Subscribe to GameFromScratch on YouTube Support GameFromScratch on Patreon
3. July 2013

 

Now that Project Anarchy is out, I’ve decided to take a look at what you actually get.  If you’ve never heard of it before, Project Anarchy is a collection of Havok game development tools made available completely free for mobile developers.  In this post, we will look at exactly what those tools are composed of.  To get started, head over to the download page and download the installer.  The initial download is just a downloader, the actual install is a great deal larger, just shy of 5GB on my system.

 

 

When I started this post, I expected it to be rather short… boy was I wrong.  Let’s just say, you get a LOT in this package.  This post will give you a pretty good idea of what you get in Project Anarchy and should give you an idea of it’s capabilities.

 

 

Getting started and help contents

 

After installing, you should have a folder structure like this:

image

One important thing to keep in mind, to develop for iOS you need a Mac and need to perform a different download.  Also it is important to note that the vast majority of Project Anarchy’s tools do not run on MacOS.  So basically, you will need a Windows and Mac machine if you want to do iOS development.  That’s pretty much normal at this point in time though.

 

A bit of a warning, Project Anarchy isn’t the only thing you will need to install.  To do Android development on Windows, you will also need the Android SDK and NDK installed, Visual Studio 2010 or higher ( Express works, but lacks Android debugging), as well as the Java 1.6 JDK.  Notice again, 1.6, not the newest version!  Seems a common trend for developer tools to require Java 6 instead of 7.  If developing for iOS, you need to have XCode and the iOS SDK installed.  There is a document specifically about getting start with Android and iOS that walks you through the process in more detail.

 

Documentation and learning resources

 

The documentation shipped with Project Anarchy is in a word impressive.  A great deal of the documentation is installed locally.  The directories that will be of immediate interest to most developers are \Docs\Vision\windows, \Docs\Vision\android, \Docs\Vision\ios, although confusingly enough, they seem to contain only slightly modified versions of the exact same documents!  So, if you want to shave 600MB or so from your install, you can probably start here.    The VisionEngine_Documentation_platformname.chm file is the master index, pulling all the other documents together.  Project Anarchy includes the following documents:

 

image

 

As you can see, a pretty comprehensive set of documentation.  The Startup Guide is the most logical place to start.  It gives you an overview of the various tools, a short Lua scripting primer, etc.  Perhaps coolest of all, there is a full sample project with assets that you can play around with.  These assets are referenced multiple times in the documentation.  There are actually a ton of assets for anyone to get started with, especially if you dont have immediate access to Maya or 3DS Max.

 

In addition to the documentation installed locally, there are a series of video tutorials available, covering vForge, Animation and the basics of scripting.  The quality of the videos varies massively from very good to… not.  There are also a series of courseware, which you can think of like tutorials that are targeted towards school curriculums.  The course ware series all revolve around the sample project you can download here (direct link, 100mb in size).  Additionally they have a StackOverflow style question and answer page as well as a remarkably active forum, considering the age of the project.

 

All told, the information available is quite good.  That said, I’ve done a fair bit of jumping into the documentation and it’s a mixed bag.  It’s well enough written and generally useful.  That said, it has some serious legacy issues, as much of this obviously was inherited from Havok tools, and they’ve been around for a long time.  For example, I found configuration details for Metrowerks Codewarrior… a compiler that might be older than some of the people reading this right now!  So there is a huge amount of documentation, but figuring out which parts you need might be a bit of a challenge.  In the end though, it’s much better than I was expecting and a very well documented and supported SDK.  You can tell they put some focus on documentation/new user experience, and it shows.

 

vForge

 

In many ways vForge *IS* Project Anarchy, in the same way Unity Studio is Unity.  This is where you create your levels, write your scripts, create landscapes, etc.  Basically it’s the glue that holds all the other pieces together.

 

Here is vForge with the RPG project loaded and the Arena scene open.  FYI, the RPG project is available at Data\Vision\Samples\Engine\RPG

image

 

You can navigate around the scene using the mouse.  Aiming with mouse, left mouse button to move in the direction your are looking, right mouse button to change your look direction.  You can also configure it to use WASD keys for navigation if that is your preference.  See where it says “Default Layout”, this is where you can change the layout between the various things you might want to do in vForge, such as script editing, particles, etc.  You can also define your own custom layouts, or use almost every panel as undocked, which is nice on a multi monitor setup.

 

In Engine View, this is where you can place items in the scene.  Here for example, I instanced a BOSS shape from the Shape Creators tab by dragging and dropping onto the Engine View.

