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Monday, March 31, 2014

PCT Open House - Spring 2014 (Gaming & Simulation)

     My college's open house happened on Saturday and some students and I volunteered to help with the Gaming and Simulation presentations and represent what BGS majors are capable of. I had a lot of fun and got everything I wanted and more out of the experience. Get the details of that experience below.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Making My First Debug Menu

      I never needed to use a built-in debug to make a game before because my previous titles were all small and arcade oriented. Making changes for testing was just a matter of changing a bit of code and running the game again. A complex RPG has a lot of things to manage and balance and the quickest way to test everything would be to sidestep rebuilding the game.

      Having a menu to change variables around will make it so that I don't have to change tons of code and keep track of what I'm messing with. Because of so much save data being involved, being able to mess with it all this way is the safest option. I don't want to risk messing up a system so fragile.

     I'll have a video of the debug tool in action once there's more to show. Right now there are just buttons with empty methods and changeable text.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Status Report #31

     Big things happening all week! It's been one of the busiest weeks of my life so far with an entire game being made, lessons learned, research done, and connections made. Nothing happened for Unicorn Quest other than a tweaked idea for combat, but a lot of things happened for Yotes Games as a whole.

     Today I'm attending my college's open house to help inspire freshman and convince parents that game development is in fact a legitimate job. I also had a change of plans and won't be attending summer school like I intended which may lead to Unicorn Quest having an early release.

Check out the Status Report below!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Feed The Plant is on Google Play!

     Feed The Plant (my 2 day challenge) is now available on the Google Play app store! Judging by Candy Shop Catch I can see this game doing well over time. It may even be able to entertain hundreds of people who never heard of me before and get them to try my other games.

     It's coming to Amazon and Samsung too soon. Their review processes take longer than Google's so don't expect anything until next week. This will also be the first game I put on the Samsung market, opening up that door for me later.

      I had a lot of fun doing this and am glad I went through with the challenge. Now I can get back to Unicorn Quest with more confidence and experience than before.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

2 Day Simple Game Challenge

Presenting Feed The Plant! The shortest and simplest game I've ever made.
     Flappy Bird is an example of how far a simple game can go. Naturally after a hit like that there are hundreds of imitations. I hear about 60 clones being uploaded a day and scoffed at the idea of joining the frenzy. Countless times I hear "Hey Yotes, why don't you make a game like Flappy Bird?" and just roll my eyes. But then I got to thinking...

     Everyone is rushing for the leftovers of Flappy Bird's explosion, but they all upload the same game. They could at least try playing with the mechanics instead of swapping the sprites. What if there was only one set of pipes and multiple birds pass through it? What if they got eaten by a monster on their way through? What if you wanted that to happen? And after a doodle of a piranha plant eating bird on a note card I got serious.

     I was curious about my ability as a game developer. I see game jams all the time and wonder how people turn things out so quickly. My smallest and fastest project was Candy Shop Catch and even that took over a month. I feel like I could make a game quickly using everything I've learned so far, but is there any proof? I also found the idea of making a Flappy Bird game in under a week to be a great test for myself and a morale booster for spending the rest of the year on Unicorn Quest.

     As I'm typing this I have the finished game running in Unity and my phone. I'm working on promotional materials tonight so I can upload it to Google Play and post a video of it tomorrow. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

GDD: Zephyr Ataxia (Villains & Sub-bosses)

These guys gave me the idea of making the bosses have personalities. 
      I've been changing enemies around a bunch but the bosses are pretty concrete so it's probably fine to show them now. The big bad guys are all members of what is essentially a group of anarchists who want to finish the genocide their leader first started before she was defeated by Clover's mentor Swirllock the Bearded. They are the Zephyr Ataxia (chaotic storm), named after the endless storm raging below the floating isle of Equica.

     They are responsible for all the ghostly minions spawning in the world and defeating them unlocks their special move for you to use, Megaman style. Clover's special ability is quickly learning spells through observation so you get rewarded with new spells if you survive the fight with one of them.
      Each member has a specialty magic and 5 of them are very difficult optional fights. I don't want to give away too much about their personalities until I have something to show. For now I'll just list their names, where you will fight them, and the basics of their combat style.

