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Tools tools tools

So with an absolute lack of time to make any kind of forward progress until we all get settled into the routine of the new house, things are taking a little sidetrack from the ‘milestone milestone go go go!’ mentality for a bit.

That means two things.
1.  Character sketches, concept art and little paper mockups. Ie anything I can do not in front of the development pc.
2.  Tools development.  Little things that I know I will be needing, but don’t need to be dependant on the whole application to function.  Things like getting to export maps and support the little things I will need in my map editor, like monster spawners etc etc.  Also all the little widgets (button classes, text dialogs and so forth) and asset & option managers that I plan on eventually releasing
as a standalone jar file to help other java Slick developers.  I’ve got the javadoc of what I have so far up at

So lots of little things but no real time to sink deep into the development mindset for now.  But I should have some pretty pictures and scribbles up before too long.

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Screenshot Saturday

Managed to get the web editor exporting tileframe data nicely, and with a few modifications was able to get TGB to import the new map data and render the maps in the existing tilemaps.  🙂 yaay.

New tilemaps in Game Engine.

Now if I can only find out what makes it crash when you touch the mouse……

*scratch head*.. well at least it’s progress..

Oh and we have new and very awesome epic in-game music now from

So it’s  been a good week overall.

[Edit::]  Found the Crash.  it was to do with the checks for various player positions on the tilemap for shooting.  Which is totally obsolete, due to the new tilemap, so it was crashing.

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Pardon me while I ramble..   if you get bored you can pop over to the map editor and play around and let me know how it performs for you (IE users, don’t bother), and saving is disabled.   This is essentially me trying to externalize the process of development that seems to work for me.

It’s easy to get lost, sidetracked, disillusioned, or just plain worn out when embarking on a massive self guided project.

Even when you feel like you can just keep working on a project forever because you have so many ideas you risk it all if you don’t know what the final product is going to be.  For example, the megahit Minecraft was in development for over a year and sold close to a million copies before the guys at Mojang finally sat down and decided what they were actually making.   I’d wager if it hadn’t been for it going viral, it would have wound up just another of the tons of  half finished abandoned indie projects that litter the web because they didn’t know what they were making.

On the other extreme, there are just as many abandoned overdesigned, super perfectly detailed design documents for games that will never be created, scattered all over the internet as well.  Potential games that were literally designed to death, go dig around on sourceforge and you’ll find hundreds of em in ‘planning’.

So what’s an indie developer to do?

Frankly, I’m not sure.  I know what seems to work for me  (so far), and that’s self imposed milestones.

Now let me clarify a bit.  I’m not talking about your usual development project, spec sheet loaded, time and budget allocated, cut your funding if  you don’t make it milestone.  That’s for a different type of development, not a creative endeavor.  It has it’s place, but not here.

What kind of milestones?

I’m talking more of a softer, moldable, flexible type of milestone.  You take one, you work on it, do whatever you want withing the parameters specified, and when you’re done you have real tangible progress.  Then you pick another one that mirrors what you’re in the mood for.    That’s key for me.   When I get to the point in a project where I don’t have a choice in what I need to do next and don’t want to do it , I get distracted. (see the Mutant Sheep Eat the Earth!, game… it’s pretty much stalled because I’ve worked myself into a corner where there’s nothing exiting left and I’ve gotten totally de-motivated  (psst it’s not dead.. just hibernating in my subconscious.. I have plans percolating.))

For example, by the time you’re reading this, I’ll have wrapped up my latest milestone for BSDDoD! which was ‘Build a web based editor to let me edit game elements and export them into a flatfile for use in the game in 20 days.’

Flexible task definition

That’s it for the definition of it.  I didn’t have any other notes or plans other than I knew the map size has to be 20×20 due to memory constraints of the final 10×10 grid of 20×20 maps that the game will happen in.  I could go as feature rich and as crazy as I wanted to, but I always kept a mental track of trying to hit the date or at least get as close as I possibly can.   I didn’t even know what I was going to write it in (jquery, cakephp and custom javascript if you’re interested, it almost wound up a desktop based Python application or java applet)  I didn’t pre-plan features other than the map size.  This let me actually create and explore while working on it.

I really try no to make too many choices that will force me to wind up in a position of having to determine things for future milestones.  Now of course it’s inevitable that there will be some overlap, but striving to make each milestone into it’s own creative endeavor keeps me interested in the long run.

Know how long you can stay focuse… ooh look shiny!

I know how long my attention span is, and how long I can proceed with certain types of tasks before getting bored and I make the milestones accordingly, and I try to have a couple of milestone choices available to choose from, so if I’m in the mood for more coding I can do that, or if I need a break and switch to art asset creation, planning, music etc those options are available for me.

So my next choices for BSDDoD! milestones are:

  • Coding, Import map data and generate levels in the Torque Game Builder engine that alpha 4 was working in, 7 days
  • Art, Create Door, wizard (basic wand and arm) and basic creeper art assets, 14 days.
  • Design, come up with different enemies and concept art and various powerups available in the witch’s shop, 14 days.

Time is relative

Now you’ll notice that my ‘days’ have very very very little relevance to normal time, this comes with having a 1 year old, and a fulltime job, an art site and business to help launch  and some awesome development work that all take priority.

That’s ok.  I’m fully aware that this 6 month project is already in it’s second year and I’m ok with that.

I can see progress being made.

I can see what  I need to do, to get there.

I still have to make up how to do it.

I can see the milestones all the way to the end.

I have no idea of  what all the things I will have created by the time I get there will look like.

That’s damn exciting.

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IrisEdit Screenshot Saturday

In an attempt to keep updating this on a more regular basis here’s the first of (hopefully) many Screenshot Saturday.

a screenshot of the almost complete level editorThis is a screenshot of the irisEdit map editor on my dev box.  At this point it’s 90% complete.  There’s a glitch in the saving/reloading that needs tweaking but other than that it’s ready to start building levels in.   At which point I’ll move to the live databse over at

Unfortunately this week was full of all sorts of fun freelance stuff and prep for the baby’s 1st birthday party (in roughly 11 hrs from now)  so I didn’t get the editor wrapped up.. but hopefully I can get it knocked out Sunday if I’m lucky.  Next week promises to be full of more and maybe even some new paying client work, which of course takes precedence over BSDDoD! progress.

What I’m Playing:

  • A recursive, larger than the Galaxy  shooter.  From the guy who made Sleep is Death (more coverage of that over on RPS) which was a lot of fun to play with P.
  • Bejeweled 3... because it’s like sparkly snappy happy crack…. especially some of the new gamemodes.
  • X3 Terran Conflict – the last, best, biggest, entry in the X series of intergalactic space trader conquer the galaxy games (available on steam)
  • But with a new Minecraft patch hitting tuesday… all bets are off for the next week.
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Editor Work

So what do you do if you have an unexpected 3 days of vacation.  Well if you’re like me you get a chance to dig into some new fun tech and wind up making a new version of the tile editor to support your game.   As I mentioned in the last post, I’m in the process of moving to a front face Isometic camera for BSDDoD! (like the original zelda).   Which is going to necessitate a new tile editor to do all the hard work.

The old editor is still online at and functioning in it’s primitive state.  However the new editor, is slowly coming online at with the real magic happening on the editor pages ( )  There’s still a bunch of fun stuff to do, like detecting and placing the  front facing tiles and being able to place and edit objects, not to mention being able to export this and get it into the primary game engine files.    But, overall, this has been an excellent week’s worth of progress.  Cake PHP is proving to be a fast and flexible framwork to be able to create complex data driven applications.  I really hope to get many more chances to dig into it and do fun web-app stuff..

The new editor does everything that BSDDoD! needs and then some, in fact it’s pretty close to being a whole generic level editor for all sorts of tile based games… but one step at a time eh?    I have a short list of to-do items left for the editor and then I can pop back into the main TGB code and start to implement the new map style (should be simple since the editor will generate complete maps) and start updating the player, adding new creatures, and adding the equipment shop…

What I’m Playing:

Revenge of the Titans: This is an addictive, just incredible take on the tower defense genre, and the latest version just simply does so many things right.

Space Chem: This is probably the puzzle game of the decade.  Build chemical compounds with an assortment of commands given to waldos… oh hell I can’t describe it.. just go get the damn thing or read Rock Paper Shotgun’s coverage...

X3: Terran Conflict :  the last entry into the X3 universe by EgoSoft.  It’s got a steep learning curve but leads right into the heart of one of the best space trading/combat/strategy games of the last 15 years.

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Updating the look.

As mentioned in the last post, is back and that brings with it a chance to kick the development of BSDDoD! back into full gear.    (well that and finally having the motivation and (hopefully) time to work on it).

So I spent a bit of time this weekend trying to actually get SOMETHING finished on the game and I’ve got the basic Map tiles all knocked out.  Along with it came a change to a 30 degree Zelda like viewpoint which is going to provide some challenges later on, but the straight down view really wasn’t working and an increase in tile resolution to 128×128.  Also floor tiles got some subtle shading changes etc meaning I’ve got to rewrite my web based level generator (which I was wanting to do, it’s really way too inflexible).   So that’s the next task at hand.  So here’s a mockup of a screenshot using the new tileset complete with scribbled wizard for size testing.

