Building Worlds

It has been quite a while since my last post to either this site or twitter. The Real Laser Ball was released, which was awesome, and people actually bought it! I then had to start job hunting because, well, not enough people bought it. This was expected, but it cut the time I had to make games (and post about making games) down quite a bit. I am still making games, and I will actually be writing some posts about it soon (Dev logs, random thoughts, and my possible journey into finding a publisher). This post, however, is not about that. This post is about a new project I have started with a long time friend and fantastic writer, Tyler.

Tyler and I have known each other for over ten years and, during that time, we have spent countless hours crafting our ideas for worlds, stories, and games. Recently, we started on a proper outline for a new story and realized it would make a great tabletop campaign. Then we realized we had countless half-finished outlines and twice as many worlds/countries/planes of existence we had crafted histories, cultures, gods, religions, languages, and characters for. This brought us to our current project: Building Worlds.

Using a vast amount of notes, sketches, random thoughts, and some elbow grease we have started the process of making maps for our first official world. We are still early in the process, but our eventual goal is to release premium world guides/campaigns for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. These would include everything from world/detailed maps, a full world history/timeline, local factions/races/customs, a list of major characters/gods/religions/historical figures, and a full campaign. Our goal is to make “homebrew” content at the same level of quality as an official Wizards of the Coast published book. This will require some fun legal/copyright shit with using the SRD and OGL, but it seems so far that we will be perfectly covered. We may also do some campaigns in the Forgotten Realms to leverage the official 5E content, as well as the popular marketplaces, but for now, we want to make our own shit.

I will be posting more info soon (and I might see if I can convince Tyler to throw up some posts as well) but, for today, I will leave you with the above video and the below maps (Which are still very much works in progress).

Project Stuntman – Dev Log 1

Project Eats (Not the actual title) is a great idea. It will be funny, fun, and go a long way towards selling itself. However, Project Eats (again, not the actual title) needs a lot more time in the brainstorming oven to be something I would be proud to release. So, Project Eats (Actual title…No wait, no. Not the actual title) has been put on the back burner for now and I am moving forward with Project Stuntman (…not the actual title).

Stuntman will be a frenetic, high-score-chasing, twitch (the skill not the streaming service) based game. It borrows heavily from some old classics with some modern twists. I will have some more details as well as some VERY early gameplay videos shortly.

Today, however, I will talk about the first 12 hours of working on this prototype:

I was once given a solid piece of advice. “When making a game, make it for one person. If that person loves it, others will too.” This lead me to making a game for my good friend and sometime colleague Jovan. And Jovan likes weird games.

We began with a simple idea like frogger where the goal is not not to cross the street but instead see how close you can get to dying… without dying. Scores are not granted by staying alive for a long time but by dodging out the way at the last possible moment. Kind of like a pidgeon or seagull standing in the road in front of your car. They never move until the very last moment, most likely just to be assholes.

I started trying to determine if I wanted a vertical or horizontal layout, ending up on horizontal to utilize the screen space afforded with 16:9 monitors. From there it was a process of determining the level layout, amount of lanes, control scheme, enemy spawning, etc. I decided to not spawn in waves, instead having enemies always spawn in every lane from game start. The game will start with only four lanes of variable speeds and will expand as the player raises their score.

The biggest difficulty so far has been trying to calculate points on dodging an enemy and notifying the player on the best time to dodge. I have settled on each enemy looking for a raycast hit on the player within a certain range. While hitting the player with a ray, the color on the enemy’s shader will change hue over time, reverting if the player moves out of the way. Once the player moves, based on the distance between the enemy object and the player, points will be added. If the players dodges at an extremely close range the game will move into slow motion. While in slowmo, the player will be able to continue to dodge close objects to extend the duration of the slowmo. The time control system was, thankfully, very straight forward since I utilized Chronos (Asset Store Link).

Once I had a VERY basic playable prototype I found that it felt static and uninteresting. This brought me into the camera. Originally, this was to be a straight down shot with an orthographic camera to essentially keep the game 2D. However, I have since moved the camera to a perspective view and have it following the player with some basic scripts to allow for delay, spring, and zooming/rotating during slowmo periods. I really like the feel of it now but, I think I will move my camera operation over to Cinemachine once I have some more of the basic portions complete.

