About Izzimach (twitter: @Izzimach)
I’m pretty much done for today, and I only have a few hours tomorrow to finish the game. At least I got some of the functionality done, though.
As some background, the game is called “One Bad Apple” and the basic plot is that you are one of a group of adventurers fighting monsters in a dungeon (no points for originality). Everyone else in the group wins if they defeat all the monsters in the dungeon. However, your victory condition is different: make sure everyone else is dead and that you escape with as much loot as possible. You can’t directly attack your “friends” so instead you have to make sure they all die by aggro’ing too many monsters, and setting off traps at the right time.
Right now all I have to show is this measly screenshot, and I need some sleep so I’ll try to finish more tomorrow.
I’m for Saturday at least. The result will probably be more bare-bones than my other games, but half a game is better than none. Plus, there’s nothing like a deadline to motivate my learning process!
Code/platform: Haxe + NME
Graphics: Inkscape and GIMP
Audio: FL Studio, Wavasaur, and this beat-up used microphone from my Rock Band kit.
I kind of wanted to try out making a tile-based map. Hopefully the chosen theme will fit in with my intentions
After fiddling with a few bugs and GUI polish, Ethereal Isles is now live on Kongregate. Man, I hope there are no nasty bugs lurking in there.
Getting the game ready for “prime time” took a lot of work because you have to go back and fix all those things that you let slide: placeholder sounds, sloppy GUI layout, and “mostly-working” code. But now it’s done! (mostly).
I’m going to look into fixing/modifying code to work well on tablets for the Google and Apple stores, but I don’t think that will get done before the end of October. Right now the game works and is playable on a Nexus 7 but some parts are not-quite-working with the touch screen.
At this point I’m pretty much done. All the monsters and levels have been tested and (mostly) working. The Kongregate API integration seems to work so that your time from the “time attack” level is dumped into a Kongregate leaderboard. I’ll see if it really works once more than once person actually posts a score, I suppose.
Most of the recent things have been simple changes – tidying up some text or icon placement, adding particles for attacks that didn’t have them, and making sounds for the various “attack” and “dying” animations. I spent quite a while last night making wierd noises into a microphone to produce a sufficiently varied set of dying noises I Also added some niceties like checking off levels you have already beaten.
I will probably make a video tomorrow,(better than this one at least) and then release the thing for reals.
After that I need to modify the game for tablet use. This includes properly processing multitouch and maybe resizing some icons.
Mechanics and monsters are done, so I’m finalizing the level design. There are three tutorial levels, three “standard” levels, and two special levels. I may have time to add more levels but this is the amount that I think I can actually finish. The special islands include a randomly-generated island layout and a “time attack” level.
Of course, zombies are mandatory so I added a zombie summoner “boss”. The zombies need a bit of fiddling, but they basically function correctly.
The final “standard” level features two zombie summoners, so use of AOE is key to conquering that island. I usually clone the dragon for the extra AOE damage, but some other approaches should work as well.
So after stripping out some extra abilities and monsters, I have six monsters and six abilities. Now I need some levels! I have the randomly generated “sandbox” levels but I figure some tutorial levels would be good since the mechanics are non-trivial.
Each tutorial only has a few monsters and/or abilities to avoid user overload. I’m going with the “explain everything as if you were talking to a 5-year-old” method. Players can always just skip the tutorial levels and each level only takes about 30 seconds anyways so even if some players find it too easy they can quickly go on to harder levels.
One problem I had was with transparency of the icons; this wasn’t obvious when monster icons were placed on the bright buttons, but viewed over the dark help window they showed some obvious fringing…
After some work, I managed to get a test build of the game running and connected to the Kongregate API (for leaderboards and badges or whatever):
And here is Ethereal Isles running on a Nexus 7, for deployment via Google Play.
Now that those test developments work, I need to fill out the paperwork for an LLC. Why? I could just take all this income as myself (sole proprietorship essentially) but I might as well get started on setting a real business. Unfortunately, the filing for an LLC might take up to 20 days! Yikes! I should still get it by the end of month if I’m lucky.
I also put up a test build of Ethereal Isles for your playtesting pleasure using the Unity Web Player plugin. There is only a “sandbox level” available. If you try it, let me know which monsters and abilities did or didn’t seem worth the effort to use, and if it is too hard or too easy to defeat all the enemies on the island.
For the October Challenge, I’m going to try to get my Ludum Dare 23 Entry polished up for submission to one or more stores. I’ve been working on it on and off over the last few months but haven’t been motivated to really finish it. The game is Ethereal Isles, where you drop monsters onto a floating island to fight other monsters. Combat on a single island is meant to be fairly simple and short, under two minutes. Typically you’ll add some abilities to your monsters and drop them at specific points on the island, perhaps waiting a few seconds for enemies to clump up or for some poor soul to be left behind so you can drop a monster on top of them.
