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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Starting A Game Developers Club At School

     When I first came to PCT I expected there to be other Gaming & Simulation students to learn from. I thought there would be wise upperclassmen to show me the way and rival classmates pushing me to my limits or even collaborating with me. I wanted to know where to start, what options are feasible, and I really wanted to see what other people’s pet projects looked like. Sadly, few other students seemed to be taking the major as seriously as I did. The ones that do wish we could all meet together and develop our skills. If someone doesn't act, it’ll never get done. So I'm starting an official school club.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Status Report #53 (Sprite Outlines & Homework Galore)

     Sprites are all done and just need to be animated! This is the fun part of sprite making where I can see them in action. I also have to worry about mixing and matching certain sprite pieces for the more complex looking baddies. I'm also gearing up toward running a game development club at school.

This week in game dev can be found below!

Friday, August 29, 2014

iOS Games Disappearing (For Real This Time)

Last chance to get my iOS games like Fish Feaster!
     I thought I already went through this a long while back but noticed something was off when I still had Fish Feaster Free downloads throughout the next few weeks after my expiration date. Now I remember the extension I got during a time last year when Apple's Development Portal had issues and blocked lots of developers out. To make up for it, Apple added some time to people's dev licenses. Apple requires $100 a year to keep your games on the app store and publish new ones. If people already downloaded them, they won't disappear, but there won't be any patches coming.

    That extra time helped me get my first game to a few more people so I'm grateful for that. Now it's time to watch them go again. I still have my apps on my iPod and I have the dev files on a hard drive so they won't really be gone forever. I'm just thinking now is a good time to get ready to pull my stuff down and prepare for a new age of quality control. My old works will always exist in the Games Page but as new releases come I'd like to start marking off the practice games. I want to be known for the RPGs to come, not the amateur arcade stuff. Once the app icons at the top of my blog fill up I'll be putting only my most popular games there. Apps that get taken down will just redirect to the Games Page.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Musician Search Ends

     The dust has settled and I have finally found the help I've been looking for. Stuntddude and Ai-shi-ter-u will be helping me out on the audio side of things for my upcoming RPG. I had them send me a test track each to see if they can get the feel down and produce something in a reasonable time. I was surprised when I got a sample track back the very next time I checked my email. It only took Ai-shi-ter-u 2 hours to make and sounded like a fantastic start!

     I can finally relax knowing that I'm in good hands on that side of things. I can even look forward to growing alongside someone else and having us all climb to ever greater heights. Like I said, 100% of the OST profit will go to the composers as payment, and when I become financially stable these guys will be the first ones I go to with payment upfront in addition to OST sales.

     You can find to those guys on SoundCloud to listen to stuff they made before.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Finished White Outlines (NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN!!)

     The time consuming process of outlining each up-scaled sprite is finally over. I am ready to cut out each sprite box and drag them all into Unity. It's a big relief to be done drawing everything and soon I'll be making code that turns these pixel monsters into living creatures. Like I've mentioned before, I don't plan on ever ding this stuff again. I'll keep my sprites small, manageable, and outline-free. I can focus more on color contrasting and non-black borders to make things stick out.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wishful Thinking For My App Making Career

     Something that haunts me daily is the fact that I'm not making money off my hours of work and won't be for quite a bit longer. I see it as a long-term investment where working somewhere part-time will get me hundreds of dollars in the short-term at the price of misery on top of stress from working on my indie games. Working around the clock on my games multiplies the rate at which I'm improving which could get me to the point of creating something fantastic sooner, allowing me to make a living right after graduation.

Monday, August 25, 2014

White Outlines Are Not Finished

     There's a big time consuming thing I forgot to do for some of the new enemies and that's the white outline that helps them stick out from the background and gives that Paper Mario feel. At first it seemed like a great idea that was easy to pull off. To make it easier I even tried finding Gimp plugins that did it for me. Unfortunately the only way to get a clean looking outline is to do it by hand in MS Paint after upscaling the sprites to 300% size. Without these steps the outline will look too thick or the sprites will be blurry.

