Sunday, December 18, 2016

Here's the plan... (Next Steam Greenlight campaign)

     I have been making excellent progress on my next game project and I gotta say, I have never been so excited about anything I have ever made as much as I am for this new game. Anyway, I don't want to start rambling on about how much of a good job I did on my new project. That doesn't mean anything at all. Instead of going on and on about how great I think my game is - I need to actually focus more on completing it and getting it out there. Gotta tone down that ego. Sheesh!

     Anyway, in all seriousness, yes I have been making excellent progress on the game however, it is no where near complete. It's not even close to where I want it to be yet. That is not necessarily a bad thing. I am taking my time with this one and polishing it up in every area as much as I can. Polish and quality is something I have been talking a lot about lately here on the blog and it is something that I am really stressing and pushing into the next game. I want the game to be as good as I possibly can make it.

      As much as I am proud of my first Steam release Potato Thriller. This game will be nothing like Potato Thriller in anyway. Not even close. And I don't want it to be like Potato Thriller actually. As I said in an older blog post, I have grown and matured a lot since the release of Potato Thriller and really have learned and become more skilled as a game developer. I want this next project to show that. I am capable of more Potato Thriller type games. 

I know I often say this, but I will try to say this in the least braggiest way as possible - This is going to be the most polished thing I have ever worked on. Damn! that still came across as egotistical... Honestly though, I am just really excited about the work I have put into this project and I keep trying to show that in the blog updates but it comes across as some looser indie developer who is really full of himself. But it really is not my intention to come across like that. 

Next game has dev's name in the title... Say's he doesn't want to 
come off as egotistical...

     The reason I want to share this next game so bad is because when I originally released Potato Thriller, sure it had some fans but, it also had a lot of other people who criticized it harshly. 
And I have said this before, but I always accept all forms of criticism. I have nothing against negative criticism at all. I actually even agree with most of the criticism I got over Potato Thriller and this is really one of the main reasons as to why I am trying to improve and show that with my next game. I feel like I kind of got this image as some kind of "hack dev" or some cheap indie dev who doesn't care about the quality of their games and just puts stuff out to make a quick buck. That is not me at all. I care so much about the quality that goes into my games. Hopefully I can do that with my next game. And I am really excited to get it out there and share it with the world. I love video games so much and respect them as the wonderful art form that they are. I'm very passionate about games. It's cheesy I know.

WOOOOW character has different uniforms built in!

     This game will definitely be a 2017 release. But hopefully early 2017. I had originally planned on launching the Greenlight campaign on Steam for this game by the middle of the month if I reached a certain point in the games development. Unfortunately that won't be happening. So here's the plan (for now) - I am not that far off from hitting that "certain point" in the games development. What I want to do is get more done. My goal is to try launching the Steam Greenlight campaign by the end of this month and then hopefully finish and release the game early 2017. No promises just yet. Might not happen. But that is what I am aiming for and working hard to stay on my schedule. In the meantime there will probably be less blog post and updates but I will come back on here and share more whenever I get a chance to do so! If I launch my Greenlight campaign before the end of this month then I will definitely post an update here on the blog.

Until then, this might be the final post of 2016. If it is, I hope everyone has a safe and wonderful holiday break. Spend time with your families, play some video games! See you in 2017!

Things are gonna get weird...

Thursday, December 15, 2016

"Snowconesolid Productions"

Snowconesolid Productions logo

     Let's talk about "Business". This is a term that I personally cannot stand for many reasons but mostly because I am just bad at it. However, if you are serious about something or want to pursue your dream beyond it just being a hobby then you will probably be faced with this term numerous times. More specifically, lets focus on one of the most important parts of your business and that is "Branding". Whether you are a new YouTuber or Twitch streamer trying to make it big or a small indie solo game developer such as myself, the branding means everything. I think that building up your own brand is very important because it creates an identifiable image or name for your company, for your product and most importantly, for yourself.

Snowconesolid Mascot thing...

