Mock-up of what's next...

Did something different this evening. Created a mock-up for the next game I'm planning on working on. I'd originally only planned to do a static screen, but making it animated was too easy to pass up.

Essentially, this is meant to be a mobile, randomly generated RPG of the dungeon crawler variety. With a minor twist.  It's planned to be quick to pick up, and easy to play on mobile devices (tablets and phones).  It should be friendly enough for casual folks to be able to dig in, too.

DISCLAIMER: I borrowed some graphics and textures from various public domain sources. Absolutely nothing here represents anything except attempting to visualize what might be. The graphic style presented here, especially, is essentially pieced together at random from whatever I could find.  I do have a specific look and setting for this game in mind, and this isn't really it.

More on this later.


On Ludum Dare 32...

So, I was planning to enter the 32nd Ludum Dare game jam this past weekend.

I had been flip-flopping on entering, since I was rather occupied with guilt over other, unfinished things (and fighting general malaise) but the theme, "An Unconventional Weapon", made me reconsider.

You're looking at roughly $3 million US dollars in
black market giraffe eyelashes.
After sketching things on a pad for a bit, I settled on the idea of a hidden object game. The plan was to pull in 3D assets from the various free game development resources, like opengameart.org, among others.

The plot was flimsy: in a dark, nasty alley, a terrorist has hidden a bomb. The "unconventional weapon" was disguised to look like unassuming, everyday items.

walking stick. A fan. A pumpkin. A severed giraffe head. You know. The usual things people leave lying around.

You'd be shown the item of interest at the start of the round and have 30 seconds to locate it before it exploded. The more successful you are, the shorter the amount of time you are given, and the more decoy items would be scattered around. You would simply click around with your flashlight. Candidate suspicious items were to be outlined under your cursor, until you found it. It was supposed to be stupid easy at first, and then grow increasingly more difficult.

Not exactly a deep game, but something I figured would be a hoot to slap together, and would give me a chance to throw in some humorous lines with the item descriptions.  I was going to go for a kind of faux-British slang-like gag, like calling the walking stick a "stiffy poker" or the fan an "electronic air pusher".

The pumpkin face actually glowed properly,
showing it's creepy grin projected on the walls.
I bounced between a flashlight, and then a UV light (I was struggling with game mechanics and originally was going to have the item react visually under UV light -- like finger prints, or something), and then back again. That's why there's a violet look in some of these shots.

This project gave me an excuse to work not only with Unity 5's now-free pro features, but also with other peoples various 3D assets, and the difficulties that are involved. Missing textures, scale problems, reducing the number of polygons to something more manageable, cutting out unnecessary parts of the models, retexturing and/or creating new materials, etc.

Then, my favorite part, bringing them together into a single visual style, tweaking the lighting, atmosphere, and so forth.

Had some issues with the thickness of the outline shader at first, but this was fixed.
The glowing fish fins, no matter how cool it looks, were not.
Ultimately, it WAS very educational, and I enjoyed it. But I ran out of steam somewhere around the end of the second day. I had other things come up, and honestly, my heart wasn't really in it. I wasn't putting in the hours necessary. As the weekend progressed, it was as if the jam wasn't even happening, and I was just screwing around.

By the early afternoon of the third day I decided to throw in the towel and work on other things... like finishing off watching Cowboy Bebop for the first time. (Seriously, do it. It's amazing.)

Eventually I'll return to it and finish it off. I think with some more work and polish, there's potential there, despite being such a simple idea.

Hopefully by then the Unity 5 WebGL export will be improved. Right now, this looks like crap with it. There's an early WIP version (like, mid-first day?) for the deprecated WebPlayer, if you'd like to just wave a flashlight around, with no objects.

The deprecation of NPAPI in Chrome this past weekend has thrown the Unity world into crisis mode... without a timeline, or public reassurances (that I am aware of) that WebGL builds will be given priority, I have to think hard about my future with the engine. I was not expecting browser deployment of my projects to be so important.  I doubt I'm going anywhere, however. I've come to greatly enjoy C#, and despite this setback, Unity still builds to MANY other platforms, including mobile. I'm sure they'll get this sorted out...eventually...


Recent WIP screenshots of LaserSmash!

Changes made recently:
  • Updated to Unity 5 and it's vastly improved lighting
  • Replaced the space background with a procedural skybox (the hue changes as your score goes up!)
  • Stars are randomly generated using a particle system.
  • Added sci-fi buildings to the background. With the exception of the dome, the ones in the shots are temporary buildings fished off the asset store. Will rebuild them from scratch.


Just taking the dog for a walk...

The winds blew a certain way this week, and I decided to spend some time working on a Unity framework for a Sierra/LucasArts style adventure game. Even stole some sprites from my favorite one.

The very moment you have Sam walking into the background, with scaling, and behind other objects it all feels very lovely and alive suddenly.  Also, it's kind of weird doing a 2D game with fake 3D, when you're in a 3D engine.  But hey. :D

When I get a short demonstration game going, I'll probably throw it all up on GitHub. It'd be fun to try to throw a game together for a future Ludum Dare jam.


UE4: The First Day

For Ludum Dare 31, Epic offered up a bunch of free 90-day Unreal Engine 4 subscriptions. I wouldn't have dared make use of it for LD31, since I'd almost certainly be spending 95% of my time simply learning the engine.

However, now that the jam is over, and I have a weekend free. I decided to explore it, by attempting to port over the entry I DID wind up making, SnoZonE.

The results, after a day, are visually astounding so far:

It's a start.

There's quite a bit of a learning curve. Random glitches appear now and then... I crashed the engine no less than 7 times in about 10 hours. I caused a some major hair-pulling issues with lighting, because I marked some things as 'static'.

The editor interface is a bit rough in spots, compared to Unity, but it's also quite a bit more powerful and deliciously complicated.

I haven't even gotten into the code side of things; just importing existing assets, exporting the terrain, and learning the interface and UE4 way of doing things. I had planned to completely ignore Blueprints, in favor of using C++ exclusively, but it there's plenty of things (like that cloud-filled sky in the screenshot) that use them.

I made some attempts to migrate over the skybox, but skipping that in favor of the procedural materials that come with the engine was an easy choice.

Unity has the huge advantage of being able to export to the Web Player.  UE4 doesn't do that... yet.  Somewhere down the line, there's plans for a WebGL exporter, but until then, desktop and mobile (Android/iOS) will have to suffice.

So far it seems like it will be worth the effort in the long run, if only for the experience associated with working with a AAA-level engine.

It will be very interesting to compare this to Unity 5 when that drops, for us mortals.