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CreaVures is now available on iOS!

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We’re very pleased to announce that CreaVures is now on sale for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch! Reception has been really positive so far, with great reviews and the game being named iPhone Game of the Week in the UK! You can head over to the iTunes App Store to snag it now at the introductory sale price of just $0.99: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/creavures/id453010095

The forest has never looked as beautiful as when you hold it in your hands. This game has always wanted to be a mobile game, and we’re glad to finally be able to bring it to iOS. We’ve been waiting for this day for a long time, and we wouldn’t have gotten here without support from you, our fans! So THANK YOU! And remember to like us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/CreaVuresiOS) if you’d like to keep on top of the latest Creavures news and updates!

Another Award Nomination for CreaVures

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CreaVures has just been nominated for the SxSW/Independent Propeller Awards in the Mobile Game category! It’s CreaVures fourth awards nomination, and we are proud and humbled.

On another note, Pocket Gamer did an awesome write up, calling the game one of the strongest looking title for a long time, wow!

The game comes out on the App Store tomorrow! Get it for your iPhone or iPad!

CreaVures Nominated for Best Casual Game at IMGA

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CreaVures has been nominated as one of 5 finalists for Best Casual Game at IMGA! This is an incredible honor, as it was selected from close to 500 entrants. On the short list of finalists for the category, CreaVures is next to incredible games such as Jetpack Joyride and Hector. Unreal.

Additionally, CreaVures is also up for the People’s Choice Award, and you can vote for it here!

We have also finished the game! It is now going through Chillingo’s QA finally! We don’t have a release date to announce yet, but we are getting close!

Contests – to be or not to be

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It is of course contest season! Or contest submissions season to be more exact. We already submitted to a smaller one, and submission for IGF still needs some work. Submitting for IGF is of course worth it, not only because it is one of the biggest opportunities for an indie dev team to stand out and be recognized, but it is also the fairest, with little to no strings attached. It is not beholden to a big publisher, and it is an opportunity for indie devs to shine.

Another contest that we are thinking about is the Activision Indie Competition. The cash prices are outrageous. Basically the winner gets $175K, and the runner up gets $75K. And it is judged by IndieCade judges. So far so good! But then as we read the contest rules in more detail, we were more confused and concerned.

The submission asks for “expected schedule, budget, team make up for development of the game, and execution plan.” While this is fine and reasonable in a way, to ask a contest submission for this much information is a bit out of the ordinary. Especially in terms of execution plan. Not exactly sure what to say there, that we will work day and night to make the game? I guess the point is to see if the team knows what it is doing or not, and if it has any organization at all.

“The submission must not feature brand names or trademarks.” This is really unclear. I’ve asked ePrize, the entity running the contest, but haven’t gotten any response yet. The confusion is that, I don’t know what feature refers to. Is it referring to someone else’s brand name or trademark? If so, this makes total sense. But is it referring to our own brand name or trademark? If so, then this is more than a bit weird. Does this mean that we cannot have a name or logo for the game? If we happen to like our game, and want to get it trademarked, are we disqualified? And what is the point of not allowing a developer to brand his or her own game? Doesn’t seem to make sense. Hope I can get some clarifications about this soon.

“The Submission cannot have been submitted previously in a promotion of
any kind or exhibited or displayed publicly through any means.” We’re not quite sure what “publicly” means. Does it prohibit us from entering into other contests? Does it mean that we can’t have game progress or game content be shown on our own blog or by any game media? If so, this seems really harsh. Indie devs deserve every opportunity to shout at the mountain top, since no one else would do the shouting for us.

According to the submissions rules, in order to become a finalist, an dev must sign documents giving “Activision the right of first refusal to be the publisher.” But also according to the rules, there can be more than 2 finalists, which means that some finalists may not receive any money at all from the contest. And the submission has to sign to “acknowledge of Sponsor’s development of game concepts that may be similar to entrant’s Submission.” In this case, there is a concerning worst case scenario, a dev places as a finalist, gets no money from the contest, has to have Activision as the publisher, and Activision doesn’t do enough to market the game. While this of course protects Activision, and I’m sure Activision has the best of intentions, signing this doesn’t make me feel totally comfortable. Granted, we are talking about Activision here. It would probably be an awesome opportunity to work with Activision. But strictly speaking in terms of the rules of the contest, this does seem a bit forceful. Activision is paying a lot of money, but this entire contest reads more like a vehicle for Activision to scout for games to publish. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that, the lesson here is just to understand what a contest is exactly about, why we are entering it, and making sure that everything is clear.

For the time being, we will probably elect to pass on it and focus Guns Online for IGF next year.

