Archive for September, 2011

Date: September 30th, 2011
Cate: development
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Pathways Redux Part I

I was digging through an old hard drive and found a small collection of videos and images from old projects. I’ll share them with you over the next few weeks.

Here’s the first one: a trailer for a Doom 3 mod I made in 2004, Pathways Redux:


Pathways Redux is based on a Bungie game, Pathways into Darkness. When talking about first-person action-RPGs, the usual suspects are games like Ultima Underworld, System Shock, and Deus Ex. Bungie’s PiD is often not mentioned, which is a damn shame – it without a doubt deserves a place.

What I found most impressive about PiD was its storytelling and world-building. Here’s your homework assignment: spend a day poring over the Pathways into Darkness Story Page, the Marathon Story Page, and the Myth Story Page. Despite how difficult it is to tell a good story in a game and create strong, cohesive universes, Bungie has achieved wonderful results in PiD, Marathon, and Myth.

And if you haven’t played those three, then you better go do something about that, hm?

In 2004, Doom 3 was on the horizon. I was giddy like a bull in a china shop. I grew up with Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake, and was fairly familiar with their ins and outs. From a tech level, all the articles and previews leading up to Doom 3’s release basically said “Y’know all those things that kinda bugged you in the Quake engines? Well, we went ahead and did something about that.”

Models and level geometry now used the same lighting model?  Robust scripting system? Live-loading script changes while playing the game? In-tool lighting preview? In-game tool functionality? No more waiting 20 minutes for the compiler to bake shadows into level geometry? Skeletal animation system? Amazing in-game GUI system?

My mind = blown.  I’m sure it’s a boring feature list to many people – this isn’t stuff you’d highlight on the back of the box. But this is a list of Engine Features Brendon Really Likes.  Plus, it’s id Software, who have a high bar of quality in in game engines.

I remember waking up, driving down to Best Buy in Pasadena, and getting a copy of Doom 3 on its release day. I traditionally play slowly, but I blasted through the game and got modding immediately.

I was most interested with all the scripting functionality and GUI goodies. I made a test project revolving around those things. Barista 3 was the end result. Whenever I work with a new piece of technology, I like to first dip my toe into the water and make a micro-tiny project. Barista 3 was a quick ‘n dirty project intended to poke and prod the Doom 3 engine and see what I could shake out of it.

It was also a fun experiment in making a first-person game without any shooting. Many of the Barista 3 comments I received were some variation of “there’s no shooting, wtf.” I think the intimate nature of the first-person perspective is wonderful for storytelling and exploration, especially when you remove all that extra noise from gunplay.

After completing Barista 3, I felt fairly comfortable with now attempting a more ambitious project.

I spent some time thoughtfully stroking my chin, considering what kind of project I wanted to tackle next. After a particularly satisfying chin-scratching session, the answer was obvious: a mini-remake of Pathways into Darkness, using the Doom 3 engine.

Next week I’ll talk about the gnarly details of how that all went.

Update: click here to read Part II

Date: September 20th, 2011
Cate: development
Comments Off on All about PAX

All about PAX

Last month I was in Seattle for the Penny Arcade Expo, PAX.  Atom Zombie Smasher was chosen for the PAX 10 – a showcase of ten independent games picked by the PAX folks. It was a great honor to be shown alongside such an amazing lineup of games & developers. This was my first time demoing my own game on a show floor, so it was A) very exciting, and B) mishaps aplenty (on my end, not the PAX folks).

If you’ve ever been to E3 or similar trade shows, I’m sure you’ve seen some incredible booth setups with giant castle facades, avenues of monitors, dudes in power armor, bikini girls, monster trucks, etc.

Meanwhile, I had:

  • myself.
  • two laptops.
  • 8.5″x11″ cardboard signs.
  • half a roll of scotch tape.

 

Here’s how I set up my area. The awesome PAX folks provided a table, a large television, and a great spot on the show floor:

 

The PAX 10 area comprised of several tables. The PAX 10 games were: Word Fighter (my table neighbor!), A Flipping Good Time, AntiChamber, Fez, Jamestown, Snapshot, Solar 2, The SplattersVanessa Saint-Pierre Delacroix & Her Nightmare, and my own Atom Zombie Smasher. Hanging out and chatting with all the devs was great; I get the strong feeling we’ll all be seeing one another again at future events.

