Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Making Lemons Into Lemonade

Hi all. Thanks for following my musings. This edition is less about Power Up and more of an introspective on where I am in the real world, how this is impacting on Power Up and generally why I do what I do. It's a bit real and as usual it's a bit off the cuff. If you think you can hack it, let's get to it...

Notes from a back bedroom - This is how we indies roll.

So you know me as Mike, the guy behind Psychotic Psoftware. Here's a little more about me outside of that role. As you probably know, I work as a games artist. The last I heard, my official title is Lead Artist (though these days, I'm never sure they made that official) and I work for a small mobile games company just outside of Stoke-On-Trent. I'm on a bit below the UK national average wage and I'm told that this is because Stoke is one of the countrys poorer areas. Turns out there's not much games industry here and outside of my current employer my skills aren't in demand.

Workwise, I'm versatile with my art styles and pretty organised. When times are good, I'm leading a team of about 3 people in making multi resolution art for lots of games at the same time. This incorporates everything from 3D, pixel popping and vector art to claymation and covers everything from in game assets to UI, device icons and marketing materials.

When times are bad, the company lays off those other artists and I alone take on the majority of the workload, which I meticulously organise to have it done on deadline.

...When times are really bad, the company stops paying outsourced musicians and puts my composition and production skills to work too. It's understood that these extra skills come at no extra charge. Contrary to popular belief, there appears not to be a lot of money in the UK games industry. I've heard employers say that we're trading wealth and job security for the work that we love. and that's almost true...

Accepting this I continue to make the boss' game ideas. Mostly small casino, boardgame, card or puzzle games that I wouldn't usually play... That said, I'm informed by smarter people than myself that other people love the games!

These people must be right however, because despite the grind and the mounting list of Cons over Pros, these games pay my bills and keep a roof over my head...

This said, no matter how hard you try, there's no lying to yourself. Not really. And sometimes it takes people who love you to point out when something's really beginning to affect you.

Last year, my partner mentioned that without realising it, I had begun to think of my job, and indeed the current culture of the UK games industry in the manner that the victim of an abusive relationship does their partner. I raised arguments to the contrary, and accepting that there are fundamental differences she maintained the core of her argument suggesting that if I couldn't bring myself to leave the industry, I needed to rediscover my love for it and get some real pleasure back out of making games. After all, who's going to love my work if I don't?


What did I do about it?

Have a read of some of my previous posts and you'll hear all about the practicallities of how Power Up started life. The game was born out of a hobby that was previously just a spot of tinkering, but there was more to it than that. Something much more emotive, visceral and personal. As I progressed with it, it started it to fill a void in my professional work which I felt that small soulless social puzzle games with a failing emphasis on generating income had created in recent years.

I had become consumed by a sense of loss over all the great things that made up great games of my youth. Chip tunes in a warm cozy bedroom at the back of mum's house. Joysticks, rubber keys, tape decks, loading screens, the clunk of cartridges, drawing labels on my disks, the sounds of loading and the comraderie of my likeminded friends.

I can remember the way places smelled, the way rooms were lit. I remember four players around the Ninja Turtles machine in the GX superbowl when the cowabunga bug kicked in and we all got millions of lives. The awesomeness of Strider sprinting down the second level mountainside amidst rampant explosions and truly excellent musical score (still my favourite moment in all versions of that game), and the sheer dread I felt watching the spinning blade moving ever closer to the ninja's face in the gruesome and totally moving continue sequence on the Shadow Warriors machine!

Making Power Up unlocked something and this outpuring of reminiscences of the soul forced me to recall christmas at my mate Dan's house, when he unveiled his new Amiga and the intro to Bart versus the Space Mutants was the most incredible piece of animation we'd ever seen... Until we discovered Deluxe Paint of course. Then there was that feeling when me, my brother and the lads from down the road slept over and made a mission out of completing Kings Keep for the Spectrum. A wonderful game that now seems lost to living memory.

But it wasn't just the loss. It was the isolation.

None of the people in my life seemed to relate. Even the people who shared it only recalled shards of the video games experience. Almost all of the magic had faded in the mundanety of modern life and gaming values. My brother plays Fifa now. That's his games collection. Stacks of Fifa from previous years. I don't think Dan even plays anymore. Years ago he left his Amiga at my mum's. I think he gave it to me for the parts. ...Dan, your Amiga is here. It's in the same condition you left it in at my mums house and takes pride of place on the shelf next to mine. If you ever want it back man...

Yeah, yeah. So all this is totally a crisis of the loss of youth. Textbook! God knows I'll be nightmare when I hit 40 and the midlife thing kicks in properly.

The trouble with all this was that I felt like I was selling my skills and soul at below the national average! ...And every working day was becoming a reminder. I could only reconcile that for my worklife if I gave myself something back. Power Up has become my first real attempt to do just that.

For me, Power Up really is a labour of love. I come home from work spend a little time with my nearest and dearest, then two nights a week, retire to a little desk in the back bedroom of our half-renovated house and set to work. While I work, I'm totally absorbed by the evolutionary directions my game is taking and I'm dreaming that one day I might be able to find a niche market for people who like it and my future games.

Maybe it's people like myself, who grew up on the mechanics and principles of the 16-bit computer and console era and feel the real love for those games and memories that I do.

Maybe I can help to reawaken that love in those who've forgotten it like my old friends. That can only ba a good thing right? ...It's a nice feeling.

Maybe it's for people who love to share and invest in one person's journey in making all aspects of a game from start to finish, possibly with a view to even doing it themselves.

Maybe the gap I'm filling is just someone's desire for something homemade and rough around the edges. You know, a bit less commercial and a bit more human.

I haven't put my finger on it yet. I just know it's all come from a thirst to create something of myself, for myself, that makes me feel like I did in those halcyon childhood days.

(Incidentally, I'd love to know if there's anything that particualrly drew you to my work. I'm immensely greatful that it has and I'd like to try and do it more... whatever it is! :D)


Wouldya believe that while I work, I even allow myself to hope I might eventually build Psychotic Psoftware and the games I make under that name to be something of value. Providing stabillity for my family's future while bringing some of the best feelings and memories of my youth back for lots of people to experience with me.

These are high hopes indeed, but if you've been following me for any period of time, you've have probably gathered by now that I'm tenacious, multi-skilled and extremely hard working. Family asside, there's nothing I love more than the recapturing and sharing the magic I felt through my early experiences with computer/video games.

With all that in mind, Power Up is looking quite promising, and at least I have a relatively rewarding day job to pay the bills while I work on it, eh.


