Sunday, August 2, 2015

Why I Have No Game Dev Fort Entry...or Making the Most of Failing Deadlines

Alas, I'm going to probably have to admit defeat for this year's Game Dev Fort contest. 

 My dungeon crawler's arrays have been giving me hell, combat barely even ends properly, and I have NO story event code yet. With only a few days left before the 7th and at least one of those lost to cleaning the house, I think I'll more then likely be forced to wave a white flag on this one.  I bit off WAY more then I could chew for the timeframe.  

I had two ideas at the beginning, and went for the longer shot.  I really should have gone for the easier of the two games to complete.  But excitement of entering and a severe misjudge of how easy a new coding structure would be to learn clouded my judgement.  In the end, had I gone with the easier of the two, I would have been done in a couple of weeks and had a small minigame to show for it.  (I'll still be making the other game, at least in prototype form.  Can't promise anything on that yet.)  

But I'm a dreamer, and I dream BIG.  And a month sounded like a long time when I first started.

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On the positive side, if I can ever tame my code and finish filling out the commented sections, I'll have a decent Might and Magic like dungeon crawling engine running with my custom ruleset.  

With really crappy editor support, and support for attaching events to walls and full spaces, this could go pretty far. It also has a mouse driven "point" interface, which means "touch" support for tablets. I'm using AGK, so android porting should be pretty smooth, though I can't test the phone because I happen to own the only android phone hardware that AGK has issues with.

So though I am extremely disappointed to be unable to enter the contest, I also have to look at the positives. I would have never tried out AGK without the humble bundle and this contest to motivate me. And I now know a lot more about how to structure a program in DarkBasic (and what to avoid, which is 50% of my current dungeon code, lol).  

It's a bittersweet sort of feeling right now.  I keep wanting to plow ahead on my project, but I know already that there is no physical way to get the code and the game written and tested in time.  I certainly won't stop dev crunching till the deadline date itself, but at this point I'm mostly doing it out of sheer madness then any real chance of having a game entry.

And gosh darn it, I can certainly say I've given it my all. That's a prize worth having all it's own.

Some notes on the App Game Kit tool, a small mention of Pro Motion, and plans for the future after the cut.

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If I can manage to tame the dungeon crawler and get some proper event handling in place, I'll probably hand craft a small adventure and release it.

I don't know if anyone would be willing to pay for the experience.  I might do a "pay what you want" sort of release for this one.  Mostly text based, turn based, 6 party member dungeon crawlers tend to be a pretty hard sell otherwise.

To everyone who's been entering the contest, is sweating the last few days to crush some bugs, or like me has simply bitten more then they could chew, three cheers!  I hope you fared better then me, and even if you didn't, I hope you at least enjoyed learning what one or more of the tools in the bundle could add to your workflow in the future.

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As for software I tried:

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I enjoyed Pro Motion myself.  It made making all my dungeon walls and decors super easy, with it's ability to wrap a tile and edit all copies of the tile.  It's really sweet, and I'll be using it many more times in the future.

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App Game Kit is a pretty decent tool.  I can't help sometimes but think that I might be better off coding in C from scratch using an open source engine.  But on the other hand, from personal experience, such engines often have broken features or bugs.  AGK doesn't appear to have any such bugs in the entire 3 weeks I've hammered at it, anything crashing has always been my bad coding logic at fault.  That fact is really nice if, like me, you've ever tried using "free" Open GL engines and then gotten totally lost on the many builds you could get off github, and the out of date documentation that seems to come with the territory of such tools.

The Dark Basic programming language is the level 1 code.  It has support for functions and types, but NOT objects, which makes it "interesting" to work with.  You can fake "objects" pretty well through clever use of function naming and type naming, and on the plus side new developers are not encouraged to put functions in all their tile sprite objects, because the function MUST live outside such objects.  Functions can take "types" as an input, so in the end with some clever type nesting you can effectively get the same "object" logic without needing any code attached to objects.  It's pretty sweet, and way better then just plain Basic.

Level 2 is to hook the engine up to a C compiler, which opens the tool up to be much easier.  I wanted to see how far I could push level 1, so I never used level 2 for this project.  I'm a Game Designer, remember?  Challenges like using "crap" to make "awesome" really inspire me, lol. :)

It turns out I can push level 1 very far indeed.  In a month I now have a level 1 powered dungeon crawler, with custom rendered text windows, controlled by a master scene manager, which in turn can hand all this off to a battle control script and wait for it to resolve to get back to exploring.  Not to mention the entire editor also written in Dark Basic, including file access and read write in a special level formatting.

The android export feature being built in makes the price point rather reasonable, as most other tools in the paid for software dev world demand extra payment to convert to other platforms.  

Another very useful fact is that AGK by default will support different screen resolutions for you, even putting black bars to keep the same screen cutoff you designed for on different screen ratios.  

These two systems alone, plus the very generous license for commercial use, are very much worth the money.

The IDE is very nice, and the auto-complete or auto-sense is usually very sweet.  After using it this long there are a few minor things that would make it much faster to use, but I don't feel limited by the absence of those fancy buttons when using the tool.  Of course, this would become a matter of taste if I used the tool on "level 2", with a C compiler and IDE of my choice.

So AGK is somewhere in that strange valley between "easy to use" and "why don't you just code your own bloody engine".  I think in the end I have to say I'll be using it again.  I think after using it that the 100 dollar tag is justified, mainly because of the license, out of the box handling of different resolutions and control settings, and promises of free updates to keep it up to date with the latest iphone/android tech.  You get a lot of bang for your bucks, but it's not going to be "point and click" to make a game unless you write the tools yourself.

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I have not really dug into the other tools much yet.  I'm looking forward to trying out Spriter Pro, the other graphical software in the game bundle, for another project I have sketched during the contest design phase.  Bone animation for 2D does sound sweet, and I'm interested in how easily this will convert into Unity's animation engines.

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Anyway, peace out.  I'll try to get some "crunch time" done, but I'm not expecting much before the deadline with my pace and amount of work left.  

Expect some release in the future once I figure out a decent way to do a "pay what you want" offer.  If I can tame all my arrays.  They keep running wild everywhere and overflowing like a broken dam.  You know that's why coders say "dam", right?  Cause the code leaks?

I'll show myself out.

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