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Design Game Development Productivity

Hands-On GameDev: Five-Minute Textures

If you happen to follow me on Twitter, you may have caught me sprucing up my “developer art” during a coding break, thrilled with myself for very quickly improving the backdrop of my card game prototype. If not, here was the tweet:

Now, clearly this is not game-changing artwork–though I like the Contra level 1 thing it has going on–but the speed with which I created something appropriate was a huge win. I thought I would share a couple of tricks for anyone interested. You may or may not consider this technique production-quality, but it may be a lifesaver during your next game jam weekend.

Quick and Dirty 2D Textures

For demonstration purposes, let’s say I need to come up with three materials to use, yesterday. I’m going to quickly create ground, water, and rock textures that won’t look out of place in a retro-style 2D game. To follow along as closely as possible, you will need just about any version of GIMP.

Quick note: I will not go into TONS of detail about the individual steps. These are all pretty routine tasks, and if you’re unfamiliar with them, they’ll be easy to look up.

  1. Create a new white image – The size is up to you.
  2. Fill the image with your desired base color – I’m starting with grass, I’ll use green.
  3. Create a new transparent layer on top
    layers
  4. Fill the top layer with a pattern – Use your imagination and pick a pattern that might create a nice texture with a little tweaking. Worry about its texture, not its color. You’ll get better at this with a little experimentation. I chose Walnut.pattern

    Note: There are good tutorials out there for adding patterns to GIMP if you need more to work with.

  5. Adjust the pattern layer:
    1. Start with Opacity at 50%, tweak as desired.
    2. Set a layer mode that improves the look. For my purposes, Burn usually looks good.

    pattern2

    Don’t worry if you’re not quite loving the look yet, we haven’t yet applied the dirtiest shortcut of all…

  6. Apply filthy, fake pixelation:
    1. Click Filters > Blur > Pixelize…
    2. Experiment with the Pixel Width and Pixel Height settings until you like the look in the preview window.

    pattern3

  7. Make final opacity and layer mode changes as desired

You’re done!

There are any number of tweaks you can make to this recipe, including gradients on the base color layer, scaling up the pattern layer for an even more pronounced retro/pixelated look, etc.

Here are my other two patterns and their ingredients:

Water

water

Pattern: Leopard
Pattern Layer Mode: Burn
Opacity: 20%
Pixellization: Around 4 Height/Width
Other Tweaks: Pattern scaled up to 250% height/width

Stone

stone

Pattern: Burlwood (Whatever that is)
Pattern Layer Mode: Difference
Opacity: 50%
Pixellization: Up around 10 Height/Width
Other Tweaks: Pattern scaled way up, saturation reduced, contrast increased

Now go make some textures, and let me know if this kind of post helps!

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Business Code Design Game Development Game Industry Games Productivity

Inside Indie Dev: Philip Devine, Falling Stars

Philip Devine (@ArkisVir)
Founder, Riveted Games
Project: Falling Stars: War of Empires

After discovering game development in college, Philip Devine wanted to give other content creators a head start on the unique career opportunities available in gaming. He set out to create a club for programmers, musicians, and artists, that grew to about 25 members in its first year. He credits this experience with building the confidence he needed to start his own major development project.

Now a Chicago-based IT professional, Devine is leading his team at Riveted Games through the last stages of development on Falling Stars: War of Empires, a 4X PC strategy game already greenlit on Steam that he expects to release within the next few months.

For those unfamiliar, 4X is a genre of complex strategy games in which players control an empire by eXploring, eXpanding, eXploiting, and eXterminating.

Falling Stars: War of Empires is likely to please a diverse crowd. 4X strategy players beg for games with substance from anyone who will listen. Space games and board game-like experiences requiring diplomacy and intellect rarely have trouble finding an audience. The game also follows on the heels of a movement in the gaming community that recognizes and celebrates a game smart enough to offer new and different experiences to long-term players.

