Monthly Archives: June 2014

Hi guys — just wanted to give a heads up that I won’t be allowing comments at this time. I want to remain focused on development until we get to the beta stage, and moderating/answering comments will likely distract too much. So while I’m happy a handful of you are especially psyched about the project, I’d prefer you reach me through email (see Contact page). (Or in the case of you, James, use good ‘ol Facebook)

I’ve been tackling small modeling tasks in Modo, a 3D modeling/animation program my artist likes. There’s a 15 day trial that I’m about half way through. I redesigned the “mound” that the beaver emerges from, which was originally just a brown sphere.

Mound Empty

Beaver with Mound

Then I moved on to building the new powerups system. I’ve presumed for some time that they would be a key source of entertainment and joy for the user, particularly for this game. You’re smashing the beavers “manually” for X amount of time, then you get to activate a powerup and enjoy taking them down in a more enjoyable way for Y amount of time.

A thought occurred to me to add a new dimension of strategy, I could have the powerups be collectable. Rather than hitting them when they appear with the effect immediately coming into play, they would animate toward a queue kept in the upper right hand corner. Whenever the player wanted to, they could drag the powerup queue button out, activating the powerup at the front of the queue. This has three pros and one con. Pros:

  • The player will feel greater control over the powerups leading them to feel the game has a higher skill-to-chance ratio.
  • There will likely be higher replay value at lower levels in order to stockpile powerups to move ahead.
  • Likewise, the player will have an additional dimension of difficulty in deciding whether to use powerups or save them in a difficult level.

Cons:

  • Activation of the powerups will obviously be more difficult given you have to go up to one end of the screen and drag to engage it.

While the graphics are just stand ins for now, the first three plugins are SlowMo (slows game to 1/2 speed), Autofire (holding down repeat taps), and Electrocute (zaps adjacent beavers to the one you tapped).

Powerups for SlowMo, Autofire and Electrocute

Powerups for SlowMo, Autofire and Electrocute

When I started the project a few years ago, it was well known that Unity was the king of 3D but had a poor 2D/GUI system. Thus, two competing libraries by third party vendors were getting the most use at that time: NGUI and Toolkit 2D. After some research, I threw my hat in with Toolkit 2D. Sure enough, NGUI ends up becoming the bigger powerhouse, but by then I was too far into TK2D to head back.

In the mean time, Unity continued to promise it would have a brand new, fully improved GUI system coming out in this release or that release. It never happened. Many developers felt like Charlie Brown constantly trying to kick Lucy’s football.

Which brings me around to the now imminent 4.6 release of Unity 3D. Indeed, it appears the new GUI overhaul is actually right around the corner. Not only did they provide this amazing 30 minute overview video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOX6itCuKOc , I’ve personally had a few friends who are in the beta test confirm it is well worth the wait. Which is important, because I’ve been more and more convinced I need to overhaul my GUI and I’d rather do it with something native if possible.

Yet, who knows for sure when the 4.6 release will truly be in hand? Right now they project it will be “summer” — which to me means “probably the very last week of this summer” at the earliest. (Have you ever had a company promise something within X to Y time frame and it was closer to X than to Y? Me neither.)

So alas, I’m going to try to focus on everything in my game minus the GUI for as long as I can. Hopefully the 4.6 will drop soon. I don’t want to be lying on the ground in the grass like Charlie Brown.

For the last two weeks I’ve been blazing through code, building new levels, setting up small tutorial animations, and updating the button graphics. The first half of this week I had to put on the business hat and get the branding material ready for this and the Facebook site for IronNinjaGames as well. When I put my programmer hat back on yesterday, I found myself staying up and programming until 9 in the morning.

While most of this development has been relatively trouble free, I did run into two new challenges: (1) overhauling the 2D graphics like buttons and text, and (2) changing the the way animation drives the game.

2D Overhaul

Current 2D button style

Current 2D button style

The 2D graphics were originally set up with a third party framework known as “2D Toolkit” and it has been generally nice to work with. However, I started using this way back when I was first learning Unity in 2011 and its 2D engine was fairly lackluster. Now I have it from a pretty good source that the just-about-to-be-released 2D engine for Unity is extremely easy and will probably be my new replacement.

Okay, that’s swell, but how long until the update is officially released? Are we talking weeks or months? Given how close my source said it was to being ready, I think I’ll take the chance it will be 1-2 months and cross my fingers. Hopefully I don’t have a future blog post that refers back to this one with regret!

Animation Events

Beaver in Modo

Beaver in Modo

The modeler for our game, Jason, has been sending over some great stuff. However, he works remotely and also has other commitments to bounce against. So in the case of the beaver animations used in the game, I may have to find a way to tweak them myself, which is why I’m trying out a new modeling/animation program called Modo. Jason uses it now and hopefully our work pipeline will go smoothly if I’m making use of it myself.

Once I have that mastered, I can have more of my game driven by “Animation Events” which will allow it look a lot smoother and tighter overall.

Today I start the development blog for the first title of our new company, Iron Ninja Games (see website you’re in).

The current plan for the company is to develop and submit three mobile games by July 1, 2015. These games will be made in succession, one after the other. Of course, if one hits big and requires a lot of additional attention, we’ll go ahead and tweak this plan along with the sportiness of our cars.

“The Beaver Game”

The first of the three projects will be a twitch game reminiscent of one you might have played at your birthday pizza party in Chuck E Cheese – but with a new twist. The goal is to protect trees from beavers that emerge from the ground to attack them. While it might seem a lot like whack-a-mole at first, the game quickly adds a ton of strategy and variety with many flavors of beavers, power ups, and objects you’ll want to avoid hitting by accident (like bombs).

This game actually has a bit of history to it. It was originally started several years ago when some friends and I were talking about making a whack-a-mole type game with a funny title (the title I’ll reveal at a later date), so I gave it a crack. It took a couple weeks to make in Flash as it was super simple, but other work got hectic and it was set aside.

Flash beaver game 2D (2011)

Flash beaver game 2D (2011)

A year later, I wanted to learn Unity 3D and decided to use that game idea to do it with. Then more work derailing, which led to more setting it aside.

First time programming in Unity3D — Game Play (2012)

First time programming in Unity3D — Game Play (2012)

Fast forward to last month, I unearthed the old game and decided it was pretty much 50% complete, so why not finish it and launch it as the first title? Simply get it to a place that is playable, submit to the App store, then get on with the next one, right? Not quite.

In the course of the last few weeks I realized many of the new features that will really carry the game to a new level, from a cartoon world saga map to fully rigged, beaver animations to multiple chapter locations and power ups. While the original plan was for this game to be the “easy one” that we could quickly launch and learn the mobile ropes with, it’s now changed to become a bigger push with vastly more development.

As of today, the game engine is several times better looking and enjoyable than the earlier prototypes. In fact, reviewing the images above now feels like thumbing through an old yearbook.

So what does the new game look like? Don’t worry, I’ll be posting plenty of media as I blog on development in the coming weeks/months. But for now, I don’t want to miss the chance for a pre-release broody teaser:

Coming soon...

Coming soon…