March Into The Dungeons In March’s Board Game Quest

Board Game QuestMarch was a fun month for me. After spending 2 and a half weeks just trying to come up with an idea for a game, I finally got around to making it.

Back in February, I wanted to make a board game but ended up doing something different. The game I wanted to make needed to be timely for a specific event but wasn’t going to be finished in time. So I put it off.

So in March, I decided to scratch my board game itch with a slightly different board game. And thus Board Game Quest was born.

I was inspired to make this particular game after the Lego Heroica line of board games. I own all but one set of that particular game and my son and I love to play them. I think it is a great game and very much would like to make something along those lines as a video game. So this is my first prototype to that end.

The game was a lot easier to make than I had originally expected. Designing the board wasn’t bad at all as it is a simple spiral to the center. I could easily add more to it by expanding the size of the board to be larger than the game resolution. The hardest part of the game board was trying to design board elements that meshed together well. I went through various iterations of walls and spaces until I reach the set you see above. It turned out to be a lot more “brown and grey” than I really wanted, but it was the best I could make.

The characters and monsters were mostly chosen at random. I had no preconceived ideas of what I would do with them once they were put in the game. I just wanted to add variety. But lucky for me, as development advanced, I was able to use the character sprites to add mechanics variety to the game as well.

Once I had the very basics of the game down, I wanted to explore adding abilities to the characters to make them more unique and make choosing them to be an actually thought out choice. So I took the 4 character types I had and the four main aspects of the gameplay and came up with their individual traits.

While these individual traits are not too amazing in a single player match of the game, as I expand the concept and introduce multiplayer, they will become far more important. In a multiplayer match, the goal would be to reach the end and beat the end boss before the others. Which character you choose would help toward that end.

There are a few things I really want to change as I go forward with this concept. The first being the spawning of monsters. Right now, they just appear at random and disappear whether you beat them or not. As I develop out the concept of the game, I would like to leave spawned monsters in place until one player defeats them.

As the game board increases in size, I would also like to add a bit of a random encounter element. So not every move results in a monster, but perhaps only a chance to run into one. As you reach nearer your goal, the greater the chance of one spawning in front of you.

Another aspect I will consider changing is the potions. Right now, it is a single potion, or two in the case of the priest. This is fine in a single player game, but I think it would not work very well for multiplayer. I think a better system would be to replace the potion with a “rest” mechanic. With this, the player can choose to rest instead of move for a turn. Doing so would allow them to recover 1hp. This would allow the player to decide if they want to try moving forward and gaining an advantage over the other players or to rest and live to fight another day. I would change the priest’s ability from 2 potions to recovering 2hp.

One other issue that I have not decided on a proper solution to is the Paladin’s ability. The problem isn’t the ability itself, but its interaction with the final fight of the game. If the player attacks the final boss but loses, they are typically sent back a space and then must roll to move then attack again. The Paladin doesn’t move however and it feels a bit annoying to have to make a movement roll then attack. I guess the same could be said of other characters as well as any roll from one space away is going to pit you against the boss. But that can be a problem for another day.

Overall, I found developing this game to be a fun challenge. It is unique from all other games I have made and has a whole lot of potential. It could be the start of a path that leads to a tactical RPG, something I have wanted to make for a long time.

One final lesson, I would like to share. I really need to begin work on these earlier in the month. I waste a lot of time in the first 2-3 weeks and it cuts into the time I could be using to make these changes I always write about. Had I started work on this a week or two before I did, It could be a full multiplayer board game right now. That would be awesome. However, now that I have this prototype together, that could still happen and it will be great.

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Dragon Canyon Has Been Updated

January 2014 One Game A Month Entry: Dragon CanyonThese updates were not too extremely necessary, but I felt like I should make them at some point. And the last few days have been that “some point”. So here is the rundown on Dragon Canyon‘s updates.

These were some updates that I wanted to put into the game since I created it. I didn’t think the game was right when it was first released and wanted to make a few changes.

The first one was just the size of the game window. It was way too wide. I needed to scale that back considerably. The game play just didn’t lend itself to such a wide area. If the game were to be released as a four player game, I could easily see a much wider game area to be a necessity.

The next update was a simple high score mechanism. The game now tracks your personal best score, in the current play session. If you refresh the browser window or close it, your score will be lost. But it will at least let you challenge yourself a bit better.

