Books for World Book Day
Here’s a very short update, mostly so I could post this image of all the library books I made since it’s #WorldBookDay !
I’ve been making good progress on the demo I started in December, and yesterday played through it from start to end and discovered that all the major puzzles and elements are now in and working. There is still quite a bit of art and polish to do, and of course various tweaks and adjustments but it’s getting close to being done now. I’ll probably make a new trailer once everything is finished, and then it’ll be time for testing.
Wait… what? Did I say ‘new’ trailer… like there’s an ‘old’ one? Yes! I think I may have somehow forgotten to post that up on my blog! Here it is:
How do you like the music? It’s by the very talented Lyndon Holland. I’m looking forward to more of that, and a more finished version of the demo very soon.
Don’t forget to read more books!
Progress Update – Happy New Year!
It’s a bit optimistic isn’t it, to think the whole year will be ‘Happy’ but who knows we might get lucky! One thing I do know – 2016 ended on a pretty high note for me and Mr Albert Devlin. I got loads of work done on the demo during December and he got a whole new mansion to play in!
Having booked the whole month for working on my own game and not doing any freelance work I set to work in a brand new project in the brand new Unity version (5.5) and with a new (to me) visual scripting asset called PlayMaker. It takes the pain out of coding for someone like me who isn’t a professional programmer and has enabled me to make a ton of progress on the game. I didn’t keep any of my old scripts from the previous project versions and test levels and started out making things from scratch to see if it would be viable and/or quicker with Playmaker. Well our survey says a big fat YES! Since December 1st (inc. a couple of days learning how to use PlayMaker, 1 full day in London and 2 days off sick, plus all the Christmassy goings on) I’ve managed to;
rebuild the pick up and drop item system (better than before!)
rework ‘ghost mode’ (more optimised than the old version)
build a new mansion layout (it’s bigger!)
build a new text label system for items
make interactable doors (that always open away from you)
make most of the puzzles for the demo
make interactable UI puzzles using moving elements
make UI button hints for interactive objects
model and texture various props including curtains for the bedroom and hall and a moon globe lamp!
I had a lot to catch up with after the previous months, but I think I’m back on track!
There is still quite a bit to do to make get the demo totally finished though, I made a ‘Big Bad To Do List’ this morning and it’s a full page of two columns, so I’ll be busy for a little while yet. The plan is to apply for the Leftfield Collection which is at EGX Rezzed in March this year. It’s a showcase for indie games and if you get selected you get to show your game at EGX for free and it’s usually a popular section of the exhibition which means a lot of people will come by and have a look at the game so fingers crossed for that.
Ok enough words, what about some screenshots?
That’s all for now, more to come soon. And as always, thanks for looking!
Progress Update – Turtle Power!
Wow has it really been 5 months since the last update? What can I say? Sorry I’ve been so quiet lately but I’m still here and definitely still working on my game!
So how come it’s been so long since the last update?
Earlier in the year I applied for some funding but sadly didn’t get it. Going through that process made me realise just how much time it might take to finish the game and how much it’s likely to cost and I started to get worried about running out of money. So I decided to take on some more freelance work. Of course I overdid it a bit and ended up with too much to do at once. So I’ve been super busy working on three other games for the last few months and getting much less time to spend on my own. I have made some progress but it’s been quite minimal and not as much as I would like.
It’s hard to find a balance between doing enough paid work to pay the rent and eat food, and having enough time to work on my own game. I know I haven’t got that balance right in the last few months. An easy trap to fall into in this scenario would be to work excessive hours every day to cram everything in, but then you just end up being a zombie and burning out. I don’t want to do that so while I have been really busy, I’ve also made sure to take some time for myself and a break from work. I’m making peace with the fact that I’m more of a turtle than a hare. Progress is slower than I’d like and it might take me a while to get things done but I will get there eventually. As long as it doesn’t take me as long as it took the guys at D-Pad Studio to make Owlboy, which just came out after nine years in development then I think I’ll be ok! I haven’t played it yet, but it looks lovely and seems to have had a great reception since release. It’s also quite inspiring to see another team sticking with their project, not giving up and having the stamina and determination to finishing it regardless of how long it takes. But you know, if it does take that long then so be it. I intend to enjoy the journey however long it lasts and I’m still as enthusiastic about making this game and all the ideas I have for it as when I started, if not more so.
