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Not quite finished, but submitted – Nothing But Stars

Posted by (twitter: @@wbobeirne)
Sunday, December 18th, 2011 6:29 pm

Well, it’s been a few good days but unfortunately the fatigue got to me. The basic framework and mechanic had been set for my gravity-less space platformer, “Nothing But Stars,” and all it needed was some content to add variety and difficulty. I had planned to do that today, but my body had other plans. With what little time I was left with after awaking, I fixed up the last bit of code, added a “sorry!” message at the end, and got the game in with 45 minutes to spare.

Here’s the game in all its glory: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-22/?action=preview&uid=5193

I’m not happy I didn’t finish, it feels like a bit of a failure. I am, however, pretty proud of what I did come up with. I decided to push myself as a game dev with this one, and I think my game is fairly technically impressive. It just doesn’t have all the gameplay to it I’d hoped it would. I was also able to crank out some music last night with my brand new M-Audio Oxygen 49 keyboard, something I’ve never done for a game before.

All in all, this LD leaves me bitter-sweet. I had fun and learned a lot though, and that’s what really counts.

Until next time…

Day 1’s progress

Posted by (twitter: @@wbobeirne)
Saturday, December 17th, 2011 5:34 am

I can’t say I was enthralled by this compo’s theme, Alone, all that much. It took some head pounding to come up with an idea, and even though I’ve somewhat settled on one, the details are still sketchy. Regardless, I started working once I had my setting: Space. I mean, how much more alone can you get than in the final frontier?

Admittedly a bad policy, but I hate to work with placeholder graphics for long. The first thing I set out on was my space man. There were a few iterations before I settled on my “final” (All graphics will be tweaked to no end, of course) design.

After I’d gotten that out of the way, I got down to a bit of real coding. My game would need a halfway decent 2D camera, so I set out to Google for this one. David Amador’s 2d camera worked like a charm (found here http://www.david-amador.com/2009/10/xna-camera-2d-with-zoom-and-rotation/) and that was a simple step. Problem was, I could hardly tell I was moving. I threw together some random noise stars, made a few tiles, and set up a random tile selector. It was functional, but lacked flair. That’s on my to-do list.

Movement felt stiff though, so I worked on some floatier movement to better fit the space setting.

Now, any good space man needs a shuttle, so that was my next stop. I had a placeholder, but again that nagging for a good looking place holder bugged me until I put some work in to it. It still lacks flair, but much like my backgrounds, can wait for later. I threw on some broken pieces for the forthcoming gameplay, and was ready to call it a night. Here’s a screenshot that shows my progress thus far:

http://i.imgur.com/sE0Vk.png (I didn’t want to embed the image, it gets all stretchy and nasty :/ )

Honestly, I can recognize that my order of work is a little backwards. I don’t even know if I’ll like my game yet, but I’m already working on assets. I feel like this is going to leave me with overall weaker gameplay, but I have a hard time imagining where my game is going when I’m looking at squares. LD is supposed to be a learning experience though, and I feel like I’m learning a lot about the way I work. It’s not a pretty lesson though.

I’ve got a to-do list for tomorrow, so for now I’ll catch a few hours. Night, LD.

Jameson Livingston Penguin: A Post-Mortem

Posted by (twitter: @@wbobeirne)
Sunday, September 11th, 2011 10:53 pm

Well, my first LD has come, and is shortly going to be gone once the results come out, and it’s been a good time. I’m already jonesing for the next one, but I feel like I need to document what I’ve learned so that the next time, I can look back at what I did right and what I did wrong. Without further ado, let’s take a look back at JLP.

A link for those who haven’t given it a look.

Our hero

The Good

Setting goals. I didn’t expect much from myself for my first game dare, but I always had a goal in mind. The obvious major goal was to finish, I simply wouldn’t let myself hit the time limit with code and assets strewn about. Beyond that though, I was always setting up goals on my whiteboard, hitting them one at a time. This gave me a visual reminder of my progress, even if the thing I was working on couldn’t be seen in my game.

Having a clear beginning and end. I often find in my side projects that I start adding features and shiny things without a clear purpose for how it’s taking the player to the inevitable end. With JLP, I knew you were going to get from the ground to the moon, and dodge junk in between. There were no if’s, and’s or but’s about it, and that kept me focused. I was able to add some frills such as the hats that get put on the player at the different height levels, or item drops, but that was only after I had the basic implementation down.

