Friday, December 26, 2014

Project Goals Achieved !

So, here we are in late December nearing the end of 2014 with two game projects complete and more on the way for 2015. This year has been a journey of discovery with challenges thrown in for good measure, both inside and outside the gamedev stable. Apart from this, there has also enjoyable and fun stuff too, just to even things out.

Next year I have two more gamedev projects in mind, the continuation of Barriers which I hope to mould into a three part mini-game with progressive difficulty. The second project will be Surreal Office Duties Challenge Assault, a two level play area where you will shoot it out with other characters and collect items on the way. I predict that Barriers will be completed in a few months and Assault taking a bit longer, perhaps a year ?

Super Bump ::
If you weren't already aware, Super Bump is now available on Android and PC. In the end, this turned out to be quite a fun project where I learnt a lot over a short period of time. Even though it was revamped version of Bump, it deserved the enhancements. I am thinking of putting in a global high score table. Hopefully, this will be achievable !

Bugsy Reloaded ::
After reworking the menu system and some more bug fixing, I finally finished Bugsy Reloaded. At the moment, it is only currently available publicly on Android, but there is a PC version. However, I have yet to add a document / instructions file. The document / instructions idea might roll out for previous games as well on PC, in PDF form. That way you can have pictures and photos in one place.

If you download the PC version, you will find that there are currently no instructions. Until that time and for now, here are just the controls :

For the Menu - Use Mouse to Control with Left Mouse Button to action Menu Buttons
During Game - Cursors Left and Right to Move and Z to Jump
Additional Controls - P to Pause, Backspace or Esc to Quit Game
Alt-Enter - Toggles between Full Screen or Window Mode

Remember, above instructions for the controls will be documented better and maybe subject to change. But for the moment, enjoy the game as it is ! :)

Games Played in December ::
Over the last few months I have played very little console based games, which is a bit of a shame really. Even if I played on a mobile device, like my Phone or Tablet that would count for something. Most nights after work, I am too tired, which only leaves the weekend. Perhaps for next year I should spare some more time to play games and relax even more.

PS Vita ::
A bit of a return to an existing title from a year ago, Silly Putty. This appeared as a *FREE* download, which is probably because I bought it on the PS4 and it is now available as a cross platform purchase. I played the first level again and never lost the skills from all those months ago, not a bad game really and well worth the purchase and play. Loving those cartoon graphics, great music and sound effects !

Festive Time of Year ::
It is Boxing Day here now in the U.K the day after Christmas Day, which has been really good. This year I bought two themed Lego sets, Ghostbusters and Back to the Future. Both took less than two hours to build, but there was some preparation time before and after.

Ghostbusters ::
This was such a fun build to complete and I particularly like the display for the four main Ghostbusters characters. Pity there wasn't an addition character like Slimer in there too ...

Back to the Future ::
Built in less than 88 minutes, this was slightly more simple to construct. I liked the additional Skateboard for Marty, even though it looks a bit off scale. Both sets didn't have any Stickers, which years ago you would have expected. Now, the Lego bricks are screen printed with the appropriate design. This makes it more convenient about not having to use Stickers and then worry about using them !

Looking Ahead ::
For next year, I hope to work through the two mentioned gamedev projects, Barriers and Surreal Office Duties Challenge Assault. Plus, play more games and bring other retro related things for everyone to read about. I was given a Commodore 64 Joystick ( C64 DTV ) by a good friend of mine, Munir a few days ago. I did originally own one of these back in 2004/5 from Argos in the U.K., but donated it to Retro Computer Museum a couple of year ago. But now, I have one again !
Until next time, keep on gaming and be creative !

Thursday, November 27, 2014

And now a word from our sponsors ...

Despite the weather turning that bit cooler and now the frosty mornings are upon us, it really has been a productive month. Not only did I manage to release Super Bump on Android, I worked out through trial and error how to implement advertising banners. There is also a couple of retro related items to show and tell as well.

Bugsy Reloaded ::
After getting Super Bump out of the way, I am planning to look over the menu system during the next few days. It will help having the first week off in December, which I've been looking forward to for months. Apart from a few other tweaks, as I may have mentioned before, that's all there is to do. The game is looking pretty sharp really and I can't wait for it to be released.

Super Bump ::
To be honest, I really surprised myself here. In the time it took me to produce and the puzzles in trying to work out how to implement adverts. I felt a few parts were cryptic, but with a bit of persistence it all worked out. I tweaked the main character a little, giving a more generous amount of curves around the face.
Version 1
Version 3

Version 2

Version 1 : Cute and it looked really cool with an animated face, but on the flip-side, a little creepy. 

Version 2 : A smoother look here with glasses, but the box like shape was a bit too much.

Version 3 : By adding more curves and shading where appropriate, I think I nailed it here.

