Hoist the Anchor!


I’m already running out of piratisms for blog titles, but the Pirate RPG prototype got its first playtest this weekend. There’s 5 battles (1-2 hours), all kinds of ways to grows and equip the characters, and plenty of ideas for developing it into a full game. Players had fun, and I think it’d be a great single player/local co-op follow up to Hex Gambit: Respawned.

My favorite prototype enemy: Gullet (left & center) & his Fowl minions (right)

It’s a very ambitious game, though. Lots of art needs no matter how I slice it. Working alone, it’d take a few years. So I’m gonna explore some other ideas, give myself some options before I commit to a project.

I tackled HGR because I needed something ASAP, it was already halfway done (before I upped the scope a few times), and it felt like a mistake that I wanted to ‘correct’. The next project doesn’t come with any of that baggage.

I do have some interesting limitations going forward. Unless I can find a partner (like I have with HGR), online multiplayer is not a thing I want to do alone, and Steam is my only certain platform (there are other possibilities, but not certain ones).

I’ve also got a back catalog full of games that I’m trying not to touch. I have a million ideas for resurrecting Tilt to Live, Outwitters, and Space Food Truck, and plenty of good reasons not to go there. Least of which being that two of those were mobile games, which I don’t know the first thing about launching in 2022. Going backwards feels like a crutch right now.

My next prototype exploration will be a tabletop/card game, maybe a digital hybrid like Space Food Truck was. We’ll see where that takes me.

Categories: Prototypes
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Too Quiet


Weird month! Two rough colds, a lot of bonus child care, some life changes to add anxiety. I was more than a little distractible. Most of that situational weirdness is behind me now, and I’m aiming to make up for lost time in February.

Hex Gambit: Respawned news! At last, I’ve seen a match with a server and a client connecting to play. A lot of the undercode™ is being reorganized by my publisher for online play, so that’s still a very cool strategy game coming later this year. Can’t wait for you guys to play it!

Prototyping! …This damned pirate hex RPG. I’ve pumped a LOT of time into this one. I think it could be very cool, but it’s also a huge project. There’s a few more enemy encounters to put together, and then I’ll have a playable thing that I can show to people. My next prototype will likely be much simpler, for my sanity.

I did get to play with some of my nephew’s sketches for pirate monsters, which was fun!

And hey, here’s some DnD characters I drew this month when I was feeling extra distractible. That’s my bard, Ziggy McJagger, plus a fire druid lady for a teammate.

Categories: Hex Gambit, Prototypes
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I Got Time


Happy Thanksgiving, Americans!

First a quick Hex Gambit: Respawned update: I’m getting some firmer timetables from the publisher on the online multiplayer and console ports, and Summer 2022 is looking like a likely launch window. That’s a bit of a wait, but they’re adding a ton of value to the game and I’m excited to see it all come together. HGR will be a big frickin’ game.

So minus a month or so of UI work on Hex Gambit, I’ve got 6 months on my hands. What do I do with that? Short term, I want to get this pirate RPG prototype firmed up.

Pirate mechs!

I have a good idea what the playable game will look like, but there’s SO much setup to get an RPG ready to try. Items, accessories, buffs, debuffs, abilities, weapons, character growth, enemy encounters… can’t really play until all of that’s working.

This month I dressed up the UI a bit, added an item system (my only currently working item is an apple, but the system is ready to make pretty much anything), and added an equip menu for weapons and accessories that I’m pretty happy with. I’ve got the basics of buffing/debuffing in for the accessories, and a general idea of how I want to tie this all together.

I’ve also dabbled in some character and item art. This isn’t really a style I’ve decided on, I’m just blocking in shapes and concepts at this point.

Categories: Hex Gambit, Prototypes
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Digging for Treasure


Hex Gambit: Respawned news: nothing much to report. My publisher Blowfish Studios’ team of devs are still hard at work porting HGR to its various launch platforms, squashing bugs and getting the basic online features up and running. Things will get more interesting on this front closer to the game’s release date (Q1 2022).

So I’m in a holding pattern, which gives me lots of time to think about what I might do next. It’s hard to answer that without knowing where Hex Gambit’s launch will go, but I’m not gonna sit around here doing nothing!

Doesn’t look like much yet. More concerned about how it plays atm.

My latest experiment is a piratey tactics RPG for 1-3 players, coop. I’ve been working on this one on and off since July, which is insane, because it’s still not playable (almost!). A prototype REALLY shouldn’t take this long to put together, but if it doesn’t work out I’m thinking I could rework it into something else easy enough.

Here’s what I’ve got:

  • Movement and targeting are in, thanks to the basic hex game starter project I made.
  • Six weapon types like cutlasses and flintlock pistols, each with a unique advantage/disadvantage.
  • Damage calculations feel good! Had to rework this a few times, so that defenses reduce attack damage in a way that makes sense. There are six types of elemental damage, which can be physical or magical.
  • Each character on your team is a blank slate. What you choose makes your characters better at using certain elements and weapons. I also want a random growth mode, if you want to challenge yourself to adapt your strats to the way the game grows your characters.
  • Lots of art. Pirates are fun.
Categories: Hex Gambit, Prototypes
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Hex Gambit: Respawned is largely in the capable hands of my publisher, Blowfish Studios at the moment. We’ve got some dummy menus in place for host/join game setup, and the servers are being integrated. So with that ball in their court, I’m continuing work on another prototype!

