So I’ve been working on a side project in the style of the old 16 bit SNES JRPGs, and I came across a pretty cool tool called Pixen. If you use a Mac for development like I do, Pixen is a pretty good alternative to Graphics Gale, and you can pick it up from the app store for just $10!
My opinion? A worthwhile purchase, you could do a lot worse for ten bucks. For pixel animations, the featureset is solid although I think the UI could improve in a few key ways (details below).
It’s your standard pixel editor with all the usual tools (draw, erase, fill, eyedropper, etc), hotkeys, multi-button editing and wacom support. The preview window can be toggled on and off, and there are various methods of choosing colors based on your preference.
The Gripes: (more…)
With Growing complete, I’ve started prototyping an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while. It’s a fusion of one of my favorite genres (turn-based strategy) and my favorite sports (dodgeball). (If you haven’t seen dodgeball since your elementary school days, you should get reacquainted with the competitive scene; it’s awesome! Here’s a video from my league that demonstrates some high-level play.)
One thing that makes competitive dodgeball so interesting is the concept of “the burden.” Put simply, the burden is an algorithm to determine which side has a responsibility to give up balls in the next play. (The punishment for noncompliance usually involves the burdened team losing all their balls to the other side, which can be fatal against a veteran team.)
What’s fascinating though, is that the burden creates an implicit resolution of play into “turns,” and most high-level strategy gets encapsulated in a turn-based framework. These pseudo-turns consist of 3 main parts:
Largely this results in match-up formats where the burden is shifted back and forth between the two teams, resulting in… you guessed it! A turn-based strategy game.
When games start to be played in this back-and-forth manner, the key strategic elements become targeting, ball control and defensive readiness. It’s this interplay between the offensive and defensive elements that I’m focusing on, because that’s where I think the truly interesting gameplay decisions are.
Here is pseudocode for the burden calculation algorithm. The definition of burden I used can be found in Section 9.5 of the Phoenix Dodgeball Competitive League Detailed Rules. (Burden calculation may vary between leagues and rulesets.) (more…)
Growing was a success before I even posted it.
I sent the final build of the “gift version” to my Mom early Monday morning. I went to work, planning to post the public builds and link them on the social networks during my lunch break. By lunchtime, my Mom had already played through it and responded. The response was just…
“Oooohhhh my goodness….that is the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen in my life, and it was for me, and it was from you, and it took you gazillions of amount of time, and almost lost! I am so not worthy!!!”
“I wish all [traditional] Catholic mothers could see this and then speak negatively about video games.”
I was SO HAPPY my mom said this. We don’t agree on religion anymore. She raised us all not just Catholic, but VERY Catholic… and I found myself kinda simultaneously pushed and pulled away from religion as I got older. One thing that became clear was my career didn’t stand well with a community who thought games were evil, violent and manipulative. I know my mom has to deal with backlash from said communities when she defends my decision to make games.
That’s what’s UP! Many of you who know me well know this is a pretty big deal for me. The rest of you probably know little to nothing about the game, or even that Growing is a game. That’s my fault! I’m going to be more open about future game projects.
I started Growing at a game jam in May 2011. The theme was “Motherhood,” and the idea was that I would give this game as a present to my mom when I completed it. By the end of the jam, I had a working prototype that I refined over the next few months.
I threw myself into the work in my off-time. By October, I had an almost completed game that I felt pretty good about. But all that changed in an afternoon, when my backpack get stolen with my laptop, wacom tablet, and all my game’s design notes inside. I hadn’t bothered to keep my project up to date in source control (a decision whose stupidity is only really considered in hindsight) and as a result the only remaining copy of the project I could find was from the beginning of the summer, not long after the game jam.
To say I was devastated would have been an understatement. I couldn’t stop crying. I’m really lucky I had Kyle around because I had some pretty violent and irrational reactions. Growing had become a part of my identity, a bright spot while I was going through some major life troubles. The worst was knowing I had brought it all on myself with the lack of source control.
When I calmed down, the most difficult decision was whether to quit the project forever or keep going. The thought of continuing work on it was so fatiguing.
With the CrossFit Games happening this weekend, it seemed like a good time to look back and reflect on the more subtle effects a year and a half of crossfit has had on me. One unexpected benefit was that my perception of women’s bodies has changed drastically!
There was a time when I would have agreed that yeah, it’s totally possible to become “too bulky” as a woman. And I probably would have argued that the veiny forearms, bulging quads and trunk-like cores of the Games’ top competitors like Andrea Ager would fall well within that category.
Lifting weights has given me an appreciation of the effort and dedication those muscles represent on a girl. It means she’s developed some steely mental fortitude, she’s set goals and pushed through them, she’s failed and bounced back. It means she’s fought stereotypes and championed above the prevailing opinion. I know how much work goes into it, having been through some of it myself, and I respect the shit out of her success. A muscular build is a thing of beauty to me now, not repulsion.
That being said, it’d be cool to see some more representation of muscular women in media. If this is the build we can expect from someone who makes fitness a living, why shouldn’t we see it in most of our female characters (fighters, action-adventure heroines, platforming protagonists)?
Why is it that our fantasy heroines aren’t even as badass as the ones we have in real life?
The quest for realism has brought Lara’s boob size down and made her look more interesting, for sure. But why are her arms so small? If her life revolves around shooting, climbing, and generally vaulting herself around, shouldn’t she look like she can knock out a few dozen pull-ups with ease?
(I don’t mean to pick on Lara too much here, but it’s hard to pick out recent examples of females who are supposed to be physically strong. Zero Suit Samus, Jill Valentine, Faith from Mirror’s Edge, Eva from MGS3, Purna from Dead Island for a handful of others.)
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