Friday, September 17, 2010

Dare to be Digital Videos

Every so often during the competition a guy with a video-camera would come round, stick it in peoples faces until they felt obliged to say something, then dissapear again. He would also occasionally take me away for an interview (at least that's what I'm telling everyone we were doing).
All this footage got cut together into a great video that was shown during the awards ceremony at Protoplay, and has now been uploaded to Youtube.

There are actually 4 parts to it, and currently you have to goto the Dare channel to see the other sections, but hopefully they'll fix that soon.

This is of course not the only documentary the Bears With Jetpacks have been featured on, we're also part of "Crunchtime" a Channel-4 series about Dare 2010.

(Yup, that's Mark, me and Amila in the top left photo)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bear to be Digital

The feature on our game has gone up on the [Adult Swim] page!

It's great to see our team featured on such a large website, even if the team photo they used makes it look like I spent 10 weeks eating cream-cakes instead of working on the game (it's the wide angle lense I tell you!).

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New Trailer

One of the most interesting things about writing a dissertation is the number of ways you can find to procrastinate. Having backed up my computer twice, learned morse code and seriously considered taking up karate from one of those youtube teachers, I thought it was about time I did something productive, and decided to make a new version of our trailer.

Now that's done I think I'll go and see how many marshmallows I can fit in my mouth at once.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Fan Artwork

Fan Mail!
Check out this awesome picture that Nathan Fletcher did for us.

If anyone else wants to see their drawings of the Grrr! blog then send them to


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Protoplay 2010 and awards

Phil, Amila, Tom, Stefan and Mark collecting their award

Well it's all over and Bears with Jetpacks have come away from Dare to be Digital 2010 as award winners!

We won the new [Adult Swim] award for creativity and unique game play! A fantastic award to take home as all competition we have prided ourselves on having a very distinct game in respects to both looks and gameplay.

Protoplay itself was a fantastic experience, although exhausting. From 10 till 5 every day we were constantly busy with people wanting to play the game, and the vast, vast majority seemed to really enjoy it. Over the course of the weekend we had loads of people come back to play again because they had enjoyed themselves so much the first time round, and quite a lot of grudge matches and ad-hoc tournaments sprung up. We also had people asking when the game was going to be released and where they could get it, which was incredible for the team and really made all our hard work worth it.
While it did get wearing teaching hundreds of people the same controls it was hilarious to see dads annihilate their 10 year old sons and dance around fist pumping, only for their sons to demand a rematch and destroy them.

We learned a lot about the game and how to teach it, and found that if people didn't pick it up straight away, after two or three rounds they could give anyone a good match, which is a real triumph for our simple control system. Also every character seemed to have their fans, and there was a fairly even split between people's favorite maps as well, which we again feel is a great testament to how much time we put into designing them all.

Overall we're all really pleased with how the game came out, and can be really proud of what we've accomplished. After speaking to mentors and the public about our game we are sure that if we continued to work on it, we could release fairly soon and it would be a relative success. Whether we get to do that or not mainly depends on how people find themselves after we've finished university. While we'd all love to continue working on Grrr! I'm sure none of us will want to turn down a job at a major studio, so we'll see how things go in the next few months.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Deadline day

So it's deadline day...well not exactly, but we're probably not going to be sleeping before the deadline so it's close enough.

Everything has gone to plan and we're happy with our timing, just getting the last few tweaks in and adding a bit of flavour to the menus, then will be playtesting late into the night.
In the morning it's pack up and then relax, hopefully we'll not be too tired, but who knows what will happen between now and then.

Also here is our updated gameplay-trailer, hacked together in movie-maker:

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Grrr! Trading Cards

Today is your lucky day.

Today you are witnessing the release of the first 4 Grrr! trading cards.
Only winners of Grrr! matches at Protoplay (or anyone with a printer) will be able to get their hands on these INCREDIBLY collectable cards.

Will you be good enough to collect the whole set?

Monday, August 2, 2010

More sand

Hot on the heels of the first screenshot of the beach comes a video of some gameplay.

