Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Demo v.2.0 Complete

Multiplayer scripting is complete for ArkanPong which means the demo now gets bumped up to version 2.0.  I had to create several new scripts specifically for the multiplayer aspect since before things like score, health, and level incrementation were a part of another script.  Having the same thing four times didn't make sense and in some cases quadrupled the results.

Pretty much all the bugs or hiccups in the game were very easy to figure out, though, and didn't take long to put in place.  The hardest part was the color system of the paddles.  Since there are now up to four balls on the field that will break bricks, send power ups a certain way, and kill the other players, I made each a different color.  I also made the player paddles the same color to coordinate whose was whose.  However, in the script for Player Three there seemed to be an error.  All the paddles, if they obtain the Shooting Power Up, turn yellow.  After it has been used for a certain amount of time, they return to their original color.  Player Three's original color is green.  However, for some reason it looked like Player Three was constantly yellow and I couldn't figure out why.  Player Four had also turned for some reason so I had put in lines of code at the start of each level to make sure it was cyan.  I tried doing this with Player Three, telling it to be green, but it wasn't working.  So instead, I tried creating new materials for the paddles rather than scripting the color change and that's when I found out the issue:  Unity's green looks yellow to me.  I had been using a darker shade of green for the paddle rather than "pure green" and forgot.  Color-blindness strikes again.  So making the new materials was actually beneficial so I could just say use that material rather than saying in the script make it a certain color.

I also changed a minor issue in the single player campaign - the Reverse Power Up was getting called too many times.  I had increased the chances of it appearing for testing purposes and never changed it back before the last release.  I have now.

Each multiplayer match has three rounds.  Each round starts with the same level as a callback to the original Breakout/Arkanoid games.  As in 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?,' the points don't matter.  Players will accumulate points by destroying the bricks and spheres and you can see who had the most each round but they do not affect who the winner is at this moment.  They may later, though.

I'm also thinking about possibly adding in a feature where the balls will change "possession" based on who touches them.  Not sure if it will work well but it's something I had though of when I first started.

Enjoy the game demo and have a Happy New Year!

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Week of Lull

Since activating the demo version of ArkanPong on Monday, I have put the game aside for the week and focused on updating my website.  Like this blog, it's been two years since a decent update to it.  The primary focus was the resume page and downloadable versions.  These are all up-to-date now.  I have the same issue with the resume page text that I do with Unity itself, though:  Flash screws it up.  If the user's screen resolution is set to the parameters I say during the site load, everything looks great.  However, on a different resolution (1152x864, for example) the font size gets really big and makes rows really wonky.  I am going to have to look into a possible other means to run the website other than Flash so that this does not happen.  I'm sure it's probably possible inside of Flash as well (actually I'm certain it is and it's just a matter of the screen resolutions but this sounds good, too) but the system is getting pretty big.  I could just create more work scenes but if there's a better way I might do that, too.  We will have to see.

I've also been looking into the latest version of Unity - 4.3.  Not only does it work in Flash sites (if I choose to keep mine that way) but it has a 2D developer in it as well - thanks, Randall, for showing me that!  I need to investigate more the pros and cons of a possible upgrade.  All of my systems are set up already and working properly in the 3D space so I think for this game I'd be fine.  However, since ArkanPong is more a training exercise for my next game, it would be beneficial to upgrade. 

Next week I am going to dive back into development, only I will be doing the multiplayer aspect now.  All of the game components and 90% of the script will be from the single-player side so it should hopefully be functional in a week or two.  Then I can start making some demo levels for that side as well.  I'm aiming to have the final demo version out by Christmas or New Year's at the latest.  That's all for now - I'll post again once the multiplayer scripting is complete.

Monday, November 11, 2013

ArkanPong Demo is Live

Wow, it’s been two years since my last post.  Zeit-Meisters has been put on hold for the time-being for two reasons.  First, the concept for it is pretty ambitious for a first game.  I had tried sitting down and learning Unity as I made it to pretty poor results.  Also, while I had a texture artist in addition to my programmer, I still did not have a modeler.  As such, the game went dormant. 

