The Blog of Ryan Foss

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video games

Adventure Time Gamemaking Frenzy

Play The Game

Jake in the Land of Falling People is a simple game where you play as Jake the Dog and you have to save people who are falling, as well as keep from being bombed. To do this, you use Jake super strech ability to punch and grab things in the sky.

You can play the game in a browseror on your Android device (download the APK).

When I heard about the Game Making Frenzy with Adventure Time, I mentioned it to my kids, three boys ages 9, 7, and 5. They were very excited. When the jam started, we spent about an hour Saturday morning talking about game design and ideas. The design had a lot of crazy ideas, which I feared I couldn’t program, but the basic idea was pretty good. Having Jake punch things out of the sky was a great idea with lots of potential. Inbitially you were supposed to switch between modes, for punch and grab, but that was unwieldy and confusing. The idea of punching, instead of grabbing, falling people in the sky was funny, but also frustrating. Development took place mostly on Sunday. The boys would run up and scan in a picture of an airplane and bombs and ask me to put it in the game, so I would. And the loop went like that, with me developing other core stuff as we went along.

The game is unfinished, but functions in a complete game loop. There is a lot that I didn’t get to, but I didn’t get a good start until Sunday. The “boss” and “power up” items were not implemented. Sound is missing and very needed. It’s also sometimes confusing as to why you lose the game.

The Unity3D framework was used as the core engine. Code was written in C# using MonoDevelop. Art was drawn on paper, then scanned and edited in Photoshop. Playtesting was done on PC, Web, and with Android on Kindle Fire and a Nexus 7.

There are a few known bugs (mostly showing up in the Android version because of timing and touch inputs), but for the most part the game should function on most resolutions.

I worked with my three sons to make this game.  Instructions are lacking, but quickly its punch the bad stuff, catch the falling people, and don’t die.


Play in your Web Browser

Download the APK for Android

Fireman Run Menu Development

Over the last week I’ve started implementing the menu and interactive buttons into the Fireman Run game. Rather than describe some of those changes, I recorded a quick video to show how my development is going.

Fireman Run is a game I’m developing with a few friends. It’s made in Unity, using C# and primary testing is on Android devices at the moment.

E3 2012 Predictions

I love, love, love E3 and I can’t help but spout some predictions.

I’m most interested in the three major players and their press conferences.  Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft.  Each planning some big announcements and future plans.  Here’s what I think each major player will have to say.

Nintendo

My biggest interest for E3 2012 is Nintendo’s Wii U console?  Wii sales are essentially dead, 3DS not doing so well…  Can Wii U breath life back or will it show us something we didn’t know we wanted?   Can it show something beyond the Nintendo typical cutsie?   I expect that in typical Nintendo fashion, the Wii U will not focus on tech and be underpowered.  Also, the 3DS needs some life but I’m really meh about it so I don’t care much other that to see what they say about hardware.

Sony

I don’t follow Sony very much, but  I think Sony is in a tight spot and needs to react and show what they have to offer.  They have a lot of games to talk about and I expect a lot of Vita Vita Vita talk.   Sony could announce a price drop on the console, in reaction to the $99 Xbox console deal (rip off tactic).  I’ve heard some news about a cloud service, which could be streaming games like OnLive, but I doubt it.

I’m curious what Sony will say about the Move.  Remember the Move?  Will they give it more promotion or is it a dead peripherial?

Although unlikely, its possible Sony might hint at the PS4 in vague ways to let us know they are thinking of the future. I’ve been really adamant that Nintendo’s Wii U would steal the show and the other players would want to evaluate what Nintendo’s up to and how they fair, but Sony could see it as an opportunity.

Microsoft

There will be no new console announcement from Microsoft in my opinion.  They won’t want to take attention from the Kinect, and I suspect they will be very interested in how the Wii U goes.  Expect more dashboard/software announcements, Live crap, Windowz Phone blah, Windows App Store, meh.  I expect Microsoft to suck it this year as they try to further embrace casual.  I think they are going to approach this from a different angle, laying the groundwork for a Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Xbox 720 future.

