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5 Questions? For moi?11:11 PM -- Thu January 31, 2008

Some indie guy named Shamus posted his "5 Questions For Indie Game Developers", so I figured I'd answer them! He didn't ask me to, and he probably knows I exist as little as I do him, but the questions are there, so I answer them.

1) RPGs seem really over-represented in indie games. (Or, you could say they are under-represented in mainstream games.) Why do you think indie developers favor RPGs so much?

I think there's a false premise here. There are lots of indie RPGs in the realm of "indie games that indies are talking about", but as a percentage of all indie games being released, I'm sure they are well below 5% (with 95% being match-3). However, given that the RPGs are getting talked about a lot, it's fair to say indies seem to have an interest in RPGs, so I will say something on that.
I love RPGs myself. I'm an indie. So I guess based on those statistics, indies love RPGs, and thus make them. Also, indies are geeky. Great demographic for RPGs. That's about all I've got for you on this one, though there's more to consider like technical issues, storytelling interest, and so on. Whatevz.

2) Naturally indie games have to use older technology, which is less labor intensive and doesn’t require (as much) expensive software. But I don’t think that’s the only reason to do so. Certainly the older graphics - done right - can have a certain stylistic appeal as well. The other reason to aim low on the tech tree is so that you can hit the widest possible base of users instead of just the fanboys with $3,000 computers. If you could use any graphics technology you wanted - from Infocom to Crysis - where would you choose to go?

I don't know what game uses this tech, but I know exactly what I want. It's something that would look just like WoW, but rather than building the world in a 3D modeler, you put it together out of prefab blocks and items (like you do in a 2D tile-based game, just in 3D - and of course, you can make new block types too). And needless to say, the tools for creating it would be dead simple. Click & drag & make up formulas and skills as you wish. Ah, easyness is nice.

3) If you got a million bucks in no-strings-attached funding, how would you use it to make your game more successful?

I wouldn't have even the first piece of the fragmented shards scattered across the land and guarded by big bosses of A Clue. I guess with that kind of money, I could just hire people to do the work for me, and all I'd need to do is come up with ideas! That would sure make for better art! Then I could spend the rest of it on advertising, but again, not a clue how that is done. Hire a PR firm - there, problem solved on that end too! So I guess the answer to this question is "make someone else do it."

4) Amanda Fitch and Jay Barnson have both said in the past something along the lines of, “Making the game is one-third of the job.” Or words to that effect. The idea being that once you finish the game, you’re one-third of the way to having it where someone can buy and play the thing. What is the other 66% of effort required after you finish the game, and is this a challenge unique to indie developers?

I don't agree with that, only because I do so very very little of the remaining 66%. It's a little thing called marketing, and since I spend about half an hour per game doing it, it doesn't come near 66% of the work. But for success, yes you should. And yes, it is unique to indies for the self-evident reason that dependies don't have to market their work at all. They make it, and then the publisher does the rest. I think they only call it 2/3 of the work because it's not something indie-types enjoy or are good at. It definitely doesn't take nearly the time, even for those who actually do it. I know this is true, because games can take a year or more to make. If they also took a year to market, we'd all be playing year-old games rather than super buggy ones that got released before they were done. Of course, marketing's an ongoing thing that never ends. And never fails to bore and confuse me. Go away, question!

5) At the end of the XFire interview the mod asked everyone what their favorite game was. I’ll ask this: What game (any game, new, old, mainstream, whatever) do you wish you could have worked on and taken part in?

I think I would have learned a lot and had some fun workin on the Ratchet & Clank or Sly Cooper series (serieses?). But in the end, I of course don't want to work on some game, however cool. I want to make my games, and my games only, and definitely not under some boss, however nice the boss may be. Indie forever!
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Vacation!05:04 PM -- Tue January 29, 2008

Or not. I'm taking a week off from development, but I'm spending it (well, mostly playing WoW, but when I'm not playing...) working on website stuff and other issues. The things I totally neglect 90% of the time. Got to keep up with all the things that need work! Look for My Downloads to finally come to life this week, along with a Sleepless Hollow patch, new avatar bits, and other little things. I also added some new categories to T.A.G. this morning, so hopefully it will stop repeating the same ones (there are actually several that it's just refused to ever pick). I need to add DumbWords questions too, sadly. That's hard. Anyway, lots of stuff to do.

Oh, and I got called for jury duty next month. Augh! HATE! The worst part of all is that the court is 2 hours away. I'm going to ask them if there is a closer court I can use. In the past, we've both had jury duty, and got through it doing nothing other than calling into an automated system each night for a week. The system tells you if you need to show up tomorrow, and if you don't get called in for the whole week, you are free. That's how it went in the past. But I have a bad feeling this time...
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A Previously Unrecorded Phenomenon01:11 AM -- Mon January 28, 2008

As you may have previously heard, my wife runs a tutoring business. She was doing the books for business and peering over her shoulder, I discovered something interesting. If you are looking for a topic for a sociology or education dissertation, give this one a thought: Almost all the last names of her clients are very uncommon. In fact, except for 3 of them, they're ones I've never even heard before.

That's the data. My hypothesis based on this data, and a very scientific one at that, is that people with rare or strange last names tend to need more schooling. Why? It's simple! Think of the first day of school. The teacher comes around and takes roll, saying each name in turn. She gets them wrong, some more than others. This happens to you year after year, and eventually you stop thinking teachers know so much. You stop paying attention, you lose all interest in school, and bam, you need tutoring! This is science, people. Look it up.
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Happyponygate London (Ontario)12:39 AM -- Sun January 27, 2008

Well, now you know.

