Isometric Dawn is on hiatus.

- Isometric Dawn is on a temporary hiatus. Lance and Harsh sat down to explain why -

Lance:

Well...here’s a blog I never thought I would write in my whole career. I’ll just cut to the chase here: Isometric Dawn has been put on hiatus. Please don’t confuse that with “cancelled” that is absolutely not what we are doing. I didn’t spend over a year on a game to just up and say “oh yeah, throw it away, it’s cancelled.” The fact is simply the game isn’t really going anywhere in development. It’s a blow to my personal pride to have to admit that, but that is the conclusion Harsh and I came to. Thus, we have decided to take some time to step away from it.

            You’re probably wondering how it got to this point. Thing is, I don’t really know the answer to that myself. I’m not really sure where in the process of designing and creating the game we messed up. For all we know it was flawed from the start. It’s had a rough development, now that I think about it. It was only after about three months of development that it already entered what is known as development hell, which we’ve talked about before. For most studios and teams, that’s probably when many projects would be cancelled. We didn’t want to do that, so we kept going, which of course prompted our switch to Unity.

            Perhaps our time in development hell should have been the first sign that something like this was in our future. Maybe we knew that but didn’t want to acknowledge it. It’s hard to remember what I was thinking a year ago. But then, thoughts like that are probably not going to be in one’s head when development from then on was moving so smoothly. It wasn’t long before we had our original game back in place and then just continued on from there. Everything seemed like it was going so well.

            That’s why it’s hard to pinpoint when things went wrong. Because it never seemed like it was going wrong to begin with. I was frustrated with development at times, sure. That happens to everyone now and again. But I didn’t think we were on a path to putting the game on hiatus. Looking back from now, though, I can see that for the last month, maybe two months, we were running around in circles, grasping at straws to try and make something that was fun to play. The final nail in the coffin was when Harsh took the game to a couple friends of his, and they basically said aloud what I think both of us were thinking: something isn’t there that needs to be there. Of course, they couldn’t tell us what that was either. And thus came the prompt to put it away for some time and come back to it a little later.

            So now comes the obvious question: now what? Well I don’t know. I’ve put plenty of thought into that question. Harsh suggested that we take a break from all things game development for about a week and then convene again with fresh minds. I’d like to, but I can’t get all the development thoughts and ideas out of my mind. On the night (morning for Harsh) of the decision, we had thought about making a smaller game just as a kind of reset to the creative parts of our minds. I’ve been asking myself what I think I should do personally, and I’ve not really come up with anything. I at least know that Isometric Dawn isn’t just gonna sit there for who knows how long exactly. I’m sure I’ll break in now and then and try something or fix some bugs. Like I said, I didn’t work on this with Harsh for over a year for it to just die on us. Which is why I emphasize that this game isn’t cancelled, we’re just taking a break from it.

            I’ve said my piece on the subject. Harsh will be having his own thoughts on this as well, and you’ll see what he thinks. For now though, I will leave you with this:

“The difference between winning and losing is most often not quitting” - Walt Disney

 

Harsh:

Before I begin the post, just know; this is not the end of Isometric Dawn. We’ve put in too much work into the project for us to simply walk away. We’re stubborn like that.

To give you a simple answer from my perspective will largely break into two major reasons for the project being put on a Hiatus. The first is the matter of looking at the picture too closely. You see, we’ve worked on this game for the past year. The tiny team of two did everything that was to be done in the game. From music to art to design to code to marketing and social media, all hands on deck through the project were ours.

For the past month, Lance and I reciprocated our feelings about feeling a little burned out with the project. However, we chugged along hoping that we hadn’t. The result of this wasn’t great. While some great progress was made in stabilizing and improving on the performance of the game, the whole month, looking back, looks like we’ve gone in circles.

We had hit a wall we couldn’t see.

The game was lacking of something we couldn’t quite put a finger on. We tried anyway. However, after a lengthy discussion, we decided on a way to keep the game alive and for us to keep putting our best work into it and that was stepping away for a bit and putting the project on ice for a little while.

