Dev Diary #3

Prompt: – Write about the week’s lecture and readings as they relate to your project 
– Write about this week’s industry guest speakers (if any)
-Write a description of your progress (both positive and negative) on your current project
– Must include at least one piece of media:
GIF, link to video, screenshot, sketch, etc.

Not gonna lie, I’m nervous. I’ve had bad luck with duo projects. I’m far more comfortable either doing everything myself, thus giving myself control of every part of the game creation, or working in a giant team of 40+ developers where I can serve as a tiny cog in a giant machine. Luckily, Tyler doesn’t look like one to fall into the normal problem where one teammate never does any work. He’s slightly coding-focused, (more than me at least) meaning he can bear the brunt of that element. He’s also proven open to hearing ideas while also suggesting his own, a great balance that too many people lack. I can suggest things and know that he won’t smother his own ideas and blindly accept mine, or alternately throw mine out in favor of his own without due consideration.

Our cooperative skills were put to the test almost immediately, when we initially couldn’t decide what angle to take the game. After we missed our emotion of choice and had to settle for Calmness, we both developed different ideas for how to tackle our new direction. He wanted to adapt our ‘Nostalgia’ ideas (a basketball-style minigame in an office setting with crumpled pieces of paper) into a form that emphasized the new emotion, whereas I wanted to scrap the whole angle in favor of a new setting that was tailored for calmness from the word go (a peaceful field where clicking objects adds different instruments to the background music). Ultimately we came to an agreement and decided to stick with doing his because my suggestion was lacking in several elements of what makes a game (more on this in the final paragraph of this diary). Tyler’s idea still works, even if it chose a less obvious setting; we’ll just need to succeed at establishing calmness through gameplay instead of aesthetics. Plus office supplies are quicker to draw than naturey stuff, and I’m singly responsible for all sprite creation so I need to work fulltime on that because nothing else can progress until we have assets to work with.

Update: I kicked ass on sprites tonight! We got all the core sprites now, I’ll work on including more of course, but for now we’re easily on the road for a working prototype come the Friday playtesting.

sprites.png

The reading and lectures this week were mostly concerned with the elements of gaming as a medium, and they became very important in how Patrick and I chose which idea to go with. Particularly Objective and Conflict; my ‘nature-themed music generator’ idea lacked both of these core gaming elements, and for that reason wasn’t really selling itself as a completed concept. Tyler’s idea, with a stress meter and an element of time management, was more clearly a game by definition, and this factored heavily into why we ultimately chose his idea to move forward on developing.

 

New game released!

I’ve finished my first project for my new gaming masters! The Wolf and the Waves was our solo project, where we had to choose 2 verbs and then create a game where the player can guess what those verbs were.

wolf and waves.png

You are a penitent werewolf, desperate to be free from the effects of your curse. An old book promised that the cure to your pain rests on a tiny island in the remote Atlantic Ocean. Will you survive long enough to find the relief you seek?

All assets and programming completed in two weeks as part of the UCSC Games & Playable Media master’s program! (except the zombie sprite, I stole that from an older project). Special thanks to @WydOcean for the soundtrack, and all of my playtesters for your feedback!

Dev diary #2

Prompt: – Write about the week’s lecture and readings as they relate to your project
– Write about this week’s industry guest speakers (if any)
-Write a description of your progress (both positive and negative) on your current project
– Must include at least one piece of media:
GIF, link to video, screenshot, sketch, etc.
+ Why you want to make games

This week’s lectures -and reading- talked about how much pre-planning you need to do before you start on the project, and how much playtesting after you’ve started, and they weren’t kidding! I’d have saved a lot of time if I’d planned out a few more things before plowing into the coding and development elements of my “Two Verbs” project. Every single person who playtested my game had similar issues with it; they had trouble figuring out the controls and the mechanics of the objective. I redesigned my UI multiple times from the ground-up to try and fix these problems, and while many sources of the confusion were alleviated, it never fully went away. Finally, on the eve of the final day, MJ told me that I needed to work on my First Time User Experience so that new players can painlessly learn the mechanics and play the game. We’d talked about how the best games slowly showcase the mechanics one at a time, and the only way I could think to get that at such short notice is a full-fledged tutorial, so I added it with a day to go. Works pretty darn well if you want my biased opinion, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to let anyone playtest it due to how late it was added. But the game is done, and playable here on my itch.io account!

