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Ker-Blam02:14 AM -- Tue April 29, 2008

Little update on the 'Gate today. Items are now destructible! It was a little bit complex for various reasons. First, items have never had 'health' in this engine, so I had to find a way to cram that in without breaking my existing map. That wasn't really a requirement, since I've hardly done anything on the map, but I always hate to trash things. Lucky for me, that turned out to be easy once I discovered how I load and save maps (discover is the right word - that code hasn't been touched in 8 years!).

Secondly, there was a bigger issue, which is that items only occupy a single tile of space. They're an element of the map. That would be okay if they were all tile-sized, but of course they are often quite huge, like my trash dumpsters. They could of course be arbitrarily sized, treated like monsters in that regard, and kept in a list, but that means a whole lot more collision checks, and I am already increasing the number of bullets that will be bumping into things at once, not to mention other stuff like the scrolling world that just slow this game down more than previous ones made with this engine. So bad idea to do that. Instead, I did something used in a lot of the previous games - added invisible blocks that can be placed to make items get in your way over a wider area. But this time, that's not enough - you need to be able to shoot those inviso-blocks and have it harm the main item, and when the main item is destroyed, all its associated inviso-blocks need to die with it, or you'd have strange invisible obstacles left over. So I made a whole system of invisible blocks with a direction, so you place items on the map, then inviso blocks around them that point to the item. They feed the damage done to them onto the item, and when it's destroyed, they go with it.

So anyway, it all works! You can destroy items now, but there are no explosions or anything, they just vanish. Yay?
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Ponies & Pals11:33 PM -- Fri April 25, 2008

It actually feels like something is happening with Happyponygate today! I spent the morning making tiles so that I could actually have some buildings instead of just grass and roads. The buildings I made look... well, pretty much just bad. They're not ugly or horrible, they just aren't good art or impressive in any way. They're just really simple block buildings. But you know what? I totally don't care! I just want to blow up ponies, so I am going to roll with it.

So, once I had my blah buildings available, I started actually laying out the map as it will be in the finished product. The firs tiny tidbit of map now exists - you are forced to walk down a dark alley behind a grocery store (okay, it's not dark... but it could be, this is the Supreme editor after all!) because the main road is blocked by those traffic barriers. At the end of the alley, you'll meet your first enemy and have to deal with it, and obtain your first weapon. That encounter doesn't exist yet, but the map is laid out for it. It doesn't sound like much, but it makes me feel more like this is something instead of me randomly toying with weapon ideas.

On an alternative note, you may recall that the Paladin was my second most hated WoW class in the past. I got over that and started rather enjoying her for a while. But then, my friend started playing with me, and he had a Paladin too. Since we both had the same thing, I decided to change my talent spec, so that we'd be different. I was formerly Retribution, as is to be expected, and I respecced as Protection. Wowzies. Quelastima (that's her name!) is now my favorite WoW character ever and has totally sucked me back into a game that was kind of getting less interesting (well, mainly the teaming up with my friend is what has sucked me back in, but this is seriously fun). She is absolutely invincible! Fighting a single enemy is terribly boring, because she doesn't do a lot of damage, so what I do is run around gathering up enemies, and I fight them all at once. They just pound on me as I stand there ignoring them, and one by one they gradually crumple to the ground. It still takes a while to kill an individual one, much longer than Retribution did, but by the time he's dead, the 5 friends he had around me are all pretty close to death themselves, and I mop up and enjoy the experience, none the worse for wear. I'm telling you, it's a whole new game, and it's fun.

On the other hand, there's not a lot of stuff to do in these fights. Mainly it consists of picking which guy to attack next (and it really doesn't matter which), so it'll probably get boring. But there's more fun stuff to come in the talent tree, like throwing my shield. And the other big downside is that I am very weak against magical enemies. But for the moment, it is just raw fun in liquid form. Only not liquid. I can fight ten guys at once!

