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SPYGAME

Posted by
Friday, December 11th, 2015 11:49 pm

So it took me a little while to make it over to the site to check out the theme, but I took a quick peek at twitter and saw that it was Two Button Controls and so I mulled over what to do with that.  I’ve been wanting to do a cold-war “spy network vs. spy network” kind of strategy game for a while, and I think I’ve decided on a way to fit it into the two button theme.

I’m going to model out the game of searching out other spies while trying to defend your own with boardgame-like mechanics (which are naturally more restrictive in the number of actions you have at any one time anyways).  A set of cities is each represented by a deck of cards, and each player has a set of spies to shuffle into these decks.  Players take turns drawing cards from any city to search it or adding cards from their hand into a city’s deck representing the spread of misinformation.  Cards can have actions and effects when they’re drawn or when they’re placed, so that will add some variety and flavor to the overall gameplay loop.  In the end, though, it’s all about those two actions and the interesting possibilities that come out of them:

  • You know a city’s deck is getting thin and your spy is in there somewhere, so you can pad the deck with some sabotage cards.
  • You’ve drawn your own spy card from a city’s deck, gaining a nice extraction action but also giving you the chance to place it in another city deck while the other player thinks it’s still in the original location.
  • You have a feeling an enemy agent is in a city deck, but you have an agent in there too.  Do you risk searching for them when every card you draw increases the likelihood they might draw your agent as well?

My goal is to create a game that is fairly quick to play with a little logic and deduction, sort of like minesweeper or Love Letter – simple mechanics with just a few but interesting actions.  My primary challenge is that I can see some interesting bluffing and other social mechanics in the physical space but you wouldn’t be able to hide some information easily.  In the electronic space, I’m not confident I can make a computer use any sort of bluffing mechanic so the game has to be fun without it.  On the flip side, though, for a game about espionage, a computer game can keep some information secret from other players much more easily.  Now it’s time to prototype to see if any of this actually hangs together.

I’m in for the LD34 Jam

Posted by
Friday, December 11th, 2015 11:06 am

I’ve been “in” and not really had much chance to participate for a quite a few jams now, but I’m hoping to spend some time doing something fun this weekend for LD34.  The usual suspects for my tools are Unity and C#, but I think I’m going to try another route this time:  I’m going to try rapid prototyping a game in the ugliest HTML and javascript imaginable.  I’m looking for a really fast turnaround on getting some text and some pictures on the screen and being able to mock up the flow between different modes/screens/pages quickly.  I usually get stuck staring at at an empty Unity project thinking “how am I going to get something showing up”, so I’m going to try and get straight to the mechanics and game flow as quickly as possible this time around.

I’ll just leave off with an encouraging reminder from a previous post that everyone has favorite (and less favorite) themes, and you can always start with a mechanic you want to play with and figure out how to pull the theme in around that.  I’ll be doing the same thing this time around too.  Good luck folks!

Exploring a Mechanic with a Theme

Posted by
Friday, August 21st, 2015 10:57 pm

ld33-monster-mushrooms

Man, those first few hours of a ludum dare are always a mess.  You spend a week voting on your favorite themes, and then you spend the last day or two trying to come up with the best ideas for as many of the final themes as possible.  Maybe you’ve covered them all.  More than likely you have a bunch you like and a handful you don’t.  Even more likely is that the final theme is going to be one of that last bunch.

You finally know the theme, and then you’re faced with a blank canvas and all that planning disappears and you’re left trying to figure out what idea you actually want to try and shoehorn the theme into.

I’ve wanted to play with a life sim type of game for a while now (think Animal Crossing with its weird NPCs that have a vague sense of affection towards you).  When you’re looking at a theme you’re not prepared to tackle head-on, the answer isn’t an “I quit” post – it’s “what mechanic or game type have I wanted to try implementing for a while now?”  Want to make a roguelike?  How about a visual novel?  A stealth platformer?  Go for it.  For me, I’m thinking about a nice peaceful dungeon populated with monsters that just happen to like each other.  Mostly.