This isn't really representative of how the final game will be (and still has the old lighting on), but we thought it would be worth showing exactly what the game looks like on a proper map.

A few other things making their debut in this vid are:
  • Particle effects: explosions, gunsmoke, jet-exhaust, 
  • Death animations
  • New cursors

And for those of you wondering what we picked for the unicorns attack, your ears should give you the answer. Yes, that is the sound of a unicorn vomiting a rainbow and yes we're keeping it.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Nuclear Family Beach

I just realised that we haven't even put an image up of 2nd level yet: The Nuclear-beach.
If Tom was writing this he'd probably tell you everyone that has seen it so far has given it a 'glowing report'. And if you want a meal there you can have Fission-chips. And before fighting the players can say "Let me Atom!"...oh god...

It's not quite finished (the joins between sand/tarmac/cliff-face/sea is the main issue) but it's been long overdue a feature on the blog.

W.H.A.L.E. stands for 'Weapons hatch and launch equipment'. The plan is for the silo door to slide open and a whale strapped to a rocket will fly out every few minutes.

Oh and bonus points to anyone who can name the 3 logos on the towels.

New lighting system

We've put a new lighting system in today, and you can see the changes above (older is on top). We've also taken time to optimise everything in time for the Intel Visual Adrenaline challenge, and the eagle eyed of you will have noticed that our frame rate has over doubled as a result, and (we think) it looks better.
Needless to say we're pretty chuffed with this.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

No it's a Bear. It's 10 feet tall and weighs a tonne and a half, how could you think it was a bird?

In 1972 a crack Bear pack was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These Bears promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as Bears of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the Bears With Jetpacks!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Emo Unicorn

Say Hello to the Emo Unicorn!

The Emo Unicorn comes from a loving family who live in the Unicorn Palace far up in the mountains. Unfortunately his parents have spoilt him rotten with Skate Ramps, Drum Kits and rare collection of Lances. This has caused the Emo Unicorn to turn into a spoilt, selfish little brat who cares only about himself.

Don't upset him or he will blind you with his magical ability to sick up deadly rainbows!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hallam newsletter

Have just seen that there's an article about the two Sheffield Dare teams in this months Alumni newsletter:

Friday, July 16, 2010

It's alive!

Today Grrr! went alpha. The first two players were Mark and Tom, and Tom absolutely hammered Mark with 4 kills to none. He was so happy when this happened he actually danced a little, but then we realised that due to a bug Tom's team had been invulnerable, so he had to stop dancing and go back to work.

A few minutes later the bug had been patched, and the second match was played, with Stefan beating Mark, and then going on a winning streak of 3 games unbeaten before it crashed again when one of the crabs tried to teleport outside the level. Needless to say there are a lot of bugs which need patching, and lots more stuff needs adding, but it was a great to see our game come to life.

The picture above and the video below are of our test map, and as such looks a little bit rubbish. Soon though we'll have all our art-assets in and it'll look like the renders we posted up last week. Obviously there is a lot more to add (powerups, death animations, particle effects) but when they are all done we'll get to see exactly how good our game is, and that's what we're here for.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Our team image: The smoking gun

Above is our team-image as submitted for the protoplay program etc.

We've gone for a Frankenstein/Skynet type thing. Thankfully so far the only casualties have been Tom and Stefan, my least favorite group members.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


The Emo-unicorn!

He's now been handed off to Tom for rigging and animating, so hopefully we'll see him in action before too long.

One thing we're still not sure of is how he should attack, we have 3 options. Should he shoot a rainbow out of his:

  • Horn
  • Mouth
  • Bum
Answers in the comments or on twitter please.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Emo-Unicorn's Castle

Above you can see the asset set we'll be using for our first level, the home of our Emo-unicorn. This is just a quick layout to get scale right and see how everything fits together, but soon we'll have it ingame and will modify the layout for gameplay.

