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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Sun Dec 19, 2010 8:49 pm

December 20th 2010

A quick update of sorts.

Friday 2 days ago we had a meeting with the Voxel guys concerning giving over development of Bipolar to them on the provision that we get a percentage of sales. We asked for 40% they said that 7.5% was what they thought was reasonable. The next thing they (or really Simon Joslin said individually) said caught me completely off guard. That they'd want to have me and only me working on game design for the game. Wow.

Now I've always been alittle too nice for my own good, and so I felt bad for the other guys in the group. But on the other end of the scales I just felt really damn vindicated. Vindicated from what? Of the opinions I expressed throughout development of the game. From day 1 to end of uni no`one but myself considered level design to be an extremely important task and I was always told that the programming was far more important, no`one else felt strongly that the game would sell, or of just how good it was. And with the Voxel guys saying that they wanted me to continue working on it and just me, was just really damn vindicating.

Tom asked if they needed a programmer to which Simon replied "no we're chock full of programmers", to which Tom then suggested that everyone in the group come in and do free levels for them and for them to then go from that on deciding who would do game design. Of all the. Grr. Tom's a programmer, he only wants to be a programmer (as his primary job), not a game designer, just a programmer. And that's what he does well. Me & Tadgh want to be game designers first and foremost. We deserve that far more. And to be frank out of me and Tadgh I deserve it more due to my level contributions + all the work I volunteered for and did even though I didn't have to and thirdly due to my continued pushing and promoting of our game even though uni's finished cause I believe in our game. So anyways, Simon then said that at most they'd want just me & Tadgh on design.

So hmm. 7.5% split 4 ways just feels COMPLETELY wrong to me. We all (in particular myself & Tom) put in a HELL of alot of work into this game, and to only get 1.8% each of sales just doesn't seem right. This would be a great time to be sitting in games studio class right now and hearing opinions from people, as I'm completely lost on what is the best thing to do. If we put our game up for sale online ourselves even just with the work we've done already we'd make more money. But that would mean passing up a job in the games industry, and a games design job no less. The sortof job I've dreamed of getting. So lost.

Much to think about....

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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Mon Jan 10, 2011 3:06 pm

Monday 10th of January 2010

An update to whats been going on. Tom and myself were unhappy with the 1.8% (per person) offered by voxel in the deal and after getting agreement from the others emailed Simon about it. The next day he replied and explained how publishers often take 60% of profits just for getting a game out there, as they had had done to them with their game "Train Conductor 2". At the same time he admitted that that was a really bad deal when that was done to them. He advised that they were in no way, shape or form trying to take advantage of us and would get back to us in a weeks time once they`d spent sufficient time playing and looking at Bipolar. So we've been waiting on that.

A week ago the finalists for the main competition of the IGF were announced. We didn't even make it into the honorable mentions sadly. Seemed like a rigged competition to be honest. When you have games like Minecraft, Amnesia and Cave Story 2010 (how they'd allow a game released in 2004 into the comp is beyond me) we had no chance at all. But we held out hope for the student comp which the finalists were to be announced for today.

Well today the student finalists were announced and we didn't even make it into the finalists in that either. What the hell. Now I had a look at the finalists and the first two of the 5 finalists had good games most definitely. Check those 2 out here if your curious:

e7 - http://www.igf.com/php-bin/entry2011.php?id=36
GLiD - http://www.igf.com/php-bin/entry2011.php?id=654

Good games that I would play. Now how the rest and most especially the games mentioned in the honorable mentions were in any way better than Bipolar is a true insult. Watch the trailer video for this game:

Ute: http://www.igf.com/php-bin/entry2011.php?id=570

That that game got an honorable mention and not Bipolar is an insult of the highest order. In the above game your goal is to have sex with 11 men who are all in love with you. But you must have sex with each of them, when none of them are around otherwise they will bust you and wont want to have sex with you. Mind my french but that is the worst fucking game I've ever seen. Truly insulted. Why would a university even let a student create a game like that.

Other than that we as I said, continue to wait for Simon to get back to us.

More when there is more to say.

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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Wed Feb 23, 2011 3:03 pm

Wednesday, 23rd of Feb 2011

An update blog just on whats been going on lately. Bipolar wise, not alot to say really. After the competition (IGF) was a distant memory I emailed Simon Joslin about some gameplay minigame ideas I had if they decided to go forward with our game which included:

* Adventure mode - A series of interlinked flowing levels where the doors exit corresponds directly to the players position in the next etc, changes in level (ie switches used etc) are saved on exit so if the player returns the state of the level is as they left it. Could have some kindof story attached. Changes in one level could cause changes in other levels.
* Darkness Falls - Levels in which there is complete darkness other than a circle of light cast around the player object. Player must proceed with caution and think out all moves carefully.
* Time attack - Player has a par time to complete each level, any time left over is given as bonus time to complete later levels
* Tilt - Mode in which the levels every 5-10 seconds rotate, causing the player to have to adjust to the continuously changing level. Making for
potentially quite challenging gameplay
* Reverse - All controls reversed causing the player to need to relearn the controls to the game.
* Shift - Similar to "Tilt" except that the player has control of the rotation, but only when they are attached to specialised circle platforms (maybe in the form of a steampunk style clock piece) creating gameplay where the player needs to take their hands off the keyboard and think out how to beat each level via shifting the angle as they proceed.

I'd been playing alot of "Plants Vs Zombies" around the time of (and still play it alot) contacting him which had given me alot of ideas on possible modes of extra gameplay to further enhance the game and appeal to the more hardcore players out there. Note that "Reverse" mode was Tom's idea as I had asked around the group for extra game mode ideas, and only got a response (let alone a reply) from him.

I'm going to start talking about my non Bipolar game related stuff here as well. So without further ado. Over the past 4-5 months myself + James Siddel worked on a remake of the 1979 game "Space Invaders".

Jae did:

* Created some menu images
* Enemy sprites + enemy movement
* Implementation of a image system capable of displaying jpgs and png images
* Player and enemy death animations
* Setting up player movement + appearance
* Score system
* Shooting
* Setting up the time delta loop

and I did:
* Added extra hit detection optional functions
* Barrier setup + Destruction
* Fixes to enemy movement / general bug fixing
* Made sure the remake was accurate to the arcade original
* Made music for the game
* Menu images (used in conjunction with Jae's images)
* Sound engine implementation + sound and music placement
* Setting up of a save system for both option settings and the highscore
* Setup the menu system

All in all the game turned out pretty damn well I think and looks as follows:



And for a look at the title screen:



So yeah not much else to say on it. Was an awesome experience for bettering my programming skills and learning things I hadn't known how to do.

Only other thing to mention is of my efforts to get work in the games industry for which the answer is: No luck still. Via Jae I've discovered a games industry meetup that occurs at the start of each month called the IGDA or Independent Games Developers Association and is basically a drinking and networking (as in talking not playing video games) with the who's who of the games industry in Melbourne. I went to the February one and was a good experience overall.

Heres a pic taken from the event (not by me):



So basically its an excuse to get drunk and talk with people in the games industry so double good fun. The event is organized on facebook so I've started sending invites to those I know from uni who I know want to get into the games industry. Derrick if your still reading these blogs of mine and want to know about the event (so students can come and meet games industry people in a non time limited as much location) send me an email and I'll give you the details for it. It appears to be a place where games companies first mention about new jobs that have become available, so is definitely a good event to go to each month.

2 people who spoke at the event mentioned a possible company they may be starting up where the premise is on 48 hour game development times (as in the groups have 48 hours to make a game) which is just plain CRAZY in my opinion. Jae signed up for it, but I'm not interested in it at all.

Bumped into almost the entire company of the Voxel agents and got to speak to them in person about Bipolar which was good. Turns out that they are currently lacking an artist in sprucing the game up and are now considering other game ideas. Not a good sign.

Lastly this little facts image popped up on tsumea a week ago:



If you can't read the text in the image it basically says that in the last 10 years the games industry in Australia grew from 700 to over 2000 people employed, and then from 2008-2010 dropped to 931. Quite sad, and explains why its so damn hard to find work of any kind in the games industry currently.

Be hopefully hearing an answer one way or the other from the Voxel agents about Bipolar in the next week or so. Here's hoping soon rather than in another month. Hate all this waiting.

More in the next blog.


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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:33 pm

Wednesday 9th of March 2011

Hmm. Today we (the Bipolar team) finally got the answer from Simon Joslin regarding Bipolar, one way or the other. To which the answer was no. And a very brief email at that which was as follows:

Hey team,

No excuses, it turns out I'm crap at keeping you up to date! sorry about that.

We've spent some decent time working with Bipolar and we've decided that we won't pursue the project. It's a great game and I'd love to see you guys take it further, but its not the project for us.

I hope this hasn't caused too much grieve for you guys. Sorry that we didn't make decisions sooner.

I'm glad we've met you all, there's clearly a lot of talent in the team and I'd be very excited to see what you all go off and achieve.

