Future Game Concept: Snipet

While I’m emptying my brain, here’s another concept that I actually created a little prototype for a few weeks back. The working title is Snipet as it’s a game in which you control a variety of household pets as they work to clear a sniper’s line of sight to their target. Sniper-Pet. Snipet. Not over the moon with it, but it’ll do for now.

I picture it starting out with you just controlling a cat, as that’s what gave me the idea in the first place. Cats love to knock shit over. There’s a vase on the mantelpiece blocking the sniper’s line of sight, so you jump up and knock it over. BLAM. The sniper shoots his target, hooray for you. Maybe in the next level though, the target has a dog, so you have to complete whatever puzzle awaits (Knocking shit over) and then after you beat the level, you recruit the dog to your team of sniper-helping animals. The dog can do some things that the cat can’t, probably knocking over much heavier things like tall lamps or TV’s or something. Then you recruit a mouse, who can crawl into a vent and unscrew a chandelier to knock it down, then you recruit an iguana, who for some reason I imagine using his prehensile tongue as sort of a grappling hook to get to other areas of the room and perform some sort of task.

It’s obviously an idea that needs some polish, but that’s the basic gist. It’s a puzzle game where you need to use your growing team of animals to perform specific tasks to solve increasingly difficult puzzles. Let me know what you think.

Advertisement

Future Game Concept: Drive Up

A game idea’s just popped into my head and I want to get all my thoughts down in writing while they’re fresh. The working title is “Drive Up” and that handily doubles as the instruction manual. It’d be a 2D multiplayer game where the screen is constantly shifting upwards and the players control cars who can drive up walls and on platforms that drop through the level. You can also jump, boost and perform special abilities that can be retrieved from floating bubbles. Your primary objective is to outlive your opponents, either by just continuing to stay in frame while they fuck up and drop below the bottom of the screen or by actually making them drop down by way of your special abilities. Maybe you’d be able to pick up something that blasts other cars away from you and can use this to bump them down or off of a wall. Things like that.

This concept is inspired by Rocket League, which I’ve been playing quite a lot recently, but also by Stick Fight: The Game, which is I think one of the most fun multiplayer games I’ve ever played. Maybe it can be a bit whacky like Stick Fight but I’d want to focus on making the controls really tight so that there’s a high skill ceiling, like Rocket League.

It’s also a game that I think would be very easy to add onto. Things like different obstacles and different abilities, differently shaped falling platforms but not different car stats, as I like the Rocket League model of cars being functionally exactly the same and skill being the deciding factor.

I think it’d be a fun game to work on and quite challenging, as I’ve never even attempted a multiplayer game before. Let me know if you have any thoughts.

Player Power is finally going on Steam!!

Ello ello! Hope you’re all alright and staying as germ-free as possible. You’ve caught me in a good mood today as not only is To Spring approaching completion, but I’ve finally got around to getting Player Power to the “In Review” stage on Steam.

It turns out that publishing your first game is just as difficult if not more difficult than creating the bloody thing. I made this simple 2D football arcade game in 2 weeks using a Macbook Pro and pretty much all of my evenings and weekends back in August. Yes that’s right, I stayed in and avoided human contact before society collapsed and it became cool. My plan was to release it on the Apple Store (OSX only, not iOS), which I did after jumping through a million different hoops which involved getting an apple developer account, downloading and wrestling with Xcode and filling in a metric tonne of forms. Then I would build the game for steam on Mac and use a friend’s PC to build it for steam on Windows. As it turns out, there’s not a lot of documentation whatsoever to help release a game on steam for OSX so after 3 actual months of banging my head against that brick wall, I gave up.

The steam page was pretty much complete from when I’d filled in all the details in August. All I needed was a working build and a trailer. Then my macbook died and I resurrected my old desktop computer in the new year, but it’s taken me 4 months to build up the strength to try and tackle this again. On Friday evening though I downloaded the extremely unintuitive video editing software named Lightworks and brute forced my way to a trailer, which you can find below, and then by lunch time the next day, the build was ready too. Turns out it’s a lot easier on Windows to upload things to Steam, although I did have to pull a little bit of my hair out and ask my mate Chris to share my screen and help me.

