Paralyzed Progression

(I though Homework Paralysis Syndrome only happened with homework…)

These days, I had a lot of difficulty progressing in development. I can only really focus on one thing at a time, but if that one thing feels difficult, I get stuck and repelled. I have difficulty even changing to a less obstructing task; even when I do, I feel compelled to do that task that gave me the difficulty in the 1st place.

I have got to break out of that mentality.

These few days, I essentially wrote the A* algorithm a 3rd time. Then again, the1st time was because I wanted to learn how to do the algorithm, the 2nd was because I was actually putting in the algorithm in Re-Hoard, the 3rd because I not only had difficulty in understanding this version but also because I wanted to take account the structures that were already in the game. (Al of them are in an experimental cartridge that is separate from the actual cartridge in GitHub.) Before that, I ended up taking months (not including the hurricane-induced blackout) in transcribing 2 songs in WarioWare: DIY because the task was so difficult, but I knew that this was the best way I could study the songs that inspired me so.

…then again, I did spend that time looking at entity-component systems that would make an excellent fit to Re-Hoard. I also looked into how to make my games using C++ and Libretro. I guess I was doing less obstructing tasks after all…?

I’ll test the code tomorrow. After everything works, I should implement the entity-component system then push those changes in the actual cartridge in GitHub. Meanwhile, I should try to compose the main song in Reckless Abandon.

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An analysis of two songs

I finished the first part of “Hotel Gomaden” from the Hackers game in the Shin Megami Tensei series. (The second part is, to my surprise, actually a slowed-down cover of Johann Bach’s “2-Part Invention #13”.) Before that, I managed to transcribe “Backstreets” from Boktai 2: Solar Boy Django.

The reason behind these transcriptions was because, not only did I like those songs a lot despite their spooky feelings, but those songs also happened to fit the mood of my game Reckless Abandon. I wanted to make my own song inspired by those two songs, which means that I need a lot of control in what song comes in the game. The result was a lot of time in and a lot of breaks from the Record MakerMatic in WarioWare: D.I.Y.

My Analysis

In terms of mood, “Backstreets” is mostly melancholic, though with a spooky undertone. In fact, the song implies a long-lost land from your past but is just not “there” anymore, whether that be because our lost land is in ruins or is just gone. Meanwhile, Hotel Gomaden has a feeling of “Welcome to my haunted land!”, that haunted feeling being front and center. This time, the implication is that you are entering the front room of someone’s haunted building. However, both songs end up being inviting: “Backstreets”  has stimulates your curiosity on what was that long-lost land; “Hotel Gomaden” stimulates your curiosity on what is the rest of the haunted building. (Strangely, the cover of “2-Part Invention #13” sounds to be purposefully made a sequel to “Hotel Gomaden,” sounding far more inviting while keeping the haunted mood and its instruments in the background. Hearing this after “Hotel Gomaden” implies that you moved farther in the imaginary haunted building.)

Speaking of instruments, analyzing these songs gave me, a newbie in music, taught me that instruments matter. Before my analysis, I thought that the functions of instruments were interchangeable. I suspect that they still are in a sense; otherwise, covers would not have their current flexibility. However, “Backstreets” would not have its long-lost melancholy if the harmonica was not there, while the organ gives “Hotel Gomaden” its haunted introduction. Both use a “haunted chorus” in providing that spooky backup that the songs and settings have.

In terms of structure, both of these songs have an “aided simplicity”. “Backstreets” plays mostly one instrument at a time while either of two rhythms play in the background. While a stringed instrument plays a looping, “quick-stepping” rhythm in the background, the harmonica plays first, then the chorus. After that, the chorus turns into a sparser backup role while one string instrument plays, then another before not playing any “main” instrument at all, leaving the backup chorus and the rhythm. The ending shifts focus to the rhythm; a lone harmonica melody plays while a new brass/chiptune rhythm gets more involved with the melody. The rhythm switches to a different chiptune instrument before going back to the brass/chiptune. Despite these supplements, there is only one main “instrument spot” where several actual instruments take turns.

