Deciding that I needed to start getting input about my work thus far I posted a couple of videos on line and asked the hive mind on Reddit to evaluate and critique my game play. Since I could only really offer video, some of the full VR effect would be lost, as screencapping VR severely limits the FOV and scale of things.

So I posted on Reddit’s GameDevExpo, and got a few repsonses that are steering me in new directions – hints that my fondness for ellipses needs to be pared back, my 3D level is incongruous with my 2D characters (something the wife has pointed out on more than one occasion) and other tidbits like this:

Your kid is more talented than you are.

Well – that caught me by surprise. Of course, with a username with @$$hole in it, what can one really expect, eh? But still – it nagged me. I’m fully aware that the internet exists fully for people to be as sanctimonious and nasty as possible, I’m guilty of it myself – but, dammit, I wasn’t expecting it so quickly out of the gate.

So, I fumed about it for a bit. What to do? Argue back? That’s a waste of time. Ignore it? It would fester and bother me. I felt like this smartmouth was getting the last word. So as I was pondering my response, Son #2 asked about our weekend plans and asked if we were going to see his Granpa’s extensive train set. Which got me thinking about my father-in-law; a very personable, gentle man with a passion for puns and Dr. Demento songs.

I remembered how he told me stories of his youth and how he turned bullies around by ‘agreeing’ with whatever phony criticism the bully would use to intimidate him. If a bully told him he ‘threw a ball like a girl’ he’d agree, and then ask the bully to help teach him how to throw properly. And amazingly, made a new friend in the process. So I decided I’d try the same tactic. I agreed with his premise, even going on to tell them that I had drawings from when I was the same age as my son, and indeed, my kid can draw better than I could at that age.

And that’s what turned it around. I not only got a more pleasant conversation, but got more feedback on how to make the level look better. I even got a slightly conspiratorial confession that my snarky commentator had tried to do something similar once.

It felt like a win. I can’t say I’ll always have time to try and bring people around, but I at least have a plan to try it in the future.


That &@#% Fish…

So, you’d think by giving up drinking for Lent, I’d be better rested, mind sharper, body less prone to aches and generally feeling better and thinner, right?

You’d be wrong.

Felt this way after quitting smoking – there wasn’t any energy boost, no taste buds came snapping back and I still felt as crappy as always, exercise or no exercise. When I stopped imbibing the night before Ash Wednesday, wifey dear commented that the pounds would melt away and I’d stop bitching about the ‘dad bod’ Well, after the 1st week and I dropped 2 pounds, its already started to creep back up – so much for that.

See that little  &@#% fish?

You’d think that was an easy, quick, and painless thing to setup, eh? A 5 minute piece of fluff to add to my level and give it a little ‘juice’. (as an aside, I’m reading a ton of dev blogs and a lot of them seem to focus on adding this mythical ‘juice’ that will guarantee instant sales, clear up bad breath and acne and magically make you more appealing to every gender)

I quick took the scanned image, did my usual Inkscape vector drawing> to .svg. > to Blender> extrude / texture > export to Unity.

This is where the fun begins.

I slapped a quick FSM on it – wait a random time and apply force to launch him in the air, wait for him to come back down – repeat. Simple right? No matter what I did, he kept launching into the stratosphere. NASA wishes they could launch things so easily. Making sure gravity was turned on, played with the force variables, lowering the amount of force until it just flopped to the ground like a drunk frat boy.

OK – time for a different approach. ANIMATE the ^&%$#%er. Slapped a animator controller on it and decided, hey – Unity has a panel for creating animations, let’s use that! Quick added a upward motion, quick added a little rotation so it looks like he’s popping out of the water and diving back in. Slap on the ol’ Vive and BAM! Fish outta water! Jumps and returns to the same spot! GREAT!

Except when I decided, ‘put him in the water and let’s see him majestically leap out like a noble salmon swimming upstream!’ Except every time I moved him and hit ‘play’ – he’d go right back to his original start point. And no matter what I did – parent him to an empty, check (or uncheck) root motion, apply transforms to prefabs – nothing worked.

And it bothered me for days. WHY? WHY? WHY? Why should such a simple thing be so difficult to achieve? Why does game logic always seem so contrary to my way of thinking? I took a little time off from dev work to plod forward on the triptych for my in-laws (which is coming along nicely, thank you) and ponder this problem, occasionally taking time to¬† try and re-try ideas to get ol’ Fishy McFishface acting like a proper %@#% cartoon fish.

I dunno what got me to the tenuous leap of logic, but it wasn’t until days later and I was putting Number One Son to bed and it hit me: I keyframed his rotation AND position – he literally was told to animate in THE SAME SPOT HE KEPT GOING BACK TO. I told sonny boy that daddy was dense as a brick and deserved to be slapped upside the head (he declined) and after night-nights I rushed to the ol’ Render Machine 2000 to remove the offending keyframes and prove my hypothesis correct.

