Friday, October 31, 2008


Seven things on the list, already got 1 knocked off - I've stopped level building. Now I'm into considering something terrible - making further cuts. Not for time (although that is always a factor) but for pacing. You see the third level (the Cliffs) is designed to be a slower more cerebral experience, especially right after the combat oriented Crypt and the twitch based Cave In Sequence. However, as a last level it sucks. There is no oomph.
I'm thinking that if I cut game at the end of the Cave In it'll go out on the high of one of the better set pieces. As it is, it would be like the last level of Devil May Cry being a flying shooter. Wait, crappy example. Better would be comparing it to the last level of Viewtiful Joe being platforming based. Yeah, that makes more sense and isn't true for the purposes of analogy.
So I think I may do that then. 4 levels. We'll have 4 levels. Certainly not the most possible or what I really want from a gameplay perspective, but I think that it'll work and give a really good idea of the concept of the game.
-Um, yeah. The ESRB is expensive. So instead what i'm going to have at the beginning of the game during the title screen load is a TIGRS rating. It's an independent gaming system of classification. Granted, it means probably less than Zero but I think it will make the game look that much better put together. At least, that's the hope. The logo I will use is :

Isn't it cute?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

100 Meter Marathon

Almost done. Almost. After yesterday's, let use the term "outburst" I have some renewed enthusiasm and focus. I also went ahead and wrote down the specific things that actually need doing, not just what I want. I no longer have time for everything I want. I may have just enough time for everything I need. Here presented in an easy list form.

1) Stop Building. That's it. I can't keep creating content and then expect the Artists to just keep up. That is unrealistic. So the levels that I have are the levels that I have. There are 2-1/2 levels, which I'll break up a little into 5 smaller levels (they'll be different because they'll have different music and backgrounds). The game will have "Demo" on the title screen, or "Chapters 1-5" or whatever. This will also give me time to finish the rest of the things on the list.

2) Title Screen, which Studio Logo, the Title and options for Game Start, Exit, and Team Credits. This should actually not take long to do, maybe an afternoon, probably less. As a random thought I think the Credits will be listed as I refer to them here in the Diary. For example, "The Designer : Eric Carr" etc.

3) Finish the Scripting. With fewer levels I can get this done, but this is the biggest item on the list by far. It's just so many different things. The good thing is that I won't have many switches and doors. Even though I like them the Stages that were to make extensive use of them will not be in the IGF Build.

4) Install the new Animations. This is an odd one. It may not take long at all. Or if they are all different sizes than the current animations then it may take a good long time to get them so that they look good. I won't know until I do it, and that stresses me slightly. I'll tell The Animator to give the pictures to me at 60X60 pixels with The Thief centered- like what I have now. That should help.

5) Install the new Backgrounds. This may also be fast when I get the Backgrounds. I don't have any yet, and it's stressing me out just a wee bit. Since the Environmental Artist has a copy of ThiefEd the levels should be as easy as sticking the correct art assets in the right places.

6) Pause Menu, with a "Continue" and an "Exit" option. For ease of use. It'll give the whole thing a bit of class that may not be in most shoestring projects and will help the final IGF score I think. This is the same category as the Front Page, and I might even use the same code bits.

7) Play the Game 100 times and fix anything else the Tester finds.

8) Installer Program. Well, I found a free one online. So that should be good. Just need to figure out how to use it correctly. That is actually low on the list of worries.

That's it. It almost seems possible from this angle. Almost.

-After writing this it struck me that I'm making a game about a character called "The Thief" fighting "The General," "The Captain" and "The Princess" and with a team I refer to by their titles (here at least) of "The Animator," "The Tester," "The Environmental Artist" and "The Designer."

-I wonder what title I should take for the project. Lead Designer? Producer? Programmer? Or should I just list myself a bunch of times. That seems a little wanky. I don't know. I'll think about it.

