Today marks my 45th day into developing Vectonic. It's possessed nearly 100% of every synapse I've had for over a month now and I thought I should take the time now to reflect. So - what's happened?
After my first post about the game the first thing I went about doing was adding the verticraft physics. I wanted to allow the verticraft to slide laterally, boost forward & backward, turn side to side, boost upwards and slam downwards. The feeling needed to be frictionless (floating about the ground) but responsive (not sliding uncontrollably) all the while needing to maintain momentum while flying through the air. Initial attempts to achieve this were unsuccessful but entertaining nonetheless.
I couldn't act like I was mad at this bug if I wanted to... little guy had such spirit... pic.twitter.com/XprcQN3Dag— Bob Hayden≫ (@YearOfTheBob) March 14, 2016
I eventually scrapped the weird springy-spheres approach in favour of sending out probes to measure the proximity of each corner of the vehicle to the ground and applying a proportional force.
The base idea of what I wanted was there and I knew the variables would need to be endlessly tweaked so I pressed on to the next task.
When after going back and forth a bit with my brother I put his finished verticraft model in the game and added the prototype destruction physics.
Before I took a week-long trip to Rottnest I showed the game to my family for my first trial by fire with how I handle criticism. Now, let me take quick aside to talk about receiving feedback: I love feedback; obviously positive feedback more so because I'm precious. Feedback from my family however, good or bad, will trump all else.
No bloom - and to think I defended this...
The response from my family (for how I predominantly remember taking it) was that the game didn't look very good. Deep down I agreed - but I was going for minimalism, am only one person and don't consider myself an artist. They were proposing ways in which I could improve the games visuals without the technical consideration of performance which I had at the forefront of my mind. It was upsetting to hear and I became incredibly defensive. I wasn't fishing for honest feedback at this point. I just wanted a pat on the back to keep me going. Eventually I let down my guard and considered the input for what it was: Valuable critique. I dropped the stubborn "You can't fathom the complexities of creating a game" shtick and worked with it rather than against it.
I took the idea to add glowing entities or emissive materials (super expensive at run-time) and realised I could effectively provide the illusion of these things with the use of a bloom filter. I also took on board the suggestion to make the material the world and verticraft used less subtle. With both of these changes the games visuals became significantly more appealing, altering the overall aesthetic from a dark synthscape to a glittering disco.
At some point, I can't precisely pinpoint, after the creation of the discoscape I realised the mood that came with the synthwave soundtrack I had in mind just didn't fit anymore. This may well have been due to association I'd created between synthwave and debugging by overexposure.
While coding my brain off I'd leave music playing on YouTube. Youtube seemed to have decided to steer my viewing preference toward a genre of music I didn't have a name for. All I knew was that it sounded fun, energetic and Japanese. The name of the genre is "future funk" or as I called it before I knew the name: "looping anime GIF music". Future funk seems to get a pretty bad wrap by a lot of people online. Screw them though. I dig it.
Ah yes! The rhythm of motion... I sat for 6-hours straight one Sunday afternoon (the 2nd of April if you must know) banging away getting the feeling of the basic motion just right. Not exactly just right as (at this time of writing it's still not quite there) but a damn sight better nonetheless. My friends came up and had a play with it and said the sweetest thing imaginable: "It feels tight!". Satisfied I moved on to implementing multi-player.
I'm developing Vectonic with Unity. Unity was started with just PC and mobile in mind. This shows a quite a bit when configuring controller input. To support 4 independent controllers I had to manually define every button and axis for each of the four controllers. Taking into account a "5th controller" which acts as global controller input this ends up being over 100 inputs manually defined. Now I'm dreading the idea of configuring controllers other than Xbox 360 controllers down the line. I've worked data entry jobs in the past that have treated me worse so I'll quit my whining now.
The actually implementation of multi-player was actually super simple with the nightmare of input configuration out of the way. With that done all I needed was to add hit detection for when the verticraft slam down on each other (actually took me a couple of days) and the game was effectively playable. For a little extra flair I gave the wingtips of the verticraft trailing lights too! Unity did make that part simple.
With that it was good to go for playtesting at last. To my relief what I'd made actually played pretty well. Of course a checklist of a hundred additions, adjustments and bugs came out of playtesting but it's all for the good of game. Notably during the first playtest while I was bemoaning the lack of functionality of the face-buttons my friend Jacob suggested some system for emoting. Perfect! Immediately my brain went off eloping with the thought. Two dev-hours later emoji assets were created and implemented.
Spending every night developing and loving every moment. pic.twitter.com/6YQNfJdJ2J— Bob Hayden≫ (@YearOfTheBob) April 11, 2016
Now that the game was working more or less I wanted to put in game modes and such. I knew deep down that I'd have to earn the right to do that first by implementing menus. YARE YARE DAZE! Again, Unity what with the whole designed for PC and mobile first thing has great UI support for touch screens, mice and keyboard. Controller UI support? Not so much.
It took about a week but I got the basic menus working. Giving the ability to choose game modes, map sizes, player numbers, time limits and scores to win. Once that is specified the UI splits into a separate menu for each player to choose their emoji loadouts, specify controller inversion and their team colour (finally letting me use that sick Breaking Bad meme).
Though necessary, UI week is definitely duller than the rest of development. I do it for the love! pic.twitter.com/C7rUJYciz4— Bob Hayden≫ (@YearOfTheBob) April 14, 2016
Next on the "official" agenda I'll be implementing the game modes and scoring now that the foundational code to support it is in. The official agenda is tough to stick to though. I've so far beaten all of my deadlines but I am constantly side tracked by optimisations and aesthetic tweaks giving an overall "two steps forward one step back" malaise. For instance: at moment I've decided to completely re-do the way the vehicle destructions are handled. I've convinced myself that it's absolutely necessary.
Before I started making Vectonic as a means of motivating myself to see the game to completion I reserved the domain name vectonic.com and part of this month saw me update that site significantly from being more or less a static image. Earlier I mentioned a desire to include a roadmap on that site. Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. That ain't happening anymore. It's totally more effort that it's worth given the number of visitors that website gets (I check the figures far more than I'd care to admit). Check [✓] for first broken promise. It's cool though - there's no Kickstarter.
Let's go back to desperately checking online engagement figures. Reader beware: This is going to get cringe-worthy.
Ideally when this game is done I want to sell it. If I want it to sell well I should get a decent online following. Generally I'm someone who would rather let the public interactions on social media pass me by lest I be part of the old "pissing into an ocean of piss" adage. I say this well aware of the contradiction of me (barely) maintaining this blog however I figure no one reads this so I'm all good (again I check the figures far more than I'd care to admit).
DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT UNDERSTAND TWITTER
I've had my current Twitter account since late 2011 but have never really used it, I read it frequently, but never really tweeted. My online social circles always revolved around either World of Warcraft or Facebook so in terms of a follower base to get started on Twitter I was looking at bots.
As I understood I'd need to Tweet out with hashtags to get the attention of bots. These bots would ideally follow me more and more until I had enough bot momentum that eventually humans might see me as someone of worth with a higher follower count. So that's just what I did. Spending a whole night coding and then capping it off with a tweet for bots to enjoy just felt insane.
Sounds desperate? Nope. Try this:
While taking my week break I spent quite a significant amount of time (as my friend Laura can vouch) attempting to get a killer selfie with a quokka so I could use #quokkaselfie in hopes of attracting a single human to my Twitter (@YearOfTheBob by the way. Please, for the love of God, get at me).
Dark Souls III came out recently. A game I would love to play, though I'm trying this new thing where I don't impulsively buy things I want. That and it would detract from development time. That and Dark Souls II didn't hit the high notes that the original Dark Souls did for me. Anyway I digress. I've been playing through the original Dark Souls again recently. While playing I had the idea to change the foward and backward boosts in Vectonic to be of a fixed distrance and duration that the player would be locked into akin to the Dark Souls weapon swings. It was a good change. But the gross part is that I tried to piggyback on the Dark Souls III buzz. It was deservedly unsuccessful.
One (I hope) last gross one was at the recent Perth Night Noodle Market and while leaving spotted a sign promoting the use of #quaypics to promote Elizabeth Quay and yeah... Dumb selfie. Whatever.
As I don't properly understand Twitter I'm not entirely sure how the next part worked out. I believe some confluence of using #quaypics, #gamedev and my recent involvement with @CoderDojoWA resulted in me being flagged in the Perth game development sphere.
I was contacted by the super helpful @ninjeska who has introduced me to @letsmakegames, @LEVELONEWA and the @PlayupPerth events. I'm now looking forward to attending my first Playup Perth event on Friday next week.
Here's where I was going to talk about me and how I'm doing, but really it's more to do with the game.
To organise my thoughts in all things for the last couple of months I've been using Google Keep. It's compartmentalised every facet of my life into a list with things I can check off. To some that may sound like a nightmare. To me it's been great. I feel like I have so much more direction and drive to accomplish the things I want to do and the checkboxes really make huge tasks seem so much more manageable.
I've been using a Chrome extension called New Tab Redirect which has set Keep to open up with the wall of things I need to do every time I open a new tab. This has kept me on task but has made getting my brain away from the project.
The wall of stuff to do.
I've done what I can to attempt to make the wall of stuff less Vectonic related by adding my to-do list for my current Dark Souls play-through.
To also make sure I never forget the tremendous undertaking of making a game I also set my phone and watch up with a Vectonic theme.
No escape. I built this prison myself.
This week though I've really started to step back from the project. I've started experiencing burnout. I read a TIME article about why overworking ain't nuthin' to brag about which made me pause for thought. So this week I've stepped back bit. Partly because I'm cautious of fatigue but really because I'm experiencing it.
Monday night this week I hung out with my sister (not without sneaking an hour of development before she came over) and had trouble disconnecting my brain from the game. Eventually I relaxed a bit more. Later in the evening after a couple of glasses of wine I found myself back at my desk working on the game again. Resulting in an embarrassing typo:
I keep flip-flopping between the idea that overworking myself on the game is great because of how productive I am and then hating how much I work on it - fearing I'll burn out and that my life will crumble around me.
I don't want to paint a bad image of myself. My life isn't crumbling around me. I know this thanks to the reassurances from those loving ones around me.
Physically I'm feeling healthy (if not tired a lot of days). Even though I'm predominantly sedentary I'm somehow managing to lose weight and go running regularly. Outside all this game nonsense I've made huge steps towards buying a house.
Making the game is challenging. It's hard work, rewarding, addictive, amazing and scary. I've even found some cold comfort in being single as I might not have the time to make a game otherwise. Where would she fit on my wall of Keep notes? Ugh... Yeah I should slow down on this for a while.