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Twisted Jenius's blog

2:18 PM on 12.08.2014

Behind the Scenes with: The Turtle!

There will be a number of creepy critters featured in the upcoming horror game Reptile Zoo: The Sinister Mutation, that we are now developing. Today I'd like to introduce you to one of the residents of Reptile Zoo; The Turtle! And we will go behind the scenes with him to see various stages of his creation.

I didn't do any concept art for him, as originally I was going to just have him be a normal alligator snapping turtle, but as I was doing the initial modeling for him I decided to make him a bit more interesting. The first image (A) shows the basic, primitive snapping turtle shape that I'm beginning with. When modeling something like this, it's usually best to start with basic forms and add specific details as you go. By the second image (B), we can see that he has a lot more detail and his overall shape is closer to his final form.

"This isn't even my final form!" -The Turtle

In the period of creation between these first 2 images, I decided to try to make him more unique and menacing looking. The two most disturbing looking types of turtles that I know of are the alligator snapping turtle, and the mata mata, a South American flat headed turtle. Both of these species are fairly prehistoric looking and are fresh water ambush predators who stand still for long periods of time. Basically I decided to create a mutant hybrid of these two distinctive types of reptile. I'm not sure if this mutated turtle is an adolescent, but we can probably assume that he would be a skilled and fearsome martial artist. Though in all likelihood he would snap up and consume any rodent mentor that would get too close to him; because he's a bad ass like that.

In the next image (C), we can see that he now has even greater detail as well as a basic colored texture on him (the texture has to be created in a separate 2D art program and then applied to the 3D model). He's now beginning to look thoroughly creepy. Now, in image D, he has been placed into his tank within the game environment (specifically the reptile house portion of the game) and he also has a bump map applied to him, which makes him look even more textured than before. However the whole scene still looks a bit flat, partially because I still need to do some things with the environment but also because he needs proper lighting.

Finally, in the last image (E) we find the turtle close up and at what will be the player's eye level, in his murky water filled tank, dimly lit and ready to shock and terrify anyone who should pass by him. I still need to do some things with the scene, including improve the lighting and the shadows even more, but this will give you some idea of what's going on with one of our creatures and what goes into creating them.

Although we can assume that the turtle is thoroughly dangerous and menacing, in this game he is behind glass and therefore not much of a threat to the player. His particular role is to serve as sort of a "set piece", establishing the scene and letting the player know what type of place this is (the type of place that would house a disturbing mutated turtle that looks like it could rip your face off!). One of the cool things about referencing real animals when designing a creature like this is that no matter how weird or frightening what you design might be, chances are that nature has already beaten you by coming up with something even worse. Needless to say, I consulted a lot of reference photos when designing the turtle.

But even though the turtle himself may not do much, I can assure you that there are other, even more terrifying critters in the game that will do whatever they can to hunt you down and devour you. When the game is complete, I hope that you will come visit The Turtle along with the rest of the dark menagerie of Reptile Zoo. They'll be waiting for you!


10:58 PM on 10.16.2014

Reptile Zoo Lore

Here's a bit of semi-official back story or "lore" for the video game that we are currently developing, Reptile Zoo: The Sinister Mutation. The text below should be read as sort of a parody of a brochure or website or other piece of promotional material for the fictional "Reptile Zoo" that is featured in the game. The game itself will be straight horror, but I decided to make this text somewhat darkly humorous as well as disturbing, because I enjoy that kind of writing and it's in keeping with Twisted Jenius's style to inject a bit of fun into these things. I'm also including a couple of new screen shots below, in order to keep you updated on our progress. Let us know what you think!

 Welcome to Reptile Zoo!

Come let your blood run cold at Reptile Zoo, recently voted Texas' 183rd must-see attraction by an unspecified Internet publication!

 Our history-

What would become Reptile Zoo originally began in 1933 when traveling showman W.C. "Bill" Bevan arrived in town and began displaying recently caught rattlesnakes to the general public, thrilling old and young alike with his family attraction of venomous serpents housed in a quickly constructed and ultimately unstable structure made of wood planks, barbed wire, and old sheet metal. Many children were killed.

