Blog Archive 2015

[Game Dev] Still alive and coding!

More than two months without any website update - I think this is the longest period of silence since the beginning of my website blog in 2006!

Nevertheless I was very busy in real life but also with game development on They Come!

So much was added or enhanced that it's hard to remember everything - let me try to summarize.

  • "Game lost" screen scripted and improved
  • "Game won" screen scripted and improved
  • Rotating 3D planets! Thanks to @TMC_LordVTP who explained a lot to me about 3D objects, textures and mixing them with 2D sprites using GameMaker:Studio
  • Shop improved
    • better device descriptions
    • device descriptions updated as soon as the item is the centered one
    • devices ordered by their price
    • adjusted the device prices reflecting their impact on game progress
  • Redid the vortex (no cut edges anymore) and the caustic nebula that covers the unexplored tiles
  • Improved highscores screen and the highscores themselves (added the player's name)
  • Improved achievements screen (simpler, more organized and readable)
  • Reduced the countdown for the arrangement phase from 15 to 10 seconds - more intense now!
  • Satellites which are discovered during gameplay now also work as defense units and fire 1 or 2 laser beams against attacking aliens (depending on the chosen game difficulty)
  • Icons and splash screens added for the different devices and their required sizes - I even created a little tool for this which I might sell via in the next weeks
  • Added some "spoiler" text (hidden on the Options screen) that teaches you the game mechanics to understand how the game works and to find new strategies matching your personal game style
All this took a lot of time so I apologize for the lack of information but I hope you'll understand and it's definitely all worth it.
In fact the game is nearly finished I'd say. Time to release a gameplay video and a first version into the wild wide web soon...


Rotating planets!

Some new screenshots!

The Game Won sequence for They Come!

The Game Lost sequence for They Come!

[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 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).


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