Hello 2016 – What’s In Store This Year?

Welcome back to my GameGuru dev blog, and what a year we are going to have!  I have a strategy meeting this Wednesday to determine specific milestones, and the holiday break has given me the opportunity to step back and view the project from higher up.  I also return refreshed and raring to go in what is still the most exciting place to work.  As important as my daily grind, I am set to join the millions of people starting the year with a new year health drive, mainly to ensure I am still here in ten years to continue my delivery of cool game making tools. I will be setting some time aside for a few mornings during the week which will cut into coding time but give me more energy for the week as a whole, so I am hopeful it will pay off over the year as a whole.

LeeTheGuru-Small

Details aside, one of my gut feel goals for the year is to make GameGuru a lot more open than it is right now. I hinted at this in 2015, and my views have solidified somewhat to make sure that GameGuru is streamlined to remove any hard coding from the engine, and expose as much of the internal workings as possible to the community. Perhaps even to the extent of sharing the engine source code and allowing modders to fix bugs and issues alongside my own efforts via Github, which would mean the average user gets more stuff quicker, plus allowing more advanced users the confidence to dive in and add/improve any aspects of the software as they require.

I am also very eager to get the Steam Workship feature up and running quickly, so you can start sharing your GameGuru content, be they custom entities, complex scripts or entire levels. I think sharing should be at the heart of GameGuru, and I think Steam Workship is a great proven way to do this.  Ravey, the other GameGuru coder, is taking some extra time before returning to work, so this will likely be his first task on his return and hopefully it should have a quick turnaround.

I will also be gathering up the latest assets to produce an updated FANTASY DLC (more hero characters and better enemies) and a new SCIFI DLC as soon as possible, so you can get access to some new high-quality game content to start your year.  More on this when our artist returns from the bright lights of what I am guessing is an amazing holiday break.

Unlike previous years, I am not planning many ‘out of the office’ trips in 2016 in order to focus my energies on taking GameGuru to the next level.  As fun and informative as they are, they usually gobble up an entire week and that’s a week I could spend making more code and helping more users.  Maybe in 2017 I will resume the habit, as a reward for doing well in 2016.

I also wanted to tip my hat to an awesome community member who helped me add a few new LUA commands and features which in turn allowed him to create something cool in GameGuru, which can be best appreciated by watching his video here: http://vid136.photobucket.com/albums/q176/jimlogan/interactive%20test%20level%204.mp4

Finally, in addition to maintaining this blog, I will be continuing the successful Twitch broadcasts every Wednesday, answering Steam reviews and forum posts every day, and checking in on the hard-line posts from the official GameGuru website forum.  You will also find my on the receiving end of any support mail queries that come in through our new support system should it relate to GameGuru, and of course, my email inbox is always open at lee@thegamecreators.com

It’s exciting to be back in my coding seat, the plates are starting to spin and I have my Ocean Loader SID music playing in the background so it’s time to say Happy New Year and welcome to the best ever year so far for GameGuru.  It’s going to be one crazy roller coaster ride!!

Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year

Well, what a year it’s been!  You know when you’ve had a busy year when you’re ready for Christmas at the start of November!  Well finally the last six weeks transpired and we are not, finally, at the last day of 2015 as far as TGC is concerned. It’s been one hell of a ride, and I hope along the way we have brought some joy to all those who found us in the wilds of the internet and the general hub hub.  Rather than catalogue the things we did during the year, like some overdue shopping list, I have decided to post some of the pictures since January which track the journey.  I hope you enjoy your Christmas and look forward to working and playing with you over the next twelve months, and together I think we can create something unique in the universe and make game creation accessible to everyone who has an idea for a game.  One day we’ll have the cloud equivalent of the holodeck, where a simple spoken sentence can conjure up a whole universe of gaming, but until that fateful day, we’ll just have to live with our mouse, keyboard, controller and joysticks a byte longer.

For myself, and those with short memories, here is a quick snapshot of the last twelve months:

NewZombieShot

 

b023-testhouse

 

winged skeleton 1-shot

 

IfeelYourPain

 

wizard_01

 

LeeTheGuru-Small

 

bunnyfirefine

 

3

 

awards

 

NowDeferred

 

RawSpecularCube

 

PlayEXPO

moonlander

 

ARcherbow

 

weapons

 

screen1

 

ControlLightmapQuality3

 

CrazySpritesInGG

 

GoblinQuality

 

drones1

 

merry_christmas

Finally, as a parting gift before I myself disappear into the mists of a Christmas break, I would invite you to backup your work, backup the backup, and then go to Steam and check out the latest Christmas beta which we have decided to extend to all GameGuru users. It’s the latest internal version, and in 2016 we will be putting the finishing touches to it for an early January release, but we thought it right to give it out now as a sort of dev gift.  You can find it by switching builds on Steam by:

1. Right click on GameGuru

2. Properties->Beta

3. Select the beta->christmasbuild

Next time you launch GameGuru, you will be in the midst of the Christmas beta build. Be warned!

For myself, I will be jumping in the old Honda on Thursday and driving to my birth town to celebrate the festive holiday with another part of my family.  A third part has moved to Kent so that will take a little more planning, but I sent down some nice presents as a substitute for my loud self.  I’ve sent my catering requirements ahead (JD and pizza mainly) so I should have a good time I think.

For all GameGuru users out there, I am hoping to involve much more of the community into our plans for 2016, and really get the voting board feature list reduced significantly. In fact I see no reason why we cannot complete ALL OF IT by this time next year, so hopefully you will continue to join me on the journey to create a game maker so ‘darn’ easy that it makes a mockery of the years (and years) required to develop games from eons gone by. I have much fondness for the 8-bit days, and the graft required to reproduce even the most basic of on-screen movement, but I think we all see that the movement to democratise game development has worked really well, and more and more people are discovering the joy of inventing their own gaming worlds. Just look at the millions who found expression in the Minecraft universe, and on many levels that single product discovered the talents of thousands of would-be level designers, who knows what would happen if this analogy extended to game logic, character design, narrative and composition. It is banded about that games development has never been easier or more accessable, but I’m not quite ready to stop the train. I think we have a way to go, and introduce the whole general concept of ‘digital creativity’ to everyone, irrespective of skill level or time available.  My hope is that 2016 will reveal more of this intricate jigsaw and provide the necessary pieces to propel even more users into a hobby or careers in games development.  Until then, may the force be with you (not seen it yet) and have a great Christmas break and I will see you in the new year!

Two Days Left Before CBT

With less than two days left before ‘Christmas Break Time’ I find myself with an empty inbox, answered support mail system, review replies up to date, Steam posts answered and only this blog to write. I also have a few small piles of shiny new assets ready to be dropped into the Buildings DLC (inside buildings), the Fantasy DLC (new characters with animations), the Death Valley Combat DLC (more places to fight) and some cool new flying drones for the forthcoming SCIFI DLC.

drones1

The plan is that these little guys can be both allies and enemies, depending on the script they use.  As you can see, we have a drone with three laser guns, one with a rather dangerous looking drop package and a raw drone which could be a scout or cleaning robot.  Of course, I still need some cool sounds and snazzy scripts, but without great art like this it would be all for naught.  I promised myself the chance to spend some time making games, scripts and other bits for GameGuru, and I hope I find this time over Christmas, and if it keeps raining, and I don’t discover an amazingly absorbing game to play, I might just get away with it.

