Thursday, December 27, 2018

Word puzzle generation

As planned I have an algorithm to generate some puzzles. It finds common words that use a combination of letters and arranges them to maximize the number of word intersections on a grid.


So many puzzles can be generated with just four random letters. One of the first puzzles it generated included the word "assess"... emphasis on the additional 's'. With that said, I would prefer not to ship a game with such an unpredictable algorithm, so I would manually approve each one to feed back into the source as hard-code.

Alternatively, I could feed in words and have it spit out puzzle layouts with letter sets. There are many possibilities on how to proceed. For now, I would prefer to keep this first word game simple.

Daily challenges could just pull from a large and challenging list (nobody would notice repeating puzzles).

I have a pretty firm idea of what I want to create. Most of the effort will be polish. I consider this smaller project a "break" between the marathons of Match 3 Fantasy and Zombie Guard 2 because it is less content heavy.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Early ratings

Match 3 Fantasy has been updated again, fixing more issues including ones introduced in the big Unity engine update.

Early ratings of Match 3 Fantasy

Early ratings are positive, so I am thrilled. The benefit of having over a dozen finished games is that it removes a lot of pressure. In my experience, sometimes I win some, sometimes I lose some. I continue forward, as a better developer than I was the year before. I predict the rating will drop as more bugs surface and features are requested.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Word games?

As mentioned in a previous blog entry, I considered making a Zombie Guard 2. But as I go through the Unity asset store, I found some wonderful art packs for other kinds of games. I am leaning towards making a word game instead.




Time to go on a shopping spree! Long gone are the days I would sit down and draw these. It is just no longer cost-effective, and I would rather write code and create games more efficiently.

Having art from the beginning allows for all kinds of interesting game ideas to emerge. I can drag and drop pieces to help come up with new ideas while listening to audio packs.

I am convinced that I could easily write some brute force algorithms to generate necessary puzzles for word games. For starters, all I would need to do is copy-and-paste a dictionary of common words sorted by category and run some algorithms offline based on game rules.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Match 3 Fantasy

Match 3 Fantasy has been made available to the general public! The first update already has been distributed - adding in more bug fixes, a new hammer trinket, and the gorilla hero.

Will it succeed? Only time, and more updates will tell. As a puzzle RPG, my fear is the game is too casual for the RPG audience, and too complex for the puzzle game audience. The app is being approved by Apple for iOS; it is already available through Google Play.

The name intentionally was chosen to be optimized for search results.



Ads are still king for revenue. But as the game continues to get larger through updates, I may rip out ads and in-app purchases and distribute at a fixed price for PC and Mac through Steam.


Onward...

I'm probably just going to make a Zombie Guard 2 for project 16. The demand is there, and I could still push design by offering weapon crafting features and extra content to extend the game. I have acquired a great deal of experience with the Unity engine, so it will have much better special effects and general usability than its predecessor. Although I'm tempted to use real-world locations for international appeal, I fear it may do more harm than good due to tension between rival nations.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Match 3 Fantasy

This evening I held the closed beta of Match 3 Fantasy, uploaded to the Google Play app store.


As I played it, I recognized all the hard work that cohesively came together. The long sessions invested was worth it. I also regained ambition on my career during this solo journey across foreign lands.

I feel very confident continuing to use the Unity engine. I already know what I want to work on next, but for now I still have work to do on Match 3 Fantasy and Zombie Guard.

the updated website

I will gradually expose the app worldwide. I continue to work-full time on it.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

New Heroes

Three new heroes have been drawn and animated. These as an addition to the other three ought to be enough for now.


Not shown are some of the disastrous sketches. Apparently drawing a polar bear is really challenging, so instead the cold based hero is a penguin akin to a Spartan.

Monday, August 20, 2018

New ratings for Zombie Guard

I'm glad to say the big update for Zombie Guard was a success. The rating has increased and there were only minor issues that have already been resolved.

New rating (left) based on 41 reviews

This started as a minor update, and ended with more features than anticipated. I began to see more possibilities and just went with it.

Stability also has improved. Crashes have reduced 20% on graphics and input systems. Of course all I had to do was download the latest version of the Corona engine.

Fire... Fox

Given the five types of elements, I needed an animal specialized in fire. A mythological phoenix came to mind, but seemed too tricky to draw and animate as a chibi (mini) character. So, here is a Fire.. Fox. Partially designed as the magician class of Everquest without any summoning abilities. This creature can hurl a powerful fireball, enchant weapons to deal fire damage, and give a fire shield for armor and returned damage when struck.


