Big Bad Robots is an indie game developer but we also do contract development. We have developed on all kinds of platforms (PC,Handheld,Consoles) but now primarily focus on iOS,Android and Unity. Contact us if you looking for developers with over 20 years experience in software and game development at biz -at- bigbadrobots.com

Flash is dead? Long live HTML5?

June 18, 2011terence

While my Mac was in the shop for repairs, I started some exploratory works in using HTML5 to make Games. With HTML5 coming soon(for-ever it would seem) that Flash was doomed and that HTML5 and Javascript was the way to go. I am unsure of the actual statistics of how many sites have actually moved away from Flash but from a web friend he says that many have.

Now i’m not a Web developer by any stretch of the imagination, having worked mostly with PHP and doing stuff against the database. The last time I touched HTML proper it didn’t have style sheets and was simply a mark up language. I am strictly going to go about rating how ready HTML5 is by a game developers perspective. The other criteria is that is should be free (or free as beer at least).

With those conditions, the only engine which seem both actively developed and well…free was RenderEngine. It’s active and the sole author Brett Fattori knows what he’s doing. Unfortunately I wish the browser developers knew what they were doing. Chrome is currently the fastest HTML5 browser, FireFox is a good second. The new ‘fast rollout’ of browser tech is making it hard to pin down a target for HTML5. V2 of RenderEngine (which is still in development) works best with Chrome and breaks on Firefox 4.

So you development environment would be:

  • Aptana Studio 3.0 – It may have a Javascript debugger but it will quickly break once you get into heavy development. The Chrome debugger is better.
  • FireFox with Fire-Bug (until you find a feature which breaks) then…
  • Chrome
  • You need to know some JQUERY to get anywhere. It was a bit confusing until did some JQUERY stuff then it was fairly easy.
  • Javascript (because that’s what you program in) and make sure you CSS is up to scratch. HTML is a given.

With that said, HTML5 won’t be  on my direct development pipeline for a while. Might spend some time on weekends playing with it but that its. You can follow my development of a HTML5 RPG editor(Adventure) @ https://bigbadrobots.com/adventure/adventure/editor/

It currently doesn’t do much but sit there..the tile engine running in the background (pretty sea;P)



Juggling projects and being independant

August 18, 2010terence

The life of of independent developer is a pretty solitary one, especially if the people you work with are not physically in the same place as you are. It is an extremely busy one though, right now I have 3 projects that I am working.

Adventure! is currently in full production. Although I have alluded to it in the various prior posts I have never really talked about it. Adventure! (or Adventure Story on Facebook) is an online RPG game creator. Through a webpage you can put together an RPG game, and then share it with your friends or via Facebook and later the Android (and if I can figure out how to dance around Apple’s restrictions, the iPhone). This isn’t some pansy push button game creation systems that I have seen on the web that are only good at making silly clicky games, this is a full game creation system with scripting, in-game cut scenes etc..abet in a 2D tile based graphic system. I usually try to spend 3 full days working on it and we hope to get something available by Christmas. It is being built using Flex and Pushbutton Game Engine but I have tried to make sure the data formats don’t lock me into it in case I do a custom port later.

Manhanttan Murder Mystery is a Facebook game I built a prototype in HTML4 & PHP a while back. It’s a bit like Cluedo and Kill Dr. Lucky. I have decided to revive it from the prototype (which was pretty fun for me except I think the people I played with were not that fun;P). This time however I am going to be using HTML5 as the platform instead of Flex allowing me to figure out how ready it is as a Game Development platform. Last time I checked audio wasn’t ready yet but the standard seems to be picking up steam.

Lastly, having just renewed my iPhone dev license, I will be looking to develop another iPhone game. Something I like this time, not something I think somebody else will like. Got a few ideas but I leave Sat/Sun to figure it out.

Good thing is the Nick the artist I am working with has his computer and we can go crazy now..we’ll crazier than usual. I’ll be posting up more concepts soon for Adventure! and maybe some plans for the premium module we will be working.

Designing a Job based RPG system Part 1

August 8, 2010terence

Adventure, the RPG project I have been working on has finally gotten to a stage where I need to design a simple RPG system to round out the features list. As far a CRPG design goes, beyond the standard stats and class driven design, one design I have always loved to design is a “Job based” RPG.

Job based RPG have often seen more prominence in Tactics oriented RPG, because of the large number of ‘party members’ you eventually recruit. The large number of jobs available, would keep players happy with being able to swap, level up and grind out different soldiers to battle. The job system has it’s origins in the Final Fantasy series more specifically developed in Final Fantasy III, later Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy Tactics. There was also the Ogre Battle series plus the other great Tactics games put out by Nippon Ichi.

My initial research into the jobs system will focus on Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy Tactics as there are some pretty interesting design decisions made there. Before that I would like to state my initial objectives in designing a RPG system for Adventure. I say initial, because some of the objectives may change after a fair amount of research.

