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Homr’s Ramblings

Code Monkey go to job

(Apologies for the outdated reference…remember, I’m kinda old. You’re lucky I’m not throwing out War Games references)

So it has now officially been over a year since we threw in the towel to pursue more meaningful and profitable ventures in the form of the day job. Does not actually feel like that long. It is AMAZING what can be accomplished when not preoccupied with writing and debugging code! I’ve remodeled and painted 2 rooms, started writing a book, revisited oil painting, built some patio furniture, brewed a crap-ton of home-brew and re-introduced myself to my family. The day job is proving to be pretty lucrative also, now that it has my full attention.
Of course, this is not to imply that spending hours of my day writing and re-writing and playing games wasn’t fulfilling. It just seems that, of all of my various ventures, the time spent vs. rewards received (both in financial rewards and in feelings of accomplishment) is by far the lowest. (That or I just suck at it!) That being said…
Things at the day job are in no way starting to calm down. In fact, my time commitment (and return on the investment of that time) is continually rising. Still, I find my focus being able to safely level off and my mind is more able to wander back…
Dammit, I know how many hours I spend doing this shit, and the meager results it yields, but I just can’t stay away! I’m drawn to the challenge! As a result, much of my free time this week was taking this platformer I’ve been toying with for a few months and adding a runner game to it. Still not going full-on balls to the wall with this, it’s just a casual hobby…
But damn, it feels kinda good to be back.

Reduce heat to simmer

Well, due to a newly found alignment of priorities, triggered by a realization that I’ve been mildly neglecting my day job responsibilities, we will be putting Lethal Martini Games and KOHO Games on the back burner for a while.
Late last year we came to realize that the indie gaming market has become quite saturated and the bar has been raised significantly, placing it well beyond our reach in our current personal and professional situations as a viable source of secondary income without the help of a full team (or getting fired from our day jobs, which would really suck). As our schedules are both quite random and have no way to dedicate ourselves to a team in a way that it would be fair to the others involved, our little project was downgraded to hobby status. That has lightened the burden a bit, and moving forward we planned to approach things a little more casually (saying things like “sure, I’ll see if I can spit out a Blackjack game in a week – why not?”).
However, even as a hobby, our available time has diminished down to next to nothing and even semi-seriously pursuing game production isn’t in the cards, at least for a while. I haven’t written a line of code in like 2 weeks (*twitch*). Not sure how this is going to affect the #1GAM challenge – we might still pop out some super simple works just to say we didn’t give up.
Speaking of which, this is in no way a declaration of surrender or defeat. We will not brand ourselves with the tag of “failed indie game developers,” because that would imply that we are done trying. We acknowledge that as a duo we are technically well beyond the prime of the average video gaming visionaries and that our games are fair to partly mediocre. (Or “shit” as one guy said, though I would have to disagree. I’ve seen shit games, and we’re not quite there. BTW – thanks, asshole – you know who you are.) Yes, we’re going to keep going, just a little slower than before (if that’s possible), and who knows? Down the line we might just get the itch to assemble a team and change the world of gaming as we know it.
But right now I have to place a parts order and take care of some other boring grown up stuff. I’ll check back when I can.

Cheers, and thanks to everyone in the indie gaming community, especially the XNA team and the XBLIG community (without whom I never would have even bothered trying in the first place) for being an amazing part of our personal cultures over the last 4 years, and hopefully again in the future.

Paul Klimek
Founder, Designer, Programmer – Lethal Martini Games and KOHO Games

A small step

Nothing really new to report. Started moving around some naming conventions. Boring back-end stuff. Oh, the recent blog posts are now on the New page of our home page. You might be reading this there! So, that’s it for now. Just sayin’ hi!

LMG Salinger

Hostime Hustle (I Accidentally…In Space! Ep1) was release close to a year ago. Some videos were posted shortly after on Lethal Martini’s YouTube page about an overhead, twin stick number called “No Rest for the Wicked.” Then… NOTHING!
Where the hell have these guys been and what the hell have they been doing?
Have the Lethal Martini Games dudes gone into seclusion?!?!?
Nah, we love doing this shit WAAAAY too much for that. The truth is, shortly after Hostile was released, I (Paul) discovered a little gem called Airplay (now known as Marmalade). It’s a nifty little gem that lets me write for Android and iOS without (A) having to use a Mac and (B) having to learn Objective C (yecchhhh!!). It did, however, force me to learn Marmalade and re-learn everything I’ve forgotten about c++. It was a long road of sloppy code and learning from my mistakes and re-writing crap, but eventually I wound up with a fully functional version of Hostile Hustle for Android and iOS (which will be released soon FOR FREE! for a buck – sorry, paradigm shifted when we wound up overhauling the game – see THIS POST. Windows version will be free!).
What it really led to was this:
When we wrote Hostile Hustle, it was built on our proprietary little game library called xDrake. It was decent enough, but was (A) a little limiting and (B) very much geared towards the xBox. For example, mobile and PC games would essentially simulate a gamepad. Eventually we learned that this just wouldn’t cut it, especially when working with touch platforms. So, xDrake was ditched and re-written from ground up as a leaner, more flexible and more multi-platform friendly game library we proudly called LMG_Core! LMG_Core has an XNA version for Window, Windows Phone and XBLIG, and a Marmalade version for iOS and Android. I’m even toying with the idea of writing a Java version for web games, just because it’s that clean and easy to port. All of our games from here on will be built on it.
Which brings us to games… We’re done writing back-end engines, and back to writing games!!!! (YEAAAAAA!) Scott and I have had multiple meetings recently, and are whipping together a prototype for our next release, a puzzler starring an adorable little skunk. More information will follow soon!
We’re back, folks, and we’re not f**ing around! We’ve streamlined our coding and our process, and we now have the foundation we need to get past a lot of the technical minutia and focus on what we desire most: making some games!

