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cheekylee Once again, Venter does something to the site and I get to play about a little. I love it, I really do. It makes me feel all squishy inside. Warm, and moist. And tight, like a tiger.

Um ... yeah. Words go here. Some will, soon.

Title: Of ants, and centipedes.
Posted: March 10, 2007 (05:20 PM)
The ants were easy, then impossible, and then suddenly very easy again.

I designed my first ant, and it was good. It did exactly what it was supposed to do. Which was, walk around slowly, changing direction at random after a random number of steps. So, I decided to use the ant object multiple times. This was ... a mistake. Because, basically, all the ants decided to just copy the last ant created. Well, not exactly. Whilst each ant moved about independently, all the sprites faced in the same direction as the last ant created!

To solve this, I either had to learn a little bit more of GML than I was prepared to, or I had to get creative. So, naturally, I did the smart thing. And, overcoming my problem led to a gameplay decision born out of serendipity! I decided to bypass my ants choreography problem by simply making a limit on the number of ants, but letting each ant be a unique object in the game.

To this end, I designated 8 spawn points, and drew a 'hole' at each point. Then, I made 8 individual ant objects, and gave each one a hole at which to spawn. Then, I created a controller object to keep a count on the ants, and to replace any ant that gets destroyed by spawning a new one. This means that there will ALWAYS be 8 ants on the screen at any given time. Since they are so slow, this won't be a problem.

From this, I can follow a similar logic with all the other insects. I need to determine how many of them the player will have to face, and can then just ensure that there are always at least that many around. Obviously, as the game goes on, this number will increase. That is what Wee Games are meant to do ; just keep getting harder, the way old arcade games used to.

(I figured I would see what kind of ridiculous extremes I could go to, and decided to set the game to show me 800 ants. I have to say ... WOW. My engine can cope quite nicely, with no sign of slowdown. It looked really cool, and I may use it in a bonus level of some kind.)

Flushed by my success with the ants, I decided to see if I could do anything with centipedes. Now, the centipede actively hunts the player, which is easy enough to do, but also splits into 2 when it gets shot. This means doing a bit of cheating with the coding, creating the new objects before destroying the old one. (Luckily, it is done so fast that the human eye can not possibly notice.) Each of these 2 half-centipedes splits into 2 quarter centipedes, and then finally these quarters split into eighths. I had to replicate my earlier trick of defining individual objects for every bit of the centipede, just so that the sprites all faced in the correct directions.

I also tweaked my bug controls slightly. He still rotates with A and D, but now does it twice as fast as before. Pressing S slows his rate of rotation down to about half, which allows for a little more precision. Of course, since the player aims with the mouse, this precision won't really be used, but I think it is important to give the player that level of choice.

My next stage is determining just how often the centipede appears. Do I want him to be a constant threat, do I want 4 at a time, do I want 8? 8 is probably too many, but it could be pretty fun. (8 centipedes means the possibility of 64 eighth-sections swarming in on the player at the same time!)

To do :

My next enemy will be the spider. The other enemies are basically tanks, whereas the spider shoots a web, so he will be trickier to make than the beetle or woodlouse.

I also need to start thinking about a health/lives system. Do all enemies kill me on contact, like Geometry Wars? Or, do I have a health bar? If I do have a health bar, then I need some way of replenishing it. If contact is fatal, then I need to address how many lives the player gets, how they earn new ones, and other such concerns.

(Click image for full-size version)
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Title: First steps.
Posted: March 08, 2007 (05:02 PM)
So. Today, I made the basic prototype engine for Doodlebug, designed the player sprite, and put up a basic control scheme. At the moment, the doodlebug is moved with WASD. A and D rotate, W moves him forwards. Also, the mouse moves a reticule around the screen, and the player fires ... well, it looks like pooh, but isn't meant to be pooh ... at the point the mouse is at when the fire button is pressed.

There are currently no enemies, and I have yet to finalise the playfield. I know it is to be bigger than the visible screen, but I can't yet decide on how much bigger. Also, I need to decide on whether there is a boundary, or if the playfield warps back onto itself. Obviously, this will come with testing, to see which one makes better use of the enemies.

