What's going on?

[Game Dev] Vacation is nearly over - work on "They Come!" resumed

I'm back from a short vacation and now I try to continue with some game development in the final week of vacation while I also have to do some house repairs (bathroom, kids room and fence). As usual real life wins and game dev comes second or third ;-)

I already worked on the two scripted game over screens. The "Game Lost" screen is finished and I'm happy with it (see the two screenshots below). The "Game Won" screen still needs the distortion laser effect from Mark Alexander (NocturneGames) I've mentioned two posts below.

Now that Ouya is sold to Razer my confidence in releasing an Ouya version is pretty low but we'll see.

I also decided to release the Android version with ingame advertising for free and some simple IAP to get a advertising free "full" version. Maybe I even "cripple" the ingame shop and keep that for the full version.

Of course the ingame shop doesn't cost any real money - you earn credits for rescuing planets and population during the game and use them for ship enhancements. The credits are also your score so you'll always have to decide to go for devices or a better score. But maybe the devices will help you to achieve an even better score?

Who knows...

[Website] The new release V6 of TOWeb is out!

Lauyan Software did it again! A new release of my favorite website creation tool TOWeb is out and it contains tons of new features!

Some interesting stuff was added like

  • new paragraph types (calendar, articles covering several pages with their own automatic navigation, navigationless paragraphs for single page websites or About pages)
  • new widgets to add to paragraphs like polls, Twitter widget, charts or a time counter for announcements
  • better image galleries and nice additions to images of your website (zoom effects on hover, badges to add or text ribbons on the image's edge)
  • improved e-shop features, including digital downloads (hmm, that sounds interesting!)
  • a "back to top" button to ease navigation
  • a timestamp at the top of a paragraph (finally! Automatic timestamp generation went lost with V5 and my complaints were heard now)
  • more social buttons
  • better handling of capturing error pages
  • search engine optimizations and builtin support for Google's universal analytics
  • improved user interface
Guess what? It took me around 5 minutes to read the email, download the new version and pay the upgrade fee...
It will pretty surely take a while to use and benefit from most or all of these new features but I'm already very happy with what I've seen and used in the first 30 minutes of using it!

Thanks Lauyan, this is a great upgrade and in my opinion well worth the price!

To all you readers, I can only recommend TOWeb to create a good looking, feature rich, responsive design website with minimal efforts and absolutely no HTML/CSS knowledge!

[Game Dev] They Come! improved a lot

Sunday, June 21, 2015, 17:00

This long period without any update was well used time for game development!

I worked a lot on my WIP They Come! which is progressing nicely.
What's new?

  • The ingame tutorial is finished. 4 scenarios help you to understand the most important things to play the game. Some stuff like the shop and the features of the devices you can buy there can be found out by yourself.
  • I added lots of support for Android and Ouya - you can use the Back button on your tablet or smartphone or use the 'A' button on your Ouya controller to leave any screen instead of clicking the real "Back" button.
  • The ultimate weapon your ship uses to destroy remaining aliens now comes with gigantic explosions - I love them! They were created with the TMC Particle Lab which you can get very cheap here.
  • Several new achievements were added to the game.
  • On the Options screen you can now specify your Player name which will be used for highscores and achievements.
  • Also on the Options screen I've added toggling fullscreen/windowed mode for the desktop version of They Come!
  • Different layouts for asteroid belts and rebel stations are added.
  • Laser beams of fleet ships are fixed. They now hit moving targets correctly.
  • Several bug fixes as usual.
The Todo list is getting smaller again (although it's growing every time I fix something - no, there's no feature creep, I swear...). Next issues I'll try to get done:
  • Add laser distortion scripts from Mark Alexander (Nocturne Games). I can highly recommend this and his other Marketplace assets (here the link to Nocturne's Game Maker assets) for Game Maker development!
  • Enhance the game over screens with some nice animations and/or a scripted trailer.
  • Bling bling eye candy...
  • Create a gameplay video and upload to YouTube.
  • Finish this game!!!
Should'nt take too long anymore - I hope.

Until the next progress update,

[Game Dev] Ludum Dare 32 entries are rated - mine too!

Friday, May 15, 2015, 21:30

So after a 3 week rating phase the results are in! All entrants were asked to rate at least 20 games to receive a rating for their game.
I rated 38 other games (some of them were absolutely wonderful and stunning!) and had a lot of fun doing so.

The ratings for my game Bubbles are as follows:

  • Coolness 62%
  • #187 Theme 3.82
  • #214 Fun 3.52
  • #264 Overall 3.50
  • #287 Humor 3.25
  • #335 Graphics 3.42
  • #361 Audio 3.06
  • #484 Mood 3.00
  • #780 Innovation 2.76
Best score was for theme (Rank 187 out of around 1500 games!), overall was #264.

