Monthly Archives: February 2014

February 2014 Game Making Progress

After countless meditations and contemplation, I came up with two solid game ideas. In the beginning I want to make this game idea, but it turns out it requires some extra effort especially in the programming section. Then, I decided to make the other one with more simple game play and less programming complexity. From what I read, finishing your first game application is very important in order to boost your confidence and to learn from the experience in making it. So, I decide it to start even a smaller game idea (the other game idea is already a small game in scope) for my first release. I do not expect highly for several first releases of my games. The most important thing for me is to learn the art and craft of making video games. My goal is to release these first two games, say in a year. I am hoping the revenue of these two games will yield a decent amount — at least to cover my operating costs. I will continue to release my individual game, at least one game in a year. This is all just a rough target to discipline myself. I might need more time in achieving my targets but I hope it will not far from it.

During this month, I make a lot of game art assets such as main opening menu, sub opening menu (credit, sound and music on off option, leader-board, tutorial, etc), main game rooms, game objects, game sprites and so on. I will continue doing it (it requires a lot!) maybe until the following month. Also, in the next month I will start collecting and managing the sound Fx for the game (I will do the background music later when I have a working alpha). When I feel the resources is quite sufficient, I will arrange everything into a prototype. Most of the time, I use Adobe Illustrator and Wacom Intuos5 Touch in making the game art assets. For sprite, I use Adobe Flash Professional. Later on, I can easily export the sprite sheet from it to be use in Gamemaker: Studio. I have to continue my work now. Tchau!

History of an Indie Game Developer

Before writing this article, I close my eyes and try to remember my first encounter to video games. Flashbacks start to rush into my head and after searching through internet I found what I’m looking for. It was Western Bar by Casio. I remember I saw a boy at the front of my grandfather’s house playing it. I was sitting next to him and he didn’t mind at all.  He didn’t mind because it was not his — it was a rented handheld. I don’t remember the exact year but I think it was around 1984-1985. I was 6 or 7 years old at that time. I forget the rent price but I remember it was an hourly price and quite cheap. I remember there is this man that has like 6 or 7 handhelds and he go from one neighborhood to another to rent the handhelds. We have to play it there on site with him watching us all. After that encounter, I always use my allowance money whenever I can and when I am out of money I would just hang there watching other players play the game.

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Western Bar of Casio (1984)

Later on, I also has an encounter with Atari. A brother in-law of my uncle came one day bringing the console when I was visiting his house. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the game that I’m playing. Finally, when I was 12 years old, I got my first handhelds, Submarine Battle of Casio. I remember that I like to play it so much. When I was in junior high, I take an extracurricular activity in BASIC programming. That is when I first saw one of my friend in the lab playing Double Dragon. I love the game very much. We later use to play in co-op mode. Most of the time we play until we finished the last boss. Even if I play it over and over again it was very fun.

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Submarine Battle by Casio (1984)

My first game console was Nintendo Entertainment System. I remember playing Super Mario Bros series and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on it. later on we change to Sega Genesis Entertainment System and playing games such as Contra, Golden Axe and Comix Zone. My brothers and I are all gamers and we would play together on it — often until our parents have to stop us. On the PC side, I have played games such as Civilizations, Age of Empire, Warcraft, etc. If I look back, I am more of a console-type-of-gamers compare to PC gamers. Today, I only play Dota 2, LOL or HON in my PC. Most of the time, I play my games on PS3. After the Nintendo and Sega era, came Playstation. I quickly embrace the console, and I have been an avid fan until now (through the ups and downs). One of my brother came to like the XBOX very much. We use to quarrel a lot on achieving the best console status. But in reality we use to exchange our console to play the exclusives game of each consoles. After a long history as a gamer, I came to like RPG very much. I like all kind of RPG, including japanese and western RPG. I have played Fallout, Torment, Morrowind and also Final Fantasy, Suikoden, etc. I am a big big fans of Final Fantasy since my encounter on FF VII. I have tried to finish earlier games of Final Fantasy but still haven’t got the time to finish it all. I especially like Final Fantasy VI story line. It was one of the best Final Fantasy in my opinion.