Good luck,
sj


Very brief as I said. Would have been nice to have received a more detailed response in regards to why the game was "not for us". Still in shock about the whole thing, though not surprised either. But to look at the bright side of things, we now have our answer and now a new question arises: Where to go with Bipolar from here?. We have the following options:

* Release Bipolar for free and use it as a way of raising public awareness to ourselves and to have a completed game that is available for others to play on the net.
* Put the game up on the apple appstore. The positive of this is of money.

Either option I am happy with. By this point in time I NEVER hear from either Sasha or Tadgh anymore, but have regular online chats with Tom, so we'll likely discuss things between ourselves in a day or two when we are of a more calmer state of mind, then proceed from there.

In non Bipolar news, myself + James Siddel have started work on our Pacman remake. We are doing the remake in XNA/C#, which I've not coded in before. So will be a good learning experience.

More in the next blog.

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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Wed May 04, 2011 8:05 pm

Thursday May 5th 2011

Hmm haven't updated in a while. Well I've been keeping myself busy applying for jobs in the games industry (no luck there so far) and kept myself busy on the coding end.

Bipolar wise, Tom finally started working on getting Bipolar Apple Mac Store compatible and was 90% successful at that. With that 90% Bipolar the game itself now is completely done, but the level editor doesn't compile yet and will need some further work. Hopefully not too much. We now have a developer account up and running on the App Store, though that in itself took around 2 weeks to get working due to a stuff up on Apple's end. Very much looking forward to FINALLY seeing Bipolar online and purchasable. If the game even does moderately well that will be a great achievement in itself. I was able to contact both Sasha and Tadgh and got their ok for putting the game on the Apple Mac store. We will all need to chip in $25 each as it costs $100 to setup a developer account. For now Tom has paid for it in full, and I assume once the games up and purchasable we will all send across the $25 to pay him for our bit in it all.

The only thing I'm a little iffy about is in who the money will all go to. Who's account is all the money going to go to once the money potentially starts rolling in? Tom's. Hmm. End of the day it had to go to someone's account I guess. The plan is to send off equal portions to each team member as well as weekly email reports on sales etc. With this method comes the threat of Tom taking more than his share of the profits, but I'll have to put my trust in him on this one.

Either way, with the likelihood of Bipolar being online soon its ABOUT FUCKING TIME.

Other than Bipolar news wise I've been looking for work as I mentioned. Not much to tell on that front at all. I'm becoming very unmotivated these days (a common side effect of being out of work for a long period of time), if it wasn't for the IGDA meetings each month + working on my own side coding/game design projects + my girlfriend keeping me busy I'd be alot less motivated I suspect.

At the last IGDA meeting I went to, I spoke with Tom of the Voxel Agents and asked him about helping out for free and of if any work was available. He gave me his card and said to send him an email and he'd look into it. I did that, and he replied back that he'd get back to me. That was around 3 weeks ago. So probably nothing will come of that, but was worth a shot as there has been no new games jobs appearing on SUMEA or seek since the month prior.

Now as I mentioned I've been working on coding projects/game design stuff to increase my skills in c++ plus to add to my portfolio. To that end I've been working on a remake of an old Atari 2600 game I loved as a kid called "Fishing Derby" which you may recall from in one of my earlier blog entries where I had developed a Bipolar level based on it. Well here is a screenshot of my current progress:



I used alot of the earlier code and functions developed for Space Invaders as a base for this which helped out immensely + developed new ones where needed and improved on existing functions when I came up with the idea. So far the current features are fully implemented:

* Fully functioning controls for 1-2 players
* Ability to catch fish
* Shark eats fish that are in the process of being caught if it comes into contact with it
* Both original Atari 2600 sounds + new sounds entirely (toggleable in the options menu)
* Option to flip the player 1 controls over to player 2's for Player 1 mode (request from the girlfriend)
* Score system
* All sprites from the original version are recreated as best as I could match up
* Ability to reel in fish faster at the press of a button + slow it down by releasing finger from reel in button

My original motivation behind picking this game for the remake treatment was for 2 reasons: 1) My love of the game as a kid and 2) to give me and my girlfriend a new game to play that was 2 player. She loves the game by the way, so I was successful at that. At this point in time after a good month of work on it the game is very similar to the original other than my own additions of a practice mode for beginners, the toggable sounds and the ability to switch the controls over to player 2's for 1 player mode.

And this remake even has some fans elsewhere. A few weeks ago I had mentioned my remake in progress over at TTLG (my favorite game forum on the net for quite some time now) where it received positive comments and requests to put it online when its complete. Was surprised at that one. But then with that came comments about the player and score text not being clear enough (recently rectified a day prior to the screenshot I posted above), and of the importance in keeping the controls of the original. Which is something that is to be expected when doing a remake of a game from long ago. I just need to do a music track for the game + make some PNG backgrounds for the menu screen and then I'll likely put it online and see what responses I get. I had some ideas for an extra game mode of catching fish in moveable nets in a river type setting. Might do that later also.

And that's whats been happening in my life since the last blog. I'll try and not let time slip by so much before I do the next blog. More in the next entry.


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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Wed May 25, 2011 9:40 pm

Thursday 26 May 2011

2 days ago, Bipolar was FINALLY accepted onto the Apple Mac Store Smile. Bout damn time. So now I wait to see how well it does. The price we ended up going with was $3.99 which with Apple's 30% of the profits means that I get somewhere around 70 cents for every sale that happens. Now I know of atleast one person who is going to buy it (my sisters boyfriend) + some students at Monash expressed interest in buying a copy, so we shall see.

If I even make back the $25 I put into it (roughly 35 sales) I'll be happy. For all of this I'm having to put my trust in Tom that he will be honest about sales. He doesn't seem like the dodgy sort. Everyone has been telling me to get some kind of legal contract setup, but I think that would be a little overkill.

You can find Bipolar on the Mac Apple Store here:
http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/bipolar/id437185417?mt=12&ls=1

And if you have a Mac grab yourself a copy.

On other fronts I finished work on Fishing Time, my remake of the hit Atari 2600 game "Fishing Derby" which I had mentioned in my previous entry. I'm quite proud of just how good it turned out. I even managed to get the FTGL/Freetype custom text font system to work with absolutely no impact on speed, which is something that not even Sasha or Tom managed to figure out Smile. If your wondering how I managed to solve the speed issues with FTGL, well it turns out that Tom had been setting the text font size on every single text display call. Simply setting set non changeable text sizes for each callable enum (enum's are like custom names sort of) on program startup. Thus no changes of font size, and so speed slow downs 100% eliminated Very Happy.



In the above screenshot you can see the game menu screen in which I used FTGL to provide a arcade-ish style menu font.

And for the actual game screen:



In the above game screen shot you can see FTGL at use providing a simple score system that is very similar to that of the Atari 2600 style.

Note that if you'd like to download and play Fishing Time you can grab it here:
...http://www.mediafire.com/?v2cnp6vv27u0csz....
(I put the dots before and after the address due to the forums here continuously putting a ad banner site before the site I was providing the link to. Just highlight the address and copy/paste that into your address bar).

Now there had been some other issues in the FTGL code Tom had come up with in Bipolar. In each text display call it would take the screen x, y values calculated in massive functions. Rather than doing that you could simply call glRasterPos2f with the x and y value of where you want to position it on screen. 1 line of code compared to something like 20. Now that's not to say that the Bipolar way was wrong. I'm just saying that my way was far simpler.

Now in the transition from Space Invaders to Fishing Time the function changes / improvements were as follows:

* Far better hit detection system based on custom x,y bounding box methods (as in you can have the box as wide or small as you want. In space invaders it had been a simple algorithm of all distances from the point of origin being the same.
* FTGL text font system added as previously mentioned with no slow down at all
* Full screen function added
* Animated menu screen (has moving fish floating about)
* Toggable sound effects
* Better graphics. Though it was all done with glRectf calls. I need to learn how to do proper sprites at some point.
* Menu box function added. As in you tell it where you want the box displayed and by what dimensions and it will
draw a nice looking box to put text in.

I had made the mistake of not putting time delta / time stepping in, and so the moment I tested the game on another computer it ran ULTRA fast. So I had to spend several days fixing that up. I also ran into something I'd never even heard of at uni. Static linking. What is static linking? Well when you use 3rd party libraries in your programs they can be one of two types: dynamic or static. Dynamic libraries come with a dll file, where as static libraries are compiled directly into your executable file. The latter is the better of the two, as I later discovered when I released the game to the public (for free) as the game would NOT run on any other PC besides mine. Luckily a person online advised me that it was due to FTGL and that I'd have to switch over to static linking for it.