     As you can see by my own logo and mascot, obviously i'm not an expert on branding. But having or building your own brand is cool because it allows you to have this alternate name or alternate persona that is associated with your work. I started learning how to create games back in late 2010 and ever since then I have always identified myself as "Snowconesolid". This is the name I decided to go with as a developer. I know it is a very strange name, and I have talked about this before on the blog - it is really just a silly name that has no meaning. It was something I came up with years ago and then just started using it as your typical "online screen name" or online persona. The purple-cat mascot thing (above) also has no real meaning. It was just something that started as a terrible random drawing I did on paper years ago that continued to evolve. For some reason I decided to make this my logo and something that would identify my work. I started placing the words "Snowconesolid Productions" in all my games as if I was an actual game studio and ever since this has just been something I continued to roll with.

     Anyway, as I continue to hit big milestones in my journey in game development the more serious I am starting to become as a indie game developer. I know I don't make the greatest games but I am constantly working hard and doing my best to keep improving. I have been doing this for years now, but the more I do it, that need to continue creating just keeps getting bigger. I am normally the type of person who tries something and then eventually gets bored and moves onto something else. But with game development that is not the case. I am very passionate and love creating games so much. I am starting to realize more and more that this is something I want to continue doing. So I will continue to make more games and expand my brand as much as I can. 

     I recently created a new separate twitter account: @SnowconesolidPR
This account will be the account for "Snowconesolid Productions". I'll be honest though, I will probably only use this account to spam "promote" my new stuff  such as new games, Steam greenlight campaigns, etc. Hopefully I won't come across as too spammy promoty (that's not a word) with this account.

     Anyway, my main account is still: @snowconesolid
This is my original account. It will still be the account that I will use more and be more active on and get to actually just be myself on. So if you are interested check those out. (Or don't. Totally not trying to advertise my twitters right now...)

     Anyway, to end things off I just want to quickly take the time to say thank you to all of you out there for constantly giving me the motivation to continue doing what I enjoy doing. This blog has been up for years now. It was dead when I first started, but as I continue to post and look at the stats for it, i'm seeing that it is starting to get daily visitors and the numbers are growing. More traffic is coming in. More people are starting to reach out to me on twitter and take the time to say "hi", or "your game is cool". And more people are checking out my games and letting me know what they thought of them. And that is just so cool to see. Seeing people take the time to play something I created or take an interest in my work makes me genuinely happy. It keeps me motivated. So thanks everyone. You are all awesome and I am so grateful for all of you. I look forward to sharing the journey ahead!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

ONLY $1 WOW!!!!!!

Need some 3d characters or environment props to quickly populate your Unity game but don't have the art skills or don't want to waste anytime making your own!?!? Look no further! As of today all of my asset packages that are available on the Unity Asset Store are $1 and less!

Beach props, rubber ducks, blocky looking characters, cartoon models, etc! Its all there! everything you need to make a game!!!! (Well not really, but you could use all of these for the art aspect of your game at least)

Check out my Unity Asset Packages here on the Asset Store:

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Feel of Atmosphere and progress update...

Gamedev and chill.....

Posting a quick update (mostly more screenshots) to share some new progress for my upcoming game "Samer Hills"

Early Lighting Test

The Atmosphere...
This game will be different from any of the other games I have created up to this point and creating the right atmosphere is very important. This new game will have many different themes to it such as dark, horror, etc. However, one very important theme, which also will serve as the main focus of the game is the idea of loneliness and isolation. 

Hello friend....

There won't actually be any real people/characters in the game to interact with other than the main character (PonyTail). I won't explain much of the story and the truth is that the plot to this game will be very open. One of my main goals with this game to leave a lot of room of individual interpretation. I want each player to have a different experience and attempt to understand the game in their own way. To better express the idea of loneliness and isolation, throughout the game you will find these wooden mannequins in different poses. The wooden mannequins are symbolic in many ways such as contributing to the theme of loneliness as well as symbolizing "fake" people. They don't move or do anything when the player tries interacting with them. This represents the idea of being ignored constantly.

What's up?