Looking forward now – December is almost here and I really can’t wait. I was hoping to get more time in November to work on my game, but since that didn’t happen I decided to book the whole month for my own project. I’ll be working on my game with no distractions throughout December. It’s been ages since I’ve done that and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in again. I’ve got a bit of art to finish up for a new area in the mansion, and then I’ll mostly be doing gameplay stuff. I’ve been looking at some visual scripting assets for Unity which I’m hoping will speed up the process a bit. I’ve really enjoyed learning C# and I think it will still be very valuable going forward, but if I can shortcut it a bit with some assets from the Unity store then that’s great. I hope by the end of the December or early January I’ll be close to finishing the first draft of the demo. Then the plan is to try to get some more funding and really get things moving in the new year.
That’s all for now! I’ll definitely be back with another update in December as I enjoy an entire month of working on my own game.
And don’t forget kids – Slow and Steady Wins the Race!
Progress Update – Mansion art update
It’s been a while since the last update, mostly because I’ve been really busy working on loads of new art for the new demo level I’m working on. I’ve been busier than usual with my freelance work too, so progress on my game has been a bit slower than I’d like but things are going well and I do need to pay the rent and eat food regularly so it has to be done! I was also unhappy with the last update, it came at the end of a very unproductive month of not feeling great about anything and progress was almost non-existent. That is also part of the reason the update is later this time, and it’s not a ‘monthly update’. I’ve decided to make updates only when I have something worthwhile to share, rather than just because it’s a certain day of the month. So hopefully I’ll avoid doing another sad update!
Anywho, on to the good stuff – new art! I’ve been burning the candle at both ends (and modelling a few) over the last month and a half getting 5 and a bit new rooms done for the demo level. The demo starts, as the full game will, inside Albert’s mansion and progresses through several rooms which I have now… mostly completed. I still have some tweaks to do and the gameplay to implement but overall I’m pretty happy with how it all turned out. Each room has it’s own distinct look/theme and that’s something I’ll continue with all the additional rooms that will be added for the full level in the main game. Victorians loved their themed rooms, and it’s a great excuse to make loads of cool, weird and wonderful props, most of which are either a reference to something later in the game, a personal reference from my own life or a tribute to something or someone special. I’ve also had fun hiding skulls all over the place. Lots of skulls. See if you can count them all!
I’m planning on making a short video walk-through of the mansion area, but for now here are some screenshots…
Here’s the video:
Mansion Environment Video
So there we go. Lots. More. Mansion.
Next stop… somewhere beyond the Mansion!
p.s. Happy Birthday to me ðŸ™‚
Monthly Update – April 2016
It’s been a while since the last update, what with moving house and the Internet not being connected for several weeks. The regular update day had long passed by the time everything was settled so I decided to change to an end-of-month update schedule instead. It always seemed a bit weird doing a recap of last month as the ‘update’ of the next one. So here it is, all new end-of-month update number one!
So what’s been happening? Apart from the aforementioned house move (I’m not in a basement any more so I have windows and daylight and everything!) I’ve been spending some time doing a big recap on the progress so far and what to focus on over the next few months. I have been thinking about the project as a whole up to now – as in ‘I’m making a game’ which can be quite daunting when you’re doing everything alone. It’s easy for procrastination to set in when the goal is quite distant and the task is enormous. So to help keep things moving along and not get too overwhelming I’m refocusing a bit on producing a short demo of the game. I started making a small demo a month or two ago to show at a local game dev meet up and it was really helpful to have a fixed deadline and a smaller scale of project to tackle. I got a lot done and it was a really productive month, so I’m going to continue in that mode for the next few months and concentrate on getting a really polished gameplay demo that contains the core elements of the game and really shows off the unique features and gameplay my game will contain. In hindsight I should probably have done that to begin with, but this is a new process for me so I’m learning as I go.
I feel like I haven’t got much practical work done over the last month, but it has been really helpful to take a step back and look at what I was doing – what was useful, what wasn’t and to get a better focus on what I should be doing next. Writing a detailed description of the game, it’s features and thinking about where it fits in the market has been a good exercise and has brought things into much clearer focus for me.
