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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Junior Year Plan

My programming teacher talking to parents at a recent Open House.
     Making collisions for Unicorn Training maps is taking longer than expected. A 2 day assignment has become a week-long event.  A miscalculation from inexperience that won't happen again. I may have been done quicker if I mapped collision boxes to the tileset beforehand but I wanted to make more dynamic shapes with them so I did it the way I'm used to. Silly rookie me.

    To fill up the time I should restate my slightly altered plans for the upcoming Junior year of college I'll be suffering through attending. I'll be finishing Unicorn Training in the fall then immediately doing a quick arcade title before winter break. Over the vacation I'll be in pre-production for my Mobile Development class project which I couldn't be any more hyped to do. Get a lot more details on these upcoming projects and this semester's plans below.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Future Blog Posts

Looking at the devs I follow has inspired me to change my blog up a bit.
     I plan on changing up a lot after Unicorn Training finishes up. A new banner & color scheme is in my head. I've wanted to change the site to match my favorite color combination of blue & black with white letters (instead of red and grey with black letters) for a while and it will match my Dragon game this winter thematically. More important than the palette swap is a new blog post schedule.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Unicorn Training Walls & Doors

     Today I'm still making all the collision walls for scenes and adding decoration objects to make levels pop. After this is done all the rooms will be complete (minus all the enemies). By following what I sketched exactly this work is being done pretty rapidly. There are so many scenes that I can't believe I was going to have the game be even bigger before! The Unicorn Training Package is definitely worth the buck players will spend. I'll start coding how the shop will work next. Things really are coming together and it's just the grind to the end goal.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Unicorn Training: Home Base

     Here's what the remaining interiors and town will look like. Clover lives with Swirllock in this temporary home complete with a library and magical dungeon. There are a few more edits, NPCs, and animated objects to place but the starting point is set. I'm still working on forest entrances and exits today. I have to find a way to make the shadows look nice and somewhat natural. The way out of the forest should be easy to notice so player's always know where to head. I also have to connect the game scenes so the world actually flows correctly. That means taking these pictures and making them Unity objects today.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Unicorn Training: Sprites for Switches, Doors, & Shops

     I'll need switches and doors for puzzles and I'll need breakable rocks that make fields more interesting. The tables of items allow me to make shops that feel like ones from A Link to the Past. You trot onto a cushion and the shop keep tells you what the item in front of that will cost you. You'll just press the action button to confirm your purchase (if you have enough of the right gem type).

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Status Report #48 (Tile Maps)

   This is what I've been staring at for most of the week. Lots of scenes for this little game. I want players to get their dollar's worth. After I make all the enemies and objects I can place them on the level maps I just made. See this week in review below.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Unicorn Training: Tile Maps Done

     All the maps are tiled out now. All that's left is to do some touch ups on the forest scenes and add some colliders. I want to connect every room in proper order using my door system so that the world is finally real and tangible. I'll worry about enemy and object placement once those are coded. I also wrote down which enemies will appear where in the GDD for reference later. There's 17 enemies in the works right now and if I keep up a decent pace I may have the whole game done a month early!

     I really want my first RPG to see the light of day and that day is sooo very close.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Missing Tiles (Lesson Learned)

     I'm still making maps today and I'm noticing a few slip ups on my tile sheet design. It's all fine and really just minor detail stuff, but I really should have made a few extra pieces that accommodate singe spaces and those rare corner pieces that can link perpendicular angles together. I also had some redundancy issues in that 2D Toolkit allows for flipping and turning sprites which made doing that for some tiles on the sheet pointless. The 3x4 arrangements shown above really aren't enough and I'll more likely need 12 tiles per terrain instead of 9.

    For now I'll just work around these limits but in the future I'll need to be sure I have tiles filling in 1x1,4x4, and corner positions. I'll also need to separate each sheet my tileset so I can easily reach all the tiles I could need for a particular area. I should also keep in mind how I could save time by having all the commonly used tiles in different variants(snow version, desert version, grass version) placed in the same position. That way I can swap out the Tile Sheet component and the map editor will automatically switch mapped tiles to match the ones on the replacement sheet.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Gushing About: SPORE

     This game... Is a lot of things. From what I hear most often it was mostly a disappointment. Spore was hyped up for years and it became my first PC game. That was when I found out it didn't quite live up to the spectacular industry changer I thought it would be. It released in 2008 (geez that feels like an eon ago) at a time where I wasn't allowed to  play video games on school nights (parents, right?). I was allowed to play this because I convinced my parents that it was educational and tied into evolution and space exploration which were two things I was studying in science class.

