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Program Announcements / LAST LIFE (condensed production diary)

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MMM
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Posted: 11th Feb 2009 13:13 Edited at: 29th Sep 2009 03:37
--- LAST LIFE ---
(condensed production diary)



THE BETA IS FINISHED!!! Go to Katie's site to download it:

http://www.katokarnage.com/last_life.html
(site address updated - this is the right one now)



Design & Programming by Max Vasey
Artistic Design and Assets by Katie Grech
Cinematics by Ellena Linden
Original Music by Trav Jenkins

So you’re the last of your species alive on the planet. But wait... You’re a plant.

I’ve been studying video game design academically for a while now. I believe being able to actually complete a video game is an achievement well worth working for and if my background in film has taught me anything, it’s that creating art is all about making compromises. That said, how good you are as an artist is almost always measured by how well you deal with those compromises.

Late last year, I went about organising a team of students to make a video game. The idea was one I had come up with on the fly only a few weeks before and as the summer holidays were coming up, I figured we’d have some time to get a feel for the project.

Unfortunately, our team was short two key positions - programming and animation. As this situation didn’t look like changing in the near future, we pressed ahead without those positions filled. The result of that decision was that I had to do all the programming on my own, in darkbasic, with no animation and less than six months casual programming experience and still finish the project beta in under two months, ready for next trimester.

It wasn’t any easier for the others in the group. We started out with six members and ended up with four. That’s one third of the workforce gone. Our second designer decided not to show any interest in the project and our second musician was overwhelmed by professional duties. Our modeler and artistic designer had to create all the in-game assets on her own, the cinematographer had to create all the cinematics on her own and the remaining musician had a whole bunch of catching up to do, again all on his own.

This was the most ambitious video game project I’d done and to my knowledge, the only one any of us had ever worked on as a true production group. And after two months of hard work, we’re adding the finishing touches to the first beta release. We’re all exhausted, busy with paid life and ready to sleep for a week - so the shine of our product has certainly faded in our eyes; nonetheless, it is almost ready and will be available for beta testing 15th of February as planned. So check back then for the web page and download link!

I’ve included some basic production screens so you can see the kind of process I used to make the game. Bear in mind that most of the mechanics simply couldn’t be planned in the design document because I had no idea how I was going to do them; I just wasn’t that experienced at programming. So I basically spent all my time learning intensively and finding workarounds for each of about a hundred separate problems.


AI TESTS






BUILDING TESTS






TEXTURE TESTS






NPC MODEL TESTS






SCREEN TESTS






UPGRADE TESTS






ADVANCED GAMEPLAY TESTS




The last thing we decided upon was the name of the game. We had been working under the title of ‘Melon Grow’ in an attempt to keep the project secret (which worked, incidentally) but finally decided on a full title of Last Life for the beta.

What Did I Learn?

Well the first thing I learned was how to program in darkbasic. Hell, how to program, period! I haven’t done any form of computer programming before. A couple of darkbasic tutorials at college and that’s it. So above all else, I learned how to work this language. And consider this - I’m still a novice, having only just scraped the surface.

The other thing I learned was to do with teams. I’ve worked in teams all my life and I already know that the interest of the tradesman is nothing compared to the interest of the creator. It’s difficult to get working people enthusiastic about your idea, specially when you’re not paying them. If you’re gonna do a project like this, I’d suggest offering something more than a resume filler to your team members. Maybe aim for a specific competition or something. We were considering the possibility of GCAP later this year.

Finally, morale. I’ve never been in a team where a member either cannot or will not do what is required of them - until now. It’s a horrible feeling and crushes morale throughout the entire group. We never truly bounced back from it. With the benefit of reflection, I’d advise this - if you have a team member who doesn’t appear to be working as hard as they need to, make them leave earlier rather than later AND find a replacement; if only to fill the void. Fixing the wounds is just as important as finding the hurt.

So, I guess all we can do now is await the Feb 15th beta release date. As part of this beta, we’ll have two versions of this game for download; the first is just the compiled executable for play testing and the second is both the game and a selection of the source code. Out hope is that we'll get some outsider feedback from this material without keeping volunteer testers in the dark.

So close to a finished beta, I can taste it!