The iPad Polygon Diet

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In the transition from PC game to iOS, Creavures went though a number of significant changes to meet the hardware requirements of our chosen mobile platform.  Programmers and artists alike tackled the difficult task of slimming down our already modest graphics budget to encourage the game to run smoothly on an iPhone.  Shaders were modified, UI completely revamped, and hands were rung over the number of “Skinned Meshes” on screen at a time. (Skinned Meshes are polygonal objects animated by joint chains.)  The largest of these meshes, both in terms of joints and in terms of mesh density, were the main Creavures themselves.  As one of games most appealing elements is the quirky and detailed animated interaction between the little animals of the title, scrapping joints from these fairly heavy characters was a virtual impossibility. There were, however, a few steps that could be taken to mitigate the strain they imposed on the iPad’s processing power, namely cutting down the number of vertices in the animated mesh.
Take a look at Bitey here.  He was originally about 4.5K, a mid-range amount for a realtime character.

Bitey Before and After

I was given a budget of 3K.  As long as the character still animated smoothly and the silhouette stayed mostly the same, I could cut whatever I wanted to bring the poly count below that number.
The first thing to do, when evaluating the mesh, was to determine areas that were complex for no reason, polys we weren’t using in the existing animations.  Originally, Bitey was planned to have a lot more expression within his eye area, and thus had a full eyeball with pupil and many edge loops around the eye socket.  This was easy to get rid of.  A couple of loops allowing him to blink was all that was needed, and his eyeball, since the eyes are glowing and blank, was reduced to get rid of the complexity that allowed it to rotate.  Another thing is the loops around the nostrils, the sharp edges put in place to control the normals.  Getting rid of these freed up space, and all we lost was a little definition around the nose and mouth, slight gray shadows caused by the softened normals. Loops in the tummy were merged together, and the knees and elbows were simplified.

So we did this to most things in the game, bound mesh or not, and it seemed to make a big difference! Here’s a plant that I did the same thing to!
ThornBush Before and After

Here are three tips when reducing a poly mesh for game performance
1. Keep the silhouette consistant – This is one of the things that make the character recognizable.  The outline should stay mostly the same when you cut out polygons.
2. Look at where your character moves the most – Where does your character bend? What part gets animated a lot? Bitey’s tail we left alone because moved so much during the course of gameplay.
3. Don’t rely on automatic Poly Reduce tools – It’s fast to click a button in Maya and have your mesh density drop by 50%, but you need to be in control of what stays in and what gets cut.  Often, Poly Reduce gives somewhat iffy results and screws up your edge loops!

That’s all!

Conrad and Howard Go to Brighton!

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We have arrived at Brighton! It’s about 3:00am local time. To commemorate our arrival, let’s recount how we got here. Our departure from JFK, NYC was smooth enough, minus that one hour delay, but which American airline, especially the one called American Airline, doesn’t suffer from some occasional, check that, chronic delay. Conrad checked in slightly before me, and I checked in again for the both of us, so he ended up holding 2 boarding passes… Another minor security glitch, but no harm done. Conrad probably won’t be mistaken as a terrorist anytime soon. We got the seating situation worked out at the gate, and I got us a nice window, aisle couples pairing of seats. Sorry, no, Conrad did not lean on my shoulders.

When we landed, we actually got through immigration, bags, and customs in a flash, with a smile. Welcome to London! That was nice. Ok, now the fun started. We bought tickets at a train ticket machine. Since we carried nothing in the appropriate currency, we used our credit cards of course. The credit card thing loved to be massaged, and I feel dirty for saying this, but anymore massaging of that damn credit card machine Conrad and I would change careers. Finally, we got our credit cards to read, and on the screen it displayed 18 British pounds. No big deal. Wait a minute, 18 pounds!? Holy crap. We later learned that we could have taken the Tube (the London subway), probably for a few pounds or dollars cheaper.

Arrived at London Paddington Station woohoo! Train to Brighton? No luck. As we tried to buy tickets through the machines, Brighton was nowhere to be found in the destination list. So we poked around the station, and found the lone ticket counter open with a middle gentleman that uttered 2 words, “Victoria Station.” Great. We had hopes of making an 11:30pm train to Brighton, and that hope is now completely dashed.

To get to the Victoria Station, we had to take the Tube, and that of course meant giving the ticket vending machines more massages with our credit cards. We of course had no idea what the heck we were doing. It wasn’t entirely our fault. Who knew the red colored train was a green line, and another red colored train was the yellow line? Luckily, a nice lady on the train told us to get off and change trains right a few seconds before we went the opposite direction.

