Leap, blast and bob your way through over a hundred levels of cute platforming action in BUBBLES THE CAT!
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Positive (10) - 100% of the 10 user reviews for this game are positive.
Release Date:
Apr 12, 2019
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April 17

How GameMaker & Tom Francis Changed My Life and Might Change Yours Too

In early 2016, I was growing listless at my current game design job. I’d been making games in one form or another for most of my life and felt like I was drifting away from being able to get my hands dirty and craft something.

Inspired by my friend Simon at Inexplicable Games who had also recently also quit his games industry job to become a full-time indie game dev, he pointed me to a video series done by Tom Francis of Gunpoint and Heat Signature fame that introduced how Game Maker works. You can check it out here.

I’d sat on a Game Maker Studio license for about 2 or 3 years by this point, having purchased it from a Humble bundle and figured that well, perhaps now would be the time to do something with it and regain my love of making games.

For my day job, I had mostly used Unity and with my existing programming skills being somewhere between ‘non-existent’ and ‘criminally embarrassing’, this video series was well pitched, with Tom getting straight to the meat and potatoes of making a game rather than coding theory. It was terrifically easy to follow and I got through the series in about a week.

By the time I’d watched the last video, I decided to try making my own small game, a side-scrolling shmup that I made over the course of about 2 weeks, doing a couple of hours work each evening. I completed the small game and felt hugely accomplished.

On and off over the next couple of years, I’d dip in and out of Game Maker, creating small projects to enjoy making something simple and creatively liberating, whilst slowly improving my programming skills to the dizzying heights of ‘not that great’.

An opportunity arose at the end of 2017 to take a year off work and see what I could do on my own and I took it. Just a little over 12 months after I left my job, I’ve just released Bubbles the Cat to the world. And I absolutely loved the process.

You might also have considered making games, but perhaps been held back or dissuaded by the following worries:

“I have no idea how to program and it looks incredibly scary / I’ve bounced off previous attempts to learn.”
So did I! The video series is very well pitched at complete coding novices and GameMaker takes away some of the more frustrating elements of programming. Plus, there is a tonne of resources you can use to help you when you get stuck (more on that below).

“Bad MSPaint drawings are the height of my artistic talent.”
Mine too. There was a reason I hired freelance artists to take care of that! That’s fairly expensive though and hardly practical for making smaller experimental projects and there’s only so much excitement you can get drawing red circles or cubes wandering around featureless environments.

My suggestion would be to initially start using something like opengameart.org and freesound.com for access to a wide selection of royalty-free assets. If you want to spend a little money, you could consider something like Kenney’s assets, which may prove more cohesive in style.

“I’d love to make my own stuff, but I don’t have the time/energy.”
This one is hard as if you’re not happy in what you’re doing from 9-5, it’s extraordinarily difficult to have enough energy to fire up an editor when you get back home (especially if you’ve been doing it all day already!)

I found the best success in spending an hour each weekday evening working on small learning projects - and no more than that to mitigate burning out. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day (you almost certainly will, what with other life commitments) - just get back on it the next day.

Another tip that can help you manage your projects and give you more bite-sized goals than ‘make an entire game’ is to use something like Trello to give yourself shorter, achievable goals like ‘implement player collision’ or ‘add player inventory’.

“I want make this really amazing game that does basically everything, but I find getting there too frustrating.”
When I was around 12 years old, I wanted to make a massive JRPG with hundreds of hours of gameplay, branching overlapping story and a massively deep and intricate combat system. I’d written a grotesquely enormous design document and if I could just get a solid engine, how hard could it be?

That game did not come to fruition.

It’s easy to get into a mindset where you picture a grandiose epic and that becomes the only thing you want to make; but it’s also easy to get discouraged at how long the project takes or if things don’t quite match up to your vision - especially from a low experience level.

Starting with smaller projects or prototypes and incrementing scope and complexity with each one allows you to get a better handle for the tools you’re using works, where your strengths and weaknesses lie and will allow you to finish stuff!

“I’ve hit a roadblock and I might as well stop developing now, I clearly can’t do this.”
Getting stuck on a problem can be enormously discouraging - you feel like nobody else is going to have the same issue and that there’s no way you can get around the problem.

Again, starting with small projects means that there’s less that can go wrong and makes it easier to track down issues and growing pains you have when you learn any project - for example, mishaps with collisions are easier to track down when it’s a simple whitebox room.

