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Current Projects: Americana Engine (Game Engine Development)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Americana Dawn: Programming Standpoint

First Challenge of the month: Making sure the music from the composer can be played in the game.

The general game flow is mentioned in this post in Bit Bonton.

It was 18 months ago that I made a mention to Americana Dawn, and maybe longer that I was aware of it. In recent weeks, I was asked to help out with the project, which I accepted.

The demo was originally set for July 4 2012, but this was pushed back. Twice. The Kickstarter for the game was successful, but the game went way over budget.

After choosing to commit, two things were realized: One, I can no longer do a review for this game - after all, I am part of the team that makes the game, so I could essentially add features that I would otherwise say in a review as 'not present in the game', and work my way towards an ideal highly rated RPG. Two, this occupies the timeframe of a standard 3 or 4 unit class (has regular meetings, building the game, etc), and the term project for this one is... the completed game (by Apr 28) so I'm in for something new. Like an intern position for an game company, except that pay is based on how much people donate*.

The last time I remember programing something of this depth was three years ago, where my entire class worked on an airplane simulator, and it became the class term project. (It ultimately didn't reach completed status). It's like this now - only it's just me and whatever reference manuals I can find on the internet.

My experience with programming the game will be described in several posts over the next eight months or so, and will fall under the Americana Dawn category.

The App Planning Stages

The requirements for the app were the following (updated as I go along):

  • 16-bit style RPG
  • Keyboard controlled (I may add mouse support of people ask for it)
  • Linear gameplay (although it will be open world to some degree and may have sidequests)
  • Dynamic music - ability to change out music on the fly based on location and on-screen events.
  • Be able to handle various environmental effects as well as support large map sizes
  • Complex Large Scale Battle system (sometimes handling hundreds of units in a single battle at once)
  • Deep storyline and character / gear progression system, and ensuring there isn't any excessive grinding.

The program was originally generated using RPGMaker using multiple scripts to handle custom features like pixel (instead of grid) movement and battle systems, but the engine was not geared towards many of the heavy modifications this game would otherwise require, especially the sound and larger character sprites. So I'll have to build a custom engine for this one.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The 50 State Quarter Set

After hunting around for that last Alaska state quarter for years, I finally managed to find the last quarter I need to complete my 50 State Quarter Set. Unfortunately, the display is so old that other territories are not included.

Time to start searching around for those American Territories / National Parks quarters, they're going to go on for another eight years.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The "Turtle Gets the Gold" Board

Strategic placement of two Hot Frog Shots to a curve clear, with a half a second of leeway. Red and Cyan highlights mark individual curves.

This board is notable since the curves are not linear as they seem (though the tunnels are still two balls in length), and it is possible to score at least 20 million here with a Spirit Turtle, and a proper turtle tank strat relying on Curve Clears and Fruit for points. It may have been possible to do it on the Gold Mine Board but Spirit Turtle didn't arrive yet, and it's a shorter length before the balls reach cover (12 balls compared to 18) and was more suitable for double gapping.

I'm actually running out of coins (under 5 million) so my 10M replays might not last much longer.

Strategy: Spirit Turtle, collect fruit, and clear curves. I have tried Spirit Beetle and Eagle to lesser degrees of success, reaching a max score of 15 and 11 million, respectively, and the gap / double gap is less effective than the curve clears in the long run. (There are no skulls on this board, but that doesn't mean you don't lose when the balls reach the end of the track.)

Tunnels can destroy this strat by denying curve clears, but combos can typically push balls back out of the tunnels (stalling balls at the same time), and this should not be a real problem with quick planning. Otherwise you'd have to rely on luck in hoping the right color ball is at the end for balls in the tunnel to roll back.

Recommended Powers: Inferno Frog, Epic Fruit, Timelord, Curly Fries, Spirit Turtle. Inferno Frog allows clearing 2-3 curves in most cases (adding time as well) and Epic Fruit, allows for getting more hot frogs. Bacon is also a viable strat for slower players, but you have to rely on sheer luck for lots of time balls, and you may spend more coins than you might feel comfortable in a week to get the RNG to be on your side.

Turtle Tank: Name is a combination of a Spirit Turtle and the Tank role in games. This strat relies on using Curly Fries, Hot Frog, Epic Fruit, Timelord, and enough curve clears (used for points and extra time) to get loads of extra time in to survive the timer for as long as possible (this is usually around 5-6 minutes), depending on fruit and curve clears for points.

Typically in the last minute of play a single curve clear can exceed the score from a gap shot by several factors and offers more points than a fruit. Note that a curve clear can be triggered only once per second, any sooner than that and it won't count.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Thoughts on the Diablo 3 1.0.7 PTR

200k to craft one of these. Hoping for good stats.

I decided to test the Diablo 3 PTR within an hour after it was announced. The use of more gems to create those elite Marquise Gems caused gems of all types to skyrocket (This is the first time I've seen every gem cost over 2000 now, I wish I bought a lot of them earlier.), and I wanted to see if those new items were worth it.

