Mini Jam 12 Heroes

It has been a while since I’ve written in the blog. Over the past few months, I have been extremely busy with new opportunities and new places.

Over the weekend I did a game jam called Mini Jam 12 that was hosted on Itch.io. The theme was heroes. You can find it here: Mini Jam 12

I didn’t have too much time this weekend so I spent most of my free time going through the tutorial and learning how to use the game engine. I used ct.js which is a JavaScript based game engine. It is really nice and has the ability to become very powerful.

You can find ct.js here.

But I didn’t know much about using it and I had not worked in JavaScript in quite a long time, so I couldn’t just bang out a bunch of JavaScript from the top of my head like I could with GDscript in Godot or nowadays C# in Unity.

I did manage to make a few concepts and work on the game on Sunday afternoon after finishing one of the tutorials. 

I went to bed way late talking with my sister sending her birthday wishes and what not.

So this morning I woke up at like 10:30. And the game jam went till 1pm. I made breakfast and got dressed/showered. And then I had some time for reworking the game that I thought I could easily fix. But what I had in my head was very scrambled and messy.

So, I decided to kill everything and just make something very simple in scope. I used everything they taught in the first tutorial to make the game. Which was enough to get me started and to make something. Better than no game.

I actually made the game in about 1 hour and 40 minutes. The last 20 minutes was me trying to upload it to itch and make it work. I finally got it to load properly on the web player, but it was a few seconds late because I forgot to hit the publish check mark before I submitted the game. However, I direct messaged one of the jam hosts and they gladly let me submit the game. 

The limitations for the jam were that you had to use only basic shapes. I wanted to make a visual novel or adventure game where you would go around and talk to different anthropomorphisms that were just circles and squares and triangles and such…

But instead I made a simple game where you save pink dots and avoid crazy green ones.

Am I proud of myself?

Yes.

For finishing another game. Trying something new while spending time with my loved ones as well. I am also proud that I took the time to reflect on the process a bit in this blog post.

Do I wish I had picked a different game engine?

No.

I do wish I knew more about the engine and had been warmed up more in JavaScript.

Do I wish I had spent more time on the game?

Yes and no.

The things that I did do this weekend were important for my social and physical health. All work and no play makes Zach a dull boy. But yeah, I could have learned a lot more by spending more time and focusing on the Jam.

Well, here just try the game for yourself. But I warn you, this is what a game looks like when you scrap your idea at the end of a jam and hack something together in an hour forty.  

Play it here for free!

Leave me a comment and rating! I would really appreciate it. And play the other games too! Enjoy!

Krass Jam #5

Over the weekend, I made a game for Krass Jam #5!

I streamed about 80% of the game’s development on Twitch. I took some breaks in between. I worked on the game on most of Saturday, most of Sunday night, and for two hours on Monday night. Overall not much time.

So, how did the development go?

The Beginning

Screen Shot 2018-07-10 at 9.33.25 PM

When I first started working on the game, I had to choose a theme. For Krass Jam we have a generator make three crazy themes for us and we choose from the three.

My three themes were:

  1. Motivate superheroes to be a bad enough dude
  2. throw hats and buy extra content with real money
  3. collect crystals from unknown worlds with businessmen

I had Google choose a random number for me as I had no preference for any of these. I could easily imagine what kind of game I would make for each of them.

Google chose #3.

So I hit the ground running.

After that I made a game design document (GDD) to keep track of things I needed to do and to flesh out a good direction for the game.

I wrote out a little intro for the game’s story. And then I made a list of things to make.

I started with the frame for the game first. And then I went in and built the gameplay.

This is a first for me in a game jam. I built the menus, win and lose cases, volume controls, and instruction screens first. Then I built the pause screen and set the input actions. I also made some art in between to chisel out the look before I made any mechanics of the gameplay work.

I also built the hud after that and made a fuel gauge that depletes with time.

Then I started to work on simple player animations and movement. This movement is where most of the programming logic is written in the code.

