Monday, October 31, 2011

Cognitive Observation #9

This is borderline breaking my rule about not discussing politics/religion here on this blog, but I figure this is funny enough for those of you knowledgeable about this fiasco to make up for it.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Infiltrator - Season 3, part 3

And so, we meet again. There are a lot of changes this time around, so lets just jump right in.

                        (Click for full size)

Observing that screenshot, you can probably notice several improvements right off. Firstly, I created some preliminary level tiles to use in building experimental levels. I think that by-hand pixel art looks good mixed with pre-rendered 3d. It creates a unique aesthetic, and goes with the style of the game quite well.

You'll notice the player has swapped out it's missiles for some masers in the style of some of my unfinished novels. There are four maser colors, but I have five different weapons planned, only one of which will be masers. You'll also note that they're going the right direction. Turns out the bug that's been plaguing me for almost a month came from my local translation function. I swapped "Lazer's theorem" out for some gold old fashioned trig functions, and it works like a charm.

Now the white glow you see around the masers is not part of the maser sprite, and it's not part of some internal lighting thing. It's a quick but spiffy idea I came up with. I created a few different sizes, colors, and shapes of glow, which work nicely to fake lighting.

The level you see behind the player was loaded from a level file as apposed to being hard-coded. Level files can contain any number of variables, with two types. The types are string and integer. So I simply create a class to retrieve such variables. This easily affords my game with the ability to load a different background, with invisible enclosing walls of specific size, from a level file. As time goes on, the content read from these files will expand until entire levels can be read.

Besides the changes to the game, I have also made some improvements to my development pipeline.

This is part of my "backlog" if you will. It's more of a version oriented TODO list. As you can see, the game is in version 0.003 at the moment. I have a long way to go before I finish, but things seem to be going well.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cover based shooting

"Oh look, LazerBlade is coming out one last time to cover a pop buzzword before heaving his final breath and turning to the dark side of only doing music." If you have just said this, you may get in line at my vaporizer ray, near the volcano entrance. Otherwise, you can except the fact that I still do game design.

So, let's start flapping gums about cover based shooting. I'm not sure where this mechanic originated, but it was certainly popularized by games like Mass Effect and Time Crisis. In the case of Time Crisis, cover based shooting added more depth than the usual rail shooter perpetrated by the novelty value of a light-gun.

As time went on, PC and console games began playing with this mechanism as well. It's definitely an interesting idea, and it's a good thing that some games like Mass Effect 2 have taken the time to expound upon it. However, I think that one or two games are enough. Cover based shooting is really interesting, for about 30 minutes. After that, it becomes a boring ritual.

Step 1:  Wait for enemies to stop shooting.
Step 2:  Pop up and shoot at enemies until they start shooting.
Step 3:  Hide again.
Step 4:  Go back to step 1.

This is actually kind of interesting. But I find more depth, challenge and enjoyment in the old school, unrealistic, free-roaming, run n' gun game.

This problem is worsened by many games, because your health recharges at a rate prone to boredom. Mixing this with cover based shooting is going to make your job as a game designer quite difficult. Oh wait, I'm assuming your job is to make a fun game. I guess this was what you had in mind:

Step 1:  Shoot enemies until you're almost dead.
Step 2:  Hide for a few seconds until your health recharges to max.
Step 3:  Go back to step 1.

Now don't misinterpret me. I actually liked Mass Effect 2 from a game design perspective. It was a game that managed to work cover based shooting in with recharging health with a minimal amount of boredom. I still think it could have been better though.

Take this into mind. If you want player to take advantage of cover, why not just add in some chest high walls and a crouching button? This may seem like a bad idea since everyone is shunning FPS games, but what's wrong with it really? The only advantage of slowing the player down to the speed of a snail with a broken leg, and then taking away his crouching and jumping abilities, is that you as a level designer and programmer don't have half as much to worry about the player doing, since the player can't do half as much.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Cognitive Observation #8

I've finally come up with a kind of name for this comic strip. I'm calling it "Cognitive Observations" It's short, descriptive, and clever sounding.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Advanced LMMS - Keyboard tips

I was originally planning on a twenty minute episode about trance music, but some last minute "technical difficulties" forced me to resort to throwing together a few tips.

I also announce the release of my new album. Go download it. Right now. Right here:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sick day

So, at the very end of the day I show up and say I don't have anything for you. Choosing carefully from my plethora of good reasons, I select the fact that I've been somewhat sick. This has interfered with my schedule and prevented me from writing anything.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Cognitive Observation #7

Random name for this comic strip #2. Just click, or whatever...

The opposite genders will NEVER understand each other.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Fun in craziness

Between studying full-time and being in a wedding recently, my schedule has maintained a constant state of flux and unpredictability. I unfortunately haven't had time to write up any cool articles or anything for you, so this time around I just have a quick update.

