New name, same game

June 23rd, 2014 - 10:32 am

This is something I’ve been considering doing for more than a year, and now I’ve finally decided to pull the trigger (pun intended). I’m changing the name of Hostile Takeover to Hidden Asset.

Hidden Asset logo

There are two primary reasons for this name change:

There’s a lot of stuff out there already called “Hostile Takeover”. The Syndicate co-op, a board game, sci-fi books, movies, etc. It’s a name that’s used for a lot of entertainment products, and as such it’s just too generic.

The name also poorly describes the actual game I’m making. I’ve had people think that it’s either a corporate strategy/RTS game or an all-out action game. It’s neither. It’s a stealth game with a focus on puzzle-like level design. Having a name that suggests a different game than the one I’m actually making probably isn’t a good idea.

The name Hidden Asset is a much better fit. It still suggests a game that has something to do with corporations and businesses, but instead of making you think of an action game, it makes you think of secrets and stealth… and conspiracies, which the game will have its fair share of.

The corporate assassins in-game are also referred to as hidden assets, so the name makes sense from that perspective as well. Finally, I’ve been able to find practically no other entertainment products with this name, so that’s definitely also a plus!

So there you have it. Hope you like the new name as much as I do!

Saving, loading and shotguns

June 18th, 2012 - 10:51 am

Last week was off to a crazy start when I suddenly found Hostile Takeover adorning the front page of Rock, Paper, Shotgun. As you can probably imagine, this brought in a whole bunch of traffic, so a quick welcome to the game’s many new followers is in order! It was also quite the motivational boost – not that my motivation to work on the game really needed boosting, though, but it’s always nice when people seem excited about the thing you’re working on.

Anyway, I’ve mostly been working on saving and loading during the past week. Until now, everything would just be saved in the map file itself (and some stuff, like your inventory, wouldn’t be saved at all) whenever I quit the game. This was fine for developing and testing maps and such, but of course wouldn’t at all be suitable for the actual game. So I’ve had to decide which information should go in the map file and which should be saved in the savegame file. It’s basically boiled down to all static information (such as tiles, walls and most world objects) being in the map file, and everything else being in the savegame file.

This means, however, that the map files are 1+ MB in size, while the savegame files are only 10+ kB. The latter is fine, the former really isn’t. So I’m reading up on the Free Pascal zlib unit to be able to compress the map files with libz – with WinZip, a 1+ MB map file gets shrunk to about the same size as a savegame file. I’m not sure if libz can get the same results, but the more important side effect of compressing the map and savegame files is that they won’t just be plain text that’ll be easy to mess up or screw around with.

Click to enlarge

I also changed the load/save menu ever so slightly. When you save a game, it’s now optional if you want to type in a savegame description. If you don’t, it’ll just state the location you’re at in the game as well as the real-word time at which the savegame was created.

When I’m done with the save/load stuff, I’ll probably be moving on to an important optimization that I’ve been putting off for some time now. It has to do with how the x-ray effect is created. But I’ll save that for a later post. And after that, it’ll probably be all about AI and level building.

The game plan

August 22nd, 2010 - 2:51 pm

Game planWhile the finished game is still far off into the future, I’d still like to be able to release something for you blog readers to download and play around with – and provide feedback on. I’ve received invaluable feedback and bug reports from players of my freeware game, Ascii Sector, and while Hostile Takeover won’t be freeware (and I’d thus be shooting myself in the foot by releasing the entire in-development game for free), I’d still love to be able to release something once in awhile.

My plan is to make the in-development versions of the game’s demo available for download when the game engine is running fairly stable and there’s actually something to do in the demo (mostly shooting people, I imagine!). I’m still working on the most basic stuff (currently making hundreds of sprite pieces in order to have characters not all look alike) but after that I’ll probably start working on adding some features that aren’t just about the game engine, but also about gameplay.

The full demo of the game will contain a few of the game’s starting missions and that’s what I’m currently working towards. So while the demo will function primarily as a gameplay demo for potential buyers, for me it’ll also function as a milestone in that I want the engine to be pretty much feature complete for the demo. It’ll then “just” be a matter of adding missions and assets for the full game.

It’s still a bit too early to say how far off the first alpha release of the demo is, but I hope to be able to release something at least within the next six months, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Why isometric?

August 12th, 2010 - 3:34 pm

I’ve often been asked why I chose to go for an isometric art style instead of the more modern proper 3D (actually, no one has asked me this yet, but I’m just going to pretend that somebody has as an excuse to write a blog entry about it!). In this day and age, true isometric games are a rarity and pretty much completely extinct when it comes to big AAA games. Games like Dragon Age: Origins and StarCraft II that can at first glance appear to be isometric are actually proper 3D with the camera placed at an angle above the playing field. To find new isometric games today, you’ll usually have to turn to browser based games or games from smaller independent developers like Spiderweb Software and Basilisk Games.

