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[Post Mortem]: Copulus – the love making, weight lifting god game

Posted by (twitter: @zapakitul)
Monday, August 25th, 2014 3:04 am

copulus_logo

Copulus is a 2D God Game in which you have to help your subjects populate their little world. In order to achieve this you need to balance their need for social interaction (and copulation) with the need to survive. I decided to try and stream line the “god game” mechanics and let the player focus on only a few tasks, as opposed to regular god games where you have to manage many different needs (housing, hunger, peril, happiness, loyalty, security, etc). In order for your population to survive and expand you only need to make sure they are feed, safe and can interact with each other. I even took this approach a bit further and merged survival/peril with hunger satisfaction. Before I go into the, regular, What went Right, What went Wrong topic I would like to present my approach for this entry:

Limitations breed creativity

Before the theme was announced I already established how far I can stretch things. I know from previous experiences how hard it is to stay on track of the initial design and how many features end up being thrown away in order to finish “something” before the time runs out. So for this edition of Ludumdare, I’d like to say I came prepared. Here are my, self-imposed, limitations:

  • 256×384 resolution (upscaled to 512×768)
  • must involve some kind of an AI
  • must be tile based.

Three rules in total. Three rules that, once the theme was announced, helped me establish a clear goal. For example, the small resolution and tile-based approach helped me establish the art style, level and user interface design. Working on a 256×384 screen I could only fit 8 / 12 tiles (32×32) on the screen, or 16/24  tiles at 16×16 pixels each.  The AI requirement weighted in favor of the strategy genre and, it’s subclass, the god game genre.

From here on, I went with the entire map being confined to a single screen (in order to have a good view of your population, and not have to hunt for them everywhere). This also affected my User Interface Design and Experience, since It had to take as little screen space as possible. Little screen space for UI implied having only a handful of buttons during game play which, combined with the god-game thematic, had me limit what tasks the player could focus on. A small amount of tasks for the player to perform required me to streamline the entire “god game” approach and make it as minimalistic as possible (the soul experience as I like to refer to it). You can see how things developed further on.

training_gif

What went right

  • Using a WIKI to plan ahead. Features, classes, how the AI should perform, etc [click here for a screenshot of the wiki].
  • Not stretching further than I can and imposing strict limits.
  • Making fake-screenshots(mockups) before beginning development so I can plan my interaction approach.
  • Using tools and frameworks that I was familiar with.
  • Selecting a limited color palette to work with.
  • The UI only interaction means that I can also port the game to tablets.
  • Using “procedural” generation to save time (from level design) and focus on other areas.
  • Nailed the risk-reward motif due to Wolves acting as a source of food but also damage to the units.

What went wrong

  • My innate lack of knowledge when it comes to composing and/or generating appropriate sound effects.
  • Having to remove the “convergence” scene. After winning a level, the player was supposed to reach a new world with his highest level followers and watch them fight off the inhabitants. I regret removing because it would have had a better tie in with this jam’s theme. Further more, I had a system which allowed the player to revisit worlds that have been previously populated, to see how they are doing.
  • The game’s balance is a bit off. Level progression of your followers vs level progression of the wolves is tipped in favor of your followers for the first few levels. A few wolf summons in and you can only take them on if you have a high level character that survived.
  • Social interactions are only represented by heart animations on individuals, but it’s hard to tell who “copulated” with whom. More so, a death of a birth of an individual is represented by their respective sprite disappearing from the game.
  • Health, hunger and level indicators are way to small and crammed into a unit’s sprite.
  • The tutorial is just a image and does not convey all the information needed.

blood_gore

Conclusion

I feel that with each Ludumdare event I partake in I can quantify my progress as a Designer. My first entry required the player to quit the game in order to restart the level and featured only mechanics but no clear goal (also no Ui of any kind). In my last LD (7DRTS) attempt I finally had a entry with no missing UI options and a clear navigation path. You can see where I’m going with this. But all in all, I’m glad that with each submission I end up acquiring new knowledge. As far as limitations go I believe that it’s better to know what you should not do as opposed to not knowing what to do. Hopefully my next LD submission will blow this one out of the water.

You can play and rate the game here. Linux, Mac and, hopefully, Android coming tonight. I’ve also uploaded it to itch.io and, in the weekend, will release a post-compo version that has sound and the features that were cut off.

30 hours into #LD30

Posted by (twitter: @zapakitul)
Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 11:46 pm

AI States have been completed. Warriors can now train, idle, hunt and produce new warriors. When hunt mode is enabled, wolves will spawn through portals scattered on the map and attack. Hunger/health and level systems has been implemented.

  • Successfully killing a wolf will fill a warrior’s hunger meeter. Also rewards XP (Albeit, way less then training mode)
  • In Idle mode health is regenerated. Hunger starts to rise.
  • In training mode the warriors train and can advance levels (increasing their stats), but their hunger level rises.
  • If two or more warrior’s are in IDLE mode, there’s a chance they will engage in conversation that will result with the addition of a new member to the tribe.
Every day is #LD48 upper body day!

Every day is #LD48 upper body day!

fwm_pr_3_gif

Only 18 hours left and there is still so much left to do. At least it’s starting to shape up.

Edit: Ok, just for you guys, some better GORE:

fwm_blood

 

 

Progress report: 16h in

Posted by (twitter: @zapakitul)
Saturday, August 23rd, 2014 9:35 am

Read the previous post [4h in] here.

Game status:

The entity system has been completed. Warriors and wolves are now in the game. They only have a rudimentary AI so that’s the next thing I’m tackling. At current time, the following things have been added:

  • Procedural island generation
  • Save system for previous visited island/worlds
  • Warrior class with 3 states (Idle, Hunting, Sleeping) and 2 stances (inTown, inCombat)

I also came to realize that a WIKI is invaluable for this competition. It really helps me organize my thoughts and properly tackle the tasks at hand. Here’s how my page looks like:

wiki - best GDD EVAH

And here’s a gif with the current state of the game:

fwm_wolves_added

Fantasy Warrior Manager: 4h in

Posted by (twitter: @zapakitul)
Friday, August 22nd, 2014 9:55 pm

The Game:

Fantasy Warrior Manager is a 2D tile-based game, designed around the limitations of a NDS screen, in which the player assumes the role of a Tribe Leader. He must train and provide food for his warriors, in order to make them stronger. Every week a cosmic event takes place and merges the worlds of the game into one, and a battle between tribes take place. The goal of the game is to get your population to survive for one month (in-game time).

Technical (Self-imposed limitations):

  • 256×384 resolution
  • 16×16 tiles (for the backgrounds and characters) and 16×32 / 32×16 / 32×32 for the actual buildings

Challenges:

  • work around the small resolution
  • establish a way to visually differentiate between units
  • find a way to represent armies of units on a screen that can only display 16 tiles on the X axis and 24 on the Y
  • create a non-intrusive UI that can work on a small screen-space
  • design a fun AI to give the player a run for his “money”
  • do all of this in <48h

Progress Report:

  • 4 hours into the challenge: I only made some mock-ups of the game’s art style and ui. Now that I know what direction I want to take, I can start coding. Here are two FAKE screenshots:

game_mockup_1 game_mockup_2

I hereby declare that I shall partake in the 30th edition

Posted by (twitter: @zapakitul)
Thursday, August 21st, 2014 4:27 am

I’m in for this edition of Ludumdare for the 4th time.

Tools of the trade:

  • Sublime Text
  • My Chaurus Framework (built on-top of MOAI SDK)
  • LUA and C++ as my languages of choice
  • Paint.NET for the art

As for the limitations I’m imposing myself for this entry:

  • Must involve some kind of an AI
  • 10 buttons limit
  • 256 × 192 resolution (Nintendo DS style)
  • 16 color palette

Bonus Round:

  • Playable with the same control scheme on PC and Mobile
  • Audio feedback on every input/action

 

As for a closing statement, I’m going to take part in this challenge from Mobility-Games’s office. Hopefully I can do something really neat so that I can get my co-workers into jamming with me next time. Probably not going to be able to stream, but I will tweet the hell out of my entry (@zapakitul).

Best of luck everyone and remember:

  • Newcomers: All you have to do is FINISH something. It doesn’t have to be unique, it doesn’t have to be outstanding or win any awards. It just needs to be finished.
  • Everyone else: Give me good games to play and rate!

o/

 

I’m in for October Challenge with Mutant Gangland

Posted by (twitter: @zapakitul)
Monday, September 30th, 2013 10:24 am

I’m in for this October Challenge. The game I’m currently working on is Mutant Gangland, a Turn Based Strategy game set in a floating wasteland in which Mutants and Exo Mutants fight for control of the island. I keep a devlog on Devsofa and I will most likely share allot of stuff in the upcoming days.

Here’s a fresh vid:

 

Best of luck to everyone!

Mini Wars – WIP for another 6-7 hours

Posted by (twitter: @zapakitul)
Monday, July 29th, 2013 5:47 am

I decided to take part in this Mini LD as a reply to a challenge issued by an ex-coworker of mine on twitter. The goal was to develop a game for the jam in just one weekend as opposed to 7Days. I’m already past the 48h mark, but my challenger forfeited so I guess it’s either a nil-nil or I win by default. Anyway, my game for this Mini-LD is called MINI WARS, as a token to a great turn-based strategy game that I love, Advance Wars (GBA and NDS).

mini_wars_7drts

This is how the game looks at this point. I wanted to go with a Gameboy Advance / Gameboy classic feel combined with UI elements of the Nintendo DS. All the graphics, except for the portrait and level indicator (arrow in screen 2) have been drawn by me on Friday, with some updates during the weekend.

Gameplay:

  • Turn based
  • 3 types of units: Infantry, Tanks and Mechs (rock-paper-scissors)
  • Terrain matters: Buildings and Trees raise defense, water lowers it and bases (square buildings with a flag) restore HP each turn.
  • Each unit has 16 action points. Movement costs 4 AP / TILE while shooting requires 8 AP.

Here’s a video I uploaded a few minutes ago to youtube:

Note that the AI is as dumb as a sack of puppies. Reason is that I broke the pathfinding code near the 48h mark when I updated my Grid class and had little to no time to rewrite it with many other stuff left unfinished. Probably, after the jam, I’ll re-write the entire thing from ground up and port it to Android in order to check the market (free-to-play, no IAP).

What left? Options menu, about and In-Game-Menu, + two more levels. The game is designed for 480×320 resolution, but can be upscaled from the Options Menu.

Developed using MoaiSDK and LUA (+ some C++ for some edits to the HOST – lua player).

 

MIWarfare Postmorted and Post-Jam version

Posted by (twitter: @zapakitul)
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 9:09 am

Minimal Interaction Warfare

When I first started MIW the goal was simple: A 2D war fighting game in which the player placed his troops, issued orders and sat back to follow the outcome. I guess I can say I succeeded as my entry featured all the above. The down falls? No sound, over powered player units and little-to-no-polish. That’s why I decided to release a second, post-jam, version with a simple Main Menu, more maps and balanced gameplay. The game still has no sound effects and music because, well… um, I have little-to-no talent in that area and I wanted to keep things in the spirit of Ludumdare where all the assets are created by me. Maybe in another version, when things settle down (I still have to release another Pimps vs Vampires version this week, and I also have some freelancing work to attend).

Minimal Interaction Warfare - Post Ludumdare Edition

Gameplay

The first thing a player must do, when the game starts, is to deploy his units. He has 1300 points which he can exchange for Soldiers and Tanks. Both unit types can be placed on the lower part of the screen (2 rows). After deploying all of his units the player can assign orders to each one (move to position X and defend or move to position and engage/attack). He can also skip this phase and start the simulation (in the post-ludumdare version orders can also be issued by pausing the game mid-play). Player and enemy units clash somewhere in the middle of the map. The game can be won by either defeating all the enemy units or by successfully sending 3 units on the opponent’s starting rows.

Graphics

I’m happy with the way I handled the creation of assets. I decided to go with 16×16 (that I upscaled to 32×32 in the game), each sprite having no more then 4 colors. They all turned out well enough, units were distinguishable and you could tell what each tile on the map represented. For the post-jam version I created 2 more versions of the map tiles for Autumn and Winter maps. All in all, I handled this part well (by my standards)

3_environments

Programming

I decided to stick with LUA for this Jam but I changed just about all the tools that I used in previous jams. The framework I used was MOAI SDK (for which I wrote a basic wrapper) and my IDE was Sublime 2. Coding started out well but halfway through I started hacking things together, which as always, turned everything into a mess. I have more nested if statements in game.lua then your average pop singer amount of twitter followers.

If I were to summarize everything in “Good” and “Bad” things would look like this:

The good

  • Assets
  • I finished what I set up to create
  • Good choice of language and tools

The bad

  • No sound effects and music
  • Didn’t get to add a navigation menu
  • Underpowered AI and units

The ugly

  • My code.

That’s about it. I look forward to the next edition of Ludumdare and other gamejams that might be thrown my way. You can download the post-jam version of MIW here or, alternatively, you can check out the version made in 48 hours. If you took part in the jam then feel free to also rate it :)

P.s. I’m Open Sourcing the code under CC-3.0 for non-commercial use. The assets are available under CC-3.0 SA  and the .pdn (Paint dotNet) file can be downloaded from OpenGameArt. Feel free to fork the project on github and alter it. Going to try and work on MIW during my spare time, to add new units, fix bugs and improve code readability.

[ Re-posted from my personal blog ]

Minimal Interaction Warfare: Update 2

Posted by (twitter: @zapakitul)
Sunday, April 28th, 2013 7:10 am

Less then 12 hours left and a lot is left to do. The gameplay mechanics are in and working as they should (most of them). Gonna spend the following 5-6 hours playing around with FamiTracker.

Gameplay:

The objective is to eliminate all the enemy troops before their reach the bottom layer. Each enemy that exits the grid will take 1 life away from the player. 0 lifes left and, well, you know the drill:

ludumdare-26-game-over

At the start of the game the player has a certain number of points (still tuning the number) which he can exchange for troops: Soldiers and Tanks (maybe two more if I have the time). Soldiers have a smaller range and health than tanks but their fire rate is bigger. After units are deploy the player may set a path for them to follow (send them towards certain positions so they can flank the enemy, have them move between two points, etc). Once the game starts, the AI takes over and the player will watch if his strategy pays off.

ludumdare-26-minimal-gameplay-screenshoot

The invading units (Red guys) have the same stats as the player units. They advance towards the lower part of the screen and change position on the X axis, sometimes backtracking to avoid the player. Once the enemy units pass the middle of the gamefield their attack increases by 2 for each tile from the first row. So camping on the last layer isn’t quite a good option. Their position and unit types are randomized in the beginning.

ludumdare-26-path-and-defend

Setting a soldier’s wacky path with the “defend” option selected.

Now it’s time to experiment with Fami Tracker and add sounds and (hopefully) a soundtrack. If times allows me I will try to “juice” the game a bit with some animations and maybe a few more units. But, this is what you should expect in the final version.

P.s. Will package the game to run on Windows and Android (MOAI). After the deadline, I’ll build MOAI for Linux and Mac and get it working on those platforms.

Soo, what do you guys think?

Minimal Interaction: Strategy Game – Update 1

Posted by (twitter: @zapakitul)
Saturday, April 27th, 2013 4:42 am

Well, I was really not wishing for minimalistic to be voted as a theme for this Ludumdare but, well, C’est la vie. The way I see it, I can take one of the following routes:

  • Minimal Graphics: Monochrome or simple geometric figures
  • Minimal Gameplay: small set of goals and interaction options
  • Have a character named “Malistic, Mini Malistic”

I decided to go with option number two and design a small “strategy game” with little to no interaction during game play. The basic idea is this: The player has a certain number of points at his disposal. By spending those points he can buy and deploy troops on the battlefield at the start of the game: Infantry, Rocketers, Tanks and Anti-infantry Vehicles. He must assess the situation and, based on the amount of points as his disposal, choose the best possible line-up. After he places his units and clicks start they will proceed to search for the enemy on the map.  At this point, the player will only be able to mark certain locations as important (and thus, a few units nearby will go towards that location) or drop Health Packs (to aid his units).  Here’s a screenshot featuring the current progress:

Minimal Interaction Warfare

That’s about it for now. I’m actually curious to where I can take this game.

 

 

Call me a printer

Posted by (twitter: @zapakitul)
Friday, April 26th, 2013 12:41 am

Because I’m about to Jam.

And just like any printer, I have prepared my ink cartridges ( props go to @ThomasNoppers for the color palette), got a fresh new batch of dark, sublimely beautiful, paper, a brand new USBase-code and my driver is powered by MOAI SDK. Most of my ink will be consumed by drawings made in Paint.NET.

So yeah, cheers to a new Ludumdare and to all you guys.

