UI Mockup

ui mockup 2 ui mockup

I considered going UIless for Deadweight but there are some things that are made so much simpler with an integration of UI. The above images are old screenshots with a quick mockup UI overlayed on top.

Crosshair

The crosshair was replaced with a laser sight early on but I couldn’t get the laser to work reliably and without minor buggy-ness. Making it hard to aim in a FPS is probably a big no-no so the crosshair is coming back!

Timer

I’ve added a countdown timer to indicate how much longer you must survive in the arena before the round is over. At one point I though it’d be neat to build a physical scoreboard monitor attached to the ceiling like a basketball stadium but didn’t care for the extra work when slapping on a counter as a UI is so much quicker.

Health

Originally, I planned for players to die upon one hit from an enemy but in fairness I think a health meter would help players feel less cheated especially if they’re near the end of a difficult round. The game is very difficult as it is.

Heat

In order to offset the limitless ammo of the pistol, it overheats when after firing enough rounds in quick succession. Up until now it was guesswork to know how much heat was building up and the gun would malfunction before players could know to cool down. With a meter that keeps track of overheating, players should be able to make a more strategic decision to cool off before continuing to fire.

Recharged

Yesterday, I did nothing but sleep. All day and night. I only got up to eat and surf the web a few times. Yesterday, I didn’t feel like doing anything. Today I feel like a million bucks. Today I feel like there’s nothing I can’t do!

My sleep cycle has been getting messed up in the past few weeks with no regularity to what hours I go to bed. It was common for me to stay up all night and sleep all afternoon the next day. And I don’t feel well rested after that.

Starting today, I mean to reintroduce a regular schedule into my life. There’s been too many days when I don’t feel like doing anything and I think it has something to do with irregular sleep patterns and lack of deep rest.

Also, I’ve been slacking off on hitting the gym so I want to get back into the groove of working out every day for short but intense 20-30 minutes sessions. That always feels good, especially when I cap it with a visit to the sauna.

Another thing I’ve put off for far too long are the Youtube video logs and development updates I’ve been meaning to do. I think it’d be a great thing to have for posterity. If I can just treat it like any other daily habit like brushing my teeth and taking a shower, i.e. keep it low effort and low time commitment, then I should be able to maintain the habit.

Lastly, I’ve been depriving myself of any form of social life. A new club opened up only blocks away from my house. I should start going out on weekends just to get out of the house and get my jaws moving – you know, holding conversations with other human beings.

These are things I must do if I am to continue developing Deadweight to its full potential in the months to come without losing steam. A healthy set of habits and routines will go a long way in keeping me happy and productive for the long haul.

I’ve been yearning to get my game out the door quickly so I can finally move out of mom’s house and live on my own again. But I fear that in my haste I may release a half-ass game that does not reflect my very best effort. That, I cannot allow.

It’s helped to change my perspective on the matter and focus on the wonderful things I do have instead of what’s missing in my life. This morning I reflected on things I’m grateful for – a loving mom, an adorable dog, a big house in which I’m free to spend all my days doing work that I love without any financial pressure to pay living expenses for as long as I want. I shouldn’t forget what a sweet deal that is.

My First Interview

While Deadweight was in Steam Greenlight, I was contacted by a Russian games site asking about an interview. I’ve never heard of this site before and from what I can tell it’s not very big either. Still, it was an exciting proposition seeing as how I’ve never been interviewed in my life! So I took them up on it. They asked some good questions that I enjoyed answering. Get Google Translate handy to check out the interview. Note that some things will be slightly lost in translation.

Full Steam Ahead

I almost did a Kickstarter. An ask of $10-20k only to fund some ancillary aspects of the game like music, voice-overs, and forming a company. Had a change of heart over the weekend. I finished filling out the whole thing including a video with me in front of the camera. All I had to do was press the go live button. Nah!

I only realized after filling out all the reward tiers, but holy shit I was about to sign up for a whole lot of extra work just to fulfill them. See, Kickstarter appears from the outset like a place you go to get free money. Turns out all of the most successful campaigns offered a lot of stuff for each reward tier, with a very small percentage of funds coming in from pure donation based tiers. So pairing down my reward tiers would have seriously compromised the campaign.

The biggest reason of all for my last minute decision to pull out had mostly to do with the time sink that KS would represent. I barely got anything done during my 2 week Steam Greenlight campaign. Surely, running a Kickstarter would mean an equal delay of actual game development. And once it’s over, I would be beholden to a long list of promises that may likely extend the total development time past what I was willing to commit to.

Sometimes I feel like a lion on top of a mountain who can do ANYTHING! It’s in those moments that I suddenly feel the desire to blow up the scope of my game and continue working on it indefinitely until I’ve crammed in everything I could think of. Idea generation and dreaming big are exciting things to do. Actually doing the work and getting your hands dirty, less so.

I’m running on fumes. I lost my cool the other day while alone in the house and broke some stuff, punched some walls, lost my voice from screaming at the top of my lungs*. It would be unwise to add significant development time past an additional month or so. I’m ready and eager to release my game. It’s simple and it’s basic. But it’s fun. I enjoy playing it – gives me an adrenaline rush when I really get into it. I’ll put a cheap price tag on it so that players feel they are receiving more value than what I’m asking for in return. Modest success is all that I wish for my first outing.

The lesson? State management, folks. It’s real important!

*Things are fairly peachy here at my mom’s house. Delicious homemade food, a wonderful dog, fresh air, and a big lawn. On the other hand it has been like an extremely mild form of solitary confinement. Very little human contact. Very little time spent outside. My fault? Maybe. Hitting the gym and meditating frequently has helped tremendously. It’s what’s kept me going for this long. Only a little longer now.

