Monday, December 20, 2010

Book 1, Finally Done


It took a lot of stopping and starting, but my first book of tutorials, Microsoft XNA Game Studio 3.0: Learn Programming Now!, is finally finished! I looked back and saw that it took me 6 months to complete, which is pretty gross. The last six months have been pretty strenuous so I'm not beating myself up too much about it, but I'm definitely farther behind than I thought I'd be. It was definitely a long ride with this book. There were times that keeping all of the lessons on objects, methods, classes, structures, variables, etc seemed impossible. Hell, I'd be a liar if I said that I had completely understood all of it, but I think I learned a lot.

Sadly, I still don't feel like I have enough knowledge of XNA to create the game I want to make, but I'm pressing on. While the book was a wonderful teaching tool, it didn't teach me anything about animated sprites or creating a "platformer", which are 2 things that will be vital to my game.

From this point I'm going to move forward with Learning XNA 3.0 by Aaron Reed. While the previous book focused a lot on C#, which I definitely needed, it really only showed how to apply C# to some very simple functions. I'm hoping Aaron Reed's book will help me apply that knowledge to game creation in XNA. While part of the book is dedicated to 3D games (which I will not be using), the first 160 pages are dedicated to 2D topics such as sprite animation and artificial intelligence.

Also, a while back I picked up James Silva and John Sedlak's book "Building XNA 2.0 Games". While a good portion of it is used to explain how to make your own level editor and skeletal animation system, the book supposedly shows the process in creating The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai. I'm hoping this will fill in some of the holes in what I've learned.

All in all, I'm hoping that 2011 is a big year for my game. If I have one New Years resolution, it will be to better manage my time so that I can work on my different projects and not let so much fall between the cracks. Hope to update again soon.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Quick Update

First off, every once in a while I will see something so brilliant, that I am consumed with jealousy for hours. This set of re-envisioned Star Wars posters by Olly Moss is a prime example of that. Simply amazing.

In other news, I'm ready to start programming again, but my graphics card's fan is buzzing like crazy. Seeing as there are no compatible fans online, I am sort of at a loss as to what I should do. Would hate to spend the money and take it in, but that might have to happen. A real bummer.

Either way, I'm going to try and take a few hours in the morning and not out the last couple of chapters in my first XNA book so I can move onto the one I just got in the mail.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Quick Picture

Going to an art function on Tuesday night and wanted to practice drawing with my Faber-Castell pen. Decided to practice drawing the player's character and, of course, converted it into a sprite. Really feel like his design is starting to click with me.

Oops. Video Repost



Just realized that I had my privacy setting on for the video that I posted a few days ago. I suck.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Further Education

So I got blind sided by some insane computer problem that doesn't let my computer receive the internet through my router. Pretty frustrating but I'm hoping to have it fixed soon.

In other news, I've decided that I'm going to power to the end of my current book and start on the next one. My book of choice is: Learning XNA 3.0: XNA 3.0 Game Development for the PC, Xbox 360, and Zune . I read up on a lot of the books through Amazon, and thought this one might be the best at helping me apply the C# stuff I learned in my current book. Keeping my fingers crossed that it all works out...and that I can get this damn computer fixed.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hand Drawn Animation

I recently came across a beautiful short film by Ryan Woodward. The website for the film has a short "Making Of" documentary that shows his collaboration with a dance choreographer for its creation. It really is a stunning piece of work and makes me excited to animate something that has a little more change in speed and easing in it, rather than the cycle I've done so far.

Thought of You from Ryan Woodward on Vimeo.

Refresher

I was really struggling to remember some of the things I'd learned in my XNA book so I decided to sit down and refresh myself. Reading through the chapters really jogged my memory and I feel confident that I can get back into programming in the next few days. I looked and I'm actually only one and a half chapters from finishing. Looking at the book as a whole, I realized that it is really geared towards helping you with learning C#. Seeing how I had no prior knowledge of C#, this has helped tremendously.

At this point, my game making experience has been limited to "Break Out" clones offered by the book. So I've decided that I will go through the creator's club's video tutorials or perhaps pick up another book aimed specifically at the XNA framework to better prepare me. Right now I'm leaning towards Learning XNA 3.0: XNA 3.0 Game Development for the PC, Xbox 360, and Zune.

I also tinkered with Torque X and was running into a multitude of problems. I'm probably going to have to run through that book again too, because the problems I was having were just bizarre to have not been my fault. I also don't remember if I had any problems like that when I was running through that book the first time.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Player Run Cycle - Finished



I seemed to have messed up my foot (hope its not broken) and all of this time sitting has inspired me to finish the run cycle. Right now I'm trying to get Torque to work so I can see him running across a stage. I've attached my sprite progression.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Player Run Cycle



So I was working on a job and had to wait for a video to render...for 19 hours. So I decided to stop putting off some art for the game and worked on this. Its just a first pass, but its also the first run cycle I've ever done. All in all, I'm pretty happy with it. I need to fix quite a few things, but I'm sure most of that will come through in the clean up stage.

