• LD35 Entry - Werepenguin's Escape

    In my latest Ludum Dare entry, play the role of a werepenguin attempting to escape a mysterious facility.

    Title
  • Dehoarder 2: Vote YES Now on Greenlight

    Dehoarder 2 is now up for voting on Steam Greenlight. Vote today!

    Cast
  • LD 32 Entry - Dirty Fork: Unleash the Mayhem

    Horrors! You have been given a dirty fork! There is only one appropriate way to respond to this insult: Food Fight! Play for free on Kongregate.

    Dirty Fork
  • Breaking Block Available for Android and iOS

    Wall destruction on a solar scale: Smiling Cat's latest game, Breaking Block, is available for free on the Google Play Store and the Appstore.

    Boss Fight
  • Prepare for Warp available for Android and iOS

    Intense spaceflight for your mobile device: Prepare for Warp is available for free on the Google Play Store and the Appstore.

    Prepare for Warp - Screenshot 2
  • Vintage Pachinko 2.2 Available for Android and iOS

    Smiling Cat's original mobile game/toy, Vintage Pachinko, is available on the Google Play Store and the App Store. Buy it today for only $0.99!

    Vintage Pachinko - Feature
  • Ludum Dare 26 Entry - Dehoarder

    Free to play on Kongregate. Because playing a game about cleaning a room is more fun than actually cleaning a room.

    Dehoarder - Screenshot 1
  • EARL's Warehouse - Keep Calm and Carry Boxes

    What strangeness is going in EARL's Warehouse? Play for free on Kongregate to find out!

    EARL's Warehouse

Evolutions Evolved

posted by Duke
Feb 25

Vitruvian Harry Many months ago, I teased a feature by which Harry’s physical appearance would change as he advanced. While the basics of that were implemented at the time, it was not until today that I looped back and actually hooked it all up.

In true Dehoarder 2 style, I decided to parody evolutions from another popular game franchise (“It looks like Harry is trying to evolve!”). I thought the result was quite pleasing.

The change afforded by an evolution is not just cosmetic. With it comes a sturdy 30% boost to maximum health and maximum mood, reflecting a quantum leap in Harry’s progress.

Harry EvolvingRight now the evolutions are tied to reaching a certain willpower level, though I have been thinking about adding another requirement, either career advancement or finding a certain item. (lunar rock?) Or maybe tying it to use of the yet-to-be-implemented exercise equipment. Again, I have options.

I see completion of long-outstanding features like this as an indication that I am entering the home stretch on development. Hopefully within a few months, I will be ready to begin some form of semi-public beta of the game.


Steam Integration

posted by Duke
Feb 19

Goat Preview It has been another very productive weekend here at Smiling Cat. One of the biggest coding tasks left on Dehoarder 2 was integration with Steam, and that has been largely tackled over the past week. I now have functioning stats and achievements, and cloud-synced saves are all set up. On the artwork/assets side, Steam badges have been created, trading cards are defined and one of them is even complete. The game is mostly set up on Steam, to the point where I can upload builds and install and play them.

I made an attempt at creating emoticons, and it ended poorly, since pixel art is one of my weakest areas. Yup, I tried all of the tricks that I knew to make an 18×18 pixel alien head that looked decent, made several attempts at it, and it literally looked like crap – a nice two-toned floating greenie with two kernels of radioactive corn for eyes. (KlaatuHead-18) So I’ll need to do something about that. Like create and patent an algorithm that can resize any image down to 18×18 and still have it look beautiful. Or go back in time and prevent the invention of emoticons. Or hire a contractor. I have options.

Lack of pixel art talent aside, overall, the process of integrating with Steam has been pretty easy, especially for someone who has been to the app storefront integration rodeo several times before. Steamworks.Net kept me from having to get too low-level, where all the time-sinking rabbit holes exist. Pretty much everything worked as expected. The Steamworks.Net package should really be on the Unity Asset Store; I would give it six stars there. Well, maybe only five because it is leaking Hungarian variable notation into my code, which is very un-.Net-ish. At any rate, it’s much better than the most popular solution available on the asset store, Ludosity, which appears to be abandonware (no updates in 29 months) as of this writing.

