Funemployment Week Six
Week six. I've hit that point where I'm constantly thinking to myself "You really should have more to show at this point." In the same go six weeks feels like nothing. On my whiteboard I've kept a count of how many "work days" I've done since starting this. Today is work day 31. Another metric is that it is the last day of November which is also terrifying.
I'm trying to not get caught up in this terrifying thought process but it is difficult to ignore. The good news is that I have found paid, part-time work which is somewhat related to the goals I'm looking to achieve. So I can hold off poverty for a little while longer, whilst feeling useful and hopefully learning some new stuff along the way. In terms of weekly updates:
My losing streak with Unreal Engine Blueprints continues. I'm not sure what my beef is. I think the one shot tutorials may not be as motivating as the long form video tutorials I followed before, which presented with you a more grand final product. I'll try to take a look at some different tutorial series' this week to hopefully get me back on track.
A lot of effort this week has continued to go into the Hooligans prototype. Me and the other fellow working on it had a few more conversations regarding the current state of the prototype. We agreed that there were still some significant challenges regarding the technical aspects. Simply put, this is my first time trying to make something with RTS elements and there are a lot of considerations to keep in mind. Controlling multiple units instead of one, providing instructions to multiple enemies and different enemy types, pathfinding, the list goes on and on.
We decided that we would simplify the backend further to allow us to proceed. Now instead of there actually being dozens of individual objects with their own code and pathfinding, there will instead be one entity, with multiple objects spawned around it. It will still look like a big group of different units but they will all move, stop and attack at the same time. This same behaviour will be used for the enemy AI as well. It's less dynamic and admittedly leads to fewer player options, but frankly if we don't make this change then we might as well stop making the game at this point.
I didn't make any headway on my other prototype unfortunately this week. Again, I'm starting to find myself blocked slightly on where I need to go next with it. I think the last problem I had was with doors and how I wanted different doors to function - without it becoming a complex mess like in my previous attempts. I'll try to put some time into sketching out exactly how I want the gameplay to unfold, as right now I'm just stumbling in the dark.
And lastly on the Twine front I made more progress with the story. It hasn't been the 1000 words a day as I had hoped (I'm only at 2300 total), but there is still progress. Hopefully I can make a significant dent in the remaining word count this week.
Funemployment Week Five
Cor blimey, week five of this fountain of fun? A-mazing. What the hell did I achieve this week?
Following on from my comments last week about not exactly falling in love with Unreal Blueprints, this week I did zilch with it. That wasn't actually on purpose and I didn't realise I'd done nothing in Unreal this week until this very moment when I sat down to write this. I'll put a bigger focus on it next week and continue with the one-shot tutorials. But for now, moving on:
A lot more time went into my Gamemaker and Twine work. On the Gamemaker front I managed to make decent progress on my own prototype for Mark II. The design is remaining intentionally simplistic since every time I try to make something complex it tends to spiral out of control.
I changed up weapons so that they can now be found and picked up. And added in an ammo system for weapons, except for the starting laser (in case the player finds themselves in a hostile spot and zero ammo). I also did some work on doors so that I've got every type of door I need (for now) to facilitate different levels of off limit areas. Work was also started on a new "proper" area/level so that I can start progressing the game, as I feel I've been slightly stuck on how to proceed for a while now.
Progress was also made on the Hooligans/semi-RTS game, but not significantly enough to warrant new footage. Behind the scenes we had a bunch of conversations about a few areas of the design. So whilst there isn't loads to show on the front end, on the back end there's been a lot discussed and confirmed/clarified.
On the Twine front I managed to make some headway and I have a rough idea of where I want the story to go. As I'm still quite new to Twine I'm still learning the basics - but I did manage to learn about $variable's and got my own rudimentary implementation into the story (involving throwing up, no less). Simultaneously I'm reading "Stephen King On Writing" who suggests jotting down 1000 words a day, six days a week, as a goal. I managed to achieved that once this week. So if I can double (or, gasp, triple) that this week, I'll be happy.