Er... No!!

So as of new year's day, I'm unemployed.

Yep. You read that right. I got the official word early November. After six and a half years of steady employment, the cash ran drier than ever for the games company I work for and the rug was pulled on the Art Department (me). I'm not surprised. a few months earlier, my workload had been increased to get a few projects done in advance of the programmers so I was half expecting it eventually... saaay, Spring or Summer 2013?... Not this soon!

The whole thing stirred up quite a storm of emotional memories for me... and totally oposite to the warm, fuzzy sort we just discussed.

I experienced my first redundancy back in 2002. "No problem" I thought, I was living at mum's with no dependants so with very little experience, I had a go at starting a new games company with a former colleague. I won't go into the details but after four years, it failed spectacularly to pay off and ultimately, I was dropped for more experienced artists with specific skills in their field. Quite right from a business standpoint, though the company continued to decline and eventually went under.

It took a lot of pulling myself together to get over the trials of that company. It introduced me to my first taste of accute anxiety disorder and all the chemical fun that comes with it. Looking back as a more mature and level headded adult, it's a mindset I'll never allow myself to return to, but by the same token I'll probably never quite be able to fully leave it behind. Those scars run pretty deep.

I've fixed a lot of the damage I caused myself back then. Quitting my 40-a-day smoking habbit was one of my little victories. Getting off the Xanax and finding the perseverance to get another job was another. Not to mention working extremely hard to become invaluable within that role.

When these last guys made me redundant, they had to close the art department to do it... which speaks highly to my self esteem.

But enough about how this stuff effects my fragile ego.


Let's not forget there's a mortgage to pay here.

So, to business... previously, I'd hoped that Power Up might actually make me some money. with luck, eventually I'd be able to sustain myself from my games. But I'm not ready!

Power Up is not ready!

Like I said, the real issue is that I wasn't expecting this redundancy thing quite so soon! I was planning to release Power Up in the Spring. Here in the UK, that's somewhere between March 1st and May 31st. Quite a decent window really.

However, to do that, I was accounting for three months of QA time. Having never submitted to the AppHub and having heard horror stories of developers waiting for weeks to get their much-needed feedback, I decided that three months would cover that. Of course, to give myself three months would mean making my submission in early January to get the game out in early March.

While we're talking dates, I should probably point out that as my employer had my services for 6 and a half years, I'm entitled to statuatory redundancy pay of 6 weeks at a capped ammount that ultimately comes out just slightly over my monthly salary. That's due to be paid at the end of January and will cover our mortgage for the start of February.

What I'm trying to say is this. If I don't have a job or source of income by the end of February, we can't pay our mortgage for the beginning of March and these uncertain times become just scary!

So there's the reality of the situation. Now you know.


So what the heck am I doing about it?

Now that I'm out of work on garden leave I was hoping I could just get stuck into Power Up... maybe even have it out early, but things are never that simple. There's a few things on my to do list alongside the game and I wish I could give them a lower priority. To give you guys a taste into the real life problems of this one man indie game developer, I'll share the brunt of it with you.

1. - get the office job-ready.

A bigger chore than it seems. But if I want to be organised and doing 8 hour days to get through this to-do list, I've got to have a decent space to work in. While I've cleaned out a bit of this back bedroom, I'm still surrounded by the debris of a house under renovation. 8 hours a week is ok but 8 hours a day in here would drive me stir crazy! Luckily, when we bought this house, the clincher was that it came ready equipped with a seperate office built onto the back. For the last few months it, and the garage have been out of action due to the sheer volume of storage in there. I'm currently in the middle of the clearance. So far I've made nine trips to the tip and the next pile to-go is building up.

I might be able to fit the rest of this job in around Power Up work but I'll need at least tomorrow to make the office ready to use.

Even Topsy says "Hey Dad. Let's ditch this joint and get a proper office."


2. - Apply for jobs.

If I do manage to get Power Up out early, there's still only a minute lottery-win chance that it'll take off and make me the sort of money I need for my continued existence. I will need to work. I'm thinking of this as a chance to renew my acquaintance with the games industry.

That said, I have to figure out why I'm so at odds with it. I came of age at a time when video games were transitioning from 2D to 3D. Drawing skills were replaced with modelling skills while UK colleges and universities were behind the times, providing no courses in anything video game related to my generation. To get into games, I had to teach myself what I needed to know, and there are rather a lot of sub-trades. I'm a jack of many of these. I'm a master of none! In an industry favouring expertise in very specific skillsets, perhaps there's a company out there that needs my self taught, rounded set of skills.

With that in mind I've been applying for a job a day. As my daily feed of industry sites brings in jobs for the day, I'm choosing the one closest to my skills and having a crack at it. I won't lie though. I'm not particularly confident. I'm keeping notes and having sent off 49 applications to date, the ammount of interviews I've been offered is zero. Still, Rome wasn't built in a day. It was my tenacity that earned me my last job and my hard work that kept it. I'll continue to do my best here.

Add to this section of the list a much needed update to my portfolio website and showreel, and we've added another 3 days of work to my to-do list.


3. - Have something else going on.

My family have all put their ten pence worth in on what I should do next and they're all in agreement that I really need to have more than just this Psychotic thing on the go in case I can't get another job before the money runs out.

As it happens, this summer we went away for a week. We left our cats with a catsitter. you know, someone who comes in once a day to feed your animals and generally check that you haven't been burgled. She did a great job so we got her a card to say thanks. In it, I drew a little cartoon of our cats saying "fank you". Then I forgot all about it.

A few weeks later, the lady contacted me, asking if I would do her a logo for her dog walking, pet sitting service. I looked into prices and found there might be a good, if irregular living to be made in designing vector art for small companies. I did the logo and she loves it. Every now and then, my artwork comes zooming by on her van and that's a kick, I can tell you.

Anyway, the family are determined that I should go at that. I'm not sure where to start or how long starting that up would take out of precious Power Up time, but it's there on my to do list.

(Again, if any of you guys have had experience in that sort of thing, I'd love to hear about it).


4. Keep my promise and get Power Up ready for a new year submission!!

I've been on garden leave for a week now. That basically means I'm at home, doing my own thing but still on call if the company need me. I spent that week lifting, dragging, breaking, tipping everything I could remove from our home and office to get my workspace organized.

The whole time I was thinking of what I could have been doing on Power Up and how long I'd have to allocate to each task. The flu bug I caught on Thursday is still slowing me down but the job is almost done. Hopefully, this blog is one of the last little tasks I'll be doing in this back bedroom. My next port of call tomorrow is to move this one horse operation out of the house and into Psychotic HQ.

