The Topics Grew In Fields

A few things to talk about this entry (no screenshots, but there is an MP3 later):

Cube Farm

Cube farm is declared complete. I decided not to add any polish to it, because it was simply a test of my game development framework. It gave me a large list of things that I need to work on (better UI layout control, ability to put 3D objects into the UI, menuing systems, better input setup, etc) before moving on to the next game. Which brings us to…

Next Project

In keeping with my Konami-inspired game development theme, the next game that I’m planning will be a side-scrolling space shoot-em-up similar to Gradius.

The plan, however, is to have all of the entities and backgrounds be full 3D and make use of some of the higher-level features of my framework (some of which are actually implemented). These features include (but are not limited to):

  • Procedurally-generated textures (on-the-fly, cached in, no tiling)
  • instancing
  • Multi-core support
  • Procedural geometry

New Song

I was finally able to break through my composer’s block and get something (ANYTHING!) composed. I like it, though it’s a bit longer than it needs to be. Oh well, that I got anything written at all is good enough right now. I’ve been on a dry streak since the end of Mop of Destiny.

MP3: Longing – 4:31 (6.5 MB)


For those who missed it:

Mop of Destiny Soundtrack MP3s!

On Power Outages (And Other Weird Things)

They suck. Our power was out for 9 days. For someone as hopelessly addicted to the Internet as I, it was like not having legs. Legs that could span the globe in an instant. Or at least under a few seconds.

The power came back on, predictably, about 2 hours after we had left for the airport to go home to Indianapolis for the holidays.

Thus, the tally of weird things that have happened in the 6 months since I’ve moved to Seattle area and started work at Microsoft is:

  • My car (Which already had $3800 in hail damage) has been involved in 3 accidents, 2 of which were definitely not my fault and the third of which I can make a pretty good case for
  • Approached by a guy with a knife near Pike Place Market. He didn’t threaten me with it, he just wanted to sell it to me for $5.
  • Almost punched by an angry chauffeur in a stupid-looking suit at the Sea-Tac airport because I had the absolute audacity to try to help him out and tell him that the name on his little sign wasn’t visible.
  • There have been floods and even a (mild, for Indiana) snow storm
  • 9-day power outage

Life: Always entertaining.

Mop of Destiny: Last Words on Code Development

For the three (at most) of you that’s actually been waiting for the remainder of the info on Mop’s development history:

After getting the gameplay test done, I got around to actually loading level data. I ended up using TinyXML to load level data from an XML file.

Side note: Initially, each level was going to have a separate XML file, but that kinda got scrapped somewhere along the line. That’s why there’s 1 xml file named level1.xml in the game directory.

After that, I added fonts. I used a 3D modeler to make a 2D poly set of font characters, and then wrote a font loader to load them in and separate them out.

Essentially, the font interface allows you to request a string, where it then builds a vertex/index buffer set (a mesh) and hands that back. Simple and easy. And still no textures.

After that, it was adding animation code (simple: just different meshes for different frames of animation), the life meter (using a custom vertex shader to bend the meter partially around a circle), enemies, the knockback from getting hit, mesh-based instead of bounding-box-based collision, post process effects, ogg streaming, and spawners and enemy types.

At this point, I made a decision that would drastically alter my timetable, though I didn’t know it at the time:

I decided to make the enemy artwork while making the enemies.

The trick to this is that, in my initial plan, enemies were going to be coded as just boxes and the art would be added later. Not long into this process, I realized that having boxes was a terrible representation of the enemy, so I started doing the art, as well.

The enemy art was the second-hardest art-making process in the game (first being creating the main character). I had chosen shadow creatures partly to hide my own general inability to draw very well…with shadows I could simply draw an outline and some red eyes. However, it quickly became apparent that it was hard to create any INTERESTING shapes out of just outlines and red eyes.

Thankfully, I was able to do so. While I tried to keep to my inital development timeline, I didn’t really notice that I had moved alot of the art process into the “coding” block of schedule. Which meant that the schedule once I hit the “Art” portion was considerably lighter. Though I didn’t know it at the time.

Extra, Extra! Gameplay Complete! Game Still Ugly!

At last, I finished coding the bosses (which were the last enemies to be coded) and had the levels laid out (using solid blocks as backgrounds). The enemies looked cool, but the game looked ugly. A before-and-after, if you will:


Click to enlarge

So I sent it out to a bunch of playtesters, none of which were particularly enthused about the game because of its inherent blockiness. Oh well. One person (thank you, PfhorSlayer!) played through the entire game, as punishing as it was at the time (you think it’s hard NOW? You should have seen it then).

Anyway, I did a bunch of tweaks, and started on the background art. That pretty much catches up to the journal-at-present.

From that point on, it was art, scripting, music, sound effects, voice, credits, the manual, some bug fixes, the installer, and a last-minute save state feature addition. All in the span of 14 days. It was, as they say, a whirlwind.

I’m really happy with the music. Excluding the first 2 pieces (Piano of Destiny and Theme of Destiny), which I spent a few days on (Because I had the melody in my head for so long, and I wanted to do it justice), the remaining music was done in two day’s time.

