Rss, Feedburner, etc.

I think I had an RSS feed already, but I'm adding feedburner as well, this is mostly a test post to check it.
I've also added a "Subscribe To" gadget thing to make the feeds easier to find (assuming they were there at all before).

Anyway: as to coding, I've moved to a new computer and I'm still setting it up exactly how I want and testing all my old games out on the new(er) card in there. So not been up to much code as a result. :oD


More Flash stuff

Been mucking about with Flixel more. As I stated in my last post talking about Flash and Flixel, I have a game idea that involves platforming that will work well in Flash. So I've set about learning how to write a platformer in Flixel.

Most of this I've taught myself, although I've pulled segments from this tutorial. Unfortunately the FlxCamera class seems to have gone missing, but I cheated my way around that. I'll go looking for it properly at some point.
I've drawn a complete set of tiled sprites myself for level building (they're very basic and just for mucking about with really, not pretty) and a short 4-frame animation for a guy running.

I used mappy for drawing the maps. It's fairly easy to use as I had problems using the editor suggested in the tutorial above. However mappy doesn't output map files suitable for Flixel (it has its own simplistic format for reading map tiles) but it does output in csv (comma separated values) format, which is very easy to read and port to Flixel's format. So I quickly wrote a C# application to do that.

Putting all this together resulted in a pretty basic platformer. I added a second 'layer' over the level that is used for checking for collectables, placing the entrance and checking for the exit. I have a feeling the way I'm doing this isn't very efficient in terms of Flash as I seem to be getting some minor framedrop, but it's a method that would perform fantastically under pretty much any other platform. There's a few ways around it. Thankfully it won't be an issue with the game idea I'm thinking of as the levels will be randomly generated.

Anyway, feel free to play around with Project C
I've not put any start or end stuff into this game. All it does when you complete it is shake the screen whilst you're stood over the exit. The idea is to pick up all 3 gems then head to the exit. The exit remains with a red light over it until all 3 are picked up. Simple stuff but as I say, it's all a test so not really 'complete'.


And moving on to Unity.

I've been learning how to use Unity as I mentioned in the previous post and so to test my fairly basic skills in the program I decided to write a simple invaders clone (it's a very easy game to write, I did it in under 2K of BBC BASIC once)

Unity has a very jumbled way of doing things it seems to me. I'm not used to having so little control over how things operate and this was the biggest challenge. Putting together the game was pretty easy, sorting out interconnections between objects and various other things was the main problem.
Unity has a variety of languages you can use to write code for. The tutorial I was using suggested Javascript, but I'm far more comfortable with C#, which is another offering, so I went with that. Overall the language use was pretty standard. Unity uses an external editor to modify the code, then recompiles it on returning to Unity, this system isn't wonderful and sometimes when editing multiple scripts Unity will only recompile one of them, also the editor isn't wonderful, lacking some of the modern amenities I'm used to, but overall this works pretty well and I get the impression you're never supposed to be editing more than a few hundred lines of code for each object and expected to do the majority of things in Unity itself.

Unity comes with its own 3D physics engine and hull colliders for a set of primitives. These are fun to play with at first, but trying to do anything constructive with them in a simple game isn't the best bet. I completely discarded the engine for my invaders game as it simply wasn't necessary and having seen some other 'physics invaders' games, it's not really a wonderful new dynamic.
I originally intended on using the collision detection from the physics engine for hit detection, but that proved more difficult than I anticipated. I suspect it is possible, but I wasn't able to get it to work as intended. As a result I do all the collision detection manually. This probably works better anyway as the Unity hit detection will do all objects against all other objects whereas mine just does bullets against aliens and bombs against the player.

So, I actually finished pretty much all this game, save the bombs, last weekend sometime, with just the bombs left which I added this evening since my last post.

My overall feelings are that Unity is a very nice bit of kit, very useful and very easy to use. I'm not sure how much I'll use it in the future at the moment, I've got an idea for a game that would work well with it and I've only just started to uncover what it's capable of (there's model importing, animation and a ton of other stuff I've yet to look at).

Without further ado, here's a link to my Unity game. It requires the Unity web plugin be installed, which should work on sane browsers under Windows and OS X. Not sure about Linux.
I might clean it up and release it as a separate executable, since Unity allows that easily. Will see.

What initially got me to take another look at Unity is this blog post by Sophie Houlden. I've recently started using Twitter a lot more and started following a number of indie devs and she was one of them. Currently she's working on a game using Unity called Lottie's Dungeon. So far there's not a huge amount of content, but it is fun to run around in and right now it costs practically nothing. Her intention is to raise the price as she adds more content, in small increments.
It's an interesting development idea and it's similar to the one that Markus Persson (aka Notch) has done with Minecraft, although he's charging half price until he's decided it's not an alpha any more. It's working for Notch anyway who's made a huge amount of cash and sold over 600,000 copies as of today.

As mentioned earlier, I'm releasing these two games as part of my game-a-month project now. Still leaves me miles behind schedule, but ah well. Maybe "occasional game release project" might be a better name? ;o)
This is project a anyway.

Flash, Unity and other things

So I've been busy coding, just not on my games again. :o/
Well, that's not technically true, I've been writing games, just not exactly for my game-a-month project.

What I've found is Unity and Flixel.
I knew about Unity before I started this project, but for some reason I'd got it into my head that it was pay-only and there was only a free trial. That's not the case. For PC, Mac and Web development it's completely free (save some more advanced libraries like realistic water effects).
It's astoundingly easy to use and I've created a small invaders re-make that I'll release shortly. It's almost finished, just needs 'bombs' adding.

Flixel is a flash library. Normally I steer clear of Flash because performance under it is absolutely terrible for games. Really terrible. How much this matters depends on your perspective and I'll write a piece on that another time.
Flixel allows quick and easy development of Flash games. It uses completely free tools (Adobe's Flex SDK is free and there's a very handy IDE called FlashDevelop). Which just leaves learning ActionScript 3.
If you've any experience with other modern languages, that's not really an issue, but it has some peculiarities in it and seems overly verbose in places to me, but still, it's easy enough. Following the 'hello world' tutorial on the Flixel site gives a reasonable introduction to the basics, but doesn't explain a lot of things.

So, 48 hours after picking up Flixel I have a full game written in it. Yes, it is that easy to use.
I could embed it directly in the page, but I've always kinda been against that, so here's a link instead.
Space to shoot, cursors to move.

You'll have to excuse my pretty dreadful graphics, I was mostly just experimenting and seeing what I could manage. The backgrounds took less than 2 minutes each and the clouds were about the same. The ship is from a while back. The ghosts were just me yesterday morning going "what's an easy enemy to draw?"

