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My mumblings during the Week of Awesome II

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ReColorMe: Post-Mortem

What went right

[indent=1][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial]Unreal Engine 4[/font][/color]

[indent=2][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial]This thing is simply incredible. We were able to begin prototyping nearly instantly .Although I am fairly new with this engine (3 months), what I had learned the 3 months prior proved to be fruitful. The price of entry, $20, is hard to beat and there is incredible documentation for something so new to the dev community. It's marketplace is growing and hopefully will match unity in the coming months and eventually surpass it in quality. [/font][/color][/font][/color]


[indent=2][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial]Bohee was brand new to creating multiple style defined art pieces; let alone putting those together in a video game. It is by far the most complimented aspect of our game and are told it fits with the theme of this competition nearly perfectly. Watching her read the compliments on the art puts a big smile on her face. It puts an even bigger one on mine. I created the sprite animations because I had about 1 sprite animation of experience in my life, but it was still more than the zero she had. It came together relatively well for us. Although it is not perfect, we think it worked well with our project. [/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color]


[indent=2]I had to implement things I have never attempted to program before, such as save game states, changing the HUD, and very VERY basic AI(movement). I am very new to game design from a programming aspect and have mostly dabbled in 3d modeling and Photoshop. I thought going with a relatively basic side scrolling platformer would be the best way to get my feet wet with programming. Overall I didn't run into anything too complicated. Each individual block would randomly select a letter (all consonants, wanted to avoid improper language) and then randomly select a color from six and then render. I was very happy with this. Each time you play a level the colors and letters will all be different. Except of course for the ones that I placed that are intentional. I really think I could expand upon this and try to do something a bit more procedurally generated, but didn't have the time for that in this competition.


[indent=2][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial]I had actually been in between two jobs during the week of this competition, as well as my girlfriend, and it worked out absolutely perfectly. I had loads of time and many many hours sitting in a chair and a lot of coffee. The final day (Sunday night to monday morning) I we went from nailing down our audio to me playing in my sunday night soccer league, to back to programming. The final stretch was 9pm Sunday to Monday 9am. 12 hours straight in my chair at home. Hammering away at the keyboard. I had a lot of time available and I do not know how the others were able to do what they did while also working full time. Incredible.[/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color]

[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial]What went wrong[/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color]


[indent=2]I ran into a huge problem where audio wasn't playing in 3d space because I was using the Paper2d plugin. Although you are allowed to add 3d objects in a 3d world in paper2d it simply adds sprites, sprite animations, 2d physics and collisions. This proved to be a HUGE issue, especially when it related to the helicopter and dino sounds. I wanted the helicopter's blades to fade in and out as it approached and left the player, but all it would do is play the sound no matter if you could see it or not. I ended up writing some very very hacky code for it and i found a somewhat terrible solution. I simply choose a distance and a random time to have it start fading in or out not based on the players locations. ugh I hope most people are too busy looking at the art and focusing on the puzzles to notice that there are some issues with it. I am also very sad that i couldn't include any music due to time constraints.


[indent=2]Choosing to use the 2d plugin resulted in some very strange collision for me. The 3d collision that I had to implement sometimes due to some not perfectly working sprite collisions ended up causing conflicts with other 2d collisions in the levels. This was absolutely the most frustrating part. The biggest issue is with the Dino. You have to aim most for his back to land on and not so much his head. If you land anywhere near his nose or eyes players will simply just fall through him. This adds the most frustrations to the player and has the feedback that I have been given. I tried and tried and tried to move the collisions around, adding new ones, and everything I could think of. It was simply stuck where it was and I was crossing my fingers that players would just figure it out. I couldn't delete it and redo because I had a lot of code inside of that actor that I am not able to simply copy and paste due to the blueprint coding system having other dependencies. I know it makes it sound like UE4 has some serious issues, but really it was the time constraint that didn't let me revise some of these things that simply would take too much time away from other polish that was just as if not more important.