On the XNA front, I'm starting to get a little anxious to start working on the game. The frustration in not having all the coding answers is starting to get to me. I'm at the point where I want to see my character run across the screen. I'm not exactly discouraged, but I need a little pick me up to keep going. I think I'm just having a hard time finding the answers I want.

At this point, I'd just like to have some video tutorials or something so I can see these things working. Plus, Torque X is not as intuitive as I'd like, but I may have jumped in too quickly on it. I'll go back and go through the tutorials and hopefully that will help with some of the problems I'm having.

Hoping to have some results soon, but will probably have to continue learning the frame work before I can get any where.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Oh How Time Flies

It has definitely been too long since the last time I've posted. Since my last entry, I have started up a side business (still in the development stages) that has taken up the largest percentage of my free time. The new business is more "After Effects" related, so I had to shut off the part of my brain that was thinking about the game constantly.

It was just recently that I realized that, perhaps I'm not as bogged down as I think and maybe I don't have to choose one over the other. I'm starting to realize that I'm just really bad at managing my time and I need to make a change. So, hopefully, I can start doing both and see how long before I eventually break.

Another thing worth mentioning to those that read this (if there are any): I recently became obsessed/fascinated with a particular web series on Youtube. The series is called "Making a Great Retro Game" by the guys at Sucker Free Games. I stumbled upon it when I was searching for Torque X tutorials and was instantly hooked. Its not in any way a series of video tutorials, but more of a "fly on the wall" situation as you watch a small group of friends creating a game.
Beginning with their first game, Dungeons, I was blown away to see the strides they made and their problem solving skills when it came to the coding. I'm still early in my studies, but I found it interesting to hear the programmer explain his thinking behind his design choices and watch them be implemented in the game. If there was one thing that bummed me out, it was seeing the moments when they were stumped by something in the coding or in Torque X itself. These guys clearly know more than I do and its intimidating to think of all the unforeseen bugs that are sure to arrive.

All in all, I have to say I'm extremely jealous of what they have accomplished so far and that they were able to put together a small group of friends around a singular vision. I really wish that I had a programmer that could just answer my questions and help execute my ideas, but that's probably the best reason to start networking. Either way, can't wait to see the finished product.

I've attached a couple of videos to show the game in its early stages and another further in development. Pretty impressive.



Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ugh, Away Too Long

I had no intentions of taking as long a break as I had, but here I look and its been about 2 weeks since my last post. Disgraceful. I've really been meaning to jump back into my learning, but my motivation has been waning a bit. This usually happens to me in waves, but I feel myself bouncing back.

Since my last post, I tried to convert the News Anchor character into a sprite form, but didn't love the results. I think I need to find some more reference for his clothes so that the colors don't seem so out of place. If photoshop's natural conversion doesn't work, I may try to draw it in pixel form from the get go.

I'm definitely going to try and get back to work on the game this weekend. In the meantime, I saw that Konami is releasing "Hard Corps: Uprising" on XBL and PSN and it got me back in the mood to make a good sprite based, 2D game.


Also, I've never played "Castlevania: Symphony of the Night", but watching GameTrailer's retrospective on the entire Castlevania series really instilled me with a great appreciation of the artistry in that game. Definitely need to check it out.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

News Anchor, Spritesheets, and Animation


Ugh, what a crazy week. Luckily, I was able to sit down and design a character that I had envisioned early on in brain storming. I wanted to have a news anchor that pops up in a window in the corner of the screen and mentions new developments. He'll probably have a guest in the studio with him, but I'll reveal them later. During the drawing of the character, I noticed I was having a pretty hard time nailing down the look for him. I guess I never really gave "character design" a fair shake and wasn't as good at it as I would have liked. I found that by looking through photos of actors that I would have play them in a movie, I was able to find a jumping off point and that would carry me through.


Also, I'd like to treat the News Report Window as an homage to the host in Smash TV. I remember really liking the charm and character in that. Its probably going to necessitate a lot of scripting in order to make the window pop up when certain events are taking place. I'll probably animate it like I would in Flash/Toon Boom - recycling mouth shapes and certain body movements to add life to the dialogue. This will keep file sizes smaller and help me achieve that "Lucasarts Cut Scene" look that I so enjoy.


This brought me to my newest problem, how to get XNA to sequence all of those frames of animation for display. Admittedly, I'm still a little fuzzy on how animated sprites are implemented, but I think I figured out how I can transfer Flash or Toonboom's time line into XNA. Of course it won't be a pretty/programming way, but it might be less intimidating than normal. Once I've tested it, I'll probably put a tutorial up so that animators can apply some of the things they already know.

