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game development micro mortems









Born and raised in Amsterdam, now living in Haarlem, where I work as a freelance 2D game artist ...and do game jams with my boyfriend Emiel Kampen, hoping to one day create the most ingenious game ever. I’ve studied Game Art at the HKU University of the Arts Utrecht (2008 to 2012), where I now teach game students about visual design. LATEST PROJECT: BEYOND EYES My latest project is the key-art for Beyond Eyes (XBox One), which was presented during the Microsoft E3 press conference. Beyond Eyes has a distinct, beautiful watercolor style and I love games that have an iconic visual look. During production I worked with both digital and traditional tools. I really enjoyed painting watercolor key-art, I haven’t done something like that before. ABOUT THIS COVER This Control issue is all about micro mortems. I associated micro mortems with the future of game design, so I created a futuristic game designer. She’s using a see-through screen with a fancy interface to scan for useful information in micro mortems. When starting a project, I sketch or paint some ideas in Photoshop. I continue with the ones that communicate the message, mood and flow best. After choosing a sketch, I throw in some pictures or paintings to set the right mood and I fix the proportions. I start improving the lights, shadows and colors until I have a good first version. To surprise myself I start tossing around with adjustment layers until I find a more interesting tone and color scheme. I create the interface in Illustrator which I paste in Photoshop and transform it into the right perspective. In a color layer I add a variety of small colored dots to give the image some more life. I then use a mixer brush to blend in the colors and give the painting more detail and direction. Last but not least, is another round of using adjustment layers until color and contrast is perfect. VISUALLY ICONIC GAME Because of my experience working on various casual and applied games, I gained a lot of experience with those kinds of projects. The boundaries of creativity are set by the target audience and the clients. I would love to be able to work with very little limitations and go wild for once. It would be great to create a visually iconic style. Some games have one idea or visual concept that get’s everyone talking about it. For example: Cuphead’s 1930s animation and Limbo’s black and white. I have the ambition to create a visually iconic game where the art is something extraordinary, something worth talking about.


CONTENTS EUROPE’S MOST INNOVATIVE GAME DESIGNER......................................................4 THE EYES OF IBB & OBB: BLINK FOR EMOTION............................................. 6

game dev micro mortems


WITCHER 3 QUEST DESIGN: HOW TO NOT DROWN.......................................... 9

Micro Mortem • noun [mahy-kroh mawr-tuh m] 1. an evaluation of one particular aspect of a game or its development in 500 words Ex.: “Have you read the Micro Mortem on the Character of Journey?”

THE DREAM THAT INSPIRED THE NIGHTMARISH GRAPHICS OF THE INTRUDER ...................................................10

We all like post mortems. A lot. They provide unique insights into the creative process, problem solving and even eureka moments of other developers.

THE SHAPE THAT UNIFIED MASS EFFECT’S LOOK............................................................................ 11 UNFATED CARDS AGAINST TROPES IN RPGS.................................................... 12 THE LAST OF US’ ICONIC GIRAFFE SCENE...................................... 13 KEEPING DEVELOPMENT AFLOAT ON 2D HERALD BY ADDING 3D........................................................ 14 A NEW FLOCKING SYSTEM FOR LUMINI .................................................................... 16 IMPLEMENTING KIP THORNE’S SCIENCE IN INTERSTELLAR, THE GAME............................. 17 HOW DIMENSION DRIVE PUTS TWO VERTICAL SHOOTERS ON A HORIZONTAL SCREEN......................................... 18 UPGRADING CORE TECH FOR HOTLINE MIAMI 2: WRONG NUMBER........ 19

However, most post mortems tend to be longreads. Very – long – reads. And sometimes that’s exactly what we need, what we want. But not always. Sometimes we want to be inspired by a short anecdote, a clever solution or a spark of inspiration. That’s what Control500 is all about. We take one aspect of a game and describe its creation. In a maximum of 500 words –hence the 500 in the title. We call these articles Micro Mortems. ( And yes, we know, technically that means sometime like a ‘miniature death’, but choose to ignore that. ) In this magazine you’ll find a selection of the best micro mortems published on and 12 new ones. The latter are written by developers of the most promising upcoming indie games from The Netherlands. We hope you enjoy the magazine. If you do, don’t forget to visit every now and then for more sweet and short articles on game development. Eric Bartelson & Matthijs Dierckx Founders of Control Magazine &

RATIONING RARE OCCURRENCES IN CHALO CHALO ..................................................20 HOW INTERSTELLAR RIFT MAKES YOU FEEL AT HOME IN SPACE.........22 THE BALANCING OF RTS INTERLOPER IS A REAL BALANCING ACT..............................23 VR PITFALLS IN SUPER MAN VS MONSTER ..........................24 STARTING SMALL AND AIMING FOR THE SKIES IN ZENZIZENZIC ......................................................25

COLOPHON Control: media & events for the game industry Overtoom 467 • 1054 LE Amsterdam, The Netherlands (Dutch) • (International) Editor-in-chief • Eric Bartelson • Editor • Alessandra van Otterlo • Publisher • Matthijs Dierckx • (c) Summer 2015 • Control Magazine • All Rights Reserved This publication was made possible by


SUBMIT YOUR OWN MICRO MORTEM! You can publish your own micro mortem on Control500! Head over to and find out how. 3.



Without initiatives like the Game Fund, it’s extremely difficult to financially allow for experimentation


Bounden’s game designer Adriaan de Jongh on artistic games, the Dutch Game Fund and going abroad.


Adriaan de Jongh is internationally known as the creator of highly original games like Fingle and Bounden. As co-founder of Game Oven he has always been on the forefront of game development that goes beyond pixels on a screen. His designs bring people together by making the act of play exist outside the device. They are all about human interaction, the games are just the tool. Recently, De Jongh and his co-founder decided to close down Game Oven. He had become too much of a project manager and wanted to go back to being a full-time game designer. Which is understandable, considering the many awards thrown at him over the last couple of years. His latest ‘invention’, Bounden, is a game that makes people dance a duet. It’s one of those games that really only a few people can come up with. Looking at the sheer amount of innovation awards and nominations Bounden has, well, hoarded, we can officially say it’s the most innovative game in Europe. But Bounden could not have been made if it ­ weren’t for the Dutch Game Fund. Control had a conversation with the ever merry game designer on the subject of this fund. Why is it important that there is a Game Fund that will support games that might otherwise never get made? “More people should play games because games can be tremendously strong and immersive experiences. A lot of people don’t play video games because of a few simple reasons: difficult controls, illiterate themes and narratives, and alienating user interfaces. Experimentation on all aspects of video games shows that there is more to games than shooting aliens in the face, Pong and Super Mario. Besides, making games is expensive and investors look for a level of viability that video games have yet to reach. Without initiatives like the Game Fund, it is extremely difficult to financially allow for experimentation.”

Turn to page 26 for information about Game Fund.

