Have a happy (and early) 4th!

Decided to pop in another minor update since I realized I never mentioned it the other day when I posted. The visual novel’s script has undergone a small revision, but otherwise it will remain the final one it looks like. (Knock on wood! This thing only had to be fixed 5 times now haha!) I also went ahead to finalize my game design document for it as well, which really is only a list of the order of events and how the puzzle mechanics work. Sacrificing quality of the story for the sake of adding more interaction was what led to so many revisions the last time, so this time I planned for simpler mechanics that can be realistically programmed, that way you fine folks can enjoy the story and follow along better without too many jumps.

Now that the story spans between two generations and will pop in flashbacks several times, I want to have things explained coherently. Despite the fact that I’m not fond of its battle system, I keep recalling how Final Fantasy VIII handles this since the story will also behave similarly. (Minus the spiritual body possession oddity) In VIII technically there are two protagonists you play through – Squall Leonhart and Laguna Loire, the latter’s events taking place a generation prior to the other. By the story jumping back and forth to explain the story of the game, you get a better understanding of the characters’ world and what has to be done to make things right. Since my books were written in third-person, the narration will simply just switch to whichever character you’re guiding next, and there will be cues to hint this (audio, visual, or both). Like the puzzles in the game’s story, the characters themselves are also puzzles.

Besides all of that, as announced from my deviantArt back in May, I am still in the process of moving the books to Dropbox as .pdf files, since I’ll be closing my account there once the move is complete. Unfortunately, copying text over screwed up its formatting, and saving everything out to the site’s default bare-bones HTML honestly made everything look worse. I am happy to say that Book I is almost done at least, and formatting has helped to cut down the total number of pages as well. I also am in the process of printing them as book draft copies for bookkeeping purposes, as well as physical reference. At most there will only be 10 copies for the print runs, and they will only be loaned to individuals who are involved with the project.

I’m gonna cut off here since I feel like I’m just rambling at this point. Stay safe and have a Happy 4th of July!

Popping in an update

Hello everyone! I apologize for the lack of updates here. I’ve been busy preparing for some events in the summer, so gamedev has been on the backburner until most of it is out of the way. I am happy to announce however, that I’ll be attending New York Comic-Con on Thursday kudos to a Professional pass from my employer. I look forward to the awesome panels and seeing some old friends that day, and since my panels are in the morning, I will also be sneaking in a cosplay for the afternoon.

Hopefully I will have more to report when that comes around, but for now that’s all I can say :). Hope everyone is doing well, and stay cool this summer!

Reached 20 follows!

I’ve been meaning to post about this the other day, but I wanted to set aside some time to thank people for following this blog and its crazy adventures in the world of indiedev. When I dusted off this former art review blog from my undergrad years, I was unsure of how well it would do or if any other indies even used this place still. I’m happy to see that people still use places like Blogspot and WordPress for their devlogs, hobby blogs, or even businesses, and since even moving my own Etsy shop blog over to here now, I can happily say I never regretted the switch!

I’ll also take this time to give a tiny update on the blog here. I switched around some of the widgets at the left so navigating or finding things made more sense. You can now search any topics that I may have covered, or simply find them in the cloud-style tags. Besides my regular classic navigation on the top bar, you can also choose to select the bigger ones under the Categories section.

Thank you all again for your support!

New Etsy blog coming soon!

As some of you might remember (or maybe even know, I’m not sure), I run an Etsy shop and lately I’ve also been selling at local conventions at artist alleys. My blog for it has moved sites a few times, but today I finally decided that WordPress should be its home. I’m so surprised by how well this blog has done for my gamedev journeys, and I know crafters and other shopkeepers alike also use WordPress a lot also.