Between all the moving and writing and thinking and planning I have managed to get some ‘real’ work done too! I’ve been working on ‘ghost stuff’ and made a concept for the ghost timer as well as updating the textures and in-game camera effects for ghost mode.
I’ve also been doing some more detailed design work on the ghost timer mechanic and implemented the first version of that. I’m not sure how I managed to miss out doing the ghost timer before now, it’s pretty much the main thing in the game but I’ve been working away without it for several months. What was I thinking?! I also put together the image below for Shakespeare Day. By coincidence I happened upon a fantastic quote that fits so well with the theme of my game. Some things just go perfectly together!
Going forward I’ll be working some more on the ghost timer and implementing a set of puzzles that showcase it and the other core features of the game, and I hope to get back to making some more artwork soon.
As always thanks for looking and I’ll be back next month with more cool stuff!
Monthly Update – March 2016
Although February is the shortest month I managed to pack a lot into it! After setting myself the goal of getting more stuff done that I could show to the outside world, I decided to jump in the deep end and signed up to show the game at a local game developer meet up. The meet up this month was being hosted by Unity at their office here in Brighton which always draws a large crowd so I had my work cut out putting together something worth showing.
I made a short demo level based on some of the elements from the forest level I’ve been working on lately. I tried to get it as close to finished as possible, which included getting all the animations in for the interactions, getting various UI elements implemented or improved, adding push/pull functionality, doing camera improvements and camera effects for ‘ghost mode’. I also finally got round to making the ‘dead’ set of textures for the character so now he looks suitably spooky and at long last I’ve given him a name. So may I present in all his dead/undead glory – Mister Albert Devlin.
Another big addition in the demo is the ‘ghost mode’ timer, which I just made the first version of. So now when you switch into a ghost, the timer appears and counts down to the inevitable! It will need a lot of testing to make sure using it gives a good sense of risk and reward, and it isn’t too annoying to manage the limited amount of ghost time you get. More to come on that in future I’m sure.
One of the things I didn’t get chance to do was any texturing of the environment. It’s still all grey at the moment, but that is something I’ll be working on during this month. I did manage to get a bit more detail into some of the environment models, but that’s another thing that still needs quite a bit of work before it’s complete.
Here are a couple of screenshots taken from the demo, showing a major puzzle room in regular and ghost modes.
I’ve got some more more exciting stuff in the works that I can’t talk about just yet, but hopefully I can share that with you next time. Between now and then I’ll be working more on the demo level to get that to a 100% finished stage. It’s been a while since I did that first art test inside the mansion, and I really want to get back to making some nice artwork. So that will be taking up most of my time in March. Can’t wait to see how it turns out, and I’m looking forward to sharing more screenshots and possibly a video next month.
As always, thanks for looking!
Monthly Update – Feb 2016
January has been quite the month of ups and downs. I started off raring to go with some some great new direction with the level design I’ve been working on for a while now and also started to think more seriously about funding for the game. Shortly after that I was suddenly struck with the dreaded ‘omg what am I doing, have I made the right decision, should I really be making this game’ dilemma. It was a bit of a shock to the system really after working on the game for about a year now, to even consider not working on it anymore and doing something else. In retrospect I think looking around at all the funding options and doing schedule and costing plans is what set me off on the path of doubt, because once you start to think about those kinds of things and put numbers down on paper it all starts to get a bit more serious and real. Not that I wasn’t taking it seriously before but to be honest I hadn’t really been putting cost estimates and firm dates on things. Also the idea of getting other people involved and therefore needing to pay them takes things to a different place than when I’m just doing it myself in my own time, at my own pace. It was all starting to get a bit scary.
I’m glad to say I’ve got over that little episode and I’m feeling a lot more positive about the whole thing again. I realised some of the funding options I was looking at were not the right fit for me or my project and also it really hammered home what I’d been talking about last month – the need to get the things I’ve been working on to a more finished stage so that I can show to people outside my little studio, and add in the elements I need to make it look like a proper game. Even if it’s just a small slice of the final game, having something that looks complete that I can show people will help in numerous ways. Firstly it will give me a better sense of achievement and help me stay motivated, it will allow me to gauge progress and better estimate how much longer things will take and of course it will help raise interest and potentially get some funding if I have something that looks good and I’m happy to show off to people.
