Category: games

BlockOut v0.LD48_11 (4/20/08)I managed to cobble together a mildly playable version of my game in time for the end of the Ludum Dare 48 Game Development  competition this weekend. 

It’s a concept that I had been toying with this past week, jotting down some ideas and refining it along the way.  Quite simply, it’e the game Breakout, only with a twist.  In regular Breakout, you move the paddle back and forth on the bottom to keep the ball from falling off the screen.  At the same time, you are trying to use the ball to destroy all the bricks on the screen.  In my game the computer plays the part of the paddle and you instead try to defend a goal at the top of the screen by placing bricks. 

It’s a neat idea, but I by no means was able to implement all my ideas.  The number one thing that was lacking is multiple types of bricks.  This version only has two: normal and 2X Hit.  As you can probably guess, normal takes one hit to be destroyed and 2X Hit takes two.  I wanted to add more bricks that did weird and interesting things when the ball hit it, like explode or eat it. 

You build your wall of bricks by buying them from money you’ve earned while playing.  So far, the only two ways you can earn money is to play, where you get one credit every so many seconds, or when the computer misses the ball with the paddle and it goes off the bottom of the screen.  Eventually you’ll be able to get money by doing other things.

One thing that doesn’t seem to work very well is the collision.  The ball seems to react well when it hits the top or the bottom of the bricks, but if it hits the side of two bricks, it can sometimes bounce in a way that causes it to go ‘inside’ the wall.  I have a few ideas on fixing that but I didn’t have enough time to implement them.

The AI could be improved, letting it think ahead instead of having it just react to the current position of the ball.  If I project the location it will be at when it gets to the bottom, I could have the paddle waiting for it.

There are no skill levels implemented.  Smarter AI, less money and multiple bouncing balls would make it more challenging and could be set to differing degrees.

I also didn’t do any sounds for it, as the compo requires that all resources be generated within the 48 hours and my recording soundcard is not quite working.  I will create some for the post-compo version of the game.  Same for music.

I tested it on the Sun JVM 1.6.0, though it should work on on JVM 1.5.0.  It will not work on the JVM 1.4.2, as it requires System.nanoTime() that was introduced in JVM 1.5.0.

I programmed it in Eclipse 3.3.2, and used Photoshop for the graphics.

You can download the game here or the source code here.

[update: changed the above link to the .zip file.  The jar just wasn’t handling some class-pathing stuff well and I don’t have time to troubleshoot it right now.]

The LD48 #11 Game Compitition starts in about eight and a half hours. The theme has yet to be decided, but it seems like it will most likely be one of the following: Minimalist (+28), Endless (+24), Defense (+22) or Flood (+15). My personal wish is to get Defense, as I’ve been thinking about a good concept this week for it. I haven’t been able to come up with anything decent for Minimalist yet, and Endless and Flood shouldn’t be too hard to design about. I don’t think we’ll get too many Tower Defense entries for the Defense theme, but even if we do, there has got to be at least one of them that does something in a new and interesting way. 

When all is said and done, and I’ve completed a game, I’ll post it here.  If for any reason I don’t get it done… well, I’ll still post something.

So if you have a (mostly) free weekend and you want to try your hand at designing and coding a game in 48 hours, come by the compo. Even if you don’t have the time, come by and check out the reports and progress of those who are.  You can also check my personal coding blog at LD.

zombies.jpgI saw a neat post on Playstation.Blog this morning about an internal event held by thatgamecompany called 24 Hour Game Jam.  The object of the event is to create a fun complete game in 24 hours on the PS3, with the specific goal being that they could play it in the office and even more importantly, it had to be fun. They start at 10am on a Saturday and finish up the next morning at the same time.  When 10am hits, that’s it, they are done. 

In this first jam, they created a game called Gravediggers.  The post includes a video with five people playing through a round.  The graphics themselves remind me a little of the original Joust game, with the brown floating platforms and blockish characters.   The players are represented by small rectangular blocks, and the playing field offers a lot of space to run around and shoot.  The object is to kill the rampant zombies with a gun and collect the heads to return them to the crypt for points.  Heads of the other players can be returned for extra points.  The side-view perspective shows generated terrain and two crypts randomly around the field.  The players hop from platform to platform, and over little hills.  They can also shoot through the terrain if they can’t get around it to score those zombie heads.

