Archive for January, 2015

Two videos for you today. First up is my game’s progress. The major parts of the engine are functional, but nowhere near polished yet. I’m a self-taught programmer, I’ve never actually taken a programming class or anything so I don’t really know what the best method of approaching a large project is. I’m going by what feels right and I’ve ended up basically applying my workflow for art to programming. For a drawing, an artist will usually start out with rough thumbnail sketches that barely look like anything, then when they find one that works they rough it out in pencils, then they clean it up and ink it, then they add the colors. The concept is taking something rough/vague and going through stages refining it down and adding details until you have the final result. Same thing with animation, you rough out the flow of the animation and then slowly refine it from there. So I’m basically dumping a bunch of duct taped sloppily coded ideas down to get someting that’s doing the jist of what I want, and then going back and refactoring that code 2 or 3 times until I have something decent.

No idea if this is a slower process than other programmers use, but I like it because I get to see some rough progress right away which helps motivate me because it feels like I’m accomplishing something (nothing is worse to me than those days where you stare at code all day hunting down a bug or refactoring or working on structural code that does a bunch of work behind the scenes, and at the end of the day the game looks exactly the same as it did before). And I end up with decent enough code in the end. I think with programming you can always do something better and it’s tempting to want to re-write things a dozen times to make them cleaner and prettier, but at some point you have to say “okay this works, it’s time to move on or I’ll never finish this project”. I’m taking the approach of “is this part of the code something I’m going to have to come back to a bunch? If not, then as long as it works that’s fine.” which has been working so far. I’m sure I’ll have to do some optimization down the road and clean some of those parts up, but I’ll deal with that shit when I get to it lol

Everything is still super temporary art (I think that sky background is from some anime) but the engine is my main focus right now. The music notes were just to test particle emitting though I’m debating making her ear things headphones like she cranks up some beats when she fights alien intruders because she gives no fucks and knows she can handle them. The enemies all have AI and Finite State Machines to react to the Player…they’re able to have different behaviors depending on their health and which state the Player is in. When you’re in the Default State you can’t attack, and when you collect enough of the Power Cubes you enter the Powered State and deflect everything back at the enemies to attack them, so in the Default State they can be more offensive and attack more while in the Powered State they’d do more dodging.

Level transitioning works and I have a lot of the boring outer-framework stuff done (although it’s ugly at best right now), so you transition from the Title Screen to a Main Menu, Stage Select, and the game will unlock levels as you complete them and save your progress for you etc. Also everything has customizable speed to it, in the video above the first level you see has the Tracks all moving at the same speed but the second level it shows has two fast Tracks and one super slow Track. So I can control the speed (and spawning frequency) of the Tracks, the Power Cubes, the saw blade Hazards, bullets, etc. which I talked about in terms of gameplay here. This should let me do a lot of cool shit, like having enemies/bosses that can manipulate the speeds of those things on the fly.

I’ve been fleshing out ideas for enemies and bosses and I’ve got them generally figured out. I decided to record some of my process to show how I use FreeMind to do a lot of my planning (not just for gameDev but for writing projects in general). It’s about 45 minutes long, but give it a look if you’re someone who does creative work and is always looking for new planning and organizational techniques:

There are a lot of Hotkeys built in for moving Nodes around and Expanding/Collapsing them etc. to skip around and edit quickly. I don’t even use all the icons spread around the interface, just the basics to get ideas down as fast as possible. You can also see that I’m using the same workflow I use for art and coding: dump down a rough brain-fart version, then go back and refine it in stages adding detail to get the final result. Give it a go and see what you think.

I fleshed out gameplay ideas for all the enemy/boss designs so from here I’ll be implementing them with temporary art. As an artist it’s REALLY hard to put off focusing on the art, but I know the art stage should come last because the gameplay is what’s going to make the game fun to play…if an idea I have doesn’t work in code, I don’t want to be in a position where I’m trying to shoe-horn in art that I’ve already drawn because I don’t want to waste it, or toss art away and have wasted that development time. So I’ve just come to accept that I’ll be looking at the art you see above for a few solid weeks before I get to finally let loose on the art and put it through a massive overhaul/upgrade. Gotta’ have patience, grasshopper lol

