My Own Private Ludum Dare

Okay. So I’m sitting here, right? I’m sitting here looking for job offers and waiting for phone calls. And the situation is getting increasingly dire.

So I’ma make a game.

Inspired by Ido Yehieli‘s success porting Cardinal Quest to Android, I’m going to write an Android game.

In three days.

I have until Monday morning to get this game done and get it on Google Play, where hopefully it can help us dig out of our current hole.

It’s going to be called Star Revolution. Yes, I know, I was going to use that name for my huge RPG with tactical space and ground combat…but I’m starting to think it might be a bit hard to write that game myself.

So Star Revolution has been reinvented as a 4X game for Android phones. If you’re not familiar with the term, TV Tropes does a good job of explaining, as usual.

The problem with 4X games I’ve played like Civilization, Master of Orion, and Galactic Civilizations 2 is that they just blow up to become these huge things as you play them. Now, that’s a feature…until it’s time to sleep. Then the game state that you were carefully maintaining in your head during play gets lost, and when you come back, especially if it’s days later, your first thought will be “What the hell was I doing? Why am I researching Improved Toenail Clipping? Why is my fleet on the other side of the map? And why did I think allying with Montezuma was a good idea?”

This may suggest that there aren’t many 4X games on mobile platforms because of the inherent stop-and-start play of portable devices. But I think that by pulling the scale of the game back a bit I can still make a fun game that players can pick up and put down as needed.

I’ll be prototyping the game in C++ using my own development framework, but I’ll be writing the final game in Haxe and NME. And I’ll be blogging and tweeting the entire process.

Wish me luck!

Good Lord…

I posted a link to my last blogpost on the Gibbage Forums.

I have since learned not to ask Brit gamers if they want someone to make a Dungeon Keeper clone. Just assume that the answer is ‘yes’.

I think a Dungeon Keeper-style game will be a good way to break into 3D, and once its done the engine will be easily adaptable to more complex 3D games like Inaria 3D, so Dungeon Keeper in 40 hours is the winner!

Next Step

Okay, time to figure out exactly what I’m going to do next. I feel that I’ve got three options:

1. Star Revolution Redux. Finish Star Revolution, but with fewer features. The ground combat will be cut because it will require the most resources. Trade and alien interaction would be abstracted to menus. Players would land on planets solely to mine them or capture lifeforms. The game would then feature space combat (based on the combat prototype I’ve already written), contact with alien races, mining and trading. The game probably won’t be 3D. This isn’t too bad, but it’s only about 50% of the game I wanted to make…

2. Inaria 3D. Ryan really wants this, and honestly, so do I. But Inaria 3D would have pretty much all the problems of my original design for Star Revolution. However, it might be possible to work something up using sprites from another 3D game like Final Fantasy Tactics. A possibility, but it’ll be hard.

3. I’ve had this irrational desire to make a game in the style of Dungeon Keeper. This could very well make a very good first 3D project because of the simplicity of the 3D involved – Dungeon Keeper was actually a 2D game that was simply presented in a 3D manner.

4. One of the other projects I was considering after Inaria got finished. From these I’d probably pick either the simple real-time strategy game or the simple Master of Orion-style game. These probably wouldn’t be 3D.

In any event, no matter what I pick, I am going to be limiting myself to 40 hours again. Why? Because that actually worked. By embracing that limitation, I actually made a game (a pretty crappy game, but a game).

So, thoughts?

Dissolution of…Me, I Guess

Sorry about the lack of posts. We’re crunching at Aspyr as we move towards our first playable.

And I’m back on caffeine. Which means my diet is kaput. My energy level was just too low without caffeine to survive a crunch. And that low energy level is also why I haven’t been posting, and why I haven’t touched Star Revolution since I posted the combat demo.

Star Revolution is supposed to be done by the end of July. That simply is no longer possible, if it ever was in the first place. Star Revolution was a mistake; it’s just too big for me to do by myself. I am abandoning it (temporarily; I do want to make this game eventually).

Which means I need a new project. Something I can do on my own while surrounded by screaming children, which means something closer to the original Inaria in scope.

Any suggestions?

Summation of Feedback

First, I’d like to thank everybody who sent feedback! I got some great stuff.

The overall response was pretty positive. I am encouraged, and will continue to develop the prototype. I will also be making the following changes:

1. I’ll be adding A* to all units so they can pathfind better.

2. I’ll be beefing up the resolution to 800×600. I’ve needed to do this for a while, but I liked 512×384 because of the nostalgia factor (which I’ve already discussed) and because screenshots in that resolution fit on my webpage really well. But it’s time to get unstupid about this and give myself some more screen real estate to work with.

3. I will be adding the ability to change a unit’s orders on the fly. I will probably implement this by allowing the player to press the spacebar to pause the game, after which clicking on one of your units will dump their orders and allow you to give new orders.

4. I will add a radial menu or a movable command card to make it so that you don’t have to continually click on one side of the screen, then the other.

I may also add some features like casting simple spells (probably the same ones from Inaria). I don’t want to turn this into its own game, but I do want to get it to the point where people think it’s really fun before I consider the system “done”.

Star Revolution Update 7

The combat prototype is here. Please read the rest of this page before attempting to play it! Really!

Installation: Download the zipfile to your computer and uncompress it to a folder, preserving its internal folder structure. Then run StarRevolution.exe.

This game runs pretty much in real time, so combats happen fast. When the game starts you are presented with a combat arena.

