Just yesterday, One Game A Month featured my words of wisdom on their twitter account. They had been posting these statements from various developers for the last few months as a way to promote those developers and the project. Here is what I had to say.
There are plenty of great free tools available for you to make great games. From art to design to IDEs to APIs. Explore them and find something that works for you. It is only after you find something that works for you that you can bring about the best you have to offer.
This got me thinking about our own development pipeline. If we don’t follow our own advice, then what is the point in sharing it? The good thing is that we do follow that advice.
What is our pipeline then? Let me break it down for you.
For our game engine, we have chosen to use HaxeFlixel. This is a very powerful and very useful game engine for creating 2D games of all types. Using this engine, we created 7 games and prototypes last year.
I even recently gave a talk about HaxeFlixel at the January Oklahoma Game Dev Meetup. Here are the slides from that talk.
What good is a game engine if you can’t program with it? Thankfully, Haxe and HaxeFlixel have a lot of great IDEs that are compatible. For use, we use a mix of IDEs depending on where we are currently developing.
If I am on a Windows computer, I use the great FlashDevelop IDE. this was originally designed for Flash development using Flex. Now it has been expanded to fully support Haxe development.
If I am working on Linux, I use Geany for now but am still experimenting with other IDEs but Geany is the one that works best so far.
There are some paid alternatives, but they are out of our price range as they often cost several hundred dollars.
Graphics With GIMP and Inkscape
Creating games requires a lot of graphical development. There are tons of tools available for you to use, some better than others, some easier to use than others. But the two tools that I use more often than any others are free and powerful.
GIMP is an alternative to Photoshop. It may not have all the features of the paid software and might not be as powerful, but if all your doing is creating 2D graphics for games, then it certainly meets the need.
Inkscape is an SVG graphics editor similar to Adobe’s Illustrator. It can be used to create all kinds of banners, logos and even game graphics. Again, this is not as powerful as the paid software, but it gets the job done for no cost.
We do have plans to use other software, some paid, some free, but these meet our current needs. We have a paid license for the 2D animation software Spriter which has HaxeFlixel support. When we get into 3D game development, we may use 3DS Max, but if I can convince Willis, we could use the free Blender.
Sound and Music
Sound and music is something we are currently working to expand. Music is a little more difficult for us to do ourselves as neither I nor Willis are musically inclined. But I have been practicing with LMMS, a great piano roll music creator. Of course, this is one of those areas that would be much better suited for outside contracting.
For sound effects, we are currently using SFXR to create the basic sounds for our game. It has some really cool features for creating base sounds and experimenting and altering them.
For more detailed and mixed sounds, we are using Audacity. This is a great free tool that gets the job done.
Recording and Video Editing
This is an area that is a little more difficult for us to get right. There are so many free tools but not all of them work as well as we would like. So we are still experimenting. For a while, we have been using OpenShot for video editing and it works for now. We would like something a little more stable and powerful, but you can’t really complain for the price.
Recording game footage is the real tough one. We have found and like Simple Screen Recorder, which works really well. However, it does not support recording to GIF files. So far we have been experimenting with GifCam and that seems to be working how we like it. But we need more time to play with it.
Version Control and File Sharing
This is probably the easiest no-brainer list for this category. The two most popular and powerful version control solutions are both free. Our current webhost provides free Subversion support and that is what we use. But Git is also a great alternative.
For sharing files outside of version control, we use a service called Copy. I was able to get a lot of file space for free just by sharing my referral code (which that link contains). Also, anyone who signs up using that referral code gets free space on their account.
DropBox is also a good free alternative and they have plenty of ways for you to get even more space for free. You can use either one to share large files between members of your team.
This is our main development pipeline. There is plenty of room for improvement as we expand our work flow and develop more detailed and expansive games, but I don’t see us changing very much in the near or far future.
But I hold true to my original statement. If you are just starting out developing games, use free tools. If you start making money, then you can expand to using paid tools that have more features. But you may just end up using what is familiar and fast.
2014 was a fun year for us. We decided that we would try to make one game a month. While we did not succeed in that goal, we did manage to make more games this year than we have in years past. They weren’t the biggest games or the best, but there were complete games. It felt good to have that on our plate.
Along with that, we attempted a Kickstarter for Demon’s Hex. Unfortunately, we could not get the attention and support we had hoped for. So we decided to put it on the back burner for the time being and focus on something else.
