Thursday, 6 February 2014

Learning to Finish

2014, 02, 03 @ 08:42

  This is a new feature I hope to keep up for the near future.  I sometimes take on new projects, some of which show up here on this blog, but don’t always come through to completion.  As a way to keep myself honest, and possibly also start promoting the finished versions, I’m going to be blogging about them and the process in detail.  Prepare to enjoy my impending and spectacular failures! ;)

  So last night I dug out the simplest, easiest, smallest project I think that I ever cooked up but could never make progress on.  This was Druid, and no, that isn’t the final title.  Druid had some greater ambition, but I’d some time ago scaled it back to the bare minimum, and I have some confidence that this minimal approach could work on just about any platform.  To prove the point, I’m going to be working in Wario Ware DIY.  Again, the point is to learn to finish.  I’ve been sitting on this idea for way too long.

  On Why I Choose WW:DIY

  WW:DIY is an odd duck of a platform, but it catches a lot of flack for its sharp limitations, even as those limits are built around “finishing.”  That is expressly why this platform is being chosen.  It limits the total number of interactible objects to 9, enough to do some things but not enough to get distracted by the dreams of “more.”  Each object can only have 5 interactions with other objects, so it forces the designer to think carefully about how to make the most of each.  Finally, this shouldn’t be seen as the be all and end all of the project, but an important step to building a model.  Granted, all it builds is a 6 second, one input type of model, but every project has to start somewhere.

Druid: Getting started

  In its most basic form, Druid challenges to player to defend his woods from Lumberjacks that emerge from town.  Thus, the player character Druid needs to be able to move in the game, and at bare minimum, “Pac-Man” up the Lumberjack bad guys.  Wario Ware DIY imposes strict time limits, so there is no room for any other complication.  Success means get them all fast, defeat means going too slow.

  To begin this project, though, Wario Ware needs art.  I spent thirty minutes last night, and built up a forested background (as seen from overhead), the player character Druid himself.  I also added a cottage in the south of the field, from whence the Lumberjacks will come.  More art coming tonight!

2014, 02, 03 20:35

  So I’ve been able to revisit the task, and added simple art for L.Jack, or lumberjack.  WW:DIY supports copying, but in a round-about sort of way.  For now, I hustle together some simple art, one panel of animation worth, and hurriedly begin designing the AI for it.

  Because this is where WW:DIY is at its weakest.  Just making the Druid move in the game is problematic, but tracking what gets done has to be done with the “switches,” essentially flag variables that are mapped, one to each object. 

  L.Jack has his behavior programmed in: he will leave the cottage in the south at a random number between “1:1 and 5:1”; WW:DIY apparently uses a base 4 counting system similar to Super Mario Bros. to represent time.   His collision with the Druid player character causes his movement to stop, his switch to switch on, and counts towards the victory condition for the game.  Even this simple design requires sacrifices, as there is no way to get a pair of coordinates from tapping on the screen; to simulate player input in moving about, I have Druid track in on any L.Jack that the player has tapped on.  It is a weak illusion, but it expands normally.

  I copy L. Jack five times, then tighten up the programming to make sure all variables are pointed at the right objects.  Druid can stalk the Lumberjacks and is rewarded for “tapping,” not touching, each one.  In practice, if a group of Lumberjacks are caught hiding behind each other, than they can evade being tapped.  This certainly doesn’t seem fair, but I’m rapidly nearing my patience limit for WW:DIY anyway.

  The point is, that the game aspect is now, as per the original vision, mostly complete.  WW:DIY covers us further, by having a built in music composer, including maestro, who happily whips up several quick melodies on the spot.  I write in some brief instructions for the player, then ship it!  Yes, ship.  I haven’t a clue how this gets seen by other people, but it is down now.  It certainly isn’t very good, but it is ready, in that one could sink an awful lot of energy into the idea from here, but not improve the gameplay substantially.

  From here, the game has to be realized again, in better media.  All and all, I think I spent about an hour, maybe an hour and a half in this prototyping stage.  I will post again when I have more.  For now, here goes my best effort to try to upload it to Youtube!

2014, 02, 06

Sorry for the delay, this was held back by life.  Next post incoming shortly...

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