Sunday, 9 December 2012

July to December Update!

Since the last post I have gone on my hen night, switched jobs, got married and been on my honeymoon so I have not been as focused as I should have been on my mobile game.   My time gaming has also suffered (I've not even played The Walking Dead yet :() but with the imminent release of BS5 and the third installation of The Longest Journey game I have been trying to get through my Steam and GOG backlog of the games in these series so that I am fresh when the latest ones arrive.  I've also abandoned my obsession with Tiny Tower.  After I lost the "race" to have the most floors within a circle of my friends I gave up and only play occasionally.  But I still have lots of games to keep me busy to the end of next year at least. 

Firstly, I have decided on the working title of my mobile game, Werdz.  This still needs to be AB tested and I'm not sure if the spelling will confuse people searching for the game in the Play Store but I like it for the moment.

These were my goals the last time I posted and how I have progressed through each task.

- Smiley: This needs to be extended to check if the player has already guessed that word, if the guessed word is incorrect and output the appropriate smiley's for these events but I'm sure it won't be a difficult task

The smiley's progress has remained the same.  It still only outputs if the player enters a correctly matching word.  However, I have now removed the need to use the "Enter" button to compare the string entered to the word that you are guessing meaning that players can continue to guess more words and gain more score without taking a break from the fast-paced action as every second counts.

- Resizing/repositioning elements for different screen sizes

The menu buttons have been resized so that they adjust when played on different devices.  After figuring out this I briefly began to re-arrange the element of the main game screens but decided to move on as I didn't have a concrete decison on the GUI layout.

- Rework of the GUI

I've hopefully come up with a design that is not too cluttered, the player's will be able to use easily and will understand the use of just by looking.  After working this out I didn't go back and reposition the elements as I probably should have.  But I wanted to concentrate on creating the random word selection algorithm.  Then I had other ideas to further refine the game.  These additions to the gameplay again influenced the GUI layout.

I now will have 3 different difficulty levels for each game mode.  The player will be able to view a hint
using the '?' button depending on whether they are on the easy difficulty.  The words will also be categorised and if the player had the difficulty set to easy or medium they will see the category image.  Hopefully these additions will make the challenge of this game more interesting. 

- Increase the time that the blocks switch

The time that the blocks switch has been increased from 3 seconds to 10 seconds.  This gives the players a lot more time to not get caught off guard by the switching mechanic and makes them feel less restricted if they make mistakes.

- Create a random word selection algorithm

To my surprise I managed to get this completed in a shorter time than I had thought.  I ran into some annoying issues such as when comparing two matching strings from two arrays the values were not matching up.  Thankfully Unity Answers came through and after two simple additions this was done.  Once this was working within one game mode it was simply a case of tweaking it pick a new random word at a different time, and that was the second game mode done too.  Well...almost.  The remaining work for these game modes is to ensure when the word is correctly guessed the board switches and new word is generated (and that the switch timer is reset). My first attempt has failed so I'm having to redo this.


I've been thinking of trying to reduce the amount of words that player's can enter so that this will reduce the apk size and make the gameplay a bit less harsh.  Now that the player was guessing one specific word as opposed to spelling whatever word they could make from the randomly generated letters, I decided to reduce the list of words that the game could select from.  It was then that I thought of theming each release.  This would in turn attract specific players who were interested in the theme, signifcantly reduce the list of words to guess from and focused them on a specific subject.  Hopefully this change has made it a lot easier for players.

- Output a block switching timer so the player knows exactly when the blocks will be switching and are prepared for it.


- Increase the time that the blocks switch


Hopefully by the end of January I will have a fully functional version of the game which will be amazing.  Then after it will be a case finishing the graphics so the game is at release quality.

But first I will have to do the following:

- Rework of the GUI gameplay elements for the Galaxy S3 and other Android operated phones
- Ensure the gameboard switches correctly when a word is correctly guessed
- Output the hint for the word when '?' is pressed (only when difficulty is easy or medium)
- Output the category
- Set difficulty when respective buttons are selected

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Well it's the end of July now...

