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  In Dev: Moon Invaders 2 02:32 PM -- Thu December 3, 2020  

Moon Invaders! Right? Remember the thrills and fun? This new rendition changes things a lot, but fundamentally it's the same core idea: tower defense where the 'monsters' march back and forth in front of your towers, and of course they march as a group, so cutting away at the sides will make them take longer to descend.

In the past week I've been making the first tower. I spent forever trying to decide just how it would look. You have to realize, the idea of a turret that can only rotate on one axis is weird (well, this particular axis, anyway). There really isn't a real-world analogue that makes any sense. This is what I came up with:
There are elements I like. Obviously it's very flat-shaded looking at the moment, and I may just stick with that. With the 'pixel art' aliens, keeping it simple might be key. The coolest thing is how those bullets work. I spent most of my time working out the animations there, and it's some good stuff. There are little animations for refilling the entire bullet rack when it's empty, as well as individually arming each bullet for the next shot. Totally pointless, but fun for me. The arming will probably be so fast and tiny you'll never be able to tell in-game, but I wanted it to be right. There's even a little door that opens and shuts for the bullets to go in (it's about 80% open in this shot).

I want to get into the structure of the game overall, but let's save it for next time. Party on.
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  An Encyclopedia Of Failures 11:21 AM -- Wed November 25, 2020  

There were more of these than I expected! Enjoy a selection of games I started and have not finished over the past few years:

"Little Wizard 2" - The wizard is purchased art, and the environment is freebie art. But I made that hanging monolith myself! And if you do shoot the glowy thing, there's an explosion and the rock falls and you can use it to jump over to a platform behind it. That's the extent of the gameplay in this game, although there is a evil skeletal mage standing behind you that you can kill, but he doesn't do anything. Also you press LB instead of RT to shoot, weirdly.

"DiabloWizard" - That obviously became this. Originally meant to have a top-down view (that's all the project name DiabloWizard indicates), I liked the over-the-shoulder system much better. The Dumb Golems are shockingly original art (can you believe that? All by myself?), but the rest of the models are purchased/free. There is actually a lot to this. The icons you can see are equipped spells, all obviously the same right now (the only one implemented, a stone shard shotgun which you can see exploding). You 'create' spells with those 4 crystal slots in the icon, by putting gems of 8 different elements in them. This one is "Launcher=stone (shotgun) and Impact=stone (does stone damage, and causes knockback/stun)", with the other two optional slots empty - one modifies the launch (like more shots fired, or homing, etc), and the other modifies the impact (like launching shrapnel, or causing a DOT, or healing you). It was very very cool, a roguelite thing with insane build variety that I was quite excited about!

"Keep It Alive" - I'm not sure where in the order this actually fits, but it was my start to a Ludum Dare entry! The theme of LD46 was "Keep It Alive" of course. It's a first-person puzzler where you are a robot in a spaceship trying to keep the spaceship alive to get to its destination as a wire-chomping alien is wandering about (inspired a bit by Alien: Isolation, it is not a hardcoded puzzle, you have to outwit the AI which is moving from room to room). What you see is about the extent of it as I could not get the wrench to point the right way in my robot's hands. You'd think flipping 180 would do it but it did NOT. The crazy pink glow is actually part of the debugging. At least I built all my own models here! I was mainly doing it as an exercise in how to do a pipeline for 3D art into an actual game.

"Tanky" - Again, not sure what order this goes in. This is a top-down game where you are a tank with big eyes who shoots aliens! The part of it I like is that hatch with the spinning lights - it's the "Dark Souls bonfire" of the game. If you drive onto it, your tank auto-drives into the correct position, then an elevator takes it underground and a roof closes on top, the game pauses (would have a various equip/upgrade menu options in there), and when you unpause, you come back out. It was a cool animation. Also really cool shooting effect and recoil. The part of this I don't like are those weird christmas trees - they are supposed to be coral or some sort of ocean rocks. Really bad.

"Lost In The Woods" - I've already blogged about this! It's pretty darn far along, and pretty cool. But I just lost steam, and mainly this whole process (all the games above) has been a string of me saying "that's too complex for a first full 3D project, let's take it down a notch and try again", which is what led me out of this game and into...

