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July, August, September Progress Updates

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Ok this one is a bigger update so brace yourselves!

As you may have noticed, we missed posting our last progress update by a month.  We’re sorry about that but there was a good reason behind it… we were working like crazy to get an Alpha build of the game ready!  And now I am happy to announce that the game is finally in Alpha!  This is a big milestone for us and we are happy with how the game is shaping up so far.  Now onto the updates!

JULY

Vancouver had a beautiful summer this year with many sunny days…which we spent in our office working on things like:

LOCALIZATION

We can now localize the language of the game!

We have set up all of the infrastructure to quickly and easily port Homeless to other languages besides English.  In order to speed up this process, we purchased the fantastic Localization Package plugin from the Unity Asset Store.  This helped us get things up and running a LOT faster than writing our own code from scratch.  Just another reason why we love Unity so much!  <3  The harder (and more time consuming) part of this process was setting up all of the tokens in the localization spreadsheet that enables us to replace the text on the fly.  Currently, all the text is still in English, but when we want to translate it now it won’t take long at all.  So… if anyone out there speaks another language and is willing to help us out with translation please contact us here and let us know!  :)

PEDESTRIAN WIKI

The Pedestrian Wiki keeps track of how people react to your actions. *NOT FINAL ART*

One of the strategies in the game is to approach the pedestrians with different actions in hopes of earning money.  Each pedestrian likes each action differently and will react accordingly.  This means that panhandling will be very effective on some people, but also very ineffective (damaging) on others.  Each pedestrian will react in one of five different ways depending on how you approach them.  These reactions include: love, like, neutral, angry, and violent.  Smart players have to remember which pedestrians to target with an action, and also which pedestrians to avoid.  Luckily the actions are introduced to you one at a time so you can experiment with them without being overwhelmed.  There are 32 pedestrians, 5 reactions, and 5 actions (panhandling, telling your story, sales, artist, and busking) which leads to a LOT of different results.  That is why we have included the Pedestrian Wiki.  This menu item tracks all of the pedestrian responses to each action as they are discovered.  Can’t remember how that old guy reacts when you paint his picture?  Check the wiki and find out.  :)

STORE OWNERS

We have added all of the characters to the game that work in the stores and services.  Each location in the game has a unique character that will greet the player when they enter the shop and comment when they make a purchase.  The greetings and comments are randomly pulled from a pool for each store to add a bit of variety to the game.  Each character is also brought to life with basic idle and talk animations.  Currently there are 18 store owners in the game but we may be adding a few more.

SCENE DECORATIONS

New sidewalks and a street with a bike lane outside Rogers Arena!

We spent a lot of time changing the art in all of the scenes to give each of them a more unique look and feel that is closer to what the actual locations in Vancouver look like.  Previously we had used the same generic art tiles for each location as we set them up.  This meant that we created a basic sidewalk tile, and then proceeded to use that exact same tile in each location.   Now we have created a bunch of variations of sidewalks, streets, streetlights, and other assets so that the locations have a much richer variety of assets.

AUGUST

The incredible weather carried on into August… and we carried on with things like:

NEW MAP SCREEN

The new and improved map!

We have replaced all of the placeholder art in the map screen with a new background image and new icons.  While it looks a lot nicer now, we also added some other improvements as well.  The map reflects all of locations in the game including their status at the given time.  So if you open up the map at 1:00 AM, you will see that the icons for the majority of locations are faded because those places are closed.  If you open the map at 10:00 AM, you will see that most places are open and their icons are bright.  Icons for locations will also start a pulsing fade one hour before they close to let you know that these places are closing soon.  We also added animated task notifications that mark the location for your active task.  If you’re not sure where to go for your current task, the map will let you know!  Finally we added an animated arrow that let’s you know where you are currently located in the city.

