On a whim the other night I finally registered momopax.com, just short of one decade after Jules and I decided to start labeling our collective game efforts with that name. We have recently started chatting about creative projects again after a long quiet, and this is our new outputzone.
As it turns out, OpenGL loves to check for errors after every call. This makes you spend about double the time in OpenGL every frame. We were going kinda crazy trying to figure out what the problem was; I assumed it was my fairly elaborate collision detection. But running the Python profiler exposed the truth, and now we’re at a happy 30 frames per second again.
Managed to more or less finished some of the wall and floor tiles last night. As soon as I was done (as goes with these things) I noticed a number of artistic and logical issues with tile placement that weren’t apparent while making them. In the end, I decided to start again. So far in the space of about 30 mins I’ve re-achieved what previously had taken about 6 hours. Funny how this whole thing goes. So much learning.
It feels a little hard to have to start again on a lot of these things so frequently, and makes me feel kind of stupid the first time around. I think the experience is worth it though. Certainly since I am working on this so regularly these days my general ability to create graphics is much faster than it has been in the past.
Also, I almost took some screencaps last night! That was about 5 mins before I decided I needed to start again, though. Maybe once I have something that I like I’ll show an evolutionary side-by-side comparison.
For our meeting on Saturday, I made some tiles that Fet and I could use, as mentioned earlier. These were really simple, basically a new set that had some floor tiles, some stone blocks, and some pitfalls – the basics for making a level. Since then, I’ve been working on a developing a nicer version of this interior set. It’s going really well, last night I finished up the basic wall tiles. They’re quite clever, if I do say so myself, and allow for great flexibility! I’m getting much much faster at quickly developing these sets, too! Hopefully I can finish the floor tiles for this set this evening and we can really make the interior levels a little more interesting.
Maybe I should post some pictures of this stuff. Words are so much more time-consuming to devour.
This weekend gone, Fet and I managed to carve out a few precious hours to actually work on Paraplu together in the same room. The progress was substantial.
Most of the work we do on Paraplu is conceptual – either I’m making tiles outside of a level, or Fet is tweaking or introducing a new feature for which there is no art. It’s been very rare thus far that we actually assemble any of these pieces we have. Whenever I do attempt it, I am impressed with how quickly and easily it is possible to assemble something roughly game-shaped in a small amount of time.
With this, both of us are relatively inexperienced at some of the concepts associated with this. We haven’t either of us had much practice in making levels, or really thought about the consequences our current system has on level design. Each time we delve into this realm it is deeply enriching and we learn a lot in a very short while. Some of what we learning is surprising, and gives us an exciting insight into what our forefathers must have felt when designing their first experimental levels: getting an idea for how to direct the player around the level, to inspire a sense of adventure and curiosity through the lofty building bricks of Passable and Impassable tiles. It’s an artform, and the first time you put brush to canvas, it inevitably feels heavy and unfamiliar in your hand, yet the tantalising and powerful potential is there – through this medium you can fashion exciting, undiscovered worlds into a form that can be experienced by others.
And yet, once we had made a level and put some basic enemies in it, we were left with the “now what?” feeling.
Fet summarised it well, “What makes this game Paraplu?”. I have many clever ideas, most of them are most likely a programming nightmare! I’m usually too scared to mention them to Fet, but I often do anyway. Trying to expand the scope of the game beyond just killing enemies, without introducing complicated code is a difficult challenge. But, for the time being we must remain strong and focused. We can make levels quickly with a great editing tool, and you can do things in them. Next: learn how to make levels! That’s progress, and it’s really good fun, too!
Still feeling very inspired, have been working on Paraplu pretty much every day. :D
Talked to Fet the other day about changing the way levels work in the game. Previously, each level was just a single screen, and now we’re looking at making it so that the edge of any given level will (optionally) take you to another screen, like in TLoZ. Moving in a more adventure game / exploration model direction, it seems!
Started working on an interior tileset for a murky, ruined interior a-la Temple of Doom or something of that ilk. Made more progress in a short time than even I anticipated, with walls and floor tiles already in some workable form after a single evening’s work!
Will keep going with this tonight.
