Category: Miscellaneous


Last update I talked about doing a big marketing write-up talking about all the stuff I’ve tried, what I’ve learned from it, where I’ve wasted money, where it was worth putting money, all the good and the bad of it.  I’m finally almost done that document!  I’ve got the main writing done and I’ve broken it down into 5 articles.  Right now I’m just editing it and adding diagrams and pictures so it’s not overwhelming to read.  I should be able to start posting it up this week, but here’s a preview of what each of the 5 articles contain.  I saved the Optimal Marketing Plan for the end because I feel that to get the most out of it, a person should read the articles that lead up to it so the plan makes sense:

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ARTICLE I – Social Marketing

Using word-of-mouth marketing via Twitter, blogging, forum threads, etc. to build awareness for your game, and a realistic look at the pros and cons of price drops and using microjob services.

ARTICLE II – Traditional Advertising

An in-depth look into the sketchy side of the industry that people don’t seem to talk about like buying downloads, paying for reviews, etc. Also covering traditional expensive marketing like banner ads and marketing agencies and ad services like AdMob.

ARTICLE III – Game Related & Maintenance

What to put in a Press Kit, using Press Releases, creating screenshots and trailers, etc. Plus how to efficiently maintain everything we’ve talked about so far.

ARTICLE IV – Psychology

How to survive the internal side of marketing as an indie developer and dealing with the stress of spending your money, watching sales figures rise and fall, making big decisions, handling critics and pushy marketers, and a big blunt look at how rampant iPhone App piracy is.

ARTICLE V – Optimal Marketing Plan

A summary of everything, condensed down into 36 steps from Pre-Launch to Launch Day to Post-Launch, that I feel make up an Optimal Marketing Plan for an indie dev with little to no money who needs to make sure every dollar spent counts.

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Once this is all posted up I’m going to be looking into getting the HD version of Elusive Ninja working and then starting my next game!  I’ve got lots of ideas for the next game, it’s just a matter of narrowing down which one to flesh out and prototype up.  And as always, I’ll be documenting the progress of it as I go.  :)

- Jeff

Hey, everyone! As of today I am FINALLY done all the art assets needed to release League of Evil 2 for iOS (universal app, it’ll run on pretty much any iDevice you have, even the really old crappy ones). I’m about to take a massive snooze and then down a bunch of unhealthy celebration food haha I wonder how long it’ll take for my “energy drink stream” to turn back into a “blood stream”. I’m literally counting 7 empty Rockstar, Full Throttle, and Xyience cans just on my desk, just from this final crunch-time weekend. It was all worth it though! The game is awesome and I think it’s going to sell like crazy once word of mouth spreads! I’ve been working pretty much non-stop for like a month now while we’ve been focused 100% on finishing LoE2 up, so I’m probably going to take a week off and just relax and then get back to blogging, Tweeting, and figuring out what’ll be next for Bulletproof Outlaws.

For now enjoy this sweet trailer…I love the epic music haha:

There’s a thread on Touch Arcade with more info and some answers to random questions. MAN I love the end of a project when everything ties itself all up and comes together…That final click as you submit the last of the assets is like a massive weight on your shoulders is just obliterated into a million gibs, ahhh…now bring on the celebration pizza & wings! :)

- Jeff

BAM! I’m back! I actually forgot how to log into my blog, it’s been so long…how embarrassing lol Alright, so here’s a super-brief summary of what’s been going on: the Zombocalypse Kickstarter unfortunately didn’t pan out (though since then Ironzilla found funding and they and Juicy Beast have teamed up to develop Zombocalypse 2, so keep an eye out for that!) and I started working with Ravenous Games again, on the next installment in the LOE series: League of Evil 3, launching on the App store today:

One drawback to keeping a devBlog when you’re an indie dev working on other people’s games is that with Non-Disclosure Agreements you can’t really talk about what you’re working on. Also the deadlines tend to be stricter because you’re working for someone else who’s determining schedules based on various priorities on their end, so taking time out to do quality blog updates with pics and such, and chatting on Twitter can start putting you behind on your work over time. I tend to be the type that likes to just stick his head down and plow through working without distractions because I get side-tracked easily, so that’s why I haven’t been updating much.