  1. Design a non-statistic heavy CRPG system. Adventure’s basic RPG system is meant as a create a framework for potentially RPG’s systems to be created. Most RPG’s that try to ‘innovate’ try to tack 101 statistics, attributes,parameter that modify,enhance,boost a character in wierd and wonderful ways. Yes you get a very “cool” system and maybe a uber-flexible system but what you lose in end is system that nobody but most anal min-max player cares about. I know I don’t play RPG’s that way, and I am pretty sure that others who play CRPG’s don’t either.
  2. Make the statistics available obvious on what they do to a character (and for the player)..Yes 1/2 Vitality + 2/3 strength * item bonuses might to logically to a designer, not so much so to a casual player. Str=damage, that’s pretty obvious.
  3. Focus on abilities versus spell lists. That means every ability is a spell. Group abilities around a job because it makes sense.
  4. A balanced game is a myth. No game is perfectly balanced. The CRPG system simply provides a platform and needs to be flexible enough to change and change is the keyword. Thanks goodness, I am not designing a PvP system right off the bat.

Final Fantasy tactics IMHO had a great job system, where you started as “Squire” that was a generalist and could learn how to be a “Archer” or “Knight” if you reach level 2. Alternatively, you could switch to a “Chemist” and then switch to a “Black Mage” or “White Mage” at level 2. Each job allow the player to acquire job abilities specific(in most cases) to that job. So the Thief job would allow the player to “Steal” .

FF Tactics Job Tree

The job system would also however place restrictions on the how the player grew in strength and what equipment they could wear. Games such as Ogre Battles and later Tactics games would increase amount of jobs to a bewildering amount. Final Fantasy V also used a similar system but unlocked jobs through the plot points of finding specific crystal pieces. To this effect, it was less open-ended, designed to open up more powerful jobs later to allow a more uniform level progression and keeping the challenge level of the game kept in check. Players didn’t have to change their jobs, it’s just that some battles would be easier and certain game features (i.e. items, magics) would be unlocked if the player chose those jobs.

So let’s see what I can take away from these designs.

  • Job Tree’s = good
  • Locking Job’s = understandable, but not totally unavoidable
  • More abilities = good
  • Less stats in FF Tactics = good
  • Too many job choices to early = bad (for starting), good (for replay)

Next I will drill down more into the jobs system, character statistics, abilities and changing jobs.

Character Concepts

June 20, 2010terence

A creation of a new product is daunting challenge for any game developer and it is in pre-production where the basis of most of your ideas are developed. The creation of characters that populate your world are extremely important because not only are they going to be what the player ends up looking at the most often  but also the character becomes the games  mascot and spokesperson.

Over the last week, I have been working with Nicholas to develop some character concepts for Adventure. He did some concepts for me to look at, so that I could start the process of refining our vision of what the characters would be like in Adventure. I thought it would be useful to share some of the ideas I communicated with him explaining what and how to think about the concepts.

Character concept approach

  1. In developing character concepts there are usually main characters and supporting characters
  2. It is useful to give main characters names which personalizes the character to you the artist and provides an emotional connection. Use this emotional connection to give the character a personality.
  3. Focus should be on the main characters first, the the supporting characters.
  4. Drawing the main characters in various emotional states are also helpful (i.e. happy, sad, angry). It will also give guidelines on your art style etc and how to draw expressively for characters. Character sheets show these various states, poses are important as they will provide a way to carry the character forward to the future. Conceivably the character will not always be drawn by the same artists, so capturing as much detail of the original conception is extremely important.
  5. Thinking about the personalities of the character(s) are also important. Usually this will reflect the default look of the character. Does your character like pizza? etc..
  6. Manga novels (i.e. Bleach) are all built around characters concepts and the world. It is also a good source of character stereotypes.
  7. There is no harm in imitation so long as you put your own personal touch into it. Character tend to follow archetypes and although critics may be annoyed at the “another young boy/girl exploring an RPG world”, the “hero’s journey” is the basis of 80% of an RPG game.
  8. Characters developed should carry over to different mediums (i.e. plastic toys) as well as possible. Characters developed for games as in books are commercial and should be given the proper considerations in their development.

Bob Borchers on Innovation

June 8, 2010terence

I feign ignorance on all things Apple. I may have a Mac Book Pro and  an iPhone , though I may think they are cool nifty gadgets I doubt very much that I am a fanboy. So when Bob came to town, I decided to find out “Who” this Bob was.

The crowd was a mix of entrepreneurs and corporate types. You can tell the difference, the corporate types  were dressed in their suits while the entrepreneurs were in jeans. Well most of them, except the entrepreneurs who have made it. Mingling not being my strong point, I sat down and proceeded to work out some outstanding bugs in the current build of Adventure. After the traditional introductions came Bob’s talk.

So Bob’s talk broke down into:

  1. Don’t have to be the first or the best
  2. Change the rules
  3. Give an obvious benefit to your customers
  4. Keep innovating and compete against yourself

Fairly general commentary, fairly useful…You know in the “Hmmmmm……” kinda way. What was interesting was the mix of people and the general undercurrent about how risk adverse local investors are. I think it’s a pretty regional feeling and the only people willing to put up risk capital are governments. However with Malaysia budget deficient, I doubt we will see less “money” being thrown out.

Private investors only want to “cash in” after you have made some money and “want to expand”. Still I can’t say that is the worse problem here in Malaysia. I think just finding capable people to work with is far harder especially complementary skillsets. I’m still looking for a Art director type person, a financial person and a marketing person in no particular order.

I leave you with iPhone Bob: