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  Back To First Principles 07:44 PM -- Mon January 30, 2023  

I have an iterative approach to game development. I begin with an image in my head of what the final game should be, and then I go somewhere completely different. But it's not a bad thing. It can be surprising though! And this game began from day 1 as "the most meta game I could imagine". Exactly what that means and where it comes out is a larger question, and one that I spent some time thinking about recently.

Another fun fact is that I like to design games from the beginning to the end - making the intro experience first before moving on to the later levels. That is generally considered wrong, because the introduction is the first thing the player will encounter, so it should be very well made to draw them in. However, it's also true that the introduction is the simplest part of the game, and later parts will always build on it with more mechanics and characters and whatnot. So that's how I defend my thoughts!

I actually began this game somewhere in the middle, working on the 20 Minutes Till Lunch game mode (and the Bug Queen, who has nothing to do with it!), but after working on the shop, I want to go back and start on the first stuff you'll be doing before you can buy anything. What will that look like?

Well, it's a game mode called To Tory L., and it's focused around a letter to somebody named Tory L., asking for help, and written by none other than this guy:


Who, in case the picture didn't give it away, is trapped inside the Broken Build Simulator! In developing this narrative I'm actually going weirdly deep into my own psyche and getting into the ideas of how I get so obsessed with making games (and moreso making jokes/puns/wordplay. I'm obsessed with how words work). See? META. So right off the bat, your first goal will be to rescue Hamumu from inside his own creation. It's not a parody of anything, just a basic Roguelite. You need to fight a wave of enemies in each little room to open up the doors to any neighboring rooms, and try to find the right room that contains your final boss (but once you do find it, you might want to backtrack and do some extra rooms to level up). It looks something like this:


That's Hamumu, and the dots on his face are supposed to be my tendency to not shave, but they look like acne. I wear glasses now, by the way. Have for a few years (you can just barely tell in the picture of me above). He is playing Marvel Snap on his phone the entire time you're playing this game. Why you play as Hamumu when trying to rescue Hamumu is a bit of a mystery, but it makes sense if you think about it - he's trapped inside the game, therefore he's a character in the game. The gun I'm using in this shot is called "Gun!", and it is my attempt at the most generic possible gun without it being uninteresting. And all those 0's and 1's are Hamumu's special character feature, called Movement Glitch, where enemies that get close to him sometimes get teleported away. His skill tree is themed around bugs in the game and balance updates. So I have to make sure not to have any actual bugs in them, or people will point out the irony and hurt my feelings.

And by the way, I am wearing a Bouapha shirt in that pixel art, and I do still own that shirt for real. Working on this and thinking about it has really broadened my thoughts on what this game is and how it should work. It's going to be ridiculous as you might expect. I can also feel some bigger and stranger ideas just flickering into view in my peripherals, so I'm not sure where this is going, only that it will indeed be ridiculous. And of course, because I'm making it, it's going to be 10x bigger than it should be and take 30x longer.
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  Shopping Y'all 09:39 PM -- Tue January 17, 2023  


Today and yesterday has been some serious shop work in Broken Build Simulator! It looks much nicer in motion than it does here - all those weirdly shaped and broken lines between things (and the gaps where there are no lines between things!) are actually animating in a cool way.

So, as mentioned before, the game is divided up into 'packages' for want of a better term, based around parodying a specific other game. This is the 'lunch' package (a parody of 20 Minutes Till Dawn, highly recommended!). Once you buy the base game mode, you can buy 2 other modified versions of it (10 Minutes Till Lunch, which just a quicker game option; and Endless Hunger which is the traditional endless survival mode), a hero related to the mode, an ability that belongs to the hero (Shell is shown here, just because I haven't made Condiment's ability yet!), and two weapons that are also themed accordingly. In this case, that's the Globlobber (which lobs globs), and the Baguette (which wallops guys, like a real baguette). Then for each weapon, there are 2 of the weapon's upgrades which need to be unlocked (like making the globlobber's globs lob gobs). These are the generally the more exotic things, and often they come with other upgrades as well (for example, increasing how many gobs get lobbed by globs you lob, so that you are lobbing gobs of gobs). And lastly for now, we have those Level+ options. There are 5 for each weapon, and they simply start you with a higher level weapon. This is the compromise - it lets you start your weapons with all 8 upgrade slots, and any further level-ups go directly to more damage.

I'm trying to keep the metaprogress away from direct power increases, so that the game is winnable without them, but that's kind of half-and-half. It is direct power, but a little indirectly? I'm trying to lean away from power, but not avoid it entirely because I enjoy grinding it up! Anyway, we're also going to have difficulty tiers you can buy which will amp up the challenge and you're gonna need those semi-power upgrades to win them!

I'm also thinking of adding alternate skins for each hero (shouldn't Condiment be able to be Mustard or Ketchup?), which wouldn't be a ton of work, but we'll see once I have more important stuff done.

I'm also unsure what exactly you should start the game with... I think I may have to pick one of the parodies to be the one you start with, and that sounds painful. I'm considering just using a tutorial which gives you enough cash to buy your first game mode, but then that brings other questions - what kind of boring hero should you play in a tutorial before you unlock anything fun and flavorful? A Toot Oriole? Kingdom of Loathing invented it first, I'm afraid. And then am I going to have 5 boring themeless weapons available before any modes? You do kind of need some extra weapons to fill out your roster, but I'd like them to be fun... all these early game questions trouble my mind.
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  Skills = Thrills 03:34 PM -- Tue January 10, 2023  

(For me anyway!) The 3rd in-game progression system in Broken Build Simulator is a classic, but not generally present in Roguelite games: a skill tree!

You will select your Hero and Ability before you begin the game (or choose Random for a good time!), and your Hero provides you with the 15 skills in blue here, while your Ability gives you the 5 green skills on the right. I've been showing you The Bug Queen for months now, and it's time we spiced that up, so here is the first new hero (and the one that belongs to 20 Minutes 'Til Lunch, which I am trying to properly fill out), Condiment!



This is actually a character from what I sort of consider to be my first real game, Mucho Kombat, which I made in high school. In case you can't tell, that was a fighting game, and Condiment was just a big green blob with Hamumu eyes. Back in those days, I could create a game and eventually break it in such a way that it was just gone. I couldn't make it work anymore and the game no longer existed, except for any earlier executables I had. Such was the case for Mucho Kombat, which had a roster of probably around 10 characters, with a huge assortment of moves, and massive sprays of blood all across the screen (one of the key selling points to differentiate from Mortal Kombat was that the blood in my game didn't disappear, it stayed for the entire fight!). Also the characters were around 20 pixels tall. It was a tiny game.

But enough nostalgia, Condiment is being reborn in Broken Build Simulator (and he is even less than 20 pixels tall this time...)! Each Hero begins with a unique feature, before you even get to the skill tree. Condiment's feature is that every enemy he kills drops a Pepper on the ground. When you press a certain button, all the Peppers explode at once, so it's like mines you can decide when to detonate.

Heroes effectively have 3 'skill lines', which you can mix and match as you wish. Condiment's 3 lines are Melty Cheese, Nutrients, and Peppers. Like probably every hero, that last skill line is all upgrades to his unique feature. In this case, the peppers can do more damage, ripen over time for increased damage and radius, get picked up by your bullets and carried to detonate on impact, heal you when you touch them, and deal increased damage when you explode more at once. The Nutrients line is a little strange, in that it makes the game harder in some ways. It makes enemies that hit you ("eat you") become Champion enemies, which we haven't discussed, but you've played Diablo, you know how it works! Then it gives you a lot of bonuses when fighting Champions and rewards for beating Champions. The Melty Cheese line is all about a timed buff - every so often, nacho cheese will fall from the sky at a random location and you need to get under it before it hits the ground so it lands on you and makes you stronger for a while. Like real life.

