Monday, 6 February 2017

State of the game - life is a mess and seeking help

The switch to unreal went quite fast and if you followed the stream you know the changes I made to the original concept. Lately I had a few problems with motivation and as a result I did not work on the game as much as I wanted to and I am way behind schedule (by about two month so far).

All that does not mean that I will abandon the game in any way. It simply means that the schedule I set for the streams and the work might not be the same as stated on twitch. The starting time of 10 in the morning is not really working for me most of the time. I was thinking of changing to a 12 to 20 schedule on Tuesdays and Thursday. The rest of the week will hopefully to schedule but I cannot assure that.

As to the game itself, all the old mechanics are in and the first quest is in as well (get beer). There is also the overarching main quest in but only the first two steps are achievable, the rest is not implemented yet. There are a few uncertainties in my original design that I need to figured out. Another thing that is not clear as of now is the visual style of the game on release. Originally I was thinking about a realistic style with me being able to design characters according to some parameters but I cannot easily use the same system in Unreal as I would in Unity.
Now, I was thinking of going the cartoony realism route, like WoW or Darksiders. The problem is that I cannot paint textures myself and I cannot create all environment models myself or it would just take way longer than a trained artist would need for the same work.
Apart from the art side of the game, I still need a lot of story and dialogue content which means a lot of writing and other aspects of the game need to be designed as well.
In a game about beer, there is no beer or any brewing yet, not sure how far I want to go. There is not enough to do in the game so far and I need to change that...

As to my life, it really is a mess, I do not know what is wrong with me but I will get some help soon and hope that I will be able to continue working on the game and get my life in check at the same time. So I hope you will understand this will be my focus first and foremost.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Possible Engine Change

Due to issues with different aspects of my game in Unity, I decided to switch over to Unreal as I got a lot more documentation and tutorials for that engine as for Unity.

One of the issues are for instance the shader I was using for my terrain that made the textures look better and let me have "holes" in the terrain for my caves. The theory is really nice but over long period of time I did not manage to configure the shader to my satisfaction.
In Unreal, I can do the same thing just out of the box and with simple configurations. On one afternoon I was able to import my terrain into Unreal and set it up that it looked similar to the result in vanilla Unity, I also found a tutorial to get the full functionality of the Unity shader in Unreal.
Unfortunately, I also found a bug in Unreal that removes the textures in the piece of terrain on which the terrain hole is located.

Next steps are to import all the environment assets I used in Unity into Unreal and add them to level. After that I will add the mechanics in blueprints to the Unreal project.

Meanwhile, my brother is working on basic character meshes and a pipeline to provide me with different base meshes for each race that I can then use for my character creation both ingame and for npcs.

All this means, that there will be a further delay in my schedule (which is already about a month behind) but hopefully result in a better base game as well. I will work on key features during the next week and if I run into mayor issues along the way, I only "wasted" a week and will go back to Unity where I have to change the scope a bit and then work on more content. In the event that Unreal helps me catch up lost time and speed up development, I will stick with it and continue working on having a prototype ready for testing a week later.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Hell of a Move

During the last few weeks I was slowly moving from my apartment back into my childhood home. As per normal move I had to get all my stuff packed up and ready to haul over the few kilometer with a small transporter. All that worked out fine and the transport itself was quicker than anticipated but the rooms I was to move in were still filled with old stuff of my parents and I had no space to put my own stuff. So the first day after the move was spend in making space by emptying out one moving box on the floor and take old stuff out of shelves and pack that into the now empty box. After that I could store my stuff on the empty shelf space. This procedure I had to repeat for about 20 boxes and carry out the newly filled boxes to other rooms in the house for my mother to sort into new shelves...

All that might be normal moving procedure but it was new and exhausting to me as I only moved once before 13 years prior to that and in the exact opposite direction. 

One other aspect was really getting clear only a day before the move, there was no real room for me in the house. Yes, there was a bed I could sleep in and a door I could close but that was about all of it. There are three (including myself) people living under the same roof who have to use the same bathroom and coordinate using the kitchen, the washing machine and living spaces. Something I had not to deal with for the 13 years I lived alone in my apartment and a huge change as a result. I had to make room for my stuff and negotiate uses of rooms as well as finding out that I could use my computer but the internet would be too slow to actually stream.

