DUNGEONEERING (WIP Title) And Other Ramblings on GGJ14

TL;DR – Damon and I made a board game. It’s a little clunky, but definitely fun and playable. Click here to download the current version.

This was my second year participating in Global Game Jam, and I was all sorts of stoked for it. We were hosting the local jam at Buffalo Game Space (UB held it last year), and we had a pretty solid turnout! Coming off the heels of our own jam as well, everyone was pretty amped to be making more games.

The theme, revealed Friday night, was “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” This lead to a biiiiiiig discussion full of ideas for different games.

whiteboard-ggj14
The BGS whiteboard, covered with all the ideas from Friday night of GGJ ’14.

We ended up all settling on two separate projects, one video game and one board game. From the get-go I was planning on making some sort of board game, partly because I didn’t want to lug my rig back and forth again, and partly because I just really wanted to make another fun print-and-play game. And I think we (myself and and Damon McKernan, co-developer) succeeded in doing just that.

IMG_20140126_174304

Our game is (tentatively) titled “Dungeoneering“. It’s a sort of dungeon crawler, where two to four players have to complete randomly assigned objectives; the first to finish their objectives wins the game. The initial gameplay involves players constructing the board from a set of map cards (each a 4×4 tile grid), and populates it with item tokens that function similarly to the item boxes in Mario Kart. Each player starts at the “Spawn” tile, with one objective card and one item card. Items can be shown to other players, but objectives should be kept secret (tying in with the theme of “seeing things as you see yourself” while not seeing everything as it is).

The main gameplay consists of trying to complete your objective. Players take turns rolling a die to determine how many AP (Action Points) they have for that turn. AP can be used for moving (1 AP per tile) or using items. Items, represented by cards in your hand, can be weapons, spells, traps, or “use” items. Most, but not all, items have an AP cost associated with them. Some items also require a second roll to see if they succeed in whatever action they conduct, and some are also restricted to a certain range in tiles. Here’s an example turn:

  • I roll for AP, and get a 4
  • My objective is to kill the player to my left, and they’re three spaces away from me, so I move two spaces to get closer to them. This leaves me with 2 AP this turn.
  • In my items I’m carrying a Spear, which has a range of two. This means the player I’m targeting is just within range. I make clear I’m attacking the player by telling them and showing my spear card to prove I actually have it
  • The Spear has a check roll to see if I can actually hit my target, which I use a second die to roll for. If I roll a 5 or a 6 I hit; otherwise the attack failed. I rolled a 5, so I succeeded in killing the player!
  • When a player is killed, you can take an item from their inventory. The player shows me the backs of all their cards, and I pick one at random. They then return to their starting point at the Spawn tile.
IMG_20140126_173336
The Dungeoneering map, populated with item tokens and player pieces.

If that was all my objective was, then I get a point, play my objective card face up on the table, return to my spawn point, discard my inventory, and take another objective card and an item card.

And I’m sure by this point you’re probably incredibly confused as to how to play at all. It’s way easier than it sounds though, and the next iteration of it will be even easier to play. There’s a way to pick up more items while playing, but the current mechanic is super sloppy and tedious. We’ve come up with a way to make it infinitely easier, so that’s why I’m not getting into that right now. Traps are another element that really spice the game up, but it’d be easier to show once we’ve got some better graphics for it.

All in all, I’d call GGJ14 a huge success for Damon and myself. While I probably didn’t do a good job of describing the game, we’ve got a very solid core game built that was a lot of fun for everyone to play. Naturally it’s a jam game, so it needs a bit of polishing and tweaking. Fortunately we want to do just that, and eventually make it into a full-fleged, well tested, exceptionally fun game. Expect more updates on it soon!

7DFPS – DAY 4/5/6 AND BEYOND

I know, I know. I’m lazy. But still working on stuff! If you go to 7dfps.hellocld.com, you’ll see.

So I’ve been slacking on the blog a bit, and that’s because I’ve been getting a little burnt out working on this project for the last few days. Surprisingly enough my vacation time started seeming much more appealing as vacation time than project time, but I powered through and still got a little bit more done. I really shouldn’t be surprised, but most everything in this project has taken longer than I expected. Granted, I went into it thinking I could make something comparable to a smaller scale version of Quake, so that’s probably part of it. So what took lots more time?