Super Bump is the first *ever*  app / game to feature a form of advertising banner screen and although some of us really hate them, they aren't really that bad. Just as long they are placed in sensible areas. If you didn't already know, full screen pop-up adverts can be quit by simply pressing the *back* button on your Smartphone or Tablet device.

Of course, without advertising in this world for products, we really wouldn't know what was available, if that makes any kind of sense? It also means, that some things we take for granted, like free radio and television stations. Okay, it really is a pain to listen and watch until your programme starts again, but at least it is free. Also, advertising funds a lot, even though the advertisers get paid in return. Both parties benefit in this way ! 

Games Played in November ::

All Retro Systems ::
Well, I have played a few retro games this month, thanks to the JXD S5700B that I purchased from Funstock. They have a fantastic range of retro gaming goodies available well worth checking out!
The JXD S5700B is an awesome 7" Android Tablet with game controls, which means you can play supported and emulator types of games. Currently, just to list a few, I have an Amiga ( UAE4ALL - Purchase the *OFFICIAL* Amiga ROMs as well ), C64 ( C64emu ) and ZX Spectrum emulator ( Marvin ). There are many more emulators you can add, even a MAME one. I have definitely had a lot of fun with this device with many more hours to come I bet. I did have a spot of bother with an older version of Google Play Store app, but once that updated to v5.x.x, everything was smoother running. I am so *very* happy with this device, well worth the money !

Tea, Coffee or whatever ? ::
Say hello to my beverage container, sorry ! I mean mug ! It's a fun loving homage to retro gaming and keeps the mood even tempered, well for me anyway. A bargain, less than £10, including shipping from Amazon.
Upgrade Time ::
This upgrade is in the form of a car, it was a bit overdue, still nevertheless, a deserved one. With thanks to my cousin, Mark, I was able to purchase a nice 2011 Renault Twingo Pzaz. The mileage is low and has low carbon emissions, meaning vehicle tax is low too, £30. Much cheaper than the Citreon Saxo, that was £140 per year, but was an older 1999 model.

The driving experience is just superb ! Changing gear has never been such a pleasure and it is good to have power steering back. The Citreon Saxo's failed over six months ago and although it was okay to drive, it was such a pain to park, more like maneuvering a brick or tank.

And so, next month is December and as we edge closer to the end of 2014, I sincerely hope that Bugsy Reloaded is finished. I am keen to get it up and ready on Android and PC for sure. With seemingly little to do, it will be interesting to see how things pan out. Next year, I was hoping to dust off Barriers and do another gaming project. I will keep you posted on my thoughts and progress !

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mystery Mini Game Revamp Revealed ...

Whoosh ! Goodbye October, you certainly kept me on my toes. It wasn't a dull month at all, just busy in most areas. So, can I relax now ? Just a little bit I suppose. You'll be pleased to hear I actually did some gamedev this month, the new mini project is nearly complete, only a few cosmetic changes to apply. The tail end menu system on Bugsy Reloaded is still being worked on, but not forgotten. Let's break down what's been going on this month ...

Bugsy Reloaded ::
I promised myself to do some work on Bugsy Reloaded this month, but kind of failed. There have been a number of distractions. However, I think because it is near the end of the project, I know it will only take a few hours to complete the last few tasks. A good tip for any project undertaking, is to write down a task list and tick off each task as they are completed. You'll usually find that you will do more on the list once started. Better set up that task list now ...

Super Bump :: ( mini game revamp of  Bump )
Ah ! So, those extra bits of time were spent working on this project ? Naughty-naughty ! It has been fun though and a nice distraction. Super Bump is based on Bump, but has been modified for continuous game play and some nice touches. For the moment, until sometime November, I present some screenshots.

I am hoping to add a couple of discrete advert banners at the bottom of the screen during the game, which may happen for release or through an update. The game will of course be *FREE* and the type of game you can pick and play anytime. The challenge is to last a full 60 seconds and beat your previous score and last round played. There are couple graphical changes I might make between now and then, they are the main character, collectable orbs and bombs, this would be to make them a bit more defined. So look out for this one in November on Android, Ubuntu and Windows, and maybe on Mac OS X.

Games Played in October ::

Unfortunately, I didn't play any games at all this month, not even on portable devices. I was kind of hoping that the special edition of Drive Club would be released for Playstation Plus members in the UK, but this has been delayed by technical issues. Perhaps next month and maybe I should play a few more games ?

Just in, this month ::

Space Invader Lamp ::
As a novelty item and to get inspired while I do gamedev, I decided to order a retro lamp. It's a Space Invader one that can either be static or pulse.
I bought the lamp from Firebox, which sells different gift items to suite every taste and price. They are well worth checking out !

