Hey guys, Eric here! After a long haitus, I’m pleased to announce Virtually Competent’s latest release: a cooperative tablet game for up to four players, Shipshape!

This release is especially exciting, not just because it’s the first we’ve put out in a while, but also because it was developed specifically for the Iowa City Public Library's tablet table, which is going public for the first time today. If you happen to live in the Iowa City area, be sure to stop by the children's section of the library and see Shipshape the way it was meant to be played! Of course, as you may have guessed by the fact that it's located in the children's section, it was meant to be played by children, so don’t expect it to be a strategic masterpiece like Michael Connolly’s Crystal Control.

So what’s the story behind Shipshape? Well, the greedy pirate, Greenbeard, has claimed an island all to himself, just so he can show off his giant, colorful gems and…wait, aren’t those your giant, colorful gems? Unfortunately for Greenbeard, you and your friends aren’t keen on sharing, so you do what any mature pirate would do in this situation: you load up the canons and start blasting what’s rightfully yours! If you can’t have them, no one can!

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Eric, this sounds like a terrible game for kids. Aren’t you just teaching them that sharing is bad*?!” Well, what if I told you that the only way they can maximize their destruction of personal property** is by taking turns destroying it? That’s right, the only way you can truly stick it to Greenbeard*** is by inviting your friends to help out. Play by yourself too long and you’ll run out of things to destroy! If you want to keep that score up, you’ll have to share the action with a friend (or three) and maybe even work together at times when Greenbeard gets smart and starts putting up shields to keep you out. Come on, Greenbeard, why are you such a jerk? It’s not like you you made the gems yourself or anything.

Anyway, Shipshape’s available RIGHT NOW, both at the Iowa City Public Library and from our website, so check it out! Just make sure you’ve got a touch-enabled device (with enough screen real estate for three of your best buddies) at the ready if you want to play it at home!

Play Shipshape now!

*Disclaimer: Virtually Competent is not responsible for any poor sharing habits your child may develop from playing Shipshape. They were like that when they got here.
**Virtually Competent does not condone the destruction of personal property, but in this case it’s totally okay because that’s just how pirates roll.
***Bullying is also way uncool. Don’t do it, kids. I mean, unless the person you’re bullying started it first. Then go for it.

Hey everybody, Crystal Control got a slick new update late last night.
You can check it out right now!
Just make sure you see “Version 1.1” at the top left corner or you’re playing the wrong version (if it’s not showing up, refresh the page a few times until it does)!
Version 1.1 Patch Notes:
4 new control modes (Gamepad D-Pad + Buttons, Single Gamepad (Buttons Only), Single Gamepad (With Sticks))
Control modes selectable from title screen via left/right arrow keys
Title screen displays up, down, and fire controls as well as current control scheme
Tutorial reflects all control changes
Fixed graphics bug with charges not disappearing after L2 or L3 shot
Please let us know if you run into any bugs so I know exactly how many demerits to give Mike. If you don’t run into any bugs, you could also just leave some kind words about the game and I’ll give him one hug for each piece of positive feedback. MAKE HUGS NOT BUGS

Hey everybody, Crystal Control got a slick new update late last night.

You can check it out right now!

Just make sure you see “Version 1.1” at the top left corner or you’re playing the wrong version (if it’s not showing up, refresh the page a few times until it does)!

Version 1.1 Patch Notes:

  • 4 new control modes (Gamepad D-Pad + Buttons, Single Gamepad (Buttons Only), Single Gamepad (With Sticks))
  • Control modes selectable from title screen via left/right arrow keys
  • Title screen displays up, down, and fire controls as well as current control scheme
  • Tutorial reflects all control changes
  • Fixed graphics bug with charges not disappearing after L2 or L3 shot

Please let us know if you run into any bugs so I know exactly how many demerits to give Mike. If you don’t run into any bugs, you could also just leave some kind words about the game and I’ll give him one hug for each piece of positive feedback. MAKE HUGS NOT BUGS

In case you wonder what I do here…and for a slight sneak peek.

I stare at code.  I stare at code a long time.  I stare at it until my eyes bleed and my heart explodes.  I’m pretty good at staring at code. 
But let’s be honest here, I like web development.  It’s why I majored in it.  I love being able to manipulate front ends and back ends (in all senses of those words, honest)!

I said to myself, believing it’d be an easy task.  Of course, what’s easier than manipulating classes, fiddling with the css via some events, and doing some all around fun things with jquery?
I was wrong.

