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Crawling with ideas



Never give up. Never surrender.

Posted by , in Programming, onegameamonth, 12G12M, 1GAM 12 May 2013 - - - - - - · 531 views
programming, onegameamonth and 2 more...
So... yeah. This is going to be a hard thing to write.

It's been long couple months. I was supposed to do many great things, I was supposed to update this blog. I have to come clean: I didn't.

Now, I have standard excuses: I was tired, I didn't have time, I had to spend time with my girlfriend and preparing for the kid to be born, I was studying lots of things. I was sick.

That doesn't change one thing: I failed. I have set out to make 12 fully polished, even if small games. First month I wanted to create planet-based shooter. It didn't work out. Between me having written very little code and my artist friend not having a lot of time, on the last week I had to cut the losses. It was hard, and I was ashamed, but to just keep making games on the last day of January, I made a 'match 2' game:

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Yes, it's ugly. Yeah, it's crappy. But I didn't want to admit that I failed. February I've spent majority of the month being depressed about failing so hard. Eventually I got my act together and wrote a very simple laser & mirrors logic game:

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This one was tiniest bit more polished, but still nothing to write home about. I felt that I was back on the right track. Alas, in March again I didn't do much work. What I did was a tiny racing game for blind people. Basically you could hear your wheels falling off the road and starting hitting roadside gravel more and more, until you spun out of control and crashed. Cute experiment, but I didn't even add stuff as simple as announcer explaining controls or telling the score. Since the screenshot won't really convey much here, here's the link. Just click on the Unity screen to enable controls (and make sure you have surround sound enabled). In April ever since the beginning of the month, I had an idea for a very simple game, but I have spent the month developing a system for isometric tile based RPG.

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Needless to say, again I didn't have enough time for such a big project. Or rather mental fortitude. I have worked on it for a week and gave up. I had the time to develop the small game about a cube that I have designed, but never went for it. I even had the PERFECT Ludum Dare for it: The theme was Minimalism, which would fit my game to a T. I haven't participated. I have created cool, really optimized mesh system for Unity3D, I have played with voxels for a bit, but all in all - I have failed in what I have set out to do - 12 games in 12 months were no more.

Now it's middle of May, my kid is due in about 2-4 weeks, and I have picked myself up. I have thought about it a lot, and talked with friends about it. I have failed, but I can't give up - the goal wasn't to make the games just so I can show off on my blog. Sure, some of my games that I have made in 1 day for the 7 games in 7 days challenge were better than what I have done here. Is that painful? Sure. Am I ashamed to admit that I failed on the Internet? Sure am. But the goal for this year wasn't just to have these games made. The goal was much more: learn to manage my time on longer projects, so that sometimes next year I can start working on full commercial games from home, hopefully to secure my family's future. I haven't achieved that goal, but that's no excuse to stop trying.

So, while I'll be trying to keep within confines of the monthly schedule, I'm no longer going to feel shackled by it. I won't be hiding just because I didn't manage to do what I wanted to do. The project is tough, but I have to do it. Want to do it. And will do it. I have picked the game I wanted to do most: RPG as simple as possible. I want a top-down view, similar to Zelda, I want lots of cool explosions, fighting with lots of enemies, and generally old school beat'em'up feel (think Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, Punisher, Dungeons and Dragons:Shadows over Mystara or Aliens vs Predator). I want to have fun while making the game, because that's the only way I'm going to finish it. After first day of design, here's the first screenshot (obviously, everything is temp graphics only):

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The faux-scanline is to make it look even more retro. Like I said, I'm going all out with what I love here, and scanlines make me feel young again ;).

Well, that's it for today
Talk to you all soon!

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So far in the series 12 Games In 12 Months:

1. Announcement
2. Game 1: Intro
3. Game 1: Week 1
4. Never give up. Never surrender.


12 Games in 12 Months, Game 1: Week 1

Posted by , in 12G12M, 1GAM 06 January 2013 - - - - - - · 910 views
12G12M, 1GAM, programming
12 Games in 12 Months, Game 1: Week 1 Week one is done. It wasn't that long, only 3 days really, as on the New Year I wasn't working, due to it being a day off. I had unfortunately bit more things to do than I anticipated - to be precise I had to do coding for my day job over evenings and even on the weekend, but I found some time to write game.

