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Alex
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Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 1159

PostPosted: Mon Aug 11, 2014 2:18 pm    Post subject: Development Log - Alex Reply with quote

This will be my development log where I simply post self-reflections/thoughts upon various developments I am involved with. Consider it like a blog, or thread where I ramble about stuff.
The purpose of this is to get my thoughts out into some tangible form, and rather than tucking them away in some text file never to be seen again, instead let others in on some of the things that pass through my mind.
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Alex
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 11, 2014 2:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I began prototyping some game mechanics I had recently. Since I have been working with javascript for a while to create my pixel-art editor, I felt concerned that I might drift away from that if I turn to another language. I find that whenever I do this(switch languages), it is always difficult to return to the previous language and remember how everything works.
I like to relearn things and tinker, but not if it is a detriment to any continued progress- often the tinkering/learning becomes the project itself and the intended project becomes something of a afterthought, which leads to getting derailed and having to start over again. I've experienced this many times and I want to prevent it.
So I've been less concerned now with the language. I've begun considering tools like game maker, multimedia fusion, etc. Things that don't require having to relearn syntax/code stuff. While I would prefer to just code stuff and have more control, I realize that I just want to make a game, and history shows that I struggle when I try to control everything.
I was thinking that by using a game maker type tool, it would allow me to continue working on my pixel-art editor and keep my understanding of how that all works. I looked into Construct 2, and it is an html5 javascript game making tool- so that fits with the language that my editor uses, plus it has a nice event system like multimedia fusion. I can even add plugins written in javascript for it if I need to.
So I've settled on using Construct 2.
I began trying to prototype my game mechanics I had in mind, and it was going well, but there were some issues that prevented me from getting it working. I realized that my mechanics were too complicated/demanding for Construct 2. I wasn't that disappointed because I realized that I was biting off more than I should chew. If I were using a language like c# and programming everything from scratch, I'd probably be continuing to work on that prototype trying to get it to work, because when you do stuff from scratch there is always a way to make it work. I'm more concerned with making a great game, and I know that what makes a great game is not just one or two game mechanics. So I decided to scale back the complexity.
I brainstormed and eventually fell back on an old game concept I had 3 years ago. The mechanics are simple, but it offers a ton of variety with how the player interacts with the game- this was the main reason for picking it, along with the simplicity of those mechanics.
I have been implementing the mechanics in Construct 2, and so far, everything is going smoothly and quickly! which leads me to my next post..
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Alex
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 11, 2014 2:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

While working on the prototype, I came to a realization that game development is like going on a cross country trip, but most of the work occurs before you even start going.
As I implement various mechanics, I am struck with the impression that I am "packing my bags", putting all my essential items I need for the journey.
I have an idea as to the destination, as if I have looked through some travel brochure, and now I am preparing everything for the trip. I also realize that with all my previous game projects I began working on- I never actually began the real trip/journey. I was always stuck packing/planning, and the trip would get canceled due to bad weather or something.
So what is the actual trip/journey of game development? I believe it must be the content creation process- the process of putting a form to everything. It is the sights and sounds of the world, experiences, etc.. A sense of some linearity, of actually getting somewhere in the game, the ability to play it and ascend to a certain level where there is a shift in the way you feel. You shouldn't feel the same when you start the game and end the game.
When you play a prototype, it should feel the same, because you haven't traveled anywhere.
The end of the trip is the destination.. The finished game/product.
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mikedoty
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 11, 2014 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like your car trip analogy. It describes things very well. You are driving along, then along the way you run out of gas. You get out and figure you can walk the rest of the way, but quickly give up. I get back in the car and we go to sleep. It is terrible...
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Alex
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 11, 2014 9:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hm, yea, you raise a good point; things happen along the way. Detours, possibility of getting lost, breaking down, etc. I think it all goes back to the planning stage though. If you don't plan well for the trip, chances are you won't be prepared for when things go wrong. Experience dealing with the pitfalls allows one to prepare better for the next trip, or at least handle things more effectively if those problems arise again.
Every now and then I might identify a hazardous zone, and I make a mental note about it. These act like warning signals for when I'm traveling. The more I try to develop games and fail, it's because I've encountered something that gets in my way. If I can identify it and mark it in my mind then next time I'll be prepared for it.
I think often it is easy to not look at failings, and just move on to the next project, but then you never learn- you end up making the same mistakes. I think the important thing though about looking at failings, is not to look at the failure, but rather to look at the failure to prepare for it. Looking at how your preparation led to failure is the key, because figuring that out will make you start out on the right foot next time- your toolset will become more complete and you won't have to scavenge for supplies down the road when things are tight.
I don't know if it's possible for an beginner to make a long distance marathon if they've never ran a mile. They could get lucky or have some awesome coach, or be plain gifted specimen of an athlete, but chances are, a person needs to handle only what they can manage and build that up over time. Everything is an exercise. Game developing is no different. I've tried lifting weights that are too heavy for me- mechanics that exhaust me. It left me going only so far, with an empty tank of gas like you said, mikedoty.
With this current game project, I'm looking into the distance, marking the terrain, finding the route that will take me to the destination. I'm not trying to climb a mountain or cross the ocean, but even so, hopefully I will be prepared enough.
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Alex
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 11, 2014 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

