Monday, March 28, 2011

Random platforming levels

Currently working on a sort of level generator for very basic platforming games.  It's so far generating the ground with varying heights, and making pits of random length. 

All of these random numbers are pulled from a set of parameters, meaning different levels can generate different feeling stuff.  For example, one level might make wide gaps and long strings of bricks to make a waterfall/cliffside type level, while another makes 2 brick wide posts over tiny gaps to make a challenging jumping area.

Today I added in support for making a "roof" to the level.  This works pretty much like the floor, only upwards.  It's using the same block distance and settings as the floor right now, but I might seperate that later on.  The roof's position in height is based on a set randomized distance from the floor, which should in theory allow for control over the overall empty space in the level.

In reality, sometimes the game is making dead ends now, because the next block of level has the roof too low or the floor too high compared to the last block.  Doh!

It should be a rather simple fix.  I just need it to know what the last block looked like, and not make the next one something that is impassable.

I'd post a demo of it in action, but it's nowhere near any condition to be playable yet.  The main problem is that the player physics are still the default MMF2 platform movement(yes, the terrible one from back in click and create, not the extension movement that is actually good).  And the player's spawn isn't changed yet, so half the time I'm stuck in a wall/roof when I test it out.  Oh, and of course, everything is ugly squares on a white background.  Yeah...maybe I'll just hold off till I get all the game together.

Eventually, what I've got on paper is a lighter, platform game version of an old Rougelike game.
Once I iron out all the bugs, get some sane platform movement/fighting code in place, and get it going from scene to scene("Floors" in the traditional Rougelike), I plan on making a couple of different release versions.  This all depends on how solid or expandable the gameplay turns out to be:

-A single dungeon, no saving flash game. 

This version would be a light, easy to start up romp that tosses you straight into hacking through a probably limitless (or just very very long) dungeon.  Since there's no save and only one life, the game would make a good "coffee break" kind of action/platformer while having that light touch of "how far can your luck/skill hold out?"

-A more complex, multi dungeon stand alone game. 

More then likely, this version would be a downloadable PC game exe.  The great thing with the stand alone version is that I could very easily have two versions, a paid for version and a free "shareware type" version. 

Obveously, the latter "full version" is a very ambitious project.  I'm definetly doing the smaller single dungeon flash game first.

My original idea was to have this be an online, profile driven game that saves your progress in an account, and possibly even had multiplayer. (LAN style 2 to 4 players helping a host for one dungeon, not MMO all on the same server) support.  But I've looked into the backend of those things and I lack the time/money/server/security to invest in such an endeavor.

So that's pretty much what I've been up to lately on the game developer side of the coin.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The number 2 pencil

A number 2 pencil.

Does it make colors?  Only shades of grey, implied colors that will never be as colorful or powerful as true colors.

Does it make art?

I feel as though I am an artist, holding a pencil, with nothing else to work with.  Where others have fancy game engine coders and an army of tools unique to their platforms, I have generic "catch all" tools that can do lots of things, but none of it as good as the unique ones.


Doesn't the number 2 pencil also have the same capability, however limited, to make new things?

I've got a few tools, Multimedia Fusion 2, Unity Engine, and paper.  Not the same tools used by other professional artists, but tools that are rather flexible, if lacking in shine.

Can my number 2 pencil make art?  I believe the answer is yes.

Am I capable of getting there?

I intend to find out, for better or worse.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Internet streaming software Screamer Radio, my new fun toy

Yes, I am well aware that this has nothing to do with games, but this software is so sweet it deserves a shoutout.

Got Screamer Radio when my old internet radio streamer decided to go all "free trial expired" on me.

Sweet little piece of software, simple and to the point with no graphical fluff or bloated interface in the way.  Latest stable version runs fine in Windows 7.

One really nice feature I can't get enough of is the buffering stream navigation buttons. Put simply, because it buffers a few minuites of the song to memory, you can listen to the song, and then effectively "jump back in time" to start the recording tool if you wanted to record what you're currently hearing.  I kinda wish I could configure or at least know how far back it jumped, but it's certainly better then it not being there at all.

It's even got a Mute button, so that you can leave it recording while you play and listen to something else(like Bejeweled 3). It won't record anything but the stream, and can record on mute, so click and make noise away.

I think I found my new fun toy this week! Got an unused Vista partition on my hard drive to record stuff to with about 40+ Gigs of space on it. Time to make use of that hardware with something worthwhile to listen to. :D

Anyway, link so you can check it out:

Go let the developer know you like his software too!  It's developed by one cool guy in his spare time between work, so I'm sure he'd appreciate the encouragement and thanks!

