They might be fun but the test levels have got to go
The recent release of Moon alpha 1.5 has brought me to a rather amazing place. About 95% of the code I expect to need is written, most of the biggest bugs are gone and feedback indicates that (at least some) people are having fun. This means almost all that remains is the creation of the actual content I want in the final game. So, the exciting place I find myself is in front of my level editor with a head full of ideas and nothing to stop me letting them out.
If you've played Moon at all then you may have wondered about a few odd design choices. Why is the key to the caves stored in an inaccessible location in the generator room? Why is the first puzzle so hard? Why did I have to pick up the weird blue thing at the start?
Well, the simple answer to all this is that the levels present in the alpha builds have been there to test specific mechanics and ideas. There was a hint of some progression (mainly so the alpha releases didn't feel totally flat) but it's muddled. There's almost no real room for a new player to learn how the world works and no clarity in the development of any plot elements.
However, it seems that despite these flaws, the game is still fun.
So, This brings me back to the amazing place I'm now at; With at least a little confidence that I'm making something that people will actually play and enjoy I can get on with converting all my sketches, paper notes and plans into the game world as it will be in the final game.
This has some important implications for any future releases before the game is complete. Most important (and perhaps obvious) of these is that there will need to be more videos and images but less playable demos. This is mostly to avoid giving away things that might spoil the enjoyment and discoveries within the finished game.
So, expect more cropped images (like those of the new world used in this post) , short videos and animations, more news and more general promotional noise but only very occasionally something new to try out.
Until the next release, feel free to get the current version from the link below and tell me what you think.
Suddenly, a new version of Moon appears.
By the time I'd released the last version of Moon I was reasonably happy that all the significant technology code was written, that there would be only minor changes to code and that I'd be spending most of my time making new levels and interfaces and adding music and more audio. I was very, very wrong.
I went into a lot more detail about some of the most significant changes in a previous post if you're interested. In short, there's cloud save support, new game mechanics, new puzzles and music. Oh and probably a few new bugs.
As ever this is still a preview of the game, you'll get a few snippets of the story and a few puzzles to beat but it'll be a while yet before the whole thing is done. There are definitely still some knobbly bugs in there but in general things should be mostly stable and crash free. Please let me know if you have any trouble (or suggestions / annoyances)
In keeping with the traditions layed down by many other indie developers I've dsecided to give you a quick summary of what I've been upto and what you can expect in the next release. All this while at the same time giving no clear indication when that release might be.
For some time I've been hearing reports that Moon takes a long time to start on laptops or that everything starts up fine, except the graphics (the black screen bug as it's been called). Along side all this I've also had some requests for some sort of cloud save support, so that when you've played for a bit at the office you can carry on where you left off when you get home. So, to address all these things I've spent much last few months making some pretty significant changes to the file system, graphics startup code and game save files.
First, I've added additional checks into the graphics startup code so thet if your playing on an intel laptop that has more than one graphics system it chooses the more capable (non-intel) one if it's available. This should much improve the experience of those of you that see the black screen bug all the time. I've also made 720p the default windowed resolution.
Next, I've split the file structure in two. System files that are needed quickly and everything else. Usually when Moon starts it loads the entire package file into memory (which is pretty fast) then starts to unpack it. The unpacking process can be pretty slow so I spread the work out over all the available proccessor cores. This all works great on a desktop PC with lots of cores but on a laptop with only a few the unpacking time can go on for ages (30+ seconds seems quite common). So now instead only the files need to start up the graphics, network and audio are unpacked before the game is allowed to start. All that other unpacking needs doing but at least your not left staring at a black screen wondering if it's crashed.
Finally I've restructured the save file format and written a simple cloud save system. The files generated when the game was saved used to be hundreds of thousands of bytes (about 400K on a good day) which was far too big to be sending up to the cloud server all the time so I've shrunk that down to about 3K and written a simple system to serve those files when requested. I've tried to make it as simple as possible and aviod any account registration nonsense. So, in the options menu there's just two boxes, 'Username' and 'Password'. If you enter a new username and password combination an account will be generated for you and when you enter it anywhere else you'll connect to that account and get your saved game. it'll even auto connect from that point on to make it easy.
Oh, and I've also started making more new levels.
So soon, what's new this time you might ask?
Well there a few bits of hidden fun stuff for you to enjoy (maybe the image above is a clue). Lots of little bugs squashed and a nice quick simple installer. I've also added some extra code to make it a little easier to help you if you do get bitten by any of the remaining bugs, so please let me know if you have any trouble (or suggestions / annoyances)
For best results you should delete the files in your AppData/Local/Moon folder and start a 'New Game'
Just in time for new year, The first Alpha version of Moon is now available (see the big link below).
So, what great and exciting features have taken all this time?
With luck the black screen bug is finally dead. Lots of ambient sounds have been added (still no music yet though), I've added and updated a few puzzles, made some fixes to levels so you won't get stuck, improved the controls (especially when jumping up through gaps), added interactive computers, added some hidden fun stuff and fixed lots more bugs.
As ever this is still a preview of the game, you'll get a few snippets of the story and a few puzzles to beat but it'll be a while yet before the whole thing is done. There are definitly still some knobbly bugs in there but in general things should be mostly stable and crash free. Please let me know if you have any trouble (or suggestions / annoyances)
For best results you should delete the files in your AppData\Local\Moon folder and start a 'New Game'
A few months have passed since I originally released a playable version of Moon. Since then I've been adding features and fixing bugs. So now you cane give the improved version a try.
