Friday, January 31, 2014

Learning Construct2- 101

Such Basic 

Now the great thing about learning coding with Construct, is that you're not really. You are, but you're not at the same time. In a pervious post I mentioned how game making programs like Game Maker, Game Salad, MMF2, and Construct 2 support this kind of psuedo-code. In Construct 2 these are called events.

^this is what they look like

The usefulness of this pseudocode is to condense the functionality of actual code into small bite sized re-arrange-able puzzle pieces. This makes the function and logic of basic computer languages much more accessible to a wider audience. It's like Duplo for programmers.

And while this looks approachable and easy as pie (and it is), but it's not really. This is a simplified translation of computer language for human peoples, but that doesn't change the fact that pseudocode is still a computer language and structured in computer logic. Which means their will be times you think you have everything set up correctly but while testing out your double jump your character floats off into the nether. Computers are like little evil minions, they'll do what you tell them to.. exactly what you tell them to, without understanding the context of what you mean by it even if you think it's perfectly simple English.

I know this sounds really obvious, maybe even patronizing, but if you're just starting out with Construct or any game making program, or you've been toying with it for a bit but still are having weird glitches where you don't know what's wrong with your code, please read the manual. (here is C2's) I'd love to say, "I can't tell you how many times I was close to finishing a project and going back to the manual saved my game." but I can't because I'm one of those stupidly stubborn learners.

I want to be able to watch someone do something, try it myself, then look at my finished product in comparison to someone doing something harder. I want to learn by my mistakes that way, to learn through hands on exploration and observation. When I got my lego sets I'd skim the instructions but always try to finish the set by using the cover and what I already understood of building. As you can imagine I'd often make small mistakes and end up having to go back and rebuild some big thing because I used some wrong brick someplace and be one square off. Bit of an awkward simile but the issue is the same, if trying to skip steps you won't really be able to manipulate the tool the way you'll need too to. I just can't stress this enough. It's not saying you won't figure out all the small stuff inevitably through other user tutorials or asking these people, but typically it'll be something basic that is in the manual if you give the manual some love.

Trying to make a small indie game title without really studying up on the tool you using is like trying to self publish a short story you wrote without really learning grammar. It's likely to not pan out for you, and if it does it would have gone so much better if you had just taken the time to sit down and do your studying. I know it's one of the tedious parts and you just want to be making your game, but I promise you the reward is by far worth the effort. You know that great first moment when you got it to make stuff move onscreen, when you got the enemy AI to respond the way you wanted, or the animations were synced with the differing inputs correctly for the first time and the small blurs onscreen just popped to life? That will be so much rewarding if you are confident in knowing how all of those small things worked out. And secondly learning the how is not really even the tedious part, the tedious part is when you have a working demo, a well polished engine and intro level.. and then realize you have to develop the entire rest of the game. All those levels and those extra inputs and balancing the enemies and complexity curve, and plot exposition. And even more tedious after that is the 97% completed -I'm-sick-of-this-project-now- final bug fixing and edits before sending your little creature out into the world. But that's for another time. First learn your program and build that sweet sweet engine. Play test frequently and never give up. Good luck with your projects and have a good afternoon fokes.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Design Sense


At one point in time, while talking about game making, someone told me the only safe career pursuit was coding. That the coding was any game's live blood and without programmers you wouldn't have any games. This was brought up because I mentioned I do the writing for a group making games and that I consider myself a game designer, and occasionally artist, who has little to no understanding of coding. Which is why I've had such trouble physically finishing any designs. The chap I was discussing with called writing and design the easiest part. I don't know about that. Now I might be wrong, some things come easier to others so for him they might be the easiest part. He could have his coding down, and a natural grasp of story and the design talent to back it and make functional beautifully thought out interactive experience. But for the most part when people say writing is stupid easy or think that coming up with a game that sells million copies first week is just stupid obvious, are the kind of people that have never done those things. Like, they think writing a best selling novel is really easy because they haven't written much so they don't really know much about writing, and chock up the art as a simple task. They misinterpret the aesthetics, the visible content, for the craft of putting the content together.