The staff through a custom "ModelAttachment" script is not being placed correctly. The weapon should be placed behind the arm, as specified in the draw order of Spine. It works correctly for the other heroes. One of many unforeseen problems to address.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Treasure Hunt Challenge

In order to break up the monotony of battles, there will be mini-game challenges to gather resources. In this one called Treasure Hunt, after a match is made, one cell (typically the latest one moved) of a contiguous block will be upgraded to the next type and the rest are removed. A match can be made mid-air with that upgraded cell, before it even falls to the bottom. There are a limited number of turns, and a match-4 or greater awards one extra turn.

It makes a lot of sense when played. There are many strategies too.

"Treasure Hunt"

I had to rewrite the algorithm a few times until I got it completely correct. I use basic AI to play the game for me in fast-forward mode. There was a rare bug I fixed where cells would annoyingly overlap one another.

The order of the upgrades.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Hanoi

For August I have settled into a comfortable modern studio apartment on the western side of Hanoi. Kitchenette, large bathroom, air-conditioner, great desk, and very spacious. Each month is different, as I hop from one city or town to another.

One of the many lakes on the western side.

The Old Quarter of Hanoi on the eastern side.
The Old Quarter on the eastern side is only a Grab motorbike ride away. There are plenty of landmarks and live shows.

This city is more dense compared to other cities of Vietnam. It is easy to walk around and explore the narrow roads that all seem to lead to delicious fragrant food like traditional phở, best enjoyed with sweet iced-coffee or fruit smoothies to cool off during these warm days.

Northern-style phở.
(More onion, clearer broth, no side basket of herbs, but more variety of sauces)
Here on the western side, I am living in a Japanese and Korean neighborhood, with a hint of Russian influence due to the nearby embassies. I buy fruit every other day at the local market, interacting with locals with as much Vietnamese that I can speak and understand. I am thoroughly enjoying everyday out here.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Big update for Zombie Guard!

It is about time. A much needed update for Zombie Guard is on the way! Three new weapons, a new level, and multiple competitive survival modes.


Working on this update is a delicate task. I must be very careful not to make mistakes that could destroy the saved progress of many of the current players. I plan to serve the update to a small percentage of users, gradually increased to 100% if there are no reported issues.

But fortunately, this update does fix a notorious bug that has existed from the very beginning. Thanks to a fan, I was able to reproduce it. It turns out equipping landmines as the primary weapon would freeze the game going into any mission.

In the future I am a bit tempted to make a Zombie Guard 2, in Unity, with much better special effects, audio, music, and features. Zombie Guard is made in Corona, which these days is a less supported engine that I do not recommend.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Items!

Each time a match-4 or greater is made, an item is created in place. These are intended to speed the game up. Skills need to be placed on marked cells at the expense of harvested gem elements, so an explosive for instance, effectively clears cells while harvesting resources in one go. Even better, an item can trigger others as a chain reaction if lined up properly.


The type of item created is determined randomly. All unlocked items can be added to the range of possibilities. Perhaps for strategy, opting only for one particular item would be suitable. It all depends.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Ancient Artifacts

Here we go, ancient artifacts for long-term playability. These are permanent bonuses for successive runs, in order to progress a tad further each play-through. By entering the portal, all progress is lost except ancient artifacts and energy to further upgrade them. For example, one ancient artifact can increase all red damage, and another one reduces the cost of upgrading items for all successive play-throughs.

Holding the staff button on the bottom upgrades the selected ancient artifact.

The numbers take into consideration the targeted language. In English we use commas to separate thousands and a period for decimal places. Some languages interchange these two symbols. Other languages use apostrophes too. This was fairly trivial to handle because C# allows this change through the CultureInfo class.

Upgrading an ancient artifact.

A feature like ancient artifacts and language localization are two critical features missing in Zombie Guard. That app will get some updates soon, after I am finished with this one.

I started debugging the app through my Android phone and the SDK. It is really motivating to hold the game in my hand, rather than poke at my laptop screen within the Unity application.

The game being debugged, connected to my laptop

I feel like I've doubled my skills with Unity during this month in Canggu. After I reach beta, I want to invest some time researching some open source Unity games and script packages in the asset store. There are so many little tricks in this engine and C# that I have accrued from here and there.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Time to cool off...

I went ahead and started the third zone, a frigid mountain populated by strong defensive creatures. For now, an icy golem with strong armor, a spear wielding skeleton that pierces all three heroes in one attack, a frost mage that deals cold damage over time, and a mystical cloud that has low life but very strong physical and cold armor.


