Video: Second demo for my game

April 3, 2015 at 3:38 pm (Game Development, Games, Processing, Programming, Video games) (, , , , )


I’ve finally gotten around to making a video recording of my new game demo! Part of my problem was finding a suitable video capture software suite. I ended up using Open Broadcaster Software, and it turned out fine; I WAS using KRUT, but it had issues with the audio capture.

Anyway, while recording it I ended up finding out that half of my rooms didn’t make it into the demo! I had an issue where a locked door led straight to the boss level. That kind of sucked. Here’s the video though:

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Update Mar 12, 2015: New game demo, mind palaces, and notebooks

March 12, 2015 at 1:29 pm (Game Development, Games, Processing, Thinking) (, , , , , , , , )


It’s been a while again since I’ve posted here, but I haven’t been idle in this period of time. I don’t think I can list all of the things I’ve been up to, but here are three things I’ve been up to:

New Game Demo

I’ve recently released (privately) a new demo for my game. It features brand new levels, mechanics, and storyline. I’ve even added new tilesets and original music for the levels. With the last demo, I was happy to have something playable that resembled a game and showed off some of the neat things I’ve built, but this time I think I’m actually content with it as a game. I’ve added some dialogue that needs a bit of polishing, but is roughly what I want it to be as well. I still need to post screenshots and a video, but I need a big chunk of time to do that still.

The first person to play-test it and give feedback made me pretty happy. It seems that they felt what I wanted them to feel and thought what I wanted them to think with respect to the storyline. They noticed some of the extra details I put into the levels (like the rain effect) as well. One thing I took away though, was that they didn’t use the camera mechanic at all. I think I might add some HUD cues and mechanics to encourage the usage of it.

 Mind Palace

I’ve been spending a considerable amount of time lately rebuilding my “Mind Palace”. This is a mental tool that utilizes the “Method of Loci” method for memorization. Essentially it’s a superior way to reliably remember things. It takes a bit of effort to set up and upkeep, but if done correctly, you can do wonderful things with it.

Before, I was building the hub structure of my palace based on something I had imagined. My problem was that I never fully constructed it; I wasn’t sure how big of a space I needed, so it deteriorated over time faster. I can still reference most of the rooms, but I didn’t solidify where everything was enough.

Also, I didn’t have enough connections to well-known places. Examples of these are houses I’ve previous lived in, These are useful as you can typically just imagine yourself moving through those places and then have your memories jump out at you. My next goal is to tie in more of those to my “hub area” so that I can jump from location to location without having to remember how many houses I’ve lived in. It probably would look like that hallway in one of the Matrix sequels that had all the doors leading to difference places.

 Notebooks

Soooo, it turns out I am a crazy person? I used to have decision issues when it would come to notebooks. I remember being in a store for 10 minutes trying to decide what colour I wanted to use for a notebook. I ended up just buying all of them so that I could decide in a non-public place. Recently, Target has gone out of business in Canada due to questionable decision making. The good part of this is that Moleskine notebooks have gone on sale; at the time I purchased them, the discount was 30% off. I rarely notice these going on sale, and since I’ve started using them almost exclusively, it seemed like a great idea! However, now I have a drawer full of different sizes of notebooks and my mind will only let me use certain notebooks for certain purposes. I’m happy to not have to go buy more for a while, but now I have to store a ton of notebooks…

 

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Update on schemes

October 9, 2014 at 4:40 pm (Rant, Thinking) (, , , , , , , , )


I’ve realized that it’s been a while since I’ve posted an update here. I’ve been a little pre-occupied with my schemes and efforts at my day job, and that’s been affecting my home-time effort to do things for the most part. I’ve had to put my game development on hold for a while due to lack of time and lack of motivation when I see my backlog of items, levels, and bugs. A bit hit on my motivation has also been trying to decide on story elements and other basic game design aspects. It’s a little weird that this is my problem since I’ve been trying to design games for probably two decades; my blockage has traditionally been that I don’t have the tech to build what I want to build.

