Category Archives: dev blogs

A Dev Blog for Iridescent Crown

New Trailers

Iridescent Crown 1.2 is now out, and here are some trailers for it. 🙂 You can play the game for free in your browser, and you can buy the Windows version.

This is the new official trailer, which runs through World 1.

 

Some gameplay footage with a projectile weapon.

 

Showcasing a few different weapons.

 

Finding a rare weapon, and the implications thereof.

 

Dev Blog for Iridescent Crown

I didn’t chronologue this like I normally do, so this is in no particular order. Most of this final work was done between March 11th and 14th.

 

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Firstly, I made a new logo for my games (and websites in general). It’s inspired by the SEGA logo, as well as the Inuyasha logo. The color purple is a nice mix of royal and feminine. Seeing my first name in katakana is pretty awesome too. Creating a new logo was a small detail, but also a big deal in its own way. I love the sound I picked to go with it – reminds me of starting up the PSX or PS2.

 

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Adding the controls before you begin the game got the most positive feedback from my friends. It’s good to know it’s not too confusing to the eyes.

If you get a strong weapon early enough in the game, nothing beyond that is a challenge. So I made them much more rare in the early levels. The difficulty curve is much smoother now. You’ll have to fight many more enemies to find a weapon worth keeping now, which makes them more valuable.

The large enemies were invincible to close-range attacks, and required projectiles to kill. I realized this was annoying and removed their invulnerability.

 

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I also added a separate room for the shopkeeper. A door allows you to “leave” the room if you don’t like the random weapon you buy, which quickly resets the room. I added several NPCs in this room that give you additional tips to playing the game. I added more lines to the tutorial as well (about the map and radar).

 

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I added a legend to the map on the pause screen, which tells you what the marks mean. Makes it a lot easier to read!

 

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One other big change came at the very end, when I added damage points that visibly appear when you hit or get hit. This really helps with the “feel” of the fighting system.

There was also a glitch you could get by pausing on the game over screen, which I fixed after a friend reminded me about it. 🙂

I experimented with changing the graphics a bit, but when that didn’t work I decided to leave things as they are. I also intended to add a bit more “story” to the game, but in the end this didn’t seem necessary.

 

New Trajectories

I’m still pretty disappointed GMS2 isn’t bringing more tools to the table that I don’t already have. It kills some of the plans I had for extending my current projects – namely adding more features to the music generators.

I was really hoping they would add support for MIDI files (or any music files, really), so I could export the music my games generate. One huge problem is GM is terrible with tempo – even delta_timing isn’t always reliable. I removed the drums from Seraphim Automata to avoid lag issues with running the sequel in HTML5. It sucks because I really like the drum generation system. It may be worth recycling into another desktop game.

One of Iridescent Crown‘s biggest limitations was the 640×480 resolution, which was necessary for HTML5 but awful for the Windows version. It fits the pixel art style, but it’s difficult to appreciate the random level design when the window is so small.

It’s not like I ever had to shrink the window though. The window was small from the start, because 640×480 games were more common when I started this (in 2010). So the game is a bit of a relic in its own way, and begs for a sequel.

I think I’m done with the music generation, sadly. Unless I integrate it into one of the platformers. And I don’t know when I’ll have another platformer underway. If Iridescent Crown gets more feedback, I might feel more confident about the sequel. Either way, I think I’m done with HTML5 versions of my games. It was a nice experiment.

I will probably keep watching how this year unfolds for video games, while I go back to working on music and short stories.

 

Why I Don’t Play New Games

So the new Zelda game is out, as well as Nier: Automata and a ton of other great games. It looks like 2017 is already shaping up to be the best year for gaming since 2004.

I’m not really riding the hype train so much as watching through other’s eyes though, thanks to platforms like twitch and youtube. I have next to no interest in playing these new games, or getting or whatever, when I can just watch other people play the games for me. I don’t really care about the new Switch either (unless I can get my own game on it, of course).

New games aren’t innovative enough to be worth spending my money on. They just seem like higher quality versions of stuff I was playing in the 2000s.

I don’t care about perfect graphics. I care about deep mechanics that allow for more experimentation, and therefore more replayability. The AAA industry, because of its massive time and budget constraints, simply isn’t built for experimentation.

Nowadays you get your standard “open world” game with 30+ hours of side quests. NPC interactions are still very shallow. Too many games are content to crib Minecraft’s crafting system, rather than implement their own unique ideas. Too few have tried to innovate the “gameplay-cutscene-gameplay” problem.