The goal for the first week was simple enough: Write a minigame in which you move around with a marine, and shoot monsters that follow you and want to eat you. The assumption was that if there will be not enough time to add more features, I can always take the minigame and polish it properly. As I have written in the previous entry, the goal was to have marines walking on planet, but implementation took bit more than I had time allocated for it, and so that feature has been cut. After all, what's the point of having pretty looking game if it's unplayable?

So, CUT CUT CUT! Gameplay is all that matters!

Speaking of making a playable game - how do you get there from nothing? If you're making a one evening game, it's easy to keep things under control, but on longer projects, especially if you make them with other people, it's good to have some kind of a plan. What I usually employ is a methodology called scrum. To keep it simple enough: the creation of the game is divided into short time periods called 'sprints'. Why are they called that? No idea. But let's not dwell on that. Each sprint has certain set of goals that must be met. These goals may be 'implement shadows', 'create sounds for Boss #2', 'add death animation to Blob enemy', or whatever you can think of. It's good to keep them simple, as this way you can really see the progress. Writing 'programming a game' as a task sort of defeats the purpose, as you can't really see any progress for too long.

Usually when you meet IRL with people you work on projects, it's good to have real life board to display the progress, but if you're working with your online friends, you don't have such luxury. What comes handy then is some online software for tracking the project status. In our project we use Trello , which I used at my day job already, and quite liked. It gives you good enough overview of what's going on, and labels to give quick visual feedback on what each task is about. Here's screenshot of one we're using:

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Each of the coloured labels has a different meaning:

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  • Green label is anything related to programming. If you see this label on a task duplicated by task with another label, it means coding backend for it. For example enemies need both graphic part (models, animation, textures), and coding (AI, spawning, interaction).
  • Yellow label is anything to do with graphics. 2D and 3D objects, menus, concept art, or animations, it goes all here.
  • Orange label is sounds. Music, SFX, voices go here.
  • Red is design. It's a catch all for both things that need to be still polished or designed, and general Quality Control. Sprints fall under this, as finishing a sprint means passing quality check to see if it actually works.
  • Purple means temporary. Tasks with this field means that they only have to implement certain part of the full task to be 'good enough' for current sprint. Usually it's better to divide the tasks to give as clear distinction between what needs to be done and what doesn't, but I use this to give whoever is working on the task some leeway - if you can implement more features, great. If not, just implement the minimal amount, and we're still on the path to finish game without any delays.
  • Blue means that task is to be done for the current sprint. Simple as that.

As you can see, the tasks are divided into couple lists: To Do, Current Sprint, Doing, Done, and Final. The distinction is as follows:
  • To Do has all the tasks that need to be done to finish the project. Obviously listing all of them at the beginning is nearly impossible, but here's where all the tasks that are thought up start.
  • Current Sprint is tasks that need to be done during this sprint. They are technically the same as 'To Do', but this distinction helps them to not drown in the sea of other tasks for the game, and it means they're easier for people to browse.
  • Under Doing you put whatever feature you're working on at the moment, so that your friends can keep track of what you do, and if you are on your own, it's a quick reminder of what you were doing, so you can resume where you left off on previous day.
  • Done is a feature that is completed for current sprint. Feature put here needs to be tested, and from there it can move to 3 places: 1) if it's not good enough, it goes back to 'To Do', and needs to be re-done in some sprint (preferably current). 2) if it is good enough, but it's temporary, the description of the feature changes to reflects that, and is put back into 'To Do', so that it can be fully implemented. 3) if it is good enough and not temporary, after the sprint is checked, it moves to 'Final'. Congratulations, you're one step closer to completion.

Doing this (like writing a full Design Document) might seem unnecessary to some of you, especially if you work alone, or think it's just a dumb waste of time for things that aren't game development, but make no mistake - this does make the workflow smoother, and if there's even two of you, it does help a lot. So give it a try, and if you like it, write me a line. I'd love to hear about your experience.

