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TIGSource ForumsCommunityDevLogsSemispheres [Feb14th PS4/PC]
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vividhelix
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« Reply #40 on: October 28, 2015, 08:31:00 am »

It's been rather quiet in here. Many many changes to the game, a lot of them behind the scenes on things like movement. Also more changes to the audio.

Probably the only major visible thing is the text changes. Settled on a different font and put it through the same very versatile shader. It looks like this now:



Oh, did I mention the new swoosh shader I've been working on?



I'll be writing up something on how that's made, since the journey resulted in some very interesting mistakes:







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vividhelix
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« Reply #41 on: January 20, 2016, 08:12:46 am »

Semispheres is finally on Greenlight: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=598354025. Votes appreciated!
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« Reply #42 on: January 31, 2016, 11:29:39 pm »

Microsoft Store showcase post-mortem

Continuing with the tradition of post-mortems for every event I showcase Semispheres at, here's the last one. A couple of weeks ago, a few of us organized a showcase for locally made games at the Microsoft Store here in Calgary.



From an organizer's perspective, Microsoft have been really good to us and very helpful in assisting us every time we ran an event there.

The space was good, big 9-screen TV in the background where we ran a few of our trailers on loop.



Unfortunately most of the people I know here are not aware of Microsoft having a local store. While it's located in one of the biggest malls here, it's right at the edge of it. This resulted in not the greatest foot traffic, but it was enough to get yet another round of playtesting done.

Semispheres is now in a very weird spot for public playtesting. Most of the levels using the core/initial mechanics of ping/portal/dying have been playtested in public settings already. I wanted to test some of my newer mechanics, the swap (where the characters can end up on the other side), the guard transfer (where the guards can be "sent" to the other side) and teleport. As usual, I didn't want the build to be too long so I settled on 20 levels. Interestingly, other than the first 4 levels which were the stock introductory ones I've used many times before, none of the remaining levels used the ping or portal mechanics.

The result was very encouraging, people clicked with these concepts as well. They felt solid enough that they're definitely staying in the game - especially considering these are late-game mechanics that assume mastery of the ping/portal.

The level progression was a bit steep, as some of the levels made use of patterns that are taught and reinforced in the earlier (missing) levels.

This is probably one of the last public playtesting sessions. I'll most likely move on to more private, full game testing to validate the progression, hub world and the story. I suspect future public events I'll focus more on the awareness/experience side of it over playtesting to discover problems.

As for the venue, we're really looking forward to hosting more events there. If you have a Microsoft store in your city, reach out to them, they love indies!

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« Reply #43 on: February 09, 2016, 11:23:39 am »

Great news: Semispheres will be part of the Indie Megabooth at GDC! Hopefully see some of you there!

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/265408/These_15_games_will_be_playable_in_the_Indie_Megabooth_Showcase_at_GDC_2016.php
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« Reply #44 on: February 09, 2016, 08:17:30 pm »

Forgot to post the announcement video:

Code:
https://youtu.be/fyjL1xk1Lks
(sorry for some reason TIGForums doesn't like youtube links)

After all the effort I went through trying to make my greenlight trailer, I have a new appreciation for people who make trailers. I used to think that's an easy job...
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« Reply #45 on: February 10, 2016, 03:56:51 am »

Just seen that you will be showing of Semispheres at GDC!!  Kiss Kiss Kiss Can't wait to have go at this, see you then!
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« Reply #46 on: February 10, 2016, 07:58:46 am »

Just seen that you will be showing of Semispheres at GDC!!  Kiss Kiss Kiss Can't wait to have go at this, see you then!

Yeah, really looking forward to it. The Megabooth is staffed by volunteers so I won't be there the whole time. Ping me on twitter if you want to meet/chat Smiley
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« Reply #47 on: February 11, 2016, 07:09:48 am »

Great news, I can now confirm Semispheres is definitely coming to PS4 as well as XBox One. I'm still on the fence about Wii U, but I'm in that program as well, so very tempted!
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« Reply #48 on: February 11, 2016, 09:45:46 am »

Congrats Radu, that's awesome news!
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« Reply #49 on: February 25, 2016, 05:23:44 pm »

Yay, Semispheres just got greenlit!
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« Reply #50 on: February 26, 2016, 01:42:29 pm »

Indie Game Bash post-mortem

Last weekend I got another chance to playtest Semispheres at a local event. Our group organized an event for people interested in playing local multiplayer indie games, called Indie Game Bash: http://www.indiegamebash.com/.

