Hey, don’t think I’ve forgotten about this blog just yet! I’ve trying to come up with a nice big juicy post with substance and stuff, but every attempt either gets trashed outright or saved as a draft and forgotten about because I suck at trying to be topical — I try to write something something in response to a recent event or discussion and end up getting bogged down in specific details or exact wording, or tripping over myself in trying to be polite and avoid being redundant… and, well, generally I just take way too long to finish these things. By the point I’m done writing a post — that is IF I get done with it — the topic’s no longer relevant, or I’ve realized or learned something while writing it that killed the point of the post, or it’s detracted too much from my performance elsewhere — like, say, with homework — to be worth the trouble. Remember that Sly 4 review I mentioned before? Yeah, I just figured other reviews have already put what I was trying to say into better and fewer words.
So, yeah, I’m not really cut out to be a columnist or reviewer, that’s nothing new. On the topic of homework, though, this meticulousness has been a huge been problem for me in two of my classes: Level Design and Interactive Writing. Especially Interactive Writing — it’s all about writing stuff like character arcs, setting descriptions, sidequest stories, etc. It’s a fairly fun class — we watch Extra Credits episodes and talk about games like Spec Ops: The Line and pretty much every freaking Bioware title ever – but I just take way too long with the assignments. I probably put in twice as much time as the majority of the class, but when they’re ready to turn in theirs I’m still not finished because I can’t find the right synonym for “disregard” or whatever! Thankfully, I’ll have the chance to get caught up and ahead of the game during our Spring Break this following week.
My other two courses, MIDI and Game Scripting, are much easier to keep up with, and MIDI in particular is fun as heck because we get to work with Reason! …an old version of Reason, but still, REASON! It’s awesome! I’m probably going to shell out for the latest version at the end of the semester because my current sequencer, Cakewalk Music Creator 6, feels like one of those little toy pianos for toddlers by comparison! And Game Scripting, well… I’m learning Unity. ‘Nuff said.
But on to the real reason people actually bother reading these things — progress on all of those Absurdly Ambitious Project of the Weeks (TM) I keep coming up with!
I’ve been more motivated to work on other stuff lately, so not much progress at all, really… mostly fixing bugs instead of adding new stuff. I also still have to shift from a broken 3rd-party gamepad extension to the new built-in functionality, something I’m not too eager to get back to. Asset-wise, I made a few new item sprites and animations, but nothing worth a new screenshot. As for music, I don’t have any new tracks I can upload to SoundCloud that aren’t super spoilericious, but there are a lot of unfinished tracks that are slowly but surely approaching completion. I really, reeeally want to put the existing music through Reason, but I’m holding off until I’ve gotten my hands on my own copy; I already used an entire Design class to flesh this project out, I’d rather not have it tied any further to the college and its resources/equipment.
Still on hiatus, though I’ve been getting occasional urges to just go ahead and reboot that project already… But no, not until I’m done with my current stuff, especially since I’ll be using the Swagnauts engine for it. Also, like Swagnauts, I’m itching to redo the old music in Reason.
PREPARE TO DIE, STEVE HEROMAN:
Also still on hiatus. Honestly, when I get back to it I’m not even gonna be adding new stuff, just refactoring and bug-fixing for days and days and days and days and…
It might not look like much compared to the previous screenshot… and admittedly it’s about as functional as that previous example… but this one’s using entirely original code, a better tiling system for the terrain and, yes, billboarded sprites. Those sprites are FAR from final, and I’ll probably make the perspective a bit more subtle so the billboarding isn’t as noticeable. Also REASON REASON REASON REASON.
I am getting so many freaking ideas for this game from my homework assignments! SO MANY. Still not starting development until like 200∞ though.
REVIVED SECRET PROJECT:
This is where most of my hobby project time and effort has gone into these past few weeks and will continue to go over the course of this next week. Unlike everything else, this one’s a team effort, with a new artist getting oriented with the project this weekend. I can’t reveal anything specific, and probably won’t be able to do so for a while… but trust me, it’s going to be AWESOME.
REASON REASON REASON REASON REASON REASON.
Oh, and I’m thinking of putting a Tutorials/Tips section up on this website. First, though, I’d need to write some tutorials.