The final update is one that it badly needed, pixel perfect collision detection. The game originally just used hit boxes based on the size of the sprite. This led to a lot of transparent pixels overlapping transparent pixels causing a collision. This led to a lot of awful deaths and some seriously crazy shots. So now, the actual opaque portions have to overlap to count as a hit. Much better.

If I were to make this into a full fledged game, I would certainly add more. I would like it to be multiplayer. That would require more monsters and a larger play area. I also need scrolling backgrounds. Multiple levels with their own monsters and backgrounds. A greater variety of monsters with a greater variety of attack patterns would be awesome. This would also include monsters that shoot back. Boss monsters would add another bit of flair. Controller support would be great as playing multiplayer on a single keyboard just doesn’t work right. I would also add health and special attacks. This would make the game more interesting a varied. Of course I would also add animations, sound effects and music to the list too.

Come to think of it, this is pretty far from a “complete” game.

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Only A Day Out And Graveyard Defense Has Been Exploited

My Daughter Deana's High ScoreSo Graveyard Defense has been online for only a day and it has already been exploited to build up a massive high score. Not that we are really tracking these scores. But that is not the point.

I let my daughter Deana play the game and she quickly found a way to exploit the game mechanics to beat my best score of 120 or so points. It isn’t a big deal, only a weakness in the way the game was designed. But it is still there.

As you may recall, the game is played by using the arrow keys to attack monsters as they come out of the graves. Eventually, the monsters come out so quickly and attack faster and you become overwhelmed and are defeated. The exploit lies in that basic interaction between the arrow keys and the monsters.

Because there is no penalty, other than a wasted attack, to hitting a wrong arrow, players can simply spam the arrow keys to rack up a high score. That is exactly what my daughter did. She used four fingers to mash the arrow keys repeatedly. So she was effectively attacking all four directions at once. At least for a while. She was still overwhelmed and she lost. But that isn’t the point. The fact is, the game has a weakness.

This isn’t really a big deal for a game made in under two days. It does show that extensive testing of a design concept is necessary for a successful game.

I don’t have any plans to fix the game at the moment. But I may revisit it and implement the change in gameplay I mentioned in the previous blog post at some point in the future.

So for now, have fun spamming those arrow keys and rack up the highest scores you can. I wish I had put in place a way to track those scores. It would be fun to watch.

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Defending Graveyards In The Month Of February

Graveyard DefenseThis is not the game I wanted for February, but it is the game I needed. To steal and butcher a line from Batman. I wanted to do something a bit larger and more political for the month of February but time got away from me and I was not able to complete that game. But I did not give up on my goal of one game a month.

Instead, I made something simpler and just for fun. The game is called Graveyard Defense. The premise is simple. You stand in the center of a closed off graveyard. The undead begin to rise from the graves as you attempt to defend yourself from the wave upon wave of monsters. They keep coming and keep coming faster and faster. Eventually, you find yourself overpowered and you fail.

One of the neatest things about this game is the fact that it has sounds. This is my first game to include sound effects. They aren’t the best sound effects, but it is pretty good for a start. There are a total of five sounds for the game. One when the monster rises from the grave. One when the player kills the monster. One if the player misses. One when the player gets hit by a monster. And the final sound is when the player dies. These sounds were created using the great free tool SFXR.

The game is played using the arrow keys on the keyboard. When a monster rises, you press the arrow that points to the monster. If you hit it, you kill the monster and gain a point. If you miss, the monster is there waiting for its time to attack.

If you wait for too long to attack, the monster will attack you and you will lose a hit point. If you lose them all, you will die. Did I mention that the monsters attack faster and faster as teh game progresses? At that point, you have an opportunity to try again.

The graphics were mostly made by Willis. I made the animations for the paladin based on his forward facing idle pose. I also created the gravestones, the walls and the “pow” image.

The paladin’s attack poses were a bit trick as I am not too skilled at creating action poses. They could certainly be refined and if I decide to expand on this game idea, I will certainly ask Willis to redo them. I would also like to add animations for the monsters, but that would not have been possible in the time frame I had.

One potential update I could make to the game is to make it more like the game “Simon”. Right now, the monsters just pop out at random and you attack them. In this update, the game would build up a pattern of monsters that you would have to attack as they come. If you mess up, then you would lose a hit point. Fail too many times and you lose. This wouldn’t be too difficult of an update to make, but not something I felt like I could get right before the end of the month.

I created the game from start to finish in about 8-10 hours. That includes creating the various graphics, sounds and the coding. Not bad for something that is this fun. I will certainly try to get a bigger game out soon.