Now as I'd never even heard of static linking before, it took me QUITE some time to fix that up. But once I did (with alot of help from the online helper person) the game then ran on all peoples PCs thank god. Now whilst Fishing Time didn't do majorly well on release (I think around 20 people downloaded it, all of which gave positive comments), I had ultimately done the remake to give my girlfriend and me a fun video game to play + to improve my programming skills, at which I was most certainly successful. I even made a awesome music song for it, which ended up not suiting the gameplay but will be a tune I'll use in another game I plan to do at later stage.

And now with the game complete as of a few days ago, I already find myself thinking of just what type of game I want to do next. As things stand I see two main areas that I need to learn:

* How to do proper sprite graphics rather than just use glRectf calls all the time (which was fine for Atari style games but isn't for anything better than that)
* Learn how to do a side scrolling game

Very likely I'll combine both of the above on the next game I do. I just need to sit down and think of just what game I want to go create. I could do another remake or do something of my own design entirely. Decisions, decisions.

More in the next blog entry.


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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Fri Jun 03, 2011 5:23 pm

Friday 3rd of June 2011

This is a quick update of sorts just to advise of whats been going on. I've not started on any new games yet. I've been looking into some tutorials on how to do tile based games + how to do side scrollers as I'd like to do something along those lines.

Bipolar has been available on the Apple Mac Store for purchase for a little over 2 weeks now.

Sales since the 25/5/2011 are: 32

Of which 4 sales have been in Australia. So our game is so far doing moderately well internationally. Not GREAT but not bad either. The short term amount I'm awaiting is 41 sales as once it hits that I've made my initial $25 investment back. Every sale after that is bonus money to me.

So here's hoping that sales continue to go good, as every extra dollar helps.

And to think everyone else wanted to put it up for free on the net at one point.

More in the next blog.

Oh and I went for a job interview at World Vision today. Need a temp job to last me over financially till I can get a job games industry wise. The guy that interviewed me has a Mac and plans to grab a copy of Bipolar (after I told him about it when he saw about my University time on my resume). Bonus Smile.

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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Tue Jun 14, 2011 10:09 am

Tuesday 14th of June 2011

I was going to wait till I had some more substantial things to say on my latest game making efforts but some news has come in today that made a new entry essential.

We (the Bipolar team) received the following email from Andrew Owen of Monash:

Greetings

I have received information regarding your game and I was wondering if you would like to showcase it at this years Computer Games Boot Camp?

Date - Monday 11 July 2011 (after 1pm)

10 minute presentation on the main stage and an extended presentation 40 minutes later.

All filmed for the live broadcast, with a potential viewing audience of a million people.

Would this be of interest to you?

it.monash.edu/cgbc

Regards,

Andrew Owen
Faculty of Information Technology
Monash University


In addition Tom was contacted by phone by Andrew asking of our interest and mentioned about the possibility of an interview with a organization called something 3. Tom cant recall the exact name of the organization that Andrew mentioned. How fucking awesome is that. To be asked to do a presentation that will be watched by a million or so people + maybe score an interview. Wow.

We also got a mention on Monash's IT page:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Faculty-of-Information-Technology-Monash-University/118762891509434

Good day for news Smile.

On non Bipolar related news, across last week I did some heavy researching into how to do side scrolling and platform games in C++ and came across some tutorials at:
http://www.parallelrealities.co.uk/tutorials/

The beauty of the tutorials above is that they not only get you to make a side scrolling shooter game, but that they also get you to make a platforming game + level editor. The level editor being the best part about it. So I took the level editor portion of the tutorials and have been modifying it to suit the kind of game that I would like to make (still uncertain on exactly what kind of game I want to do).

For now I've added in a 2nd layer of textures/tiles you can add in, a reload level function, x/y position display, display of what mode you are in and more. I just need to add in entity placement and have some kind of texture viewer + the ability to cycle between levels made, and that will be it for the editor and onto making a game. The level editor currently looks like:



In case your wondering you click with the mouse on screen where you want to place tiles. Its already quite a handy editor to have. Will allow me to practice more on the game design end of things and less on the programming.

Off to IGDA in 15 mins. Hopefully there will be better news on new jobs etc becoming available.

Oh and I was unsuccessful with the World Vision job.

More in the next blog.


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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Tue Jun 21, 2011 4:41 pm

Tuesday 21st June 2011

This will be a brief entry.

Today we (the Bipolar team) received the following email:

Hi guys,

Nice work on Bipolar! I don't know if you guys ever played Polarity, but it was very interesting to see how you guys handled some of the exact same challenges we faced on our project. I especially like that you implemented enemy elements (like the lasers), which is something we were never quite able to do.

Cool game all around!

Dan


A very good thing we changed our name to Bipolar + changed our game style early on in the project, considering we received an email from one of the makers of "Polarity". Could have had ourselves in a bad situation. So we dodged a bullet potentially. That said the guy praised our game which is awesome.

Sales have slowed down dramatically. We're at 38 sales now. So an increase of only 2 sales in as many weeks. I'm looking into PC game distribution services other than steam. Not much luck so far. Doesn't seem to be alot of good ones out there.

More in the next entry.

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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Thu Jul 28, 2011 5:46 pm

Friday 29th July 2011

Well time flies. Since my last entry we did the presentation at the Monash Games Boot Camp, which was alot of fun, all in all. We did 2 presentations:

* A quick intro presentation in which we showed off our trailer video to a packed room of kids and of which was televised over the internet to over a million people (awesome Smile). I was so nervous going into that one.
* A 40 minute in depth presentation to a far smaller crowd of around 10-15 kids (roughly). We mostly just talked about the development process of Bipolar, gave advice to the kids on what university life at Monash would be like under the games major, advice on developing games in general and also talked about the games design/ level design side of Bipolar and let the kids have a play of the game.

During the 40 minute presentation the kids asked alot of very good questions. One idea I'd had the night before and acted on, paid off on the day. What was that idea? to burn 5 copies of the game to DVD complete with a high quality version of our trailer video. My intention was that we either give the copies away for free, or sell them. Tom wanted to sell them, but in the end we sold 1 copy to a uni friend (James Siddel) who happened to be doing volunteer work at the event, and gave the remaining 4 copies away for free to the kids who were very pleased to get them.

We all ganged up on Tom after the presentation was done and told him that we want a PC version of the game available for purchase online via our website through paypal. Tom reluctantly agreed. He's yet to start on it, but hopefully he gets round to it. Be good to see how the PC version fares. AND we would get 100% of the profits under that scenario.

Sales wise been very little in the way of change. I think the total is something like 40 sales now. Nearly broke even. If we sold 3-5 more be even. Been an experience either way, and it has never been just about the money for me. Yes I pushed for us to sell it, but that's only because I believe in our game. I wonder now looking back, if things had gone differently with the Voxel guys, would the sales have been better. I think they would have been. A lot more.

A week ago today myself + Monash students went on the yearly excursion to Torus Games. Overall this time around was not as exciting as the year prior. Perhaps as my knowledge of the games industry has increased somewhat compared to the previous years visit. One thing the main person speaking said of sad interest was of how the increase the Australian dollar has effected their company. Now you would think the Australian dollar going up would be a good thing. But nope, nearly killed the company off. At the previous years excursion, Torus had 64 employees (from memory), this time round that number has decreased to 24. Damn. He also said that it is next to impossible to get into the games industry at present.

If Monash Games studio students are still reading these blogs of mine (as I discovered on one of my visits to Monash Caulfield earlier in the year) take this as a major warning that you may be looking for quite some time before you are successful in getting a job in the games industry (look at my lack of success over the last 8 months for example). Do a backup job in the meantime + work on your own indie games both to increase your portfolio (which improves your chances of getting in significantly since you'll have work to show off) and to improve your own skills in the area you choose to aim for. Been little to no jobs going in the games industry over the last few months. There had been 2 jobs going at Torus (1 still available at the time of me typing this blog), 1 in level design which I knew I was perfect for, and the other was a job as a writer which is definitely not my area.

I applied for the level design job, but strangely their submission page would not allow for zip files, and yet they wanted a portfolio to be included in the submission. They allowed for only .doc, .docx and html files, and as my portfolio is contained within several html files, made submitting that impossible. I sent my standard resume with a mention that if they provided me with somewhere to submit the portfolio that I'd send them that also. Got a response the next day saying that they felt my skills were not appropriate for the job. How they would know that when their submission page isn't setup correct is beyond me. Grr. Another reminder to me that I need to get me a website to host things like that + the games I've been doing/continue to develop.

Speaking of which:



The level editor I'd mentioned starting work on in a previous blog has come along quite a significant amount. Since then I've added the following to the level editor:

* Supports 4 separate tile layers: background, background2 (used for larger big backgrounds), block (used for players to be able to stand on / be blocked by) and recently I added an entity layer which for now can only place a player start to a level but will later on having enemies and other things added into it.
* Ability to be to re-size level rows/columns on the fly and save them so that on reload the editor will set the right amount of rows/columns before placing all saved tile values.
* Ability to remove all saved tiles and reset a level back to the default minimum size.
* Map name shown at top of screen. Useful later on down the line when I add in the ability to cycle between all saved levels.
* Reload level function (handy if you want to reload a level back to the last saved version)
* Ability to be able to switch animations on/off to see how things flow in a level. Used only on water textures for now.
  As I add more I'll add to it.