 

image

 

Press the Play icon in the Engine View toolbar, and your game will start playing, UI and all ( animated obviously… ):

 

image

 

So, vForge is where you place game objects, but that’s just scratching the surface.  There are a staggering number of tools embedded in here… see:

 

image

We will look at many of them shortly.

 

Script Editing and debugging

 

For example, opening the Script Panel, brings up a script window.  Here is the Boss script:

 

image

 

As you can see, the script editor has full intellisense support, well if that wasn’t a trademarked Microsoft term that is.  What’s the non-trademarked term… code hints?  Anyway… it has them, and I love ‘em.  It’s not as detailed as you might be used to in Visual Studio, but its a great help.  That ? icon to the right brings up context sensitive help too, so highlight a function name and click that button and it will open the reference help to that entry if found.  Handy.

 

Each of these floating panels can also be docked within the main editor, here is the script panel docked below the Engine View for example:

 

image

 

The script editor looks remarkably simple, but there is a great deal of functionality hidden in there.  For example, there is a full snippets library:

 

image

 

In addition to the Script Editor, there is also a full script debugger:

 

image

 

With all of the traditional components you would expect, breakpoints, watches, type inspection, it even allows you to connect to a remote device for debugging.

 

Perhaps coolest of all, by clicking the highlighted debugger, you can invoke the code profiler.

 

image

 

Allowing you to identify performance bottlenecks in your scripts. 

 

 

Terrain

 

Creating Terrain in vForge is a straight forward process.  In the Shape Creators tab, simply drag a Terrain over to your scene:

 

image

 

You will then be prompted with this dialog:

 

image

 

Then its a matter of configuring your terrain:

 

image

 

And presto, our landscape, using the default settings and sand texture:

 

image

 

Now fire up the Terrain Editor and you can raise, drop, smooth, paint, etc… your terrain.  Select the tool, and hold down SHIFT or CTRL and Left Click to paint.

 

image

 

And after playing around for a few minutes:

 

image

 

Obviously I am just playing around and using a fraction of the tools.  You can paint mesh (instances) directly on to the terrain, paint billboards ( textures that always face the user, useful for grass and similar effects ) as well as set up sky boxes including full day/night cycles.

 

In fact, there are dialogs for editing the sky:

 

image

 

Editing time of day, including the effect, sunset and sunrise times:

 

image

 

As well as fog editing and post processing effects ( glow and tone mapping, two settings you chose when initially creating your project ).  So the terrain editing tools are fairly comprehensive.

 

Particles

 

Of course, particles are a heavy part of almost every modern tool and of course, vForge includes a suite of tools for working with/ creating particle systems.  In the form of the particle editor:

 

image

 

This is one of those things I have always sucked at, so it was comforting to see the templates when I clicked the Create a new particle effect button:

 

image

 

The actual editor has a few hundred different settings for your particle system, if you create a particle system, then set it to your newly created system, you can press the play button and watch your change in real time.

 

 

Physics Integration

 

As you can see, Havok Physics is also directly integrated into vForge

 

image

 

Of course, that is only part of the physics equation…  the global part.  You are of course going to need to add physics to your scene.  This is accomplished by means of components.  Add an entity to the scene, define its model type, then you can add a component easy enough.  In this case, i’ve add an entity with a ball model.

 

image

 

Here we selected then entity then added the Havok Rigid Body controller.  As you can see, there are a number of parameters you can play with for Rigid Bodies:

 

image

 

Of course, rigid bodies aren't your only option when it comes to physics.  There are a number of constraints you can add as well ( under the Shape Creators ), such as adding a Terrain constraint to the Terrain object, which will then cause our Rigid Body Ball in interact with the terrain.

 

Mobile Helpers

 

Mobile development has it’s own special difficulties, two of which Project Anarchy has a nice solution to.

 

The first common issue is the deploy cycle.  Generally what you do (on Android) is create an APK, which is your application and all of it’s data bundled together into a single package.  So what happens when you change a few small things then want to test it on device?  Well, you create a new APK file and deploy it.  As your application grows in size, this process gets more annoying.

 

Enter vFileServe, which can either be run in vForge or as a stand alone application.

 

image 

 

Essentially it acts as a virtual file system.  You deploy an application to your device ( using the Prepare Devices Button), which then syncs files between your device and vFileServe using wireless.  This allows you to make changes and do rapid on device testing.

 

Another common problem with developing for mobile devices is emulating the controls.  Multi-touch and motion controls specifically are often difficult to replicate on a PC.  For this Havok provide the vRemoteInput plugin, which enables you to use a mobile device to control vForge.  It is enabled in code however, so there is very little I can show in terms of screenshot.  Basically once enabled, when you go into “play” mode, your game can be controlled using your devices touch screen and motion sensors.

