New game released!

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Ever wondered whether Harry Potter could successfully bring the One Ring to Mordor? Now you can find out!

Here’s something that kinda came out of nowhere. I’m prepping for my move to Portland and last night I went through two dozen ancient boxes of crap from the undergraduate (and earlier) years. I found a couple surprising things here and there, including one of my white whales; the final project I created for a summer abroad course in 2011. I took the heroes from all 7 books we covered (Alice in Wonderland, Wind in the Willows, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Golden Compass, Harry Potter, Howl’s Moving Castle) and created a matrix where you can choose any hero and transplant them into any other universe to see how they’d fare.

I thought this thing was long gone for ages, but lo and behold it was sitting happily on an old flash drive. I added in-browser compatibility, updated the interpreter to fix a scrolling bug on Google Chrome, and now it’ll be online for all eternity, never to be lost again. Hooray! There are 42 different scenarios to explore, so I hope you have fun! 😀

Six free spritesheets released

After years of wondering if it’s possible to extract spritesheets from Clickteam Fusion, I finally bothered to just straight-up ask the Clickteam forums, and some dude immediately replied with the answer and it’s really really easy fml

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So anyway to celebrate my newfound ability to create spritesheets, I’m releasing all six playable characters from Electra City and Gamer 2 as a free bundle on itch.io! They’re not the prettiest sprites, since they were literally the first fully-animated characters I’d ever created, but they come with idle, running, crouching, jumping, melee attack, ranged attack, taking damage, and death animations, plus two different color palettes. That’s more than enough for somebody to do something with them.

Plus the spritesheet selection on Itch.io is really sparse right now, especially if you restrict yourself to free ones. And most of the others have that ugly RPG Maker chibi style. Who knows, maybe I’ll save somebody from the same problem I had back in the Seska Donitz days where I couldn’t find a realistically-proportioned free platformer sprite to save my life.

 

New game!

Hey everyone! I participated in TinyJam 2018, was assigned to work with two programmers and an artist. We ended up going with my game concept (and thank god, cause I’d have felt rather useless otherwise) and we ended up winning first place! (To be fair, it’s because the other two teams encountered significant setbacks that resulted in neither of their games being completed by the midnight deadline).

Without further ado, you can now check out Meteor Magnet Miner!

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Not gonna lie, I think the game could be improved with a few minor tweaks. I think everything should move slightly slower and the player’s ship could use slightly better handling. I had the programmers send me the build and I’m gonna see if I can get that to happen on my own, after the fact.

I’ve also graduated college, and will have a postmortem on that eventually. There’ll be a public article on the Daily SPUF discussing that as well, in the near future.

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

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:

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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.

New game! Road Rage

I made another in-browser game! This one doesn’t use my own art (I only had a few days to make it) and the assignment was to practice level design so I needed to make a bunch of maps with different themes.

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I tried to make each map play different from the others. The cityscape is really cluttered, the island is more open. The bridges map is mostly corridors and long-range combat, the Crossfire map is claustrophobic and bullets will (unlike every other map) rebound off walls and remain in the playable space until colliding with another bullet. And the circus map has bouncy walls, meaning players will rebound if they crash into obstacles

Also, if you’re wondering where those dev diaries went, I’m posting them on the other blog every Saturday. Here’s the first one, you can figure it out from there.

Ford project conclusion

In an NDA-friendly nutshell, Ford Motor Company showed up and invited everyone to pitch games that fulfilled very specific criteria. The three winners got three thousand dollars each, and my game was one of the three winners. I’m not gonna lie, it feels weird thinking that I just won three-thousand dollars for making a game.

I’ve been thinking about why I won. There were some great games up against me. Honestly, I think it was my presentation. I printed my cards out on cardstock, the Heroes and Weapons were light blue decks, the Culprits and Catastrophes were pink, and The President was yellow. The font was professional and the text was properly spaced. and I brought a sheet full of 40 card artworks I paid $120 for, just to hammer home that I was serious about my game looking spick and span. Most of my competitors were using hand-drawn cards or, even worse, scraps of papers.

Update: I talked to the prof, and he says the reason I won was because of how flexible I demonstrated the concept was. How you could basically delete the entire game’s content and replace it with an entirely original frame narrative with all-new keywords. Considering I added that in last-minute, it’s nice to hear that helped. 

The other reason I won, IMO, was that my opponents forgot a few of the requirements. Ford said they needed a game playable by 2-5 players, and several of the other games were not two-player compatible (granted, neither was mine, but that’s why I added a 2-player variant in the ‘alternate rulesets’ section). Ford said the game needed to stimulate natural conversation, so half of my opponents made codeword-based games. This was the wrong call on their part, codewords are the exact opposite of natural conversation.

The real question is what happens next. I’ve spoken to the other two winners, they’re buying iPhones with their winnings. I want to invest it into this game, because everyone is telling me this game is amazing. Most people seem to think I should start a Kickstarter, and I’m not against the idea in theory. So I guess let’s cover that option first.

Option 1: Self-publish. In this day and age, self-published board games are downright commonplace. More than any other creative industry, the board game industry has loads of support for the developer who wants to skip the rat race and market to consumers directly. My battle strategy would probably look like “create a public domain prototype (not a normal step, but mandatory in this case because the 66 cards in my Ford prototype are required to be public domain) –> market it through the Daily SPUF, reddit, twitter etc –> people fall in love with the free version hopefully as hard as all my playtesters do –> create kickstarter and make money –> use money to pay artists and, uh, I guess that’s it until –> use an online card-printing company so people can order decks printed on demand and sent to their house.

