game design, games, Popojojo, writing

One Player Game Jam Roundup

so my one-player game jam finished yesterday, and overall i think it was a success. here’s my roundup of what i learned.

before i started i had a few specific goals in mind. i wanted to refine some of the movement mechanics, and specifically include double-jumping, floating, and sliding.

double-jumping was really easy, as i just looked up a tutorial and copied the blueprint directly.

doublejump

floating has proved a little more difficult, partially because i wasn’t sure what to search for. (so far in my experience game design mostly seems to involve googling ‘unreal engine double jump blueprint’ etc.) the specific ability i want to include is what i’d call floating, but other people seem to refer to it as a ‘hover jump’ or some other such thing. the best example i can think of is the ‘flutter jump‘ in various Mario games.

this is what i’ve figured out so far but it’s not perfect for a number of reasons.

floatingmechanic

firstly, as of now the ability requires pressing its own key, rather than holding down the jump button. figuring out that functionality is gonna take more work because it will also require tweaking the double-jump due to how the second ‘jump’ works. so for the time being, i just settled on using a separate button because i’m more interested in fleshing things out quickly.

the real problem is that i need to work out how to limit the use of the ability so that the player can only float once per jump, because as-is you can float indefinitely as long as you press and release Q quickly enough. The GIFs below should illustrate what I mean.

floating the way i want it to work:

float1

floating cheat:

float2

there’s also a problem with how the movement change translates the character’s velocity/direction, because if the float button is pressed on the way up Popojojo will float upwards rather than begin floating once the maximum height of the jump has been reached. so, still a lot of work to do on the floating mechanic, but i’m at least glad that i’m beginning to understand how blueprints translate into practice.

i never even got around to try working on a sliding mechanic, but i did change the landscape from 2D sprites to a proper 3D landscape, which made everything more slippery anyways. it seems like the next step for this is going to be working with the friction setting and figuring out how to use crouching/pressing down as a slide button. right now when you press S Popojojo goes into a crouch but it’s just an animation and doesn’t actually change anything about the movement speed or friction.

i had some stretch goals for myself, including adding music and sound, a menu system, and a new landscape. i didn’t do anything related to making menus (i suspect that’s going to be a whole thing) but i did add some ambient music and sounds, though it’s not perfect. the music seems to stop when Popojojo goes underwater, which i’ll have to figure out.

here’s a little video that includes the ambient music, some bird sounds, and a jump sound.

maybe the thing i’m most excited about is that i learned how to make a river! i’ve consciously tried to pace how many different parts of the engine i learn so i don’t get overwhelmed or burnt out, which means that until now i’ve avoided physics and post processing volumes because when i knew nothing about them they seemed really complicated. turns out they’re not!

i added water to the world using this tutorial, which uses the water material from this example project. there are a ton of details about how the material works that i just decided to skip by importing the complete material directly, so as of now the water itself looks a little wonky because the waves are moving way too fast.

titlegif

i’m sure the underwater effect (that’s the post processing part) can use some work because i sort of just guessed at what visual changes might seem underwater-y, but that’s not a big deal. at the moment the thing i’m more interested in working out is exiting the water, because right now the player basically only has one jump available. like, when you float to the top, you can only jump out of the water as long as you haven’t already pressed the jump key, because the whole time you’re swimming the game treats it as if you’re still jumping/haven’t landed. so, that’s a thing i’ll have to figure out.

i probably won’t work much on Popojojo in the next couple of weeks because i need to get the first three books of Ages of Decay online, but this has been super fun and i’m excited for the next time i work on it because i’ll have much more specific goals in mind.

(also, i learned how to make gifs, which is its own neat fun thing)

games, Popojojo, writing

One Player Game Jam!

i haven’t seriously worked on my games in a little while because my day job has taken priority over the last few weeks so i decided to make up a challenge for myself. starting at 8:00 AM GMT tomorrow and ending Sunday morning, i’m gonna do a one-person, 72-hour game jam. i’ll be posting updates on twitter using the hashtag #oneplayergamejam, as well as some gameplay and design videos on youtube.

the primary goal of this exercise is gonna be to build out Popojojo so i can demo some of the core movement mechanics, including double-jumping, floating, and sliding (a la the Rayman music levels, not as an attack move). the stretch goals beyond that include some sort of menu, a completely redone landscape (using an actual Unreal landscape rather than simple sprites) and some music and sound effects. they’re just some small steps and the game won’t be anywhere near completion at the end of it, but i think it should be fun, and should hopefully get the project up to where i want it to be.

