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Australian Indie Showcase Winner!

It is with great excitement that I can now announce that The Eyes of Ara has been selected as one of the winners of the 2016 PAX Aus Australian Indie Showcase! It is indescribably humbling to have been selected as one of only six games (out of over 100 entries) to stand as "best of the Australian & New Zealand Indie scene".

What this means is, The Eyes of Ara will be shown on the show floor at PAX Aus this November in the Australian Indie Showcase section along side the other great locally made games. So if you are attending the show be sure to drop by and say hi!

Read about all of the Showcase winners on the PAX Website here.

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The Eyes of Ara Has Launched!

The Eyes of Ara is now available!

It's taken three long years to get to this point but I'm excited to finally get the game into the hands of players everywhere.

The game is now available for Windows and Mac for $14.99 USD from Steam and the Humble Store. Please enjoy the game and be sure to let me know your thoughts on the forums!

Buy The Eyes of Ara here

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The Eyes of Ara is coming July 19

I am thrilled to announce that The Eyes of Ara will be available for PC and Mac on July 19th!

It has been a truly amazing journey to get to this point, and it’s wonderful to finally be able to share the launch date with you all. Everyone who backed the game on Kickstarter and Backerkit will receive their game keys on launch day, and everyone else will be able to pick the game up on Steam and the Humble Store.

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Play The Eyes of Ara at AVCon

AvCon is Adelaide’s annual anime and video game festival, and I am thrilled to announce that The Eyes of Ara will be playable on the show floor in the Indie Games Room.

They just released a trailer for the event, featuring The Eyes of Ara and a whole host of other cool games on display at the show. Have a look:

The Indie Games Room is open on July 16th and 17th at the Adelaide Convention Centre, come along and say hi!

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The Eyes of Ara Launches This July!

It is with great excitement that I can finally announce that The Eyes of Ara will be available this July!

I have been working on this project for nearly three years now, and it's amazing to contemplate that it's almost ready to launch. Exact details on the launch date and distribution platforms will follow in the coming weeks, along with the launch trailer, updates to the website, and other goodies. Until then, you can rest knowing the game will available via Steam and other services in the latter part of the month.

Are you excited? I sure am!

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The Music of The Eyes of Ara

A game’s musical score is a vital part of creating an immersive and memorable experience, and for an atmospheric game like The Eyes of Ara, it was vitally important to get it right. New Zealand composer Matt Caradus has created and amazing soundtrack for the game, and you can listen to some of it below. I’m sure you will agree he has done an wonderful job of capturing the emotional core of the game. Here’s what he had to say about working on The Eyes of Ara:

“Writing music for the Eyes of Ara was an absolute pleasure. Ben's evocative art-style inspired new musical narratives wherever I looked. I'm really happy with how the score came together and can't wait to share the full sound-track with you all.”

Be sure to check out Matt other work on his website here: www.mattcaradus.com

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GX Australia Wrap Up

I’m back home in Brisbane and back to work after a great time at GX Australia in Sydney last weekend. As conventions go, it was rather small (though that was expected, this being the first one), but it was still a great experience none the less and I was ecstatic to show The Eyes of Ara to so many new people.

The most striking thing about the con was how overwhelmingly friendly and inviting the atmosphere was. I put this down to both the size of the con and the effort of the organisers to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment. Firstly, unlike larger conventions whose massive crowds can make socializing in the expo hall difficult, GX’s smaller numbers meant it was easy to have an engaging conversation with anyone on the show floor. Secondly, the GX staff went to great lengths to ensure the convention was a friendly and inclusive space for everyone and the LGBTQ community in particular. The end result was everyone who attended seemed to be having a really great time, always willing to engage in friendly conversation.