I am also aiming to creating a post-apocalyptic vibe in the game. So you will be placed in different scenarios that show this. Throughout most of the game you will notice really heavy grey fog everywhere, weird creatures and so on.

Look at that bug!

Foggy Forest

I don't want this post to be too long so I am going to end it here. I am making great progress on the game. It is all coming along nicely and I can't wait to share more of it down the road. Here is some more screenshots to end with. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

I don't "Asset Flip"

Screenshot of Blender Made original Game Assets (By Snowconesolid)

     "Asset Flipping" is when pre-made or store bought game assets (typically art assets such as character models, game props, environmental props, etc) are used to quickly create and sell a video game.

The Unity game engine user base has a very bad rep of doing this (mostly indie Unity developers) and are the ones who are typically called out for doing "Asset Flips". These pre-made game assets are typically purchased from the Unity Asset Store or are the standard free default game assets provided with the engine itself. Other than the use of store bought art assets, another common form of asset flipping is when the developer purchases a template for a complete game project off the store and simply resells it as their own project either on Steam or other digital gaming store fronts in hopes of making a quick buck with little or no effort put in at all. 

Why? Cuz money baby!

These pre-made game templates have had a lot of work put into them by their original developers and their purpose is to serve as a starting point for the developer to build off of for their own original game projects, or as a learning tool for new and under experienced developers. However, as stated above, there has been many incidents where devs look for an opportunity to obtain an easy profit. 

I'm not 100% sure about this, but I believe the term "Asset Flip" originated (or at least became a popular term) from a well known game critic and YouTuber named Jim Sterling - who has even done an entire video about "Asset Flips" 

Somewhere in the video Jim states "using assets to form a basis for your work - not a bad thing, but stitching together nothing but pre-made objects without any rhyme or reason - it simply cannot be called game development can it?" He also talks about how buying a bunch of pre-made assets from different sources/developers and throwing them in your game ruins its art direction and just becomes a huge mess. "It's an artistic car crash" - Jim Sterling (same video linked above). 

Jim Sterling can be seen as a very harsh and over critical person when it comes to games. Especially indie games. I personally have experienced this first hand because one of my games, "Potato Thriller" was a victim of Jim's criticism and was featured on his "Best of Steam Greenlight Trailers" - a segment where Jim picks not the greatest looking greenlight submissions and gives feedback and criticism based off of the trailer, screenshots and description. In his video he called my submission "cringe", "terrible mic quality" (the mic was pretty bad, i'll admit) and trying to be "memes". After Jim's video went up a whole lot of his viewers poured onto my Steam Greenlight page, left nasty comments and down-voted the game to Steam hell. I'll be honest, looking back at the trailer I created at the time - it was terrible. I had no idea who Jim Sterling even was at the time and it wasn't until he covered my "Potato Thriller" game that I found out about him. I took all this in a really lighthearted manner and even subscribed to his YouTube channel on that day. I found it really funny and was even happy. Sure the game was getting an insane amount of downvotes and negative feedback, but it was getting feedback. It made me happy that my game was getting some kind of notice, even if it was infamy.
Sad Potato man...

Anyway, to get back on topic about "Asset Flips", despite all that has happened with my first Steam game, "Potato Thriller" - I actually agree with what Jim has to say in his video that covers "Asset Flipping". He makes a pretty good argument and very valid points.  

I personally have nothing against developers who do purchase assets to use in their games. I support this very much actually. I even created several of my own original asset packs and am selling them at extremely affordable prices on the Unity Asset Store in hopes to help other Unity developers with their projects (This ad has been brought to you by Snowconesolid Productions - buy my asset packs and you will become a successful indie game developer! ....and I really need a couple of dollars. please! I'm so poor!).

