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  How Games Are Made 09:18 PM -- Mon February 7, 2005  

I had an epiphany over mac & cheese a little while ago. It's a little convoluted as usual, but let's work it out together, except with you sitting there quietly and me doing all the work. Here's the thing: imagine if someone wanted to make a movie, and this was their initial plan: "Wouldn't it be cool if like, this helicopter exploded, and the guy jumped out just in time, riding on a missile, and crashed it into the enemy base?!"... That would be a stupid movie. Not just because that's a stupid scene, but because you can't make a movie based on "wouldn't it be cool if..." - a good movie takes a very interesting story, and does a very good job of showing the audience that story. A good novel is the same - takes a very interesting story, and gets it across to the reader in a very well-written fashion. Don't worry, I'm not going where you think I'm going.

Games are not made that way. But games aren't supposed to tell stories, so they shouldn't be made that way. If you have a very interesting story, don't put it in a game, because you're undermining both sides - the linear nature of storytelling precludes good gameplay, and the requirement of interactivity precludes good storytelling. The problem is, games are made based on "wouldn't it be cool if..." theory. And it's just as bad of an idea in games as it is in movies. But the tricky thing is, what is the right way to make a game? What is a game? Movies and novels are ways of telling a story, but a game isn't. A game is, I think (this one I'm not positive on), an implementation of an experience. The game designer has an idea of what he wants the player to feel like, what he's simulating (though it may not be a simulation by any means - Pac Man only simulates wandering a maze eating dots, but still, there is some more 'true' notion of a dot-filled maze that Pac Man's creator had in mind, and the end result was the closest he could come).

So that's why games are made so haphazardly and poorly right now, and with such random success, and why our industry is so immature. Movies did that same thing - originally they had no plots, they were just messing around with different shots and ways of showing things. We're still in that "wouldn't it be cool if" phase. Where we need to be is the place the film industry is. Just as a movie says "I will take your story that sounds so intriguing, and film it in this fashion so that it is very engrossing," a game needs to say "I know the experience I want the player to have, the overall feeling of what they should be doing, now I will implement it in just such a way as to make that experience come across very clearly." You see what I mean? It's the difference between "Man, it'd rock if you had a sniper rifle and could like pop guy's heads off from across the map!" and "This game lets the player feel what it's like to be the ultimate ninja assassin - we'll need to provide a variety of lethal stealthy moves to enhance that feeling, along with suitably dumb opponents so you feel like you're much better at fighting than them." ... or whatever. Point is, tossing things in willy nilly is not an art, or a science, it's just screwing around. Coming up with a goal, with a thing (story for a movie, experience for a game), that you want to communicate to the audience, and then implementing it well, that's an art. I don't mean that your game needs to be a good simulation of something. I've never been a fan of realism! It's not about simulating something real accurately, it's about accurately portraying the experience, the sensation and feelings, that are in your head. Your vision!

There, that's what I think the future of game design is. That's where 'formal' game design is supposed to go. To the concept of designing experiences (something Disney workers have been doing for decades, mind you), and making all the rules, graphics, physics, and sounds serve that experience. Just as a movie cuts scenes that don't help tell the story, a game needs to cut elements that don't help the player feel the experience.

But forget that! I like tossing things in at random and seeing what happens. I'm the Jackson Pollack of video game design. Splatter it on!
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  Hamumu HQ 03:47 AM -- Mon February 7, 2005  


Took a picture for a discussion on a game developer forum, and I thought I'd share it with you too! This is my desk setup. I really do keep it mostly this clean... of course, you can't see the stack of books and magazines that are under the black shelf. Sadly, Bonsai didn't get into this shot. It's very hard to corral 3 cats.
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  Blockworld Be Gone 11:28 PM -- Tue February 1, 2005  

Forget it! You know, the game development process is, until you get into the thick of just hammering down the code you have planned, a long series of soul-searching exercises. Well, it is for me, probably not for normal people. That's how I arrived at the idea that I should make another Dr. Lunatic type game - it's fun and easy for me, and it's very well established that my customers like it! And this whole process of messing with the 3D stuff was a part of that. Banging my head on this stuff over and over, and this is my latest conclusion: I'm in this job for the fun of it. And it's not fun to do complicated math. I could get blockworld up and running, but even if I didn't need to make complex optimizations to it, it would greatly complicate the everyday work of making the game. Every aspect of it would be made more difficult by the 3D block setup, nothing would just be straightforward, and in the end I'd be insane(r) and have a huge bloated mass of code that I'd never be able to debug.

