Another Ludum Dare, another little game! This time, by a coincidence, there were two top-voted themes, ‘Growing’ and ‘Two Button Controls’. I went with ‘Growing’, as I’ve wanted an excuse to make a little gardening game for a while now. And so, I present to you the unimaginatively-named Ecosystem.
Ecosystem is a sandbox where you plant seeds and then watch them thrive or die out. Sculpt your little patch of dirt, water it, and see what happens. As your garden grows, it’ll develop its own ambient soundtrack.
A lot of it is very rough. The audio gets messy when there’s a lot going on. There are bugs with how things float on water. It can’t handle underground sections very well. There are only three plant types. But it feels like a good starting point – I say this a lot, but I really think this game has a lot of potential as a background game that you leave running and just tinker with occasionally.
This game also is a bit of a personal milestone. It’s my tenth Ludum Dare entry, and I’ve made a game every month this year. Next year, I’m definitely going to work on fewer, bigger projects, but it’s nice to have done One Game a Month properly once.
Last week was ProcJam 2015, and as I hinted earlier, I took last month’s Pool game and added procedural generated rules to it! The theory is that it’ll invent new and exciting billiards games, but in practice it mostly just makes a mess. I’ve called it B!lliards and you can play it from the comfort of your web browser for free. A bit of a post-mortem after the break.
This past week I’ve made a little 2-player version of Blackball Pool in Unity. Check it out!
The story behind this is that a few weeks ago, I had the idea of making a crazy golf game where players build their own courses out of clip-together parts and then share them with other players. As much as I’d like to make that right now, it’s way beyond my ability, so I put it to one side. Shortly after, I had another idea: a procedurally generated billiards game, where the table shape and the rules could be invented by the computer or specified by the player. I made a start on it, but quickly realised I needed to know 3D modelling before I could do it justice. I’ll be doing a course on that soon so I’ll finally be able to make 3D games using more than just Unity prefabs. Hooray!
Which brings us to this week! I’d just finished the part of App 2 that I was working on, and wanted to devote this week to 1GAM, so for a lack of any other ideas I put together a basic 2D pool game. No AI, no audio, and it’s no pretty, but it’s a start. ProcJam 2015 is coming up so I might use that to experiment with rules generation.
What happens when I’m away for a fortnight with my low-spec laptop and haven’t made a game for 1GAM? Turns out it’s this:
Flibbertigibbet (I couldn’t think of an actually good name, so used favourite word instead.) is a Minecraft-inspired roguelike. You mine, you build, and you craft — all from the comfort of your 80×25 character, 8-colour terminal window. It’s nowhere near as complete as I’d hoped, but I’ll definitely be tinkering with it in the future. It’s just so fun to work on!
Part of what’s made it so fun is that it’s been almost entirely my own code. All I’m using library-wise is PDCurses for terminal stuff, and some simplex noise code I found online because I was in a hurry. Otherwise, I’ve been free to write it in whatever weird way I want! 😀 Whether this results in code that is actually good remains to be seen, but it’s lovely not having to conform to someone else’s idea of what makes sense.
It’s pretty limited right now though. First on the list for improvements would be to replace the terminal with a graphical window that I can fully control. Mostly I’d like more colours, and to show more on screen at once – 80×25 is pretty cramped. I never got around to making the world keep generating as you move around either, and the world it does generate isn’t that interesting. There’s not even any combat or death yet, so it’s hardly even a roguelike! I’ve got a big list with a bunch of other things, so this is only the beginning for my terribly-named ASCII adventure.
Last night I submitted my Ludum Dare 33 entry, Frankenstein’s Monsters, Inc. which besides being a bit of a mouthful, is a fairly minimal management game about running a monster-building business. The theme was ‘You Are the Monster’, and I think you’ll agree that digging-up bodies and sewing them together is pretty monstrous. I say it’s minimal because your controls are only to drag monsters and job applicants to assign them to a department, drag monsters to sell them, and click on buttons to spend money.
It was a lot of fun to work on! I’m happy with how it’s turned-out too – the only thing I didn’t get time for is more art, especially some animations for when each department is working, and more variety for monsters. It started out overambitious, but I managed to simplify the design a lot before I started. I even had time to do some music:
As with any jam game, there are things I’d like to add to it. My original idea gave the monsters statistics which affect how much money they’re worth and how effective they are at different jobs. In that way, you’d be able to gradually level-up your production quality as well as its speed. You’d have a PR department which would slowly reduce outrage over time, which would allow outrage to ramp up without being unbalanced. I also have some ideas about selling monsters – that they’d be sold automatically but only when there was demand, and you would increase demand by assigning workers to a marketing/sales department. I’d like to change how human workers behave too – at the moment, they’re 4 times as effective as monsters and 4 times the cost, so there’s no reason not to hire them as soon as they’re available. So, two different directions it could go in, really! Either more of an “idle game” that runs by itself, or a more detailed business simulation.
