Game Progress Update #19


Update #19

Hello world! And welcome to the nineteenth Dev with Dave Game Progress Update!

This update is mostly about the Audio system, which I have added to significantly this last week or so, to allow it to better do what I need it to do for the game.

The Audio System

Originally, the audio system just allowed for the loading, and playing of sound files. Which is after all, it’s main job I guess? lol

However, I needed to be able to have more control over some of the sound effects. For example, the asteroid sound, because the speed of the game increases the time the asteroids appear on screen (and also play their sound effect for) decreases. In order to rectify this, the system needed to be able to specify a sprite ID which is associated to the sound effect being played, and then end the sound effect when the sprite moves off screen.

It can also specify a maximum duration for the sound effect to have as well, so instead of the sprite lasting as long as a certain sprite is on screen, you can set it to a timer instead.

The last thing which I’m quite proud about, is the way the system can fade out a sound effect rather than just cutting it short.

Best of all, all this is specified when the sound effect is played, and the rest is all handled automatically by the audio system πŸ™‚

Other sound effects

I’ve also managed to add some other place holder sound effects into the game. These are perhaps not quite the exact sounds I’m after for the game, but they are fairly close.

Most of them have been chosen from various asset packs which I have laying around. Some have been edited in Audacity to bring them close to my vision of what they are supposed to sound like.

As with the graphics, I’m aiming for a retro old school kind of sound, but using subtle fades and layering to give a subtle feeling of depth which actual retro games don’t necessarily have.

That’s all folks

And that about wraps it up for this update.

The next update will probably be more sound effects, as well as maybe some more UI as I still need to get the pause menu designed and working, and a few others UI pages as well.

Anyway, I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with the next update. See you all then πŸ™‚

Game Progress Update #18


Update #18

Hello world! Welcome to the eighteenth Dev with Dave Game Progress Update!

This time round I have managed to plan, and start to implement the remaining UI screens. However I decided to try and do something special during the planning with the About page. So I didn’t get quite all of them done yet.

The settings page

The settings page contains controls so the player can adjust the game settings, like the volume of the music and sound effects.

The page scrolls in a similar way to the other pages where the content doesn’t all fit on the screen. There is a button for the player to adjust the advert settings below what is shown on the image above.

I created everything using the existing UI system I’d implemented earlier in the project. With the exception of the blue bars which represent the volume level. These will require a tiny amount of extra code to resize the blue bar according to the volume.

The eagle eyed among you might have noticed the above image is different to the video. I created the image in paint.net, and the spacing isn’t exactly the same in the game.

Sound Effects

I also spent more than a few hours over the last two weeks listening to various science fiction and retro game inspired sound effects, trying to decide what type of sounds I wanted in the game.

I used Google and YouTube to do the bulk of the research. Either searching for specific sound effects or watching gameplay of retro games.

I downloaded some free assets to use as placeholders for the time being, so I could make a start on the Audio system which is responsible for loading and playing the sound effects.

My goal is for the audio to match the graphical styling of the game, and have a certain retro feel to it.

Next time

I think for the next update I’m going to continue developing the last few UI screens, as well as gathering more place holder audio effects for the game.

And that’s all for this time, I’ll be back in two weeks with another Game Progress Update for you all!

Game Progress Update #17


Update #17

Hello world! Welcome to the seventeenth Dev with Dave Game Progress Update!

I’ve managed to finish both of the remaining boosts! Now both the Second Chance and the Missile Jammer boosts will work, once the player has unlocked the boost and purchased one.

I’ve also managed to add several new bugs to the Known bugs/Issues list on the Trello board, which is less cool tbh, but better to find them now and fix them in the next revision.

Second Chance boost

The second chance boost causes the player to recover from an impact which would otherwise have killed them. It also provides a few seconds of shield to ensure the player manages to get out of harms way.

This was implemented by adding a few lines of code into the player collision function, which simply checked to see if the player had a Second chance in their inventory, then decreases the inventory count, checks the chances of it working (It starts off a 20%, and increases as the player upgrades the boost), and if successful it simply starts a shield for a few seconds and carries of with the game.

I had to refactor the code which started the particle explosion. I turned it into a function so I could call it from a couple of places where it was necessary, but not when the second chance was in use.

I think the Second chance boost needs some more visual (and audio) feedback. I’d like to see maybe a simple line of text and maybe an angel wings animation appear and disappear on screen.

Missile Jammer boost

The first thing I did, was plan out exactly how the missile jammer was going to work. Since it was another lovely day I decided to sit outside with a pen and paper (my absolute favourite medium for planning/sketching ideas) and think about exactly how this boost would work.