Variety. While I love so many of the LD games out there, the biggest problem I see is a lack of variety. Of course we have constraints, but when you lay down the basic framework for the game, it’s not hard to add some variety. I knew from the start that that would be the death of my game, so I very quickly laid down the groundwork for having stuff fly at you from the sides, then adding the jets and space ships to keep it fresh. Admittedly, this left little time to actually balance the additions which caused some players to find exploits, but for the everyman, it kept the game interesting enough to reach the end.

The Bad

Duct-taped features. The speed ups in my game were implemented in such a hacky way that collidable things would stop showing up at a certain speed. I had a good feeling why it happened, but didn’t allot myself enough time to fix it.  Which leads me to my other issue,

Time management. I mean, I didn’t totally drop the ball on this one, but there were some areas where it shone like the previously mentioned. Some features I had swimming in my mind had to be cut because I overslept, and some times couldn’t resist the allure of Reddit or the very friendly LD IRC channel. I definitely need to be more diligent next time.

The Ugly

XNA. I love this framework to death, but being Windows only with no way to play on the web, and the download requiring dependencies really didn’t work in my favor. Many friends and family couldn’t play because of this, as well as, I’m sure, many people who would have rated and commented. Next LD, I’m probably going to go with Java or Flash, if I ever get around to learning the latter.

Music, or lack there of. I knew this would be a big hurdle from the start, but it hit me harder than I expected. Right after I finished, I started to look in to Linux MultiMedia Studio, and I’ll be working on that for a while. Music is a huge component to games, especially one like mine where in the time between things being flung at you, you don’t have much to do. I’ve never been a particularly artistically inclined person, as I’m sure you can guess by my game’s artwork, so this one will be hard to get around.


Things for Next Time

Recruit a friend! The best parts of LD were when people showed interest in my game. I’m shy enough to admit I like when people take an interest in or admire my work, and I’m sure most people out there feel the same way. Working side by side with someone will allow us to keep each other going by keeping each other in good spirits.

Use a web-deployable language/framework. I already went over this earlier, but it’s really important, so I’ll mention again. The correlation between number of rating and ease of access was easily seen.

Write a warm-up game. It had been a few months since I worked on an XNA game, and I was rusty for the first 4 hours. I had to look at my old work just to remember really simple thing. I need to give myself something like 4 hours before the LD to write a silly Pong clone or something, just to get ready.


Anyhow, thanks for reading. Hopefully you could relate to some of my issues, or some of my ideas helped you consider a strategy for the next game jam. Until then, I wish you all the best. Good luck with the ratings!

First year, I’m in!

Posted by (twitter: @@wbobeirne)
Thursday, August 18th, 2011 3:03 pm

While eventually I’m going to have to wake up and smell the money, game development has always been my greatest interest. Whenever I’m learning a new programming concept or language, my mind inevitably goes to, “How could I use that in a game?” I’d like to be naive and think that that will always be how I’ll learn.

Earlier this week, a post popped up on Reddit’s /r/gamedev. 48 hours of non-stop game development! I was intrigued, I’d heard the name from earlier competitions, but didn’t quite have the skills to enter. After a few side projects of my own though, I feel I could crank a game out in 48 hours. So there you have it, I’m in. Let’s get down to the details, shall we?

The Setup

As you can see below, there are 2 major components to my setup. You’ve got my desk:

Which is rocking my newly purchased second monitor, and will shortly be flooded with carbonated beverages and various microwavable meals. And you’ve got the whiteboard:

All the cool kids have whiteboards, so I needed one too.

The Tools

A bad blacksmith blames his tools, so let me get this out of the way. All of the following tools I’ll be using are bad:

  • Microsoft’s XNA 4.0 (C#) or libgdx (Java)
  • Paint.net
  • Sfxr
  • Drumcircle
  • Audacity

XNA and libgdx are very similar game libraries that I’m somewhat familiar with. I’d say XNA is way more robust, but libgdx has easy Android porting options and is cross platform. Depending on the complexity of the game I dream up after we find out what the theme is, I’ll decide. I’d love to be able to take this 48 hour game and turn it in to a legitimate Android game, but even if I decide to do it in XNA, porting to Windows Phone 7 is an option. On the audio side of things, I’ve decided on Sfxr and Drumcircle. Sfxr was created by a Ludum Dare-er, for Ludum Dare-ers. It’s an awesome tool to crank out vintage style game sounds. Drumcircle is similar, but meant for game loops. I’ve never used Drumcircle before, but I’ve tinkered with it a bit and it seems like it’ll do the trick. Audacity will simply be used to touch up the audio if I need to.

Over the next few days, I’ll try to make a few blog posts on my website, as well as gripe on my newly created Twitter about the development process.

Thanks for reading, and good luck to everyone!

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