The final semester of my final year of education is soon, I guess that’s kind of a scary thought, but it had to end at some point and I guess I should probably start being an adult. Damn. So these last months had me working on a mobile game, not something I’d done before, not really into the mobile gaming scene, I was when I got my first smartphone but the craze died quickly for me. This was part of a group project and it had to be mobile so, yeah… it was alright actually, although the artists in my team were never taught how to make cartoonish models, it still turned out great.
My role was essentially ‘make the game work’ but I dabbled in art and design a bit, just to make sure the style was consistent and the gameplay had slightly more depth but still being simple enough for a mobile game. The game we ended up settling on was a more complicated version of flappy bird, however these games have been around years before flappy bird, it’s just none went quite so viral. I played a range of games with similar elements like Burrito Bison, Shopping Cart Hero and Learn To Fly to get an idea on how these games work. Although they were not made for mobile, they don’t have complicated controls, meaning they port to mobile without any input issues.
We decided our game would feature flightless birds being shot out of a cannon attempting to fly, hence the name ‘Fowl Flying’ however it seems at the end of everything, there’s only one fowl… all characters have the ability to flap to increase their speed and height, not entirely sure how a Crocodile or Raccoon manage this, but let’s just pretend it makes sense.
During the development of this game, I took on the task of UI design and implementation (among other things) and have discovered I really enjoy UI design, especially ones with cartoon graphics. I might try and get this game on the Google store in the future, but I feel the game needs a lot more attention before it’s in a releasable stage, time is a precious thing.
I planned on writing this sooner, but time got away from me because unlike last time, there were no disasters over the weekend, so it never really felt overly urgent to write about it, but I should really be doing this regularly regardless as a sort of time capsule.
Unfortunately recreating my team from last year was not possible as a third of the group moved to America… That’s only one person, but it was a small group, that being said, a bigger group could surely make a bigger game, this year, we are 5.
So someone told us the theme a little early, my initial thoughts on it were ‘There’s gonna be a lot of pentagrams…’ as the theme was ‘Tribute’, even though we knew it, 80% of the team went off to watch the announcement video anyway. On our return, Vaidas, who stayed behind, threw out an idea that seemed pretty reasonable so we discussed it for all of 5 minutes and basically started work immediately after. The concept was a 2 player combat game where each player chose from a selection of ingredients that would be used to summon a demon into a voodoo doll who would then fight it out, with different stats based on the ingredients.
Me and Vaidas began by organising a quick usable framework where we could independently create different parts of the game without having to use the same scripts, he worked on the combat system while I assembled the level and put together the ingredient selection section.
Alex, Todd and Aaron started work on the art for the game, creating the environment, character models and VFX. Aaron suggested a magic shop environment and I found some cool concept art from Harry Potter that looked super creepy and showed it to Alex, who started modelling the environment. Todd got to work on the voodoo doll style character and did something new with the rig where each limb was disconnected allowing for easy modularity. Aaron started to get some pentagrams together to make a cool summoning particle effect that would activate once all the ingredients had been selected.
We then ordered pizza a few hours later, it was amazing.
17 hours in and I’m very confident in saying I’m struggling to remember what happened, I think I slept from 6am till noon… 😀 I recall people being very impressed with how much Alex had done at this point as he had done a lot. Like the entire environment was pretty much modelled. It was crazy. The character was rigged and had a few animations, Vaidas had done the combat system and started designing all the ingredients while I was finishing up the selection screen, getting the models in and getting the transition between selection and combat cameras to look good. We also had a bunch of fancy particles for different attacks and a glorious fireworks effect which decimated the frame rate flawlessly.
A few design decision had changed too, we had initially decided on rock-paper-scissors style system where each element would be weak to another, like in pokemon with the classic fire-grass-water triangle. This however changed to that where an element would block itself and we settled on a different range of elements, those being Blood, Shadow and Rainbow. The ingredients also became more like items which would equip to the dolls and each would have a usable ability and a passive effect, as watching the doll fight without any input would be rather dull.
I believe it was around this time that Todd left to never return… I guess, in his defence he had sorted the character out and made like 7 or more animations. The game was essentially finished at this point and around this time we spent more time playing the game then working on it, but it was actually super fun and the games were surprisingly close and tense. It was nice with still so much time left to get friends to play the game and enjoy it, although the majority were just confused the first time, but that goes without saying for first times.
We had a total of 6 of each type of item, all of which were ridiculous, from a shadow powered fez with healing abilities to a beautifully curved helical turd with giant sweet corn kernels (modeled by yours truly) that’s imbued with blood magic that literally shits on your opponent.