To help motivate myself to work on the editor I needed a game to aim to do and after ALOT of thinking I eventually settled on a game. Now all of my previous remakes had been on games I loved/liked as a kid. This time round I decided to do a remake of a bad game and turn it into a good game, through better gameplay and improved level design. What game am I remaking? Dragonslair on the Nintendo Entertainment system. If it was not for a "Angry Videogame Nerd" episode (http://cinemassacre.com/2007/11/20/dragons-lair/) I wouldn't even know of this game. And so I set to work. Now you would think that in making a game the majority of time would be spent on programming. Nope. Or atleast not with the editor anyway. Majority of my time was spent on converting over the textures from the 1st level and fixing them up to look correct in 32x32 dimensions (the tile size).

And that was where the majority of my time was spent for the last month, with programming only being done when the need for a feature arose, or I thought of a good new feature to add. Last week I began work on getting the actual game working (after all texturing work was completed on the 1st level) and so added in the entity layer to the editor + player starts which now work fine in the game proper. I still have a VERY long way to go before I'll have a working version of the 1st level done. For now I'm working on getting player movement + learning how to do sprite animation, which is proving to be a slow but rewarding experience all in all. Hopefully I'll have that + the entire 1st level done by my next entry.

Until then, live long and prosper.


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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Mon Aug 22, 2011 6:10 pm

Tuesday 23rd August 2011

This blog will mainly be about Bipolar so that will be what I'll be focusing on. Sales for Bipolar remain around the 39-40 mark, Tom got paid by Apple a few weeks ago and paid us all our equal share ($14.95 to each person), though if you count the 1 sale at Games Boot Camp I've made $19.95. Up until last weekend that was all there was to report Bipolar wise. That was until we were contacted by Matt Butler from Monash about sitting at the Monash table at the "Freeplay Independent Games Expo". I jumped at the opportunity as did Sasha. Tom declined as there was "no money in it" and Tadgh is currently in Japan.

The event itself was AWESOME. Sort of like the IGDA meetings, except during the day and on a much larger scale with presentations by people in the indie games scene. In the Experimedia room various indie games companies as well as universities had tables setup to showcase their work. Myself and Sasha sat at the Monash table (initially waiting an hour and a bit for Andrew Owen to show, before deciding we should sit at the table and showcase our game). We received ALOT of positive feedback on our game, both from the people playing it and from those watching (often parents of children). 1 person watching, a mother and primary school teacher suggested that we sell our game to schools as educational software on the effects of magnets which was a brilliant idea. On the Sunday I pitched this idea to both Sasha and Andrew and they both thought it was a great idea, so I'll be sending an email to Derrick, Matt and Andrew soon regarding this.

Sunday was much like Saturday except that this time I brought along 20 copies of the game for sale. Only 1 of those sold (bringing myself upto $25 made all up from Bipolar, giving me back my initial investment). During the morning I was able to sit down to watch one of the presentations at the event and later spoke to one of the presenters. Who was this presenter? the creator of moddb.com!!. What is moddb.com? The biggest and most popular site for the modding community on the internet. He also runs indiedb.com and desura.com which is of particular note, as it is a site where you can sell indie games online. So FINALLY a place where we can sell the PC version online. I asked Sasha if he was in agreement to put it up on the site and he was in agreement. Tom wasn't too happy when I told him about it, as I told him after I had put in the submission request. But just as with the apple app store I'll split profits equally to all team members, and unlike Tom be happy to provide sales reports whenever they are requested. On request of Tom the editor will not be included and will be in a separate download which will be purchasable as an add-on for the game.

On the Saturday a 3rd year multimedia student from RMIT offered to do the art for Bipolar for free if we planned to continue work on the game. Suddenly Sasha wants to work on Bipolar again. Interesting. Sasha also wants to startup a indie games company with all employees not being paid till profits from the 1st game start coming in. Offered me a co-lead role at the company. Considering the extreme lack of jobs in the Australian games industry at present and the case that that is exactly how most games companies start, I'm interested in doing work (game design and programming) at this company, though its a big risk.

James Siddel and that multimedia student said they`d work at the company, so thats already 4 people to work on a game if I decide to join. Interesting times.

Anyway to sum up Freeplay it was an AWESOME experience. MANY people played our game, all of them loved it, sales weren't great (1) but that's fine, and I discovered a good place to sell our game on the PC end of things. A weekend well spent Smile. I'm noticing that due to going to so many of the IGDA meetings that I know many of Melbourne games industry people now, or atleast on a "hello" basis with many of them. Interesting.

In non Bipolar news my Dragonslair remake continues along slowly. Most of the player textures have been completed, though actually implementing all of the player controls/movement has been annoying due to timeDelta issues. That's what I get for using tutorial code from internet sources and massively altering it I guess. Basically player movement on left,right,duck and move left, duck and move right all work fine, but when it comes to jumping the player will jump different heights depending on the PC it is run on + how busy the PC is at the time.

I found a work around of sorts (making the players direction switch to falling down if they jump above a certain height) except that that looks quite odd and isn't a true solution to the problem. Setting all player movement to be set to a fixed time rate of 0.15 milliseconds completely fixes the issue, though the game as a whole runs slower when the PC its running on is busy, as a result. So picking which is the better of the 2 solutions is the question. If I wasn't so terrible at vectors it wouldn't be an issue. Fixing up the player textures in photoshop to be the right dimensions each time was VERY time consuming.



Either way the remake is coming together bit by bit.

More in the next entry.


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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Mon Sep 26, 2011 6:05 pm

Tuesday 27th of September 2011

Today's blog post will be covering several games as this has been a slightly busier month than usual.

Firstly to continue from my previous blog in regards to Bipolar, I ran into some issues with the whole Desura / PC sale side of things. Firstly Tom demanded I take down all versions of Bipolar from Desura as he wanted to sell his level editor separate to the game. So I agreed and took it down. Sasha talked me into upping the initial set price of $4.49 to $7.49 ($3 for Toms level editor which I think is a crazy price for it personally) and back up it went to Desura, with a second version I've named "Special Edition" which contains high quality versions of my music (Desura's suggestion on the music as they said my music was awesome Smile) + a vast amount of the paper prototyping and designs during development that were done by myself. Special Edition I priced at $8.49 (that extra $1 going to me as it was my extra content). The Desura head office as it turns out was in the same building as the Voxel Agents. I discovered this after mentioning in passing to Dave Traeger (head of Desura/Moddb/indiedb.com) about our former relations with the Voxel Agents for Bipolar, and he replied not long after that he'd walked over to their office and spoke to them about our game and that graphics was all that was wrong with it as I hear so often.

In either case charging $7.49 for Bipolar just didn't fit right with me, as it would have been the $4.49 split 4 ways + $3.00 to Tom per standard version copy sold which if alot of copies sold would have meant an unfair split going on. So I spoke to Tom again, and he told me that he'd rather the editor be sold separately and that it was fine to take it out bringing standard version price to $4.49 and SE (Special Edition) to $5.49. Further delays ensued when Desura emailed me asking if the fact that we allow players to goto any level they wish was intended or not. I replied that it was intended and got no reply for 4 days. I emailed them the following week and got a response that they were awaiting my reply to their previous email. Grrr. So I replied back again saying that it was intended for the player to pick their intended level. A few days later Bipolar was FINALLY approved for sale on Desura. Yay.

I spammed across the internet in every good gaming forum and place I could think of soon after and we soon got a nice steady stream of people coming to our page on Desura (653 visitors on my 1st day of spamming according to Desura records) and at first sales slowly started to trickle in. 1-2 a day at first. Then by the time sales got to around 6, the amount of visitors dropped significantly and only another 2 sales were made. A week passed and no further sales came. Damn. To top it off we actually lost 1 sale (how that works I have no idea. Something about denied/abandoned sales on Desura or something). So all in all we made 7 sales. And here I was expecting ATLEAST 30-40. So whilst it feels like a big failure to me, its been a learning experience none the less, and I have an account now on Desura for further games I develop. As no`one in the Bipolar team is any good at marketing I'm not sure what else I can do from here. If you put all our sales together we've made somewhere around 60 sales. All together alright. Would have been nice to have a good amount of sales from Desura however.

On the Dragonslair end of things I continued to chip away at the game when I had the motivation, completing several key player implementations I'd been meaning to do. What were they? Fully complete player ducking + standing up when the key is released, with player standing up only occurring when a tile is not above them. The second and slightly more time consuming was player shooting. I also added in the ability for the player to redefine the controls + use a joystick if they wish. Both of those may be of use later. I asked Tom to send me the latest version of the Bipolar source code so I can add that into it at a later stage.

