Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Tonight’s presentation at the IGDA went quite well, and along with the presentation, I presented a quick video I made using my current project’s cutscene editor. It’s kind of a combination of my endeavors recently with looking at the XBLCG market, and my ranting on ridiculous trademark registrations (IGDA members who found me and my blog and still don’t know the deal with Langdell, go read back and look it up!) Could these be the new two great tastes, like peanut butter and chocolate? Check the video out below and see how you can take control of the XBox Live Community Games marketplace!
I met a lot of interesting developers, including some other XNA devs. My collection of business cards grows larger by the day!
I’m not big into cart racing usually, but when I first heard about Zero Gear I got excited. It’s a charming little cart racer with a focus on customization. I first got into it when I was looking into the OGRE engine, and Zero Gear definitely made me want to learn more about it. And when I say customization, I’m not just talking about giving your character a silly hat or painting your car neon pink to blind your opponents. Zero Gear is planning to allow players to script their own custom items, levels, and game modes so that it can be a platform for new racing game ideas. I really hope this game is a huge hit.
Now I was looking on Gametrailers… and a game called “Mod Nation” piqued my interest. It had a very similar look to Zero Gear, but apparently the similarities didn’t stop there. People have started describing this game as the LittleBigPlanet of cart racing games, and I can see why. It’s got some fun tools to create levels that look really good, and seem very accessible. Being able to define a track just by driving down where it would be if a track where there, leaving a trail of tar behind you really makes the ease of this tool stand out. Being on the console it’s going to be simpler and perhaps not as fully customizable as Zero Gear, but it’s still looking like a powerful, and efficient set of track-making tools.
So what do you think? Fair or foul play? Are you interested in either of them? I hope when they come out they are both strong games, and can be wildly successful!
Let’s get away from all the bad vibes from this whole IGDA debacle and appreciate some of the good games in indie game development, and the innovations that indies come up with.
I’ve been wanting to talk about this for a while now, but at TOJam 4 I saw one of the most ingenious drinking games ever. It’s a shame that it would never actually make it to the Wii console, but we can always imagine… and those of us with a bluetooth adapter can try it also on our own PCs!
ToJam helper, graphics floater, and GDDC executive member Barry Rowe made a great drinking game called Cheesohol 2, where 4 players can embark on an epic quest of goat pummeling and mountain climbing through the power of booze.
The game is setup such that the player’s beer is put in a special holder attached to their wiimote, and thus it can use the wiimote’s tilt sensor to detect when a player is drinking. Using this information, the game goes like this. To move forward you sip, and to attack you drink, whereas a full-on-chug can result is special over the top super-attacks like you see in the picture above. It’s a great, novel concept and makes for a fun drinking game.
In fact, there were a lot of great, interesting games made at this year’s ToJam, so you should really keep your eyes peeled for those as well. Here’s a video sampler of some of the things from the event, including some footage of Cheesohol at the start!
Yesterday I talked about Tim Langdell and his association with the IGDA. Of course, this isn’t the first time the IGDA has hit controversy over over a member of their board of directors, but, when a member of the board goes under fire, it’s expected that the IGDA will give some kind of response on the issue. Based on previous experience, and the fact that there are many members of varying opinions on the board, I was expecting exactly what we got. A very softball response to the issue. The synopsis of this post by the IGDA in my opinion says “we aren’t the courts, so we can’t say who is in the right. But we think IP protection is important”. Unfortunately, this misses the point. We know the IGDA is not the adjudicator of disputes, but it IS supposed to be a body that tries to represent the best interests of the independent developer community. Something is wrong if you are taking on board members like Tim Langdell, who has had a history of what many have described as “trademark trolling”. Even if this case is a matter for the courts, his position in the IGDA is worrisome at best. I don’t care for the IGDA to be the courts, I just want some semblance of responsibility when taking on board members in the first place.
Today I was (figuratively) pulling my hair out. I had made a nice trailer video for Tank Strike to advertise the game when it gets released, but I needed to submit it to Microsoft Soapbox today in order to have the video be included in the game’s release when it gets reviewed by other XNA developers. Why was I pulling figurative hairs out? Because I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I couldn’t upload the video. Using Microsoft’s Movie Maker to make the video and using their own wmv format, I assumed that it would be easy to get my video online! Oh how wrong I was.
Every video I uploaded would get to 100% upload after a few minutes of upload time, followed by “Failed” with a retry button beside it which did nothing. I didn’t get any indication of why it failed, but it did. I tried to re-encode the video, make smaller videos, and soforth. I even downloaded and learned an open source video converter to try and change the format to something the site would recognize. At this point I knew something had to be wrong. It wasn’t just something with my movie maker. So, I did the one thing I should have STARTED with at the first sign of trouble. I looked at what the newest user videos uploaded were. Well there we go! The last uploaded video on the site was 7 hours ago! CLEARLY the upload process is broken and no one told me in a direct way. Oh how fun! I could have saved myself a lot of frustration if I had checked that earlier. Oh well. Better luck being productive tomorrow I guess.
A quickie post today, considering the length of yesterday’s post. I just wanted to point out a few events other than ToJam that are coming up that people might be interested in.
