Individual self-assessment

I get melancholy at the end of every quarter.

1) What work did you you contribute to your game/team this quarter (similar to how you’d list it on a resume)?

I designed a website, recorded videos, wrote articles, created social media accounts, posted on said social media accounts, took minutes during sprint reviews, shoutcasted tournaments, and wrote spell descriptions.

2) How do you feel about how your game progressed during the quarter?

Major League Magic progressed extremely well. We’ve made big strides on every level, with the very successful implementation of terrain alteration being the biggest success. We’re getting some decent numbers on social media, but I didn’t do nearly enough marketing. I should have tweeted at least ten times as often, I barely touched the Facebook page, and in general anything I finish should have been done at least a week earlier. We also could have made more success on art, but what we managed to accomplish with the better-looking UI does wonders towards making the game look better.

3) Was there anything that you struggled with?

The sheer volume of content marketers need to release to get anything to happen. I just couldn’t find things to tweet about, and it took me far too long to actually make the social medias to tweet from. My excuse I kept using was “I’m waiting for us to get better art”, but considering we literally just our first few updated art assets yesterday, we’d have been SOL if I’d truly waited that long. Also I never actually started that weekly dev stream I’d been planning due to not being able to come up with stuff to dev stream about. The team never really kept me in the loop as to what they were working on, unlike Medical Necessity and personal projects where I always knew exactly the progress we’d made every week. If this game fails, it will largely be my fault due to shoddy marketing.

4) What you are working to improve next quarter?

I need to apply to more jobs. I need to finish my self-assigned jobs faster (I was more than able to finish things on Ahmet’s or the college’s pace, but the assignments were too slow and I should have finished things long before anyone asked for them.) I need to be more involved with the team and less of a free agent doing his own thing in the corner of the lab. This master’s ends in two months and I have nothing lined up. Again. After five years of not being able to break into the games industry, I’m about ready to give up if this college program ends and even that wasn’t able to turn me into somebody companies would want to hire.

 

RIP Gang of Five

Good thing I archived all the Darwin’s Soldiers RPs in Google Drive, because their home forum has bitten the dust as of 10pm tonight. The admins are working on resurrecting all the forum content on a new host, and best of luck to them, but when I have to trawl through the Darwin’s Soldiers Wiki and TV Tropes pages and fix all the hotlinks, I’m making these Google Docs the primary links. At least those (hopefully) aren’t going anywhere.

I took the opportunity to create one with the three posted chapters of f-22’s story “the Disease“. If he ever posts more chapters I’ll have to go paste them here, but it’s been months so I’m not holding my breath

Streaming and Streaking

Lot of cool things happened in various directions, so I thought I’d give a little compilation for the record.

First, I shoutcasted a Forzebreak tournament and it went really well!

The Forzebreak team was really appreciative, we got almost 50 people watching on Twitch because various students tweeted their friends, and I get to add another game to my shoutcasting portfolio. I didn’t do half bad considering they literally didn’t have an observer mode, forcing me to cast the game from the sole perspective of Player 4, but overall it was great practice for the upcoming tournament this Friday for Major League Magic.

Forzebreak is lucky they had their tournament when they did, because my YouTube channel recently experienced something of a boon. Two weeks ago, I released yet another video, this time a lightning-fast chronicle of The Only 5 Weapons Worth Using in Payday 2, and for some reason people really, really liked it. I gained 1800 views, 180 thumbs-up and 40 new subscribers overnight, and to capitalize on this new audience I accelerated my videography pace to twice a week. I also nailed down an exact schedule; I’m now releasing a new video every Tuesday and Friday, each one under two minutes and chronicling a top 5 list in Payday 2. I’ve also started promoting my videos on Twitter, Steam, and reddit, and so far its resulted in my videos gaining far more viewers than I’m used to. Overkill contacted me on Discord and added me to their private content-creators channel, where I’m currently talking to other Payday 2 videographers in the hopes of maybe convincing one of them to do a crossover with me. I’ll keep you posted.