Fandoms allow companies to cash in on the same IP over and over. So they aren’t likely to take a risk to appeal to an “experimental” niche like mine. Why do that, when they can just throw Link into another sandbox game and sell that?

Nier: Automata looks great, but I could also just pop in Kingdom Hearts from 2002. We haven’t progressed that far. The same could be said about the new Zelda vs Wind Waker from 2004. Nintendo and Square Enix don’t need to innovate when they can cash in on their established formulas.

I’ve also noticed a lot of my friends complaining more and more about their massive “backlogs” of games they’ve bought but haven’t played. It makes me wonder if this is how the indiepocalypse will actually unfold. You can finally make your dream game with the right tools – but it doesn’t matter because nobody has time for it.


Algorithm for Angel Wings

Algorithm for Angel Wings

Play it in your browser here (or download it for Windows).

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I decided to make a more user-friendly version of Seraphim Automata, after I finally got it to stop running at 1 frame per second in HTML5. I started this on January 30th, and most of the work was done by the next day.

I went back on February 3rd and added an autoplay feature for the start menu – something I haven’t done since Cosmic Zephyr in 2013. The next day I fixed glitches in the menu, and added a save function for high scores and combos. I also made some new touchscreen buttons in Photoshop. Then I released the game for feedback.

I went back the next day and fixed a few bugs that were pointed out to me. Specifically, you could break the GUI by racking up a massive combo. (I’m still surprised someone got a 44 hit combo on the first day of its release. My own record is 19.)

The very last thing I added was the glove sprite for the mouse, which gives it one little human element.

The touchscreen controls allow this to be played on a mobile device, as well as in a desktop browser. Which is nice. The only reason I haven’t uploaded an Android version is because the export module is currently broken in GMS. I’m hoping this will be fixed in GMS2.

You can select from 12 scales, 12 keys, 10 time signatures, and 13 different instruments. The time signatures are the real key to getting different patterns – it’s automatically set to 12/8 while the scale, key and instrument are randomly chosen. 10/8, 7/8 and 4/4 produce my favorite patterns. 4/4 in particular can create very jovial rhythmic patterns.

 

Flashbacks, From 2010 to Now

When designing a game (or any project, really), you have to decide early on who you are making this for. Are you making it for yourself or for other people? That decision between “passion project” vs “product” will lead you down two very different roads.

I would say my games were passion projects until about 2010. That includes my two oldest surviving games, A Starspangled Zephyr and Deadman’s Dark Scenery Court. I felt no pressure making my early games since I was mostly doing it for myself.

When my cocaine addict of a father was finally removed from the picture in November 2010, mom and I shifted pretty quickly to survival mode. I found myself selling most of my belongings to keep us from going broke. One major reason I abandoned songwriting is because I had to sell almost all my musical instruments. That miserable era lasted for about 19 months.

By the time we lost our home in March 2012, I had shifted to a more workaholic attitude about game design. I wanted to make a polished product I could sell and hopefully get out of poverty. That never really worked, but it definitely affected how I approached the games I made in that era, Cosmic Zephyr and Eden’s Prison.

One major event was being raided by the police in December 2013. Which happened to be four weeks into development on Eden’s Prison. The fall out from that led to a period of inactivity through 2014 and 2015. Another factor was injuring my right arm in August 2014 – it’s still recovering and I’ve only recently begun feeling “normal” again.

I finally returned to game development after leaving a toxic group of old programmers in early 2016. There is no coincidence that I had the best year of my life after leaving them (2016, that is). The new games – Seraphim Automata, Zephyr 3, Iridescent Crown – still suffer a bit from the “product” mentality, but I’m slowly moving back to making strictly passion projects for myself.

My ongoing experiments with music generation are one indication of this. Now that Algorithm for Angel Wings fleshes out the Seraphim engine into something very easily accessible, I feel comfortable moving on from those experiments.

Zephyr 3 also tries to atone for its previous games by offering the source code for free.

It feels bittersweet to release Iridescent Crown over 6 years after I started it (just look at the 640×480 resolution if you need proof of how old it is). The mainstream roguelike genre (or ‘roguelite’ if you prefer) completely blew up and died in that timeframe. Now similar games like Terraria and Spelunky are gathering dust, and there aren’t as many fans around looking for another roguelike or exploration based platformer.