*excited - hopes this post works*
KISTech
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Posted: 11th Feb 2009 17:06
Nicely done. Congrats on finishing. It's such a rare thing to see.

JLMoondog
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Posted: 11th Feb 2009 20:17
This looks like fun, and the concept is original. After digging through my brain, I couldn't find one seed that resembles this game.

Looks polished, and I'm curious as to how it plays out.

Good job to you and the team for sticking to this project. Can't wait for the release.

Mr Tank
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Posted: 12th Feb 2009 00:23
I'm impressed! You've made something more impressive than i've ever done, in a very short space of time! Organising a team i imagine is a big job and a bit of a headache, but the payoff is great too.

Original take on the whole "resource management" thing. I don't think this has really been done, although i think one of the first computer games i ever saw was growing a runner bean on a BBC Micro at school.

It's also cool that you're making your development material and code available for people to check out. Congratulations on finishing! This is all going to be great look on your CV, and i look forward to having a go.

Siddy
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Posted: 12th Feb 2009 02:33
Well done, looks good - and interesting! No zombies or mindless killing, i think thats a first for this forum!

Did you learn the programming from on of the DarkBASIC books?
Coder#05
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Posted: 12th Feb 2009 05:34
Congratulations on getting the game done!

Cant wait to try it out, looks realy interresting.

BTW: Your post was interesting to read through

Sid Sinister
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Posted: 12th Feb 2009 09:10
Very nice. It's good to see something in program announcements that isn't a plugin. You show great wisdom a leader, and some natural talent as well in the field of game development. Keep up the good work!

"If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants" - Isaac Newton
-Computer Animation Major @Baker.edu-
Butter fingers
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Posted: 12th Feb 2009 11:09
Love it. Simply excellent looking.
Nice job. Can't wait to play!

I want robotic legs.
MMM
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Posted: 14th Feb 2009 07:36 Edited at: 29th Sep 2009 03:42
Thanks for the kind words guys. It really is a great feeling to have the bulk of it done. Beta release is tomorrow so I've put up a video for interest.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nm3PxUAhFxU&feature=channel_page


I should point out that I made a mistake in my last post. Not all of the people who worked on this game are students. Some are freelance and some are both students in one field and freelance in another. All of us worked without pay on this project and I need extend a huge thank you to the people who would otherwise have charged for their services.

You can check out some of Katie's art at her new site: http://www.katokarnage.com/
(website updated - this is the right one now)

Or even check out Trav's music at his page: http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewProfile&friendID=176976935

These guys do some great stuff and are occasionally open for business if you have the cash. I've gotten them to do some other work for me in the past and trust me, they're worth it. *end plug*

Can't wait for tomorrow!
MMM
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Posted: 15th Feb 2009 16:30 Edited at: 29th Sep 2009 03:46
Sorry for the double post, but this probably deserves a bump - we're releasing the Last Life beta on schedule today! GASP!!! I don't think I've ever heard of that happening.

Here's the link to the dedicated website where you can download the full beta for free. If anyone's got a better host, let me know. (53Mb is just over most host limits)


http://www.katokarnage.com/last_life.html
(website address updated - this is the right one now)


If you search hard enough, you'll probably find a few bugs (pun intended - heh) but we've tested this as thouroughly as we could in the time we had and I believe everything is stable enough for solid gameplay. We're really after people to give this a go, maybe try and find a few bugs and let us know so we can fix them for a proper full release.

As always, you'll need DirectX 9.0c to play this thing so that probably counts out anyone on a Mac. Sorry about that, but no one on the team has any technical experience with Mac. That being said, we've done the best we can with what we have.

In the near future, we'll be releasing that 'developer' version of the game including all the stuff we used to make the game with documentation and blog; this way we can get tester feedback on more than just the game itself and also on how the code was put together. But it's 2am here and I have a lecture at in seven hours.

Enjoy the game, I'd love some feedback for the road.
Garion
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Posted: 17th Feb 2009 23:26
Looking very very interesting
tiresius
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Posted: 18th Feb 2009 06:53
Game seems neat but I have no idea how to play it. Can you give a little description as to what to do?

