Tuesday, 29 December 2015

A few Book Recommendations 1

Hey everyone,

I've been meaning to do this post for a while - however I held off it whilst I was still doing some reading. I wanted to list a few books I've gone through and recommend as they have many or some concepts that may be of interest to be entrepreneurial individuals or game developers. I will list what books I have gone through, as well as those I am currently reading. I do have a number of books I plan on reading the coming months - but I will talk of those next time.


Books I have finished

The $100 Start-up by Chris Guillebeau
For anyone looking to start up a company but is afraid of what many perceive to be a highly expensive activity, the $100 start-up shows people who have invested a lot of time and effort - and sometimes little money. Though that is not why I recommend the book per say. 

The book speaks of a lot of concepts that individuals with little or no background on business may be able to relate to or understand. It speaks a lot about various ways to go about planning and thinking about your idea and building a viable plan of action towards it. It won't provide you with the in-depth information than if you were to do more research on the areas talked about - but it will definitely give you a very good basis to start with, not to mention a starting point and some much needed inspiration.

The Entrepreneurial Blueprint by Peter Voogd
This book focuses a lot on what I believe entrepreneurship really needs. It focuses more on yourself - be it on your perspective, your ideas and your attitude. Being a master a business may get you somewhere - but even then you probably got there or what kept you there is your character. This book (or audio book as I have gone through an audio book version of it) provides you with a very good perspective - and whilst many of which I had already felt like I knew from my own research; I still found a number of really useful concepts that I believe in today. 

I highly recommend this book - it offers something stronger than a business book would towards achieving what you want to achieve. It's focus is more on you, the entrepreneur, rather than you and your business idea. Something that may often be overlooked.

Currently Reading Through

Designing Games: a Guide to Engineering Experiences by Tynan Sylvester
This is currently the first book that is solely focused on game design I am reading. It is shaping and providing me a very good foundation on how to think about designing games. Up to writing this I have just started the 3rd Part - which is around page 367. Based solely on what I have read until now I do recommend this book, although I will likely make a better recommendation once I've finished it.

The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman
As the name might suggest - this book's aim is to provide a more personalised education towards business that would be better than going to a university to get the degree for business or similar. It definitely caught my attention when I was browsing the shelves and decided to give it a go. I am not very far in yet so I cannot make a recommendation as of yet but I do like what I have read so far. 

The Business Book 
This is more like an encyclopaedia if you will of business concepts. It covers a wide area of topics and gives a fairly nice and simple way to explain them. If you are someone interested in business and may not have much experience in the area - I think it can be useful for reference. As a business student, I am finding it very interesting and useful for my studies - so I can imagine it being useful for other business students as well. It doesn't go much in depth on topics, but it offers the basis and you can simply look up the rest. It has nice useful diagrams to explain various elements and I have discovered a number of things which I was unaware of before - even as a business student. I have only just started reading through it - so as with the Personal MBA I cannot place a recommendation yet - however it seems to be quite useful so I do say check it out and see if it interests you.

I hope you found any of these useful - even if you found just one useful, I am definitely glad that is the case! I will come back and write more as I go along and give you my views on the ones that I read and go through!

Until next time,

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Focusing on Yourself

Hello everyone,

Today I just wanted to post regarding something that has become more or less the philosophy I am working and pushing with. I've had a number of people who also are interested in either starting a company or simply have something they want to do - a dream if you will. We tend to always hit off when discussing that subject and people have always brought forward the points as to why they should reconsider their options. My response tended to be always similar - if not in exact terms; similar in meaning; "There will always be a reason for you  to not do what you dream about and want to do. Even if your doing something that will be incredibly beneficial to people - you will still have those who will see to it that they don't encourage you to do it."

When I began my full pursuit of achieving my dreams - I focused on the single constant throughout my entire life. Myself - whether it was good times or bad times, whether I was doing great or not doing great - I was always the consistent element. Building a solid foundation within yourself is the first step to achieving what you want to achieve. You believing in that dream and pushing towards achieving that dream is what you need - everyone else is a bonus.