[indent=2]I made a big mistake here by thinking much bigger scope than I had time for. I wanted to have the story told over multiple levels with the blocks the player uses. I wanted it to be subtle in the background for other players to notice and what happened was a serious reduction in the number of levels coupled with the tediousness of placing individual letters of blocks. What got into the game was a few snippets of the toys talking to the player/each other that I hope some others notice. The end level is exclusively about that and I liked the idea I had for the end, but it simply falls flat in my mind because of the possibility of missing the story from playing the levels.

[color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial][color=rgb(40,40,40)][font=arial]Closing words[/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color][/font][/color]

[indent=1]Overall I am relatively happy with what Bohee and I accomplished as very inexperienced developers and I feel like this contest was a big stepping stone in our progress to be better. Nothing like a deadline, time crunch, and others relying on you to push you to achieve what you thought you may not be able to do.




End of Day 7: Final Submission

So much more we wanted to do. I wanted more levels. I wanted more audio. I wanted more polish. I wanted to redo art. There isn't time for such things in a 7 day window. I hope you guys enjoy the game. It has drained the both of us. I am looking forward to taking a break from gamedev for a little while after this.

I set out to do this competition to simply gain experience creating a game from beginning to end. After two days my goal was to win. I scaled back my ambition and said I would be happy with top 5. Now that I am finished; what I really care about is how much closer Bohee and I have gotten and the tribulations we got through. We're a stronger couple now because of it.






End of Day Five: First Look!

End of Day 5. Wow time sure has flown by. You guys have been asking for a peek at what we have been working on and today is finally the day. But first I must recap the day. Bohee did an incredible job finishing all of the art she was tasked with completing. I am very proud of her. Her art skills have improved dramatically because of this competition. Gimp is becoming just another apendage to her. We were slaving away at a coffee shop and she noticed I was stressing about some code I was working on and she said, "Don't get stressed; this is fun!" Talk about a great partner.

We have rough sprite animations implemented and we hope we can polish these on Sunday. I began the creation of our additional levels, but still have A LOT of work to do on them. I hope I can bring you guys at least a few levels of challenge and fun! We actually caught up a little bit today. We completed items we had on our 9/26 checklist and even tackled some items such as death, respawns, and sprite animations which we had slated for completion on 9/27.

We decided to give you guys a little insight into the story as well as a visual look at our game. Our main character is a bouncy ball who looks like he has been bounced around one too many times. He is confused why some of the other toys are being mean to him. Why can't everyone just play nicely? He is on a mission to find out what is wrong, because all that he can remember is life.

What we have here is the final game mechanic I needed to implement to call our game 'feature complete.' This is a rough draft of the game introducing this game mechanic to the player about twelve levels into the game or so. Please excuse the framerate due to a not so powerful laptop and video recording software.





End of Day Four: Gametype Revealed (Logo v0.6)

Being here in Korea I am approximately 12 hours in the future from most other competitors, so that means it is end of the day for me. I can not believe four days have been completed already. We had a serious setback today. I had to go to the immigration office because I am switching employers and after the longest of waits we are informed that I need a document I did not have (it was not required the last time). An ENTIRE day wasted. Unfortunately I had to prioritize my residency status in a foreign country before our game. The good news is that I do not have to waste another day waiting for hours upon hours, tomorrow (friday), because I was informed that I can finish this matter on Monday. Whew.

I do fear that this day set us back more than than I thought as I sat down for 2 hours late this evening to try and cram in some design. Luckily, I had a notebook and pencil so I could work on level design a little bit while I waited at immigration. That leads me to revealing the type of game we are creating. Although I will not give you important details about the gameplay, I will inform you that it is a 2d Puzzle Platformer.

Sounds bland at first glance. We hope to surprise you.

The setback today has pushed our "gold" milestone from 9/27 to 9/28. Instead of having about 36 hours of 'time' to polish and iron out small issues, I will have only about 12 or so hours. I have been trying to keep my code as clean as possible, but I made some minor, easily overlooked mistakes that needed my attention the few hours I got to work on the game this evening. Bohee is starting to feel the exhaustion of going 100mph all day every day on this project. She is nearing burnout. I think she has just enough fuel to make it. We are still on track to hit our art "gold" milestone by 9/27. I think she is relieved about that. Unfortunately, we both have some separate social obligations to attend to this weekend.

