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Postmortem: La Cosa's Klaus: “Excellence Prize” in the Square Enix Latin American Contest 2012

by Victor Velasco on 06/17/13 12:47:00 am

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The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

My name is Victor Velasco, I’m a systems engineer, film and TV specialist, music producer and I live in Venezuela. 

 

In April 2012 Square-Enix held a contest in Latin America for the development of smartphones and Web. I found out about it through a latin american videogames site and I thought it was interesting and decided to participate. At that time, I didn’t know what that decision would entice.

Klaus Main
 

1- What I wanted to do

Platform: 

 

At the beginning of development, I had no idea of what platform I would chose for this game. Whichever platform I chose would be something new. My videogame development background was my thesis, a video game in XNA. At first, I decided to develop the game for smartphones since touch input allows for new challenges. At that time I thought “if traditional inputs have not been fully exploited and it’s been over 40 years since their creation, imagine the potential touch input has”.

Once I decided I would develop for smartphones, I had two options: iOS or Android, this decision was easier because I don’t own a Mac. A lot of people might not know this, but in Venezuela there’s something called limited monetary exchange, it means people can’t freely purchase dollars. People can only buy and use US$400 per year with their credit cards for web purchases. This means that if I would chose to develop on iOS I had to pay 99$ (1/4 of what I’m allowed to use per year) and I wasn’t willing to pay it for a contest in which I didn’t have high expectations. So this is the reason why I chose to use Android without having a smartphone myself.

Design:

With the platform chose, it was time to decide which game I wanted to develop. I had really bad experiences with games with buttons on the screen on touch devices that tried to emulate the 2D platform experience, and so, the first thing I was set for was “No buttons on the screen”.

Because of my frustration with 2D games on touch inputs I wanted to take on this challenge. And this is how I decided “The game had to be a 2D platformer”.

I delved a little bit more on the advantages of touch inputs. One of the most relevant was that the player could touch any element on the screen, so I thought why should I restrict the inputs to move only the player? So the third decision was “In this game people would move the environment, not just the character”.

The first game I developed was a metroidvania and it was full of hardships for me, so I decided I would change it this time so I wouldn’t make the same mistake and so “The objective of the game would be to go from the point A to the point B”.

Finally, analyzing the point that "In this game people would move the environment, not just the player", I decided that the player would be some kind of god to the game character and in doing so, "The fourth wall had to be broken".

Klaus draft 


 

2- What I was doing

 

I started to analyse the different engines that I could use and afford. Because I already knew its language, I ended up choosing java LibGDX libraries, besides, it was free and it allowed me to try the game on a PC (I didn’t have an android device at the time).     

At that time I was pursuing a course in electronic music and I had just found out about a german band called Kraftwerk. I loved its aesthetics so I changed it a little bit and adapted it to the game by giving it its own personality. After that I started to design the main character.

Klaus Design 1Klaus Design 2

After two months of development I realized that I had to polish so many things: the animations, music, sound effects, color palettes, physical programming, and so on. Even though the basic principles of the game were already programmed, time wasn’t enough to finish level design and I had to find people who could help me.

I looked for several people but only two really paid attention to what I was doing, they were Ginaris Sarra and Alessandro García. They are friends from college who joined me on this project.

 

3-What we wanted to do

 

Now that we were three people on charge of the development of the game. There were more ideas and everything moved quickly from there. While I was in charge of music, the graphics and the improvement of the programming, Ginaris and Alessandro were in charge of the level design. Everything that we designed was approved by all of us and we didn’t move forward until we all agreed. At this point 80% of the game was ready to go, we only missed a few levels and some songs, and then...


 

4-The sting and no hope

 

We had two weeks to upload the file to Square-Enix’s site and on one of those nights of working without rest something happened. When Ginaris and Alessandro left my house they were robbed; they lost all the belongings they carried at the time, including their laptops and with it the possibility of ending the levels on time. Venezuela is a dangerous country.

 

That was hard on the team, I couldn’t annoy them with the game when they had just lost their laptops and all their documentation. At the end we ended the game as we could and made final cuts, the game wasn’t completely finished. Finally, in August we uploaded the game without any expectations.

Main Title
 Translation: Touch the screen

 

5-The call

 

On September we were at the movies when we received a call that we didn’t take seriously and hung up. They called one more time and we found out it was from Mexico. We were one of the ten finalists of the contest and we had some bugs to fix

 

Right that moment the name “La Cosa Entertainment” was born. Square-Enix asked us a synopsis of our development group. At first we didn’t know how we were going to be called, so we started to use the name “La Cosa” (The Thing) until we finally thought it was a good name and a tribute to the legendary horror movie The Thing by John Carpenter.   

