Game Jam Updates

Posted on October 16, 2018

This is just a quick update on the game jams I spoke of last week. As I predicted, my travels (and my shoddy internet access during) made it too difficult to get a leg up on the Blackthornprod game jam this week.

Given that, I've decided to just back out and start doing some preliminary planning for the 7-day FPS challenge that begins early Saturday morning. I've always wanted to take a stab at this jam but always miss it.

I'm going to spend the week brainstorming some cool ideas that I can execute on in sub-7 days, seeing as I will be working full time next week. That means a huge chunk of the work will need to be done this weekend while the week is left for audio/graphics polish and bug fixing.

I recently purchased UFPS 2.0, a big first-person controller package for Unity. It's primarily for implementing into Parabola, but I figured I'd use it for 7DFPS and learn some of its features.

A part of me wants to make a strict shooter as it is something I've never really done before. Another part of me wants to do something a bit more abstract and narrative-driven, however. So...we'll see what we can come up with in the next 3 days or so.

I'll keep you posted! Until then, peace!

Michael

Some Updates

Posted on October 12, 2018

It has been quite some time since our last post. In the coming weeks there is some exciting stuff happening.

First, I've successfully relocated to a "new" apartment, so a lot of that stressful shit is being lifted off my shoulders this month. In doing that, I am now living with one of Thought Reactor's floating developers - Ian Davis. The hope is that between our full time jobs we can start to work together to go ham on some game jams. An even bigger hope, is that his assitance can help accelerate development on Parabola.

In Parabola news, the site has seen a couple touch ups as I prepare to seed it for the relaunch. The past two months have been a case of good old fashion game design soul searching - and it has yielded some very interesting results.

As of now, Parabola's core mechanics have been refined to allow for a better paced gameplay experience. Juxtaposed to that is the development of an intertwined narrative. Parabola will feature a deep, science fiction narrative. This story focuses on the ethical and moral implications of scientific experimentation and the issues surrounding that in a future where technology has surpassed practicality and entered the surreal.

Given the gameplay enhancements/tweaks and the introduction of the narrative structure, it is now safe to call Parabola a story-driven puzzler, as it is wrought with elements akin to popular games such as BioShock and Hollow Knight. While the strict platforming nature of the game has been reduced, the game will still feature advanced movement mechanics to make traversing its environs more challenging and restrictive (in a lite Metroidvania fashion).

So, Parabola is quite the hodgepodge of a game - but it delicately balances these elements to help the game feel less like a Portal-like puzzle-romp and more like a narrative-driven immersive sim. Tons of info on the story, its characters, and its setting to come in the next month or so.

In other news, I'm going to take a stab at some game jams in the coming weeks. Back-to-back week long game jams to be precise. The Blackthorn Gamejam, the first of which, will be a less serious attempt as I'll be traveling this weekend. It is mostly an exercise to get myself back into the spirit of development as the past two months have been largely writing and design work.

The second jam, is the well established 7-day FPS challenge - which I'm treating more seriously and as an exercise to warm me up for accelerated development on Parabola. I'll keep updates flowing on the site and Twitter should things start to come together - as I know it will be difficult to get something done during work weeks.

That pretty much does it! Until next time.

Michael

LD42 Post-Mortem

Posted on August 20, 2018

Play Hovertank 42 in your browser!

Another Ludum Dare has come and gone and here I sit reflecting on how it all went down...

To be honest, it went pretty well - and I'm proud of how things turned out. I continually struggled with time management in past LDs and a lot of that was owed to picking an idea with far too much scope.

This time around I forced myself to stick with something really small with a replayable gameplay loop instead of a set of levels. In Ludum Dare 41, I attempted to make a platforming game that required fairly meticulously designed levels. The time sink that created left me unable to get the game done in time. I wasn't going to let that happen this go around!

The Breakdown

The idea phase is typically one of the major hang ups for me when beginning Ludum Dare. This time around it went swimmingly. I didn't sit and beat myself up over the theme sucking or any of that typical nonsense - I just dove in head first and started working. I talked myself out of making an inventory management game and soon stumbled upon the idea for a shooter where the bullets created walls. I mulled around with what perspective and style would work best and settled on a top-down shooter. I figured it would best illustrate what was going on with the walls.