Once there I'll be clearing up the above to-to list into a set of achieveable tasks and dates.
I will have the game submitted in the new year... Just now that real life has taken priority, by new year I mean sometime in January.


Thanks for sticking with me guys. I won't let you down and allow these troubles to stand in the way of progress on the game. I'll continue to do my best by my family and by you. Power Up will get every free time hour I can spare from my incessent hunt for work. Maybe a job will turn up and all the worry will be over nothing. In the meantime, I'll endeavour to maintain a sunny disposition and in the words of my favourite self-redeeming antihero, the Count of Monte Cristo:

...we wait, and hope.


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Power Up - Halfway There!

I was playing about with possible subject matter for this next blog installment, when it occurred to me that I'd better stick everything else on hold and take a moment to appreciate the fact that somewhere in the last few weeks, I probably hit the half-way point in my Power Up project.

I've decided to take this opprtunity to have a look around and consider what I've done, what I've got to do, what I probably should have done and what I'll take with me for whatever I work on next. That's the plan anyway, so here goes...


Looking back: (Waaaay Back)

Let's go back to last November (it's 2012, at the time of writing). There I was, sat at this very computer, feeling more than a little dejected considering I'd wasted quite a lot of time having made a series of Shockwave games which were now sat on various websites, waiting for people to play them... and waiting, and waiting.

My abillity to get the word out about these games seemed to be sub-optimal at best and any advertising income I'd made from the games was constantly below the line of what I needed to make to actually claim the cash (somewhere around $5, US). Ultimately, I was looking at a collection of games that constisuted a good 5 years of my spare time and had gained me precisely zero returns. "If I ever get stuck without a day-job and need to support myself, this games thing is probably not the best way to make a living" I thought.

Yeah, so some of the games could do with an audio/visual overhaul here and there, but generally they were pretty good work... So what was I doing wrong? Time for a head-scratch and a spot of re-evaluation...

Some of the Psychotic games the world never saw. Still, these were a great source of experience and inspiration to draw from.

As I've mentioned before, my coder-friend's words were ringing in my ears "These are good games. you should re-make them for xbox live. It's not as hard as you think it is." (Yeah, so I paraphrased that, but you get the idea, right?). As those of you who've been keeping up with my recent interviews with various websites will know, since 1999, I was using Director to create Shockwave games. As the format died out, interest dwindled and eventually I found myself at the point where people were simply unwilling to download the Shockwave player to even look at my games. Reason enough to move on, I supposed. Xbox games don't have any such problems. There's also  generally only one outlet for them so it should be much harder to get swallowed up in an infinite mass of other games online. I tentatively got the Visual Studio software I needed, ordered the usb pad, hunted down some promising looking tutorials, and had a crack at it. And do you know what?... It wasn't as hard as I thought it was!

It turns out, those wasted years of Shockwave coding weren't so wasted once I altered my perspective a little. Yes, the developing environment of C# and XNA was much less visual. Gone were the timelines and cast libraries, and the code was much less intuitive. The little nuances were much trickier to commit to memory and though I'm ashamed to admit it, there were points at which I found myself sitting, forhead on the desk, seconds away from giving in. But I didn't! And that's all that matters really. Once I got the momentum going, it was much the same process that I knew and loved in Director, except that now my art, sound and music were a little better and I was coding in a big boy (and girl) language!

But this we know. (Those last couple of paragraphs were for the benefit of those who missed the interviews). Let's have a closer look at Power Up's development process and progress between January - when I committed to the project, and today.

Developing Power Up was an organic, shifting process and was always intended as such. I had no intention of inflicting it on any other artists, musicians, developers or designers. Only I was to be held accountable for the state of it. If it went off the rails into chaos half way through, it was my problem and I could start again.

As it happens, I seem to be holding the project together adequately enough so here's a little brainstorm of where I started and where it's got me so far...


Looking Back: (Not so way back)

*So first up, I had this tutorial thing. I followed it to the letter and had reproduced a simple game in which you can use the left xbox thumbstick to move a spaceship, which auto-fires while baddies fly from right to left and run an animation against a paralaxing background. That was litterally it, but it contained the core of what I wanted to do. The rest was up to me.

*Once I'd figured out how to attach shooting to a pad-button, a change of graphics was next up. I simply couldn't get the darned player ship to do animations so after a week fighting with that, I gave in and moved on. It just doesnt do to dwell on one thing too long. I decided I'd figure it out before the project was done and left the ship with it's first frame of 2D animation, "fly straight".

* Next, I altered the tutorial's baddies. As they were moving in a straight line from right to left, then removing themselves from existence upon leaving the screen to save memory, I decided that these would constitute the basic non-inteligent hazzard type enemies. Soon, I had 5 kinds of these, drawing them as rotating pieces of space debris which moved at different speeds toward the player and required different ammounts of shots to destroy.

the basic ship and bits of rotating debris... it all starts here!

* It was at this point that my thoughts went toward quantizing these things. This came in the form of giving the enemies/hazzards an ammount of energy while the player's laser/bullet had an ammount of damage that it does. For example, if the hazzard's energy is, say "8" and the player's bullet is "5", then two shots would kill the hazzard. I figured that this would support the whole power up system in my game, and as I was basically re-making my little demo game from years back (see earlier blog post), there WOULD be power ups! I would just have to figure that out. As for the player, it was to be a one-hit-death and that was final! Sometimes, you just have to make a decision and call it time saved. Adding player energy brought too many unknown factors to the upcoming game-balance phases and besides, one-hit-death is a simple rule, easy to grasp and adds to the impact of the enemy attacks.

*But first, I wanted to play with the bits of space debris I'd made and start to give the game a little exposition... The beginnings of a backstory crept in.

Adding some story through text and character pictures. Most important here was to make it all clearly skippable!

Winging it, my thought process went something like this: "So, you start in debris because it's easy to dodge, doesn't shoot and is a good way of warming the player up for the game to come... not to mention warming my programming up. Ok, how about this: Your mother ship has just been destroyed and you're the last survivor. Obviously, you're in the ultimate space fighter. You've just got to power it up to see what it can do...".
The destruction of the mother ship was the catalyst. I realised I'd need a sequence that comes before the debris and decided that a little opening segment with dialogue and character faces would do the trick, you know. RPG style.