- "Wanky" adj. English Root. Def : 1) An activity of one considered to be a Wanker.
2) To behave in a way a Wanker would.
See also "Wankish"

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pyrric Workaholic

I wonder if this is even possible sometimes. Not just the project, but the whole prospect of this as a profession. I wonder, is it worth it. Long hours, hard work (that's right I said it - anybody who disagrees that Game Design and Programming isn't hard work had better be prepared to box). and less time doing the more important things.
The Fear that I have is really that - the loss of doing "important" things. When does this stop being a job and start being the important things? When does a goal become an obsession? At what point is the cost too much?
I have a problem, a flaw in my character. By nature, I feel that a person is what they do. By doing well at what they do, then they are doing well at what they are. Failure is not something that I consider. This is clearly a failing.
However, I feel that a person does not live for the sole purpose of working. Life is more than that. It is what happens in all the in-between pieces, and it is something that I take very seriously. For example, by nature I am not a lazy person (some would disagree, but they haven't seen me working) but there is practically nothing that could get me to come into work on a weekend. Those are the days I work for, the time that I have earned to do what I want to do.
This is the dichotomy of character that is causing strife. I work for a living, and I go to school. Then when I have free time I work on the project. All I do is work, and if I want to get this done in time, for myself and the Team, that's what I have to do.
But, the more important things want my attention too. Things with thoughts and feelings. Things that don't understand that in 2 weeks I'll be as done as I can be. Maybe I don't understand either, since all I really want to do is sit, watch Clone Wars and maybe play a little Fable and Mega Man 9 and be with the people that I care about. But then the other half of my brain says, "No, we have to do this. This is important too."
So to live the Dream, do I have to forgo the waking world? So I keep telling myself, in 2 weeks I can relax. With no looming deadline I can slow down. But will that happen? Can I slow down? If I do this for a living, will I get the chance to go slow and enjoy the important things? Or will I become that job? Will I stop being a person with a profession and just Live to Work? I don't know. I think this is the part where you realize that being in games may not be all roses and flowers. I shudder to think of the stress involved if I own my own studio. I think I understand now why my former Professor decided to stop working on AAA titles and instead started working on children's games for a larger publisher. Then it could just be a job, like everybody else has. Not a lifestyle.
I can see the person that I could become, where that's all I do. My Dream corrupted into a fevered Nightmare. Living to work because it's all I have left. The more important things left behind. The Dark Side is always there. The Shadow will always follow me letting me know to Slow Down. Forcing me to stop and look around and realize that work is just that - work. It will always be there when I come back. The Life that I have, may not be.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

2 Week Notice

2 Weeks. 14 days to get finished, feature complete and get polished. That's it. I'm screwed.

Hmm, other people on the team may read this and hearing (?) the Producer say such a thing may make them think bad things or make them think that they work for Acclaim (ZING!).

Right, back to the point. I feel that we can finish and reach the (new) goals that we set as far as content is concerned. Over the weekend I fixed 2 system bugs and last night I opened up the Debug Mode for my Tester, so that may make polishing easier.

-For the Debug Mode, I realized that when I test I turn on a bunch of stuff in the code by uncommenting it. Obviously this doesn't work with a compiled version. So I put all of that stuff into a function I called "Debug()" because I'm clever that way and gave it a toggle by pressing the "D" key. So that should be helpful. I also put in a Wire Frame mode (like in ThiefEd) to help with collision debugging. So that's cool.

-For the bugs, my Tester discovered an Environment Bug which led me to run all over the game (in my new wire frame mode) looking for similar bugs and fixing them. Basically, if the top of a rectangle is flush with another, Zero will climb up onto the flush one. The climbing code sees if you are higher (even slightly) than the top of a box and then for collision. So if you hit the corner, Zero climbs up onto the bottom rectangle (and into the top rectangle) and then the collision routine of the top rectangle would tigger and throw him off of the stage and end his short, miserable life. So that's betterish now and I'll have to be more diligent in the future when building levels.

- I found a similar bug that is a System Bug over the weekend. Basically, when you jump just right into a corner, it kills you. Like, outright. As if the corner was filled with invisible spikes dripping with Hepatitis A,B,C and V. Turns out the Squishy Code was to blame. The Moving Rectangles (of which there are very few in the completed levels...odd) have the ability to squish you, so the system detects if you are touching a rectangle with your head - the roof, and with your feet - the ground. If both are, then it's bad luck to be you. The bug happened because it didn't specify the rectangles had to be moving. The Corner then triggered both, um, triggers, and killed like a member of the Family.

-Finally, another System Bug. When climbing a short box, the collision would get all confused and move the player. Turns out that the "Climbing" animation puts Zero down a little bit and sometimes into another rectangle. The collision would then trigger for that lower one and push you off to the side of that rectangle. So now I go ahead and skip some of the collisions if you are climbing. As a nice side effect, Zero can now climb out of water a little. I mean, you can now jump to a low platform on top of a Death Rectangle and climb it and still be okay. Previously, just touching the Death Rectangle at all would be lethal. This helps from a level building perspective.