The resulting game is both old and young at the same time – with the former compromising the latter. I’m thinking about revisiting it and releasing a “deluxe” version with a bigger window and other features that the HTML5 version couldn’t handle.

 

Beginning of the End

I’ve boiled my new ideas down to two main projects, plus an extra passion project.

  1. The first idea is of course a horror game. I haven’t made once since 2010, back when I was a very different person. This one will be a 2d platformer, but beyond that I haven’t decided on much. There are multiple concepts and stories I keep bouncing around for this one. I surround myself with horror influences so this idea never really leaves me, it’s just a matter of execution.
  2. The second idea is a sequel to Iridescent Crown, with better graphics and more RPG elements, and hopefully a better name. I would actually argue that in 2017, procedural generation is going out of style for now. Especially after the debacle over No Man’s Sky. So while I want to release a more polished sequel, I’m not sure if it’s really the best time to be working on something like that.
    I could of course scrap the procedural generation and go with … level design. The argument for procedural generation increasing replayability goes out the window when you use it so much that nothing sticks. That’s one problem with Iridescent Crown in its current form. Since all 16 levels are using the same “room”, none of them can be saved and revisited later.
    The other problem is that there is no reason to revisit levels right now. So it needs more collectibles, an EXP system, and perhaps other things.
  3. The last idea is a Sonic fangame, which would be a complete passion project. But it would be a lot more fun to make than my original games, simply because it’s something I always wanted to do. I am looking forward to seeing how Sonic Mania turns out before diving too deep into this one, as I wouldn’t want it to be too similar.

Trailers for My New Games!

Trailers

I made a few trailers for my newest projects! First, here’s some gameplay footage of Iridescent Crown. I’m waiting until the next update before I record another trailer (though I don’t have much left to change/add).

 

Here’s some footage of Seraphim Automata generating ambient piano music. My computer unfortunately slows down too much when the drums kick in. But the game is generally more pleasant to the ear without drums (as much as I like the random drum code), which is something I’m keeping in mind for the sequel.

Since this game covers jazz music, the sequel will cover a different genre – ambient or perhaps post-rock.

 

This video is shorter, but is also less chaotic and contains a repeating melody.

 

Here’s a video of Celody Life generating some melodies. Again, my computer lags if too much is playing while recording, so the clips are pretty short. I did catch two gliders in this video though.  🙂 It’s cool to see how they can play complex melodies on their own.

 

I also created a trailer for my old horror game, Deadman’s Dark Scenery Court. OBS didn’t completely cooperate with me on this one but I managed to fix it in Videopad.  😛

 

Updates

Planning to update Iridescent Crown sometime next month. I’ve also been working on music, which I hope to share soon.  🙂


Iridescent Crown and Zephyr 3 are officially complete!

Iridescent Crown

Play it here!

I uploaded a new HTML5 version of Iridescent Crown with a few important bug fixes. The soundtrack has been added, and the Windows version is now available to purchase.  🙂

The release has been somewhat marred by ISP problems, but at least I had the game up in time for Christmas (and Diablo’s 20th anniversary!). One of the bugs screwed up the ending sequence, which, along with missing the soundtrack, made me feel less than comfortable sharing the game around. But now everything’s cool.

I’m really glad to have this game out of my way. I started it way back in 2010, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted it to turn out until recently. A lot of things just happened to come together at the end – like the final boss and ending sequence, which I’d been turning ideas over for years, but ultimately only needed a few hours to throw something together.

Finding the right graphics+sfx resources to fill in certain roles was also essential in speeding up the creation process. I don’t feel too bad about using cc0 enemy sprites in my game, because the alternative would be a game that’s still unfinished.  😛

I’ll follow up with a more complete dev blog when I have some time. Right now I’m working on trailers for the game. Stay tuned.  🙂

 

Zephyr 3 bug

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As I suspected, there was only one line glitching up this game and keeping it from running in HTML5. As soon as I dropped “direction_to_object” and changed it to “point_direction” – essentially the same function with a different approach – the damn thing loaded up fine in HTML5. It even lags less than I expected. You can play it in your browser here.

Game Maker Studio is weird sometimes. Only 173 lines of code in this game, and it took just one to break everything. To contrast, Iridescent Crown’s engine is +6 years old, bloated as fuck yet somehow works fine in HTML5.

The source code is available for anyone who wants to learn how to make this type of game.