That said, I’m finishing up a little extra work left for LOE3 and I have a bit of completely non-game-related freelance work to do up, but then I’ll be starting on my own game. I picked up Game Maker: Studio a while back but haven’t had a chance to do more than mess around and learn the ropes and do some rough prototyping/tests. It’s a great program, and a lot more powerful than I expected. Vlambeer used it on Super Crate Box (which my good buddies over at Halfbot ported to iOS), Hitbox Team used it on Dustforce, Liam Barden used it on Ninjammin Beat-Jitsu and most recently Tom Francis used it on Gunpoint. You can make pretty much anything you want in it, and you can port it to other platforms pretty easily. All in all it’s really impressive gameDev software to an artist who’s overwhelmed by stuff like Unity and X-Code lol

I’ve got a game idea in mind, but I have to flesh it out some more and narrow down the details and all that. I’m hoping it’ll be a short little summer project, I’m doing it mainly to learn the full workflow of development to distribution via Game Maker, and I’ll post some behind the scenes stuff as I go. I won’t be doing daily updates like I did with Elusive Ninja because that was insane lol but I’ll do weekly updates.

That’s it for now! Time to go dust the cobwebs off my Twitter account and see what I’ve missed on there lol

Time for my annual update lol A few changes in my life since the last time I wrote: Last winter I hopped a flight to Ottawa to visit a friend for a few days and fell in love with the city. The amazing scenery, the unbelievably friendly people, the “big small town” vibe, the seemingly weekly fireworks shows, the beautiful French girls…I was instantly hooked. As I sat on my friend’s couch getting ready to pack for my flight back to Calgary, I day-dreamt about how someday it would be nice to live here in our nation’s capital. Then I glanced around and realized hey, I’ve got a backpack full of clean underwear and my laptop with me, what else do I really need? So I cancelled my flight home, spent a few weeks sleeping on my friend’s couch while I looked for an apartment, and had my few meager personal belongings shipped across Canada to me. As a single guy who has no kids, no responsibilities, and makes his living off a laptop, I figure it’s alright to make a drastic impulse decision toward new adventures now and then.

The incredibly beautiful city of Ottawa. Now that I live here I totally understand why this is our capital.

The other big change is a bit more personal, but hey I’m sure no one is actually reading this anyway lol The past few years I’ve been struggling with having low energy. It was difficult to even get out of bed, and I’d sleep through most of the day. It got so bad that I couldn’t stay awake for more than a 4-6 hours at a time before my eyes would get too drowsy to stay open and my head would get foggy and feel like I had been up for days…then I’d sleep for like 10 hours, wake up for another few hours, and then pass out again. It made it unbelievably hard to get anything done. I would basically be able to keep myself awake long enough to get my work done, but I would have to break it up throughout the day and it was a struggle. If I managed to get anything besides work done, like grocery shopping or doing laundry, I was completely wiped out.

I chalked this up to just being lazy and not having solid self-discipline. I’d read all these inspirational stories of indie devs who are working 3 jobs at a time and coding till 4am to bring their dream to life, and watch all these motivational videos on YouTube with guys shouting about how you have to forget to eat because you’re so busy working and you have to work while the other guys are sleeping and you have to be willing to stay awake for 3 days straight to become successful, and I’d just think “how are these guys DOING this?? I can’t even stay awake and focused for a full 8 hours in a row! If I was working a day job for 8 hours, I would come home and instantly collapse till the next morning. Why am I so lazy compared to everyone else?” I had all these good intentions of developing my games and getting them out there but just kept hitting this wall.

It was pretty frustrating…looking back it seems obvious that there was a problem but this all crept up on me slowly over a few years and I was just barely managing to work around it enough to get by and somehow managing to pay my rent, so I just kind of accepted that I was getting old or something and tried to adapt.

It wasn’t depression, because I was happy with my life all this time. I’m a pretty upbeat optimistic guy day-to-day and I don’t have much to complain about, so when I was awake I was psyched and ready to be productive and take on the world…but a few hours later I’d be curled up on my bed passing out.