In the two weeks since the move I tried to get everything sorted ( books moved to shelves, papers into binders) but the internet situation was a bit of a chaos and is still not sorted out, so that I noticed that I last streamed about a month ago. So sadly the community I build over the month before might have moved on to something else because I did not have the chance to get the word out that I am unable to stream... and even work on the project because I had no time for it yet.

On a different note, I should be able to get back to schedule as soon as the internet situation is sorted out and everything else is ready to go so far. There might be one or two occasions where have to run errands or have appointments in the next few days or weeks but that is normal organisational stuff that would have happened anyway. 

The project itself is in a state where I have to make a build and give it out to people to test and get feedback before going on in development. I made a build prior to the move but there where a few too many bugs to give it out yet. Once those bugs are gone and the game runs at a reasonable frame rate I will give it to friends and select members of my community to get feedback from them. With that feedback I can improve the base game and start to add more content to it.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Internet Problems, Moving and Future Plans

On Thursday last week, my internet provider decided to throttle my connection which resulted in me being unable to stream anything unless the situation is resolved. The connection works for normal purposes but not for streaming as it needs a high upload bandwidth. A test in a live chat with a technician from my isp showed normal or even high values for my connection type and time of day which I confirmed with normal speed tests but on upload tests the bandwidth was worse and it even degraded from there to a point where even now normal speed tests show really bad results. The reason is the automated system that controls the allocated bandwidth for each paying customer meaning if the costumer is not paying on time the bandwidth is lowered and in extreme cases even cut. In my case being overdue a few days it was lowered and sadly enough to prevent me from streaming. All this will be resolved during the next week when the bills are paid and the system gives me back the normal bandwidth. EDIT: Well, it turned out to be my modem that I thought I had restarted already but apparently did not. I restarted the modem and everything was back to normal... damn, my head must have been elsewhere, read on to find out ;P

On a different note, my overall financial situation is not the best and as a measurement to cut monthly costs I have to move. Moving itself is not the issue but the location I do not like at all... back into my parent's house. I escaped there 13 years ago when I was able to get a nice apartment a bit further into the city I live in but now I cannot afford that apartment anymore and have to live in a house with my crazy family and give up the benefits of living alone (even though I will have a separate part of the house just for myself but there are only doors separating me from them).

The move will happen over the next few months and I hope to be able to work on my fantasy project without big interruptions during and after that time. The project has a high priority for me and I will do the best I can to keep working on it.

As for this week and the following I will try to stream but if that is not possible I will do recordings of my development process and upload them to YouTube. The same might happen with my gaming sessions on Sunday (tomorrow at least). I have not done much on the project on Thursday and Friday but I will do an bit of work on it on the weekend so that I will not fall behind "schedule" too much. Why did I put schedule in quotation marks? Well, I do not strictly have a schedule for the project and that is something I need to change gradually over the next few weeks just to figure out how long I might have to work on a specific feature. At the moment I am still working on outfits for the characters (pc and npc alike) and I have nearly two outfits for females and nearly one for males. Once I have two complete outfits for both genders I will move on to another aspect of development like maybe writing and structuring the player's path throughout the game a bit more. If I am really happy with the outfits I will try to put them on the asset store for a few bucks and will also give them to patrons on Patreon (in the appropriate tier).

Sunday, 22 May 2016

First Fan Art and Patreon

During the last week of streaming development on my game, some viewers created some fan art for characters I put into my game at some point.

For the bar maid Mila who was created with the input of viewer Ashevre and others at an earlier time during the development I got three pieces of fan art:
Mila (front) by Ashevre
Mila (perspective) by Ashevre
Mila (perspective with comment ;P ) by ze_MEA 
There was one piece of fan art created for one character I created while getting the hang of Mixamo Fuse and was on Skype with a friend. The character is called Frank and he likes cross dressing and being fabulous...
Frank by Ashevre
On a different note, sometime last year I set up a Patreon account but did not create an actual page where you can do pledges at. I updated the info and opened up the page up for pledges. Feel free to help me out in any way you can here.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Update after a Long Time and 60 Days of Fantasy Project

Oh, wow, it has been a long time since my last post...

Well, I am still alive and I am still "working" in the games industry. Working is in quotations because I am still unemployed and only work on my own projects. One of these projects has turned into some kind of a full time job (without pay).