Well, I put in a good several hours writing this so I think I’ll call it a night… er, morning. I’ve sorta kinda got a midterm in 11 hours, so I should probably try to get at least some rest. Have a good nonspecific period of time, everyone!
Well, the holidays have come and gone and I’ve got about a week before I start my next semester of school. This time around my classes will be pretty late — earliest is at 2 PM, latest gets out at 10 — but unlike my previous semesters they’re all about game development with the exception of a lone MIDI course. So I’m probably going to be very busy and tired, but the homework should be pretty enjoyable!
I’ve been meaning to get the next episode of LP Phantasmaburbia recorded and uploaded during my break… but between preparing for Christmas and three birthdays, a somewhat-demanding social life and shiny new distractions like Paper Mario: Sticker Star, I haven’t really gotten around to it. Now my usual recording spot is covered in clutter, so I have to clean up that mess before I can get back to the LP routine.
So what have I been doing with my free time besides playing with stickers? Well, I got RPG Maker VX Ace as a late Christmas present, so I’ve been fiddling around with the software a bit. I initially tried to see if I could recreate Runecast Chronicles in the engine, but the faux-3D overworld mechanics would be more of a hassle to implement than in Game Maker… So, yeah, it really does look like Unity will be the best engine for RCC.
While messing with VXA, however, I came up with concepts for a new RPG, which I’ve nicknamed “Project Decima”. I don’t want to say too much just yet, but the setting and battle system are much more fantastic and unique than RCC’s, and in general I think it has a lot of potential, so I’m kinda excited about it. That being said, I’m not going to give up on RCC, nor am I going to drop everything and start working on PD! Decima’s a long-term goal — knowing me, at least several years — and Swagnauts still takes priority. Nonetheless, I wanted to share a little track I came up with during the new game frenzy, a concept theme for the boss battle music. (In my defense, it started out as a Swagnauts track!)
So here’s the current roadmap for the increasing backlog of ambitious projects I’m building up:
Swagnauts > Steve Heroman > Rokkit v2 > Runecast Chronicles > Project Decima
These are the main projects – I’ve got a few additional projects in reserve that may come after, alongside or in-between them.
As far as Swagnauts is going, I’ve only really gotten back to it these last few days for the reasons mentioned above. I’ve mostly been fixing bugs resulting from changes to the player object in order to accommodate new mechanics. This is the “escort mission” aspect I mentioned in that one series of tweets — a companion character that functions similarly to the helpers in Kirby Super Star.
(Skip to 1:34)
As I’ve said before, I was hoping to get the game ready by now to record a video of this system in action, but as it is a lot of things are still broken from my adjustments so it may take a while. In the meantime, I’ll continue to post new tracks as I compose them… Like this one!
I started working on this long thing about Game Design Documents (GDDs), but as always I ended up getting bogged down in the details. Here’s the short version:
From what I understand, most studios and publishers require a Pitch Document separate from the GDD. And I think people sometimes mistake the GDD as a catch-all document that serves the purpose of both – it reflects in some outlines/templates/examples I come across, which contain information that wouldn’t really matter to the design team.
The way I understand it, the PD is for either convincing the higher-ups to fund your project or publish your finished game, while the GDD serves primarily to document the fully fleshed-out game design. (And technically there’s also the Tech Design Document for the programming side of things and the Art and Story Bibles for those respective elements of the game.) And while you need some high-level information in the PD to give the readers a basic idea of what the game is like/will be like, doesn’t anyone else think that including selling points, market research or other such details in the GDD seems a bit silly?
The GDD is supposed to act as an organized reference guide for the game’s fleshed-out design to keep the development staff on the same page, and considering that the PD should already cover what the publishers and managers and marketing team want to know, putting such information in the GDD feels redundant to me.
So, yeah, just some musing/speculation. Don’t go and take my word as gospel or anything because the all I have in terms of industry experience is a week of unpaid beta testing and one published indie title that I wasn’t even the lead developer of.
I brought all that up because I’m currently waist-deep in writing the GDD for Swagnauts… well, I was before I started writing this, anyway! I’m tempted to post the pitch document — which I wrote for a class assignment, not to show to any publishers — but because I am ridiculously paranoid I think I’ll hold off on that until I’ve made enough progress on the playable prototype.
Speaking of which, I have the first room of the tutorial level completely playable, with all of the core movement mechanics working properly and some basic atmospheric effects implemented. I’ll see about recording a video once I have the next room or two done, seeing as that’s when the player gets into the combat system and item mechanics.
There’s more I want to say but it’ll take me a century to properly phrase it, so instead I’ll just leave you with this new song which may or may not make it into the game!
[PLEASE READ THE ADDENDUM AT THE BOTTOM BEFORE COMMENaw, who am I kidding, nobody reads this blog.]
So I just spent the past few hours playing through the Binding of Isaac. I normally don’t play this game very often, even though it’s a great game – I usually never make it past the first floor of the caves due to bad luck or stupid mistakes or what have you. But this time the game was a bit more generous with the hearts and coins, I was able to get several upgrades for my tears and made it to the final floor with a few hearts to spare. I thought this was finally going to be it, my first successful run!
The final floor was jarringly much more difficult and much less helpful, and I found myself with a sudden lack of keys and surrounded by locked things. Also lots and lots of spikes. I nevertheless managed to make it to the boss room with a couple of hearts, a Shoop Da Woop and a charged-up chocolate tear. This was it, I knew it! My chance to finally beat the prologue of this game! Mom, you’re going down!
Except no, if I had managed to beat that witch I wouldn’t be here typing this out, would I? I managed to do a bit of damage to that massive she-devil and hold off the baddies she threw at me, when suddenly a big, bloated arm smashes through the entrance behind me. One-hit kill. And just like that, just like all the other failed attempts, I was met with that same, stupid game over screen. “Dear Diary, today I was killed by this thing. I leave all this cool stuff I worked so hard to get to my freaking cat. Who, by the way, is also dead because I used up all of his nine lives.”
That screen was taunting me. “All of your hard work and time, it was all for naught. Now go back and start from a new, randomly-generated basement, which probably won’t give you nearly as many opportunities as this one did.” To heck with that! You ate enough of my time already, why do I keep coming back to you, you stupid game!?
And that’s the beef I have with The Binding of Isaac – for all the time you put into it, there’s absolutely no guarantee you’ll get anything out of it. You accomplish nothing in death, except to add all the items you found to a list you can access from the title screen. Big whoop. I can’t use anything in that list in a new game! And, well, okay, if you meet the requirements you should still unlock the new characters, right? Except I haven’t been lucky enough to collect seven heart containers or make two deals with the devil or whatever during a single playthrough!
And really, in The Binding of Isaac, luck is way too big of a factor. You’re pretty much at the mercy of the Random Number God – if you get dealt a bad hand at the beginning and don’t have enough skill to make up for it, that playthrough is almost guaranteed to be a lost cause. But you keep going anyway because maybe the next room or next floor will through you a bone or two. But more often than not the bone is covered in corrosive blood and spikes and you realize it’s now 4 in the morning the next day and you’ve still made zero progress in this jerk of a game.
This has a certain appeal to more hardcore/masochistic gamers, but I personally don’t have the time or patience to just keep playing nonstop until I get a good setup. I don’t mind having setbacks – if there isn’t some form of penalty for failure there isn’t that same sense of accomplishment when you finally win. But for all the time I put into TBoI I want to say it was time well-spent; I want to know that even my failed playthroughs yielded some sense of progress or accomplishment, a “return” for my investment. If a game doesn’t have a good enough return, I just get demotivated and stop playing.
In most games, the return comes in the form of memorization – in games like Castlevania and Megaman, which have set level layouts, enemy placement, boss attack patterns, etc. it’s not as painful to die from a sudden surprise attack or hazard and retry because (A) you aren’t set back as far, and (B) you now have knowledge of how the game plays out ahead so you can make fewer mistakes the second time through. You may start from square one in terms of abilities and resources, but you’re armed with knowledge that you didn’t have before and can make it that extra bit further because of it.