 

Shaders

 

There are also comprehensive tools for dealing with shaders.  The first and easiest to use is the Visual Shader Editor:

 

image

 

This tool enables you to create shaders by linking items and operations together.  For those that prefer direct access to their shaders, there is also an editor:

 

image

 

On top of this, there are panels for creating and managing shader libraries, property inspectors and more.

 

Havok AI

 

AI is obviously a big part of game programming and the user is often left to roll their own.  Not so in Havok, Project Anarchy includes the Havok AI suite.  This is a combination of a set of tools integrated into vForge, as well as many AI related functions available to the programmer.

 

Here are global AI settings:

image

 

In vForge, you have the ability to set up Nav meshes, which consists of geometry that define the navigable portions of your game:

 

image

 

You also have the ability to makes paths ( bezier splines ) for AI to follow, triggers and more.  The majority of Havok AI seems to be on the developer side, with a large number of api calls for things like determining the best path, etc.  I need to look into Havok AI in greater detail later.

 

Havok Animation Tool

 

This is another entire application, seemingly for making animation state machines, so basically for “gamifying” your rigged animations.  Yeah, I think I made that word up.  Truth is, I am not an animator, so this is way outside my pay grade…  anyways, here is Havok Animation Tool running an included example project ( located at C:\Users\Mike\Documents\Havok\Havok Animation Tool 2013.1.0.0-r1\GameAssets\Hero on my PC ).  You can control the characters animations using a game pad.

 

image

 

Again… not my realm of knowledge, so I know very little about this tool.  I believe this was a good part of the product known as Havok Behaviour.

 

Other Tools

 

There are a collection of other tools that are part of Project Anarchy as well.

 

One is the Visual Debugger

image

In Havoks words:

The Havok™ Visual debugger (VDB) is a very convenient tool to monitor the physics representation of a scene in real-time. By watching the physics objects in the visual debugger, you can quickly locate any potential errors, which may not have been located by viewing the scene in vForge alone.

 

vFontGenerator

image

For creating fnt bitmap font files.

 

vSceneViewer for viewing scenes (outside of vForge)

image

 

vModelViewer the name pretty much says it all, for viewing Project Anarchy model files:

 

image

 

vAnimTool You can load a model and anim animation file preview and edit animation sequences:

 

image

 

Art Pipeline Tools

 

There are plugins for Max and Maya for exporting 3D content.  I don’t have either currently installed, so I can only show this screenshot taken from the documentation:

 

image

 

So then… what happens if you don’t have Max or Maya?  Well, you are out of luck.  There is a 30 day fully functioning trial available, but unless you are a student there is a 5000$ pricetag at the end of that trial.

 

Fortunately, that is just a temporary problem, from the ProjectAnarchy answers website:

 

Based off the community feedback we are currently working and testing an FBX importer. We realize that many users in the community use other modeling packages and the FBX importer will help those users with being able to get their assets in.

 

Once that importer is available you will suddenly be able to use tools like Blender, Cheetah, Poser/Daz, Silo, etc.  Basically any tool that exports FBX, which is just about every modern app.

 

Summary

 

There’s tons of functionality packed in this engine, and this is just looking at the tool side of the equation.  Of course there are dozens upon dozens of APIs behind the scenes as well.  In the future I will look closer at how you actually put it all to use.  Let me know if there is anything you specifically want covered.

 

I will say, I am a lot more impressed than I thought I was going to be.  I thought it would be a bunch of poorly documented tools mashed together with minimal documentation.  In reality, it’s a remarkably cohesive and powerful package that covers almost all of the bases.  They certainly have my interested piqued.  Good job Havok!

General Design Programming


11. June 2013

One man game development studios are becoming more and more common these days and plenty of them are having success.  That said, what do you do when that one man doesn't happen to be an artist?  This post looks at some of the options the Indie game developer has for creating or acquiring art for their game.

 

Pixel Art

 

Big chunky pixels that look like they jumped out of the 1980s are becoming more and more common and there is a good reason for it.  Creating Pixel art is easy, at least relative to other art styles.  Don't get me wrong, it still requires some artistic talent…  representing a complex object with a few blobs is certainly a skill.  That said, you can churn out a ton of pixel art in a very short period of time.  The downside to pixel art, if you don't like the aesthetic ( like me ), you are greatly limiting the appeal of your game.  