Say we're talking about a novel. What makes the novel great is not if it has robots or werewolves in it, or even the grammar. It's the way those things are presented that makes it work, it's the pacing and use of story devises. Understanding how the reader will feel reading the work, what and how they'll think while you introduce characters and elements. It's not solely the characters or elements but the significance in their use. Everyone has read a good book (I hope), and everyone has read a boring or dull book from the same genre. Even if the grammar in both was perfectly fine, if both books had gunslinger good guy, a hot distressed victim, an evil as sin bad guy, with a three act structure, and a hero sacrificed conclusion; the good book would never be compared to the bad. No one who had given either any consideration would confuse the two. When asked what's different, you might hear "This one's just got an awesome hero, he's super cool, and killed like thirty badguys. The other killed a bunch of guys too but he's just kinda lame." We've all had those experiences where a book or film just kinda "tell" us we're suppose to like hero X or think they're the coolest but we're just not into it. You can have as many special effects and good actors in a movie, but if the story is terrible and the character's are compellingly written, the movie will be rated poorly. Now that has nothing to do with someone's sense of grammar or including cool stuff, that's the result of design. Great stories are great by their merits in design and execution. Those two things just cannot be divorced. You can't make a classic book out of great storytelling but bad grammar just like you can't make one out of good grammar but bad storytelling. Personally I feel the great storytelling will help a book/movie more then good technical execution. Poor special effects and filming is something you see everywhere in cult classics, but if the story is soulless and poorly shown you're going to have a harder pressed time finding fans. Look at the 5 dollar bin at your local Walmart.

Bringing this back to games, I'm comparing grammar to coding, and storytelling to design. I agree with the individual that coding is the lifeblood of games, but if that's true then the art is the skin and outside, the story is the animal's temperament, and the design is design of the actual animal. The design is how the internal organs work, the system of how the animal moves, what the animal does. How it frightens it's predators, finds it's food, survives. Think about animals in a design sense. Animals that were well adapted and had a design that was well suited for the environment keep living, others died out because their design wasn't suited for the environment. Sharks are really, really old, they're still around because to today's standards they still do what they need to. Like how classic old games still stand up to today's standards as engaging and fun. 

What's Going On?

I think what's happening typically when consumers or starting up game developers misunderstand and dismiss the term design, it's because they haven't been given a context to really see design as what it is. Like learning English someone points at an apple, says apple, and you think apple just means red fruit. It's more than it's surface material. There's more to writing than just put words on paper and more to drawing than just lines on paper. That's not to say they can't design. It's just they're not as aware of what they're doing. Like people who can sit down and play something ridiculously complex off the top of their head, completely impromptu on the piano without ever taking a lesson. That doesn't prove that musical theory is bunk, it proves that it's something innately appreciated. You don't need to know a think about music to appreciate Queen. You don't need to understand or acknowledge all the little bits of brilliant in a Miyazaki film to be drawn in. None of that's important because design is an invisible art, a soft science even. You enjoy and are drawn to a well designed advertisement without ever knowing it. We're bombarded with thousands of logos and graphic art a day but will still notice a well designed image dispute ourselves. We'll categorize that image and remember it for years to come without giving it a second thought, not because we tried to remember it, but because the designer knew what he was doing. Design is a thing you enjoy effortlessly, good design is something you barely notice. You might internalize a general understanding and design sense by being exposed to a medium, but then might not be able to explain later why something is bad. You'll know it's bad, but you might not be able to exactly articulate why. 
"How was the movie?"
"It was boring."
"Just was."

Everyone who makes anything is practicing a level of design. Anything creative is designed and could have it's merits judged by it's design. Everyone who makes games is at worst and amateur designer. I'm not saying this to make a point about designers being the most important people in game production. No, I'm just saying that what being a designer means isn't what people always think it is. Design isn't an idea, it's the execution of an idea. It's not "Game with werewolves and guns!", at it's simplest it's "tower defense, werewolves", and that's the basic idea you start with. But throughout the production you're making more and more design choices. Level design, deciding what to include or exclude to balance complexity curve, gameplay, the interface, the guns work, the way the enemies work. Yes without coding you wouldn't be able to translate that into a functioning game, but from start to finish design is implemented throughout the game and has direct effects on the game. That theory I have with storytelling and grammar in books is the same with games, how many times do you pick up that great old game you love that has the occasional glitch over the brand new one with the uninteresting gameplay? You never pick up that last one because you traded it in at Gamestop or where-ever. 

Design isn't just 'idea guy', and if you're getting into game making thinking it is, you're in for a sad disappointment. Design is something that every contributor implements in their part aspect of the production, game design means the gameplay and the level design. To me design is all I really care about in a game. If a game has a fantastic story or art but cannot draw me in with it's gameplay I won't care to continue playing. If then the art and story are created perfectly to fit with the gameplay and paced well within the levels, then there's a game I love. 