It's still a long way off the complete game and there's still plenty of bugs, but I'm now close to being happy that I have all the underlying code systems as I want them so I think this might be the last Pre-Alpha version. Next stop Alpha and some serious content
It almost feels like I'm building up a little bit of steam on Moon. The level editor works pretty well and I've been adding lots of new graphics tiles when ever I get the chance on an evening or during a quiet moment or two during a weekend. However, by far the biggest improvement to it all has been the lighting and atmosphere system. I can now give every level a unique tone and feel. Everything from fogging and lighting to full on film-like colour correction.
there's still no sound or music and there's some significantly missing features .. but it's really starting to be fun and feel a bit like a game.
It came to my attention that Efficiency+ was no longer functioning.
It seems that some changes by my web host brought a rather annoying web script bug out of the cupboard. So, I got the old code out of storage put in a fix and along the way updated the installer to include all the required components for it to run on Windows 8. I even managed to reduce the download size by just over 5MB
The download link on the original post now points to the new version; or you can click on the giant link below
This week I was very lucky to find myself in possession of a few good hours of creation time. So, I thought I'd share with you one of the many products of my efforts.
As you may have noticed, project moon has been ticking along for some time. From time to time I've even posted a screen shot or two relating to it; each one looking quite different to the last. Much as it may not be obvious, the fundamental design idea behind it has always been the same, only the presentation has changed.
So here to accompany some nice new screen shots I'll give you a few reasons for all this change instead of giving away any actual juicy details about any of the game itself, because that's the sort of thing indie developers do.
In short there are two main reasons why I've changed from 3d down to 2d; time and Fez.
As a professional game developer (and now a farther too) I have a very limited amount of free time to spend on my own code projects. That sparse development time is usually used to achieve two things: make progress on one of my two personal game projects (iO and Moon) or investigating the sort of subjects and problems many programmer are easily distracted by, (graphics, compression, audio processing, etc.).
For a very long time I laboured under the illusion that I could find the time to make Moon in 3d. I made a simple level editor and quick mesh building tool, I even got a basic level up and running. It took an age. In the end it was pretty clear that I was never going to find the time to make all the models and levels. I eventually accepted that making a 2d puzzle platformer instead was not giving in and taking the cheap over trodden path but the only real way Moon was going to see anything like completion.
Something else that help push this decision was the release of Fez. I was all the things that I'd hoped to do with Moon, but better, more polished and more complete in absolutely every way. So, Moon became a purely 2d game and I went looking for ways to separate it from Fez while keeping the original intention of the game intact.
So why does it have the low-res, saturated, pixel look that every other indie game seems to have these days? well it turns out that when you've got very little time it's quicker and easier to make everything out of small images. and once you've made everything out of small images, they look better if you make them look like sharp pixels
Anyway, enough ramble, on with the screen shots
Even if I pick up my 'iO' project again, these character concepts will probably never be used. So, rather than let them be forgotten I thought I'd upload them on here.
Some are obviously better than others and I do have favourites (depending on the day). It's been pointed out a few times that they've got a little bit of a pokemon feel to them. It wasn't intentional but I wanted fun accessible characters which all look colourful and different. With those criteria pokemon pretty much draw themselves
I guess the trite phase about third time being lucky may be appropriate here
For the Tortuga event in 2009 I wanted to make sure the puzzle was accessible and fun. I wanted as many people as possible to have a go but it be difficult enough to make the real puzzle enthusiasts still enjoy it. I opted for a hunt for buried treasure (of sorts).
The puzzle was given out early as usual but only two weeks before the event. It came in two parts. A reference map of the Caribbean and a letter. The map was painted on a large board so it could be available for people too peruse on the day (It was also little clearer in the flesh too which helped)
This is probably one of my favourite Tortuga puzzles. It had a excellent balance of fun and challenge. Plus, having lots of pirates looking at the map in the middle of a tavern table, tracing out ideas while trying not to give away what they're doing or thinking made for some great moments.
More pirate themed puzzles. this time the puzzle from Tortuga 2008
This time the aim of the puzzle was to extract the order of 7 words that formed the instructions for the next part of the puzzle. Those seven words have now been lost, but this part of the puzzle still works just fine
The puzzle from the previous years had been given out a month before the event, to get people excited and give them a bit of time to mull over various possible answers. In previous years, the puzzle had often fallen in a few days or weeks. So I made this one a little bit harder. turns out I may have made it a little too hard. It was solved, but not by many
Who doesn't love pirates? I imagine the number has dropped a little since they now seem to be everywhere. I liked them before they were cool *put on hipster glasses*
For many years I provided the games and puzzles (and a lot of nonsense) for a pirate themed gathering amongst 40-50 of my friends. I recently rediscovered the lost image files for most of the puzzles that featured in each one and thought it would be fun to share them with the wider world (not that my website readership is all that wide).
First off is thise one from 2007. The aim was to work out the numeric combinations of three tumbler locks that were all attached to a single chest.
This is a reasonably tricky puzzle. Sadly I fell a bit flat when one of the (far too cheap) locks seized up on the day and the hinges of the chest had to be removed for the treasure to finally be won
I still have the chest; and it still has a broken lock attached to it.