October Challenge 2010
Ludum Dare 18
Ludum Dare 16
Ludum Dare 15
Tastiest Sammich Medal
Awarded by Tyler
on August 21, 2010
The Scrabble Tile for Success in Alphabetical Sorting Position
Awarded by Sivart13
on December 14, 2009
The NP-Complete Award
Awarded by midwinter
on December 6, 2008
Hey, there’s a Mini-LD on! I’d planned on spending this weekend at Hack on the Record down in London, but the friend I was going to stay with called and canceled, leaving me with a booked-out weekend and no plans.
And since I’d planned to spend the weekend jamming anyway, I thought I’d see if there was a MiniLD on instead. Lo and behold…
I’ve been mulling over adding the concept of ‘influence’ to one of my existing games, but I’m not convinced that it’s a particularly cool mechanic. So I’m going to spend the weekend prototyping a bare-bones strategy game based around the idea of spreading influence — we’ll see how things go.
Hey, LDers — the 3rd annual Global Game Jam is this weekend, and I thought it’d be pretty nifty to see who else is participating. GGJ is a 48-hour (weekend) jam, so I know you can handle it; the big difference is that it’s team-based, not solo. Pack up your machine, head over to <insert nearest major city here>, form a team, and write something awesome. You know the drill.
I’ll be at the Scottish Jam, in Glasgow. How about you?
Hey, Ludum Dare — my October Challenge entry, Distant Star, is finally out! It’s an old-school 4x space game, something like a mash-up between Master of Orion and pre-expansion Sword of the Stars, re-designed from scratch for the iPad. Give it a try!
On a slightly more sober (hic) note: if you play the game I’d really, really appreciate it if you left a review in iTunes.
Tonight, we celebrate — I’ve finished enough of Distant Star that I’m releasing a copy to my beta testers tonight. I spent most of the weekend putting the finishing touches on a *ton* of polish — the game now has attractive victory/defeat screens and a framework for tracking and reporting gameplay stats, plus a really useful report that you can access after each combat showing you how well your ships fared in battle.
“Beta test?” you ask.
But of course — my posts to a couple forums generated a little buzz, where a dozen or so happy iPad gamers took me up on my offer. They beta test the game and let me know what’s good/bad/broken before I release it to Apple; I send them free copies of the final version once it’s ready. A pretty sweet deal all around.
So, Ludum Dares (“Darers?”) — any iPad gamers among you care to lend me a hand with this thing? Information (plus more screenshots and updates) after the jump.
Things are really cranking along now, which is good, because October’s almost over and my first-release deadline is almost here. I spent a good chunk of yesterday and today finishing up one of my last pre-release milestones, and as a result Distant Star now sports a functional, if somewhat limited, save slot system. You can access it via the in-game menu, which is another of those functional-but-terrifically-ugly systems (“Save!” “Load!” “Quit!”).
As part of the save/load system I also added a new game setup screen, where you can customize the game before starting. Right now it’s rather limited — there aren’t a lot of interesting customizations yet, ‘mfraid — but the interface is all there; it works and it looks pretty good.
Tomorrow and Friday I’m going to nail down the AI, and if I’m happy with the state of things I’m going to start passing the game out to beta testers over the weekend. Huzzah!
More screenshots after the jump:
No, really — it is!
Everything that needs to be in the game is so; what’s left is just visual and interface polish. ‘course, both the visuals and the GUI design are in need of some serious polishing.
Anyway: Distant Star now has an awesome technology tree; players (human or AI) can browse the tree and select new technologies to research. Researched techs affect all aspects of the game: ship combat, empire management, exploration, etc — and choosing to research one technology may prevent you from researching others. Choices, choices.
Furthermore, the technology system is entirely data-driven; technologies, with their costs, dependencies, and effects, are loaded from XML. Even the tech tree display is automatic; it uses a simple tree layout algorithm to render itself. What this means is that I can step away from the technology system entirely, either outsourcing it to someone else (anybody feel like helping?) or pushing a newer, better tech tree in a post-release update.