The unicorn prince is a spoilt brat who lives with his royal parents in what can only be described as a bloody huge castle. Since he turned 13 he started listening to the kind of music that makes the Beatles cry and subsequently decided that he wants to be more alternative, hence the half-pipe and ridiculous Hifi his parents have bought for their heir. The usually well behaved prince was left home-alone (apart from the 234 live in staff) when his parents went on holiday to Nania and he decided to hold a party, unfortunately this party was gatecrashed by various evil doers, and now a fight has broken out. A fight which you must win.

Here are some closeups of some of the assets:

Shark Animations!!!!

Introducing RoboShark!

RoboShark's goal is to infiltrate the human world by creating the perfect land suit so no one will suspect that he is from the sea. However, this isn't easy as he has a huge blue head full of evil teeth and has to shower every 10 minutes.

He is very resourceful with disguises and can blend into any environment, he may even be standing next to you right now!!!!

Saturday, July 3, 2010


This morning we woke up to find a feature on Develop-Online about all the Dare teams, which you can find here.

We will be writing a 500-800 word article about our game which will be published around the 16th July so keeps your eyes open for that.

We're nearly at the stage now where we have something properly playable which will be a huge relief as so far we've had nothing to really show for our efforts apart from art assets and lots and lots of C++.


The blog is now online and can be seen at:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Scuttle!

As promised, here is our much beloved Cannon Crab scuttling around. You will usually find the Cannon Crab loitering outside Seafood restaurants, attacking any customer who orders crab sticks or doesn't tip properly.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Promotional Stuff

Today we had to submit our material for the Protoplay program. This consisted of a 100 word summary of our game, a 10 word tagline, and an image to represent us.

Above you can see our final image, although we decided to go with a slightly less racy tagline:

Fuzzy, Huggable, Jet-propelled Fury

after all this will be read by (hopefully) hundreds of children, and we'd rather not be the source of all those awkward conversations with their parents.

Our 100 word prasie was just a re-work of our existing 150 word summary on the team-page on Dare.

Grrr! is an easy to pick up, 2-player, action strategy game.

Choose a squad from a cast of quirky fantasy characters to do battle
with your opponent. Start the fight on one of the vibrant and dynamic
maps, trying to destroy your opponent’s squad before losing you own.
Use the Wii-remote to send commands to each of your characters,
telling them to move, attack and take cover as you try to outmanouver
and outgun your enemy in a battle to the death.

Matches are played in a best-of-3 system, with each round taking
around 60 seconds. 

Progress has been good; the first environment is nearly done and all the characters are ready to get going in-game as soon as we integrate all our engine chunks together. The engine is progressing well with stuff moving around controlled by the Wii-remotes and realtime shadows rendering as they go. We're still on course for our week-4 deadline so hopefully this time next week we'll have our first gameplay video for you to watch.

It was Stefan's birthday on Sunday so we all went out to Dundee's premier steakhouse on Satuday night and tackled the 18oz T-bones. Fantastic meat, but it meant we couldn't even touch his birthday cake until Monday as we were all in bed with meat comas and hangovers after the subsequent house party.

Friday, June 18, 2010

2nd week in the bag

So we've now reached the end of the 2nd week, it's been tougher than week one, and the initial honeymoon period has ended leaving us all a bit knackered, but still enjoying ourselves. We're still loving Dundee, it's a great city with everything within walk of our accomodation. We've also discovered a few beaches nearby and a football pitch just up the road, so can hopefully get some sun during the weekends to try to counteract the vitamin-D deficiencies I'm sure we'll all be suffering from soon.

Progress has been good on all accounts, with the pathfinding and event management systems working, and 2 wii-remotes working simultaneously on the same machine, moving pointers around the screen. Art wise, 3 characters are now modelled and textured, with 2 of them rigged and the animations started on one, so we can start to see how the game is going to look, fairly exciting stuff.

