larzdk

larzdk #608

Joined 3 months ago

Entries

The Tale of Witchnook
by larzdk
Solo
on Ludum Dare 41
Contamination
by larzdk
Team
on Ludum Dare 40
Conquer Earth
by larzdk
Solo
on Ludum Dare 38

Latest posts

larzdk

Seems like my first 48-hour jam (I've only ever done 72 hours) won't go ahead. I still have 20 "high priority" graphics to do on my list and, in less than 5 hours, doing that plus playtesting + bugfixing + implementing my audio + character AI + policies, this isn't going to work. And that's with planning for no graphics for important gameplay elements like hiring teachers and reacting to school dramas.

Unfortunately I have to work today so that will set back my progress as well. Still hoping to submit something soon. If I can't make it within the 72 hours it will be asap, because I've made so much cool stuff during this jam that I'd really like to show it. And there's always the option of coming back for a future jam.

One big lesson is how the 42 hour thing affects how I scope projects. Although I did start with an engine for the first time, having that base code didn't help me as much as I thought it would, especially since it's not a mature engine yet. Other tools, like the scripting system I developed, were helpful but I can think of better ways to plan them out with the benefit of hindsight. So I take it as a learning experience. I particularly struggled with developing the UI and will need to rethink how I tackle that for next time. Maybe I'll build myself a visual layout tool.

My big "win" from this jam was that people actually complemented my art. I put so much effort into it this jam … about double as many individual sprites as my previous jam, actually. So I'm glad it's paying off.

larzdk

Let's see if I can improve my fortunes within the next 7 hours.

larzdk

12 hours or so to go, and I'm still frantically adding content. There's so many UI elements to keep track of plus I've had to fix more bugs than I anticipated along the way. Sometimes these jams make me produce some really, really awful code!

If I don't make it in time I'll swap to the unranked jam, but I'm very much in panic mode right now lol. And to think I have work to do tomorrow. I don't think I'll be getting any sleep tonight!

larzdk

Will I manage to complete a game in a personal best time of 2 days? Stay tuned to find out.

Things completed so far:

  • 4 original music tracks (11 minutes total)
  • 7 sound effects
  • 60 "non-placeholder" graphic assets - I'm well on track to have more graphic assets in this than in both of my previous solo jams combined
  • New rendering features in the engine, like the decals required to render roads
  • New terrain generation features especially for urban environments

Roadmap

  • Finish UI implementation (started, pretty close)
  • Student AI (started, not as close)
  • More graphic assets (!) - yes, there will need to be more
  • Writing & scripting events - not started
  • I also have 1 more music track (the title track) and a bunch of sound effects still in production

Wish me luck!

larzdk

My school simulator is still going ok, I'm finishing up the first set of school buildings, and I have my soundtrack.

Want to build an inner-city suburban school? Of course I had to include that option. Here is that WIP environment:

larzdk

Well it seems my poll is saying people want to see a school simulator built during a game jam. To which I wish myself good luck. It might need to be unranked but I'll do my best to let you build an isometric school.

Meanwhile here's the first screenshots of version 2 of my engine!

Here's one with fog of war enabled and me having line of sight of the natural environment units:

Just about to start on textures for buildings and a few more bits of sprite art.

larzdk

Hey, so I have got my ideas down to a final four. I have each one as fleshed out as I can given that it's early morning here.

For the next few hours I'll need to create some basic environment art because I now know my setting will be Earth now lol. Also I'll make a start on environment sound effects.

While I do that, you can vote on which of my four ideas I go with here: https://www.strawpoll.me/15948167

larzdk

I've just completed a last few couple of bugfixes on my custom engine, and hopefully it's in a good-enough state to give the jam a decent run!

Things my isometric engine now has (especially coded for this jam!):

  • Unlimited terrain types and blending masks
  • High quality water effects
  • Fog of war
  • Proper pathfinding
  • Scriptable random maps
  • Numerous performance improvements

Things I didn't get around to finishing:

  • Multiplayer
  • Elevation on terrain

I'm seeing if I can get blending on the fog to work before the jam starts. If not it's no biggie, I just figure it would improve the visual effect a little.

I can't wait to show it off in the jam!

larzdk

So I figured I'd share some initial ideas on the themes that have been shortlisted.

I'm working with the extra constraint that the engine I'm building has been specially optimised for isometric gameplay. I imagine this would work best with RTS, RPG, Sim or 4X type games. That's cool, though, because I enjoy those kinds of games anyway. So my thoughts are around what can be done within those genres, as far as I can tell so far.

Any other ideas? I'd be curious! I've put the ones I'm struggling with the most first. :)

No UI

  • This is the trickiest one for me. UI can include everything from on-screen displays to user input. Without input or output from or to the user, do you have a game at all?
  • Perhaps just don't have one kind of interface that's common to isometric games, but that's either gimmicky (ie no mini-map) or annoyingly restrictive (ie close zoom).