The new Tilesets Used in a Mock scene
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Back To Torque

It has been a few months of crazy development environment ping-pong around here, but things are beginning to settle down.

Back in November the guys over at announced they were shuttering the InstantAction team and that generally the outlook for all of Torque seemed really bleak.

So with the future of my development tools up in the air I did some research and started switching over to DarkBasicPro and then in tandem, the day job necessitated a crash course in Java.. which lead me to Slick2d for Java, which I’ve also done some poking around in now.

The problem is that they both (Slick and DarkBasic) seem to magnify the deficiencies of the other.

DarkBasicPro is EASY, and Fast to get prototypes up and running in. It’s also Basic, that means no objects, no event handlers, and scoping variables is fast and loose, ex arrays are always Globals.  And no garbage collection, premade main loop or GUI tools, so you’ve got to write that yourself.  However the community is FULL of snippets and other pieces of code so you can cobble together a nice utility library in a couple of days.  Oh and it supports 3d and shaders etc.. for that reason I may come back some day.

Slick2d, on the other hand, is 100% object driven, with all sorts of good things that come with that.  Tightly scoped variables and inheritance etc etc also make it really powerful and clean to code in.  It is, however, not easy or fast to throw together a prototype.  Especially since there isn’t much of documentation other than the auto-generated API docs.  Throw in some of Java’s memory limits and stuff and it gets pretty cumbersome fast. It’s got a nice state-based game core and main loop that works really well… once you find it.

I wasted too much time on both of those only to realize that I miss Torque Game Builder.  It’s not perfect, but it is very much a nice place between the two.

So, I’m really happy for the guys at when they announced they’re Back! And T2D is still alive and kicking.

Now it is time to install the latest version, get tweaking on the Blood Soaked Deadly Dungeons of Doom! and get this whole thing back on track!

I’m still doing the whole Java Android development stuff, and that’s been making good progress as well.  Hope to have more details and maybe a screenshot or two by the end of the month. *cross fingers*

Oh and Wenderflonia is going to be getting a minor facelift and its own Online Shop by Mid Feb and a couple more freelance projects should be wrapping up and I hope to be able to refocus my energies a bit more on development.

And to wrap it up I’m going to try and end every post from here on out with….

What I’m Playing:

  • Minecraft – indie game, sandbox phenomenon.  If you ever wanted to play with legos, build anything, explore a world this is the game for it.  We’re documenting our latest travels here
  • SpaceChem – puzzle game of the year  all time.  It’s fiendish and guides you into an extensive set and before you  know it you’re inventing solutions like this (my you tube video of a solution) The stats comparison lets you know how you stack up to everyone else and is absolutely addictive to optimize your solutions.
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New [Year, Goals, Work]

Wow, did that holiday season just fly by or what?

Well 2011 is here and has hit the ground running!

Already have the first several consulting projects up an in progress and have been doing some fun development stuff.

As the little green android above may have hinted at,  there’s a new platform of goodies in development.   I’m currently coming up to speed with Java and Android development… The first tiny title is coming along…. albeit it’s a lot of trial and error and research into getting things working properly.  Additionally, I’ve discovered Slick for Java and it’s seeming to be a nice and easy framework for LWJGL applications (ie .. games) …

Other than that.. it’s been a bonanza of games and fun.  Most notably  Minecraft.

We’ve got a mini server running on the laptop nearby and a couple of us have been building and exploring.  Hands down 2010’s game of the year for me.

A shot of the spawn area on our minecraft Server.

Anyway.. no new years post would be complete without some resolutions…

1 – Paint more.. I will finish my 2 oils, finish the 2 images in the elementelves series and at least two more pictures this year.. that’s one per every 2 months.

2- Finish the art on the Mutant Sheep Eat the Earth! game and get  a handful of decks out to testers.

3 – Launch an Android title on the marketplace

4 – Loose 25 lbs

5 – Enjoy the baby and cherish the family.

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Not dead, just busy.

Too many things and many small projects being done.  I’m looking to get an end of year update up.  Until then, its nose to the grindstone and wrap up the last two freelance projects of the year up.  Oh and learn android/java in conjunction with the day job.
Which is actually turning out to be fun, but was getting confusing learning on top of darkbasic pro so I had to put that on hold for a bit.

Which sucks. A lot.

All in all the projects and the baby have completely decimated all my personal projects for now… but I’ve got a list and totally plan on kicking butt in the new year.  Maaybe I can squeeze out a painting before the end of the year.

