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Holiday Jam Update

: December 14, 2013 :

Today wasn’t a huge day with tons of progress but I managed to add in a sense of progression to the game.  Also, PARTICLES!

particles

There’s something magical about having little sparkles twinkle along behind your sleigh that makes it that much more believable that you’re watching Santa’s sleigh.

Oh, and the progression was pretty simple.  So far enemies are being broken up into size groups, with each size group having their own category of word (small enemies own shorter words while large enemies may have up to a small phrase).  I also dealt with the game’s violence as well, playing it off as “Christmasizing” your enemies.  This amounts to giving them Christmas Cheer until they fly off in glee.  Here’s a few examples:enemy

 

Hats, beards, candy canes, scarves… I mean… what more could these aliens ask for?  Sheesh, maybe I should call them Greediens.

At my current rate, I expect to finish with barely enough time to slap on one or two extra features, but we’ll see how that status is as the deadline becomes ominously close.

Holiday Jam!!!

: December 13, 2013 :

I know it’s been FAR too long since I’ve blogged something (almost eight months, sheesh), but I wanted to throw out an update that I’ll be completing a game for this year’s Holiday Game Jam.  While there’s no title, I’ve been craving a typing game as a new project and this is my chance to get it all out of my system.

The player plays as Santa attempting to deliver his gifts when he’s suddenly set upon by aliens who never get gifts and are cross because of it.  They must pilot their sleigh through the air, continuing to drop presents into the chimneys of good boys and girls everywhere whilst he spreads holiday cheer those who wish to stop him.

TL;DR

  • Type holiday themed words and phrases to throw presents into expectant children’s houses

house

  • Lock onto enemies by typing the word above their headalien
  • Rapid fire Christmas joy and spirit by typing the letters that appear above their head until they leave with Christmas spirit in their hearts

alien-locked

 

There’s more but I wouldn’t want to spoil the whole thing at once, suffice to say there’s plans for easily more work than I can hope to get done before the 22nd.  Lots of open source art asset usage, sweet typing action, and holiday cheer to be found.

For those interested in the technical details, I’m currently developing the game in HTML5 and Javascript whilst using ImpactJS to simplify the whole process.  Trello is being used to track tasks and you can keep an eye on my progress here and when everything is done I should have a time-lapse video of my work that I can post as well.

 

Making it Match

: April 17, 2013 :

Being retro is fun and has a lot of advantages.  Since I’m artistically challenged, having graphics only a few pixels wide leaves very little room for error.  Unfortunately, making a retro game requires more skill than just putting boxes on a screen and making things glow to add a modern touch.  Every element in a game must match.  From terrain, to the player sprite, to the user interface and menus, everything has to flow as a single entity.  It’s pretty easy to see when something sticks out.  Sudden changes in art style, pixel size, or frames per animation can all scream “programmer art” to a player.

Lets do some obvious comparisons

BEFORE
BadUI

 

 

 

 

 

Mis-matching color palette, wrong pixel resolution, and a very arbitrary bar that’d be difficult to measure how full it is.

AFTER

NewUI

 

 

 

 

I think the new style matches the bloody atmosphere of the game and uses some neat linear interpolation effects on the bar to keep it from looking jumpy.  There’s more polish incoming at a later time but this is a nice step forwards in terms of my HUD.

I read an article that’s overly nit-picky about the Mass Effect user interface but still managed to make some good points if you can dissect them from the pretentiousness.  It’s a fun exercise in taking criticism that might be painful and turning it into something more constructive.  Enjoy!

Not a bug, but a feature

: April 12, 2013 :

Sometimes you get more bang for your buck than you expect to.  Whilst brainstorming, the concept of bullet ricochets came to mind and I decided to add it if only for those players skilled enough to make use of it (and maybe abuse it a little).  The idea is that whenever a bullet strikes the ground at a low angle, the bullet reflects off the ground and continues through the air the remainder of it’s distance.

I figured it would give a nice touch to near misses but I forgot that since I’m using world normals to check the angle of collision, this takes more than just the ground into effect. I present to you Exhibit A which I have titled “Not-An-Accident Trick Head Shot”.

TrickShot

As usual, the newest build contains this change and can be found here.

 

Game Designering

: April 4, 2013 :

I’m mostly a programmer when you look at my strengths and weaknesses.  I think very literally about rules in games, my ability to come up with plausible story lines is fairly minimal, and lets no even discuss my inability to create game assets (aside from shaders).  So when it comes to something like game design, I’ll take all the help I can get.

Often I learn little things that seem obvious once you see the principal in motion, such as how shield systems in first person shooters require designers to throw overwhelming numbers of enemies at the player or how tutorials often should be as transparent as possible in order for players to not know they’re being taught skills.  While these lessons are great, they’re also common and tend to only relate to very specific situations.  It’s all good stuff, but it would turn into a somewhat boring list that most folks would just read a few and then skip over.  For the sake of time and everyone’s patience, I’m just going to talk about the broad stuff.

For me, there’s a rare moment when I hear or think of something and it sticks.  It’s something that’s concrete enough that I have no problem remembering it and broad enough I can apply it to a lot of my game design principals.  The biggest one I can think of is this: a game’s depth can be measured by the number of mechanics that interact with one another.  Lets take a favorite example of mine: SpaceChem.

This contraption resembles black magic more than anything else.

For those who have played the game, the above image probably looks like a common solution to one of the game’s many puzzles.  It’s a game with a simple concept (build molecules out of various ingredients using various instructions) but has a lot of depth.  Every mechanic is connected to another.  Adding a single instruction to your solution can change how the entire machine works.  It mixes this core concept with limitations, multiple instruction mechanics, and different obstacles to create a game that’s a solid mixture of breadth and depth.

So there you have it.  My favorite rule to quote when designing games.  Credit goes to this guy for telling it how it is.  I’ll post more later when I’m done trying to get work ready for the Reddit Review (Feedback Friday and Screenshot Saturday).

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