It has been a ridiculously long time between posts here, but I've had some pretty compelling reasons. For one, most of my non-academic writing has found a home on more public and higher-paying sites than this one. Another reason was that I was in the final throes of submitting my PhD thesis for examination, which is now officially on its way to my examiners. Finally, some job trouble for my wife did not allow me much time for fiddling with recreational game design. However, things have really turned around in the last few weeks, and so I'm back!
The first thing I had to do here was transfer all my assets and code to a new computer. I'm not terribly happy with how Game Maker has installed itself on this machine; the asset library is buried hideously deep in the invisible Roaming App Data folders in my user profile. Not ideal when you want to import a pre-existing sprite into a project. But so far its working.
The second thing I had to do was go over my design notes, which I'm thankful I kept. I still had to poke around quite a bit remembering how certain mechanics were written, where variables were set, that sort of thing. But surprisingly it didn't take me very long to get back into the swing.
So today I made a fair bit of progress on the first of the temples. I have implemented a number of mechanical obstacles, some of which you will probably be able to guess at by the screenshot I have included here.
I have the idea sketched out for the end of this little temple, but I'm just out of design and coding steam for the day. I might be able to crank out a bit more tomorrow, we'll see. For now, enjoy this little sneak peak.
So today I made the most progress towards what I will call a finished product thus far in the project. I've actually created the first (and second) rooms that should actually be playable by the time I'm finished! I am trying to decide just what I will say in these project diaries from here on out, because I don't want to reveal everything about my game before people can play it. That said, I'll sketch out a few things I accomplished today.
Firstly, while doing some planning on paper a few days back, a guide-like NPC came into existence. I hadn't planned on including him, but as I wrote more and more of the plan, I thought he would make a good framing device to help the player out, as well as explain a couple aspects of the game scenario. So he exists!
I've also implemented a few dialog/exposition methods. Actually that reminds me. I redesigned the interface around a "small panels floating over the gameworld" metaphor, rather than a large frame within which the gameworld appears as a window. So that worked out pretty well. I had a bit of help on that one, talking to a more experienced Game Maker user, so thanks for that! Ok, so having established a better user interface, I have a couple ways to send text messages to the player, and have implemented a couple of them.
My game now has a 'hub' room, which is where the player will access the four other rooms/areas of challenges. Following that, the very first part of the first temple is in place. I have a final puzzle set out in my mind for that temple, but need a couple other challenges and tasks, so that's what I'll be working on in the next day or two. Oh, did someone say spiders??
Just a quick one today since the only progress to report is a lack of progress. Recording the frustrations and setbacks I go through are, in my opinion, at least as important as recording the successes. I don't know who will read this, or when, but supposing I eventually come up with a complete game (which I'm pretty determined to do!) I don't want to give the impression it was an easy and straight-forward process. Maybe reading through the difficult patches will help my readers (whoever you are!) get through their own tough or frustrating times.
My troubles come in the form of the interface. I'm not sure how I should create an interface for the player in Game Maker. The logic of how Game Maker's design isn't immediately obvious to me at this point. I spent a couple hours drawing up measurements on graph paper and transferring them to Photoshop to create backgrounds. From there I took them into Game Maker, messing around with room sizes and views, but I'm just not happy with the results.
My first design was essentially leading me to create the interface as part of the room, just outside the area where the player can actually walk. That just didn't work right in my mind, and seems like it would be a real problem to replicate in rooms of various sizes. It also just felt wrong!
Following that, I'm questioning exactly what I need in the interface. Since I'm not intending to implement a full-blown inventory system, I don't really need the full 'backpack' sort of grid. I'd like to implement a way to represent what keys the player has picked up, for example, but that's not quite the same as a complete inventory system. So it's basically back to the drawing board today.
As you may have noticed, I don’t get time to work on this project every day. But that’s not a problem for me, I’m just hoping for some consistent, steady work and progress. I am further consolidating my idea as I go, and should probably place some milestone goals at some point, but it’s a bit hard to plan when I know so little about how long certain tasks take.
Today my progress was largely off-screen. That is, I made a lot of notes about the themes of the game, the overall structure and basic fiction that will give us some reason for playing. I won’t reproduce all those notes here, partly because that would be enormously tedious for me, and partly because I don’t want to spoil the little fiction that I am writing for this game before its even playable. Suffice it to say that there is a hub, with four ‘temples’ to explore/solve/complete, and a few new mechanics in each temple.
So, as for mechanical progress, I mainly implemented a torchlight system. I toyed around with a few different options. The first one I tried ended up being what I stuck with—using a huge dark sprite with a gradient-to-transparent circle centred on the player. That gives a great illusion of the player emitting light. I also created floor-mounted torches which will light up when the player touches them. Those I used the draw and blending functions to emit a soft yellow glow.
So, since that’s basically all the mechanical developments, I’m going to export an exe of the game as it stands now, and whoever is reading this can just play around in the room I’ve created. Just for reference: WASD to move one block at a time, left click on skeletons to destroy them, the rest is basically self-explanatory.
So I just tested this download link, and Chrome warned me that the file appears malicious. It isn't, really. I haven't created this RPG project as an elaborate ruse to distribute a virus to all my personal friends and blog readers.