Caromble! is a fresh brick-breaking game in a 3D, physics-based dystopic world with an unique art-style and epic gameplay features you wouldn’t expect in a brick breaker.
It is created by Crimson Owl Studios, a small part time indie team that comes together every Friday to develop their first game. Caromble! will be released in 2015 and will be available on PC, Mac & Linux.

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Caromble! Friday #404 No pun intended

Even for a stubborn skeptical person such as me it is sometimes hard to deny a certain super-natural tendency in the way things play out. Due to holidays, and the good old ‘huh-is-it-my-turn-again’, we almost didn’t have a Caromble! Friday #404. Page not found… But of course it could also just be that our brains are so hard-wired to find patterns, and perhaps even patterns that don’t exist. My inner skeptic just won’t let me write a paragraph like this without that disclaimer…

Anyway, with the holidays and all, we can perhaps be forgiven for having a bit of a slow week. Weeks do get slow Caromble!-wise easily being part-time developers and all. It just takes a single day of being a bit under the weather, and boom no productivity for a week. Especially in the Holiday season that means that things can get slow quickly.

So what did happen… Well we made some progress in our effort to tell the back story of the game. We got a new version of the storyboard, and are working with that.

Personally I did some work on the planning towards the final release. Deciding on what will fit in the scope of the game is a continuous and difficult process.

As a gamer (which we of course also are) you never know what features, ideas, extra levels and effects didn’t make the cut. You either like or dislike a game. Of course you might have feelings like, ‘this game would be even better with multiplayer’, or great level ideas. But that is not the same as missing a feature. You will definitely notice when a game feels ‘off’ or when it simply isn’t fun. Or when it feels rough and unfinished of course. But when it feels good, but could have been even beter… You just will never know.

As a developer, your game is never finished. There is always one more level to make. Every effect can be made even nice. The balance of the game could always be tweaked a liiitle bit tighter. There might always be another FPS to be gained on a particular system.

So I guess you will always feel like you are releasing something that is in some abstract way unfinished. The witness feels like a perfectly polished game, but who knows how many things Jonathan Blow cut out that we’ll never hear of?

So that is our devil’s dilemma. We want to made a great game. We have been going at it for like 8 or 9 years. But we also want to release it. We have made estimates in the past and gloriously missed them, because there was always something more to add. So I guess it is time to end this cycle and finally decide on when will be done.

Raymond's table

Working

Caromble! Friday #402 Squashing some bugs

As outsiders correctly assume, indie game-development is a big rollercoaster of rock-and-roll awesomeness. And not at all about staying indoors while the weather is nice and fixing bugs. Not at all.

For me, this week’s rock-and-roll awesomeness materialized in the form of euhm several bugs that had to be squashed, while being inside. Hmm.

Anyway, sometimes there is awesome stuff and rollercoasters and rock-and-roll. But today it is bugs. Glorious bug fixing.

It is a well known fact amongst developers that bugs enjoy laughing in your face. However, most of the times you just know that this must be so, without actually being able to see the bug laughing at you. So when I finally encountered a bug that was literally laughing at me, I wasn’t sure what to think.

stop laughing!

The problem was that at a certain point in our Prologue, just before the boss releases a power-up its head would make a jump. Just a small one, but annoying nonetheless. I ‘fixed’ that by always animating the head to a ‘neutral’ position before playing a new animation. However, now I head the problem you can see in the gif. The head would sink before starting the next animation… I figured the reason for that *had* to be that some other animation was also adjusting the position of the head. It had to be. Their effects would combine in some sort of unholy way and cause the sinking effect. Haha, I knew what to do!

It only took me an hour to carefully tracking which animations where affecting the top of the head of our boss at what time. And then another 30 minutes to come to a slow realization that there was no problem with the other animations. No unholy combination of translations. Just a simple oversight on my behalf. I calculated the translation vector for the head to move back to ‘neutral’, and then instead of applying that, I would animate the head towards the animation vector. To the less mathematically inclined, lets just say that makes as much sense as rotating something by a color.

At least by now I understood what that evil bastard was laughing at…

Caromble! Friday #398: Flowing from SVN to Git

Like every other software development team we use version control software to manage changes in our source code and other computer files. For years we have been using Subversion (SVN) as our version control system. In recent times we transitioned to working remotely; as was mentioned in our previous post. Because of this change in the way we work, we figured it’s better to switch to Git as our version control system.

