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Editorial - July 2014

Issue 137 cover

I'm currently sat in Amsterdam writing this editorial. As with all places I visit, I like to know something about the place. Aside from being in my ancestry, I now know that there are two bikes for every person in this city. Being from one of the hilliest parts of the UK and a bike enthusiast this makes me quite envious! I've also discovered that the Netherlands are responsible for 75% of the world's flower bulb production, and 70% of the world's bacon (not Denmark as many Europeans think). Finally, I've discovered that the Dutch are the world's tallest population at an avergae of 184 centimetres for men.

Statistics can be interesting, and also extremely useful when used in the correct way. Many groan at the sight of them, and others cherry-pick the ones that favour their aims. However, it's worth looking at how they can improve your games and ultimately, your downloads and sales. Building mechanisms for feedback into your games early can generate a profile that finds strengths and weaknesses, and give you the opportunity to take advantage or take remedial action.

This month we have some great feedback on feedback. Sean Mann takes you into the detail behind monitoring your games. We have a new improved game from a recent competition that is now in the stores thanks to the feedback of the judges and community. As always we have news from FPSC Reloaded and AGK which live in a cycle of feedback and improvements, plus a whole lot more.

Until next time,

 Steve Vink


(1) FPSCR Competition (2) FPSC News (3) FPSCR Store (4) Sound Reloaded (6) AGK Development (7) Bezier Curves (8) Worm Game (9) Tools (10) Tutorial - Data (11) TGC Channel (12) Social Feeds

FPSC Reloaded - Competition Round 1 Results

Round One of the First Ever FPS Creator Reloaded Competiton has now finished and been judged.
FPSCR Competition 

Win your Share of: 

$750 Cash prizes!

$750 of Graphics cards!

33,000 Store points!

June 15th saw the first deadline for the FPS Creator Reloaded Game Making Competiton. This was the opportunity to show potential and become one of the top ten entrants and progress to phase 2.
These ten winners can now spend another couple of weeks polishing their games up to the 13th July. It will be the versions submitted on the 13th July that will enter a final judging phase. The winners will be announced on Monday 21st July. 

Everyone's a winner!

For those in our community who entered but didn't make it through to the next round, we have awarded them 2,000 store points for their dedication and efforts. We thank every entrant! A competition only succeeds through all of your efforts.

The top ten entries already know they have won a minimum of $50 in prize money and 2,000 store points. We will find on July 21st who has claimed the three major prizes!

Here are the top ten winners in no particular order; 

Rescue the Princess - tomjscott 



The Asylum – Unfamilla










Locked and Reloaded – Kravenwolf



Follow the Line – Sparrowhawk









Terrorist Territory - Volga

terrorist territory


The island – Defy










Morning Mountain Stroll – WizardOfId


Commando – Dvader









Book of Souls – Rolfy


Past Life Regression – morphtactic









The Rules

We're asking FPS Creator Reloaded users to create a single level game of any genre to win prizes and see their game in the final release. The aim of the competition is to find ten demo level games to help showcase FPS Creator Reloaded. The top 10 winners will receive:

1st Prize

2nd Prize

3rd Prize

4th to 10th placed winners each receive

The full details, terms and conditions can be found here.

FPSC Reloaded Blog

FPS Creator Reloaded by The Game Creators


By Lee Bamber

Each month we'll update you on the progress of FPS Creator Reloaded. You will find a running commentary on the development through the FPSC-R Blog, but right here you will find some of the selected highlights that deserve your utmost attention. You can also follow the development on the official Facebook page. Within the R&D offices here at TGC, Reloaded is our main focus and we aim to constantly develop it to make it into a world class game creation tool. With great support from people who have made pledges to the project we are able to evolve and build our best game maker ever!

Lee Bamber, FPS Creator Reloaded Developer summarises the June achievements for himself and the FPSCR development team. 

