Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Even more balancing

You would think that if I got time off of work that I would have a lot of time to work on March to the Moon. Nope! I'm still working out balance issues. I've gotten my engineer almost halfway through the second difficulty setting, but the darn Nega Goblin is just too darn strong :( Time to hit him with a nerf bat...

Does anyone know of a good method to record video of a game? I'd like to start putting things up on Youtube to help promote it...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Balancing Act

So now I'm getting to the point that March to the Moon is very nearly complete. Now to make sure that the game is possible to win. I know that it isn't. I know because I cheat-leveled a guy to level 100 and went to go beat the game with him. On Normal mode. The bosses kept killing me. I'm expecting the player to be around level 20 or so when they get to that point, so it looks like I screwed up. Now I've got a character that I'm leveling up through regular gameplay. He's an Engineer called Testy. He is working on mastering his gun, the gatling gun and quickshot so he can fire both of them faster. I may have to boost the damage that the gatling gun does as right now it's not that much more useful than the regular gun. But then again I have more points in the regular gun since I can use it more often. In any case, once I beat the entire game (and have all difficultly levels balanced) I will probably have to start another character and do it all again since I'm getting extra experience from all the times that I keep dying on levels where the enemies are coming in too often for me to be able to fight them all off.

Now it's time for me to get back into the game that I started playing for the first time tonight, Half-Life. What do you mean that came out in 1998? No spoilers please!

Friday, December 16, 2011


Okay, maybe not real chaos, but I have been really busy lately and that's why I totally spaced on getting the blog post in on time. I'm going to keep this short as I am still really busy. Basically I have all the sound effects in the game now. They need some volume tweaking, but I think otherwise they are good. I've also found a number of little issues while I've been testing the sound effects. For example, a level 1 summoned dragon is completely worthless as it doesn't live long enough to use a single attack. And the fire wisp (basic summon creature) is too weak to three hit kill a rat and since they move back and forth you need to summon more than one to kill a rat. Because of the cooldown you simply cannot kill anything and you will never gain a level. What a fun game! Similar problem with the confusion bolt for the Illusionist. It had a bug where it was doing ZERO damage. Both these issues have been fixed and I had a lot of fun playing as a level 100 summoner with an army of Fire Wisps, Angels and Dragons. I barely ever saw an enemy since I was playing on normal difficulty and there was a constant wave of fire coming from my side of the screen.

One thing that I've been running into is that I'll start up the game to test something, then I'll keep playing. Building up to get a perfect score on a level, trying to get a new ability, building up my current abilities, killing stuff... My time sheet may not be completely accurate in the end, but oh well. I think it's a good sign! Trying to clean up a few bugs, change some art (the cobblestone art is too distracting as a background), and get some better balance in for this Christmas when I see my brothers again. After I've got the balance in I basically only have a few things I need to add in for the PC version, so I might just be able to get this thing sent out to the xbox next month!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Xbox, Siphon Spirit Woes and March to the Moon Sounds

So I got me an XBox360. Figured I'd have to port March to the Moon to it fairly soon and got a good deal on it on Black Friday. I've been playing a lot of indie game demos and have gotten a fairly good idea about what to do for my demo. Nothing. Or when the player goes to quit do a short pitch maybe. See, I kept playing demos that would have a "Purchase Now" option on the main screen and default you to that. So if you weren't paying attention you might buy it by mistake. That's pretty dirty, but the one that takes the cake is Avatar Laser Wars. This demo pissed me off. To start with, the only thing you could do was use practice mode. This involves you walking through empty corridors and shooting the rare targets that pop up. On top of that, you couldn't get any power ups. When you reached one it would show a screen telling you that you had to buy the game to have any fun. Guess what? If your demo is no fun then there is no reason to pay for the full game. And look at the control scheme they have. TWO different buttons commonly used in gameplay for buying the game. And that controller screen wasn't up there very long either. I ended up fumbling along trying to find out what I should do and ended up almost buying the darn thing twice. I hate you, Avatar Laser Wars. I will never give you any money.

Moving on. Siphon Spirit has been giving Peter a little trouble. It's been crashing randomly and loading incorrect levels. But just for him. I can't get it to crash at all and haven't run into any of these issues. This is a problem because I need it to crash for me so I can fix it. I added in a debug log to catch the error, which we had determined was in the map screen draw function, but now all the crashes happen in the score calculation instead. Hopefully we can get this fixed soon! Peter's really making a push on it and hopefully we'll be able to get a new demo out soon. The one that we still have up is incredibly old. I should probably boot it up and check out all the differences.