CHARACTER SELECTION SCREEN

Now you can choose between a male or female character! *NOT FINAL ART*

This is another cool feature I am happy to announce.  You can now select a character to play through the game as!  For the longest time we only had the one character to play with, but now we have TWO!  We have created our first female character, Jenny, so players now have a choice at their character’s gender.  This obviously required a new set of animations, but also required a new set of audio as well.  This was something we have wanted to do for a long time and now we have a solid framework in place to make it work.  We have also made specific clothing items for females, though most of the clothing in the game is gender neutral.  There’s nothing to stop you from wearing a hot pink mini-skirt as a guy!  Eventually we would love to create more characters to play as, but our focus right now is on finishing the game first.  We can always add future updates with more characters later if there is a demand for them.  :)

MORE AUDIO

We have recorded a bunch more audio and added it to the game.  In keeping with our audio design of using realistic sounds with our pixellated visuals, we have created a bunch of “Simlish” sounds for the player and the pedestrians.  We wanted the audio to be clear to all players, regardless of their native language, so we kept all the “dialogue” to very short, concise responses.  These consist of lots of yells, angry grunts, screams, uh-uhs, nopes, mm-mms, nuh-uhs, and other gutteral sounds from the pedestrians.  The player also uses these same “made up” sounds to convey their actions in the game.

SLEEPING CONSEQUENCES

Now there are consequences for sleeping outside!

One of the things we want to get across in the game is the consequences of sleeping outdoors.  As a homeless person, you are at your most vulnerable when sleeping outside because there is nothing stopping anyone from approaching you.  Sleeping outside is dangerous, and as a player you will have to decide where to sleep for the night.  Random events occur during the night and you are notified of what happened when you wake up.  These random events are usually not nice and will affect your character the next day.  Examples of negative consequences include being attacked in your sleep (lose Health), being robbed (lose Money), being sprayed by a skunk (lose Hygiene) and being constantly woken up by sirens (lose Spirit).  However there are also positive results such as awakening to find a care package ( gain Hygiene), finding a couple bucks tucked in your hand (gain Money),  finding someone left you food (gain Health), and having a peaceful rest (gain Spirit).  These random events help mix up the game and also provide the player with insight into things that happen to real homeless people that are beyond their control.  We wish we had the time to animate all of these incidences, but for now the text will have to do.

SEPTEMBER

With the beautiful summer behind us, we continued on with:

ALPHA BUILD

We are here! :)

This was a major milestone for us!  We spent the majority of the month working towards getting an Alpha build of the game up and running.  This included a lot of work tying together a bunch of the systems we had in place and ironing out some wrinkles with the gameplay.  We also wanted to make sure our analytics were working and that the game was properly pulling everything it needed from our servers.  We fixed a bunch of bugs (though there are still many more to fix) and polished up some rough edges (though a lot more polishing still remains) but we are happy with the progress we have made.  Most of our development is done on PCs and we spent a lot of time fixing things up to run on that platform.  When we went to build the game to Unity’s webplayer, we had a LOT of issues to fix so that set us back about a week.  Now that those problems are fixed and the web build is working, we are happy to announce that our game is now Alpha 1.00 and we we are ready to show it off to our backers for feedback.  Previously we announced that anyone who qualified as a Beta Tester on KickStarter has been upgraded to an Alpha Tester.  If this applies to you, expect an email from us shortly describing how to access the game!

Things are progressing faster now and we hope to hit Beta pretty quickly.  Well that’s the latest from us.  Thanks for reading and stayed tuned for more updates in the near future.  :)

 

When is this game coming out??

Posted on by Chris in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Alright.

This is the question I know everyone wants answered.  Everyone wants to know when the game will be available to play and we obviously didn’t hit our estimated release of Spring 2013.

