2016
05.23

The Three Antidotes

 

Yesterday I completed my first game jam game!

Wizard Jam 2016 is a game jam hosted by idlethumbs.net in which creators have 2 weeks to develop a game based on the title of a podcast episode within the Idle Thumbs Network. There are hundreds of podcast episodes across this network which is made up of several podcasts.

‘The Three Antidotes’ is a platformer game in which you must defeat the three bosses, each with an antidote to a weakness on the player, and then reach the top of the level. There was and still is a lot I want to do with this idea which could not be done in 2 weeks. I plan to update the game as I get things fleshed out, and I encourage anyone that’s interested to check out the link above.

All Wizard Jam 2016 submissions can be found at the link below. There are a lot of talented developers out there.

Wizard Jam 2016

2015
01.31

When I created this development page I figured I would be posting short clips and summary of progress in the development of my game, but I had a conversation with my son this morning that makes me want to expand on that.

 

My son: Daddy I want to tell you a riddle.

Me: Okay buddy.

Him: This is going to be a hard one.

Me: Okay.

Him: Which way are there no bats? Left or Right

Me: Umm… right?

Him: Nope! Left.

Me: Why is it left?

Him: Because this is a hard riddle.

 

Besides being freaking hilarious, it presents an interesting perspective. In his eyes, when something is hard you can’t get it right or achieve it. In other words, difficulty is measured through failure which is very applicable to game design. If you are constantly able to progress through the game it will not feel very difficult. Only when you fail and have to improve to overcome the obstacle does it feel difficult. The repercussions of failure or means of improvement are a good topic for another time.

2015
01.29

It was our trip to Napa Valley to run in a relay last summer which made me even think homebrewing was something I could do. Everywhere I ran I saw entire communities which focused on wine making, wine selling, and wine distributing. Two hundred miles later, not all ran by me because it was a relay, we finally met some of these growers and makers. Some of them were cool enough to let us in on a bit of the magic behind finding that perfect grape at the optimal time of year and turning it into something fantastic.

Equipmentbeer kit

I was inspired by the passion for a craft and drawn to the art of experimentation. How often do you get to throw a bunch of stuff together, watch it grow, and then drink it! I wanted to scour the land for the perfect ingredients or grow everything myself. Then I got a bit intimidated, and started second guessing my ability. No way could mild mannered me birth a delicious brew that everyone could enjoy. More than likely I’d end up with a bathtub of poison, as that was my only context for “homebrewing beer”. One night, as if on autopilot toward a greater cause, I ordered a starter kit, and a box of Oktoberfest. Why Oktoberfest as my first homebrewed beer? I don’t know, except for maybe that it was October. A couple weeks of big boxes showing up at the door and it was time to brew!

Brew day:

Reading through the instructions in the beer kit over and over I made sure I had everything I needed.

  1. Sanitize the shit out of everything! I started with dish soap just to get things clean then moved up to a tub of StarSan, which entailed, filling a crock pot with 2.5 gallons of solution. This is quite useful as I just left my air lock, bung, funnel, and siphon in there for most of the boil. “Bung funnel” sounds funny.clean
  2. Heat 2.5 gallons of water in a large kettle to 160°F to steep specialty grains for about 15 minutes. The steep temperature is important, too cold and you may not extract all the deliciousness and too hot you may get some burnt flavors in your boil. I used a gas stove and made sure to take note of what level I had the heat set so that I could recreate it on subsequent brew days.grain bagsteep temp
  3. Once I removed the sack of grain I cranked up the heat until it came to a gentle rolling boil at 212°F. This is when I added my dry and syrup malts. The syrup malt comes in a large can, so I put it in some super warm water to thin it a bit. I wanted every last drop of that stuff. I read it’s a good idea to remove the pot from heat while adding the malts to avoid burnage on the bottom. I like good ideas.malt syrup
  4. Once things were added and mixed a bit I brought it all back up to a boil. I now had “wort” on my hands and the one hour boil began. I have read some arguments to go 90 minutes, but they aren’t fresh in my mind right now. If you are curious go look it up. I just felt inclined to mention it.
  5. Fifteen minutes into the boil I added my hops. Hops smell so good.hops
  6. Next was the understated task of cooling 2.5 gallons of boiling liquid to 80°F. It was cold outside, and a decent amount of snow covered the yard, so instead of making an ice bath in the sink I took it outside and packed snow around it.
    excuse me

    Excuse me please!

