Dragon Animation Progress..

Flap animation
Flap animation

Almost forgot that Spine offers an export to animated gif.

Now just need to do a limb pass on the animation and I’ll let it be done for the next while.

However the actual sprite art, is still just a 20 minute hack job in photoshop.   Not gonna make any final art until I have a vertical slice working.. That’s my reward for doing the tedious UI stuff.

Review: jQuery Game Development

Ok Book review time.

I generally read a ton of tech books, and decided to post some thoughts on this one.

jQuery Game Development


If you’ve got a desire to write games using the DOM and already familiar with basic javascript and at least some experience with jQuery then you’re the target audience of this book. If that sentence contains words you don’t comprehend then I’d do some additional reading first.  Decent understanding of html, OOP  and maybe having a smidge of PHP knowledge definitely won’t hurt either.  If you’ve done some basic selecting with jQuery and maybe implemented a plugin you found on the web or two you’ll be set.  But you’re gonna want to be not afraid of code you’ll be fine.  So it’s not exactly for everyone.. but if you are you’ll find a wealth of information inside.

Basically the book is a crash course in building a game framework from scratch.  The book , including animation, motion, building a game loop, loading levels and much more.  The examples are broken up into a series of short games. Each of the games explaining building up on a basic concept and explaining why it does what it does, and sometimes going back and improving on a concept from an earlier chapter.  It starts with frogger and winds up with multiplayer online rpg thing.  Chapters 1-6 are a great resource covering everything from basic sprites all the way up to isometric tilemaps and occlusion but then …

Chapters 7-9, however, go a bit off kilter.. 7 is a half-hearted summary of building a php database backend,  8 is for integrating with twitter and facebook and finally 9 mobile development.  All of which are simply too big and complicated topics to get a single chapter in a book and/or have nothing to do with jQuery.  And you’ll be repeated warned to never use the examples in chapter 7 in a real game.. which seems to pretty much defeat the purpose of the book.

Chapter 10, however is a great resource for all the headaches and pitfalls that are involved in implementing HTML sound.  In fact it’s probably one of the nicest summaries of the mess that is HTML sound that I’ve read, and how to implement it in the framework we’ve been building.

++ Overall, a lot of tech books seem to go into obsolescence fairly quickly, but the core knowledge in chapters 1-6 is going to be pretty rock solid for a long while and worth the price of admission.

++ Grammatically and logically the book is presented well with concepts that build upon each other.

+- Code samples for the most part make sense, however the author has a tendency to as he puts it ‘avoid typing’  so he abbreviates lots of function names which gets a little confusing

TLDR;

Good book, lots of useful jQuery implementation tips

 

Musings on Business Models

Where we are:

So, the industry has been in a massive race to the bottom.

Congratulations… here we are… Free is the new zeitgeist.

Now we’ve ground that to ground and the top titles are ‘pay to not play’,  ie buy shortcuts to unlock things that you can normally get to by playing, but game-play is made to be so repetitive and grindy that people would rather pay money than play more.   So the lifetime play of those looks something like this:

  • Play something fun and exciting
  • Play it a bit more master it’s nuance and learn about upcoming unlocks and what new exiting element will be unlocked.
  • Grind some more.. slowly getting bored but the lure of the new upcoming unlock promises to be as much fun as the first 15 min when the game was fresh.
  • grind some more.
  • grind some more..  that unlock is looking fun by now
  • at this point the user either, a) keeps grinding,  b) pays to skip the remaining grind, or c) quits.
  • Go back to step 1.

Now the trick is to space the first few unlocks close enough where the player can get them all in a session or two, probably without paying, then the player is already invested heavily and has had several endorphin rushes of  ‘winning’. (no really, go research slot machines and emotional feedback mechanics, systems for building compulsive behavior etc… it will creep you out when you play a facebook game again)

Now you can start to increase the grind amount between major unlocks.  The goal is to gradually increase the required tedium to the point where the user starts investing real money.  And once they start investing money, the difficulty in getting them to spend again decreases dramatically.  Once the user is all worn out and spent, you’ll hopefully have their email address / fb profile etc… so you can cross promote your next game with the ‘From the makers of….’  which will hopefully immediately spark the flashback to the original 15 min.

I think that sucks.

So….Where can we go?

Well.. that’s a tough question.  Because games are everywhere, in greater supply than any user could possibly ever play.  Add in the long tail, and that’s only going to make things harder and harder in the years to come.

