Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Raising of the Curtain

Incoboto is finished (tm) and should be out around March 1st. Of course, nothing is ever really finished. There are countless tiny details, bijou bit-ettes, things I think kind of need a twiddle, but overall it's a finished game with a beginning, a middle and an end.

The last few months have been quiet, partly due to their being the hardest months of my working life. Creating a game entirely in isolation is a great deal of fun. However, it is also the circumstance where ones demons emerge from the gloom and do their best to choke self-confidence and reason.

Incoboto is now in Beta. Early feedback is good - though slightly surprising. I'll list the findings below:

If ever I wanted proof that music is a universal language, this must be it. Incoboto is pretty much founded on the mantra 'mood is king', and the music has turned out to be a massive tool in the pursuit of that goal. I fully expected a lot of people to say: "Huh... what's this weirdness all about? Why are my arms and legs so small? Who is this sun-thing?" 

But no. Apparently - like the lyrics to some of the best songs - it doesn't matter if things are a little opaque as long as they are done with conviction and heart.

For those of you who have not yet heard it, it is available on Bandcamp here:

For those of you who actually bought it: my heartfelt thanks. You'll never know how gratifying it is to see the little mails from Bandcamp telling me that someone liked it enough to part with cash in this strange 'grab-it-for-free' age of entitlement.
Those of you with long memories may recall that I was particularly proud of my weird new controls last year. I gave them the 'mum-test' and even she was able to clear a large number of solar-systems despite never having played an arcade game in her life.

In Beta, however, I have found that people are so used to having a joystick stuck in the bottom-left corner of the screen, that when there is not one present, they feel a little lost. Incoboto is best played with one hand, one hand underneath, the other on top performing all the actions. You'll see people do this when they browse the web on the iPad. You'll see them do it when they read magazines. However, put them in front of a game and their hands automatically go to the bottom corners, even when the game specifically says: "Hold your iPad this way!"

As a result I have now added an option for a left and right-handed joypad for movement directions.

I have learned that if you ask people what they want, they'll usually describe their requirements in terms of things that already exist, for better or worse. It's just human nature.

Incoboto is challenging once it gets into the later stages. The game is designed so you do get stuck. Not stuck as in: 
"I can't defeat this boss. You've made it impossible!" 
but as in: 
"How do the implications of all these items around here lead to a conclusion?"

One of my Beta testers has asked me to tell players the solution after a fixed time period. This isn't a terrible idea - and I can think of one really elegant variation that would work beautifully. 
However, it raises some interesting points.
First, it would completely destroy the illusion of this world you're wandering around to have solutions come from anywhere. Even if dressed up in the nomenclature of the mythology, it'd still be solutions rather than story. This seems wrong having spent so much time building the mood.

Second, I have implemented OpenFeint and GameCenter. Both of these have 'discussion' facilities. I'd want people to talk about puzzles while they are doing them! They're going to spew spoilers all over the internet at some point, anyway, so why not while they play?
As such, I think I might release without any further hint-stuff, and then add my help mechanism soon after - if it is really needed.

Making a Movie
Making a movie that illustrates the mood of your game is a really difficult thing to do. It's especially so for an iPad-only release. Incoboto is really CPU/GPU-heavy. As such, it runs like a winded nerd on the emulator. Not good. The iPad 1 doesn't have any video-out, and the iPad 2's video-out is HDMI-only. That's great if you have an HDMI recorder, which I don't.

Luckily, my flatmate is a skilled photographer with some very nice camera equipment. Hopefully, after fighting with contrast and moire-patterns, I might get a decent video together. It will, of course, feature that inevitable, unwanted co-star... finger.

So, when I finally get around to updating the site and post the movie, please be nice to the finger. It didn't even get an appearance fee.

Thanks to all of you who have followed this lengthy and sporadic blog. Fluttermind is likely to go on a back-burner once Incoboto is out.
My brother Simon and I, together with former Fable cohorts, Guillaume Portes, John McCormack and Jeremie Texier are off to do something huge, brave and bonkers. Wish us (and Inco) luck.

P.S. I largely stuck to that galaxy map!


  1. Looking forward to playing this Dene, it looks and sounds beautiful.

  2. Congratulations old man. Ditto on the new adventure. Glad to see that G is along for the ride. xo shawnee

  3. Thanks. A few save-bugs to go, but that's the nature of frickin' adventure games. Gah!

  4. For movie making, why not use mirroring on AppleTV? It means that you'll have to fork out £99 but you'll lose the finger.

  5. Actually, I ended up using advice from the SuperMono guys. Record on the simulator, use a bit of software to strip repeated frames and re-package as a .mov.

    I had to flash a little white dot in the bottom-right in order to get it to work properly!

  6. Actually, I ended up using advice from the SuperMono guys. Record on the simulator, use a bit of software to strip repeated frames and re-package as a .mov.

    I had to flash a little white dot in the bottom-right in order to get it to work properly!