Live from the Wizard Jam front, episode #2

Hey there! This is my second missive from the WJ4 front – read the first one here.

I spent last weekend finalizing the geometry so I could turn it into a prefab and use it across all scenes. It mostly came down to adding some final furniture and building out the surrounding terrain and forest. About halfway through, I realized I was putting way too much effort into it, and it served its purpose just fine the way it was. So I packaged it all up and finally started the first story scene.

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Unfortunately, it turned out that Adventure Creator was not 100% foolproof in turning everything into a prefab. The common interactions (opening and closing all the doors in the house etc) were especially dire; they turned up blank after being imported into a new scene, so I had to go into each of the associated objects in a new scene and hook them back up. Not great. Lost a lot of time troubleshooting that. But in the end I had a basic scene that I could duplicate, a sort of prefab if you will, so at least I could now set it and forget it.

Mid-week I finally had some time to dedicate to the game again and I set up the first scene’s logic, which went pretty quickly. That offered some hope for the remaining days. I got started on character sprites too. I wanted to try a more detailed style with thinner lines, like Californium, but in the interest of time I went with my go-to art style. I’ll fix that in post, as they say.

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Once I got them in the game and had a few expressions to play with, things really started to come together. I also made a menu that displays which delivery you are embarking on, like the splash screen for the days in Firewatch. Then it was just a matter of knocking out more scenes and more character sprites. Which I did on friday.

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I skipped after-hour drinks at the office to get into THE ZONE, and by midnight I had set up about half of the game. Granted, those scenes were the easiest to make and contain very little pithy gameplay, but it was nice to be able to punch those out real quick. I might still make the sunday night deadline with something half decent! It doesn’t help that there are a national holiday and a concert in-between me and that moment though, but oh well…

 

Live from the Wizard Jam front, episode #1

Hey there dear reader!

The last time I did a live devlog was when I was making 15 Minutes, my 24 parody game. And that was back in 2011! I’ve moved on to Unity since then and made a bunch of games, but I don’t often participate in jams. The last time was ol’ Wizard Jam 1, the Idle Thumbs community game jam. But this time around the planets and stars aligned and I had enough time and a good idea, so I’m participating in Wizard Jam 4.

I got a bit of a late start as I was at a conference on the island of Texel last weekend, but I managed to catch up in the free moments throughout the week.

The concept

A few weeks ago I had a dream. In it -among other things- I biked to a villa in the forest and met the man of the house and his maid. I don’t know why, but when I woke up that image stuck with me. I wanted to go to that place and look around more. So, in keeping with me basing games on dreams, I thought it would be a nice thing to make for this jam.

The groundwork

I wrote out some details about the game and its events in the past week, so I had enough to jump right into Unity. I decided to use my trusty Adventure Creator plugin, and since I’m not very good with 3D modeling I’m going for a 3D world/2D characters style like The Tell-Tale Heart / Californium / Trackless.

The player character will be a pizza delivery guy, so the first thing I wanted to get was a little scooter, and I found the perfect one on the Asset Store. And together with a first-person character I was testing last week I had the basics of the first scene. Next was greyboxing the essential geometry. I used assets from the Stylized Jungle Pack I purchased for Reconquista in combination with just regular grey cubes.

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Then I started looking for forest villa reference photos.

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This gave me the idea to add a driveway and carport around the side of the house – a nice hidden area you’ll only stumble upon if you go snooping around. And of course, a carport isn’t complete without a car. Then I got a little carried away… but hey at least this confirms the interaction system works!

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I fiddled with the camera some more after that. It was really jittery, so I imported the First Person Drifter Controller, a neat little plugin I keep around for prototyping these kinds of games, and pulled the mouse smoothing script out of it to integrate with my player prefab. The result is really smooth!

Next was setting up the interaction system and UI, and I hollowed out the cube I had used to represent the house. I built some rooms and a glass facade, and then I really needed furniture. While browsing the Unity Asset Store I found some really great assets by OneSquareFoot. Their furniture mega pack was perfect to furnish the house with. And a nice opportunity to re-enact the Matrix.

I tried a few interior layouts and eventually settled on something that felt logical and looked good. Then I moved the sun a few degrees so that it would shine on the terrace for a longer period of time each day, justifying the reason the house was built at this angle. Would that I had such powers in real life.