March to the Moon on the other hand is progressing well. I've been listening to SFXR make random sound effects until I find one I like and save it off to attach to something later. I'm using the random function because I don't really understand sound that well yet. I've been making progress on it and am getting to the point that I need to record some voice work. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Siphon Spirit Lives Again!

Okay okay, it just feels like there's not much going on in Siphon Spirit because it's mostly on Peter's shoulders now. But for the last week I've been adding in stuff and optimizing things so that it runs better. Peter got all the art done for the map screen and since it's animated where it wasn't before I needed to go in and make the animations work. Since I was already in there coding stuff I set up a profiler (to tell me what functions are taking the most time) and made some vital functions run faster. For the most part I'm happy with it, but we're going to need a few more tweaks before I'm really happy with it.

On the other hand we have March to the Moon. I spent most of my time on this cleaning up the controls and starting up with the audio. I don't have any actual music yet, so I'm just using Final Fantasy VI music as placeholder stuff so I can get a good feel for it. I'm also using a program called SFXR to get some basic sound effects and it seems pretty good.

I also need to do some code to load the songs in better (right now there's a bit of a delay) and figure out all the sound effects I'm going to need. I'm optimistic that I'll be able to hand it off to Dave to get the real music in about two weeks. Then it's right back to controllers. I still need to add some screens for PC gamers to modify which buttons or keys do what.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm through with being controlled!

Well, I almost am. I just got the code all in for the controls and have been getting some testing done. As expected, I had to make some fixes to the Xbox controller input. Now I just need to test the keyboard and the direct input controller.

But I'm sick of talking about controls. I've only been doing it for 10 hours codewise, but with me being sick then having a kid it feels like it's taken forever. Instead I want to talk about what happened at a family get-together recently.

I'd brought my laptop along because I wanted people to play it so I could see what needed work and what was good. I had totally forgotten that I still haven't balanced the enemies so it gets pretty hard around level 4. My youngest brother was a champ. Said he enjoyed the challenge from the difficulty and passed level 4. This is the level that no one but me beat at the last indie game night, and I had to grind more levels than he did. He said that he really enjoyed it.

Then I made my other younger brother play it. I was running late and my wife was expecting me to get home soon (she was watching the baby) but I thought it wouldn't hurt to have him play as well. I ended up being pretty late in the end because he didn't want to stop playing! Especially after I input the cheat for him that made his character level 73. He was having a great time firing off cannons and gatling guns at the enemy hoards. It was really great for me to be able to see people having fun playing it again. It made me excited all over again about it and that's always a good thing! Now I can put this control stuff behind me (for a while), touch up a couple of bugs I noticed and get into the audio.

I've also put some more time into Siphon Spirit recently. I've been doing my best to speed it up so that even my ancient laptop will be able to run it quickly. I've been making good progress on it and have more ideas about how to make it faster. Also, Peter's been updating more art! He's got animations for all the map nodes so it will be a little cooler to watch that happening.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Back to work!

Well, kinda. I've been going back to work for a few days now, but I'm driving for the most part so that I can get home earlier and help out at home. This means that my development time, which takes place almost solely during public transit, is very short.

That's not to say that I didn't get anything done in the hour or so that I had! I cleaned up the code for the direct input gamepad, making it easier for me to finish up the control master file. And I got it so that, in the code at least, I could set up key maps for the keyboard and a PC controller. Then I realized that the example code to see what input was what from the controller wasn't showing the actual offsets that I needed so I need to write one that will do what I need. I also realized that I need to add a value to the binding so that there is a difference between pressing up and pressing down on a joystick if the player wants to use the joystick for something other than direction.

Feels like I've spent about 1/4th of the development time working on just this extra thing for PC gamers. Hopefully it will pay off in the end.

Peter, on the other hand, has been working on more art for Siphon Spirit. He finished the first map of the game and it looks great.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Oh, baby!

It's a baby! The day after my last post the baby came and took over the place. As such I have gotten pretty much nothing done on the game except for a little bit when I had to get some winter tires and I was able to pull out my laptop while I was waiting. Basically I modified the new control schemes so I could use it for multiplayer games (which is what we're planning next).

Sorry for the short post. Once I'm taking public transit to work again I should have more time to work on it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Okay, I'm starting to feel better. And about time too, my wife should be having the baby any day now! I still need to touch up a few things in the PC controller section and make sure that everything works well, then I can start on the audio.