...and here's a progress image of my mobile game as it was when I was working on Gingerbread (Android 3.2).

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Late May Update: What's been accomplished

So progress with my mobile project has gone slower than I'd thought and liked, but that's life and until I win the lottery and become an indie developer I think there will be inevitable delays to my project's work schedule.

Any who...I guess I started this project a couple of months ago and so far I have completed the following:
  • Layout of the menu flow and one game mode scene
  • Input of letters and output of their corresponding value (once submit button is pressed)
  • Submit button to clear array and output word score
  • Delete button to clear array
  • Store a list of "dummy" data a.k.a four letter words
  • Player score incremented when the correct word is entered
There's so much more for me to do and it can get a little depressing thinking about everything that I need to get through to achieve this massive goal solo, but I will finish this game and publish it.

I have also spent time this month documenting the game fully so that in the event that I need to convince anyone external to the project that it's awesome and they should support me financially I have this to whip out.

The design has changed since I started this project a number of times, but I feel that I finally have a good game designed and will not be making any more massive changes to the design only tweaks.  I did initially want to use June to tidy up the code and improve the UI but as I still have a lot of the functionality unfinished there's no point in wasting time playing in Photoshop making designs for a game that's not nearly finished.

Once I have the word matching script sorted out that will be quite a significant part of the work done as it's the core functionality for all game modes.  So then and only then will I get to add fantastic colours to my game, I'm hoping this will drive me forwards and act a reward for me.

With the release of Ice-cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) on Android and my phone contract coming up for renewal it's a great time for me to test whether my game will work on this new firmware update.  So once I get my upgrade (when I decide on a phone) I'll be testing the game in both versions of Android.

Game-wise, I completed Mass Effect 3 and have now started Darksiders.  This month I don't intend to get as much gaming done as work on my mobile game.  This should ensure I haven't got the added pressure of having to do both and should let me work on the word matching functionality.

I've seriously failed on producing a game dissection of both ME3 and Blue Toad and I probably won't get it done this month either at least not early this month anyway.  Luckily both of these are still fresh in my mind so I can write up something when I do have some spare time later this month.

So this month the plan is:
  • More mobile game development with a hope to get the word matching complete, some output for the player when they enter a word, saving to their profile high score board and implementing a pause menu.  
  • Game: Darksiders
If anyone's got an Android phone and would be interested in helping me test my game once it's ready let me know :)

Sunday, 20 May 2012

May: Progress update

So around mid-May I finally completed Mass Effect 3. So now I have two game dissections to write before the end of the month. I could probably get the single player of Portal 2 out of the way before June hits (I know it's shocking that I haven't played it yet) but I'm going to use this time to work solely on my mobile game. Progress took a nose dive after the last update post but I have gotten back on the horse and am back to work.

Hopefully my friends with Android phones will let me share with them the first version.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Bounty: The Proposition

A few weeks ago I got some time to revisit this chapter for my story Bounty.  I have continued where I left off last where the protagonist and her family had been captured and had come face-to-face with their captor.

I have decided to give my protagonist the name of "Angela" so that I'm not constantly referring to her as "the woman".  I think the discovery of her name to the player will be introduced within the first section.  After researching an appropriate name for this character I have decided to give her the name Angela as this was a common female name from the renaissance time.  It may change later but for now I'm content with it.

Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think.  All names of people and cities are placeholder at the moment.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Quick catch up

So last week, I worked to consolidate my menus into one script file.  So when I want to display any menu it calls the one file and from there the correct scene.  Later, I hope to change this to use only one scene to display the menus.  This shouldn't be such a big job so I'm happy to leave it until the project is functional when I'm optimising the entire game.  I was also working to resolve this one particular issue last week for ages, but now that I'm over that I can press on :)

I have to say my break down development plan has really helped me focus on what tasks I need to achieve and I'll definitely be doing this more in the future.  The times I spend on it each day do vary i.e. with this one issue I spent a lot more time than my estimated length to sort it so it has obviously had an impact on the remainder of my workload.

