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Software nerd at the software-learning institution, spending my time software-learning by not doing learning work.

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War Theaters

Posted by
Friday, July 22nd, 2011 8:31 pm

I doubt I was the only one to break out in a small private karaoke concert when the MiniLD theme was announced. War followed by Cannon Fodder (in all fairness in this version by Press Play On tape). Closely behind followed Fortunate Son. Had this been a true LD these songs would be playing in non-stop repeat. Seeing as how I’ve got more than just the 48 hours, I fear for my sanity should I keep the music running.

Regardless, the music gripped me instantly and tossed me back to what I consider the epitome of W*A*R – Vietnam. The satire of Cannon Fodder and the udder foolishness expressed by both Edwin Starr and Credence Clearwater Revival (henseforth CCR) easily sets the stage for war gone wrong. Beyond this, I’ve had a notion of fiddling with games that work heavily with music. Trying to merge the two has given me three options:

  1. Guitar Hero Vietnam (meh)
  2. ReZ vietnam (still meh)
  3. Compose-a-war (yeh!)

I’m going with the final one. In principle, I’m aiming for an RTS-puzzle hybrid that relies heavily on the rhythm of the music as queues to the player on how to react to enemy movements. This requires some intriguing features not innately accessible in the engine of choice, most notably a run-time dynamic music tracker. Fun fun!

Anyway, to summarize my tools du jour:

Language: AS3

Engine: Flashpunk (custom version integrating RichardMarks’ sound mixer and a few custom fixes)

Sound: sfxr

Music: Pure code (rhythms tested in Musagi and MODPlug Tracker, samples created with sfxr or my vocal cords)

Graphics: Paint.NET

Others: tellusLibsAS, a modest helper library publicly available on Github.

Break a leg, everyone!

ZombieRunner…Ware – Post Mortem

Posted by
Monday, May 2nd, 2011 10:17 am

So this was my first Ludum Dare – ever. The only thing I had expected was to have “something that doesn’t crash – and it has a gameover screen” and a funfun time doing it. Largely, this was a succes.

First of, a few things of note about the compo itself. One thing is some of the submissions that are simply astounding for a mere 48 hour project. Several of them are basically “Newgrounds-ready” and with a production value that compares to games with several months of dev time. Being able to launch that much content (and of such a high quality) in so little time is both intimidating and inspiring.

The other thing of particular note to me is the very liberal interpretation of the theme. Being a hardcore rule jockey I intended to infuse my game with every ounce of the theme I could muster, the phrase itself being not only a corner stone but the very pivotal point of the interactive experience. This stands as a stark contrast to by far most of the entries I’ve rated so far (about 70 as of the time of writing). Mostly it was a question of slapping out the phrase within the first 15 seconds or two game screens and just have it done with – then send the player onwards to something else. It strikes me as unfortunate, as I perceived the theme not only to be a loose constriction (and at this point, more a labelling requirement than a constraint at that) but a creative demand on the developers. However, several games managed to use the theme in subtle and unspoken ways. All manner of partnering mechanisms have been displayed in ways I wouldn’t have dared to imagine, and it’s been a thrill to experience an actual interpretation of the theme as a gameplay mechanic more than simply a phrase or a meme. Thank you to those devs for the experience :)

Now, back to my poor excuse for contemporary satire. As I woke up four hours into the compo and saw the theme I had an instant vision of the game and its purpose. I wanted to expose and criticize the theme as it has manifested itself in modern-day zombie horror games, basically from the transposition “it’s dangerous to go out alone. but I’m not going to go out with you and instead offer you something that may or most likely may not be of any assistance to you in your coming challenges”. Intended as a light-hearted jab at the large body of zombie games I wanted to depict the eternal and largely futile journey of post-apocalyptic survivors in the wasteland. The actual gameplay challenge would lie in very simple mechanics from one round to another against a horde of enemies with no particularly discernable features.

What became my downfall, I think, boils down to experience – pure and simple. I have never constructed a “finished” product before this weekend, and I spent a lot of time getting to know library mechanics of flixel I had never worked with before. I spent time getting to know musagi and sfxr and lost almost an hour of work trying to make musagi export wav files (an issue most likely caused by sound card and driver). Being an incarnated code monkey I live by the addage “content comes later”, constructing frameworks, boilerplate, mechanics and anything that is made with a text editor until I absolutely have to put something into image or sound.

