Merge, Fork, Kill

In the not so honorable tradition of the old, ah, social game(?), which beloved game franchise would you be willing crystallize in its current form forever? Or revamp completely? Or remove from existence?

Here are my three favorite game franchises*: Final Fantasy, Elder Scrolls, and Demon’s/Dark Souls.

I would be happy to keep the Elder Scrolls in their current form. Bethesda has done a great job capturing the feel of the games in each generation. I’m in.

I would choose to revamp the Final Fantasy series. Which, arguably, is what Square has been doing for years, as each game is rather different than its predecessor. I love many of the more recent Final Fantasies, but I don’t think Square has ever been able to return to the heights of VI or VII. Maybe a revamp would.

Which means I would have to kill the Souls series, even if that means the games would never exist. Perhaps it means From just won’t release any new games, which… they already may be doing so. Either way, the Souls games are fantastic, but Final Fantasy and Elder Scrolls are more dear to me, so away it goes.

What would you do?

*I reserve the right to change my mind AT ANY TIME šŸ™‚

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Unity, I Choose You

There are a lot of choices for game development tools. So. Many. Choices. Seriously. I could keep going. Here’s one more.

I chose Unity. I… may have wanted to choose Unreal something else. Here’s my rationale:

I am a software engineer by day, barbarian warlord in the evenings, and I tinker with game development in my rare spare moments. C# is just more valuable in the marketplaceĀ right now than C/C++. The C# specific to Unity doesn’t carry over perfectly to the outside world, especially into .NET, but it does better than not-C#.

And that’s it. That’s the reason.

I do have a few ancillary reasons, too. First, I have the most experience in Unity, starting with a course in college – which is surprising to me, but hey, colleges offer some cool stuff. Second, I have an in with an art guy who works in Unity on a daily basis, so it just makes sense to work in the same environment.

I’ve also seen enough anecdotal evidence that suggests Unity experience is valuable in the game dev marketplace, similar to how C# experience is valuable for programmers.

In a perfect world, I would learn All the Tools, and use whichever was most appropriate for the job at hand. No one has that kind of time. I choose Unity.

Top Five… Books?

Part of the joy from games like World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings Online is the ability to walk through a world that I already know and actually feel like I’m kind of, almost, a little bit there. So, without for preamble, here are a few literary worlds that I would love to see in game form, in no particular order:

  1. Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
  2. David Eddings’s Belgariad and Mallorean
  3. David Eddings’s Elenium and Tamuli
  4. Terry Brooks’s Shannara
  5. Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive
  6. Tad Williams’s Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn
  7. Tad Williams’s Otherland

…which just happen to be a few of my favorite series.

Actually, thereĀ isĀ a Wheel of Time game already. It’s supposedly wretched. I will probably end up buying anyway. One day.

I also excluded George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. For one, there are a number of games already in his setting. I haven’t played any of them, and the reviews appear mixed. Like the Wheel of Time, I will likely buy at least one of those games at some point. However, I feel like the low-magic-but-high-politics setting might not work well in game form.

There are countless other settings out there that aren’t in video game form, or at least not palatable game form. Authors like Anne McCaffrey, Terry Pratchett, and even Neal Stephenson come to mind.

So. What would you like to see?

Podcasts

Aside

Somewhat recently, I realized that I could make far better use of my commute time if I did something productive during the drive. Thus, podcasts.

There are countless podcasts about programming, most focused on different aspects, even drilling down to specifics. If you want a web development podcast focused on JavaScript, primarily Angular, well, you can find it.

For what it’s worth, my favorite is Coding Blocks. Great content, easy to listen to, and still very informative.

Game development podcasts, though, seem to be a bit harder to find, which is surprising. Especially if you’re looking for programming focused content. Maybe game devs are just too busy? It feels like there’s an opportunity out there.

There are a few great general game dev podcasts, like Gamkedo, but my favorite is LostCast. Unfortunately, LostCast is on indefinite and possibly infinite hiatus, which is shame. I highly recommend listening to the LostCast from beginning to end anyway, though. It’s quite a journey.

If you have the time, I can’t recommend listening to podcasts enough. I wouldn’t listen over reading or, I suppose, watching videos, but if only your ears are available then podcasts are an excellent resource.

Let me know if there are any other podcasts out there I should listen to. Thanks!

My Game Idea Was Too Big

Yep.

It all seemed so simple. Rogue-like (that means instant sales, you know) strategy RPG, a la Final Fantasy Tactics or, more accurately, Shining Force. I hadn’t seen the concepts combined before (although I have now), and it seems like a natural fit. Progress downward through a dungeon, permanent death, maybe meet new, strange allies… Plus, it didn’t seemĀ tooĀ hard.

I was wrong. It’s very hard.

Now, I remain a novice with Unity, my chosen engine for the game, so that’s one reason. But here are others.