I am very interested to see if their presentation makes them appear as if they are getting out of the games business.  On the other hand, Microsoft could have some awesome sh!t happening if they can really integrate the next console with Windows 8 and Windows Phone in a non-sucky/typical Microsoft way.  And maybe Zune has a future!

All in all, what they present should be telling for what could be their path for the next console.  Oh, and probably something about Halo.

Summary

I think Nintendo and the Wii U will steal the show and give us lots to talk about.  I think Sony will be on the offensive and will really pump some fun at us, showcasing the fun gaming “experience”, as well as promote the Vita in a way to make us want to get it.  I think Microsoft is going to be a flop, focusing on other casual crap we won’t really care about while missing the gamer audience.

Global Game Jam

I can’t believe I let this go without mention, but man I’ve been busy!  I have so much to say and reflect on it overwhelms me to think about it.

The Global Game Jam 2012 is one such event.  Way back in January I spent 48 hours making a game and it was awesome.  Of that 48 hours, I slept four!   The result was a game we called “Boogie Fling”.  It was developed in Unity, and you can play the web version here: Boogie Fling

Much credit has to go to Ty Burks for most of the art and Tori Kamal for the hilarious sounds and music.

The Game Jam was awesome and the local IGDA group had an outstanding attendance with over 27 participants on 11 teams!  It was awesome fun to jam with so many cool and interesting people.

 

Hungry Monsters Prototype

While on my recent business trip, I spent my time at the airport and on the plane programming a game concept I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: Hungry Monsters (the first prototype). Fair warning, there is no game play yet, but merely a rapid prototype of the game play elements, specifically the resource management of employees, work stations, ammunition and the actual playing field.

Hungry Monsters is very similar to Plants vs. Zombies, but with my own engineering spin on it. What’s different, at least in my design, is that the player will have to decide how to spend their resources differently by running a bakery to provide the food (the ammunition), as well as place weapons to fend off (feed) the onslaught of hungry monsters. Players will have to decide if they place another muffin shooter, an oven, or another employee for instance.

The prototpye at this stage doesn’t allow the player to do anything yet, but was built to allow me to investigate the idea. Through the Unity Editor I’m able to try different combination of things. Considering this took me about 6 hours (built from scratch in airports and on the flight for a recent business trip) I’m pretty happy with the outcome and excited to move on. Please excuse the Microsoft Paint artwork and simple geometry, it is a first pass prototype!

In the next version I hope to have the basic interactive elements working to allow placement of work stations, workers and weapons. (I need a better word for weapons too!)

Halloween 2011

I went crazy with costumes this year and got the family to do a Plants vs. Zombies theme.

We even made it onto the Plants vs. Zombies Facebook page!

More pictures in my Google+ Plants vs. Zombies Halloween 2011 gallery.

Blocks that Fall in Unity

If you’ve been to the IGDA Twin Cities meetings, or have seen any of the videos (here and here) where I presented the idea of collaborative game developing, you know that the group is off and running.  We’re moving forward with a Mr. Driller inspired climbing game of block destruction.

We’ve done a lot of development over the two months we’ve been at it.  However, at the last meeting a number of bugs showed up during the live demo.  Due to certain circumstances (my laptop fell to ground and quit working) I ran the game demo on a netbook.  Although the game still played well, a number of bugs appeared more often than in my play testing, probably related to framerate and physics calculations.

As a game developer, something I’ve always wanted to do was program a Tetris clone.  Why?  Well, because although its simple, its also a good exercise in programming for a novice game programmer.  Alas, its also one of those things I’ve never done (but always think about).  Given the troubles we’re experiencing with the existing block falling code in the game, I decided it was time to take a crack at it.

Zombie Game Prototype

I’m working with Robert Green at Battery Powered Games on another game, this time its a action game. About 4 months ago, Rob and I got together for a meeting to discuss our next efforts and discussed ways to learn from our mistakes on Deadly Chambers. We each came with five game ideas and pitched them to each other, back and forth. At the end we picked one idea and went with it. The idea we picked was mine and goes something like this:

Combine Flight Control with Tower Defense, best described with with humans and zombies. You control the humans and try to get them to a safe house, they may or may not have weapons. The zombies try to eat your humans. I’m not going to go into the details beyond that because, along with a designer we’ve hired, we working on many of the details to make sure the game is fun, engaging and rewarding.