     Check out their descriptions below the break. And if you're curious about how I name nearly everything I come up with, look up synonyms to any word on and try mashing them together until something sounds cool.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Clearing My Head of The Next Project

     I came up with a very fun idea for a game two nights ago and I spent all of yesterday organizing it into a basic design document so that I can get it out of my head and written down. I was going to start my dragon themed RPG right after Unicorn Quest but an irresistible idea for another pony RPG popped into my head when I watched my girlfriend play a mod. But I won't give any details until Unicorn Quest is done and I've proven I can finish a big RPG in the first place.

      Just know that this won't be the only pony game series I'll work n in my career. Also know that there is a turn-based RPG coming in between Unicorn Quest and my dragon RPG.

     If a game idea pops into your head, just write it down as quickly as you can because you don't know if it'll come back when you wake up the next day. I scribbled thoughts into my iPod's notepad and retyped it in MS Word to make revisions. If I didn't do that the idea would hang over me while I'm trying to make Unicorn Quest which needs my attention right now.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Unicorn Quest Item Ideas

     What would an RPG be without some way to turn currency into a way to strategize when to heal yourself in combat. There is a quick access bar above the magic bar with 4 slots for your four favorite items. Players can assign what four items they are in the pause menu. There are 16 items in the game and each one can hold up to 99 of any given item.

     Some items can only be found in certain shops. Some are more expensive than others. Some cost certain gem types in one town and other gems in another. I'm trying to make each item special and interesting and the list of items changes frequently as I balance things so the item definitions are not final. The general theme is that tonics restore magic and cupcakes heal you.

Check out the list of all 16 items below the break.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Gem System

     Gems are used in place of coins/rupees in this game. this was inspired by the colorful gems in Friendship is Magic. It seems to be a colorful alternative to regular bits/coins and by using different sizes I can give each a unique value. I can measure the currency in weight instead of having a separate wallet for each. 

     There's Topaz (1g)Beryl (5g)Garnet (20g)Sphene (35g), and Kunzite (50g)Details on how they work below the break.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Status Report #30

     It feels like only two days worth of work got done in a week. Dropping from 9 hours a day to 2 feels like torture. Homework is killing me when all I can think about is how I could be spending that time doing something that mattered infinitely more. I did get some interesting work-in-progress screenshots of the pause menu though, so catch those below the break.

     Here's what I managed to do in my little work time.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Scrapped: Overmap

     Sometimes removing features can feel just as good as adding them. Shrinking the game's scope to increase feasibility boosts morale and brings the game's release day closer. I was thinking hard bout the pickup and play feel I wanted the other day and felt that getting around the map needed to be faster. If some players are only playing in stretches of 5-10 minutes at a time, there needs to be a fast sort of warping system in place. It'll make dashing out of a dungeon or forest to stock up on items and warping back smooth and quick. Why waste time roaming a map when you can press a button?

     I also wanted to reduce the scope a little. Having a world map means making more sprites, spending time defining a good look for it, and working out how to control Clover on it. Cutting this feature probably saved me a couple weeks of development time. I think the world will feel better as a Zelda style connected whole in the end anyway.

Check below the break to see what I have in mind for the world map and it's varied regions.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Choosing UQ's Platform

     I chose Android first and foremost because that's where my experience lies. It's the most fun for me to develop for and I feel like the market desperately needs more games with substance like Unicorn Quest. It's also a platform with hundreds of millions of users. I'm hoping a small fraction of that population catches wind of my little game and at least gives the demo a try.

     I'm not releasing on iOS because I don't have a Mac with the latest OS which I need to publish games. That's why DragCore isn't on the iTunes app store. I want to release both DragCore and Unicorn Quest on iOS as soon as I can afford a computer that costs over $1000 (which won't be for a long while). I also have vague dreams of porting Unicorn Quest to Playstation Mobile, Ouya, Desura, and Steam so it can reach as many people as possible. It'll be the same price across all platforms too. No more than $3.