In the spare time I DO have, I’ve been taking online courses as well. One of the courses I’ve spent a lot of clock cycles on is a course (and book) by Dr. Barbara Oakley on learning how to learn. It’s one of the better sources for improving ones’ mind that I’ve seen in a very long time and it is highly applicable. I’ve also read up on some of her research and I’ve found it to be similar in theme to some of the concepts I was dealing with during my undergrad (I wrote my undergrad thesis on a closely related topic).

In addition to that, I’ve also taken up the Dungeon Master role for a group of D&D players including my wife. Putting together adventures and campaigns has been a big drain on time, but has also been somewhat fulfilling. It’s a good exercise in designing levels and storylines for videogames, so I’ve been enjoying the challenges of coming up with the content and having players essentially “break” my plans. It’s also giving me some practice on working with difficult personalities; some players are really into the game and roleplaying, but others just want it to be Skyrim. This mentality kind of defeats the purpose of the whole game and sometimes ruins things for other players.

One of the main things that has been tiring me up and dominating my clock cycles is something I can’t really discuss here in full. I’ve been networking at work and trying to make connections, generate new ideas, and other fun schemes. There’s been some major steps forward and some really good connections, but there has also been some big setbacks as well. Essentially, I am trying to create my own opportunities and improve on the job I have. I’m working towards creating the demand for what I want to do and getting the connections to put myself in that area. It’s a little time consuming and frustrating sometimes, but I’m hoping it pays off in the end.

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Why isn’t there a new build of Zombie Mansion!?!

August 15, 2014 at 4:01 pm (Programming, Rant, Thinking) (, , , , )


This is the question that all of the voices in my head have been asking me. The general answer is this: I’ve been busy. I do have a new build that should have fixed all of the issues from the first demo build, but I keep getting distracted from verifying that it’s all ready and packaged.

What’s been keeping me so busy though? Well, a number of things. I started taking several courses on Coursera recently; this is one of the things. I’m taking courses on game theory and cognitive psychology and a couple others. So that’s taken some of my attention.

I’ve been spending some time filling in gaps of my knowledge as well. I bought a book that has a lot of general knowledge topics, so it’s led to some additional reading. For example, I’ve always had an interest in psychology, but I haven’t formally studied it; it’s usually been about reading periodicals and research papers, etc. So I read through a general overview and history of it to cover up the gaps. The theories and relationships of Freud and Jung are interesting to me as well. I’ve always been a little iffy on Jung’s research, but it’s sparked a bit of additional effort to learn more about how his distilled theories originated.

Also, I’ve been looking to help a friend out with some web programming stuff. It’s similar to what I do at work right now, but I’ve had to spend a fair amount of time getting up to speed. Unfortunately, I’ve been somewhat stretched by additional responsibilities at work and home, so I’ve been lagging behind a bit.

Man I do a lot of stuff, and this isn’t even the complete list…

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Aftermath of Zombie Mansion Alpha 1 Build

July 18, 2014 at 12:40 pm (Game Development, Games, Graphics, Java, JavaScript, Processing, Programming, Video games) (, , , , , , )


So at this point in time I’ve had multiple people play through my game demo. The results were actually better than I thought. I think only one person wasn’t able to run it (still not entire sure why, but that’s future Jake’s problem now). There were a couple major issues, but those were found and fixed as well. One of the bugs was that I didn’t include the assets for the 3D objects, so when the players entered the room with columns, the game crashed. There was also some scripting errors driven by not having necessary images wrapped up in the resources archive. Logging definitely helped out there.

The last major issue is unsolved, but lies with some code I threw together for the level selection screen. I think some of the click events aren’t going through, or it’s not loading the levels properly. I think this may have something to do with that particular tester running the game through a zip file though. I was shocked to find out that it worked period though.

I got some pretty decent feedback from one tester in particular though. He gave not only bug reports, etc, but opinions on controls, aesthetics, and game flow as well. Most of those things were explained away as “placeholder” stuff, but still; it was useful information to know what a tester/player is thinking when they see that stuff. When I show most people my game, I need comments like “looks neat and retro” or “I like the camera spin feature”, but not enough people pay attention to tiny details.

Anyway, that’s the update. I haven’t had free time to cut a second build or to work on new levels or anything.