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We Showed Off Our Games In Front Of Other Oklahoma Game Developers

Every month, there is a meeting of Oklahoma Game Developers. This gives anyone attending an opportunity to show off their projects. So we took some time to show off our progress on Demon’s Hex and our January One Game A Month entry, Dragon Canyon.

We plan on showing off each of our One Game A Month entries at each meeting this year. It gives us a goal and a deadline for completion. Something that we didn’t have last year when we tried it.

You can see everything else that happened at the meetup over at OKGamDev.com.

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Updated Title Image For Demon’s Hex

New Demon's Hex TitleThis weekend, I updated the title image for Demon’s Hex. It didn’t really need it, but I thought it would look better with an upgrade. You can see it above.

I personally like how the hex tokens kind of blend into the stroke around the text including the border. This is going into the game as we speak.

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One Game A Month January Entry: Dragon Canyon

January 2014 One Game A Month Entry: Dragon CanyonAs we posted on our new year resolution post, we are trying again for the One Game A Month challenge this year. We had made an attempt to do so last year, but only managed to get through February. But even those games were not ones that we actually worked on that year.

This year, we are actually going to go for it. As such, we have finished our first game for the year, Dragon Canyon. Dragon Canyon is a game in so much as there is gameplay, a scoring mechanism and an end condition. It isn’t a complete game in that it is missing a few things.

Before I get into all that, I wanted to explain the history of this game. It kind of fits into the mold of my previous entries into One Game A Month. Both of those were dragon themed and fairly simple. Dragon Canyon is kind of a successor to Dragon Fire in many respects. It is a shooter and you play as a dragon shooting various flying monsters. But it is very different from it too.

For one, Dragon Canyon allows the player to choose which dragon they want to play. Each dragon has its own projectile as well. With Dragon Fire, the player was given a dragon at random and all dragons fired the same thing.

Additionally, Dragon Fire restricted the player to only left and right movement. The player was unable to travel vertically. This has changed with Dragon Canyon. Along these same lines, rather than a top to bottom shooter, Dragon Canyon is a bottom up shooter.

Finally, the enemy behavior is greatly altered. With Dragon Fire, all enemies appeared at the bottom and flew straight up. In Dragon Canyon, I wanted to add variety to the enemies, not just in looks but in how they act. So I have some very basic enemy behaviors in the game. There are four enemy types and each behaves slightly differently.

I would like to expand on this game in the future. I love to play shooters like this from time to time and it could be a lot of fun when improved. I had originally started the game idea as a test for Ouya development. So the goal is to add controller support as well as play for up to four players. I would also consider increasing the screen resolution to allow for full use of HD televisions.

I also need to add a lot more variety to enemies and their behaviors. As of right now, there are no enemies that shoot back and that is something that needs to change. There are also a lot more movement patterns to experiment with.

I also want to further differentiate the player dragons. While it is great that they look different and have different projectiles, I would love to add special moves that are unique to each dragon.

The background is something else that really needs to improve. I want to add a scrolling background to the game as well as different stages with their own enemies. Each stage could be themed around the different dragons.

Outside of all that, the other improvements to the game would include sound and music, pixel perfect collision detection and player health and lives.

Overall, it isn’t that bad of a prototype to be used as my January entry into One Game A Month. I look forward to working on my February entry.

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A Look Back At 2013 And A Look Forward To A Game Filled 2014

Happy New Year From Divine Knight GamingYears come and go. Game ideas come and go. But one thing is for certain, there is no time like the present.

This past year brought with it a lot of challenges and a lot of surprises. We entered the year 2013 with the idea that this would be the year that we completed Demon’s Hex and began looking forward to developing new games. We had hoped to take advantage of the One Game A Month Challenge to help spur that forward.

Sadly, that didn’t happen.

However, it is not all bad news. We entered 2013 with Demon’s Hex as merely a concept with visuals. It had no gameplay at all. But with some great motivation from local game developers, we were able to bring Demon’s Hex to a fairly playable state. You can actually play battles in the game and it is pretty fun. While the full game proper is not at all near complete, this makes a major milestone for us as developers.

With that success under our belt, we look forward to taking on the challenge of making Demon’s Hex fully playable. Everything will be done.