Below (and at the top) are some renders of our characters in their current states. It remains to be seen how well they fit with our environments, so they could end up looking pretty different to this if they don't fit in (or fit in too well). The small images are around the size we expect to see them finally on screen (when viewed on our monitors) so getting the silhouettes right has been something we've really worked on. Each character has to be immediately recognisable as we can't have the player getting confused during a game, we only want 2 emotions during our game; excitement, and the pure unadulterated fear of losing to your mate.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

7 down, 63 to go

So our first week in Dundee is over, and we're all glad we have another 9 to go as it's been awesome.

We've made some great progress with the game, and the mentors have proven very valuable with their advice. So far we've redesigned several of our characters, and moved from a custom animation system to Havok, a change that should hopefully smooth our pipelines out and make life easier later on, as well as giving us some features we weren't sure if we'd have time to implement.

We've also had a chance to explore Dundee properly now, and are getting to know the center pretty well, especially some of the pubs. It's good to work hard, but we're finding that the Dare lot also like to play hard, something we're more than happy with. So far though the best thing about Dundee is the seagulls: they're bloody enormous. The other day I saw one swoop down and eat a 5 year old child in one mouthful, it didn't even have to chew.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Dundee 2010

Well we're here! We actually all arrived in Dundee over the weekend, but haven't had internet access, something that could drive a team of computing students insane.

We're currently in the lab after a day of induction including a huge group photo, free buffet, safety briefings and several arguments about who sits where on our table. There are a few teething problems with the PC's, missing software and stuff crashing whenever we try to save ANYTHING, but Dare have been really good about sorting all the problems, so hopefully it'll all be good by tomorrow morning.

The flat is great, lots of friendly people and plenty of consoles knocking about so there's always a game to play. We've got Welsh and Irish teams on our floor, 2 kitchens, 5 bathrooms and about 100 plastic ball-pool balls to trip over (the welsh were bored with no internet and plastic balls from poundland were the obvious solution).

Hopefully productivity will pick up as we iron out all the problems with our computers, but today's been a good introduction and everyone's really excited to get this game made and hopefully win something.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gameplay Prototype Updated

We've found some time and updated the gameplay demo. It's now even more exciting, which means we actually have to give a disclaimer:

Warning: Playing the Grrr! prototype may cause side effects such as:
- Blisters on your fingers
- A compulsion to eat steak
- Dressing up the neighbour's cat with cardboard jetpacks

If you think you can handle these you can get it by clicking on the Grrr!:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Gameplay Concept Video

Have just uploaded the gameplay concept video to Youtube. This was the one we showed at the presentations and it's something we really feel helped our chances, after all if a picture is worth a thousand words what's the value of a video?

The level and characters you'll recognise from our concepts, the animation was by Tom using 3ds-Max, and if you pay special attention there is a cameo by Sean Connery at around the 43 second mark (there's not really.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Dare 2010 Update

Well it's now less than a month until we get started in Dundee (7th June) so all the wheels are starting to turn and thankfully most of them are going in the right direction.

I've set up a twitter account for the group
so you can follow that if you want regular updates while we're hard at work.

Also, some of the stuff we had at our presentation should probably see the light of day around now, seeing as it played a large part in our being accepted it's only fair that it gets the publicity it deserves:

One of the things we think helped our cause the most was our interactive gameplay demo. We built it in Gamemaker, and you can play it at home. Just click here, extract it, and you can play. It's a 2 player demo, and you'll need a joypad for the 2nd player unless you can figure out how to get 2 mice-pointers working on 1 computer (we couldn't). If you really like it then I guess it's good news for you we got through to build the whole thing isn't it, but you'll probably have to come to Protoplay to have a go at the full version.

You'll recognise that fellow hopefully, he's the first of our characters to get the 3D treatment and it looks like the extra dimension hasn't done him any harm at all.
And here he is on his first test-flight

Looks right at home doesn't he.

Our flier we handed out to the judges:

We also had a couple of videos showing gameplay as it would look in the final version (basically animated versions of our map concepts), but for some reason blogger has disabled video uploading so you'll have to wait a little bit for those. 

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dundee here we come!