The third game of interest is Planet Digger. What is Planet Digger? A Monash Game Studio game in development by my friend James Siddel and others. I've been keeping up with their progress across the year, hearing updates on progress on the game whenever I would see James. For a while now they have had a working level editor up and running for their game but none of the team members had attempted to do any levels yet (due to a combination of really bad team management that has given me a new found respect for Sasha's in comparison, and also due to a lack of level design skills by team members).

Over the course of the year I had been volunteering to help with small tasks, but it wasn't until the need for levels that James took me up on my offer. So I went into class to announce my offer of assistance to his ground, which all members were more than happy with. Their team leader Nathan seemed abit annoyed when informed by Derrick that any levels developed by me would not be subject of marking as they would be done by an outside member. Which made perfect sense to me. I offered both to help my friend as I saw great untapped potential in his game, and to further my own portfolio/CV to better increase my chances of future games industry employment.

Below I will show you a screenshot of one of the levels I later developed, then I'll explain gameplay.



So now that you can see what the game looks like. You control a "Planet Digger" ship with the goal of reaching the core of each planet and cooling its core before lava rushes down to destroy the players ship. Along the way the player collects resources underground which are used to purchase upgrades. In class I suggested they add in trapped miners that award a huge resource bonus if rescued. All team members loved the idea, but due to an abundance of tasks left to be completed for the project (once again due to poor team management) it will likely not make it into the game.

Either way I'll not go into detail on my negative opinions of the project, but will however say that the game has alot of potential in it. Its just a matter of, to use a Matthew Butler line "cut the fat until your left with the pure basics" which I think if that was applied to this project would be of huge benefit. I feel bad for James as unlike the Bipolar team which other than Tadgh was a team of programmers, in James's case he's in a group where he's the only that can program well. So alot of the tasks are left to him to do. And no`one volunteering for bonus work to help out others, unlike with my group.

Either way I volunteered to do 10 levels, and said I'd have them done in 3 days. At the time I thought I was being over confident and wouldn't get them done in that amount of time, but low and behold I got them done. And they turned out pretty good I think. Now you saw one of the levels above, below are shots of the other 9 levels I completed across the 3 days following that studio class session:



















So yes been busy. I should add lastly that this game reminds me alot of an old Atari 2600 / Arcade game called Dig Dug. Super ancient game.

Either way as I developed the above levels for the game I've given his ground something to play around with + show how much potential their game has, if they trim the fat.

I'd like to do some more levels so hopefully I get asked to do more. Either way was fun to be designing levels again.

More in the next blog entry.


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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Tue Nov 01, 2011 3:33 pm

Wednesday, 2nd of November 2011

Feels like only a fortnight ago that I typed up the last blog, and yet its now been alittle over a month since then. Wow. Anyways I have some good things to report.

Firstly Dragonslair is coming along nicely:



As you can see in the above picture the game title is now shown as well as player health now being fully implemented. Health if reduced to zero or below results in the player death animation which once completed sends the player back to the level start (I'm thinking of adding in check points which the original NES game did not have). Health powerups are now in as well as moving spike obstacles which kill the player in contact (as in the original). I've also FINALLY overcome the damn libray file problems I was having ever since Fishing Time, which was that some of them had not been compiled in release mode and so forced people to download and install the C++ 2010 runtime files if they wanted to play my games, which with that fixed has now removed that limitation.

However even with the libray files fixed it works perfectly fine aslong as I compile the project in Codeblocks. If I compile it in visual studio then the c++ files are needed again. Odd. Anyways I'm currently in the process of fixing up all game textures, and once that's done move onto implementing the 1st of the 2 main enemies present in the first level. There is a 3rd enemy that appears randomly (a nearly invincible ghost) but I might not add it. We shall see.

In other news I FINALLY graduated from university. Yay Very Happy. And on the subject of uni, Derrick Martin a teacher/lecturer of Monash offered me a temporary role as research assistant on a thesis he is doing on gender in video games. I'll be paid $1000 for one weeks worth of work, playing through 3 games (Fallout 3, Warlords and Puzzle Quest) jotting down my observations on how characters are portrayed. Super easy work, and it will be my first PAID games related employment. Awesome. And in addition he advised that he was considering heading up a games development related project next year in conjunction with Torus games in an effort to increase funding for the games industry in Australia. For this project myself + James Siddel would be employed full time for several months. I would be on game design. He noted that this was ONLY a maybe, so not to get my hopes up too much.

If that turns into reality then it will mean actual games industry work for me Very Happy. Major awesomeness. But I must not get my hopes up, and will be focusing on this research work + Dragonslair until then.

Oh and nothing new to report on the Bipolar end of things.

More in the next blog entry.


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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Mon Dec 12, 2011 2:45 pm

Monday 12th December 2011

Been a busy month of sorts with Christmas shopping to do as well as other matters. Myself + a collection of both Monash students and other people have got together to form the "Summer Game Development Group" on facebook. We currently have 12 members, and the goal of the facebook group is simple: To create a place online where people who want to make games (indie not actual games industry work) in groups can get together. So far of the 12 members, 6 are in a group dedicated to our first game which is one of my game ideas (that I jotted down earlier in the year) called "Block Attack".

How does Block Attack work? very simple. Each player (1-2) has a grid apon which they have several blocks and an equal number of holes which they must push the blocks into. As blocks enter holes, new holes and blocks appear on the grid. When the player presses a direction to move, all blocks move in the specified direction. Whilst all of this is going on a time bar ticks down, which if it runs out will result in that player losing the game. As the player pushes in blocks, time is added to that time bar, but as they proceed through the game and through the levels (the player enters new levels after a certain amount of blocks are pushed in) the amount of time added to the bar is reduced. Very very simple style of game, but I think it could work quite well. We went with this game as our first project as we needed a simple game to test who works best in what roles, and what works and what doesn't. So far we have had 4 meetings for the project but work has been going at a very slow rate, and so only a minimal amount of work has been completed.

The following are the assigned members on the project and their roles:

Chris Kairys - Assistant Programmer / Sound
Jack Riddell - Assistant Programmer / Assistant Artist /  QA
James Siddel - Project Leader / Assistant Programmer
Jason Free - Lead Game Designer / Assistant Programmer
Jared Pierce - Lead Artist
Stephen Gigante - Lead Programmer

The game is being developed in Unity and we are currently targeting PC & possibly Mac. I created a mockup of how I envisioned the game as you can see below:



Jared (our lead artist for the project) then turned that into some excellent mockup designs as you can see below:





So some great work has been done so far on the art end of things, but not alot has been done in other areas as of yet which has been a major disappointment. Myself + James got preliminary work done setting up a basic version of the game grid + block placement & movement in a few hours of work (due to us being the only people who turned up for the 3rd meeting). Chris has done some great work on music in addition which you can listen to here:

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/24509260/blockattack2%20-%20modern%20sound.mp3

I think this could work well in the game. I just hope that team members start doing more work on a more regular basis as this really shouldn't take more than 1-2 weeks of hard work to do.

The other members of the facebook group are working on a RTS style game that they are still working out. Members on Block Attack are planning to move across to that group (as it has a MUCH longer development time than the 1st project) once work on the 1st project is completed. To even have a place online to talk to people and work together to make games in groups is awesome in itself I think. Time will tell how Block Attack turns out. Team members keep thinking of things to add to the gameplay, but I think we should wait till the core gameplay is in, and we can test it. THEN and only then should we think about additions.

So that's the Summer Game Development Group, which I suspect you'll be hearing about more in future blog entries. In other news the work that Derrick of Monash has given me as an assistant researcher has had some major delays. I did preliminary research work on Fallout 3, the first of the 3 games that I was to research, only for Derrick to get bogged down in work, and then he has needed to go on several trips. He says work should recommence soon. So much for quick easy money.

Work on Dragonslair continues (at a far quicker rate than Block Attack I might add). Since my last blog entry, all the textures have been polished up, 2 of the 3 enemies are now in as you can see below:



The 2 enemies being the wall ghosts (enemies that throw rocks from doors) and wall snakes which activate when the player comes within range and shoot rocks also. The door ghosts can be killed, whilst the wall snakes cannot. The shooting / throwing of the rocks has been added into the game, player hit detection has been greatly improved and several bugs that had been in the game for a while (eg the game crashing if the player fell out of the level) have been fixed.

All that is remaining to do is the following for the game to reach demo worthiness:



  • Add in final enemy (of the first level) the bat
  • Add in sounds
  • Add in music
  • Add in game menu
  • Add in ability to go forth in level both to the game and the level editor
  • Allow level editor to add columns/rows in any of the 4 directions
  • Add in treasure
  • Add in score and lives display
  • Add in check points
  • When player runs out of lives ask if they want to continue and if not return them to the main menu


Once that is done, the game will be demo worthy. With each new thing added, the game comes more to life. A great thing to see Smile.