Most of the code is taken from this tutorial, which I don't think anyone who doesn't know about resource allocation should follow. If you follow that tutorial to the letter, you'll end up with some nasty memory leaks because it doesn't reuse resources properly, it just leaves them hanging around in the background. Most notably are the bullets (which aren't destroyed, so any that miss enemies and fly off into the ether to the right of the screen will just go on forever), enemies (same issue going off the left of the screen) and explosions (creates and doesn't dispose 10 sprites every time something dies).
So, I changed it slightly so that my game destroys bullets off the right of the screen, enemies off the left and re-uses the same 10 explosions, seems to work well.

I also extended the tutorial to include my parallax background effect and moving clouds. There's nothing particularly spectacular in there, but it was something I was interested in working out.

Flixel is pretty well known in the Flash community, the main author is Adam "Atomic" Saltsman who wrote the  game Canabalt (google it, you've almost certainly played it before).

So that was this weekend's Flash adventure. Was interesting and I've an idea for a Flash game I want to put into practice at some point using Flixel. Although it's a platformer so will require me learning a fair bit more about how it all works.

Because I've not been keeping to my game a month schedule, I'm going to mark this minor game as part of the project but not give it a number, I'll label it 'b'. 'a' will be the Unity game which I'll finish off and post shortly.


A note on sound

Since I've revamped the sound engine for the toolkit I've created and have interfaced it with Whirligig, I thought I'd talk a bit about the design decisions behind the sound.

Firstly, all sound is played from plain old WAV files. This is purely for practical purposes. I don't want to start mucking about with OGG and other things in C# as there isn't much in the way of good libraries for doing so and all the sound effects are small enough that keeping them uncompressed isn't an issue.

All the sounds for both Hoshi and Whirligig (and probably projects 3 and 4) has been done in sfxr, which is a very useful project that just outputs simple waves with a few parameters to play with, allowing easy retro sound effects to be created with minimal effort.

So in actual code I use OpenAL where-ever possible. This is mostly because it's a fairly comprehensive library that takes raw WAV data and works on any system with the OpenAL library installed (Windows, Linux and OS X are all supported, for instance).
However OpenAL isn't available on all systems, but .NET and Mono provide a very basic sound player in the form of System.Media.SoundPlayer. This works well for single sound effects, but is useless for playing multiple sounds together. This will be less obvious with some games over others. It's very obvious on Hoshi, but does give an idea of what is being missed. It's also somewhat buggy under Mono it seems, playing sounds unexpectedly or not at all in some cases. As this is purely a back up system I'm not too worried about it and won't be making any effort to fix the problem(s) introduced through this method.

So, when started the sound system checks the options file. If the options file says to not bother with sound, it just loads the dummy sound driver, which just says "ok" to everything, so the game thinks the sound system is all working, but the driver does nothing with any data passed to it.
If the options file says to use OpenAL, it checks that OpenAL is installed on the system then attempts to use it. If either of the checks for OpenAL or if a valid OpenAL context can be created fail then it drops back to the dummy driver.
If the options file says to use the SoundPlayer then the sound system will attempt to create a SoundPlayer class, if that works then it will assume that SoundPlayer works and so use that. If it fails it will default to the dummy sound driver.

The last two options are 'Auto' and 'ForceOpenAL' and are a bit more complicated.
'Auto' is the default and will attempt to use OpenAL followed by SoundPlayer then will drop to the dummy if both fail.
'ForceOpenAL' will skip all checks when initialising OpenAL, which will cause a crash if OpenAL isn't installed. This shouldn't ever be needed by a user and was intended by debug purposes.

So that's the new sound system. As I stated, after modifying it to this in Hoshi, I inserted it into Whirligig this morning and now Whirligig has a multitude of retro sounds that bring some extra life to the game.

Hoshi bug fixes

I'm making an effort to get Whirligig released (hopefully this week, maybe even today, I'm not sure how long it will take to do what I want with it).
In doing so, one of the things that needs implementing is sound. I have all the sounds I need ready and I had Hoshi's sound engine. So, no problem, yes?

Well, Hoshi's sound engine isn't perfect. It actually causes the game to crash randomly when OpenAL isn't installed. This is a fairly major issue, so I decided to go back and fix this on Hoshi before moving the engine across to Whirligig.
Whilst I was working on the engine I quickly added a simple substitute for the sound when OpenAL isn't installed. This uses .NET's or Mono's System.Media.SoundPlayer. This isn't ideal because it will only play one sound at a time with no mixing and Hoshi requires many sounds to be playing at once to sound correct. But it's a good substitute for those who don't want to go searching for OpenAL.

So, now Hoshi will work out of the box with sound, although you'll get a much better experience with OpenAL installed. There's also an additional option in the hoshioptions.xml file in AppData that allows changing the sound engine. So you can set it off, set it to the Media.SoundPlayer option or set it to OpenAL. There's also a ForceOpenAL option which skips any checks for OpenAL and is not really recommended as it will cause the same crashing issues as before if used on a system without OpenAL.

Anyway, new release is here.
These are purely bugfixes, if the version of Hoshi you have already doesn't have issues you won't gain anything from this new version.

And now I can do some work on Whirligig.



Yeah, yeah, I know, not really getting anywhere with the games. S'bad, but I'll get back to it.

I've been writing a voxel editor recently.
Voxel's aren't an easily concept to explain, although they're a simple concept to understand. In essence a voxel is a 3D pixel. That is a standard bitmap you create in paint is made up of pixels along the x and y dimensions, voxels add a z dimension allowing for easy 3D rendering.

So, I've written a (currently) simple editor for building voxel art with the intention of using it in my future games.
Right now the editor isn't much use for more than simple voxelart. I've been test-driving the editor for most of today and know there's about half a dozen features that need adding to its toolbox.
So, without further ado, this is what I managed yesterday:

For those not in the know, it's called a Menger Sponge which is a fairly basic cube fractal. This is taken to the 3rd iteration and contains 8000 cubes of which I clicked every bloody one (and don't I know it!)

So, will be adding some basic things like copy and paste, colour fill and keyboard shortcuts.
Also need to compress the voxel save files as a 27x27x27 image such as this one clocks in at 9.5MB.
At that point I'll make a simple video explaining more about the editor and if people are very lucky I might release it.

So what is the point in all this? Well it's to develop an art style for projects 3 and 4. Hoping having some artwork to play with will motivate me to make a move on them.

I also might have a try at doing some simple pure-animation using some voxels, will see how the games go first though.


Err, yeah, hi

I do still exist. The Game-a-month project is still on my list of things to do, I'm just having a bit of a hiatus.
This is, of course, not particularly good, but it's where I'm at for the moment so it's happening.

I've spent most of the last two months not coding, so, not a lot to say here.
However recently I've picked up an idea for comparing track rollercoasters on Audiosurf that someone was interested in a while back.
The original thread is on the Audiosurf forums here and is basically asking for an easy way to sort tracks by the amount of traffic they have.
Retrieving traffic information involves digging through a .ash file locally or asking the servers for it. I've not done any experimenting in pulling that data from the Audiosurf servers yet, however I already had the code for retrieving the track shape, which is a good indication of the traffic a track will have and the speed it will run at.

