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And real work too!01:38 AM -- Mon February 27, 2012

Today I really focused on getting the game balance up and working for the first level, and fixing up other minor things. But there's a bunch of stuff you haven't seen in this picture, eh? The cursor is on the game speed slider, where you can speed things up when you get bored.

This is the official first level, and it's good now. Nice and easy, but you do have to actually spend the money you get to win it (well, some of it anyway). I need to start getting into the 'serious' levels, so I can see how balance is when I'm not trying to make it super easy.

In addition to that, for those who missed it, I've made four games for you to enjoy! I'm actually proud of how two of them turned out, and it's not the two you might think (hint: what I'm proud of is the game balance and reasonable tuning of challenge and high score opportunities, not the polish or anything like that). Someday soon I'll get around to hosting them properly up on this site, maybe in a new "Stupid Games" section or something, but here they are:

- Prickly Party - It's Prickly Porcupine's birthday party, so celebrate in style, but don't sink into the depths of despair!

- Best Game Ever 2012 - The name really says it all, but this was inspired by Bowserfan saying he thought I should make a game featuring an actual "pirate kart".

- EAT FOOD super deluxe - Another one with a carefully honed name. You may find extra challenge in this game that wasn't really meant to be there, but it's part of the fun. Which object is flashing isn't random, and you can win via skill.

- Mega Giraffe Rampage 5000 - Is Terry a giraffe or a weed whacker? Why can't he be both!?
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The 2012-in-1 GDC Pirate Kart03:42 PM -- Sat February 25, 2012

I don't even know if that's the official proper name, it's got so many. Today, I am going to waste my time making 2-hour-max video games! You could do it too! Not just today, of course, but that's when I'm gonna be doing it. What is it? It's the Pirate Kart! Crappy games, and lots and lots of them!

I don't know if I know how to do this right, but it will be a fun experiment in freeing my mind. I will be livestreaming my attempts for a good chunk of the day at Livestream.com/hamumu. Even if I'm not, you'll have the pleasure of seeing Behind The Dumb play there! How exciting is that?

So I have one game idea, and I think I will get started on that. You can suggest others in the livestream chat as we go!
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Tweaky Bits02:56 AM -- Thu February 23, 2012

It's the little things! Not that I worked all day today, but during the portion of the day that I did work on Scout Camp, I was hacking away at assorted little bits. I added cacti and rocks that can make places unusable for building towers, I implemented slowing shots, and I added the ability to control the speed of the game. Well, you can do that by holding a key, I haven't made the UI for it. I thought I had done more than that, but I guess I just spent a while trapped in the world of minor bug fixes! Which is where about 2/3 of development time is always spent. Oh, I also built what is presumably the official map for the first level, a super simple straight line.

And if that's not exciting enough for you, I can also tell you that Gobbluth, my Goblin Warlock, is now my 6th level 85 character! He was the last of the ones that were really close, but there's an 82 and 81 I could be working on if I felt like it. I'm more interested in some of my lesser guys really. Always a good time, though.

So that's all the info you get from me today. My mind is floating away to other places!
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Maps, Wait, They Don't Love You Like I Love You!06:58 PM -- Tue February 21, 2012

(Without googling, does anybody know what I'm doing there?)

It's the level select map! This is a work in progress. And of course it'll have a trail of dots and X's going across it to indicate the levels. The game takes place in Great Big Hole National Park (motto: "That is a really big hole!"), and so this is kind of like the map the rangers hand out which shows landmarks and stuff. I hope to have it all implemented today with the X's appearing for the levels and whatnot. Should be pretty easy, I imagine.
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Everybody Loves Skills!12:47 AM -- Mon February 20, 2012

And by everybody, I mean me. Passionately. These are the four skill trees of the scout camp game. I don't think they'll have visible names, but just as a secret for you, the trees are actually named Rock, Snow, Thunder, and Roll. Yes, Roll. That might be one reason I'm not having the game display the names.

