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[NEWS] To-Tum Beta 2

To-Tum Beta 2 is now live on iOS and Android!

To-Tum Beta 2 brings an orb counter to the game, as well as various bug fixes throughout the game!
Only people who are signed up for the To-Tum Beta mailing list will be able to access To-Tum Beta on iOS. You can sign up using this link!
Feel free to share on social media (@Team_ii)
If you have any feedback please let us know at hello@insertimagination.co.uk. All feedback is valuable and important to us.

Thank you to everyone who has been part of this! We can’t thank you enough!

Cheers!
Insert Imagination

Behind The Scenes: The Music of To-Tum [Updates]

This week I’m once again going to be talking about the music for To-Tum and how things have changed since my last music blogpost (which you can read HERE).

The revisions that we’ve made are in regards to the interactive music system I mentioned last time; our plan is still to use vertical re-orchestration with 3 stems, these layers still being triggered by a player’s progression through a level; however, after playing the game intensively I felt there was more we could do with the music to support the player’s experience!

I have no doubt that many among you will remember (and even own) such popular consoles as Nintendo’s Gameboy and SNES; these consoles along with many others, had a relatively small space in which to store files and game data. Now you may be wondering where I’m going with this, but when developing modern mobile games we can sometimes find ourselves with very similar limitations; less space means less art, a smaller overall game and of course less space for audio than what might be achievable with games for big name consoles like PS4, Xbox One and PC. It has never been more important to get more mileage out of music for games and it is to this end that we’ve revised our layering system!

Like many popular mobile games, To-Tum features a series of levels separated and spread out over certain themes, in our case: sky, forest, ice, desert and fire. Each of these themes defines colour schemes and level decoration, and now thanks to our revisions, each theme is also defined by a particular musical instrument! This instrument will only feature in levels belonging to that specific theme, for example, only in sky levels will you hear the sound of a solo harp.

But instead of writing a completely new playlist of tracks for every single theme, we’ve decided to work with a number of ‘core’ tracks, each split into loopable stems; a base layer, a progression layer and a reward layer. The base layer will play from the very start of the level and will not change with each theme, similarly the reward layer will always be the same for the base layer that it accompanies, however it will only trigger once the player has acquired all the collectables in a level. But, the progression layer, that plays only as long as the player is heading in the right direction, will feature the theme specific instrumentation. It’s through this system that we’re going to be able to get more mileage from each track; the core track will be recognizably the same, but thanks to the variations in the progression layer, will fit with each theme change.

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(Screenshot of Pro Tools, the lines across the waveforms showing how volume automation can be used with vertical re-orchestration/layering, note how we’re now changing our progression layer with each theme (Ice, Forest, Sky, Desert & Fire/Lava) but keeping the base and reward layers the same!)

Similarly, we’ve also decided to have our main map music change with each successive theme. This way when a player returns to the game after having not played for a little while, the music will serve as a reminder of what set of levels they got to last time.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little behind the scenes music update for To-Tum. Keep up to date with all my music going’s on over on Twitter (@DougWatersMusic) and be sure to follow Insert Imagination too! (@Team_ii) – we’d love to hear your thoughts on To-Tum!

– Doug

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Showcasing To-Tum at Dare to be Digital 2015

Hi there, Steven here! This weekend I showcased To-Tum at Dare Protoplay, the UK’s biggest Indie games festival taking place at Dundee’s Caird Hall and City Square! As well as showcasing the games produced by the student teams on Dare to be Digital, the festival also showcases many other indie games from local, national and international developers and offers a varied educational programme for the public.

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During Dare 2014, we showcased Kuria, the successor to To-Tum. We had a truly brilliant experience last year, and this allowed us to bond as a team and the starting point of our company! We met loads of great players, some fantastic Developers and games!

Showcasing to the public has that personal feel you just don’t get with other forms of PR. Being able to talk to people, connect with people and watch people play and enjoy your game brings with it that real feel of community involvement. This is such an important part of indie development: without a solid community a small game will not take off. Showcasing also brings with it the opportunity to meet and experience the art of other game devs. The community is so much smaller than you’d think and it is not uncommon to see familiar faces and old friends at showcase events.

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This year we took part as an Indie Developers, showcasing both the iOS and Android version of the game, as well as showing a development video of To-Tum!

I had a truly brilliant experience at Protoplay! Throughout the two days I met so many people, and the feedback we had was incredible! It was great to see people playing a more polished build than the one we showcased at Xpo North, with more levels for people to experience.

There were several moments over the course of the weekend, such as several players who had experienced Kuria last year! This was great to see players see the new game, and to get their feedback on To-Tum and see what they now thought of the game! One of the greatest moments during the weekend where the number of young children, from 5 years old up over playing the game!

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Even with several bugs, most players completed all of the levels we had in our build, it was great to have people enjoy the game, take flyers, and ask about the game and its development. The number of kids who were interested in developing games was fantastic, and living in Dundee they have a lot of opportunities in the city!

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Thank you everyone for checking out my blog! Check out To-Tum on Twitter (https://twitter.com/Team_ii) and Facebok (https://www.facebook.com/InsertImagination)

Please check out Observitorium (https://twitter.com/obs_team, http://www.indiedb.com/games/observatorium) and the team Clive Lawrence (https://twitter.com/manwhoflewaway) Jonathan McEnroe (https://twitter.com/apollo2d) and Peter Satera (https://twitter.com/petersatera).

Getting Ready for Dare ProtoPlay

This weekend, we will be bringing To-Tum to a special place for the team, Dundee. Dundee is where our crazy game development journey began together, dressing up in Snorkels (check out our Facebook Page for these beauties) and standing together on the steps of Caird Hall at the start of the Dare to be Digital Competition.

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One year on, and still working together as a team, Steven will be showing our game to the general public again, but this time we will be alongside the other independent developers inside the great hall. It is going to be a weekend of dejavu, and some fond memories, but it will be great knowing we are not going to have to fix the game in between plays (we hope!) this time around.

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If you would like to read up more about our last time at Dare Protoplay, as one of the Dare teams, our development blog can be found here.

We will update you on how the visit all went next week!

Thanks for reading, and maybe see you at the show!

Team ii :-)

5 Things I’ve learnt Working in a Team Remotely

Image from: wikipedia.org/wiki/Videophone

–Some of Team ii on a Skype call–

Remote working is growing ever popular for companies, with the next generation of employees being fully comfortable working with instant messaging, Skype and other online-based work tools. This week I wanted to share some of my experience working as part of Insert Imagination remotely, this list is by no means what every single team might experience, but it covers some of the benefits and draw backs to our remote-team-working situation.

Insert Imagination work from 5 locations across the UK; Dundee, Manchester, Kent, Great Yarmouth and Norwich. So we are not exactly having to span our development across time-zones, but we are all working around our own schedules. We began working together as a team during the competition Dare to be Digital in June 2014, 5 of us worked together in Dundee on a game, whilst Doug worked remotely from Great Yarmouth, keeping in touch via phone and email. After the competition finished, we elected to continue working together as a team on a new project, despite us all moving back to our respective homes.

1. Make sure you know who you’re in bed with.

Working remotely on a project requires even more team working skills and trust than any other form of project. Before starting a remote-project with a team, take the time to get to know them, meet them in person if you can and ensure that you can gel well even when there’s just a keyboard between you. The reason that Insert Imagination works well as a remote team is because we have all worked together before in some form or another. Archie and Steven worked on projects at Abertay University during their degrees, Shaun Jess and I had worked on a number of coursework projects, and Doug, Jess and I had worked on small projects before embarking on Dare itself – long before we started working remotely together.

The last thing you would want derailing a project would be a clash of work-ethics or methods, or ever worse – a clash of personalities!