For comparison here are the scores for Holy Moly, my last year entry:

  • Coolness    59%
  • #366    Theme    3.47
  • #487    Fun    3.09
  • #753    Overall    2.97
  • #469    Humor    2.55
  • #981    Graphics    2.50
  • #843    Audio    2.16
  • #942    Mood    2.55
  • #858    Innovation    2.65

As you can see I improved in every single category! That's quite an achievement and if you look at the rankings I nearly halved most of the values except innovation.
Due to the fact that Bubbles was in fact a simple platformer with just an unusual weapon that's no big surprise...no much innovation here...

But I'm very pleased with the result and considering that I even spent two hours fiddling around with music I was doing pretty good. And the theme definitely wasn't one of my favorites at all!

So on to the next Ludum Dare that fits my family calendar!


[Game Dev] A lot on my plate!

Sunday, May 3, 2015, 16:30

Currently I'm juggling with more projects than usually. The last years I always tried to concentrate on one game project at a time - no distractions, no delays (except the usual real life related ones), just focus.

But after finishing Ludum Dare 32 I began to do a lot more. I created a post compo version - named Bubbles which is an enhanced version (also with some important bug fixes) of the competition entry. Jump over to its page to play or download it. This could become a little side project where I add stuff every once in a while...

The next thing is Inkscape, a wonderful vector based graphics tool. There are lots of tutorials and I want to learn using it - you'll need to get used to it's way to approach creating game graphics and you'll need to learn its features and shortcuts if you want to achieve good results. I'm on my way!
Best exercise is my Ludum Dare 29 entry - Holy Moly. The newest idea is to redo all graphics using cartoony vector graphics and create a mouse/touch controlled mobile version of it! Tons of ideas jump around in my head for this!

Then there is another game I want to create which must be played mobile! No hints yet except that I'm using graphics from Kenney! Those are simply amazing and a bargain for every game developer! If you consider using them (they are free, btw) I highly recommend you donate some money to keep this man going creating more and more wonderful game graphics!

And finally there is still They Come which needs to be finished! If only I could move my ass to finish the tutorial levels - they are so time consuming to create and test...
You see, lots of game related projects - I just hope I'll keep myself up on steam 


[Game Dev] Ludum Dare 32 and I finished again!

Monday, April 20, 2015, 00:30

What a weekend! My wife was visiting some further training in Bonn over the weekend so it was just me and the boys!
No better chance to join Ludum Dare 32! Of course I had a bit of house work to do like weekend shopping, cooking, the dishes and stuff like that. But basically I had the weekend off - my boys were more than happy to have a second "absent" parent who would just disturb their "Monster Hunter Ultimate 4" sessions...

This time the theme was "Unconventional weapons" and after quite some brain twisting I finally came up with an idea I wanted to implement.

The result is my new game named "Bubbles". It's a platformer where the hero's only weapon are soap bubbles to confuse and charm the monsters of some maze where he woke up.
The exit to the next level or to freedom will only open if all monsters on each level are charmed.

As it's late and I'm tired just find some screenshots below and of course:
The game is here!

And in case you also joined Ludum Dare 32 and are allowed to vote: please rate my game over here at Ludum Dare!


[Game Dev] Moles will be back and achievements for "They Come"

Sunday, March 29, 2015, 18:00

That was a pretty busy week! Full time job and still a huge amount of time spent for game development!

My company prints a little inhouse magazine covering news about the company's direction, current projects and so on. The reporter asked me last week if I would be interested in telling a bit about "Ludum Dare" and my experiences with it and so I did. Of course I also demonstrated him my game Holy Moly and while showing it I discovered how fun it is to play, what I wanted to add and that it would also make a nice mobile game.

I remembered that I wanted to redo the graphics to get rid of the pixel style and replace it with some higher res vector graphics. So I spent a while watching Inkscape video tutorials and tried to draw my first vector mole (see top left). That image was done using Real Draw Pro, but I want to redo it with Inkscape too.
To get me started some more I already created an empty GameMaker:Studio project and already loaded all the assets into the project I'm going to need ;-)

The rest of my game dev time went into They Come. I enhanced the animation of the rebel station tiles and implemented two more achievements for the game.

Finally I'm also lurking around the Atomic Game Engine forums and Github pages to see what they come up with. Progress is slow but promising - we'll see.

Oh and before I forget: I'll join Ludum Dare in April again - seems the April weekends fit my family schedule ;-)
So please wish me luck to come up with a good game idea for a hopefully great theme!

Until next time,

[Game Dev] Shop improved!

Sunday, March 22, 2015, 18:00

The last week I used all my spare time to improve the ingame shop implementation of They Come.
One of my beta testers suggested to make all implemented items available in the shop. Knowing that Nailbuster's UI widget library offers a horizontal scrollable list I decided to give it a try.

The gif below shows the result. It's working perfectly and implementing it was pretty straight forward and easy. The more I use Nailbuster's widget stuff the more I love it. It's so well thought and simple to customize - by far the best UI lib I've worked with and pretty sure the best UI lib available for GameMaker:Studio!