Thoughts on the PTR:

  • It seems like elite mobs spawn more frequently and creatures drop more. Where it was hard to get five to spawn during a Arreat Core Lvl 1 / Tower run, at least five elites appeared to build up the NV quickly and that only appeared before I finished the map. I'm guessing because they want testers a chance at grabbing those DE's to test out the new plans.
  • During a single run during the PTR, only two Demonic Essences appeared per run. 20% seems fair enough for MP0, given that you only encounter less than twenty per run. Plans might drop too often when farming minibosses and would be much cheaper to buy from the AH instead than from the vendor (1.5 million gold).
  • The undocumented feature of identifying items when selling to vendors: Previously all items had to be identified before selling - now when you're on the sell item screen instead of being unable to sell you will identify it instead. I like that change.
  • Plans drop too frequently now (5x as much - I found 7 plans within the first two hours of play, two exalted, the rest plans released in the update) - expect those prices for each legendary plan to go down a bit. The plans to create account bound items are sellable, though trades are the only way to do that at the time of writing.
  • Marquise Gems are underpowered for 80 million... or more. In short, they're not worth your extra gold and you should buy an equipment upgrade instead. The Ruby does +150 to damage - even though it might sound large, it's still less than what a crit damage might do on a Lvl 60 hero, when they're focusing on getting the most dps as possible (which means going for high crit chance and damage)
    • The only reason why the Ruby would be the only thing worth buying is that it greatly increases the damage potential of pets or alts - making any hero under Lvl 50 overpowered (When you first find a weapon sockets at lvl 15 or so, you'd be lucky to get 50 dps on it).
  • The new crafting recipes? Item level 63, 1 main stat guaranteed at up to 15% more than possible (by that, in the range of 200-215) and 5 random stats. For each of the main armor parts. 100k to craft, and more for the ingredients (total 200k or so to craft one). Also, they're account bound, so you can't sell on the AH. Have fun. (This, I believe, is the closest they have gotten to gambling in D2)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Minigame: Ball with Post it Notes

More like an icebreaker, and I don't know the official name of this one. As the first UOP CKI meeting, there were quite a few people, and all (but three) people of 20 I already know by name.

Due to undertaking multiple major projects this semester (one for each class I'm taking) and other programming projects (including the UOP Game Development group's proposal), I may be too busy to even show up at local CKI events at all.Therefore, I am canceling the idea of the picture album "24: The Service Project at Davis". Summary:

  • The picture album takes place a year after the events of 24: The Interclub at Davis, this time during the 26-hour 'Service Never Sleeps' marathon at Davis. Album starts at 1pm in Oakland, CA on 1/19 and ends at 1pm 1/20 at Davis, with one image taken around every ten minutes. This will be compiled into a Facebook album, and timestamps will be in realtime (the time the image was taken) as well as commentary. Tags of non-friends are included.

Minigame Instructions: When you catch the ball, answer the question posted that was under your left (or right) thumb. Toss the ball to another person that hasn't gotten it yet.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Super Chicken Man (Yes, that is the name of the resturant)

Rosemary Chicken with Fries order.

Stopped by this place on opening day, one of my relatives told me about this place.

Yes, there's just chicken, a bit spicy but good stuff. Menu here. Note, they don't serve these dishes to you in nice plates as seen in one image of the ad (When I got my order, it's in a apparently disposable plastic basket), and there's only three/four tables in the restaurant, though you could always do take out.

Their restaurant menu is significantly smaller than their catering menu, I'm guessing they're working with other restaurants to do this though.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 Coming In

The first few days of the new year for me occur in Reno for a change.

2012 has brought in some of the best and the worst this year. For some people, they mentioned that 2012 wasn't that good (there were a few incidents) and wanted this year to be better. (And I thought that 2012 would be good).

Notable Events: (in my perspective)

  • Spring 2012 in Stuff (Jan 2012)
  • 24: Interclub at Davis (Jan 2012)
  • Reached 400 friends on FB, completing a longtime goal (and 100 subscribers) (Feb 2012)
  • Hosted a Key2College Workshop (Feb 2012)
  • Reached Bronze MRP Status at CKI. However "someone stole my star!" and missing a gold...ribbon) (Mar 2012)
  • End of district event appearances at CKI (Apr 2012)
  • Finished with Undergrad at UOP. (May 2012)
  • Introduced to Perler Beads - Made the Capital Division Logo out of it. (May 2012)
  • 24 Hour Fitness (Jun 2012)
  • Hiking at Lake Tahoe (around 10 miles) (Jun 2012)
  • Kindercalc Project (Jul 2012)
  • Long Beach and Universal Studios (Aug 2012)
  • Fall 2012 in Concepts (Aug 2012)
  • Supreme Commander Speedruns (Aug 2012)
  • Zuma Blitz undergoes a new revision, Kroakatoa Island. Fans were not pleased with the coin system. (Sept 2012)
  • Borderlands 2 (Sept 2012)
  • Riding the BART (Oct 2012)
  • TOS (this blog) reaches 250k views. (Oct 2012)
  • Popcap Swag Package for work on Zuma Blitz (Nov 2012)
  • First official 5K run at Davis (Nov 2012)
  • Facebook application development (Nov 2012)
  • Popcornopolis (Nov 2012)
  • Game Development Group (Dec 2012)
  • Diablo 3 and the ability to make money with it (Dec 2012)
  • TV Series: Quantum Leap, and Kitchen Nightmares (none which I could remember the date)

Planned Resolutions / Revisions in 2013:

  • Designed Subcategory: EllegnArt Deviations (Angelle is no longer reachable, and I have recovered most of her artwork that was previously made unavailable. I've got a new direction planned for them)
  • Programming Subcategory: FB App Making (Because sometimes the examples just aren't enough...)
  • Chibi Art will now occupy the 'Designed' category, and all artwork / sketches are currently delayed (this is due to reduced priority, anyone that was included in a partially completed sketch were notified).
  • SD Chip (my 16GB SD chip was breaking apart) will be replaced and upgraded, the money won from Reno (less than 100) will be used to fund products for tech reviews.