CODE CODE CODE
My goodness, the code. Realistically there isn’t a whole lot of it going on, but still. Instead of just following some standard cookie-cutter tutorials on how to do this or that I wanted to come up with some magical stuff from scratch. And I gotta say, I’m pretty pleased with what little I wrote. A fairly flexible weapons system, some decent enemy AI (that ended up getting scrapped, but still), projectile shenanigans, and even rocket jumping and explosions and stuff. All things I wanted to do when I started, and so I guess I succeeded. It was still exasperating though, because naturally the problems I spent hours trying to solve ended up getting worked out in minutes. But hey, those are hours I won’t have to spend again next time.

SHINY STUFF
Okay, here’s where I feel I really dropped the ball. I tend to think I’ve got a decent visual eye as a designer during the day, and though the stuff I like isn’t for everyone, I still think it’s easily described as “good”. So to say I’m disappointed by the visuals I cranked out would be a mild understatement. It looks like shit. I know I only had so much time to work on it and I spent more time working on code and mechanics because they’re important, but even with that I could’ve put more time into at least making it kinda visually appealing. Fortunately, I think I’m going to keep working on it weekends to make it more into an actual game, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

THE BIG LESSON
This isn’t really THE big lesson, just A big lesson. And that lesson is: plan better. The things I left out of that horrid design doc are embarrassing. Who leaves a “win condition” out of a design document for a shooter? Menus? Scope? Influential materials? Kinda important stuff there. So yeah, I need to up my game in the planning department. Also, more pen and paper stuff. All this doodling on the computer crap seems to result in nothing but garbage. I should draw more.

A lot of this probably makes it sound like this was a miserable experience for me, but I don’t actually feel that way. On the contrary, I though the whole thing was ridiculously educational. I learned more about Unity in the last week than I have the previous three months. And I think I got a little bit of my creative spark back, which is something I’m going to have to try to keep lit. With what I started on here for 7DFPS, I think I can keep at it and make it into a full-fledged game of some kind. It’s still got a long, long, long, long, long way to go, but it’s still a start. And with a good deal more planning, designing, and pen-and-paper shenanigans, it’ll turn into a complete game someday. And that’s pretty damn exciting. At the very least I’ll put a few hours into it every weekend until it’s done, so at the latest expect a shiny new post on the 24th.

7DFPS – DAY 3

7dfps-build-1

Whoo! Talk about madness and mayhem. In case you don’t want to read up on what I worked on/accomplished today and would rather just shoot some stuff and do a bit of rocket jumping, hit up 7dfps.hellocld.com and play my current prototype, complete with a weapon pickup that turns a rocket launcher into a shotgun, a mini health pack, and some very dumb enemies.¬†Here’s the controls:

  • W/A/S/D – Move forward/left/backward/right
  • SPACE – Jump (hold for a higher jump)
  • MOUSE – Look around
  • LEFT CLICK – fire weapon

MOVING THE ENEMIES
So I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon and this morning trying very hard to craft a sort of controller for all the enemy and player movement. The main reason behind this was I needed a way to apply a force from an exploding rocket to all enemies within the vicinity. As far as I could see, the CharacterController object couldn’t take forces like a rigidbody, so I started trying to figure out how to simulate simple forces on them. I’d venture to say I tried a good twenty or so variants on the code, but nothing seemed to work. Finally, after getting sick and tired of it, and almost eliminating rockets and explosives from the game, I decided to take one last look at the CharacterMotor provided by Unity for the character controller templates. GUESS WHAT IT CAN DO. So yeah, hours spent trying to find a solution to something that already worked, and worked better than I could craft.

ITEMS
The code for the weapons was designed to be as flexible as possible. Tweak a couple variables, and suddenly a pistol becomes a shotgun becomes an uzi becomes a rocket launcher. This worked very much in my favor, as I wanted to be able to modify the weapons via items, or powerups, similar to “Contra”. And just as I had hoped, it worked like a charm. A simple script modifies the weapon’s specs when the player collides with the item box, and presto! A new weapon. After that, I did a much simpler implementation on health items, and can have medkits of any size in the game as well.

