Info from the Frontlines of TFE


Music Island is Released!

It’s here!  Nine months after its initial concept, Music Island has arrived on the Xbox Live Indie Games market!  That’s right, it is now available for 240 MS Points ($3)!  So put down what you’re doing, turn on that Xbox, and give it a go!  There’s a trial version to dip your feet in, or the full game for the price of a coffee at Starbucks.

Music Island on Xbox Live Marketplace

Or!  For those of you without an Xbox, or who just can’t wait, try out the demo right here on your PC!  Keep in mind it’s best played with an Xbox controller!  Keyboard’s fine, but controller’s better.

Music Island Demo (PC Build)

Music Island, or Project Earthworm as it was code-named, is a music-rhythm game where you are tasked with defending the island’s sole palm tree from advancing sea creatures.  Now, there’s a groove rumblin’ about the island, and all the turtles, crabs, fish, and squids are jamming out to the beat as they advance towards the tree!  So you, the masked protagonist, cast the proper spells on these guys right as they land on the beat.  Miss it, and there goes your chance!  You take a hit, and that little fish keeps on getting closer and closer.

Started back in July of 2011, four of the first members of Thunderfish Entertainment got together to create the flagship game: Project Earthworm.  With producer Justin Britch at the helm, programmer Brian MacIntosh ready to code things up, designer/artist Jacob Anderson juggling two roles, and sound guy Bryan Ploof (myself) tapping on the meeting room’s desk, the team was set.  As co-founders, Justin and I brought the concept of a single-screen, circle-shaped, music game to the table, and let the design ideas start flowing.

Weekly meetings continued until November, when the game entered its feature-lock, and was submitted to XBLIG for the first time.  We were new to the process, and didn’t know what to expect.  That said, it wasn’t much of a surprise when we were rejected for the first time due to Xbox specific bugs.  We fixed those and moved on.  However, for the next 4 months, the rejection process continued.  This aggravated the team more and more, but luckily Brian stayed optimistic and fixed the bugs.  There was one point where we considered completely reverting back to an old build, from our finalized WAV engine back to the MP3 engine which contained sync issues, which are no bueno for a music game.

The Sunday before heading off to GDC however, we received the notification that Music Island had been approved!  A very proud smile and a relieved “Finally!” flashed across all of our faces.  And so not to get mixed up in all the big GDC news, we held off on our release, did a little publicity with our trailer, and built up to the big moment.  And that moment has now come!

So, featuring 6 original songs (5 playable), custom sound effects, all original art (turtles, crabs, squids, oh my!), a WAV-based music engine and its XML encoded songs, some fancy multi-threading for the loading screens, and a little shout-out to Tim Schafer in the default high scores table, Music Island has some fun stuff to offer!

On behalf of the dev team, and of Thunderfish Entertainment, we hope you enjoy the game!  Please tell your friends, and let us know what you think in the comments!

– Thunderfish Bryan


Project Waterbuffalo Update 1 – Concept Art

Project Waterbuffalo is the brainchild of Team 2 here at Thunderfish!  While Firebird is Team 1’s take on a single room fighting game, Team 2 is going all out on a party game with a current scope of 10 mini-games!  We’re really looking forward to how the game turns out, especially because the party game genre seems to be underrepresented on our current market of Xbox Live Indie Games.

Taken straight from the Game Design Document, here’s our designers overview of Waterbuffalo:

Project Water Buffalo is a 2D party game comprised of various dream and nightmare themed mini-games in which players compete against one another to determine the winner and, more importantly, who gets to “wake up.” In Story Mode this involves a “choose your own adventure” type overworld/game map which influences the story based on what paths players decide to take. Additionally, Project Water Buffalo has a strong emphasis on characters and player’s choose their alternate persona before starting a new game. Project Water Buffalo is a love letter to 2D gaming and many of it’s mini-games are a call back to famous 2D games of the past.

Full of dreams and nightmares, this party game’s going to have your friends gathering around to be the first to wake up!  (In the game of course, we here at Thunderfish can only assume you’re playing games while conscious!  Although unconscious gaming is an interesting idea…)  And as you can see, just like Firebird, this game is focused on bringing back the days of couch-gaming!  Playing against your friends online is fun and all, but there’s nothing better than beating them right there in person!  With this party game supplying a bunch of mini-games, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to do so 🙂

Now, who’s one of the characters you’ll be taking control of in this nightmare land?  Allow me to introduce our first character, Jeremy the Clown!

Why is he sad?  Well this poor little clown has quite the unfortunate fear…children!  Poor Jeremy 😦

No story would be complete without an antagonist.  And luckily, we’ve got one!  Nameless at the moment, meet our Antagonist, who seems to be making a sneaky deal with a certain dark individual…

That’s it for this concept art sneak peak!  Stay tuned for Waterbuffalo’s next update coming in a week!