    cooling wort

  7. Three hours later, (I noted this as something that needed work next time around), I poured it into the carboy, and then added the rest of my water. I didn’t quite have 5 gallons in there as I underestimated the amount of water I’d lose during the boil. (I also noted this as a reason my beer ended up being 11% alcohol.) It’s good to let it splash around as fill the fermenter for a couple reasons. First, it can help cool the wart down if your top off water is cool. Second, it will aerate the home of your yeast so that they may thrive.
    carboy pourwatcher
  8. I put my siphon in there to extract a sample so I could get a gravity reading.siphon
  9. Finally I “pitched” the yeast by just pouring it directly into the carboy. At this time my wort was 68°F. Don’t pitch if your wort is above 78°F as this could flat out annihilate your yeast population.the pitch
  10. Lastly I bunged it, you know by using a bung, then put an air lock in the bung which was filled with a bit of StarSan solution, and carried it down to the basement where it would stay a steady 65°F.day2

Brew day was over and all I had left to do was wait.

While my beer fermented I started designing bottle labels. Since brew day was also my wife’s birthday I dedicated this first batch to her. FrickaFest!FrickaFest

I took a couple gravity readings and decided on the 11th day of fermentation that it was time to bottle!day to bottle

Bottling Day:

  1. Bottle preparation. The night prior to bottling I took 50 empty brown bottles of various origins and soaked them in hot dish soap water. Then in the morning I gave them a scrub to completely remove the labels, and a bottle buddae to rinse them out. I let them dry a bit then soaked them in StarSan.bottle bath
  2. I boiled some water to mix with the priming sugar, and boiled some more water to throw the bottle caps into for sanitization.
  3. After sanitizing the bottling bucket, I poured in the priming mixture, and then the beer with a little stirring.bottling bucket
  4. I put the bottling bucket up high to get gravity on my side then connected a hose and bottle filler and got to work.
  5. Fill, cap, fill, cap, fill, cap… I read to not completely seal them until everything is filled so as much Oxygen as possible is pushed from the bottle before capping.bottling

This whole process went pretty quick. Cleaning and sanitizing this many bottles was a bit of a pain, but it yielded some pretty cool label art. It also helped that my wife was making chili while I bottled so I had a great reward for my hard work.bottles

The bottles all went back down into my “fermentation room” for about a week before I moved them into a refrigerator. I drank a couple of them throughout this process and the longer I waited the better they tasted. Early on there was a bit of an alcohol taste, which was probably because I ended up with almost 11% alc. beer! Having a full 5 gallons of water to go with the kit is a bit important, but if you want to knock people over I guess that’s up to you.

I learned a few things on my first brew, and as I write I have another brew fermenting. Actually that thing needs to be racked into a secondary fermentor today sometime.

Lessons learned:

  1. Make sure you have enough water. This may be unique to me as I don’t trust there aren’t a bunch of additives in our drinking water, but I will boil a gallon of water from our osmosis filter just to make sure.
  2. Prepare the yeast. I hydrated the yeast for my most recent batch. This speeds them up and helps ensure the proper yeast conquers your wort. Wild and rogue barbaric yeasts can infiltrate your fermentor and change the flavor of your finished beer.
  3. If things look good, and you are in glass don’t rush it. I wish I would have left the beer in the fermenter a bit longer as it changed quite a bit once bottled, and continues to age well.
  4. Establish an effective chilling process. The three hours it took the first time is a bit silly, and I didn’t love the idea of it sitting outside. I now have a chiller that does the job in about 10 minutes and I have a bit more control over things.

Well, that was longer than expected but I wanted to give first time homebrewers a taste of things to come. I had a bit of anxiety going into brew day and I hope by sharing my journey I can squelch any lingering axiety out there. I had a blast throughout the entire process, and you can’t beat the feeling you get when you take that first wiff or taste of what is undoubtedly beer. Happy brewing!

2014
09.28

Oh Valve. Ten years ago they were known only for their critical success with Half-Life. Every mouse and keyboard wielding nerd was up in arms, over their audacity to require something called “Steam” to play their sequel. In the years to follow, Valve turned this “something” into “the thing” by offering the ease of impulse shopping at a click of the mouse. Digital distribution has since become the standard. Humble Bundle and GOG are vying for market share while Origin and Uplay lag behind. All these choices pose new and unique anxieties for today’s PC gamer. What, when, and how much is too much?

I recently came across steamdb.info which will tell you more about yourself than you care to know. Entering my name and clicking “Get disappointed in your life”, I am quickly sucker punched by the fact I haven’t touched 41% of my Steam library, and actually payed $60 for Borderlands 2.