Commodore 64 Commpendium ::
I missed out for some reason when this book was originally on Kickstarter, but thankfully I was able to buy a copy from Funstock. They also ship worldwide !
This book is full of great screenshots of from games on the Commodore 64 in early 1980's to just recent. Also, look out for the Commodore Amiga : a visual Commpendium on Kickstarter.

The month of November will hopefully bring lots of updates, including an upgrade outside of the gamedev stable, which has been needed for the last couple of years. Yes ! There will be photos to prove it as well and maybe a video ?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Game 'Paused' ... Press 'Play' to continue !

Have you ever experienced procrastination to the point of something being left or attended so long, it feels like it's been abandoned ? At the moment, it feels like this with a few things during this month of September. I am not sure if the tiredness of each working week with commuting on top, has anything to do with it ? Don't worry though, my passion for game making hasn't completely withered away. I guess I need to relax more and worry less, remembering that we can't control everything in life.

Bugsy Reloaded ::
I have to confess, no new or additional work has been done on Bugsy this month. Thinking back to other projects, there always seems to be a delay. Apart from further tweaks to the menu system, a bit more play testing and a couple of additional sound effects, it's pretty much good to go. I think I'll have to play around with the Android port slightly, mainly with the menu buttons, but the main code remains the same. With every new project, I always learn something new !

React ::
This project has now been abandoned. After reviewing the structure of the game, it's potential workings were clones of similar based games. It is difficult to come up with a totally original idea for a game, without it containing elements or ideas from elsewhere. Never mind !

Games Played in September ::

Velocity 2X ( PS4 and PS Vita ) ::
This game is like an expansion to Velocity Ultra with colourful additional graphics, a more chilled game soundtrack and easy to full into game play. I have only reached level 8 and even though I haven't achieved 100% completion of each, I still feel like I've progressed somewhere. The difficulty is set just right, not so much you get so frustrated and through the controller down. The added bonus of cross-save makes it a joy to pick up again from either PS4 or PS Vita !

So, it appears that September has been a quiet month indeed. I am sure things will pick up again, as life and spare time usually lulls now and again. October should hopefully bring some form of an update game dev wise, including an idea for a pre-existing mini game with a little bit of a revamp !   

Sunday, August 31, 2014

On today's Menu ...

It's all been about a menu this month, not so much food or a selection of, but the workings on the Bugsy Reloaded Title Screen where everything sits and more. Plus, another addition to the GameMaker book family. With September knocking on the door, autumn is certainly approaching promptly by the sight of leaves falling from the trees. Well, you have to expect some weather or seasonal comment, after all, Bugsy Reloaded does have four seasons !

Bugsy Reloaded ::
When I was designing the menu system for Dead Pixel Invaders, it was pretty good and worked on the PC, but not fully correct on Ouya ( still unreleased ). I had kind of abandoned the idea, until just recently where I found a tutorial on YouTube by RexFurry with a different approach.
My method relied on collision detection between two objects, which didn't work well on Ouya. However, the method shown in tutorial relies more on variables. I am quite please with the results and may well use this on future projects.
The above screenshot shows the button layout, the movement between each one is controlled by the 'Cursor Keys' and 'Z' to action the button, e.g. Start - Begin Game or Music - Toggles Music on and off. The Reset button will reset the High Score and Last Level Played display. Rather than having a 'Level Select' screen, I may just put a 'Slot' option where you can resume from a 'Save Game' object. This is yet to be implemented and I did want this game to be like the old school games with a collection of levels that would take too long to master.

There is now and active 'extra life' awarded at every 5,000 points and collectable life objects in later levels. Quite bizarrely, this routine didn't work at first. Here's what the routine first looked like :

if score >= 5000 { lives += 1 }

However, when it was placed into a check routine, the lives kept rolling for infinity. So, I asked a programming friend at work, Patrick Roche. He kindly mentioned that if the score of 5000 was set as a constant ( alias ), the routine would perform correctly. It's funny really, I use constant's all the time, but would never of thought of using this method for the extra lives routine. So, where the game sets up all the global variables when first run, I added the following two lines of code :

globalvar extralife ( sets up global variable )
global.extralife = 5000 ( set extralife to equal 5000 )

Once the variables were setup, I could then change the code to the following :

if score >= extralife { lives += 1 extralife += 5000 }

With everything in place, I was pleased that this important, but simple change made the routine work properly. Sometimes, I leave a broken routine until another time. Returning to it the next day or later with a fresh pair of eyes can usually give a solution to the problem.

A sound effect has been added for this, which is simply my voice saying 'Extra Life'. I have a few other sound effects to add in other parts of the game, which will be done soon.
The video above demonstrates the workings of the menu, however, the 'reset' and 'quit' game functions have yet to be fully implemented. I am quite pleased with the 'Extra Life' sound, it was sampled from my Nexus 4 smart phone and edited in Audacity.