As a developer you received a grant from the Game Fund yourself, for Bounden. What did it mean for your studio and the game? “Game Oven, the studio I co-founded, received 35.000 euros to make Bounden, a mobile dancing game with choreography by the Dutch National Ballet. The money simply covered a large part of the costs of our studio. After the amazing experience of working together with the Dutch National Ballet, and with more than 11 awards, great finan-

cial figures, a larger network, contacts at distribution platforms, and many other things, Bounden was a huge success that would never have happened without the Game Fund.” Game Fund supports the development of artistic and innovative games. What makes a game artistic in your opinion? “Artistic games tend to do a good job in communicating the developers’ wanted experience, feeling, or unique workings. Artistic games show no compromises in design, art, tech, music, or the overall experience. They don’t have to be anti-commercial. In contrast to a lot of works in other media, I’d say that games as artistic works not only need to express the artists’ vision, but also execute well in delivering that vision. Games are, after all, interactive, and artistic games embrace that interactivity.” De Jongh himself was recently added as the latest member of the Game Fund Committee. Among a few others, he will be the one judging the projects from now on. What are the things you will be focusing on most as a member of the Game Fund Committee? “When it comes to games that are submitted, I first look at a game’s mechanics, defined as the physical input of the player translated to an in-game event. I think there is a lot of potential in creating unique game mechanics that developers aren’t tapping into enough, so I hope to give developers who try to enter that domain a chance. After that, I ask myself a bunch of questions, mainly: how does an actual play-through go? Is the game pretentious or will it actually achieve what the developer wants it to achieve? Does the game have style or character? Looking at the portfolio of games previously funded by the Game Fund, will this game fit in terms of quality?” The Creative Fund also helps developers going to conferences and events abroad. Why is that, what can studios learn from going abroad? “If you are reading this, you probably already know why conferences are important! Conferences and events attract representatives of platforms like Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, Valve, Apple, or Google, and it attracts representatives of publishers like Ubisoft, Team 17, Big Fish, and many others. Striking a deal or even just talking to these representatives is likely to pay back in the long run. These large events are also crowded with specialists, and if you ever need advice or need someone to work on certain aspects of your game, knowing the right people can help tremendously. Besides, talks can lead to big insights, and attending the right industry parties can help to make international friends.”



THE EYES OF IBB & OBB: BLINK FOR EMOTION Legs, a body and eyes. Both ibb and obb lack other features. They need legs to run and jump around. A body so they can stand on top of each other. Eyes to give them a soul. SPARPWEED • IBB & OBB Sparpweed is an independent studio with a focus on original gameplay and atmosphere. Co-founder Richard Boeser studied Industrial Design Engineering at Delft University of Technology.


All characters in ibb & obb feature the same pill shaped eyes. They differ in size and position, but are all derived from the same system. Each individual eye is made out of separate textures: a rectangle, rounded caps and a shut version. The proportions of the rectangle is a variable, so an eye can range from circular to tall. The space between the eyes and the position on the body are also parameters defined in ibb & obb’s long list of constants. Quite some constants are used for controling when ibb and obb should close their eyes and for how long. At the root of this there is the basic blink that helps moisten the ‘eyeballs’. BLINK_DURATION = 0.1 seconds BLINK_FREQ_LOWER_BOUND = 3 seconds BLINK_FREQ_UPPER_BOUND = 8 seconds

Every 3 to 8 seconds the characters blink. A blink lasts for 0.1 seconds. BLINK_DOUBLEBLINK_CHANCE = 10% BLINK_DOUBLEBLINK_PAUSE = 0.1 seconds

There’s a 10 percent chance of a blink turning into a cute double blink with a 0.1 second pause in between the blinks. BLINK_VERTICAL_SPEED_THRESHOLD = 90 units/second

When players run over a certain speed, they won’t blink as they need full concentration. BLINK_HAS_BURDEN_WHILE_LIFTING_DURATION = 0.3 seconds

Close eyes for 0.3 seconds when jumping with the other player on top. No distraction during heavy lifting. BLINK_HAS_BEEN_LANDED_UPON_DURATION = 0.15 seconds BLINK_HAS_BUMPED_HEAD_DURATION = 0.15 seconds

Close your eyes when the other player lands on top of you or when you bump your head against something. BLINK_HAS_HEADED_FIN_DURATION = 0.1 seconds

When you make a header. BLINK_HAS_LAUNCHED_FROM_TIKTAK_DURATION = 0.2 seconds

Woooo. Launched in the air. BLINK_HAS_LANDED_HARD_DURATION = 0.3 seconds

Ouch! A hard landing, 0.3 seconds of pain. BOREDOM_MIN_TIME = 10 seconds BOREDOM_MAX_TIME = 30 seconds

When the player decides to do nothing, it takes between 10 and 30 seconds for ibb and obb to get bored. They’ll sit down and a bit later, close their eyes for a nap until the player wakes them up again.

SHARING IS CARING There are not many developers being as open as Sparpweed when it comes to sales figures. On their website you’ll find a wealth of information on what influences the sales of your games. It’s an absolute must-read for every developer: IBBANDOBB.COM/CATEGORY/DEVELOPMENT

And that’s how ibb and obb convey their emotions. No screams, no laughs, just blinks of different durations.






How do quest designers keep track while working in an immense open world with hundreds of quest? Lead Quest Designer Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz explains.

WITCHER 3 QUEST DESIGN: HOW TO NOT DROWN Webs of variables and branches in our games have always been very complicated, posing a huge challenge for quest designers to control and keep track of. This becomes even more visible in The Witcher 3, since we introduced the possibility to play big chunks of storylines, connected logically with each other, in different order. This has generated the necessity of referring to events from these different storylines in quest dialogues, in order to keep character believability and player immersion with the game world. As for how do we approach this problem – we’re using a tool set very similar to tool set from The Witcher. We have a system called ‘facts database’, which is basically a list of variables that can be modified or checked by conditions from quest or dialogue level. This list is filled dynamically in real-time as the player goes through the game, so we can’t really see all the facts from within the editor. We do have a debugger, that allows us to easily check what facts have already been added to the database, but it can be used only in-game. Getting lost That being said, it needs to be highlighted that we do not posses any miraculous system solution to the problem of designers getting lost in that ‘web’ – we maintain control over quests logic by using good pipelines, organizing our work properly, and keeping our documentation up-todate. For example, we keep track of most important ‘facts’ that are being used and checked in quests, by keeping regularly

updated fact lists in our documentation, which can be used by other designers later on. It takes a lot of self-discipline from designers to do it on regular basis, but in my opinion it’s necessary in order to avoid confusion and maintain control over ever growing variables list.