     Because of all the hype and my video game starvation I was able to make the most out of this game. It wasn't perfect but I didn't care because like all the people who remember having an NES and a library of 6 games, it was all I had. My old computer was slow and clunky even on the lowest settings, but the game still looked beautiful because it wasn't a sheet of paper or news program. I liken this feeling to how hungry I get at a cross-country meet. After you run the fastest 5K in your life you dive for any kind of nourishment you can get. I used to hate gingersnaps until I finished a race and end up wolfing down an entire box of those rock-hard cookies on the way home. When you're starving for a game it tastes that much better and that's what Spore is to me.

     With Spore being my only weekday video game I was able to make the most out of what it did have to offer. A fun creature creator, an amusing cell stage hunting game, and a gigantic galactic conquest system. Even now I can play Spore for those reasons and still have a blast for a short while. Skip over the features I didn't like and dive right into the good stuff. Spore actually has a nostalgic value for me now because of this history I have with it. I wonder if anyone else has a game they forced themselves to love forever?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Using New Tile Map Skills

     Shortly after starting to place dungeon tiles the old fashioned way I realized that it would take forever. Why not use tile mapping to save the background image as a prefab then place non-tile objects over that? It'll even save total memory in the final executable. So now I'm using the tilemap strategy I learned last week to make all the levels. It should be done by tomorrow. Then placing everything (besides enemies) should take another day.

    I thought using this tile map editor would be amazing and dear lord is it a dream. What once took hours can be done in minutes. Tons of boredom and hand cramps resolved with a simple drag & drop interface. 2D Toolkit is beautiful and it continues to make my job way easier.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Found Extra App Stores

     Gamasutra always has something new to show me and my latest discovery is this handy list of other appstores I can put my games on. I've only used Samsung, Amazon, Google Play, and iTunes so far. If my experience on Samsung proves anything, getting featured on a less crowded appstore can go really well. Even if only 15K people use a particular store, that's 15K people who didn't know about my games.

   I'll wait until Unicorn Training is done and in that break time between school semesters I can put all my other apps everywhere at once. Just in time for the holidays. I don't really feel like spending a whole day preparing for these markets just yet. I'd feel better if my first RPG went up when I join this new network. I'm not expecting any revenue from the things I have so far anyway.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Some Unicorn Training Tiles

     Yesterday I made a bunch of tiles for the dungeons and today I'm going to start making template items to make the map making more efficient. Things like bundles of trees, spike pit patterns, and common wall shapes to plant on tileland maps like I did for the forest. Those stones in the top left are switches and vanishing walls which make up a lot of the dungeon room puzzles. The colorful ball on a pedestal will be animated to flash through those colors. Players will use it to select a dungeon or boss to fight.

    (Also I updated the games page with some pictures to make the side projects section more lively.)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Status Report #47 (Starting Tiles, Written Plans)

     Planning stage complete! I literally just have to make the rest of the game now. I'll build the assets, code the necessities, and patch up the rest. By the looks of things I should be done by September. All the hard parts are officially done and it's just a matter of grinding out to the finish line. Hopefully I can get most of it done before school starts because I know I'll be distracted by then.

The status report is beyond the break!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Unicorn Training Text Is Set In Stone

     I'm going with a Link to The Past style "cut to the chase" story with this game. Being this far downsized and different from the bigger game to come, I simply have enough text to get the story rolling and let the player's imagination combined with NPC blabber fill up the rest of the world and motivations.

     A lot of the text is urging Clover to explore the forest and complete dungeons to learn spells. Those are the things players will be driven to do anyway so the dramatics are kept short and sweet. So sweet that players interested in the characters will have something to think about as the adventure unfolds. Even if someone skips through all the dialogue the goals are obvious enough that there shouldn't be any "What am I supposed to do?" moments. Especially since nothing is blocked off in this small scale open world.

     I will consider this story a success if I get people demanding Clover's next adventure and more information about her mysterious mentor. And just what is this threat he has you preparing for? Why did he leave without you so suddenly? The player will want Unicorn quest to happen as much as I do.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Facebook Ad Test Ends

     The Facebook ad has come to a close. The wallet stated to empty out and people stopped clicking so I pulled the plug to save a little juice for another test later. Basically, $35 bucks got me 17 clicks. I'm still a small name so seeing my stuff doesn't mean much yet. I'm glad I got to show an extra thousand people who I am (in ad form) and I appreciate the 17 people who thought to give me a look. I plan to keep you all entertained with up to date game dev stuff for years to come. 

Get some details and reports below.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Unicorn Training Dungeons Mapped Out

    These dungeons play out more like obstacle courses and the puzzles really won't take longer than a few seconds to figure out. The point here is the set pieces. There are multiple colorful dungeons to explore. Bosses are big and interesting. Dungeons have enough enemies and traversal to take a decent while to get through. I accomplished those goals set for my first RPG and now I can start making all these levels.

    This bothers me and relieves me at the same time. On one hand I'd like to take the time to flesh out more intricate zelda style dungeons because those embody everything I like about level design. On the other I'm glad it's straightforward and feasible so I can finish this project on time and start another with a stronger foundation. I want to make complex dungeons with themes more interesting than "open the door and reach the boss" but not with what I have here. The core of the game is too different from something more manageable and like I said before, I wish I could start over with my idea for Unicorn Quest because halfway through making this I learned so much. With every project I shake my head at the last, thinking about how I would have done it better with everything I know 'now'. But I suppose every creator does that right?

    With the way the dungeons are setup I should be able to practice with tile mapping by making each room in 2D Toolkit's tile map editor. Once I have stages I can place walls, gaps, enemies, spawn points, and treasure over them then save the whole thing as a prefab to load at playtime. Next up is sketching all the enemies I'll be using and a finalized title screen.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Unicorn Training World Mapped Out On Paper

     Another boost to morale here. With every room of the game drawn out the exact way I want it, I can clearly see everything I have yet to create. I had to shrink the map even further into a 4x4 grid, made most rooms fit into the same walls, and connected the rooms in a way that made the forest feel varied and not like a bunch of filler space. I made it so each of the 5 caves have different gemstones in them making exploration necessary to purchase items from the store. I made it so that each room will take multiple minutes to explore as well (assuming you fight at least a few enemies).

     There's markers for enemy placement, gem dig spots, every chest, every flower, every bush, and every rock. I even got some ideas for story pacing with the placement of things in Clover's house. Using text and the environment to lead the player along is much easier than puppeteering and coding everything which I'd rather do with a Pokemon-style grid based system where things are easy to move around.

     If I continue this with the dungeons (which I'll be doing next) I can have it so I won't need to create a cutscene creation pipeline. Making cutscenes with my current setup would be a nightmare, so if I can sidestep that then the hardest parts of making this game are done. I really feel like I can finish this thing now and once I sketch all the dungeons I bet the feeling will multiply.

Monday, July 14, 2014

2D Toolkit Tile Map Research

     I curious about how tile maps worked so I looked it up while eating breakfast to at least get the idea running in my head. That way, when the time comes to make my next game I can go into it with the knowledge of how level building is going to work. Once again Unity (paired with the 2D Toolkit) floored me with it's simplicity. Here I was ready to take notes and review the tutorial multiple times and it turns out to be as easy as every other aspect I've used.

    Like Game Maker I just make a sprite sheet, create the game object, and edit a tile map. I can even easily make Day/Sunset/Night versions of each map for my Pony RPG which I thought I wouldn't be able to do! It really is that much easier than the hard-coded stuff I'm used to.

    This is the tutorial I read and this is the tutorial I watched (to see it in action). I feel pretty silly about the way I'm going with Unicorn Training's level building but like I said, there's no stopping this train now. I'll just take everything I just learned into account and make grid based worlds from now on. Fewer collision problems, a more neatly designed world, more efficient space usage, leading to bigger games.

     This stands as an example of how I learn things and why I don't like how schools charge hundreds of thousands of dollars to teach things that may come in handy while I'd need to go out and find immediately useful information on my own like I always have. I won't get too into rant mode now, but I just learned something very useful and it took 30 minutes. I can now make better, more efficient games.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

I Think I Prefer Working With Grids & Tiles

     You know how in games like Pokemon you can only move along a grid of squares? How you can count each step and know where you'll end up? I think I'll be working that into my RPGs in the future. Collision boxes are always a headache and especially so with Unicorn Training. It's a good lesson and experience but I really want to work with something simpler to code. Most of my bugs come from collider box issues and it's what I've spent a large amount of time working on. I'd rather put that care into adding new things instead of fixing the simplest of features (the ability to walk around and not go through walls).

