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.