Monday, July 30, 2012

Why am I writing this blog?

4 main reasons:

To solidify my thoughts.

I’m having trouble ironing out some of my systems/ideas and putting them down in blog posts is a way of getting them in order and to sort them out without actually having to do the huge step of actually putting them into the game and making them work. I find it’s also good to just write down your reasoning for your decision to be able to look at them from afar. I find this is even more important if you’re looking at them from more than a week or so’s time difference.

Improve my communication skill.

I don’t do much writing and if I am genuine in my desire to move away from the Just A Programmer thing I do need to improve my ability to communicate. Writing more is a very good way to do this and I’m hoping I can clearly communicate what I’m trying to do and why I’m making the decisions I make.


At the moment literally no one reads this blog. That’s cool. It’s not something I’ve put any time into and I don’t regard it as an avenue to get work or talk to clients. However if I am serious about trying to make an indie game and actually do something with it I need somewhere to talk about it and make announcements, etc. Once I decide on a name I’ll probably create a site, but it will link to this blog and this will be where the major info goes out. (unless at some point it’s not). I’m also going to have to start actually using my Twitter account, though I’m sceptical about whether I’ll have anything interesting to say.

I also think that if I’m even mildly successful there will be people interested in my creative process and thinking. One thing I’ve learnt is that no matter how bad your game is there will still be someone who thinks it’s amazing, gets obsessed and spends hours playing it. If this is you, ‘Hi!’.

To make it more difficult to quit, then skulk away

In a similar way that getting up in front of all your family and friends and proclaiming your love for someone makes it less likely you’ll split up when the going gets tough, I’m hoping writing a public account of what I’m doing will make it more difficult for me to just quit and go and do something else. This blog is like marrying my roguelike, even if to carry on the metaphor, at moment no one has shown up for my wedding and I’m going to have to pressgang/hire some people off of the street to be my witnesses.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What am I hoping to get out of it?

What I would love is that in the end I’ll have a great game that is good enough for me to be able to charge for on the app store/google play, and that will sell enough copies to justify me taking a few months out from contracting. I'd quite like to look into trying out some form of micro payments if I don't charge for the app, so some sale that way if I do this would be nice.

This may be unrealistic so I’d like at least to have a finished, decent game that works, and that I can put out on google play as a free download, and that it will interest a few people, and a flash version that will get some portal interest.

It’s important for me to get the mobile app version because this is an area I can see a lot of on-going growth, and an area I don’t have any experience in. I want something that I can show prospective clients that will make them think ‘this is someone who knows how to code and design for mobile’. The market for browser focused flash is still pretty good but the writing is on the wall and I realise I’m going to have to move onto something else. I've had a few recruiter ask for people with mobile experience, so hopefully getting some mobile stuff under my belt will help me get work. If I can see this through I'll definitely learn some new skills and get some better perspective on mobile/game design.

If it’s even mildly successful I’d like to leverage that to get more indie game work with less of the boring ‘pays the bill’ work I seem to end up doing so much work of these days. Maybe even some pure games design work. Wannabe games designer are 10 a penny, people with finished products under their belt are much rarer.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Why a roguelike?

Why am I making a Roguelike game, as opposed to some other type of game?
  • I really like roguelikes. This in itself is halfway to being a good enough reason to do one. 
  • I’ve wanted to do a roguelike for a long time. I have the beginnings of one that I started >5 years ago sitting on my computer so I don’ t have to start from scratch.
  • As I said I want to do something that will work on a mobile and a roguelike is ideally suited to playing on a mobile device since it’s turn based and therefore can be paused/restarted at any point. Since having a baby I've become a big fan of games that you can turn off immediately without losing any progress.
  • Roguelikes are generally very data/code heavy with minimal art and animation, and that means I can do most of it myself. I’m not bad at design and fairly decent at art but my core is the coding, and I’d like to think game design. This means I can concentrate on what I’m good at. I want to do it in Flash as an air for mobile app. Air seems to work pretty well even on low-mid range smart phones but it’s worth planning something that’s not going to be too graphically intensive.
  • There are several big communities of people making Roguelikes, so there are lots of resources I can access for help and in some situation for actually code for specific problems.
  • Roguelike have some really, really interesting decisions to make, and I have some of what I think are great and new ideas that I haven’t seen before in the genre. I think I have something to add.
  • There's lots of things you need to do for a roguelike that have use in other game types, so it will be nice to get a version working and to understand them. I think I'll learn a lot! Examples: pathfinding, level generation, line fo sight, ai.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What is a roguelike?

Wikipedia says ‘The roguelike is a sub-genre of role-playing video games, characterized by level randomization, permanent death, and turn-based movement. Most roguelikes feature ASCII graphics, with newer ones increasingly offering tile-based graphics. Games are typically dungeon crawls, with many monsters, items, and environmental features. Computer roguelikes usually employ the majority of the keyboard to facilitate interaction with items and the environment. The name of the genre comes from the 1980 game Rogue.’

There are Roguelikes in many different genres, from fantasy to sci-fi to crime and realism, though fantasy is by far the most common. I toyed with the idea of doing a space marine themed game, but in the end decided on fantasy, largely because I want to make a big deal out of magic and that makes more sense in a fantasy setting. I was also told that there is a bigger audience for fantasy than for sci-fi games.

Frequently all it takes is for a game to have one or two aspects for people to call it a roguelike. I’ve heard Terraria, The Binding of Isaac and Diablo called roguelikes because they  feature randomly generated levels with at least the the option of permadeath. I guess this would mean that my really old (AS1!) game Doomed could be considered a Roguelike since it plays like a low rent version of binding of Isaac.

My game Doomed has randomly generated levels, character progression and one life.
It's a Roguelike!

For me the critical aspects are the randomized, tile based levels, the turn based gameplay, the character progression and the permanent death. I’m not going to have asci art, though my art will be functional and it’s got to be entirely mouse driven, since it has to go on mobile which has no keyboard.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Roguelike indie project

I’m a flash developer with more than 10 years experience making web games and other rich web application type stuff. Previously I’ve been able to find time to create my own games in my spare time but in the last couple of years I’ve been too busy to do my own stuff, due to work/family commitment, plus also playing too many games when I do have free time.

This has meant that more and more I feel like I’m being defined by what I do for my job, and though I do get the occasional games project where I get to exercise some creativity I’m increasingly finding myself doing jobs where I am Just A Programmer. It’s kind of depressing, and also it leads onto more of the same dull technical work.

I know quite a few people who are doing indie games and it just seems much more interesting a fulfilling and long term I really, really want to move in that direction. I just need to find the time to do some of my own work and the mental toughness to turn down freelance work when it gets offered. As much as now may not be a good time, what with a new baby and the expense of living in London, I’m can't see when there ever will be a good time, short of winning the lottery, and I’ve been putting it off for years. I’m allowing myself to coast until my current contract finishes, trying to do some groundwork in my meagre spare time, then I’m hoping to take 1-2 months off to try to get something done, with more time allowed if what I’m doing is promising.

I’ve been weighing up which project to go forward with and I’ve decided to go with a Roguelike, specifically one tailored to mobile devices using Abode Air to publish it. I’m also planning on doing a cut down pure flash version for the web, mostly to try to drive traffic to the app versions.