So I'm lazy, shoot me! I'll put ants into the game tomorrow. Once they are working properly, I'll have something playable. Then, I can start on the process of tweaking each enemy as I add it.

I have to admit, that so far I enjoyed the idea of the game a lot more than the actual getting down to making it. But, now I have something to build on, I am sure I will keep on building. I just hope that I can do the vision that appeared in my mind justice.
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Title: I have a new idea for a game!
Posted: March 07, 2007 (03:22 PM)
What I plan to do now on is to share my creative process, as much as possible, and blog the game-making process here.

The gestation of an idea.

It started with joystiq linking me to a flash game, called Super To-suta. Which was ... pretty awful. So awful, I am not going to link you to it. It was some rather bizarre shooter thing, the likes of which you have played a thousand times already, which was almost completely uninspiring and almost entirely lacking in merit. I left the game convinced that the only reason it was linked to was because it used Katamari Damacy's STUNNING music, Katamari on the Rocks. Seemingly, joystiq and Kotaku both link to pretty much anything Katamari-related.

Which got me to thinking ... perhaps I should make a game that used Katamari music? Then, perhaps joystiq/Kotaku would link people to it, send hundreds of visitors my way, and I can coin it in from the advertising revenue! (Of course, this means that I have to put the game onto a page with adverts, but that is a mere detail. Something I can get round to later.)

Also in the last couple of days, I was linked to something called Sketch Fighter. This is a shooter, but where all the graphics are hand-drawn, on little pieces of paper. This got me to thinking about Line Rider, and it's upcoming DS port. And I thought ... "There is a potential market for games that defy standard graphical conventions. Hand-drawn is cool. Blogs link to quirky."

This is all on the back of a semi-project that I have been discussing with fellow University students, as well. Here, we had the idea to do a Half Life 2 mod, where all the textures are transparent, but made up of letters. So, for example, a tree trunk would be the word "tree" overlaid onto the mesh, and all the leaves would be made up of "leaf". I then adopted this idea slightly, and thought that I should make a simpler game along those lines. A 2D platformer, or shooter, perhaps.

All these ideas fell together this afternoon. From nowhere, the thought came to me ... Doodle Wars! A Geometry Wars clone, but with hand-drawn spaceships. Obviously, I am drawing inspiration from a truly great game, but I don't want to be accused of stealing anything. So, I wanted to adapt it somewhat.

A quick google search revealed that no-one else has made a videogame called Doodle Wars. (Some guys have made a site about a pen and paper game they call Doodle Wars, but there is nothing registered or trademarked.) While I was at it, I noticed the word 'doodlebugs' in one of the links. Inspiration then hit me like a ton of bricks!

Instead of being a spaceship, fighting swarms of aliens, the player will be a hand-drawn insect, or 'doodlebug'. Based in a garden, swarms of other insects will attack the player. All sprites and backgrounds are to be sketches/scribbles, and the game will be in a 2D top-down view.


Below I include a transcript of my first design document :


A 2D top-down shooter, 360 degree movement. The player controls the eponymous Doodlebug, who is beset by ever increasing hordes of enemy bugs. All sprites and backgrounds to be hand-drawn, sketched, as if they are doodles.

Enemy types:

Ant : Drone. Doesn't attack. 1 shot kills.

Spider : Hunts. Web freezes doodlebug for 1 second. 1 shot kills.

Beetle : Hunts. 3 shots kill.

Woodlouse : Armoured. Slow. 5 shots kill.

Centipede : FAST. 1 shot splits it into 2. Each of these can also be split. (4) Splits again into 8. 1 shot kills the 8.

Cockroach : BIG. 10 shots to kill, but will hunt for (3-5) seconds when it gets hit.

Good bugs :

Snail : Drops its' shell, which gives a 1-hit shield.

Butterfly : Drops 10 second speed-up, smart bomb, or 5 second spread-shot powerup.


