Plans for 2022

Wasn’t 2021 supposed to be better than 2020? Well, that wouldn’t be particularly hard. Now that I have that out of the way, here’s my plans for next year:

Connacht Disaster Zone

At the end of last year, I had 18 completed short stories, and planned to try reaching 25 by the end of this year. Now I have 31. That’s far more successful than I had expected! Some works in progress I have to finish up are:

  • St Patrick is alleged to have driven the snakes from Ireland. That got me wondering how the Fir Nathair / snake people would react to this, and I decided to draw a comic of it. The plan for that is to have it finished for St Patrick’s Day.
  • About a month ago, I posted an absurdly complicated process for making tea, and most of the people I’ve shared it with found it hilariously accurate. I am working on a larger piece where somebody has to go through that.

I have noticed that I have some rough arcs pervading throughout the stories, and it might be a good idea to start categorising them as such. I might get more ideas that way.

Game Development

I stopped working on game development entirely last year – I just found I couldn’t be bothered to juggle that with my day job after I’d more-or-less finished Fiptubat. However, just under a week ago I started working on a prototype for a naval tactics game. That loosely ties into CDZ, in that I plan to eventually set it in a fictional war that took place in the Greenland Sea between the Kingdom of Scandinavia and the USA.

I’ll probably do a longer post about that in the coming weeks.

XCOM 2 Playthrough?

I love XCOM 2. After watching Christopher Odd’s last season with the Proficiency Classes and Covert Infiltration mods and testing them myself with Playable Aliens, I’m considering doing my own playthrough. However, I’m divided on doing a standard Let’s Play on Youtube, or posting here as a “Commander’s Log” summary. Or both?


Anyway, here’s hoping 2022 is less crap for everyone.

2020 in Retrospective

So, 2020 is just about done, and I suspect a lot of people would agree when I say “good riddance to that”. I will admit, it hasn’t been nearly as bad for me as some people (I live by myself and have no underlying health conditions). With that in mind, here’s my thoughts on what the year has been like for this site. I haven’t really bothered with something like this before, so we’ll see how it goes…

Connacht Disaster Zone

This was definitely the best thing I worked on. At the end of 2019, I had 4 finished stories and several others in various states of completion. Making a New Years Resolution to complete 10 prompted me to start working on it more. Now the series stands at 18 stories and over 10 pieces of artwork, which has to be the first resolution I’ve actually made and completed for a few years.

I’m not too sure where I’ll go next with the series. Playing a lot of Hearts of Iron 4 prompted me to start considering the wider geopolitical landscape of the world I’m creating, which eventually lead into a couple of pieces where the Kingdom of Scandinavia attempts to interfere with the British Empire. However, I think I’d like to add some more stories depicting life inside the disaster zone, or possibly attempt to translate one or two of my existing stories into Irish. Bhuel, tá níos mo ná 250 laethanta caite agam ar Duolingo

Game Development

As with last year, I’ve found it increasingly hard to juggle game development at home and software engineering at work. I did manage to get a halfway decent game together (Fiptubat), but once I got it mechanically complete, I just could not be bothered to work on expanding the levels.

To be honest, I found that I prefer defining the game architecture, implementing the systems and documenting it to creating content. Getting all the models and textures and sounds and lighting just right is about as tedious as frontend web development – something I’ve had to do at work and have come to realise that I just do not enjoy.

That said, I have had other game ideas pop into my head. While working on Fiptubat, I accidentally caused some of the turrets to randomly point away form their target (hint: do not pass a negative value into Unity’s Vector3.RotateTowards method!). I did fix that, but it stuck in my head as a mildly amusing issue. After listening to this a lot at work (and some of that guy’s other music – seriously, check him out!), I thought of a sniper game based entirely around that.

If I do end up working on that, I’ll see if I can avoid being the sole person working on it. That, as much as anything else, is what burns me out.

Other

For obvious reasons, a planned trip to Inishbofin never happened. However, I definitely intend to try that again next year (depending on travel restrictions). Since I created a Flickr account to share some photos with the family, I’ll probably end up uploading them there when I finally do that.

As mentioned up above, I’ve also been practising with Duolingo to bring my Irish back up. I’m very out of practice, but still better than a lot of people in Ireland (and that’s with me living in Italy for half my life!). Maybe for St Patrick’s Day this year, I’ll try translating one of my existing stories to Irish 🙂

Anyway, to anyone who reads this, here’s to a better year!

Phishers’ Gauntlet: 0.1 released

What it says on the tin 🙂

The list of features is:

  • Player movement/health/endurance
  • NPC models with basic animations, voices and attacks
  • Spear-induced hallucinations, which cause damage if you don’t close them quickly enough
  • A basic UI, including a level map
  • Main menu with some scenery

I actually added more features than I had intended; I had originally planned to leave the models/animations, voice clips and player map until later releases. However, I found I had some time to spare, so I decided to add those in now and get a basic prototype of them in. I’m actually surprised that I got the animations done quicker than I expected!

There are one or two issues that are bugging me. Firstly, the player can’t really see traps that are in water. This makes it near impossible to get out of traps that are in the water, and I’d like to at least give the player a chance to get out of them! Secondly, showing the poison screen at regular intervals is very annoying; I think I may make it a once-off thing.

