I volunteered to give a talk on the topic Indie Games: Because Otherwise We Would All Be Shooting Nazi Zombie Robot Pokemon on Platforms. Unfortunately as the rest of our tech fest is also going on, I didn’t really have any time at all to prepare, and so I spoke pretty much extempore. I would have liked to have had some slides and whatnot going into the talk, but I considering what the previous few days have been, I don’t blame myself for being unable to make any.

Nevertheless, my talk bombed, despite the most active audience I have ever come across. Looking back on it, my advice can be summed up as follows:

  • Have a structure for the talk. Know what topic should follow what other topic. This was my greatest mistake, and I think that if I had just done this in the minute before my talk, it would have been much, much better.
  • Compile a list of useful links. Make sure that if nothing else, your audience will get this much value from your talk. This, I did, and am rather happy about it
  • Introduce yourself right at the beginning. This includes the requisite pimping of your projects. Do this as soon as you walk up, and also when you throw your links at the audience. I had completely forgot to do this, and thankfully was reminded by a friend of mine. Even if you only get one extra person, that is ample reward for such little work.

Still, looking back, my talk was not all that much of a failure, and whatever else, at least I will get a shirt or something out of it, which is a pretty good return for 10 minutes of speaking.

I spent the past three days working harder than I would like to admit on Code2Play, an online video game making competition for APOGEE (my college’s tech fest). So, even though I categorize this as a Dev Diary, it has nothing to do with My Little Girl. I am sorry if you came here looking for news on it, but if you wait a couple more days, I will have come up with a very juicy post on its combat mechanism by then, and if possible a quick video as well.

Days Are Numbers

Looking back at my work logs, I worked a total of 22 hours on the six games, a number that I am ashamed of for two reasons. Note of course, that I count the time spent working in Pomodoros, and do not accept one unless it actually was spent on work and not the internet. My first feeling of shame comes from this actually being very heavy work for me. It is much, much more than the approximately four hours I typically manage in a day, which is honestly a pitiful amount. The second reason is that considering the 22 hours that went into these games, they are inexcusably primitive. I should be able to come out with much higher quality work after spending so much time. I really need to hone my skills if this was all I could manage.

Old And Wise

Now, let me look back on what I took away from working like this.

  • The base library I have developed for My Little Girl is quite stable. I had only the smallest of problems with it over these past three days, and that was just the changing of one line, which could have just as easily been done in the game-specific code for each. This is good to know. Also, these games resulted in a fair bit of code which I can move up into the engine, which is always nice.
  • The King is awesome. I had recently picked up some of his stuff, planning to listen to him properly for the first time. All I had heard before was back in my distant childhood and I knew that he was a huge hole in my music experience. It has been said before and I am not surprising anyone, but he really is great.
  • In the same vein, the movie Dark City is the best movie I have ever seen (although my favorite still is and forever shall be The Empire Strikes Back). The only movie that I can really think of to compete with it is A Streetcar Named Desire, although I freely admit that I have not seen anywhere near enough movies. I will fully review this in a coming post. This is a movie which deserves a lot more than a mere mention in an unrelated post.
  • I have severe motivation troubles when I am ahead of schedule. There were six problems, out of which the first three came out quite early. At the beginning I had no idea about how many problems were to come out, so I finished the first one quite quickly (at least by my standards), and decided to make the second one text based. Firstly because that would be faster to develop (or so I thought, more on that in the next point), secondly I thought that it really would be a good fit, and I have a weakness for text-based games and thirdly the deciding reason, which was their emphasis on how graphics did not matter at all, a conviction which I wanted to push as far as I could. After finishing the first two, I checked to see if a fourth was out. As there was not, I took a break which extended to an expensive six hours. There was only one hour in which to work before I had to sleep by the time I started the third, and in that time I managed only to complete the login screen of the third.
  • I decided to make the second question in C++ as it was a rogue-like, and I felt that this would keep the application size ridiculously small (30.5 KB at the end, quite satisfactory). It has been quite some time since I have really picked up C++, excepting a brief stint with Irrlicht, where I had tutorials to hold my hand. I had forgotten quite how… unpredictable it can be. At one point I was ready to abandon it and do the thing in Python but as there was no new question, I stuck with it. Still, much though I disliked working with C++ again, this was my favorite part of the competition as it was here that I truly was able to subvert the rules of the competition, and produce something unexpected. Making this game text-based was the most fun I have ever had when designing a game that was not my own.
  • I code a lot harder if there is anyone around. When Naman came to my room in the second day to work on the program for DOPY which is also taking my time, that was when I really started getting things done. I have no fear of taking breaks when others are around, it is just that when I sit in my chair, their presence ensures that I will actually work. I constantly feel the need to prove myself when I am not alone.
  • Incremental polish is nice. Every time, I wrote as little as I needed to make the game something I could display without hanging myself in shame first, and only after they were all done did I begin polish. The second time also, I only stayed with a game until the minimum polish level needed was reached before moving to the next. This way all of my games looked better and I never got hung up on any high-investment, low-return work.
  • I burn out hard. Today I was absolutely useless, despite a deadline hanging over my head. I did also slightly burn out in the middle of the competition, but worked through that when more work appeared. Besides, I was highly motivated to get that stuff done. The work I have now is just for money and respect, not really for fun.

