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!