Archive for March, 2011

Full Indie

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

The Vancouver area indie developers are at last beginning to consolidate their considerable power with the re-branding of the ‘Indie Game Dev Meetup Group’ into the much less awkward ‘Full Indie.’ This community is a fantastic mix of professionals and fresh-faced newcomers. With people  from Klei Entertainment, Big Sandwich Games and Slick Entertainment, along with many others, there’s always plenty of interesting chats and presentations going on at the meetups. Last wednesday more than a hundred people showed up our 10th regular meeting, and there’s no sign of the growth slowing down. If you’re an indie developer in Vancouver you should really check this one out: http://www.fullindie.com/

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Status Report

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Just now I found myself going back to a short story I wrote about three years ago. After making a couple changes, I figured I might as well put it up here and diversify the blog a little bit. Flash games aren’t the only thing I do after all, though they do come pretty close sometimes. So ladies and gents, here it is for your enjoyment:

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Status Report – Arethusa Battle Group, 17th Fleet
21-02-3246 Standard
System Tycho-117
Flagship LSS Arethusa
Fleet Captain Leo Men-Cathe

Battle Group Arethusa entered orbital braking vector around Tycho-117 (G2-type star) on 14-01-3246 Standard Time, following admiralty orders from Serenity North dated 09-11-3096 and received on 07-05-3142. Last confirmation received on 02-04-3227. Expected arrival date of this message is 23-01-3329.

The group has moved into orbit around Tycho-117-5, a gaseous supergiant. Sufficient refueling for interplanetary operations is complete with the exception of Destroyer LSS Cestis, which has developed a feedback malfunction in reactives processing. I may have to leave her behind in the outer system.

Initial recon seems to indicate only Tycho-117-3 is heavily populated. Extensive defenses are present around this planet, and on its single moon, but the civilization appears to be technologically primitive. Their astronomers are to be commended, however, as spikes in radio traffic imply we have already been detected. Unfortunately, we have not managed to capture any other useful information from planetary transmissions.

24-02-3246 Standard

With the exception of the Cestis, I have moved the entire group out of orbit around Tycho-117-5, and into a slow falling vector around the plane of the ecliptic. At this rate it will take us nearly a month to reach Tycho-117-3, but it will also allow us to move into a tighter braking orbit around the planet once we get there.

We have recently received several broadcasts aimed directly at us, both in radio and optical frequencies. They appear to include simple images and basic mathematical principles. One broadcast included a primer on their language, which we quickly analyzed. No useful information was discovered. We are continuing with the mission as planned.

22-03-3246 Standard

We have entered high orbit around Tycho-117-3, and are receiving an increasing number of transmissions. The broadcasts have by now used nearly every frequency in the electromagnetic spectrum. A few have even used phased ions or minor gravity fluctuations, but no useful information has been discovered. We have encountered two manned vessels in orbit so far, as well as a host of satellites and drones. Both vessels maneuvered close and transmitted a variety of broadcasts. They also displayed several images and words on the hulls of their ships.

26-03-3246 Standard

We commenced nanokete and hyper-kinetic drops on Tycho-117-3 yesterday, as per mission instructions. The majority of the planet’s population centers were eliminated in the initial volley, and the nanoketes began spreading quickly through the biological mass. Shortly afterwards several thousand missiles were launched from the planetary surface. I was mildly concerned at first, but as the first few detonated I realized they were only low-yield thermonuclear warheads. Even the biggest of them had no more than a fifty megaton yield, with no blast compression or focus. I was tempted to simply ignore them, but followed procedure anyway. At first we shot them down with our perimeter-defense lasers, but then one of the techs tried sweeping them with a magnetic resonance beam, which worked wonders. After the sweep, all the missiles either detonated prematurely or lost all guidance. However, three of them got close by pure dumb luck, one of them hitting the LSS Eclipse dead on. The cruiser’s particle field failed for a microsecond and a patch of its outer scint-skin hull burned away. Only the neutron matter shell and internal containment fields prevented a breach. It took nearly fifteen seconds for the scint-skin to grow back, leaving the Eclipse highly vulnerable for that time. Fortunately, no further attacks came. We will have to run a full diagnostic on the Eclipse’s particle fields; they should not have failed under such low stress.

27-03-3246 Standard

We are in stable orbit around Tycho-117-3, and all counterattacks from the surface have ceased. We have successfully eliminated all manned vessels in orbit, as well as the several sent from the planet’s moon. Only isolated population pockets still remain on the surface, which appear to have avoided nanokete infection so far. I am deploying hunter seekers to remove them.