2. Find the right tools and methods – don’t shy away from tech.

It took us quite a while to find the right way to monitor and plan our work together, we used everything from Facebook groups to Producteev – everyone recommended trying a different style, and nothing quite clicked with all the team members. That was until we decided to trial using Slack. However we do not only use Slack as our central point of discussions and updates, we use it as our nerve centre for the project. It was the service-linking quality of Slack that really made it stand out for us as the right tool; we were able to link Slack with GitHub, providing updates on everyone’s progress (particularly great for me as a producer meaning I can keep an eye on progress on the go, checking pushes to git on my phone etc.). We were able to connect our Trello board to Slack, showing to-do list updates and task planning, we connected Google Drive and Twitter (you get the idea).

Having a central point for tracking the progress of your project helps focus your team members to the task at hand. They do not need to worry about having several different apps and websites open and ready, just to stay on top of what is going on. Also it gives team members a chance to catch up on discussions they were not able to attend.

3. Over-estimate, Over-estimate, Over-estimate.

Working on a remote project full-time is very different to working on a remote project on the side. All of our team members work full-time, and this means that we are constantly working around 6 people’s schedules. I would say that by all means set yourself challenging goals, but always over-estimate your time-scale for delivery.

Quite apart from the curve-balls that full-time jobs can throw at you, there is also the responsibility that everyone has to their families and significant others. No-one can predict (or would want to for that matter) what a loved-one might fall ill, or friend needing help, or you needing to move house (or in my case move house and plan a wedding). And so you need to work with a great deal of flexibility in time-lines in order to try and account for this.

At the end of the day, it is passion which brought our team together, so I know that they would not be behind on tasks without good reason. And sod’s law has a way of messing with even the best laid plans, so over-estimation can try to help alleviate some of this.

4. Be conscious, considerate and kind.

When you are working in teams remotely, you will need to be aware that emotions and meaning can often be lost in written communications, and that you need to account for the fact that you do not get to see these people everyday. People may well have a lot going on in their lives outside of the project and so it great if you can try to always try and assume someone’s best intentions.

Similarly, there is a great deal of trust involved in working remotely as a team, and with that trust comes a need for transparency. If life throws you a curve ball which is likely to affect your ability to work on the project (and I’ve pretty much had one of every cliché out there this year) you need to feel comfortable enough to let the team (if at the very least the project manager) know about this, so that they can try and accommodate for the change in work-load.

Being considerate and mindful of the various pressures of real-life on all the team members, and being kind towards them helps you rally together if things get tough on a project. At the end of the day, you are working on the game out of a passion for the project, a combined love of what you are doing, and that will help sustain you when things get tricky. That and remembering it is a true team effort both the wins and the losses, will help weather those storms!

5. Keep a Sense of Humour

And finally, remember to keep a sense of humour when working together. Laughter can help keep you all going when the work-load is high and the time-scales are small. I always try to remember that whilst we are a team, we are more importantly friends in Insert Imagination and that is what helps us all keep going. Posting that meme, or lightly poking fun can be just the thing to keep you wanting to work on that project, and with your team.

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I hope that this blog post has been somewhat useful, even if it sort of turned out like a self-help-team-ii-love-in. Have a great week everyone, and please share with us what keeps your remote team together in times of need!

Robin

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Steven and Robin’s jaunt to the Seaside: Develop Conference 2015

Last week Robin and Steven made their way from Norwich and Dundee to Brighton to attend this year’s Develop Conference. Here they tell us about their top moments from the event, and what they brought away from it.

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Steven and Robin’s Top experiences from Develop Conference 2015!

