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August 28th, 2015 - Game Development

New Game In Development: Arcanoria Chronicles

Over the last few weeks, I’ve begun working on a smaller implementation of our huge flagship MMORPG, Arcanoria.  The new game (entitled Arcanoria Chronicles) will have a much smaller technical scope than the massive online game, obviously, but I’ll be exploring and expanding the Arcanoria backstory and mythos, as well as trying out some ideas for character customization and development.  We’re planning to develop this new project in multiple stages.

Announcing…

Arcanoria Chronicles is a single player medieval fantasy RPG, focusing on storytelling and character development.

The game is still in early development, and is not yet available for public play testing. Expected release of a preliminary version (with more limited backstory implementation) in September 2015.

Features

  • Deep backstory and cast, with subplots and intrigue.
  • Randomized/parameterized cave dungeon level generation, offering unique challenges.
  • Character customization and development.
  • Custom quest and interaction system.
  • Original music, custom written for this game by Walt Collins.

Here’s a short video showing early versions of the quest/interaction system, and the randomized cave dungeon.

August 28th, 2015 - Game Development

Pesticide Patrol Hits The Streets

Our recent game Pesticide Patrol has reached the point where it’s ready to fly.  We’ve created a new dedicated page for the game, which is available to play for free on itch.io!  Please let us know what you think of the game.  We’d love to hear from you!

We’ve made a few changes since the previous pre-alpha, and we think it’s more or less bug free.  Well… actually there are lots of bugs, but they’re for YOU to deal with, in game!

I was able to get to level 13 while playing at Normal difficulty.  How far can you get??  GAME ON.

July 31st, 2015 - Game Development

Pesticide Patrol – pre-alpha

My little experiment with in-game grid systems is coming along nicely.  It’s now an actual game, with actual gameplay.  Here’s a feature list of things already implemented:

  • Audio: combat sound FX, voiceover audio clips, and original background music (edited clip of Electric Strut)
  • Gameplay: increasing level of difficulty as you complete each level
  • UI screens: splash, welcome, settings, play, level complete, game over
  • debris rocks (allow for more tactical choices during play)
  • simple RPG storyline

I’ve got a plan for further development, but I’m not sure how far I want to take it.  Here is a short list of prospective game features that are not yet implemented:

  • ability to pause for a turn (and let the bugs move)
  • add more debris types (small trees/bushes, possibly multi-cell debris)
  • add consumables, like health potions, speed potions, pesticide refills, etc., that can be found randomly in the grid, along with new UI elements to see how many you’ve got of each, and new keyboard/mouse commands to consume the items
  • add gold loot to the cell after an insect is killed, and a whole new shop/inventory screen to spend your gold and upgrade your weapons and armor/clothing
  • randomized rogue-like multi-room levels, including a down staircase in one room, so you can further invade the monsters’ lair, and take the fight underground!

Is it worth spending the time to implement these features?

July 15th, 2015 - Game Development

Don’t Bug Me!

Now that the GrudgeMatch demo is as done as we’re going to make it without funding, I’ve begun working on “other projects” again.  This includes a new song release on my music site, as well as continued game development work.  Recently, I’ve kicked off a new “even smaller” all-new game development project.  I’m calling it “Don’t Bug Me!”

While my goal is still to release my longer term projects (CyberGhost and Arcanoria), I’ve found that I keep running into technical and creative roadblocks, and need to explore “simpler” projects in order to work out some of these issues, in preparation for the larger projects.  In the spirit of simplification, I’m trying to focus on learning how to release smaller games.  I’m thinking of this as a “game in a month” project.  I’ve got no experience with releasing a game yet!  Hopefully, if I keep making my ideas smaller and smaller, I’ll eventually hit upon something I can finish, and then work from there. :)

Anyway, here’s a sneak peek at a reeeeally early pre-pre-alpha prototype (more of a partial tech demo at this point) of “Don’t Bug Me!”

early prototype screenshot of Don't Bug Me!

early prototype screenshot of Don’t Bug Me!