So that is where we find ourselves at the start of 2015. We have decided that our goal is to create an adventure game in the vein of Legend of Zelda, Alundra and Illusion of Gaia.
We plan on showing off the concept at Super! BitCon and subsequent events. We also want to hold a crowdfunding campaign for this one but we want to make sure that the game and campaign are as impressive as possible.
We are still planning on making a few smaller games along the way too. This year, we plan to take some time to actually participate in one or more Ludum Dare. We have seen some pretty cool games from other developers sprout from those events and want to take some time to challenge ourselves with them.
Last year we learned a great deal about HaxeFlixel. We even got to make some modestcontributions to the HaxeFlixel API. We hope that this year we can do more to help build the library we know and love. We want to contribute more to the the community.
We also got familiar with Tiled Map Editor and had quite a bit of practice incorporating levels created with it in our games. This tool will be a huge help in bringing our next games to life.
This year we have plans to incorporate a new tool into our pipeline. Spriter is an animation tool for creating 2D sprites and animations for games. We backed the project when it was just a Kickstarter campaign. We love how powerful it can be for creating all kinds of games. Our next project will give us a chance to actually work with it and figure out how to use it to make the coolest characters we can.
We can’t wait to show you what we plan on doing this year and we plan on updating the site on a more regular basis. We even will get Willis to make some contributions from time to time. He is a difficult person to get online, but it will happen.
So keep following us for some great news and updates.
So, we are still around. We may not have updated in a while, but that doesn’t mean we have stopped working.
After the failure of the Demon’s Hex Kickstarter, we took some time to do some soul searching. We decided that we were going to put an indefinite hold on Demon’s Hex and work on something else.
We are going to be working on something a little more action oriented for our next game. Willis and I both have a lot of fond memories of action adventure games from our youth. Some of our favorites are the Legend of Zelda, Alundra, Illusion of Gaia and Secret of Evermore.
So we are working on our own action adventure game. We don’t have anything to show just yet as we are currently in our design phase, but our hope is to have something to show by the end of January and a playable demo by March.
We also hope to make this game available on the Ouya, PC, Mac, Linux and other consoles as funding and fate permits. We want it to be fully playable with a variety of controllers on a variety of platforms. Of course, we will have keyboard controls for those playing on PCs if that is their choice.
We want you guys to keep watching this space. Over the course of the next few months, I am going to be posting updates on our progress. We want to build up interest in this project, something that we were not able to garner with Demon’s Hex.
Our main goal is to be able to have this game demoed at Super! BitCon at the end of March. We want to have people playing the game at that point. We feel that by then, we should have something that people will enjoy and can then start looking for funding.
Has it been a month already? The time has absolutely flown by. As this campaign comes ot a close, our hearts are filled with a variety of emotions. Happiness that so many people put faith in our work enough to back us, sadness to see that we did not reach our goal.
First of all, I want to thank everyone who backed this project. You guys are great. We could never be sure on who would back us and we were surprised by the diversity of those who did back us. We knew some of you guys, but others are complete strangers to us. So it is great to see that there are people out there who like our work on its own merits as well as those who backed us because they believe in us as developers.
However, the campaign did not get off the ground. We held out hope til the end but it didn’t take off. We tried reaching out to various media outlets to spread the world, but we got no hits. I guess this project was just not interesting enough for it to rise above the tides.
So what is in the future for Demon’s Hex? We are not really sure. We would like to finish what we advertised here, but it seems that even if we did, we might not bring in the player base that would make it financially feasible. So we will have to adjust that vision.
Basically, this means that multiplayer is out of the question. Without the funds from the campaign, we won’t be able to run the servers needed to make it work.
For now, we are going to iron out the wrinkles of the battle system and possibly implement the story mode. But this will be a piece meal thing. We have decided that we are going to focus primarily on another game, so this one will not get the full attention we planned.
We have not decided on our next game. We are going to be meeting over the next few weeks to decide on that. We do have a few games that we want to work on, some that our One Game A Month challenge have helped prototype and a few that we have not yet developed a prototype for. Needless to say, the next game will be something we believe in.
Thank you again for your support, whether you backed us or just shared this campaign.
The title is probably a little deceptive. The truth is that HaxeFlixel already has such a camera transition. However, it didn’t function 100% in the way it needed to. You can follow this problem in this HaxeFlixel forum post.