GameMaker:Studio of Dummies ::
When I first heard about Dummies book for GameMaker:Studio, I found it hard to believe, but it was true and here it is ...
Even though the book does follow content and tutorials already available through GameMaker:Studio, it is explained in an understanding manner. Perfect for a beginner !

From the beginning you are introduced to using 'Drag n' Drop' code in creating a game, straight through to the use of 'GML' ( Game Maker Language ) form of coding. GML is more flexible and easier for when you want to copy and paste code.

In addition the book teaches you how to use physics, virtual keys, analog sticks and swipes as used in touch screen apps for games on mobile devices, particles and more ! I don't think it would take too long to understand GameMaker:Studio from reading this book. The content is varied enough to cover most aspects of game design and even though you might not be a beginner, you will find something interesting all the same.

( the above was used from my review of this book via Amazon )

Game Played in August ::

Swing Copters ( Android ) ::
With all the opportunities this month, I only ended up play one game for more than a few minutes. It's another game by Dong Nguyen, which uses single touch controls and as Flappy Bird, it carries addictive and frustrating game play. Guide the character with a copter helmet up through the girder levels with hitting them, the swinging hammers or the sides of the play area.
The highest score I have for this at the moment, is three points. Obviously, others will have scored higher. But if the tapping motion isn't done in a certain manner, then not even I have the chance, or do I ?

During September, I will hopefully finish off the Title Screen Menu on Bugsy Reloaded and other bits. I may well do a bit more work on Barriers, but at the moment I feel I want to finish off Bugsy. With any luck the Android version will be ready for testing. By the end of 2014, I should have a lot to show for myself, even though the pace has been slower.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Let the 'Music' play !

" Oh ! The humidity ! " said I. Not to begrudge the hot weather, just the level of humidity. I am loving the weather really, beats the cold and dreariness of late autumn and winter. Although, I do like snow, just as long as there isn't too much of it. Now, with the weather out of the way, what has been happening this month ?

Firstly, I must confess that I haven't played a game for more than a few minutes, perhaps a few retro Commodore 64 games from the CSDb ( The C-64 Scene Database ), but nothing on a Console, Mobile Device or PC. Probably a first, its been more about going outside and getting fresh air, plus the obvious bit of work on Bugsy Reloaded. Also, the Barriers phased or sequence of shooting is now working, so when Bugsy Reloaded is near completion, I will move on to this.

Bugsy Reloaded ::
The latest update is kind of special, because I have added some music and sound effects. The music was actually composed around ten years ago by Darren Izzard. Not only did he give me Midi files, but also MP3 ones too ! Factoid : Did you know Darren did a remix cover of the Commodore 64 Monty on the Run tune with vocals ? Well, yes ! I also had a go penning some lyrics, worth a listen to if you have a few minutes.

Life really has been added to the game with music and sound effects, in places the volume may need to be tweaked. Perhaps the cloudlines need slowing down in places ? The sound effects were created by myself using a sound recorder on my Google LG Nexus 4 and edited with Audacity. There maybe an opportunity for some additional remixes of the original game music, at the moment we will have to wait and see ! ( excited )

Apart from some more testing and tweaking, Bugsy Reloaded looks to be on its way to being completed by the end of 2014. If there are any delays along the way, I'll let you all know !

Barriers ::
After a few delays, I have finally got around to sorting out the sequence routine. The previous routine did work, but it was long and basically wasted several objects in the process. Without realising, what I wanted to do was very similar to the Simon memory game from the 1970's.

Amazingly, I found an fantastic Simon Says Example on the YoYo Games Game Maker Community Forum by Desert Dog ( currently Retired Staff ). Not only is the example straight forward, but it uses arrays. I changed the code to suit the mechanics of Barriers and it worked ! Examples and tutorials are an excellent way to help understand how a routine works, a bit like a good teacher educating students. It should all make sense in the end !

I have some holiday ( vacation ) days coming up soon, this will be an opportune time to catch up on rest and recuperation. There will be some gamedev mixed in for good measure and hopefully, some time spent on playing video games. Looking back to when I was 13 years old and playing lots of video games and being creative on my Commodore 64, things really have changed much. Apart from being married that is and this year marks my tenth anniversary to Mary ! Awe !

Monday, June 30, 2014

Just an Intro

Nearly time to leap into July ! It has been an interesting month with a new game played, a visit to a previously played one and a goodbye to a piece of hardware. This may well mean a close down to one part of gamedev, but then, it might not ?

The first of July also signifies 10 years of marriage to Mrs. A ! Our lives shared together is not only an adventure, but also a story. Some name parts of their life a Roller Coaster or perhaps a Ferris Wheel ride, because you are on for the duration. Hold in there !

