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team goldsmile : a 72h flixel team open to all

Posted by (twitter: @tangentstorm)
Saturday, August 11th, 2012 12:19 am

Just letting people know that I’m putting together a team for the 72-hour jam.

We’ll be building on the open source code from my LD21 entry, (Spiders v. Aliens) as well as its prequel, (Tetraminex, Episode 00), both made with Flixel and DAME. The idea is to focus mostly on puzzles, story and gameplay this time around, and make this team as approachable as possible for beginning programmers.

Everyone’s welcome to join.

For more info, see the Team Goldsmile announcement in /r/learnprogramming over at reddit.

Spiders v. Aliens, director’s cut

Posted by (twitter: @tangentstorm)
Tuesday, August 30th, 2011 9:36 pm

I finally “finished”  Spiders v. Aliens, at least for now. The new version adds narrative text, an opening cutscene, and some simple music, as well as various bug fixes and whatnot:

spiders v. aliens

Play the updated version at Kongregate, or check out the original LD72 entry.


Spiders v. Aliens post-mortem

Posted by (twitter: @tangentstorm)
Monday, August 22nd, 2011 9:04 pm

With all the server problems, I wound up using twitter (for pretty much the first time) instead of posting journal entries here. I did take timelapse screenshots. I just need to figure out how to turn them into a movie.

Anyway, let’s see:

What went right:

  • Flixel  turned out to be a great choice. The debug layer (available by pressing the backquote key) was slick, and every time I went looking for how to do something, it turned out flixel had a simple way to do it built in.
  • DAME completely rocks. It’s a lot more than just a tile editor. I was able to set up initial states for each sprite (dead vs live aliens, powered vs unpowered machines) and even set up relationships (this lock powers these portals, and this portal leads to that one).
  • Pomodoro technique (when I remembered to use it) helped me be a lot more self-aware. The break time would come up, and I’d realize I’d drifted into a low priority activity like polishing graphics instead of sticking with the core work to be done.
  • Having a walkthrough. Maybe that’s the wrong word, but once I mapped out the basic solution to the game, it was easy to see what items and features needed to be in each room so that by the time the player makes it around to the other side of the ship, he knows everything he needs to know to solve the puzzle (ie, how do you actually reach the door that you can see from the first room?). I actually mapped this down to narration that was supposed to appear in each room, for a “learn as you go” experience. Even without the text on screen, I think there’s a pretty clear logical progression to the encounters.
  • Font-based graphics. Except for the ghost and the background tiles, pretty much all the graphics came from standard fonts. (Webdings for the spiders and aliens, Consolas for the player and most of the other things) Even the hero’s ship outside is made from various symbols.
  • The “grab/drag” mechanic. I really like how this turned out. I’ve been playing a lot of Arimaa lately, and I had a hunch the push/pull mechanic would work well in a video game. Once that was working, lots of other neat effects just sort of happened: things like slinging spiders around, carrying items through portals, and letting the ghost drag objects through walls.

What went wrong:

  • Learning curve: most of the time I lost had to do with not knowing enough about flixel. Most of what I wanted was easy to find, but one or two small gaps lead to massive disasters. In particular, my dragging and portal code both tried to move sprites around by setting their x and y values. This appears to work, but causes all sorts of trouble with collision detection. All I needed to do was also set last.x and last.y but that small oversight had me pulling my hair out for hours, because I thought the problem was with my game objects. I think the fix here basically just boils down to experience.
  • Polishing Early. I spent WAY too much time on the graphics for this game. It was originally going to be straight ANSI art (Kingdom of Kroz style) but I got carried away, and pretty soon I had gradients and two layers of shadows and way more detail than I needed. I should have limited myself to solid colored rectangles until I had the basic gameplay working.
  • Not having a walkthrough up front. In Arimaa, you capture pieces by dragging them into traps, and I was going to use that idea, too. I also planned to use expand on the push/pull concept with machines that moved whole rows or columns of boxes. So I drew graphics and wrote at least some code for all that, when it turned out I didn’t really need those things (mostly because I hit on the idea of using the spiders as a weapon instead of as an enemy). There’s also a fully working implementation of on/off switches that I wound up not using. So lots of waste in this area. The walkthrough really clarified things for me, but I didn’t do it until the second day. Next time, it’ll be first thing on my list.
  • Too many contraptions. I really thought I was aiming small, but… portals, dragging, machines with various states, keys and locks, combat and health, and an NPC that passes through some walls but not others… That’s quite a large scope for such a short game. I’m actually pretty proud of all the neat gizmos in the game, but in terms of a 48-hour contest, the cost was too high.  Toward the end, it was too late to design a new puzzle, so I was locked in to finishing the implementation for all the machines instead of adding the narration, which would have wrapped everything up into a nice coherent story. Here again, the walkthrough would have helped, and perhaps even an iterative walkthrough: start with nothing but the hero and an exit, make sure it works, then design and implement one obstacle at a time. At least that way the game would always be playable start-to-finish and I’d have more flexibility in choosing what to add next. Basically, I should have adopted a more agile development process.
Anyway. I’m exhausted. Gonna go for a swim here and get some sleep so I can start checking out all these other games tomorrow! :)

Flash Dev Toolbox

Posted by (twitter: @tangentstorm)
Friday, August 19th, 2011 1:32 pm

I think I’m finally ready for my Ludum Dare weekend getaway. Here’s what I’ve packed:

I spent today working through tutorials and making sure I know how to use all this stuff.

I even set up a twitter account for this thing, so maybe I’ll get to know some of you guys.

Good luck everyone, and I look forward to seeing all your new games! :)

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