When I'm working on a game when I feel the most alive is when I have the squares and pre-art bits moving around onscreen in the way I want them too. Transitions, puzzles, effects, controls. In the back of my head I have all the art assets, but those are just the skin, what's really happening in a game happens by design. Of course none of that happens without the rest of production. Squares are nice, but can't always convey a meaningful experience like art and sound can. Think of how iconic game music is, think of how popular sprite art is in gaming culture. Think of well written stories and how that contextualized fight scenes into an epic experience you'd come back to again and again. Then think about how none of that would be possible without lines of code.. complex.. computer language. You can't expect to divorce these elements from each other and weigh one or the other as more important.. well.. actually you can have a game with no sound. And then they have made that one mobile phone game where it's pitch black and you use alone to figure out where you are in the digital world... that's such a cool design. 


You can't dismiss the design side of games any more then you can dismiss the technical side. It'd be like removing the rules of chess from the physical board and pieces, or taking the physical construction and pieces out of the equation and just leaving the idea.. it's just not possible. Either way, you wouldn't have chess. Even if you were to try to image a game of chess you'd need to imagine physical properties to conduct the game. The aesthetics are a softer element of production, but just as vital. Dwarf Fortress depends on it's graphics as much as Minecraft or Super Meat Boy, without their individual aesthetic sense the games wouldn't be as iconic or convey the same experience they do. If you thought Mario, Zelda, or Pokemon could be the same without their musical numbers then you're wrong.  

I know they're old videos and everyone's seen them, but a great study of design in the way it effects game experience is Egorapter's Sequelitis series.        

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Gotta Walk before you can Crawl

Reverse That

So... learning pixel art and design. Code still looks like Russian to me. In what way can someone utilize and test their abilities in the design/writing/art section of game making without yet understanding the code, the very life blood of games? Well there are two possibilities, either A. you work with a team where the code is not your responsibility. This is good because you can hone your specific craft, the issue though is you are reliant on first a finished product to test your work in action and second forced to wait until a certain point of production. Games evolve as they are made and sometimes entire sets of art assets become useless if the design changes. What an artist or writer or designer wants, is to have something tangible to show their work. An actual game that functions as such to display their work, otherwise their craft isn't as well represented in portfolio (and obviously this is less the case with artists or musicians whose work can be appreciated separately) but design in interactive media needs interactivity. Even if it's just the menu buttons lighting up as your mouse hovers over them.

Option B. the artist/writer/designer can find a program that requires no code(or little) to create functional games and have at it. 

And that's sort of what we've been trying to do here. Find the easiest way to make games. Just to be clear, the truly difficult part -the area where a game becomes great or crap- is not in the tools but the creator. Card games are crated with paper and ink. Board games are cardboard, ink, and bits of plastic. The average Chess game is just made of bits of wood and cardboard, and yet that's been around for centuries. My point is the tools do not dictate the quality of the product. Someone can have the best equipment in the world for digital art and still come up with something that looks like junk. Back in the day graphic designers use pen and paper instead of illustrator and the existence of illustrator along with all of its tools have not lead to better graphic artists. 

Anyway, previously in a discussion I had heard Construct 2 mentioned. Previously I hadn't head of this program and at first glance figured it to be the same as MMF2, which dispite all of it's pros is still an expensive bit of machinery and therefor out of our running for "easiest to start making and learning about game making" contest. Ags is great and I'm loving the community, but there's still a decent amount of code required. It's inescapable. 

Or is it?

The reason I advise people use programs like MMF2 and (as far as my limited understanding) programs  like GameSalad, is because they have this sudo-code. Underneath it's the same code that makes any other game work, but it's broken down into symbols and an easily approachable interface. This teaches code logic, which if isn't later used to understand code in it's true raw form can at least bridge the gap between you and your coder when communicating in production. GameSalad is one that's free, but right now we're going to take a look at Construct 2. Or at least I am.

Here are a few games from a person I follow made using Construct 2
(personal favorite of his work)
(I get a bug with this one but idk, maybe it's just my computer)

 Here's the link to their site where you can download the program. 

Great things one, the interface is easy to understand, it comes with it's own paint image editor which is also easy to grasp. Great things two, it starts out offering a list of templates to chose from, not just get a head start templates for making top down shooters, path-finding, physics, or platforms, but templates to make your game work on Facebook, mobile devices, ect. 