The Ludum Dare page is here, or you can go play it here.
The past week and a half, between other things, I’ve made a silly little browser game for the 4th GameBoy Jam. It’s a 3D maze game about healthy eating, called 5-A-Day Fun Maze, which is kind of a joke about terrible educational games, and kind of just a terrible game, but there you go.
This is a good example of what happens when I don’t have a plan. I wanted to do a ray-tracer (Old-school 3D rendering where you fire an imaginary ray through the screen until it hits a wall, then draw a vertical line there based on the distance. It’s what early 3D games used.) so I did so, and then realised I had no idea what the game would be. I arbitrarily drew a strawberry so I could have entities as well as walls, still had no idea, and so it became about collecting fruit. The whole healthy-eating thing grew from there.
The game itself is just a maze, so not that interesting. It’s a ‘perfect maze’ in that there are no loops, so you can follow the left (or right) wall and eventually find all the fruit without difficulty. There is a compass in the corner to help you orient yourself if you do get lost though.
One thing I do quite like is the eating animation: simple, but it works! It also begs the question “Why are we looking out of the player’s mouth?” to which the answer is “Because.”
This weekend is going to be Ludum Dare 33! I hope to take part, but there’s less pressure now that I already have a game for August. Been feeling pretty burnt-out lately, so we’ll see.
The first update to F!shing since release, version 1.4 introduces combo-multipliers, and makes the game more varied by randomising more things. Plus, the game now has a permanent lower price! As always, you can pick the game up from the F!shing website, or the widget below!
A full change-list is available at the bottom of this post, but first, let’s get technical!
In game development, sometimes things don’t work out. Maybe a game mechanic isn’t fun, maybe an effect looks bad, or maybe you just don’t have the budget and have to cut things. In the case of F!shing, I can’t get disco mode to run smoothly enough on Android – I had hoped that it was only on devices with high-res screens, but it appears to be bad on everything. I’m not comfortable putting a game out there that runs so slowly it’s unplayable. However, I do want to release all of the other improvements and bug fixes I’ve made to the game over the past few weeks. Even without disco mode, it’s a much better game now than it was. So, version 1.4 will be releasing soon but without the ‘night’ and ‘disco’ modes enabled.
If all goes well, I’ll come back to F!shing in a month or so and get disco mode fast enough that I’m happy to release it. Hopefully taking a break from the project will enable me to find a solution when I do return to it. In the mean time, I’ll be experimenting with snõwkit for a week, and then making some improvements to Quick Quote. Busy busy busy!
Depression’s still giving me a bit of a kicking, so things are slow. This is the worst part of depression, I think – being unable to do anything some days, with no tangible reason.
Game-wise, the first improvement is to the water, as above. Using more shaders (because shaders are fun) the water sways back and forth. (I called it “wibbly-wobbly” in the code, because I can!) Fish are now drawn behind the ‘water surface’ texture, so finally it doesn’t look like they’re floating on the surface. I tried redrawing the water art with a different technique, and, well, you can see below why I decided not to keep it. 😉 It was actually my second go at having it fade between two images, and it’s just way too distracting and ugly. So, wobbly circles will stay, until I try to replace them again!
In therms of actual gameplay, I’ve done a fair amount of tweaking and balancing to make things more fun, mostly to stop the lake becoming flooded with fish, or emptying entirely. You’ll still get lakes that are busier or quieter than others, but they’ll be consistent within that lake. Maybe that makes sense, maybe it doesn’t, but it’s a good thing, anyway!
The biggest feature I’ve left until last, as I’m still in the middle of implementing it: Combo Multipliers! Catch fish quickly, without catching any junk, and you’ll build-up a points multiplier that can drastically improve your score. Throughout development, I’ve wanted to add more ways to reward skilled play, and this should really help you show your friends who’s best!
I’m still hoping to get Disco Mode in for the next release, though I haven’t really decided what it will involve, except for disco music and ridiculous lighting effects. Maybe that’s enough.
So, the results for Ludum Dare 30 are in! Lorries in SPAAAAACE! did well enough, though nowhere close to the top 100. (Though being #68 in the Humour(Jam) category is nice.) Considering it’s not a very original game, and lacks polish, I’m pretty pleased.
The two big take-aways for me are 1) I can actually make games that people enjoy! (Judging by the positive comments I received.) This was so important, as after F!shing flopped I was wondering if I’m even any good at this game development lark. 2) Unity really is as quick and easy as I’d hoped! This is also encouraging, as the games I want to make (strategy/management/city-building) are quite large, so I need to be able to work quickly if I have a hope of finishing one. I’m not yet ready to embark on an epic, multi-year project.
As for Lorries in SPAAAAACE! itself, I do have some plans to expand it into a full game, but as always I have other projects to finish first. 😉 If only I had infinite time, maybe all the games in my head would get made and released.