Let’s Vent for a Little Bit

13 10 2015

It’s a pun, you see. Did some more work with my texture package, got specular maps working properly. It’s one of those things where it’s obvious once you figure it out but not obvious at all until you get to that point.

Anyway have another screenshot (click for big)

OfficeDropCeiling3

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Super Mario Maker, Sky Rogue, and Stipple Effects

24 09 2015

Super Mario Maker came out two weeks ago and I’ve been having an absolute blast with it. The Mario Paint influence can be felt throughout the game; from the title screen having the same “mess with the letters to see things happen”, the Rocket eraser to clear a level, and a somewhat well-hidden Gnat Attack/Coffee Break minigame that even unlocks another version of Mario for you to mess around with via the Mystery Mushroom. There’s other stuff there of course (sound effects you can add also coming from Mario Paint in some ways) but if I went on and on about that we’d be here all day.

I could try to explain this, but I don’t think you’d believe me.

 

Super Mario Maker is a very comprehensive level editor so people can make their own Mario levels in one of four styles (Super  Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U). Players can place blocks, enemies, powerups, hidden powerups, coins, etc. etc. etc. to make their own take on Mario’s adventures or just make something really unfair and vicious if they want to keep making Expert mode really impossible . After you’ve made a level you then have to beat it before it can be uploaded for the masses to stumble through.

One of the neat things Nintendo did was go back and add things to game styles that didn’t necessarily have certain enemies when the game came out (example: Thwomps and Wigglers in the original SMB, as well as Airship tilesets for SMB and SMW, stuff like that). Another neat thing is that you are not necessarily limited by what Nintendo would do. After all, Nintendo levels didn’t have things like Spiny’s riding giant Goombas, or Bullet Bill Launchers that shoot Coins at you, or The ability to jump into a Koopa Clown Car and terrorize enemies from above. It’s this sort of expanded innovation that allows the formulas of Mario to stay grounded yet with room for expansion.

There are some downsides, of course. Nintendo doesn’t really have a good grip on curating all this user-generated content so popular level makers/YouTube personalities will always be at the top of the list while the rest of us struggle for attention. In addition, the Expert Mode of the 100 Mario Challenge (beat 16 levels with 100 lives) is nearly impossible at this point, with most of the levels in there being the kind of Kaizo-level insanity that only the obsessive can beat. That said, I’d imagine over time as people get more accustomed to what makes a good level, we’ll see less and less impossible stuff and more just plain challenging stuff.

Also we still don’t quite have everything from the four Mario games listed. Inclined surfaces like in Mario 3 and World aren’t in, nor is the Angry Sun from SMB3. But there’s already rumors of (hopefully free) DLC to add this kind of stuff, and Nintendo has expressed interest in expanding the toolset. I hope the game continues to do well so that it does.

I’ve also been playing, and modding, Sky Rogue, which is an Arcade flight sim that seems to mix a bunch of styles together, like Nintendo’s Star Fox, and Sega’s Wing War, as well as adding a slight Roguelike twist on it.


In Sky Rogue you select a plane, select your weapons, and embark on an increasingly dangerous series of missions launched from a SHIELD-esque floating aircraft carrier in an effort to defeat enemies controlling an archipelago of islands. It’s tough but a lot of fun, and I’m a big fan of the retro, low-poly aesthetic, reminding me of Sega’s mid 90s arcade games like Virtua Racing, the aforementioned Wing War, and so on.Combat is pretty tense, with players having to frequently dodge missiles while firing off their own on a variety of targets both ground and air-based; and of course since this has a roguelike element, if you die not only do you start back at day 1 but you also just might lose some of the new weapons you researched, so you have to weigh the risks and the benefits of taking such weapons with you.

The game recently got released on Steam in Early Access, and along with that also got Steam Workshop support, so that players can add their own planes, skins, and emblems. I took the opportunity to make a version of the de Havilland Sea Vixen jet fighter from the 1960s for the game, and because I’m a huge nerd I made a fake ad for it that you can see below:

The game still has a ways to go before it’s really complete but it’s definetely worth the $9.99 price tag and it’s a lot of fun. Feels very much like you’re in an episode of Macross or again playing something like Star Fox (specifically more like an All-Range Mode mission, but w/e)

Lastly I’ve also been getting back into doing texture works…which didn’t actually involve a lot of Stipple Effects but shut up I needed a third S for the title. I’m working on a texture and material pack for Unity which is going to be primarly of office textures. Things like carpet, cubicle desk surfaces, cubicle walls, and of course, drop ceilings

I’m especially proud of this because this is my first attempt in a long time of doing an emissive map for a texture and it came out great. Hope to have the whole thing done in a few weeks, time permitting.