All that is left before presenting Jovan with a playable build for him to judge is to add a death/restart system, high score tracking, and complete the enemy color change based on distance scripts.  Once that is complete I may record some normal speed gameplay footage to post on here.

That’s it for the first 12 hours of work (spread out over a week). I will post again once Jovan can get his hands on the build.

 

 

Project Eats – The next game

With The Real Laser Ball launching soon (August 21st on Steam), I am starting work on the next game, Project Eats (Not the actual title).

I am going to be pretty slim on details at the moment but I can tell you it will be an extremely difficult and funny game that will not only be perfect for streamers, but also actual players as well. I will be posting more details as I progress further with the game. For now, I will be trying to put out at least two timelapse dev videos and one dev log a week.

Steam Curators, Anxiety, and Paid Reviews

Since The Real Laser Ball is my first game, and a pretty simple game at that, I didn’t do a full court marketing push. I am instead relying on Steam curators, user reviews, twitter, friends, and Reddit. I won’t be doing a full press release to gaming sites for this one(Though, if Rock Paper Shotgun covered my game in any way I think I would shit my pants) and will be saving that for the next game (already in the works, more updates to come). On Sunday night I sent the game out to around 65 curators that I thought would enjoy it, or that cover similar games.

It is a strange feeling to send out a copy of your game to a bunch of strangers for them to review it. It’s been two days of nervously refreshing the curator connect page to see who downloaded a copy and if anyone has left a review yet. I think the anxiety is much less about them liking it and more about it not breaking. My mother attributed it to “Hoping the other kids at school like your kid.” But I think of it more as “Hoping my kid doesn’t take a shit on the desk in home room.” However, much to my extreme relief, I did just get a recommendation that doesn’t say the game is a desk shitter:

“A unique propulsion-based movement mechanic makes Laser Ball a deviously simple arcade score-chaser with a diabolically addictive and challenging spin. A chill synthwave soundtrack just seals the deal” That actually sounds cooler than any of my marketing lines! I am super excited now to see what the other curators have to say.

On the other side of the marketing coin I have been getting some super shady e-mails from “Promoters” who I assume just constantly scan the Steam upcoming releases section and send e-mails to the the devs/publishers. Some of them are fine, and possibly even useful, but some of them have been selling paid reviews. Which pisses me off to no end.

Story time! When I used to live in Orlando a group of my friends and I decided to start an online nightlife magazine (Off The Bridge Orlando, now defunct). We did this because we kept seeing shit restaurants and bars PACKED to the brim due to the amazing reviews they were getting in the Orlando news papers and lifestyle magazines. We had spoken with a good friend who owned a a phenomenal pub and found out that these publications would essentially sell a positive review to anyone willing to pay for it. After speaking with many more owners it seemed that this was just how the system worked. This meant that solid, interesting, and well managed establishments were ghost towns while terrible places were swimming in customers because they were willing to shell out a few grand for a thumbs up. We started our site and exploded fast since we were upfront that our reviews were based on our opinions and the quality of the establishment and we in NO WAY charged or received money or perks from or for our reviews. People flocked to it because they could trust in that what we wrote wasn’t based on a cash grab. Mom and pop places that truly deserved customers started to get them and even though we eventually failed as a business (Some not too smart decisions when it came to one of our live events kinda sorta made two of us homeless and we shuttered the site) we felt great that we were able to be a part of a change in how people discovered which businesses deserved their patronage.

Circle back to now and I am getting shit like this:

This was the cheapest option.

That is not only super shady, but fairly fucked up when viewed through the lens of a consumer. I look at the list of games that this curator has recommended (quite a lot) and I gotta wonder if they are indeed any good? Or if they just look great because they shelled out the cash.

I want to make money off this endeavor. I want to keep creating digital toys and eventually stories. I want to not have to sit in a cubical again and still pay my bills. I think every indie dev feels the same way. But, once we start fucking the consumer by manipulating the system that allows them to find the games/developers that deserve their patronage we will be no better than the titans in the industry we all find so fun to hate. Maybe it’s because I am just new to how this whole system works, but this seems like an extremely dangerous path to go down if Indie Gaming is to thrive.