As a gamer, I always wonder if I can make a game of my own. I have this thought at a very early age and I remember when I try to find out later during junior high I give up easily knowing that it was a complex craft (but now things is different). Life brought you to different path and here I am standing as an Economist, Econometrician, Researcher and Lecturer. I also have another passion beside wanting to make a video game: writing books (novel and textbook). After a series of events in my life and a deep retrospection in many aspects I decide to put a lot of my efforts in achieving these passions of mine. After all, we only live once. Many people would think that I am doing something that is trivial since I already have a stable profession. I am not doing this as a side activities out of hobbies. I want to make high quality games and good books to entertain people all over the world. I might decrease my activity as an economist. That is the price I am willing to pay in order to fulfill my biggest dreams and passions: Making at least one memorable game and one noteworthy book. So here I am: struggling to become a writer and an indie game developer.

 

Second Version of Logo Animation and Loading Screen

Apart from my activity in learning GML (Gamemaker Studio programming language), I decide it to tweak my logo animation by using selected cartoon sounds. I use audacity to cut, merge and prepare my audio files to be synchronized in Adobe Flash Professional CS6. This time, I don’t use Ableton. I collect the cartoon sounds from several sources in the internet. I also change the aspect ratio and resolution of the video to conform to YouTube’s 16:9 display ratio. I dropped the light green background at the end of my animation to experiment. Here are the second version of my logo animation:

I also made a second version of loading screen for my game. I am experimenting with white background and colourful design of the word ‘loading’. Overall, I am a bit more inclined to the second version compare to the first. I feel quite satisfied with it and now will devote my whole time in making the prototype of my first game. Here are the new version of the loading screen:

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Learning from Flappy Bird

Today, a friend of mine informs me of a new game made by a man from Vietnam, Flappy Bird. He says the game is very addictive. I instantly go to my phone and download the game. It struck me on how simple the design is and the gameplay is very very hard to master. After 15 minutes, I manage only to get a score of 6. later, I found out that I actually perform a little bit better from most people. May be if I invest more time I can do a lot better. The game reviews usually contain an ambiguous statement. Something like it is too simple, having poor design, very hard but super addictive. People who went playing on it saying reviews on google play something like I wanna throw my phone away, it is satans work, etc but in the end they all cannot resist on how addictive the game is.

Now, the interesting question from a developer’s point of view is: What makes the game so viral? After playing and looking at it from many different perspectives I can only think to two simple positive aspects: hard gameplay and simplicity.  The first aspect is the key in my opinion. The design is very simple. It even reminds us to some other games such as Super Mario Bros (the resembling pipes) and Angry Birds that rhyme with ‘Flappy Bird’. A review even smash the game by saying “that’s a game design no-no“. The sound effects of the game are also average and it has no background music. The only sound I like is when the bird hit the pipe or fall down to the ground. It feels very mocking to our failure. In a way, it feels as if the game trying to play with our psychology. This support my main argument in the key design of this game: hard gameplay.

There are some game designer that try to avoid this aspect and opt to a more fun, casual and cute game. But probably with the right blend, there is a large demand on this aspect. I remember there is a review saying that Candy Crush Saga level is very hard and sometimes close to almost imposible. The reviewer also added King’s scheme plan to push people to buy power ups in order to finish the game. If we look at it from a different perspective, it can actually works because when you finally conquer a gameplay or a level, you feel this unyielding satisfaction. May be this is a game design perspective that need to be reconsidered. I am an indie game developer and I am open to suggestion.

 

First Version of Logo Animation

I build this animation on Adobe Flash Professional CS6 while learning how to use it. I do a lot of trial and errors until I feel satisfied with the result. It still need a lot of improvement, but for the time being I will leave it as it is. I make the music using Ableton with an (electronic) virtual instrument  and a built-in audio loop from its sound library. I can change the background music to the music theme of my game later.  After I finished, I exported the flash format to AVI video format using Xvid compression then upload it to YouTube. I might use this animation for an opening trademark of my future promotional videos. Here is the animation: