Sunday, September 22, 2013

Where ever I lay my hat

So, congrats to newlyweds Heath and Jenna. Less congrats to my hangover.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Fail state

So this weekend I'm trapped away from a computer... And my backup plan of having art already done has fallen through (on account of only drafting one post before I left). Cousin's wedding though, so what was I going to do? 

So to make up for it I was going to draw up something on this tablet, but right now that doesn't appear to be an option. So please, enjoy this Limerick instead:

There once was a man from port pirie,
Who found it hard to rhyme things with pirie.
So he laid in bed
With a very sorry head
Something something something rhyming with pirie. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Get a hair cut and get a real job part 2

Some old favorites, some new favorites.

I definitely think I've struggled with the hair the most out of all the layers so far... I'm just glad I made the faces cartoony enough that I could get away with all the oversimplification.

Other things I've learnt:
- I need to redo the ears for all of the face variants to fit the hairlines.
- If I want to do facial hair (and of course, I do) that needs to be a separate layer under hair. Which is fine, because I need somewhere for eyebrows, and what are eyebrows if not little moustaches for your eyes?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Get a haircut, and get a real job

So I thinking 8 different hairstyles (plus bald I guess). I'm also thinking it's going to be easier to just make the hats variants of the hair and keep it in the same layer, so I'm going to do that instead.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Take off your coat and jacket

I think 4 jackets is going to be fine, since the enemy wont always be wearing them. There's still multiple colour variants so that's more than enough. I am waaaaaaaaaaay too tired to talk about much else tonight.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Shirt off my back part 2

... And here is the other half of the shirts. The super big white one kind of breaks the size restrictions of the other shirts, so I was going to convert that to be a jacket. Unfortunately, the size isn't right for that either... So at the moment it's just going to kind of sit in limbo until I work out what to do with it. I've got plenty of other options so its not a big deal if it gets dropped.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The shirt off my back

So, I dunno why but I've gone a little overboard with shirts. This is only about half of them, plus I had additional colours and patterns for each one. S'all good.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Pantsman Part 2

So... Pants, eh? What have they even done for us lately? Nothing, that's what. Constricting. Uncomfortable. Itchy. The list of complaints go on and on. But not the list of pants for this pose. That caps at 8.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Pantsman Part 1

Pants! What can you say about them that would truly do them justice. They protect you from Nature's harsh realities. They keep you warm on a cold winter's night. I wear them daily, and so (probably) do you. So, let us raise our drinks and cheer on that unsung hero, pants.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sock it to me

So, yeah: Socks. What can you say about them? Not a lot. But there they are. Awesome.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Foot Fetish

Ok, so, seven shoes with a bunch of alternate colours should be more than enough. I kind of wanted to be able to have multiple shoes per era, but I'm no footwareologist. I guess maybe I'll look into it more for other poses.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Four heads are better than one

Silly me... Even after sorting out what layers I need and where about they should sit, I still mis-read my own notes. Faces where closest to the body, so they needed to be done first. I think 4 (times 4 different skin tones) should be fine for one pose.

Also after thinking about it some more, there are some additional layers I've missed (Facial hair, socks/stockings, tattoos). Possibly more.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Barred Lines

There was already a couple of things I realised I was doing badly (the boot top clips through the pants, hair specifically made for 1 face type alone) so I thought before I continue on I'd better think about what layer is going where.

I think also this means I've gotta start on the layers closest to the body first, so I hope you like shoes because there's probably going to be a few of them in the next few days.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Take 2

All today I've been kind of been back and forth over whether or not this style and workflow is going to be right for what I'm doing. The idea was that by adopting this kind of "paper doll" structure I could quickly do a lot of different stuff and hence introduce a lot more variety into the game. That thinking still rings true, it's not as fast as I was thinking it was going to be, but it's most definitely going to be quicker than doing individual enemies.

The bigger problem came from the look/style itself. Whenever I was looking at the images so far, I would kind of feel it was going to be enough, but whenever I wasn't I became anxious that there wasn't enough to it but couldn't quite put my finger on why.

If I was being super critical, and I knew I had a lot more time on my hands, I'd definitely think that the pose was lacking in style and attack. I don't know what else I could do to rectify that at the moment aside from starting again from scratch, which I'm not going to do. I know that the pose does leave itself open to a lot of accessory/prop usage though (i.e. I could get a guitar in there, or a walkman, or signed picture of Whitney Houston) so at least that works. I think I'll just have to be mindful to make the other body types more interesting. It's ok to have some boring poses at least.  

Secondly, I thought the colours looked flat and I think also too bright and washed out . I've tried to see what I can do to fix that a little by playing around with gradients, as well as darkening outlines and shadow levels. I'm happier with it but I'm sure there's going to be a few other things I can do. I was possibly being a little too thin with the linework. I'm mindful that a lot of the time I can use lines that are too think and use too much black and shadow, so I was trying to stay away from that here. Maybe I stayed too far away. I'm not sure if there's much else I can do about it without altering things quite a lot, so I might just follow the same guidelines for the moment.

I am worried about some knock on effects from this change though. Firstly, I don't know how I'll be able to get the gradients/shadows into the system I was planning on using in GameMaker. It may mean rethinking how that will be put together. To be honest though, I didn't know if it was going to work initially anyway though, so I guess there's nothing truly lost here. Secondly, I'm a little worried this means I'm going to have to assess gradients/shadows for every colour for each object. The idea was going to be that I do an outline, a colour, a shadow and a highlight and then just combine them in game. having a shadow worked fine(-ish) but the gradient might need to be tweaked quite a bit to work over all colour combinations.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

No shirt no shoes no service

So this is taking a little longer than I was really anticipating. I'm also not entirely convinced about the colours either at the moment, but I might wait until I have a background to place it over first.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Ken dolls

The idea with the enemy sprites is that they need to be easy to reuse in different ways. I can easily do different skin tones, so that turns one pose into 4 enemys. I was toying with the idea of doing 1 head and then having multiple faces/expressions, but it looked kind of boring. Considering I'm doing things kind of cartoony anyway, it's pretty quick for me to just do a bunch of different heads instead, so I'll do that instead. The only problem then is eyebrows and eye colour, but realistically, maybe that doesn't even matter.