The plot is that Happyponygates have opened around London, Ontario (why this happened is in the game, and you will find out when you play!). In case it's somewhat unclear, Happyponygates are rainbow colored happy portals that lead to the dreaded Happy Pony Land With Strawberry Waterfalls And Gumdrop Trees. Happy Ponies and their minions are flooding out and taking over the city, forcing everyone to be happy all the time. The RCMP has set up a perimeter around the city, but nobody can go inside. They are evacuating everyone who was trapped inside, of course.

Conventional weapons are completely useless against the ponies - yes, red hammers included! So what options remain? Does Canada simply lose its finest metropolis?! No, as a last resort, they call up Bouapha. He is of course world-renowned for "handling situations." So, he shows up, and sees what he can do.

The city is completely devoid of humans. They've all been evacuated. So you aren't so much stealing cars as commandeering them. I have an enormous list of different kinds of goals and challenges to do, and I hope lots of them can go in. It's more a wish list than a design plan at this point.
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AoB3 Progress10:42 PM -- Thu January 24, 2008


Obviously, that's shrunken down! But there you have it, the very beginning of the game. It's not all that playable at the moment, mainly I just got the graphics in. You can go and steal the RCMP car, but you can't get out of it if you get into it, and it still steers quite goofily. The mountie looks around, but doesn't interact in any way. As you can see, the Supreme life meter and enemy life meter are onscreen, and the enemy meter is in an odd place, since I upped the resolution to 800x600. There will be new interface elements for this game, those will be replaced. Still not sure actually how life will be - a meter or the ever-popular hearts!
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Bouapha Update04:36 PM -- Wed January 23, 2008

Nothing much has happened since the last update. That's because of planning and considering the prospects of online connectivity. I came up with some awesome ideas that would be really fun and well worth being connected. But they're huge. So it was pretty paralyzing to consider those things. So I've finally made the decision to just go ahead and get something done with the regular offline thing, because the nature of the online stuff I have in mind won't require redoing much of this, it'll just be added on. So I can work on stuff I know how to do now, make good progress, and worry about that stuff later without worrying that it's going to entail undoing all the stuff I've got done.

So my goal is simple: By Feb 1st, I want to have a playable first district. Not full of interesting stuff, but a place you can run around with some monsters and a little bit of the initial stuff. Actually... I probably ought to clarify that goal more. Oh well, point is, I am off to render out the RCMP car and the mountie, and some traffic barriers and trees, and make some road tiles. Because of course, it all begins right there!
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T.A.G., You're NOT it04:28 PM -- Tue January 22, 2008

After having a month or so of seeing the frowning system of T.A.G. in action, I have decided to drop it to only 5 frowns to kick an entry out. No legitimate entry has ever come close to 5 frowns (2 is about the highest), and in fact most egregiously bad entries only get around 4, so it will still not drop a lot. But getting 10 was almost impossible. It only ever happened with ones where the person just typed a single random word, or retyped the acronym itself. So I think 5 will do better, and you might occasionally see an entry kicked out now. This should not have any retroactive effect on the scores.

On another note, saw Cloverfield last night. Don't see it. It's not terrible, it's kinda sorta good (but really pretty stupid). But, 50% of all viewers (out of our sample of 2) literally kept their eyes closed for 95% of the movie to avoid throwing up. It's all shot on handheld camera, and it's way way worse than The Blair Witch Project. It made me feel pretty dizzy and uncomfortable, and it made her totally unable to watch. The theater put up warning signs at the ticket booth, and we really didn't believe it could be that bad, but it was. It's really, really hard to watch. I truly can't understand how this got past test audiences without some kind of digital filtering or something to smooth it out. And it's really not interesting enough to warrant suffering through that.

Here's a tip to future directors: having the cameraman wear a steadicam rig may not be "realistic", but you won't hear complaints about it. As opposed to using real handheld cameras, which will cause vomiting in the aisles. It's not as if the guy always hanging onto his camera through every horrible event is realistic either. We know it's fake, it'd just be nice to be able to see it.

If you need to see it, wait for the DVD - it'll be a lot less sickening on a small screen.
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La Oficina03:14 AM -- Mon January 21, 2008

The Office is very funny!! It doesn't matter how you interpret that sentence, provided you interpret it as the name of a TV show, because it will be true either way.

Warning: It turns out I wrote a million pages of stuff about WoW below. If you don't care, stop reading now. Nothing from here down will be of any interest to you!

It's time for another WoW landmark! Now my Hordies are all level 26, though the Allies remain 24 (I've got 5 of each). It's their turn now. If you search this journal to see when my last WoW landmark occurred, you will discover that I don't waste all that much time on WoW! Well, relatively speaking. I mean, people talk about hitting 60 in a few weeks. It took me a few weeks just to gain 10 levels (2 each for 5 characters), and these levels are a whole lot quicker than the ones at the high end. Then again, maybe I am wasting a lot of time, I'm just really bad at it...

Which brings me to the issue of the classes in WoW. I will tell you that at this point, playing every class to 24/26, I have the following opinions (opinions subject to change pending higher levels):

* Classes I love are Warlock and Hunter. Even on my 3-second delay connection, they are very playable thanks to their handy pets keeping monsters off of them. The Warlock also has the added advantage of relying on damage-over-time spells, rather than having to constantly cast more spells, so that too is easier on my connection. These two classes easily level three times as fast as any other for me, and with virtually no risk of failure (Hunter the fastest and easiest). I can take on 3 guys a couple levels above me without fear, and not even worry much when new things show up in mid-fight with them.
* Classes I also like a lot are Rogue, Druid, and Shaman. They are not as powerful or easy to play as the above, but they do fun things (Rogue: stealth, lockpicking, making poisons, doing massive damage; Druid: shapeshifting, clawing things to bits; Shaman: totems, easy combo of magic and smacking), and have good abilities to save themselves if needed.
* Also pretty fun classes are Warrior and Priest. Warrior is not amazing, but despite what you'd expect, a pretty big variety of different abilities to mix up. And awfully hard to kill. Priest is pretty good... sometimes. Slow to kill things (unlike real life, of course), and a little easier to get killed than it should be, since the whole class is based around healing.
* The classes I don't like are Paladin and Mage. Mage is absolutely impossible to play on my connection. They need a fast connection to get the spells out quickly enough. Of all the classes, Mage is far and away the slowest to level, and I die constantly. It actually has some pretty fun options, but dying nonstop and having to constantly rest and restore mana and life is very tiring. My problems with it have more to do with my connection than the class itself. It's a lot better when I play at the library. On the other hand, Paladin is just boring. Toss out a couple of skills, then wait while you auto-attack for a while. Doesn't die much, just isn't very exciting.

