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NaGaDeMo (National Game Development Month) is just around the corner, and I've signed up for it.

What I'm actually doing isn't entirely certain though! I'm not going to work on an existing game (So Multiplex is on hold - though I could potentially do a Multiplex minigame during the month) and I can't do anything overly ambitious. Any suggestions?

Edit - I'm doing Battlesuit! Kind of. As a straight forward turn based strategy game / visual novel thing.

Indie Game: The Movie

This is going to be pretty brief since I'm not a film reviewer!

I got to attend the New Zealand premier of Indie Game: The Movie yesterday. Overall I thought it was pretty good.

The documentary covers the post-mortem of Braid, the release of Super Meat Boy and the ongoing development of Fez, featuring interviews with the primary developers. The weakness of the film seems to be that there's very little in the way of technical details presented (which some of the game developers in attendance would have liked to have seen more of, though I know that making it more technical would have made it less likely to succeed with the mainstream).

That said, I really appreciated the film's focus on the people involved with indie game development. I could really relate to the hell they went through and the passion they had for their development, though I haven't experienced either to nearly the same level (for example my game development hobby has certainly caused annoyance within my relationships, though definitely not as much friction as the film suggests the subjects experienced!).

It's given me some reassurance that game development, especially personal game development, is worth it in the end and I think it's going to help motivate me (and an awful lot of other game developers) to seriously get back into it.


Monken: Semi Automatic BlitzMax conversion for Monkey

I got an email from Cobra a couple of weeks back asking if I can help out with the Monkey port of his BlitzMax title PowerSlam.

It was definitely something I was keen on, but I knew the complexity of the source code (MDickie's engine combined with our own changes) and the differences between BlitzMax and Monkey code (far larger than the differences between Blitz3D and BlitzMax code) was going to make a manual port of it a very frustrating exercise. 

Asides from some rather complicated syntax changes, the biggest stumbling block was going to be the structure. The Blitz languages always allowed you to write programs with a 'basic' like structure; you could simply write your code from start to end, intertwining your logic, loading and rendering calls, and implement your game loops where ever you wanted. Monkey is far more rigidly structured, all of your code goes into an 'Application' class that contains distinct areas for loading, rendering and the game loop.

So I started dwelling on the idea of automating at least some of the process. Not simply for Powerslam but also for The Kiwi's Tale (previous attempts to port it to XNA and Monkey ultimately didn't pan out), and I figured there might be some members of the Monkey community that'd be interested in the easiest possible way to take their old BlitzMax projects and put them on the App Store. So I decided I'd try writing a tool called "Monken" (it's a play on Sharpen, the Java-to-C# tool), itself a Monkey application, to automate as much of the process as possible (a completely hands-off translation would be next to impossible, as it would be tricky to do an automatic shift of the game loop into the correct place, and this would differ for every game).

Though I initially quit after a few tests didn't pan out the way I hoped them to, I couldn't get the idea out of my head. So I thought about how to solve the individual problems that'd be associated with such a translation, sat down and started working on it (using some of the BlitzMax samples to help me test the translator) and hey presto, Monken V0.1 is born!

To demonstrate what Monken can currently do, here is the BlitzMax "breakout" sample that was mostly translated automatically, with a few manual edits to get the thing to compile and work as expected. (A tutorial is packaged with the download that explains in detail what needs to be done to get the game running in Monkey).

While Monken is still in a very early Alpha state, with a to-fix list as long as my arm, some already might find it useful and I'm hoping to get some help with it. The current download is here.


Multiplex update

New Multiplex screenshot. This wasn't actually rendered by the game, it's more of a concept whipped together in Paint Shop Pro.

UPDATE: This is no longer a faked concept screenshot. It's an honest-to-God, actual screenshot of the game running itself as a minigame no less than at least seven times (the squashing effect you see is because the aspect ratio of the theater screen is different to the game screen). Also since this "minigame" is based on a hypothetical Inception sequel, the game speed doubles every iteration. The only reason I didn't go deeper is that at 27 gameplay speed, it's basically impossible to walk to a theater door without rocketing past it!

In other news, I have been evangelising the game at the Auckland Game Developer meetups, so I'd better make good on my promise to actually show something playable soon!

The main thing I've been working on is some mechanics for the overworld hub system (The multiplex itself). Each of the Cinemas will contain their own minigame based around a film, film concept or game tie-in of a film.

Misc update

Sam reminded me the other day that I haven't posted here in quite awhile. I got in bit of a rut with my game development, but I'm slowly getting back into the swing of things.

Very little has been done on the Battlesuit project of note recently, except for one really awesome thing. Check out Anthony's new sketch:

This is a new concept sketch of the MF-101 Viking, the primary enemy mech encountered in the game. The really impressive thing was that Anthony sketched it on his iPhone alone during his bus trips to work.