 

Pixel Art Example:

 

Realm of the Mad God

ROTMG Screenshot Combat

 

Realm of the Mad God is probably one of the most successful pixel art titles.  As you can see, it has a very simple aesthetic, harking back to games from the NES era… and possibly earlier.

If I am honest, far too many Indie titles are pixel art based… because it is probably the most accessible art style.  As a result, I am overwhelmingly sick of it.  It takes a hell of a lot of buzz to get me to even look at a game using this art style now.  Of course, that's just me… plenty of people still love pixel art, so you will have an audience.

 

Pixel Art Tools

At the end of the day, any image manipulation tool that supports a "fat grid" can be used.  A fat grid is a zoomed in view that shows each individual pixel extremely scaled up, as well as a view of the image at it's regular size.  This means your traditional raster graphic packages such as Photoshop, The GIMP and Paint.NET can all be used.  Of course, a great many (insane???) people just use Paint that comes with Windows!

Additionally a number of Pixel Art focused tools have been developed over the years as well.

Pyxel Edit -- in beta, written in Air

aseprite -- Allegro Sprite Editor.  In pixel art style itself

Pixelmator -- MacOS only raster graphics application.  A vastly cheaper alternative to Photoshop with pixel friendly tools

Grafx2 -- a free pixel art oriented graphic application inspired by Deluxe Paint.  Open source too if that's your thing

GraphicsGale -- available as shareware, another pixel art focused application

ProMotion -- another pixel oriented editor, this one is commercial and has been used to create several commercial games. Not sure about it's development status.

PD Pro -- commercial software.  A Photoshop alternative that is vastly cheaper than photoshop

UltimatePaint -- another Deluxe Paint derived painting app

Pixen -- another Mac only pixel editing app.  Beta is available free, otherwise its $15.

 

Frankly at the end of the day, any pixel based image editing tool will do.  Some of the above programs do make more complicated tasks like animating or lighting a great deal easier than just using Paint, so looking into a dedicated app is certainly worthwhile.  Oh, and if you are under 30, you may be wondering WTF Deluxe Paint is?  Simply put, it was THE 2D game art package for the Amiga.  I think it's safe to say that most games in the early 90s had their art drawn in Deluxe Paint!  Since those days, its become the benchmark of sorts for game art packages.

 

 

Tutorials

YouTube Video on pixel Art using GIMP

Pixel Art for games ( using Photoshop )

PixelJoint -- The sites all about pixel art and hosts a series of tutorials.

FinalBossBlues -- Another series of pixel art tutorials

 

My personal opinion… Pixel art is way overdone, I am sick of it and have to imagine many other people are as well.  That said, its the easiest art form for a non-artist to crank out.

 

Voxels

Voxels are the pixel art of the 3D world.  Voxel is an amalgamation of the worlds VOLUME + Pixel.  So, basically they are a pixel with depth, which in every day parlance is what we call a cube.  Voxel worlds are made up of thousands and thousands of cubes… like a gigantic lego set.  Minecraft wasn't the first voxel game, not by a long shot ( there was a company called Novalogic that was obsessed with Voxels ), but it was easily the most popular.

 

Voxel Example:

Minecraft

Minecraft snapshot

Comanche Maximum Overkill ( 1992! )

Comanche92or 2

 

Voxel Tools

There are a number of tools available for editing voxels, some free, some not so free.

Voxel -- create Voxels on your iPad or iPhone.  Export in OBJ/MTL format or in Minecraft's .binvox format. Free

Sproxel -- free voxel editor.  Seems to have been abandoned in 2012.  Last version was Windows only, prior version available for MacOS. Free

Q-Block -- free, online, simple Voxel editor

Paint3D -- $20.  Windows application for editing voxels.

Zoxel -- I think its free.  Available for Linux and Windows, can export in OBJ.

Voxelogic Acropora -- Much higher end product than the above, for creating ultra high resolution landscapes.  Commercial, $90, with demo available

Cubicle Constructor -- Probably the most polished looking app of the above. Prices range from free to $80.

 

Personally, and this is just me, I've always hated voxels.  These days, a voxel game is going to look like a Minecraft clone as there were SOOOOO many Minecraft clones out there.  That said, Voxels work a lot like lego, so if you can create something visually impressive in lego, you can do the same in Voxels.

 

Vector Graphics

Vector graphics are increasingly common, as you can support multiple resolutions using a single art asset.  Since files are stored as a series of vectors, the image stays sharp regardless to how large or small it is scaled.  This can be a huge boon when supporting multiple resolutions especially with mobile devices.  In many ways, constructing an image using vector graphics is similar to working with construction paper.  You essentially layer shapes on top of other shapes to make more complex objects.  Working with vector graphics is a great deal more difficult than pixel art, but isn't outrageously difficult.

