Monday, September 30, 2013

Bigger Than It Looks


     I've learned time and time again that every project is bigger than it looks. When I schedule out a game's development and look for an estimate of the time I need I always throw in a little extra, about 20%.You start a small project thinking it'll be easy, but it's always bigger than it looks. Those details come pouring out of your brain and only then can you see how much work you're in for.

    I just wrote up a GDD for my next game and ended up with a longer list of assets (sprites, particle effects, necessary text instructions, sounds, etc.) than I expected. Luckily, I expected to be surprised and gave myself 5 weeks instead of the 4 I thought I'd need. My game is still on schedule and I'm making buttons for the main menu today (to have something to start with).

    I like to keep the scope small for future games. a bit of polish goes a long way and it feels good working on a game you know you can finish.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Submitting Apps Made Easy with Google Play


  Being new to mobile development I had to learn a lot about submitting apps to Google Play and the Apple App Store. Getting things ready for submission caused a lot of headaches and overall I've found myself preferring Android. Unity helps a lot with the Apple side of things and just about everything else gets easier with practice.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Status Report #5


   Two games down and five more to go on the quest for making my dream game. The concept and simple GDD of the next game is finished and I made a few mock-ups to see how to put it together. I'd say this week was a pretty good checkpoint. See a list of accomplishments below.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Next Project: Game #3


   With two games behind me and newfound experience with Unity and Android to iOS porting I feel like I have a grasp on making games from start-to-finish. Now I want to try making a game quickly. My first game was plagued by delays and  took a year to make. My last one took all summer plus most of September (about 4 months). I want to try to make this in 5 weeks.
 
   I want my next game to test how much I learned about 2D game creation and be a simple game that anyone can pick up and play, while a select few can master it and amaze people with their skill. I also want it to be about colorful candy. A nice contrast to the neon space theme of TriGrid. Expect more about this new game next week.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Never Really Done


  Even after it's release, there were a few bugs in TriGrid that needed to be shooed out. Thanks to feedback from friends, I ironed out just about everything possible. Every patch makes me prouder of the app and gives me a new thing to look out for in future projects. The frequent patches also gave me a chance to appreciate Google's efficiency. I can submit a patch and it's ready to go in about an hour or two. I'm still waiting for Apple to review the iOS version while I've updated the Android one about 8 times now. While that's going on, I'm drafting a Design Document for the next game in the Yotes Games pipeline and once it's out, I'll start submitting it to review sites to get the word out. This is the part where I wait and see what happens to my baby next...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Patchwork


   One of the top ten greatest feelings in the world is the cozy & satisfying sensation of having a great game prototype and building on it day after day. You tinker with your baby for months and months, showing it to as many people you can find, then taking their feedback and making it even better. I look forward to the day I start crafting my dream game, and until then, I will practice so that I can actually make it when the time comes.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

TriGrid Now Available on Android


 It's finally done! TriGrid is now available on Android! The iOS version is coming soon too, once it's been reviewed. Just search for it in Google Play to see what I've spent all summer tinkering with. TriGrid is definitely my best game yet and I hope you have as much fun with it as I did. Actually, I hope everyone enjoys it more than that! Find it here! Play on! And tell me what you think! Feedback, positive or negative, will only make my future games better.

Android Only: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.yotesgames.trigrid

Monday, September 23, 2013

Design Constraints


   Design constraints are more of a creativity tool than an inconvenience. Sometimes your best ideas may come from not being able to do something and taking a simpler route instead. Games ideas often fall victim to scaling issues and a little bugger named Feature Creep, all making the game larger and larger before it's even close to finished. When I make games I start with a simple and dynamic premise that can be built on. That way once the main game is done I can add new features one at a time while having the safety of a completed game ready to go if a release deadline gets too close. Making a game when you have no idea how to implement any of the ideas is a setup for failure. Make something feasible. Something you could do at your skill level. Something you know almost every answer to. As an amateur starting on your first project ever you can't just come up with Skyrim in Space then throw it at a programmer and say "Go." 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Just Being There


   There really is something magical about just being in the same room with people creating a game. I can feel the warm fuzzies drifting through the air emitting from each person involved. Last night I was in the same room as four of my friends were coming up with ideas for a horror game they were doing for their college project while working on a game mechanics document for mine. Watching their design process as an outsider was just so inspirational and insightful to me. They all took turns speaking and building on one another's ideas. I get to compare their way of doing things with my own and observe their individual creative personalities and how they blend together to form an actual product. I stayed quiet and let them do their thing for  the most part, only saying things to build on jokes and suggesting a clever name for the main character (which they actually decided to go with). I honestly can't wait to see how their project turns out in comparison to the one they described to each other.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Status Report #4

 
   On the brink of releasing TriGrid and all these setbacks are driving me nuts... See what I was able to accomplish this week after the break.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Why Does This Happen?