"Moon Invaders 2" - What!? Yeah. I'm excited about this, it's the one I'm still working on. Again, don't expect it to go anywhere based on the track record, but I'm liking it. As you can see, the aliens are actually made of separate cubes, which, on spawn, zoom in from everywhere to form the alien, and on death, fall out of the sky and scatter on the ground. The glowy eyes change color to indicate the health level (green to red). The one cube that's way out of place was just shot. It's actually a terrible effect right now, but I like the concept (they bounce back into place). There is currently no art in the game at all, all the cubes are default Unreal cubes and a default landscape. But one thing I've been too hung up on is building a "real" game of quality, and I'm trying to stop that for this one and just do what I used to do in the 90's - crank something out that is complete, and not worry about professionalism. Not that I want default cubes, but I'm also not going to build this so carefully and get stuck because I can't get that perfect style or hold back assuming I'm going to hire a pro artist later. I'm gonna make my own stuff and just go with it.

That brings you up to speed! That's what I haven't been blogging about because none of it's going anywhere. I'll try to improve on that over time. Just posting about it gets me a little more interested, so maybe that's part of the process.
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  Burned out still 06:21 PM -- Fri November 20, 2020  

The following is me engaging in public therapy. Engage at your own risk!

Long-term readers will be familiar with the fact that I got WAY burned out running Growtopia, and after we sold it, I spent a year wandering the wilderness in aught but a loincloth, howling at the moon and foraging from the land.

Eventually I made Robot Wants It All, but it was really too soon when I did, and it was a real drag that probably drained me even more. Since then, I've been crunching away at random mini-projects, just trying to recapture the creative spark and have some desire to produce work instead of playing video games and eating cheez-its.

At this point, I've been officially burnt out for about 4 years. That's much too long, and it doesn't make sense. Surely not working for that long would be plenty to recover my energy. Unless you think about the world in which I have been living. Then you start to think that maybe it's not so much burnout as it is depression. Right at the same time I began to work on recovering from 4 years of Growtopia development, the world fell off a pit into a shark-infested volcano. So I was trying to recuperate while simultaneously being bombarded by horror at every turn.

This theory was proven out on November 7th, when I was out running errands and got a text from my wife that the election had finally been called. Immediately, a massive weight leaped off of my shoulders. I drove around with the music cranked and my mind instantly was jumping to all the things I could do. Nothing I was actually prevented from doing before, but suddenly I wanted to - I considered practicing my ukulele, writing a short story, making several different game ideas, cooking things. Creativity run rampant. I was fired up and ready to DO. Just as simply as hearing that things might return to normal in the real world. Even knowing that there were still a thousand massive battles to be fought, I suddenly had this feeling that it was no longer all on me. Obviously it never was, but the oppressive feeling that everyone above me is against me is a huge psychic weight. And with that one call, that was flipped - suddenly the top of the chain was on my side, so I felt like I wasn't fighting alone.

Since then, things have changed for the worse. Obviously, my country is currently in the middle of a coup attempt, and the outgoing administration is trying to do as much damage as humanly possible, and things are uglier than ever. So it doesn't feel good anymore. I'm back to the depression I was in. But I remember that spark I felt when there was a brief moment of hope. So maybe... on January 20th, if we're not actively fighting a civil war, maybe that will be the day that my energy floods back and all of these things seem easy, or at least possible. It felt amazing on November 7th. I want to feel that again.

For now, I'm poking away at a couple small projects, still trying to find my footing after all these years. I'll tell you more about what those projects are in the next update! But don't hold your breath waiting for anything to come of them.
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  Weighty Bat 04:56 PM -- Thu August 27, 2020  

Progress on Lost In The Woods remains pretty nice actually, but I have stepped aside this week to try to shore up some Blender skills. I tried modeling some characters, which I think I have pretty well figured out, but then dove into rigging and animating which is a real pain (especially to make them work properly inside Unreal). I started with the creature I could think of that would produce the simplest possible animation rig (well, not a snake, but close): A Shroom/Mushie!

Just two feet and a couple bones for tilting. Also, I eyedropped the colors straight from a screenshot of Dr. Lunatic. The rigging I was able to do without doing any weight painting because it was so simple. So I moved on to something that I thought would be a little trickier, but instead feels like it may have been my final exam in rigging: a bat.

This chubby fellow, of which I am quite proud and happy to see the Hamumuism of it all, took several days to reach this point. I thought he'd be easy - just two wings and a spine to animate, but that's not how it turned out. Modeling was pretty easy, building the skeleton was no big deal, but weight painting, oh boy. I got to watch several youtube videos to guide me through all the tricks and techniques of masking parts off and adjusting the pose mid-paint. Otherwise I wouldn't have ever been able to paint his whole tongue (which IS fully animatable, thank you). He can open and shut his mouth, put his tongue in and out, fly, tilt his ears, wiggle his toes (sort of), anything you'd want a fat bat to do. The only thing he can't do is what the original Scary Bats did - bug his eyes out. At least not in a way that would work out well.

