It’s been another long while since I posted. Time has been flying this winter, what with the holidays and all. Yesterday was the first time in a long time that all of us working on Cool Story, Bro got together. We exchanged Christmas presents and went out for Thai food and played some games. It was a really nice time.
As far as our own game goes, I’m pleased to announce that we’re making good headway on the massive amount of content we have planned. Of course it’s all a rough pass right now, but getting our ideas down in some form is better than no form at all. And gosh, it seems like we have plenty of ideas. Every time any of us get talking about CSB, I feel like the whole thing is getting locked down tighter and tighter, and it makes me excited for when we get to polish it up nice and pretty.
But that’s going to be quite a while from now. I think the biggest enemy we have is the fact that we’re just doing this in our free time while leading already full lives. Also that there’s really only three of us working on it when we actually do make time. I’ve mentioned my worries for how long this thing is taking. We’ve already been working here and there for over a year and half, and with how the mobile market has exploded, it’s kind of daunting to think about where our game will fit in. Things change so fast these days. These might just be my own, personal apprehensions, but we can’t just sit on this thing forever and expect to come across fresh. Gotta strike while the iron is hot, you know.
Luckily, it is hot. The iron. From the metaphor I just used. We’re still at a place where we can make a lot of levels and content, but remain flexible with the feel of the game. There’s room for innovation even now, and I think we are taking advantage of that. This kind of phase might not last for much longer, as the more we get done, the less we should be screwing around with what direction we’re going. But yeah, we’re in a nice position to keep the ideas unique and interesting, but at the same time the whole thing is getting better and better, which means more concise. I know it seems like I’m saying two different things here, but I guess that’s because I kind of am. But they are two true things, at least.
With New Year’s Eve tonight, I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions for 2013. I’d like to say we will get CSB finished this year, but I honestly have no feel for any realistic time frame. It’s not that the end isn’t in the foreseeable future, it’s that I have no experience with this, and thus no idea how much longer we have. Could be two months, could be five years. I have no idea. But I can hope that it’ll be this year. So instead of a resolution for 2013, I will have a New Year’s hope. And to be fair, that seems just as good.
Last we spoke I was down in the dumps about the progress of our game. Little did I know that while I had been out of communication with a couple of the guys and had seen basically no progress, they were working hard and getting stuff done. So… sorry! My mistake.
Especially to Steve. He took some time off to just chill and celebrate his birthday and play some video games into the wee hours of the night, but afterwards he got hit with some serious inspiration and our levels are coming together in amazing ways. We’ve still got a long, LONG way to go like I said in the previous update, but even though we’re moving slow, we’re moving with style.
As for me, I’ve just returned from a three week vacation with my parents. I don’t get to see them often, so it was great to have a chunk of time with them. I didn’t have to worry about any projects or anything because I really couldn’t. We went on a cruise and were out at sea most of the time. Also, my computer’s power supply went kaput. That’ll usually do the trick.
But being mostly cut off from technology and spending more time visiting with family and meeting new people was good for me. At home I just spend my time by myself at the computer, not really wanting to socialize with anyone. I have my wonderful friend, the internet. Who needs anything more? But this trip was like a breath of fresh air. I think for any of you out there grinding away on your own projects, maybe taking some time off would help clear your mind and restore your energy.
Holidays are coming up. I don’t think I really have much to do other than bake some food and be places. Work might pick up since it’s all retail. You know the drill. So I think I’ll be in good shape to actually get some art done now that there is art that needs done-ing. Doing. Whatever. But for right now I’m going to take another day or two to recuperate from my travels.
I forgot to make a post for September. Apparently once a month is still too much for me. Meanwhile, I’ve stopped all production on CSB art. What can I say. Life came up.
But that doesn’t mean stuff isn’t getting done. Steve took some time off for his birthday (oh man is he old now), but he’s back on it. And John has been adding more stuff all the time. It’s kind of behind-the-scenes-make-this-business-work kind of stuff, so nothing tangible to show for it. But all in all, despite my own lack of progress that I actually feel pretty bad about now that I’m talking about it, we’re still moving ahead.
The slow going is kind of frustrating, though. I’ll be honest. I think if there was a constant stream of stuff for me to be doing, I would actually sit down and work on things more frequently, but as it stands right now, there’s no REAL reason for me to not take like a three month break. What’s that about? So not to be all down on the other guys working on our game, but as I’ve said many times before, we’re just sort of doing this in our off time, and the one guy (Bob) who was the driving force behind it can’t even work on it. It’s just a bad pipeline or some sort of term like that.