To support gamepads I also added a "Prev" and "Next" button to scroll the list and even getting those behave correctly was a ten minute task.

While implementing the new shop behavior I also restricted the shop to only offer devices that are not already installed in your ship. Otherwise game balancing could get completely off...
But I definitely need to fine tune the device prices now - some are too cheap (Short range sensor for example) and some might be too expensive to be really useful.

But that's another task for another day. For now I'm happy with the result ;-)


New shop functionality

[Game Dev] Atomic Game Engine - another interesting game dev tool!

Sunday, March 22, 2015, 17:00

Recently on Twitter I read about another game development tool/engine that sounds pretty interesting:
Atomic Game Engine is the name and it's another full fledged game dev environment (or at least it's on it's way!).

It offers an IDE to help you create your games. Scripting language is Javascript but the underlying game engine is a 2D and 3D cross platform C++ engine (a fork of the Urho 3D engine) with all the usual gizmos like a Scene graph, particle engine, Box2D for physics, Bullet engine, Shader and lighting support and much more.
The level editor Tiled is built in, support for TexturePacker and Spriter (2D animation tool) is also included.

You can add Javascript or C++ based components and access the underlying C++ engine easily.

The tool is just in its infancy but it already looks very promising! Supported dev platforms currently are Windows and Mac, deployment or target platforms are Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and HTML5, Linux is planned.

Currently Windows and Mac deployment are for free, a lifetime upgrade for the Pro version (including all deployment platforms) is currently on sale for 50$!

I'm having an eye on that one - you'll never know ;-)

[Game Dev] It's GDC and all tool/engine creators go crazy!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015, 20:35

You might have realized or not - it's GDC (Game Developers Conference) in San Francisco.
And obviously the key players regarding game development tools / engines have decided to go crazy, nuts, insane, gaga, you name it.

Current trend seems to be to release your stuff for free (or nearly) - it somewhat feels like "Free to play" games on your smartphone...

  • Corona started the fun by releasing their Corona SDK for free. You'll need to buy Enterprise edition when you want to call native libraries and get some other "pro" gizmos but the basic SDK is free now!
  • Epic jumped in with their Unreal Engine 4. Free to download and to use and to create games with it. You'll have to pay a 5% share if a product created with UE4 makes more than 3,000$ in a quarter of a year. But for starters/indies with less income it's completely free to use!
  • Finally Unity joined in and released Unity 5 Personal edition and they offer it for free too. You'll get all engine features and all platforms. Here you have to buy the pro license (1,500$ per common platforms) if you make more than 100,000$ a year.
So it's great times for indie developers to choose a new engine for your next game to come!

I only wonder what YoYo Games will announce now or in the near future...I'm afraid it won't be for free...


[Game Dev] YoYo Games have been bought!

Sunday, February 22, 2015, 19:40

What a surprise - a gambling, lottery and online gaming company named PlayTech bought YoYoGames this week for 10 million pounds (around 16 million $).
Of course the community reacted as usual - afraid, emotional, searching for a new development tool and confusing the hell out of everyone else in the official GMC forums.

The YoYoGames responsible devs and even Playtech released an official "everything will be fine!" post via email to all customers and in the official forums too which you can read here.

I expect the following to happen:

  • business as usual for the next months or the rest of this year
  • money goes into development of GM:S 2.0 because that's what PlayTech is looking for
  • prices, licensing options and so on might change later (next year or with the release of GM:S 2.0)
The price of 10 mio pounds is not very much for the company and the product so my guess is PlayTech got the company for this "little" amount of money because they plan to invest a lot of money before they expect some positive income later.

We'll see.

[Game Dev] Cargo ships, game difficulty and more

Sunday, February 22, 2015, 19:20

I wasn't very happy with the graphics for the pylons that shall visualize the routes you've built between planets.
They were too big and there was no game feedback if a planet is connected with another one or not.
So I came up with smaller pylons and cargo ships. As soon as (at least) two planets are connected cargo ships start to follow the routes and travel between planets.
I used the path finding which is implemented in GameMaker:Studio for that. A connected planet triggers an alarm every 3 to 5 seconds. The alarm creates a cargo ship. On creation time the cargo ship builds a map with tiles that either have a route or are planets. Additionally the cargo ship randomly chooses a connected planet which is stored in a list of it's creator planet. It generates a flight path from start planet to target planet using the constructed map and starts following its path. When the target planet is reached the cargo ship shrinks to simulate a landing and then destroys itself. All pretty simple and nicely encapsulated inside the cargo ship code.