One issue is that the current models have 'scaled origin matrices' which are ignored during the ragdoll manipulation. This results in head bones expanding and re-creating the teeth ten times larger, funny but undesirable

Lee Bamber


In a month when the latest build 1.071 was released and the performance improvements were well received, we made big leaps forward in many areas. Here is a quick rundown of the updates:

Rendering engine

Occlusion system


Grass system





Level Loading


Other updates


Ragdoll - Coming Soon!

With the help of some licensed code in the Bullet Physics system, I have managed to create the ragdoll feature for the characters in just under two days. My first run of the integrated ragdoll was less than 100% successful. The debug capsule ragdoll fell properly, but the character model just animated a death as usual. A few more tweaks and we will be there!

One issue is that the current models have 'scaled origin matrices' which are ignored during the ragdoll manipulation. This results in head bones expanding and re-creating the teeth ten times larger, funny but undesirable.

Keep watching the blog for further updates on this aspect, which is nearing completion as this newsletter goes to press. 

Menu of the Day

The standalone menu system is completed for our first version with all the graphics integrated and interface working fine. We are using nice big images which can be changed if you want a bespoke menu and buttons of your own. There is currently no interface to edit this, just swap in your own files; but we will make a title menu maker somewhere down the road when the community vote for it.

Hearing Voices 

We now have some enemy voices in the engine which means when the enemies see you they yell out. It's pretty cool at first, but as Ravey (Dave) comments, it can get a bit repetitive and annoying, so there is definitely a subtle art when to trigger these audio incidents and we'll be working to ensure it's more natural.

Art Break

As the coding and engine progresses, so too does the artwork and media for FPS Creator Reloaded. You will see in my blog that we are very concious this time around about the subtleties of game presentation. We're spending time creating levels to test the lighting and contrast, and media to check that everything fits naturally. This month we've added the ability to change the sun's direction in real-time simply using a slider. You'll see this feature in V1.008 (due out 14th July).
In keeping with the ethos, take a look at the latest and very magnificent characters: Rocket Man. Currently being fine tuned and integrated into FPSCR, he will be a fantastic addition to the line-up of characters to feature in your games.
Rocket Man 

A Whole Host of Tweaks

FPSCR NewsletterThe whole team have created a reasonable collection of improvements and new features across the board. Many bugs have been quoshed, enemies behave better, Zombies do what Zombies should, audio is making huge waves, and a whole lot more.
If you want a summary of the blog details, don't forget you can get the FPS Creator Reloaded newsletter too, simply by registering on the site.


The Intel Q&A

Google Hangout with Lee Bamber

If you didn't hangout with Lee Bamber and Intel live last month, there is still the opportunity to watch the interview again. Get an insight into Lee's origins, his coding mindset, Lego Mindstorms claim to fame and more. Click here to watch the video.




Reloaded Discount Deal 

Pledge Now to support FPSC Reloaded development 

gold pledge

Crowd funding provides a way for Indie Developers like The Games Creators to pre-fund their projects. It's also a thumbs up from customers to show the developers the market wants and needs their new idea.

By pledging you are helping The Games Creators to build the most exciting and revolutionary game creator. With your pledging support you can strengthen our team as we build this amazing technology. You are essentially becoming part of our family as you share in it's development and ultimate production.

All pledge levels grant the backer access to all betas, with other bonuses, including free model packs valued at between $18 and $39 for Gold and Silver pledge levels.


So, if you'd like to help fund Reloaded development and join us on our journey, please support us with a pledge. The most popular and best value deal is the Gold level pledge, but you can find details of all pledge levels here.


The Store - Relaunched for Reloaded

The Game Creators Store
The new FPS Creator Reloaded store continues to expand and already boasts over 600 game ready assets available to download today. Take a look now at the new standard of media available to you directly from the web based interface. New models are coming every week.

First Downloadable Weapon...Free!

If you're running FPS Creator Reloaded already as one of our pledgers, get your hands on the FutureTek Gun, provided by TGC and made Reloaded-ready by TattieBoJangle.


Calling all Artists

Sell in the Store
The Game Creator Store connects creative artists and musicians with enthusiastic FPS Creator Reloaded game developers. Can you create game ready 3D models or themed atmospheric music for the Reloaded community?