I have added several more monsters and abilities, and polished up the GUI with better buttons, tooltips, health bars, etc. I also feel that the game in its current state has just enough stuff to be interesting but not confusing. I’m afraid if I add any more stuff there will be a lot of moments where there is so much chaos and mayhem on the screen that it will be hard to understand what’s going on.
I’m going to try and put out a test version in the next week after I’ve put in an actual menu and proper victory conditions. It looks like getting this onto Kongregate will be the easiest place to post this game, since they support Unity. The game seems like a good fit for play on tablets, but at the moment I have neither Apple nor Android tablets, so I’ll have to try that another time. Alas!
This is my first Ludum Dare, although I’ve done several other game creating events including game-in-a-day (now defunct, apparently) and several TIGSource game competitions. So I had already learned the valuable lesson of limiting the game scope. Apparently I didn’t learn it well enough!
The game is Ethereal Isles, with the “plot” that you are a wizard conquering islands floating in the great ether. Each island is defended by some monsters, and you conquer it by dropping some of your own monsters onto the island.
Development Tools and Process
I was a bit worried that the theme would be something I couldn’t riff off of, and in fact spent the first few hours after the theme announcement thinking about possible games. Many concepts were too large and complex; I finally settled on a simple “drop monsters onto a floating island” game. Even that was too ambitious. However, the part of the game that I did get done was more fun to play than I expected.
What Went Right
- Sketching out concepts. Surprisingly, this is the first time I sketched out some monster concepts on paper. Usually I just hop onto the computer and start fiddling with mesh vertices in Blender. But this time I was eating breakfast and decided to draw out some monsters on paper. This helped because drawing out a concept on paper is fast and I can see if the general idea is going to work, so I can quickly create a bunch of different monster concepts and throw out the ones I didn’t like.
- Don’t neglect the graphics. As a mostly-programming guy, I usually make some crappy-looking squares or blobs so that I can spend all my time on the “real work” of programming. But I’ve since come around and decided that bad graphics and/or audio really degrade the entire game experience. So I spent a lot of time making, texturing, and animating monsters so that even if the gameplay is bad, at least you get to see little monsters punching each other.
- Don’t neglect the audio either, at least not too much. I decided that bad audio is better than no audio but was under a lot of time pressure. Instead of spending a lot of time fiddling with sfxr and various audio processor effects, I just recorded myself making various odd noises into a microphone. This turned out better than I expected, and having any audio improved the general game experience.
- Learn some new stuff. I actually learned a lot about texture painting in Sculptris and in Blender. I also learned to make vector-based GUI buttons and icons in Inkscape, which looked loads better than any stuff I had made previously with raster-based editors. I’m sure that you can use a tool such as GIMP to make good GUI elements, but I personally found it faster and easier to build them in Inkscape.
What Went Wrong
- Scope was still too big. I ended up cutting out some mechanics since I ran out of time. Specifically, each monster was going to have a special ability randomly chosen from a pool of abilities like “does more damage when fighting lots of enemies” or “sometimes knocks enemies up in the air.” These abilities would have made the combat more interesting and given the game a bit more depth. I’m in the process of adding in these abilities for a post-compo version.
- Too much time on the art. I really went gonzo on the art and made four different monsters. Each monster has a mesh, a texture, and an animated skeleton. This stuff takes time. I actually spent the previous week speed-modeling a bunch of sample monsters to make sure I was up to snuff in the modeling department. Still, if each monster takes about two hours and I make four monsters, that’s eight hours spent just to model the monsters. Plus I had to make some trees and the island. The game looks good for having this much variety, but I can’t help but wonder what else I could have added if I had made only 2 or 3 monsters or made simpler animations.
All in all, I think the game has some potential even if the official compo entry is a little light on game mechanics. With some extra gameplay elements and more cute monsters, it will probably be worth publishing somewhere.
I’m pretty much done. There’s some audio, win/lose conditions, and most of the bugs are ironed out.
The basic idea is that you’re trying to conquer a small floating island filled with monsters. You conquer this island with your own monsters, by dropping your monsters onto the island.
I had really wanted to add some more tactical options like special abilities for the monsters and more involved control, but in this case it’s fun enough just to see the little guys wander around and fight each other.
After fiddling with a few prototypes I finally converged on a basic variation of the Small World boardgame. Basically, miniature floating islands are populated with some monsters and you have to conquer the island with your own monsters. The catch? Your monsters are randomly generated by combining various attacks and abilities, so you have to decide when and where to deploy your monsters. Monsters are “deployed” by dropping them onto the island.
Most of the work so far is internal plumbing that doesn’t produce anything cool looking. So all I have is a screenshot of capsules “hitting” each other and making spark particle effects to indicate damage. So obviously my next task is to make some art to replace the dull gray shapes.