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S.N.O.W.M.A.N. is DONE!

Posted by (twitter: @ArrogantGamer)
Monday, December 8th, 2014 9:16 pm

Hi

Oh man, so pleased with out entry! It looks and feels so juicy!

S.N.O.W.M.A.N.

The game takes place on a spaceship that looks like it was built in RPGMaker. On board the ship there are rooms where crew members can stand, or do work, or surf the web. Throughout a game, the crew wander about, do their work, get bored, and surf the web for porn. You play as the caretaker AI, a little like HAL from 2001, only hopefully less… um… crazy.

I spent the first day and a half working out a system for having the crew find their way around the map. Basically I used dijkstra’s algorithm for shortest path, but instead of running it every time a crew member changed their destination, I ran it once at the beginning of the game… and the populated each tile with “sign-posts” pointing at all the important locations. The sign posts are invisible, of course, they are just data! They contain a single instruction, like “left to the bridge” and the crew just walks from tile to tile checking along the way. I really like this technique, and I’d like to use it someday to create actual procedural sign-posts on roads or something ^o^//

It was a pretty stressful jam, because along the way I rarely felt like we had a finished product. In a recent jam, #indiesvspewdiepie, I made a game using a more iterative, less destination oriented approach. What it meant was that I didn’t have a grand vision, but at each step of the way I felt like I had something that I could submit and call a game. This project didn’t look or feel like a game until, um, maybe half-way through today. That’s demotivating for sure, especially when, after the first day, all you’ve got is some dots navigating a grid and a half-finished tile-map. Fortunately I was working on a team as @zncatlaw, and everyone pulled their weight really well. When it started to come together, it felt great!

What we submitted is not as nuanced as what we set out to build, but it is still quite fun to click around in, and to see how long you can survive before your incompetent crew decides to overwrite you with more porn videos. The restriction “all on one screen” turned out to be really good for us! If it hadn’t been for that, we might not have been able to control scope as well as we did.

Go check out our game: http://ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-31/?action=preview&uid=42407

Thanks!

z.

The Season of the JAM

Posted by (twitter: @ArrogantGamer)
Monday, December 1st, 2014 10:07 pm

Hi

The voting period of #indiesvspewdiepie has just ended, and #LDJAM starts on Friday! This feels like an early Christmas: I’m taking a little time off work, and buckling down to explore and prototype some interesting things.

My #indiesvspewdiepie entry was a fast-paced arcade bullet-hell; quite a departure from my usual inclinations. It was quite a lot of fun to make: simple collision detection, bullet-time, score multipliers… and a procedural star-field! If you’re interested, head on down to GameJolt and check out Gunship Souls. The idea with that was to attack the Titan Souls giant boss formula, but in a twin-stick or shmuppy setting. It didn’t turn out that way, but as a minimalist score-running bullet-hell I think it does quite well for itself. I’ll be working more on that later, after #LDJAM of course.

I’ll be entering the 31st Ludum Dare JAM under the banner of ZNCatLaw, as I did for the 30th not so long ago. With me will ride @clangmuir and @nomoon, now in their 3rd LD. It is also possible we’ll have a special guest doing sound-design? I’m not sure how real that is ^o^// We won’t have an artist, so I imagine we’ll be “borrowing” assets from other parts of the space again. If you are unfamiliar with ZNCatLaw, you can cozy up to us by checking out our past LD entries (Super Plumber Bros and La Roue de Fortune) or by peering longingly at the as-yet-unpublished Rock/Opera.

z.

La Roue de Fortune!

Posted by (twitter: @ArrogantGamer)
Monday, August 25th, 2014 7:17 pm

Hi

This is a rad game, honestly I’m very proud. It is very different form anything the ZNCatlaw collective has worked on before: a moody solitaire card-game, using the ancient and beautiful Tarot. We built it as a web-page rather than using a game framework (or LOVE2D), which involved some learnings. The result is that, somehow magically, the game works on modern tablets as well as desktop browsers! Crazy internets!

The basic rules of the game are about “moving between worlds” using the major arcana of a Tarot deck. By travelling, the player is able to collect minor arcana and form hands. A player who forms 4 hands can win the game (though, winning is not as simple as just that). We spent most of the first day just working out the rules, and deciding how we wanted the game to feel. Actually, the process was quite different from our last two jam games and worked really well.

