Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cardinal Game Jam

Stanford Alumni is hosting The Cardinal Game Jam in Silicon Valley. This one has a shortened time constraint of 26 hours compared to a traditional 48 hour jam. Thanks to, I'll be heading there to participate, all expenses paid with the reasonable condition that I use their platform technology along with something compatible like Unity or Cocos2D-x.

Unity is a rock solid engine for multiple purposes. It is very suitable for time constrained game jams because getting up and running is just so easy. Creating new object types for a project is just a matter of attaching components, including script files written in a high level language like C#. This excellent multipage tutorial demonstrates the basics.

Perhaps it will be my engine of choice in the future.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Conceptual art and playability

I like to establish the general art direction early in a project. To avoid going overboard, I limit the initial collection to just one background, a few animated characters, and some weapons and objects. Just a few polished assets can make an impact on the programming and design side of things. It can be motivating to understand the potential behind what would be a messy collection of primitive shapes and unlabeled buttons.

Normally background art is my greatest weakness, so I took my time with it by creating a dozen individual pieces that all come together as a single composition.

The foundation of my art style evolved from many sources including Monster MayhemTriniti Interative, Mika Mobile, Derek Laufman, and others.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Lucky 13

My next project will be [un]lucky 13. I sense the web gaming market slowing down, so I will be returning to the mobile app stores. This time I want to release a mobile version of a game first, and then port over to the web. Despite the market, web games are still a powerful platform considering the millions of downloads a game can receive within days or even hours. It can be very effective if utilized correctly.

Currently I am working on a project similar to Zombie Situation, which is one of my better games. I want to offer a polished experience with a lot of interesting weapons and features powered by a leveling system comparable to some of the Call of Duty games. This game will be larger, both in scope and in development time.

It will not be a paid app, nor will it have excessive in-app purchases that would make it wreak of the freemium model. I would prefer to offer one bundle of premium content at a respectable price. Web gamers especially are turned off by anything more than this.

The technology side of things is straight forward. I am writing the entire game in Lua for Corona, currently using primitive shapes and placeholder interfaces for flexibility in design. It feels very lean and lite-weight. I dabbled in other cross-platform engines and frameworks, but I don't think it would have saved me time; porting to Flash from Corona is really easy (e.g. sequel Pigs Will Fly), especially when the art is built in it. The syntax is similar, so very large chunks of code can be copied and pasted. Both technologies are very optimized for their respective platform.

Now that I am renewing my Corona license, I will be patching all of my previous apps. For example, Scratch Tickets will receive four additional tickets. The King's Path will come to Google Play, will feature ads, and will be free to download. Paladin vs Demons, well, I am unsure at this point.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Demons Down Under has been primarily sponsored and released by ArmorGames! Currently it is reviewed at 89%, immediately making it one of my most successful games! I am flattered, especially by the number of downloads in a short period of time.

The experience of releasing a game is a combination of adrenaline and excitement, sprinkled with a little bit of anxiety. The entire process however, of making a game from start to finish, is an addictive cycle.

The viral version will be available on the 29th, where it will spread to all the smaller portals. Sponsors, feel free to contact me for a site-locked license deal!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Black and blue

I recall being such a fan of Dell keyboards years ago. You know, the mass produced ones that came with every Dell computer. I used it for more than a decade; one time I even bought a replacement on eBay when the previous one got worn out.

I suppose it was appropriate for me to ignore most of the keyboard market back in the early 2000s. It was saturated with crude membrane keyboards that take advantage of cheap pressure pads and simple electric contact to trigger keys. Keys on these feel mushy when pressed, but very quiet and suitable for a library or crowded office.

To stand out from the crowd, some were built with "ergonomic" placement of keys, and additional plastic frames littered with round media buttons, dials, palm comfort rests, and other novelty features. The boxes on the shelves were shiny, decorated with lightning bolts and other striking icons to grab the consumer's interest. It all just seemed so gimmicky, especially at a time where it was common to see a "high end" mouse advertised in PC Gamer magazine being just a plastic non-optical ball mouse encased in a slick plastic hull.

