Monday, March 2, 2015

Closer to the finish line

My latest mobile game "Zombie Situation 2" is coming along nicely! I am eagerly finishing up the last pieces, finalizing each system, and churning out all the remaining content.

It turned out to be a lot of content, from weapons, enemies, allies, equipment, etc. I am satisfied with the art and the game itself plays very smoothly.

Meanwhile Defend Your Nuts 2 will be coming to mobile as well. The game originally sponsored by Nickelodeon-Addicting Games is being transferred to Defy Media (remaining under Viacom). It will be relaunched with additional features and ported in the coming weeks.

It's going to be a busy month!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Punk Bitches vs the Army of the Undead

"What do we do now?" Those words appeared ever so slowly on the Global Game Jam theme announcement video. A group of about 40 of us at Philly Game Forge stood there eagerly absorbing each passing word that showed up on the giant projector screen. Tens of thousands around the world read it too. What do we really do now?

Well, it helped to work with someone with a similar interest in character driven games and Flash animation. One of my teammates @NG_Tyler and I agreed to borrow most of the mechanics from a particular game, adding our own touch. The characters are band members of a punk rock band battling the undead.. because why the f not?

We agreed not to use a common theme for the main characters (obviously). This kind of sub theme is what helps us to stand out. While brainstorming, I recalled scenes of the L7 female punk rock band featured in the movie Serial Mom.

@dlootie supplied audio which breathed a lot of life into the game.

Basically you control up to four characters. The singer heals, the guitarist and keyboardist fight close ranged, and the tuba player bellows notes from a distance.

@NG_Tyler did all the art, and I wrote all the code. I gain a lot of enjoyment programming small games like these. In a matter of minutes, a feature can be added and tested. My fingers flew on my keyboard as Pandora blasted through my earphones.

The actual site in downtown Philly felt very welcoming and comfortable, like a giant loft apartment decorated with modern art and relics from the gaming world. The nearby European Republic has wraps from out of this world and the best fries ever.

The experience I got out of this is the greater realization that in large projects I tend to be too focused on getting everything correct, clean, and well thought out; it leads to conservative design and less spontaneity. I need be a bit more reckless and daring.

Source code and game page.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Global Game Jam 2015

It has been a while since my previous blog entry! I am alive and well, still working on a "Zombie Situation 2" for the Apple and Google app stores. It is fairly art and content heavy. Over the past few months I continued to think:

"Just one more feature finished, then I'll write a blog entry."

"Just one more feature finished, then I'll write a blog entry."

"Just one more feature finished, then I'll write a blog entry."

I am targeting the 14th of February as a milestone to reach playable alpha status, then 21st of March for the nearly finished beta status that includes audio and all functionality.

"Progression" has continued to be a recurring signature style in the design of my games. Many of my games are fairly easy and simple to play, but are supported through a large array of features, such as weapons, gear, special abilities, and avatars. The player earns these over time, so the sense of progression contributes to the fun factor of the game. Unfortunately with large volume of features, it can be a fairly time consuming task. Eventually I get to the stage where sections of the game can be locked down and finalized, leaving just bugs to sweep up.

Anyways, I am packing my bags to go take a somewhat spontaneous trip to Philly for Global Game Jam 2015! The past couple years I had visited NYC for this event. Either way, I'm eager. I missed out on three of the past four Ludum Dare jams, so hopefully something great and innovative will come out of this one.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Last Town

After a long auction, Last Town has been primarily sponsored and released on!

This one strayed far from the original vision, starting as a strategic time-optimization game. Crafting the story was an organic process and the strategic features paired easily with the isometric board. I think Zombie Tactics has a better story than Last Town, but this one has far fewer bugs and provides a greater challenge while retaining that casual feel offered in most of my games.

This was my first license sold to Newgrounds - a site that emerged in the mid 90s, one of the first to offer Flash games. At fourteen years old in suburban America, it was my first exposure to Flash animation and movies. Even at the time, the site offered an eclectic spectrum of content ranging from genuinely artistic movies with deep ethical messages, to games on controversial topics presented uncensored and recklessly. As a teen, it was experienced as an underground oasis of digital art. The site has retained its identity and cultural spot on the net over the years. I am proud to be sponsored by them.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Zombie Tactics

Happy belated Halloween! Zombie Tactics, my turn based hexagon web game, has been released by my sponsor today! I had to be very patient, as apparently there were some issues on their end that prevented its release until now. The game already has been featured on the front page of Kongregate and reviews have been very supportive and positive at 3.9 out of 5!

Bugs have started to roll in as well. You would think making a turn-based game is easier than an action-oriented one, but the slower game play and expected numbers while executing particular strategies leads to bugs being far more noticeable. For example, the nurse was not healing the correct amount due to a slight miscalculation. Some of the scientist's skills were completely bugged too. Fortunately I have pushed out a new version quickly, which addresses the major concerns including a crash bug.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Balloon Blitz

The 27 hour Cardinal Game Jam in Silicon Valley is over! This was one of the most intense game jams that I have ever experienced. The objective was to create a mobile arcade game that integrates cloud service technology for features such as leaderboard, common and premium currencies, theme shop, and booster shop for initial power-ups. I succeeded in the objective, as I was a finalist, so I got to present the app on a large projector screen while using a mic to explain it in front of a panel of judges.

Time was very limited, so I had to partition it. First I created the actual game in Unity, then I integrated all the cloud features; the team helped me through this process. Basically everything went smoothly despite the pressure to finish everything on time. Each minute in that final hour mattered!

This jam was 27 hours instead of a typical 48. There was no theme given, but a requirement was to develop an app for Android or Apple smartphones. All code had to be written in the duration of the jam - a "hackathon".

The first screen of my app. Tango is a social networking service.

A familiar screen, showing the components.

The lobby of the StartX facility right before the jam began.
There was catered food and drinks in the comfortable and spacious work environment on the second floor. I blasted mostly heavy trance through my headphones, getting into that feel-good programmer zone.

Technology, particularly monetization and social networking, weighed very heavily as the focus for this jam. Similarly, my Ludum Dare game Potato Gnomes, emphasized cooperative multiplayer mechanics. Normally I try to make game design as my primary concern, but I had to prioritize realistically in order to finish everything.

My app targets a casual gaming crowd and is played simply by tapping and holding the screen to fly upwards. There are two unlockable characters and three power-ups (magnet for coins, droplet shooting cloud, and rocket) that can be found or purchased before each session. The goal is to maximize your score based on distance, while avoiding orange bees and flowers. Balloons, your hitpoints, emit a colorful and visually appealing rainbow particle trail. The app is open to all ages.

Despite the exhausting continuous hours of sleep deprivation, it was an uplifting experience fueled by adrenaline and carefully spaced out intake of caffeine. The whole experience was so incredibly motivating to me as a software programmer. At any given time, most of the people around me came from familiar backgrounds; they were very focused and passionate. The sound of mechanical keyboards clicking away created this therapeutic ambiance.

I used Uber for transportation, a taxi-like service app where a nearby driver escorts you to a destination at the click of a button. One of the drivers told me 7 out of 10 of the passengers are software programmers. The whole area felt like a giant University campus that specializes in computer science, reminiscent of my times at UMBC. This was a very successful experience.

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.