 

Vector Graphics Example:

Castle Crashers

Castle crashers 20100902050138751 001

 

Vector Graphic Tools

There are less vector graphic applications and some clear favourites when it comes to game creation.

Adobe Illustrator -- This is the Photoshop of vector graphics.  It's also got a LOT of stuff in their that you don't need, as the package was originally made for doing page layout in the print world.  Still probably the most used professional tool. Expensive! Only available by subscription now.

Adobe Flash -- Increasingly Flash is becoming more and more about game creation.  Flash Professional can be used to create and animate vector graphics, and commonly is!  Also expensive. Only available by subscription now.

Inkscape -- FREE!  Great free vector graphic package.  Very commonly used by those on a budget.

Corel Draw -- another commercial vector graphic package.  Targeted at the same market as Illustrator. Also expensive ( $500 )

iDraw -- Mac/iPad only, quite cheap ( 10$ iPad, 30$ Mac ).  I personally use this program.  More intuitive than Inkscape, simpler than Flash/Illustrator.  No timeline for animation though.

 

There are a couple 2D animation systems available as well.  You can draw your character once, cut them into pieces and let the software handle the animations.  Note that these tools work with regular bitmap graphics, not just vectors

2D IK animation tools

Spine -- 2D skeletal animation

Spriter -- another 2D animation tool

 

Vector Graphic Tutorials

2dgameartforprogrammers -- Has a ton of great vector graphic tutorials.  Be sure to check out the Apache Helicopter tutorial.

Gamasutra tutorial -- Same guy as above, great series.

Inkscape Tutorials -- A series of, you guessed it!  Inkscape tutorials.  Not necessarily game related, but techniques still apply

 

3D Art

I've been a hobbyist at 3D graphics for about as long as there has been an industry and even still, I can only JUST make art good enough for a game and even then I probably take 3x longer than an actual artist, and generate much lower quality work.  Don't kid yourself, 3D is as much a profession as programming.  It will take you years to learn to the point your results don't look like crap.  Don't worry, I wouldn't mention it if there weren't options for the less… talented.  I will discuss those in a second.

 

If you are interested in pursuing 3D, you can find a list of the most commonly used 3D applications right here.  Many of these applications have a price tag in the $5000 range.  However there is the freely available Blender package which is an incredibly capable 3D program for modelling, animating and texturing.  On the other hand, it isn't an easy application to get started with.  That is why I created this five part series, Blender for Programmers.  If you are interested in 3D, it is a good place to start.

 

3D for the less talented!

There are plenty of tools available with a much lower learning curve if you want to work in 3D.  This section mentions a few of them.

Poser -- Use existing character models.  Dress them up, animate and render or exports.  You can easily create animated characters using this application, and can buy a number of pre made assets if the existing content isn't enough for you.  Poser costs between $200 and $400, although it is quite commonly on sale.

Daz Studio Pro -- This program is a lot like Poser.  However it is free but comes with a lot less assets.  I did a tutorial on creating a sprite sheet with Daz and The GIMP if you want an idea what it is like.  That said, although Daz is free, they will spam you A LOT.  I still get two or three emails a week from them and it's not trivial getting yourself removed from the mailing list!

Make Human -- Create fully boned photorealistic humans with ease.  Oh, and it's free!  Used to be a Blender plugin, but now it's free.

Bryce -- Create stunning landscapes with basically zero effort or talent.  It's rather amazing the results you can get from this guy!

Sketchup -- Previously a google application for making 3D models for use in Google Earth.  There is a gigantic repository of models available for free.  If you need to create levels or cityscapes, this is a GREAT place to start.  There was a recent article on Gamasutra on exactly this.  Be careful with licensing issues though!

 

Sculpting Applications:

These applications are like working with 3D clay.  Even with little skill, you can make some remarkably awesome results.

Sculptris -- Free!  Baby brother of ZBrush.  Try it out, it's free.

ZBrush -- THE 3D sculpting application.  $700.

3D Coat -- In between Sculptris and ZBrush.  $350.  Often on sale on Steam, keep an eye. 

Mudbox -- Autodesk's sculpting application.  Most expensive in the list, $800.

 

Use existing assets

There are a HUGE number of assets available that you can buy or simply download online.  You should be able to source a ton of your assets this way.  The maxim You Get Way You Pay For isn't always true, but it often is!  On the other hand, simply because you paid for something doesn't make it good!  Working from many of these assets is tricky because they may not be suitable for games, may not be legally licensable, etc.  

