Tuesday 26 November 2013

Introducing Tap Happy Sabotage!

Anyone who was at my talk at GDC Europe this year may remember my closing remarks about the growth of touchscreen technology. That is, the physical growth as much as the commercial growth.

Touchscreen PCs as large as 27 inches are now available and they'd make an incredible environment for shared-screen multiplayer...

Well, now I've gone and made one.

It's called Tap Happy Sabotage! and it supports up to 52 players on one touch screen.

The game was designed for Intel's App Innovation Contest 2013, where it was selected as a finalist. Intel sent me the hardware (a Lenovo IdeaCentre Horizon 27) to built it on, and I submitted it to the judges last week!

So what is Tap Happy Sabotage?

Tap Happy Sabotage! is all about getting physical, getting in each other's way, cheating and playing dirty. Every player has a target card to find, and also has a "sabotage" card which, when touched, will lose them every point they've earned.

Cards move around the screen in all kinds of patterns, so it's about spotting and grabbing your cards before anyone else can, and sabotaging your friends while they're in the lead.

There's all kinds of mix-ups and variations to keep you on your toes.

You may need to grab three of your cards at once (one tester managed to win this round by using two hands and his nose)

You may need to protect your card from an angry enemy bouncing across the screen (I got my revenge by pushing him into the path of the bad guy)

You might even have to dance around like a monkey and vote for who was the most entertaining (and there's nothing to stop you voting for yourself)

The whole game's designed to be the most awesome and unforgettable party experience I can conjure up. It supports as many players as you can fit around it, so it should be perfect for any time you have friends, family, or open-minded strangers around.

I'm planning to take the game, on the full-sized hardware, to as many events as possible, and am also planning a more widespread release for owners of giant touchscreens everywhere. More details on that to follow!

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Speaking at GDC Europe 20th August

I'll be speaking at this month's upcoming GDC Europe conference in Cologne, as part of the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit, on the subject of Getting Physical with Tablet Multiplayer.

The talk takes place at 10:05am on Tuesday 20th August.

My talk takes a look at the exciting play opportunities created by sharing one tablet between multiple players. Taking lessons from games inclduing Fingle, Chicanery and O - as well as my own Slamjet Stadium and Greedy Bankers - it explores the way the physical surroundings and human body become part of the playspace, and how encouraging physical interaction between players creates a memorable, even intimate, social experience. It also asks how this heavily social kind of play could see itself spread in the future, both as touchscreen technology evolves, and as a way of deepening social engagement in communities.

More information is on the GDC Europe talk listing.

Let me know if you're there - I'd love to see you come along!

Monday 17 June 2013

Speaking at Develop Conference 9th July 2013

I'll be giving a talk at this year's Develop Conference in Brighton. The talk will be on the design and potential of shared-tablet multiplayer gaming, and takes place at 10:15am on Tuesday 9th July as part of the Evolve track. If you're along for the conference I'd be delighted to see you there and I hope you enjoy hearing my perspective on this exciting area of game design!

If you think that shared-screen multiplayer is a thing of the past, think again. Creative use of tablet technology - a large interactive canvas with room for multiple players - allows designers to invent new forms of shared play, which players are embracing.

Indie developer Alistair Aitcheson takes an in-depth look at how shared-device multiplayer is being transformed on tablet. He looks at the design opportunities of using players as physical obstacles, the play possibilities when the device is no longer the referee, and how games culture is once again embracing truly social face-to-face gaming.

The Evolve track is the section of the Develop conference dedicated to cutting-edge technology, design and business models. An exciting opportunity to show shared-tablet multiplayer as an exciting and socially relevant area for gaming!

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Guardian Gamesblog: How iPads are revolutionising social games

The Guardian Gamesblog put up an article in the last week following my talk from GameHorizon 2013. Pretty exciting to shared-device play is pushed further into the spotlight.

The article picks up on a lot of the philosophy that's propelled my recent work, especially with Slamjet Stadium. Physically getting in each other's way creates memorable social experiences, and it's okay for a game to be "unfair" when you're trying to create laughter rather than simply test player skill.

The article is here, and I hope you enjoy giving it a read!

