No Time To Play

Tag: 2.5D

When sprite scaling meets free roaming

by on Apr.27, 2017, under Gamedev

As of spring 2017, it’s been nearly five years since my first shot at a first-person engine with eight directions based on sprite scaling, inspired by a certain 8-bit classic. At the time I wasn’t aware of any newer game made in the same style; in the mean time, the aforementioned classic was ported to modern platforms and even got a spiritual successor. It took me until the winter of 2015 to try again myself. Still not with a strategy game, mind you — in fact I tried for a roguelike, probably with Necklace of the Eye fresh in mind. Never got around to explaining why it fizzled out, either; a mistake I’ll rectify below.

Point is, after 16 more months it was time for yet another take on the concept. And as it turns out, third time’s the charm.

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Weekly Links #119

by on May.08, 2016, under Gamedev, News

You know the saying, in science no experiment is a failed experiment. So I’ll chalk up my little adventure in CYOA writing to a learning experience. You see, I had this story idea rattling around in my head for a while now, but it was too weak to work in static fiction. But I had this notion that games can get away with much weaker stories than books, and meant to try Squiffy anyway. I also had this plan of writing the story in a linear fashion at first, use Squiffy’s “continue links” to split it up at key moments, and only then start worrying about choices, flags, alternate text and what not.

How naive of me. Even before I started writing in earnest, I was already thinking in terms of passages and branches. How do people manage to use Twine and still come up with a linear story? A theme was even emerging where the game would offer daring/caution options early on, and that would open and close some alternate paths later, based on which score was higher.

Trouble is, the story didn’t work. At all. After three days of barely making any progress, I had to decide it couldn’t pull its own weight in any way, shape or form, and interactivity didn’t help either. So much for that. Oh well, I’ll know better next time.

In related news, as of this writing none of my beta-testers have given any signs of life for a week, so City of Dead Leaves will be a little late. Better than releasing a completely untested version out of impatience, I hope you’ll agree.

And now, for the links:

But that’s really just a nitpick. Until next time, have fun.

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Weekly Links #101

by on Jan.03, 2016, under Gamedev, News

Happy New Year, everybody! The week after Christmas wasn’t very active, for obvious reasons, but things did happen. First among them is that I’ve been working on a new game! Deep Down in Darkness was supposed to become a first-person dungeon crawler, not unlike classics in the vein of Dungeon Master, except with eight directions instead of the usual four — as suggested in this old article.

Turns out, it’s not working out the way I want it, for various reasons I’ll outline in a full article soon. What I learned from the attempt is invaluable however, and the new style of mobile-friendly UI you see in the screenshots works like a charm. So it’s a win anyway.

In other game development news, a friend of mine who develops in PuzzleScript used it to make a match-3 game — a genre I like, and a relatively unusual use for the platform. (Though not as much as a run-and-gun game.) And just because it’s so quiet these days, maybe it’s worth mentioning that next week Sophie Houlden will be running a Myst Jam — something I’d love to enter if puzzles were in any way my thing. Wonder if there will be any entries based in Seltani.net?

Last but not least, on the last day of 2015 we got retrospectives of the year in interactive fiction are related topics: one from Emily Short, the other from Juhana Leinonen.

But that’s enough for now; the year is just starting. Have fun, and see you next week.

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Voxels, revisited

by on Jun.18, 2015, under Gamedev

When I was first making plans for Attack Vector, I already knew from prior experiments that sprite scaling wasn’t going to work well in software. Hardware might have been a lot more powerful in 2014 than in the days when Space Harrier saw the neon light of arcade parlors, but we’re accessing it through so many layers of software complexity that most of the difference is wasted. Oh, I could have used sprites prerendered into multiple sizes, but for various reasons that felt like the wrong thing to do in this case.

The next option would have been vector graphics, as I used in several games, but I soon realized it was going to take a lot of code, use proportional amounts of CPU (thus negating the advantage) and look ugly to boot. I needed some way to create my assets in advance, in a scalable format that was simple to render.

So I remembered my own voxel tutorial. But that raised a problem.

You see, there are voxel editors out there, but using them is tedious to the point of being impractical for any model larger than a few units in each direction. And making my own before I knew exactly what I needed sounded like a recipe for derailing the project.

But then it occurred to me that I was never going to see my assets from the back, and the solution imposed itself: combine flat sprites with depth maps to create a kind of digital bas-relief.

bas-relief

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Weekly Links #41

by on Oct.19, 2014, under Case study, News

Having recently worked on two projects that involve voxels, I couldn’t help but notice that for an obsolete rendering technology there seem to be quite a few game engines based on them. Most are quite different from the kind of thing I do (though many seem to rely on procedural generation… why am I not surprised). But a friend just pointed me at the current Humble Indie Bundle, and it includes one project that features remarkable similarities to my own work.

Note the pseudo-3D camera (with just two degrees of freedom!) and the very small scene size — 128x128x64, probably chosen because it’s near the psychological treshold of one million voxels. It also has physics — and I don’t understand why everyone sees “voxels” and thinks “destructible environments” — plus a manual editor of the sort I recently criticized, but which may work well enough if all you’re ever making with it is tiny “3D tiles”, as the case appears to be here.

Also, why is everyone so keen on releasing their engine and toolchain before they have a solid game made with them?

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Going retro with sprite-based first person

by on Jul.12, 2012, under Gamedev

I’ve been scouring my brain for a game I actually want to make, and since I’ve been writing about pseudo-3D a lot as of late I figured, why not put my money where my mouth is? The question, as always, is what exactly to do, and there just happens to be an old favorite of mine that, to my knowledge, nobody has tried remaking in a modern form. So I set to work, and four days later ended up with this:

Older gamers may be reminded of the ZX Spectrum classic Lords of Midnight. Nothing similar has been made since, but imagine something that goes beyond the dusty Dungeon Master / Eye of the Beholder technology without quite reaching Might and Magic VI levels. But what does that mean, and why is it important?

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2.5D is not dead!

by on Jun.27, 2012, under News

Looks like I’m not the only one interested in this quaint old technology. A four-part tutorial on how to build a racing game recently made the front page of HTML5 Game Dev News — a site I would do well to follow myself.

Unlike my own, this tutorial is very detailed and covers everything involved in making the game, which can be overwhelming at first sight. But if you’re relatively new at making games (especially the HTML5 kind), you’ll probably find it useful.

While we’re at this, here’s yet another 2.5D graphics tutorial, which explains the basic math and includes a bunch of historical information.

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Fun with voxels

by on May.15, 2012, under Gamedev

SymbiosisO: Voxel Fashion Party w/@crossproduct

I’ve been working on a new game lately, with a nice pseudo-3D effect for the display. After a while, it dawned on me that what I was doing there essentially amounted to voxels. Which was strange, because while I had read about voxels before, my interest in the topic was academic at best. But now the connection was made, I decided to take a closer look, just to know what possibilities I might be overlooking.

But first, what exactly are voxels?

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On the physics of flying snowballs

by on Oct.13, 2010, under Gamedev

2010 02 06 - 1310 - Washington DC - Dupont Snowball Fight

As living legend Chris Crawford points out in his book The Art of Computer Game Design, any game must revolve around a central concept. So when I started thinking of a new one, the first step was to figure out what the game was going to be about. I had already decided to make a first-person shooting game, simply because they’re so immersive, and it’s an uncommon perspective in 2D, so it wasn’t going to seem too unoriginal. For the same reason, it was also an easy decision to have projectiles with ballistic trajectories. And since martial games where you go around shooting stuff with guns are oh so common, why not simulate a snowball fight for a change?

But in order to do that, we first need to make those snowballs fly.

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In 2.5 Dimensions

by on Sep.29, 2010, under Gamedev

Ever since computers became capable of running actual videogames, developers were drawn to try and break free from the limitations of 2D graphics. This became possible with the advent of microcomputers, which were powerful enough to render wireframe 3D and even flat-shaded polygons. But for the most part they’d make do with tricks, simulating depth with the traditional sprites and some optical illusions.

How 2.5D works

Simply put, 2.5D is the generic name for faking 3D computer graphics with 2D. It usually comes in the form of isometric graphics. But there is another technique, that allows for perspective and even polygons, with extremely easy programming, as long as you accept a few limitations.

How easy? This easy:

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