Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Game Details Have moved

Because I have set up the game at Indie DB, I have decided to use it as the place for writing about Small Galaxy Greedy Station. When I start writing about my next project, I will return to this blog to write about it, but in the mean time, this blog will be used for other things.

So, if you are wanting to track the progress of Greed Station, head over to IndieDB.

We will talk again soon I hope, just not about the game I am making... at least not directly :)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Making Menus Meaningful

During my career as a software developer, I was always wanting to be a UI (User Interface) designer, and while a good portion of my web applications experience has been with developing better UI, the limitations of the tools and the frameworks I was using left me wanting. So it has come as no surprise to myself that the aspect of this project that I have sunk the most time into has been experimenting with different UI design options... mind you, I have argued that all a video game amounts to is just a complex GUI (Graphical User Interface), but that argument would be better served in a blog post of its own.

Today I want to share a little bit about menus... and at the same time, reveal a little bit about how the Cards work in the game.

The games "Action Menus" are context driven. For instance, a planet with all 3 types of resources will allow the user to [Mine] > [Ore], [Gel] or [Crystal], sending a mining ship from the station to the planet to collect that resource. Selecting an Ice Field will limit you to [Crystal], and Space Bubbles will limit you to [Gel].

This is true with the expanding of your abilities as well. While initially you are not able to construct anything in space, once that ability is made available, you will be able to choose between [Mine], [Build], and what ever other actions the selection will alow.

The options begin to open up quickly, but each action will continue to change as you progress...

That's all for now, but feel free to ask me questions, and send me ideas.

- fidgetwidget

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The big reveal (Title is not yet final)

Just to get it out of the way... because I hope to have the game (in an unfinished state) up on indie games for play testing early next month. I might as well reveal the working title and main menu screen.

As for what the game is about... the title of the game is fairly indicative of the gameplay. You manage a Space Station in the Small Galaxy 'Universe' (the IP I have been working on that will  connect multiple projects), where you are greedily gather up resources from planets and other things... in order to survive.

There are more details to come... but basically this came about as I was trying to design a game that supported a non-violent world view (NOT an easy task let me tell you). So suffice it to say, there is no 'combat' per say in the game...

More details will come. Be Patient.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Theres a Card Game in my Board game Videogame.

So I have been playing around with the way the player performs actions in the game, and been incorporating a sort of Card Game look to the way they select their actions.

Given the fact that the game is displayed on a Hexagonal Grid Map, using cards just seems to fit. 
So if you want to go and perform a given action on a space in the Grid, you can select the space, bringing up a context card menu for that space (given what you have available at that time), and then you select the card that represents the action you want to perform.
Alternatively, you can bring up your card menu, select the action you want to perform, and then select the space you want to perform it.

The Game is real time, but this board game concept fits well with the style and feel of the game mechanics. Hopefully it will help to express the core ideas behind the game clearly to the player.

Here are some images of the cards (keep in mind that the art isn't necessarily final)

Friday, July 2, 2010

First Rule of Optimization... Broken

There is a saying among the computer programmer types... It's that when optimizing your code, always follow these two simple rules. Rule Number 1 : Don't. And Rule Number 2 : Don't yet.

The thinking behind it is that if you are going to continue to work on the code, optimizing it now isn't really going to give you the most bang for your buck (or as the case may be, improved performance for your time). The trouble is, many of us learning coder types are writing very sloppy code that brings an otherwise smoothly running game to a broken slide show of unplayableness. And a game you can't play, you can't test... and a game you can't test, you can't improve.

So, for about 2 days this week (I only managed to get 4 days of work in this week) I attempted to improve my code to make it playable on the Xbox. And in the process, learned a lot about prioritizing updates of game objects/systems.

If it doesn't have to be updated 60 times a second, then don't update it 60 times a second.

So for a game like the one I am creating, there are a good number of things that I was updating when I didn't need to, and costing valuable CPU time... CPU time that was needed for other things.

Its been a good week, and progress has been made.

Now if I can just figure out what you are supposed to be doing in the game (I am only half joking), then everything would be set.
... I am having trouble deciding what way to present the objectives, and how the player should go about achieving said objectives... NOT A GOOD SIGN.