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Automation 4 U

June 28, 2014 at 2:29 pm (Computer Science, Game Development, Games, Graphics, Java, JavaScript, Processing, Programming, Rant, Teaching) (, , , , , , , )


So, this will be nothing new for some of you. This isn’t even something new to me; I have a day job where I’m a professional software engineer and we do this at my job all the time. I’m talking about automation and automated processes. This could be anything in your project development process where you have the computer automatically do something for you. An example could be a script that backs up your files to a different drive that you can just run when you want. It could be as complex as a build step that automatically deploys your binaries or runs unit tests.

My disclaimer: A lot of this is technical stuff and directed towards programmers, but even if you’re a graph artist, you can still benefit from this. Everybody that uses computers for projects will need to back up their files for instance.

I’ve only recently realized just how important this all is for regular, personal projects. I’ve always known that it saves time, but my initial mindset was that I’d rather get my project up and running and THEN waste time implementing the time-saving stuff after I get it together. I’ve been reading this book I bought from Amazon that talks about indie gaming from a business, “get your act together” perspective. The book can be found here. I’m still reading it, and some may or may not agree that it’s a good book, but it provides some good ideas for how to take your hobby projects to the next level and keep your process renewable. This means saving time and money on mundane processes, etc.

I am still in the process of automating many aspects of my project, but it really crept up on me just how much time I was wasting on manual things. Here are some of the processes I perform just for my Zombie Mansion project:

  • Backing up files from two areas on my system to my external hard drive
  • Deploying JAR files from my Eclipse solution to my Processing solution to use in my game
  • Removing alpha channels from sprite sets (I built a tool to do this, but it’s still manual)
  • Putting together standalone builds of the game software
  • Packing and compressing image resources for game builds
  • Merging animation sequences together for access by the game engine

These are just things I thought of off the top of my head this morning. Some of them will be easier to do than others, and some of them are specific to my project. All of them eat up time though and are tedious things. Here are a few tips and ideas for how I plan on solving some of these issues though. Please read through just in the off chance that it inspires something or gives you an idea or two.

Deploying JAR files to another solution

For this, I intend on using ANT with Eclipse. This is pretty much a standard for serious Java projects, but it’s taken me a long time to start to improve my processes (usually I want to work on the fun stuff or the stuff that has a visual out-come). Visual Studio has its own build steps and things you can run. Alternatively, you could write a script/BAT file that will grab the files from your output directory and deploy them. This doesn’t require a full set-up of a 3rd party tool and it should be quick to do. It just might break and won’t be as robust.

Backing up project files

This is something I’m already part way through implementing. I’ve written most of a BAT script that will grab the project files from specific directories and dump them in one area so I can back them up (it will optionally zip them as well). To make it a bit easier, I’ve started using virtual drives, but this isn’t necessary. If you’re interested in what virtual drives are or how to set them up easily, email me or post a comment. I can give you some resources or just write an article. Here is a snippet of what I have so far (I’ve been taking bits and pieces from the interwebs, so most of it is borrowed code anyway).

I wanted to dump the files into a folder that would be timestamped so I wouldn’t have to worry about overwriting anything. This is one way of how you’d accomplish it using a BAT script in Windows:

set hour=%time:~0,2%
if "%hour:~0,1%" == " " set hour=0%hour:~1,1%
set min=%time:~3,2%
if "%min:~0,1%" == " " set min=0%min:~1,1%
set secs=%time:~6,2%
if "%secs:~0,1%" == " " set secs=0%secs:~1,1%
set year=%date:~-4%
set month=%date:~3,2%
if "%month:~0,1%" == " " set month=0%month:~1,1%
set day=%date:~0,2%
if "%day:~0,1%" == " " set day=0%day:~1,1%
set datetimef=%day%-%month%-%year%_%hour%-%min%
echo %datetimef%
xcopy "C:\Test\A" "C:\Test\B\Backup\%datetimef%" /E /I

This will copy everything in your source directory (the first argument) and store them in a custom folder with a timestamp. You can use multiple source directories as well if you have things spread out like I do by just putting in an extra line. The last two arguments are switches to tell XCOPY to use the full source directory (and children) and to assume I mean the destination should be a folder.