I have started from scratch on Unity and gone through a beginner’s book called Unity 3.x Game Development by Example by Ryan Henson Creighton.  It gave me a good foundation to start from.  I also decided to implement a new system that should help not only with Zeit-Meisters but also with future games as well.  I have several ideas for games that would start small and expand throughout the production cycle.  These games would lead into development of a larger game by providing a prototyping/research phase while still staying productive.   

The new game is currently under the code-name of ArkanPong.  As the title suggests, it’s a blend of the enhanced Breakout game Arkanoid and the classic game Pong.  I have a final name chosen which will expand the premise even more but that will have to wait until those concepts can be implemented as well as a few other factors figured out. 

There is a five-level demo out today (actually six - the last has a prerequisite to play making it a bonus level).  The intent is to allow the player to get used to the different controls possible as well as introduce a sample of the basic gameplay.  The concepts should be familiar to anyone who has played Breakout or Arkanoid but should also give a glimpse of what lies in store.  Pretty much all the main gameplay elements are in place.  There are some level-specific items that I have left out that I hope you will look forward to down the road.  A 360 controller is required to play.  I initially had the interface on the keyboard but it became too much to control.  Gamepad configurations may still change but it’s in a much better format now. 

This demo, as well as the final version of the game, will be in Alpha phase only.  Alpha in game development means feature complete – or that the game is playable and all major features are complete but the models and textures are not finalized.  I will be tweaking values of different items based on feedback but no actual models or textures will be implemented.  All programming is being done by myself which is taking considerable time (20-25 hours a week for the past 1 1/2 months or so) and working on those aspects as well would take up even more time that could be spent elsewhere.  For how the game is currently, the Unity Game Objects more than suffice – it’s the added content which would need the artist’s touch.  If enough people like the game, I will outsource the modeling and texturing to other people.   

I had initially intended for the demo to be played on my website but forgot that I had Unity 3.4.  Web Play for Flash websites was introduced in version 3.5 (of course).  Rather than hoping everything will transfer okay in an upgrade or spending more time researching I decided to make the game a downloadable version instead.  By going to my portfolio website and clicking Portfolio -> Levels -> ArkanPong -> Download you will be given a copy of the demo.  Before starting the demo, please ensure that your screen resolution is set to 1280x800 and your 360 controller is plugged in.  There are two items in the game that I am aware of that need to be tweaked.  Firstly, in levels that have the black Diamond Posts, if the paddle enlarges it will cross over these posts.  Secondly, analog control for the revolving paddle is not 100% smooth.  It's perfectly functional - just not optimal.  I am looking into how to best address these two issues.  If you notice anything else while playing please let me know and I will make note of it. 

I hope you enjoy the demo and look forward to more updates!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

New Game in Works

Since the end of September I have been in the process of creating my next game.  The initial drafts of the Game Design Document and Script have been completed for some time and I am working on the skeleton of the game right now (I'm going to call it pre-production work - menu systems, controls, and basic gameplay). 

The game is called Zeit-Meisters: Earth Strike.  It is a top-down shooter in the veins of Raiden and Ikaruga.  I am using the Unity engine to create it.  Seeing as I am a Game/ Level Designer and not a programmer or artist, I am looking for some people to help in the development cycle.  I already have a programmer on board and possible composer when the time comes.  I still need a modeler and texture artist.  These are the basic requirements I am looking for:

- Modeler:  Must have strong drawing skills in the areas of characters (with lean towards anime style), vehicles, and environment.  Must know their way around modeling software.  If they have the professional version of either 3ds Max or Maya that is a plus.  If not, must know how to use Blender.  Will be in charge of all model creation. 

- Texture Artist:  Must have a licensed copy of Photoshop and also know how to unwrap textures on a model.