While waiting for the yellow line to Victoria, the names of places on the subway and bus maps leapt off the page – Westminster, Trafalgar, British Museum, Wimbledon… We will see none of those places on this trip. That familiar feeling of dangling a big fat chocolate cake right in front of me, and I won’t get the chance to taste any of it. At Victoria, we dragged our bags up and down the stairs to the National Rail ticket counter and got tickets to Brighton. 22 pounds each way. And we couldn’t get the round trip for only 7 pounds extra. Why? Because we had to take the return train before 9am, which was when the price discount kicks in. Crap. So our transportation cost per person was: 18+4+22 pounds. I forgot what the currency conversion rate was, and it was probably a good thing.

We were starving at the train station, so between Burger King, McDonalds, and a sandwich shop, we went Burger King. I voted down McDonalds, as the recent memory from my McDonalds food poisoning was still raw. Credit card swiped. Receipt came. 11 pounds, making officially the most expensive fast food meal either of us had ever eaten by far.

Ok, we got on the 12:05am train to Brighton. Finally. We are on our way! Wait, we heard a message over the PA system that the train will divide? Wait, what? The announcement said that trains 1-4 will go to some place. 5-8 will go somewhere else. Brighton? No news. And what about where we are sitting, in car 11? No idea. Uh… Better ask somebody. The two kids behind us were equally confused. But another person just came on board told us to go to the front, to cars 1-4. Great… All the way at the other end. That wasn’t supposed to be a big deal, except we were carrying that big ass monitor that we are supposed to bring. Look on the bright side, we could use a little bit of a work out.

We did make it to car 4, and that was as far as we were willing to go. No farther. And we did make it to Brighton. Conrad vowed that no matter where we were in Brighton, we were walking.

And so we did. The interesting thing is that, I had only a general and liberal sense of where our hotel was. But whatever, it was interesting just to walk around. Aside from the drunken people on the streets, there were a few places with pretty amazing architecture.

When we finally reached our hotel, we paused at the door for a bit. Can’t be right? This is the hotel from the pictures online? Uh… Whoever put up those photos online did an excellent job photoshopping the crap out of the place the same way wrinkles are airbrushed out of middle-aged actresses. When we checked in, there was a snafu with our Expedia booking. We were charged for two rooms, and we were supposed to share one. We gotta sort this out tomorrow. In the meantime, they gave us an upgrade supposedly. Conrad got to his room no problem. I got to my room, heard the TV on. Odd. I unlocked the door, about to turn on the light, a man jumped up, and there appeared to be a woman as well. “What’s going on, who’s there!?,” the man yelled. Uh, I thought this was my room? I went downstairs, the person at the front desk gave me another room. Let me say this, I was extra careful opening the door this time around.

This hotel, called Umi, claims to bridge the gap between 3 star pricing and 5 star service. I put the question to Conrad, and the answer made a lot of sense. 5 stars, minus 3 stars, equals 2. Perfect. Well, time to sign off for the night.

More exciting news to come out of Brighton tomorrow!

Creavures at Develop conference’s Indie Showcase!

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The Develop Conference in Brighton, UK, picked Creavures as a finalist in the Indie Showcase!
If you want to find out what awesome company of games Creavures is in, check it out on DIYGamer.

We are really excited to be a part of the showcase. Conrad and I bummed enough airline miles from family to make the trip, so we’ll be there from the 19th on. If you happen to be at the conference, come by our booth and talk to us! We’ll love to hear what you have to say and to chat about anything game related.

Creavures on Big Fish!

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Creavures on Big Fish Games today! Here’s the link to the game on Bigfishgames.com. Big Fish Games is one of the largest and best places online to buy and play casual games, and having Creavures on Big Fish is another big milestone in getting the game in front of a larger audience. Creavures is currently the PC game of the day with a launch promotion! For all you Big Fish shoppers, use the coupon code NEW50 and you can get the game for only $4.99! The offer expires soon, so take advantage while you can. Looks like the Creaures Mac version will roll out tomorrow so stay tuned for that as well.

Win a Signed CreaVures Poster

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TWO CreaVures posters, signed by the artist, will be given away: One to a lucky Facebook fan and the other to a lucky Twitter fan. YOU MAY ENTER BOTH CONTESTS. To enter create a caption for this image.

On Facebook, follow us and enter the caption as a comment to the contest entry. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Muse-Games/69004068449

On Twitter enter the contest by following us and tweet @MuseGames with the caption!

Muse Snapshot May 19th

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How do we help Conrad express his frustrations?
This is how:

This is how we act out work, through Creavures