Anyone know a good modern rock station?  I got for my world/newage music needs, and various jazz stations, but I keep finding oldie rock stations instead of modern ones.  Not that I'm complaining, it's all free after all. :)

Enjoy, and have a great day!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

5 Good Games off Steam for under 15 bucks.

So, you've got only a bit of money left, and you are wondering what game you can buy?

Well, here's a list of games off steam that are all under $10 to $15 USD, and are so well worth the money you'll wish you paid full price.  Some are shining examples of what an independant game development team can do, others are sweet sweet deals from bigger corps who've decided to cut in on the "smaller, but cheaper" game making budgets.

All are guranteed to be the same quality as some triple AAA $50 games, and maybe even surpass some of them in fun factor.  Enjoy, and happy shopping!

Beat Hazard

Music powered duel stick shooter.  Comes complete with Co-op and VS on the same PC, assuming you've got two controllers to play with.  The controller config is designed to support just about any two stick controller, myself I prefer some PS2 controllers with USB adapters.

You can load up any music you have on your PC, as well as audio cds(not sure if audio cds will save your scores, I have all mine ripped to my PC).

It's very graphically intense for a 2d shooter, so if you're prone to flashing lights like in rock concerts, be warned it has many similar graphical effects.

See shots of it in action, and grab a copy for yourself from the below URL.  You can also check out a demo, limited in plays and tracks, to test out if it will work on your system and get a taste of the gameplay.


Breakout game with real physics, gravity, interconnected pieces, and lots of good old-school chaos.

This one is worth the price of admission for the soundtrack alone, but it's also a very solid breakout game with a few twists.  Thanks to it's varied gameplay and well designed stages, it doesn't get old, and is fun to replay as well. 

One might also be surprised to find it has a storyline, loosely and minimally told, but it's there and a good one.  It's also got a couple 2 player Co-op modes, but the meat of the game is the single player story mode.

If you want some old school action with some new fancy physics and really cool effects, Shatter is a sure fire bet.  It's a work of art.

For those on PS3, there is a version of Shatter for the PS3 network.  I prefer using the mouse control on the PC version to a controller, but rest assured both versions have the same modes.

No demo, but the video does a good job showing you what to expect from the game.  Rest assured, you'll feel like you should have paid much more then the 10 bucks.

Toki Tori

A beautiful puzzle/platformer with a heavy emphasis on planning ahead as you use tools and Toki-Tori's very simple movement to collect all the eggs.

To put it simply, this game is so well polished and has so many fantastic, devious, yet well designed levels, it should be a 20 dollar game.  It'll charm you from beginning to end, and each world has it's own little twist that reworks how solving the puzzles in that world feels.  The difficulty goes from rather easy to brick hard rather fast, while never feeling unfairly complex.  All the levels have some trick to them that once figured out, makes solving the level a joy.  I always felt a sense of satisfaction that I solved the puzzle, and rarely felt "cheated".

Oh, and Toki-Tori is like the cutest fellow ever.  I really doubt anyone could look at him and not smile at the way he wobbles about the levels and cheers when you finish them.  Simply adorable.

One bit of warning:  A couple of the levels require you to quickly use your tools, or use them with careful timing.  Thankfully this is the exception, but sadly it means that players slow on the trigger probably will need help from a friend later on to finish the game, as at least one of these type of levels is required to be finished in the main storyline puzzles.

Grab the game demo from here to try it out, or purchase the game from Steam for a measly 5 bucks.  That's less then a dinner out for a game that will entertain and puzzle you for at least a good 20 hours.

Puzzle Dimension

Pure puzzle game.  The demo doesn't do it's difficulty justice, rest assured the full game makes much deeper use of the puzzle elements and unique spacial properties of the game.

Not a single timed section, you always can sit there and plan out your next move.  Even the "crumbling paths" only crumble once you decide to move off of them, serving their purpose of being one way while not making you rush over them.  There is no "monkey ball physics" or "elements of chance/skill" involved.  Instead, all the puzzles rely on your abilty to grasp the spacial design of the level and plot out a path that won't drop you off the edge.

This is the kind of puzzle game you can sit down and just stare at a puzzle for hours, solving it in your head without worry about time running out or not having the skill to roll the ball along the route. 

Only 100 puzzles may not sound like much, but once you see the scope and complexity of the later stages, you'll understand why they didn't make any more complex ones.  The game cuts off well above the "Genious" level of puzzle solving, becoming more of a Zen-like game.  You'll find yourself haunted by the last puzzle's layout you didn't solve, spinning it in your head at work/school as you suddenly comprehend a path you missed that makes everything click. 

