Monday 24 April 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 24/04/17

Well tl:dr - much better than last week. Which is strange really as in terms of hours I didn't really do much more than the previous week, however this time that was by choice as opposed to forced on me by illness (it was still school holidays so I took a little time off to enjoy it with my family) and that made a big difference. The hours that I did spend working felt much more productive, and we had plenty of sunshine which always helps.

Placeholders Re-visited

I've added extra sound effects and replaced most of the placeholder SFX and the game is sounding much better now, the effects I've found fit well with the humourous style I'm going for and help bring the game to life (I also spent time making all the characters blink, which makes me laugh much more than it should). There's still a bit of work to do as it can sound a little cluttered when there's a lot going on, and I need to add a music track, but overall I'm happy with my progress on this.

I spent far too long coming up with 'clever' titles for the medals, I'm sure you'll agree they're very punny (sorry)

I've also reworked the placeholder assets for medals/achievements, this is still a work in progress but looking better than last week. I've got a small issue with triggering rewards when more than one milestone is passed but hopefully I can sort that with a bit more testing.

Obstacles - not a problem

This is a crate that you click on to destroy, hence the sign. Don't click the sign though, it's not clickable.

Perhaps the biggest change this week was the addition of obstacles that the player needs to click to destroy before they block the zombies progress (zombies decompose pretty quickly outside the lab, as you're probably aware). I think this is the final gameplay element the project needed, previously I felt as a player I spent too much time watching and waiting but now it feels much more involved. Most of the gameplay work from now on will hopefully be small balancing tweaks.

Finally, over the weekend I started coding the tutorial, it's probably at least 80% done now but needs user testing. The gameplay and controls are pretty simple so I should be able to keep the tutorial pretty light.

As anyone who's ever cleaned a cannon will tell you, ripe zombies are not a good ammunition choice. 

The main to-do list items I've yet to start are the menu screen and some sort of save functionality. I may also add some sort of intro/story scene but I don't want to get bogged down so this might not make the cut.

Monday 17 April 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 17/04/17

Well that was a pretty rubbish week. A combination of illnesses and school holidays meant I only just managed to avoid setting a new record for least hours worked in a week. However, it wasn't a total loss. I did manage to start setting up sound effects on Zombie Cannon Attack, I'm mostly just using placeholder SFX from my last project and it sounds a little cluttered at the moment, but with the coding done it should be pretty straightforward to switch out the old sounds when I have something better and then tidy up a little.

Medals & Achievements
Nothing says 'Medal Unlocked' quite like a big yellow button with 'Medal Unlocked' written on it
I also managed to do most of the coding behind the medals/achievements system. Again I'm using a lot of placeholder assets at the moment so the pictures don't look that great but swapping out assets is simple compared to implementing the achievements and making sure the awards trigger when they're supposed to. Not having the rewards coded was also hampering work on balancing the gameplay so I've been able make decent progress on that over the last day or so.

I'll admit placeholder assets don't make for the best screenshot, but it's much better than the sound effects picture turned out
All in all then, some progress made but I don't really feel any closer to release. Hopefully I can avoid many more weeks like this.

Monday 10 April 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 10/04/17

Zombie Cannon Attack

I've mentioned my new project a few times already. I think I'm finally far enough into the development process to feel comfortable going into a little more detail. The project's working title is Zombie Cannon Attack, as this is a pretty good description of the gameplay it may well end up as the games actual title too, but we'll have to see.

A zombie in a cannon, (allegedly) preparing an attack

Zombie Cannon Attack sees you assisting a mad scientist as he attempts to conquer the world (or something) by sending his Zombie Test Subjects against the terrified inhabitants of a small town somewhere, presumably as a test run before moving on to the major cities of the world. You do this by firing Zombies out of a cannon so they can attack and infect the population, hopefully creating a full blown rampaging zombie horde that can sweep all before it. The gameplay combines aspects of throwing games such as Toss The Turtle or Learn To Fly with side-scrolling endless runner type mechanics.

The upgrade shop, where the mad scientist upgrades your zombies for points because something something plot.

