Winter Break

Hey everyone. Winter break just started, and I’ve begun to shift my full time attention back onto Against the Wall. I can say with confidence that I will miss the “Late 2013” deadline for Against the Wall. It’s a real bummer, but I don’t really have the manpower (money) to get this game completed in a timely manner. Lack of funds also means I can’t be on this project full time, so I’ll have to make the most of  the hours that I have.

So here’s the plan: I’m free until the end of January, then grad school starts again. I’m going to work every weekday, and try to post small updates each day. Every day will have a focus: tech, art, or content.

  • Tech days are devoted to bug fixes and optimization, which, as it turns out, is my favorite thing to do in terms of game development, concept and design work aside. Other days will focus on art development.
  • Art days are for art creation, experimentation and optimization through draw call reduction. Right now, I’m planing on giving the game a low-res minimalistic look. I feel I have overused realistic textures that do not fit my low-poly models. It would be easier for me to go all-in with the low fidelity models and textures, I don’t have the time or skill to make anything more complex.
  • Content days are for the creation of locations in the game world, tweaking how the game feels, and experimenting with mechanical changes.

The last one is the trickiest. Right now, the game has immediate goals (extending the correct bricks to get from point A to B) and an overall narrative arc has been planned for players’ long-term goals. What I’ve been struggling with are the intermediate goals: what drives you forward, what small tasks do you complete on the way, what emergent tasks could the player create for themselves, etc. Right now, the mechanics are so stripped-down that there is not a ton of room for this kind of goal. That is, there is no player inventory, no concept of, say, sleep, health, energy, etc.  that would give the player a reason to create a side quest for themselves. I don’t want to make to game too complex, of course, but I do think it needs something else for the player to manage besides just extending bricks.  I’d appreciate any feedback or suggestions that I can get on this front.

Really, I’ve been playing a number of survival games lately: Minecraft, Starbound, Don’t Starve, Lone Survivor, and Teleglitch. Against the Wall could be considered minimal survival game. Such games usually have a hunger stat and an inventory in some form. I wonder if I do need an inventory after all. Perhaps there is away around a traditional inventory, such as the one implemented in Miasmata.

Today’s Progress

There was this bug where, when exiting one chunk of bricks, the game would completely lock-up, but only on some playthroughs. Such lock-ups usually happen when a program enters an infinite loop (that is, the program gets stuck executing the same bit of code repeatedly and cannot move on to anything else). I spent a total of five hours tracking this one down. It was a tough one to reproduce. Here was the cause: when a dynamic entity falls off the side of the wall, it continues falling until it reaches the bottom edge of the generated world. At this point, it disables itself and adds itself to a list. Now, whenever the player changes chunks, the program would check the list for  any such props to re-enable them if they are close enough to the player. There was an apparently infinite loop that iterated through the list when changing chunks. The problem would only happen on playthroughs where I chucked the scarecrow entity off the side of the world, adding an item to the list for the loop to be caught on.

I did some other optimizations, mostly dealing with C# events. Boring stuff to relate, honestly.

What I’m Playing

Survival games, as mentioned. Also, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, which is fantastic game that brought me back to my childhood. Gone Home was a nice little story. Didn’t care for the nostalgia-baiting bits, liked the atmosphere, though the architecture was rather wild (e.g. the second-story rooms are not built above any first-story rooms). I finally beat FTL for the first time, bought the PC version of Dark Souls (loved it on the XBox) and played the hell out of Spelunky. There is a free indie game called Naev that I charged through until it began feeling rote. Finally, I played Icarus Proudbottom Teaches Typing, a surreal edutainment experience in the spirit of Frog Fractions.