The problem was simple. I was using grid based movement for my character. I was following that character with the camera. When that character moved off the current screen to the north or west, everything was fine. You took one step off screen and the camera switched. However, when you tried moving east or south off the screen, you had to take two full steps off the screen.
This presented a problem as the character might have interactions waiting for them on the next screen that could be impacted by taking a “blind” step into it.
Consider the original Zelda game. In some rooms in the dungeons, there are spiked blocks that move quickly to damage you when you cross their path. These blocks are often positioned so that the path is the very next row of blocks after a doorway. In Zelda, you always start a room standing in the doorway. So if the camera in Zelda functioned the way it did in Flixel, you would have had to move directly into the path of the spikes to switch the screen.
The fix was really easy. The camera was checking to see if you were on the next screen, but was using a greater than sign (>) to do it. This meant that the player character had to be 1 pixel greater than the screen width to trigger the change. In many games, this wouldn’t be an issue. But with the introduction of grid based movement, where the player moves a set number of pixels with each directional press, this is a huge problem. If the squares in the grid are 16 pixels wide, that means you have to move a full 16 pixels into the next room to trigger the camera shift.
So the fix for this was to simply change the greater than sign to a greater than or equal to sign (>=). Once again, the change is nearly imperceptible if you are not using grid based movement. But for those of us that are, it makes a world of difference.
So this makes my second HaxeFlixel contribution and my first to the actual HaxeFlixel API. If I keep this up, I might just become a HaxeFlixel contributing junkie.
So we have less than a week left until this Kickstarter is done. As of now, things are not looking too hot, but miracles can happen.
We really want to get this game done for you guys and regardless of successful funding or not, we are going to get a good game out to you.
The fact of the matter is that if we are to bring you the game we describe, we will need to get the funding we are asking for. So we need you guys to share this campaign with everyone you know. It is really all down to the fans as to whether this game is a success.
Last week, Gamasutra asked everyone who their game dev heroes are. I missed the question when it was asked, but made a brief response yesterday. While I have considered the question before, I have never really voiced my answer. So I would like to take some time to explain who these people are that inspire me.
When I think of a game dev hero, I think of a person who I feel has impacted me on a personal level. Someone I aspire to be like or whose work greatly influences my own. It would be easy to rattle off names like Will Wright, John Carmack or Tim Schafer, but it seems like those big names, while impacting the industry as a whole to a large extent, have never really made me who I am today.
So who are my heroes then? Who inspires me to be the best game developer I can be? Here is what I told the Gamasutra audience:
My heroes? I would have to say Lars Doucet, Robert Boyd, Christer Kaitila, and Adam Saltsman. These guys are the indie devs I admire most and whose work has most influenced my own. While I have a lot of mad respect for a lot of AAA developers, none of their work or inspiration has impacted me on a personal level like these guys.
So let us explore these guys one at a time.
Robert Boyd is one of the founders of Zeyboyd games. They made their start making satirical RPG games for the XBox Live Indie Games service. Their first games, Breath of Death 7 and Cthulu Saves The World were never much of a financial success on the XBLIG service. Granted, that service was never really much of a money maker except for a rare few people. However, the games they made were a critical success. That critical success led them to move on to some really awesome successes.
The first success was porting those two games to the the PC and getting them on Steam. I believe that once on Steam, those two games made more money in a month than they did in a year and a half on the XBox.
Because their games were so critically successful, they were able to land the contracts to make the 3rd and 4th games in the Penny Arcade RPG series. This was not something just anyone could have done. The Penny Arcade guys had a lot of confidence that Robert and his team could not only make the games, but bring about the humor that Penny Arcade fans desired.
Following those games, Robert and his team sought to make another game of their own. They went to Kickstarter to fund Cosmic Star Heroine. They sought $100,000 and made $132,689.
So what is it about Robert that makes him my hero? I think it is the perseverance that he displayed. He could have easily have given up after BoD7 failed to make much money. He could have switch gears and went to work for someone else. But he didn’t. He kept going and today is doing what he loves and doing it well. That is the kind of person I want to be in my game development career. I want to be able to just put my work out there and keep going despite all the hardships and missteps along the way.
Adam’s contribution that puts him on my hero list is the work he put into the Flixel game engine for Actionscript. This game engine is what has had the greatest impact on my game development efforts of anything anyone else has done.