Many Japanese game developers start with the player’s look and feel in the game first. And then they go and build the rest of the game. This is a good idea. It works really well for much bigger projects.

Why?

Well, if you build the environment and the menus and everything else before you focus on the player feel, you are wasting a lot of time. If the game ends up with a bad movement feel, the game won’t be very fun to play. Players will go and play something else.

So why did I chose to build the frame of the game and the menus first?

Well, for two reasons;

  1. The time constraints. I wanted to get a working program built first. I hate it when the developer leaves out menu settings, and a simple way to pause and quit the game.
  2. It’s low hanging fruit. Easy to finish. If I can accomplish a few easy tasks, then I will get into my groove and be ready to tackle more cumbersome ones.

However, looking back, I should have been a little more lean in the process. I should have made the smallest iterations,  and kept on making the next iteration. Finish the simplest version first.

That means starting with the end in mind. Starting with the win and lose cases, and working backwards from there.

I did this for the last game jam game, “Ice Cream and Match.”

Why is being lean good?

Well, during a game jam life can get in the way and we have to stop working on the game. If we stop and we are lean, we still have the last iteration to publish and submit to the jam.

Many people enter game jams online, but about half of them finish and submit a game. If they worked in a lean style, they might have made a basic version to submit early.

Now let’s talk about my game’s gameplay.

Gameplay

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The gameplay, in a word, is unfair.

There is a random chance of winning the game even if you put forth your best strategy.

Every block you destroy in the game has a random chance of producing a gem. There is even a chance of having no gems turn up after destroying every block. This makes the game impossible to win.

Although there is fun in losing the game, after the first time, losing gets really old as there are only two lose cases.

And that makes the gameplay short and replay undesirable.

The Feel

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The sound together with the animation is only slightly satisfying.

The digging animation is slow. If I sped it up or played it backwards, I could make the digging action feel less sluggish. But it is what it is for now.

Acceleration. There is no acceleration or deceleration. The velocity is constant.

The worst thing about the movement is getting stuck on the side of the walls when trying to move up. This happened when I watched my wife play. She didn’t realize that you should just back away from the wall and she thought she was stuck.

To me it was an obvious solution. But to a player it’s a point of frustration. It’s a point of exit from the game.

Also flying with the rocket booster has no sound. So there isn’t much satisfaction with flying. Only a quick animation.

Building the Game for Another Week

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If I do decide to work on this game for another week, I would need to improve many things.

  • The Game feel
  • Build up the story and make more animations
  • Build up the replay-ability
  • Extend the game with upgrades and bigger levels

 

That’s all for now. Here’s a link to the game. Play it and let me know what you think in the comments.

Power Crystal Diggers In Space 2055 Game Page


Strawberry Choco Banana Boom Development

I am building a new game that I want to target for steam and the arcade.

It is a cute shooter and party game where you shoot things and collect items to advance through levels. The main feeling of the game I want to convey is crazy cute party arcade game!

I want to launch this game on steam and other outlets. And if I people really like it I will start a kick starter to make a new improved version with an arcade cabinet.

Here is some of the art that I have created. of course, it is no where near final. But the game will rely on content mostly to get enjoyment out of it.

girl_menu_bg

I am streaming the development of the game on my twitch stream

I am using the new Godot 3.0 for development. I am used to making things in Godot 2.1.4 but this version is similar enough.

I will need to brush up with some tutorials in order to develop better character controls with this game. So far, this first iteration will be a one-room shooter with enemies coming in waves.

That’s all for now. I’ll post some updates soon as things progress.

-Zach

Krass Jam 3! Mid way progress report.

shark_render_simple_1

I am in the middle of a game Jam! Krass Jam 3!

You can check out the Jam here: https://itch.io/jam/krassjam3

Yesterday I worked on the main game elements such as the title and three ending screens. And finally I modeled a low poly shark and made a tank to put it in.

The final result for yesterday looks like this:

sharktrainertitlescreen

THREEsharksintheTank

I managed to get the sharks moving around and bumping into the walls just fine. I might add in some random up and down movements to make it look like they are more alive.