As I didn't have a voice actor budget and this sort of stuff was a bit beyond my remit, I made do with text boxes... skippable text boxes..... VERY skippable text boxes... VERY skippable everything that wasn't fun shoot-em-up action, actually. With every itteration, the opening sequence became more elaborate, but also more skippable. "Y" would skip a character's line of dialogue while "Start" would skip straight to the action. These kinds of decisions can only be properly made by playing and replaying bits of your game until you'tre sick of the sight of them. It's the closest you as the developer can get to putting yourself in the place of the player is to remove the affection you have through the weeks of work you put in and replace that with an urge to just get on with it.

Working backward from the scrap of game I'd made: Here's a moment from the haunting intro story text.

*Soon, I'd inadvertently made a system for moving from one section of my game to another by just numbering them, a bit like chapters. I know there's a name for this but I don't seem to have retained it yet. Oh well. I'm sure I will and there's plenty of time for that later. As long as the concept's there, then I'm satisfied. The intro sequence spread to a big scrolly text opening, a bit like Star Wars, but in the form of the last message SOS from the mothership. Working back further still, I created the basics of the front end, complete with buttons, (though to this day only the start game button actually works. The rest is TO-DO garnish).

Getting stuck into the front end, I got the title screen to look something like this.It still needs polish but it's a start.

Then I got my head around the coding technicalities of adding music tracks and video sequences for my Psychotic Psoftware company logo. So far, so good... But hang on. I'd gotten so wrapped up in this front end lark that I'd been completely neglecting the game.

* To familiarise myself with the game once more, I drew out a load of bullet types, from straight shot lasers of varying sizes to one very strange and ambitious bullet which was to circle the player like a shield, moving outward until it faded. (This was replaced quickly with the much more realistic short-range, weak, but fast repeating plasma cannon).

Sketching out the bullet ideas. Some of these were more feasible than others... 

Using those health and damage values, I spent weeks drawing, redrawing, tweaking and retweaking the player bullets until I had 5 different types of gun, each with 10 different levels of power. 50 power-ups in total. Seemed pretty reasonable for a first go at a power-up based game. I also realised that once I'd mastered these guns and tightened up the buttons for shooting and swapping between them, I'd have the whole basic mechanics of the player in place early on.

Developing some of the player weapon types. The side shot, pictured, is particularly effective for clearing attackers from above and below.

* Next was the power ups. These were basically variants of the baddies. They moved from right to left, though seemed a little static, moving in a straight  line as they did. I couldn't get my rubbish code to make them float. Again, I promised myself I'd figure this out later and made them wobble in animation. The downside to this was that the collision box wouldn't move with them as all the frames were the same size... However, the upside here was that this was a pick up. As such, it needed to be very pickup-able. I left that bounding box nice and big and it didn't seem to matter that the game was being a little generous with the beneficial stuff. Nice trick! Then again, I wouldn't want that to happen with floaty baddies later on. I made a mental note to suss this in code and moved on.

*So, power ups - check! bullets and speed ups - check! Time for some more baddies. It was about here that I realised I was losing unnecessarry days to attempting to draw these spaceships at various angles of rotation in 2D. This really was sub-optimal... and besides, I'd recently learned a fairly compitent level of 3D and was pretty sure I could make these ships as models. If I was working in 4 hour evening stints, roughtly 2-a-week with the odd hour thrown in here and there when I could get them, I decided that 8 hours per new baddie ship-type should be ok. that includes design (both visual and functional), modelling, texturing, rendering, post production and basic coding. I'd generally allow a bit more time for tweaking later, but even so, this gave me very little time for messing about. I didn't do much maths on this but estimated that I'd realistically be able to add 3 to 4 new types of enemy space ship per level in a game of 5 levels. This way, I might see a release of the game this side of my retirement!!

One of the baddies mid process: This is the textured model of the MISCraft. From here it goes on to be rendered in situ, having dirt and detail added by hand before going into the game.

* So far, it seemed a winning plan. For every baddie type I created, I decided I would later add a Red version of it further into the game. The Red version would simply be a retweak of the original baddie with some extra danger. Some would move faster, some would shoot at a higher rate, some might fly at the player, sneak up from behind, shoot homing missiles, you get the idea. In a nutshell, the Red baddie was to be an evolution of the original baddie and should be achieveable in a 4 hour stint rather than 8-12 hours. Suddenly productivity increased and I was able to add new scenarios with varying combinations of baddies which demanded the use of different player weapons! Mint! ...I even sussed that baddie wobble thing and got my head around the update method that was stopping my player ship from animating.

*I was testing as I went, populating the game with enemies, balancing the power of the players weapons with the types of atack waves which the player would encounter. Obviously, I wanted to encourege a balanced power-up of all weapons, but I was determined to leave that choice to the player. (Risky I know, but there it is. Future balance passes will have to make this work properly).

The MISCraft, as seen in game. All nice and post-produced.

*As I reached the end of the first level, I laft a gap in the code for a level boss and had the game skip it for now, knowing that I'd come back later and fill it in with "The Cleaner", a ship I designed on paper and in theory. The intention was to come back around to bosses when I've learned more about enemy AI from coding in all the grunts, intermediate enemies, and finally the elite guard toward the end of the game. This way, I could take some of the finer features, attack patterns, bullet types, etc that I'd learned along the way and make something special of the bosses in a second pass.

* Was also designing level environments as I went. Basically, I'd started with a list of 10 levels, which I whittled down to 5 as I began to realise the enormity of what I'd bitten off. I decided that these 5 locations would tell the story adequately while giving the game the right variations in colour and setting. As well as making sure that my paralax layers and affects all worked well enough within my time constraints, I soon learned that the most important thing in a shooter of this genre was to be explicit with the visibility of bullets against these background colours. Adding flashes and getting the speed and size of the bullets was essential here, as was making their collision suitably small to ensure fair deaths on contact. While other coders had made some brilliant alternative collision suggestions, I realised that my basic box collision would work with a little latteral thinking atound the size of the boxes. The real enemy was time. Square collision it would have to be!

Testing the Alien city - a predominantly green level, for its compatibility with the player's green lasers.

*Back to the bosses, while I wasn't adding yet, I knew I'd have to be conceptualising early on. I wanted to introduce something different with each boss. The Cleaner is basically a massive garbage craft designed for chewing up enemy debris after the extermination operation. It also comes equipped with some of the weapons you've encountered on Level 1, just bigger and tougher.

Level 2 would pit you against Orbital Defence-01, a great big flying mech which defends the enemy planet. (basically, yeah, as you've probably gathered by this point, the story of the game is a revenge mission. Those pesky lizards destroyed mother earth and all her escape vessels so you, the last human are taking a can of whoop-ass back to them).