The Apple MacBook Air that I bought as a Grade A from last year, has been sold. Although, the time in cross developing for the Mac was an interesting one, I felt a bit put off by it at times. So, rather than the occasional use and gathering of dust, I put it on Gumtree.
Bugsy Reloaded ::
I got a nice small number of bits completed this month, including a near as finished intro and other touches. I have yet to put together a game complete screen. The original Bugsy just had the title screen logo bouncing around with some music playing in the background.

Look out for the collectable Coins splitting and bouncing into four, a Duck blinking and few other touches. Also, the bonus Apple collecting stage looks fun! The music and sound effects may well make an audio appearance next month. This should bring the game more to life !

Games played in June ::

Grand Truckismo ( Ouya ) ::
I paid another visit to an Ouya game this month, Grand Truckismo. I got another sub section completed and a bit more frustrated as well. This may well be caused by the want and need to do better, push ahead and eventually complete the game. Just give me TIME !

Surge Deluxe ( PS Vita ) ::
Damn ! This game is *so* addictive and very pleasing to play at the same time. Just join up those colours, two, three or more at a time and you are away ! Even though I never can achieve high scores like some on the global tables, I think its enough as a contribution at least.
Look ! I scored a few points !
Bit in between ::
I would like to mention something about Shaun Spalding, who is an active gamedev guy with a passion for creating some pretty amazing and understandable tutorials for use with Game Maker from YoYo Games. He has currently got a Patreon campaign active, so go and check it out !

Barriers ::
Over the last couple of weeks I have been thinking about this game more, as Bugsy Reloaded is entering a potential completion of phase one. Phase two being constant playing and testing with more touches. I have decided to set the theme to space with stars and moons as backgrounds, which I may well of mentioned before. Thankfully, I think I might have figured out how to use a phased shooting of barriers. More about this next month, as I try and get this bit working.

In taking time with an hour to spare over a week or even weekend, I have really seen myself enjoying gamedev more. I can remember a few years ago, when I spent each year creating up to three games a year, even though I would spend much more time over a period of a few months. I think I have got the balance right, just like I intended to. I know many other gamedevs can spend many, many hours creating games. If I had more spare time, I would myself, but life and work have to be prioritised. Oh ! Well ! But, hey ! Keep smiling !

Friday, May 30, 2014

Go Compare !

This month has been a little quiet with hardly any games being played, well ... one for sure ! Even gamedev has been slow, but it has been done, in tiny chunks. There is also some comparing with the original Bugsy against Bugsy Reloaded. It is quite clear to see what nearly ten years of experience in routines and game design can do.

Bugsy Reloaded ::
Over the last few weeks I have been comparing the original Bugsy with Bugsy Reloaded. Next year will mark ten years since designing the original Bugsy and same amount in years of being a user of Game Maker. My first attempt was an unknowing one with no clue as to how structured a game could be and without the use of variables, you wouldn't be able to have scores or counting of collectable objects. In fact, nothing would work at all ! I would imagine that one of the most complicated of games would be an RPG one, just thinking of hundreds or even thousands of variables, is enough to make your mind boggle.

Another noticeable problem, bug or even feature from the original Bugsy, was the collision detection or lack of use using Masks. From what I understand, a Mask adds an invisible layer beneath or in front of an object which can used to define a boundary. Without this, the results in collision detection would not be as expected.
The example above with area circled in red, clearly shows that a mask isn't present and our character, Bugsy seems to be hanging from an antenna, but obviously should have fallen onto the platform below. If  a mask was present, Bugsy would have collided with the base of the cloud. With a change in routines for Bugsy Reloaded, you can now jump through the clouds and a mask is present.
The video demonstrates the difference in game play between Bugsy and Bugsy Reloaded. Although, the platformer concept still exists, its the additional touches and slight difference in looks that separates them. You will also notice that Bugsy is less rigid in Bugsy Reloaded, again, this is part of the learning curve over the years. I have been working on the intro this month as well, which will hopefully have a little bit of interactivity. There is also a basic bonus stage that will appear after each season ( every four levels ), this is will give an advantage of gaining more points. At the moment, I am not sure whether to put a timer in or not ? Perhaps some objects to avoid would be better ?

Games Played in May ...