For the longest time, I was floating aimlessly in a vast sea of game development potential. I had no direction, no motive, no drive. I would wander from game engine to game engine, testing the waters but never finding that right combination of tools to turn me from hypothetical game developer to actual game developer.
Then I found Flixel. The Flixel game engine was exactly what I was looking for in a game engine. It was 2D. It worked with Flash. It was relatively easy to use and figure out. I spent many days and weeks playing with it and porting some of my game development works to it. In fact, my first efforts to make one game a month were using Flixel.
So it was this game engine, that Adam created, that really got me started in actually making games. Without it, I would probably still be lost and without purpose hoping one day to be a game developer rather than actively working to become one.
Lars is someone that has a number of things that I really admire about him. The first is in tandem to Adam’s contribution. I had been using Flixel for a while but really wanted to move to something that would be capable of native applications for PCs and mobile. But I really didn’t want to have to learn something new. It was through Lars that I learned about Haxe and the Flixel port to that API.
Since then, Lars has been a major advocate for Haxe adoption by other game developers. He has switch from Flash, which he used to create his first Defenders Quest game, to using HaxeFlixel to for the sequel.
But that is not the only thing that I admire about Lars. He is also a very outspoken person about the problems with modern copyright laws and the games industry’s general attitude toward it.
I had always been of the opinion that the fights against piracy were fruitless and that developers would be better served spending their time working to please their fans. But it was Lars’ article about the four currencies people use when choosing whether to buy or pirate that really spelled out how I felt.
Granted, I had always been outspoken about these issues myself and have posted many other articles to this effect. However, it was Lars that really spelled it out and made something that was nearly irrefutable to advocates of stronger copyright laws and DRM.
Christer’s contribution to gaming is probably one of the most important to me when it all comes down to it. Even with Haxe and Flixel and the inspiration of other developers, I have still be hesitant to put my best foot forward. Perhaps it was simply lack of experience and dedication, but I never felt like I was a game developer. But something that Christer did turned that around.
He founded the One Game A Month challenge. This was founded after he himself made a personal commitment to make one game every month for twelve months. When he saw the changes in him that came about because of it, he sought a way to help others achieve that same change.
When I learned about it, I wanted to jump right in and do it myself. I signed up and wanted to get to work making my one game a month. But the first year, I didn’t do it. I think it was fear that held me back. But the more I read about the project, the more I reflected on all my missed opportunities in the past, the more I realized I needed to step up.
So in January of this year, I made the commitment to make that one game a month. Seven months into the challenge I have succeeded in all but one month to make a game. I am well on my way to make the rest of the games and potentially finish that one missed one.
This challenge has also motivated me to attempt a Kickstarter campaign. While that campaign doesn’t look like it will go anywhere, I at least attempted it, which is more than I could say a year ago.
I could probably list a few more developers in this post, but these are the four that I feel are really deserving of being called my personal game dev heroes. These are the ones that I look to and think about when I am needing the motivation to keep going. Without the contributions made by these four people, I would probably still be silently working on a never ending project. Instead, I have now released nine games and two works in progress to my website.
So I thank you guys for everything you do to change the world of game development for the better.
So I got a headstart on my July One Game and boy did it make a difference. The past few months have pushed me to the last week of the month to even be able to start, but this month, I was able to start in the second week and I finished with plenty of time to spare.
So let me introduce you to my latest One Game, Amazing Mazes. Sorry for the bad pun, but I just couldn’t figure out a clever name. Amazing Mazes is simple. There are four mazes and you must navigate them. Find the flag at the end and win. Beat your best time. All that kind of stuff.
Amazing Mazes is designed to be a Gameboy style game. It only has 4 colors and fits a 160x144px screen. Those screenshots are full size. There are a couple of sounds, but not too many.
I decided to go with a Gameboy style this month because I want to participate in the Gameboy Game Jam first thing in August. So I needed to prep myself for that frame of mind.
I also had fun designing the mazes. I vaguely remember drawing mazes as a kid and I never really had fun solving them either. However, actually sitting down and making the mazes was a lot of fun. I only made four, but I could easily spend a few days making many more, but I have other work to do.
When I made the mazes, I would place the start and finish of the maze, then draw the “correct” path between them. Then I would put in all the deadends and false paths. As I made them, I think I got better because the last two I made I really got lost. My first test runs took me nearly 5 minutes to get through maze 4 compared to the 2 minutes to complete maze 1.