Level 3 progresses into the desert world of the enemy planet, at the end of which you take on The Worm, a giant mechanised, subterranian, flying er, worm.... but a welcome shift in visual motif from the previous levels.

Level 4 throws you into battle with The Walker, a great big pod on legs that chases you through the alien metropolis while unleashing hell from behind!

As for the final level, well........ That would be telling. If you get good enough, you'll find out.

You can see all of the boss sketches on my twitter feed if you look through my images there. No doubt they'll also turn up in other places on the internet as time passes. Seek them out. They're quite fun and give you a good idea of what I have in mind. I'll let you be the judge of how well I pulled them off a bit further down the line.

My sketch for The Walker. As you can see, there's a little information on how I realistically intend to break this up and make it work. Hopefully, my coding skills at this stage are up to it.

*I'm adding the sound in batches as I go, making lists and leaving plenty of gaps for later passes.
Usually the sound effects start with orchestral instruments, which I then distort to within an inch of their lives. I bought a pack a while back and they've proved surprisingly versatile, especially percussion. A pitch-shifted triangle with reverse echo makes for a great laser sound while cymbal combinations with chorus make the basis for great explosions.

*With the music... Well, when I come up with a suitable melody for that, I hum it into my iPhone audio recorder for later reference in production. The lack of in game music is my main reason for ot releasing anything that moves as of yet. (I also might have to price up some decent video capture software).

Music is a major sub-project in itself but at this point I have put some basic musical undercurrents into the game here and there just to make sure I can. I will, in fact, be making a start on the music proper soon, so stay tuned and you might soon be reading a blog on it, not to mention hearing some!

Which pretty much leads us to where we are now...


Looking Forward:

I'm still hellbent on getting Power Up submitted in the new year and hopeful that it'll get through the process by spring. If it doesn't, I can only appologise and keep pushing forward but lets wait and see eh. I know you guys will stick by me regardless and I appreciate that a great deal so I'll be giving it my best shot. To keep you in the loop, here's a bit of what I'll be getting myself into between now and then, in no particular order...

*Music! A big part of the plan. Each level is to have it's own track and at present there'll be a boss theme and a final boss theme. The front end will also have something all moody and haunting, but in keeping. A while ago, I did a game soundtrack with techno and orchestral score, topped off with a spot of theramine. I'm thinking something similar, but this time I'm tempted to crack out my guitar and my big Marshall amp to throw in a little industrial edge. Like I said, melodies are taking form, though like Mozart, at present they're mostly in my noodle... Did I just compare myself to Mozart??... well, the 1980's movie Mozart, at least. There'll also be a few musical stabs and bridges between events to work out. Half of the game's charm is in how I cut things together. I think I can do a bit better than start level, play music. We'll have to just wait and see. Either way, I'm giving it a lot of care and thought and hoping to put in a couple of additional week ends here and get through the full, consistent soundtrack in a couple of weeks.

*Complete the first pass! This basically means get all the baddies into the game from level 1 to 5, making sure that the difficulty roughly ramps up as I go, as do the player's opportunitites to power-up their weapons. This is really the biggest individual job of all as it consists of coding in the real meat of the game, it's enemies AI and how the player and our many bullets interract with them. I'm midway through level 4 of 5 at the moment and will only be pausing for the music task... well, you do want some video footage, right?

*Second pass.This will partly be to balance the baddies and weapons again, but will aslo be for adding cutscenes, dialogue, and pretty much anything else I've got in mind. I'll generally be re-using game art here but might be adding some end of level warp effects, etc. Again, we'll see. Also, I'll be adding in the dialogue pictures for all required baddies and a maybe a couple of goodies too. This is 2D art and each character will probably take a 4 hour evening or-so to get right. I'll find a few more hours here if I have to.
This pass might finally include the addition of a few simple baddie craft that I have in mind, here and there to help solidify the action a bit. I hope to finetune the balance of furious action with moments that allow the player to breathe and compose themselves too. Relentlessness does not a good game make.

*Boss pass. This is pretty much where I take all those boss ideas, tidy up around them and make them actually happen. I'm hoping for about a week-per boss, with a week or so to clean them all up, making for something like a 6-week boss process in total.

*Additionally, there's a load of small but important jobs to fit in. Drawing up the last level, the ending sequence/s, running through a Game Over sequence to the front end, getting all those Front end buttons working, not to mention the vast ammounts of sparkles, flashbangs, background animation and general garnish I'm planning on adding into the game. There may well be the mandatory screen-clearing Special weapon for arkward tight spots too. I've coded in the pick up. A couple of nights' work and I'm sure I can have a screen-clearing explosion working!

* Then there's marketing materials, high res images, videos, logos, even icons if I follow through and actually make a Windows version. I know some of you would like to see that and I think I'm just a bit of research away from making it a reality. Other post production stuff includes the actual, infamous xbox submission process. This is something I'm going into blind. If I get incredibly lucky, people will jump in, test it, come back with a few quck fix bugs and BOOM! Game's out!... Meanwhile, back in the real world, even three months for this might be optimistic. I mean, how the heck do I even do a demo mode?? Complications are going to become prominent around this phase. Once again, we wait and see... and most importantly, LEARN from it all so that the next game will be slicker and better.


To Conclude: (Quite quickly, cause let's face it, I've gone on a bit).

I realise I haven't covered all of the stuff I wanted to.

With regards to things I should/shouldn't have done or did stupidly wrong overall, well that might have to be a blog post all of its own and one for another day.

With regards to the subject of where my experience with Power Up will take me in my future games, that's definitely a post for another day but there's no shortage of ideas there.

This rundown of things I've done and things to do seems to have been written as more of a stream of consciousness rather than an ordered, organised plan. I'd like to think that it has some value though as an insight into the constant chattering and buzzing of my developer's mind on the subject of my first little xblig project... Don't worry though, As the jobs become more immediate they tend to become clearer and the immediate schedule becomes quite ordered.

In short, I remain confident. Nieve, but confident.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Power Up - Discoveries in Collision

When I started Power Up, one of the scariest aspects of it was collision detection. I was only too aware that as a fairly fast paced shooter, any problems with collision would particularly damage the game.

As mentioned in earlier posts, everything I had made proviously, I had made in Director and was exported as Shockwave files or little Windows .exes. With collision, Director allowed me to essentially just use a mask of the image in question as collision. Basically, when two sets of pixels intersected they would act accordingly. (I click the box... Director does the rest. Nice). It took me a few games to figure this out though so at first I was limited to basic box collision. Having experienced that first hand, I really know how non-ideal it is.