Personally I'm hesitant to jump onto another program, I'm trying to figure out two different programs at once. But really few of my designs are actually complex. Most of the ones I have now are just platforms or beat-em-ups, the big ones.. The ones that are going to take a while use Ags, and it'll probably take me the twice the amount of time to do the art then it will take learning and coding the thing. And with school and work, if I were to throw out a number of when I'd finish that game it'd be someplace in the years category, even if I weren't doing the coding. And while the payoff will be awesome until then the work will be rather slow. Not to mention this blog, besides the DeconstructionCraft notices how much can I say about a background having a bit more shading or a single line of code being added. Development on.. I'm just going to call it 'the Island' project will be slow, and I'd prefer if I can have more regular activity on here. I think I'm at a point in my "career" I just need to make games. Yes I have a group project going on and this big project of my own, but I need something consistent and easily completed. Ags would be my tool if it was more oriented for platforms or the like but it's not, and C2 is. With school coming up and other messes that require my focus irl I'm going to be posting for a while about Construct 2 with the intermittent updates on Ags and what I've learned there. Soon as I can figure out fraps(this is the kind of simple you're talking too) I'll start putting up let's draws or tutorials or speed production vids. But for now I'll just be written bits with the occasional screen-cap. 

Until then, good luck with your projects, and goodnight. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Progress! Update on Avatar

Few hours of tinkering and 100 or so more saved frames and I have not only recorded the process of going from nothing to my pixel art avatar, but have it animated. ^^ And I found a much better free gif maker.

Here is the image without animation.


I'd still like to detail the plane, do a vapor trail, and of course get rid the numbers and palette on the side. But I wanted to be sure I could get it to animate. 

Thankfully this gif sit let's you upload three times the number of frames per gif. (when you see a name pop up on the screen that's just me giving a shout out to the individuals that gave me a hand in the forums with this. 


Faster makes the animation look smother.

 This is because of the number of frames Finding just the right number of frames for the speed you want to trick the viewer's mind into precieving the animation as continued motion is a science like cooking is a science, you tend to just go by your gut, sorta wing it.  

End of the day, While I'm really glad I got it to animate and that I've found a decent gif site, I don't think I'm going to use the animated final.
I'm still going to finish detailing it, and I've had a great time with the project, I just get the feeling the still allows the viewer a better look at the piece. The focus isn't pulled away with the movement. And once I've finished the plane maybe that'll change, who knows.

But until then, keep experimenting, goodnight, and good luck everyone.

Monday, January 13, 2014

What makes a thing that has pixels "Pixel Art"?

I'm going to site a particular moment from the AGS forums for you. Because it was an important moment for me where it fully clicked, when it comes to sprites, images, resolution, and some of the other terminology that makes sense of images we use in digital art.

My previous draft  (as recorded in this post) for creating my own pixel art avatar gif was thus 


"I think the palette is okay. But if I were to be really literal here, this is NOT pixel art. You are using merging gradients and soft brushes, both of which are not used in traditional pixel art. See also here:"

By god this is better criticism then I could have hoped for. I say that in all sincerity, I'm a newbie --sure I know the kind of results I want to end up at-- but I have no idea of how to get there. I had seen some examples of this dithering thing that's used for shading, but once that got a little complex went right back to what I know. Using a crap ton of gradients. This soft transition from one shade to the next almost makes the use of pixels invisible. Which entirely misses the point of pixel art, high amount of control and focus on the pixel as the tool, and as a visible tool used in the art. I seriously encourage anyone whose looking into making games and especially people who want to do art for their games to give this a serious read

So along with a great amount of insight from that article on how do do this art and such, note the valuable examples of styles of dithering, the commentary on anti-aliasing, jaggies, and --one of my personal favorite technique errors-- pillow shading. Also understanding the difference and --more importantly-- proper use of hue, saturation, and luminosity. In all honesty I had kind of forgotten the difference between hue and saturation.. mostly just because I forgot what hue was, saturation is pretty self evident. I had basically just dragged the mouse around on the color finder until it was slightly darker or lighter. I feel stupid about getting them confused. I mean, I've learnt this, this. No point in focusing on the negative. So what to do. Well I'm going to change the color scheme ^^. The issue I was having from the get go was trying to get the exact right amount of red or yellow in the skin tones. And, while with more time it might be possible for me to get this to the realistic(ish) style I was aiming for, diving into full color scale is me diverging from my original goal. I wanted to practice dithering and shading, I wanted to achieve a level of believably with a strong pixel art approach. I wasn't going for photo-realism, I wanted a believable rendering, but believable and photo-realistic are two entirely separate beasts. So to focus on learning dithering I'm going to cut it back to a bichromatic palette.  