The short answer:  Not for a little while…

Now, before you throw your hands up in the air and curse my name to the heavens, let me explain why…

The long answer:

In hindsight, we were ambitious to have estimated a Spring release for 2013 after launching the project on KickStarter last October.  We were a bit naive and overconfident to think that we could get it done that soon, and looking back now, it’s easy to see why.   We are a small team and this is our first go at creating a mobile game.  We thought it would be the same as many of the other projects we’ve worked on, but the truth is we are still learning new things everyday.  Mobile games have changed tremendously over the last few years and we are finding that in order to come close to the “bar” of quality that is now expected in mobile games, there are a LOT of checkboxes to tick.  As many of these things are new to us, it has taken us a bit longer to get them working.  Some of these items are in-app-purchases, push notifications, Game Center integration, localization, etc., that are common to most games but take an extraordinary amount of work to accomplish.

We made that assumption based on the thought that we would be making a SMALL game.  A tiny little game that would address a bunch of serious issues and help a social problem at the same time.  Well, homelessness is a HUGE issue.  A MASSIVE issue – in fact, every time we thought we were “covering enough ground”, it turned out that we were only scratching the surface.  Our game is unique and we want it to have a fighting chance at successfully bringing the issue of homelessness to the discourse of games.  In order to do that we need to research issues, talk with people in the field, talk to people affected by homelessness, figure out how to address those issues in the game, give it to people to try out and then make revisions based on the feedback we receive.  All of that requires time.  The scope of the game has increased massively, because we felt the game deserved the respect we wanted to give it, and skimming over issues was just not going to cut it.

We also assumed that each of us would be able to devote our energy full-time to this project.  That was not the case.  Our lead artist ended up taking another job that was a great opportunity for her and we were happy she landed it.  On the other hand, she was limited in the amount of art she could produce on this project, so that slowed things down.  We did outsource art and animation, but in order to keep the art style consistent we still needed our lead artist to manage these assets and make sure they matched our style.  Again, this was a time-consuming process.  The rest of us have been devoting a good amount of time to the game, and we’ve hired additional help now, but the amount of money we raised through KickStarter was not nearly enough to pay our wages.  So we have been working other jobs in order to pay the bills, eat, and keep ourselves from becoming homeless!

We were also waiting to hear back on some funding opportunities, which was one of the reasons I was delaying this post.  We were offered an amazing opportunity from Nokia and Microsoft through their AppCampus program. This program allows developers to apply for funding to launch on the Windows Phone platform for a few months exclusivity.  They offered us a lot of money (many times more than the amount our KickStarter raised), but in return they wanted the game to be a lot bigger.  It was an offer we were considering, as it would let us really have the funding to make the game great.  The game would’ve been expanded to include multiple cities on different continents, new characters, language localization, and many more features we were excited to implement.  Unfortunately, after waiting to hear back from them for six weeks after they made us the offer, they changed their minds.  This was a devastating hit for us emotionally (and financially), since we were really looking forward to securing the funding to improve the game.  Plus, much of wait-time was spent working towards the extra requirements they had asked of us.  While some of those features will still be kept, a lot of time now has been lost in planning for that new direction of the game.

So, these are just a few of the reasons the game has been delayed.  I hope you can appreciate the honesty of this post and realize that this was not easy for me to do.  In a way, it seems like I’m admitting defeat and that I’ve let you all down.  I know a lot of you are really looking forward to this game and I hate that it’s not ready for you to get your hands on!

So here’s what I’m going to do:

If you backed us at the $50 level or higher, you received access to the BETA TESTER reward.  Congratulations, you are now all ALPHA TESTERS!  We will be giving you access to the game early so you can play it and provide us with your feedback.  The build is browser-based, so you won’t be able to play it on your phone yet, but at least you CAN play it!

If you backed us lower that the $50 level, you are all now BETA TESTERS!  You will get access to the game once we’ve polished it up a bit and the ALPHA TESTERS have helped us iron out the wrinkles.  Again, you will be playing on your computer in a web browser, not on your phone, but the game is still the same.

So now you will all be getting the game ahead of time, although in a different format.  I hope that helps!

I am hesitant to announce a new release date, in case we miss it again, but I will say that we are trying our hardest to launch this year.  The KickStarter ended on Nov. 9 of last year and we are aiming to launch the game shortly after that.  Our current progress is good and we believe we are on track to make our goal.

