The solo struggle

November 14, 2016Better Ballistix, Jaunty Journey, Stab

It’s a real wake-up call when I want to make a new blog post and WordPress lets me know that I have 12 plugin updates to make. It’s been another half-year of (mostly) inactivity, sad to say.

Since my last post, I’ve shelved Jaunty Journey for a few reasons, and did a substantial amount on laying the groundwork for a Stab revival. In short:

Most of what I wanted to get out of Jaunty Journey was already done. The bulk of the goal with this game was to come up with the “three minigames, two play styles” thing elegantly, and I feel I accomplished it with my rough prototypes. Artwork struggles and time/energy/lifestyle constraints kept it from going much further.

As for Stab: I actually spend some weeks in August/September fleshing out behavior trees and actually implementing (!) them in Unity, with A* pathfinding and all. This Gamasutra article by Chris Simpson (I also had a good brief time playing some Project Zomboid over the summer), Panda BT, and TileTool2D deserve an enormous amount of thanks from me in getting it started. I may come back to post a more substantial snapshot of where I left off, but my notes indicate that my latest problem was solving this branch: “Get a stack of Rooms in this Building that we want to search.

A bit more tangentially, I also got a Raspberry Pi and built a sort of “silent doorbell” residing in a black rectangular box made of plastic. When you press this large white arcade button on it, a blink(1) LED light on my desk flashes bright orange to get my attention. I definitely spent way longer on it than I should have, but it was quite rewarding to get my hands dirty on the hardware side and complete the project front to back. (more…)

Bacon takes damage and adheres to a grid

June 7, 2016Jaunty Journey

The title says it all, for the most part.

  • Bacon takes damage each time an enemy touches him
  • Gameplay now takes place on a grid, so it’ll be possible for me to design levels on graph paper, etc.
  • At the start, the enemy movement patterns are shown at regular speed; after that, the movement happens twice as fast to cut down on waiting time (and increase excitement!)

Besides making new levels, soon I’ll also be:

  • Adding a visual indicator to show that it’s your turn to move
  • Adding a “goal” zone for each level, that actually won’t be on the far right, as I’ve determined

How to use a pig’s brainpower to dodge predators

May 24, 2016Jaunty Journey

As mentioned last time, the “Surviving Predators” minigame (the second of three aspects of your daily routine on this journey) has been on my mind for a while. I was drawn to the idea of movement patterns and something similar to chess puzzles. So Bacon would be sort of like a quarterback reading the defense, trying to figure out how exactly he’s about to get blitzed before gracefully dancing around the enemies to get to the other side.

At one point, I considered a tactics-based approach, involving a random set of 3-5 cards in your hand that you could use to move in predetermined patterns. I thought of Mega Man Battle Network, or the more recent Swap Cops mobile game. For example, you could choose to move up one square, then jump over one square to the left. On your next turn, you could play the card that lets you “guard” for one turn (survive an incoming attack if an enemy is adjacent).

But I think the problem with that is the level of complexity involved that might not seem obvious. How would you decide which cards to give the player, and which ones to “deal” in subsequent turns? What if certain combinations of boards simply don’t have an optimal solution given the cards dealt?

For now, I’m settling on this idea of memorizing (and juggling) several incoming enemy movement patterns in your head, and timing your navigation correctly. I’ll let this animated GIF illustrate what I mean:


When the level starts, you get one chance to see how each predator moves. Ideally, you’d commit it to memory, because each turn, they’re going to simply repeat their respective movements. Here’s where it can get complicated, a.k.a. how I can make things interesting: (more…)

Bacon picks out a shelter

May 8, 2016Jaunty Journey

Yes, I’m still alive. I just had my birthday a few weeks ago, which was a much-needed reminder that I should really get things going on here.

So this weekend I decided to get some more coding done, and also start prototyping the Bacon flavor of the three daily minigames.

Where is this little fella going to stay at night?
Where is this little fella going to stay at night?

The idea for the Make Shelter minigame stemmed from my desire to create a quick (< 20 second) but mentally challenging puzzle, where you were under the clock, since the sun’s going down. For some insight from the actual natural world of shelter-making, I consulted my good friend, Ivy, who actually grew up in the wilderness.

Ivy taught me that boars and domesticated pigs are very different in many ways. But for the purposes of Jaunty Journey, we might have to blur the line a bit. Boars tend to like thick brushes, as they provide both comfortable bedding and the benefit of being noisy (so they can hear predators/intruders coming). In contrast, tall grass would allow many potentially dangerous animals to sneak and slide through. Also, being near water is a plus, so they can roll around in mud.

So the underlying question is: how do you pick out a suitable spot in which to set up camp for the night? From there, we can abstract out a game mechanic that can apply loosely. It occurred to me that mental math was an option, even though I didn’t really like the idea of old-school arithmetic. Simply putting up addition and multiplication problems would be super boring, and I didn’t like the core idea enough to try spicing it up. (more…)

Jaunty Journey survives the prototype phase

February 8, 2016Jaunty Journey

After some more iteration in the game design document, we’re comfortable locking a few things down and making Jaunty Journey our Q1 2016 project. That doesn’t leave much time to complete it, and we’ll almost certainly miss any sort of deadline, but goals need to be set.

This means changing a few things in the design, and by extension, the codebase. So I had to scrap a few things.

For example, the hour/minute system didn’t really make much sense. That level of granularity was too high, and we can get away with a day based on the intra-day events rather than an absolute time of day. I looked up old videos of Oregon Trail, and there really wasn’t a stretch of dead time longer than ~5 seconds where you just sat there, watching your wagon travel. Sooner or later, you would be interrupted by wagon-caulking, buffalo-hunting, member-mourning, or spoke-fixing.

Sleep tight, Sheep!
Sleep tight, Sheep!

Moral of the story? The Traveling phase of our game ought to be equally engaging, if not moreso. That means the stage of simply trucking along will be frequently broken up by the three daily minigames (Finding Food, Surviving Predators, Making Shelter), investigating notable objects along your path (containing lore, helping to create ambiance, or offering gameplay tips), and interacting with NPCs (see previous).

A small corollary of the simplification of the time of day system is that the save/load implementation will be a bit different as well. Instead of dropping you in at the last hour that you clocked in, and having to keep track of what specific “Phase” of the game you were in (“traveling just after Food minigame”, “in a menu”, etc.) the game will figure it out based on the last item(s) in your Log Book. (more…)

Let’s take a trip(tych)

October 8, 2015Jaunty Journey

We’ve decided to go with a three-panel path selection screen. It leaves enough room to be informative by allowing short lines of text to be displayed (hints/data points), and retains a visual style somewhat reminiscent of comic books (as with our cutscenes).

Each time you leave a landmark, you’ll have to select which of the three paths to go down. Depending on how much homework you did, the identities of the choices will be revealed. So if you were to just blindly click through the game as fast as possible, these will be shrouded in darkness/fog, and the biome you trek through for the next few days will be determined essentially by a dice roll.

Obviously mockup art, don’t hurt me!

Next up: actually integrating this into the “map” and preparing the following Travel scene, including number of days expected to spend on this path, obviously swapping out the background art, etc.