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I was getting antsy to try the character style so I added a quick 2D guy. I should really work on the gameplay a bit at this point, but I wanted to have the house ready so I can turn it into a prefab and use it across all scenes without cutting into my own fingers later. So I spent some time adding collision to the interior, interactive doors, a staircase into the cellar, curtains, outside lights that react to motion and a functional doorbell that summons the man of the house. Just a bit more sprucing up and it should be ready to go.

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Week 92 – Three deadlines and a playtest

This is a weekly recap of what has been going on in my professional life. It’s to keep track of what I’m up to and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creator. For illustrated depictions of these events, visit my daily comics page.

It’s been a busy week!

Hubbub was finishing up the first beta for Home Rule on monday and tuesday, and at the same time I was drawing hard for the Suitkees project, as that soft deadline turned into a hard deadline for the end of the week. And in the meantime I had to finish up my #wizardjam entry. Luckily I had been smart and done most of the work on that over the weekend, so all I had to do was make some promo art and write a description for the itch.io page. I did that on wednesday morning and launched the game before heading to the war museum in Oosterbeek with the Hubbub guys to playtest Home Rule.

Tim and Alper

It’s been a while since I did an actual in-person live playtest on location. The target audience is kids 8-12, and they are always fun to work with. And to our surprise they really picked up on what we were trying to do and had fun playing the game. It was nice seeing them contemplate aloud the moral dilemmas people in a warzone have to face. We came away with a bunch of good feedback and happily dug into some pizza at the end of a succesful day.

On thursday I finished up the Suitkees drawings, sent them out and then went to the housewarming for the Dutch Game Garden in their new home next to Central Station. I ran into some old friends and made a few new ones, and generally felt glad to be part of this industry. It was nice to be among peers again and I considered one day getting an office there when business gets good enough.

Once that was all behind me it was time to unwind. I spent most of Friday making my portfolio website responsive and mobile-friendly, and I got pretty far with it. And over the weekend I fired up Shadow of Mordor with the intent of finally finishing it. When you’re purely interacting with its mechanics and ignoring the story, that game is so good.

Next week: A late start after Kingsday and planning new ventures.

Week 91

This is a weekly recap of what has been going on in my professional life. It’s to keep track of what I’m up to and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creator. For illustrated depictions of these events, visit my daily comics page.

Being your own boss is no field trip. One week it feels like the business is on fire, the other like I’m living on borrowed time. Especially around tax time when I can hand 21% of what I’ve earned back to the government. But one of the big improvements to my business I’m instituting this year is time tracking. I used to track my time with just a txt file for client projects where I had billable hours, but I never tracked all the hours I spend on my own games, comics etc. And those are far and away most of the hours I put in. So I’ve started using Toggl. It’s free and perfect for what I need. I worked with it before at Paladin, and I saw Kars using it at Hubbub recently and thought oh yeah that’s smart.

Speaking of Hubbub, we’ve been whittling away at the beta for Home Rule. It might have been kind of ambitious to try and recreate the iMessage interface in Unity, but Alper got pretty far with it. This week is more tweaking and improvements to get everything ship-shape for the playtest tomorrow.

I figured I’d have more work of Home Rule this phase, with the concept redesign following the alpha and all that, but Kars did a great job doing the heavy lifting on the game design. This freed up some time to work on the Transavia illustrations for Hoog+Diep. I sent out a test illustration previously which was liked, so I sketched out all the illustrations in greater detail. On friday Transavia and Neckermann looked at it again and they were very positive.

Inbetween I found some time to start on my #wizardjam entry, a gamejam held on the Idle Thumbs forums. I had wanted to participate in #adventurejam but the timing didn’t work out, so this was a nice way to still get jammin’, and the Idle Thumbs episode titles proved ripe ground for ideas. I’m working on a small topgun-jetfighter-switches-flipping game called MaydayMayday Cockpit Freakout, which I plan to be releasing tomorrow.

It feels like I’m jumping from project to project, but since MaydayMayday is tiny and has a definite deadline it takes precedence over Reconquista, which I’ll also be releasing soon. Reconquista just has a few loose ends in the design which make it hard to finish.

On top of that I also got an interesting call from Menno at Mindbreaker Games. They’re working on a P&C adventure game and are crunching out a demo for a grant proposal, and if that goes through they might want to work together, as our interests and goals are similar. So more on that in the future perhaps.

Next week: bustin’ to get all these projects done on time.