It is understandable if you are on a low budget, aren't a very good artist and need some props to use in your project, or if you are a small indie team and you are on a tight schedule to finish your project. But don't make your entire game based off of store bought assets. Don't buy an entire environment of a city, then buy a package of animated zombies character models and mash it together. Try to make your own unique character model, don't just purchase the typical standard "Army Guy" character model from the store and use that in your game as a main character. If you need to decorate your level with with some foliage and trees to add more to the atmosphere then buy a package of pre-made trees. But don't buy like 20 different asset packs each from a different developer/artist and mash it all together. It will be visible in your game and show that no effort or originality was put into the game you are developing. People could tell if you are using store bought asset packs. They would point out and say "hey I saw these same exact models in a completely different game developed by a completely different developer".  Aside from the art assets, purchasing an entire complete project and just reselling it as is without putting in any effort to make it your own original title is just a setup for failure in the indie game development community. Nobody will care about your Temple Run template you purchased then put out on the app store.... 

A prototype...

Anyway, that's not really the point of this article. I am not writing to tell people how they should develop their games or what to do. Not at all. I am simply giving advice and sharing my personal thoughts on the subject of "Asset Flipping". I understand that there are many game developers out there who would completely disagree with everything I said and that is completely fine. To each their own. If one development style works better for you then all the power to you.

 The main reason I bring any of this up is more of a personal preference for me as a developer and artist. Negative comments and harsh criticism over any of my games never bothered me one bit. I accept all forms of feedback with open arms and try to use that feedback to improve and better myself as a independent game developer. In fact, I even enjoy seeing negative feedback over my work to some degree. What gets me however, is when I am accused of being an "Asset Flipping" developer who buys pre-made assets and quickly throws something together for a quick dollar. That is the only thing that hits me right in my passionate game developing heart.  

Lana the Lemon, Potato Man and Hotdog Man.
I mean c'mon! where the hell will you find characters more original than this! ^^^ >:(

I do recall reading some comments on the "best of Steam Greenlight trailers" for my game "Potato Thriller" saying things such as "it's an Asset Flip", "Dev just bought everything from the Unity Asset store.", "I swear I have seen that weird Potato looking thing somewhere on the asset store before", etc. I know they might not be the best looking game assets, but they are definitely not store bought assets. 

Originality is something that is extremely important to me especially when it comes to visuals and art. My whole life, I have always had a great appreciation for art and always aimed to become a good artist myself. I have said this many times before throughout the years on the blog and other places, but I don't "Asset Flip". I never use anyone's art besides mine in my own projects and I don't like including anyone's artwork except my own in my projects. 

Screenshot of some Potato Thriller Art assets source files - The entire game, Potato Thriller is made up of pretty much everything you see in this image. 

Wireframe screenshot. All models made from scratch in Blender3d

Throughout all the years I have spent as an indie game developer I have always been very open about the development and work that goes into my projects here on the blog. I have always taken great pride in the fact that I created everything you see in game myself. I'm going to take a quick step back and admit one thing here. The only visuals in my game that I have not created myself and are store bought are particle fx (such as explosions, fire, rain, etc) and skyboxes (which most of the time I rarely even use a skybox in my games and often just use a generic color as the sky) that is it. But I created every other thing that you see in the game. Everything. Everything from the main character model to the tree that is just in the background and this is something that I am very proud of. I have spent years practicing and learning good 3d modeling, texturing, game asset creation, etc and I have greatly improved over the years since I first started and it shows in my work even.

Screenshot from one of my first 3d games ever from early 2012

Fast-forward a couple years. Screenshot from a newer project, late 2016

Screenshot of one of my first original character models. Early 2012

Screenshot of a much newer and modern character design. Late 2016

By this point, if you read this far into the post then I must sound like a really whiny egotistical hipster who just sits in a coffee shop all day trying to act like some successful artist. Looking back at what I wrote, it does sound like that actually... But I am not writing this article to brag about what a good artist I am. But instead to express how passionate I am when it comes to the artwork behind the games. I care very much about how my games look and the originality behind them. If anybody ever asks me "did you make all of this yourself", I could confidently say that  I did create everything in the game myself. It is all my own original art and design. (Okay, so yeah for bragging rights then..... Shut up! you brag about your accomplishments too!) :D

As I just said above, I care a whole lot about the artwork and I put in a lot of time and effort creating each art piece/3d model from scratch to be unique and original. In all honesty, I know that I don't create the greatest games and I don't make the nicest most visually appealing looking artwork. I might be terrible at game development, I might be a lousy artist, but one thing I am not nor will ever be is an "Asset Flipper". That is not my style...

