Matt's Dev Diary 001: Starting Out

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Matt Barton's picture

Well, I guess now is a good time to start jotting down some notes here. I doubt anyone will care to read it, but perhaps it could be fun. Who knows?

At any rate, I always like to think big when starting a game project and then scale down as it becomes clearer how much time, energy, and expense will be required to achieve my vision. However, I don't like to overthink things. You can get bogged down with extensive game design documents and such that just aren't necessary (IMO) until much later in the process, after you have a good understanding of what's feasible to actually implement.

The basic game I have in mind combines M&M 6's first-person interface with turn-based combat similar to that found in Fallout (original) or the older Pool of Radiance/Gold Box games. I don't see this goal as preposterous, but do anticipate a lot of issues when it comes to switching between the modes. It might turn out to be insurmountable for me, in which case I'll have to drop that idea and keep it all in first person like Jay's Frayed Knights game (or M&M 6) or "cheat" by dropping terrain considerations and going to a special battle screen like in Heroes of M&M. Still, I *really want* that special third-person combat mode that shows you on the terrain...! The way I see it breaking down is that when you get close enough to a monster, the camera shoots up above you, giving you a bird's eye view of the battlefield. You can also see your party members there and a hex pattern on the ground (I plan to take elevation into consideration). I don't plan to show the rest of your party with you when you're exploring, since that would probably require all sorts of path finding and AI routines that I don't think are really necessary here. Instead, I'll just show their faces on the bottom of the screen or along the sides like Jay did (a smart approach IMO).

Anyway, I figure the first step is creating those two parts of the game engine--exploration mode and combat mode. So I plan to use Unity to first make a small island that I can run around on, and a monster (perhaps some rats) that'll be there, too, and if I get close enough, it'll trigger the combat mode. Here's where I'm breaking from the M&M 6 and Frayed Knights models the most, but if I'm able to pull it off, I think it'll be well worth it. I'm not even 100% sure it's going to be as tough as I think, since basically we're just talking about adding the party models and a camera somewhere above the battle zone.

In any case, first step is learning Unity. I finally settled on Unity because a lot of pros have recommended it, and after watching a bunch of tutorials, it looks like the learning curve isn't really all that steep. After getting some books on Unity and working through some YouTube videos and such, I've been able to create an island, mountains, grass, trees, and even put a first person controller in there to run around like a FPS. I've also been able to create a script for objects to make them do very simple things, such as fall under gravity or rotate around. Unity uses either C# or Javascript for scripting, but while it's certainly more abstract and less intuitive than GM, from what I've seen it's not terrible, either. Of course, I'm only doing very simple things so far, but it looks like most of the scripting system won't be that bad. I did, after all, write a whole text adventure game from scratch using C++, and I've used Javascript off and on, so how bad could this be?

I hit my first real snag when trying to import some of the models I made in Blender. The animation didn't work right and the textures weren't imported. I fiddled with this for awhile and got online; apparently it's a known issue and fixed in the beta. I downloaded a patch that supposedly fixes it, but I'm not confident it's going to be that easy. It's a real thorny issue for me, because it's hard enough (for me) to get animation looking right in Blender; if there's going to be all sorts of fussy stuff and glitches with importing it, that's going to cross my frustration threshold for sure. I looked into some Blender alternatives, but the only one that looks realistic is Cheetah 3D, and that's Mac only, so while feasible--it'd be a bit inconvenient switching back and forth, and I hate the mouse control on my Mac so badly that I really don't want to develop on it if I can help it.

So my plan at this point is simply to continue reading and making my through videos and tutorials until I feel comfortable enough to try to get that island with the rats on it. I expect this part to be relatively easy, since it's basically just FPS stuff and Unity (if nothing else) should make that part easy to construct. After that, it's on to the combat mode, where I expect to encounter the most resistance. But we shall see.

Comments

quantum (not verified)
Go for it!

Hey Matt,
all of this sounds like it will make a great game. Kudos for tackling such an intimidating project. But how do the SAS say? Who dares wins.
The switch between a first person approach for exploring and a 3rd person view for battle sounds strange at first, but I think it might offer more tactical opportunities than the now common first person real-time. I hope you get it to work.
Do you have an idea yet about the setting?
Will it be a medieval-fantasy-setting like in the SSI games?

