Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Migration to Tumblr

Hi everyone!

I decided to move my blog to Tumblr.
I won't remove this one but I won't update it.

For the newest posts, please visit:
http://blackdragonbe.tumblr.com/

Cheers!


Saturday, December 7, 2013

CrossBlocks 1.1 BETA!



Hey world,

I've made a post on Reddit asking if people wanted to check out CrossBlocks yesterday, and I got quite a good reaction!
People seemed genuinely interested in my word game, and that's fantastic! :D

To celebrate I'm updating the game to remove all remaining bugs and I plan on polishing it further now I've got some more knowledge since then.

You can look forward to a new and improved version of the game over the next few weeks.

Get it now! Links below:

Cheers!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

CrossBlocks Beta

Those of you who have read my previous post might have guessed: I've been busy making a new word game.
Meet CrossBlocks:

My newest game, and the first one ever with online play (yay!), it's a word game that has the same scoring rules as Scrabble, but it's played differently.



You have 100 seconds to score as much points as possible with the letters you are given.
At the end of the round the real words are found and calculated.
Only real words count towards your score.

You can play for 3 rounds, 5 rounds, 200 points or 300 points. Both English and Dutch are supported languages.
You can also play online against a friend, in this case both players start the round at the same time.


I'm happy with result, it's exactly what I wanted to make, a word game to quickly play together or alone!

You can play the BETA version or download the Android version on my new website:
http://blackdragonsoftware.weebly.com/crossblocks.html

Cheers!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Optimization of scrabble-like games

I've been working on a Scrabble-like game for a few days because I really wanted to convert a board game to an enjoyable experience as a videogame.  
It's been quite challenging, but it works almost perfectly now and is pretty fast in finding and scoring.

The slowest part of the whole game though was the checking if words were valid.
I found a huge dictionary file on the web and modified it so it would follow the rules of scrabble as much as possible.  
This file was way too big though: 2MB of words, tens of thousands of lines that had to be read to check every word!

It would take about 3 seconds to load on my PC and about 6-8 seconds on my phone!
That's clearly unacceptable, so I thought of a solution: I wrote a small windows program that can take a huge file, and spit out a small file for every different starting letter in the big file.


So now I have all these small text files, I can search for valid words much faster, I just pick the appropriate file to read depending on the starting letter of the word that needs to be checked.



This change made the checking more than 20 times faster! It loads almost instantly on the PC now and it take takes less than a second on my phone. Definitely worth it.

I can't show the game itself yet, but I'll post about it when it's finished.
Cheers!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Battle In Space Development


Hi guys, time for a new update!
I'll be writing about my new game and what I've learned so far, this will probably be a bit different than the previous ones.

The first step, a piece of paper and a pencil


I've been modelling for a while now and decided it's time for a new game!
The game is finished about 80% now, the gameplay is finished, all that's left is the Help screen and the highscores.
I've made it all in a week of coding, finding/making graphics and drawing concepts.
The reason I pumped out a game so fast is because it's really small, and that's a good thing if you want to actually finish a game.

I set a rule for myself: the game has to be as small as possible and the gameplay has to work before adding any polish.
This greatly helped in finding a game concept.
Next thing I did was continue with doing the other stuff I was doing and putting a blank piece of paper and a pencil nearby at all times.

When I thought of something I drew it and decided if it was a good idea or not.
After a while of thinking about games I used to love as a kid I remembered a game called Parodius, a space shooter which had a cool powerup system.
My goal wasn't to just copy the game, I wanted to let it inspire me instead.

Next, I drew a rough game concept with some programming specific notes:

Rough game concept scan

I put the sheet next to me and started coding the gameplay.
The first prototype was finished really fast, just a simple ship model shooting at spheres.
The next iteration included actual enemies and powerups.
The whole process was quite enjoyable as my focus didn't wander because of the sheet of paper next to me holding all the elements of the game.

Up until now I would just open the Unity editor and Visual Studio and just fool around until an idea pops up and the immediately start development. This makes the process as a whole a lot more frustrating though.
We may live in an age of technology, but nothing beats a simple sheet of paper and a pencil for quickly visualizing ideas. 

Playtesting, you can't do it alone


Once I had something playable, I asked people to give it a try on my phone.    
I warned them that it's a test version, so it may be buggy, but I tried not to say too much and just look at what they did and how they reacted.
Most people liked most of the gameplay and the visuals, but there were quite some bugs I didn't notice myself popping up, some quite game-breaking.
Also, some things were either not clear, too easy or too difficult.

Next thing I did was fixing all the bugs and gameplay flaws the players told me about and present it to them again.
The reactions were very positive so I knew I was on the right track.

Graphics & Sound


Now the gameplay was ready I started gathering some free models from blendswap (really great site by the way!) for the ships and doing some small modelling things myself.
I also started up an image editor and started making the GUI elements.

The graphics aren't beautiful by any means but they work well together and the performance is pretty great even on low spec android phones because of the simplicity of the models.
I used lots of particles: for the bullets, the ships, the explosions when enemies are hit, etc.
These were made with Unity itself using the particle system.

For the music, I found out about the awesome http://www.nosoapradio.us/ , which has a dowwnloadable zip with tons of free music for games.
I picked one I liked and inserted it onto the game.
Some music helps a lot for getting the right feeling across.

The sound effects are from a giant sound effects library I got laying around.

All of these put together make for a pretty fun experience, every action you see on screen has a matching sound effect and graphical effect.

Finishing & lessons learned


The most difficult part about making any game is finishing it, so it's important to have an appropriate size of game matching the experience of the creator and setting some boundaries to make it a bit more interesting.
I'm happy with the result up to now, especially for the small amount of time I put into it.
While it may not be the next Minecraft, it's something I made and I'm proud of it.

This small game taught me how to get something playable on the screen quickly and efficiently.
Also, the keyword is iteration, it's impossible to get something perfect from the first try, so build simple core and build onto that, starting with the gameplay!



Release


Battle In Space will be released on Kongregate & the Android Play Store soon for free!
Check out my twitter and this blog for the links when it's here.

Thanks for taking the time to read this!
Cheers!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Fast RPG Final Update

The last update added an improved menu


I've made some progress on Fast RPG, including skills and some major GUI changes.

I've realized I've bitten off more than I can chew with this project though and it's quite difficult to find the "fun" part so I've decided to stop working on it and salvage as much as I can of the code for another RPG project in the future.
I might continue working on it if I get an idea for it but we'll see.

I've learned lots of stuff working on this game and it was a pleasant experience so I still think starting the project was a good choice.

I'm improving my 3D modelling, texturing and animating skills now as you can see in the previous post.
I'll keep you guys updated on my progress and struggles.

Cheers!
BlackDragonBE

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Some Blender Renders

Hi everyone,

I'm working on a big post to explain what I've been doing for the last month but in the meantime I wanted to show you guys some recent renders I've made in Blender.
I've been trying to study Blender a bit more so I can make some better 3D models for future projects.

Here they are:







Cheers!