To be fair, though, the final version differed primarily only in content, but I would have liked to do these things:

  • More items. Either 12 distinct items with different mechanics or 3-4 base mechanics and a slew of aesthetic variations on them. I ended up with 3 release, 1 coded item. The final item started out as a sparkler (don’t ask), turned into a flamethrower (simpler implementation), finally a stick (even simpler). The stick was basically a burning spear and so I removed it.
  • An actual way to die from the challenge, not from boredom.I had planned more zombie types and I would have liked distinct options for defeating each, to make sure the player actually had to think while playing.
  • Prettier graphics. All over. 6 hours before deadline I was suddenly struck with a graphical style I could’ve pulled off if I had the time. I had to rely on a mouse and Paint.NET to draw the barebone necessities.
  • A more solid soundtrack. I wanted to make a single ambient musical soundscape underlying the complete game, while subtracks would play within each game state to underline their purpose. I simply didn’t have the time or skill to compose something that could have done it properly.

In the end, however, I’m satisfied with myself, and I’ll prepare better next time. Buy a drawing tablet, have all the necessary software installed beforehand and spend weekends up to the compo running drills to prep myself.

Now then, I’d better get back to enjoying the other entries. I’ve been laughing steadily the past two hours over one entry or the other and there seems to be no end in sight :)

Sprint, sprint, sprint

Posted by
Sunday, May 1st, 2011 5:02 pm

Two hours left and I have the choice of either more generic items, more generic phrases, better difficulty increase or better music.

… difficulty, then phrases.

 

Man, you really get to remove planned features viciously as time runs.

Nothing new – polish (demo!)

Posted by
Sunday, May 1st, 2011 1:45 pm

There’s really nothing new to show on the screenshots. The devil’s in the details.

Uploaded the demo (so far) here: http://www.j-space.dk/ld20/index.html

It’s a mess compared to many of the other things I’ve seen displayed on the site, but I’m proud of the amount of stuff I’ve produced on my own throughout the weekend. I’ve decided to purchase a drawing tablet for the next compo and practice drawing – I also plan to secure the services (well, availability) of a friend’s recording studio so I can make cleaner sounds.

Criticism is welcome, but will be promptly ignored 😛

Schedule, schmedule… scmhedule… shcm…

Posted by
Saturday, April 30th, 2011 9:25 pm

It’s 6am here, I’ve been up for 24 so far and I have a hardcore intention of dragging along until sometime this evening to get the most out of the time I have.

About half the art is hitting a semi-decent retro style (FlxEmitter for the win!!!99!). I’m actually positively surprised with the animation quality on the few animations.

At this point the todo list is (unfolds napkin):

  • The spear item. Collisions seem to be wonky when doing free-form rotations.
  • Collisions in general. The hitboxes of zombies are very large and a bit counter-productive.
  • Zombie types. There are four and they just need to exhibit proper movement.
  • Point system (… I’m thinking “how many different items did you manage to work it with?”)
  • Enter/exit cutscenes would be nice to add a bit of flavour.
  • Art assets (polishes, improvements and actuals)
  • Items (moar items!). The base class is flexible enough to have a relatively easy time of extending to some new uses.

A shoutouted poll, before last: what were the most ludicrous items you recall being proffered throughout your gaming career? Magic, talking swords with an aversion to the number 8, assortments of wines and spirits to “improve your sprirituality” or something even worse?

Finally, I’m impressed with the progress I’ve been able to make myself, but it’s easy to see the veterans at work. They talk of finishing engines and systems within mere hours and constructing what seems like monolithic designs within atomic time frames whilst still maintaining an art level unlike any I’ve seen this side of 6 am. I’ll be pleased if I just submit :)

Abolishment!

Posted by
Saturday, April 30th, 2011 6:01 pm

Success! The protagonist has been turned away from his sheep-sodomizing ways and finally rides his trusty steed into – and over – battle.

Made some music in musagin that refuses to export – wasted an hour there, but see where it comes back.

Currently: zombie AI (they need to learn that falling encompasses moving downwards), weapon collisions, cutscene delays and health.

EDIT: Wrong pic.

Collision tedium

Posted by
Saturday, April 30th, 2011 1:10 pm

Buzzing around with collisions continue as I once again fail to present a screenshot that does not contain a person sodomizing a sheep.

I’m adding the protagonists (zombies – who’d have thunk) and smoothing out item code right now. Trying to decide whether to mess around with audio or improve the art. While it may score me a triple smiley in Mrs. Hodgesons’ third graders’ drawing room I can’t see how these drawings are anything but doodles of a seven-year-old.

Alpha

Posted by
Saturday, April 30th, 2011 10:24 am

All the base elements are finally in place. The rest, as they say, is polish and  – well – art assets.

Title screen

The title screen of ZRW

I think I might actually keep the title image…

Within the safehouse

Safehouse stage

The basic intentions here are in place. Need polish and flash and pazaz.

Shot of game in action

The game in action

Again, art is not my forte and the only three things I like about this image are the boards on the window (left – look nice an pixelated), the combination with real-life photos and the absolutely ludicrous notion of riding a sheep through a horde of zombies.

 

I’ll focus on the four item types, make about 12 different items for starters, and then look into the assets. Finally, code polish.