WHAT’S NEXT
One thing that’s going to need a rework is the enemy AI. Fortunately the setup I landed on today seems to be pretty straightforward, so implementing a few different AI scripts should be pretty simple. Outside of coding, tomorrow I’m going to start working on some sketches for enemy and level designs, and create a few new level kits. If all goes well (hint: it probably won’t) there should be a much prettier build to play with tomorrow night. Who knows, I might even get lucky and come up with some decent sound effects too!

Click here to play the current prototype of my game for 7DFPS!

7DFPS – DAY 2

So day 2 was not quite as awesome as day 1. I’ll do the good stuff first.

THE GOOD STUFF
My priorities for the day were to get weapons systems and items systems set and in place, and for the most part I did. I managed to work out how to do proper raycasting for any variety of bullet-based weapons, so now with just a few changes in the editor I can make a pistol into a shotgun or a machine gun, each with varying levels of accuracy/spread. I also managed to get rockets working, and explosives that do varying levels of damage to objects depending on how near the center of the explosion they are. So all in all, pretty solid. Items I didn’t do yet, but the implementation is super easy with how I’ve got the weapon class done up.

THE BAD STUFF
I discovered when testing the explosions that I had no way to actually make objects react in accordance to the explosion. Enemies would get hit by rockets and just stand there like statues, and that’s no good. To top it off, I realized I wouldn’t be able to implement rocket jumps, and I reaaaaaaaaaally want rocket jumps. So after a fair amount of digging I came to the conclusion that I’ll have to build a new interface for moving all the characters around, both the player and the enemies. And that’s pretty much where I called it a day. I’ve spent the last couple hours trying to implement a basic physics set-up, something I’ve done before pretty easily, but for some reason or another I just couldn’t get it working. I think I’m a little burnt out; getting those rockets and explosions to work was no easy feat, so after that I think I just can’t math anymore today.

So that’s where we’re at at the moment. I livestreamed most all of it again today, so you can watch what you like over on Twitch. I’m hoping with a good night’s sleep and a fresh pair of eyes I’ll be able to get that character movement fixed in the morning, and then I should be damn near finished with the hardcore code. And from then on out it’s level design and visuals/audio. Who knows, if I’m lucky I might have a playable prototype I feel’s worth sharing tomorrow night. Fingers crossed!

7DFPS – DAY 1

Well, the first day of 7DFPS has come and not quite gone, so I figure it’s time for a big ol’ update. It’s been extremely productive as first days go, and so far I think the project is showing a good bit of progress already.

THE DESIGN DOCUMENT
The first item on the agenda was to create a design doc. Shockingly, this was my first time drafting one up, but with no point of reference I think I did quite well. It started as a sort of declaration of purpose, but then went off into outlining the games aesthetics, weapons, enemies, controls, and so on. Some might think writing up a design doc for a game jam game is silly, but I think, especially for a jam as long as 7DFPS, it’s an excellent idea. It gives me something to focus on and work towards, instead of just shooting in the dark to and hoping I hit something worthwhile. I also decided early on that I’d stop adding things to it by tomorrow night, and once that time hits I won’t allow myself to add any new features; it’s a way for me to prevent feature creep. I also decided I can remove items from the doc if I decide it was a bad idea, either due to time constraints or just not being any fun. If you’d like to read through the doc, you can find it here.

ENEMY AI
So once that was drafted up I started up Unity and began working on what I believed to be the most challenging aspect of the project: the enemy AI. A first-person-shooter with no enemy AI is, art games aside, rather dull. You want something that will instigate and make the player fight back, something that’ll come after them and attack. So I started cracking away at two basic behaviors: wandering around the environment and following the player if it sees them.

The wandering behavior was relatively easy to write up. I created a variable that holds a random point in space, and the enemy slowly turns and moves towards it. While it’s moving towards it’s imaginary target, a countdown timer is ticking away. Once the countdown reaches zero, it picks a new random target and begins moving towards that. There were a couple hiccups here, the big one being for some reason or another the enemy strafed around the object as it moved in, but a quick rewrite fixed it.