 

Thought I could showcase the “shapeshift” verb in a few GIFs. Here’s the primary form of transformation, switching between Wolf and Human form. There’s a third form, recon mode, which you get when you eat a blue mushroom, and finally the player becomes a bird when they win the game just because it’s more exciting than a generic “You win” screen.

 

Also, in order to get a picture in this diary, I’ll talk a bit about my favorite moment from playtesting. At the time I was frustrated that playtesters blitzed through my Main Menu without noticing any of the explanatory content therein; they’d immediately click the Play button and proceed to just stumble around confused in the main game. I realized they were doing this because ‘Play’ was in the top-left corner of the menu, the first thing you read. I moved it down to the bottom-right and put the ‘Backstory’ button in the top-left because I wanted people to click on it first. The remaining two buttons, Credits and Controls, would occupy the remaining two spots, but which of those two spots (upper-right and bottom-left) were more ‘important’ in the eyes of my players? Controls was far more important than credits and I wanted to give it as much attraction as possible. So, in order to figure this out, I wrote this short paper-and-pencil exercize and walked it around to various people in the labs:

name game.png

I gave them no direction beyond asking them to circle each of the names. As I suspected, almost everybody circled Jeff first, and the remainder circled Will, likely because they were pondering my intentions and wanting to subvert expectations. But I was really testing to see which name was most frequently circled second. And Sam, in the top-right, was overwhelmingly the most popular second choice. So that’s where I put Controls in my main menu, leaving Credits in the less popular bottom-left.

 

John Salwitz was our guest speaker for the week, and he talked about how the industry has changed over the years. Honestly, that’s why I’m going into this industry. I’ve seen it happen repeatedly over the years, as trends come and go, and it’s amazing. Everyone’s trying to keep up with the times, the community grows tired of certain gimmicks and they die, and the industry is constantly evolving. Remember when every new shooter was a Modern Warfare-esque gray-and-brown drabfest? Or how about the “early access first-person wilderness survival game” craze? These cycles come and go, right now it looks like we’re in a feedback loop of “it’s either got to be a hero shooter or a Hunger Games ripoff”, and its great to know that things are gonna eventually shift another way. I also like the increased specialization of teams in the modern era; as Salwitz’ lecture clearly demonstrated, teams are getting larger, and I can focus on my piece of the puzzle (likely writing) and play a part in a larger team.

 

I’ve written novels, screenplays, articles, and stage scripts, but I’ve found that I most love the versatility of narrative that game designers need to incorporate into their work. Games are unique in their ability to craft a story that can change every single time the audience experiences it. So many other storytelling mediums are focused on the work itself, and while games are no exception, they have to always keep the player’s moment-to-moment experience in mind. This interactivity with the audience, even if I’m not present during their playthrough, is why I find myself writing games in my spare time over other genres of fiction.

Dev diary #1

Hey all. So, this master’s program is intense. I’m loving it, but it’s sapped a lot of my free time so I haven’t been updating this blog even though I’m learning tons of stuff and working on projects right and left.

So, since I’m already writing weekly dev diaries for one of the classes, I figured I could publish them here! With names changed to protect the innocent, of course.

Dev Diary prompt 1: Your assignment (should be no longer than one page):
– What do you hope to get out of the next 12 months in this program?
– What are you most excited to learn about?
– Is there anything you’re worried about?
– In your spare time, what kinds of games do you prefer to play?

GAME 270: PROTOTYPING is of the classes I’m most excited about when scrolling through the quarter’s itinerary. The C++ sounds terrifying and the art class sounds promising but I suspect it’s less about making art and more about intelligently choosing pre-existing assets, when one of my favorite parts of game development is creating all my own art. I have always operated under the philosophy of creating many tiny games to learn new mechanics, and so I look forward to this class pressing me to the limits of what I can accomplish in a short time.

I can even get behind the philosophy of writing these diaries. When I took a Unity course over the summer preparing for this course, I wrote a daily diary keeping track of what I’d learned that day. I was less focused on what I’d hoped to learn, since it was just Unity, but this time there are three major tiers of knowledge I hope to explore:

  1. Programming. I want to learn Unity well enough to make my own games on that platform. Other languages like C++ and Unreal I hope to master well enough to pass the courses.
  2. Game Design. As mentioned, I’ve made several games on my own, so I’m not a completely newcomer to the design aspect of games, but I have never been formally trained so this opportunity is an invaluable asset.
  3. Networking. The other kids in this program are driven, ambitious, and knowledgeable in this field. I’ve never met so many people my age that I can bond with like this class. I need to befriend as many as possible and nurture connections to help me break into the industry proper.