I added a check at the start of the game to see if the player has any missile jammers in their inventory. If they have then reduce the inventory by one and set the missile jammer isActive flag to true. I’ve done this so the Jammer works for the whole game, rather than needing a new one each missile zone.

Next, I added some code to the spawn zone function which when a missile zone is being spawned, it adds the missile sprite IDs to an array. When the zone has finished spawning, the function quickly cycles through this array and using a similar chance check as the Second Chance boost, it determines whether or not to move the missile.

Initially I thought that I could simply change the depth of the missile sprite so it appeared behind the sky background image, but this didn’t work. Instead I simply moved the jammed missiles offscreen on the y axis.

I imagine this boost would play a sound effect similar to a radio being tuned in when a jammed missile appears on screen (or when it passes the boundary which starts it moving?)

Bugs

I’ve also managed to build up a somewhat large list of bugs. These have all been recorded in the Flappy-vaders Trello board ready for when I’ve finished adding all the basics, and am ready to start polishing and fixing bugs.

I don’t think any of them are particularly game breaking so I am ok with just leaving them as they are while I work on adding the rest of the systems for the game.

Next time

Quite a lot of the remaining things in the “Things to do” list seem to be relating to the User Interface, things like the options screen, pause menu, about screen etc. The rest are mostly relating to monetisation and the sound effects.

I think for the next update I will try and get the UI pages complete and working, which perhaps won’t make for an exciting video next fortnight, but it’s an important part of the game which needs doing.

In the mean time, don’t forget to like, follow and subscribe to Dev with Dave on social media to keep up to date with the project, and I’ll see you in two weeks for another Game Program Update πŸ™‚

Promoting your game using Facebook

Promoting your game using Facebook

I’m sure there aren’t many of you out there who don’t know what Facebook is. It’s one of the oldest and most popular social media networks in the world! For the last 15 years it’s been changing how humanity interacts and shares information.

Almost a third of the worlds population has a Facebook account (2.79 billion people approximately) so that’s a lot of eyes to put your game in front of.

In this post, I will be discussing how to utilise Facebook to promote your game for free using organic reach. Facebook does offer a paid advertising service, but I’ll discuss that in another post.

Organic reach

Now, before we begin, I have to point out that Facebook organic reach has been shrinking slowly over the last few years. This is due to several factors, things like the ever increasing amount of new content posted, changes to the Facebook algorithm etc.

According to HootSuite, the average reach of an organic page post is around 5%, or roughly only 1 in 20 people who like your page will see your post..

Now this doesn’t mean that organic reach is dead. Quite the opposite, however it does mean that competition is fierce.

Strategy

This is one area of social media marketing where there are no shortcuts.

First of all you need clearly defined and measurable goals, so you can determine if your posts are having the desired effect.

I’ve spoken before about knowing your ideal customer/target audience; and your customer avatar will be one of the most valuable tools in your arsenal for generating organic reach in your posts.

It’s important that your ideal customer demographics match the demographics of the platform you are using, but you also need to know what kind of things they like or they are interested in so you can create social media content which they engage with.

It’s also important that you don’t just promote your game. One of the keys to a successful marketing strategy is to connect with your audience and build a relationship. 80% of your posts should provide interesting content or value of some kind to your audience, and the remaining 20% should promote your game.

I find it to be quite helpful when developing a strategy to spend a few hours on Facebook snooping around what your competitors are doing with their social media, just to see what is performing well and what is not.

Remember to keep checking your metrics to see how your own posts are performing as well, and don’t be afraid to try something different if your first attempt didn’t achieve the results you were hoping for.

Pages vs. Groups

Facebook offers two choices when it comes to places to post content to, those are Pages and Groups.

A Facebook Page is very similar to a Facebook Profile, only it’s always public. When a user likes or follows your page, they will get notifications and updates on their news feed when you post stuff.

I find it’s best to create a page specifically for your game, rather than a company page where you share content relating to all your games. This way you can narrow down the focus of your content and hopefully create a lasting relationship with your audience.

Groups tend to be more user oriented, with much of the content being created by users. If your game has elements of user created content and a strong existing audience, then a group might work well for your game.

I find however, the best way to utilise groups is to join groups which are on theme for your game (Angling groups if your game is targeted at anglers, skateboard groups for a skateboarding game etc.) and then interact with them. Get to know the posters and the feel of the group, and contribute where you can; then occasionally and where it’s relevant to the post drop a link to your game.

You should never just join a group and then spam 30 identical posts a day promoting your game. This kind of behaviour is usually frowned upon by the group admins and will 100% not result in any kind of good result you may be hoping to achieve.