Then of course there is the 4th skill line, which is brought in by whichever ability you equip. I haven't made Condiment his own ability yet, so right now he has Shell equipped, which is The Bug Queen's. It simply makes you invulnerable for a little while, which is always nice. The upgrades for it make it last longer, be usable more often, reflect bullets that hit you, heal you when used, and most fun of all, run over enemies for massive damage while it's active.

So all in all, skill trees are good fun, but you'll certainly explore all they have to offer fairly quickly, unlike the more randomized elements. But you'll still have different options to focus on - do you want to make a cheesy Condiment, or ramp your Peppers up to maximum power? So even once the tree doesn't feel new anymore, it still has a nice purpose - it takes the selection of heroes and multiplies it because you can make variations on the hero.
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  New Year 2023! What's up? 09:07 PM -- Mon January 2, 2023  

It's a new year, and that means the world feels alight with possibility and magic, when actually I'm the same fat lazy clod as always, but I can dream that that will change! Here's the big Hamumu plans for the year, deeply, immensely, inevitably, absolutely subject to change, guaranteed:
  • I will be finishing Broken Build Simulator of course. When exactly is a mystery to all of us. Also, I am thinking I want to try doing Early Access, so it might be soon, but it might also be lame at that time!

  • I just did this one: I swept the Hamumu Halloween Home Horror Hoedown under the rug like the squirmy tentacled beast that it is! Horror movie blog entries now only show up on the Halloween page, so you can pick your poison, and it's much easier to find what you want in the blog.

  • I want to continue making these Yerfbox low-res video games. Every week or two I have a new idea, but since this is a list of hopes and dreams, let me tell you what I want to release this year, but probably won't (and will likely latch onto a more exciting thought before I even get started). Because there are 3 ideas listed here, I will pre-emptively inform you that there's no chance I'll be releasing all 3 this year, but these are the ones I'm currently thinking about:

    • Bag O' Monsters: An idea I've had since... 2006 or so? I'm sure it's in the Dumb Idea Repository somewhere. It's a deckbuilder of sorts (bagbuilder, actually). You have a bag full of monsters of your choice, and as they come out of the bag, you'll have to decide whether to deploy them on the battlefield, sacrifice them for a spell effect, or set them free to gain more energy. I'm obsessed with card games (currently Tower Tactics: Liberation, and Marvel Snap when watching TV, previously Monster Train and Slay the Spire, and of course physical games too), I just love to have that card in hand which changes the rules in some way and when I put it out, everything changes. That's the idea here, combined with that tactile fun of "these aren't cards, they're actually little monsters" (or little plastic toys, I'm not sure which). After all, in a PC game, there's no reason the card text has to be on the card, you can just pop it onscreen when you click the monster!

    • Another Witch Game: I'm always wanting to make a witch game! This one is a side-scroller with an open world and very little combat. At its core is a factory-style game. I was inspired by the thought that all the factory type games (Shapes, Factorio, Satisfactory, etc) have the same sort of high-tech theme, logically, but what if you went with a magical theme? Instead of conveyor belts, you have mesmerized bats flying in loops. So anyway, you go out in the world to get ingredients and things, bring them back, and make potions for money. I was also inspired by wanting for many years to make an economic game, basically a lemonade stand type of thing. And lastly, I was inspired by Kena: Bridge of Spirits (outside of the rather hardcore soulsy combat) to make a game that's just friendly and cozy, not about murdering everyone you disagree with.