For example:

Why play a $15 indie title when it’ll be on a Steam sale  for $3.74 soon.  (Today, it’s the wonderful Orcs Must Die 2) .. but wait why play that at all.. when you can play last year’s AAA title that you missed for $14.99 (today it’s the Complete Prince of Persia pack (5 AAA titles))

The answer, I think, lies in :    investment, involvement, community and marketing.

Investment

Go play the first chapter or 2 of  Telltale’s awesome and gripping Walking Dead.  We need narratives that players can get themselves lost in.  Even better than telling gripping narratives are narratives that they make themselves.  Ask someone about their favorite Minecraft experience.  Everyone has one,  Minecraft is NOTHING but a player investing themselves completely in a world that’s receptive to it.   We’re lucky that Mojang has been great and not added mini expansions/addons/IAP because you know that it’s got to be tempting and would have been wildly successful… The days of running down a hallway and shooting things with little to no narrative for the user to invest in,  well.. you’ll be competing against every game that’s come before you and they can come in at a lower price point than you, because they’ve already made their money back.   Make the player feel like they’re in charge of something they care about and they will stick around.

Involvement

Alpha sale, Kickstarter, Pre-orders with Beta access.  Here’s a not-so-secret, Everyone wants to be a game designer.  (That’s because they don’t know what it really entails) Involve players in your process,  anyone remember alpha release Fridays from Notch?  How about hanging out in the Elemental alpha access forums?  Everquest beta?  Engage your customers..   Now the hard part is getting them in the door in the first place.. but it’s not that bad…because when you empower a user, they feel special and unique and THAT is how things go viral,  when a person can show their friends that they have something cool, unique and special  you just can’t get them to stop talking about it.   It takes time, (ask Notch about how hard it is to keep up with community expectations) and you have to be out there available for critique and since it’s the Internet, it comes with some serious bile.

Community

World War II Online has members who keep their subscription active, entirely because they love the community they have built.  Second Life would have sputtered out years ago if it hadn’t been because of the ability of users to create sub-communities in the game. Natural Selection2 would never have been released without their community coming together.   League of Legends, Dota2, StarCraft  all have strong user<–>user community interactions.  However, building a community is usually the RESULT of having a great game,  so it’s the best way to sustain a title.

Marketing

With every game ever made having the exact same priority in the marke place compared to your title what’s the easy way to stand out?  That’s right, throw money at it.  It works,  ask Cliffski at Positech..  The above methods only work if you have eyeballs on your game.  Now, marketing isn’t a bad word.. really.  And it comes in all shapes and sizes.  From Blog posts, to banner ads, to asking for feedback from Gamedev.net  it’s ALL marketing.. Every Tweet you ever do .. that’s marketing.. Even if you’re not selling a specific title, you’re generating interest in you.  And then, when you have something REALLY important to say, you want to be able to focus as many eyeballs as possible on it as fast as possible.    Think of Marketing as being the Shock Paddles and your game is your Frankenstein..  The above elements will let it grow strong and tall, but without an initial shock, chances are you won’t even get a toe to twitch.

 

 

RELEASE!

War Mages is out on the Play Store!

Get It HERE

SummonIcon256

It’s been one hell of a month. Since starting over in the 18th it’s been non-stop go go go to get this thing up and running.

Overall I’m really pleased with how well it turned out. I have a lot of little secondary features I want to add to it, but I think I need a week to recover.

It will be an interesting thing to see if the game finds any kind of an audience, I’m not aware of there being a whole lot of multi-player games on a single tablet yet.  However I think that it will be one of those kinds of genres where people can pop down for 5 – 10 min with a friend while waiting for the bus and play a game.

Time will tell.

Feb 18 – week 3

10 days left.  Basic features are complete.
War mages is a 2 player game played on an Android tablet (7in or greater) where each player enters orders/commands for monsters they then summon onto the gameboard.
The goal is to have a fire elemental make an explosion on the enemy’s summoning circle.

Lots of little UI things left to do along with victory conditions but I’m in good shape

Reboot

Tough decision made.  The original planned February game isn’t going to happen.