 

games, writing

VR appreciation post

i just got an Oculus Rift and gosh is it neat. here are some early thoughts on it.

i’m typing this right now on the Oculus Desktop that’s part of the Rift Core 2.0 beta, which definitely takes some getting used to but isn’t dramatically slower than a regular keyboard, and is actually faster than the touch keyboard on my surface. more typos than a regular keyboard but part of that is just down to experience. i have the virtual keyboard up in the air so it’s definitely a workout keeping my arms up but i like it. i’ve always wanted to type like i was boxing.

here’s a look at that paragraph before i fixed any of the typos. i should note that this was done with actually typing with my virtual hands; you can also use the controllers, which are much more accurate but feel less like johnny mnemonic.

typos
typos

i also got the Virtual Desktop app from the Oculus store, and while the customization and background is more fun the keyboard on the Oculus Desktop works much better. Neither app is perfect but they’re both a lot of fun and i’m excited to see how the experience develops with each update.

there’s a reason i’m mostly talking about the joys of typing in VR and that’s because one of primary reasons i wanted a VR rig was for ‘productivity’, which is to say, writing and (to a slightly lesser extent) game design. i’m currently finishing up a phd in english literature, an experience that has ruined my back, shoulders, arms, and wrists through repetitive strain injuries. a standing desk has helped somewhat but what’s really wonderful about the ability to type in VR is the range of motion i can get from it, and because my injuries made it difficult to type for any extended period of time anyways, so far writing in VR hasn’t actually been much slower overall.

i’ve yet to try any art or game design programs yet but i’m excited to start working in Unreal. i just got a whole new machine so i’ve had to reinstall everything but once i get back to work on my games i’ll definitely write up some thoughts on what it’s like.

games, writing

Commander Keen appreciation post

Commander Keen was (maybe) the first videogame i ever played. i can’t remember whether it was that or something on the Sega Master System. if it was the latter, it would have been the Sega Card version of Galaga or Rambo: First Blood Part II. either way, the one that made the biggest impression on me was Commander Keen and specifically the freeware first chapter of Commander Keen in Invasion of the Vorticons.

there was a lot about that game that appealed to tiny me. first was the conceptual association i made between Commander Keen and Spaceman Spiff (aka Calvin) from Calvin and Hobbes, which was my favorite comic growing up. i knew they weren’t part of the same official universe or whatever but i did feel like they were a ‘type’ i could identify with.

overall the game was too difficult for me and i could never actually beat any of the Vorticons that appeared at the end of levels, so at the time i always had to have my brother or dad take over for me once i got to the end. i never finished the freeware version, but i did see the ending once my brother beat it.

the sound design of Commander Keen always stuck out to me as a kid, as the sounds for the pogo stick, ray gun, and teddy bear/free life were so memorable. i also loved the Yorps, aliens that would sort of just bump into you and cry when you jumped on their heads. like Whispy Woods in Kirby’s Dream World, the Yorps forced me to confront my own bloodlust, as they look so tragic if you go past bopping their heads and just shoot them in the face.

it wasn’t until years later that i actually got to play the full game, along with Commander Keen in Goodbye Galaxy. before the days of DRM my friend and i would trade games and that was how i ended up with all three chapters of Invasion of the Vorticons and both chapters of Goodbye Galaxy (that’s also how i first played Rayman, one of my favorite games in terms ambience, music, and art design).

while i already loved Commander Keen, my mind was completely blown by the full game and sequels. in the final chapter of Invasion of Vorticons Keen travels to the Vorticon homeworld, where, in addition to seeing funny domestic scenes of Vorticons at home, there was an entire Vorticon alphabet you could decipher, which meant you could go back to the first chapter and read different signs and stuff.

the sequels impressed me more for the depth of the story and the variety of characters and art, though it was also a very big deal that you could hang from ledges, which felt extremely cutting edge the first time i played it. i also fondly remember the day i finally figured out the inch-worm puzzle that takes you to the secret level.

bartending, cocktails, drinking, games, recipes, spirits

Heartwarmer (Recipe)

this recipe came from a game we used to play behind the bar. the game starts with somebody putting one ingredient into a tin and then passing it off to someone else, who adds another ingredient and passes it back (or to another person) and so on. you’re allowed to taste the mixture as the game goes along but nobody is allowed to say what they put in, so the quality of the drink that comes out of it depends on everybody having a decent palate and not fucking things up along the way. sometimes it ends up in disaster and sometimes it ends up being tasty. this is one of the better ones, with ingredients listed in the order they were added.