Since the pitch, I’ve been thinking about the game play and I’ve come to many conclusions. This is a problem, since we have yet to see the game in prototype form. Rob (and me to some extent) has been busy on some other projects, one of which is Battery Tech, and another is an android game that will be hitting the market within the month (fingers crossed). (My friend Bill and I did the art for this soon to be released game FYI so look for future blog posts about it). Rob hasn’t had the time to make a prototype as he’s also executing some other business ventures and contracts.

As I said we hired a designer but he has become confused about the game which is primarily my fault. With so much time thinking about the game play its hard to keep an open mind, to be flexible. It’s hard to explain things well and succinctly, at the same time to not seem contradictory to previous statements. We’ve gotten buried in communication issues and semantics. It has been interesting to see the designer’s interpretations and opinions, and his designs given our flawed descriptions and requirements. Its also been problematic because we each have our ideas we’re pretty adamant about, but no way to see them in action, get a feel for what works and further the discussion. I was contemplating making some level drawings and animating them to show how I expect game play to work, but then I decided I should just program a prototype.

This is what I love about programming. I started at about 9pm and fired up some XNA sample and just had at it. 6 hours later the clock reads 3am and I reluctantly call it quits. But at the end is a partial prototype allowing for human path drawing, basic zombie AI seeking/attack, a safe house, turning (human becomes zombie), weapon pickup, and human AI targeting.

 Ryan’s Zombie Prototype Version 1

In the above picture, the grey blue lines are paths for the humans. The purple diamonds are zombies. You can also see some of the humans are armed with little guns. The lines from humans to zombies show that the humans are targeting and within range of a zombie. I’ll be adding some code to do shooting next as well as see what Rob and the designer say.

Needless to say, I’m excited to program again and wonder why I never really get into it when its so much fun. I’m excited to build up some momentum on this project as well. I’m art lead with two artists on my team, so I’m anxious to get them working.

I Host a Podcast

I’ve started podasting for the IGDA Twin Cities.  It’s a blast!  We should be publishing once a month.

You can check the IGDATC.ORG website for the podcast, or check it out the Podcast Link on iTunes

Call of Duty Black Ops Takes 8 Lives in One Day

Eight lifetimes were spent playing Call of Duty Black Ops on XBOX Live by then end of launch day on November 9th.  Sensational, I know, but let me explain.

I’ve always found this math concept interesting, where you compare lifetimes to an event, especially if you equate it to big events like the Super Bowl.  Basicaly any event where they brag about the number of viewers, or hours spent, or time committed to something means that lifetimes were used up.  Major Nelsons recent tweet about Call of Duty Black Ops having 5.9 million hours played in the first day reminded me of this strange thought, so I had to find out.  How many lifetimes were used playing Call of Duty on that first day?

Major Nelson’s tweet from Nov. 19th, 2010

The math is easy, so let me walk through it.

First off, what is the life expectancy of the average person?  I decided to use the US average, since its probably the majority of players and is also fairly high.  According to the CIA, the average life expectancy of a US citizen in 2010 is approximately 78 years.

1 lifetime = 78 years

Second is determining how many years 5.9 million hours is.  5,900,000 hours is 245833 days (5900000 hrs / 24 hrs/day) which is 673 years (245833 days / 365 days/year).

5,900,000 hours = 673 years

The rest is simple.  If a lifetime is 78 years, and 673 years were spent playing, that means that 8.6 lifetimes (673 years / 78 years/lifetime) were spent.

673 years = 8.6 lifetimes

What does this mean?  Well, nothing really.  It’s just an interesting number related to life.  It doesn’t mean lives were wasted, because many many more are spent in more mundane things every day (such as traffic).  It’s just interesting to see how we spend our time.

First 1000 Gamerscore

I achieved my first 1000 gamerscore tonight, some accomplishment.  I’ve been keeping Borderlands on the back burner, intending to get that last achievement someday.  I had to reach level 50, which given their level balancing and the level cap for enemies, is tough.

