shawn's blog

Managing Assets

Posted in Other, Unity by Shawn on January 31, 2012

So, this past weekend was the Global Game Jam. I jammed up in the Philadelphia area, and it was definitely very fun. I do have plans to actually continue this, and the project is currently online here on GitHub. Fun stuff, and I can’t wait to jam again, potentially in June.

Speaking of jamming, a big thing for most people there, are the methods of collaboration. Not everyone needs to work together. Someone from the jam I attended work on a game alone, but did a really awesome job. My group took advantage of the Unity’s offer for letting free licenses use the pro version of Unity. Someone at the jam had set up the Asset Server, so we were able to share our projects that way. Very awesome indeed. I’ve heard of people using the Asset Server, and loving it, but I have also heard the opposite, were people feel as if this thing is a waste of time. I finally got to use it, and now I get to form a much better opinion.

Let’s talk about the positives that I found in my short time with the server. One was the speed. It was very *very* fast to use. The fact that it is fully integrated helps tenfold and makes the process much easier. Simply open the window (if you don’t have it tabbed), add files and commit them. This allowed me to do collaborate with my other members quite easily. I could definitely see why people would use the Asset Server.

It wasn’t all roses however. There are a number of reasons why I wouldn’t use the Asset Server for major projects. The Asset Server is fully integrated with Unity 3D. And that seems to be it. And I did search (not for too long, I will admit), but I didn’t really find anything that would lead me to believe otherwise. The install of Unity comes with MonoDevelop. However, Unity 3D doesn’t use MonoDevelop for anything regarding merges, changes, logs, etc. Yes, it does have it’s own history viewer, but the one with MonoDevelop acted much better when I used it. Actually, despite the complaints that people have against MonoDevelop, I really do like the changes that I found. In regards to version control, MD read the directory that my project was it, and found that I was using Git. Because of this, MD was able to allow me to view a number of different things, including logs, changes, blames, etc. Even funnier, and I guess potentially unsettling that information such as this is easily shared, was that m Gravatar icon show up when I was looking through the commits and changes. I do wonder how another vcs would integrate with MonoDevelop, but it’s out of the box interactions with Git was rather impressive. I’m not at my laptop right now, but I do also think I remember a history tree of my files/commits.

The asset sever, again doesn’t integrate itself well outside of Unity (from what I can find), which isn’t good if you’re using some sort of project management system to manage your files. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m currently using Redmine to manage my work. Redmine, and things like it, are great for keeping me organized, and I’m sure getting it to work well with the Asset Server would require me to develop a set of slick skills, ones that I’m a bit too distracted to learn at the moment.

But again, along the lines of integration, with Git/Redmine, I can add/commit/push my files to a remote repo. I can also tag files related to certain task/issues that I have open. For example, I can create task #210: Bug fix for Squarebots. Once I finish that task, in my git commit message, I can close the task. This would allow others (if I were working with others), to see in Redmine, “Oh, this task that Shawn was working on is now closed. Let me now do x, y, z”. Yes, you can do this in person, text message, email, etc, but the less time you have to spend doing such, the faster production can potentially be, especially if people aren’t working in the same location. Fun stuff!

So, what’s this all mean with the Asset Server? Basically, that the level of integration outside of Unity seems to be very non-existent. Personally, I don’t think it would fly for me, as I like to keep things organized and enjoy fully utilizing project management tools to help me get work done.  Not to say that you need that, but it has certainly helped me get work done, stay organized, etc. My brain is cluttered enough as it is, and it’s nice to put a piece of it somewhere…..figuratively.

But that’s it for now.  I could go into more details and such, and of course, this is all my opinion, AND I plan to do some more research on this! For now, the Asset Sever doesn’t look like a better option than using an external vcs.

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Game Jam Weekend

Posted in Other, Tone Def, Unity by Shawn on January 27, 2012

So that fancy Global Game Jam is today until some time on Sunday. I’m most likely going, and will try to do my best to be useful to someone this time. Last year, I wound up floating around quite a bit for the weekend, making some music here and there, then making an awkward game on the last day. This also means that I’ll need to put Tone Def on the side this weekend, and focus on what ever I wind up working on. Knowing me, I’ll still bounce around a lot this year. Last years theme was extinction; I hope to see something much more quirky this year. Something like donuts or hubcaps.

