7 Games in 7 Days

6 comments

Hello all.  Just a quick post to draw a line in the sand so to speak…

This week, in addition to my current workload:

… I will be writing and publishing 7 complete games (an average of one per day) using the Corona SDK.

Call it prep for the GIGJam, call it testing of my upcoming ‘Mechanics Only’ templates, call it insanity…  I thought this would be fun so here goes!

Notes and Disclaimers

  • The official start date for this was Sunday the 21st and I’m almost done with the first game.
  • Android releases should be fast.
  • iOS releases will take a while for review and may be delayed till later.  Sorry!

Games List

  1. Magnetized Clone – Actually this is turning into a different game, but I started with a clone of this cool game.
  2. Something Green – A re-write of ‘Something Blue‘ using the Corona SDK and including an editor this time.
  3. Gravity Flipper – A gravity flipping block based game in the vein of ‘And Yet It Moves‘ or ”Freeze!‘, just not as free-form.
  4. Schmup – Gotta have at least one shoot-em up.  Mechanics TBD.
  5. Pinball – A pinball-esque game.  Mechanics TBD.
  6. Line Follower – A game using line following mechanics.
  7. OPEN – TBD.   I’ll take suggestions.

 

 

15 Months Later…

0 comments

About 15 months ago I left my job at Intel to run my own independent game development studio: Roaming Gamer, LLC.   At the time, I promised my friends that I would keep them up-to-date.  However, besides a smattering of blog posts in the beginning, I did a poor job of it.

This post is written as both, an update for my ex-coworkers, and as a general reflection on going Indie.  It is divided as follows (feel free to skip ahead to the parts you care about):

  1. Why I Left – A quick summary of what I did when I worked at Intel, and my reasons for leaving.
  2. Before I Left – A run-down of the game development work I did before leaving Intel.
  3. The Original Plan – The top milestones and goals for my adventure starting in January 2012.
  4. Rubber Meets the Road – A summary of what I actually did during the last 15 months and how this varied somewhat from the original plan.

Why I Left

Some of you may be thinking, “What in the world could possess you to leave an awesome company like Intel”, especially at the start of 2012?    Let me be clear.  I didn’t leave because of Intel.  Intel was and is a great company to work for.  They offer a stellar compensation package and have a great working environment.  I left because I dreamed of being my own boss (a lifelong goal) and I was ready to try something new.

Ready to do something new?  Why?  Well, in the time I worked at Intel (16 years), I did all of these jobs: 

Title  Description
Pre-Silicon Chipset Validation I wrote tests in C and C++ that generated focused and/or random traffic on simulated versions of server chipsets.  I worked on 3 or 4 chipsets in this role.
Post-Silicon Chipset Validation Here‚ I wrote and ran a variety of tests on actual physical systems in the laboratory.  I did this for 3 or 4 chipsets.
Post-Silicon Team Lead / Manager I took on the role of team-lead and defacto manager (in deed; not in title) for my last post-silicon chipset validation effort.  (I didn't like management and declined to continue in this role.)
Systems Driver Developer After several years I got out of chipset test writing and moved into to a highly specialized role.  I wrote proprietary system drivers that allowed test writers to access internal features of Intel processors‚ chipsets‚ and motherboards during testing.
Super Secret Stuff After working as a driver developer for a few years I moved to a special team for one year.  I can't elaborate exactly what I worked on‚ other than to say it was very technical and very very secret. I had two roles on this project: developer and lab-monkey (I mean lab-manager).
Performance Validation In my last job at Intel‚ I worked with a team of about 8 individuals (it varied).  Together‚ we collaborated with architects to performance-tune Intel processors.  This was a highly challenging job.  On this team‚ I eventually owned the Linux test suite and acted as the lab manager.

 

As you might imagine, all of the above jobs were highly satisfying and mentally engaging.  Nonetheless, after 16 years, I felt it was time to take the risk run my own business full-time.  I was well situated, funded, and ready to give it a try.

