NEW: Arcade Game Section Added to the Site

There’s not much there now, but I’ve added another section to my website accessible from the menu (or right here) that I affectionately call the Arcade. There you can play ‘Flight of the Stratos Guardian’ (a touch/one-click based endless flyer) and the work-in-progress of the Jet Dancer game (an action platformer). After having some trouble uploading ‘Stratos Guardian’ to the Windows store, I decided to try plopping my stuff right here. Just a fun little idea I had.

Try as I could, I could not figure out how to get the ‘iframe’ any larger on the pages for the game, so I included links to the games on the Arcade page to play them full sized.

By the way, the Jet Dancer game supports both keyboard and XBox controls, so if you have the latter, plug one in before you try it. The controls shown in the options menu will reflect whatever buttons you press to get there.

The Jet Dancer game doesn’t work on mobiles, since I didn’t add any touch controls, but Flight of the Stratos Guardian does (although at least on my smartphone, it took forever to load and the music didn’t play).

I’m just trying things out. Let me know what you think of my games!

February Update

Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve been hit with a wave of indecision again.

My wife feels I need to complete something, get a quick win, focus on the ‘lowest hanging fruit’ so I can have that feeling of having completed a project again. And I’m inclined to agree.

It’s easy for me to sit back and work on tweaking things on my Jet Dancer game. Just earlier today I found myself doing a bit of fiddling with animation speeds and transitions so she’d look a little better in motion and when coming to a stop. I’m really quite proud of what I’ve managed to build so far, but I started asking myself if I could see the light at the end of the tunnel for the Jet game, and honestly, I can’t.

Sometime around the middle of last month, I started working on the game’s first planned boss, a gal named Striking Sphere.

Like Jet, she’s a scantily-clad superhuman female warrior with a special weapon. But while Jet wields her rocket boots, Striking Sphere’s weapon, as her name implies, is a ball. Building her sprite parts was easy enough, as it always is, but when it came time to animate her, I started suddenly feeling extremely exhausted. Every time I opened the file, it was like I was in a blind haze trying to push myself to make things happen with her. I managed to produce an idle pose and a run cycle, but after that, even opening the file made me feel like I hadn’t slept in days. It was weird.

So I assumed my body was trying to tell me it was time for a break from the Jet game. After all, I made a lot of changes since I picked it back up in late November or so…added new enemies, reorganized the code, created some hazards and background objects, even removed some of Jet’s attacks for a more streamlined feel. So I felt maybe some time off was in order. I got interested in traditional art again, even did some fan art for a few of my friends on Facebook:

I went and bought new markers and Bristol board to draw on, inspired by the many awesome traditional artists whose work I see on Instagram. But I didn’t actually create anything worthwhile. And now I’m once again wondering what it is I want to do.

One can be a game developer, or a pro illustrator, or a graphic novelist, or a ZBrush 3D artist, but it’s highly unlikely one can be all those things at the same time, and yet, I keep trying.

I try to trust my feelings. I really, really enjoy making sprites. Made a new one just yesterday, based on my WEAPON Combat League concept:

…And I fiddled with Construct some more, figured out how to make a character move and jump in the traditional ‘beat-em-up’ style of play reminiscent of games such as Streets of Rage and Final Fight. So I got it in my head to try to make a WCL beat-em-up game…never mind that WCL consists of over 24 characters that need to be playable. Never mind I’d want multiplayer, and character/team selection options, and maybe even a versus mode. Never mind I know so little about other aspects of that type of game, like how to make blows connect when the target is on a different y-plane or how to manage grapples and throws. Sure, I could teach myself, just as I taught myself how to make animated sprites and how to make them dash and cling to walls and spring off enemies heads with explosive effects and make certain foes block attacks…

But while I’m doing all of this testing and learning, what am I accomplishing? When is the last time I finished something? Really put it out there? The answer is Jet Dancer #1, which I think I released in 2015: https://www.comixology.com/Jet-Dancer-1/digital-comic/144132.

I was of course working on the 100 Girl Book as well. Full disclosure: while I have 47 girl drawings prepared for the book, only 33 of them are ‘new’ art (meaning, art that I actually produced in 2016 FOR the book) and the rest are old drawings I pulled up from the past to beef it up. Not a bad idea I suppose, but it goes against the original idea which was to challenge myself to make ‘100 somethings’. I also made the mistake of sharing most of them online (there are a few that no one has seen, but that’s like single digits at this point). A good idea for me would be to get back on that project and be more deliberate about it, stop trying to be ‘random’ and actually plan my drawings around themes, and not show a single drawing for the book until it’s done. That would mean more than half of the book’s content would be ‘truly’ new to viewers/buyers.

I also got the idea of producing an e-book detailing my sprite making method. A lot of people seem interested, and it pretty much is my favorite part of this whole game-making shtick I’m on. The desire to bring my characters to life was the whole reason I wanted to be a game developer. I enjoy making sprites and I feel I could show others how I go about it fairly easily, but the problem is I use outdated and potentially pricey software to do it (like Flash…does that even exist anymore?) and while I’ve been thinking about finding alternative methods, the fact is Flash CS4 is the most flexible animation software I have at my disposal right now.

I suppose the best thing to do is to simply pick a project and force myself to stick with it. It’s not about goals or building a bright future or selling something at this point. It’s about reminding myself that I need to stop working randomly and focus on deliberately planning and finishing projects, like I used to…

My Sprite Making Method in a Nutshell

I’ve been getting some questions and interest in how I go about making my sprites for my games. I’m no fan of pixel art or hand-drawn animation. I respect those who are good at it, but I like to focus on more efficient methods, since I have no choice but to do all the work for my game project on my own.

I like to use the common and popular modular animation method, which is basically putting together characters in a ‘paper doll’ like fashion, moving at the joints, rotating the parts and substituting them as needed to make animations as effective and efficient as possible.

Here’s a quick rundown of how I’m putting together the latest addition to my Jet Dancer game, the shield trooper:

First, I started with the same file I used to create the game’s sniper mook. As you can see, every body part is a separate drawing on its own layer. I’m using Clip Studio Paint here, but this is a PSD file.

I imported the parts into Flash using its ‘Import to Library’ function in the file menu, played around with scaling and proportions until I put the shield wielding trooper together like so. I wanted him to be a bit bulkier than the sniper goon.

I spend time making animations in Flash. I don’t use tweening; I just make the animations frame by frame, positioning the parts as I go along. I don’t really NEED Flash to do this, but since Flash is a vector program, rotating the body parts doesn’t cause them to degrade as it would in a raster program like Clip or Photoshop, and drawing in Flash itself is a bit tedious (though that’s exactly what I did when I made the Jet Dancer sprite). And Flash’s animation tools make the actual animation process easy (or at least, I’m used to using it so it’s easy for me).

Once I’m satisfied with an animation, aware that even if it’s a bit choppy, it’ll look better when scaled down, I move to Game Maker. It might seem like a strange choice given that I’m building my game in Construct 2, but while I’m not really fond of Game Maker’s actual game-making IDE, I DO love its internal graphics program. You can easily resize, edit, alter animations, add glow effects and such to your sprites, and export them as perfectly-arranged sprite strips that it and other programs (like Construct) will read. All I have to do is export the frames from Flash as individual PNG files and then import them into Game Maker all at once. They’re immediately lined up in order and you can preview the animation at any speed you want, make any changes, and then save it out as a sprite strip without changing the original files.

Once I have a satisfactory sprite strip, I add it to my game project file in Construct 2 and get ready to add logic to it, which is where the real hard work begins.

That’s pretty much it. I would say the hardest part is drawing the body parts in such a way that they can easily be assembled to make a whole figure. They have to properly overlap and they also can’t be too ‘flat’–not too far sideways, not too far forwards. To save work and keep them looking somewhat dynamic, I try to go for a slight quarter turn with sprites that aren’t going to get a lot of elaborate animations. For instance this enemy will never show his back or need to have any super-smooth turning animations, so one facing direction is fine. For Jet Dancer, I did a lot more. She has front, side and back facing parts and I did an absurd amount of work on her hair (if you can’t tell by how it moves in the game). Speaking of which, in case you haven’t seen it, I made a new gameplay video showing some updates including use of new hazards I’ve been creating. You can check it out below:

JP

Jet Dancer Game Development

(Those who follow me on Facebook have seen/read this already, but I’m putting it here for those who may not have seen it elsewhere.)

I’ve been working hard on my Jet Dancer game. I had to deconstruct a lot of it and put it back together in order to make it less messy. I wanted to talk about the gameplay that I’ve designed since I finally have Jet to a point where she doesn’t feel sloppy and unpolished. I got rid of several superfluous attacks that were causing glitches and not benefiting the game much.

The vertical gauge that glows is Jet’s power gauge. It fills up rapidly and certain attacks and moves drain it. Jet can only dash or fire her kick cannon (not shown) when the gauge is full, but most moves such as dashing, backflip and getting injured drain it.

Jet can now dash in the air, at a downward angle. It extends the length of her jump distance significantly when used properly. If you jump as soon as you dash, the energy is maintained and she can dash again out of the air. It’s useful for getting around since Jet is invulnerable while dashing.

I also implemented a power stock feature. When Jet lands her signature Rebound move (or collects a certain power-up item), her gauge increases up to a max level and an aura glows around her. Rebound also accelerates the recharge of her power gauge. During this time her attack power increases significantly. However, the buff is only temporary (I’m still playing around with how much time I want it to last for) but can be reset by landing another Rebound. This means that a skilled player can maximize damage (and score) by doing multiple Rebounds and dash evasions in combat.

Finally, I implemented a much-needed crouch ability. It can stand to be animated better…I’m thinking of changing it to a dance-evasion ability that renders her invulnerable for an instant, since Jet Dancer currently isn’t doing a whole lot of…dancing.

I’m ready to move onto designing better enemies and levels now. My next goal is to produce the first boss enemy and set up the fight.

I’m planning to use a part of my site as a developer diary, as part of my goal of putting more effort into developing this game. I’ve decided to stop dancing around numerous projects and just focus on this for now. I expect every once in a while, I’ll want to take a break and add another piece to my 100 Girl Artbook, and I’ll do that, but I’m no longer considering that my primary focus.

Jet Dancer will be a playable game, and I intend to make massive progress in the year 2017. The framework is there, now I just have to build on it.