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Brain

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My current project is a puzzle game called "Firework Factory".

This project has been sitting on my hard disk since 2010, however i haven't actively worked on it since late 2011. I started out with the concept of producing a puzzle game with a plot - looking into the puzzle games currently available very few do, they just have a long sequence of "solve this" and "solve that, now a bit harder".

The idea of the game is to get boxes of fireworks from one end of the factory to the other, re-ordering them in the expected order displayed on the screen. Doing so is made possible by the fact that the player controls various "junctions" which can be made to redirect crates in any of four directions, but must be changed manually. Sending crates down the wrong path, on a collision course, results in pretty particle based explosions, each particle being deadly to nearby crates. Getting the crates out of the factory in the correct order as soon as possible adds to your percentage completion, each level having a minimum percentage to complete (think "cut the rope" or any other game where you must complete each level to a satisfactory standard to unlock the next). As you advance through the levels, plot is revealed to you which changes the game, sometimes subtly and other times drastically. I will not ruin the plot by posting spoilers here, but suffice it to say it is quite interesting, if i do say so myself - if you really want to know the plot in full and are not concerned about spoilers feel free to PM me!

Well, as they say: "All best laid plans of mice and men". When i started on this project, I was single and living with my parents. This changed in 2012 as i settled down with my now wife and we had two babies together. This is not a situation which lends itself to free time to develop games, so the project was put on hold.

Fast forward to November 2014, and as the kids are a little older and my job has changed to one where i am finishing work earlier, and able to take breaks whenever i wish so long as the work is complete, finding myself with a little free time to get back into game development.

Dusting the e-Dust off the repository, I dig around in my code familiarising myself with it once more. After a few minutes of research i find my worst fears confirmed - Microsoft have decided to abandon XNA, there will be no XNA 5, and what's worse, it will not be supported in any form on the Xbox One. This leaves my project in free-fall, not being sure what to do next.

I weigh up the options - move to monogame, rewrite the project in something more future-proof, or just give up. Giving up not being even on the cards for me, after investing so many months producing the game (and coming so close to finishing too) i explore the other two options.

Currently, monogame does not support the content pipeline, so a straight conversion of the project files automatically is out of the question. I could rewrite all the bits of the project which don't work right in monogame, and copy and paste the rest, or i could wait for the newer version of monogame which will (i have been assured) support the content pipeline.

Being the impatient type, i decide against waiting for a new version of monogame - i have free time NOW, and i want to develop my game now, waiting is not an option as free time is few and far between for me.
Also, looking at what Microsoft did to XNA, and the fact that it will not exist on the xbox one indicate to me that targetting the xbox 360 is no longer a sane option for me - it is last generation's hardware.

So, this leaves me with option three - a rewrite. Let's be honest here, most developers when given old code look for an excuse to completely rewrite it as soon as possible, just because it isn't their code. Look honestly at yourself and try to tell yourself this isn't true, deep down smile.png ...

So, starting out on the rewrite i settle on Direct3D 11. Changing the game to a 3D game has several advantages, which are:

  • Most gamers will be quicker to accept a 3D game as "new" and not something "their dad played when he was a kid" - let's be honest, most gamers are materialistic and are wowed by graphics and presentation, not gameplay.
  • It is more future proof - the DirectX platform has been around since 1995, and isn't going to vanish next year.
  • Changing the view of the game indirectly makes it a little more difficult which increases the challenge - the 3D camera slightly obstructs the view, causing the player to consider more about what is going off in the game and assume more about the things he can't currently see.
  • DirectX 11 will just be interesting to learn - in the end, does there need to be any other reason than this? happy.png

    So, this explains why I've settled on rewriting my game in DirectX 11 (and by extension changing to C++, which i was always more comfortable with than C# anyway!) and changing it to a 3D view.

    On to progress - so far, i have implemented a simple camera, based upon a third person camera which is always looking to the centre of the playing field. The player may zoom in or out, and rotate around the playing area a full 360 degrees. When the player zooms in or out, the pitch of the camera adjusts so they view the playing field from a slightly raised angle, from above, to give a clearer view of all the playing field. As they zoom out the camera goes flat, closer to the level of the boxes on the playing area.

    I have implemented a way to render the conveyor belts, and the boxes. This will give me the basis of a playable game soon enough, once i port all my existing game logic from C# to C++ (an easy, if not a bit of a time consuming task!).

    I have also created a simple audio facility within the game which integrates with fmod (which is now, i might add, free to Indies with budgets of less than $100k... nice).

    For artwork, i have realised that i can render 99% of the graphics using bump mapped, shaded and textured cubes, and scaled variants thereof, and a simple particle engine (see the project screenshots to see what i mean regarding this - everything is basically square - easy!) which means that for the time being, i do not need any 3D modellers, and i can re-use a lot of my existing artwork.

    So, i will now end my first journal entry, with a promise of a simple YouTube video upload at some point in the coming week. Comments as always are welcome cool.png

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