Out of 20 tasks I have 15 left to do.  Ok, so not massive progression, but I'm getting there slowly and I can track exactly how much work I have left.

I'm getting through Mass Effect 3.  I haven't sunk a vast amount of time into it, but I am prioritising my Unity work over it.  At the mmoment I think this is alright.  I think I'm 16 hours in so that's not too bad, it is quite hard to avoid the constant discussions about the ending though. I find I have to run away from people "lalala-ing" with my hands over my ears to keep myself from being prematurely exposed.  Soon I'll be safe to listen again in public.

I've also written short extension to my bounty idea which I'll be posting probably next week. I'm not sure whether to keep writing in a linear fashion for this idea or move on to something else.  Time will tell.

So, April's going well so far.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

March is over, so what's left for April?

I've been slacking a lot recently in regards to updating this blog and I know I should really go into detail of what I've been up to but I'm afraid I'm going to keep this quite short.

My targets in March were to finish Blue Toad Murder Files and complete the PC version of my mobile game.  Blue Toad Murder files is now complete and I have learned a lot about from this short game about story telling and game design for a "Whodunnit" game of today.  I do want to try and sum all of this up within a short dissection later in the month, but we'll see how things go.

The PC version of my mobile game has not yet been finished.  I started making good progress with this project convinced that releasing a PC demo version of the game would be the best way to get feedback early into how successful this idea would be and of course the most that I could manage financially.  And then Unity did the most amazing thing, they released the Unity Android and iOS versions of their engine for free until 8th April.  I had to take advantage of this great turn of events as I was going to create my game for mobile devices.  It was only the cost that was really stopping me from going down that route straight away, and now their was no problem.  Also as I'm developing the game within Unity I could quickly edit what I had already done to suit a mobile device.

So now I have redefined my development timeline to get a mobile prototype up and running.  This is going well so far and I'm learning a lot in javascript thanks to Codeacademy.  However, I think this target is going to be longer than a month as I'll be learning as I'm developing and with work projects and my other personal tasks this year, I think spreading this target out over a couple of months is a good decision.

So what's next for April?  I'd like to set myself a game and project task this month again.  I've started playing Mass Effect 3, the last in a great sci-fi RPG series by Bioware.  This isn't going to be a straight forward 10 - 20 hour game.  I need to sink a good 40 hours into this game to truly appreciate it all and I wouldn't want to rush through it for the sake of completing a target.  But with my mobile project running alongside playing this game, I wouldn't be able to do both of these at once without one or both suffering.

So I am going to run both of these tasks over the next two months.  That should give me enough time for each.

Additionally, I want to try to keep up writing creatively specifically coming up with short stories about anything and everything.  Whether this is a excerpt from a small idea I have had or a fully fleshed out short story I don't know, but I need the practice to ensure I improve writing storylines for missions in levels or entire game plots.

So April/May's tasks are:

  • Complete Mass Effect 3
  • Create a functional version of my mobile game in Android (can't afford a Mac to develop for iOS sadly)
  • Complete an original piece of creative writing
This should be an interesting couple of months (yes this was a short post :))

Thursday, 1 March 2012

February Failed :(

So as the title suggests, I didn't manage to complete February's targets which were:

  • Complete: Blue Toad Murder Files:  The Mysteries of Little Riddle
  • Develop PC demo of mobile game idea
I am disappointed.  February has been a busy month for me with wedding plans and trips to London, but the real reason why I haven't managed to complete either is poor planning I'm sorry to say. 

This month I intend to keep the same objectives.  I hope that spending more time working with Unity will give me more content for Take Initiative too so that I don't have to spend as much time researching articles.  Although I haven't done much yet in Unity I am learning a lot.  I did think the scripting language would be more like javascript than it is so that's throwing me sometimes, but the differences are only minor so I'm pushing through.