Removing alpha channels from image resources

This one will be a bit more complicated. I have a tool I wrote to do this, but I want to streamline this. Now, I wrote up a full project plan with a product backlog, but then I realized even that was too ambitious. I plan on taking some items from the list, but I also plan on it being a purely script-based tool. It will run on the command prompt and will use my engine’s scripting engine for customization (as opposed to using config files). At this point in time, it’s cheaper for me to use scripts than config files since I don’t have a streamlined approach to reading them yet. ANYWAY, I will be writing this as a project in my game engine solution and it’ll have a unit test project to go with it. I’m still working out what tests I will need for it since it works with images, but it’ll be centered on testing the RGB values of generated images before and after the script runs. It’ll also test image sizes for when I add the feature to compile multiple animation sequences together.

Anyway! To summarize this; automation is good. It saves a HUGE amount of money (time is money). If you ever have dreamed of selling a game, you NEED to get in the habit of doing this. The more you do it, the easier it will become and the more effective you will be with your time. Be as lazy as possible with your projects; that’s why we’re programmers! (Although you don’t need to be a programmer to benefit from this).

 

 

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Zombie Mansion: Alpha Build 1!

June 23, 2014 at 2:54 pm (Computer Science, Game Development, Games, Java, JavaScript, Processing, Programming, Rant) (, , , , , , , )


So I’ve finally gotten a build of the game working! I can’t post it yet for a variety of reasons, but I’ve sent the build out to some people to try it. It’s mostly to verify that the game works as expected and is stable. It just features the level I showed in the previous videos and a couple of extra smaller areas.

Last Saturday night I had a few panic moments when the builds weren’t working as expected. I had an issue where the resource unpacker code I wrote wasn’t actually unpacking the images from the compressed assembly; it turns out it was still trying to load them from the local directory. The issue has since been fixed thanks to all of the logging architecture I recently put in. There’s still several areas that could use more logging, but there’s enough now to sort out common issues.

Another bug that logging helped uncover was with the asset manager system. I have code that manages any images and ensures you only load one copy into memory. This helps to keep a cap on the memory usage of the software as a whole. However, there was an issue where I had slashes in the reference indices that were going the wrong way! This is a pretty common issue with programming to be honest. Devs frequently write code for their own system and then find out that nothing works on other computers or operating systems. Thankfully, the logging system helped uncover the fact that it was double loading certain resources.

Now if I could just muster the effort to change the spelling mistake I made with naming the logging variables…

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[Video] Demo Video of Zombie Mansion

May 19, 2014 at 6:14 pm (Computer Science, Game Development, Games, Java, Processing, Programming, Video games) (, , , , , , , , )


Here is part 1 of a  5-minute video of a short level I put together in a playable demo. I play through the puzzles and traps of the level and show off some of the details and mechanics of the game. Please forgive the large amount of placeholder art and the rough nature of the game so far.

EDIT: Part 2 coming soon

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[Video] Combat demo video

April 23, 2014 at 6:40 pm (Game Development, Games, Java, Processing, Programming, Video games) (, , , , )


Here is a short video showing off some combat mechanics and example animations. The zombies will stalk the player and attack with a melee animation. I’ve included sound in this video as well, although there’s no music in this clip.

 

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New screenshots: 3D Meshes and fire effects

November 30, 2013 at 11:12 am (Games, Graphics, Processing, Programming, Video games) (, , , , , )


Here’s some screenshots I whipped up this morning. It is to show off the fact that I am using 3D meshes for background scene objects. Right now I’m using some objects I got for free from Reiner’s Tiles. Excellent website by the way; great stuff for when you need some basic stock objects or placeholder art (actually the license on this site lets you use it for final commercial projects as well!). ANYWAY, the scene in these shots is a crypt room with some 3D objects. There are some columns and a torch. For the torch I have a basic fire particle effect (it DEFINITELY needs some work though). It has some basic flames and embers with simple behaviour. The second image shows the room rotated at an angle just to prove that I’m using 3D objects.

Room with 3D columns and fire effects

Room with 3D columns and fire effects

Rotated room with 3D columns and fire effects

Rotated room with 3D columns and fire effects

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