Thursday, July 30, 2009

C.O.W. Prototype concept blurb.

Originally nameless, and then refered to as RPG Tribute(refering to old 2d FPS rpgs), and finally conviently named COW for its slow developement and engine.

The COW RPG prototype was an attempt at creating a 3d rpg with sprite characters, turn-based combat and general RPG system that had evolved from various incarnations of 'The Crawl'.

First started when GM 6.1 was released with new fancy Direct 3d capabilities. Of course it was limited and could not do the special effects of todays near-real engines, but thats not my goal. It did promise to be an easy method of creating my own 3d engine for my own needs. Other 3d engines I had downloaded in the past were too specific to what they were to design or simply to confusing to grasp. I didn't have the patients or time to relearn a whole mess of procedures to get things done.

After playing around with basic object placement and effects. Once I knew my limits I began the design phase for the RPG on paper.

Basics of culture, religion, planetary and regional information was created to give a sort of template for general developement. Additionally I simplified the stat and skill system over previous versions, droping the primary stats from 1-100 range to 1-10. Although stats could increase at fractions, only the rounded down value would display. Combat would be at the scene turn based, were briefed by a transition, you would find yourself facing the opponent, depending on its height you may look down or up.

The general religion of the RPG's world was more of an astral one, Sun being the highest god and the planets representing goddesses, moons as child gods. The culture was divided up into four kingdoms, north(pale, cold), west(pale-tan, cool-warm), middle(dark, hot), island(tan-dark, warm-hot) with different building structures for each. I had only concieved of a single structure for each in my notes, and only a few people sketches for the different cultures.

So simply to say it was a very ambitious project with a lot left to do, but alas it is just a prototype and simply visual reference for me now. Not to say it didn't have some tricks I did like. The day and night system which depended on a variety of changing variables which affected the lighting, fog and tinting of objects. Using translucent polygons to create fake fog effects used in lighted doorways and room borders. Also, despite a bug, I liked how the doors operated, something I have yet to incoorperate into my latest versions.

Textures were either created from scratch or from photos, sometimes a combination of the two using layers and some effects.

What sunk it mostly was the sheer size of the world map I had designed. I had split it up into a grid and began marking off each map that I completed. Certain mountainous areas and water would not be included. I stopped with about 16 or more maps done and NPCs plotted, still not yet active.

With the end of the Prototype, another game got the 'Cow' title, except for it was actually fitting. I started an rpg earlier this year in hopes of completing it in a few months. Based on an old comic I did in 1998-99, it was on a fast track to completion until -everyone- in the home came down with horrible sickness. So it kind of sits in storage, 65% done, 100's of graphics and 10's more needed to be done.

Next time I'll either go on about Black Shadow, my castlevania inspired platform or where I may be headed in 'The Crawl' developement, or some other third thing.

Last version here.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

About 'The Crawl'

The Crawl is probably one of my most ambitious projects. Originally it was made to be like old 2D FPS RPG. Eye of the Beholder, Lands of Lore and Stone Keep. You can learn all about them on wikipedia for a better explanation.

The most succesful version have all been created entirely in Game Maker 6.1, the last version used Ultimate3d a DLL providing some much needed 3d features. Additionally the very first Game Maker version was actually in version 5.0, one of my first creations using that engine.

[2d version download here]

Other attempts were made on VERGE 2.0 and Visual Basic, but didn't develope and I moved on to other projects.

After losing -all- of the data for the 2D version (the version I have left was kind of in the middle of the total progress), I created a proto type called C.O.W RPG, which means nothing really. Except maybe that it was kind of slow. Levels were created with objects in Game Maker's room editor and rendered from GM 6.1's native 3d functions. A large map was used as a reference for rooms with pre-created heighmaps, mostly shorelines and rivers. Forest and field areas generated random height and texture coloring maps for a nice effect. Wanted to break away from flat land whenever possible. Quite abit of rooms were created, NPCs were setup, combat introduced, working stat and leveling, inventory system. However a lot is unfished like the character creation at start up. I'll go into details about the developemental ideas on this one some other time, though.

[prototype download here]

Reguardless of the positive aspects of that project, like ease of creation, it was seriously in need of speed and memory improvements. So I decided to create a map editor and eventually all around game editor. This later had me going to the direction of making a 3d dungeon crawl game game maker. When you think about it, its kind of funny, but I won't be the first person to do it. It also isn't my first attempt at creating an RPG Maker. In the past I made one, ironicly called 'Game Maker', in visual basic. I hadn't known what RPG Maker was at the time, but the concepts and catagories of data were similar.

Still using GM 6.1's native 3d features, which uses DirectX, I created a small engine that would translate a 3-d matrix with several flags for textures, texture layering types and some other third thing. Still going the way of a grid like the old 2d FPS's made it easy to control the enviroment and keep the old style.
To make things less flat I created all objects with routines that put together polygons with colored vertexes. Additionally centers of walls and floors were raised slightly to truelly create dimension. I don't have the editor packaged with the demo. It got pretty far as an engine, more than the previous version. It had its own collision system(buggy), gravity system(water included), some overlay effects, interface compass, day and night cycles, and shaded vertexs based on neighbor.