I’m in for the LD33 Jam

Posted by
Sunday, August 16th, 2015 4:17 pm

I’ve not had a chance to participate for a few jams now, but I’m hoping to spend some time doing something fun next weekend for LD33.  Thinking about maybe playing with pico8, but more than likely I’ll be playing with my usual tools:

Hardware: Macbook Pro, MPK25 keyboard

Game Engine, Languages, & Tools: Unity 3D, C#, Xamarin Studio

Libraries & Frameworks: Vectrocity, Spine, Grids Library for Unity

Graphics & Art: Corel Painter 12, Photoshop CS, Blender 2.7, Spine

Music & Audio: Ableton 9

I’m in for the LD32 Jam

Posted by
Tuesday, April 14th, 2015 10:25 am

As always, I’d love to spend some time on this over the weekend.  I’ve been working on a non-game project lately that I’m hoping to get to a good point before the weekend though so that I don’t spoil my momentum on that.  I’ll be playing with my usual tools:

Hardware: Macbook Pro, MPK25 keyboard

Game Engine, Languages, & Tools: Unity 3D, C#, Xamarin Studio

Libraries & Frameworks: Vectrocity, Spine, Grids Library for Unity

Graphics & Art: Corel Painter 12, Photoshop CS, Blender 2.7, Spine

Music & Audio: Ableton 9

I’m in for the LD31 Jam

Posted by
Friday, December 5th, 2014 10:40 pm

As always, I’d love to spend some time on this over the weekend.  I’ve got some stuff to do tomorrow during the day, and I’ve been busy at work (as usual) and haven’t event thought about options for the possible themes this time around.  The selected theme is really cool, though, and I like that it implies a scope rather than a specific mechanic (endless runner, reverse time, etc) or environment (SPACE!).  I expect to see a good number of arcade games, and I hope some a few folks make some really cool strategy games (something like Close Castles comes to mind as a great fit for the theme).

I’ll be playing with my usual tools:

Hardware: Macbook Pro, Wacom Tablet, iPad, MPK25 keyboard

Game Engine, Languages, & Tools:  Unity 3D, C#, Xamarin Studio

Libraries & Frameworks:  Vectrocity, Spine, Grids Library for Unity

Graphics & Art: Corel Painter 12, Photoshop CS, Blender 2.7, Spine

Music & Audio: Ableton 9

I’m in for LD30 Jam

Posted by
Sunday, August 17th, 2014 3:42 pm

I’m planning on participating in LD30 next weekend – I’ll be doing the jam again, less stress, less rules.  Work has been busy again, so I’m really hoping I’ll have some time and energy to sit down and do something fun.  This’ll be the last ludum dare for me before I’ve got a little person to take care of all the time, so there’s that 😛

Like last time, I’ve got a stack of audio toys that I haven’t spent enough time with, so I’m going to try and bookmark some of the time to play with music and sound effect stuff.  Other than that, I’m going to stick with my usual tools and see how it goes.

Hardware: Macbook Pro, Wacom Tablet, iPad, MPK25 keyboard

Game Engine, Languages, & Tools:  Unity 3D Pro, C#, Xamarin Studio

Libraries & Frameworks:  Vectrocity, Spine, Grids Library for Unity

Graphics & Art: Corel Painter 12, Photoshop CS, Blender 2.7, Spine, Procreate iPad

Music & Audio: Ableton 9

Change of Plans

Posted by
Friday, April 25th, 2014 6:31 pm

I’ve been all over the place this time around as far as what kind of game I want to make. I played some with libgdx earlier in the week since it’s been on my list and I really wanted to play with Spine a bit. I liked it, but the siren-call of working with something familiar like Unity (which I’ve used for almost all of my other ludum dares) was pulling me back. On the other side, I sort of wanted to do something a little less asset-heavy and text-driven. I find aliceffekt’s Paradise super interesting (and his work in general really inspiring), so I think I’m going to try building out a web-based text game. Growing up, I loved playing Zork and other interactive fiction, and jumped around between a bunch of different MUDs. Particularly with those, I loved the sense of exploring this huge world where other people would drift in and out of your little window. I think that’s where I’m going. I’d love to find a balance between the elegance of Paradise and the complexity of those older experiences.

I’ll be switching my tools up then to support my new project. I’d normally be doing this kind of thing with a Django app, but I’ve been doing a bunch of Grails stuff at work lately, so I’m going to stick to what’s familiar for the weekend to keep things simple. I’ll pull in third-party utility libraries as I need them, but I plan on working out the interaction/parser stuff and core gameplay (traversal, interacting with entites) on my own rather than pulling in a library that’s specifically for interactive fiction.

So, new tools:  Java and Groovy as languages, Eclipse as IDE, Grails as the framework, and Tomcat for hosting.

I’m pretty excited to have the immediate feedback of a web project. Good luck and have fun, the theme’s wide open :)

I’m in for the LD29 Jam

Posted by
Friday, April 18th, 2014 11:42 am

I’m planning on participating in LD29 next weekend – I’ll be doing the jam again, less stress, less rules.  I’ve been crunching at work for a while now, so I’m really hoping I’ll be in the clear by next weekend and feeling fresh enough to put something together.

