Saturday, August 12, 2017

Just getting started. Quality & Polish...

     This is something that I have talked about a few times here on the blog and I apologize if it sounds like I am constantly repeating myself throughout time. I have been making games for a while now. It has been nearly a decade since I embarked on this independent developer journey. I am constantly learning, improving and maturing as a game developer. This is something that I am honestly passionate about. It is something that I love for sure without a doubt.

     Although I have been doing this for years now, I feel like I am at that point where I am just now getting started in game development. I'm taking it more seriously. I understand the struggles of being an indie game developer. Making good games can be a real challenge. Lot's of hours of hard work goes into it. It takes a long time to see any results. Days go by. Sometimes you lose motivation. Then you get that motivation back and start hammering away. Then months go by and you lose motivation again and so on. However, I personally always find myself coming back because of my love for creation. It's like a hunger.

     Sorry for getting all poetic there for a second. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I really do care about the quality of my games. I mentioned this on my Twitter, but I constantly feel like I need to redeem myself for Potato Thriller. Don't get me wrong, I am very proud of all the work I did. I am proud I created Potato Thriller and put it out there. Releasing Potato Thriller on Steam is one of the biggest milestones I have ever reached as an indie game developer and I would never undo it if I could. Potato Thriller is definitely on my top 10 list of life accomplishments.  

     With that said, I am aware of all the issues Potato Thriller had as a game. I know the game seems very amateurish and I understand why someone wouldn't bother to play it just by looking at it's trailer or at screenshots of it. Although I am proud of my creation, I feel like it has stuck me with this image or a label that portrays me as an amateurish dev, who produces low quality games and that's all i'll ever make. 

   I don't want to be known as the guy who produces low quality games. I care about quality. I really do. I want to deliver unique and enjoyable game experiences. Memorable experiences. So, I am working hard to ensure that my next game and all my future games are the best that I can make them and super polished. This is a reason why I haven't released anything in a long time.

     With all that said, i'm going to be away for a while. Away from this blog, social media, just my online presence in general so that I can truly focus all my energy into my upcoming game. To everyone who has followed my work, played my games, checked out this blog and supported me as a developer, I thank you. You are all awesome. Next time I post an update here on the blog, it will be the announcement and official Steam page for my next game. Bye bye for now!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Some teasers

     Hello everyone. Going to keep this post quick and short. Here's some cool teaser screens and gifs of what I have been working on. Spoiler, it appears to be a Potato Thriller 2 or something like that.. More info + updates soon. Okay bye!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Honest post. I don't know what i'm doing... learning, progress...

     Happy 4th of July everyone! I'm a day late I know. Anyway, I always try to at least get 2-3 blog posts out a month (sometimes I only get one) so the blog doesn't have that abandoned feeling to it. There is nothing new with me. As usual, I am still working on my next game. Just grinding day by day. Some days I make really good progress and other days I make no progress at all or get stuck on something for a couple of days.

I mentioned this before but, "Potato Thriller" was the last game I published and then I started working on my next title (which is my current project). So it has been over a full year since I put anything new out there. Part of me is disappointed with myself because I am taking so long to make something new and at the same time I feel like this is better because I am making an overall better quality game with more polish. I have been doing a lot of research and learning over the year and improving myself as a game developer to deliver the best content I could because I really don't want to rush a project and put out something just for the sake of putting something out.

I have had ups and downs with the current project I am working on and throughout this year. It has been kind of a confusing journey so far because one second I would say I am working on a certain project and then the next second I would lose motivation and say I am working on a smaller project or something completely different then switch back to the other project and so on and just cause a bunch of confusion for myself and on the blog. It can be hard to stay motivated and attempt to be creative or create something everyday as a game developer and I am sure many other developers, artist, content creators, etc can relate. But, I always find myself eventually coming back and putting in the hours because of my passion for creation.

As I have been doing a lot of learning and improving over the year I have also been working on this very abstract game project originally named "Samer Hills" at the same time. This is the project that I was referring to that has been giving me ups and downs and causing me headaches. I feel like I have been saying something different about this project whenever I talk about it on the blog. I constantly change its name and say it's going to be this or that. So just to be completely honest, I sometimes have no idea what I am doing or what I want to do. Often I can't make up my mind about something and I lose motivation (I know I already said that) but it's such a common thing and I think we all have those days sometimes. Personally, something that I want to stop doing is coming up with release dates or setting deadlines for my own projects. I feel like this is something that contributes to making me lose motivation to finish something and it would just add in stress because I feel like I would need to keep my promise and meet that deadline. I know many people actually use this method of setting deadlines for themselves and it actually keeps them on track, but for me it just doesn't work. I hate when I say something like "I'm working on a new game and I will release it in a month from now" or "My new game comes out July 17th" and then I end up missing my deadline so I come back on here and say that I will have it out by [insert new promised date here]. It just doesn't work out for me. I've learned my lesson. And i'm not just specifically talking about my game projects but everything. YouTube for example, I make a "developer video update" after months of no activity and say that I will do daily video updates each week or each month and then I just kind of disappear from my YouTube channel for a long period of time. From now on I won't set dates or promise to have something out at a certain time. Whenever I finish something i'll simply just put it out. Or if i'm super close to finishing something and am really confident that I will have it out by a certain time then I will definitely set a deadline for myself because I know for sure that I would be able to reach it in time. Other than that, I just don't want to specify certain dates or make promises.