So secondary to this, I'll also do hair styles, clothes and accessories. Annoyingly, hairstyles and clothes will need to be specific to each pose, but hopefully I can make the accessories a little more ambiguous so they can be reused.

At the moment, I'm aiming to have about 6 poses all up, but if I'm going to see how long that takes. I'd like to do more if I can because variety is always awesome.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Strike a pose

Ugh... So it's just one of those nights where I just don't seem to be feeling it in my fingers. So I was trying to come up with a starting pose for the first enemy template, but nothing was really coming out. So instead I just kept sketching stuff in the hope that something would come out.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Design phase is over (?)

Alright so that's going to be about it as far as a design phase goes. I already have a fairly good idea of the main mechanics, and now with more of the game screens visualised I'm a little better prepared to make sure how all the pieces will fit together. I'm more than aware there's some things (maybe a lot of things) that still need to be laid out, but at this stage I'd rather focus on getting some kind of complete demo in place, and then do another design phase to think about whats missing.

Rest of the month I'll probably focus on art assets, and then maybe aim to get some of them in the game to test.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Back Up Plan

So if I get the vertical slice finished and it seems like its not going to work, this is the back up plan.

I'll have art and UI started, plus everything around the current 2 core mechanics should be able to work independently of each other. So rather than attacking each other's cred with musical recognition, we'll bring out more RPG-ish gameplay elements and have them fight each other with music instead.

In this scenario, players are a musician, tasked with finding talent and forming a band, and then clearing up the streets. Battles are fought in standard RPG fashion, by choosing attacks or magic, etc, but the difference here will be that the choices you make each turn carry on and have an effect on the next turn. Choosing the right move to follow up strengthens  your attack. Repeating the same attack over and over, or switching attacks at the wrong time weakens them. Consider it (intentionally) like forming a song, play the verse, hook into the chorus and then back to the verse.

Similarly, your band mate's attacks layer, creating harmony or discord in addition to their own effects. Your enemies will be doing the same thing, but you can always anticipate their flow and out do them, or even just drown them out with a guitar solo or something.

Naturally, typical RPG classes are replaced with musicians, and they can level and differentiate as they grow. Your drummer starts out just being able to keep a beat, but depending on how you play him/her they could grow into anything from a death metal drummer to a electronica beat programmer. I'm not sure of the exact correlation between standard RPG classes and what I should do here (or even if I should try and aim for standardized classes), but I would base each musician types strengths off of what they really do, i.e. drummers provide the foundation, set the pace and keep things moving. Guitars are at the forefront and do all the attacking and showboating. Singers bring the soul, etc.

So the biggest problem with this is that it's a lot more work than what I'm doing now. I can reuse pretty much all the art assets, but I'd probably have to do a fair amount more. I would also need to look at progression and probably write some kind of narrative as well. The systems involved are a lot more complicated as well, and I'd need to also add some kind of more in depth player progression system (RPG style). I'd also probably need to do some assorted music tracks for background, or even to match the attacks. Also the name would have to change. Probably from SoundsLike to SoundsFight.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Scrub level design docs

So this isn't really as concise or detailed as it should be, but I do have most of this in my head anyway. Since I'm not exactly relying on anyone else here, it's fine to stay that way. However, this was useful to visualise a couple of areas I hadn't fully fleshed out, plus it's allowed me to pick up a couple of possible development and gameplay issues I might not have noticed until it was too late, so it definitely had some advantages. I'll flesh these out later though, when I start doing work on them.

1. Intro Screen:
Contains Main Menu art in the background (maybe) as a quick way to provide something interesting as a background. The problem there might be that its not really all that musical so it kind of doesn't convey what the game is really about. Name and Icon obviously need to be better thought about too.

Only options for Press Start / Credits at this stage. I'm sure something else is going to come up that will need an option, so there will be space at least. A title/intro screen doesn't need to be too cluttered though so this should be fine.

I may also need to think about a first time/tutorial detour from this screen too.

I want to be able to port this across a variety of screen sizes pretty easily, so I'm going to see about having mobile be a sub-view of the tablet/screen view. I'm pretty sure I can do it, but either way its just going to be re-positioning of the same art assets so it shouldn't be an issue.

2. Main Menu:
The Main Menu is the central hub that allows you to select what time period you'd liked to focus on. It'll take the form of a city that's separated into districts that can then be selected. Each district will differentiate itself using palette and architecture to make obvious the divisions between the districts. The district graphics themselves should be kept as fairly separate vertical bars as well, so that districts can easily be added or removed if the schedule dictates. Districts will move left to right in chronological order, and at this stage will include: 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's, 00's, and Current.

Selecting a district will bring up the name at the bottom of the screen (and maybe some information, like what types of genres are available in that district).  Selecting that  district name takes you to the sub-menu.

There will be some little animated details to keep the screen from appearing too static (clouds, water ripples, etc). It might also be nice to have a day/night animated cycle as well.

Player and Options buttons are kind of just placeholders at the moment. I know I'm going to need something there but I just don't know what yet.

3. Sub Menu:
The Sub Menu is presented like a map that highlights clubs/concert halls/discotheques in the time period. They'll each be represented with an icon that quickly conveys what genre is at each club. Players can scroll around this map to see all the available icons.

I'm a little worried this screen will be a little too static, but I don't know what else I can do here without increasing the workload significantly.