Tracking the player was slightly more challenging, but fortunately I’d been playing around with this a bit before. The basic idea is if the player falls within a certain field of view, the enemy would mark it as a target and come after it or attack it. I’m sure there’s a million ways to do this, but my solution was this:

  • There’s an empty with a sphere collider on it that’s a child of the enemy. This sphere is the view distance of the enemy, and is set to Trigger mode. When an object sets off the trigger, it’s immediately checked to see if it’s tagged with “Player” or another potential target tag.
  • If it is a potential target, it then checks to see if falls within the enemy’s Field of View. This is accomplished by checking the angle of the potential target relative to the transform.forward vector of the enemy. If it the value falls within the assigned field of view, the target is seen by the enemy.
  • There is one final check, in which the enemy casts a ray directly in front of itself to see if the target is visible or not. If the target is behind a wall or other obstacle, the first thing to come back from the check will be the obstacle and not the target, and therefore the enemy cannot see the target.

With this check in place, if an enemy sees the player it simply replaces the random imaginary target it was walking towards with the location of the player. If the player walks out of range of the enemy, or runs behind a wall, the enemy walks towards the last point at which it saw the player, and then picks a new imaginary target to walk towards. This gives the player the chance to run away if necessary and hide, and gives the enemy a chance to find the player and continue pursuit.

I did a few other tweaks after this, like finding a new target if the enemy is about to walk into a wall, but this is essentially the whole system. I tried running around a room with about twelve of these guys, and it was surprisingly fun, even in the barebones state it’s in.

WEAPONS AND HEALTH
The next big puzzle piece was how to handle weapons and health. I decided to make the health system an independent component that could be assigned to any object. It has a public variable for assigning it’s health value, and three public functions:

  • A damage function, that reduces the health value
  • A damagePoint function, that returns the position where the damage occurred (this might change to the point where the weapon was fired)
  • A function that returns true if damage has occurred

The damagePoint function is exceptionally nifty, because I can use it to give the enemy a chance to “feel” damage, and react in a semi-realistic way (by turning and attacking in the direction in which it was shot). The damage function, however, is utilized by the Weapon class. Weapons in my game are essentially all the same, much like any other shooter if you stop to think about it. In my project, they boil down to these basic elements:

  • Power, or how much damage it does
  • Range, or how far it can fire
  • Firing Rate, or how frequently the gun discharges while the trigger is held
  • Whether it fires a single or multiple shots
  • Accuracy
  • Whether it fires bullets (raycast) or projectiles (instatiated objects, like rockets)

So far the code only handles single-shot weapons (like a pistol or machine gun), but other weapons shouldn’t be too difficult to implement. I’m particularly excited to add rockets for rocket jumping.

WHAT’S NEXT
Well, I think tomorrow I’m going to complete the weapon code and try to create a few different enemies based on the template I built today. Once that’s in place I’ll work on the item system, which shouldn’t be too difficult (health pickups and weapon modifiers). Finally, I’ll craft up a basic modular level kit and build a stage to test out. After that, if everything works out well from there, it’ll be level design and polished assets the rest of the week! With a bit of work on menus, UI, and all that jazz. Exciting stuff!

If you want to check out any of the stuff I worked on today, hit up my Twitch channel. You’ll find all the day’s recordings there for your viewing pleasure.

First

New site, new blog, new shenanigans. I got sick of the old layout; it was a little too complicated for what I was aiming to do, and with my poor web coding skills/lack of interest in web dev it made sense to ditch the crazy php stuff and just make a simple static page. Once I get a few more games up I’ll make a separate page just for that, but for now I think the one main page works out pretty well.

In other news, next week I’m gonna be participating in 7DFPS. Took a week off from work just to crank out a bitchin’ shooter. I’ve got a couple ideas and a sort of aesthetic I want to shoot for, and if I get the prototype working in the first couple days and it’s fun enough, I’ll probably keep working on it past the end of the jam to get it more polished and presentable. In any case, I made a dedicated blog for all that, which you can check out here: 7dfps.hellocld.com¬†Actually, forget that, that was dumb idea. I’ll just post stuff here and put the “finished” game on it’s own subdomain.

Lastly, if you haven’t checked out the Buffalo Game Space yet, you should! It’s what started out as a Google Group for local devs, and is now an actual physical space. It’s still a work in progress but we’re constantly moving forward. Hit up the website for more info, and if you’re a local dev/artist/musician yourself, be sure to join the forums and introduce yourself!