I still need one or two more zones and many more enemies to populate them. Additional heroes are a priority because there are only three. Hats and armor need to be added; the runes section too.

Today is June 15th. I am halfway through my stay in Canggu, so I ought to take advantage of my location! I'll be exploring a bit more these next few days, as I did in Ubud and Kuta.

Kuta, near Canggu

Kuta is a crowded beach area filled with shopping malls and restaurants. It is where I began my journey in Bali, since it is beside the airport. Canggu is along the shore too, but further northwest, away from the busy parts of Kuta. Ubud is centralized in Bali so it has picturesque rice terraces and a dense downtown area of shops and restaurants, commonly compared to the old city of Chiang Mai.

Rice terraces in Ubud

Sunset in Canggu


It is tough to choose a favorite between Canggu and Ubud. This Airbnb swings marks slightly in favor of Canggu, because of the incredible desk and proximity to a wider range of restaurants. I've raided some nearby fruit vendors and finally suspended my immersion of culture by eating western food like pizza and burgers. Coffee shops are everywhere and there is always something new around each corner.

I depart to Da Nang in less than two weeks and I am eager to return to such a wonderful country - Vietnam. Fragrant pho beef soup with endless herbs, rooftop craft brew pubs, rivers of motorbikes, scenic farms, and cities that have retained charming traditional qualities of the old way of life - floating markets and roadside street vendors. Despite the relatively recent decimation inflicted on that country, it is thriving and illustrative of the strength and willpower of the people of that nation.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Cloister

I added a new zone called "The Cloister". It lingers with arcane and cold magic. It is populated by the undead and supernatural creatures.

Arcane magic (purple) is pure and it is the only elemental type that cannot be resisted through armor. It can even deduct a percentage of life, so it can be rare but rather destructive. Meanwhile the apparitions wielding lanterns can temporarily blind heroes, preventing basic attacks and skill activation. This is a dangerous zone, so a strong offense to kill swiftly will be a viable strategy.

The Cloister (the path will be fixed)



Each of the three current heroes now have a third skill. The frog with his/her "Cold Vine" skill can now bring any enemy to the front while inflicting nature and cold damage.


Yellow topaz gems used to represent pure physical damage. It never looked right and would clash with the orange coins. I replaced them with white gems, which makes a lot more sense given the purity of physical damage.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Monkeys and rewards

Lettin' it rain...

Rewards given at the end of a battle

I used the monkey art from Gassy Goat, by animating him in Spine and exporting for Unity. He delivers all the goods at the end of a successful battle. These rewards are predetermined, and include the in-game currencies of coins and fruit, and different keys for unlocking loot.

Reward chests with keys. I just noticed that I need to change the color of the explosions.

Loot is unlocked by using keys of the five elements. Certain heroes, skills, and equipment can only be unlocked by a particular elemental key. For example, the frog and all of his weapons and skills are found exclusively in green chests.

Hmm, so eventually, players will accumulate all weapons, skills, and heroes, leaving nothing left to unlock, correct? Yes. But, there is a hard cap on the maximum upgradeable ranks of each of these (currently 12). The enemies however, have no cap on their maximum rank; the game eventually gets too difficult to continue. At that point, there will be an option to "ascend" by resetting the game for permanent reward points to invest into bonuses for the next playthrough. If I do this correctly, then it should allow unlimited playability and a competitive leaderboard.

Speaking of monkeys, recently I explored the private monkey park here in Ubud, on the Indonesian island of Bali.

A macaque deeply contemplating his metaphysical existence and the meaning of life.
Or, how to jump onto my shoulders to conspicuously steal snacks out of my backpack.

I am completely nomadic now, renting different Airbnb accommodation each month from here on out. Ubud for one month, Canggu for the next on an extended visa. I have noticed many other digital nomads here in Ubud, typically found in some of the incredible cafes scattered downtown. The food here is healthy and the scenery is gorgeous. I will write more in my next entry.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Map Loadout

I found and purchased some vertical maps and more background art from a Korean company on the Unity asset store. These are a great fit for the map loadout screen, where battles and minigame stages can be selected.

Vertical maps (21+)

Backgrounds pack (20+)

The vertical maps are seamlessly tiled vertically. At first I was looking to work out a license for some dungeon-crawler maps, but that fell through; I'm glad though, the vertical scrolling maps have more variety. Based on these assets, I can intentionally design and create appropriate enemies to go with them.