In other news, I ran Bay to Breakers naked yesterday, and holy god am I exhausted. I’d only started running about a week prior, and I hadn’t run nearly as far as the 7.5 miles in Bay to Breakers, but I actually completed the marathon without stopping. Sure, there were many times I downgraded from a jog to a basic walk, but I never fully stopped, and completed the marathon in about 2 hours. Afterwards, I followed a bunch of people to the Uber/Lyft pickup point, where my phone cheerfully informed me it would be $200 to drive home. Not even remotely interested in paying that much (and woefully underinformed as to how the Bart works; most people I’ve spoken to said I should have used it to leave the city), I chose to queue up the route home via walking, then just start hiking. I didn’t expect to finish the trip (it was a 14.5 hour walk according to Google Maps), but I knew every step I took would decrease the cost of my Uber, especially as the hours ticked by and everybody else went home and the surge ended. In the end, I walked another 8 miles over the course of two hours, which adds up to a full marathon-length in total. But my Uber home was only $30, so I’m not complaining. I’m not leaving my room today for anything, though, my legs are sore beyond belief.

rusty metal texture.png

In order to keep this post at least somewhat programming-focused, I also finished another homework assignment for ProcGen class. This one used a new program called Substance Designer, which created textures with stuff like normals, materials, and roughs. The overall UI was like, connecting squares of data with little lines, which took some understanding but was overall really understandable. I feel motivated to get better with Substance Designer because textures are the sort of thing I don’t have much experience creating, and I don’t like using other people’s content, so it’s something I’ll need to learn if I ever hope to move into the 3D space.

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We had to create a rusty metal and a more creative texture. Mine was like golden liquid with a blue moss on top, I guess. Reminds me of UCSB’s colors.

Citizen Kane rap

Tried my hand at rapping again, my friend was making a YouTube parody and asked for a Citizen Kane rap because she liked what I’d done for Rap Who Was Mars. Dunno if she’s gonna end up using it, but it was fun to write.

 

I used someone else’s music for the background, mostly because my microphone picked up this really shrill trill in the background that was unpleasant to listen to without music covering it up. I’m not a huge fan of the song though, it doesn’t really fit my beat at all and I plan on making my own music going forward. I grabbed the free version of Fruity Loops so hopefully my future raps will have original background compositions

Final result on them particle systems

The C++ one is now downloadable from the same URL You can get all my other SFML projects: https://aabicus.itch.io/c-plus-plus-projects

 

 

My initial Unity effect, an explosion with shockwave and smoke, is admittedly really bad.

 

I was still wrapping my head around how to do anything, and I hadn’t gotten into the “lets really fuck shit up” mindset that usually leads to creative results. Case in point, the rainbow hellfire I somehow stumbled into after setting enough sliders to bizarre places:

 

 

 

I mean, I’m not gonna toot my own horn, but that actually looks decently cool. I replaced the default texture with my own, added tails, and streeeetched those tails out; they’re actually the majority of the effect. I originally had the camera at a birds eye angle, showing a big circular ‘radiating out’ effect, but it looked a lot cooler when you stuck the camera right in the middle. Looks like you just got nuked by Lisa Frank or something

How to make a particle system in C++ and/or Unity

I’m just gonna write down everything I remember from the crash course Ahmet gave me tonight on the two particle systems I just had to make for homework.

For the C++ one, we had to make a particle, a particle system, and a main for where the two interact. The particle started off with a header file, where we defined the particle and the various pieces of the particle that made it what it is (initial velocity, initial size, initial color, initial texture, and I think a few others.) Then we created a .cpp file where we typed functions that defined where the particle spawned and what it did. Most of these weren’t literally what the particle did, more like “a bunch of variables showing what the particle will be doing once the ParticleSystem tells it what those variables are gonna be” since 90% of the project requirements involved making sure everything was variable.