Other than that, I've been brainstorming how to make the score in a game important again. It will make more sense when I've revealed the exact play style, but for now I'll just tease.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Metal Frogs and Post Mortems


First off, the metal frog will not be in the game (no matter how much I love him). Second, he did give me an idea for an interesting mini game to play between levels. Luckily, I think it should be pretty easy to implement once I get the engine up and running.

On an unrelated note, I really like Gamasutra. If you want a crazy specific rundown of the games industry, that is definitely the site you should be reading. It really goes deep on an industry level...having said that, I wish I was smart enough to read it all the time. But when my comprehension level does bob over a fifth grade level, I check out their postmortems. Postmortems are basically a chance for a developer to look back at a game's creation, release, and success (or lack there of). They write their own synopsis of what worked and what didn't and hopefully it imparts some knowledge on to other developers.

I've read a few, but I have to say that I was most impressed with the one by Dan Brainerd, Leo Jaitley, and Ichiro Lambe. The guys at Dejobaan Games crafted a compelling and fun read as they recount their process of creating "Aaaaa! -- A Reckless Disregard for Gravity". I was most interested in the importance of being able to step back from your project to get a better perspective on its quality, as well as taking better advantage of focus testing. Being the sole creator of my game, I often wonder if I've become so close to my idea that I can't objectively look at my own ideas.

It really is a great read, especially for indie developers, and is worth checking out: article

For more developer postmortems, check out Game Developer Magazine.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

8BITS

I'm seeing this posted everywhere, but if you still haven't seen it, here you go. Pretty amazing.

8BITS_hd720 from 8BCREW on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Learn the Faces

Giant Bomb has a nice video up showing all of the PAX 10 entries from this year's show. Interesting to see the people behind the newest wave of indie games. Some of them seam more uncomfortable being interviewed than others, but I'm sure its an awkward situation. Either way, a lot of good games and interesting concepts to be inspired by.



Here is a listing of all of the entries along with their information and websites: PAX 10 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Applying What I Know

Read an interesting article over at the Develop-online.net website (article) comparing indie developers with indie film-makers. I think the most relevant comparison is the creativity that comes from direct limitations placed on the creator. Not being able to film the big shoot out at the jewel heist in Reservoir Dogs didn't hurt its impact on the story, and that use of implying the incident seems like an interesting alternative to the filming. Another great example is in "Let The Right One In", but that movie isn't nearly as old so I don't want to spoil it. Needless to say, its another case of what you don't see is scarier than what you do.

I guess the real reason I bring this up is because, since I've started working with After Effects, I've learned that it isn't as important to literally pull off a feat as long as it looks like that's what you're doing. To be clearer, I was thinking about some of the particle effects, force fields, and general effects I want to put into the game, and started to consider what that would take to code. I started to plot out how I might be able to pull these off, and my mind drifted to how easy it would be in After Effects. It dawned on me that I could simply animate these elements in After Effects and import them into the game. I've made the design choice to keep my assets at a low resolution, so the memory use shouldn't be too taxing. I guess its my way of trying to apply what I know to what I'm trying to do. Hopefully it will lead to interesting results.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chapter 13 Finished!

Ugh...I took a beating on this one. Out of all the chapters (so far), this was the most "throw him in the water and he'll learn to swim". There was a lot of background code that just wasn't even alluded to in the text that I had to go in and enter. A lot of it I figured out myself, but a few things (like him adjusting method titles without telling you to) had me searching through the example files on the web site to find out what I had done wrong. A real pain, but it left me with a bit of confidence in that I can see how the program is working and know where to look for these errors.

Sadly, there were a couple things I couldn't get working that I just had to power through. For instance, this chapter dealt with "game states" which is pretty much jumping from title screen to game play and back. Very interesting stuff, but I couldn't get the "game play" background to update to the new one once the game started. Very frustrating, but probably something silly that I just missed. If it remains a problem in the future, I'll revisit the chapter.

Also, if you get the chance, GameTrailers.com is showing an extremely interesting round table discussion with Ed Boon (Mortal Kombat), Warren Spector (Epic Mickey, Deus X), and Jeremiah Slaczka (Scribblenauts). Week 2's discussion focuses mainly on game design fundamentals and the importance of keeping your failures early in development. I really enjoy watching people in the industry "talk shop" and feel like its a part of games reporting that is missing with most of their discussions used to promote their newest projects.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Finished Design and First Flight Sprite


I finally decided to forgo any type of logo on the chest for a jewel/medallion/crystal that will be referenced in the story. I also thought of a new play mechanic that could be explained through use of it's power.