-Right, on bugs. I see there being 3 kinds of "bugs." The first is a Environment Bug. These are flaws in the Level or the construction of the Level or Scripting. These are easy enough to fix once the problem is identified.
The Second are System Bugs. These are Logic Flaws in the Engine Code and are a Pain in the Ass. The main issue is that once these are fixed you have to Regression Test a bunch of stuff to make sure it still works. Earlier I would have gone through and deduced the Logic and tried to find the root cause. With 2 Weeks, Band-Aids work. Just as long as it works I don't care.
The Third are "Features" or Known Bugs. Like the black cloud around Zero. Yes, I can see that, no it's not a bug, no it won't be there in the Final Build.
Either way, I want the Tester to find as many of these as possible.

-I really shouldn't call what I'm finishing the Final Build, as the game as I want it will not be complete. The Final Build will have the full story and characters. For the time being I'll call the one we're working on the IGF Build. Yeah, that has a certain kind of charm to it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fable Too

I got Fable II for my birthday. It's turning out to be the biggest boon the game project may have ever received since it is the biggest time waster I've deigned to put hands upon since MGS3. But here's the key - I'm not wasting that much time with it, the wife is.
Fable II has one of the best RPG additions ever - drop in/out co-op play. So the wife will play the game, run around, buy loot, buy a house and open Demon Doors. Then she'll summon up me, the loyal henchman, when she runs into a dungeon or something like that. I play with her through these parts and then she's back to screwing around the world of Albion for another 2 hours, while I drop out and get back to building levels and debugging code.

Every game needs this addition. If you want to talk "Casual Play" this goes a long way towards it. Hey Nintendo? Are you listening? What to get the Casual Gamer to play? Put a Drop In/Out Co-Op option in the next Zelda. Let Mom wander the world and collect the Skulltulas or gems or whatever other chotchkies you want to have her fetch and then let her summon her kid for a little help with the bosses. Since She is fighting the bosses, not just handing off the controller, She will feel like she's done it. Then who knows? Maybe next time she'll do it all by herself. I call that a hell of a lot better than trying to push Nintendogs on her unsuspecting "Casual" ass.

-I read an interesting article recently regarding game art. Not being an artist myself (instead being able to draw well enough to let a "Real Artist" know what I wanted/was going for) I can't comment on the specifics, but I do have a point from a Production perspective. As games get more and more advanced and the graphics get progressively more shiny, we will get to a point where the cost of creating said graphics becomes cost prohibitive. Then we'll see less of a trend of life-like or pseudo life-like and I think that the natural reaction will be to create super expressionist art. Okami comes to mind, so does Wind Waker and anything by Suda 51. Eventually making something look as realistic as possible isn't the point - it will be about making something memorable that doesn't break the suspension of disbelief.
You can go to far though with the abstract. I think the myriad of shooters on Live that use some kind a vector graphic are stupid. "Vector Graphics" are not art and adding particle effects does not help.

-Oh, in Fable II you can get married. The wife built a heroine and then wandered the world to find the best looking lesbian in the game to open a Demon Door. They are very happy in their alternative lifestyle living in the in-between spaces inside a Demon Door. I feel like a weirdo, but I think I like watching the wife's virtual avatar seduce her virtual life partner. This is a strange new world indeed.

-Yes, Fable "II" like in the promotional materials and on the box. It gets to keep the "II" because I like it enough to not refer to it as "2" and since it is "old-timey" it works. Unlike in the Rocky movies.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The 66% Solution

Yes, that is Sherlock Holmes reference in the title. Or a reference to an 80's direct to TV movie called The Peanut Butter Solution that nobody else in the world has ever seen before. Anyway, the issue goes like this - collectively the project is behind schedule. So I made an Executive Decision (another movie that nobody else in the world has seen - and if you say you have, you're a damn liar) and called a meeting.
The crux was thus, we could either push on ahead full speed and get the content done, but have very little polish and/or testing done to it. OR we could focus on the levels that we have (and the Cliffs/Castle Rooftops level I'm building now) and really try to get those all spit and polish in time for 11-15. So now we are making the first half or so (and now the title makes sense, hmm?). Of course, it is a little depressing to not have the finished project on time, but hard decisions had to be made and I think that this will be right one in the long run.

-"The crux was thus," man I sound pretentious sometimes. Quick, need a nonsense immature word, uh, dookie.