What else was done do you ask? The following got into the game too:

  • GameDifficulty has an effect now. You can choose a difficulty setting in the Start screen. Right now it increases the number of generated aliens which will attack you through the vortexes. GameDifficulty also affects the start attack and defense values of the aliens - you've been warned!
  • The ScenarioIndex also affects the number of generated aliens which means the game will become increasingly more difficult level after level...
  • The player ship covers most of the tile it's on. To see what's below the ship I added some code that shrinks the player ship after 2 seconds and resizes it again as soon as you click any tile again - should increase visibility on mobile devices for example.
My todo list is getting shorter. But the remaining items (like adding laser distortion scripts or some more nice explosions or describing all the required tutorial scenarios or implementing the conditions for the achievements) are taking quite an amount of time...but one by one I'll get them done!


[Game Dev] Buy my achievements asset - now!

Sunday, February 22, 2015, 19:15

My GameMaker:Studio asset to add achievements to your game is now available at the YoYoGames Marketplace. Go here to buy it or play around with the HTML5 demo on this page.

[Game Dev] Local Achievements can be tried!

Saturday, January 31, 2015, 18:30

I finished the landing page for my GameMaker:Studio asset!
This asset will soon be available on the YoYo Games Marketplace and allows you to deal with in game achievements for all your created games easily!

Just click on the image or here to read more about it and try the HTML5 demo!

Or click here to buy it right now on the YoYoGames Marketplace!

Have fun,

[Game Dev] Little steps but important ones

Tuesday, January 27, 2015, 21:30

Finally! After some clarification calls with my tax office they managed to get me the necessary VAT id! For german sellers a VAT id is mandatory for all sales happening inside the EU. So I needed one for the YoYoGames Marketplace.
Now that I have a valid id I can register a publisher account, finish my asset I talked about the last few months and finally try to sell it! Yes!
Over the next few days I will prepare a page on this website for the asset and upload a little HTML5 demo that shows the usage of it.
Stay tuned!


Yeah, I'm a bit short with informations today - real life and fulltime job are pretty exhausting currently and I simply need to get some sleep ;-)
They Come didn't see much improvements in the last weeks, just tiny bits here and there...grumble...

[Game Dev] To veto or not to veto?

Saturday, January 3, 2015, 17:45

First things first: a happy new year 2015 to all of you!

And now back to the gamedev part :-)
I decided to enhance the tutorial code a little bit - a veto mechanism was added.
Every click node can now forbid clicking on any other tile except the highlighted or target one.

This is very helpful if you want the learning player to click exactly the highlighted tile to proceed and no other tile at all. Right now the engine only plays a "Nope" sound if the player clicked a "wrong" or invalid tile. I think I'll also add some floating message to explain what he's doing wrong.
Working good so far.

The issues I mentioned in the paragraph below are all implemented.

  • So the "Next level" screen knows about tutorials and shows proper texts,
  • I can give the player several bonuses to guarantee winning the tutorial level,
  • After the last tutorial level is finished the game displays a dialog and returns to the Title screen,
  • Entering the shop during tutorial levels can be allowed or forbidden by the JSON tutorial definition,
  • I added the space nebula backgrounds to several other screens (Title, Options, Next Scenario, Game Won, Game Lost) and it looks way better now :-)
I think it really is about time to create some gameplay video using OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) and upload it to YouTube. Still uncertain if I should add my voice explanations or not...

The Todo list is getting shorter!
Biggest remaining tasks are:
  • Defining the tutorial levels to explain gameplay,
  • Adding a smart difficulty behavior to the game (get harder if you win scenarios, get easier if you lose too many scenarios),
  • Adding code for all the achievemens I have on my list,
  • Adding eye candy,
  • The two player hot seat mode might come later as an update.
I definitely want to finish a first sellable version of the game in 2015 (I didn't reach my personal goal to finish it 2014).


[Game Dev] Hello teacher tell me what's my lesson?

Tuesday, December 30, 23:23

A line from the old Tears for fears song "Mad world" fits well - I finished most of the tutorial code!

But first the other important info: saving and loading the game state is working fine. After finishing the loading part I started working on the tutorials.

The following requirements were to be met:

  • I wanted an arbitrary list of tutorials, easily modifiable and extendable.
  • Tutorials should be kind of scripted.
  • They should run using the "normal" game engine.
Thinking about it for a while I remembered a discussion I had years ago with Kevin Glass. He had a little game named "Putty" with a wonderful ingame tutorial. So I asked him about the implementation. His answer and explanation can be read in this thread.