Seeking to create a better established place of business, Bevan petitioned the city for financial help in creating his visionary idea for a permanent "Reptile Farm". The Reptile Farm proposal was quickly dismissed by city officials, but was later approved under the new name of "The Reptile Garden and Research Bureau". The city donated an abandoned rock quarry to the project, which had been permanently evacuated years earlier due to mass mercury contamination. The substance can still be found on the site to this day.

Prison labor was used to construct the stone structures and paddocks out of the natural building materials left behind from the quarry, and many of these original buildings and walls still grace the grounds of Reptile Zoo. Mayor Brackenridge hailed the Reptile Garden to be an astounding success. Cited as being the first such facility in the United States, within a week it had paid for itself in attendance revenue, having made back the $15 investment, along with the free convict labor and free materials that the city had put into it. The Garden single-handedly sustained the entire region through tourist dollars, until the end of the Depression.

In 1938, Joe "Butcher of Elmendorf" Ball was accused of killing over twenty people and feeding their remains to the alligators that he kept in a pit behind his saloon. When the sheriff's deputies came to his business to question him, he shot himself in the head and therefore was unavailable for comment. However, his man-eating alligators were eventually shipped off to the next county and lived out the rest of their lives as residents of the Reptile Zoo. The descendants of Ball's hungry pets can still be seen in our exhibits.

After the war, the zoo got an even greater influx of new animals including turtles and exotic lizards. Many were donated from various organizations and law enforcement agencies who didn't know what else to do with them. Among these were a group of rabid iguanas carrying a new strain of the Kothoga virus, which were confiscated after being illegally smuggled in a banana crate from South America.

In the early 1970s, newly formed DARPA was engaged in genetically modifying jungle vipers to sniff out and attack enemy guerrillas hiding in tropical environments. The snakes proved too unpredictable and too lethal to use in any sort of practical military situation and so the remaining batches of these deadly "ultra-snakes" were remanded to Reptile Zoo, where they became a permanent part of the collection. It was also around this time that the park officially changed its name to Reptile Zoo.

In 1981, then owner George Kimbrell retired and sold the facility to a shadowy investment firm who would prefer to remain anonymous. It was four years later, in 1985, that the latest renovations to some of the buildings in the park were completed.


We are proud to say that Reptile Zoo currently houses one of the most unique collections of creatures in the world, thanks in no small part to various genetic experiments, generations of inbreeding and dubious levels of mercury in the water. Not only do our animals defy the laws of god and nature, but also several state and federal ones as well.

We continue to confidently move forward, always working to uphold our animal collection's founding motto- "if it dies, just buy a new one", as we precariously straddle the line between reputable zoological organization and roadside carnival freak show. And while much of the facility may have fallen into disrepair during the last several decades, we are still "technically" open for business and our small, underpaid but committed staff of "professionals" work diligently to ensure the public's safety by keeping all of the various monstrosities from leaving the grounds and running amok on an unsuspecting world. But they could sure use your help. So why not reward their efforts by stopping by and perhaps even donating a little bit or buying a souvenir t-shirt; thus keeping the doors open and the lights on for another day.

It's educational fun for the whole family and we're conveniently located on an undisclosed back road of the Lone Star State. So come on down to Reptile Zoo and see what all the screamin's about!


12:21 AM on 09.23.2014

End of Steam Greenlight?

It has been over a year since Gabe Newell, the founder of Valve, first began expressing his desire to phase out the Steam Greenlight system, and now it might be happening.

At the time of this writing, the latest batch of games to be Greenlit was on August 1; 53 days ago, and only consisted of a total of 50 games. This is in contrast to several consecutive batches of 75 games which had been being Greenlit, a few times a month.

At least 100 games where Greenlit during each month, from December 2013 to June 2014. And yet since July 12, only those 50 games have been allowed through Greenlight. This sharp decline in games being allowed through that system could imply that the Greenlight method of allowing games onto the Steam distribution service, may finally be over.