As usual, @nomoon’s radly massive talent for all things ops came in handy: all the layouts and stylish flashy things, as well as the nitty-gritty of CORS and AWS assets, and the sweet music loop, comes straight out of those fingers. @clangmuir designed the game, and spent much of the second day sitting on the couch with a deck of tarot actually playing a simple prototype, testing out all the rules we’d come up with and balancing things while I was still hacking the basic rules together. Working together as Zigs, Nomoon & Clang (at law) is like being part of a machine. The quality and scope we can manage in just a few days is astonishing.

Needless to say, we will be polishing this up in the post jam so that it shines like a diamond and then probably releasing it through various channels of awesome.

LINKY: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-30/?action=preview&uid=42407

Thanks,

z.

Super Plumber Bros (post-compo)

Posted by (twitter: @ArrogantGamer)
Tuesday, June 10th, 2014 8:57 pm

Hi

My LD29 JAM entry was Super Plumber Bros, a collaboration with @clangmuir and @nomoon based on our impressions of some rather obscure old Japanese games. We just finished and released the full, post-compo magic version complete with leader-board and Japanese localization! Seriously, when you are playing for a high score, the game is completely rad: well beyond my expectations. I’m super happy to have been able to carry a game like this, and it would never have happened without the Ludum Dare.

Oh by the way: right now the leader-board is just us devs. I doubt you could make it on if you tried.

Who posts a screenshot of their leaderboard? I mean, seriously! Who does that!?

Who posts a screenshot of their leaderboard? I mean, seriously! Who does that!?

Thanks!

z.

Super Plumber Bros. (post mortem)

Posted by (twitter: @ArrogantGamer)
Friday, May 2nd, 2014 6:18 pm

What went wrong.

Well, for one, I can’t get that damn Mario theme out of my head! Too much Mario for one weekend.

What wouldn't you do, to save the kingdom you love?

What wouldn’t you do, to save the kingdom you love?

 

Seriously though: physics, collision detection, and scope. I decided right from the start that this would be the jam where I implement physics and collision from scratch, and then regret it for weeks. And guess what happened?

I don’t really understand why, but my physics, with all those vectors and gravity, just wouldn’t give me the “marioness” I sought for. Tinker and fiddle as I might with those forces… The jump arcs,  acceleration, and movement speed just were not coming together. I felt like I was trying to plug holes on a sinking ship.

In Super Plumber Brothers, Mario lands with a heavy thud, sticks to the sides of blocks, and sometimes is inexplicably sucked into the earth. These are the problems that crept out of my collision engine. I took the approach of using four or more “collision pixels” on the corners and sides of mario’s sprite, and then to push Mario away any time they became embedded in something. Every day of the Jam I had to spend at least 4 precious hours tweaking and pleading just to get through the day!

Has this ever happened to you?

Has this ever happened to you?

Scope! These last two problems lead to a third. On day one, in the first three hours, I insisted on controlling scope. Our original concept took place over nine levels, had many NPCs and cutscenes, and included more metroidvania style power ups. I lobbied for prioritization and reduced scope, and everyone agreed on a scaled down jam version. The problem? We stuck to that scaled down scope.

At the end of the first day, we had a pretty unplayable platformer with a ton of content designed to play well with the features we had hoped for. No one really took the time to actually play the game at that point, and as a result we ended up sticking with our now o’er lofty goals. I fell that if we had taken the time to play the game for even just half-an-hour we would have realized that we needed to scale way down to finish with something nice. Maybe this is just behind-sight, though! Maybe @clangmuir would played it and said, “dude, this platforming is terrible!” and I would have promised the moon tomorrow and just kept pressing on. The past is the past, but the take-away is clear.

The lesson

There are some things I will do differently next time. The physics engine and collision detection is part of it, for sure: I’ve thought about whether I should try to program games a little more like I program web apps; that is, by importing a ton of libraries to do my bidding. On the other hand, exploring coding is valuable and certainly more true to the spirit of the dare. “Programmare aude”, I believe they say. So that’s not the lesson.

