Saturday, March 1, 2014

New Game Assets and an updated release date

When I first started Farmageddon, it's purpose was more get-a-game-done-for-a-change motivation than anything else. At start, I'd given myself a month to throw together a quick game. After that month, I realized that I had a game with quite a bit of potential, so I decided to push the release back a month to spit-shine things. Well, now that date is quickly approaching, and I am not ashamed to say that Farmageddon's release date is pushed back one more time. I am absolutely confident that this will be the release date for the game, as I've given myself enough time to do what I need to do 10 times over. That math may seem extreme, but it comes with my experience over the last two months... call it the solo-indie-developer factor.

There are a lot of things I did not take into consideration when first starting this game; in my defense, this started off as a hobby that would end up in app stores.  I now realize that I've got a fun game that provides both a challenge and endless replay potential that is completely family friendly, which means my target audience is anyone and everyone with a mobile phone or tablet (if/when I decide to add iOS to the mix anyway).  I've since come to the realization that this game deservers more than a spit-polish, and so with the majority of programming out of the way, I will proceed with Alpha and Beta testing phases while reworking all game assets for the final release.

Farmageddon is challenging.  It's fast-paced, but not aggressively so.  The gameplay is incredibly smooth.  Most important to me, the game masks your opponent with the use of a timer and game pieces... but I can tell you from experience that it's you vs. you all the way.  Watching the combo timer fall with your peripheral vision as your eyes dart across the screen to find any collection of three animals in a row means that you're attempting to do two things at once, which never works out.  The trick is to ignore the combo timer, but as Morpheus said, there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path, and this is no exception.  In other words, it is not as easy as it sounds.

The leaderboards will provide you with a never-ending goal to reach.  Chances are you will never be the best, but in my humble opinion, what makes a casual game fun is that while attempting to achieve an ever-escaping goal on the horizon, you have a lot of fun.  Add personal achievements to the list, and you've just described any casual game that has ever kept my attention.  And for me, that's what being an Indie developer is all about.  It's not a means to an end; it's not a career move in a blind attempt to get my 15 minutes of fame; it's about creating games that I want to play in the hopes that there is a group of like-minded gamers who will enjoy what I've created as much as I do.



I've spent a lot of time since the last post on finishing the leaderboards and stats system for Farmageddon.  Anyone who is registered with the game will have their stats automatically saved, as well as their scores posted and ranked in the leaderboards.  The system also keeps track of some personal bests like chain length and combos.  This data will all be synced across all devices with no effort from the end-user.  For example, I can play a quick game on my Windows 8 tablet before leaving the house, and then login via my Android phone and continue playing on the go... all my stats from either device are synched automatically, so my hiscores on both are always the same.

After finishing the leaderboards system, I realized that the ability to move to an Open-Alpha release was getting closer and closer.  It was time to take a step back and remind myself of what I set out to accomplish back on Jan. 7th.  The goal was to take the 2D match-making game type and convert it to 3D.  Looking at Farmageddon, I decided that the game needed to emphasize the 3D a lot more.  There were two ways I was going to accomplish this:
1)  Better game assets.  The barn, while 3D and barn-shaped, lacked character.  The animals had potential, but lacked charisma and personality.  This needed to be remedied.
2)  Cameras & Animation.  The positioning of the cameras up to this point emphasized trying to make a 3D game look 2D.  It now seems ridiculous to me that I was trying to do this, but I had tunnel vision.  All I would need is some good camera tricks and some relatively simple animations to make it blatantly obvious that this was not your normal 2D matchmaking game.

I've made progress on both items 1 & 2, but this post will focus on #1 and save #2 for another day.  Starting with the barn, I made up my mind that I was going to learn texture painting in Blender3D, no excuses.  The barn was the first asset I'd ever created from start to finish in Blender, so it seemed like a good starting point.  My UV's were already layed out (haphazardly) and I had successfully colored the sections of the barn the appropriate colors, but had always lost my way when trying to apply a texture.  I had resorted to the fact that all my texturing was going to have to be done in an image editor, and 2D graphics have always been my Achilles heel. 