Do you play WoW? What do you think of the classes?
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P.U., K., 3 S.F.S.04:10 AM -- Sun January 20, 2008

purple umbrella, kumquat, 3 small finger sandwiches

We are sitting here watching TV (Netflix) for the evening, as is very very often the case, and I asked my wife what I should blog about today. She said to write a story about the items listed above. Here goes.

One fine August afternoon, I was supping on my favorite lunch - a small selection of finger sandwiches. Today, I had a spicy peppercorn cheese one, a kumquat-butternut squash pate, and a salmon rutabaga melt on rye. But alas, when I was down to my last sandwich (the pate!), the clouds conspired against me. The sky grew dark and in moments drizzle became downpour. I rushed under the shelter of our gazebo, but for shame, the sandwich had been besogged. It was then that I remembered the saying of my dear mother: "Always keep a teensy tiny purple umbrella in your right shoe, snug against your toes!" But not just the saying, no sir! I remembered that I had followed this ever-sage advice each day of my life. I disenshoed my right foot and withdrew the umbrella from its repose. I pushed it to its widest extreme, and beheld its majesty overhead.

Being teensy tiny, it offered too diminutive an arc to ensure my own aridity. But yet, the day could be salvaged! I placed the umbrella into the last remaining finger sandwich's airspace, and thusly could it avoid being further hydrated. With it so covered, I proudly strode forth into the splatter and partook of the slightly damp treat which remained.

Mmmm, Kumquat-butternut squash.

The end. That's what you get. And that's what she gets for suggest such a combination of items.
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Use The Force-Shaped Parts, Luke!12:48 AM -- Sat January 19, 2008

Lego Star Wars II

I've been playing this pretty obsessively for about the past two weeks. I give it Two Dumbs Up. It's a very easy platformer (in fact, you have unlimited lives, and reappear right where you died, so it's impossible to lose!), with a ton of secret stuff to find and collect, and a ton of really funny stuff. It wouldn't have been nearly as entertaining if it wasn't playing off of something that the player is already sure to be extremely familiar with (Star Wars), but since it is, it's just hilarious to see the Lego versions of all the big scenes from the movies. They're not just Lego versions, they make a mockery of every scene with stupid little jokes. For example, when Luke gets his robotic hand installed, it gets loose and runs around clamping on to things.

A couple things to note about the game, from my perspective as a game idea thief:
  • Just like with Ratchet & Clank, blowing things up (and tons of things can be blown up!) results in a huge shower of money items you get to wade through and watch them add up. Very satisfying.
  • Reuse of levels - There are 18 levels that take you through the story of the 3 movies (the 3 that came out first, not the 3 that ruined the very concept of moving pictures). To fit the story, each one makes you play as certain characters. But then you can Free Play each level also, which lets you use anybody you want, and you can get to many places you couldn't in Story mode. It's fun (and economical for the developer!) to see the same place again and get to know it, while expanding on it and finding new facets like the Stormtrooper bathing area. Then they get reused again for special Bounty Hunter missions where you just need to find where someone is hiding. The fact that you have gotten to know the layout is very helpful at this point!
  • It really goes without saying that having hundreds of things to unlock and buy makes me happy. One of the most fun ones here is that you can buy cheats, and when you finally get to afford the useful ones (my favorites are the ones that multiply the money you make...), you are much more powerful, so it's a sideways version of leveling up. And everybody knows I love to level up! The basic game here is trivially easy (like I said above, you literally can't lose), but the goals are set up such that actually earning things isn't. To earn the secret stuff, you need to finish each level with a certain amount of money (among about 12 other sources of secret stuff), and you lose money when you die.
  • Huge variety of characters is fun. A lot of them share abilities, and probably 2/3 of them are plain old "blaster people". But there's a lot of fun to it anyway, and plenty of unique stuff to be found in between, from lightsabers to jetpacks and bombs, to the Imperial Spy that has no attacks and can only chirp into a walkie talkie. You can also build your own character, and which parts you make it out of determines which of the abilities it has.
  • Not something I could steal, but it's really cool that the Lego things the characters build are completely real. You can actually watch every single piece go into place, and if you own the right pieces, you could duplicate them exactly.
Oh, and remember that scene in Empire Strikes Back when Yoda rides around on a tractor, and then they stuff a motorcycle into a washing machine and make it explode, entirely with their minds? I don't either, but it must have been in there, because it's in the game.
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Cookie Party04:09 AM -- Fri January 18, 2008

A bunch of add-on worlds stacked up around here! I was busy doing stuff in town today, but tomorrow I'm gonna get this stuff up. There are a couple I'm not allowed to put up for reasons you will learn at a later date, but aside from them, we've got 3 Supreme worlds and an LL2 adventure, so it's rolling.

After yesterday's rant, it occurred to me that there's no particular reason to make this whole internet-focused gaming be in the future. So I'm thinking about how I could make AoB3 be internet-based. I haven't actually worked out what I would do there, just kind of bounced some ideas around while doing other stuff. It doesn't have a wide variety of items like an RPG does (like Loonyland 2), which kind of knocks out the most interesting and biggest purpose for connectivity - item trading. Still, there are a few different things, so I have to think about that stuff. I'm even considering adding an element of equipment (different shirts/pants/whatever that boost various stats) just so that there's a reason for it.