All this is to say that it took me a while, but we’re finally at a point where Player Power is up for review on Steam. Hopefully it’ll be released fairly soon, although there is a notice on Steamworks saying the review process is taking longer than usual, what with the apocalypse and everything. Here’s hoping To Spring doesn’t take me until bloody Christmas to release.

I’ll post again when Player Power is available to download! Until then, cover your mouth your sneeze, wash your hands and keep the drawbridge to your house raised when not in use.

Cheers,

Dave

Scary Beary & Little Touches (To Spring: Dev Blog #9)

Afternoon! Hope you’ve enjoyed your weekend and I hope even more that you’re maintaining your primary and secondary portcullises. Portculli? Who cares. I’ve just finished watching season 2 of Afterlife on Netflix. I cannot think of a single Ricky Gervais television series that doesn’t know how to punch me directly in the heart. Anyway, the game. I’ve been putting in a few little touches and tweaks the last few days, most of which won’t really be noticeable but there are a couple of things to note:

My Bear Scared The Shit Out Of Me

I got some feedback from my mate Chris that the bear could do with being able to run after the player instead of just plodding along behind you at a safe distance. To be honest, I think I always knew this deep down but I just couldn’t bring myself to make another bloody run cycle. I powered through however and the bear will now run after the player at a speed of 13 pixels per frame. The player’s run speed is 12 pixels per frame, so the bear not only chases you, but now it’s faster than you. Get hiding.

A couple of other little touches I added is that now if the bear has been alerted to you but has then lost track of you because you’ve hidden, it will come over to the last place it saw you and stand there for a moment before moving on. Also as you may have noticed, it now spawns to your right as oppose to your left. I’m not sure how I didn’t think of this earlier, but spawning the bear between you and your destination seems like a pretty obvious thing to do.

I’ve not forgotten what I called this section by the way. My bear did scare the shit out of me, but I need to tell you about another touch first…

“x Lemmings Caught” alert

This one of the more game-y touches I probably should’ve added earlier, but I’ve added a little line of text that comes up and drifts to the bottom of the screen when you catch a lemming, letting you keep track of how many you’ve caught so far. It also plays a tone to compliment the tones for charging your jump, although as this one represents the payoff of your dive, I made it a bit more special by giving it some echo and mixing in a bite sound.

But Anyway, My Bear Scared The Shit Out Of Me

So yeah, there I was testing out my new text line and tone. I went across the map catching all the food I could and seeing if I liked the way the tone sounded and how fast the text drifted down etc. All the while I’d completely forgotten about the changes I’d made to the bear. So I’m running across to the next foodspot and all of a sudden this massive fucking beast appears to the right of my screen, roaring at me as it’s feet thunder across the snow, the dissonant music wailing in my ears. I jumped out of my fucking skin, tried to run away, got hit twice in quick succession and died, after which I grinned to myself. “I’ve done alright with that bear.” I thought. It was a nice feeling.

Please enjoy the above demo. I’ve also made a new tileset for the cave, in which all I’ve really done is replace the snow with more dirt so didn’t think it worth getting into detail about. We’re really getting close to a finished game here! I’ve done everything I wanted to do in the Winter Level, now I just need to make that Spring level I mentioned last time.

Until then, keep your hands and germs to yourself and take care.

Cheers,

Dave

May Contain Bears (To Spring: Dev Blog #6)

Hello you wonderfully resilient bastards. Hope you’re not going too stir crazy and that you’ve not yet resorted to cannibalism or worse still charades. To Spring’s undergone a bit of surgery since I last posted, including major changes to 2 of the things I mentioned in the last blog:

Goodbye Pre-Created Snowpiles

I never did solve that bug that made only 1 of the 10 snowpiles on the map work properly as a hiding place. I don’t know the problem and I no longer care, because now we hold a middle finger up to society and create snowpiles wherever we choose, like James Dean would do if he were a 2D arctic fox. Holding the Down or S key will now build up snow around the fox and hide her until she stands up or steps out of cover. You can also lie down behind snowpiles that you’ve already created to hide! I much prefer this way of hiding as it doesn’t rely on being close to a randomly generated hiding spot and offers a more organic solution. It also looks a bit better IMO.