My biggest weakness is my lack of programming experience. I passed a C class in junior year of bachelor’s, and I’ve taken multiple online courses attempting to learn Unity, but I’ve never felt like I was doing anything but stumbling through those classes and aping the instructor. I want to be able to make Unity games with the same proficiency I can create games in Clickteam Fusion 2.5.

In my spare time I play multiplayer shooters like Overwatch, Left 4 Dead 2, and Team Fortress 2. I specialize in healers and support classes.

Gamer 2 released!

I started Gamer 2 in October 2013, and have worked on it on and off for almost four years. It’s by far the longest-lasting unfinished project in my retinue, and I’m really pleased to announce the game is now live! God willing there’ll be an in-browser version soon, but for now you can download it from Itch.io and play the culmination of MrDrake’s short story Gamer!

new title.png

This was supposed to come out on September 15th, the 8-year anniversary of Darwin’s Soldiers, but debugging necessitated delays.

If I Were Mitch McConnell

Gonna veer off into political game theory, just because the Republicans have presented me with an unsolvable problem, and I love those.

Put yourself in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s shoes. For 8 years you and your party have loudly opposed Obamacare. You’ve vowed to repeal it and replace it with something better, and when Trump got elected, you got your chance to accomplish your flagship promise. But you never actually wrote a replacement healthcare plan because nobody expected Trump to win. So now you go about drafting one, but it’s hard because Obamacare is already the most Republican healthcare plan conceivable, and that’s where Mitch’s replacement plan has been struggling. Everything he adds alienates either the hardcore Conservatives or the Moderate conservatives, and just yesterday two Republican senators came out and announced that they would oppose the bill. This puts Mitch’s support at 48/52 Republican senators, not enough to ram the bill through.

In a last desperate attempt, Mitch announced today that they would vote on repealing Obamacare and not replacing it with anything. They’ll just kill it and work out a replacement before the repeal goes into effect. Unfortunately, to nobody’s surprise Republican senators from all fronts are saying they’re not gonna go for that. Mitch has like two weeks to find a solution because he was abusing a loophole where he marketed the repeal as a “budget readjustment” (which requires only a majority of the senate to vote yes), since repealing Obamacare would lower federal costs. The time for voting on budget adjustments runs out in two weeks. After that, Mitch will have to work with his Obamacare repeal as a regular bill which will require 2/3ds of Congress, aka Democrat support (since Mitch only has 52 republicans in the Senate). My Democrat friends are crowing excitedly at the Republicans’ absolute failure to accomplish their goal, and my Republican friends are furious at their senators for failing to accomplish the one thing they’ve been adamant about doing for almost a decade. By all accounts, Mitch’s ship seems sunk. But I, safe in my knowledge that nobody reads this blog, think I’ve found a solution. Here’s what I would do in Mitch’s case:

I would ‘draft’ a healthcare bill that does X, call it “Republicare”, and urge my constituents to pass it. X is literally word-for-word what Obamacare currently does. They’d literally repeal and replace it with the exact same plan under their own name.

This would allow them to accomplish their primary goal: repealing ‘Obamacare’. After all, Obamacare is just a name, the healthcare bill itself is actually quite popular. My Republican friends are quite happy with the Affordable Care Act despite it being the exact same plan. Mitch’s base has proven that they almost entirely care about the optics of repealing Obamacare, so give them what they want. And you don’t even have to suffer the fallout of stealing healthcare from 22 million Americans. Now they can say “Ha! We repealed Obamacare! And now you can all enjoy healthcare courtesy of the Republican party!” Just ignore all the snickering Democrats, Mitch has never cared what they thought anyway.

New Darwin’s Soldiers Story!

And it’s not even from me! f-22 “raptor” ace was one of the original authors who stuck around through all three role-plays, and his two characters, Hans and Werner Donitz, are some of the most important in the entire canon. Well, I was pleasantly surprised when he messaged me a few days ago letting me know he’d recently read Chasing Seconds and wanted to write a tie-in story that focused on Werner during his time as leader of the desert settlement. The first part went live today, check it out here!

It’s exciting to get some new content for the Darwin’s Soldiers canon, but 2017 might not stop there; I’ve been periodically digging Gamer 2 out of the recesses of my hard drive, blowing the mothballs off and adding a bit more to what I’ve finished. At this moment I’ve only got to code the final boss fight, the secondary boss fight, and the final cutscene and then I’ll consider it complete enough to upload to itch.io. Stay tuned!