That's the plan, I'm going to get to work. Good night everyone and good luck with your projects.    

Sunday, January 12, 2014

How to Gif.. Please really how?

Alright, so I've gotten significantly farther with my avatar... this is going to take a while. And I've got some of it animated for you ^^ which is making it take even longer.

Current stage

By god, I am never using that gif maker again. I used Picasion's free online, "insert only ten files" crap. The last one is actually two frames. behh. If anyone knows freeware gif/animating program that's a legitimate option for this kind of thing please throw me a recommendation in the comments below or a message, anything really. Well, I'm really tired and it's a nice time in the morning to go to bed. So goodnight everyone. I know this was a lackluster post. I'll was looking up a bunch of pixel stuff and I have some links and tell you what I've learned from dicking around with them later. As always, good night and good luck with your projects.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Pixelstudio Review and Pixel art/animation(a little bit).

Under no circumstances would I want someone to be in a position where they'd need to use Pixelstudio. As far as I could find there are no tutorials on youtube.. probably because everyone would rather use photoshop or whatever else, but still. Don't use it. I don't know if I'm just using it wrong.. but there's no reason it should be that counter intuitive. But as far as I can tell unless you upload an image with color, there isn't a way to change the color scheme past black and white, or any easy way at least. If you cut an image and attempt to move it elsewhere, the dotted line that typically surrounds it will not go away, not easily. And whenever you try to draw while the dotted line is still surrounding your image your drawing will not place. It won't stay. You can't draw. The checkered "see through" background that you typically want to utilize for the edges of your sprites once uncovered, cannot (seemingly) be covered up again. The only way I could figure to fix these problems was by deleting the image I worked on and starting over. This isn't like the program has a million buttons either, it's only a step above mspaint as far as I see, but I couldn't figure these few simply things. Things that should be big and bold obvious fixes for even me. I know this sounds like user error, to a degree I trust it to be, but in school I picked up programs like Illustrator, and Photoshop pretty easily. Heck I had Premier functional in five minutes. Maybe I'm a special kind of dull, but really if programs as intricate as Illustrator/Photoshop and whatever else don't give me this much trouble, I'm just going to write up Pixelstudio as broken. If it's just user error, I'm fine with that, then all that means is the user interface is broken. Or at least it's broken for what we're looking for.

What we're looking for is something that's accessible from the start, that has multiple frame possibilities, and that's popular enough that anyone wanting to know more about the program for whatever reason can find what they're looking for in a five minute Google search. And as much as I'd have preferred if this was it, Pixelstudio is defiantly not that. For me at least. And what happens then is you fall back on what you know, regardless of how counter intuitive it might be.

So for now I've fallen back onto my old friend, MMF2's inbuilt sprite editor. Which is more then functional for my needs. It's completely economic for me, it's something I already have and know. Just sounds a bit odd. 

"Oh I'm making this game in AGS, it's really art asset heavy so I spend a bunch of time doing pixel art... No.. actually I use this sprite editor from a completely different game making program... Why aren't I making the game in that other program then? ... Because.. Because I like this editor."

So until I am as familiar with another program I'm just going to use this. 

Looks simple right? That's because it is. Unfortunately this isn't one of those free programs. Really sorry everyone. Honestly though, just use paint and remember to save as a png. That served me just fine for quite a while.. but, for me, with this I can instantly make a new frame with this one instead of saving, then drawing over, then re-saving. So for now I'm just going to work with this one. If anyone's interested in me looking into any of the other free paint programs or do help/tutorial bits on them, I'd love to. But for now I'm going to keep on task, plus no one reads this anyhow. :P

First I had this awesome idea for a gif. But then I realized... I don't even have an avatar for my profile in the forums.. That's sad. Heck, I don't have a personalized avatar anywhere. I just like my pictures of Koalas. God knows there's nothing wrong with that. Bless those little toxic rabid bunny bears.

So that's my first project. 120x120, animated, and see if I can get the level of artz that I see in my head for this project.