But I will work it out soon enough. It really is just a matter of picking between a half dozen options, trying it out, and if it doesn't work, trying something else... simple enough right?


Wish me luck.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Snap Shots of the Progress So Far

Here are a few images from my current project... you may notice the differences between these and the previous project shots I posted. This is a different type of game.

Hope you like where it is going... because I had to learn a lot of math in order to get it working :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Reinventing the Rougelike

Or at least the algorithms that generate their worlds.

The project is trucking along at a steady pace, building content, defining the rules, and all that fun stuff!
Right now however, I am wrestling with the decision I made to build the world with a hexmap instead of a square grid.

As I dig through the forums and wiki pages for the way rougelikes build out there worlds, I am having some trouble applying the procedural generation of a square grid for dungeon adventures with generating a map of space for a time management strategy game.

My real trouble has been handling the ways that certain aspects of my world are to look. Planets take up as many as twenty one hex spaces, and not wanting anything to overlap.
There are sure to be some algorithms and tools already created for what I am trying to make, but I haven't found it.

So, it seems like I am going to spend a few more days searching through heaps and mounds of text before I can create the world generator that I feel this game will need.

Work continues!

fidgetwidget out

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Game Changer

I have finally succumb to changing my game ... I am using the game engine core that I built for the previous project (putting it into a project of its own, so I can better re-use its functions and features), so I haven't lost everything I had done, but I have come to realize that I had bitten off more than I could chew, and need to focus on just one mechanic at a time.

I do still plan on completing the other project, but there is just too much learning I have to do before I could complete it, and so, I am going to do the learning in stages, creating complete games around core concepts of the larger game idea I was working on before.

So, this time, I am going to focus on the simulation/strategy game aspect of the game, and get that right, before I put it together with the adventure/action side that I had been working on.

I could have made a game that focused on the action/adventure game side of it first, but felt I wouldn't be able to create something compelling enough on its own in a short period of time, using the game engine I have built so far, so instead am focusing on something that seems to be lacking in the Indie Games Marketplace.

Hopefully this smaller, more streamlined project will not take as long as the other would have, and had already taken. But one never knows when has a good deal of learning to do.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

the post that's not about my game development journey

If you are not interested in reading about what God has been doing in my life, and the journey he has me on, then you can skip this one. But of you want to know why I haven't written about the game project in a while, you might want to stick arround.

I am still not finished reading 'Jesus for President' by Shane Claiborne, Chris Haw and friends... but I am mighty close. It's a good book, and I recommend you read it if you get the chance. 

Anyways, today I spent a few hours visiting with a friend of mine, sharing with them what God has been showing and teaching me, exploring what it means to follow Christ, and the aspects of Church experience we have both been uncomfortable with, or have felt a need to challenge. The big one that came up was with regards to 'Church discipline', and where we feel our experiences have come up short, and in some cases felt counter to the teachings of Christ and the Bible.
I have been wresting through the issue for some time now, perhaps as far back as when I wasn't yet a teenager, and am baffled by the ways that we (I am including myself in this primarily because I consider myself to be a member of the Church, and it is the members, though not all of them, that have seemingly missed the point on this topic) have justified our actions towards our brothers and sisters, speaking hurtfully, rather than lovingly towards those who have gone through difficult times of personal failure. 

There is this section of scripture that I have read time and time again, and have not yet really seen it in practice (though I have tried to enact them, I can't say I have done a very good job of it) that speaks to this issue directly.
If a brother or sister sins (against you), go and point out (bring it to light) the fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over (case closed, brother or sister restored).
But if they will not listen (and reject your words), take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' (as it is written in the law to do)
If they still refuse to listen (and reject your words), tell it to the church (the community of brothers and sisters); and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector (with the love you invited them into the family with in the first place).
And we see examples of this at work in the early church letters (in Paul's writings to the Corinthians and Galatians, and in James writing). 

It seems strange to me that I haven't heard this taught, or put into practice, in all of my church experience (though I have read about it in books and listened to podcasts on the topic from churches and pastors I admire). Instead what I have seen has been what seems to be the polar opposite. Gossip, insulting or putting down those who have gone through personal failure, removing people from positions of service because of sin in their lives (usually sexual sin, most often repented of, and exposed for the purposes of getting help)... it just feels wrong, and from my reading and studying of scripture, it is shown to be wrong. 

Right now, my wife and I are searching for a Church home (not having rejected the church we were going to, only feeling the need to make a thoughtful decision about where we go), and it is this topic, Church Discipline, that I am searching for a good example. As I noted before, I have tried to put this teaching into action, but am just not sure I know how best to live it out. 

A good portion of my time has been spent searching and studying Theology (God and the Scriptures), and right now, the reality of my unemployment is leaving me with only more questions. 

Where is God leading me, and what am I to be doing in this season? 

A conversation I had with my wife today was searching this question out for the both of us. I don't want to be a part of the divisions that separate the Church from herself, and yet I feel like the ways that we live out (or more accurately, the ways that we don't) the teachings of Jesus are putting a wedge between me and the place I used to serve. 

I have had Church planting on my heart for over a year now and don't know what to do with it. I have been searching and studying what it means to follow Christ in the midst of (but not imitating) our culture, and am left with more questions than direction and purpose. 

Should I just keep trying to make a video game (to entertain people), or do I give that up in the hopes of investing into, and serving people. 

Is anyone interesting in hiring a Theologian? I don't want money to do with what I choose, only to have my bills paid... and that causes me to think about another question I am wrestling with... a question that will have to wait for another blog post.

Grace (the good gift(s) that come from [truly] knowing [heart to heart kind of knowing] God) and Peace (the kind that changes the world around you more than it gives you a good feeling) to you.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

twelve days

It's hard to believe it's been twelve days since I last wrote anything on my blog... but that is what the calendar is telling me... and it hasn't lied to me yet.

I haven't done a ton as far as the video game goes... gone back and forth on how I am going to create a unique 'pop up book' look while ensuring that the player knows what they will collide with and what they wont... and I think I am going to change my mind yet again on the subject the next time I work on it (more on that in the next post).

Right now, my wife and I are searching for a church to call home. The church we were going to is becoming increasingly difficult to remain involved in due to distance and a few concerns we have as our faith and journey is taking us in different directions.

The most difficult part of this whole thing has been relinquishing my position as a small group leader/teacher. There is nothing I love more (yes, even more than making video games... but no, not more than my Wife or Lord) than talking/discussing faith, and how that plays out in our lives. Now, before you stop reading because this post seems to have nothing to do with the game I am making, read on, because it all ties in.

I have wanted to create a game that is friendly and fun, that doesn't require the player to use violence and force to accomplish their goals, but instead allows them to embrace the very things I have been wrestling with in my faith.
Non violence/Passivism.
It can be difficult to give the player tension and conflict without encouraging them to use violence to reach their goal... so I have struggled with the ways to present that choice.

Currently, the plan (because I don't have any features in my game that utilize these concepts yet) is to have dangerous creatures that can hurt/destroy the player, but not give the player a weapon/weapons to destroy the dangerous creatures. I am still uncertain as to whether or not I will give the player something that can harm the creature at all, perhaps stunning it (the idea would be the dash ability that allows you to smash through a particular obstacle would also work to harm and stun the dangerous creatures).
The counter point to this feature (assuming I have the time to actually put this in the game) would be to reveal to the player in the late game that the dangerous creatures were in fact the very young children of something that, if you didn't harm them, would allow you to accomplish an otherwise impossible task.

I think it would be a great way to get across the positives and negative of violent choices without being preachy or ruining the experience for players who make the violent choice. The decision to use violence would make the game easier on one hand, but on the other, cost the player later on. There would need to be a way to present the choice of using violence as such, before the reveal later on in the game... and I think that is a much harder thing to do than it might seem right now...

Making games is fun... but there are a lot of choices that go into it that I didn't appreciate before I worked on a project this complex.

The Next game I make will be much simpler :S

Monday, May 3, 2010

Picture Preview

I know I have done this before, and unfortunately, the last time I did this, the content i posted is in many ways no longer relevant. This time however, I am going to show something that has a great deal more investment in it, and should make it into the final game with much less change to it than the last one.