Vaidas designed a few more items that filled a niche the other items did not, for instance, the golden turd which does all 3 elements of damage and shields from all of them. Aaron also created the game HUD once he had finished with the particles, he made an icon for every item and they all look amazing.
Everyone else went to sleep sometime in the night while I stayed up (so I could fall asleep at 6pm without issues) and played the game and fixed a few small things, which reminds me, I did almost break the game with the first HUD I made. In UE4, there’s a tool called UMG which is used to make UI, this is all based on a widget class, there’s a load of widgets that come with the engine, things like buttons, grid panels and text blocks, it’s a real nifty system. I decided to make my own widget which was a grid of buttons and then place that in a separate HUD and for some reason this broke in a way that is baffling to me. This bug stops that class from saving and compiling, but if I deleted the issue, it still wouldn’t save… Sometimes it would save though. What? In the end Vaidas deleted the widget, as it was likely corrupted and that’s essentially the only way to solve these UE4 issues sometimes. It pains my soul.
I then put together a game trailer that is vague and has weird music, that’s my type of trailer, apparently it was too vague and I should stop making trailers. I admit, I’m a little weird when sleep deprived, who isn’t?
The weirdest thing was that someone else at the same University made essentially the same game as us with a similar name?! What?! How’s that even possible!?
Damn this is a long post… That’s what happens when I take a break I suppose… Watch the fantastic trailer I made here or download and play the game yourself! (But you’ll need a friend…)
I’ll be posting about my current university project too, eventually… it’s coming along swimmingly!
I think it’s safe to say it’s been a while since I posted but I’ve not had much to really post about so … Any-who, I’ve gone back to the simple life of 2 dimensions, I worked on so many different 3D projects last year and it really burnt me out from the whole process and I spent the summer messing about with different 2D projects (I tried creating my own Pokemon game for a month? Not sure why…) and it was super enjoyable. Once Ludum Dare had finished (should write about that thinking about it…) I went back to a top down hack and slash I was working on, but it occurred to me that the project was 25 days in and the game-play and art were basically non-existent, it was mostly designs and little half developed game features like skeletal animation, random cave generation and potion crafting. The game I made for Ludum Dare was a 2.5d perspective style game so I started messing around with a low res knight sprite, I made some movement animations and that was that, a new project emerged…
A few years ago before I’d ever finished a game (I’ve finished game jams, that counts!) I started working on a platforming fantasy game that had a silhouette art style and a cool (in my opinion) combat tree thing, it was maybe going somewhere, but my hard drive died and I lost the game project folder, a few bits of art mock-ups survived though, like the one below here but I never tried to remake it, which was probably for the best, the scope was way too much for me at the time. This anecdote bears little relevance other than I’m re-using the name and I’m still really sad my hard drive died ): the silhouette character was also a bad idea, I see that now.
Now onto the actual game I guess… So as you might see, I’ve been trying for quite some time to make a fantasy hack & slash game and this time it will happen! Recently, looking at games like Salt & Sanctuary, Titan Souls, Hyper Light Drifter and some games I’m watching the development of on twitch (2dgamedev and heartbeast) has helped me see there is definitely a growing interest in the new Soulslike genre which was created by FromSoft with the Dark Souls series (Demon’s Souls & Bloodborne too!). My game will have similar features but with my own twist, a range of small enemies and large bosses which are hopefully challenging in a range of different environments, I’m really looking forward to this (: Here’s it looking pretty after a month of lazy development.
I remade the main character too, the armour won’t be switch-able, but I may add other helmets if I can figure out a way to do it without too much stress, I may have to add a range of weapons so the combat has a little more depth, I’ll end this with a few animations.
Aah… Animations… It has been a lovely journey. So back in October I wanted to set about making a hack and slash RPG-esque rougelike and I’ve almost managed it? (ha not really). From the get go, I knew I had to delve into a new world of animation, one with 3 dimensions, and with no prior experience and with very little supervision from any professional animators, it was definitely going to be difficult. First, you need a character, you need to make a ‘rig’ and then skin the character to it… Ok what does that even mean? I’ve mentioned before my struggles with animating in a past blog, so I’ll skip ahead.
During Global Games Jam, my friend the character artist was so worn out from skinning our character, he went to sleep, so I took a break from doing all the techy stuff and began to work on the animations. What I saw when I opened that file was glorious, the beauty of the “Layer Explorer – Sort by Hierarchy”, something crystallized as I dragged the characters pelvis onto the base helper and suddenly had a root bone, on the floor where it needed to be. Hallelujah.