I think the best thing I can do is spend a set amount of minimum hours on this every night so that I make enough progress each week.  I will also plan what I intend to do within each time slot, then hopefully the project can be completed (if only to a functional/alpha level).

Monday, 27 February 2012

Bounty: Facing the Captor Draft 2

This is my second attempt at a possible opening for a game story idea that I have recently conceived.   My intention with this short piece was very similar to the NaNoWriMo where you just write and don't worry about flow, spelling or grammar.  To just get something out of my head so that I can see it and improve it.  I’m still going to use the technique to get everything out of my head, but I think reading it over before posting the draft ready for comments is a better idea from now on.

Not much has been done to this piece.  It hasn't been extended yet, just tidied up a bit.

Facing the Captor

The woman looked towards the faces of her husband and daughter.  She could barely see her husband's face from the position he had been laid in.  The tall strong man that she had always known him to be had been reduced to a small, still, broken mass.  His face, arms and legs were covered in black and blue bruises, cuts and welts.  His wounds had gone untreated for so long that it looked certain that as if infection was setting into them.

Her daughter was kneeling down over her father, quietly while continuous streams of tears rolled down her face.   It was clear she now realised that he father could no longer keep her safe.  Her eyes, big, brown and glassy, were looking to her mother for protection now.  To carry her away from the monsters that had ripped her from her slumber in the dead of night.

The woman collapsed to her knees on the cold, hard, marble floor and let out a defeated sigh.  "What do you want from me?" she said slowly raising her head to face the one responsible for shackling her and abducting her family.

He sat on a large throne a short distance in front of her dressed elaborately in layers of silk clothing.  The throne he sat on was tall, gilded with gold and set with rubies and small emeralds at the top of the chair back.

He leaned forward slowly, a smile creeping across his face.  He knew he had finally gotten his way.  "Why, your remarkable and legendary skills of course".

Monday, 30 January 2012

Mobile game UI layout

This mobile project has changed completely from when I started and I have to say that I am very glad that I did make all of those design changes.  Hopefully this new version will show that I have produced something good that can evolve into something great.

So thus far I am tinkering with Unity to create a PC demo version of the game for a few reasons:

  1. To gain feedback on the design and gameplay so far so that I can tweak things.
  2. To see how well the game will be received by those tantalised by puzzles, word games and even puzzling word games.  I hope this will also give me enough data to judge whether it is worth developing the full mobile version or whether to just complete the PC version.
  3. To gain some support and players who will look forward to the release.
  4. Once I have created this within Unity I should have sufficient knowledge of how to implement the full version and should be able to modify the game for a mobile least this is the plan anyway.
This is the intended layout so far for the PC demo. 

I have tried to keep the layout simple and adaptable for the mobile game.  Since the mobile game will be played horizontally and vertically both layouts have been considered. 

The button positions across horizontal and vertical fairly similar, so hopefully the differences in layouts will not confuse players too much.

The PC demo version will probably use the horizontal layout. Hopefully I'll have something blocked in and ready for people to play with soon. 

January Target Completed!

  • Complete: Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
One down!  It's such a good feeling to know that even at this early stage in the year I have completed something on my Resolutions list already.  Hopefully the rest of the year is as successful.

As I'll get a slight headstart on February's task I am inclined to set two goals.My main focus will be to get the PC demo finished (I can see a few speed bumps already but I'll see how it goes).

I was interested in playing Relentless' first digital release, Blue Toad Murder Files, so I bought this last year on Steam during a sale.  It's a short game so I think it shouldn't take up too much time, and may even provide a nice break between development.  All work and no play etc.

  • Complete: Blue Toad Murder Files:  The Mysteries of Little Riddle
  • Develop PC demo of mobile game idea
Wish me luck!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Bounty: Facing the Captor

Feel free to comment on this my first attempt at a scene from a story idea that I have had for a game with the working title, Bounty.  Over the next few months I plan to post different scenes from the same story to gather feedback on my style of writing and possible improvements to the scenes/overall story.

Any feedback is welcome though so crit away!

