Wow, it’s been months since my last update! Figured I better post a quick update on some of the things I’ve been working on for the last few months. I’ve been really busy between school, job, and this Dream Build Play entry. Whatever spare time I’ve had I’ve been tinkering away at getting this new XNA game up to snuff to submit to Dream Build Play with two other team mates. With less than a month left before the deadline it is going to be one hell of a tight schedule. In the next week or so going to probably hold some closed beta tests (since it is an online multiplayer game).

What is the game you ask? Well it’s Gunstyle. An original 2D multiplayer sidescroller. For those thinking “WTF that sounds familiar” you’d be right. If you’ve ever been over to our showcase site, www.enddream.com, you’ll see a version of Gunstyle for the PC available for download. That version was an early prototype of the game that was made in a different API and on a much older version of DirectX (in fact the game doesn’t even run correctly on Vista for me), and unfortunately isn’t supported any longer as this version will be replacing it. The current Gunstyle we are developing is using GarageGame’s new XNA engine, TorqueX. The overall concept is essentially the same, play as a team or alone and take on enemies in classic death match or capture the flag; but, a lot of the game mechanics have been improved, new weapons created, visuals have been greatly improved, and many other features to be added. So stay tuned, as in the next couple of weeks I’m sure we’ll have some more information and media to share :).

This is the biggest project I’ve had in XNA yet, and so far I’m loving XNA…for the most part. The two biggest issues I have with XNA deal with the content pipeline and Audio (again). It may be from ignorance as I haven’t fiddled with all of the settings, but I don’t appreciate how XNA bloats all of the in-game assets to ridiculous file sizes. For example, I can take 16MB of png images for a game and XNA will increase that to around 270MB once built through the content pipeline. Our game is for PC only so we aren’t concerned with Xbox360 compatbility yet, but would like to keep it an option for the future. We’re using TorqueX, which uses the pipeline throughout it’s resource management layer, so it’s not as easy as turning ‘XNA content pipeline processor’ to ‘off’. With our time schedule I don’t have time to alter TX to allow for none-pipeline content, but after the contest I’m sure this’ll be high on the list of ‘things to do’ to see if we can decrease the physical space this game takes up on the hard drive without hurting load times too much.

The new 3D audio in 1.0 refresh of XNA is nice and we are employing those new features, but geez… only wav format?! In Wildboarders, the audio made up 80% if not more of the file size for the download because it had to be in wav. And it’s looking like it’ll be the same thing for this new game. May have to use a hybrid solution and see if we can use any .NET libraries for playing ogg files for background music and using the XACT just for normal sound FX.

Ok, I’m done venting on XNA. Other than those two issues (which I’m sure will be resolved soon), XNA is awesome. Right now, we’re all working to get the game to a state where it’s fully playable and robust enough to be deemed as an early beta. After the contest we’ll finally have some breather time. Soon after, we’ll buckle down on getting Gunstyle much more polished.

For some reason I’ve been listening to APC a lot lately (can you tell?). Maybe it’s been the numerous all-nighters I’ve pulled recently and this music soothes me late at night. It’s been too busy the past few weeks for me to sit down and gather some thoughts for a post. Been hard at work with the new game for Dream Build Play, along with life’s other issues. Don’t have much to show at the moment as everything is a bit too early in development, but I figured I’d at least post one of the concepts by Adam (below).

For those that didn’t notice the comments in the previous post, several XNA developers were featured in the April issue of OXM (Official XBox Magazine), including me :). It’s kinda cool seeing your name in print. Go check it out if you want to read up on some more XNA goodness!

I’ve noticed quiet a few people have been wanting an updated version of my simple Camera2D tutorial that would work with XNA 1.0. This week is looking pretty busy so no promises, but I’ll try to get one up. Well, I got to get back to work. Look for more news about our game in the coming month or so as we edge ever closer to completion.

