Category Archives: Development News

Marpeg Video Update 20131108

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Back on the Block, Block

Just flew back home from 29 Palms a few days ago and boy are my arms tired.

Anyways, finally got out of there. Should have a lot more time to work on Marpeg and <._FLANK/> now, as well as not being depressed all of the time and getting some motivation back. Not much of an update here, beyond having made a teensy bit of progress on loading characters from a text file. Still not completely working, but it’s getting there. Should be done before long, now.
Since this post is so empty, have some pone.

such friendship wow

such adorable

 

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Point Blank Flank and Prototyping

I’m a step closer to branching into <._FLANK/>, with external data loading almost ready.
While I’m pretty beat from horseback riding yesterday, I do have enough energy to put some recent ideas down and continue brainstorming. So, this post is going to be about prototyping and the role <._FLANK/> is going to play in the larger development of Marpeg as a game and Colivien as an engine.
A Word On Protoyping
Prototyping in game development is a bit different than in engineering terms. When we talk about prototyping in games, it’s more of a trial-and-error method of seeing what works well and what doesn’t. Alpha and Beta development is more analogous to engineering prototypes. Onward!
Brainstorming
I’ve come up with a couple small ideas during downtime that I’d like to play with. I know a lot of young, budding developers will keep their ideas to themselves because they’re worried someone will steal them. There’s an article on this that I encourage everyone to read, but for now suffice to say that I don’t care to share because these ideas can only improve text-based games anyways. If someone ‘steals’ the idea or feature, then so be it. Spreading it around can only make the genre better-equipped to tell stories in an interesting way.

Non-Hero Player
The first is to put the player in a non-hero role or to take that hero role somewhere it doesn’t usually tread. Companions and followers in most games are often watered down, underwhelming and boring to interact with. Instances of even half-decent buddy AI are few and far between, but there are examples to draw from.

One half of the buddy AI issue is the sole reason that <._FLANK/> has four characters, but only three of them are playable. The fourth character is the main character. He’s the best overall of the team and is calling the shots. If the player tries to push against his orders too much, he’ll question their loyalty and will become hesitant to assign them more important tasks. This may be an unorthodox arrangement for the player, but I feel like it could lead to some very cool experiences. For <._FLANK/>, this isn’t an optional set up. However, Marpeg will not often force the player to be stuck where they don’t want to be. For roleplayers, this could be a fun exciting feature though.

The other half of this dichotomy is to put the player into a lead position, but to do a better job than is standard. Similar to Last of Us, the player may come into the position of having to watch over a weaker or less capable character as well. There are plenty of instances in which this has gone horribly wrong.

One scene in Sniper Elite V2 comes to mind in which the player is presented with a character he must save from execution, which alone was a new challenge in the game. Once freed, the character even remembers to grab a gun before taking cover. As the character moves through the buildings and down the street to safety, the player is presented with a line of fire that the ally rarely, if at all, obstructs accidentally. At one point, while I was reloading, a couple of enemy troops rushed into a room the buddy AI was moving through. I thought the AI would crap out on me, but he actually killed them both pretty effectively and without it looking stilted in the way a scripted kill would have.

I also played with a mod for Skyrim that added a lot of interest to the followers. Of course, having 5 buddies along meant I’d crank the difficulty up to Master to keep it challenging, but it was one of the coolest things to have a few projectiles whiz by and kill an enemy as I was rushing ahead or to be volleying at larger enemies. The mod even rewarded the player for having effective allies by dealing out ‘Synergy Points’ when an ally fought, allowing my character to progress even when his buddies were snagging a lot of the kills.

Real Time Decision Making
One of my biggest pet peeves in text-based games is how everything comes to a stand still when you aren’t doing anything. Now, not everyone types at sixty words per minute zero errors, so I’d have to make a way for the game to calibrate to each player’s typing skill. Regardless, the method is to have characters act upon environment stimuli in real time. If the player moves into a room and then stops doing anything, an enemy in the room might get the drop on them.