After rereading it several times I had an idea how to implement it using GameMaker:Studio.
  • The tutorials are JSON encoded files which are added to the project as "Included files". This way they can be read using standard file functions and are added to every deployment on every platform I'll create an executable for.
  • I have a script to read and decode such files and use the included ds_maps and ds_lists to create the necessary GM objects to store the required data.
  • Each tutorial has a Setup part and an Instructions part.
  • The Setup part is used to describe the tutorial level with all its required game elements and the proper player settings. It is read by a separate script which simply creates the game elements. After reading the Setup part the level is ready to be played.
  • The Instructions part is read afterwards and initially creates one Instructions object which contains the underlying ds_maps and ds_lists so that they can be destroyed easily at the end of this tutorial level.
  • Each Instructions object also contains an arbitrary number of nodes in a fixed sequence (an array).
  • Nodes can have different types (Info, Click), contain a text and a game map target coordinate and a list of highlightable coordinates.
  • Nodes must be completed before the tutorial continues with the next one.
  • An Info node just displays a dialog with it's text and waits for the dialog to close, the Click node waits until the player reached the game map target coordinates with his ships and is then completed.
  • The Instructions object checks every step if the current active node is completed. This happens by calling a script. The script calls other scripts (depending on the node type) and those scripts know the completion condition of their node type.
  • If the current node is not completed, nothing happens.
  • If the current node is completed, the next node will be activated (the text is displayed in a dialog, target coordinates are stored and all highlightable coordinates will be used to color some game map tiles which are important for the text or the tutorial progress).
  • The tutorial is finished when the last node is completed.
This is pretty simple and works like a charm

Below I've added an example script for a tutorial level.

There are still some missing parts (the "Next scenario" screen must know how to deal with tutorial levels), but I'll fix that over the next few days.

That's it for now, a happy new year to all of you!

    "Setup": {
        "Player": {
            "mapy": 0,
            "mapx": 5,
            "moves": 31
        "Planet1": {
            "mapy": 2,
            "mapx": 5,
            "population": 50
        "Vortex1": {
            "mapy": 4,
            "mapx": 0,
            "enemies": 20
    "Instructions": {
        "Node1": {
            "type": "info",
            "text": "Welcome, Captain, to our training center!#Here we will teach you how to control your ship#and how to defend the aliens attacking us!"
        "Node2": {
            "type": "click",
            "text": "Click on the tile below your space ship",
            "mapx": 5,
            "mapy": 1,
            "highlightstate": "visible",
            "highlight": [ [ 5, 1 ] ]
        "Node3": {
            "type": "click",
            "text": "There is a satellite on this tile!#This means a planet is close.#Planets are always surrounded by#satellites!#Now click on the tile below the satellite",
            "mapx": 5,
            "mapy": 2,
            "highlightstate": "visible",
            "highlight": [ [ 5 ,2 ] ]
        "Node4": {
            "type": "click",
            "text": "Planets can be searched. Very often they hide credits (money)#or bonusses that help you with your mission!#Click again until you've completely searched the planet",
            "mapx": 5,
            "mapy": 2,
            "highlightstate": "fullyexplored",
            "highlight": [ [ 5 ,2 ] ]
        "Node5": {
            "type": "click",
            "text": "Aliens attack our sectors through vortexes!#Find your way to the highlighted vortex!",
            "mapx": 0,
            "mapy": 4,
            "highlightstate": "visible",
            "highlight": [ [ 0, 4 ] ]
        "Node6": {
            "type": "info",
            "text": "You've discovered the vortex.#The aliens will attack the closest planet#from a vortex first.#Use your remaining moves to collect#followers and prepare for the battle!"

[Game Dev] Loading, loading...

Saturday, December 20, 19:30

Another long time passed but I wasn't sleeping all the time!
As usual family and job required their time and game dev time was minimal. But still I got some things done:

  • The new laptop is properly setup. I'm back to game dev mode again.
  • Saving the game at any time is working. Game state is written to a local file using JSON encoding.
  • Loading the game is almost done - as you can see in the GIF below this topic. Just some minor things I have forgotten to initialize properly cause some little hicups. Those will surely be fixed during my christmas holidays!
  • Some UI changes happened. I use borders around text to make it more readable.
  • Planets now have a progress bar to visualize how many turns it takes to the next population growth.
  • The Laboratory has a colored progress bar too. When it's full you'll receive a bonus for the current research area (attack, defense, population growth).
  • Thanks to beta tester Benedikt I fixed some bugs and a glitch that made the game way too easy - thanks for that valuable input, Bene!
  • The asset is done but I'm still waiting for my VAT id to create a developer account on the YoYo Games Marketplace and sell it...
I will surely fix more stuff and my todo list isn't done at all. Next big thing to come will be the tutorials.


[Game Dev] Do I get anything done?

Sometimes I really wonder how struggling life can be...
For several weeks I've been working on an asset for the YoYo Games Marketplace now. It's a part of my work in progress game They Come and could be helpful to other game developers using GameMaker:Studio.
When I reached the point where I thought "Hey, it's almost done" I wanted to create a developer account on the marketplace. But that requires a VAT number which I need to register here in Germany. First stop. Then I came up with two ideas that should go into the asset before I release it. Second stop. And finally, at the beginning of this week, my laptop died. Completely. Doesn't boot anymore and I can't access the hard drives. So I needed to get a new one. And start setting everything up again. Of course my backup on my external hard drive is two weeks old. Third stop. All my recent changes are gone.
Now I'm sitting here, procrastinating and trying to avoid to recode everything I did the last weeks. That's the reason I'm typing this. Doesn't help. Need to get back to GM:S and finish this ******* asset.
And get the VAT number. And register a developer account afterwards. Sigh.

