Spry — Spiral 4: On Mania, Zen, and Super Duper Grafx

Today was the due date I set for myself for Spiral 4. The goal was to hash out preliminary aesthetics, redesign the track generator, and develop the setting. I expected a mostly artsy spiral apart from the track code.

As I documented the setting, new art requirements surfaced, so new systems needed to be built (one of which I spent two days on only to discard). I also lost just shy of two weeks to a depressive swing, so over a month passed before I was in a position to even think about doing any art. The good news is, I hit a good inflection point in systems development yesterday, so rather than double the turnaround time on what was supposed to be a one-month spiral, I’m going to stop here and split all of the art off into its own spiral.

My mental health is on the rise right now, despite the couple weeks of difficulty in July. I’ve built myself a more regimented work routine that’s more predictable — and thus easier to stick to — and gives me time for breakfast, meditation, exercise, a shower, and still get in six solid hours of focused work. I’m even allowed to sleep up to nine hours a night. I started motivating myself with a lot of positive-reinforcement drill sergeanting (“GO GO GO! UP! OUT OF THAT BED! YOU GOT THIS BRO! WHOO YEAH BABY! DON’T STOP! KEEP MOVING!”), but that left me feeling manic and stressed out and ended up exhausting me. I’m taking a more zen calm approach to motivation now that seems to be working out. I’ve been having a much easier time focusing lately. Feeling optimistic.

There is a LOT of new stuff in this build. I’ll go in chronological order.

I completely tore out the old track algorithm and replaced it with a smooth, Excitebike-like system. You still have three discrete lanes with gaps to jump over, but the elevation changes, which frequently made it impossible to see what was going on in anything but the frontmost lane, are gone. There are now obstacles that can slow you down — I really only put those in so I could test a way to present them that would make spatial sense. Finally, every few hundred meters, you’ll hit a section made up of a single lane that you need to stay on.

I didn’t retune the player acceleration to mesh with the new tracks, so you’re going to get very fast very quickly.

Once I got the track system together, I worked out a way to seamlessly texture them. Not an easy task when you have several permutations of touching edges that need to transition smoothly into each other. It took a day or so to work out the techniques to make everything match correctly. I’m happy with it.

With that working, it was time to think about backgrounds. The first thing I did (mostly because it was fun) was build a hill generator. The algorithm is based on this one with a bunch of modifications. The resulting hills look fantastic and I can’t wait to play with them some more as I build out the levels.

Then I built a background element system that allows me to place sprites within Z-depth ranges and orient them in screen space rather than world space. It took a ton of trig due to the way the camera is tilted, but I now have a system where I can think in screen coordinates at any distance from the camera instead of having to scale world coordinate ranges in my head for background elements that are far away. The system supports discrete sprites and my randomly generated hills, with lots of room for extension. I also built a little sprite randomizer for spice.

Finally, I put together a fun skysphere system that replaces Unity’s skybox component with something more visually interesting and animated. The skysphere you’ll see in the demo has four layers: A stationary, solid purple sphere in back, red and blue cloud spheres that rotate diagonally in opposite directions, and a white cloud sphere that rotates to the left as the track scrolls along. Wow am I happy with how this looks.

All of these systems are to support the setting. In the current vision, the game takes place in Magic Space Wizard Galaxy, a pastel sci-fi universe populated by fairy tale creatures, spaceships, and an evil, billions-of-years-old overlord by the name Neutron the Bad Guy. The heroes are the NOVA, a loosely knit agency of Space Wizards hailing from the myriad worlds of Magic Space Wizard Galaxy. Dashing through lands such as Serenity Meadow of the Death Fairies, the Technobear Space Fleet flagship Starship Teddyfloof, the weekly Saturday barbecue in Dino Lava Volcano, the psychic world of Unicorntron Omega Prime, and the Hyperprismic Wormhole of Sector Tau, the NOVA race against each other to catch and defeat the agents of Neutron and ultimately Neutron himself in a desperate bid for peace, freedom, and bragging rights. Considering changing the name of the game to Wizard Dash NOVA. I may have spent an inappropriate amount of time thinking about this.

Longterm strategy-wise, I’m leaning towards the idea of releasing the game with three or four levels for $0.99. After that, I’ll build more levels as part of a $0.99 or $1.99 Season Pass and possibly set the app itself to free. At some point in all of that, I’d also like to pivot back to Monsta Punch! for a bit. We’ll see.

That was a mouthful. Let’s do the demo.

I’ve switched the game back to one player so you can get a better look at the new graphical systems. Controls are the same as before: W/S to change tracks, Left Shift to jump, and E to use items.