I don't see any water on the map. Is the water done with a shader or something else? My PC is not very shader friendly sometimes so maybe I'm missing it.

Magnifier window gets jumbled with lots of different text if you try to look at more than one type of thing with it.

Intro movie pops up in a separate window... doesn't look so good. Any way to make that full screen and of course optional (player hits escape to pass it)?

A way to center back to your first plant after exploring the map (or a minimap of sorts) would be helpful for finding your way back. I strayed far away looking for water and couldn't find my way back.

I'm not a real programmer but I play one with DBPro!
MMM
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Posted: 18th Feb 2009 15:11
Tiresius, I think that's cute that you got lost. A 'back to start' feature would be a nice idea. Maybe I'll find the time to do it among study.

I'm totally blown away by some of the bugs you've described though. I honestly can't tell you what's wrong (except that DB animations tend to rely on Windows Media Player and if you have no .mpg codec, then that might screw up the awesome full screen that I see when I play it). The text jumbling was something we experienced way back at the start of production but it's been fixed for weeks. It's warping my mind, wondering what's making yours do that (maybe a resolution thing?).

As for instructions, that was kind of the magnifier's job because we didn't have enough time to implement our 'tutorial' phase. Between the 'controls.txt' and the magnifier cursor, we really just had to get the game out the door.

I'm sorry about the glitches, yours is the first I've heard of them. if I get a chance, I'll take a look (instead of posting on forums! ).


Thanks for the replies guys.
Outscape
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Posted: 20th Feb 2009 15:47
i cant read any of the text apart from when i look at the text from my main plant
and i cant figure out how to play
i always urn out of water and these ants come and gobble me up
num num num numnum num num

Quote: "Function ifKarlasks(Recipient as String, Post as String, Link as String)
Recipient Goto Link : Insert Post : Endfunction"
tiresius
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Posted: 21st Feb 2009 00:16
Yeah just tell me what the water looks like! I can fight with the interface a little, the game seems somewhat simple.

I'm not a real programmer but I play one with DBPro!
Outscape
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Posted: 21st Feb 2009 02:39
i think rain gives u water but im not sure
i seem to get water when its not raining

Quote: "Function ifKarlasks(Recipient as String, Post as String, Link as String)
Recipient Goto Link : Insert Post : Endfunction"
MMM
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Posted: 21st Feb 2009 04:11 Edited at: 29th Sep 2009 03:50
Heh - well, never make a new game without tutorial then. .


Water comes in the form of rain and puddles left behind by said rain. Puddles look like, well, puddles. And get larger the longer it rains. Grow roots into the puddles to drink water.


Lack of water is actually the main killer in this game. Which was intentional. It's possible to survive without water at all and if you can achieve that, you've pretty much won.


But then there's the ants who WILL eat you, so you'd better be prepared for that when growing large sums of defenseless bulbs.


Thanks for downloading it guys. I think I also know what's wrong with the text. Note to self - get better at ray-tracing.
tiresius
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Posted: 21st Feb 2009 06:32
Well I see little blocks of blue water or somesuch near roots in one of the development pictures above. I assumed I should see something similar in the game. Maybe not...

I'm not a real programmer but I play one with DBPro!
tiresius
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Posted: 21st Feb 2009 07:09
Ah ok I see. I think my problem was I ran it right from the ZIP file and whatever temp directory the zip uses didn't really work well maybe? I unzipped it to its own directory and ran it and I can see the water puddles forming.

The messed up magnifying glass text still occurs, though.

I'm not a real programmer but I play one with DBPro!
MMM
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Posted: 21st Feb 2009 08:26
Interesting fix for that puddle problem. I though perhaps it just wasn't obvious that the puddles were, well, puddles!

I'm getting the magnifier bug now too and as a result, I know what's causing it. Damned ray-tracing. This glitch occures because the ray senses two points of collision. If you highlight one and only one object (say, by looking straight down on it) then it will work, but that's no excuse.

I DID fix this problem weeks ago. Unfortunately, right at the end of development, we added in the ability to magnify puddles and I've obviously mucked up the original fix by doing so. Damn.

Well, maybe we'll get around to fixing it.
TheComet
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Posted: 21st Feb 2009 12:32 Edited at: 21st Feb 2009 12:37
*sigh*

It looks BEAUTIFUL...