I also sat down this morning and decided to ink, color, and animate the first flight position in Toonboom and with my Cintiq. I'm still not finished, but I'm pretty close. At first, I tried a more haphazard approach that was inspired by the whole "flag in a windstorm" look of the cape in Superman Returns. In the movie, that thing was kicking all over the place and you got a real sense of speed with it. Sadly, that looked like crap. So I decided to go to a more fluid, "cartoony" look which seemed to work out better. I still need to adjust the part of the cape that curls in, but its almost there. Also, each flight position has two stages: a normal speed and a faster speed that is achieved by flying longer. The faster speed will be signified by the player pushing his fist forward. I know its more to animate, but I feel like the effect will be worth it.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Chapter 12 Done! and More Sketches


Well, chapter 12 is all finished. I think the most useful thing I took away from it was the creation of "structures", which is basically a way to set up a list of variables that you know you are going to have to enter for a number of the same type of thing. For instance, if I know I have to reference a sprite's texture, location, size, color, etc for every sprite in my game, I can set up a structure that will ask me for those specific things every time. This way, I just have to fill in the answers, rather than write the code for every one. Pretty handy.

At this point, I only have 4 chapters left and am really starting to get the itch to start working directly on the game. I know I'm not anywhere near a full fledged programmer, but the thought of seeing my character start to move around a screen is getting pretty enticing.

I've also been thinking a lot about my game's backgrounds and am starting to get worried about the whole "tile based" building structures. I'm afraid that it will limit me artistically and the overall style that I'm going for will ultimately suffer. Looking at some of the assets that I've created so far, the file sizes are pretty low as it is. I'm just starting to think that fully creating the buildings (or at least large sections of them) might be the way to go. Still pondering.

Also, more character gestures and poses. Really getting comfortable with drawing him now and might blow one of these up and do a more refined version this weekend.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Nothing Inspires...


...quite like blue-lined paper. Can't explain it, because I own sketch books/carry sketch pads/admire other people's sketch pads, but I am always happier with stuff I do when I'm doodling on ruled paper. It's probably because its hard for me to schedule time to draw, but when I get the idea for something, a pad is usually near by.

But anyways, got some nasty viruses on my computer and decided to sketch out some character poses. I did this, mostly, to get me used to my character design. I've drawn so much other stuff for the game and really only had one or two sketches I really liked of the player character. I think I pretty much have the design where I want it, but I still need to figure out how I'm going to design the glass on his chest (circle area).

Also, I've been playing with the idea of having the cape and body being two separate elements in the idle animations so that I can pull off a couple of neat tricks. I'd like to get an idea of it now, because one of the lynch pins of the game is based on the layering of art for the character. I could probably do it all with new art per changed instance, but it would mean a lot more work.

The following is a rough for an attack pose followed by a design for a street criminal/goon.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Indie News - Monaco



While I don't have as much time as I'd like to check out games on the indie scene, I do like to keep my toe in their waters. I can't claim to be an authority on that side of gaming, but when I see something interesting, I like to spread the word (at least to the scant few that may read this). The above video is from a Kotaku article posted today showing the game, Monaco. From what I've read, its a 4-player co-op heist game with simplified graphics and different character classes.

I've been extremely curious about this game, but haven't seen too much information on it. I was excited to see the game play video with the updated graphics. What I really like is how the designer, Andy Schatz, hasn't reinvented the wheel, but has combined a lot of fun concepts into an engaging game. I really wish he had some kind of development blog because I'm really curious about his process, but there isn't much to his site. In the Kotaku article he says its coming to PC and at least one console, which I'm guessing is XBLA or the Xbox Indie Channel. Not having played it, I would have to say it looks like Gauntlet meets Commandos. Really excited to get my hands on this one.

If you are looking to learn more about the current indie games scene (which I'm trying to do), you might want to check out these sites:

DIY Gamer

Indie Games

And here is an extremely good developer podcast with Infinite Ammo's, Alec Holowka (designer of Aquaria), interviewing Adam Saltsman (creator of Canabalt):

Podcast

Asset Creation


Last night I was tinkering around with the idea of all of the people having these bluish "Mortal Kombat" shadows. I had been reading up on 2d shadow creation in XNA and it shouldn't be all that difficult. My only real problem is getting it to cast on certain areas: namely, the platforms. I'll have to go on the forums and ask how to limit where the shadows land. I'll save that for further along in the development.I decided to start creating some textures to use in the game. Thought it might be a fun little side project while I'm learning the program. Hopefully, I'll be able to throw together some building designs quickly in a Sim City-ish, fill in the squares sort of way. In my quest to make things harder than they need to be, I started tinkering with the idea of adding some value transition in the tiles.
I don't think a static tile would be too bad at street level, but when the player is flying (and the camera pulls back) the patterns could get ugly. In the hopes of mixing it up, I tried to add some transitions in the light and dark areas. I'm thinking this will look better when windows and signs are added to the buildings. Also, I'm probably going to go back and make the value differences less drastic. Also, worked on and awning and was hoping to finish some random art (tree, bench, parking meter, etc). I'll post those if I get them done early.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mayor Pixelated

Sitting at home on a cold Sunday morning and felt like tinkering with my Mayor character. Did a quick color job and shrunk it down to see how it would look. Had to eliminate the forehead wrinkles because they were just transforming into a blob. Didn't look good at all. I might sit down here soon and start working on some random background elements just to give the characters something more interesting to stand against then the white backgrounds.
In other game news, I started working on a little back-story that will play into the game. It was kind of fun to put together the legend of these super powers and how that might play into the story. I'll probably try and put together some illustrations and narration too. I found this video of Neil Gaiman's book, "Instructions", and found it really inspiring:

I really love the feel and cadence of this. It sort of harkens back to those old Jim Henson's Storytellers show. Ultimately, I think it will serve the particular section of my story nicely.