Workflow

In real life we could sit next to each other for code reviews and working in parallel was easy because communication was easy. Using SVN worked fine. Today, we have to orchestrate this source control workflow a bit more and our experience with Git is that it’s better up for this task. The flow with “branching” (changes that happen in parallel along multiple branches) and “merging” (integrate these changes) feels more natural. See this example of a Git branching and merging workflow (a.k.a. Gitflow) where each node represents a set of changes:

A succesful Git branching model by Vincent Driessen

Source: A successful Git branching model by Vincent Driessen.

GitLab

We chose GitLab as our Git hosting service because it’s free and it offers a nice web interface, especially for remote code reviews (through the “merge request” feature) to easily manage our changes and keep up the quality of our work.

Migration

To migrate from SVN to Git we followed this nice tutorial from Atlassian: Migrate to Git from SVN. It took two days to migrate our Caromble! project, but we’re glad we did this! We’re back in a better flow.

Happy gaming!

Getting the job done is hard. In just three weeks time we’ll celebrate the 400th Caromble! Friday, and we still haven’t finished the game yet. Admittedly, we are not 100% clear when the first Caromble! Friday was exaclty, but 400 probably isn’t that far of the mark.

As some of you are aware, a lot of things have changed in the personal lifes of several of our team members recently (suddenly there are 3 fathers in our team 🙂 ), and those changes are not without their impact on the way we work.

We have effectively moved from a team that worked together in a single location (ok, the office was actually a kitchen table, but that still counts), from a team that has to work completely remote. And on unpredictable hours as well. That is not necessarily an easy transition.

A lot of things that we got for ‘free’ by being in the same room every Friday are now quite hard. For instance getting time for all the chit-chat that is so essential for productive co-operation is suddenly a thing you have to plan. And the same goes for discussing the little questions you might have when developing.

But things are not fun if they are not challenging, so we are happy to embrace all of this unplanned extra fun ;-).

We are making a lot of changes to the way we work, so that we may stay productive and at the same time still have fun while working on the game.

We try and use productivity tools such as Trello and Gitlab where we can. These tools can greatly structure the discussions you have about various topics. It turns out that Slack is also quite useful, and whatsapp maybe not so much.

Another thing that we cannot delay any further is creating a marketing plan to guide us through the final stages of development towards the final release.

So indeed, while we have not produced as much visible output as we wanted to at this point, we are still very busy with the game.

To conclude this post, I have two images. Of course an image can be worth a 1000 words, but the first image I’ll share will communicate at least two messages:

Getting the job done, and also defender

The first message is of course that Defender will be a new awesome skill level to be included with our next release. And the second one is less literal and shows that we’ll always eventually get the job done.

Ok, and my second image is perhaps a bit cheesy (cheesecake?), especially since I’m not exactly immune to spelling mistakes myself, but still, I could simply not resist making a bit of fun about Peter’s spelling mistake in his last post, and showing an image about some actual peace of cake…

An actual peace of cake...

Follow and read our updates on Steam!

Dearest Caromblers!

As you probaby already know, Caromble! is available on Steam Early Access! Instead of updating 2 blogs, we have decided to post all of our development updates on the Steam announcements. We hope to see you there!

We would like end to this blog site with an interview that Thomas D. and Raymond gave in London at PC Gamer Weekender. You can find us again in London next week at EGX Rezzed.

Enjoy this video and enjoy Caromble! 🙂

 

Caromble at PC Gamer Weekender 2017!

Well in fact only Raymond is larger than life, or at least taller. I (Thomas D) think I’m only just about life sized.

The paddle has landed and the PC Gamer Weekender ball is rolling in Londen. Raymond and I have taken our positions at our booth and will be looking to show [i]Caromble![/i] to as many people as we can.

Caromble  on PC Gamer Weekender 2017

We are looking forward to seeing you as well! Come find us at booth E20. And very hush-hush: we might be selling the game at a discount from our booth.

Caromble  on PC Gamer Weekender 2017

Meet us in London at PC Gamer Weekender 2017!

If you’re in London coming weekend make sure to come and visit us over at the PC Gamer Weekender event. Apart from playing Caromble! (awesome) you’ll get a chance to talk to the developers in real-life (super awesome). Get your tickets over here!
Thomas and Raymond will be there the whole event to answer all your questions and collect any feedback. So how do you recognize them? Well that’s easy, take a look at our website!

Apart from playing Caromble! there will be many other great games to check out. PC Gamer made a great selection of titles to play.

Chapter 4 is coming along nicely as well. This will be the first chapter in our Commercial theme (see below).

