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Might not make it (Jam)

Posted by
Sunday, August 25th, 2013 3:19 pm

Looking bleak with work tomorrow, so much still to do! Oh well, pretty please with the vibe we have so far

NSA control centre (web game designed to look like Windows 95/ME)

NSA control centre (web game designed to look like Windows 95/ME)

Games I think are awesomely creative

Posted by
Thursday, December 27th, 2012 2:55 pm

A few games which I’ve reviewed which really amazed me in terms of their creativity. Not exactly my top-5 but definitely up there.

 

1. Agents by Reclusive frog – HERE

Never seen or heard of a game like this – something like a text adventure but with spoken commands. Even if you cannot play it on your phone, watch the fascinating video:

The command recognition works imperfectly but I hope, like me, you will forgive a lot for something so fundamentally creative. hats off to Reclusive Frog.

 

2. Ludum Dare: The Musical by ilo – HERE

Wow, double-Wow.  So simple, and yet so creative, different and funny. Truly hilarious and refreshing. a must-play!

 

3. Korruptor by Codexus – HERE

Quite original I think, with a certain hard-to-describe cool. Can be hard to get the hang off (not necessarily something to complain about!) and the graphics use pre-created textures a lot, but very nicely done.

 

 

My own entry (Jam…) The crown Jewels Job

 

LD24: The Crown Jewels Job AUTOPSY

Posted by
Friday, December 21st, 2012 10:38 am

For the platform game go HERE

Autopsy of the graphics/level design guy. Big thanks to all the graphics/level design feedback we’ve had, really useful!

Gripe: don’t knock the Jam as easy or Soft 😉

  • Less elitism of 48hr Compo please. There are a lot of reasons to do the Jam and yes it has relaxed rules and longer, but it’s a TEAM event. That in itself is the reason Will (the dev) and I enter the Jam rather than two separate entries (my solo effort would be crap I admit).

Good

  • Teamwork
  • Atmosphere – very much what we were after
  • Large level
  • Sound track choice (not composed specifically for this project – royalty-free from http://incompetech.com/music/royalty-free/
  • Parallax (scrolling backgrounds). Very pleased with them.

Sad

  • Controls: Could be better! Not being tile-based made the coding more tedious, and in the end we didn’t have time to fine-tune it at all.
  • Level design: There’s one place where you get stuck, and it’s not always obvious which platforms can be stood on

Different if done again/more time

  • Better shading
  • Particles to make Treasure more obvious and cooler
  • More obvious where you can stand – maybe add another layer to the engine so that platform highlights can be overlaid on the ‘scene’ layer
  • More hand-shaded graphics.
  • Add a music composer to the team

 

1. fluffy stuff 

I love the theme, it conjures up ideas of James Bond/Despicable Me/the Incredibles mega-villains. My creativity raced. But then we had to tone it down as we wanted the game to be playable by kids (the Dev is a particularly protective Victorian father!!!).

I don’t regret, but it definitely made the artwork more challenging for me as my natural style is a bit darker and grimier. We’d decided the day before to do a 2d platformer, but using 3d graphics and without tiling. We took a huge amount of inspiration from this cartoon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neXDENKnC7A <jump 2 mins in. Maybe you can see it, maybe not.

Deliberate game-play choices included:

  1. No death. When you run out of lives (the 9 cats at the bottom), the end splash shows you going to gaol not dead
  2. No attack. The player has to avoid all the enemies, and they do not noticeable ‘attack’ the player. This also reduced the feature list.

 

2. Tools

Will developed the level editor over the first two days. Of course it took longer than we’d expected but for me this was an excellent feature and made the overall game much faster to deliver. It definitely was goal-orientated – it has quirks and missing features but was more than adequate for me to test artwork and build the level. The final level composition only took about an hour(!). Also, it allowed me to save to GitHub, thus eliminating the endless emailing of artwork for consolidation that was a bottleneck last time. I’ll let Will do the post-mortem on the tools but for me this was a massive plus.

screenshot of level editor

3. graphics

the most obvious feature is that it’s not tile based. By the final build we had 6 layers (counting player, enemy and treasure as a single layer). The majority of the platform graphics were G3D format models built in Blender and all using the same texture. I had difficulties with getting the depth right to not cut off or draw in front of the objects.

layers

The level builder including an auto-normals function but we forgot to use it before submitting. :C

The reason we used 3D graphics was because we’d planned to use better lighting effects but like so much these got de-scoped due to time.

The background Parallax uses large PNG files with hand-drawn shading. 2d graphics made using bog-standard MS Paint, GIMP , plus a Bamboo graphics tablet.

 

come ‘nd ‘ave a go if you think you’re ‘ard enuff!!!

Posted by
Sunday, December 16th, 2012 6:39 am

managed to slip a goat into the plot. Using Blender and exporting in G3D format. Using a quite different animation style than I am used to, but so far things are going well.

guard-goat

guard-goat

thou shalt be there

Posted by
Saturday, December 8th, 2012 3:21 pm

3rd full LD for team Will Edwards (http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/author/william_edwards/)

Last game was a bit of a flop at the box office but we were pleased with it anyways. But we’ve learned a few lessons; this one won’t be multi-player online!

Will and I will share the design, Will will code, I’ll do graphics and audio.

 

If anyone wants to join the team to provide backing music please get in touch.

Cage Flight: Post Mortem #2 (the graphics guy)

Posted by
Sunday, September 2nd, 2012 1:48 pm

At the ungodly hour of 7am on Saturday 25th August we found out the theme, and had a bit of a brainstorm whereby we arrived at fighting, in space, in a cage. Obvious really. 

To play Cage Flight: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-24/?action=preview&uid=10313

For a more technical post-mortem see http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/2012/08/30/cage-flight-autopsy/

 

We started a bit behind due to time zones, and we had a bit shorter anyway as although the deadline for jam entries is not until Monday evening, Monday is a work day for both of the team. But that’s no excuse, we still had plenty of time to build a game. Our team this time were:

Concept: Joint between Will (http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/author/william_edwards/) and me, with him having final vote

Coding: Will

Art & Audio: Me

Special thanks: A guy called Philip (Dev in 0AD) for timely advice, Glest community for play-testing and gameplay videos

 

Start

Not a bad start. For a moment our hearts sunk as going in we’d assessed Evolution as one of the more challenging themes as it implies characters having to evolve. But despite the initial glumness we suddenly made the association to Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest and saw that that can be misinterpreted to me conflict, combat and generally fun/cool things. We put aside our ideas of simulated deer populations and focused on the essence of conflict, one against all combat to the death. Um, in a cage, in space. In parody of MMA/UFC, we called it Cage Flight. It’s a multi-player in-browser flight-combat game, quite arcade and really basic in the sense it’s just you against everybody.

 

Graphics

This wasn’t really a challenging graphics assignment for me. Unlike the LD23 entry which was two days of solid drawing (http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-23/?action=preview&uid=10313). Overall we are quite pleased with the graphics; they give it the feel we wanted and look decent enough. Of course we’d do more and better if we had more time.

 

2D graphics

I did the game intro flash within the first couple of hours. I had a brainwave to pay homage to the Streetfighter logo:

It’s not a straight copy of course, but by-eye that’s the feel I wanted to give it. A bit comic/pop-art, a bit retro and not taking itself too seriously. To balance the Streetfighter bias at the beginning, I made the death splash a Mortal Kombat reference. We also had a splash for winning but it isn’t used as the player just plays until they are either killed or close the browser window.

At the end we also had the idea of combining the intro flash with the help menu, so we added a graphic to show the keyboard controls. Except that we kept changing the controls as we play tested so I kept having to re-do it.

 

Models

We opted for G3D models created in Blender. This is the format Glest RTS uses so we are familiar with it. It’s not the best format in some respects but completely adequate. A few tricks I employed to speed up the mass-production of models:

a) All models use the same base texture. It’s a 256×256 PNG with no transparency or team color etc. I don’t do the typical way of skinning models, I can’t explain it but an ex[erienced blender artist would think it’s quite basic what I do, but it’s quick.

b) Each model is an evolution of one of the previous ones. Not starting from scratch. I manipulate base meshes like cubes and cylinders, and never use sculpting. Everything is by eye.

c) Little re-work; generally I make it up as I go along and live with the results.

 

We intended to have 8 ships – I wanted to have a pre-game lobby where you pick your ship and maybe even your camouflage scheme. Each ship would have different stats, so you would chose firepower against armor etc.  Will didn’t think it added anything so we just made the player have a random ship. All the ships perform equally. Also, firepower and armor became irrelevant – due to time we went for 1 hit 1 kill which played better anyway.

Early iteration of ‘Rhino’ space fighter, and in-game version. Every time I tweaked the texture it was applied to all ships.

The design of this ship is influenced by helicopter gunships and mechs

 

Audio

Not my thing but I’d found Audacity and Bfxr. Great for sound effects. I made masses of sound effects for power-ups, explosions and collecting coins. The only one we ended up needing was the lasing zap (yep, we know lasers don’t make sounds).

We had planned to record human voice for intro and narrative. We tried but my microphone wasn’t up to it and I couldn’t figure out how to remove background static. So frantically I searched for text to speech programs and found an online version of Mary text to speech engine. Great, very pleased with the results!

 

Things we dropped

  • Client-side slerping
  • Coins, credits and scoring. Health points, power-ups
  • Ships having distinct flight/combat charactristics
  • Explosion effects
  • Winning criteria and flash, high-scores board
  • Cockpit-view

 

Good and bad

Well the graphics were a success, and well within the time limits. We didn’t have time to add explosions, particles or better laser effects (currently draws a line programmatically).

During the build our main pains was around Quaternions. See Will’s autopsy for details of that. Due to that we ditched some features but actually simple is better anyway.

In the final play our main problem is simply server FPS. Our server was running at 8 FPS and now 12 FPS. From feedback people are expecting more.

Another problem is that it’s multi-player. That was what we set out to build, but it means that if you join the game and no one else is in, there’s not much for you to do. A third problem may be the flight controls. They are configured for things like speed and turn rates to be cumulative, and I think some people may mistake this as lag or general unresponsiveness.

 

Evolved version

Are we going to continue building the game with credits, health points, player personalisation, high-score keeping, client side drawing… no. We are deep in playing and rating other people’s LD submissions and already we are inspired to build completely different games.

BRING ON LUDUM DARE 25!!!! 

Darwin’s Isle: The game we DIDN’T build!

Posted by
Saturday, September 1st, 2012 8:43 am

Post-comp storyboard of the game we didn’t build

For the game we DID build, go here http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-24/?action=preview&uid=10313

I just need to get this idea off my chest. Long before the theme got picked I had it in my head that there must be some sort of Sims-like game concept around evolution. A bit like Sim-Life (1992, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SimLife) except I’d never heard of that game. And not just lip-service to the subject, but a semi-serious model using generations, mutations, environment blah blah. Now there are some serious flaws to this idea, chiefly that it’d probably be boring to play. Also, the storyboards in my heard are not 48 or 72hrs of work. I applaud the games submitted here that go some way to this dream – I’ve played a couple that are a lot like my idea.

In my idea you would have a self-contained ecosystem. An island seems obvious. The player starts with some herds/populations of basic animals. You can control time and the environment, like weather. The species evolve algorithmically including a degree of random mutation and a Natural Selection criteria. A bit like a virtual pet, you have to look after these species, watching them evolve. Only like 10 or more virtual pets at the same time. Graphically the herds would be represented by a 3D models, like a representative sample. which would mutate via bone animation – eg if the trees grow taller the tree-eating animals get longer necks.

Well, the more I write about it and mock-up screens, the duller and more complex it seems. Glad we did our combat sim instead.

Cage Flight: Only 6 hrs to go

Posted by
Monday, August 27th, 2012 11:07 am

Screenshot of someone firing at me on the test server. I fired back but whoever it was won.

Feeling quite pleased actually. Some polish to add but the core multi-player combat works.  I think we’ll leave the colored walls that we added for testing, doesn’t look as cool but far easier to keep track of where you are.

Screenshot of 5 players (I’m the one nearest the camera) doing mock dogfights in the cage. We had 12 players, 10 simultaneously. Even without the combat bit yet it’s great fun to play, and not too easy either!

 

The space ships are currently drawn a bit small plus other issues but well on the way again!

We were having a lot of trouble with a bug in the flight dynamics that threatened to kill the project, but thanks to a volunteer from GameDev forum at StackOverflow we got  through that. He has helped tremendously and deserves full mention in the credits. The multiplayer is working, obviously. Just need the combat.

Cage flight update

Posted by
Sunday, August 26th, 2012 5:20 am

The game is called Cage Flight: Survival of the Fittest. it involves shooting at other players (aiming for MMO!!! or at least two player) as a form of unnatural selection.

Just finished another round of polishing the space fighter models. In the game they don’t have names or distinct stats (yet!!) but it seems obligatory to give the cheesy dangerous animal names.

Very deliberately all of the models wear the same texture, with no transparency or ‘team’ colours. They are generally low poly, with between 200 and 350 triangles per model. The normals aren’t great but I’m not going to cry over that.

 

Overall game is coming on great although still got some way to go on gameplay

Day 2

Posted by
Sunday, August 26th, 2012 1:03 am

intro splash

A day in the life of the graphics bod is fun, fun, fun! Well, I’m also by default the audio bloke too, which is something I am really not qualified in. Anyone who’s heard me sing would cringe at the mere thought.

I used BFXR http://www.bfxr.net/ for the main sound effects. Love that program.

We then attempted to record a girl’s voice for speech sound effects. Recording is easy, but editing out the background noise and static proved too painful given the time scale so we hatched plan-B. After some searching (and much frustration) I found Mary which is an open-source text-to-speech program that exports to WAV. We will probably convert to OGG format but anyway WAV is at least something we can work with in Audacity. Very happy with the result, it has the right touch of constipated darlic we wanted. http://www.findbestopensource.com/product/mary

Graphics To-do list:

* Help splash showing keyboard controls

* Winning and losing splashes

* Explosion (G3D probably, not sure if we’ll have time to add particle effects)

* Bullet G3D files

 

Will already posted this progress video from last night but if anyone hasn’t seen it and cares… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fS-JMsLi2E0 <we have made a lot of progress since then.