This seems to be even more likely as today Steam launched its Discovery Update, providing new features for the service that would seem to be designed to help users to better navigate its large numbers of game titles. The reason that this would seem to indicate the death of the Greenlight system, is that the replacement for Greenlight (which essentially lets users vote on which games they would like to see on the Steam platform) might very well be no significant barriers to entry to Steam at all.

Based on things that Newell and others have said previously, it would seem that Valve has been leaning increasingly towards opening up access to Steam to as many games as possible. But with such an influx of new games and no real "gatekeeper", there will predictably be a massive sea of inferior products flooding Steam. And so we can surmise that many of the changes introduced in this latest Discovery Update are being implemented in order to help the cream rise to the surface, and to assist users in finding the types of games that they want.

Without such measures, users of the Steam service would be completely overwhelmed by the massive influx of games of all varying types of quality that would inevitably end up on the site. But the question is will these measures actually work and will these changes be sufficient enough to allow users to effectively navigate the massive swell of new games on the platform? Steam users already complained earlier this year about the increased number of games being Greenlit, and so it will be interesting to see what happens if Valve completely opens the floodgates to any and all games that might want to be on the platform.

While these recent events, and their possible outcomes should be of definite concern to Steam users, as an indie developer, I have some concerns of my own. Steam is by far the largest distribution platform for PC games and that's much of its value. But what happens to the value of getting on Steam if it becomes completely saturated with so many different titles that users cannot properly navigate it to find the quality games that they're looking for? The more games that get on the platform, the more difficult it is to be successful on it and at a certain point of mass saturation, the platform itself becomes increasingly worthless to an indie dev. As it is, Steam has become much more competitive than it once was and it is more difficult to make money on there than it was a year ago.

But more problematic is the fact that there is no real alternative. Although just getting on Steam is no guarantee of success, being on Steam is still almost necessary for any type of success; there really is no substitute for it. And if the value of being on that platform decreases, there really isn't another good alternative. As someone who is planning on releasing their next game within the next year (that would be Reptile Zoo: The Sinister Mutation), this is something that I'm personally concerned about.

Of course despite the fact that nothing has been Greenlit in over a month, Greenlight has not been officially discontinued yet and therefore much of this is just speculation. Both users and developers will still have to wait and see what Valve has planned, exactly. But it is apparent that something is in the works.

With the new "Curators" feature included with this latest update, it is hard to predict exactly what will happen. It will be interesting to see how this will affect things and which collections will gain popularity. I suspect that the Curators feature may even give rise to some new stars in this sphere of gaming popularity. Whether that and other features which were introduced in this new Discovery Update will sufficiently help users to filter through the platform's extensive list of games, has yet to be seen. Much of this would seem to be somewhat experimental.

All I can say is that both from a user and developer standpoint, I sincerely hope that Valve knows what they're doing.


4:42 PM on 08.26.2014

Odds and Ends and Moving Plants

The game that we are in the process of developing, Reptile Zoo: The Sinister Mutation, contains quite a few art assets. This is an entire environment that must be populated with scenery, terrains, objects, foliage, buildings and wildlife. To make a 3D game like this requires a whole succession of various props to occupy the space in this virtual world, and most of those objects are pretty mundane.
As the person who is responsible for all of the art in the game, it's my job to design and create everything that will go into it. However, as you can imagine most of it is not really worth showing off. If you really think about it, most of the props that go into populating a world like this are not going to be particularly interesting to look at on their own. This is one of the reasons why I don't often show off a lot of the work that I do in these blogs. Basically I don't want to bore you with the latest ground/dirt texture that I just made. And so you can assume that that is the kind of thing that I'm up to when I'm not showing off some cooler stuff.
However, I do find these kinds of details to be very important. As you can see from some of the concept art that I've posted in some of the previous blogs, there's a very distinctive "feel" and look that I want for the game, and as with any video game, it's only going to be as good as the sum of its parts. If I want to capture a specific kind of aesthetic, it's important that all of the individual elements work together and that is why I like to try and put special care into everything and make sure that it all works well together stylistically.
 Fortunately, I do have a couple of slightly more interesting things that I've done that I can show off now. The first is a somewhat weathered looking wooden bridge that will appear in the game.  It is still in its modeling program and still needs some details added to it before it is truly complete.  The second image is of a stone wall with a rusted iron fence which has been set in the larger game environment.  It also doesn't have its complete texture mapping yet, and is therefore still a work in progress, but it gives you an idea of what we're up to ( this blog is here to let you follow along with the game's development, after all). 