In case you couldn't guess it, only the first tree is set up, and yes, the skills will not all have the same icon when they're done!
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TV Recommendation03:49 AM -- Thu February 16, 2012

I've started watching Prototype This on Netflix. It's very much in the vein of Mythbusters, but instead of testing myths, they arbitrarily assign themselves a random ridiculous product to build a prototype of in 2 weeks. The first episode was giant robots that box each other a la Rock Em Sock Em Robots, but you control them by doing boxing motions (like a Kinect game). The second was a truck that could drive over other cars and parallel park itself robotically, and even parallel park over other cars. That's how much I've seen, but I am intrigued for more. It lacks a lot of the charisma of Mythbusters, and most of the science value, but it's very fun to see what they can do.

Now, the ethos and feel of the show is very much a Ludum Dare kind of vibe. The way they run into problems that set them back and then they have to fix it or just scrap what they're doing and try a whole new approach is exactly the feel of being in an LD contest. The 2-week deadline looks about as tight as an LD48 48-hour deadline, in relation to what they have to do (not a lot of welding involved in game programming). And at the heart of it, it's all the same thing as LD: they're making something ridiculous to have a little fun, and to give other people some fun, and it doesn't have to be great, it just has to work.

So I recommend it for the entertainment value, but I really recommend it if you are into the "game jam" thing. It's pretty much what a game jam TV show would be, except that they have more interesting stuff to show than just programming and drawing. They have welding! Of course, they also do a lot of programming, because the stuff they build has robotic elements. They don't show that though. But they actually acknowledge its existence and vaguely reference that it's happening, which is more than any other show will do!

Update: I started episode 3. It's a Pee-Wee-Hermanesque pod to sleep in, then wake up, shower, eat, and see the news before you exit it.
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Snowy Morn02:44 AM -- Wed February 15, 2012

Inspired by waking up to a yard sprinkled with snow*, I've added the Snow Fort to the game! However, it currently throws rocks just like the Rock Tower. And I've added tooltips (all numbers are just randomly made up and have no bearing on what will be in there once I'm actually balancing things). That's about it. Not a lot going on today. A new tower should be kind of a big deal, but honestly it was about 20 minutes of work. It'll be more than that when I get into the actual snowball part where enemies have to be slowed down. They currently don't know how to be slowed. So that'll be interesting.

The fort, by the way, is actually styrofoam, which is why it doesn't melt. There's a snow-cone maker inside that the scout is using to make his snowballs. That's canonical, but not mentioned in-game. You have to read the accompanying series of novels published by Del Rey Books.

* Not at all true - I just thought of that as I started making this entry. The snow part is true at least, I just was going to make this tower anyway. And to think, it was 70 degrees about 2 days ago.
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Circles Of Various Sizes01:48 AM -- Tue February 14, 2012

Some internal stuff going on mainly... added stats to monsters and towers, which paved the way for upgrading towers, which you sorta see here! That's the upgrade 'menu' - the two smiley face buttons will one day instead display the two advanced tower types that Rock Towers can become.

There's also a big circle showing the range of the tower. These towers just toss rocks horizontally, so they don't really have a big circular range (they can't shoot through walls either). Originally I implemented a thing that actually scanned out for obstacles, showing you a true range (it didn't actually account for the fact that they throw sideways though, just got stopped by walls). But there were several problems with it, to the extent that just scaling a picture of a circle seemed like a much better idea! It's a lot prettier too. It's up to the player to actually look at the terrain and figure out where the rocks can really go.

Currently, upgrading the tower just puts those yellow dots above it, seen on the upper tower. I'd like to have the tower actually get fancier looking, but I suspect I won't be doing that in this game. There are a lot of tower types.
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Squirmy Camp03:05 AM -- Mon February 13, 2012

There's still only one type of tower, but there are two, count em two, kinds of badguys! The Squirmy is the weak, fast badguy to the Beefy's slow and tough. The other new thing is the boxes at the top of the screen. That's the display of the badguy waves. Those boxes slowly inch across the screen, letting you know what's coming up (only two waves in this test level). You can click on a wave to send it immediately if you think you're tough. If there are a whole pile stacked up, you can even send them all at once and get destroyed.