The Bad News

As I rapidly approached the mid-month mark I realized that I had actually made Anti-progress… I had started out with working off of the base Jan game  and broken it to the point where  it no longer had sound, and was actually unbeatable as that would crash it.  And I hadn’t even finished adding a single new feature (other than preparing to get the Spine actors put into place)

Then to add insult to injury I found out about Impire, which comes out tomorrow.  It looks an awful lot like what I want my game to be, except with a helluva larger budget, and that was pretty damn demotivating.

So I moped, and pondered and had a couple beers.

The Good News

At this point I started going back through my mental pile of old abandoned games to see if there was something that I can make work and turn into a game in 2 weeks.  And by golly I didn’t have to go far. My original blog post, in fact.  It’s time to do BombBots over again.. except in a fantasy theme this time, on a tablet, in 2d.  Oh and finished, seeing as I never finished the Second Life version (LUA server implementation problems), or the Torque Version (TGB never solidified into what I needed).  So the goal, is to turn it into a 2 player on 1 tablet/mobile device game.  Who knows.. maybe it’ll work out and be fun.

So the awesome thing is that just being ok with trashing the original idea really got me re-invigorated again.  So perhaps the Drakkheim games this year will just be all little experiments and then I’ll see what sticks before committing to some grand master plan and in the meanwhile I’ll have a chance to build up a good re-usable codebase and master all the tools I want to.

 

Day 12 – Update

LittleButton

 Time for the weekly update!

Pathfinding!

Lots of new functionality got put in this week. The biggest of which is clearly the pathfinding which.. in all honestly was a pain in the butt but has been rock steady since I got it working.  The map on the other hand..  I must have re-re-rewritten chunks of the rendering for it so many times these last few days.  That and tile picking (still  a wip) have both turned out to be deceptively huge pains in the ass.  The primary cause is that the world coordinate system and visible coordinate system and the map tile grid are all different and finding out what correlates to everything else is a pain.

Luckily I seem to have it mostly sorted out for now.  Well except the map renderer… that’s currently working on a sheer brute force approach, so I’ll have to limit the map sizes in the Jan build.

Other notable features

  • Select creatures (indicated by yellow glow)
  • Buy new creatures by clicking gold wolf button in the lower left.
  • Track, gold, stage and Dragon Egg’s health
  • 2 Monsters (goblin and Orc) and they can move about.
  • Monsters can be equipped with better weapons and armor.

er they say a picture is worth a thousand words so here’s an annotated screenshot.

Jan13

Oh and here’s a couple of runnable Builds:

Windows Pc EXE > Here

Everyone  Runnable Jar > Here

Android…er.. it runs on my devices… however Im having issues getting the deployed APK file to work :-/

{Basic Instructions}

Click on stuff.  There’s no real gameplay yet.

Right Click and Drag to pull the map around.

Let me know if  it works

Next:

The rest of the weekend will probably not be nearly as productive :-/

However next up.   Invaders!  Collisions!  Combat!  Death!

But it’s gonna be close to see if I can get a functional game done by the end of the month.

Can’t say how much fun it will be.

 

Quick Sprites

 

More goodness to come later this weekend,  pathfinding, creatures.. and hopefully a UI..

But the hosting company had issues for a while so I took the downtime (no website -> no map server -> no debugging) to knock out the basic goblin an orc creatures and an upgraded version of each.

basicGoblinupgradedGoblin

basicOrc

upgradedOrc

Stay tuned 🙂

 

Dangit.. noted for prosperity.

So a quick twiddle with the new goblin sprite for January

basicGoblin

Gave me a neat mockup of what the January game will look like 🙂

And I was happy.

janScreenshot

Then I added a shadow behind the goblin.

And that looked funny.

So I moved it up 1/8 of a tile and drew a flat plane below it to give a little bit of an isometric feel.

mock1

Well… THAT looked pretty neat.  But now the difference between the floor and the wall looks odd.  How about a little gradient to imply depth and ambient occlusion.

mock2

NOW we’re talking!   But now I’ve got to run those shadows all around.  And Indicate Terrain types.. and calculate all the possible corner scenarios.   (Which I know EXACTLY how complicated it was for ONE terrain type,  Here I’ll be having inside & outside (and possibly other) types as well.

febMockup

But man..  It really gives everything the look and feel of what I want.   Kind of an ‘anthill’ meets Dungeon Keeper feel.  

So here’s the part where I make myself sad.

 It’s not gonna be January.  Absolutely no way.

