fredag 20 november 2015

Name change and other stuff

In light of the recent horrible events in France, I've decided to push back my next game even further. For now I'm aiming at a March 31st release. Also I'm going to change a few aspects of the game to clear things up a bit. The name has now officially been changed to Danger Close!. Changing the title to this one was the plan for the longest time, but I was stubborn and stuck with the old working title. After giving it some serious thought though, I think Mission: Afghanistan strikes a too serious chord, while the game is more of a parody of sorts and the new title reflects this much better. It's not very nice to imply that I'm reducing an entire country to a violent war game either (that which I wrote in the post below regarding the controversial aspects of the game still apply though).

I'm also taking the suicide bomber-enemy out of the game, as well as the insurgent enemy with dark colored clothing. DC takes place in Afghanistan (mostly anyways) in 2001, so you are fighting insurgents, not terrorists per-se and I want to make that clear. The dark-clothed insurgent could be mistaken for an IS-soldier which I want to avoid since again this game takes place in 2001 and IS obviously did not exist back then.

With all of that boring and serious stuff out of the way, the game is coming along very nicely. I've done a lot of polishing, balancing and gotten rid of many bugs in the last few days. I've implemented achievements, hi-score tables and statistics. After all the hard work and effort I've put into the game I'm determined to release it come hell or high water.

onsdag 11 november 2015

M:A release date pushed back

I've decided to push back the release date of M:A to the 31st of January. The game has all of its assets now which means it's in beta stage, but there are still a number of things that need to be done. The music isn't fully implemented yet, I still have to program a controller configuration and implement it as well, and most importantly there is a lot of polishing to be done before I'll be satisfied with the result enough for a release. So far I'm very pleased with the game though, especially when playing with my arcade stick-controller, M:A really feels like an arcade shooter when doing so which is nice.

måndag 12 oktober 2015

Walking on egg shells

It struck me I had not yet written this entry on the blog yet, despite intending to for a long while. With the Greenlight entry coming up and people finding out about the game I feel it's about time I write it.

I understand completely that making a game called Mission: Afghanistan and its subject matter might piss off a great deal of people. It's a sensitive subject even though a few years have passed since the war took place, and even though I've explicitly stated that what you see in the game is an alternative past, not some sort of documentary in game form (which should be apparent when seeing even a snippet of gameplay from the game). I was ready to change the name of the game to Danger Close, but changed my mind. Who knows, I might still have to, in a good scenario... Let's go full political correctness and list a few of the people that potentially can and probably will be offended by this game:

1. People who have been in service in Afghanistan and feel used
2. SJW's who are against the war for whatever reasons
3. People who live in Afghanistan and don't like their entire country and its history reduced to a war game about killing people, from their point of view. Even though this is a picture that the media has been feeding us for one and a half decade, one that the game makes fun of.

I could go on, but you get the point. With this game though my intention is not to offend people. Nor to belittle someone. In my opinion, art, media, games need to be able to cover even sensitive subjects, otherwise freedom of speech and freedom of press do not exist in reality. To me it is even more important to be able to feature sensitive and offensive material, because that means that the subject matter is taboo for some reason, and it desperately needs to be featured and put out there in the spotlight so we can at least try to understand why that is.

I was brought up on MAD-magazine, and to me political incorrectness is second nature. Walking around and thinking about what isn't appropriate or what might offend people is not how I want to live my life. Was the war in Afghanistan a good or a bad thing? I don't know to be honest. And my official stance and the stance this game take is that of utter neutrality. The game is not meant to be a moral debate of what is good and what is bad, I'll leave that for someone else. If anything, it is a study in exaggerated cartoonish ultra violence, and it's up to the player to determine what they think about that. If I could go back in time, would I make this game thematically and graphically about something else entirely? Probably yes. This part of the game was never something I put much thought into when first coming up with the concept for it. Like I said, I'm not a politically correct person. But here we are. And one problem is that if you take away the subject matter of the game and replace the player sprites with robots, you kind of take away the whole point of the game.

I'm a fan of movies such as Hot Shots II, The Hurt Locker, Jarhead, The Dictator, The Interview, Team America: World Police and Zero Dark Thirty. All the hundreds of movies about the Vietnam war and WWII. Not to mention all the Call of Duty and Medal of Honor games that take place in Afghanistan and feature the war to some extent. Are you going to tell me that these movies and these games are OK, but Mission: Afghanistan is not? Because it's an indie game? If so I simply don't think that is fair.

