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 Weeby.co 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 Weeby.co 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 Weeby.co 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 Weeby.co, 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

Carrots?

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.