The Moonstone Equation – Greenlight

After months of working quietly behind the scenes it’s finally time to reveal the final form of my little personal game project.   It even has it’s own website where you can follow it’s development and keep up to date with it progress towards release. If you want to play The Moonstone Equation then I’ll need your help getting it through the Steam Greenlight system  

A new Lead

A little while ago I started to realise that Dr Dog was not going to be the final main character for Moon. He’s endearing in many ways and as one of the first assets I created for the project is a very hard thing to decide to change. However, from a game design and story point of view he’s creates several issues that really aren’t going to change unless he is replaced. The Problem In the Image on the left you can see Dr Dog standing in his Idle pose. He stands like this anytime you’re not moving. As you can see he’s not one for wearing a lot of clothes and he likes to stand very upright. He’s also about 14 ‘pixels’ high. My original decision to just give him a collar quickly made my life tricky when it came to drawing any other characters (for you to interact with). Because He’s not wearing clothes they should all do the same, to keep the world consistent. This means my only real choices for deferentiating one character from another is in type of animal, fur/skin colour, choice of hat and perhaps with a prop (like a hand tool). This whole …

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The Profile of Moon

After what may seem like a very long time, the number of pieces left to be added to Moon before it could be considered complete is finally starting to get smaller not bigger. There are no obvious new bits of feature or technology to be added, the main structures of the entire game world have been laid out and there’s now a real sense that as long as I stick with it I could actually release a finished product. A game that a few people might enjoy playing (and maybe even paying money for). Don’t go rushing off to steam just yet, there are still plenty of things to do but I can start to put actual numbers on things in a way that I’ve just not been able to do up to this point. With numbers I can count down the remaining work and even see a point in the future when they all reach zero and I release it all into the wild. The landscape of indie development is littered with games that never got finished. I recon it probably kills about 99% of the projects ever started. So, as another year comes to a close I have …

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The cycle of the Sun

Inconsistencies If you’ve played any of the Alpha releases of Moon you may have noticed the moon in the sky in the outdoor areas around the Observatory. The more observant of you may also have noticed that the phase of the moon matches the current phase of the moon.  This is all great stuff. Except it raises an annoying inconsistency that’s been bothering me for a few months now. The changes of moon phase imply the passage of time, but the lighting of the world never changes. One one hand you experience the passage of days but never the passage of hours, so It’s always night. The Solution For a long time I’ve been resisting the temptation to implement a full day/night cycle, aware that if I ever want to actually finish Moon I have to be a ruthless as possible with my ideas. If it not absolutely needed, time shouldn’t be spent on developing it. However, the mixed messages about the passage of time were too much of a problem to leave alone. So now, in the outdoor areas, the daylight light matches the light in the real world and the passage of time is made clear. Concessions Things …

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Creating Better Levels

They might be fun but the test levels have got to go The recent release of Moon alpha 1.5 has brought me to a rather amazing place. About 95% of the code I expect to need is written, most of the biggest bugs are gone and feedback indicates that (at least some) people are having fun. This means almost all that remains is the creation of the actual content I want in the final game. So, the exciting place I find myself is in front of my level editor with a head full of ideas and nothing to stop me letting them out. If you’ve played Moon at all then you may have wondered about a few odd design choices. Why is the key to the caves stored in an inaccessible location in the generator room? Why is the first puzzle so hard? Why did I have to pick up the weird blue thing at the start? Well, the simple answer to all this is that the levels present in the alpha builds have been there to test specific mechanics and ideas. There was a hint of some progression (mainly so the alpha releases didn’t feel totally flat) but it’s …

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Moon – Alpha 1.5

Suddenly, a new version of Moon appears. By the time I’d released the last version of Moon I was reasonably happy that all the significant technology code was written, that there would be only minor changes to code and that I’d be spending most of my time making new levels and interfaces and adding music and more audio. I was very, very wrong. I went into a lot more detail about some of the most significant changes in a previous post if you’re interested. In short, there’s cloud save support, new game mechanics, new puzzles and music. Oh and probably a few new bugs. As ever this is still a preview of the game, you’ll get a few snippets of the story and a few puzzles to beat but it’ll be a while yet before the whole thing is done. There are definitely still some knobbly bugs in there but in general things should be mostly stable and crash free. Please let me know if you have any trouble (or suggestions / annoyances) Download

Moon – Interface

Some areas in Moon are stranger than others so I wanted to create some music to convey that strangeness. Nothing so odd that it’s annoying but odd enough to feel other worldly. Also, I’ve not really played much with pentatonic scales so I thought I’d experiment a little in that direction too

The results are suitably odd with out being too discordant but I think the whole track could do with being at least twice as long. It feels a little like it just getting started and the it comes to an end so there might be some updates in the near future I think.

Moon – Lonely Cave

Before I release the next version of Moon I want to create about three or four music tracks for the various areas that are currently present. I think if I can enhance the feel and mood of the observatory, the caves and the hidden areas I’ll be very happy.

