About SmilingCat (twitter: @SmilingCatLTD)

Smiling Cat Entertainment, LTD is a small, independent game development studio based in central Ohio, USA. Founded in 2009 by long-time gamer Duke (that's me) and my lovely wife Gill!, Smiling Cat seeks to create affordable gaming alternatives that are enjoyable to play and suitable for the entire family.

Over the past 5 years, I've created several games on web and mobile platforms. My best works so far include "EARL's Warehouse" on the web platform, and "Prepare for Warp" and "Breaking Block" on Android and iOS.

My rookie Ludum Dare entry, "Dehoarder" (LD26), did well enough to garner some press attention and a couple of Let's Play videos, and nearly cracked the top 100 in two categories. My second entry, "City Beneath the Surface", fared less well, though I still had fun participating.

My primary strengths on the game developer spectrum center around design and coding, though I seem to have an ability to be resourceful and clever when working in other skill areas. I find artwork especially challenging. My artwork tends to have a minimalist feel, usually utilizing basic geometric shapes and patterns to composite a larger whole. Sometimes this works for me, and sometimes it doesn't.

My dream and goal is to work on my games full time, and to be able to support myself and my family while doing so. I originally took up software development to become a game developer, but currently find myself in a dayjob role in corporate software development.

I look forward to participating in future Ludum Dares (Dareii?), and seeing all of the great games produced!

Entries

 
Ludum Dare 35
 
Ludum Dare 32
 
Ludum Dare 29
 
Ludum Dare 26

SmilingCat's Trophies

SmilingCat's Archive

It’s Been Hectic, but It’s Getting Done

Posted by (twitter: @SmilingCatLTD)
Sunday, April 27th, 2014 8:41 am

So, I wound up picking a game idea that was almost too big.  The two scope items that have taken the most time are the procedural level generation, and the cinematic endings (there are indeed two).

It has taken me almost every waking moment in the compo (minus 12 hours total for sleep and eating), and I finally think I have the project in a good spot.  The game itself is complete, playable, and winnable, which leaves me this afternoon to add some polish like more building layouts and textures, a proper title graphic, and sounds and music.

I was worried there for a while. I thought I had bitten off more than I could chew with this little project, but somehow I’ve turned it around.  Things really started to fall into place yesterday afternoon, and I knew then that with a big push, a late night, and an early morning, I could bring it to completion.

You start out next to your broken-down submarine, which stuck on the top of a sunken high-rise building.

Starting Next to Sub

There’s a shark swimming around to be careful of.  He’s only dangerous if he sees you.

Shark!

The backstory itself is a silly straw about a prank gone horribly wrong on Mount Olympus.  As you collect items and unlock the adventure, the backstory unfolds as you help some of the Greek gods out of a bad situation.

Aprodite Prison

If you ignore the pleas of the gods and focus on saving yourself, you can “win”, however, you will get what I call the “Milquetoast Ending”. To get the “Epic Ending”, you must help the gods complete their task.

Milquetoast Sub Escape

Finish With the Epicness

I wish I had felt I had more time to blog yesterday.  There’s a number of neat things I pulled off that I could have talked about more.  I suppose what is important is that I have a game to submit at the deadline, though.

And Then Morning Came

Posted by (twitter: @SmilingCatLTD)
Saturday, April 26th, 2014 5:31 am

Good morning,

Sorry no blog post last night, was very much falling asleep in my chair when I called it quits.  I was pushing myself so hard because I was unhappy with my progress so far, hopefully I can turn that around today.

My game idea for this theme is for an Atlantis-like adventure – swimming around among a procedurally-generated underwater city, discovering key facts about mythological puzzles in order to unlock your escape.

So far, I have the first iteration of basic movement down, and am well underway on building generation.  The building generation part is taking more time than expected, maybe I should have done a quick-and-dirty voxel engine, but that’s not the feel I was going for, so…

Floors, ceilings, and corner supports are generating for the buildings, now we just need some walls, doors, and windows and we can move on to the next part for a minute.

Atlantis Buildings - unfinished

The player’s basic ongoing goal will probably be “reach the next checkpoint before you run out of air”.  I’m thinking about having two endings – the “OK” ending where you manage to escape your predicament, and the “epic” ending where you do something, well, epic.

Well, back to it.

Some Really Common Code

Posted by (twitter: @SmilingCatLTD)
Friday, April 25th, 2014 1:53 pm

Hey, just went a-harvesting through some old projects for some common code I’d like to re-use, so I’m declaring them here.  Nothing special or earth-shattering, just a few basic utility classes and some “trim pieces” for polish that I use on most of my projects.