And finally I have a job interview at Redtribe, a games company in Melbourne tomorrow. The position they have going is for a games/level designer which is right up my alley (obviously). So fingers crossed that this is my opportunity to finally start work in the games industry. However if that doesn't turn out then I'll still be plugging away at Block Attack + Dragonslair.

News on how the interview went + more on the other topics mentioned in the next blog entry, so stay tuned.


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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Sat Mar 10, 2012 2:59 pm

Saturday March 10 2012

Well it has been quite some time since my last entry. Well to answer the mystery of how the interview went firstly. It went badly. Now I answered all questions asked of me fine, but he required one thing of myself that I had not thought to bring. What thing was that? a laptop showing my portfolio, an example of a game design document (of 20+ pages) and examples of work that I have done. I wish he had advised me of this even a day prior to the interview as I would have prepared it all. The interviewer said he would get back to me with details of a future redo of the interview so I had a chance to bring in all the required things, but he never got back to me. Grrrr.

On the Dragonslair end of things I finished all the tasks needed for the demo release (as of a month and a bit ago) and released it. How was the response? Well good and bad. The good was that everyone liked it, the bad was that they (the people that tried it) felt that the jumps and controls were alittle stiff, shooting was far too delayed and people were annoyed at how the moving wooden spikes would insta-kill on contact. Since then I have got the jumping just about right, as well as the shooting and now just need to work on the wooden spikes and then a second demo release should be about ready.

Not alot else to say on other things really. Work on Block attack continued after the last blog entry, but with uni recommencing as of this month our group leader stepped down due to honors work and so it is beginning to look like the game may never see the light of day. Or atleast from the Summer Game Development Group. I might code it all in C++ at a later point.

I completed all of the research work for Derrick Martin of Monash and FINALLY got payed for a few weeks ago, which as I was (at the time) set to go for a week long holiday (to celebrate the 2 year anniversary of my girlfriend and I) was perfect timing Smile. I hope more research work of that kind comes my way.

And that's about it really. You would think with the huge time between this blog and the last one that I would have alot more to say, but there has not been alot of interest happening for me on the games front these last few months really.

So with that, more in the next blog entry.

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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Thu May 10, 2012 4:24 pm

Thursday May 8th 2012

Another blog, another progress update. My remake of Dragon's Lair is coming along well. Demo release 3 is around the corner as I nearly have everything I want completed. What did I need to do? convert over all of tile graphics from the original level, introduce moving platforms, add in gravity wells which propel the player upward, add in the new player sprites for when they are in a gravity well and lastly to add in the 2 new enemies present in level 2 which are the red bats and red trolls (boss of 2nd level).

None of the tasks took very long (2-3 days) individually, but with my increasing lack of motivation + real life and playing games it has taken a while. Each of the tasks turned out to not be as hard as I 1st expected which was good. At this point all of the tasks I mentioned above have been done. The gravity wells and moving platforms give me an idea for an extra level I'll do alittle later. The only thing left now is add in an extra AI enhancement to the bats (both the normal and red bats) to change direction when moving left or right, when they come into contact with a block tile. Shouldn't be hard. After that I want to do an extra level of my own design, and then demo release 3 will happen and my remake will hit the 50% done mark. Yay Smile. Here's a screenshot of how things look in the new level completed so far:



(above picture is from within the level editor)

So yeah the remake is coming along quite nicely I think.

In other news Block Attack is crawling along. Since my last blog entry nearly no work has been done, besides some new obstacle code that I added in (and I'm not even the lead coder for fucks sake). I wonder at this point if the game will ever be completed. All it needs is for everyone to work their butts off for 1 week and it would be done, but with Jamie busy with honors, Stephen (lead coder) doing absolutely no work for no reason at all, and the others doing no work its going nowhere fast. Time will tell how the project goes. I had hoped that the Summer Game Development Group would turn into a central hub for people wanting to setup indie development projects, but I don't see that happening anymore.

On the jobs front I've reluctantly started looking for what centerlink calls "stepping stone" work, which is temporary work whilst I look for the work I really want which in my case means looking for call center work. Hopefully something comes about as I can't stay unemployed forever and I'd like to move out of home from my parents place and move in with my girlfriend eventually. There has been zero games industry jobs in Victoria for QUITE some time. A very long time. So its an essential thing I guess.

More in the next blog entry.


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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Thu Aug 16, 2012 7:16 pm

I really need to update this more often. It's been 3 months since my last post. Whoops. I've just been so busy.

Well for a change I have some awesome news to speak about. What news is that? Well a month and a bit ago I received the following email from Derrick Martin (former teacher/lecturer of mine at Monash and who had given me the earlier research assistant role):

Hi Jason and Jack,

An employment opportunity has come across my desk for someone with Unity C# experience (with some 3D modelling too).  Are either of you interested?  BTW, feel free to ask Jared Pierce too (I don't have any email for him).

cheers,

Derrick


To which I replied and then spoke with a Keith Sewell of Monash Parkville who explained alittle further of their need for some people to join them to assist in the creation of a simulation/game done in the Unity Engine. I immediately got in touch with Jamie, Jack and Jared (all of whom I'd already been dealing with for Block Attack) regarding the job offer. Of those people Jack and Jared decided to come on board.

From that point we met with Keith at the Parkville campus who gave us a little more background on the project, gave us some specs and asked us if we were interested. At that point I thought fuck, beyond basic scripting in C# for it I have nearly no experience in Unity at all. If anything my skills were basic at best. But I decided to give the project a go and said yes to it. Hell this was/is games industry worthy experience. Sure it's not working in the games industry technically, but its making a game of sorts and learning experience in things that are DIRECTLY games industry relevant so I thought why the hell not. Of note was that at the meeting was a Keenan Beaumont whose face I instantly recognized from a few years prior. Where did I remember him from? The awards night at Monash Berwick campus when Bipolar had received its award as his group had also received the same award for Multimedia, but for Berwick campus. Small world.

So I went along to the 2nd meeting that week and was asked of what pay rate we were expecting. I said "Um anything above $26 an hour would be good" and was then told by Keith "well today we're willing to offer $30 an hour". Hell to the mother fucking yeah. I get to do a job I've always wanted to do, AND get awesome pay while I'm at it. FUCK YEAH!!!.

We were advised that this for starters would be a 1 month project, where we would be taking the existing version of a Pharmacy simulation project done in Unity and redo much of it, and that there was the likelihood of the project extending an additional 6 months after that, for a far more advanced complete redo of the entire thing, using our knowledge gained on the one month version.

So then we all got to work on the project and were advised to keep log of our work times/hours for once we were able to fill out our time sheets. My work in the early stages of the projects was basic mockup images done in photoshop which was easy enough. Then in week 2 I was asked to help Jack with some player unity script code and pure Unity related work in a GUI plugin for Unity called "nGUI". Going into this project I had practically NO GOOD KNOWLEDGE in Unity and then to attempt to do work in a friggin plugin of Unity was just hard damn work, which ultimately led to nothing on my end for that task but I did my best.

Week 3 I got REALLY sick from a stomach bug gifted on me by my parents on returning from a European holiday. Luckily I'd not had very much work to do that week. Note that towards the end of this week we were told that we would definitely be working on the 6 month version of this project once the one month version was completed. Towards the end of this week I was handed my first big solo task. To create scripts for 3 environmental (Air Pressure, Particle Levels and Microbial) tests. The tests were to test the players knowledge on correct room conditions. At first this seemed like a daunting task, but was something I quickly got a handle of and it wasn't ANYWHERE near as hard as I first expected. I had the choice of doing the environmental tests in either straight up Unity (easier) or in nGUI (harder or so it seemed at the time). I choice straight up Unity.





At the start of week 4 I was asked to handle the walking up to a window by a doctor to give the player the prescription they need to later prepare chemicals for a customers prescription. I was asked to do this, since it was directly related to the tests (since the doctor would only walk up after the 3 tests were done). Again I was at first alittle daunted by this task as I'd never played animations in Unity before, but again this turned out to be ALOT easier than I first expected. The hardest part in it turned out to be one of communication, since I had to communicate directly with Andy Yong, the lead modeller/Animator on the project who by the way has worked with several games companies in Melbourne previously. So yeah anyways that was a minor annoyance, but such is the way when you start off in new teams, getting used to peoples ways of doing things. And so that task was completed in the end. Done in straight up Unity again.



At the end of week 4 I was asked to handle hand washing, which was an exercise of which the player would go to a sink and was required to wash their hands. If they did them in the correct manner then they received full points (2 points) for the first test and 1 point on the 2nd with the game doing the washing for them (if they'd got a perfect score on the 1st). Where as if they made mistakes then they lost a mark per mistake till they got a score of zero or lower. Note that there was 2 sink tests so I needed to make the script modular (re-useable) which was fine. Had that task done more or less by the next meeting. I say more or less since due to the way that Andy setup the animations for it, I had to move the players view camera around for the animations to go to where on the sink Andy had intended.