It's hard to know what's appropriate to write in this journal, since this is obviously not a WoW blog or something. I'm sure a very small percentage of people who read this know what I was talking about there, and a smaller percentage care in the slightest. But it was exciting to me to discover this whole new game hiding inside WoW, so I blurt it out. Blurting is the key to blogging.
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Sneak Peek: Happyponygate05:19 PM -- Wed April 23, 2008

So many mounties! Recall once again that I do not have graphics for most things, and thus these mounties are not what they appear. They are in fact made entirely of chocolate! They are the Choco Blockos for now. Those blue bullets you see are actually chocolate chips. And the red bullets are marshmallows spit by the ponies, and the colorful bombs are jellybeans dropped by the many many badguys I have slain with the Choco Blockos prior to this shot.

Slain, you say? How do Choco Blockos hurt people? Well, that goes back to those chocolate chips. Enemies like to attack Choco Blockos, and when their bullets hit the blocks, some chocolate chips off and goes flying (for some reason at high velocity), inflicting deadly Choco Damage. So the Choco Blocko is actually a pretty effective weapon. It's pretty much useless as a shield, I have found, since it's just one Bouapha-sized block (and you can only fire them about once every 2 seconds). But enemies like to attack them, so they work as decoys in that respect, and rather dangerous ones. I may try making enemies ignore them, but then you'd have to be very careful about placing them and maneuvering to get them between you and the enemies. Which might not be so bad, actually...

They also dissolve over time (not visually, just eventually die), and explode into chocolate chips on death (but only the same number they launch when hit, nothing impressive). Leveling them up makes them last longer and survive more hits, fire more chips when hit, and makes each chip do more damage. It also raises the rate you can launch them slightly.

It's a little weird to see them as mounties, but they seem to work. If they remain working as decoys, attracting enemies, maybe I should change them to be chocolate easter bunnies rather than plain blocks. Something to consider for sure, and before I build the gun, since everybody knows a gun that lobs bunnies looks nothing like a blocko launcher.
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a leaf falls on a still pond.07:11 PM -- Mon April 21, 2008

Those words may just haunt your nightmares. Give our new tiny little game, Still Pond a try! It's my entry for this weekend's Ludum Dare 48-hour contest, and it is truly minimalist, but I think (until you win it, at least) it's a lot of fun. It's not really a game you'll come back to again and again, but you'll really enjoy the first time you win it. After the contest (and in less time than I had left during the contest when I quit... dadgummit), I added two new secret bonus modes to the game (which should really help with the replayability shortage). So find them and enjoy!
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Ludum Dare 48 #1103:03 AM -- Sat April 19, 2008

The latest Ludum Dare 48-Hour Game Development Contest is now on! The theme has been announced, and it is "Minimalist". So yeah, I'm not sure what I'm doing with that. Should be an exciting, if minimal, weekend.
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Sneak Peek: Happyponygate04:17 PM -- Thu April 17, 2008

So soon, it's another one! Forget my crazy idea of actually doing complex code work and implementing a map-based chocolate lake. I have fine-tuned the amoeba, and I like him.

He's got eyes now! The eyes always move to the center of mass. Of course, he's an albino at the moment, but again I must remind you that I don't have artwork yet, so he's made of snowballs and has Bonehead-bullets for eyes. He's a giant creepy friend that follows you around. I'm going to make him chase down enemies instead, but he is of course very slow moving. You can constantly add to his size by spewing your Oozinator, but there's a limit (actually, it removes the oldest blobs as you fire new ones beyond the limit, so you don't actually have to stop spewing) to keep it from chewing up all the available bullets. I think a good thing to have upgrade with levels is in fact that limit. When it's low, he can't be very big, but with the limit I have set right now, he can cover about 2/3 of the screen. Of course, the blobs only live so long, so you have to constantly fuel him if you want that size.

The name I have for this weapon is The Oozinator, but in order to get both winning weapons in the game, and for logical reasons, I am going to have it replace an existing weapon - The Fonduethrower. So that's an issue... Fonduethrower is also a really good name for this weapon! The amoeba is obviously made of fondue. But I do really like Oozinator. Anyway, the Fonduethrower was originally a shotgun, but since I also have a "spread shot" weapon, which is basically a shotgun with long range, I figure it could go (but I think I'll shotgunnify that other weapon, because the slow, big blast of a shotgun is more fun than the usual rapid-fire spread shot). I had actually already made the model for the Fonduethrower, and it is perfect for the Oozinator as well, so good luck on that one.