Anyway, that's just random brain blips, not serious design underway. Updates to come in the future if I do pursue that!
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Piracy Thoughts05:41 PM -- Wed January 16, 2008

As someone who pays the mortgage by selling digital creations, piracy is something I need to think about at times. Mostly, I ignore it, as my philosophy is that it's more important to do good things to the people who pay me money than it is to do bad things to the ones who don't (as in, I don't use nasty copy-protection systems because they are a royal pain for the legitimate purchaser, and nothing more than a bit o' fun for the hacker). As the internet expands, and people become more computer-savvy, piracy is only getting worse. I'm in favor of more knowledge, I just wish it came with scruples. It makes me very angry how zero-priority this enormous, massively income-destroying, issue is with politicians and the media. If they talked about it, people might actually find out that it's illegal and immoral. I honestly believe that a very large percentage of the human race really thinks there's nothing wrong with it. They don't even know that it's illegal! And then we've got people like the RIAA on "our side", which just makes people want to pirate more (hard to blame them on that one).

So in general, these things kind of devolve into a big argument between two sides that will never agree on even the tiniest point. It's all totally pointless. So let me throw down something I came up with to continue the pointlessness. If you wish to argue this in the comments, enjoy, because I'm not going to argue back. I just want to put this theory out there because it occurred to me one day on the toilet, where many things occur to me, and I realized I'd never heard it expressed by anyone before. Here it goes:

One of the arguments that pirates use is that it's nothing like stealing. When you steal, you deprive someone of something in addition to enriching yourself. There's a victim, who either must replace the lost item, deal with insurance, or suffer whatever detriment they face by not having it. This, however, is not a valid argument. They don't agree that you are depriving the creator of profit, usually because "hey, I wasn't gonna buy it anyway!" I realize copyright infringement isn't theft under any legal system in the world, it's a different crime. But it is almost exactly the same as one type of theft, and I never hear this said.

Think of shoplifting. When you take an iPod from a store without paying for it, what has happened? The store did not lose the use of the iPod - they never used it in the first place. It was just one item sitting on the shelf among many other iPods. Does the store have to replace the missing iPod? Not really. There are dozens more on the shelf, and another hundred in the back room. When those run out, they call up Apple and order a hundred more, at wholesale prices. As far as anyone can reasonably consider it, there is an unlimited supply of iPods in the world. Yes, they do take resources to make, so there is a limit, but that limit is so astronomical that we could give iPods to everyone on Earth, and other than Apple suffering a massive monetary loss, there'd be virtually no impact to our planet at all. As far as the store is concerned, an iPod is just a line item on a database of what they sell. It's just a teeny tiny factor in their quarterly profit/loss statement.

So what did the store lose when you walked out with their iPod? Potential profit. All stores factor a certain amount of shoplifting into their prices, and they really are not fazed when it happens. You haven't taken anything from them but an infinitesimal bit of a percentage point off of their profits.

In fact, there's a very clear case for the fact that shoplifting something, even a huge-ticket item like a riding lawnmower (fit that under your sweater!), from Wal-Mart is going to impact them to a massively smaller degree than pirating one copy of my game from me. A quick Google shows me $11B in yearly profit at Wal-Mart. If you take an iPod that they could've made $100 profit on, you have dropped their income by ... well, the calculator is giving it to me in scientific notation, so I have to translate it... hmm. Math is hard. 0.000000009%, I think (9.09x10^-9). I may be off by a factor of ten, but obviously it doesn't matter. Steal a $29.95 game called Supreme With Cheese from me (how could you?!), and you would drop my income by around 0.001%. That sounds very low I imagine, but that's just one theft in an entire year, and obviously lots of people are doing it. Compare it to Wal-Mart and you find that it hurts me about 100,000 times more than your much bigger (and 'real') theft from Wal-Mart did.

So the thrust of the point I'm making is that shoplifting is effectively exactly the same as software piracy. You're not really depriving anyone of anything, you're just cutting into their profit. There is a tangible difference, but it's so minute as to be meaningless. The supply of goods to a retail store is effectively just as limitless as the supply of digital bits when you copy software. And since shoplifting is theft, it is fair to say the difference between software piracy and theft is so minute as to be meaningless.

Anyway, you'll definitely be seeing "internet-enabled" games from me in the eventual future. Not necessarily ones you play over the internet, but ones that hook into the internet for a lot of things - chatting, saving your character (that'll be nice - download the game and play it anywhere with your same character, never lose it), trading items with others, downloading new levels, and so on. When a game requires stuff from the internet to run, it can't be pirated in any reasonable fashion. And that's what the pirates have driven us all to. On the plus side, those are awesome and fun features. On the minus side, you won't be able to play the game when offline, and if the company that made it disappears, the game is dead. Kind of ironic, really - because the pirates insist that digital goods aren't real and tangible and can't be owned, they've forced developers to actually make them less tangible. Eventually, every game will be a service rather than a product. When the service goes down, the money you spent on the game is gone.

And just for the record, Hamumu Software will be around FOREVER!!!
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Rise Up, Proletariat!!12:39 AM -- Tue January 15, 2008

I'm seeing Adventures Of Bouapha 3 more and more as a game that lets you roam around inside the collective imaginings of the always strange Hamumu fan club. It started with the Architecture Funtest, but more and more I see opportunities and am thinking of ideas that would let the game incorporate the creations of the peopleses.