2,000 games will be added to the Steam store by the end of 2014. Which will I play? When will I play them, and how much is too much?

I can’t help but feel a paralyzing anxiety when confronted with the untapped potential of treasures I already own. How do I glean the essence of the game’s intent. When do I savor every meticulous detail. Each night, I have one hour. Not enough time to start something new, or dive into a world that deserves so much. I launch a browser and seek a thoughtful review to stand as a eulogy of the game I will never play. May it rest in peace. Then, I stroll through the store in search of “something”. I find solace in knowing they will always be there for retirement… right?

2013
09.24

Teratotaur

 

Last week in a comment I mentioned my troubles with Brayflox. I was naively thinking it was merely a lack of MP for those longer battles. Shortly after that I realized I was completely missing out on Freecure. I had removed my first level Cure spell all together thinking it was useless now that I could nuke life into my fellow dungeon runners and my controller hotkeys were tight on space. I was fine with added MP cost. I assumed my heals would be that much more potent. However, I was missing out on the potential for a FREE Cure II cast. This opened up my magic pool a bit, but still it wasn’t enough. The problem wasn’t my own.

I’m starting to unearth the depths of party dynamics in FFXIV. They are similar to those found in other MMORPGs, but I feel they are enhanced by the smaller party sizes. One weak link in the chain, and everything is thrown off. Perhaps they aren’t enhanced, and I am just noticing them more in my new ‘Healer’ role, but there are a lot of factors that play into a successful dungeon run from my point of view.

–= Aggro Management =–
If everyone in the party is getting hit, more damage is being done. Not everyone in the party has the defense to absorb damage like the tank. Spells are being interrupted, and my cast times are being dispersed over multiple targets, draining my MP pool very quickly. AOE heals require more to cast, and often put me in harms way.

–= Enemy AOE Control =–
In one of the many failed attempts at Brayflox we had a tank that did well up until the end when he/she decided it was best they stand in the middle of the dragon’s breath EVERY SINGLE TIME! Perhaps they have never noticed the red areas drawn on the ground as a warning, or their reaction time isn’t quite there for an MMO, but it was ridiculous. Bringing around 800 HP back to someone every 10 seconds is not efficient. While that’s an extreme example, a tank that will aim mobs away from the rest of the party consistently is one I like to hang around with.

–= Versatile Damage Dealers =–
Damage dealers that find the gap between destroying face and the abilities of the tank keep things flowing smoothly. It is their job, as much as the tank if not more so, to ensure my pool of sparkly life dust doesn’t run out. They can cause enemies to attack all over the place, and allow the fight to drag on for far too long. They can also offer all sorts of support like sleeping or disposing of adds, improving resistance and regen, and stepping up for tanks or healers that are a bit overwhelmed. Let’s just hope they are Disciples of War that want nothing to do with my loot. 🙂

Brayflox is over, my gear is… alright, and I’m on the home stretch to level 40. I look on to new challenges, larger duty parties, and now that Dexter is over, my wife playing again!

2013
09.17

White mage Unlocked

 

After a few weeks of leveling, sometimes the wrong class, I have finally achieved my goal of unlocking the abilities of the White Mage.

The path of the White Mage is something new to me. In nearly all RPGs I like to play a rouge type character. I enjoy the risk vs reward that evolves from being a glass cannon. I like to rely on timing and speed to keep myself alive while waiting to unleash a devastating critical attack.

Back in the days of FFXI I traveled the path of the Black Mage. This in itself was a bit of a diversion, but the BLM works very much the same. The only real difference is that you rely on your party members to keep you alive rather than your own reflexive skill. Damage was still my primary concern, and the effects of ancient magic were devastating.

Today I follow the path of the healer, the overseer of health bars, and the easiest way to find a dungeon party.

I have never been a big dungeon runner, and quit most MMOs when they start turning into a scheduled commitment for a meager stat boost through an area I have seen dozens of times, but right now everything is fresh. Each new dungeon is a beautifully rendered experience to test my grasp of a new role in a group. Being the only one keeping people alive, there is a great sense reliance, and responsibility. It feels good to get that clutch heal as things take a turn for the worse, and remove status ailments like paralyze that not only have an effect on the outcome of a battle, but also the enjoyment of a crippled player as control of their avatar returns to them. There is an unspoken bond between a healer and tank, as they ultimately steer the course. As a damage dealer I always felt like more of an asset for efficiency.