Well, Nut Harvest is out to the public and so far it seems most that have tried it have enjoyed it. That’s always good to hear, considering it was just a toy-around game for my friends and I :). Unfortunately, I know that it certainly won’t get as big of an audience as WildBoarders simply because it’s an XBox360 XNA exclusive. There just doesn’t seem to be a good venue yet to release Xbox360 XNA games. Sure, there are community sites on the net such is homebrew or gameprojects.com but they still seem to be focused on PC development or the ‘wanderers’ there simply don’t have creator’s club and it’s still not convienent to put games on the 360. Add in the fact that getting games on your 360 isn’t free, and your audience shrinks yet again. But I’m not that disappointed. Going into the project I knew what to expect. But now that it’s done I’m not sure I’ll be inclined to do another 360 only game for a while; at least until Microsoft comes up with an easier way to share games. Sure, I could do games that work on both systems (such as WildBoarders), but there still are some fundamental differences to the platforms in question that kind of limit my choices. For example, if I make a single player game then I really don’t have any reason not to make it runnable on the 360. Yet, once I get into the realm of multiplayer things start to diverge rather quickly. On the PC, multiplayer these days usually implies some sort of internet connectivity. This isn’t possible on the 360 (yet). It’s rare (at least in my experience) to have multiplayer games be played on the same computer. On the 360, multiplayer can mean split-screen, xbox live, or a combination of both! I designed Nut Harvest to be a multiplayer game where everyone is on the same screen. So I was presented with two choices. Make it playable over the internet or simply make it 360 only. Going the internet route would have increased development time, and at the same time the game simply would lose a certain social element of the experience (*click* “OMG I pwn3d joo” *click* on ventrilo doesn’t count). Playing next to your buddies just makes this particular game more fun since communication is part of the experience (players teaming up against others). So yea, that was my reasoning as to why I stuck with just doing a 360 version.

In other news, I’m rolling along with development for our entry for the Dream.Build.Play contest that is coming up. Downside: it won’t be done in as short amount of time as my prior games. Upside: more time = better game, right?….RIGHT? Well, let’s hope so ;). July 2nd is apparently the due date, and according to the design doc we have laid out we’ll need it all :|. I just finished coding the networking architecture for the game last week, and Martin has the custom physics up and running also. It’s possible to join servers and move around and such, but there’s still a ton of work to be done. Adam’s handling the art-side of things once again so I can focus along with Martin on the coding/gameplay. With that said, my blog entries might slow down over the coming months as school gets busier and the game gets closer to being finished. Don’t want to say anything too specific or talk about what’s planned for the game until we have something to actually show, so that’ll be atleast a month or so away. Anyway, now I got to go study for an exam and work on a CS project.

Today is the day I release a ‘release candidate’ for Nut Harvest. It feels so great to finish a game! Nut Harvest is for the Xbox 360 only. This game almost took longer to release than to actually develop! It started near the end of last December when I was over at friend’s house hanging out with some buddies. Of course, we were playing some games on the Wii and 360. We soon tired of the games we had because none of them had any easy and fun multiplayer games (ok the Wii does, but wii’ve played it to death). Then there’s games like Halo or Smash Bros, but not everyone in the room was a Halo killing machine or a smash bros ninja so it left some of us with just twiddling the joystick.

At that point, I felt compelled to make a game that we could all play together and have some fun with no matter the skill level. I wanted to make a game that was relatively simple and allowed for some interaction between players, and this is what I came up with. I think my friends got a kick out of playing a game that we had only talked about a day earlier, and on the 360 no less. XNA makes this kind of thing possible. The initial development of the game took around 9-10 hours. After 10 hours the game was fully playable with up to 4 players, but the graphics were just placeholders and animations (what little there needed to be) were nonexistent. I would guess total development time for this game would be around 30-35 hours. Over the course of the next month or so I’ve spent an hour here and there prettying it up with the help of Adam’s artistic abilities :).

So after some polish and bug fixing I’m ready to release a game that has brought a lot of laughs and silly moments to my friends and I. I hope you enjoy it too! Ciao…

Get Nut Harvest!