I may end up just using Blender so that the Texture Artist can get that for free.  I feel that textures come out better if the Texture Artist unwraps them rather than the modeler because they know how they want it set up.  If you are a concept artist but not very good with modeling or vice versa, please still apply.  I am willing to break that position into two parts if necessary as the concept artist will have a lot of drawing to do to keep them busy with just that.

Please e-mail me at jaserodgers@gmail.com and let me know which position you would like to apply for.  I will give you a test to determine your level of capability.  More posts will come later as I progress with development.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Succumbed to Temptation

I changed the text.  Read the post below if you don't understand.  I had missed a step, too, when I was talking about the process I had to go through to upload the video to my website.  Audition saves the file at like 34,000 KB which apparently is too big for Flash to handle and so it freezes up.  So once I've adjusted the audio for fades in Audition I have to reload it in MovieMaker and save it again so that the file will only be 12,000 KB.  Here's the new text readout for the first credits screen:
And, just like I predicted, because I went in and fixed this I found another text part wrong.  On the following section, it originally said, "'The Legend of Zelda' and all contents wherein are wholly owned by Nintendo."  At first I thought "contents" should be just "content."  "Contents" is correct, but "wherein" is supposed to be "therein."  I had it this way on my website but everywhere else I was using the wrong word.  So I went in and changed that everywhere as well. 
I went on YouTube and uploaded the newer version with these two changes and also placed it on my website.  My website has the MovieMaker version and YouTube has the Audition version, which is slightly better in terms of audio and visual.  Unfortunately, once you've loaded something to YouTube you can't re-upload a newer version of the video.  You have to delete the video and make a new upload which results in you losing all view numbers and comments.  So things like demo reels, which are constantly updated, shouldn't be loaded to YouTube.  I can see why they do this because without having a moderator check each and every video update it'd be easy for someone to get a lot of views on something and then change the video to something completely different if they wanted.  Fortunately (somewhat), since I loaded the original video to YouTube it had only received 25 views so I'm not missing too much in that department.  19 people have gone to my site and downloaded the game.  Hopefully both of those number will pick up.  Here's the link for the new version of the game trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGRMJQfR1YI


P.S. - The issue I mentioned in my last post about BlogSpot/Blogger is resolved, too.  The new updated version actually places pictures where they should go and is running awesome.  I'm so glad they listened to my idea.  :P

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Must... Resist... Temptation...

I wanted to keep track of how many people download Zelda SoDak from my website so I had to find a piece of code to link with Google Analytics. Once I found it and initialized it, I had to wait for Google Analytics to confirm the code. That officially happened about an hour ago today. I tested the material and saw that my download click was marked in Google Analytics so the only thing left was to post the trailer on YouTube for the masses to see. Unfortunately, as the video was uploading, my OCD kicked in and I noticed something I hadn't before:
In MovieMaker, the "Games" is on the same line as "Armageddon." For some reason, once you create the .WMA file it changes the layout of the text. I had caught this on another scene and fixed it before going through the audio recording segment. No idea why I didn't see this one until now. I really want to fix it because it bugs the daylights out of me but doing that is far more trouble than it's worth. If it were just a simple matter of changing the text size in MovieMaker it would be done but I have to do that and then take the new saved file into Audition to sync the audio. Placing the soundtrack in MovieMaker makes the trailer freeze at the beginning for some strange reason. Plus, chances are I'd catch something else I'd want to fix and end up taking another month just patching the trailer. Unless I'm really bored sometime it's staying as is. Here's a link to my YouTube account:

Also, I might have mentioned this in an earlier post, but Blogger (BlogSpot, whatever) is really annoying when it comes to inserting pictures. The pictures get placed at the top of the post instead of where the cursor is and then when you move it around and readjust everything, even though it looks fine, just like MovieMaker it decides to throw in a ton of extra blank lines for no apparent reason. It takes more time than necessary to fix this.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Zelda SoDak is Gold

After two years of work, Zelda SoDak is finally complete. Technically it took two years but theoretically it only took 6-7 months. As you know if you read my previous posts, work was going very well and all the levels were complete by Christmas 2009 except for the final one, which was completed by February the following year.