btw.. I think Game studios and work places in general- the ones managing projects, the journeys.. you have to recognize what everyone brings to the table. A good game studio understands everyone's strengths and weaknesses and plans accordingly based upon these. When there is only one individual making a game, that individual is the vehicle, but when you're in a team, everyone becomes a part of the vehicle. It won't work well if there's two drivers steering, if a wheel is flat or missing, etc.. But hey.. if you're going on a journey and the vehicle is running well, then the trip probably could be more fun with people to experience it with. But that depends on the type of journey you're taking.. Every game has a different destination, and a different journey- Sometimes going alone is perfectly fine.
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Alex
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 13, 2014 6:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

More analogies because I like analogies..
I've continued packing my gamedev. I realize it is a puzzle. You have a suitcase. You can pick certain dimensions to your suitcase or bag, which may have specific number of pockets or compartments that open in different ways or are shaped differently. You order things so that stuff you need often can be easily accessed.
The main stuff I've been implementing so far relates to the player, but as I add things, I find more things I can add. I think there must be a fine line between packing enough and packing too much. If you can carry it when you're done packing, etc. If you'll have everything you need once you start the trip or if you'll have to buy things along the way. Maybe there are little things you don't need to pack, but that you will need when you get to the destination or somewhere near it.
Also, I think a travel map would be considered like a design document.
But I also think you don't need one if you have a compass and a sense of direction, like interpreting the layout of the stars, or following the tracks made by others. It depends what kind of schedule you're under and if taking the shortest route is necessary. Sometimes the shortest route doesn't make for the most interesting experience.
So, I think how you plan to travel is important.
I feel like during the packing stage I'm calibrating my compass. What I pack essentially is revealing where it will allow me to go or not go. So if I pack it well, I'll probably move easily.
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0xDB
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2014 12:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

At some point you just need to take the first step and start the journey. Unless you already have a lot of experience in/on/with whatever vessel/tools you are going to use to reach your goal, you can not foresee each and every obstacle blocking the path. Also, some necessary tools and detours might not reveal themselves until you get there and then you adapt accordingly.

So, at the beginning of a new journey I think it is more important to define the goals first, rather than packing all the known or unknown tools first. The tools and vessels must then, if already known, be researched and chosen based on the goals. Otherwise the tools will define the result when it should be the other way around.
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Alex
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2014 6:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, you could be right about that. It kind of makes me think of that question about which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Do we create our results, or do the results create us, etc..
I think by planning, it does help create clearer goals. By packing everything I need, I will see the possibilities stem from it. But I think you raise a good point, which leads me to another analogy..

I've noticed two ways Artists tend to work. One way is drawing one thing at a time and stemming off what they've drawn. The other way is sketching in everything vaguely and then refining it all together.
The first way obviously is the result of not planning the end result. The second way is due to having planned a clear result prior to doing anything (such as making thumbnail sketches).
I think a person can fall into similar directions when they develop a game.
In one sense, by packing up everything it might be similar to laying out all my colors into a palette that I can then easily access. But if the packing doesn't help me understand the vision of how I'll use those colors, then when I get to painting I'll have a difficult time making anything even though I have all the tools to make something..
By adding in various mechanics, I'm kind of developing a thumbnail sketch of the bigger picture- seeing how attributes in the image affect each other- tweaking them, etc, until it feels right. If I don't spend enough time planning/packing all my mechanics, game stuff, then the thumbnail will be more vague.
But yea, it is a balance.. Once there is enough to see the picture form, then it becomes more about refining the detail, filling in the blank spaces to help push out the important bits, etc..

the game mechanics could be like the lines of a drawing, and the shading more like the story.. or something.
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IMakeGames
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2014 7:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

While I'm a huge fan of analogies, I am not sure if everything can be "analogy-ized". Most analogies only work up to a certain point and then break down. So no matter what analogies you come up with, if you start digging, at some point they will fail to describe the thing you intend them to describe. After all, if you would find an analogy that works even in the smallest details, doesn't it necessarily have to be the same thing as the thing it is supposed to describe?...