Once again, Player and Options buttons are just kind of placeholder. Player button at this point should probably be a Back button or something.

4. Genre Selection:
Tapping on any of the icons should bring up more details about that club. Specifically, exactly what music and time frame its in,  who the leader is, and how many people you've beaten there already/how close you are to fighting the leader.

Selecting to go to that club should play some kind of animation... Something that can also be played between opponents as well. In a standard game like this (i.e. Pokemon) the player would walk around until they hit someones point of view. Doing stuff for that may be too much work, and if I'm going to do art for that, shouldn't I then also give the option to walk around and stuff?

Club names will hopefully be a little more inspired, but it was late and I was tired.

5. Encounter Start:
So both the player avatar and the enemy should kind of slide in from the sides of the screen and face off. There should be plenty of bells and whistles for this section but it should also be pretty much skippable by tapping anywhere.

I may make the size of the characters bigger and angle them so it makes them look closer together. Also I don't know if I should even have a player avatar if I can't make it customizeable. I kind of think it might look lacking without something to balance the enemy though.

6. Encounter Part 2:
So having life doesn't really work here, because its not like anyone's actually going to be physically attacking. Clearly what is really on the line is credibility, so we'll be using that to track fights instead.

So each encounter (aside from leaders) will feature randomly generated enemy. It'll take a random body shape and then attach a random selection of genre appropriate attachments (shirts, pants, accessories, etc). Names and taunts will also be taken from a pool of genre specific options.

Leaders will have Custom sprites and possibly more of a conversation prior to battle.

7. Gameplay 1:
So this is similar to the current prototype... Main difference is that:
a) There are more letter tiles, since song names could be a lot longer. I really have to look into what the average length of a song title would be. I'm pretty sure 24 characters should be enough but who knows. Also this does have an effect on the difficultly, but I suspect that most of the time being able to hear the song will make it easier anyway. I can also make the question "guess the artist" to double the amount of questions compared to song samples in the game.

b) If you get it wrong, instead of just trying again, you lose credibility. Lose too much credibility and you lose the battle. You have enough cred to get 3 answers wrong before losing. In a similar vein, Each battle consists of 3 rounds of back and forth. If neither battler damages the others cred, its a draw.

8. Gameplay 2:
So when you answer a question correctly, that artist/band gets added to your database of known bands. When you attack, 3-4 of those artist are picked at semi-random, and its up to you to pick the one your opponent most likely won't know.

When I say semi-random, I mean that at least one option will always be a "correct" option (providing that you have an correct option in your database). One will also always be an "incorrect" option (i.e. an artist from the same genre and time period, providing you have one in your database). The other 1-2 will be picked at random, but may be weighted to similar genres or time periods. Each artist can only be used once per battle. Players will start with a small selection of artists in their database, but all of them will be super-well known bands so they can't be relied on to win.

Winning is based off of percentage and chance rather than perfect picking, so even picking something in the same genre and time period might win if you get lucky. The percentage chance to win will be something like:
+40% for same genre
+40% for same era
-/+ X% depending on artist (like a measure of how well known the artist is)

So just based on the guy in the pic (70's punk)
Ramones = 70's Punk, relatively well known = 40 + 40 + 10 = 90% chance of losing.
King Crimson = 70's Prog Rock, not all that known = 40 + 0 + 5 = 45% chance of losing.
Whitney Houston = 80's Pop, very well known = 0 + 0 + 15 = 15% chance of losing.
Beatles = 60's Pop, bigger than Jesus = 0 + 0 + 100% = 100% chance of losing.

I am a little worried that this is a little too simple and/or boring, but it works really well with the other mechanic and extends gameplay quite a bit so I'm going to go with it for now.

Monday, September 2, 2013


Holy crap I am so tired I can't believe I even got this started. Too bad I can't even finish typing about it.

Please send your complaints to:
Mr J. Wallace
The Internet, 1334.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


I don't know how, but when I was all "post every day this month" it had somewhat slipped my mind that I'd  be starting off the month with my mate's bucks night. So, needless to say, I wasn't really in a right mindset to do anything today. However, I would hate to fail this early into a month so I've gotta do something...

When I was assessing SoundsLike I had this thought to make it a little more Pokemon-like, i.e. have a bunch of  "trainers" that you have to beat before you can get access to the "Gym :Leader" and claim the badge. The advantage with this approach is that it also allows players to focus on the music they actually know, varying the difficultly to a level they're more comfortable with, or allowing them to set their own goals (i.e. "I want to be the queen of pop"). I think that makes for a more interesting progression than just a linear or random "guess this song, now guess this song".

To that extent, I'll be splitting the game up twice. Firstly in terms of decade (i.e. 60's, 70's, 80's, etc) and then in terms of genre (i.e. Rock, Pop, Hip Hop, Disco, etc). Some genres will naturally transition well across time periods, but others (I'm looking at you Dubstep) will only be applicable to single time periods. It would also be cool to have some other categories that don't necessarily fit as well, like Classical, Jazz standards, TV and Movie Themes, but whether or not that actually happens will depend on time.

So players will need to beat say 10 trainers before they get a shot at the leader, but merely answering and reacting is not much of a battle. There's no back and forth there. The players really need some kind of method of attack. However, I don't really want to do a huge additional mechanic, plus I can't just reverse the main mechanic (I wouldn't even know how to start interpreting sound as a song, let alone cover every song that's ever been recorded). However, I think I have an easy option that will work here, by just drawing a little more from Pokemon, but also Secret of Monkey Island.

One of the more important key aspects of Pokemon is "Gotta catch 'em all". That kind of collection style gameplay is always great, and it can be used here as well. We can't get players just to add their own favorite bands when they begin, but we can take their correct answers as proof that they know the band. By playing the game, they can build a collection of bands that they can then use for their own attacks. Because really, when a hipster tells you that you wouldn't know their favorite band, the only way to counter that kind of attack on your personal taste is to call out their own lack of knowledge.