So what I’m working on now is getting the first half of the current level finished to a more complete stage. That includes all the level design, modelling, texturing, lighting, all the puzzles and interactive elements and perhaps most importantly the feedback loop between with the player and the character on screen. This requires all the animations for things like picking up objects, interacting with the various things in the environment and feedback on all the player inputs. A lot of those things already function in the game (e.g. picking up and interacting with objects) but they don’t have an animation or any other visual feedback. You can press the correct button in the correct place and a thing happens but you don’t get important visual feedback on what action you did and also when things don’t work, or don’t work yet. A good example of this would be a door that is locked but can be opened, you may be able to try the handle and get a ‘door locked’ sound so you know to come back later when you find a key. A door that will never open would simply do nothing when you try to interact with it or you get a generic ‘can’t do anything’ reaction from the character. So I made a list of all the different actions you can or will be able to perform in the game and I’ve spent the last week doing custom animations for all of them. I have most of them done now (I think!) and have started to integrate them into the player controller. I’ve never animated a character before so it’s tricky getting all the movements to look right, but I’m really enjoying watching him get more animated!
I’m also enjoying the help of my first intern on the project – Mr Berkley! As you can see from the picture he is really getting to grips with the whole animation thing in Unity, although I’m not sure the ‘sit’ and ‘walkies’ animations are appropriate for a Victorian gentleman…
I’m planning on a big update for next month which may include the first public outing for the game so I’d better get back to it. See you next time!
Monthly Update – January 2016!
Happy New Year everyone!
I was thinking all day yesterday about what to write for this update. I realise now why the media is so full of lists and retrospectives and such at this time of year. Even as someone who doesn’t get caught up in all the Christmassy madness it’s still a weird time of year and for some reason hard to focus on anything.
So here is my list! Nah just kidding, instead of a big list of what I’ve done in the twelve months (which is quite a lot really considering I only started thinking about this game towards the end of January) I’ll have a little Back to the Future moment and post an answer to myself back on the 1st of Jan 2015 in the form of an image.
“I wonder what it will look like this time next year…” I said in my first blog post, well now we know!
That is the screenshot taken in Unity on Jan 1st 2015 and a screenshot taken today in the level I’m currently working on. It shows less than half of the forest level currently in development and circled in red at the bottom left is the player character for scale. There are one or two more scripts in the scripts folder too ðŸ˜‰
So yeah, lots of progress which is great, but still a massive amount left to do. My focus this year will be more towards getting stuff done that I can show to the outside world. I’ve been beavering away in my little studio for the last 12 months and have put out a couple of screenshots here and there but mostly what I’ve done has been behind closed doors. I need to start getting things done that I can show to more people and generate more interest for the game. That means more ‘finished’ artwork, getting proper animations done and then I can start showing gameplay clips too. I’m also going to start looking into getting some external funding for the project. So far the project has been funded directly from my own personal bank account, but if I’m going to make this game as good as it can be I’m probably going to need some help on a few things, which means paying people, which means I need to raise some more money for the project. I doubt I’ll do it via crowdfunding, so I’m looking into other options such as the recently announced UK Games Fund.
On a more immediate note, the revision of the Forest level that I’ve been working on for the last couple of months turned out pretty good and I’ve had a few people test it and got some very useful feedback (thanks JC and JC!). I have a few more tweaks to make on the positioning of things and then I’m going to work on improving gameplay feedback, i.e. having animations, sounds, effects and so on to let the player know what is going on in the world. I also just picked up the ‘NPC Chat’ asset from the Unity Asset Store so I can start adding some NPC dialog to the game, and of course modelling, texturing and lighting so it looks like a proper world instead of a grey box.
This is starting to turn into a list so I better stop right there!
So good luck everyone with whatever you’re doing in 2016, and again, I wonder how things will look this time next year?
Monthly Update – December
Famous last words – “hopefully it wonâ€™t take multiple re-builds”. Totally jinxed myself there didn’t I?!