Speaking of that project, in December I played a pen and paper role playing session with some friends. The system we used was a home brew system of the DM, a simple system to get you going within minutes. The world was also his design and quite hilarious and we designed our characters accordingly. I played a hill giant paladin who was trying to keep the peace but was killing bandits with his giant stone boulder hammer causing a huge mess. His after-fight "ritual" was drawing runes to cleanse the bloodied ground and smashed remains were sinking into the ground and it was restored to a state looking before the carnage.

After the session, I wanted to turn the main dungeon into a level design project and started working on that in the beginning of February. My friends send me touched up floor plans to work with which helped me putting the layout together faster. It was just supposed to be a visualization of the dungeon and some level design practice for me but it turned to something more. 

In the middle to end of February, I picked up streaming again and besides playing games like Rise of the Tomb Raider, The Division (Open Beta), Stardew Valley and SkySaga, I did some streams with game development. I did pick a schedule for me that works comfortably and stream game dev for about 8 hours every day of the week, taking weekends off to get a bit of distance and not burn out. 

Last Thursday I took some time and looked up my times for the streams and noticed that I had been working on the so called Fantasy Project for about 60 days (53 days streamed and a few days more on offline work). 

From my initial small level design practice, the project grew to a big game project with a big world map (about 4 x 4 km) with a village, a few farms and the exterior of the brewery and more to explore. I plan on filling the map with interesting stuff to explore and interesting stories to discover. So far I have the base mechanics in which are simple first person adventure game mechanics. You use the mouse to click on highlighted objects in the world, right click gives you info and left click does interactions with the objects. At the moment the interactions are just text feedback but there will be sounds, particle effects and custom events for specific objects.

As I am working on the project alone I have to do not only level design and programming but also a bit of content creation in 3D programs. As my licence for 3D Studio Max ran out a long time ago I needed a new program to work with, so I picked up Blender and had to learn the strange interface and apply my previous knowledge in modelling to it. The first few models I created were simple cave entrances for my terrain but I had to move on from that to clothing creation for a character customization system in Unity (UMA - Unity Multipurpose Avatar). I kinda enjoyed that completely new aspect of model creation as my previous knowledge was in static level objects like walls or other simple level elements.

So as a conclusion, I am working on an indie game on my own at the moment live on Twitch. Come watch me on as I want to do all the development live and the plan is to get the game out by February next year (no concrete planning done yet). Pictures and more info on the game later ;)

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Small Updates

I updated some of the blog pages and the landing page.

Changed are made on Who Am I? and Stories.

On the first page, I added social media links for people who are interested to connect with me.

On the second page I added a link to the story blog I mentioned in the last post. So far I have posted one short story with a fake newspaper followup and the first two chapters of my most recent longer story over there. The blog format is not the best one for chapters of larger stories as they are ordered by date of the posts and as a result backwards.

The landing page is still a mess and I have to do more on it but so far I am not sure what it will look like as I am thinking about moving the blog over to a better address and maybe even another format like Wordpress or so. So far, those are just thoughts as I have not found a suitable server and URL solution for my needs. I would like to have just one address where you can find all the information and all the posts from this blog and the story blog in a format suitable for the content.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Updates after a pause that was far too long

It has been too long without any update, my life is still kinda the same. I am working on my projects and some of them proceed others fall victim to unfortunate time management. 

As for projects, my game projects have changed a bit. 
I will continue working on Zombie Sleepover at later date, a friend of mine (another game designer from the Games Academy who helped me with a three month internship at a local game company) is going over the design and is making a proper design document for a fun first person shooter.
Dork Tales is on hiatus at the moment and I might get back to it as soon as I get someone to help me out with assets like 3D models and audio files (music and voice overs). The ideas I have for the game I cannot realise as of now, meaning without money to pay for the help I need.
I started a new project to work with Unreal Engine 4. It is an idea I was toying with for some time and it is based upon Phaeton, the scifi world some friends and I have been working on for some time. It is based on Blueprints at the moment but I will change that for later iterations and convert them to C++, at least the most crucial systems.

Oh, I mentioned an internship earlier. I was having no luck getting a job in the industry with traditional methods but got an offer for an internship after posting in an private user group. I tweaked my CV and over those connections I got an internship at a local game company working with Unity. The project is off yet unannounced, so I am not able to talk about it. Working in a real company sure was a learning experience that changed my expectations a bit. I learned the importance of good structure in code and project alike and that communication should never be neglected.

