Jeff Hangartner – Revealing the Path Less Travelled in Video Game Industry

Jeff HangartnerJeff Hangartner, the founder of the gaming start-up, Bulletproof Outlaws has been a professional developer of games over the last half a decade. Creator of Pixelation, the 1st Pixel Art Forum and also originator of the Pixel tutorials which have been published in the form of a book. Jeff has always been a pioneer of the gaming industry.

CG Today is proud to present Jeff’s exploration as he shares the whole process of creating a start-up right from day 1. With the belief that gaming development is coming back to its original “one programmer in the basement roots” idea, Bulletproof Outlaws is chronicling every step of its start-up process from strategies, to marketing, setting goals and outsourcing, successes and failures. The aim is to help other developers who have ideas but are intimidated by the whole start-up process and are not sure how to go about it.

You can visit his website Bulletproof Outlaws to know more about him or send an email to get connected.

Past few days have been all about fixing bugs and tweaking gameplay, and attempting to add some new features or fix features that weren’t fully working properly. The gameplay is pretty much final, I’ve found a solid balance. The key was in looking at the higher difficulty as “more frequent stuff to dodge” rather than “faster stuff to dodge”. Going with “faster stuff to dodge”, there comes a certain point where the speed just becomes impossible for any human being to be able to keep up with, so the game becomes unfair. But with “more frequent stuff to dodge”, it comes down more to skill…you’re doing the same thing at 1:00 that you were doing at 0:10, but you have to do it a lot more carefully and skillfully to stay alive. It feels great, everyone’s liked the balance/difficulty in this last version.

One of the big things that came out of testing was the need for a tutorial. This was actually a huge surprise to me, the controls were instinctive to me and I just assumed there was only one way to logically play it. A few people complained about the controls being too sensitive or not sensitive enough, etc. I was getting some really random/opposing reports which was weird. So I started asking my testers more and more questions about their issue with the controls to narrow down what was going on.

Turns out one guy was playing it with swipes, one was playing it by tapping with his thumbs on the sides of the device, one guy didn’t realize you could multi-touch to hit the Deflect at the same time as you’re moving, etc. and the intended controls were two separate hands with a dragging motion instead of a swipe! Logically it makes sense that people would play different ways since there’s no standard D-Pad controller like on a console. But the problem is that because people were playing in ways I didn’t intend, to THEM the controls were bad/broken. If the game were released like that, those people would become 1-star reviews saying “The controls are terrible, fix them!”

So because I had a thorough testing period, I was able to narrow down a huge problem that would have blindsided me if the game had launched as-is. As I’ve said before, I can’t recommend playtesting enough! Anyway, so because of this I added tutorials for the movement and how the Deflect Meter works. They’re pretty simple tutorials, but they have drawings of hands holding the devices, so I think this will snuff out the confusion and have everyone playing with the optimal method.

Today I have a huge bug list to get through but all the bugs are super tiny, so hopefully I’ll blow through them. I’m trying to get a Quickplay button in, where there’s a button on the logo screens in the corner that if you hit it, it’ll skip all the logos and menu animations and jump right to loading the in-game gameplay. I think this will help encourage people to pick up and play the game more…if I’m on a short bus ride or killing time while I take a poo, I’m more likely to run the game that takes 5 seconds to start up rather than the game that takes 45 seconds to start up. I don’t know if this will do anything, but I’m going to put a Flurry analytic on it to see how much people use it and if it’s worth working it into the designs of future games.

It’s exciting to be this close to being done! I’m fixing tiny glitches and bugs all day and adding some last-minute ideas, and I’m going to be sending out a final testing build to my testers to play with today just to make sure I haven’t missed anything. I’m hoping to submit tonight (though it might wait till the morning because I haven’t slept in…a long long time, haha so I mght crash for a nap). Should get this thing out right before I take off for E3! :)

Email: Jeff Hangartner | Web: iPhone Game - Elusive Ninja: The Shadowy Thief


Bulletproof Outlaws Diary