Goodbye Spotlight

Goodness I’ve been quoting myself more than is probably healthy recently, haven’t I. Enable your manliest voice for this one:

So what did I do with this behemoth of code that I’d built up over days, maybe weeks of tinkering? I binned it.

“Fuck off, Spotlight.” I thought as my cursor hovered over the “Delete” option. I never liked it but for a short while I wanted to persist in making it work as it’d been such a pain in the arse to program and was the first time I’d ever messed with different surfaces in GMS2. My right index finger came hammering down on the left mouse button like an executioner’s axe, obliterating the shit feature from my game. It felt good. I’ve not yet decided how I’m going to achieve making the visuals more obscured while moving slowly or standing still, but it’s not like that.

Hello Menu & New Fonts

I’ve implemented a very very simple starting menu. As before, the protagonist starts lying on the floor to the left of the screen (Now covered in snow) and the menu appears in the middle, with a title and the option of New Game or Exit. I don’t think I’m going to have a save function as the game will be very short unless I decide to drastically lengthen it. The title and menu options are written in a brand new font:

And the tutorial messages now use the font:

Both of these are from http://www.1001fonts.com and are free for commercial use, unlike the previous tutorial font I had installed.

Oh yeah, also I made a bear

Now that the important stuff like menu font is out of the way, there’s just time to mention that I made a fucking bear. Finally. All he can do at the minute is spawn after the player has collected a certain amount of food and then walk slowly to the right of the map. I have also implemented the logic that means it is aware of the player when you are close by and not hidden, but as it stands this does nothing to change its behaviour. Also the walk animation is janky, but as I’ve mentioned before, I find walk and run animations reeeeally difficult so that’s a work in progress.

I think that’s all the new info I have for you today, so please enjoy this short demo and have an excellent weekend. Ciao bella, ciao bella, ciao ciao ciao.

Wash your hands you animal.

Cheers,

Dave

Vision Experimentation & Preparing For Bears (To Spring: Dev Blog #5)

Afternoon all,

I cannot believe it’s been ten days since I last posted about this. I suppose to a large extent all of the days in isolation blend into one, but still, ten days?!? It seems like only this weekend I was hammering away at sprite work and crying big fat tears over the footprint bug. Oh well. I hope you’re all washing your hands and keeping strangers out of your house at all costs by threatening them with the pointy stick you keep by your front door, as I am.

In something of a break from an extremely new tradition, I want to show you the current gameplay footage at the top of the blog today.

Hide And Weep

So, last blog I said “I need to liven up the gameplay and I think that should be the next thing I tackle. I originally thought of Polar Bears as a roaming threat that you’d need to run from, but I’m not sure that’s the way to go.” Kindly read that in a sexy voice to emulate my own. I’ve since decided, more through a lack of alternatives than anything else, that bears are indeed the way to go, but I haven’t implemented them yet. I decided instead to get everything in place so that we could deal with bears when they arrive, aka hiding. You’ll notice in the video that there are now snow piles in front of the fox that she can hide behind should a bear turn up, but this has thrown out another bug that I currently have absolutely no idea how to fix. Let me explain:

Here is pretty much the only block of code in the “obj_snowpile” object, aside from some debug stuff. It should be incredibly simple. All it’s doing is saying “If the player is in the vicinity of this snow pile and is lying down, then they are hidden. If not, they aren’t hidden.”

And here is literally the only block of code inside the “obj_snowpile_spawner” object, which randomly spawns these snow piles throughout the map at the start of the game:

Again, this should be a piece of piss. Anyone who’s done any sort of javascript, GML or java tutorial will be able to tell you how a for loop works. Essentially this is saying “Make 10 snowpiles at random x coordinates throughout the map”. Yet somehow between these 2 tiny bits of code, we have a problem. Somehow only 1 of my snow piles actually hides the player while the other 9 do not. If anyone has a solution to this, I’m all ears as I’ve tried a lot to get this to work and I’m shit out of luck so far. I’m considering doing away with these pre-created snow piles altogether and instead having the snowpiles form around the fox whenever she lies down.

