Archive for January, 2009

Global Game Jam – Coming Up Jan 30

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

For those of you who may be interested, the Global Game Jam is coming up on January 30 to Feb 1. Basically a bunch of developers get together and form teams to make a game over the weekend. I’ve never been to one of these, but I have participated in the Game Design Workshop for the past several years at the GDC and it’s a lot of fun every time. I will be attending this event and I strongly encourage any aspiring game developers out there to also attend. You’d be amazed at how much you learn, but more importantly you’d be amazed at how many contacts you’ll make. And we all know getting a job in the game industry is all about who you know.

Just to prove that point, John Sharp is running my local Atlanta Game Jam. He and I were co-speakers on a panel about kid’s games at 2008 Siege Con (which is basically the GDC of the southeast). It amazes me how small the game industry is. I still consider myself a fledgling and I’ve already recognized quite a few of my friends’ names in the list. It’s very important to remember that your reputation will follow you everywhere in the form of people, so make sure you don’t ever burn bridges.

XNA Tutorial – Star Defense

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

I’ve just stumbled on a mother load of information over at http://xnaresources.com/. They have a tutorial that serves perfectly as the next logical step from the previous XNA tutorial (Simple 2D Shooter) I posted about earlier. It’s another complete shooter but this time with a title screen, animated sprites, power ups, sounds, and best of all… explosions! Woohoo!!

Here is a direct link to the tutorials: http://www.xnaresources.com/pages.asp?pageid=8

Enjoy! I will be finishing it, as well, over the weekend and posting my results.

Indie Review – Gravity Bone

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Gravity Bone is an action game played from a first-person perspective where you take the role of a super spy on a few top secret missions. I say “a few” because the entirety of the game can be played in under half an hour, but it’s one of the best 30 minutes I’ve spent with a game in a long time! Kudos to the creator, Brendon Chung, for making this gem of indie gaming. It just goes to show how much one person can do with the tools that are out there.

Gravity Bone Screen Shot

Gravity Bone Screen Shot


Look & Feel

From the moment you start, Gravity Bone offers an amazing ambiance full of life. The blocky nature of the character models and animations is quickly forgotten due to the amazing textures on their faces and bodies. In fact, I almost prefer it to the “realistic” models found in a lot of other games. I spent a good amount of time just wandering around the initial area looking at the other characters from various angles. This just proves, yet again, that a game doesn’t have to have the highest-end graphics or realistic characters to be great. As a player, I am delighted to suspend my disbelief and accept the square-faced people around me as real, normal individuals in the game world. The audio and sound effects complimented the atmosphere beautifully and reminded me of a James Bond movie. The entire game has a dry sense of humor, lightly mocking itself and its genre while maintaining a surreal but serious visage to the player.

Level Design

Gravity Bone guides you through its story and goals without making you feel babied, a tribute to Brendon’s skill as a level designer. New controls, goals, and concepts are introduced smoothly and you never feel overwhelmed as you add to your repertoire of possible actions. The missions seem completely random from an objective point of view, yet somehow they integrate seamlessly inside of this brightly colored world of espionage. The story unravels at a good pace, keeping my attention at all times and even throwing a surprise twist. Maybe I should have seen it coming?… Regardless, all of you aspiring level designers should take a long time going through this game, studying the techniques Brendon uses to steer the player to specific sections without making them feel like they don’t have a choice. Even the instructions are built into the levels, appearing on signs the player encounters along the way and strategically placed to help out just when the player needs to know how to do a specific action.

Gravity Bone - Instructions signs in level.

Gravity Bone - Instructions signs in level.


Gravity Bone - More Instructions

Gravity Bone - More Instructions


Conclusion

If I have a complaint about Gravity Bone, it is only that the game is painfully short (I was serious when I said it would take you no more than 30 minutes, and that’s only if you stop and admire things like I did). But it is a bittersweet pain – every minute was packed full of action, suspense, and a nagging feeling that made me keep going. Despite the linear storyline and knowing what was going to happen, I played through the game two times just to get a broader appreciation for the environment. I sincerely hope that he’ll make a sequel. Having had this as a teaser, I’d gladly shell out some cash to experience this again in a longer format.