Interactive Foliage
Speaking of which, the second person working on the game, its programmer, has also been making some steady progress on his end.  Lately he's been working on a system that will allow the plant life to move and react to the player (or the AI monster) whenever a bush or similar object is bumped into.  Basically we want the plants in the game to "rustle" whenever something bumps into them or brushes by them, the way that they would in real life. 
This is a bit more complicated than you might initially think.  This system has to be programmed to factor in things like the speed and force of the collision with the plant, as well as the direction of the collision relative to the plant, and of course how the plant will "react" to those things.  And the system has to work with all of the different types of plants in the game. Many different factors and testing have to be put into this system in order for it to function correctly and look right. 
Of course we're not just doing this because it looks cool; there is also a more serious gameplay element to this.  If you recall, Reptile Zoo has a lot of stealth gameplay.  The player must try to avoid the predatory creature and survive this frightening experience. Much of the game is going to occur in a series of large outdoor exhibits filled with plant-life. The plants will serve as a "giveaway" for both the player and the hunter.  One wrong move will alert the creature to where the player is, and in turn the player will have a better idea of where the monster is, by seeing and hearing its movement among the foliage.
The plants will be able to work as cover to hide behind, but if you run into them they will also make noise and move, thus potentially giving away your position.  The physical movement of the plants will be linked to the sound effects system, and it will all have to work in unison to create a realistic effect of the plants reacting as you move through them.  Combine this with the additional programming of the A. I. having to respond to this sound and movement in an intelligent and realistic way, that's also fair to the player, and you have a whole lot of fairly complex, custom game programming going on here.  I'm really hoping that you guys will enjoy the results (or at least be terrified by them, in the good way!).   read

5:46 PM on 07.25.2014

Prominent Structures

Our upcoming horror game Reptile Zoo: The Sinister Mutation relies very heavily on its environment to provide the necessary creepy and disturbing feeling that we're going for. There are going to be a few distinctive "showpiece" areas within the game and these will feature some of the more prominent structures and props that you will find in this game world. These are what I've been working on recently.
With this post, I'm including a couple of work-in-progress shots of two of these kinds of structures. The first is the gazebo, which has been placed in the larger game environment. The second is the bridge, which is still in the modeling program. Neither of these objects have the correct lighting, and some of the details and texture mapping that you will see on them in the final game is missing. They still need a bit more work but I just wanted to share what I've done with them so far. For reference, I'm also including the piece of concept art that I did for the bridge area, to give you an idea of what it should look like in the final game.

You can see that both objects feature a certain kind of stone work texture, which is something that you will see frequently in the environment of Reptile Zoo. I will actually be using multiple different types of stone textures and patterns for different parts of the game, but hopefully this will create a feeling of realistic continuity among the different objects and structures, so that it is clear that this is all the same facility. The inspiration for some of this stonework came from real places, which I will address in another blog.

The goal of the basic look of the structures is to create a creepy and unsettling atmosphere for the player to move around in, while at the same time allowing it to resemble what could easily be a real place, with these types of real objects. We want the game to feel scary, but at the same time we want it to also resemble the grounds of a real aging zoological facility. Ideally, the environments should be frightening but also eerily familiar, like a slightly skewed version of a real zoo that you might see in a dream (or nightmare). Feel free to give me any feedback and let me know how you think I'm doing on this.   read

5:57 AM on 07.09.2014

Update & First Screen Shots

Lately we've been focusing a bit more on the environments of our upcoming game Reptile Zoo: The Sinister Mutation. We've made a lot of progress in creating various textures for some of the environments, as well as doing a few preliminary mockups and tests for some of the areas that will be in the game.
Included in this post, we have some examples of this. Two of these images are from one of the outdoor paddock areas and one is from an indoor section of the main reptile house building.

