Improved Initiative! I go first!

SO HERE WE ARE ONCE MORE!

Sorry for the shouting, I'm just so very excited to be alive today.  And yesterday, the day before, and hopefully tomorrow.  Because we officially began development for our first FULL video game this month, and every day has been an absolute treat.

Last year was CHOCK FULL of learning experiences, and I'd like to briefly outline them here:

The Path of Verus Games

We began January 2013 with TimeGem.  Nicholas followed an XNA tutorial which was posted online, step-by-step, and I... well... I modeled things terribly and inefficiently in Blender, rendered them into 2D sprites, and slapped them into the game.  And voila.  Verus was born.  Feet-first.

 What... what am I looking at...?

What... what am I looking at...?

I mean, seriously.  Look at this.  Not bad for a 6-year-old, eh?  Too bad I was 29.  It must have been the paint chips.

We screwed around with TimeGem for a few months.  Three months, if I'm not mistaken, and the above-photo is juuuust about the end product.  It was a massive achievement with a very, very steep learning curve, and it looks and plays like a handful of still-wet-but-solid-enough-to-stay-together dog turds.  I hadn't touched 3D modeling software for nearly 2 years before this, and before THAT it had been about 7 years since I'd even produced any kind of visual graphical artwork.  So I have to cut myself some slack here.  We ended up calling it quits after those three months, so we could take a few days' rest and realign our priorities with what we'd learned.

Next up was the 2-dimensional puzzle game LightMaze.  This one was easier to accomplish because it was much simpler, and surprisingly much more fun.

 "Filling the void" where cells belong inside of a plant.

"Filling the void" where cells belong inside of a plant.

This project took only 1 month to accomplish, with the end result being about 10-12 increasingly difficult "levels" which also become artistically and aesthetically more complex.  It helped to get me used to navigating art software (I used, and still use, GIMP for development) as well as pacing my workflow with Nicholas's programming.  I used very, very little 3D modeling for any rendering.  Nearly everything was done in GIMP.

We moved on from LightMaze to yet another 1-month project, this time in full 3D with a first-person perspective.  One of our favorites even now, a year later, known as Calculated Risk.

 Suuure you can spot the MineCraft in this pic.  But if you can spot the Diablo, THEN you'll get the cookie.

Suuure you can spot the MineCraft in this pic.  But if you can spot the Diablo, THEN you'll get the cookie.

This was our first personal "success", if I do say so myself, as it was very fun to make, visually and aurally pleasing, with tight controls.  For a couple of newbies, we were pretty pleased with ourselves and still pat each other on the back over it when we find ourselves smoking our pipes in our rocking chairs with our quilts hanging over our legs.  Calculated Risk also contained our attempt at "Edutainment," and you can see it in the photo above.  Do you see those numbers above and below the crosshair?  The numbers above it are a math calculation.  The numbers below it are three possible answers to that math problem.  Each math problem is random, and you have to select the correct answer in order to reload your weapon.  Get the problem wrong and you have 3 seconds to feel sorry for yourself while you eat fireballs from the Beholder you should have been smart enough to kill.  Idiot.

Next up: Spell Bound!  Our first and, so far, last attempt at pandering our half-baked goods to the masses!  Still available for free download on your Android device!

 The Crossroads to Game Dev Hell. Be sure to collect your Scrolls and punch the guards before leaving.

The Crossroads to Game Dev Hell. Be sure to collect your Scrolls and punch the guards before leaving.

H'okay, so.  Rule number 1 in Game Development: only one person actually gives a shit how much effort your put into your game... and that person is you.  Nobody else does, and nobody else will pay you money for it if that level of effort did not ALSO craft an excellent product. With that said, Nicholas and I believed, perhaps an entire year too early, that the amount of work we put into Spell Bound was worth a 1$ download on the Google Play store.  We were sorely mistaken and were reminded of this little-known fact in reviews and private correspondence.  While we were, and still are, very elated with the amount of experiential knowledge gained from this 3-month project, we were hoping to break our chains of wage slavery far too prematurely.  We took a month off to pick up the pieces of our broken, self-entitled hearts.

And FINALLY we come to our most recent finished product which nearly rounded out the entire first year for us as fledgling game developers:  Stratewarz.

 Buy four environments and get an extra Desert FREE!

Buy four environments and get an extra Desert FREE!