Lastly, I edited and tightened up the writings I had done on both the Uncharted series, and The Last Of Us Part 2. I know I want to make these as review/critique videos but haven't got round to recording the narrations for them yet. Mostly due to my cringing at my own vocal performance. I'll aim to at least record some kind of narrations next week. But I can't promise I won't immediately delete them afterwards.
Funemployment Week Four
The fourth week of this tumultuous time comes to an end, and just as before, this post is a bit late. But this week I have a reason. It's not a good reason, but it's a reason. I decided at the eleventh hour to choose Sunday as the day that I wouldn't turn on my computer. I'm on it for like ten hours a day every day and I think my eyes are about ready to hand in their notice. So one day a week I will not use my PC or laptop. Phones, tablets, giant TV's are all ok though.
This past week went slightly better than week three. With there being more productivity and less US Election nail biting. I'm still not up to what I would consider 100% productivity. I feel like my days seem to end much quicker than I want and my figurative "Done" pile is always smaller than I would like. Nevertheless, progress has been made.
First up is Blueprints. As mentioned last week, I've started looking at the One-Shot tutorials from the Unreal YouTube channel. I only did one or two this week, with the focus being on shooting custom projectiles. In this instance, a flaming office chair:
I'm not entirely sure how to feel about Blueprints at this stage. It's obviously a powerful and very useful tool and is probably the closest I will ever get to solo-developing something of AAA standards. But I can't help but feel that it might not be for me. It can be learnt fairly quickly and it shows interesting results almost immediately but I haven't yet found myself being absorbed by it or feeling particularly inspired by it. I'll continue the tutorials and see if my feelings change over the next few weeks.
Next up I continued my prototyping in GameMaker Studio 2. The semi-RTS project continues to be a major focus. I was given feedback regarding how Hero characters should behave and how this relates to the special abilities the player can use. In brief, the abilities should be presented more as a loadout, rather than as a set of skills provided by Hero characters. To that end, Hero characters were no longer expected to be shown as their own bespoke characters.
I have no idea why one GIF is clear and the other one is blurry when they've both come from the same video file but whatever. What is actually happening in these clips?
On the left we show the new loadout/ability select screen. Where as before it was simply select one of each type of Hero/Ability, now you can select multiple of one ability and stack them. It's difficult to see but in the bottom right the icons now show how many times you can use each of said ability.
On the right you can barely make it out but the first thing that happens is the player activating their invisibility ability by clicking the green icon. The on screen characters change into their incognito outfits to represent this. But we also have the startings of attacking structures. The big red square is an enemy building/structure. The characters move towards it, animate and turn red to represent their attacks. Once the building goes grey, it has been destroyed.
There is a lot still wrong with the prototype. Biggest issue currently is that movement doesn't feel satisfying, and the building attacking is still jank central. But all things considered, I'm still happy with progress. Intention is to start prototyping enemy units next.
Finally I decided to start putting a focus on writing and narrative design this past week. Utilising my limited Twine skills, I went to https://videogamena.me/ and started generating random game titles. I landed on "Alcoholic Rabbit Alpha" and immediately loved it and started writing/Twining. Having just finished the EXCELLENT Disco Elysium, I have no doubt that whatever I end up writing is essentially going to be partial rip-off of that game.
It's still early days but hopefully I can put my own flavour on it. As time goes on I see myself fantasising more and more about something closer to narrative design than the more technically minded types of design.
Hopefully that is an actual deep and true preference I have, and not just because writing comes easier to me than visual scripting. Either way, stay tuned for next week!
Funemployment Week Three
This is a bit late, but here we are at the end of week three of Funemployment. Unfortunately I got a tad distracted in the preceding week due to the US Election, which for some reason I was glued to like a fly to very smelly jam. It also wasn't helped by the fact that my internet was out for like two days for absolutely no reason. But, no matter, we continue.