So once you had that, the ParticleSystem mostly housed useful functions for determining random numbers, and it had the actual functions that spawned particles using for-loops. There was a header file for the ParticleSystem, which defined what it was and what variables it needed to call, and then the Particlesystem.cpp actually did so, and added variations for all of those attributes we defined in the particle header. The main seemed to mostly define the game’s window itself and then call/draw the ParticleSystem and particle so it would actually appear in the game itself.

Unity was different, because it has a built-in engine for particles, so we didn’t have to code at all. We downloaded a bunch of free textures off the Unity Asset store and then grabbed an in-house item called a ParticleSystem from the repository. It came with all the settings caked right into a giant HUD, and you fiddled with them to get the shapes, sizes and behaviors you wanted. The way you string multiple pieces of the particle system together (i.e. explosion->shock wave->smoke) is by setting time delays on the last two so they don’t start playing until after the one beforehand finishes.

The way you made the shockwave was by creating a single particle, set to position 0,0 and speed 0, given a ring material and set to increase slowly in size. I spent way too long trying to make a circle of particles behave properly until Ahmet just told me the right answer to that one.

On C++, Unity, and things I’m actually good at

This quarter has been going great in some ways, not so great in others. On one hand, it’s going great in the ways that are actually important, but on the other hand…I guess I’ll get into that.

One of the classes, Procedural Generation, is kicking my ass. The first assignment is to make a particle system in C++. I have no fucking clue how to do that. Three different students have been helping me, but I’m literally just sitting there doing whatever they tell me, I just can’t make the mental links myself. Even after over five years of trying to learn how to program, I feel just as clueless as when I first tried to make that checkers game in September 2012. I know the adage is that you get better at something the more you do it, and the only way to fail is by giving up, but I have five years of blog posts showing just how terrible a programmer I still am after many, many different attempts to tackle that hurdle.

Said first assignment was actually due Wednesday, the professor gave me an extension. The second assignment, making a smoke effect in Unity, is due today, and I can’t figure out how to do that one either. Apparently it “doesn’t require any coding” and is done entirely in the Inspector, but that’s not doing me a hell of a lot of good because I can’t seem to get the inspector to do anything. Once again, other students had to walk me through opening the Inspector, spawning objects, applying textures to those objects, fiddling with those objects’ settings, and now I’m at the point where I need to spawn a new object that represents the explosion before the smoke. I don’t even know how I’m supposed to transition between these objects; is there a ‘timeline’ object that lets me disable the smoke effect until the explosion effect happened? I guess I should ask somebody but everybody else already went home for the night. I’ve been working on actual useful shit like marketing Major League Magic.

Yeah, Magebrawl got renamed, and I wasn’t super jazzed with the new name until I started writing it everywhere. People seem to really like it, and it’s made marketing honestly a lot easier. Right now I’m scripting out a 20-second promotional video, and I’m also in talks with Mixer, the Microsoft-founded Twitch competitor, to get a developer’s account, which will stick us on their front page whenever we stream. That’ll be huge for exposure. It frustrates me how I’m actually enjoying this marketing element, and I’m good at this marketing element, and yet I’m forced to keep sitting here feeling like a moron as Unity and C++ duly refuse to do anything I want from them. I don’t know what else I need to prove that I’m just not cut out for programming.

Am I sabotaging myself by mentally giving up? Probably, but for fucks sake, five years and I can’t even spawn a goddamn object without getting help. I have over a dozen completed Unity projects, you’d think I’d know how to do something in the engine by now. I paid $75 for PlayMaker, whose reviews wouldn’t stop crowing about how it makes Unity a billion times easier to use. Perhaps it is, but a billion times zero is still zero.