Two come to mind that I have been thinking about. Before I mention them, I will have to boldly proclaim: I am not requesting these things! Do not create them, do not send them to me! I don't want people to waste a bunch of time making something that I don't actually decide to include. These are just possibilities, so if you are interesting in making them, keep an eye on the forum as usual for more Funtest announcements. Anyway, here are the ideas I've had:

* DUMB FM - Any time you hop into a car, you'd be listening the only radio station in this town, KDMB or Dumb FM. This is my favorite idea, because it would just be tons of fun for everyone - you guys would create anything you want in audio form, send it to me, and it would be added to the random rotation on that radio. Presumably, we'd end up with at least a couple of hours worth of radio, and the player would always be surprised by new things as it randomly shuffled through them. You could write songs, just hum something stupid, tell a joke, perform a radio play, make a spoof ad for a product... I don't know what else, anything that can be expressed via sound!

* The Bookstore - We've done an art gallery, in Supreme. That could also be included here, but the idea I had today that would be fun is a bookstore. You would write very very short stories (things that could fit on a single "Computer" mode Supreme screen, though I would present them on a more book-like display), and the player could buy these 'books' at the bookstore, then read them from the pause menu at their leisure. Just a huge collection of presumably silly fiction.

Dumb FM is something I'm pretty sure I will do, but I'm not worrying about it yet, and neither should you, as I boldly proclaimed above. The bookstore is a possibility, as an art gallery would be. What other kinds of things could people create for this world? There may be a house the player can buy, and I might let people create furniture for it that the player could buy to decorate with.

Basically, the whole game is one big playground, and I have hundreds of goofy ideas to include. They obviously can't all go in, especially if I intend to ever release it, but I'm having a lot of fun making up the different ideas.
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T.A.G. Trophy06:07 PM -- Sun January 13, 2008

Yesterday, I saw the first T.A.G. entry that I not only liked, but which I was just plainly amazed by. So I just wanted to use this space to give big credit to Zelamonster, for "Rimmer: Incompetent, Ugly Hardlight Hologram." Granted, if you don't know Red Dwarf, it means nothing (which explains why it only got 3 votes), but if you do, it's just amazingly perfect. Go Zelamonster!

Also, in a related note, someone else put a very bad word into DumbWords yesterday, and so I have at last implemented the feature of not letting banned people play. He wasn't banned when he entered it, but he sure is now! Let's try to remember what "family friendly" means.
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Cruisin'02:06 AM -- Fri January 11, 2008

Because cars are a huge component of this game, that's what I worked on today. I didn't get far with it, but you can now drive a test car (you can't get out of it, but who needs that?). Getting the driving to feel fun and comfortable and realistic is going to be a big job. Right now it's pretty bad. The current control scheme is that the car steers toward wherever the mouse cursor is, and the left mouse button is the gas pedal. It's very easy to go where you want, but it's a little too easy, and there's really no place for a brake pedal (the right mouse button is fire - not that you're allowed to fire while driving... usually). Plus, I still don't know how I will implement braking - it would be SO nice to have some kind of drifting, as opposed to just perfect speed-up/slow-down control.

I may have to look up the multitudes and millions of car simulation articles on the web and see what they say. I definitely don't want this to be anything like the You-go - you may end up spending half of your time in this game driving around, so it better feel fun!

Oh, one other thing I've done for it so far is make the camera look far ahead of you if you are driving. It's still the same as normal when on foot, but when driving, you see almost the full screen ahead of you. I may make that adjust based on speed - it would sure be nice if you could see behind you when going in reverse! Of course, first I need to find some way to let you go in reverse.

That's the sticking point right now - I think the best scheme would be "steers toward the cursor, up arrow=gas, down arrow=brakes". But by choosing that scheme, I'm throwing out my original plan, which was that it would be possible to play the game entirely with the mouse. If you ignore cars, you currently can - left click means "move here" and right click is fire. It plays much better if you move with the arrow keys and aim and shoot with the mouse, but it is playable (and not bad) with just the mouse.

On top of that, steering toward the cursor doesn't feel right either. It's just too easy. In a real car, you pull the wheel left until you're pointed where you want, then center it, and there's a skill to only turning it as much as needed. With "point n' drive", you just say "I wanna go that way!" and it works. That's why I have also considered left/right arrows=turn, up=gas, down=brake (no mouse involved!). I haven't actually tried that out, but I'm really afraid it will be hard to control and confusing when you are going any direction but up. If you are facing downward, pressing left would turn you to the right of the screen. How confusing is that? People have difficulty controlling radio-controlled cars that are heading towards them, and this is that same problem.

So this is a big issue, with a lot to work out. It would be nice if I could just make the screen turn, so you were always driving upwards (that would even make "point n' drive" require some skill, since where you were pointing to would be constantly changing!). But I can't do that, with the fake 3D nature of the buildings and all that. I have considered the prospect of getting really crazy with that and doing something real 3D, but I don't really want to spend the next year and a half just getting this game to the rough prototype stage.

Maybe I'll google up some top-down Flash driving games!
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Technoguts04:07 AM -- Thu January 10, 2008

Well, I can't say a lot was accomplished today, but one major feat was. I decided step 1 of actual development (not counting all the steps I did before Christmas vacation) would be something new and exciting. I dug through the tangled web of code and found all the mentions of 640 - all of which should have been constants anyway - and changed them to the constant SCRWID. Similarly, 480 became SCRHEI. I also had a lot of 639s and 479s to deal with, and even a couple of 637s. But I think I found them all, because I then changed the value of SCRWID to 800 and SCRHEI to 600, and after a few minor mishaps, the game is up and running perfectly smoothly in 800x600 resolution.

I tried this experiment once before with Loonyland (when I made the big patch that added 10 new badges and Remix mode). I ended up undoing it just because the original game was designed to be 640x480, so raising the resolution just let you see too far in places where you weren't supposed to. And the little cabin levels which were 20x20 wouldn't even fill the whole screen! But this is a new game, so I am free to start it out how I like. And how I like is for everything to be smaller, and for you to see further! It's definitely going to be a distinct improvement. And it makes the graphics appear to be better, since the pixels are smaller.