So, in a few hours I put together a very quick program to pull the track shape (and global scores) for a named track. Very easy to do, and the result is posted in the thread mentioned.

But that doesn't technically compare the tracks, or order them or anything, it just allows for quickly viewing multiple songs outside of Audiosurf. Useful, but not ideal.
For a long while I left the application there, then I picked it up again a week or so ago and began work on a 'playlist' section of the application. This downloads a track shape for every song in a playlist with the eventual idea being that it will show an estimate for how 'quick' the track will be, allow sorting and re-tagging of [as-steep] to slower tracks.

It quickly became obvious once I had the "download lots of track shapes" code implemented that the Audiosurf server is struggling to stay up at the moment (indeed, whilst making the screenshots below, I had significant issues with the Audiosurf server timing out, even for single-song lookups). This is noticeable if you use the forums much and/or play the game a lot as the forum, scoreboards and logging in are often down. Obviously I don't want to make this workload any worse, so I've implemented a cache for the track shapes that stores this data locally as presumably a track shape shouldn't change unless the picked user is cheating.

To avoid accidentally pulling out cheaters, the app always goes for the last global score of the 'Elite' category, if there's no elite scores it goes for the last of the pro, then last of the casual. The assumption being that a cheater will hold the top spot and not be lower down on the scoreboard. Additionally the "single song" searcher that was initially implemented (and will be launchable from the playlist window) will allow you to store which rollercoaster you want to see locally.

Possibly will take it as far as YAAP (Yet Another Audiosurf Player) with tagging features, etc, not decided yet.

Oh, have an example image that's rather sparse. Much will be added, hopefully (click to view full size):


Hoshi update

Err, yeah, forgot about this, sorry!

New version of Hoshi with working sounds under Linux.


Quick post

Just a quick note to say I've finally tested Hoshi in Linux.
Good news is that it works.
Bad news is that I messed up the sound paths. I'll push out an update for that tomorrow.

What is interesting is that it runs considerably better full-screen than on Windows. I guess that isn't particularly surprising though since Windows is bloated and not a particularly good OS choice from a gaming technical perspective.


General update

I've been lazy this week and not done any work on Whirligig. Hence the lack of updates here.

What I have been doing is playing Merentha again. Which is a MUD (an early multiplayer RPG, generally with far more involved systems than more modern MMORPGs).
Used to play it all the time, but it gets a bit of a grind so I play on and off since it's free.
No pretty graphics, it's all text-based, but the base gameplay is unrivalled by MMORPGs imo.

Err, that's pretty much it. I won't get any work done this weekend since I'm in Scotland for a stag do (not mine!)

The only real bit of news on Whirligig I guess I've for is that I started the shop on Monday then thought I had a serious UI problem, so I played Merentha whilst I thought it over and realised I didn't have a problem. :oP
Just need to put UI components together, but as I've stated before I don't enjoy that aspect of coding at all.


A word on Gaming in general

Or at least my views on it.
This is an opinion post, you have been warned. ;o)

I'm going to delve into that pandora's box known as "games as art". It's been done to death I know.

Anyway, I came across this 15 minute presentation today:

I largely agree with this presentation. Games are a wonderful media with an amazing future. However I don't really expect them to be taken as art.

Personally games mean a lot more to me than a picture, tv program, movie, music or even a book ever will. And that's because it's both none of these whilst at the same time being all of these.

In a game you can combine a wonderful stylistic view (like Okami's) with visually dramatic story arc scenes (like Heavy Rain) whilst playing an epic sound track (too many to mention, just listen to some game soundtracks sometime) and having an over-arching story as long as a book without missing things out due to how long your audience is likely to want to sit in one spot (large JRPGs do this best, like the FF series). Oh, and it's all interactive as well. No other form of media can do all these things at once. Movies come closest, but lack the long-term story or interactivity.

This isn't to say games should be the only media. Personally I think they're by far the best around and they're almost the sole method I use now for 'proper' entertainment, but they'll always be a place for stories you don't interact in. For example, I still love a good book and I listen to music whilst coding as trying to play a game at the same time would be hard. But movies and TV have near no meaning to me. There's a handful I like, but it's not with the same passion I feel for a game. I struggle to find any film that engages me and TV is even worse. But that's a personal view of a fairly hardcore gamer. What I will point out is that many of those who criticise games don't play them. I do watch movies and TV, I just don't enjoy them anywhere near as much as I do games.

Now, despite all this, I still don't think games can be classed as art by most people and the simple reason is this: The definition of art is woolly. It will never be 100% certain.
In short, the fault lies in the people who define what art is, not in the games, which often inspire higher emotions than many, personally, for me, I'd even say all, forms of artwork.
This is why I've used the term "media" in here. Games are definitely a media, and in terms of entertainment media they have all others beat. In terms of engaging the user on an emotional level they have all others beat (assuming it's a good game) purely because they have interaction, which makes you feel in the story. No other medium can do that.

So, that's my take on the piece. Feel free to disagree in the comments.


More boring UI progress.

Pretty much all the key in-game UI is now done. Although not thoroughly tested, which will come at a later date.

The in-game logic for the UI is also done, take this screenshot for example:

You'll note there's no "Fire!" button. This is because the player doesn't have enough of this projectile type (would need 12 -- 3 bounce split x 4 normal split).
I will add a message for these occasions at some point (so I guess the in-game UI isn't finished ;o))

Another quick screenie:

This shows an instance when the player can fire, just a three-way split with a normal shell.
When a player has an infinite number of a weapon type, the infinity symbol is used.

Not shown in these screenies is the shot/shell/projectile windows that now also have the numbers of each type left as well.
So, as I've been saying for the past few days. Shop next!

Quick edit: Yes, I do know the labels are wonky, I've just fixed that. ;o) I should also point out that the "Split At" tools only appear when a relevant shot type is selected and aren't there the rest of the time as they're not relevant. Prevents confusion. ;o)


Quick UI taster

This is how far Whirligig has moved along:

As you can see, everything is labelled, the 'projectile', 'shell' and 'shot' types all have icons (although pretty crappy ones ;o)) Clicking on them opens a window like the shell type one shown, which is showing 'normal', 'bounce', 'double bounce', 'double split', 'triple split' and 'clusterbomb'.
A 'split time' counter has been added so you can see how that works.
Oh, and there's 3 players, which (as I think I stated) was possible back as far as the tech demo, I just used 2 players back then.

The window is busier than I'd like. I need to fit the number of shots/shells/projectiles on there yet, which will require some reshuffling. Also I've not implemented that part to the weapon-choice windows either. And still not started on the shop. Still, getting there slowly.