We will come back to the game in the very near future. This is more of a vacation from the project than a complete abandonment of it.

The second reason for us to step away from it is of a financial nature. While neither of us is in any debt and we don’t have to worry about our lodgings and meals, we do need to get a source of cash coming in if we want to continue doing this. Now, don’t worry. We’re not asking for anything. We don’t want your money for a product we’re not actively working on. We’ll simply start producing smaller games for either the PC and/or the mobile market during the time we’re taking off from IsoDawn. These games may be small in scale, but we do intend to deliver impeccable games that are fun to play.

These games will begin discussion starting next week. Follow us on our twitters for updates. (@TehGameDev & @Prof_Smash)

This will be the last devblog until the time we return. It’s been great writing these and I do intend to come back to do it.

Until then, have fun.

- Lance & Harsh

 

Learning While Developing

If there is anything my high school librarian taught me, it would be that knowledge is great. In hindsight, I don’t know how he’d feel if I tell him that most of my knowledge is related to crafting video games(We’d actually lose our library cards if we were caught playing Doom on the library computers.)

While we may have had difference in opinion regarding a game that revolves around killing monsters in hell being educational, I do agree with him in the field of knowledge and the acquisition of it. I made it a point when I was around 14 to learn something every day that would take me closer to being a game developer. This could be anything from learning developmental tools to understanding efficient networking; I made it a point to go to bed everyday knowing something I didn’t know when I woke up that day.

Fast forward 7 years and I am fairly close to releasing our first indie game. I’m certain that my 14 y/o self who couldn’t give a flying f**k about healthy eating would be proud.

Learning other areas of game development while you’re working in a field unrelated to game creation, I think, is a different beast compared to when you’re trying to learn it during development. I think it's a fairly public fact that process of game creation is a tiresome and stressful process, one that requires pinpoint dedication to the project.

However, with me at least, I feel that learning something unrelated to your game is a good idea. It does work in taking your mind out of what you were working on, but it can also be beneficial to the game.

Here’s an example:

Back when the art style of our game wasn’t set in stone, I was in the process of learning 3D modelling using Autodesk Maya and Blender. When we were at a position where our placeholder artstyle just wasn’t going to cut it, I got to thinking. I quickly realized how old game developers made their games look three dimensional when it wasn’t and since I was learning 3D, I already knew how to do this. I actually wrote a full post where I detailed this process. Read it here.

I try to acquire information everyday. This might sound stressful but it isn’t; The information I seek are on the subjects I am interested in. I like the work I do and thus, the things I like to learn also help me do what I do better. I think our generation, despite getting the short end of the shaft in economy and employment is lucky to have a tool like the Internet and it is the greatest tool for seeking knowledge that has ever existed. It’d be a shame to not use it.

The best way to do so has to be scheduling a time to learn and sticking to it. I generally start after I’ve taken a shower following completion of my work for the day and each session lasts about ninety minutes. It helps me stay in a working mood and allows me to not get lazy. Yours can be different and by all means, do pick a time that works best for you.  

So, in the end, I do encourage everyone to try and carve some time out to learn while you’re developing. It's a nice change of pace and knowledge is always good. Also, knowledge of software looks really good on a CV.

Just saying.

 

Have a relaxed weekend,

-Harsh

@TehGameDev

The Importance of Performance

            There was a time where us gamers got pretty excited about video game graphics. Every new generation meant a graphical upgrade and we were excited to see how much better our upcoming favorites would look. Once upon a time, we thought the graphics we saw in a game like Final Fantasy 7 couldn’t be topped. We were very, very wrong about that. Fast forward to the present day, and games are bordering photo realism. Games like Star Wars Battlefront (2015) and The Witcher 3 are absolutely gorgeous. But you know what’s funny? We kinda stopped caring about that...our bigger question is “but does it run at 60 frames per second (FPS)?”