It's especially going to help when you are driving all the different cars around.
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WoW, indeed03:13 AM -- Wed January 9, 2008

Today is a landmark day! It's when all of my WoW characters were level 24 at the exact same time. But then I played one of them a bit more, and he's 25 now.

Why did this landmark happen today? Because of all the crazy ideas surrounding Adventures Of Bouapha 3. It's clear that this is going to be a Big Game. Not some quick thing of a couple months, but a serious project that spans hopefully less than a year, fingers crossed. I picture it being a great game and in the top of Hamumu fandom (below Supreme, as usual), but I dread the long road ahead. Maybe we can trim it down to a six-monther? I don't know what will happen. That's the magic of self-employment. Freedom and mayhem.

So back to the original question, why did that make the WoW landmark happen? Well, when a game is in the very first stages of development, it's all ideas floating around in the ether. Then, those ideas need to hit the metal and become actual content. That is the exact point I am at now. Figuring out what to do first, and what needs to be done before other things. That's a very complex job with no real answers, so I set it aside and play games. I just constantly think about it for a few days. I've already worked out a bunch of the details of how things will be, but I haven't quite hit the fulcrum point yet, the spot where it snaps into place and I know where to begin. It's not just gaming, though. I toss and turn in bed, have trouble falling asleep and wake up early. I zone out while I think I'm watching TV. I walk around the yard looking at nothing. All of it is a part of an intense process of deciding how to turn the ideas into reality - and of course how to compromise the ideas so they can fit into reality. I've also done a bunch of typing to get the ideas down so I have something concrete to work from. I've even been sketching out a map.

So that is why I played many hours of WoW today. Not because I'm lazy! I was thinking.

This is where my progress stands now: I have solved the problem of how to create a giant city. I'm just going to break it into Districts, which are each a level, connected to each other by roads. It's going to be a little more seamless than my usual games - I'm getting rid of the fade-in/fade-out, just having an instant cut. It'll still be a cut, not a smooth scroll, but that's the compromise. I certainly could do a big thing with maps loading on the fly and scrolling together, but that's just a lot more trouble than I need. So now I'm stuck at the point of what to do. There's miles of content I could be creating, but that involves turning on my other computer, and that's no fun at all. Man, I hate Vista.
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Back To Work!12:49 AM -- Tue January 8, 2008

Well, the vacation's basically over. And as a result, you get a new Supreme add-on (okay, thank Hammer Up! and WTG for that, but I did upload it...), a Funtest, and a newsletter (finally, a mere week late). So there's a bunch going on! And through it all I've managed to avoid actually doing anything on my game. But that's life.

The vacation was good for my brain. I came up with a whole new concept for the Adventure Of Bouapha I'm working on. Not anything that changes what I have done, or even changes anything particular that I had planned. Just a fun overall framework sort of thing.

Well, let me just say it - our houseguest played Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for many many hours, and watching that was inspiring. No, beating people to death with a baseball bat and then running over the corpse will probably not be included (hmm, have to consider that), but the free-roaming city is what I'm thinking about, along with the hundreds of little challenges scattered around. More on that as it develops. I'm also playing Lego Star Wars 2, which has other aspects of inspiration. But both focus on one key thing: lots of hidden stuff to find! So it should be fun.

The Funtest we're having relates to this idea. To properly do this, I'll need a whole lot of city to roam, so I need help creating it. And I like the idea that you'll be able to go around and see everybody's house and creations. That in itself will be one of the hidden fun things, just exploring and seeing what kind of things everyone has done (and finding where your own house ended up!).
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Ya Gotta Break Some Eggs04:57 AM -- Mon January 7, 2008

Well, I managed to destroy the Supreme score and time databases. I ended up crossing up some scores, so I had to just clear the entire database, since otherwise some unattainable scores would be locked in (I knew something was amiss when 1st place had 250,000 points, and second place had 1000). I'm asking the server guys to restore it from a backup now, something they've done for me before, so it should be no problemo!

The good side of this is that after extensive self-depilation and cranium-to-table interaction, I discovered what the most recent problem with the Supreme scores was, and fixed it. Or at least, I think I fixed it. We'll see! It was amazingly hard to discover. For some reason, the level names now contain a carriage return on the end, and you would be amazed how few methods of viewing data can actually show you a carriage return at the end of a data field. It actually ended up taking a CSV export of the data and then hex-editing the CSV file to see it (couldn't even see it reading the CSV!). And if you don't know what I mean, let's just say it was well hidden.

I'm not sure when that character appeared... it's a recent phenomenon though! Something to do with Vista? Something to do with upgrading my FTP program? Something on the server? Don't axe me, sir. The mysteries of technology.
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Lazy Day06:27 AM -- Sun January 6, 2008

Well, it's a Saturday, and it was pouring rain all day. So my accomplishment list for the day includes: a couple hours of WoW, a little Half-Life 2 (I'm up to Episode 2, which is definitely the best, since it finally has achievements in it. I've been carefully hauling a garden gnome with me for the entire game just to earn one), a trip to the post office (after discovering my car battery had died), and a little Lego building, since the post office contained my new train! I believe I also did some eating and sitting. There were TV shows as well.

Oh, I did do some work-related items! When I went to the post office, I mailed CDs that had been ordered. Also, I did some testing of an absurdly horrifying world that WTG was afraid of (hint: jumping over water in a you-go... but not in the dark!). Not that it was a badly made world, just impossible. I think I came up with a very simple fix that will make this world quite playable. And I answered some emails, read the forum, and chatted in the chat room.

