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About this blog

Look into the mind of jman2050 as attempts to fulfill his goal of creating games for the masses.

Entries in this blog


Everything Else

With the design and programming portion of the project moving smoothly, I direct my attention to everything else: The aural and visual presentation of the game. I won't lie to you: I'm terrible at art. Really really terrible. I've always wanted to make games, and this has been the major hurdle for me. I do better with music, but I don't have the tools or resources to make anything nearly professional sounding (and I refuse to settle for straight MIDI in anything but freeware projects). So part of my workings since the project began has been deciding what type of audio-visual experience I want.

Thankfully, I didn't have to look far.

Lumines, developed for the PSP, is a prime example of taking a concept and making it more appealing by enhancing the audio-visual experience. At heart, it's a simple and addictive puzzle game. This is fine on its own, but Lumines is able to mke itself a star by employing very appealing experiences to a user's eyes and ears. Multitudes of skins makes adds a bit of freshness to the gameplay, even when it get repetitive. Lumines is an inspiration to me in this area, and while I don't want to copy the exact style, emulating its emphasis on music and art is something I think would benefit my game greatly.

The next challenge was finding people who are capable of bringing he audio-visual experience to life. On the music side, the Help Wanted forum on this site led me to the maintainer of this site. I fell in love with the Video Game music samples posted on the site, and am now corresponding with this person about doing music for my game. I personally think he'd be perfect for the job. My budget is low though, so the challenge will be agreeing to an acceptable rate while getting the results tha I think befit a professional game.

Art is a bit more of a challenge. I searched around a bit, but art is an expensive affair. The associate of mine who will help design and develop games is good at pixel art, but I'm not really looking for pixel art for this game. Fortunately, I may be able to employ someone under favorable circumstances (a friend of mine from where I used to live), but we'll have to see how that goes.

Regardless of what happens, one of my primary goals is to stray away from the generic style of puzzle games. Good gameplay will keep a customer playing, but the game won't have a chance if you can't grab that person's attention. A good audio-visual experience will go a long way in that regard. Despite this, a good design and good gameplay is of paramount importance. I don't believe you have to sacrifice one for the other, though time constraints and budget constraints will obviously put a limit as to what is possible.

Let's hope for the best. While I wait though, I'll have a chance to carry ot the plans I laid out in yesterday's entry. once enough headway has been made on that, I can do an entry on what will be one of the defining features of the game: Multiplayer :)




Planning for the future

First off, a link to the second prototype shown in the last journal entry:
Download Here!

Before I go further, I need to determine what I need to do in order to successfully complete this project. The art aspect is gonna be a bit difficult, so I'm focusing mainly on what I need to do as far as the game system goes. So far, the list I've devised goes as follows:

1. Seperate the elements of the game into seperate entities so they can operate independently in graphics terms. For example, make the orbs their own objects so they can animate independently of the rest of the board
2. Test the viability of differing gameplay themes, for example changing the number of holes on a ring, as well as the number of rings on a board.
3. Along with that, all of the game elements are hardcoded. I have to develop a system that'll allow easy creation of gameplay themes. An editor probably won't be neccesary at this point since the thematic elements are relatively simple, but when thematic graphics effects have to be programmed, an editor may become more viable a solution.
4. Add some dynamics to the gameplay. It could be as simple as a wildcard orb that can represent any color to black orbs that can only be destroyed under certain conditions. Any suggestions regarding this would be dandy.
5. Begin programming the different vital elements of the game. Title screen, options, Score entry, etc.
6. General balancing of the game then takes place to make sure whatever themes are made are fair to the player and fresh.
7. Multiplayer. I have no idea how I want this to work yet, but Puyo Puyo demonstrated how powerful a good multiplayer system can be in a puzzle game, so multiplaer is definitely something I want to include.

This is a general outline of how Iwant this project to progress. Despite the relative shortness of the list, I'm sure that it's going to present many challenges to me as a programmer. The difficulty then becomes generating the resources and integrating them into the game. Music won't be a problem, but my associate and I are gonna have to brainstorm as far as art is concerned. Hopefully we'll be able to come up with something as time goes by.

Also, as an aside, since I plan to sell different types of games, not just this one, we'll need to at least start brainstorming for other ideas for games. This will remain my main focus, but in my eyes it's never too early to find a good idea to stick by.

This journal has been quite fun to write so far, and has been very helpful in letting me organize my thoughts properly. Knowing I have an audience, albeit a small one, also helps as well.




Moving Forward

Funny how things work. I mentioned in my entry yesterday that the current implementation of Disk Drive wasn't satisfactory to me. I decided to play my gam a lot more during the past day or so. I think I actually like it. I've also garnered some opinions from those who tried the prototype (listed in the GD Showcase) that said that the game implementation was fine as-is. I'm starting to agree with them.