Stars 🙂

I put stars in the sky. They fade in when it gets close to nighttime and fade back out as the sun’s rising. Looks pretty nice.

The Spotlight

This is the biggie really. Cast your mind back to my concept blog and sexy that voice back up for this one:

“The primary loop of the game, or your goal from second to second, is to listen for, locate and dive for food while evading predators. You’ll accomplish this with the help of your extraordinary sense of hearing – In gameplay terms, the slower you’re moving, the more obscured the visuals of the game will become but the more you’ll be able to block out the background noise of the tundra and hone in on the sounds of your prey, which will be highlighted visually under the snow, perhaps with the help of a highlighted circle that lets you know generally where the sound is coming from.

So this has been on my mind for a while. Currently the visuals of the game didn’t suffer like I’d originally envisioned and I wanted to correct that. The whole point of this game is meant to be hearing food under the ground and diving for it based on a vague idea of where it might be. So hit by a flash of inspiration at about 1am over the Easter weekend, I watched tutorials on creating a spotlight by creating an extra, darker surface that overlays the game and can be punctuated by various sizes of circles of light. I grafted and tweaked and eventually, Hey Presto! I fucked the aesthetic of my entire game.

I don’t think the spotlight will survive my recycle bin much longer but thought I’d include this for completeness’ sake. I want this to be a “warts and all” sort of blog after all so that I and any poor sods who try to follow in my footsteps can at least learn something from all of this. I do still want to make the visuals suffer more so that emphasis is placed on hearing food, but I’ll have to keep thinking about how to make that happen.

In Other News

For myriad reasons I’ve had to dump a laptop, switch to my old desktop, recover and then upgrade that desktop in recent months so in all the excitement I’ve only just had chance to redownload Github and my source code for Flight of the Bluebird and Player Power. It was genuinely an extremely nice feeling playing them both again for the first time in probably 6 months so I thought I’d just mention that. FOTB is still such a mess of ideas that I doubt I’ll ever go back to working on it, which is a shame as with fresh eyes, I reckon I did some fucking impressive things with that game. But after To Spring is completed I can focus on finishing uploading both it and Player Power to Steam. I’ll keep you updated on that once it starts rolling.

I’ve recorded a 17 minute video of me playing and commenting on the carcass of Flight of the Bluebird, sort of giving my thoughts on it and dissecting it a bit. I’m more of a writer than a talker, but if you’re interested, give it a watch.

Next time, bears. I promise.

Scrub those sausage fingers with a wire brush.

Cheers,

Dave

Scenery, Effects & Excruciating Bugs (To Spring: Dev Blog #4)

Old Franjo posting 2 days in a row?! Is the sky about to fall in on our heads?? Are the compasses all about to give up on magnetic directions and point down instead? Nope. Just call me hot, crispy bacon drenched in brown sauce and no butter, because I’m on a roll. Eaten by someone else of course, cause I’m a pesky pescatarian these days. I miss bacon. I’ve already veered wildly off topic.

I just can’t stop tweaking this bloody game this weekend. Yesterday I did a lot of character sprite work and today I’ve done quite a lot of scenery sprite work and functionality. I added some parallax backgrounds in the forms of different sized rocks and mounds of snow, implemented cloud and plant spawners so that the clouds and plants could be randomly scattered across the map and 3 extremely time-consuming little touches, that I’m going to get good and steamed up about if that’s alright.

The Mother Fucking Sun/Moon cycle

“How hard can it be to put in a sun and moon that rise and set with the already established day/night cycle?” I thought stupidly. Cut to 3 hours later and I’ve rigged up a circular path for them to follow and I’m smashing my head against my desk trying to work out a way of finding the length of an arc of a circle when all you know is it’s radius. For the record, it’s fucking impossible, but that didn’t stop me from trying until my brain begged me to stop. The reason I needed to find the length of an arc is that I needed to time the sun and moon’s rising and falling with the day/night cycle and for that I needed to know how far they were travelling over the course of the day or night. If they’d been on a straight line, this would be a piece of piss, but as they weren’t, it almost ruined me. The worst part is that this was the 2nd most difficult problem that I’ve had today.