Other helpful advice

When setting goals and targets for your social media campaigns, remember that when audience building you want to build a targeted audience who interact with your posts and have an interest in your game. Just collecting likes isn’t a sound business strategy.

Don’t rush your content. Whether it’s text, images or video, it deserves the same amount of attention to detail that your game did.

Remember to interact with you audiences comments on your posts. This will help foster relationships as well as make it more likely that your post will be seen by more people.

One of the most impressive ways I’ve seen to get Actual players to like your social media page is to offer them the chance to join you on social media from in game in exchange for a small amount of in game currency or some other reward.

Lastly, although I highly recommend looking at competitors pages and content for ideas and inspiration, your social media strategy should be unique to you, so avoid copying directly.

Outro

And that’s about all for this time round. I hope you have found this post to be informative. Don’t forget that if you have any questions about it then please feel free to post them on the Dev with Dave forum.

Game Progress Update #16


Update #16

Hello world, and welcome to the sixteenth Dev with Dave Game Progress Update!

Since the last update, I have been busy working on the “Cannons” zone, which has taken an awful lot longer to do than I was expecting due to an annoying bug which turned out to be a huge oversight on my behalf. Still, I beat it in the end, and I’m quite pleased with the way the Cannons Zone worked out.

Planning

Again, the entry for the Cannons Zone in the GDD was a little sparse.

3.3.3 Cannons
Obstacles and ground cannons which fire upwards

Flappy-vaders GDD

So, before I could do any coding, I had to sit down and have a real think about what I wanted for the cannons.

Although the original design document said that the guns were to fire upwards, I decided that it would be better for the guns to shoot diagonally.

The guns are to have a muzzle flash image which is displayed when they fire a round.

The cannons and their bullets are also destroyed when in range of a Smart bomb exploding.

I shall update the GDD to reflect these changes as soon as possible.

Media Assets

The first thing I needed before I could start work on the new zone were the graphical assets.

Now I did have some pencil sketches as concept art, as well as the image below, which was a mockup of the game screen I created nearer the start of the project.

So, grabbing my trusty tablet, my new mouse and a fresh cup of tea, I went and sat outside in the sunshine for probably the first time this year and got to work.

I started by using google to search for “Gun turrets” and “futuristic gun turrets” to give me some actual reference images to help with designing the cannon sprites for the zone.

The image above shows the evolution of the turret as I improved and tweaked each iteration of the design until I was happy with it. It took most of the afternoon of playing around inside Paint .Net to achieve this result.

I also created images for the bullet sprites and the cannons muzzle flash.

The Cannon Zone

The cannons are designed to sit on top of the large blue pipes, so I duplicated one of the pipe zones from earlier, and positioned the gun sprites on the top of the piped.

The movement of the cannon sprites is handled by the UpdateZones() function, which also handles firing the gun when the time is right, and spawning the muzzle flash as well.

Bullets

The bullets are held in a pool until the SpawnBullet() function is called. Then a bullet is positioned in the right place relative to the gun that fires it and the inUse property is set to true.

There is an UpdateBullets() function which handles the movement of the active bullets, and collisions are handled by the CheckPlayerCollision() function.

Muzzle flash

I thought this would make a nice touch, It’s a simple sprite which is displayed over the top of the end of the gun barrel for 0.2 seconds while the gun fires.

Again, the movement is handled by the existing code which moves all the zone sprites, and they use a timer to determine when they should vanish.

Bugs!

Now I had huge problems getting the bullets and the muzzle flash to appear in the right place. It turns out I had made a mistake, thinking that the guns[] array ID directly related to the zoneSprites[] array ID; which isn’t the case.

It took literally hours of checking through all the code before I found out what the problem was, and another hour to decide on a solution and code it.

The guns[] array stores data like the last timer fired time, the muzzle flash spriteID, etc. of the gun. Whereas the zoneSprites[] array stores the spriteID of the zone sprites (not just the guns, but the pipes they sit on, and any other elements used)

So, you can see the problem, the ZoneSprites[] array stored gunSpriteID, pipeSpriteID,gunSpriteID, pipeSpriteID,gunSpriteID, pipeSpriteID, etc.

I fixed it by adding the ZoneSpriteID to the guns array[] so I had some way of identifying which zoneSprite the gun data was attached to, and some functions to allow the game to check or assign this.

The second bug is less of a show stopper, but for some reasons the bullets move at slightly the wrong speed in the x axis.

This issue is shown in the image above, where the blue diagonal line is the expected trajectory of the bullet, compared to the actual position of the bullet.