30-03-3246 Standard

Hunter seekers report complete success with under one-percent casualties. All biomass on the planetary surface has been terminated, with the exception of a few pockets of microbial life. Minor population centers on the planet’s moon have all been eliminated with impactor drones. No signs of advanced life remain anywhere in the system. Full sterilization success will be declared within the hour.

31-03-3246 Standard

Seeding of Tycho-117-3 has begun. We have deployed with an incubation period of five years, and are expecting the founder generation to reach maturity three years after that. We see no potential for complications. Minor repairs have been completed and reactives reserves are at 99%. Furthermore, LSS Cestis has managed to resolve its technical malfunction and will be rejoining the fleet at full capacity. I have plotted an exit vector out of the system. Our acceleration sequence will commence in six hours.

Colonization successful. Next target is System Brachys-43. Awaiting confirmation.

End of transmission.

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The Cavalry Has Arrived

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

I’ve been doing a pretty good job lately holding procrastination at bay, and as a result my SFK game is coming together at a decent pace. I’m a hair’s breadth away from completing all the units. I just finished modeling the Cossack, the last of the unique units, so the only thing left is some post processing and the General unit. Originally I planned to make a few additional units specific to some of the other maps, but file size concerns have gotten in the way. I’m aiming to keep the game under 10 MB, and that’s going to be hard enough as it is. The addition of variable color layers has nearly doubled animation file sizes from what they were in ADoE. Thankfully though, I don’t really need variable colors on unique units. I’m also brushing up against the limitations of Flash in other areas, so sometime soon I may have to start looking at other platforms. Unity definitely looks promising, though I haven’t quite gotten the hang of it during the two group projects I’ve used it in. UI implementation especially seems nothing short of retarded for someone coming from a Flash background.

There are other intriguing options as well. I’ve had some exposure to XNA on a game jam project, and it looks pretty reasonable, but getting on to XBox Live Arcade sounds like a hassle. Without doubt the phone/tablet market is the most inviting place for an indie developer who isn’t interested in Facebook games. And in that arena the choice lies between taking the somewhat more difficult and expensive plunge into the Macverse or betting on an emerging market like Android. Although I have heard rumors of a development application that can compile into both formats. I’ll have to investigate whether such a thing truly exists. Regardless, anything involving the iPhone would mean getting a Mac, a prospect I’m not too fond of.

But for the time being I am still a flash guy, and I’m still committed to making a sequel for SFK, so long as it isn’t a complete flop. And I really don’t think that’ll be the case; it’s already quite a lot of fun to play. It took me quite a while to tweak the strategic AI, but it puts up a solid fight now. AI-to-AI fighting is also nicely dynamic and unpredictable. On the Europe map there are some factions like the Arabs, Russians and Byzantines that tend to do very well, but even they do get swamped sometimes. Even seemingly minor powers like the Spanish and Vikings occasionally go on to create huge empires.

But perhaps you could all use a visual to understand what I’m talking about, so here’s a small icon for the Europe map with faction starting areas colored in. To make the title of this post a little more relevant, there’s also some horsey guys included.

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Preview – SFK Units

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

I have a tentative title for my next game now, but for the moment I’ll just refer to it as SFK. Don’t want to give people any ideas in case they like the name so much they’ll take it from me. Also, it’s not hammered in stone quite yet, but I do like it quite a bit. Coming up with a game name isn’t always easy, by the way; this time it took me more than a month to settle down on one. So many names are already taken by something else, and I’m being especially careful now not to step on anybody’s else’s IP. There’s an X-Box Live Arcade / iPhone game called ‘Scrap Metal’ (which looks pretty cool actually), and the devs were a little unhappy with ‘Scrap Metal Heroes’. That got sorted out amicably enough, but I may not always be so fortunate.

I fear one day in the distant future the industry will all but run out of names, and the only recourse left will be to constantly invent new words and strings of unintelligible gibberish. Names like Aaaaa! and VVVVVV will become the norm. Especially in the case of the somewhat cliched X-of-Y style names it seems like about half of the reasonable ones are already being used. It’s actually rather interesting brainstorming out names and then googling them; there’s a lot of obscure games out there you end up coming across.

But this post wasn’t really meant to be about names. It’s really all about shiny armor, like the kind on these guys:

This is only a small sample, of course. I’m planning to have 22 different units in the game, so about the same as in ADoE. Although this time, there will be many more factions, so they’ll have to learn how to share all the awesome.

I’ll make sure to reveal some more information soon (and there may be a beta coming in about two weeks) but right now I really should go walk the dogs. Cheers.

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