This reminds me of Ludum Dare‘s 48 Hour Game Programming Competition held twice a year (voting starts for the LD11 theme April 11th).  There are a lot of neat little games that come out this competition, many of them that look as good or better than the NES games we used to spend hours playing as kids.  They’re just as fun too.  Entrants are allowed to use a wide range of development tools and can create on any platform they wish.  The only caution is that if other people can’t play your game, they can’t vote on it, so most entries are done on Windows.  If you are an amateur game programmer, give the LD11 a shot.  If I can get a decent desk for my computer by April 11th, I may try to enter.  Trying to type with the keyboard on an endtable is not fun.  I submitted a sad entry for LD2, many years ago.  Sad enough that I won’t bother to show you.

Shake these two things together in a glass, add a little lemon–here’s my third topic.

Sony hasn’t moved forward with any kind of amateur software development kit for creating PS3 games.  Sure, it is possible to create games for the PS3 running on Linux, however, there is no formal tool package to make the process easier.  Requiring an install of linux in order to play these also doesn’t do anything good for widespread distribution to the community. 

I don’t have a 360, so I haven’t tinkered with their system but based on what I have read, Microsoft seems to be doing a good job with their XNA community development project.  Everything from providing the tools, developing on a PC, MSDN reference, and the end-user distribution is fairly well thought out.  Of course, Microsoft has been giving out development tools for years now, whereas Sony has only been distributing professional tools directly to the game developers.  They have been touting how much easier the Playstation EDGE dev kit is for developers so perhaps a stripped down version of it would be the answer for the amateur side.  

These little amateur games fill a niche in the games industry but they haven’t really penetrated console systems.  How many hours are spent each day playing silly little Flash-based games.  It doesn’t take a three year cycle to create an interesting game people will spend hours playing.  All you need is a simple concept implemented in a way that is fun.  Bejeweled and Tower Defense are good examples.  PixelJunk even took the Tower Defense idea and twisted it enough in an attempt to get Japanese players to like it.

While we’re at it, I think I’ll mention that Microsoft is expanding their XNA in version 3.0 to allow development on their portable Zune system.  I don’t know about the technicalites of the PSP hardware and how software is run on it compared to the PS3, but I think that Sony should not forget the PSP when working on their dev kit.

There are more high-profile things that people might like Sony to work on, including Home and better in-game communication with our friends.  I agree, these things are important.  In fact, Home has arcade machines in some of the spaces, and I think that is an opportunity for people to create mini-games.

There are many aspiring game developers who could use this kit as a valuable experience for a future job.  There are also people who don’t want to submit themselves to the grind that is the professional development cycle and they can use it as a way to express themselves in a less-demanding manner.  There is no reason why Sony shouldn’t spend the resources to get a dev program going.  It really is the ultimate in user-generated content.
 

Giant BombJeff Gerstmann has finally announced the next big thing:  Brock Lesnar.  No, that doesn’t sound right.

Giant Bomb.  Yea, That’s it.

Even with his termination from a large gaming website last November, it seemed pretty obvious that Jeff wasn’t done with the gaming industry.  He started a personal blog to post a few game reviews, talk about Tiger Gatorade, let us know when he’d be doing a tv, podcast or webshow, and of course, keep us primed for the announcement.  Giant Bomb is a new gaming website where people can go to get their dose of gaming related information.  This first stage of Giant Bomb is merely lighting the fuse to a greater grand opening explosion later on this summer.  As of now, it’s in a blog-style format while they finish designing and implementing the full site. 

There is another man behind the bombness, fellow former-large-gaming-websiter, Ryan Davis.  He’s been keeping his own personal blog, including a fairly-weekly podcast featuring Jeff and Alex Navarro.  The podcast will morph itself into a round ball with gunpowder inside sometime soon, featuring the same wacky conversation about games, drinks, movies and whatever else happens to be brought up.  They probably already have a title in mind, but here’s my recommendation: The Bombcast.  I don’t know if it’s in public-domain or not, but they need to secure that famous sample of some guy in a deep voice saying “The Bomb” over some of RyDeezy’s synthesized beats.

