Tuesday 31 July 2018

What is and isn't an "Asset Flip"?

Judging by the discussion I've seen on the Internet as of late, I've seen a lot of conflicting definitions of what "asset flips" actually are, and what they are not. Such a seemingly simple and straight-forward concept actually has a lot of nuance and subjectivity built into it.

So first, let's work out where the term "asset flip" comes from. It was coined by Jim Sterling in his Jimquisition video appropriately named, "The Asset Flip". The term is based on the sleazy business practice of "flipping" wares for profit, most commonly houses and cars.

Specifically, flipping, say, a house would involve buying it at a low price from someone who wants to get rid of it, then selling it off again at a higher price almost immediately with little-to-no refurbishment. This kind of practice is actually illegal in some places since it often incorporates some form of fraud, at least from my pretty weak understanding of the situation.

The point is that the concept of "flipping" has existed for kind of a while, and only recently has it been brought into the games industry. When Jim Sterling first used it, Digital Homicide was a prime example, who bought a lot of pre-built assets and "flipped" them with little-to-no changes or thoughtful design to go with it.

However, as with all things there's some grey area. What exactly constitutes "thoughtful design", and what makes a change big or small enough to cross the boundary between "asset flip" and "genuine video game"?

Some people have even gone so far as to declare that Player Unknown's Battlegrounds is an asset flip, since it uses a lot of assets from the Unreal Engine asset store.

I'm not here to set the record straight or anything since I don't really think I'm even slightly influential enough to do that, but I will offer my interpretation of an asset flip. I believe that a game becomes an asset flip when there's reasonable cause to believe that the developer did not put genuine work or effort into the project and rather is attempting to sit on the merits of assets that somebody else made.

This means that I don't consider PUBG an asset flip. While PUBG does use a lot of pre-built assets, I think that the developer has clearly put in effort to make the assets they did use coherent, well-assembled and overall it comes together in a cohesive gameplay experience that a hell of a lot of people enjoy.

Digital Homicide's infamous title The Slaughtering Grounds is something that I would consider an asset flip, since the gameplay experience is far from cohesive, feels cheap and I get the impression that the assets are the only thing the game has going for it and Digital Homicide know it. They're attempting to score a few bucks from people who take a quick look at the competently built assets and decide that they'd buy it.

However, that's not the end of the story for the term "asset flip". There's an effort in some strange part of Twitter to actually re-brand "asset flip" as a neutral or even positive term to describe basically any game that uses pre-built assets. In so far as that goes, I think that's the wrong way to approach things. The fact that "flipping" already exists as its own derogatory term in the real world makes it a thousand times harder to re-brand asset flipping in consumer's eyes.

Also, defining "asset flips" as any game that uses a pre-built asset is kind of crazy and not only de-values the term, it actually shuts out smaller indies who might not be able to afford or otherwise accomodate a full-time artist and opt instead to purchase assets that they like from the Internet. If consumers think that using any pre-built asset is bad(which they pretty much do at this point), then I can't see that ending up as good for really anyone.

So in closing, I've got one more thing to say. I opt to not even say "asset flip" very often since there's a lot of controversy and confusion about what the term even means. I think a more useful and accurate term in most discussions(such as the whole Steam clutter problem thing) is to just say "bad game". Not all bad games are asset flips- in fact a lot of them aren't. Asset flips suck, but they're a subset of the larger issue which is low-effort and dishonest titles getting onto Steam and making things harder for everybody.

Anyway, thanks for watching and stay tuned for more videos that will probably make people mad at me in the comments section because this is a properly controversial topic.

Monday 23 July 2018

Why Godot 3.1 Is Something To Be Excited About

So we got Godot 3.0 a few months back and this has proven to be a massive upgrade to the engine, I mean jeez Godot 2.1 feels awful, clunky and awkward in comparison.

However, we're about to get a new version of Godot 3.0, which as you might have guessed is named "Godot 3.1". This version is, in my opinion, at a similar hype-level to Godot 3.0, when that was just about to be released.

