About rjhelms (twitter: @rjhelms)

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Ludum Dare 37
 
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Ludum Dare 30 Warmup

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Battlestation ready!

Posted by (twitter: @rjhelms)
Thursday, April 20th, 2017 10:38 pm

Less than 24 hours to go. The hype is real!

I moved a few weeks ago – things are still in chaos around the house, but I’ve got my home office pretty well set up, random clutter that needs a place to live notwithstanding. I’ve got my two desks in a corner, so my dev and music stations are within swiveling distance from each other:

LD38 battlestation

Normally I try to declutter things a bit more than this, but this is as good as it’s going to get this time. Either way, I’ve got my tools up to date, my space ready to go, and an almost entirely free schedule for the weekend. Let’s do this!

I’m in, once again

Posted by (twitter: @rjhelms)
Saturday, April 8th, 2017 7:27 pm

My 8th Ludum Dare, coming right up! I just moved and everything in my life is a bit of a mess as a result, but Ludum Dare waits for no man.

My Ludum Dare toolchain is forever new and yet always the same:

  • Unity 5 with Visual Studio,
  • Photoshop for graphics,
  • ChipTone for sound effects,
  • REAPER, and my iPad with sundry apps, for music. I have a beefier home recording setup now, but think I’ll keep it simple as always.

Undetermined as to whether I’ll be aiming for the Jam or Compo. I have a commitment of a few hours on Sunday afternoon, but that hasn’t stopped me before.

Let’s do this, friends!

Achievement unlocked: core game mechanic

Posted by (twitter: @rjhelms)
Saturday, December 10th, 2016 5:01 pm

3-movement

Well, it’s not much to look just yet, but this is the heart of my games core mechanic. The idea is you are living in a one-room apartment in a 19th century tenement, and your relatives keep immigrating with all their worldly possessions in tow – you’ve got to try to cram as many of them in by shuffling them around as they arrive.

Still lots to do, but I think this could be a pretty hilarious little game.

You’d better believe I’m in, for my 7th Ludum Dare

Posted by (twitter: @rjhelms)
Thursday, November 24th, 2016 9:42 pm

This will be my 7th Ludum Dare, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Going to be using the same toolchain that’s served me well in the past:

  • Unity 5 with Visual Studio,
  • Photoshop for graphics,
  • ChipTone for sound effects,
  • REAPER, and my iPad with sundry apps, for music.

As has become a bit of a trend over the past year or so, I’ve got a family commitment that’s going to take me out of town on the Sunday for 10-12 hours. For that reason, I’m certainly going to be entering the Jam.

Let’s do this!

Super Egyptian UFO Cat Pyramid Overlord 2000 BC – Timelapse Video!

Posted by (twitter: @rjhelms)
Monday, August 29th, 2016 5:17 pm

Well, that’s another Ludum Dare weekend down. For those of you who did the compo – congratulations! And to our friends in the jam, godspeed in these last few hours. I’ve spent some time today playing a handful of games, and as always I’m amazed at the creativity and dedication of this community.

Myself, I had a great time, and made a game that I’m really proud of. This was my 6th Ludum Dare, and the 2nd time that I’ve finished in time for a compo entry. As usual, I’ve put together a timelapse of the weekend:

Check out Super Egyptian UFO Cat Pyramid Overlord 2000 BC here!

And now they’re building pyramids in my honor

Posted by (twitter: @rjhelms)
Sunday, August 28th, 2016 3:06 am

I stayed up too late. Should have been in bed two hours ago. Oh well, off I go now.

Overall, today was awesome. Got a lot of great things in place. Spent a bit of time bashing my head around some things that appear to be bugs in Unity 5.4.3, and a bit more time bashing my head around some things that appear to be bugs with my own ability to make games.

Left to do for tomorrow:

  • add a few more types of bad guys
  • implement difficulty progression for my level generator
  • add all the interstitial screens: title, instructions, lose, level clear (maybe)
  • music
  • balance and bug bashing

I think that’s doable.

