Gaming Your Way

May contain nuts.


It's Sunday again, although for a change it's not 23:45h while I'm writing my weekly blog post.

I guess I mentioned last week that the lazy days are over and I have to get back into the joyful pace of client work. Last week I started to setup a new client site and the racing game came back to haunt me (and it needs finishing too, if possible before the end of the year).

Website layout.

The sceengrab above is what we got as sitemap for the client website. We spent a few minutes wondering about how to turn that into a website and then settled on the idea that we just use that. To our surprise it pleased the client extraordinarily - which in turn pleased us. It even pleased me, until I started to imagine how to build this and not use an image / image map (which, let's be honest, would be a moment I should quit my job).

So I set it up as a combination of css3, canvas and javascript to make it as dynamic as possible. There's all the latest shebang hover effects (like highlighting connected circles and lines), transitions (when circles turn into popups) and some parallax effect when scrolling down to the other parts of the website).

It doesn't happen often that I can say "I'm quite pleased with the outcome".


After that I went back to MTR.

I'm still in 3D mode so instead of starting with code I started building the 3rd car.

The 3rd car, at least one more needed.

This one is quite easy, no fancy corners and this is the outcome of about 4 hours work. It's missing some details like the bumpers and lights, but that's for tomorrow morning. I even look forward to UVW map it (well, who wouldn't, as it's essentially a box with wheels).

I think the rendered version looks a bit shit right now.

I'm not quite sure what the 4th car will look like (although I have an idea) and with that I can finish of the dreaded AI. I then have to do a client version of it - which even might become the initial public release (so I have it out of the door for a while). The client version will feature single player mode and six fixed tracks only, maybe a few (very few) car upgrades.

We announce the next important post after the break ... or next week.

If you haven't done so already give Lost Outpost your greenlight love:

Catch you next week,
-- Oliver (nGFX) 

Lost Outpost on Greenlight

Just to emphasise the point, just in case the title wasn't enough

Hang on, are you looking to charge us for a free game you've been banging on about for a year ?

No, no we're not. It was always the plan, it's just how could we mention it sooner with the game not being ready ? With it being all but done now it's kinda time to try and push things forward.
What this means is Lost Outpost will still be coming to a portal near you as soon as we can sell it, nothings changed there. What we're aiming to get onto Steam is Lost Outpost: The Directors Cut. That's Haven, Swarm and Lost Outpost in one sexy package. It'll be the definitive version of the game, as it should have been all along.

Let's recap. Lost Outpost is coming out to your favourite portal as soon as possible. Nothing has changed there at all, there won't be any charges, any in-app purchases, nothing.

In terms of the Greenlight page, we'd really like a favour. If you could vote for us and tweet about it it would help us out so much. It doesn't matter if you've only got a handful of followers, if you vote and just one of your friends vote that's two votes we wouldn't have got. It all adds up.

Our page is here:

Thanks. Oh, and don't worry, the blog isn't going to turn into a constant "Vote for us", that would bore me silly.


Lost Outpost Trailer

So we've got some good news. Let's start with the trailer should we ?

In other good news, the game is now content complete. Thank fuck. We've got another couple of weeks of bug fixing, tweaks and polish ( Plus I've got some copy to write, I've not done the info-cards yet ) but we're nearly there.


A Ule by any other name

Yet more news we've got to shoot directly into your eyes, like a milder informative kind of pepper spray.

I guess the biggest news is that Outpost2:Stranded isn't a thing anymore.

Not because someone called me a name on twitter, I'm not fucking 12 years old, but because of trademarks and the like. Boring stuff.

There we go, O2 is now "Lost Outpost". We're still going to call it O2 for weeks, it's like writing the wrong year on a cheque all the way through January.

We should really have made a microsite to announce this properly. Hang on a second, we only did.

Lost Outpost site.

Check us out planning ahead properly for a change.

There's still some news to come ( Although the bottom of the new site does contain some pretty big spoilers ) but for now I've got to get back to finishing our vertical slice of the first 4 levels plus the Swarm level which we're going to post to the Outpost Facebook page real ( Real ) soon.


Let's see if this works

Giving Vine a quick try out, as it may be handy for posting quick clips here.

If it's all gone to plan that should be the flamethrower in all it's too bright to capture well on an iPad glory.


Spot the difference

Work's going really well on level 5, only started it this week and it's coming together already.

This is what you guys will see

This is what I see.

I've managed to speed up a lot of the plotting routines this past week or so ( I've moved over to ASC2.0 which is fantastic, it feels like it's not actually compiled any changes it's so quick and it reduces the file size a bit too ) which means I've been able to drop a parallax layer in level 5.
( Also after my previous post I looked at the level construction times. They've been speeded up like a billion percent. Where the larger levels could take up to 5-10 seconds to plot they now take under 2 ). 