Pros: I make way more money than option 2. I retain full creative control. I have many different groups who can market for me, from Mom and her businesspeople to my internet circles and UCSC. Also, I can technically skip the part where I earn startup money because the costs are extremely minimal for this particular project.

Cons: Fuckton of work. High chance of failure due to the nature of the industry. Will never reach as many customers as option 2.

Option 2: Pitch game to a publisher. Use the extremely positive reception from my playtesters to sell the game to Milton Bradley or Parker Brothers. Far as I can tell, I basically hand them the game, they do whatever they like and I just get a slice of the sales forever.

Pros: It’ll be in Targets and Wal*Marts and shit for free. They’ll do marketing and other stuff for me.

Cons: I’ll have to explain the public domain thing. I will lose a bunch of creative control. I’ll make less money in the end of the day (unless it takes off beyond my wildest dreams. But even then I’m not sure how much money I’d get after corporate takes their cuts)

Other issues: Not sure The Just Us League title is going to pass legal, but I’m having a lot of trouble thinking of a name with the same punch. Heroes of Just Us is best but has the “Begging To If you Seek Amy” problem. As previously mentioned, the core cards are mandatory public domain since they won the contest. (I retain no rights to them, but Ford doesn’t either). My only option for selling is to make a bunch more cards and sell those as like “expansion packs” to the free-to-play base game, or to make dapper glossy artwork’ed versions and justify a price on those extra bits. Ford’s gotta be okay with that, right?

This is all something to worry about after the Greenlight pitches. Luckily I’m not even fussed about whether I win or not. Gimme a choice and I’ll take $3K and working on someone else’s game for the rest of the year.

dev diary #7

 

Not sure what to say about this project. I kinda suspected, from the moment the team insisted we make multiple rooms, we were gonna run out of time and the project would disappoint. But I’d thought that about the last project and Tyler blew me out of the water by creating a great game. I think the main difference is that Tyler and I had a much simpler scope and I created all the assets in-house, leading to a very quick initial prototype that had unity in its sprite artwork. Tyler and I were done with the core game within the first 48 hours, and the rest was playtesting, bugfixing, and adding additional features. This is a stark contrast to this 3-person project, where the core game is barely being finished on time and we’re likely going to have no playtesting whatsoever. I’ve played the game and it’s pretty unremarkable. I can tell programming put a lot of work into it, but almost every element is unpolished and the final project feels like a crude alpha. This will likely be the first project I won’t be adding to my itch.io account.

It’s tough, because I feel like I pulled my weight. I had the script finished with two weeks to go, and all the inventory icons finished with a week left. I should have had the voicelines recorded sooner, but I couldn’t record them until programming finished creating the map, coding the puzzles and sent me a list of minor changes (like changing the plastic shed to wood or removing the shower since they couldn’t find a free asset). Ultimately, I think our workpace was insufficient for the amount of time we had to create the project. We should have stuck to a single room. We could have finished it well within the timeframe, and started playtesting/debugging after that. Maybe I should have played more of a “project manager” role and just flatout told people what to do and how we’re going to do it. I really wanted to just work comfortably on content creation and trust that the programmers would handle their sphere, but I have this suspicion that my decision in some part led to the game’s failure.

Chapter 7 was all about prototyping, one of my favorite elements of game design but not one particularly relevant to this dev diary since we’re putting the finishing touches on our game. The lectures were more pertinent, especially Monday’s which discussed linearity vs engagement. Game developers have to juggle a delicate balance between utilizing “what works” and also creating a unique signature for their game to stand out. I would say this is another element where our game falls short. The Unity store assets plainly telegraph their origin, and the gameplay is pedantic by design; I’d hoped that the writing quality, voiceover narration, and storyline would carry the plot instead of the puzzles/gameplay. But in practise the gameplay is so unpolished, and the assets so minimalist that the game seems to entirely disagree with the narration in most parts. When the player character obtains a brick and says, “One of the bricks was loose in Wernicke’s wall” while he is quite clearly standing in front of a wooden picket fence, it’s impossible to take the story seriously.

Speaking of other projects, I had a blast voice-acting for Aylin’s and Will’s games. I’ve always wanted to bolster my voice-acting portfolio, so it’s great to have three new titles under my belt within three weeks, and I think most of the class knows by this point that I’m very interested in voice-acting for future projects. Also, C++ is going better than ever now that there are dedicated student tutors who are available most days of the week. I’ve finally completed Poker and plan to begin Breakout next week. It’s nice to be on schedule again.

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Pictured: inventory icons. Pretty pleased how these turned out considering I made them using a bunch of royalty-free stock art and an online filter. I was going for the ‘hand-drawn’ feel, because the premise is that the character is sketching in his journal, but I also needed them to look photorealistic due to the game’s artstyle.
Also, since all I ever seen to include are screenshots, thought I’d throw in one of the 69 voicelines I recorded for the game’s narration. This is heard on an in-game answering machine, revealing who came to Wernicke’s house and murdered him last night.

New Game! Zone Out

Zone Out isn’t the sort of game I normally make, but it’s also my first duo project!

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We were assigned an emotion, and our task was to create a game that conveyed that emotion. Can you guess what our emotion was?

Programming and sound design by pat. Sprites and level design by aabicus. Special thanks to MJ, Erin, and our playtesters at UCSC Silicon Valley!

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.

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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!