The point of this game is to convince the Egyptians to build pyramids. I’ve got that in place now, and the size of the pyramid is based on how well you performed on the level. A near-perfect performance gets you this:

7-pyramid

Adventures in procedural generation

Posted by (twitter: @rjhelms)
Saturday, August 27th, 2016 10:46 pm

Every Ludum Dare, I look in awe at folks who are able to implement procedural generation in their games. It’s never anything I’ve really tried before, and just about every compo ends with me making a mad dash to design levels that are never as balanced or fully-featured as I’d like.

I’ve decided to change that this time: I’ve got a broad sense of how I can parameterize the difficulty a level, so I’m going to give fully procedurally-generated levels a go. Not much to show of it so far, but in keeping with my absurd Egyptian theme each level’s going to take place on a river vaguely representing the Nile. Here’s my river-generating procedure in action:

5-procgenriver

Now to get the enemies that I already have developed also being slotted on the level, and I’ll be well on my way to an actual game.

Walk like an Egyptian

Posted by (twitter: @rjhelms)
Saturday, August 27th, 2016 3:33 pm

A bit more sprite work and one game mechanic in place. The farther I go down this road, the more I’m getting distracted by the absurdity of it.

4-converting

Well, I guess this is what it’s gonna be

Posted by (twitter: @rjhelms)
Saturday, August 27th, 2016 12:15 pm

Well, it’s not much, but I’ve got the basics of movement and firing projectiles in place.

3-firing

Egyptian gods shoot lucky charms from their space ships, right?

End of the first day – idea in place!

Posted by (twitter: @rjhelms)
Saturday, August 27th, 2016 1:51 am

I’m about ready to call it a night for Friday. My idea – tentatively called Super Egyptian UFO Cat Pyramid Overlord 2000 BC – seems solid enough to be able to get a decent jump on it tomorrow.

No code or anything in place yet. Just a broad outline of the design, and single set of sprites, for the UFO cat itself:

2-firstsprite

I’ve tweaked this sprite just a touch since I made this GIF, but the idea holds well enough.

Battlestation ready!

Posted by (twitter: @rjhelms)
Friday, August 26th, 2016 5:19 pm

In the past, I’ve:

  1. not really shared photos of my battle station, and
  2. lamented my lack of a second monitor during Ludum Dare.

While I don’t really have the budget for a new monitor, I’ve been able to address the second point in a way perhaps befitting the “Ancient Technology” theme, and so thought I’d actually do a battle station photo this time:

_DSC4694

As a bonus, here’s a shot of my music workstation for Ludum Dare. Hasn’t really changed from last time, but it still works:

_DSC4710

There’s a sixth time for everything – I’m in!

Posted by (twitter: @rjhelms)
Sunday, August 21st, 2016 3:14 pm

Ludum Dare is pretty much the best, so I’m doing it again. As I have every single Ludum Dare to date, I’m going to aim for the compo, with a good awareness that I’m going to miss the deadline. Either way, I’ll be following all the compo rules.

Toolchain is unchanged from last time, except for software updates:

  • Unity 5 with Visual Studio,
  • Photoshop for graphics,
  • ChipTone for sound effects,
  • REAPER and my iPad for music.

With respect to declaring code I may end up using: Aron Granberg’s A* library treats me well, so it will be on hand if I end up needing it. I also may yoink a few pieces of boilerplate or common utilities (level loader, resolution/aspect ratio correction, etc.) from my previous LD entries, which are all in my GitHub repo.

Game on!

24 hours remain – the last minute plug

Posted by (twitter: @rjhelms)
Sunday, May 8th, 2016 8:00 pm

We’re almost there! I’ve had some great feedback on my game and played some truly excellent ones – I’m going to do one more push of rating a few games tomorrow, and might write up a short highlighting a few for other folks looking for some more games to round out their Ludum Dare experience.

