Developer Diary

I officially declare "Monolith" a success! Since it has now been played by at least 2 people, up from my last game (Press Space, if you want to download that, PM me and I might put it up somewhere again) which - as best as I can tell - was played by only one.

Thanks to Game Maker Studio going free for a bit, (and Blender Game Engine being a real SoB to work with) now I'm working on another - significantly more ambitious than Monolith - top-down, 2D game that I've got some ideas for that I'm really excited about.

This game is going to:

  • Take place in a large open area that may or may not be space.
  • Feature pseudo-random encounters, as well as scripted events.
  • Be an absolutely fucking immense open world.

Space is cliche. Thus I feel like it might be a better idea to make my open world something along the lines of an alternate dimension where the laws of physics aren't quite the same as ours or a micro-dimension where everything is on the scale of subatomic particles. Anything really to be able to exchange umpteen screens of scrolling starfields for some more interesting visuals.

As you traverse, you get pseudo-random encounters. I say pseudo because they spawn randomly, but you can still see them coming from some distance and avoid them if you want. Rather than the typical RPG trope of the encounters being a variety of local enemies that gradually increase in difficulty, I plan on making the encounters a variety of different styles of game play. Some will indeed be combat, others might be a short race, or a death-trap filled maze or a puzzle to be solved. The types and difficulty of encounters will depend on the region you are in.

Speaking of the region you are in, I'm working on a coordinate system tens of millions of pixels wide and long. Or hundreds of trillions of pixels square (well, all pixels are square...) At the current speed the player is able to move, it will literally take 24 hours straight to traverse from end to end.

So far I have made:

  • A parallax scrolling background
  • Some nifty "weather" effects
  • A pretty cool player sprite modelled in 3D in Blender that I take stills of to make 2D sprites that have some wicked particles spitting out the back while you move.

Obviously there's a looooong way to go. Short of everything, specifically In need of work are:

  • Story - Does it have a traditional one? Or is it just an near-infinite explorer with random shit happening? Both? I have some basic thematic ideas brewing, but nothing super specific just yet.
  • World building - Obviously, I can't have the same background scrolling along for the entire thing (which I briefly considered: a sort of test of patience, art game where you do nothing but hold right for a day of play time. I know someone would finish it.) Those hundreds of trillions of square pixels need to be broken up into regions and themed to not put everyone to sleep. Possibly even downsized to make it less of a slog. But, but, my huge open world!
  • Encounter design - Both scripted and random encounters need to be designed, drawn, programmed, balanced, the list goes on...

If any of this sounds like fun, download MONOLITH for now and let me know what you think for encouragement. If this game gets as big as I hope it does, I'm going to have my work cut out for me.

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I Made a Game (LOOSELY) Based on 2001.

Emphasis on the loosely... It's called "Monolith".

Download Here!!

A long time ago, I tried out Game Maker. Got quite far into a game I was all excited about, then discovered that I had not read the terms very well, and that the free version of the software is severely crippled. Unflustered, I threw it all out and sought out another free game engine. I eventually ended up spending a rather large amount of time learning Blender. Made a pretty cool game with it that - to the best of my knowledge - two people downloaded and only one got working. It doesn't help that Blender has some pretty severe cripplings of its own - especially when it comes to compatibility and distribution.

Then, a little while back this thread tipped me off that Game Maker: Studio was (is?) free for a while. So, I picked it up and promptly realized I was going to have to learn it all over again. This game is mostly me getting the hang of Game Maker again and learning a bit of the code. It's also some practice for a top-down, RPG, bullet-hell shmup I've been thinking of making for some time and that is now in very early development. (Incidentally, I've combined my Blender knowledge with this and starting making rendered 3D sprites for that one. They're awesome!)

The sprites in this game are not awesome! Except for the cats. My wife made those. She also did the ape noises. I did the rest of the sprites, sound effects, the coding and the music, minus the title screen music which is a free-domain recording of Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" that I got from somewhere on the Internet that I can't find anymore. I give whoever they are credit for a great performance.

It's about 11 megs and should run on just about any windows machine. Sorry Apple/Linux users.



The Unsung Console Controversy

No one seems to be talking about the fact that - besides some less than assuring assurances that they still care - Microsoft has pretty much pulled out of the console race outside of Europe and North America. Excuse me whilst I rambling remedy this:

In South Korea - where I happen to reside - the PS4 has recently moved up its release date to December from March. The X1 is still tentatively scheduled for November of next year. It's the same story throughout most of Asia: PS4 sometime in the next few months, Xbox One sometime next year. "We'll announce dates when we know them." - Microsoft [paraphrased]. Guess which next-gen console most gamers in Asia are planning on buying.

Microsoft's decision to turn their console into a set-top box and to release so much later has left their admittedly already-small, far-east patrons in the shithouse. I'm in a respectably large Facebook group of gamers in South Korea - who are split about 50/50 Xbox/PS - and most of the Xbox owners are talking jumping ship to PS this generation. And we're mostly expats, the situation is even worse among actual Korean Xbox 360 owners.