I have people in my life that support and push me forward when times get hard - and without them things would be so much harder. What you need to understand though is that they can't hear what you tell yourself in your mind when things get hard. If as soon as you get some resistance you decide to stop thinking about your dream - chances are you'll abandon it. If you make sure that you keep pushing towards your goals - that's the first step to making sure they get done. As Confucious once said; "It does not matter how slow you go - as long as you don't stop." Leave the discouragement to what people will tell you - you don't need to discourage yourself. Be strategic - plan your way to your goal, see what skills and characteristics you need to achieve it and work on that. Build the foundation upon which your dreams will be built.

Until next time,

Monday, 14 December 2015

Tools of the Trade

Hello everyone,

Today I chose to compile a small list of tools that I make use of that may or may not be useful for beginning game developers. The tools are split depending on their function - and needless to say there are very likely alternative programs that you could use in place of these; but I will be listing the ones I've been using primarily myself - as well as ones I'm looking to use and try out down the line.

Software: Pyxel Edit
URL: http://pyxeledit.com/

As many of you who read my blog likely know - Pyxel Edit has been my software of choice when it comes to pixel art. It's tiling features coupled with it's easy shading and lighting preview with the colour pallet has made it much easier and convenient to learn and use as I went on.

Software: Graphics Gale
URL: http://www.humanbalance.net/gale/us/

Graphics Gale was the first pixel art software I actually used - it is definitely worth checking out and I found that got the job done and is fairly easy to get to animating with. The software is more or less free - with the optional purchase to allow you to export to certain formats.

Software: Inkscape
URL: https://inkscape.org/en/

Inkscape is a software I have not tried yet - I have downloaded and install it but I've yet to give it a try. I have seen some videos online of what it is capable of and I am excited to starting practicing with this software at a later date. If your not into pixel art itself - then Inkscape may be a very good alternative for 2D sprites. It is an open source software so there's no reason not to give it a test run if your interested!

Software: Qubicle
URL: http://www.minddesk.com/

Qubicle is a software I have very excited to try out hopefully in the near future. It is a 3D editor that works via voxels. Think little squares that make up a model - 3D pixels if you will. Stonehearth is a game that uses this style and seeing the various models and what has been made using this software gets me excited to give use it for my own projects.

Software: Blender
URL: https://www.blender.org/

Blender is a software I used a while ago - it is used to make 3D models and if that's what your looking for then it's hard to go wrong with Blender as it's free and open sourced. It fairly powerful - however it is a bit daunting to get into until you put some practice into it. There are a lot of online tutorials to learn from so don't worry about lacking training resources.

Software: 3dsMax and Maya
URL: http://www.autodesk.com/products/3ds-max/overview   http://www.autodesk.com/products/maya/overview

These are both 3D modelling software - they do have a student's version to use and practice with but for commercial uses you need to purchase the license which isn't cheap. I have more experience with Maya where the user interface felt more user friendly than 3dsMax and Blender - however with practice you can get the hang of both. Both are powerful software - from what I found out many use Maya for movie-based development where as 3dsMax is used more towards game development - however you can always use either or for both as far as I'm aware.

Software: BFXR
URL: http://www.bfxr.net/

BFXR is a really useful software if you want to create quick game sounds that are reminiscent of many old 2d games. It's a free software and comes with a browser app as well as a downloadable client - both of which work very well.

Software: Audacity
URL: http://sourceforge.net/projects/audacity/

Audacity is a software that allows you to modify and change existing sounds by adding in effects or simply manipulating the sound itself. It is free and open sourced and if you need a sound editing software you can give this a try. It is powerful and fairly simple to use - especially since you can simply look up tutorials to get a hang of the software.

Software: LMMS 
URL: https://lmms.io/

LMMS is a software I have not used - however those of you who read my blog may remember Amik Lanfranco [Soundcloud Profile]. She made quite a lot of tracks using LMMS and she shows that the software is capable of a lot if you simply experiment and work with it.

Game Engine
Software: RPG Maker Series
URL: http://www.rpgmakerweb.com/

The RPG Maker series is a series of game engines that create primarily 2D RPG style games with turn based combat. You are able to use the Ruby coding language and other coding languages within the newest RPG Maker MV engine to change things around. It is a good engine to try out - particularly if your not too keen on coding just yet.

Software: GameMaker
URL: http://www.yoyogames.com/studio

GameMaker is currently the engine I am practising with and making use of. It is a very good engine which I am still scratching the surface of. I would recommend checking out some games that were made using GameMaker such as Stealth Bastard.

