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Postmortem: Dejobaan Games' Aaaaa! -- A Reckless Disregard for Gravity
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Postmortem: Dejobaan Games' Aaaaa! -- A Reckless Disregard for Gravity


September 22, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 5 Next
 

3. Our designers were powerful cyborgs.

Algorithmic content generation cut the time it took to create Aaaaa! levels in half. An infusion of human creativity kept them fresh.

Evolution Stage 1. Initially, Dan (as Gameplay Architect) would create a level skeleton, manually stamping buildings here and there. He'd then pass it to Tamlyn or Ryan (level designers) to push and pull individual pieces around until things worked better.

They'd give it back to Dan, who'd play through it, then add even more, piece by piece. Then over to Ichiro for yet another pass. This worked, but it took us about six hours to create a single, tiny level. Way too long!

Evolution Stage 2. So, we automated some well-understood processes -- game developers often do this to good effect. "Here's a tool to decimate a model. There's one to change the color of a skycube."

In our past games, we've often underestimated the value of building specialized tools, working instead to generate or repurpose everything by hand. With Aaaaa!, we made an effort to automate our efforts.

For example, pathing tools made playing the game part of creating it -- a designer would fall through an existing level skeleton, swooping around buildings and dodging imaginary obstacles. The tools then populated that path with scoring plates, steel beams, and so forth, turning an empty, featureless space into something with clear dimensions.

Evolution Stage 3. Now, we had tools that automated common processes; how about ones that could mimic creativity? Our favorite tools were those designed to produce interesting, unpredictable results, such as one that allowed us to semirandomly generate skycubes.


The glowy bits were generated semirandomly.

Rather than placing everything manually, we asked for a random variation and screamed, "No good! Send it back!" and played Goldilocks until we had something we liked. From there, we could tweak by hand to make things really shine. Our level designers wielded simple, yet expressive tools that allowed them to experiment with level design without having to painstakingly try everything by hand.

We loved this approach so much that it's become one of our goals to allow designers to wave their hands and watch designs grow, as if by magic.


Various patterns created with roughly the same algorithm, in our upcoming project.

4. We PRed like never before.

By personally touching the press and reaching out to gamers, we helped build a phenomenal amount of visibility for the game and studio. In the past, we took an "if you build it, they will come" approach, which generally got us a lot of nothing. Consider that in IGF 2010, alone, there were hundreds of submissions up against ours! And when it came time to launch the game, we had to compete for gamers' attentions with a whole lot more:

A Short List of Things Each of Our Games Must Compete With

  • Every other indie PC game.
  • All the AAA PC titles coming out.
  • And all other titles on all other platforms.
  • Every game that's just inconveniently gone on sale this week.
  • And since we're an entertainment medium, we're actually up against things like movie tickets and DVDs.
  • And, of course, since you can decide to go get a burger instead of buying our game, we're even up against fast food.
  • To say nothing of television, a good book, or lying in a grassy field watching the beautiful, fluffy clouds. How are we even going to get your attention?

We had all this neat gameplay, but we knew that it would be easy for it to get lost amongst all the other games. So, we started by naming the game something fun and by crafting a humble press release, packing our finely-honed message into a page:

January 30, 2009 - Watertown, MA - Dejobaan Games, LLC has announced its next game, "AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! -- A Reckless Disregard for Gravity," for Windows desktop PCs.

You dive off a skyscraper, relying on quick reflexes to negotiate the intricate tangle of girders that make up the City. You perform aerial stunts at terminal velocity before parachuting into the arms of your cheering fans. While other skydivers have it easy, you have to earn the adoration of the crowds by gliding within an eyelash of that glass super skyscraper at 70 miles per hour.

BASE Jumping (short for Building, Antenna, Span, Earth) has never been a sport for the masses -- it's too dangerous, and it's tough to get permission to jump off of the Burj Dubai. That all changes when Dejobaan Games brings its own wonderfully twisted take on the sport to the PC. How late can you deploy your chute before you end up a squishy bag of broken bones? How far can you trust your helmet's proximity meter before you splatter against a window like a bug on a highway? Do you believe the game's developers when they tell you that listening to your Enya CD will relax you and help you coast with more control... or should you just put on Limp Bizkit and throw caution to the wind?

As you descend, you toss the spectators a thumbs-up -- or flip them off -- to boost your score. By suspending reality just a little, this new game makes real-world BASE jumpers look like kids bouncing on a trampoline. This is AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!!, and it's coming in 2009. Check out videos and images from the alpha test at www.dejobaan.com/aaaaa.

Availability and system requirements: AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! -- A Reckless Disregard for Gravity is planned for a Q3 2009 release, and will require Windows 2K/XP/Vista; a 1.5GHz processor; 1GB system memory; a 3D card with 128MB video memory; and Microsoft DirectX 9.0c.

Dejobaan Games, LLC is an independent developer of desktop and handheld games. Since our founding in 1999, we've published twelve titles, garnering enthusiastic reviews in print, on the Web, and on television. Visit us online at www.dejobaan.com.

# # #

Press info: Press kit with screenshots and video available at www.dejobaan.com/aaaaa.

Press contact: [email protected]

We're not press experts -- we're just a bunch of science and engineering dudes. But we tried to write the release from the journalist's perspective -- if you receive 100 such e-mails in a week, what's going to stand out? We didn't highlight the game's 81 levels or the music track list -- those are boring! We tried to tell a story about the game. We also wrote it in such a way so that journalists could lift tidbits to make their own jobs easier.

We then built up a press list by searching the web for top gaming sites, then sent the release to these contacts.

Further along, we worked to build a rapport with the journalists who wrote about us so that we could get repeated press coverage when we had new exciting things to say. We even had fun with it -- when Kieron Gillen wrote about the game, and people commented, Ichiro did a quickie video response, which Rock Paper Shotgun and its readers just loved.


RPS loved our video response to its readers' questions. Who knew?

That's it! It turns out that journalists aren't frightening or (too) mysterious -- they're people with likes, dislikes, senses of humor, and deadlines, just like us. The end result was that with a plan, we took a game that we thought was fun, and made sure that everyone heard about it.


Article Start Previous Page 2 of 5 Next

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