You’ve waited this long already, we only ask that you wait a little more.

Sincerely,

 

Chris Worboys and everyone at Last Pick Productions

 

 

May And June Progress Update!

Posted on by Chris in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Another two months have flown by and we are still working away!  Here’s what we’ve been up to…

The majority of the last two months has been dedicated to game balancing, updating and tweaking our game mechanics, and bug fixing.  Here are a few of the major changes and improvements:

  • Replaced ALL of the assets in each location using vertex snapping.  This took awhile to do as we had to manually go through each location and re-align every building, street, sidewalk, etc.. to “snap” together nicely.  Originally, we didn’t use this feature and were just lining things up by “eye-balling” them.  They looked fine for the most part, but on closer inspection, there were a lot of areas in the game where you could see the “cracks” between the assets.  This made the game look like it had “screen tearing” taking place so we opted to make the change and fix it before we went ahead with implementing additional scenes.
  • Replaced all of the User Interface popups with Pre-fabs.  Again this was another small change that took awhile but saves us time over all.  Before, all of the pop-ups for the store menus and character dialogue screens were UNIQUE.  So if we ever wanted to make a small change to one, we had to make that same change to ALL of them as well.  Now, using Pre-fabs, we can make a change once and it will propagate that change to all instances of that popup in the entire game.  Much more useful!
  • Based on user feedback, we added additional visual and audio feedback for numerous things in the game.  An example of one of these changes is the Status bars at the top of the screen.  The changes to your Spirit, Health, and Hygiene bars now visually increase and decrease each time a change occurs – they flash red when they are low, and the icons that represent each stat change as well.  We added many little changes like these that add to the overall game immensely.

Visual changes to status bars

  • Improved the UI for interactive object popups.  The icons for stores and sleeping spots now appear and disappear as the player gets within range and are much more convenient to view.  They also now show the name of the store, the hours of operation, and whether they are currently open or closed.  Pretty useful information to know in a game where time never really stops!

Now you can see at a glance the hours the Soup Kitchen is open.

  • Added two new ways to earn money, the Sales and Artist actions.  The Sales action starts you off by selling newspapers and progresses to selling calendars as you get better at it.  The Artist action starts with your character drawing caricatures, progressing to still-life portraits (bowl of fruit), and scenery.  The frames on the canvas are drawn individually, so it’s kind of neat to watch the painting develop over a few seconds.

A beautiful day to paint in Stanley Park.

  • Added “hot spots” to the game.  A hot spot is a location in the game with many pedestrians who prefer a specific action during a specific time.  For example, busking on Granville Street at night would have a higher percentage of pedestrians who prefer the busking action, and you would be more likely to earn more money during that time.
  • The Map screen is in the process of getting a major overhaul.  It will now display icons for all of the stores and services in the game to quickly let players identify where they can go to replenish their health, hygiene, or spirit.  The map will also display icons to indicate where any available tasks are located.  As the game runs in real-time, the icons on the map will fade in and out to convey when stores are either open or closed.  When the changes are finished, getting around Vancouver will be a lot easier and prevent players from going to the wrong location!
  • Implemented Action and Exploration states.  We separated the main mechanics in the game into two separate modes, which was a significant change we made to help solve numerous issues received from feedback. The ACTION MODE lets you perform Actions like panhandling, painting, and busking.  When the player is in Action Mode, the Action Bar will be open at the bottom of the screen so you can quickly switch between Actions.  While in Action Mode, your character is unable to walk.  This prevents players from constantly walking all over the place when they mis-tap on a pedestrian to beg from them.  When the Action Bar is closed, the player is back in EXPLORE MODE.  Explore mode allows the player to walk around and explore the city, search objects, and interact with stores and NPCs.   The only thing you can’t do in Explore Mode is perform Actions that earn you money.

Those are just a few of the many changes we have made over the last couple months, but since it’s boring to read a list of bullet points, let’s take a closer look at a few of the more interesting features we’ve implemented recently.