Our cold dark snowy winter has just begun and a friend texted me to tell me to remember to take some Vitamin D because we won’t be getting as much sunlight. He had his Vitamin D levels tested and they were extremely low so his doctor had him load up on it. I didn’t really know anything about vitamins and was going to brush his advice off until I started Googling what Vitamin D does. I kept reading all these stories from people who were describing the same kind of problems I was having and how it turned out they were Vitamin D deficient and when they started taking Vitamin D they suddenly had a new zest for life.

Here's a giant mutant turtle for you for making it this far. This was from a game that didn't pan out...the dude hiring me vanished a couple weeks in without paying me. :'( But at least this guy was fun to draw lol

I was skeptical, but kept reading and realized that because I live in Canada and I’m cooped up in my apartment with sun-blocking shades pulled over my windows all day, and most of the time I work at night when the sun is down (I’m naturally a night person) and grab food at convenience stores in the middle of the night, and if I go out to a bar it’s at night, etc. I really don’t ever see the sun and don’t get any Vitamin D…and if my friend who works a day job, goes for walks in the sun now and then, doesn’t have any energy problems etc., is extremely deficient, then I must be even worse off than him.

So I grabbed a bottle of Vitamin D3 to try, and holy CRAP. I can’t even fully explain what a life-changer it is!

I’ve only been taking it for a couple weeks but even in the first couple days I noticed an immediate difference. I’m typing this blog post at the tail end of being wide awake and clear-headed for 16 hours straight which is something I haven’t been able to do in literally 3 or 4 YEARS. Like even the notion that I’ve been awake for that long today blows my mind. It was so bad that I have all these weird habits built up where like, after a few hours I instinctively FEEL like it’s time to go over to my bed to lay down and sleep except then I realize “oh wait, I’m not tired at all…wtf do I do now? I guess…I’ll…uhhh keep working? Is this how normal people live?? No wonder everyone seems so much more productive than me!” and then I just keep doing productive things instead of sleeping lol I went from consistently only being awake for a groggy 4-8 hours a day (with naps separating those hours) to consistently being awake for a sharp focused 14-18 hours a day with no need for napping. I feel like Bradley Cooper in Limitless where he’s suddenly tapping into his full brain-power. From my perspective it’s like time has slowed down, or days have extended in length because I’m now getting 3 or 4 times the day I was getting before.

This is basically me right now, except I'm obviously way more handsome.

If you’re reading this blog about gameDev, then you’re probably a nerd like me. And if you’re a nerd like me, then you probably don’t go run around in the sunshine all day like normal people apparently do. If that’s the case, hit your doctor up sometime and get your Vitamin D levels checked, especially if you feel like you don’t have much energy or if you get really lethargic and demotivated in the winter (which you might just have chalked up to Seasonal Affective Disorder and assumed you have to live with it). With the abundance of indoor cubicle jobs and the popularity of working from home these days, a huge portion of the population is said to be Vitamin D deficient and a bottle of Vitamin D3 is super cheap. Give it a try and see if it helps…the difference between my days now and just a few weeks ago is a complete 180.

It’s hard not to sound like a fanatic but man, if I had figured this out a few years ago I would probably have a respectable library of my own personally designed and developed games floating around out there. Can’t change the past so no point dwelling on that, but now that I’m firing on all cylinders I think 2015 is going to be an awesome year for me and my adventures in gameDev.

I’ve got some plans coming up for this winter, so stay tuned! ;)

A little while ago I dug out Game Maker: Studio, brushed the dust off my programming skills (or lack thereof) and started messing around coding a little prototype in my spare time. I wanted something that would be relatively simple and realistically do-able on my own…so no MMORPGs or anything lol This is partly to get back into coding, and to teach myself how to go through all the boring stuff in programming (porting to different devices, learning how to set up in-app purchases, getting my game from Game Maker to the Apple store, etc.). I’m pretty good with coding game logic in general but all the technical stuff is way above my head right now and I’m sure my code is sloppy and unorganized compared to a legit programmer but hey, best way to learn is through experience right? If I keep the project smaller in scope then I should be able to learn as I go without too many tears soaking my keyboard lol So here’s a video of terrible “programmer art”:

So to clarify what’s going on: You switch between two Modes (red and blue right now) as the Color lines and Hazard come at you. If you touch a Color line and you’re in the Mode that matches, you’re rewarded with the Charge Meter filling up slightly, and if you’re the wrong Color (or you hit a Hazard) you’re “hit” and the Charge Meter empties. The Charge Meter is constantly draining, so you have to try to match in quick succession to max it out. Once you max it, you automatically enter a third Mode where everything speeds up and instead of dodging the Hazards you now want to hit as many of them as you can because they deflect back across the screen to the side the enemies are on and damage them. Eventually your Charge Meter empties out and you return to the normal gameplay to begin building your Charge up again.

Here’s a flowchart of the main game loop (made with Lucidchart, which is free and easy to create these with):

I have no idea how to make a proper flowchart...am I even using the diamond ones right?? lol

Since I started working on my own game, in my spare time I’ve been consuming all sorts of game design talks, articles, videos, books (if you’re a gameDev, you need to buy The Art of Game Design…this is a MUST read). Extra Credits is one of my favorite series and I’ll be linking a handful of their videos as I go because I’m actively trying to apply the principles they talk about in my design and I want to talk about how I’m tweaking the design around these ideas to try to make something engaging.

This video on Depth VS Complexity was a big influence because I want to keep the game small in scope so I don’t have a ton of programming to do, but I want the mechanic to have a lot of flexibility so I can keep the player engaged and on their toes and thinking of “how can I use these mechanics I’m familiar with to solve this new twist?”. I also like the idea of teaching the game through the design instead of with a tutorial, so you feel like you’re learning/improving right from the start so I’m planning to try that as well.

Here’s the video on Depth VS Complexity, it’s a great concise explanation:

Another key video I’m trying to guide my design by is this one on Choice and Conflict. Their breakdown of Mario’s mushroom is a great eye-opener and the concept of forcing the player into situations where their long-term goals and short-term goals are in opposition and the player has to make a choice in the moment:

So for actual application of these concepts: My game’s mechanics are really pretty simple. You’re just switching Modes and moving between 3 pre-determined locations. You avoid Hazards until you match enough Colors to power-up and then you chase those same Hazards until the power-up wears off. I realized after I was working on this that this is the same thing Pac Man does…you avoid the ghosts until you find a Power Pellet, then suddenly the tables turn and now you chase the things you used to run from, until it wears off and you have to avoid them again. There’s a little bit of satisfying “aha, I’ve turned the tables on you!” revenge feeling in that moment that I’m trying to give the player.

Now the depth and choice/conflict parts come in how I’m playing with that simple mechanic to create different challenges for the player. Some examples:

1) the Charge Meter drains faster the more full it is. So your first few matches will be easy to get, you can take plenty of time between them with no real consequence. But as your Charge Meter reaches 50% the speed it constantly empties starts increasing. So at 20% full your meter drops, say, 1 block a second, but at 95% full your meter drops more like a block every 10th of a second. This adds a nice bit of pressure because the closer you get to your goal (filling the Charge Meter), the faster you have to play to achieve that, but the faster you have to play the more challenging it is to not hit a Hazard or be in the wrong Color Mode and lose your entire Charge Meter. If the Charge Meter dropped at a constant rate there would be no difference in emotion between collecting your first match and your final match. This should give the player a constant up and down emotional ride between almost succeeding and epic failure, and it makes the pay-off (when you finally max the Charge Meter out and enter Mode 3) all the sweeter. In the end I’m getting a whole bunch of sweet gameplay tension added to that one mechanic, just by simply decreasing a timer.