-Finally got the compile to the Tester. With 3 weeks left I think this may be a "Thing that went wrong" in the Post Mortem. Anyway, I have to refer to the Tester with a Capital T. So he loaded up the game and was playing, and as the Designer I of course wanted to watch. I think the first time a player lays hands on a project says a lot about how well the game works. So he starts jumping around and off of things and doing a lot of really silly stuff. I have 2 thoughts cross my mind, the first of which is that I have a tester that doesn't know how to play games. The second was that my game is really hard or something.
So I continue to watch him and I realize what he is doing - he is trying to break it. He's not playing to play, he's playing to Test. That's why I refer to him with a Capital T. Once I realized that (and saw the Animator across from me realizing the same thing) we knew we had someone that would test every wall and floor and enemy and probably every script and our hopes of a polished game increased exponentially. Invariably when the Tester does find something and he then proceeds to try again and again to repeat the error before managing to repeat it 3 more times. The Tester then writes me a note explaining what happened. Then he drew a bloody Map to show me exactly where it happened so that I can fix it. So, yeah that's cool.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Top Down Design / Toys in the Attic

Hmm, no posts since the 13th eh? That brings 2 thoughts to mind. 1 being that I'm lazy (which isn't exactly true - just too busy to update which is odd considering). 2 - That I'm sure that 80% of blog posts begin with "I know, no update. I'll try harder I promise." Which is also the last post for that particular blog since people stop updating it at some point.
So, what have I been doing? Well, working...and having a birthday. So now I'm 26, and I feel a few (new) weird urges. The first of which, I suddenly feel the need to update my Halo 3 guy and change his call sign from E25 to E26. The second of which is to buy a skateboard before I become too old to try to start. That way, I'm that cool guy that knows how to skate. Finally, at what point do I become too old to be the plucky young upstart? When do I stop being the bull headed rebel and start being the respected Revolutionary? Or even worse, when does it get to the point where it's just a sad thing, like that 50 year old guy at the Comic-Con with the sketches binder hoping that this year will be the year that gets him signed?
Right, but that has nothing to do with anything. Back to the work and the whole point of this in the first place and the point of the Title. I finished the layout for the Cliffs Level and started going on the Wall+Rooftop which is going to be a lot shorter than originally planned (damned deadlines). For the Cliffs I tried something different from a level design perspective. I drew out what the level would look like before I started building the level itself. With the previous levels I worked out a basic floor plan, but there was no overall plot to the levels, instead each existed as a series of puzzles.
This is perfectly fine, but it does lead to making the individual levels a lot less special from a layout standpoint. Case in point - the second half of the prison level was supposed to be a sewer, but after designing the layout I realized that it didn't look anything like a sewer. So I thought about it for a bit and now it's a Storehouse with crates and things like that.
With the Cliffs I first designed what the cliffs look like and decided that having a sheer wall is not very interesting from a platforming perspective. So now it's more of a large area cleared out by the sea with rocky overhangs and all that. So I drew that on my graph paper and then started going in and designing puzzles around the geometry that I had made. After doing this I realized that since the level wasn't designed to be a series of puzzles, the puzzles that are there are not as difficult as previous puzzles, but they link better. For example, there is a series involving climbing more or less sheer walls. The puzzles are not that hard, but there the sequence has to be done right the first time, since a single mistake will make the player fall. Linking the puzzles to do that from a puzzle first perspective is actually quite hard, but it occurred naturally from the Top Down Design approach.

-So what does that mean? Top Down Design? It's the process of creating the "Big" picture and working down from there. So visualize what you want and then figure out the steps to get that. This is in contrast with Bottom Up Design in which the Designer begins with a system and rule and then extrapolates and builds the game around that (which is what I prefer since I like rule systems). So an example : A Top Down guy thinks, "I want to have epic battles with X weapons. With Y types of monsters." The Bottom Up guy thinks, "I think a Repeating Crossbow can be used for some cool stuff, like climbing walls or fighting monsters." Both with eventually lead to some good stuff, but I find that Bottom Up often has better gameplay mechanics, since an entire game can then be built out of a few mechanics. Unlike say, GTA4, which I believe is a Top Down design, where there are a lot of things with very limited depth. On the other side is something like Ninja Gaiden Black, where it seems to have a Bottom Up design focusing on the combat which lead to a very deep Combat system and a more focused title (which I like more).