Like last time, I’ve got a stack of audio toys that I haven’t spent enough time with, so I’m going to try and bookmark some of the time to play with music and sound effect stuff.  Other than that, I’m going to stick with my usual tools and see how it goes.

Hardware: Macbook Pro, Wacom Tablet, iPad, MPK25 keyboard

Game Engine, Languages, & Tools:  Unity 3D Pro, C#, Xamarin Studio

Libraries & Frameworks:  Futile, Vectrocity, Spine

Graphics & Art: Corel Painter 12, Photoshop CS, Blender 2.7, Spine, Procreate iPad

Music & Audio: Ableton

I’m in for the LD28 Jam

Posted by
Thursday, December 12th, 2013 9:44 am

I’m planning on participating in this weekend’s LD28 – I’ll be doing the jam again as it gives me more breathing room as far as the libraries and tools I can use.  It’s been a while since I’ve had a clear weekend responsibility-wise that I wasn’t also completely burnt out from work, so I’m looking forward to having some energy and time for this.

I’ve been absorbed in learning the ins-and-outs of computer and electronic music lately and I just got a bunch of cool stuff from Native Instruments over their Thanksgiving sale, so I’m hoping to spend more time than I usually do playing with the sound for my game (or, really, playing with my new toys :))

Hardware: Macbook Pro, Wacom Tablet, iPad, MPK25 keyboard

Game Engine, Languages, & Tools:  Unity 3D Pro, C#, Xamarin Studio

Libraries & Frameworks:  Futile, Vectrocity, Spine

Graphics & Art: Corel Painter 12, Photoshop CS, Blender 2.6, Spine, Procreate iPad

Music & Audio: sfxr, Logic

I’m in for the LD27 Jam

Posted by
Wednesday, August 21st, 2013 6:08 am

I’m planning on participating in next weekend’s LD27 – I’ll be doing the jam again as it gives me more breathing room as far as the libraries and tools I can use.  As usual, I won’t be able to work on this straight through the weekend, so we’ll see what I end up with.

Hardware: Macbook Pro, Wacom Tablet, iPad

Game Engine, Languages, & Tools:  Unity 3D Pro, C#, Xamarin Studio

Libraries & Frameworks:  Futile, Vectrocity, Spine

Graphics & Art: Corel Painter 12, Photoshop CS5, Blender 2.6, Spine, Procreate iPad

Music & Audio: sfxr, Logic, Renoise, maybe some PureData

A Minimalism Ludum Dare Entry

Posted by
Friday, April 26th, 2013 8:13 pm

So the theme is “minimalism” this time around.  I’ve been super excited to jump back into a Ludum Dare, and the final round of themes this time around had a bunch of good stuff and a handful of so-so themes I couldn’t quite settle on good ideas for.  I had a few that could be massaged into this one, so I’m looking forward to spending some time this weekend working on things.

I’ve wanted to work on a crafting-focused roguelike for a while now, so I think it would be fun to put together the cool equipment recipes and drops.  I’d also like to see recipes that extend the capabilities you have as far as mobility, carrying capacity, etc.  Let’s see where this goes.  I’m calling it a night to sleep and work through my ideas, so I should have more tomorrow.

I’m in for the LD26 Jam

Posted by
Friday, April 19th, 2013 11:27 am

I’m planning on participating in next weekend’s LD26 – I’ll be doing the jam again as it gives me more breathing room as far as the libraries and tools I can use.

Hardware: Macbook Pro, Wacom Tablet, iPad

Game Engine, Languages, & Tools:  Unity 3D Pro 3.5, C#, Xamarin Studio

Libraries & Frameworks:  Futile, Vectrocity

Graphics & Art: Corel Painter 12, Photoshop CS5, Blender 2.6, Procreate iPad

Music & Audio: sfxr, GarageBand, Renoise

Status with the Jam Deadline Passed

Posted by
Monday, December 17th, 2012 8:42 pm

Man, yesterday and today were pretty much a lost cause.  I got sick on Saturday with a head cold of ever-increasing intensity, so my productivity for yesterday and this evening pretty much dropped to zero despite spending a bunch of time staring at the project thinking I was working.

With all of my assets created on Saturday, I planned on spending all day Sunday on gameplay mechanics and programming, things I figured I was much better prepared to jump into.  With such a good day of progress on the first day, I really thought my game idea was within reaching distance for the Jam.  It’s sort of a bummer to have crashed halfway through when I was having so much fun with it, but in the end I got what I wanted most out of this round – a better understanding of how to model something in Blender and how to put together a basic music loop without spending a hundred years one either.  I’ve got some questions to look further into on these, and there’s plenty of things I didn’t have time to do (like texture and rig any animation).  Overall, though, I feel much more confortable with these tools.  It’s amazing what a dedicated day of sitting down and playing with them will do.