One of - if not THE - biggest reason why I think Godot 3.1 is gonna change things is the AnimationPlayer node. Currently, the AnimationPlayer involves putting keyframable properties into a timeline, each represented by little dots. These can be interpolated continuously, linearly, cubicly or not interpolated at all, and just represent discrete state changes.

This works pretty well and I love the AnimationPlayer node as it is, since it's a really intuitive way to change properties over time. However, it's about to get a hell of a lot better.

Firstly, you can put Bezier curves directly into the animation. This is awesome since it means that you no longer have to rely on messing around with cubic functions, you can directly control the Bezier curve for pretty much any numerical value. As it should do, this makes animations a LOT easier.

Additionally, you can now use AnimationPlayers to set frames of Sprites. This is also pretty cool since it even gives you a lovely preview of the frame you're placing at that specific point in time. This means that you can much more intuitively create sprite animations with potentially varying framerates for each frame, if for instance you just wanted to place the keyframes down and work out the interpolation frames at a later date for the sake of prototyping.

Also, the AnimationPlayer will feature DAW-like audio processing(with preview waveforms and everything), capture mode, track copying/pasting, visual method selection for callback tracks, and probably more stuff but I can't dedicate this entire video to the new AnimationPlayer node.

So what else is there in 3.1? Changes to KinematicBody nodes, which are going to be awesome. The first of which is "snapping", which involves sticking a character to the ground as they move along slopes and things, so that momentum won't launch them off as they get to the top.

Also, some changes to how RayCasts work with KinematicBodys, which allows for some tricks to make the player movement speed constant when moving up and down slopes.

Also, something which is fairly relevant to mobile developers and people with terrible computers is the advent of a new GLES 2.0 back-end. This means that people using computers that do not yet support GLES 3.0 will be able to use the engine again, and also more mobile phones will be compatible with the engine.

The engine will also support exporting with Mono and C# and all that jazz better, but another big one that I'm looking forward to is the optional GDScript typing. This means that finally we can cast a function or a variable to a certain datatype without being FORCED to do so. This makes things clearer for those of us who are fans of static typing, but doesn't upset anybody who prefers dynamic typing. Everyone wins!

There's also the visual shader editor, which took a brief vacation in Godot 3.0 and is now back and better than ever. It's more intuitive, things that can be done automatically now ARE done automatically, and it's a very nice way to interface with shaders.

Also, something which I don't quite understand is the new AnimationTree node and state machines that go along with it. I don't QUITE understand how to set this up but from what I can understand, this looks really useful- especially for things like AI or player controls, and the blend spaces look awesome for inverse kinematics, colour shifting and probably a hell of a lot more.

There are probably a lot more relatively small things that I'm missing out here, but that's the jist of it. I'm seriously looking forward to Godot 3.1 and I think it'll change my workflow for the better.

Thanks for watching, and stay tuned for more videos about the Godot Engine!

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Give Me The Rights To Snail Mail Or Else


Well, here we are. Two videos and all I've got is radio silence from the now-defunct Sandlot Games.

Daniel Bernstein, I think you should make very sure that this message is not lost on you.

If you do not give me the rights to Snail Mail, people will. get. hurt. I can't say how and I can't say who, but this is the last straw, Sandlot Games. I've tried and tried to get into contact with you, e-mailing whoever I could possibly find to give me the rights and nothing. seems. to work.

I suggest you just bite the bullet and give me Snail Mail before bad things start happening. I've written a nice little list of the potential weapons I could use and since this is already a really short video, let me pad it out a bit.

I'll use knives. Guns. Swords. Katanas, specifically. Explosives, like C4, dynamite, TNT, C5, AK-47s, kitchen knives, butter knives, butcher knives, Ashton Kutcher's knives, large blades without handles, small blades that are only handles.

High-velocity chewing gum. Balls of thumb-tacks. Balls of drawing pins. Balls of hedgehog needles. Balls of porcupine needles. Balls of forks you find, weevils. I'll attack you with wildlife. Squirrels. Chipmunks. Rats. Mice. Rice.