Zephyr 3 basically marks the end of the Zephyr series. But not the engine itself – I plan to use it again in the future.  🙂

 

Planning for Steam Greenlight

I should be getting better internet in mid-February. So for now, I’m going to focus on recording gameplay footage of my projects. Then I will upload the videos and see where to go from there. I’ve recently managed to get OBS working with my computer – though not with the best quality.

Every article about “indie game marketing” stresses the importance of Twitter, but I don’t think Twitter is as helpful as it seems when it comes to getting your game out there. I get a good amount of likes and retweets whenever I post screenshots or links, but honestly they don’t translate to people clicking on my game often. So “marketing my game” usually feels like wasted time that could be better spent on development. It does help to chronologue my development, but that’s about it.

Gamers make ~93% of their purchases on Steam. So… I probably need to get a game on Steam. People don’t buy games often enough on itch.io.

I’m most proud of Seraphim Automata, but it may be too weird / experimental for Steam. I’m also not sure what audience it appeals to in its current state. What “genre” is it, for instance? It lacks a certain long-term replayability that could be solved with more musical variations (read: a sequel). I may revisit it some time later and add more traditional gameplay features.

I’m also proud of Iridescent Crown, but wary because I haven’t gotten much feedback. And it’s definitely not as unique as SA. It’s really hard to strike a balance between innovative and traditional in game design. Any ideas people give me for IC will probably be saved for a sequel as well, since I’m happy with it in its current state.

While I do have more “work” ahead as far as marketing and making trailers, for once I can finally say that I have nothing left to work on in the field of game design. My existing projects are 100% complete. Which means I can let myself take a break.

… I hope.

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Iridescent Crown is out! Looking for Pixel Artists

Iridescent Crown

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You can play it in your browser here. Let me know what you think in the comments. I’m still working on adding updates – namely touchscreen controls. The random generation for levels and weapons is inspired by Diablo.

My internet’s been broken the past few weeks, which is why I haven’t uploaded a version with music. Hopefully that will change soon.  🙂

 

New Stories

I added two new horror stories! AMETHYST 2.0 “Safe Version” was a strange idea I’ve had for a while. The premise itself read interestingly, but I could never figure out how to approach it from any of the main character’s perspectives. So I ultimately just took the original premise, edited it a bit and presented it as classified information from some secret agency.

I repeated this formula to some extent with AMETHYST 3.0 “Leon’s Story”. It’s a concept that’s been bothering me for a while, regarding how to express it. The connecting theme in the AMETHYST series so far seems to be ouija boards and alternate identities. I know this version doesn’t make a lot of sense and probably reads like a David Lynch script. But I may revisit the idea later.

“Ouroboros” is my shortest story so far, at only 667 words. It was originally the premise for a video game – the text would have been given in bits as you progressed.

I also added a new angel story called “The Rebirth of Raphael”, which I wrote back in May. I was planning to write more stories in this world and it just hasn’t happened yet.

I’m currently working on AMETHYST 1.0 “Corrupt Version” and a few secret stories, so look forward to those!

 

Year End Summary

2016 has been a pretty good year for me. I released three games this year. I released my first game that runs in a browser. I released my first game with “infinite replayability”. I finally finished a platformer I started +6 years ago.

I tackled procedural music generation for the first time in Seraphim Automata. I made a small music tool that lets you generate music with Conway’s Game of Life. I released a music tool that lets you explore microtonality in your browser.

I also translated one of my games into 7 languages.

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I discovered this earlier this year, on a Chinese website that pirates my game. The fact that my game has been pirated at all still intrigues and amuses me a bit. I always wanted to see that game in kanji, so it’s ironic but fitting.

I’ve done everything I’ve wanted with game design so far, so I feel comfortable taking a long break. I’m looking forward to GMS 2 coming out. I have no concrete plans for any new projects unless I collaborate with a visual artist.

I’m hoping when I return to game development, I’ll be working with a radically different artistic style than these games. It doesn’t have to be an “art game”, but I would like to make something more avant-garde. Or at least more modern.

On the other hand, I’ve fallen pretty far behind with music. I’ve barely written anything since last year. So that will be my main focus for 2017.  🙂

 

Looking for Pixel Artists

If you want to collaborate on a future project, feel free to contact me. If you’re a pixel artist or a game developer that uses Game Maker Studio, I would love to work with you!