    • A Necromancer Game For Which I Had An Awesome Title But It's Apparently Being Used By Pornography: Story of my life. This is fueled by my personal desire to avoid making another giant system, but rather a straightforward adventure that people can play through and have fun without devoting their life to it. It's a Metroidvania based on traditional necromancer abilities (so of course you can raise an army of skeletons, duh, but also shoot spirits and bone spears - remember that witch prototype I made where you'd throw your broom to use as a platform? That!). I've long had the idea of making an action-RPG type game, that delves specifically into one single traditional character class, giving you vast abilities to diversify within that class instead of having 4 or 5 different classes to choose from, and it could have a more focused narrative because the kind of story a necromancer gets involved in is likely to be very different from what a druid is up to, you know? But this isn't that game, it won't have any real diversity of builds, because it's a metroidvania! You just get your powers and use them to get places and solve puzzles. You know you're gonna make skeletons stand on pressure pads a lot.

  • Of course I intend to keep the Horror podcast rolling! I don't know for how long, but it's going pretty strong and what's weird is it now seems like there are some people who listen to it (upwards of 3, which was our ceiling for many years). I really love to see discussion of that on the discord, so please do so!

So that's the upcoming plans. I wish I could share some timelines, but if I did, they'd all be lies. As with 2022, my time is chewed up pretty thoroughly with the Rock Rose Foundation, and I also seem to have lost about 80% of the speed I used to have at making games. I don't know how I did it back then. Stay young! I'm gonna keep trying to make games because I love it, but I do get slower and slower at it.
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  It's lunch time! 07:51 PM -- Mon January 2, 2023  

Well, that was a relaxing and distracting holiday break around here. I was given dozens of new Steam games, and I enjoyed them a lot! I still am, in fact. But it did slow down development around here, as December always does. Nonetheless, things have happened!


The excitement continues as lunch approaches! The second boss has been added, the mighty centipede(?) Loafy skidding to a stop from his deadly dash attack, pictured here along with an army of Club Sandwiches and the occasional Pickle. Also visible is the new foliage - sorry Eyeball Tree fans, it's lunchtime, not creepy death forest time.


But lest we get too distracted, I did say I was going to tell you about the other progression systems in the game. So here's #2 - This is the most random one, and you should be familiar with it if you've playing Roguelites for the past few years, since they all do pretty much the same thing! When you kill enemies, you occasionally find Lootboxes. You can open those for a selection of random prizes. Currently the options in them include new weapons (you can carry up to 5), upgrades for those weapons, and level-ups for those weapons. The upgrades grant power or new features to your weapons (for instance, the Infestor shoots bugs, and one upgrade causes enemies infested by those bugs to drop eggs when they die, which hatch into more bugs). But as you can see on the Needler in the picture, there's only room for 3 upgrades. You'll have to use Level-Ups to make room for more, up to 8 maximum. Further level-ups just increase the weapon's damage, so while there aren't fun choices after those 8, you can keep getting stronger to push onward. I may change it so you don't have to get level-ups to get your upgrade slots though, as they feel pretty disappointing when you spend an entire lootbox just to get an empty slot.

So like in other roguelite arenas, you're going to want to find the weapons that synergize with each other and with your skill tree and gems, and then give them the upgrades that suit your style. The upgrades can make a big difference. One example is the Needler (which fires a burst of needles that do low damage and inflict a very long-lasting, but weak, poison): it has upgrades that drastically reduce its poison effect in exchange for much higher direct damage. But if you're playing the Bug Queen, you might want to go the other way, because her skill tree has many upgrades to damage-over-time which will make the poison very nice. She also benefits a lot from crit chance, so you might focus on that.
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  Metaprogress! 09:16 PM -- Mon November 21, 2022  

I've finally gotten the 3rd and (presumably) final form of progression in Broken Build Simulator implemented! There will also be some form of metaprogress (unlocking characters, modes, and weapons), but not in the sense that it will boost your character power. Just giving you access to more options to play with. The 3 progression systems I've done are all in-run progression, boosting your power as you go. I have felt like I can't really develop a full game mode until I have all the progression, because the balance will change dramatically as entire new progress systems get added. But now they're all in! I have come to the conclusion that it's good to have a combination of boring and fun progression systems. Obviously all-boring is bad, because it's boring. But I think all-interesting is also suboptimal, because it's nice to have that simple "I just got a bit stronger" feeling in addition to "I have modified my playstyle in a meaningful way and must adapt". So in that vein, let me show you the overall collection:


This is the pause screen in the game, where you do all your upgrading. In the upper left are your weapons (just one in this shot, but you can stack up to 5 weapons). Each one has a level ("01") and up to 8 upgrades that do interesting things. On the bottom of the screen is just a display of your overall stats. On the far right, we have your skill tree. The green icon (and all the icons directly below it) are upgrades to your Ability, which is an active thing you can use regularly. The other 3 columns are your skills, which are determined by which Hero you are playing. In this case, I'll just tease that this is The Bug Queen, and those 3 skills in the top row are Venomous, Skittering, and Sugar Rush which do things you will discover one day! Skills have a huge impact on how you play the game, but of course they are static - you can build differently on each run, but your options are always the same, unlike the random weapons and gems you get.

The important section for today's discussion is the system I just "finished" (officially, it is the boring one): the column of five empty gem slots to the left of the skill tree. That "23" beneath it is how many unidentified gems you currently hold. You get those from Champions and Bosses that you kill. If you click that button, you see something like this:


You're shown a random gem, and you have a few options for it. You can either stick it in an empty slot, or replace a gem you already have. Or you can "examine it closer" (which actually means reroll it, at increasing cost each time), or simply melt it down into Metametacurrency to spend on metaprogress. Sacrifice some potential in-game strength for future unlocks.

Gems can have 1, 2, or 3 stats on them, all of which are equally likely. Clearly, more stats are better, but there's one major problem: if you find a gem that is identical to one you already have, you can merge them together to upgrade the rank. So do you take the 3-stat gem which is definitely stronger, or the 1-stat gem which you are far more likely to find upgrades for? L10 damage bonus is huge. That feels like a semi-interesting choice, but I am having some troubles because I want to offer a lot of different stats on gems, but the more stats I add, the rarer upgrades become. I may end up having to implement a cheat like a 10% chance of getting a duplicate (of a 1-stat gem, lower chance for 2 or 3) in addition to just randomly rolling it. Anyway, it certainly hasn't been balanced or thought through very hard yet, but the basic functionality is in!
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  The State Of The Broken Build 09:35 PM -- Wed October 26, 2022  

Hello folks! As usual, it has been a while since I've talked about game development and not just reviewed a terri[ble/fying] movie.

Sadly, there isn't a whole lot of progress to cover because I have been crazy busy with other parts of my life. I just don't have the time anymore to crank out games all day. Actually, one of the big limiters I have is really sad: I just can't sit at the computer as long anymore. After a couple hours, I just have to get up and move around or my body breaks to pieces. Game development is for you whippersnappers, not tired old men who should've retired in ought-six during the Great Indiepocalypse. I do actually have a desk which converts to standing, but then I'd be standing, and that sounds even more exhausting!

The work I've done of late has been pretty deep in the weeds - everything reasonably scriptable is now scriptable (not particle effects, but I'm just not gonna go that far this time!), and the game is back up and running, and I've replaced the enemy AI, which was Dr. Lunatic style (head straight for the player, if you bump into a wall, wander in a random direction for a second then try again), to where it now has a simple version of pathfinding. It looks pretty good I think, and different from any other similar game, all of which have very single-minded pathfinding - the enemies just flood at you. I still have a random element, but it's a smarter one, where it keeps looking for less stupid directions to go in.

The first mode I'm developing is as mentioned 20 Minutes Till Lunch, and I created the first boss for it. Meet The Tominato:

He's a very basic boss that just chases you around and tries to flop on top of you (mainly because the first boss of the game I'm parodying is even simpler than that!). He's not really a threat exactly, he just gives you more to deal with as you try to fend off the crowd of Pickles - he's got a ton of health, so you have that constant pressure of him plowing towards you as more and more guys are spawning around you.