Let’s Talk About Me

How do I feel now that this is over? Firstly, despite all that I may have written above, I am proud of myself for getting so much work done (6 games in 3 days FTW), and this an achievement which I can put in my resume. None of the games are really noteworthy, but the fact that I managed to complete them all in the time given is at least noteworthy, even if not really impressive. Although, I am still very happy with my text-based game, just for the level of creativity. Besides, the way I worked for some of those stretches allowed me to roleplay a serious video game designer, because a video game designer who is not working insane hours is not a video game designer at all (or at least so says the internet). I go into these things with the need to win hanging over my head as I am the only person on campus aiming at working in the industry after graduation. At the end of it, I now barely feel that need at all, being content with having worked hard and done a reasonable job.

On this topic, I really must applaud the organizers of the event. This was an incredible improvement over the last year, where the game was ridiculously easy to make, and the time given was leisurely beyond belief. I swore for the entire time it took me to make that as it was not challenging or in any way fun to make. I was just going through the motions as that time also I had to win due to the way I tell everyone I meet that I make video games, and because it was free money. This time, I really enjoyed competing as this time there was a lot to do in a little time. I would have preferred at least some value for graphics and design, but this is after all a programming competition, and so I understand the the decision. It is not easy to some up with a set of simple games to give people, and they did a really good job in this.

We Play The Game

If you want to try out the games, the link is here. Source code is included. The problem statements are over here.

I am going to follow the trend or other websites and congratulate you for reaching this far. It seems a sort of elitist thing to do, sort of “Hey look at us, we have an attention span! We’re so smart.” but this is the sort of world where Rebecca Black gets a music video, so why not? This was written listening to On Avery Island. Bonus points to the first person to tell me the connect of the headers. Today’s is an easy one.

Still to post:

  • Tutorial: Lua+Love
  • Dev Diary: My Little Girl’s Combat System
  • Review: Dark City
  • My Day Tracker

This is by far the best Arthur C. Clarke novel that I have ever read, which is not saying all that much considering that all I have read is the entire Space Odyssey series and The Last Theorem, the second of which I really did not like. His short stories though are beyond compare, and this book was exceptional.

Just saying that it was good though is not all that useful, what really matters is why. Firstly, I have always admired the scope of some of the events of his books. In 2001, it was the assimilation of Jupiter by the TMAs, in this one, it was the sudden obsolescence of the human race. When the Overlords let them live out the remainder of their lives, knowing that humans were a thing of the past, that was a moment that simply dwarfed most experiences in scale as you try to understand what they must have been thinking when hit by the news. This same feeling is the first defining moment of the book, when the two opposing engineers in charge of their countries’ space races both look up to see alien ships arriving.

Besides these though, it is hard to pinpoint what exactly made this book so good. There were other epic scenes, such as when Jeffrey goes through the foreign worlds, there was that continual feeling of experiencing something new that comes from an interesting SF setting and there was the fact that this is really a solid book in every way. The characters, the style, the pacing, everything in this book is technically superb. I really enjoyed this read

I entered this movie knowing little more that this was supposed to be one of the best movies of all time, that it featured the line “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” and that considering what I normally persue, I probably wouldn’t like it. Actually, I really did.

