Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Things I did over the last year - A new platform, A new experience and A new game

So, its been a year again since my last post, and it has been a very long one as far as game development goes. After publishing Squareboy vs. Bullies and getting a mediocre response early this year, I was looking at all the different directions I could go in. I did not really have any new game ideas that I felt strongly about. I decided in the meantime it would be a good idea to port some of my existing games to Windows 10 UWP and put them up on the Windows Store.

Porting to Windows 10 was surprisingly pleasant and I did learn a lot of new things about the platform. I found myself enjoying the C++ framework that Microsoft has built and the experience with porting the renderer of my games to DirectX 11 was also quite interesting. Eventually I did manage to get two of my games, Jack N' Jill and Squareboy vs. Bullies onto the Windows store. I am satisfied with the response I've gotten for these games so far. Squareboy vs. Bullies seems to have gotten more exposure on the Windows Store than it has on the App Store and Play Store combined. Definitely a sign that I should pay attention to the platform for my future projects.

In the middle of porting my games to Windows, I was also trying to figure out what I wanted to do for my next game. I was experimenting with different things, like top down and isometric perspective pixel art, character animations etc. Working on new art techniques and experimenting with different styles has worked for me in the past as a way to get new game ideas. As a part of this little endeavour I also decided to challenge myself by helping out my friend, Thomas Knox (http://norseware.github.io/), with the art for two of his jam games, Mutant Chicken Death Jam and Chirp. During this time, I also revisited Blender 3D and learnt a lot about 3D asset creation. I found an easy workflow to create very simple 3d assets that would be usable in games. So, I started toying with the idea of a simple 3d isometric game. That is where I decided that my next game be an extension of the one button concept from Jack N' Jill to the third dimension, presented from an isometric perspective.

A top down 2d rpg scene
Experimenting with an isometric tilemap
The first concept look of Jack made using Blender

Soon after the game jams, I began work on the engine for the new game, and creating all of the art assets for it. I tried to keep things as simple and manageable as I could, since I was going to be the only one working on this. The 3D models for the game are all small and don't have a skeletal armature, for the sake of simplicity in asset creation. This would also allow me to completely bypass the need for a skeletal animation system in my engine. With some tests I found that hard coded animations using a single matrix transform for each model were all that I needed for a smooth looking anim for each character. The next step was to consolidate a level design workflow. Building a level editor felt unavoidable with my initial experiments. I knew this would be a very time consuming process. However, I was able to figure out a simple layering technique in Tiled, that let me design 3d isometric terrain in the 2D tilemap editor. While this workflow can be time consuming, I figured it was way better than having to create my own editor.

A 3d cube tile terrain design in Tiled

After a few long months of hard work, I had a complete game with decent amount of content to keep players engaged for a while. I had a lot of good friends of mine (mentioned below) helping me with the testing. Soon it was October and I could feel that it was time to put out the game. That is around when India's biggest game dev conference, NGDC, takes place. Thomas convinced me that it was a good idea to enter Jack N' Jill 3D into one of the award categories. Soon I found myself preparing for the event. Accompanied by my friend, Kishan (https://twitter.com/kishanm02), I attended NGDC 2016 and Jack N' Jill 3D made it into the top 5 in the "Upcoming Game of the Year" category for Indian games, and got a table at the Expo there! This turned out to be a great experience where I met a lot of nice and interesting people from the Indian game development scene.

Jack N' Jill 3D at NGDC 2016 Expo

Jack N' Jill 3D is out now and you can download it for free from the App Store, Play Store and the Mac App Store. The Windows 10 version of the game is still under development and hopefully should be out before the end of the year!



App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/jack-n-jill-3d/id1166133795?ls=1&mt=8

Play Store: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=rnarang.android.games.jnj3d

Mac App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/jack-n-jill-3d/id1165065886?ls=1&mt=8

Website: http://rohansgames.website/jacknjill3d/

A Special Thanks to all of my friends who helped me test the game!

Bernardo EspaƱol: https://twitter.com/Nardionet
Jordan Pearson (Cally's Caves): https://twitter.com/CallysCaves
Ben Thumbs: https://twitter.com/ThumbsBlue
Thomas Knox, Norseware: https://twitter.com/NorsewareOrg
Alya Isa: https://twitter.com/the_vet9
Kishan Motiramani: https://twitter.com/kishanm02