#1GAM December14 – Unreal 4

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This time of the year is rather busy so I decided to stick to something small this month and end the year on a laid back little project. This month I’ve started dusting off some of my old unreal 3/UDK knowledge and learning Unreal 4.

I followed one of the tutorial series over on the Unreal Engine youtube channel which put together a neat little level. Using this as a foundation, I tweaked, expanded and swapped out some elements to create a simple little level.

I’ve barely touched the surface with the blueprint system but managed to add my own set of swinging doors as a first step. It looks to be quite powerful so I’m excited to play around some more!

Nothing too fancy, but a good introduction to the engine.

With this submitted, I’ve managed to complete another year of One Game A Month. I look forward to next year.

#1GAM November14 – Slowly But Surely

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The goal for this month was to get something playable out into the world to get some much needed feedback. I’ve managed to put a little proof of concept together, so consider the goal met!

If you’d like to play check it out here. I’m very open to feedback so send it my way. It is still full of bugs and rather lacking but still a good little indicator of the core mechanic.

Miner POC - Punch

At this point I have a good idea of where I want the game to go so I will keep prototyping, adding and tweaking.

Notable changes for the month:

  • addition of ceiling enemies (not in POC however)
  • foundations of a character select screen
  • indestructible blocks
  • UI tweaks
  • beginnings of lives system
  • you can now punch the enemies

#1GAM June – Daily Levels?

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This month I have been pushing hard to get Reversal polished. This has meant removing the old yellow level set and replacing it with a new set. As much as it sucks to throw out work, the old set was just full of bugs and bringing everything else down with it – including my motivation.

This new set introduces a new mechanic – moving walls. There is still some work to be done removing various bugs and issues but the set is coming along great! You can get the new version over on itch.io (if you’d like a key to download for free I’d be more than happy to oblige).

Towards the end of the month I have spent my time tweaking UI and prototyping a possible new addition – daily levels.

The UI has really come along nicely (even since creating the below gif) and is getting nicely polished. The gif demonstrates how the game will remember which level you last played and have the level select screen bring up the relevant level set should you return to the screen.

The idea for daily levels was completely stolen from the game Lyne by Thomas Bowker. Lyne has a similar target audience and I think it is too good of an idea to leave by the wayside. So far prototyping has been going well. Of course there are a bunch of difficulties with procedural generation but I’m excited by the mode so happy to power through them. Check out some procedurally generated levels in the gallery below!

I’m planning to take a bit of a break for the next week or two. Hopefully I can still make some more progress on the daily levels and have a demo of it out by the end of july. I do have a neat meeting coming up though so stay tuned in the event anything comes of it!

#1GAM May – Public Domain Jam

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My, May was a busy month but I’ve managed to keep my #1GAM streak going thanks to Public Domain Jam! The game is called Patience and is based on the poem of the same name by D.H. Lawrence. Play it here.

The jam went okay for me. I had a rough idea going in and had found a really lovely poem by D.H. Lawrence which was to be my basis. The game took a little while to come together into something playable and I’m still not happy with it really. But what can I say it was about 2.5 days work so I can’t expect magic in that time, especially given that I got really sick on the Friday and had to rush to submit before feeling worse.

The annoying thing was that the jam time was extended last minute and the rules tweaked to allow public domain assets to be used. The time wasn’t an issue as I was sick anyway but the asset thing bummed me out a bit. I spent a good chunk of time working on a backing music track because I’m no good at it, this time could have been spent on other aspects (and the music which you know actually be good) if I had the option to choose public domain music from the start.

All that aside the jam went well, @gritfish did a great job organising it! This was my first jam outside of GGJ and I’m happy with my results:

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Check out the winning entries and more at here.

Now back to Reversal!

#1GAM April – Updates galore

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I’ve neglected my blog recently so I’ll catch you up on what has been happening.

#1GAM April

For my April entry to One Game A Month, I created a short little game in just over a day. The  game is called ‘Belong’ and was inspired by this GDC panel. It turned out reasonably well and I’ve been happily surprised by the response from peers.

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Click the image to play Belong.

Reversal

Reversal is at a bit of a roadblock currently. I’ve gone ahead with development adding in 20 more levels since first reveal in March. I haven’t revealed much since then simply because I’m not happy with it. The second level set (levels 11 through 20) turned out really well and plays with a new mechanic of destructible walls.

A level from the second set. Note the destructible wall in the top left.

A level from the second set. Note the destructible wall in the top left.

The third set (levels 21 through 30) is not going as smoothly. These levels introduce lines which aren’t always straight and are proving to be tricky to achieve. It seems as though each day I sit down to work on the game, I’m met with a new bug that I hadn’t seen the day before. This is making development really frustrating and killing motivation to continue working on the project.

A level from the third set. Note the angled line in the top right.

A level from the third set. Note the angled line in the top right.