An amoeba gun! You don't see that in Ratchet & Clank. It's a pretty far cry from Varkarrus' original Chocotsunami, but I did say your goal was to inspire me, right? And who can complain about an amoeba gun?
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Sneak Peek: Happyponygate01:18 AM -- Thu April 17, 2008

I got to work trying to make the Oozinator (aka the Chocotsunami) work in a fun and interesting way... here was my initial attempt:

Obviously, first off, I don't have chocolate blob graphics, so I just used the big white snowball (what Snowguys throw) as a test, figuring it was big enough to cover the area well. The results are unimpressive. It is quite fun to spew out an ocean of blobs, but they really don't have any semblance of cohesiveness or liquidity (hmmm... that makes me realize I never made them attracted to each other, only repelled to keep the lake growing. I wonder how it would be if they were attracted as well). It just looks like golf balls scattering. I suppose some of that would be improved with the different graphics, but you still get things like the left edge of the picture here, where individual blobs have dashed off from the main shape. And of course the entire shape is full of holes in various places. It really just doesn't do the job.

Wow, I just tried some basic cohesiveness code (had blobs that are further away than they should be get pulled towards each other slightly), and now it's not a lake of chocolate at all... it's an evil chocolate amoeba. You throw down some and it makes a jiggly amoeba, then you throw some more, and the amoeba rushes over to engulf the new food. That might actually be a pretty cool weapon in its own right. It's quite amusing to watch. If I added that it follows you around, it could be really entertaining. Right now, you can drag it around by firing a little bit more. It's an enormous waste of bullets, though. It fires hundreds in a matter of seconds, and they linger for about 10 seconds each.

Tomorrow, I'm going to try a whole new approach not involving bullets at all, but rather an effect on the map, much like the darkness in Supreme. That gets a little more technical, but it solves the issue of how I used up the entire bullet supply in about 10 seconds of continuous firing with this weapon.
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Happyponygate fun!03:40 PM -- Tue April 15, 2008

Happyponygate is all about the community. We started off with submitting buildings to go in the city (I still haven't implemented a way to get them in, but it will happen!). Then it was time for the community to invent weapons to go in the game. That contest just ended, and I couldn't decide between the top two entries. I'm a little worried about the technical issues that one of them could cause, so depending on how it works out, I will either include a weapon that spews chocolate that spreads into a giant lake (by Varkarrus), or one that launches blocks of chocolate to use as barriers (by Ducky).

The other half of that contest, naming the weapon, didn't go as well. Unfortunately, there's a very specific style to how I've named the weapons, which you of course don't know outside of the H.R. Puffencrush and Licorice Whip (which really are both pretty much the least representative examples of the style), so nobody really came up with names that follow the style I am looking for, or at least nobody made ones that match it and at the same time fit the weapons that ended up winning! My sister suggested the name Ooze Ray which I really like for the chocolate lake gun (or actually Oozinator might be preferred...), and I don't know yet for the chocolate block gun.

But I should also mention the third winner of the contest, TyTBone, who did win for his name "The Kiss Of Death". It won't be the name of a weapon, but I have a great place to use it!

Which all leads us to the next bit of community input - the Monster Contest! Now you get to design one of the wacky minions of the Happy Ponies. I have one more contest in mind, and then hopefully I will also be able to do DumbFM like I have considered, which will mean a final giant funtest to wrap it all up. If I can come up with anything else for people to be submitting, I'll add that too. This is going to be the most community-driven game yet!
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Happyponygate Firepower11:23 PM -- Sun April 13, 2008

Hey, this is the last day to get an entry in for the Happyponygate Weapon Mini-Contest. Sometime tomorrowish (so okay, you have some of tomorrow too), it will be closed for all eternity! So take this opportunity to express your inner Oppenheimer by developing a chocolate-based weapon of mass destruction. I'm looking for that one perfect device, so the more the better! There's no limit on entries per person, so keep 'em coming. You may win with just a name, so get in there and get describing!
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Sneak Peek: Happyponygate10:51 PM -- Thu April 10, 2008

Still doing artwork, having done up a couple of bullet graphics today. That may not sound like much, but after I did a couple bullets that require actual 3D models (one of which required a complete set of animations, hmm what could it be!?), I set to work on one that is based entirely in code instead. I always like to be all secretive, but it's so fun and exciting that I must share!