 

Many people thought this was one of the best phases for this project. They couldn’t be more wrong, Ginaris and Alessandro couldn’t help with programming because they didn’t have their laptops and I had a full day job. So the only time I had to work on this project was at nights, which was the opposite of the Square-Enix schedule. So the whole process of fixing the bugs was really long and tedious. At lot of times we thought that we wouldn’t be able to fix all those bugs, but we did, and finished it all and uploaded it an hour before the contest started.  


 

6-The contest begins

 

The whole contest process was divided in two: a survey on facebook and the votings of a panel. Fortunately we had a successful campaign as far as the vote concerns. As soon as the contest started we spread the word, we had the support of Universidad Metropolitana with the whole process of the media campaign. The news appeared on several physical and online newspapers of big relevance on our country. We also had a few radio interviews that gave us that voting impulse. At this stage we made a trailer that you can watch here.   

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrVbGA-4fiI
 

 

7-The success

2nd 

 

On December we got the news. We had won the second place on the contest and with that US$10.000. As you can imagine that in a country where finding US dollars is almost an odyssey this was amazing for us, our lives changed. Our first formal published videogame had won a Square-Enix contest. The decision was made, I quit my job the following month and we fully dedicated ourselves to the development of video games.  


 

What Went Right:

 

  • Aesthetics

 

One of the elements the jury liked the most was the main character design, we think it was one of the biggest success. The minimalist aesthetics and the use of few but well spent colors helped us highlight an elegant proposal.
 

 

  • Breaking the 4th wall 

Spoiler Alert!

At one point Klaus’ story was the opposite of what the player chose because the main character was sick of following orders. On the other hand, Klaus moves on with his frustrations and decides to kill himself, that way the player can’t control him and the player can only save him moving what’s around him, so in one of these points the plot and mechanics made the game surprising for the player. The fact that the story and mechanics are cohesive with each other made us proud of the game.  
 
Screenshot
 Translation: A difficult challengeI want someone to drag the platform up to get out of here 

 

  • The platform 

For more information read 1-What I wanted to do/Platforms.

 

  • Music

Fortunately when I started the video game I was studying electronic music so it has original music. Each level has its own personality and I think we did that thanks to the music.


 

What Went Wrong

  • The lack of testers

 

At the beginning, we wanted the game itself to teach its mechanics. Klaus would talk with the player and make questions to himself that would give hints to the player so he could solve all the problems. However, because of the lack of time for development, we didn’t have time to find testers besides some close friends. We didn’t notice that some levels could be resolved in a different way, not entirely as we intended. I must say that’s not a bad thing, the problem was that it happened on one of the first levels so one of the simple mechanics which was to stop Klaus wasn’t completely understood by the player..

 

  • Inputs

 

As we wanted different inputs, we also paid its price. Given the fact that it was a game with different mobility, people weren’t used to it. The biggest issue happened when the user wanted to stop the character because the collision box was too small.

 

  • Accommodate to different devices

 

Android is good, there’s no doubt about it, however, too many devices use it. It was true that Klaus didn’t ask much for hardware to be able to play it and adapt it to the screen of all the devices, it was still a nightmare. Specially because the LibGDX libraries didn’t allow to fully extend the image, so as you can imagine the validations were a lot.


 

And now? 

La Cosa Entertainment is currently formed by its original members. Our site is www.la-cosa.net and we make custom videogames and personal projects as well.

Our last game is Electr-it!! a 2D puzzle available for iOS.

Trailer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xAav_94VFM 


 

itunes

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/electr-it!!/id656348501?l=es&mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4 


 

    We chose to start with a game that didn’t take much time to develop in iOS because we don’t have much experience with this platform. We are currently developing a Klaus port for iOS with better graphics and fixing all the mistakes we made in its last version.

At the end...

Despite all problems, we did a videogame with his own personality and we love it, it has its flaws, but for a first videogame, isn't bad. Develop the game in a country like Venezuela wasn't easy, but we had the support of many people: relatives, friends, girlfriends, and the people who vote for the game, and we appreciate that greatly. Finally the contest showed us everything we need to take the decision, now we want to be Professional game developers.

 

Data Box

Developer Group: La Cosa Entertainment

Developers: Victor Velasco, Ginaris Sarra, Alessandro Garcia

Length of Development: 4 months

Release Date: 10/10/2012

Platform: Android

You can download de apk in this link
http://www.la-cosa.net/Klaus-GoldMasterData20121212.apk


 
 
 
 


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