New month so time to update the GB community about my little game project. Here's the vlog with my terrible drawings, jokes, and raw code for those interested:
For those of you who aren't interested in watching a 30 minute video allow me to sum up.
Over the course of February I've mainly been focusing on figuring out how to implement the art style. I always knew I wanted to use an 8-bit art style and limit myself to the NES palette plus three colors per sprite. This allows me to focus on what I think is the most important aspect of graphics.
Graphics are clearly a very important part of video games. However I think a lot people tend to place most of the importance on the wrong aspect of games. The way I see it there are three aspects of games in video games. These are Quality, Aesthetic, and Function.
Quality is things like poly count, pixel density, shaders, and anything that makes the game look all fancy and is independent of the art style. In my opinion graphical quality is least important of the three. What is good for is pushing the technology to need more power, so smaller or more creative developers can use that extra power for interesting things.
Aesthetic is the art style. Whether they developers decide to go with a realistic, cartoony, or comic book-esque, whatever. This is more important than quality because aesthetic can determine a lot of base opinions people have of the game overall and how well the game "holds up" over time. This is why many think PS1 games that when for a "realistic" look don't hold up visually to the games that went for a more cartoony or classic look. For example original Tomb Raider versus Suikoden 2.
Function is how the graphics communicate the abstraction of the code to the players. This is by far the most important part is should really be considered when designing graphics. What use are high quality graphics or a beautiful art style if the player can't tell what's going on screen? (Unless of course that's the whole point of the game, but that's a bit of a different topic.)Things enemies being color coded (which is one of things I've been using), how well text stands out, UI design, and etc.
I'm sure many developers consider graphical function to the point where it's just plain assumed, but I have my doubts that many players ever consider it.
If you happen to want to play the current build you can find it here:
Every now and again I like to find a game that I haven't played in years and see how my accurate memory to how the game actually plays. Last time I did this I made a blog about it here. This time around I wanted to do Red Asphalt but I couldn't get it working right on my PS3, Ps2, or even a PC PS1 emulator unfortunately. So instead I decided to get Jumping Flash! off the PSN since I remember really enjoying it back in the day. It surprises me how much that game and series is in the public mind (at least here at Giant Bomb.) It seems like Playstation All Stars reminded a lot of people of it's existence, though I had bought it before that game had come out.
In the video above you see my pure reaction to my rediscovery of the game. I was pleasantly surprised on how well the game held up. For those of you that don't know anything about it, Jumping Flash is a First Person Platformer released before there even were dual analog controllers. The game uses tank controls similar to that of
and other early survival horror games. I found this control scheme actually worked pretty damn well all things considering. Their not twitchy or reactive enough to pull off fast paced or accurate gameplay, but the designers seemed to take this into consideration and the game has a very slow pace.
The audio is what impressed me the most. Each level has a remix/rearrangement of the World's theme. Meaning that each stage has it's own unique theme. As someone who composes music let me tell you that's actually pretty crazy, especially considering how little time some games have in development. The sound effects are cartoony but functional in a way that reenforces the game's nice playful charm.
The game is pretty easy, but it was a kid's game so that doesn't really surprise me. Back in the day I remember being made fun of by my older brother and cousins because I enjoyed Jumping Flash so much. Because of that I never bought it and, aside from renting it once, my main experience was with a demo disk that came with the launch Playstation.
I'll be sure to check out the second game some time.
Sometimes it's hard to find the motivation or time to complete or even work on. January came and went without me updating this little series for reasons mostly involved with life getting in the way. January was kind of a terrible month for me in terms of working towards what I want to do in my life. February is a chance to remedy that. So far I have, and here's the results of that work. If you didn't see my previous blog/vlog about this, you can find it here. As stated in that blog I'm attempting to make a game and see it through to completion. The tool I'm using is GameMaker. The basic idea for the is a bullet hell game where you have a limited amount of ammo for the entire game.
For this update I don't have any sort of topic like I did last time. This one is all about what I've done and how I got there. I do my best to explain the code in the video. However if you're not interested in watching a nearly 18 minute long video of my semi incoherent rambling then allow me to type up that semi incoherent rambling.