Because the game messages are already very concise and relay only the necessary details to the player up front, that shouldn’t cause issues. However, typing is another thing. The commands may be short, but I still planned tweaks in case a bit more time was needed, such as halving the speed at which the other actors make decisions while the player is typing, along with considerations for any exploits in that system.

Ambiance
To enhance the feel of the game worlds and experiences made with Colivien, I wanted to experiment with subtle, background ambiance as well. Just because a game lacks visual interface doesn’t mean it shouldn’t include some ambient sound or subtle background music. Use of sound like this with no visuals can have a more powerful impact alone, given the correct sounds are used with good judgement on the situation.

Better Tracking of Character Relationships
In order to fulfill the goal of having deep, rich character interaction, I’ll need a method of tracking each character in the game and how they feel about every other character they meet. My initial instinct was to organize it similarly to how a physics simulation is modeled.

I’ll use the image below to extrapolate. Each dot is a single character, containing data on personality, strengths, weaknesses and such. Each line is a stored relationship. It contains more detailed information on how each character feels about another. Each character stores a different map of lines than the other. So, one Farmer Erin might be rather unhappy with Farmer Fran right now, but Fran might not even know that something is amiss between the two.

The filled polygon represents of group of characters who are associated with one-another.
The brighter lines in the center show the leader of each groups’ relationships with each other, giving a baseline representation of each groups’ feelings.

This can become as detailed and complex as I want to go with it, depending on how in-depth it needs to be to deliver the desired experience. I’m not going to map every characters’ secret crush if it won’t effect gameplay, but I’d rather go too far now than not far enough.

Relationship Model

For example, I could keep track of each and every character’s relationship with each and every other character, but that feels almost too much for now. I could drop characters into an ‘Ungrouped’ pool that does do just that and then move them into the smaller groups as needed, to keep things tidy.

That’s all for now. What do you think? Should I experiment with these unorthodox features in a text-based game or just stick with what’s already proven?

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Tightened Schedule Incoming

PT, PT erry day.
Build a text-based pony game the Marine Corps way.

Work on games and just anything in general is going to crawl to dang near a standstill for the next couple of weeks. Due to a motivated schedule change and me tacking on more PT, I’ll have very limited time for working on Colivien, <._FLANK/> or any other fun stuff.

Should be switching to a far more flexible and open schedule in less than a month, which is going to facilitate a lot of work on games.

On an awesome note, going back to a local rescue ranch to ride horses again, on Saturday.
Motivate.

Just Another Government Shutdown Post

I’m sure everyone is posting on their blogs about this, but there’s two cents burning a whole in my pocket.

For civilians, the shutdown doesn’t seem to have really done much. They see that government employees are being furloughed or having hours cut and that the military is still being paid. It’s ok, those government employees are only half of a percent of the entire US population, so it’s not that big of a deal.

They don’t see all of the facilities that are shutting down, like the commissary, SMP, Learning Resource Center and the family pool. The bowling alley is shutdown, the MCX employee hours are being shaved away, I don’t think the library is open and this is all on top of recent changes that are going to be making life for junior Marines generally less pleasant.

It’s not all super important stuff, but it’s those little things. Married Marines, who don’t receive chow hall services, no longer have anywhere on base to buy produce. They have to drive to Walmart, off base, just to buy groceries. Not so bad, at other bases, but 29 Palms is in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

Yeah, we’re being paid. However, that was only decided in the very last hours of negotiation. It’s pretty clear that service members are not a priority for Congress and I wouldn’t be surprised to see our pay checks cut or completely dry up soon. Marines who have Navy Federal checking accounts are going to be payed still, do to some sort of government pay check insurance sort of thing, but that’s going to dry up quickly as well. I have Pacific Marine still, from bootcamp, and they don’t do that whole pay thing. The chow hall and barracks have been guaranteed to us, but I don’t know how stable that’s going to stay.