– Thunderfish Bryan


Project Firebird Update 1 – Concept Art

Project Firebird, one of our two games in development right now, is making progress through the design and concept art phases.  So, as a sneak peak to see what’s coming this summer 2012, we have some concept art to show you!

But first, let’s give you the game’s general rundown.  Ladies and gentlemen, Firebird’s pitch!

‘Project Firebird’ is a multi-player, fighting game themed around the idea of magic, wizards, and sorcerers.  Each player selects a character that contains certain spells and abilities which can be used to defeat their opponent.  Each character and spell has its own special characteristics, whether missile speed, power, or method of control.  As the characters progress in their battle, spells that are cast will not fade or leave the playing field until they collide with either each other, or with a player, regardless of who’s spell it belongs too.  Thus, as each new spell is dodged, the playing field becomes that much more treacherous.  Eventually, with more and more spells being cast and dodged, the playing field will be filled with bouncing spells that could hit either player.  
How’s that for an energetic fighting game!  We here at Thunderfish are certainly looking forward to seeing this hectic fighter played by friends, especially with the old days’ approach of couch-gaming.  What better joy is there than defeating your friend right there in the same room?  Or maybe teaming up and helping them out if you’re nice 🙂  These are certainly qualities we intend our Generation 2 games (Firebird and Waterbuffalo) to have: cooperation and competitiveness!
Now, let’s see some of that design art!  This game currently stars three players: Caleo, Nox, and Vitreus.  Each who have their own characteristics in shielding, as shown here!
And now let’s see the great concept art being done.  The characters are coming to life!
Stay tuned for more Firebird information, coming about every other week!
– Thunderfish Bryan

Music Island Update

Music Island continues its progress through the XBLIG review process!  From our approximations we’re guessing another week to two max.  That little progress bar and our movement through the ranked Indie Games pages is hard to figure out!  So if you are one of the few people with accounts that can review game submissions, please help us out if you could!  We’ll gladly return the favor, from one developer to another! 🙂

Today we received our second review of the game, with a nice break down of programming, sound, and art!  Reviewed by Kidsandi Software, it was nice to get some feedback from another family-friendly developer, and more specifically, with some input from the reviewer’s four year-old.  A lot of our preliminary playtesting led people to comment that our art style was fun and kid oriented, and that it would be a good demographic to aim for.  Seems like they were right!

“This is a cute game and my children enjoyed playing it as well, so congratulations on the hard work!” – Kidsandi Software

Our main protagonist wasn’t feeling as much love though!  😦

“My four year old couldn’t get past the brown mask.   She just kept saying “the guy looks too weird and creepy”.  I thought the art was cute, so take those comments with a grain of salt! :)”  – Kidsandi Software

Aw, what's so creepy about this little guy? He's just trying to escape the island! 🙂

We also received a review from Malictus Games, who appears to be an up-and-rising music game developer!  Glad you liked our take on a music game!  🙂

Hope you’re looking forward to the game’s release as much as we are!  We’re almost there!

– Thunderfish Bryan

Windows Phone App Development

Starting last Friday, Thunderfish Entertainment received the special privilege of working at the Microsoft Technology Center in Irvine!  We have been tasked with creating 50+ small apps for the Windows Phone Marketplace, and have been busy at work over the past week.  In three full days of working 10am-4pm shifts at the MTC, we have produced 30 Windows Phone Apps and submitted them to the Marketplace!

Our first day was very busy as we set up our laptops with the most up-to-date software in order to create these apps, and began the process of learning Silverlight in combination with XNA Game Studio 4.0.  It was a tough task to do on such short notice, but by the end of the day, our programmers pulled through and we completed about 6 games.  We ended up staying there until 7pm that night!  Hats off to our dedicated team 🙂

The second visit to Microsoft proved to be much more streamlined as we had spent the weekend creating a document that heavily described creating Windows Phone apps.  With this document in hand, and 40+ app ideas that our designers wrote up, it was an easy pipeline of choose an idea, make it, submit it, and move on!  We ended the day at 4pm sharp with 7 new apps submitted and a much clearer image of the Windows Phone framework and how to build for it.

Day three was today, and our plan was simple: Get as many apps out as possible.  As we are trying to meet a quota for our friends at Microsoft, we’ve figured out a process that streamlines quality apps at a fast rate.  And we were very successful in that goal, as we submitted 17 new apps to the Marketplace today!  Having a small team of 12 work under the same roof proved productive, especially with our better understanding of the Windows Phone’s framework, and our streamlined process of creating apps for it!

Through these three full work days, the TFE family (and its prospective new members) have grown closer together and begun to understand each others’ working styles.  It is very exciting to see the amount of teamwork and progress we’ve accomplished, and look forward to next week when we return for Days 4 and 5!

Until next time, a very happy holidays to you and your family!

– Thunderfish Bryan