Everything is edible

  • I guess the question here is "by whom"? Is it by you as a player, or are you trying to avoid being eaten, or both?
  • Could indicate setting ie a world based on gum drops and candy floss.

Buying your time

  • Generally a metaphor for not rushing things / good things take time. Slow, turtling strategies should work.
  • Could be taken literally - spending (in-game) credits gives you additional time to complete a level.

Repair

  • Could suggest the profession of a leading character, which might lead to repair in the game.
  • Potentially could suggest fixing a broken vehicle for escape, which might require resources that need to be extracted.
  • Could indicate that society itself is in a state of disrepair, and that the characters are attempting to fix it / crusade against wrongdoing.
  • Repairing could also suggest fixing a more local problem, such as fixing a city's financial troubles.

Always Growing

  • Could indicate a character's physical size, such as a child growing up, or as an enemy, a black hole that must be escaped.
  • Could describe an individual character with continuous progression.
  • Could also describe a non-character, such as a problem that keeps getting worse (like global warming).
  • Or it could suggest what the character controls, as in 4X "expand" being the goal.

Thievery

  • Obviously, stealing physical items, or ideas from others.
  • Alternatively perhaps you play a detective trying to solve mystery of who a thief is.

Alone in Space

  • RPG of lone human in an alien world.
  • Sim of solitary human colony on another planet.

Weird weapon

  • Weapon could be interpreted broadly, for example the Ring in LOTR. It doesn't have to be physical - mean words have been considered weapons.
  • Weird can suggest the weapon is otherworldly or divine in nature / attached to a particular quest.

Trash and treasure

  • Trashing can also be a verb, as can treasure. In this sense, the theme is asking for destroying and cherishing things. Classic RPG stuff.
  • One man's trash is another man's treasure - could be finding items that seem useless but prove very useful maybe in some specific scenario.
  • Trash to treasure - could be a recycling sort of idea, where mundane items are combined to create more powerful ones.
  • Treasure among trash - in an environment full of trash, the player's goal might be to work out what the treasure is somehow and acquire it.

Dangerous Science

  • Could be that the player is conducting experiments/observations or they are coping with the effects of scientific progress.
  • In a sim-like genre, something like Jurrasic Park springs to mind: attempting to conduct science but with considerable peril. Maybe an outer space setting?
  • Arms-race type scenarios could have the player try to become as dangerous as possible through making scientific advances.
  • Or perhaps global warming / genetic engineering / military super-AI has gone too far and the player is fighting for survival.

larzdk

Since people are posting how they plan on making their games, I figure I might as well follow suit.

Code
Since I'm doing this as an individual, I don't need fancy version control, just basically a glorified undo / backup system. Also since it's a browser-based game there's not really anything to compile. A few years ago I wrote my own file manager in PHP and ace.js-based editor - I usually just edit things directly on the same server that will eventually house the game.

The really cool thing I'm working on before the game will be the engine. The engine has two main components: a WebGL-based renderer and isometric game framework. This was initially developed during the last Ludum Dare but in a rush to get it done I wrote some absolutely terrible code. So instead I am planning to tidy it up and add new features. This time, before the jam even begins I'll have an engine that can handle things like:

  • large terrains without too much lag
  • terrain elevation
  • nicer shore / water effects
  • proper A-star pathfinding and collisions (hooking into pathfinding.js)
  • different types of blending between terrain types
  • fog of war
  • particles
    Aim is to get it to at least 90s standards of isometric engines, although it's possible I won't get all these features implemented in time. I've already improved it with better resource loading and font handling, so I'm optimistic I can tick off many of the things on that list.

Graphics
Graphics are usually my worst-scoring area in game jams. But I've been trying really hard to improve.

Typically I'll use Photoshop for just about everything. Sometimes I'll do some hand-drawn sketches, especially if the game I come up with calls for more complex art. I absolutely suck at drawing isometric characters though. Given that I'm creating this isometric engine, I'm considering pre-drawing a "base" isometric character and basing my other characters off this design. I considered 3D modelling my characters and rendering those, but I'm even worse at 3D modelling than I am at 2D pixel art. For putting together sprite sheets I usually use an online tool called Stitches. For making seamless textures this is a website I use sometimes.

Audio
Audio is usually my best-scoring category. I tend to think it's really important in game development but often neglected.

For sounds I like to get creative around my house, and just record them with audacity (free) and my laptop mic. I have a couple of plugins that I use to master my sound effects and edit them until they sound the way I want them to. For example, me whacking the side of my printer sounds a lot like a catapult. I'm also considering, since I won't need to worry about my engine in this jam, that I might even have time to record my own voice. Voice acting could be fun to try.

For music, I start drafting out ideas using a free program called Anvil Studio, which edits MIDI files. Then I use a shareware program called Synthfont to play the various MIDI tracks using VST instruments or Soundfonts in my collection. The resulting sound is usually passable although not as good as professional DAWs. To make it really sound good, if I have time, I will usually rerecord the music in many takes using different instruments / sounds. Then I'd use Audacity to mix them together and master them appropriately.