My main focus was getting the collision system working properly. Collision is something that has made me completely abandon projects in the past so it was important for me to get it working well before moving on. I'm glad to say that I was able to working wonderfully. For those of you that don't know, I'm not a programmer really. I'm a musician and sound designer mostly. While I have a basic understanding of programing, I'm far from a master or even adept. I'm doing the best I can and learning new stuff every time I open GameMaker.
Once I got the collision system working and since January was already upon me, I figured I get some other things done as well. Namely improving the basic enemy design, a checkpoint system, and adding a smart bomb weapon.
Since there is limited ammo in this game there needs to be a way to take out enemies without shooting them. I did this by having enemy bullets also damage other enemies. I found that this adds some interesting gameplay dynamics even in the current prototype. Especially since enemies won't shoot at the player if one of their buddies in between them. It adds a bit more risk in whole avoidance style. In the future enemies will be able to crash into one another.
The checkpoint system was surprisingly simple to add and works really well. At first I thought I was going to have to deal with a complex set up involving the use persistence and arrays, but it was much much more simple than that. It will be dependent entirely on what room the player is in. Meaning that I'll have to code the checkpoints in for each room, but it's really not that much of a problem.
The smart bomb weapon gave me some trouble at first, but I eventually worked out a way to make it simple and functional. Philosophically, smart bombs in this game are meant as a panic button. They cost 100 ammo (out of 500) and don't give the player any points (which are completely arbitrary anyway.) However they can also be used to find secret areas as they destroy breakable walls.
With this current build I'm finding that my idea may not only be doable but also enjoyable. Which is a relief! This month I'm going to focus on getting the art style down and fixing/refining what's already there.
Links: Steam Workshop- This is how you'd play the game. Project File - Feel free to poke around in the code and learn from it or fix it! Do whatever! (within reason) Tumblr Appendix - Usually I'll have some addition tidbits or share some weird production story. This time around I explain a bit of the origins of the background music I did for this episode. It's all original and composed/sequenced by me.
For many years I've been tinkering with various game making/editing programs. From RPG Maker on the PS1 to QuArk to GameMaker, etc. I've never completed a project. This needs to change. I found that it motivates me to make things public and release things on some sort of schedule, so I'm trying that. Now I'm doing this as a vlog since it's easier to demonstrate things in video than text for y'know video games.
BUT! for those of you that don't want to watch a 22 minute video of my terrible jokes, bad drawings, and stuttery commentary allow me to sum up. (OR write up a long long post.)
The program I'm using to make this game is GameMaker because I've used it for years and now that it's on Steam the project can be easily shared on the Steam Workshop. I'm also going to make the raw project files available to download as well. Why? Because this is mainly an experiment for me and there's nothing really anyone can do with my mediocre code other than maybe learn some basics.
The game in question with be a Shoot 'Em Up or Bullet Hell (I call the genre "Shmups", Deal with it) game mostly because I made one when I was first getting familiar with GameMaker and sort of know how to do things already. This is a very well traveled genre, but I feel I can bring something new to the table. This game will feature two things that I, personally, haven't seen explored in shmups in the way I have planned.
One is limited ammo. I don't mean how Einhänder has weapons with limited ammo, or how many other games have limited uses of Smart Bomb type weapons. No. I mean limited ammo for you're only weapon that is over the course of the entire game. If you run out of ammo then you don't get anymore until you restart. Even if you die. What I hope this does is make players think before they shoot. Many games of the genre in recent years have had the player constantly shooting without any sort of control because, quite frankly, you're normally holding the shoot button anyway. Limiting ammo may make the game more focused on dodging and finding the best place for your ship to be, but the levels and encounters will be designed around this. Any and all bosses will be able to be defeated without firing a shot. Ideally shooting will be a players last resort. There are some other things that this allows, but I'm not going to go into them now because they're not in the game yet.
The other is a more RPG-like Progression system. Leveling up, player progression, whatever you want to call it is actually incredibly common to the shmup genre. Usually it takes the form of temporary powerups. Games like Philosoma had it so that each time you got a weapon powerup you weapon level would increase. Instead of using powerups that the player picks up I'm going to opt for a system of upgrade points similar to the skill points that you'd find in many RPGs. Basically after each level the player will gain one point to spend on a couple of different stats/abilities/etc. There will be more possibly things to buy then there will be total attainable points making players have to choose wisely. Of course the big potential problem with this system is that there might be an optimal upgrade route if I'm not careful.
