In the meantime I've been mainly working on creative things, since that's the only stuff I seem to be able to do right now. I've been playing around with some music recently, although I still can't get it to sound the way I want to. When I play something on my keyboard it sounds close to right (despite my lack of piano skills - I have to apply my imagination to gloss over all the mistakes [smile]). But when I sit down at ModPlug Tracker to program in the tune, it just doesn't work quite right. I think I need to concentrate more on the use of appropriate instruments and the exact timing of the rhythyms - I've noticed I tend to try to "correct" things to what makes sense rather than what I actually play, as I often strike a note before or after the beat. Plus I also need to pay more attention to the pauses, which require a bit more effort to get right.
I might as well try to knock off this pirate themed track for Stompy I've been stewing for ages - I should just pick one of the variations I've got sitting around and just go with it.
I've also found I haven't really got a clue about 2D animation. I've been trying to sketch a few examples out on paper, but I just can't seem to get my figures to look right. It might be because I haven't had much practice with sketching figures in "action" poses - most of my 2D characters are in neutral standing positions. I've also got no real idea how to test the animation - I've only worked for any considerable amount of time with pencil and Inkscape.
I suppose I could try sketching a few simple vector images in Inkscape, moving figures around and saving bitmap "frames" as a bit of an exercise and see how that works. If I can't get the hang of drawing animation I might have to limit myself to a "paper cutout" look to make it easy - I'm considering doing that anyway for time considerations, but it would be nice if I could draw slightly more advanced cartoon figures.
Toolset for more advanced games?
As I've been alluding to over the last few posts, I've been smitted by the Metroidvania genre after playing "Mop of Destiny". I've had an idea of a platformer Metroidvania game floating around in my skull for several months now, and given it's practically the holidays I've decided to write it up as a proper design documents. While I doubt I'll be ready to start working on such a game until the middle of 2007 at the earliest, I think it will be a good target to aim for when it comes to building up my dev skills.
One thing that strikes me even at this early stage of designing is that the only way I could sensibly develop a game like this is to have a very good toolset for building the game world. Preferably something I've integrated within the game engine itself, where building a world is roughly on par to building a Powerpoint presentation (except actually fun; maybe The Incredible Machine would be a better example here). That way I can very easily throw things together to make a full game, or even conscript someone else (even a non-programmer) to help with the world building.
Now I'm not that sure what the best way is to build a toolset like this - I can see how some of the features in my game engine such as the message passing system could be extended to make something like this work on a techincal level, but I don't think I've seen a world crafting tool that I'd consider "intuitive" - although that might be because most require you to have a good memory map of what every key on the keyboard does within the dev tool.
It's also something I haven't seen much of here in the forums - there's plenty of questions about how to make things look shiny in their new engine, but not a lot about how to make good tools.
So I guess what I'll have to consider as I write up this design is how everything can be constructed to make it work with the toolset. Possibly a bit backward way of thinking - most approaches I'd wager build the toolset to work with the engine - but I think it's more important to have a painless building interface that have to work with a kludge. Plus as an added benefit, I suspect the answer to this will help solve part of the challenge for my ultimate goal - the interactive storytelling game I'm dedicated to completing one day.
If anyone has some pointers on developing toolsets, or good world building techniques in general, I'd be interested in reading them!