While Battlesuit is on the back burner (The core game is on hold, but the re-write is still going very slowly), I have started up another mini project with a mate. The working title is "Multiplex" and it's kind of a very loose tribute to/remake of an old C64 title, but with some twists that we hope will make the game fresh and interesting (and even somewhat frustrating!). I've done a couple of rough programmer-art levels with the Sega Master System palette (which I actually quite like now, it's bright, varied and vibrant but not too gawdy). Check it out, and see if you can guess what the inspiration game was:

Script Frenzy?

Completely forgot script frenzy started today. What am I writing this year? Either I could make a marathon attempt to finally get the second draft of last years script (for my current game project) out the way, or some fan-script or another.

Any suggestions?


Bond plot rehashes


Connery Lazenby Moore Dalton Brosnan Craig Total
Caribbean based villain uses superstition to keep his fiendish plots under wraps. Dr No   Live and Let Die       2
Bond is in a race against time to retrieve an invaluable encryption device before the Soviets do. From Russia with Love   For Your Eyes Only       2
A massively wealthy, eccentric horse owning villain stockpiles a valuable resource, hoping to increase it's value by destroying one of it's largest repositories. Goldfinger   View to a Kill       2
A SPECTRE agent named Largo steals a nuclear weapon to hold the world to ransom. Thunderball AND
Never Say Never Again
By hijacking or destroying vehicles that belong to rival powers, the villain intends to trigger conflict on a global scale. You Only Live Twice   The Spy Who Loved Me   Tomorrow Never Dies   3 (Winner)
Bond falls in love with a girl. And then she dies. How sad.   On Her Majesty's Secret Service       Casino Royale 2
A villain who Bond thought he had killed at the beginning of the film, resurfaces in the guise of an eccentric billionaire, and attempts to conquer the world with a diamond powered laser Satellite. Diamonds are Forever       Die Another Day   2
Bond faces off with an anti-Bond, someone just as ruthless and womanizing as he is. They fight at the villain's island fortress, and Bond escapes as it explodes.     The man with the Golden Gun   Goldeneye   2
Bond in space, yo!     Moonraker       1 (Loser)
The villain attempts to set off a nuclear device at a strategic location and make it look like an accident, for personal gain.     Octopussy   The World is Not Enough   2
After several MI6 agents are assassinated, Bond is sent to terminate the threat.       The Living Daylights   Skyfall ??? 2
Bond goes rogue from MI6 in order to carry out a personal vendetta in Latin America.       Licence to Kill   Quantum of Solace 2

Why they never repeated the idea of Bond going to space, I'll never know!

Leap Day Resolution

Why isn't there such a thing as a Leap Day Resolution? A Resolution that you have to keep for Four Years beginning on February 29.

I've given it a bit of thought and decided to do my first Leap Day Resolution: Simply update something on the main personal project I'm working on (currently Battlesuit of course) every single day. It might be something exceptionally small - a single sentence on the script, or a single line of code - but as long as I did something, it counts.

I think there's a couple of reasons this makes sense. One is Jerry Sienfeld recommends this approach for comedy writing. The other is that Cave Story - which is in my opinion, the Citizen Kane of free games - took four years to complete (though I make no promises to do something even a fraction as awesome as Pixels work!)

And if I fail - which I freely admit I might do - then I'll make a shame post so you can all laugh at me.

So, hopefully next Leap Day Resolution post, I'll have something really cool to show for it. Christ, I'll be 32 then..

Edit: Well, I failed the resolution. Nothing's been going right for me recently.

Battlesuit Dev Diary #7

Again, didn't really get any time to do anything towards Battlesuit. So here's another faked up concept screenshot.

About two thirds of the Shareware episode is set in space, so I thought I should do a screenshot there. This is a depiction of the Shareware episode's final boss fight. While most boss fights are against an enemy with superior armor and firepower, Manfred's Battlesuit is only lightly armoured and is armed only with a sword. That said, the Battlesuit is lightening quick and Manfred has cat-like reflexes, so it promises to be an intense fight.

As you can see I've streamlined the GUI a bit, though I intend to do so further. I'll probably ditch the instrument panel look and switch to glass displays. Also thinking about retro-ising the displays with low resolution and limited palette, the game is set in an alternative 1980s so at least the computer displays should look like they're from that era!

Battlesuit Dev Diary #6

I didn't actually get to do much work at all on Battlesuit this week, infact I suspect I won't be for the next few months. Aside from the usual business, a side game project has popped up that, while I can't talk about it, I am quite proud of it as it's the first time I've deliberately made a game for a very special target audience.

So, just to keep up the habit of posting screenshots, here's an extremely rough, faked up screenshot showing how I imagine the Graphical User Interface. (Anthony - sorry for using your sketches!).

Apologies again for the GUI being laughably rough. Here's the low down:

  • Top left is the Video Communication screen (graphic created in the Anime Face Generator)
  • Top is the message window, which'll let you know useful stuff like there's a missile on your tail
  • Top right is the Weapon selection and ammo screen
  • Bottom right is the Target info window
  • Bottom is the radar
  • Bottom left is the Armour info window

As you can see, there may be Wing Commander influences there ;) I'm hoping the final version of the GUI will be functional, immersive but hopefully not too intrusive.