[start to fade out]

Sugar, spice and everything nice. Sawblades. Sore spades. More maids. Four plays. Drawer maize. A gun. I'll throw the clip at you. I'll throw the bullet at you. I'll throw the barrel, or travel to put a mullet on you.

I'll plant a tree in your name. I'll brand a bee with propane. I'll cover your face in glue.

Brace your Gru. Grace your you. Shoot your gig. Boot your pig. Loot your brig. Tend your house. End a mouse. Defend a mouse. Pretend to douse.

E-mail me, Daniel.

Tuesday 10 July 2018

I Demand The Rights To Snail Mail

So needless to say, I didn't really get a response on my last video about the rights to Snail Mail. I'm not entirely sure why, I thought I made a fairly reasonable proposition, I laid out my case pretty clearly and I thought I kind of logically stepped you through why I deserve the rights to Snail Mail.

In a nutshell, that was seemingly the wrong approach to take, so I'll try a new one.

I demand the rights to Snail Mail. I've laid out very clearly why and how I deserve them, and now I believe that I need to take them. I will not be offering any form of compensation, since I genuinely think that the rights to Snail Mail should be mine, and the current state of affairs is actually unfair to me. I think you recognize this, Sandlot Games. I think you're trying to twist my arm into making me... pay you? Let me tell you that's not going to happen.

Again, I'm reasonable. I'm a reasonable person, I think I'm mature enough to handle the rights to Snail Mail. I won't reiterate too much since I don't want to waste your time, just like you're wasting mine by refusing to even answer my proposition.

So here's what's going to happen. I'm going to write, record and upload this video to my YouTube channel. The former CEO of Sandlot Games, Daniel Bernstein, is going to e-mail me, telling me that he'll give me the rights to Snail Mail FOR FREE, and he'll expect nothing else from me. Daniel Bernstein will also be expected to hire a lawyer to draft a contract so that he cannot go back on his promise.

We'll agree to the terms in the contract, and I'll own the IP to Snail Mail. I'm not asking, Daniel, I'm telling you what's about to happen, and I hope you're listening. If you're not the one in charge of the Snail Mail IP, I suppose I'll have to take the same steps with the appropriate person but I will expect you to tell me who I have to talk to.

I'm believe I'm being as reasonable as I can be given the circumstances. I think that yeah, this is unfair to me and really at this point I'm still being too kind. If I was an angrier person, maybe I'd make you pay me just to TAKE the rights to Snail Mail. But I'm not. I'm making a simple offer.

Let's not let this go on any further. E-mail me, Daniel.

Sunday 8 July 2018

MULTI-TECH - Let's Talk About My New Project

In a sentence, MULTI-TECH is a rogue-like bullet hell vidja game where you play as a dude on a scrappy, self-built spacecraft that you have to fix, upgrade and build yourself.

In my mind, it's kind of a fusion between FTL and Enter The Gungeon, even though I'm taking some fairly large design liberties with each of them. I'm basically using Enter The Gungeon as a reference point for game juice and FTL because you can upgrade your ship. Kind of a loose comparison in retrospect but I'll have these games in mind during development so I might as well put it out there.

As I'm sure you can see judging by the B-roll that I've got playing here, not a lot's really happening on-screen. That's because I only started working on this game at all on Tuesday, and I've put the majority of work into the pixel art for the time being which is miraculously turning out pretty decently so far.

With regard to the player character's ship that you can see at some point in the video footage, I'm not sure if that's gonna stay the same and I highly suspect that it won't. I'll maybe experiment with some player-generated ship design stuff, but that could get complicated kind of fast so I'm not making any promises.

More likely, I'm going to re-make it at some point. I don't want it to look like that for the whole game, at the time of script-writing I've not even done the animations for shooting those bullets yet so it looks kind of boring and flat, but I am kind of aiming for the look that this spaceship was literally built from a rusty barrel and had a few peripherals slapped on like a thruster and a gun.