Other games allow you to keep a portion of the resources you collected during your failed run or have certain achievements persist, so even if you lose a lot of progress and stuff, you don’t go home empty-handed. A fairly obscure example would be the PSP dungeon crawler, Z.H.P.: Unlosing Ranger Vs. Darkdeath Evilman. In that game, you do lose most of your items and money upon dying in a dungeon, but you keep any base stat changes you gained from the level. So when you attempt that dungeon again, you’ll still be level one with no items and money… but you’ll be a slightly stronger level one. Games with persistent worlds, such as Minecraft and Terraria, allow you to respawn in the world with no rollbacks, albeit with less money and fewer items. Spelunky allows you to create shortcuts by meeting certain requirements.
Finally, there are the games that adjust the difficulty level after enough failed attempts so that you’ll eventually be able to succeed. As much of an ego-crusher it is to get those golden/silver leaves or activate the Super Guide feature in the New Super Mario Bros. games, they can be a great relief for when you get stuck in a rut… And there’s nothing to stop you from going back and beating those levels legitimately later.
The Binding of Isaac has almost none of the above – levels are randomized during each playthrough, so you can’t memorize those (unless you’re lucky enough to obtain the dead cat item, which grants you nine lives). Enemy, boss and item behavior are constant, so you can memorize those, but there is such a large variety of each that you’re not guaranteed to encounter the same ones during each run. Nothing you get during a run is carried over to the next one, and as far as I know you can’t unlock shortcuts to later levels. And lastly, there is no “rubber band” difficulty – you either get lucky with the level generation or the machine hates your guts, or somewhere in-between.
Again, I’m not saying dying and random generation are bad things – setbacks are a necessary part of a challenging, engaging gameplay experience, and randomized elements can keep a game from getting stale by making each playthrough a fresh experience. But if you want to keep less hardcore gamers like me coming back to your game instead of just giving up, you’ll need to strike a good balance in how forgiving the game is and how predictable it can get, and failing those, implement some sort of anti-frustration feature that will guarantee players a bit of return.
EDIT: My brother has recently informed me that I am stupid and dumb and have no idea what I’m talking about. There’s a bit more to the memorization aspect than I gave this game credit for, with certain tricks like the fact that all secret rooms are surrounded by three other rooms, or the blue rocks, or what have you. So I apologize for my oversights, but I still stand by the general idea of this rant: a game should be easy to learn, difficult to master, and make players feel like their time spent in it is worthwhile.
And, uh, players should check for any tips and tricks for a game before making a stupid rant about how hard it is.
As a reasonably-healthy middle-class citizen, there are a lot of things I’ve taken for granted – I’m fortunate enough to have been raised in a safe and fairly financially-stable environment. I’ve never had a truly debilitating injury, or contracted a debilitating illness, or experienced any sort of great mental or emotional trauma. And while I do my best to be respectful and sympathetic to people in such situations, I can never truly understand what it’s like for them.
I just had a chat with an incredible person: a fellow student who was shot in the head back in ’08. His life expectancy was practically nil, and even if he survived the doctors said he would never be able to walk, talk or move again… but even though the incident left him blind in one eye, he had almost fully recovered by the time I met him today. Now he’s taking a Game Design course, despite being considered legally blind.
He certainly looked beaten up, with several visible scars on his face and a large round one on his throat where it had been cut open during surgery. He even showed me the bulge on the back of his head where the bullet had lodged itself. And despite all of this, he showed no signs of impaired motor ability or reduced intellect. He was very nonchalant about it all, casually leaning against the wall as he told me, fluently, how he managed to struggle so much that he needed six nurses to restrain him while he was unconscious.
Like I said before, I’ve never been through anything even remotely close to what this guy’s overcome – I’ve smashed my hand in doors a few times and broken my toes, but they healed fairly quickly and they had no real impact on me in the long run. He was shot in the face and not only survived, but got back up on his feet and went on to pursue an education in Game Design despite visual impairment. How many people do you know that have gone through all that and come out with a positive attitude?
I was planning to make a big, long update about Swagnauts and Phantasmaburbia, but after all that it would just feel petty and detracting to end this post on such topics, so I’ll save that news for another day. Remember, folks – be grateful for what you have. There are people out there who are much less fortunate than you and still make it through with grins on their faces.