Get the Game

The game can be downloaded from Brendon’s website, Blendo Games, and it does not need installation or any additional files. I strongly recommend that you play it right now – you’ve got 30 min, right? Dinner can wait. You’ll be glad that you did.

Blendo Games: http://www.blendogames.com/

New to XNA? Start here!

Friday, January 9th, 2009

So unless you’re living in a cave devoid of any game development news, you’ve heard about XNA even if only as a buzz word. When I first heard about it, the only thing I knew was that I could use it to make games for my Xbox 360. I didn’t know what programming language it used, what software I’d need to install, or even where to start. All I had was a good knowledge of general programming concepts and experience with Actionscript 3.0 programming.

After doing some research online, I discovered the XNA Creators Club Online. That handy site was EXACTLY what I needed to get jump started. Their Newbie FAQ was extremely useful, as it answered every question I had about XNA but was too embarrassed to ask. I mean, come on, how can I be taken seriously as a developer when I have a stupid question like, “What exactly is XNA?” Shouldn’t I have already known this? Apparently not, since the FAQ answers that simple question and more, and the Creators Club site is very developer-oriented. In fact, the community is very helpful and inclusive to people of all skill levels (similar to the Flash community), so you don’t ever have to be worried that someone will look down on you for your lack of experience.

While I learned the answer to most of my questions, like the fact that XNA programs are usually written in C#, it did NOT tell me what programs or applications I would need to write C# code. I had worked with Visual Studio when I was in school and I remember C# being one of the options, but back then I had not even gotten into Actionscript so the entire program was an extremely daunting task. Plus it used to cost a pretty penny, and I am averse to spending ANY money when learning and testing out a new technology. Fortunately for me, Microsoft has released new lighter versions of Visual Studio for free, including a version that lets you write C# source code.

For those of you that may need help with that step, Microsoft has already done a fantastic job of making an introductory video for people who start with literally ZERO experience. You can find that video on this page (just click the link “Video: Introduction to Visual C# 2008 Express Edition” at the bottom to have the video open in Windows Media Player). The whole download and installation process may take a while, up to an hour or two with a poor internet connection. Once that is complete, do a Microsoft Update. SURPRISE! Bet you didn’t see that one coming.

When the update is complete and you (have been forced to) restart your computer, you are (finally) ready to install XNA Game Studio 3.0, which is a toolset that integrates into Visual C# 2008 Express. It serves as a sort of “template” with pre-built code and code libraries that come right out of the box to make your game-development much easier.

Once it is installed, I recommend restarting your computer once more. The program should now be loaded in your start menu.

  • STEP #4: Run Visual C# 2008 Express (START -> PROGRAMS -> MICROSOFT XNA GAME STUDIO 3.0 -> Microsoft Visual C# 2008 Express Edition)

If you have done everything correctly, you should see something like this on your screen at this point:

Visual C# 2008 Express - Startup Screen

Visual C# 2008 Express - Startup Screen


So now that we have our work environment set up and ready to go, it’s time to dive into the meat of the topic — coding your first XNA game. The Creators Club website has a marvelous little 2D tutorial that spans a little over 20 bite-size videos divided into 9 chapters. Admittedly it’s just a very basic 2D shooter game, but hey it’s your first time with XNA, right? For those of you who, like me, are already familiar with Actionscript (or another similar coding language), this will be a piece of cake. If you are learning how to program for the first time, it’s going to be very difficult, but give it a shot anyway.

That about sums it up! Once you are finished, you will have a basic functioning 2D shooter that you created in XNA! If you feel brave, you can even tackle the “Extra Credit – Community Tutorials” section. I checked out all of them and they are all great. A few final comments:

  • The tutorials were finished using XNA Game Studio 2.0, but 3.0 should work just fine. Your startup and project selection screens may be different but everything should still work.
  • I believe there are a couple of places where the code is just a tiny bit different than what the video states, but theses should be obvious if you have any experience coding. I’ll try to find those places and update this post once I have them.

That’s everything! Have fun making your first XNA game! :)

Flash Tracer not working? Do a Flash Player Version Test!