Happy New Years everyone! Cheers to productive gameDev in 2015. Goal for this year is to ship 2-4 games. A lot of this first game is about building an engine in GameMaker that I can re-use parts of so on my next game I won’t have to waste time writing code for detecting devices and which assets to use and positioning HUDs and debug stuff. Like I said before, I’m further ahead than I’m posting so far but I wanted to show the stages of development right from the start because I think that stuff is cool to see. Last update was a bunch of quick programmer art and duct taped fast coding, and this update is still temporary art but the engine is redone from the ground up (thus the missing HUD elements) and it’s using actual sprites so I can figure out the exact layout/positioning of things and like, how big the main character should be or what shape they should be:

For instance a vertical shape for the main character during the default gameplay doesn’t feel player friendly because you dodge vertically so you’re more likely to catch the top or bottom of your sprite on a Hazard and get hit “unfairly”. But during the powered up Mode3 where you want to touch as many Hazards as possible, a horizontal sprite would make that feel more difficult (and make the player feel less powerful as a consequence). So from testing it feels like the best move is to have a horizontal sprite during the default gameplay and a vertical sprite during the powered up mode.

As you can see I was thinking about using ships that transform into giant mechs, but I’m not great at drawing sci-fi ships (see Android Arts for what I WISH I could do, holy crap lol) and I like drawing characters with facial expressions and personalities and such so I started thinking that someone flying Superman style would work too. But then how to solve the need for a vertical sprite during the powered up Mode3? How about a helper beast of some kind that you can ride and it plows through the enemies:

Can't even draw a straight line lol

Knew I wanted a sci-fi girl and a beast of some sort, but no idea where I'm going with it at this point.

I don't have a scanner so I just take pics of my paper with my iPhone to redraw in Photoshop lol

At this stage I also like to do a mind-map for my game. I’m a HUGE fan of mind-mapping. I’d never tried it till a few years ago but I find it incredibly useful for expanding ideas in a fast and organized fashion. I use FreeMind because it’s really simple to use (I just use hotkeys to move around and add/modify Nodes, I don’t touch any of the million icons on it):

The final version of this is going to be insane looking lol I'll probably post it down the road.

I like to flesh everything out here and while I’ve expanded some Nodes for this pic, I usually collapse all the Nodes I’m not working on and just focus on one section at a time so it doesn’t feel as daunting. I find working this way is great for how my mind works because I can be fleshing out an enemy’s behavior and it might inspire an idea for a boss or an idea for a player ability and I can quickly jump over to those Nodes and add a Node for that to fill in later, then go back to what I was doing and when I get to those other sections I just fill in the blanks basically.

This isn’t the whole game design, just an early chunk of it to show what kind of stuff I put in my mind-maps. For characters/enemies I like to have stuff about their appearance and personality and like, why are they doing what they do to kind of help me brainstorm how they might look or what sort of pose they’d be in. For enemies, if it’s something like a ship I might want to add that it’s purpose is to haul prisoners from camp to camp which might affect the design of the ship. I’m dumping all this stuff out and then in the art stage I’ll go through each thing one by one and rough up concepts for each one and build from there.

If you haven’t tried mind-mapping, give it a go and see if it helps. I was skeptical about it, I’m not a very organized guy and I’m not great with scheduling and task lists and everything but when I tried mind-mapping I found I was able to plan out massive things in small organized chunks and it just made the whole process a lot easier. I also recommend it for writing, like doing articles or stories or novels…you can drop Nodes down for key events in your plot, then flesh the stuff between them out, re-organize them, add details, etc. I’ll be doing that in the story stage when I’m doing cutscenes and writing dialogue for an overall plot to the game.

Right now I’ve got some newer art in that I’ll show soon, but I don’t have a theme fully finalized and I ended up running into some game design issues that I’ve spend a couple weeks working on. I’ll talk more about that next time because I love getting deep into game design discussion/analysis.

Glad to be back into indie gameDev. Working for other people can be fun and it pays the bills, but taking on an entire game on my own from start to finish is such a challenge and it feels good to push myself. I’m having to teach myself a ton of coding stuff and I’m trying to work clean and organized and get this down to a nice flowing process I can do so I can put games out faster and not get bogged down and side-tracked or unorganized and frustrated. I’m hoping to have this game done and shipped within a couple months so I can jump right onto my next game. :)

2015 is going to be an interesting year…bring it on lol

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