Of course there are still plenty of bugs and tweaks to resolve next year, but I want to allow myself the fun and relaxation of joining in with the community and enjoying the simple, rewarding art of creating unique games. Of course, the process is largely 99% exasperation, but it’s worth it for that 1% success that carries with it a buzz you only get from creating stuff like this. Just one more blog and one more Twitch to go before we close for 2015, so stay tuned one more day for the final hurray from TGC and one final farewell cheer before we summon 2016 to our will :)

Three Days To Go

Well, two really as I write this at the end of the first day.  It’s the final week of 2015 for TGC and we run full steam into our respective holiday breaks. Ravey to immerse himself into Star Wars, Rick into Just Cause, Paul into a dimension of unspoken realms and myself into a process of random events that constitude the process of my recharging brain (a change is as good as a rest). I start by choosing cool music and playing it very loud, and engaging deep thought curcuits. That said, I still have a few duties in front of me, including email (which I have got down to one), all meeting notes (now transcribed to electronic forget me nots and delegatory emails) and finally a few final improvements to GameGuru (could not resist).

The bulk of todays work (apart from an amazing 5 hour conference call – don’t ask) was the finishing of the Buildings Pack DLC update. Many of you have been asking for ‘insides’ to these buildings, so that is what our artist has prepared and what I am assembling and checking now. Hopefully it will please the community, and allow the buildings which I thought where going to be used for distant entity scenery elements to be used up close. Just don’t expect to explore all 39 floors of a skyscraper or use the lifts  – we have to draw the line at some point :)

Tuesday should be more of the same, with more tweaks, more content work, and perhaps an update to the internal beta version to give our testers something to chew on over Christmas while our collective brains go into ‘recovery mode’ ready for 2016. It’s been a busy year. I was tempted to post all the changes and improvements we have made to GameGuru over the year, but that would be a little show-y (it’s a VERY long list). More final snippets on Tuesday as we wind down the engine that is TGC and let it cool for a week. Rest assured 2016 will see a cold engine restart and an immediate flurry of activity in the land of GameGuru – it’s going to be a blast!

And So Ends A Week Of Meet

Well, I still have a pile of emails, a messy office and a scrambled brain but I am now back at my coding desk and no plans to leave it anytime soon. The only emails left require more than casual responses, and I have both graphics cards and a PrioVR suit to test out (don’t ask), plus a small collection of tasks as a direct result.  The meetings went very well and got lots of useful clarity from it which will be distilled into our work over the course of 2016 and our various products. I won’t witter on for today’s blog, except to say I hoped you enjoyed Ravey’s Twitch on Wednesday, that you will have a great Christmas and if you have a spare fistful of dollars, that you should check out a great Christmas bundle which puts $350 worth of assets in your pocket for just $30 :)  It’s not affiliated with TGC, but it’s all for charity and you may find it very useful when making your games over the festive season.

merry_christmas

I would also like to share an awesome Christmas Card that our magnificent artist Adam produced for us, and is a great example of all the things he has helped us with over the course of a few short months here in GameGuru land.  I especially like the Christmas Hat on the Black Knight!

For most of us that observe the Christmas season, next week will be our last week of normal working, and then the eating, drinking and fun things begin, but I shall be plodding about making work for myself nonetheless, ensuring GameGuru is primed and ready for 2016. I will be available over email, blog comments, posts and other social channels if you want to continue beta testing GameGuru with me, but apart from this formality I expect everyone to have a great time from here on in and look forward to an amazing 2016!

Now I dive back into my mountain of mail, messy office and frazzled brain, but not before a sip of coffee and a general tidy up :)

And So Begins A Week Of Meet

This will be short blog as I am just about to pack for a drive to a set of meetings that will cover most of the week. The yearly wind-down can get a little busy, but this year is certainly no exception but the fruit of these meetings should put us in a great position for 2016.  I will take my laptop to keep on top of reviews, posts, emails and the like, but the weekly Twitch will have to be conducted by the maestro Ravey. I should be back Thursday night, so Friday should be a normal dev day for me and I can get stuck into more fixes and tweaks as required and requested by the community forums, and our modest list of high priority items which tick a lot of boxes. Next week is the last week of ‘official’ coding here at TGC, but as I don’t have much of a life outside of code, and the weather has been pretty horrid, I will be skulking around the community and keeping my ear to the ground during the festive season.  Might even get a lot done during my ‘time off’ so please do stay tuned over the break and continue to feedback on the latest update as it will shape what we do for the next one. Almost time to hit the road, so until my next blog post, have a great week and happy game making!