Software: Unity
URL: https://unity3d.com/

Unity is a game engine that is extremely powerful and offers a lot of versatility. It can be used for 2D and 3D games - however you will need to know how to code, unless you have someone working with you that already does. There are a lot of different elements to Unity that you can learn using the online resources of the engine itself as well as Youtube and so on.

There is a vast amount of software that I have not covered here. Finding the software that works for you is very important. Just like a carpenter needs their tools to create their own masterpieces and finish their projects - you will need your own tools as a game developer to create and finish your own projects and master pieces. Depending on whether you want to focus on a single area of game development - or want to get a piece of everything, you would obviously need to focus on certain software more so than others. A coder may need to understand more on how an engine works and what coding languages it accepts - where as an graphical artist may simply need to know the format and what the engine will accept and how the project will look like. Sound artists would be similiar - they simply need to know what is needed for the project and how to get the sound they need to make it work - so learning what the software you use is capable of is important.

Until next time,

Monday, 30 November 2015

GameMaker Engine progress: ICON

Hey everyone,

As many of you know from my previous posts - I have been working to learn and use the Game Maker Engine. Ever since I started to put a real effort into learning it - it has grown on me a lot. It opened up a lot of avenues of development that I before didn't have. I can work on more than just a simple RPG or whatever else I could make using RPG Maker Vx Ace; one of the works I had worked on was an Asteroids-like game.

I nicknamed it ICON, I've been using ICON to practice my coding within GameMaker and try different things. Right now I'm working on adding a small mode that allows the player to fly around a small map made from tiles I have shown you in a previous post [Pixel Art 3]. This lets me experiment with views, enemy pathing and much more.

If your an aspiring game developer - which I assume you might be if your reading this blog; I recommend checking out GameMaker because it is definitely a tool that may be worthy of your attention. I would learn the GML coding language if you do get your hands on it because it unlocks a lot more possibilities than if you were to use it's drag and drop commands. It is an engine with a large amount of features and possibilities so I would recommend you check it out yourself to see what you'd like about it. Below is an image of ICON which is my first GameMaker project;

ICON In-Game

As you can see in the image above - the player controls a space ship and shoots down asteroids which brake down into smaller chunks if their large. The player can also collect ammo for special types of fire modes which he can switch between as shown in the bottom middle of the screen. These drop from asteroids and the player can get WEPAIR-bots to raise their health if they get hit by asteroids. Finally the game difficulty scales up to difficulty 6 with 35 asteroids, then continues scaling higher with asteroids spawning 40 + the difficulty level. So 7 would be 47, 8 would be 48 and so on.

The game also has music as composed and played by Amik Lanfranco, whom I recommend you check out her soundcloud because she has amazing music! The link for her sound cloud can be found here. Check it out and see if her music is something you'd like!

That is all for today, 
I will see you all next time!
Until then,

Tuesday, 17 November 2015


Hey everyone!

Today I wanted to talk to you about a concept which I've been trying to amplify as much as possible in my life. Productivity can do a lot to help you, and I don't just mean in terms of getting work done but also in feeling that you are able to get things done.

Why look into productivity? 

For me, juggling University and self-teaching Game Development it ensures I can do both of them right. More on this however, it helps me enhance both of them, it helps me get more readings done for University and Game Development, it helps me practice more and learn more; more so it also helps me explore different things, between Coding and Sprite Art, these may be related to Game Development but I am also looking into HTML 5 later on more so for my own skill set than Game Development. Learning has become more fun than simply adding onto my skill set, and this is important because when things get tough, I have one less obstacle in my way to keep moving forward.

It also helps ensure that whilst I do occupy a lot of my free-time with this studying and practice, I still have time for myself. To play games, go out with friends and so on - these things help putting things back into focus. One of the important things I found when I am learning so many new things is that I have time to just let myself rest and think on what I learned. Not getting carried away with the vast volumes of new information and things I learned is important to keep things in perspective and not get overwhelmed.