Oh, and you HAVE to include rats. Rats are a must for every RPG-enthusiast.

Good luck!

Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
I'm definitely having rats in

I'm definitely having rats in there, preferably at least six different kinds: wood rats, wharf rats, black rats, etc. Maybe I could spoof Bubba Gump with a dude that can make 100+ dishes from rats. :)

I've been thinking about the setting. Part of me wants to be a traditionalist here and just go with the standard elves, dwarves, orcs, etc. I appreciate when a designer bucks these cliches, but it seldom works out well for them. That said, I was talking with my wife last night about the possibility of using Native American folklore instead of fantasy trappings. Here in St. Cloud are some indian tribes and some research centers and such where I might be able to get good info. I believe the local tribe here is called the Ojibwe (sp?)

I haven't looked into this enough to even know if they have a folklore with a good spread of monsters and creatures, but if they did, I think it'd be pretty unique to use them. I've also been tinkering with the idea of trying to get some funding from them if I go this route; it couldn't hurt to ask, right? I think it'd ultimately be educational, at least compared to the usual elf and kobold stuff.

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Stull (not verified)
Watch that step
Matt Barton wrote:

That said, I was talking with my wife last night about the possibility of using Native American folklore instead of fantasy trappings. Here in St. Cloud are some indian tribes and some research centers and such where I might be able to get good info. I believe the local tribe here is called the Ojibwe (sp?)

I haven't looked into this enough to even know if they have a folklore with a good spread of monsters and creatures, but if they did, I think it'd be pretty unique to use them. I've also been tinkering with the idea of trying to get some funding from them if I go this route; it couldn't hurt to ask, right? I think it'd ultimately be educational, at least compared to the usual elf and kobold stuff.

This is an area where you'd want to tread carefully, as sensitivities tend to run pretty high in general. You'd definitely want to do your research, and get everything right, so their culture isn't misrepresented. You'll probably end up with some critics that appreciate the nod, and then others that say you're exploiting their culture and history for entertainment's sake. But if it was all done right, the end product could be pretty cool and educational.

Matt Barton
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Joined: 01/16/2006
That's a good point. Instead

That's a good point. Instead of targeting a specific tribe or people, I'd probably be better off just saying it was "Inspired by Diverse Native American Folklore" and take a bit from here and there.

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clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
do not!
Stull wrote:
Matt Barton wrote:

That said, I was talking with my wife last night about the possibility of using Native American folklore instead of fantasy trappings. Here in St. Cloud are some indian tribes and some research centers and such where I might be able to get good info. I believe the local tribe here is called the Ojibwe (sp?)

I haven't looked into this enough to even know if they have a folklore with a good spread of monsters and creatures, but if they did, I think it'd be pretty unique to use them. I've also been tinkering with the idea of trying to get some funding from them if I go this route; it couldn't hurt to ask, right? I think it'd ultimately be educational, at least compared to the usual elf and kobold stuff.

This is an area where you'd want to tread carefully, as sensitivities tend to run pretty high in general. You'd definitely want to do your research, and get everything right, so their culture isn't misrepresented. You'll probably end up with some critics that appreciate the nod, and then others that say you're exploiting their culture and history for entertainment's sake. But if it was all done right, the end product could be pretty cool and educational.

I hate to say it but I cant agree more with this.. native Americans seem to "protect" their hertiage in a finatical way (opinion is mine and not reflective of AA in any way). Rmebering it, teaching it, wonderfull, deciding how I view it and use it.. not so much. I just watched the 100% BS of a fight over a Name and none offencive depiction of a Native american for a sports team cost $1000's of dollars and when it was all done, one group of native amercians wanted the Icon to stay (if they got paid) and one didnt.. NO COMPROMISE.. just lots and lot and lot and lots and lots (did that get the point across?) wasted money and time over something that basicly didnt matter. I suggest NOT using them in any way or form.. use the stories, just change the names .. even a slight mention of them without prior request will get you in trouble.

I have been called every name in the book, I watch other countries villianize the American .. and I could give a crap less.. words have never hurt me, never will, percepctions of who i am by un informed people will never bother me either.. AND this is the reason it so sad this happens..

vatrevligt
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Joined: 08/14/2011
Rats is a must.

Rats is a must.

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