Syntax, lag, understanding.

Posted by
Saturday, April 30th, 2011 6:51 am

It’s hard to get used to the as3 syntax again after several months of C# coding (I really like “int someInt;” above “var someInt:int” – less writing) but I get by. That and for the first time I’m trying to work with collisions in Flixel (or any framework). Takes some getting used to, all that fancy automatic machinery.

I’ve been at work all day so progress is very slow but a lot of the boilerplate base is in place (basic states, base classes, base loops – all the base are belong to me). I would have posted a screenshot, but the only thing I have right now is a stick figure riding a sheep. And unfortunately, he’s “riding” the sheep, not riding the sheep – at least that’s how it looks.

Still, I should have something barebone simple ready by this evening if I can keep the progress up… and then come the art assets. Bah!

Off work in 10, then sushi, then more work.

Content comes later

Posted by
Saturday, April 30th, 2011 2:15 am

I guess the professionals would call my approach “waterfall”, although I prefer Terry Pratchetts description of Captain Carrot’s grammar style better. My programming is… ballistic. Kind of like an object-oriented game of whack-a-mole I see something that can be written and I code it.

The basic game concept is simple as can be. The player is a survivor of a zombie holocaust and must find safe haven or other survivors or more supplies or <insert incentive to walk out of the, very safe, safehouse>. To aid in the journey between safehouses, the player is given a single item before they leave the safehouse. This item is random every time and it’s usefulness will probably be debatable at every turn.

From “It’s Dangerous to go Alone! Take this gun!” to “It’s Dangerous to go Alone! Take this horse!” to “It’s Dangerous to go Alone! Take this squeak toy!”, the stage is set for a varied set of happenings.

The game cannot be won, per say. It’s like the typical runner game a question of how far you get before succumbing to <insert obstacle here>.

Alright then, four game state with some very simply defined logic within each. Title state, game over state, level preparation state and level state. The level state itself is a short “runner” style affair with a single item brought along for that one level. The item is randomly generated but has a set type of usage schemes: none, triggered, aimed and a combination of triggered and aimed. Should be easily implemented.

THEN comes art assets, sounds, moohsic and the such.

I’ve set up a Github repository to push the source to once the game is submitted. Speaking of, is it a breach of rules or just slightly stupid to release the code during/immediately after the 48 hours?

Theme woot. Go!

Posted by
Friday, April 29th, 2011 11:11 pm

I was hoping for the given theme to the extent of giving off a hollow and resounding “wooot!” as I read across the lines of my browser.

The theme immediately conjures up two strong elements and lets me segway into a third:

  1. If it’s dangerous to go out alone, you’re definitely going out alone. Storytelling genre: horror.
  2. “Take this” – obviously, you’re offered something to aid you. Sub-genre: action.

I figured this theme would be an excellent starting point to create a small game that critisizes the over-usage of the zombie theme in games over the past couple of years. In my opinion the commercial PC game market has become just a tad flooded with zombie shooters. Just a tad, mind you. We haven’t quite reached the level of genre-rape that constituted the WWII games of the last decade and the Guitar Hero license misuse of Activision over the last five years, but there are quite a few games with, shall we say, “overlapping” elements?

The third thing that I figured was that the theme itself suggests a caricature of these games, the following of a standardised formula with few to no variations on content to move gameplay out and forwards. This will be a point of contention as well.

The game itself will be very simple, following this genre bastardisation: zombie-runner-ware. Zombies. Runner games (ala Canabalt). And Warioware (heck yeah!).

This, at least, is the current idea. 😛

“I’m in!… right?”

Posted by
Friday, April 29th, 2011 2:47 pm

Hey all

I figure as rules demand I should really (re)present myself and intentions. It’s my first time doing Ludum Dare and it’ll be interesting to see just how much gameplay I can cram into a piece of code within the allotted time – if any.

The game will be Flash-based. I would have considered Flashpunk but I don’t have enough experience with the framework just yet. Instead I’ll be using a custom-fitted version of Flixel which I’ve used with some hibernating projects lying around Github (https://github.com/tellus). While none of them will likely be a basis for the game (actually, I intend on it not to), I’ll most likely draw on a few supporting routines and procedures from the modified Flixel and my support lib tellusLibsAs. As should be obvious by now, all of the code is freely available from Github. Flashdevelop will be the IDE of choice (I’ve fallen in love with that piece of software, delicious) as well as Paint.NET for graphical purposes (I’m spartan… very spartan… basically Spartacus-spartan) and if… when… eventually… sound may be a necessary evil element of the game I think I’ll fall back to something quirky through Audacity. Open-source and freeware throughout.

I’m rooting for a few particularly interesting themes myself (one cannot help but visualise possible ideas already) but let’s see where things head.

Good luck to all and cheers for a great weekend!

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