Today I want to do a little reflective piece on myself, with particular focus on the difference between where I started, and where I am now.
So around the end of August, beginning of September last year, I was brought onto the team as a full time programmer in order to speed up the development of the game. Now, when Darius, Malcolm and I were originally in talks about the idea of me working on LMGA, I will admit that I may have embellished my experience a little; although I did inform them that I had never used Game Maker before, and that I was by no means a programming guru.
Thankfully though, the guys saw enough in me to give me a shot. In reality, I was a game design honours graduate with minimal programming experience. I feel like I’m beginning to sound like a broken record with this but I cannot stress enough how much this project has done for me as a person and a professional. It has given me the motivation and support to flourish within my disciplines.
This project to me will always be more than just a game; what it really is, is a chronicle of our evolution as developers. Even if you look at the first 3 levels we made for this game: Frozen is a rapid click game, very simple to implement. Leaking was also a point and click under time pressure, although slightly different as you had to click on specific places on screen. Build was the most technically challenging of the 3 starting levels, as it required a certain amount of random generation to give it re playability. Additionally, this was the first level in which I really dealt with the timing of animations depending on the levels state (won or lost). This was Module 1 in a nutshell.
Module 2 consisted of the Find, Pecking and Memory levels. This is where it’s really starting to become clear that I was getting more comfortable with Game Maker, as these levels were several orders of magnitude more complex than that of module 1. Particularly the Pecking level which is where our bird pet is trying to eat in a whack-a-mole type scenario where the worms are popping in and out of their holes. This level was actually quite frustrating to implement as I had to go through many different iterations of code in order to time the animations properly, so that gameplay was silky smooth. This level taught me a lot about what I should and should not be doing. Extremely valuable experience to have. Memory was the first level where I really explored the usefulness of arrays and for loops; As i felt it was the easiest way to store the tune the game played, and the notes the player plays, then compare the 2 arrays to see if the tunes match. Learning and understanding these development staples has proved invaluable throughout the remainder of the project, and has really served me in speeding up development.
Module 3 consists of Dodge, Pie and Jump. The jump level is the simplest of the lot, it starts one of our air pets trying to escape a hazard-filled cave by jumping over, and falling under them as they go. The Pie level is relatively simple in terms of gameplay, but it took quite a while to get it working exactly the way i wanted it to; a lot of small tweaks again and again before I was happy with it. The dodge level is one I am extremely proud of, and it is actually a level where the gameplay simply was a result of me messing around with the physics in Game Maker for the first time. I was having a blast manipulating a physics-circle and said we should make a level out of it; thus dodge was born, where one of our air pets is trying to survive against the perils of an erupting volcano. This was the first physics level we made, and it is also one of the first levels we created to feature elements which were purely to add flavour and aesthetics. Extremely proud of this level in particular.
Module 4 contains Rope, Dragon and Magma. The rope level was another physics level we made, which simulates space! Again, a lot of tweaking values and things to make sure that you feel like you’re in space when you play it. The Dragon level is a relatively simple, shooting range style level where our dragon pet is doing a little target practice; not much to say here, development of this level was actually really quick, no hiccups, so that at least shows I’m learning something! Magma is a level that was not that hard to implement, it did use arrays and such to store the object which could catch fire, but nothing too difficult. This level just looks amazing though; particularly the intro animation where our magma pet is rolling through the forest and sets fire to some of it, every time I look at that animation I am impressed. Malcolm did a fantastic job with that one; It makes the level.
Module 5 contains the last 2 levels in the game, Petals and Siege. Both of these levels were relatively simple on the implementation side, siege being the more complex of the 2. Even so, I think they round out the game extremely well.
All in all this game has surpassed all of my expectations; I am supremely confident that it will make a stellar portfolio piece and take me soundly in the direction I choose to go in the future.
Next week, I will be researching and eventually beginning prototyping some early ideas for our last game, which Im calling Treasure Hunt for the time being.
Tune in next week to find out how it goes 😀