In the end, I decided to scrap the fancy-shmancy arc for a more basic system, where the sun rises to the top of the screen at sunrise, travels in a straight line across the top of the screen and then lowers back down at sunset. Vice versa for the moon. This still took the horrendous maths below that took me a little while longer. I’ve managed to fudge it so that the X coordinate of the sun and Moon will start at the right hand side of my camera (I did this in the camera object so that they’d stay on screen instead of disappearing when I walked away) and then shift across to the left by the percentage of the day that’s passed. I hated this. I’m alright at maths but percentages are my kryptonite.

The lovely Straightforward Particle Effects

To be honest, this part was still time consuming and was lovely and straightforward only because I nicked most of it. There’s a Gamemaker Studio 2 youtuber that I will never stop banging on about to anyone wanting to get into game design named Shaun Spalding and during a platformer tutorial I followed along with once, he brought out a versatile particle effect that he had actually nicked himself from someone else. It’s amazing once you start coding how much of your time goes into finding stuff to nick, really.

It’s a sprite containing progressively smaller sub-images that you can summon en-masse whenever you want a cloud of dust, or in my case, snow particles. I’ve tailored this in a couple of different ways; Firstly so that the fox now kicks out bits of snow behind her as she walks or runs and secondly so that snow flies up once she dives into it. It’s ridiculous how much nicer little touches like this can make your game look and I’m really happy with it.

The Footprints That Brought Me To My Fucking Knees

I hated this. I hated hated hated this. Ever since I started this game I thought that leaving footprints in the snow that disappear after a couple of seconds would be a beautiful little touch but one that’d be really overly complicated. As it turns out, it was actually really straightforward. Seriously, it was. Let me explain why it ruined my weekend. I apologise, but I’m about to get technical. I’ll try not to get too far into the weeds, but honestly this is just going to be a rant for my own benefit. Please feel free to skip to the next section.

The theory of putting these footprints in was simple: Go through my walking/running sprites and any time the fox lifts a foot off the ground, create a separate sprite with a footprint where her foot had just been. For me, in both my walking and running animations, the fox lifts her foot on frames 1, 2, 6 and 7. So I made a sprite containing 4 sub-images of the footprints for each foot and when my fox’s animation gets to frame 1, 2, 6 or 7, it’d add in a new object that puts in the corresponding footprint frame. Does that make sense? I’m horrible at explaining things like this I think, it’s why I try not to get too technical on things like this. But anyway, the object was set up so that it’s transparency would reduce over a couple of seconds, making the footprint disappear and it all worked perfectly… For about 5 seconds.

I could not for the life of me work out why but my fox would leave pristine footprints for about 5 seconds and then it wouldn’t work for another 10, at which point it would magically work once again. I had a cooldown set up so that the fox wasn’t churning out 60 footprints per second and I disabled that, but it still didn’t work. I had the command nested inside quite a lot of conditional statements (Amateur, I know), so I tried removing it from those and having it as it’s own separate block of code, but it still didn’t work. I checked all of my sprites, all of my logic, I rewrote a lot of code that I thought could be blocking it and the fucking thing kept stopping creating footprints after 5 seconds for no bloody reason!

I eventually found the problem. It was about 3 hours in and I was a broken man. In desperation, I added the values for my sprite_index, image_index and image_speed to my debug window in the game, genuinely thinking “If I don’t fix this in the next 10 minutes, the footprints are coming out.” I was done. I noticed from here that my image_index (This is the value that corresponds to the sub-image of your sprite. The first sub-image is image_index 0, the second is image_index 1, etc) had 2 decimal places. It wasn’t supposed to have 2 decimal places. Amateur that I am, I didn’t even know the sodding thing could have decimal places! I was using a switch statement to check if my image_index was precisely 1, 2, 6 or 7 so as the image_index went out of sync and into the decimals, it stopped passing the check. Then presumably it would sync back up and start making footprints for a bit again, then start failing again. I changed the switch statement to an if statement that checked if the image_index was between 1 and 2, 2 and 3 etc and my gruelling day was finally over.