Monday, November 21, 2016

Skies and Lighting

     Today I want to talk about lighting. Lighting is a very important in both in games and movies. In games, especially 3d games - sure it is important to have good quality 3d models and a unique style, but it is really the lighting that can make or break the visual look you are going for. The lighting is important because it sets the mood. With good lighting you could set pretty much any mood you could think of. Making a scary horror game? Do something unsettling with the lights, make them flicker, change them to an eerie dark red. Want a bright cheery colorful day? Turn the lights up, give them a warm sun color. Is the game sad? Make the lights darker, gloomy and depressing. You get the idea.

     The lighting makes the game world feel more immersive and really just brings everything together in terms of the art assets. Lighting is an area of its own that designers usually study. There is a lot that goes into good lighting. With that said, I am not a professional lighting artist and some people might disagree with some of the statements I mentioned above. However, I personally feel that it is important to at least have a good basic understanding of creating good lighting. Again, I am no lighting master and i'm sure many professional lighting artist might slam me on my lighting skills if they saw them.

     Anyway, with all that said, this blog isn't really about how to make good lighting, or what makes good lighting. It is more about the type of lighting that I want to achieve in my upcoming game "Samer Hills". Throughout the years, all my experience with making games - "good lighting" is an area that I often just looked pass. Actually, looking back at any of my older games, I can shamelessly say that the lighting is absolutely terrible. I didn't know at the time how important lighting was. I started getting a better idea for lighting with my previous horror game "Potato Thriller", but it still isn't really good. It has all really been a learning process all these years (and in some way will always be a learning process) but I have come really far since I started and just gained so much more knowledge about game design and development.

     So let's talk a bit about what I am trying to go for with "Samer Hills". I want the game to have a surreal and unsettling mood. Like it is its own reality. I don't want it to feel like the player is in familiar place that they could see in real life. But at the same time, I want it to feel real enough to pull the player into that world and is an immersive experience overall. Kinda like how immersive the movie "interstellar" was. But at the same time, I don't want them to feel like they are in outer space because its not a space game. Not sure if that made any sense. It probably didn't. But it makes sense to me and that is all that matters. I think?

     With my new game "Samer Hills" on the horizon, my new found goal is to really focus on nailing not just lighting, but all major important areas of game design down this time around. I don't think it is impossible for one person either (I know, it sounds really ambitious and even narcissistic to some degree, but I honestly feel like I have gained enough skills as a game developer to accomplish this, and I hope to show it in my next title.)  I want to create a really good quality polished game. I am taking game development more seriously and want to be taken more seriously as a game developer. I look forward to sharing my next game soon and hopefully I don't disappoint. More updates soon to come!

Friday, November 18, 2016

What's beyond these vast virtual worlds?

     Absolutely nothing. Video games are all lies and illusions. The curse of learning how to create and design your own video games is that it takes the magic away. As a little kid I always liked to imagine and think that there where places beyond the in game worlds that you could explore. Areas that are hidden. There is this sense of curiosity when you are thrown into a big game world for the first time to explore for yourself.

    You look at high mountains and think to yourself "is anything on the other side. Can I climb up those mountains and see what is behind them?" Later you find out that it is nearly impossible to get even half way up these in game mountains. That is because they are designed to act as game barriers to prevent the player from going beyond the boundaries of the game world. Why? Because there is nothing left in the game world to see. There is nothing behind those mountains except for an empty infinite space that will just go on forever and ever. Those mountains aren't even modeled/detailed from the backsides most times. They are just awkwardly cut and empty and you could see through them if you look at them from that side. 

     But the player never sees the other side of the mountain. Because the player isn't meant to see the other side of the mountain. That would ruin the experience and break the immersion for the player. The game developer on the other hand sees the game from every single possible angle. They are the ones putting it together after all. The game world starts out as this empty blank space that is then filled up by the developer to create this illusion that this tiny little world has some sort of life to it. But the developer knows that its all illusion. The game world is all fake. So the magic and excitement of being able to imagine that there is something more there is none existent to the developer. 