TxK ( PS Vita ) ::
I thought I would have a another session on this wonderful Jeff Minter game and thrashed my rather poor score of less than 50,000 from last time. The wonderful array of colours definitely keeps the eyes occupied. This game keeps stress at bay for me, whilst tripping to the light fantastic !
Enter the Groove Tube
He Shoots ! He Scores !
I suppose in keeping with playing games or rather troubleshooting, I thought I'd mention an issue with updating my Sony PS4. A few days ago, I powered up the console and noticed that there was update, version 1.70. So, in trusting with a Sony product, I proceeded. After a few minutes and a couple of reboots, the PS4 presented itself like this ...
After being advised to boot into safe mode, I checked over a few settings and slowly adjusted the video output settings to 1080p. This still failed, until I repeated the process and found out that the previous update allowed up to 1080p, but now only 1080i was allowed. However, on the same day, there was an update for my 32" Sony Smart TV, which is less than six months old. Currently, I am not sure if the TV had caused the issue ( unlikely ) or the PS4 update ( likely ). I would gather that amongst the driver settings for the PS4, it detects to see what type of TV is connected. But for this to happen to a Sony TV is quite bizarre. Well, at least it is working now, even if my original thoughts believed that the console had gone into a bricked state. From what I have read on forums and watched on YouTube, the 1.70 update has caused a few issues. Gamers just want their consoles working and shouldn't have to worry about anything not working. You'd have thought that an update would be tested on various PS4 consoles with random games installed and different software update states by the PS4 development team ? If an estimated small percentage encounter the error then that's alright then ? Not if you decide to return the console because an update has rendered the hardware as a defective product withing its warranty ?

May has really turned out to be a month where I have resolved a few issues with hardware, a real tech month. A TomTom Satnav I own issued an update and it somehow wiped all of the maps from the Start25 model I have. In the end, I had to re-install the firmware and maps again, that will be twice in six months. In addition, the Toshiba Laptop had Windows login failure message on Windows Vista, which was remedied by doing a system restore to previous point. Now, this problem is common and I know probably a dozen other incidents of this happening. Again, this more than likely happens through an update. Perhaps it really is difficult to get a 100% success rate on every piece of hardware with operating systems ? From my experience, it is annoying and frustrating. For a beginner or novice, it must be unforgivable and many pieces of hardware would probably be launched into orbit or haven't already !

Next month I hope to bring a sneak preview of the intro for Bugsy Reloaded and the bonus screens. I have also been thinking about the Barriers game, perhaps it should be space themed ?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Let's Talk about the Weather !

Come rain or shine, you can always start a conversation about the weather. April has brought a good mix with a thunderstorm or two thrown in for good measure. Despite this, it has been an interesting month with an attendance to a retro gaming event and the usual bit of gamedev.

Bugsy Reloaded ::
A nice chunk of work has been done this month, a random positioned end of level object " Duck " to collect, Rain and Snow levels, a Pause Mode, a basic Title Screen layout and a working Bugsy jump action. I had this nearly perfected last month, but after some puzzling around checking gravity and variable settings, I finally got it working. Compared to the original Bugsy jumping action, which to be honest, was rather lifeless. At least Bugsy Reloaded has more life and character now ! The other effects I particularly like, are the Rain and Snow effects from Level 11 onwards. Part of the routine for this was used back in 2009 on Lightbulb Luke - Maintenance Man. There is a working build on Android now, just a few variable checks here and there so that most of the same operations remain unchanged.

The Cloudline routine has been removed for the time being, but *may* make a return with the level of clouds reduced. I changed the depth of Bugsy with the clouds so that there is an element of realism whilst walking through them. I am thinking of adding, amongst other final touches, puffs of cloud during contact. This all can be added towards the end, but will make the game look more interesting.

At long last, the collision detection has been fully switched on, so energy can now be depleted and lives lost as well. At present, I can only reach Level 7 without loosing a life and then it all goes downhill from there !  I am not sure if I will put in full stage saving progress option at the moment, perhaps just a save slot ?

Games Played in April ...

A Bit of Everything ::
Just as the sub headings reads really, there were two retro gaming events held in April 2014. The first was ROM at the White House Pub on April 5th and 6th, which is pretty regularly held in Oxford. I was unfortunately unable to attend, even if it was only a couple of miles from my HQ. There is plenty to do and see at this event with lots of retro gaming, home brew games and the ability to have some food and a beer or whatever your favourite drink is ! The video below was taken by Kieren Hawken and gives you a flavour of what was at the recent event.

The event was previously named Retrovision, but has been relaunched with a new name. Some of the regular team are also in attendance. Much of the atmosphere remains the same and with the passion of gaming at heart, you can see why retro gaming events are loved all over the U.K or world even.

The second retro gaming event was held at Snibston Discovery Museum, Coalville, Leicestershire by Retro Computer Museum on Easter Good Friday 18th April until Easter Holiday Monday 21st April. Only Saturday 19th April was attended.
Mrs. A and I have attended this event for a few years now, even though it is about 90 miles from Oxford, it gives us the chance to see a different part of the country and even more retro computers than ever before !
Me - during play on the Retro Computer Museum iCade Mini-Cab
During this time I played a numerous retro computers, a mini arcade cab, a racing car arcade machine and lots more, more than what I can remember ! Here is a video taken by myself from part of the event with music from Manic Miner covered by Max Hall and Trev Parsons.