As mentioned, my productivity was shocking last week, most notably my Unreal Engine work suffered the most. I found a YouTube playlist consisting of numerous "one-shot" tutorials created by Unreal themselves, so I will be continuing to go through that. The last tutorial from the series that I watched showed how to make actors/objects disappear after colliding with them. Go for pick-ups/collectibles etc. Alas I have no new footage of anything I worked on in Blueprints though.
I did make some headway with Gamemaker Studio 2 though. A lot of focus has been on a prototype I am working on with a friend for an RTS style type game. But this is purely made up of units getting to an objective - there is no base building/resource gathering etc. I've never tried making an RTS before so a lot of the technical side of things is new to me. Having multiple units to move, having them perform actions, making sure they're moving where you went them to go correctly and all that. There was also the added complexity of having different abilities for you to use depending on the types of unit you start with.
Since everything is still very prototypey and abstract, I'll explain. You start by selecting your main Hero characters - each with a different ability. At the start of the level these abilities are represented as icons in the bottom right. Upon clicking the green icon this activates a stealth mode for the group - hilariously depicted as them all wearing flasher trench coats and trilby's.
It's still very early days but I am happy with the progress that has been made here - and it is a significant departure from the previous prototypes I've tried to make.
Another area I've been working in but haven't shown much of here is with Adobe Xd - a wireframing and prototyping program. It's not exactly game design related, but I figured being able to wireframe and prototype mobile friendly designs couldn't hurt. The most recent tutorial I did was to cover creating a "high fidelity" furniture website mock-up.
There's a lot of things I don't like about the final product, but it looks a lot better than my previous efforts. I'm looking forward to continuing the tutorial series (I'm around two thirds through) and seeing how I can apply this to future design work.
Lastly, I spent a chunk of time writing down all of my thoughts on the Uncharted series. I have spent a significant amount of time on Twitter whinging about the Uncharted games and chronicling my time with the four mainline games and how much I haven't enjoyed it. I'm deciding whether I want to do this purely as a written piece, or if I want to go to the full effort of presenting it in video form. Guess we'll see.
That's it for week three. I'm hoping by next weeks posting I've got this schedule under a bit more control.
Funemployment Week Two
Week two of funemployment has come and gone and some bits were fab and others were not so fab. The good parts being that I managed to continue to progress in almost all areas that I wanted to progress in (with the exception of writing), continued to tidy up a bunch of real life admin, and stick to my workout routine. The bad parts were mostly the fact that I wasn't able to keep to my intended schedule, and lost out on a lot of productivity and time due to it.
Nevertheless, we move.
One of the highlights was probably the fact that I managed to do some much faster prototyping during the week that meant I had created more gameplay in a few days than I had in the past few months.
So what's going on in the above GIF? You are the blue circle with the red triangle face. The blue circles with the red outlines and the red circles are enemies. You can shoot green bullets, the blue enemies shoot red bullets, and the red enemies just charge at you once you get close enough. The yellow circle is a shield that blocks attacks. In the bottom right is an overheat meter - it goes up the more you shoot and if it maxes out, your weapons are locked for a short time (but you can still use your shield).
It is primitive but even in that short clip you can see a moment where I almost got blind sided by one enemy whilst fighting another enemy and accidentally overheating my weapon. Hopefully next week I can make further additions to the prototype.
I also threw together a quick test for pathfinding in GameMaker: Studio (which it turns out is better supported than I originally though). It comes in the form of a point and click test where you control one big character who is in turn being followed by a bunch of smaller characters.
On the Unreal Engine Blueprints front, my progress was a bit more tempered. I finished the initial intro tutorial to blueprints (it is excellently explained and can be found here for anyone interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFXMW_UEDco&ab_channel=UnrealEngine) which covers things like interactions, creating a blueprint and messing with the construction code.
The above GIF just shows an initial structure I've created, some particles added in for a effect, and a sliding door that activates once you get near it. I wanted to have it open when you press a button on a nearby console but that ended up being way more complicated than I anticipated. Maybe next week.