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 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.

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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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.

Moon Progress

It would be easy to think that work on my current personal project ‘Moon’ has ground to a halt. I can tell you for sure that isn’t the case. Though to the casual observer a few hours a month probably looks very much like halted. A great deal of my time has been spent making bits of engine code that do specific but ultimately non-game things like generate voxel based collision meshes so the character doesn’t float about in space, load file from the internet so I can support updates or just a renderer that doesn’t crash at random times so I don’t get angry emails from players. Well, finally after a very productive weekend I now have actual visual results to show for my efforts. These are simply tests of the first parts of the level and block editor so don’t expect Moon to actually look like this. Though I do quite like the stark grey against dark dusty purple. The basic bits of a level editor. Blocks from any of the constructed sets can be placed in the world and saved. Nothing very fancy here yet and so much more work to do. This is a pretty much …

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Complexity and project Moon

Unless you’ve actually ever made a computer game you may not be aware of how complex the process really is. This isn’t a boast with which I intend to inflate my ego, or some excuse for the time such endevours take. It’s just a stamement of fact about the way things are. Computer games are not alone in the set of all activities that are challenging, nor are they sole occupant of the set of things that when done well appear to the end user (or target audience) as usable and approachable. However, they also occupy the set of things who’s creation feels like it should be simpler than it really is. Who’s creation is filled with little things that on the surface seem simple but turn out to be filled with layers of complexity. I think in that, they may well be alone. As an excercise next time you play a computer game, consider what complexity might hide behind simply making your character move, jump or attack as you’d expect when you press a button (obviously assuming you’ve chosen game that has a character in it). You may be suprised, and unless you’ve ever written the code for it, …

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Fire Sign

This happened In a fit of creativity one sunday afternoon. I had a need to do something with lots of bold broad colours and heavy duty composition. In all it took about 6 hours.

Its acrylic on canvas and about 3 feet from top to bottom.

I also created a desktop version of it for those that might be interested



At the start of 2009 I created a simple puzzle game called Efficiency. Despite being a simple project that I put together in a few weeks it turned out to be much more popular than I ever expected. Over time I got lots of people asking me to fix It’s biggest failing. A total lack of functionality on Windows 7. So here by popular demand, is a new and marginally improved version of Efficiency (which to celebrate I’ve added a ‘ + ‘ to). It should work fine on windows 7, it’s got much nicer procedurally generated music and it’s even got a few added bits and little fixes. Download

iO – A little history

I’ve mentioned it from time to time, but as yet I’ve not really gone into any real detail about the development of my iO project. In this post I hope to remedy that a little starting with some history. Some years ago (around 2004/2005) I created a somewhat complex game concept which for lack of a better name I called ‘spod’. It was a robot construction game in which you were tasked to create a team of automated battle robots and pit them against teams created by other people (or and AI opponent). Without doubt it was far (far far) to ambitious, and as such it was never completed. The screenshot below shows the main robot editing area. Looking back at it now It’s clearly a disaster of poor interface design. If you knew what things did and how stuff worked then you could create some really interesting robots but in terms of usability it was a very long way off the mark. Any new player would probably spend a while poking a things feeling generally lost and then just quit. That or just quit in horror at the sight of all those buttons. So I stopped. Instead I decided …

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XNA Project – Moon

I’ve put aside iO, and it’s now become clear how much it was stopping me getting ideas out of my head. Without doubt, Its constantly changing form helped improve my programming skills and has resulted in dozens of added features to my game and rendering engine, but ultimatly no real (fun) game was going to result any time soon. The engine has (and will continue to serve) as a great test-bed for ideas and tools in my profession but I think for the most part it now has no real use to me for making games. It’s based on the now aging DirectX 9 and targeted soley at the PC, a combination that is unlikely to feature in the future of games creation as a whole for very much longer. Instead I’ve turned to XNA and C#. An excellent platform for making games on a well established platform with excellent tools in a fraction of the time I was taking to write anything in C++. As if to prove my point, I’ve already finished writing the code framework for my new ideas and started on the artwork for my first project. The first thing I’m getting out of my head …

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Old Sketches

Rather than make a post for each, I’ve decided to put a big batch of my old quick sketches here in this gallery. Each one was done in an hour or less on A5 in pencil and ink.

Vision_Sketch AmongstTheCoral BraceOfSmallSword Scoot Queen_of_Spades Queen_of_Hearts GaurdDrone ImaginationsHand Nurture Nymph_of_Nature ProjectSketch1 Queen_of_Clubs Queen_of_Diamonds