            I’ve seen some people shrug off the matter of performance in video games, but if Ubisoft’s comments about 30 FPS and the reaction to those comments are any indication, it’s that most gamers generally care about performance more than graphics. We’re okay with sacrificing graphics and even some resolution if it means getting that sweet, smooth 60 FPS. Heck, I’m listening to a podcast now that’s talking about why this push for 4K in console gaming lately is kind of pointless when the games can’t even hit 60 FPS on those consoles. So knowing all that, I think it’s important that Isometric Dawn achieves as excellent of performance as possible.

            This week, I have spent some time optimizing the game, and I’m happy to report that the game runs much better. Though I can’t really tell the difference on my computer without a profiler running, I’m certain that I could run it on my girlfriend’s laptop and really see the difference. The last build I gave her was achieving around 30-40 FPS, and considering her laptop’s specs, I’d say that’s still decent. But now, thanks to these performance improvements I’ve worked on, it should easily run at least at 50 FPS on her laptop, maybe even 60. I still need to take it to her so I can see and get some hard numbers, but according to Unity’s profiler, that’s about the increase I should expect when I let her play it on her laptop.

            How was this achieved? Well, sit down and let me tell you a little story. Isometric Dawn is a city sim, which means there’s quite a few menus. There’s a building selection menu, land purchasing menu, pause menu, budget menu with different sub-menus for things like service management and taxes. Within these menus are a lot of buttons. And I did a dumb thing and gave all those buttons scripts. No really, I thought that was a good idea. Some things like the building selection menu kind of need them, but certainly not all UI elements need these. So I took some time this week to cut out the buttons that didn’t need these any longer.

            What was originally happening was when a UI button was clicked, it would activate a boolean (a boolean is a binary variable that returns either “true” or “false”). When that boolean was true, another script would double check and see if that boolean was indeed true, and then set the respective sub-UI to be visible and interactable. That seems a little silly, does it not? Why use two or even three different scripts to figure out which menu to show? So instead, using a single script, I would group certain UI into arrays (arrays are lists, basically), and then whenever a certain button is clicked, just find that array and go down the list of sub-UI in it, making it visible and interactable. That’s much simpler than calling a few different scripts. Now, why I didn’t do that beforehand is beyond me. Us programmers will do some silly things when we’re desperate, I guess.

            Harsh briefly touched on performance in his last blog, The Illusion of 3D. The way we have handled graphics for Isometric Dawn really helps with performance, leaving only the processing side of performance issues to deal with. In a game like this, there’s a lot to process, so it’s important to do everything we can do to make the game run as smooth as possible. After all, we’re not trying to let the player build a city “cinematically” because that idea is really silly. After these performance fixes, we’re that much closer to making the game playable on virtually anything. And I for one am happy about that. The more people playing, the better!

See you in the future!

-Lance

@Prof_Smash

The Illusion of 3D

Isometric Dawn is a 2D game. It was certain to me that this fact would be obvious, however, a group of associates and personal friends have often mistaken the game to be 3D. Its really not a big mistake to make. You see, this game is a 2D game that is intended to look like a 3D game and the mere fact that its being mistaken for the latter is perhaps a sign that the art succeeded in what it intended to do.

The process to achieve and more importantly the reason to do so requires a peek back into video game history.

Adrian Carmack working on the clay model for Baron of Hell for the original Doom.

Adrian Carmack working on the clay model for Baron of Hell for the original Doom.

Have you played the original Doom? If you have, you’ll know that the characters within the game weren’t 3D; however, they did indeed look three dimensional. What Adrian Carmack did to achieve this was clay modelling which he later digitized as 2D sprites. This gave the game a very stylistic and individual feel.  

Interesting side note from a webseries I watched: “ID Software had a John, a Carmack and a John Carmack.’’

Similarly, games like Oddworlds: Abe’s Oddysee and Planescape Torment made use of this technique to look 3D. The reason for this was simple. Computers back in the day couldn’t handle a gaggle of 3D models and characters, thus, it was easier to use a snapshot of a pre-rendered 3D image to make it look three dimensional when it wasn’t.

