Monday, 12 December 2011


Blog is being moved to wordpress.

URL is

See you there!

Sunday, 4 December 2011


ARGGGH (Adelaide Really Good Gathering of Gamedevs, H is silent) was today. It went swimmingly, but now I've crashed after all the coffee I had in the middle of the day.

In any case, it is my solemn duty to inform you of the past week's game design. With distractions now limited to civilian leisure, we have started regular face to face meetings to draw up maps.

We've had the master world map for a few months when we finalized the plot, so the next stage is to draw up a web connecting all the overworld levels in the game. Since exploration is one of the things we want to focus on, we are now planning how the player can explore the world. From the starting point, they should be able to move in any direction and after fighting the elements and their foes, they should arrive at some cool places. This requires some freedom of movement but also challenges to block the player, because afterall the challenge is what makes it a game. Sightseeing tours don't have the same sense of adventure.

We've completed the webs of levels (not the levels themselves mind you, just maps showing how they connect to each other). Levels are represented by squares, and a line between two levels indicated a link between them. Across these links we will place symbols to indicate barriers that need to be overcome with a certain tool or quest.

With the level webs done, we are currently placing obstacles to the player's exploration, either to be unlocked with progressing through the story or gathering new equipment. We should be able to draw zones the player can access at each stage of the game.

Terrain includes mountains, volcanic wasteland, the tunnels and caverns of the dark-dwelling Selenites, the rusty Ferrite zone, mud flats filled with sinkholes, grassland, riverland, icy high plateaux, gorges filled with fast moving rivers, tropical islands and storm-lashed cliffs on the edge of nowhere.

I'm excited.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Allies and Enemies

Over the past few months our main concern has been developing the game world and story enough to give us a good clear background to design the actual levels. We have the main plot, or its outline, a geographical map of the game world and a lot of descriptive worldbuilding of places.

There isn't much left to do on the codebase. One of the last major tasks is to implement the diplomatic stuff that the player will have to deal with while exploring. There are a number of different factions that control a mishmash of different garrisons, barricades and encampments. Some will be friendly, some will be neutral and others will be hostile. Creating combat NPCs that are other than 'hostile' is my job at the moment. Today I had fun pitting the two NPC sides against each other.

Allowing the player to command allies might be useful; at the very least I think the player should be able to order them to follow him. NPCs aren't very active on their own.

Factions in Project 7 are more than just descriptors though. The most ambitious part of the design calls for the player to have influence rankings with each faction. By doing missions for them, you gain influence. By messing their stuff up, or going into unauthorized areas, you lose influence. The snag is that factions will often want you to fight a rival faction, and some covert elements are in the pipeline for this. The key is to avoid witnesses. Kill a neutral? Better do it out of sight.

As well as normal NPCs spotting you, there will be Sentries, special troops that act as reconnaissance and commander. If they catch you, they can alert in all their comrades and call in reinforcements via dropship.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Updated upload

We've made some adjustments to the tutorial, and there is now a flag that will turn the particles off and on through the F12 key.

Here is the download for the updated version

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

August Days

Well, the AVCON exhibition was very tiring, and getting back into the life of an academic was, as always, a massive blow.

Things have picked up again now. Ben is mapping out the game world and we're starting to worldbuild regularly. The improvement a map can have on worldbuilding cannot be underestimated.

Names are annoying; we want names that not only sound good but fit the setting. Things like 'Flint' for a mining town, or 'Splinter' for a logging one. Naming ports has proven harder.

Given the effort that went into just the twenty-levelled AVCON demo, I shudder to think what it will take to complete the full thing - but we have time, and we want to get this right.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Project Seven Test Version Up for Download!

Hey everyone, Ben here!

AVCON finished up yesterday - a big thank you to everyone who came and played the game, we were overwhelmed with the positive feedback we received and thankfully didn't run into too many bugs.

I want to extend a huge Thank you to Ben Kilsby from Holopoint Interactive, the man who runs the Indie games room. We would never have had the chance to show our game without him! Another thank you to everyone else who made the IGR possible, sorry I can’t list everyone’s names.

Anyway, enough about that - on to the real News! A downloadable test version of the game is available here. It's the same version we had at AVCON, and features 22 levels of varying sizes to play though, as well as most of the weapons and tool-keys in the game.  However, it is a test version and we are looking for feedback - if you come across any nasty bugs or just have some general feedback Feel free to e-mail me at

Again, the download link is Here, so why not Give it a try and tell us what you think?

Thanks - Ben, Nightfall Studios. 

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Levels are done, plus thoughts on multiple campaigns.

It was a tough two weeks, but the demo is now complete. I just finished the Front-End a few minutes ago.

We will be showing this at AVCON, and soon after we will host a download for you guys to see.

The demo consists of a small game world that goes light on the NPCs and worldbuilding. The goal is to go east into the mountains and run a gauntlet across a pass to safety. There is one town and one dungeon. Five out of the seven tools are present, along with all of the weapons. These are scattered across the world, and the player will have to find them on his own.

The heavy weapons, ie the machine gun, anti-tank gun and mobile bunker are concealed in a secret area.

One of the cool things about P7 for us is that all the enemies, tools and terrain can be used to make a bunch of 'campaigns', 'stories', 'adventures' or whatever label you prefer. This means we can release multiple 'games' (or expansion packs) using the same resources, which makes the development time for new content a whole lot shorter. This was how Nintendo was able to get The Majora's Mask done so fast and so cheaply - much of the resources used were sitting there from Ocarina of Time. Another example is the open source game Battle for Wesnoth, which comes with multiple campaigns from a variety of different authors.

Saturday, 16 July 2011


Adelaide's Anime and Videogame Convention is coming up, 22-24 of July. Over the days to come we will be working to get the levels done to present at the Indie Games Room.

We were recently at July's ARGGGH, Adelaide's Really Good Gathering of Gamedevs. The H is silent. It was a casual affair, very friendly with a feeling of community spirit and cameraderie I had never expected. We just walked right in, found the others and started talking. I realised with a pang of regret that we had neglected to bring a laptop or even a flash drive with P7 on it. However, we kept up an excited barrage of description which quickly turned me hoarse.

Anyway, regarding AVCON: we could have just shown a linear level that demonstrated all the features, but that wouldn't have captured the feel we wanted. The final game will not be a sequence of levels.

The levels in this demonstration are structured like a network. While there are levels that just go from one place to another, there are others with three or even four exits/entrances. The weapons and tools are scattered around, and the player will have to hunt for them if they want to progress further.

While there is no plot, the drive to continue exploration beyond raised barriers might drive the player just as well.

In the end, there is going to be a large gauntlet level, just for fun, a long icy run against everything the game has to throw at you.

There's also going to be a dungeon crawl about halfway through.

So, why not come to AVCON, pop into the indie games room, talk to us and have a taste of the game?

Here is the Indie games Room Promo vid, Featuring P7 and a ton of other games by Adelaide-based Devs. Everything you see here will be in the Indie games room at this year’s AVCON! 

Monday, 4 July 2011

Developmental Dam Demolition!

I am now freed up to work on the code for Project 7 in my own sweet time, without having it compete with my everlasting struggle with Nethack. For perhaps the fifth time, I realised when playing P7 (Playing? Playtesting? Not sure which) that playing the same damn test level 3*10^8 times is going to get boring, regardless of the quality of the game mechanics. So I made a new level and was amazed at how much the experience improved.

This happens a lot to me because I put game mechanics first and foremost. The art of level design is something which I do not have much experience. My approach is to divide the level into 'sections', areas containing enemies and terrain. With linear levels, the defining feature is that areas are connected sequentially. With nonlinear levels they are laid out in a grid or similar two-dimensional structure.

The two types require different sections, because of the ways you can approach the section. A linear section can make fantastic use of set-pieces to create interesting tactics, whereas a non-linear section can be approached from multiple directions for different results.

A key component of all levels is breathing room. In the past many of my test levels have been concentrated with enemies all the way through. If you moved the wrong way you'd end up in a desperate fight from four sides. I've solved this through the use of destructible blocks which will obscure vision from the enemy (if only temporarily). In addition to this, areas between sections will be devoid of enemies, perhaps containing healthkits and save-points. The very use of the term 'section' requires that the level be partitioned between them.