Okay, so it looks like WordPress figured out about the little exploit I’ve been using for the music and fixed it, so I’m doing what I should’ve done in the first place – I’ve finally signed up for a Soundcloud account and will eventually be replacing all of the broken widgets in my music pages with Soundcloud widgets, which, if I recall correctly, are officially supported by WordPress.
Let’s Play Phantasmaburbia Ep. 2 is coming eventually — I know it’s been way too long, but I’ve had a bit of a busy vacation and no good microphone with me for most of the summer, and as you all know I tend to prioritize quality over
brevity common sense punctuality. I just got myself a nifty new headset, and while its recording quality is not as good as the desktop microphone I usually use, it’s still much better than my laptop’s webcam mic… However, I haven’t been getting many opportunities to use it these past few days, and I have very little time left before we hit the road again (it is literally the night before we leave), so you won’t be seeing the video for at least another week or two. Though, considering all the changes and improvements Banov’s been making to the game – GUI tweaks, rewritten dialogue that doesn’t pause the game, possibly even a voice system for the dialogue – I’m glad the episode is being delayed, as it means when I do get back to recording I’ll be able to show a more polished gameplay experience.
In other news, my brother, who usually goes by Kirk064, has been pressuring me to start working on yet another game in an attempt to get me to put something out there, sooooo…
Swagnauts (working title) will be an item-based platformer with mild RPG elements inspired by games like Super Mario World, Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, Castle Crashers and Spelunky. Kirk will be doing level design live on his twitch.tv channel when we get to that point in development, but until then, I’ll be doing… pretty much everything else. Like my other projects, I have no idea when we’ll be finished with this thing, but I’ve made a good deal of progress with the engine the during the small amount of time I’ve been working on it. I even whipped up some music for it, which I’ll try and get up on the Soundcloud account.
Now, I still haven’t given up on Rokkit, Runecast Chronicles and Prepare to Die, Steve Heroman! I’ll return to them in good time, along with Let’s Play An Untitled Story. Those are all pet projects of mine, ones that I’m doing for myself; Right now, Phantasmaburbia and Swagnauts are priority.
Other things I should mention:
- After a lot of running around in circles and just generally overcomplicating things, I finally got my copy of Adobe Design Premium CS4 (Flash, Photoshop and Illustrator) tranferred from my desktop to my laptop, so I finally have those resources available again.
- I’ve got some nifty photos I’ve been meaning to upload, but due to my computer being very picky when it comes to memory card compatibility I’ll have to wait until my parents send me the files — these ones were taken with my parents’ HD camera as opposed to my usual low-quality 3DS shots.
- I had a third thing but I just forgot what it was. Oh, well, nobody cares anyway!
Hey, I meant to mention this sooner but every time I typed up a short story about this stuff I ended up leaving it to post later and then forgetting about it and turning my computer off. (Really, that’s how it is with practically everything I write for this blog.) I’ll try and make it brief this time around.
So, we’ve been on a road trip for about 6 days, and we’re currently in Newark, NJ. Spent yesterday afternoon wandering about in Manhattan… quite a breathtaking experience for for a suburbanite, though half the time I spent clutching an empty lemonade bottle in my pocket apparently thinking it would somehow protect me from pickpockets.
We’ll be between Newark and NYC these next few days. After that, we’ve got about another week and a half before I can settle back down and start recording episodes of Let’s Play Phantasmaburbia again, but I’ll see if I can make some updates between now and then. Probably not anything on Youtube, though – I’ve been building up to my 100th vid and I want to make it something big, so either Phanta Ep. 2 or a progress video of one of my own projects. Or something bigger if I can think of anything, I dunno.
Speaking of those projects, I’m still in the process of rehauling RCC’s code to make it more flexible and user-friendly. I’ve also ported the source code over to GameMaker Studio because the new “Draw GUI” event handles something I had to emulate in GM 8.1. The code’s still pretty messy and the port resulted in a few compatibility issues, but I’ve been making decent progress on cleaning it up during the time we’ve been on the road between destinations.
So, yeah, there’s some other stuff going on but that’s about the gist of it. Hope you’re all enjoying your summers, wherever you may be! Ciao for now!