.. Maybe February (depending on the release of Spine) or March.  April at the latest, because I intend to be adding digging at that point and the map rendering needs to be pretty gelled by then.

Preparations for the new year

Preparation

14 days to go before start of the http://www.onegameamonth.com/ challenge. (just shy of 1200 peeps now!)   And it’s time to get my head back in the game making state of mind.  So, as I usually do..  I’ve been making lists.   There was a nice discussion on reddit/gamedev about prep work and I’ve gone ahead and created a new user and made sure it’s got access to the tools I’ll need (and hopefully fewer of the distractions).   So here’s a few lists of tools I need etc.

Tools:

  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • Audition
  • Eclipse
  • LibGDX nightlies
  • GIT
  • Magix Music Maker 2013
  • GWT and various browsers.

So having that all squared away it’s time to look at the big picture.  My overall goal, the 10,000′ view, the grand plan, the whole burrito etc etc..

In short I want to walk away with components that I can use in ‘Drakkheim‘ the big dream game that’s been percolating for a couple years and have mastered LibGDX.  So Ideally I can break each of the 12 games down into just using a teeny tiny subset of all the features that I anticipate needing in the long run.

Which, of course, necessitated another list…

Features to Use:

  • Scalable & Draggable Massive Tile Map
  • Spriter / Spine Characters
  • Tile sidescroller pathfinding
  • AI
  • Economic Model
    • food. availability vs taste vs risk + individual’s taste
  • Effects
  • Parallaxing Backgrounds
  • Tile or blend based lighting
  • Line of sight
  • Dialogs
  • Multiplayer?
  • particles
  • multiple scale UI
  • dynamic / generated character profiles and lifespan.
  • music
  • mods / community content
  • extensible data formatting
  • save /load games
  • world generation
  • server/account auth
  • self updating / version check

Whoo.. the more I think.. the more things I come up with.   But that’s a good start.

So now I’m getting a concise picture in my head of what tools I have to work with, which I find make it easier to narrow down something to make into a game.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

It’s either that or analysis paralysis setting in.

Maybe I’ll sleep on it.. or just sit here and wonder just what I’ve gotten myself into.

Reboots & Shuffles

Been an exciting time here for the last couple months.
The biggest news is the dayjob has changed so now things are looking like the available time for development work is paying off in spades.

I plan on wrapping up 2 projects within the next month.
1- proofSite – a super simple photography solution for photogrphers to present their proofs to clients without a massive complicated web backend and infrastructure. Details on that should be coming shortly, it’s being rolled out real soon to the first couple photographers to beta test.

2- ultraShow – still keeping a few things under wraps about this, but it will be, easy, powerful, and non flash based so it’ll work everywhere. Still not sure on the pricing model for it.

Oh yeah… and More mobile web and android news coming soon.

Texas in August… yup still hotter n hell.

There’s something to be said for being slowly roasted alive every time you step outside… usually something along the lines of ‘you idiot get back inside, are you crazy???!?’

It also has the tendency to bake the willpower to do extra projects out of you.

So, in short, it’s been real slow going.  Consulting work is in full swing, however.  Lots of new and fun small projects.    Which got me thinking..

And then I had to grab a cold drink…

then I thought some more.

Small projects.  Bite size things.  Sexy, whiz bang, fun things.

So I’m making a list.  Checking it twice. Scratching out things that can’t be done in a week’s worth of the two hours of time I have after the tiny terrible terrific tot of terror passes out in his bed.

First up.  Project Ultrashow.   But as usual, paying work comes first.. so next Thursday looks to be the first day of available freetime.

 

Happy July!

Whew, it’s Texas summer again.

Had a great 4th, blew stuff up and relaxed with family.

Personal Game Development is looking to have some time to ramp up on Barnyard Bonanza again towards the end of July, just after I finish wrapping up the current slate of consulting work that’s eaten the last 2 months. (a very enjoyable and challenging project, but I’m itching to get back to some of my projects)

Of course I’d be happy if I got more projects as well.  Consulting comes first after all 🙂

Other things in the pipeline:

  • Mobile App development,  HTML5 etc.. interesting stuff, can’t wait to do  more of it.
  • Several pet project websites need refreshes / more content (http://eatingsparrows.com/ http://slick2d.com/)
  • Irismel & BSDDoD! need some more love
  • and SuperSecret project needs a lot of datamodeling and wireframing so we can get started.