An in-game screenshot showing an active character in the movement phase, with movement radius visualized.

An in-game screenshot showing an active character in the movement phase, with movement radius visualized.

I did get some basics implemented, but in the end I don’t think it’s enough to consider an actual gameplay loop so I couldn’t submit it to the jam in good conscience.  So what worked and what didn’t?

What Worked

Assets first – Working on the models and music first let gave me a few early endorphin bumps seeing my progress on stuff I don’t normally even get to.  It was a lot of fun seeing these very “physical” things come together instead of seeing a bunch of grey boxes moving around.

Pathfinding in Unity – Once I got a chance to play with it and look through the documentation, the API is pretty simple and getting it up and running was super straightforward.  This is a really nice feature for rapid prototyping any kind of indirect movement (either AI controlled or, in my case, executed by moving a unit from one spot to another).

What Didn’t

Visualizing the movement radius – I really wanted this to be something similar to XCOM’s movement area, but I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to calculate that region without having a literal movement grid for characters to move around on.  If I had a discrete space like that, I could have just brute-forced the problem and checked each cell.  I started this whole concept with the goal of not having a discrete space, though.  I tried things with the built-in pathfinding in Unity and raycasting out potential paths from the character, but eventually I pretty much punted to move on to other things and just drew a circle around the character using the excellent Vectrosity library.  I’d like to revisit this after the jam to figure out how to do

Unity projectors for user interface stuff – I honestly didn’t expect this to be a big deal going in.  I wanted to project a contextual pattern on the ground to signify selected units and potential actions.  I remembered working with a projector way back when I had run through some Unity tutorials to do things like slap a blob shadow on the ground under a character.  Hey, thats exactly what I want to do here!  After ages of playing around with texture import settings and possible shader combinations, I realized that the projected texture (even at all white) was way too dim, that it was taking light from the scene and there wasn’t a shader that would ignore this and just show the pattern the way I drew it.  I haven’t had a chance to look into writing custom shaders (maybe for the next jam), so the projectors were pretty much a dead end.  I ended up slapping the texture on a Unity plane and moving it around the scene.  Crude, but it worked.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t conform to the terrain and has other issues.

I’ll be working on this idea for a while even with the jam over with.  I think it has some potential, and I’d really like to implement some of the artistic and thematic elements I didn’t get to.  Here’s one last look at the scene:

A birds-eye view of the scene at the close of the jam.

A birds-eye view of the scene at the close of the jam.

A Little Loop of Background Music

Posted by
Saturday, December 15th, 2012 10:44 pm

Here’s my first ever music loop, done in GarageBand.  Now, time for sleep.

My First Audio Loop

Progress on the Character Model

Posted by
Saturday, December 15th, 2012 8:44 pm

Ok, after a quick dinner and hours of doing terrible things to polygons, I’ve come out on the other end with my very first ever 3D character, all the way from sketch to model.  I’ve never done that before outside of following a few “box model a human figure” tutorials halfway, so I felt like I knew the general idea but I’d never actually executed the steps before.  I think my topography is a mess so I’m hoping that doesn’t come back to bite me when I try and animate the thing, but I’ll deal with that when I get there.  For now, I’ll be using it as a static figurine on the game board so I can move onto developing some actual gameplay.

The finished character model for the knight (minus rigging and textures). I’ll be using this for all characters in the game since it takes me so long make one.

The finished character model for the knight (minus rigging and textures). I’ll be using this for all characters in the game since it takes me so long make one.

My last goal for the evening is to work on a basic music loop for the game.  This is one of those things that I never get to in a jam, so I’m making a point to work on it before I program a single line of code.  I’m trying a new strategy here where I front-load all the things I don’t know how to do so that I can make sure there’s enough time to get through the learning curve.  I’m a bit worried that I’ve spent all day working on assets, but I feel like I should be able to jump in first thing tomorrow and get the basic game loop running so I think I’m doing okay.  Worst-case scenario I’ll come out much better at using these tools.

  1. Greybox out the environment
  2. Box up a simple person model to use for now
  3. Get a simple background music loop up and running (before I write any code!)
  4. Get all these assets into Unity
  5. Get the basic turn structure and game loop up and running
  6. Implement character movement
  7. Implement character attacking, character status, death
  8. Victory condition when all of one team has been eliminated

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