Like a thief in the night

You know how I made that post about this whole space ship game that I'm working on? Well that is sort of dead now. Let me explain.

The idea behind Spaceship is something I like but the more real point of doing this side project is to work on my design skills (and occasionally sharpen my programmer skills). The more I tried to figure out Ship the more I realized I simply wasn't that passionate about playing the game I aimed to make. So for now I'm tabling it.

While taking a break I started playing some shooter games and internally I started complaining about how the game was lacking clear focus for certain weapons/skills. It then hit me: I care a lot about that stuff. I'm a huge combat mechanics fan. I have a lot of ideas and things I want to see done. This is the idea that I should be doing! Oh past Naveen - you are so naive.

So here is a quick overview of what I'm trying to achieve with a project I'm just calling "Arena"

  • Short, hand designed levels that last 5-10 minutes
  • Small set of player abilities that force a distinct play style (think Overwatch in terms of numbers of abilities)
  • Melee oriented combat - swinging wildly will achieve little or cost a lot from the player so using the abilities to take out enemies is critical. To be clear not Dark Souls style melee you just won't have a gun
While a very limited list this still presents a lot of challenges for me. I have never really been skilled at making enemy behaviors and this whole idea terrifies me but I know I have to overcome this hurdle. So here is a breakdown of the first play style I'm focusing on:
  • Thief
  • Fast moving character
  • Low Health
  • Stealth - able to use movement (double jump, slide) to have enemies lose sight of him momentarily
  • Backstab - has a weak frontal attack that does very little damage but does huge amounts of enemies are hit from behind 
This is all I got so far. I have a bunch of basics put in but the game is so far from being even remotely fun. I'm currently working on basic enemy behavior. The first enemy is just a grunt that chases you and swipes. Nothing fancy but like I mentioned before I've always been lousy at enemy AI and I'm seeking to improve that. I've been tweaking it while working with the backstab ability. The player needs to move in a way that causes the enemy to expose their back. This is working through the idea of detection rating the player keeps modifying. The enemy only gets the latest position of the player when the detection rating is above a certain threshold. So when you slide, the detection rating goes way down and they keep going after your old position. While this is cool right now it creates a little side effect of them huddling up around nothing or when you slide directly backwards they stop chasing when you are clearly in front of them. This detection rating is a good start but needs some more assistance. I think they need to measure how much in view you are and add your detection rating to come up with a total.

What I'm really learning with this project is that you just have to keep chipping away. What I have looks ugly and kind of embarrassing. I keep looking at it and saying "this will never be anything to be proud of." In these moments it is important to remember that greatness comes form patience and persistance. Keep trying. Keep chipping away.

I got a Spaceship

I have no idea if anyone read this blog when I was more active on it but in the end it is really for me. With that in mind I'm happy to say I finally started doing some at hobby game dev work! So why did this take so long? Why did I just stop after working on this stuff so much?

Well in the end it was because I had found a job where I was being challenged constantly and found that trying to do stuff at home was just murdering my brain pan. I decided to not do any more hobby stuff. So that lasted for about 5 years.

Now we are here. Nothing is different at work - well I'm more comfortable and more confident then I was five years ago but it is still a challenge and I love it. What really changed was needing a creative outlet outside of work that was not just playing more games. I wanted something I had full control over (again my situation at work is just fine). I also wanted to challenge myself and after watching Neil Degrasse Tyson perform a lecture here in Austin I was motivated to learn.

The exciting thing about visiting hobby dev with all my professional experience is to approach things in a leaner and meaner way. I want to get the idea of the game across faster then I have done before. I don't want to build the most robust systems (even though the student programmer in me is screaming ROBUST ROBUST). What I need to do is make game. MAKE. GAME. So I spent some time the last two weekends doing just that. Here is a video of what I made!

Dwarves vs Zombies?

I have been gone for so long from this blog but I've decided it is time to return - at the turning of the tide of some kind. Sadly I need to go to bed because somewhere out there in the wild-eyed tomorrow someone needs me to be a responsible adult. In the mean time here is proof that I'm justifying the title of this post as well as this blog.

Iteration and Smashing Zombies

Again, its been an awful long time. So lets not get into apologies - lets just get to it.

Gunstringer wrapped production in July and was definitely a incredible learning experience. TPG is a small company and therefore everyone needs to be more responsible - we don't have a vast QA team that will notice all the possible problems. I've been a bit spoiled working at companies with dedicated teams where you just get used to the habit of the 'various combinations' falling on their plate. When you get something or set of features done - you need to run them through the ringer, especially at the end of the project.

We have started work on our next game and its been very exciting. Since its so early we don't have to tiptoe with changes but we are also faced with figuring out everything from scratch. This part is both awesome and frustrating. I'm learning that iteration comes in many forms. The first kind is setting off with a decent idea - you know what you are aiming for and you have formed a foundation to start. This can be challenging when failure comes up but since you have a base, you know you simply need to adjust your aim. Having no initial idea is where iteration starts to get frustrating quickly. You hit a wall and essentially have to erase everything and start over. After about 30 tries - you start to lose faith that you will ever be able to get it. Its at these times you need to take a deep breath and realize you will cause you didn't stop at the first try. I have to remind myself about this a lot.

As for personal things, I've been playing the hell out of Dead Island. The game starts good then quickly gets weak but then comes roaring back stronger then ever. This game suffers from a lot of problems that Borderlands did. It has a great core mechanic but fails to capitalize on it at a constant rate. I'm at a point now in the game where I'm hard pressed to put it down. My friend Adam and myself have been doing a whole mess of co-op and it works very well.

I have worked out a loose 'game budget' with Laura where I try to stick to 50-60 bucks a month. There are some awesome budget titles coming out this month (Payday, Dungeon Defenders) along with big titles like Rage. So now the decision this month is blow it all on Rage which will be the first title for my buddy Grant Shonkwiler.

So much to do, so much to play.

Time to get Twisted

I know its been an awfully long time since I've posted but nights before travel are nights for getting things out of the way. So its time to get this out of the way!

Back in January I accepted a job at Twisted Pixel Games in Austin, Texas. For those of you that don't know of them, Twisted Pixel is an indie outfit that primarly makes games for XBLA - so basically its time for me step up my game and make some real damn games. Laura and I are in the middle of rearranging our lives. She will be staying in NJ till about July. I have been in Austin since the very end of March.

So far work has been a mixed bag of awesome and maximum nerves. My co-workers are extremely nice and very friendly but they are also incredibly talented. I'm still in the early phase of feeling very dumb and seemingly forgetting my basic training. This phase is a mixed bag of trusting your instincts, thinking about old tricks, and studying the logic behind new ones. I am hoping sometime next month I'll calm down a bit and get more comfortable. I've already gotten my hands dirty and gotten to work on a few small bugs and one small feature. I've been able to get them all done but I feel like I'm still getting a bit to much help or not moving fast enough.

It may sound like I'm miserable but really I'm smiling internally - this is the challenge I wanted. To prove myself to a very skilled group and to myself that I am capable of making games.

Combo Storm has been put on a full hiatus until I'm fully comfy with work. I will probably be putting in some extra time to study some stuff here and there. I'll report more on the status of the game in May.

So consider this me hitting the pause button on the Sideprojectism. It will return, just in a bit.

Alpha 0.23- Lets Have a Bloody Good Time

Yo ho internet pirates! Presented above is a clip of the new Alpha 0.23 build (over on the right there). This build has a few new features:

  • Amazing health feedback by Mike Balcerzak - he has really gone above and beyond on this one.
  • Totally revised Combo System that allows you to gain a ton more combos. Its way cleaner and allows for more control on my end to create better combos.
  • A new player character provided by Ryan Ellis. Mike is working on an animated one but I figured this was way better then the current crap player graphic (that I made of course).
  • Tuned zombies down so they don't hit as hard (more to come on the balance stuff)
  • Allow you fire all weapons at the same time - buttons won't interrupt each other

Alpha 0.2 - Lets go shopping!

So the latest build has the first rev of the Store in Combo Storm. I've been itching to add this but also fearful of how much would be involved. Fortunately a friend of mine (Ryan Ellis) gave me some solid advice on how to approach it for the first run and I was able to squeeze out on a snow day from work.

In Combo Storm, when you perform combos the weapons involved receive points and will eventually upgrade. Originally there were 3 upgrades per weapon (except gas can). Each time you start the a level you lose all your upgrades and need to start over. The store adds a new dimension to that.

You earn cash when playing (the little orbs that fall of guys who have had combos performed on them). That cash can be used in the store to upgrade 2 things: Max Upgrade Level and Base Upgrade Level. By increasing the max, you can access higher upgrades via combos. By increasing the Base, you can make a weapon permanently upgraded. Base upgrades are much more expensive so if you are a skilled player you can work on increasing the max and earn them during levels.

At this point I am going to take some time and start really balancing the game. Hopefully in a week or so from now I'll have a new build that is a lot more fun and easier to get into.