Feel free to follow the new blog in the mean time, but it won’t be completely ready for business until the end of the month. Like some of my other outlets like Pinterest and Instagram, not only will it be dedicated to updates regarding my Etsy and new shop items, but it will feature works in progress of projects (both personal and for the shop), and even some free tutorials if you’re an adventurious DIY-er like I am! If you’re worried if this blog will wither into the wind, don’t worry, this will still be maintained for my gamedev like normal.

bmd_LI-CON2

Ironically, this announcement also comes in minutes after one of my local conventions officially announced me for their Dealer’s Room again! I’m so excited! It’s a fantastic convention run by the same hard-working folks as one of our larger ones here on Long Island, and I had a great time at this smaller one that opened last year. If you’re in the Long Island, NY area, please stop by this con in the summertime and say hi!

Achievement Unlocked! “Fix it, Fix it, Fix it!”

With the amount of revisions and backburning this poor visual novel project has been getting since day 1 (it doesn’t even have a title still yikes!), I’m so glad that this game barely has the hype for me to get heckled and shanked over with all these changes. I do apologize for the patient and wonderful people who already have approached me to collaborate on it though; there aren’t enough words to express my gratitude. My projects, gamedev or not, are barely ever like this, so to be stuck doing 4 revisions of scripts, plot changes, what have you, honestly even gets on my nerves. I just want this done right, aside from the fact that I look at my creations as if they were my children. Planning this game has been the equivalent of going prom dress shopping with your daughter – “You are NOT wearing that! And not with those shoes! “.

Art style has been down to a happy medium fortunately, but the other half of the battle has been working up enough content that not only would hold the interest of the player, but would also avoid me just having to write another novel instead. (And not just from how it’s written, but also since this game is based on books I wrote in college.)

Ultimately, I realized that while I do have good character development down for much of the cast, there simply is not enough content for its own standalone game, something that I had feared since starting on it. I got tired of writing in filler content for the sake of adding gameplay mechanics to keep things interesting. The more I worked things out, the more I realized this whole game can honestly just fit into one flashback chapter in a bigger game, and better yet can be chopped into scattered mini chapters so it’s easier for the player to absorb.

Also, I kept on thinking back to how it would tie in to the books, since much of that material is old, riddled with tropes, and just generally needs some mending. So since I already have the content (a trilogy of it, actually), why not just sprinkle this current project into the older stuff and make something new of it?

So currently that is my new plan. Despite the fact that much of the content will now include the book materials, it will still be a visual novel with point-and-click puzzle mechanics, with some thriller/suspense elements. If I had an awesome team of devs and a sweet studio to boot, this would totally be an action/RPG with aircraft simulation but I’m not a miracle worker. (Or rich.)

If you want an idea of what the world setting and the additional cast of characters will be like, feel free to prod into my books on deviantArt. Whether or not you do is fine, but if you choose to do so you’re a very brave soul because a lot of that writing is lousy even in my standards now, so I apologize beforehand. If you also would like to help out, please by all means contact me! Aside from voicework, I especially will need help with more mechanical artwork (aircraft specifically). I won’t have any material to give you to work with immediately, but I’ve been collecting a list of contacts for those interested, so it doesn’t hurt to give a shout!

I hope to have more exciting news within the next couple of weeks. Thanks and take care!

Switched to Trelby!

Also known as “Developers Cagematch II: I’m Finally Using an Actual Screenwriting Editor”!

Everyone has had their fair share of battles with Microsoft Word, myself included. It’s fantastic for essays and basic stuff, but anything requiring some type of formatting and you’re out of luck. While the thought of using it for dialogue scripting might make some of you scream and rip your hair out (and then wonder why on earth I used it for as long as I did), scripting for games factors in a little more than that. There technically is no industry standard for scripting for games. Some brave individuals stick to Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, etc., and tough it out because they see no fuss in getting a separate program just for writing scripts. Others like to follow the television and movie model, and settle down to such a commitment for the sake of focusing on writing and not readjusting the format every other minute so things are still legible.

Even in that school, others give basic descriptions of what’s going on in the scene and prefer to focus strictly on their characters (this is very true for if you have voice actors, as they won’t really care much for your cute field notes). And then others pretty much write the equivalent of a novel a-la Alan Moore, and that’s when I come knocking at their house and scream “JUST MAKE IT A BOOK JEEZ” while I furiously shake them but hey I won’t judge that’s totally cool too.