So far, that is all I have done. I plan to make the game in Game Maker in the first instance, and possibly remake it later in flash, or even XNA. I just thought it would be an interesting insight to blog the entire creative process, for people to read, and to also leave me feedback. I plan to update this blog every time I add, remove, or alter the game, as well as every time there is a version of the game in existence.

I hope you enjoy reading, I hope I enjoy writing, and I hope we all enjoy playing!
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Title: TOP O' THE WOLRD!!!11
Posted: February 22, 2007 (12:30 PM)
I shall start by linking to the recently finished Alias 3 contest thread.

I find it somewhat puzzling that on a website with a couple of thousand listed members, only EIGHT people bothered to try their hand at the contest. I mean ... competetive games built this frigging industry! When PONG exploded into the world's consciousness, it wasn't because it was the tale of a ball and it's epic struggle against the mighty bat empire. Nor was it because you could invest hours of your life customising your bat before taking it into a raid against the evil bat-overlord with 40 of your friends.

No, PONG was the simplest form of game. Mano á mano. 1 vs 1 combat, with no prize for second place.

Then, we got Space Invaders. Again, this was nothing more than a straightforward battle. And, the only reward for being good at it was to have your three letters at the top of the score table. No satisfactory conclusion, no epic weapon, nothing. Everybody who played the game ultimately died, and yet they kept coming back.

So, why does a contest on this site not whip the entire community into a frenzy? Competition is why you even play games. (You might be one of those weirdos who expounds the virtue of story and character development over gameplay, but you wouldn't be able to play those games if Space War hadn't gotten people into the idea that computers could do games, too.)

Microsoft cottoned onto the idea that gamers have an in-built competing mechanism when they came up with the whole gamerscore system. Interestingly, there are 3 schools of players when it comes to gamerpoints. There are the scorewhores, who will do whatever it takes to have a higher gamerscore. (A perfect example of this is in Galaga, where even though I have been top of my friends leaderboard since the game was released, I do NOT have the full 200 points, that can be earned by simply continuing from the level you last reached, that some of the people on my flist have.)

Then, at the other end, are the players who just play whatever, and don't honestly care about the score. And then, somewhere in the middle, are players like myself. I honestly apply no value to a person's gamerscore, but I ALWAYS look at their achievments. To me, certain achievments say infinitely more about a person than the figure attached to them can ever do. I know people with 5 digit scores who have them by virtue of playing every game ever released on the console!

Not sure where I am heading with this. I just have words in me that need to be released tonight, I guess.

I suppose I should just throw a general question out into the universe, in the hopes that it lands on those who chose not to compete. WHY?

Or rather, why not? I'm not saying you are wrong not to, even though it may sound that way. I am genuinely interested in knowing the motivations of any and all gamers, as part of my quest to one day the world's premier games designer. Really, why didn't you join in? What about the contest made you decide "I don't think I will bother?" I know there are some of you out there with skills, and some of you out there who will compete. I am just wondering why you didn't on this ocassion.
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Title: Balance.
Posted: January 22, 2007 (03:04 PM)
I submitted my first review since Meteos. And, (in a move that is entirely meant to show Venter up for the fool he has seemingly become,) it is a review for Wii Sports. Because, when his review annoyed me, he challenged me to write my own. Done!

I am not sure wether I should be annoyed at having to have my review approved or not. In one way it is a good thing, that the site will not accept just any old bollocks, but in another way it is a slight on myself. I have always delivered what I consider to be top quality product to this site, and I guess I feel that I should be treated with a touch more respect because of my long-term support. I still maintain that all my articles were the best reason to visit this site, at least for a while!

Oh well, it's a small price to pay. Strange, though, that my blog posts will "display the minute you click to submit, so please make sure that you enter the correct information immediatly."

Now, if only I could be 'amused' by this!
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Title: Free game!
Posted: November 14, 2006 (10:55 AM)
Since starting my Computer Games Production course, I have been a busy boy indeed. One of the modules has me using Game Maker to create a mini-game every week, based on a different theme. So, we have had such things as 'Collection', or 'Colour'. Usually, I make a game engine first, using blocks and circles for the graphics. I go back and make the sprites later.