Splatoon is the best Multiplayer game of 2015

19 08 2015

I figure if clickbaity titles work so well, why not? Anyway yes I’ve been playing a lot of Splatoon lately, and it’s probably the most fun I’ve had with a multiplayer shooter in a long time. And it’s made by Nintendo. How weird is that? I don’t know how it happened but in the last year or so Nintendo went from not having a clue how to do good online to figuring it out and putting out an amazing new IP that has taken off despite the lukewarm critic reviews.

I can’t really think of a shooter as colorful as this right now except maybe for Team Fortress 2 but TF2 still deals mostly in greys and browns for its environments, whereas Splatoon is colorful. Most of that of course is thanks to the large quantities of ink that both sides end up covering the playing fields in, but even the environments normally tend to feel lively (though Bluefin Depot suffers a bit from being a bit too rusty and brown in most spots). Even better, for Splatfests when the matches take place at night, everyone’s ink is bio luminescent which is super cool.

Aside from the graphics, the gameplay is also really good as well. Matches are fast because they’re all timed, so regardless of whether it’s  a entirely timed mode (Turf War) or a mode that involves points (Splat Zones, Tower Control, etc.), the match will still pretty much end when the clock goes to zero. This let’s people quickly jump in and play a game, or two, and not spend any more than 10 minutes doing it. Other benefits in gameplay include no voice chat so people who think they deserve to have their horrible words heard by everybody cannot do so. This has also had the effect of creating a community that seems very light on any sort of terrible stuff even though this is a game with Miiverse support. Speaking of, the Miiverse stuff is integrated in a pretty cool way. If people draw Miiverse posts, they’ll show up in-game as grafitti art, signboard art, and also as art in the background of the splatfest hub world during Splatfest. It adds some liveliness to an already lively world. Plus some of these Miiverse artists are great

I also feel that with Splatoon, Nintendo has finally realized a multiplayer shooter ideal that they kind of started to get towards with Steel Diver: Sub Wars for the 3DS. The matchmaking system feels similar, as does the lack of voice communication and the rigidly timed (and fast) matches. The difference of course was that Sub Wars was not really advertised at all, wheras Nintendo went all in with Splatoon and knocked it out of the park. Maybe Sub Wars was a prototype for this kind of online gameplay, we’ll probably never know. Either way I’m glad Nintendo has created a great multiplayer shooter that can’t be destroyed by an awful community, and with them continuing to add free weapons and maps and modes to it constantly, they’re clearly ready and willing to support it for as long as they can.

 





Arcade Sports Games need to Make a Comeback

4 08 2015

I haven’t really talked much about game dev stuff recently. Mostly because it’s all been in the background, unless I manage to do a Pixel Daily. This past month was kinda hectic.

I’ve also been playing a lot of Splatoon but my the room where the WiiU is keeps getting taken up by other stuff so not as much time for that, it’s a shame, but hey at least I got 4 gear re-rolls for nothing (and squids for free?…I guess?). So I’ve also been playing some older games too, including ones I never got to have a proper go at before.

I picked up a copy of Mario Superstars Baseball for the Nintendo Gamecube a few weeks ago and have been slowly playing through that. It’s an interesting game, probably one of the last somewhat well-known baseball games that doesn’t utilize an MLB license (even Konami’s MLB Power Pros, natch, gave service to that).

This game is another one of the Mario games that advances the “Mario and co. are just actors on a stage” because for some bizarre reason in the Mushroom Kingdom everyone has decided “baseball is awesome” and they used their massive Mario Bros. royalty checks to build themed baseball parks. Then Bowser, because Bowser is always that one guy you know who has to prove himself better in all things, be it sports, racing, board games, or ruling small fictional countries consisting of fungus people, decides he’s going to challenge everyone else to see who’s the best.

Also, I don’t think a spiked metal club is a regulation bat.

This forms the “Challenge” mode of the game, where you walk around the world map going to everyone’s ballpark and playing them in an attempt to level up your players and also win over their players. You do this by fulfilling special conditions during the game (like striking certain players out or getting hits off of certain players). This allows you to supplement your team with not only named characters, but random goons like Toads, Shyguys, Goombas, and Koopas. Also strange is the fact that Mario’s team has himself and Luigi on it, and Yoshi’s Team has Baby Mario and Baby Luigi on it. So again, I think everyone is just actors at this point, either that or there’s some time shenanigans going on.