At the end of February, I started a new job at Eagle Creek in Pierre, SD, making databases with Siebel for large companies. This set me back because it limited the amount of time I had to properly test everything. Since I wanted others to do the testing for me, though, I didn't mind this. However, as the months went by, no one was giving feedback so I ended up testing the game by myself. I didn't test as often as I should have. Some reasons are explained in the Postmortem, which can be found on my website.

Every time I played through the game I found things that needed to be changed. This post is going to go over some of those things just so you can get an idea of what's been going on:

- Technical
o Cave/Dungeon entrances weren't working
o Tiles weren't places properly (Bomb a rock and a grey tile appeared meaning the door hadn't been placed)
o Sound effects weren't working (special markers hadn’t been placed)
o There was a version of the Gohma I had in the game that wasn’t beatable unless you had Golden Arrows. They aren’t in the game so neither is the Gohma.

- Aesthetics
o This was a big one. As you can see in the original map, this area was wide open (black squares represent the section you can see on the television). There are Moblins in here you can just walk past and not have to fight. It didn't make for much fun. So I added in more rocks to not only make it harder to get through but also to make it look better. There are a couple of other areas that have a similar problem when playing but they didn't really bug me and it looks good on the map so I left it.

o Enemies got added/removed in different locations.
o A tree was added in front of the entrance to see the Old Woman to force the player to get the candle beforehand.
o The color of water was different from one tile to the next on the same square.
o Two warp zones were too close to each other which didn't make sense gameplay-wise so one of them and Level 7 swapped places.

- Editor Shortcomings
o There’s a checkmark in the editor you can select to make enemies reappear on certain game squares. This didn’t work so I had to make it so that on every square the enemies always reappeared. This was the only way to get multiple Zoras on the screen at the same time constantly among other things.
o In the original game, there were rooms in dungeons that were completely black. In order to advance you had to get the candle to be able to see. As you can tell from the screenshot, it doesn’t always work. If you were to use a moveable block, the tile that appears underneath it would be visible. Blocks are visible. Traps are visible. Sometimes the darkness doesn’t even take affect until you are leaving the room. In certain cases it works fine or good enough but in examples like this it just wasn’t worth it.
o A whistle you obtain to kill Digdoggers is also able to clear a lake and reveal a staircase. The lake’s disappearance animation doesn’t work in Zelda Classic so I didn’t bother even using it.
o Enemies wouldn't reappear when they should, including bosses you hadn't beaten. You could hit a boss a couple of times (or if there were multiple bosses in the room kill just one) and if you then died, when you returned to the boss room all bosses were destroyed. Not much of a challenge. This was fixed by the ‘Enemies Always Reappear’ checkmark and if you killed the boss they stayed dead.
o Enemies would disappear when they shouldn't – the Red and Blue Bubbles in particular. If a Red Bubble hits you, you can't use your sword and have to find a Blue Bubble to undo the paralysis. For some odd reason, Blue Bubbles would decide to take a break and disappear randomly, leaving you swordless. I ended up taking out these two enemies and putting in temporary paralysis Bubbles instead. (One area still has them and since I activated the ‘Enemies Always Reappear’ checkmark it seems to work fine – hopefully.)

There were some other things that got fixed but these were the major ones. There is still an exploit that is in the game I found at the 11th hour (pretty much literally). I decided to keep it in for a couple of reasons:
- First and foremost, it won’t break the game.
- If you’ve played the original Zelda before, chances are you won’t think about doing it – I didn’t until last minute.
- It will make the game a little bit easier but not enough to warrant taking it out. If anything, people might find it helpful if they deem the game too challenging.

With that, Zelda SoDak is officially complete, finally. It’s been a long run and the one thing I’ve learned is the benefit of having others playtest for you. Hopefully that will happen in future games. Head over to the Portfolio section of my website to read the Postmortem and download the game.