Facing the Captor

The woman looked towards her husband and daughter's faces.  Her husband's she could barely see from the position he was laid in.  The tall strong, man that she had always known her husband to be had been reduced to a small, still curled up mass.  His face, arms and legs were covered in black and blue bruises, cuts and welts.  His wounds had gone untreated for so long that it looked as if infection was setting into them. 

Her daughter was kneeling down over her father, quiet while continuous streams of tears rolled down her face.   Her father could no longer protect her and this she now realised.  Her eyes, big, brown and glassy, were looking to her mother now for protection.  To carry her away from these monsters who had ripped her from her slumber in the dead of night.

The woman collapsed to the her knees on the cold, hard, marble floor and sighed.  "What do you want from me?" she said slowly raising her head to face the one responsible for shackling her and abducting her family prisoner.

A man sat on a large throne a short distance in front of her.  He was elaborately dressed in layers of silk clothing.  The throne he sat on was tall, gilded with gold and set with rubies and small emeralds at the top of the chair back.

He leaned forward slowly, a smile slowly creeping across his face.  He knew he had finally gotten his way.  "Why, your remarkable and legendary skills of course".

New Year, New Targets

The end of January is very nearly upon me and I have been reluctant to write yet another resolutions list for the year as it always pains me to look back over it mid-year and in December having realised that I have fallen short of my targets.

So I'd like to make monthly targets this year to see if these are easier to achieve.  These will be both expanding my level and design experience as well as helping me make a dent in my games catalogue.

This month:
Complete Enslaved: Odyssey to the West

So far I'm not doing too bad with this target. I had a good run on it over the last weekend and thought I'd have it finished by the end of the month.  However, I've just gotten halfway through the game and although I now am much better at the combat, the boss challenge's have certainly been raised.  I hope this isn't another game that gets left "to complete another time".

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Gears of War 3: Reflections of the Story

I completed the single player campaign of Gears of War 3 a couple of days before the end of last year.  I have really enjoyed how the story that has progressed throughout the series and how it has wrapped up during this last instalment.

I am going to briefly discuss my thoughts on the story that has developed from the first to the third game (mostly focusing on the third).  I do warn anyone that has not played the game or completed the game yet that there will be spoilers within this post.

WARNING: There are spoilers within this post, so if you don't want to know stop reading now!

The game is about Marcus Fenix, the lead character, finding out that his father, Adam had not perished under the debris of his house years ago, but instead was held prisoner by Prescott, the chairman of  the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG), his boss essentially.  Adam was later held by Mira, Queen of the indigenous population of Sera the Locusts, to try and combat the real threat - the emulsion.

Throughout the previous games and the majority of the third, emulsion was thought of as a fuel, a resource.  However, Adam later explains that the emulsion is a being in itself.  Acting as a parasite it sought to infect every living creature on the world of Sera.  In the second game, the emulsion had only just started to affect the Locusts.  Those that were after were known as Lambent.  The locusts lived underground before the emulsion started attacking them so they emerged to the surface, E-Day was upon humanity.

In the third game, humans that had been in contact with emulsion for longer lengths of time were now showing signs of infection and behaving just as destructively as the Lambent in Gears 2.

The mission is to find Adam Fenix and help him finish working on the machine he had built to exterminate emulsion infected cells from all living things on the planet.

Introduction to the third instalment
The flashback at the beginning was good.  I found that it helped me remember and sum up what was previously occurred within the story.  However, I'm not sure if I was a new player that there was enough content in this section to do a sufficient recap for them but luckily the remainder of the game focused more on rescuing Marcus' father rather than relying on previous information gained from the other games.

Did the story unfold evenly across the duration of the game?
The game was comprised of five acts.  We learn that Adam is alive during the first act but only get to him during act five.  I felt that although I got to experience a lot more of the different environments throughout Sera, came into contact with more COG and Stranded so I could see how the war and E-Day had affected each of them, that I'd have liked to have had more information fed to me about Adam's whereabouts throughout these in-between acts.