Yep, there are two mouse cursors on the screen! That's thanks to my clever compositing skills.
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Big Cat In My Lap04:59 AM -- Sun February 12, 2012

That's my current status, and also the most interesting thing I can think to tell you. Saturday is of course a day off, and today was spent in maximum chillax mode. I mean way maximum. The TV has not stopped going through various shows on Netflix all day, while I have been in WoW and Batman and eating eating eating. It's very decadent and a little sickening, but we do like to do it once a week. So no, nothing good to tell you. But tomorrow is a work day! I definitely wouldn't have blogged today if people weren't holding me at proverbial gunpoint. Terrible terrible people.

You know, normally I have thoughts I have been thinking and thought I might share, but no thoughts today. Just a kind of boring, relaxed, malaise. I wanted a second paragraph that would turn this nothingness into something profound and wonderful, but I cannot do it. You get nothing, true and pure nothing, the Platonic ideal of nothingness, empty vacuum.

How about a challenge? Why don't you share your big interesting thought in the comments? What philosophy has been running through your mind? Does the refrigerator light really go out when you shut the door? If you prick me, do I not make a sound in the woods? It's clear I'm not thinking, so you should be.
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Why do you make me do it?12:12 AM -- Sat February 11, 2012

Fridays are a day off! I don't have to work today, and I didn't. So what can I tell you? Nothing!!

I baked White Trash Cake today. That's a pretty vulgar name (but I'd like to point out it's also known as "Dump Cake", so really I'm prettying it up), but apparently it's the real official name based on my minimal google efforts. It's so good, and so unhealthy. Wanna know how to make it? One-sentence recipe: pour a can of pie filling (any flavor) in the bottom of a 13x9 pan, sprinkle boxed cake mix over it (not prepared, just the powder), then pour a melted stick of butter over that, trying to get it everywhere, then bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes. Yum! You do want the butter to moisten as much of the mix as possible, or you end up with dry cake dust on top. I ended up sprinkling water on halfway through to try to catch some of that.

Secondary info: I ran a mile and walked another, so that counteracts the cake.

Tertiary info: Yesterday, Barokorcbama followed in Amazinrandi's footsteps and became my fifth level 85 character! Huzzah!

I'm enjoying my day off. I may have eaten too much cake.
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Click To Build11:56 PM -- Thu February 9, 2012

I wouldn't say it's flying along, but this is what you get when you make me blog at you every day! Finally there's some actual menuey stuff in the game. This is the pop-up you get when you click on a blank space (if a tower can be placed there). As you can see, there are four basic tower types, at least at the moment. Next to that is a tower under construction, an animation I quite enjoy, though it doesn't look like much in a still image.

There's a similar pop-up for clicking on an existing tower, which lets you upgrade it or convert it into a fancier tower type. The four basic towers each have two more advanced towers they can become, and upgrading is independent of that. Changing the type just changes what it does, while upgrading is how you make it more powerful. Upgrading is just the classic more damage, faster rate, bigger range thing. The fancier towers are probably inherently more powerful too, since you have to pay to make them happen. I wouldn't know that yet, since there's currently exactly one type of tower!
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Back To Camp!03:18 AM -- Thu February 9, 2012

Look at all that action! There is now a goal (but no way to win or lose). As you can see, the monsters are stealing the food from the camp and carrying it off. If they get back to their dimensional portal (the black smudge on the lower left - it looks a lot more interesting in motion), they zoom away with your food and you are sad. Lose all 5 food items and you lose the battle.

Now you can also see an arrow pointing at the selected Beefy. That's because it means something to select one - You can select one just to check out its health like any tower defense, but the selected enemy also becomes the focus of any tower that's in range to hit it, rather than them automatically aiming at the one closest to the campfire as is normal. Just to spice it up and make it an important bit of gameplay, I might add an actual damage bonus against the selected enemy (and replace the arrow with a skull to make it serious business). To be fair, I'm about 80% sure I've seen this feature in a game I've played, so it's not original. But if I'm wrong, then it is super original! Wow!

Anyway, I can't say I was super productive today, but the good news is that Amazinrandi, my dwarf priest (so named because he looks like James Randi), turned 85 today! Now I have 4 85s, and one more guy within half a level of it. So yeah, a worthwhile day. Good thing I also coded something, or I wouldn't have had anything to blog at you!
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How To Make Games11:59 PM -- Tue February 7, 2012

Uh oh, over 5 journal comments! Yes, it is a tower defense game (not reverse!). I love tower defense!