Hey, it's the weekend, that's what happens. I am off-duty on weekends. But it's not usually this ridiculous. We have a houseguest for the next week (and the past one, so be impressed with the things I've gotten done!), so nothing is very organized or professional around here until that's done. You know how that goes!
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Lego My Legos02:20 AM -- Sat January 5, 2008

The "big present" I got this Christmas (I got lots of great stuff, by the way, mostly DVDs) was something perhaps a bit embarrassing for an elderly gent such as myself, but I announce it anyway! It was a Lego train set and a bunch of extra tracks for it, and a train station.

I was supposed to also get Rock Band as my other really big present, but it is unfindable for PS2 these days (except for the version that comes with no instruments, and that doesn't do me much good!). So I spent the relative money involved, and maybe a bit of Christmas money, on more Lego trains! Those are awaiting me in my PO box at this very moment. Too bad it's too late to pick them up.

I've got it all set up in our 'retreat' (a small room that has no real purpose, off of our bedroom). I had tons of legos in my youth, so I am using those to build stuff - houses, stores, cars, etc. It's going to be a whole little tiny wonderland. I've taken pictures of it so far, and I'll get more as it builds up. I want to capture the process as the city slowly expands. I want to get set up to build a nifty timelapse video of it going up.


That's the first shot! It's actually got a building added on to that now, but I haven't taken a picture yet. As you can see, it is constructed on delightful foam jigsaw pieces. We got those years ago, and they are a nice surface for exercising, or as we see here, legos. My second train will add a bunch more tracks, so I'll have to find a way to work those in. Wish I had more space! Also, you can see assorted ground plates scattered around. I just dug them out for future use.

See, I've always wanted lego trains, since I was maybe 12 and they were only available in Europe. I always thought train sets were really cool, something about all the miniature stuff. A Lego train set is ten times as good, because you can rearrange it freely and don't need all kinds of expensive paint and bits from the hobby shop. On top of that life-long interest, I also wanted something simple, creative, yet brainless, so I could just zone out when I am totally tired of work for the day, but my wife still isn't home to entertain me. So this is my new hobby! I'm pretty excited about it, however dorky you want to call me. It really fills a specific need I've had that to date has left me sitting there browsing around the web for hours at a time, not actually doing anything of interest, and ruining my eyes and spine.

I don't expect to be cranking out the city rapidly, but it's nice to have it sitting around whenever I feel like messing with it.
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Jack's Shack06:29 AM -- Fri January 4, 2008

I went to see the setting of Short Fuse live and in person today! A bit late for background research, I suppose. We took a hike way up into the hills with a friend of ours who knew where we were going, and checked out an abandoned mine shaft and a shack that belonged to... well, somebody at some point. A miner? It didn't look that old! It did have creepy clown paintings in it, though. Anyway, we didn't get to go in the mine, given that it was a 20 foot drop straight down with a rickety ladder built a hundred years ago, but we looked in. It was a good hike. There was also a spot we saw, quite a ways away from the mine entrance, where a cave-in had obviously happened. That was kind of cool, just to imagine how much of the area under there was lined with tunnels. It's like ants.

I still need to put out a newsletter, but I did get the latest Supreme Add-on up, unannounced. WW6-LM, feel free to grab it. Newsletter tomorrow though. Hiking is very tiring. Good night!
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Short Fuse Enhanced Edition!12:46 AM -- Thu January 3, 2008

I've finally finished the upgraded version of Short Fuse. It's not a huge overhaul, but the editor is dramatically improved. In addition, there are a bunch of new game elements, and 5 new levels to use those elements:
  • Keys & Doors - As you can imagine, you need the keys to open the doors.
  • Heartbreakers - Don't touch them! If you get one, your multiplier drops to zero, meaning no more points for you for the rest of the level.
  • Rockets & Targets - My personal favorite. When you light them, they launch off and hit the nearest Target, exploding.
  • Teleporters - A little more interesting than in most games, simply due to the rules of this game. See the new level Resumption to understand why it's interesting.
So that's what I spent my day doing! I also have finished testing a late WW6 world at last, and should have that and a newsletter for you tomorrow! Enjoy! And make me some new levels!

P.S. I resubscribed to WoW on New Year's Eve. Goodbye cruel world!
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2008 Hamumu Planumu05:56 PM -- Tue January 1, 2008

Well, looking ahead to the future, things are always a bit hazy. It's all guesswork and hopes. But the very act of writing this will have some hand in determining that future. I'll be sure to bookmark this entry so I can refer to it and see what I was supposed to have accomplished when I'm wandering around doing nothing.