As is frustratingly predictable in these situations, my drive to program has been intensified. Currently I am working on the code dealing with the different faction types the player will encounter. Their visuals need to be altered from the base enemy, and if attacked they need to become wary, then hostile.

Factions in P7 each have their own influence meter when dealing with the player. When the player does something a little bit naughty or psychotic in their line of sight, influence goes down. We've decided that if you're attacking someone, the attack needs to be reported by a comrade, ie a witness, that can see the action. If this happens your influence will go down, but if you can isolate someone, you can shoot them and no one will be the wiser.

There are certain enemies called Sentries that will have special properties here, but we haven't fully fleshed them out.


Monday, 27 June 2011

Gameplay footage!

There's been some hiccups getting all the recording and editing software working but here it is; nine minutes of our circular hero and his trusty shield. All the hand weapons are used at some point, but few of the puzzle elements.

Here is a link to the actual Youtube page. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Story Ambitions

Does anyone remember when a game story meant something? When the player played a real character, with thoughts and fears – not some beefed up space marine. When the story had goals, actions had consequences and the player was living and creating history? 

Many recent games have skipped out on what made the games of my childhood so great – a gripping story. Sure I, like anyone else, enjoy shooting up Nazis and Zombies. That’s a great way to blow off steam after a frustrating day – But sometimes, I just feel I need a little more drive. In a game it’s the same as in a novel, or a movie: Who is the main character and why should I care? 

With recent games, that just doesn’t happen often. Maybe it’s the obsession with graphics stealing time from other parts of the game, maybe it’s the focus on multiplayer (That isn’t necessarily a bad thing) or maybe I’m just old and ‘out of touch’. Whatever it is, I yearn for more than the half-hearted ‘plots’ fed by most recent titles (there are, of course, exceptions.) Heck – I’ve even seen indie games with so much promise, and such exciting ideas fall into memory because there was nothing to keep me playing more than a few hours.  Being an avid reader – and writer – I love a good story.  

That’s why when we set out to make project seven, we knew we wanted a good story. Heck, we could release the game tomorrow if we didn’t care for story – just chuck together a few narrowly designed levels and add in a stock antagonist and call it a plot. That’s the path I’ve seen too many games take – and we didn’t want to do follow. 

We wanted a story. A really good one. So that’s what we set out to write.  It was hard at first, and we got stuck numerous times. Writing a story for a game is surprisingly different to writing a story for a novel (maybe more on that in the future), but now I hold in my hand a completed plot outline of seven-thousand words. Well, at least I hold the flashdrive it’s stored on. But that’s just the plot outline – over the next few months we are going to go over it with a fine-tooth comb and flesh it out. Build characters with personalities and flaws. Create antagonists that the player can hate and – sometimes – relate to. We’ll breathe life into the world and plot. But it’s far from done, so I won’t give anything away yet. What I can tell you, however, is what we want out of our story. What you can expect when it’s done. 

Project seven is going to have a full campaign, with ten ‘chapters.’ Each chapter should last about an hour for the average player, assuming they do no exploring or Sidequests (more on Sidequests later, too.) Meaning the game should take ten hours to complete if the player does nothing but the main plot.  Ten hours. That is a long time. But that isn’t all we wanted with our story – we wanted players to be living the story, not discovering it. Some games rely on plots were the player is told a story though cut scenes, and has little choice in what goes on. Even Worse, some games have stories were the player is simply discovering something that happened to someone else.  When I set out to do the first draft I specifically kept in mind that I didn’t want to write that kind of plot. I wanted the player to feel like they were part of a living, breathing world.  I wanted the player to feel like what they were doing was actually having an effect on the world and, most importantly, I wanted to give the player the ability to make choices on their own. Not superficial ones – real choices, with real world and game play effects.  So when I wrote the plot I kept this in mind, and tried to look for places where the player could decide things on their own. That said, I have one golden rule about plotting that I picked up from novel writing: the Antagonist drives the Plot. In all the best Novels and movies, the player is one step behind the antagonist – struggling to catch up and make things even. The antagonists creates a problem, the protagonist must overcome it. This continues until the climax was the protagonist surpasses his foe, winning the day. This is true for all genres – from war to romance. I wanted the stakes to be high, and the antagonists to drive the player into action.  So don’t expect something with the choice of a CYOA novel, expect to be given an objective and left to work out how you want to do it yourself. This is more than the usual ‘rush in guns blazing’ Vs ‘Sneaky stealth’ options (though they are options.) 