The initial features started to come together quickly. Within the first hour or so, we had our player moving, aiming their cannon towards the mouse, and firing a basic projectile. This was probably one of the fastest idea to prototype phases I've managed to pull off in a LD - and it made a huge impact on me wrapping my head around the scope early on.

The hang-ups started to occur when dealing with the spawning of walls. I knew early on that the wall would need to spawn in at a direction inverse to the bullet. Initially, I did this partially correct but used the wrong set of Quaternion functions to translate it. Needless to say, after plodding through a couple different maths and tricks to get it working I went back to the original code with a different (and correct) rotation and got it working wonderfully. Unfortunately, this cost me about an hour or so of tinkering and bug fixing to get done.

In the first night I had a moving character and a partially completed main gameplay hook. That was the best first 5 hours I've had in any LD ever - so I went to bed with a huge smile on my face and a litany of features to get coded in on Saturday.

Sadly, Saturday didn't quite go according to plan. I knew I had some important apartment/moving business to attend to and had set aside some time to do so. That time ended up moving further and further back and when it came it ended up taking longer than I had budgeted for it. The whole ordeal cost me probably 3 to 4 hours on top of a fairly listless morning where I got some things done and took a break to play Monster Hunter (hey, I'm only human).

Given all this, by late Saturday night, I had basically completed the core gameplay features and started to implement the enemies. At this point, I had to cut a couple frivolous features from the game, mainly different bullet types and a pick-up that would allow players to temporarily pass through their own walls. All that was left to do was art, sound, and UI stuff.

The bulk of this work took place early Sunday morning before bed and in earnest early afternoon after some sleep! As I was super limited on time, still crushing some bugs, and not really in the mood for 3D modeling, I took the easy route on art and just made my prototype stuff look better. I think this decision was the best in order to get this puppy completed. While the art isn't stellar - it's cohesive, thematic, and not an eye sore. This decision also left me with more time to make a solid UI and background music. The tunes and sounds came together after a little struggle. It's simple, punchy, and thematic. Not my proudest work - but not my worse, by far.

Unfortunately, I still didn't have enough time to get it turned in before the 48 hour mark as I had hoped. By the time the 6PM EDT deadline rolled around I was still patching up some last minute bugs and getting sounds and effects in place. I finally got everything squared away and ready to publish by 10PM that night, missing the deadline by over 4 hours. So, I submitted to the Jam, instead - no biggie - I just finished a LD for the first time in almost a year!

Now for the TL;DR.

What Went Well

  • Idea phase was short and I got to work quickly
  • Pacing was fairly good throughout, a couple hang ups cost me some polish time - but all in all I stayed focused and got the job done
  • I did get to stream a little bit, storms prevented it the rest of weekend and the setup needs a bit of tuning for better stream and sound quality
  • The game has very few bugs reported
  • Got my 20+ ratings - WOOT
  • People find the game fun and challenging; good comments on controls and game feel

What Could Have Gone Better

  • My understanding of quaternions needs improving so as to eliminate the trial and error guesswork of using quaternion functions in Unity
  • I could have had more time to polish the art and add more visual feedback (i.e. player taking damage)
  • I had planned to get controller support implemented, but alas, ran out of time
  • Build process should have gone smoother (didn't have WebGL or Mac build package installed, had to upload those the next day)
  • While my pacing was sufficient, I felt too comfortable taking prolonged breaks and had a couple time management slip-ups that need addressing for the next go around

What's next for Hovertank 42?

I was initially thinking about just letting this one ride post-LD. However, since submission I've come up with a couple ideas on how I could improve and add more content to the game. In that time, I've also implemented controller support into the game. If I manage to take another swing at this game it will definitely feature more modes, more enemies, and perhaps some local multiplayer goodness! 

Of course, PARABOLA, takes precedence over this - so don't hold your breath!

LD43 and beyond...!

For the most part, this was a great LD experience and it was awesome to get back in the swing of getting one done after so many failed attempts. I've had loads of fun playing through everyone's entries so far and greatly appreciate those who have played and rated Hovertank 42!

Already hyped for LD43 in December - just need to brush up on some stuff so it goes even smoother!

Michael