Saturday, October 10, 2009

Update: A couple of screenshots

Development has been fast, but updates have been slow! Sorry about that! I want to release a new alpha of the game. I need to do some polishing first though, and I'm gonna need a couple of weeks more (I hope). So expect a new release during this time. For now, I'm gonna post here a couple of screenshots that I posted on the other forums a few weeks ago.

sat-teaser 23-9

Here is a teaser of the context menu (with its new graphics). Below that is a sample of how the communication skill will work. Basically, if a character has too low communication skill, he will stutter for a bit before communicating his message (the time until the bar fills up). Lastly, you can see the AI harvesting some berries from a bush while being hungry.


Here is another screenshot - not very polished though - showing that I'm working on implementing farming! This is one of the first things you're gonna do in the game, along with building your house. Speaking of which, you'll see the first steps of the building system in the next release. You won't be able to build a full house yet, but you'll get a grasp of the building procedure, which I think is pretty unique and will make you more attached to your creations.

One a side note, you can see some actionbars at the right of screen which I think is a good idea for the interface. Basically you will have an inventory displaying all your items, but you may additionally create these actionbars which for quick access to particular types of your items. For example, you want to have a quick bar of your tools. Open your inventory, select one of your tools and then something like "create quickbar for items of this type". Time will tell (and feedback!) if it's practical or not.

That's all for now, now back to the code...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Release: Start-a-Town! 0.0.3


- New custom mouse cursors
- Walking made easier by use of tile highlighting.
- Better mouse/tile detection, currently used for walking. Might be unstable.
- Changed trees from tiles to objects.
- Tiles, cliffs and walls in front of the currently highlighted tile made transparent, for better visibility.
- Added togglable fps counter.

- Tile level tool is hopefuly working now.
- Fixed bug when clicking on another tool without canceling currently selected one.
- Cleaned up some code.
- Some pathfinding improvements. Can now catch fish if the fish school is exactly near the shore.
- Updated tutorial text, mentioning that Control-clicking deletes already placed trees and walls.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Release: Start-a-Town! 0.0.2

New demo is ready! I've started the enumeration from zero since the previous demo was a miserable failure.

The tutorial explains everything you have to know about the demo! If I forgot something, ask here. There are many problems. Some I know, and some I don't know. Feel free to report them here. I also very much want to hear your suggestions about how things (that are currently in the demo) could be better. Lastly I want to hear what would you like to see next!

Download Start-a-Town! v0.0.2

In other news the poll about object properties ended a distaster! Only 16 votes! Anyway, on to the next one! A poll not particularly about game design. But I was wondering what would be more interesting: More frequent but less stable new demo versions, or... the opposite? Vote away!

Monday, June 22, 2009

New poll, new social network pages

Poll results!

Diablo style - 41 (55%)
Ultima style - 2 (2%)
Sims style - 31 (41%)
Votes: 74

The big winner is Diablo style, that is, single click movement. But with Sims style (select to "walk there" from a context menu) a close second, I decided to implement both systems. You'll be able to switch between them from an option in the settings window. But, if for some extraordinary reason it's impossible to have both ways available, I will stick with the style that won.

New poll!!!

The new poll is about representation of entity properties. To be completely honest I'm not sure if that's the correct terminology for this.

Choice 1 : Numerical representation of properties
This is the system that most games use. For example, Sword Damage = 5, Armor = 10, Hunger = 20, and so on. Makes players know exactly where they are, but reduces the whole experience to a number game. Not that it's completely bad, let's face it: we all, at some level, gain satisfaction by watching numbers grow.

Choice 2: Use of adjectives to describe properties
This is an obfuscated but more immersive system. For example, Very Sharp Sword, Heavily Armored, Very Hungry. Makes it a little more difficult comparing properties at the beginning, but eventually grows on you. In the end, the more hardcore players end up finding out the formulas and translate these adjectives to a numerical value.

I'd like to hear what you thing the best system for a game like Start-a-town! would be. So don't forget to vote!

I've created a twitter and a facebook page. Become a follower/fan! Go now!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Update: Character sprites

Mister Default!
Mister Corporate Ladder!
Mister Punk!
Mister Girl!
Mister Emo!