The combat prototype!

Your four gladiators are at the bottom of the screen and the four computer-controlled enemies are at the top. On the right side you can see the interface. The top half of the interface shows the statistics of your units.

Shows the number of hitpoints the unit has remaining. This is also shown by the red bar on the bottom of each enemy unit in the arena window.

Shows how fast the unit is. Faster units both move faster and attack faster.

Shows how good the unit is at making melee attacks.

Shows how good the unit is at making missile attacks.

On the bottom half, you see the command card for your units. This card will only show up if a unit needs orders. The unit that requires orders will have a white flashing circle around it.

This icon is for movement. Move your mouse to the arena window and you will see how long (in real seconds) it will take for that movement to move to where the mouse cursor currently is. Click in the arena window where you want your unit to move. Once you give a unit a move order, that unit will not require any more orders until it gets to its destination (or is blocked). Units can move over dead units, but not through each other. A unit that tries to move through another unit (enemy or friendly) is blocked and will need new orders.

This icon is to make a melee attack. Click on it and then move your mouse to the arena window. Move your mouse over enemy units and you’ll see them highlighted with a red flashing circle. Click on an enemy unit to attack them. If the enemy unit is out of range, your unit will automatically move to intercept the enemy unit before attacking. Once your unit is in range, your unit will make one melee attack against its enemy, and then require new orders. If you want one of your units to stay on an enemy until dead, use the Engage version of this command.

This icon is to make a missile attack. Click on it and then move your mouse to the arena window. Move your mouse over enemy units and you’ll see them highlighted with a red circle. Click on an enemy unit to attack them. Missile fire can hit anyone anywhere in the arena. Your unit will make one missile attack at the enemy and then need new orders. If you want one of your units to fire at an enemy until dead, use the Engage version of this command.

This icon will make a unit engage and melee. The unit will intercept its enemy as before, and once it does it will make melee attacks against that enemy until dead (or until it has an attack cancelled; see below). The downside of this command is that you lose control of the unit – it will not take new orders until it kills its target or has its command cancelled.

This icon will make a unit engage and missile. The unit will make continual missile attacks against its enemy until that enemy is dead (or until it has an attack cancelled). The downside of this command is that you lose control of the unit – it will not take new orders until it kills its target or has its command cancelled.

This icon quits the program. When the combat is over, the only way to reset it is by quitting and restarting…sorry about that.

Cancels: All actions take time to perform. The amount of time it will take for a unit to perform its current action is represented by the white bar on top of each unit in the arena window. If a unit takes damage, time will be added to this bar, representing the fact that the unit must recover from impact before it can continue its action. If a unit takes a lot of damage quickly, it can have its action cancelled. Only combat orders can be cancelled; move orders cannot. If a unit has its orders cancelled it will then require new orders from you.

Hints: The enemy units are all completely average in all statistics. Your units are specialized; you have two fighters and two archers. Use that to your advantage. The AI is actually pretty brain dead and it shouldn’t be that hard to beat it.

Please give me feedback on this prototype! You can give whatever feedback you like, but in particular I’d like the answers to the following questions:

1. Did you feel that things were happening too fast, too slow or just right?

2. Did you feel like you had enough control over your units?

3. Was there anything about the game that confused you?

4. Did you feel that your units were having their orders cancelled too often?

5. Did this game remind you of any other games you have played in the past? If so, which ones?

6. Did you find the game fun to play?

7. What would be the most important improvement to the game, in your opinion?

You can leave feedback in a comment on this post, or you can email it to viridian@viridiangames.com. Thank you!

Star Revolution Update 6

The combat prototype will be ready tomorrow (Monday). I could have released it today, but I want to add some sound effects. The game actually flows pretty well, I think…its biggest problem is that, even with all the changes I’ve made, it can still be hard to tell who is doing what to whom. I think adding some sound effects will help a lot. Animations would help even more, but that’s beyond my ability at the moment.

Looking forward to getting feedback from you guys.

Gibbage and Angst

Gibbage is a potentially-great little 2D platformer/shooter by Dan Marshall. Gibbage is simple and fun to play (except that the double-jump is too hard to do, in my opinion, and…I can’t seem to beat the computer).

But as I read through Dan’s blog about the development of Gibbage, I couldn’t help but notice his attitude throughout the project. Yes, there were lots of coding books hurled at poor, defenseless walls as he learned, but for the most part his posts are things like, “I’ve got a little guy! Whee!”, “I can run him around! Awesome!”, “Now there are two of them, yipee!”, “Now they can shoot each other! Brilliant!”

Basically…well, he seemed to have more fun developing Gibbage than I did writing Inaria…and a lot more than I’m having writing Star Revolution. Star Revolution in particular is turning into a real slog. I’ve got procedural textures, procedural planets, procedural cities on the planets, aliens, ground combat, space combat, trading, mining, talking and questing in this game. It is possible that I, flush with the moderate success of Inaria, bit off more than I can chew.

Now, I can see flashes of fun in the future for Star Revolution. In particular, when a friend at work pointed me at this site and I saw these pics of the starship interior molds they sell, I thought, “Wow, that’s exactly how I want SR to look!” And I can foresee putting that together inside the computer as being really fun.

But the amount of infrastructure I have to put together before I get there is just huge, and trying to get it all together is just grinding me down.

Plus I just got a really good book on DirectX and now I’m thinking about moving the whole project off of SDL and OpenGL and onto DirectX and Direct3D…