One other thing that really makes it stand out is the atmosphere of the game.  When you start a puzzle, the music is like a chiptune and the graphics are very retro(in a stylish way).  As you roll the ball by tiles, they "upgrade" to their higher definition modern graphical standard look.  As the level is "depixelated", the music magically blends into a more modern mix.  The effect is that as you solve the puzzle in your mind, the puzzle visually and audiably "solves" itself, becoming more clear.  The sweet thing is that no matter which form the tiles are in, they are very recognizable, so this becomes a beautiful reward for exploring the puzzle completly without ruining the pure puzzle solving gameplay.

I can't recommend it enough, for 10 bucks it's the best spacial/logic puzzle game I ever bought.  Oh, and one more thing, it's for Mac too(and looks just as beautiful there)!

Get the game, check out the demo, and see a video of it in action here:

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Fully co-op, fully single player, top isometric shooter/action/puzzle/adventure game. 

The puzzles change between co-op and single player modes.  This game is basically one of the best Co-op games ever.  Both of you have different skills, and the puzzles are much more complex then just "this is for player 2 to solve while player 1 stands there".  They almost all the time require both of you to be working at once to solve the puzzle.

Add in some of the sweetest co-op battles and action sequences where you both have to think to look out for each other as well as survive yourself, and you've got a recipie for a beautiful Co-op experience.  It's also got a good storyline to boot.

I want to say setting up the controls is a bit confusing since the control setup can't be done in mid-game, and doesn't do a good job telling you what the buttons will be used for.  But this game is well worth the 15 minuites setup of controllers.

If you want to skip out on the controller setup, you can also get it for X-Box360, off the marketplace there.  I can't speak for if that version is better or worse then the PC version, but it does have the full co-op and single player gameplay.

Oh, and for those wondering if the character packs are worth it, yes, they certainly are.  It's much more then a character swap, they redid all the voice acting for the game to be the new characters, and even added a few new voice triggers to the puzzles.  The result is downright hillarious.  It makes replaying the levels to get all the artifacts pretty funny, but do make sure to play the game normally first, as the normal game is a work of art in itself.

Check out a demo, or buy the full game from steam for a mere 15 bucks.

And with that, this is Gawain, signing off till next post.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Introduction Post

I'm Gawain, and I basically grew up on video games.  Currently I both play and also make games as a self titled "Independant Game Designer".

I fell in love with video games once I got an old 486 PC(with DOS OS).  Been hooked since, and once I found an old dos shareware game called "Jetpack" with an editor, I got hooked on the design aspect of it too. 

Artistically, I'm very much a Game Designer, designing stories or worlds that are meant to be experienced, not just told.  Games are like my canvas, and like an artist, I use my tools to express myself and create things for myself and others to enjoy.

One of my favorite games of all time is Myst, and the rest of the series since.  If any single game influenced my view of games as an artistic medium, it was Myst.  It sticks out in my mind forever as a game that was so simple to play, yet so deep in both backstory and themes, and hauntingly beautiful.  It was the first game I know of that really showed that this medium can be used as an art form, and can express and move people even deeper then a movie or book.  The fact people still buy and play it

That brings me to why I love video games as a medium.  It's because they have the capability to be a storybook, a movie, and just a fun toy to pass the time, all at once. 

There's tremendous potential for interactive storytelling in video games, and many recent games have gotten very good at tapping into that, even going so far as to tell some deep political or social statements about the world, our history, and the way we think. 

And at the same time, some games are just fun things to play or do.

I'd make a list of all the games that have influenced me throughout the years, but it would be too long and take way to much time.  You'd all fall asleep long before you got the picture.  Instead, I think it's better to save those for future blog posts.

Ultimately, this blog is a way for me to share my journey with you.  Expect the following subjects to show up, in random, spontanious order:

  • My experiences with games I have played, and why they influenced or are interesting.  I promise it will be interesting and not "hi I love this game and it's awsome you should play it lol".

  • Info, previews, and announcements about my own game projects.  I make games too, and I'll keep you all posted as they polish up into playable art.

  • Expect lots of theories, as I openly spill my thought process of a self declared game designer.  It's like a free lesson in Game Design while watching me put it to practice.  From general "why do games do this" to the nitty gritty stuff, I intend to share all my game design knowledge.  Lots of you might agree or disagree, but hopefully I'll at least explain my logical thinking process so you can see why I did what I did.
One thing you will not find is me saying what I'm going to post next.  I want to keep this as fresh, spontanious, and true to my own current experience and belief as possible, so what comes next is as much a surprise to me as it is to you.  :)

So thanks for joining me on my journey through gaming.  Hope you enjoy the ride, and see you in the next post, whatever it may bring!