Today I received what was possibly the best email of my life. My little notification box popped up saying I'd received a new message from D2BD, and all that would fit in the window was "Dear Bears with Jetpacks, Con"

After a few deep breaths I clicked it and the full message popped up. The word 'Con' finished with "gratulations!  You have been selected to take part in Dare to be Digital 2010."

I fell off my chair.

So we're going to Dundee for 10 weeks this summer. Amazing news that we're all ecstatic about... I know I'm not the only one who didn't stop shaking for an hour or so.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Presentation is key

Well we've just got back from Wolverhampton after presenting our game to the panel. It went well, the powerpoint went off without a hitch and we said everything we planned to.
The panel was made up of 2 guys from Blitz and 1 from Rare, and had some really good points which gave us food for thought on the way home. All the stuff they suggested made a lot of sense and would definitely have a place in Grrr!, let's just hope they give us the chance to do it.

Wolverhampton itself is a pretty nice place, we stayed overnight as we were first on this morning, and it's a good job too as we had a mishap on the train down and lost a laptop. It carried on the journey to Plymouth without us and we're still waiting for information as to whether it got handed in, so wish us luck in retrieving it. After all the police and train-company paperwork we arrived an hour and a half late, so it's lucky we didn't travel this morning. We managed to find a Nando's open so were able to at least have a good meal and a beer each before some last minute revision and a travel-lodge nights sleep. [Update: Amila has since got his laptop back! The train staff found it and returned it, a very happy resolution to this little episode]

We'll hopefully find out how we did within the next few weeks, so if you're interested stay tuned. I'll also post up the gameplay example videos and other stuff we made for the presentation as well when I've got some time, but at the moment I have 3 handins for the 5th May and another for the week after that. Who said a masters was easy.

Monday, April 12, 2010

We've got a green light

Today we got the news that we've been accepted to the presentation stages of the competition. That on it's own is no mean feat, but we're still a long way from Dundee. It's like joining the gym, you've taken a step in the right direction by filling in the forms, but until you put in some actual hard work you're still just a fatty.

The date for the presentations is next week, a LOT sooner than we had expected, so it's noses to the grindstone again to get something worthy of Dundee put together. Not great timing considering how many assignments we have at uni right now, but we didn't get this far in our education without learning how to squeeze every last second out a deadline.

Wish us luck. Not that we'll need it, we're ace.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Well the deadline is here, and therefore it's time for us to raise the curtain on our idea.
For the application we had to write a 100 word pitch, and seeing as that's already done, we'll start with that:

"Prepare to lock horns in 'Grrr!'s' maniacal bouts of multiplayer mayhem on Wii! Choose your squad from a cast of quirky fantasy characters and take to the battlefield as you try to out-wit and out-manoeuvre your friends in short, frenetic battles.
You each use the Wii-remote to command your squad: issue attacks, dive for cover and fight to control wacky power-ups as you battle in your front room. Fights take place on various vibrant, dynamic arenas, where the balance can change in an instant.
'Grrr!' is an easy-to-learn, hard-to-master blast of tactical carnage, appealing to new players and veterans alike."

Being limited to 100 words meant we couldn't say everything we wanted, for instance we didn't get a chance to explain the actual gameplay, but hopefully when you see some concept art, it will become clear:

In addition to the 100 word pitch, we were also allowed 200 words each for 3 further sections, which were based on Dare main criteria for game entries. These are
  • Commercial Potential
  • Innovation and Creativity
  • Use of Technology
Commercial Potential:
'Grrr!' is focused on quick-fire, same-screen multiplayer gameplay. Our target platform, Nintendo Wii, has a successful track record with appealing, social multiplayer games.

The simple controls and stylised visuals make our game attractive and accessible to our 12+ demographic, which makes up 70% of the 68-million Wii consoles owned worldwide. A similarly targetted game, Boom-Blox sold 1 million+ copies, showing that there is a large market for games in this demographic.

Unlike classic strategy games with tanks and soldiers, "Grrr!" is full of colourful and diverse characters with personalities to interest and draw in new players to the genre, whilst maintaining enough depth to satisfy hardcore gamers.