Downloading now...

[Angry]
Could you use MediaFire? I hate websites that charge you for faster download rates, and ask you about a million times if you want to buy a license or something even though you don't want it. And why do I have to enter some obviously easy code that ANYONE could enter? [/Angry]

Besides from that matter, your game is awesome!

TheComet

Peachy, and the Chaos of the Gems

Outscape
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Posted: 21st Feb 2009 14:23
umm my plants that spit poison do nothing and thorn bulbs do nothing either
there is no water no blue stuff or anything
ant mounds maby and these weird ground mounds

Quote: "Function ifKarlasks(Recipient as String, Post as String, Link as String)
Recipient Goto Link : Insert Post : Endfunction"
TheComet
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Posted: 21st Feb 2009 21:03
The acid slows down the ants. There are small puddles after every rain fall. There are these seeds lying around. You need to connect them together with your roots.

Nice game! I didn't last long, but very inspiring and VERY good animation and graphics.

TheComet

Peachy, and the Chaos of the Gems

JLMoondog
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Posted: 23rd Feb 2009 19:23 Edited at: 23rd Feb 2009 19:25
Finally got around to try this out and I have to say your team did a great job. I was able to build up max water and health, though I'm curious on how to actually win the game.

Only bugs I found was the magnifying glass text. Also I like the music a lot, but after a while it stopped playing.

Only grip was the root placement, was very sensitive. Other then that it was enjoyable. Oh..and what is water intake? Not once did I see anything in that meter.

Strategy wise, after 4 attempts, I got a system down where I wouldn't need any puddles, and I could literally leave my computer and collect water without worrying about ants eating my community. I won't give away my secret, but I'll attach an image to show it, maybe you can figure it out.


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MMM
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Posted: 24th Feb 2009 01:42
@ Mooney --- WIN!!!


I can't figure out what's wrong with the music. I've done everything by the book there and I can't see any reason it should stop playing. But yes, I get that too. Profoundly confusing.

As for the sensitive roots... If I were to do this game again, I'd do the entire root system differently. Give the player far more freedom with it and make it more like 'painting' roots on the ground than planting 'roads' like in sim city. Which is kind of a shame, because the entire production time was spent trying to get those roots working. Nature of the biz.
Diggsey
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Posted: 28th Feb 2009 13:52
Nice game

It could do with some culling though, because I built a massive base, and it was quite laggy even if the camera was only on a small part of it.

[b]Yuor signutare was aresed by a deslyxic mud...
BOX2D V2 HAS HELP FILES! AND A WIKI!
TheComet
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Posted: 3rd Mar 2009 21:26
@MMM

Hey! I just want to congratulate you for getting into the newsletter 74!

http://www.thegamecreators.com/data/newsletter/newsletter_issue_74.html

Peachy, and the Chaos of the Gems

MMM
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Posted: 4th Mar 2009 08:26
Wow!

That's an unexpected pleasure. Though I'm not so sure how this system works, thanks from everyone on the Last Life team to the peoples responsible for this.

And thanks Comet, I only checked my links after eading this. Hope this thread help those who are working on a small game under constraints. With any luck, the developer version should arrive sooner rather than later (just figuring out how to structure it, let alone fix bugs).

Hooray for hard work!
TheComet
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Posted: 4th Mar 2009 14:46
Quote: "Though I'm not so sure how this system works"


I'm also not sure, but I think some moderators have something to do with the newsletter and they pick the best looking, coolest game and add it to the newsletter...

Peachy, and the Chaos of the Gems

BatVink
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Posted: 4th Mar 2009 15:55
I came, I saw, I added it to the newsletter

The quality of this whole project seemed newsworthy to me, and hopefully it will inspire a few people.

TheComet
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Posted: 4th Mar 2009 19:33
There you go...



Peachy, and the Chaos of the Gems

MMM
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Posted: 5th Mar 2009 03:47
Baha! Nicely picked. Thanks BatVink.
xplosys
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Posted: 19th Mar 2009 19:26
It looks great and I'd love to try it but....

Quote: "Sorry, there are currently no free download slots available on this server.