The Real Laser Ball Trailer

After quite a few days of remembering how to actually make and edit videos, the trailer for The Real Laser Ball is finally done!

The Steam page is also up and running!

 

Submitted to Steam for review

The day has finally come (a whole lot later than I had originally planned) and I have submitted my Steam store page and most recent game build to Valve for review. Fingers crossed I can have The Real Laser Ball released within the next 3 weeks. Sooooooo cloooooooose. In celebration, below is some straight high level gameplay of The Real Laser Ball.

The trailer for the game should be coming out today or tomorrow and a release date will be announced soon!

Still working on The Real Laser Ball trailer

Coming from a background in film and computer animation, I figured making the trailer would be the easiest part of making this game. I WAS VERY VERY WRONG.

I have made about 12 versions of the trailer so far and I am not sure if I’m done yet. Turns out it is arduous to convey the feeling of playing your game into a video that’s under 2 minutes long. This is made especially challenging when your game has no story or acting in order to allow you to essentially mimic a film trailer. I am hoping to have this completed by end of day today so that I can post it tomorrow. It is the second to last item I need done before I can make The Real Laser Ball’s Steam page live.

Bug fixes, steam checks, and achievements oh my!

Today is a half day as I am prepping the house for my wife’s birthday. Had a few small items on the todo list, which is good because I only had a few hours of work.

Bugs

  • Only 1 major bug today, which was the fade screen. This is a UI black image with an attached canvas group that uses a coroutine to fade the alpha up to 1 and back down to 0 for scene transitions. If the player made a menu selection before the fade in, it would break the script. This is because I wrote this one super early on, and I did a very bad job with it. The new code is a little less clean but protects against player input breaking the script. Happy this one is done as it has been on the list for months. I goofed around for a bit with the idea of a proper “loading screen” but decided the fast fade to black was nice and clean and in matching with the aesthetic. If I am feeling adventurous I might look into doing a VHS static/tracking error transition.
  • Minor bug that was producing a non-game-breaking error. This was a colliding sphere on the shooting enemy death explosion that was left over from when I thought about have the background particles react to explosions (too resource intensive). The sphere’s code had the collider grow far too large for the game to handle. Disabling the sphere solved the issue.

Steam

  • Reset all achievements for testing purposes
  • added some checks to see if steam is running
    • if the app launches without steam, or a steam_appid.txt files it will close the game and attempt a launch through steam.
    • if the app detects a steam_appid.txt file it will try and delete the file.
    • If it cannot delete the file it will end the application.
    • If it can delete the file, and then run another steam check successfully, the game will continue.
    • If the Steamworks.net does not initialize properly, it will end the game.
    • These checks are not to protect against piracy, but to ensure my code works properly as it is far easier to say “The game cannot run without Steam (it can still run in offline mode)” than to plan for situations where the app is launched on its own. As far as DRM goes, this would be pretty damn easy to circumvent.

General clean-up

  • Got sick of the hundreds of debug lines I had put into the game constantly popping up, commented them all out (for the most part)
  • Started adding regions to the code for easy viewing later

On Monday I will continue to general clean-up of the code as well as start testing the steam build depots and cloud storage. Now I have to go pick up an 8ft inflatable unicorn (that sprays water out of its horn) from the post office for my wife’s birthday. She really wanted one… and so did I.

Trailer Work for The Real Laser Ball

Spent a good amount of yesterday building patio furniture, cleaning out the backyard, building poles for string lights and making the trailer for The Real Laser Ball

It’s been a long time since I have had to do any video editing so it was nice to drag those skills out of the small box in my closet and put them back to work.

Announcing The Real Laser Ball

The Real Laser Ball is a short, straightforward game meant to be played in brief intervals (10 to 30 minutes at a time), while also maintaining a sense of progression between each session. Blast your enemies, collect some coin, upgrade your ball, and chase your (and the leaderboard’s) high score… all while huffing that sweet 80’s nostalgia. Expect a difficult score chasing arcade game. The Real Laser Ball will release on July 31st on Steam. Expect more updates, screenshots, and gameplay videos over the rest of the month.