(I'll upload the original photo later)
So I messed around with my phone taking selfies, and feeling crap about myself the whole way...mostly because I was aware of myself taking selfies and that I'd have to divulge that fact to the world later here. And ended up with something I didn't quite hate. Then I decided to crop it in the image to leave out my nose. I like the placement of the head, the glasses going off the bottom. And now I just need to do a whole lot more work. This is kind of the first step. Thinking on it now, what I should have do is create a new frame every time I draw a new line/edited it. Then when I'm done I'll have a gif that captures the entire process, the journey is always so much more impressive then the actual finished product. As you can see on the left corner of the subject's brow I attempted crosshatching for the first time with pixels. Not actually bad from a distance, i'll have to experiment more. Bringing that up you can see that the light is actually oriented on both sides from behind the suspect, stronger on one side then the other. Also the eyes look slightly crooked, this is actually just my face being off. One ear is higher than the other so not only do my glasses sit on my face a little crooked, but I tend to hold my head on a slight angle.

My aim at the end of this is to have a realistic(ish) shading, get better at this crosshatch thing(because my project goes for a comic book aesthetics)...

My glasses actually aren't that massive, there about a size or two down in diameter. So.. like maybe three of four pixels smaller in diameter. And they're a little more oval. I have old person glasses, I find them classy. 

On that note I think I captured the distortion from the lens pretty well, it looks like that was what I was trying to do an not just me being bad at art. 

Anywho by the end of this I'd like to have a fully rendered face with some animation. Possibly a bit of background, or not. No, that'd be terrible. I'd like to mention very quickly that this stream of consciousness writing is for the soul purpose of the reader's benefit. My purpose is to show the process. And the process of every work --world changing or seemingly insignificant-- is a great deal of second guessing and consideration, it's also a great deal of, "yeah this is what I got.. it's not great right now, but I'm going to do more." and then doing all of that more until it's finished. It's be prepared to look unsure of youself, and less qualified to be speaking then others, and ignorant, and incompetent. It's being prepared to be sure in yourself enough to let go and show all of that fear and self doubt. To just go all out with what you love regardless of how it looks. Does a blind man dance for others or for himself?
Alright, that's a little out there, what I mean is when you do something that's about creating, and having fun, and self therapy, other people watching you do it shouldn't even be on your mind. I'm not saying ignore people who enjoy your work or don't consider constructive criticism seriously, but don't loose the heart of the thing you love in the idea of others, they don't matter so much for you to have your favorite thing ruined.

.. what the heck was I talking about.

Oh right. I'm going to stick with the gray or similar simple background as a means to draw focus to the character, the animation in the fact of moving will not need help drawing focus. In design simplicity is kings. And the thirds rule is queen. And form over color and text. But be careful around graphic designers with that. We're a very opinionated people. Honestly though, it's form. Design an image like you're colorblind and can't read, focus on form, then add color.. and honestly I don't even know why they have text separately, technically the font is just picking shapes that will go on a page, that falls under the form.. Whatever, I only studied graphic design for a year at school, that's half the program at most, I'm not a real graphic designer. 

Now in my opinion as a stationary image and one that will be on a loop and animated avatar should have a circular animation rather then one that breaks. What I mean by that is say that I used the large empty space to the left of the subject's face and had a hand slowly raising a steaming mug of coffee, have it come to rest briefly, then go down below the screen. My issue with this that visually it's going from a "off" to a "on" position. Mug up->Mug down (repeat)

It's easily distinguishable and feels slightly fractured, it's not a complete smooth continuation of motion, the start and stop nature of it makes it distracting in the corner of the eye.. and to me irritating. It's like watching two bored slow children on a sea-saw, they don't care for it, it's boring, they're just doing it because they can. 

Now say the animation was the mug slowly raising from the bottom, coming to the middle resting for a brief moment, then the animation rest, the mug slowly coming from the bottom again. We see this commonly with reaction gifs. This have definitive ends to the animation and are more synonymous with visual jokes or a punch line. It's a visual sentence.. that gets repeated forever. In the forums this is typically fine behavior, and interesting subject. Banter creates humorous context between two people in a manner that's typically referred to later as "you had to be there" but than an image or emote that's typically mutually understood is used to embody the physical body language, and room dynamic, that might not otherwise exist on a text-form of communication. Text alone is nearly without context in comparison to the other forms of communication we're use to. So the gif can be a punchline for a joke in which you're always there for... unless you don't understand the reference that is. I think if you're introduced to the idea of gifs as part of everyday netchat you have enough context to understand it's (otherwise seemingly arbitrary) placement as a joke. Like you don't get the reference but typically you can see the humor regardless.

