EveHeader

It’s all been slow, and keeps on being slow. It takes me too long to wake up and too long to fall asleep and I never feel quite in the right place to get work done. There’s a rhythm to work, hi-ho hi-ho, and I have lost the beat.

I’m not sure what to do about it.

It’s not like I haven’t been doing anything. I still make sure to put in at least 30-60 minutes every day. But now, when my head’s down in it, it’s there for just long enough to do the thing that needs to be done next, and as soon as I can justify it to myself I stop working – not because I would rather be doing something else, but because I would rather be doing nothing. I’m really not sure if it’s bad habit or a slight depression or the weather or the fact that the world seems to be going fucking nuts, but it’s hard.

It will always be hard, in different ways. The stars will never line up in just the perfect way to make everything I do wonderful and easy, and if they do they won’t stay aligned for long. So okay, whatever. I’ll do what I can, and at times what that will be may shift up or down, and I may enjoy it more or less. I’ll survive not caring long enough to care again. I’ll persist through the lows in fond memory of the highs, and even though I don’t know if the golden days will ever get here I’ll just get what I can out of the silver and brass ones.

Part of existing is sometimes you feel like a total fucking chump.

Okay.

So hey about that game I’m making. The particle behavior editor is almost done, but I don’t have a screenshot because I’ve basically built it from the inside out, ensuring that for the entire week I was hammering away at a wall of text without ever seeing any of the compiled fruits of my labors. This is probably not helping my mood. Nevertheless, I think it’s mostly done, and in a day or two I can probably wrap it up. At that point I just need to make it possible to assign graphics to the details/particles – obviously that’s pretty important, and unfortunately will probably take a fair bit of architecture. Or maybe I’ll figure out something clever and it won’t. We shall see.

I’m falling behind in a lot of work right now, don’t think I’ll be able to put together a post this week. I dunno, I feel like in general the amount of attention I’ve been able to put into this has been choked off, and the quality of my work suffering because of it. I’m not sure what to do about that yet. Hopefully a better post next week to make up for it, though.

Not really a fan of this new wordpress interface so far, either.

EveHeader

Apparently a week has passed since the last time I wrote a devblog. Wow. Weird. It feels like it was maybe two or three days. I have come unstuck in time. Poo-tee-weet.

Okay. The basic interface of the detail editor is mostly complete. I keep on forgetting to take a screenshot of what it looks like when it’s running, and it’s currently in-between builds since I made a moderate-to-major change in how particle behaviors work. Even though progress isn’t rapid, it’s regular.

I can’t help but think, sometimes, of how much more quickly I’d be developing this component if it was still my official day job, a job I drove into every day and sat in a nice air-conditioned room with other programmers and had nothing to think about all day but how I would take the next step towards developing this project. It bothers me that I can’t work with the rapidity and dedication as I did then, but – I don’t have an air-conditioned work-space, I don’t have the freedom of a single-minded focus, I don’t have a company supporting me financially so that I can care about just one thing, all the time, 40 hours a week.

It’s not that I liked that life better, but I liked being able to do a job that way.

It’s crazy, though, how much something like air conditioning and a nice work space can help one do good work. I guess I’ll just sit here and think cool thoughts, and try to piece this puzzle together, and someday I will make a goddamn video game.

 

habit

In this world, there are so many things to experience, weird and wonderful and varied and vivid. Most of us will only see a handful of them – basically nothing, when compared with what’s possible. Even just in the realm of art, there are so many films and shows, books and games, plays and songs, that there will never be enough time to experience them all. And, more often than not, we don’t even try.