Week 5 Andy worked out the kinks in the hand washing animation and I finally for the first time in weeks had a bit of free time since I didn't have alot of work to do for a change, so took the time to learn nGUI which had been on my todo list for a fair while. Allen the Interface designer (a former uni friend of Keenan's) on the project this week was given the task of switching my environmental tests over to nGUI which I'll admit I was slightly annoyed at, though nothing against them at all they were nothing but nice about it and asked for my permission first which is a HELL OF ALOT better than Tom had done back with Bipolar. Was nice to have some free time either way, and I used my new found basic knowledge of nGUI to switch some of its interface over to that.

At the end of Week 5 Andy added the application of soap to the players arm/hand animations when using a soap dispenser as well as particle effects to show the illusion of water coming from the tap. Note that over the past 5 week period other members of the group were doing tasks on the project (ie the inclusion of a player inventory system, container inventory scripts for cabinets, gowning sequence screens and interfaces etc), all of which were coming along very nicely. We FINALLY got our damn contracts at the end of this week also, with a nice little surprise. What surprise was that? that our pay is $37.48 per hour with time and a half added for weekends. Holy shit. That's such good money I'm nearly lost for words. By end of week 5 Monash already owes me $4.7k gross. Holy hot damn that's alot of money.

Week 6 has been one of bug fixing. I say has been and not was since that was/is this week as of me typing this blog entry. Anyways so my work this week has been all about bug fixing. We came in to merge our code on the Monday initially and then spent 12 hours at Monash today (Thursday) with a final merging of all our code/scripts/Unity stuff to happen on Sunday. Then we'll have 2 months off to do our own thing and then be back to work on the 6 month plus version of the project + Keith mentioned that there will always be other work that we can do at Monash if we are interested, which at the rate that Monash is paying us I was like hell yeah Very Happy.

So yeah what a fucking good turn around. To go from no job, Centerlink hassling me to get work and real lack of motivation in general, to having the job I've been looking for all along PLUS the pay is so far beyond my wildest expectations. God damn. And I love the work. I was honestly starting to give up on games related work before this and was really starting to think that I would end up in call centers again. I am glad that for now at the very least, that that is not the case.

So if anyone is actually reading these blog entries by this stage I have made it there. Or for now I have anyway Very Happy. It still hasn't sunk in completely. If anything I keep waiting for the bubble to burst so to speak and for me to return back to "normal" life. I hope something good and long term comes of all this. I plan to pay off a good chunk of my HEX fees (debt from the University games major course I did) while I have this opportunity. Getting paid for something you love doing just has SUCH a different feel to it. Hard to explain, but it doesn't feel like work at all. For example being at Monash for the 12 hours today, it was fine and I'm not mentally drained in the same way that I was from even 7.5 hours of call center work. Such a difference.

Anyways. More in the next blog entry.


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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Thu Nov 22, 2012 3:26 pm

Friday 23rd of November

Well I may have cursed myself with the previous post as last week Keith the project leader of the SCR project of Monash advised me that the 6 month extension of the project was not likely to be going ahead due to a decrease in funding from the Victorian government. So whilst I "got there" it was only for a few months and now I'm back to square one again. It's quite annoying as the amount of cash and experience I would gained from the 6+ month version of the project would have been immense. So instead I'm now in the "work for the dole" program from being out of work for so long. If I'd been employed for that 6 month thing then that would have fixed that up also. Oh well. Doing call center work is looking like a necessary evil that I must do in the meantime.

Games development wise since my last post I was working on Dragon's Lair weekly every few nights and last week I released version 0.50 (which you can grab here: mediafire.com download.php?ah4ynoache7dnl4). In this version is level 3 of the original (level 5 in mine) and a new level of my own creation. These are complete with the enemies and game elements present in the original level 3. Response to the new version was mixed with some good feedback but also some negative comments which I'll endeavor to rectify in the next version. The negative comments were mostly about the difficulty level of the troll bosses battle on level 3 and of the player controls.





The above is 2 shots from the new version.

The next version will mark the completion of all planned levels + conversions of existing levels and time for me to move onto my next project what ever that may be.

In other game dev news work on Block Attack for a while sped up and we made some good progress.





All core game mechanics are now in, as are much of the texture changes required for each of themes present in the game. All that is left is the completion of all game elements specific to the themes, as without them I can't make the levels necessary for it to reach its overall finished state. Sadly Jack & Jared the two team members who at first had the time to work on Block Attack no longer have time to work on it, so work on the game will have to wait till they are free again.

Till then its work on Dragon's Lair and then I dunno. Hopefully the future will be more brighter in my next entry.


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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Wed Mar 06, 2013 3:06 pm

Wednesday 6th of March

Hmm 4 months since my last entry. Scary. Anyways, not a hell of alot to report about on the games front. Work on Dragon's Lair has been slow due to a lack of motivation. I have got work done however.





All converting of textures for the final level is done, tile placement for final level done, final non boss enemy (baby green dragon's which spawn from eggs) done. Weapon changing is now in the game, with the player now able to pickup dagger, axe and fireball weapon powerups. In a change from the original game, the current weapon is displayed in the top right corner of the screen.

Picking up gold in levels now adds to the players gold total. For now that's all it does but I might add in a between levels shop of some sort later to make use of the players gold to purchase extra lives, weapon power ups, new abilities (maybe). Unsure on that one.

Discovered the source of flickery graphics for some of the enemies in the game. Enemies that moved had had their movement and animations to all occur at the same moment. Separating each into their own places, timed differently solved that.

What's left to go into the game is:

* Addition of boss to the final level and then a credit sequence to occur after that.
* Add in all the extra enemies (including bosses) from the PAL version of the game.
* Fix joystick controls for the game. The game currently goes wonky if a controllers analog is switched on.

As I've not been that motivated for a fair while now, progress on the game is going in bursts with long intervals in between.

Beyond Dragon's Lair not much else to say. Block Attack is essentially dead, though I may do it in C++ myself later. Redos of both Space Invaders and Fishing Time in SDL will be following Dragon's Lair completion (which should be by the next post most likely). Jobs wise not a word to say where games industry work is concerned. I've just been looking for work in odd job type areas (data entry, admin, IT etc) whilst I work out what job to aim for since games industry work of any kind is looking extremely unlikely.

More in the next entry.


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All's Well, that ends well

Post  Kenshinn on Tue Jul 02, 2013 6:29 pm

Wednesday 3rd of July 2013

I FINALLY finished off Dragon's Castle and released it back on the 16th of June (according to mediafire). I got every single last essential task completed.

Download link to final version:
mediafire.com download/7eyw93ju6pvo9sj/Dragon's_Castle_1_01.zip

The following tasks were completed since the last blog entry:

* All additional enemies and bosses from the PAL version of the game are in and working perfectly
* New first level with new music developed for it
* New credits sequence added
* New game intro sequenced added
* User created level support
* General bug fixes
* Vastly improved joystick/gamepad support



To say that I am satisfied with the end result would be an understatement. Sure there are additional little things I could have added (ie bonus levels, blocks that could only be destroyed by specific weapons which would open up paths if the player had that weapon equipped, more levels, better done graphics and animations for the player etc etc). Compared to my earlier projects this is EASILY the best one that I've produced solo. Obviously Bipolar was a more grander project but I am proud of my final creation.

After the download was up, feedback came in quickly and it was nothing but positive which was great. Now several weeks later I can report that downloads for Dragon's Castle are the highest that I have received for any of my releases, including the earlier demo releases. As of right now it has been downloaded: 236 times. My best before this was 104 downloads for the first demo release for this.

What surprised me was that my release made front page on a retro remakes website (http://retroremakes.com/nostalgia/2013/06/24/dragons-castle/) and even got a review on another site (http://www.retrospiritgames.co.uk/2013/06/dragons-castle-fan-remake-of-nes.html). Whilst the review wasn't great, it's still a review. Which has never happened with any of my other solo releases, and you need to be able to handle criticism if you ever plan on releasing anything into the public domain.

Someone even recorded themselves playing the first 2 levels of the game and put it on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbGkUcIB260

Be even better if some people did some levels in the level editor and uploaded them somewhere, but if not then meh that's fine.

All in all this was EASILY the most well received release that I have done. My only hope is that future releases of mine receive similar or better responses Smile.

I've decided that all of my games from now on will have a "Game Developed By JF Software" in them. Everyone needs a slogan Smile. And with JF being my initials (obviously) it's time I gave myself some kind of indie development name of some sort. JF software sounded appropriate.

So now looking back 2 years after starting on it my thoughts:

If I had devoted all of my free time to this and not taken so many long breaks from it I'm pretty damn sure that I would have got it done in a year max. But all in all I have no regrets. I am happy with the end result which is all that matters.

Plus from what I've coded together I could EASILY adapt much of the code to similar game types (2D platformers, scrolling shooters etc). Which if I ever do one of those, I will have a big code base to speed things up.

So where to from here?