I got this email yesterday, and I thought I would answer it here, since it's kind of a FAQ of sorts, but a little more broad than that. The gist of it was "I want to be a game designer, so can you tell me how to do that, or talk about how you got where you are?"

The first issue is what it means to be a "game designer". That's a very specific job in the game industry, and you, yes you, aren't going to get to hold that job unless you work for yourself. There are actually a lot of different jobs that are called "game designer", but most of them are very menial and, while they're creative, you are creative over only some small part of the game, and it's not what people think of when they say "I'm designing a game". For example, you might be writing scripts that control how a switch opens a door. It's like programming, but simpler. Or you might be designing levels, similar to what you do in the Dr. Lunatic editor, except that the basic idea and layout of the level is dictated by a senior designer ("This is the snow level, where you snipe at guys and then have to stealth down to the castle and climb up the side of it").

What people really want to be is a senior designer (that is not necessarily the title at every company, but it gets the point across). That's a job that requires lots of experience and proven results to show you're capable of it. That's the job where you get to come up with the game and dictate how it all comes out while peons crank it out for you. ...Except it's not. There is still a whole layer above you that is really in charge. The company president and/or owner meet with marketing guys and decide what kind of game they want, and they turn to you to make their vague concept into a fleshed out design, which you then turn to programmers and artists to make into an actual game. Just another cog in the machine, albeit one with a lot of latitude, hopefully. The boss I worked under at a game company didn't exactly spare the freedom... he liked to be in charge, which meant dictating a lot of details, and I don't think that's rare. After all, he's the boss, it makes sense that he wants to be in charge!

So, what you really want (I'm projecting here, but I think it's statistically likely) is to be the company owner. And how do you get to be one of those? You either A> work for yourself, or B> be a famous pitcher with millions of dollars and pay for an army of employees out of your pocket (Ooh, I played the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning demo, and it was cool!). Since you probably are interested in this stuff because it's what you want to spend your time doing, you shouldn't go the baseball route, and you should work for yourself.

And that's the bottom line. If you want creative freedom, if you want to make the games that you have ideas for, there's only one realistic path: do it yourself. But the good news is that this path is easy! Anybody can do it, you just have to want to do it and put in the effort. The tools are all freely available, and you've got the spare time, so start making games! That's what I did, that's what every other indie you've ever heard of did, and that's what you should do. Just make games.

Now if you want to know how to just make games, that's a much longer discussion that I'm not qualified for. But I can recommend Flash Game Dojo as a way to get started in flash games, which is a nice quick-feedback way to go. You will definitely start out very confused, no matter what tools you start with, but you have to keep hacking at it, making stupid little tiny things, and gradually you'll pick up the good stuff. Back when I started this, it was at least 150,000 times harder than it is today. The tools you have today are unbelievably simplified and accessible, not to mention free and surrounded by a community of users who will help you. Do some googling, you'll be buried in more options to pursue than you have time in your life to try. Back in my day, we had to use paper books to learn things. You'll pick this up no problem if it's really so fascinating to you that you want to spend your spare time fiddling with it.
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Guessing Game!01:20 AM -- Tue February 7, 2012

A screenshot of what I'm currently working on. Your challenge for today is to guess what on earth this game is. Obviously you can't know what it's called (I actually haven't decided that yet anyway), or what the plot is, but what kind of game is it? How does it play? What is going on there? Mysterious!! Actually, this is probably gonna be easy, but let's see what people say.

In other news, I was reading back through really old journal entries today, and I decided I need to blog more! So there's a second challenge for you: From now on (at least for the rest of this month, I may forget this rule later, but hey, you can remind me!), if a journal entry gets comments from 5 different people, I will journal again the next day! I think that's a fun challenge, because it means I get feedback, and it means you get to know what's going on, and it encourages me to do something I should do anyway. See if you can keep me journaling nonstop for the rest of my life!

Rule: Those 5 comments have to be present by the middle-ish of the next day. If you post something akin to "first!" or something otherwise useless or offensive, I will of course delete it like I always do, which means it won't be present! So post constructively.

P.S. Witch Game? is still very much on my mind and I'm really looking forward to getting back to it once I finish up the project pictured above.
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