    My focus right now is finishing the game at all. Launching on something like Steam is a project in its own right. I'd need to address the right press, make additional promotional art, and test out literally everything to fix bugs. Once I have a product, I can give it the focused porting and marketing it deserves. That's just the kind of mentality I have. Make the most awesome thing ever, then try to get a reward when it's finished.

     Unity let's me easily build to so many platforms. Why not take advantage of that?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Gushing About: Fighting is Magic

     This is the game that made me want to become an indie developer. This is the game that made me start looking up how to make games myself instead of relying on school to do it for me. This is the game that showed me that it's possible for a small group of fans to get together and produce a work with professional quality. This is the form off creative brony work that showed me just how powerful mixing my two favorite things in the world could be.

     This is a post about Fighting is Magic.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Equica's New Collision System

     I tried coding this thing with simple boxes that touched each other and executed whatever methods I wanted. What seemed simple turned into a complex and messy web. After doing research I found that Unity once again has something to do it for me. The character controller component let's top-down characters move around and collide dynamically with walls (or anything with a non-kinematic, non-trigger collision box).

   I had to rewrite how moving clover around works but the result was wall collision that didn't look buggy. The sacrifice was taking out the bounce effect I had for Clover's movement. I loved that bounce. I needed it. So I spent a day trying to get it to work with the new controls. The solution was simple so of course it took forever to realize. I could just use both my collision schemes together. One box for the walls detects the wall itself and another box outside the edges tells Clover to stop bouncing so she doesn't clip through walls.

    Then just to be extra safe I mad it so that if anyone broke through a wall, they would hit a net that sends them back to where they entered the room from on contact.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring Break 2014 Is Over

     Well, last week was pretty fun. I got a lot of things done and I've never felt better about the Adventures in Equica project. I'm just kind of dreading the endless stream of homework and projects headed my way now that I;m back in school. The hours of college work I'll be doing will cut into game development big-time. My grades are dropping a bit as I care less about class and more about real life problems (finishing Unicorn Quest and starting a company). I really need to pick it up a bit and finish the semester strong for my parents' sake.
     I'd say the best parts about going back are seeing my friends again (probably all talking about Dark Souls 2) and relaxing with my girlfriend (the highlight of every week). I'm betting on going back to 2 hours of game development a day but the game will be done eventually. A big thing I keep telling myself is to relax. Sometimes I feel like I need a lot of things done within a week but truthfully there is no deadline. I just need to make the game incredible and I have about a year to do it.

      I really am looking forward to my school hiatus next fall. Once summer school ends (August 14) I get to take the fall semester off and finish up Unicorn Quest with no distractions.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Starting the Pause Menu

I like how this game's menu is less complicated than it feels.
     I need to start designing the pause menu so I have a nice place to mess around with debug settings. Making a game this huge is going to require a lot of jumping around the map and adjusting stats. It's also another feature that will make the game come alive a bit more. I've made tons of menus before so this should be a piece of cake.

     The idea is to have it pop up above all the camera elements, be black but transparent, have an outline similar to the one above that matches the GUI scheme, and delete itself when the pause button is pressed again. If I make it a prefab in Unity I won't have to worry about hiding all the layers and buttons and rearranging the text. Each menu can be it's own object, summoned when called on and deleted when gone.

     I took my doodles from class and scaled things out on a 1/4 size mock-up in MS Paint. This is generally what I'm aiming for. These are all the things I want available on the start menu. Well, I should squeeze in your current level above the exp bar and add a continue button to Options in case some people don't like pressing the pause button again to play, but aside from that I just have to make buttons and things to match up.

   I'll explain what each menu does when I have the final version up and running. Until then, try to guess by looking at the image. There's a few unannounced features on display but everything is pretty self-explanatory.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Status Report #29

     My mission was to work hard through Spring Break to make my game more tangible. Mission accomplished. Along the way I also finally cemented the game's scope. The design document's numerous blank pages were filled with details with exactly what Unicorn Quest will be made of. I also made a new friend who is working with a team on a pony action RPG of his own. Keeping up with that game is inspiring me to continue work on my own.

Time for graphs and retrospectives below the break!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Working on Teleportation (Video)

     I'm finishing up the code for teleportation tonight (12:25am as I type this) and deciding on how to control is took longer than I expected. I was drafting all kinds of ways to make it work. Six different control schemes were failures but the seventh is pretty nice. Simply tap clover then drag in any direction and she moves as if controlled by the D-Pad. I want this to feel fluid and fun. It's something players will need to do often to defeat the tough bosses I have in mind.

     Describing the methods I'm testing would take up a whole page so I won't bother posting about it. Instead, have a video of it in action. A movie is worth a million words.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Overmap Roaming

The idea of Equica being in the sky came from this game.
     Unicorn Quest will have two exploration screen types. There are overworlds (walk around, visit towns, and solve puzzles) and then there are overmaps (mario 3 style level select). I chose this in order to capture the size of Equica. It's a giant continent in the sky, not some place you can walk across in half an hour. It's full of diverse regions with dramatically different topographical features.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Scrapped: Custom Pony Avatars

     A big part of making feasible games (ones you intend to finish) is cutting features to limit the scope of your game. During Unicorn Quest's development a lot of things hit the cutting room floor. One of my first ideas to go was the customizable hero. I tried thinking of ways to make it work but in the end it just required too much work and too much game memory.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The First Background is Complete!

     Pushed by the urge to make something that will motivate me, I finished up the background for the forest battle room and changed Clover into fight mode. Now I can watch her in what is basically what I want the final game to look like. Adding details after all that really made it feel complete and I couldn't be more excited to work on this game.

     Having the trees with varying hues succeeded in giving the forest level some color, and I want the whole game to be colorful and visually distinct. I added a bunch of grass sprites scattered across the checkered pattern to make the forest floor seem more messy and less uniform. When everything was in place something still looked wrong until I added a shadow beneath Clover. Now the world feels real. The 3D feel is much more immersive and helps you better judge your collision box.

     And if you're wondering about the bar and text over Clover's head, I'm working on things to put over living game objects and I'll explain each thing once they're working better. I'm starting to think that may be the better approach to take from this stage on. Small things can be shown when they're ready and big things are worth posting about ahead of time.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Zooming, Battle Rooms, and Map Plans

     The scenes need to be small enough to load quickly and not lag during gameplay. They also need to be big enough to explore and fit interesting content. A nice trick to making a place feel bigger is to zoom in on the avatar, limiting your view and even feeling a bit claustrophobic indoors. I can use this trick for some parts of the game but for others, it's important that players can see far.

     Particularly in battles. This game plays like a shooter so you need to see where projectiles are going and where they're coming from. There will also be puzzles where a larger field of view will be necessary, so I coded the game to adjust the camera and HUD as the zoom changes dynamically. It's a useful rick I'll be putting to use in fun ways once I have some maps planned out.

See what I have in mind below the break.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Unecessary College Degree

     I've been having reoccurring daydreams lately. Daydreams about what I wished college was like. I'm basically venting my anger about why college degrees are worthless for some career choices, but are still required. When Google is the greatest learning tool on Earth, and it's available for free, why is college still mandatory? I can only speak for the gaming industry on this but I'm sure it applies in similar fields. People can easily and very effectively teach each other. Practice, internships, and apprenticeships are quite a bit more useful than standardized tests.

     I can see the day were the collaborative effort of teaching through the internet makes formal schooling for some fields obsolete and it can't get here soon enough. It's awful that degrees are this multi-thousand dollar piece of paper that serves as a required check-mark on resumes for jobs that should be performed by people with the most ability. Who cares where you learned to do a job as long you can do it right?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Status Report #28

     Unicorn Quest is coming along nicely. It's starting to look like an actual game now. Every day I go to bed with a sense of accomplishment because I know I'm getting stuff done. I want to have something to showcase the combat in action by the end of spring break (where I'll have a solid 10 days of development). This way of development is much better than how I did things before. Switching hats frequently instead of dedicating to one task is a lot less stressful and I get to see the game quickly coming to life.