Review of the AppJudgement Review of Deadly Chambers

You guys, Anthony Carboni over at AppJudgement recently reviewed Battery Powered Games’ Deadly Chambers for Android devices.

WAIT, don’t click play yet!

The review isn’t favorable even though Anthony is giving it the 5 finger solute there.  In fact, considering all the positive reviews and comments we’ve gotten its surprising the level of which Anthony dislikes Deadly Chambers.  If only he knew how much time I spent watching Bytejacker and playing Free Indie Rapid Fire games instead of working on level designs, improving textures and character animations…  All the time I spent watching him with enjoyment and laughter, now replaced with a sour taste and sadness…  He really didn’t seem to like the game. Oh Anthony!!!  NOOOOOO!

We are really honored to be reviewed by AppJudgement, don’t get me wrong.  I’ve been watching them for over a year now and I’ve come to enjoy their productions and trust their reviewers (was hoping for Jackie to review to be honest, no offense Anthony).  I don’t know if Anthony, or the AppJudgement team got my requests for review, or if he found it as he stated (which would be awesome), but being noticed is a plus in and of itself.  Even after the review I still love you Anthony, and we are taking many of your thoughts to heart.  (WTF, ByteJacker biweekly, you suck!  I mean that in the most positive way!  I miss you.)

With that said, I have a few major contentions with his review.  First off, he sets the stage by saying “a little gaming action for my hardcore friends.”  Deadly Chambers was never intended as a “hardcore game”.  It was designed to be a casual shooter, to give you a few minutes of shoot-the-bad-guys fun, and was designed accordingly.  It is made for a phone device after all.  We did decide to support the more hardcore gamer types by adding a lot of unlockable guns, achievements and a tough “Deadly” difficulty of course, but the designed and intended average time to play a level is pretty quick once you get used to it.  Anthony reviewed Deadly Chambers as if it were intended for hardcore gamers so its no wonder he wasn’t satisfied.  Additionally, he was comparing it to iPhone games.  That isn’t a problem mind you, because its at least a more fair comparison than comparing it to Xbox360 or PS3 shooters and is appropriate, but it doesn’t really matter if you only have an Android Phone.  What he also failed to mention was the total lack of any quality 3D shooters available in the Android Market because he was comparing it to iPhone games.  If games like Deadly Chambers were easy to make, the market would be flooded with them.  Deadly Chambers is one of a kind, for better or worse.  It is not NOVA (ported to Android, and whose heard of it other than the hardcore), it is not Quake (this is an OLD PC game remember), and its not supposed to be!

Secondly, he never mentions the bosses.  The majority of the game design came in the form of boss fights.  From an angry Ogre  who can repel your attacks with a giant smiley face shield, a giant spider knight, a mechanized robot with Gatling gun arms whose pilot is its only week point, and a giant dragon that flies around shooting fire at you in a huge castle.  The game’s boss fights add much to the game as a whole and he never mentioned them.  In the game there are 5 enemy models and 6 boss models.  Sure, the room to room design isn’t the best and the AI of those monsters isn’t top notch, but he didn’t even mention the level bosses.  You shouldn’t say something like “enemy AI is simplistic and slow” and ignore the bosses, which he does.  (See how mad the Ogre is there, waving his wooden hammer!)

Other little things…

The levels are “bland and boxy” and the characters are “simple”.  This is so very true, and Anthony goes on later in his video to express the potential fragmentation problem related to this which is also exactly true.  To support the myriad of Android devices and OS versions, we were forced to aim lower than I, as the artist and partial designer, would like.  However, given that the game has 5 levels, 11 character models, 18 guns and a shit-ton of other images (that is artist talk for amazing Photoshop skillz), all jammed into a 7MB file, its f’ing impressive and I’m super studly for making that possible!   Add to that the fact that it runs on so many devices is a testament to the design.  We could have made a killer shooter if we target a few phones, Anthony is dead to rights about that, but we would have been ignoring a large portion of the Android audience.  Ultimately though, shouldn’t this sort of approach be praised instead of condoned.  Robert (Battery Powered Games owner, president, etc., etc.) was adamant about supporting older phones (older OSs, back to 1.6) and I eventually came around to his way of thinking (because he’s right).  Its too big a market to over look, especially at the date of our release.  I’m still sporting my G1 for crying out loud!  This also correlates tremendously to sales as well as recognition.