So every player will start with a stock of extremely known bands (The Beatles, ABBA, 26) that will obviously never be obscure enough to win a fight. Identifying songs will then unlock them as options for the player as well. When a fight starts, players will alternate defending (by identifying songs that the Trainers) and then attacking by picking a band from a group of three or four that the player thinks the Trainer won't know about. All bands will have some kind of recognition percentage, and that percentage will also be affected by the Trainers location (i.e. what decade/genre they're in). It also means that before players can really push through the game, they're going to need to try a couple of periods/genres so that they get some decent options for attack. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Big Stompy One Month Review

At this juncture I think its only right that I take a moment to assess my work from the month that's past since issuing this little challenge to myself. In a word: Poor. In two words: Needs Improvement. In many words: Wait, I just figured you gave up on this whole thing. You're still doing this? Ok whatever.

So yeah.. in this last month I did half of a prototype and presented 3 prototypes total for consideration. Not really good enough when I've only got 12 of them to all up. I've got plenty of excuses, but really that's not even enough. I should be doing better than this. So with that in mind, next month is going to be a post-a-day type thing. I have some big things happening that month so I'm not entirely sure if I'll be able to pull it off, but better to try and fail than not try at all.

Also, as you might have noticed in the pic to the left, I've decided to go with SoundsLike (or whatever the name ends up becoming). In a totally separate conversation with someone, they kind of reminded me that sometimes you've just gotta focus on just getting the easy stuff out there, and SoundsLike definitely requires less to look interesting compared to the other two. I still want to revisit both of them sometime, but it will be after SoundsLike at this stage.

Anyway, so first thing will be ironing out the missing mechanic and screen designs, and then working towards a vertical slice. At that point, I'll reassess again and see if things are working or not so working.

There are still a lot of potential known issues that I've been thinking about, so I'm going to try and address them in the design stage following. Chief concern is copyright issues... I think I should be fine depending on how I present the game, but if the worst happens I can always build the game around the mechanic in such a way that I can switch it out for something else if needed. I am also going to expand the scope of the music quite a bit... Still keep that hipster douche superiority factor but include more mainstream/known music, as well as split things up a little more so people can focus on their genre/era. As much as I want to make it just music I think is good, I can't expect everyone to be able to name the greatest songs of the Australian alternative scene 1995-2005, or assorted British stock funk music of the 1970's.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Prototype 3 - Montage Platformer

Last but not least: Montage Platformer. Catchy name, I know. Check it out here.

What it's all about:
You're a dude (or a chick), and you can run and jump (and more, just not in this prototype). The more you run and jump, the better you get at it, eventually unlocking new features (double jumps, dashs, flying, etc). That's about it in the prototype, but the rest of the game would be standard metroidvania fare: Go all over the place, collect things, and then fight a final boss.

How it came about:
I really liked the way the elder scrolls games handled character progression, i.e. the more you do something the better you get at it. Kind of like real life really. I had also been watching a lot of speed/glitch-running of games, and I kind of want to experiment with intentionally breaking gameplay (or at least, giving the tools to break it).

What works:
Well nothing in there is particularly polished so it's not like any of the mechanics in there are that fun to use at the moment, but I could definitely see them working well together plus offering an endless variety things to try. It's also kind of cool to be playing through the game as "normal" and then get rewarded with another seemingly different gameplay mechanic. Also really good is that it acts a player controlled difficulty slider. Having trouble with a difficult jump? attempt it enough times and you'll unlock double jump and clear it easily.
I really dig the difference in philosophy between this model and the standard metriodvania framework... Typically players have to go collect the items that give them new powers (and hence that becomes the progression), but here the progression can rely on something else, and the players are free to develop their powers at the rate that seems best for them.

What doesn't work:
Done right, there's not a lot that can really go wrong here. Platformers are kind of the darling of indie games, and anything with an RPG style system has immediate hooks. Game feel is super important though, but that's just a case of making the actual game.

It is possible that the open-ended-ness of the progression system could lead to some heavy breaking of the game, but I'm not really too worried about that. I can always introduce certain macguffins that prevent serious sequence breaking, plus if someone just wants to sit at the start location and jump 10,000 times until they get fly mode or whatever, who am I to stop them? They clearly know how to have their own fun.

Lastly, and most importantly, there's a hell of a lot of work to do. I'm pretty sure I can limit it down to however much I can do in a year, but every gameplay mechanic would need to be animated, all the level and background art done, enemy ai, etc. Plus it's way to easy to slide into feature creep with a game like this. Just working on the prototype I kept on thinking and then trying to add all the possibilities the mechanics could lead too. Each mechanic is like an additional week in itself.

Oh also, there is a terrible terrible screen tearing issue with GameMaker... and I'm not sure if it's my fault or not. I didn't notice it so much on the other prototypes, but it's pretty noticeable here.

What's Missing/What can fix it:
Some kind of concrete development map and someone to yell at me every time I deviate from it would be a good.

Obviously all the art needs to be done (as usual). I'd also need to decide on a final set of gameplay mechanics, and also a theme. I don't know if I should just match Elder Scrolls and go medieval... There's too many other indie platformers out there with knights or barbarians at the moment. I was thinking maybe I could base it off of Monkey Magic (hence the little clouds and stuff) since his skill set kind of lends itself to some interesting gameplay mechanics.

I was also thinking about the possibilities of him then going off and fighting other legends and myths and then stealing their powers (i.e. Fighting Thor and stealing Mjolnir, fighting a three against one fight against Arthur, Robin Hood and Nessie the Loch Ness monster for Excalibur, Final boss being  the granddaddy of all tales, Gilgamesh). Or alternatively I could do something a whole lot more manageable.