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

For those of you who don’t know what Flash Tracer is, it’s a Firefox plug-in created by Alessandro Crugnola that lets you see the output of any trace() statements hidden in the Flash code. Very useful! You can get the plug-in by visiting the following link:

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3469

I recently ran into some trouble with Flash Tracer, namely that it wasn’t working at all. I consulted the online help and went through the checklist:

  • Flash Debug Player? – Check! I’ve had that for a while.
  • Output file pointing to the right text file on my system? – Check! I reset it manually just in case. (And FYI, the path on a windows machine should be “C:\Documents and Settings\{User}\Application Data\Macromedia\Flash Player\Logs\flashlog.txt” – obviously replace {User} with your username)
  • Make sure Flash Tracer is not paused? – Check!

Why wasn’t it working? It drove me absolutely batty, until my friend Scottae pointed me to this web page to verify I had the right version of Flash Debug Player installed:

http://kb.adobe.com/selfservice/viewContent.do?externalId=tn_15507

Looks like I was a little too hasty with my first check mark. The website revealed to me that I did NOT have Flash Debug Player installed for Firefox. Apparently, way back when I first installed it, I accidentally installed the IE ActiveX control, not the Netscape enabled one. Most Flash developers of any accomplishment will probably snicker at my mistake… However, for you newbies out there who aren’t able to get Flash Tracer to work, do yourself a favor and use that handy little link to make sure you actually do have Flash Debug Player for Firefox installed. Lesson learned!

Oh, and Alessandro has explicit instructions to get your plug-in to work here: http://www.sephiroth.it/firefox/flashtracer/

– George

Casa Lib Open Source Flash

Monday, January 5th, 2009

I was recently introduced to CASA Lib by my friend and fellow Flash developer, Scottae, and I have to say I’m quite amazed. This extensive library is jam-packed full of things that I’ll be using over and over to make my life a lot easier. It’s stuff like this that you’d think would be native to Flash anyway, but isn’t. In my years programming games, I’ve started to move towards coding like this anyway, but the guys who developed this library do it FAR more efficiently and elegantly than I ever would have. Go ahead and dig into the source code – it’s all there and it’s beautifully executed. The documentation is thorough and detailed as well. The only complaint I have is that I wish there were even more concrete examples buried in the documentation (like Adobe’s documentation). Here’s a few of the features I am particularly fond of:

  • Any object that can dispatch events can now be created extending RemovableEventDispatcher which tracks all those pesky event listeners automatically and gives you easy, convenient methods for cleaning them up in one line
  • The commonly used display objects are recreated (CasaSprite, CasaMovieclip, etc) with a destroy() method, giving you a neat and tidy way of doing everything to make them immediately available for garbage collection
  • An inactivity monitor to easily integrate code that needs to run when the user sits there idle (perfect for games)
  • A class that can register for and respond to key combinations being pressed at the same time or in a specific order (again, perfect for games)
  • A plethora of new utilities that address situations where we have all said at one point “man, I wish there were something built in to Flash that can [insert common process here]” – too many to list here

I’ve only been through about half of the classes so far, so I’m sure there are a ton of other really nifty things that I haven’t even discovered yet. Mega kudos to Aaron Clinger and Mike Creighton for spearheading and managing this library. I can’t say enough good things about it! This has been a godsend for my game programming and I’m looking forward to incorporating these new classes into my projects.

OFFICIAL SITE: http://casalib.org/

Enjoy!

– George

Game Dev Overload

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Welcome to my new blog, Game Dev Overload!

Sometimes it can be daunting to tackle game development. I remember when I first started school for Game Design, I felt lost and confused about how it is done with only my passion for games driving me onward. Eventually, I got sick of waiting for the programmers at my school, so I decided to learn programming for myself and make my first game. After being thoroughly dazed and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of knowledge that was out there, I settled on trying my hand at Flash. But even that was difficult. I would not have been able to do it without the help of a friend who hand held me through the beginning stages of Flash and showed me a ton of resources, so in return I’d like to offer this blog as a sort of tool for other aspiring and current game developers. The content will be programmer-heavy, but most indie game developers are programmers anyway (or at least work closely with one). I plan to use this blog to centralize a whole slew of game development resources for both my own and anyone else’s convenience. I will also be posting reviews of some great games I’ve played as anyone who makes games should also be playing lots of games.

Anyway, I hope you find my blog informative and helpful. Enjoy!

– George