Before everyone jumps in and starts talking about how the market is too small for Microsoft to worry about, lets examine some trends:

  • Most Hollywood blockbusters these days make two, three, four times as much money overseas than they do at home. Movies that used to come here months after their North American release are now coming here sometimes even before they premier in the west.
  • Triple-A titles' budgets continue to grow, rival and even surpass that of the blockbusteriest of Hollywood blockbusters and practically require that a game sell multiple-millions to be a success.
  • This looks to be the first generation that potentially, legitimately makes it into an increasingly-rich China - at least in some small capacity - due some new weird laws I'm not entirely clear on. Not to mention the fact that all of the consoles are physically made there.
  • Short of sports games that run into licensing problems and are sports that Asians don't care about (football, hockey,) in the last couple of years, I can't think of a big-budget console game for Xbox 360/PS3 that didn't come to Korea on or around the NA release. Hell, some even got localized. I played through the entirety of Saints Row the Third with Korean text. (It was possibly even more hilarious. Tiger Escort only ever gets described in text, I had NO IDEA what was going on.)
  • The big-name game publishers are at least already on board.

I can't help but think that shafting the Asian market like this is an incredibly short-sighted move on Microsoft's part (as indeed has been much of the "XBone's" release.) I would think it would be in their best interest to try and grab some new customers and try to attract some overseas developers while they're there for the taking instead of letting Sony run away with them.

Addendum: this clusterfuck of a post was interrupted by no less than three disruptions in my writing including a two hour meeting I forgot about. Apologies for inconsistencies and incoherency.


Game in the Works *DONE*

I'm making a game for the first time since high school when I programmed a couple on my TI-85 graphing calculator. Great gaming machine there. I remember someone one day showing up with Tetris on their calculator. It inspired me to make my own creations: a betting game where the +, -, /, * raced across the screen at different random rates that determined the odds, and a top down racing game where you'd maneuver your "car" between the slowly lowering posts.

Things have changed in the past 20 years.

First off, I'm determined to do this in a free development platform. I started out on Game Maker, got quite a bit done, then hit the object limit that the free version has that I didn't notice. So, I tried Construct, got a little ways along and found it pretty lacking. Most likely because it seems like the open-source version I was using has lost a lot of support since they now mostly back their superior commercial version. Finally, I very briefly messed with Game Editor before I bit the bullet and decided to learn Blender. Now it's entirely in 3D (though still 2D in spirit) and infinitely more complicated.

It's been a week and it's nearing completion. Hooray for vacation! Also not bad for being out of the game for 20 years. If you can call developing calculator games being in the game.

Title Screen:

Level 2:

Screenshots don't do much for dynamic lighting.

I call it a SIBH (Self Inflicted Bullet Hell) game. To get points, you have to shoot at yourself. If the blobs hit you, you lose points, if they hit each other, they die and you get points. Don't shoot, and you'll have no trouble avoiding non-existent blobs, but you won't score anything. Mash the space bar and there's much more chance for points, but you've then got a swarm of blobs to avoid. Risk-reward gameplay at its most basic.

There are not many blobs on the screen in level 2 there because I was busy hitting alt-prtscr. Though I did get lucky: you can see two little upside-down +1s as two of the red blobs annihilated each other making their shadows and everything, hee. The blue barrel in the middle is what shoots at you, and you are the yellow orb. There's an explanation for these characters and a "story" I invented in a drunken fury, but I won't spoil them here.

In the works are:

  • Finish up between-level transitions. Only one left to go.
  • Make multiple endings. At least four are on the way.
  • Building the super secret level you have to meet certain, extra super secret conditions to get to.
  • Optimizing Python scripts and logic bricks. Always optimizing...

So far it runs like gangbusters on my dual core G620, 4gigs RAM, 256mb Nvidia 8600gt and only gets framey if I mash like Takahashi Meijin. I foresee keeping it like that since if it gets too sluggish, I won't be able to play it anymore.

Enough time posting, back to developing.


My (un)Interesting Opinion

Never been much of a blogger. Always short on words and to the point I am. Yet here I am writing one on Giantbomb mostly to get the blog quest out of the way since I've recently been bitten by the quest bug and partly to actually voice an opinion:

I like my video games video gamey.

Over the course of my video gaming career (hobby,) video games have gotten progressively more movie-esque. Cut scenes abound. Characters have, well, character. Everything has a bloody plot. I feel like I spend as much time - if not more - watching video "games" than playing them these days.

This isn't a bad thing. I'll never forget plowing through Final Fantasy VII in my dorm room, skipping classes and generally wrecking my GPA back in the nineties. Xenogears was a transcendental experience despite the second disk of rocking chair Citan blathering important plot points that I never got to take part in. The first God of War (I skipped most of the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube generation until late) blasted unused synapses into action with over the top QTEs and raging Kratos badassery. Even more recently, I was permitted to step into the shoes of Batman even, through a couple of great games by Rocksteady.

However, I miss the 2-dimensional (literally and figuratively) characters, inexplicable "plots", general weirdness and resulting sense of mystery that came prepackaged standard with the games of yesteryear. Call it nostalgia if you must, but there's something alluring about the hero whose only characteristic is his senseless name and apparent desire - manifested through my actions - to wipe all evil from the face of whatever world it is I'm saving today. I was free to imagine my character being any sort of person/automaton/benevolent force without the strict characterization thoroughly administered by today's Uncharteds and Gears of Warses.

The most fun I've ever had with video games was with those with zero plot, and a whole lot of pixel smashing action. Shmups, 2D platformers, on-rail shooters. Bring back the visceral and simple. Blah blah blah.

<insert conclusion here>

I'm a little drunk on a Friday night and about to play some Dead Space. Yeah!