Monday, May 28, 2012

Another new game, but with actual progress!

So after putting my original game on hold, then abandoning my second game idea due to a complete inability to design it properly right now, I decided to build software to control my 3D printer. Then I got distracted by yet another game idea. This is it!

The idea is that you're the leader of a group of medieval-ish folks who've gotten blasted from their old world to this new one as a result of a terrible cataclysm. You're not the only ones to get blasted out to this new world, so you've got to build things up quickly and make sure that you retain your kingdom.

This first image is of the strategic map. Each hexagon represents an area roughly 10 miles across. The middle one is lighter in colour because you've got a presence there; the rest is grey because you know roughly what the terrain looks like but you have no current knowledge of what's happening there. (Basically -- fog of war.) At the start of the game, you'll really only see your own starting hex and terrain within two hexes; there's a lot more showing here because I'm testing out the terrain generation right now so I want to see the whole thing.

This second picture is a detailed view of zooming in to the highlighted hex from the above picture. Each hexagon in this map is roughly one mile across. As you can see, in this map you've got a view of what sorts of resources each hex provides. (The amount shown on each hex is a little goofy -- I just finished coding the resource The display isn't great, but I'm tinkering as I go and it's getting steadily better. The big thing in the middle is an indicator that there's a town called Raventree with a population of 3 blocks of people (each block being roughly 1000 people).

There's a whole lot more coming. Fairly soon I'm going to start adding production in to the game, and then I'll start working on the tech tree.

I'm working on a couple ideas for the tech tree. One idea I'm working on is to have two types of research - incremental and revolutionary. Incremental research is things like your wise men working with your lumberjacks to gradually improve nationwide lumber production, or working with miners to invent better ways to mine ore. Basically, refining and getting better at things you already know how to do. That's research you can guide; you'll be given options to control how many resources go into that kind of work, where it gets spent, etc, and progress will be measurable and reasonably predictable.

Revolutionary tech advances are going to be different. These are more like the Civ concept of technologies - things you don't know how to do yet but would like to learn. So, for example, Arcane Arts will be a Revolutionary Advance available to your people. Until someone in your nation develops it (or you learn it from another nation) you can't do anything with magic. Unfortunately for you, you have very little control over how quickly these advances come up, or which one pops out next. There'll be a certain amount of weighting to make it more likely that you're going to get an earlier tech than a later one, but it's not guaranteed. The idea is that Revolutionary Advances represent huge leaps, things that require someone to achieve a huge leap in understanding in order to open up whole new fields of research. Once someone's discovered the basics, you can settle down to refining the ideas in a predictable fashion, but until you've got the basics, you don't even know where to start.

Anyway. That's a lot of rambling. I'll post an update soon; I've been making fairly steady progress on this game over the past couple weeks and I believe that's going to continue for a while. I may also post up a video on YouTube if I get anything really exciting going!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Apparently I am easily distracted

I gave up on the game I was working on in my last post... After three days of farting around with exactly zero progress to show for it, I realised I just am not the kind of person who can design that kind of game right now.

At which point my brain promptly designed a totally different game.

And now I'm ignoring that in favour of a new project.

I joined in a Kickstarter project for a 3D printer (Printrbot, to be precise) and I'll be getting that sometime in March, most likely. One thing I'm already noticing is that the software available to hobbyists is very functional, but very basic. I'm now looking at building a super-cheap computer to control the printer and provide functionality like job queuing, status monitoring, and whatever else seems interesting.

Since the printer itself doesn't have a powerful-enough onboard computer to do this work, I'm going to have to build one to do that control. I don't want to waste all the space and electricity it would take to run one of my old boxes just for that, so I'm looking into building a little ITX computer to act as a server. I've found the board I want (I think) and I've verified that I can load Linux on it, and I think I know enough of how the normal printer software works to hook in appropriately (or at least shell out to it). There are a few things I need to sort out still but it looks like everything's going to be achievable.

Which means the next thing I need is a case to protect the computer and hopefully mount it directly on to the printer to save space & hassle... which means I need to build a case and some mounting system... which means that my first project when I get my 3D printer will be to build upgrades to my 3D printer. It's amusing me.

In the meantime, I'm keeping my new game idea floating around in the back of my head for consideration. I'll get back to it before long, but for now I've got a shiny new toy distracting the everloving crap out of me.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Frustration is good for the soul

The last couple days have been very educational for me. I've been trying to work on my new game, but I'm relearning that skill in one area does not equate to skill in other areas. In this particular case, ability to write great code does not translate into any kind of ability at all to design a game.

I'm accustomed to knowing what to do next, and how to do it, and even if I do get blocked I have techniques for brute-forcing my way to a point where I can get something useful done. None of that helps with game design though, leaving me rather frustrated. I am, quite frankly, completely lost.

Being a bit lost isn't a surprise, but what is surprising to me is just how quickly I hit that point. I figured I'd get much farther on in the project before I hit complete bafflement, at which point I'd at least have something I could show people and get some feedback. As it is, I ain't got squat. Just a bit of hand-waving and some gusts of warm air.

Oddly though, all this frustration and bafflement is making me happy. I'm not trying to make a living off of video games -- it would be fun, of course, and I'm trying to make a little money, but making my primary income off games isn't a realistic goal at this point -- so I'm really doing all this for fun and for the opportunity to stretch myself and learn new things. The fact that I'm lost is proof that I'm trying to do things I don't really know how to do, which means I must be learning, right?

Or at least that's way I'm taking it. :-)

Friday, October 14, 2011

The times, they are a'changing...

Yes, I know, I've been silent for months. And I'm sure it will shock people to find out that I've put this game on hold for a little while.

But! I have a good reason! I'm putting Welcome To The Dungeon on hold... so I can build a DIFFERENT game!

I've been doing a little research and I think I've got a decent chance of making enough money off indie games to nicely supplement my income. (And there's always the hope that a game will spontaneously take off and sell like crazy!) But I don't think Welcome To The Dungeon is the game to start with. It's something I'm building purely for fun, rather than profit, and frankly I don't think my game design skills are quite up to some of the more challenging aspects of it yet.

So this game goes on hold for a little while, and I'm on to a new project.

What project is that, you ask? Well, I haven't worked out the details yet. The spirit of the game takes inspiration from a few different sources, most notably Kobolds Ate My Baby (which is, by the way, an awesome game). It'll be a smaller adventure / puzzle-solving sort of game that follows its own quirky (and often deadly) logic and aesthetic, intended for broader distribution to more casual gamers. I'm hoping to get it onto mobile devices -- mostly Android phones & tablets -- as well as PCs. If things go well, I might use the proceeds to purchase a new Mac so I can also develop an iOS version.

I've got some more thinking and planning to do (including name selection) and once I get that stuff sorted out, I'll post up here again. What I'll probably do though is switch to a new blog that's more geared towards the company in general rather than a specific game, because I've already got tentative plans for a second new game once I get this first one sorted out...

So, if there's anyone out there still reading this blog... Any comments? Think my strategy makes sense?

Friday, September 2, 2011

One step forward...

As usual, life has been keeping me busy. I've settled on Unity3D, as it appears to offer everything I need, and it even offers the ability (if I pay extra for the Pro license) to provide add-on packs. I might take advantage of that later to provide custom downloadable content as part of a Kickstarter reward as a way of getting a bit of funding to get the game built, but we'll have to see whether that will really work.

So with restarting the graphical portion, I've been taking stock of where I am with my game. It turns out my work over the past year hasn't amounted to much -- Tom's artwork (which is awesome, of course), a bunch of concepts I mostly had sorted out about 15 years ago, and some pretty basic logic, including my own implementation of A* pathfinding. (The pathfinding is lifted pretty much directly from an AI programming book I own. So the most complicated thing I have isn't even my own idea.)

I'm taking a couple weeks away from game development to focus on a few other things, but I'm hoping that by the end of September I'll be back hard at work. And then I need to start really pushing on this, because I have some very tentative plans to share a booth at next year's PAX with Carl Hume, developer of Kingdoms of Arcania (link currently busted but hopefully back online soon). Before that, I need to find out how much the booth costs and when exactly we'd need to commit to it, so that we know what our timetable is. I doubt either of us will be making any money off PAX, but it seems like a fun excuse to go visit our tribe, and by splitting a booth we'd be able to occasionally spell each other off and take turns wandering PAX. In order for that plan to have even the pretense of making sense, I need to make sure my game's in a condition to show off by the time PAX rolls back around.

Speaking of PAX: I think anyone who reads this has already likely heard all about my trip to PAX, but I'll recap it here just in case... PAX was awesome. No, seriously, awesome. In every way. I honestly can't think of anything I didn't enjoy about PAX, even waiting in line. (There are some things I might have enjoyed more were they done differently, but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy things the way they were.) Everyone there -- literally every single person I interacted with or even saw in the convention center -- was in a good mood and having a good time and being considerate towards their fellow con-goers and just generally being decent human beings. If you're a gamer, go to PAX.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Yes, I'm still alive

I realise it's been six months since my last post. In that time, the basement reno was finally completed, my daughter was born (actually a bit before the reno was done...) and I've run a half marathon. It's been busy.

Now that things are settling down again, I'm back to looking at my game, and I've come to a couple conclusions. First, and most importantly, the XNA Framework just isn't the way to go. I want to have the option of spreading this thing across multiple platforms (particularly tablets) and XNA doesn't offer that. So I'm now investigating alternatives, starting with Unity3d. If it offers what I need, I'll be back to square one as far as the graphics go. On the plus side, I was smart enough to make sure that the core game engine didn't rely on the graphics, so I'm not starting entirely from scratch. It'll still be a lot of rework but not as much as it might have been if I hadn't been as careful with my design.

The second conclusion I've drawn in reviewing my game is that the game isn't as fleshed out as I'd thought it was. I think reimplementing the graphics will give me a little time to ponder the way the game works, and the thought of implementing a touchscreen-based interface has given me the seeds of a few ideas that might help.

Two weeks from right now, I'll probably be in my hotel in Seattle getting ready to attend PAX. By the time PAX starts that Friday morning, I hope to have settled on a new game engine (I think Unity3D will work, but we'll have to see) and hopefully I'll already have the basics of the engine reimplemented and have something to play with.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More delays

The last few weeks have seen a decided lack of progress in the game, due to a bunch of conflicting priorities. Chief among those was getting some more work done in the basement; we're nearing completion of the drywall, which puts us only a few weeks away from being ready to move stuff in there and actually enjoy that space for the first time in the six years we've lived in this house. That'll be a nice change.

Another problem I've been dealing with is a severe lack of direction with the game. I've got a thousand things I could be doing, but none of them were clear winners in the "this needs to be done next" camp and all of them were big and awkward and require a fair bit of time and motivation to tackle. So the net result is that I felt like doing nothing.

I finally realised what was going on a couple days ago and have taken steps to correct it. The real problem that I've been facing is that there's no game in this game, and that's where I need to start. So I'm going to work on the basis of "what do I need to do next to make this more like a game?" And the first thing that came to mind was that, y'know, there needs to be an entrance to this dungeon... And voila, I have made a dungeon entrance!

I know it doesn't look like much, but that's because it's kind of living in isolation right now. It'll look a lot better once it's actually in place in a dungeon. I've got some work left to do on the floor (I stretched it out like crazy for the screenshot because I wanted it to be obvious what it was) and I've got some other tweaking to do, but overall I think everything's in pretty good shape. Sometime this weekend I'm hoping to finish it up enough to get it in place in the game, then start spawning creatures from it.

After that... well, there are a bunch of things I could tackle after that. I'll probably need to start by switching out my hacked-up UI library for something a little more robust, which I think I can accomplish with a single day's work, and then I can start experimenting with playing the game to see what elements I need to work on to make things actually fun.

My goal is still to get an early demo out there before the baby's born, which gives me another month (hopefully). I don't know if I can make it, but I'm sure going to try!