Monthly Archives: October 2010

Ludum Dare Contest Entry – “Almost Done”

Check this blog article to see what “almost done” generally means.

But that’s generally. Now I have very accurate information about my progress.

I have a task list that consist of “must do” and “optional” tasks. Right now there’s only 1 programming task in the must-do list, other 3 are dialogue writing tasks. This means I’m pretty certain that I can achieve what I wanted – but of course we’ll see that soon.

I actually like the game already, and while it hasn’t been balanced properly (and while my “optional list” is actually growing quite a bit – I’m getting all sorts of ideas), I feel that this game has potential.

I made a really brief video showing what’s going on in the game: basically you have several characters (middle row) whose actions (attack, support, move down etc.) you need to plan. Each action can be (usually) used just once in succession (so you must have “attack” – “other action” before doing “attack” again) Each character has some special skills (which can also affect actions). New enemies appear on new locations and things get harder as the game progresses.

The screen looks like it has quite a lot of dark area, and I try get some bit more interesting (like rocks and stuff) but that’s the “optional” list.

Anyway, in my humble opinion the game will be worth the $1 after tomorrow.

Now to get some sleep.

Programmer-To-Person Dictionary

There’s this programmer mind in me that interferes with life. For example, last Monday I received a paper saying that “maintenance work begins on Monday at 9″ (then some paragraphs of text) and also saying “no water during 9 to 14″.

After thinking a bit of this, I started wondering if these 2 are separate issues or not. So, I had to phone call the maintenance company guy and ask if there would be water shortage on other days as well, since that “no water” text was far away from the header, so it was impossible for a programmer mind to 100% say when the water shortage would occur. (It was only on Monday, which took at least 3 minutes of time for the non-programmer mind guy who explained something about some other company and what they needed to do when I asked “will there be running water on other days?”).

Similar things happen to me all the time. I see an ad stating “almost unlimited” and my brain stops functioning. It goes to endless loop trying to figure out exactly how unlimited that almost unlimited is. It’s bit like when this one dude was arguing that he pirates music and it’s “almost legal”. To me that’s “illegal”.

Anyways.

Programmer mind can be tricky. It functions on a different level than any normal human being.

And for that reason, I have done this helpful guide which first states “what programmer says” and then “what programmer really thinks”. Any producer can find this very, very useful.

“It’s almost finished”
Contrary to what you would expect from a “rational” programmer, this statement bears no meaning. Saying that something is almost finished can mean anything from “it’s really finished” (rarely) to “needs big of debugging (see below)” to several weeks of work.

“I thought you meant that we need this”
“I didn’t understand/bother to look/care about/saw your specs.”

“Needs bit of debugging”
Expect at least 4 days of work.

“We cannot do that”
“I’ve just completed 3 weeks of work based on the specs you gave me and NOW you come here and say to do it differently. How freaking difficult it is to realize that changing something using rubber costs much, much less than changing finished code?”

“Okay, we could do that – but we need to refactor a lot”
“I still disagree with you”

“It’s like 15 minutes of work”
4 hours.

“I’ve refactored my code and now it’s really clean”
“I’ve learned new slang and want to impress you.” (But code will never be “really clean”)

“We’d need to do research that carefully first”
“Aww, that sucks. I can’t be arsed to code that feature.”

“We should have clear rules on how to indent our code”
“I’m ready to fight – anyone want to challenge my coding practises?” (Hint: try stay as far as possible from these situations. The fights will be ugly)

“That’s wrong way to do it”
“I’m more experienced than you and you should shut up since I know how things need to be done and if you don’t agree we’ll see at the indent-out-code arena.”

“This design pattern usage is really saving our time – thank god I took time to investigate this properly”
“I’m happy to be doing anything else than any real work. I could keep doing the perfect time-saver forever, if only I had time”.

(That’s it for now – you don’t have any more to add to the list?)

This Ludum Dare Contest Is Fun! (Oh, And Pre-Order My Game)

Missing IGF deadline, I’m totally excited about participating in the Ludum Dare October contest. Since one part of the contest is *selling* that copy, I ended up doing this.

Done so far: couple of dwarves, cutscenes (heh), some dialogue, action selection system, character stats/attributes, to mention something.

Still need: few more dwarves, game loop (attacks and stuff resolve), location/room handling, special skills, end game… and more.

Gotta be really thoughtful about what to add in the game and what to leave away. Anyway, this will end within a few days… and it’s a fun little break to take from longer projects.

