Monday, 24 October 2011

Time to vote!

The Twelfth Vegetable is announced! We're going to make a Faustian pact with a Cucumbermancer!

Will you be able to harness his dark powers without being overtaken by his black arts?

BUT WAIT! We're getting ahead of ourselves!

There's THREE Cucumbermancers jostling to make it into the game and we need the public to vote for which one they think should get the position!

Head on over to the facebook page to have your say! If you're not a facebook member, track one down, get them to like The Vegetable Patch, then convince them to vote the way you'd want to!

Here's the candidates and their biographies:

Cucumbermancer number 1: Cucumber Crowley

Hailing from Leamington Spa, Crowley discovered exotic black magics in Egypt and proceeded to abracadabra his way into the seed beds of 1920's England.

Cucumbermancer number 2: Cucumber'Zhul

Supposed servant of Kil'Garden the De-seeder, Zhul turned the tables on his master and is now leader of his own street crew of tainted pea-boys.

Cucumbermancer number 3: Luton Pimm

He has a jazzy hat. A golden gas mask and a crystal pendant that glows shadows.

He hides under children's beds and sends them nightmares so that he can feed off their tears.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Soft Vaguely-Metallic Bees


Plums are funny old things aren't they? Obviously we all know that plums are either made of gold or silver and thus cannot mulch down into compost. They're your friend for whenever you need them and - although they don't have eyes - their flowers wink at you.

Much like a dog's face, the petals on gold and silver plums open and close continuously without ever really saying anything.

But like a dog, you know the plum'll be there for you when you need to feed it to the allotment manager to increase his capacity to be impressed by your daily labours.

We all love plums. But sometimes we forget about their cold reptilian cousins - the Fixit Berries.

Until recently, the fixit berries hid their relationship to plums by appearing either lurid pink or blue. But that's all changed now. These days they WANT you to know that they're related! They want you to see that they have much in common with their immortal plumkin.

The Fixit Tripler's berry now comes out as sort of pallid bronzy nearlygold colour. And the Doubler manages a palepale silveryblue.

And yes - so the fixit's are soft and will mulch down, leaving you in the lurch if you don't pick them. Sure, you can't just hold onto them and have to feed them to the allotment manager on their schedule not your own. But just because they're not as convenient as the plums doesn't mean that they don't have hidden depths - just like bees!

Don't bees have hidden depths? If all you knew about bees was that they sting you then of course you'd think "I'd rather have a dog than a bee".

But here's a truth you can't escape:

Bee sick is much tastier on toast than dog sick.

It is a classic example of life in the vegetable patch. The gardener who dismisses the fixit berry as less useful than a plum will never achieve as grand a status as the gardener who learns to harness it's complexities!

"Though rubbish sheepdog maketh he,
think twice afore ye sack yon bee.
So too, should Plum and Fixit Berry
be both respected equivalently"

Thursday, 13 October 2011

This season's colours!

Hey look! Here comes the first visible change that's come out of the big shake-up we talked about in our previous post! May I present to you a stunning bouquet of this season's very most splendid flowers!

These luscious pink blooms have striking hoop petals that draw they eye and will turn heads. You could perhaps tuck one behind your ear and call it a floral monocle? They belong to the cabbabage, tewmato and tublecress

Or if your gardening gloves are a more conservative hue, why not take home one of these potatew, pea creeper or fauxtato blooms? Their splendid blue blossoms attach to the stem via an elongated , thickened sepal that holds them upright. You could slip one in your button hole and have the jaunty bobbing flower head easily grab the eye of your amore at the train station!

Perhaps you want something more ostentatious? Why certainly sir!

Our most glamorous new flowers don't just look good themselves - they come sprouting out of fully ripened gold or silver plums! Any jaunty bachelor who displays his matching set of these on his mantelpiece is bound to impress ladies and gentlemen alike!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Standing in the wellies of giants!

The other day we read some AMAZING slides from Bungie about how they balanced the sniper rifle (and all the weapons and vehicles and monsters) in Halo 3. We'll bung the link at the bottom of this post for you if you're interested, but we're going to give you the gist of it in a second anyway so don't feel you have you go through it. Maybe you're not as big a games production geek as we are...