Okay, let's start now!

[Game Dev] Another Ludum Dare ahead!

Tuesday, August 19, 20:45

This weekend it's Ludum Dare again. I'm considering giving it another try!
Just like the last time I have some real life obstacles. My wife is visiting friends over the weekend so it's just me and the two boys.
This could be "easy going" if I decide to ignore my role as a caretaking dad providing healthy, regular meals, play with them or do some real life event. And you know what? Ignoring all this responsibility, declaring a fast food, TV, PC and console weekend and get coding a game is soooo tempting ;-)

In the end I'll guess we'll end up with a good mix of good and bad and I'll try to create a simple but fun game in between.

Wish me luck!

[Game Dev] In the meantime...

Wednesday, August 13, 22:00

Are you still there? I am but infact I was gone for quite a while obviously. Nearly 3 months without any update - this hasn't happened for the last 5 years I think (I could look up the archives but meh!).

Stress load at work was hard, I didn't manage to work on They Come and update the website at the same time. So game work came first. Then it was about time for our much needed summer vacation. Enjoying the marvelous weather here in the northern part of Germany was great - the first "real" summer for years. Unfortunately it is already over and work has got me back.

What about game dev, you ask? Okay, let's have some facts:

  • Updated to uiWidgets lib 1.4 (as usual that worked like a charm!),
  • fixed the achievement controller,
  • added screenshakes for exploding planets and the ultimate weapon of the player's ship,
  • added nebula backgrounds (using huge prerendered space backgrounds and a random offset position),
  • added game won screen and game won conditions,
  • added game lost screen and game lost conditions,
  • added start screen with different settings (game difficulty, game type, game length),
  • modified credits, achievements and highscore screens,
  • started work on saving the gamestate,
  • fixed game controller handling to match GM:S 1.3 changes.

That's quite a lot if you consider real life and vacation in between!

After finishing saving and loading gamestates I'll start to implement the tutorial. As this is a rather complex strategy game the tutorial is required to get you started.

That's pretty much it for now, so I hope to come back with another update in the next few weeks and not months ;-)

[Game Dev] YoYoGames' Marketplace

Wednesday, August 13, 22:00

Once in a while YoYo Games do release some early access version of GameMaker:Studio. The latest EA version contained the first implementation of a Marketplace!
That was one of my favorite additions I felt was mandatory for GameMaker:Studio to attract a bigger audience and to provide game developers with some (semi) professional resources (code, art and sfx/music).

Even in it's early alpha state a bunch of artists and coders released their first assets and most of them are of high quality! I am pretty happy with what I've found and already purchased quite some assets (mainly code for graphical effects, lighting engines, shaders and such, but also some PHP/SQL online highscore solution!).

Most of these assets come with very good samples and/or documentation and they should help me to improve my games a lot!

Today was the release of the 1.4 beta version of GameMaker:Studio which means the Marketplace is available for every GM:S owner! Great times ahead!

If I find the time I want to sell my own assets, I have at least one idea for a good asset that's not available on the Marketplace yet. We'll see!

[Game Dev] Ludum Dare results are in!

Tuesday, May 20, 22:00

Ludum Dare result are in - so what were my results for Holy Moly?

  • Coolness    59%
  • #366    Theme    3.47
  • #469    Humor    2.55
  • #487    Fun    3.09
  • #753    Overall    2.97
  • #843    Audio    2.16
  • #858    Innovation    2.65
  • #942    Mood    2.55
  • #981    Graphics    2.50
Overall I made place 753 out of  1493 compo entries and 2497 compo and jam entries.
This is not too bad for a first timer. A good middle place in the compo entries.
I'm a bit proud of my rankings for theme, humor and fun. And I'm aware that my graphics were not really good. So the bad ranking is okay there.
This is a good motivation to give it another go (maybe in August) and try to achieve a better result ;-)

My biggest result was finishing a playable game anyway. So even before the rating was over (or started) I had already won the competition from a personal point of view!

[Game Dev] What's up now?

Sunday, May 18, 21:30

There are different things I started or continued in the days after Ludum Dare 29.
First I needed a little break - I realized that such a coding weekend consumes a lot of energy and my game dev mojo was pretty exhausted.

An update of Holy Moly is to be expected. Several ideas jumped through my mind and fought for the pole position...
Finally I came up with the following decisions:

  • change overall resolution to at least 640x480 or 960x640 and drop the low resolution approach (currently 320x240)
  • switch from pixel art to vector graphics to get a more cartoony graphics style
  • learn Inkscape by following the tutorials from 2D game art for programmers
  • make it an Android game with virtual keys (a touch area to guide the mole)
  • maybe make it a two player version for the Ouya
  • add some more gizmos and make the rats smart ;-)
  • add the music loops I bought last week
I already created a new GameMaker:Studio project for it and copied my tweening stuff and the splash screen over from my game They Come. Luckily it's not too complicated to reuse scripts, objects and other resources in new GameMaker projects.