Still making progress! Managed to finish version “A” of the cliff tile-set earlier this week. Easily the most complicated tiling i have attempted. Many tiles have to be able to seamlessly tile with about 6 other tiles in any combination. In the end I managed to bother Fet into working out some slightly more flexible tile masking arrangements to make the task a little easier, but man I am i glad to be finished with it. I can see how many people only have 2 or 3 “texture” tiles – making them all compatible is just such a huge headache!
Regardless, as always I have learnt a lot of very useful tips and tricks in doing this. I’ll probably have to rework the overall palette and touch up a couple of the seam combinations that I didn’t get a chance to try, but overall I feel like finishing this is a fairly major milestone.
In doing this, I did a fair bit of studying of older tilesets, and became interested in discovering how artists overcame the severe limitations (both in terms of colour and size-on-disk) of making graphics for the 8-bit era. Did you know that in Fire Emblem there are 3 tiles TOTAL for walls? Really clever, I never even noticed. With that, I started investigating possibilities for what I might work on next, and I think an interior set, something in the spirit of the kind of atmosphere found in La-Mulana (which, by the way, is an amazing and free game). Such a tileset would be based on perpendicular tiles, and the “seams” would be natural edges found in tiles, meaning that any given floor tile would “automatically” be compatible with any other tile. The amount of work this takes out of the equation is tantalising, as doing seam matching accounted for about 75% of the time it took to draw the tiles. Additionally, fewer tiles overall are required, further reducing the time investment.
I also started to think about the effect that interiors might have on the game itself, as they (often) lend themselves to more confined and technical level layouts. I immediately started to recall the wondrous level designs of earlier screen-based dungeon games, particularly Zelda and its kin. Fashioning diabolical traps and wending dungeons seems like much more interesting way of going about things after the designs I have toyed with thus far. My Capability Brown-like insistence on making outdoors areas look “natural” limits the flexibility of their designs, although it does produce attractive results. But quite aside from that, the prospect of having these quite different and interesting “modes” of play – combat-heavy fields outside and tricky puzzles and traps inside – makes Paraplu seem even more awesome in my mind than ever before. This is going to be FUN.
I like to ramble, evidently.
Last night I got some good work done! Along with the work that fet was able to finish yesterday we’re making some solid progress. Pictures soon, promise.
Fixed some bugs in shooting while running animation
Re-exported shooting while running frames
Updated palette on various grass tiles
Made Mycon spawning “hole” (might change this to something more elaborate later)
Began work on cliff tileset
We have made lot of progress in the past few days.
Thanks to my coworker Andrew, we finally got Python and its dependencies properly set up on Julian’s MacBook so that he could run the game himself. Before that, were having to rely on making prebuilt copies on my machine whenever anything changed. Considering how simple and approachable Python is designed to be, setting up packages and installing things is a giant frustration.
Jules convinced me that we ought to increase the map size by a lot; we now have tons of tiles to work with. Levels that take several minutes to work through are now more possible.
After finding dual-stick Robotron controls unwieldy, and unable to agree on a tap/hold scheme, we decided to offer *both* of the tap/hold schemes. Tap either button to fire in the direction you’re moving; hold the Jules button to maintain your firing direction as you strafe around; hold the Fet button to halt your character in place and shoot in any direction.
Adding a hit stun effect to the enemies when you hit them was a big step in the direction of making Paraplu feel like a game. It’s a tiny thing, but seeing an enemy shake back and forth and halt for three frames is quite satisfying.
After putting it off for a long time (god knows with good reason) Fet managed to help me get a dev environment set up on my new Macbook. I would say that this has been something that has caused progress to be slow, but I would really just be making excuses. Regardless, it did allow me to try my hand at using Fet’s nifty level edit mode to make my first level last night. Holy crap.
It happened so easily, so naturally. We have all these tiles and features in place, and in about 10 minutes I was done making a new level that, if I do say myself, looks great! I could make ten such levels in a single evening if I so desired. I plan to do just that in the coming week. It also helped me to realise a few very easily remedied issues with my tilesets. How much putting these things into practice can reveal.
With the incredible Cave Story coming out for Wii this week I’ve been massively inspired (Daisuke Amaya is not only one of my biggest influences, but one of the people I admire most in the game-development world period). Things have slowed down a little at work, I have some free time, it seems an appropriate time to jump on development and get into a groove.