The tracks on my new album are pretty much finished, with October 22nd looking like a probable release date. That's only a week away, so I'm scrambling to get things 100% ready. Track listing art looks good, so here's a preview of the more or less finished version:

The idea started as being themed after the Synth1 Virtual Synthesizer. Then it morphed it's way from being based on LMMS plugins to a cyberpunky imaginary synthesizer that was drawn completely by me. I like the outcome, so I hope you enjoy it.

So yea, nothing much else going on. The reason I haven't been doing a lot of game related stuff is because this music is part of my official education, giving it priority over the more fun things like programming. Hopefully I will soon have more time to spend on programming and games, but we have yet to see what the future brings.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Music update

I've recently finished a new track:

This is a special full length track which I spent quite awhile on. It's just some classical uplifting anthem trance.

There are now 17 tracks ready for the album, probably more than half of which have yet to be released online. I'll maybe make 1 or 2 more before declaring it finished. Then I'll start uploading tracks to YouTube like crazy until it's all up there. The track listing art isn't done yet, but I'm working on it. Meanwhile, you have this track to help keep you patient until I finish.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Comic #6

It's starting to get annoying that there's no way to put these comics here big enough to be read without clicking.

I do this to people all the time.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Infiltrator: season 3 part 2

So yes, Infiltrator hasn't died out again yet. ;)

A major change this time around is the switch to SFML. There are a few things I really hate about the style, but it has the features I need.

I've picked out a camera/motion interface which I'll probably stick with at least through v0.1. It's a top-view fixed-rotation camera, meaning only the player rotates. It rotates to face the cursor specifically. FPS style WASD keys move you forward and backward, and allow strafing. The ship always moves relative to where it's facing.

Let's talk about that. You see, SFML doesn't come with the junk to do local translation, forcing me to set it up myself. Thus, I developed "Lazer's theorem." Basically, you start by assuming first quadrant rotation. Then you simply create a vector containing the rotation and how far that rotation is from 90 degrees. Then all you have to do is flip the vector or negate different parts of it depending on which quadrant it's actually in. This gives you a vector which you can multiply by standard translation in order to make it local. Really simple, right?

So basically this milestone gives you a blue grid to fly around on, and lets you spew missiles out everywhere. They don't always come from the right part of your ship, but they ALWAYS fly in the right direction. :P

What do we see happening next? Well I obviously need to get shooting fixed. After that I'll probably rough out the enemy base class. I'll want to start with really simple yet working versions of everything, and then build on that. The grid is even based on the level base-code.

Incidentally, I'm trying to make as much of the gameplay as possible be based on variables rather than constants. This way I can load these from config files later on, making the game extremely flexible and mod-friendly.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Comic #5

It's always annoyed the hack out of me that certain people I talk to always brag about how much they paid for something. It's like they think it means they got a really high quality product, when in reality they often just got swindled.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Game Review: "Invaders: Corruption"

Today I review this game:

I was planning on talking about the awesome GridWars game, and then ranting on Microsoft-erm "Bizarre creations" for having it taken down. Unfortunately I remembered my intention to review a game I truly hate. Plus I couldn't get it running on Linux again. Which stank.

So instead, you all get to watch me ranting about something else. In this case, I switched out for a different arena shooter, Invaders Corruption. And while I don't really "hate" this game, you can safely assume this review isn't going to be positive.

Invaders Corruption is an overhead 2D arena shooter made by Manuel van Dyck. The thesis of the game is that enemies, arena's, the player, and even gameplay can be generated in a procedural manner based on a core-seed. This hands us a really interesting game, with pretty visuals, which ultimately ends up being somewhat annoying.

Maybe I've been spoiled by really good arena shooters like GridWars, but this game seems to prove that there are no inherently good genre's. You see, this genre usually has a huge edge. The reason is that the learning curve is about 15 minutes, you can enjoy a game in 10 minutes a day, and you can also go all out and spend hours and hours before reaching mastery. This game lacks this crucial element.

Now if so much is really generated, how can I claim this game to have so little depth? The reason is that while most of the graphics are procedural, VERY little of the gameplay will change. This is even true when plugging in all kinds of core-seeds.

Most arena shooters are 1-hit-1-kill games. You get bombs to help protect you, a few extra lives to help you last longer, and enemies are about the size of your ship. This game is 1-hit-1-kill, but you get only 1 life, and start with one bomb. Your ship is almost always far too big compared to the enemies, requiring you to try core-seed after core-seed to get close to decent proportions. This is worsened by the fact that your ship usually has too much inertia, as well as wall bounce.

Because of these things, I very seldom die because I couldn't handle it. I almost always die because I didn't see that tiny enemy, or my ship bounced off a wall too hard, or getting the ship to go where I want it doesn't always work. Then the over-punishment which comes from having only 1 life sets in.

So yes, this is a popular game. While this game isn't that fun to play, especially for very long, it is pretty interesting. I recommend you give it a try, regardless of your tastes. It's free, and runs in WINE so you have no excuse.

Final score: 6
(why this score?)