So anyway, I am really liking this bat and now I am sharing him with you! He does not belong in any particular game at this time, but he sure does make me think.
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  Still Pretty Lost 04:58 PM -- Thu August 6, 2020  

Lost In The Woods slowly inches along!

(Work in progress, all art will change)

Many features are fully implemented, but plenty of rough edges remain among them. It's interesting the changes I have to make to make implementing this as a PC game more reasonable. A simple example: in the board game, if an enemy has 2 equally good paths to reach the players, the players decide which way it goes. In the PC version, this is just random instead - I could spend a long time implementing the choice and it would make the game a little easier/fairer, but also more annoying to play. It's resulted in a fair number of changes to the actual game design, for the better.

One of the clunkier rules in my prototype was that when you draw a new tile while exploring, you have to see if it fits (rivers can't dead-end into land), and if you can't make it fit, then your character 'got lost' and you don't get to move. This would've been a pain to implement in the PC version, and so after a lot of thought, I took a move out of Carcassone's playbook and had the river get placed out randomly when the game first begins (as you see in the picture). River tiles are the only ones that can ever be unplaceable, so this completely solves the issue and removes an awkward exception to the otherwise simple movement rules. I'm definitely porting that over to the board game too. Having the river out when the game starts improves some other elements as well.

One of these days I'd like to make a video showing what the prototype looks like and actually go into how the game plays a little bit, but for now this is what you get! Oh, and I suppose I can mention those big old cubes... the screenshot is showing a battle in action: Krista is trying to murder a badger (which she will handily do, since the blue dice are hers, and the black dice are the badger's).
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  I am making a game! 03:14 PM -- Wed June 24, 2020  

I've been meaning to start sharing some info about my latest project, but it's just so easy to not do it and keep toiling in obscurity... nonetheless, here it is! Not the game you're expecting from me, but something I've been wanting to do for years. It's a digital board game called Lost In The Woods, and it is indeed literally about exactly what it says.

(Work in progress, all art will change)

It's a cooperative game for 1-4 players, although at present my implementation plans to just make it a solo experience (you can play with 4 just like you would at a table - swap out the mouse for each character, or just play them all yourself). I know online play would be wonderful and all, but I want to get a game done, not spend 6 years lost in the woods for real.

I designed this actual board game a couple years ago, and got through some playtests but not enough. I'll have to share some pictures of the real prototype sometime in the future. Frustrated with that, because I do really like the design and it's a unique experience, I figured why not make it digital where it can get unlimited testing even though I'm stuck in a quarantine? The original design is inspired by video games in that it actually has a metagame and feature/character unlocks like a video game would, which I haven't really seen done in board games (outside of legacy games, which are a little bit of a different take - mine is more like secret expansions hidden in the box, which you COULD just open up at anytime, but you would feel so guilty if you didn't earn them! Legacy games are about an ever-changing game, this is more of an ever-expanding one).

So a rough overview of the game is that you have those four characters (they wouldn't all be the same character, of course...), and each one has four stats: Hunger, Thirst, Exposure, and Exhaustion. Your goal is simply to find your way out of the woods before anybody maxes out on any of those stats and dies. At first, it's fairly straightforward resource management, but as you draw an Event Card each turn, sometimes it's a Threat Card. Threat Cards don't really do anything, but you stack them up... and once you have 3 of the same kind, something happens. The entire game will change. This element is inspired by a game I kind of hate but admire, Betrayal At House On The Hill, the biggest difference being that nobody becomes a traitor (usually...). But you always face a new threat, ranging from forest fires to murderers to wild animals to mythical creatures. Anything you can imagine stumbling across in the woods is probably in there. And the rules change in various small ways. However it goes down, you are crafting a unique story depending on your mix of characters, the threat, and your 'origin story' (a die roll at game start determines how exactly you got lost in the first place, and there are different endings accordingly).

And in our playtesting experience, I'll just be honest, that story has never once ended well. But we've gotten close!

This game is very slow going, but it's been accelerating lately as I figure out my dev tools a little more (Unreal Engine 4) and get more interested as it starts to turn vaguely into a game. I make no guesses at any kind of completion date though (or even whether it will be finished, to be honest). Current state of development: Not Even A Game Yet But You Can Click On Stuff. More info to come.
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  A game to play over teleconference! 08:39 PM -- Mon April 6, 2020  

Hey folks! I have been sitting in quarantine for 3 weeks now (mostly), doing much of nothing (mostly), but I did make this game for you (mostly)! Looking for a way to entertain yourself via Zoom, Skype, or whatever you use to pretend you're still a member of society? Grab a pile of dice and print this roll and write game out to enjoy! You are also allowed to play it in person. You can even play it solo (I haven't tried that yet, to be honest)!

