New appreciations - week three of making a video game

First and foremost, since I've been asked twice, I realize I have forgotten something core to what a part of the reading audience is probably after: what is this game about?

As I have mentioned, categorically, this piece of entertainment will be a 2D side-scrolling action game. The missus has pointed out that "a platformer" might be more descriptive, even though there's just the one platform for the moment, i.e. the ground. But perhaps she does have a point, it might pay to sacrifice accuracy in favor of legibility. Besides, we might fit in more platforms eventually.

So, a bit more detail of the less technical side too then, this platformer focuses on birds, hence the project name. It zooms in on one type of bird in particular: the winter wren or Troglodytes. After some research on Wikipedia, it seems the local type is the Eurasian wren or Troglodytes Troglodytes. The distinctions between the different members of this family matter less than the similarity, the particular angle at which tail of the bird most often rests.

When Sarah and I were brainstorming what kind of game to make (even though I ended up making most of it, she contributes ideas and will deliver the Saffron Streams logo shortly), we were looking for a topic/idea that interested the both of us. Since we were both very charmed by these little "passerines" hopping around in our back yard, we settled on a "winterkoninkje" as the lead character. We did conceptualize a few other settings, which might still be used for the next game one day.

Since the protagonist is a perky passerine, the visual style is somewhat cute. The plan, however, is to make the mood of the game more austere. I have a few ideas for how to try to accomplish that discrepancy, but none of them are set in stone yet. As during the rest of the project, I'm trying to keep a good piece of advice in mind, courtesy of the good folks over at Extra Credits*. As a beginning game developer, it's best to keep some of the design for your game unfinished and loose when you start and adapt it to your capabilities as you find out what they are.

Both my coding and art are not at a top level (but both evolving!), so I can't lean too hard on either. The plan as of right now is to try and find a particular niche and hopefully manage enough polish to deliver something new and interesting.  Another reason not to give away too much of the content is that I still don't know when I'll be able to make it into production, so it seems best to still sit a bit on the trade secrets for now.

So then over to the progress I made this week. I'll try to keep it short, as previous entries were too detail-oriented. On Monday I did some debugging, added some new background elements and adapted the way jumps work. It's not the first time I fiddled with that mechanic, and it won't be the last since it's core to the game. :-)

Tuesday I worked through the third animation, which has our winter wren running hunched over. Even though there were lots of side tracks and distractions that day, I managed to finish the animation. I'm reaping the benefits of drawing some things in a modular way, which lets me reuse parts of earlier animations. I could celebrate with a picnic with friends and roleplay afterward.

Our new animation!

On Wednesday, seeing as how I had an alpha release planned for the end of the week, I thought to implement the last piece of the game puzzle still missing. Controls and visuals were present, but the experience still lacked sound. I did a lot of surfing looking (/hearing) for good sounds. It was harder to find what I wanted, so I downloaded Audacity** and edited some recordings*** myself.

Finally, on Thursday I prepared the first alpha launch for non-family testers. Luckily I have some friends who have shown interest in playing that role. Concurrently, I thought the time had come for the next part of the design and from the context of what game pieces I already had, what had worked and what hadn't, I came up with some new concrete ideas. In the evening, I released the current build to the alpha testers, along with a Google Form to give feedback. I've already received some bug reports (including one application crash :-/ ) and feedback. The sound clearly needs more work. :-)

Play testing should later confirm or refute the solidity of the new ideas. I'm not sure yet when I will release the next build. I have the vacation with the missus coming up starting the 28th, so that might be too little extra material. We'll see.


** Audacity is a free, open-source sound editing software:

*** If you ever find yourself looking for resources, remember that there are free assets out there for those beginning, tight budgets. Thanks to the Creative Commons Licences under which some artists share their work, you are free to use it in your game (or other piece of media), even if it's being monetized, as long as you attribute correctly. It's important to check precisely what type of license
is used, as some are more limited in what you are allowed to do with them than others.