The idea is that the player will salvage broken tech components, fix them up by combining them or some other system that I've yet to come up with and apply them to the ship. The ship will have 4 "power cores", each of which is able to supply power to one of these tech components, so it could be like a gun upgrade, a shield, something like that.

I should have mentioned before this point that there will hopefully be bosses in this game as long as I can actually make the pixel art for them without it looking weird and bad. When the player has all but won a boss fight, the boss will remain at critically low HP. The camera would zoom in on the ship itself, showing the human player character and prompt them to run between all 4 cores to engage a big ol super-laser-beam to finish off the boss.

This is kind of just a fun way to finish off a battle, but also it helps to reinforce that the player is running a ship all by himself, where most pilots would have a crew of a few people to help him out.

The only real worry I have about this project thus far is that I'm not sure if it's focused on one central element enough. In my mind, the focus is definitely the "combine tech and upgrade your ship" thing, but I'm not sure if that's actually interesting enough, let alone whether it gets overshadowed by other systems and aspects of gameplay.

I should also note that this isn't gonna be small project like Mushroom: The Ruckus, I'm expecting it to be a bit larger than Mass O' Kyzt. Hopefully it won't take longer than 9 months, but if it does then that's fine, since I wasted a lot of time in the dev cycle for Mass O' Kyzt that I feel I've learned to avoid doing. At least after that project, I feel confident that the time I spend working on MULTI-TECH isn't going to be running around in a circle aimlessly.

I've got a much clearer image of what the design is, plus I don't have school now so I'll be working essentially twice as fast as I did on Mass O' Kyzt, possibly even faster than that since school saps a lot of time and energy.

Anyway, I'm super excited about this project and I genuinely think it'll be really good. Thanks for watching and stay tuned for more videos about MULTI-TECH, the next game in the AlexHoratio saga.

Thursday 5 July 2018

Why I Deserve The Rights To Snail Mail

For those of you who don't know, Snail Mail is a casual game developed by the now-defunct Sandlot Games in 2004. When I was a wee lad I used to play that game kind of a lot since it was fun and funny at the same time.

Now I'm not going to get too far into the merits of Snail Mail, and I'll keep the summary brief. Basically, you play as Turbo the Snail and your job is to deliver intergalactic mail while trying to avoid falling into the cosmic abyss or running face-first into enemy slugs.

The game plays nicely, the jokes are pleasant and it's a nice way to unwind if your brain is too melted or worn down to play something more taxing.

So let's get to the title of this video, why do i deserve the rights to Snail Mail? First, let me make it clear that I don't want to get anything from the original Snail Mail, the profits from that will still go to whatever legal entity is collecting revenue from Sandlot Games these days.

All I want is to legally and contractually own the intellectual property and associated trademarks of Snail Mail, so that theoretically I could choose to make a sequel, I could choose to write a book in the expanded universe or I could even just use Turbo the Snail as a character as I see fit. I want that freedom. I want the option.

I might not even end up using the IP, which is part of why this is such an appealing idea for either Sandlot Games, the also defunct Digital Chocolate, this company called RockYou, or the lead guy who worked on Snail Mail who I think works at Ubisoft now or something.

The point is that someone more eager to use the IP might not be thinking clearly. The excitement of owning such a property might actually end up clouding their ability to set an appropriate goal. If someone comes to you saying that they'll create an 800-episode webseries based on your IP, you tell them to get lost since that's not likely to happen, and even if it does happen it won't be good.

I'm saying: "Hey. I want the rights to Snail Mail. Maybe I'll use them, maybe I won't. I'm waiting for a good opportunity to use it."

It's the side of reason and it's a sensible deal to make. Who knows, maybe I'll use it in such a way that actually nets whoever some publicity, money or whatever else. It's not like they're ever gonna make Snail Mail 2 or use any Snail Mail related imagery in anything ever. It's basically a dead-end for them unless they give it to me- a reasonable, well-adjusted 18 year old who genuinely deserves the rights to Snail Mail.