I'm considering giving the character a voice. He'd grunt when he gets hurt, make a comment at the end of a level, tell you when he's leveled up, warn you when he's low on health, and say something when a boss shows up. I'm pretty sure that I can pull the voice off. But just in case, I'm going to be trying to get all the sound effects done before I hand it over to Dave for the music. This is so that I can ask him to also do any sound effects that I find that I cannot do correctly by myself.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sick of being Sick

I've spent the last week feeling sick and tired, so I haven't done very much work on March to the Moon. I did get some work in on Siphon Spirit to update how Miranda's animations work now that Peter's got most of them done. We were rushing to get that in for Anime Banzai, which happened last Saturday. The Indie Game Development panel went fairly well. The projector really slowed down my computer though, bringing Siphon Spirit to a complete stop a few times. This really annoyed me and I determined to optimize it's running speed a bit. I did some research and found some things that should be useful. Now I just need to get the energy I need to actually implement it!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

DirectInput. Kind of a pain.

Well, I guess that wraps this post up. I've been working on getting a nice control scheme for DirectInput controllers for the PC and have been driving myself a little nuts trying to get it to work nicely. One of the major problems is that there are too many different types of controllers for me to just say "Okay, button 0 will be the accept key". Because for all I know the 0 button is the start button. This leads to the second problem. I need to allow the player to bind their keys however they want. Now, a DirectInput controller has a number of different input types. I need to make sure that if they are using a directional Point of View hat they can still move around or just count it as a single button press or tell how hard they are pushing and in what direction. This is a big pain and it's what I'm currently working on.

Peter's been working on getting the new start of the game finished as well as the rest of Miranda's animations. He's hoping to have that all finished in time for Anime Banzai this weekend.

Speaking of which, we're speaking at Anime Banzai this year! It's on this Saturday and we'll be speaking about making Indie games at 1:00. We'll also be showing off our games so come take a look! I'll also be talking at 5:00 about what it was like making My Japanese Coach for the Nintendo DS. Come by and listen if you're willing to hear me whine a lot :P

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Time to control things

Wow, has it only been a week? I'm actually rather impressed with myself! I managed to get all of the bugs fixed (that I know of, anyways) and added in everything that I wanted to for March to the Moon. I also revamped the controller so I could also use the keyboard. I'm pretty happy with what I ended up with. I should be able to just drop it in my future games and not have to worry about controls anymore. The really nice thing about it is that I can now just ask it if the player has input Accept rather than checking which buttons are pressed and also checking which keyboard keys have been pressed.

There is one important thing that I've learned about controllers though. Hopefully this won't bore anyone who isn't a programmer. PC controllers basically come in two types, XInput and DirectInput. XInput is what XNA and the XBox uses. All of the newer PC controllers use XInput. I was under the impression that XNA only supported XBox360 controllers, but when I plugged in my new Logitech controller this morning I was surprised to find that it worked without me needing to add in support for DirectInput. I was sorely tempted to just leave it at that, since all the new controllers should support it. However, a wise friend warned me that people would be unhappy about a game with controller support that didn't work with their controller. So I decided to take the plunge and support the older controllers as well.

Supporting the controllers will take a few days of development at the least. First to get it all set up and updating correctly, then to get it so it plays nicely with my control scheme. On the bright side, after getting the controls done I only have a few things more to do. Audio is a big one. I'm going to put in some basic music to be replaced and start getting some sound effects. I'm going to try and get all the sound effects in before I hand it off to Dave Matney (who will be doing the audio) so I can pick out which sound effects I just can't do correctly on my own. After the audio is in I'm going to play it all the way through, cleaning up problems that I find and basically getting the balance smoothed out. Lastly, I'm going to beta test.

So why not just beta test now? I've had that asked by a few people who want to play the game. The reason is that I know of a number of things that are wrong. If I sent the game out for people to play and it's too hard to get past level 4 I know what a ton of the feedback is going to be. It's not useful. But hey, it's not going to be too darn long from now that I start beta testing.

And I haven't forgotten Siphon Spirit either! Peter's been having a blast getting the rest of Miranda's animations done. I've seen the run cycle and it looks nice. It'll be a lot of fun seeing her running around the bottom of the screen.

Up to 162 hours now for March to the Moon. Keeping track because people have asked me how long I've been working on previous games and I really had no idea. Also, I am curious about what my 'hourly pay' will be when I finish.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mistakes were made....