I would like to make this game a lot. It's the most gamey of all the prototypes, plus it gets me away from the mobile game mentality I've been stuck in. I think it's got potential to be interesting to a wide cross section of players, as well as stand out at AVCON. However, it'd take sooo much time, I'm not sure if I could do the level of quality I want  in a year (or in GameMaker).

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Prototype 2 - SoundsLike

Second up: SoundsLike. Play it here.

What it's all about:
You get presented with a sound effect, some letters and the length of the answer. It's up to you to determine what that sound effect is.

How it came about:
It is actually an idea my cousin's son had after playing a lot of 4 Pics 1 Word (the influence is pretty obvious). I kind of knew it wouldn't really work, but the idea didn't seem too horrible and I wanted to show my extended family that I could actually make something. So, mission accomplished.

What works:
Not a great deal, but the central mechanic works as it's supposed to, plus there's a few minor improvements compared to 4 pics 1 word (not that it's really saying much). I also a learnt how to do menus and stuff, so that's pretty rad.

What doesn't:
This was designed as a mobile game, so there's some key central concepts that don't really work for that platform. Simple quiz games like this work because they're something you can pick up and play a quick couple of rounds while you're doing something else (like waiting in line, or "working"). People can get away with it because looking and touching a screen doesn't really draw that much attention. Having to listen to a sound effect though, that's a whole different kettle of fish. Plus, if you're out on the bus or whatever, you're either going to have trouble hearing the sound effects or you'll end up being the asshole making all the weird noises. There are games on mobile based around sound that work, but they need to have stronger and consistent gameplay, i.e. have some kind of skill element that makes you want to put aside time to play it, as opposed to a timewaster that you play in short bursts for a break.

That also leads on to the next problem: It's very boring. But even worse than that: It's not very me. If I were to finish it to spec (i.e. make it close to 4 pics 1 word as possible) and even add some extra bells and whistles, it still wouldn't be a game I'd play, or a game I'd try and convince someone else to play. The quiz mechanic might work for some people, but the theme is non-existent and the reason to play is solely to get to the next sound. While that can be enough for some groups of players, I don't think there's enough there to get the ball rolling.

Plus, so much of 4 pics 1 word's success was due to being able to post to Facebook and ask for help. I don't think a sound effect type scenario would work with that. It's just too easy to gloss over an embedded sound effect/video.

What's missing/What can fix it:
This is actually the most complete of all the prototypes I've currently worked on. It has the menu structure in place, plus I've designed the code behind the sound effects/answers to be easily extendable, so adding additional questions is pretty simple. Obviously, it needs all the artwork, but everything here is pretty static so that shouldn't take too long. I've got some options as far as monetization goes as well that should be fairly simple to implement (I think I've started the code for some of that already, but it was a while ago).

However, while the mechanics are there, nothing else is. The entire concept and theme needs to change significantly, as well as possibly the intended platform. After thinking about it a little, I see myself as having two options here:

-I could easily turn this into a simple edutainment type thing for kindergarten aged kids, with animal noises and such... Obviously any kind of monetization aspect would go out the window, but I could lock content until paid for, or do multiple versions for different things (Animal noises, City Noises, etc) and only make one free as a taster. However, without a licensed property to base this on, it's really hard to break into that kind of market. Also, it's likely to impress anyone at AVCON. Unless I do a version with Anime and Videogame character noises. Which I could do. Probably. 
- If I was going to do a quiz type game thing that I myself would play, and it involved sound, what would I do? Naturally, it would have to be something involving me proving I have better indie hipster cred when it comes to music than everyone else. Fitting in with the frame work of the game, obviously it would play a segment of a song, and you'd have to guess the song name and artist. Only picking super obscure songs wont lead to any big downloads, so I'd also have to include a lot of popular music as well. And there would need to be some kind of world wide ranking of course, so I can confirm my greatness. 
The biggest problems here are copyright issues, and unfortunately my designated lawyer is terrible at telling me what I can and can't do. I probably can't use actual soundbites, or lyrics, but I guess I could use "interpretations" provided it was different enough from the actual songs. So what if instead of the soundbite it was some dude or chick that comes up to you and says they love this song, but cant remember the name of it, and then starts to sing the melody back to you? Might be sung well, could be sung intentionally bad. Obviously to keep that AVCON audience in mind, the NPCs would obviously be cartoony/anime like... Maybe they're also inspired by specific genres? Maybe it becomes like Pokemon, and you have to "out hipster" the other trainers before you can take on the genre boss? Maybe?
So for either of those, I'd need to source (or create) sound effects plus do all the art. It's all fairly static, so even if I go overboard this probably has the least amount of work I'd have to do to complete... It's just kind of annoying that it's not very gamey, and I still can't tell if I could make it interesting (or indeed, AVCON-y) or not.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I've got a feeling. A bit of an Inkling.

So full disclosure: I'm a little more tired than I was expecting, but I had to do something to fill in the 2 hours I have to wait before this international skype conference. Plus I've had this Inkling for like 2 weeks and hadn't even tried it yet. It seemed like the perfect thing to fill the time. Of course, when it came time to actually draw something I had absolutely no inspiration, but whatever. Ninjas.

So obviously on the right we have a badly taken mobile phone photo of the sketch, on the left we have Inkling's interpretation.

All up it's a lot better than I was expecting... Some bits are obviously missing and I guess I must've bumped the reader at some point, but as a base that I can then go over in photoshop it could be pretty useful. Also I should've had a better book to draw in probably.

I have a feeling I'm also too reliant on ctrl+z these days as well.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Prototype 1 - Ninja-San: The Tea Party is over!!!

Okay, so let's type critically about things.

First things first: The first prototype I made after getting GameMaker was Ninja-San: etc, etc. Play it here.