     Like TriGrid, I can just keep track of all the squares around an object and know if it's okay to move an exact amount of pixels each step. I can even snap to the next position with a little algorithm. Unicorn Training depends on free movement for it's arcade shooter style combat so there's no going back now, but it's really something I want for my future titles.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Status Report #46 (Redesign, NPCs, & Title Logos)

     I had no idea what to do when starting on the logo. So I really just typed it in a pixel looking font added some gradients, drew borders in MS Paint and put on even more gradients. At the end of the day I had a title image for Unicorn Training. Made one for Unicorn Quest too while I was at it. I also did a bunch of stuff this week! Check it all out below!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Unicorn Training Development Video #16

     It's been a while since I made a video update so here's some interesting stuff that hasn't been shown before! A town scene that isn't that one forest room I keep using! A nice change of pace. This also shows text boxes in action as I wander around the hub town of the game: Timber Grove.

    I show off just about everything that's set in code, glitches and all. This is a mark to see the game explode into production afterwards because with this out of the way it's time to draw out literally everything I plan to implement for the game on paper. That means drawing on graph paper for the rest of the week! And I actually love this part because I get to dream and build a world I can actually see (to write it is to know, to sketch is to see, to sprite & code is to feel).

Watch the YouTube video here.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Unicorn Training: NPC Ponies Complete!

     Finally done with these guys after 3 days. I was going to have a bunch more unique sprites but it was taking too long as is so I just started doing recolors of my current 4 designs. Two males, two females, no foals. My excuse for not doing little kid ponies is that Clover is the youngest pony in the forest so she doesn't really have any best friends or sibling figures.

    For the most part NPCs will wander around town, chill in their homes and shops, and an occasional few can be found in the wilderness attending to their business in dangerous territory. None of the ponies in Timber Grove are grand mages like Swirllock or Clover so she really has no deep connections with anypony there and spends all her time studying magic and waiting for the day she travels with Swirllock back to her hometown in Bright Valley.

    After importing them into Unity I'm running into some strange animation errors that I'll need to fix tomorrow because as of typing this, it's 2 AM, this took all day, and I need to sleep.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Gushing About: InFAMOUS

This week's is a short one, but it's what has been on my mind.
     I've been replaying a lot of InFamous lately. Actually, just the first game and the second one's demo since I don't have anything else from the series. I really love the superhero origin story feeling it gives me and I noticed how my goals to become more powerful and save the city from chaos fit the theme so well. I also noticed some parallels with with Unicorn Training's goal of becoming strong enough to beat a looming threat.

     The way it introduces new powers had me analyzing how when you're going through the game you'll find some aspect of combat or traversal cumbersome, then two missions later you get a power that makes that aspect a lot of fun and the game gains a rush of interest. You can really make a game feel new the whole way through by not showing all your offerings at once. I'll take that to heart when designing my own titles.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Player-Character Connection In Unicorn Training

     Unicorn Training suddenly holds more meaning now. Thanks to the latest Sequelitis Video I've been thinking more about aligning player goals/desires with that of the in-game avatar. When the story matches with what the player wants to do there is an immediate connection. You can relate at least on that level to the character you're playing as and immersion is key to a good experience.

With my new plan of spreading the game into 2 parts I can create a story that matches my feelings as the creator, the player's desire to explore and fight, and Clover's desire to grow stronger and see the world.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Adventures in Equica: Unicorn Training (Unicorn Quest Redesign)

     After a lot of thinking, writing, sketching, and general reorganization of the mind I've settled on a game plan. I will rename my current project and call it Unicorn Training and call it's sequel Unicorn Quest. This first game will act as a prologue to my original idea.

   Making this smaller scale version of the game frees up a lot of possibilities for me while fulfilling the reason I wanted Unicorn Quest to exist in the first place. I'll have a cool RPG under my belt, I'll set the stage for a sequel that expands on the world I want to build, and I'll be able to make said sequel as my graduation project (hopefully with a budget allowing for a collaboration with a certain pixel artist I know of).

   The dragon RPG demo that was going to be my senior capstone project can now get pushed back so I can start it right after Unicorn Training (I can't start my other pony RPG until the first day of mobile gaming class). Then I'll have 2 really cool games to my name (and hopefully an income above my current zero) before starting the two biggest RPGs in my head.

   The problem of scope does not come from hardware limitations but from my desire to be done faster. I've learned so much from getting this far that I really want to start over with my improvements in mind. The improvements are so time consuming and dramatic that I might as well just make a new game, so why not just split my project in 2? One to release now and another for me to do in class senior year. I'll have more time to work on it then and I don't feel my current direction will do the idea justice.

