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Milestone 2: Week 4 – Finallly Fixed!

Finally got some time to dev last friday and Made Progress(tm) since the week before was spent rebuilding the pc.

The Maze Generator works!

milestone2MapI’ll need to increase the internal branching, it’s a bit too linear right now but that’s just a variable that needs to be tweaked.

Rooms now get harder and harder, the further in you go.  Next up is some minor UI tweaks and then a second enemy and that’s it for Milestone 2.  Just a couple months behind schedule.. but that’s the way it goes on top of real job, consulting work, children and a house to maintain.



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Milestone 2: Week 3 – step back & leap ahead

In the funniest of ironies the advice that got me making progress by leaps and bounds this week came from me, as randomly re-tweeted by the 1GAM twitterbot.

And yet here I was wasting a month doing exactly that building a rocketship of an editor when all I just needed was to look for off the shelf parts.

Tiled EditorOne quick download of the Tiled editor ( and a quick peek at the raw file format reveals that it saves the files in XML.

A few hours later, and I have a functional loader which generates in-game rooms from maps saved from tiled.

Bulkify it and presto, all the levels are loaded automatically and the maze generator from week 1 now has a collection of rooms to choose from.

And so after a very long weekend, we’ve got a whole map being generated (ok so there’s still some significant glitches, but at least it’s loading it all from disk, generating a random maze and creating a bazillion prefabs from it)



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Dev Update – wk3 – sacrifice & surprises

Things are going pretty well.  The uncompleted ‘minimum required features’ list for the January Version is getting very small.

  • Corner pillars at outside corners
  • Fixing wizard shooting and movement (aka the Big thing)
  • Death effects and sounds etc.
  • Spider jump attack


New stuff added this week:

  • Restart Button, Exit game button.
  • Bolt Particles and light removal.
  • Bug fixes with spider corpses falling out of the world
  • Jucifying impacts on monsters & spawners

Now as to sacrifice…. 

Well you get what you pay for… and that’s the problem with using Unity 3D free version… It’s looking like I really Really need deferred lighting to make the wiz-bang light effects on the wizard’s magic bolts.  In Unity Free I can only force a small number of lights to be precise. after a few they default to vertex lighting, which causes the odd lighting issues on the floor that we saw in last week’s build.

So, I had to remove the lights. and am replacing them with some particles effects for now.  Maybe someday the $1,500 unity pro fee will be accessible to me but for now it’s utterly beyond my budget.  (There is the 75/mo option, but even that seems excessive.. and at month 13, you don’t own anything unless you keep paying.)

So far that’s the biggest hurdle that I’m running into, but no doubt there’s going to be more design sacrifices due to inaccessible features.

Which leads to the surprise of the week.

Well… surprise for me.. nothing in-game yet… but Shader Forge came out which promises to have all sorts of benefits as soon as I figure out how to fully take advantage of it.  (In related news… I don’t ‘get’ shaders yet… working on it..)




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BSDDoD! Week 2 – First (barely) playable

It’s not much, but it’s an interface and it’s informative

Milestone 1, Week 2.

Well here we are, week 2.   Not  a bad week, progress wise, but never as good as I’d have liked..

This week I started cracking my head into the interface that is Blender, and walked away with a simple eggsack model to be used as a spider spawner (pictured below).  Maybe next week I can make it move.

The beginnings of a simple UI are falling into place,  when a room starts, the room title and the challenges in it (spider icon this month) appear for a bit, and there’s a kill counter and the beginnings of a re-spawn counter (shields).  Some odd issues with them not scaling properly sometimes, but eh.  That’s manageable.

Look an Eggsack! Isn’t it cute.

But, the biggest news is clearly that the entire play cycle is in place,  player life, death, respawn and restart all appear to be marginally functional.

So to that end,  I’ve built if out as a Unity Web Player. So if you’re so inclined you can, try it here:


As usual, feedback/bug reports etc is welcome.

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BSDDoD! Week 1




Milestone 1 is underway.

Pretty good progress this week.

The map generation is working, still needs a couple features, like designating spawnable locations and  corner pillars and an occasional wall offset being mangled.

The World Controller object is successfully sealing a room and starting waves of challenges (Milestone 1 will only have one or maybe 2 challenges to spawn)

The actual eggsack spawners are doing their job (no graphics for em yet tho, just white capsules)

The wizard character moves and shoots, but theres some issues with moving into the player’s bolts etc,  so the move and shoot stuff needs some significant rework.

Spiders die when shot! Eggsacks Die when shot!   need to make the impact have more ‘oomph’ and some effects but the functionality is there.


I was hoping to get a unity wev playable up on the site this week, but there’s nothing really to play..Oh well Hopefully next week there’ll be at least a basic play loop in place.

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DragonCrash Alpha Update

Not too much time this week.  Here’s the highlights:

  • parllaxing backgrounds are back and better.
  • the new House and system for adding terrain attachments is fast.  Total time was about 3 hours to add a new item to the game.
  • Improved Energy ui.
  • Particle manager for terrain effect.
  • Upgrade to GL2 base with potential hooks for shader effects.
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Flap mr dragon FLAP!

