Jeff

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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