So... I did it. I had added all the abilities, balanced them, added all the enemies, added 32 levels, and made sure there were no bugs. I did not, however, start a new game and play through for a while without cheating. You see, I'd balanced the abilities so that they were somewhat similar in terms of damage per second with MP cost factored in. So all the basic abilities, such as bow and arrow, fire bolt and rock blast all became weaker. This in turn caused some trouble as I hadn't lowered the enemy HP at all, making them pretty darn tough. This led to hardly anyone getting past level 4 and absolutely no one seeing any of the new enemies.


I did get some good feedback though and have made changes in the game to fit it. I also got a few write-ups that I want to share here.

Jay @ Rampant Games said
Curtis Mirci showed me the latest build of his shooter-with-RPG-elements, “March to the Moon,” which makes Frayed Knights seem like a downright somber game by comparison. It is still in mid-development and needs work, but I think I was in need of a nice, goofy, fun shooter. I really had fun playing it.

Frayed Knight is the game that he's been working on for four years and finally released. Check it out!

March to the Moon is a top-down shoot-em-up with abilities and experience, set in a bar where you kill lots of rats to start out with. Curtis has been working on the graphics and it looks good (you can wear a skirt and hats!), and he's been working on balancing the abilities so it should be possible to get past the fourth boss. He's planning to sell it on XBLA.

I was very surprised and pleased to hear that it looks very good. After working with Peter on Siphon Spirit it feels like my art is the equivalent of a monkey hitting rocks with a stick.

I got a brief look at the progress Curtis has made on his hybrid RPG and vertical shooter. He's been making "crazy" progress on it and he's nearly complete with everything. He's added a bunch more weapons, abilities, and art since I saw it last. Kudos to him for making some rapid progress on this. (Again I'm jealous.) Also I noticed that both Bryan and Curtis are making RPG/Shooter hybrids. Are they working together on something? Hmmmm?

Wait, someone else is making an RPG/Shooter hybrid in the same indie group!? Wish I'd have had a chance to see it while I was there...

Anyways, I got the work done, and that was the important part. I finished adding in the other 64 levels with updated dialogue, monsters that know more abilities and different endings. I spent some time playing the game more and found some bugs to fix so I've been working on those before I add anything new, like the secret unlock. I've also been working hard on getting the PC port to work nicely with the keyboard, and I just got it working tonight.

Currently at 154 hours. That's nearly a month of full-time work. I was planning on finishing this in a month of spare-time work. Guess I'm just not as fast as I thought I was....

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Normal difficulty levels finished!

Got a lot done in the last week! All the enemies have been drawn and animated. All the normal difficulty levels are in-game now. I was sick the last two days, but thanks to my decision to work nights instead of playing games I'm still going to have all that I wanted to show ready for Indie Game Night tomorrow!

To the right here we have Bob fighting off some Lightning Goblins and some Sword Goblins. He's running a Fire/Priest build for some destructive power and some healing and minions on the side.

He's not doing anything because it's hard to hold a controller and take a screenshot at the same time >_<.

Wish me luck at Indie Game Night!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Enemy art progressing.

So much drawing... wish I was better at it. Really though, I think the art style is fine and passable. At least it is for a $1 game. I've got another two acts worth of enemies drawn now, and will finish the last act this week. I'm getting Friday off for my birthday and I'm planning on taking the day to work on March to the Moon. Hopefully I'll be able to finish the enemy art and animations, the enemy movement and the backgrounds then. It should give me enough time to have everything ready for Indie Game Night coming up!

Siphon Spirit? Peter's on vacation :P

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Indie Game Night coming up!

Last time we had an indie game night I was late. This was apparently important because they're doing them every two months now instead of every three months. Here I was, fully planning to be finished with the game by the next time that we all met up and I'm not going to be able to make it. But I can still show stuff, right? There were only two available abilities at the time. Now there are 108. So I pulled out my ToDo list and estimated how much I could get done per day.

After careful consideration I determined that by the next indie game night I would be able to get the abilities balanced, clear up the bugs, create all the enemy abilities, draw and animate the remaining 28 enemies (that many? I'm going to use up all my art points!), get all the different enemy movements in, and draw all the rest of the backgrounds for the rest of the game.

I was feeling pretty happy about this, then I realized something terrible. NONE of those things would be visible at all because it's all new stuff for everything past the first act. So.... what now? I can't just work faster. That'd just make more bugs. I'd really like to get the other 24 levels in the normal difficulty finished, but how?

