Friday, April 18, 2014

Almost there...

So close now. Demons Down Under is now fully playable; it just needs minor tweaks and adjustments from here on out. I have been spending the past few weeks on a phase of development that repeatedly involves the following steps: play-testing, accumulating a list of a dozen small tasks to accomplish, finishing everything on that list, and then rinsing and repeating over and over. It takes quite a bit of perseverance. Each iteration is one step closer to completion.

Demons Down Under will be my 11th indie game. I have gained sufficient experience to understand that it is best to work efficiently, but not rush to the finish line. Rushing near the end leads to excessive down-time between projects, so is not beneficial in the long run. Rushing overall leads to early burnout, and worse, terrible shortcuts in design to save time. For example, compare turn-based game Zombie Tactics to the failed one of the same genre from years ago:

Failed turn-based project
Successful, Zombie Tactics

Also compare the hack-and-slash bunny game to Demons Down Under...

Failed hack-and-slash game
Successful, Demons Down Under

Similarly, compare the terrible stationary defense game to Defend Your Nuts 2:

Failed defense project
Successful, Defend Your Nuts 2

Lastly compare these two hack-and-slash games:

Failed hack-and-slash project
Successful, Paladin vs Demons

Each of these failed projects have something in common: I rushed too early, crunched too hard, and lost inspiration and motivation. I took too many shortcuts in attempt to reduce development time, which crippled the design. So basically when it comes to small games, work efficiently, but do not rush.

Interestingly, I also rushed on the following projects... perhaps within time I will return to them...?








Some of these have some interesting foundation from a game design point of view. A key benefit of working independently is exercising complete creative freedom. Gut feeling and spontaneous inspiration play a big role. The inspiration can originate from an arbitrary source. For example, I live near the Pennsylvania-Maryland border, so may take a trip to Gettysburg now that the weather finally is warming up.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Demons Down Under

My latest game, titled Demons Down Under, is in beta! This is a room-to-room action arcade game with strong character progression through sequential play sessions. Find items, collect money, upgrade weapons, and dive deeper and deeper into underground dungeons, while saving allies.

It features nine weapons, six environments, 30 items, 11 demon types, and semi procedural dungeon and room generation. It was quite a handful to reach this point. Thankfully I can put it up for play-testing soon, while planning and prototyping the next game for this year..! Demons Down Under and Zombie Tactics were fairly large projects, so as a change I feel like working on something a bit more narrowly focused.







More info later...

Friday, February 7, 2014

Results of GGJ 2014

"We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are". That was the theme for this year's Global Game Jam 2014. It is hard for me to decline a game jam opportunity, so similar to last year, I joined the location hosted by NYU along with hundreds of other jammers.

I got to stay in the heart of Manhattan's Chinatown, right along the street that separates it from the Lower East Side. Anyone who knows me well, understands I have an admiration for Asian culture. I gravitate towards the businesses in that area, which are incredibly competitive; the lights and signs light up chaotically, each fascinating, like scrolling through the endless parade of flashy icons in the Apple app store.

There were so many participants at the event. Many showed up just to play the 40 or so projects created in the brief weekend, which always is the best part. Very impressive projects this year. At first I had a group, but it fell apart because of their time constraints, leaving me to casually create something I later called "Contorted Shadows".

The theme reminded me of optical illusions, where we only see things because of ourselves, not for what something actually is. That notion led to shadows and using Box2D to create a hand with liberal flexibility in the joints.



Players seemed infatuated by it. It was highly recommended to attempt unique design ideas, so this was the result. You drag the hand and fingers to the outline shown, so it is like a puzzle game. Fingers can pop off, for shits and giggles in the most part.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Update for 2014

It has been a while since my previous post! Well, a few things have happened and I am really excited about all of them!...

  • My arm has healed well, so I am taking a spontaneous trip to NYC this weekend for the annual 48 hour Global Game Jam, hosted by NYU, like last year. This time in Brooklyn, and yes it will be frigid with terrible snowy conditions. The NYU host is the largest in North America, comparable to Vancouver, where each has well over 200 participants!