This week, our theme was 'Random element'. I did my usual thing, and then realised I was on to somthing just using the blocks. So, I kept them! The finished result is a game I call Untouchable, and I have uploaded it here. I would greatly appreciate it if people would play this, and give me any feedback. Naturally, I intend to add music at some point.

The information you guys give me will be most helpful, as you are the guys I am aiming at. The 'hardcore' gamers, who are net-savvy and thus not fazed by digital distribution. Eventually I plan to finish off all my projects, and package them on a site under the name "WeeGames ™".

So, yeah. Tell me what you think!
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Title: Unhappy with Nintendo.
Posted: November 02, 2006 (03:23 AM)
The Wii. I can't wait for it. Really, I honestly plan to buy one on launch day, which is something I have never done before. The reason for my excitement is, or rather WAS, the Virtual Console. (Which I am re-christening the WiiVC, in the hopes it catches on!)

Now, Nintendo released the launch titles for all 3 regions. Seems Japan get the most games, and US and Europe get slightly different packages. Donkey Kong Country for Europe and Victory Run for the US. (Table showing full lists here.

Notice the point costs? THAT is what is pissing me off. 500 Wii points for an NES game. In the US, that is $5, which converts to just over £3. SCORE! However, Nintendo is selling Wii points in local currencies. Which means that for me, 500 Wii points is £5. Or, to put it in US terms, $9. OUCH! When I should be able to get a game for £3, why the hell am I having to pay extra for it? MS points are also charged in sterling, but the rate is a lot closer to the actual conversion rate. (Incidentally, 500 Wii points cost 500 Yen, or £2.50!)

Out of the launch list, the biggie for me is Bomberman. However, unless I have missed it, nobody can cofirm wether or not we will be able to play WiiVC titles online. Which means that I may be paying £6 ($11) for local multiplayer only? Basically, that is not gonna happen. No online = No sale. I can play Bomberman multiplayer on at least 3 of my consoles already, whey the hell do I need another copy of it?

Nintendo annoyed me with this.
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Title: It's quiet...
Posted: October 02, 2006 (04:53 AM)
I'm not at work. My girlfriend is in bed. And yet, I am not gaming. This is mostly due to the fact that Benjie is asleep in his crib, but I know that he will be waking soon.

Benjamin Joseph was born last week, weighing 8lbs 8oz. It was not a routine birth, she had to have an emergency section. However, both Benjie and his mother are doing absolutely fantastic, and I am proud of them both.

I could, and probably should, get some gametime in. Especially as I have just applied to Lincoln University for a place on their Computer Games Production course. They have accepted me, I just now have to go through the formalities of the application. 3 years of hard work await me, but I am old enough to really appreciate such an opportunity. Education is often wasted on the young, I speak from my own experiences here.

My life has altered quite massively since the 27th, and it might be about to alter even more massively. I am truly the most excited I have been in a LONG time.

Hmmm, Lego Star Wars II : The Original Trilogy has still got plenty of achievments to yield to me. Think I'll get on it!
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Title: Cleaning out the closet.
Posted: September 11, 2006 (04:01 AM)
Take one XBox, one Gamecube (both of which are spare consoles), one PSP (which has not been powered up in over 4 months), and a couple of XBox titles that you are fully aware that you will never play again. Put them into bags, and take them along to the nearest Gamestation. Hand them over the counter, in order to find out how much you could get for them.

And, with the money, buy Oblivion, Project Gotham Racing 3, Lego Star Wars 2, and Oblivion! Oh yeah, you may have to fork over a little of your own cash. Like, I had to pay 96p.

I'd call that a bargain.
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Title: Cloning Clyde.
Posted: July 20, 2006 (08:19 AM)
Nice title, possibly even an historic one. But, I can't help but feel it will become the most overlooked Live Arcade title of them all. Why?