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Getting Out of Dev Hell, Assets and Horror Games

2D Platformer Dev Blog, or Reflections in the Multimirror

To call this game old may be an understatement at this point. I recall starting this project sometime in 2010. I released an early version of the game for a Halloween competition back in 2012, then called “Hillel”, which didn’t look too different from the version I’m still working on now. The procedural generation of the levels honestly wasn’t that different either.

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Here is a screenshot from when I uploaded it to gamejolt in June 2014 as “Multimirror”, which shows how little it’s changed.

Even as far back as 2012 I was anxious to release the game, but it needed better graphics and after I lost my home that year, I wasn’t in much of a position to focus on my pixel art skills. I stopped working on the game and shifted my focus to Cosmic Zephyr, which seemed more suited to my skills, as well as a better vehicle for my music.

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Here is a version of the game with a color shifting effect that I ended up taking out. It was too awkward to use while playing.

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Here is the new version of the game. I gave up on making my own enemy sprites and simply found some free assets on the internet. I know this means you could potentially see these sprites in other video games, but I don’t care. My goal right now is simply release a working version of the game. I can always go back and improve on it later.

Since the success of Spelunky, the roguelike platformer genre has become so popular that it’s almost annoying – probably because few games have added much to the genre. Meanwhile, infinite procedurally generated worlds have gone from being an ideal to being a fad.

I’ve become increasingly conscious that if I finish this game, it will need something to set it itself apart from similar 2d platformers. But at the same time, I know if I worry too much I will end up paralyzing my creative process.

I no longer care about my 2D platformer game being called a clone by people too young to remember the age before 3D games dominated everything. I’ve learned through experience that game design communities are really toxic places, and I’ve had to cut ties with a lot of communities I grew up with because of the changing atmosphere.

 

Getting Out of Dev Hell

People can preach about video games being an artform all they want – that doesn’t matter when most game developers are only in it for the money. A lot of people are passionate about game design, yeah, sure. But for most people, passion is not enough to get them through crunch mode or development hell.

Real art does not go through crunch mode. A comparison between the quality of pop and art music is a good example of this. It’s not that art music is always great, it’s that it doesn’t have the soul sucked out of it like most pop music does.

Video games are still in their pop music phase, with most innovative artistic experiences either sitting on the sidelines in obscurity, or being hyped beyond human expectations like Braid or Journey.

I hope to take a long break from game design after I finish this project. I’m having health issues that directly interfere with spending too much time on the computer. My back started giving me problems when I was adding translations to Cosmic Zephyr back in March. My eyes have also gotten increasingly sensitive to light.

Much of this goes back to the malnutrition that comes with being chronically ill with Crohn’s disease. One of the major reasons I’ve continued designing games past the point of exhaustion is that a successful one would help pay for food and medication.

November 1st marks six years since my father was hauled away by police for being a cokehead. When he divorced my mom, the judge ruled that he owed us no alimony because mom and I smoked weed. We lost our home in March 2012 and I’ve been in fight mode ever since. I’m just now getting to where I don’t worry about money every day of my life.

I like to think if things had turned out differently (read: if my father hadn’t fucked everything up in 2010), I would have hired artists to help me finish games as a team. You have to have money in order to make money in this world. Unfortunately I’ve seen the dark side of how independent game studios can turn out, and I’ve fallen out of love that with that idea.

A lot has changed in 6 years.

I’m hoping to finish this game by Christmas. We’ll see how that goes.

 

Video Game Assets

For me, 2016 has been the year of the procedurally generated video game asset. Why spend time manually drawing tiles or making sfx for a game when you can have a program generate them for you?

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These are the bricks I decided to use in my platformer – procedurally generated by SpiderDave.

Traditionally, there was always a tough prejudice against using other people’s assets in your own indie game. I think people have since become more realistic in regards to the concept of the lone developer that is equally skilled in programming, art, and music.

Now with this new generation of indie game developers using engines like Unity or Unreal, and especially the introduction of the Unity and Game Maker asset stores, assets are not only acceptable but also a lucrative way for designers to make money. Arguably more so than actually making a game. Which only leaves me to wonder what the future of game design will look like.

From a developer’s standpoint, it’s very tempting to “go meta” and create tools for game design rather than games themselves. There are too many games, yet not enough tools to help create them.

And yet if enough of these tools are created, we could reach a point where very complex, detailed game concepts could be created by people with little to no knowledge of programming, art, or music. Which would lead to even more market saturation, and even more difficulty in finding good quality games.