UPDATE: Added new Size Chart with make shift background.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mayor and Stuff

Kind of got hit with the drawing but today, and of course it happened at work during lunch. Still haven't figured out the appeal of yellow legal pad, but that's where most of my ideas start. Anyways, had wanted to work on a couple of NPC's (Non Player Characters) and the idea of having a "Mayor" of the city had been floating around in my head for a while. I jotted down a quick design that I'm ultimately pretty happy with, even if he does bare a striking resemblance to Wilford Brimley.
The image of seeing an animated mayor standing at a podium in front of city hall get's me excited to do more with it. I'll probably add a few more city officials, so I should start including them to my design doc before I forget.

On the subject of animation, I've been thinking a lot about the look I've been wanting to achieve and I'd love to emulate the blocky, low-res style of the old Lucasarts adventure games.
I need to start researching exactly how this was done. I assume it was with giant sprites used basically as layers in the animation. I wonder if setting up these scenes would be similar to how a time line would be set up in Adobe Flash. Having different layers designated for separate sprite animations would help the mouth phonemes and eye expressions. It would also maintain the pixelated look I want. My general fear is that the WMV movies that XNA allows would look blurry when blown up, while I would prefer keeping the hard edge.

I'm close to the end of my book, so I'm hoping some of these answers will be settled by then. I wonder if there is a book dedicated solely to 2d sprites?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Back To Programming! Chapter 11 Finished!

I couldn't believe it had been a month since I had picked up my programming book, "Microsoft XNA Game Studio 3.0: Learn Programming Now!", then I took stock of the last month and realized that it isn't all that hard to believe. Lucky for me, my bathroom and drain situation is under control and I think I can start getting my schedule back in order.

Tonight's chapter was Chapter 11: A Game as a C# Program. I learned a little more about "classes" and "methods" and how the a program initially starts in its code. More importantly, I learned about working within the television's Safe Zone so as to prevent graphics from traveling to the outer area not normally shown on older "tube based" televisions.

More than ever, my time away from the book affected me tonight. At this point, I'm not sure if its the general nature of the author to not include things or if I'm constantly missing them. I can forgive the instances where he is expecting me to place certain text in that you automatically do for every project (namely the information under the Draw Method), but its getting harder to let slide the situations where he is changing variables in the code and not telling you to do the same. Once again, it has resulted in my cross referencing my code with his finished website samples to find the differences.

Even with the frustration, I'm down to the last 5 chapters with only a little over 100 pages to go. I know that sounds like a lot, but the end is finally in sight. I'm probably going to look into a few other options to continue learning, but haven't decided which ones yet. I'm hoping to figure that out soon.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Something to Listen to


Recently listened to an interview with Brad Rigney conducted by the Sidebar podcast. As much as I hate that I let my digital painting fall by the wayside, I still like to dabble and keep up on artists in the field. Listening to the podcast, I couldn't help but get really amped up about working on my projects, just by listening to his enthusiasm. Here's a guy that went from an extremely low point in his life, picked himself up, and through sheer determination became one of the most renowned artists in the field. I wish I saw more of that in my daily life, but know too many people that prefer to line up excuses as to why they simply "can't." It was striking to hear his "get off your ass and just do it" attitude and it really put things in perspective as he talked about "giving up on" other things in your life to dedicate to your craft.

It really is an amazing interview and he seems like a really decent guy that you could just pal around with. To be completely honest, he reminded me a lot of Twisted Metal's David Jaffe with his very frank and open opinion on creation.

Podcast Link

Brad Rigney's DeviantArt Page

Also, you might want to check out the rest of the podcasts on the site. If you are an artist, I'm sure you'll recognize many of the names they've interviewed. And even if you aren't an artist, the interviews offer tons of insight into other people's creative process.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

He-Man: Blade

Finished my little test with my new Cintiq. Might have to callibrate my monitor and tablet because I painted it to be a bit browner than it may appear here. Who knows, my normal monitor is a bit on the bright side also. Anyways, happy with the Cintiq. Hoping to do more of the rogue gallery.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Update


I must not have been too bummed out from my last delay because its been another week without programming. I have been adding to my design doc, but the last week has proven pretty difficult as it relates to free time. In my defense, I had to do some remodeling to my bathroom, fix a basement drain that left me without water for a week, continue my new workout schedule (down 15 pounds in 3 weeks!!!), and I got my Cintiq. In fact, the above pencil sketch is something I threw together to test my Cintiq out on (I will be inking and coloring on it).