This track is my first attempt at something for the caves. I’m pleased with lots of things about it (especially the ‘drip’ notes) but over all I’m not sure if it’s right. At the moment it feels too much like the sound track for a random RPG not Moon. It might be easier if I just let it sit here for a while and come back to it with fresh ears. Anyway, please let me knoiw what you think.

Moon – Wonder

It seems that my new enthusiasm for music creation is having some effect. Having completed the previous track I went straight into another one.

This one is much lighter and has a lot more of the mystery I was looking for. Obviously I’m still learning so it’s not as polished as I’d like but I think it’s an improvement none the less. Once I start to feel a little more happy and comfortable about the creative processes I’m using to drive my composition I might make a post about it.

Moon – Journey

Since I began occasionally fumbling around in various bits of music production software about 14 years ago I’ve used samples almost exclusively. Occasionally I’d throw in a half a dozen notes or a pad sweep from a synth but these occasions were exceptions to the norm.

The main reason for this has really come down to my lack of knowledge of the language of music itself. I’ve got reasonably good at knowing when I like something and even if it’ll work with everything else in my track, but I’ve never really known why; At least not at a fundamental note by note level. I can’t actually play any instruments and have never read music so this is not all that surprising.

Some time ago this lack of understanding began to bother me. The rate at which I poked at my music software dwindled to almost nothing. I’ve made one track I actually like in the past 3 years. I just wasn’t getting what I wanted anymore. So I stopped.

Then I did something better; I started reading.

Three weeks ago, I spent some money and updated my music software. This meant I’d have to justify to myself the expense and put it to some use. I also bought a book on music theory to supplement all the reading I was doing on the subject across the internet that had lead me to upgrading in the first place. Plus I need music for Moon and it’s not going to create itself.

Suddenly, in the space of two weeks I’d produced more than 16 bits of music that I didn’t hate; Each one constructed without samples from individual notes up. Each one based on some actually musical theory. They’re more like crude sketches than anything I’d put on here but the important thing is that I actually produced something I liked. Possibly for the first time in years.

Anyway, This last week has been spent putting together something that might end up in Moon, assuming I don’t fall out with it. To people that are more skill in these things than me it may seem simplistic (I still think the mix of each of it’s elements is a bit rough) but it’s made without the samples I’ve relied on for years. I think that in itself is worthy of putting it up here.

Moon Progress

In keeping with the traditions layed down by many other indie developers I’ve dsecided to give you a quick summary of what I’ve been upto and what you can expect in the next release. All this while at the same time giving no clear indication when that release might be. For some time I’ve been hearing reports that Moon takes a long time to start on laptops or that everything starts up fine, except the graphics (the black screen bug as it’s been called). Along side all this I’ve also had some requests for some sort of cloud save support, so that when you’ve played for a bit at the office you can carry on where you left off when you get home. So, to address all these things I’ve spent much last few months making some pretty significant changes to the file system, graphics startup code and game save files. First, I’ve added additional checks into the graphics startup code so thet if your playing on an intel laptop that has more than one graphics system it chooses the more capable (non-intel) one if it’s available. This should much improve the experience of those of you that see the …

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Moon – Alpha 1.3

So soon, what’s new this time you might ask? Well there a few bits of hidden fun stuff for you to enjoy (maybe the image above is a clue). Lots of little bugs squashed and a nice quick simple installer. I’ve also added some extra code to make it a little easier to help you if you do get bitten by any of the remaining bugs, so please let me know if you have any trouble (or suggestions / annoyances) For best results you should delete the files in your AppData/Local/Moon folder and start a ‘New Game’ Download

Moon – Alpha 1.2

Just in time for new year, The first Alpha version of Moon is now available (see the big link below). So, what great and exciting features have taken all this time? With luck the black screen bug is finally dead. Lots of ambient sounds have been added (still no music yet though), I’ve added and updated a few puzzles, made some fixes to levels so you won’t get stuck, improved the controls (especially when jumping up through gaps), added interactive computers, added some hidden fun stuff and fixed lots more bugs. As ever this is still a preview of the game, you’ll get a few snippets of the story and a few puzzles to beat but it’ll be a while yet before the whole thing is done. There are definitly still some knobbly bugs in there but in general things should be mostly stable and crash free. Please let me know if you have any trouble (or suggestions / annoyances) For best results you should delete the files in your AppData\Local\Moon folder and start a ‘New Game’ Download

Moon Pre-Alpha 1.23

A few months have passed since I originally released a playable version of Moon. Since then I’ve been adding features and fixing bugs. So now you cane give the improved version a try. It’s still a long way off the complete game and there’s still plenty of bugs, but I’m now close to being happy that I have all the underlying code systems as I want them so I think this might be the last Pre-Alpha version. Next stop Alpha and some serious content Download

More Moon Progress

It almost feels like I’m building up a little bit of steam on Moon. The level editor works pretty well and I’ve been adding lots of new graphics tiles when ever I get the chance on an evening or during a quiet moment or two during a weekend. However, by far the biggest improvement to it all has been the lighting and atmosphere system. I can now give every level a unique tone and feel. Everything from fogging and lighting to full on film-like colour correction. there’s still no sound or music and there’s some significantly missing features .. but it’s really starting to be fun and feel a bit like a game.

