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I spent much of this weekend playing around with Vectors. I had a lot of fun, and I'd like to bring this together. :)

Getting away from the desk
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I'm glad that Livejournal seems to be working now. :)

It helps to get away from the desk sometimes. There's a decent amount of design and planning that can be done without a computer within reach, and if the sun is shining it doesn't hurt to get some fresh air.

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Jury rigging a tilted tripod for artwork progress photos is fun. I've fastened the rear leg of the tripod to this weighted block, so I can tilt pretty far without getting legs or shadows in the shot. I've done this before with previous cameras, it helps a lot for getting consistent macro photos.

(umpteenth attempt at posting this. LJ is pretty broken now -_-)

(and about a hundred attempts to edit it. I think my time with LJ might be over -_- really wish LJ still worked!)

Testing camera with Skykid on my arcade cab!
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I just bought a new camera which handles 1080p (although this video is only 720p). I tested with Skykid on my arcade cab. I'm very tempted to do some 'vlog' videos for my game development and talking to other indies. I'll try to take some video at the next cambridge Jam event, so let me know if there's anything specific you'd like me to cover or talk about!
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Creative use of Characters as Gates
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The home computer version of The Goonies had an interesting puzzle on the first screen. Mama Fratelli blocked the exit, and would 'kill' the player on contact. You had to operate a money printing printing press to fire money out of the window, making her run outside to catch the notes.  As the money fluttered down you had enough time to run to the exit.

'Gates' are often present in games. They act as an obstacle to progress through the game, or otherwise gain items, content and information. They may kill the player character or act like a brick-wall, but they usually act as something to be overcome with objects found elsewhere in the game or level.

Non-player characters (NPCs) often act as 'people-gates' in games. In most cases they will reward you by removing a block to a passage, or simply by granting you a significant item or money. They offer more interesting solutions than objects, and you can use their dialogue or character to figure out the solution.

Many of the methods can be distilled to a few techniques. Let me know if you think of any others:

"Give me a specific item, and I'll let you pass / give you another item"
The simplest form of fetch-quest, and a fairly robust and compelling means to flow through a lot of games. Still commonplace, and a pretty good way to make a door with a key more interesting.

"Tell me why I should let you pass / give you an item"
Presenting a character with information can often persuade them to let you pass. Sometimes an item will be used to represent information, such as a photograph or letter. Misinformation is just as good.

"Give me 50 wolf pelts / Give me $100!"
The simplest gates will request a number of items before allowing passage, or presenting you with a new item. After satisfying this need, they may present a new request for money or trinkets.

Dispatch the Blaggard!
Kill them, put them to sleep, or tie them up. Sometimes the only option is to take them out of commission.

Use a disguise!
An oldie but a goodie. Grab a lab-coat, fake moustache, or complete a number of quests in order to crossdress your way to victory in Final Fantasy VII! Holding up a bush to use as a sneaking item is also a good disguise.

Create a Diversion
If you can remove the person for a period of time, you can gain safe passage, as shown in the Goonies example above.  Alternatively a diversion may allow you to steal the item you need to attain, such as snatching a key behind a guard.

Use a third party to detain or overcome them.
Sometimes the only way to get past a person is to enlist another character, or perhaps creature, to take them out of the picture.  Hire some prostitutes to distract a guard, or let a billy-goat kick the troll from the bridge.

There's also the larger discussion of charming, intimidating or befriending. This is often a series of  interest items, information items and money, or a complex series of conversation options that operate in a maze-like fashion. Alternatively conversation will rely on stats, which is just a form of the information objecct as listed above.

Are there any particularly creative examples of passing NPCs in games that you can think of?

Cross-Play and Transfarring for indies
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One of the recurring features to appear at E3 2011 was the idea of cross-platform gameplay, which Sony seemed to have misguidedly refer to as 'Cross-play'. The basic notion is that players should be free to play their game on any device, and when playing online they should have access to all players.

Sony are using this to describe the directly linked gameplay between PS Vita editions of Ruin, Modnation Racers, Little Big Planet and Wipeout 2048, as well as sharing of content between the devices.

Games such as Quake 3 Arena and Shadowrun tried this on Dreamcast and Xbox 360, with both of them linking to their PC counterpart. Final Fantasy XI also allows players from PS2 to link with PC players, and has been maintained for over ten years. Nintendo have announced that players will be able to play between 3DS and Wii U versions of Smash Bros.

Transferring save-game data is another aspect of cross-play, so that players can take their progress and unique game from one machine to another, especially in single player games. Sega experimented with this in arcades with Dreamcast memory cards, and Love and Berry on Nintendo DS comes with a scanner for adding new dresses and jewelery from your arcade obtained cards. You're also able to transfer save data (clumsily) between PSP and PS3 when playing emulated games such as Final Fantasy 7.

Copying save files is something that Konami have latched onto, calling it "Transfarring" (sic) with a very arkward attempt to invent new brands. It worked for Shenmue's QTE, after all. PSP to PS3 save data transfer is also part of the Monster Hunter remake for PS3.

'Cloud saves' are the other method of transferring save data. You basically upload it to a server, and the OS downloads the newest version of the file from the server before gameplay. This works well on Steam, and allows save games to be passed easily between PC and Mac. Apple's new iCloud feature may offer a solution for developers with Mac and iOS versions of their games.

Best of all, most of these options are still open to indies. It's possible to transfer saves between iPhone and Android, to do multiplayer gaming using whichever hardware and servers we wish, and Flash in particular makes it easy for games to run between platforms, but can be more tricky for transferring game progress.

Do you care about being able to play your game in multiple locations? If you're a developer, is this something you invest effort into supporting? Do you think we should all be participating in Cross-play?

Messenger Problems
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This really isn't going great, but I'll keep stabbing away at it. Having a lot of problems with the character and animation, so I'll quickly animate the character again. o_o

Don't shoot the messenger!
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Messenger dog is clearly bemused at the lack of progress today. Nevertheless, things are starting to fall into place with the art, and early code tests finally turned out successful, so I should be okay to achieve something tomorrow, however limited. Sleep now, then work like zoom tomorrow, with some heavy prioritisation on features. o_o

Ludum Dare 20 - concept go!! :D
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LD20 Theme is 'It's Dangerous to go alone, take this!' My game is about a messenger trying to deliver a message, but you have to face a number of hazards. At various points have the choice of items to help you with your quest.

Hopefully the idea is scalable and manageable. Wish me luck!

Ready to Dare!
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I'm ready for Ludum Dare! I'll be attending CB2 with many of the other indies in Cambridge!! I spent the last twelve hours eating barbecue and drinking lots of beer, and I'm still awake despite the theme starting in two hours or so. Whoops! :D

Code: Unity with C# (Monodevelop).
Audio: Garageband for music, BFXR for sound effects.
Graphics: Photoshop and 3D Studio Max.

This time I'm hoping to make something slightly less scruffy than usual, but we'll see how that pans out! Good luck everyone!

Net access whilst at CB2 can be spotty, but I'll try to take some sort of photographs too! Let me know if you have any requests! XD Apologies if I spam my blog with screenshots too... you know the score by now!