I was inspired by an amazing artist named, Dapper Dan. I was a big fan of his stuff when he would just post on the AWN forums (at least that's when I first saw him). He would do these great Rogues Gallery collections that I couldn't help but stare at. Anyways, it inspired me to do one of my own, at least for practice. Looking for something unconventional, I'm going to try and do the rogues gallery from the Masters of the Universe movie. First up is Blade.

Dapper Dan's Blog

His Moleskin Blog

His deviantart page

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Where'd I Go?

Just looked at my blog and am a little upset that it has been so long since I've updated and more so since I've picked up my coding book. I feel like I'm so close to jumping into the beginning stages of the creating my game, but life has become real hectic.

First off, I saw this really cool video on IndieGames.com:

Adam Atomic Talks Canabalt - IndieGame: The Movie from IndieGame: The Movie on Vimeo.

Its basically another interview with an indie game developer (Adam Atomic) discussing his project, Canabalt. While his game looks great, annoyingly only taking him 5 days, I was most interested in his discussion of whether or not sound needs to contain the same retro feel as the art work. It was a topic I had spent some time thinking about in the past and was glad to see it addressed in this short.

In game news, the more I look at the blob in the previous post, the more I want to change it. It doesn't exactly have the transparent feel that I'm looking for so it may end up getting reworked. I have a tendency to stick with the first design that comes together, mostly because I struggle sometimes getting a workable piece together. I'm trying to use my new "Get it right, instead of Get it done" philosophy that I promised myself I'd do for this game.

Also, I recently purchased a used Cintiq 12WX on Ebay and am still in that half way point of excitement and buyers remorse. I've wanted one forever and finally broke down and got one. It should be in the mail soon so I'm anxious to play with it.

So, what with Madden out this week, my need to paint my bathroom, and a new work-out regiment, free time has been sparse (Yes, I understand Madden IS free time). I'm going to try and make it a point to pick up the book tomorrow.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Superhero Game - Sketching

Got the urge to sit down with the sketch book and jot down a few ideas. Here are a few rough sketches and poses of the main character as well as a new "Slime" type enemy for the game. Of course I could resist down-rezing it to see how it will look. Here you go.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dustforce

Just wanted to post this video that I saw over at www.indiegames.com. Not exactly XNA related, but I like keep up with what is out there on the indie scene and this has a fun look to it and clever animation. The direct link to the original story is here.



On the "Superhero Game" front, did some sketching earlier today and found a couple of poses that I really liked. Of course they are drawn about the size of a nickel so I will have to blow those up and see if I can translate them to finished art.

Also, been thinking a lot about the logistics of the buildings and some of the things I need to take into account when designing them. I'm probably going to continue to "fudge" the perspective, but I may have to rethink how I originally had planned the top of the buildings. Previously, I was just going to have the top edge flat (not seeing the platform at all). But now I realize that you can't have the wall of the building in front of the character when he lands on it and also behind him when he's flying in front of it. So the perspective change should help that, but I'm a little bummed I had to change it.

Hopefully I'll post some sketches soon as I wanted to really buckle down and start drawing the main character a lot. I'm hoping the repetition will help me get really comfortable with my design for him.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Feature Creep

Perhaps it was last night's coding session, but I've been hit with a new found excitement for working on the game. This morning I decided to sit down and write down some of the newest ideas for my game into my Design Doc so I wouldn't forget them. My Design Doc has now grown to 3 pages (doesn't sound like a lot) and I'm starting to fear my game might be suffering from Feature Creep. For those that don't know (and I hadn't heard the term till about a month ago), Feature Creep is when you keep adding new ideas to your project until you over complicated its design and ultimately dilute the original intent.

I carefully reread my document and realized that it wasn't so much new features I was adding, but more like references to the style and look that I wanted for the game. I'm trying to be mindful of not making my first game too big, but I still contend that nothing I'm doing is more complicated than things I've seen way back on the SNES. I'm just piecing together things that I like and trying to bring a fresh spin to a genre that I've always enjoyed. Looking through my Design Doc, it's obvious that I'm an artist jumping into programming because all of my "style" notes come with descriptions on how I would do it in Flash, Photoshop, or After Effects.

Well, just wanted to get that out while my mind was running crazy. On to the busy weekend.

Chapter 10 finished

Seeing as my Saturday is going to be busier than usual, I thought I would stay in tonight and catch up on some programming (seeing as I haven't done any in 2 weeks). This evening was "Chapter 10: Using C# Methods to Solve Problems" and was exciting because it was the introduction to the final third of the book (Part III: Writing Proper Games). This chapter was mainly about adjusting the rectangle for drawing 2D textures, creating your own Methods, working with "floats", and using breaking points to help debug your code.