Isometric Dawn went through its art changes(read here) and it was after trial and error of several other techniques and experimentation that led me to settle on a look that was solid for the game. All assets for our product were modeled in 3D and then rendered out as 2D images from an isometric perspective. We took this route as we wanted the game to take up as little of a computer's resources so it was available to all who wanted it, despite the horsepower their PCs are capable of.

While a bigger developer will never bother to use this method, I find it odd that independent developers haven’t done much with this either. This method keeps your game 2D, but doesn't make it look like one and there are quite a few games that’d have done better if they’d used this technique. I’ve come across maybe one game that did something similar(and it looks beautiful) but other than that, I’m seeing nothing. Keep in mind, I can be wrong. I’ve barely played games for the past year. Feel free to tell me what I’ve missed and I’ll be glad to play it.

The interesting thing now is that 3D art is cheaper to make and put in a game than a 2D piece of art. This is a crazy concept but it’s true. For teams looking at a small or non-existent budget, it might be a good idea to use this method or something similar to try and not go over-budget. However, it should always be kept in mind that 3D assets don’t work everywhere. That much is evident by the truly saddening failure of Mighty No. 9, a game that was almost destined to be great if it had, including other things, remained 2D.

So in the end, I am going to have to tell you to decide what works best for your game. Just know that a 3D to 2D asset creation process is an option; It's a tool in your arsenal now. Use it if you think you have to.

Goodnight and have a great weekend.

-Harsh

@TehGameDev

 

 
~ Image credits - Rome.ro & ID Software ~

August Development Recap

It’s that time of the month, kiddies! Time to pen yet another development recap blog. August was a simpler, less busy month. It was the same month that I had exhausted my list, leaving mainly bugs and some tweaks needing to be done from here on out. It was also the same month that I was on vacation, so if it seems like this blog will be shorter, those two things will be the main contributors. And now, let’s have a look at what we did.

Almost as soon as August began, the major list I had was cleared. Before quite hitting that point though, there were a few bugs that needed fixing. The UI button that shows grids was not working for some reason, and somehow there were more residents than there were workers. We got those addressed, and then moved on to finally get water functional and spawning in the game world. Also did more performance work and then worked on save game functionality. After getting all that together, that was when the main list was completed. Ah, but it wasn’t long after that momentous occasion that new bugs appeared…

The first bug came up as a result of the save game changes that had been made earlier. Suddenly, the player could not place any buildings whatsoever. There was also a bug where the player was placing objects despite having different menus pulled up or even being in the Building Selection menu at the bottom of the screen. There was also an issue with the grids not reappearing after destroying buildings, specifically for larger buildings.

We also did some visual upgrades to the Building Selection menu, as well as some rearrangements in an effort to make it all look better. I for one am quite happy with the results. Now I look back at the old art for the Building Selection menu and think “I tolerated this?” It’s still not complete. Some icons are missing from the UI that will be added soon. Then we did work on traffic, which is still a work in progress to this day, and has probably been one of the hardest things I’ve done to date, to be honest.

Then some edits were made to our land buying feature. Pretty simple stuff, really. Just added some additional land for the player to purchase as they play. There were some additional visual changes done to the land buying menu as well so it looks that much better and better assists the player. From there, it’s come time to do a lot of playtesting. Just earlier today I took the game over to my girlfriend to playtest it. She found over twenty different bugs. I was a little annoyed by this, since I was expecting a much smaller number, but at least they’re easy to fix, from what I can tell.

I did it. I managed to write over 400 words about development during August despite having very little to actually talk about it. Man, I feel accomplished! Or at least, I would if I didn’t know about this large list of bugs I put together in about thirty minutes. But such is the nature of game development. I guess I better get going then and start squashing some bugs. Take care, internet!

-Lance

@Prof_Smash

Game Jams

Ludum Dare took place last week and over a period of 72 hours, over nineteen hundred games found their way through submission and onto the feedback forums of the busy website. I was among those who participated and the game we made is quite a nice little experience, even if I do say so myself. We’re polishing it up and planning to release it as a “Pay What You Want” piece of software (I’ll tweet when this happens.)