Did people not get the memo that I am unavailable? Maybe I should have wrote the memo in Korean

The outlook for the rest of the week looks like this:

Programming: Implement the final build (if there is such a thing) of gameplay mechanics (Currently 90%)
Art: Finish final drafts of characters.
Design: Begin creation of an additional 5-10 levels (Currently at 10, including tutorial levels)

Programming: Complete final draft of UI interface, death, and respawns.
Art: Final sprite animations
Design: Finish all levels and complete implementation of theme and story

Playtest & QA

9/29 (Morning):
Final pass of polish




End of Day Three: Game Name (Logo v0.5)

We agreed that we would release our game's name this evening (1:30am). I am incredibly proud of ?? (Bohee)'s art so far. I feel it really ties the game together well right now. I have a lot of confidence that we will score well on the graphics portion of the judging. The art ties in incredibly well with our gameplay, and it is unique. We figure that now the competition is nearly half way completed it was time to release a little more than just words or a blurry picture. As badly as I would like to release some actual gameplay footage, I think I would rather have it be a surprise to the player. I feel that our tutorial is a fresh take on informing the player on how to play.

There are 6 sections in the tutorial and they are all completed and working in a wonderful fashion. I hope to build upon this and create some fantastic gameplay for all of you that decide to try our game. Primarily what is left to be completed are sprite animations (yes our game is 2d), audio, and implementing the level design that is in my brain! For the most part, the code is in place and ready to be duplicated where needed. Unreal Engine 4 has been incredibly powerful and it is easily the best $20 I have ever spent. I highly suggest you other devs take a look at it. There really isn't anything better out there. I've had a lot of experience with the CryEngine platform, some familiarity with Unity, but easily UE4 surpasses them in quality. Maybe I am bias because I like how fast progress has been this week

I look forward to showing a screenshot or two the beginning of this weekend. I love what I am seeing from the other teams and am quite interested in playing everything you guys and girls have made. Don't forget to drink water and stretch every once-in-awhile




End of Day Two

We are exhausted. We ran into problems. We stopped to get some beer. Actually helped take a little edge off. As soon as this post is finished it is bed time for us.

We have a working prototype. I think we have a great idea and I hope we end up impressing at least one person. At the very least I think we are impressing each other. I badly want to show what we have, but it is still too early in the week to be lifting the drape. We know there are better artists and programmers in this competition than us, but we hope our sheer dedication can overcome our shortfalls.

We dropped a couple F-bombs today, but I am excited for tomorrow. We learned a great lesson today: Stop sweating the small stuff. We aren't shipping this game, it is going to be sloppy, it is going to have corners cut in art, and unoptimized code. That is the kind of stuff we need to save for the last 24 hours of this competition. We're willing to share a pixelized page from our concept session. You can't see anything; I look forward to showing you later this week.




Theme has been revealed!

It is 2pm here in South Korea on Sept 22nd and I am on a one hour subway ride to my girlfriend and teammate's home. I think she is a talented artist with pencil and paper, but lacks the proper confidence in herself. I hope that is something she can gain from this competition. She has had a wacom tablet and gimp up and running for about a month now so her tools are new to her still.

I have been getting acquainted with UE4 for the past 3 months now and have just wrapped up my first 2d mobile game's beta last night. I am happy I can shelve it away for a week and work on this competition, something new.

I am quite excited about the "Toys are Alive" theme because I feel it really will pair well with our art styles and current level of talent. At first glance I thought there will be many similar games and the theme was kind of close ended, but as I have been writing this my mind is running through a hundred ideas. I am excited to get started!

Unfortunately I woke up to horrible news this morning; my apartment's monthly bandwidth has hit it's cap. No internet access at home. It looks like we are going to be coffee shop developers for this competition.

There is a silver lining, it has given us a team name: CafeCrew.



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