Mommy's Best Games, Inc. is an independent game developer founded in 2007. This is a view behind the scenes of our game development and marketing!


Friday, July 31, 2009

Must keep programming...

I'll be honest. There's a lot to do still before we submit Grapple Buggy to DBP. But that doesn't mean it all won't get done.

Somehow I'll find the will and the organizational umph to keep it all together. In the meantime, I'll let the lolcat get across my scattered state of mind.

How can a cat communicate human feelings so well? It's practically scary.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Picking the details

We are planning to submit Grapple Buggy to the Dream Build Play 2009 competition in August. Weapon of Choice won third place in last year's contest, so we're certainly hopeful of winning, but there's plenty of solid contenders already swirling about such as Elysian Tail: Dust and Duality ZF.

While Grapple Buggy is far from complete we'll be submitting a subsection of the final game. This will include a full story with multiple endings, lots of enemies and bosses, and all the Mommy's Best fixin's such disgusting aliens and their viscera.

There's only a few weeks left which presents some interesting polish(not Polish) challenges. On what details do we focus now and what do we decide to fix after the contest submission? Sure all these things will be made great by the time the game ships, but we have to sculpt an amazing game now.

One example came about recently between the TrailFly and the LoogeySnare, two examples of the xenofauna within the game. Both need some extra polish, but there won't be time to commit before the contest to address everything. The LoogeySnare is a 'flavor' enemy for later in the game. His attack is currently too powerful and needs some serious time to rebalance a fight with him.

The TrailFly is nearly ubiquitous enemy which inhabits all sorts of caves and passes on VALD-END 317. The work required to improve him centers around making him attack more often, making his attack more obvious, and then rebalancing his flocking behavior to counter-balance the new attack.

I generally consider how often the player will encounter the gameplay and how long it takes to implement as most important. Sure it's probably more fun and cooler to fix the LoogeySnare, but he's encountered much less frequently. The changes to the TrailFly will be seen by the player constantly, and the improvement, while small will cumulatively pay off the most.

When it comes to gameplay optimization and polish, if there's a timeline, I balance ease of implementation with the impact of the change. And I almost always pick how frequently the player encounters the change as the motivating factor when picking which details on which to focus for a deadline.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Layers and Layers

I wish there were a super fast viewer for Photoshop files. A nice portion of the world map for Grapple Buggy is shaping up and it'd be great to be able to make layers for it and have them quickly viewable. Honestly I don't know of a program like this, but I wish there were the ability to open a PSD file in a fast viewer (like IrfanView or Windows Picture Viewer), then page through the layers themselves, in a simple fashion like pressing the arrow keys up/down or something.
Sure programs like IrfanView can open a PSD and display it 'flattened', but the trick would be flipping through the layers. It'd be really nice to have monsters on layer, level actions on another, written notes on another layer, and the environmental surroundings on another layer, for example.

Photoshop is great to use and create the images, but for simply viewing it's expensive, slow loading, and not everyone has the program. Most PC users have those simple file viewing programs. Maybe that's the problem, those are too simple and I'm looking to do something complicated. Regardless it be great to use such a program with the rest of the Grapple Buggy team, sharing the world map with them and flipping through layers to see how the levels fit together.

In the meantime, do know that things are chugging along at a good clip, with plenty of game assets swirling about, being carefully put into place by knowing hands.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Three point one lives

I was scared to make the change to XNA Game Studio 3.1 merely because ... who knows what could happen? I've been waiting a while to upgrade just to make sure the kinks were worked out and thankfully everything went rather smoothly.

For those developers still waiting to upgrade from 3.0 to 3.1, the only issues I had were the following:
  • It asked that I uninstall 3.0. When I went to Add/Remove Programs it also showed I still had GS 2.0 installed. It never asked to uninstall that, and I never did... so I guess that's good? Uninstalling 3.0 requires a reboot.
  • As I installed 3.1, it 'got stuck' on installing Games for Live Redistributable stuff. I let it sit for about 10 minutes and the progress bar never moved. After that didn't work I started shutting stuff down via Task Manager. I then restarted the installation, and it jumped past that point. Everything seems to work, so again... I guess that's good.
  • At first I forgot to actually upgrade it since the 3.0 to 3.1 shift is not automatic--silly me! Here's the helpful article on that.
Other than that, it was very smooth and I'm glad its finished. It does take a little while... maybe 20 minutes total. Or 30. To wait through all the updating and installing and such.

After that I made sure Grapple Buggy still runs on the Xbox 360--and looky there--it does!

Okay, so this is my standard-def-test mega TV. It's huge, ugly, and blurry, but this helps me figure out what text is unreadable to us 'second class' TV viewers that haven't upgraded to HDTV. The faint red lines in the middle of the screen are actually debugging text for framerate, objects updating, and other programming stuffs. (But the orange-red, sausage thing to the right is really in the game and looks pretty interested in the buggy.)

Thankfully I have recently acquired a smallish HDTV to do further testing, so hopefully Grapple Buggy won't come out all stretched on rich bastard TVs like Weapon of Choice woefully did/does/dain.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Detailed Files

As work continues on Grapple Buggy, I thought I'd plop in a design for one of the levels. For those Weapon of Choice fans, the levels in Grapple Buggy will be quite different and much more in number than what we've done before. This particular level is sandwiched between others, and will be encountered as you're exploring later through the opening area of the game.

This is a technical illustration of the level, with the slightest pixel conveying intense meaning and intentional direction.
Okay, I'm kidding, it's a really loose sketch that serves to guide the construction of the level. The final level won't end up exactly like this so I'm trying not to spoil too much by showing it!

And finally say hello to a hearty bin of Grapple Buggy shirts on their way out to the lucky winners. Congrats shirt winners!