Eastman Encounter PreviewSeeing the results of the whole process of getting integrated with Steam – Seeing my Steam status as “In Game: Dehoarder 2” (even though others can’t see that yet), seeing the game in my Steam library, being able to bring up the Steam overlay in game, seeing the too-familiar achievement toast pop up with achievements I created, viewing the preview of my first trading card – are a huge motivator, an affirmation that this is really happening and that I am progressing steadily toward a game release on Steam.

As promised, I have returned with a couple of screenshots of what I was doing last weekend. I’m kind of glad I had these screenies in reserve, because integration work is generally not very photogenic. In the first screenshot we see Pica; she is in the middle of jumping up and down to try to get Harry’s attention. The second screenshot is from the Eastman encounter, where the willpower that Eastman and Harry are putting off is rising up out of the surrounding land, Dragonball Z-style.



Well, Unity apparently decided to take a poop in its Library cache folder, so while it takes a half-hour or so to re-import the world, it’s a good time to post an update.

Recently, I designed one of the main neighbor encounters, with Eastman, the wild party man. It turned out as a nice, intense button-mashing mini game, where Harry and Eastman clash with their willpower. As Harry starts to gain advantange, very anime-like things begin to happen. I test-played it around at the COGG meetup last weekend, to very good reception.

Also, I bought a goat. Not a real-life one, but a model for the one I had the idea for as a pet in the game. Now, I just need to figure out how the goat will come to be in Harry’s care.

I added a proper game over screen for the game. Now, you will see the cause of death, and can see your overall progress right on your tombstone. The various endings, of course, will be collectable for progress toward an achievement.

My asset folder is a mess. So many textures, materials, and models for this game, and since about half of them came from the Unity Asset Store, they have ended up scattered all over in their own individual package folders. It is time to clean that up, so that I can actually see and manage what I have. This activity is actually what precipitated Unity’s little poo-in-the-cache accident.

Well, the project is back up, so it’s back to asset clean-up. I’ll try to pull together some screenshots of the new stuff for the next update.



Full Bedroom and Control IconsSome exciting news and progress on Dehoarder 2 has happened of late. First, I am in the final stages of negotiation with a 3D modeler who will be taking most of the non-trivial 3D modeling work off of my shoulders. This will allow me to take effort that I was expending making 3D models that were middling in quality at best, and instead focus that energy into gameplay, design, and story. I will have a further announcement with introduction once the ink is dry on the deal.

Today I’ve been working on a long-pending feature, the ability to unlock new colors and patterns in the store based on the collection of color samples. Implementing this end-to-end actually required the implementation of another planned feature – rare and unique items. Rare and unique items will spawn exactly once in a game. They are global spawns – basically, for every X items that spawn, one item spawns from the rare/unique list. These items, rather than being disposable, are collectable.

For now, the only unique items are the color samples, which are dynamically generated based on the list of available colors/patterns in the game. Each sample awards the color or pattern that it shows, which will then be available in furnishing and home improvement stores.

I had considered making samples that could grant 2, 3, 4, or even up to 6 colors at a time, but that quickly became untenable. Since the list of sample items is dynamic (based on the list of colors/patterns in the game), they cannot be easily pre-allocated into sets. On top of that, the custom rendering required for a dynamically generated 6-color sample swatch would have been kind of a mess – either with dynamically generated albedo textures, or sample swatch models that require 8 draw calls, pick your poison. So for now I decided to keep things simple with single-color samples.