The one thing I was most interested in playtesting was the auto-restart. Being part of the Indie Megabooth at GDC doesn't require full-time presence there - rather, the IMB crew has volunteers helping out. For a game like mine, where there is no tutorial, the level progression is key to actually understanding the game. I've been wanting to add an auto-restart mode for a while, now I had no excuse not to.

I added auto-restart to the menu, also the menu is automatically brought up after a certain time has elapsed where there's no activity from the player:



This worked really well, considering the problem is rather difficult to solve properly because of the two extreme scenarios. If the auto-restart is too slow to take place, it's not going to happen - especially not at a busy playtesting session like GDC will be. On the flipside, if the auto-restart is too aggressive, it will come up during gameplay - the game requires deep thinking on some of the levels and people will pause to think, only to be interrupted by the menu popping up.

I still need to tweak those numbers a bit, so far it looks like it will be something like 30 seconds for the menu to pop up automatically and 15 for the auto-restart countdown timer.

As far as the event audience goes, this was one of the best playtester selection of any events - core/hardcore gamers, exactly my target audience. I was surprised that there was interest in playing a puzzle game as most of the famous indie games being played were more on the action side.

Overall, another successful event. Game development is always a series of ups and downs, but seeing someone thoroughly enjoy your game makes it all worth it!

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« Reply #51 on: March 28, 2016, 05:48:57 am »

Indie Megabooth / GDC 2016 Post-Mortem


I had the privilege of being part of the selection for Indie Megabooth at GDC 2016. Here are my thoughts on the experience.

Before going into any of this, it really was an awesome experience! Various attendees were at different levels of stress with the experience, but having the Indie Megabooth folks around was very reasurring - you could tell they had done this before.


Day 0 (Sunday)

Arrived in San Francisco on Sunday and went into Moscone West in the afternoon to set up the demo machine. Seeing my game up on the Indie Megabooth standup sign somehow made it all suddenly feel very real. It's hard to explain all the feelings, but it was a mix of pride and joy.



Going in, there was a bit of uncertainty on the specs of the machines we would be getting, so I was prepared to use my own laptop to demo (though I was really hoping I wouldn't have to). Luckily, the machine I got was powerful enough that could run the game at a decent framerate so could just use that.

The setup process was mostly uneventful, except for a sound issue. After half an hour of fiddling with sound card settings (I suspected it to be a sound card filter or auto adjust/duck), it turned out the headphones I was using were faulty. Having my own laptop there to do a bit of binary-partitioning problem-solving turned out to be really helpful.


Day 1 (Monday)

Just as I was trying out the game for one last time on Monday morning, I discovered two different bugs. None were game-breaking, but potentially affected the experience. One of the bugs could potentially make the whole ping-inside-portal bit confusing. The other one allowed people to "game" one of the later levels and progress without going through the proper motions. Fortunately, that later level was an execution-based challenge (rather than a puzzle one) so it didn't really matter.

Not sure how I managed to resist the temptation, but I decided not to attempt fixing any of the bugs on the spot. I figured it's not worth the risk and I'm happy I made that call. In the end, only one person found the first one and while the second one happened a handful of times, it made for some nice conversation around having bugs.

Having shown my game before, it didn't feel really stressful. It helped knowing I had a bunch of older builds I could fallback to - I've been saving all of my game builds since I started the game (currently around 50 different builds). Not having made any last minute major changes was also really good.

I also got to see the auto-restart in action. I settled on 30 seconds before automatically showing the menu and a 20 seconds countdown for auto-restarting. First day was busy enough that I still had to manually restart for a few people. Having restart be an easy combo really helps.

I forgot how uplifting it can be to have your target audience play and enjoy your game. Developer conferences (such as GDC and Unite) are packed with people who enjoy a challenging puzzle. Seeing that smirk of "cool, I get it" on players faces on the first portal level made it all worth it - an awesome reminder of why I make games.



This year there was a bigger group of Calgary people so I could get food brought over without leaving the booth. More time observing players is always a good thing.


