Monday, March 25, 2013

The halting problem

I've been having a lot of laptop issues and it's finally died for good. A lesson learnt about making sure I have access to the right equipment when travelling! Unfortunately this means no updates to the "How To Make an RPG book" until next month (not too long now). I'll still work on sections but in an offline pad.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

How To Make An RPG : Magarita Update

I thought I'd give a very brief update of the progress on the book today - blocking tiles went in, now the maps walls actually stop the character! Also I started on the section that will extend the map so it will have multiple layers. Then this section is pretty much done and I can move on to ... dialog boxes I think is next. No image from me today, so here's a modern jRPG screenshot of Penny Arcade's On the Rain Slick Precipe of Darkness, the type of game the book will allow you to make:

I also got latex, the book formatting tool I'm using, compiling the source to a pdf, there are loads of errors to fix but at least I've shown it's possible :D

I updated the "Thank You For Registering" page on the site, it now has some links to allow sharing via email, facebook or twitter. I don't how often these links will get used but it seems worth putting them there.

As always here's the link to the site:

Tomorrow I won't be able to work on the book as I'm poking around Sanur and checking out the beach for the first time since I came to Bali! (It's quite far from where I'm staying).

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Make Your RPG: Animated Movement

Today I finally got on and completed animated movement. There's a gif here but for some reason it seems to be really slow. The video file I took is fine, so it's some gif black magic I'm unaware of, but imagine it running at nearly twice the speed, smoothly, and you've got a good idea of where the game is.

My poorly made gif of the character animation.
I think perhaps I'd have better results creating the gif file in Photoshop but my laptop can't handle photoshop for that kind of task.

As I've mentioned several times and irritatingly mention every post, I'm writing a new book about Making SNES era jRPG master pieces. It's takes you from no coding experience to a finish jRPG game and gives you the knowledge required to set off on your own projects. The mini-site can be viewed here:
Please visit, sign up and share it with anyone you think might be interested!

Ok, that's the plugging over! :D

The first section of the book is about exploration - moving around a map - so as you can see from the gif; it's coming along! There's no collision detection yet, maps only have a single layer and there are no map "events" but it's getting that feeling of potential. I think when you get this far in the book, you'll start to really believe you can make a SNES era RPG, which of course - you can!

Games like Final Fantasy 6 were old games even when I was young, so they passed me by intially, the first jRPG I played was Final Fantasy 7! But the games before that, they were written by small teams of 5-10 guys (yeh all guys at this point in Game Industry history) and they wrote all the code in assembler, which is a fast but an awful way to write anything. Writing in assembler is like writing in invisible ink, you look at the code you've written and you can't understand it, you need to carefully trace through it again to see what's really happening. Which is why, outside the gameboy consoles, very little code is written in assembly these days.

The reality is, writing jRPGs with a modern language like Lua, makes you 10x to a 100x more productive than those guys could ever be on the SNES. Compilers have advanced too, so while you code won't be as fast as hand optimized assembler for the SNES it will be so fast for all modern computers you'll never have to worry about it, especially not with the way the code is presented in the book.

I'm hoping to totally finish the first draft of the exploration section before the end of this month, the next topics I'll be dealing with will be collision detection, layers and map events.

Friday, March 22, 2013

How To Make An RPG : Suckling Pig Update

2013 has been an interesting year so far, in January at Bigyama we were finishing our first Vita game, Quell memento, (out in April - check it out!) and by February we didn't have any more immediate work and we decided to take a break from for a while. By the February the 4th I was touching down in Denpasa, Bali and I'm still nearby in Ubud (though not for too much longer)!

I spent most of February playing tourist, which worked well out because on arrival in Bali, my laptop died and it took nearly a month to get it fixed! But I didn't just come for a holiday I also wanted to work on one of my programming projects. The project I decided to focus my efforts on is the "How To Make Your RPG" book and I think it's going pretty well so far, I've drafted out the contents and I'm slowly fleshing out the book. You can check out the book's website here (I'll be updating it early next month). I intend to self publish this book and I'll probably release a digital version first (pdf, epub and mobi) then later on a print copy.

My February and March office

This morning I took the long and somewhat dangerous walk into town, ate suckling pig and watched monkeys play around in the monkey forest. While I was walking around I decided I needed to return to parts of the book I've already written and rewrite them. This afternoon I've rewritten the camera code for looking around a 2d map for the third time which means I have to change all the  code examples after the camera is introduced and there are a lot!

So why would I do this and give myself so much extra work instead of getting on with the next part of the book?

>Was the code buggy?

>Was it inefficient?

I rewrote it because I didn't think it was simple enough; I want the readers of this book to be able to easily understand the code. I don't want the book to block their progress while they spend time figuring out exactly what the code's doing. Therefore I'm putting a lot of effort into making the code as simple and readable as possible. This might make my progress a little slower but I know the book will be better for it.

By the time I leave Bali at the end of this month I want a first section I can be proud of and that will really do justice to the reader.

If you want to be notified when the "How To Make An RPG" book is released you can sign-up to the mailing list here.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

RPG Maps and Navigation, How To Make Your RPG Book Update

I think my end of March target for the first draft of my "Make Your RPG" book was optimistic to say the least! I'm hoping instead to, at least, have finished the first section "Exploration". I'm breaking the book up into 3 main functional pieces "Exploring, Fighting and Questing".

The exploration chapter I'm writing now deals with loading up maps, efficiently rendering them, what makes a good map, character animation and so on. Each chapter ends with a small game and the exploration chapter will end with a prison escape game.

I've also commissioned some art for the book's mini-site which should make it look better and allow me to stop using Final Fantasy 6 placeholder art before I'm cease and desisted! Once I have the first draft finished I'll switch back to marketing for a bit and see if I can find more people who would be interested in the book. I'm open to all suggestions and assistance on how to let people who'd be interested in the book, know about it!

Tomorrow I'm going and looking at monkeys and eating roasted pig so my progress may slow (in fact I should be explicitly tracking my progress as I'm sure it would make more efficient).

Finally, if you haven't already done so please check out the site here and sign up to the newsletter.

Monday, March 18, 2013

How To Make an RPG - The Book!

I've started writing a new book about how to make old school SNES-style RPGs. After reading it you should be able to produce an RPG, and easily distribute it. The goal is to help people make this style of game, even if they're never programmed before.

An RPG very pretty but we can do better!

I've put the first version of my promo-page up this morning, to help gauge interest. Here it is (if you've already subscribed using the sidebar, this is the same list so don't worry). The images will definitely need changing to some less copyrighty :) The text is also likely to change.

I think I learned a lot from my first book and I intend to improve on it by quite a margin. My ultimate goal for this book is to have someone make a game that does well commercially, such as getting a Steam release. It would pretty easy after reading the book to produce a game like Cthulhu Saves the World, which has done well commercially and led to the authors making the Penny Arcade RPGs.

Let me know if there's anything particular you'd like to see covered!
This blog will probably have few RPG-centric posts as I try out ideas and flesh out parts for the book.