No, the real lesson for me is that “limiting the scope” is not good enough. You need more fine grained control than any one “scope” can give you. You need the scope, for sure, and you need to limit it at the start of the project. You also need to make a game that is fun. Next time I’ll dream up a crazy game and then ask myself, “What am I making?” Is it a zelda-like? Then before I work on what makes my game special I need to at least have a playable zelda-like that is fun.

If at the end of day one, you sit down and play your fledgling platformer, and you realize that the physics isn’t fun and you keep getting sucked into the floor… Then you need to spend day two making it fun! To just soldier on thinking the bells and whistles will shine brightly enough to blind a gamer is madness! Don’t make a plan and stick to it. A road map will only get you so far in inclement weather. Instead, dream a lovely dream and then set the most fundamental goal. Don’t set the next goal until everyone agrees you reached the first one. If you run out of time, you will still release a fun, well designed game. This way you will find tao.

This way you may find tao.

This way you may find tao.

We’re on our way… to Venus!

Posted by (twitter: @ArrogantGamer)
Monday, April 28th, 2014 9:37 am

Day 2: Programming is ‘ard!

Posted by (twitter: @ArrogantGamer)
Monday, April 28th, 2014 1:02 am

Hi

Well, now it is 1am and the end of “day 2” as I’ve been calling it. The compo ends in 17 hours and we are all a little exhausted. Today was one of those “why did I decide to implement my first collision engine during the dare?” days. I started out using a small red square as the hero of our mushroom filled flight of fancy, and collision detection was done using the four corners of the square. Easy enough to just look up the tile based on the position of the pixel, and then collide. The problem arose when we got the wild idea that our main character should be able to “grow” after eating a certain variety of mushroom. A 32 pixel tall plumber can get hooked on 16 pixel blocks, and somehow this was just too much for my sleep deprived brain. Fortunately a team member’s suggestion shattered the bonds of my preconceptions just in time, and as of tonight we have “working” collision.

Lots of other stuff works, though! Transitions from level to level, sound, destructible terrain, and animation are all a big part of the kind of storytelling we have in mind. With a little luck, and a long early day tomorrow, we should be able to give you all what you really deserve: super plumber brothers!

See you tomorrow!

z.

Day 1: Plumbing the Depths

Posted by (twitter: @ArrogantGamer)
Saturday, April 26th, 2014 10:04 pm

Hi

This year I’m doing the Jam with my friend @clangmuir (follow him on twitter for the inside scoop). We got the theme announcement last night, and had a meeting at Kafka’s on Main st to brainstorm ideas. We didn’t want to make something that people would say was “just another Beneath the Surface jam game”. We wanted to really get to the core of what it means. Beneath the Surface. The surface of what? How far beneath? What are you doing down there anyway? The big question was, “what is beneath the surface.”

The answer, and I think you will all agree, is “the sewer”. Beneath every city you’ve ever visited, crawling with fascinating architecture and dangerous gases, is a sewer. Sewer’s have an ancient history that goes back to, like, Sumer probably. How do you make a game about sewers, though? Well we thought it might be neat to make the game focus on the lives of plumbers, those brave men and women who dwell beneath the surface. They aren’t very well represented, especially in the new media, so we feel like we’ll be giving them a boost while we’re at it.

That’s not the end, though! No, no! You see, my friend and I, we like to take it to the wall, you know? We like to kick it to the bridge, if you catch my drift. So we didn’t just say “ok let’s make a game about plumbers, like, plumbing or something”. We took it just one step further ans asked ourselves, “if the sewer is beneath the surface of our world… what’s beneath the surface of a plumber’s world?”

At this point, the sluice gates holding back the brain juice* were lifted. Our imaginations filled with images of a strange kingdom, at war with itself, filled with unusual reptiles and fungus! A mushroom kingdom, of sorts, and the brave plumbers who are its only hope.

What would they be willing to sacrifice, to save the world beneath the world (beneath the world)?

***

Day 1: At this point, the end of day 1, we have a ton of content and enough code to let us jump around and collide with objects in the imaginary kingdom. I am proud to present a screen-shot of the game in its current state (art direction by @clangmuir, except for the red square which is all me).