CLICK HERE FOR THE DEMO

For Spiral 5, it probably makes the most sense for me to work on game mechanics and juice for a bit. I’m really eager to do more art, but the game is so fabulously unfun right now that I think it behooves me to spend some more time on gameplay and not get caught up in aesthetics. I have the graphics systems I need. That ought to be enough for now.

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Spry — Spiral 3: On Items

Here’s where we start to see how this game is really going to work. Spiral 3 was all about the powerup system and making some more sensible tracks.

So first, we have some speed boost powerups scattered around the tracks. They’re the ones with the greater-than signs on them. Touching one accelerates you slightly. The event needs some juice, as it’s pretty hard to see that you’re going faster after you touch one, but that’s for a later spiral.

The ??? blocks are items. There are three that you can get: A forward firing missile that usually clears a path for you through the track (not sure why it doesn’t work all the time) and slows down the other player if it hits them; A mine that also slows down the other player if they hit it; And a shield that lets you plow through obstacles and take hits without decelerating. The missiles and mines need some homing capability. In testing, I found that they rarely hit the other player.

I also got rid of that annoying “PLACEHOLDER” texture. My eyes were starting to wig out on me.

Controls are like so:

Player 1:
Jump — Left shift
Switch tracks — W/S
Use items — E

Player 2:
Jump: Right shift
Switch tracks — P/Semicolon
Use items — O

The web build *might* work with any USB controllers you have lying around, but I make no guarantees, nor do I know what buttons will do what on your particular controller. The controls are tuned for a couple of USB SNESalikes I have and they work great. YMMV.

CLICK HERE FOR THE DEMO

I had originally planned to robusticize the item box logic to dole out items more appropriate to what place the player is in, i.e. player in front tends to get mines, player in back tends to get missiles, like in Mario Kart. I also wanted to have a more organic track layout algorithm that mutated the randomization parameters on the fly. I ultimately decided to hold off on adding that kind of sophistication this early in the project.

I need to make a rough pass at the game’s aesthetics next, so I have an idea of what kinds of geometry I need to use on the tracks my early systems are generating. Spiral 4 will probably be a mix of concept art, preliminary assets, and a more organic track system that will move away from the current prototypical piles of cube primitives floating in space. Maybe. Still trying to sort this stuff out in my head. Basecamp is getting kind of cluttered.

I’m a little bit of a mess this week. Mel and I took a long weekend for the 4th and to celebrate our anniversary, and I guess all that time away from work muddied my momentum? Maybe? Bah, alliteration. Feeling pretty anxious and aimless. So I’m trying to take a step back and look at this project from 30,000 feet today, hoping to get my clarity and direction back. Probably do some concept sketching. I’ve had slumps like this before, and I always get through them. Just need to take heart in that fact so this downswing doesn’t spiral.

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Spry — Spiral 2: On It Being Possible For Someone To Win Now

My sleep has been a little squirrelly the last couple of weeks, but I’m chugging along and making progress.

For Spiral #2, my goals were to add a lose condition, and add split-screen multiplayer. I’m not totally happy with the way I had to do the split-screen. My first thought was to divide the screen right down the middle either horizontally or vertically, but both options there had disadvantages. If I went horizontal, it would give both players far more view down the track than they really need, possibly making the game too easy. Vertical has the opposite effect: Shorter downtrack view. I decided to just give each player 1/4 of the screen and black out what wasn’t used. It’s a far cry from ideal, but I’m not really sure what other options there are.

The lose condition is an ever-accelerating Wall of Doom. Sooner or later, it’s going to hit you and kill you. Don’t be the one it kills first.

Here we go.

Controls:
Player 1:
Jump: Left Shift
Switch Tracks: W/S
Player 2:
Jump: Right Shift
Switch Tracks: Arrows Up/Down

CLICK HERE FOR THE DEMO

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Introducing Spry: On Vacillation

Hahahahahahaha, wow, look at that, Ray burned out after an extremely productive week and subsequently lost 3 months to depression! When has that ever happened??

Sigh. So yeah. Hello again. Let’s talk about what’s up.

Following the most recent “weekly” update on March 15th, which was actually kind of a huge update that I didn’t give its due fanfare, I kind of… crumbled. The exhilaration of a tremendous job well done left something of a mental vacuum in its wake. I stopped being functional for a while. It wasn’t fun.

I was able to keep my head together enough to organize GameLoop Philly 2013 (it was awesome), so that’s fortunate. Apart from that, though, I could not get myself moving on game work. It got so bad that I stopped being able to think about Monsta Punch! without slipping into a torpor.