Also we've got this nice lens flare effect which you can kinda see in the top grab. I guess you could call it a HDR effect and really alters the whole lighting of the level. Maybe I'll try and grab a clip of it as it really is one of those effects you need to see in action.

Ok that's it for today, someone's got to do a million white rectangle collision boxes for this level.


See, we do plan. Sort of.

I was just looking through the story we planned out at the start of Outpost 2, way, way back, and it's interesting to see where we've stuck to things and where we've gone off on a tangent ( And also how things were different in my head to the reality ).
So here's the plan for the first three levels you'll have seen in the demo ( Via our Facebook page )



Starts with computer screen. Telemetry data scrolls up, then the word “Warning” flashing in red ( Think old dos like screen. This is a screen on our ship powered by Haily, monitoring Lee’s shuttle ).

Voice over by Lee “The shuttle’s breaking up, I’m going down”. *static*

Fade to black

( This could even be before the title screen ).

Welcome to Haven:


Same as first level in Haven, just this time you control Jameson. Gets the player used to collecting different items, opening doors and movement.

Staff Canteen:

This needs to be in two distinct parts, the kitchen / storage area and then the eating halls.

The first area we will introduce the info cards / terminal. It’ll be a slow tutorial area, couple of “Tanks” and facehugger aliens. Also a small fire is burning which will push the player out of that area ( “That’s spreading to the gas line, we should really move” ).

From this we’ll go into the long corridor like eating areas, and it’s going to kick off. The sprinkler system goes off, the lights short out, and then I want all the tables / chairs to flip over as aliens burst through the floor ( Picture the library scene in Ghostbusters ).

Along with that the kitchen area will blow up, creating a wall of flame behind the player. Basically I want this to be a forced sprint to the end of the level.

We’ll reach a more secure area when Haily has to hack the door closed for you, so you have to hold them off whilst she does that ( Maybe the aliens attacking you can come out on fire ? ).

At the end of the level we run into one of the mini-bosses from the first game. At this stage the player won’t have the fire power to deal with it, so we’ll let them try for a little while, then a cut scene where something bigger ( Possibly unseen, I’m thinking spider like legs bursting through the floor ) will come crashing in and kill our big bug.

Planet side:


We’re back with Lee on the planet, debris strewn around, the red flares from Swarm etc.

Haily tells us she can’t collect you as the magnetic storm which caused the shuttle to crash stops her getting too close for an extraction, but that there’s a structure near by.

This is the “Maze” like planet level, simple A>B. I’d like to introduce different baddies on here.



Outpost 2 update time

It's been a while hasn't it. Client work has been tripping me up so it's been tricky to have a good clear run at O2.

Ok, so where are we at ? Level 4 is finally nearly almost done. Finally. Nearly. Hopefully when you finally get to play it you'll see why it's been such a beast to do, there's a lot of stuff in there.

Because it's a sewer level we've added some new underwater baddie types. They swim towards you really quickly ( Where you can't shoot them ) then burst out of the water really close to you. They're really jumpy things, much more so than the "Red eyes".

Also some various tweaks have been done, the doors don't take as many shots to open if you've run out of keys, as that was just annoying. The pistols power has been doubled ( Hopefully that'll make up for the lack of attachments for it. I know a lot of people requested that, but it's meant to be a weapon of last resort, not something you upgrade ). Also the SMG bullets now move a lot quicker, and I've increased the power too. The armour now works more like it should, it was regenerating too quickly before, it should work more like Halo's, which it does now. Oh, nearly forgot, a skip button on the intro at last, as so many people asked for it via the Facebook page feedback.

Speaking of weapons, added these on Saturday. 

Trip wires, nice

Those are the trip wires I've been wanting to add for ages. You shoot them at any target and they just stick, then shoot out those red laser lines you can see there. Any baddies passing through them die instantly, and then 3 seconds later the whole thing explodes. These are going to be really handy on the Swarm levels.
They're not quite finished yet as I want to be able to attach them to objects, they just work on walls right now, so you'll be able to attach a couple to say a desk, open a door into a room full of baddies in and push the desk in there.
Now I don't know if anyone will ever do that, but I think it's important to give the player as many ways as possible to play with the game mechanics, plus it'll be kinda cool.

As I finished the client work last week, and what with the time of year, I treated myself to adding a little Easter Egg to the game.

Old school baby

There's not going to be any streaming films this time, but you may find this old 1983 classic in there ( It's not really an actual clone of a game from 1983, just part of the mythology ).

It's actually from a prototype ( A failed one funnily enough ) that I did a while back that rather than just had it sit on my HD never seeing the light of day I thought I'd skin up and drop in the game.

There will be a challenge to beat that hi-score btw.

