Thursday, May 27, 2010

Visit3 - World Editor Preview

So what does this mean? Well, a number of things really.

This video shows my progress over the last 2 months on Visit3. If you weren't aware, a while back I announced my intentions to create Visit3 using the XNA framework with the intention of placing it on the XBoxLive Indie Games service that Microsoft provides.

Here's the breakdown of what's pretty much "finished":

TileSet Editor
This includes a bunch of stuff. First off, I can customize ANY tileset's Color and Pattern as well as place them on any of 3 different layers (since that's all I'll really need). The best and greatest ability is that the tiles autoformat when I place them, giving each tile the correct siding for all possible combinations, while at the same time, differentiating itself from tilesets that are not the same type.

Not only is that pretty spiffy, but it also means that placing tiles is easy as HELL compared to what I had to do using GameMaker. The average room takes about 5 minutes to place and tweak the tiles, whereas Visit I&II took around 20-30.

This is a little more complex to comprehend (possibly), but "RoomStyles" provide easy ability to modify the backgrounds and ambient effects that are in the room. I can set things like weather/overlays (not present in the video, or in the editor yet, anyway) very quickly, and I'll usually only have to change it once, as all of the rooms in the game look to a specific style that I've set them to using the editor.

This is pretty self explanatory, but I've also got particles in and working. I made a nifty editor to tweak things like explosions, rain, and other things to look pretty in game.

End of Post Notes
I really don't have any intentions of making the editor open source for a couple of reasons. One, the editor is EXTREMELY weird to use for people who aren't me, as it requires you know a lot of information on how the editor windows function. The other reason is that I'm not going to be able to give support like updates and tutorials because I am WAY too strapped for time, and I really do want to get the game done.

Thank you so much for taking a look at the video. The next thing on my list is to start making GameObjects and be able to place them into the editor.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Vatn Squid Post-mortem

Although Vatn Squid has been out for a while now, I managed to find a video playthrough of it (an Ortolson one, at that :D ).

I'd also been getting a lot of questions as to the process in creating this little game, so I'm going to do a mini-postmortem (below the video)

The Team

I wasn't going to the jam alone! I had the great musical talent of Heatex behind me, as well as his expertise in shmups that was invaluable during the tweaking and fun making stages of the game. Also present was IceWave, a great guy who contributed the underwater theme of Vatn Squid, as well as the sprite for the final boss with the same name! Both of their work was instrumental to Vatn Squid's completion, as I don't think I could've done everything by myself in the two day deadline.

The Process

We did all of our team communication through MSN Messenger. The first hour or two of our development was focused on designing the perfect game we all wanted to work on. Heatex had suggested doing a shmup. Originally, we wanted to set the game in space, where you flew a mech and had to take on several different enemies in different missions. I had actually started some concept pixels for the player mech when IceWave showed me an outline of a really cool boss he had in mind for the space game:

I immediately fell in love with it, and I instantly had the brainchild of setting our game underwater, all thanks to that single picture!

Screenshot Timelapse

For the first day and a half, I was recording a video stream of my work via LiveStream. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how to download and edit the content saved on their website, but I can provide a link to my 'channel' located here that contains a bunch of raw, low frame rate, and unedited work footage from the jam. The best I can really show you is a bunch of screenshots I took showing various stages of the game's development.

Short descriptions of progress:
(1) Player added and movable.
(2) Player can shoot. Added some background elements and bubble-jet.
(3) Added a simple, single pattern enemy
(4) Added multi-value bullet pattern support. (Bullets that create bullets)
(5) Allowed support for more than one color of bullet.
(6) Tweaked backgrounds, added missiles, and inserted UI.

As you may have noticed, the two dummies I had for boss placeholders simply didn't make the cut in the end. I thought they didn't look very cool. Also, the green bullet pattern visible in images 5 and 6 made it's way into the game as Vatn's weapon of choice.

Scrambling for the Finish

The last day was a mighty huge blur. By the time I had gotten to Screenshot 6, the game file had already landed on Heatex's end several times, and he remained in a diligent state of work on creating the perfect track.

I wanted to give the bosses a lot of character, since it was apparent that small enemies and levels were definitely out of the question for such a short work period. I've always loved getting little snippets of information on your opponents like you do in fighting games and sidescrolling brawlers (see Street Fighter and Final Fight), so I figured this would be a wonderful thing to add to Vatn.

The name of the game was Heatex's idea. We were scratching our heads on a good name, then he started looking up definitions in foreign languages. In a list of pitches he gave me, 'Vatn' (Icelandic for water) stood out as the most interesting and relevant. I added 'Squid' since there were so many in the game, and it rolled off the tongue quite well.

Parting Thoughts

Overall, the jam was a really great experience. It was my shortest time-frame of development to date, and I thought a lot of good came out of it. This was also my first true (quality) collaborative project that I had done, which was also a wonderful opportunity. The only thing I wish that I would have done differently in the game would've been changing the difficulty curve a bit. In the rush, I made Squawk the Birdfish WAY too hard (for beginners anyway) for the fifth boss in the game, and the others between him and Vatn Squid weren't very hard comparatively.

Once again, however, this was a great experience, and I KNOW that I'll be jammin' in future ones for SURE.