This second bug has been added to the Known Bugs/Issues board on the Trello, and will be fixed when I next work through the list of bugs.

Next Time!

That’s all for this update. Now that I have finished all the zones, I will concentrate on getting the last few powerups/boosts working.

I’ll be back in another fortnight with yet another exciting game progress update! See you then πŸ™‚

Game Progress Update #15


Update #15

Hello world! Welcome to the 15th Dev with Dave Game Progress Update.

In this update I’m happy to say that I’ve got the Missile Zones doneΒ πŸ™‚ It still has some rough edges, but these will be taken care of as part of the game balancing/level design phase.

The missiles themselves were simple additions to the existing systems, but I did have to make a couple of changes to things to get some of the associated effects to work properly.

Since the Missile Zone has been the only thing in this update, I thought it might be invaluable if I went a little more depth into how I created the zone.

Planning

This is how I described the missiles zone in the GDD.

3.3.5 Missiles

Missiles which fly from right to left, possibly using a laser targeting system to warn the player where the missiles will be flying (Like in Jet Pack Joyride, or Sky Force)

Flappy Vaders GDD

It’s not a terrible amount to go on, so I thought I would take you through my process of how I went from the sentence above to the functioning missiles zone in the game.

Since I had referenced both Jetpack Joyride and Sky Force in the GDD, my first port of call was to Google Images so I could remind myself how the missiles looked and worked in these games, and to get some reference images to help with designing the missile and missile effects sprites.

The above image is from Skyforce Reloaded. It uses guidance lasers to show the player the path of the missile and to give them a second or two to move out of the way. The missiles are red and white, and look well, basically just how you would imagine a missile to look.

In Jetpack Joyride, the missiles attack is again forwarned, but this time it uses floating exclamation marks to indicate where the missiles are coming from. This missiles also look strikingly similar to the missiles in the previous game.

So with this in mind, I set to work in Paint .net with a screen grab from Flappy vaders to mock up how I imagined the missile zones to work.

I used Hitfilm Express to create the below video to demonstrate how I imagined the effects would appear in game.


I dropped the warning markers in the end, in preference of the alert flash and the guidance lasers.

I also intend on adding flame/smoke animation to the back of the missiles, but I’ve not got that done just yet.

Once I had an idea of what I was hoping to achieve, as well as all the assets I’d need, then it was time to open AGK Studio and dive into the code.

Red alert flash effect

The first and most obvious addition with this type of zone is the red alert warning flash. This is triggered at the zone start and remains active until the beginning of the next zone.

It’s another full screen sprite placed over the screen, and the flashing is being done using the sprites alpha channel.

It’s handled in a similar way to the Smart bomb effect, with the addition of a direction variable. So when the sprites alpha value reaches zero, instead of the effect ending, the direction variable is toggled and the alpha value is increased instead.

Missiles

The missiles were the simplest part to implement. They are handled exactly the same as the other zoneSprites, but have additional movement code in the same way that the asteroids do.

Unlike the asteroids, the missiles don’t start moving independently until they are close to appearing on screen.

Guidance lasers

The guidance lasers appear just before the missile sprite is due to appear on screen, and disappear again once the missile has left the screen.

I had to change the way the zoneSprite depths work slightly in order to make the guidance lasers appear over the top of the rest of the zoneSprites, but underneath the missiles themselves.

Next time

And that’s all for this update. I’m hoping in the next one to have the Missile jammer boost working, as well as maybe the last zone and boost as well.

Don’t forget to follow @DevwithDave on social media to keep up to date with the project, and with any luck I’ll see you all next time πŸ™‚

Dave

Promoting your game

Promotion

In this post I’m going to be talking about some of the ways to put your game in front of potential players.

I’ll cover each thing in more detail in upcoming blogs, but I wanted to just give you a brief rundown of them today.

I’d also like to take this time to say that there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution to promoting your game, some strategies work with some games, other strategies work with others.

Knowing your audience

Knowing who your ideal user is makes getting your game in front of them a lot easier. Spend some time thinking about your ideal user – their age, sex, location, interests etc.

I find it works best to create your game with your ideal user in mind, rather than creating a game and then trying to determine who your ideal user would be.

Having a “Customer Avatar” (a representation of your ideal user) can save you a lot of time and potentially expensive mistakes. If your game is aimed at teenage girls who like kawaii fashion, k-pop and tiktoks; then you’ll be wasting a lot of effort and resources by trying to build an audience for it on Twitter. In the same way that if your game was aimed at middle aged men who enjoy catching fish, then using TikTok to promote it would probably be unsuccessful.

The more you know about your ideal customer the better.

