Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Breakdown And Reality of Game making

General info post.

A Lot of people ask me, "Just what does it take to make a game" or "How long does it take?"

Well, i seek to answer these questions

First: "What does it take?"

This boils down to what you're trying to do, a simple 2d game focusing purely on the gameplay over flash can be made fairly easily and rapidly, though it has drawbacks, this is mainly used to test concepts

A Game combining a bit of polish with solid or unique gameplay can be done fairly fast, with a bit of testing afterward, a good example of this is Audiosurf, it has VERY simple 3d graphics, Simple, easy to learn gameplay and controls, but is very unique and challenging, with a large variety of game modes. Games in this category are the common "Cheap" retail games - focusing on uniqueness and wide popularity to be successful, the low cost also means it's easier for someone to splurge on them, as it's easier to set aside the 5-15$ for one of these massive-replay titles, than the 60$ or so too many modern games cost

In a similar vein, we have the MMO Category, these games are purely multiplayer, rarely with singleplayer options, ranging from free games supported by micro-transactions, the best of these not allowing players to buy power, relying on great gameplay to not need it (League of Legends)  or requiring a monthly fee to play, but offering constant content updates to keep players interested (World of Warcraft and Champions Online being prime examples) they can be quickly made (to an extent) because you can release content to them over time, the whole game world can be planned out in advance, the game can release with a portion of it, and you add the rest as you progress the games storyline over the course of it's life (In the case of major MMO's, this can be upwards of 5 years)

And finally, the Pure retail games, these are the 20$+ Titles that typically feature short singleplayer gameplay, backed up by multiplay options to justify their high cost (Halo) - Or, they are games purely singleplayer, but with hundreds of options in play to give them massive replay value (Mass Effect, I'm looking at you). These games have hundreds if not thousands of hours of development, and hundreds upon hundreds of hours of testing before release, usually featuring dev teams of ten or more people

As a solo developer, you have a ton of responsibility, you have to do everything yourself, for some people this works out very well, for others it's endless stress

For me, it's a hobby, which brings me to the next point:

"How long does it take?"

For my current Project, without a dev team to help me currently, it looks like this:

Days 1+2 = Theme, Design sheets, Basic layouts, Menu Design and testing

Days 3+4 = Basic sprite design, Initial alpha graphics

Days 5+6 = Alpha sprite design, Initial coding and testing, Final menu layouts

Days 7+ = Coding, Final sprite design, Final graphic art, Alpha testing

Beta testing follows, with final tweaking and bugfixing during, Before the final release or Retail Availability

Which brings me to "Why haven't you updated, then?"

Because, for the 5-end period i wont be doing pure-text updates

Why? Because typing these out, editing all the images for a post and going from there after uploading everything is a chore, instead, once i find a good desktop capture program i'm going to be recording these into video form for Youtube, i can cram a lot of info into 15 minutes of video and audio

Yes, I'll still be doing these in text form, I'll just also be doing video-form ones and releasing them with each post, this makes it easier to go into detail and really show what i mean, and what i achieve in short bursts of time

For now, just sit tight, I'll be more active soon - i Promise.
-Zere

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Day 1-3 - Now it gets serious: The serious continuation

Yep, now for some serious work:

Day 2-3: Some assembly required

This day will involve your first delving into Drag&Drop programming in GMaker, to assemble the menus, and fill out some basic game information

First, a Screenshot with everything marked out:


Explanations:

Rooms (#1, in black outline) - This is the area, by right clicking on it, you can make and name empty rooms, based on the rooms required by your game (Menus, Levels, Etc.)

Game information (#2, red outline) - This brings up the "F1 screen" which is an area you can type in to explain things about your game (Default keys, what powerups do, enemy types, etc.)