None of these areas are complete yet and what we have so far is mainly for testing purposes. But they should give you some idea of the direction that we're going in and allow you to follow along and see how things progress and develop.   read

12:14 PM on 06.04.2014

Reptile Zoo and Creating the Creature

Work on our latest video game project, Reptile Zoo: The Sinister Mutation, continues to move forward. This week we completed mapping out the details of our strategy for implementing the A.I. Planning it all out thoroughly is very important for this, as it will make programming it that much easier and hopefully most of the real work is already done. We also completed modeling and texturing the game's main creature (I still need to rig and animate it).
You might notice that we are putting a lot of work into the main monster of this game. This is because one of the primary goals of Reptile Zoo is to feature a really good quality monster. In fact, that idea was probably the initial catalyst for wanting to create this game. After seeing the antagonists in some other indie survival horror games, we began thinking that perhaps we could do it better. Part of creating this monster is giving it good A.I. (a topic that we covered in last week's blog), but there's also another part, the idea for the creature itself.
After deciding on the basic premise of a killer reptilian beast, I asked a friend and talented artist named Ari Bach to come up with a design for the animal. I approached him because he is very good at coming up with interesting creature designs and I wanted this to be something unique. I'm not going to be publicly showing off any of Ari's concept drawings or any pics of the final 3D model before the game comes out. However, I will include one of my own pieces of concept art in this post, which is based on Ari's design. It gives you a small taste of the creature, but without giving too much of it away.

Why a giant mutant reptile?

 These days it seems like the horror game world is full of supernatural entities and walking corpses. Zombies and ghosts haunt our computer screens in the dark of night and have become the standard for games of this genre. But for this game I wanted to break from that. We want the player to feel like they are being hunted and for that I wanted something that was closer to a flesh and blood animal. This thing doesn't just vaguely "get you" when you look at it or it comes too close; this is a walking, breathing predator that wants to eat you! The idea here is to tap into the most basic and primal fear of being hunted that humans have evolved with, since before we were even humans.
The truth is that I love strange creatures and animal-monsters. I grew up on campy horror movies which are often collectively referred to as "Jaws rip-offs" from the 70s and 80s. These included such animal flicks as Alligator (1980), Piranha (1978), Barracuda (1978), Orca (1977), Grizzly (1976), Tentacles (1977) and Razorback (1984). Although they came a bit later, I think it'll also throw in Komodo (1999) and Anaconda (1997) as well, since I also enjoyed them and they're very relevant to the topic at hand. I think that we can safely say that these sorts of films definitely contribute to the game's "creature feature" sensibility. I should also mention that another influence is the fact that I used to work for a zoo and have personally kept many exotic reptiles myself. Those experiences are also definitely having some impact on the creation of this game (I will discuss this more in future blogs).

Killer animal movies are fairly common in Hollywood. Long before Jaws, Hitchcock was frightening people with The Birds (1963) and even before that there was a whole slew of giant radioactive creature and bug movies from the 1950s. But this type of monster seems to be surprisingly absent as any kind of main antagonist in horror games. In a world where most survival horror gaming seems to revolve around disfigured humans and demonic entities, I'm hoping that Reptile Zoo can help open the gates to a broader array of things that can scare us as we play.   read

8:07 AM on 05.28.2014

Reptile Zoo and Making the Hunter Hunt-


Reptile Zoo: The Sinister Mutation  has continued to progress. This week we created some new marketing material, did some more work on the main creature model and came up with a more concise plan for how the video game's A.I. will be implemented.

A bit about the A.I.

A.I. will be a very important element in Reptile Zoo. This is one thing that will set it apart from many other examples of recent indie first-person survival horror video games (Slender: The Eight Pages probably being one of the most famous examples of these). In many of these types of games, the A.I. is very minimal or completely nonexistent. Often the monsters will either suddenly pop into the player's vicinity, and you'll be forced to run away from them or simply look away from them to avoid dying. In some of these games the enemy will actively chase you as well.

One thing that I would like to point out is that with many of these types of games, although they are clearly in the genre of survival horror, their basic gameplay style is very much like an adventure game; focusing on elements of exploration and simple item collecting, and with avoiding the monster as almost a secondary function of the main gameplay. Reptile Zoo is different in this way, as its main type of gameplay is stealth.