Day One

* 脳汁

My third Dare!

Posted by (twitter: @ArrogantGamer)
Thursday, April 24th, 2014 5:29 pm

Hi

This time around I’ll be teaming up with @clangmuir and doing the 78 hour Jam. During the pre-dare warmup weekend I made a game with LOVE2d, and that’s probably what I’ll be using for the Jam as well.

That’s all I know! Good luck everyone!

z.

We need to talk about Heart.

Posted by (twitter: @ArrogantGamer)
Tuesday, December 17th, 2013 1:26 pm

Hi

Heart is my Ludum Dare entry, and now that the cat is fully out of the bag I feel it is time to give an artist’s statement — so to speak.

You Only Get One

You Only Get One

Heart is a game you can’t play. Heart is a zelda-like in which you start with one heart. That’s tough, right? What’s worse: you can’t get hearts in the game. Too bad, sorry no hearts. The only way to get hearts in Heart is for other people to give them to you. If someone gives you their heart, you will have an extra heart, but they will be perma-dead forever. They just can’t play.

In the LD28 build of Heart, none of this is very apparent. There isn’t a great deal of weight because there isn’t enough content. So I want you to imagine for a moment. Imagine that you are playing a zelda-like and that it is fun, and nostalgic, and brutally difficult because you only get one heart. OK. Now imagine that fight through that, and you get to the forest with the master sword, only you can’t lift it. It’s too heavy for you. An old tree explains: not everyone gets to be the hero.

For anyone to lift the sword, at least two others have to renounce the privilege of ever playing the game (barring the cheaty-face cheaters: they will always find a way). Not only that: even if you get 3 hearts and are able to lift the master sword… have you ever beaten Zelda on 3 hearts? I haven’t. Some people have, and to them I say “koodos”. Most of us need to get almost every heart in the game. This means you need, like, ten people backing you with their hearts.

Oh and what? You can’t give your heart away until you’ve played through the beginning of the game. Yeah, that’s right. So you can’t just get ten friends to randomly click “give heart”. You need ten gamers who are willing to play part way through a zelda-like with _one_heart_ and then renounce their ability to ever play again. Then, and only then, can you play Heart with a reasonable chance of beating the game.

I’m not done with Heart: this ugly, painfully short, glitchy hackathon of a tech-demo is only the beginning. I intend to make a soulful, challenging, hand-drawn, desert-nomad zelda-like that very few people will play, and that even fewer people will beat. That game will be called Heart.

Because hey, listen: you only get one.

z.

I’m Done!

Posted by (twitter: @ArrogantGamer)
Sunday, December 15th, 2013 6:57 pm

Hi

Oh man, this Ludum Dare was down to the wire for me. It was also an incredible experience.

What went right:

The idea: I think Heart is based on a really great concept. Not everyone will be able to play Heart to completion. In fact, only about 1 in 3 people who start playing it will be able to finish it. I guess I have to qualify what it means to “finish” a game that is so incomplete… maybe I’ll go do that.

I learned a huge amount about pixel art! I’ve never done any drawing or ever had any confidence with respect to that, but about mid-way through day one I realized that I was just going to have to make do. At first I was frantically running around trying to get a “sprite editor” or something… and then finally out of desperation I just said, “forget it! I’ll draw it all be hand”. I then proceeded to draw a rock — by hand on paper — upload a photo of it to Dropbox, and then resize with Gimp. I remembered reading that shrinking an image makes it pixelated, and it totally worked. The assets were made in this order: rock, hero, tree, sword, plant, monster. I’ve posted some screen-shots and you can really see how much I improved my draw/photo/gimp workflow. The last sprite, the monster, blew my mind. Special thanks to my girlfriend Rie for teaching me about Gimp’s various colour tools.

What went wrong:

Practice makes perfect, but this LD has made me realize that I am a ways away from being a “Game Programmer” capital letters. I am a programmer, and a competent web-developer, and I’d say I have a pretty good head for game design… but the things that go into programming a game are still very difficult and mystifying for me. I spent at least half of this Dare working on making the “zelda-style” sliding screen work. It just kept creeping up! Any time I’d change anything, I’d have to go back and fix some bug in the slide! It amazed me the degree to which that simple task was a challenge to me. Finally, even now when all is live, there are still very big bugs in that slide!