2 Unspoken Methods For Creating Difficulty Levels

There’s 2 things that many games miss when choosing difficulty levels. But before getting deeper into those, here’s a story about what made me talk about this issue.

I tested a game done by a friend of mine. It’s a cool sidescroller game which I like to describe as “horror-ish adventurish sidescroller” game.

Quite interesting phenomenon occured to me while I was testing the game. I thought that the game was too difficult to me. I didn’t get kicks in trying to time my jumps right, or fighting huge number of monsters or Big Bosses.

I was much more interested in immersing myself into the story and looking at all the beautiful artwork in the game. In fact, I even said to my friend that I disliked the fact that I almost got stuck once (due precision targeted jumping), and almost dropped the game. I then later got stuck against one Big Boss and felt that I would have wanted to continue, but it’s just my skills won’t be good enuf against that Big Boss. Therefore I have no option other than stop playing.

He said he would consider adding “easy” difficulty (besides “normal”) in the game.

And… if that happens, I’m so one happy camper since I hate to get stuck. My fingers aren’t made for platformer games, they are made to hold the NHL ’11 stick. It’s hugely important that player won’t get stuck. Difficulty levels can help with that

Anyways, this kept me thinking that there’s couple of nice tricks that you can do with difficulty levels.

  • Naming them differently: In NHL ’11 the default difficulty level is “pro” which somewhat stands for “easyish”. Then there’s allstar and superstar difficulty levels. These stand for “normalish” and “hard”. There’s also “amateur” for “easy”. Even though “pro” can be somewhat easy, I still like that they call it “pro”. It gives me a nice lie about the fact that I can think to be better player than I am. And I like that lie. When I play games that have “super easy” or “easy” (and cannot even beat those) I feel like a small worm getting under a big foot. Not good. But “pro” (even when it’s relatively easy). Now that lie touches my ego. That’s a good lie. It’s good to communicate that “even though this difficulty level is somewhat easy, we respect your player skills – and call you pro”. Consider it. It’s a blatant lie. But I like it.
  • Second thing is: *possibility to change difficulty during gameplay*. I first saw this in Minecraft and immediately thought that other games could use this as well. Why choose difficulty right in the beginning? Why not let player choose difficulty as the game progresses. Perhaps there’s some big badass boss which player cannot pass – then no problem, just switch to “very, very easy” and go pass the boss. Then switch to “harder than eva” and keep playing. I really think switching difficulty level is a good thing.

Of course you can also choose not to use difficulty levels, but rather make it easier for next attempts. For example, if the player cannot get pass an obstacle after 2-3 tries, you could give him extra boosters (health, energy, hit damage, jump distance, speed, whatever) that can help him on the 4th trying. If 4th fails, then make it even easier on the 5th. At some point he will pass.

And then if you want, you can give higher score points for people who pass on harder difficulty levels.

Some food for thought.

Do you have an example where you’ve witnessed a well executed “difficulty modifier” in a game?

How Do You Position Your Monitors?

Some time ago I wrote that I’m using just 1 screen. Recently, I stopped fighting the windmill and didn’t give/sell my second screen to anyone (after buying a better screen).

Instead… I cleaned my workroom and needed to throw some stuff away (like a bookshelf), and there was no place for the 2nd monitor to be. So, I just decided to put in on my desktop.

Few days later I decided to plug it in – give it a go.

Week later I actually used it for something other than watching background image.

In fact, now I have the screen in use, and it’s on the right side of my main monitor, which hasn’t moved an inch to any direction. (At this point I’m cursing my sucky cell phone for not having a decent camera, could have taken a picture).

Luckily, there’s Ascii to save:

Screens aren’t like this: (bit like “one very wide screen”)

__ __
  x

They are *bit* like this: (like “one main monitor right in front of me, and then secondary monitor can be seen by turning head a bit”)

  __
      \
   x

Not in such sharp angle, but anyways. Since I like to have one “main” screen (so that I don’t need to turn my head bit to the left or right when staring the main screen), I like this setting. At least somewhat.

Anyway, I’m totally hooked. Two monitors is like having 2 zombies instead of 1. Totally cool. Now just need to decide whether one of them will be a boss.

I don’t know yet which way I will eventually settle, but will be (1) hearing you (2) and most likely testing to see what’s the “best” mode for me.

(I’ve been thinking that having 3rd monitor would be even cooler, but… maybe later)

So, in case you have 2 (or more) monitors – how do you place them on your desktop?