CD PROJEKT RED • THE WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz is Lead Quest Designer working at Polish studio CD Projekt RED. Their latest release is the hugely successful open world RPG The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

Story department As a lead quest designer, it’s my job to provide the team with detailed diagrams, showing order of quests and connections between them, as well as explaining it to everyone and keeping track of its integrity. Another thing that is a key to containing that variable chaos is proper communication – quest designers are sitting in one room, so they can consult each other on different matters, such as variables or branches, at any point, as well as inform everyone about changes that may impact other people’s quests. We also do our best to keep communicating with the story department, so the writing of our dialogues is always up-to-date with quest changes. Solving many, many bugs Having all that in mind, one thing needs to be said – if you’re making such a complicated game as ours, with so many variables and connections between quests, you will find many logical bugs during production process. And by ‘many’ I mean tons of them. There’s no avoiding it – there is no person that can foresee every single logical issue before it is implemented in the game. But it’s crucial to focus on finding and solving these issues as soon as the game is in playable state.

QUESTS. QUESTER. QUESTEST. The Witcher 3 has four types of quests: main, side, contracts and treasure hunts. Most of them are multi-stage stories with multiple possible outcomes. Plus: most of them pan out differently depending on the progression of other quests.



When Roy Theunissen hit a wall with designing survival horror game The Intruder, a dream revealed the solution.




Roy Theunissen is a one-mancompany. Mainly a programmer but no stranger to art, design and audio. The Intruder is Theunissen’s passion project, it’s done when it’s done.

When I started my first day as an intern at a Dutch game studio for my Software Engineering graduation, one of the first things I did durig lunch, was excitedly talk to one of my new colleagues about my game. The Intruder was just Greenlit at the time and I was very excited about the idea of making my own game, which has been a childhood dream of mine. After explaining the game mechanics and all the cool AI stuff I had built for the eponymous Intruder, I was asked “so what’s the art style of your game?” I paused for a moment. “Just realistic, I guess.” That was an awful answer. Suddenly all the hard work I put into my game felt uncoordinated and uninspired. I looked at screenshots of my game and what I thought was innovative and new, suddenly looked like a Half-Life 2 mod made by a student, because that’s what it was.

TEAM FORTRESS 2 MODS As an avid Team Fortress 2 player and aspiring 3D modeller Roy Theunissen was excited when unlockable cosmetic items were added to the game. Together with a few friends he started making his own cosmetic items that could be downloaded as replacements or mods. Eventually Valve approached him to officially include his mods in the game. The revenue sharing agreement they started in 2011 is still generating income for him today.


Scary in daylight A long time passed and I did all kinds of tweaks to get the environments to feel compelling, but none of it seemed to work. On top of having to make an interesting environment, I had to make one that was somehow also scary in broad daylight, due to the game mechanics requiring a real-time day/night cycle. As a solution to that I came up with the idea of

having dense fog. Just an env_fog_controller with the density cranked up to eleven, right? Well, it didn’t feel quite right. Not so much creepy landscape, more like being stuck in a glass of cloudy water. I didn’t know what I wanted, let alone how to get there. At some point I even started dreaming of my game. Mostly about my struggles developing it, until one night I had one that was different: I had a dream where I was in the game. The dream It seemingly took place in an old, overgrown, dilapidated garden house with the sun having already set and only faint remnants of sunlight reflecting bluishly from dense clouds. Through the window I could see a tall, thin, distorted black silhouette slowly approaching me and then I woke up. That’s when I realized what the game world is supposed to feel like: it should be empty and alone, like a bad memory, devoid of colour and a pungent sensation of absolute hopelessness. From that day I knew what the art style of the game was supposed to be: a nightmare.


What makes a Mass Effect-screenshot so instantly recognizable? It’s the arc. It’s everywhere, and for a good reason. Art Director Derek Watts unveils the story behind this ‘secret visual weapon’.

THE SHAPE THAT UNIFIED MASS EFFECT’S LOOK When we were coming up with the idea for Mass Effect, we had just finished a Star Wars game [Knights of the Old Republic]. Star Wars has a very established look, very recognizable. We spend four years looking at it, involved in that IP. Mass Effect was a challenge. We were doing another science fiction franchise, we knew it was going to be three games. And we wanted it to have the depth that was needed to compete with Star Wars. There was the arc... We actually chose a bunch of artists that we used for reference, one of those was Syd Mead. You know, stuff like this takes a long time to sort of bubble up. The art bible you write when you’re a year, year and a half into the game. You don’t know what is going to resonate with people. What we noticed when we were designing a lot of these things, whether it was the humans, the ships, the costumes, and looking at Syd Mead and some of the other artists… we were getting this large arc coming into these areas. And it was kind of showing the fidelity that we were trying to get with the new engine, the new hardware. Trying to get those nice, smooth curves. During the previous generation, you couldn’t get those smooth curves,

you couldn’t afford the polys. So it was one way of convincing people this was a real next gen game, with next gen graphics. Fighting it But again, we didn’t really notice this until we had done a few of these characters and vehicles and levels. And we decided to start adding the arc to more of the concepts. We started to force ourselves to put this arc in there. It wasn’t natural at the beginning, we had to fight it a little bit. We started using the arc everywhere. It was something we hadn’t seen in a lot of other games. And the great thing about the arc is that you can add it to anything. The logo, clothing, armour, guns. You just need to have that large arc incorporated. It could be on the design, a panel light cut into it, a paint mark on a ship. We even brought it into the aliens. Look at Garrus. At the Krogan. Salarians. It unified everything in this world under that one shape which was the arc. We had no mathematical formula for the arc. I wish there was. I wish I could talk into great detail how we researched the best curve. But the truth is there was no strict rule, no strict diagram or slope. It was just a long smooth circular arc.

BIOWARE • MASS EFFECT-SERIES Derek Watts is Art Director of the Mass Effect-series and Core Game Designer of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Watts is responsible for the iconic art style of the Mass Effect universe.

SYD MEAD Artwork by Syd Mead that partly inspired Mass Effect’s arc. (



Designer Joris Dormans plays with some of RPG’s most common mechanics to battle some of its most common tropes. WWW.LUDOMOTION.COM



Joris Dormans holds a PhD in Game Design from the University of Amsterdam. He works as a lecturer, researcher, and independent developer at Ludomotion.

In Unfated, Era of Wanderers we use the same gameplay mechanics for combat and dialog. For a tactical RPG this move creates an expressive continuum blending violent and peaceful resolutions to an encounter, not just two mutually exclusive alternatives. This forces us to rethink the role of encounters in the game and prompts us to reinvestigate some of the common tropes in fantasy RPGs. Unfated uses card-based mechanics: a character’s abilities are determined by a deck of cards. Playing an encounter, whether it ends in violence or not, is a bit like playing a game of Hearthstone. Your deck consists of ‘strike cards’ that represent combat maneuvers and ‘impress cards’ that represent generic dialog ‘moves’, among others. Both strikes and impresses can be used to manipulate the encounter’s outcome. However, they represent different strategies. By playing strikes you aim to win by overwhelming, wounding, or ultimately killing, your opponents. Impresses are played to collect special ‘outcome cards’ which grant temporary bonuses and offer alternative ways to conclude the encounter. Your character might excel in one of the two strategies, but most characters will mix both strategies in order to stay flexible.