Since my scripts also have developer notes for changing assets and effects within the game, my stuff gets messy real fast. For my visual novel, since I’ll be asking for the help of others to voice some characters, this was not gonna fly. I needed something to help keep things nice and formatted so others can read what pertained to them, while allowing me to add in my notes so I didn’t have to write two separate scripts and waste more time.

Adobe offers a newer software to its critically-acclaimed repertoire called Adobe Story, but it requires a subscription (surprise!). I’m not necessarily a professional screenwriter, so I’m not sure on the justifications of paying for it since it seems to do things other screenwriting software have already. So my alternative was open-source, Trelby in specific.

Bottom line: Trelby is amazing, and now you know why this wasn’t a Developer’s Cagematch article (my heavy bias aside). For those new to Trelby, let alone to the world of screenwriting, this neat editor not only keeps things tidy and automatically paginates, it exports to PDF in a breeze, recommends a legible Courier typeface and why, compares other versions and rewrites of your scripts, and has a name database of over 200,000 names from various countries all over the world. The latter is nifty for giving poor NPC #16 an actual name, for example.

Also for you Mac devs out there, Trelby is still looking for someone to help out with porting the software for that OS. So if you love Trelby and want to pitch in, help a brother out!

Nerding aside, I’ve continued with the script for my game, and am about a thirdway into the prologue/tutorial level. I’m always on the lookout for voice actors, so contact me if you’d be interested! I’m also considering running a small e-mail “newsletter” for updates to anyone who wants to help out, so that way you’d be the first to know on project updates (especially if they’re not large enough to go to press here). I figure it would be helpful for people who have contacted me outside of my network circle specifically, and don’t want to be left hanging. I haven’t forgotten, don’t worry!

For you gamedevs out there, what do you use for writing your scripts?

Get ye Flash (tutorials)

(I never did quite finish that game back in high school. Brownie points and perhaps actual brownies if you know what I’m referring to.)

So practically six weeks later, here are some good Flash tutorials I’ve been using for my gamedev classes lately for the little kids, as promised. My own tutorials for Angry Birds…well…blew up. Thankfully, the art of Flash has been around long enough where people smarter and more clever than myself have made wonderful tutorials that are good for both learning and implementation.

Whether or not you still use Flash and want to brush up on your skills, or never even used it before, searching for helpful tips and code can be like sailing into a hurricane. Is this AS2 or AS3? Does this go on the main timeline or in its own .as file? Will I ever truly get ye Flash?

Below are two of my favorites that I’ve been using lately, though as I come across more I’ll add to the list. If there are some you also like that you want to highlight, leave a comment below and I can add it to this master list here. I also plan to do something similar for CoronaSDK and Ren’py. I would do one for MarmaladeSDK, but honestly its own documentation is so good that I haven’t been as satisfied by other outside sources when it comes to that type of bare-bones Lua. That’s my own two gold dubloons though.

kirupa

Kirupa is a great tutorial hub for not only Flash, but for anything else webby – CSS, Javascript, so on.

Kirupa is similar to SourceForge, StackOverflow, or Tuts+. (In fact if you’re fairly seasoned with searching for coding tutorials you probably know all of that.) It offers a variety of different tutorials for coding languages, however unlike the other examples, this one is run by Kirupa Chinnathambi, a Program Manager at Microsoft. Aside from his own helpful tutorials (yay pictures!), the forums are also a great treasure trove where other users can pitch in to help out with your questions and coding problems. I’m featuring Kirupa specifically, as opposed to the others, since I was able to find AS2 examples fairly easily, and some have been the best ones I’ve found in a long time. Anyone who still uses AS2 or wants to do something quick in it (regardless of what skill level they are) can vouch for how difficult finding something for it can be.

Emanuele has great visual tutorials on not only Flash, but newer software such as Stencyl.