I used FL Studio as my editor of choice, using a bunch of sample libraries, notably Vienna Instruments.

Anyway, I plan on doing a full-on post-mortem as my next journal post.

In the meantime, TO THE XBOX 360!


So I’ve been wanting to post more details about Mop of Destiny‘s development, as well as a full-on postmortem of the game. However, I took a long break from it (I needed it), and when I was getting back into it, I lost power last Thursday in the Great Pacific Northwest Windstorm and Subsequent Ginormous Blackout Of 2006 and have had no power at home since (almost a full week now), so it’s been tricky to do this. I’m typing this on my computer at work.

I still plan on posting that information, but in the mean time, I have a really crappy page set up with soundtrack MP3s from the game, ordered as I would have them if they were on a true soundtrack CD. You can nab them at:

Also, there’s an updated EXE of Mop of destiny at that fixes an issue with Intel integrated cards that support hardware pixel shaders but not vertex shaders.

Enjoy! I shall return with light, triumphantly. Eventually.

PS – I’m in the planning stages of porting the game to XNA, so that it will eventually be playable on the Xbox 360. Woo!

Finishing Touches

Alrighty. The gameplay, graphics, art, music, and sound are all complete. I have a few finishing touches to put on it:

  1. Some of the background music has a different average level than the others, so I’m normalizing that all out
  2. I want to add the credits
  3. I need to provide a manual, so I’ve got to write that. Shouldn’t take long


But effectively, Mop of Destiny is complete, and should be showing up sometime tomorrow evening (Tuesday, PST).

Until then, here is the final boss music:

Final Boss!

Trial By Fire.

15 days left. The gameplay is done and in “test” (a bunch of friends are playing through it). Thus, I had that terrifying moment where you send out your creation to the world and hope that it works.

…then someone reports that there’s a serious bug which you quickly fix.

That’s how it goes.


The Gameplay Prototype

So when last we spoke, I had set my schedule. I had just a few short weeks to get a complete gameplay prototype running. So I started where every game developer seems to start: With the graphics.

I mentioned before that the graphics were simple. Polygonal, no textures. Writing that took about a day (very, very simple code). I checked it in on August 12th.

Next up: Input. No sense in gameplay if you can’t PLAY it. I took the input code that I wrote for my old NES emulator and modified it slightly for my new uses. That gave me automatic keyboard/joystick control.

Side note: Never initialize DirectInput after initializing Direct3D, because it does bad, bad things to the window interface. DirectInput subclasses the window, which Direct3D doesn’t like, so D3D doesn’t like to restore the state of the window correctly after doing a Reset (i.e. for switching between fullscreen/windowed).

Blah blah blah, wrote a bunch of stuff, got the gameplay test done. Only a few days behind schedule, on September 4th.

A Note on the Art Path

So, my original “art path,” as it were, was amazingly complex.
It kinda went like this:

  1. Create object in AutoCAD.
  2. Export from AutoCAD to .3ds
  3. Use a 3D modeling package to import the .3ds
  4. Manually fix up the incorrectly exported colors
  5. Export to .ase
  6. Run custom converter from .ase (an easily parseable ASCII file format) to my own mesh format.
  7. Profit!

This eight-hojillion step process was a pain and, moreover, had one fatal flaw in it.

Check out step number 3. AutoCAD was incorrectly exporting the object colors.

As it turns out, AutoCAD has the ability to set truecolor values to objects, but it also has a built-in 256 color palette (likely left over from the olden days). Now, when ACAD would export, instead of exporting my delicious true colors, it would export the nearest match in the color palette. Consequently, I had to fix them up later.

This became a problem when I tried to do my first test background – Fixing up all of the colors was way too time-consuming, so I had to find a better way.

FIRST I tried to import the DXF directly into the 3D modeler. However, it ALSO screwed up the import.
SECOND I tried to write my own DXF reader. As it turns out, the object that I’m using as my building block (the REGION) is one of the only TWO types of ACAD object that are encrypted in the DXF. Which is stupid.
THIRD I found a third-party program to convert REGIONs into PolyLines, which I WOULD be able to read. However, this program also dropped the same color information I was trying to preserve, thus ensuring that every last person in the universe has screwed up the color import/export with ACAD files.

The Solution!

I found out that AutoCAD has its own API for writing plugins called ObjectARX. Essentially, I downloaded it and wrote an export function from AutoCAD directly into my mesh format. It does the following things: Scan the scene for regions, and for each region it finds, triangulate it (using ear clipping) then write that to the file.

So now, my art path has become:

  1. Create object in AutoCAD
  2. Export directly to my mesh format, with correct colors intact.

Much better.


I don’t have any new screenshots. What I *DO* have are two of the songs from the game.

The first one is the song that will play during the main menu on game startup. It’s the piano version of the main theme.

Piano of Destiny

The second is the first-level music, which IS the main theme (thus, both songs have the same melody).

Theme of Destiny

Anyway, it’s amazingly late and I work tomorrow, so that’s all I have time for today. Backgrounds truly begin tomorrow!