So why choose an art style that only browser based games and a few indie studios use today? Why not make a real 3D game like the big AAA studios? Well, precisely because that’s what big AAA studios do. As a small one-man game studio with a very limited budget, there’s no way I’d be able to make a game that can compete with those big blockbuster games. I have neither the manpower nor the knowledge to do so. However, I believe I’ll be able to make a game that can compete with the other isometric games out there. The advice that’s most often given by existing indie studios to new indie studios is to find a niche and make the best game within that niche. It’s better to be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond. I hope to become a big fish in the small isometric pond. That’s the business reason for going isometric.

The technical reason for going isometric is two-fold. There’s the development side, and then there’s the end-user side. On the development side, it’s a lot easier and faster to make an isometric game as it’s still basically 2D. There’s no need to build, import and display 3D meshes (something I have pretty much no experience with), I just blit the 2D sprites to the screen in the correct order and at the correct coordinates. And a lot of those sprites can be created with a relatively cheap and easy to use program like Poser, instead of having to build them from scratch in a program that’s a lot more complicated, like for example Blender. I’ll probably still use Blender for making sprites that aren’t characters, but if I don’t improve my 3D modeling skills to an acceptable level, there’s always the option to buy finished 3D models. For a program like Poser, you can get a lot of quality models for a cheap price – the only catch is that you’re not allowed to use the model meshes themselves in a game, but you are allowed to use 2D sprites rendered from those models.

As to the end-user side of the technical reason for going isometric, a 2D isometric game requires a lot less system resources than a full 3D game. I’m using my netbook as the target platform for Hostile Takeover – a computer that only has the most basic integrated graphics chipset. I’m already making a niche game, and there’s no need to make it even more niche by having high system requirements.

Finally, there’s the personal reason for going with an isometric art style. As I’ve probably made very clear in previous blog entires, I love that particular art style. I’m sure a big part of that love is nostalgia, but I also have a fascination with miniature things (hence why I have a netbook!), and to me the isometric art style gives the impression of a miniature world. It’s not realistic like 3D is, and you’ll probably never mistake an isometric game for reality as you almost can with a pixel-porn game like Crysis, but I feel it’s exactly this feeling of artificiality that gives isometric games their special style and mood. You’re looking down at this artificial, isometric world and can move your character around in it – almost like when you were a kid, sitting on the floor in the middle of the living room and playing with your action figures. In many ways, the viewpoint the player has on the world of an isometric game is the same this kid has on his action figures. The action figures have just been replaced with 2D sprites.

Basically, this is me working on Hostile Takeover:

Kid playing with action figuresImage borrowed from this site

Pleased to meet you!

August 2nd, 2010 - 8:23 am

Welcome to my little corner of the Internet. Let’s get the introductions out of the way…

My name is Christian Knudsen. I’m 31 years old and live in Copenhagen, Denmark. I’ve been making computer games for the past 8 or so years in my pastime. My most well known game is probably Ascii Sector, a freeware textmode space game. I recently decided to take the plunge and try my hand at commercial game development, and Laserbrain Studios and this website and blog are the first tangible results of that decision. Programming and game making is still not a full-time job for me as I still need bread on the table and a roof over my head, but I hope to one day live off the games I make.

Hostile Takeover is the title of what I hope will be my first commercial game of many. It’s somewhat of a sci-fi game as I’m a sci-fi geek, and it’ll be in good ol’ 2D isometric graphics as I’ve always had a soft spot for that style. Maybe it’s just nostalgia for the games of yore, but I feel something often gets lots in the realism of 3D.

My two all-time favorite games are without a doubt the original X-COM (or UFO: Enemy Unknown as it was called here in Europe) and Wing Commander: Privateer. As I’m a fan of isometric graphics, I of course also enjoyed games like Fallout 1 and 2 and the Syndicate series. I hope to make original games that’ll have a feel of their own, but as with any artistic output, I’m sure my influences will shine through, so if you like the games I like, chances are you’ll probably also like the games I plan to make.

Anyway, that’ll have to do for introductions for now. As to this website, I hope to update it often with development news on Hostile Takeover and probably some off-topic blog entries once in a while if a subject catches my eye or there’s something I want to share.

That’s me. Let me know in the comments who you are and what games you enjoy, so we can all get to know each other!