One of the major issues with the game is its controls.  I for one, have tested on a number of devices, and perhaps I’ve grown accustomed to its quirks, but it works well for me.  However, supporting so many devices causes a whole bunch of unfortunate problems too.  Problems that I wish were not there and cause us headaches and stars in the ratings (X10 and Moment for instance).   I wont really get into this because its a loosing battle and I’m half drunk, but part of the blame falls on the player, but most of the blame falls onto the Android hardware.  Don’t believe me?  Go to the Application Market and download the some of the Multitouch test apps (Multitouch Visibility Test and Multitouch Paint are a both good ones) and use them in a way you think controls should/could work and see what happens.  Here’s a video on the Nexus 1 and Droid just for reference.  The ultimate problem is that since the Nexus 1 and the Droid both support the same OS, but the touch interface behaves differently and you can’t really target a phone directly, you’re stuck deciding how to deal with the fallout (bad reviews because phone don’t work vs. trying to make it right for one device.)

What saddens me most is that I seriously doubt Anthony played much of the game and this is evident in the video.  There are hardly any achievement unlocks and no video past the third level.  Some of the complaints about simple models and levels are true, but once you get to the Castle or the Tower levels (levels 4 and 5) I think the levels are outstanding in comparison.  The models also get better.  I admit, this shooter isn’t the 3D Jesus we’re all hoping for, but its a step in the right direction.  With some actual, honest, unbiased and unrushed gameplay, I think its a solid game worth a look.  One worthy of more than the 10 minutes it takes to get to level 3.

Anthony also mentions the characters sliding and twisting awkwardly around the screen, which admittedly is very noticeable.  It’s also one of those things that I notice and you know where else this is noticable?  Fallout 3 and Fable 2, both of which have characters that when running around the environment don’t seem to be quite right.  I will admit I giggled a little at his reference to Dr. Chambers’ running animation looking like something like a puppet from Team America.  This was one of those things that I wanted to fix, but ultimately was good enough for what it was.  Not too bad for 8 keyframes really.  (Still bugs me deep in my core, but not enough to do something about apparently…)

In the end, we are being compared to NOVA and even Rage by AppJudgement, a reputable and respectable organization and I appreciate their time and effort in their review.  I respect Anthony and we are taking his, and every other reviewer, blog, fan or mutant out there who took the time to give us a chance, comments to heart.  In the end, you should watch Anthony’s review because he is good at what he does and I’m all sorts of jealous.  Sometimes I wish A-Train wasn’t dead… (Insert inside joke here… wait, I already did.)

Oh, and BTW, we’ve started working on our next game and its going to be awesome!

Wiimote + Droid + HDTV = Fun

I make my own Android Wiimote video., but take it up a notch.

Wii Controller Controls Nexus 1

Although there are a lot of videos about Wii Controllers (after all, they are just Bluetooth) being used with phones, I found this one interesting. Lots of potential here for common users.

Presenting Android’s exclusive Over-The-Shoulder 3D shooter – Deadly Chambers!

It’s out in the wild!

Deadly Chambers exclusive to Android powered devices of all makes and models.

Battle your way through 5 levels of baddies and bosses in this epic 3D journey. Deadly Chambers offers stunning graphics, tight gameplay, unique controls and loads of unlockable weapons and achievements.

The following are actual screenshots from a stock Nexus One phone running Android 2.2:


Main Menu


World Map


Weapon Equip


Taunting Letters


Dungeon Fight


Adjustable Perspective


First-Person Shooting


Garden Fight


Castle

Deadly Chambers uses OpenGL ES 1.0 and is compatible with most Android phones running 1.5 or higher.