More progress after the jump:
A week ago I announced my entry for PoV’s October Challenge, an old-school 4X space game (ala Master of Orion) for the iPad called Distant Star. I’ve made a fair amount of progress since that announcement; Distant Star has gone from a pile of half-finished tech and ideas to a rough playable prototype. Almost all the core features are in place: ship construction, exploration, colonization, combat. Of course, to be properly playable I needed a few basic AIs — at the moment, you can play against two simple, deterministic AI players, each with their own play style (one colonizes recklessly, while the other builds up small fleets and attempts to capture one system at a time).
Introducing some simple AI players helped point out all kinds of multiplayer bugs I’d introduced so far — turns out none of my fog of war code worked at all, and resource accumulation was completely borked. The first game I played the AI wiped me out almost instantly.
Based on some early, vicious usability feedback I’ve made some subtle changes to the map interaction, restricting scrolling outside of the galaxy and highlighting fleets or systems when they were selected. I also played around with a real-time version of the game, but quickly realized that, while it made the early game much more pleasant, things got way too hectic once the AI acquired more than a handful of high-quality planets. They started building ships far faster than the player, especially if the player’s empire was quite spread out. Back to turn-based I went.
Up next: research management. Bring on the tech tree!
So today’s officially the last day of September, which means it’s time to throw in my lot with the October Challenge folks. What were you thinking, PoV? Challenging the Ludum Dare to make a game? In a month? One game?
I think we can handle this.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been hacking away on a medium-sized iPad game; I hadn’t planned on finishing it by October 31st, but (with your collective permission) I’m upping my deadline and making it my October Challenge entry. So, without further ado, I present, for the iPad-owning, grand-strategy-loving among you: Distant Star
Distant Star is an old-school 4x game (a la Master of Orion or Sword of the Stars) for the iPad. It’s a turn-based strategy game in which you explore the galaxy, assembling massive fleets to conquer your opponents and terraform their planets. Starting from a single system, you build starships, research new technologies, and colonize distant star systems — but you’re not alone in the galaxy. There are other races out there, with radically different needs, abilities, and psychologies.
Thanks to the couple of weekends and odd evening I’ve put in so far, the core of the game is more-or-less complete. You can build ships, assemble them into fleets, and move those fleets between systems. Obviously, there’s a lot of critical stuff left to write: the AI system is just a shell, the research/tech tree aspect is completely non-existent, and the whole thing is entirely devoid of graphical shininess. I’ve also made my life significantly more difficult by attempting to support multiple orientations, but with some slight glTranslate/glRotate cleverness, this shouldn’t be too hard.
I have to confess: I’m not really making Distant Star for the October Challenge. I’m making Distant Star because I happen to have an iPad and I want to play an old-school 4x game on it. Unfortunately, such a thing doesn’t seem to exist, so I suppose I’ll just have to write it myself. Worse things have happened.
Anyway: Distant Star, coming for the iPad in early November! I’ll be writing more about it as things progress, over at Expat Games
Ok, I give up. I tried (again) to do a double timelapse, merging screenshots and webcam pictures into a single, hey-this-is-what-I’m-doing-and-what-I-look-like-while-I-do-it kind of video. But I can’t for the life of me get the timestamps to line up. If it helps, think of this as two timelapses of my writing this game which may or may not have been made at the same time. Anyway, my timelapse for Double Bounce:
I spent several hours this afternoon trying to put together a trailer, but I can’t seem to get anything out of CamStudio that is A) not terribly encoded and B) readable by iMovie. Any tips?
Yep, I’m finished. True to form, I spent half of Saturday writing a toy, then a day and a half buffing it to a needless shine and building up unnecessary cruft around it. Double Bounce is a simple physics puzzle, a sort of mash-up between air hockey, pool, and putt-putt golf. Give it a play and you’ll know what I mean.