There. All better.

Phew, sorry about that. That was the first really paralysingly frustrating bug that I’ve had during the creation of this game and I needed to vent. I’ve had plenty of them before, on Flight of the Bluebird especially. Usually with bugs you have some idea what the root cause is but when you have absolutely no clue it’s a draining, helpless feeling. But yeah, my fox now has fucking footprints and you’d better appreciate them. I think they look nice.

Final Thoughts For The Weekend

I’ve got conflicting feelings at the moment. I’m really really proud of what I’ve made so far. I think it looks nice, plays nice and is just a really pleasant experience. Not Animal Crossing levels of pleasant, but pleasant nonetheless. However, it strikes me as an “Experience” (Gag) more than a game at this point. All you can really do is run around jumping at targets to make the score go up. I need to liven up the gameplay and I think that should be the next thing I tackle. I originally thought of Polar Bears as a roaming threat that you’d need to run from, but I’m not sure that’s the way to go. Any ideas, send them my way. Thoughts and advice are always appreciated. I’ll leave you with an updated demo video. See if you can spot the new bug I’ve found. I’m done for the day though, I’ll get it another time.

Oh yeah, and don’t forget to scrub your sticky palms with soap and water, you dingus.

Cheers,

Dave

To Spring (To Spring: Dev Blog #2)

Ello ello ello. How are you all enjoying the apocalypse? Bit of a pisser, isn’t it? Obviously Covid-19 is having a massive effect all over the world but I’m sure you’re as exhausted as I am of hearing about the shitty things it’s doing to people’s lives, so let’s not dwell on it.. Basically what I’m trying to say is that I, like most people at the moment, have free time to burn. Some of this free time I’ve been putting towards Fox Game, or as I’ll be calling it from now on, To Spring.

I’m so fucking pleased with myself for this title. Cocky almost. Get this, right: Winter is the time when food is the most scarce for the arctic fox, which is our game’s protagonist. And as this is a food collection, 2D scroller sort of deal, it only makes sense that our game takes place over the winter, where the challenge is in finding and sniffing out food from beneath the snow. Our end goal therefore is to make it all the way through To Spring. With me? But how do we get this food? We leap into the air and dive beneath the snow to find it. Our primary gameplay loop revolves around our ability… TO SPRING!!! Right??? … Well I was impressed with myself.

The Game So Far

Since my concept post I’ve worked on a lot of basics and I’ve had a lot of fun to be honest! I’ve got a blank, minimalist looking fox protagonist who can walk and… run… ish… Fox walk and run animations are hard, OK? It’s a work in progress. As is the design of the thing. The minimalist look sort of works but I want to try and give the protagonist a bit of identity if I can, so that’s on the to-do list. I’ve implemented a blank (For now) map, a camera that tracks the player, some snow that falls and flies past you faster the quicker you’re moving and I even put in a day/night cycle that changes the lighting the longer you play. It’s a cool little touch and looks nice if I say so myself, as is the debug mode I snuck in which allows me to see different values I need for testing purposes. Also I implemented an incredibly basic tutorial system which is just text that comes up on the screen to prompt you to move, jump and dive to find food etc.

Speaking of which, let’s dive into the subject that I’ve spent the most time on, has given me the most headaches and that I am still probably the unhappiest about: Diving for food.

AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHH

The title about sums it up. Diving for food is the bread and butter of my game but I just can’t get it the way I like it. This mechanic has been through several iterations.

Take 1: Basic Diving

I started out by making the player able to just jump like they would in a platforming game, using the Spacebar if you’re playing with a keyboard using WASD controls, which for now is the only way to play it, although I do plan to add gamepad compatibility. Then at the height of your jump, you could press and hold S to indicate that you want to dive down to try and get food, as oppose to just landing on the ground. Once you landed, the game would look for the food, compare where you are on the map to where the food is and if you were close enough, you’d get the food. Food could spawn anywhere under the snow and it’s depth was irrelevant. It was very uncomplicated and very unsatisfying. Annoyed, I tried again.

Take 2: Charged Diving

Ok, so how about this; instead of Spacebar just making you jump the predetermined distance upwards, you could press and hold Spacebar to charge up a jump (Ticking up to a maximum of 15 jumping power, keep this in mind) and then charge your dive on the way back down by holding S (Again, to a max power of 15). This way, if food was deeper under the snow, you had to jump higher and dive down deeper as your depth was now also taken into consideration when calculating whether you’d hit the food or not. Made sense! The problem was, it felt incredibly imprecise to control and quite clunky to boot. I needed this level of complexity, but in a more simple, streamlined and precise way. So I tried again.

Take 3: Sexy Grid-Based Diving

“Alright, then how about this??” I asked my empty room, my unkempt beard and bloodshot eyes giving away my dwindling conviction in my own decisions, “A GRID-BASED SYSTEM!”

I split up the area under the ground vertically into 3 layers of depth: A surface layer, medium layer and deep layer. I also split up the entire map horizontally into 32 pixel chunks, thus creating a grid. The food would now spawn into one of these grid cells as oppose to anywhere it liked, giving me greater control. For example, I could now make sure that the first food the player had to find didn’t spawn in a 30 minute drive away, which was very handy. I suppose I could’ve done that anyway but the grid made it much simpler.

The idea was that now, when you charged your jump and then your dive (Which remember both had a max charge of 15), any dive with a lower charge value than 5 didn’t make you dive at all and just had you land normally. Between 5 and 10 meant you dived into the surface layer, between 10 and 15 meant you dived into the medium layer and a maximum strength 15 dive power meant you dived into the deep layer, hence solving the problem with precision that my freeform approach had formerly had. Once you dive to the ground, your horizontal location is rounded up or down to the nearest grid marker, depending on which you’re closest to. As a result of all this, when you dive, as long as you charged up a fair amount, you would hit a corresponding grid cell and get any food that it contained. Although this solved a lot of my problems, it also added a lot. This wasn’t simple or streamlined at all. This had gone the complete opposite way and become convoluted.

Take 4: Sexy, Charged, Grid-Based Fuck It, Use The Cursor

So what did I do with this behemoth of code that I’d built up over days, maybe weeks of tinkering? I binned it. Well, most of it. This is something that I’d highly recommend doing if you find yourself in a similar spot. Obviously save it first in case you ever need to refer back to it, but then bin it. Start completely fresh if you need to.

I kept a couple of things: Firstly, I wanted food to still spawn in a grid as it just made sense. Secondly, I kept the jump-charging meter, only this time there would be no dive button. You’d charge up your jump the same as before and once you released Spacebar, you’d fly off in the opposite direction of your mouse cursor. This way, you were sort of catapulting your fox by moving the cursor in different directions, which feels pretty cool. Then your dive depth is calculated off of your jump power as oppose to your dive power. And uh… This is how the jump/dive mechanic still works at the minute. I think it’s alright. It’s definitely sleeker and more intuitive, but it needs refining. It’s currently fairly buggy and VERY imprecise but it’s the best it’s been so far!

That’s about it. I should probably quickly mention sound before I go though. The blue circles you see in the above video are the food’s sound radii. Once you step into one, you’ll hear the chirping of rascally little lemmings get louder and louder as you approach the food, and then quieter as you walk past it. I’ve also layered a LOT of wind sound effects from Freesound, which is always an incredibly helpful tool for projects like this, on top of each other until I got the effect I wanted. The wind gets louder the faster you’re moving while the game’s opening music gets quieter as it gets drowned out by the wind. Speaking of the music, it’s a song called Heartbreaking from Incompetech, which is an equally if not even more useful website where you can find thousands of pieces of Royalty Free Music in a massive variety of genres, all written by the incomprehensibly generous Kevin MacLeod. All are usable in any project as long as you give him a credit and I’d highly recommend having a look, although you’re a braver man than I if you listen to any of the 38 tracks labelled “Erotic”.

Next up I’ll probably be looking to finish the running animation, creating a dive animation, refining the jumping mechanic some more and other bits and bobs I come across. I’ll be back when I have more progress to report and when I get around to continuing F:AJS.