♣ Splash Screen (basic logo fade)

♣ Pop-up volume control (Volume +, Volume -, and Mute function)

♣ Loading progress bar (Ties in with Unity Streaming Loading)

♣ Fading Scene Transitions

♣ Scene Manager (utilizes said loading progress bar and fading scene transitions)

♣ Shadowed text labels

♣ Extension methods for common types

♣ Integer 3D Vector class

All of these scripts are for Unity 3D.  Feel free to make use of them if you can.

Download Source

Second Time at the Rodeo

Posted by (twitter: @SmilingCatLTD)
Friday, April 11th, 2014 9:22 am

Last year was such great fun that I am definitely looking forward to this again.  A couple of events tried to encroach on this important weekend, but I have finally cordoned off the time needed for the compo.

My LD26 entry, Dehoarder, did well enough to garner a little press attention and a couple of Let’s Play videos.  This year, I’ll be aiming even higher.  I nearly cracked the top 100 in a couple of categories in LD26 (Humor and Innovation), so this time my goal is to make the top 25 in at least one category.

My toolset remains largely the same as last year:

Engine: Unity 3D

Graphics: Paint.Net, GIMP, NeoTexEdit

Sound: sfxr,bfxr,Audacity

Music: ? (last time I used cgMusic and SolMiRe to generate music. Might do the same this year, might do something different.)

Can’t wait until the 25th!  Looking forward to hacking out a great game and rating all of the other excellent entries!

What if we think an entry is at odds with compo rules?

Posted by (twitter: @SmilingCatLTD)
Monday, April 29th, 2013 11:29 am

It’s unfortunate to have to ask this, but I found a compo entry that (hopefully mistakenly) is using Creative Commons licensed music.  I don’t see any way of flagging an entry for review, nor any way of directly and privately contacting an administrator.  I feel this issue is best dealt with privately between the administrators and the author in question.  I could not find any entries guiding me on how to handle this.

How do we handle these situations?

Thank you.

Dehoarder Retrospective

Posted by (twitter: @SmilingCatLTD)
Sunday, April 28th, 2013 6:22 pm

LD26 / Minimalism / Dehoarder Retrospective

It was very exciting participating in my first ever Ludum Dare. I had written a couple of games in the past using very few hours, but never had I tried to do it in 48 consecutive hours. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be successful or not. It turns out, as I write this, there are still 4 more hours in the compo, and my submission is already entered. Honestly, I thought I would be scrambling madly to get things done right now, not working on my retrospective.

What went well?

Pretty much the whole thing. But here are some specific highlights.

At first, I was concerned about the theme. I didn’t want to just make a game with minimalist artwork and gameplay. I wanted to actually use the theme within my game. I looked up minimalism through Google, and from there, came up with the meta-concepts “Elmininate all X” and “Do X using as few Y as possible”. I stared at the Google results some more, and was noticing that more were about minimalist lifestyles, i.e. living without junk, than about minimalist art. Bingo. My “Eliminate all X” meta-concept quickly became “Eliminate as much junk from your hoard as possible”. Theme ideation success.

By 4 hours into the compo, I had a working prototype where you could walk about a room, and zap newspapers with your mouse. Having an early working prototype was a huge win, as always. I could turn in for the night satisfied that I was well underway.

I was very glad that I had recently done some work in blender 3D. I always have so much trouble with that program, as I find it very not-user-friendly. Fortunately, I remembered how to do most of what I needed to do. At first I wished I could pull in models from prior projects, but then later in the weekend I realized that I had actually created several general-purpose models that I can use in all of my future projects (except future Ludum Dares). Another win.

Keeping scope limited is key to something like a Ludum Dare, and I managed to limit scope very well. I did not feel a need for any kind of supplemental game engine with this project. I didn’t even have to pull in my code generator, though it was all warmed up and ready to go. There was even one point where Unity forced me to reign in my scope – originally, I had planned to model a 2-bedroom house, have specific types of junk for specific rooms, etc. It was immediately apparent upon a proof-of-concept test on my prototype, though, that Unity would not support the number of physics rigidbodies necessary to populate an entire house with junk. There would be no time to write any sort of complex custom engine to augment Unity physics to make it possible. So I had to scale back to a single-room design.

Since the project continued to go well all weekend, I was able to ensure myself adequate rest, and even spend some time with my wife, which contributed to my productivity at the keyboard. At no time this weekend did I feel harried or stressed about getting the game done. I was able to work at a comfortable pace and explore some tangents that bore results, such as the generated background music. This is how knowledge work should be done.

Speaking of the generated background music: the music was at the very bottom of my priority list. I think music is very important to a video game experience. It is a very effective tool for setting a mood. However, with no access to my Creative Commons resources, I had doubts that I would be able to put together something listenable for the music. I did some research before the compo, but did not find a tool that worked for me, until near the end of my work when I found cgMusic. I was able to quickly put together a soothing, generated piano piece that to me, was somewhat reminiscent of some of the Minecraft background music.