Heartwarmer
½ oz. Cardamaro
1 barspoon amaretto
½ oz. Lemon Hart 151
1 barspoon Luxardo maraschino
¼ oz. cinnamon syrup
¼ oz. demerara syrup
½ oz. 100 proof apple brandy
1 oz. Elijah Craig

[stir with ice]

strain into a Nick & Nora or coupe

[image By Nheyob – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0]

games, writing

kirby appreciation post

last year for the 25th anniversary of the Kirby series, comic writer/artist gigi d.g. made a very beautiful comic that, in addition to being warm and lovely on its own, prompted lots of people on twitter to offer their own fond memories of the magical little puffball. here are some of mine.

Kirby’s Dream Land was the first game boy game that i got to pick out all on my own (instead of collaborating with my siblings), and was the first videogame i completed without help from anyone else. i picked it because i’ve always loved cute, soft things, but aside from that one of the things that’s made it so special to me is the way it helped me understand how videogames work. I distinctly remember my 7-year-old brain being completely vaporized by the first boss fight, Whispy Woods.

whispy

Whispy Woods was the first boss fight i had ever played myself, and the first time i ever understand the role patterns and systems play in videogames. i’ve been obsessed with games for literally as long as i can remember, but until Whispy Woods they remained a kind of wondrous mystery to me. i used to watch my siblings and uncle play Super Mario Bros. at my grandma’s house (because that’s where the NES lived) and feeling equal parts fascinated and frustrated. it was always too difficult for me to play, and the Bowser fights were particularly baffling, as they always seemed impossible or too easy, depending on if you had a fire flower. i never realized that everything operated according to a pattern, and it always felt as if my own uncoordinated movements would never best the precision and skill demonstrated by the game (there’s probably some sort of Lacanian millennial mirror stage analysis to be made of this human/computer interaction but i don’t feel like exploring it).

in contrast to all those games that mystified me, i only died once before i figured out the pattern to Whispy Woods (spit the apples at him!), but more than that, this was the first time i figured out there even was a pattern. all of a sudden i understood how games worked. the Whispy Woods fight made videogames intelligible to me in a way no other game had, and once i finished Kirby’s Dream Land i found i was able to easily play games i had previously given up on as impossible (the two main ones being Super Mario Land and Tiny Toon Adventures: Bab’s Big Break). so in a very basic sense, Kirby taught me how to play videogames.

there’s another detail of the Whispy Woods fight that always stayed with me, and it’s what happens when you defeat him. at the end of the fight, you don’t kill Whispy Woods, you just make him cry.

eye

i cried easily/a lot as a child and it was a huge deal to me to be put in the position of making someone else (a magical tree) cry. it complicated my understanding good v. bad, hero v. villain, etc, and even though it’s necessary to finish the game and i thought Kirby had the moral high ground in this case, the little bit of nuance offered by those handful of frames played a big part in my emotional development. for that reason alone Kirby will always hold a special place in my heart.

some day i’ll write about how Kirby’s subsequent adventures helped me conceptualize my own neurodiversity/SPD/ASPD, but this is prolly enough for now.

tl; dr: Kirby is great 🙂

games, LaZerBear Market, writing

Bubbler, Chillum, and the LaZerBear Market

enough of old things i never finished! on to the glorious new things that i’m actually working on! in this post i’ll introduce some of the starring characters in my game (which has the working title LaZerBear Market, or LZBM for short).

that cheerful individual you see up top there is the titular LaZerBear, the world-renowned mascot of a chain of automat convenience shops in the near-future setting of the game. the market’s tagline is ‘Your Favorite Place in Space!’ (that’s a little architecture joke for you 😉) though as of now they only have one non-terrestrial location.

LaZerBear is frequently seen in the company of dankbot, a mobile vending machine that sells cannabis-derived products around town (in the LaZerBear universe, cannabis was legalized alongside alcohol in 1933, part of the alternate history in the LaZerBear universe). one version of dankbot can be found on twitter, and below you can see some of the different versions that i’ve sketched out. dankbot is the first playable character of LZBM.

other characters include Bubbler and Chillum, a pair of cats that are best friends. The concept of B+C developed out of an illustration I did long ago imagining a goofy 90s-esque sidescroller in the vein of ToeJam and Earl called Bubbler and Chillum: Bongs of War. Even as cats, their respective body shapes are supposed to reflect the paraphernalia that inspired their names.

while LZBM will have a robust single-player experience, at its heart it’s a party game, and there are a number of other unlockable characters to play, mainly based on various natural phenomena, and each with their own special abilities and strengths

one important feature of LZBM is a large amusement park/golf course/race track modeled off the solar system, which has gone through various iterations while sketching. look closely and you’ll see the concept art for the version where a giant animatronic wizard uses magic to make the sun glow

finally, i shall leave you with this scale drawing of a multi-necked bong-spaceship

Image (2)