Screenshot (560)

Deadweight v Steam Greenlight

My little first person shooting game, Deadweight, was greenlit on Steam on June 25 after I submitted on June 10. I put my submission together in about 2-3 days. It was a mad dash.

The reason for the rush? I wanted to get a few days ahead of E3. I figured people’s heads would be spinning so fast from all the eye candy and exciting news coming from E3 that scarcely anyone would bother paying notice to some games sitting in Greenlight. I think that assumption wasn’t entirely correct, though. The day after I submitted, Steam Summer Sales kicked in and probably brought on more traffic to Steam than usual and thus more eyes on Greenlight games in general.

The truth is, the internet and the world has more bandwidth to process lots of games than I expected. E3 wasn’t the attention hording black hole that I thought it was. Over 17,000 unique visitors looked at my Greenlight page and over 7000 of them voted ‘yes.’ So I’m glad things turned out the way it did. I think the timing was good overall, and submitting it a few days earlier or later wouldn’t have made much of a difference. It did mean that I hit the submit button before I felt my page was completely perfect.

In fact, at the beginning the ratio between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ votes wasn’t looking too hot. It was about 51% yes and 49% no. Yikes. I looked at the comments written in and I saw why. People called out the lack of content indicated by the trailer and description. Guilty as charged. Partly inspired by “mini games” like Five Nights at Freddy’s, I thought that I, too, could get away with putting out a tiny game with very little content and still offer a compelling product as long as I priced it commensurately cheap.

Not. The. Case. The people visiting my Greenlight page the first few hours were not having it. But rather than panicking, their complaint was rather a relief. The only reason I restricted the scope of my game so tightly was because I was afraid of wasting time on a game that not many people would be interested in. I wanted to make a tiny game, ship it as quickly as possible, and use the modest revenue to make a bigger and better game. Baby steps, I thought. But the comments criticizing the tiny scope of my game actually gave me the confidence to expand it significantly.

It wasn’t for a lack of ideas. I had tons. Now I had a valid reason to pursue them and put them all in the game for a meatier, more substantial experience. I knew what I had to do. It was time go big or get the fuck out. I put up an announcement on the Greenlight page in addition to updating the game description to reflect my decision to pivot and make the game bigger and better with way more variety than I was presenting in the trailer.

That’s when the needle turned and the ratio between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ votes suddenly turned in my favor. It eventually hit 60% ‘yes’ votes over the course of the next few days! And the comments coming in were positive, enthusiastic, and very supportive. You can imagine how that felt after months of working alone in the dark with hardly any feedback. The month prior I put my game in front of a few friends and watched them play. That was pretty exciting, but going through Steam Greenlight was something else. The whole world chimed in on something with my stamp all over it. Literally. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to copy and paste comments into Google Translate.

Just a day over 2 weeks since I submitted, I got the email from Valve that my game got greenlit. In the days prior I knew it was only a matter of time. So what’s next? Finish the game and get it on the store as soon as possible, of course.

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My E3 Excitement Overview

This week during E3 was a time for our collective minds to get blown away by what all the big boys of game development have in store for us. Full disclosure: I was never there. I watched from the comfort of my own bedroom. :-)

My personal favorites during the event in no particular order:

Uncharted 4 – The opening hiccup as the demonstrator failed to assume control of Nathan was a potent reminder that all games, even those of the highest pedigree, are in the end made my people just like you and me, not perfect robots. And to Naughty Dog’s credit – at a time in gaming history when I and perhaps many others are tiring of linear one-off scripted experiences – they somehow still manage to keep me excited for this particular brand of gaming even as I roll my eyes at other games that have adopted this style of play.

THEY SOMEHOW STILL MANAGE TO KEEP ME EXCITED

Fallout 4 – This game’s presentation was handled eerily similar to an Apple keynote. A buildup of anticipation, surprises, and more surprises. Todd Howard even pulled off the famous false-ending-followed-by-a-surprise-announcement that Steve Jobs was known for. What I like about Todd is that he has a charisma that is rare in game developers who typically sound awkward and rehearsed on stage. And that man and his team know how to delight audiences. There’s a feature in Fallout 4 during the presentation that struck me as being similar to Deadweight’s gameplay. I’ll be taking a few notes on that, thanks Bethesda!

Halo 5 – I like that 343i is really making this franchise their own. Looks like their taking a bit of Metal Gear Solid 2’s approach by putting you in the shoes of someone other than the series’ main protagonist. I know a couple of peeps working on this game as environment artists so it’s extra exciting to see something of such high quality come partly from the result of their contributions.

Doom – After the initial excitement of seeing something so graphically advanced, I realized how this game is really just the same hundreds of FPS’s I’ve played before with a different skin on it. I did admire it’s purity, though. That’s what sets it apart. No dizziness inducing UI clutter, no heavily scripted sequences, no chatterboxes yelling objectives at you. Just you, your weapons, and your enemies. Simplicity is something we could use more of in games these days. Like when you walk into a Ramen shop and there’s only 2 items in the menu. There’s a pleasant elegance to that.

THERE’S A PLEASANT ELEGANCE TO THAT

Hitman – IO interactive pulled off the old and tiresome trick of we-don’t-have-anything-to-actually-show-so-here’s-a-cg-trailer. This marketing tactic no longer has the umph that it used to now that gamers are smarter than to trust that the quality of a cg trailer can accurately reflect the quality of the final game. But I am excited about their release date being just a few months away. They’re planning to roll out content as time goes by instead of waiting to complete the game before letting anyone get their hands on it. It sounds like a smart move that’s probably financially motivated but it’s also great for fans like me.