Once that roadblock was dead, I could remake my character and all the trashy animations I’d made previous, with more trashy animations! The new character also opened up the ability of equipping different armours, which meant I could make a single character for each class, very handy indeed! Once this was sorted, I made 4 quick animations, an Idle, Walk, Jog and attempted a double sword slash, but it was beyond terrible.
I then went back to techy framework building for a while before returning to any animating, but when I did, I decided I’d add some good attack animations as I’d had some practise with animation on other projects.
Brawler attack animations
Ranger attack animation (the other two weapons will use the slashing and overhead animations)
Wizard attack animation (It’s just the overhead at the moment, will change at some point)
So my last entry discussed how I intend to implement player statistics and how they feed into each “class”, although I’ll add, stats are the requirements to use weapons and gear efficiently, they don’t necessarily define you as a single class. Although I want (need) to keep simple for now, I decided that 3 general forms of combat for each class would be sufficient, as it doesn’t just give a little bit of freedom to begin with, but also allows for expansion later on, instead of running into issues further down the tech road (eg. not building lower level functionality to begin with and shoehorning it in later).
Brawler – Slashing, Stabbing & Crushing
This class is your knight or man-at-arms type of fighter, wielding all sorts of swords, axes, hammers and spears. You have 3 attacks for your main hand weapons, a slashing attack, which is the most accurate as it covers the most area, a stabbing attack, which is the quickest, but will very rarely hit more than a single enemy and finally, an overhead crushing attack, highest damage output, but slowest and most risky. Every weapon has a preferred style, a swords best for slashing but can also stab quite well, a spear can stab best, do a bit of crushing but due to it’s point, doesn’t make for a good slash and your basic warhammer is 100% crushing. Some weapons have other cool combos, like a mace with a sharp point on top.
Ranger – Thrown, Piercing & Launched
Specialising in physical distance fighting, a coward if you will, wielding bows, throwing knives and slings. Very similar to the Brawler in terms of weapon style, however different style attacks for slings and thrown weapons will alter the distance the projectile travels (and slightly more damage), but the bow has only one type of attack. Being as I’m a little weird and intend on putting the bow in the left hand like it should be on a right handed character, I can see this being a bitch as it will be the only main hand weapon to be an offhand weapon ): if that makes any sense? You’ll see. You’ll all see.
Wizard – Earth, Ice & Fire
Fighting with wands and staves is all fun and games, but these are just pieces of wood without the power of magic books, books of pyromancy, of deadly poisons and bone chilling incantations, a wizard is nothing without his books. Wizards launch their mystical projectiles at foes in a similar way an archer would, but every magic attack can have an effect that will truly change the outcome of a battle, use nature to bind a foes legs, ice to slow their attacks, or burn them for damage over time.
Zealot – Blood, Soul & Light
Great Eidolon rewards his truly devoted minions, the scriptures grant great learning to those who believe and teach the worthy powerful curses to end the arrogance of the non believers. Any weapon granted a blessing will aid a Zealot well, they’re mainly seen wandering great distances with their faithful Croziers (staff), emitting a sweet smoky scent, always willing to help the helpless and subdue the evil of the world. Great Eidolon gave his Zealots the prayers of Bloodburn that take life from evil and give back to the worthy (saps health from enemies), insight to the Soulsplit, culling the faithless (lowering opponents Devotion) and finally, his almighty Lightblitz, used to remove strength from foes (lowers Strength & Intellect). Curses work differently to magic as they hit instantly one is cast, but tend to do damage over time instead of big damage drops.
Not as simple as I was hoping really, I do tend to over complicate things, but it was necessary as this sort of design is something I’ve always wanted to fine tune and I’m very pleased with it. Next time I’ll be looking into either implementation of the weapon systems or maybe animations… or possibly the level. Who knows? Not me.
Easter managed to kill all that nice productivity I had been managing, but now rest is over, and the inevitable approach of deadlines has finally arrived. I’ve got a bunch of new meshes done and the level is looking good, the last thing to do is to make the game play, which is coming a long, maybe not as fast as I would’ve liked, but I’ve only myself to blame, unfortunately. I’ve also designed the player statistics and how they work, I’m going for simple, or as simple as RPG-esque stats can be, so I’ve settled on 6.
