monsieurmax

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Working on Catequesis

Hi everyone.

Just a quick post to tell you that since September 2012, I’ve teamed with a bunch of spanish people to work on a new game using my world-famous RPG engine.

The game is called Catequesis and it’s a 8bit retro survival horror.
I won’t duplicate every news we make about this one here, so I’ll suggest you to follow the dedicated links:

 

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When you see it, you’ll swap bricks

Hi !

A friend of mine recently asked me to explain him how come i could “port easily” ( my words ) an android game to desktop or even to browser. After having answered him, i thought it might be interesting for other people.

Port is quite easy because the base language stays the same, it’s Java all the way, designed to use OpenGL :

  • Android : Java running Dalvik VM and using embedded OpenGl wrappers and native UI.
  • Desktop : Java running under a JVM, using JOGL and Swing UI.
  • Browser : Java compiled in Javascript with GWT and running WebGL using gwt-g3d and Html UI.

When i built my game framework i kept in mind that i might have to port the game to another system, so i made a nice separation between what i call “technical components” ( middle orange bricks ) and “game components” ( grouped as The Game ).

Those technical components make the links between the OS/System and the game components. It means that when porting a game, i just need to change / adapt the technical components to port the game.

In my case the technical components are :

  • Action Manager : receives input from the system and convert them into actions and broadcat them to the game components. For example, on Android, touching the Virtual D-Pad Left on the screen, moving the trackball to the left, or striking  the left arrow on the keyboard, lead to the broadcast of the same action : “move left”. Depending on the system, the way inputs are sent to this manager are totally different.
  • Persistence Manager : manages all the save system basically. On Android, it uses the Preferences mechanism. On desktop, it’ll be on the file system. On browser, i’ll probably use Google App Engine database system.
  • GL Renderer : On each system you have to understand how to initialize GL Context and manage the textures in memory. It’s OpenGl on each system, yet wrappers are quite different.
  • UI Manager : UI are a real pain to code. It’s not fun at all and can lead to many bugs. I choosed not to code a UI system in my games and rather to rely on existing system. On Android, i used some custom and themed alert dialogs. On desktop, JOGL allows to blend Swing components with the OpenGl surface. On browser, Html and WebGl are blended by the CPU ( at the moment ).
  • Sound Manager : Playing music and sound is quite different from one system to another. On Android and desktop it’s rather straightforward. On a browser it’s another story. Fortunately, i found gwt-voices and it works quite well and looks a lot like what can be found on Android.
In the end, porting the game is just swapping the system-specific middle bricks. This allow to keep the game exactly the same. The code can evolve at the same time on each platform. This saves a lot of time.
Thanks for reading.
-Maxime

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Html5 Canvas vs WebGL

I started exploring the possibility to develop a game for G+ ( let’s imagine that I can start by porting a random game where you jump around on columns ).

One remaining question was to decide between WebGL and Canvas2D.
I found a blog entry on Jeff  Muizelaar site that allows anyone with a modern browser to benchmark the performance of Canvas and WebGL.
The results I got were the expected ones. They’re almost the same as what i obtained on Android between Canvas and OpenGL.

Here are the pros and cons :
WebGL :
+ Super fast and powerful rendering
+ Lots of possibilities for a 2D game, such as shading, lighting and zooming.
+ GWT API with gwt-g3d
- A bit complicated
- Low compatibility : Chrome & Firefox only
- Uncertain future due to security issues in the current specs

Canvas2D :
+ Easy to code
+ High compatibility : any HTML5 browser
+ GWT API with gwt-g2d
- Low performances : laggy with more than 50 sprites ( on non-accelerated browsers )

On my G+ post about this it has been suggested ( and on the Google Game Developer Central ) that the use of Chrome frame can solve the problem of the low compatibility of the WebGL.

In the end, the choice for WebGL was easily made.
Tales of Pocoro draws more than 200 sprites on the screen, so Canvas would never allow a descent framerate.
Those security issues and early stage specs are still a real problem, but let’s be optimistic and hope for the best.

I’ve started working with the GWT-G3D library, I’ll talk about it in my next post.

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About piracy …

As you probably already know it , i developed a game named Tales of Pocoro on Android.

This game is quite good, and most people liked it. I made it from scratch using Java, the Android framework and Open GL. It has been a lot of work to design everything, to create my own game framework, to code the game, to test, to debug etc… It took months of my spare time and, even if i never intended to make a living out of it, i expected at least a bit of money.

When the game is launched, a little anonymous stat is sent to my server to record things like how many people play, who finished the game, where are people blocked…
The sent stat line is almost unique per player. and my file has now more than 12.000 lines. Minus the demo player and irrevelant lines it’s around 10.000 people playing the full version.

android_version|android_locale|device_manufacturer|device_model|device_display|game_unique_id|game_firstlaunch|game_version|game_progress_easy|game_progress_normal|game_progress_hard|game_random_easy|game_random_normal|game_randomprogress_hard|game_cheater_level|game_cheater_solution|game_lowperf|game_fullscreen|game_character|game_sound|game_music|current_date|
7|English|HTC|HTC Hero|ERE27|0-1894685651|Fri May 13 20:13:52 UTC 2011|1.0.3|70|0|0|1|0|0|false|false|true|false|people_hero_man_3|true|true|Fri May 20 12:27:44 UTC 2011|

Now, the terrifying truth. I really sold ONLY 300 copies of this game. I earned around 1.5€/$ for each. So for now i earned 450€. It is less than what i spent in Android devices to test this game.
I should have earned around 15.000€ if piracy did not exist. ( yeah it’s a BIG shortcut, i know )

I’m not a money guy. I earn enough to make my little family live and that is enough for me. Game development is a hobby, something i do because i love that really much ( it’s almost a curse )
But this huge difference between what i earned and what i should have earned is still a real pain for me, and i’m really thinking about stopping development on Android and try something different.

At the very least i must think of a different way to sell my games. It’s already too late for Tales of Pocoro as it is available on many pirate sites.
Daniel Cook has been someone who inspires me a lot since I stumble upon lostgarden.com. And maybe I’ll follow the decision he made some time ago to create games for browsers.

What do you think of it ? We are talking about it right here : https://plus.google.com/u/0/103548521283875874904/posts/K7aJjjUjKwq

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RPG Engine : Controls, IA and Fights

Hi folks,

In the last post, i was mentionning getting back to my rpg engine and update/finish a lot of things.
And guess what, that’s what i did.

Updating the controls

The controls in the game were a total major failure.
At the time i was satisfied by the ‘single touch’ experience of it. You put your finger on the screen and the hero goes there, like Zelda on the DS. You clicked on a enemy to attack him… but that didn’t work. Putting fingers around the screen right in the middle of what’s happening was NOT a bright idea. Making an usable fight system was way too complicated and hard to make it playable. Added to the fact that range weapons would have been even more complicated, i finally gave up on that type of control.

Now welcome the new controls: a totally fresh and new idea , the virtual D-Pad !

For now, it’s the first try and it works well. You might have some questions :

  • why so big ? -On your phone, it won’t seem so big, and it have to be big enough to be precise. Plus, it won’t be so opaque.
  • why are the buttons on top right, and not down right ? -That’s a more interesting question. You’ll be able to change this. But there’s a good reason for this : Nexus One. The multitouch capabilities of the N1 are rather poor. Touching two point in the same ‘line’ leads to bugs ( example ) Putting the buttons there was the only way for them to work correctly while moving the character.
  • You lame ! We see tiling everywhere ! Yeah, i have eyes too1 It’ll be fixed soon enough.

Updating the Fight System

Fight fight fight. Life is all about fighting. I like fighting, you like fighting, everybody fight every day. Didn’t you just put a metallic stuff through a random being to make the red come out of it just minutes ago before reading this post?

To be honest, i wanted to make a RPG without violence. But hey, it’s a RPG engine, so there should be fights if one want it.

So the fight engine is being updated:

  • A more realistic way to be punched away if taking a hit. This could be used  to simulate wind too or anything that’ll move a being in a direction.
  • More frames for the sword.

Updating the ennmy IA

I’m updating too the way that enemies see and think. Each enemy have is own field of vision ( blue here for demo purpose) and will react if some beings are in it.

There are still a lot to be done before having a real fight system, but things are starting to take shape :)

See you.

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Work in Progress : updating the RPG engine

Hi,

as you may know it, Tales of Pocoro has been built using parts of a RPG game engine i started developing last year.
It was a hard work and i came to pause this project for a game design / gameplay issue. Tales of Pocoro was a way for me to release a simple game with nice graphics and it was a good way to improve the engine too.

So, now that Tales of Pocoro is definitely over, I’m thinking about getting back to my RPG project.
That means updating the engine with all the Tales of Pocoro features and tweaks and adding some missing features.

This project was called Crystalia ( with random i and y in the name ).
At the time i created a page on indieDB, you can see many screenshots and videos here.

The Cristalia engine

The engine offers a lot of features :

  • a tile engine with a tile editor to create maps.
  • a game framework easily modified and extended.
  • a rpg engine with a lot of possibilities such as dialogs, quests, items, and a really nice technical design.

What is really nice about this game engine is that all the RPG content ( basically, what make the game ) is written in XML. Maps, dialogs, people behaviors quests are written in XML. You do not have to code anything to write an adventure, or add a quest, or some new maps.

	<map>
		<layer id="cliff">
			<grid type="MASK" />
			<grid type="BASE" />
			<grid type="OVERBASE">
				<tile asset="town_house1_roof_1" atlas="atlas_town_1" x="1" y="28" />
				<tile asset="town_house1_roof_2" atlas="atlas_town_1" x="5" y="28" />
				<tile asset="town_house1_roof_3" atlas="atlas_town_1" x="7" y="28" />
				<tile asset="town_house1_roof_1" atlas="atlas_town_1" x="14" y="26" />
				<tile asset="town_house1_roof_2" atlas="atlas_town_1" x="18" y="26" />
				<tile asset="town_house1_roof_2" atlas="atlas_town_1" x="20" y="26" />
				<tile asset="town_house1_roof_3" atlas="atlas_town_1" x="22" y="26" />
<friend layer="ground" asset="4x3_people_boy_03" atlas="atlas_charac_2" id="chef2" x="21" y="4">
			<behaviour type="still" />
			<dynamic_condition test="isQuestStarted" value="quest_ring_1">
				<interaction type="dialog" text="here is the the magic ring!" />
				<interaction type="questitem_add" name="magic_ring_1" />
			</dynamic_condition>
			<dynamic_condition test="hasQuestItem" value="magic_ring_1">
				<interaction type="dialog" text="Please bring the magic ring to the old fart near me" />
			</dynamic_condition>
		</friend>

This allows one of the coolest feature of the game : world changing.

Let’s imagine a basic quest : free the villagers from the thieves in the forest.

As long as the quest is not complete, the forest will be a dark place with monster and thieves lurking around. People in the village will look depressed and to increase the drama effect, you can even imagine putting dead trees, wandering rats or anything you can imagine. All this details are written in XML under the condition “thieves quest not complete“.

Once the thieves quest is complete, the forest will no longer be a dark and threatening place, the village will be a nice place to live again, and this is written in the same XML but under the condition “thieves quest complete“.

A bit of interaction here :
http://www.indiedb.com/media/embed/294201
[WIP] Implementing Interaction #1 – Indie DB

This dynamic xml handling allows a lot of changes in the world. It’s not a static universe anymore. Possibilities are really humongous. Dialogs can be modified, A whole map can became different or just a small part of it. This is a really important feature for me. I played a lot to real western RPG games, and nothing please me more than being able to modify the universe with my actions. I’ll always remember when in Gothic 3, you defeat all the Orcs enslavering a human village, the orcs flee and the humans started to live again in their village. I just tried “for fun” to kill all the orcs around and the universe reacted to these actions.

Updating the graphic engine

When i coded the graphic engine of the RPG engine, i was quite unexperimented with openGl and made some choices that led to some limitations.
To draw sprites on the screen ( basically everything drawn is a sprite from trees to people to ground to buttons ), i used a kind of openGl hack to draw raw images on the screen.
The main problem is that you cannot do anything once things are drawn. no light effect, no rotation, no zooming.

Zooming was much of a concern indeed, and i started modifying the whole game engine just for this feature. The good news is that it is now done. The camera is now able to pan around and zoom gently back and forth.

Next step on the graphic engine will be to add a bit of lighting. I’m not quite sure of how it’ll look like but it’s worth the try.

Updating the controls

Controls where the tricky part. It was even the main reason of the project being paused.
Once again, it was my fault, i made poor choices :
I decided that the game could be played by every one, including people with old phones. That means sometimes only a single touch screen,  no trackball, no keyboard. All the game should have been single-touch. That means a lot. No virtual joysticks, no virtual buttons ( ie , single touch = you can’t move and click in the same time ).
This choice led to a even greater problem : the battles.

People like to fight. They want to be able to draw a piece of metal and put it through another being to make some red stuff come out of him. That’s how RPG are.
Fight gameplay must be perfect  otherwise it’ll be frustrating and the game will be just bad.
With the single touch choice, fights would have been a real nightmare, clicking around on the screen, hiding it with your hand. Using bow would just have been impossible too.

See the horror below :
http://www.indiedb.com/media/embed/294203
[WIP] Implementing Weapons #1 – Indie DB

So, i decided to change all the controls, no more single touch crap. Most of the phones are multi-touch now. Bring back the virtual controls !

I’ll keep you updated about the progress :)

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Tales of Pocoro – updated to v1.2.0

Hello everyone.

Yup it’s finally here, the long awaited ( … ) version 1.2.0 of Tales of Pocoro :

-HD mode : if you have a tablet, you’ll enjoy graphics with no upscaling
-New user interface
-Added teleport animation
-Added the possibitily to remove the arrows around the character ( Thanks to Jordan )
-Corrected duplicate levels ( Thanks to Cordell)
-Corrected issue on random level engine

It has been a really hard work to create the HD mode and to create the new UI. I hope you’ll like it.

Again, you can find it on the Android Market and on the Appslib

 

Here’s a screenshot of what the HD mode looks like on a Motorola Xoom :

 

 

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New UI and HD mode preview

Here are some screenshots of the new UI , finished and with new icons.
It gives the game a really more professional look with 8bit icons and fonts

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And here is a preview of what the HD mode gives on a Foio 100 tablet : 1024*600 screen with no scaling ( the icons are still the old ones on those screenshots ):

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Tales of Pocoro – release of the demo

Yeah, I’ve finally changed my mind and made a demo out of Tales of Pocoro.

This demo let the player discover the 10 first level of Easy and Normal difficulty.
I put advertising on it to gather enough to advertise Tales of Pocoro afterwards.

I’m not really fond of this idea, but sometimes you have to put feelings away.

Hope it’ll work !

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Tales of Pocoro – updated to v1.1.1

Another minor update for Tales of Pocoro

  • Corrected the whype behaviour ( Thanks to Troy )
  • Corrected a bug that makes the character disappear when at the bottom of the screen ( Thanks to Anthony and Erwan )
  • Corrected issues on translation
  • Added suomi translation ( Thanks to Patrik Selin )

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