     Take a look at what got done in this week's status report.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Making Maps With Tiles

     Unicorn Quest is gong to need maps. Lots of them. She's going to be running around fighting monsters, stepping on switches and talking to townsfolk and there needs to be a background for her to stand on. The problem is I have never made a game like this before and I need a place to start. That's why I'm trying out something new. I'm going to make color coded mock-ups in MS Paint to chart out where all the tiles will be in a room, then placing tileset pieces I make around the map.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

My Little Game Dev Forum

     This forum was particularly inspiring because I was browsing this when I came up with the idea of making my project featuring unicorns and elemental magic. I actually posted there days before I mentioned it on the blog. It's a place where brony developers talk about their projects and collaborate. Brony developers are particularly interesting to me because they generally seem to be on the same level as me. Looking at indies in general makes me feel a bit small because so many indie teams are producing awesome flashy stuff that I'm not capable of.

     The things I see on Equestria Gaming however, are more my speed. Just one or a few people working on fan games and mods while in school. I can relate more to that than indies doing Kickstarters, taking loans, and working on games full-time. It's that humble feeling that pushes me forward. Seeing my peers working toward a similar goal makes my own goal seem not so impossible to reach.

     I basically wanted to give a shoutout to the development forum I frequent the most in hopes that more people discover it and increase the size of the community. Keeping up with the other great projects over there is becoming a hobby of mine. This community got me interested in game development in the first place, so it's only fitting that my first completed passion project is based on the show that inspired the community.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Gushing About: The Legend of Zelda ~ Twilight Princess

     Twilight Princess is an incredible Zelda game. While it's not everyone's favorite, it's a favorite of mine. This game will always be one of the most memorable Zelda's to me because of all the fond memories and experiences I'm left with. This game had new things to do at every corner and was the next-gen Zelda I always dreamed about after playing Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker.

Let's revisit this Wii Launch title after the break.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Walk, Trot, and Gallop

     Clover's animations and speeds are dependent on her location and status. If she is in battle, she looks determined and runs around quickly. If she's indoors, she walks calmly with a smile on her face. If outside, she trots about like any cute cartoon pony would. When her health is low, Clover looks out of breath, both in battle and in the overworld. All these minor additions were added to her basic sprites easily thanks to the setup I have in MS Paint.

     I programmed these animations to be easily changeable on the fly. This will allow me to use more expressive sprites in cutscenes. I can even take individual frames out of context and reuse them as expressions. Little details like that will really make the game come to life.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Clover's Animations Complete!

     I literally finished putting these into the game minutes ago. I promised there would be a video today and I met that deadline. I was surprised how many little problems popped up toward the end. This took an entire day when I expected a few hours of work. But as with everything for this game, it was a labor of love. I want this to be the best game it can possibly be.

Check out the video showing off a fully animated Clover on YouTube:

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Facing Different Directions

      One of the harder sprites to do was the front facing template pony. I spent most of the time staring at it and wondering what little detail was off about it. After a bunch of trials and referring to Bobby's pony sprites, I got something that looked just right. From that, I could make sprites facing the opposite way.

     I also put together a few other sprites for idling and talking. All of which were saved as templates to make spriting Clover, NPCs and even some enemies a lot easier and faster. I was able to dress up the template to look like Clover and I should b able to upload the video of what she looks like in motion tomorrow.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Status Report #27

     This week has been great for setting up Unicorn Quest. I spent all week making final sprites for Clover and coding basic movement. I also revised a few things in the design document and came p with two more ideas for the game's story  (I'm writing them all down then deciding on the best one later). I aim to finish Clover's walking by the end of the day. There's something magical about putting the final white outline around the sprite and just looking at it...

Find the full status report after the break.