I think something simple and short would have sufficed.  For example, before Mira started tracking Marcus and the rest of Delta we could have been shown scenes with Mira talking to Adam trying to coerce him into working harder to save the Locusts.  I think this would have been interesting to see as you find out that Mira and Adam had a relationship for a long time where Adam seemed to sympathise and genuinely wanted to help the Locusts if there were more time.

This would have been a nice addition but it was not essential.  The varying number of challenges that the Delta squad had to overcome throughout each act was enough to keep me amused and still focused in getting to Marcus' dad.

High points within the story

Emulsion infected humans
I wasn't expecting the humans to be infected by that emulsion.  But I suppose it makes sense when you think about it, although during the scene where you come into contact with the first infect human I was expecting more of a typical zombie than a fluorescent, raging and quick moving zombie.  So this was an interesting twist.

R.I.P Dominic Santiago
My fiance had played Gears 3 on the day of launch with his friends at my house while I was working all day  (much to my annoyance as I wanted to play it through in co-op with him, anyway...).  When I got home that evening I found the house still, perfectly silent.  Not the atmosphere of roaring orders at each other and swearing at the enemies.  So I presumed they had finished an gone home.  When I entered my front room I walked in to find four adult males in total silence eagerly watching a cinematic.  I said my hellos and left as I didn't want to see something that would spoil my experience later.
So when I saw this cutscene with Dom dying, I instantly knew that this was the cutscene that stunned all of those men to silence.  In my mind Dominic Santiago was your brother, he was the constant character throughout Gears that survived, that would be there at the end.  Not any more.  The death of his wife and kids just got too much for him and he nobly sacrificed himself so that the rest of Delta could live on.  However, Dom was emotionally going downhill from the beginning of the game.  His appearance was ragged as if he didn't care about keeping himself presentable and at the point of his death you could argue that he just wanted to end it all.  So he did.  Even so, his character went through a lot of pain, and turmoil so he deserved to go out whichever way he chose.  I loved his character, he was a great sidekick.

The reason behind E-day
I found it interesting to know the real reason behind E-Day.  The Locusts were just running themselves.  Who knows what would have occurred if Adam has come to a mutual understanding with Mira, the Locusts may have lived peacefully underground co-existing with humanity on Sera.  We don't know who attacked who first.  The Locusts could have been disorientated when emerging from underground and attacked out of fear.  Humanity may have also struck the first blow for fear of the unknown, which led to the fifteen year war with the Locusts.

Marcus' dad dying
Another emotional moment in the story.  After all the time Marcus spent searching for his dad.  He was killed by the very weapon he had created to save humanity.  Adam also seemed to be torn up by guilt and regret throughout the majority of the final act.  It was almost like he was punishing himself  for the devastation the Hammer of Dawn caused at Ephyra and not preventing E-Day.  At the end of the game, Marcus looks more lost than ever with no goal to persevere and no family left.

Anything missed?  Not covered?

The true fate of Marcus' mother
I was hoping to find out what happened to Marcus' mother.  She had apparently gone missing in the underground caves when Marcus was about 16 years old and she was a biologist.  The fact that she gets lost in the caves, Locust queen looking very human-like and Adam Fenix working with closely with the Locust Queen for 20 years is rather a coincidence no?   Did Marcus' mother turn into the Locust queen through some sort of experiment that went wrong?  The locust queen's very human-like appearance was mentioned once by one of the Delta squad but not expanded upon.  I think that this may have been a clever and deliberate thought provoking question for players to agonise over.  She may have been taken hostage in exchange for Adam's cooperation to work on the existing emulsion problem for the Locusts?  I don't know and I guess I won't find out.

After analysing this game's story it has taught me a lot about the building blocks required for a good linear story.  The twists and heart wrenching moments are just as important as the unanswered questions that make the player want to explore and persevere to find the answers.  One thing that I will keep in mind when creating a game story is to build up a character who is believable and likeable so that the player wants to help them achieve their goal, cares about their difficult decisions, feels and believes their pain.