I’m not sure how to feel about solo adventuring as a healer yet. Due to my skill set I am often capable of taking on enemies 3-4 levels higher than myself, by simply alternating Cure and Stone with a dash of Aero. It’s a time consuming process, but herding a bunch of lower level mobs into a nova of death isn’t really an option. I foresee my chocobo companion taking on a stronger role as I level it up, and open a few more options.

I hope to see some of you in the Manor soon, and if you find yourself lying in the dirt, don’t hesitate to ask for a Raise!

2013
09.09

Zombie Wizard

 

It’s amazing what a week of maintenance and a long night of patching can do to a swamped game. Ever since SE took down their servers for an extended period of time, and fixed an array of population related problems, my log in experience has been stellar. Wait queues have been short, and I haven’t been kicked from a game for no apparent reason all week. Whether this means a lot of people haven’t come back after the first week, I notice a lot of names in my Free Company that have been away for several days; or SE has recovered nicely, I have been progressing nicely.

A conversation last night made me question progression in MMOs and FFXIV in particular. A lot of people have reached max level already; 50. This isn’t unheard of.

There is always a Red Bull fueled biomass of carefree gamers pressed up against a release window like rabid fans at a metal concert. They blast blindly through content, pushing their level bar to the top, over and over through countless exp % boosts until it won’t budge any further. Now they sit atop a mountain of hallow experiences grasping in the dark for something to satiate the waning adrenaline.

How do these people stabilize?

I have heard that some people do this to get a taste of the content before they start anew, saving their maxed out persona for things to come while they sip appreciatively on the content the second time around. This sounds alright, but frankly I’ve never cared for binge gaming as it burns me out all together.

In World of Warcraft, people often told me that the game didn’t start until you reached max level. The end game content IS the game and those 60 levels, max at the time, were merely an extended tutorial for the wonderful things to come. I don’t suspect FFXIV has that much of a supported end game yet. Some day it will, and by then I should be able to partake.

Until then, I am currently working an Arcanist up to 15 so I can pick up the White Mage job. I have my Conjurer at 30 already, but mistakenly leveled a Thaumaturge to 15 hoping for the same result. It doesn’t seem to work that way. Fortunately, hunting logs and FATEs have made those 15 levels quite easy to obtain. I also left a lot of lower level quests in regions outside of my home Gridania for just this purpose.

I’m enjoying the Arcanist more than I thought I would. It seems to have a unique level of multitasking while doing solo quests that the other Disciples of Magic up to this point lack. I feel this class would eventually push me to move over to the keyboard and mouse, due to the desire to micromanage my pet, but I planned to move over soon enough as any class’s traits will inevitably reach the point where efficiency and skill would be sacrificed. SE has done a great job of incorporating the controller into the UI, and for as unique of a feeling it is, I can’t give up on it too quickly.

Now that technical difficulties have been diminished, I look forward to the new trials to come.

2013
09.09

Lifemend Stump

 

A Realm Reborn is off to a bit of a rough start, but when you consider it from the standpoint of “Massively Multiplayer Online Releases” it’s on par with other successful releases.

I say successful, because the issues plaguing players are those of over population. Too many people want to play this game, and that’s a good problem to have. Unfortunately, their success is a double edge sword. Angry mobs are forming around access points to instances (Lifemend Stump comes to mind), and internet forums are filled with people that can’t enter the world at all due to Log-In restrictions.

Square-Enix has apologetically responded with increased capacity, and additional servers. “We didn’t know we were so popular!” They are confident enough in their fixes that they have lifted the lock on New Character creation. I just hope they’ve taken the time to fix the server queue problems. I’d take a 1 hour wait timer over spamming log in requests any day, and I suspect SE would prefer that as well.

On the subject of the actual game I must say I am enjoying myself thoroughly. The biggest change from 1.0 I have noticed is the quest and level progression path. Like many modern MMOs you are pushed through zones according to your level, and quests are made available as you advance through each story branch. There are several ways to level outside of questing if that’s not your thing, which I appreciate a great deal. The worlds are beautiful and feel alive. I just wish NPCs didn’t stand around waiting to be chatted up or punched in the face, but that’s something RPG gamers have grown to accept. It would do wonders toward breathing more life into an already beautiful world.

I am close to level 30 with my Conjurer, and gearing up to start my Arcanist on the path towards a White Mage. I traditionally play as a damage dealer, leaning toward Black Mage, or Rogue-type, but I’m enjoying the fresh party mechanics to learn, and the short queue times are refreshing. The story so far has been pretty good. I have approached questing in FFXIV:ARR differently than I have MMOs in the past. I have limited myself to five quests at a time. This often means I have my Main Quests, and those of the surrounding region active at one time. This has done wonders to improve cognition of the over arching stories, as well as those smaller plots going on within a city or region. I have a new appreciation for the way these stories are interwoven with my character’s progression, and my travels through the game world.