I know I'm supposed to be making a little quickie game, and in the old days that's exactly what this would be... but I probably only work on it about 3 or 4 days a week, sometimes only for an hour. I just am overwhelmed with other stuff. But this blog is your official notice that I am still plugging away, and one day I shall finish. Realizing how close the end of 2022 is though, I think my currently listed Steam release date of "Sometime in 2022" might need an update.
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  Scripty Update 04:58 PM -- Tue September 27, 2022  

It's been quiet on the Broken Build Simulator front for a while... So here's your update!

First off, I was on a trip for a week. My first flight since March 2020! Which means of course, without a moment's doubt, that I spent the two weeks following that sick. I thought it wasn't covid (I took MANY tests), but now afterwards, having spent weeks feeling absolutely exhausted for no reason, I am suspicious indeed. I guess it doesn't much matter which it was at this point, but it fuels my desire to never leave my house again which was already at a high 90+% level.

So I have been slow for a while due to that situation. But also, the scripting process! As I implemented scripting for different elements of the game, I just couldn't stop. First it was the skills and abilities, then heroes. Since my illness though, I've added scripting for the game modes, weapons, enemies, bullets, and at this point only buffs remain and I'm going to do them too. Once that's done, I think it's all scripted! The game is currently non-runnable of course, and it has taken many steps backwards over these few weeks, but we're on the uphill climb of that quagmire. Once we're out of it, my theory is that adding new things will be a breeze. I guess we shall see if that's true. It's not going to be like Starcraft where you can make entirely different games in it, as the core mechanics will always be the same, but you'll be able to do a lot with those mechanics.

I have no fancy artwork or videos to show you because the game is not functional. If you're a scripty programmy designy person, maybe you'd enjoy this 'screenshot' of the script for the bullets that the Infestor weapon shoots. I'm not actually sure this script works, because the game hasn't been running since I wrote it, but it's the general idea at least. Most bullets are a lot simpler - this one does some wacky stuff.

Bulletdef:
	"Insect",
	8,8,	; width and height
	3,3,	; visheight, visOffY
	16,16,	; sprite size
	Img_Bullets, ; sprite sheet
	0,0,	; top-left of sprites
	TeamGood,	; team
	BehaviorProjectile,	; basic behavior, just zooms forward and can hit enemies
	3,40,	; base damage and speed
	120	; base range

AnimDef: Attack1(6,1,0 7,1,0)
	End

On_Init:
	Set(Bullet.DZ,2)
	Set(Bullet.Gravity,0)
	Set(Bullet.Bounce,0)
	Set(Bullet.Z,0)
	End

On_Update:
	If(Bullet.Z>4.5)
		Sub(Bullet.DZ,3)
		If(Bullet.Z>5)
			Set(Bullet.Z,5)
		EndIf
	Else
		If(Bullet.Z<3.5)
			Add(Bullet.DZ,3)
			If(Bullet.Z<2)
				If(Bullet.DZ<0)
					Set(Bullet.DZ,0)
				EndIf
			EndIf
		EndIf
	EndIf
	; me->speed = weaponflightspeed-weaponflightspeed*(timer/weaponrange)
	; we're slowing down over the course of our time (timer counts up from 0 to weaponrange)
	Set(T1,Bullet.Timer)
	Mul(T1,Weapon.FlightSpeed)
	Div(T1,Weapon.Range)
	Set(Bullet.Speed,Weapon.FlightSpeed)
	Sub(Bullet.Speed,T1)
	If(Bullet.Speed<=0)
		DeleteSelf
	EndIf
	; accuracy of 100 has no randomizing, accuracy of 0 randomizes by 1 degree per frame
	Set(T1,100)
	Sub(T1,Weapon.Accuracy)
	Mul(T1,0.01)
	Rand(T2,0,T1)
	Add(Bullet.dAngle,T2)
	End

