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Why indie games development trumps commercial development

I left the commercial games industry in February 2009 after, in all honesty, probably the most miserable period of my life. I didn’t leave voluntarily because, in all honesty, even getting paid for something you’ve grown to despise trumps not getting paid at all so I had no intentions of...

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Cosmetic Character Customisation

Posted by CaptainBinky | Posted in Pictures of things, Project Zomboid | Posted on 17-07-2011

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Currently in production (as seen in my last blog post) is an “underpants man” version of the character sprites. What does this mean, besides confirmation that the survivors in the apocalypse do indeed still wear underpants..? Well, the screen posted before was the first pass of the anims, the second pass takes it one level further:

Oh dear, no head. The final pass will involve slicing his legs off too. This means that the final “characters” in the game will be assembled from a head, a torso, and legs and clothing will be sliced up similarly. Shirts, trousers, heads, hair, etc. will all be overlaid on these base elements meaning that not only will NPC costumes/look be randomised from these components, but that the player himself will be able to wear any clothing which he finds. And not only that, but he’d be able to have his head lopped off.

These components will also represent “final” character sprite layouts, so any custom mods produced after these have gone into the build which conform to this layout will be “future-proofed” for any further updates. And combined with the modding support currently being added, instead of replacing Baldspot’s permanent look, new costumes can instead be loaded in addition to whatever we put into the game.

Once these are complete, a similar pass will be worked on for the zombies so that any survivor who turns will be a zombiefied version of their human look instead of swapping to a preset “zombie sprite”, and then after that, a set of female equivalents will be produced so that you can choose your gender and meet female survivors in the world.

Work in Progress

Posted by CaptainBinky | Posted in Pictures of things, Project Zomboid | Posted on 25-06-2011

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I tweeted this pic for #ScreenshotSaturday so I figured I may as well post it here as well.

What are the implications of this? Well, I alluded to what this is for in the discussion I had on Bulletproof Radio last Tuesday (hint: the question the Geordie chap phones in to ask).

And on the subject of “that Geordie chap”, you should definitely check out Ringod123’s awesome play-throughs of PZ on Youtube!

Also, if you like Welsh accents (hint: yes you do), you should also check out this one!
🙂

How I got increasingly annoyed making mockups

Posted by CaptainBinky | Posted in Pictures of things, Stuff | Posted on 10-03-2011

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I thought I’d share with you a couple of mockups I once did as part of my job. Having been given probably the World’s least inspiring briefs, and me probably at my most jaded in my entire career, this is all that remains of those that I produced:

First up, “Super Bacterial Invaderoids” takes the incredible premise of “move about for a bit, you lose if you touch something”, and dresses it up… not much, if I’m honest, but I did give it a catchy name.

 

I think you can probably tell that I’d been watching preview videos of Spore at around this time.

Result: Graphically approved, not sure about the name though.

Another fabulous premise to go off, “click on the good things, you lose if you click on the bad things”.The original brief was balloons and bombs for some reason and wasn’t particularly thrilling. The first mockup was completely to spec. except I called it “Hyper Popping Poppopop”, and it sucked. So balloons became pufferfish and the bombs became mines.

And I think you’ll agree that “Hyper-Poking Pokeyprod” is probably the best name for a game ever.

Result: Utterly rejected.

I should note that the problem with these games wasn’t that the basic gameplay was awful, because the ideas themselves, while simple, could make for a daft little diversion when packaged together as a set – sort of the WarioWare principle. And it was this angle that (in my own way) I was sort of trying to tap into. Who cares if the names are stupid, that’s part of the charm isn’t it? Why make a game with balloons when you can make the same game and put exploding pufferfish in it?

And this became the source of the frustration. All these elements which were, to my mind, the only things which elevated the mini-games from utter drivel to something you might actually play were routinely denied for insane reasons. It all became increasingly annoying, and I became increasingly snarky.

Having got a big snotty “no” to my suggestions, I responded with this (and all the following quotes are taken verbatim from the e-mails):

Me: It doesn’t have to be fish, I have only done puffer fish because it’s more fun than balloons and conceptually an inflated fish and mines is directly transposable for balloons and bombs. If you can think of something fun that would be better then I can mock that up instead.

[about the maze game] but even so I fail to see why it has to be a literal maze and can’t be something else that is point A to point B-ey that’s a bit more fun. Again, it doesn’t have to be a worm, I just did a worm because I thought it was quite fun and silly. So again, if you have any ideas I’m quite open to mock them up.

…Baseball needn’t be baseball – we could have a pirate on a rowing boat thwacking cannonballs back at pirate ships with his oar. Functionally identical but a bit quirky and different.

Apparently not. It all culminated with exchanges such as these:

Me: “But surely, surely(!?!?!?) wherever possible we should avoid just doing the obvious thing.”
Person: “Normally yes but for this product we actively want to do the obvious thing.”

Me: “I am merely trying to make the games more fun and funky than just having bland inanimate objects and corridor mazes”
Person: “That’s all good and noble but I’m not sure we have the time to try out different approaches. Balloons say party fun, Bombs say danger. So just go with that theme and output the appropriate images please.”

Me: “Unless I’ve horribly misunderstood the concept, in the maze game you’re not literally blindfolded, are you? ”
Person: “Yes. People will most likely be blindfolded so do maze parts please.”
Me: “I am quite “amazed” (ahahahaha!) that we’re seriously talking about making a game that requires you to tie a sock around your eyes”
Person: “It’s what the publisher is looking for. This one isn’t really up for negotiation.”
Me: o_O

Person: “For the second we’ll stick with balloons please as its bright and colorful and the sounds are all done for it already. Also the bombs need to look more like the balloons.”

There we go, folks. Sound effects driving game visuals. We’ve already got a “pop” noise we like and we can’t envisage how anything else could make that same noise as it pops, so you’ll just have to make it a balloon because that’s what the filename says the sound is.

Of course, I can’t entirely rule out the possibility that I’m wrong and what the masses are clamouring for is actually more balloon-based portable games. And perhaps what the publishers really did want was something bland. But in that case, I would have expected a sort of sympathetic, “yeah, sucks doesn’t it?” response. I’ll never know now, but what was amusing was the implication that any of that stuff was ever up for negotiation.

It rather begs the question, “what’s the point in asking for mockups in the first place?”. May as well just tell me what assets you want and what they should look like, and we can screengrab the mockup after the game’s finished.

Things in various stages of completion

Posted by CaptainBinky | Posted in Pictures of things | Posted on 09-03-2011

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This blog wouldn’t be complete without pictures, right?

So, here’s a bunch of stuff that’s mid-development to various amounts which have been put aside until somebody kindly provides more hours in a day.

These are leaders for Civilization V. Or at least, they would be if I had the time to look into why they’re not quite getting modded into the game correctly, or the time to do all the required animations and, for that matter, finish off the meshes.

So left-to-right, we have Alfred the Great and his famous unfinished crown, Boudica of the Iceni with her well-known badly modelled hair, and Queen Nefertiti and, well, she’s barely even started.

But at least as far as these things are concerned, they’re just things on the side to dip into when there’s a spare moment. And at the end of the day, actually making characters is fun just as long as you don’t need to, you know, get them to work in anything.