"Rule-breaking is creative," Alistair Aitcheson says in his presentation to the audience at GameHorizon. "Laughter trumps fairness." It's this theory of schadenfreude he has come to the conference to discuss: how pitting us against each other can strengthen friendships, and bring players of games closer.
Aitcheson wanted to encourage people to play together again. He emphasised physical multiplayer – sharing a tablet screen. Physical disconnection, he said, was OK for matching people together in skill-based games such as Street Fighter IV, however the social aspect is really important. Touchscreens are big interactive canvases; they offer us a bright, enjoyable future in terms of being together, being... well, social.
Read the full article on Guardian.co.uk

Sunday 12 May 2013

Re-imagining Multiplayer: Talk from GameHorizon 2013

This is the talk I gave at GameHorizon 2013 this week. I got a lot of enthusiastic comments back about it, which was great to hear! In it I talk about shared-tablet multiplayer, using Greedy Bankers vs The World and Slamjet Stadium as examples of the motivations and design challenges behind this exciting genre of gaming.

I had a fantastic time at GameHorizon, and met some fantastic people there. I was particularly inspired by two digital artists who spoke at the event. Alex May gave a presentation about his work with robots and A.I., while Ernest Edmond spoke about interactive art in social spaces. Both are fascinating insights into the ways interactive technology is used beyond the game world, and the processes share so much similarity with experimental game design.

A full playlist of the talks from the GameHorizon 2013 can be found here.

Friday 3 May 2013

New Interviews: Developing Slamjet Stadium

Well, it's been an exciting week at Aitcheson towers. I've been preparing my talk for next week's GameHorizon Conference, and I woke up this morning to discover that Slamjet Stadium is in the App Store's Tabletop Games feature in the UK App Store.

I also had two interviews I did recently published online. They were really fun to do so I hope you enjoy reading them!

Thunderbolt interviewed me about the design behind Slamjet Stadium, and why genres and trends from the past - including local multiplayer - are seeing so much new innovation from the indie sphere.
Read the interview here

I also spoke to HeyUGuys Gaming about my history as a game developer, my inspirations and motivations.
Read the interview here

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Speaking at GameHorizon 2013

Exciting news! I've been asked to speak at GameHorizon in Newcastle, a major UK games conference. The talk I'll be giving is titled Re-Imagining Multiplayer for Tablet.

I'll be having a look at how physical multiplayer creates exciting new experiences, and the unique opportunities provided by tablet interfaces. I'll explore the reasons why physically interacting over a shared tablet has the power to build friendships and encourage creative thinking. Then I'll be going through the design lessons I've learned from making Slamjet Stadium and Greedy Bankers vs The World.

As followers of my blog will know, shared-tablet multiplayer is something I find really inspiring as a developer, so I can't wait to get on stage and give this new approach to play a platform!

More information about GameHorizon can be found on the GameHorizon website.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Slamjet Stadium Lite Version Arrives Tomorrow!

UPDATE: Slamjet Free is now available! You can download it from this link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/slamjet-free/id626161502?ls=1&mt=8

Like any good developer, once the game's out that doesn't mean I've finished with it! Recently I've been working on Slamjet Free, a trial version of Slamjet Stadium to allow people to try out the game for free before buying the fully-featured complete version.

Slamjet Free contains two teams from the full game - Jetpack City and the Space Hogs - and one arena to play in multiplayer. By upgrading to the full version you can access the single player mode, the full roster of characters and all the arenas.

Slamjet Stadium's continuing to capture people's interest, which is great! Padvance recently selected it as one of their Top 5 Same-Room Multiplayer Games for iPad, and also gave it a perfect score in their review.

Slamjet Free will hit the App Store worldwide on Thursday 18th April 2013, and will be available from this link

Friday 12 April 2013

Designing for Chaos

Slamjet Stadium's been out for almost a month now, and has received some great responses from the games press. One comment I was particularly excited about was in PocketGamer's Top 10 Games of March 2013 article.

"own goals are inevitable, power-ups are over-powered, and stealing your opponent's players is practically encouraged… It's chaotic, fast paced, unpredictable, and insane. As long as neither player expects a fair fight, you'll have a blast."

I was really happy with this statement. Something that I'd made a big deal of in Slamjet Stadium had clicked with players. It's meant to be chaotic, it's meant to be unpredictable, and cheating isn't just okay - it's encouraged!

In that respect, one of the exciting freedoms of creating Slamjet Stadium was that I could make it intentionally unfair, and powerups could be intentionally overpowered.

What would be an issue in any other kind of game actually improves the player-vs-player experience, and I find that particularly fascinating.

Starting with Systems

In many ways this is a big departure from how I used to think about game design. When I was making Greedy Bankers I was fascinated by systems - by the way game mechanics interact with other game mechanics to create a complex web to explore. With that came the belief that no mechanic should be overpowered, lest it render the other mechanics redundant and a single optimal strategy emerge.

Monday 1 April 2013

New & Noteworthy around the world!

The excitement continues for Slamjet Stadium! This Thursday I got the exciting news that the game was in the New & Noteworthy Games section in the following countries:

Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, El Salvador, Spain, Finland, France, Greece, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Korea, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, Mexico, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Switzerland, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Venezuela, Vietnam, Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Nicaragua, Malta, Macau, Lithuania, Latvia, Ecuador, Estonia, Honduras, Bulgaria, Bolivia, Brunei, Cyprus, Cambodia, Laos...

... and the UK!

That's 60 countries! It's also been New & Noteworthy in the USA on launch, and was selected for What's Hot in Japan and Canada.

Hopefully this means lots of people are getting a taste of the game!

The game was also selected by The Guardian as one of their five recommended indie games for the Easter weekend.

And it made its way into PocketGamer's Top 5 shared-iPad mutiplayer games. Always exciting to see people getting excited over the game!

Slamjet Stadium is available on the App Store for £1.99/$2.99/€2.79

More information, trailers and screenshots are on the website

Friday 22 March 2013

More Press for Slamjet Stadium!

Slamjet Stadium's been gathering reviews and interest as it's been rolling along since launching last week. Here's a few more of the reviews it's been getting so far!

"A fantastic example of the kind of innovative gaming that could only really work on a touch based tablet"
4 stars - 148Apps

"Alistair Aitcheson’s air-hockey remix is scrappy, silly sporting madness."
EDGE Online

"Slamjet Stadium is a must-buy for fans of frantic, action-packed sports games with a killer multi-player mode for when you’ve got company"

And The Guardian selected Slamjet Stadium as one of their 30 Best Apps for the week

Also, you may be interested in the article I wrote for Gamasutra a couple of weeks ago, which was selected as a featured article. I hope it's of interest!

Time for Multiplayer to Get Physical - On Gamasutra

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Slamjet Stories: The Coach

It wouldn't be sci-fi without fanfiction now, would it? Here's another story by Leon Osborne - hope you enjoy it! All the Slamjet Stadium fanfics can be found via this link.

Coach Hurlock swept his eyes over his team.

What a bunch of disgusting pigs he thought.

Quite literally disgusting pigs; they were the Space Hogs F squad and their sense of personal hygiene had long since abandoned them after deciding it couldn’t put up with the smell. Coach Hurlock was not of the hog persuasion, he came from Jetpack City. It was a quite a radical new thing in the game of Slamjet, inter-region coaches. No longer did the team coach need to be from the same city, planet or species as the team.

Officially this had been done to encourage a new spawn of tactical thinking and to encourage strategies more in depth than I’ll-try-and-knock-that-guys-teeth-out-and-maybe-score-a-goal.

Unofficially, however, this had been done to build a better network of people involved in the sport and make it easier for things like bribery and match fixing.

In practice what was happening was that coaches were being kidnapped, tortured for information about the opposition and ransomed back.

Saturday 16 March 2013

Slamjet Stadium Launches - Gets New & Noteworthy!

Wow, it's been an exciting end to the week! Slamjet Stadium launched, as promised, on March 14th and is now available for iPads worldwide for £1.99/$2.99.

Not only that, but I took a look at the US store and saw this: it's been selected for New & Noteworthy!