MACHINATIONS Joris Dormans created Machinations, a “theoretical framework and an interactive graphical representation that describes games as dynamic systems and focuses on closed feedback loops within them.” Put simply: a handy tool to test all sorts of economies in games. No need for those Excel-sheets anymore.


Fight of bluff The encounters created by this system are not just about combat or just about dialog. Often the tension between the two is what makes an encounter in Unfated exciting. Your opponents might threaten you by drawing swords, but they might be bluffing.

Impresses can be used to defuse a potential hostile situation, or to stall until you have the right strike cards in your hand to launch a devastating surprise attack. However, wounds are not easily healed, and a violent reputation can be just as crippling. This means that both players and AI will very likely resort to violence only as a last means. You might go through an entire session of Unfated without drawing a single drop of blood, but relying on your wits and cunningly played card-combos nonetheless. Failure as plot device As each encounter is resolved by playing cards, chances are the player is going to lose a round or two. We ignored the instinct to balance the difficulty curve in such way the player can win every encounter. Instead, we took this as an opportunity to include failure as a plot device. After all, in the plots of classical fantasy and mythology, failure drives the plot onwards more often than success does. Surely, in most cases the hero triumphs in the end, but not after the going gets real tough. Unfated allows us to replicate these plots more easily than most computer RPGs do. Not every encounter is a battle where only the player’s continued survival is the only acceptable outcome. Players might ‘lose’ an encounter and still live, making memorable and frequent adversaries out of characters that in other games are only staged to be killed immediately. Unfated takes every lost encounter as an offer to make the narrative more interesting. If we play our cards right, even the tragic death of the hero offers the player epic gameplay.


Meeting the giraffe in The Last of Us is for many players the emotional peak in an already emotional journey. Concept Artist John Sweeney tells us how the iconic scene came about.

MAKING THE LAST OF US’ ICONIC GIRAFFE SCENE When Ellie kills David she reaches her lowest point or darkest moment in the game. The next time we see her she’s not being her usual self. Ellie is clearly suffering from post-traumatic stress and she knows that they are almost at their destination. She also feels that she might not come out of that hospital alive. She’s quiet and withdrawn. There is this moment in the story that was designed to reignite her lust for life so to speak. By seeing something she has never experienced before, her curiosity is triggered and she momentarily forgets the struggle and death that surrounds her. It started with a zebra Maciej Kuciara’s rendering of the moment, before the zebra was replaced by a giraffe This moment was captured in an early concept by artist Maciej Kuciara, but back then it was a zebra and not a giraffe. When I came on the team Maciej had left and they wanted to change it to a giraffe, because it’s such a gentle, elegant creature and the most remarkable thing Ellie could possibly encounter. The setting had been nailed down to be Utah, Salt Lake City and the gameplay was already in production. Art to match So this piece came after the block mesh was created and I worked with one of the designers to create art for that moment to match the camera and lighting. It was an earlier block mesh because the

room where you first encounter the giraffe changed a little bit later. They took the art piece and added a bit of foliage to the room. They also changed the angle of the lighting to face the other direction. But other than that, the overall feel of the moment was pretty much captured here. The story ideal was nailed down so all they needed was a visual reference of how this was going to feel in game with the giraffe replacing the zebra. Pivotal story moment I mainly pulled a lot of the mood from knowing where it fell in the story. Specifically with Ellie, I wanted to portray her kind of curious but also timid and taken aback by the whole situation. She’s standing there with her fist clenched to signify that she is tense, not quite sure of this animal that she has never seen before. In a pivotal story moment like this, Bruce [Straley, Game Director] and Neil [Druckmann, Creative Director] usually have very specific instructions on the time of day or the kind of lighting or the mood for that particular scene. I did different versions of this piece with different lighting and other small changes. It took me about a week to create this piece, because there were a few iterations on it and I was still getting used to working this way. Now I would do this piece in two days but because of the moment it is in the game I would want to spend a week on it anyway. Just to get everything right.

NAUGHTY DOG • THE LAST OF US John Sweeney is concept artist for Naughty Dog where he works on Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. He’s best known for his incredible art for The Last of Us, which won him a spot in Into the Pixel 2014.

GIRAFFIC PARK “There are more giraffe references in the game that serve as a sort of foreshadowing. Plush toys can be found in Sarah’s room and more places throughout the game. Also when I made concept art for a scene early in the game when panic strikes and Joel, Tommy and Sarah run through town, I named one of the movies playing in the theatre ‘Giraffic Park’. Not quite sure if that made it in the game. So I actually sent away for t-shirts with the Jurassic Park logo changed to Giraffic Park. I gave them out to people around the studio that worked on that level.”


KEEPING DEVELOPMENT AFLOAT ON 2D HERALD... BY ADDING 3D Herald is an interactive period drama about colonialism, a game with a heavy emphasis on storytelling and art. Bart Heijltjes, Creative Director at Wispfire, explains how adding 3D saved the production. PRODUCTION




WISPFIRE • HERALD - An Interactive Period Drama Bart Heijltjes has a Master of Arts in Performance Design at the Utrecht School of the Arts. He wrote a paper on interaction in narrative performances and created a series of interactive theatrical performances.

When we started making Herald, we were facing a number of productional problems, not the least of which was our own limited experience in creating digital games. Our team mainly had a history in theatre and installation art. With only a single dedicated programmer, we were limited in complexity and scope. This meant we had to laser-focus on our strengths to have a chance at standing out from the crowd. Our weapons of choice would be our experience at interactive storytelling, a desire to tread narrative terrain few games have attempted and a keen interest to extensively research the subjects we choose to tackle. That and a kick-ass 2D artist with an interest in expanding into 3D. To us, good stories mean something in the real world. The fictional reality is a mirror through which we see our own. During the first meetings about what would become Herald, we discussed some of the themes in the game’s story. We decided on ‘identity in a globalizing world’, and that was the first decision we made. The bedrock under the entire project. Only after that we started to think about the setting and genre that would best serve this theme. This early focus allowed us to do targeted research to reach the kind of narrative depth we need, and let us ask the right questions to validate our early design decisions. With a single 2D artist, no matter how skilled, we didn’t have the production capacity to create the game entirely in 2D at the level we felt was required. We wanted a kind of physicality and sense of exploration that, in 2D, would require large amount of extremely detailed art. Instead, we decided to try to bring the painted artstyle into 3D with hand-painted textures. Since

exploring the world of Herald is only as important as exploring the identities of its characters, we augmented this with a conversation system displaying full 2D animated portraits with a range of emotions. While we are still heavily tweaking our art pipeline, the results so far allowed our team to create beautiful immersive environments bearing the distinctive colourful painterly style our artist was already known for and netting us a nomination for Best Art at the Indie Prize Showcase 2015. We managed to make Herald stand out by looking hard at the distinctive qualities that are present in our team. If you want to mitigate the limitations of your team and create something that gets noticed, look at the individual stories, passions and skills of your colleagues. By focusing on them, you can’t help but create something truly unique.