Oh yeah, I also bought a sketch book and couple pencils (2H, 2B, and 2x HB), and I will be studying drawing in my (definitely slowly disappearing) past time. I want to get better with 2D art, especially to be good at concept art. I know it takes years, but I'm not backing off. Oh yeah, if you know of any good online course (especially free online course ;) ) or videos on drawing, I'd gladly hear bout it as well.

Well, that's it for today. Next week is looming already (no, really, it starts in 15 minutes here), so I better go to bed. This week it's time to implement nearly all elements of the gameplay. See you then!


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So far in the series 12 Games In 12 Months:

1. Announcement
2. Game 1: Intro
3. Game 1: Week 1


12 Games in 12 Months, Game 1: Intro

Posted by , in 12G12M, 1GAM, Programming 01 January 2013 - - - - - - · 990 views
12G12M, programming, 1GAM
12 Games in 12 Months, Game 1: Intro Happy New Year, people!

Today is the very first day of development for my 12 Games In 12 Months project. I have really looked forward to this, but I'm also bit afraid. This year will be really tough, with me working essentially 1.5 shift for the whole period. I need to keep the goal in mind though: Get better at creating games, and prepare to earn some serious cash this way, so I can worry less about not being able to support my family, especially the kid that's on the way. He/She is also my first kid, so I'm in for a ride ;). Let's see how this will turn out.

I decided that, since writing on how the project is coming along takes a lot of time, I can't keep you posted every day, but I need to share my progress at least every so often, I need some kind of updates schedule. It will work like this: first day of every month I will write a post about the new game. The design document will be there, and I will outline the challenges that lie ahead of me. Then, every weekend (preferably on friday evening, after wrapping up the work for that week) I will write about my progress and what's left, doing a tiny post mortem and saying how my goals went. Final upload will be when the game is finished, at the very least with the last day of month.

I will be working only on weekdays (at least if I can pull it off), so that I have weekends still off. I have no doubt that rest will be needed, so I need to keep my 'just one more line of code' attitude in reins. Hopefully I'll manage ;)

So, without further ado: first game, as mentioned before, will be a shooter. It will be ripping off a lot from old Cannon Fodder game, but I hope that choosing that great of a role model, it will force me to work harder and make sure everything is tip top.

I have put up a Design Document that I will be using (and most likely modifying) during the development. I tried to write down as many rules as possible up front, to make the coding easier and more to-the-point. I plan to have gameplay demo as soon as possible - the latest after the first week, so I can figure out if the game is fun. There's not much point in re-making the game from scratch 3 weeks in, when I see that it's not as fun as I hoped it would be. The second week should focus on making the game complete. Create the menus, the pre-mission view, make sure that all the functionality is working. Third week should focus on building interesting levels, applying the polish and weeding out the bugs.

My friend said that he'd help me, so at least for this project I don't have to worry as much about the gfx content. Which will hopefully mean that the 4th week I'll have off, so I can rest a bit.

The hard bits I foresee:

-Camera: I have created couple planet-based games, and there are many challenges here. Getting good camera view that shows you the action as well as shows the curvature of the planet is really hard if you try to go for differing planet sizes.
-Obstacles: creating paths for player units to walk through will be hard. I'll most likely will have to write some kind of level editor plugin for the Unity3D, so that the maps are more than couple obstacles sprinkled here and there, but have also dense, unpassable forests (that aren't too high on polygons, but still LOOK unpassable).
-AI: it will have to work in 3D, along the curvature of the planet. I don't know what problems it may cause, but I suspects some demons hide here.

See you again soon, wish me luck!