But in the meantime, I’m almost at 50 ratings for my game and that would be one heck of a good goal to reach, so if you’re looking for something to try, may I recommend Robot Escape?

title screen fullsize

Robot Escape – Post-Mortem

Posted by (twitter: @rjhelms)
Wednesday, April 27th, 2016 4:47 pm

We did it again, folks! I’m buried in a mountain of great games, and figured I’d take a few minutes from trying to dig my way out to write up a post-mortem for my Ludum Dare 35 entry, Robot Escape.

title screen fullsize

This was my 5th Ludum Dare, and all-in-all I think things went pretty well. After finishing in time for the compo in LD34, I really wanted to do so again, but circumstances conspired against me this time around – oh well. I’ll explain in the “What went poorly” section.

What went well

  • First and foremost, I had fun, and made something I’m pretty proud of.
  • The core mechanics of the game – restricted lines of sight, and reconfiguring yourself to get around different obstacles – worked out really well, both on their own and together.
  • I’m getting really comfortable with my Ludum Dare tool-chain. In the past I’ve always lost some time farting about with Unity’s quirks, but this time everything went pretty darn smoothly.
  • In the same vein, a lot of what I spent time on in LD34 served me well as techniques I was able to reuse this time – in particular, I was able to just drop in the two-camera setup for an “authentic” retro feel I developed that time, and (as predicted) my level loader from that time around was clean enough to reuse – although my level-loading needs were a lot simpler this time around.
  • I experimented with keeping my code a bit cleaner by having a lot of my entities be pure C#, with only a handful of MonoBehaviours responsible for interacting with Unity. I’m not sure I did it well enough to be a reusable approach, but for a game like this it worked really well.

What went poorly

  • I started really late. I have the nasty flaw of being a gigging musician, and the band always seems to find ways to need my time during Ludum Dare. This time around, we were playing a gig out of town on Friday, so I completely missed the theme reveal and didn’t make it home until about 4am. I took a look at the theme as soon as I got home, but didn’t seriously start the clock, so to speak, until around 11am on Saturday. (The gig went really well – it’s only a “went poorly” item from a Ludum Dare perspective.)
  • I lost another two hours to a power outage on Saturday evening. Thankfully, I didn’t lose any work as I’ve got a UPS for my computer. It wasn’t a total loss, however, as I took some time to do a bit of planning on pen and paper by candlelight.
  • I didn’t get the controls right. This seems to be the biggest pain point people raise in the comments on the game, and I agree – I had planned to take some time to tweak them, at minimum, and ideally make them configurable, but I didn’t make it there before the deadline.
  • I wanted more/tougher enemy types, but only had time for two. Similarly, it would have been nice to have a bit clearer feedback about when the enemies were firing on/hit the player.
  • It took a concerning about of time for this game to actually be fun – any beginner’s guide to Ludum Dare tells you to make sure your core idea is fun as quickly as possible, but mine didn’t really get there until pretty late on Sunday.

A more detailed run down of the jam follows below the break – but if you don’t want to read that, why, you could always give the game a try and let me know what you think!

(more…)

Ludum Dare pro tips: polish up your Unity builds

Posted by (twitter: @rjhelms)
Friday, April 22nd, 2016 12:31 pm

We see a lot of Unity games every Ludum Dare. In the past, I’ve heard some griping about this, but let’s face it: Unity is perfect for game jams. It has its quirks and limitations, but when time is of the essence, you can’t beat a platform that’s easy to work in and lets you forget about the basics, and jump right in to seeing your idea in action.

However, this can be a bit of a mixed blessing: because Unity handles so much for you behind the scenes, there’s a few steps that are easy to forget about when it comes time to package up your game and submit it, but which go a long way to polishing up the impression your game makes on people rating it. Unity’s gotten a lot better at handling these things in a sane manner, especially with version 5.3, but it still benefits your game to give things a once-over.

If you’re not using Unity, feel free to ignore this post, but if you are – read on! I’m mostly going to be focusing on standalone builds, but it’s a good habit to get in the practice of thinking of these things even when you’re intending on making a web game.

(more…)

Robot Escape: Linux and Mac builds now available!

Posted by (twitter: @rjhelms)
Thursday, April 21st, 2016 9:15 am

I’m pleased to announce that the Mac and Linux builds of Robot Escape are now available.

I admit these are only somewhat cursorily tested, so please reach out to me if there’s any problems with them.

06-mondayfinal

Play Robot Escape Here

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