Before I Left

Pretty much the entire time I worked for Intel, I also owned my own company and was engaged as a developer of games and game related materials.  My highlights reel for the same period would look like this: 

Year Highlight Description
1996  Landed Dream Job Graduated college with a degree in Computer Engineering and joined Intel. Yes‚ not game related‚ but it sets the time-frame.
1996 Started First Company Started Hall Of Worlds‚ LLC.   This was my first company.  I would eventually publish one game and two books under this chop.
1996 Pre-Indie Indies? Designed two separate game engines with my friend and cohort in crime Jerry Shaw. (Learn more about the engines here.)
2001 V12 Engine The engine behind "Tribes 2" is released as  the V12 engine.  I picked it up and started learning.  This engine was later renamed:  (the) Torque Game Engine.
2002 Torque Notes The original Garage Games site had a rudimentary forums search engine that pretty much couldn't find anything.  I tired of it quickly and created my own annotated index to the site and forums.  I shared this with the community and at its peak‚ this page saw over 10‚000 hits a month.
2006 GPGT Published In 2006 I published my first book: The Game Programmer's Guide to Torque (aka GPGT).  The first printing sold out almost immediately‚ and the second printing soon after.  The book managed a third and final printing before sales fell off.
2006 Maze Runner Advanced My first game came out bundled with GPGT.  It included an editor and wasn't a terribly bad game.  It wasn't terribly good either.  You can get this game HERE.
2008 MGEC Published  In 2008‚ I published my second book: Multiplayer Gaming and Engine Coding for the Torque Game Engine (MGEC).  Unlike its predecessor‚ this book never made it out of its first printing.  Yes‚ the original printing was larger for this book‚ but I believe it was just too technical for the mainstream audience.
2008 Company 2.0 I shut down my old company and re-invented it as Roaming Gamer‚ LLC.
2011 Something Blue After working on many uncompleted games‚ tools‚ and other products‚ I finally released this (my second) game on the iPhone and iPod.  This game is free.  Get it HERE.

 

It should be noted that I certainly worked on many other things during this time, but these were the most important things I worked on.  These successes combined with my growing tiredness lead me to dream of going full-time on game development.  I dreamed about this for several years until suddenly the opportunity arrived.  I was offered the option to take an early separation package.  I considered, thought, talked to my wife, planned, and then accepted.

The Original Plan

When I left Intel, I set some milestones and goals, some of which were:

  • Milestones
    • #1 - Select a target engine to work with.  At the time I was working with Torque, but it looked like the engine was on the down and out so a switch was in order.  (Since early 2012, Torque has had a re-birth through open sourcing.  This is very exciting.)
    • #2 - Educate myself on the new engine.
    • #3 - Publish first game with the new engine.
    • #4 - Write one short game development guide or tutorial for the new engine and self-publish it.
  • Short-term Goals (within 1 year)
    • A - Publish a total of 5 small games.  (This may sound impossible to some, but I believe it is completely doable if scoped properly.)
    • B – Publish a total of 3 small guides or tutorials.
  • Long-term Goals (within 2 years)
    • C – Earn a minimum of $4000 (after taxes) per month.
    • D – Maintain an active portfolio of 5 to 8 games. In other words, at any one time have 5 to 8 paid games in the various app stores.  These games are to be actively maintained and added to until they cease to be profitable.
    • E – Maintain an active portfolio of 20 or more tutorials, guides, templates, etc.  Again, active means they are continuing to sell.
  • Stretch Goal
    • - Establish the Roaming Gamer, LLC. site as the go-to-place for learning about at least one game engine.  I wanted to be the NeHe of my chosen game engine(s).

Yes, there were more details to my plan, and No I won’t discuss them.  I think the above pretty much spells it out.  With my level of skill and experience these were achievable items, and  I was certainly going to work hard to achieve them.  So, how did I do?  That topic is next…

Rubber Meets the Road

January 1st 2012 was the official ‘first day’ of my new life, or at least my life without a steady paycheck from Intel.  From that day forward, this is how things actually went (Note: The change to present tense is on purpose):