Day 2 (Tuesday)

Bugs still not fixed (on account of parties and being tired), very similar to day 1. Standing for a long time is starting to feel a bit more tiring. Really thankful for running and having a standing desk for building up a bit of conditioning/resistance there.

Playtesting working as expected. I didn't have to interact much with people while they were playing, the game is set up almost perfectly for self-sufficience. Typically, I would chat with a player after they finished playing while someone else is playing. Trying to pay attention to the conversation while also observing gameplay was a bit difficult.

I decided early on to try not to look at people's badges/name tags before talking to them so I don't get weird knowing someone's famous. This resulted in conversations about the game, then me asking, "What about you, what are you working on?" at which point I would look at their badges. A few of the times the name was instantly recognizable so I had to go "Nevermind, sorry for asking Smiley".

Day 2 was just as busy as Day 1.


Day 3 (Wednesday)

Did a quick new build in the morning - just removed one of the levels that was early on and felt a bit too slow. This made the progression ramp up a bit faster but overall a better experience.

A slower day since the main conference was now open. Some press people coming around the megabooth area. Starting not to have a few breaks in between when sessions are on - really helpful for getting a bit of rest.



Pretty happy with my booth setup. I had a sign with the game's name on one side, double-sided (orange/blue) business cards for the game on their respective sides (see photo) and a mailing list sign-up sheet on the other side (same design as used before, inspired by Ultimate Chicken Horse).



I also had my personal business cards (well, half personal since one side was dedicated to the game). Having the game half be recognizable was really helpful in identifying me as the dev of the game for people wandering about the booth.

My rule of thumb was - only offer a business card to people I actually talked to for a bit (or if they offered me one). This turned out really well - players would end up typically getting a business card for the game and then one of mine if we chatted. This also meant I could remember most of the business cards I received.

I'm a bit surprised that some of the business cards were not very memorable and the online presence very poor. If you don't have a photo of yourself on the business card or something about your game that I'll remember, at least have your website/twitter/linked have a photo of you and a clear description/location. I always asked people where they're from, what they're working on, role (programmer/audio/etc) and the answers help me remember who's who.

I didn't figure out exact numbers but for the entire conference, I probably went through about 200-300 game business cards and maybe 100 of mine.


Day 4 (Thursday)

By now I can accept that fact that I somehow got injured. It's really painful to stand but it really helped wearing running socks with arch support (for gdcrun.com which I was really hoping I could make at least three times, oh how naive...). I need to test this theory more at other conferences.

Using the same build, getting the same kinds of feedback. Getting repeat players bringing over their friends to play. Also got to meet some people I only knew from their online presence and/or email exchanges, which was really sweet.

Starting to wander about to meet more of the attendees of the megabooth. It really helped I tried to organize some reddit/madewithunity promotion for the games made with unity (11 out of 15!) so the moment I introduced myself people recognized me from all the emails I had sent before GDC. I also set up a slack group that only a few people ended up using, but it was nice coming in and already feeling like I knew at least a few of the people.

I didn't get a chance to play more than half of the games in the megabooth - part of that being that I don't like playing games in public. I'm glad other people don't have this problem so I can observe them play my game Smiley


Day 5 (Friday)

Friday was a short(er) day - only until 3PM. Really looking forward to the end, amazing experience but really grueling standing for 5 days. Manning the booth solo and not taking breaks adds up after a week. Parties didn't really help recovery either. By this point it's starting to become a blur. Thankfully I still remember all (most?) of the people I met. Really challenging seeing/talking to tens of people and then seeing some again a few days later and trying to remember which day I talked to them, if they played the game, if they liked it, what do they do.

Throughout the entire conference, knowing my game is in the megabooth made me feel like it established my credibility and also helped a lot with the impostor syndrome. I only attended GDC one time before this, in 2014, when I didn't have a non-mobile game I worked on. Still, even now, not actually having released my game, I still felt like a fraud waiting to be uncovered. Thinking about it at a rational level doesn't really help that much. It did help that I was tired enough and so talked-out that I couldn't think about it a lot.