I look forward to returning to Eorzea soon barring my account isn’t frozen due to service confusion. The future is bright for this rebirth.

2013
01.17

ZOOL

Now that the holidays are officially over (I still had a Christmas a couple weeks ago), I’ve had a chance to sit down with a few of my newly acquired Steam Holiday Sale purchases and have been hitting education hard. I’m making some good headway on The Game Maker’s Companion. Right now, I am working through the Zool tutorial, again taking everything from the Drag & Drop instructions they give you, and converting it all to code. It feels a bit tedious at times, and I have run up against a small bug, but I am finding that I can just read the function and variables they are using, and work through the proper syntax. I feel this will be beneficial as I move into more complicated code and it can’t hurt when adopting other languages in the future. The insight I am getting into the construction of a functional game has been invaluable so far. The use of state objects, constants, and timers has never made more sense in the context of a game. While Game Maker has a fancy way of helping you order creation, movement, collision, user interaction, etc., I feel the structure of a more raw language is much clearer. All of the same rules apply.

I have been studying several 2d lighting engines written in GML (Game Maker Language) and studying some horror and stealth games for inspiration. I have always loved action stealth games, and with the releases of Dishonored, and Mark of the Ninja this year, I feel good about the future of the genre. I have also been playing through Lone Survivor and picked up Home to throw on my list.

Just today I received my copy of Level UP! – The Guide to Great Video Game Designand have just broken the cover.

I plan to have a playable version of Zool for everyone next week. From there I think it’s time to start picking away at my big project. 🙂

2012
12.20

As I predicted early on, putting aside time to record my progress would be hard when in the heat of actual development. It’s not all bad, because with this update I have three games I have created in Game Maker to share. I find Game Maker a great tool for prototyping and suspect it’s powerful enough to create a full featured game. It’s “drag & drop” coding feature is great for getting your hands dirty, and learning how to structure the events of your game.

Game Maker

I began Game Maker by following a tutorial by Derek Yu. It runs through the steps, start to finish, on how to make a shoot ’em up level. It gave me an idea of how to navigate the Game Maker UI, and how to manage my assets and code. I found this extremely helpful, not only for learning Game Maker, but game development in general. If you are interested you can check it out: Game Maker for Beginners: Part 1. I replaced all the sprites with those from Air Fortress, and threw a little eyeball creature of my own in for the hell of it. A link to play it is provided below.

Air Fortress

After completing what I could consider my first game, I was feeling pretty confident, so I decided to undertake a project of my own from scratch. I wanted to take an old game idea, and put a slight twist on it. I decided to do a capture type game, where an object is bouncing around the room, and you have to confine it with barricades to a set amount of space. My little twist was that these barricades (in my case force fields) have health, and can only be hit so many times until they are destroyed and the ball breaks out. I had a hell of a time making the walls draw correctly, and getting the ball to bounce off the drawn walls at the correct angle was even worse, so I took a break from it, poking at it from time to time.

While developing my own game, I started going through another tutorial, but this time for a platforming game. I picked up The Game Maker’s Companion because it has some “next level” tutorials, and I felt like I had a good grasp of the concepts. The tutorial makes full use of the Drag & Drop functionality within Game Maker, which I don’t particularly love, so I decided to convert the entire thing over to using GML, which is Game Maker’s build in language. Someday I am going to require the additional power and control enabled through GML, and frankly I find the Drag & Drop stuff unintuitive and hard to decode exactly what each element is doing. This introduced me to a whole bunch of different functions built into Game Maker, and helped me finish up my own game. Check below to download both.

 

All the games below run in Windows. If you want a Mac build to try out, I can also throw that up here.

SpaceFortress

Here is the shoot ’em up game I built with Derek Yu’s tutorial. Derek Yu is pretty awesome with Game Maker. The first version of Spelunky was build by him in GM. Again I went through using Air Fortress sprites, and added some of my own stuff on top of it.

Fishpod

This is the game built in GML from The Game Maker’s CompanionAll of the art was provided. I rewrote it and designed a level around it.

Capture

This is my first game built from the ground up! It’s just a prototype, and I’m aware of the collision bug, but I’d like to hear some feedback on the concept. Also, if anyone has advice on calculating the area not inhabited by the ball object based on dynamically drawn borders let me know. 🙂 That’s my next challenge.

 

 

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