Artist's benefits

You'll receive 70% of all sales revenue earned from your published assets.
The agreement is non-exclusive so you are free to sell your assets elsewhere.
Payment is made monthly via PayPal.
How to sell your assets

It's easy to become a seller on the store:


Sound Reloaded

The audio system of FPS Creator Reloaded has had a major overhaul. It is now possible to do so much more with background music and ambience using smarter trigger zones and audio switching modes. Watch this video for the full story. 





AGK V2 Developments

AGK has arrived

The Beta Compiler has Arrived

June saw all of the existing language features completed. We have found existing projects run through the new Compiler are showing very promising results. The compiler is about 40 times faster than before and the interpreter appears marginally faster.

My Project used to be a 35MB bytecode file. It is now 3.5MB. That's an astonishing reduction. Also it used to compile in 3:45 minutes and now it compiles before I can blink

Sean Mann


Byte code file sizes are now seven times smaller when uncompressed, compressed size is about the same as before.  

There are some additional language features that the new interpreter supports:

All of our V2 Backers have access to this version, and can be found in your account downloads page. We ask you to err on the side of caution as would be expected of any beta program:

 There's a blog in the forums should you want to follow the development progress.


Progressing the IDE

We are looking at changing the IDE in a number of ways, and to faciiitate this it is very likely that we will swith to Geany. First and foremost this will enable development on Mac OS X as well as windows, which is welcome news for devlopers focused on Apple products. It also provdes a framework for many other desirable features.


What is Geany?

Geany is a small and lightweight Integrated Development Environment. It was developed to provide a small and fast IDE, which has only a few dependencies from other packages. Another goal was to be as independent as possible from a special Desktop Environment like KDE or GNOME - Geany only requires the GTK2 runtime libraries.

Some basic features of Geany:



Smooth Operations

Clonkex has released, refined and re-released his library of Bezier curve functions for AGK, Tier 1 and Tier 2. They could easily be converted for DarkBASIC Professional, and also into LUA for FPSC Reloaded users.

Why would I want a Bezier curve?

Beziers are a fantastic way to draw smooth curves to represent many different elements in a game. No matter how complex they become, you can pinpoint any part of the curve using the original parameters.

Race tracks: Build a race track, and place the track polygons along the curve. Trace the car route along the track using the bezier parameters.

Flight Paths: Create swooping flight paths for planes, birds and spacecraft. Beziers can be represented in 3D space as well as 2D. 

Hills and scenery: Use Beziers to create natural looking but predictable scenes, and quickly calculate any point on the scene.

Handwriting smoothing: Trace waypoints as a user signs their name, and join the dots with Bezier curves. Save the signature as waypoints to minimise data and retrace at any time later.

Bezier curve library

These are just a few of the uses, you'll find may more as you experiment. The latest download of the library will be found on this forum thread.

The Worm Game

One of the games entered in last month's competition was The Worm Game by Matty H. Many of you may know Matty from his numerous wins in the Intel competitions such as the highly successful Mystic Blocks. After the recent TGC competition, Matty took on board the feedback, made some changes, and released his game to the App Store. Here's a quick reminder of his entry:

The Worm Game

The Worm Game

by  Matty H

This game stands out for it's well presented, crisp graphics. The gameplay can be summed up as the rope mechanics in the Worms franchise, but with less time to think about your next swing.

With a little more playtesting to perfect the firing of the silk rope this will be a fun and addictive game. It should also increase in difficulty a little more to keep the player hooked.