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Recettear and Stuff

Well The server migration is done for all but a few client’s subdomains that will have to linger for them to launch their sites first.  Overall I’m pretty happy with how it all went, only a minor hiccup or two (thank’s wordpress for storing all your config options for all the plugins in a nasty mess of a database table with file paths thrown whereever, Yuck!)

Anyway, that’s not what I want to talk about.

Recettear (rhyme with Racketeer)

My Shop, it's not much but it's mine.. until I miss my payments.

An Items shop tale.

This little gem of a game is all about running your item shop supplying the foolhardy adventurers who go explore the dungeons.

The controls were pretty much undocumented but there’s only the arrow keys and 4 buttons (z,x,c,v)  so after a few moments pounding the keys on the keyboard I was off.

The story starts with you waking up and the local Collections Fairy, has come to collect on your (now Mysteriously absent) father’s debt.  After some dialog and a basic tutorial I’ve converted my house into an Item shop.

You Sell High, Buy Low.. and run around town, meet people buy all sorts of strange things and always keep an eye on the clock.

The Fairy Mob's Deadlines are always looming.

The game doesn’t take itself too seriously and riffs easily off all the RPG (especially jRPG) conventions.   Now don’t take that to mean it’s easy.  It kinda plans on  you failing so it lets you keep your shop levels between playthroughs, which is a bit  odd but not that big a deal.

Gradually you’ll meet more and more people around town and learn the individual shopping habits of your regular customers.

Then there’s the Adventurers.  Cheap bastards.  All of them.   However,  you can hire them and join them in their explorations of the local dungeons etc  (Played a-la old school Zelda where you control the hero) .

So you want the heroes to have good equipment so you can loot the dungeon for better loot so you can sell it to them before the Fairy Mob comes collecting their Massive Debt that dear ol Deadbeat Dad left you with. (what in the world did he buy to get so far into debt?)

Oh no Poor little lost girl!
Meet tounge in cheek RPG Stereotypes!
Explore dungeons! Kill things, Get Loot to Sell!

Overall, It’s a fun game that provides some challenge and plays well in small increments (yay for games that dont require 2hrs to get started playing!)

It’s available for a measly $20 at GamersGate, Steam , impulse etc etc…

Analog Diversions

And Finally I’ve managed to sneak in  a couple Hours of painting to finish up the First of the new Elementelves (i know clever isn’t it?) Paintings.  I’m resisting the urge to pull it down and tweak some more bits on it (which I might).

And last but not least.. there has been sheep progress.  Another 5 sheep drawn and inked.  So that’s down to 25 to go.  Then to paint them and place them.

(P.S. Drawing sheep holding a martini glass is HARD)

That’s it for now.  As soon as I stop shaking I’ll get some thoughts down on Amnesia, scariest tensest game I’ve played since RE2.

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Odd Migratory Hiccup

For some reason something went *kerboolooie!* and the site went mostly poof for a bit..I might have uploaded of moved the wrong config file…
anyway everything looks better now..
Carry on.

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Impractical Exercise

Unplanned Diversions

So as I’ve mentioned before I’ve been playing / testing the Elemental Beta, which has since been launched er.. well… poorly… Apparently There was a bit of developer tunnel vision and it turns out the release version was kinda… well.. unfinished..  However Stardock has a history of supporting their releases magnificently.. and if the newly released 1.08 patch is any indication Elemental is quickly on its way to being worth it’s weight in gold.

So Funnily enough, this plus a couple other factors all gelled together and I’ve unexpectedly / inadvertently managed to start a new project.

First the elemental launch  got me thinking a lot about about the old classic Master of Magic(now available at GoG) and Age of Wonders (also at GoG and Impulse) and how hard it would be to make a classic fantasy TBS with modern tools.

Second, I’ve been coming to grips with building real web apps with CakePhp and getting used to working with the whole MCV concept.

And, perhaps, most significantly, I’ve messed with fun tool-set jQuery overlays and dungeon creation tools via web browsers in the past and while updating all my domains I found that I had registered a long time ago and simply never gotten around to messing with it.  So I spent some time re-discovering things I’d made a long time ago.

So one evening later, in the breaks between putting teething baby to sleep,  I’ve managed to get a good start on a random map creator, and some basic database modeling laid out.

I’ve got a few freelance projects to work on this weekend and a painting to finish, but hopefully I’ll be able to define some Fun Milestones to knock out so hopefully this can be a fun multiplayer web based TBS.

Analog diversion update

The Sketches for all 4 element paintings are done.