Hopefully, this clears up in a couple days and doesn’t blow up into more than it needs to be.

Marpeg Video Demo

Bit of video on the progress I’ve made on Marpeg, the sexiest piece of text-based RPG this side of Y2K. Features character creation, punching babies and picking up swords!

One Game a Month – August

Hey all, been a long time, hasn’t it? I’ve been inactive on the site, for the most part, but I haven’t been idle. I started doing One Game A Month in mid July, just to warm up, and have a fun little project in the works this month which I’d like to carry over into September as well.

Because of long class days and other Marine Corps-tastic happenings, I don’t really have time to work on graphics or animation, the two things that have locked up all of my recent development efforts. So, I did what I’ve been wanting to try and ditched any visuals beyond what the console output gives me.
My project for August is a text-based, command line interface (CLI) role-playing game. Plans for now are to make character creation very expedient in the beginning, limiting the amount of details the player must procure for their character in the early stages of his or her life. As the game starts, the player takes control of their character, now a young adult who is out to start their life. The player doesn’t fill a pre-built role or class, but instead writes a new story for their character by interacting with the world, meeting other characters and by learning and advancing through a trade.

The combat is going to be mostly based on knowing how different armors and weapons act against each other. Riveted mail will stop most weapons, even arrows. However, a gambeson or non-riveted mail will often let a thrust or arrow through easily. Layering cloth, mail and plates or armor will greatly improve the characters defenses. Some ideas for how magic works and designs for the different methods of deploying that are in the works, as well as discovering that writing a fair, interesting and balanced algorithm for character damage is pretty tough. A lot of hours just poring over revision upon revision of a single algorithm.

I’ve already got some fun stuff going with custom string parsing and the ability for different menus to be displayed is functional. As is, you can only progress through the title screen and the ‘NEW’ menu option, going through the entire character creation process in all of its minimalist glory. The point at which you confirm your character is where I am in writing. Got a document that will allow me to write a scene featuring the basic functions of gameplay including interacting with items and props, NPCs that can be talked to or fought and doors to go through, as well as other features to tack on to this basic scene later.

Some other ideas I have in my pocket are such things as allowing saved characters to be handled as NPCs when playing a different file. So, if a player has characters named John and Marshall and saves the John file in one city and then visits that city in the Marshall file, he can encounter and interact with his other character like any other, including convincing him to follow the player.
As well as having comrades who will travel with the player, the player can become a follower them self, under the command of an NPC. The whole idea of this setup is to allow the game to feel less lonely, even if it is only single player. I always hated that so many RPGs glorify the lone warrior who saves the world. I’d played with some mods for Skyrim that allowed me to have up to 5 companions, and it really changes the feel of the game, as well as allowing me to ramp up the difficulty without it becoming unbalanced. Your companions would make a lot of kills alongside your own and the mod was designed so that even your companion’s kills would count towards your own progression, which I’d like to play with in my own project. There were a lot of cool moments where my little group would volley crossbow bolts or be teaming up on a tough enemy that really redefined the play experience.

Time’s up, back to school for me!

Cockpit, Anti-Sploder, TIGS for Windows, Site Updates

Mkay, here’s what I got for y’all today:

  • Cockpit, a little project I worked on while on leave between bootcamp and combat training.
  • TIGS, now for Windows.
  • EDIT: Anti-Sploder got a page and download up, too. Finally. And to think I almost forgot to put that in this post.
  • Site cleaned up (Mostly the Games page), some information updated, Cockpit and Anti-Sploder have pages now, removed the pages for all the old crap that wasn’t worth looking at. Might put some small links up somewhere, but they aren’t up to par with my skills now and don’t leave a good impression. And the page format was cluttered anyways.
  • Reorganized the links at the top of the site.