I’ve also finally downloaded the Unity 3.5 beta, and have upgraded Tone Def to this version. The first version of the 3.5 beta was too troublesome for me, and one of the main reasons I was looking to get into it was for the “Flash in a Flash” contest. Exporting to flash was a pain for me, and there are a number of things that I just can’t do for Tone Def & Flash, without major overhauls. Basically, since coroutines cannot be used for Flash exports, and I use them all over the place, a lot would have to be rewritten. I’m actually pretty sure that only two scripts have an Update() of some kind, not counting the scripts that extend from extend from a specific class.

One very nice thing about 3.5 is version control for basic license users. I have to admit that I was using the free version of Unity, and using Git for everything. Everything. And for the most part, it worked. I was able to push my repo online without problems. I could even ‘git reset –hard’ to blow away changes, or revert to an earlier version of the project. Git -dfx worked as well, and actually help me downgrade a project that I didn’t mean to upgrade. So, yay Git?

Back to Tone Def….I really wanted to push for a February 1st release date, but with the Game Jam this weekend, this does not seem like a possibility. I may need to push back to the 6th, since that should give me an entire weekend to lock myself somewhere and only work on the game until it makes me smile on the inside and out. Whatever that means.

But that’s it for now. Here’s to good jamming for everyone participating in this year’s game jam, and to those who have already started!

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Finished Soon?

Posted in Tone Def by Shawn on January 24, 2012

So, this past weekend, I managed to take care of a bunch of task that I had sitting around, but couldn’t do, due to lack of a laptop.

New instruments, new sounds, new art, new enemy types, new music, and the beginnings of the final boss! Exciting right?

Right now, I really do want to have this finished, latest by February 1st. That date depends of if I am attending the Global Game Jam, and how much work I accomplish over the course of this week. Lately, life has asked me to do a bunch of other things not directly related to game development. In addition to that, and my lack of computer, I feel as if I do not work hard enough on my games. Now, this could be the case, or I could be hard on myself. It’s most likely the former. So, here I go with more work! Who needs sleep anyway? Most living things, apparently…..

But back to game stuff. The remaining task involve finishing a song & 1/2, as well as finishing the very odd boss. Well, it’s odd for this game. Curious? Maybe I’ll talk about it at a later point in time. At the rate I make music, I may not be able to finish this as soon as I want, but then again, I shouldn’t rush things and sacrifice the quality of the project.

After I finish this, the plan is to get back to work on Mr. Condyle’s Escape. It’s been quite some time since I worked on that, but I really should continue it, unless I can find a good reason not to. There is that other project, MossHawk, which I have put on the side indefinitely. I do plan to return to it, but that game would need a lot more development time that most of my other projects at its current scope.

But that’s it for now. If I don’t update between now and the first, it’s because I’m mad at work, trying to put together something I think is good. We’ll see!

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Too Many Sounds

Posted in Tone Def by Shawn on January 20, 2012

While beginning work on Tone Def, I very quickly found myself going crazy with placing instruments on the grid, making crazy music, some of which did not sound good at all. I also found myself using only one type of instrument to do all the work for me. Not too much of an interesting musical experience. This was pretty disappointing, because while knowing that some people would actually try to make music and such, there would most likely be people who would just use the Hi-Hat to get the job done (which it probably won’t, since they’re not as strong as other things). Of course, not everyone would do this, but in short play test, there have been some who have, simply to do it, which does ruin the experience for me, since I want others to make something more interesting (which yes, is subjective, I know).

What needed to be done? There were two options I could have taken. Punish the player for overkill, or reward the player for using a good amount of instruments, but not too many.

I wound up doing both.

Why? Well, I like to think of this analogy for some reason. Imaging that you’re playing a guitar, and it’s a really cool song. Then your friend shows up with his own guitar, and he starts playing the song with you. “Hey, this sounds really cool with two guitars!”, you think. So you text another friend, and she comes over with her guitar, jumping right in with by playing the same song. It sounds even better now! It’s much more enjoyable playing this with two other people.

In Tone Def, if you lay down an instrument, then lay down another one, you’ll receive a Duplication Bonus. More of the same instrument playing the same thing at the same time potentially provides a ‘fuller’ sound. Thus, you get the bonus, your instrument gets stronger, or its base health stat goes up.

Back to you and your friends playing guitar. That weird guy from across the street sees the three of you jamming out in your garage. Seeing this, he grabs his guitar and runs towards you guys, ready to join in. Being a nice person, you allow him to pay with you. But now, something’s wrong. There are too many guitars playing this song. Maybe with another song, it would be alright, but not this one. A baby walks by and hears this. This overkill of guitars playing this song disturbs the baby, who then proceeds to cry. Guess what? You made the baby cry. Disregarding the fact that there’s a baby taking a stroll all alone, you realize you did something wrong. You stop playing, but allow your friends to continue. The baby stops crying! The balance of guitars has become much better.