Minor update

Not a lot to report really, all current work is pulling together UI parts. It's pretty boring stuff.

Have I mentioned I hate UI work? ;o)
Unfortunately most of the rest of this project is UI work now. The only bit that isn't really is the AI and level generator.

The level generator will just create 3 (or half the number of players, whichever is lower) planets and make sure they're spaced far enough apart then randomly locate the players making sure they're never closer than 90 degrees on a planet.
There may be some occasions on small planets where players get placed close together, but these should be rare(ish).

The AI I'm unsure how to do... I think I'll just have the projectile report back how close to an enemy the shot was and have the AI adjust from there. I could probably write in a load of simulation code that would make the AI dead smart, but I think a simple "how near am I?" setup will work well enough for the level of game I'm aiming at this. Were it a commercial product I'd bung in several AI levels, including a genius one that never missed. ;o)


Whirligig Update

Well I did write a fairly long post about this yesterday, but lost it, somehow.

Anyway, I took a small break over the weekend since I finished Hoshi early and yesterday I resumed Whirligig.

First thing I implemented was a shell type window to go along with the shot type window.
I should probably explain the shell/shot/projectile types at this point.

Projectile types determine the size of destruction (there's 4 sizes).
Shot types determine whether the projectile will split after it's fired and into how many subsequent projectiles (1-5). The length of time before splitting can also be set.
Shell types determine what the projectile does on impact. This is the most complex and consists of bouncing (once or twice) or splitting (2 or 3 times) or a clusterbomb which explodes at the impact point and fires 4 other shots off.

I now need to finish building the GUI for these (timing for split shots and projectile type need implementing) then put together a shop.

The shop is needed because you will start with a limited number of each projectile. The only thing you'll have inifinite of is normal/normal/normal. Although this can all be changed in the options.

Basic gameplay will consist of a series of rounds (1-20). The shop can be set to be available mid-round or only at the end of each round.
After the rounds various stats will be shown with a 'score' winner, a 'kills' winner and a 'rounds' winner.

I don't think that's as clear as my original post about all this, unfortunately. If you've any questions, leave them in the comments and I'll try and clarify. Or you can wait a few days and I'll post some screenshots hopefully. ;o)


Hoshi release!

I'm releasing Hoshi today, earlier than I originally planned because, well, it's done.

Without further ado, you can download it from here (~800KB).
And a picture of the final version:

I'm uploading a video of it running at the moment, will take some time because my connection is broken horribly right now, but will add a link to that when it's done.
Edit: Video is here.

On with Whirligig now, with a release date looking around June 15th, but that's not set in stone.

Feel free to comment with any bugs. AFAIK there aren't any, but if there's anything large enough I'll fix it and re-release.
I haven't done all the fiddling about with OpenAL that I intended to. There are some checks in there but I've no idea if they're enough, so you may need to install OpenAL as well. Downloads are available from creative here. Linux users should have it in their repo somewhere, but I'm not 100% on that.

Discussion on future projects

Since I've effectively finished Hoshi now, which is effectively project 2 but will be the first released, I thought I'd better start looking at ideas for future projects.

I do have a fairly large accumulation of game ideas, but most are too big for a month project and are more in the 6 month to 2 year time frame which I'm best staying away from for now.

So, what will fit in a month? Well, I have a ideas for 2 platformers, but I lack the graphics and level design experience to manage these properly in a month. Both would (ideally) need level editors which would be a project in and of itself.
So, I'll be leaving these for now, but I'll come back to them.

So I've decided on two relatively boring concepts for projects three and four and I'll give you the reasoning for them:
Project three will be an arena shooter (player in the middle of a single room with a gun that can shoot in 8 directions with enemies approaching from every direction). I estimate this will take around 2 weeks to write the code, but the sprites will take a long while as I'm hopeless at pixel art, but the entire point of this project is to improve that aspect.

Project Four will be a single-room-platformer. Classic examples being Manic Miner or Jet Set Willy from the 8-bit era. Again I'm not expecting more than around 2 weeks to write the main code and another week for a level editor. Some artwork will be re-used from project 3 (I may make this a sequel of sorts). The primary goal of this project is to experiment in level design and see what I can learn.

So, there you have it, projects three and four. Estimated (but not solid) release dates will be mid-July for 3 and mid-August for 4.


That was easy

It's, err, sorted.
Sound is working.

I haven't tested for systems without OpenAL yet. I think I have enough checks to stop an outright crash but I need to be sure.
I also haven't added the "sound effects on/off" line in the options, which needs doing as not everyone likes retro beeps and whistles. Might add a volume control to that as well, will see.

But yeah, the game is pretty much finished. I'll make a video later demonstrating the sounds and um, guess I'll release it once I've checked the OpenAL stuff and added that line to the options screen.

It's done!

That is, everything but the sound is.
I may not finish the sound by Sunday (should do, but I can't be 100%), in which case I'll release this version on Sunday instead.
Also, things may go terribly wrong with the sound on various systems, so I'm going to have to abstract it away and try and check for errors at runtime then run with a "null" sound driver if things go wrong.

Doing the additional checks is probably what will take up most of the time.
I'll be using sfxr to make the effects, which is exceedingly good at making retro noises, which fits in with the whole theme Hoshi goes for.
I'm going to try and recreate the original sound effects as closely as possible, but that may not work 100%, will have to see.



Had a busy evening.
Most of the options menu now works. It's klunky horrible, horrible code, but it works.
It's completely centred on Hoshi, which means I can't re-use this menu code. Something I realised late today. Given the choice I'd do the entire thing differently, but it's close enough to completion  now to not be worth redoing. Next time I make a non-mouse menu I know what to do at least.

So what works?
 - Resolution changes (only 2 resolutions are supported, but you can change these to whatever you want in the options, initially they're set as 800x600 and 1280x800).
 - Moving to/from fullscreen. It's not ideal, OpenTK doesn't do this particularly well and I seem to lose a fair whack of performance (which I believe is actually Windows' fault), but it's there.
 - Changing between keysets and joystick.
 - Resetting the high score.

What's to implement?
 - Custom key changes.
 - Sound effects on/off (implementing sound first is a bit of a must for this one. ;o))

Additionally I added a refreshrate variable to the options file, so this can be changed by hand. It's set to 60 by default, which will be fine for TFTs but is generally unpleasant on CRTs.

Also: Options are saved on exit, not on change. So if you change some options then manage to crash the game (I've not managed it yet) then they won't be saved and neither will your highscore.
I know highscore editing is simple, but really, who benefits? ;o)

Also found and squashed a bug earlier where it was possible to spawn a bazillion enemies on level 1 and so use that to significantly boost your score. Whoops.

Still looking good for a Sunday release anyway. I worked out earlier that I'll have written the entire game in 26 days (started it on the 20th of April). Pretty sure that's a good achievement. :o)

Just a quick teaser, image of the options screen:

More on Joysticks

Slowly working through the Options menu. I really hate UI design.

