Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 Plans

I suppose I should be doing a postmortem of Snowman's Fez, here but since I never finished the game the way I wanted (yes, it's playable, is a game, and has a beginning and an end but it is not the game I wanted to create) I am going to instead take this time to write about my 2015 plans.

I am in the process of upgrading my degree to a bachelor degree through online/correspondence courses offered by a B.C. University. I am not entirely sure this is the best way of learning, but it is the way that most companies who are likely to hire me look for. While I would like the cheaper online alternatives to be viable, they are simply not there yet. This is unfortunate, but unlike the tech industry, change is really slow in the real world. The big disadvantage of going with University online/correspondence type courses is that you don't have the feel for what exactly the teacher is looking for so as a result you must learn much more of the material than would be necessary in the classroom. The ability to work at your own pace (within the time-limits the University puts on the courses) to me is worth the extra work learning.

There are probably many people who think that the extra flexibility means that there should be ample time to finish a game a month. To some extent this is true but knowing how easy it is to procrastinate, one has to take care not to get side-tracked on personal projects. That said, many of the courses I am taking do have some flexibility with the projects that are created. When possible I plan on doing game-related projects. This way I will get to combine my University hours with my One Game A Month hobby. This assumes, of course, that there are no issues with me doing this which I simply don't know yet.

When there are no course projects to use for 1GAM then picking an interesting game jam will be an option. Perhaps a better option would be to take one of the numerous games I want to do more with and do another pass on that game. Implementing the rather neat combat system I came up with for Snowman's Fez, for instance. If anyone reading this has a preference between those two options (original Jam stuff or enhanced existing stuff) feel free to email me with your opinions.

One project I am thinking of doing again is my NES RPG project. I would do a post in the middle of each month focusing on that project, and at the end of each month I would do a rant or a postmortem of whatever game I released for 1GAM. Email me if you are interested in this but I probably won't start doing this until March or April.

So in summary, I am going to be focused on my University work, but do plan on continuing with 1GAM. When/if possible both will be done together.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Z Escape postmortem

For the zero hour jam, which takes place between 2am and 2am on the day daylight savings time takes place, I created Z Escape. Considering the very short timespan, this is a pretty good game but was not what I was hoping to put on my One Game A Month page. I didn't have time to create anything else so here is my rather late postmortem of Z Escape.

What Went Right

Thankfully the jam has very lax rules which allowed me to make my own rules. My rules are that I could use a template for the relatively generic loading/title/instructions/about screens. I also allowed myself to prepare any art assets that I planned on using. Most of the starting assets are in the zip file I included on the game page (posted the previous day, not that anybody else would ever use them). The only thing I wasn't allowing was the actual coding of the game. This did not prevent me from thinking about the code so I had the code pretty much written in my head before the challenge began. This resulted in me being extremely prepared for the challenge.

Mixed Blessings

 Writing a game, even a simple one, in one hour is a challenge. When you are doing so at 2am it becomes even more difficult. As I am use to going to bed much earlier, I had the a hard time keeping my eyes open. Once 2am hit and I was able to start coding, I found my second wind hit. This, along with a very good idea of what the code would look like, allowed me to finish with time to spare. Still, this is not healthy behaviour so if I ever do this challenge again, will do so differently next time.

What Went Wrong

This may sound like bragging, but I did too good of a job. Now when I have adequate time to create a game but don't do as good of a job as I want then self doubt may kick in. I am going to have to continually remind myself that this jam had a lot of pre-production and things could just as easily gone the other way. Pride is, after all, a double-edged sword. I am proud of what I accomplished but know not to let success get to my head. Lets face it, if I had more time there is a lot I could have done to the game. Still, for spending 0 hours of work on the game it is not too shabby.

I think this jam worked well but if I do it again, I think I would go from 1am until 1am. This still technically works, and allows me to go to sleep an hour earlier.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Aliens Smashed My Pyramid postmortem

For the third Insanity Jam I created the game Aliens Smashed My Pyramid. the idea is that aliens have picked an Egyptian pyramid as the token landmark to destroy. You can’t let this go uncorrected so must repair the pyramid. Gameplay is similar to the towers of hanoi in that you can only move smaller pieces on top of bigger pieces. The twist is that the aliens are not limited to this restriction so the origin of the pieces are initially random.

What Went Right

The big thing about Insanity Jam is that each participant has a different theme. These themes are randomly generated. The theme I got happened to fit a game idea that I had in the back of my mind but simply never had the time to get around to. The theme was “An atmospheric game where you correct the biggest monument--forever.” Atmospheric game is very open ended, so I opted to go with a real world location. Biggest monument—forever right away pointed to the Egyptian pyramids. This got me thinking of the step pyramids, which lead to me thinking of Tower of Hanoi. This reminded me of the game idea I had. Randomly scrambled starting blocks was just one of the ideas, but was enough to start with. The plan was to get this implemented and then add the other two twists to the game if there was time.

Mixed Blessings

I went with my fallback tool/language of Flash CS6 and it’s ActionScript 3 language. While this allows me to complete things relatively quickly, which was an important consideration this challenge, I really should be moving to a better language. My definition of better is free/cheap and cross-platform. I already own CS6 so it is not costing me anything to use it, but to get the latest version of Flash, I would have to spend money so it is time to move away from it. There have been a number of tools and languages that I have been playing around with, but right now I am really considering HAXE/OpenFL but do need to spend more time working with it to know if it will meet my needs.

What Went Wrong

Going into my first Insanity Jam, I knew from the outset that the actual amount of time that I would be able to spend on the developing of the game was going to be low. This is partly the reason that I decided to go with this jam as that way I would have an entire week to work on the game so I could get the game finished on the weekend and spend the week polishing the game. Despite a lot of interruptions, I did manage to get the game finished on the weekend. I was even able to get the first polish pass finished. I had some really need twists to add to the game, not to mention sound and another pass at graphics, so I really was hoping to get more time during the week to enhance the game. Due to other obligations, this never happened so the game is not close to what it could have been. This means that yet another game is going onto my to-do when I have time list.

Overall, I like the game but do think it would have been much better had I had the time for polish and the extra twists.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Hello Again World.

Welcome to my new blog. This is a replacement for my Blazing Games Development blog which due to the fact that Blazing Games Inc. is closing down is no longer appropriate. This will be fairly similar to the Blazing Games blog in that the focus will be on game development and programming. Unlike the old blog, I will not even pretend to keep to a regular schedule for updating this one. As I do plan on continuing my 1GAM (One Game A Month) challenge, I will be posting here at least once a month.

So, at least once a month I will have a postmortem of whatever game I released for that month. Some of those games will be part of my NES RPG project. For those who haven't followed my development blog, this is a project where I am slowly creating a quality role-playing game for the Nintendo Entertainment System (or at least emulators as most people don't have flash cartridges for their NES). This is being done by creating a number of mini-games that explore different facets of the NES and slowly lead to the parts necessary for a full RPG. This is combined with articles explaining the learning and though-process behind the code.

The progress of the NES RPG project will be slow as I am heading back to University to upgrade my credentials to a Bachelor degree. This is also the reason why I am not going with a weekly format. More to the point I am hoping to get part-time work while going to school so my bank account isn't drained too much. So, if you know a Canadian company looking for some programming work (not necessarily Game development, though obviously that would be great as well) let them know about me or me about them. Thanks and I hope people actually read this blog in the future!