Now when the player dies in the game I'm not sure what have happen. I'm leaning towards having a checkpoint system and score system. When a player dies they'd restart at the most recent checkpoint but their score will be reduced to zero. I think that's the most fair way to do it. It's still up in the air though.
Something that I touch on in the video is my philosophy of how games challenge players. This is an idea that's still in the process of solidifying, so (like in the video) I won't go into too much depth, but basically I see challenge can be broken up into three main sub-categories. I'm mentioning it mainly to give perspective on how I approach game design. Let's also not forget that Challenge and Difficulty are not synonymous. Challenge is what the game presents as it's puzzle to the players (get to the other side of the room, don't let x variable become y, etc) while Difficulty is how it presents that that puzzle.
The three categories are Skill, Luck, and Resources.
Skill is the one everyone knows and probably agrees with. These are challenges of execution, mind, and knowledge. It's doing your Dragon Punch FADC into Ultra, your prowess at pushing blocks, memorization, and what-have-you.
Luck is the random or unpredictable elements a game with throw at you. Luck-based challenges can come in many forms, from random world seeds/game boards, AI movements, hit percentages, anything that the player cannot be 100% sure of.
Resources is the most bizarre of them. It's time and money basically. How much time does a player have to donate to the game? How much does the game or things in the game cost? Take fighting games for example. To get good at them it takes a lot of time practicing. Or a different example. Traveling in an Open World game. Those are both examples of Time being a challenge to the player. They're not engaging with the "main" gameplay mode but still have to overcome a potentially uninteresting or even frustrating element of the game.
Money or Cost can be a challenge in a lot of ways. Most obviously in Arcade games. How much does it cost to buy credits? 25 cents? A Dollar? Can the player overcome that resource cost to engage with the game? Free to Play games ask a similar question to their players.
But yeah, that's the basic idea of how I see challenge in games.
As for the art, audio, and a--- narrative, I don't want to go into that just yet. I'm sure many of you can guess at some of the narrative from the project title, Project Big Rip, but I'll save it for later.
That's it for this month! I'll be back next month with hopefully a fully, but probably just mostly working collision system and maybe some closer-to-final art.
Thanks for reading/watching/being alive! (I'll most likely post this around a couple of different forums, so you may see this exact post on another site. It's a lot to retype...)
One of things I think about a lot is how games "hold up" over time. I love going back and seeing if the games I enjoyed when I was younger were as good or as bad I remember. Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised and find a game is actually pretty decent. Other times I find that my nostalgia has been lying to me and the game is absolutely horrible. To give me an excuse to look at these old games more frequently I decided to make this into a bit of a series. Maybe it'll be monthly.
First up is a game for the original Playstation called, Omega Boost. I remember this game being super hard, but really fun and interesting despite having really bizarre controls. What I found from playing it was actually quite surprising. You can see my raw reactions to playing this game after not playing 10 years in the video below. (However it's not completely pure as I had recorded something earlier then my recording software crashed, but still.)
Omega Boost came out as I was going into High School. Around that time I was pretty awful at video games and often relied on a game shark to get through games. Omega Boost was no different. When I went back to it recently I found that it was a lot easier than I remembered it.
The graphics also hold up surprising well. Sure all the textures are low quality, but the actual models are very well defined, well animated, and don't suffer from a lot of odd clipping and bizarre boxiness that a lot of other PS1 games have.
All and all I'm pleasantly surprised how well the game plays and looks. Honestly I was expecting it to be a hot, barely playable, mess and Omega Boost is far from that. Also it has gloriously terrible/wonderful FMV cut scenes that are pretty well blended with the CG. I suspect the people involved knew how campy it was all going to turn out and embraced it.
Also! Thanks who ever filled out the trivia section on Omega Boost's GB page! Love that sort of stuff.