On_HitEnemy:
	; special2 is the dot damage, special1 is the dot duration
	Div(Bullet.DX,8)
	Div(Bullet.DY,8)
	PushTarget(Bullet.DX,Bullet.DY)
	BuffTarget("Infested",Weapon.Special2,0,Weapon.Special1)
	HurtTarget(Bullet.Damage,Weapon.CritChance,Weapon.CritDamage)
	Die
	End

On_Death:
	ParticleEvent(1,Bullet.X,Bullet.Y,60,0)
	End
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  Broken Build Simulator Coming 11:08 PM -- Thu September 8, 2022  

I just got back from a trip to visit family and to nobody's surprise, I am now sick (not covid, according to my first test anyway...). So I am going to just lazily toss out this new game announcement from my quarantine chamber rather than, you know, putting in any effort:


Yay! I've been really enjoying these types of games lately, many of which I have bought just for research purposes, but they always suck me in. So here comes mine! Check out the Steam listing for a little more info, but not too much yet, it's still early.

The title artwork was painted by a friend of mine named Dall-E. You can kind of tell it's AI art, it has some of those little oddities, but I liked the concept and the overall feel. I might consider it a base for redoing, but hey, it's kinda cool as is. Hey, I am gonna be less lazy and take you on a Dall-E journey! What you do is type in any text prompt, and Dall-E will give you 4 images in return. You can do it again for 4 other images, or ask for variations on one of the images you got, or just try a whole new prompt. I'm just gonna show you one image from each set of 4 (and I'm skipping some, I went through a lot of prompts!).
I started out just seeing what Dall-E thought, by asking for the exact title: "broken build simulator, digital art style" (Asking for 'digital art style' tends to give you really nice bright colorful images). In retrospect, I'm not at all sure what it was thinking.
So I tried "enormous broken machine, sci-fi, digital art style", which gave all pretty cool results. I really liked this one. A title image for this game is tricky because there is no one real 'thing' to show - there is no main character or big badguy or special location. It's just a melange of insanity. So I'm going more for something conceptual. I did some tests with actually using this image and I did like it.
I liked it so much in fact that I asked for variations on it, and this was my favorite of those, but didn't really want to use it.
I wanted to try other directions, so this is "a watercolor painting of an enormous broken robot". It's not bad at all, but not really the vibe of the artwork in the game.
After having converted some into the game's palette, and greatly shrinking them down (the game has a 256 pixel vertical resolution), I thought something that is just sort of vague shapes might be the way to go, hence "an impressionist oil painting of an enormous broken robot with dark colors".
To better match the style, I thought I'd try Synthwave (I hadn't heard that style before, but Dall-E tips suggested it. It's basically Miami Vice/Cyberpunk/Rad Racer/1980's style). So this is "a synthwave picture of an enormous broken robot with dark colors", and incidentally, this (very cool) image was one of the alternate options of the image I actually used, which you can see on the steam page. So this prompt gave me results. I also tried making variations of the one I used, but I'm not even going to show them, they're awful.
After getting awful variations, I thought I'd try describing the one I liked and see if it could make others along those lines, with "monochromatic synthwave art of a robot shattering through glass". The results were all kind of pencil/ink type art, not very synthwave at all, and this one has a little too much Hitler to it.
I didn't really want to go with the big mech robot style, since that's not a part of this game. I was looking more for a general machine, so I asked for "monochromatic purple synthwave art of a broken machine smashing through a window". These were an interesting way to go, but I decided against them. All of them had this kind of Office Space style, like employees are shoving the copier out the window.
I wanted to lean into the actual gameplay of the game, so I tried "a broken machine firing hundreds of missiles in anime style" (I thought anime would give me some nice colorful cartoons - I was picturing something like Robotech where dozens of missiles swarm around each other). It really came out more like manga, just pen sketches. This was the most colorful one, looks like a manga cover. But where are the missiles?
"a broken machine firing hundreds of missiles, digital art style" gave better results. This picture feels like the game - stacking tons of guns on until you're totally overpowered. I really liked this image, but downscaled and color-reduced, it was not very workable.
Still hoping to get a sky full of swirling missiles, I asked for "many missiles launching, digital art style", and that did not give me what I wanted. One thing I find kind of amusing is that (in all 4 options it gave me) it didn't make all the missiles the same. That would make the most sense as well as being simpler. But you can't predict AI and it's probably better at organic images.
My last-ditch effort was "many missiles launching from a destroyed citadel, digital art style". It's alright, but not what I needed.
This is unrelated to the game, but it's my favorite response to "a donkey wearing a sombrero, and a cowboy is riding the donkey. They are in atlantis."
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  Scripted Comedy 03:47 PM -- Thu August 18, 2022  