 OpenGameArt -- a huge repository of game focused 2D and 3D art assets.

Blend Swap -- 8000+ freely available Blender Blend files.

Blender-Models -- Another Blender model resource

Mixamo -- 3d character model and animation on a pay per use basis.  Much like Bryce and Daz but online.  Upload your own model for animating, or buy one of theirs.

Content Paradise -- (paid) content for Poser.

Daz3D models -- (paid) content for Daz3D

Unity Asset Store -- if you use the Unity 3D package, there is a huge asset store of ready to drop in assets and scripts

Turbo Squid -- the biggest 3D object store.  Huge variety of content, quality and prices.

CGTrader -- buy and sell 3D assets.

GameTextures -- high quality game ready texture maps for sale.

There are a number of other asset stores available, this is just a small selection of the more common resources. 

 

Programmatic Art

Of course, you always have the option of creating a game that uses strictly programmatic art.  This is, art that is generated by an algorithm instead of an artist.

 

Programmatic Art Example

Rez

Rez ingame

 

Geometry Wars

Geometry wars galaxies 20070629054423884

 

Basically if you go this route, your art is in mathematic form.  On the one hand generating your game art algorithmically has the advantage of minimizing the need for artists.  On the other hand, it requires a completely different set of skills, especially when it comes to writing shaders!  Fortunately there are a few tools out there that help you create shaders visually.

 

Hire an Artist

Of course you may also decide at the end of the day you need an artist!  Obviously adding another person to your team can have a number of downsides…  you will lose a certain amount of creative control ( and should by the way!  Why are you working with an artist if you don't trust their artistic direction? ) over your baby.  Of course there is also a loss in either ownership or a cost involved.

 

Paying an artist, how?

This part is always tricky… how much does an artist cost?  Do you get what you pay for?  Will they work for free?  Will they work for a percentage?  How much of a percentage should I give?  What should I expect from an artist?  What should an artist expect from me?

 

To answer all of those questions, it depends.  It depends on so many things you can't give a simple answer.  Some games have much higher art requirements than others.  Some people have a budget and can pay for contract work, others do not.

 

The easiest and most likely most successful option is collaborating with an artist you know in real life.  Of course, this isn't always an option and can still lead to massive friction once things become about real money.  Make sure you establish the revenue split up front, and make sure fixed costs are accounted for before you start splitting up the pie.  Also be realistic that the pie may never actually arrive!

Contracting out pieces is a bit trickier.  Probably the simplest is to pay X amount per assets.  For example, pay 25$ for a textured tree model.  Working on bid work is by far the most straight forward, but you need to be very specific in what you need from the artist.  The more detail you can give, the better your relationship with go.  Instead of saying " I need a textured tree", say "I need a textured tree, under 300 polygons, a single texture no larger than 512x512 using a power of 2 resolution".  As to determining the cost X… well that is an art form in and off itself!

There is a good chance you have no money, and are willing to offer a percentage of future profits in return for labour.  If this is the route you are going, be VERY upfront about this, and don't pester people that aren't interested in such a work example.  The further along you are in the project, the more likely you will be to acquire a good artist.  If you can hand a game to someone with programmer art stand ins that the artist needs to replace, things will go a lot smoother.  If you've got an idea only… get further along before recruiting, unless you know an artist personally.  If you got an idea only… and that's all you've got ( no programming skills ) I would generally suggest not wasting anyones time.  In this day and age, amazingly enough, the idea is the LEAST important part of the process.  Everybody has the next killer game idea!  The reality is, its generally execution that makes a game great, not the idea.  Exceptions exist, but they are exactly that, exceptions.

 

Where to recruit artists?

Real life is obviously a great place, but not always or even often, an option.  Otherwise there are a number of places you can look for artists, often depending on the type of contract you are offering.

http://www.polycount.com/forum/ -- They have a series of recruiting forums, for paid and unpaid work.

http://www.reddit.com/r/GameDevClassifieds -- Post your jobs, make sure to note paid/unpaid status.  Browse for artists looking for work

http://www.gamedev.net/classifieds -- GameDev.net job boards, contract board and hobby recruiting listings.

http://www.conceptart.org/forumdisplay.php?f=11 -- Concept artists, not game artists, but theres an amazing amount of talent here.

http://forum.deviantart.com/jobs/ -- You get a WIIIIIDDDDDEEEE gamut of talent on this forum, many without game experience, but it is certainly another place to look, if even just to figure out payment amounts.  Forums are for paid work only!

http://www.game-artist.net/forums/employment/ -- Game art focused forums, have sub forums for all kinds of hiring.