So here's the thing: Bungie say that to make the game balanced (which brings with it a tonne of benefits like player readability, longevity, feelsfairitude, good teeth etc etc etc) it's a good idea to take your elements and make sure they all have proper roles in the game.

The theory is: as long as none of your elements are all doing their roles properly and none of them are stepping on the toes of any other element's role your game is going to be a heap more fun.

"Every tool in the tool box should have a specific job to do and should only do that job. Get it wrong and your player will be banging nails in with the spirit level and complaining that the game is confusing. Then their shelf will fall down."
- Peter Theophilus-Bevis, non-Bungie employee

Call us dumb if you like - but we'd never really sat down and worked out what each of our plants' role was before! They'd just been bundled into the game with their little foibles and compatibilities and we'd thought "Well that's just their personalities isn't it?"

Only as soon as we started to think "well... is this an advanced plant or not? And if not, is it appropriate that you have to learn an advanced behaviour to use it?" the problems became clear.

It became apparent that one of the big blockers to people being able to exploriment effectivly was role-less, arbitrarily constructed plants bumming around unhelpfully and claiming

"this is just who I am man! You can't control me! My friends are my family now - I'm going to live in a squat with some bikers until you get my soul!"

Everything we want players to discover was a mess. How did we expect people to be able to work anything out if the answers were all random?


We've just finished a big fat review based on Bungie's advice and improved the game a tonne! :D

This is the sort of thing we have to write blog posts about though since, when you play the game, it's a change you'll have no idea ever happened (since you'll've never tried to play the old and confusion version of the game).

Here's some diagrams that illustrate the point (even if you don't know it)

This is a diagram of how the game worked before our review. We made this diagram to see if it would show up any unpredictable or confusing relationships in the game.

oh sure, it LOOKS simple enough. But it's a bit random about what arrows go where. And how are you supposed to guess how the dark blue arrow behaves when there's only 1 of it?

Maybe you can't see it 'cos you don't know what the arrows mean, but they're important and we hate this diagram because it shows up how unpredictable they are! Shun this diagram! Booo! Hissss!

This is more like it though!

This is the model for the game that we produced based on our having properly defined roles for all the plants.

Sure it's bigger and looks a little more complicated - but look how beautifully it all comes together in the middle. This is how diagrams should behave.

What's that? Two types of orange arrow that would be just as unpredictable as the blue one from that last image? Pfft! They're special cases that make perfect sense after we properly considered how to balance the role of the plums with that of the fixit berries! We'd go into it further but we'd only bamboozle you with our amazing semi-science and plantchemy!

You'll just have to trust that we know what we're doing and praise this diagram! Lovely diagram! Oooh, just look at how splendid it is! Why not kiss it. Go on, it's fine, no-one's looking. Yeah... lovely diagram... You understand us... You're not like those other diagrams...

Friday, 30 September 2011

News coverage!

Just a super quick post to shout from the rooftops about this :

DOUBLE INDIE! That's going on the back of the box*!

*there's not going to be a box. It's a download only title. We'll just have to put this on our e-mail signatures...

Saturday, 24 September 2011

A few more pretty veg to look at

Well we've had a little bit of interest from a few folks, so we're going to post images of the rest of our newly-more-characterful vegetables!

This first one is the potatew plant - it looks quite a lot like the brown nodules (the potatews themselves) are floating in the air when it's against a white background like this. But when you see it in game (and if you look very closely here) you'll see the stringy white tendrils that link them to the body of the plant.

These next two are the Fixit Berries: Fixit Doubler and Fixit Tripler. They can be used in a few different ways to increase the impressiveness of your crops BUT they don't DIRECTLY count towards your score themselves. They don't count as a fruit and they don't give you points.

We wanted to re-enforce that they were a bit different from other plants but knew they had to have eyes (since we're telling the player that if it's go eyes it's going to rot next). So we went for crocodile eyes for these chaps. Eyes that say "we're still going to rot, but we're not quite the same".

Lastly there's the beautiful carrotini. All the plants are gender neutral except for the beautiful carrotini. She's a firey red-head like Amy Pond from Dr Who. Only she has 9 nodules up her length and enormous eye-lashes... And is a plant. It's not right to fancy her... but sometimes you just can't help yourself...