Ok kinda scatterbrained right now so, let’s just get back into the blogging spirit with a short list of accomplishments:

Had to rethink some mechanics.. but the controls feel SO much better now.

The actual performance of the dive and flap buttons are undergoing constant tweaking, but the sense of control is coming along superbly.

Screen scaling is working.. but the size isn’t right on smaller screens.  I need to re-write the system to always maintain a specific horizontal distance and let it just create blue sky on top of the world for the extra space.   BUT IT WORKS..

The game is working on Android 2.3 (HTC MyTouch)  all the way to the Nexus7 and Asus 10″, smooth as butter. 🙂

I’ve been using Symphonical as my SCRUM list and I’m in love!  It’s just super easy to use.

Collisions are in (if a little buggy) ,  Basic Box for the dragon and per terrain tile polygons.

The dragon is now a fully animated Spine character  (16 different parts all animated) and is just a wonderful workflow.. Export from photoshop and it’s instantly in Spine, then a quick export directly into the JSON objects with an atlas and then a refresh. and the changes are live in-game..



Next up:

A little more work on the dragon animation

Then time to start adding in some terrain destructables (also Spine actors)

Then some UI work.


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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.


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.


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.


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.


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  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.



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War Mages is out on the Play Store!



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.

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January Postmortem

Going to keep this short and sweet, can’t stop and reflect too much.

What went right:

  • Web editor –  having a web editor where I can make changes and just re-launch a level for testing was incredibly useful
  • Music – the non repeating drumtrack for in game music works really well wit the musical queues
  • Title screen fire – Damnit particles just make me happy.
  • Pathfinding and combat –  while it’s not the most dynamic combat (see what went wrong) it’s fairly well balanced.
  • Flexibilty of code – adding new UI elements and restructuring how combat works 4 days from launch and not a glitch.
  • Game website – Im really happy with the new website.

What went wrong:

  • World rendering – having to re-write the world map rendering took a whole weekend of progress and as such required that things like traps, and ranged combat got cut. no Elves or Kobold archers.
  • Fun – the last minute changes to combat really improved the moment to moment gameplay elements, but really it’s not something you’ll be playing over and over.
  • lack of animation – lack of variety – essentially more time to create art assets would have been really nice.   I have a feeling this will be a recurring theme.
  • Broken analytics –  I totally messed up and forgot to install analytics on the website until 4 days after launch.. so I have no idea if anyone has even played it.

That’s it for now.


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Day 27 – Weekly Update

Another long week.  I’m finding as the game gets tighter and tighter I’m spending more and more time re-doing things that don’t work.  While they make the game better, it’s not ‘fun’.  Mainly it’s actually pretty depressing to throw away hours and hours of work.   This is the part of the project where I guess  I usually get bored/frustrated and stop.  But Not this time.. This time I’m too damn close!  New Playable builds available here:

So what did get accomplished?

Bug Fixes

Lots and lots of bugs  and glitches. Revisions to prevent button click through and proper input handling seem to have been the biggest culprit.  The most common rendering bug / crash bugs centered around parts of the rendering loop continuing even if the monsters, enemies or any of the other arrays change size to 0 or trying to access things after starting to switch to the victory / loss screens.

Game Balance

So as of last week.. it wasn’t any fun.  Because once you discovered you can stack units and stack 3 or so units they’d instakill anything they encounter.  So the player winds up making a stack and then just sitting back and not doing anything.  This was because monster combat is resolved first.  So I changed that.  Even though stacks can still instakill most things, the attacks are calculated simultaneously.  This  suddenly meant that you have to constantly manage your monsters.  Which lead to a HUGE Problem.  How do you select a monster in the middle in a stack.    That leads us to ……

InGame UI Changes


A major revision to the in-game UI made it much easier to keep track of your monsters.   The only downside is that you now are limited to 20 monsters.  (I’ve never even come close to that, so this shouldn’t be a problem.   I also was able to tack on simple little health indicators beneath then portraits.  All of a sudden things were a million times more fun. Then a quick tweak to the map renderer means that I can now reserve the bottom part of the screen to prevent sending creatures to whatever is beneath the UI.   This alternate method of selecting units has a second unexpected benefit,  It’s playable on Android again!!!!  ok so no android build today, due to a some more event click through issues… but that should be fixable.

Tack on some interface sounds and things feel much more crunchy.

Base Levels

The base levels are in place.  Still need to tweak the hell out of them


Particle Friday

so over at someone started a particle Friday event.  The intent being, blow off development and put in place some gratuitous particles.  So I did, on the home screen, there’s now Fire.

Whats Left

Ok.. seriously.. with 4 days left..  too much.   So the real question  What Essential things are you missing?

That list, luckily, is much shorter.

  • Combat Sounds
  • Level tweaks and balance
  • Right Click / Drag issue that can cause monsters to go to unintended places.