This one has a pirate theme, and it’s my first use of the Hex Bones project I built a while ago. The idea is something like a tactics Final Fantasy (I’ve never played Final Fantasy Tactics), with some simple character building and no random encounters or EXP. I’m probably gonna try 1-3 players co-op.

Figuring out how everything fits together for something like this is more complicated than I expected. I know how it’s traditionally done, but I’m trying to minimize some of the things I don’t think are very fun. Generally I’m not fond of having too many armor and accessory slots, or armors that are 1% better than each other, or random encounters, or finding a dominant 9999 strategy that I use every turn.

It’s giving me headaches some days. I don’t think I’ve ever built a combat system this complicated, but it’s starting to come together. And hey, ghost shrimp!

Categories: Prototypes
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No news on the Hex Gambit front so far. Porting is a long process, and there are some online features being explored on top of that. Still, I’ll try to keep the blog updated monthly so you know I’m not dead.

That ‘Goldeneye’ multiplayer prototype is still being picked at. Every time I think I’m done with it, I bring it to a family function and the kids get a kick out of it. So I’ll add a few weapons or whatever before shelving it again. It’s got a few super abilities to choose from like a Jetpack, and I added a flame thrower and a grenade launcher. I’ve also mashed up all the Tilt to Live music for a placeholder soundtrack, which is just the best. Would be fun on the Switch.

I’ve also put a bunch of time into a “Hex Bones” project. This is like a bare bones framework for everything that Hex Gambit does, plus some stuff I wish it did (like handle pits). It’s a groundwork for prototyping more hexy games. I could make Hex Gambit 2 with it, I could make Outwitters (probably not), or any of the other ideas I have floating around that work with characters on a board.

Categories: Prototypes
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Having gotten Hex Gambit: Respawned into a launch-worthy state, the project has been passed along to a publishing partner to explore some porting options! This is pretty exciting stuff, but I won’t have details for you until that’s all further along. Check back later for info on platforms, release date, etc.

The porting and certification process will take months, so what’s a One Man Left to do? I’m fixing the odd Hex Gambit bug here and there, but mostly I’m prototyping!

My current experiment: a split screen FPS like the ones I sunk hours into as a kid. Am I serious about making this one? I dunno, but it’s something to play with my nieces and nephews.

I’ll get this prototype into a decent state, and then I’ve got a short list of other project premises to play around with while I wait for Hex Gambit news.

Categories: Hex Gambit, News, Prototypes
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Year of the One Man Left


2019 is nearly through, and there’s been one man left™ around these parts for about a year now. So how’s that going?

Thanks to YouTube (especially Mathew Wadstein) I learned a skill this year that I’ve been wanting since I was a kid: I pretty much know how to make make my own games now. All that’s left is to finish one, then I can call myself an indie game designer again. It was a lot faster and cheaper than college.

I’ll add some art from my Action RPG training project below. The gameplay was pretty fun and I learned a lot, but the amount of time I would need to do all of the boss fights and levels you need for a game like this is a bit much for my first solo project.

So I landed on resurrecting Hex Gambit as a local multiplayer game. I have a bunch of finished art, I own all the music and SFX, and the game design is already solid. That’s not a bad head start. Two months in, I can play with 2-4 players, free-for-all, using a mouse or a controller.

Now it’s time to put my money where my mouth is and get something onto a store! Happy New Year to you all, and best of luck in whatever crazy idea you’re pursuing in 2020.

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October Update


Took a little time this month to work on some finished artwork. Nowadays I draw, model, rig, animate, do particle FX, game design, and visual scripting… It’s a lot of muscles to keep in shape. I do about 10 minutes of gesture drawing to start my work days, but I’d like to try to keep an illustration side project rolling once in a while. That or sculpting in Blender… something artsy that doesn’t take months or years to finish.

In new game news: this month I’ve got a loading/unloading system for level streaming figured out that I think will work nicely. My levels unlock when you meet a criteria, that criteria can vary from level to level without needing separate game over screens, and it plays a little level unlock animation when you get back to the hub world.

I’ve also spent too much time tackling an arch nemesis of mine: boulders. The trick to making nice looking rocks and boulders has always eluded me, and I’ve discovered it’s because I don’t sculpt. I learned how to model doing characters, where edge flow and quads and things like that are important. None of that matters for rocks. Watching sculpting videos has been hugely helpful. I’ve always had an aversion because it’s “just another discipline to learn,” but I think it’s one that would pay dividends if I practiced.

There’s a special circumstance this month that’s causing not a lot of work to happen, but in about four days that’ll all be in the past, and I’ll sit down for a long stretch of too much work. Feast or famine!

Categories: Prototypes
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Update Number September


The presentability milestone continues!

I’m currently on the tail end of something that often got kicked down the road in our previous games: sound FX! Of the six enemies I have in decent working order, I’m halfway through my fifth character arranging all of the stomps and grunts and death screams. I’ve also polished up all of the weapons with visuals and sound, and I’ve got to say it’s a huge morale boost to finally have some shippable elements to look at. Placeholders and half-done items were a natural part of the learning process, but it was getting depressing to be this deep into development with nothing really feeling done.

Sometime before the year is out I’ll figure out a video capture workflow, so I can show rather than tell. In the Before-Times, Alex used to capture all of the video and I would do the editing, so it’s just another thing to learn and I’ve been putting it off.

Categories: Prototypes
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