So the first two, Vitality and Endurance are pretty standard for all play styles, the other 4 can be combined depending on the weapons and armour you want to use. Dexterity covers requirements for Ranger weapons, knives, bows and slings as well as increasing the players attack speed. Strength increases physical damage output and allows you to wield the heavier Brawler weapons and armours like swords, spear and hammers. Intellect is the Wizard stat, increasing mystical damage and allowing you to use different schools of magic, which are fire, earth and ice. The final stat is Devotion, this resembles your faith in the great Eidolon, giving you access to different prayers like Bloodburn, Soulsplit and Lightblitz.
The large Runestone is the checkpoint system in the game, approaching one will restore health and give you the option to level up yours stats if you have enough essence, which is the currency for the game that is gained by defeating enemies and helping NPCs.
So my final year projects (FYP) style has changed quite a lot recently, not that I showed much of its previous iterations, it was day, there was this massive expanse of emptiness I intended to fill (I’m crazy) with a big old hill and a church on top with the intentions of a dungeon beneath the church, the latter I’ll still do. The picture up there is the new look, I changed the player character too as the previous was a full set of armour, which limited equipment changing, trees are re-modeled too, let’s find a picture of the old look…
Still unsure how I’m going to texture that church, when I eventually finish the interior that is… my god it’s nearly half way through March… Maybe I’ll save texturing until I have solidified game play, which I may be starting from scratch, but that’s beside the point. I have a boss modeled, rigged and pretty much animated except from one attack, and his AI is rather rudimentary which took me a few hours to prototype.
I also decided to have 3 basic enemies that each use different attack styles, a zombie which uses basic melee, an android with an arm cannon, high defense but really slow and a wraith that uses some sort of magic, they will be pretty simple to begin with as time… forever passing… no going back… final… year… Here’s a picture of them (so many pictures today)
Textures are far from complete (wraiths are non-existent currently), rigging should take no time due to my style choices and animations will look bad unless I have time to make better ones, but that’s unlikely.
There’s not going to be an actual in depth story, there’s no time… I may have mentioned? But put basically, the player is a wight, a dead man brought forth form below, soul decaying, humanity ebbing away as every second passes, an eternity of undeath. It’s one of those ‘there’s a reason you respawn‘ tropes, if that’s a thing, I don’t know, maybe… I just like games where you play as an undying, soul collecting killing machine. Hopefully I can get the difficult-yet-somehow-fun game play down, but I’m a logical skeptic, I don’t believe I, a lone man, could do it, in two months.
Anyway, here’s a comparison of the old character (left) and new character (right), as I made the picture for some reason and there’s so many pictures in this post why the hell not?!
So well over a month now (Damn this post is late) I participated in my first Global Games Jam, not my first 48 hour game development competition, but my first time in a group, and even though by Sunday 10am, I wanted to curl up in a ball and die, I had a great time and would do it again. The theme was “What do we do now?” which is also good at summing up the first few hours, what the hell does that mean?
The first hour was idea generation (it’s hard to start anywhere else really), and we were throwing around a few ideas, some sort of maze game inspired by the film Cube , a time based murder-mystery and a stealth game. The maze game seemed a little dull or maybe too difficult to do right, the murder mystery had a large scope which only left the stealth game. To make it slightly different, we decided the player will control two spies instead of one and they both need to remain un-detected, and the premise was essentially breaking into a random military facility with some sort of twist at the end which was likely to not be implemented (It wasn’t).
There were 3 of us in the team and we covered all the bases of game development pretty well, which is why we adopted the name ‘Triumvirate’, Allan started working on our 3 level designs, each of them to take place on different floors of the facility, the first a warehouse with large shelves of boxes and parked military vehicles like tanks and trucks, the second a laboratory and the final level was an office. Todd began work on our chibi styled character and maybe had it done by this point? I dunno I was very tired. I began setting up the player character movement, rotating cameras and an AI which followed a spline that would become alerted upon seeing the player. As it was Saturday, I slapped together a quick piece of art from the finished player model (oh, I guess it must’ve been finished then, that’s a good Todd) to upload for a screenshotsaturday then attempted to sleep, I might have got an hour on that lovely floor shaped floor.
Development was going really well, we had the player character in and the guard character in and working, early block outs of the levels, I’d made a few quick animations, an idle for each character, a walk and an alerted for the guard and a run and a death for the player. Allan had been churning out a bunch of environment models and textures and Todd finished up the characters, rigged and textured, he seemed too warn out to create a crate though regardless of Allans persistence.