WINNING MOOD Although the team is inexperienced, the game already received quite some positive attention. It won the 2015 Indie Prize for best narrative and has been featured prominently on a number of high profile gaming websites. Also, Herald managed to get funding through a successful Kickstarter campaign.



Designer Luc Veiga da Palma explains how the lumini’s movements are programmed and how their behavior has evolved over time.



Luc Veiga da Palma is co-founder of game dev company Speelbaars. He became a game designer when he realised that studying Business Economics is boring.

In Lumini, you control an entire swarm, instead of just one character. We started out by giving each of the lumini a fixed position within the swarm. With this method we were able to easily place the lumini into a nice looking formation and even change the shape of the swarm at any time --for instance when making a sharp turn-- by repositioning the fixed positions. Boids System The problem with this method, was that the movement of the swarm was very rigid and unnatural. We wanted it to feel more fluid and flexible, so we decided to start from scratch and tried using the Boids system, developed by Craig Reynolds in 1986. In a nutshell, the Boids system simulates the behavior of a swarm of creatures, like birds

A FLOCK OF LUMINI The old system: each lumini has a very specific position within the swarm


The new system: one or several lumini are assigned to each target position (indicated by the white wireframe spheres), avoiding each other using Boids.


or fish, by telling them to move towards the center of the swarm without colliding with each other and to adjust their heading based on that of the rest of the group. We implemented the new system and although the swarm looked very natural, it was too chaotic to control properly. The lumini were flying all over the place and it seemed impossible to control them as a whole. We made several improvements through tweaks and alterations to the Boids system, such as adding obstacle avoidance, but it didn’t seem like we were going to get the results we wanted. Drop a rock Finally, the solution came through a combination of our old, fixed position method and the new Boids system. By telling the lumini to move towards a series of target positions rather than a single position, and using the Boids system to reach those target positions, we were able to create a swarm that moved naturally, but that we could still control easily by moving the target positions. The new system is a lot more fluid. For instance, you could drop a rock on top of the lumini and the result would be that they would scatter to avoid the rock and then move back towards their corresponding target positions. (Don’t try that though; lumini don’t appreciate having rocks thrown at them.) Through internal playtests we hope to gather more feedback and tweak the movement of the lumini further, to make it even better.


Sticky Studios worked with famed scientist Kip Thorne to implement his calculations, while making sure the game would actually be a game.

IMPLEMENTING KIP THORNE’S SCIENCE IN INTERSTELLAR, THE GAME After meeting with Christopher Nolan and watching Interstellar six months prior to release, Jeroen De Cloe, founder of Sticky Studios, started working on the game based on the movie: “Christopher Nolan and Kip Thorne had this approach to science in which they try to adhere to it, but when the audience would not understand, or it would destroy the narrative, they allowed themselves some freedom. We had a similar approach to science with the game. However, we didn’t consciously opt for that, but concluded that a balance was a necessity. We didn’t want to ship something a mass audience wouldn’t understand. The biggest challenge was to identify the relevant mathematics and avoid creating a simulation instead of a game. After all, it had to be fun and promote the film. Most of our early demos incorporated more scientific formulas than the final product. For example, the visualization of a black hole actually changes based on the angle, current speed and other factors. Reality actually distorts. When we visualized the black hole at first, we were presented with beautiful, real-time generated graphics, but they didn’t make any sense from a gameplay perspective. Colliding planets Another example of simplification is our choice to leave out gravitational forces between interstellar bodies. Since the user is able to create their own solar system, running the simulation would actually result

in planets colliding. We had to incorporate artificial rules, such as enforcing a distance between bodies and so forth, to avoid people creating unplayable solar systems. Kip Thorne was the scientific consultant and executive producer for the film. I believe the original premise for Interstellar was also partially conceived by him. Paramount Pictures, who we partnered with for the development of the Interstellar game, as well as the film-makers, felt it was important to be consistent in blending entertainment with scientificly backed theories. Ground-breaking work We were in direct contact with Kip Thorne –through phone calls and e-mails. During multiple tech calls we discussed the mathematics around concepts such as time dilation, gravitational forces, slingshotting, black hole mathematics, et cetera. Kip provided us with custom written scientific papers summing up mathematics. These documents are basically excerpts from his ground-breaking work as a theoretical physicist. Mind you –these excerpts were still very complex and I personally stared at it realizing I should have paid more attention at school. Our engineers however DID understand it. Kip actively played iOS builds in the prototyping stage and provided information throughout the development of the game. Once we finished the prototype stages, Kip – not being a gamer himself – obviously wasn’t as involved as in the beginning any­more.”

STICKY STUDIOS • INTERSTELLAR THE GAME Jeroen De Cloe is founder of Sticky Studios, which mainly develops games based on blockbuster movies like The Hobbit, Interstellar, Gravity, Godzilla and many more.

INTERSTELLAR, THE GAME. Sticky Studios translated most of the science from the movie in a game that uses slingshot mechanics, trajectory corrections and spectacular wormhole passages to have the player explore star systems.



Dimension Drive is a split screen game for a single player. Game designer David Jimenez explains how putting two games next to each other opens up a world of possibilities.





David Jimenez does programming, business development, PR, and is the game designer of the Dimension Drive. Together with Alejandro Santiago he founded 2Awesome Studio.

Shoot ’em ups were mostly played in dedicated cabinets during the golden age of arcades (80s and early 90s). These featured screens that matched the gameplay aspect ratio (vertical). Nowadays, most people play in widescreen, which leaves vertical shoot’ em up with tons of unused space. We wanted to create a vertical shoot’ em up that would fill a whole widescreen while keeping a vertical gameplay aspect ratio. Inspired by hardcore shoot ’em up players that are able to play co-op split-screen by themselves, we tried placing a ship on each side that a single player had to control. The result: it was impossible to play for an average player.

KICKSTARTER HEROES 2Awesome Studio had their moment of unintended and certainly unwanted internet fame when their Kickstarter campaign got trolled at the very last moment. A pledge that helped reach their goal turned out to be fraudulent. The story got picked up by all of the major game websites. The team was devastated but bounced back strongly by making their goal easily when they rerun the campaign.


Teleport jumps Enter the Dimension Drive. Instead of having two ships to control we only have one that can teleport at the player’s press of a button to a mirrored location. This not only made it fun but it added a layer of strategy to the gameplay. Besides shooting and dodging now the player had to pay attention to both games and carefully decide where and when to perform the teleport jumps. But some players never teleported! So, we added the concept of Dimension Energy which in essence is limited ammo and thereby breaking one of the biggest design conventions in shoot ’em ups. Shoot-

ing consumes energy from the side you are on, killing enemies recharges energy for the other side. To maintain the energy levels, players have to be constantly on the move and play both games. This is fine for good players, but it may also cause a state of ammo starvation leaving the player defenseless on both battlefields. We solved this recently by moving to a hybrid system where killing enemies gives high amounts of energy but also energy auto recharges slowly over time even if not killing enemies. This rewards players for excelling at the game without harshly penalizing them for not doing so. Dual battlefield With the foundation ready, a dual-battlefield shoot ’em up with teleportation, it was the time to build on top and expand on the concept. Taking a page out from R-Type book we implemented environmental puzzles. Just look at what some lasers, switches and doors can do with two battlefields. The whole design of Dimension Drive is built around a simple question: how can we improve “this” to better exploit the dual-battlefield? Dual boss fights, defense levels where enemies can’t be allowed to escape, interconnected enemies, power-ups that work on the “other” side, and some crazy ideas we have in the plans for 2 player mode turn this whole decision in more than a mere gimmick.