   Just when I thought I was done... Errors. Errors everywhere. I fought off the horde as best I could. I narrowed them down to their leader, but there was no way to kill it. Yesterday, 3:00 am and drowsy, I gave up tangling with Unity's error messages when trying to save my project form the horrible mistake I made of attempting to delete the Facebook SDK. I had IAP up and ready for testing, I installed AdMob banners correctly too. I even got Facebook and Twiiter integration working smoothly with a simple line of OpenUrl() code without any use of plugins. But dummy me decided to do a bit of housekeeping and get rid of a useless Facebook plugin folder. That was a move in direct violation of my NEVER delete ANY scripts or assets rule (which is where most of my headaches come from). Now I have to figure out how to salvage TriGrid and get it out ASAP.

   Moral of the Story: Don't stay up coding if you're falling asleep.
   You'll make some colossal mistakes. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Challenge


   Challenge should vary game to game, depending on the intended audience, but it should still hit a minimum sweet-spot where the player is pushed to execute techniques the game just taught. Games are  considered too easy these days by players who remember struggling against challenging bosses, confusing puzzles, and annoying enemies then finally feeling the edifying triumph of overcoming adversity armed with wits and skill alone (along with a touch of luck sometimes). It's important to have that in your game so players feel like they are doing something that matters and that they're learning new skills. It takes a bit of work to make sure the challenge is genuine though, and not implemented in a way that makes the players feel cheated. Losing should always clearly be the player's fault, that way the player is more willing to keep trying. A game you work for is a game you'll care about. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Images, Icons, and Banners of All Sizes


   When your game is ready to release you'll need a metric Butt Ton of images, icons, and banners that go everywhere so people on devices of all shapes and sizes can have a chance to see a pretty little image and give your game a try. Here's a look at the ones I made and a few tips on making your own quickly and easily.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Reason for TriGrid Delays


   TriGrid should be out by now, but it isn't. I've been juggling school, a new girlfriend, and trying to get leaderboards & In-App Purchases to work. It turns out there are a lot of hoops to jump through to get them all working. There is also a lot of searching and shopping for the best Unity plugins to get the job done. As of now, I've almost gotten the IAP integrated and I dropped the leaderboard idea and will allow users to post hi-scores on Facebook and Twitter instead. I made this decision based on the idea that people will probably only care what their friends think of their score and social media is a better place to spread brand awareness than a leaderboard service. I think that after two more days of wrestling this, TriGrid will be ready for submission. I still want this submitted before Saturday.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Gaming & Simulation Major


   After looking around for colleges offering a ticket into the gaming industry I settled on Penn College. Other colleges I found were way too expensive for me ($400k+) and Penn College was in my state and much more affordable ($100k). When looking around I was seeking a computer science degree, just a basic programming degree since this was before I decided to be a game designer. I was shocked to see that Penn College offered a programming & game design focused major called Gaming & Simulation. I would get hands-on practice with working in small teams to create games using Alienware computers and industry standard game engines like Unity and Unreal. Coming here was a great decision for me, small class sizes, plenty of free time for game development, great friends in the IT field, IT club events, and a healthy female population (considering how it's a tech school).

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Focus for Fish Feaster & TriGrid


   A few days ago I posted about writing a game focus. I can give a couple examples by posting the focuses of my first two mobile games: Fish Feaster and TriGrid.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Status Report #3


  This week I've been doing schoolwork and writing things for my college game project. As for things for my own games, I purchased a nice little Unity Plug-in called NeatPlug Smart In-App Purchasing Plugin which makes coding IAP a lot easier. It cost $120 and automatically sets up the right configurations for purchses by checking the device's store data. You can find it here.
   I'm working on adding AdMob banners to Fish Feaster right now to hopefully start making a little money to go alongside TriGrid later this month.

Friday, September 13, 2013

College Project: Mach-Arena


   I wrote up a nice concept document to turn in for class yesterday and now I'm ready to share it with the world! This is the project I'll be working on over the next 21 weeks alongside my personal mobile game projects so I think it deserves a few dedicated posts. Read the concept document after the break to see what this college game project is all about.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Second College Game Project


   Yesterday in my Gaming and Simulation class at the Pennsylvania College of Technology groups were formed and project brainstorming began. My group of four got started with making our very first 3D game using the Unity engine. Watch as the game grows from idea to final product over the next 21 weeks. Find out more about the project after the break.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Focus