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So far in the series 12 Games In 12 Months:

1. Announcement
2. Game 1: Intro
3. Game 1: Week 1


New Year's Project, 12 Games in 12 Months

Posted by , in 12G12M, 1GAM, Programming 27 December 2012 - - - - - - · 922 views
12G12M, programming and 2 more...
1) INTRO


Hello there. The year is ending, and it's time for a new challenge. I'll be making 12 Games in 12 Months, over the next year. \o/

Since I've turned 30 years old couple days ago, and have a kid on the way, it's high time for me to stop loafing around and go for the goal I always aimed at - create awesome games that will be played all over the world. If you've seen my previous challenge, '7 Games in 7 Days', this may strike you as suspiciously lacking ambition. On the contrary. My goal, like with 7G7D, is to expand my skills and prepare for something bigger after I finish it. To be precise:
  • Create 12 full games, with all basic features of a commercial game (menu, help, intro, or whatever applies)
I think that best way to prepare for finally releasing commercial level games from home is to create games that meet that requirement. 1 month should be long enough to help me whip up full games, and doing that couple times will reinforce my resolve to help me work on even longer projects in the following years. I also think that if any of the game will show promise of being profitable, I'm going to put it to App Store and Android Market, maybe some other places.
  • Have all games be high quality. no temporary leftover art after the month is finished.
This has a lot to do with previous and next points. I want to make the games look good, So that they can stand proudly among their peers. I will either be making the graphics myself, and learning a lot, or have a friend, who is a wonderful artist help. Hey, maybe we'll turn into a full time indie studio one day? ;)
  • Learn to plan my work schedule in longer term projects
12G12M isn't my final goal, it's one of the first steps. I want to make commercial games in the following years, and to do that I need to be able to have as good planning skill as possible. If I will take on the indie job full time (I'm now doing it only after hours), I need to be able to estimate how long a given project will take, so I can secure enough money to provide for my family up front (and have some buffer, obviously). Learn to design games that can be implemented within confines of the schedule, minimize cutting of features. With my previous challenge it was all about doing as much as possible within time limit. This time it's all about finishing polished games.
  • Get better with my tools, and improve on the workflow.
This goes both for programming tools - that is Unity3D (getting to know the engine itself and write shared library of scripts for situations I visit often), and for art tools. Yeah, there is a chance that I will have a help of a professional artist, but it's always good to have some fallback plans.

2) DETAILS

This time the games will progress slower than full release once a day, so it may be that I'll be updating only once a week or so, but with bigger amount of news. If I won't have help of my friend, I'll be aiming to be as close as possible to developing in following cycle:
  • 2 weeks programming
  • 1 week of gfx/audio
  • 1 week of polishing
During the 7G7D I've noticed that I did about the amount of work I'd be able to do in relaxed work week, ~2-4 hours of work after time, with free weekends for recovery. Since I'm aiming for whole year of development, I really can't overwork myself, and have to keep a sane schedule. This split allows me for about 3-4 more time per game than I had for my Strategy, without the danger of burnout. Of course I'll be monitoring the state of my health both mental and physical (and making sure I have enough time for my family), and if anything seems off, I'll adjust.

Last time I had a list of genres of the games I want to make, and although I can see that over the course of whole year I may have some brilliant ideas for games that may be made in month's time and bring MILLIONS, I've whipped up a temporary list, which will be at least true for first month ;). So, in no particular order:
  • 1 - Shooter
The asteroids clone I did for 7G7D was bit too limited, as I was just beginning to experiment with Unity3D back then. I want to tackle something bigger, but I so far I don't think it'll be a standard top-down shmup, but rather a mix between Super Stardust and Quake. Enjoy the first ever design drawing (yeah, I'm cheating by starting already, but I reckon I'll be thinking about next games during development as well).

