I was recently speaking with a wonderful Perth based developer, Joel Knox, and the topic of my development cycles came up. In the past I have shared with Joel my process and he suggested it would be worth discussing in blog post, so here it is!
Coming from a background where I have a high degree of exposure to commercial development techniques has instilled in me certain best practices that I try to follow in my own way. One of these key principles is that of a sprint cycle which is a core component of the Agile methodology. You can read more about it here with a pretty diagram that shows the basic concept of churning through a backlog of work and releasing content at regular intervals. These regular cycles are sprint cycles.
Being a time poor indie developer I have adapted myself to follow this method and I work to a month long sprint where I can hopefully find time to fix bugs, implement features or nut out concepts for later development. To do this I have been heavily using Google Docs to create a monthly lists on which I will add feature goals, existing bugs, break down tasks into components, jot down thoughts on concepts and eventually mark things as done. I have stripped out my personal copy of this month’s list and created a version of my back log to share which can be view here. I have added some comments to explain my sections but ultimately the key section is the first part where I add all my existing bugs and features I plan to work on (as well as some along the way) and have in this case marked done most of the list.
So, what does this all achieve? Well ultimately at the end of every month I make a “release” build where I can see my progress and “play” my game. It gives me an opportunity to briefly QA and find issues for next month. It is also a great gauge of if my current direction is working or if I need to consider a feature in a different light. At the moment I have only shared these builds with a very limited audience and I intend to share with a larger review audience to gather further feedback in the near future. If you are interested in having a look at a release please feel free to contact me by any of the methods on my contact page. These monthly to-do lists also form the back bone of my release notes that I am in a habit of creating for every build. I plan in the future to talk more about my process of creating a release and these notes.
Beyond the monthly releases these documented sprint cycles are now something I can look back on in the future and see my own personal growth and reflect on the enjoyment that being a game developer brings me.
I will leave you with a video of where the game is at
So recently I have spent some time learning to animate my ant so that soon I can give him a sense of purpose, allowing him to roam, hunt and attack his prey. I am continuing to work in Blender to achieve this goal and the below 3 GIF’s show how far he has come.
I am still aiming to have a hit reaction animation and a death animation and I am wrapping these up soon. Then the task of implementing it all into the game with a rudimentary AI begins…
A lot of what I have learned I have done through YouTube tutorials and again I can definitely say that good portion was learned from Darren Lile’s channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/DarrinLile). I found it difficult to implement some of the harder bone constraint techniques that may have made the process easy or more natural looking but I was happy with the result and have chosen to stick with these for now.
I hope you like what I have done so far
Over the weekend I have been working on some animations, but something little I coded that I wanted to share was the addition of a god mode.
This is a very important aspect of troubleshooting as it gives me the ability to fly around the the loaded areas and not be plagued by the falling down into ant nests as well as checking chunk loading over the y axis.
I have included a screenshot to show why it can be so important to be able to fly out of a hole as well as an “underground” view that shows cave distribution. The rest of the weekend now holds a relaxing catch up with friends to have some drinks, play some board games and have a break from developing for the afternoon.
Just a quick post to talk about my blockers. For a few months I have been battling the evils of network code and it has been a massive trek up hill. Recently I had some small wins and crested the hill only to find it a small part of a larger mountain. For a long time the structural changes meant that the networking code was a blocker to working on anything else. Now that I have had some small wins I am taking a break from the networking portion to continue with game play development.
This mean networking is not in the current test builds I have right now but it will be in the future. I can now work on the network code in parallel to other areas without the overall structure stopping any progress. This will see me having more time to work on some modelling and animation aspects, improve the quality of the voxel world and begin to consider major areas like inventory, crafting, skills and end game story lines.
In the interim I will share with you a recent world generation bug (which I have now fixed).
Since my first post I have been asked about my creative process and how I have learned to do what I have been doing. I thought it might be best to start with the more visual aspect and talk about 3D modelling.
This little guy was the first ever model I really tried my hand at, and as you can see he is very much on the basic end of the scale. I was intending to do a low poly Google Cardboard game that was much like a log ride in a theme park where the player had to hunt for treasure in a Disney-esque setting. I decided not to pursue that project at the time as the ideas behind Little Bit Lost had begun to form and I was very keen to begin working on them.
At this point I thought it was worth spending some more time learning to model in more detail and I began sifting through YouTube and learning everything I could. I was certainly inspired by a lot of the speed video, which show creation coming to life in a sped up time lapse, and I will share with you one that inspired me in its methods.
This video by PigArt was simple in its approach and results in a rather good looking low poly wolf. The approach of modelling based on a reference image gave me the confidence to try my hand at the technique and a lot of my modelling use this approach. I have even began doing a basic sketches (so bad I am not willing to share them) to get the ball rolling.
One of my biggest inspirations to modelling that I have to mention is Darren Lile (https://www.youtube.com/user/DarrinLile). He is a fantastic YouTube tutor, whose steam punk kid video series I have watch many times. He presents the content in a structure manner that even today when I am trying to remember a technique or hot key I know which video to watch and almost exactly where to resume watching from to find what I am looking for.
I am always learning and I am at a point where I feel that he texturing of my models is an area that I most need to spend time on I have recently made friends with a brilliant Brazilian developers that has offer to give me some pointers and I will certainly be taking him up on the offer! In the mean time I will share some low poly models I did for a game that I was a part of developing for the Global Game Jam 2016.
Today is my first blog post ever and I wanted to talk about my plans for my game and my development so far…
I start planning out a game about 10 months ago and was really enjoying survival voxel games at the time. As a small time game developer I was starting to play games with more of an insight into how it all works behind the smoke and mirrors and often would love working out how something was done.
This is how I got interested in the idea of doing a voxel based game and at the time (and even now) there is a biblical flood of zombie survival games on the market, so I needed some original idea that was unique yet still was a fun and interesting experience for the player.
Having been a fan of “Honey I Shrunk the Kids”, books like The Borrowers and even the shenanigans of the “Toy Story” franchise I was really interested in taking my game development to a smaller scale. So I started thinking about a science experiment gone wrong and you wake up to realise that you are a “Little Bit Lost”.
A large portion of the work I have done over the last few months has being to build a voxel system in Unity which I have now got working quite well, have optimised, integrated marching cubes to smooth the terrain, added in separate cubic style voxels and am currently working on getting it all networked.
Being an Australian developer I want to include a lot of Australian inspired small scale creatures and already have a very interesting list of insects, bugs and creepy crawlies to challenge players. When you are Australia everything can kill you. When you are tiny in Australia you don’t stand a chance!
I recently have worked on one of the main non player characters that will be encountered in the game and that is the ant. He is going to be based on the Australian meat ant and will be a very interesting adversary for players of the game.
I hope to regularly post updates about my development progress and hope that people will soon enjoying playing “Little Bit Lost”.