And that's where I am right now. And of course I might jump back and forth between Holy Moly and They Come...


[Game Dev] Ludum Dare 29 post mortem

Sunday, May 18, 21:30

I posted a short post mortem on the Ludum Dare website and I thought I should also place it here.

So this was my first Ludum Dare and here’s a short review of it:

What went right?

  • First I managed to finish LD with a working, playable game! That’s already my first success. I wasn’t sure if I was able to create something worth uploading. I knew I had some family appointments and being a dad and a husband is always a guarantee for unexpected daily issues :-)
  • Choosing GameMaker:Studio as my weapon of choice. I’m learning and using it for some months now so I was pretty confident what I could do with it and what not. For “Holy Moly” it was a very good choice.
  • Trying out a 320×240 resolution in a 640×480 window. I always wanted to give that a try – learning the basics to create a low res game on a bigger resolution window and get it scaling. Again GM:S did the job perfectly fine here.
  • Try to avoid feature creep. I was constantly tempted to add more game play elements but I resisted knowing that it wouldn’t help me to deliver something playable. I will work on my game in the future and add some ideas that popped up during the development time (fine tuning of the timers for rats and water, smarter rats, drills that can kill the mole, dynamite, rocks as obstacles that can smash you if you dig below them, more different food items).
  • Choosing HTML5 for deployment. I think it’s very important for play testers to ease the access to the game. And a game playable in a browser without plugins to install or even a downloadable zip is the best way. Uploading to my webspace and integrating into my website was easy.

What went wrong?

  • Graphics. I do suck at graphics or I simply don’t have enough experience in creating them. I want to improve my knowledge here. So I will try to do some exercises / tutorials for pixel art and vector art. I used the builtin graphics editor of GameMaker and TileStudio for the ground tiles. I didn’t have enough time to give PyxelEdit and AutoTileGen a try.
  • One more graphics related issue: graphics style. I couldn’t decide what to use: pixel style or vector graphics. Because I wanted to experiment with the low resolution approach I went for the pixel style but as you can see in the game I’m not very good at it. Neither are my vector skills but anyway  ;-)
  • Music: it’s missing. I still haven’t found a good tool for me to create simple loops that sound “okay”. I considered Magix Music Maker Jam on my tablet but that isn’t able to create chip tune music which would have fit the game style. And for trackers I do have zero experience using them. And there are so many trackers where I don’t get the user interface…any recommendations are highly appreciated here!
  • Sound effects: I used bfxr and Audacity but I’m not totally happy with the sound. Again I miss some theory here to know how to modify the generated sounds to my liking. For example I had a perfect sound that I wanted to last longer or to sound a bit darker and so on.

Final words

It was tiring, exhausting, disappointing at some moments but overall it was fun, energizing, highly motivating and a personal big success for me. I will join other Ludum Dares because I did get so much positive experience from it in such a short time span – and it didn’t cost me a single dime  ;-)

I am aware now that I need to have a good knowledge of all tools that I plan to use during a 48h compo – it is simply a complete waste of time trying to learn a new tool in those 48 hours and expecting satisfying results on a first go…

And finally I’m totally impressed by some other entries: unbelievable what some of you guys and girls can achieve in 2 days! You are marvelous!

[Game Dev] I'm finished with Ludum Dare!

Sunday, April 27, 20:00

Whoa, what a weekend. Haven't coded that much in one go for a long time...and now I'm exhausted, tired and nearly brain dead ;-)

But I finished my entry and have just uploaded the final version and the source code and call it done.
There's no game music (sorry, Chris, I'm not that good yet) but the rest is pretty okay.

It's some 8 bit style retro game where you guide a little mole in search for worms. If you have found and eaten all worms you'll get to the next level / garden.
Every now and then you'll need fresh air and thus have to dig upwards. But be careful - the gardener has powerful boots! And a garden hose! And did I hear the sound of rats?

You can play the game in any HTML5 browser just over here: Holy Moly

Have fun, I surely did while creating it! And don't forget: this game was created just by me (all coding, all graphics, all sounds) in around 30 hours, including sleeping, eating, cooking and so on!


  • Title
  • Instructions
  • Ingame shot

[Game Dev] Ludum Dare 29 is go and I am in!

Saturday, April 26, 19:30

So finally I managed to join a Ludum Dare event. Although it's happening three times a year all those last years it was either too close to Christmas, on the Easter weekend or during our summer vacation...bah!
But this time it all fit! This is the last weekend of my Easter vacation, my wife is supporting me (thanks Mäuschen, I love you!) and the theme was one of my favorite themes ("Beneath the surface").