There will be other unique/rare items in the game that can grant bonuses – maybe things like reduced energy consumption, happiness bonuses, faster actions, bonus to bin capacity, etc. The other side of the coin on these items is that they take space to display, and can usually be sold for a decent amount of money. Some unique/rare items will be so sentimental that Harry may need to develop god-like willpower to even think about parting with them.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been working on filling out all of the rooms in the Dehoarder 2 house. I’ve taken a cue from the Lego games, stashing junk everywhere, just waiting to be released from drawers, cabinets, containers (stacked floor to ceiling in places), even plumbing. This technique allows me to greatly increase the number of items that can be present a single room without dragging down performance by having all of these objects active at the same time.

The rats become even more fearsome when they are part of a basement maze of boxes so tight that you cannot move past without being bitten. The rooms look even more cluttered when the walls are lined floor to ceiling with blue storage totes. Every drawer, every pocket of storage will appear to be extra-dimensional in nature.

The containers and rare item spawn rate synergize well. Some rare items are available at the start as part of the room junk spawns, but most will be hidden away in containers, awaiting discovery by treasure hunters.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the mid/late game. Eventually, you get enough willpower that disposing most items becomes a breeze. Lower-level items don’t contribute as much to your willpower score, so there needs to be more ways to mass-dispose of these items, especially when large piles of these items show up unexpectedly.

One of the more popular suggestions I get is for Harry to have some kind of pet(s). Specific ideas have ranged from one (or many!) cats, to a platypus. However, I think I have come up with the ideal pet, one that fits perfectly with the theme of the game: A goat. There are urban legends of goats eating items like tin cans (not quite true but it suits my purposes). So, somehow, there will be a way to obtain a pet goat in the game (named Pica), and this goat will autonomously wander around consuming junk for you. This is just one of the later-game ways planned to creatively dispose of junk.



20161030_153942_resizedThis past weekend was another resounding expo success. Not only did our games show very well, but also our top secret “Castle Gateway” booth design was a huge hit.

Standing at an imposing 11 feet tall, our castle archway served as the entrance to our booth, making an impression on all who passed through. The free-standing wooden frame for the archway was my design, accompanied by a vinyl printed stone texture wrap designed by StarlightSkyes. Even on setup day as it was being assembled, word of our castle-booth spread through the expo like wildfire.

This was our first time showing MMMob, our very-early-prototype MMO simulator, to the world. While the game still has a long way to go, the reception was very positive to what we had to show so far.

Dehoarder 2 also continued to show well, and many are looking forward to the game’s release. The good news is, with GDEX behind me, I can now devote all of my game development energy into completing Dehoarder 2.

On Sunday afternoon, a T-Rex from the ARK spawned on the expo floor. It’s a good thing our entrance was made with stone! As a result, our booth made it through the incident with no damage.


Sep 10

Workshop Tile Animated v2I just finished adding the last major feature to the expo demo of the Ivory Skies game MMMob. This is great news, not just because MMMob is going to be a totally awesome Sim/Tycoon game, but also because it means that I get to start shifting my attention back to Dehoarder 2!

It has been a point of consternation for me that there is just not enough time/energy to do everything all at once. After a 40 hour work week, there are only so many productive hours left that I can put into game development work. So, I am very pleased that I will be able to return to focusing on Dehoarder 2, hopefully until its completion.

When we last left Harry and his hoard, he had met neighbors, his best friend, someone from waaay out of town, and government employees, both local and federal. He had the ability, but not necessarily the will, to get a job. Most of his day consisted of cleaning up trash and tending gardens.

Now, Harry’s story will continue to unfold. The antagonists will start antagonizing. Advances and setbacks will keep the boat rocking back and forth. The unexpected and absurd will be lurking around every corner.

Dehoarder 2 is officially back in active development! Check in later for more details on where Harry’s story takes him.


Summer of Coding

posted by Duke
Jul 30

It has been way too long since I have given an update, especially on the heels of the Steam Greenlight approval, and for that I deeply apologize. My goal is to be giving these updates at least once a month, though last month’s update was completely missed. This lapse in posting is not due to inactivity. When my workload gets super-heavy like this, I tend to withdraw into my work to the exclusion of all else.