So here is... the space ship
This is a larger concept piece that I am still not finished (but this is good enough for now).

And here is what it looks like in the game.

Hope you like it :)

fidgetwidget out

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Writing suffers when games are being written.

It has been a few weeks since I have written on this blog, and to be perfectly honest, its because I haven't made as much progress as I would have liked in the past few weeks on my game project. This is not as much due to encountering obstacles in the development process, but rather having issues of a more personal nature that took president over game creation.

Now I am not going to go into detail about what those personal issues were, so if you were wondering, you can read my facebook page (or more accurately my wifes). Instead I am going to happily (and yet somewhat shamefully at the same time) announce that I can now save the progress I make in my world editor.

It's not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it gets the job done, and allows me to test out some level design choices, and work with the art I have so far to see where there are holes, and what material types I need to create more of... or as the case may be, where I have made too much.

It is amazing to me how good something can look using only a hand full of sprites that are rotated and scaled! And with the many layers use to create the parallax effect I am using... It's a wonder I bothered to create as many sprites as I did! (It doesn't help that some of my sprites aren't nearly as good looking as others).

The way I handle the world drawing/data storing is a bit different than I was doing it before, and so I am going to share a little bit about that.

Throughout this whole process, I have been inspired by the sense of exploration that the original zelda game created with its limited world size. I have found that one of the keys to that success is separating the world into 'screens', that allow for a distinct 'feel'(look, vibe, etc) to be presented in one place, only to be changed rather significantly in the next. So, instead of creating a seamless world as I had originally thought to do, I created what I am calling 'sectors', that break the world (or in this case 'galaxy') up into smaller more digestible bits.

Each sector can be as small or as large as I desire, imitating the more recent top down zelda games, but allow me to segment the world (galaxy) into more distinct sections, each with their own 'feel', appropriate to their purpose.

It's amazing to me the ways that the limitations imposed on early game design actually improved the experience, by creating something that otherwise might not have been thought of.

So, as a form of progress summary (seeing as it has been a few weeks):
- I have implemented PATHS (basically way-points that an object can follow in a circuit [circle], patrol line [back and forth], or as a repeating path [reseting its position back to the start upon reaching the end]) that can be used for all sorts of things.
- Broken the game world into SECTORS, that help give meaning to each location.
- Added an editor for JOINTS. a PHYSICS feature of the physics engine I am using (joints help to provide limits to physics bodies, by linking them either to other bodies, or an anchor point in the world).
- Created more art (about half of which might make it into the final game in some form... maybe).

So for the week ahead of me, I plan to create more art (an intro sequence to help introduce the player to the game universe), test out some more world design ideas, and develop the 'resource zones' that the player will collect the items from...

Much of this must not make any sense what so ever... seeing as I don't know that I have ever really explained what the game is. But I will save that for another week... or perhaps a mid week update?

- fidgetwidget out.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Late Blog Post, and Nothing to Show for it.

It was a week ago today that I half heartedly decided that I was going to need to set forth on my sixth re-write of my game project, due to the complexities of asynchronous content loading that my project was going to require.

Today I am very nearly back to the stage I was in before my re-write began, (with a few more head aches and a few new nice features) only 4 days later than I had hoped.
Have I mentioned that making games is difficult before?
I would say that the greatest challenges so far have been to keep motivated, stay focused, and maintain the initial vision. I have wanted to scrap the whole thing a few times (and in some ways, I have done that with each re-write) because it just wasn't progressing the way I had hoped.

I am new at this, and while I have built games using tools and simple to use game engines, I have never built something this complicated before, and I am starting to understand why developing tools in favor of using out of house options is not as popular as it once was. It's time consuming, difficult work that through the process feels like it has few rewards.

But that aside, I have learned a lot, mostly what doesn't work, but in that process a few things that do. I am determined to finish this project, and while determination alone won't guarantee success, the simple fact that I am still motivated to get this done is surprising to me.