I thought about it, and decided that I was going to move forward using the core gameplay as developed in the prototype. The rest of development will be fleshing out the core gameplay into something that could be considered a full game. The current plan is to basically do something like Meteos: different 'arenas' each with slightly different gameplay variables. For example, some arenas would have 4 rings instead of 3, or even 5. Some will have more than 8 holes per ring, or even less. The timer will funcion differently in different arenas, as will the orb spawn rate. Of course, first I had to implement a timer, as it's hard to envision gameplay without it.

A shot of the current gameplay interface. As you can see, it's very primitive. I'm very bad at art, so this is the best I can do until I have my associate in this project begin on the art. As I mentioned in the last journal, you rotate the three rings of orbs until you match orbs together. You can also click on the small ring just inside the three large rings at different intervals to switch orbs between the lines. You press the purple orb in the middle of the screen to destroy all matches on screen. Knowing how to switch different lines and rotate the rings to generate the most matches at once is the key to the gameplay. Trying to do so before time runs out is part of the dynamic, and makes it a real interesting game to play.

You'll notice a long green bar on top. This is the current timer. Basically, the timer counts down as the game progresses, and when it reaches 0, the game will end, as shown here:

You can increase the timer by destroying orbs. You'll also notice the level number listed in the bottom right corner. Like Tetris, this level will increase as you gain matches, and will ultimately speed up the respawning of orbs, and lowerthe amount of time gained by dstroying orbs. Also, the blue rectangle in the lower left corner allows you to spawn orbs at will, in order to generate new matches quickly without wasting time (think Tetris Attack). The catch, of course, is that the timer will move faster if the entire board is filled up, so you have to be sure you know wht you're doing.

There are some issues to resolve currently, but the game plys very well at this point. I look forward to seeing this game in a more complete state as the months pass by.

Code-wise, I'm gonna have to think of approaches to make it more modular. Right now, a lot of stuff is hardcoded, but I can't leave it like that. I figured I'll have to decide how I want to modularize the code now while the codebase is still small. Let's hope the refactoring succeeds.

Anyway, I implore you to make comments on the gameplay, tell me how I can make things deeper if possible. The current game works well, but I'm willing to change it if it makes the game more fun. It all depends on what happens. As of now, this is the current state of the game, and I hope to work on more tmorrow and report on my progress. Thanks for reading :)




The first entry

The decision to develop my own games wasn't an easy one. I had already been on a good project before this, and was doing well on it. Unfortunately, it wasn't satisfying to me. I didn't have the drive I needed to fulfill my obligations, and frankly, it was stressing me out. So I bowed out of my role in development on the project, with the blessing of my superiors of course, in order to strike out on my own. Thus begins a new chapter in my life as a programmer. This chapter begins with an idea I had toyed around with for some time: Disk Drive.

What is Disk Drive? The basic idea is that, unlike many other puzzle games, which are rectangular in nature, this one would break the mold a bit by introducing a circular gameplay system. You rotate rings containing colored orbs until you form lines of matching orbs between the rings. You may also switch the formation of colored orbs in a ring, thus changing the composition of the rings themselves. Destroy the matching lines of colored orbs to earn points, destroying several lines at once, as well as in quick succession, to earn bonus points. You continue doing this until you run out of time, with the orbs respawning at faster rates.

Disk Drive was conceived, like many of my other ideas, in the thick of night. Most puzzle games succeeded because they stuck to a good formula: easy to play, hard to master, visually appealing, with very simple mechanics. Tastes vary widely of course, as is the case with me. I dislike Tetris and its ilk, instead preferring to go the route of matching puzzle games, like Puyo Puyo, Columns, Tetris Attack. I had always wanted to make a good puzzle game, so when determining ideas, I always looked for something that'd follow the footstep of the puzzle games I liked, while being an original concept in and of itself. I don't know if I succeeded with the concept for Disk Drive, but I certainly think the concept has potential as a full game.

My current prototype, built in a day in order to demonstrate the gameplay, is problematic though. The concept works, but the implementation concerns me. I don't know if I'm just really bad at the game or what, but I find it very difficult to employ any sort of real strategy to my moves, instead just trying to match line after line in slow succession repeatedly. Obviously, the gameplay is still basic at this point, being a prototype and all, but one thing I deinitely want to look for is the game being dynamic as far as challenge goes. If the challenge is one-dimensional, people will get bored quickly. On the same note, I don't want to complicate the game system too much, since simplicity is golden in puzzle games. Thus, my journey towards completion begins with trying to fix the fundamentals, and trying to resolve the issues I have with playing my own game. It won't be easy, but with some thinking and the input of others, I'm sure I can succeed.

As for this journal, I'll chronicle the progress of developing the game in my subsequent posts. I can't promise consistent updating, but I'll try to be as up-to-date as possible as this project continues to grow. My goal is certain now, but I have no ideas what kind of challenges I'll face in the future. I just have to hope for the best and trust in my skills as a programmer and project manager. And hey, at least it's not an MMO I'm making, right? Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy reading about the fulfillment of a developer's dream.



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