Hurdles, a New Game not on Itch

For my level design class final project, I needed to make a platformer in Unity, and my god is it terrible. I’m not sure if it’s possible to be dyslexic but just in Unity, because I think I’ve got that. I mean seriously, you nonexistant readers have been following my adventures trying and failing to learn how to code since 2012, and I couldn’t believe how hard this still was. And all it was was just making a bunch of squares out of ProBuilder and adding a free-to-use third-person platformer dude from the Asset store, but it was an act of congress to get anything to work properly. I needed other students to help me with literally every single step, but Hurdles is finally the absolute bare minimum of what would consider itself a completed game. So if you wanna try it, here’s the link, only on darwinssoldiers.com:

Hurdles.png

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1qehGMtKxGuVE8fVV7amrkq-bcAtQ5O84/view?usp=sharing

I’m only doing this because I firmly believe that any work unpublished is being under-used. Half of my success in this industry involves forcing myself to finish any projects I touch, in order to bolster my portfolio. Normally I’d spruce up Hurdles and add shit like music, but it’s really, really not worth it. Just give it a go if you want to see a game trying desperately to have a plot when the author doesn’t know how to add textures and can’t program any mechanics other than jumping puzzles.

The Aabicus Dragon

Kinda unusual situation happened tonight. Be warned, this whole blog post is entirely pointless. If you’re looking for something about game development, look no further.

Basically, while trying to find something unrelated I stumbled across this wiki page for an MMORPG I’ve never played called “Shroud of the Avatar.” It looked like just a gigantic list of random dragon names, including the ‘Aabicus Dragon.’ Now, this isn’t the first time my avatar appeared in a bizarre, probably procedurally-generated list (aabicus was also the subject of a word pronunciation video that somebody’s bot spat out), but I do like to get to the bottom of whenever it happens because it’s a weird enough word that it rarely appears anywhere by accident.

And it turns out, this wasn’t an accident at all. The Domesday Book of Dragons was a Patron reward on Kickstarter. Anyone who donated $200 could choose to have their name included in the book (though the codes appear to still be sold for as low as $20, which would explain why the list is so huge). That’s really weird to think somebody else willingly chose the name Aabicus in a username setting. I can’t help but wonder if they were referencing me, since it’s not really a string of letters that would come about on accident. When I was young and just starting out on the internet, I chose the name because (1) abacuses are cool (2) the double A would help me show up first on any alphabetical lists, (3) it had the letters A, B and C in alphabetical order, and (4) grossly misspelling the name would make sure nobody else on the internet was using it.

Until now, I guess.  I wonder if that guy’s gonna start using it anywhere else. Guess it’s a good thing I’ve got it SEOed to the nines.

Dev Diary #0

New quarter, new set of dev diaries! They didn’t actually assign one this week, but I’m writing one anything just for recordkeeping purposes. These upcoming Dev Diaries are gonna have a slightly different tone from the old ones because we need to write them as if they were press releases. So kinda like the “What We Are Up To” updates the Killing Floor 2 devs love to release. And I don’t think a press release would talk about the first (and, honestly, only) hurdle we had to tackle: somehow it wasn’t until our third meeting as a team that I finally discovered none of them played shooters. Like, there were fundamental elements to the core concept of shooters that they were really missing. So yesterday, we skipped our daily meeting and all played Team Fortress 2 together on a server full of bots. They had a blast, learned a lot about the relationship between different classifications of firearm, and I’m hoping I can get them to play Counter-Strike next, even if it probably won’t be as fun and accessible.

And on every other front, we’re ahead of the 8-ball. San Jose University dropped a bombshell that they won’t be sharing their artists with us next year, which affects every team except us because we already have Will and his art degree. Unity decided to restrict free Unity Collab to teams of three or less, which all the teams are freaking out about. Luckily, my team is only four people and I don’t program, so the other three just made a Collab and we’re off to the races. Me, I’ve been working on a design wiki, since I love making wikis and I’ve found it a great way to sort my thoughts out in a clear, understandable way. Enjoy looking at what you see, because my team requested that I port everything to a private wiki so we aren’t forced to commit to everything I write down. A reasonable concern, I just have an uncontrollable urge to publish everything I ever work on so the hypothetical masses can see it. I really need to work on reining that in.

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Had fun making these little filler icons too. They’re not Rembrandt, but I do think I’m getting better at pixel art.