I still can’t believe it, but I actually managed to pull it off! Sorta, anyway. I’ll ry and get a new banner and BG up soon, not really sure what to do for them but I’ll figure something out.
How to write like Rockythechao:
1 – Choose a topic you feel strongly about.
2 – Type up an entire essay about it. Make sure to use lots of colons, semicolons and dashes and be extra preachy about the things that are always well-established elsewhere instead of bringing new concepts to the table.
3 – Realize you’re probably using too strong rhetoric and make lots of edits to be politically-correct.
4 – Consider another factor or viewpoint and try to work that into your wall of text.
5 – Review your Great American Novel (TM). If it looks good, you probably missed something so go back and make it more convoluted.
6 – Realize your supposedly-quick-and-simple post is too long and cut out most of the text, revising the rest of it.
7 – Repeat steps 3-6 until thoroughly unsatisfied and/or out of patience.
8 – Either a) scrap the thing and go to bed, or b) post it and worry about alienating another portion of your readers.
9 – Realize that, no matter what you did at step 8, it doesn’t mean anything because nobody reads your blog except for stuff related to your friend’s incredibly awesome project.
So there’s this game in development I’m really looking forward to called Starbound. It’s the brainchild of Tiy, the pixel artist for Terraria, and I guess the best way to sum it up would be Terraria plus Spore — you can surf through the galaxy and explore/colonize procedurally-generated planets (ice planet, forest planet, htdjksfwqTENTACLE PLANET) with pretty imaginitive aliens and monsters, such as turtle-penguins and dark matter deer. It also has space hobos.
The Starbound dev team recently held a contest for people on their forum to design monsters for the game, and there’s this silly little flame war over how the winner, the Poptop, resembles the pokemon Mawile.
I know I probably shouldn’t bother getting involved and put so much effort into responding to the internet just being the internet, but
I obviously have nothing better to do, everyone loves to hear me preach about stuff like this, I really need an excuse to have a tangent about something besides ponies as my most recent post, so here’s my thoughts on the matter.
I can see the similarities between the Poptrop and Mawile – the generic concept of “beware the cute ones”, the lower body shape and the color scheme. And sure, the Baby Popstop > Adult Popclop has some similarities to Pokemon evolution/Digivolving.
But let’s not be so quick to call the Popchop unoriginal or stolen. I see several possibilities here:
A) The creator came up with the Popmop idea all on their own, its design possibly being subconsciously influenced by other works he/she has seen (“What if X?”).
B) The creator took each element from a different source to create a unique character that unfortunately resembles a Pokemon by sheer coincidence (“Okay, I’ll give it legs like U, eyes like V, arms like W, make it multiply in water like X, give it a ferocious adult form like Y, and give it an appetite for appendages like Z.”).
C) The creator combined the designs of two or three characters (“Mawile plus Carnivine with a Yoshi tongue and Boo-like shyness”)
I personally think it’s either A or B, but it could possibly be C. But even if it is C, that’s not really a bad thing; practically any creation can usually be summed up as “X plus Y, with a touch of Z”. As a matter of fact, a lot of pitches for popular games and movies do this! Like I said above, Starbound is essentially “Terraria plus Spore”, but you don’t hear anyone complaining about that!
It’s hard, nay, impossible to come up with a completely original idea nowadays – most things are derived from other things, which in turn take their ideas from something before them. Even those spur-of-the-moment, what-the-fudge-did-I-just-imagine-and-why-did-I-think-of-it-on-the-toilet ideas are probably just your subconscious throwing your memories, knowledge and experiences into a blender and puking something out that smells like rainbows and looks like roses. And even then, it’s possible that someone else on the other side of the globe came up with that same concept, or at least something suspiciously similar. So should we start accusing you of “stealing” that guy’s idea, or vice versa? Or should we all just shrug and agree that “great minds think alike, let’s go get some ice cream”? (Hint: it’s not the first one!)
TL;DR — Originality is no longer coming up with completely new ideas. Heck, I guess it’s never really been that; originality is combining existing ideas in new ways to make something nifty. The Poptop may bear some similarities to a certain Pokemon, but it has enough differences to be unique. To say nothing of squids living in the mouths of angry moon men or giant molecules that take on the properties of their environments.