A Fun Day Of Meeting

As announced today was all about talking and nodding a lot, and basically taking a long view of the last twelve months and the next twelve too. We’ve come up with plenty of conclusions and we are generally very pleased with what we have achieved so far, with of course plenty of room for improvements over the next year. On my return at around 5PM, and after unwinding a little, I had a choice of going down to the local pub which had a live music band on (nothing like live music) or sitting at my desk trying to get rid of my small mountain of emails I have deferred during the week, and of course ensuring all questions across reviews, forums and posts are answered.  It is now just shy of 11PM and I am still at my desk, so it somewhat makes up for the two-hour meal enjoyed earlier today.  The weekend looms, and again I have no personal plans to fill it with. The weather is too cold and windy to garden, my office has been configured and running fine, it does not require cleaning and I have no pressing matters to attend, so I guess I am free to bounce between playing games and making games, both equally enjoyable.  I think I would like to answer my inbox over the weekend so I can start the week with a cleaner plate, not least because I have three days away from the desk and if I am to build up emails, I would rather they be fresh ones than old ones.  No screenshots today, but I have made a video showing how to make a zombie graveyard level with spawning logic, which I have now passed to Rick to turn into a pretty one, so that should be on the GameGuru youtube channel, hopefully over the weekend.  And speaking of the weekend, please have a good one, and I’ll resume my blogging, coding, replying and general Guru’ing on Monday, and put myself wherever I am needed.

A Fun Day Of Game Making

As you may know, we released our new version of GameGuru, build 1.111 to an unsuspecting public and so far the reports are good, so once again we maintained that all-important stability thanks to extra testing. Of course, this afforded me the perfect opportunity to spend the whole day playtesting it to ensure the public version on Steam was as solid as our internal dev build (which technically was identical but you never know). As per usual I crammed lots of things into a single level in the process of testing different things as the shot below is what I ended up with.

OneOfLeesTestLevels

I also caught glimpse of the specular effect from some of our nice models, with the one below coming from the Fantasy DLC, our Royal Wizard, who will be getting some new friends next year and also some more brains (A.I), so he can do more things as the player and as an enemy.

LeesTestLevel2

Friday is our team meeting, and the last big one of the year, where we discuss the journey so far. We’ve now had a whole year working on the product, and have lots of data we can turn into knowledge, which should help us make better decisions in 2016.  Despite the long road ahead, I am really pleased with the amazing progress we’ve made, the sheer mountain of work we’ve produced from such a small team and I am hopeful to continue this effort for years to come.  I continue to prowl the Steam and website forums, answer questions via email and reports as they come in, and keep broadcasting live GameGuru twitches to keep things unscripted and down to earth.  I might have mentioned the avalanche of meetings next week too, but fortunately Ravey will be in the hot seat all week answering your questions, fixing more bugs and sneaking in few functionality when I’m not looking.  I am also happy to open our beta test program to more users over Christmas, so if you are interested in helping us test build 1.112 over the new year, you can email Rick directly at rick@thegamecreators.com.

As a final note, I also received a very cool video from our artist today showing off our new Martian landscape, complete with a high laser meteor shield dome, protecting devices able to grow a variety of familiar looking fruit and vegetables. Why is it not here, well I wanted to keep something as a surprise for when we launch the SciFi DLC next year. We think you will like!

What A Day

As Christmas approaches, you would think it’s time to wind slowly down as we hunker into the cold British winters, but it seems today and the next ten days are promising to be action packed and pretty busy. Not that I am complaining you understand. When the sun comes up, and the computer stands ready, I am as eager to start coding and creating as I was many years ago as a small child clutching onto my 8-bit devices of total wonder, and as daft as that sounds it’s a pretty close approximation of why I am still in the trade, even after three decades.