I like things simple. So I'm going to make them simple. More fun for me, more games for you, and they'll work on your computer (probably). And you know you like em too! I'll try 3D again someday, I always go back and mess around with it once a year or so. Hopefully someone will have made a nice easy engine for me to use by then.

But you people responding to my poll aren't making it simple for me, by keeping the results almost 50/50! So here's the poll about what to do with this upcoming game, please vote on it and add your comments. As an added bonus, it gives away the answer to what you've been speculating on! Here it is!
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  Blockworld Round 1 05:57 PM -- Mon January 31, 2005  

If you haven't been digging around the forums, you don't know about Blockworld. It's a test program I've made to see about how fast my 3D idea can work on everybody's computers. If you haven't tried it, or even if you have since I made a new version today, please download Blockworld Test. It's a ZIP file, you should be able to just unzip it into its own directory or something like that. Inside are 6 batch files - windowed mode and full screen mode versions of small, big, and huge maps. If you run any of them, here are the instructions:

The mouse lets you look around (warning, in fullscreen you might get seasick!). Hold down the left button to move forward, right button to move backwards. You always stay at the same height, even if you look up or down, there's no moving up or down.
The number in the upper left of the screen is your current framerate (beneath that is the number of polygons it's drawing, which will be constant). I need to know what framerates you get on the different maps and windowed/fullscreen, and what speed your computer is. Huge will most likely be very awful, but that's okay, it's a stress test. The hope is that Big will work well. If you get a framerate of "1.$" for an extended period, try to notice if it's flowing along smoothly while saying that, or if it's jerking and chunking along. 1.$, not being an actual number, can somehow be either good or bad, I've discovered.
You'll note that your framerate (unless it stays maxed out) goes up or down depending on what you're looking at, so try to give a range of the worst and best speeds you get. Keep the numbers you get from each different size map and different screen mode separately, they don't really relate (other than that hopefully you'll do a lot better on smaller maps than bigger!).
If it's an absolute slideshow even on Small, you probably don't have working openGL drivers (although it shouldn't start up if you don't - it should take you to a webpage on our site that tells you about openGL drivers instead). Let me know about that too!
If you find the textures offensively ugly, which they are, you can edit tiles.tga to your liking.

You can post your results on the Making Dumb Games forum ("Frame Rate Test For Fancy 3D Blocks" topic), as comments on this journal, or e-mail me.

I really appreciate any help you can give me. It's important for me to get this info, because if it doesn't work on your computer and you don't tell me, you might not be able to play the next fantabulous Hamumu release!! That would be a tragedy!

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  Speculation is fun! 09:05 PM -- Mon January 24, 2005  

Look at you all speculating about the mysterious 3D thing! And to think, I almost gave up on 3D today because it was so tangled up. But now I have upgraded from a colored spinning pyramid to a textured spinning cube, and a lot more underlying code that means that cube is a lot more meaningful than the pyramid too. I almost think I might be getting somewhere, but I wouldn't count on it.

If you haven't voted in this poll please do so ASAP. Read the first post to get more details on exactly what you're voting on. This is no silly waste of time, but a really vital decision, and you have a say in where it goes!

My game Art Attack is currently being looked over by other board game designers on a forum, and the comments so far (in the 4 hours or so it's been up...) have been really positive! I don't know what's up with that. If it keeps up, it will be very gratifying, but not terribly helpful. Some people have suggestions, but they mostly seem to want to make it even more random than it already is! I'm going to have to ask why they think that.

