08 December 2014
The weeks before Christmas are somewhat fragmented: a few small projects, lots of meetings, a few personal projects, hunting for future projects.
Rubato/Burton hit its first main milestone for me: end-to-end demo. The one feature I wanted to write in this week was being able to pick up the playback halfway: if you turn up late to the show, or click on the page late, you shouldn’t be stuck out of sync with other viewers, or unable to watch. Implementing this was about the fiddliest thing so far, but a day or two saw it through, and I was able to ship it to Richard early in the week.
I had a few meetings throughout the week, some about potential projects, and also stopped by Matt Webb’s hardware coffee morning to meet a few folks and chatter about objects, electronics, and small business. Really, I went to listen; I’m not quite in the place many folks are in, but fascinating to see and hear both what people are up to and how they approach it.
I got the prototype I’d worked on with George deployed this week, after a few hours thrashing out some join tables in a database to speed the whole thing up.
I also spent a day tinkering on what was to be my ‘end of term’ project – albeit a bit late. I’m finally working on a game prototype I meant to start about a year ago; personal work is always hard to make time for, but I work at doing so.
Milkhill – definitely not its real name – is a top-down arcade game for two players, to be played in the same room – local multiplayer, as it were. Beyond that, I can’t say much more, because I’ve learned enough about designing games to know that most of my ideas will probably go out the window pretty fast.
So rather than going in with big ideas, I’m going in with tiny ambitions: really embracing shoshin. I’ve not made a real-time game before, so this is a project to explore that and learn some Unity beyond tiny toys. My starting point for this week is: it’s got to be fun to move the avatars around the world. If the movement isn’t fun, I don’t think the game’s going to be fun regardless of what the other rules are.
I’ve spent a day on it so far. In that time, I built some very simple vector art in Sketch, and then started writing code to manoeuvre it around the screen: left stick to move, right stick to aim, like in Geometry Wars or other ‘twin-stick’ arcade shooters. A few hours of wrestling in C# with dead-zones, vectors, and quaternions, and I’d achieved that goal.
The sticks worked, but it wasn’t that much fun. I thought adding momentum might take quite a while, but moving everything over to Unity’s 2D physics wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected, and only took about twenty minutes for the first pass. I fiddled a lot with forces and drag, but all of sudden, the little pentagonal tank in the above video hurtled and skidded, it required just enough subtelty to control, but it felt like it was more alive in the world. A huge improvement. Hopefully I’ll get a few more days to tinker with this in the run up to Christmas. A long-ish write-up, but it’s nice to write about process and labour, rather than just meetings I had!