The good news is the UK election is sorted. I'm not convinced it will last more than a couple of years, and things aren't exactly how I'd like them, but they'll do. We shouldn't be running off invading any more countries illegally for the time being anyway. :oP

Anyway, Joysticks.
I have Joystick support implemented and working. It feels fine to me, but I don't like joystick controls on this sort of game personally.
I edited the OpenTK source to implement it in the end with a semi-clumsy hack.
I'm fairly certain it's badly optimised, but it work for now. I'm not looking to break any optimisation records with Hoshi. ;o)

I'm not extensively testing it. Random unplugs etc are undefined. It's mostly there as a testbed for future projects among which will probably be platformers, for which joystick support is a must.


Another update

I've spent the afternoon avoiding the Options menu. I really hate UI coding, it's so full of potentially tricksy pieces.

Instead I've fixed all the niggly bugs and added explosions to ship deaths, including the player, with a seconds worth of delay after dying so you can watch the remains of your ship fly into the unknown.

So yes, everything is now drawn correctly at the edges of the Arena and I've removed those horrible red lines. Passage between one edge and another should be unnoticeable.

I've made some minor changes to balance.
Enemy ships now have a variable amount of shield power depending on the wave. Up to wave 5 you'll always insta-kill them. At wave 6 they'll take 2 shots, at wave 11 they'll take 3, 16 they'll take 4, etc.

I don't think there's anything else to add at all to the game itself now. Balancing tests still need to be done, but I think that should be fair enough. Getting past Wave 11 will require considerable skill I suspect, but that was true on the original Foray as well. I think the furthest I ever got on that was around wave 15.

Hoshi video

Managed to finally take a video of Hoshi.
As I said before, this is near finished game-play. There's still cleaning up to do and I'm still having performance issues in full-screen for some reason, which is why this is an 800x600 recording, not a 1280x800 as I'd like, but it still gives a good example of what the final game will look like.

I die rather suddenly at the end and accidentally start a new game immediately. Will have to look at that.

Nearly done!

Hoshi is finished for all intents and purposes. With the exception of the Options menu.
All other bugs are niggling:
 - Boss AI currently gets confused and sometimes lost due to lacking position-correction. This only happens whilst escort ships are still around, once they're dead the AI works. The position correction is easy to fix, hopefully the AI is as well.
 - Stars are still somewhat confused from my X axis mix-up, this is easy to fix.
 - Enemy AI does still get confused with arena borders. This should be easily fixable.

Additionally I'm having second thoughts about the 3-shots-to-kill enemies. It shows off the shield animation better, but they're a bit of a pain to kill.
I may drop it to two shots and make it so only 3 need to crash into you in rapid succession to kill you instead of the current 4.

So, I should have an RC tech demo by the end of the day.


Quick Hoshi update

Obviously the election stuff has dragged on a lot longer than I thought it had and in between a friend's birthday party and the Spanish Grand Prix I got near enough no code done this weekend.

However, today I've had quite a productive afternoon, so I'll outline what now works in addition to before.
Firstly there's a menu:

Which is fairly basic, but will do for now.
Options still doesn't work, but most of the basic framework is in there, just needs fully implementing.

I've finished adding the final few pieces of game code, which means the game actually plays now as it will when finished, that means all AI (including boss), special bullets and wave re-plays are implemented.
However there's no indication what wave you're on, nor score indicator (although both are stored internally).
I'm expecting to have everything implemented either tomorrow afternoon or Wednesday at which point I'll have a choice.

First, I could just release it at that point, however there will be no sound implemented. Sound is a bit of a funny area with OpenTK. It uses OpenAL, which is a separate download on Windows and may require the player to go do download and ./configure things on Linux, which is less than ideal.
Also, OpenAL breaks 64-bit support on Windows, which means telling the application to run in 32-bit mode. There's no 64-bit version of OpenAL for Windows as of this moment and it's possible there won't be in the foreseeable future.
I may be able to get round these at some point in the future but right now it's a bit of a show stopper for sound effects.

I do have a solution, but it's not ideal.
Distribute multiple binaries.
It's fairly easy for me to create a non-sound binary alongside one with sound. I just don't call OpenAL in the no sound one and so it will run with most compatibility.

There's a further solution to all this, and that is compiling and distributing an OpenAL DLL and linux shared object alongside the executable. I'd rather not go this route just yet though as compiling OpenAL soft under Windows is somewhat daunting, but it would fix the 32/64-bit issue.

Another word on Joystick support. If you followed the link I made in my last post you'll not that Fiddler said the issue was fixed in OpenTK's svn. I've downloaded and compiled that and I'm still having the same issue at the moment. This is unfortunate but not seriously threatening. I still have my full keyboard support which will be fine on any keyboard that allows 3 keys to be used at once (all, else ctrl-alt-del wouldn't be usable ;o))

So that's where I stand. I'll go get Score and Wave notifications implemented so I can work on the Options screen tomorrow.


Well that explains a lot.

All my X co-ordinates have been oddly reversed in Hoshi. Just worked out my camera wasn't orientated properly... Having text backwards isn't conducive to the user experience.



OpenTK pulled the old joystick code near the end of last year without me noticing. This essentially means Hoshi won't have joystick support like I wanted unless I cobble together a custom version of OpenTK.

This isn't a disaster, but it's annoying as I wanted to introduce Joystick support for some of the other games I have planned as well.
This is the exact post detailing the new input methods. You'll note the last post is "this won't be ready for v1.0."
Unfortunately the old code was pulled as part of the process of implementing the new, so whilst OpenTK will wave a flag and say "look! I has a stick!" it won't let you actually read any useful information from the joystick.

So that's about half a day wasted on that. :o(
Arse. And I drew a joystick icon as well.


Work on Hoshi

Been busy watching election stuff again. :oP
That'll all be over on Thursday.

Anyway, I'm having a minor crisis with control mechanisms.
Essentially I wanted things to be as simple as possible. In the old versions there were a singular set of keys: Z, X, right shift and enter (for left, right, thrust and fire respectively). These are generally not considered "nice" keys under todays standards (although personally I still think they work fantastically for pretty much any game when you use ' and / for up/down as well, but anyway), so there's another keyset that in the tech demo is configured as left and right cursor, Z and X (I think). The fire/thrust aren't ideal really, but good enough for the tech demo.

So, what's the problem exactly? Well, I have a left, right and enter key, and even a potential "back", but no up/down.
Because I want an options screen, I need a basic menu. A basic menu ideally needs an up/down and definitely needs clear keys.

Initially I just thought "oh, I'll add an up/down", but that could confuse matters when the user goes "what do up/down in the game?" The answer would be "nothing, they're purely for menu navigation"... Seems a little silly.

