Archive for March, 2007

Any day now, no doubt

For the last few days I’ve been sick, so I didn’t get a chance to develop that C64 platform game from the last post any further than the map editor stage. I haven’t worked at it long enough to know if there’s a potentially good game there, but maybe that’s for the best. I can indifferently scrap it now having wasted only one evening working on it, whereas if I’d worked at it for a couple of days, it might have looked like a promising game at this stage. No doubt it would have stretched out over a month or longer, and I’d have ended up where I always do – with a swarm of incomplete projects, and no real passion to put in the grunt work required to make a good game out of any of them. I’m better off sticking with Major Arcana for a while longer, I think.

However, I’m not quite ready to get back into that just yet. I’m still getting over this dose, for a start, and anyway I want to plan things out a little better this time. First thing I need to do is make a list of all the bugs from the demo, and fix the ones that are engine related (as opposed to script related).

As I have this week to do nothing in particular, I think I’ll spruce up the website a bit. I’ve been meaning to for quite a while now – about half of the hits I get are to that rubbish top ten indie games article from the start of the year, and in particular I’d love to clean that up. Oh! And I need to make a new games page! It’s a bit silly calling this a website when all I have on it is the blog and a couple of links.

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Introducing Reset

There was a thread on RPGDX about a one hour contest that got me thinking a bit about development time. I’ll cut this inevitable rant short – I thought it might be fun to try developing a game in just one weekend. Here’s what I have so far.

I’m using Reset as a working title. It’s going to be a silly little platform shooter designed to look and play like a Commodore 64 game. So far I’ve just got the backend and a quick map editor working, but I might have something playable tomorrow evening. If not, sod it.

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By all means, bother the peanuts

TIGSource is down.

EVERYBODY PANIC






Right, you can stop that now. The new Arsecast is out, and it’s awesome because the host agrees with me about how great Clean Asia is and I didn’t think he would. Though he doesn’t go so far as to call it the best game of the past 14 months (even though it is).

Relevant, focused stuff to follow later on. You’ll see what I mean.

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Now what?

Now that I don’t have to worry about the contest, I’m taking a short break from all things game development. It’ll give me a little time to regroup my ideas for the demo, which I’m hoping will be ready in another month (after all, the content *is* there – it’s just a matter of putting it together).

I tried to make a plausible connection between that infodump and this YouTube video, but failed miserably. I just really enjoyed this video and wanted to share it.

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Major Arcana: Contest Prototype

When I uploaded this last night, I was totally exhausted. I’m not entirely happy with the game as it currently stands (to put it delicately), and I’d love to shrug it off and say something like “Well, it’s not like I worked that hard at it” – but of course, that would be a complete lie. I’ve actually, effectively, been working two jobs. I work nine to five at my day job, grab dinner in town, then head to the library till closing time. I barely have time to do anything else. And I’ve been doing this all year.

So why do I have so little to show for it?

Well, it’s pretty simple – I totally underestimated how much work was involved in scripting the game. I’d finished the graphics, I’d designed the maps, Josiah had finished the soundtrack, I’d even written most of the dialogue – but I hadn’t put it all together. Doing this took me a lot longer than I thought it would, so while I’ve created a good deal of content, I’ve scripted very little of it.

Putting it together highlighted a lot of problems. In particular, here’s what I wish I had more time to work on:

Gladius as a character: Here’s how the Tarot Cards are laid out: you’ve got the Major Arcana, which are symbolic cards representing big, life changing things, and you’ve got the Minor Arcana, representing small, day to day things. The Minor Arcana is closely related to the regular deck of playing cards most people are familiar with today – there are four suits, in each suit there are ten regular numbered cards, then there are four court cards (the Page, the Knight, the Queen and the King).

In my game, there are four main characters, and each one associates with a suit on the Minor Arcana – Swords, Pentacles, Cups and Wands. Gladius is Swords, the suit that’s usually associated with the intellectual side of life – rational thinking, cold hard logic.

In the demo, I was hoping that Gladius would find himself thrown in this odd situation, not knowing where he is or what’s really happening. Being the kind of guy who he is, he tries to reason everything out, and work out what’s going on. He sees a Magic Light: that presents him with a number of hypothesis to consider. He fights a wolf in the next room: that eliminates one of the possibilities.

Thing is, thanks to my “inane last minute dialogue” (as I put it last night), that doesn’t really come across. Gladius sounds like he’s the shallow second person in an average text adventure.

I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to approach this problem in the full game, but I wish I didn’t have to rush my approach for this contest version.

The Page dialogue: This whole scene is just awful – it’s about five times longer than it needs to be, and everything that’s said is… I dunno, teeth-grinding-ly atrocious to listen to.

The problem here is really in how I approached the scene when I was writing it – I had an objective to meet. By the end of this exchange, I wanted Gladius to find out where he was, find out who he was talking to, and agree to let him tag along. Problem is, Gladius’s personality actually worked in this scene. Being the highly sceptical guy he is, he wasn’t buying any of that fate crap. He even throws ridicule on the whole concept of the scene as being impossible (the page is locked in a room with a group of wolves? How on earth did that happen?).

I didn’t really mean for Gladius to bring attention to it, but as soon as I’d thought of it I knew it was the kind of thing that he’d ask about, which led to some forced, awkward, throughally detestable dialogue.

I’m going to scrap this scene in the final version and do something completely different.

The battle engine: Well, this is pretty simple really. The framework’s all there, but I didn’t have time to make it work for the demo. I just attached the testing thing I have going on as a proof of concept, really.

The bugs: Of course, loads and loads of brand new bugs surfaced on the last day, and I could only fix so many of them. Some of the more interesting ones you might come across:
– Depending on how many times you’re hit at zero HP, you might find item locations totally randomised. If you appear to be blocked by something you can’t see, try hitting X. Chances are it’s an NPC that’s gotten it’s position mixed up.
– Directions can get permanently mixed up, and I haven’t been able to work out why. In the main room with the four doors, you could (if you’re unlucky, I don’t know why it’s happening) find that you’re forced to face either right or down for the remainder of the game. Ultraweird – there isn’t even a function in the game to lock npc directions.
– You can jump. I probably should have just disabled that. If you do happen to find the jump button, I wouldn’t use it – you could find yourself stuck in a wall or on top of an NPC. (That’s actually been a problem all the way back since I first implemented jumping in the engine a couple of years ago.)
– You can’t die in combat. Oops.

Ok, enough of that. I flipped a coin to decide if I was going to go ahead and upload this. I lost, so here it is.

[Now that the contest is over, I’ve taken down the demo.]

Believe me, it’s not easy presenting something that you’ve worked hard on to an open community like this. It’s even worse when it’s something you’re not happy with. Keep in mind that this is an early prototype, and it will get better.

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Last Day: Should be any moment now

For the past few hours I’ve been working on Gladius’s section of the game. This is about one fifth of the demo I was planning to release earlier last week, which is, in turn, about one fifth of the content I was hoping to have finished for the demo originally. Which, by the way, is about one fifth of the content I have in mind for the entire game. Funny how these things work out.

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Last Day: Oh what the hell

I’ve had a change of heart. It won’t be anything close to my original idea, but later on tonight I’m going to submit something.

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Last Day: Surrender

I’ve just posted on RPGDX to say that I won’t be submitting anything, as my game just isn’t ready.

That takes a lot of pressure off, anyway.

I’ve still got a few hours to work on this game, so I’m going to keep working for the hell of it. But I’m not submitting anything – I made a total mess of managing my time for this thing. There’s no way I’ll even come close to having a game ready by tonight. Maybe in a few weeks. Now that I don’t have to worry about this imaginary deadline I’ve been imposing on myself, I can slow down and do a proper job of it.

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Last day: Scripting

Well, it’s taken me over an hour, but I’ve finally got the first cutscene working, like, properly, in the game. It’s been ages since I used the scripting engine to do anything interesting though, so it’s taken me a while to get reaquainted with how it works.

Loads of bugs have surfaced with stupid things like tags, and scriptholder identifiers, and door placement. I’ve had to change the code for all the textbox backings as well. Something with fBlend has messed up badly since I last used it – in particular, there’s this really weird bug when I fade in – a big black line from the upper left hand corner to the bottom right hand corner.

I’ll post more of my progress later.

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Second last day

Here’s a possible logo for the game I came up with today. I basically drew out all the letters in “Major Arcana” (i.e. M, A, J, O, R, C, N) using the font from the Rider Waite Tarot Deck, got the Wheel of Fortune from the tenth Tarot Card and placed in the background behind it, and then did a bit of blurring to blend them together a bit. Here it is:

I’m not sure if I’m going to use it. Actually, I’m not sure if I’m going to get to use it. Finishing this game could be such a close thing that I mightn’t have time to create the title screen.

Even though I’m way behind schedule, I’m going to bed. At the moment I’m writing dialogue, and I don’t know if it’s that I’m sleepy or what, but some of the stuff I’m writing is really, really terrible.

To have a working game finished on time, I’m going to have to finish the dialogue tomorrow, tie it all together with scripting, implement what few puzzles there are, and implement some sort of save system. I’m leaving out some pretty huge things at that – the junction battle system, for example, which isn’t quite ready, despite being the whole motivation for the game. I don’t have any kind of experience point system in place either.

Actually, there’s no real point in enumerating the things I don’t have in place. If I’m lucky enough to get the actual game gelled together tomorrow, I can worry about that then.

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