At the end of each day I jotted down some random things in my notebook:

  • AZS does a really terrible job at selling itself through screenshots and videos. Unsexiness just oozes from every pore. But once someone actually gets their hands on it and starts playing, they really like it.
  • I’m glad I added a “Pax mode” that throws the player into the middle of the campaign with all the weapons. During day one, I realized I should’ve also added some sort of “rolling demo” mode that auto-plays the game itself, like arcade machines do when no one is playing. And the gag is, AZS already has a system that does that!  Argh. Next time.
  • I should’ve added some tutorial tips to the “Pax mode.” There’s a fair amount of moving parts in the game, and having even just a few “first-time player” overlays would’ve been immensely helpful.
  • Manning a booth by myself for three days was silly. Despite drinking water like a fish, by the third day my voice was so shot I sounded like Henry Kissinger (I do not normally sound like him).
  • I was surprised at how many people commented on enjoying the Dev Notes at the end of the AZS campaign.  I included it mainly because I love reading stuff like that, but who knew others did too? I’ll be including something similar in my future projects.
  • The G4 guys dropped by. Getting miked up with a Lavalier mic is quite an intimate experience.
  • You can never print too many flyer cards. I learned the hard way.
  • I need to bring a flashlight next time. Television touch controls + really dark room = Brendon never manges to change the volume.
  • The tower defense nature of the planning phase instantly creates assumptions. Once the action phase began, people often let go of the mouse, thinking the game would play itself automatically from that point on. I wonder if this is a result of not playing the tutorials, or if this is a common problem?
  • It was awkward having the television and laptop display a duplicate image. If there was some way to keep the game going with the laptop closed, that would be ideal.
  • I had an interview with Ryan Davis of GiantBomb. I’m a junkie for GiantBomb’s Quick Looks, so this was really wonderful.
  • I need some sort of Blendo T-shirt or button or something. It’s off-putting to have some stranger pop out of nowhere and start explaining the game to you.
  • Anthony & Ashly Burch stopped by to say hello!  So awesome. Go watch HAWP and Rev Rants, and love ’em as much as I do.
  • About ten feet from me was the Minecraft booth. All day long, for all three days, that area was kerrrrazy party central. I was expecting it to be big, but that was bananas.
  • I had my first panel talk, with the fine devs from the PAX 10. We had a great chat, and I’m already itching to do it again.
  • I’m glad I had two stations set up. It was a last-minute decision to bring both laptops, and it worked out well.
  • One person asked for my autograph. I’m a total e-celeb.
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The best part of PAX was getting to physically meet and chat with people and developers I’ve previously known only via email. With video games nowadays oftentimes having no physical media to speak of, beamed directly into your computer by digital voodoo, getting the opportunity to say “hello!” to fans is a rare and wonderful treat.

Here’s a picture of the PAX 10 panel talk. Check out the Blendo Games Facebook page for more PAX pictures.

Huge thanks to the PAX folks for all their hard work. It’s an amazing event – if you have any interest in video games, board games, comic books and the like, check out PAX!

Date: September 15th, 2011
Cate: announcement
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Blendo Games now on Desura

Blendo Games just went live on Desura. Atom Zombie Smasher, Flotilla, and Air Forte are now available on the platform. Check it out!

For those unaware of Desura – it’s a digital distribution channel created by the folks from Mod DB. It differentiates itself by having a particularly strong focus on mod content and independent developers. There’s some wonderful stuff there, some of it completely free of charge – do give it a look.

Check out our Facebook and Twitter pages for the occasional free Desura download codes. They go quick, so keep your eyes peeled!

Date: September 13th, 2011
Cate: atom zombie smasher, patch
Comments Off on Atom Zombie Smasher v1.89 released

Atom Zombie Smasher v1.89 released

Version 1.89 of Atom Zombie Smasher is now available!

A lot of people asked for the UI to accommodate any arbitrary amount of mercenaries. Previously, the merc buttons would just continue off the edge of the screen and be inaccessible. I updated the system to detect this overflow and make a new row of merc buttons. Here’s a shot of how it looks:

Here’s the full changelog:

– Gameplay: when no more zombie territories, humans win.
– UI: merc control bar now accommodates any arbitrary amount.
– UI: can press ESC to skip Territory Score screen.
– UI: can press ESC to skip New Outbreaks screen.
– UI: can press left/right to select upgradeable mercs.
– UI: can press Enter for Yes/No popups.
– UI: fixed Player 2 artillery cursor mixup.
– UI: added loading animation to File Share menu.
– UI: added URL tooltip in Behind the Scenes.
– UI: vid. resolution menu now shows current resolution.
– UI: helicopter name limited to 23 chars.
– UI: add help message for bad profiles.
– Mods: removed empty mods from database.
– Fix: custom resolutions are now saved.
– Fix: fix crash in Zed Bait.
– Fix: fix crash in Twitter feed.
– Debug: PAX Demo functionality.

The Steam version will auto-update. For non-Steam versions, grab the patch here:

http://blendogames.com/atomzombiesmasher/help.htm