-Anyway, enough of that ramble and on to something else. I was looking at some previous IGF winners and a thought sprung to mind, "These aren't games, they're toys." WTF? I'll explain. Games and Toys are both fundamentally a system of rules. The difference is scope. The systems of a Game allows it to be expanded with little effort. It's very easy (comparatively) to make new levels for Super Mario because the rule set allows for expansion. Or, the rules exist to allow the exploration of content.
Toys on the other hand exist only as an end to their own means. A Rubick's Cube is a toy. It has well defined rules, but they are only there to deride pleasure from the Cube itself. The Cube will never have long term compelling gameplay and cannot be easily expanded. That's not to say that Toys are not fun. Sim City is a Toy, and it's a very fun one at that. So is Spore.
The point is when I see Crayon Physics Deluxe winning anything at IGF other than the Tech Award it gives me The Rage. If you want to show me good mechanics show me something that can be expanded to a full game that I will play for 20 hours. Do not give me a 20 minute diversion and try to pass it off as something groundbreaking.
So, with The Thief's Tale I'm giving a more basic gameplay (I want to use the non term "Neo-Retro") but then showing to what lengths that gameplay can be spread. I didn't agree with many of the design decisions in Braid, but based on the amount of content, it deserved to win.
-Yes, "The Rage" is capitalized, like "The Fear." If you think that's a MGS3 reference, go read something by Hunter S Thompson. Pleeb.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Sound of Silence / The Notebook

Got a new notebook. It has graph paper in it. That's it, just though it was cool. I'm wondering if anybody else would ever care in a million years what my notes for the project look like. As least enough to include it in the game as some kind of extra (after IGF of course). Or maybe it's just a super wank thing. Yeah, I think it's that.

Anyway, back to the point. I broke the sound somehow. Now the music doesn't work and I can't put it back. I went ahead and tried to modify the code a little so that different music would play on the different levels, and now no music plays at all. I really hate the sound code that Blitz Basic uses. It's not broken per se, it's just totally unlike the rest of the language. It's like the programmer for the sound code was all by himself in their own little room and never saw, talked to, or pondered the existence of, any of the other programmers. It's called a meeting people. Schedule one and then little ole Eric doesn't want to punt a kitten over your silly concepts of sound variables.

-As a side note, CID neither condones nor endorses the punting of kittens.

-All done. Even better now the music plays with different volumes and everything.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Totally Rotten

I discovered a bug that brought game development to a grinding halt. The moving platforms don't work anymore. Here's the issue: The original platforms had coordinates (a great Scrabble word by the way), dimensions, their own modifier for where they were drawn, and a movement amount. The modifier is a non-variable, since is it set when the engine is running. However, a flippant thought that I had regarding ThiefEd was that all of the rectangles would move the same speed, so no need to add a way to change the Movement Speed to the Editor. It turns out that I was wrong. In the Engine the Moving Rectangles need said movement work, as it is not specified by the Engine.
This brought me to my first solution- just add a static movement speed. Sorry sports fans, that's a big Epic Fail on that. Since the Editor only creates Moving Rectangles in one direction, there is no boundary to let the other bloody movement variable to ever change. So no matter what, the Rectangles would float around as they pleased without giving much thought to what they were supposed to be doing.
So, this ran me to my second solution, which would be to add the function to the level editor and move along, without issue. That, I thought, would be great. Except for one tiny issue - it would corrupt all of the level data. Adding unknown variables would: A) Cause a runtime error when they are loaded. Since the original files do not have that data, calling it is a crash to the desktop type of bug that would be fixable, but not in a time frame that I have. I do not have a "B" at this time.
So, here I am at the final solution that I ran into and plan to`install today before I finish up the second stage and lay out the 3rd like the no talent flyweight that it is. What I will do is add a quick bit to the loading code where it will specify the Movement Speeds as being 0 or not. If there is a boundary for either the X or Y boundary, then the speed of the other will be made to be zero. That's it. Then, as a workaround, I will code the actual speeds using scripting on a level by level basis (a thought I had before also). So we'll see how that goes.

-For those of you at home, a "FlyWeight" is the smallest class of pro-boxer. These guys are like, 110 pounds. Assume that they go down easy for the purposes of the analogy above.

-Hmm, pretty heavy on the sports metaphors today. In kind of an odd mood.

-That rocks so cool. It works, thank the bloody gods. Plus, now I have the option to make the cave in really awesome from a gameplay standpoint.