Cheers,

Dave

Fox Game (To Spring: Dev Blog #1)

Hello again! It’s been a while since I’ve done anything on this site as the amount of free time I’ve had has been really quite restricted lately. Nevertheless, I’ve had an idea and I want to document my progress in bringing it to life. I’ve already outlined the tools I use for game design in my previous post here, so I’m just going to launch straight into this with no faffing about. Here’s my idea:

Concept

You are an arctic fox. Most of you will have seen the clips on nature documentaries or Youtube or your social media of choice. I was watching some such clips the other day and I realised that the thing that really intrigues me about arctic foxes are the way that they find food: They stand there on top of who knows how many feet of snow and listen. They listen and listen and listen… And BAM! They leap up, dive down headfirst and submerge half of their body in the snow, reaching down to the source of the telltale sounds of scurryings and scratchings of delicious lemmings.

I’m imagining a 2D side-scrolling game where you are a fox wandering the arctic in search of food. The primary loop of the game, or your goal from second to second, is to listen for, locate and dive for food while evading predators. You’ll accomplish this with the help of your extraordinary sense of hearing – In gameplay terms, the slower you’re moving, the more obscured the visuals of the game will become but the more you’ll be able to block out the background noise of the tundra and hone in on the sounds of your prey, which will be highlighted visually under the snow, perhaps with the help of a highlighted circle that lets you know generally where the sound is coming from. This circle will be quite large at first, meaning you may come up empty…mouthed, but it will decrease in size as you catch more and more food and hone your skills. You’ll need to search carefully however, as polar bears may wander along to ruin your day, in which case you’ll receive a visual and audible alert telling you that you’ll need to run.

The secondary loop, or your goal from minute to minute, is to find enough food to keep yourself and your pups alive. The game will end once you’ve found enough food to keep everyone well fed, whereupon you’ll find yourself back at your den feeding the pups. The feel-good story of the year.

It won’t be a long game, or a complicated game, but as I’ve said before, my goal is still to keep things simple. I’ve made a single game so far, an arcadey sort of chaotic football simulator named Player Power which took me 2 weeks to make and so far 6 sodding months to publish to Steam. But “Fox Game” (Hit me up with a better title because I just can’t think of one at the minute) will be a significant step up on that game already in terms of difficulty to program, once you factor in all of the moving pieces.

The Plan

So far I’ve done a hell of a lot of thinking. Thinking over the structure, the features I’d want etc and I feel like the above paragraphs completely sum the game up, which is a testament to just how much I’ve restricted myself. It’ll just be the fox protagonist, a bear that can appear, some food that will appear, some kids to give it to and a shit load of snow.

Programming-wise, I don’t think there’s anything there that I haven’t already done at some point. I’ve done platforming tutorials that involved the intricacies of moving sideways and jumping and got about half way through “Flight of the Bluebird” which involved several much more complicated enemy spawners that had to create enemies on the beat of whatever song happened to be playing. Ridiculous idea for a rookie to take on in hindsight. Spawning food at random locations under the snow shouldn’t be too much trouble either, although the dive mechanic will take a bit of working out I’m sure. What I’m trying to get around to is the fact that the programming should be fine given some free time and some elbow grease. The real challenge is going to be in the art. Ridiculous hypocrite that I am, I’m planning on ignoring my own advice to keep things simple and instead trying to make this game look as pretty as possible. It just seems like the right thing to do, focusing on designing an excellent protagonist who’s animated well, to liven up the bleak, plain landscape that is the frozen tundra. If I try and get away with a shit 16 x 16 pixel sprite that vaguely resembles a dog, this isn’t going to be a nice game to look at at all.

So yes, that’s the plan. I’ll create the project in GMS2 first and work out what kind of resolution I want to work with, then I’ll start trying to get my art skills up to scratch. I’ve sort of started already actually, as you can see below. That is a 256 x 256 sprite I’ve made that could someday become the titular fox. I’m not sure if I want to commit myself to drawings that detailed and might scale back down to 128 x 128 but I’ll work all that out later.

As always, thoughts and advice are welcome, because I am shit at this (But getting better 🙂 )

Cheers,

Franjo