Robin’s Top 5

  1. Pie-Maker to Game-Designer; (https://twitter.com/anagamedev) Ana Ribeiro’s frank and honest talk about how she found her entrepreneurial spark in baking, quit her ‘safe’ job working in the Brazilian Government and came to the UK to fulfill her dream of creating games. Ana’s talk was truly inspiring, showing that if you have passion for your vocation, and the courage to take risks, you can achieve a great deal – no matter which point you are at in life, or your career. Ana’s eloquent and humorous way of answering the questions from the audience, especially one which pointedly asked about her ‘experiences’ as a ‘female’ games designer, was a real credit to both her professionalism and natural charm.
  2. Killing the “Lucky Indie” Myth: How to Build a Sustainable Micro Studio; (https://twitter.com/simoroth) Simon Roth did an amazing job of running through the realistic day-to-day of keep a studio sustainable and supportive of its staff. As a very newly fledged indie myself, I found his business outlook on what is too often whipped up into a fantasy story of how every indie has the potential to become a millionaire, both refreshing and instructive. I will be writing a more in-depth write up of his talk, with references to his slides later on this week.
  3. Indie Keynote: Rami Ismail; (https://twitter.com/tha_rami) Rami gave a great talk, full of frank observations and advice on how you work with your community. His advice was great for anyone who might feel that they need every single customer, no matter how intolerant those customers might be towards the developers. Online harassment and the worries that a developer might have surrounding this are a hot topic at the moment, and Rami tackled this head on showing that we are all human, and all have the potential to be wrong. However, none of us deserve to be harassed for what we create, or for who we are.
  4. Networking in ‘The Bar’; Before I arrived at Develop, I had asked friends who had been before what their top tips were for a ‘newbie’. One had said to go for the ‘house party approach’ and to spend time in the bar chatting and networking, and letting people come to you. This really is true of the bar at the Hilton, I spent the better part of my day in the bar on Wednesday and met some amazing and interesting game developers, recruiters, writers, artists, publishers and educators – all in one place! It is a great mixing pot, and meeting place as often you will not get to catch up with contacts and friends at other points in the year due to the often demanding constraints of working within the industry! It was excellent meeting new people and getting to bump into many more friendly faces.
  5. The Wellcomme Trust; (https://twitter.com/wellcometrust) The stand at the expo was a great place to learn more about the really interesting projects that The Wellcomme trust work with. I have always had an eye on the kinds of projects which are funded by them, and loved learning more about their most recently supported game which followed the processes of crime scene investigation at different points in history. Hearing about the combination of research for the technical potential of the game, the considerations of a general public audience, and the historical inspirations for the game was fascinating, and I hope to hear and see more of Welcome Trust projects at other gaming events.

Steven’s Top 5

  1. Fragments of Him (http://fragmentsofhim.com/) – This game really caught my attention a few weeks ago through online groups, and I when i spotted it on the expo floor i had to try the game a talk to the developers. Briefly speaking to Mata Haggis (https://twitter.com/matahaggis) about the narrative design of the game, it was clear that the team took a lot of real world experience they had and put them into the game, making Fragments if Him very personal for the team.
  2. Ana Ribeiro (https://twitter.com/anagamedev) discussing VR, and her fascination with the medium. Ana described VR as a “Totally New Experience” for engaging audiences and “not just a new game platform, but a New Media”. Her enthusiasm for Game Development and VR came across so well during her talk, it was very infectious!
  3. Rami Ismail (https://twitter.com/tha_rami) discussing customers and their value for your company, and standing for something was very insightful , especially considering we are in the early stages of developing our company. It was great to see how Vlambeer (http://www.vlambeer.com/) treat Customers as having value, how a customer is not entitled to be negative in their community just because they purchased their game. When social media tends to show the loud and hurtful minority of audiences, it’s nice to see their approach to dealing with them, by not pandering to customers.
  4. Dan Da Rocha (https://twitter.com/dandarocha) discussing his time as an Indie Developer over the last 5 years was a key highlight for myself! It was great to hear how he has managed to stay relevant in that time period in an ever changing industry, and to see some insight into what he has learned over the last five years as a developer.
  5. Finally it was amazing to hear a developer actually discussing the numbers in terms of sales, downloads, revenue, and this was provided by Jennifer Schneidereit (https://twitter.com/nyyjen) of Nyamyam. Her open and honest discussion on the development and process behind Tengami (http://nyamyam.com/category/tengamigame) was fascinating, especially seeing how the team had set out their goals, and how they went about achieving them in a market dominated by free to play games.

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Thank you for reading out blog post! Did you attend Develop this year? Let us know what your favourite moments of the conference were, and be sure to check us out on twitter (@team_ii) and Facebook!

Behind The Scenes: Art and Building Levels!