UPGRADING CORE TECH FOR HOTLINE MIAMI 2: WRONG NUMBER Taking Hotline Miami 2 at face value; it can be perceived as a bigger and badder version of its 2012 predecessor with a few additional bells and whistles, a new story, a new battery of excellent soundtrack tunes and a lot more content. While the games may seem broadly similar, the underlying tech has undergone quite a lot of changes since the PlayStation release of the original Hotline Miami. The Hotline Miami-port started out as a number of tools that converted all the assets from a GameMaker 7.0 binary project file into a friendlier format we could work with at runtime. Additionally, the GameMaker Scripts were converted to C++ using Irony.NET. The runtime implementation was a cobbled together amalgamation of the generated C++ code and a whole lot of reverse engineered implementations of GameMaker’s core functionality. All of this was built on top of a messy integration with a hacked up version of Sony’s PhyreEngine. Excessive amount of overhead The most prevalent problems we ran into with the original Hotline Miami were performance related. Since Hotline Miami 2 seemed to be a lot more demanding than its predecessor—to the point where GameMaker itself can’t even deal with it—something had to change. Prime candidates for optimization were rendering and the excessive amount of overhead that was present when executing the generated C++ code. The first big overhaul we instigated was the incarnation of what is now GameBaker. We moved from a monolithic codebase towards having a shared, separate library for the generic simulation code and kept a per-project library for the generated C++ code. Messy PhyreEngine integration Having the engine level tech separated made it a lot easier for us to start the next phase: migrating away from PhyreEngine

and towards our own low level, cross-platform library SilverWare. This decision was made in large part because it would allow us to further improve our own reusable tech and accommodate future ports to Android devices. Ditching the messy PhyreEngine integration was the icing on the cake. Once this was up and running on our target platforms, it became apparent that SilverWare wasn’t up to the task just yet—performance of the immature, single-threaded rendering pipeline being the largest problem. To resolve this we reworked that into an asynchronous model which got us reasonable performance across the board. Later, we ended up moving all the GameMaker draw command processing into a third thread to overcome the last performance hurdles we had on Vita.

ABSTRACTION GAMES • HOTLINE MIAMI 2: W.N. Frans Kasper is Lead Programmer with Abstraction Games; lead on the ports for Hotline Miami and Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, and all the additional GameMaker related projects.

Extremely common time-sink The final overhaul we did was a complete rework of the way we handle GameMaker variables. We moved from the initial, strongly typed system toward something more closely resembling the way GameMaker actually works. While the old system was designed to catch bugs early, it proved to create more bugs than it solved and created quite a few performance issues. After this rework we rarely had to address issues at the code-simulation level, something that was an extremely common time-sink before. It’s all too easy in this industry—perhaps particularly so in porting—to take the path of least resistance due to time and budget constraints. Risky technology reworks are often discouraged, especially so with proven tech that has shipped a game. For Hotline Miami 2 we were forced to roll the dice and battle the odds; we didn’t ship on-budget but would not have shipped on-time either if it wasn’t for these rigorous reworks.


RATIONING RARE OCCURRENCES IN CHALO CHALO In Chalo Chalo you pilot a slow-moving dot towards a goal at the other side of an abstract landscape. Designer Tomasz Kaye purposely built in ‘rarities’ to spice things up. GAME DESIGN




I like it when unexpected things happen in games. Better still is when the unexpected thing happens just when you feel you’ve gotten to know how the game world works. Its impact is maximised at that moment.

SPARPWEED & REDSHIFT MEDIA • CHALO CHALO Tomasz Kaye (Redshift Media) shares design and code credits on Chalo Chalo with Richard Boeser (Sparpweed). He’s also responsible for all audio.

We have some unexpected things that happen now and then in Chalo Chalo, we call them rarities. They’re designed to foster a sense that the game world has hidden depth and mystery, and to keep players on their toes. Right now, the rarities we have implemented are ‘exotic’ types of race maps that are generated using different rules to the more regular ones. After a few matches, players will probably have experienced a glacier race, but they would have to play a while longer to encounter a grass lava canyon. We have ideas for other rare things that we plan to experiment with during Chalo Chalo’s Early Access phase. The aim is to have the unusual things happening just as players feel familiar with the game, so the best way to set this up is to arrange things in a way that the longer you’ve played without seeing anything out of the ordinary, the more likely you are to see something like that in the next race. Rarity pressure Chalo Chalo is built to include a concept of Rarity Pressure. You can think of it as something in the air that influences the likeliness of strange things to happen. The higher the pressure, the more likely a rarity will manifest itself. When nothing out of the ordinary is happening, the rarity pressure is incremented after each race. We want rare things to be more likely if you didn’t see any for a while, and less likely if you did. So to complete the scheme, each rarity has a rarityPressureRelease value. The rarity pressure drops by this amount after the rarity manifests itself. We use a JSON file to describe all our rarities. In this file we assign likelihoods. We can also set up relationships between rarities, so that they can be nested, and add directives to have rarities exclude or require one another. We have a class that’s responsible for modifying and reporting rarity pressure, and another that’s in charge of parsing the JSON file and selecting rarities for the next race. Because we want rarity pressure to persist between play sessions, we’re currently reading and writing the value to disk. Hacky solution Chalo Chalo is regularly played at festivals and other environments in which many

players are joining in for the first time, and leaving again a few matches later. These players don’t typically play long enough to have a chance to really get to know the game world, or be correspondingly surprised by out of the ordinary things. Moreover, when Chalo Chalo is running at a festival, the rarity system doesn’t know or care that four new players have taken the controllers, rarity pressure might be very high at that moment. This isn’t ideal since we want new players to get to know Chalo Chalo as it usually is before serving them unusual situations. Our slightly hacky solution to this problem is to add a field to each rarity named minimumNumberOfPreviousRacesThisMatch. If the specified number of races haven’t yet been raced in the current match, this rarity won’t appear. This way we can at least ensure that the first few races of any match won’t have really weird stuff popping up in them.


Exotic types of race map like Glacier…

...and Grass Lava Canyon

Rarities definition

Rarity pressure graph



Gameplay programmer Paul Mertens doesn’t like menus. If you want something done in Interstellar Rift you will have to talk to the spaceship’s systems directly.