I have decided that I will release the project in a more scaled back form for the initial release. Seeing as I have eaten up a month of content creation, and world building time with all of my learning through this tool development (of which there is a great deal more learning to be done). So I think I will release something that has the core gameplay concepts intact, but with fewer places to explore and upgrades to be discovered.

From there, I will work on the larger fuller version to be released later (if possible, as a patch to the first release), so that I can thank those who purchased early (rather than charging them for it). This is still at least a month away from even the first release being ready for peer review, let alone thinking about the second release of things.

But I look forward to being able to work on more fun and exciting games that fill a void in the marketplace, and are the kinds of game I want to see more of.

Until next time.
fidgetwidget out.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Being faithful to the vision

This idea has been in my head for some time now, about this couple who made this famous wooden chair, and how they said that the hardest part of creating something great was simply being faithful to the original design, and having to say no to all of the other ideas and concepts that come up through the creative process...

This idea of being faithful to the original vision or design is something I have been struggling with in my game making project. I keep coming up against all of these great ideas that come about as a part of the creative process... but simply sticking to the base, simple, original idea is really the best way to ensure you have something great.

This weekend, I went over the first design document I wrote, and pulled out of it the original two key pillars I had for the game, and have been making sure that everything I have been adding to the idea is based very strongly in one or both of those two key tenants of the design.

Those two are 'Create' and 'Explore'.

I need to ensure that the foundation is set before I start building upon it, and that has been my project for the past few days (that and creating more art assets).

I admit that I have been putting off developing some of the much needed features of the game editor... but I feel the areas I am investing my time are also very important, and will start the week with finishing off the world object editors 'save' and 'load' object feature.

With much of the new art that I have made, the game is starting to feel like it has it's own unique look, and that has been encouraging me through the more difficult parts of development (the parts that don't actually produce any playable results). It's been this kind of progress that has taken up a significant part of my week. Building helper classes (a timer class that lets me set and listen for alarms, several enumeration lists that help me build menus, and a draw helper that makes it easy to build contextual help and instruction).

Now that the week is over, a new week begins, and planning out what I want to get accomplished is the first step in ensuring that there is productivity... if it weren't for these lists, I wouldn't believe I have gotten anything done (and that can just kill motivation).

Thats all for this week's post.

fidget widget out.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Game Making is Hard

This blog post being a little later than I had hoped, I decided to share a piece of concept/design art from my game project (it is WIP, and maybe a little small and hard to see).

The actual image is about 4x the size... and is a tool to help me design the world you will explore in the game I am making.

Thats all from me this time. This piece is taking some time to do (that and creating the smaller pieces of art that will be in the game based on this larger piece), and has been the majority of what I have been working on the past few days, so instead of write about it, I decided to show it.

Wish me luck

Saturday, March 13, 2010

While I could just write about the progress I've made (in both directions) with my Game Project, I felt that could get boring. So I am going to do this in a few parts, and break it up a little.

GDC (game developers conference) just happened, and I wasn't there. Not because I had planned to go and things just didn't work out... but because I didn't plan to go, I don't have the money to go, and I am in no position to pick up my life for a week and just go off to invest in the gaming industry. I am taking a rather huge risk investing the amount of time I am in working on this little game making project of mine as it is!

I did really like to see what came out of the IGF (independent games festival), with "Monaco: what's yours is mine" taking the grand prize. I love to see games that are both creative and fun winning over other projects that are more artsy, and less about being interesting and fun. I am also excited to see that something with a more retro look can take the win (seeing as what I am making has a distinctly retro feel about it).

I've been reading this series of articles being put out by the guys who made another Indie game Kaleidoscope ( about the lessons they have learned with regards to Xbox Live's Indie Game marketplace (the place I am planning on releasing my project). It is both exciting and sad to read, as the success stories of "I made a game with zombies in it" create a striking contrast to what they are experiencing. It reminds me of the comments made by some other Indie game makers (Wepon of Choice Developer, and Clover Developer).  But I am hopeful that I can make a solid run at this!