One thing that I am very proud of is that Amazing Maze is my second game that feels like a complete game. There is nothing about this game that I think could be done better or anything that is really missing. I think of the things that are missing they are relatively minor and easy to add in. These would be more mazes, included music, and maybe a few different characters. Like I said nothing major.
I still need to get on the ball and work on an online score keeping tool. I would love to see how quickly people are solving these mazes, but I still have not gotten around to doing that.
So that is it for this month. I really look forward to my August game as I will be knocking it out in the first week. This will give me plenty of time to work on other projects like my Kickstarter game and my September game.
Throughout the course of the story mode, players will earn experience that can be used to increase the strength of their default set of tokens through advancement. Think of it as a promotion for your token’s class.
There are two types of token classes that will be available at the beginning of the game, Squire and Acolyte. These two classes will determine what path that token will be on to advancement and better tokens. There are a total of 16 classes in each class structure.
The first class, Squire, is a physical class. These are your warriors and fighters. They advance in various forms of fighting and weaponry. For example, here is a branch showing the Squire advancing through to Paladin and dabbling as a Knight.
As you follow the arrows from one class to the next, that token will increase in attack, defense, as well as directional attacks.
Moving on to the Acolytes, they are masters of the metaphysical. They tap into the spiritual energies of their surroundings to defeat their foes and support their fellow warriors.
As Acolytes advance through the ranks, their path is set based on how they apply their magic. If they wish to use that magic for fighting or support, they will grow in knowledge and wisdom.
This example shows an acolyte advancing to Sorcerer while dabbling a little as a Priest.
How Advancement Works
The way this works, is that as you fight story battles with a token of a certain class, let’s say Squire for this explanation, That token will gain experience in that class. Once it reaches a certain level, that experience can be cashed in to advance to the next class. In cases where a class branches off to two or more classes, you would have to play as the base class multiple times to unlock all classes that branch off.
To gain experience, you simply need to use the token in battle. The more the token interacts on the board, the more experience it gains. For example, you gain some experience by simply placing a token on the board. The token gains more experience if that token captures another token on the board. You also gain experience when the token successfully blocks a capture.
Not seen in these two paths are special classes that open up as you master certain branches. These classes only show as you experiment with each class and their branches.
The game will be structured in such a way that each of your default tokens will be able to advance through all the classes, if you wish. So you will not be lost if you decide you would rather become a priest and beyond rather than a wizard.
While the story mode limits you to only the starting 6 tokens and what ever class they are at for the story battles, every time you unlock a class, you gain one unique token of that class that is added to your collection that can be used in coliseum and multiplayer matches. So you have an opportunity to gain up to six copies of every token in these class trees for casual play. Story mode is the only way to earn these particular tokens.
It has been five days since we launched this campaign and we are really impressed with those who have supported us so far. You guys are awesome.
However, we did realize that our rewards weren’t explained at all really. We can’t believe that we let that slip our minds the way we did. So we have come to tell you what those special rewards are.
The Booster Packs
The booster packs will be pulled from the over 100 tokens we have planned for launch plus the many many more we will add as the game grows. Each token will be assigned a rarity value, common, uncommon, rare and legendary. This value will be based on the token strength relative to the rest. Each pack will contain 6 tokens, 1 rare or legendary, 2 uncommon, 3 common.
The booster packs you get can be redeemed at any time after the game launches. We will not force you to redeem them at the beginning. So if you want to save your packs until we have more tokens in the game, you will have that ability.
Additionally, if you would like to add booster packs to your pledge, you can do so quite easily. For every $1 you pledge above your reward tier, you will be eligible to get 1 extra booster. So if you pick the $5 reward tier and pay $8, you get the 2 boosters that come with the tier plus 3 extras for a total of 5 booster packs.
When we send out the surveys, you can let us know how many you want.
We have 5 embroidered patches that backers can get. These will be based on the corresponding tokens in the game. They won’t be exactly the same, as we have color limits, but they will be as close as we can make them. So here are all the badges we have coming to you.
We also have a t-shirt that you can earn through backing us at $75 or more. This shirt will be a royal blue with our game’s logo across the chest. Here is a mock up of what that shirt will look like.
There you have it. We have a lot more news and updates coming your way as this Kickstarter rolls on. So stay tuned.