Categories
Rob On Stuff This is a collection of words.

Nominal Entry

Ok, I convinced myself that I’ve got to do at least something today. And whilst its not a lot, its certainly useful. Luckily, I’d remembered that I was still short of an effect for the player death sequence, so – off to Particle Illusion we go to come up with something pretty for it.

After an hour or so of tinkering I finally came up with a 30 frame sequence that I was happy with, so that’ll be staying.

Categories
Rob On Stuff This is a collection of words.

Nothing to see here

Ah, isn’t it always the way? You start a development diary then have to spend the day doing a million and one other things instead? Just me then? Ah, typical.

I must admit I’m at that stage with the game where whats left to be done is pretty tedious and aside from getting to play through it yet again (which despite the length of time I’ve been working on this – I do still enjoy playing it immensely) to check that I haven’t made any major boo boo’s, most of the work now is just cutting and pasting level data across. As you can imagine, there’s not a great deal of satisfaction in this as its plotting co-ordinates a go go. Throw in a child biting at your ankles and the usual array of household chores to be done during the day and by the time you finally get to sit down and do something useful, you’re just too damn tired to want to open any code up.

Its also a problem with being more of a “creative” person than a coder. The fun bits for me are getting to sprite myself senseless, creating the explosion effects or toying with sound effects. Its always the code that holds me up!

Its not that I don’t enjoy coding, although I’m nowhere near a low level coder (hence I use GM) nor do I understand as much as I’d like -there is still something incredibly rewarding about being able to sit back and say “I just made that happen. I did that”

The initial problem comes not long after the rush, you have the idea – you’ve got the scribbles and so you eagerly get it all up and running and it works, and thats exciting. You know where you’re going to head with it and you splurge everything out from the depths of your brain into it, then once it works – you spend an age playing with the darn thing and congratulating yourself on getting something working again. Then you get the graphics together and start throwing them into the mix, and its all still fresh and exciting. You get to watch a few lines of code turn into a fully blown game over time, but once you’ve got all that – there’s nothing but variable tweaking and level building left to do – and I’m sure a lot of people out there really enjoy these things, but I always find them the absolute worst part of making a game.

Now, in the past – I’ve had a very careless attitude towards these things and eventually just let go before I tweak something beyond my original plan – but VI has been very different as I’ve a very clear goal of where I want the game to end up, always have done. Its the game I originally began making games to make, if you will. I’m ultimately not too bothered if I’m the only person on the planet who ever gets to play it when all is said and done as I’m writing it primarily for myself. After all, if someone else won’t make the game in your head, then that only leaves you to do it. However, the tweaking… well, its very easy to become obsessive over it in pursuit of perfection and hence I try and throw myself away from it for a while. Go off and play some games for a week instead, go and make some pretty wallpapers or write a tune – anything but open that window with all the game code in it again so that I don’t spend 4/5 hours endlessly tweaking the speed of a bullet or the timers on the enemy movement, or the blending on a sprite… I’m kinda inbetween this stage and wanting to go back and finish it all off at the moment. I know I need to play some stuff and just chill or I’ll end up frustrated and possibly break some of the hard work I’ve put in up to now, but there’s something nagging at me to just go and open the game up and work on it.

Ah, the omnipresent dilemma of making games.

I’m erring towards hammering at least a good percentage of the final bits and bobs over the next few days so all that is left is playtesting from my crowd of beta testing folks before release… wether life allows me that time at the moment, is a different matter, but fingers crossed.

Categories
Rob On Stuff This is a collection of words.

VI – The Story So Far

Christ on a bike, its been a long time since I first began work on this. The first entry on my hidden beta board is from the 29th September last year and within a few days I’d managed to get a pretty good prototype of how the game was going to play up and running. All well and good, but this is my first real approach at something completely written from scratch so I should have known it wouldn’t all be so simple.

The original plan for the game was to create a vectorised homage to Robotron, pulling together all the things that make me grin like a lunatic into one package.

Glowing vectors? Check.

Yak influenced eye monging effects? Check.

Abstract use of sound? Check.

And all was going well. I went through an insane phase of coding like an utter lunatic for months, whacking new things in, throwing everything at the game I possibly could to see what would stick. I suppose you could call it completely off the cuff development. And it worked. Up until a point.

After 3 months, it was becoming quite clear that I’d backed myself into a corner codewise. The backend of the game was a sprawling near incomprehensible mess, everything was bound together so tightly that the slightest adjustment could tip the entire balance of the game right off the scale. So, I backtracked. And began to contemplate how to take the bits I’d gotten working and liked out of the old code and turn them into something that would work not just as a game, but as a readable and editable mass for my own sanity.

There were a few other things that paused the development of the game. When I’d set out designing the game I’d not even heard of Geometry Wars other than a few whispers about what a great little hidden game it was. I bit the bullet and picked up a second hand copy of Project Gotham 2 for my trusty Xbox and settled myself down for a game. You know something is wrong when even your good wife turns around and asks “Is that your game?”. Bollocks. Somehow, I’d managed to pull something from my brain that looked uncannily close to someone elses game. Easily done I suppose when you’ve got over 20 years of playing games behind you, but to clone the looks of a game I’d never even seen a screenshot of nor played left me gutted. I’d lost heart in the project completely and lay it to rest whilst I wondered what to do next.

Fast forward a month or so to the PlayBASIC Retro Remakes competition (nowt to do with the site I run btw) and one of Retro Remakes board regulars and moderators comes up with a cracking cross between Jetpak and Defender with some utterly lovely old skool sprites. And my, did it look gorgeous. I’d forgotten just how much I adored that low res style of chunky pixel goodness. Well, that was it then – the solution was there in my hands. Ditch the vectors, crack open ProMotion and get pixelling.

I must have pixelled for England for a few days as although I knew roughly how I wanted to look, pulling it into a coherant whole was going to take some work. Eventually, after toying with pixelling around my old Vector style sprites, experimenting with Tron style backgrounds and Lord knows what else, I hit upon a look I was happy with. Suitably chunky and almost Speedball-y in execution. It looked lovely, and lo – I was a happy bunny.

The next stage was to crack on and get the engine running again, reusing the old bits of code that were still usable and not wrapped up like a spaghetti bondage monster and rewriting some parts that were causing problems for some folks on certain systems. It meant a lot had to go, but after inumerable cups of tea and a lot of support from the chaps in #Remakes IRC I’d got it all back together again and working better than it ever had before. New enemies, new graphics and new effects – yet, thankfully, I’d managed to retain all the gameplay techniques from the old build intact.

Lovely.

And thats where I am today, nearly there at the end of a long and arduous development cycle thats seen me learn more from creating this 1 game than I have in a ruck of remakes. So, for the final stages – I’ll keep everyone posted as to whats going on as I code up the final few parts, drop some exclusive screenshots onto here and maybe, if you’re lucky – even drop some mp3’s of the excellent soundtrack I’ve had produced for it.

But for now, I’m going to cook some food as I’m ravenous.