Map Loadout

The difficulty of a battle can be voluntarily increased for additional risk and rewards. I went back and forth between the editor and Clip Studio Paint, splotching down rough doodles on top of the empty game screen and then finalizing them. Overnight I decided I was satisfied with it, so I exported everything and then spent the day scripting it.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Loadout screenshots

The "loadout" is underway, which contains the higher level features to purchase and upgrade equipment, skills, open reward chests, etc. I wanted to have multiple currencies in addition to the usual coins. Well, shiny gems were not a wise option, because those are abundantly matched for temporary resources to activate skills. Instead I chose cherries, peaches, and radishes to barter with the bunny merchants. The food can be grown and harvested over multiple play sessions, which makes more sense than random chests and coins in this freemium game. Bunnies favor food over gemstones, so it's a twist on the value of objects in this fictional universe akin to Defend Your Nuts and Demons Down Under.

Once this is complete, then I am that much closer to a beta release on Google Play.

Weapons Loadout

Skills Loadout.

The weapons are used automatically when gems of the hero's color are matched. Skills are used by placing its respective pattern on the battle board. The three red dots connected by lines in the skills loadout depict that all three enemies are targeted by toxic rain. If there is no connecting line, then only one enemy is targeted. There are still some missing features, like the gem cost of the skills and its pattern. Plus the weapons loadout is a bit of a mess, so I might just make it look more like the skills loadout by reusing most of the same code.

Update:


Here is the improved skills loadout with gem costs and pattern. The cost is exaggerated for sake of illustration.

Updated Skills Loadout.

I threw in a new skill for the panda too, because most of the work is just filling out some data that specifies it; the systems in place take care of most of the work. It is not entirely data-driven because I have to specify what the computed gamma value does based on skill level, and, reflect it in the skill description as well.

Most of the code of a new hero skill that applies a beneficial buff.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The journey shall continue

I started this journey as a digital nomad about half a year ago. Best decision I ever made. This lifestyle is just so easy and it provides me continuous time to dedicate to my projects. In Chiang Mai I work everyday. About once a month I travel to a nearby city or country, where I put my laptop aside and connect with others and enjoy my surroundings.

Chiang Rai with Jason from London.

I am writing this blog entry in the Thai city of Chiang Rai which contains three notable Buddhist attractions that I explored with a spontaneous travel companion.

Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai, Thailand

Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai, Thailand

I felt a definite connection with the white temple "Wat Rong Khun". It suggests having to cross over hell in order to reach a more enlightened state. We can't have the good without the bad. I reacted from a relatively low point to attain an ongoing highest point ever, so I'm going to ride this out indefinitely. Life tends to have a way of turning sour quickly, but for now, this is pretty fucking sweet.. know what I mean?

Sand dunes in Mũi Né, Vietnam with Dominic from Montreal.

The journey shall continue. Onward to Bali Indonesia for a couple months followed by a long-term return to Vietnam as my home base.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Gameplay footage

I put together a quick clip of the battle gameplay. The recording is not the best quality, but it should at least demonstrate several features of the game.


I made a couple design changes prior to the recording:
  • Each hero (left) will do a basic attack if their assigned gem color is matched on the board. Previously they would simply roll a percent chance to attack, following the enemy's turn. This change speeds up the battles and feels more action oriented.
  • All creatures have green (poison) armor of 500 points for sake of demonstration. This armor is impervious, so will not affect the creature's life points until the armor is destroyed by incoming attacks of its color. Simple and easy to understand. Previously I only had physical and magical armor amounts, which would reduce incoming damage by a percentage; some creatures could be immune to specific elements. It was unclear and very confusing.
I'll have to add a feature later to help color-blind players discern the gem colors and their assigned elements. Color deficiency affects 1 in 12 men, and one in 200 women (source).
  • Orange: physical melee and range based attacks. Swords, bows, maces.
  • Red: fire.
  • Green: poison and heals.
  • Blue: cold.
  • Purple: arcane magic attacks, beneficial enchantments.
Now, I get to clear the main board and work on the main screen that contains all the features like character customization, inventory, stage selection, and upgrades.


So many possibilities. I will buy more art through the Unity asset store to help me with this task. I may want to have a map for stage selection and some large packs of metal or wooden interface objects like buttons and scroll screens.

In addition, I need to contemplate how to extend playability of the game. Zombie Guard is flawed in that the game is way too easy when going back to previous stages to collect all the outstanding loot. It basically dead-ends too, without advancement to harder difficulties once all the stages are beaten.