M:A Greenlight entry

I finished making the trailer which means I have finally been able to create a Greenlight page for M:A. Link below.

fredag 9 oktober 2015

The danger of placeholders

Here is a problem that might not apply to every indie game developer out there, but it certainly rings true for me. When programming early versions of enemies, items or even stages themselves and testing them out, it's very convenient to use placeholder graphics. This way you can work out kinks and see if your stage layout does its job etc, without having to go through the process of drawing finalized sprites. I do all my graphics myself and I'm aware not every developer works this way, if you have a hired artist who creates your graphics then placeholders naturally are more or less necessary in order for the development of your game not to be completely held back by the visual representations of the assets.

There is a real danger in using placeholder graphics however. A wise person once said "kill your darlings", meaning you should never be too attached to your favorite creations when it comes to anything creative, including game development. Your blind love for that Goomba-clone might easily make you unable to realize it's not a good enemy for your particular game. In my experience the same thing definitely applies to placeholder graphics. Once you go beyond just geometrical figures, I myself very easily find myself starting to like placeholder graphics as small ugly puppies or something. They're not that nice but you created them after all. First you accept them, then you start to kinda like them, then you actually start to appreciate them and before you know it you've pretty much forgotten completely that they were once placeholders, and any thought about replacing them later on has been erased from your memory. Especially when it comes to pixel graphics-games the sprites are kinda crude to begin with (NES-imitation games in particular) no matter how you look at it, so the line between a placeholder and an OK sprite is very fine.

This problem can snowball out of control very easily since there is so much that needs to be done when developing a game, and fixing those "OK-looking" placeholder graphics can easily start to go further and further down in priority on the to do-list. And before you know it you've released a game with a lot of placeholder graphics. As the developer you are blinded to their supbar quality, but the potential consumers certainly are not. My current solution for this might be extreme, but it works for me. I am done with graphical placeholders. Anything outside of geometrical figures such as squares with text on them, is not OK in a game I'm developing. I understand that if you are not creating the graphics yourself things are different, but for me I now always create the graphics with them being in the final game in mind. Truth is they need to be done at some point anyway. This doesn't mean you can't still improve them later on of course.

I've made a trailer for M:A and once I get enough feedback on it I will use it to create a Greenlight page for the game. The intended release date has been pushed back to November 30th since I've been sick for three weeks and unable to work on the game at all. The release date might change depending on how the Greenlight works out though. The best for me would be if I could release M:A exclusively on Steam.

måndag 14 september 2015

The importance of being flexible

I'm going to try to make the news updates a bit more interesting and worthwhile, starting with this one. Instead of posting updates in the vein of "Stage x has been completed, starting on the next one". I know myself from reading that type of update that it's not very interesting even though it really seems like it from the point of view as a developer. I've been doing this for a few years now and it seems like a great way to share experiences and lessons you learn as you become better and find out what works and what doesn't as far as game development goes.

Planning your game out I think is a good idea and it certainly works for me. Not only does it make the process of developing a game more structured and clear, but it also motivates you to really get your shit together and do what you are supposed to. Excel sheets with checkpoints and deadlines do a wonder here.

There is a dangerous downside to this though that I've found out the hard way. It's very important not to get too stuck with your initial ideas and think that you absolutely can't deviate from them for whatever reason. This will make the game very clunky and it will affect the gameplay negatively. The initial brainstorming ideas always seem perfect on paper but seldom always work that great in practice. Almost always you need to change a few details at the very least, or approach the whole thing from a different angle. The easy way is to stick to your plan 100 percent because then you can just autopilot it.

An example of this is how I approached programming the stages for Mega Man 42. Since I was a little new at programming in GML, I wrote all the stage boundaries in numbers of exactly how big the stages were in pixels. Not a good idea. It made the stages very set in stone and if I would've wanted to change them it would've been a real hassle. You have to always think ahead when programming so that you can add or change everything you do. In my games currently I always use objects instead to determine the boundaries of the stages, which you can change at a whim just by moving them around in the level editor.

Another example is with weapons and enemies I play around a bit to see what works and what doesn't. Some of the best features in Mission: Afghanistan have come up this way, the chainsaw weapon for example.

In other news I just want to mention that four out of five stages are done now so the game is nearing completion. I'm going to focus on Greenlight and Facebook now to get that done.

onsdag 12 augusti 2015

Website up

I have finally managed to register and build a website for Magical Hackers and my games. I kind of like having the blog separate so I will keep it like that for the time being, but I will probably move it over to this new site in the future as well.

torsdag 6 augusti 2015

Gameplay video

I've put together a short gameplay video showing a few of the stages that are done so far. As I've written in the description, this being an alpha version, more sound effects are to be added and things in general are not final. The excellent music tracks by Dan Butler aka SpookGoblin are early drafts too. Reportedly and hopefully they will have an electronic guitar part once they are done!