Now you know a little more about what you can expect from Project Seven story-wise. A little more about our ambitions. More information on subplots and sidequests later (suffice to say there will be none of that ‘Go collect 10 large bear hearts’ stuff.)

Thanks for reading!

-         - Ben

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Red 2 standing by

This is Jerome, the second half of the Project 7 devteam, making my introduction.

I'm a fan of games that put you in a state of 'flow', or as most people call it 'in the zone'. You know the feeling. Your movements become lightning fast, your mind and fingers work seamlessly as you execute a series of dodges you thought impossible. This happens when you hit a sweet spot; the game is just challenging enough to keep you coming back for more, and exciting enough that you don't mind taking it up.

It's much easier to pull this off in real time games, because you make many more decisions per minute. Strategy games can do this as well as action games under the right conditions.

There are other things that make a game fun to play as well; your decisions need to be meaningful and affect what you can do in the future. Options must be balanced. The interface needs to be intuitive. Story is always nice, and having the right atmosphere helps.

But for me, games are about charging through nigh-unbeatable odds to claim victory. For months I played Left 4 Dead, struggling through the same maps, the same enemies, with tactics I'd used a thousand times before. Why? Because I hadn't beaten everything on expert. Yet.

Same deal for Cave Story - an indie platformer/shooter game by Pixel - the level "Last Cave" (not the final level incidentally) is basically a ten-minute gauntlet of precision jetpack flying. You have to pull 90 degree turns at just the right time while the bats swarm in around you. There is a boss waiting for you, and no savepoints until you run through the crushing blocks AFTER the boss.

And as for Nethack... Well, I could tell hundreds of stories of glorious failures. But I'm still going to keep trying.

Now that you know a bit about my gaming style, to our game.

It started with the combat engine. The main thing we put in that sets it apart from other top-down shooters you may have played, is the shield. This isn't some plug-and-play forcebubble that you can use to wade through zombies like a space marine - this is an actual shield; a square thing that only covers a 90 degree arc centred on your weapon. This means you can aim your shield AND your gun with the mouse, which is handy. It also means you'd better not be flanked.

This is what the game is about. You don't have much health, and the bullets are fast enough that dodging them (especially on sand or water) isn't anything but a last-ditch tactic. The shield comes down when you move, and also for a bit when you shoot, so timing is crucial. Unlike your health, the shield does regenerate on its own.

As in my examples earlier, getting through a level of P7 is tough. Your foes pack the same weapons as you do and they can dish out a world of hurt when they gang up three to one. You have to pick your battles, play it carefully and watch your back. It's something new - there are no chest high walls here, but no one will win a race with a bullet either.

Thanks for reading, gameplay footage and demo to come. While it may seem stingy of us to come empty-handed, we are preparing an all-encompassing demo for the Adelaide Anime and Videogame Convention (AVcon) in July. You guys will be able to downloaded what we present there.

I leave you with a screenshot.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The First Dusk

Hello Everyone, Ben here and welcome to the first home of Nightfall Studios.
We are a two-man game development team currently working on our first full game, "Project Seven". Though the game is currently in Aleph stages, we figured it's never to early to become a part of the community, and we hope you'll check back here often - we plan to keep fans updated with information about the progress of development, and who knows what else will come from this little experiment.

But enough about us - on to the project!

Project Seven has been described as 'Legend of Zelda meets Halo in 2d' by one Alpha tester - that certainly gives us big shoes to fill, but I'm confident that we're a good fit.

Project Seven is an top-down action-adventure game very much in the spirit of the Original Zelda games, if they were filled with intense firefights and airships. 

We have been working on the game for nearly two years now, and currently have most of the mechanics implimented. There's a working combat system with a variety of weapons thats pretty fun to play, even without all the other stuff. We also have a variety of puzzle mechanics and tools built in. At the moment we are working on the story and game world, but more on that in another post.  I just hope you guys like war epics and political intrigue.

 So, we hope you'll stay with us for this one, and check back often - screenshots and much more information coming soon!

- Ben

Current Build - Aleph 4.9