To me, as a programmer, for me to get work done, I have to get work -done-.  I can’t stop in the middle of something until a function is working, tested, and thoroughly beautiful looking.  If I feel like I don’t have enough time or energy to work on the showThisGoddamnButton() I’d rather just hop on the train in Guild Wars 2 and punch out a few levels on my elementalist.
That’s kind of a problem, yes.   But through even all the slacking off, I’ve gotten a lot of stuff done done! 
But let me say, I can thank a lot of the work that has been done asset wise for the site for the wonders of the bearded Colin.  There is mystery in said beard.  I wonder where he gets his talent from.  I think his artist strengths, like the strength of Samson, all came from his hair, but in Colin’s case, his beard.  Please Colin, never shave off your beard.  And thank you for all the AWESOME art you’ve done for the website and games.  
I really hope you all keep your eyes open for what’s coming up for Virtually Competent!  We’re really excited to show you what we’ve been cooking: games, website, and other artifacts of lovely lovely things. 

In case you wonder what I do here…and for a slight sneak peek.

I stare at code.  I stare at code a long time.  I stare at it until my eyes bleed and my heart explodes.  I’m pretty good at staring at code. 

But let’s be honest here, I like web development.  It’s why I majored in it.  I love being able to manipulate front ends and back ends (in all senses of those words, honest)!

I said to myself, believing it’d be an easy task.  Of course, what’s easier than manipulating classes, fiddling with the css via some events, and doing some all around fun things with jquery?

I was wrong.

To me, as a programmer, for me to get work done, I have to get work -done-.  I can’t stop in the middle of something until a function is working, tested, and thoroughly beautiful looking.  If I feel like I don’t have enough time or energy to work on the showThisGoddamnButton() I’d rather just hop on the train in Guild Wars 2 and punch out a few levels on my elementalist.

That’s kind of a problem, yes.   But through even all the slacking off, I’ve gotten a lot of stuff done done! 

But let me say, I can thank a lot of the work that has been done asset wise for the site for the wonders of the bearded Colin.  There is mystery in said beard.  I wonder where he gets his talent from.  I think his artist strengths, like the strength of Samson, all came from his hair, but in Colin’s case, his beard.  Please Colin, never shave off your beard.  And thank you for all the AWESOME art you’ve done for the website and games. 

I really hope you all keep your eyes open for what’s coming up for Virtually Competent!  We’re really excited to show you what we’ve been cooking: games, website, and other artifacts of lovely lovely things. 

eaneuhaus:

EPXCON 2014 Postmortem

About two weeks ago, one of my coworkers approached me and asked if I had heard about EPXCON. an annual game and animation convention event run by the University of Iowa’s EPX Studio. I replied, “Totally, I’m actually going to have a prototype on display at the Iowa City Public Library’s booth. It’s super exciting.”

"Well, yeah, but what do you think about having your own booth?"

On the morning of the second day of EPXCON 2014, I arrived at Art Building West, tired and afraid that I had bit off more than I could chew. The week leading up to the event was a roller coaster of emotions: First, I was like, “This will be fun!” I made some plans and thought that everything would go smoothly. However, I failed to realize how much time I would need to actually gather all the necessary equipment, get a banner and business cards designed and printed, tweak my two games for touch compatibility (as well as finish the prototype for the library)…

Oh, and did I mention we were wrapping up our latest release, as well?

In retrospect, agreeing to attend EPXCON was probably fairly ill-advised for a lot of reasons (most evident in my slight total failure to take care of my school obligations), but I made it happen. When the day of the event arrived, I was there with equipment, banner, business cards, and (mostly) working demo builds in tow. And thanks to the tireless efforts of my amazing team, I had a shiny new Crystal Control to show off.

Speaking of my amazing team, it’s unfortunate that none of them were able to attend the event with me, but luckily my roommate Madde stepped up to the plate and really helped me keep it together the night before. I was already quite close to becoming a sobbing mess while trying to get Lonk to run on a tablet with any level of virtual competency, but I’m pretty sure I would have been up all night if she hadn’t taken the reigns on inventory duty.

Madde and I plopped down our collection of boxes and bags behind the table and began to set up. While the “Interactive Play Lounge”, as it was called, was not open on Friday night, I was smart enough to drop by anyway and get a feel for the space. The tables were way larger than I had expected. That was a nice surprise. The other surprise, however…I couldn’t quite decide how nice it was.

The table marked with an unassuming little sign that read “Virtually Competent” was right next to the entrance. Like, immediately in front of the door. First thing you see. No pressure.

Of course, if that second surprise wasn’t enough to make me sweat, the third surprise most certainly did. The sign on the table next to mine read “That Dragon, Cancer”. 