More often than not, I find myself not trying. More often than not, I find myself returning to the familiar rather than exploring the new, and I keep on wondering what that indicates. Is it because I find myself straining to cope with the scope of the project I’ve chosen for myself, and with the daily struggles of understanding that being an ethical person in a diverse world demand, such that I have little world-understanding energy left over to try new things? Or am I just getting set in my ways? If it’s the former, I wonder about the ‘core gamers’ who seem to feel so threatened by feminism and games informed by it, by ‘non-games’ and ‘walking simulators’ and – is it because they’re constitutionally unable to empathize with other points of view, as so many presume to be the case, or have their empathetic capabilities been stretched, exhausted? Perhaps it isn’t important, and is, either way, one form or another of growing pains.

It’s strange how much one can want something in the abstract and yet find it difficult to approach. I want to try new things, because I usually enjoy it and feel enriched by the experience, but when faced with actually doing something about it I feel a crushing apathy. I have a hundred games I haven’t played in my Steam library, and every day I scroll down through them, peering at them one by one to see if they sound appealing, and end up playing TF2 instead. I’ve uninstalled TF2 several times to try to incentivize myself to play other games, but it usually makes me instead scroll down the list of games, peering at them one by one to see if they sound appealing, and deciding I’d rather take a nap or something.

This inertia is difficult to conquer. I would hate it, except the same habits that make it hard to experience new things also make it possible for me to work consistently every day on the same large and slow project for more than a year. The same sluggishness and stubbornness that enables me to do the same thing day after day also encumbers me when I try to do something different every day.

It’s a difficult conundrum, creating a habit of novelty, particularly on a low budget. This is a big part of the reason I did that experiment with drawing assignments from a jar. And, though that particular experiment didn’t pan out, perhaps the time is approaching to try something similar.

Heck, I’ve already got the jar.

EveHeader

It’s been a bit difficult to work. I don’t have air conditioning, and Summer seems to have abruptly noticed itself here and the heat and humidity have been oppressive. This isn’t the most recent screenshot, but it gives a pretty good idea of what I’ve been doing:

EveDetailEditor06

Pretty similar to the one last week, except you can see here that I’ve added a bunch of sliders up top to control parameters. That’s the basic version of the control panel (minus a few buttons which I have yet to create) – there’s also an advanced version with even more sliders, all of them double sliders like the distance filter that’s underneath the menu there. All of the sliders and stuff are mostly functional, though I haven’t tested them out yet since there’s a few other things I need to get working first.

However, before I finish those things, I’ve gotten slightly sidetracked. The current version of the particle system isn’t set up to add or remove animations, which is a real problem for an object that I want to be able to edit as I go. It’s necessary to add that ability – however, the reason why I didn’t make it possible in the first place still applies. Because a particle can render out in a number of different ways, which each have their own resource types, it’s not easy to add and remove these resources in an elegant way. However, I think I have a good approach. I won’t get into the details here, but I’ll be figuring my way through it on the daily devblog.

Progress is being made, and even when it feels slow it also feels like it’s building momentum. I can do this in trickles if I have to, even if I’m going to have to spend a couple of weeks melting to do it.

Bigby

Power is defined every bit as much by what it can’t achieve as what it can achieve. Even an indestructable man can’t save himself from drowning, even a walking god can’t reverse death. Omnipotence is a contradiction, a rock made too heavy to lift, a decision to make one change barely holding back the overriding weight of an infinite sea of decisions unmade. Being Bigby – being bigger and badder than anyone else – you would think it would make you feel powerful. And it does – but in a way that shows you that power’s limits, shows you that being strong and smart and wise can only take you so far.

No matter how big you are, the world is bigger. No matter how bad you are, the world is worse. It will gobble you up whole. It already has.

Telltale’s storytelling games have an interesting relationship with choice. Your decisions matter, and yet they all lead back to the same place eventually. You can fail, but only in fragments, only in little dead-ends and momentary diversions. The story will play out as it will, overriding your free will, and yet it rarely feels contrived. It all feels so familiar. We never know more than we know, we never become a person different than who we are, and we find ourselves compelled by our history to take certain paths, believing it was our choice all along.

Some people call it fate, but it’s a tautology: Whatever will be will be.