The bulk of my progress has been made on MMMob, my collaborative effort under the Ivory Skies studio name. We’re desperately trying to get something playable by GDEX in October. It’s coming along pretty well, and we should be willing to share some screenshots soon, after our artists finish taking a first pass at some models, sprites, and UI.

Some work has been done on Dehoarder 2, but not as much as I’d like. As soon as the pressure lifts from the Ivory Skies expo crunch (I hate that term and what it represents), I’ll be able to devote more time to it. To be honest, once the voting slowed down after the first couple of days of the Greenlight campaign, I thought it was going to take many more months before Dehoarder 2 was Greenlit, if it was ever Greenlit at all, which is how the commitment to the MMMob expo scope happened.

I try my best to not get into situations like this, but here it is, and I think it is the Egregore of Game Development testing me. All I need to do to pass is continue stepping up, while somehow retaining my sanity.


May 27

Workshop Tile Animated v2So my Friday was being pretty mundane to fairly crap – Get denied a GTX 1080 (that’s ok, I think I’ll wait for the ROG card after all), take my wife to an appointment, almost get run off the road by a cement mixer, watch a movie, check my email and BAM!

“Your title, ‘Dehoarder 2,’ has been Greenlit!”

I just stared at the phone for a moment, blinking, not quite comprehending what I was looking at. Then came a huge wave of excitement, and apparently some latent-onset short-term Tourette’s.

Words mostly escape me at the moment, except to thank everyone who supported the now successful Dehoarder 2 Greenlight campaign.

Now I need a plan.



Ludum Dare 35

Ratings Well, for starters, I am pleased to announce that my Ludum Dare 35 entry, Werepenguin’s Escape placed #66 in the Humor category. I know a large part of that is due to the ragdoll effects in the game. I’ve been focusing on this category for the past two years, and I’m very happy to see that my efforts have paid off. My entry also fared pretty well in the Audio (#264) and Theme (#276) categories. Doing so well in audio was a bit of a surprise, however, that generated music IS damn catchy. It’s going through my head right now. That music was a gift from the muses to someone with only minimal musical talent.

Ivory Skies / MMMob

I’m hard at work with the Ivory Skies team trying to put together a playable demo of our game MMMob in time for GDEX in October. Lots of exciting stuff going on there, and we are finally getting some artwork integrated so there might be something pretty enough to show a screenshot of soon. A couple of months ago, we realized that the sea of the project was not as wide as we thought it was, however, now we are coming to the realization that the sea of the project is deeper than we thought it was. Still, everyone on the team is very excited, and from what I hear, others are getting very excited to have a chance to play this game.

System Building

My current main rig was last rebuilt from the motherboard up in March 2009. At the time I put some pretty beefy silicon stock into it such as a Core i7 920 and an ASUS P6T motherboard. Since then, this machine has seen several upgrades, but it is pretty much topped out now and is just now starting to have trouble keeping pace with the current generation of games. It is amazing and unprecedented for a machine to last me that long; in 20 years of system building I had never gone more than 3 years between rebuilds. But I think it is a sign of the times; I’ve said before that the gains realized from increasing tech speed are diminishing, so at this point I expect that my next system can last me just as long if built right.

Since I am rebuilding my system less than half as frequently as in the past, I can afford to push a bit steeper up the price/performance curve. So, premium parts are now on the table much more so than in the past. For a while I have been considering a system with very fast RAM and a PCIe SSD.