All very interesting I hear you say, but will your game feature goths defending their town by throwing bottles at zombies? Well...

Mobile Issues

Zombie Cannon Attack was designed from the start to work on mobile unlike my other project, Super Endless Kingdom. So when I started testing on mobile last week and found I was getting around 4 frames per second(fps) with nothing happening onscreen, having mostly had a solid 60fps on desktop browsers, that was a pretty major problem. I spent a few days refactoring code and redesigning the games core functions, on the plus side I ended up with a game that's can now theoretically go on forever without getting slower but on the minus side I had to strip out the Tilemap I'd spent a few days learning to use early in the dev process and just go with a background colour and sprites sitting on top. This got me up to 15-20fps on mobile, which was still not good enough. On a hunch I then forced the game engine to use the Canvas instead of webGL and suddenly I had 40-55fps, a huge improvement. It still drops to 30 on mobile during busy points so there's more work to do, but for this sort of game 30fps is still playable.

Is it a bird? No it's a zombie, you must have funny looking birds where you come from mate.

To-do list

As well as improving performance I still need to add sound and a titlescreen. I also want to add an achievement/medals system, expand the upgrade shop a little and add obstacles to impede the zombie hordes, but I'm trying to keep the feature list as light as possible so I can launch pretty quickly. Once these features are added I'll concentrate on balancing the gameplay and polishing the graphics. It'd be really nice to have at least a beta launch this month but that might be a stretch, development always seems to take longer than anticipated so it'll be ready when it's good enough to release.

These Army guys certainly are tough, I wonder what this Rampage button does (mwuhahahaha)

Monday 3 April 2017

Weekly Development Progress Report, 03/04/17


Last week saw the release of Super Endless Kingdom on Newgrounds. This is the second of the well known portals I've released to now after Kongregate at the start of March. The Kongregate release was pretty disappointing, the rating is currently only 2.2 out of 5 and the game has been played less than 300 times. Kongregate's reviews system has it's problems but I don't want to make excuses, it just didn't do very well and the platform was probably the wrong choice to release on first. However one plus point was that I got some good (and bad) feedback, enough to make 3 decent sized updates prior to getting the game ready for Newgrounds.
The Newgrounds release went much better, the game was rated a much more satisfying 3 out of 5 and all the feedback I received was very positive. Whether the difference was down to the changes I made or the sites themselves I'll never know, but from a developer point of view the Newgrounds approach to new releases is much better. After a week the game had received nearly 1500 plays and 80 or so ratings and I can now be reasonably confident the rating is an accurate reflection of the game's appeal. I released one more post-release update and I'm now planning to hold off until I have enough ideas to take the game out of beta.
As far as monetization goes, I can see that an online, ad-supported model just isn't going to make any money for Super Endless Kingdom. As a game that only really works well on a desktop I should probably be looking to sell the finished game as a download. It's something I'll be looking into more after I've taken a few weeks away from the project. It might seem strange to be coming to this conclusion so late in the development stage but it's in keeping with the way the project has evolved as I've learned more.

New Project

In the meantime I'm pretty happy with how my new project is progressing. It's been designed to be mobile friendly and much more accessible as well as much more limited in scope - a fun timewaster instead of a game that provides hours of content. The basic premise is that you help a Mad Scientist turn humanity into a rampaging zombie horde because <reasons>. I'll be posting more in the coming weeks but here's a quick gif of the villain for now.

New Stats (for March)

I've been keeping track of a few stats since I launched this blog and my Twitter account in early February as a way to help me monitor my progress (or lack of). There isn't a great deal to compare with yet but March seemed to go pretty well. It was a difficult month in many ways which is reflected in my hours worked but otherwise there was decent growth:

Twitter followers: 551 (+241)
March blog views: 321
Blog views/day: 10.35 (Feb was 7.5)
Hours worked 125.5 (4/day) (Feb was 4.4/day)

It's nice to see these stats keep going up but I'm not going to read too much into them. I'd like to get the hours worked back to February's level or a little higher provided I'm doing good work.