Lowering the bar of entry for game design is always a good thing, but it has its downsides. I think what this all leads back to is increasing importance for game reviewers that are willing to sift through the dirt in order to find diamonds.

Most people are only aware of the limited amount of games that are being hyped at any given time, because major game journalists only cover the few AAA and indie games that everyone else is discussing. It’s an odd Catch-22, but few people are willing to go out of that collective safe zone. Jim Sterling’s Greenlight Good Stuff videos are one refreshing example of a game reviewer trying to help games that are unjustly obscure.

 

Horror Games

I was originally planning to make a horror game this October for the Pixel Horror Jam, but to my disappointment I found most of the participants use RPG Maker. I don’t mind RPG Maker, but the competition dynamic really changes when it’s more story oriented. I personally don’t want to take part in any game jam where the story is a significant factor to winning.

Horror games themselves have become a kind of joke that’s hard for me to take seriously, which is sad. I used to have great experiences with the many Japanese horror games that made their way onto PS2 – Silent Hill, Fatal Frame, Siren, Clock Tower 3, etc. But now when I go back to play them I only notice the clunky controls, stiff animations, and lackluster gameplay.

Good horror doesn’t really come from story or gameplay. It comes from the “atmosphere”, which is a nebulous term for how a game makes you feel. What good horror games lack in gameplay, they have to make up for by being evocative in nature. They have to evoke strong feelings of fear, paranoia, confusion and anxiety. Which… isn’t really hard.

And I guess that’s why I feel like horror games have stagnated – it doesn’t demand the same level of quality as other genres. You can still get away with mediocre gameplay that would be unacceptable in other genres, as long as your game has atmosphere. Because it’s easy to scare people. So horror games have essentially become the low-hanging fruit of game design.

It should also be said in terms of replayability, the initial shock of a game’s atmosphere wears off after a while. Which is why now I play Silent Hill with almost no feeling of immersion. The experience is never as good as the first time.

I think story-driven games in general are in a weird place right now, with the growing popularity of short form video games. Games with longer stories demand too much patience these days, unless they’re very engaging or innovative. Successful titles seem to be relegated to the AAA industry and niche circles like the RPG Maker scene.

I had great experiences with To the Moon and Her Story this year, but those are both examples that lack traditional gameplay. Meanwhile there are games like Outland and Valdis Story: Abyssal City that have great gameplay, but I couldn’t care less about the stories. The characters and plot leave no memorable impression on me, and I probably won’t play them through to the end.

It points back to the fundamental disconnect between story and gameplay, and how some games are trying to bridge the gap while others remain traditional.

 

TL;DR

Once the platformer game is finished, I’m probably going to take a long break from game development to explore other forms of artistic expression. The format of a “video game” feels too creatively limiting for where I’m at in life. I’m sure the inspiration for new games will come back to me eventually, but right now I want to focus more on music and songwriting.

Congratulations to Bob Dylan for winning the Nobel literature prize, and thanks to him for reminding me the most important element of good music – the lyrics.

I’m working on a list of best albums released in 2016, as well as a list of worst albums. Both articles have been a lot of fun to write so far. So look forward to those!  🙂

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Steam Reviews #3, NanoTone Notes

I watched the finals for women’s basketball in the Rio Olympics. The France vs. Serbia match for bronze was really amazing, and I was glad to see Serbia winning their first medal for women’s basketball. They certainly seemed happy about it. 🙂

 

NanoTone Synth (Dev Blog)

I wrote this dev blog for my music making tool, NanoTone Synth. I apologize if the following is nonsensically technical.

I began developing NanoTone Synth on July 12th. Most of the math centers around calculating the “nth root of x”, x being 2 for an octave (2:1) and n being the temperament. So I drew the inner circle around 12-TET, and I drew the outer circle around 53-TET. Then I added the harmony lines for 3 and 5 limit ratios, which are basically base 2 logarithms of the ratios wrapped around the 360 degrees of a circle.

The next day I added 7, 11 and 13 limit ratios. Then I took a break. I picked it back up on July 23rd, and added a system to show how perfect the fourths and fifths are in any given temperament. Over the next few days I added more ratios to this “approximator” system, and tested the software out in HTML5. I started adding menus for the harmonics on July 29th.

Then I took another break – this time to make the proof of concept Celody Life. I added more ratios and menus to NanoTone over the next few days, then tested it on my Android tablet and cellphone on August 10th. The next day I added the comparisons menu, found an icon, and released the music making tool on itch.io, just under a month after starting the project.