Finally, the last piece fell into place that made a full system upgrade worthwhile: NVIDIA’s announcement of the impending release of the GeForce GTX 1080. With this, I have planned and built what hopefully will be my next 6-8 year system:

OOT

  • Core Specs:
  • Intel Core i7 6700k
  • ASUS Maximus VIII Formula motherboard
  • G.SKILL Ripjaws V Series 64GB DDR4-3333 RAM
  • Intel 750 Series 1.2TB PCIe 3.0 SSD
  • Dual NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB GPU (to be released)

Already, even without the GPUs, just using the integrated graphics, this machine is burning up the charts on everything BUT 3D, and is staying cool and quiet while doing it:

Benchmark XMP Disabled XMP Enabled
Passmark 8.0 – CPU Mark 11,522 12,071
Passmark 8.0 – 2D Graphics Mark 959 1,005
Passmark 8.0 – Memory Mark 3,163 3,769
Passmark 8.0 – Disk Mark 12,168 13,418

The big surprise here is the blazing score in 2D graphics – the Passmark in-app comparison charts showed this rig as coming close to or surpassing a typical GTX 980 rig in every 2D subscore, even without its dedicated GPUs. This chart also shows the importance of getting high-quality, high-speed RAM AND enabling XMP in the BIOS. Going with DDR4-3333 speed memory over the minimum DDR4-2133 speed memory gave me a nice boost in performance not just in memory benchmarks but across the board, though only after configuring the BIOS to allow the system to take advantage of the faster speed memory. For me, a 5-10% boost in performance means a few more months in the rig’s useful life, so I think it is worth it.

If reality were not a factor, the only part that I would swap out is the CPU – it would have been nice to have an LGA1151-compatible 8 core CPU by now, though it would be easy/cheap enough to swap out once the Kaby Lake/Cannonlake processors are released if the gains warrant. I just couldn’t see going with anything other than an LGA1151 setup.

Overall, though, it’s an exciting time to build a system, especially if your main rig has not been rebuilt from the motherboard up in 7 years. Once complete, I expect that this rig will be fast enough to:

  • Leave skid marks on the carpet.
  • Retroactively fix the frame rate of game sessions I’ve played over the last few months. (Not just make the games run faster now. But make them run faster in the past when I was playing them on my old rig.)
  • Commune with the Speed Force.
  • Emulate a Tardis.

I’ll post additional benchmarks once the GTX 1080s are installed.


Ludum Dare 35

posted by Duke
Apr 12

It’s that time of year once again. The time when US income taxes are due, the time when old man winter finally passes out in the middle of Ohio in a fit of drunken rage, and the time when I participate in the upcoming Ludum Dare.

Preparations are all just about made. My schedule for the weekend is clear, including the day before and after the competition. My rig and tools are ready to go, and I’m paying close attention to the theme voting.

Reviewing last year’s retrospective, I see two key areas to focus on for improvement: Game controls, and making sure to get to bed at a reasonable hour. Focusing on humor is also something that always serves me well, and will continue to be a goal. Maybe, hopefully, my inspiration this year will be for a 2D game, which would be less complex to pull off, though if I do go 3D, I’m going to try my hardest to use the stock CharacterControllers in Unity. That should help a lot with the controls.

If I do manage to keep it to 2D, maybe a WebGL build will be possible. If I do anything 3D, though, I’m not going to touch Unity’s WebGL deployment, which continues to disappoint even in Unity 5.3. At this point I’m left with the obsolete WebPlayer and downloadable .exe’s as distribution platforms. Not an optimal situation. At any rate, I could rant about that for a good long time; I’m still plenty sore at ALL players involved for rendering my older games inaccessible to many without providing a VIABLE path to move them forward.

Back to Ludum Dare… another reason I’d like to do a 2D project is that I just have not done a lot of it. Even for things that could be 2D like Breaking Block, I tended toward 3D. Chroma Invader from way-back-when was really the only serious 2D project I did. Hence my surprise when other developers tell me they stick to 2D because they fear the complexities of 3D. I’m kind of the opposite – I stick to 3D because I fear the complexities of 2D artwork, because I suck at drawing things that are not abstract. Ludum Dare is one of the places where abstract 2D can actually work well.

As always, I hope to do well, and have a blast while doing so. And create and release a new game.