     Back to my earlier point, as a kid I would spend hours in front of my TV screen with my N64 constantly playing Zelda Ocarina Of Time. I was fully immersed in the game world and I always wondered if there was anything beyond Hyrule. Was there even a way to get out of Hyrule? The game felt so magical to me. I was sitting in my tiny bed room, yet I was exploring this huge lifelike world through my TV screen. I eventually learned about a glitch that lets you go past the boundaries of Hyrule. There was this area in the Hyrule castle section of the game. If you angled and positioned Link just right, you could have Link walk up this area that is not meant to be a walk-able area for the player. It was designed as a barrier to hide the ugly truth of what is behind the beautiful game world. 

     I climbed this area over and over again and Link constantly fell back down to Hyrule grounds because of the game physics as if the game was trying to tell me "No! you aren't suppose to see what is beyond this point! You can't go here!" (it was a pretty hard glitch to do) Determined to see what was beyond these flat mountains, I finally got to the top. What I saw when I got to the top broke me. As a child, I was crushed. There was nothing behind these mountains. I could see the games skybox moving around. Rotating almost as if someone glued a picture of clouds on this cylinder shaped lamp shade. I looked down from those mountains only to see a dark empty void of nothing. I could see other parts of Hyrule castle rendering out from the distance, but everything was flat. There was nothing at all. I moved Link forward and he fell out of the game world into the empty dark square pit of darkness. He fell endlessly. I could see Hyrule castle and the rest of the game world start to disappear because of how far Link fell. 

     Everything in the game just felt so fake at that point. I felt like someone just took Link and put him on this movie set with all these fake props. Video games have been ruined for me ever since I had this traumatic experience as a kid. I never looked at them the same. The magic was gone forever...

     Of course, I am only joking about how this ruined video games for me. Actually, when I saw this I was like "woah cool! This is so awesome!" because it gave me an idea of how games are made. It let me see for the first time ever a more "behind the scenes" look at video games instead of just seeing the game world for what it was suppose to be seen as and to me that was super interesting. I actually tried to see if I could glitch out of other parts of the game later on. And I think this is something that all gamers try experimenting with as well. They try to break the game, they see if they could create a situation or do something in the game that wasn't intended for the player to do. I have even seen some people trying to do this with my own game before such as "Potato Thriller" and I think it is hilarious. Watching someone else do that to your own game is very cool actually. Because its like "hey thats not what I wanted you to do. No! you aren't suppose to go there! you aren't following my game rules! I knew I should of blocked off this area..." So it is really interesting to see someone essentially rebel against the rules of the game world you created. You see the player play your game in a completely unexpected way and that is because they are curious to see what lies beyond. That, or they just really want to break the game because of how board they got from playing by your rules. But either way, it is really cool to see and a great feeling.

      I am starting to just ramble and even switch topics at this point so I will end this on a short note. In all seriousness, if you are thinking about becoming a developer, going into game design, learning how to make games, becoming an indie dev, doing it as a hobby, working in games in a professional AAA studios, etc. I say go for it! Learning about how game worlds are created, what goes into them, how they work, etc - is all very very interesting stuff to read up on. It is very fascinating to see the hard work behind everything. I always loved seeing behind he scenes stuff in movies and games more than the actual game, movie, etc itself.  Seeing the tricks used to create an illusion for a certain moment or scene in any kind of medium is really satisfying because you have that moment of "ahhh! that is how it was done. I was wondering how they did this". You then have that realization that you could do something similar. It is a very awesome feeling to be able to create your own games and share those experiences with others. I forgot where I heard this saying but it went something like this: "It's fun to play video games, but it is even more fun to make video games."

     PS: This is the first blog post I do in a long long time that isn't about me or the current game project I am working on. It feels nice to change things up every once in a while. I might do more posts like this in the future. Definitely more development blogs on the new game coming up as well.

More updates coming soon!