity

Music (if I get around to it): Reaper, Reason, and a bunch of VST plugins

Graphics: GraphicsGale, Photoshop, Pixlr, Blender and/or Sculptris (but not likely)

Unity Packages: Orthello Free, iTween, GameDraw  Free (maybe)

Tiny target platforms

Posted by (twitter: @JarcasStudios)
Tuesday, May 14th, 2013 11:32 am

tinyrunner

I’ve had a few people suggest that my little 20 pixel wide LD26 entry, Tiny Runner, could fit on a watch. Whether this was meant in jest or not, it got me thinking about what kind of tiny target platforms are out there.

One of my original reviews actually suggested that I port this game to the Pebble wristwatch… though I think that’s not realistic since Pebble is an e-ink based display and won’t have the refresh rate needed for Tiny Runner to be playable. It would be cool to get this game on some kind of tiny display though. Anyone know of any other devices with a tiny display that might be well-suited for a game like this?

Tiny Runner

Posted by (twitter: @JarcasStudios)
Monday, April 29th, 2013 7:49 am

tinyrunner

Worked right up until 10 minutes before the deadline last night to finish this little game that I have dubbed Tiny Runner.

It’s only 20 pixels wide (scaled up to 40 to be a little more visible/readable on modern displays) and it fits squarely in the “endless runner” genre of games.

I used the Unity game engine and two free add-ons from the Unity Asset Store: Orthello Free and RagePixel. I actually drew the art in Unity using RagePixel, so I didn’t have to resort to any external art tools. I thought I was going to be able to use RagePixel for everything, but it doesn’t support any kind of font rendering and I wanted to display a minimal bit of tiny text. So, I had to break out Orthello (a nice free 2D toolkit for Unity) to handle the font rendering.

Code-wise the game is made up of only 4 C# classes (not counting Unity and the add-ons I mentioned above) – Runner, Wall, Zapper, and EndlessRunnerManager. I wrote about 350 lines of code for the final submitted version.

This was my first attempt at ever making art for my own games. I ended up drawing the little guy and giving him 4 animations (run, jump, duck, die) in each of 3 colors. It was actually pretty neat limiting myself to such a small number of pixels. In the end, it ended up balancing out my utter lack of art skill I think.

I had a busy weekend so I wasn’t able to do everything I wanted to do. I especially wanted to add sound and tweak the difficulty curve. All in all I spent maybe 7-8 hours in development time. I’m overall very pleased with the result since this was my first ever Ludum Dare entry.

First screenshot (programmer art in full effect)

Posted by (twitter: @JarcasStudios)
Friday, April 26th, 2013 10:48 pm

1st-shot

Well, I ended up using the free RagePixel add-on for Unity rather than messing around with GraphicsGale and Orthello. RagePixel lets you actually draw and animate your sprites right inside of Unity.

So, I’ve started by making an animated little pixelated dude and a little zapper thing. Not bad for programmer art if I do say so myself.

Well, 2am here, time for some shut-eye.

Minimalism I can do

Posted by (twitter: @JarcasStudios)
Friday, April 26th, 2013 8:35 pm

Ahh… “Minimalism”, eh? Honestly, coming from a programmer with minimal art skills and a busy weekend, I couldn’t be happier with the theme! This is perfect for my first LD. I just need to be really creative in my approach. Hmm….

My immediate first thoughts are something designed around using just boxes of two different colors.

Jarcas Studios is in for LD26

Posted by (twitter: @JarcasStudios)
Friday, April 26th, 2013 2:23 pm

Jarcas Studios (which is me) will be participating in Ludum Dare 26, my first ever LD! I plan to use:

  • Unity3D
  • Orthello Free (2D system for Unity)
  • GraphicsGale
  • Pixlr Editor
  • possibly Blender or Sculptris if I decide to go 3D
  • If I get around to making music I will be using Reaper and possibly Reason.

Good luck everyone! Looking forward to this!

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