Hey, why don't you check out the game yourself!? Crazy idea! The rules and the cards are both DOC files, you can get the rules here and the cards here. If you are handy with scissors or a papercutter, you can even print up your own prototype to play. Feel free to post comments about it right here.
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  Get Rich The Dumb Way! 05:45 PM -- Wed January 19, 2005  

Hey, I've added a new page to the site, currently not linked from anywhere... guess I should add a link on the company page. It's the Affiliate page, and it lets you sign up to sell our games on your website for a (LARGE) commission. This is for people with big established websites, as you'll see on the page, not just anybody. I'd love to extend it out to everybody in the world, and just see who can bring me sales, but the payment processing would be way too much work. So we'll check out prospective affiliates and make sure you've got some decent traffic and a nice website and that we think you'll get some sales. If so, we'll sign you up and you can start getting (me) rich! Check out the details at http://hamumu.com/affiliate.php.

I'm still experimenting, on the development side. I'm putting together a 3D engine, and it's a whole lot of confusing work. I keep getting just plain stuck and lost, not sure what to work on next to actually end up with something that I won't have to rewrite a week later. Right now, the 'game' consists of a 3D triangle spinning on a black screen. Awfully fun! There's a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff written though. It just needs to find its way to the screen. What I'm trying to do is make a 3D system that can create a world out of blocks that the player can wander in (and a world builder can create). The blocks will be like the tiles in Dr. Lunatic, only stacked up in 3D space! So of course, there will be a jump button.

We're also putting a lot of work, way way in advance, into preparing for a trip to Mexico in spring. I've never been out of the country, how scary! I've also not taken a vacationy vacation since my honeymoon!

And NO it's not Loonyland 2.
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  MiniMac 11:56 PM -- Wed January 12, 2005  

I never thought it'd happen, but I did it... I bought one of these! It's smaller than my laptop (of course, my laptop has a monitor and keyboard...)! So I'm one step closer to porting things to the mac. Two steps maybe, since I was at $0 in Mac profits until now, and now I'm more like $-700 in profits, so I have some incentive. Hope it's a good purchase. Porting won't be easy, and I'm going to outsource the old games, but for future games, I'm developing them in a cross-platform way, so I'll try them out on the mac as well as the PC and get them going from the beginning. It's a whole new world of issues to deal with, pretty scary. But people who have games on both say they get at least 50% sales from the mac side, so my sales could double! Sounds worth it. I hope.
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  Hammy New Year 04:53 AM -- Mon January 10, 2005  

A while back I said I'd let you know in a couple days what is happening in the new year with Hamumu. Well, now it's a lot of days later, so here goes:

1. We got to play both Arthouse and Dramedy (read a couple journals back for details) with my family and they went over like ice cream sandwiches with a side of gold nuggets! That means they were greatly enjoyed. I was really surprised at just how well they did, and a second game of arthouse was pretty much put together without me (luckily, they let me join in though), they just wanted to play again. Dramedy had some flaws which I think I've addressed to some extent, but really I can't find any problems with Arthouse! It just plain worked. Of course, it'd be nice to actually try these games with non-family members and get some more heartless feedback, but it's a start. At the end of this month, I'll have them looked over by other game designers at a board game designer's forum, and we'll see what they say, then from there it's pretty much just more playtesting and then letters to publishers!

2. Unfortunately, it's not time to share what the next Hamumu project is. I thought it would be, but after some hefty research and investigation, I've discovered that I need to do some more research. But hopefully by the end of this month, the stuff I'm hoping will pan out will, and I'll be deep in the design and development of a new game. When that happens, I'll be very open about it, not secretive like usual, and I'll get all kinds of input from you guys to help make it really Hamumuey. I decided there's 3 things you guys really want: more Dr. Lunatic-type gameplay, a level editor, and lots of secret junk. So that's the goal.

3. I'm making a real push into advertising and marketing stuff this year, as well as shooting to get the burden of CDs off my back, and automate as much else as I can too. I want to be able to just focus on making games. I should be rolling out an affiliate program this week (where, if you run a large popular website, you can sign up to sell our games on it for a very hearty commission) as the first bit of all that.

2005 is going to be the Year Of Dumb! We're taking over this place.
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  Tsunami Aid 04:49 PM -- Mon January 3, 2005  

Saw this on another site, and smacked my forehead and said "Duh!". For the month of January, 25% of all sales will be donated to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief for victims of the tsunami. So now's the time to buy some games! Or you know what's a better idea? Donate 100% to the victims, by clicking the big one-click give button at amazon.com. But you're welcome to buy games too.
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