But in real life news, I have a real person job, so hey money. That’s pretty good, right? I’ll be going away on a cruise in a couple weeks, so not that I would’ve posted anyway, but I’ll just give a heads up that I won’t be able to for a while. I need to work on Bob’s Halloween costume before I leave since I’ll be gone during whatever party he’s going to. Can’t leave a bro stranded without a bomb costume, you know. And yeah, I have no plans to work on CSB for the next month because of the costume and the cruise. Sorry.
I really don’t want to make it sound like this game will never get done- because it will. I just feel like it’s all too real of a threat that maybe… just maybe it won’t. But it will. But I’m still worried. I think I’m worried because there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t implement systems. I can’t make backgrounds render properly (or at all). I can’t build levels. All I can do is fill up like 128 pixels at a time, and I’ll tell you… that’s not a lot of pixels. I guess I kind of just wish we had a frsrs production schedule. Like a deadline or something. But since we don’t, this thing is just limping along. I should admit, though, that I haven’t seen what Steve had to show for the last few weeks because I was out of town.
Maybe I should learn myself some level design. Seems like a big task, but maybe it would actually be a breeze. I always think in the back of my mind somewhere that if I attempt something completely new, there is a small chance that I’ll just magically be some kind of prodigy at it. You know? There’s a chance. Well, maybe not. But maybe it wouldn’t be completely un-doable for me. So I could take on more responsibility, but maybe I would end up just slacking even harder and feeling even worse about it. Ugh. Either way this game has to get made. For the scope of our project, we’re sorely behind.
Okay enough of this. I think I’m being way too harsh and I’ll probably upset the guys when the read this. Sorry. They’ve been doing some really good work, and here I am doing none but still going blah blah blah about it. I don’t want to give outsiders the impression that we’re some sinking ship, because we’re certainly not. I guess I just feel like even though we’re working hard, not a lot is getting done. And in that sense, we’re just grinding away. Grinding, man.
This is what most of our level tile sets look like. At first.
Lately Steve has been working on a new level which I’ll keep pretty much under wraps for now, but Bob and I got to preview it when we went over to his place for Game Night this past Saturday. Right now he’s using a temporary tile set full of yellow-orange blocks that are numbered (less than ideal), but once he finalizes everything he wants in the level and gets that info to me, I can make him a tile set that looks somewhat like the garbled mess pictured above! (slightly more ideal)
Seeing a level with nothing but orange blocks got me thinking about how most people don’t get to see what a game looks like from start to finish, so I feel very privileged to be able to experience the process. I got to see Bob working on the code for our systems last year, I got to see how a level is blocked out on paper and then transferred to the computer, and I got to experience first hand what it’s like to develop the art. Turns out doing a rough pass and refining it with subsequent iterations is really a good way to go. We’ve got it set up so that if I at least put placeholders for everything in the tile set, Steve can go ahead and start using it in the level itself. Then later once everything is all shiny and perfected, it’s a pretty easy swap. I’m not sure if this is how big business does it, but for our work flow it’s really great.
I used to be one of those people who hated doing rough drafts of work and thought they were nearly useless. Now I think they’re great! It was hard to let go of doing my best all the time with the art, and at first my rough drafts were still fully colored and drawn out. Now they look like what you see above: A stringy, jumbled mess of undecipherable scribbles.
Actually, it’s kind of fun to see this level of art put into the game. Even though it’s there are as a placeholder, it makes me feel like maybe it’d be kind of okay for a game to look like this. When everything is this “style”, it’s kind of unifying. And it turns out that as long as the implication of a shape is there, your mind fills in the rest. Brain don’t care, yo.
Anyway, as I said earlier, we got together at Steve’s for Game Night. Since Bob and I live half an hour away now, we were kind of worried about how we’d handle our Saturdays, but it’s been fun coming back to town and having it at Steve’s place these days. In fact, he has told us that even though we live farther away, to him it’s as if we’re even closer since he doesn’t have to leave his house to see us. XD What was also fun about this particular Game Night is that John also joined us. So the whole Cool Story, Bro team was together for the first time in a long time. We played Might and Magic, went to a Chinese buffet, played Kirby, Slenderman, and Witcher. Pretty good night, if you ask me.