NanoToneSynth

A week later I figured out how to properly upload the HTML5 version onto itch.io. Thanks to Leaf for helping me out with that. 🙂

 

Game Reviews

outland61

While Outland doesn’t add much to the 2D platformer genre, it does what it sets out to do very well. It has some very typical platforming elements like wall jumping, avoiding spike pits, etc. The character and enemy animations are very smooth, and the environments are gorgeous. Boss encounters are mammoth. The ability to switch between light and dark forms plays a big role, and reminds me of Jak 3.

The game has a very mysterious, tribal atmosphere. The soundtrack is often just the sounds of nature, sometimes accompanied with light percussion. The story is given to you in brief bits of text which you can choose to read or skip. Unlike many newer games, the gameplay never takes a backseat to storytelling here, which I find refreshing. I definitely recommend checking it out if you’re a fan of platformers.

dust

Dust: An Elysian Tail is well known for being a polished game made by one person, so of course I had to try it out. The visuals are extremely vibrant and colorful, almost like a Disney film. Lots of little touches, like animated butterflies, fireflies, swaying trees and bushes, help add to this feeling of being in a very “alive” world. Not enough games bother with these kinds of little extra details.

The main character’s attacks are also very well animated. The hack and slash game play more often feels like mindless button-mashing though, which is unfortunate. The game looks and feels very professional, but it’s also very conventional.

One element this game could use is more showing and less telling. Whenever I finally seem to be getting into the gameplay, I’m interrupted by the three main characters speaking 20 lines about how I just leveled up, or there’s something up ahead. Or just unnecessary “character development”. There’s simply way too much dialogue. I loathe the voice acting, and there’s no way to disable it in the options menu. I’m sure I’ve skipped important information just to avoid the voice acting.

Even worse, the cutscenes are unskippable, and can drag on for a while. I recommend this game only if you like well-animated indie platformers, and/or if you like anime-style games with anthropomorphism.

vvvvvv logo official

VVVVVV was looking and feeling really promising – up until I got caught in an escort mission and had to restart the whole game. One feature VVVVVV could really benefit from is multiple save slots. The tightly packed, spike-filled rooms are typical hardcore platforming. The gravity switching feature is neat, but doesn’t really change the gameplay that much from similar games.

The game is fun when you’re just exploring in the open areas. The music is also really nice. I definitely prefer You Have to Win the Game, which is inspired by VVVVVV and also is free. I wouldn’t recommend VVVVVV unless you’re just insanely good at 2d platformers.

vdh

Vertical Drop Heroes HD is yet another game that seeks to be the next big roguelike platformer, without offering anything new to the genre. The random level design is obviously inspired by Spelunky. The graphics are pretty bad, even by indie game standards. The dark shading in the corners is annoying and unnecessary. I really hoped this would be better, but like a lot of games, it seems to be just cashing in on the popularity of the genre.

wave2

Waveform is an interesting side scroller game, and it’s nice, but the controls are just too damn weird. You don’t control your ship directly, instead you control the path it takes, shrinking and widening the sine wave to collect items and avoid obstacles. It has one of the toughest learning curves of any side-scroller I’ve ever played.

The gameplay is unconventional, but it’s nice if you can figure out the controls. The bosses are awful though – constant screen shaking. So I don’t recommend it.

hqdefault2

Her Story is an inspiring interactive fiction about a murder mystery. You use keywords to search through a series of interviews between the police and the wife of the murder victim. The more you dig into the details, the more this seemingly straightforward story turns complicated.

The “gameplay” essentially consists of you searching through a collection of short video clips, jumping from keyword to keyword. It’s definitely influenced by 90s point-and-click games, so it’s not for everyone. But personally I really love the interactive element of searching through archives, and the nonlinear way the story unfolds. By putting you in the role of the detective, the mechanics drive you to think of the words and phrases in the wife’s story very carefully. Any little detail could potentially be a clue in a larger mystery.

There is no real “ending” to the game either. You’re finished when you’ve drawn your own conclusions. The game is unconventional, but very refreshing and different. The only real downside is that it feels too short – I’ve already seen over 75% of the video clips in about 2 hours. But in its defense, I don’t think this unique style of gameplay would be suited for larger stories.

In terms of channeling a traditional detective story into a game, I’ve experienced nothing better than Her Story. I highly recommend it.

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