It’s been 7 months since we first began development under the name of Insert Imagination Ltd. and fully began work on To-Tum, and it has almost been a year since we were Team II with Kuria. A lot has changed during this time, my understanding of companies, how different working remotely can be, but obviously most importantly the biggest changes have been to the game.

Showcasing To-Tum at XpoNorth 2015

On the 10th of June we had our second public showing of To-Tum, at the fantastic XpoNorth, Scotland’s leading creative industry festival! I (Steven) travelled up to Inverness for the festival to showcase the android and iOS versions of the game to the public, getting some invaluable feedback.

Behind The Scenes: The Music of To-Tum

In this, our second blog post, I’m going to be talking about the music I’ve composed for To-Tum. I’ll be covering my musical influences, my first steps when writing a track and how we’re using reactive music techniques to build a better player experience.

Normally as a composer, when starting work on a new video game project, much of the game will already have been completed and you’ll have a wealth of content to creatively inform your music; in some cases this might just be screenshots or concept art, but in others, a playable version of the game.

Behind The Scenes: Development Pipelines and Technical Challenges!

Hi, Steven again! This week I’m here to discuss the change in development pipeline from Kuria to To-Tum, the challenges we faced in recreating the experience of Kuria for a Mobile platform, and several technical design decisions we made to help us stay true to the core of our original game.

During Dare To Be Digital I wrote about the early development stages of Kuria (http://www.daretobedigital.com/d2bd/team-information-2013/blog.php?intStoryNumber=12152&idTeam=2733) and how we iterated upon this throughout the summer (http://www.daretobedigital.com/d2bd/team-information-2013/blog.php?intStoryNumber=12919&idTeam=2733). Working with such a hardworking a dedicated team allowed us to Plan, Develop, and Iterate on Kuria throughout the summer, without being precious of our work, and maintaining this attitude allowed us to make the tough decision to start development from scratch with To-Tum. This was not necessarily an easy decision for us, a lot of work and time had went into Kuria, but we felt starting again gave us a chance to come up with new ideas, including pushing development for mobile and designing the game around a new control scheme!

Work In progress Level

Part of development was to ensure that we were able to load levels quickly, much like Kuria, to allow players to seamlessly play though several levels in quick succession. The solution to this was to create levels as prefabs, and instantiate them at run time. This was fine until we started attaching new components to objects in scenes, and we found that unfortunately Unity doesn’t currently support nested prefabs. The solution we found for this was creating levels using “Building Pieces” that created the actual game object assets when a level had fully loaded. This means that we are able to make large scale changes to art assets, prefabs, and materials without breaking prefab connections between levels!

This system has allowed us several times to change art assets, implement a system for enabling and disabling mesh colliders on pipes when the player object was not near them, and to create levels quickly using our modular assets created by the wonderful Jess Magnus!

Modular Assets for level building

Following this modular principle has allowed us to create a strong pipeline in which to develop To-Tum, allowing artists and designers to create content without the need for features to be scripted, and allowing us to prototype features using basic prefabs before assets had been created and implemented! This freed up a huge bottleneck that features in game development, so that all disciplines would be able to focus on their task at hand without relying on the others, which considering the remote nature of our team has worked out very nicely!

Another Work In Progress Level

This next point might sound like beating a dead horse, but something I’ve personally found important during working on projects is ensuring that development is organised. For me this was met by setting up a specific workflow for the project with the team, specifically following the Git work flow (https://www.atlassian.com/git/tutorials/comparing-workflows/gitflow-workflow) ,this allows the team and myself to monitor features and test them individually from the main build, something which is crucial to making sure game breaking bugs don’t make it into the game. I know this may not necessarily work for every team on every project, but for us it allows clarity to see what progress is being made on features in development, and allows us to not step on each other’s toes 😀

Thank you for reading my post today! Just a quick shout out to the awesome guys at Teaboy Games (https://twitter.com/TeaboyGames) who we forgot to mention in our Develop Post! The are awesome and you should totally check them out! Please check out our Twitter and Facebook pages. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or hit me up on Twitter (https://twitter.com/StevenTaarland)