I’m resigned to the fact that I may need to remove the set all together and opt for a different or simplified mechanic, It is just not worth the struggle if the game will be worse off because of it.I have to remember that this is okay. I’ve only been working on the game for two months and have achieved a fantastic amount thus far. It will get there eventually.

I’ve already got a big list of things to change, tweak and add so I’ll will keep at it and think about getting some feedback from players.

Check out the game here.

IndieCade

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In a slight spur of the moment decision I’ve submitted Devolution to IndieCade. I’m mostly interested in the feedback received from the judges as I’d like it to help spark some inspiration into the game’s further development. Fingers crossed it is received okay.

Check out Devolution here.

#1GAM Feb14 – Local Multiplayer

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Earlier this month I mentioned that my iteration goal was to improve path generation by removing the appearance of long boring paths. Turns out that only took me a few more days of head scratching to fix up and it’s now working perfectly!

The rest of the month has been extremely productive:

  • I’ve changed up the UI. I’ve simplified the buttons making them sleeker and there are now paused/quit menus for every scene.
  • I’ve added more levels. Now from level 11 to around about 16 the grid spawned has an added level of difficulty with pulsing scale and colour changes.
  • Removed the timer and score elements instead opting for an accuracy rank. This has also improved the levelling system.
  • Added a local multiplayer mode.

Get the game here (android tablets, PC, OSX and Linux builds available).

Local multiplayer is something I’m quite excited about. It came about because I was feeling down about the game and struggling to see how to improve it. I looked through my design doc and remembered I wanted to try a multiplayer mode so decided to give it a try.

Basically, two players are shown a grid and must remember where the barriers are. Each take turns revealing squares (similarly to pool, their turn will end if they hit a barrier). The player with the most squares wins. I want it to become a game for train, car or plane rides where you and a friend are stuck together with little to do.

I’ve already started working to improve the mode for next month – allowing players to select difficulty, the number of rounds played and their colours. I took the game along to IGDA Sydney’s Beer and Pixels event and while I was rather shy, those who played it liked the premise.

#1GAM – How to Succeed

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I am proud to say that I completed 12 games in 12 months as a part of McFunkypants’ OneGameAMonth initiative. As a bonus I also finished among the top 10 in the high scores (at least at the time of writing this).

It has been the best thing I’ve done for my game dev career, even taking me to a gaming expo (EB Expo) where I shared my games with the world.

It was not easy. I doubted myself often. I got stressed. But all that was worth it and despite temporarily feeling otherwise, I had a lot of fun.

If you haven’t checked out the site, go do so now. If you’ve signed up already that’s great! If you’re uncertain, I’m here to help (hit me up on twitter if you need a chat I’m happy to :D) Either way, hopefully these tips will help you to achieve your goals!

1. Don’t beat yourself up
No every idea you have or project you take on, will be the best thing since sliced bread. Your goal should be learning and self improvement. If all you learn for the month is that an idea won’t work in the long run, that’s great! At the very least you’ve got a proof of concept that you can submit for the month and move on to the next.

2. Start small, start simple
There is no time for elaborate design docs (unless you’re working on a iterative idea of course), as much as I love them they will just eat up time. The way that works best for me is two to-do lists.

One list is marked as ‘necessities’ and is reserved for the guts of the game (think enemy spawning, player movement, health etc) basically the stuff that makes the game a game.

The second list is ‘desirables’ and is full of stuff you want to add if you get the time (this varies from experience level but might include, high scores, sound, visual effects). Eventually you’ll find yourself automatically moving things off the desirable and onto the necessity as your skills improve.

3. Have fun
If you aren’t having fun, take a break. If that doesn’t work, maybe rethink your approach or get a second or third opinion. If all that fails you might need to rethink the idea. Is a game that is no fun to make going to be any fun to play? Your best work will come when you are enjoying yourself and that will come through in the final product.

4. Always ask for feedback
Players can help make games great. If they don’t enjoy something most of the time they will tell you. I always find this step hard, particularly when fellow game devs are involved but it is an important step towards improving yourself and your games. You don’t need to take everything on board but consider where people are coming from and see if you can offer your own solution in your next iteration. The best way to get good feedback is to share your games with the universe. This year I’ve started using GameJolt and it’s great!

5. Let things happen naturally
Stuck without an idea? Days getting away from you? The best thing I found for me was to remove myself from my workspace/ work state and relax.

An idea will come when it comes; you can’t force it. Trying to do so will likely end in a grumpy game dev. I always keep a notepad ready (the notepad on a smart phone is a handy tool) for any ideas I might have whenever I might have them. Also, if you’re fretting over deadlines don’t worry about cutting stuff. You are better off making important areas great than including stuff that will bring the whole work down (the necessity and desirable list is not set it stone, move things around as you see fit).

6. Ask for help
The #1GAM community is lovely. They will happily help if you need it. Whether it be a coding problem, design issue or art dilemma, someone will be able to help you!