Had very few problems with this chapter, which was a nice change from the last few where I'd been absolutely stumped by some unforeseen problem. I remember opening the book and dreading the threat of having to post on the forum with another problem that was clearly my own fault. Luckily, that wasn't the case.

Once again, he is not terribly clear on where to be putting code, but more alarming are the instances where he adds code without telling you. There is one section where you are starting with a picture that is much larger than the screen. You are to gradually shrink the picture, but only to the point where it matches the screen size. He explains a bit of code that works out pretty well and everything comes together. Later, you add a bunch of new code and, without any inclination, the previous code is replaced with an entirely new one. Now, I'm not sure if this is by design, but its a little annoying. Oddly enough, all of this searching for the differences in my code and the book's online examples are probably teaching me a great deal.

All in all, it was a fine and I was relieved that everything I had learned hadn't flown out of my head during my 2 weeks of neglect. If I'm lucky, I'll try and do the next chapter on Sunday night.

Book: Microsoft XNA Game Studio 3.0: Learn Programming Now! (Pro - Developer)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Limbo Success

First off, I've yet to play Limbo. I was originally really excited about it (and still am), but a "Buy 2 Get 1 Free" deal at Gamestop had me spending more money than I had originally intended. Not sure why I do it, I already don't have the time to play all of these but will still get the occasional new game. I guess that's why I'm on the side of the fence that is all for 6-12 hour games. I just can't make the time commitment any more for anything more entangling then that. The fact that Limbo is only anywhere between 3-6 hours is enticing in that I can experience it in 1-2 nights and then move on to the next one.

But the real reason I've been thinking about Limbo is because of a blog entry I read a few days ago by Robert Boyd from Zeboyd Games. He was the indie developer that made Breath of Death VII (another game I haven't played, but my brother swears by it). In his entry, he discusses what he feels are some of the contributing factors to the game's success and mentions the huge money that it pulled in. Not huge in terms of anything by EA's standards, but life changing for an indie developer. Its definitely worth a read: HERE

I should have some time to get back to my programming book tonight. I was looking through my blog entries and realized it has been 2 weeks since the last chapter I'd studied. Work on the game hadn't stopped, as I've been focusing on art and adding to my design document, but I need to get back into the code side of things to keep them fresh in my head. Really need to focus and get back in my normal rhythm.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Tutorial: 2D Art Soft Shadow

Earlier this year, I was animating a simple talking character to be used for roughly 60 seconds. For some reason, I decided that I wanted to forgo the hard edge shadow that I was so familiar with from my favorite cartoons (Justice League, Batman, Superman, etc) and go for a softer, more "Disney" style shadow. Basically, Disney has a smoother, more blended look to their shadows and, for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to achieve that on my own. Well, I eventually saved up my money and got CS5 and found out about "Lens Blur." Not sure what Lens Blur is really supposed to do, but it filled my purposes beautifully.
So go ahead and check your version of Photoshop, if you have Lens Blur in there, feel free to follow along.

Step 1: Scan in your original art.
I usually like to use about 300 dpi (dots per inch) and set my scanner settings to Black and White. I useful tip I learned Producing Independent 2D Character Animation: Making & Selling A Short Film by Mark Simon is to draw all of your rough art in a "non-photo blue" pencil. Xerox machines and scanners (set to B&W) can't see the blue. That way, you can rough your art out first and then ink over it with your black pen. Another tip is to use a red pen when inking to mark your shadows. It will show up as black on the scan, but you can keep track of shadows with your original art near by.
Original Art:Scanner Set to B&W:

Step 2: Color in your Art Work
Go ahead and start coloring your art work. I usually use ToonBoom to color in my art work because of the ability to adjust my palette after I've used the "Fill Bucket." You can also fill your work in with Photoshop and just paint in the black lines. (Use the "Wand" tool and select the black lines. Then just go over it with the pencil).

Step 3: Selecting the Colors to Blend
First Select the "Wand Tool."

Next, hold in the Shift Key and select all colors that need to be blended (the normal value, shadow, and highlights). Make sure "Contiguous" and "Anit-Aliased" is NOT checked while you are selecting.

Step 4: Select Lens Blur
Go up into your Toolbar and select "Filters", then "Blur", then "Lens Blur".

Once inside the Lens Blur's editor, start adjusting the "Shape" and "Radius" until you get a nice, smooth transition between the colors (or whatever effect you are looking for).Hit OK and you should have it. Feel free to go back and use it with any other sections of the same picture. Just remember that they all have to be of the same color range. Let's say I also had shadow values on the cape, if I selected it too, then it's colors would bleed into the tights' selection.

Now, a couple of things to keep in mind when using this.