As for the progress on my game development project... I have a lot more features in my editor... unfortunately, I have encountered a number of issues (while I have solved many of them as I go, I don't really know what is causing them, and so it is making it hard to solve all of them). I am feeling like I am going to need to put a better framework underneath it all.
I keep coming up against the way memory is managed, and loosing the texture data of sprites that have been in the editor... its really frustrating.

But I press on. Working hard at implimenting some really exciting things. I hope to have some pictures and maybe even a youtube video of my work ready by the end of the month! (fingers crossed).

Wish me luck!

And congrats again to the team who made Monaco!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A weaks worth of effort (spelling error intentional)

After a week of fiddling and finagling my game project, I am not much farther along than I was last time I wrote.

I have a 2D camera system that tracks the players movement, and chases after it to varying degrees depending on its distance from the center (though I still think there is a better way of doing it). I also made it so that the world zooms out the farther away from the center of the screen the player is (that part I am slightly more proud of).
But what I don't have done are the pieces that make building something more fun and playable possible. Namely the world object editor, and complex collision detection (the per pixel thing just didn't work out... but I am not giving up hope). I can place down lots of little squares, and fly the ship through the mazes I create, but until I improve the systems I use to create the mazes, the time it takes to build something is much longer than I am happy with. Also, the inability to put anything in the maze that behaves differently limits the creative potential of the level design... and while flying the ship is fun... it's fun that only lasts a short while.

I have spent some time on some of the less visible aspects of the game. Things like an inventory of items, keeping track of quantity, and in the case of limited cargo space, limits the inventory based on differing factors (simple number, or total weight/volume variables). I also spent some time making existing systems I use more modular... but again, without anything in the world to interact with, right now all of that has no practical use.

So, prioritizing based ease of development, instead of need, seems to be costing me in the types of productivity that give one a sense of accomplishment. Namely the kind that adds to the play test experience.

Something I did do this week that was somewhat thrilling however, was pushing the project to my Xbox 360, and playing what I have right now on my TV screen! I learned that I need to make sure that I keep everything within the safe area (, because a number of things I display (debug text, and the current world editor) use the outer edge of the viewport variable (its a property of the graphics device... basically it tells you the width and height of the screen. Unfortunately, when working with a TV screen, those values aren't entirely accurate).

So, head down, and fingers on keyboard, working away at the things that will make the project move more quickly are still at the top of the list. Putting more on the screen, and adding new things to interact with are key to ensuring that in the end, the game will be fun, and people will buy it.

Wishing me luck, because I don't know that anyone is reading this
- fidget widget

Monday, March 1, 2010

game development journey

I am not about to turn my blog into a developer diary of sorts, but I do want to start to do a weekly update of where I am at with the game. That way I will have something to look back on after a month or so, and learn from my experience in review better than I could otherwise.

So, state of the game:
The game has some of the more external mechanics completed (screen/state manager, title screen, options menu, pausing, and confirmation dialog boxes), but the core of the game has been giving me a number of problems.

I have spent the majority of my time on the 'exploration' portion of the game, working on getting ship control and collision detection working. And after almost two weeks of working on this in my spare time, I finally have a collision detection system in place that I am confident in, and isn't simply something ripped from someone else's game. I know how it works, and I know what it is doing at each step of the process, and I feel it's not going to be resource heavy, and minimize the number of, and complexity of collideable objects in my game.

Basically, I scoured the internets to find information on how to handle collisions, examined the Collision Manager class of Net Rumble, and using bits and pieces of understanding I gleemed from these various sources, I put something together that checks bounding box collision, and if there is a collision there, it will go a step further and do per pixel tests on the objects in question.

Its a simple way of doing it for anyone who understands geometry and vector math... but having been out of school for a long while, and never having been all that good at geometry, it was a difficult process to get working.

Something good that did come out of it was my implementing a debug system that allows me to see visually the bounding boxes of each object (and potentially be able to draw on screen the thought process of the AI components).

What I have right now could certainly be cleaned up (and I still have to get the per pixel part of things finished up), but I like how it feels when my ship collides with a solid object.
Next I will work on getting the camera to chase the player, and add in different types of collision reactions (such as the transfer of momentum from one object to another, in the case of smaller floating objects).