Note that this is not a trailer, that will come later. I plan to show some juicy bits there like the bosses for example.

onsdag 5 augusti 2015


Development of Mission: Afghanistan has come to the point where it's overdue that I show how it's progressing. So I've taken a bunch of screenshots from the stages one to three, out of five total. Each stage is divided into four parts, so that's 20 shorter stages in total if you like. What you see here is Alpha status so it's not final. I know I've said it before but I'm definitely going to get a website for the game together and an entry on Indiedb, Greenlight page etc. I'll post more updates the coming days and then do my best to keep you guys informed until the game is released like I've done with my previous games. Right now the target release date is October 31st, but that might change depending on how the Greenlight develops.

The screenshots don't explain much on their own, but it would be a bit clunky to describe the game in detail here on the blog. I'll leave that to Indiedb and the website.

torsdag 30 april 2015

New Prometheus version

I've made a new version of Prometheus which is now available on Steam and the other places where the game is sold:

20150430 - Version 1.5
- Fixed weapon hitboxes
- Added music and sound effects volume settings
- Fixed attack sometimes not responding to input
- Added basic joystick support

tisdag 21 april 2015

Prometheus released on Steam

Prometheus has now been released on Steam. A big thank you to everyone who voted for the game so it finally got greenlit on there. The only major difference from the version available at Humble Bundle is that I've added a number of Steam achievements. If you have already purchased the game outside of Steam and want a Steam key, contact me and I'll provide it for you.

torsdag 2 april 2015

Prometheus Easter egg

It struck me when playing through Prometheus that I have not yet revealed the Easter egg I included in the game. And what better time of the year to tell it than right now? :)

In Kolchis you need to enter the doors in the woods in this order:
1. Take the first door to enter the labyrinth.
2. Go to the right and take the door you come across.
3. Go to the left and take the first door you come across.
4. Go to the left and take the first door you come across.
5. In the room you are in now, equip the Wings of Icaros and jump into the wall to the right. You will enter a room with a boss fight - against Sand Man from Mega Man 42. :) Prometheus only gets damaged from the magic dust, he will not fall asleep.

onsdag 1 april 2015

Prometheus new version 1.3

I'm in the process of making Prometheus available on Steam, turns out it's pretty complicated to say the least. I played through the game and found out the animation speed bug the last version was supposed to fix had gotten even worse, now the animation wouldn't run at all. I've made a new version which should soon be available. It's a very small cosmetic fix but I want the game to be as bug-free as possible when gets released on Steam.

måndag 30 mars 2015

Mega Man 42 v1.2 (definitive version)

To celebrate the greenlighting of Prometheus, here's a treat for you: The definitive version of Mega Man 42. I went back to the game after about a year of its release, and with a new perspective I realized that it was more than difficult enough already. So no need for a Nightmare mode. Also the graphics are fine enough for a fan game, so no need for a Redux version. Instead I've fixed a few bugs, most notably the ending now looks like it's supposed to do.

20150330 - Version 1.2
- Fixed special weapons bug where you would sometimes not longer be able to use them (had to do with the on-screen limitation not adjusting properly when opening the menu)
- Fixed the game crashing when the player character would die at the same time as the very last boss
- Changed item-spawning so they appear inside solid ground less frequently
- Fixed bug where Roll would get stuck in the air when teleporting and after beating the very last boss

Mediafire link:

Prometheus has been greenlit on Steam!

It's been a long time since my last post, for which I'm really sorry, but what better way to come back to the limelight so to speak, other than to tell you that Prometheus finally has been greenlit on Steam! I've been away from my computer over the weekend but read the e-mail today. I really can't wrap my head around this at the moment, but it feels great and it's very good news for my future game development.

Even though I've made no posts here for a very long time, I've been working on my games all the same. Like I wrote in the last post, Crimson Sky was the project I focused on during the autumn of 2014. However once I got something resembling a game together it just didn't play like I wanted it to. The hi-res graphics that had taken so long to make didn't look that good and the game just had no oomph. I had to make too many compromises in order to make Crimson Sky so the game just didn't pan out.

Because of this I made the decision to go back to Mission: Afghanistan instead. So that's what I've been working on since January or so, and so far the results really have been to my liking. I've come to the realization that retro is what I want to do and what feels fun for me to work with. Within a few weeks I think I will have the demo ready, 1/4 of the first stage is done at this point. I will post a few screenshots soon too to show how work is progressing.

Dan Butler will once again compose the music and be responsible for the SFX as well, I am very happy to have him on board once more. I plan to make a web site for Magical Hackers and my games sometime in the near future which means I will move away from the blog once that happens and post there instead.