Global Game Settings (#3, teal outline) - Here is where you choose things like game resolution, fullscreen, fill out overall game info (Game version, etc.) and more, be careful with some of these settings, they can cause problems on some machines (Like forcing Vsync or Refresh rate changes)

The Process Begins

First things first, Create a series of empty rooms in the Rooms folder by right-clicking on it and choosing create room, name them to correspond to the needed rooms for your game, it'll look something like my rooms folder for projekt H when you finish:


You may have noticed i'm "Missing" a room, fear not, i'm saving it's creation for this next part

Making the magic - The game maker way

So, now you have a lot of blank rooms, a bunch of game-sized paint images showing button placement and layout, and a few questions

Well, time for me to answer them, here's how a room generally works:

1. The game loads the room
2. All objects in the room at creation become active
3. Any "Run on object creation" codes run
4. If no other actions, room goes into a "Paused" state

Now, for that missing "rm_player_select"

First, it needs a background, so i'm going to import it into GM8, by right clicking on the "Backgrounds" folder, clicking create background, then hitting "Load background" and navigating to it in my Projekt H Placeholders folder, when i'm done, i get this:


Upon hitting "OK" i've just made bg_playerselect with the placeholder image of img_placeholder_playerselect

Now, to make the room use it, and to make the "Abort" button, i make the room, go to its settings tab, and set the room name to "rm_playerselect" and it's size to 800x600 from the default of 640x480, The room "Caption" is what the game displays at the top bar if it's visible, like how your browser shows it's name at the end of the website title, so all of them should be the same, in my case, just "Projekt: H" without quotes

Now, under the "Backgrounds" tab, there is an option that will say <no background> with a box next to it, click on the box, and select your background, in my case, bg_playerselect, when you're done, the room will look something like this:


The grid just shows you the snap to grid if enabled, for now, mines at 16x16 snap, but more on this later

Part 4 - Sprites, Objects, and a bit of D&D


Now, as you can tell from that screen, eventually the 3 boxes are going to show the 3 different ships, and their weapons + Stats, the abort key will go back to the previous menu (Game type selection)

Now, to do this, we need to make a sprite for the abort button, like so:


but you say "It doesn't say anything!" - Thats because this is a base for all of my large-type buttons

So, under sprites, i right-click -> Create sprite, name it spr_return, and load this image, like so:


Now, rather than hit OK, i hit "Edit sprite" bringing up the game maker sprite editor, i then click on the little pencil at the end of the tray to bring up the graphic editor, and use it's text tool to finish my button, like so:


After which, i click the green checkmark in both windows to accept my edits, and then accept the sprite, and then click OK To save the sprite to my file

At this point, i also save my .gmk file, since i've done a lot of editing

Part 4 - Redux

Now, Sprites are little more than fancily-named images, you have to make them into Objects for you to be able to code anything with them, so now we right-click on the objects folder, select "Create object" and then set it to use my newly-made return button sprite

Now, since it's going to be a basic return key (Like hitting escape) i'm also going to add a clicked event using D&D that makes it so clicking on it will return to the previous room, which in my order, is the gametype select, so it looks like:


In short, the object will ignore everything, but if you click on it with the left mouse button, it will trigger the event, making the game go to the previous room, now, i place it in my room by selecting the object and then left-clicking on my background where i have my "Abort" button lined out:


Note: All my button sprites have transparent edges

Now, another thing to note is that this button is UNIVERSAL, meaning any room i put it in it will work, the event doesn't jump to a specific room, just whatever room you were in before the room you clicked it in

This differs it from my "Return to main menu" button, which SPECIFICALLY jumps the game back to the main menu room

So now, by the end of Day 3, you should have the following done:

1. The game design text document outlining the game
2. The placeholder graphics for the game (Buttons, backgrounds, Player ships, etc)
3. The game partially built with navigable menus and placeholders
4. The game information all filled out

If you have all 4 done, congratulations! you're ready to begin the hard part - Coding it all

That will be covered in a future post though, that's a lot of typing for me to do and images to make, so it could take another couple days before you see it

-Zere