    When you think of a game you really want to make you should be able to explain the main idea within one paragraph. That paragraph is the focus of the game, a reference point for the game to be designed from. The focus should help determine what direction should be taken when a design decision comes up. The game's concept should be explained without comparing it to another specific game or series and it should not go into detail on how its gameplay works. The focus breaks down the game idea to the core feel and concept. Sharing it with other developers before and while making the game will unite the team under a shared vision.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

School is a Starting Point


   Although it is extremely helpful, I consider formal education for game development to simply be a starting point. It's a spark to light a fire and it's up to you to make it grow and burn brightly. Teachers and textbooks give you a guideline to follow so you can learn how everything works.  Once you learn all that you need to put the pieces together in order to form your own ideas and even take things a step beyond and continue to learn about your development environment of choice outside of class. Maybe take the time to listen to other developers and learn from the experience of others. Just don''t ever assume that because you have a degree that you can make anything you want or easily accomplish any task that comes your way. The best way to master anything is through practice.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Free AND Profitable?


    Some games are perceived as worth paying $30 - $60 for and others just aren't worth a dollar. The line between them can get pretty thin but the bottom line is if you want your game to be a hit in today's crowded downloadable market you need to have a competitive price. A few years back there was a race to $0.99, but now it's a race to $0. Winners of the race capitalize later by finding other ways to make money from a small percentage of the millions of players who give them a chance. Making games is hard and expensive, and developers have to make money somehow so we can keep making games. The best ways to do so are with advertisements and microtransactions. There is a certain amount of ethics for devs to consider when using the two, and I'm searching for a way to make money on free games while giving players who want to help me out a way to do so and be rewarded. Nobody likes a demo in disguise and I don't want customers regretting their purchases when it comes to spending money on stuff from me.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

New Arcade Era


   I for one miss the old arcade days. You could walk into one with a pocket full of quarters and find new unique games to play and old favorites to come back to. Old school games were so unique because nothing was defined back then. There were no genres to default to (aside from many games being space shooters) and simple premises became world famous hits. I think mobile games are a resurgence of that. Players can browse the market with a few dollars on hand and find new small experiences to love and tell others about. There should be less focus on becoming the next Angry Birds and more attention on making a special game that could become a hit.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Status Report #2


   Learning a bunch about multiplatform IAP with Unity and brainstorming ideas for simple to make games that could be done within 3 weeks.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Random Brainstorms


   You never know where a good idea will come from. People sometimes ask game designers "How did you come up with this?" and the answer is always either unique or unknown. Game inspirations come from a combination of all past life experiences and are triggered by some new one. It could spring from playing a minigame and thinking about ways to expand it, or a theme that looks appealing, or even some memory of playing with toys all those years ago... An idea may even come about from boredom. I know I thought up a few on long car trips. Just leave yourself open and write down anything that comes to you ASAP. You are the only person on Earth with whatever idea you come up with and it's up to you as a developer to choose which of the thousands to bring to life.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Variety is Good for the Brain


   The value of experiencing  multiple game types is immense for game designers. To be able to know about games across all genres (and even undefined ones) and draw fun elements from them can really lead to great breakthroughs. Just imagine if Call of Duty never took on RPG elements for it's online deathmatches. I am always looking for new types of games, just to see what they do and where the fun comes from. You can look into a genre that bores you and see why other people like it so much and build on that, and maybe take it in another direction. Even bad games have a lot of game design lessons to teach if you're looking for it.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ideas Before Genres


   Some of the most fun games are based on an idea and feeling a director wants to get across rather than a genre. Games like this feel original and fresh in a world where all else can be classified as RPG, Shooter, or the like. I like when games are so unique that you have to describe them by what you do in it rather than naming a genre. Sony's Tokyo Jungle is a recent example of this.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Make Games You Like


   Indies should always try to stay true to their passion. As a creator, making the games you would like to play leads to great titles with high quality and innovation. It's pretty hard to make a revolutionary Bejeweled clone when you'd rather be making a game like Zelda. The Zelda idea would shape itself into a unique vision formed with care and lots of new ideas while the Bejeweled one would be calculated, forced, and rushed.Always let the ideas and fun flow free, chasing a market becomes a trap and that's no fun for the developers or the players.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Assume NOTHING, Test EVERYTHING!!


   I learned the hard way that quick coding can lead to trouble. With programming it's best to take it slow and make sure the job is done right. You need to document code changes and never assume it works right after you type it and let it compile. If you don't, that one little line you forgot will be the bug you're digging all day for later. Try to test as often as possible and you will save time overall.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Using Unity to Make 2D Games - The Interface



   An introduction to Unity and the 2D Toolkit interfaces. This is a great way for beginners to see what Unity is like and get an idea of what can be done with it. Sometimes getting a look at the tools you'd like to use helps you ease into them. Since I just made my first Unity game TriGrid recently, I want to share what things came in handy and what all those crazy menus do.