This is what makes the A.I. so important to the game. The creature has to be able to actively hunt you. But this also means that it can't just pop up and start instantly chasing you the way you might see the monster do in other horror titles. In order for it to be a stealth game, you have to be able to avoid it. You have to keep the monster from seeing you, rather than avoiding looking at him.

This means that the A.I. must be a bit more complex, so that it can actively stalk you while still giving you an opportunity to hide or otherwise evade it. To accomplish this, the A.I. has several elements that it uses to determine how the creature will act in any given situation. These include-

• Detection: The various methods that the creature will use to determine where the player is (sight, sound, and touch), or where it thinks the player is.

• Awareness: How alert or sensitive the creature is to the player's presence. The closer it gets to the player, the greater its Awareness level will be. This variable will change over the course of gameplay and will help to dictate the creature's behaviors (and of course the animations that correspond with those behaviors) which will allow it to simulate the actions of a predator in various stages of stalking its prey (including the final attack).

• Positioning: What the creature's pattern of movement will be as it is hunting around and stalking its victim; literally how it's moving around in the game. Part of this will be determined by what its Awareness level is.

There are several other major elements to the A.I. and numerous other details and factors that come into play in regards to implementing it.

Why stealth gameplay?

The reason that we chose stealth gameplay for Reptile Zoo is pretty simple. We wanted the gameplay to work very well with, and even enhance the emotional experience that we were going for. Of course this is a horror game, so that emotion is fear. In this way we hope that the gameplay helps to enhance the fear as opposed to distracting from it. It's designed to work with it.

By making you hide from the creature in order to survive, we hope to invoke the primal sensation of being hunted by a large predator. Often some of the most terrifying moments in horror movies are when the potential victim is hiding from the killer or monster, not sure whether they're about to be found or not. This is exactly the type of sensation that we want to tap into, but with an interactive experience. You don't hide inside anything in this game, only behind things, and therefore you're never truly safe. Even accidentally making a noise by rustling a branch or stepping on some loose gravel could give away your position and allow the creature to know where you are.

The A.I. is designed to allow the creature to slowly stalk you, like a shark circling its prey. You will know it's there, and you may catch glimpses of it through the trees or darkness or other obstacles as it begins zeroing in on you. By definition, survival horror games are designed to make the player feel vulnerable, in order to invoke fear. In this case all you will be able to do is either hide, or occasionally run. You will be helpless against the monster.

By having A.I. that simulates the actions of a real predator, balancing the combination of it hunting you, while still allowing for it to have blind spots that you might use to hide or escape, and in a more general sense designing the gameplay itself to enhance the kind of emotions that we're trying to invoke, this should be one of the scariest games that you have ever played.   read

11:21 PM on 05.21.2014

New Game: Reptile Zoo

Reptile Zoo: The Sinister Mutation is the latest video game project that we have been working on here at Twisted Jenius. It's a 3D, first-person horror game that we are developing using the Unity 3D engine. The overall goal of the game is to create the most frightening experience that we can, to simulate the primal terror and feeling of being hunted by something big and scaly.

Gameplay and Story
The gameplay will mostly rely on stealth. You will have to make your way through the grounds of a creepy reptile park and avoid being devoured by a predatory beast which is on the loose. In order to do this, you will be able to use all of the various elements and objects within the environment to hide behind and sneak around.
A zoo keeper has called his coworker in the middle of the night because one of the creatures has escaped from the collection and is now running free in the park. Having arrived, and guided only by the notes he has left, you must now go and find that other keeper somewhere in the zoo. But you also must stay alive!