I hope to, by the end of the week, have my game object editor fleshed out, with the ability to select and move world objects (world objects are a collection of sprites that I plan on assigning behaviors to), as well as breaking them apart and allowing me to edit their sprites after they have been created. The per pixel thing, and chasing camera as well of course. And if I am really productive, maybe put together some sort of 'map' thing.

More on the progress at the end of the week (I hope).

fidgetwidget out.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Reviews are arbitrary: So here is one I wrote.

I have been thinking about my skills as a writer (or lack there of, if you are inclined to think I suck at this... and if so, please comment), and thinking I should exercise them in the worst possible way. The sort of way that if it weren't my writing skills I were testing, I might pull something, perhaps my groin. Exercise of this type is easily comparable to bungee jumping from a plane while riding an electric hybrid peddle bike with your hands on the peddles and your head firmly attached to the seat in that amusing way that the crazy-glue man's head is attached to the iron beam. I am speaking, of course, about the art (in the way a child's finger painting is considered art) of writing a review.

Now my words about reviewing are not aimed at the reviewer, because the work of one is not easy to do (nor would bungee jumping from a plane while riding an electric hybrid peddle bike with your hands on the peddles and your head firmly attached to the seat). I am quite fond of some reviewers, and their opinions I do find amusing. None the less, the very act of reviewing requires you to contort your thinking (and the way you express it - in this case writing) in positions that I do not believe are all too healthy.

To simply retell the events of the experience, the ways it delighted or the ways it did not, would be a fine expression and a healthy one too. But to do so would not be enough, for the art of reviewing is not retelling, but critiquing and explaining things too. The first part is healthy, when someone is seeking, to know what they did right, and wrong to know better. But when it is forced, uninvited, and uninformed, the results are destructive, often harmful for all. And the second part too, is healthy when needed, but can be also demeaning, insulting or just plain a bore. Combined all together, retell, do tell, and make it a bore, a review you shall have, a review, and nothing more.

To make one is troubling, and to write one a chore, but those that do do it, they will do it some more. Because saying these things in the order that they do, has a harmful effect on the review -ie and -er. One becomes jaded, puffed up, and absorbed, to think that their ideas are worth anything more than ten cents for a dozen or so, yet reviewers review, and review some more.

So this was my poem, about the art of the review. Please read it, review it, and share it until  everyone who's read it has said their point eight cents and one third. I hope you enjoy it, I know that you will, of course, thats just my review of it, and I'm biased and a shrill.

- fidgetwidget

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The continuing process of making a game

So I decided I am finally going to put my annual membership to the XNA creators club to use, and actually follow through and make a game.

I haven't spent much time programming in a few years, and while I am searching for a Job in the field (as it seems to be the only one I am familiar with) I figured I would refresh myself on the practice, and at the same time (fingers crossed and prayer sent) see if it turns into something else (it has been a dream of mine for some time to make video games for a living).

I dove in, fingers first, hitting the keys vigorously, hoping to refresh my memory of all things programming, and create something meaningful in a short period of time. Four hours later, I have moved passed hello world, and have a sprite on the screen, moving to the input of my controller and spitting out Vector2 data from the thumbstick, floats to tell me how hard the triggers were pressed, and so on and so forth.

It was fun to have my creation start to take shape, albeit what I made was simplistic simplistic, having the discovery that I might actually be able to do this was exciting. The next four hours were not as fun mind you, trying to wrap my mind around what a screen manager does, how it works, and why it's necessary. But I managed to create something that made sense to me, and did what I asked of it, giving me a menu screen, and a means of creating some more complex ideas come to life.

I still have lots of learning to do, and my creation still only consists of one sprite and a lot of text, but I am starting to draw out the game logic structure and set some goals for the project to expand. I will make something. I might not make what I am setting out to make right now, and I may not make any money doing it, but I will at the very least learn something, and have some fun doing it.

Now if I can just stop myself from thinking too far out of scope that I cease to create the noticeable progress needed to keep me motivated. Sticking to the goals you make is often much harder than defining them in the first place. Much more so when you reluctantly set goals that are easier to reach than your mind can dream up to begin with.

Such is the way of widgets that belong to a fidget.