Well, with Dragon's Castle completed my first quick projects are to convert both Fishing Time (already half completed as of this blog) and Space Invaders over to SDL. After that I plan to work fully on completing Block Attack and once completed getting that onto sites like Desura to hopefully get alittle cash flowing. After that I have no idea.

I already have been getting a small side income from reselling old retro games (super nintendo games mostly) on Ebay. By reselling I mean the buying of games (off Ebay) at under the general amount that they usually go for and then reselling them at the proper amount (eg say a game usually would sell for $60 but I see an auction nearing it's end with the game at $30-$40 I would bid on the item in the final seconds of the auction, thus winning the auction at the lower price and then once the game is delivered resell the game on Ebay at the $60 price thus making a small profit).

It's not a big money enterprise in the slightest, but it does bring in a small trickle of extra money from time to time.

But to properly be able to make proper money I'll either have to get a proper job (ie data entry, help desk etc) or a games industry job (extremely unlikely in the current job market but I hope to get a job in it someday). Either way I think I've spent enough time purely doing indie game programming and need to start making a proper income one way or the other. My work on indie games will NEVER stop however. Once you get the games coding bug in you, your a games coder for life.

More in the next blog entry.


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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Mon Sep 09, 2013 4:23 pm

Monday, September 9th 2013

Not that much to report really. Last few months have been very uneventful. Whole years going wayyyyyy too quick. Dragon's Castle is sitting on 373 downloads which I am VERY happy with (yay). Best downloads I've had ever for a release.

I did some work converting Fishing Time over to SDL and completed the bulk of the work and I could easily have released it back then when I got to that point, but I want to add in a Derby mode which has new gameplay types though I got side tracked making missions for Shadowrun Returns:



Above is as far as Fishing Time has got.

And here is some mockups of the extra stages:





Which when I get around to doing them should be fun. So yeah in the meantime been working on some missions for the game Shadowrun Returns:





These unlike say Dragon's Castle or Fishing Time are more action rpg in nature as well as far more story driven. I've pumped a significant amount of time into doing these and completed the 1st mission in a planned 3 part trilogy.

1st part:
http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=167756870

Work on the 2nd part continues at a slow pace as it is far larger in scope and is more of a open world RPG. Hell of alot of fun to work on, but very repetitive and time consuming.

No luck on the job front as of yet, but still trying. A few weeks ago a job at The Voxel Agents was going which I applied for but was unsuccessful (obviously). But with my 33rd birthday around the corner (Tuesday next week) I'm committed to keeping at it, in getting a job.

More in the next entry.


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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Thu Jan 30, 2014 5:28 pm

Friday 31st January 2014

I'd love to have heaps to talk about, but there isn't much to say despite the large amount of months between this post and the previous one.

Basically I've been working on episode 2 of my UGC for Shadowrun Returns "Old Habits Die Hard" on a on again, off again basis due to lack of motivation. I'm about 70% done on that. Once that's completed I plan to do an episode 3, then the plan is to finish off the redo of "Fishing Time" and then do my own C++ version of Block Attack and then sell that on Desura, which would/will be my first commercial game where all the money will be going to me. Though very early days so whose to say what will happen.

Absolutely zero to say on the games industry end of things. Been next to no jobs at all for a VERY long time that I could apply for. Though on a semi-related front, Derrick Martin of Monash in December recommended that I apply for a game design tutoring position at Monash, and with him now being the head of tutoring at Monash puts me with a VERY good chance of getting in.

Hoping to the heavens that I get in to that job, and off work for the dole. The work for the dole is doing my head in (as in driving me bonkers) and quite depressing. Over here in Victoria Australia, it's been very hard to find work in any industry (thanks to the world going to hell economies wise), even more so with the change in government. I hope that things get better world wide soon, though I have the sneaking suspicion that this world economic crisis is here to stay for a VERY long time and will be read about in the history books some day.

Anyways enough rambling. Hopefully more positive news in the next blog update.

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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Sun Jun 29, 2014 6:14 pm

Monday 30th of June 2014.

These updates are becoming fewer and further between.

And this will be a short update as there's not very much at all to say. I've been continuing work on ep 2 of my UGC for Shadowrun Returns, but beyond that nothing else of interest on the games fronts been happening at all.



The Monash job turned out to not be what I was expecting. Derrick made it clear that if I wanted the job it was mine, but it turns out that the job was a teaching one, and as I've never taught a single thing in my life (beyond teaching friends and girlfriends how to drive) there was no way in hell I could go for it. The thought of teaching a class of 20 students, marking assignments and exams when I'd never taught a thing in my life. AAHHHHH. At the time it was REALLY depressing to turn down the job as there had been no good news on the job front in sooooooooooo long.

I did apply for a new programming job at the Voxel Agents, and even went along to my first IGDA meeting in years, but was unsuccessful with it. One thing of odd note was that the IGDA meeting just felt so different to me that time round, since getting into the games industry for the first time was NOT my no.1 priority. Honesty I could be trying to get in for the rest of my life and still never get in, and if I'm to ever to get the cash together to get married then a change of plan was needed.

Luckily for me a few months after the IGDA thing I successfully got a job at MYOB doing tech support. The job was only for 3 months, but it's money. As of this blog I have 5 weeks (including this one) to go till that's done. Not a job I could stick with though. Rotating rosters have never worked well with me.

When it's done I REALLY need to finish off ep 2 of the UGC, speed through doing ep 3, then get back into actual proper games dev again. Trouble is, is that everyone I know gave up on getting into the games industry ages ago and I've accepted the fact that there is a 90% chance that I'll never get in either despite my talent for game design. Such is life sometimes sadly.

No matter what though, I'll be doing game dev as a hobby for the rest of my life in one way or another, and I have no regrets at all on trying my best to get into it.

More in the next blog.


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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Sun Nov 30, 2014 6:40 am

30th of November 2014

This year has sped past so fast. Back in August I applied for job as a QA (Quality Assurance) tester for Twiitch on a mobile tower defense style game that they had developed. I even was successful in getting the job, which was a first (not counting Monash) but I had decline the job for 2 reasons:

* They were only offering the annual pay at $20,000 which is illegal.
* You had to buy your own equipment prior + during (eg a laptop etc) which is ridiculous.

All in all, a very dodgy company. Game looked interesting, but I have future plans for marriage + hopefully getting a mortgage on a house somewhere and 20k just isn't sustainable. So I stuck with my current job at MYOB in customer support. Though that will be finishing up on the 19th (3 weeks from now).

Games wise beyond that, there is nothing else to report really. I really need to finish off ep 2 of Old Habits Die Hard at some point. Just hard finding the time + motivation when your working Monday to Friday.

So this a short but sweet post for a change.

Oh and I happened to go to PAX (Penny Arcade eXpo) this year and bumped into the Voxel Agents. Now compare these 2 games:

1. Block Attack:



And

2: Puzzle Retreat



They both feature moving blocks into holes, except that the blocks in PR keep moving until they hit a wall or a solid block, and you only move 1 block at a time. Very similar concept however. I wonder where they got the idea of that game from. Hmm.


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Re: Games Studio Blog

Post  Kenshinn on Thu Jan 28, 2016 3:03 pm

It has been wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy too long since my last blog entry.

On the 18/1/16 marks the loss of one of Bipolar game's key members. Tom Parry. He passed away. I really can't think of the words to properly say for something like this. So I'll just say rest in peace mate. You left this world far too soon, with so much unfinished.

And in a politically incorrect moment I will just note, that on attending his funeral today, he managed to piss me off one last time. Josh guest the head of B2Cloud spoke a few words, and mentioned a university project shown on his (Tom's) first interview there. He came in all daggy dressed, coke in hand. And showed him this game, which he proclaimed he did the majority of the work on. Well no you didn't. Yes you coded most of the engine. And yes you did 1 tune, and made 2 particularly awesome levels which made it into the finished product. But I did the majority of the levels, 95% of the music and did some of code. So no you didn't do the majority of it. If anything it has 60% him, 35% me, with the final 5% going to Sasha and Tadgh.

But Tom, your the best programmer I've ever had the pleasure of meeting (and arguing with many times), and the world is a lesser place with your passing. So whilst you've managed to piss me off even in death, you were still awesome, and one of the few Monash students who kept in contact with me, long after graduation. So rest in peace mate.

Now lastly. What have I been doing in the year and a bit since the last entry: To be honest. Not that much on the games dev front. Bit by bit I've been adding to episode 2 of my System Shock themed UGC for Shadowrun Returns. And that's about it. Most of my energy has been going into both eBay (to generate a cash flow that will continue even when I'm unemployed) and into saving money to get married to my girlfriend Muna. Sadly she had a complete nervous breakdown around September of last year (2015) which stuffed up my money saving, and I'm currently trying to get a new job to save the final 15k needed. Fingers crossed that I'm successful in that.

Here's to a more successful 2016. and R.I.P Tom Parry (Pazz).


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