Some of you may picked up Orcs Must DIe! 2 a couple weeks ago and I hope you did. It's a lot of fun and the new things they added and such really make the game stand out above the first one. I like to profess that I understand tower defense games, so I figured that I could get 5 Skulls, the highest rank, on every level of the Story mode in OMD2 in the order they appeared. And I did. AND I caught it all on FRAPs. AND you can watch it here. [link to playlist] I played through the game using the Sorceress and mainly tried to stick to traps and weapons that are new to the game while remaining true to some old faithfuls from the previous game.
The point of doing this was to, 1) attempt to level my live commentary skills, 2) do a complete Let's Play, 3) make a guide to each level for those who might not have the dexterity needed for some of the solutions that the more well known OMD players out there show off. I attempt to be informative and entertaining through out the playthrough though I will freely admit that I don't always succeed. Here's an embed of my favorite episode:
(As always feedback of any sort is welcomed and encouraged!)
When it comes to OMD2 as a game I think they did a great job on the level design for the most part. The levels have chock points that tempt players when other chock points would be better. There are is a slightest of limits to how you can approach a level. The combination of Traps, Weapons, and Trinkets that you can bring into combat is staggering and certainly allows for personal preference. I found that the Bone Amulet made the mostly Co-Op designed maps a big help in single player, and used it in almost every level except for the one embedded above. Once I attained the Polymorph ring a similar thing had happened. I'm sure people will say those aren't useful while other variations are. And that's fine! And great that the game can inspire such debates.
Start the Conversation
Some of you might remember that a weblog I wrote up a couple of weeks ago about my attempt to get better at and better understand fighting games. Well it's been nearly two months and I've still been going at it. This is not really about winning matches so much as it is learning from them. One of the goals of this little vlog is to also show that it's not that difficult to get decent at fighting games and to help provide people with some information on where to start. In every video's description I provide some helpful links if they want to jump down the fighting game rabbit hole.
The game I've been playing is Skullgirls. Why? Mainly because I enjoy it, its netcode usually works, and it's recent.
Last week's (week 6) I gave an overview of the way I practice then get into some unranked sets with two random opponents.
This week (week 7) I just discussed what I did throughout the week then have some real close sets with some random folks.
I'm sure some of you know, recently a game called Edge of Space was successfully funded via kickstarter. As of today the developers (Handyman Studios) started a beta for people who backed the project and, you guessed, I decided to do a short video about what it currently contains and to help generate a little buzz and all that. In a nut shell, the game is Terraria in space, but it promises much more than that.
Not much yet as this is the first beta except for spawning some critters, removing and placing blocks, and of course shooting at stuff with a machine gun.
Of course it's currently really buggy, but beta is beta.
I really enjoy watching competitive fighting games, but never had the time to really get even mediocre at them. So I decided, with my recent unemployment, to spend some time every day to practice with a fighting game. The game I chose is Skullgirls. Why? Because it's pretty new, has a nifty art style, is a lot of fun, and I've found the tutorials quite helpful. Hopefully by putting this in video form will actually help me get dedicated.
I'll update this weblog each week with a video and put the most recent at the top of the blog post. Please fill free to provide tips, suggestions, death threats, whatever.
2012 - 06 - 02: This week I learned that playing in a tournament is much different than playing just online, even when there is nothing on the line. (No pun intended). Also I decided to make a new one of this each month to lessen the clutter. Thoughts in the comments below.
2012 - 05 - 27: So another week goes by and I think I've made a noticeable improvement. Didn't have much luck when recording however, and lost two of the three matches. Of course this series is not really about winning, but learning. Both from really stupid mistakes on my part. In fact in all three matches I made really dumb mistakes. In the video I attribute it to poor execution, but on watching the footage I think it was more lack of knowledge of what moves beats what and so on.
When it comes to Peacock I think my zoning is getting better. Right now I'm kind of just throwing stuff out there to see what works and what doesn't. I tend to relying too much on teleporting behind, grab, then super and I've been trying to get away from that. With Cerebella, I feel I am relying too much on the armored command run to get anywhere.
2012 - 05 -19: The first week goes by! It would seem that I've improved actually quite a bit! I won't spoil the video, but things go pretty well (ok... so the lag helps a bit). Still I'm feeling great. And sweaty. Really sweaty... Actually it kind of disgusts and pleases me in a weird way.. What? Oh that was too much information. Gotcha. Being able to watch the footage has also been quite helpful as it allows me to make note of my mistakes or accomplishments.