You see, originally, one of the weapons was the Licorice Laser. It's a homing red laser beam (yes, in video games, laser beams can home in - try Forgotten Worlds sometime). That's not really that exciting, just a constant stream of damage to one target without you doing any aiming. But last night, I had an epiphany of obviousness. Probably it helped that I had just played Ratchet 3 and got to flail around with a Plasma Whip, but I got to thinking for whatever reason, and the result is:

The Licorice Whip!

How did I not think of that name originally!? Now, it's still technically a laser as you can see (and you can also see that it is coming out of the H.R. Puffencrush at the moment), but it functions... well, not like a whip at all, but like something weird. It's very fun to use. It heads toward your cursor, so you can whip it all around the screen, and as shown in the picture, it doesn't just follow it in a straight line, it swoops all around like a rope. It looks infinitely better in motion, but for now you have to settle for pictures. It also looks a lot less angular in motion, quite sinuous in fact (unless you move really fast). It's quite jiggly too, more like a jello whip than a licorice whip, but that's exactly how I wanted it. I spent an hour tuning the numbers until it was just jiggly enough.

In the left shot, I've been swirling the cursor in circles, so the whip is making rings that pulse down the line, much like spinning a rope in real life. And speaking of ropes, the whip is not just some abstract beam, it's a physical part of the world, hence the right-hand shot - I have roped a tree! It's actually pretty hard to wrap it around things, and it can slip through, but it achieves its desired purpose: you can't hit guys through walls with it.

So in the end, it's pretty much the same effect as the original idea - you can hold it on a badguy to constantly do damage, but it's way more fun this way, and you can really cover a lot of the screen with it if you flail it around wildly. It's mesmerizing. You know you've got a good weapon when it's fun just to swing it around without any badguys. And I suspect quite a few players will do exactly that when they first get this weapon, so I am very happy with it.

This whole thing turned out amazingly well on almost the first try. That's the kind of thing that makes me enjoy making games. So much nicer than the things that never come out right at all...
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Sneak Peek: Happyponygate11:22 PM -- Wed April 9, 2008

Well, I did artwork today, and that's the first thing I did. I don't know that it's the most productive thing to work on, but it was a lot of fun. I used a CD case I have for reference. The viewer can try to figure out exactly what case that is. The actual title screen will have those "runes" orbiting the pony head, not just sitting there. It'd be fun if the menu options did that too, but they'll probably just pop in from the side or something.

In terms of useful artwork, I didn't actually get a lot done. It turns out that creating fancy high-tech weapons takes a while. I wasn't working slowly or anything, it's just a lot to do. So I got 3 of the weapons modeled, and the 'ammunition' for one of them (because that weapon has its ammunition sticking halfway out of the barrel, so I needed to do that to make sure it matched). It's the most interesting and detailed ammunition in the game, it took longer to make than any of the guns I made. That should make you curious!

I've been having fun with making the weapons physically different. The 3 I made today, one is held like a normal gun (though a second hand is definitely needed to steady it, as it's enormous), one is upside-down like the Heavy Weapons Guy gun in Team Fortress (the handle is on top, as is a second handle for your other hand), and the third is shoulder-mounted. Of course, I think that covers all of the possible ways to hold a gun, so unless I decide one of them will be strapped to your head, they'll all be rehashes from here on out. Maybe I should do one that mounts across your waist like a steadicam. Or a backpack with two barrels coming out over your shoulders. We'll just have to see, because I've only done concept art on one of the other weapons.