-Yep, the Cave In is everything I thought it could be. Discovered something interesting though. Doing scripted stages are more difficult. I find myself having to test and re-test them before I can even make the stages possible let alone passable by most people. I mean, if I can't even do it without getting killed then there probably will not be anybody else. I'll really find out when I have the tester(s) get a piece of it. But I do worry about context though, as from a story perspective this is a Cave In of the Crypt and Cavern. Without the context, the testers will not know what to expect for the first time, so they will not be accurate in their criticism since the test itself will be flawed. *sigh*
-Anyhow, from a design standpoint I have to make sure they are passable, but I do want them to be dangerous. The moving collisionables will kill the player if they get squished. I need to find the middle ground between making them challenging while still making it possible for a player to complete them on the first try, without trial and error. I think I have, but the proof is in the testing pudding, so to speak.

-Do internet people still do that? I mean, put actions inside little stars? *wonders* I probably shouldn't either, especially considering that I think the little *'s look like a sphincter.

-I wonder what kind of things the Google Ad at the corner will give me, now that I've used the word "Sphincter" twice in the same post. I bet they'll be gross.
- In development news, I've had not 1 but 2 different people ask to be testers for the project and/or do other work. This is in stark contrast to wandering internet looking for people. I guess I was just looking in the wrong places. In the future, if I want to find people that want to be game _____ (that's a blank) I should troll the classes where people are learning to be _____.

-What that means is that now I need to keep a constantly updated compile of the project and assets so that other people can play it. This of course means that I have to simplify my file structures so that I can give a playable form of the project without giving away the farm so to speak. Have an odd conversation about NDA's (which I feel are an anathema to the industry {I don't think I spelled that right}) and oddly, now I feel all protective of my work. That's not a feeling I like really.

-Was going to plot out the Cliff/ Castle Walls level today, but it's almost midnight now, so I'll do it on Monday. In total, I'm about a week behind on my schedule, and that stresses me out a little bit. going forward, the levels should come along more easily. Unless I run into something really stupid.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Totally Unnecessary

This is for a class that I'm taking. I spent a good amount of time on it, so I thought I'd post it. Remember, you saw it here first at Star Frog Games.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Cliffs

Yeah, so these are getting hacked down to almost nothing. So, what I will do with them is combine them into the Castle Rooftops/Wall. Then the Castle Interior will be the main highlight of the game (the peanut butter in the Reese's - so to speak). So that will be good. On tap today is to get the Timed Switches worked out (I may be able to use a Type variable - or I may Cave man the whole thing like the rest of the engine). Already figured out the non-timed switches, and they work out pretty good. They work once and then they are always open.

After that, I may get some of the Crypt done. After looking at the plans, there aren't that many places to implement the new switches so I'll work a couple into the designs so they aren't a sudden WTF when they are everywhere in the Castle.

-In random other crap, I made a slight modification to the story so there is a better reason for The Thief to be trapped inside (it involves roof window, a chandelier and a medieval security system).

-Also, got me an idea for my texture artist person. I think I'm going to let them use the level editor. Then they can get the images and crop them and make the changes that they mentioned to get the art to synch really well. I think that's the way I want to go. Plus, I can easily send the downright tiny files that ThiefEd reads over the internet a lot easier than sending dozens and dozens of images.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A Weird Place

This post is a little odd, mostly since it's not just for me and it's designed to be read by other (specific) people. Almost like a broadcast. You see little children, the internet is a strange and dangerous place (just look for chicks and cups in Google) and sometimes an email that is all alone in the big wide virtual world will lose its way, and become lost. Scared and lost and lonely it will turn first to petty crime, just to get by. Then it will join a gang and become a low level enforcer and thug before turning to dealing drugs and pimping. Soon enough, it's just another statistic. Another email lost and with no place in this society.

Oh, and Cox sometimes eats them. That happens too.

Anyhow, the email that I'm trying to send (and is game related) is this:

Here is the animation list that I promised to give you. For each item I've also given the total frames it currently has. This can obviously be different if you'd like, but in that case more would be better if at all possible.
We need:
Running Animation (11 frames) Left and Right.
Ducking Animation (1 frame) LR
Standing Animation (1 frame) LR
Jumping Animation (5 frames) LR
Flip Animation (4 frames) LR
Falling Animation (1 frame) LR
"Doomed" Animation (1 frame) LR - In the game if you fall from a certain height the fall will kill you. This animation is what plays when you have fallen further than that. I'll eventually also add a little yell of something with it.
Wall Jump Animation (1 frame) LR - This is the animation that plays when you jump into a wall. Ground Hit Animation (1 frame) LR - This is a hard landing that doesn't kill you.
Hurt Animation (1 frame) LR - the animation that plays when an enemy hits the character.
En Guarde Animation (1 frame) LR - the default combat animation
Attack Animation (4 frames) LR
High Dodge (5 frames) LR - The defense against a high attack. Like a block or a duck under it. Low Dodge (5 frames) LR - The defense against a low attack. Like a block or a hop over it.
Parry Animations (1 frame) LR Step Back Animation (1 frame) LR - a step back while fighting Sword Draw (3 frames) LR - The pull the sword out animation
Sword Put Away (3 frames) LR - The put the sword away animation -For the dodges, what I would really like are variations of the block. So you may hop one time, but block another. Of course, this is all candy at the end if there is any extra time. Otherwise just 1 is great.