The event started on slightly shaky legs for us. A friend reached out and informed me about the event and it was here that I realized: I had to participate. I couldn’t sleep the night before the contest day. Also, something to keep in mind is that I can’t code to save my life. I have been incredibly lucky to have fantastic friends and peers who can code and are always willing to work with me and this time was no exception. I originally reached out to my good friend Lance, the co-dev of IsoDawn to join me in this endeavor, however, Lance was busy with quite a few things to do on his shelf. He, however, encouraged me to work with a different programmer.

My partner for this project was Thejus Sunny, another close friend whom I’ve known since college and whom I respect as a programmer. Working with him was an absolute joy and I made an interesting observation.

You see, Lance and I speak in the same vocabulary since we’ve worked together for so long. Me and my friend, Thejus, don’t and it was interesting to work with him, simply because he has a very different way of going about his process of coding and his way of talking about it. It is always a good idea for a designer to learn how to work with different people.

This event also allowed me a change of pace from the development of IsoDawn. Suddenly, I was brainstorming and pre-producing a new game with a new story and that did wonders for my creativity. Overall, the Jam went pretty well. The game, while a little buggy, is what we shot for and despite the tight timeline, we had time to catch sleep every night except the last. Both of us learned quite a bit about Juicing a game, animation, tweening and balancing. Some of which, I think, will be used to make IsoDawn a better game. I chalk that as a win.

While we’re on the subject of game jams, I was surprised at the amount of individuals denying to work under a schedule so tight and compact and that is a damn shame. While I will never deny that a game jam can be a taxing ordeal, I believe that the final result you end up with is worth the hardship. It should also be kept in mind that nobody is forcing you to stay at your desk for all of those 72 hours. Take a few walks, some showers and also sit down and relax. If you plan everything right and don’t procrastinate in the slightest, I guarantee you, you won’t feel tired.

Also, sleep. Here’s a little tip for you, sleep in multiples of 90 minutes. Ninety minutes is about the length of a human sleep cycle, waking up at the end of a cycle makes you feel refreshed and energized, while waking up in the middle is often a tiring experience. If you don’t want to do some simple math before sleep, head on over to sleepyti.me to do it for you. I personally use this and have been for a few years now.

Hope this post helps you. Have a great weekend

-Harsh

@TehGameDev

~ Image Credits - Ivan Gabovitch  ~

An Indie Devs Living Conditions

            Your living conditions play a lot into how the rest of your life is. Therefore, it’s important to make those conditions as good as possible. Now of course, sometimes you can’t help it. Some people are just born into negative conditions, the same way some are born into positive. If you’re in a position where you can improve something in your life, it’s generally a good idea to do it. Today, we’re gonna look at how living conditions impact game development, especially an indie developer such as ourselves.

            This may not be something I should proclaim on the internet as a developer, but you know what? Screw it, I need to for my example! I still live with my parents. I’ve tried moving out a couple times but something usually steps in to stop me. As a result, Isometric Dawn’s scripts and code has been largely made in my parent’s basement. I almost live up to the gamer stereotype! Now, it’s probably fair to say many indie games start off this way. Still, I always feel weird when I think about it. You may be wondering how this is relevant. Well, funny you should ask. Whenever a problem arises in the family, it impacts everybody. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve have to suddenly put on my “taxi driver” hat and save someone because they didn’t plan ahead, tried to do too much at once (this one happens a lot), or something unexpected occurred. This causes a huge strain on both my personal sanity and the development of a game. If I were living on my own and worried only about myself, my girlfriend, and my day job, Isometric Dawn probably could have been finished already.