“That feeling when you lay out a really intricate plan and try to carry it out against your friends is something that is totally missing in video games right now,” Devine says. “It just doesn’t exist in a format that is conducive to multiplayer.  My goal was to make a challenging multiplayer game that rests on the same intellectual and diplomatic skills as modern board games, and what we have now is way better than I’d ever imagined it would be.”

Based on the concepts Devine demonstrated to me in the most recent build, Falling Stars will give many of these players what they’re looking for.

screen1

Development for Falling Stars began in earnest in October of 2012, when Devine started devoting his travel time on Chicago’s public transportation system to working on his game. He says that he developed 90% of the game on his work commute. Though the workspace wasn’t ideal, he says there was an unexpected benefit from working in this setting.

“Kind of a cramped development environment,” Devine says. ” But it got lots of ‘organic marketing’ that way by talking to people who have never seen a game being actively developed.”

This grit has served him well in the years that followed. Falling Stars was almost completely redeveloped on two occasions, his first child was born (now two years old, with a second on the way), and he now manages one full-time developer, two artists, one composer, and conducts business with his new publisher, Lock ‘n Load Publishing. Thanks to the help of industry friends like The Foundry’s Simon Pickles and Hungarian developer Daniel Karsai, Riveted Games now boasts all the benefits of a AAA development workflow without the time constraints that hurt products.

screen3

Devine’s refusal to rush Falling Stars and his unending communication with players has led to a positive relationship with the community. The game has been in private beta since December and he says testers have helped make big positive changes and contributions to the game. Devine has also reached players during several promotional campaigns.

“Steam Greenlight went great, given my game and company were relatively unknown, and working in a niche genre,” Devine says. “We laid out a strategy ahead of time and timed a bunch of campaigns all at once. I had a fairly active twitter account that I built up a few hundred followers on, I had a Facebook page with about 100 people, and I posted about the game everywhere people were talking about games in my genre. The ‘kicker’ was I also launched a Kickstarter campaign the same day and put my link at the top. That’s what helped give that huge spike in the beginning. After that, I focused a lot more attention on development and the game was greenlit on its own after about 3 months.”

screen4

To other indies working on their first big projects, Devine suggests putting one’s focus on the true finish line. He says the core mechanics and a playable game are far from all you need to plan for.

“You spend all of this time developing the game you want, so why settle just to release it when things get hard?” Devine asks. “I’m a runner, so I think of it like running the first 20 miles of a marathon, and then quitting right when it gets hard. Don’t quit when it gets hard, and the end result will be worth it…Finishing the game is the first 20 miles, and thorough testing cycles are the last 6. Make as many fixes/optimizations/user experience enhancements as you can, break down core mechanics if you have to…you’ll know you’re done when you’re happy with the feedback. It doesn’t have to be perfect, no game is, but you’ll know when the game feels right.”

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Business Code Design Game Development Game Industry Games Productivity

Inside Indie Dev: Iber Parodi Siri, Mission Massive Migration

Iber Parodi Siri (@rmbsevl)
Founder, Rombosaur Studios
Project: Mission Massive Migration

Mission Massive Migration is a 2D retro action game created by Iber Parodi Siri under the banner of Rombosaur Studios. It was released to a quietly positive reception on the Google Play store in early January. Though the game is still listed in the 500 – 1,000 Installs range, an average review score of 4.45/5 across a current total of 36 reviews marks a well-received first effort for Rombosaur. Between the game’s retro charm (think of Solar Jetman from the NES days) and Iber’s interesting background, I was curious to learn more about the project and find out what’s next for his studio.

Iber lives in the Tolkienesque Bariloche, Argentina, where he tests and develops software professionally. His free time is a whirlwind of electronics projects, music creation and recording, art, video production, blogging, and software development. He says his passions have naturally led from one to the next, and that the journey started early.

