Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Global Game Jam 2014 - EvoDash - Postmortem

Well it has certainly been a busy week.  This past weekend was the Global Game Jam and what a time that was!  It was a wonderful time creating games alongside a bunch of other talented people.  Fire Hose Games also just did a live stream play through of SBX: Invasion as well today at noon.

So let's start with the Global Game Jam.  It was exciting, it was exhausting, it was all around a good time.  I left for the Jam on Friday and took the Commuter Rail into the city.  The Jam location was at Northeastern University in the Digital Commons (which is quite an impressive area) in the Library.  The site was open for 24 hours a day so I planned to stay for the entire duration and brought a blanket and neck pillow accordingly.

The first day was a lot of fun, and right at the start I knew I wanted to get our team together and start work asap.  After all, 48 hours is not a lot of time to finish a game.  So during the mingling a group of people kind of came together, and I asked if anyone knew C# and wanted to work in Unity and two of them said they were fine so we set out a group quickly.  The theme was "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." and we grouped in a corner of the library with a white board and started hashing out ideas.

Our final idea that we decided would come to be known as 'EvoDash'.  The concept was that the game was essentially an infinite runner / survival game, that evolves based on the player's actions.  The player also changes based on the way they play as well.

For instance, the player can move through the world by sprinting, jumping and dashing in addition to the normal run.  These actions require endurance, which is a limited, regenerating resource.  As the player jumps during the game, their jump becomes stronger, as the player sprints, their speed increases, and as the player dashes, their dash becomes longer and on a shorter cool down.  However, if they don't use these skills, they will decay down to a minimum over time.

In addition, the world will generate obstacles based on the current stats of the player, so if you jump often, there will be jump obstacles, if you dash often, there will be dashing challenges.  All of this being procedurally generated.  That's the high goal at least.  We accomplished this to a degree for the Jam, but it will certainly take some refinement to fully realize this.

Then we set out to create the game.  We located a table with some screens set up and assembled our workplace.  Our team was comprised of 6 people:

  • Lead Designer & Gameplay Programmer...............................Jason (Me)
  • Lead & PCG Programmer.....................................................Kevin Cavanaugh
  • 2D & UI Artist......................................................................Christian DeSilva
  • Musician & SFX Artist..........................................................Harry Lodes
  • Programmer & Git Specialist.................................................Jeffrey Robbins
  • Programming Assistant..........................................................Jacob Ginsparg
The screens at the tables were extremely nice with adjustable mounts, so we set them up to the side as our script screens.

Kevin and Jacob Programming (note the awesome screen)

My Side of the Table (And Jeff's Foot)

A Selfie of Jeff:

Unfortunately we don't have any pictures of Harry or Christian as they were off by themselves grinding away for most of the weekend.  We didn't really focus on taking pictures or making the video.  We were fairly engrossed in creating the game.

There were a lot of challenges as well.  The first night we had some massive problems with Git integration with Unity.  I'd say over the whole weekend, trying to get Git to work properly with Unity cost us around 5 hours.  And when you only have 42 hours or so after all of the announcements and what not, that's a lot of time.  So, GIT was our number 1 challenge.

Sleep was also tough, the first night I passed out around 6 a.m and slept until 9 a.m and then Sunday Morning I finally let myself sleep from 9 a.m until noon once we at least had a solid build out.  I don't think I've ever stared at scripts for so many consecutive hours, but it was fun (as a rare event!).  Also, on Sunday Night through Monday Morning I slept 14 hours to recuperate.

The experience was amazing and we actually finished a game!  A fellow jammer actually lent us a SNES USB controller to use for testing and EvoDash is a lot of fun on a SNES Controller, by the way.  You can play the game as well on my website.  The controls are there, you just need to have Unity player installed.  I also got used to the 2D Workflow in Unity which is actually very nice!  I'm ten times more comfortable with 2D in Unity now.

For now, we all agreed to evolve the game in our own ways and the idea is that we can take our versions of the game in the future and make a new version that's much better and takes from all our ideas.  So I'll be working on my own version of EvoDash alongside Tzarr.

So THAT was the Global Game Jam, if you like making games and haven't done it yet, set aside the time next year!  I highly recommend it, even if you are new to game development.

In other news, Fire Hose Games, creators of Go Home Dinosaurs and Slam Bolt Scrappers, and recently in the news for their Indie Incubator announcement on Joystiq and the Boston Globe, did a live stream of SBX: Invasion today at noon.  You can check out the video on Twitch.TV.  

It's been a CRAZY weekend, and a lot of fun!  Some friends of mine, Ben Taylor and Dawn Rivers were in the GGJ as well and created Snub Titles, a neat meta game that challenges people to think critically when they review games.  It's pretty interesting so far, I look forward to seeing how it develops.

I should also have a playable build of Tzarr by Friday for Feedback Friday and our goal in February is to have an online multi-player matchmaking system in place.

That's about it for now, but I'm sure you're tired of reading words by now.  Subscribe to the blog to stay in the loop!  Lots of neat stuff is in the works so you won't wanna miss out!


Jason Carter / WakeskaterX

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

First Look at Tzarr - Global Game Jam 2014!

Good Wednesday!  I've got a video taking a look at the results of week one of production on Tzarr, including the rough basics and turn based game play.  Tzarr is coming along nicely so far, yesterday was tough, as I had a bug that baffled me for the entire day.  Finally I figured out what was wrong and fixed it and wham, everything magically worked exactly like I wanted!

The problem code snippet was this:

As you can see if you click on it, I was setting unit_grid which was the entire 9x9 grid to a shifted version of the move_grid, which was only 7x7 and contained the movement ability of each piece.