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  • 2 - Arcade
If any genre is going to take over my list, it's this one. I'm going to make at least one action/arcade game, in the like of Q*bert or Marble Madness, and possibly more. Ideas for this kind of games pops into my head most often, so if I'll find any worthy of implementing, expect some other genre to be pulled down.
  • 3 - Puzzle
What can I say, my girl likes puzzle games, and I want to make something for her. I'm not sure if I'll do action/puzzle game in the vein of Bejeweled Blitz, or rather something akin to all those memory/logic games
  • 4 - Management sim
Inspired by Theme Park and the like, I want to make a game about a restaurant, maybe with educational bit, and real recipes? We'll see.
  • 5 - Platformer
Like with the shooter, 7G7D version of platformer was severely lacking. And I don't mean just bug-wise. I didn't find any time to put some nice levels in, and I didn't have the time to figure out how to create cool procedural level generated platformer that wasn't a clone of Spelunky. Of course after that I just made a bad clone of Robot Unicorn Attack. This time I would really like to create cinematic platformer (like Another World or Flashback), if time allows.
  • 6 - RTS
Again, I have a cute game for which design sat idly in my drawer over long time ( first time I mention trying to implement it was over 4 years ago). When I was bored I reworked the details, but never found the drive to actually write it. Since it seems I'm actually making games this time, I think I'll give the idea a shot.
  • 7 - Space sim
I haven't yet decided on which route do i want to go - combat or otherwise, with both Freespace and Elite being great inspirations. Will see how this will progress as I'll decide to work on it.
  • 8 - Beat'em'up
I always was a huge fan of Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, Punisher, and other Coin-ops (and I've wasted plenty of lunch money in arcades as a kid on them). This seems like a perfect opportunity to write one myself, and see how I fare.
  • 9 - RPG
The game in 7G7D I've played the most was easily the RPG. It was simple, broken at times, offered no level progression or items, but I just enjoyed it so much. I really want to make it into a complete game, possibly one that feels like one of those huge roguelikes. If I'll manage to do it, I definitely want to put it out on iPhone/Android. Even if I'm the only one playing, having a roguelike on the go will be sweet Posted Image
  • 10 - Sports game/Racing game
I'm thinking about creating something with arcade control scheme - something like Skidmarks, Micro Machines or Ironman's Off Road back in the Amiga days. Just fun for couple friends, with no unnecessary complications.
  • 11 - Point and click adventure
There is a big 'if' here. If I will feel I'll manage to write a complete game, if my gfx artist friend will be willing to take this on, and if by the time I'm developing it I'll have enough scripts for basic functionality that I may focus on the story for the most of the development part, then I'll go for it. Writing the text adventure game for 7G7D was really fun, as it allowed me to cram tons of jokes in, and made me really happy. Add to that the fact that adventure games were always (ever since I played Leisure Suit Larry in '89. yep, I was 7 years old then. good times.) my favourite genre, and you'll have something I really want to do. But, like stated, don't know if I will be able to. We will see.
  • 12 - Music game
Yet another game I designed ages ago (this one in 2004, nearly a decade ago) when I was working at my first gamedev company and wanted to impress bosses by showing them a new IP. Of course they didn't want it, and (no doubt as the result of that) the company fell. Now I have the chance to re-make the game, and earn BILLIONS! Basically, first design it was something similar to Lumines, with music playing key role in tetris-like gameplay. I'll obviously be revising that idea, and hopefully something good will come out of it. Here's a picture of the first version running on NDS emulator:

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3) OTHER

I know that I may not be able to finish all of those games. There's full year ahead of me, I have a full time job that I need to keep to feed my family, and my kid will be born around June, probably causing severe stress and lack of time. I want to do this though, because it's something that may help us in the future. Also, making games for yourself is FUN Posted Image

After deciding on this challenge I have noticed that there's a website by one of Ludum Dare guys, OneGameAMonth, for people who basically attempt to do same thing I want to do. I immediatly joined. As usual, it's nice to be part of a community.

If you're interested, currently I'm using the following tools:

Unity3D as my game engine.
GraphicsGale and Paint.NET for my 2D graphics.
Blender for my 3D graphics.
SunVox (maybe FL Studio later on) for my music.
BFXR and Audacity for sounds.

This is subject to change, as the time goes by, but I don't predict I'll move away from Unity3D. I feel comfortable with it, it runs on C#, it's on all the platforms I'd like to support, honestly, I can see no good reason for me to not stick to it.

Well, that's about it. I hope you liked this start, and will follow my little project as it goes. And of course when I'll be rich and famous I'll remember people who cheered me early on ;)

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So far in the series 12 Games In 12 Months:

1. Announcement
2. Game 1: Intro
3. Game 1: Week 1





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