It’s been a tough month ironing out the issues with the original forest level layout. I was getting stuck juggling two opposing directions for the level – on the one hand I wanted it to be quite open and allow players to be able to solve various puzzles in a somewhat open manner, so they could tackle things to a certain extent in the order they wanted, or at least be able to travel freely around the level and solve the puzzles they encountered. On the other hand I had some specific things I wanted to happen, and needed to happen before other things which required a more linear approach. I was trying to avoid making the levels too linear because I think in general very linear games can be a bit boring and often get criticized for being too linear, but having things happen in a very specific order would make things a lot easier to plan, build and not confuse the player. So I went back and forth trying to do a bit of one then a bit of the other and just making more problems.
In the end I did a ‘sweep the board clean’ re-design of the level, where anything and everything could change or get cut if it wasn’t working, and tried designing a very linear level with one clear path and little to no back tracking. It worked really well, so I made my peace with linear level design and things progressed a lot smoother after that and I can see why so many games opt for a more linear approach in their design. I still have a couple of sections where there is a bit more leeway with the order of things, but overall it’s a more guided path through the level now. The forest level comes directly after you leave the mansion (as seen in the first screenshot of the game) and I want the player to feel like they are going deep into the forest and far away from everything they knew. They literally have left their whole life behind them and are going off into the unknown. So it feels appropriate that the level is quite a long and winding path to really make a break from everything that came before.
Another thing that helped a lot with the progress during the second half of the month was that I made a modular kit to create most of the paths. It’s a lot easier once the kit is done to grow and/or change the layout, and everything stays at a consistent scale too. It’s very easy to make over-sized props and locations in a 3D modelling program and then realise they are way too big when you get them in-game. A kit system helps to avoid that. Augmenting the kit with some unique sections helps to break up the repetition, and lighting and set dressing should make things different enough that it’s hard to notice the repeats. I still have one very small section of the layout to finish, which is simply adjusting the scale of one part and then it’s all done. A lot of the gameplay should be transferable from the previous version and then there are a few new puzzles to script but I’m hoping to have it all done and testable by the end of the coming weekend. Famous last words again I expect…
The often repeated advice from wise game dev veterans that “thing’s always take twice as long as you think they will” is so true.
I was debating at the end of last month whether I’d go on to build the next level or do some ‘finished’ artwork for the forest. The jury is still out on that decision, but I am feeling a bit overdosed on forests at the moment so it’s very possible I’ll move on to the next level. Art production is so time consuming, and if I end up coming back and changing things with the level based on what I learn from building the next level I’ll have wasted a lot of time.
And as wise man once said “Don’t waste your time or time will waste you”
Monthly Update – November
I feel like I start this every month by saying “I’ve had a busy month”… but I have, again!
After getting the layout for the forest level blocked out during the previous month, I spent October getting all gameplay done. It’s been quite a full month so, without giving too many spoilers and specifics away here’s a quick list of what I added this month;
Two different door + key puzzles
Approx. 10 different object interactions
Floating name plates for interactive objects
‘Death’ and reset system
Learning two new Ghost abilities
Hazardous mushrooms (!)
Flowing water (with a little help from Rob)
Multiple UI pop ups (including a treasure map!)
and the Will o’ the Wisp you can see in the video below.
Having got all the gameplay in according to the original plan I got a few people test the level and the flaws in layout and general flow were immediately apparent, some of which I already suspected but it’s good to test things and find out. It’s pretty much impossible to test a puzzle/exploration game when you’ve built it yourself. So I’ve gone back to re-work the layout and iron out those issues and should have a second iteration of the level ready to test again in a few days.
Once I’m happy with the new layout, and hopefully it won’t take multiple re-builds, I’ll most likely move on to building the next level. I may take a small slice of the forest and get it to a more finished level visually, as I did with the mansion house screenshot. It helps to be able to visualize the final look of the level, how the lighting will affect it and so on and because I know people are interested to see nice artwork! Getting people to look at my game, talk about it and share it is the hardest part really and definitely the biggest battle facing all independent game developers since we don’t have large advertising budgets.
So I’ll leave you with a short clip taken from the beginning of the forest level. See you next month. I predict another busy one!