Thursday, March 30, 2017

Fly, Dog. Fly!

 photo GAP_ride_alone_zps0pjsshbk.gif
It's dangerous to fly alone!

So I made a .gif using GAP for GIMP and Lightworks and the very easy Windows 10 video capturing through the Xbox button on the Xbox 360 controller! Anyway, I meant to contribute to "Screenshot Saturday" on Twitter for the first time, but I forgot. Also, had a bit of an issue with getting the gif to output in 30 fps rather than 60.

Last week, I met with a business mentor from SCORE at the Venture Cafe to talk about (crowd) funding. He also had an associate with him who has helped secure funding for some VR games. No big revelations in terms of what to do to be successful, but it was a nice weirdness to be taken seriously by successful persons. The VR guy suggested I look into FIG instead of Kickstarter. FIG is like Kickstarter, but people have an option to invest in the game, and also there's like a fund of studios who will invest in the game too, if they even approve to run a crowd funding campaign for your game. I've also been looking at The Indie Fund, which is just like the guys and gals who made World of Goo, Braid, Journey, and other early, successful indie games. This has also led me down a path of watching about 4 hours of Jonathan Blow videos on his new programming language, Jai. That's fun, because he's solving for all these problems that I didn't even know I had! VR guy also said that using the Photon Unity Networking plug-in for online networking is much better than it used to be and highly suggested I pursue that for my game. So that's the plan for that.

I may meet with a local indie developer who got funded through FIG week after next (because next week I'm going to DC to visit my sister, brother-in-law, and niece, before they all move to Cote d'Ivoire for 2 years. My father will also be there).

I have a rough trailer made, using music from Yellow Ostrich. I'm waiting to hear back from them about licensing though, so...we'll see.

In terms of actual game development, I've been working on the whale subsystems. The belly of the whale can now be entered from any player on the back of the whale by holding Y or the r-key. This replaces allowing only the player on the helm being able to enter the belly. I'm also working on a sub-level to the belly where a player can sleep in their sleeping bag. A player needs to sleep to recover their energy. While sleeping, they enter their dream body and can float around and help out the flock. A motivation for this is (a) substitution in team sports (b) not wanting players to get stuck as 'the driver' or 'turret guy' or in any one particular role and (c) napping is a significant part of my life and (d) this will tie into my idea for rest stops/hotel stops where everyone can sleep in a big bed together, Go Dog Go style. Here's a shot of a player sleeping in the belly of the whale and Go, Dog. Go! lol.
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So Saturday night, I've been invited to a young person's 11th birthday party and I'm bringing Flock of Dogs and making him and all his friends play it. Sunday, I'm having adult-like friends over to play test again, and then early next week I plan on sending out access to a build of the game to my close friends and family. No online multiplayer works right now, so don't expect too much fun.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

What Did You Learn About Today?

So this week has been a little different. I've begun using and learning several new applications: Discord, Slack, Audacity, Lightworks, and MailChimp.

So Discord and Slack are chat/voice chat applications that improve on Skype in many ways. They don't take much learning, really. So far as I can tell, Slack is popular among software development and more serious business stuff, while Discord is popular among gamers and online fan communities. A lot of influencers (Twitch streamers and YouTubers) have their own Discord channels. (I also spent a few hours copy/pasting business contact info for influencers so that one day I might send them a copy of my game for them to play and share.) I'm considering one for the Flock of Dogs community. Actually, I've made a Flock Talk Discord server that has like 3 members (if you want to become the 4th member, join here: !). Woohoo. I'm using Slack, because someone just created a Boston Indies Slack server, so I've been chatted a little bit with local indies. 

Audactiy is a sound editing program. I don't have the rights to a certain song about a whale by Yellow Ostrich, but after I have my meeting today (which I guess I'll talk about next week), I plan on emailing the band's licensing dude to see what kind of agreement we can come to. I want to use their song for a trailer. Their song is 3:44 long, but using Audacity, I cut off a lot of the intro, outro, a few verses, and some weird bridges, and got it down to 1:40, because game trailers, as a rule, are supposed to be about 90 seconds long. Then my roommate (see, who has done this sort of thing professionally, redid my work and made the cuts much more seemless. So thanks, Matt. I'm like way to excited about using the Yellow Ostrich song. My buddy who's in a successful band said I might be expected to pay $1k, which to me is quite a lot. Maybe I can ask them to make payment conditional upon a successful Kickstarter.

Lightworks is for video editing. This ties in with the trailer I'm trying to make, but also needing to submit to Boston Festival of Indie Games ( The submission deadline is April 15, then there's a few rounds of selection. I'm going to be submitting Flock of Dogs and also, two friends and I are working on a tabletop game we're also going to submit. 

MailChimp is for handling contact lists and emailing those lists. Currently, I have three groups. People who have shown active interest in wanting to follow development: they'll get monthly emails. People who want to help my playtest: they'll get sporadic emails and be asked to participate in the Discord server or send me email feedback/videos and report bugs. Then there's other people whose email I have, you know, from being a person with email for like 15 years. I'll probably email those people three times. Once to let them know about the game and invite them to become one of the other types of people and to tell their friends. Once to let them know I've started a Kickstarter and to tell their friends. And once to let them know I've released the game and to tell their friends.