Because LAST week I got Frogger, which I still have to buy. And NEXT week I get Galaga. This is all whilst waiting for Streey Fighter 2. Talk about piss-poor timing!

It's a pity, too, because Ninja Bees are the only developers at the moment who are releasing solely via this avenue. In fact, they are on record as stating they only exist because it is so cheap to develop games this way.

Shame. Decent game, at the right price, and I already know that I will probably never buy it.
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Title: Is the new age upon us?
Posted: July 13, 2006 (08:51 AM)
This post started out as a response to Zigreid's recent post. But then, it got too long, so I have decided to give it it's own space.

The recent Chuck Klosterman furore got me to thinking. I never before thought about why I play videogames, but I did think about why I review them.

It occured to me that I never actually wanted to review games. Apart from one or two examples, the body of my HG work consists of things I knocked up because I either felt the site needed it, or because I wanted to keep my hand in. I started writing for the site back in the days when Jason accepted editorials, and even though I say so myself, I believe that what I wrote at that time was far and away the best content on the site. And, that is because, with only a couple of exceptions, the editorials are what I wanted to do.

The vast majority of games reviewers in the world fall into one of two camps. Professionals, and amateurs. Professionals are doing a job, and reviewing regardless of what they enjoy. Amateurs are generally reveiwing what they enjoy. (This explains why 99% of fan-site reviews score 9's and 10's.) This is all well and good, since there are nigh-on infinite avenues for practitioners from either side to peddle their wares.

But what of people like myself? Where do we find our audience? Where are the sites asking for our input? I'll tell you where ; blog sites. Only, blog sites want exclusive newsworthy features, they don't care about comedy guides to hosting games night. (Or, if they do, they certainly never linked to it whilst it was still hosted here.) Even Jason felt that the editorials were no longer worthy of server space. I can only assume that this was due to a lack of hits.

This means that the critics, of which I would consider myself one, are left to pretty much host their own content. This is a far from ideal situation, because these days anybody can buy a domain, pay for some hosting, and publish whatever the hell they want. And, sadly, a lot of people have done just this. Sadly, because some of these sites are almost criminally lacking in any kind of quality journalism.

Until one of the major sites hires a critic, there won't be any of note. So, in the meantime, we are stuck with reviews. Reviews are of course flawed in their very nature. How can you expand upon the way a game made you feel, when you are simply trying to convey to the reader whether or not they should buy the game? Similarly, I can not comment on how well a game reflects upon society if I then go on to score it as 4 out of 10.

What is needed is a change of perspective. Reviews are never going to be worthy pieces of journalism, since they are not written with that goal in mind. Even the very best written reviews will only be read with very objective eyes. Nobody reads reviews for entertainment, save other reviewers.

There are other less tangible problems, too. For one thing, to be a critic, one must be extremely knowledgeable of the subject one is criticising. This is inherently difficult in what is seen as a "youth medium", since very few of the teenagers chomping at the bit for Halo 3 followed the genre as it evolved via Wolfenstein and Goldeneye. I have attempted in the past to explain this process to people, only to be attacked, or dismissed as a fanboy.

Another thing is that the critic must be skilled enough to play the game, but also lacking in ego. The critic needs to know if the game is actually too hard to be fun, which is something that few reviewers are prepared to admit to. But, how does one ascertain the level of difficulty that is appropriate for the 'average gamer'? Plus, some games are incredibly easy, or over fairly soon. Is this actually to their detriment? Perhaps when justifying a price tag, but surely this is irrelevant when talking about the game itself?

In these days of freedom of speech for all, opinion is literally rampant. What is needed is some kind of standard, that everybody can agree upon. Or at least agree to accept.
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Title: Wither PSP?
Posted: June 22, 2006 (09:13 AM)
I honestly can't remember the last time I switched my PSP on. In fact, I can go further.

I can't even remember the last time I SAW my PSP!
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Title: In which our hero laments the lack of spending opportunities he faces!
Posted: June 08, 2006 (08:14 AM)
Summer is upon us, and predictably the release schedules are completely starved of anything. It's the same every year, without fail. Come November, I need 6 jobs just to keep up. Come July, I have to search far and wide for anything exciting on the horizon.