    I really dislike the effect now. Sprites take twice as long to finish this way, they consume 3 times the memory when I make them this big, some people have told me the outlines look distracting (characters look as if they're on another plane of existence), and drawing these outlines all day isn't quite as fun as making the sprites themselves.

     With the way I have things coded and animations set up, getting rid of the outlines and just being done with this would do more harm than good, delaying the game further. I simply have to finish what I started, which could take a day or too. So I'm not quite ready to import all the enemies just yet.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Scrapped: Cutting Corners On Enemy Designs

     To make things easier on myself I took a few (major) shortcuts on the project. The latest of which are the final enemy and boss designs. I made it so that they require fewer animation frames, simplified boss designs down to simple central spheres, and some enemies can't face certain directions. All these are done for the sake of time (and preserving game memory). With all this being done, I can get the game out faster and start from scratch with my mistakes behind me. It's all part of the learning process.

    In terms of entertainment, they get the job done behavior wise. I wish I had another year to flesh out all the crazy ideas I came up with originally, but those will have to wait until senior year. At this point I still don't know what I'm doing but I'm getting close to becoming knowledgeable.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Status Report #52 (College Fall 2014)

     I've been productive in term of settling in and catching my breath this week. Starting Monday things get serious and I'm expecting tons of homework to try and drown me out. That's when I'll really be able to gauge how much time I have to be truly productive. Check out this week's download rates though!

Friday, August 22, 2014

First Week of School 2014

     I've been at school for a week now and I'm starting to settle into a school routine that can maximize my game development time this semester. Things are going as I expected with classes and reunions, and I'm already getting excited about how easy every semester after this one will be because of choosing all the hard classes early on.

    In terms of people to meet I spoke with some new faces in the Gaming major and saw a few upperclassmen I remember seeing around before. I'm in a cramped dorm with 5 roommates but they aren't the gaming type so there's not much to go with in terms of brotherhood but at least everyone's nice to each other. I'll be spending all m recreational time upstairs in my girlfriend's room or with my buddies across the hall.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Adjusting To School Work Conditions

     I really did a good job picking my schedule this year. Despite being late to do so I was able to make sure all my classes are over before 5. It basically ensures I have time to get homework done and behind me any day of the week. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get first dibs on dorm rooms this time though. The school is packing people in to keep up with demand this semester so I have 5 other roommates instead of 3 like before and each of the two bedrooms now occupies 3 people, 3 beds, 3 dressers, and 3 desks. It's pretty crowded, but whatever. My computer setup fits and I have a place to crash after crunching.

    At least now I can enjoy that stretch-and-sigh feeling any 20-year-old gets from being hundreds of miles away from parents with constant access to pizza and a girlfriend next door.

I'll be doing most of my game dev work here this year.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Importing Unicorn Training Enemies

     I finished these up last week but saved this post for today to keep things interesting around here. The baddies all have outlined ready to be made into game objects now and just need to be dragged, dropped, animated, and coded. It should be much easier than before now that I have some other AI scripts to copy/paste onto them. All the complex behaviors have a base now so there's really only simple stuff left to do. Scripting the game's enemies and bosses is the first thing I'll do once I get started on developing again next week.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Some Musician Search Responses

    I've been getting some E-Mails from people who saw my recruitment posts. There have been some candidates such as Stuntddude and Ai-shi-ter-u. I've been looking at their portfolio work and trying to see who's a good match for me (not who's best but who makes music like the stuff I'll be requesting and who posts new songs often). I'm looking for someone I won't be bothering really. It's almost as if I were reviewing job applications which is weird because I'm not even qualified for any professional position myself. I want this to be more like a great collaboration opportunity for both parties to improve, not a promise of fame and money.

    I wanted to contact some folks this early to test out reception and give as much notice as possible in the two places where I'm most likely to find the kind of help I need. The brony community is known to be supportive and collaborate often. Works by these people inspired me to get started in the first place. I know for a fact that there are others like me here trying to perfect their craft and would be all for making music to match games like mine. Spreading word to general indie game music forums might attract a more professional crowd that would expect more from me.

