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Dev Diary 016: Match 3 Invaders with Animated Aliens

Rigging the InvaderRigging the InvaderWell, here we go again. Today I was working with Blender to try to rig up some basic animations for my alien baddies. After a few false starts, I was able to make some bones and rig the alien. There's probably a better way to do it, but I just made used the forked rigging system to quickly make bones for each of the...tentacles? Teeth? Not really sure what those things are! I did notice a substantial hit to processing power once I implemented the animated versions...Considering the simplicity of the animation, I am concerned about doing anything more sophisticated--it appears that making Unity browser games requires substantial skill in optimizing such things. I clicked the options to reduce keyframes and compress the animations. I got some errors (not show-stopping) about some vertices with unassigned bones (huh?). My ignorance concerning Blender is pretty galling; while I'm able to muddle through and get stuff done, I realize that I'm only scratching the surface. I should probably plan to spend more time with my Blender book and perhaps find a good video tutorial series on using the program more effectively. The problem is that a lot of the Blender material focuses on stuff that isn't really useful for my purposes, such as lighting and shaders and such. All I need really is to create good-looking models, UV maps, rigs, and animation.

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Dev Diary 015: Match 3 Invaders with Music and Glossy Shaders

Match 3 InvadersMatch 3 InvadersI'm back again with an updated version of Match 3 Invaders. This time I added background music (not my own composition, but rather one by a composer named "Data" that was included in the Audiodraft Music pack 1 (free in assets store). It's a really fun, chiptune that seems to fit the mood perfectly. Indeed, it's amazing to me how much more fun the game becomes with the track playing.

I also added a little text pop up to let you know when you score a chain bonus (anything beyond a match 3). That adds some fun, too, since you can't help but try to get the biggest chain possible. While I was fooling around the assets store, I also downloaded a shaders pack. The results aren't as good as I was hoping given the samples, but I still they think they make the game look more polished.

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Drupal Help Needed

Hi, folks. We need your help. Drupal has been giving us issues for a few weeks now, and I can't figure out how to solve it. I know there are some good folks here with this kind of stuff, so I thought I'd just bring this up in my blog and see if anyone is willing to help.

In a nutshell, we can't run cron. When we try, we get "cron job failed." Persisting sometimes leads to an internal server error. Drupal's log reports "Cron has been running for more than an hour and is most likely stuck" or that it's already running.

I've done a lot of research on this and tried the stuff I found on various forums and websites, such as clearing the caches, deleting semaphore variables, and empty out cache tables manually in the database. Nothing has worked.

If anybody has thoughts or expertise with stuff like this, please speak up. None of us are professionals at this and we need help to keep it running.

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Matt Chat 138: Matt Interviews David Fox of LucasFilm Games

Here's a Matt Chat for all fans of Zak McKracken, Rescue on Fractalus!, and all the other great Lucasfilm Games classics. In this first bit, David and I chat about his early days and what was going on behind the scenes during the development of Fractalus. Did you know that it was George Lucas who proposed the alien imposters and that any mention of them be kept out of the manual? Classic stuff.

Download the mp4 here.

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Dev Diary 014: Match 3 Invaders with Blender Objects and iTweens

Well, here's the latest version of "Match 3 Invaders," this time with some models created in Blender. I didn't trying to rig or animate anything in Blender yet; I just whipped up a basic invader model and spent the better part of the day trying to get it to work. Rotation issues plagued me throughout. I'm still not sure exactly what's causing the issues, but I have developed workarounds. Apparently, when I bring in the models, they are rotated 270 degrees, which throws off the references in my code to Vector3.right, Vector3.up, and so on. As with the player object, I was able to get around the problem my setting all my references to Space.World instead of Space.Self (global vs. local space).

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Dev Diary 013: Match 3 Invaders

I'm feeling pretty good about this release; it really feels like the pieces are finally coming together. Pretty much all placeholders here for graphics and such, but I think the gameplay is pretty clear at this point. I've added increasingly difficult levels, a simple power-up to boost your ammo, lives, and of course a high score table. The high score table gave me a lot of trouble; I probably should have just got the one for $25, but free was hard to pass up. I had to modify it extensively to get it to work, and I'm still not very comfortable with it; but it SEEMS to work. Try it out and let me know what you think!

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Matt Chat 137: Kingdoms of Amalur, Reckoning

Hi, folks! I'm back this week with another retrospective--or rather, a review of a new action-RPG called Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. I usually don't like this genre, but this time the developers have done a good job uniting action with strategy. Above all, else, I like the speed of this game and the excellent control you have over the character. R.A. Salvatore, Todd McFarlane, and Ken Rolston have done some good work here.

Download the mp4.

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Dev Diary 012: Can't Do It Alone

Well, I'm sad and sorry to report that my little Unity project has come to a grinding halt. It's agonizing, but even though I was making huge leaps towards realizing my game design, I've finally hit that wall that I just can't get over by myself. I've been working for two days trying to overcome it, but I sadly just simply lack the skill and the knowledge. I've ended up with a show-stopper glitch that I just don't understand, and the behavior just seems entirely random...It's either get help with this or give it up.

Here's the deal. Although the system works great at first...Occasionally a block will suddenly switch into "orphan" mode. I've stared at my code until I just can't stare at it anymore. I've combed through it, commenting out each component to try to find the culprit...Just can't do it. I've tried, and tried, and tried to no avail. I can't find a pattern in it; it just...does it sometimes. It just seems entirely random!

I can't find any logical reason why it doesn't work, so that leaves me to think it's either a glitch in Unity itself (unlikely) or just really bad optimization on my part. I suspect the issue is unnecessary collision checks and bad update routines--that is, out of ignorance, I'm asking the computer to run so many checks that it's overtaxing the system, resulting in missed collisions. To combat that, I've tried to reduce the updates, but nothing has worked.

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Brian Fargo Doing Wasteland 2 with Crowdsource Funding!

Wasteland II!Wasteland II!This just in from Brian Fargo: "I thought you all might be interested to know we are seriously looking at bringing a new Wasteland back with crowdsource funding. If we get enough support it could finally happen. Nothing would make me happier."

This of course, follows in the wake of Doube Fine's success raising money to produce a new game in the style of the classic click-and-point adventures (Secret of Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, etc.") Well, thanks to good ol' Brian Fargo, the many fans of Wasteland might get to experience the same thrills!

Imagine it: A core group of CRPG experts making a CRPG the way THEY want to make it, with no clumsy, stupid interference from PUBLISHERS and their armies of clipboard-wielding nincompoops.

For you young pups, Wasteland is a 1988 classic that inspired the Fallout series. Fargo was part of the original team. I've always thought of it as a post-apocalyptic Bard's Tale. It's widely celebrated for its amazing atmosphere and fun gameplay, and of course the box and manual are true collector's items (not the made-to-be-collectible junk we get in "special editions").

As soon as I learn more, I'll pass the news along.

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Matt Chat 136: Peter Oliphant on Stonekeep, Interplay, and Brian Fargo

In this part of my interview with Peter Oliphant, we finally get the dirt on Stonekeep's storied development cycle. What was going on behind the scenes of this monumental game? Peter gives us the lowdown in an emotional rant about the frustrations he suffered as control was wrested for him in a series of executive decisions by Interplay's Brian Fargo. Even with all of his experience working in Hollywood, his feedback was not even considered during the making of the FMV sequences--to disastrous effect.

Download the MP4 here.

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