I'm definitely trying to make them all enormous and look ridiculous. It's a little tricky because you run into trouble trying to get Bouapha to hold them. His first hand going on the trigger is fine, but when the gun is really big, getting his other arm somewhere to support tends to involve stretching that arm in a bad way. That's why the Puffencrush that's in the game now isn't nearly as big as I would like. I had to shrink it down so he could reach the second grip.
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Smashy Smashy12:14 AM -- Wed April 9, 2008

Today, I will admit to being unproductive, so in an effort to find some way to be productive, I came up with an interesting twist. I went out to the living room, dug through my PS2 games, and found every one that works as motivation/inspiration/research/rip-off material for Happyponygate, and I fired them up and played a bit. Here's what I played:
  • Simpsons: Hit & Run - I was looking at how driving went, but the general notion of driving around and then hopping out to do missions was appropriate. I think it helped me a little thinking about the driving, even though they obviously have a fully implemented physics simulation for their driving (and let me tell you, there is not a lot of stuff on the web - or at least not easy to find - about coding car physics). I'm definitely going to take a simpler road on that, but little concepts like "you turn faster while braking" are certainly the kind of general rule you can take from a complex physics simulation and turn into a very simple arcade rule.

  • Ratchet & Clank 2 - In this game, it turns out, your weapons only level up once! Well, I remember buying golden weapons or something later on back when I played it, but leveling them up doesn't go through a bunch of ranks. It just goes up to full, and it's done. Which is crazy, because I played for about 15 minutes and managed to level up 2 of the 3 weapons I had!

  • Ratchet & Clank 3 - This game, on the other hand, has (I think) 99 levels per weapon. Or maybe you only get up to V9 in the normal game, then go up to 99 in the second run-through. Ratchet games do a great job of making a second play worthwhile, let me tell you. Anyway, it is much more appropriate with its leveling. But the real thing I got out of both Ratchet games I played was something I hadn't even thought about, but is so obvious in retrospect! You can smash objects all over the place in these games, and it's just fun! So here's a whole new angle to Happyponygate, officially. Almost every item around is going to be destroyable, and destroying them will make Loonies (that's money, not Dr. Lunatic) go flying everywhere to pick up. It's two great tastes that taste great together - wholesale destruction, and collecting shiny objects.
I had Midway Arcade Treasures handy too, for checking out Super Sprint, but I didn't actually try it yet. Seems an appropriate choice - top down 2D driving!

So right now what I am doing is formulating a depressingly large art asset list, so I know what I need to create for this game. It's nothing like Sleepless Hollow, unfortunately. Everything in this game is new (well, maybe I can borrow LL2's teddy bears...), and an entire game's worth of art from scratch is an insane amount of work. One of the things of course is to come up with lots of random objects that can be scattered around town to smash - I've already got trash cans, dumpsters, mailboxes (official ones - haven't made normal house ones yet), streetlights and phone booths. I'll need other things... newspaper racks, benches, bus stops, bushes, fire hydrants. I don't know what else, but lots of assorted town things you can smash for spare change.
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Vacation Shutdown01:10 AM -- Mon April 7, 2008

Well, it's been a 2-week vacation, somewhat unintended and somewhat intended, and today is the last day. It started out as a short break for Easter, a couple days of fun and lowered work, but then the illness struck. That knocked out pretty much a whole week of the two weeks. I didn't even play WoW for most of that! That's a pretty serious malady. Then I got mostly better (still coughing, though), but it remained seriously vacationistic here. But Spring Break ends today, with Sol returning to her jobs tomorrow, and I doing the same.

So, the upside of it is that I am raring to go. I think the sum total of work I did over this break was to make this decision: I am going to crank out Happyponygate like a man possessed (by a Happy Pony), and get that out of the way so I can make LL3. So it's Happy Pony time around here and I am going to knock that thing down fast. I must!!
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April Fool's02:44 PM -- Tue April 1, 2008

Ha!! I was just kidding when... I mean, what you all thought was... um... no. I'm still recuperating. I don't have that kind of energy. But I thought I'd post something anyway, just to remind you - it is April Fool's Day. Please, think carefully about what you read today (not a bad move every other day, too, but today, even people outside of the news media are trying to trick you!). Jokes are fun unless you're the guy who falls for it and thinks something horrible is happening (but when you do, that sure is fun for everyone else!).

But if you'd like to see a great joke: The Food Court Musical

I like to think of today as Critical Thinking Practice Day. And that's something we could all use!
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