What it's all about:
You're a ninja, you can only leap to get around, and you can stick to walls and ceilings. You have to get from the start location to the end point as quickly and safely as possible.

How it came about:
The phrase has been in my head for as long as I can remember. I like the idea of taking something stupid, or something that doesn't immediately lend itself to being a game and then making a game from it. If possible, that would be the entire point of every game I make. I also like ninjas and tea parties.

What works:
The gameplay itself worked pretty much as intended and I (at least) enjoyed how it worked. Controls needed some refinement but the idea was there. I'm pretty sure this kind of gameplay works well for mobile devices. It was also what I did while learning GameMaker, so at least I learnt something. Fuck yeah ninjas.

What doesn't:
Gameplay is super simplistic and there's not a great deal there (not actually adding in any other gameplay elements didn't help, of course). Ninjas are kind of over-saturated and not everyone likes them (spoiler: those people are crazy because ninjas are great). The core gameplay mechanic is also pretty weak; There's not much in the way of risk/reward and there's really only one skill component to the game. Lastly, because I started this while learning GameMaker, I've done some pretty stupid things just solely because I didn't realise there was a better way. Also while thinking about the game I tended to go a little nuts with the scope when I really should've been trying to keep it as simple as possible.

What's missing/what can fix it:
All the art, possibly with different tilesets for variety's sake. A better skill mechanic around the jumping (which would be increased speed/power for jumping within a short timeframe after landing, not the other control options). Other level mechanics/obstacles, such as: Fake/trick walls, guards, pits, moving platforms, switches, etc. Maybe a secondary mechanic for scoring, like collectables. Many additional levels. Menus and progression screens. Monetization options (maybe). Bug fixing.

What's bad:
Level layouts are fine but take a lot of time and testing. Additional tilesets may also require a fair amount of time. I'm not sure it really works outside of mobile games, but maybe could as a web-based game (side note: I need to get out of the mentality that I should only be making mobile games).Monetization could be tricky, but not being free to play could limit reach. I wasn't considering monetization during the initial design phase so the core gameplay exists seperate to any intended pay points. Maybe I could do a demo/unlock model (first act is free, everything else is paid), but that does mean having to cram more hook into the first act... and having enough of a distinction between acts.

I'm pretty confident I can make this a game I'd want to play, but realistically there's a lot of work there. Pretty sure I can do it in 12 months, and pretty sure a ninja/anime styled game would get attention at AVCon.

So, there we go. Have I missed anything? Am I lying to myself about anything? Am I not being critical or harsh enough? Let me know!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Road to AVCON 2014 Pt. 2

Ok so: Revised plan.

I have about 3 prototypes in GameMaker plus 2 more concepts that I'd be interested in doing maybe. However, I'm not even going to consider making prototypes for them at the moment, but only if I don't feel I can salvage the ones I've got already.

Of course, there are also a few other things I need to get around to as well. I really regretted not having a swag business card to give to people at PAX, but I can't really have that without having a proper logo and website.

So current plan:
- Assess current prototypes.
- Assess whats needed to be done.
- Do the things.

I had to stay up for a skype call, plus Summer Games Done Quick (which is both amazing and awesome) is on, so I also added CL4P-TP, R2-D2 and Squirtle rather than do anything too productive. Also, I think this is going to be a thing now.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Road to AVCON 2014

So due to popular demand I've decided to set my goal on having at least one game ready to show off at AVCON 2014 (AVCON being Adelaide's premier anime and video games convention).

Admittedly, I had intended to flounder on this step for some time before actually doing anything worth while, based on not actually knowing the date would be for some time. However, even a cursory glance at the website shows that they've already picked the date for it... So I guess I have really no excuse here.

So, looks like I've got just under a year to do something. Totes achievable. Let's rock.

Also, Robocop and Judge Dredd included for no reason what so ever. I just had to check I could still use a tablet. Seems like its been a while.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Usual Suspects

I don't want to make another "Oh no! Look at all the days I've missed" post so let's just gloss over that.

Now that the prototype is done, I want to just hammer out a bunch of art and effects to make it look pretty and take it to alpha. I had figured that it might be best to actually do some concepts before deciding on a design, but I don't think I'm going to come up with anything cool in a rushed lunch hour, so maybe it's just better to go with it this time? It's not like I'm trying to convey some kind of particular idea to a different artist or anything.

I do have some things in mind though:
- I have fallen in love with the idea of having multiple player characters that control differently and have different bonuses, but I'm also lazy and don't want to have to do multiple versions of the sprites. It's time to take a page out of the great ninja guidebook that is Mortal Kombat, and just pallete swap some sprites. The colour schemes and colour areas need to be easy to support in that respect.

- To keep things interesting, I want to ensure there are male and female player characters. But again, I'm lazy so I'd like to keep the base sprite fairly androgynous and maybe make a couple of attachments (Long hair, thicker arms, etc) to separate the sexes.

- I am extremely aware that I'm likely to be cheaping out on animation, but there needs to be some movement on the screen to make it look pretty. I'm looking at effects and stuff that can be reused but trailing objects (tassles, ribbons, hair, etc) might be an easy thing to add that can give a few more frames difference to the movement.

- I'm also a little torn between the over all theme. I was kind of working from a traditional stereotypical ninja type look, but I've also been thinking about scifi-ish cyber ninjas, or even something with a modern twist (like the anime Samurai Champloo).

Oh I've been told these posts can get a little depressing... I just figured that was my gimmick but I'll endevour to lighten the mood a little bit. So with that in mind, I'll try to end every post with a ninja joke, at least until I get bored of it and slump down the spiral of game development depression once more. So:

Q: Why did the ninja cross the road?
A: What ninja?

Thank you very much I'll be here all week.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ninja-san the prototype is over.

Just a screenshot. 
Prototype updated! Check it out here:

(Also, just because I didn't make it clear last time: Click anywhere (or tap if you're on a touch screen) and the ninja will leap in that direction. You have to make it from the green "S" block to the red "E" block as quick as you can)

So, I know I seem to be saying this quite a bit, but I think I'm done with the prototype now. Now added:
- This incredibly classy and stylish start screen.
- Converting the timer into minutes and seconds.
- More refined jump checking based on how you are grabbing the block.
- Level resetting.

This also brings a lot of things with it that have the framework in place but not specifics (i.e. different game states and the ability to tweak the controls). I've also gone back through all the code so far and tidied and documented everything so I (hopefully) don't forget what I'm doing when I come back to it. That also managed to iron out a few bugs and odd things, but hasn't eliminated all the known bugs. I am still aware of:
- Ninja occasionally side grabs walls upside down.
- Ninja seems to get stuck rotating in his leap frame if you jump precisely as you collide with a block.

Despite going through the code and tidying stuff up, I still have no idea why these two are happening... But I think at this stage that's a problem for another day.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A true ninja always aims for the heart.

So... Missing days like it's going out of style.

The timer system has been added, but it's very basic so far. VERY basic. Touching the start floor (green block) will start the timer, touching the red block will end the timer and reset it. The timer is in seconds but doesn't display with minutes/seconds/milliseconds, so that's something still to do.

I've also had a look at the jump controls to try and make it so you can only jump away from the walls, but I may have been a little too spartan in deciding what a valid angle for that jump should be. Maybe I should also have it sort of self rectify and take the lowest angle jump regardless in the rough direction of the player input?

I'm also going to be heading out of town next week... I'll have my laptop but I'm wondering what exactly I'll be able to do from up there.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Now with 100% more interaction

So as a birthday present to myself/as a way of forcing myself to see this through, I went and bought all the exporters for Gamemaker. So now: In-development test builds, online.

I haven't done anything extra today because I've been too busy blowing out candles, but this is the current state of the prototype with it's jumping and scrolling and hanging etc. I think I'm going to try and work towards adding a timer, proper start and end states, and some kind of simple menu in the next day or two and then go focus on getting some of the sprite/background work done.

Current bug list:
- Camera jerks if you try and make a jump that immediately collides you with the wall again. I'm pretty sure I should limit the inputtable jump angle depending on how the ninja is standing, so this might not be a problem.

- Sometimes if you jump *really* quick after landing the ninja doesn't go through his normal leap/somersault but instead just spins around with his leap frame. I like how goofy this looks but the fact that I have no idea why this is happening worries me.

- Sometimes when the ninja grabs on to the side wall he'll grab on upside down. I think it might be due to the the positioning of the ninja when colliding, but this almost looks normal and doesn't seem to impact gameplay, so maybe I'll leave it.

- Everything looks ugly. That's fine though because my inspiration is your face. Burn.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Moving Pictures

So... I added a moving camera that can support larger rooms. Also I missed a post yesterday.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Ninja-san: The animated series

The missing frames don't do this justice, but the following can be seen in this gif:
- Can tell if you're jumping left or right, and flips the sprite accordingly
- Changed the way it pulls out of the leap into the descent so it's time based now.
- Added mid air somersaulting after the initial leap, rotating based on direction of jump.
- Added different sprites and states depending on whether you're above/below/to the side of the collision.

I need to recheck my positioning variables to make sure they sit correctly, but I might wait until after I do proper sprites first and save doing that work twice. Also this is the basic animation system done now, so I've just gotta add proper start and finish states and a timer, and then a basic menu and this prototype is done.

Friday, February 8, 2013


So turns out I'm still pretty tired from last nights deadline crunch. I made a couple of tweaks to jumping and added a ending platform, but it turns out an ending platform isn't what I need at all.... So that needs to be scrapped.

So, since I have nothing interesting to show, please enjoy these sketches from another thing that isn't important to this blog while I get a decent nights sleep.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Stupid deadlines taking up my time. Here are some things that are not ninjas.

Also I missed putting this up at the regular time... Here's hoping it still counts as yesterday.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Block Party

So, the problem with the block corners were pretty much due to the system I had in place to prevent the ninja from teleporting when they collided with a wall. At this higher framerate it's not so much of an issue, but I might need to add something back in later. I've also rectified the positioning so ninjas don't just float in the air when they've collided close to edges.

Aaaaaaaaaaaanyway... too late for anything interesting tonight.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Leaps and bounds

Behold: Jumping onto walls.

Not pictured: the unfortunate bugs that happen when you collide with a block on/near a corner.

However, I have fixed the problem where the ninja wouldn't sit on the block after colliding with it. I've also worked out why downward angle jumps wouldn't tilt the player character (Spoiler: its because of my badly implemented gravity). To smooth things out a little and improve collision detection I've upped the FPS. I don't know if that will cause issues later on or not though.  I have also made the ninja start and respawn on the start pad now.

The biggest problem at the moment is fixing the corner colliding so it doesn't freak out and temporarily freeze the game. I suspect it's going to be a case of changing how I'm doing my position checking. I'm kind of annoyed that I have something else I need to do tonight... I'm really starting to get back into this.

Also I need to find a better way of making gifs or something else pretty to post. It would be cool if I could just post versions of the game but Gamemaker only appears to let you output to steam workshop at the moment, which isn't really what I want to do. Maybe I should get the HTML 5 license or something.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A question of control

I have some kind of brain problem that means when I'm thinking about control schemes I can only envision things on touch screens.

I had been intending to keep it relatively PC based, but considering its going to be a simple game if it is going to be released on anything it'll most probably be mobile. I thought it would be a good idea to think about the control methods and basic interaction to make sure I wasn't backing myself into a corner.

The functionality around the leaping should always remain the same, so a control scheme needs to do at least one thing, and that is provide an angle for the leap. Additionally, it can also provide the power/distance of that leap. I'm refraining from adding in any other direct user interaction, so I can't see what other variables I'd even need.

This is not an exhaustive list of options, but more of a messy collection of notes:

Tap Location  
Leap at angle from ninja to location, possibly distance from ninja to location can factor power of jump
Simple. Obvious. Works well with mouse or touchscreen. Simplicity means it's possibly easy to extend gameplay by chaining jumps with tap timing.
Obvious/boring. Possibly limits angles/power when close to the edges of the screen.

Tap and Drag 
Leap at approximate angle of the drag, possibly duration of touch or length of drag (or some combination of the two) can factor power of jump.
Simple. Intuitive for touchscreens. Gives users a little more sense of where the ninja will go because they are somewhat tracing the leap path.
Feels odd with a mouse. Definitely limits angles and power when close to the edges of the screen. 
Tap Anywhere 
An arrow guide element is visible pre-leap. This either cycles back and forth between available jump angles, or appears and moves when you touch (releasing the touch causes the jump). For power of jump,  duration of touch or some further power gauge could appear and cycle, which is then triggered by releasing the touch.
One button gameplay. Timing adds another element of skill. On screen indicator shows precisely the launch direction/power. No problems when at the edge of levels. No problems with fingers crowding screen space. Could lead to some goofy gameplay. Can be played on a computer without a mouse or keyboard except for some jerry-rigged usb spacebar frankenstien device.
Frustrating to impatient players. Possibly a little complicated for non-gamers. Possibly a little simplistic to gamers. 
A thumbstick is simulated on screen, players drag it within its bounds to determine the direction of the of the leap. Speed of the drag could factor into power of leap.
Seemingly the norm for action based games on mobile now. Could modify the gameplay to take advantage of the fact that you're holding directions before landing to enable instant take offs. No problems near edges of stages.
Disconnect from the ninja sprite. Possibly too imprecise. Possibly too easy to trigger. Would be stupid with mouse. One part of the screen constantly behind finger. 
Players jerk their mobile device in the direction they want the ninja to leap in. Power of leap possibly factored from speed/distance of jerk.
Hilariously derpy gameplay.
Inanely derpy gameplay. I also have no idea how to do it. Not for PCs. 
Accelerometer 2 
Players tilt their devices so that the ninja is always trying to jump straight up. Just not necessarily up the screen, but up in real terms. I dont think I've quite thought this through.
Players yell LEFT or RIGHT and the intonation of their voice determines the angle of the jump. Volume of the yell can possibly factor the leap power.
3 more years of uni. People who can't tell left from right without checking their hands will keep dropping their phones.

So having thought about this some more... I kind of like the idea of having "multiple characters" that control differently but all do the essentially the same thing (with slight modifications of course). I can also just pallete swap them to save animation time, and pretend their some kind of power ranger style tea committee.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Pre-prototype alpha ver 0.01

This poorly made gif shows the preliminary workings of the game. It seems to be missing some key frames, but basically: You click somewhere and the expertly drawn malnourished ninja launches himself towards it.

You can kind of see it in one frame, but when you leap, the ninja body changes orientation to the direction you're moving in, and then corrects at the peak of the jump.

Missing so far:
- Decent collision on blocks so that the ninja always rests on top of them.
- More levels of blocks and the ability for the game to tell if you're above/below/to the side of them.
- Prettiness.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sketchy Leaps

A study of ninja leaping. 
So I intend to cheap out on animating... I'll still need a few poses and things to link things together (standing, leaping, gripping side, gripping ceiling, reaction to being hit) and then hopefully I can just hide transitions with effects or blurriness.

This would the leaping pose. The main consideration is that this will be used no matter what the direction the character leaps, so it has to look normal for a forwards leap as well as a straight up leap. Its not everything it could be but it'll be fine. The smaller version needs more of a touch up before I'll consider that a finished frame, I was only just using that for colour tests.

Also, despite my "little animation" goal, I am strongly considering having some kind of midair somersault kind of action going on, because that's pretty much the only way ninjas get around. Well that and cartwheeling, but I'm saving that for the sequel.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Ninja-San, The Tea Party Is Over.

The entirety of the design document. 
I think if only one thing has been made clear by this blog, it is this: I can only be productive if I'm trying to hit some kind of unrealistic goal. Previously I was able to get an entire month of scatter-shot and barely related images done. Gold star for effort, but it doesn't really get me anywhere. Nor does it prove or improve my skills as a game designer, which was kind of the point of this whole thing.

So with all that in mind, coupled with the ego-destroying knowledge that I'm almost 30 and have nothing worthwhile from my job career to show for it, I'm issuing myself a new challenge:

1. Do something every day and post it.
2. Only work on one game at a time until a prototype is done.
3. Do it until I can't, and then do it again.

I'm not going to be doing anything huge, but I don't want to. At worst, I'll have a bunch of little prototypes I could put up on kongregate or whatever, at best I'll have a game that's good enough to spend some extra time on to release on mobile/steam.

So first up: Ninja-san, the tea party is over.

Why: Because the phrase has been stuck in my head for weeks, and because you're supposed to "write what you know". The line comes from some old movie that I can't seem to track down (I think, could definitely be wrong).

How: Gamemaker. I know it's not considered proper game making, but snobs step off. There have been a few commercial games released with it now and it reminds me a lot of doing stuff in Flash and Actionscript. It does everything I'll need for this.

What: You are a Ninja who has been invited to tea with the Shogun, but oh no! You're running late! You control a ninja through some simple control scheme, that has to leap though levels and obstacles to reach the Shogun's tea party before the tea goes cold and you disgrace your family.

Well... That will do for today. Lets see if I can make 2 days in a row tomorrow.