The quality of the graphics in Stratewarz is proportional to the amount that I absolutely hate this game.  I do believe that I have a uniquely vitriolic stance on this project, and it's a fuzzy, hazy explanation as to "why" that is.  And it's boring.  And I'll violently murder my two adorable cats if I start to think about it.  So I won't go into it.  But rest assured it has something to do with it being our first "large group" development project.  Between Spell Bound and Stratewarz we ballooned from a 2-man team, to 5 people.  There was no structural network in place to support the added talent and, well, it fell apart at the end.  The only one still holding onto his balls with one hand and finishing the project with the other, three months late and alone with mud caked on his face, was Nicholas.  With grey, hazy cataracts, and fingers bleeding from weeks of midnight coding.  God bless his little heart.

And that was the entirety of 2013, which you can choose to sift through and actually play via the "GAMES" button at the top of this page.  Again, my favorite is Calculated Risk.  And as much as I emotionally loathe Stratewarz, it is rather fun to play against a friend (you need to connect to their I.P. address for networked play).  Nicholas and myself seriously worked nearly every single day of last year on all of these projects, along with our full-time day jobs.  Even the month after Spell Bound when we weren't developing, we were reading up about the industry and technical information in our respective fields every single day.  This is just what you have to do if you want to succeed at something literally from the ground-up.  And by the looks of our current project, including the massive fundamental changes we've made to the way we handle our team and our workflow, it's paying its dividends.

 A unique pre-Screenshot Saturday screen for our upcoming sci-fi Co-Op game Xeno.  Keep it secret!  Keep it safe!

A unique pre-Screenshot Saturday screen for our upcoming sci-fi Co-Op game Xeno.  Keep it secret!  Keep it safe!

I'm not going to spill any beans on our next project in this Blog, if only because Nicholas is planning a blog article specifically for it in the days to come.  But I will say that I've been waiting to make this game since about a month before we even started development on TimeGem over a year ago.  And we are finally ready.  Our team is brilliant, full of both intense ability and amazing potential, and Nicholas and myself are becoming faster, more efficient, and more adept at our respective jobs (he programs, and I... uhh... "art").  This is a great day, a great year, a great century to be alive.

I'm preeeetty much finished bothering you, but before I go I just want to give an immense shout-out to Chris Solarski at http://www.solarskistudio.com/ who fairly recently published a book called Drawing Basics and Video Game Art.  The book can be found here: http://goo.gl/BFxQBf , and is worth its weight in cans of dolphin-safe Tuna if you're even the least bit interested in how to process and produce artwork in video games (or at all, really).

 Day 1, before even cracking the book.  The crap I drew on the right is pre-Solarski.

Day 1, before even cracking the book.  The crap I drew on the right is pre-Solarski.

My girlfriend was genius enough to realize that I needed a guidebook concerning artwork in video games in order to enable me to progress higher up the ladder, and this book garnered some of the best reviews on Amazon.  And now I'm passing the buck on to you, and saluting mister Solarski with this shout out.  I love you, Mr. Solarski.  Shhh.  Don't tell my girlfriend.

 You mean the real world is IN THREE DIMENSIONS?! HOW COULD I HAVE NOT SEEN THIS BEFORE?!

You mean the real world is IN THREE DIMENSIONS?! HOW COULD I HAVE NOT SEEN THIS BEFORE?!

I began this book as just a curious reader, and while it can easily be read cover-to-cover on its own merit, I quickly realized that it could be followed somewhat closely as a lesson guide.  So I got off my laurels and cracked the book once a day, for an hour each day, and copied and memorized and copied some more.  This enabled me, surprisingly, to get comfortable drawing on paper and treating the pencil as an extension of myself.  NOTE:  I have absolutely zero% background in art.  My background is in the sciences.  YOU CAN DO THIS TOO.

 Yeah, I drew this.  In just under 1.5 hours, with Solarski's help.  NO SWEAT.

Yeah, I drew this.  In just under 1.5 hours, with Solarski's help.  NO SWEAT.

 You'll gradually improve without fully realizing you are, just like any skill upon which you focus your efforts.

You'll gradually improve without fully realizing you are, just like any skill upon which you focus your efforts.

 You'll learn about every part of human anatomy in order to better understand the pieces of the whole.

You'll learn about every part of human anatomy in order to better understand the pieces of the whole.

Okay, there are a lot more (I took a photo after every finished day), but I'm going to save you the time right there.  This book is amazing and almost solely responsible for the increased quality that you are about to see in the coming months with Xeno's progress.

I'm not really sure how to end this as I'm still very excited to share all of the juicy tidbits about Xeno and our progress in only the past two weeks!  Buuut I'll hold off on that.  You should really get some rest anyway, you have a big day ahead of you!  Remember?  You were going to start focusing on better understanding yourself and working on your life's passion!

I mean that.

~A.