game dev

It’s a special day when a project that has taken over my life for the better part of the last couple years has let up enough to allow me to ‘play’ again with my game design. My work on Dialatron is evidence of this, and now allowing myself to make something for the Fantastic Arcade game jam Barfcade! You can play it online now, right here -> Polite Dinner Extreme

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You know that feeling when a project is finished? I mean truly complete? No more odds and ends, emails, or updates. It is a beautiful feeling. MysteryPhone has been an interesting journey, due to its timing, scope, and supporting partners. I’m amazed with what we were able to build given the constraints, but I certainly wish it could have gone smoother. The game is live, and will be playable for anyone in the Minneapolis, MN area through August 16th, 2014 (Apple Store Download, Android Store Download).

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Sometime late March I spent about two full work days doing Unity tutorials to prepare for building a cross-platform mobile location based game. It’s called MysteryPhone: Art of Darkness. Clever huh? It will be a game played for one night as part of the annual Northern Spark festival held in Minneapolis, MN. This year it will take place from dusk on June 14th, to dawn the next day. Considering I’m the only developer working on this project, and how busy things have been with the Choosatron and other stuff, it will be a challenge. Megan Dowd is project managing, and David Pisa is leading the story writing, though I will be deeply involved in the direction.

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The Librarian’s Apprentice is the first story ever submitted to be played on the Choosatron! Robert Valentine, a writer/director based in London, has done me the great honor of putting his time into such a random project. His excitement over the Choosatron was incredibly inspiring and definitely pushed me along, so thanks Rob! Hope you enjoy the video and disregard my terrible pronunciations. Anyway, without further ado please enjoy a video of my first play of Rob’s story.

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I recorded this at 3:30am just after cobbling together the lovely cardboard enclosure for it. With a body, comes a name: Argyle. The first Choosatron prototype!

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I’m quite enjoying the part of the process I’m in now with the Choosatron. Getting quality feedback that makes you think, “Yes, of course!” is quite motivating in pushing development forward at a time where it would be easy to lay back and call it complete.

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Last week was intense. Finishing a hefty project at work, building a card version of the Nakatomi Plaza for our Die Hard Swede, rehearsals/costuming/props for my show Matlock: The One Man Show which is part of Fringe Orphans at the Minnesota Fringe, and finally finishing a few user facing features for the Choosatron and getting it in an enclosure! Phew!

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One frustration I’ve run into with this project is the different power requirements my components have needed to work nicely. 12 volt, 9 volt, 5 volt, plus inconsistent amperage requirements. The thermal printer takes almost no power until you ask it to print, when it spikes to 1.5amps! Most of the other components don’t take too much; probably 300-500ma combined as a rough guess. I determined that I’d need a minimum of 2amps to power everything appropriately. 1.5 reserved for the printer and 500ma for everything else. The coin acceptor was the first annoyance since it wants 12v and the supplies I had were all 9v. I ended up finding many 12v power supplies ranging from 2-3amps that were for external hard drives so perfect! Except, after I get the coin acceptor power how do I get the printer what it needs?

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Last night I finished the final feature that would allow full story play support for the file structure I created. Auto-jump, which simply allows you to set a single, unlabeled choice on a passage so it will be printed out and immediately forward to the link provided and continue from there. This is useful when you want to converge two different paths back together with different narrative preambles but common narrative body and the same choices. Is that confusing?

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Whenever I’ve done lower level coding I try and remember that whenever you are experience completely bizarre behavior and there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with your code…there is something wrong with your code. Memory and stack corruption are notoriously difficult issues to pin down, as completely unrelated (and working) code can be the trigger that sets off the bomb. I just experienced this as I’ve been trying to finish the Arduino code for my Choosatron™ to load chunks of narrative passages, output them, present the choices, and finally accept a choice. This points it to the next passage and the process begins again. It’s a simple, beautiful cycle that should allow me to achieve unlimited length passages by reading limited chunk sizes, printing, and freeing before loading the next.

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LET'S WORK TOGETHER!