Don't mind me too much, I'm just spouting random thoughts! :)
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Alex
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2014 7:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have that same concern when I make analogies, because it has the potential to be misinterpreted if it is taken at face value. The point of the analogies isn't really to define what is or isn't something, but rather to lead oneself into a relationship between the points being entertained, and from that gain an understanding, whatever that understanding is- it doesn't have to be absolute.
I think everyone is more or less familiar with certain things, and the familiarity we do have shapes our perception of things around us. Using analogies helps me paste my familiar things onto other unfamiliar things and allow me to be more comfortable with those even if I don't know specifically what is underneath or beyond that yet. In other words, it allows me to get closer to get a better look. Maybe I'll see something new or different I hadn't seen before, but it starts with being able to approach the situation and measure things up with the measuring unit that you know (lbs vs kg, miles vs kilometers, etc). In my case, analogies, because I'm weird like that..
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Alex
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 15, 2014 11:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been trying to get the player's controls to feel right. I have directional keys, plus 6 other keys that are used. I'm trying to make it so that everything feel intuitive and without jarring the mind when trying to do something. I've changes things around various times, but it seems like having one key devoted to a specific type of action feels better than mixing things or changing key behaviors while playing, etc.
There's regular jumps, double jumps, stronger jumps, possibly wall jumps.. and makes sense to devote one key primarily for those. I have actions that resemble offensive manuevers, and actions that resemble defensive maneuvers, so it makes sense to split these into two keys- one for offensive and one for defensive.. then have a separate key for toggling the style of offense/defense, and possibly add a visual cue to help show which one is selected.. Then there are some other modifier type actions that require at least two keys..
I'm wondering if I'm trying to pack too much into the controls, but maybe this goes in line with the planning analogies, and getting a picture of the goal.
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0xDB
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2014 1:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If I were to tweak a control scheme like that I think I would want to write a prototype for it to fine-tune how it feels on a living system. It might be hard to plan something like that on paper and have it feel just right from the start.
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Alex
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2014 5:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

With Construct 2, it's pretty easy to prototype things. I've got basic collisions, which allow me to move around and feel it out. I'm trying to eliminate cases where I hit a button with the expectation of a specific action and it ending up doing something I hadn't intended. It gets confusing with 6 buttons, but I think I just have to find a way to limit having to shift my fingers around. I should only shift them if something distinctly different must happen. hrm..
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Alex
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 16, 2014 8:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay, I did more experimenting with controls.. I managed to cut out 3 buttons. I might add one back in though for rare things like opening a menu or perhaps for initiating dialogue stuff with npcs, etc..