After rushing through a quick tutorial, I figured I had enough knowledge on the subject of texture painting to be dangerous.  It took a lot of bouncing back and forth between Blender3D and Google queries, but eventually the barn had gone from this:




to this:



The results were far beyond my expections, and although my UV Map looks incredibly unprofessional, the model is going to work perfectly for the game.  After moving the new barn into the game, I realized that it needed a little work to really fit the scene.  A few more tweaks yielded this, which at least for now, is the final version of the barn game asset:




I moved on to the animal pens, and after a lot of work rearranging my UV maps, this is the final result:



I'm anxious to rework the farm animals with my new knowledge, but for now the game programming needs to be completed. The current assets will work for as long as needed, and I will need to wrap up work on my admin system before getting too far ahead of myself.

In closing, Farmageddon's release date may be pushed back, but it's for a good reason.  The plan is to get a Webplayer version up for Alpha testing on the website next weekend. Alpha testing will be for working out any major bugs that players experience, and hashing out other minor details that aren't finished. Beta will be the release of both the Arcade and the Zen game types, and debugging those before final release. This stage will also be used to implement the trophies/achievements system and the Paypal checkout system. This will leave me with plenty of time to work on game assets in the background, and prep everything for the new release date.

There are two things that I can saw with almost absolute certainty after two months of working on Farmageddon:

1.  I love making games, and Unity3D has provided me with an opportunity to do what I have dreamt of doing since the day my child-like ignorance was replaced with the realization that people make video games, and I am as much a part of people as anyone else.  I will be making games for a long time to come, whether it provides income or not.

2.  Farmageddon will now be released on National Hamburger Day, or May 28, 2014.  The advertising for http://www.savebessie.com almost writes itself...


Related links :

Official Website: http://www.farmageddongame.com/
Indie DB Page: http://www.indiedb.com/games/farmageddon/

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Website Finally Complete!

I have spent the majority of my dev time this past week on continuing updates to the Farmageddon website. After quite a bit of CSS styling and graphics work, I have finally published what is the first-final-draft of the website, complete with video, screenshots, a contact page, and the ability to register for a newsletter. You can check out the complete Farmageddon website at farmageddongame.com



Unfortunately there isn't a lot of gameplay updates to post right now, but I will be working to put the finishing touches on the game this week to get it ready for Alpha testing.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Major Website Update

After spending quite a bit of time working on Farmageddon's in-game menu system, I decided that the website was overdue for an update. Up until now it has been a very basic layout with outdated background graphics that simply displayed blog posts one after the other. Updating/adding the blog posts on the site was all done manually as well, increasing my chances to make a mistake.

The resulting website took about a day and a half to complete, and I'm still working on adding a lot more content. The main update, other than the layout, is the use of an API to automatically pull blog posts from the Farmageddon Dev Blog. This is going to save me the time and frustration that updating the website used to create.

I'm currently working on the 'Contact' page, which will also include an option to join our newsletter. Once the contact page is complete, I will be working on the main landing page, which will become the default page once the game is in Alpha testing.

I should have the newsletter sign-up scripts finished shortly for anyone who wants to receive updates about the game.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

New Particle Effects, Environment Features, and more

Technically, Farmageddon should be done in 2 days time. It's pretty obvious at this point that I am not going to finish this game in 30 days as I had originally stated, but I'm not deterred at all. That deadline stood more as motivation to complete the game rather than a time limit, and considering how much I've gotten done in that last month, I'm convinced that Farmageddon will be in the Android and Windows Store soon.

The majority of my work since the last post has been on the environment. I traded in my default Unity3D particles that were swirling around the tornado for some leaves. I reworked the terrain as well, adding rolling farmlands in the background to contrast with the skybox. I also added some grass and wheat blowing in the wind.

A view of the new environment via the Unity3D Scene window...

...and via the Game window.