Paul Mertens is gameplay programmer on Interstellar Rift. Together with four other students of the International Game Architecture & Design programme in Breda he founded Split Polygon.

The main goal of Interstellar Rift is building a spaceship from scratch, being able to walk around and to interact with its systems. The team of Split Polygon attempts to create an immersive space simulator where the player feels as much connected to their ship as possible. To achieve this, all gameplay elements are incorporated into the game as much as possible. Instead of going through abstract menus, the player interacts with the ship’s systems directly and controls these systems through interfaces placed directly on the device in the world. This direct interaction breaks down the barrier between the game and the player, that a normal screen space GUI menu would enforce. The device reacting to the player’s input by animating and making a sound, completely sells the interaction between the game world and the player.

WHAT IS INTERSTELLAR RIFT? It’s a First Person Starship Simulator with an emphasis on open world exploration and multiplayer interaction. Interstellar Rift uses a procedural generation system to ensure each server will create unique star systems. Throughout the galaxy, mysterious rifts are opening up, spilling out dangerous enemies. Players must band together to stop these invaders before they threaten the safety and profits of their enterprises.


Tutorial adventure These interfaces also help the player to learn about the game. When the player approaches the terminal, it automatically turns on. The animation and the sound immediately grab the player’s attention. As they only contain information and functionality about the device it is attached to, the device interfaces don’t overwhelm the player with information and efficiently teach the player what the device can do and how it is used.

Level design --the only part of the game that is either randomly or user generated-- also reflects this learning curve. On the starter station the player finds two devices he can interact with: the ship editor terminal and the teleporter. The ship editor terminal will tell the player it can be used to build ships, but requires resources. The teleporter teaches the player to hop between ships, and that one of these ships is called the mining station. This process of learning the game feels like an adventure where the player searches for ‘things to interact with’ where a flat tutorial would feel like a chore. Confused or stuck These interfaces are also used as a catchall for players who are either confused or stuck. When pressing either TAB or ESC, the player’s character will bring up a personal interface mounted on his arm. This interface can be used to inspect devices and will tell the player why a certain device is not working. It also contains information on the status of the ship, the room the player resides, in or even the player himself. Here the player can find more information on potentially confusing mechanics like fuel reserves and life support. Finally, should the player get stuck (which is inevitable in a user generated game) they can find a respawn button which immediately gets them back on track.


Balancing a RTS is difficult but balancing a RTS without the rockpaper-scissor model is even tougher according to programmer Maxim Schoemaker.


THE BALANCING OF RTS INTERLOPER IS A REAL BALANCING ACT Interloper is an online multiplayer RTS set in maze-like levels played 1 vs 1. The goal of the game is to claim the map by covering it in your domain. While this seems like a minor deviation from the standard ‘destroy your opponent’ goal of most RTS’s, it’s had major consequences on the overall design of the game.

At its core, Interloper has two units: the Sentinel and Drones. The Sentinel moves around the map and leaves behind a bright coloured goopy substance representing your domain. The Sentinel does not attack nor get killed, he’s kind of pacifist that way. Drones are used to block the opponent Sentinel or attack opponent Drones. A single Drone can block the passage of a Sentinel indefinitely. You can however send one of your Drones to kill this enemy Drone in a violent explosion, after which both Drones die and the Sentinel can march on. You are constantly deciding between using your Drones offensively or defensively. Lastly, Drones require your domain to survive. You can send them into neutral or enemy terri-

Because we decided to design the game around these novel mechanics, we had to come up with our own metrics to balance the game. With the rock-paper-scissors model you can abstract over skills and attributes, turning them into numbers like defence points, attacks points and pierce resistance. Subsequently you lay out all these numbers in a huge spreadsheet and meticulously tweak them until the game is balanced. For Interloper it’s not so easy. First we figured more Drones give you more control over the battlefield, so Drone production speed became a metric for map control. During a match you can increase your production speed by capturing more Drone production centres (called Assemblers) and by increasing the power supply to these Assemblers. Assemblers have three tiers of power states, each increasing the Drone production. By tweaking these tier speeds we were able to balance around the metric of Drone production speed. Secondly, we saw unit availability was important as well. If you have twice the amount units your opponent has, but stack them all in the corner you’re probably not going to win. Because the game is so spatially oriented we could balance this by tweaking unit movement speed. Travel

time could now be used as a metric for unit availability. We made the Sentinel slow and the Drones relatively fast. Because of Interloper’s mechanics we were forced to come up with our own metrics to design around the spatial strategy that Interloper allows. We used metrics like Drone production speed and unit travel time to accurately balance Interloper into the bite-sized, tight, tactical experience it is today. MONOGON GAMES • INTERLOPER Maxim Shoemaker is a Utrecht based game developer specialized in programming. He is cofounder and lead programmer of Monogon Games and he likes burritos.

SPIRITUAL SUCCESSOR Interloper is the spiritual successor of Aril, a game that started as a small hobby project by a group of people who met at a jam. Since then, Interloper has gone through no less than five different art styles, two full fledged code bases and many design changes.



Interloper’s spatial nature is much more reminiscent of classic board games like Chess and Go than Age of Empires or Starcraft, with their rock-paper-scissors approach. Instead of pitting pikemen against cavalry, who in turn kill archers that, again, are great against pikemen, Interloper focusses on where you place your units as opposed to what kind of unit they are.

tory, but they can only travel for four tiles until they suffocate.


Adding VR to the city-wrecking and beast-slaying Man vs Monster taught designer Diederik Groesbeek a few lessons about his design.




Diederik Groesbeek is game designer and programmer at Xform, a game studio that he founded together with Pieter Albers in 2004. He worked on over 50 games, varying from platformers, shooters and racers to cute games with cats.

AND THE WINNER IS… Xform won the Dutch Game Award for Best Browser Game in 2014 for the original Man vs Monsters.


After the unboxing of the first Oculus Rift, the excitement level at our office went through the roof. This was the thing we’d been waiting for since… well, forever. A couple of days later, we had implemented initial VR support for our web game Man Or Monster, inside Unity. The level of immersion really grabbed us by the throat. Even looking around in the main menu screen was awesome! We were literally inside a 3D version of our game. Of course, we wanted to show it to the world, and the earliest opportunity was the Indigo Showcase game expo in the Netherlands. However, to get this thing ready and playable for the public, was going to take more than just slapping ‘SUPER’ in front of the title. Which we totally did as well by the way. Can you handle it? Our main concern was this: We’re not making an ‘experience’ game. It’s shooting and flying with a jetpack while a gigantic monster is wreaking havoc. Players might not be able to handle it. However, the game leaves some room to explore and try out stuff at your own pace. There’s no strict competitive element either. Through testing we found out that the franticness of the game is within acceptable levels for most players. We also asked testers what they thought about the UI. Most of them mentioned that they would prefer as little UI as possible, which will pose a challenge in the future since our game’s functionality is pretty

complex. Most important is that they wanted to get a clear visual cue on where they were shooting and moving compared to where they were looking. We had ‘disconnected’ the two to be more intuitive and realistic for players, and to avoid people having to use their neck for the core game mechanic. Getting some distance Initially, we had some worries about the responsive camera movement and controls we were using. It turned out that adding smoothing to this actually made the experience feel worse. Furthermore, getting some distance between the player and the action also provided a more relaxing experience. When shown the difference, most players preferred the third person mode to the first person one. With people actually lining up to play the game, we needed to make it an instant-fun experience. We decided to just throw players into the game without too much instruction, which surprisingly made people less anxious than when we eased them in. Lastly, we added some cheats and adjustments to help players win a bit quicker, giving more people a chance to try the game. It was incredibly rewarding to see all the positive reactions. We even won a Dutch Game Award for the original Man Or Monster that year. Now, we’re hoping to get Super Man Or Monster on Steam, ready in time for all to enjoy in glorious stereoscopic 3D!