Anyway, sorry to get off topic. I know I am rambling on now but I just wanted to make an honest blog post and talk about some things I have had on my mind. As for the actual game project (formerly known as Samer Hills) I am still working on it. Slowly making progress. Constantly making changes and trying to decide how the game will play out in the end. I still have a lot to do but pretty much this next game will be my biggest game. I want to put in all my ideas into it and just make something really unique to put out there in the indie gaming scene. This next project will be my ultimate masterpiece! ...that is if I ever finish it of course.

I don't really have anything to show at the moment but for the past couple weeks I have mainly been working on building mechanics for the game such as Enemy ai's and weapons. I can confirm 2 things that will be in my next game. First, Nosey Nose enemies (from Potato Thriller) will be back and second, the toilet plunger will also be back as a usable weapon. Not only that, it will be the strongest weapon in the game and deals the most damage.

Here are a bunch of screenshots from prototype levels and development.

I'm going to end the blog post here for now. Thanks for reading. Bye!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Potato Thriller 1 Year Anniversary!

This post is like an hour and a half late, but it is still technically the 22nd in some areas so I will post this anyway! (Even though the posting date says the 22nd, I am actually posting this on the 23rd from my end because I was always too lazy to set up the proper date in my time zone. Actually, all of the dates on my blog posts are off by one day. This isn't making me look very professional. ANYWAY! LETS GET INTO THE ACTUAL POST NOW)

Today marks the one year anniversary of Potato Thriller! On this exact day (almost exact day) last year (June 22, 2016) I released a special version of the game originally called "Potato Thriller Steamed Potato Edition" on the Steam store. As an independent game developer, this marked a major milestone for me personally. I know that this game isn't perfect and it definitely is not for everyone but, it is a project that is very special to me and it is something that I am very proud of. This game marked many first for me. For example, this is my first game on Steam, this is the first game that actually got me feedback and criticism from players, this was the first lengthy game I ever made and so on. The list goes on and on.

With that said, I think the biggest one for me was that this was the first game I made that was actually being seen by people and played. which means everything to me as a developer and it is the most awesome thing. And I want to clarify that I am not trying to make it sound like I am saying "oh a lot of people bought this game and I made a ton of money, look at me i'm a successful game developer har har har" - This isn't what I am trying to say at all. Honestly, I barely made anything off the game. But I don't want to get into that stuff. This post isn't about money or success or bragging rights or anything like that.

What I mean is that, as silly and stupid this game was, people actually gave it a chance. I created a game, I put it out there and it was given a chance to just be a thing in the world of video games. Or I guess I should say the indie game scene and for that I am so grateful. The game got a lot of love from many fans while at the same time received a ton of hate from just as many people. And I am grateful for that. I think it is every artist's dream not to have their work loved by everyone, but to have people notice their work, critique their work and so on. Potato Thriller was that project that did that for me.

Anyway, this is starting to become a messy blog post and just me rambling, but from the bottom of my heart I want to thank all of you out there who have supported me as a game developer, took interest in my work, sent me some feedback, gave me criticism and so on. I want to thank all the people who gave Potato Thriller a chance, all the players of Potato Thriller, all you YouTubers and Streamers who covered the game on your channels, game journalist who wrote reviews and articles, people who did fan art, the people who reached out to me with messages telling me how much they enjoyed the game and so on. I am truly grateful. You are all awesome and are the reason I stay motivated to continue creating games and other stuff. I appreciate each and every one of you.

To celebrate, Potato Thriller is currently 70% off on Steam as of this post. This sale is part of the Steam Summer sale which runs from June 22nd to July 5th. You can check out the Steam Page here if interested:

Happy Birthday Potato Man!