Keeping a constant, prioritized list of what needed to be done next helped to keep focus on important tasks and prevent scope creep. Constant integration and testing made sure that the project never strayed too far off track.

Unity3D continues to be a solid game development engine. Without it, such rapid development of a 3D game would not be possible. Everything just worked, as it usually does.

What Could Have Went Better?

It’s hard to come up with much for this category. There were no epic fails, no cases where hours of work had to be thrown away, no stubborn bugs to chase deep into the night.

I struggled for quite some time with how to balance/utilize the money mechanic. In my testing, I had quickly concluded that the dominant strategy in early prototype builds was to completely ignore the selling and money mechanic and focus solely on trashing. I was worried that I was going to have to remove these interesting details in the name of minimalism when I figured out to use some of the special events (one of the last features implemented) to give the player some motivation to keep some money on hand.

In conclusion

Ludum Dare was a lot of fun, and I’m glad I did it. I now have another game under my belt, another portfolio piece to showcase, some art assets I can re-use elsewhere, and the confidence of knowing I can deliver a game based on a given theme inside of 48 hours. I would recommend this experience to any journeyman game developer.

If you haven’t already, check out (and vote when the time comes) on Dehoarder in the compo entries! Thanks!

Screenshot1

Dehoarder is Done!

Posted by (twitter: @SmilingCatLTD)
Sunday, April 28th, 2013 2:38 pm

All wrapped up, submitted, and ready to play!

As a reminder, the idea is to minimalize your lifestyle by getting rid of your hoard of stuff.  At first, you’ll only be able to get rid of garbage.  Once you build your character’s will, you will be able to get rid of larger and more significant items.  The objective is to reach 10,000 points as quickly as possible.

Feel free to check it out!

I plan on posting a retrospective about the project either later tonight or tomorrow.

Screenshot1 Screenshot2 Screenshot3 Screenshot4

Entering the Gravy Phase of the Project

Posted by (twitter: @SmilingCatLTD)
Saturday, April 27th, 2013 7:42 pm

At this point, “Dehoarder” is a complete, playable, and winnable game.  If this were a LD24, I could submit right now.  So, I have the next 24 hours to make improvements, make the game even more fun, and even kick back a little, get good sleep tonight, and catch up on what everyone else has been doing.

Main enhancements planned at this point are more types of junk, Sound FX, some random events, and maybe some music.  Balance tweaking will also be happening throughout tonight and tomorrow.

I’m very happy that it has turned out so well so far!

Evening Day2 Evening Day2win

Mid-day Update

Posted by (twitter: @SmilingCatLTD)
Saturday, April 27th, 2013 10:49 am

Things are coming along really well on my hoard-reduction game.  The basic gameplay is in place, there are rules for when you can get rid of stuff, when you can’t get rid of stuff, and when it is not in your best interest to get rid of stuff.

At first, your character will refuse to get rid of a lot of the junk.  As you get rid of lesser-valued stuff, your will builds, which allows you to get rid of items with more perceived value to your character.  Sometimes, the temptation of money will allow your character to sell something on eJunk that would otherwise be kept for a long time, though this is a temporary solution. Because…

A simple day-night cycle has been implemented.  At the end of each day, a portion of the money that you made by selling, rather than trashing junk is used to buy more junk.

Midday Day 2 Midday Day 2b

Remaining work:

  • Win scenario
  • Better camera control
  • Better room layout including furniture
  • Clean up UI
  • Title Screen
  • Connect Logo and Title Screens
  • More types of junk
  • Events
  • Cockroaches
  • Sound FX

 

Doubly Minimalist

Posted by (twitter: @SmilingCatLTD)
Friday, April 26th, 2013 10:52 pm

Well, a minimalist art style is my default, so, I decided to incorporate another definition of minimalism as well.

The basic concept is that your character has decided to make an extreme change from being a hoarder, and instead live a minimalist lifestyle.  With your guidance, and a gradually building willingness to let go, your character just might make the change.

The first iteration of the playfield, character movement, and object interaction is done:

End of Night 1

Tomorrow morning, the first priority will probably be adding some scoring/tracking mechanics, then I can begin to flesh out some content like more types of junk, more interesting room layout, and some surprises.

I am off to catch a solid 4-5, good night all.

I’m In

Posted by (twitter: @SmilingCatLTD)
Monday, April 22nd, 2013 5:13 pm

Looking forward to seeing what I can come up with.  I did a practice run a while back, and finally a LD Compo Weekend aligns with my calendar.

Toolset:

Engine: Unity 3D

Graphics: Paint.Net, GIMP, NeoTexEdit

Sound: sfxr,bfxr,Audacity

Music: ?

Good Luck to everyone!

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