It's also listed in the New & Noteworthy section of the Games listing, as well as a banner and a listing in their Tabletop Games feature. It goes without saying: I am overjoyed!

There's been some fantastic reviews too.

"This is anarchic, free-wheeling indie gaming at its finest, and shows just how far a bit of innovation can go"
9 out of 10, Gold Award

"It’s impossible to describe how much chaos can be involved and how competitive games can get"
8 bruised, bent and broken thumbs out of 10

"Tons of action-packed twists every way you turn, and that frantic addictiveness of a great arcade game"
4 stars

Let's hope the game can build on this momentum. Looking forward to keeping you posted!

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Talk: Developing Slamjet Stadium as a One-Man Studio

I gave a talk about the building of Slamjet Stadium at a recent Best of British gamedev meet in London.

I talk about how the development process reflected the small nature of my studio (can't get much smaller than one man!) and the important of pushing a message and an ideal in the design. I also give my thoughts on the benefits I have received from making friends within my industry, and how as indie developers we need to help each other out as best we can.

Best of British is an open group of indie studios based in the UK. We originally teamed up to put together a "Best of British" games bundle for iPhone, and have since run two game jams, releasing two collaborative minigame collections for iOS. We meet up on a regular basis and are always looking for new ways to help each other out, cross-promoting each other's work, passing on connections and contributing a regular column to PocketGamer.biz

BoB is free to join for all UK-based studios and we're always looking to get new people involved - the more the merrier! 

Visit the website, or get in touch with Jake Birkett, the current chief BoBBee, if you'd like to be a part of the group.

Monday 11 March 2013

#AitchesonBrosLaunchDay - The Splintered Kingdom

What is #AitchesonBrosLaunchDay I hear you ask? My brother James Aitcheson, historical fiction author, is releasing his new paperback on March 14th - the same day as Slamjet Stadium hits the App Store!

The Splintered Kingdom is the follow-up to his debut novel, Sworn Sword, and follows Norman knight Tancred a Dinant through the turbulent years following the Battle of Hastings in 1066. 

You can get a flavour of what's in store by reading the first chapter for free from his website. 

The book is currently available in hardcover and on Kindle, and the paperback will be available from all good bookshops, supermarkets and online from March 14th.

So if you have a penchant for rip-roaring action or medieval history I seriously recommend you check out his work, because he's a fantastic writer!

Synopsis for The Splintered Kingdom

Thursday 7 March 2013

10 More Awesome Indie Dev Links

A while back I wrote an article listing 10 awesome articles I've read and videos I've watched, and I was eager to list some more. Why? Because they're awesome! I tend to read a lot about game development, and have pulled a lot of useful insight from the experiences of others - so it would be silly not to pass that knowledge on!

Game Design

Balancing For Skill (video) - Extra Credits

I really love the Extra Credits video series, and this one in particular is a highlight. It's about balancing the abilities in a game - focusing not on getting the high-level game to be well-balanced, but on creating a game that's equally satisfying for beginners as for expert players. It also deals with making sure that players constantly have reason to improve their skills, rather than settling for the easiest-to-execute abilities. Their video on intentionally-imbalanced systems is also very insightful.

The Puzzle of Designing Puzzles - Toni Sala

Designing puzzles isn't something I do very often. I tend to prefer working on the dynamic, self-generating puzzle-like systems like you see in Greedy Bankers, and that I enjoyed in Triple Town, rather than designed problems with known solutions. This article gives a great reasoning for why players like myself often find designed puzzles unsatisfying, and then goes on to show how great puzzle design can work around these issues. Top stuff.