Security Guard

Meet the Security Guard.

The Security Guard is just doing his job… which is unfortunate for the player.  He patrols the streets, keeping an eye out for panhandlers and quickly puts a stop to their activities if he catches them in the act.  He does have a heart though.  If he walks by when the player isn’t begging, he will just pass right by them on his patrol.  But if he catches you begging, he will quickly stop you from begging and escort you from the premises immediately.  So keep a sharp eye out for the security guard when you are trying to make money and don’t let him catch you!

Security Guard catching you panhandling and then asking you to leave

Homeless NPCs:

A few of the homeless NPCs you’ll encounter on the streets.

You’re not the only one trying to survive on the streets.  There are many other homeless characters who are trying to get by.  We recently implemented a few of these characters for you to interact with.  Each character has a unique personality, back-story, and motivations that you can uncover as you speak with them.  The street community often depends on one another to watch their backs and these characters are no different.  They will approach you from time to time and request assistance in a myriad of different ways.  The choice is totally up to you.  If you’re doing okay for yourself and can spare a little time or money to help them out, they would greatly appreciate it and might even return the favour when you need it.  If you choose to ignore them, then they’ll stop asking you for help, but who knows how they might end up…

We really want you to “meet” each NPC as you play through the game, as their stories give the player a chance to explore the many issues surrounding homelessness.  I will, however, discuss one of them to give you an idea of what to expect.

Joe’s ID.

“Hastings” Joe is a vet of the Canadian Action during the Afghan war. A native of Ontario with no real training or ambition, he went to serve his country in the late 90′s. He was sent to Afghanistan on two tours and saw combat in both. This experience left him severely depressed and after his second tour, Joe left the military for civilian life.

With no real world training, no support from his government, and suffering from undiagnosed depression, Joe had a very hard time finding work. Eventually Joe found himself sleeping on the couch of a friend in Vancouver and when he had overstayed his welcome, took his leave and began to live on the streets.

Joe picked things up quickly and soon became a fixture among the homeless community. He has helped quite a few folks find their way and helped them survive on the streets of Vancouver. He has resigned himself to this life and figures that he will probably die out there. He lives each day thinking, “If I can help just one more person, that’s enough to keep going.”

Joe is the first NPC players will encounter on the streets and is quick to show them the ropes.  He doesn’t expect a lot out of life, but if he can help give someone new to the streets a decent chance at survival, it makes him feel a bit better about his situation.  A man of few words, Joe doesn’t open up easily to strangers.  Perhaps there’s a reason for that…

Quests and Tasks:

Looks like Joe has something to say!

We have recently started to implement “quests” in the game to give players goals to work towards.  Internally, we call them quests, but in the context of homelessness this is probably not the correct word to describe them in the game.  Quests can be made up of a single task, or composed of multiple tasks that string together into a “quest chain”.  An example of a task is: “Meet Joe on Hastings St.” Players are asked to travel to that location in the game and talk to Joe, who awaits them there.  Quests chains would be made up of multiple tasks to achieve a bigger goal.  The “Apply For Welfare” quest would have the player running back and forth between multiple locations in order to obtain the information needed for their application.  This would include raising enough money for the processing fees, talking to multiple characters, getting references, and various other tasks.

These objectives give the player something to work towards as they try to survive on the street.  They also introduce you to the context of homelessness by having you interact with the NPCs, learn about the types of activities they perform on a daily basis, and ask them questions about themselves.  We are very excited about these and have received positive feedback on the ones we have implemented so far.  There are more to come and we are aiming to have the majority of them done by mid August.

 

Backer Rewards:

All the physical rewards have been sent! :)

All of the physical prizes including t-shirts, posters, and magnets have been mailed!  You should have received them by now and we hope you enjoy them.  If for some reason you did not receive your t-shirt, poster, or magnets, please email us at info@lastpickproductions.com and let us know!