EDIT: Did I mention I bought an HTC Trophy Windows Phone 7 phone? 🙂 All platforms testable nao!!

On XBLIG Playtesting

So, there has always been a gentle method for playtesting and reviewing XBox Live! Indie Games. For those of you not familiar with the process, it goes like this: You submit your game, either for playtest or review. Playtest is exactly as it sounds: other developers test playing your game and offer opinions or report problems on the game. Review is the same thing, but more strict as it is the process that decides whether your game is ready to go to market. Until you get big enough to graduate to XBLA and submit your wares directly to Microsoft, this is what you will go through to get your game out there. It’s not a bad process, it lets you get the honest opinions of other developers similar to yourselves, and allows you to try new games and be a part of getting others’ games out to market.
Where this can become difficult is when you are a developer who needs to have a game tested or reviewed, and you in turn are testing and reviewing other developers’ games. You don’t want to piss anybody off, you see, as they might return the favor and fail you (or nitpick every little flaw in your game) out of spite. On the other hand, you don’t want to let a problematic (or just plain bad) game slip by. So, you pussyfoot around the subject, trying your best to not say anything that will turn another developer against you while still attempting to be as thorough as possible. We see this all the time, and unfortunately many feel this is the necessary way to handle things if you want to be assured that your own game will ever hit the dashboard. Not everyone, mind you – nearly all of the XBLIG veterans and MVPs do a great job of being tough on devs, but some of us… (well, we know who we are…)
Anyway, I am taking a different philosophy now…
First of all, I want to make it clear that I’m not going to go out of my way to find every way possible to hate the games that I playtest or review. There are a few critics out there that can handle that task once it hits market. That is not my goal. My goal is to help developers of flawed games to be aware of it, as cordially as possible, in hopes that they will make the effort to raise the bar and enjoy better sales figures as a result. I think everyone should adopt this philosophy.
What I will do is this: If I don’t like your game, I’m going to let you know. If the controls feel clunky, I’m telling you. If the graphics feel amateur and unfinished (genuinely, not in a deliberate retro way), my opinion will be voiced. I will tell you everything I feel should be changed (in my PERSONAL opinion, which is not always that of the masses, so don’t listen to EVERYTHING I say, just file it as input). Now just to be clear, I might be blunt from time to time, but I’M NOT GOING TO BE A DICK ABOUT IT. After all, we are still a community and should treat each other respectfully. But if your game in playtest is flawed to a point where it is almost guaranteed to be made an example of when people are rating the quality of XBLIG as a whole (or indie games in general), I am going to call you out on it.

Above all, I expect playtests and reviews of my games to be handled in the same manner. Thank you!

Great, Kid. Don’t Get Cocky.

Oh, I almost forgot. The auto-bill on my credit card for my XNA CC Premium membership served as a cheerful little reminder that Lethal Martini Games has been “official” for a year now! Time to celebrate! I wonder what we should drink… Hmmm…

So, you wanna know what we’re up to, ay?

What could be more fun than following the sporadic progress of the development team at Lethal Martini Games, right? Nothing I can think of,really! So, on we go, as we document the process of making games with a minimal staff and no budget! That’s right, we’re hitting the big time now! As of recently, we’ve DOUBLED our on-staff development team! Yes, we’ve (I’ve) hired in a second person to make the LMG dream a reality! (Welcome aboard, dude!)

So hopefully we can stir up some interest, keep ourselves in check, and keep the adult ADD from distracting us too much. Where we’re at now…
So far we’re developing exclusively for XBox Live Indie Games. We’re about mid-way through “Hostile Hustle, or… I Accidentally in Space,” a genre mash-up combining the traditional platformer with the traditional vertical shooter. Yup, just like it sounds, you are shooting up at hordes of bad guys above, but you’re doing it from platforms where you are dodging fireballs, spikes, and other hazards. This will be the follow-up title to “MechFish,” LMG’s award winning (well, my wife baked me a nice cake) launch title. (It’s fun, you should try it! The game, I mean. Not the cake.) Gameplay logic is finished, graphics are in beta with a lot of placeholders, title and menu screens are currently in the works. The new partner (who shall remain anonymous until he says its okay to be otherwise) has all the levels designed, leaving me buried in catch-up work to get them down and tested. We’re looking at 6 levels plus a boss level – I’m up to level 4, so back to work…
Oh, and please excuse the oversimplified blog page. I know it’s nothing special but it gets the point across until we have some time to get it (and our existing but non-functional website) looking and working the way we would like it. Also, this was moved from a blog on Google Blogger. Most likely this blog will permanently reside here.
More to come, and thanks for checking us out!