One of the things that has motivated me to keep moving forward is knowing that I am getting things done. I was motivated to learn more sprite art after I had gotten through the task of finding a software that works for me, then I got more motivated when I made something I was proud of and shared it with friends and they also liked it. Initiative and action are important, but when you want to learn to do a lot of things whilst also making sure you have time for yourself and other obligations, then time becomes more urgent (not that it wasn't already, but this makes it far more striking when you actually see how much time your using to do a task that would normally take you a few minutes).

I am not a productivity expert, truthfully I have been doing some research on the side and studying via Udemy where I found a very good productivity course called Become a SpeedDemon by Jonathan Levi. Jonathan also hosts a Podcast that brings on board a number of individuals who have very interesting experiences and ideas to share. This podcast can be found on Becoming a Super Human and I do highly recommend checking them out if you are interested in productivity.

To-Do Lists and Software

I've began to make ample use of Habitica - a Gamified To-Do list in a certain sense. It is an RPG game who's core mechanic is you. You list down habits you want to reinforce or remove, you list down your daily tasks that need to be done and you list down your To-do list. As you get things done, as you reinforce good habits and not do the bad ones, you get experience, gold, items, and so on. As you do bad habits, neglect dailies and the likes - you lose health points. It is up to you to ensure you are honest to make this gamified to-do list function well.

Another good software that you can use to keep track of your To-Dos is Wunderlist. Wunderlist can be found available on many different platforms, and if not, you can access your Wunderlist account and To-Dos via your web browser.

On my experience it's doing wonders. I am keeping up to my planning far better than when I use other software to keep track of my To-Do. Needless to say, you can always use them in conjunction, in which case if you have a lot of to-do lists in various software, I recommend Tacoapp which combines various To-do lists into one spot where you can view them all.

I hope this has helped you think and discover new things that may be of use to you!
Until next time,

Monday, 9 November 2015

Education using Games

Hey everyone!

I decided to discuss or reflect on a slightly different note than I usually do. This is still related to Game Development and Digital games - but it is more to their application in the realm of education.

From childhood we begin learning through play – playing is a way to experience something without the pressure of failure. Now of course we cannot stay rewarding failure – but failure should in itself be a method of learning. In school we use literature to supplement student’s ability to think critically – but what we fail to invoke is the feeling of action. Many games are written so well that they can themselves be considered a type of literature – the difference from books however is the player.   

Interaction is the one of the most important elements in games. Movies, books and artwork have not quite been able to capture the interaction element present in games – and why should they? They are a different type of medium that can teach and educate in a certain way and deserve their own discussion. Games can be used to improve a wide range of skills including creativity, problem-solving, resource management and so much more. It is this type of education that the interactivity that games provide help improve. It can also be a means for a teacher to evaluate students based on a number of metrics that can be compiled during game play. I don’t just mean how many times did the student get the right answer, I also mean what type of behavior is reflected by the student when given a number of choices? Such metrics would be difficult if not staggering to achieve if they were to be done without software and a means to input and measure data.

Take a Puzzle-based game for example – such a game helps teach a student to look at problems from various angles, to think outside the box and to persist when a problem looks to be impossible to solve. Cooperative games help to teach students to cooperate as a team, to develop leadership skills and improve their communication skills. Story-based games can help give students an awareness about a particular issue, if we were to educate students about for example hunting – picture how useful it would be if the player can experience both perspectives in the issue, the hunter and the bird or the environmentalist. Strategy games help teach students resource-management, risk management, and forward-planning – business skills that are usually mentioned during university more so than secondary school.

These are just the tip of what games can help students achieve – think of any subject you wish and the chances are that there is a way games can help teach the skills needed for that subject in a friendlier and compelling way. Think of a Business game that allows the player to take the role of the CEO – making decisions to lead his business forward and realise the mistakes and benefits of certain actions in certain situations. Think of a game that allows the player to study the way ecosystems function – how different organisms interact and how the habitat changes as a result. Now I am by no means a scientist – but I am a business student and most of the things I came to learn during my student years have in some way been amplified due to my love for games.

Games developed specifically for education can be a major asset to the education system. Data can be recorded in real time for the teacher to review at a later date – plus it provides a calm learning environment for students not to feel pressured, making it easier for them to retain what they learn. Are games infallible? Unlikely – but just as certain students dislike the idea of reading, the same students may respond well to games. The same can be said in reverse – certain students will likely not respond well to games, and respond better to reading a text book. However – games offer us a new way to teach and educate using experience, initiative and interaction.