Of course, this usually gives me a chance to catch up on games I really should have finished, or in some cases played, by now. Which is nice, but it still leaves me wondering why it is the case taht every single eyar without fail the games industry puts so many eggs into the Xmas basket.

Here in England, we know that there will be the new Fifa game released at this time. We also know that every cunt in creation is going to buy a copy, since it has topped Xmas sales charts since the very dawn of time itself. So, why then does Konami choose to release Pro Evo at about the same time? Surely it would make more sense to release Pro Evo 6 months later, and have the market to yourself?

Let's take We Love Katamari as a case study. Now, it was released here in the UK on the same day as 2 other notable titles : Shadow of the Colossus, and Psychonauts. None of which one would expect to be a blockbuster, all being original and innovative titles. So, smart move in NOT releasing them in December. However, imagine the poor games buyer like myself, faced with the choice of which one to buy that day? In the end, it was an easy choice, as the only one I saw on the shelf anywhere was SotC. (Which, I still haven't finished!)

There were plenty other titles released the same week, too, but none of which I cared about. I think there was an Incredibles game released at about the same time, which I had no problems finding on store shelves, if I remember right.

Much better, in my mind would be the situation that one of those games was still due to be released, any day now. Probably Psychonauts was released at the wrong time, since it would pick up a lot of extra coverage right about now, that it missed at the time due to everyone being in love with SotC.

But, no, we have to endure an sbolute drought every summer, and an absolute flood every Xmas. And, I'm frigging sick of it! Time and time again it has been shown that a great game will sell WHENEVER it is released. Oblivion could have been released at any time, and it would have outsold everything else that week.

(I still haven't gotten hold of Katamari, because I am somewhat of an old-fashioned "Buy it when I see it in a games shop!" kind of customer. I would much rather hand my cash over the counter than order online and have a package waiting for me when I get home. There is so much less excitement that way. I miss my old local games shop so much, I used to spend hours there. That's what I get, though, for moving across the country to an area that is frankly backwards when it comes to retail!)
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Title: E3ii
Posted: May 10, 2006 (06:56 AM)
Sony have shot themselves in the arse, I'm afraid. The price is too much, the controller is a rip-off, and once more they have failed to show any games of any note.

Microsoft have announced about seven million peripherals, and told everybody how much fun gaming on Live is. It is fun, but perhaps showing people might have benfited?

Nintendo, meantime, stuck some guys on the stage, and had them waving their Wiimote's around to some tennis game. Everybody who has seen it agrees that this looks fantastic.

Round 1 is Nintendo's. Will there even be a round 2? Is there even a need? The sheer size of the list of games to be released for the DS shows that the immediate future is N-shaped.
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Title: The inequity of it all!
Posted: April 13, 2006 (05:54 PM)
XBox Live on the 360 is the way online gaming should be done. Microsoft really should be applauded for it, because it has a hell of a lot of things going for it. Such as 'achievments'. These are superb, because they can make you replay games, or make you push yourself against your friend.

So, with that in mind, I look at the achievments when playing a game. Geometry Wars : Retro Evolved has one that seems interesting - 'Pacifism'. Survive the first 60 seconds without firing. Seems simple enough, but you soon realise just how tricky it is. In fact, it took me a fair few tries.

Now, I get myself a nice 10 points for that.


Yes, 10. Which is a pisser, because I could rent Madden, score a td offline on ANY difficulty, and net myself 30 points for that! A blind girl with stumps instead of hands could probably manage that one.

'Pacifism' is far from easy. Your heart pounds, your breathing nearly stops, and you probably won't sleep the night you do it.


So, I'm not going to be ashamed of my 'lower than everyone else I know' score, because I now know that at least one of my achievments is a real one! Burnout Revenge gives you points just for going online, and then more points for reccomending a clip of SOMEBODY ELSE to somebody else. Achievments?

Must be an American thing. Bizarre Creations are, of course, English.
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