Entries in game development (344)


New Game - Going the Distance 5

Listening to: Nothing.

Good morning, folks! I just released Going the Distance 5: Earth Defensive Defense Force today! It was a fun project that I was able to put together a week on the train. I've done so much conceptualizing for the Cadet 227 project that I needed to make sure my programming chops were still intact.

Anyway, give it a go! Remember to use the SLOWMO power as much as possible. It really helps you get further along.

Related Link: Play Going the Distance 5

Cadet 227 - Developer Diary Entry #4

It’s been a little while since I’ve updated and I apologize for that. I’d like to thank you for the continued support on the project. As a reminder, the project’s been fully funded and anything extra will help me spend a bit more in making sure the game is as an engaging experience as possible.

I’ve been having some thoughts about the "skipping dialogue" part for the game. I just think it will end up being too messy. It’s not so much the complications of how it will work, but rather I don’t think it adds to the gameplay experience. I’m actually going to go the route of a simple room description (room name, items in room, exits) and full room description (room name, description, exits). I’ll just make sure the room description is just long enough and can be skipped, but nothing like a novel to get through.

This will actually free up a key to use, which I’m thinking will be used as a "use item in inventory" button. It will be automatic in that if you have the item, the correct item will be used in the appropriate room. Having to sit there and cycle through each item would very well be a pain to use. Yes, I understand that a player could potentially run through the entire game, grab every item they see and then try each item in every room, but that isn’t how the game is meant to be played. Players who do that will inevitably also complete the game, but lose out on the experience. If they derive joy from that, then who am I to deny them that as well?

This will also add a little variety to the game where you actually are encouraged to explore and figure out puzzles as opposed to just following a linear path, listening to a story.

I can assure you there are at least two safe combinations to remember and a bit of Konami’s Track and Field running action to be had in this game.

Stay tuned! I hope to have some original music up soon.

Cadet 227 - Developer Diary Entry #3

Listening to: Nothing.

Today's post is a bit more technical.

I started working on the underlying engine for Cadet 227. It's strange knowing that all keypresses are only affecting game elements in the background, producing no visible change on screen. I have trace statements running, of course, but it's just a new way of experiencing the development of a game. It's... like a game in itself.

Anyhow, just busy working on that. Currently I have going from room to room in place as well as the system reading a block of dialogue. I haven't incorporated the skipping portion yet. A very interesting thing I learned about AS3 today!

When you add the "SOUND_COMPLETE" event listener to a sound channel, you have to assign/add it again after the sound has been played--every time.


If you don't do that, it won't work correctly. The "soundComplete" function, in this case, won't be fired. If you place it before the sound channel play command, it also doesn't work. It has to be added after the sound has started playing. That's my AS3 tip of the day... or month... or year.

Related Link: Cadet 227


Cadet 227 - Developer Diary Entry #2

Listening to: Nothing.

Thank you for the continued support! It’s very awesome knowing that people want to see something like this happen. I’ve even got a few e-mails from folks volunteering their help, as a voice actor or to help with sound music! I can’t even wrap my head around dialogue trees just yet, as you’ll understand near the end of this post with the difficulties that arise with simple room descriptions. I will address the dialogue game mechanic in a later post though since, in all honesty, I have thought about it. That’s not to say I won’t need other voices though. A person can only listen to my voice for so long before wanting jump out a window.

The correspondence with visually impaired computer users continues as well as additional outside research. It looks like JAWS is the main screen reader, so I’ll have to download a demo and try it out.

I’ve learned that when the online Flash version goes up, which is only a piece of the game due to its size, it will have to be embedded in a very plain page. Just like how we scan through pages and look for keywords within sites, I’m sure we’re all guilty of blazing through an RSS reader for posts that appear remotely interesting, visually impaired computer users do the same. The problem is that they have to listen to each piece from beginning to end or skip it. That means while we can pick up keywords at the end of a sentence or even in the middle, visually impaired users must get the gist from keywords at the beginning. They can’t skip to the end. They can’t skip to a word in the middle. It’s possible to change the speed of reading on the reader, but there’s still no jumping around. All in all it’s a new way to view how sites are to be laid out to provide the best accessible user experience.

This is another reason why the full game will have to be a download. I don’t want to have to have a user go to the site, navigate to play, enter the page, tab to the embedded file, turn off their screen reader (there are certain keys on the keyboard attached to functionality within the screen reader, like “B” being like Tab, cycling through elements on a page), play the game, turn their screen reader back on and possibly confuse them on how to move on to another site. Also keeping track of customized settings for different screen readers is impossible, so it could end up as a big punch in the face. As a download, expectations for what’s going to happen are set in place. You know you’re going to start an application and can set the screen reader to the appropriate settings, rather than trying to figure out a workaround in hopes it doesn’t conflict with any other accessible software running.