We had a fun day out at this event and the weather wasn't too bad at all ! Although, we didn't venture outside and mainly stayed inside, only breaking for comfort breaks and visits to the café. One of the highlights of the day, was when Mrs. A and I saw a Duck and Ducklings cross a semi-busy A43 towards Northampton. I am pleased to say they made it and no-one was harmed ! Bless them !

I suspect by the end of May, gamedev wise, most of the intermediate text screens will be completed with Bugsy Reloaded. Perhaps I should start on the intro for the game ? Although, there are more bits to do ! I love this hobby called ... gamedev !

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Level Up !

For me, the month of March has really dragged its heals ! However, a lot, even if it seems a little, has been achieved on the game development front, but I've only played a few games. So, we are just passing quarter one (Q1) of 2014 already ! Even if at times, everything seems to be moving at slower pace.

Bugsy - Reloaded ::
This month has been more about putting the first phase of levels together, even if they are not fully functional with all the final touches. With only 16 levels you maybe wondering how the game will fair ? Well, hopefully with random actions on certain objects, it will make things that bit more interesting !
For sometime, I have been trying to work out how to do jump through platforms. There are plenty of examples out there for GameMaker GML, some are complex and whilst others are fairly straight forward. But because Bugsy has animation whilst jumping, I had to figure out why part of a routine wasn't working. Well, it was the " { " " } " ( Braces ) that had to be put at the top and bottom of the " IF Statement ". Sometimes it is blatantly obvious where a piece of code should go or be arranged, in this instance, going back to it after a few hours later or even the next day, brought the solution.
The problems remind me of the 1980's, when I used to type a Program Listing from a Computer Magazine like, Computer and Video Games. Either the game wouldn't work or would crash ! It wasn't until going back through the listing and comparing it with what was typed, where the real problem appeared and in most cases could be corrected. Debugging I guess !?!

I had another problem where the collision detection with Bugsy and the room boundaries, more specifically towards the left and right side. For example : When jumping left and holding left on the left side of the room boundary Bugsy just became stuck and didn't move until you let go. This was resolved by changing some of the boundary blocks / object and adjusting some code not to dissimilar to code in the jump through platform block. A simple vertical speed setting with zero was added and now, when you reach the left or right side of the level, you simply slide or fall down to the ground again. When I go about most routines, I usually see if I can simplify them. Platform games are usually quite fun to design, although I do like shoot'em up games. I don't usually like playing or designing puzzle games, even if Shapes Mindorama is in my portfolio. The game took a while to work out the levels and all of those blasted variables ! But as with my games or any other game in the world without them, nothing would work !

The above screenshot is from Level 4 ( Spring ) and those cloudlines are still in there, but the layering, style and colours of the clouds will change to suit the season and weather.

The YouTube clip of Level 4 ( Spring ) in action gives you a sample of what it is all about. The energy bar in this clip wasn't fully functional, but is now and the border box around it, has squared corners, as displayed in still above the clip. Ironically, at the time of setting up the energy bar, the variable and collision detection for the first test wasn't active. Just a tweak and few seconds later, everything was working again.

At this point, I would like to recommend the following YouTube channels that have a great selection of different tutorials for use in GameMaker and GameMaker:Studio ...

Shaun Spalding

Rexx Furry


Games Played in March ...

Grand Truckismo ( Ouya ) ::
Well, for a first play, even after repeated goes, two hours is pretty good going for me. I have to say I found this quite an addictive game and ended up buying it, straight after playing the demo. The Trials games ( Motorbike types ) on most platforms are pretty good too, but those later levels with almost impossible sections to jump on, only leave me more frustrated. I then put the game down and don't play it for ages. I guess that's where you reach a threshold before temper sets in or in my case, a shaking sensation ... time to stop !

Fez ( PS4 / PS Vita ) ::
So, after an on and off stint playing it on XBox 360 and a total of four hours so far on PC, do I really want to play it on another platform ? YES ! At the moment I am playing the demo only on PS4, but will download it for PS Vita all the same. I am just wondering at this point whether the save game position will be available over the cross buy method on the Playstation Network ? Yes !

Next month, I hope to have a few more bits added to Bugsy Reloaded. I imagine the collision detection will be turned on and more text prompts will be in the game. I have been thinking about arrays again for the game Barriers, maybe I can test a routine or two ? But what about playing games ? How about Goat Simulator ?

Friday, February 28, 2014

Read all about it !