What will I do differently next time:

I don’t want to shy away from game programming, I want to dive in. At the same time, though, given that these jams are 48 hours, I might be better off choosing a framework like Game Maker that is more “plug-and-play”. I used Quintus for this jam, and I think it is a fine library (though still in development), but it didn’t give me the out of the box flexibility that I really needed to get off the ground running. I started with Twine, and then puzzlescript, and I think the jump to Quintus was maybe too far. So next time, I’ll try to find something that fits a little tighter. Oh man, for example: I ended up using bootstrap modal dialogues for in game text, rather than rely on Quintus. That shouldn’t happen!

Look at how much I've improved: zero to hero in one Dare!

Look at how much I’ve improved: zero to hero in one Dare!

OK everyone! Thanks!

A Touch of Realism

Posted by (twitter: @ArrogantGamer)
Sunday, December 15th, 2013 7:46 am

Today has been a good day. 11 hours left, and now the player has enemies that damage them! Time to put a sword in your hands*. I was also able to finish the “gimmick” that will make my game worthy of note, and in much less time than I originally predicted. I also tested the game on the production server, which was a little painful but ultimately a success. Yay asset pipeline!

Thanks Ludum Dare!

*disclaimer: not all players will receive swords. In fact, you probably won’t get one.

Day 1: Progess Report

Posted by (twitter: @ArrogantGamer)
Saturday, December 14th, 2013 4:33 pm

Most importantly: I decided to draw all the graphics by hand. Here is the first screen-shot of “Heart”.

Heart

Kirby vs the meat-boy.

Important note: there are three hearts in the screen shot to demonstrate how hearts work (and to make us all a little nostalgic). When you play Heart you will probably never see more than 1 heart (though other people will. This is fact.).

I have a _long_ road ahead of me. Quintus is a great framework, but definitely not as polished as I’d like. Tomorrow I’d like to implement enemies, animations, and the such like; make a _very_ small number of screens; and most importantly I want to get the “gimmick” working. I realize that without my weird gimmick I’ve got little more than a (relatively attractive) buggy zelda-like.

Tomorrow… will be EPIC.

z.

Oh no! Art!

Posted by (twitter: @ArrogantGamer)
Saturday, December 14th, 2013 11:23 am

Hi

Ha ha, I just realized/remembered: we have to make all our own assets! I had somehow come under the impression that using creative commons or other existing assets would be OK. Oops!

No problem: just means its time to fire up the ol’ puzzle-script editor (that’s about the degree of graphics I feel confident producing ^o^//).

Gonna make it. Gonna make it.

z.

Dreads, I has one

Posted by (twitter: @ArrogantGamer)
Saturday, December 14th, 2013 8:54 am

Hi

Oh My God. I started working on implementing a zelda-like “scroll” in Quintus for when you leave a room. I started. At like 10 am. Now it is 16:49 pm and I am _almost_ done. This is definitely a wake-up call: my experience making engines is zero. I’ve made 1 Twine game and 1 puzzlescript, and jumping from that into doing almost everything myself (Quintus provides some stuff, but not much for the RPG genre yet) is a bigger thing than I expected. Even with a programming background, a good amount of math, and excellent Javascript powers… this is a challenge! Apparently, practice makes perfect.

Will I finish? Yes. Will I have to change what finished means? Maybe.

My original idea is pretty special, and I’d really like to make it. It is a “twist” that would be so, so sweet. However, I am putting zelda-like-ness first. If by mid-day tomorrow I have a zelda-like worthy of being called “like zelda”, then I will start working on the twist. If not, I will submit it as a 1-heart zelda-like.

Ugh!

z.

Getting Hearted

Posted by (twitter: @ArrogantGamer)
Friday, December 13th, 2013 11:20 pm

I’ve got a repo with some bootstrap code (including twitter/bootstrap, I guess?) forked from sferik, and the Quintus javascript in my vendor folder. I waisted a ton of time because of a typo in one of the config files, but that’s OK!

Now its time to head to Ten Belles and grab a coffee, and then do some planning!

Ten Belles

Step 0: get coffee

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