Date Effort Details Milestone or Goal?
2012
JAN Engine search I spend the month researching 15 different 'engine' options and settle on the Corona SDK (not an engine at all‚ but a very good development kit.) #1
JAN Unity Game Comp As part of my engines research I enter a Unity game development competition.  (Unity just introduced the flash exporter to their engine and held a $20K competition.) You can see my (unfinished) entry HERE. -
FEB Corona Training I start in earnest learning all I can about the Corona SDK.
MAR Techority 48hr Challenge To motivate myself I enter the Peach Pellen's 48-hour game development contest using the Corona SDK. Get the game for free here: Generic Android‚ Kindle Fire‚ Nook Color. -
APR Game #1 Started I start working on a game. -
APR … JUN Training Continues More training.  More Learning. -
APR … JUN Game Development Continues I get 80% done with multiple games but can't seem to close the deal. -
JUL Trained Enough I don't know everything‚ but I am now competent with the Corona SDK. #2
JUL First Game Released I finally push through to completion on one of about 15 different game ideas.  Super Wordy‚ a boggle-esque single-/multi-player word game is born.  I release it on these store: Apple / Google Play / Amazon. #3
AUG Money Worries Start I am still reasonably funded‚ but for the first time in a long time I start to worry about money.  I start to miss the security of Intel. -
SEP Vacation I didn't mention it‚ but part of the plan was to take a vacation in 2012.  Teresa and I go to Europe for 3 weeks.  We hit Paris‚ Bruges‚ Ghent‚ Damme‚ Brussels‚ Amsterdam‚ Munich (for Oktoberfest)‚ and Paris again.  I take over 7000 photos.  No‚ they are not uploaded (yet). -
OCT SSK Corona I release 'Super Starter Kit for the Corona SDK' (aka SSKCorona).  This free toolkit is a base for my future work on guides‚ tutorials‚ etc. -
NOV Contracting Start I am now behind plan and start working as a contractor part-time to help meet my monetary goal.  I land my first long-term contract this month. -
DEC More Contracts I take on a second long-term contract and a few short-term ones. -
2013
JAN First Template I finish my first‚ second‚ and third game templates. #4 + B
JAN Guest on Corona Geek I am invited as a guest speaker on the weekly show: Corona Geek.  Due to technical issues and frazzled nerves‚ I am not ashamed to say I give a poor 'interview'.  However‚ I am invited back and will be a regular on almost all future shows.  I enjoy these opportunities each time and do much better in future talks. -
FEB Second Game Released I take a short-cut and make one of my game templates into a complete game.  I release it on these stores: Apple / Google Play / Amazon / Samsung -
MAR Tenth Game Template I am now half way to one of my long-term goals. E * 0.5
APR I Finally Write Yes‚ I finally get my act together and write.  I hope it is satisfactory so far? -

 

As you can see, I have achieved many of my milestones and some of my goals, but I have a ways to go yet.  My most important long-term goal (C) is still incomplete.  This is because I have thus far failed to reach short-term goal A, long-term goal D, and long-term goal E.  (Please see above for the details.)

At this point, I am still OK on funding, but I am really starting worry (my wife says not to, but I still do).  I am even considering going back to Intel, but not quite yet.  Time and money are getting tight, but I am re-doubling my efforts.  So, while I ask folks to keep me in in mind (for possibilities at Intel) just in case…, I also say, “I will be successful”.

That’s All Folks…

Friends and other all other readers.  I hope this update finds you well.  If you received a link to this in an e-mail, you now have my current e-mail address (same as before).  Feel free to write me and give me a summary of your 2012.  No, you don’t have to wait 15 months and it doesn’t have to be an epic like this.  I just hope everyone is well.

Cheers,

Ed Out!

Creating an App Quickly (Corona Geek #28)

0 comments

Today I will be one of several developers talking on the ‘Corona Geek’  hangout (episode #28).  Today’s topic is: “Creating apps as quickly as possible.”

The following are my prep notes for the talk and items I may or may not get a chance to talk about, but which I thought were worth sharing either way.

My General Method?

When I work on a new game/app I generally do the following:

  • Choose an idea - I carry a notebook with me at all times to jot down app and game idea.  My first step is generally choosing an idea from this notebook.
  • Search for similar ideas - Before doing any development, I check to see if the idea is original or different from existing ideas/apps/games.
    • If I find anything, I watch videos and look at screenshots to see if the idea is still worth pursuing.
    • I decide at this point, whether the idea is well covered or if there is still space to try new ideas.