 

March 17th, 2015 - Game Development

Still here!

Sorry for the lack of updates.  It’s been 11 months since my last confession… er, I mean blog post!  It’s been an eventful 11 months, but I’ll share some quick highlights.

  • CyberGhost is still in process, but on the back burner.  I shelved it for…
  • Started developing an MMORPG game kit called “WRKit“, shorthand for “Walt’s RPG Kit”.  This was begun last summer, and was intended as a more generic solution to RPG game templates, and would have helped with CyberGhost if I’d finished it.  Trouble was I’d also wanted to include networking capability so it could handle online games.  This was going pretty well for a while, until I realized how much support I would have to offer to anyone adopting my kit.  And since that prospect didn’t appeal to me, I scrapped it.
  • After that, I waffled briefly about going back to CyberGhost development (which I do still intend to get back to, but not yet…).  I decided instead to go back to my primary genre of medieval fantasy, and re-started working on Arcanoria, but not as an MMORPG.  Instead I began working on a single-player RPG version of Arcanoria.  Made some decent progress creating terrains and water.  Was hoping to get something released by end of year 2014.  Didn’t quite get it playable, and was disappointed again.
  • Stopped doing game dev entirely for 2 months in January and February 2015, and focused on my music.  I managed to release my first electronic music album!  The album title is Cerulean Sojourn.  Check it out here if you’re interested:  http://waltcollins.com/music/
  • In the last few weeks, I’ve been working with my old friend Dave Young (http://rev4media.com/ ) on a new project, called Grudge Match.  This project has some HUGE possibilities, including a linked TV show!  Here’s a promo video (which I helped to edit) about the project.  More to come about that in future blog posts.

April 10th, 2014 - Game Development

CyberGhost – In Development

CyberGhost was begun on March 1st, 2014, as a project intended for the 10-day Cyberpunk Game Jam.  Obviously we’re way past that now, but it’s still under daily active development.  I’ve been busy updating Matrix City, and working on some backstory for the main quest line.  I’ve also created an office scene for indoor “information gathering” runs.  Here are some screenshots from the latest build.  Let me know what you think! :)

2014-04-10_22-32-16 2014-04-10_22-27-08 2014-04-10_22-27-38 2014-04-10_22-28-14 2014-04-10_22-29-10 2014-04-10_22-30-28

March 27th, 2014 - General News

When Is A Game Developer Not A Game Developer?

I started out with an idea to make my own Massively Multi-player Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) back in January 2007, because I thought World of Warcraft was lots of fun and I wanted to learn how to create something similar myself.

After 7+ years of fiddling with 5 different game engines, several different programming languages, a few database engines, a handful of 3D modeling editors, audio production suites, network layers, GUI libraries, toolkits, APIs, SDKs, IDEs, and much more… I have an embarrassing statistic to share.

I’ve never released a single game.

The further into the future this condition extends, the more embarrassing it becomes for me.  After all, why am I doing all this?  I work on game development from 5am until midnight on MOST days, with short breaks for food and family, and an occasional nap, and then it’s back to work because something is percolating in my mind and it just can’t wait to get done.

No joke.  I am working an average of 12-16 hours a DAY on game development.

That includes weekends too, which puts me into an 80+ hour work week.  I have to admit I’ve not always been this dedicated in the last 7 years, but from time to time I have, including for the last several months.

You see, I’m desperate to get something done at this point.  However, the project I’ve been working on for the longest time is the huge Arcanoria MMORPG project.  Anyone will tell you it’s nothing short of crazy to expect to produce something like that without a 7+ figure budget and a team of 20-50 people.  But here I am, doing it myself.  And it’s taking a really long time!  No surprise I guess.

But from time to time I start to lose self-confidence.  What if all I can do is fiddle around with development tools?  How do I know if my creative ideas are any good?  Maybe my artistic style is terrible, or my music is unpleasant, or my stories are boring.  Maybe my game systems aren’t engaging.  Maybe my marketing efforts are insufficient or misdirected.

