4 Hugues Ross - Blog: A Look Back
Hugues Ross

7/22/15

A Look Back

With my recent string of posts nearing its end, I think it's time for the big one.
Over the past 3 years, I've managed to accumulate almost 200 posts, and almost 10,000 views. That's just a drop in the bucket, but it still makes me happy. When I first started this blog, I expected just about 0 visitors, maybe just one or two per month who randomly stumbled in. Even if I still don't have much of a well-established audience, and most of my readers are likely just web spiders and bots, it still feels good to know that someone out there is reading this.

Following that, I should probably reiterate that comments are very welcome! I always love to read feedback, positive or negative. Indeed, it's especially important to comment if you run into any issues with my work. I can't fix problems if I don't know they exist, after all. In addition, if you see anything that you don't understand, or you just want me to write about a specific topic, I'd be happy to oblige.

Now then, I think it's time for the main event, the real reason I'm writing this post. Over the lifetime of this blog, I've started many game projects, and finished exactly one of them (not counting game jams and schoolwork). I think that number needs to  change. I've long had a habit of not finishing what I start, and while I haven't forgotten these projects I also haven't worked on any of them in a long time. Thus, I'm saying it now: My goal for this next year is to revisit and finish as many old projects as I can, and use them to spruce up my little portfolio.


To start things off, I've made a little timeline with the historey of some of my major game projects, where I've been, and where I plan to go next. Give it a look:

That's a lot of information! Let's go through the list one project at a time.

RPG Project

Man, talk about horrifying UIs!
This is the project that started it all! The RPG project, later renamed to Halberd, was the very first project that I wrote about on this blog. I started the project using the Love2D engine, before I even knew C++. I made some good progress before deciding that I probably ought to be using something more scalable to develop a game of the scope I wanted. After that, I put the project on hold until I'd gotten some experience with C++, and never touched the project again.

Well, I've certainly got some experience now! When I decided to start revisiting projects, this was the first that I turned to. In fact, work has already begun, and you'll be getting apost about it soon enough. I'm actually writing the engine in C now, since I've been trying to use it more recently.

Since this project is a pretty large undertaking, I can't guarantee I'll have it done anytime soon. However, I should be able to get back to where I left off within the next 2-3 weeks, and I'll likely have some kind of basic gameplay demo before the end of the summer, even if it's not much.

AMAZE

The oldest screenshot I have
Surprisingly enough, AMAZE is actually my second major project. I always envision it beginning after DFEngine did, but it actually predates that project. In reality, AMAZE spawned from a project I was working on right after the RPG project. My initial goal was to go through each of the old Gamemaker tutorials and translate them to C++ to further my abilities. However, I didn't end up finishing it, and completely forgot the original goal.

AMAZE is a bit different from the rest of these projects, due to the fact that I actually finished it. After starting DFEngine(sort of), I actually returned to finish the game, and succeeded after ~9 months of development and a small convention appearance. Howevert, I swept the release under the rug. I'm still very dissatisfied with the result of that project, but I know that the amount of work needed to change that would be stupendous.

This is closer to the final product
I can't fix AMAZE, and I don't plan to remake it. However, what I can do is give the game a worthy sequel. My goal for AMAZE 2 is to make it the game I wanted AMAZE to be. My secondary goal is to add a set of containing all of the old levels to it, allowing people to enjoy the original's content without actually having to play that awful thing. By producing a superior version of the old game within the new game's engine, I can make the original irrelevant without killing it completely.

My goal is to start AMAZE 2 around the beginning of the next school year, and I'd like to have it done in time for AMAZE's 2nd anniversary, next April. That's quite a lot to ask, given that I'm givingthe sequel less time than the original, and with more content. If I can at least get a demo with the legacy content out though, I'll still be happy.

DFEngine

DFEngine isn't a particular game, of course, but it's eaten enough game time to count. I've now written it 3 different times, and I think it's finally shaping up to be something pretty decent.

The first iteration was used to create AMAZE. It featured a few interesting things that aren't in the newer ones, such as a custom scripting language and binary assets. It also only really worked for a game like AMAZE, and made you hate yourself too! Imagine writing a script for an object. Now imagine writing the object's script. Now imagine taking an object and writing a script for it. Now imagi-The point is, you had to rewrite the script for every single instance of every single object in your game, and god help you if you found a bug 3 weeks later. Needless to say, I ran from the burning wreckage as fast as I could.

The second iteration was a little more on-point. Gone were the days of rewriting scripts, and everything was just a little saner and easier to use. Then came the problems. My rapid development cycle resulted in lots of fairly unsafe code, which in turn resulted in hidden crashes. Later on, I found that several key structural components were missing, and I decided that the cost of refactoring all of the issues out of the code would be too high.

The third, newest iteration, is a great step from the second. Much of the engine should look semi-familiar, but it runs smoother and has a bunch of new and improved features. I've also been unable to make it crash without giving me a good reason first(via the console). As long as I work to keep things fresh and clean it ought to be fine.

DFEngine doesn't have any sort of release date, because the development is more of an ongoing process than a direct line from start to finish. I'd love to be able to give it a proper release and version number though, and I hope to be there in a year. My goal is not to need to rewrite the whole thing this time, so hopefully I can stick to that!

Space Douchebag

The first boss posesses only half the firepower I had planned
Starting as a dumb class project, Space Douchebag has snowballed into a full-fledged game concept. The current playable version(sadly, Windows-only) features 2 levels and 10-30 minutes of screwing around blasting aliens, which is pretty great for a homework assignment. Of all my games, I would say that I enjoy Space Douchebag the most. It's a fun, playable game, and it also has a decent bit of polish to it(although it's rather poorly balanced). However, when I play it I also see potential for more.

When I first started the project, the docs contained information for 5 full levels, each with unique enemies and bosses. The result was 2, and neither quite reached the point that I wanted it to. I really want to make this game again, but this time with my own engine. Heck, I have ideas for even more levels now! The goal for Space Douchbag now to to make a 2.5D shmup with some light danmaku influences, and a plethora of gags about how much of an awful person the pilot is.

I don't plan start the remake soon, but I'd like to begin sometime in the next 3-6 months, once AMAZE 2 is well underway.

Akradion

The greatest build, from when I was testing the split powerup.
Akradion(an anagram of Arkanoid) was supposed to be a "proof of tech" game like Cloudy Climb, but a whole slew of technical issues out of nowhere led to a sudden hiatus. Sadly, the game was basically done at the time, but I was unwilling to put out a game with frequent random crashes.

I decided not to set any kind of deadline on picking the project back up, but I think that this is a good time. Nothing would properly cement my decision to rewrite DFEngine like getting an old broken game working again. I'm confident that the new engine will handle it well.

The project will be starting shortly, after another short round of DFEngine development. Expect a post within the next couple of weeks. I'd like to finish it up before starting on AMAZE 2, and I think it may be possible. I have a full month of blissful joblessness before my return to school, and the game is already "done" anyway. That said, technical issues and surprises always arise, so I don't want to get cocky either.

1 Game a Month

An interesting concept, but it went nowhere.
Aha! Bet you didn't see this one coming! I didn't even put it on the timeline! I tried 1gam about a year ago, but school, Singularity, and design block foiled my attempt. After that, I was just too busy. My goal earlier this year was to start it up again alongside the DFEngine rewrite, but then that took far longer than I anticipated.

That's done now, so I see nothing to stop me. I will participate again, starting in August.


Well, I certainly have my work cut out for me now. Thank you for bearing with me for this ridiculously long post, and keep your eyes peeled for those Halberd and Akradion updates!
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