You honestly can't beat books, real books, not e-books ! Okay, they are difficult to carry around if you have a lot. But to be honest, referring to a paperback or hardback book is the real deal. Technology has changed so much over the last few years, so much so, that even I have trouble catching up with it.
Game Makers Apprentice and Companion
Basic Projects - Game Maker and Getting Started with Game Maker
HTML5 Game Development with Game Maker
Over the last few years, I have bought a number of books relating to GameMaker. Each one gives step-by-step instructions on how to put a project together and provide a useful insight into routines. This then allows you to understand what is going on and encourages you through experimentation to change numbers here and there. Like a variable or a lesser or greater than number ! This is how I learned and if you can find a tutorial on a certain way of doing a routine, that's even better ! You can apply all of this methodology with any desired type of programming, whether it be GameMaker, Unity, C++, Python or other favored languages. All of the books pictured above can be purchased via any good bookstore or online from Amazon.

Bugsy - Reloaded ::
I have been pretty pleased with the progress this month, nearly all of the objects and sprites are in a working state, although no collision detection routines are active. I will probably see myself going over, the game in repeated phases searching for bugs and additional tweaks. I'm also excited about adding some nice touches, which I wasn't able to do in the original Bugsy, due to lack of knowledge. To be fair though, it was my first *ever* game in GameMaker and to see how far I have come since then, is quite an achievement.

One routine I decided to use, is a Cloudline effect. The code for this comes from a Zool tutorial in the paperback version of The Game Maker's Companion, which is available from all good bookstores like Amazon. I own both, this and the first book The Game Maker's Apprentice. The Cloudline consists of a multi-framed sprite which is cleverly used as a parallax routine in the Draw command. I will of course change the example sprites and maybe have less Cloudlines, plus modify the routine to suit the level of clouds. I added a nice semi-transparent Cloud object sprite, which is less harsh from the original pixel draw one from Bugsy. Some of the Clouds can be jumped upon, whilst others can't be.

I am now trying to design as may levels as I can during a little bit of gamedev each weekend. By the end of march, I hope to see all 16 levels completed with all tile and objects implemented. At the last time check, each level is taking 30-60 minutes to complete. A number of tiles are copied and revamped on the hoof. Once all of the levels are designed or redesigned in some cases, it will leave me time to test each level.

No title screen has been added yet, but I have a theory of what it should look like. Any additional graphics, cut scenes, high score functions and variable checking will be done last. I can't foresee this being problematic or too time consuming. I was even thinking the whole project not taking that long, but I should at least give myself the space and time to stretch it out. So, the end of 2014 ? Maybe ! Smiles all around !

Games Played in February ...

Flappy Bird ( Android ) ::
This game has seemingly come from nowhere and has suddenly caused a tidal wave of interest with varied stories of the author. Using gravity, you must keep up the momentum of the Flappy Bird and fly through a series of pipes without crashing into them. I think the creator, Dong Nguyen has done remarkably well, considering most developers crave popularity into getting themselves known. Considering the homage, yes homage of clones, both good and bad based on Flappy Bird, I think I would be happy to see everyone talking about my work. It's when no one is talking about your work, is more difficult, in the terms of craving to see your name in lights or at least to be known.

From the moment a creative person releases their work into the public eye, they can never tell how things will go for them. The pressure of success could be light or heavy ! I sincerely hope that, Dong Nguyen hasn't truly given up with game design. If he loves game design like myself, he should just continue to work on projects. Everyone is a critic out there and not everyone will like whatever you create. But there will also be those that will love what you produce as well.

TxK ( PS Vita ) ::
This is a long awaited title from Jeff Minter for the PS Vita, which I guess gains some inspiration from Tempest. The style and flavour is what you would expect from our beloved, Jeff. In my books, he is a true legend and favourite game designer of mine. So far, on my first go, I haven't beaten the high score of 50,000. But give me time !

One to look out for ...

I like old school computing and video games. I was particularly excited about a recent find via eBay, but found out it was available from Amazon instead ...

If you were a fan of Ocean Software on 8-Bit and 16-Bit computers and consoles in the 1980's to 1990's, then this book is for you. It is jammed packed with stories and facts covering the history of the software house. A well written journey by Chris Wilkins and Roger M. Kean.

This month has been a little slow in some respects. Poor Mrs. A was admitted to hospital for an urgent operation to remove an umbilical hernia. She tolerated this for nearly two years, until after falling ill and a home visit by a doctor suggested an admission to the Oxford John Radcliffe - Emergency Surgery Unit for an assessment. So, within 24 hours, the necessary operation was done and my beloved Mrs. A is back on her feet again. I was both concerned and scared, but very thankful she is back to her ol' self ! The care and attention by Oxford University Hospitals, John Radcliffe was amazing.

As we head into march, I wonder what games I will play ? Perhaps it is time to play some Ouya and PS4 !