The game is planned to use a few keys. The arrow keys will have you move from room to room. The spacebar is the action button. The keys A, S, D and F are the other keys: secondary action (kind of unsure of this), repeat the last piece said, brief description and full description. You never have to move your left hand from home row and right hand from arrow keys. I believe ESC will be the only time you move your hands, and that’s to quit the application. The game saves at every room, so there’s no real fear of losing progress.

As a player moves from room to room, they are not forced to listen to the full room description. They’ll most likely check out a full description the first time they enter a room for the first time by pressing F, but there’s no reason to hear it all every time you walk in. The brief description, accessed by pressing D, will simply list the room title and the exits. This keeps me in check in making sure that the mental map created from navigating the station and mine is compelling, but straightforward. People would probably shoot me if I decided to make the mine 27 4-way intersections with 11 turns at every section. I can barely remember where I leave my wallet without drawing a map.

While writing the script and recording the audio, I have to find the right places to split the pieces. If the player presses any key during dialogue, it will skip it and move onto the next part. They can press the S key to repeat the last thing said. An issue I can see is if a dialogue block plays, let’s say it’s in three parts, and the player presses the S key during the second part. Will it start the second part over? Will it start the first part over? How will it continue the dialogue block? I have an idea in place, but these are the things that need to be tweaked to make sure the experience isn’t annoying as hell and allow players to feel like they can move at the speed they want to.

This is another reason why copious amounts of dialogue for one situation or description will be avoided at all costs. I can imagine a person sitting through three sentences/parts in a dialogue block, but not fifteen.

I just realized that allowing any key to skip dialogue may prove to be a problem. The player won’t know which part they can skip and which part of the dialogue block they will start next. They may then press to skip repeatedly and end up skipping the whole dialogue and accidentally starting it all over again (imagine using F to skip dialogue). Maybe I will shift repeating the last dialogue string to A and skipping the dialogue piece to S. I know some users will have the patience to listen to the start of a dialogue piece before skipping, which may mitigate the problem, but I’d hate to punish those who don’t.

The initial tutorial is written. I have the story, not actual dialogue, written up to the end of the first day of mine scanning. The mine scanning takes in-game days. The first day will be very short, allowing the player to understand how it works. The second day will be the longest in the mine. The third will be the big climax inside the mine, station and everything else.

I’m currently looking into the cost of licensing James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend”. From the way things look, it’s going to be prohibitively expensive for Donationware. If it’s possible to work something out, it will play a hopefully memorable moment in the game.


(Don't) Save the Princess - Flash Version

Listening to: Linda Ronstadt - Don't Know Much

(Don't) Save the Princess has been released in Flash over at NinjaKiwi's site. It's pretty awesome. The NinjaKiwi guys are the creators of the popular Bloons series and a great sponsor. Wayne Marsh did the porting from the original Game Maker version to Flash and created the sharing portion for the editor.

Go check it out when you get a chance... again! Yes, I know it's "old".

Related Link: (Don't) Save the Princess


Cadet 227 - Developer Diary Entry #1

Listening to: Nothing.

I woke up this morning to find that the project has been fully funded! It only took a bit of elbow grease and within a few days of the project’s opening it has reached its goal. I will have a final list of contributors in both the game and developer diary for sure. I am very excited to work on this project and overcoming any of the challenges that it may throw my way. Thanks again to the contributors and your generosity! It speaks volumes, it does!

So because it’s officially underway, I thought I’d go and start a developer diary to chronicle the process, things I learn and challenges that I’ll run into. I’ll have clips and demos of things for people to check out as they get done.

One e-mail I received this morning was from a visually impaired computer user, who I will refer to as DT at this time. DT wrote:


Thanks for your message. Unfortunately, even if this is accessible, it is unlikely to work for visually impaired people since Flash is not an efficient technology for us.


This didn’t discourage me, but rather set off neurons in my brain and the question valves. Why is Flash not an efficient technology for the visually impaired? Is it because something like JAWS is not able to properly read the contents within a Flash media file? Is it because there are few sites that have designed their layouts to properly combine standard web elements with Flash elements? Is it because there’s no real need for Flash for visually impaired computer users since Flash was originally meant to be for a “rich multimedia experience for the internet”? How useful is an animated banner is Flash in this situation, right?