Next thought was "I could do a left/right menu with cool slanty text", which would work but involves coding up another UI element and drawing the text sideways which will all take time which I'm running out of.

So, I've decided on this:
Menu navigation will all be done through the cursor keys. Game play will have custom keys definable in the options.
Oh, also I'm adding basic joystick support.
On the main menu they'll be a notice in the top-left of the screen with pictures of cursor keys, enter, escape and a joystick to indicate that's how you navigate the menu. Heading to the options screen will let you redefine the in-game keys.

The tech demo actually has the ability to redefine the keys in its options file, but that's not a lot of use unless you know the OpenTK keycodes. There's a few other options I forgot to mention that I'll go through now:
If you open the file that is in AppData (C:\Users\\AppData\Local on Vista/Win7, C:\Documents and Settings\\Application Data on XP I think) then you can change these options.

First off is 'fullscreen'. Changing this to 'true' will attempt a fullscreen mode.
Next you have an X and Y resolution, changing these will do the obvious.
Arenasize changes the size of the arena. Making it very, very small is untested, I don't suggest doing so. Making it very large will just mean it takes longer to catch up with the enemy ships. Again this is untested. The radars should still work, but again, untested. :oD
StarsInTheSky and Layers changes the number of stars on each of the parallax star layers and obviously the number of those layers.
StarSize is a value passed directly to OpenGL to change the size of points. I've not stuck to this everywhere in the code so changing it might not make a difference. Large values will look silly, 1 will make the stars hard to see and anything smaller than 1 will default to 1.
UseKeySet determines which set of keys to use. Currently 0 is the standard cursors with Z and X, 1 is the Z/X/enter/shift layout I mentioned previously that I prefer. 2 will default to the cursors with Z and X again and will become the 'custom' key set when implemented.
Once joystick support is implemented, this value will also support -1 for the joystick.
Back and pause will always be Escape and 'P'... Pause works but has a bug in that you can still rotate and fire in the tech demo.


Design decisions

I said I'd talk about why I'd decided to use C# and OpenTK, so I'll do that here. Along with why I'm developing reusable code, which is something of a two-edged sword if you're not careful.

Why C#?
To be blunt, because I can get from clicking "start project" to a working OpenGL window in under 2 minutes. With OpenTK installed on the system there's minimal messing around with dependencies etc, etc.
On top of that, .NET has a very, very rich network of libraries. VB also has access, but it's not as flexible a language. There are other options for adding useful libraries to C/C++ but you have to take time to set things up, which can take a long time and there's also issues with linking things so they'll "just work" on other people's machines. C# with always "just work" on a Windows box and with mono installed will most likely "just work" on both Linux and OS X as well without requiring me to release 3 copies of the game.

Why OpenTK?
Once C# was decided on, there were several things I could use for games programming. The most obvious is XNA, which is Microsoft's release and is easily portable to the X-Box 360. However, it's Windows only and is based on DirectX, which I've never particularly liked.
SDL.NET was another possiblity, but this works in 2D and seems to be abandoned in recent years. It was more active around .NET 1.1 than any other time and much of the coding harks back to that era, C# and .NET have moved on since then.
Tao is another possibility and would be a solid choice, but again it looks abandoned.
So that brings me to OpenTK, which has almost direct calls to OpenGL, contains a very quick and easy class called "GameWindow" (which allows that 2 minute setup I spoke about), contains maths classes that are almost (but not quite) directly portable with XNA, has support for sound playback and has extensive input support for keyboards, mice and joysticks. It also supports these features across both Windows and Linux, with most supported on OS X (I think sound playback and joysticks are a bit iffy, but I have no Mac to test them on).

Also note, I'm discounting anything that isn't free here.

Reusable code
Working out how much of a game to make reusable is more complex than it first appears.
For example: You could build an entire game engine that could be used for multiple games, but it should be pointed out that this is a large project in and of itself and if you just want to write a game then it's advisable to write a game-specific engine which will be much less flexible, but you're more likely to complete.
For my Game-A-Month project I've hit somewhere in the middle ground. Certain parts of my games will be reusable, but the game itself will be built largely from scratch each time.
The main part that is reusable is are the user interface components. Specifically this is a lump of code that contains the decision making for what is happening in the game at the moment, making sure things that are supposed to be rendered are so and those that aren't, aren't, making sure when a key is pushed the game takes the right action, etc, etc.
In Whirligig it deals with where and what the mouse has clicked on, who's turn it is and what to display on the screen at any moment. It will also deal with the main menu and shop when those are implemented.
In Hoshi it just deals with the basic rendering right now and not a lot else, although it also knows when the player dies and deals with ending the game; this bit of user interface is particularly clever as internally user interfaces lie on a stack, the first on the stack is the 'main menu' then you stack whatever else the user visits as you need it. When the user finishes with the user interface it just pops the stack and the user is automatically returned to the previous interface. If the stack is empty the game ends.
This allows me to very quickly knock together a group of components I want rendering into a user interface, chuck it on the stack and have a game prototype. This is the stage both Hoshi and Whirligig are currently at. When I want to add a main menu, I just create the menu as a separate interface and when the user selects "play game" just push my 'prototype' interface onto the stack. When the game ends, the stack is popped and control drops back through to the main menu.

Other components are designed to work with this interface and mostly consist of fairly mundane things like windows, labels, buttons and progress bars (all showcased in Whirligig) which inherit an interface called IUIElement. This interface allows me to create and add a new element to a user interface very quickly. For example, the radars took ~30 minutes to knock up in the end and the energy bar not a lot longer, then I just use an AddControl() call on the interface and they're rendered the same as anything else.

This is all very useful, but I take some performance hits for it. Interfaces suffer some nasty performance problems and once I start developing more complex objects I will certainly start using less of them (right now every render object uses one for it's main render cycle, this is VERY BAD as it generates unnecessary allocation and therefore garbage collection calls for every object in every render cycle -- 60+ times a second -- which severely impacts performance and may be the reason I'm having issues recording a video). Hopefully project #3 (which I'm looking at a plaformer idea I have for) will have less of these.

There are other small elements that I'm making reusable, small things like the OpenGL texture upload code, which I'm just doing quick'n'dirty right now, text drawing is done through the .NET image subsystem to a texture then uploaded with a transparent mask, this isn't perfect (rapidly changing text would be bad for this method) but works for what I have right now.
When I write a simple audio subsystem (which I'll be doing in the next couple of weeks for Hoshi), that will be reusable as well.

Hoshi tech demo

Hoshi is moving rapidly, I've now got a tech demo ready which you can download here (557KB).

The aim is simply to kill all 20 ships. The AI is fully implemented but not properly balanced yet and they sometimes shoot in mysterious directions. However they do usually target your direction and despite having no swarm mechanics do tend to act in a swarm-like behaviour.
I've mostly been playing against 50 ships when doing testing and that can prove quite difficult. You shouldn't reach 50 ships for a long while in the main game though.