Why am I doing all this and not working on the game? I don't know. I read articles about "if you want to actually be an indie game dev as a career, you better build a community"! So, as much as I'm (a) afraid of rejection and (b) think my game is so far from being done and (c) don't want to annoy people with promotional material........I wanna make games. So I want to build a community. Because community members will then want support my game and they'll share my game with others, which will be good, because my game is going to be worthwhile. It  won't rot your brain, desensitize you to violence, or isolate you and make you lonely. Ah, video games.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Flock of Dogs Flew in Boston

WE HAD A WHALE OF A TIME at PAX PREGAMERS and at Made in MA hosted by Mass Digi.

This was the email I sent out to local friends:

Been working reaal haaard on my video game. It still doesn't really work all the time lol, but maybe some other people's games are good at PAX PREGAMERS event tomorrow (Thursday)?
Playcrafting's PAX PREGAMERS
Anyway. It's free. Bring all your friends. I'm skipping my men's league soccer playoffs for this shit. Come cheer me up.
There's still the Friday night event ($15):
Mass.Digi's Made in MA Party
In other news, I bought a domain name:
I bought a banner from Staples and I'm going to mount with a drying rack, curtain rod, and shoelaces:
Inline image 1Inline image 2
I bought business cards from Staples:
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I bought a 42 inch TV off craigslist:
*no image available (it looks like a TV)*
I bought paw print thumbstick covers and a few new controllers:
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Holy guacamolee! I'm getting really good at social media, too. IG, Twitter, FB...need to get on that Snapchat. Missed out on the IPO.
P.S. I don't have any other events lined so I won't be spamming you with more emails for a while. Sucks to be my friend.


So anyway, last Wednesday night, I play tested my game for a few hours with Kevin Anglin and Courtney Castle. We came up with a list of 29 issues/bugs/frustrating things about that game. Many of the bugs reuined the experience for one or all players playing. Here they are:

- player reticles not moving any more wtf?
- pausing and then unpausing with controller blocks all further input lol (pausing with keyboard fine)
- when dead, when player docks, if other player in dock, error and dead player is permadead!
- players can get stuck permanently on fin of whale
- using solar panel in river makes current permanently act on whale, whale no longer functional
- dog wounds misaligned
- using whale horn drill on hut or on others can crash game
- players can both hold sun box and man helm...problem?
- torpedo explosions do friendly fire
- harpoon changes colors when players heal
- dog wounds don't disappear
- aiming sun balls is mapped to wrong thumbstick
- harpoon missing reference when harpooned item is destroyed, breaks player input
- almost impossible to pick up harpoons in the sky
- rubies and gems not spawning properly
- the deck doesn't affect players as it gets dirty
- the deck changes to "clean" color even if dirty when whale rolls from belly to right side up
- whale no longer drinks from watering holes (no way to get more water, gg)
- sometimes trying to man a dock warps you into the helm
- loot hardly ever drops
- confusing to have to dock to drop solar panel
- add a controls menu?
- solar shields don't last long enough
- deck gets dirty too quickly
- too hard to charge only when sunbox is on shelf
- flappy bird enemies are hard to see
- dead players can float very far away from whale, very hard to ever get to play again
- change harpoon throwing to toggle?

And there were other little issues too. So I stayed up until 4 am then got up at 8:30 am and worked until 4 pm trying to crush those bugs and/or write work arounds. Then my cousin and I left for PAX PREGAMERS. Photos from PAX PREGAMERS (taken by Grayson Whitworth, my step cousin):

Ok, so that was cool. Met the guys making Skorcery and they were cool. Christopher Night came by and played my game! Met lots of other folks. There was no room for by sweet banner tho. Also, my cousin carried my TV like a quarter mile, because apparently, to get into Laugh Boston, you need to go into the Westin next door, go up the elevator, then walk across the hotel lobby. Anyway, the game still broke a lot while demo'ing it at PREGAMERS. I wore my voice out saying things like, "I'VE NEVER MADE A GAME BEFORE HAHA." and "Wow, look at all these bugs, I'm so, so sorry."

But, to be honest, people were quite positive and were very kind about the buggy experience. Many asked me what the next step for the game was going to be. A few people asked me about where the idea came from and asked if drugs had anything to do with it. Well, no. Also, a drunk, kind-hearted, Minnesotoan talked my ear off about how I should make the game VR. We'll see about that.