See everything I wrote in my messy design document so far below the break.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Scrapped: Interactive Battle Terrain (Items in Grass)

     I wanted to have things like cutable grass, smashable boulders, and other debris on the battlefield. Then looking at that section of the GDD now, it's pretty pointless. Enemies already have a chance to spawn hearts and more frequent health drops decreases the value of cupcakes, decreasing the value of gems. Plus, I hadn't thought of a way to make such obstacles blend well with the environment or planned out an algorithm to randomize their locations on he battlefield.

     Now that I think about it this was a feature that just felt like a nice fit because Zelda had it and Zelda inspired this game. The truth is it works well there and not here so I'm dumping the idea to save a chunk of time. I can find other ways to make the environments feel more lively and there doesn't need to be any more item dropping objects in the game.

     There will still be interesting elements in every battle scene (lava, moving pillars, walls, etc.) but the enemies will be the main interactive/randomized elements. As a producer/manager of this project it seems like a very logical cut.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Status Report #45 (Smarter NPCs & Shrinking Scope)

     I'm going to start titling these now. It'll be easier to keep track of them this way. It may seem mundane but getting in and out of houses gave me quite a bit of trouble collision wise. Eventually I fund just the perfect spot to put the exit collider, player spawn position, and wall boxes. I should also consider making future houses bigger. I can keep the forest homes small because this town is meant to be somewhat of a dump compared to the big city.

Find out what else I've been working on this week below!

Friday, July 4, 2014

If I Started Over Now... (Unicorn Quest)

     My first Adventures in Equica title isn't even out yet and I can already see some missteps that I would have approached differently. I'm too far in to do much about them now but I will keep these ideas in mind if/when I do a sequel years from now. However, a new idea for the game's structure came to mind and I think I might shrink the game's scope quite a bit to devote more time to polish. I'll need to sleep on it and get some outside opinions (especially yours!) but catch what I have in mind below the break.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Equica's Pixie Fountains On Hold

     I worked on sprites for the pixie fountain Clover will use to fast travel around Equica. I will be placing these things in key areas spread out to destinations players may visit often. They also double as healing centers and are small enough for me to squeeze indoors if I need to.

     In Equica, pixies have a unique teleportation magic. In exchange for their magic Unicorns have constructed these magical homes for them. Standing on the square will restore your health and pressing the action button there will bring up the warp menu so you can pick another discovered fountain to warp to.

     You unlock new fountains by finding them and offering a certain amount of gems of a certain kind. Pixies eat gems and will only teleport generous ponies who have fed them before. The healing is always free but unlocking a fountain for fast travel will cost you.

     Trouble is, I can't come up with their visual composition and it just looks off. I'm considering having them more edged (hexagonal?) in the front, making them gold instead of marble when activated but grayed out when not, tilting the standing pad to match building/stump angles, and layering on some moving water and tiny wandering pixie objects. I might even get rid of the warp pad entirely because the perspective is so weird. I don't know yet. I'll come back to this later.

     For now I'll just put this aside because there's a lot of stuff to work on that I do know how to handle and I bet the look will come to mind over time in a burst of creativity. Many things like this do.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Unicorn Quest: Making An RPG Town Scene - From Gimp To Unity

    With my world map charted out it's time to start putting my plans into practice. I'm using the techniques I used to create the battle scene. I start with colored blocks indicating walls, land, and obstacles. Next I do some sprite work to have things to fill space with. After I have blueprints and pieces I line everything up and put it into Unity so I can add collision boxes where they're needed.

    See a more detailed breakdown of making the game's forest town, Timber Grove, from sketch to in-game (along with some pictures) below the break.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I'm Back & Ready To Blitz Unicorn Quest Development!

     As of tonight I'm back at my post and more ready than ever to finish up Unicorn Quest's features before school starts in August. During my little vacation I got lots of rest, came up with lots of gameplay ideas to make my current and future projects even better, and was possessed by the urge to get Unicorn Quest done so I can officially have a really cool game under my belt. Visit this site throughout the week and you'll see a lot get made.

      I'm at the point where I can chart out the entire world map so I know exactly what I need to make for it. Before diving into the asset creation for that there are still some things I need to do like battle scenes, alternate costumes, and more enemy designs. If the fire in my chest lasts the rest of summer, I'll be at a point where I'm just placing game objects where they need to be by August 20th. I want everything done so I can conduct a beta in October to fish out bugs and get the game some popularity.

     If you want the status report charts missing from last Saturday, App Annie is having a 503 makeover tonight so I might as well just post my app stats on Saturday like normal. Going by my emails, the patterns have not changed much. Some days with 4 downloads, other days with zero.