            Whether or not these conditions are my fault is irrelevant. Fact is, they exist, and I have to deal with it. I can’t say it’s always easy. I recently decided that “Stuck in the Middle With You” is the song that best describes me and my family life, and for good reason. The clowns to the left and the jokers to the right make development harder than it already is. But let’s move past that. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve got a day job. This one is my second one, with the first being in a Coldstone. I was there for two years. Now, as far as first jobs go, it was good. Definitely leagues above something like McDonalds, from what I hear. But if there’s one thing that bothered me about the job, it was the hours. They were all over the place. One week I’d be doing three eight hour shifts, then a day off, then two night shifts, then another day off. The next week would have me come in at about one o’ clock or so and go until eight a couple days, be off the next day, work from nine to five the next couple days, be off, and then do a half day the next day. See what I mean? So I never was able to get into any sort of development groove during this time, which is important. I think having a set time to work on your game is a big part of making development easier. Thankfully, since then I’ve moved on to an office job where I work eight hours a day, every day, and have weekends completely free. It’s consistent, which allows me to better gauge when I’ll work on Isometric Dawn.

            As you can see, the above examples are both examples of my more notablel living conditions. One I can’t really do anything about, at least not at this time. I was born into it. The other, as you read, I did do something about. I got a better job. Once I did that it got easier to work more consistently on the game. Now, let’s go into some of the smaller details of a day, the things we don’t talk on and on about. Those little moments can actually also be pretty important. For instance, I see to it that my girlfriend and I take time to be together a certain number of hours a week. It’s generally split between a couple days, with one day being in the middle of the week and the other closer to the end of the week. These moments are often a good way for me to “reset” myself and approach the next few days with a more rested mind. Another thing that I’ve done is take walks. For me, this helps gives me some peace and quiet that I may not have otherwise. I don’t necessarily think about the current game in development at this time. I’ll think about anything. It’s a nice way to let your thoughts roam about in your head a bit and even get a little exercise in, if only a little bit.

            Of course, I’ll also play a game for a bit on most days too. Our exact reasons for playing video games will probably differ from person to person, but I think one thing we all agree on is that it is an excellent escapism. Just the other day I played Hearthstone to get away from the insanity of family life for a moment. It’s not as effective as completely leaving the house and hanging out with your love, but it works as a sort of “bandaid fix” for me. For that brief moment, conditions improve, and you feel better coming out of it. I should also point out the necessity of eating well. It’s easy to just let it go and just eat whatever you please, but there’s some detrimental effects to that mindset. I’m extremely guilty of just finding something I can throw in a microwave for thirty seconds and eat quickly. No veggies, fruits, or SOMETHING that’s really beneficial to me. Harsh once pointed out the value of taking care of your body so you can also take care of your mind. Basically, chase your passions, but don’t kill yourself while doing it. Because that’s honestly no fun.

            The value of maintaining the best possible living conditions while working on a game cannot be emphasized enough, and it’s a topic that I think gets neglected too often. You have to finish your game eventually, but don’t do it at the expense of your own sanity or physical health. I was recently on a week long vacation in order to take a good long breather from everything in life, including Isometric Dawn. It was needed and very much appreciated, and I came back feeling ready to do something. Unfortunately, right now the world seems very content with trying to squash that good feeling as quickly as possible. If all goes well during the next couple of weeks though, it won’t have enough time to crush that feeling inside of me...though I do wish it would let up.

-Lance

@Prof_Smash

Focusing on your current project

I’m typing this as Lance is on a much needed week-long vacation. My work for the week has largely consisted of coming up with concepts and ideas for level design and then iterating upon the aforementioned ideas along with some art and asset refinement. I’ve worked on an average of eight hours a day for the past week on the game since there isn’t much I have to do as of now. I am certain that work will return, but for the past week, I was in a bit of a lull in development.

Whenever I have some time to kill during my working hours, I tend to boot up a creative software and try to learn it or try  to understand it better. For this week, I looked at getting better at 3D asset creation and Unreal Engine 4. The reason for this choice is fairly simple. We’re approaching the end of development for Isometric Dawn, and, liking the hard schedule I tend to maintain, we are planning on lining up the development of another game after this one is complete. I can’t say too much about this game because we haven’t decided to go public with this information just yet. However, I can say that this game will be 3D.

The idea and prospect of starting development on a new game is always exciting. Everyone involved is in a high morale and has the confidence of an glorious army. However, while this excitement is a nice feeling to have, there is something that should never be forgotten.

Focus.

I remember having a fairly strict grammar teacher in junior school and he had this one rule: Never change topics once chosen (I guess many in my class had a bad habit of doing so.) He enforced the rule too. Entire essays and quizzes for several classmates were indiscriminately unmarked because of a change in topic. Looking back, I think the teacher wasn’t being paid enough and he just didn’t want to mark as many quizzes as he had to and just figured a workaround. What we did learn from this, however, was the importance of focus.

While I am poking around in my spare time and off hours, I have never taken away time from work that needed to be done on Isometric Dawn and I plan to keep it this way until the game is finished and we officially move on to the next.

Indie game development is a very fast moving and competitive field that keeps changing and this breeds the temptation to look elsewhere, especially when a person has been focussing on one game for an extended period of time, my best advice is to resist. Have faith in what you’re doing and work towards the goal you’d set out to achieve.

However, learn whenever you can. This can be anything, really. As mentioned above, I’m currently trying to expand my knowledge in the 3D space and the tools that aid the process during my spare time. It’s fairly simple to follow this rule too. If you have some spare time to kill, pull up a tool you’ve been wanting to learn and choose from the thousands of free online video tutorials that guide you through the process. Keep in mind, software knowledge is added to a portfolio and an extensive knowledge in a wide array of tools is guaranteed to help you.

Keep creating and have a great weekend.

 

-Harsh

@TehGameDev

An Empty List

            I’m starting to write this on August 9th at 11 PM. Currently, I am sitting at my computer, typing this out and making a note of something quite important. It’s difficult explaining the feeling I have right now. There were days where I wondered if I’d ever get to experience this feeling. Now, you may be wondering what in the world I’m getting at. Well, it’s simple...I have no list. In the July development recap, I had said that during the month of August it was to be expected that the game’s programming work would be largely complete, leaving only bugs and balance fixes to take care of, as well as adding in new levels. So with that said...what do I do during a day now?

            Before we answer that question, let’s back up a bit, and recall the final moments before having this empty list. It was on August 4h that I cleared the list, with performance and save game problems being fixed before the list was empty. It was just a mere day after posting the last blog that we had reached this point. Obviously, this was much sooner than expected. Now, I realized of course that Isometric Dawn was still not done. As I mentioned, there will still be some bugs to fix. But the game is basically 90% complete, with the remaining 10% being those small fixes, adding levels, some marketing, and at long last, the game’s release.

            What exactly have I done since then? To be honest, not a whole lot. There hasn’t been much to find yet. I have been at work on a different front though, and that’s working with Harsh to get the company formation done. Just today, in fact, I got everything prepped and ready to go for sending, and before that I was preparing a few things over the weekend. I’m of course here now, talking about the game. And naturally, there’s still some discussion between myself and Harsh on what to work on with that game, varying from the design, programming, and marketing. I’ve also been pondering over ideas for music, and I’m contemplating going back in and touching up some of the tracks I’ve already made. Development has not stopped just because I have virtually nothing to code. The type of work is just changing is all.

            Of course, the big question now is what do I do in my spare time? I certainly have a bit more of it than I did before. I’ve taken a good chunk of that extra time and used it on spending more time with my girlfriend. In less than a week I’m gonna be taking a week long vacation, getting away from my day job, programming, everything. The more I think about it, the more I realize I kind of need it. It’s been almost a year since I’ve been on a proper vacation, and that year has had a lot of crazy ups and downs, between getting a new day job, going through development hell, and pushing the game so it can reach this point more quickly. I need a break from everything, and thankfully that break is coming soon.

