Saturday, November 30, 2013

Coin Drop Turbo postmortem

Just submitted my Charity Game Jam 2 entry so here is the postmortem.

What Went Right

While I seem to have no problem finishing weekend game jams, the same can not be said for the week-long jams that I enter. While I usually end up with a playable game,  the result is quite far from what I plan on. Figuring that the main reason for this is vastly over-estimating how much time I will have to work on the game, I took the approach of designing a game that I would do during a weekend jam and spending the extra time polishing the game. I would probably have spent a bit more time polishing had it not been for what went wrong. This proved to be fairly successful, especially considering that I missed a couple of evenings as well as had to watch the Doctor Who anniversary special and go to a CFL party. Had I gone with the game I was thinking about developing when the challenge was announced it would have been a total failure.

What Went Right and Wrong

Once I knew what the game was going to be, I had planned out a system for having different levels. This was based on the types of coins that were in the bank, the target goals, and the pig speed. This sort of worked, but was not as effective at controlling difficulty as I would have liked so the game is a lot easier than I had anticipated.  Had I not used real currency I could have had much closer point values for the different items that had to be collected that would have given me more control over the difficulty but that was not an option so the Loony and Toony kind of throw off the game balance. I suppose I could have gone with not using those coins but those are my two favorite coins. I suppose the lesson here is not to let your emotions get in your way of good design.

What Went Wrong

I should be polishing the game some more, perhaps fixing the difficulty issue by getting rid of the Twoony and replacing the Loony with a 50 cent coin but I am calling it a week due to Steam. This is also causing me to spend a lot more money than I should be. The worst part about Steam sales is that I already have a huge library of games so really have no need to buy more but the newer games that I want are on sale for a really good price so I end up caving in and buying some games and simply have to play them right away so I don't feel guilty for buying and then not playing them. Speaking of which, the game I just bought today has finished downloading so I had better finish writing this!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Jam Party

I keep hearing a lot of good things about Unity, but as I really don't have the resources necessary to develop 3D games and feel that using a full-blown 3D engine for creating 2D content to be the equivalent of using a chainsaw to slice bacon that I pretty much dismissed it. Now that the 4.3 release has 2D support, I am thinking that I might give it a try. The problem is that I really don't have the time to do that this week as the tiny amount of spare time I have will be put towards creating a game for the GameJolt jam. The following weekend is the second Charity Jam which, depending on the theme, I will probably want to participate in. I highly doubt that a few evenings during the week will be long enough to learn even the 2D portion of Unity, so I probably will not be doing anything with Unity until the December Ludum Dare event.

I missed the November Mini-Ludum Dare so when I went to I spotted the GameJolt contest#10. I had never heard of it before so figured I would take a look. The theme of the challenge is Party, and when I think of parties I think of a group of adventurers going on a quest so have gone with the overly ambitious plan of creating a party-based RPG. The problem with longer duration jams is that it is far too easy to overreach. I have created a fairly simple RPG core for this game with the plans of using this core for the bases of a NES RPG.

I am fairly confident that I will have a playable game by the end of this weekend, the question is how polished the game will be. Sadly, I suspect the answer to this will not be the one I want. Still, I am quite impressed at how such a simple RPG engine can be as flexible as this one is turning out to be. In all honesty, I highly doubt I will be able to utilize all the potential for this game even if things go as smooth as I hope. If I am lucky, the Charity Game Jam 2 might have a theme that lets me use my RPG engine though I fear that CGJ2 will have "fighting game" theme and creating a game like Dust in a week is even too ambitious for me.

I am thinking, though have not decided for sure yet, of creating the NES RPG in this blog. Essentially, creating a series of articles about creating a home-brew NES game that covers the creation of this game. I really do want to create a NES RPG and this would give me the excuse to at least continue to slowly create such a beast.

Friday, November 1, 2013


One thing I have noticed while participating in Game Jams is that there seem to be a lot of people using tools like Gamemaker to create their games. As Steam has a free version of it available, I figured that I would take it for a spin. The free version has a lot of restrictions on it, such as the number of sprites, sounds, and rooms that the game can contain so the free version is pretty limited but is enough to give you a taste for the tool.

While the idea behind Gamemaker is that you can create games without programming, this is not entirely true. Objects in the game support a number of events. When an event happens, it triggers a series of actions. While these actions are assembled through a drag-and-drop interface the actions are essentially function calls so the user is just programming in a simplified manner. The nice thing is that you can actually select a command that brings up a code editor and write C-like code to handle some more complex logic.

With the pro version supporting a native compiler option an support for a number of platforms such as iOS and Android, it seems like YoYo games is trying to attract more serious developers. The problem I have is that their editors are actually very primitive and from what I can tell, their tile support is very limited so for the bulk of the games I like to create there is very little this tool adds for the amount it would cost me.  Still, if there is a decent enough sale, I would probably consider buying it.

As it is free to try, I would recommend anybody looking for a simple to use 2D engine give this a brief look. It is a lot more powerful than I had expected. I could actually see it being good enough for a large variety of games. As a coder, however, the key reason I would buy a tool like this is for editors tied to a powerful scripting engine. As the editors are somewhat lacking, going with a cross-platform library and tools such as tiled is probably a better (and cheaper) bet.