Cockpit

This is the result of about 4 or 5 days of work in Blender to keep my programming refreshed and sharp after recruit training. I wanted to make a cool space ship game, like Black Prophecy. So I did, although mine is definitely not as pretty nor am I done with it yet. Available here for Windows and Linux. Not for Mac, but we’ll get to that in a second.

TIGS for Windows

What it says on the box. If you aren’t cool enough to use Linux, now you too can enjoy all that Blender goodness I started before bootcamp. Also, TIGS is on hiatus until I finish MCT and find time to work on it, same goes for Cockpit. Anyways, pick it up for the cost of only a few calories of clicking right here.

Anti-Sploder

A game about not blowing stuff up. Made forever ago, finally uploaded here mostly because it’s the only game I’ve actually managed to finish. Thanks to an 18 hour time constraint. Go figure. Check it out here.

We already covered site updates in that bullet list, really, so all that leaves is…

Mac Versions of Cockpit and TIGS

I’ve gotten the Windows version to build under Wine, but I don’t think there’s an equivalent method for me to run the Mac version of Blender. Until I get something figured out on this front, someone on a Mac, with Blender 2.64 or above, is going to need to help us all out. I can get this organized better after MCT, but basically someone needs to go into the game folder and open either the Data.blend (For cockpit) or the START.blend (For TIGS) and run the export addon “File” > “Export” > “Save as Game Engine Runtime”. You may have to go in and enable this addon under “File” > “User Preferences” > “Import/Export”.
Once I’ve got that organized, I just need to upload it to the website so Mac users can play em too.

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Back From Bootcamp For a Bit

Been home from bootcamp this week, 10 days leave feels pretty good after that.
I’ll be leaving for combat training on Tuesday, early in the AM and will be out of touch for 4 weeks. After that, I should be able to use my computer during MOS school, at least a little. Spent some time this week on a dinky little flying game to keep my skills up to par after recruit training, I’ll be sure to post at least the .blend file for everyone to look at and play if they want to.

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Shooting Game Recieves Name, Video Soon

I’ve recently decided to name my Blender3D shooting game ‘TIGS’.
‘TIGS’ is a recursive acronym that stands from “TIGS Isn’t a Generic Shooter”.

I’ll have a video update soon, likely before this week is over. In fact, it has to be before that as I will be off to San Diego for USMC bootcamp (Hoping to Celestia I don’t screw this up again, because then I’d really be in a tight spot) and won’t be in contact for 3 months.
Anyways, I had gotten shooting into TIGS, really cool stuff with physics based recoil and yadda yadda when my PC turned off because the battery died. I had saved, but the impromptu closure corrupted the Data.blend file and I had to revert to an older one, although a couple of scripts were salvaged.

As is, I’ve made sure to add a little more security to the data behind the game. I decided that this time I wanted to start with character animation instead of weapons, as I was very unhappy with how the character movement was going before. So, you’ll be seeing a bit of procedural animation or physics based animation or whatever-the-hell I made when I get this video made.
Please keep in mind that I’m one guy who doesn’t actually have any actual experience in animation, procedural or otherwise. It looks wonky and that likely won’t change for TIGS. I’ll simply have to live with that until I make another game and am able to do a better job with that one.

As for non game stuff, I’ve got some news on Horizon.
I have spent some time outlining the story ahead, since Chapter 3 was all off the top of my head with no future direction. Not letting that happen again, as it was hellish to write. So, I’ve got at least 3 or 4 chapters of material roughed out, ready to be written down on FimFiction. Probably going to stay up tonight and work on Chapter 4.

Also, Lojban is still awesome and I’m sure Twilight Sparkle would fully endorse it, if she heard about it. Go check it out at http://www.lojban.org and learn an awesome language. I’m amazed how much vocab (Not actually that much, in the scale of things) I retained after not doing any studying for so long. I’ve been using http://www.memrise.com to learn gismu and there is material on the Lojban site for the basic syntax and grammar if you’d like to pick it up as well.

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