Emanuele has great visual tutorials on not only Flash, but newer software such as Stencyl.

These days, virtually anyone can set up camp on the Internet and fish out great tutorials, but there are some who are the cream of the crop. Emanuele Feronato, Italian programmer, is one of those fine folk where once you see his work, you’ll scream around the house wondering where he’s been all your life and why you haven’t found him sooner. While the downside for you AS2-ers is that you might be out of luck finding ANYTHING done in that, a great way to learn AS3 is to check out the tutorials here. However, if you happen to be on Team Flash-is-Dead, there’s also tutorials for Stencyl and HTML5. Don’t worry, I won’t pry on why you’re looking at a Flash reference page if you feel that way. Denial is the first step, and is a misspelling of a river that runs through Egypt.

Flash is a great tool whether you want to get into programming, want to do something that’s not just animation, or you’re looking to flex your finger muscles and your mind. If you find other sites that have helped you out in a pinch, comment below. Thanks for reading and good luck!

Coming soon: Flash tutorials!

And not just any tutorials, but an AS2 workshop where I’ll be recreating Angry Birds with third and fourth graders at my library! I admit this will be very beginner or educator friendly so if you were hoping for something more heavy duty I apologize. While the workshop is mostly for fun, it’s a great way to introduce game design basics to the little ones, and I also will be including them here on my blog, source files and all.

Preview of lesson #1, outlining the basics.

Gif of lesson #2 in action!

Currently lesson #3 is almost done but I keep on screwing up my math. (If you need a testimonial on how bad I actually am at math, just ask my D&D group.) There are 6 lessons in total so despite this hiccup, my progress has been amazing, and everything else has been coming along smoothly so I’m confident it will be finished in time.

If the tutorials are helpful I may do more in the future, so feel free to suggest away. HTML5 is also on my list next.

That aside, I’m also participating in a gaming roundtable discussion on Long Island next week. I’m hoping to demo one of my games as well but it seems more mainstream ones will be demonstrated for now, so that’s cool. I will still be attending either way, and will have notes when that happens.

“Prison Escape”: A post-mortem

This day wasn’t a day I would want to happen to any of my projects, let alone when it’s collaborated with another person’s work, but before I end 2014 it at least deserves a little burial ceremony. I’ve announced this earlier in December but never had an official update here (since I wanted to take care of its post-mortem in one fell swoop), but Prison Escape has been canceled. This post will break down what happened and why, and how most of all this was still a valuable learning experience. Keep in mind a lot of this gets technical, but since this is a gamedev blog, that’s just the nature of the business. If you’re not here to find out the nitty gritty on why, scroll down to the summary on the bottom.

As a recap, I started Prison Escape when my brother’s Kickstarter for a movie adaptation based on his graphic novel The Chair was preparing to launch for late Spring 2014. We sat down and planned things out for a mobile game to go with it, slated for a Fall 2014 release to iOS and Android. I’ve worked in Lua in the past, and this would be my first finished mobile game. (I did a drag-and-drop game for one of my thesis works.) Concept art and core mechanics were put to paper, and it was time to work.

Sadly not even 2 weeks in that was when the trouble started. While I knew Corona could port to iOS and Android, I was not aware you needed their respective OS’ for this to work (a copy of Corona on a Mac, and one for PC). I’ve worked with Macs in my university (and was probably why I didn’t pick up on this critical fact prior) but otherwise I am 150% a PC girl. Yes, despite being a graphic designer and an artist overall. Like most artists, I am not made of money, so spending almost a grand into a computer that will just be obsolete in 3 years doesn’t make much sense in my head. I know plenty of friends and other people (art folks and non-art folks alike) who will invest in a Mac regardless, and I’m cool with that. But the easiest way you can insult me is to recommend me ANY Apple product to replace anything in my tools of the trade.

That said, you can bet your lucky dollar that when I found this out with Corona’s port for iOS publishing, let alone most game engines for iOS publishing, steam was coming out of my ears. As a developer I’m fine with using or even buying a Macbook if I have to, but I had also just got myself a high-end Dell that Christmas beforehand. I would only get one if there were no other options.