So yeah. I’m kind of just rambling on because I’m really tired and kind of disoriented. I’ve been working at my new job, and I think being unemployed this summer has spoiled me. I’m exhausted! Also, I woke up at 1:30 pm and was like “whoa how did I sleep so much??” Then about two hours later I realized it was ACTUALLY 1:30 and the power had just gone off earlier in the morning, thus messing up my alarm clock. Good thing computers and cell phones don’t get affected by power outages like other clocks do. o_o
And thus concludes the chilling tale of what we’ve been up to lately and some other miscellaneous stuff. See you next month with more fun updates from the CSB team!
To be fair, the title may be a bit misleading. We aren’t actually going to the beach, but we are working on a beach level for our game, Cool Story, Bro!
All of us on the CSB team agree that having a water level is an integral part in any good platformer. It’s where reality breaks a little more than it already has, and you face a new, intriguing environment and its many inhabitants. I’ve been working hard on the art to make it fun and colorful, while Steve has been putting together the level and adding some cool twists and turns and challenges. I don’t want to say too much about it, but this may be my favorite level yet.
Actually, maybe I should talk it down so it seems even cooler when you play it. So yeah. It’s alright I guess. Adequate. Not impressive in any specific way. But you might as well play it just so you can see for yourself how bland and uninspired it is. ;)
Meanwhile, in real life, all of us have been chugging along. John just got back from a trip back to California where he visited family and friends. Bob’s still off the project and spending his time giving his all over at Epic. Steve is still going above and beyond at his day job, as usual. And I am in hot pursuit of a job!
Since Bob and I relocated to be closer to his work, I’ve had to start finding my own source of income. Doing pixel art is cool and all, but it hardly pays le rent. I’ve had a couple interviews at some hourly pay type of places, and I have another tomorrow. It’s nerve wracking applying to these places and going in to meet possibly future employers face to face, and this is just for entry level jobs. I can’t imagine what it’s like for anyone trying to get into the game industry and having some sort of technical interview. I guess if you know your stuff it’s just a matter of communicating that well, but honestly I think I’ll just stick to good old fashion customer service, thanks. Maybe it’s not quite as glamorous, but it’s something I know I can do. Also, I tend to burn out if I’m required to do something artistic as a career, so it’s best to keep art as a solid hobby and work as work.
All this talk of careers and interviews is getting a little stressful, so maybe I’ll take a minute, turn on our iPad, and relax for a while at CSB’s not quite finished beach level. :D
We’re finally officially settled into our new home! As I mentioned last time, Bob and I set off on a magical journey of cleaning and frustration and heavy lifting and automated answering services. I’m sure anyone who has moved recently knows what I mean. But we’re here and I’m ready to get back to work on Cool Story, Bro!
Buuuut I haven’t actually gotten back to work on it yet. So nothing to report from that front. In all fairness, I haven’t gotten back to regular work yet either! I took some time off from my job to sort out this moving business, and for the next couple months I’ll only be working one day a week. The commute is too far and not really worth sinking the time/gas money into it, but we will back to visit Steve on Saturdays, so I will go into work then. Not that y’all care when I work. Also, I need to start looking for a new job here where we live now. I feel the pressure mounting as days go by, but that just makes me want to apply places even less. :/
It’s scary putting yourself out there. I’m just looking for more regular every day work, but I can’t imagine what it’s like for those who quit their day jobs in order to work on indie games full time. Clearly that’s not the course we’ve taken, and personally, I’m glad, but surely the stress and hard times must be worth it to do something you love. I doubt I’ll be doing the thing I love wherever I get hired, but that’s mainly because I don’t know that there is any one thing I’m wholly passionate about. Maybe that’s the key though. For the people who want to make games on their own as a living, it’s their strong and unyielding passion for it that makes it all worth while.
But I’m really just saying that because I wanted to talk about what I’ve been up to lately, and I felt I should somehow tie it in to what we’re doing as game developers. ;P
The good news is that Steve, our ever hard working, multitasking, guy is going strong with lots of good work on yet a new level. And as soon as I can finish getting him the art for the other two he’s done, I think we’ll be in a good position to start yet another!
Also, I’ve been thinking that it might be fun to try my hand at level design as well. I’m by no means qualified. I don’t play video games, and I’d be hard pressed to get through even one level of any given platformer, but it might be fun. Besides, if it turns out that bad, we can just hide it as a secret level or something. I don’t know. I think it might make me more apt to get back into the art aspect as well. Got a lot of sprites to make, you know!
