Thursday, December 26, 2013

Schrodinger's Kitten Postmortem

My Ludum Dare 28 entry was a game-show style game involving kittens. As usual, here is the postmortem for that game.

What went right

Kittens. What? That's not a good enough explanation? When the theme was announced my first thought was "great, another theme that almost any game could meet with only minor changes." Then I started thinking of all the possible games and not only were there too many options to choose from but most of the ideas were too big for a weekend. With a need to narrow things down I went to One Game A Month and picked one of their three December themes. Kittens lead me to thinking about Schrödinger's cat which lead me to zombie kittens. Not entirely sure how this led to a Bayesian logic game but that is what came into my mind.

Mixed blessings

One of my biggest weaknesses is sound. Having a Gameshow theme allowed me to at least have sounds that I could actually handle. The results were not what I would call good, but neither was it overly bad. I did learn the importance of having a decent mike as my headset clearly does not qualify. The biggest issue was as I moved there would be clicking sounds caused by head-motions. I tried using audacity to remove the clicks but there were still some clicks that snuck through. Considering I had to use myself as voice talent, I don't think I did too bad. I tend to speak in a monotone so had to put effort into making sure that wasn't the case. I didn't quite get the Gameshow voice I wanted but I am not entirely sure what is wrong. I am thinking it is an issue with my delivery speed but I am not a sound guy so that is just a guess.

What went wrong

Time management was by far the biggest issue this time. Part of this was my fault as I really had a hard time getting into my programming groove so spent far too much time with distractions. Part of my time loss was the result of interruptions. Phone calls, relatives with computer problems, and neighbours that can't comprehend what a game jam is took up a good chunk of my time.  Considering the time of year, I suppose this is to be expected.

Overall, this was not too bad of a game but could have used a bit more graphical polish and a theme song. One of these days I am going to have to start playing with some of the music software I own. Then again, considering my sound skills, the world may be better off if I don't.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Game Making Glut

I am a coder. I like writing code. Probably too much. My biggest problem when it comes to coding is suffering from Not Invented Here syndrome.  This is when a programmer prefers to write his own code instead of using third-party libraries. There are a lot of really good low-cost (some even free) game engines and game-related libraries out there.  When it comes to cross-platform development, the big problem with developing your own cross-platform engine or library is testing. When each of the platform that you wish to support also has a wide variety of devices with different specs, it is clear that this is not a good idea for a one-to-three person team to attempt. Instead I am going to be looking at existing tools and engines to use for my cross-platform projects.  The list of platforms I am looking at is a lot larger than anticipated as I have acquired a lot of game making tools the last few weeks.

I found AGK  2.0 (App Game Kit) on Kickstarter a few months ago and should be getting a beta of this library fairly soon. This is an interesting tool as it comes with a BASIC language compiler as well as a C++ library so you can use either language. Their BASIC does not seem to have any Object Oriented extensions in it so I would probably only use it for rapid prototyping, with C++ being my development language. It supports a variety of platforms with Windows, OSX, Android and IOS on the list so clearly meets my needs. Once the beta is in my hands, I will be able to better decide but on paper this looks like a good choice.

While looking into AGK, I discovered  FPS Creator Reloaded as well as the original FPS Creator. As these came with a large number of free model packs, I figured I would grab them if only for the extra models. While Reloaded looks like a neat tool, especially if they use Lua as their scripting language, it is sadly Windows-only. For game-jams it might be a handy tool so I may end up playing around with it.

Unity is a very popular 3D engine. My focus is mostly on 2D so it seemed like this was overkill for my needs. Now that they have added 2D, it may be worthwhile looking at it. This is an expensive option, though they do have a free indie version which seems fairly capable. Scripting is in C# or JavaScript which is tolerable. While  technically this is probably a better choice than AGK, it is my second choice but I definitely want to play around with this.

The above is more than enough but the Steam autumn sale had RPG Maker XV Ace on sale for 75% off so I had to grab it. This is Windows-only but might be great for prototyping. Right after acquiring this, Humble-Bundle had a bundle that included Multimedia Fusion 2, a game maker I had never heard of but that has optional cross-platform support modules. Then there is Game-maker pro, but unless there is an extremely good deal on the masters bundle this is just not worthwhile for me but my experimentation with the free version showed me that this tool has a lot of power. These are just the tools that I have access to at the moment. There are many additional tools that are available to those willing to look for them.