These are some new sprites I made for the characters.

What I plan to do eventually is to have separate sprites for legs/pants, torsos and hair, and make the game dock them to the basic naked character sprite. Also the clothes/hair will be recolorable. Randomly generated NPCs will be given pairs of clothing/hair at random, but each piece of clothing/hair will probably have tags associated with it so the selection is more consistent with their personality. For example, emo characters will prefer dark clothing.

Of course this is all theoretical, and I may end up using a simpler system, although I hope I don't have to. This is too cool in my head!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Differences between Start-a-town! and The Sims

  • The Sims
You can switch between playing whichever Sim you like, whether they are created by the player or existing "neighbors" that came with the game.

  • Start-a-town!
You only create one playable character: yourself. The game obviously starts without neighbors. You get visitors randomly generated by the game, and if you think he would be a valuable asset to the town (in terms of their skills and personality), it's your task to convince them to settle in. From that point on, the only control you have over them is trying to influencing them.

  • The Sims
To build or buy items, you open up a panel, select the item you want and magically place it in the game world.

  • Start-a-town!
You still open a panel to select items, but you actually select blueprints. To build a wooden wall, you place the blueprint and, provided you have the necessary materials (wooden planks for example), you put your building skill to use, and... build it. Building takes too long? Have a skilled builder move into town. On the other hand, for items quite impossible to build (like computers), you have to order them to be shipped to you, or have a shop built to your town that stock these items (by influencing the shop owner what items to stock).

  • The Sims
You can redesign your neighbors' homes with complete freedom.

  • Start-a-town!
The neighbors build their homes by themselves (or by hiring an architect and/or a builder if available) on an area you designate for them (think residential/commercial zoning from SimCity). The building process will be procedurally generated, according to their personality, like painting the walls with their favorite colors or whether they like spacey or small and efficient rooms. It will be interesting to see what is being built (I realize this will be a difficult undertaking...). There could still be a way to make modifications though, such as to iron out any imperfections.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Update: Player interactions, decks

Started working on the player interaction system. It's basically a system similar to the Sims. You right click on a usable item, and a context drop down menu pops up, as you can see in the above screenshot. As expected, selecting an action from within this menu, makes you walk next to the item and perform it. Some actions will be tied to skills, so a character with a high "Survival" skill for example, will set and light up a campfire faster than normal.

In other news, I started working on another building element: decks. If you have played the Sims 2, you'll know them as foundations. Decks allow the placement of different tiles on top of them, and of course different stairs will be available to make them reachable. With decks you can build things like porches and other similar stuff.

That's all for now. June will be a busy month for me so development will be slow or even halted, but I may still post about other things if I have the time.

Lastly I want to thank you for the poll votes! I wasn't expecting any attendance at all!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Update: Map editing tools, player movement

I've been working on the basic map editing tools lately, namely the resizing, shape and density of the "brush" with which you raise/lower terrain and place tiles. Also, a temporary interface to select between the available tile/wall/tree types for placement. On a side note, I'm planning to include support for custom graphics, that is, new tiles/walls/trees the players have created and have placed in a particular folded, should be available in-game.

The map editor is not 100% ready yet, but I needed something new to keep things exciting, so the couple of days i started working on player movement and interaction. For movement, I have these three options in mind:
  1. Diablo movement - Click somewhere once to go there or click and hold to keep moving, constantly finding new paths.
  2. Ultima movement - Click on the direction you want to go to advance 1 tile towards it or click and hold to keep advancing (without calculating paths)
  3. Sims movement - Click where you want to go, and select "Walk here" from a context menu that pops up.
I'm not sure yet with which one I'm going to go with. On the other hand I'm thinking of including all ways and letting the player choose his favorite through the options menu.

That's all for now! Enjoy a couple of shots showing off some new tiles!



Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Update: Rivers, waterfalls and save system.