(photo courtesy of Jason E)

Most of the questions I got about the game were non-technical. Here are the most common ones (and my answers), in decreasing order of frequency:

 Q: What's the status of the game? When and where will it be released?
 A: Nearing release, hopefully in two months/end of April on Steam (already greenlit), then on consoles (PS4/XB1/maybe Wii U)
 
 Q: How big is your team?
 A: Just me and an audio guy (sometimes mentioning him working on the music for Antichamber)

 Q: How long did it take you to make the game?
 A: Since December 2014, about half of that time being full-time and the other half less than part time (due to contract work).
 
 Q: How many levels do you have?
 A: In this demo build, just 15 levels. In the game, I'm looking at it more in terms of gameplay time, hoping to be somewhere around 2-4 hours of content on release.
 
 Q: Have you thought of X? (two-player mode, having power-ups not be consumable, additional buttons on controller, adding a story, etc)
 A: Yes Smiley
 
One of the things that surprised me was that people were appreciative of the effort it takes to make a game solo. This veers into the impostor syndrome territory again, but I used to be ashamed of the long time it took me to get here, seeing it as an indication of my competence/skills (or lack of). It was really encouraging seeing positive response on this aspect from people knowing what it takes to makes games.

Last day was also when I had to collect/upload the analytics. I had set up Unity analytics to figure out play time for the levels in the demo build. This was in hopes of extrapolating to figure out how much play time I have for first-time players. This was a bit more effort than I had thought as nobody seemed to know where the local analytics cache is stored on Windows. Used my phone as a hotspot and ran the game again to allow it to upload the analytics and also copied over some of the local folders where I suspected these would be stored. I wish I had planned this a bit better as being tired made it a bit more stressful than it should have been.



The food

No San Francisco post-mortem could be complete without the food. Definitely one of the highlights of being in this city. Having worked there for about half a year, I got to be the food guide for my group. We managed to visit most of the food places I wanted to go back to.

Here are my top places and must-have's on their menu:
  • Tropisueno - best Mexican food I've ever had: Tropisueno torta (sandwich) and the Mole poblano plate. Margueritas are great, especially if you can get them during happy hour.
  • Ryoko - still the best sushi I've had, all great but their staple is Jumping Tuna (deep-fried spicy tuna roll), also the only place I've ever had real wasabi (not this time though)
  • Boccalone - the Mess Piggy is an amazing pulled pork sandwich, especially if you're not into the traditionally sweet pulled pork taste (like me)
  • Katana-Ya - late-night ramen, always a solid choice

My only regret is not remembering about the crab at Thanh Long sooner. It's a bit of a trek, but it's also walking distance to the Pacific Ocean. Maybe next time.
 

Conclusions

Overall, best GDC yet. A few more things I'd like to remember for next conferences:
  • bring a ziploc bag for your passport, useful if it rains
  • if bringing a laptop, ask your hotel/hostel if they have a safe
  • running socks help for standing a lot (need to validate this a bit more)
  • it's not pokemon for business cards - don't give/ask for business cards unless you've really connected with that person
  • book parties in advance if you want to attend, some get sold out really fast
  • figure out why you're attending GDC, it's ok not to attend sessions if learning is not your goal
  • don't be afraid to say "nice meeting you" and move on to meet more people and find those that you're really interested in talking to (be it indies, AAA, audio, devs and so on)
  • if you're exhibiting, find a way to sit down more and avoid more standing and dancing in the evening/night
  • try to save your voice, if night-time events are too noisy, it's ok to be quiet

Huge thanks go out to the IMB crew for making this experience possible and to the whole Calgary group for support!

Also got to take the printed sign home as a trophy:

« Last Edit: March 28, 2016, 04:17:49 pm by vividhelix » Logged

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« Reply #52 on: March 29, 2016, 12:43:05 pm »

That was nice to read! I really enjoyed your game man, and I can share the same feelings about a lot of the stuff you said about the experience at GDC.

It was nice meeting you!

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« Reply #53 on: March 29, 2016, 01:37:04 pm »

Same here, Nicolas! Let me know how PAX East goes!
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« Reply #54 on: April 04, 2016, 07:45:37 am »

Becoming a better game designer through study

I’ve been working outside of games for most of my career so there were lots of things I didn’t know when I started making games. I dabbled for a few years using my instincts, learning as I went. It was great and everyone’s advice was “just make games” which is correct, but I wanted to talk about the other side of the coin.