I made one button responsible for anything related to jumping. one button responsible for shooting related actions.. one button for weird stuff, but you hold it down and press arrow keys to initiate those actions.. also the actions for the third button need to know whether the player is on the ground or currently jumping because that will effect whether the action occurs.. That puts a distinction on a certain action only accessible while jumping.
Kind of difficult to explain how it works, and why it feels right.. I think what seemed to happen is all the actions you'll use most often became prominent buttons(button A and button B), while everything else was packaged into one key since they aren't used as much- when you use them, you just have to decide which direction to press(up or down), or whether to jump, etc..
I also made other things automated, like grabbing onto and hanging off a zipline type of wire because chances are that if you're jumping towards it, you want to grab it anyways.
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Alex
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 12:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So I've been tweaking my controls. It feels like I'm shopping for new shoes- finding a pair that feels comfortable while walking and is cut out for the type of activity they'll be involved in.
here's a generalized diagram of the controls without getting to specific about stuff. One thing I didn't add is how the movement changes if you're in water.
Also, I may tweak the specials a bit.. I could also reuse the C button for dialog/interaction since you'll most likely be on the ground in those cases and won't be pressing up or down.
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Alex
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 17, 2014 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay, here's an update to the controls.
In order to make things more intuitive and create mental space between the specials, I forced Special 3 to only occur while next to a wall after jumping. This allows Special 2 to do without the directional keys. This makes things less confusing for your hands. It does place a restriction on Special 3, which will affect level design, but it's a good thing in this case. I'll also make button C interact with npcs when you're near them.
One thing I'm wondering about is whether to swap the keys around so that shooting uses the index finger, at the moment, the layout is Z,X,C on keyboard with Z as button A, X as button B, and C as button C.. Naturally my index finger tends to want to press more(or at least when I am not thinking), so it might be more suited to shoot. Maybe middle finger could be for jumping, and the ring finger for specials. I'll have to try that out and see if it feels better. Further down the line I'll make the keys customizable.
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Alex
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 18, 2014 3:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Okay, so since I want to experiment with button control layouts, I figured I would implement a menu system with an options page that allows me to select a button and reassign it. Construct 2 doesn't have an easy way to create menus, so I have to set it up in a more programmatic way. In the process I'm trying to make it scalable to allow other menus, etc. It'll probably end up being rather simplistic, but there's no reason to make it complicated.
The way I have it set up currently is that I have a separate scene where each menu page has its' elements located off screen.. At the start of the scene, I grab all the element's positions and divide by the width and height of the screen, floor it, and then multiply by the width and height to get their screen offsets. Then I call a function with an argument for the page that needs to show, and it grabs elements with a parent tag of that name, position them based off their screen offsets, etc.. This allows me to set up everything in the editor to look right, and also I can switch pages into and away from the screen depending upon which page I need showing.
Each page has a header that holds a value of how many menu items there are so that I can select through them, and each item has a target value that can be set so that it knows which page to load if it gets selected..
It works pretty well so far. I had to figure out this way of doing it since there were no good examples available.

Edit: okay, so I'm able to reassign the buttons.. It seems like it feels better when the two primary keys are separated and positioned to the outside. So Z key would be A, X key would be C, and C key would be B. Idk if my ring finger is used to the jump being Z, but I tried it where X was A, and Z was C.. but that didn't feel right. Either my fingers are use to the jump being Z, or my mind finds it easier to differentiate keys that are used most when there is space between them. It also continues to support reasons for previous design decisions with the controls/mechanics in how creating mental space makes it feel less confusing..
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Alex
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2014 6:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Experimented with a character design. Not sure if I like it. I want to go with a dark type of style.
Recently I've been working on sorting out animation sequences, getting those things functioning how they're suppose to. Part of the reason for experimenting with the char design is to get an idea for the size of the character. I don't want to make anything to big, but I also don't think I want it too small. Stuff tends to get cute when it's small- which isn't the feeling I want for the game.
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Alex
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 19, 2014 9:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


made him a bit bigger to help with proportions(and also zoomed in so you can see detail). More realistic proportions helps make things feel more serious and less cutesy.
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Alex
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 20, 2014 7:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I feel like part of the process with designing a character is understanding how it will perform inside the game, since the character isn't just a still image but an entity that moves and interacts with other entities. I'm finding myself having to create rough animations consisting of one or two colors and then importing these into Construct 2 so that I can quickly have something to implement into a working/responsive form. This allows me to get a sense of how the character's motions will flow between animations and I can also work on the system for handling these animations. I essentially get all the benefits of having an animation without having to bring them visually to a fully detailed state. It also should allow me to tweak and plan the animations before I commit to them. I also can make these smoother than normal because I'm not weighed down by the prospects of putting a ton of time into them- I can wait until I have the time to flesh them out.
Edit: also.. this process help me figure out what animations I do need. A lot of the time I may have an idea of how things should act, but until I start implementing do I see what is missing.
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Alex
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 21, 2014 12:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's some motion.
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PoV
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 21, 2014 8:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Love the roughs :)
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Gil
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 21, 2014 11:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Something seems just slightly off with his center of gravity when jumping. Hard to explain. Super fluid animation though, I dig it immensely. Looks very responsive too. Good job!
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Alex
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 21, 2014 1:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

thanks.. yea I noticed that too Gil. Happens with the tilt back, making it appear low around the pelvis area I think.
Been working on wall interaction.. I'm going to tweak the one block high step as that has too much of a jitter.
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