We also need enemy animations. Almost all of them currently have 1 frame, but we obviously need more for almost all of them:
High Attack (4 frames) LR
Low Attack (4 frames) LR
Hit (1 frame) LR
Dead (1 frame) LR
In Combat (1 frame) LR
Patrolling (1 frame) LR
Running LR - I added a vision system. So now an enemy will only run at you and attack you if he can see you. So if it has its back to you or you are not in its line of sight it will keep patrolling. In combat is after it has seen you and is close (it's their En Guarde Stance). The "Running" animation for the enemies is once they have seen you they run at you to attack.
Throw (1 frame) LR - When you run into an enemy, it will grab you and throw you. You may also need to draw the animations with both the Thief and the enemy in the same animation.

That's perfectly okay and may be easier than trying to get the animations to sync up. ...and that's it really. before you do any though, just send over some final sketches / models and we can make sure we are happy with the designs. That way you won't have to redo anything if you change your mind on stuff. =D

What else? Hmm, when you do the renders make sure the images are .PNG format. Paint Shop Pro should be able to make those. .BMP is also okay. Just no Jpegs since they do some seriously dumb crap to, well, everything.

Also, for the backgrounds of the renders, make sure that they are all the same color. Pick something stupid like magenta or something like that. Then I can set the graphics to not display that color.

Anyway, if you have any questions, let me know.

-For the project, I have smashing good news (yes I used the word "smashing" with italics even). I've convinced another of my classmates to join the intrepid crew of the USS Almost Impossible. So now I have a new Texture / Background artist. Effectively they will be doing what I was going to be doing as far as texturing and creating the background art for the game. The really key bit is that they will be doing it, not me, so that frees me up to do the other things that really need doing on the project. So that's, well, really cool and Graphic Designer Eric breathes a sign of relief.

-Yes I know, too much use of italics again. But dammit, it's right there with "Ctrl + I" just asking for it. I think I have a problem.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Almost...but not quite.

I just got a reply about the job that I interviewed for. It turns out that they are going with somebody else. So that, well, sucks.

But all is not lost, after all, I am getting TTT done for IGF. Besides, a few things occurred to me:

- The listing was pulled down from their site a few days before I got the reply. This means that I was at least in the final running for the spot. I was not told," Yeah, thanks guy, but you are a talentless hack and will never amount to anything." So that's good news.

- This project got me the interview that put me in the running. So while I didn't get this job, I am doing the right thing. If I keep doing it, and keep applying myself and my resume then I will get the job that I want. It is just a matter of time and effort.

- I learned to play the game I was applying for. So, maybe, just maybe, if the same job opens again, I will have 1 more qualification that may give me that extra edge. So all in all, the fact that I was in the final running and didn't have an intrinsic knowledge of the game I would be working on says a lot about my other qualifications.

-Of course, this is all conjecture. But I really hope not.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

6 Weeks

6 Weeks, 42 Days. That's all that I have left, and the pressure is suddenly on again. This weekend I was struck by despondency. Granted, the last thing that a game needs is for the Producer to get all despondent a little over a month before something is due. But the reason was this : The game is not going to be finished in time. At least, the game as I envisioned it. Here are the issues, stuff to put into the self-congratulatory post mortem that game designers are all about (I consider it their 1 freely allowed pretentious bullshit thing) {not so Producers})
1) I am way behind on both the levels and the scripting. 6 weeks left? I should be testing and polishing, not constructing. So if I work like a dog from now until then, I may be able to get the content - even by cutting some level work that I then will have to go and do differently (I'm looking at you Cliffs Level). But then what? The things still need to be play tested to ensure correct non-suckiness compliance. So if they are done, they are content for content's sake.

2) The engine doesn't always want to work the way it is supposed to. Gods help me, but for some reason when I play it at the computers (rather, the shiny, new computers) at the school, it runs really fast. As in it is my game and even I can't manage to beat standard enemies without getting my ass kicked. So that needs to get fixed. This of course is just the tip of the proverbial cow patty, and the engine in general needs some polishing to make sure that it works really swell. You know, all polished and purdy like the CryEngine - except runnable on a Game Boy. But that seems less likely to happen now.