Players: 1-4
Time: 15-20 minutes

The rules are pretty simple, and are printed on the paper. Each player will need 5 dice (unless they're in the same physical location). I mean, you could have one person do all the rolling if you're desperate, but it's weird to not roll your own dice. You'll also need a print-out of the image below for each person, and a pen or pencil for each person.
I think there are probably some nuances I was not able to squeeze into the paper, and I made sure to label the page "v1.0" so I can improve it later. Here are the answers to some questions my players had in the one and only group test I played:
  • Diagonals are not okay. Just take the word diagonal out of your head right now. It has no use in this game, ever.

  • The numbers in the houses are just how many points they're worth.

  • You don't have to use consecutive numbers to make a valid path - "1, 3, 4" is just fine.

  • X's reset the count as if you are starting over. You could (theoretically) have a path like "1, 2, 5, X, X, 5, X, 1, 3, X, 2, 3" (that is considered to be all ascending, because each X is resetting it).

  • X's do the same in Downtown, like "4, 2, X, 5, 4, 3"

  • You connect to a house by putting a number or X in a space adjacent to the house. It doesn't matter which side of the house it's on (though the chain of numbers from the Power Plant has to follow the rules in order to actually get power there).

  • A space can be carrying power to more than one house. Each house just needs a line of ascending numbers leading to it, it doesn't matter what else those numbers are doing, or what other numbers are around.

  • Equal numbers don't count - e.g. a path of "1, 2, 2, 3" is not carrying any electricity. The number must go up each space (or down, if you are in Downtown).

  • Any number or X can be put in any reachable space. You never have to create a valid path, you just won't score points for a house that isn't reached by one. The only time it would be impossible to place a number is if your board is actually full.

  • X's are worth no points in Beantown or Shantytown.

  • The number of rounds includes all shown - for 4 players, it's 8 rounds, 3 players is 9 rounds, and 1-2 players is 12 rounds (you can also just play until someone fills their board, it is approximately the same number of turns, depending on how you use Camptown).
  • Yes, you can fill in a square in Camptown if you wish when you put a number/X in Camptown. Any open square is okay.

  • The blocks you place due to using Camptown cannot be used as an adjacent object for placing new numbers. New numbers can only be placed adjacent to either the Power Plant or an existing number/X.
  • The 'lore' behind Camptown is that it's a national park, and people camp there, hence the name. Each time you build a power line there, you need to chop down a tree to do it, so you need to put that tree somewhere, hence the blacked out space. It's an uncanny simulation of reality.

  • Also Beantown is so named because of bean counters. Become one as you add up points.

  • And Shantytown, well that's just a dumpy place, so it's negative points.

  • And Downtown, come on, do I really need to explain that one?
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  2020 Biz! 02:51 PM -- Tue January 14, 2020  

Yeah, I'm still alive! As far as you know. I'm kinda-sorta getting in some sort of swing of things this year, working on a new game. I mentioned this previously (whoa, it was way back in August??), but I'm working on an action-RPG wizard game in Unreal Engine. I still have no idea if it will go anywhere (and if I showed screenshots from then to now, you'd probably wonder what I have actually done in between... at best it looks like it's gone way way backwards, which is fairly true), but the ideas have finally coalesced in my mind into something I'm really excited about, so maybe that will help it get somewhere.

For a little teaser, the idea is this: it's kind of a rogue-lite, I suppose the kids call it today. You choose one of 8 schools of magic, and hop in blasting guys away. There is one 'world' pertaining to each school of magic, which you earn by completing that world. So whichever magic type you choose, you don't actually get to play that world since you've already 'won' it. So you play through 7 worlds (in any order you like), expanding your magic capabilities as you go. The first world you do only has one level and then the boss, the second has 2 levels then boss, etc. And of course the levels get harder as you go. You actually can build your own spells in a simplified sort of way. The whole game revolves around putting those 8 different elements into different slots. And when you die (or win I SUPPOSE), you can start over with a different build, and some permanent upgrades.

It's a top-downish view for now, though that might change. I do prefer an over-the-shoulder view, but the main thing I like about the top-down style is not having to figure out how to build ceilings... I spent hours looking at how different games do the ceilings in cave areas and never found anything I was really happy with!

I'm still poking away at a few board games I'm really focused on, but I'm kind of stuck. I suppose at some point I need to just try submitting them to publishers and see what they say. I'd always like more testing, but you can't do that forever. I certainly don't have any interest in trying to get them out into the world myself, and I'd love to see them looking all professional and fancy!
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