I’m on a new medication called Lamictal now that seems to have turned my brain back on, but I still haven’t had any desire to work on Monsta Punch!, so, rather than force myself, I decided to start a side project to cleanse my palate. My thinking is that working on the same project for too long drags me down, so having two projects going on at the same time should let me step away from something that I can’t bear to look at for a while and still be productive. It’s just a hypothesis. We’ll see how it goes.

So.

Everyone, I’d like you to meet Spry.

Spry is a competitive multiplayer endless runner. Players run along three parallel tracks containing various obstacles and powerups, trying to maintain their speed to escape an ever charging wall of doom while blasting their opponents with weapons to slow them down until only one player remains. Think Canabalt infused with Mario Kart, except on several track that the players can switch between at will rather than just one.

That’s the high level of it.

Instead of Monsta Punch!‘s weekly update structure (if one can even call it that), I’ll be taking a more freeform spiral approach to Spry. I’ll still be setting loose deadlines for myself based on how long I think any particular spiral is going to take, but the rigorous weekly thing is out for now. If it’s working well for me by the time I’m sick of Spry and want to go back to working on Monsta Punch!, I’ll try using it with that project, too.

But you want to see the demo, so here it comes.

In this demo, you have one player and three tracks. You can switch between the tracks at will. You’ll be constantly accelerating, and you’ll lose speed every time you hit an obstacle.

Controls:
Space — Jump
W/S — Switch tracks

CLICK HERE FOR THE DEMO

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Monsta Punch! Weekly Update: On Builders and Title Screens

Every Friday afternoon, I post a build of Monsta Punch! for you to try out. I do this so you can see what it looks like for a game by a newbie developer to go from bare bones to finished product. This is a complete build of everything the game is as of today.

I kind of overdid it on the ass-busting front today, leaving me a bit wrecked in the head. I’m gonna make this quick.

In this week’s build, the new stuff is as follows:

There’s a totally rad title screen.

The Monsta Builder has been rejiggered.

There’s an XP bar.

Stuff happens when you level up.

CLICK HERE FOR THE DEMO

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On Babies

Just wanted to share this video of my nephew watching my brother-in-law play Monsta Punch!. I think he likes it. :)

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Monsta Punch! Weekly Update: On I’m Sick And There’s No Update This Week

I spent most of this week and part of last week with a nasty cold, nasty enough to knock me out of productivity for a few days. I have done stuff, but none of the changes are front-facing just yet and I don’t think today’s work day will get them to that point. So, particularly because I’ve been so good about the updates the last few weeks, I just wanted to point out that I did do work this week, but I don’t have anything to show. :)

See you next week!

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Monsta Punch! Weekly Update: On Spiffers and Parks

Every Friday afternoon, I post a build of Monsta Punch! for you to try out. I do this so you can see what it looks like for a game by a newbie developer to go from bare bones to finished product. This is a complete build of everything the game is as of today.

First pass at Level 1, complete!

In this week’s demo, you’ve basically got a rough version of the first level of the game. Also, Spiffers is now a real enemy and I absolutely love him.

CLICK HERE FOR THE DEMO

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Monsta Punch! Weekly Update: On Kind Of A Lot This Week

Every Friday afternoon, I post a build of Monsta Punch! for you to try out. I do this so you can see what it looks like for a game by a newbie developer to go from bare bones to finished product. This is a complete build of everything the game is as of today.

Jesus. I didn’t even work a full week and I’ve got just a big damn list of stuff to show you.

In this week’s demo, we have features features features and a new cutscene.

The first thing you’ll notice is the targeting cursor. It’s great and I love it.

The first thing you probably won’t notice is that the camera angle is slightly tighter. I like to think this will make the action easier to follow, but mostly I just prefer the look. Tweaks!

There’s a Go arrow. Follow it.

The bird has an AI. It follows you. Just like in Soviet Russia.

After you’ve walked a little bit, you’ll trip off the second cutscene. It’s got… cool stuff that I don’t want to spoil.

Under the hood, I added spawn zones so I could make enemies show up in roughly exactly where I want them.

I’m exhausted and I’m going home.

CLICK HERE FOR THE DEMO

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Monsta Punch! Weekly Update: On The First Tute

Every Friday afternoon, I post a build of Monsta Punch! for you to try out. I do this so you can see what it looks like for a game by a newbie developer to go from bare bones to finished product. This is a complete build of everything the game is as of today.

This week is basically a public playtest, so I’m going to keep this post short.

In this week’s demo, we have the first part of the tutorial. Nothing happens after that, and it’ll take 30 seconds. Play it, and leave feedback, if you would be so kind. :)

CLICK HERE FOR THE DEMO

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