3) The bloody artists all, well, went flaky. Not blaming them of course - but I could. I was talking to a new artist friend at school, and he said that sometimes artists just get bored and go away. Apparently a pretty common thing. What I would like is if they could let me know this before they decide to suck, then at least I can plan for it and find different artists. So what I do not want to do is submit with all placeholder art, since that is totally crap. So that makes me a little, irritable.

So what? Am I stopping? Why am I stressed now? Well, I still trying to hit my deadline. Granted, it will not be quite the way I wanted it, but it will be the basic game with the gameplay and story intact. So here's the cuts:

* One kind of enemy now. I'm having my new animator create a single enemy and then we'll color swap them to represent the different difficulties. Maybe, just maybe we'll get the Princes*s finished so she doesn't look like every other rube guard in the game.

* The Cliff level is being cut way, way down. Whereas the rest of the levels have 2 parts, the cliffs will only have 1.

* I am doing the art for the levels. I will use a slightly more advanced version of what I am doing with the placeholder art, and will use more advanced textures and other pastable assets. So it will at least look like something. Besides, this kind of art is what I do for a living, so I should be able to grind the art out.

So what was that about a new animator you say? (And by "you" I mean nobody, because nobody reads this but me). Well, my previous animator that did the design for The Thief has been, well, absent. I would like for him to do the animation, but I am simply running out of time. I will keep him in the credits though, since the Thief design is his work and I am very happy with it (I'm having the new animator use that design - since I do like it). So what we are planning is building the model in 3DS Max (or maybe Maya - I think he prefers Maya) and then rendering single animation frames out of it and installing them into the engine. This should be pretty cool, since relatively quick adjustments can be made to both models and animations can be 2 sided. The issue, as always is getting it finished it time. Oddly, he almost seems to be intrigued more by the challenge of getting it finished in 6 weeks. Either way, I'm happy he wants to help.

Speaking of which, he presented to me a thefted idea that was right. (for my concept of good ideas and right ideas - I think I rambled along in one of the posts) He gave the idea of pressure plates, like in the original Prince of Persia. I immediately discounted it in my brain as being too complicated from a scripting standpoint. The I remembered that a "Pressure Plate" is just an event triggered at a certain spot on a certain screen in a certain status (usually standing or running - but grabbing would work for wall mounted switches too). With this, I can almost reuse variations of puzzles. Doing something once is easy enough, but trying to race it when the door is closing is suddenly makes it a different animal altogether. So I'm looking at using some of those in the next few levels (especially in the Tower and Castle levels) and modify the current levels just a bit to use a couple of them. That way they won't just be a sudden WTF moment later on.

So, the schedule. Here's what I need to do and when I need it by.

Need to Construct
The Crypt
The Cliffs
The Castle (Roof)
The Castle (Interior)
The Tower
The ClockTower

Need to Script
The Cavern
The Crypt
The Cliffs
The Castle (Roof)
The Castle (Interior)
The Tower
The ClockTower

Need to Polish
The Minor Memory Leak
The Switches

So here's the breakdown that I have:

Oct Week 1 - This Week
Construct The Crypt
Figure out and Implement Switches
Script Switches Prison
Texture Prison

Oct Week 2
Construct The Cliffs
Construct The Castle (Exterior)
Construct The Castle (Interior)

Oct Week 3
Construct The Tower
Construct The Clocktower
Script Switches Castle (Interior)
Script Switches Tower

Oct Week 4
Script Switches Clocktower
Install Story Scripting Cavern
Install Story Scripting Crypt
Install Story Scripting Cliffs

Nov Week 1
Install Story Scripting Castle
Install Story Scripting Tower
Texture Cavern
Texture Crypt
Texture Cliffs
Texture Castle (Exterior)
Texture Castle (Interior)
Texture Tower
Texture Clocktower

Nov Week 2
Bug Fixing
Overtime yeah. That's a lot. Not including installing the new animations and all of that - but I can't plan for that since I don't have an ETA. What scares me the most is the fact that I pretty much only have 1 week to texture the entire game, and that is insane. I wonder if I can rope another artist in, just for that. That would free up an entire week for other little polishing bit and level tweaking. I think I may know someone. If not, I'll ask around. After all, there must be someone else out there crazy enough to try.

-Oh, and this is my serious face:

= (