So got home at 11 pm, Grayson and I ate at Cambridge Common. Went to bed. At 8:30 am, I made Grayson playtest Flock of Dogs with me. We came up with a list of like 24 bugs/issues/frustrating things:

- mopping while manning station causes player to get permanently stuck
- feeding dogs doesn't work? 
- dogs get stuck in walls sometimes !
- dogs fly through walls sometimes !
- players spawn with harpoons
- dirty deck still doesn't drag player
- too hard to grab hose without accidentally docking on the whale
- can't select levels or menu items with controller at all
- some enemy camps spawning in walls but not always??
- hold to warp button takes too long
- second player can man helm while first player in the belly, then first player stuck permanently
- change thumbstick aiming to right stick to match other shooting mechanics
- whale died error 
- *illegible*
- wounds on dogs too small to make out
- fins block undocking dog straight back into dock (at least not stuck in fin?)
- flappy bird enemies are too hard
- whale body not assigned
- add whale boosting
- whale hose can be picked up from opposite side of whale...sometimes?
- stats don't carry over between levels
- flying dog into whale pushes whale faster than it can swim lol
- more meaningful to charge sunbox if only can be done when shelved

So then Grayson went to Paul Revere's house and I ignored my bosses emails and worked on the game. By 4 pm, I had fixed a good amount of the game breaking stuff and put in some more work around. Went to Made in MA event and had a great time. I also had hardly eaten, so I bought some really tasty, pretty expensive duck tacos from the bar in the venue. I forgot my credit card and the bartender came all the way to my conference room to return it to me! I hope she saw how much glory I was basking in. Then a bunch of my friends showed up! Anneli, Courtney, Dan, Kevin, Sam, Sarah, and Ted! The executive director of Mass Digi talked to me a few times, told me I need to start merchandizing, took my photo next to my banner, and later, it was reported to me, showed pictures of my game to a woman (whom I identified as the organizer of the Boston Indies Meetup group). Anyway, most people claimed to really like my game. What else are they going to say to the creator's face though? And my cousin, at my command, made sure to give out very many of my business cards. I regret not collecting people's email addresses though. Here's photos from Made in MA:

Image may contain: 4 people, indoor

So I really want to do more events. PREGAMERS was free for me, because I didn't get into their PAX booth, which would have been $200/day.  The Made in MA event was $75. I don't seem to be receiving tons of emails begging to buy my game, so...that's a bummer, but it was fun. I know that (a) my game shows well on a convention floor. This makes sense because people don't have to wait to play and the game has very accessible drop-in/drop-out co-op gameplay. (b) Everyone likes my business cards. Duh. (c) Some young women like my game! (d) Need to add little flashing icons of buttons to indicate what to press when, because boy oh boy did I have to tell people what buttons to press a lot. However, I'm pretty happy with the general control scheme. Room for improvement, but it's a solid structure. I have kinda unclear expectations. My booth/table had very little down time and I was actually still playing the game with two women when the venue starting turning on lights. I looked around and every other game was packed up and we were the only ones left. Grayson was sitting across the room waiting. He had already packed up the banner, extra controllers, and business cards. Anyway, I was hoping that people would come to my website and sign up for updates, but that hasn't happened. I did get several new Twitter followers, so maybe I need to up my Twitter game. Not too hard.

Anyaway, that's it for my event wrap ups. They made me feel happy about the work I've been doing and were a huge motivator for getting more work done. I hope to go to more events for sure.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Doing is Redoing

I've started using a time management app, Hours. The effect has been unclear. I've definitely worked a lot this week, put in 36 hrs of Flock of Dogs time, including two hours of what I'm calling "promotional" work. I spent 28 hrs on my day job and 2 hrs on a board game I'm helping design. That's all I'm tracking currently. Now, I'm not super strict about turning on and off the timer, so there's probably a few hours or so of dog walks being counted as programming time, but, you know, I think about the game while walking the dog? Although I don't have any records, this was an abnormally large amount of time spenet this week working in Unity. I think the factors that contributed to this were (a) I have the looming deadline of the Made in MA event, (b) I was sick the previous week and I had done a lot of brainstorming, caught up on work reports for my normal job, and (c) probably felt a mixture of guilt from not working more and a bit of wanting a 'high score' on my new app. Anyway, it felt good to spend a lot of time on the game, but I think about what I all I did and I feel a little disappointed. 36 hours and I finished what? I redid building spawning, I redid the layout of some buildings/designed some new ones, I redid the level loading, I redid monster spawning, redid how the whale "lands" at a building, and I redid the special item system. Those were the big items. I guess when I list it there I feel better, because if I had been adding all that, which would have been approximately the same amount of work, I'd feel great about myself. This is in agreement with most of the general design process I read about. Just keep throwing pasta at the wall. If it doesn't stick, get back to work. If it sticks, cool. Writing is rewriting.

Anyway, a new thing I did add is that when in the river, there is now whale-autopilot. I like this a lot. It's still a little buggy, I think, with some geometry issues with the whale rotating the wrong way, sometimes. Maybe it makes the whale feel more alive? Anyway, narrative-wise, I'm describing this as the whale's instinct for getting home. The whale knows to follow the river, bceause the whale knows that's the way home. When the whale isn't in the river, it doesn't know which way to go. This also makes the decision to go off river more distinct. It also makes 2-player FoD more viable. And it mixes up the pacing with, basically, an on rails shooter experience when you let the whale autopilot in the river. You can manually override the autopilot in the river, of course. That's the only way to get out of the river, but you could also go along the river while piloting as a player.