Like So

The difference here is that gifs are normally very quick and continue back into themselves instantly. As it is a continual flow of motion it is in a manner creating a visual circle. Bit of an awkward one --like a oval-- but circular non the less. The importance of having a circular animation is creating something that can remain stationary, continue moving, and still look natural. I'll go more into this later but the point is to have something that is dynamic and interesting while fading into the background. This is hugely important with designing idle stances for characters and for animated backgrounds (see I had a point all this time). You animate your background to make an ordinary room more dynamic or control the flow of transitions in room changes or event triggers.  But  you don't want to pull the player out of the experience or draw their attention away from the avatar in game. "Would you look at that, the lighting flashes from that same spot ever two minutes." The background should be just that, a background(unless it's a plot event) animated backgrounds when done well are fantastic, they aid the illusion of depth to your world and aid your player's sense of autonomy within that world. The player walks through a bush and that bush shakes as they pass, giving the player the sense their avatar is has mass and taking the shortcut through the bush instead of walking around was an actual choice and that the choice was meaningful. The best way a designer could emphasize the choice of going through the bush as different than walking around could be in lowering the avatar's speed as they pass through. Or if they pass through while running instead of walking, lower the speed while taking a small amount of damage. This all adds to the player's sense of autonomy, running or walking and where they run or walk is a choice that has repercussions. This sense of allowing the player autonomy while balancing games is what leads to a structure that allows the player to devise strategy and tactics. If a zombie was running at you, you might take the long way through the bushes slowly instead of running around so-that the zombie would follow you, taking damage and coming out of the bushes slowly giving you time on the other end to hack away at the undead mob. In starcraft steam vents shield units from radar, certain obstacles need to be attacked to be broken down, and ledges cannot be jumped. All of these make those elements of the world more real, and together form a tangible environment for the player.

I'm not animating my avatar because it's in a game though, I'm just doing it because it makes it look better, I don't have prior experience making gifs, and .. yeah. Night everyone. ^^

Good luck with your projects. 

So I'm making these things again.

So after not really being able to wrap my mind around code. I opted to step it back and start simple. Something I typically try but end up trying to sneak in more features then a program is flexible enough for. And by that I typically mean doing so meant a more code heavy revise than I could handle.. But I think I've found the right thing. And I think this might be the hardest thing for starting up designers (or those of us that have never finished a project on our own), you need to find tools that are simple enough for you to wrap your mind around using them to create your idea, and the tool has to look simple enough and be the least amount of threatening on approach that you don't feel intimidated and overwhelmed when learning.

And I was draw to ags initially the way I am typically drawn to something.. it was free. Spending the time to download and drudge through the tutorials is some of the best time I've spent. And I say that as a poor, currently under-slept, not quite starving college student. It's break right now for Christ sakes and I can't get myself to sleep in. I'm super excited to have one of my old designs not only off the back-burner (as I now have tools to slowly coax pages of scribbles into sweet digital life), but not just off the back-burner, but to see the tools at my disposal and realize how very doable this vision is. Often with a design orientation, you get an idea for something --and any good designer will tell you, it's not the thing that matters it's the manner in which it works, that makes a truly good design-- and when you don't have any training or understand the vocabulary of how your pen works(coding; in a manner of speaking) then you have the assumption your grand idea isn't possible and is too complex mechanically. And that's what I had thought for the longest time with many of my designs, so what did I do. I focused on the gameplay, the input output relations with the player and the essentials of what really made something. Because if I could figure that, and break a game down to it's smallest components, and then possibly get myself to the point of building those components, then I could design a project solely around that singular component, and then with time build on new features learn and work up to an engine that I could use to build the stories I wanted to.

Once to build a metroid-ish/brawl platformer I started the designs for five separate titles that slowly scaled back the functions of the game until the one I started working on was literally two frogs that could either step forward or backward and were fencing with their tongues. Like a dive kick game, but it's step forward or step backward kick. Attacking while stepping forward made a simple straightforward thrust. A backward step with a attack would make a sideways slash that could parry a hit. That was it. You would go forward in an attack or move back to defend. 

And really, I'll probably end up using that same strategy to make my final products, lord knows it'd help fill out the empty file designated for finished products.
Any finished product is a trophy in itself

But my point is, it's nice to know that the set of stairs that lead to your dream projects aren't always as massive as you think. Dream accomplishments aren't nearly as impossible as we think, the tasks are actually very human and legitimately possible.