And so it came to pass that I did not play video games in the evening any more until indie game night or I was well ahead of schedule. Hopefully it will all pay off in the end!

Also, in Siphon Spirit land Peter got himself a tablet that he can use for drawing while on the bus. He says it is awesome and he's getting a lot done. Currently working on the animations of Miranda.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Abilities almost finished!

I now have 107 of the 108 player abilities done on March to the Moon. I almost had the last ability finished in time for this post but the lady who sat next to me on the bus wouldn't stop talking to me about the dragons that she was crocheting. The last ability is Potion of Chance, an alchemist ability that makes you use a random ability at the same level as Potion of Chance. Will you fire a gatling gun? Will you summon a dragon? Will you heal yourself? Who knows!

After I finish off that last ability I'm going to work out a few bugs that I've noticed while testing. Nothing major, and I should be able to finish them in a few days. After I'm finished with those I'm going to update the first act to make the levels a little more interesting and get rid of a tutorial that's pretty pointless now. Then it's on to balancing all those abilities. My hope is that each ability will be worth-while, so I need to make sure nothing is too weak or too strong.

All of that should be finished by the next post. In fact, I plan on starting on the enemy abilities before the next post.

But least anyone think that I've completely forgotten about Siphon Spirit, here's some more art! This one is the Purity spell. Once using it you are able to absorb energy from orbs larger than you. It's like a super-shield!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Orbs and Minions

In Siphon Spirit this week we've got some new orb art! For example, here is the old bomb art.

And here is the redone bomb art.

Siphon Spirit is becoming more nice looking all the time! On the other hand, we have March to the Moon. I got the summons and most of the minions put into the game this past week. Here's a shot of them in action!

Let's see, we've got a couple of golems throwing rocks and boulders, some wolves walking around damaging whatever they touch, some dragons that shoot fire blasts and using Fire Walk. Lastly there are a handful of Fire Wisps shooting off a ton of fire bolts.

I took a hint from Titan Quest on the summons. I played as a nature guy and had wolves and a sylvan nymph helping me out. Worked great until I got to the last guy who killed them all in one shot and I had to respec. That really sucked :( So all the minions in March to the Moon don't have HP. They just live off of time.

By next week I hope to have a big chunk of the abilities finished.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Beginning the Minions

Peter's hard at work on Siphon Spirit. He tells me that a little more than 2/3rds of the levels have been finished now and he's getting some more final artwork done.

As for March to the Moon, I finished the healing abilities and the stuff that you toss on the ground (like fire). I've just started setting up the minions and am getting the art done for them right now. Currently at 100 hours of development.

And yes, we have an image! Here we see our intrepid hero in the cellar fighting rats. He's quite a bit higher level than he should be. That's because I love cheating! Anyways, here he is showing off a few abilities from the Flame skill tree. He's just finished using Fire Walker to spread some flames around and has also just fired off a Fire Bolt which has been boosted with Fireball Split, allowing him to hit more enemies with it.

He can also boost the damage all of his fire attacks do by investing points in Fire Mastery. The bonus will also go to all his minions, so summoner might be a good secondary skill for a Flame primary as it will boost the attacks of the Fire Wisp and the Dragon.

By next week I should have all the minions done as well as all the boosts for minions (special summoner training, paladin leadership, etc.). If I'm lucky I'll get a few other groups of abilities done.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New Blog

We're officially moving! Our old blog is at It just seemed odd to keep posting to Darkened Dreams when we had no plans to continue working on it.

So here's an update. We are still working on Siphon Spirit. Peter is working hard on getting all the storyline in and get all the art as final instead of the temporary stuff he's got in there now. But as it is, there's not a whole lot for me to work on there. Rather than just relax (it turns out I'm not very good at that) I decided to start working on my own game. But wait, I can't have Peter do the art for me since he's busy working on Siphon Spirit. So I've decided to do the art myself and just make it a $1 game on XBox Live Indie Games.

It's a top-down shooter with RPG elements. You start out in the cellar of a tavern killing rats for the barmaid and through a series of events you end up fighting on the moon. As the character spends the whole time marching forward the game is titled March to the Moon. As I had a lot of people asking me how long I'd been working on Darkened Dreams and Siphon Spirit I decided to actually log my hours this time around. I've got 90 hours put into it so far, and the basics are all in.

In order to finish March to the Moon I need to get a few more things done yet. I need to get all of the abilities finished (108 total), create the rest of the enemies and all of their abilities, finish the level art and all of the levels (96 total) and get all the audio in.

I'll have some images up next post!