Monster Stampede – Early mockup

Posted by (twitter: @zapakitul)
Saturday, December 15th, 2012 2:51 am

Went to bed last night after the theme was announced. I was hoping for “end of the world” and already had an idea in mind that I could hack right away. Once I noticed that “You are the villain” has won I decided to take a nap and try and approach the theme later. Well, taking the nap was a great idea, as I woke up with a plan.

I drew a quick mockup of the game as soon as I finished breakfast, and some character sprites. Drawing allows me to think about possible scenarios the characters could find themselves in and visualize some game mechanics. Here’s what I came up with:
Monster Stampede mockup

The basic idea? The player controls a group of cute-yet-deadly monsters. Each of them are in different parts of the world. The goal? Get them all safe to the rendezvous point and open the gates of hell. Each monster has his own path towards the end goal. For example, SMUC-Bunny (above mockup) was picking up skulls in the lushes garden when he got called. He must fight his way through Cops, Militia and Swat Teams (and maybe kill a few squirrels on the way).

As far as mechanics, the player must slash through the enemies and dodge their projectiles. WASD for movement and Space to attack. There will be a maximum of 6?-7? enemies on screen. By killing enemies the character get’s a speed boost (nitro-blood? :D) allowing him to reach the goal much, much faster.

Here’s a lineup of the current drawn monsters(and foes):
Monster Stampeede Chars

Gonna spend a few more hours polishing the design aspects of the game.

ZapaMan reporting for duty

Posted by (twitter: @zapakitul)
Friday, December 14th, 2012 4:01 pm

From withing the darkness,
I raise my weary keys,
And as I press the buttons,
A voice whispers to me.

“Ludumdare you should join,
and take part in thee,
but you should make games, not poetry.”

So for 48 hours I will sweat and code,
And with a bit of luck, I will strike gold.

Hope the poem turned out alright. Anyway, I’m in for my 3rd Ludumdare. Probably going to use Lua + love2D + LDT (lua development tools), Paint.NET for graphics and Audacity to record sounds. Best of luck to all.

Genetics-Pop

Posted by (twitter: @zapakitul)
Saturday, August 25th, 2012 8:11 am

So, here’s my progress report for the game, as it is right now! Decided to call it Genetics-Pop, because you spend most of the time making a row of 3 cells of the same type, in order to mutate the organism! Each successful mutation awards the player a few extra seconds and points, which can be spent on bombs (bombs mutate a 3×3 square).

Each level requires a certain number of cells to be “mutated” in order to be completed! After each level, the organism, at the bottom of the screen “acquires” a new limb/feature. The game is lost when the timer reaches 0, or when there are too many (not sure how many now) active cells on the screen.

That’s it for now!

That

Posted by (twitter: @zapakitul)
Friday, August 24th, 2012 3:20 am

Quit my job, moved into my parrents basement (till I find a new suitable apartment), looking forward to go indie, full time. This being said, I have no excuse to not be in this round. Missed LD23 due to the crunch time brought by the need to release NOVA3, and I felt bad! With any bit of luck I can use the LD24 game as my first, crappy-ish :D, debut game. Good luck everyone, and may thy pixels and voxels, vertexes and computer specs turn out to be just as awesome as you want them to be!

Going to use the following tools:

  • LOVE2D
  • Lua Development Tools
  • GIMP (+_ paint.NET)
  • Ubuntu 12.04 and a virtualized Windows 7 (for paint.NET)
  • SFXr

 

P.s. had no idea how to name the post, so I went with “that”!

Edit: Forgot to mention: Not sure about livestreaming, but drop me a line @zapakitul on Twitter or G+ , if you are up for a Hangout!

Looking for a partner for the Jam

Posted by (twitter: @zapakitul)
Tuesday, April 10th, 2012 5:07 am

I’m a little saddened that I cannot join the main compo for the 23rd edition LD, hence the deadline for the current project at work is on the 20th. I’ll try to join the jam and see if I can find enough strength left in me to finish something for it. In order to ease things up, I’m looking to join up with someone who wants to enter the jam and needs a coder.

This is my second participation in LD, the first one being LD22. I really loved the last compo, and I know I’d never forget myself if I miss this one (the prototype I made for the LD22 was used as a starting base for a much bigger, personal, project). I’m a decent C++ coder and thanks to AGK (library) I can get a 2D game up and running for iOS, Android and PC in a couple of hours.

So if anyone is looking to join the jam, drop me a message on twitter (@zapakitul), or leave a comment here.

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