The next Steps

by Matty H

The Worm Game
I definitely had Flappy Bird in mind when I created The Worm Game as this was the theme of the Nexus competition. For me, the success of Flappy Bird had nothing to do with a flappy bird, I believe it was a combination of being challenging with a simple game mechanic which allowed gradual improvement. If you got a score of 49 on your first go you probably would not play it again, but because you get 0, then 0 again, 0 a few more times and then 1 you are compelled to keep playing. The frustration is also part of the fun and probably the main reason it has done so well, people loved to hate that game.
I wanted to replicate this experience and I think I have succeeded to a point. I have a different game mechanic which I believe is just as fun, swinging over each fence brings some satisfaction. It is tough to play but I don't think it is at the same difficulty as Flappy Bird, so I failed in that respect, when I tried to make it even harder some of the fun was always lost in the game mechanic, so there was a balance to try to get right.
After getting feedback from the competition and the TGC forum I changed a few things. The worm now fires a thread that misses if your timing is wrong, this gives the player good feedback of how to play the game, which was the main complaint I originally had from players. Other improvements include having 5 worms to unlock on the way to 100 points and three worms you can purchase, which also removes the adverts from the game.
The Worm Game 
The game utilises an online high-score system which was created and provided by Phaelax from the forums. At the time of writing the top high-score is 202, far higher than I have ever achieved!
Hope people enjoy the challenge!
The Worm Game
You can download The Worm Game from The App Store here

Stuck between a Rock and a Hard Place

Medusa Pro

Recently released is Medusa Pro, a rock model creator for windows that can generate X and DBO models for Dark Basic and FPS. It is mysteriously difficult to generate realistic rocks...they so often look like blobs even in big budget games. Medusa can turn any shape into a realistic looking rock model and has a wealth of functions including bevel, crack and fold as well as per vertex editing to allow you to generate models for your application that suit your needs. Medusa automatically generates LODs and collision meshes and each model imports seamlessly. Medusa even features a batch creator allowing numerous randomised models to be created at one time. Medusa generates rocks based on real geological principles.


Bonus for TGC Customers!

Anyone buying Medusa Pro in July and August 2014 will be given access to an additional Rock Pack containing 2 additional templates, capable of generating a huge range of rock formations. You also have the option to sell your creations in the TGC Store under the generous license, simply by providing your own textures. So if you have been procrastinating over this purchase, now is the time to come out from under your rock and buy it!

Full details, purchasing options and the free Medusa Lite can be found here





AGK Tutorial - App Data

agk mastery

with Sean Mann

This month Sean uses one of his own Games - Shape Time - to demonstrate the use of analytical data and tools to increase your chance of success.

App usage analytics and a postmortem of Shape Time

So, you've got what you think is a great idea for a game. You've put it together, people on your development team and beta testers have enjoyed it. Other than a simple download count, how do you know if others are enjoying it (or not)? Players don't often leave feedback unless they really like or really dislike your game. So how do we get information about the majority of people playing our game? Are people playing 10 levels and then hitting a wall which they aren't interested in attempting to pass? App usage analytics are key to finding this information. 

With our most recent game, Shape Time, we thought we were doing so much right. We really liked the simple, minimalistic graphics (following in the style of Dots and Threes!, the gameplay was very challenging as we intended, the mechanics worked well, and the game tested very well with a small beta group (about a dozen people). 

After launch our very first review on the Play Store was bad. We implemented an “energy” mechanic where you only had 5 lives and after using them up would have to wait 15 minutes for a new one. This didn't go over well. Although we planned it out as best as possible, it just seemed the game didn't have enough flare to justify this mechanic. 

We watched our app data and saw that so many players were getting very low points. In beta testing we estimated that 75 points was low enough for the first badge reward. After launch most players were maxing out at about half of this. This indicates to us that the gameplay mechanic may be too challenging for users. Also we could tell that they only ran the game a handful of times. What this means is that the game just isn't compelling enough and when they run out of lives they just never come back.

We had a few professional reviews that were good, but didn't go into great depth. Eventually we received an in-depth review that was quite unfavorable. It pointed out many of the issues that the data was pointing to: The gameplay mechanic was too difficult, the graphics impressed low quality instead of minimalistic style, the in app purchases were too unfavorable. So we had to act and are now giving the game a fairly thorough overhaul to try and save what we think is a good game.

How did we get all of this data and what data did we track?

