Jeff

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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