Tips are to just keep moving as much as possible, but not TOO fast or you'll outrun your bullets and run the risk of smashing into ships. If you die (energy bar is at the bottom) the demo will exit. You only get one life. ;o)
Currently things go a bit weird at the edges of the level. For one the AI will get confused and start flying in the opposite direction, ships on the opposite side won't be drawn and bullets don't have "move to correct side" parts attached. So, if you see a big red line, I suggest flying away from it, although nothing will go spectacularly wrong if you don't.

In other news, I did a fair bit of yesterday and today's development under Linux, where the game just runs. I'll write a post about my reasons for choosing C# and OpenTK (this being a main one) at some point. For now, you can see what it looks like here, ignore the tearing, that's just a vsync issue. I'd not quite got the radar implemented there, so no red spots.

I tried to take a video of the tech demo earlier but ran into some issues unfortunately. I'll try again later though.


Little more on Hoshi

is still gradually moving towards a tech demo (may even get one out later today).

Bullet collision is now working, which puts it squarely past my last effort in terms of game-mechanics, but there's still nothing in terms of UI.
Next plan is to add an energy bar, then the radars, possibly a score and release that as a tech demo.

Enemy bullet hitting a player and lighting their shields:

Player hitting an enemy and lighting their shields:

Not a lot else to say right now. Again progress is slower than I'd like, again mostly to do with the election, but I've also picked up a nasty cold which is making my head a bit muggy. Oh well, the show must go on or something. :o)


A word on Hoshi

The new engine currently looks like this.
There's no collision detection for bullets and their "launch point" needs moving, but overall it's coming on nicely. Once collision detection and enemy AI (for which the framework is there, just not the AI itself) are implemented the main game dynamics will be in place and most of the rest will be fixing the UI.
Work hasn't progressed as quickly over the past few days, this is mostly due to my being distracted by the current UK election, which is potentially one of the most important in the history of the country with the results determining whether our entire electoral system will be changed or not. But, this isn't a political blog, I'm just pointing out why I've not done as much work as I intended over the past few days.

Currently there's only "normal" and "boss" ships, but I've left enough room to add others if I feel the need.
I may if I have enough time left before the deadline I've set myself create several game types instead of the standard arcadey 'wave' version. The other game types would make use of these additional ships.

From there, I should outline the entire gameplay for the arcade mode:
The basic style is pretty old, even as far back as the 8-bit era; you're a lone ship on a scrolling background (which wraps) against massive odds, but your ship has a distinct advantage.
In the case of Hoshi that advantage is regenerative shielding and a larger bullet range than the enemy as well as an additional high-power bullet designed for killing bosses.
Gameplay will follow that you have to destroy a swarm of escort ships, these will take a minimum of hits (I've not decided exactly how many, Foray had single-hit kills, currently it's set ~5 shots, but this is easily changeable). The best option for killing the swarm is to shoot them, but crashing into them works since they have considerably weaker shields and yours quickly regenerate, however you'll score less for a crash than a clean kill and it obviously leaves you with a temporary reduced shield power.
Once the swarm is killed your ship automatically switches to 'boss mode' and you can shoot boss bullets. You have a very limited number of these, so it's best to save them up wherever possible. On early waves the boss can be killed with just a single bullet, but the number required will increase as you progress through the game.
If you run out of boss bullets all the escort swarm will respawn and you'll have to kill them all again at a reduced score per ship. The more times you re-do the level, the lower the score per ship, but you can always re-do it. It's important that you can always re-do it because killing a certain number of ships provides you with boss bullets (don't ask why, it just does).
Getting far enough into the game theoretically requires re-playing through waves as the bosses will require more bullets than you can carry. This is intentional as by that point the swarm will contain enough ships to be very formidable and so it increases the difficulty considerably.

There are a number of design decision I'm going to go into here:
Bullets don't gain velocity from the ship speed. This is twofold, firstly it's a design consideration in the original Foray game and it also prevents the player just running through a swarm of following enemy ships with all guns blazing. If you attempt this with bullets adding to the ship velocity then you'll kill most of the enemies and come out the other side unscathed, if you have no bullets in front of you however, you'll smash into the ships and die very quickly. This prevents players from just leading the enemies into a swarm then running through this swarm repeatedly. This worked extremely well in Foray, forcing a constant change in player tactics, often involving an engage, retreat, engage strategy to recharge shields from the enemy ships crashing into you.

Separate bullets for killing the boss and having waves repeat if you fail to kill it. Again this was an original Foray design, I do intend on making the change that on repeating a wave the score will be reduced, this is to prevent players just aiming for a high score by re-playing early levels over and over. Whether I make an online high-score table or not is another matter, if I do it will be a separate project.

Moving the UI from the right hand side to the top. This is mostly to make it easier to support multiple resolutions. As I mentioned in other posts, the last Hoshi engine had problems with internal positioning and part of this was an attempt to support all of 4:3, 5:4, 16:9 and 16:10 resolutions. Since the sidebar would be the same width in all resolutions, and the ship needed to be centred in the remaining space I made some poor positioning decisions that resulted in everything falling apart when I came to implement collision detection.
In the new engine, the camera moves, following the ship through the world instead of previously where the world moved then the ship was positioned to appear centre whilst the ship-in-world position and ship-on-screen positioning were completely separate.
The radars will be top-centre and the score probably next to this with the number of 'boss bullets' on the other side and the energy bar across the bottom of the screen.

'Swarm' ships are very stupid. I could theoretically give them some fairly awesome AI, including the ability to work in groups etc, but this would take a lot of time to tweak and also removes the possibility of accidental suicide runs from them, which created some classic moments from Foray, including many of frustration when you head towards a group swarm and suddenly 5 ships smash into you uncontrollably. It's a good mechanic that keeps you on your toes, so I'll keep it. Possibly if I do introduce other modes the AI would be upgraded on those ships and obviously the boss AI will be different.

Crashing into boss ships does nothing. Boss ships have much stronger shields is the main reasoning behind this and as such you just bounce off them with no danger. However staying close to a boss ship is a bad idea as they can shoot just like the normal swarm ships.

Enemy ships can't move and shoot at the same time. This is to allow the player to retreat from the swarm at any moment. If you feel it needs more justification, the enemy ships don't have a enough power to run both weapons and engines at the same time. ;o) They can coast for a long way though, so potentially you could get smacked with a load of bullets with an enemy ship at the end of it.

Enemy ships have a very powerful weapon and rapid fire rate. This is to even the odds a little, after all you can always run away from the enemies and regenerate your shields, you have a longer range and generally a more powerful ship.

Hope that clears a few things up on Hoshi, hoping to get a tech demo out in the next few days for people to have a shot at killing some enemies.


Last.fm RSS stuff

Not game related, but thought I'd add it.