As a first time game designer, Ruud Koorevaar started small but as his skill set grew, so did his ambitions for Zenzizenzic.

STARTING SMALL AND AIMING FOR THE SKIES IN ZENZIZENZIC Aiming for the skies and striving for the unknown can lead to beautiful results when building a game, but it can also pose a threat. On the other hand, advocating for creative blandness by relying on the known too much is certainly not what I would want to accomplish. A balance has to be found. I had to find that balance two years ago when I started on what is now Zenzizenzic.

Code snippets I knew I had to start small. A tutorial here, some code snippets there, toss them in a mixer and see what blend comes out. Apparently, it was a blend which involved a lot of squares, but let’s avoid the redundant discussion about the natural supremacy of squares over any other geometrical shape. The focus had to be on gameplay, as any experience driven by complicated story-telling devices would be beyond my reach. Also, my artistic prowess, or better

BITHUFFEL • ZENZIZENZIC Ruud Koorevaar is a self made game designer. Building (and learning how to build) games from the ground up with the Unity3D

said, lack thereof, made it an easy choice to focus on composition, rather than complexity or realism. Looking back, it seems I was assembling a puzzle. Slowly the pieces came together, but there was no outside border to this puzzle. A risk of when you are increasing your capabilities with a toolset while working on a project and immediately applying it to that same project is that the outside borders of that project become vague. Suddenly, the sky seems to be a bit closer in reach. This happened to me right after I completed the Kickstarter campaign for Zenzizenzic and was contacted by Adult Swim Games for a publishing deal. My toolset suddenly expanded and as a result the open world, rogue-like inspired Macro gameplay mode happened. Driven by limitations The process of building Zenzizenzic was guided by recognizing opportunities and realizing my limitations. You could say it is design which is driven by those limitations. Limitations aren’t static as they can expand, fade or even collapse in an unfortunate situation. This fluidity of game design can be a blessing and a curse. It is a balancing act of trying the unknown and relying on the known. As a beginner in the field of game development, I would wish that discovery upon everyone in a similar position as I was in two years ago when I started small and over time expanded at opportune moments.

EARLY ACCESS Zenzizenzic’s successful Kickstarter campaign put the game on the radar for publisher Adult Swim. They release the game on Steam where it was in Early Access untill it’s release earlier this summer.



While working on Zenzizenzic, I was often asked the question why I made certain decisions. Why the art style? Why a twin-stick shooter? Most of the answers boiled down to practical reasons. I had taken up a toolset, in this case mainly consisting of Unity. I knew I could not do a lot with it at that point, as it would be, when you start from scratch knowing practically nothing about building a game, except for some amount of gaming sensibility. I started plowing away nonetheless and worked on expanding my capabilities with that toolset.


THE GAME THAT DIES THE FLOCK BY VOGELSAP The Flock is an asymmetrical multiplayer thriller. You get to play as one of the agile hunters that make up the Flock, but your goal is to become the hunted Carrier. Recently, developer Vogelsap announced the game will die (ie. deleted from servers) when the last in-game Flock dies. The Flock is one of 48 games receiving a grant from the Game Fund.


What is Creative Industries Fund NL & what does it do? People working in the games industry can apply for grants at, amongst others, the Game Fund and the Grant Programme for E-Culture at the Creative Industries Fund NL. The Creative Industries Fund NL started on 1 January 2013. It operates within the context of the Dutch government’s culture policy and focuses on all the design disciplines and on E-culture in a broad sense. By commission of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and with support from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, a programme is being set up to focus on expanding the international market. The Fund has three basic grant programmes: • architecture, urban design and landscape design • (product) design, graphic design and fashion • E-culture in a broad sense. There are three multidisciplinary grant programmes, and in addition the Fund supports projects, talents and activities programmes in the creative industries. The Game Fund provides a boost to the development of artistic or indie games. Special focus lies at the design and the innovative nature of the game. Projects concerned with the development and/or production of, and/or research into artistic games with innovative gameplay qualify for support. A grant can be issued for every phase in the development of a game, whether at the very beginning or in the final stages of production. The Game Fund is an initiative of the Creative Industries Fund NL and the Media Fund. Adriaan de Jongh, Marieke Verbiesen, Jeroen van Mastrigt en Jan Robert Leegte make up the team that advices on who should get the grants. Since the start of the Game Fund in 2008 49 projects received financial support. Tips from Adriaan de Jongh for developers that want to apply for a grant at the Game Fund: “Ask around and learn from applications of other games funded by the Game Fund. Make a prototype, or a video, or whatever, to show the committee how your game will work and how it will play. You’d be surprised how many applications leave this vague and undefined. Show the committee that you’ve confronted yourself with the reality of making your game. Ask everyone around you --yes, even non-experts!-- for feedback. And don’t hesitate to contact the Creative Industries Fund with any and all of your questions, because they are really cool with that!” Next deadlines to apply for a grant are August 20 and October 22, 2015. Visit our website for more information: For more info, contact Marjoleine Timmer:






Creating lifelike, believable, consistent and engaging worlds for television, movies and games.

The best of the best: international speakers and national heroes on game development.

International experts weigh in on the latest developments on applied games.

Some of the biggest experts in the field will share their experiences, from concept to production and from art to storytelling.

Control Conference features live micro mortems, the popular concept where developers zoom in on one particular aspect of a game’s development: an emotional scene, the genesis of a fun mechanic or the inspiration for an impressive art style.

How to successfully translate social challenges to engaging game design? What makes an applied studio tick? Applied and entertainment developers share their experiences on developing games with a purpose.

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€99 (EARLY BIRD) €125 (REGULAR PRICE) STUDENTS: €55 (Pricing ex. VAT)


In co-operation with Netherlands Film Festival. €75 (EARLY BIRD) €99 (REGULAR PRICE) (Pricing ex. VAT)




game dev micro mortems

CONTROL500 • Game development magazine  

Great short reads on game development from the developers of: The Last of Us, The Witcher 3, Mass Effect-series, Hotline Miami, Interstellar...

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