Although this game was inspired by the latest generation of indie survival horror games, it's our goal to see if we can do it better. To create an even more terrifying experience with an original environment and setting, interesting gameplay and a better monster.
We've already made a fair amount of progress on the game.
Here is what we have done so far-
• Wrote up the game's design document, detailing many things such as the game's mechanics, aesthetic/art focus, progression, elements (characters, buildings and other objects), AI overview, etc.
• Created 2D maps to plan out the level and did concept of art for the various environments, creatures and other elements in the game (some of which I'll be posting in this and future blogs, until I have some good screen shots to show off).
• Put together a prototype of the game level within the engine, using placeholder art and began testing some of the most basic aspects of game play.
• Added some rough versions of the basic game play systems that will be going into the game.
• Put some elements and art assets into the level that will be closer to what will be in the final game.
• Began creating the 3D model of the main enemy creature (still need to complete texturing it, as well as rigging and animating it).
• Started planning the specifics of the AI system and how it will behave in the game and in relation to the player.
We still have a lot of things to do on this before Reptile Zoo is completed, but we will keep you updated with this blog. And if you're inching to play something before then, be sure to check out our last game, Twisty's Asylum Escapades. It's completely free and insanely fun (with an emphasis on "insane").   read

5:01 PM on 11.25.2013

Indie Game Magazine (IGM) charging developers to review their games?

Earlier this week I sent out a round of emails to various indie game sites about an update to my game (Twisty's Asylum Escapades).  One of the responses that I got was from I must admit that I was a bit surprised by what the e-mail had to say.

It began by going out of its way to explain how "unbiased" IGM is, and explains that they "will never offer or accept payment or other forms of compensation for a favorable review".

Then the next paragraph went on to solicit money for their unbiased reviews. They explained that because they are independently owned and not funded by another company, they need support from their community (and evidently their ad revenue that they get from the site is not enough). As a result they are forced to ask for a "small review fee" from the developers.

"The $50.00 will purchase a completely unbiased, in-depth review of your game"

It's important to note that they did specify that the 50 bucks was for an in-depth review and that they would be willing to provide a briefer preview of the game for no charge.

So apparently, paying them will not get you a better review of your game, just a longer and more detailed one (they also mentioned that another $50 could buy a 15 minute YouTube video review/walkthrough of your game).

While they do seem committed to unbiased reviews, this business model still presents the problem of the quality of the actual games themselves that will be receiving these in-depth reviews and whether the right games will be given the kind of attention that they deserve.

Now I'm relatively new to indie game marketing, but something seemed a little off about this to me. This isn't a practice that I'm familiar with and, after doing some searching around the Internet, I can't seem to find anything about this going on as a regular thing (if this is something that happens often, or is a normal practice, feel free to correct me).

One other thing that I'd like to point out is that this e-mail was sent "On Behalf Of Chris Newton". According to this post ( dated November 1st, 2013 on IGM, Mr. Newton only recently gained ownership of the business. Perhaps this move towards paid reviews is part of his "re-focusing" efforts?

I can understand why something like this would raise some red flags for many gamers out there. Personally, as a developer and businessman myself, I can understand why IGM would want to monetize in this way. On the surface it seems like a good symbiotic relationship between this online magazine and game developers who want their games to be covered. The thing that I was a bit offended by is the "unbiased" element of this. This sort of bizarre compromise between minor corruption and journalistic integrity is a bit inefficient. It would be best just to go one way or the other.  If I'm going to pay money for a review of my game, I expect it to be horribly biased!   read

3:11 AM on 04.15.2013

Enemy design part 2

All of the human characters in the game are sort of exaggerated caricatures of real types of people and I thought about each character's individual body type when I was designing their attacks and how they would move. For instance, the large, almost gorilla-like Orderly isn't very quick and basically just lumbers down the halls and slams you with his oversized arms (he's also the only enemy the player can reasonably out run). Contrast this with the janitor who appears to be a lot more lean and agile and uses his broom as almost a sort of martial arts style staff weapon and is able to spin in the air. When plotting the janitor's movements, I actually held a broom myself and figured out exactly how I wanted him to move (though I wasn't actually able to pull off the midair spinning thing).


The enemy nurses, like the Orderlies, are very direct and not very graceful in their attacks. Because of the shape and size of the nurse's bodies, I figured that they wouldn't move around as much and would probably just have to use their arms in a limited way, in order to poke you with their giant syringe. I also took a lot of time figuring out the nurse's "run" animation and tried several different things with that. The Doctor's attacks are also very direct but he uses much wider sweeping motions that I felt were more inline with his tall lanky form. His attacks are designed to create a feeling of quick precision, which would seem to go well with a character in a white lab coat wielding a giant scalpel.