The last week I've been working on a basic river generator. It's pretty straightforward for the time being, choosing a tile in random for the water to proceed if there's no lower elevation nearby, while on the other hand pouring water and starting a new river on each nearby tile if it's lower than the current one. There's no water depth and flooding at the moment, and will probably never will be as I'm not aiming for such a realistic water model as, let's say, Dwarf Fortress; Start-a-Town will be a peaceful game without flood traps!

On a side note, I can't decide which waterfall graphic to use... The options are currently 3.

Particle waterfalls.

Straight waterfalls.

Curvy waterfalls.

Personally, I prefer the particle approach since it's more practical, but strangely, it takes much less waterfall tiles than expected to slow down the program to a crawl, even on my machine which in no way I consider "old", especially for this type of game and at its stage.

The next option, the straight ones, seem (or sound?) the most natural, but in the case of staircase waterfalls, the result looks like a tablecloth. The curvy ones are the cutest in my opinion, but I've been told they look unnatural. So... meh.

Anyways, I'll come back to them later. Right now I have the river/waterfall situation to a workable shape so started writing a basic saving routine for the terrain data, tile backgrounds, height and whatnot. There are some improvements that need to be made to the way tiles are handled and drawn so custom graphics can be supported (modability!).

After I'm done with this I'm planning to create some new tiles like trees, dirt, tarmac, cobbles, pavement etc. I urgently need some more variation, the green/blue scenery is starting to drive me nuts. Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Hello and welcome to this blog. Here I will be keeping track of the development progress of my project, and will also be discussing thoughts and ideas on game design in general. The project involves a game, built using the Game Maker software. It didn't have a name until about an hour ago when I decided to make this blog, so I kinda needed one. Unless I come up with a better one, it stays. And now, some introductory notes about the game.

As the name implies, the game is is about starting and growing a town. I'm planning to combine elements from popular games of this type, like Sims, SimCity, Settlers and Dwarf Fortress. The concept is not 100% laid out, but the basic line is this: The player assumes control of a character who (for unestablished reasons) finds himself alone in the woods, presumably near a county road. This initial phase of the game will probably serve as an orientation/tutorial, teaching the player about the basic controls and features. The player will help his character build a new house, and that's where another non-player-character will (for another unestablished reason) make a visit. The goal from this point on is to convince visitors to stay and make a living in this community, with the player assuming the role of a mayor. In order for the community to thrive the player must make sure the townies have a useful array of skills and relationships between them are healthy. Townies who have only the basic skills won't be too hard to convince, but in order for the comnmunity to thrive, the player must convince characters with specialty skills (like Architect) to move in, and this can be done only by meeting certain infrastructure requirements.

The townies will act in a way similar to the Sims, trying to satisfy their basic wants and needs. They will also have some deeper and more specific needs like "sense of contribution to the community" which I'm planning to add. Also they will have individual personalities and tastes. The main difference from the Sims is that you will not have any control on the townies whatsoever, except from interacting with them via your character. Specifically, you won't be able to modify their house, for example. It will be built by them, procedurally, depending on their personality and taste. The player's job will -most probably- be to make sure relationships between townies are healthy, that there are no conflicts, and also to regulate town policies and support the economic growth by managing imports and exports.

Again, these are vague outlines of the approach I'm planning to take on the concept and goal of the game, in terms of player interaction. There's more of what I described in the previous paragraph, but I won't go into details from the first post! The game will basically be an ant farm, as it will be fun watching the town grow pseudo-randomly, as the player will only be able to define the building spots (a-la SimCity zones), with the buildings built by NPCs depending on their personality and taste. The onlys buildings the player will have control will be his, and maybe public buildings like museums. Of course don't expect to grow mega-cities. Think small scale towns with low population and two, three -tops- storey buildings. Expect the game to look something like these web communities which there is a huge canvas with an empty city grid of roads, and everyone fills a city block with a pixel-art drawing of a building.

Speaking of looks, the game engine will be 2d isometric, with small cute graphics like Habbo, and actually this is what I'm working on at the moment. Specifically I'm on the task of making stuff like tile elevation and water work correctly... the next goal is to have the map randomly generated, featuring hills, rivers, waterfalls and lakes.

I think that's a pretty thorough introduction! If you're interested in tracking the development you're welcome to subscribe and chip in with constructive comments!