 

Summary

At the end of the day, relationships are CRITICAL.  The network of contacts you make will be one of the most valuable assets you can acquire.  Deal fairly with people, don't misrepresent yourself or your project and act professionally.  Even if you aren't paying, act professionally.  It will pay off massively in the long run.  Also keep in mind, every relationship is a two way street.  If you don't like working with an artist you contact walk away ( … if not in breach of contract! ), you will both benefit in the end.

 

Make as much clear up front as possible… revenue split, paid/unpaid, detailed specs, etc… the less ambiguity, the smoother things will go.  Oh, and never pay 100% up front, EVER!

 

This post on scratches the surface of what is out there.  As you can see, even if you don't have artistic talent, there are tons of options out there for you!  If I missed something you feel I should have included, let me know!

 

 

Art Design Programming


5. June 2013

As I said earlier, I am about to start work on a mobile/web/desktop game and this is the initial design details i've sketched so far.  This is just a mind dump of the game in my brain right now, so obviously its subject to change.

StarlordLogo

 

Game brief

 

Project Starlord Overview

 

You are charged with running a weapons factory in the far flung future. Starting from a simple factory on a single planet, the player researches and creates new designs, decides which factions to work with, has to deal with marketing and government negotiations as well as defending your factory from pirates and other hostile forces.

 

There are other arms manufactures that you can compete with, trade with, or both. Beyond building a single weapon system ( for example, laser or missile system ) you can eventually research complete platforms ( such as tank, jet or mech ). You can either make all the required components internally, or source the parts you can't make. Once your enterprise reaches a certain size, you can move beyond your home system and become players in the local solar system.

 

There are prestigious competitions you can can sponsor teams with using your weapons. In addition you can form your own team eventually, with your pilots piloting your own unique design.

 

The world evolves around the player. By making generous offers to one side of a conflict, you can tilt the balance of power. You may however make an enemy as a result. Back the wrong side and you may find yourself with a client unable to pay you! Or you can try to sell weapons to all sides, although eventually your customers may eventually force you to choose a side.

 

Of course, in a world without war, there is no need for weapons! You can't have that now can you? Keep an eye on political situations and apply a bit of pressure when it's in your best interest. Careful though, don't get caught!

 

 

Game Components

ProjectStarlord

 

So essentailly I am looking to create an economic simulator where you run a weapons factory.  I have always found turn based strategy games the best fit for mobile gaming and some of my favourite experiences ( Civilizations, XCom, Game Dev Story, Lemonade Tycoon, etc… ) have been in this mold.

 

Obviously Starlord is just a code name, as I am fairly certain Marvel holds the copyright.  Do to the nature of people cloning games, camping URLs etc, I don't think I will be making the name public anytime soon.  Next up I'm going to start modelling the various systems I am going to have to create.  Divide and conquer, repeat and rinse.

 

Does this sound like the type of game you would play?

Design


3. June 2013

 

As I am just starting out on a new game these days, I am in the most wishy-washy stage of development, design.  Over the years, the way I went about designing an application has changed greatly as technology, my team size and frankly, me, have changed.  Now that I work mostly alone I find I am a lot less formal than I used to be.

 

In the ancient days, I ignored design completely, or used a spiral bound binder and a pencil.  On my last large scale project I worked mostly in Visio for object design and program flow modelling.  For idea capture and design documents, OneNote was my loyal ally.  If you find yourself working using a paper and pencil most often, you should check out OneNote, it is probably the greatest application Microsoft make and I say that without hyperbole.  It is an under-exposed and under-appreciated application.  Whenever I see websites comparing Evernote or Google Keep I laugh and laugh and laugh.  Those two programs aren't in the same league as OneNote.  That said, the OneNote mobile offerings, at least on iOS and Android are pretty terrible and the web version is only ok.  The application version though, its just great. 

 

That said, this combination of applications has definite limits.  These days I am working more commonly across platforms, splitting my time about 50/50 between MacOS and Windows.  Unfortunately Mac Office doesn't include OneNote and Visio isn't available either.  Also, I am no longer part of MSDN and Visio is stupidly expensive.  The other major change is the rise of tablets.  I find myself on mobile much more often now, either the iPad or my Galaxy Note ( which you can pry from my cold dead hands! ).  So, if I am out and about and an idea comes to me, its nice to just whip out my phone or tablet, which are on instantly, jot the idea down and move on.  Additionally, I find touch a much nicer interface when working on a fluid design.