Chapter 4 of Caromble!

Prototyping the Commercial Level Art

We’re now starting doing the commercial chapter of Caromble! We have test-levels so far, that show the puzzle ideas we’ll use. But they need a lot of tweaking. Not just for the gameplay, but also for the art.

The art assets for that new area are just dummies right now too, so they don’t look up to par. It’s a common practice to do called Prototyping. That way ideas can be tested without spending big production time which then might be scrapped if the ideas don’t work out.

3D Blockout for Prototyping

This is the earliers blockout stage – just using literally a block shape and some texture from another mesh. Not a beauty – but quick to do.

3D Blockout for Prototyping

After the basic usage was tested in the game, I made a better mesh – and created an UV texture mapping (with a checkered UV test texture).

3D Blockout for Prototyping

Then I used an earlier concept to drop in a very basic texture blockout. This will represent the final result much better – but a real texture with normal map and other effects still has be created.

There is work left to do on this asset – but once our team tests this in the new levels, I can much better tell if the idea works. All those steps help previewing the result without committing too much work too early. And there are still quite some assets to go over – to keep track I place them on colored blocks.

3D blockouts overview

The Commercial-Area assets on color-coded floors for easier working. Blue for the ones that are still in the early blockout stage. Red is for the ones that still need the final texture pass. And green is for completely finished assets.

Today was my (Pascal here) first of 4 Caromble! Fridays where I will be working all alone . Thomas D. is traveling through Taiwan with his girlfriend. Peter and Raymond have other reasons why they are not here, but I think it’s better if they tell you themselves why this is the case. @Peter and @Raymond: the announcement for next week is for you guys!

Ramp issue fixed
This week I finally found the cause of the issue where balls got stuck inside the ramps, which we mentioned previous week. It’s a bit technical, but here it goes anyhow:

By removing the plane floor under the ramp, we couldn’t reproduce the issue anymore which pointed us in the right direction. Turns out that our engine did something not quite right when handling collisions with multiple objects over which the ball should roll. Our code sets the speed of the ball directly in this code (overruling the physics engine). Now if the ball collides with 2 of these objects, only the second object has an influence on the ball as it overwrites the speed set by the first object. In case of colliding with both the floor and the ramp, it could be that the floor collision was handled as last, overwriting the effect of the ramp.

We now fixed this problem in the current build!

Reaching an audience
I think that this was the last bit of programming I will be doing for quite some time as we need to focus on marketing now. We are programmers (+1 artist) and we are not so much trained in the art of marketing and reaching an audience. However, it is very important to reach an audience as that will result in revenue, which in turn allows us to spend more time in making Caromble! better and perhaps even making a new game after this. Furthermore, we get happy feelings inside if people play Caromble! and enjoy it, You can make a great game, but if no one has heard of it, what’s the point?

So we are focusing on reaching an audience for the coming weeks. It seems that it’s a bit harder to get noticed as an Early Access game. Written press seems especially less interested in that. So we are mostly focusing on youtubers. We hope that this will result in many Let’s Play videos or Twitch streams to reach players that might be interested in Caromble!.

Do you have any tips for us to reach players that would like Caromble!? Do you know curators, youtubers, blogs or individual players that are especially interested in brick breakers or Early Access games? Let us or let them know. We can use all the help we can get!

Arkanoid tribute
What was nice today is that PixelProspector has mentioned us in a list of 3 games that are tributes to Arkanoid. We are mentioned together with Wizorb and Shatter, which are nice titles to be standing next to. You could help us by retweeting this tweet.

pixelprospector

Caromble! Friday #362: Story & Characters

Thomas—the artist—is completing the final art assets for Chapter 3. The rest of us are adding new sound effects and art assets to the upcoming prologue level. This will be the first level that new players will see. This way we can show a glimpse of the upcoming gameplay and give an introduction to the world of Caromble! and its main characters.

In Caromble! you fight the epic battle against your red alien nemesis. This is a very simple version of the story we have in mind. We know that it’s not necessary to communicate every detail of a story because people will create and experience their own stories inside their minds. What we do want to communicate is this battle between the paddle and the alien. In the prologue level we like to emphasize this duel with a classic “versus screen”. These are some iterations:

Artist’s first sketch

Artist’s first sketch

Programmer's feedback

Programmer’s feedback

Artist's latest version

Artist’s latest version

We have yet to agree on the names of our main characters. Maybe you already have created their names in your own mind?

Bonus question: What are those sentient beings inside the paddle’s spheres?