I can't believe that it has been a full year since I released this game. Time really does fly by. It's funny because looking back at Potato Thriller a year later, I am starting to see the many flaws the game has and why many people hated it. I see some bits of the game and face palm at my own work and say to myself "I can't believe I did that" or "why did I think it would be a good idea to put this in the game?" Again, it wasn't the perfect game. I understand how it came across as amateurish and low quality to some people. I'm not disagreeing with anyone. However, it is still something I am proud of. It shows me as a developer from a certain point in time. I really did put in a lot of work and effort into the game and made it the best I could possibly with the skill set level I had.

With that said, I am truly passionate about creating games. It is something that I love doing and want to keep doing. I really do care about delivering unique memorable gaming experiences and I am constantly working hard to improve. Over the year I feel like I have really matured a lot as a game developer and really am starting to take creating games more seriously. That doesn't mean I won't make my games silly and stupid anymore, they can still be silly and stupid, but at the same time need to have a certain level of quality to them.

Looking to the future!
It has been a full year since Potato Thriller has been out on Steam and it has also been a full year of silence. I haven't published anything new at all after Potato Thriller. However, this doesn't mean I haven't been working on anything. I have been developing a couple of different projects actually and I look forward to sharing them sometime in the future. Thanks for reading and more updates soon!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Samer Hills Progress?

     Huh? What have we here? A cowboy uniform and another uniform that looks very very familiar...

Also, a farm setting?

Sorry. Not a very informative or content filled post. This is more of just a nod to confirm that I am still working on a game project. But yeah, overall I would say that I am making good progress on the project. I will have more updates and posts with more information soon. Okay bye!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Fake products in games + Making Of "Wood-Be-Gone" spray

     Coming across a fake product in a video game is a very common thing to happen to the player and placing such products in the game is a design practice that game developers/designers have been doing for ages now. This practice of course is also done in other formats of media outside gaming such as films, tv shows, comics, paintings, etc. I personally believe that fake products typically stand out the most in games because usually the player gets a better chance to explore and find something on their own time where as in a film, the viewer might miss something placed in a frame or not catch it the first time they watch the movie.

But why? What is the point?
This is going to sound like basic design for beginners or something that is just common sense, but artist and designers are constantly looking for ways to make their game world or film, art project (what ever work they are doing) feel as believable as possible. What is one way they can achieve this? Simply ask themselves, "What kind of products would the player expect to find in this world?", "What kind of products do the characters use in their own world?' etc. Maybe you are working on a modern day city environment so people should expect to come across things like vending machines, billboard signs that advertise a new phone, etc. Or maybe you are working on a futuristic world that takes place in space. The player would expect to come across more futuristic and advanced products instead of your regular bag of chips and cigarette packs. The products along with every other art asset should be as consistent as possible in order to not break any immersion in the world that the viewer or player is experiencing. Of course this is just my own opinion and not a mandatory design rule. The world can still be immersive while at the same time feature out of place items/products, but it can be much harder to pull off.

Optional and mandatory products/items.
It really is not hard to come across such items in games and almost any game you play most likely does have it's own set of products placed throughout the world. The GTA series with it's line of food products and drinks is a good example. One I could think of off the top of my head is the Sprunk energy drink you can find. The Dead Rising series is another excellent example of a game that maybe has hundreds of fake products. Speaking of Dead Rising, this brings me into my next point. Some games feature fake products that are just there to make the world believable while other games create product brands that are absolutely mandatory to use in order to progress in game. A game that did a great job of doing this was again Dead Rising. Introduced in Dead Rising 2, the Zombrex was a key item to have. You might be thinking "so what? every game has key items the player must get" - That is true, but what made Zombrex so unique was how important the game made it seem. There were ads for it, branding and everyone in the game was aware of it and how important it was. You are in a world in which a zombie outbreak has happened, but a semi cure has been found to prevent you or loved ones from turning into zombies if bit and you could get this product in places like pharmacies, over the counter. Dead Rising 2 made it feel like an actual real product in the game world. While it was a mandatory item to have, the game never really forced you to go out and get it. It nagged you to get it, but you didn't have to listen if you didn't want to. However, it made the player very aware of how important it is to have and naturally, the player would keep track of time and go out to try and find this product just to have it on hand. Like in real life, if you go grocery shopping you always make sure to grab that one really important necessary thing, like toilet paper for example. It added a bit more immersion to the whole experience and just made the world you are exploring feel more believable.