It looks like they’ll be using a new rating system for games, and I am sure it isn’t totally finalized.  The reviews of Burnout Paradise and Poker Smash have a five-star system to keep it simple.  There are a lot of different dimensions to score a game on, however an overall rating pounds and pummels all that down into a one dimensional meterstick.  You can never know what part of it either bumped the score or dragged it down, so there isn’t much of a point in using a stick with infinite tickmarks.  That only invites people to nit-pick over a scoring detail (8.8, anyone?).  A five-star system can help you decide which games were properly executed at a glance (or should be executed) and then the review will tell you why.  Depending on your own likes and dislikes, you can make your own decision.  The review is, afterall, just an opinion, and everyone puts different values on each of those different gaming dimensions. 

As Jeff said in his announcement, they’ve been listening to the feedback from their site visitors and podcast listeners and have been using that to help form the ideals of the final site.  It sounds really interesting and I can’t wait to see what they are going to do with the site to help video game players make their purchasing decisions while at the same time showing us an entertaining product.  So add it to your RSS list!

SimYard game in progressFor the past week I have been addicted to a new online game.  It’s a baseball management simulator called SimYard.  Like other baseball sims, you pick a team name, logo and colors, and pit your team against others. 

SimYard has an interesting twist to it.  Your team is made up of semi-pro players who you find while interacting with the fans around The Park.  You pick a field at the park and wait for someone to accept your challenge, or you find a field with another team waiting and accept theirs.  There is no set game schedule or requirement to play specific teams.  It’s more like pick-up baseball. 

Currently, your team has a roster limit of 40 players comprised of the usual positions.  Each player has a set of internal stats that make up what kind of player they are, ranging from 1 to 20 (I assume it’s 20.  The highest I’ve seen is a value of 17 on one of my pitchers).  The stats fall into one of three disiplines: batting, pitching and fielding/baserunning.  Batting, for instance, is made up of the Hit, Bat Speed and Power stats.   They go up against pitchers who use the Finesse, Pitch Speed and Endurance stats. 

Each individual matchup in the game is determined by the server using these stats, pitch by pitch.  You can see the current number of balls and strikes on the status display and the results of the matchup show up on a representation of the field.  You have as much control over the batter or pitcher as a real manager does in the dugout.  Sure, you can call substitutions, but like in the real game, you don’t have time to think it over too much before play continues on.  Each pitch takes about one second, and a full game can be completed in anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes.  The automatic manager does a pretty decent job replacing pitchers when they get tired and ineffective batters in the later innings, so don’t feel overwhelmed with figuring out who to pull and when.  The pitcher’s endurance stat determines how long they can go in the game and how much rest time they need in between starts.  Typically, it’s anywhere from 10 to 20 hours, which would equate to about four to six days in real life.   

The games go much like any game you watch on TV.  You root for your players like you would your favorite team, yelling at the screen when hitters can’t seem to do more than create a breeze and your pitchers appear to be throwing underhanded.  Of course, you do the same when your four-slot knocks a grand slam or your pitcher goes a complete game.

The baseball season is 24 days long, plus two days of spring training at the start of the month and two days of a post-season tournament at the end of the month.  Even though there are no official leagues in The Park, standings and stats are kept.  A simple games behind calculation determines where your team is in relation to the others.  Since everyone plays a different number of games in the schedule-less format, you can play half as many games as one team and still be next to them in the standings.  The date of the seasons is set in the late 1890’s, which some consider the beginning of modern baseball.  Everything from then to now is a blank slate… ready for you to make history.  Each new month bring a new season, new standings and new opportunity.

The top teams will play in the post-season, however not much about that has been revealed to the public yet.  I do know that you’ll set your starting rotation and closers to pair up against your opponents, and the computer will schedule the tournament with as many as 64 teams. 

All of that is free.  Starting next month, there will be a way to take your team to the next level, by purchasing a stadium license and joining a league with it’s own schedule, standings and playoffs.  Not only will you be playing against better teams, you’ll also have to keep the fanbase you built at The Park happy with good seats, concessions and souveniers.  They’ll show their happiness by attending games and spending money at the park so you can turn around and offer your players contracts and keep them on your team.   

The game is currently in beta, so you may notice some changes as the month goes on, as SimYard developer Erick Robertson tweaks things and adds features.  Erick sure did his homework when he came up with the engine behind the whole thing, so be sure to let him know you enjoy the game if you see him in the game’s chat or forums.  

So come on out and check out SimYard.  Anyone who is interested in baseball, especially those who take part in fantasy baseball should find enjoyment in taking a team of players and trying to beat the pants off of everyone at The Park.  You can find me in there as, who else? LoneStranger.