            Also, what’s on my mind? Well, I still think about Isometric Dawn plenty, as I’ve sort of established earlier. Your mind gets to racing at this point, wondering what getting the game out there will be like, what people will think of it, and so on. Currently, my family is off on vacation (the main reason I didn’t tag along was because I was given maybe three days notice before they left. Not enough time to prepare) and I’m at home alone. There’s a sort of quiet that falls on a place when you’re the only one in the area, and it leaves plenty of room to think. I wonder where the game will go, what people will think, and what I will do when it’s completely finished. I’m tossing around game ideas in my mind all the time, and I think I know which one I’d like to do next. I’m sometimes tempted to go ahead and start working on it, but I know I should hold off on that.

            Well, it’s now 11:50 PM at this point. I’m finishing this blog while simultaneously having a conversation with Harsh via Steam chat. We’re currently talking about Witcher 3, because he showed me some funny video that had to do with the game. About two hours ago my girlfriend visited to keep me company. Very sweet of her. We watched a little TV, did some baking, and just sat on the couch. At this moment I’m going through and listening to various music. I think I’ll have a few songs stuck in my head now. But hey, that’s fine. It’s always a pleasure having good music stuck in your head. And now, the time has come for me to call it a day and visit dreamland for a bit.

Good night, world.

-Lance

@Prof_Smash

_

A little update - We're going to be moving to posting one blog a week instead of our usual two. Lance and I will write on alternate weeks. This will allow us to not run out of things to say as we intend to keep this blog alive for a while. - Harsh

Research for game design and how I did it.

Isometric Dawn is almost at the point where we have a demo for players and publishers. The levels in these are done and are currently going through polish. These levels are meant to represent what the game is going to be like and to give an idea to potential customers and publishers about what they’re getting into.

Once these are done, I’ll be pulling up my design notes that I’d penned months ago regarding the stages of the game and start modifying and polishing it before dropping them into the game. Once all of these are in there and fine tuned, the game is essentially complete.

Exciting times.

One thing about game design that is rarely discussed is research conducted by the designer(s) before the actual process. This involves looking into and deconstructing similar games that came before and how they dealt with problems, reading game design books and understanding the major points it's trying to highlight and also looking at real world knowledge that can help with the process of creation.

The deconstruction of similar games that came before should be a no-brainer. Isometric Dawn is a city builder and the genre of city builders has had a long and celebrated past, thus, quite a few examples exist. I started playing the original city builders from back in the day and tried to see what these games did right and what they did wrong, how they made me feel and how I’d change it or do it differently if I could. I moved from game to game repeating the process and by the end of it, I had a fairly decent stack of notes and ideas about what I wanted in Isometric Dawn.

Then I got to reading. The first book that I picked up was The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell. This is a pretty good first book to get if you’re just jumping into game design. While the book may be very basic, the proverbial “lenses’’ in the book are a very good tool to make you start looking at the game like a designer. After this, I got to reading deconstructions of city builder and strategy game design on the internet along with postmortems of other games. After this process, I was in the right state of mind to start working on designs. However, there is a process that is almost always ignored, yet, this process can really help your game.

I’m talking about the real world and how it can help with your game. While this may seem a  moot point if you are(like us) designing a game that is anything but realistic. It is, however, always a good thing if you can make the player feel for what he’s working on. Journey is a game nobody will classify as “realistic.” However, the interaction through movement you have with other players, one that many reported as being the best part of the game,  are the most human and “real” feelings I felt in gaming that year.

What I started studying was architecture, unusual living spaces and weird cities that still exist. I started asking and reading about the moods of the city, how the moods change from season to season and from event to event.

This process alone made my mind buzz with ideas. I noted them down and started expanding on them almost immediately.

I would consider this a good cycle of research for game design. The process will certainly differ from genre to genre or the general mood of the game, but the idea remains. Looking into the core ideas of your game’s design and working them to the advantage of the experience is always a good thing and I encourage you to experiment with the process.

Goodnight and have a lovely weekend.

-Harsh

@TehGameDev

__

Yes, I didn't post last week. I was sporting a nasty throat infection and was under powerful medication. Needless to say, If i'd typed up a post, it'd have sounded dumb.