Basic Box-Collision Nightmares!! These sprites from my first self-made game, "Diz" (circa: 1998-99) were a lesson in character design for bad box collision!

Box collision is basically just that. A big bounding box which surrounds the image and dictates whether or not it collided with something. Sounds fairly simple and effective eh. Well it is certianly simple... and that's really the problem.
From my point of view, with simple bounding box collision you've got your pros and cons. Pro: It's simple, dealing with 4 points and the straight lines between them. This, I'm told (by real programmers), makes it easier on the processor. Cons: if the sprite is not a perfect square/rectangle, there's bound to be some empty space in the image that acts like it collided. (usually the corners).

This is a biggie! While I could accept my early games looking ropey in the collision department, I needed to find an alternative.


Recently, a much better suggestion was made. "Bitmap masking". This is basically the same as what Director offered all those years ago. Trouble is, XNA has no "masking on" button for your sprites and I must have missed the tutorial. Now I have half a game with far too many baddies comitted to it for me to just bulldose through them all completely changing the collision type... I've got to learn it first too. All of that would heavily effect my estimated release of "Early-2013" which I've already pushed back, cramming all that needs to be done between now and then.

Nope. The sensible thing to do first was to look at the code I was already using, to become much more familiar with it and to figure out if/where it was perhaps a little more versatile than I first assumed it would be.
Without boring you with code snippets, I found it was actually quite versatile. By applying a little of what I'd recently learned about c#/xna syntax, I was able to make a few generalised adjustments to the collision rectangles.

Originally, the collision rectangles were set to the width and height of the sprite in question, placing their hot-spot at 0,0 (their top left) or at the centre of the sprite. (depending on what messes I'd previously left while learning).

What we currently had was box-collision around the edges of all the sprites. The usual corner-collision problems would ensue unless I thought of something...

Basic Box-Collision (mock-up): See how the boxes surround the whole image, and in some cases, the whole animation? Just look at all that horrible, collideable empty space.

Basically, by consistently placing the centre of the rectangle at the centre of the sprite (width/2, height/2), I could then reduce the rectangle somewhat. Whether this was to pull say, 10 pixels off the height and 20 pixels off the width, or to apply something like (width/3*2, height/3*2) to get a rectangle that was two thirds the width and height of the ship, I was able to adjust and play around with the size of the rectangle until it played right!

So now I could manipulate the size of the collision rectangles for pretty much everything in the game. How could I use that to make cheap collision feel well, a little less cheap?


Basically, the last thing I wanted was a bad review because the player suffered a cheap death through a collision with a transparent corner of a baddie's rectangle. Regardless of how many baddies and bullets I throw at the player... regardless of how many hits said baddies require to kill and how fast and accurate said bullets fly... regardless of all the balance issues that will hopefully start out fairly easy with practice, becomming more difficult until things are suitably challenging for those hellish final levels... despite all that, the collision must be FAIR. If I can't get it to be fair because of its rectangular limitations then it must always go IN THE PLAYER'S FAVOUR!

Now, I know a few people are expecting something particularly ground breaking here, but it's not. Bearing in mind that this is my first go at xna and having done some basic Shockwave game coding previously, I'm basically just applying a little latteral thought to the processes, this is how I'm doing it.

*As the player, your collision remains INSIDE your ship.
*The collision for your enemies remains INSIDE their ships.
*The collision fir their bullets goes INSIDE them (though these are pretty small and probably don't need as much attention, so scratch that).
*The collision for your bullets stays OUTSIDE like a bounding box. (Making nice big collision areas. If in doubt, make it connect with that baddie!)
*And as for pickups, OUTSIDE. We want those nice beneficial things to be as pick-uppable as possible.

there, looks fair to me.

Modified Box-Collision (Mock-Up): with a simple general 2/3rds reduction, collision detection becomes much tighter and at little to no extra cost. Notice that boxes for player projectiles, pickups and small enemy bullets remain their original size.

So, here we have a situation in which the player should very rarely, if ever, actually collide with an enemy's empty corner and die. If anything, the player will always be given a couple of pixels' grace with which to fend off a few close calls. Because of the adjustments to the player collision and the small size of the enemy bullets, the same applies with those. Should the player ever die, it should only be from a definite case of head on collision or a clear contact with a projectile. In theory (and so far, in practice), collision with an enemy or bullet should never be in dispute.

However, applying wide collision to your own bullets gives you a generous advantage. If collision is ever in contention, it will only be slight and always to the player's advantage.

All that with the simplest, cheapest kind of collision type available.

Now, I might find that the Xbox 360 (or whatever we're playing on by the time this gets out) can handle the ammount of sprites I'm churning out alongside all the projectiles, explosions, audio and of course, accounting for my not particularly well optimised first go at game coding. If that is the case, I'll pour a lot more time into much more technically impressive collision types in my next games.

As far as Power Up is concerned, this is all work-in-progress. Some of it is implemented, some of it is a bit rough around the edges. Later, I'm planning to put some extra time into getting this collision type as close to spot on as I can, but that's all for nearer to submission. At the moment, the main thing is that the concept works. Unless it stops working I'll see it through throughout the project.

Again, thanks for taking the time to read my blog. See you in the next one...

Monday, 7 May 2012

Power Up - Some History

A few people are finding their way to my blog now and I've had a few questions about myself and the game I'm making. With that in mind, I thought it might be nice to do a quick piece on the history of my first xblig game... because it has some you know.

Power Up - Version 01:

Power Up started life as a programming excercise back in oooh, somewhere around 1999-2000. I was a student on a media course (there were pretty much zero courses in making games back then so you had to teach yourself everything you could get your head around). Part of the media course was in Multimedia. You know, the wonderful future that is CD roms, and the actually wonderful Macromedia Director was the tool for that.

Director later became more synonymous with online Shockwave games (the lesser known cousin of Flash games), and soon Macromedia was bought by Adobe. While You can still get Director, it's all but been phased out, which is a real shame because I stand by Director's almost-English programming language "Lingo" as the best way for a beginner to get their head around making game mechanics work without having to figure out all the horrible syntax that comes with venturing into programming for your first time...

Aaaanyway! all that asside, Director quickly became my tool of choice for tinkering with my own little interactive creations and was quite pivotal in shaping my decision to turn my artistic tendencies to a focus on games.