Little Big Planet Vita

My first project as graphics programmer for Double 11. The challenge was to squeeze a game that made some pretty significant demands on a ps3 onto the new PSVita. Oh, and add a whole pile of new content, features and control methods. Little Big Planet is pretty much the biggest franchise I’ve ever had the chance to work on. It was full of huge coding challenges but also lots of fun visual effects and graphical fluff to write. The metacritic score of 88 along with tons of great reviews seem to suggest we did a pretty reasonable job.  

Efficiency+ on Windows 8

It came to my attention that Efficiency+ was no longer functioning. It seems that some changes by my web host brought a rather annoying web script bug out of the cupboard. So, I got the old code out of storage put in a fix and along the way updated the installer to include all the required components for it to run on Windows 8. I even managed to reduce the download size by just over 5MB The download link on the original post now points to the new version; or you can click on the giant link below Download

Project Moon .. but better

As you may have noticed, project moon has been ticking along for some time. From time to time I’ve even posted a screen shot or two relating to it; each one looking quite different to the last. Much as it may not be obvious, the fundamental design idea behind it has always been the same, only the presentation has changed. So here to accompany some nice new screen shots I’ll give you a few reasons for all this change instead of giving away any actual juicy details about any of the game itself, because that’s the sort of thing indie developers do. In short there are two main reasons why I’ve changed from 3d down to 2d; time and Fez. As a professional game developer (and now a farther too) I have a very limited amount of free time to spend on my own code projects. That sparse development time is usually used to achieve two things: make progress on one of my two personal game projects (iO and Moon) or investigating the sort of subjects and problems many programmer are easily distracted by, (graphics, compression, audio processing, etc.). For a very long time I laboured under the illusion that …

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Tortuga Puzzles – Part 3

I guess the trite phase about third time being lucky may be appropriate here For the Tortuga event in 2009 I wanted to make sure the puzzle was accessible and fun. I wanted as many people as possible to have a go but it be difficult enough to make the real puzzle enthusiasts still enjoy it. I opted for a hunt for buried treasure (of sorts). The puzzle was given out early as usual but only two weeks before the event. It came in two parts. A reference map of the Caribbean and a letter. The map was painted on a large board so it could be available for people too peruse on the day (It was also little clearer in the flesh too which helped) This is probably one of my favourite Tortuga puzzles. It had a excellent balance of fun and challenge. Plus, having lots of pirates looking at the map in the middle of a tavern table, tracing out ideas while trying not to give away what they’re doing or thinking made for some great moments.

Tortuga Puzzles – Part 2

More pirate themed puzzles. this time the puzzle from Tortuga 2008 This time the aim of the puzzle was to extract the order of 7 words that formed the instructions for the next part of the puzzle. Those seven words have now been lost, but this part of the puzzle still works just fine The puzzle from the previous years had been given out a month before the event, to get people excited and give them a bit of time to mull over various possible answers. In previous years, the puzzle had often fallen in a few days or weeks. So I made this one a little bit harder. turns out I may have made it a little too hard. It was solved, but not by many  

Tortuga Puzzles – Part 1

Who doesn’t love pirates? I imagine the number has dropped a little since they now seem to be everywhere. I liked them before they were cool *put on hipster glasses* For many years I provided the games and puzzles (and a lot of nonsense) for a pirate themed gathering amongst 40-50 of my friends. I recently rediscovered the lost image files for most of the puzzles that featured in each one and thought it would be fun to share them with the wider world (not that my website readership is all that wide). First off is thise one from 2007. The aim was to work out the numeric combinations of three tumbler locks that were all attached to a single chest. This is a reasonably tricky puzzle. Sadly I fell a bit flat when one of the (far too cheap) locks seized up on the day and the hinges of the chest had to be removed for the treasure to finally be won I still have the chest; and it still has a broken lock attached to it.  

Hippy Monsters

To replace the drab colours that I originally did for HippyLizard I created these  Download Desktop Version as with many of my personal projects, the rest of the work on the site coding itself is ‘onging’

Old Isometric Game Tiles

Sometime is good to realize that a project idea is so intractable and unwieldy that it’s best to just stop before you even really get started. Luckily this was the case with an internet based isometric game I nearly started It was to be a sort of turn based, fantasy, strategy game. Whether or not it’s game play would have worked was heavily reliant on whether I could find the best (and most fun) way of implementing the magic system which was to work very much more like chemistry, and less like dice Well, it was just too massive a piece of work, so it was dropped. All I have now is a odd tile based board game (a little bit like dominoes) and this image I made of some example world land tiles.

Flurries

As ever, updating my website ends up at the bottom of my to-do list for months on end. Well, I’ve got a pile or stuff sorted and ready to be uploaded, so expect light flurries of random artwork and other nonsense over the next few days and weeks. The long term forecast is still of significant dry patches, but we’ll see I guess. It helps that I know that at least a few people actually look at this rubbish. Here’s a sneak peek