We used simple HTTP commands in AGK to send off data to our server whenever certain conditions would happen in the game. In previous articles I've discussed how to set up leaderboards as well as send files from your app to a server. The same method for leaderboards is what is used to send app usage data to a server. There's just more data to send! With Shape Time we use two different database tables. One table contains data for each game session. The other table contains overall statistics for each user. Both tables share a user ID for each player so that they can easily be cross referenced in reports. Each time a player completes a game session or makes a purchase, we then send data off to the server. If you are not expecting feedback from the server then you can just send out the data with an async HTTP command (we did this with purchases). If you are waiting for data back then still use the async HTTP command, but wait for the data to return as was illustrated in the leaderboards tutorial. We do this for all the session data because we are also checking for a high score at the same time.

The data we tracked was straightforward. For sessions we wanted to know how long each game lasted, how many powerups were used, and what the score was. For users we wanted to know how many sessions they had played, their high score, their purchases, and their general geographic location (country and region). The information that can be inferred from just this simple data is great.  Geographic information lets us know if non-english speaking players are having a greater difficulty playing the game (this was not our case). Most importantly we could see that players on average were only getting a high score of around 25 points. Only 17% of our players were actually using the powerups (the game has explanations of these when they are first rewarded). We could see the average game session time was only about 2 minutes which was much lower than the beta test group.

The data was so disappointing that we were likely going to abandon the game and call it a loss. We tested it out well, we liked the mechanics, we knew that the high scores achieved in-house and by beta testers were achievable (my wife still has the all time high score of 182 points with very few players even coming close – my best is 129), we liked the music and graphics. Therefore we were ready to call it a loss until we received a brutally honest professional review. 

The review pointed out what the data was telling us and it also gave us hope. It made suggestions on how we could improve the game. After matching that information up to the data we feel that Shape Time could still possibly be a success. 

The gameplay mechanics were possibly too challenging: it is possible that the way the bar moves in the game (it snaps to the closest edge) is an extra challenge for players to overcome. Though beta testers were quite comfortable with it after a play or two we can understand how the snapping may actually feel more like a restriction and hindrance than assistance as it was meant to be. The snapping feature is now optional and we're allowing for more margin of error in matching the shapes up with the bar.
The minimalistic style was viewed as too basic and lacking depth. When designing the game we thought it would be best to keep it free of extra distractions. This meant we wanted things to look flat and simple and at the same time we didn't want a lot of special effects going on. Unfortunately this ended up being interpreted as plain and boring. We're now adding a lot more style to the game and are learning that we really need to spend a lot of time on making the graphics flashy. The graphics style will now be a crayon drawing style with the elements looking like construction paper cutouts. We're adding some characters to the game (the brush and clock powerup icons will now be cartoon characters) and giving them animations. We're also adding particle animations to give the game greater flare and interest.
The life restriction mechanic and power up rewarding were unfortunately too restrictive. We hoped the game was interesting and addictive enough to justify in app purchases to help lift these restrictions, but it is not. The game will no longer have any restriction on game play and powerups will be rewarded much more generously. We've removed all in-app purchases except for ad removal (we need some mechanic for monetization!).

Beyond challenging, but rewarding, gameplay

what is it that makes some games such a huge success? What makes a game addictive?We should have realized this sooner, but didn't. 
Games that have characters in them are much larger successes than ones that don't. Candy Crush Saga, Clash of Clans, Temple Run, Flappy Bird, and even Threes! (the tiles have little faces on them) all use characters in the games. Characters can be extremely important because they immediately evoke an emotional response. A smile on a character's face is immediately recognized by our brains and sets off endorphins. Make the characters cute and happy and most people will automatically have a good response to them. This puts them in the mood to have fun. The brain essentially says “There's something happy. I'm going to share in its good time.”

People are accustomed to high levels of stimulus. Watch any recent children's movies, the stimulus level is very high. The most successful movies like Godzilla, Iron Man, etc. also have a high level of stimulus. Play Candy Crush Saga for a bit, the stimulus level is also extremely high. There are a lot of very minor animations (flare effects, characters moving slightly) occurring alongside the major animations (candy movement, row/column clearing). When you perform a good action such as clearing a row of candy there is an explosion of stimuli on the screen.
This heightens the player's emotional state and leaves them wanting more. There is a difficult balance to achieve between stimulating animations and overload. I think the main key here is that you can actually have a lot of very minor animations like particle effects and animations that don't actually change the shape of sprites (Crayon Physics has a neat stop-motion style animation on a lot of things). Most of these things we don't actively pay attention to in games, but they heighten the brain's awareness which makes people more susceptible to rewards and punishments. Try tuning off the TV on a kid when they are watching a cartoon and you can see this effect in action. Make sure to reward players often and provide a lot of stimulus with rewards. Remember you're competing for their emotions.