    I'm still away from my work desk this week for the most part but I am still reading any responses that pop up. The correspondents are asking m very good questions I hadn't considered a prospective musician asking and it's giving m better insight into what someone's concerns are from the outside looking in.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Great Musician Search! (I Need Help)

    I posted a couple recruitment requests last week as a means to reach out a little and try to see if I can find someone at my intermediate level of experience. I didn't go all out yet because I want to see hat kind of reception I'd get. I've never asked for help before and feel really bad about doing it because I still have nothing to my name that proves I'm as good as I believe I'll be in a few years' time.

     If someone says "Why ponies? Are you counting on a fad?" I can only explain how I just like the aesthetic the way others enjoy elves, dinosaurs, dragons, or anthro characters. If someone asks how popular I am, my Status Report numbers aren't really something to brag about. When it comes to pay (the most important factor) there is none, and there won't be any even if I'm a moderate success (I have $100K in evil student loans to pay and I need $2K to release games for iOS). All I can offer is a chance to boost each other up so I'm looking for someone in my age/experience range to take a chance with me.

Find more details and the recruitment post below the break.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Back To School (Fall 2014)

     Funny how it feels like school is preventing me from developing my career while summer allows me to flourish. It's time to head back to school today! Unpacking, saying hello, and preparing for my classes on Monday. School day used to hold a different mix of dread and excitement when I was young. Before it was about school work vs socializing and now it's about schoolwork vs freedom from parents.

   There will be a lot less dev time but I'll be putting my time to good use based on my Junior Year Plan. I'll also be taking it easy the first week back to rest up and get ready for the tough fall season ahead of me. I know this will finally be m year. The one where I prove to myself I can be the me I envisioned when I was working as a cashier saving up to make my first little iPhone app...

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Status Report #51 (Enemies, Audio, & Alpha)

     I've reached the last mile of development. Things are looking simple from here but there's still much to do. I have nearly all the pieces complete and just have to code each game object day by day. I will be done by September and people can finally play my first big game! I'll have something in my portfolio that isn't a tiny mobile game but rather a basic RPG bursting with vibrant color and delightful combat.

     Along with those developments, my head is buzzing with ideas and directions for my career path. Do I go it alone? Should I have a team of 2 or 3? Can I afford to outsource music? Who can I trust to make music for me in the long-term? It's all killing me really.

     I don't want to push the pressures of Yotes Games onto others but I have to unless I want to take a year off game development to become any good at making music. I really need to find someone willing to work with me at least until I get to a point where I can pay for contractors who dedicate their lives to making game soundtracks.

    Read this chaotic weekly report below!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Finishing Up Enemy Sprites For Unicorn Training

     I finally got all the composition work done so I can start doing the white outlines next. I really don't like the effect anymore but I'm in too deep and have to stick through it for just this game. I gotta say all the new poses and animations took longer than I'd liked, especially the ones with walk cycles. The Troll, Ogre, and Cyclops for instance. Although the Cyclops was simpler because I could take an NPC body and make it a bit fatter and move the eye over.

     Some of these enemies require some Gimp trickery and object placement in Unity to look right but these are all the base pieces I needed to draw. Once they're brought to life in-game I can rest easy knowing release day is about a month away.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Enemy Progress For Unicorn Training

     So far so good with turning my monsters into pixels. I really am getting better at turning doodles into pixel art. It also helps to edit over my existing sprite library to create new things. Each thing I draw gives me a new piece to play with. I'll explain how each new enemy works when they're all done and functioning in Unity.

     I want to spread out posts explaining them to make up for the downtime I plan to have the first week of school. I can't just get there and go straight into crunch mode, I need a breath of fresh air and time with old friends. It's weeks like this that make me want to start doing bi-weekly posts instead of daily ones. There are just some days where nothing gets done.