Tips for play:

Try all of the buttons on your phone – by default pressing in on the trackball or dpad center button will fire and surrounding buttons will change weapons and perspective.
Check the game settings – Key bindings, graphics and sound settings are all configurable.
You don’t need to equip all 3 weapons – sometimes it works better to just equip one or two very powerful ones.
Enemies are resistant to different weapons – Experiment and find out what works best.
Bosses have weak points – Try shooting at different areas and with different weapons to beat the tougher bosses.

How to get this game? It’s available now in the Android market.

Senior Design, GSP-490

Last week I finished my senior design class in my Game and Simulation Programming (GSP) degree, class GSP-490. I was worried because I was very busy with Deadly Chambers I had made the bad decision of doing a senior project alone instead of in a group/team as advised. This meant everything was on me. Documentation, design, programming. At the decision point I was too consumed otherwise to commit to anything but what I thought I could handle myself.

The good news is it went well. Grades are in and I got a 90.04%, just eeking out the A. This was a wonderful surprise since I had accepted the fact I was probably going to get a B. Luckily everything with my game fell into place at the last minute and I completed the game (for the most part).

PING! is an action game where you control a ball. You decide which direction the ball should turn when it hits something. Concept was by Bill Nagel and me. It was programmed in XNA Game studio 3.1 (C# FYI). I did all the art assets, programming, source control (using SVN), etc. myself.

Here are some screen shots of my game.

Start Menu

Dynamic Camera Fly at Level Start

Countdown to Start

Game Play Example

Win Condition, PING!

Menu Integration

Laser Shotgun

This is my newest creation. If all goes well, it will be added to Deadly Chambers. It is a shotgun that shoots lasers!

It was made using Blender and Photoshop. I rendered an AO layer and saved it, then a light layer, the blue glow, by rendering only the light on a dark material to the same UV map. I combined them in photoshop with some metal textures, photos, hand painting and some layer effects. I really like how it turned out.

It’s Live: Deadly Chambers


We finally released the game!!! It’s called Deadly Chambers Beta. It’s available on Android GL ES 2.0 compatible phones, like the Droid, N1, Incredible, Devour, and a few others.

It’s “beta” because Rob is going to Google I/O this week and he wanted it in the market before he goes. Makes total marketing sense.

I have to say its really fun.

Tower In Action

I’m finishing the tower level tonight. It’s mostly the little things that take the time. I had to make a quad for every torch, some for portal detection, etc. Here is a shot of the tower level being played. This is the stairs.


Here you are in first person mode standing on the roof.


That is a Verizon Droid phone if you’re wondering.

Low Polygon Characters



Here are a few shots of the characters I’ve been working on lately. They are a combo level boss. The knight is the first half. Once you beat him, he takes on his spider form.

He should be appearing as the level two boss in the upcoming Android game.

Android Art


I’ve been really busy lately with work, school, family and side projects. Here’s one of those side projects I’m working on.

I’ve started working with Battery Powered Games, a local android developer I met through IGDA. We’re making a FPS sort of game. The images above is a WIP of level two, a castle level.

I’m limited to around 1000 triangles and two textures. One texture, a 1024×1024 image is the diffuse and the other is a light map, only 512×512 at maximum quality.

I’m having a lot of fun working on this stuff.

Where has my head been?


I rented Fallout 3… And after 6 late nights with the game, I had to returned it. I’m going through withdrawals wishing I hadn’t taken it back. Oh well… I was at Target today and I would have dropped the $60 on it had I not already ordered it online a few days ago. It won’t be here for a couple days unfortunately. It’s probably for the best since I’ve got assignments due and a final next week.

E3 Day 2

I don’t know if I’m biased or what, but I still think Microsoft did a bang up job with their press conference this year. It seemed that in response to Project Natal, Sony announced their own form of motion control, though it uses the Eye Toy and some wand controllers.

I do think some games could be great with this concept, but Natal shows so much more promise IMO.

Nintendo also announced something like a dozen new Mario games, so not big deal there. Their new Metroid game though shows promise, regardless of its awful name.

8bit

Google Reader is exploding on me. I’ve found a few cool blogs and my feeds just keep expanding and expanding. Today I found a link to a cool video but its really the music that caught my attention. See the funny?