Experiencing this in Tone Def would provide a better example. If you have a song playing, and too many bass drums in a row, the sound will be overwhelming, and sound unbalanced. Tone Def does not have crying babies (yet?), but you are punished with something called Overloads. Too many instruments in the same row will overload all the instruments in the lane, causing them to all lose attack power or health.

A better example would be a marching band. Marching bands don’t have 35 trumpets and 2 saxamaphones, because that would be unbalanced. Plus, saxamaphones are hard to play anyway.

Why am I doing this? To make sure that the player is actually paying attention, and not just laying down anything ‘willy-nilly’. I’m a fan of games that make you think a bit, and while this game isn’t driven by strategy, this adds a bit of brain power, hopefully. Things do get a bit more complicated with instruments that play musical chimes which alternate. In  order to get the bonus, they need to match the same sound.

But that’s it for now. I don’t know how well this will work out. We’ll see when I eventually make the game playable to the general public. Oh, and I got my computer back in a semi-repaired state, so I’ll be able to actually do some more work. Hoping to do a lot tonight. Exciting way to spend Friday nights? I think so.

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A Complete Game

Posted in Other by Shawn on January 11, 2012

So, I currently still do not have a complete game under my belt. Rather, I don’t have something that I would myself call finished. One could argue that a game is never finished, I guess, that is unless you destroy the source code for the game, and turn away anyone who even mentions the game.

I recently outlined all that I believe that I need to do before I’m finished, not counting bugs or potential revelations. As I started to outline the final task, I began to wonder if this game will be complete. Not in the sense that it has a start, middle, end, each of which can be reached by potential players, but will others who play this game will receive a complete experience. How well does everything the game merge with each other? Do the ideas that are contained within the game correlate to their juxtaposed ideas, or am I trying to put a square peg in a circle hole? I’d like to assume that I’m achieving the former, but how many people, aside from those who hate their jobs, really do believe that they’re making a bad product while they’re in the middle of it? Furthermore, what can I do to make sure that I do have more of a complete game?

First, I guess I’d need to clarify what makes a complete game. Akin to what I said before, it is possible that a complete game require all of its elements to be related to each and every instrument within the game. Now, we can easily say, “Every game is complete, because everything relates to each other because they’re in the same game!”. I would say that this is not enough. Using that argument, you could easily say that anything is complete in that it relates to itself, an argument that I care nothing about at the moment. If we move a bit deeper, you can say that a complete game is one where each of the elements of the game relate to each other, and do it well. The art of the game helps get the story across, and doesn’t just play nice in the same room. They actually get along well (There’s probably a reason why Kirby’s Epic Yarn has that art style, as opposed to taking the art direction of Killzone). This is probably a better direction for discussion about a complete game. One thing that cannot be overlooked is the level of player activity. Since video games are more of an interactive medium, how well the player is integrated into the game is very extremely important.

Now, a complete game does not translate over to a good game. This may seem obvious, but still probably warrants some sort of discussion. I may even find a game which I label incomplete as good, while a game that I can call complete makes me feel like I wasted my time.

In what I’m calling a complete game, for now, how much does each element need to related to the next? I mentioned before that they need to marry each other well, but does every change to the story need to be reflected in some sort of change to the music or the environment? More often than not, I would argue no, possibly invoking “Less is More”. It would be nice, and probably more complete (if we’re defining levels of complete), if everything could directly change an attribute somewhere else, but it may not be necessary for this to be done. The term ‘Overkill’ can be applied.

There’s usually a problem when the question beginning with “How well” is asked, mostly because it seems like it is one that is geared towards asking for an opinion. Subjectivity is great….sometimes.

Furthering the idea of making a complete game. Can it be done? Will any creator of a project ever say “I think that everything I did was perfect, and that I wouldn’t go about changing anything!”? I would like to think no, but there are people who probably think that. I’m guessing that the majority of post-mortems out there include at least one “Should have”. This potentially means that many developers believe that their game could be more complete, more relevant to itself; the pieces of the puzzle fit well, but there are still gaps where some things disconnect (this may lead into the idea of……perfection).

A lot of this can be looked at much more deeply, and later on in life, I may think about it. But that’s it for now. It be nice to know if creating a complete game is possible, and if so, are their multiple levels of completion. Who knows?