1. GameCamp Toronto 3 looks like it’s going to happen again. Not much info on it yet, but it looks like it could be late May. I’ll make sure to keep up on things as more info is found out. I’ve taken photos of previous GameCamp Toronto events and also presented at the first one. Perhaps that pattern may repeat? 🙂
2. Ludum Dare 14 happens in only 6 days! I don’t know if I’ll be entering it, but if you don’t have any events in your area LD compos are really good to join into.
Right… lists… lists… what was I planning to write about lists? Something about… them… being… good?
Oh yea… lists are good for reminding yourself of what you’re going to do! I probably should have written that down somewhere. If you’re working on a game and don’t have a list, you’re probably inefficient. Constantly trying to decide what to do, switching between working and thinking and testing. All those switches must make your head spin! Not to mention last week when you had that GREAT idea, and 5 minutes later forgot what it was. You spent the next hour retracing your steps, trying to find whatever that great idea was. The next morning, you remember “buy more milk” as you try to pour your cereal. Whoops!
The list is your home for everything that doesn’t have an immediate response. If it will only take you a minute to do something than do it right away. If it will take more than a minute, or you’re currently too busy even to lose a minute (or else you’d lose your work rhythm) then add it to a list. Not only does it give you a reference of what to do next, but it clears your mind. You don’t have to worry about remembering things. Just take a deep breath, relax, and say “it’s on the list”. Without the list you’re just using your own head as a scratch pad. Doesn’t your head have more important things to do?
With a list you’ll also find out how vague you tend to be when thinking. “Program the AI” used to be an item on my mental list. I always knew I needed AI, but without it being on paper I could never devote enough mental space to split that task up. This is common for big tasks. They aren’t just about how to do the task, but what pieces are involved in that task. Suddenly I have new menu items I need to add for difficulty levels, how to determine what an AI player can/will buy in a store, who the AI attacks. Some tasks end up filling up a whole pages with their subtasks.
For me, I use paper lists. I like having something I can move between all my workspaces (including when I’m nowhere near a computer) and it is cathartic to check items off. It’s also nice to see a full page of completed tasks, even if they were all small tasks.
Which brings me to moving lists. Often I’ll have 3 or more pages of list items which I’m working on, and I’m almost finished a lot of those lists, but not completely. It’s actually “work” for me to look through so many lists to find what I want to work on next. When this happens the answer is simple. Go through the lists once, and move the unfinished tasks from all of them into a new, single list. Put the old ones away because you don’t need them anymore. Let the new list guide you. It’s short and easy to read.
Hopefully you’ll take this advice on lists to heart, so you too can spend less time remembering that you like milk in your cereal.
So, since I started updating this blog again I’ve been trying to keep ahead of my schedule. I’ve often had an extra article written to use for the next day. This was to try and avoid the trap of not keeping a consistent update schedule, so that I would keep on top of fresh content. A noble effort to be sure, and one that I hoped would prevent me from ever forgetting or not updating the blog just because I was busy. Well, yesterday I lost that 1-day safety buffer. I was very deep into my day’s work and didn’t want to switch to writing a blog post. I figured I could just catch up the next day. Well, that would have been fine and dandy today, except that today when I sat down to write the day’s blog post, our power went out. A big portion of my work day was lost because I couldn’t use my computer. Which just goes to show, whenever you give a little leeway in your planning, it’s a universal law that whatever can go wrong, will. So just prepare for it as much as you can, and if you didn’t plan for it, just deal with it.
Oh well, at least my house didn’t burn down while in development… and hopefully it won’t!
Tomorrow I’ll talk about my obsession with lists… stay tuned
Oh what could this image mean? I wonder…
Anyway! Back on track!
Big game developers have a dedicated team of playtesters. Not just for finding bugs, but to make sure their game is fun, and makes sense to players. The developer never knows when their controls are bad, because they knew the controls before they ever picked up a controller. If indies are closed fisted with getting opinions from others, their game won’t play well.
Last Thursday I ran a 2 hour playtest session with the University of Toronto’s Game Design and Development Club, and it was a blast. This was the first time I got to see non-AI players run an 8 player session. It was great to see a group crowd around, passing controllers and having a good laugh blowing each other up. It was a really good feeling to see people having fun with something I had created.
Along with being a motivator, it was also helpful in finding user interface issues in my game. The most frustrating aspect for a new group of people playing the game was weapon purchasing. Players would accidentally hit the button that said they were finished buying, thinking that it was the button that was supposed to purchase ammo, and others purchased ammo, only to realize they didn’t have the funds for something else they wanted more, and couldn’t return what they purchased. I listened intently to comments people made and watched silently when they wrestled with controls to narrow down where the biggest problems were. After only 2 hours I had a list full of important things I needed to do once I got back to work, many of which I probably wouldn’t have realized on my own. Sure there was one big ugly bug from something I programmed in an hour before playtesting and hadn’t finished my own testing, but the embarrassment passed and overall it was a very positive experience that I wish I had done sooner.
I’m looking forward to my next playtest group this weekend.