So what do you think? Do you think games have a place in education? Do you think they would simply be distracting or would they help enhance the learning experience of students and generate interest?

Until next time!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Pixel Art 2: Pyxel Edit and Improvements

Hello everyone!

I will be bringing you a look into a new software which I have adopted for my pixel art work and I have found it has a number of useful features that help even those still getting used to pixel art and colours. 

Pyxel Edit

Pyxel Edit is a software aimed specifically towards pixel art. It is still in development, however as it stands at the time of this post you can purchase now at a lower price than the final release price. So I would recommend checking it out now rather than later and see if it's something that you will want.

What I found that got me to make the change to Pyxel Edit mainly is two features. Firstly, when you select a colour, there is a small side bar that can be opened from the Colour Wheel screen that shows you the various shades and lights of the chosen colour. This is not only extremely useful for help in getting used to the various shades of a colour but it also speeds up the drawing process since you wouldn't have to stay modifying the colour until you get the next shade.

Pyxel Edit Colour Previewer

Secondly, the Tiling System. Pyxel edit makes it much simpler to not only draw tiles but also lay them together to see how the final tile-set will look like. For example, you can draw a number of tiles which will be saved on the right-hand side (assuming you keep the interface configured as I did) which you can easily just select and click where to place that tile. What this allows you to do is create a number of tiles and make sure they not only line up but also look good together.

New Work

I feel like I am improving for sure, practice has become more fun as I improved. Though there is areas that I can improve in for sure - such as poses and character art, however with time and effort this will improve!
Wizard 1
Character 1

Wizard 2
Character 2

Happy Grim and Tylis the Elf Characters
Characters 3

Castle Tileset
Castle Tiles

These are just a few works which I have done in the past few weeks using Pyxel Edit. I will likely use the castle tiles in a Game Maker project as I experiment on using it, perhaps for a small platformer or RPG.

I will post an update on Game Maker and various experiments and projects I do on Game Maker as I learn to use GML [Game Maker's Coding Language] and the Engine itself.

Until then,
see you all next time!

Friday, 2 October 2015

Pixel Art

Hello everyone!

It's been a while since the last post, between University and practicing development - I had neglected to continue the blog. This time around - I'm looking to keep it going so long as my schedule allows, at least for the sake of reflection.

Together with RPG Maker VX Ace, I had been looking into pixel art. Likely many of you are already familiar with pixel art, if not, here are some examples of some I have made from practice. Needless to say I am a novice at this and I am still learning the ropes so to speak - but it should give you a good idea.
Characters 1

Characters 2
Character Sprites

These are a few character sprites that I have made that took roughly 5 minutes to 45 minutes to create for different ones. Needless to say, practice and persistence is important. As I come from a Business background, less so an Art's background, the challenge was bringing what I had in mind reflected in the pixel art. This gets easier I found as you get better at the skill, but techniques and practice coupled with some online tutorials that might give you a nudge in the direction that you are looking to move towards will help. 

The program I used to create these was Graphics Gale. Graphics Gale is a pixel arts software which I found to be very good for the task. It is designed towards creating pixel art, and on top of that, has a fairly cheap price of around 15 Euros. You can always give the trial a go to check whether the software is something you would like to purchase. You can, needless to say, use other software such as GIMP and Photoshop - I simply found this software fairly nice to work with, not to mention it comes with the added flexibility to help you animate using frames, which I have yet to toy with.

RPG Maker VX Ace Tile Sprites
(Many of which have heavy inspiration from various Default Sprites, some of which such as the crates were the default assets painted upon for practice's sake with regards to colors and shading)

In terms of tutorials I would recommend achebit on Youtube. His tutorials have aided me in getting the small nudges I needed to start trying out pixel art characters, something which I avoided for the longest time. Depending on what you are looking to learn and do with pixel art - whether it is characters, textures, tiles or scenery, there are numerous tutorials available online. Pinterest I found is quite full of them such as Shel Shel - Pixel Art Textures and Dibujo - Pixel Art Tree. So check these out if you are interested and feel free to share any other tutorials you found to be helpful!

That's all I have for now about Pixel Art, give it a try - it is really fun, and will be a major skill and asset to have should you ever try to develop a game using pixel art!

See you all next time!