I spent the entire two days on my booth, so I didn’t get to see any of the panels or speak to any of the amazing guests, but I did get to show The Eyes of Ara to a lot of new people (and that after all, was the point). I’m pleased to say that everyone who played the game seemed to really enjoy it and I got some really great feedback. In fact, despite the demo being about fifteen minutes long on average (the quickest I saw it done was seven minutes) which is on the lengthy side as far as convention demos go, almost everyone who sat down to play it were captivated enough to see it through to the end. One person even remarked upon finishing it that they didn’t realise just how long they were on it. I can think of no higher praise for a fifteen minute convention demo than “I didn’t realise I was on it for so long!” :)

I am glad that everyone had a good time playing the game. The Eyes of Ara is the culmination of nearly three years of hard work, so it is wonderful to see people enjoying it first hand. It makes the whole enterprise worthwhile, and I feel like I’m the game is living up to what I envision it to be.

Of course, the weekend wasn’t without its glitches. Getting down to Sydney from Brisbane involved a two-day drive each way with a car loaded with computers, displays, banners, fold-up tables, a TV and all manner of other things. I got off to a bad start while packing the car the night before when I dropped and smashed my phone, rendering it useless. Hours before a week-long roadtrip is not the best timing to lose such an important piece of portable tech, but a desperate plea to Facebook and the generosity of several friends later I found myself in possession of an old iPhone. It featured a cracked and broken screen that made reading it nigh on impossible (I took a gamble with the proofreading of every Tweet I posted during the show) - but at least it “worked”, which is more than I could say for my poor phone.

The drive itself was actually pretty good, with clear weather and very little traffic I arrived in Newcastle with enough hours of daylight left to enjoy a swim at the beach. A relaxing end to a long drive… until I managed to step on a shard of glass on the way back to the car. I left hoping that this would be the end of my bad luck for the weekend.

Thankfully it was, and the final drive into Sydney, the convention, and the drive home went off mostly without incident. I say mostly because players on Saturday discovered a game-halting bug that had been introduced into the demo by changes I made to it the week prior (to make a puzzle play more smoothly no less). I thought that I had playtested it enough to catch all the bugs... apparently not. Luckily, while the bug did halt gameplay, it only did so on a single puzzle and only when using one particular means of interaction. Using and alternative means would allow the player to resume play, and players who used the alternative means by default never experienced it at all. So the bug was more of a nuisance than anything serious, and I was able to fix it Sunday morning before the expo opened for day two, but let that be a lesson to me for future conventions: thoroughly playtest all changes, no matter how benign they may seem.

That thankfully was the last glitch for the weekend, and all in all, between the show, the people, and the numerous after parties it was a most enjoyable experience. I hope to see GX Australia continue to grow in the years to come. Conventions like this are important for the growth of the games industry and gaming culture in general. Increased diversity within the gaming community can only lead to better and richer games, and a larger and more inclusive community. So I was proud to support the GX Australia Kickstarter in its endeavour to create a safe space where everyone could feel welcome.

I’d like to thank Liam and Joshua, as well as all of the other organisers and volunteers for all of their hard work in making the event possible. I was great to be a part of and I hope it continues to be a beacon of inclusiveness and diversity in the years to come.

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2015 Retrospective

What a year it has been! A lot of exciting things happened over the course of 2015, and I feel the first of the new year is a good time to look back to where the game has been and what is yet to come.

In late March, after much stress and contemplation, I finally settled on a title for my as-yet announced project, along with a name for my fledgeling studio, and thus 100 Stones Interactive was born! Skip forward a few weeks into April and the website was launched, announcing The Eyes of Ara to the world. Finally after years of work, my game was out there for the world to see.

From the outset the reception to the game was really positive, and it was great to have that early support leading onto the Kickstarter campaign that would launched a couple of months later in June. I cannot begin to express just how exciting and exhilarating - and stressful and a difficult - running a Kickstarter campaign is. The support of all of my backers, friends and family cannot be understated. The Eyes of Ara is the game it is today because of everyone that supported myself and the game during that time, making June by far the most significant month of the year for my new studio.

And just when I thought the pressure has subsided for a time, along came the game’s first public showing at #GO423 in August. This was a huge moment for myself and my game: the first time The Eyes of Ara had been playable by the general public. I went in not knowing if a slow, contemplative game would even demo in a busy expo environment, and of course fretting “what if no-one likes the game?”. Thankfully though, the reception was again really positive, and I returned home with renewed enthusiasm for the project.