With matches consisting of 'best of 3' battles, but only taking 5 minutes to complete, everyone can jump on and have a go, giving "Grrr!" great party game appeal, similar to 'Street Fighter' or 'Smash Brothers', both of which are popular games with our target audience.

Fans of games such as 'Advanced Wars' will be drawn to the depth offered by the strategic elements of the gameplay, while players usually put off by complex strategy games can now pick up and play within seconds, and have enjoyable battles with their friends and family.

Innovation and Creativity:
'Grrr!' takes the strategy genre and flips it on its head. Gone is the resource management, base building, and tech-trees; instead, players choose a small squad and are immediately thrown into the action, making the game instantly accessible.

Our control system, using the Wii-remote as a pointer and simple button commands, allows two players to easily control their armies on the same screen. The entire playable area is visible from the start of the round, allowing for fast, exciting and visually engaging gameplay as no scrolling is required.

Typically, multiplayer strategy matches can take over 20 minutes to complete, whereas "Grrr!" fits an entire best-of-three series into 5 minutes. This allows players to 'party-play' and creates great rivalries as the competition heats up. Powerups also add more depth to gameplay, buffs such as +attack and +armour come side by side with Hippo-Catapults and nuke-shrooms.

"Grrr!" uses a mixture of comically stylised units, giving the entire game a fresh and light feel. By giving the characters appealing personalities and ensuring they are well balanced, players can choose the ones they like the look of, or simply enjoy using, rather than the most combat effective.

Use of Technology:
The Wii allows "Grrr!" a control scheme closer to that found on PC strategy games rather than the compromised game-pad control schemes associated with console equivalents. However, unlike the PC, the Wii allows the functionality of multiple controllers on one screen meaning both players have their own cursor to control their squad. Players use one button to select units and another to issue commands.

"Grrr!"'s battles take place on one screen with no need to scroll the map, so multiple players can share the same screen space and move their units without disturbing the camera or needing to split the screen. Simple unit selection and strong character design make the units easy to identify and control in the heat of battle, as illustrated in our battle screen mock-up.

Our stylised visuals suit the Wii's hardware capabilities, and the 12+ party-play style of the game suits the Wii's audience.

The Wii-remote's speakers will be used for individual unit sounds, therefore each player will hear their own characters, rather than a mix with their opponents, meaning it is always clear what command they have sent.

Those passages can be a bit daunting, but reading them gives you a much better idea of what we're hoping to create. Or at least that's what we planned when we wrote them...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Application AWAY!!

Well we submitted our application today, 3 days early in fact, but that just goes to show how damned professional we are.

We're not expecting a reply back yet, but hopefully by the end of next week we'll know whether or not we have a place at the interview/presentations.

If we do progress it'll make the last few weeks worthwhile, and if we don't we can at least carry on creating the game as part of uni, something our tutor Bob Steel told us a few days ago and makes the whole experience much less of a gamble. Whatever happens now, our hard work will not have been wasted.

But it would be great to get to Dundee.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The name of the game

Applications for DTBD are due on Sunday (28th) and before this it would be foolish to reveal too many details about our game, but we feel we can let slip one piece of mouth-water information, which is the name. The name of our game.
We have titled our project:


A simple but effective name I'm sure you will agree, with an excellent use of punctuation which really adds some flavour.
To better understand the name, you'll have to wait until Sunday, but I'm sure the intelligent among you will have noticed that we are called 'Bears with Jetpacks' and bears do indeed go 'Grrr!'. Coincidence? Tune in later to find out.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bears with Jetpacks

This is the blog for the game producers "Bears with Jetpacks."

A group of 5 students from Sheffield Hallam university brought together for the 'Dare to be Digital' competition, we are now in the progress of designing our game in an attempt to get to the finals this summer in Dundee.

Phil Stewart: Team Leader + Artist
Tom Crofts: Artist
Mark Engley: Programmer + Designer
Stefan Scheuregger: Programmer + Sound
Amila Arachige: Programmer