  • Turn based sounds easier than it is.
  • SRPG enemies need some sort of actual AI, including pathfinding, beyond rudimentary scripting.
  • SRPG allies are generally numerous and at least somewhat distinct.
  • SRPG movement is grid based rather than free form.
  • Randomly generate content is actually rather hard to do well.

And on and on it goes.

I don’t have any wisdom to provide. Instead, I’ll focus on my own project.

I think the roguelike elements are still reasonable. Roguelike has become such a ubiquitous term, it can, for better or worse, mean almost whatever you want it to. For this project, it means randomly generated battlefields fit within some restrictions. Basically, Diablo I style.

Also, permanent death for party members.

But the strategy RPG aspects are a little daunting at this point. I think it would be significantly easier to create Final Fantasy Mystic Quest style combat: enemies are on screen, and if you touch them, a battle begins. But that is by no means Shining Force style. Perhaps another time.

Then there are all the little addendums that feel part and parcel to RPGs but aren’t entirely necessary: statistics, levels, even equipment and special abilities. Let’s not even get into character portraits, favorite foods, and all the other features that have evolved into modern JRPGs.

Equipment seems like a good place to cut it off. So I will.

There we have it. Randomly generated maps, with enemies that appear in… places… that may attack like Mystic Quest but probably won’t move around like Shining Force. What a game šŸ˜‰

How do I game dev, anyway?

It’s 2018 and I have a four year old boy. Don’t worry, though, this post is all about game development. Mostly.

My son will often tell me how badly he wants to do something: watch a show, play a game, even read a book (yay!). My response is almost always the same: you have to show me that you want it. It’s not enough to tell me. Except for reading a book. That’s fine.

Show don’t tell is a quintessential concept in writing, but it’s also common enough in life. My son still doesn’t really seem to get it, as evidenced by his continued insistence on picking on his little brother (oh, right, I have another son too), refusal to clean up after himself, and various other typical four year old behaviors.

Somehow, I’ve only recently noticed that maybe I still don’t really get it either. If you’re here, then you’ve almost certainly seen posts asking, “How do I get into game dev?” The answers are generally the same: work hard to hone a specific skill, such as character modeling or AI programming or the like, or just go make games. Those first few games will be awful, by the way, so make more until they are less awful. Then make more.

I confess that I end up acting like my son. I talk about how badly I want to break into game dev, how I want to make my own games, work at a real game dev company, work at a dream job like, I don’t know, Blizzard. But have I honed my skills? Maybe a little. Have I made any games? Well… maybe a little?

But a little doesn’t count. From my perspective, if you want to get into the industry through the front door – applying for a job – then you must be exceptional. Mere desire isn’t enough, because the people who get those jobs have the desire and exceptional skills.

Then there’s the back door. If you make a good game, a game that shows proficiency in design, programming, graphics, anything, then companies might – maybe! – come to you.

So let’s make some games! Otherwise, I am just an oversized four year old, shouting about how badly I want to do something.

Stream

I’m going to start live streaming my game development work. Shameless plug:Ā http://www.twitch.tv/einskaldjir

I’ll be the first to admit this is at least partially motivated by the opportunity to gain exposure for my work, and maybe, possibly, in a dream scenario, earn a bit of cash. More realistically, I simply hope I can help a few other aspiring game developers learn a little bit – most likely from mistakes. Perhaps hearkening back to that dream scenario, maybe I could help push a few folks over the edge (that doesn’t sound good) who were dithering on whether to attempt a game project (a little better). I’m hoping at some point we can all look back and say, “See! It wasn’tĀ that hard.”

It’s also interesting to work with the streaming technology. As the link above indicates (youĀ did see the link, yes?), I’m streaming on twitch.tv. At first, I downloaded XSplit Gamecaster, because the description stated it was “easy” and I could “start streaming in minutes.” Those are probably both fair statements, but Gamecaster limits its streaming to, well, games, which it detects through the use of DirectX or OpenGL. Which meant I couldn’t stream my game making with GameMaker. Back to the drawing board.

I considered using the open source solution suggested on Twitch, but I decided to try the other XSplit suggestion, XSplit Broadcaster. Worked like a charm, more or less.

I think I understand the what and why. Gamecaster is almost certainly the proper tool if you want to only stream games. Or, more precisely, game, because it seemed to attach itself to a game, and only stream that single game at a time. If you move to any other window, your stream will display an XSplit overlay by default, essentially an ad, or you can choose an option to black out the screen instead. This should prevent you from unintentionally sharing anything other than your game, which could prevent embarrassing or dangerous mishaps. Of course, it also prevented me from intentionally sharing anything other than my game, but it all worked out in the end.

Time, of course, will beĀ a major factor. We’ll see how it goes. I hope to see you there.