Thursday, December 12, 2013

Game #8: "Monster Farm"

A week ago we started making game #8 "Monster Farm". It's a cross between DragonVale and Hay Day. An isometric freemium farm where the player breeds and grows monsters. Yesterday one week was up and it was time to publish the game. We didn't. Instead we decided to make an exception and take two weeks to develop this game.

This genre turned out to be more architecturally complex than the others that we tried. My prior architecture that I used for the last five games was not flexible enough, so I had to make a new one. After a whole week of development all I have to show is the isometric grid and the shop menu.

I spent two days implementing the isometric projection and the camera with scroll and zoom. Then I spent three more days implementing a data access layer. The lack of a standard framework with these features in Corona really slows down development. Every game reads and writes data, no? In a year or two once I have a library of well architectured and tested modules for data access and other common features, I will spend my time writing game logic, not middleware, developing games 2-3 times faster. Not yet though. The data access layer that I got now lets me write a lua data file "factories.lua":
Entry{ id = "factory_01", image = "monster_01", name = "Blue Monster", cost = 100, description = "Huggable and Lovable.", time = 10000, size = { i = 1, j = 1 }, center = { x = 0, y = 8 * 3 }, recipes = { "recipe_01", "recipe_02" }, animations = { name = "default", start = 1, count = 20, time = 1000 } }
Entry{ id = "factory_02", image = "scary_02", name = "Red Monster", cost = 200, description = "Scary One.", time = 12000, size = { i = 1, j = 1 }, center = { x = 0, y = 8 * 3 }, recipes = { "recipe_02" }, animations = { name = "default", start = 21, count = 20, time = 1000 } }
Paired up with the data file is the model class "factory.lua". Elsewhere I can access this data with:
Factory = require("factory")
for f in Factory.find{ cost = 200 } do
The find method returns an iterator over all Factory objects with cost = 200. If you know Ruby on Rails, you will recognize what I am trying to do here.

So now we have another week to get this behemoth into some semblance of a game. Hopefully that's enough time. By the way, Liza is making phenomenal progress learning and making isometric art; it's beautiful! Will show in a week.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Game 7: "Tower Defense" released

Today we completed game 7 out of 10. It's a tower defense game with whimsical art, where everyday characters such as the punk, the local beauty queen, and the bum must defend their neighborhood from the alien invasion. Featuring an Elvis impersonator. Here is a video:

I am releasing the code into the open source. The art and the sounds are for your personal use only.

When we started this whole project 2.5 months ago, I wrote a list of game genres that I wanted to focus on. One of them was tower defense that I very much wanted to create but put at the end of the list as a very hard genre to attempt only after we practiced on the easier ones. I remember thinking then that I have no clue how to even approach making a tower defense game.

Fast forward to now. Tower defense turned out to be one of the easiest games to make. There were no difficult architectural or algorithmic problems. Neither did it need a lot of code or special tools or libraries. There were several interesting nuances:

How do you design a level for a tower defense game coordinating between the artist who draws and the developer who lays out the locations and the paths? We drew a sketch of the paths on a napkin, then Liza drew the whole level in Illustrator, then I specified by hand the locations for the towers and the alien paths (the code has a helper debug function drawPaths(), uncomment it to visually see the paths). This would get old very quickly beyond a couple of levels, so for a full game I would make a level path editor first.

I continue to learn Lua and to refactor my code base. I looked at two libraries, Coat and Middleclass, that implement the missing OOP features such as inheritance and mixins. Mixins in particular are useful for common functionality such as Viewable for display objects and Persistent for stored objects. After studying the third party libraries for a bit, I wrote my own mixins just because it was so easy to do in Lua. Right now what I am missing the most in Lua is an ORM layer. There is Coat Persistent and Rocket Lua, but the former is alpha and the latter is not maintained.

Another piece of game dev that I learned this week was the particle generator and manager. I was going to use Particle Candy, but the Internet was down the whole day and I couldn't download it, so instead I wrote my own, and it turned out very easy to do.

Liza has progressed enormously as well. She animated six characters in Flash this week, in addition to drawing the UI and the level map. Just to think that only a few weeks ago she took a whole week to animate one ninja.