First: The reason to use Lens Blur as apposed to any others is because Lens Blur repeats the edge pixels. Use of Gausian Blur or any others results in Photoshop pulls color from outside the selection. (Click for larger view. Notice Yellow is bleeding into the blue, even though its out of the selection.)
Second: Place your shadows and highlights careful when drawing and compensate for the natural spreading of the colors that happens with the Blur. In the following picture, I did not plan accordingly and the highlight bled past his chest and over to his arm (where there shouldn't be a highlight). I'd love to say that I was really smart and planned that on purpose to teach you a lesson, but I'm not. (I adjusted the contrast so you could more easily make out where the highlight is bleeding over the line.)
In closing, if you are looking at my final product and thinking that you could do the same thing with "Bevel" and "Emboss" effects, then only blame my use of shadow. In further works, I'm going to be more mindful of using it to express shape and form and try to avoid any type of symmetry or parallel lines that may be causing that effect. Also, I'm pretty sure I could achieve this effect on a series of images using Actions and the Select Color Range feature, but have not tested it enough. Hope this helps some of you out.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Flash Rigged Sprite Update: Success?




So a quick update on using Flash's "bone tool" for animating characters.

Not willing to let the whole "Toon Boom dropping the ball on the importer" situation slow me down, I exported the character from Toon Boom to a normal SWF file. I then loaded it into Flash and began the tedious process of naming each part of the character (again). Then, I selected all of the parts at once and used "distribute to layers" to put them all onto their own layers for use.

I was then able to start rigging the character with the virtual armature. The only real hinky part was that the layer depths change while you are rigging. This wouldn't be a big deal if I could slide them around in the layer window, but you have to use the "Bring Forward, Bring to Front, etc" functions. Didn't take forever, just longer than I would have liked.

Later this week, I'm going to try and animate hands for the character and create its "Idle Animation".

Monday, July 19, 2010

Flash Rigged Sprite Update: Arghh!

So this threw a little bit of a kink into my plans. I've always preferred Toon Boom's "trace bitmap" feature because it leaves the background transparent and overall has a better look to it. So I went into Photoshop and broke down my enemy sprite to different sections that I could run Flash's bone system through. That worked out fine (if not terribly tedious).

Next, I exported all of my layers to separate files that I could take into Toon Boom to trace and then color. All of that worked great and I found a color palette that I liked.

The problems came in when I tried to export my Toon Boom project in Flash for the rigging. Previously, Toon Boom had created an importer for flash that would bring in the project and name the layers. At this point, there is no such thing for CS5. Huge bummer. For now, I may have to see if I can export to and "swf" file and pull apart the stuff there. Needless to say, that would suck.

In the mean time, I have included the newest edition to the size chart. And, yes, I realize I haven't done his hands yet. I just get too excited.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Flash Rigged Sprite: Prologue

Odd how a lot of my favorite sketches start on yellow, ruled notepad. For some reason or another, sitting down with a sketch pad to get some work done doesn't do it for me. However, if I'm sitting at my desk at lunch time and have a ball point pen and a legal pad near by, I can usually churn something out. I guess it is just a product of the odd times I'm inspired.



So I found a video on Youtube concerning the bone tools in Flash CS4/CS5. It looked simple enough and I wanted to finally give it a shot. I will mostly use this for enemy characters and do not intend to use it for the full range of motion. More likely I will use it for idle animations, but never the full range of motion. Hopefully it will cut into the animation time and free up some resources for more hand drawn stuff.

Hopefully I can give it a shot tomorrow. I'm going to try and do a step-by-step of the process, but I don't think it will be refined enough to call it a tutorial. I should have more to post soon.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chapter 9 Finished

Just finished the chapter on entering user input from keyboards. Seemed like quite a bit of code with a little janky-ness for what it was trying to accomplish. Might go through and double check the code because I ran into a few problems. Couldn't quite get the "Shift" code to work and noticed some differences between the website examples and the ones in the book. The odd part was that they weren't differences from my making mistakes, but actual corrections after print.

The more exciting news is that I'm moving on to the last section of the book (Part 3: Writing Proper Games)...which still accounts for half of the pages. None the less, I'm excited that I'm still progressing forward. I'm also looking forward to possibly learning how to set up tiles in XNA just so I can start building assets for my city and seeing how they look. Looking at the book, it probably still won't be for a while, but I'm excited to get into the next chapter regardless.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Worth A Read

I bumped into this article a few years ago and thought it was completely fascinating. It's a pretty thorough account of the creation of Street Fighter the Movie: The Game by one of its creators, Alan Noon. It discusses certain design decisions as well as capture sessions and difficulties with the technology. I highly recommend it. Actually, I wish I could find more frank and honest postmortems from this generation of games. I'll have to spend more time at Gamasutra and reading RetroGamer.

Original Post

PDF Download

Also, tonight I'm hoping to sit down and finally get through the next chapter of the XNA book as well as add some new ideas to my design document. We'll have to see how the rest of the night pans out.