Today we announced the release of the new V1.11 update which amongst a HUGE mountain of changes brings you sprite commands for the first time, and along with mouse and keyboard control allows pretty much anything 2D to be realised (within reason).  To commemorate this release, I produced a Twitch broadcast on the subject, and you are welcome to check it out. As I say the next few days will also be pretty chocker, with Friday hosting a full day of meeting, and most of next week involved in a wider set of team meetings to wind up the year and also paint some broad strokes on how we proceed as a company in 2016. It might sound like dry stuff, but these opportunities allow us to take a step back and see everything in a much more impartial light, and therefore allow us to make the right decisions when the time for making those decisions come.

On a related note, I built up my new Windows XP machine with basic GPU card only to find this new card (rated at just 292 passmark score) did not even support Windows XP drivers, so I now have to go out and search for an equivalent graphics device that scores around the same but understands XP.  Why such an old OS I hear you say, and it may quickly become a mute point, but there are still over 2% of active Steam users with XP and we are not in the business of abandoning users just because they don’t have the latest greatest tech. This stoic posture however might meet a sticky end as we roll out DirectX 11 next year which I am pretty sure is almost entirely incompatible with our support for Windows XP, which alas, even Microsoft has suspended support for. The hunt begins for a basic card that runs XP and has a score of 300 passmarks, holds 1GB of video memory and is produced by either NVIDIA or AMD.  Suggestions welcome!  In the meantime, Thurday approaches, and for me, it will be a time of testing the new public release and ensuring everyone has answers to the questions they have about our latest build.  For the scripters out there, enjoy the myriad of new commands, and for those who don’t want to script, watch the community over the next few weeks and I think you will be surprised at what becomes available to you!  I’ve already seen sneak peeks, and it’s awesome!

And Then There Were Four

Believe it or not, I only fixed four bugs today. Why?  Because the build is very solid and that’s all I had to do.  Of course, the rest of the 8 hour day (well 11 hours if you count my evening tests) was spent just making levels and using GameGuru, making sure it did not fall over in a cloud of smoke.  During my tinkering and report making, I came across a report about failing lightmaps for some custom models, and although I fixed the swine in the end, the shot below was from a building submitted by the same artist which worked rather well for me in the end.

nicehut

Half the problem with fixing bugs is finding them, and when you get a brief description of the issue, and a random screenshot, you are somewhat left to your own devices, which often means making your level with the fond hope of stumbling across the bug you are looking for. Rarely works of course as my nice screenshot proves. As it happened, I got the offending model sent directly to me and was able to fix it in a matter of minutes :)

Wednesday is setting up to be a BUSY day indeed, with a morning call to refine the division of labour on the next update after this release (which is looking to be released on Wednesday too), and at 4PM I resume my twitching, the a nice call with Intel to discuss all things next generation and finally a nice meal at my local restaurant before an evening of pool in the Welsh local league.  Friday is a full day of meeting and next week is three days of more meetings, winding up the year and trying to make sense of everything that has happened in the prevailing 12 months.  So far the general feeling is that we release this update which is now in testing, then continue fixing issues full steam and see where we go. Maybe we get a release out before Christmas, maybe we keep it internal and ensure we do the things everyone needs us to do.

Overall, when you look back on the year, and the sheer number of items we’ve worked on,  you’d be surprised it was conducted by just a few people, but it’s just the top of the iceberg for what we’re planning next. In 2016, we’re upgrading the graphics engine, introducing the end of hard coded mechanisms in the engine and rolling out a massive programme of game asset generation to ensure you’re never far away from the content you need to create the games you want to make. As I remind my team most weeks, we have a long way to go, but that does not mean we don’t have something fun to play with right now, and that the future is obscure. We have a pretty good idea what our community wants now, thanks to our voting board, and as most of it lines up very well with what we deem to be the next important steps, I think the next barrage of updates are going to be well received.  To everyone following this project, and making games, thanks for your continued support, and I look forward to announcing the next update of GameGuru real soon!

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