2.5hr mark (we started late due to time zones!)

Posted by
Saturday, August 25th, 2012 12:08 am

taking a break for a moment, thought I’d blog an update. If anyone is reading this, STOP!!!. Get back to building games at once, the clock is ticking!

 

Well the first couple of hours have flown by. Have first test models. What a space fighter has to do with Evolution? Only we know 😉

Model and textures built from scratch in last hour or so

early start

Posted by
Friday, August 24th, 2012 10:54 pm

the theme is announced at about 2am my time. With inspired timing I decided to have a few jars last night so the early morning start is not really what my body wants to do. Up at 06.30, coffee, water, switch on laptop and iphone, log into skype, react to theme, get enthusiastic.

EVOLUTION

Has brainstormed with the lead dev (it’s a jam entry and I’m the graphics lead) and we’ve decided on our plan. Have already started churning out test/default graphics. We thought about modelling genetics, we thought about herds of wilderbeast mutating into land-sharks… but then we thought of something even better. And do-able in 72 hours.

The main tool we are using is Skype. All other tools are secondary right now.

 

 

 

Lud, Um & Dare

Posted by
Sunday, August 19th, 2012 2:28 pm

Ok, so this is not an accurate depiction of the team, except for the ears. But who wants a cartoon without a daring darling leading the way??!?

Last time around at LD23 we deliberately tried old-school, with 2D graphics (http://williame.github.com/ludum_dare_23_tiny_world_post_compo/background1_cheat.jpg). This time I expect we’ll go back to 3D graphics so I won’t be getting my bamboo pad out next weekend.

I plan to use Blender for 3D graphics, Paint and Gimp for 2-graphics like skins, intros etc.

jammin’ AWESOME!!!!

Posted by
Sunday, August 19th, 2012 4:53 am

Awesome is one of those words that’s lost its meaning, especially when typed in caps with a bunch of superfluous exclamation marks after it.
Me: I’ll send you the docs by COB
Colleague: AWESOME!!!!
…no, it’s not. You are just easily impressed.

HOWEVER, in the British, reserved and understated use of the world, I would like to declare the upcoming compo as “Awesome”. In capital letters and with extra exclamation marks. AWESOME!!!!!

Voting has started, need to find a way to sleep as much as possible this week in preparation for a mammoth weekender jammin’ with my buddies. Second time out in a proper compo, and just as excited as this time 4 months ago! We have so many ideas, but only 72 hours! So short!

Now I just need to sort out my excuses for conflicting social engagements. How do i tell people that I have better things to be doing, like sitting in front of my laptop all weekend eating junk food? Ok, is junk food might be too much to hope for?

Micro post mortem -Small World of Professor Strange

Posted by
Sunday, May 13th, 2012 1:26 am

This’ll have to be quick as I am writing this on an iPhone and the tiny keyboard and auto-misscorrection is killing me. I’m away from home and should be relaxing sipping beer, but instead I’m micro-analysing our ludum dare jam entry.

Our game, the small world of professor strange ( http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-23/?action=preview&uid=10313 ) was quite daring in the sense that very few text adventures are entered. We wanted to be different, plus we had our own ideas how text adventures could be made more up to date. Text adventures are vintage, but I remember spending hours playing them in the 80s. Everyone had a friend who’d already completed them all so you knew it was possible, you just couldn’t find the right key or tool or wherever.

Want went right:
The artwork (my part) went much better than expected. We chose to be different and hand draw everything in ms paint and rendered in GIMP. The real reason was because it’s the fastest way I could create masses of artwork. We drew a sketchmap first, then I rendered it (4-6 hrs) then we started characters, sketches and interiors.

I also think the coding and text content went great considering the time limits. The whole project was smoothly coordinated, except calling James in at short notice to help with some text.

What we could do better:
For sure we underestimated the problem of not having good text parsing for commands. We knew we couldn’t write a decent natural language parser in 72hrs so we didn’t even try. You have to enter valid commands as laid out in the JavaScript data file. This is an obvious barrier to entry, many players get frustrated very quickly. The most consistent criticism we’ve had is that text parsing is missing and help not obvious enough (we improved that in a post entry update).

Another pain point was text saturation. We placed text descriptions in the relevant location on the map, but these soon get overcrowded and overlapping. Again we improved this after entry but it’s definitely something that could do with more attention. The fundemental idea of putting the text in the location is a good one I think.

Amusingly we also got someone pointing out spelling mistakes and grammar (mostly bad cut and pasts actually). Oh well you cannot please everyone.

Overall I’m quite pleased. Looking forward to LD#24, I think well keep the team and do something quite different.

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