Major Releases
  • Adventures Of Bouapha 3: ??? - Coming soonish.
  • Loonyland: Titan Tunnels - I still want to do this, but we'll really have to see. I left the code in complete disarray when I turned to other, more urgent, projects, so I may be stuck when I go back to it. When something is completely torn to shreds like that, I'm mentally holding up the various pieces in my mind, and taking on other projects lets them drop back into a jumbled mess. I think it's not as bad all that, though. I'll have to see.
  • Another Smallish Game - Like Sleepless Hollow. I don't know what, I don't know when, I just think there really ought to be one! I had huge fun making that, and it only took a couple of months, and it's provided a lot of joy (and frustration) and proved very popular. Maybe this could be a Sol Hunt game. Those always get finished, right?
Minor Releases
  • Another 48-Hour Game in April - The next Ludum Dare contest is in April, so I should hopefully have another little mini game for you then!
  • Another one! - There will likely be another Ludum Dare contest later in the year too, like this one we just had in December, so that makes 2 such gamelets.
  • 3 More Webgames - I like having the webgames. They keep people coming back and provide an automated way for people to have fun and accumulate Yerfbucks. I know exactly what I want to do for the next one (you might be able to guess what it is if you own a Wii), and then there should be 2 more in this coming year. I don't know what they'll be about, but surely they will entertain!
  • Avatar Bits! - Hundreds of them!
  • Custom Title Changes - As was written in the scrolls of eld, someday you'll finally be able to buy title changes in the Yerfshop.
  • Something Else In The Yerfshop - Something other than avatar bits and custom titles should be buyable in the Yerfshop. More stuff to spend your Yerfbucks on is a good thing.
  • T-Shirts - It's really way past about time for there to be Hamumu t-shirts. This is something that just keeps hopping onto that back burner and getting burned up. But in 2008? Maybe! Sorta maybe. Honestly, I'd just like to have some for myself!
Other Stuff To Do
  • Daily Journal - I need to get down to putting something in this Journal every day. We can call that one a New Year's Resolution, but that just makes it sound scary. It won't be too boring, there really is new stuff worth mentioning almost every day. I am just a lazy old man.
  • Finish This Stupid Site! - There are still things on the site that just aren't done. Fan Art page needs integration into Dumb Accounts (and lots of fan art is unposted still), My Downloads is still not running (that's 99% done, I really just have to test it and upload it), and other little issues.
  • Integration - Working on code to allow future games to really tightly integrate with Dumb Accounts. That in-game chat I've talked about, progress stored on the server, achievements on the Dumb Page, and so on. Not much retroactive, though. The older games will just suffer.
Pipe Dreams
  • A Musical - It's still my dream to release a game that's a musical. It's just got to happen someday!
  • The Loonyland Series and Adventures Of Bouapha - The entire mythology of Loonyland is written. It's all worked out, it's got more twists than your large intestine, and it's awesome. Now all I have to do is make the 4 or 5 games that make it happen. Huge games. Sigh. But I mentioned the other one because I have figured out what the last Adventure Of Bouapha will be (the name, by the way, is "Final Exam", so don't say I never tell you anything), and it's going to also fit into the Loonyland series, tying the two together. It should come out just before the last Loonyland game. The last Loonyland game (which also has a title, and I'm not telling you!) will completely wrap up the entire saga of Bouapha, Dr. Lunatic, and Happy Stick in a perfect bow. When you finish that game, you'll be able to look back and see how everything fits together from the very beginning. It will be my crowning achievement!! You will weep! So that'll be coming out in 2044.
  • Ichabod Steamshovel: Mythchaser - Writing comics for this guy got me very interested in his character and what he does. I want to someday make him a series of games. They'd be very different - all about going around and finding clues and taking pictures to, of course, chase myths! There's no fighting, just a lot of photography, sneaking, and using various high-tech devices. The idea is quite compelling, though it is nothing more than an idea at this time.
  • An MMORPG - Hey, who doesn't want to make one of those?
So there you have it. Everything I plan to do, everything I hope to do, and a bunch of things I have no intention of doing this year, but like to think about. We'll see what actually happens, won't we?
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2007 Hamumu Reviewmu05:01 PM -- Tue January 1, 2008

Like everybody, I think it's a good idea to do a wrap-up now, and after this, I'll post a look to the year ahead. So let's see what happened this year...

A lot, actually! Much more than usual. The year began with the official release of Loonyland 2 in February, though many many people were already playing the beta version which released in December 2006. That was my first foray into allowing people to buy a beta game. I think it works well for both sides - I get paid sooner, you get a game sooner, I get free testing and lots of it (thanks!), you get input into the finished product. That seemed to be a big hit, so I guess I'll be doing that more in the future!

A couple of months later (in May) saw the release of the Loonyland 2: Collector's Edition, my first experience doing commentary. That was a lot of fun all around, and people do seem to like it!

Then the middle of the year was very quiet. I spent almost all of it working on the new website and Dumb Accounts. I was also clicking away at Loonyland: Titan Tunnels, but not a lot of progress actually occurred.

Then, blammo! The end of the year came! In rapid succession, we had the new website arrive, the release of Sleepless Hollow (I began working on that at the end of August in secret, deciding that for once, I needed to successfully create a Halloween surprise), the release of DumbWords, and the release of T.A.G., and the release of Short Fuse (well, not entirely released yet, but you can play it). We also had The Best Halloween Ever, which indeed was pretty best.

Other highlights of the year:
  • Loonyland 2 and NPC Quest both mentioned in Games For Windows magazine
  • many glowing LL2 reviews around the web
  • Summer Silliness, Halloween Horror, and Winter Wackiness as usual (still count as highlights!)
  • Switching to 'glorious' satellite internet here at the Hamumu HQ... well, it's vastly superior to dialup as long as I'm not gaming on it, anyway.
  • The scary California wildfires which we got to find an alternate backwoods way to drive around when we returned from a trip. Within hours after we got home, we learned that the roads we took were no longer open!
  • Netflix's new Watch Instantly online feature... it may not mean anything to you, but it's been awesome for me!
  • A trip to the emergency room for a fainting spell brought on by the most intense back pain ever, followed by a month of physical therapy and another month of just plain recovering. Maybe we'll say this is highlights & lowlights. Memorable moments.
  • My wife's launch of her own business, Escuela Del Sol (after-school tutoring - I helped on the website!). I absolutely love that she is also doing her own thing. I believe everybody should run their own business, and we can all buy indie things from each other! Down with big corporations!
That's really all there is to 2007. More releases than I can recall of any previous year, and some of our best games ever. A whole new website paradigm, and as you can see with Sleepless Hollow, gradually more website integration going on. Future games will do even better with that. And now that I've played Steam games, I've got more ideas on how to swing that (without being as annoying and intrusive as Steam is...). Now I just need to get an XBox 360 to see what Live achievements are like too! It's research, people!

I'm calling 2007 our best year yet, so we'll have to figure out how to top that. I've got ideas. See the next journal entry!
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