So I did my research on cross-platform tools as a secondary option, and I fell upon Marmalade. While it’s popular for its C++, it can also run Lua and HTML5. Its license also extends across the board, so that one copy of the SDK can help port to iOS and Android all on one OS (other licensing fees and registrations are separate otherwise). So I took advantage of their free one-year GDC promo license, since I had just spent money on a one-year for Corona and was fairly annoyed at myself for my other mistake.

For a while, things with Marmalade went well, and I was even able to churn out a demo – a very buggy demo. For those who have only worked in Corona before, Marmalade’s Lua is almost the same, though keep in mind much of what Corona did was build its own libraries to make writing Lua a bit easier. Marmalade was straight-up bare-bones Lua. If you have an understanding of Corona’s Lua, for the most part you should be okay but many times I had no idea how certain functions or directories worked without using Corona’s built-in libraries (since the other didn’t understand what I was trying to call).

I will be honest – I am not an expert in Lua. But I do know enough to write something that should work. Why this project still fell flat on its face was that I didn’t know enough to break down why things weren’t working, let alone how to fix them. This was horribly obvious when it came to using its random numbers generation, and that was the biggest downfall for this project.

You see, generating a random number in Lua is more than just popping in “math.random(int)” (with “int” being whatever number value you want to put in). Simply using that line of code only generates one number at random upon start-up for the entirety of the game unless it’s restarted. It will need to be called again, usually with the help of functions, in order to help regenerate another number again and to keep things at random. However this is still not true randomness, and is often described more as pseudo-randomness instead. In the case of Lua, depending on what developer’s kit, or even OS that you’re running with, the algorithms for this can vary. Lua-users.org explains this in more detail.

Normally this may not sound like a big deal for a game, and that can be true. If your game only requires its use for a small mechanic, you can get away with this without worrying about what algorithm is behind the numbers being generated at random. But games like endless runners heavily rely on random numbers, and anything that deters from the illusion that every obstacle and power-up is indeed coming up at random to the player, will make your game look like a piece of trash. Running too many generators will also steal your game’s memory like crazy, and if not cleaned up properly, will cause it to lag and eventually crash (which has happened in one of the more recent builds at one point).

I’m sure there are plenty workarounds for this type of problem, seeing that it’s common enough to be addressed across various forums and guides online. But those are things I would like to leave to a second helping hand who knows their way around code much better than myself. After looking over the problems and the other solutions left to continue the game, it was decided that the game should be canceled. Putting out a product that might only work half of the time or would just crash for certain users was absolutely not an option.

To make a long story short, difficulties with OS publishing and game crashes led us to cut life support for the project. It was quite a learning experience though, and maybe they’re some things that others can find helpful to keep in mind. Or to laugh at my foolishness, whichever is preferred.

I’ve made good progress with my visual novel however, so the next update will be on that. My story summary has changed since my last post about it, but many of the story aspects (and definitely characters) are still the same. As you may have guessed by now, the beta for it has been debunked because I have to shift that code over to make room for the actual intro. I’m still accepting voice actors though!

I wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Weekend Update

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend. I managed to continue Prison Escape throughout the past few weeks, though perfecting collisions is still slowing the project down. At least the touch D-pad works, as seen below. Part of the detections is still bugging up in the output though, so I’m going to isolate parts of the code today to see what I’m doing wrong. In worst-case, I’m prepared to start over and rebuild the game, as well as look into different programs and languages.

thechairDPADgif

Still testing out the hitbox but otherwise touch D-pad is in action!

As of my visual novel, the prologue somewhat needs another rewrite, but it’s more like a shift of chapters. What I have so far actually would make more sense later on in the story (like around chapter 2 or 3). So I decided to push it over and focus on events before it, and make those parts the prologue instead. This is also from looking over everything from the original books I wrote to the more current light novel, and realizing that there is still backstory that needs to be explained before I dump the player into this world.