Luigi Za Warudo

But I digress. So far in Challenge mode the games go very fast. They’re only 3 innings long (unless you go into extra innings which stop at 6 if there’s a tie). There’s also not a whole lot of downtime either since we don’t have long intros for players and whatnot, or time for commentary except for the weirdly nasally voice of (I’m guessing) a Lakitu. I’m only guessing that because Lakitu is your tutorial of sorts, doing things like passive-agressively snarking about your initial lineup (though let’s be fair, the fact that just about everyone’s team is basically 6 random mooks plus 3 named characters is sorta chuckle-worthy), and telling you how the map screen works which is kind of helpful.

Speaking of other chuckle-worthy things, some of the team names are…special. Well one in particular. The D.K. Kongs. The Donkey Kong Kongs. DK named a team with his last name twice and the roster is only 33% actual Kongs (himself, Diddy, and Dixie. Everyone else is Koopa Troopas and Goombas). Then again what else would one expect from someone who brought a Boxing Glove to a baseball game?

No, Seriously

No, Seriously

On the other hand, maybe he knew one day Nintendo would call upon him to be a secret boss in Punch-Out for the Wii, who can say. Anyway, also in Challenge mode you can play minigames to get coins, which will let you do things like get steroids buy items and powerups that do things like unlock special pitches for some players or improve overall team speed.

The various ballparks are all pretty interesting. Marios is normal, of course, but everyone else apparently decided OSHA is only for people from Brooklyn and thus just did whatever. Princess Peach has built her ballpark in the courtyard of the castle, not even bothering to trim the hedges, and putting random blocks up above to mess up trajectories. And balls that carom off of those are still live and can be caught for an out.

I think this is from an earlier build but w/e

DK has built his ballpark on a river full of Klaptraps and apparently also a barrel factory running through it so getting decked by fallilng barrels hurts a lot. Yoshi has built a ballpark that has Pirahna plants guarding the foul lines and can spit the ball wherever they feel like. Wario built a park in the desert with Chain Chomps. If Bowser’s ballpark isn’t built over an active volcano I’ll actually be surprised.

The game is surprisingly in-depth for what it is, giving the player the ability to steal bases and have players grow as they accomplish goals which you can see detailed, and it’s a lot of fun and very fast-paced.

There are some drawbacks, for one thing the only way to throw faster pitches is that you have to hold down the A button, which starts a charge up animation for your pitcher and depending on who you have pitching it could mean you’ll get ridiculous nonsense like Mario jumping up into the air every time he throws the ball (nowhere near as bad as ShyGuy’s though). This is why I use Luigi as my pitcher because his charge up is fast and no-nonsense. Just spins around like a maniac and whips the ball. Also there are Star Pitches you can do but the timing on those is still a mystery to me. Though it’s hilarious to see a CPU opponent do a star pitch only for me to bunt the ball.

Anyway the whole point of this was that we really need Arcade-style sports games to come back. Back in the 90s you had NBA Jam, Base Wars, Super Baseball 2020, Double Dribble, Mutant League Football, Mutant League Hockey, NFL Blitz, etc. etc. Those games were a lot of fun and didn’t get too caught up in minutae of stats (by the way, sports nerds are the biggest nerds and it’s hilarious to see people who know what WAR or WHIP is, or have their own fantasy sports team, look down on video game players, but that’s for another time). We need these to come back somehow. In a world where only Sony is making MLB games, we need “Oh! That’s a Baseball!”

Yes I made another Jojo reference, deal with it.

 

 





Satoru Iwata passes away : 1959-2015

13 07 2015

Over the last month I spent time thinking about E3’s 2015 presentations and digital events, and how some people weren’t happy that they didn’t get everything they wanted out of Nintendo. (Metroid and Animal Crossing fans feeling especially burnt). I wanted to give some time for the hype poisoning to wear off before saying anything…but then over the weekend I and the rest of the game-playing world got news that really blunted my desire to talk about expectations.

Satoru Iwata, President of Nintendo and programming genius, passed away from a bile duct growth caused by cancer at the age of 55 a couple days ago. I don’t really think anybody expected it. I mean, I knew he was sick but I didn’t know it was cancer, and it’s a very Japanese businessman thing to be working up until the end. It certainly puts a lot of E3 2015 in a different light though, the puppets, the theme of “transformation”, and so on. Perhaps Iwata knew he didn’t have long…perhaps he didn’t want us to worry. Unfortunately I feel we’re all worried now.

Better gamers, game developers, and press people will be able to sum up Iawata’s life better than I can, but I do want to stress a few things. First off, he was a genius programmer. Apart from being the man known for creating things like Baloon Fight and Kirby, he’s also the man who single-handedly reprogrammed Earthbound, saving it from cancellation. He ported Pokemon Red and Blue’s battle code over to the N64 for Pokemon Stadium without any sort  of documentation in what amounted to his free time (he wasn’t even on the team) . He created compression tools for Pokemon Gold and Silver so that they could fit both the Kanto and Johto regions into a single Game Boy Game Pak. His first act as president of Nintendo when he assumed the role in 2002 was to put himself on the team for Smash Bros. Melee in order to make sure they hit their launch window. He even helped Smash Bros. exist in general, helping Sakurai win over Miyamoto’s initial fears and objections.