I’m not advocating becoming an ivory-tower game-designer, that just doesn’t work. I’m talking about learning about game design, but not by making games. Combine it with your game-making experience and make the best game you can make. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The games you make will help your game design learning and the other way around.

All the advice threads I see for people looking how to start are focused on the execution side of things. Make games, take part in game jams, remake a classic, scope small - all great advice. Experiential learning is the most effective way of learning for many people, but there are many things missing if that’s the only learning you do.

Here are some of the ways I learned more about game design. Take what you wish from it - there is no single right way to learn. Any source can provide valuable information.


Books

Game design is a relatively new field, which makes this a interesting topic to talk about. Read any of the books you can find, but since time is always a constraint, start with the more popular first.

My all-time favorite game design book is The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell.



It’s a bit of a dry read so it’s harder to get started, but I’m glad I tried it a second time and it stuck. I was reading this late 2014 as I was just restarting work on my current game - it’s great to have a game in progress you can relate to while you’re going through all the different lenses. In fact, I hope I can read the second edition again before I release the game.

There are many other really good game design books and even though some may be focused on a different genre than the game you’re making, there’s always something valuable in there. However, my recommendation above is the one book I’d take on an island with me.

You can also find great game design wisdom in smaller packages (such as articles/blogs).


Videos

There are many youtube series on game design. My favorite is Extra Credits, but there are a few others that I found really useful.



For me the trick was to focus on entertaining videos so I looked forward to watching them, rather than some of the more dry approaches. Don’t be afraid to watch some of the more controversial videos, chances are it’s a fresh perspective that will make you think. You don’t have to agree with it to get something out of it.


Courses

Some courses are better than others, make sure you consider both the online and the in-person variety.

I went through MIT’s Introduction to Game Design.



It looks like a new series is about to start soon, make time for this if you can. Even if you don’t have time for the assignments, the course material is great. This is when I discovered youtube’s faster playback feature, I found these were best followed at 1.25x or 1.5x.

I’m sure there are other online courses, it’s good to have structure around learning and to belong to that community.
For local courses, I went through a continuous learning/late evening local game design course ran by an awesome board game designer at a local university. While it was a bit more geared towards board games, it was still an excellent learning experience.


Game Design Exercises

Inspired by the courses I took, I suggested we run some game design exercises for our monthly meetups (I’m one of the organizers of our local game dev group).

We did our own take on Crazy Eights and Liars’ Dice and they were a blast - people had fun and learned something in the process. If you don’t have time to do a game jam because you’re too busy on your own game, this is the easiest way to think about a new game.

This is stretching the "learn by not making games" tagline I proposed above, but the exercises are formal enough that I felt they fit well.


Game Critique Club

This is important enough that it warrants its own article. I started this more than a year ago and it’s going strong.

The short version is: consider starting/joining a game critique club - where you pick a game, play it and discuss it (from a game design perspective) in a group. There are online versions of this, though I feel in-person ones are more valuable.


Don’t be afraid to try/fail

If you have any ideas of ways you can learn more or make your game better, just try them.

I tried a few things that failed and that’s ok. I loved Schell’s lenses book so much I tried to start a weekly conversation on r/gamedesign. It fizzled out after a few threads, but I’m still happy I tried it.

Some things I tried and they eventually worked, even though they had a rocky start (like the game critique club mentioned above).

The single most important lesson for me was not to wait for anyone else to do anything, just try and adjust.


Conclusion

I wrote this article for my past self - it’s something I wish I read a few years ago. I’m sure there are many things I missed, so I’d personally appreciate any comments on how you learn about game design.

I can recognize many of these lessons learned in my current game Semispheres. I’m hoping I can articulate them in a game design post-mortem (still need to release the game first).
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« Reply #55 on: June 29, 2016, 01:15:07 pm »

Hi all,

Wanted to share with you some of the music I'm composing for Semispheres. Pure ambient:
https://siddharthabarnhoorn.bandcamp.com/track/semispheres-suite

Cheers,
Sid

http://www.sidbarnhoorn.com
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Siddhartha Barnhoorn
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Award winning composer

Composed music for the games Antichamber, Out There, The Stanley Parable and Semispheres.