But the problem was that I was using different indices so it was rewriting over old sections of the array with 0 when I didn't want it to be.  I was already initializing the unit_grid array to 0s anyway in ClearUnitGrid(); so I just removed that line and everything worked perfectly!

But enough programmer talk, let's take a look at the video on Tzarr:

Honestly the game rules right now need to be changed a lot.  I played a game with myself and it was very easy to stalemate.  I'll be doing extensive play testing and making all sorts of builds to find a good balanced and fun rule set for Tzarr.

In other news, I'll be attending the Global Game Jam this weekend!  I'm super excited, I didn't think I would be able to get in, but because I signed up on the main site, even though they ran out of tickets, the head honcho said I was alright to come.  It's been a while since I've participated in a Jam (Since SBX: Invasion for the GMC Jam January 2013!) so I'm super stoked to get out and meet some cool people and stay up late like a youngster again.

I've been thinking of tons of ideas for all sorts of topics and my work on Tzarr has enabled me to work quickly with C# and Unity.  I think with a good team we could turn out something truly awesome!

Also, I just tried out Infinite Crisis, a MOBA by Turbine Games Inc that's still in Beta, and it's still under NDA so I won't say too much but I'll say this:  Sign up for the Beta, it's fun!

That's all for this update, I'll likely have a large update after the GGJ this weekend with the project my team has created and updates about how it went.


Jason C. / WakeskaterX

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Week of Greenlight - New Project - Boston Post Mortem fun.

Well it's been a week since I've put SBX: Invasion up on Greenlight and it's doing... not as bad as it could be.  For the first few days the game sat at about 20% Yes Votes which honestly isn't that bad considering how niche tower defense games are, and there isn't a very good category to put them in.

Currently the game is at 14% Yes Votes, 3% Unanswered and 83% No Votes.  I haven't managed to get much publicity out yet, and I'm going to be trying to get some info out there about the game and see if I can drum up some excitement.  Hopefully driving some customers to the Greenlight page will increase the Yes to No Ratio and get more eyes on the project.

It's been tough getting the game out there, but I think it's probably time to shelf the project for a while and move on to new stuff.  I've learned a lot about game development and grown a lot as a developer on this project.  And I have already started on my next project as well.

The next project is going to be a smaller project in Unity called Tzarr.  I'll be working with a programmer I met in the GDU skype group, Derek, who will be handling the network side of things.  We're working on Tzarr in order to see how well we work together and make something smaller in preparation for a larger project later.

Here is a screenshot of what the board set up might look like:

The game will play similar to Shogi and Chess with some key differences, and we'll be going through various rule sets to nail down one that makes sense.  

The goal at the moment is to build a powerful flexible system to create all sorts of board set ups and rule sets quickly and effectively.  We're striving for a turn based playable build by the end of January to put out for people to try.

And then finally, last night was the Boston Post Mortem!  My good buddy Ben Taylor spoke on Game Jams and going into them with the right kind of mindset.  He gave a bunch of ways to "win" at Game Jams, whether it be coming out of it with a prototype, art, money, or new work partners, you should always focus on "winning" and planning on something you specifically want to gain from them.

It was a great time meeting people and networking as well.  I was introduced to Ken Rolston, the Lead Designer of Morrowind and Oblivion, and we got to chat for a good half hour and I was able to pick his brain on all sorts of things.  That was a great experience and it was fun talking to him about his start as a designer just making pen and paper games and how he got into the industry.

Boston really has some awesome companies.  One guy I know from Turbine told me I should check out Infinite Crisis, a DC Comics MOBA and it looks pretty interesting.  If you like League of Legends or DOTA you should sign up for the Beta too!  

It's been a very fun week and I'm excited about Tzarr and prototyping out a bunch of different game modes and rule sets.  Things are starting to come together in 2014!  I might even do a talk at BPM at some point about my first year as an indie and about the launch of SBX: Invasion! 

So subscribe to the blog for the weekly updates!  Cheers and Good Day!

WakeskaterX / Jason

Thursday, January 9, 2014

SBX: Invasion is now in the Greenlight Process! - Update 1.2 is out too!

Well, I finally started the Greenlight Process for SBX: Invasion.  You'll be able to vote at the link below:

Also Update 1.2 is now out at Desura, IndieGameStand and will soon be out at FireflowerGames.

What's new in Update 1.2?

Well quite a bit!

  • New Movement system:  The player will no longer bounce off walls and reverse direction and the movement system feels a little more slippery like you are in space.
  • Upgraded UI and Planet Graphics:  The planets look a lot nicer now, I ran a Posterization filter over them to bring them in line with the games graphical quality and then added a glow effect.
  • Updated Tutorial: The tutorial is a bit longer but the game lets you go free a bit sooner.  There a little less tutorial stuff after the tutorial, but more is included at the start.
  • Optional Tutorial:  The tutorial is now optional to new players as well.
  • New Loading Screen: The loading screen now says "Loading" and also gives a little tip about using Ghost Mode.
  • New Voice Overs! My lovely wife voiced the entire monologue by AIUA in the game.  Instead of a computer rendered voice, my wife tried to stay monotone enough that the computer filters would work.  It was a pretty fun experience and we had to stop ourselves from laughing on a few occasions.
  • Minor QOL Improvements across the board:  You can now use arrow keys to move between levels in any way, before it was locked for some weird reason that I can't remember.  It's better now.
And there is ALSO a new DEMO at IndieDB that you can play to try out all the changes!

Check out the demo HERE

Over the next few weeks I'll be doing some advertising and I'm really hoping we can get Greenlit as that would be a phenomenal boost!  I'll also be working on my NEXT project a little bit this month so stay tuned.

Cheers and Happy New Year!