2012 - 05 - 12: Right now, I've been practicing for about a week and last night I popped online and played three matches for the first time since deciding to do this. I'm sure you can guess how that turned out. hah But you can watch the results here:
I had never attended a game jam before. I never really thought I was in a position or skilled enough to complete something in such little time. But I love ridiculous ideas and the mock twitter account, PeterMolydeux, was one of the reasons why I signed for twitter so I could not have not gone to Molyjam. (Now there's an awkwardly worded sentence!) For those that don't know. Molyjam was (is?) a game jam based around ideas from tweets made to satire things the real Peter Molyneux might have said. The one rule of the game jam was any game made had to use at least one of the tweets posted by the mock account.
NYC Molyjam was at one of the New School's buildings and was free to attend. After some introductions to the jam and rooms everyone there mingled and eventually over the course of Friday night about 4 or 5 teams were formed and ideas were discussed. The team was able to get into consisted of the organizer for the NYC jam, the UI designer from Doublefine, and various members from the New School's Game Club. We ended up having 4 programers, 3 graphic artists, a writer, and a composer/sound engineer which was me. The whole process of what idea we choose base our game off of was pretty organic. We had a few. One of them being an idea for a roguelike that generates it's game map by a string a text from any of the tweets that Molydeux has made. Which is awesome, but a bit to ambitious for the 48 hour limit. Eventually we settled on the idea from this tweet: "What if your son was the sun? If he sleeps, the sun vanishes. If he cries then woodlands set on fire etc."
The goal of the game is to appease your son, the Sun, and prevent him from burning everyone alive. Originally it was going to have parts where you answer its questions and where you have send various objects to the Sun, but we kind of simplified that so that you're just launching rocket platforms containing people, animals, and such into the Sun. Which is never not fun. I had made a good chunk of sound effects and music for the game that did not get used, but like the saying goes "it's better to make more than you need and not use it then need something and not have it." The goal I had with the music was to set mood. There was some discussion that maybe it's the Sun's birthday, so I tried to make it festive. The village was sort of medieval but they have rocketry, so I used medieval-esque instruments made then out-of-tune to be more realistic (...yes yes I know) and combined them with some synthesizers. When it came to the sounds, I used mostly stuff from a sound effect library I own as well as original work I have recorded. So of the sounds, like the scream for example, I had to record myself doing. Additional sounds came from the public domain and I don't think they ended up in the final version of the game. Working with everyone on the team was refreshing and fun. Everyone did their part and their best to get the game done on time without any BS that I've encountered with other teams. Maybe it was because the short deadline or because they all wanted to create something absurd and awesome. Regardless, it was probably the best experience I had working with a group of strangers.
But enough about the game I worked on. What about the other games at the NYC jam? Well.....
Betraille:Part Deuxwas an interesting multiplayer game similar to Assassin's Creed's multiplayer. Basically there are a whole bunch of variously color cubes moving around the game map. You're controlling one of them. You have to figure out which one, then figure out which ones are being controlled by the other players and get near them to take them out. However if it's an non-player character then you are removed. Whichever player is left at the end of the game wins. It was pretty fun and there was certainly some interesting strategies to employ.
These Automatic Arms was a quite fun and bizarre top down shooter where you couldn't control your shooting and would constantly being turning left. The object was to avoid shooting innocent people (which were of course represented by green squares). It was really cleverly designed and worth checking out.
Finally, the game that I was most impressed by was What Would Molydeux? which was, as one of the designers put it, so innovating to video games that they removed the video part. It's a card game. The object of the game is to create sentences that sound like something Molydeux would tweet. The first person to put down a period (full stop) wins the round so the object is to keep the sentence going as long as possible and make it difficult for other players to finish the sentence. Not only was this fun and ridiculous, but it showed a certain cleverness that one must appreciate. I hope the guys who made it work on a free digital version similar to siteslike duelingnetwork (yugioh) and Fantasy Strike (Yomi) have done for other card games.
All and all my first game jam was an amazing experience that I am glad I had. I hope to someone work again with the people that were on my team someday in a professional capacity, and wish them and everyone who participated a luck with what ever they go on to after this! Can wait til the next one!
Start the Conversation