Today I have to model the diver and then program in all of the other game logic.

Good fun!

But I am off to the park first to look at the plum blossoms.

Cheers for now!

Why are languages being taught like math?

Within the past century there have been many great developments in language teaching, especially from American educators. And yet, the majority of foreign language courses taught in America and around the world are very much your standard grammar/translation course mixed in with “communicative” learning. While this is a very valuable method the major drawback is that it needs to be intensive in order to achieve good results. Your 50 minute high school Spanish class 3 times a week doesn’t count as intensive. Even with all of the worksheets assigned for homework.

So now I must ask the question; Why are languages being taught like math? And more importantly why are they being tested and graded like math?

Let’s do a little thought experiment.

Imagine you are in math class. Nothing too crazy, it’s just your typical fourth grade elementary school arithmetic.

Now like any good student you’ve been studying hard and doing a ton of practice problems on worksheets and from your textbook. Every problem is beautifully solved step by step. And like the perfect student you show each step of your work written out in your best penmanship.

You are well prepared for what’s about to come next. The math test. What’s on the test? Long division and multiplication. The test is an hour long with 100 questions.

But, unfortunately the copier in the teacher’s room is broken. So the teacher decides to give the exam orally. And you can’t write anything down. In fact, you have to do all of the math in your head and have to speak your answers aloud. You still have an hour and 100 questions.

Can you do it?

I imagine you won’t do very well unless you’ve been working with a private tutor or teaching yourself on how to do long division in your head.

That’s how many language classes work to prepare the learner for conversation. Most grammar focused courses are very good, but they rarely give the students the skills to do any real work in the language. Communicative classes try to address this issue but usually put the cart before the horse and miss the fine parts of understanding the language. Students say things without understanding.

Why are grammar classes good? Well, if you take a look at Chomsky’s recent works about languages, you’ll understand something very important. Language developed first as a method for thinking not communication. That came afterwards as a result.

However, it’s very hard to think in another language without acquiring the grammar. Grammar courses are focus on making you aware how the language works and how the forms change. Thinking only happens naturally when the brain acquires the grammar patterns and meaning with sounds.

Are they good at helping you acquire that internally? Depends on the class. If the class is heavy in comprehension, it’ll have stronger results. If it’s taught like a series of math puzzles, once the puzzle is solved there is less reason for the brain to retain the pieces of the puzzle.

Now let’s move back to our thought experiment. Acquiring a language is like acquiring another way to do mental math. You can’t simply understand the rules and apply them when in mid conversation. You must have it already internalized. Your brain must be trained to hold the capacity. The brain must process meaning and take mental notes in the language.

Many language courses are taught focused on reading and writing. And it’s done through the scope of  the mother tongue. Very little attention is given to understanding. Dialogue and conversation is stressed. Thinking is glanced over.  It is presented as a set of grammar rules to decode messages. And remembering all of these rules before the brain has fully acquired them causes too much strain on the mental capacities. Especially during an unrehearsed conversation.

Should we teach grammar? Absolutely.

Should languages be taught and tested like math?

What is the end goal?

May Game Dev 007: Thinking about Collider States

Okay, so I’ve got some basic animations up and running for my fighter.

Now I need to start thinking about the hit boxes. When do the hitboxes deal damage? When do they take damage? What happens when the character blocks?

Speaking of blocking I need to make a  block animation and assign a button to it. That way I can have three proper states. I’ll also need to put in a quick health bar and script that takes care of health.

I also want to be able to turn on hitboxes so you can see them. This is good for debugging and it was also suggested by Mike Z in his presentation on how to make fighting games.

I want to try to cover all of the points in my game that he suggests, but it’s going to take time and my game will be a very simple fighter with no AI or Network gaming support. It’s something to add on in the future when I figure out how to tackle networking in gaming in Unity. Always learning. 🙂

I’ll try to get done what I can in a month. So I need to keep the scope narrow for this game. I can extend or rebuild later.

That’s all for now, I’ll be updating the blog regularly to track the game development.