 

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Staying in game mode

Posted in Other by Shawn on January 9, 2012

So, this week, my laptop is in for repair (hopefully for less than a week!). This means that I can’t really work on my game (directly), and I’ll also be harder to contact via email after 6:00 pm. So, what shall I do this week?

Well, I could take a break from everything, and think about someone other than any sort of game. But why would I do that? Technically, there is no reason for me to stop working on my game, just because I don’t have my computer. What should I do this week?

One thing I can do is read. I have been making time to read about things related to the games that I want to make, or the code that I’m currently using to create this game. Reading can assist in helping me think about new ways about tackling a problem. But I hopefully will not stop at programming books. I enjoy reading Philosophy, so that’s something I definitely plan to be reading more so during this time away from my laptop. And believe it or not, reading philosophy is extremely helpful when developing games. At least, it has been for me. It all may depend on the type of game you are making, (it’s easier to find the philosophical messages in the Metal Gear Solid series as opposed to Angry Birds), but nevertheless, it can be helpful. To that extent, reading things that seemingly are not related to game development can be more beneficial than most may assume, but that can be an entirely different topic.

Drawing is something else that can keep me going in game mode. I’m not a good artist. My masterpieces would look like a 3 yr-old’s scribbles, and that’s me trying to not insult the 3 yr-old by comparing their skills to mine. But, one thing that I can do is try and interpret my drawings from scribbles into things that are interesting. Random scribbles can turn into something that looks like a robot with hamburgers for hands. The hamburgers can turn into ice cream, and the robot can turn into a dog with a cone on its head. I  now have a game about a dog with a cone on his head, who wants to try and eat the ice cream paws. However, with each step he takes, the amount of ice cream decreases. The goal is, find a way to eat the ice cream while taking the least amount of steps. Too many steps, and your ice cream will be gone!

….In other words, drawing can also spark ideas.

Playing games, of course, can provide tons of inspiration. For some, it may be easy to jump from game development mode to just “I’m playing a game mode”, but regardless of the case, a notebook should always be close by.

This week, I plan to ‘go to town’ on my whiteboard, and try and involve myself in the other activities which I mentioned. Are there other things that I can do? There are a billion other things, but these are first that I can think of at the moment.

But that’s it for now. Time to start this laptop-less week. At least I’ll have less internet distractions.

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Happy New Year and a change of plans

Posted in MCE, Music, OriGamInc, Tone Def by Shawn on January 3, 2012

Well, it’s the new year.

It looks like I’ve had this blog for a little under a year now. Which is surprising, at least to me. A lot has happened in a year, it seems like, and progress has been made. Do I have a game out? No. Am I closer. Well, technically closer than I was a year ago. Whether or not I’m happy with the progress I made is another story.

First off, it does not look like I’ll be able to meet my personal deadline of January 3rd for Tone Def. Which is upsetting, to  say the least. But if I take a step back and think about all that I wanted to do, it makes sense why I was not able to meet this deadline. First off, it takes a while for me to make music that I’m happy with. This version of Tone Def needed at least three pieces of music. With the amount of time I have, and the goals for this game, it was likely that January 3rd would be an incredibly hard deadline to hit. As I write this (January 3rd), I could technically still make the deadline, but the levels would not be balanced, and I’d probably hit a bug or 15.

So, I’ll need to push back the date of release to a point that I do not know. But, that doesn’t mean it’ll be put off into a nebula of some sort. I’m still aiming to push this out as soon as everything is ready/balanced/looking good.

What about those other projects? Well, Mr. Condyle’s Escape has a lot of work still to be done. I have put it on the back burner for now, but I plan to return to it as soon as I push out Tone Def. It’s difficult to work on two games independently, especially with limited time. So, instead of letting one suffer from only glances, it’s probably better to put it away for a while. If anyone  has any better suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

I’m expecting this first month to really dictate how the rest of this year will go. If there is a lot of work done all around (I finally beat Dead Space 2 last night. Turns out I was pretty much 15 mins from the ending), then it’s possible that this year could turn out productive. This is not a certainty, but I’d like to think that I’m able to get things started off on the correct foot. As of now, there is only one thing on the agenda, PAX East, which I’m excited about. I also do plan to attend any local game developmental meetups or the like in the Philadelphia area!

This has turned into a semi-rambling of what I think I may do this year.

So that’s it for now. I’ll come back when I have thoughts that I can string together. I’ll just blame it on all the partying that I forgot to do on the 1st.

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