There were several other characters that we had originally planned to have in the game, but that we decide to scrap for various reasons. Among these was a security guard character that I decided was visually boring, and more importantly redundant, since we would already have both Orderlies and SWAT team in the game.

In addition to the human hospital staff, the asylum also has some enemy ghosts floating around certain sections of it. The original reason that I wanted to include ghost characters in the game is that I wanted something else strange in there other than Twisty himself. I wanted something to signify that to the asylum was actually haunted and that there was other weirdness going on there aside from the fierce floating brain.

The ghosts are the only enemies with a ranged attack that you encounter during the majority of the game, before the SWAT team enters the building. Their supernatural energy attacks gave us the opportunity to include more visual variety in the game, and depart from the standard melee weapons that the other enemies use.

The aggressive ghosts are not only the enemy of the player, but will also attack and do battle with any of the other human enemies that they encounter. Part of this design decision was based on the simple fact that it wouldn't make sense for them to get along with the "ordinary" human hospital staff, but it also serves as a cool gameplay feature that allows the player to pit different enemies against each other for their own strategic advantage.

When damaged, the ghosts leave a green ectoplasm like substance behind, as opposed to the red blood that is left by the more corporeal enemies. When designing the characters for the game, we felt it was important to give them each their own distinctive "personality". Not only does this include their individual appearances, but also the way that they move. If you look closely, even their individual movement patterns are unique and certain characters have a tendency to move forwards and backwards, strafe from side to side, or use a serpentine pattern during combat. They also have different patterns and intervals for their separate attacks during combat and leave different openings, providing "weaknesses" for the player to exploit.

All of these various factors and details add up to more interesting characters and richer gameplay.

If you would like to play the game discussed in this development blog, you can download it for free here.   read

7:35 AM on 03.22.2013

Enemy design part 1

Having asylum staff as the enemies seemed like an obvious choice since the game is about trying to escape an asylum. This basic decision was very intuitive, but a lot of thought went into the details of the enemies themselves.

Most of the enemies in the game are very distinctive in their appearance. They're all stylized to one extent or another. The most obvious reason for this is that I didn't want them to be boring to look at and that's the kind of style that I personally like. But there was also another, more technical reason for their somewhat cartoony appearance.

Due to the limitations of the technology that we were using and the fact that we wanted this game to be able to run on as many different types of hardware as we reasonably could, it was important that we kept the complexity of the 3D models to a certain minimum. Basically we couldn't make the characters too complex looking or it would slow down the game too much on too many people's machines. Keep in mind that we're a two man team and lacked many of the resources that an AAA title would have to go through and completely optimize their game.

In a situation like this, where you have a fairly low cap on the amount of geometry that you can include in a single character, it's best to go with a stylized look. Trying to go with something realistic would be folly under these circumstances since it couldn't really be achieved anyway and trying would just make the characters look even worse. Fortunately, the stylized look is what I wanted anyway and it works well with the other weirdness of the game.

I would say that the biggest single influence on the visual design of the enemies of the game is Gary Larson's The Far Side. This is probably most obvious with the enemy nurses, as she is very heavily based on the general look of Larson's women.

Of course one of the biggest influences on the style of the game's characters is just what I like and what comes naturally to me. Since I was responsible for creating the look of this entire world and was the sole artist on the project, I thought that the best way to make sure it was consistent was to just do what I intuitively felt would work best.

It was important that the characters work well with the world and share some of the same weird style as the environment and of course as the protagonist, Twisty. And since one of the other goals of this game is to promote the Twisted Jenius web site, I was also inclined to borrow certain ideas from that. In the case of designing the enemy characters, that usually meant taking some cues from my other somewhat cartoony work, my Villains & Heroes webcomic. If you look closely you'll notice that there is some minor overlap between certain features of the characters in the comic and in the game.

If you would like to play the game discussed in this development blog, you can download it for free here.   read

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