Well, it sorta worked. Ol’ Fishface was no longer next to the player when I hit play, but he moved to what looked like an arbitrary part of my level. It wasn’t until I was looking at his transforms that I realized it was moving to 0,0,0. Annnd looking at the animator tells me that it only accepts X, Y, AND Z – so it defaults if keyframes are missing.

OK- if THAT’S how you want to play – then fine. I drag the fish over to where I want him to be – add keyframes to his X & Z and finally, at long last he was where I wanted him, and I don’t care if he is a single-use asset- it works and I ain’t screwin’ with it.

Next time I’ll just animate him in Blender.

Adding Thickener to the Plot

So – the video of the interview went live:

Sadly, the video cuts out at 18 minutes and the audio quality dips, but I think the general concept of the game gets out and it makes me excited to do another one. In the meantime – I’ve been struggling with the twin issues of audio + PlayMaker and kids birthday parties…

It seems odd that trying to use different actions to do the exact same thing has different effects – using PlayMaker, specifically the actions of ‘Play Sound’ and ‘Audio Play’ would cause me serious tension headaches. I was trying to create a ‘music manager’ where I’d play random songs in the game level. (as a side note – if I do get funding, the 1st thing I’m adding is a license to the album “Dorica” from the Free Music Archive; it simply fits the game – perfectly)

When I tried to use the action, ‘play random sound’ my music was extremely quiet, and the further the player got from the audio source, the quieter it got… No matter what I did, I could not get the sound to behave – despite the interwebs insistence that changing my audio source to 2D would magically make my problems disappear. It wasn’t until I changed it to ‘audio play’ did my songs suddenly ring out – almost a little too loudly. I quickly rolled a random # generator and assigned the numbers to songs and BAM – music manager – done.

It was nice to get that off my plate because the weekend is going to be a non-stop blur of kiddy-mayhem-at-the-house-of-inflatables and cheap pancakes at the local maple syrup VFW slice of Americana. (not to mention: Daylight Savings Time) Its also going to be difficult to put game dev on mental hold, because the wife just upped the game, more specifically – the plot, substantially.

Just as we were packing off to bed, we got to chatting about little elements, like my brother – who recorded a couple of lines akin to a narrator, very much in the tone of Alec Guiness, and its struck a tone – how we can turn this demo into a full fledged game. We don’t want it to be ‘scary’, even though it deals with a child being lost and separated from parents. And out of the blue she dropped it on me like a ton of bricks:

The kid is on the way to the park and wanders off, and each ‘level’ is a different part of the park, just exaggerated by imagination – and when kiddo is reunited with parent, its simply this epic adventure that was in the kid’s mind…

The desert level could be the sandbox, the hilly grasslands could be the garden surrounding the park, the water levels are the sprinkler play areas… We discussed different playground elements and how to make them levels: teeter-totters, roundabouts, slides – all of them could incorporate different mechanics to keep the game interesting and fun.

I just gotta make it.

Brace yourselves, Lent is Coming…

I had the good fortune to be interviewed about the game. I was cruising the Cleveland Game Dev posts on Facebook, and someone mentioned that the InfiniteGamer Podcast was a great way to get exposure. And Chris, from IG agreed. So I asked if he was interested in a game based on a 6 year old’s drawings.

He was.

So after a few emails, we agreed to interview in the office (after the wife & I furiously scrubbed the cobwebs and kid debris out of the corners!) and eagerly set up a build for him to demo.

(scroll down to Episode 30)

Chris wearing the Vive and being quite impressed with The Blu.

He was impressed with the Vive and loved the demo. Chris instantly got the idea of it and how kiddo’s drawings ultimately ‘make’ the game. Obviously a seasoned gamer, we launched into a discussion about the influences, how my son (who was sitting on my lap – playing ‘his’ game as we talked) is influenced by classics like Super Mario and Zelda and in turn how it shaped the drawings I was using for the demo.

We wrapped after a while and I got back to my routine. As I was making dinner, the wife reminded me that Lent was around the corner – and I decided alcohol had to go. I need to start losing the spare tire and the beer isn’t helping. That, and when I have booze and then go to bed – I snore more, and that keeps the wife up.

Plus I have more energy, which is good – the sis-in-law is having a Easter brunch – and I need to bear down and get her paintings done. I can’t focus on game dev without thinking about the paintings, and I can’t paint and not think about the game. So I have a month to finish them and then I can focus on more important things.

Like finishing the demo. Like getting my Steam page up and running. Like dealing with the kiddos, and the spate of ‘potty accidents’ we have been experiencing. Like getting the attic done.

Like whittling down my damn to-do list.