    I may work solo or with a team; each game jam is a unique experience, so there should not be any strong expectations. My end result will be based on a combination of adrenaline, caffeine, and spontaneous creativity, all fueled by delicious dollar dumplings around the block.




  • Secondly Zombie Tactics has found a sponsor, so will be released and announced very soon! The final pieces of branding and API integration is nearly finished.




  • Third, the "action rogue-like" is coming along well. I iterated on some of the overall design, and have drawn some of the characters to establish the mood. I may continue to use paper-doll animation, but now with additional redrawn body parts for more natural movements (not all shown). It tends to work well with smooth skew and scale transformations, which can provide a lot of bang for the buck.

    I was rushing this project, but have decided to push beta back to the end of February. Also it now plays more like a room-to-room Zelda style game, rather than purely open with a camera that pans.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Procedurally generated levels

After discarding a few prototypes, I settled on an action roguelike game with procedurally generated levels. The foundation for the tech has been easier than I feared.

I arranged blue squares that represent rooms. The actual rooms, consisting of many brown cells and optional side entrances in blue (depending on the existence of an adjacent room), are authored and randomly chosen. Pieced together like a puzzle. Orientation of the entire level and each room is random. There are special rooms for hallways and in the future, corners.

It only takes a handful of rooms and arrangements to reach millions of uniquely generated worlds.

(mirrored as part of the randomization)

(mirrored as part of the randomization)

There is no limit to the size of a level.


Things will get even more interesting, when I sprinkle in spawn locations for treasures, enemies, and traps.

Monday, December 2, 2013

*Snap*

*Snap* Long story short, I have a spiral-fracture on my distal humerus, just above the elbow, almost severing the radial nerve. The two pieces of bone were disjoint. In other words, my dominant arm will be in a brace for six weeks, forearm hanging in a sling from my neck. Two weeks down, four more to go. The pain has subsided before my frustration.

Thankfully, Zombie Tactics basically is finished and being auctioned off to a sponsor. You could say this incident occurred at a "convenient" time.


I am unable to draw to produce art assets in the meantime. Using the mouse is a tad awkward with my left hand. At least I can still type 85wpm using an additional keyboard, flipped upside down and positioned like a guitar on my lap.

I'm attempting to be 90% finished with code and design on my next unannounced game by mid January, allowing me to perform an art pass once I get my arm back. I was planning to pursue a similar development process anyways. I still love working on tiny projects.

From my perspective, I get to begin 2014 with my arm back, and a much greater appreciation of being self-employed. I have learned to be more thankful for my health, skills, and opportunity to do what I love.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Zombies in beta

At last my turn based tactical game has reached beta status...! Surely but steadily, piece by piece. This definitely is my largest project as an indie. Now I can sit back and basically play-test each of the five endings and survival mode. Private testing will come sooner or later.

I made an effort to introduce features and content gradually in story mode, so the player is not overwhelmed and turned away in confusion. There are 66 items and 36 human abilities, against the 8 zombie types. It was great practice to get in there and rapidly draw everything one after the other.








This is a Flash browser game that will be sponsored for the web. Originally it was for tablets, but that fell through for several reasons.

Backgrounds continue to be my overall weakness, though I'm pleased with how they turned out. I sketched everything, did an ink and color pass, and then hue shifted each scene to change the mood. They all get cached as bitmaps anyways, so there is no cost to filters and details. I threw away the old subway station background because it looked so lackluster.

On a design level, everything came together nicely. It will take some additional tweaking to get the difficulty of the game to feel right.

Conveniently, I have new ideas to pursue while this project wraps up in a part-time QA phase. I would like to try simulation / micro tycoon games, like create your own brewery, winery, or even shooting range with individual target pieces plopped down on some top-down grid.

I'm also inspired by bits and pieces of American history, like the Battle of Gettysburg which took place nearby. Also Bunker Hill seems interesting for a time-based survival defense game, because historically the onslaught of British forces eventually captured the location. It is much easier to use an existing story anyways.