Every detail counts.
This is kind of more related to the paragraph before I talked about optional and mandatory products in games. Sorry to keep jumping back and forth between subjects. But, going back to talking about design and making the world as believable as possible. To many, placement of fake products is just a minor detail that is often just looked past. Often, the player won't even really care if they come across something like this. And it really isn't that big of a deal. I'm not even sure if this post was worthy of having it's own large article written out. But I am running out of ideas for my blog. Anyway, I personally love coming across small details like this in games. I like taking the time to just look around the world a bit and see what products it has to offer and compare them to real world items even. (I know, I am a huge loser) But as an artist you want to try and pay attention to these small details, learn from them and see how you can incorporate them into your own works and make them more believable. The fact that the designers and developers took the time to create a their own line of products and fake brands just for the sake of their creation to make the game world (or movie) feel as immersive as possible shows how dedicated and passionate they are about their craft and is something that I personally do appreciate seeing.

Anyway, this was just my own little theory and views on the idea of fake products in games. I'm sure not everyone agrees or feels the same, but I think it is an interesting subject to talk about relating to game design. I tried to word this as best as I could, but the post was kind of all over the place. Apologies if I didn't really make much sense in today's article. With that said, I also have a new "Making Of" that I would like to share. I decided to design my own fake product for one of my upcoming games that I am currently developing. Below is where I discuss the process and share the workflow of how I created "Wood-Be-Gone Bug Spray" - An original fake product by ME!

     Product design is something that I never really payed much attention to until one day I visited a local Chinese store in my area. It was my first time there and there were a lot of products I have never seen or heard of before in my life. For some reason almost everything stood out to me and was very eye catching because of how well the packaging was designed. Bright, colorful and full of character I suddenly became interested in all of it. I would stop, look at something and say "the packaging on these items is done so well!" and then it dawned on me how important product design actually is. Having nice packaging, branding, and eye catching designs are just as important as the actual product itself.

Anyway, that was just a little short story of what got me interested in product design. Let's get into this fake bug spray I made.

"Wood-Be-Gone!" is a fake bug spray I created for my upcoming game. This is a common item that the player will come across. It is also a usable item that could be picked up and used against enemies. I don't want to get into too much detail right now, but quick summery: there has been an outbreak of these new type of insects in the game that carry a deadly (fictional) disease that has gone viral in the games world. The spray is used to instantly these bugs. The bugs typically travel in packs and the spray acts as a quick solution to neutralize any threat they impose. This is an item that will aid the player through their journey. As for the name "Wood-Be-Gone", it will be explained in the game why it is named that.

Break Down:
First I started out with the modeling. This was a very simple and quick process. Since I was modeling a spray can, I started out with just a basic cylinder shape and then modeled in things like the metal rims, the spray cap, etc. The whole model is just a circular cylinder. Nothing fancy and nothing over complicated. After modeling, I quickly layed down some base colors (which change by the end of this) and marked my seems to prepare for unwrapping.

Texturing the model:
This was probably the most time consuming part of the process because I wanted to make it look like an actual real life product. I began by adjusting my UV map, baking base colors and exporting my diffuse and uv map out. I brought those maps into GIMP and experimented with various concepts and designs until I finally created a texture I was happy with.
uv map layout

initial design I created.

I would constantly switch between blender and gimp to see what my texture looked like on the 3d model.

texture test

The Logo Design:
Everything on the texture map is made from scratch bit by bit. I didn't want to just go get some stock clipart or texture images and create the design out of that. Again, I was aiming to create a believable looking product that would make sense in my game world. The game has these very unique bug models that I created a while ago and I wanted the bug spray can to be advertised in the game as something that fights against those specific insects. So I took the actual bug model, which is this:
bug from my game.

And I created black 2D silhouettes out of the 3D model as icons and branding logos for the bug spray.

"Wood-Be-Gone" logo/branding

Text Logo:
For the text logo, I decided to give it a wooden texture. Kind of a burnt wood kind of appearance instead of just a basic boring black and white text logo.

Text Logo made of REAL WOOD!

More Texturing and finishing touches:
I eventually decided that yellow wasn't a good color to represent the bug spray can and instead created a nice gradient purple to serve as the can's main color.

That's better!

More details and touchups:

Even better!

Final touch:

Now it's PERFECT!

With a ton of other Blender props I made:

Inside The Unity Engine:
Once I finished, just like any other model I made, I exported my new bug spray product to the Unity engine. It will be used as an in game item after all. Down the road I will program this item to actually have functionality and fight against enemy bugs. In the meantime, here is what it will look like in game:

Taking it a step further with Cycles:
Even though the actual game asset was done at this point, part of me still wanted to create a semi photo-real rendering of the product to see if I can fool anyone into thinking that it actually is a real product. So I went back in Blender, switched over to the Cycles render engine and setup a scene, lighting, skybox, etc to create a good looking high res billboard ad for the product.

Scene setup and previews

Test renders and tweaking until it was right.

Final Render:

Does this look like a real product to you?