We also have a number of other games we want to start making. This year, we really want to achieve that One Game A Month challenge. It is a noble goal and one that we could easily do. We just need to sit down and do it. Just one weekend a month would get that done. Just some private game jams to get them done and out. They don’t have to be flashy or big, just done. That is all that matters. Completing the game.

That seems to be the gist of our New Year’s resolutions. We just want to complete some games.

With our technology pipeline pretty solidified this past year, that will make it far easier to complete. Now that I have my bearings inside HaxeFlixel, I can easily complete this challenge with the help of Willis. Together we can do it.

I can’t make any promises on what types of games we will create along side Demon’s Hex. I can just promise that we will try to do something different each time. While it would be easy to fall back on the same mechanics and genre’s it wouldn’t expand our minds nor foster creativity.

We were glad to make the strides we made in 2013 and look forward to making further strides in 2014. We hope that 2014 is the year that we make a name for ourselves.

With that, we wish you a happy new year.

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Back In The Saddle With Demon’s Hex

Demon's HexI have finally gotten back into my groove with Demon’s Hex. This is after a long while where I decided to take a quick breather and try out some other stuff. Unfortunately, I did not manage to get a game up and running on the Ouya like I had hoped. Many of the snags I hit there had a lot to do with my knowledge of HaxeFlixel. Not that it was anything bad about the technology, it is just that I have not quite figured it out enough to get where I need to be.

So I have taken up Demon’s Hex again and boy did I run into a wall. HaxeFlixel released its version 3 during this brief respite. And with that update came a whole lot of changes to some of the core functionality of Demon’s Hex. There were three big changes that tripped up Demon’s Hex.

The first was with the way to embed a custom font. Demon’s Hex uses a font called Solemnity which gives it that nice look. But with the new update, the ability to add a custom font was removed on accident. Thankfully the fine folks working on HaxeFlixel were able to quickly add that functionality back, although in a very different fashion. I still need to make some tweaks to the display of text as now everything is offset from where it needs to be.

The second problem was with animation. Previously, I was using a function called goToAndStop to run an animation to a specific frame and end the animation. However, the new version of HaxeFlixel uses a very different way of animating sprites and goToAndStop was decommissioned. I had to figure out a custom solution that duplicated the behavior. This is working as needed now.

The final problem was with the glow effect around the tokens when placed on the board. This one was the most difficult to figure out after the change. This was a highly different process from before. It required some extensive rewriting and experimentation to get functioning correctly. I spent many hours working on it. I just finished this up this morning and I am happy with the result.

Overall, I like the changes that were made to HaxeFlixel. The new organization of the class files should make developing games with the technology far easier in the future. I had just not been keeping up with the development of it like I should have been. Had I actually been watching these updates, I probably would have been able to anticipate and account for these changes earlier.

I am now moving one to working on the actual story mode of the game. I think for now the battle portion works as a very close approximation of the final game. So it is time to give other parts of the game the love they deserve.

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Ouya’s New Free The Games Fund Rules

The Ouya $1Million Free The Games FundNot long after posting my article on selling an Ouya exclusive Kickstarter, Ouya changed all the rules on me. It was a very good thing too. Now, pretty much all the thought and planning that went into pulling off a successful $50k Kickstarter has been rendered useless, for the better.

The big changes are to the minimum funds needed to be raised and the exclusivity of the game. No longer will I need to try to raise $50k to get matching funds; I can now raise anything over $10k. This is a great thing as it will allow me the comfort of focusing on a smaller game project. Something I think can be more doable than a full $50k project.

With the change in exclusivity, I no longer need to worry about convincing PC backers to wait an extra 6 months. They can get the game right alongside the Ouya backers. The only people who need to wait are other microconsoles and mobile users. Not really a big deal there. Even then, they only need to wait 1 month times the number of $10k chunks that Ouya backs up to 6 months.

So what does this mean for Divine Knight Gaming? Well, it means two things.

The first is that it means that we have a far better chance of getting matching funds for any project we might do. The lower barrier will help us put together a project we feel good about and feel would be able to reach at least $10k.

The second is that we will have a lot more competition. With that lower barrier, a lot more game projects will be vying for a chunk of the pie. So by the time we are ready to introduce our Kickstarter, we may be gunning for a much smaller chunk of the pie than we initially expected. But that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Frankly, I am more excited about the Free the Games Fund now than I was two weeks ago. It feels more doable and open to me now. I am still not sure how I want to approach it just yet, but I certainly want to try hard at getting a game prototype or two out there to see what feels right. We will just have to wait and see.

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