A couple years ago I set out to find a new keyboard. Perhaps it was spontaneous research in gear pro Starcraft players comfortably use to dispatch 500 actions per minute. Either way, after a lot of grueling research, I settled on a Das Keyboard with cherry mx brown switches as a trade off between tactile response and overall noise level.

Image from mechanical keyboard guide.

Das Keyboard "Silent" with Cherry MX Brown keys

I suppose for over a hundred dollars, it was not as great as expected. However, after extensive constant use, I realized how easily the Dell membrane keyboard fatigued my fingers, when used as a secondary for my Mac Mini.

I wanted my second mechanical keyboard to have blue switches for additional tactile response. These switches are louder, but to me the "noise" sounds very pleasant on my Cooler Master QuickFire Rapid. The newer models do not have logos plastered all over the frame. It lacks a numpad so home row is directly in front of me, without shoving the mouse out of the way. The Das Keyboard feels very cumbersome in comparison. To each their own.

Image from mechanical keyboard guide.

Cooler Master QuickFire Rapid with Cherry MX Blue keys and blank white keycaps.

I bought some blank white keycaps to replace the standard black ones. The material is PBT, so is harder, more durable, and feels superior over the ABS ones that virtually all keyboards come equipped. Plus aesthetically it is more pleasing to the eye. I see myself using this board for a very long time. It works for me. Occasionally I switch back to the Das Keyboard with brown switches; both feel unique in their own way.

Friday, July 18, 2014


It has been a while since my previous blog post. It is easy to get carried away by the workload. "Just one more character drawn and animated, then I'll post. Just one more feature programmed, then I'll post."

This is not the first time that I have made tremendous changes to the initial design direction of a project. This one started as a time optimization puzzle game, where the challenge was to destroy a passive target in as little time as possible. The first bare implementation a month ago proved to me the idea is less interesting than predicted.

It is now a defense game with a theme inspired in part by the history of the Salem witch trials. It offers a choose-your-own-adventure where you role play as the mayor of a small town being overrun by the undead, reanimated by two witches. There are eight different units that can be hired, each with four skills (first image). The fenced space expands later in the game, consequently increasing the difficulty.

This time I plan to upload the game for playtesting very early, with less than a quarter of the story finished. Minor features are added as needed, so there is a lot of freedom. I did this with Zombie Tactics (to be released by my sponsor very soon), where much of the story and dialog was written on a laptop away from home.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Back to Isometric

I had long been wanting to explore isometric art again, specifically where the horizontal and depth lines are angled at 30 degrees and the vertical remains the same. I attempted this style previously, but with minimal effort that consequently left me discouraged.

This time I used the same painting process as my characters, where first I sketch repeatedly and freely; it feels more organic, like modeling a sculpture out of clay. Once I have a decent sketch, I trace with thick outlines and splotch the usual colors with shadows and highlights.

My two previous projects Zombie Tactics and Demons Down Under turned into a handful. This time I wanted to create something a bit more confined and minimal, while also getting a feel for a new art direction. Therefore, here is the current progress of my next game:

In a nutshell, you must unlock and hire units to join a revolution in a fictional world, reminiscent of early Europe with a hint of traditional fantasy. The entire focus is destroying the statue, symbolic of a corrupt dictatorship. 

It will play like a strategic puzzle game where the challenge is to destroy the statue in as little time as possible, balancing resources and economic power. The statue will have, say, a million hit points, and units (e.g. teachers, engineers) that arrive by train will have special abilities that can support surrounding allies.

This idea all started with just one unit gaining many various special abilities that must open a treasure chest by inflicting sufficient damage. The prototype was not very entertaining, so it evolved to this current iteration.

I estimate 90% of the art will be finished by the end of the week. Afterwards I'll be going on a week long trip with a laptop, so I can focus exclusively on programming. I already prototyped most of the game, so now it is a matter of filling in the gaps.

In the future I want to refine this art style, and pursue simulation games. There are so many new possibilities.