The playable game is available here: My Ludum Dare 29 entry

At the end of the competition you will also find the complete source code of the game. It will be a GameMaker:Studio project file in a zip. Feel free to learn from the code, just don't simply copy/paste most of it and name it yours, okay? Be fair.


[Game Dev] March already gone?

Ingame WIP with new HUD

Sunday, March 30, 19:15

And here is another update way too late but what to do?
Real life can be such a time killer...
...on the other hand: I do have a real life which is great. So I'll stop moaning and complaining and simply tell you what I've done game development wise over the last 7 weeks or so.

  • Gamepads on Ouya (and Windows) are working perfectly now - what else to expect, hm? After some fiddling and tweaking everything fell into place and the game reacts on gamepad button clicks and you can control the cursor with the d-pad or the analog stick of your input device.
  • Changed the UI font. This one was an easy change with huge effect. All buttons look much better now and the ingame HUD offers enough space now to also display the discovered alien device parts during your game play. Way better than before. Also the info screen is much more readable now and doesn't look so overwhelming.
  • As already mentioned I revamped the HUD on the main game screen.
  • Achievements are getting somewhere. I am currently coding the info boxes that will appear on screen when you achieved another goal - nice.
  • The battle code changed a bit too. Fleets no longer move and merge to support other fleets after the first alien fleet has been destroyed. This behavior made the game too easy. Now you have to split up your fleets wisely before the aliens attack because they will stay at the planet you assigned to them!
  • As usual bug fixes. Yep, it's true, even my code is not error free. But of course I'll fix a bug whenever it pops up and the final game will hopefully be nearly error free ;-) 
That's it for today. The todo list is shrinking, I still want to do a gameplay video and upload it to Youtube but I haven't found the time and proper tool yet. So you have to wait a bit more...


[Game Dev] Slow progress - again...

Sunday, February 9, 17:00

Sigh, another four weeks without any progress update - that's not good...
Real life in January kept me pretty busy and I only made tiny improvements on They Come.

Here comes the list of things I've worked on:

  • Fixed depth of attack path markers, now they are drawn above planets.
  • Improved the position of the fleet size number, also the way destroyed ships are decreased from the fleet size number.
  • Worked on gamepad controller. It's working perfectly now on Windows but unfortunately not yet on the Ouya. Using gamepad buttons to simulate mouse clicks is working correctly but the GameMaker function to position the mouse at a specified place on screen does not seem to work. I will file a bug if the developers confirm that it should work on the Ouya.
  • Added particle smoke to destroyed planets. Just some eye candy ;-)
  • Modified behavior of popup text. The text keeps its position for a second after creation and then starts to float upwards and become invisible.
  • Added sound to lasers and ship explosions and planet explosions. The tricky part was to limit the amount of sounds playing simultaneously to avoid noise crescendo.
  • Increased the delay after the battle is finished and before the game moves to the scenario overview screen.
Unfortunately I decided to switch to an early release version of GameMaker:Studio where JSON encoding on german Windows seems to be broken. This means I cannot proceed with the achievement code in some areas but there's still a lot to do so I will be busy for the next months ;-)

Some new screenshots for your pleasure below.


[Game Dev] What did you achieve?

Saturday, January 4, 21:30

Indeed, I achieved achievements for They Come and much more!

Some hours of my christmas vacation were spent for the following tasks:

  • Achievements added with bronze, silver, gold values, descriptions, icons, etc.
  • Loading from file, saving to file and automatically adding new achievements is in.
  • Also added a room for the list of achievements with a first prototype of the advanced ui list.
  • Game options loading and saving is in (like volume, fullscreen, etc).
  • Implementation of GamepadController started. Resolution independent, supporting Joysticks and Gamepads. This is required for an Ouya release. Currently guiding the Mouse using the gamepad is in, triggering Mouse buttons via gamepad buttons is missing yet. So the GamepadController simply uses gamepad input to control the mouse. This is sufficient to make the game playable on the Ouya.
I would call this some pretty good progress and I'm very pleased with what I achieved.
I hope I can create and upload some video in the next days to show the improvements.

Later, Thomas

[Real life] Belated merry christmas, happy new year and so on...

Saturday, January 4, 21:00

I'm sorry for being too late but as usual Christmas time was pretty busy with family stuff (what else?) and so I didn't update my website.
This christmas was pretty cool cause me and my son bought us a new TV set and an OUYA console. A perfect present for a Dad and his son!

There are many cool games available and we even got a 10 Euro voucher to spend for our first games from Amazon! On new year's eve the second controller arrived which I ordered from Amazon UK because Amazon Germany doesn't offer single Ouya controllers yet.
I still need to test my controller with my Laptop - it should work via Bluetooth.

New year's eve went pretty smooth, nice fireworks in our street and I was in bed at 3:00 AM.

So to all of you a happy new year, lots of health, fun and adventures!

Before I forget: one new year's resolution was to finish They Come this year and earn a few bucks with it! Stay tuned and of course buy it when it's available!