“Hotel Gomaden” shifts this structure somewhat: the rhythm is actually one organ playing a note, another organ playing 2 notes, both alternating their parts in a single, regular tempo. The notes themselves do vary throughout the song, though the notes of one instrument do not stray far from the notes of the other instrument. The instruments take a backup role, that is, reverse of a normal song when the instruments are at front while the rhythm is at the back. After the rhythm establishes itself alone, a drum roll ends in a type of clap that introduces a sparse violin. After a cymbal note, another drum roll that starts and ends with a clap cuts the violin at the end, letting the rhythm re-establish itself. A slightly denser chorus takes advantage of the “cleaned up soundscape” after this. The climax breaks the conventions that the song has in both the front rhythm and the back instruments. More specifically, the first organ adds 2 premature notes during the climax while the rhythm fades out at the end of the song. Meanwhile, the chorus stops in the middle of the climax, letting the violin gets some notes before the chorus returns. Despite this pattern-breaking, everything, even the drum rolls, follow the mentronomic rhythm, albeit in varying levels of strictness.

The rhythms themselves have a special property: they imply steps. “Backstreets” has a quick tiptoe; “Hotel Gomaden” is more a march or a creep.

On the note ranges, they seem to differ per instrument in “Backstreets”. The harmonica has a general falling slope from the high notes to around the middle-high ones. When taking the main roles, the female chorus does the middle notes while the male chorus is around the low part. When taking the backup role, the female chorus goes to the middle-high range while the first stringed instrument plays high notes. The second stringed instrument, meanwhile, cycles a rising slope from an already borderline high range. Upon returning, the harmonica starts at the high range before gradually getting lower while playing around with slope directions before preferring downward slopes. The backup brass/chiptune start high, but go through a longer falling slope, straighten up a little, rise a little, go silent, then go back to their falling slope. During that pause, another instrument does a series of falling slopes, though the series shifts the pitch of the slope a bit every time the instrument plays a slope. In contrast, the instruments at “Hotel Gomaden” tend to stay at the mid-high range without any real slopes.

They both have a feeling of you being alone. “Backstreets” has that lone harmonica. “Hotel Gomaden” has a couple of organs that set a mood but sound from “nowhere”. All of the other instruments in both songs merely reinforce these main, “lonely” instruments or otherwise the “stepping” feeling.

 

A song in aided simplicity where one (or two) instrument plays at a time, other instruments (including a chorus) sparsely supplement the main instrument(s), all following a stepping rhythm and tending to stay within the high and mid-high notes… outright implying an actual place of spooky invitation… the only problem is translating that chorus into Pico-8 instruments.

Reckless Foresight

When I formed my goal of releasing Re-Hoard and Reckless Abandon on September 10, I was thinking only on coding, graphics, and music.

I realized recently that there are more steps after that.

I am not only talking about testing or even translation. I want to give these games their own mini websites, advertising (with stellar art), and, in all, a proper release. That requires not only more programming, but also skills in how to use CSS, how to draw skillfully, and so on. I would also have to make the websites fascinating yet skillfully coded and designed. I would also have to add new features, including a guestbook and privacy policy.

In all, I need to give the games the respect they deserve.

I knew that making September 10 a mere goal instead of a promise was wise.

Release goals of Re-Hoard and Reckless Abandon

Please excuse the news blackout. Since July, I needed to rest, first. Afterwards, I got a new computer that replaced my old one which had a malfunctioning keyboard. After that, I spent my time setting up my computer to my liking and getting used to a new keyboard layout based on the 2nd ANSI Keyboard variation of the DH Colemak mod.* I am still yet from fully used to this layout, but I am reasonably competent here. Besides, I should not be putting off development of my games so long.

How does September 10 sound? I am not making any promises, but I should be getting back to work.

Lua to the End?

From the beginning of my game career, I intended to make games that use Libretro, a C/C++ library that can be used in writing emulators and standalone games. The reason why I learned Lua in the first place was because, compared to using straight C or C++, writing games in Lua and relying on the Lutro core seemed to be the more comfortable option. Indeed, because Lua programs do not need to be compiled, I ended up saving myself plenty of precious time in my last two college projects back when I took my Master’s Degree. Developing my final project using LÖVE instead of trying to understand the Libretro library, especially given the one-trimester deadline, spared me from a lot of grief. That knowledge of Lua also helped me develop games for the PICO-8, an all-in-one platform that not only helped me get used to normal game development but also has several channels of delivery, my favourite one being uploading the game itself in image format. You can even play these games in your browser with little fuss!