Assuming the idea isn’t already dead I, …

  • Scope out the idea for about 15 or 30 minutes.  – I have a generic questionnaire/form I fill out.   (See this blog post for a filled example and blank forms.)  In this step, I write out the following:
    • Game/App Name – I need something to call it.
    • Goal – A one or two line goal statement that summarizes the purpose of the app or the play-goal/win-condition for a game.
    • Mechanics – One sentence for up to 10 key mechanics.
    • Sample Screen – I draw a picture of what a sample screen will look like.  (Very rough draft here.)
    • Game Objects – Assuming this is a game, I write out a list of key game objects: player, asteroid, enemy, player bullets,  etc.
    • Interaction Graph – I draw a simple graph showing how objects interact with each other.
  • Prototype Core Mechanics – Using my current engine of choice (Corona SDK at the time of this writing) I make a prototype of the scoped out project.  At this point I use simple shapes and implement the mechanics as fast as I can.
  • Play Test – Once I get the mechanics mocked up, I play test it to see if it is as fun or interesting as I imagined it would be.
  • Iterate – Usually there are issues and I have to go back to the prototyping stage.  This may occur repeatedly.
  • Get Someone else to play it. – Once I am happy with the prototype (don’t wait too long), I get someone else to play it.  We all put on blinders (we love our own creations) and need others to help us take them off.  If someone else also enjoys the idea, I may have something worth finishing.
  • Decide on an art theme – Once I get the mechanics nailed down and have at least tacit approval from my peers/friends/family/whomever I can wrangle to play test, I select an art theme.
  • Make one complete level. – Assuming this is a game, I make one complete level.  This is where I usually find the design issues.  My goal here is to have a product I can show to others that will be attractive enough to grab their interest.  I am also trying to get a handle on how long it will take to make levels.
  • Finish – Usually at this point, I rush through the rest of the steps:
    • Make more levels,
    • Add Music and Sound Effects,
    • Design Interfaces,
    • Test some more,
  • Submit the app/game to various stores.

As you can see, my method isn’t entirely scientific and gets a bit rushed towards the end, but then I think most projects go that way. I guess we’ll find out today when others talk about their process.

Tools and Resource

In addition to talking about my methodology, I figured it would be nice to share a list of tools and resources I use, so here goes:

  • Coding
    • My Game Templates – Yes, I use my own templates.  There are good things in there and I like to re-use them.
    • SSKCorona - Again, I would not write it if I didn’t want to use it myself.
    • Glitch Games’ Libraries – There are some nice bits of code here.
    • Lua + Corona SDK Snippets – Don’t write it yourself if someone else already has.  I use various resources to find Lua (and Corona SDK) snippets:
      • Rosetta Code
      • Corona Code Exchange – If you can’t find something directly via the on-site search, try this in Google: “Corona SDK topic” often, this will lead back to the site and locate the code exchange (++) topic you are looking for.
  • Art
    • Open Clip Art Library
    • Clker.Com
    • Gimp – A free art editor with lots of horse power.
    • Inkscape – Another free editor, but this one is vector based, allowing for wonderful crisp scaling.
    • Genetica – A paid, but well worth it, tool for generating textures.  Comes with a huge library of pre-defined textures.
    • More… – I’m all about free art.  I suggest keeping a link list of your favorite sources when you find them.
  • Sound
    • sfxr – This tool can be used to create simple ‘generated’ sounds.  These alone may seem insufficient, but you can further massage them with Audacity and/or other sound editing tools to get something more ‘robust’.
    • bfxr – Like sfxr with more options.
    • Audacity – A free and open source sound editing tool. (I love this tool.)
    • Incompetech – Royalty free music/soundtracks.  This is an awesome collection which I use extensively in my videos and game templates.  (I suggest buying the entire collection if you can.)
  • Screen-casting and Videos – You need to make videos of your games and apps if you want an easy way to show them off.
    • Virtual Dub – A free video editing tool.
    • Screencast-o-matic – A free (and paid) tool for capturing on screen video with audio and simultaneous microphone + camera grabs.  This tool also has a nice browser-embedded editor and uploading console.
  • Miscellaneous
    • gitHub – I use this for storing my own projects as well as for working privately with clients.

 

 

 

 

 

 

← Previous Posts

Categories

Archives