The first thing to write about is without doubt the acting in this movie. I have only seen Vivian Leigh in two movies, this and A Streetcar Named Desire, and of these two performances, I would feel no qualms about naming her the greatest actress I have ever seen. I will admit though, there were actually a number of points in this movie where her acting was not quite what I wanted from the role, but the way she played a Southern Belle, and her ability to show you that the character, Scarlett O’Hara could throw that pose on and off as desired was exceptional. Also, no matter what the scene, she always gave exactly the image necessary. For instance, when her mother died, she didn’t have quite the emotion I would have liked, but if you had frozen any moment of it, she would have at least looked exactly like how you would expect.

Clark Gable was always fun to watch. His character sometimes felt artificial, like when he decided to fight in the war, but his portrayal of the character was always top-notch and his chemistry with Vivian Leigh was wonderful. Besides, he had the best lines.

The supporting cast was nothing short of brilliant, with the characters of Melanie, Ashley and especially Mammy done perfectly. It certainly helped that they were all characters without flaws, characters who you did not need to judge, but could simply enjoy, counterpointing the main characters, but for whatever the reason, they were certainly great to watch.

The story reminded me greatly of a Pearl S. Buck novel in that for any of those, it feels like a Reader’s Digest sort of story, and acts like one as far as it can, and then it goes one step beyond the pulp and forces you to respect it. Here, it resembles in every way a cheap romance novel of the sort you expect sappy middle-aged women to cry themselves to sleep with, but then proceeds to higher places time and time again.

This movie truly is epic, showing so much of the change of the South through the changes in Scarlett O’Hara, and populated with such great characters that despite my feelings of dubiousness on starting the movie, I truly loved watching it. It does have some flaws, it can never be considered to be perfect, but it certainly is one of the greatest movies of all time.

I really wish that I could write more about it, but I had trouble enough with this much, having just played a match that I think I must stop. If I have time later, maybe I will expand on it.

I have been working for a reasonable time now on a game heavily rooted in brawlers, although with some interesting twists. As the first Developer’s Diary post, I shall go over what exactly are the key tenets that I held to in the making of this game.

Combat System

This, from the playtesting that has gone into it so far, is the biggest thing about the game. The combat system works like this:

  • There exists a map between a set of moves (currently two moves, think for example pressing up, then right) and the attack that will be executed when they are pressed.
  • There is a delay between keys being accepted.
  • You can chain together attacks, so if there are two attacks requiring up, down and down left respectively, pressing up, down, left will execute attack 1 after down is pressed and then attack 2 when left is pressed.

Story

The story is a very quiet affair dealing with a father who wants to grow closer to his daughter. That is really all that happens in the entire game. He designs this game so that he and his daughter will do something together every night, and so he would have an opportunity to talk with her.

This game is to a large extent supposed to be a parody of brawlers and a large part of that is having a story that is in no way an epic struggle of cliched characters, but instead tries to be more of an everyday scene out of a  real person’s life.

One-handed play

This is actually been probably the most difficult thing to deal with. Due to it I have gone so far as to completely remove character movement, the lack of which I still fear will make the game look amateur. However, there are two main advantages to it which I simply cannot let go. The first is that two people can easily play on the same computer, which even with internet speed concerns being a thing of the past, is important. I like being able to immediately play a game with my brother, and being able to play on the same computer is the easiest way to do so, and also has a more competitive feel. The second thing is that I can play the game while drinking tea, and considering the amount of tea I drink and amount that I have to play the game, this is a necessity if I want to get anything else done in the day.

Customizable Ruleset

There are actually a large number of optional rules in the game that can be mixed and matched as desired. The story mode encourages you to keep changing the rules as that sustains the feeling of doing something new that is the game’s real selling point, but always leaves you with the choice. For matches any ruleset can be chosen, although there is a specified tournament ruleset. This is a decision that I am actually in two minds about, but considering that this game is targeted at an indie crowd, I think that it will be appreciated.

To finish, take a couple of screenshots of how it presently looks:

So, I spent a few days a while ago converting my story The Archiver into a very slightly interactive form. I felt that a reader would not really get the sense of time in between the log entries, so I wrote this version, in which days and nights progress, and the corresponding log entry is shown. Honestly, I feel that the story is better as plain text, but give this version a try here.

Also, this gave me an excuse to use Lua+Love, which I keep reading about, and it is quite a pleasant combination to work with. I will post what I learned about those soon, but really this post is just to tell you to try out the interactive version. Do it now.

By the way, if you are in BITS, then you can just download it through DC.

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