2) I tried out having no Mode switching, so you would just have one type of thing to touch making the game just “dodge this object and collect this object”, but it didn’t feel complex enough. It was a little too simple and mundane because it reduced a lot of the possible chance for error on the player’s side. Extra Credits mentions that “Depth is bought with Complexity, but complexity also restricts Depth” So I look at this like I didn’t have enough complexity to allow much depth. By adding a bit of complexity, by forcing the player to switch Modes, now they have to stay engaged in what’s going on. At the same time I tried adding multiple Modes, like 3 or 4 different Colors to collect, but that became too cumbersome and frustrating. When the player dies because your game feels too complicated, they blame the game and it feels unfair…when the player dies because they messed up what felt like a simple mechanic, they blame themselves and feel like they wouldn’t have failed if they hadn’t made that miscalculation and they feel like they can do better the next time.

3) With that same core mechanic of “match your Color Mode to the next Color line you touch”, I can increase/decrease the challenge the obvious way of simply changing how frequently Color lines appear and how fast the row itself moves, but because I added the Mode switching I can also increase/decrease it by changing the variety of Colors appearing. So 10 blocks in a row of one Color with wide gaps between them would be extremely easy to deal with. 10 blocks of predictably alternating Colors (blue-red-blue-red-blue) with the same spacing would be slightly more difficult. 10 blocks of unpredictably alternating colors (blue-red-red-blue-red) would be more difficult. 10 blocks of randomly alternating Colors with little spacing between them would be even more difficult. And I can vary things up, so on the 3 rows maybe one row is travelling slower or less frequent than the other 2 rows, but is spawning more complex sequences of Colors, so you have to decide “do I want to risk the trickier sequence to fill my meter quicker (which I may HAVE to if it’s near full and draining faster as discussed in point number 1 above), or do I want to stick to the easier rows and deal with enemies being alive (and risking my life if they’re in an attack mode)?”

I could also create enemies that alter those Color lines, so one enemy blocks off a row entirely with, say, fire that will kill you, so you have to stick to just 2 rows which will add tension until that row is free again because now you can’t bail out to a safe empty space as easily because you don’t have that third row. Or some kind of helper or powerup item could change all the Colors to the same Color so for a few seconds you can match the Colors easily. By combining point number 1 up above and this, I could have a level where no Color lines are spawned, but there’s an enemy or boss who spits out complicated random sequences of 5 blocks at a time…because your Charge Meter drains, the only way you would be able to max it out to attack the boss would be to successfully complete two of those complicated sequences in a row. And when you get him down to almost no health, he may just spit out random complicated sequences of 10 blocks at a time, at a fast speed, so that the only way you can max out to finish him off is to pull off a tricky fast sequence.

So I’m getting a ton of potential depth out of just that one “match your Color Mode to the next Color line you touch” mechanic combined with point number 1 above. The player is only using the same skillset they learned at the very start of the game, but now they’re forced to ask “how can I use these mechanics I’m familiar with to solve this new twist?” which is what I want. Maximum depth with minimum complexity.

4) In the video above, you can see that the big boss monster is constantly moving away from you, but every time you match a Color, he’s pulled back toward you. I’m thinking of having some enemies be affected by your matching Colors like this. So in this scenario, if you don’t keep matching Colors, the boss will get away and you lose. But when you match Colors he’s pulled back toward you and covers up the visuals, so if you pull him in too close to you the game actually becomes more difficult because you have less reaction time to see what Colors or Hazards are coming at you. So as the player you would figure out “okay there’s a sweet spot here, I want to try to keep him toward the edge of the screen but not quite off of it” and have to strategize when you match Colors and when you AVOID matching them. At the same time the player should start piecing together that the best strategy would be to not haphazardly match Colors because the boss will end up too “in your face”, but should instead be to go for maxing out the meter every time (so there’s no wasted pulling-in of the boss before the player enters Mode 3 where he can attack) and letting the boss back off slightly if they aren’t successful at maxing their meter.

Other ideas playing with this “matching Colors affects enemy behavior” mechanic would be the opposite type of boss, one that is constantly coming toward you but matching Colors pushes him away to give you breathing space. Or a boss that “short circuits” and can’t attack for a few seconds if you match enough Colors in quick succession.