Secondly, he was a great company president. As much as we on the Internet lean on memes and things like “Please Understand”, Iwata was definitely a rare breed among CEOs, even in the Entertainment industry. He put himself as the public face of Nintendo, an affable man who interviewed developers, gave news directly to us, and who wasn’t above doing silly things like having a simulated fight between himself and Reggie Fils-Aimé (President of Nintendo of America) for Nintendo’s E3 Digital Event of 2014. On the business side he also turned Nintendo around from its slump in the early 2000s, and even personally took pay cuts when the 3DS and Wii U didn’t meet sales expectations. He also resisted attempts to make Nintendo go mobile for as long as possible, and while some of that is happening now, it doesn’t seem to be their big focus.

Lastly, in keeping with his quote from GDC 2005, he was a gamer. I feel this was important to the other two elements, making sure he could do what he could to make games come out on time, make sure they were fun. Even if Nintendo didn’t hit the mark every time in the past, I feel like they’ve at least tried their best and hardest to make a fun game, and that Iwata was a big part of it.

Unfortunately he’s now gone, Nintendo’s in a weird place, and we don’t know what will happen next. My hope is that they don’t go the way of Sega and completely get out of console development. Given that the NX is on the horizon, I’m guessing they’ll still be developing systems for at least one more generation.

Ultimately though I don’t think Iwata would want us to be mournful. Yes it’s intensely sad and depressing that someone so talented is gone from the world, but he’s left us a legacy. A legacy of games and of friendliness. Despite the somewhat cutthroat nature of the video game industry, here’s someone who did his best to be as personable as possible at all times,  even to rivals.

This probably hits everyone so hard because this is one of the first “big names” in an industry so young to pass away. I myself admit I always thought Miyamoto would be the first (well, second after the untimely passing of Game Boy creator Gunpei Yokoi) big name in Nintendo to go, just based on his age. Unfortunately that day will happen, just as the day will come where Sid Meier is no longer around, or John Carmack, or any other number of famous developers. It happens. Life happens, Death happens. We don’t really get extra lives, or continues, or a battery backup save-state.

But I think everything will be fine. We can’t change the fact that Iwata is gone. But we can remember him well. I don’t know if there’s an afterlife, but if there is, I’d like to think he’s up there now, having ridden those two red balloons up to the gates, or some other metaphor based on one of the games he made if that doesn’t work for you. Yes it’s cheesy, but it’s how we cope.

Also this is what the Nintendo HQ looks like right now. So maybe there is still some magic in the world.

Nintendo, roughly translated, means “Leave Luck to Heaven”. Hopefully Heaven still has luck to give.

“On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer.” – Satoru Iwata, GDC Keynote, 2005

 

 





At least Sisyphus didn’t have to call Tech Support

20 05 2015

So right after I talked about appreciating the small victories, I got handed a not-so-small defeat. My motherboard ended up burning out, thus cementing my dislike of MSI motherboards, and further cementing my dislike of Intel’s factory-provided CPU cooling fan/heat sink combo. Some time (and money) later, I now have my computer back online with a new motherboard (Asus) and a liquid coolant setup so I don’t have to deal with that fan nonsense again.

Since then I haven’t been doing as much as i’d like, though I did create another entry in my “Roguelike’s Gallery” video series, talking about Teleglitch, which you can see here (part one of three).

And I am, still, slowly, working on Ablation, having now added a few enemies and finally fixed the player movement. Here have a .gif of progress.

Pew Pew Pew

It does run a bit fast but oh well, you can see the gist. I’m currently trying to get the upgrade system in place and then have a first level ready to go. I wish I was a lot more dilligent on this kind of stuff but I’m getting back into the groove.





Appreciate the Small Victories

17 04 2015

About 8 months ago I had, sort of on a whim, created a texture and material package of various wood textures (floors, walls, etc.) and put it on the Unity Asset Store. Not being very good at self-promotion nothing really came of it, which I guess was to be expected. However, a couple days ago I got an email that told me I had received some money from Unity. Turns out someone bought the texture pack last month. Turns out someone else bought it this month too. Granted that’s just two sales, but as the title points out, appreciate the small victories. And I want to thank both those people that bought the package, even if they never read this, and even if they think it’s bad and they wasted $2. I’m still grateful that those two people thought the package was at least worth more than a glance.

Technically this also makes me a professional designer now, so yeah, small victories!