The only way to know for sure is to let the public decide.  That means releasing games, and seeing what works and what doesn’t.

SO…

To that end (and on the advice of indie dev peers like Jason Smith and Fernando Ribeiro), I joined a game jam.  Something that would be done in 10 days and then I could finally say I’d published something.  I created CyberGhost (pre-alpha web player preview), for the Cyberpunk Game Jam, which is essentially a game development contest where people create a new game in a short period of time and submit them all for judging by their peers.  There were 266 games submitted to the jam, including CyberGhost.

Unfortunately, however, CyberGhost isn’t even close to finished yet, even though the jam ended two weeks ago.  I was too ambitious in my design and decided to create an RPG, which are apparently notoriously difficult to create quickly.  Live and learn.

Anyway, I’m still working on CyberGhost.  It’s getting closer to done.  There are still many bugs, not to mention whole aspects of the game yet to develop, like character skills, combat, mini-games, more quests/stories, better level build out, etc.. But if I don’t finish something and release it, I’ll never know if I’m any good.  So that’s what I’m working on.

Bottom line is this.  I will finish CyberGhost and release it before doing anything else.  Then I can really call myself a game developer.

February 28th, 2014 - Game Development

Avatar Editor… umm, Editing

Since the last update I’ve been focused mostly on creating an avatar editor.  I figure it’s looking pretty good for now, and wanted to post a quick update about it.  UMA (see previous blog post for more about UMA) has been everything I’d hoped for, and lets me customize the character avatar through code.  The avatar editor in Arcanoria now supports male/female avatars, including 5 races with distinctive gender and racial characteristics.  The races are: Human, Elf, Norse, Dwarf, and Gnome.  Here are some of the differences, at a high level:

  • Humans are average height and build.
  • Elves are taller and thinner than Humans.  Elves have no facial hair, and have pointed ears.
  • Norse are between Elves and Humans in height, but with broader build.
  • Dwarves are a little shorter than Humans, and broader, especially in the arms.
  • Gnomes are shorter than Dwarves, with no facial hair, and pointed ears.
  • Female characters are slightly shorter than male characters.

Here’s a quick screenshot for now.  I hope to post a video soon that will show the avatar editor in more detail.

avatar editor v2 - 2014-02-28_15-42-03

February 8th, 2014 - Game Development

When Solutions Present Themselves

As we develop our MMORPG we’re continually identifying key problem areas that need resolution to enable us reach our long-term goal of actually publishing our game.  Things like player-driven avatar customization, the need for a solid bug/issue tracking system, an ongoing desire to make the 3D world look fantastic, a conversation manager framework, and, of course, work environment enhancements to keep me sane through all this!

Solutions present themselves at their own pace, even if we’re not entirely ready for them.  Such has been the case lately, as our friends at the Unity Asset Store have put some great packages on sale at ridiculous prices that couldn’t be refused.  So we had to jump on a few things before we’re actively developing them.

To that end, here are the Arcanoria buzzwords for this week:

  • UMA – Unity Multipurpose Avatar is a package that will replace our placeholder pre-customized character avatars.  This is essential for an MMORPG, since character customization is a core gameplay feature.  UMA is free, believe it or not, having been sponsored by Unity Technologies.  UT (and I) believe UMA is the way of the future for character avatar customization.  It’s easily scriptable and very well written and robust.  I’m very excited about UMA.
  • 3D-coat – 3D-coat is a voxel sculpting and 3D texture painting tool.  It’s similar to ZBrush, but about half the price ($379 vs. $799), and probably more actively in development.  It will be a vital tool in our arsenal as we endeavor to customize our assets, especially the new UMA avatars above.
  • FogBugz – I was looking for a bug/issue tracker that’s better than a text file on my Windows desktop, and considered Trac (which I’ve used before).  In the end, I decided it was too clunky, especially since we’re no longer using Subversion for source code control.  After some googling, I came up with a few alternatives including Redmine and JIRA, but in the end decided on FogBugz.  FogBugz maintains my whole project on their servers (which are plenty fast for me), including off-site source code backups via their Kiln service, as well as an integrated hosted Wiki, Forum, and an issue tracker that is linked directly to my Mercurial version control check-ins.  The kicker is that it’s 100% FREE for teams of 1 or 2 people (of which I’m the former!).  I can only begin to say how happy I’ve been so far with this service.  FogBugz is awesome!
  • Skyshop – I’d heard of Skyshop before, but to be honest I really didn’t understand what it did until after I bought the package a few days ago.  I just knew it included some excellent shaders that lots of folks were recommending.  Since it was on sale for $65 (down from $130) I decided to give it a try, just to give the shaders a look.  Wow was I blown away after I installed Skyshop.  Now I understand all the hype about IBL (Image Based Lighting).  In short, Skyshop lets you take an HDR panorama image and convert it into a skybox that further serves as a group of light probes that shed truly natural looking ambient lighting onto your scene objects.  Bottom line – if you’re doing any kind of 3D project in Unity where realistic looking scene lighting is important, go get Skyshop right now.
  • Amplify Color – This is a color grading package that allows you to transfer your scene’s color profile to a running instance of Photoshop and adjust them, then send those colors (including your alterations in Photoshop) back to your scene camera in Unity.  It was on 50% off sale, so this is one of those things I decided to jump on, even though I’m not ready for it yet.  I think it will be important in helping to make our scenes look better.
  • Dialoguer – Dialoguer is “a dialogue creation tool that lets you visually create branched and dynamic dialogue for your game”.  In other words, it’s a visual interface to help you do all the in-editor data input for your scripted conversations, including variables and branching, nodes, and under-the-hood XML serialization.  It seems to be pretty well written, and I’m looking forward to using it in my Arcanoria pipeline to help me write NPC interactions like quests and shops.  If Dialoguer hadn’t come along I’d have had to create my own conversation manager framework, so I’m lucky it did!  One last thing:  apparently there have been some issues with getting it released on the Asset Store so the author is giving Dialoguer away for free for a limited time, but hurry!
  • Bins – Bins is a taskbar organizer for Windows.  If you’re like me, you’ve got lots of things pinned to your Windows 7 taskbar.  Bins allows you to group them into folders, just like you can on your mobile Android or iOS device.  Just drag an application icon on top of another one and a folder is created, taking up less space on your taskbar.  The sanity I will regain by having some room again on my taskbar makes this $4.99 well spent.
January 27th, 2014 - Game Development

Total Rewrite Well Underway

Oh, didn’t I mention?  Sorry about that!  Yeah, the old code has been scrapped and replaced with… newer, shorter, (hopefully) more efficient code, for both client and server.  Gotta admit I’m learning as I go along, so this whole thing is an evolving process.  And I’ve been really terrible about blogging.  I can’t possibly catch you all up with everything that’s happened, but here are some recent highlights:

  • Took a bit of a detour into some Android app development.  It was a good learning experience!  Even though Arcanoria is a PC standalone project.
  • Updates to plugins NGUI, Xffect, uLink, not to mention Unity.
  • Added log4net and UnityVS for easier development debugging.  They are both helping quite a bit.
  • Communications encryption for security, using Public/Private key methods.
  • Continued commits to Mercurial, which is working great.
  • Lots of UI development, including replacing all fonts with legitimately free-to-use ones (mostly from Kingthings).
  • Since the “Tork” font (which isn’t free for commercial deployment) was in the old Arcanoria logo, we’ve created a new one (using a free font), as you can see below on the login screen.
  • Got the “Loading room” and login sequence mostly working, although the avatars themselves are still missing (and will require some thought on implementation).

Anyway, here are a couple of quick screenshots.

client login screen 20140127 client loading room 20140127