5) When you’re in Mode 3, it’s almost like a second game because now you’re able to dole out damage and you have to now chase down the Hazards you were previously avoiding so there’s an opportunity to add depth there too. What if there’s an enemy who acts like the classic RPG enemies that go into a defensive shell mode for a minute and not only can’t be damaged but if you attack them your attack comes back at you twice as strong/fast? So if they enter that defensive mode while you’re in Mode 3 you end up having to alternate between collecting Hazards and dodging them based on the enemies’ state. Or you may see the enemy go into his shell mode and choose NOT to attempt to Max out your Charge Meter until the enemy is about to come out of his shell mode and THEN you want to quickly match enough colors to Max out your Charge Meter so that you’re entering Mode 3 right as the enemy is coming out of his shell maximizing the amount of time you’re in your attacking mode and he’s susceptible to attacks.

I’ve got a bunch more ideas, but the thing I wanted to point out in all of this is that even with all these points written above the core game mechanic is still that simple just “avoid Hazards while you match Colors till you max your Charge Meter then chase Hazards” minor complexity I started with but I’m milking it for a ton of depth and in terms of actual programming I’m not adding a lot to the code itself aside from enemy AI design because I’m not adding more mechanics I’m just tweaking how they interact with enemies.

Still reading? Here are concepts for a space girl and an evil goat for making it this far lol:

I have no idea what I'm doing with sci-fi design but I think this'd be a fun project to practice it on.

Why goats? I have no idea lol I was doodling monsters and aliens and a goat just came out.

So I feel like there’s something in this that would make a fun game. The prototype itself doesn’t have much to it but the idea is there and playing it DOES tap into that feeling I’m trying to create so I think I’m on the right track.

I’ve already been working on revamping this prototype into a cleaner version which I’ll show next time, but I’ve missed writing about game design and gameDev in general so I wanted to start from the very beginning. I’m trying to approach this from a very methodical standpoint where when I’m studying all this game design stuff I’m thinking “okay, how would I apply this to my game? Is there a place for it? Is there something I should be tweaking to align closer to a core principle of game design? Is there stuff that adds complexity for no reason or does everything have a purpose?” I’ll be talking more about this kind of thing in the future as I narrow the design down in detail.

Hope you enjoyed the long read! Check in for more next week, and go watch all the Extra Credits videos while you wait for Santa to bring your copy of The Art of Game Design 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

Alright, time for an update. I hooked up with Rocketcat Games, makers of epic hits like Wayward Souls (grab it on the App Store here) and Punch Quest (grab it here), to do some Spine animations for their characters for a new Tactical RPG they’re developing. Lots of work but a fun project, I’m extremely comfortable in Spine now and got to mess with a lot of FFD mesh animation (capes, scarves etc.). I also hooked up with Ravenous Games for some top secret work I can’t talk about. They just launched Devious Dungeon 2 which adds a ton of new stuff to the series (grab it here). So with enough money to pay my bills for a couple months it’s back to my own game.

…but first, a detour lol On a whim I decided to enter Ludum Dare 32 this weekend. For those of you who somehow haven’t heard of it it’s a worldwide marathon weekend where you get 48-72 hours to develop a game based off a theme assigned when the contest starts. I haven’t done a game jam in years but my long-term plan over the next couple years involves actually shipping games (lol) which means I’ll be doing a lot of prototyping (I have a HUGE Evernote doc where I throw down any random ideas I come up with to flesh out later when I’m looking for ideas to prototype). Soon as I’m done my current game I want to roll right into the next one so there’s always a chance that whatever I come up with for Ludum Dare will be my next game. Or maybe I’ll fuck it all up and not even finish my entry in time, who knows lol I actually haven’t looked at the themes list, ’cause I like to live on the edge that way.

So if you want to watch me lose my fucking mind all weekend long, follow my Ludum Dare progress updates, setbacks, victory celebrations, mental breakdowns etc. on Twitter at @BPOutlaws. My Ludum Dare account is BPO_Jeff.