At this time I was also taking my first tentative steps into 3D art and animation, and to this end, had made a little spaceship out of primitive shapes, which I was zooming around in a series of rather rough test animations. I decided to have a go at putting this together with my fledgeling programming skills...

Power Up - Version 01 - Circa 1999-2000: Not my finest hour, but a good excercise nonetheless.

I was feeling ambitious and so I decided to try for an over-the-shoulder, Isometric approach. This was clearly not the best idea for a new programmer, especially one whos' talents are not particularly in the more mathematical side of things. Still, I pushed on for a while and eventually hammered together two scenes of a game that was horrible to play and had the most confusing collision detection I've ever coded. Not to mention my massive sprites making for barely any looking room at all. Looking room is precisely that. Room to look ahead and see what's coming! Kind of an essential in a scrolling shooter. Oh well, we live and learn.

All of that, along with my complete non-understanding of image compression produced a piece of work that I'm not particulary proud of. That said, it wasn't the first and I'm sure it won't be the last. A lecturer at the time told me "I love ambitious failures" and I'd have to agree. Nothing levels up your skills like an ambitious failure! ...Embrace the ambitious failure! (Then move on).

Power Up - Version 02:

Fast forward a few years to somewhere around 2003-2004. I was helping a friend to get his games company started and was blasting out a few demos for games he could do on the mobile phones of that era. Screens had just gone colour but the devices had yet to be recognised for the potential they had in gaming. In short, the resolutions were tiny and the controls were rubbish!!

Having found my own game controls were at about the same level of responsiveness as those of the devices I was aiming these game designs at, I was able to get rather good representations of the game designs over to him as little Windows .exes. He would then pick out what he wanted and get real programmers to make the games in Java.

For one of the little game demos I blasted out, I decided to revisit Power Up. This time I took account of my programming limitations when it game to controls and kept it strictly 4-directional and side-scrolling. No frills! ...Oh alright. Maybe just one.

This time I actually got to adding some power ups. Having now graduated, I'd been working in pixel art for a couple of years (Pro-Motion was the industry standard at the time and probably still is for retro-style Pixel Popping, which is as it should be. Pro Motion is brilliant!), I had a handle on the quality of the art and generally keeping things a little more consistent in style. I redesigned the spaceship as a little long thing with a bend at the front and decided that as it upgraded, bits would attach themselves to the ship to evolve it's general shape.

Power Up - Version 02 - Circa 2003-2004: A more stylish move to small and pixel-popped with the development of my basic coding skills.

This worked really well and while the baddies were badly designed and there was generally little garnish in the controls or art, there was a definite feeling of progression after the innitial grind of getting your first few power-ups. Soon you were blasting around the screen, leaving explosions in your wake in a rather limited, but fun little game. This version of Power Up never made it to a final version either but gave me the opportunity I needed to get my head around a little more of the mechanics that such a game would require.

...and that was that. For the next seven years or so I remembered the little spaceship game fondly but never really looked back.

Power Up - Version 03:

Last year, a programmer friend of mine played a few of my old Shockwave games and asked me if I'd ever thought of using xna to make indie games for Xbox Live Arcade. I explained that outside of Director Lingo I'd really have no idea how to program a game, but he was adamant that once I'd got through the language barrier I'd be in with a chance of making stuff that people would like, especially considering my background in art and music production.

One day I was doing the monthly xblig rounds. You know, just been paid, checking out what's on offer, when I put down my pad and decided I'd have a crack at it. I resolved to look for some basic tutorials and just try to make something. One of the very first tutorials I came across was for the very basics of a side scrolling shooter. I downloaded Visual Studio and dug deep. Two four-hour sessions later and I'd pretty much reproduced the content of the tutorial...... In a fateful moment of curiosity I changed the baddie sprite to a spinning bit of space debris.

It worked!

I changed the background to a starlit purple-blue gradient. That worked too.

The paralaxing layers became stars, planets, spacedust and black holes! As the momentum built, something from my distant game-creation memory came surging back to me and I felt the overwhelming urge to change the player ship to a little long thing with a bend in the front...

Power Up - Version 03 - Circa Feb 2012: This is a close up of the player ship done in 2D, from an earlier draft of the game.

And now?

Well, I'm  a few months into production on the game. As you know from previous blogs, I've updated my art style from drawn 2D to rendered 3D. I've updated the player ship in the same way. Now it's a 3D render with little animated effects and flourishes.

I'm almost finished populating the first level with baddies, though there's plenty of fixes to do before I move onto populating further levels. I've done a series of tests for paralax leyers in levels 2 and 3 and got them all in place for attack waves too.

The game has got a HUD, a rough front end and a storyline with little cutscenes. There's plenty of content there for more blog posts and YouTube movies for quite some time to come, but I'll be selective and pick some good features.

Power Up - Version 03 - Circa Apr 2012: A close up of the 3D ship in the current version of the game.

I'm finding the balance between work life, family life, chill time and my favourite hobby (that's this). Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I'll try to write about the stuff I think might be interesting to you but if there's any bits of my production process you'd particularly like to hear about, get in touch and let me know. Other than that, stick with me I'll endeavour to keep you all updated every step of the way.

The best place to follow me is probably Twitter: @psypsoft
But you can also find me on YouTube, Facebook and er, here.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Power Up - The BUSCraft


As I'm now populating the Power-Up game with enemies, I thought I'd start my blog breaking down the enemy I've just put in.

I haven't decided what BUSCraft is short for yet. I called this baddie ship a bus because, well... it looks a bit like one.

Basically, as the player has a bit of an array of upgradeable weapons which fire in different directions, at different rates and at different levels of power, etc, I though it best that the design of the game encourage the player to use them all as evenly as possible for the best results (rather than just to power up the basic front firing lazer and buldose their way through the game with that... which the player could do if they wanted to, but would then find themselves pointlessly overly powerful against a frontal assault while desperately lacking and evasive against attacks from the top, bottom and rear..... you with me?


With that in mind, and having already thrown a few enemies at the front of the player, I decided to throw something at the back. After some thought, I went for three big, relatively heavily armoured tanks which would move in from the left, taking up quite a bit of screen while shooting random multi-directional projectiles and giving the player the time to wear the ships down and get megapoints for each kill..... provided, of course, that the player had suitably powered up their rear firing shot beforehand... See what I did there? ;)

After some 2D hand drawn tests, I realised quite quickly that the best approach was rendered 3d with plenty of 2D influence in the textures and in post production. This way I could get the subtle twists and turns that the vehicles would need to make when moving about, while not wasting precious hours drawing and re-drafing animation frames.