For Game Maker specifically, there’s a whole bunch of useful resources I found that got me out of pretty much any jam I found:

r/gamemaker Reddit
GameMaker Discord

Some helpful Youtube channels:
PixelatedPope
Shaun Spaulding
Heartbeast

If you’ve been idly (or perhaps not-so-idly) contemplating making a game, I hope this gives you the push you need to do it, as Tom Francis’ tutorials once did for me!
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April 3

Devlog #8 - Welcome to World X

Okay, in the last devlog I talked about Boosts and how they could help you get through the game if you were struggling. Here’s the other side of that coin on how the X Levels will absolutely break you.

Unlocking
World X levels are unlocked in a different way to the regular levels - you need to have a certain number of platinum stars. Platinum stars are earned by getting all three stars in a level in a single, smooth run - usually meaning you need to find secret areas and take more difficult routes.


World 4-9 has two little bonus cubbyholes that requires tightly timed jumps to get all the food!

Fire & Flames
World X uses an angry, red version of each respective world to produce a very different looking level:


World 1 and World X-1


World 3 and World X-11

Mechanics from each ‘parent’ world are also used here, often in new, far more challenging ways.


Here’s some raised/retracting spikes from World 2. Lots of time to think about how you want to proceed and a generous window to hop up from.


Here’s the same hazard in World X. There is no rest, no safety, no sanctuary.

As such, the X levels are unlocked in tandem with their corresponding world. The difficulty curve is intended such that these are a significant step up from the main progression, but aren’t immediately oppressive - though it ramps up very quickly.



What Should I Expect?
Lots of hazards and lots of KOs. A LOT of KOs.



A goal I had in mind for the game from the very beginning was to keep the restart process down to a couple of seconds so you get straight back into the game if you make a mistake - moreover, there’s also a single quick-restart button (‘R’ on keyboard, back/select button on controllers) that allows you to instantly re-attempt a level if you miss some food.

As for more specific expectations:
  • Almost all levels will have a zero tolerance for any wasted bubbles - you’re expected to get the absolute most from each jump you make.
  • Most levels will expect you to know Bubbles’ platforming behaviour and won’t provide food to guide you - you’ll need your knowledge of the game’s systems alone to make it through!
  • Although there are quite a few levels that are about brutal precision and game mechanics, there are a couple that will get you to use your bubble powers in fresh, new ways - for instance, this level has you use the Waller to hold your jump over a laser.

And the Reward?
Well, hopefully this will appeal to and satisfy players who want a brutal, punishing challenge that will stretch their skills to the limit.

The game has always been designed to have a satisfying conclusion no matter how you play - but the game will note the efforts taken to complete these levels and there’s some special treats for those players…!



Will you be the first to obtain all 375 platinum stars? Good luck!

Thanks for reading! The game is due to launch very soon on April 12th, so if you like what you read and haven’t already, go wishlist the game! In the meantime, you can also follow the game's development on Twitter, where I'll be happy to answer any questions you might have about the game or game development in general.
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Reviews

“It's challenging in all the right ways, with clear signposting on how to get a better score if you repeat the level, and really creative use of power-ups.”
Kotaku UK

“Bubbles the Cat provides the template for which all hardcore platforming games should embody: tight controls, a variety of gameplay mechanics, and a polish that rivals that of AAA performers.”
7.5 – Keengamer

About This Game

  • 125 levels set across six different worlds - from coastal caves and brass factories to neon cities and magic castles!
  • Multiple objectives in each level provide extra replay value and rewards for smooth, speedy runs.
  • Tight, responsive single-button controls that support joypad, keyboard or mouse!
  • Collect bubble powerups that mix up the gameplay and turn Bubbles into a destructive wrecking ball, a ghostly spirit or even a dimension hopper!
  • Customise Bubbles the Cat with dozens of hats, different colours and even trails - all without any microtransaction shenanigans!
  • Boost features allow players to freely modify the game's difficulty so you can play how you want!
  • Bonus secret levels that will challenge even the most hardcore of platform gamers.
  • Unlockable game modes and secrets!
  • An absolutely bangin' electronic, jazz-inspired soundtrack, bubbling with busy beats and meowtastic melodies.

If you like cats, hats and platforming, you're going to like this game.

System Requirements

    Minimum:
    • OS: Windows 7
    • Processor: 2Ghz processor or higher
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: Minimum 512Mb VRAM
    • Storage: 200 MB available space

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