However, I am starting to feel the limitations Lua has. While Reckless Abandon has simple code, Re-Hoard has a game plan that needs object-oriented programming when generating random anti-hoarders, each with their own patrolling and hunting styles, per stage. Lua does not have any object-oriented functionality; other people fake that functionality using metatables. Even with that fake functionality, I fear that I would be better off relying on the real thing. Besides, if Lua lacked true object-oriented functionality, then what else would Lua lack? Other consideration include less layers of abstraction that might interfere with my wanting to interact with Libretro itself, the bigger maturity of C++ tools and libraries, and practice in a language that is still in high demand in the workplace. In fact, the more advanced aspects of Lua actually use a C library!

On the other hand, the gains from the lack of a compilation time proved to be an assets when I debugged my college projects. Also, LÖVE games store their assets as-is instead of they being baked directly in the program; I can edit a sprite or switch around a song and see the effects when running the game anew.

Despite these benefits, I am seriously considering working on my new games with C++ from now on. In fact, though Reckless Abandon would stay a PICO-8 game, I might move Re-Hoard to C++.

I just need to figure out how to display and move .png sprites and implement collision detection while I use Libretro.

Reckful Spriting

I managed to do almost all of the graphics of Reckless Abandon. I was actually out of ideas by the time I stopped, but I thankfully got almost everything done there. Other than that, I still have to do the bonus exhibit and a secret or so.

I stopped temporarily because I both wanted to rest and celebrate. I wanted the ideas to come, but that needed me stepping away from the game. Even coding would not give the rest my mind needed in gathering ideas.

I think I got almost all the ideas I needed since then now.

I feel accomplished that I did so much. I hope that I can release both Reckless Abandon and Re-Hoard by the end of this month.

A Human-Sized Wall

Recently, I started working on Reckless Abandon again. Weirdly, my problem was that I had trouble figuring out how to draw humans in sprite form. I think the reason behind my hesitation was because I am going to do a big number of human-based designs in both Reckless Abandon and Re-Hoard, yet in theory, there are several ways of drawing humans. There is a lot hanging on this base concept.

I decided to take my time in loosening up my human designs.

humans

The one I like the most is the purple design due to its reasonable compactness while still being recognizable and animatable.

Abandoning a Reckless Pace

Neither Re-Hoard nor Reckless Abandon are going to be released by Comi-Con this year.

Ever since my last post, I took my time both recovering and considering my needs. I realized that I would not be able to deliver a good product (or maybe any product) by that deadline. My health and other kinds of energy trump any business opportunities.

That does not mean that I would stop. I just needed to recover from the deadly pace I took. In fact, a couple of days ago, I reoriented myself on listing what both games still needed.

However, I fear that, given that this is my second delay, I am setting up an image of lazy unreliability.

Reckless with my Energy

Yesterday, I was stuck on how to represent the countries when designing the exhibits. Thankfully, I got the ideas going at night. I think I just needed to let my brain work out this stuff by itself and respect the time my brain needs on working on stuff in general.

The problem is that I had little energy for working on the game today. I do not have the will of working on stuff immediately after I wake up; I need to “buffer”. I only start getting that will at noon, but, even after 1:00 PM, I still had no desire to work on this. I played some electronic games, thus recovering my emotional energy. I then slept, yet, 3 hours later, I still felt tired. I decided to just work anyways. I added enough notes and started drawing the props. However, I just… want to sleep more. Besides, I am typing this sentence at 10:33 PM.

I want to get this game out before Comi-Con, but my health may require me to postpone those plans.

Recklessly Stuck

I am surprised and embarrassed on being stuck in this game. The coding itself did not give me problems this time, but the content did. Worse, I thought that I had developed the idea thoroughly, but I have problems finding out how I should do the exhibits. I got a general idea, but I got trouble turning that idea into specific exhibits.

…I do not like stopping here, especially since I want to have both games done by Comi-Con, but I feel that I need to do more research beforehand. Besides, this is just a temporary detour.

…at least I hope that this is just a temporary detour…