[demo here for gm3d version]

Speed was pretty good and the effects were nice. Then I came across several 3d dlls for game maker. Irrlict, Ultimate3d, and Xtreme3d. After looking through examples, docs and playing around with things, I ended up going with Ultimate3d mostly because I liked how some things fared over the others. That and Irrlict was abit complex for me. I wanted to keep things simple for two reasons. Lack of time and keeping bugs down. If code gets too complicated it leads to bugs and slow downs. Of course to get more speed you complicate things.
I played around with the new features, but due to the new system I could no longer create my on tile objects in-editor. So began using anim8tor to create some basic objects. With no ability to color vertexs without creating some kind of complex routine, I utilized a new feature at my disposal, multi-layered textures. This opened the door for a variety of possibilities. Aside from applying a shade layer, it also allowed me to create overlays of textures to have things like grass growing over dirt or leaves up walls. The engine is less developed though. This version has the editor and a bunch of resources to play with.

[u3d version demo download]

Next time I'll eleborate about the C.O.W prototype's story, world and general concepts.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Kind of how it begins.

Sometimes you just need to start over, and with the seeming loss of my once frequented website ( I have decided to move elsewere to drop my blurbs of game developement. So I shall start from the begining. The very begining.

I've largely studied game design on my own since I was about 12 or so. Starting with the very basics...basic the language in its line based form. Although I can program, I'm just not that in depth into languages like C++ and the various other forms.

My focus has been more on the visual, the play and the excecution instead of the bare bones engine. Maybe one reason I decided against going too deep into programing had more to do with wanting to create the actual content. Of course in the early 90's I was pretty much forced to work with quickbasic as the only avaible programing code I could get into. There was a variety of little game creations I made with it, mostly all unfinished and lost in the dust of time forgotten and hard drive failures, diskette decay, whatever you have it has happened. A sad tale that has followed many of my other creations. Always backup if you can.

Of course with the dawn of the internet, other chances to create a game came up with various programmers generously creating engines in hopes that aspiring minds can create greatness which even so few large developers seem to accomplish despites legions of employees and millions of dollars.

In the late 90's I had begun using Visual Basic, but not too much came of that except for some simple mouse based games. One project I fondly recall was somewhat inspired by a browser based game called 'Dragon Court'. It featured click able mini locations, in mine I made the background window display the room you were in. Was a simply RPG like game, you created a character whose stats were both randomly generated and affected by choices like what race, sex and class you chose. Additionally although a turn based game it featured body-part based life instead of traditional hit points. Certain attributes of the character also affected how some things were presented, like a low intelligence would get a brief and sometimes obvious description of room or object. Refered to as DOTD, it was later re-visioned several times in new layouts and styles, using POV-Ray for scene creation. Tons of written and sketch resources are stowed away on this one as I tended to be overly ambitious.

One of the first engines I started to use was VERGE created by Vecna. It was a fairly decent program, using a c similar scripting for basic functions and in-game interaction, map creator with multiple layers and option of animated tiles and sprite creator. I used the default sprite to design a bunch of different characters and sometimes made my own.

I designed several projects with VERGE and VERGE 2.0, finished one. Several concepts were created, one was supposed to be a side scroller game(similar to a game available now called 'The Spirit Engine'), which I think I called 'City of Filth'. I had a couple of maps, interface, characters and a complete original tile set created. Unfortunately it never advanced from the basics and was shelved/lost.

Another concept that didn't fly beyond some tiles, main character art and sketches, I called 'Ryo Devil'. I was really into Anime back then and it has left an impression on my art style and presentation. Based in the underworld, you played a soldier who must stop the overworld invasion. Essentially a demons vs. angels with a role reverse. The main character had to die to be reborn in the midworld(earth type realm) and find the entry point that some rogue angels were using for their assault on the underworld.

Venturing between Visual Basic and VERGE I also attempted a fake 3d game, much like Dungeon Master, Eye of the Beholder and Lands of Lore. Those didn't pan out to well do to graphical limitations on both. I would later be more successful using Game Maker which I find out about in '05 or so.

I did complete one game for VERGE, during a 10-days-of-verge contest I managed to complete an entire rpg with all original graphics in that time span. Although having plot holes and some bugs, it was nice to complete it. Called 7th Ring of the 7th Star, it was about an alien bounty hunter who's people are being assaulted by sand people and demons from another world. It contained 6 different endings that were dependant on a few optional quests, like bombing the sand people's home with water or saving a girl you meet later on.

I also played around with RPG Maker some, both windows and emulated Super Nintendo versions. Don't recall much of those...

Once I got a hold of Game Maker, versions 5 and 6. I tried at recreating some of my old ideas. Specifically a shooter game I had made in QuickBasic called 'Rick Jason'. Its a space shooters as they come, but I decided to create a swanky set of new graphics. Its still incomplete to this day but did look rather nice. As the years have passed I've had less and less time to work on my projects. But the flame hasn't died out.

Next was creating the fake 3d game, which was a pretty successful attempt. Unfortunately also lost to hard drive death. Sad too as I had gotten so far in it. It was like a super version of those old school first person rpgs, it had multiple floors visible. Originally it had some hi-resolution pre-rendered scene graphics, but later was reduced to conserve memory and boost speed. As I look back on it, if I had not of lost all the content I would have been able to make it run faster. But alas it is gone. I had called it 'The Crawl', a name I still uses with new incarnations now leaning towards actual 3d engines. In fact it has become more of a 3d dungeon maker rpg project.

And that's the first part to a undetermined length of blogs.