Development Diaries

Lately, I’ve been following a number of different high quality blogs and video diaries detailing many interesting game development projects. Here are some of my favourites:

Project Frontier by Shamus Young

Project Frontier is my favourite development series on the web at the moment. Shamus is recently unemployed, which is good news for us! He’s able to spend a lot of time on his projects and release updates very frequently. The project is a procedural world created from scratch with a blocky, Minecraft-like aesthetic.

It’s perfect for me, someone who is not an experienced programmer but is fascinated by the methods in which procedural content can be made. He’s working off tech made in a previous development series called Project Hex, which you might also want to check out.

Its supreme quality is due to Shamus’s incredible effort to make it interesting, show diagrams and keep it light on code and complexity. When necessary he will, say, give a brief introduction to how matrices are used to transform models, or explain concepts such as oversimulation or encapsulation in layman’s terms.

Shamus’ programming projects are always fascinating. They generally begin with a post outlining the basic goals of the project and containing a screenshot of his initial progress: a plain, green SDL window. From there, you watch the project gradually grow from absolutely nothing, to something beautiful, one step at a time.

Project Perko by Craig Perko

Craig Perko runs a brilliant blog which doesn’t receive nearly the amount of popularity it deserves. He does not have a featured, ongoing project which he works on and released updates on. Instead, his YouTube channel is made up of a variety of game prototypes and simple genre examples which he uses to illustrate the design principles and mechanics used in those sorts of games.

What is so fascinating and entertaining about Craig’s videos is that his goal isn’t to make an entertaining game and to document it, but to study and explain ideas about game design. Some people use diagrams and audio/visual aids to give a presentation. Craig goes a step further.

“Hello, this is Craig. I’d like to talk about beat-em-up enemies and what makes beat-em-up enemies unique.” And to do this, he actually makes a beat-em-up to show how combinations of enemies with different tactical patterns is key to the difficulty of games in this genre.

His recurring theme of trade routes and transportation and their effects on systemic game worlds is also explored in many of his videos and posts. For example, his latest prototype is based on the orbits of planets, and how this affects resource gathering and planetary economy.

How on earth do his videos have under 50 views?

Procedural World by Miguel Cepero

Voxels are dead sexy. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, just point them over to Miguel’s blog. The topics he covers include procedural generation (again), modelling civilians and facilities in virtual worlds and architecture and vegetation generation. In the discussion of creating virtual worlds, Migeul’s blog doesn’t stop at just the terrain.

Here, he defines a series of rules to generate churches and later he explains the structure of these rules. Here, he introduces Woley noise to his terrain generation. And here, he shows how L-systems are not ideal for generating trees, and that the solution lies with space colonization.

There’s also plenty of eye candy.

Sea of Memes by Michael Goodfellow

Similar to Project Frontier, this project based on Minecraft-inspired world generation. However, the worlds in Michael’s game are celestial objects that can be fully circumnavigated. It’s Minecraft in space, on asteroids and space stations.

It’s a good read, even if there’s a lot of talk about optimisation and vertex buffers and whatnot. Each post is also accompanied by a download link of the latest build of the project.

Overgrowth by Wolfire

You may have heard of Overgrowth, an indie game in development by Wolfire. This would be the most well known development diary in this post. Each week, the team puts out a video detailing the tweaks and updates made to the game, with professional and concise editing and narration.

Most weeks there is something interesting added, usually minor. However, at this stage in development, each tweak is something noticeable. The engine is built to do things like go in slow motion and show collision masks, so they can even show the effects of tweaks that are under the hood.

If nothing, the weekly alpha videos of Overgrowth will help you appreciate the small touches and details in video games, such as adding a lens flare glint to a dropped weapon which draws attention from a distance but ensuring it only occurs when the camera is moving so it doesn’t look unnatural. Also, there’s just as much, if not more of a focus on the sound and audial detail as there is on the graphics.

The game is incredibly impressive. More so with each new video. If you have preordered the game, you can download each new weekly alpha and play with the new updates yourself.

In Profundis by John Harris 

John Harris, the Roguelike columnist for GameSetWatch, recently started making a 2D platformer set in procedurally generated caves. Yes, you can see that I have a thing for procedural generation.

Generally, the blog is pretty light on pictures and video and is mostly tidbits of each day’s progress. I have a feeling it’s mostly to serve as a way to say “don’t worry, I’m actually working on this” to the funders of his Kickstarter.

That’s not to say it isn’t entertaining, however. The game is a roguelike by nature, and the design and technical decisions make for interesting updates.

Expand by Christopher Johnson 

Of course, I couldn’t end this post without a link to my friend and fellow South Australian, Chris Johnson and his video series. While the concept of the game remains elusive, the videos give an insight to the building blocks of the project. There’s minimal code in the videos, so all discussion is in terms of what is visible to the end user. Again, it’s interesting to watch a game being constructed over time, beginning with essentially nothing.

Expand will be playable at the Indie Games Room at AVCon next week. Gosh, is it that close already? That will be my first hands-on time with the game. I recommend coming along. There’ll be some great games on display and panels to attend.

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One Response to “Development Diaries”

  1. Dylan Sale Says:

    Some great blogs here, thanks!

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