I got briefly distracted last night when I realised the RSS reader I wrote around 3 years ago can grab last.fm RSS feeds. About 10 minutes later I had an app that displayed my last songs in an image.
I rather quickly turned this into a sig that I'm now using on the Audiosurf forums. It doesn't really do anything snazzy, it's almost identical to the ones last.fm chooses anyway, the only difference is that I have complete control over the layout etc. Which means my own choice of font... Err, that's probably the only real difference. :oD

Ah well, was a good bit of fun!
Currently looks like:


The fate of AudioGame

I lost motivation for this project somewhere around October/November last year. Things just weren't going how I wanted and I got a large swarm of bugs that caused me a lot of problems and I couldn't track down along with some nasty memory leaks springing up overnight in unchanged code. The game itself plays ok-ish for what it is (a very early example of what the engine is capable of).

Then recently I found Beat Hazard, which is pretty much exactly the 'feel' I was aiming for with my game, but works as an old arena-style shooter instead of a sideways shooter.
I read a brief interview with the author, who mentioned using beats in the music to increase counters instead of acting on them directly, which is a pretty cool idea. This made me go digging through AudioGame's code and see what happened if I implemented that technique myself. The results were pretty awesome, instead of huge waves of enemies, they appeared in spots and starts with a sort-of time to the music.

Unfortunately all the old issues are still prevalent. The memory leak I'm at a total loss for, I can't even remember what code I added just before it turned up. I have it set up so the enemies have no maximum speed as the "don't go faster than this" code is broken somehow. It's actually so broken that it has a habit of sending enemy ships shooting off at odd angles when I've only written code to have them move right to left.

This all leaves me with a bit of a conundrum. I could take this game all the way if I fixed the bugs. That tip from the Beat Hazard guy (btw, I strongly suggest buying the game, it's a lot of fun) essentially fixed the biggest problem I was having, which was how to make things work to the music. But the bugs are obscure and may take a long time to fix that isn't proportionate to the issues they cause. The memory leak for example isn't the "keep eating memory forever" sort, it's the "you didn't clean up properly when closing" sort, which is a non-issue for a user but annoying for a coder.

I may re-pick it up as part of the game-a-month stuff and make a prototype, maybe even in C# and OpenTK instead of C++. I may not and just let it rest.

Game A Month Project #1 and #2

So, I've only decided in the past couple of days to go for this game-a-month thing and I already have 2 projects currently on the go.

These consist of the earlier spoken about Whirligig and also a re-re-make of Hoshi.

Whirligig I've not worked on since the tech demo, except to do some testing. I can confirm it works with more than 2 players, but it is the bigger of these two projects so, despite starting it first it will take longer. Also I used it as the test bed for a lot of the framework I'm developing for use in my game-a-month project and I spent over a week getting this working to a satisfactory and easily reusable standard. However, when I started work on Hoshi, this meant I could just drop in a lot of this framework with very little change and now I have two games where I just had one two days ago. Perhaps I'll release some of this framework afterwards, we'll see.

A little more on Hoshi here: when I first found OpenTK one of the first things I wrote for it was a re-write of my uni game Hoshi. Again I got around 75% of the development and then discovered I'd made a huge (and I mean huge) error with how I was translating all the objects around the screen. Untangling this mess would have taken as long again as a total rewrite, so I essentially left it there. There are some videos of the engine on youtube. So, I'm once again re-making the game I put so many hours into as a kid. Right now I have a starry sky (just a quick note, the word hoshi in Japanese -- kanji 星 -- means 'star') and a ship that can fly around it. I have ship designs for the enemy ships in place and I haven't mucked up the positioning system yet. I'd say I'm around 70% of the way to a tech demo with it and around 50% of the way to a full game.

So, those are my current two dates. Hoshi I estimate will be ready sometime in May, I'm going to say provisionally the 16th, since it's my birthday and this was one of my favourite games. ;o)
Whirligig will take longer as I've more plans for it, mid to late June is probably a fair estimate.

New game plan

Ok, so things didn't go quite as planned with my AudioGame. I'll explain the specifics in another post, but this one is more about what I'm planning to do for the rest of this year.

One thing that a lot of indie developers seem to do that allows them to enjoy the scene is to publish a "game a week" or something similar. So, I'm planning on doing the same. This will be hard for me because I'm not someone who easily works to deadlines. I code because I enjoy it and I want it to remain that way, so if I find I'm trying to do more work than I'm enjoying I tend to back off.
This has resulted in a rather large accumulation of half-finished projects however as I also enjoy exploring new ideas, but rarely see them through to completion.

One such example of this is a game I originally wrote for university called Hoshi which is a re-make of an old RISC OS game called Foray that in itself took a lot of inspiration from a BBC/Acorn Electron game called Starship Command. I spent many hours playing this game and it's one of my fondest gaming memories. Single-player, you fly around shooting enemies in waves. One hit kills on them, you have a shield bar, however the enemies shoot so quickly that if you remain still in a shot of their bullets you tend to die in around a second. Unfortunately I long ago lost the original, which is where my wish to remake it originally came from. And I succeeded, sort of. Things were going great, I had ~75% of the game in place and then the deadline approached and I rushed the next 15% and introduced a LOT of bugs that effectively stalled development. I handed in a game that was near enough completion to get high marks, but it was also bugridden as a result of that rush at the end.
What does this have to do with now? Well, I want to make it clear that I won't make that sort of mistake with these games. If I start introducing bugs like that I'll slow down. My plan is to make stable, fun games on a semi-regular basis, not unstable, broken games on a strict timetable.

What this leaves me with is that I won't set an exact time for each game. I also want to put more time into some of the ideas than has been done by some developers (that's not to say their games aren't good, but you can see where corners were cut to fit deadlines). I'll also be using OpenTK and C# instead of some of the more rapid development tools available. The reason for this is simply that I like the additional "wiggle room" that using a base language gives you over something like QuestViewer. Audiosurf is a good example of this. Fantastic game, but all it's bad points ultimately point to it being developed in Quest3D.

So my timetable is this: Average a game once a month. Sometimes it might be two months between releases, sometimes it might be 2 weeks. Updates will primarily be from here, hosted on DropBox, because it's easy and free. ;o)



Whirligig is a small artillery game I'm currently working on.
The basic idea takes from an old, old game called Gravity Wars which involves two stationary ships arranged between several planets where the idea is to shoot your opponent and the planets have gravitational effect on your projectiles.
I've taken other ideas, mainly from an old RISC OS game called TANKS, although the concepts are similar to those used in Worms, that is different types of weapons.

Currently I have the game running as a short tech demo (~2.4MB) between two players with infinite "split" weapons and a video on youtube from earlier in development.

Small technical notes on the game: it uses OpenTK and is written in C#.

I'm also building as much of the internals of the game in a re-usable fashion so I can use them in other projects as well, as I'll explain in my next post.