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Slamjet Stories - The Commentators

Writer Leon Osborne, who contributed the first Slamjet Stadium fiction to the blog has come up with some more fantastic work, which really captures the setting I'd envisioned for the game. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have!
A member of the Astro Marines team, as depicted in the game
Part 1

Rikk: Howdy there Sports Fans. Rikk Slinger and Takei Coates here. It looks set to be another beautifully brutal game of Slamjet today.
Takei: That’s right, Rikk. And we’re gonna be here bringing you all the action for Tyrant TV. Today’s match sees the Fanboys go up against the Astro Marines.
Rikk: Ha. There’s gonna be a definite weight advantage going on in this game!
Takei: Too right, Rikk. Slametric data, stretching back decades, will tell you that the Marines have won 90% of the games when facing the Fanboys and have always won on the injury infliction score.
Rikk: Not that we condone the injury infliction score of course as does no one else employed by Tyrant TV.
Takei: You said it, Rikk. Tyrant TV and its associated sponsors promote clean and family friendly hyper violent blood sports. But we’re well aware that many fans-
Rikk: And book keepers.
Takei: -That many enthusiasts take a keen interest in all statistics associated with the sport, most prominent amongst them the Tooth Count…
Rikk: How many teeth a player has lost since his professional career began.
Takei: The Tooth Fairy Count…
Rikk: How many teeth a player has knocked out of other players since his career began.
Takei: The Bone Breaker Count and the Bone Breakee Count…
Rikk: Like the tooth counts but with bones.

Saturday 2 March 2013

Evolution of Slamjet Stadium - In Pictures

I put up this video last night. Actually, it was really fun to do, although it took a while! As I've been developing Slamjet Stadium (from August 2012 to February 2012), I've taken about 350 screenshots - some to use as publicity material, some because of bugs that looked particularly funny - but mostly just to remind me later on of how it had developed.

Then I strung them together, one-by-one into a 70-second montage. The result is below

Below are some of the screenshots from development with a little explanation, to give a taste of how it's evolved.

Thursday 28 February 2013

Slamjet Stories: The Referee

The following is a fiction piece written by Leon Osborne. Leon is a good friend of mine, one of the testers behind Slamjet Stadium and a very funny guy! He's written this piece about the game and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I hope you do too.

It wasn’t easy being a referee. You were always going to upset somebody with a decision. The problem with Slamjet of course was that the people you upset tended to outwardly express their upset in a graphically violent manner. Gerry Glass had been a chief referee for two years now and had only been shot the once.

Monday 25 February 2013

Slamjet Stadium Arrives March 14th!

Click for large version
A mysterious game from the distant future and is coming to your iPad. What could it be? Why, it's Slamjet Stadium of course! I've submitted it to the App Store and will be going live on March 14th.

For those not yet familiar with the game, Slamjet Stadium is a multiplayer iPad game I've been working on since the summer. Based on an ancient 20th Century sport known as "football" the Slamjet tournament is the hottest event of the galactic calendar. Arenas are filled with deadly saws, mysterious wormholes and ridiculous power-ups, and only the fastest and toughest can win!

Players control a team of characters riding on the titular Slamjet-class hoverbikes. Grabbing a player with your finger and dragging back charges their engines, and releasing launches them across the screen, to bash the ball into your opponent's goal.

Played on a shared iPad, players are free to get in each other's way, steal each other's characters or set off traps to mess their opponent up. It's fast, it's chaotic and breaking the rules is encouraged!

Slamjet Stadium also features a single-player mode where you can take on a gauntlet of increasingly-tough computer opponents in an attempt to become the ultimate champion.

More screenshots and details are on the Slamjet Stadium website

Why make Slamjet Stadium?

Local multiplayer iPad games have fascinated me for a long time, ever since developing the multiplayer mode for Greedy Bankers vs The World. Watching people get competitive over the board, encouraging them to get in each other's way and play dirty, and seeing the joy this kind of experience created, made me want to explore it further.

One of the great opportunities that the touchscreen offers is the ability to share the whole canvas of play between two players. In the old days, you'd have your gamepad and I'd have mine, and we'd be controlling two separate avatars. But when we have a device where two players can have free roam over the whole space, why split the game into your side and mine?

Slamjet Stadium is about using the whole touchscreen, and getting players to use the whole screen as one big playspace. Instead of worrying about players getting in each other's way, Slamjet encourages them to do so. Why can't my hand be an in-game obstacle? Why shouldn't you be allowed to grab my arms?

Where on consoles shared-screen multiplayer has increasingly given way to online, local multiplayer designers are pushing their medium to show why sharing play is still important. Playing with your friends is a joyous experience. Let's make the most of what this medium has to offer!

Thursday 21 February 2013

The Power of Indie - Guest Post for PocketGamer.biz

I wrote a guest post for PocketGamer.biz recently, which I thought some of you might be interested in.

As indie developers we need to make the most of what we can do that large companies cannot. In an increasingly mechanised games market it is imperative for us to focus on creating unique and radical content - rather than settling for "reliable" designs and tried-and-tested business strategies.

We need to appeal to hearts and minds, we need to make risky design decisions, and if we don't we risk sinking into the blend. And the blend is an area that large companies can game much better than us individuals.

Of course, we indies are best equipped of all to do this - we're agile, we're aspirational and we can take risks fearlessly. If you're interested, please follow the link below. I hope you enjoy reading it!

Indies - don't risk getting lost in the blend, says Alistair Aitcheson 

(PocketGamer.biz, 1st Feb 2013)

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Press for Slamjet Stadium

I wanted to collect together the press Slamjet Stadium has got so far. The game is almost ready to submit to the App Store - I'm super-excited!


Alistair Aitcheson talks Slamjet Stadium - your next local multiplayer addiction on iPad
PocketGamer, 28 January 2013

ConsoleNinjas Podcast Episode 18
18 February 2013 (begins 01:35)


Greedy Bankers dev bringing futuristic footy-esque sports title Slamjet Stadium to iPad
PocketGamer, 17 January 2013

Preview with Trailer and Screenshots
ArcadeSushi, 17 January 2013

IndieEye: Introducing Slamjet Stadium
Final Boss Fight, 30 December 2013

Below are a couple of from the early stages of development. I think they're pretty fun to look back at now!

Hookshot Inc, 8 November 2012

GameZebo, Oct 10 2012

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Let's Get Physical (on iPad!)

Back in Summer 2011 I was busy designing Greedy Bankers vs The World's multiplayer mode - an iPad-only variation where two players compete to make their fortune the fastest. I realised that rather than creating a separate game grid for each player, it would be easier just to build one giant grid with one side assigned to each player.

What came out of that turned out to be one of the most interesting and exciting parts of the game. Players weren't limited to using the gems on their grid. They could just reach over the board and steal anything they needed from their opponent! Players could get in each other's space, and that was great fun. To incentivise it, I added a bonus multiplier to every gem stolen, and the game took on a whole new lease of life.

Gems can be stolen in Greedy Bankers by taking them from your opponent's side

The game was for two players, but required both of them to use the whole screen as if it was their own. Players' approaches ranged from the desperately greedy to the polite and civilised, and some even descended into wrestling matches!

Noting that this was something very special, I wanted to explore this deeper in my next games. As such, it's why I ended up working on Slamjet Stadium - my upcoming multiplayer physics/sport mashup for iPad.

The tablet as a physical space

One of the great things about the tablet is it is a great big interactive canvas. You can do large gestural movements on it, you can play with objects without them being fiddly, and you can easily fit more than one hand on it at once. So it's the perfect device for physically-demanding touchscreen games, and there's plenty of room for multiplayer.

Thursday 10 January 2013

Slamjet Stadium: Get Ready!

Slamjet Stadium is nearing completion! I'm about to send out build 0.80 to testers, marking the point where it is "content-complete" with only tweaking and testing outstanding before it's ready to launch.

This is a very exciting stage to be at! I've put a lot into this project, including working over Christmas and staying up late coding to pretty weird music (it helps me concentrate!), so seeing it all taking shape is a wonderful feeling.

For those not yet familiar with the game, Slamjet Stadium is a local multiplayer iPad game. It's physics-based variation on football set in the distant future, where players are free to cheat and play dirty, using traps and power-ups to mess up their opponents, or simply stealing players from the other team. This youtube video shows the game in action!

So what's new in the final version?

Single-player is now complete, and I just want to balance the level of difficulty, which means plenty of testing and tweaking! There's three difficulty settings, each one affecting the level of speed, accuracy and behaviour of the AI opponents.

A final three teams were added to the roster, making a grand total of six, plus one secret boss team. Below are the new non-secret teams: the Precinct 9 Police Bots, and the Fanboys.