On other fronts, I picked up writing again and might even start up another blog or something similar just for that. That will include the translations of almost all my stories into English as they are almost all in German. I also came up with a new idea for a story that I might publish along with the other older stuff.

I haven't really played any games for some time now apart from Creativerse but as much as I like the game, it is just a time waster, something you can play on the side while watching tv series or movies. Speaking of games, Fallout Shelter released on Android and I wasted some time and money in it so far. I would not really call it a game in the classic sense, it is just a clicker that tries to push some buttons like caring for your dwellers and leveling up as many of them to get better gear from the wasteland to have better chances of survival. It is a recurring cycle repeating over and over again without any real involvement and chance of influencing it.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Memories and other Stuff

Was talking to a friend and we reminisced about stuff we each did when we were younger. I was reminded that I had a lot of different story starts and one or two short stories that I have to translate at some point.

When I was in my late teens, I wrote a lot. Stories, Ideas and world descriptions for pen and paper roleplaying are stuffed in a folder on one of my shelves and catch dust. All of those are written in German and I want to translate some or all of it. There are two or three stories with quite a few pages (20 to 40) and one or two short stories that could be translated and published as is. One of the bigger stories I recently started to translate and already have five chapters finished. It is in a rough state and has no formatting or proofreading done. Parts of it might still be in German on a few pages and in the appendix. Here is a link to it on my google drive.

The translation is as slow as all my other projects even though I found a nice article about finishing writing novels with only a few words per day (how to push past the bullshit and write that goddamn novel a very simple no fuckery writing plan to get shit done). I just need to get my shit together and plan out my day better.

On the job front, I got a chance for a nice C# programming gig here in my city (yay, no moving) but it involves a test that will be send out next week and there are other candidates. I do not know my chances there as I am a bit rusty due to my long time being unemployed and only having done a bit of coding during that time. I have done different projects in Unity ranging from simple movement scripts up to plugins for the editor (parts of my adventure toolkit that I worked on), so I think that I at least know a bit about writing code for Unity. I will not make more predictions in that regard as I do not know what the test will be and I also do not know enough about the company to anticipate the scope of their projects apart from focusing on mobile games made with Unity.

As for what I do with my time, well the usual, gaming and watching american tv shows. The games I played recently were Creativerse and a game called "Timber and Stone" which is a bit like Dwarf Fortress mixed with Minecraft. Randomly generated blocky terrain and buildings as well as characters build out of small cubes. In a recent update they added slopes to the terrain and more detailed textures, it looked better for it.
Creativerse is switching to Unity 5 atm and they are reworking the movement system, so it is a bit different now but if that is good or bad, I cannot say yet.

I have not worked on Dork Tales as much as I wanted and Zombie Sleepover is officially on hiatus by now and could maybe call it canceled as well ;P

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Indie Development: Self Made vs. Store Bought vs. Originality + a few updates on projects

In Zombie Sleepover, we recently hit a major road block, all our assets are store bought and we do not have an artist to change the textures or models but as the bought assets are nice and popular, a lot of developers are using them. It is fine for small things but if the sample levels from the content creators are used in games unaltered, they go a bit too far.

There is a huge package for medieval caves, dungeons and castles on the asset store and we found at least three games on steam and on other platforms with the same assets, even with whole level segments copied from the samples provided. I do not own the games, so I do not know if the content creators are credited enough and I do not know what the right way to credit store bought assets is frankly, shall I list all the packages I bought or not? Do I do that only if I do no alterations on the assets?

Store bought assets are fine for prototyping and if you are able to change them to make them fit your game better but using them unaltered in the end project seems kinda cheap but we were thinking of doing the same thing just because we do not have the artistic skills required to make out own 3d art or the textures like in those packages. As that stands, do we have a problem and need to hire an artist or is it ok to use those assets and make the game we want with generic assets but with our game play and level ideas? Will our game be less original as a result? Is it possible for a programmer and a sound designer to make a game on their own without going the "artistic minimalist route" or do crappy pixel art (not that all pixel art is bad, there are some really good pixel artists out there)?

Due to negative feedback on Zombie Sleepover and the amount of games with the same assets, we are changing the concept for the game to be something different (more on that later, as soon as we are done with the redesign). That will result in a change in our projected timeline, meaning the game has to redesigned a lot and we do not know how long that will take.

In the meantime, I am working on a few things in Dork Tales and hopefully get back to streaming on a more regular basis and keep it up this time (hopefully)