As you can imagine, development was going too smoothly, so UE4 crashed and corrupted the project, it was 3am Sunday, I had been awake for what felt like an eternity (48 hours with an hour or two of ‘sleep’) and now I had to fix the game… It took me a few hours to get the game open again, but packaging the game successfully seemed like 1 of the many labors of Hercules, however I was delirious with exhaustion and not part god.
Still haven’t slept by this point, and had decided to record game footage directly from the engine, which was quite an obvious work around for the game not packaging… I then edited a video of the footage and slapped down some music that should have had a drop, but it doesn’t, it just goes on forever, awkwardly never changing. By this point Allan had ascended to godhood and had fixed the game thanks to a friends advice on parenting classes in UE4, the ending of the Games Jam felt a little bittersweet but that was likely due to the zombie state I had become at one with. I then slept. 16 hours of beautiful sleep.
You can download the game? from here? Maybe… Or just watch it (:
Who knows what will catch on next? I don’t. There’s a subgenre of RPGs called Rougelikes, the name is derived from the game Rogue which was released in the 1980s, it’s main aspects are procedurally generated environments, turn based strategy, permanent death and have a high fantasy theme, this, fused with a working combat system, can make a highly replayable game. I seem to veer towards these games over others, I’ve always wanted to make one too, however, there’s so many nowadays, it’s hard to stand out, some try new things, like Don’t Starve, who added a survival element as it’s main focus (although, there are bosses and dungeons, for the diehards who’ve mastered the trivial survival skills) which has been a massive hit.
Where am I going with this? Well, as I said, I’d like to make one of these, but recently, it seems what I’ve created lacks perma-death and procedural generation… with more emphasis on the combat and boss fights (and apparently learning how to animate, which is an experience). I’ve recently became a fan of Dark Souls (and it’s precursor, Demon’s Souls) and they’ve started to influence a new style of RPG, ones with more emphasis on challenging combat and punishing you for dying while not being so drastic as perma-death, Lords of the Fallen tried this, however it’s a bit clunky, and a new 2D game, Salt & Sanctuary, has managed this really well.
I understood early on in this endeavor I’d need to learn how to animate on some basic level, so I did, I’ve had a fair few hiccups, I’d say. First was how, how do I get this mesh moving in engine? With much difficulty is the short answer. I started by making a rig, took an age to do that, then animating, which would’ve been easier if the rig wasn’t total shit, but there you go. Apparently I didn’t make a root bone, instead I made 5 or 8, I dunno, too many, start again. Character Animation Toolkit (CAT) is a much faster way of making a working rig, after a good 10 minutes, I had a better rig that worked than my terrible 8 hour atrocity of adding bones, helpers and controllers while hoping for the best. I made a run, a walk, a block and some slashing sword attack, not perfect, but it’ll do for now, to engine!
I’ve worked in UE4’s persona before, so this bit was a breeze, I had my little knight running around the basic framework, and it filled me with joy to see something so annoying and tedious to finally bear fruit. This is essentially where I found my next roadblock, root motion. Root motion is a nifty little tick box inside your basic animation blueprint, it translates all the movement of your root bone to your actual player character blueprint, which is great if your animation steps off of the center point, it’s not great if your root is your pelvis, like mine.
This is getting far too long, I’ll make another soonish.
So last month I participated in Ludum Dare 31, my second 48 hour competition, which I guess went a lot better than last time, despite starting late and having zero focus on graphics. I enjoyed my first LD, but I didn’t want to make the same style of game and decided if I couldn’t come up with an idea and have a working prototype within an hour, I’d not waste my time on it, fortunately my first second idea turned out well, so I stuck with it.
Last time, I got 3 category’s in the top 100 (out of 1500) which was Mood #32, Graphics #48 and Audio # 60, I wanted to focus on 3 different category’s and get those in the top 100, maybe get something in the top 25 if I can… Unfortunately my game wasn’t as innovative or themey as I would of hoped and they scored #257 and #189 respectively, but I still managed to get 3 in the top 100 somehow…
So my top 3 this time around was Fun #24, Overall #73 and Audio #93, I’m ecstatic that my game was fun, it’s something I’ve always struggled to accomplish, which aint good when making games. The audio ranking is very much undeserved, the music was slapped together in 30 minutes and is annoying in my opinion, although it fits the game well and I guess if I added less repetition, it wouldn’t be so bad. 73rd Overall? I’d say overall is one of the harder category’s to do well in and this surprised me a lot, I may even lengthen the game and release it, maybe add some actual fancy graphics.
Next Ludum Dare I’ll have to attempt top 100 for Innovation and Theme again, that only leaves Humour… Am I funny enough? We’ll see.