Phisher’s Gauntlet: Prototype

I haz a prototype! So far, it has the following features:

  • A demo scene that’s reasonably complete
  • NPCs that listen exclusively to traps (and ignore anything else), and throw spears at the player
  • A very basic UI that shows the player’s endurance and current health. It also will show a screen if hit by a spear

I’ve uploaded a Windows and a Linux build to GameJolt, plus some screenshots. It’s very rough around the edges – some of the controls do nothing, and I’m still using default shapes/textures. There’s also some issues around the sound effects, but that’s relatively minor.

New paths through levels

Now that ladders, lifts, etc. are in the game, I decided it was time to actually use them.

I’ve rebuilt the start of the first non-tutorial level so you have to climb out of a sewer or a pipe. In the previous version, the sewer was just a pipe at the same level as the street, which just didn’t look right, but in this version, it could be a maintenance tunnel to a canal, etc. You can also climb onto one of the roofs around the level, and then use that to avoid the spammers.

The second level now has a sewer that leads to a dungeon under a police Moderator station. Bit of a design flaw there, but it does get you past a spambot that’s too dumb to move from it’s junction. Yes, I know they weren’t meant to be particularly bright, but this is taking it a bit far!

I am thinking of adding some rooftop paths, again to add some variety, since this level has only two roads you can follow. Perhaps a fire escape into an apartment for a certain objective would lead you out across the rooftops…

I also rewrote the briefings for the levels slightly, trying to make them sound more like Garrett from Thief, and I’m considering recording them. The next upload is going to be a sample recording…if I’m not too embarrassed by my own voice.

 

I have a new computer

Finally, I have a new computer for development instead of the broken down laptop I’ve been using for 3 1/2 years now. Well, I built most of it about a month ago. I ordered the parts via dabs, and they all arrived while I was at work. Bit of an issue there, but it worked out.

Actually putting the computer together was…somewhat frightening. This is the first computer I’ve built, so I kept expecting it to fall apart at any moment, and yet it worked – with the exception of the sound card I bought (an ASUS XONAR D-Kara, which I was planning to use for voice recording). That isn’t supported on Linux, but the chipset on which it is based is, according to this site. However, the main reason why sound wasn’t working is that I didn’t have any speakers! Now that I do, pulseaudio seems to do the trick perfectly fine.

The parts that I’m using are as follows:

  • 8 GB of RAM
  • MSI Radeon R7 graphics card, with 1GB of dedicated memory. For comparison, my laptop’s graphics card a built-in card which shares memory with the RAM, and uses between 64MB and 1GB of RAM.
  • ASUS M5A97 motherboard
  • AMD FX-6300 CPU, with 6 cores
  • D-Link DGE-528T Ethernet card. Yes, Ethernet. I didn’t get a WiFi adapter, but Ethernet is faster and more reliable.
  • HannsG monitor. This was second-hand, saving me €25. Unfortunately, it had no speakers.
  • ASUS XONAR D-Kara sound card. This does not work with Linux, so it’s redundant to me (and cost me just over €50!)
  • Corsair CX 430 power supply unit. Supplies up to 430W.
  • LiteOn IHAS124-14 CD/DVD drive.
  • Logitech keyboard, UK layout (couldn’t find an Irish one 😦 )
  • Logitech z130 speakers
  • Linux Mint 17.2

Total cost: €727. Knowing I can build and upgrade my own machine: Priceless.

So far, it’s working fine. The Linux Editor for Unity installed and worked fine, and I have just tested Spamocalypse on it (and found some bugs). So, very soon I will start to support Linux builds. In the meantime, I’m starting to do my 3D modelling on the new machine, and keep using the version of Unity that’s on my laptop for Spamocalypse.

My current project: Spamocalypse

This was inspired by a throwaway comment around Halloween in which I suggested that somebody should create a zombie movie that replaced zombies with spammers. I then thought, well, why not make a game around that?

The idea is that you, the player, are trapped inside a spammer-infested server. You must escape by lurking, launching sockpuppets as decoys, and trying to turn on firewalls to set the spammers on fire. If the spammers see you, they will pursue you and try to spam you to death; death results in your account being compromised and you turning into a spammer.

I have so far planned five separate types of enemies:

  • N00bs: blobs of stupidity that just scream “First Post!”, “Me Too!” and similar phrases. Very easily distracted by sockpuppets and quick to forget that they ever saw the player.
  • Regular spammers: try to flog malware and other rubbish. Somewhere in the middle.
  • Phishers: they don’t move, but can snare you with phising rods. After being phished, you will receive spam at regular periods.
  • Compromised admins: smarter than the above, are immune to firewalls.
  • The boss: by far the smartest, quickest and deadliest.

Currently, I’m working on the AI detection mechanics, in particular the sound detection. This is pretty much new territory for me, unlike line-of-sight detection.

Welcome!

So, this is my new development blog. After weeks of telling myself that I should actually do this, I’ve finally got around to it.

Like I said in the About page, I graduated from NUI Galway in 2014 with a 2.1 Honours M.Sc in Software Design & Development, right on the back of a B.Sc. in Experimental Physics in 2012. While on my Master’s degree, I started making games as a hobby, and this is part of my attempt to be more structured about it.

If you want to see my thesis project, it’s under the “Completed Projects” tab. I will also post details about my current project, Spamocalypse, in the next few days.