Anyway, it’s got rad particle and blending effects, plus easy-to-use tools to let players create, share, and rate levels.
Now, off for some (much-needed) sleep.
Give Double Bounce a play!
It’s true, I do. I mean, I don’t hate it per se — It’s just that I’m really bad at it, and I hate doing things for which I know I have no skill. I like my games nice and easy, perhaps too easy, and my level design tends to reflect that preference rather strongly.
And so I present: Double Bounce, a content-driven puzzle-type game where each level (‘course’) generally takes no more than a handful of seconds to puzzle out.
Wait — but I wanted to avoid level design, right? Well, sure — but Double Bounce includes a reasonably easy-to-use editor, and makes it super easy to share your own creations. Editing a course? Click that ‘Upload’ button! Want to play something you didn’t make, but that’s harder than the usual fare I create? Download more courses.
It’s a button. Click it.
But the thing is, it’s so easy to publish courses that even I’m generating crap very nearly by accident. Crap I don’t want to play. “Boy, it sure would be helpful if someone would sort through these levels and tell me which ones are worth playing,” I thought to myself. “I guess I could do it.”
But we already established that I’m really bad at assessing levels! And so: after you complete a course in Double Bounce you can rate it /5 stars (you know the drill) and that rating will get averaged and aggregated on the download server. Pretty slick, though I’m clearly not going to have the time to iron out the kinks and weird bugs in my network code. Grr.
I very nearly just gave myself a heart attack. I’ve been trying to hack in some simple particle effects (whee! collision-splash!) for what feels like ever, and glanced at the clock as I finished it up. “10:30!” I exclaimed. “But it’s still light out!”
Oh. That’s 10:30 AM. Very, very cool — I’ve got all afternoon and evening to either design a bunch more courses OR polish up the map & score server. Since the course editor is part of the game (hey, I needed the tool, and it was the easiest way to implement it…) all I need to do is provide some mechanism for players to share their courses. Also, some incentive. Fun fun.
Now, onward to an options screen, followed by some LAMP hackery!
To my mixed pleasure, some friends called me around seven and invited me over for dinner. It was good dinner, don’t get me wrong — but throughout the evening my thoughts were dominated by three distinctly anti-social questions:
- What is the next milestone I need to hit for my Ludum Dare entry?
- When is the earliest socially acceptable time for me to bow out and get to work on said entry?
- Dammit, I’m eating during a Compo and I don’t have a camera.
Not all was lost: I worked out the details of my course editor over a glass or three of wine. And behold! An hour or so after my return, here it is:
I’ve also settled on a visual style that doesn’t make me retch. It’s amazing what you can do with a bit of Photoshop glow and additive blending. Mmm, blending.
Oh, and the food I failed to photograph? Homemade (vegan) pizza. Mmm, despite the distinct lack of, well, anything I’d ordinarily put on a pizza. Since I don’t have a picture, can you just envision it? Maybe?
Ah, there you go. No, wait — you forgot the sweetcorn.
I spent the first few hours of the compo grinding out mediocre rendered sprites. It was pretty mindless, which is good as it gave me time to think about my mechanic. “Do I like this idea?” I thought to myself as I adjusted the specular highlight on my wooden cue ball for the umpteenth time. “Does it please me?”
Turns out the answer was yes; the idea I’m working towards seems decent, if underwhelming. The graphics I churned out on the way, though? Useless. Utterly, uglily useless. So I set out to prototype the thing, which went pretty well (hurrah! Prototypes in LD = meta-prototypes). Now to have a bit of a nap and dream about visual styles and blending modes.
The (only) cool bit of all of this is that the course layout (bumpers, starting positions, hole, etc.) is entirely data driven. I’ll need an editor to layout courses; that’ll be part of the game. Obviously. And, really, if I’ve already got an editor how much harder will it be to let players share courses & scores? And how cool would that be?