Website:
http://www.sidbarnhoorn.com
Soundcloud:
http://soundcloud.com/sidbarnhoorn
Albums:
http://siddharthabarnhoorn.bandcamp.com
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« Reply #56 on: August 25, 2016, 01:06:10 pm »

Just a quick note - I'll be showing Semispheres at PAX West in the Indie Megabooth (in the  Minibooth area) on Friday and Saturday and at SIX (http://www.seattleindies.org/six/) on Sunday. Come say hi!

Here's a visual update on the overworld and the latest shader I've been working on:

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« Reply #57 on: September 26, 2016, 07:19:41 pm »

Here's this year's feedback from IndieCade:

Juror 1:

Quote
Definitely exceeded my expectations. Both 'dimension-shifting' and 'control two
character' games have been made to death, but you found a way to make them
compelling.
 Visuals:
 Very compelling at first sight, obvious attention to detail. Love the lack of UI. The
avatars move compellingly and there is proper feedback for every action. I'm sure
this is already planned, but more visual variation as the game progresses would be
nice.
 Level Design:
 I think this is what sets the game apart from the other indies that have similar
concepts. I had to think through the level to be able to complete it, but once I
discovered the way to beat it I wasn't unnecessarily hindered by annoying quirks of
the execution.
 Some pitfalls that I could foresee happening that would have hindered my
enjoyment of the game:
 1. Having to operate both avatars simultaneously. I could see very basic operations
being okay (moving in a line), but navigating both at the same time would open up a
lot of annoying execution problems that would bog down the puzzle solving.
 2. Exhausting mechanics. Right now the mechanics are in quick succession; I think
they could use a bit more padding, but I like that I wasn't bored with a mechanic
before a new one was introduced.
 I only saw one bug: I couldn't select 'exit game' from the menu. I'm sure you already
know, but I figured I'd mention it.
 I'm interested to see where this will end up after it finishes development. Great job!

Juror 2:

Quote
I enjoyed working my way through the levels and seeing the new concepts and
mechanics that were introduced each stage. The graphics and audio created a
meditative atmosphere that matched the stress-free puzzles. I appreciate that there
were no time constraints or fiddly dexterity solutions. (A few of the puzzles required
somewhat precise timing, but nothing extreme.) I especially liked that dying was not
much of a punishment; in fact it was necessary to solve some of the puzzles.
 Despite the high-quality presentation, there were a few shortcomings that kept me
from giving your game the best marks. The puzzles seemed to have a definitive
answer that was somewhat trivial to figure out. I wished there were multiple solutions
that allowed for more creativity on the player's part. (For reference, see 'The
Incredible Machine'.) I didn't feel smart solving the problems since there wasn't much
opportunity for me to experiment in my own way. Either I was doing it the "correct"
way or I was failing.
 I am a fan of twin-stick games, so I didn't have problems with the controls, although I
could see it be a challenging UI to master for some players. It made me wish there
was a two-player mode where each player had their own controller.
 I enjoyed my time with Semispheres and I think the idea of parallel worlds has a lot
of potential. Good luck with the game as you take it from beta to final!
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« Reply #58 on: February 07, 2017, 03:41:37 pm »

Finally Semispheres has an official launch date - Feb 14th on PC and PS4!
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« Reply #59 on: February 15, 2017, 11:16:48 am »

Hi all,

Semispheres is out! Check it out here:

Steam:
http://store.steampowered.com/app/448800

Humble Bundle:
https://www.humblebundle.com/store/semispheres[/email]][email]https://www.humblebundle.com/store/semispheres[/email]

PS4:
https://store.playstation.com/#!/en-nl/search/q=semispheres[/email]][email]https://store.playstation.com/#!/en-nl/search/q=semispheres[/email]


The meditative, ambient soundtrack has also been released and is available on Bandcamp, and soon also on iTunes and more online retailers:
https://siddharthabarnhoorn.bandcamp.com/album/semispheres

Cheers,
Sid
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Siddhartha Barnhoorn
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Award winning composer

Composed music for the games Antichamber, Out There, The Stanley Parable and Semispheres.

Website:
http://www.sidbarnhoorn.com
Soundcloud:
http://soundcloud.com/sidbarnhoorn
Albums:
http://siddharthabarnhoorn.bandcamp.com
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