And that's it. I'm in two minds about posting the game with level 4 in via the Facebook page, we may hold off 'til level 5 is in there ( I've got to do UI things before adding level 5 though ) so we'll have to see how we feel about that.

It's all feeling really good, I'm really pleased with how it's coming together. Level 4 feels like the first "Proper" level with the first 3 being more tutorial like and introducing the flipping between points in time / characters. Level 4 is where we open things up and give you actual tasks to do with lots and lots of baddies.


Why does it take so long to make each level ?

I'm glad you asked.

Ok, so each level is designed in the Flash IDE, and is stored in a movieclip ( And each of the elements which go into each layer is a mc too ).

Layer structure

Those are the layers which make up each one. I usually start with "Wall map" which is just a simple traditional tile based layout,

Tiles, tiles, tiles

These are just your typical 32x32 tiles. Obviously you can't make a whole level like that in one go, in real life it's doing a room or so at a time, then testing it.

Next up I like to add the actual wall images, like so ( So we're in the very bottom left of the map here )


Not the most fun image in the world I must admit. I like to then add a basic floor to the level, having the player just walk above blackness when testing is weird, so here we go... 


It's starting to come together, although the next part is my least favourite, the collisions.


Because we use Nape for the collisions I have to place those white rectangles over all the static ( i.e walls ) objects, so the bullets know to collide with them, the player can't walk through them etc.

By this stage we have enough to test a level, with no baddies or objectives or anything.

Let's quickly skip ahead and pretend the level is finished, and Lux is doing his polish pass, which usually involves the floor.

Quite a few layers

Luckily level 2's floor is quite a straight forward one ( Level 4 is hellish, which has prompted me to write this post just to try and justify why it's taking forever ). So all those layers go to create this:

That's better

All the debris, light glows etc. sit in the floor movieclip. Let's tackle the objects layer next.

As you can see, the Object layer contains all the physics objects, such as the desks, the baddies, effects like the fan shadow or sparks spitting out of a broken light etc. The orange circles you can see are the light probes used for the dynamic shadow effect, and the blue rectangles are various triggers ( Such as restarting the ambient SFX, which we have killed in the previous room as we wanted it to be quiet and dark in there, with just the sound of the fan and the level's background hum ).

To be honest I do think to myself quite often, "What the fuck am I doing, this is a Flash game".

I'm going to be a bit lazy and not go too much into the Nodes layer, as I did it to death here ( Basically it's for the baddies pathfinding ).

By now we're in the position to test the level ( Keeping in mind this whole process is really just done a room or two at a time, so we can test every little thing ).

What's left ? The Shadows / Lights layer. Because we're using the IDE we can also use the filters which come with it, so for the shadows I just duplicate the Wall Map mc we saw above and put a drop shadow on it. The lights do have to be placed by hand though, and sometimes we need additional shadows.


The highlights layer in the floor mc have to align with the lights. Also we use this layer to put all those "Wall edges" in which hide the join in the wall tiles.

Only 2 left to go, we're nearly there.

Floor map

This is the layer we use for the foot steps. The player detects which colour he's walking on and plays the correct sound based on that. We also use this a lot in the water levels, as it enables us to slow the player down by being able to detect when he's in water as well as playing the splish splosh SFX.

Bump map

Finally the bump map layer, which we use for the specular lighting effect. Thankfully that's quite straight forward and doesn't need much tinkering with, although it's not a straight copy of the floor mc just in a greyscale ( Which Flash's adjust colour setting does for us ) it's not a silly amount of extra work.

And that's it, that's what goes into making a typical Outpost level. That's not factoring in of course any special set pieces we need ( In level 2 for example, we have the part where you get your motion tracker triggered, the explosion, the running from the explosion sequence, the boss etc. ) and making sure the level is fun and makes sense in real life. We spend a lot of time, Lux more so than me, trying to justify the layout of levels. It can't just be a maze, it's meant to be a real living place. That's why for example in level 2 we have near the kitchen area lot's of little store rooms because you would store the food somewhere ( "What the fuck am I doing, this is a Flash game" ).

It's always a fine line between making a level fun and relatively easy to navigate and grounding it in some sort of realism.

Thanks for sticking with this post so far, it's been a bit of a monster.


Outpost 2 alpha demo out on our Facebook page

I can't think of a more literal title for this post, it says pretty much everything I need to say. In all honesty I'm being a little bit cheeky as I did a google search for "Outpost 2" the other day and there was nothing about it, no screen shots, nothing. Lot's of sites are apparently hosting "Outpost 2 Jameson's Story" which is good to know, I should just play it there and save all this effort.

Anyway, if you do the Facebook thing you can check out the first three levels of O2 < That doesn't help our Google visibility either, here.