Please try again later, or you can upgrade to FileFactory Premium below for instant access."


I've been trying for 30 minutes. That's really discouraging. I'll keep trying.

Best.

FredP
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Posted: 19th Mar 2009 19:48
Definitely a unique concept.It looks good.

Failing at every guitar game ever made!
MMM
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Posted: 20th Mar 2009 08:21
Oh no! Sorry guys! I'll have to fix that somehow but I can't say for sure when it'll be done by. Really sorry! I'll post here when it's fixed - or you can just keep trying.

Damn thrid-party servers!
MMM
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Posted: 20th Mar 2009 08:25
FIXED!!!



That was easier than I thought. Thanks for the heads up.
cram
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Posted: 26th Mar 2009 19:04 Edited at: 26th Mar 2009 19:09
Sorry, there are currently no free download slots available on this server.

Please try again later, or you can upgrade to FileFactory Premium below for instant access

Edit:downloading.
Plotinus
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Posted: 10th Apr 2009 12:28
I liked this a lot. The post-apocalyptic setting is fun, especially without any post-apocalyptic zombies etc wandering about. The general polish is also great and higher than I think you'll find in most games of this kind.

I had the same text bug, which is a shame. Also, I wasn't really sure what benefit either kinds of beetles brought, but I grew the relevant plants anyway because they look cute. I eventually managed to create an immense plant system which pretty much dealt with all ant attacks and provided enough water not to need to worry about puddles, which was very satisfying as well as handy given that eventually I was unable to find any puddles at all. My Health and Water meters were maxed out. Water Intake never did a thing, though. I take it that this is effectively "game won".

The music did stop after a while, which was a shame, and also the rain sound effect didn't last as long as the rain.

Ideas: Why not have a level system? Get your health to max and it's on to the next level, where more plant types are available, there's less water, and more ants. Or something like that.

How about an enemy plant? Battles for resources, plants attacking each other...
MMM
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Posted: 15th Apr 2009 12:34
Interesting you should bring up the 'enemy plant' idea. Little known fact is that this game was originally intended to be a multiplayer RTS where each players' plant competed for supremacy. Of course, being new to the language we couldn't realistically worry ourselves with multiplayer (LAN) coding in the 2 month time period. It would have been nice but we just didn't have time. It takes a LOT longer to learn than it does to implement.

Other 'cuts' include plant evolution; where the plant becomes more prone to a certain type of bulb if you favour growing that type of bulb early on; skin evolution where the plant with lots of beetles begins to eat said beetles for health if it runs out of water; the nourishing effects of the sun; more extensive terrain features such as rivers, gullies, toxic sludge, dud bombs (left over from the apocolypse); growing 'main' plants as 'new bases'; and enemy plant/bug/catapillar NPCs.

Pretty much everything else made it into the game. I hope we can go back and fix some of the bugs soon. Maybe even implement some of the cut features. That would be really nice.
Plotinus
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Posted: 16th Apr 2009 14:55
All of those ideas sound really interesting. I can well believe that multiplayer was not possible to implement in the timescale you mention - in fact to be honest I'm amazed that you managed to do what you did in that time! Maybe in this case AI enemy plants would not be hugely difficult to implement. Either way, I do hope you continue to work on the game and add in some of the extra features, as you've got a really strong basis for development here.
MMM
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Posted: 22nd Apr 2009 13:03
Thanks Plotinus!


I think one of the major things holding us back is 3D animation in darkbasic. I'm not really an artist but I seem to be the closest thing to a technical artist we have in our small team. Apparently it's hard for small-time or new animators to really find the technical information (tutorials?) they need to bring 3DSmax out into the world.

Our team has currently expanded and is working on another project contract but finding well versed (and local) technical artists for darkbasic is still our biggest issue.
lucifer 1101
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Posted: 22nd Jul 2009 04:37 Edited at: 22nd Jul 2009 04:38
Hello MMM, I am here on behalf of the DBP Buddies asking if we may place your excellent game on our website at http://dbpbuddies.co.cc/, we would be very grateful to have your game on there and would love to see more from you in the future. The AI Also looks very interesting

Please if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact any of the DBP Buddies staff..

Best Regards Lucifer1101

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