I’m pretty sure all color drained from my face right then. I felt a little ill.

I’m not going to try and describe this particular game for fear that my words simply could not do it justice, so I’ll simply recommend you visit the game’s site for more info (seriously, if you don’t know about this game already, stop reading my thing and go check it out now).

Don’t misinterpret my reaction. All at once, I was honored to share a space with someone from the game’s team, but also embarrassed that I’d be demoing something called “Dikdik” next to such a serious and important title. What have I gotten myself into?

I began to unpack the tablet mounts and clamp them onto the table before realizing that I should probably first figure out where I want to place the mini-projection screen. Far left end of the table? No, then people can’t see it right away when they enter the room. Far right end of the table? No, then it’ll block my booth neighbors, and that’s not very nice. Center? No, then I can’t pull the projector back far enough to get a nice, big image (and even if I did, I’d have to leave it precariously perched on the front edge of the table).

A lot more planning was required to arrange the equipment than I had expected. The tablet that showed off our first release, Dikdik, had to have enough breathing room to allow two players to stand in front of it, while the tablet that showed off our Flappy Jam entry, Lonk’s Awakening, didn’t have the same constraint (as it only supports one player). Both tablets also had to avoid monopolizing on the projector’s space, as our new release, Crystal Control, was a two player ordeal as well.

Since the walls were white and it quickly became obvious that we did not have the right kind of space on our table for the projection screen, Madde and I agreed that it would be fine if we just projected it on the wall behind us (as long as we were mindful about not walking in front of it). This freed up enough space to place the two tablets with the proper amount of elbow room.

There were a lot of great guests at EPXCON, but unfortunately, being responsible for your own table at an event like that means you can’t attend all the cool talks they put on throughout the day. I was able to sneak away for both of Brian Colin’s (Rampage, General Chaos, Xenophobe) talks, but for the most part, I was glued to my post, ready to shake hands and talk about what we do at (with?) Virtually Competent.

There were a few minor hiccups in our operations that made our first few guests have sort of a rocky experience (sorry guys!), including one of the Xbox controllers for Crystal Control failing to work immediately. I figured it was likely a driver issue of some sort, but the fact that I couldn’t get the computer on Wi-Fi immediately sort of made that difficult to troubleshoot.

After a bit of doing, I was able to easily resolve both problems (as well as a few other ones that popped up), but I learned a few lessons in the process:

  • Test EVERYTHING before the day of the event. The controller was from a third-party manufacturer, so I should have known it would have issues. Testing it at home and finding out it wasn’t working the night before would have given me an opportunity to fix it on a working internet connection.
  • Prepare backup plans. I was unwise to not bring a third controller as backup (or perhaps a second controller that wasn’t third-party), but I was wise enough to save a local copy of Crystal Control to the computer (as opposed to relying on the web-based version). Of course, it wasn’t ideal since the local version ran in a window (while the web version can go full screen), but it did at least allow me to get one problem under crystal control while I panicked about the other problem. Which brings me to my next lesson…
  • DON’T PANIC. As mentioned at the beginning, I was pretty tired and nervous coming into the event that morning. This amplified my stress levels when something went wrong, which made me less efficient at troubleshooting the problem (which is especially embarrassing for me, who does IT support for a day job). Getting on Wi-Fi was as simple as connecting to the University’s “setup” network and following the prompts, but I was panicking so much that I forgot that step.
  • Make sure your helpers know how to troubleshoot. If you have to leave the booth, make sure you leave your helpers with enough information to deal with any hardware/software failures that might arise. At one point pretty early in the day, I left Madde to go to a talk and got a message ten minutes in that Lonk had locked up. I want to try to explain how to kill an Android app over a text message, so I recommended that she try powering it off and powering it back on. Luckily, that worked, but it would have gone a lot more smoothly if I had told her how to deal with that beforehand.
  • You WILL probably forget SOMETHING. Be resourceful. Despite Madde doing an excellent job gathering everything I wrote on my checklist the night before (and adding some extra things that I didn’t even think of), there’s no way either of us could have prepared for every issue that could possibly arise. One such issue was the fact that picking up the wired Xbox controllers would inevitably pull on my projector/mini-PC combo (which you can find here on Newegg, by the way, if you were one of the many people who were asking about it) and severely misalign the projected image. If we had considered this, we would have brought some zip-ties to manage the cables better. Since we didn’t have any, however, I improvised by simply tying the controller cables themselves around one of the table legs (which kept any tugs on the controller end from reaching the computer).

Now that I’ve rambled on about how to prepare for things going wrong, let me talk about how to do things right:

  • Develop a “spiel” and get used to saying it…a lot. Having never done anything like this before, I had no idea how to manage my interactions with so many people. I’ve been to conventions before and talked with people at booths, but it never really occurred to me that the first things they say to me are likely the same that they said to the last guy. There’s nothing wrong with that, though; Being able to go on auto-pilot for a minute to explain what you’re all about (“Hey, the game on the end is single player, while the two over here are two player. If you don’t have anyone to play with, I’d be happy to play with you! And make sure you take some business cards with you before you leave!”), is a good thing because after you’re finished going over the basics, you can start answering questions they may be left with.
  • Get some pictures of people playing! Ask them for permission first, of course, but do ask. Not only do the pictures look good on your website/Facebook page, the fact that the visitor knows that their picture may be online may make them curious enough to check the page (if they weren’t going to do so already). I’ve only tagged one person (a friend I already knew) in our Facebook album, and that picture alone got nearly 300 hits just from popping up on her feed (and her friends’ feeds).
  • Observe trends and get feedback! Undoubtedly, one of the most valuable parts of my experience at EPXCON was getting to watch so many people play our games and being able to ask them what they liked/didn’t like. Both Dikdik and Crystal Control have some really crippling user interface issues (players had a hard time learning controls or navigating menus) that we never realized before. Also, don’t be afraid to ask fellow developers to come by and check out your stuff! There were a lot of talented people there that have been doing this a lot longer than I have and each of them had a lot of helpful wisdom to impart. It was kind of scary to ask Josh Larson (That Dragon, Cancer) and Brian Colin to play with me, but they ended up being super friendly and happy to answer my questions and offer suggestions to improve our games.

The nine hours that I spent at EPXCON ‘14 flew by. No sooner did we get all set up, it seemed like people were flooding into the space and taking interest in all of our titles (and even when it slowed down, I still had a great time chatting with the folks over at Shapetrix Entertainment and bitDungeon and everyone else I mentioned earlier). It was a great experience for so many reasons.

I already said it on Twitter, but I’ll say it again: Thank you so much, everyone who stopped by Virtually Competent’s table! It was truly inspiring to hear so many kind words and see such a diverse group of people take interest in what we do. I remember vividly that a few people said something along the lines of “man, your stuff is really cool…I wish I could do that” and every single time, I responded: “You can!”

There are a multitude of free tools you can find RIGHT NOW that will let you make games of your own with little to know programming knowledge required. All of Virtually Competent’s games are built in Scirra’s Construct 2, which is super easy to learn. Please, if you have a game idea that you’d like to make a reality, give Construct (or any number of the other free tools available) a shot and see how it turns out. The most important thing is just making something…anything. I’ve heard that advice preached by all sorts of famous developers and I can’t stress it enough.

If I convinced even one person to download Construct and try their hand at game development from my appearance at EPXCON, then I will consider my attendance worthwhile.

I’m realizing that I’m horrible at remembering names now that the event has passed, but please don’t hesitate to contact me via Twitter or our team e-mail if you have any more questions about anything that maybe you forgot to ask at the event! Or if you just want to keep tabs on our future projects, follow us on Tumblr/Twitter or like us on Facebook.

CRYSTALS!

Crystal Control has just gone live, marking Mike’s debut as a video game developer and the start of my decent into deep depression as I wonder if I could ever top the mechanical brilliance of his competitive shoot ‘em up. How exciting!

We released a beta build of Crystal Control some time ago, but thanks to the artistic stylings of Colin Greenhalgh and the musical prowess of Derek Klaren, the game is looking and sounding better than ever. Don’t take my word for it, though; grab a friend and check it out for yourself!

Play Crystal Control now!

CONTROLS!

Much like Dikdik before it, Crystal Control hopes to bring multiplayer back to the couch by forcing two players to share a keyboard in order to duke it out. Unlike Dikdik, however, Crystal Control is a bit complex and you may find that your keyboard can’t handle all four keys (two per player) simultaneously. We’ve remedied this by allowing player one to use “Shift” and “Ctrl” instead of “W” and “S” (respectively) if this happens to be the case for your keyboard (don’t worry: you can’t start the game without holding all four keys down, so you should know right away what works and what doesn’t).

Those alternative keys are specially designated as modifier keys (so they don’t count toward the limit), but be cautious if you happen to have any odd keyboard shortcuts set up with any of the keys involved.