The things we do make a difference, but never as much of one as we wish they did. Maybe we can save a life, but that life will eventually burn out on its own. Maybe we can right a wrong, but eventually the wrong would have been forgotten anyway. The world keeps on turning, no matter how much we push back – for now.

But we are not alone. Others push with us, and bit by bit momentum shifts. Wishes for the strength to stop it, start it spinning again in a direction of your own choice, are naive: It’s the sudden stop that kills, and if you stand in the way of the world’s rotation the inevitable result is that one or the other of you will be destroyed. Steady pressure, applied gently but surely from as many hands as possible, is all that can change the angle of rotation.

Our personal power ends at the tips of our fingers, but we are not alone. we are communities. We are workforces and schools of thought. We bring manifold histories and we come in many forms. Sooner or later we will need Bigby, someone to protect or to cut out a cancer, but his power means nothing without ours.

Those tyrants who forget, who believe in their own power above all, will wake up, sooner or later, at the bottom of a lake, with a belly stitched full of rocks, forgotten by the world above.

EveHeader

I’m starting to recover a bit of energy, though the unseasonal coolness I’ve been enjoying for the past week is supposed to end tomorrow so we’ll see how that lasts. I’ve cut a few distractions out from my daily routine at least temporarily so that I can focus on getting things done, and I’m feeling better for it. Sometimes even the things we enjoy can become traps, habits we get stuck in even when they’ve ceased to be beneficial. Sometimes it helps to take a break from the many stresses of procrastination and laziness so that I can spend some time relaxing with work.

Anyway, the detail editor is starting to come together!

EveDetailEditor05

Here you can see I have a test detail selected – the red dot there shows where the detail lies in world space, or where it interacts with the 0-distance axis the player character occupies, and the line sticking out shows how it projects into the foreground. I can select and drag around both simple and complex effects, though some of my test particles have stopped rendering for reasons which I have yet to uncover – I should probably go back and work on that soon, since it will be hard to be sure how well the editor works without being able to see the real-time results.

There are two panels up top. The top one is the main control panel, which is probably sized a little bit too small but will include all of the controls for modifying each detail’s distance, color, alpha, and other parameters. It’s going to require both a basic version, for simple details like the one I have selected here, and an advanced version for particle effects and other animated details. I don’t think either of those will be too difficult for the most part, with one exception which I’ll get back to in a moment. First I’d like to talk about the panel underneath the main control panel, which has the distance filter slider: This is already up and running, and allows me to filter out selectable details based on their distance. Right now there’s only a few in the scene, but this means that if I want to just work on background elements I can just slide the red arrow down to the center point and only background elements will be visible, which obviates the need for separate foreground/background editors.

Now, the tricky part I alluded to before is the particle behavior controls. Similar to the game entities I’ve been working on for the past few weeks, particles can have a set of assigned behaviors, though particle behaviors are far more primitive. Basically, each particle behavior is just a method of mapping one value to another value – an obvious and common example is mapping the lifetime value to the alpha value, saying that each particle lasts to a maximum lifetime of 10 seconds before respawning, we can then map the value 8 in lifetime to the value 1 in alpha and the value 10 in lifetime to the value 0 in alpha, so that over the last 2 seconds of its life it fades evenly from 1 to 0 before respawning. This is the most obvious example, but a whole lot of interesting effects should be possible in this framework – almost certainly anything I’m planning on doing in this game. Anyway, since an unlimited number of these behaviors are possible, and since the complexity of each behavior is itself variable (one source parameter can be linked to multiple targets), this could be a fairly complex undertaking. Hopefully my experience with solving a similar problem in the Entity Editor will be helpful.

I’m so pleased to finally feel like I’m making progress again, even if it’s not astounding progress, and even if it’s still, perhaps, just re-creating the detail editor I had to discard to accommodate my new level detail paradigm. I’m feeling excited about the project again – even if making it something other people will want to play is still distant, the path from here to there is coming into sight again, and it’s a huge relief.

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