We have finished the buildings for the Custom Pixel Store Front reward.  Gloo Studios and PowerUp Audio will have some nice looking buildings in the game!  We have also almost finished the Custom Pixel Ads for the billboards in the game.  We just need to put a few finishing touches and tweaks on them.

The Pixel Portraits and Wallpapers will still be a little bit longer.  The reason for this is because these prizes use the actual locations in the game.  While the majority of the location art is in the game, there are still a few areas that are missing some art.  Plus, we will want to do a few art polish passes to clean things up before we are ready to use them for these rewards.  So bear with us a bit longer while we continue to fine-tune things to a quality level.  :)

 

 

March And April Progress Update!

Posted on by Chris in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It seems like it’s about time for another update!  Let’s see what we’ve been busy doing…

March was a busy month for us as we packed our suitcases and headed to San Francisco for three weeks.  We attended the very first Chartboost University and learned a lot about mobile game development.  The program was two weeks long and over its course we had close to 20 presenters come in and talk to us about their areas of expertise.  Some of the topics included: Mobile Ecosystems, Virtual Economies, Art Design, Data Analytics, Security, Legal Advice, Live Operations, and Game Engines.

We had about two of these presentations a day, and in between lectures we would work on our game.  The people at Chartboost were very friendly and helpful and were a constant source of feedback, motivation and great ideas.  We would especially like to thank Maria Alegre  and David Hom for making the whole experience possible and running a great program!

Our workstations were set up in the middle of the lunch room, which made for very convenient access to snacks and drinks! :)

One of our field trips was to Sequoia Capital, the venture capitalists that funded companies like Google, PayPal, DropBox and of course Chartboost!

Group photo of all the CBU participants with their icon boxes. We’re in the bottom left.

A closer look at our icon box.

 We had an amazing time at Chartboost University and made many good friends.  It was an awesome experience and I hope they continue doing it so other indies like us can get the same knowledge and support that we did.

While in San Francisco we also had a chance to hand deliver rewards to a couple of backers!  This was a unique opportunity to meet them in person and hear their thoughts about our game.  It was also an awesome experience for me to be able to personally deliver rewards to the people who helped us get on our feet through KickStarter.  I managed to get a photo of the first backer and I together to document the occasion.

Brian and I holding his poster!

After Chartboost University finished, it was on to the Game Developer’s Conference!  I had never been before and was not prepared for how busy it would be!  Over 25k people attended the 5 day conference and there were over 200 hundred talks.  I went to as many as I could, but I still spent a lot of time just networking and meeting people on the floor.  The IGF pavillion and GDC Play were really awesome to see because a lot of the presenters there were little teams like ours, just a few people making a game and showing it off to anyone they could.  I met a lot of these people and found out that they had a lot of the same issues we did so it was nice to know we weren’t alone!

I also attended quite a few GDC parties and showed our game to as many people I could.  The overall response to our game was very positive and a lot of people were excited at the idea of a game aimed at helping a cause.  I guess we’re on the right track!

 

When we got back in May we took a little bit of time off to recover from our San Francisco adventure.  I was pretty run down after all of those late nights at GDC and needed a bit of a break.  After a few days off however we got right back to work, starting to put into place all of the things we had just learned.

One of the main problems we had while working on the game in San Francisco was the lack of a repository for our game.  Simon and I had just been working out of DropBox, but we quickly found that this lead to MANY problems when we both wanted to work on the same part of the game AT THE SAME TIME!  So the first thing we did when we got back was to set up a repository on GitHub.  This was not an easy task for us and took quite a few days to get setup to the point where we weren’t constantly getting conflictions every time we committed changes.  It all works now though and has made the process of working on the game as a team much easier.

One of the most important things we learned at Chartboost University was how important data analytics are.  Having the ability to see how users play your game, how long they play, what they buy, how much money they earn, etc. is very useful information to have.  So we got right into it and set up analytics in Homeless and started tracking a bunch of player behaviours so we could analyze the results.  Everything seems to be working so far but we do not have a very large pool of data to work with.  We are considering launching an Alpha build in the near future and giving people access to it so they can help us get more metrics.

sting_startday_positive

Another one of the major advances we have done is with the game’s audio.  Up until a month ago there was no sound in the game at all.  Now we have very solid first pass at audio in the game including sound effects, music, and ambiances.  We chose to go with “realistic” sounds instead of 8bit, which I think works very nicely and helps ground the game in reality.  This also let us do some other cool things.  For example, the ambiances for the locations in the game were recorded in their actual locations!  So the street noise you hear in the game on Hastings Street is the same noise you would hear if you were standing there in real life.  Pretty cool.

Lighting got a major overhaul and now looks a lot better!  I mean like a LOT better.  The old way we were lighting the game didn’t give us much flexibility and made the game too dark all of the time.  Essentially you were looking at the game through black cellophane and when we wanted it to be darker,we made the cellophane less transparent.  This worked initially but caused us to run into problems when we wanted to “light up” the scenes at night.  We scrapped that method and started using the actual lights in Unity3D instead.  Now we could adjust the brightness and colour of the actual light without having any “cellophane” in front of the camera.  We could use realistic lighting for store signs and streetlights and the pedestrians would reflect the lighting as well.  The result is much more natural lighting that uses a blend between pixel art and in game lighting.

 

 

 

January And February Progress Update!

Posted on by Chris in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

What have we been up to?? This progress report is long overdue but I am finally posting it today.  I’m sorry we haven’t gotten one out earlier but we’ve been looking at revamping all aspects of the game, and that’s an overwhelming task in itself!  I’ll try to get into the habit of posting more regularly. Anyways..!  It’s been a while since you’ve heard from us because we’ve been putting all our energy into the game.  Let’s take a look at what we’ve done since the beginning of the year.

Name Change!The most significant change to the game was a relatively easy one.  We changed the name!  Our game is now called “Homeless” instead of “iBeg”.  Why the change, you ask?  We had a few good reasons:

  • We never loved the name iBeg.  I mean, we didn’t hate it, but we figured we would be able to come up with something better.
  • The name “Homeless” is more PC.  The name “iBeg” ruffled some feathers and immediately attached a negative stigma to a project that aims to promote the positivity of social games. We received feedback from many people on the Internet about the original name and we listened to that feedback and made the change!
  • The name “iBeg” put the focus of the game on begging.  While the game does have begging in it, it is NOT the focus of the game.  The game aims to simulate everything about being homeless, so “Homeless” made a LOT more sense as a name.
  • The whole iThing is kind of overdone and cliche.  It seems everywhere you turn, someone is coming up with the next iThis or iThat.  Our game has a unique message and we would like it to stand apart from the pack, instead of just being another fad.
  • There is already an app on the iTunes store called iBeg.  To avoid any confusion between that app and ours, a name change seemed appropriate.
So, those are a few of the main reasons why we decided to change the name. What do you think of the new name? Let us know in the comments section!

 

Team Expansion:Thanks to all the generously donated funds on KickStarter, we were able to hire some people to help us out, as well as some volunteers too!  Our little team has grown and we are pleased to announce:

  • PowerUp Audio will be working closely with us to provide the music and sound effects for our game!  We have the utmost faith in these guys and know that they will bring our game to a whole new level.
  • Buko Studios will be supplying us with some animation help.  This studio applied to our ad for a pixel artist and won us over with their talent and professionalism.
  • An independent artist will be helping with some of the background art in the game.  He also applied to the ad and submitted an amazing mockup of a Vancouver clothing store that secured him the job.
  • An additional designer will be helping us out with the game’s User Interface as well as various other design decisions in the game.
  • A social worker has graciously volunteered her time to help us with researching everything to do with homelessness.
  • A few friends have volunteered to help test the game on a regular basis.  We couldn’t ask for more!

Prize Updates:We sent a survey out to all of you not long ago in order to start collecting your information.  We are happy to announce that prizes will be ready soon!  Here’s an update on where the prizes stand:

  • Everyone who paid to become a pedestrian in the game is fully designed.  It took awhile to track all of you down and get your pictures, but believe me, it’s worth it!  About half of them are already in the game roaming the streets, and the rest should be in there soon!  We are just waiting on a few more animations and then this prize will be complete.
  • The poster is designed and has the new name “Homeless” on it.  It features all of the backers who became pedestrians and most of the characters from the game.  The posters are printed and will be delivered in the near future.
  • The t-shirts have been designed and also include the new name of the game.  We are in the process of looking for a manufacturer and expect to have them printed in the next few days.
  • The magnets are designed and just arrived today!  We are really happy with how they turned out, and hope that you will be, too!
  • The rest of the prizes are in various states of completion and we’ll update you again when they are finished.

Game Progression:

And of course, we’ve saved the best for last!  Here’s what we’ve been working on in the game for the last little while:
  • We’ve expanded the game by adding a bit of time management-style play to it.  As the days in the game take place in real-time, you have to choose how you want to spend each day.  The idea behind this is that you have to make decisions about which locations you visit during the day, and at what times.  For example, a soup kitchen may give out a free meal between 12 and 1 PM, but that is also a good time to make money during lunch downtown.  Which one will you do, because you won’t have time to do both!
  • We’ve prototyped a character customization system so that you can create unique looking avatars!  Players will be able to choose their gender and skin tone for their avatar, and can customize their look with clothing in the game.
  • We’ve implemented a character dialogue and response system to interact with the characters you meet in the world.  Players will be able to ask and answer questions from NPCs in the game, and the choices they make will affect gameplay!
  • We’ve also implemented an event system that dispatches tasks for players to perform on their way to getting off of the streets.  Events dispatched by this system can be either set or random, so be prepared for both!  A random event would present the player with a scenario in which they would have to make a decision.  For example, you notice a pedestrian has dropped their wallet.  Do you pick it up and return it to them, or keep the money for yourself?
  • All of the Backer pedestrians are designed and about half of them are in the game.  We’ve also populated the world with placeholder pedestrians as well, based on each location and the time of the day.
  • All of the locations in the game have been designed and are functional in the game with placeholder art.  We are updating each location as the art assets come in.
  • Interactive objects are prototyped and in the game, with different objects spitting out different items.  This means parking meters will give out coins when tapped on and garbage cans will produce bottles, cans, and other items too!
  • Can collection is in the game and allows you to collect cans and bottles and return them to a recycling depot to exchange for money.  We just need a bit of polish on the User Interface for this and it will be finished.
  • We have designed all of the User Interface screens for the game and will be implementing the wireframes in the immediate future.  This means we will have a fully functional menu system to navigate and populate with amazing screens when the art is finished.
  • We’ve prototyped a feedback system to indicate when pedestrians prefer (or hate) specific begs.
  • We’ve replaced the static skies with new dynamic skies that change colour depending on the time of day.  We’ve also added a sun, moon, and stars!
  • We’ve improved the way the lighting looks in the game, brightening it up at night time and adding more lights to the scenes during night time.
  • We’ve started working on a user tutorial to help guide players along and show them the ropes.
  • We’ve got audio working in the game using placeholder sounds for most interactions. Everything is set up to drop new sounds into the game quickly and easily when we receive them.
  • We’ve also done a lot of bug fixing, balancing, optimization, and many other things to improve the game.

San Francisco:

The last thing I should mention in this post is how we’ll be starting off the next month.  We were lucky enough to receive a scholarship to attend a program for two weeks in San Francisco called Chartboost University.  Simon and I will be attending the session and learning everything we can from the bright minds there.  We’ll still be working on the game everyday and I’ll try and post updates when I can.  After the two week boot camp has finished, I’ll be staying in San Francisco for another week to attend my first Game Developer’s Conference.  I have signed up for a few boot camps there as well and will be attending numerous courses and lectures.  I look forward to meeting a bunch of new people and showing off our game!   It looks like March will be all about learning for us!