Once your players have an emotional attachment to a game you can then start introducing mechanics that will force them to make a choice: keep playing or quit. If you're able to create a strong enough of an attachment so that they want (and feel they need) to keep playing then and only then do you have a chance at asking them for money. This is really difficult to do. Many players are immediately turned off by this mechanic and the reason is that they haven't attained enough of an attachment to make it worthwhile. So do this with extreme caution. Also keep in mind that the majority of your players will not purchase anything until they have played many times. So if you do have some restrictive element in your game you need to do a great job of making them want to return. Unfortunately we did not do this with Shape Time and we don't really see it as a possibility in the future with a game that has such short gameplay.

App usage analytics, even the most basic ones, can be a great learning tool to help you understand how to make better games when there is an absence of user feedback. Even successful games should make use of analytics (indeed the most successful do). Analytics provides us with a way to learn what our users are doing when the majority of them are silent. Games need to provide a high level of stimulus to be considered entertaining enough to get players to come back for more. Follow the leaders and don't just emulate their game mechanics, but also look closely at the little things they do in games. These are often unnoticeable, but aggregate into a great user experience. Don't be afraid of failure. No one succeeds on their first attempts. Success even on the 10th attempt is extremely good luck. Failure can be great because it gives you the opportunity to learn. Leverage it for all it is worth. 

I'd love to hear your feedback on the new version of Shape Time. We will announce the release in the Showcase forum as soon as it is ready. Thanks for reading!

You can get this and other articles by Sean Mann in previous newsletters, or on Sean's Blog at http://blog.naplandgames.com

About Shape Time 

Four shapes. Four colors. How many can you catch?

Shape Time! is a deceptively simple, fun, and addictive game. Just catch the falling shapes with the shapes bar by matching the shape and color. Use the paintbrush power-up to paint all the shapes the same color. Use the clock power-up to slow down the falling shapes. It looks easy… but is it?

Challenge your focus, reaction time, and hand-eye coordination with Shape Time! Earn a Bronze, Silver, or Gold Badge with your hi score. Brag about your Badge on Facebook and add yourself to the Leaderboard to see how you stack up against players from around the world.



Shape Time! is FREE to play. You can purchase power-ups, more lives, and infinite lives with ads removed. New version coming soon with less restrictions and a whole lot more fun! Available on Google Play and the App Store.





The TGC YouTube Channel

Youtube ChannelHave you visited the TGC YouTube Channel yet? You may be surprised:

Youtube ChannelTake a look at our channel now, and make sure you hit the subscribe button to stay up to date with new video uploads. Very often you'll get advanced previews of upcoming news.

Keep up to date with TGC on Facebook & Google+

Find us on Facebook to discover more about The Game CreatorsJoin over 6,300 fans on TGC's Facebook page to keep bang up to date on news, user projects from the forums and discussions.

We're keen to hear from all our avid users and we always love to hear what you've been up to with the tools we sell. So if you have something you want to share with the wider TGC audience why not post it into the TGC Facebook page?

FPSC Reloaded

FPS Creator Reloaded on FacebookThere are now over 2,500 fans discussing Reloaded on our Facebook page right now. That's over 500 more than last month! Whether you simply want to see the update and progress news as it is released, or get involved in technical discussions about LOD, Light and lots of other topics, sign up to this page today to be part of it.


App Game Kit 

You can join in the Facebook discussions in our AGK group page with over 580 members and we have a new AGK Facebook page.



You can also follow our products on Google+ 

TGC on Google+

FPSC Reloaded on Google+

App Game Kit on Google+ 




"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

Benjamin Disraeli