I don't know how interesting this is to the average reader, but I do feel like I should try to squeeze some Hamumu game development talk in between my scary scary podcasts. So let me tell you some technical biz going on with the new project!

The game was unplayable for a week or so and is now almost back to where it was before that. So what happened? Well, after implementing the first 15 or so skills, the code was already looking pretty hacky, with special cases all over - "If you get hit by a bullet, check to see if you are currently using Shell ability to block it, then if so, do you have points in the skill that lets Shell reflect bullets? Okay, reflect it". I could see a future of spaghetti stretching out before me. So there's only one solution to that (besides making a simpler game without tons of skills, and that's not me!): scripting!

By implementing scripts, all of that becomes cleaned up and the complexity lies in the scripts themselves (but that's not super complex either). It also opens the door to mods big-time. Anybody can edit these text files to create their own skills, abilities, and heroes. I'm not scripting everything because I don't want to make a super-detailed language that can do everything. For now at least, you're limited to the bullets and enemies that are built into the game (and there's no way - yet - to script your own game modes). But making skills is pretty fun!

For the curious, here's what the script for the Shell ability looks like:

Abilitydef:
	"Shell"
	"Become invulnerable for @1s."
	16	; icon
	2400	; cooldown
	180	; duration
	180,0	; value1, value2
	1	; charges
	"Raising Shell","Reflective Plates","Regrowth","Regeneration","Juggernaut"
On_Hurt: If(AbilityDuration > 0) Cancel Endif End	; cancel makes hurt not occur
On_Render:
	Set(T1,GameTime)
	Mod(T1,2)
	if(T1 = 0)
		Draw(OverGuys,GuysPNG,48,16,32,32,0,1)
	Endif
	End
So that's pretty simple. If you know a bit about coding, you can interpret that fairly easily (the On_Render function is simply drawing a flickering shell over you, by drawing it every other frame). The five names in quotes are the skills attached to the ability. It's a bit of a cross between assembly language and C, whatever was easiest for me to implement! The Abilitydef section though is simply a bunch of data. It would've been pretty annoying if you had to actually script that part, like "Set_Name("Shell"); Set_Icon(16);", etc, etc.

And just for good measure, check out the reflect ability I mentioned!

Skilldef:
	"Reflective Plates"
	"While ~C1Shell~C0 is active, ricochet bullets for @1% of their damage."
	10,3,
	100,150,200
	0,0,0
	0,0,0
	0,0,0
On_Hurt: If(AbilityDuration>0) 
		ReflectBullet(V1) ; multiplies the bullet's damage by this percentage
		Cancel 
	Endif 
	End
As you can see, the more complex things are just simple functions you call (you don't even have to specify which bullet, it can only operate on the bullet that caused the hurt script to be called). So what you can do in scripts will be a bit limited, but since I'm going to use these scripts to make hundreds of skills myself, I'll eventually implement most things you could ever want to do! It's a fine line to walk between making it good for modding purposes and making it quickly so I can actually finish a game. The best for modding would be to script everything, right down to the bullets, but that's the opposite of best for getting the game done. Now I gotta get back in there and get the unimplemented skills back in action so I can finally move on to some new stuff!
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