P.S. Thanks to my friends Josh, Stephen, Miro, Adam, and anyone else I forgot to mention who helped with feedback and support

As you can see from the lack of updates, I’ve been pretty busy. Wrapping up Nut Harvest, which is a 360-only multiplayer XNA game. I’ve got a few minor fixes for WildBoarders to release in a patch once I’ve done some more testing. Plus another project I’m working on, you’ll here more about it soon :). School work is bearing down on me as I’ve hardly had any time this past week to work on anything, much less play any games :(. Here’s a quick screenshot of Nut Harvest with 4 players. Gotta run!

It has been a while since I actually got a day off from school/work or whatever right on my birthday. Usually they tend to always ‘celebrate’ MLK’s birthday on the 2nd Monday of the month. It finally, got around to being where it should be :). I didn’t do much on my birthday except relax. I did get a cool new cell phone as a gift though. It’s pretty slick.

In development news, I’ve released WildBoarders for the Xbox 360. The source is around 120MB so beware, slow connections. If you want more info on what’s changed in the release you can check out my post on xbox360homebrew. So scratch one item off my ever growing to-do list. I’ve still got WildBoarders for PC on my plate. On top of that I’ve got a 4-player xbox 360 XNA game I’ll be hopefully wrapping up soon. Then I’ve got another bigger project that we’re prototyping at the moment, which is exciting but can’t talk too much more about it.

If that’s enough I’m still doing some personal hobby project to learn a bit more about shaders. Remember that 2D camera tutorial I keep talking about? Well, it’s been a bit transformed for a different purpose. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll have enough time to write a detailed tutorial on writing a camera system from scratch. I’m revamping alot of the lower-level functionality to use XNA’s helper classes and be able to take full advantage of HLSL shaders. It sure beats writing manual matrix operations, but it was a good exercise nonetheless. And as a result of the design changes, I simply won’t be in the position to write an in-depth tutorial of everything from top-to-bottom, including the shaders since it’s a learning process for myself also. One of my biggest gripe in XNA was the lack of ability to write shaders for 2D sprites with the spriteBatch class. While I imagine I’ll be doing 3D sometime in the future, I really don’t want to at the moment and 2D suits my needs so far in terms of being able to visualize gameplay. At the same time, I’ve always wanted to fiddle with simple shaders just to learn the ropes but in a 2D environment. Well, since XNA’s sprite capabilities doesn’t allow you to overwrite the vertex and pixel shaders I’ve opted to implement one on my own. On top of that, it’ll have a camera-like API and scene graph that’ll allow for zooming, rotation, and movement. The plan is to make as much of it as possible be GPU accelerated with minimal CPU computation. I’ll quit rambling now as people like results rather than ideas. See ya later.

Hmmm, I was hoping to actually meet the deadlines I set for myself in the last update in regards to my current projects. Yet, even I can’t predict what will happen in a few days time. For one, I became ill right after the update for several days. Secondly, I’ve had to move back to Atlanta to start another semester of classes so I lost that window of free time due to illness and now the classes are requiring a lot of my time (who would have thought?!). That’s the last time I try to put a hard date on ‘spare time’ activities. So for WildBoarders and the new 4 player game, just expect them ‘Soon’. Art is progressing pretty well on the new game, and only have a couple minor hiccups in the code to fix in the meantime for it.

Hey, just a quick update. I’ve been working on a few XNA related things since the contest ended. First, been working with WildBoarders and looking into the bugs people have reported so I can squash them for the next update. I also have ported WildBoarders to the xbox 360. A few issues cropped up, but it should just take me a few days to get most of them fixed. Expect an xbox 360 version in a few days. I’m also working on a 4 player XNA xbox 360 game so be on the look out for that in a few weeks. And lastly, I’ve been working on a camera 2D write up that is more or less a tutorial for how to implement a decent camera system in a 2D world. WildBoarders used a simple version, as it didn’t do any major zooming or rotating. This camera system will be able to do both. Hopefully, I’ll have that done by the end of the month if my classes don’t become too overbearing too early. Here are some screenies below of WildBoarders running on my 360. Later.