The finalized sketches

And the Fire Element Painting is getting closer to being done.  I hope to wrap it up in the next few days (baby willing)

Step 3 the Hair
Step 3 the Hair

That’s it for now.  I know I haven’t gotten to the Amnesia or Reccetear games post, I just haven’t played anything in the last couple days to get screenshots from them, however they’re Both Excellent and you should buy them.

Amnesia is probably the scariesy 8-10hrs you’ll play this year, and Reccetear is an addictive, cute and surprisingly huge rpg where you play the town’s item shop owner!

[edit] clearly this was written late late at night and makes little sense in parts… updated for coherence.

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Boring Technical Stuff

So my old virtual server over at godaddy is at this point running a 3-4 year old image with just miniscule specifications and it’s time to switch providers.

I’ve been hosting client sites at media temple for a while now and they’re seemingly rock steady and way more responsive that the mess that godaddy has devolved into. Which kinda seems to be the trend.. the last host did the same thing 6-7 years ago.

So the new account has been purchased, and the great migration is underway. In the process I’m streamlining my internal and test sites significantly so I can provision and deploy client previews much easier. Additionally I’m consolidating my SVN repos and starting them out with a clean slate so I wont have so many indivdial branches and subprojects to keep track of. (YAAY!)

I’ve got 16 domains and about that many subdomains to shuffle over and so far the process has been running smoothly. and (and their related client pages and subdomains) are going to be the last things punted over before pulling the plug.

I’ll be notifying clients indiviually with the new name servers they’ll need to point their domain registrations to over the next couple days or so.

I’ve also shuttered for the time being. It really deserves to have it’s own special purpose and until I can do something with it It’s going to re-direct here.  The performance increase is really noticeable over at (our food and healthy living community site) which has been re-opened for registration btw! So pop over and tell us about yourself.

Ok 7 domains moved.. now to get some rest.

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Wandering the Wasteland

Non-Gaming Goodness

So the summer deluge of freelance projects has slowed somewhat and a bunch of projects have gotten finished and I’ve got a nice body of work to start off in the professional portfolio side of things.  There’s just a couple websites to launch and tweak and then whatever new projects come this way… (with potentially a super super exciting project mixed in with it)

So that Gives me a few, precious, moments where I’m not playing with the cutest baby ever, to step away from the computer and rest my eyes on something that I’ve just realized that I miss.

Painting… so I still need to finish the oils, but I want to just crank out some pieces and make fast, bright vivid things and not have to worry about the whole setup and whatnot that the oils (even the water based ones) take.

So here’s a quick peek and the first of 4 24×24 canvases that I’ve got scattered across the kitchen/studio.

The colors are so vivid it totally blows out my camera’s color range.  I love it!

Gaming Goodness

So in few spare moments I’ve had where I can sit down and play something have been consumed by a couple games, Stalker : Call of Pripyat, Amnesia, Elemental and Reccetear.

I’m just going to ramble a few words and pictures about Stalker and Do a post later about the other 2.

So I’ve had it for a while but it somehow just got pushed back into the background since it came out along with the whole bunch of goodness that came out last year around the same time (Mass Effect 2, Dragon Age etc )

So when the chaps over at Rock Paper Shotgun mentioned some of the incredible user mods that have come about since its release.

And the results are pretty dang Spectacular.

Like this morning shot when the morning mists burn off and the rising sun lets you see into the distance.

Very pretty. And dynamic. And Massive.

And Full of Terrifying Wildlife.

But that’s ok.. you get guns.  That each have their own upgrade tree, so as the game progresses you get to tweak out your favorite guns with extra perks.

And when the sun sets, or you have to enter an old dark abandoned pumping station it delivers some of the most tense and jump worthy gameplay that’s been my pleasure to partake of in quite some time.

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Don’t look now, but that kinda resembles progress

Ok so it’s not the groundbreaking massive “woo it’s done!” Kind of progress, but it’s a start.

Quake con was a great fun filled event, with me and Parker spending 2 long days blowing stuff up to our hearts content.   We’ll be heading back next year for sure.

So that progress thing?  Swiftthought games is real now, has all sorts of business stuff and is paying for it’s own hosting etc…  I’ve got a handful of jobs wrapped up or 90% there, with hopfully a couple new ones (potentially including an actual web game) coming down the pipe. 

And! I’ve got some progress on the Mutant Sheep Eat The Earth! made as well.  several new cards were finalized, text revisions made, and the website is getting there.  Also has updated their production pipe so soon they say they can offer tuck boxes and full color instructions.

And all the meanwhile, I’m discovering that playing dad is a lot of fun and continually exhausting. 

This weekend promises to be quite productive and the future remains as unpredictable as ever, which is half the fun.