So that’s whats going on in our lives and in our development. As usual, plenty of potential. All we need to do is get it done. :)
After almost four years of living in this wonderful apartment, Bob and I will be moving in order to live closer to his work. Apparently the 30 minute drive wasn’t something he wanted to do twice a day? XD It’ll be fun living in a new place and getting to know the area, but I’ve really come to think of where we are now as my “home”.
Wait a minute. Let me back track a bit. Did I call this apartment wonderful? Oh my. That was a mistake. This apartment is SUPER ANNOYING. Sure the layout is very nice, the price is superb for the square footage, and the area is great. But while cleaning this place, I have been reminded of all the things I hate about it and the people we rent from.
Just as a short summary since I don’t want to go into full on rant mode, here are some of the things we’ve encountered while living here:
-Old tenant’s greasy pots and pans because the place wasn’t cleaned
-Old tenant’s greasy cupboards and walls for the same reason
-Old tenant’s giant disgusting bag of honey nut scooters filled with mouse poop
-Ugly cigarette(?) burns in the kitchen linoleum
-Weird rust marks covering the sides of the fridge
-No stove burners for the first couple weeks
-Pipes under the building cause a random apartment to flood with sewage every few years
-Whole front parking lot floods if it rains too much
-Annoying neighbors who leave dog poop on the sidewalk right by our place
-Landlord keeps wanting to show the apartment even though I’m in the middle of cleaning and packing still
And really, this is the truncated list. My gripes have been compounded because I have a suspicion that we will be charged for cleaning expenses in addition to the deposit we paid in. It’s my belief that they didn’t keep the walk through list I made when we moved in, and now it’s going to become a problem. What’s more is that the place was in such sore condition when we got it, that it’s already better. If anything, they should be PAYING me for the work I’ve done here. :/
ANYWAY. The whole point of this update is not to rant about stuff, but to let you all know that we’re moving, so things will be a bit chaotic on my end for a while. Luckily since Bob isn’t actually working on Cool Story, Bro anyway, only I will be affected by this. But I fear that my lack of progress is having an impact on how much Steve is getting done. Hopefully that’s not the case. We’ve officially been working on this for a year, so it’s really time to hunker down and get this game done.
Oh, I should mention why I put a Budget truck as the image. It’s because we’re using them since it’s the cheapest on Sunday. But what I actually want to bring up is that while their base price is like $23 on most days of the week, it jumps up to $79 or something stupid on Saturday. WHAT EVEN.
So yeah. That’s all. Next time I post something, it’ll be from the comfort of our shiny new apartment.
(PS. The cherry on the “frustrating apartment” cake is that our current landlords don’t even have a key to this place. Real professional, guys.)
…since I’m not like a programmer or anything, you know.
Apparently we are having a minor issue getting images to display properly on the iPad. They’re there, but the pixels are a little messed up, and they look as if someone switched some of them around and didn’t stay inside the lines. These visual byproducts are known as artifacts, and they are the LAST thing artists want to see when they go to check out how their work is looking on the intended platform for a game.
I’m told that it’s some sort of problem between the Unreal engine, how it interfaces with idevices, and the fact that we’re making a 2D game in a 3D environment. Beyond that I’m lost as to what the actual issue is, but I’m told there may be two work-arounds possible: one is the easy way, and one is the hard way. And of course, by “hard” I mean “extremely time consuming and painstaking, while taking up massive amounts of memory, and it might not work in the end anyway.”
Now to be fair, this problem is by no means the fault of any of the entities mentioned above. It’s my understanding that Unreal is amazing to work with and is THE go-to engine for many games from school projects to triple-A best sellers. And it can’t really be the iPad since it seems like millions of games are being developed for the silly device as we speak. But because of the way we’ve set up our “classic platformer” look, we’ve caused a bit of a problem it seems.
Okay it’s coming back to me now. Part of the problem is that we’re putting textures onto 2D planes, and those are our sprites and level tiles. Usually textures in Unreal go onto 3D models and have a little bit of bleed margin, but since we’re not working that way, things don’t always line up quite right. So that’s some of the story here, but the implications of this issue? I have no idea. And why it looks just fine in the editor, but not on the iPad? Man, I don’t know.
So it’s not like it’s a game breaking bug that’s plaguing us and grinding production to a halt. Far from it. But it will have to be fixed before we can release the game. In that way it’s not an immediate problem and we’re just kind of taking it in stride. If and when we tackle this unique issue and conquer these artifacts once and for all, I promise to do a follow up post regarding our methods to the best of my ability. Wish us luck!