I’ve wanted to participate in Ludum Dare before (my buddy Mike is the guy breaking his back to run the whole thing) but as I mentioned in a previous post I was having a lot of problems with my energy levels for a few years. I was barely able to do more than sleep through the weekends. But now that I’m regularly taking Vitamin D3 I’m clocking in long productive days and want to challenge myself by entering. I’ll be doing the 72-hour Jam instead of the 48-hour competition because whatever I make is probably going to involve hand-drawn art so that gives me an extra day to make it look slick. Some of you may remember me as Tsugumo back in my pixel art days, but while I loved making pixel art the advancements we’ve had in technology that allow games like Rayman and Ori and the Blind Forest to exist, combined with all the slick tools us indies have at our disposal now, I can’t resist working with big HD art. I’ve coded my engine to support up to 4K (3840 x 2160) even though I don’t have a 4K screen myself lol

I wanted to make an alien race of giant goats to avoid just doing standard aliens...these sketches are just practice concepts changing the proportions of the basic goat design to get different characters that still look related.

That said, back on my own game I was having some creative issues so the break to work on other projects was helpful because it gave me time to brainstorm out some ideas on the art side. The major issue was actually kind of a silly one that I completely wasn’t expecting: because of the layout of my game (character on the left, enemies on the right, with as much space between them as possible to allow the Player time to react) I realized I needed all of my enemies to be tall and thin horizontally. If they were wide they would either cover too much of the play area (though one boss does that on purpose) or 90% of the sprite would be off-screen and basically be a waste. I also wanted to give things a sci-fi/mech theme, but you don’t realize how weird thin vertical mechs are until you try drawing some up and then realize they also have to be able to shoot from the three Track heights so if you make a humanoid robot it’s got to be able to shoot from it’s ankles etc. It sounds dumb, but it threw me for a loop for a while.

Now I’ve nailed down my theme and designs and while the game still looks the same as it did in my last update, I’ve been slowly plugging away at the code during my minimal free time and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Soon I’ll be able to go on a massive art overhaul and just start dumping art in there. At the moment I’m finishing up the menu system and coding support for game pads, iCade, etc. Doing a lot of stuff that’s way outside my experience level like setting up customizable keybindings and achievement lists and save/load encryption etc. Plus I want to release on iOS and PC, so there are a lot of platform-specific nuances to deal with (even simple things like on a touch-screen device you tap menu options but on PC those options need to visually light up as you drag the mouse cursor past them etc.). I’ve basically got 10 FireFox windows open with tutorials all day as I work lol I’ve learned a lot though, I’m looking forward to my next project where I would refine a ton of this right from the beginning to save some of the hassles I’m running into (like right now the menu system and gameplay are COMPLETELY independent from eachother so when you set options/controls in the menus they don’t do anything in the actual game and I have to stitch these two giant sections together…it’s gonna’ get messy [edit: nevermind, I totally fuckin did it my first try just now. I'm awesome lol]).

On the gameplay side I’m really proud of what I’ve come up with. I’ve got all the bosses except the final boss coded and each one requires a different tactic to defeat instead of just bumping up the amount of damage they can take…so the core mechanic the Player has to learn stays pretty simple, but each boss throws their own twist on it that you have to figure out as you’re fighting them and they each have 3 levels of damage where they change their tactics up forcing you to adapt on the fly. When I get to where I can record some new in-game footage I’ll show this off a bit more…right now the bosses are literally giant red rectangles lol I talked about some of my ideas for this in a previous post but now I have them fully implemented and they came out as fun as I pictured in my head…there’s a nice sense of “Yes!! I knew it, I’m awesome!!” satisfaction in that.

On top of all that I’ve started teaching myself how to use Blender whenever I get the chance. I’m hoping to learn enough about the particle system stuff in it to use it for doing cel-shaded effects but I am a complete noob so far. I’ll also be using it for more technical stuff like backgrounds or detailed mechanical objects in perspective where I don’t want to figure that all out by hand. I used 3d for the background in Elusive Ninja:

This was way too simple a game and did terribly, but I was always proud of the art in it lol

Gotta’ work as fast and efficient as possible when you’re working solo. Overall this year is going toward upgrading my skills across the board so I can put out quality games solo. Now to go stock up my energy drink supply to survive Ludum Dare.

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