The BUSCraft model. I've kept it simple so as to make the most of the timescale I've given myself for the project. 

I chose to make basic 3D models, designing them as I go.
After the modelling, I found myself doing a quick render of the basic frames I thought I'd need. This would allow me to code a rough draft of the baddie's attack pattern into the game and would tell me how big the ship would need to be and at what angles it was to be seen at. In the case of the BUSCraft, it was to be really just the side view.

Here it is from the back. Notice that even in the spherical shapes, I've capped the detail to make life as easy as possible when texturing, bearing in mind that the whole vehicle won't appear in game at much more than 250x150 pixels in size.

This phase in the baddie's implementation lets me see what's working and what isn't. The main problem with three big ships entering the screen at the same time is making them look independent from one another. If they enter as one big block it's hard for the player to differenciate between them and it just looks, well, wrong. So what can I do about it?...

Well, first off, I can seperate the ships out and put a delay between their entrances. As a new, learning programmer this took some serious brain power on my part as I was no longer working within the constraints of what I had already learned, but soon I had three objects with slightly different timings, moving onto the screen with a delay between them. Here, they would stop for a while, then one by one, they would shift back to the left and out of play.

Rough-coding the BUSCraft into the game. Here I worked out the ship's size on screen, basic movements and any animations & effects needed to make this happen.

So far so good... But it still wasn't right. These are big floaty spaceships hanging in space and as such they needed to appear to float. Having done my fair share of Shockwave games, I'd figured out how to make a character jump, setting a height number then taking 1 off it for every frame of the game and making a character's height appear to arc. All I had to do was translate that process from Director Lingo into Xna/C#, then do a reversed version to make it arc back up, THEN loop the lot and... Voila! floaty big spaceships!

Next was the multi-directional firing. Using a variant of the player's shot effects I'd already done, I was able to make the big sphere in the middle of the bus light up and using a variant of the player's shoot code, I was able to put a projectile on the screen, making the BUSCraft's big central sphere the spawn point. As this was a multi-directional projectile, it would have to have images for every direction. A good time saving alternative to this, and something that's widely recognised in this genre as a baddie projectile is a glowing sphere. I'd kind of decided on this when desinging the BUSCraft.

Having put in the basics, I tried out adding projectiles, effects, and some dynamic movement to the BUSCraft baddies.

When designing my ships, I needed to come up with a means of doing things quickly so that I wasn't getting hung up on any one area of production. Nothing kills an indie game in-development like boredom does. My biggest concern was the texturing process. In my experience, one of the most time intensive art processes is the texturing of a model. By keeping the model simple I am able to do a quick printscreen of each side of the model and paint the texture straight on using gradients, layer effects and hand drawn elements. I can then UVW map/unwrap the texture straight back onto the model with a minimum of fuss.

Texturing the BUSCraft.

Having all of the game's ship models saved into one 3D scene with a camera and lighting rig already set up also helps for consistency when I blast out the renders I need. For Power Up I generally render in 800x600 pngs so there's no background colour to pull out when I put the animations together. As the renders are much bigger than needed, I get plenty of leighway when reducing the sprites to the game's sprite sheets. Having drawn the booster effects on, I then import the sprite steets into the game and give it all a little test.

The fully textured BUSCraft: Notice that there's very little detail on the front and back of the ship. Basic texture planning is useful in helping you to put detail only where it is needed and is a really good time saving device for the overall process.

Now for the final flourishes. With a bit of tweaking, the game segment is complete and I'm almost ready to move on.

Getting the ships' move speeds to slow down into the stop part of its sequence was my first port of call. This just added a little more panache. then I tightened up the ships' floaty wobbles, got the effects for the shooting at just the right animation speed, optimised how much damage the BUSCraft ships could take to make it suitably challenging, shrunk down the multi-directional projectiles and lowered the rate of fire (after all, we're quite early in the game, while I can continue to balance things up later, I don't want it to be too hard just yet).

The fully textured BUSCraft: I've put some lighting on the boosters as a standard. All ships will need lit areas for boosters. Remember, once you have the areas of your model texture-mapped you can always add the detail later if you need to.

Playing it through a few times, I realised that there was something STILL missing here. It looks as though a slow rear attacking baddie does lack something afterall. Don't ask me why, but this section of the game seemed to be missing an attack from the front. Something in me was just expecting it.
Using the modelling processes outlined above, I stuck with the glowball motif used in the multi-directional projectiles and central shooting sphere of the BUSCraft and added some un-shootable mines.

While I was happy with the style and shape of the mines I quickly realised that I had to make them noticeably bigger and different in movement speed physichal characteristic to my circular pickup sprites as my first impulse was to pick it up!! A few extra animated parts were promptly grafted on and the mine was clearly not a pickup.

I've still got a little tweaking to do to this segment of the game before I move onto the next one, but here's what it looks like at the time of writing...

And there it is: Three fully textured BUSCraft floating in space, moving independently from each other, shooting multi-directional projectiles and requiring quite a bashing from your rear lazer to kill while you dodge oncoming animated un-shootable glow-ball mines. Good eh?!

I hope you've enjoyed my little insight into this part of my game development process. If you think I haven't been thorough enough about any of this do let me know in the comments section.

Alternatively, if you particulatrly enjoyed this blog page, please say so. Nothing keeps a lone indie developer going like the knowledge that someone out there gives a damn!

If you'd like to see more of what I'm up to you can subscribe to this blog. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube...

Friday, 24 February 2012



Welcome to the new blog for my one-man games studio, Psychotic Psoftware.

Basically, I make smallish games for different formats, learning as I go and becoming more proficient with the coding, art and music sides of production, not to mention the design and preproduction side of things and the post production marketing, etc.

I have honed a few of my skills in these areas but a lot of this stuff is still new ground to me.

By following this blog, you'll basically be joing me on my journey. Every now and then I'll document one  of my little production processes, taking screenshots and making a note of what I did. When I feel there's enough, I'll create a new page for the blog and post it here.

As some of you will already know, my first attempt at game production is going to be an indie game for the X-Box Live Arcade. It's a classic styled side scrolling shoot-em-up programmed in XNA with the working title: "Power-Up".

It's still early days yet but I've pretty much got the controls and weapon mechanics in. Now I'm populating the game with enemies, and later, levels. If you subscribe, you'll get to see the processes with varying levels of detail, I'm sure.

So thanks for visiting.Don't forget to subscribe. You can also follow me on any or all of the channels below...