Social Media

Posting on social media is a great way to raise awareness, as well as building an audience of fans who love your game.

When trying to grow an audience on Social Media it’s important to have a strategy again. It’s highly unlikely that posting random content at random times will produce the results you are looking for.

Use your customer avatar to decide which type and style if content would appeal to your ideal user, as well as what social media platforms to post it onto.

Regularly posting content which appeals to your ideal user is the best way to grow an audience for your game for very little money.

Adverts

Advertising is another solid method to grow an audience for your game.

You can use adverts to help grow your audience on Social Media, to build more of a buzz about your game prior to release, as well as to get people to download your game when it is released.

I highly recommend learning more about how your chosen advertising platform works before you start running adverts, as it is very easy to waste your budget and not see any returns if you just jump in feet first with no clue as to what you’re doing.

As with Social Media, there are a variety of different advertising platforms, each showing ads in different place and formats.

Game Expos and Fairs

I know it seems hard to remember what with the last 12 months of lockdowns and social distancing, but Computer Game Fairs are a great place to show off your game and connect with audiences.

Having a stall with a couple of PCs or Consoles where players can try out your game is a great way to not only introduce new players to your game, but also get some face to face feedback.

You could also create some merchandise to sell or give away.

Obviously you might have to wait for the pandemic to be over before this option becomes viable again.

Some final thoughts

As I said earlier, there isn’t a One size fits all solution to marketing your game. It may take you several attempts before you start to see positive results. Remember to set clearly defined goals, and monitor how well (or not) your attempts are doing.

Some things to watch out for though, NEVER ever ever pay for likes or installs. These are often not genuine, and will often have negative consequences. I would rather have an audience of 1000 genuine users who interact with my posts and play my game, than 10000 fake users who never do anything.

I’ll be covering each one of these subjects in more depth in later blogs, so stick around πŸ™‚ Either bookmark the site, or follow me on Social Media πŸ™‚

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Game Progress Update #14

Update #14

Hello world! Well, here we are at the 14th Dev with Dave Game Progress Update.

I know last update I said I had written enough of the UI systems to complete the powerups and boosts, but I had completely overlooked the fact that I hadn’t yet created the Missiles zone, so creating the missile jammer boost effect was unfortunately not possible.

I did however get the Head start and Self destruct boosts working, although neither is as polished as I’d like them to be.

The unlocking boosts works the same way as the unlocking the other powerups, but I had to write some extra code to handle the purchasing of boosts, managing the stock level and updating the text on the Boost store page buttons.

Head Start

The Head Start boost gives the player an initial burst of speed and a shield to protect them for a few seconds.

Code wise, the pre-game section checks to see if the player has a head start boost, and sets the headstart.isActive flag to true.

The main game section checks this flag, and if it’s true then it initialises a head start by setting the variables for the speed# etc. The game then runs at the boosted speed until the duration is up where it slows back down to the normal speed and the shield ends.

It has shown a bug in the way the score is incremented though. The score is supposed to increase faster when the boost is active due to the increased speed of travel. I’ve added this to the Trello and will look into it next time I’m fixing bugs.

Self Destruct

The self destruct boost gives the player an extra burst of speed at the end of a game by exploding and propelling the ship back up into the air.

The force of the explosion and the number of times the players ship bounces is determined by how upgraded the boost is.

Again, implementing the functionality of this boost was a fairly simple case of adding to the existing systems.

I added a check to the PlayerCollision() function to see if the player had a self destruct in stock when they crashed, and if so then move to the self destruct section instead of the usual game over section.

The new self destruct section initialises the self destruct by giving the player a massive boost of yVelocity# which is directly related to the level the self destruct boost is upgraded to.

It uses the same gravity calculation as the other game sections, but instead of triggering the game over when the player hits the floor, it gives the player another boost of yVelocity# as long as the maximum number of bounces hasn’t been exceeded.

The maximum number of bounces is also dependant on the level of the upgrade. Higher levels give more bounces, and therefore more distance and more score.

This will probably have an explosion sound effect, as well as a similar flash effect to the Smart bomb power up, and possibly some extra particle effects as well.

Next time

And that’s that. I’m still kicking myself that I’d forgotten I hadn’t written the missile zone handling system. I also have one other game zone system to write before I have finished all the planned zones and can move on to a bit of level design, creating some more zone sub sets to make the game less repetitive.

On the next update I hope to have not only added the system to handle missile zones to the game, but also have completed the last two boosts!

As always don’t forget to follow @devwithdave on social media if you haven’t already, and I’ll be back in another fortnight with the next exciting game progress update!

See you then

Dave.