“I’m a guitar player, built myself two electric guitars when I was 15 years old,” Iber says. “I also build my guitar pedals. I’m into hardcore punk, metal, thrash, alt rock, indie rock, and synth stuff…I had multiple bands in the past. My latest was called DAR [“Desafiando a la Realidad” or “Defying Reality”] but I quit because of lack of time and wanted to program more and focus a little bit more on college. Programming is a passion for me, as well as music. I guess I like to create things.”

In this area, Iber is greatly accomplished. In casual conversation he was able to point me to a YouTube channel, a blog, and a Bandcamp profile all full of his creative and technical projects. He participates in a variety of online communities and offers up many of these creations simply for the enjoyment of others.

Blogged artwork
Blogged artwork

Iber views game development differently. Though he made Mission Massive Migration available for free, he views creating games as a way to earn income and dictate the next direction for his professional career. To get started, he drew inspiration from a small team famous for shaping their destiny through game dev.

“At the time I started creating [Mission Massive Migration] I was playing Doom: BFG Edition, that comes with Doom, Doom 2, Doom 3, and expansions for all the games,” Iber says. “Doom 3 blew my mind away. I had never played it before…I put like 88 hours into this game. I became a little bit obsessed about it, watching YouTube videos about the creators, reading interviews, and finally reading a book called Masters of Doom. That was the final motivation I needed to make it happen.”

With that motivation, Iber described the 10-month development of Mission Massive Migration as straightforward. He had a specific vision for an Android game with a virtual game pad, and a 2D character to make jump and shoot. He got started with placeholder assets from the internet, while learning conventional game design and development strategies.

Iber says the discovery of some public domain graphical assets created by Adam Atomic gave him an opportunity to focus on development while creating a small amount of retro art to supplement the freely available graphics he had found.

“[Adam Atomic’s] assets contained laser doors, batteries, and powered cells,” says Iber. “Basically I built a game around the art assets I found. I drew the final boss and the first scene on Earth. I’d say that sometimes, if the planets are aligned right, I can make decent retro art.”

This strategic decision allowed Iber to complete his first game in 10 months. He published the game officially on January 7th, showing his work proudly to some of his online communities including Reddit and Twitter.

Iber’s sense of accomplishment gave way to feelings of disappointment.

“To be honest, the game didn’t reach the amount of people I would have liked,” Iber admits. “It got almost 400 downloads in the first 2 days due to a post on reddit/r/gamedev, but then it just dropped to two downloads per day on average.”

Not to be deterred, Iber has remained incredibly gracious with critics and maintains a positive outlook about the road ahead.

Oh Reddit…

“This is definitely the beginning of my career in game development,” Iber says. “I went all in on this game. Of course it has flaws, but I’m really happy with it. I’m already learning new technologies to make better games.”

Iber says he’d like to tackle darker material in the future like his heroes of Doom fame. He acknowledges his flaws in art creation and has an interest in teaming up with a dedicated artist for his next project.

As for fellow aspiring game developers, Iber has both technical and philosophical advice to offer. For programmers interested in creating games, he recommends Java with the Flixel-GDX engine for its clear code and helpful documentation as a free introduction to object-oriented, multi-platform development. For aspiring developers with little or no coding experience, he recommends learning Love2D, a LUA programming language engine that’s simple to learn and allows newcomers to achieve small objectives quickly, which helps with the learning curve.

“That was technical,” Iber says. “But the most important advice I can give is, your first game should be a game that you like to play, a game that you are proud of making, a game that you’re motivated to finish. If you don’t finish a game, you’re not a game dev! You learn a lot by finishing a game. There are a lot of details that need to be taken care of. There’s the publishing part, and the criticism part too that you need to learn how to extract the valuable information from.”

Iber’s social media accounts make it clear that he isn’t resting after his work on Mission Massive Migration. He remains active in the game dev community, still encouraging others to keep pushing and discussing new work of his own. His work ethic and his unfailing optimism make him a great bet in the indie scene’s near future.

“It’s just a dream I have that I will try my best to make it come true,” Iber says. “We’ll see what happens on the way.”