As you may be able to see from the screenshots, there are now animals flying around the tornado at the login screen.. adding a bit of character to an otherwise boring part of the game.  Here's a better example in the form of a GIF:




The next few days, my free time will be spent adding the main menu system, as well as putting the finishing touches on the end-game/hi-scores screens. Once the "Play Again" button is done, and any other small tasks are taken care of, Farmageddon will be ready for a round of Open-Alpha testing on the website.

Be sure to check us out on IndieDB at http://www.indiedb.com/games/farmageddon
Farmageddon

Friday, January 31, 2014

New Sheep Game Asset and Environment Effects

Lately I've been dabbling with Farmageddon more than getting anything major accomplished. Most noticeably, I've been adding some environment effects and details in the hopes of making the game a bit more immersive. A yellow-tinted fog has been added to the entire play area, casting a dull glow on the farm. I've added a particle system that simulates rain, as well as a light that simulates lightening every few seconds. Aside from the environment work, I also finished work on the third farm animal: the sheep. This model is basically the pig game model with a smaller nose, and certain areas of it's body extruded to simulate the wool.


The newly finished sheep model

The final farm animal, the chicken, is slated to be done in the next week. I'm still debating on whether it should be a chicken or some other animal, since the chicken would be the odd man out with only two legs and very different topology when compared to the other three.

After several hours of reworking my code for optimization, the game is running at very nice frame rates on Droid and Windows tablets, even with the added effects. Within the next two weeks I will be tying the login GUI in with the rest of the game, as well as adding UI elements to better show the score at game end, as well as what previous high scores were, a play again button, etc. After that I'll be adding the global leaderboards, and will probably do some test work with other gametypes (ie. classic vs. arcade, etc.) as well.

For now, the following video shows the game as it exists while writing this (minus the lightening). I plan to get right back to work on it when finished this news post, and hope to have more to show in the coming days. Until then, here's the latest gameplay video for Farmageddon:

Monday, January 27, 2014

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Pigs, Cows, and Pens! Oh My!

After fairly good results with the barn, I decided to take a bit of a break from programming and focus on modeling some more game assets. I am still pretty new to modeling, but the little experience I have had with 3DS Max during my career as a freelancer has made Blenders learning curve a bit easier on me.


Having never created my own models for use in-game, I did a ton of research on the subject beforehand.  Considering my lack of experience, low-poly assets were definitely in order.  I opted to go with a cartoony, obese shape for the farm animals, keeping the base shape the same throughout and using only features and textures to differentiate between species.  Beginning with the pig, I slowly but surely extruded features from a sphereified cube, and ended up with the following:



From there I quickly seamed out a uv map and a texture based off of materials.  With a lot of adjustments, I had a model that was really starting to look like a pig:



Then I repeated these steps for a cow, working with the pig as the base model and adjusting features to make them more appropriate for the species.  While these are not necessarily my final drafts, they will definitely work as first drafts, which I can bring into the game, allowing me to put the entire concept to the test.  The first draft of the cow:


Repeating the same basic steps as with the pig, I also got some foundation work done on a pen for the farm animals. My goal was for the fence to have a bit of character while keeping the topology simple, so I added some damaged boards to the model. The result is the following:



Each of the animals averaged me about two hours total, textures included. This is my first time producing my own game assets, and while I am happy with the results, I'm anxious to have a final blender > unity3d pipeline in place so that things come together a bit quicker.  I continued work on the textures for the animals, and repeated the steps for the barn and the pen.  The textures are currently flat colors with some ambient occlusion baked on; I have not done any of my brush work in Photoshop as of yet.

With these models nearing completion, I figured I had enough to start working an updated scene in Unity3D.  This will hopefully allow me to hash out any problems that may arise before modeling the rest of my assets.  After about an hours work in Unity3D, this is the result:



The only assets in the above scene that I did not create myself are the barrels and the grass texture.  Considering this is my first time creating my own game assets in Blender, I'm more than happy with the results so far.

The next step will be to apply all these changes to the gameplay, followed by creating the rest of the farm animals and also adding some more props to the world. For now, though, it's back to my full-time job... gotta pay the bills right?