From then on it was down to business. With no major milestones on the horizon I could dedicate the next few months purely to working on the game. A pleasant change of pace from the previous few months! I have tried to post updates and screenshots at least semi-regularly, and I apologize for the occasional portion of radio silence. Making a game on your own is busy work, and sometimes I need to remind myself to come up for air and let people know I’m still alive - supporters, friends and family included ;)

In late October I attended the Melbourne International Games Week, to soak up the wisdom and experience of other devs from around Australia and the world who had congregated at the Melbourne Convention Centre for Unite, GCAP, and PAX Aus. I returned to Brisbane armed with a wealth of invaluable advice and knowledge that will no doubt make The Eyes of Ara an even greater experience.

In December I was invited to show The Eyes of Ara at another local Brisbane games expo named Brass Razoo! It was good to again see how the public took to the game, especially so long after the first showing in August. A lot of changes and improvements had been made to the game since the first demo, so it was valuable to see that they were indeed working.

Which brings us finally to today, January 1st, 2016. This year is going to be an even bigger year than the one just passed. So keep a look out here and on the Facebook page for:

More playable demos at expos and conventions, including GX Australia in February (more on that soon).

The call for submissions for art content and puzzle designs from backers who pledged to the relevant tiers. It’s time to start getting your ideas into the game! I will be contacting everyone about this before January is out.

The public Alpha and Beta, available to backers of the relevant tiers. Your first chance to get your hands on the latest build of the game, playable in your own home without me scrutinizing your every move from behind your back at a convention ;) (If you’re not a Alpha or Beta backer, remember you can still pledge for access through the online store).

And of course the biggest event of all: The Eyes of Ara’s launch! There is no public release date as yet (I have a target in mind though), but rest assured it will be available this year.

So thank you all for your support over the past year, and here’s to an awesome 2016!

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Game On #GO423

This past weekend I attended Brisbane’s annual #GO423 symposium, also known as Game On.

Both days were packed full of talks, panels, and interviews with local and interstate developers. There were some wonderful stories to heard and great insights to be had from Brisbane’s (and by extension Australia’s) vibrant gave dev community, tackling everything from self publishing and changing tech to mental health and quality of life issues.

On the Sunday I was not able to attend any of the seminars as I was presenting a demo of The Eyes of Ara at the Locally Made Games Exhibition. It was wonderful to be able to show the game to the public and hear the feedback, which I’m pleased to say was extremely positive.

Witnessing how different players took to the game was incredibly valuable. Everyone from experienced developers to the general public had a go, ranging from veteran adventure game fans through to people who had never heard the term “point and click” before. From a design perspective, this is invaluable in understanding how players interact with your game. Watching this range of players I was able to glean a better understanding of how different people approach the game, how effective the design is in communicating important information to the player, and how intuitive the gameplay is to pick up with little explanation (I am pleased to report that even though most people skipped past the demo’s tutorial screen they had no trouble playing the game).

I admit I was a little bit concerned about how effectively the game would exhibit. It is after all a slower, more contemplative game that generally requires a bit of time (and quiet) to play. Vastly more difficult to experience at a noisy, crowded exhibition where people are darting from one game to another, than say a fast action game better suited to the quick, jump-in-and-play environment. Yet I was thrilled to see that The Eyes of Ara had no shortage of players lined up to have go.

I like to think that some of this had to do with the demo’s design. Knowing that exhibition environment would be fast and noisy, I tried to account for this. The demo consisted of three rooms and a small sample collection of simple puzzles from the second Chapter of the game, strung together in a custom sequence. The goal was to present a quick taste of what the final game would include in terms of atmosphere, level structure, storytelling, and puzzle design, but be easy and straightforward enough to get through in five to ten minutes.

I am pleased to say that all but one person who sat down to play the demo saw it through to the end, and a few obsessive gamers even managed to find all 10 hidden coins scattered through the rooms.

So thank you to everyone that came along, played the demo, and commented on the game. The feedback was wonderful to hear and I was up early this morning excited to jump straight back into development.

I’m looking forward to next year’s symposium already!

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