 

One of the flaws of working with code modelling software is it is often too advanced for me.  I don't need it to validate my class design, I am not working in a team or with contractors, so I don't need it to create formal design documents or strictly defined interfaces.  At the end of the day I generally just like to enter a class name and description, then model relationships between other classes.  That or create flow charts that illustrate user or application flow.  Visio can do this, but it is massive overkill.  Enter the mind map.

 

In my life, I always had a bit of a mental block towards this kind of software…  I don't really know why, but I never really looked into it closer and I regret that, as mind mapping is basically what I've needed all along.  Essentially mind mapping is just a diagramming software that models relationships.  That's about it and exactly what I am looking for.  There are reams of mind mapping applications out there, from downloadable applications to web services, from free to very expensive.  If you want to try one out free, you can try FreeMind or XMind to get started.  If you haven't tried one yet, you really should.

 

Myself, I am using a combination of applications for program design.  My design documents and "raw text dump" application of choice is still OneNote.  I vastly prefer authoring in the full application in Windows, but the web application and mobile apps work in a pinch, at least for reading.  On iPad I use iThoughtsHD, which you can see in action below:

IThoughtsHD

I haven't found a mind map application that works well on my Note, but I've also barely looked.  I like iThoughtsHD because it's quick, intuitive and supports the functionality I need. On top, it is compatible with most other Mindmap applications including FreeMind and Xmind that I mentioned earlier.  So I can design on the go, then open on my desktop on any platform.  Truth is though, I vastly prefer working on the tablet, it is just such an intuitive format for this kind of work.

 

If there is any interest, I will go into a bit more detail on Mind mapping and iThoughtsHD for game design.  I know this is a topic that isn't generally discussed very often, although that could be because people find it boring! ;)

 

So, that's what I use these days to design my applications ( and other projects ).  What do you use?

Design


6. November 2012

 

Windows Phone 7 was a pretty capable platform that never really took off, especially when it came to game support.  Of course, market share is a big part of the reason was the lack of applications ( although it is easy to get in a chicken and egg argument, whether market share suffered because of the lack of app support, which suffered because of the lack of market share… ).

 

With Windows Phone 8 however, Microsoft have rectified at least one of these problems.  You can now compile native C++ code.  This means a gigantic collection of existing libraries can be ported to or now target the platform.

 

And ported they have been, here is the list to date.  Keep in mind, pretty much every single project that runs on Windows 7 will run on Windows 8 Desktop, so “Windows 8 support” is a pretty meaningless statement.  The following are all products that will support Windows RT, the artist previously known as Metro.  Or in more simple terms, you can use the following to make games for ARM powered Windows 8 devices.

If I have missed any, please let me know!

 

cocos2d-x

http://www.cocos2d-x.org/news/76

Construct2

https://www.scirra.com/blog/99/make-windows-8-games-with-construct-2

GameMaker

http://www.yoyogames.com/gamemaker/studio/multiformat/windows8

GameSalad

http://gamesalad.com/creator/windows-8

Havok

(All products) http://www.havok.com/news-and-press/releases/havok-showcase-full-technology-suite-windows-8-windows-rt-and-windows-phone

Marmalade

http://www.madewithmarmalade.com/press/cross-platform-games-apps-sdk-marmalade-announces-support-microsoft-windows-phone-8-q4-2012

MonoGame

http://monogame.codeplex.com/

Ogre3D

http://www.ogre3d.org/2012/10/30/ogre-now-supports-windows-phone-8

SharpDX

http://sharpdx.org/news/new-version-2-4-0

Shiva3D

(road map only at this point)

http://www.shivaengine.com/developer/2290-the-shiva-2012-13-roadmap

Unigine

http://unigine.com/devlog/2012/07/20/100

Unity

http://blogs.unity3d.com/2012/10/30/unity-windows-phone-8-demonstrated-at-microsoft-build-conference/

Unreal/UDK

http://blogs.nvidia.com/2012/08/nvidia-brings-unreal-engine-3-to-windows-8-and-windows-rt/

 

 

Somewhat related or slightly less game oriented products that added Windows 8 support

 

Appcelerator Titanium

(Q1 2013)

http://thinkmobile.appcelerator.com/press-releases/bid/236017/Appcelerator-Empowers-the-Mobile-Developer-Community-With-Even-More-Choice-and-Flexibility

appMobi

http://www.appmobi.com/?page_id=453

PhoneGap/Apache Cordova

http://phonegap.com/blog/2012/10/30/announcing-apache-cordova-support-for-windows-phone-8/

Design Programming


GFS On YouTube

See More Tutorials on DevGa.me!

Month List