   I promised daily Unicorn Training updates so that's what I'm going to do. I want them all to stand as something to look back on years from now so I can remember what it was like making my first RPG. Hopefully some reading all these can learn from my mistakes or be inspired to pursue a dream game of their own.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Learning FamiTracker & Mixcraft (Eventually)

FamiTracker. Make 8-Bit tunes with this!
     Amid feelings of uncertainty in my ability to maintain a game studio alone I considered forcing myself to adapt to one aspect of game development I never truly tried before. I already learned programming, got a feel for good design practices, and practiced pixel art so what if I can do music on my own too? It may take a dedicated very long time to get any good at it, but it might be a worthwhile investment at some point.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Teaching Myself LLC Banking

     I keep thinking more and more about what my life might be like in 4 years. I'm currently resting on the idea of working from my own house/apartment in a dedicated room or corner for game development. I can't pay for any assistance now so I'm alone on this journey. I can't guarantee I'll get help in the near future either so I think it's safer to plan with what I've got which is myself and whatever talent or connections I develop during my last 2 years at school.

     If I want to pay myself through Yotes Games LLC I'll need to figure out all the various tax info around single member LLCs, figure out which bank rips me off the least, find ways to dodge Uncle Sam's really intrusive hands, and calculate just how much profit will actually be for me and not just survival.

    Every morning I'm looking through Google for more information on this (like a Dad reading the newspaper) so I can be ready when real life hits me like a train in 2 years. You know, because school doesn't think it's worth being in the curriculum early on. Mastering trigonometry is more important than mastering your finances.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Making The Remaining Unicorn Training Enemies

     The game's development is coming to a close now and the first day of school is approaching so it's time to get the last really big task complete. Finishing the rest of the game's enemies and bosses. Spriting and coding them all may take over a week, but when that's done the game is basically in complete alpha shifting toward beta as I add in finishing touches and balance stuff.

    I plan on saving the more exotic and tricky designs  from the original document for the next game. I feel like I can make better use of them in a grid-based realtime combat system. These simple guys I sketched will get the job done and flesh out the game enough to entertain for a couple hours. They behave differently and will keep battles from feeling like a shooting gallery.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Unicorn Training Development Video #17 (Big Fat Video of Everything So Far)

     This one shows off the new ability to walk room to room and interact with things and ponies. Take a look at all the scenery and color palettes of the places you'll be exploring. It's a huge 10 minute video that shows a chunk of every interesting thing there is so far. It's basically everything from yesterday's post in video form so catch it on YouTube!

     The big thing to notice is the small number of enemies. I'll be making tons more to populate this ghost town of a world soon. This video took all day to make because I made so many recording mistakes and kept encountering bugs I needed  to fix immediately.

     Overall it was a good exercise in taking tons of footage and separating the interesting stuff from the filler and editing a video to keep you from wanting to skip ahead. If I want to make a trailer at some point I need to find a way to turn an hour of footage into 90 seconds that shows off every interesting bit. I think I'll make a practice trailer/sizzle reel of all the enemies in my next development video.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Status Report #50 (BronyCon 2014 and FINISHED COLLISION MAPS)

     It's an amazing feeling when all of that stuff you put into a game over a couple weeks suddenly just works. The game is somewhat playable now and I adore it. The towns have living NPCs, the walls are real, dark cave have the shadow effect you see above, lava dungeons have a more transparent red version of that, and the colors are as vibrant as I imagined the game would be back in the concept stage. Finishing this project quickly was a really good call because my love for it is getting stronger as I see it come together so suddenly.

Friday, August 8, 2014

More Sound Effects in Unicorn Training

     I've added more audio to the game in order to make up for all the silence going on. I wrote down every little thing in the game that would need to be heard and wrote what it should sound like. Now it's a matter of spending hours in Bfxr and Freesound to mix the right sounds together and toss them into the Unity script I have setup for them.

    It's kind of silly how disorganized it all is now that I've down-scaled and won't be using any of those reserved variables I made to prepare for a much larger world. I'll just keep churning these out for the next couple days and have every sound I could possibly need ready to go.

I also got all the NPCs working yesterday!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Working Obstacles in Unicorn Training

     I got the basic travel stuff down finally. Dungeons are navigable and feel great! Just throw in some enemies, treasures, and a boss then they'll be complete. I made things like pits you can only cross by teleporting, electrical gates that turn on/off in alternating patterns, switches that open gates, and booby traps that spawn baddies when you touch them. Next on the agenda is testing every door to make sure they lead to where they're supposed to. It'll also give me a chance to experience the world from a player perspective instead of a zoomed out tile map view.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Unicorn Training Overworld Collision Complete!

     The overworld maps are done (except for enemy placement) and look fantastic! It feels fantastic too now that all the doors are working. The longest stretch is completely behind me now and I just have to worry about making the remaining enemies before it's a smooth jog to the finish.

    The game feels more real than ever now that I can go scene to scene and the world layout makes sense. I feel like I'm 3 weeks away from finishing development. I might even be done within the first week of school with only playtesting and review requests to worry about.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Studying Accounting (For An Indie Studio)

     Even if I'm paying someone to do it for me I should have a strong grasp on financial accounting. I plan on running a business one day and knowledge of the "boring stuff" and "hard parts" are necessary for ultimate survival and happiness. If I want to exclude shifty business partners and investors solely looking for profits I need to handle all the business stuff for Yotes Games. By the looks of things (and I'm talking vague estimates here) I'll need to prepare to move to Florida and work with 2 other developers (an art dev and an audio dev) and save a total of $234,000 to get started. That's $100K to satisfy my school debts and $134K to sustain one year of business.

    It's an absurd goal but I'm dumb/naive enough to chase it. In terms of accounting studies though I'm reading my school textbook which came in early during downtime throughout the day. Usually when I'm eating, first waking up, or waiting for my computer to turn on. If I get a head-start on class it'll come as a useful review when I hear the teacher go over it. I want to be as good at this stuff as possible so I need to know this book by heart. Even though it focuses mainly on a corporations perspective rather than an LLC's.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Trademark Annoyances & Scams

    Ever since registering the trademarks for Yotes Games and it's logo I've been getting a crazy amount of letters asking me to spend $300 - $3000 on their trademark registration services. Those services do nothing to further protect me and I really just dump them in the trash. I know that using a TM in commerce alone is enough to hold up a good case in court and registering the mark beforehand with USPTO makes your argument an open/close case.

     These companies are trying to scare people into thinking without their specific international coverage or inclusion in their databases, you could lose the rights to your words & logos! I seriously get a letter a week from a different company trying to use scary language, tiny text, and government looking symbols. Future game devs beware. Legal stuff isn't as walled-off and scary as some would like you to think.

    I just figured this is something worth sharing that I haven't put as a Lesson Learned in a Status Report yet.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Study & Play: Pokemon Platinum

     I've revisited Pokemon Platinum last week to get a feel for this Pokemon game I haven't played since launch. I've been playing it while eating, waiting, before bed, etc. for a full week now. Since my Mobile class game is Pokemon based I figured I might pick up some small details or ideas by just playing it and having some eureka moments like I had playing InFamous a month before. The main thing I'm noticing now are it's flaws and how much my take on it would be perfectly suited for me. My biggest gripe with Platinum in particular is all the waiting and grinding. Those really plague the whole series but I think Gen 4 was where it was at its worst. It really just makes me want to make my game more just so I have something really fun to play.

     I think I'll stop posting Gushing About posts until further notice. I really don't want to force myself to do them and eat up hours of work that could go toward getting this heap of Unicorn Training work done. Almost done with those pesky dungeon maps!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Status Report #49 (Research, Blog Plans, & Invisible Walls)

     The big change this week is my new plans for Yotes Games in 2015. New site look, bi-weekly posts, and updates on my most important game ever. I need to change up the way I do things because day-to-day happenings can be pretty dull when there's nothing tangible to show. Games are also more prone to hype when you don't know every last detail about them.

     A lot of things happened this week and I learned a ton of stuff dev-wise. Catch this week's wisdom review below!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Unicorn Training Collision Map Progress

     I've been placing invisible walls, doors, switches, and chests in dungeons maps this week. I also put up some animated torches in rooms to liven things up.

     I'm still not done with all these yet, but at least I have them all done for the forest, caves, and building interiors. The dungeons are taking a while and this week has been filled with distractions. I keep finding ways to be more efficient with this stuff so it'll be done sometime this weekend, even if I have to skip sleep one night. I'm just sick of looking at this task on my dev list. I really thought it'd take a few days.

(Note: Tomorrow's Status Report will be a little outdated because I'll be out of town this weekend.)