And, my goal on this blog now.. along with using it to help keep me honest and frequent with my internship writing. Is to show off how possible these dream projects are. I've always been a massive fan of Wolfire Games' marketing strategy of showing start to finish because I know how much that meant to me when I was first thinking of game design. That sudden realization that follows being introduced to your deepest dream activity as a realistic profession, "Crap.. this could be what I do. Even if I need to do a second job, I could be doing this. I could be making those kinda things." That realization that game design and creation wasn't... it wasn't something so out of reach, not a "I could never do that.." situation. And when I first saw those games being made, when I followed the squares on screen betas turn to polished alpha releases, all of that just got me so excited. I spent.. well I haven't stopped thinking about games. Not just as a retreat, or pastime like they were before, but as my worlds. Instead of retreating into a book or movie or game like it was a favored place to be comfortable and be myself in, I started retreating into these as if they were close friends that whispered hints and tricks about how to excite the audience, make them laugh, or make them care. My notebooks at school actually started being used.


So, soon as I pull together the braincells to figure out fraps.. (probably lost half the audience, I swear I'm not completely incompetent), I'll record myself working on this project. Possibly do a tutorial session about everything that goes wrong and how to trouble-spot where you're going wrong.. because I think I've run into almost all of the most basic ones and in trying to find what's wrong realized there isn't a single person on the internet who was simple enough to make the same ignorant mistakes I've made. Thus far I've figured all the problems I've run into by myself (I'm very proud). There will undoubtedly be more in the future. But for now I'm going to upload and dictate my design process, both selections from my notebook on how I'm mapping and keeping track of the perspectives. And mentions of what I learn, as I learn the AGS editor and coding tips and hints.

-My first error, which was one of the most frustrating, was the room I had created was unable to load the background image I had drawn for it. Which was frustrating because I'd go back and forth between the general settings and the image I had made because they were the same size, pixel for pixel; and the computer told me they weren't. The issue had been, of course, the room actually wasn't the same size as the general setting, this was because after I had made the first room I changed the general setting size. This was because I made the room, checked the size, looked at my image editor and realized I wanted it bigger. The rooms are built off the general settings but once built isn't linked to those general settings anymore. The resolution does not bend back and forth to my will in these separate rooms. So basically all I did was delete the room, remake it, and the image worked. That took me two days to figure out. I want you to see me in all my pathetic glory so when I have something to show and you're first reaction is "meh, alright.. that's kinda neat." You'll see how far I've come.

-And here's my coup de gras, or at least I hope it's the most facepalm I get learning this... Facepalm.. Facepalm Games.. that's what I should call my youtube development videos! You see you have to find a way to make it fun, you even have to make losing fun, with my history of game making, this is going to be a whole lot of fun.
My coup de gras was I couldn't get the inbuilt editor to draw walkable areas. I'd select every tool in the little bar, draw rectangles, draw line tool, draw pen tool, and all those other things.. I don't know what do.. But anytime I'd try to draw on the page it'd tell me that I couldn't do that, that I had the eraser selected. And I'd get very upset because I didn't. And it was saying crap about a properties plane, and I couldn't find what they were talking about. It made me very upset, but I had seen the light at the end of the tunnel.. this was possible and this design has been brewing in my head for almost two years, the functions I thought I couldn't do and the art-style had been brewing for four years, and that functionality was literally a number of months of work away. It was possible, I was just being ignorant, and I'd make it work. Enter roughly four days of doing almost nothing but fart around on my computer trying different things on the editor and having five tabs open looking through basic tutorials later I realized I had the properties of the room set on Walkable Area 0... as in no walkable area at all. Meaning I wasn't drawing.. which would automatically set the pen to a function that wouldn't work. 

No matter what you start learning, you will always start off making mistakes you will laugh at in the future. So enjoy it, realizing painful ignorance is the universe's way of making learning fun.

My next hurdle.. along with everything coding. Is to find a good paint program to get the kind of pixel art I'm looking for. So far I'm using Sketchbook Express 2011, and with some farting about I might be able to get the precision stuff that I want but right now the settings are giving a difficult to control --as it's designed for tablet and pen(a set i don't really have)-- and faded soft brush effect in the lines. And.. well I'm looking for more pixel accurate hard color effect. Plus this isn't a program everyone can download. So I've downloaded and will come up with a review for PixelStudio next post along with more on the Island.

Goodnight everyone, good luck with your projects.