I’ve sent a reply back asking a few of these questions in hopes of finding answers that will help me tailor the game design to better approach the ultimate goal. At the very least, Flash can export an executable file, which also allows me to distribute the game as a physical download.

I will send a message to San Francisco’s Exploratorium later this week as well. I remember they had a vision deprivation obstacle course when I was younger. It would be interesting to see if they could house a computer with speakers in a completely dark room and have this game running. I know that if I was put in that situation, the overwhelming darkness and ambient sounds would freak me out completely. The trailer isn’t “scary” or “chilling” to me anymore, but it’s also because I’ve heard it a few dozen times already. The first few times I listened to the final mixdown I couldn’t close my eyes.

In any case, again, the project is now funded. I will start fleshing out the entire story and script for the game. There are a few key moments I have planned that should have a player jamming on their keyboard (who doesn’t love the traditional Track and Field button masher?) and being fully engulfed in audio fear. Well, that’s the plan anyway.

Related Link: Cadet 227


Kickstarter Project - Cadet 227

Listening to: Nothing.

Cadet 227 Trailer from Alexander Shen on Vimeo.

Please turn up your headphones.

This is my Kickstarter project that I'm trying raise some money for! It's an action/adventure game for the visually impaired / blind. Hopefully I can reach that funding goal of $500 by the middle of April! There's more information on the Kickstarter page.

Tell your friends! I'll be sure to post more about it as the weeks go on.

Related Link: Cadet 227 Kickstarter Page


Background Art - Apartment Hallway

Listening to: All-4-One - Better Man

I did some artwork this morning before work and colored this during lunch. This one didn't take nearly as long as the other one simply because the amount of individual detail was a lot less. I mean, seriously, it was mostly walls and carpet. This is the hallway to Miss Tonks' apartment (#507).

Three more scenes for the first "segment" of the game and then it'll be complete. This doesn't count the introduction sequence or ending sequence. I started to think about some of the different game mechanics I could apply to this game (outside of simple point-and-click adventure gaming).

Anyway, here's some images chronicling my coloring process.

And here is what it looks like in gameplay. Keep in mind the UI holding the inventory and "map" button is still a work in progress.


Background Art - Mr. Peterson's Office

Listening to: Nothing.

I'm actually starting to work on a new project that's supposed to be quite "large scale". I suppose after my quick string of bang-em-out (ha ha) games, I grew weary of the bite sized experience. I wanted to make something larger, so I decided to revamp the Hershel Engine (you may remember its one and only game How Muni Stole $75 From Me) for a new point-and-click adventure starring Mr. Peterson. The game's called Mr. Peterson Detective Agency - The Case of the Golden Fish.

I decided amongst this "large scale" game would be artwork that actually took time and effort from me, as opposed to laziness. I actually contemplated leaving it black and white, but realized that I'd only be boring myself. If not for a challenge, I'd probably give it all up much too soon.

In any case, I've included some images of my progress coloring the first background, Mr. Peterson's Office. I don't have an expected release date for the first chapter, but I'm guessing in a month or two.

Ya, I suppose Josie's right. It does look better in color.

Somewhat Related Link: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey


For Art or For Business: Keeping Your Credibility

I understand that this is not like my other posts. I wanted to post this here because it's been weighing on my chest as of late. We'll return to our regularly scheduled programming soon.

You may ask, right now, “what could you possibly know about being indie?” Where does your credibility stand, you corporate-lumbar-support-chair-sitting-tie-wearing-suit?

I do my share of indie press, staying up into the wee hours of the night manually assembling my zines for the next Alternative Press Expo or comic book convention. You’ll see me hunched over, hands aching, cutting out hundreds of circles to manufacture my own 1" buttons/badges as giveaways so people can remotely remember Wandering Panda Comics. 1,100+ pages of hand-drawn comics later, I'm still doing it every day.

I do my share of indie music, composing and writing music as an Asian-American in the states. I know I will probably never cut it in the mainstream, for many different reasons not worth mentioning, but that doesn't stop me from going to open mics and performing at small shows around the area in front of crowds of fourteen strangers to larger venues with a few hundred people I don't know. You may have seen me playing and singing at a local fundraiser benefit in San Francisco recently.