If you happen to have some Xbox 360 controllers on hand, however, you’ll be happy to know that they’re fully supported by Crystal Control! Just press any button on either controller and the game will automatically switch over to controller mode.

EPXCON!

If you happen to reside in the Iowa City area, you can stop by the University of Iowa’s Art Building West for EPXCON RIGHT NOW, where the V-Comp booth is all set up and our games are on display (including Crystal Control…I’m accepting challengers)! Unfortunately, Mike wasn’t able to make it, but you can still come by and tell me how great you think his game is (and maybe I’ll pass the information on…maybe).

If you happen to stop by, be sure to also check out the Iowa City Public Library’s booth, where you can find ANOTHER new title from Virtually Competent, tentatively titled Shipshape. We’re really excited and honored to be developing Shipshape for the library’s large “tablet table” project and we hope that the game will offer children a fun, cooperative experience when it hits in a few months. Of course, the prototype you’ll see here is still very much in its early stages, so don’t be too harsh when you visit the V-Comp booth to talk to me about it!

Alright, I’ve got to get back to handing out V-Comp business cards and losing games of Crystal Control at our table, but stay tuned for lots of pictures post-convention!

Hey everyone, Eric here! I’ve got a special surprise for you today: An update to Dikdik!

While Mike is still truckin’ away on making Crystal Control the polished wonder it deserves to be, I decided to polish up my own local multiplayer contribution a bit by adding a new gameplay feature as well as a catchy little background tune that Derek made a while ago (sorry I didn’t get it in until now!).

New Gameplay Feature: Timers!

Have you ever had to yell at your friends for playing with their dikdiks for too long? Well, have I got a feature for you. In Dikdik 2.0, you can now set a round timer for one, two, or three minutes. If a round goes to time, all blocks are reset back to their center positions and both sticks will gain a little extra thrusting power, meaning it will only take two pushes instead of the typical three to dislodge a block and emerge victorious!

To toggle the timer on/off, either click on the hourglass or press “T” on the title screen!

Changelog:

  • Added timers and overtime mode
  • Added background music
  • Added vocal countdown audio clips
  • Added “block breaking” sound effect
  • Enabled random grazing 
  • Added version number to title screen
  • Added Derek’s name to Credits screen
  • Enabled experimental touch controls (see text below for more info)

Play Dikdik now!

If you don’t see any of the new stuff, try reloading the page a few times (your browser may be loading a cached version of the game).

Touch controls and future plans

Building Dikdik from scratch was a great development exercise because I didn’t have to stress so much about design: I effectively made a 1:1 remake of Dong Dong, so it was all about execution instead of planning. However, Dong Dong was built to be nothing more than a short mini-game, so it doesn’t translate perfectly into a standalone title. I think the timers fix one of the more glaring issues with the original (it’s easy to play forever), but I think there’s a lot more fun to be had with the formula. I’m looking forward to experimenting even more (perhaps with powerups and the like) in the future, but I’ll need your help to know if it’s fun or not!

As noted in the changelog, this new version of Dikdik has touch controls baked in! The eventual goal is to release the game on iOS/Android devices, but I’d like to expand the game’s feature set quite a bit before then. Of course, before I start rolling out experimental gameplay features, it’s probably important that I get some proper testing done on the basic touch interface.

If you navigate to the web address for Dikdik on your favorite touch device, you should be able to play the game with a friend by touching your respective sides of the screen! It’s as easy as that. The in-game text should also detect what device you’re on and change accordingly (“P1 touch here” instead of “P1 use A”), but if that doesn’t work, please let me know!

I’m counting on all of you to help me make Dikdik the best it can be. Thank you for all your support!

cuddlycolin:

Yesterday I posted my not great pixel process tutorial type thing! My friend also was interested in how I animate stuff for my games, so I made a video of that too! It’s shorter, with less talking, and more drawing, but hopefully it might help someone even a tiny bit.

If the character looks interested and you wanna try out the game, be sure to follow Virtually Competent’s tumblr!

I may start recording and just speeding up a lot of my hobbyist game art work if this is at all interesting to anyone :)

Woo, more tutorials!

cuddlycolin:

A friend of mine asked me about my pixel making proccess and requested a tutorial video, so I made one. It’s a little long (I probably could have sped the drawing parts up a bit and talked more concisely), but I figured I’d share.

I also have one on how I do a character and animate him for a game I’m working on, if that’s interesting to anyone?

This is the first time I’ve ever recorded anything so, sorry if it’s not great, and drags on a bit! <3

Want to make some sweet pixel art like Colin? Learn from the master with this little tutorial video!