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Designer Embarrassing Self On Train For Greater Good

Our intrepid designer has been away for a few days at a wedding and presents this report of what he got up to (don't worry, it's all relevant!)

We think his experiences (though not flattering) are all part of the rich tapestry of learning how to talk to people about your game (which might be of interest to other indie devs reading this).

Also, it's entertaining to hear about our designer repeatedly embarrassing himself...

"So the reason I've not been in touch for a couple of days is that I've been off at a wedding in the north. Beautiful wedding. Lovely food. Not very productive?


I thought that since I was going to be off with a tonne of strangers I'd take the opportunity to keep my eyes peeled for iPhone users and (when I spotted them) tell them (all suave and hip style) 'Oh hi! Are you here for the bride or groom - oh! Is that an iPhone? I'm developing a game for the iPhone! You should certainly LIKE our facebook page! Did I mention I'm cool because I'm working on an iPhone game?'

Oh yes! Direct to the public PR! Genius eh?

Well it turns out no, actually.

It seems that the public are weirdly over aware of how we developers need them a lot more than they need us. No one was dumbstruck by how cool I probably am as a result of being on an indie game development team. Instead, they kept saying things like 'Why would I be interested? I already own Bejewelled. Sell it to me!'

Irritatingly, selling a total stranger (who is already cynical in the face of a smug indie developer) the idea behind your game is quite a tough thing to do in real life at a wedding.

Suddenly put on the spot I tended to flounder embarrassingly (did I mention I did this several times? I was SURE that it was just a question of finding someone clever enough to understand how erudite and louche I must be since I'm working on an iPhone game). I even said 'Well... Explorimentation!' to a stony faced old Geordie man at one point.

ADDITIONALLY : I'm SUCH a sucker for punishment that I tried the same trick a couple more times on the train back! This was EVEN MORE embarrassing since when we got to the bit where they weren't impressed by my being a cool indie game designer and wanted me to give them 5 good reasons why they should like our game on facebook (and where I stammered and flailed helplessly - still having not come up with a good plan for what to say at this point) I was stuck sat next to them in a confined space surrounded by other people who could easily listen in to my failure at salesmanship. I even pretended I was getting off at Birmingham at one point in order to get away from one lad.

However, this painful process was at least educational. For one thing, I learned that no one is going to think I'm cool just 'cos I'm developing an iPhone game. That dream is over and I need to just focus on enjoying working on them because I enjoy working on them, not because I might get to snog someone as a result. And anyway, I'm married. I wasn't going to snog any of these people even if they HAD been impressed enough. Especially not that Geordie bloke...

ALSO: knowing full well that The Vegetable Patch is fun and engaging isn't enough if we can't quickly get people to understand why. So I'm going to work on putting together a nice clean couple of sentences that'll sound spontaneous and clever about why you'll want to play our game. We could possibly put them as a tag line for the Blog (or put them on business cards with a QR code on the flip-side).

ALSO: I learned that people are going to envisage what the game's like in terms of 'it's a bit like X, Y and Z combined...' whatever we do.

When I described The Vegetable Patch to people all they wanted really was for me to tell them what sort of things it was like. So I think it'll be good to devise an 'it's a bit like' formula.

Something along the lines of 'It's a bit like Naughts and Crosses, Doodle God and Farmville combined'. Only more accurate.

ALSO: It turns out people are usually very willing to talk about what things they like or don't like about games on their phones. They LOVE it when YOU take an interest in THEM (rather than immediately asking them to take an interest in you). Everyone I talked to became a LOT chattier once I started to say 'Ok. Well as a developer I'm interested to hear what kind of things you like about a game and what draws you to them...'

Thus: In the future I'm going to try a cunning psychological experiment. I'll START with the 'I'm interested in you' type stuff. Make them feel valued and important by seemingly only wanting to know what they think is great on the app store. Then when I've buttered them up I'll drop the 'oh, we have a facebook page, trailer and dev blog if you're interested...' Gadoosh! Stealthed them with the marketing! Easy!"