I also do my share of indie game development, making games for the sake of making them because I'm clearly entertained by it all. I know that a game where you button mash to exhibit how EXTREME SPORTS Franklin D. Roosevelt is will probably do poorly in the mainstream, as exhibited on the sub 2.0 score on Kongregate, but I made it anyway. I've become the person who says, "wouldn't it be funny if there was a game where..." and I make that game. The best performing game I ever did was an advergame for a television show. I would probably rate that one the worst of my games, but the public would seem to disagree.

The point isn’t to toot my own horn (I hear it’s impossible actually, har har), but to show that a close decade of this has certainly helped me earn my indie merit badges, calloused my skin and honed my filters.

Why do I spend all this time to bring this up? I’ve seen, read and heard a lot from individuals from the same community spread their gospel as of late. I’m completely open to discuss and hear what they have to say. But more often than not, I hear some that stand upon this higher ground, stone tablets in hand and burning bush behind them. They’re trying to tell everyone that your credibility as an indie is at stake and you must not let the corporate demons corrupt you, otherwise you compromise all that makes indie beautiful. It’s like there’s this unspoken code to be a “true developer”.

If I were to ask you to focus your energies at turning your craft and art into a business focused endeavor, you may say that you would be nothing more than a "sell out". But if I were to ask you if you would love to be able to do what you love (indie press, music, game development, whatever) full time, would you perceive it the same way? Probably not. But, how is it any different?

Let’s be completely honest here. We do all of this because we love it, but our hopes are that we can actually make some money off of it. I don’t mean copious amounts of cash like light-your-cigar-with-$100-bills money, no. I mean enough to survive and live comfortably off of it. Pay your rent, feed your family and avoid having to live in a box down the street. That doesn’t seem greedy or selfish to me at all. That seems like a dream come true. Why is it then, when money becomes the perceived focus that all this gets thrown out the window and you’re no longer empathizing with the indie spirit? I understand the "starving artist" mentality, I really do. I just don't think it's required to be true to what you do.

Let’s take a look at Flash game development, since we are primarily focused on Flash. If you were simply doing it for the art, you would create the game and hope someone will come in and play it. If people do, great. If people don’t, that’s okay too. You should be satisfied that you’ve created something and that should be enough because, as you said, you’re doing it for the art and love of it. The moment you attach paid ads or apply for a sponsorship or anything similar, you are now doing it with the interest of money. You can try to approach this from any way you want, saying that the original intent was for the art and money is a secondary option, but you cannot deny that money has now become a factor.

Now there are those out there who create games and hope for the community to donate, to show charity and appreciate their work. It works for some, but it doesn’t work for most. I suppose this would be the purest indie/artistic form of receiving money for work, a direct conversion of appreciated value of the engaged to the pockets of the engager. If anything, this is very much akin to the man on the corner, guitar case open and singing a beautiful ballad in the rain. Canabalt did it and I feel he deserved every penny. But how are those efforts any more valiant than a game that asks players to pay for optional content? In both situations you’re asking for money. In both situations a fully playable and enjoyable gaming experience is available (I’m obviously not referring to demo to full game unlock games). They’re both hoping to earn your support. One asks after you’ve experienced it all, the other asks and thanks you with additional content (which, to emphasize, isn't required to fully enjoy or complete the game experience). Personally, I’ve gone and purchased virtual goods simply because I wanted to support the developer financially. To this day I’ve never played those extra levels I bought, but I don’t think it was a waste at all. I have no regrets. Consider it my form of a donation.

I am not saying that having a business plan or even hoping to earn money from your work is bad or against the spirit of indie. I am saying the opposite. Being an indie, being true to your art, is about setting your goals past the stars and to have unreachable aspirations. It’s to look and truly believe you have limitless potential. You do it because you love it. I want you to be successful. I want you to be able to quit your day job and do this full time. I want you to do whatever it is you have to do to be able to make this your livelihood, not just as a hobby during off-hours of wake. Do not limit yourself based on some kind of ideological definition that tries to state one person is more anything than another. Do not feel guilty for being practical and realistic. That’s simply ridiculous.

For art or for business? Knowing and keeping a balance of these two things is what makes you smart. Doing what you love regardless of anything else? That’s what makes you true to your passion.

Now what about those who have made it? Personally, I feel that we shouldn't shun those who have made it from indie and moved to form a completely successful business. We shouldn’t look at their success with disdain or jealousy. We should applaud them. We should be extremely happy for them. It's watching one of our own succeed and make it. All this does is let us know that if we try, and I mean really try, we can do it too.

If you excuse me, I have to do art for my point and click game about making toast. I think writing a soft standup bass and marimba tune will fit perfectly.