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Design REMIX

posted Jan 21, 2014, 3:32 PM by Tom Cooper   [ updated Jan 21, 2014, 3:32 PM ]

I've been reading a book called "The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses" recently. I love the fresh perspectives and design flows; they are a huge improvement from my previous amateur experience. Typically I think of a vague idea for a game, then try using overly complex design patterns (e.g. Entity-Component-System) to start implementing an engine. Of course I don't get very far, with no specific storyline or game mechanics. I tend to enjoy working on the engine, before inevitably burning out.

Now I've come to realize that when I get a good idea for a game, I need to prototype the mechanics, flesh out the storyline, and get more outsider insight from friends. And I am doing exactly that...
More to come when I feel comfortable with details!

CFU Calculator

posted Oct 7, 2012, 9:47 AM by Tom Cooper   [ updated Oct 7, 2012, 9:47 AM ]

Well I finally finished and published my first Android application to the market. It's pretty simple and only useful for a small niche (lab scientists with CFU/bacteria samples), but it's something at least. I made it for my brother who suggested this calculator would help him with iterative/arduous hand calculations, and it took about 2-3 days on and off.

Summer Update on Life

posted Jul 10, 2012, 9:14 PM by Tom Cooper   [ updated Jul 10, 2012, 9:14 PM ]

So grad school is over, minus editing a conference paper based on my research. Check out my thesis if you're bored!

I've been working at a job 3 weeks now, while pondering my video game hobby future. I've decided on a set of (even more) new directions:
  • I pretty much scrapped Prime Mover. I love the art and mechanics but I feel like it lacks something, and since it was my first game there is a pot full of spaghetti code.
  • Not pleased with my spaghetti code and lack of understanding of design patterns, I refactored the game engine (still running on Slick) to be very light and customizable with a component-entity system. I have plans to add a few more patterns to make the engine even more easy for me to use.
  • After discussing development with some friends, I'm thinking of ever-evolving game ideas that incorporate learning about science, energy, and energy resources. Check out for more info on this new movement.
  • I do know my next project will use my revamped Java/Slick game engine and run as an in-browser applet. I figured out how to run and test a Slick app as a Java applet, while using a local WAMP server. I want to base the game on some kind of story to give it more substance than a typical online game.
I'll try to post more updates as I solidify my gameplay, story, and character designs. Sorry again for the scatterbrain posting.

Grad School

posted Jan 29, 2012, 3:47 PM by Tom Cooper   [ updated Jan 29, 2012, 3:47 PM ]

Welp, it's back to reality for me. Meaning grad school must now control 100% of my focus and coding efforts, instead of trying to squeeze in some game design too like I was doing before. I will occasionally work on hashing out ideas and designing puzzle levels in my free time, but I most likely won't be doing anymore game-related coding until I finish my research+thesis+defense. It hurts me to have to give up on the game for now, but after graduation in May I will pick up where I left off. Hopefully the extra time during the hiatus will let me perfect some of the puzzle ideas I had in mind. Sorry (if anyone is following progress).

First Gameplay Video

posted Jan 21, 2012, 12:52 PM by Tom Cooper   [ updated Jan 21, 2012, 12:52 PM ]

Here's the first gameplay video I've shared in public. This shows the menus and farming stage gameplay that I described in the previous blog post, Initial Screenshots, Finally.

(Note: For some reason, the video loses sync with audio by a few seconds after I set the fullscreen/resolution options in Settings. Not sure why, but I hope this isn't too inconvenient for you. I'll be sure not to set those options in subsequent gameplay videos.)

Initial Screenshots, Finally

posted Jan 19, 2012, 8:05 AM by Tom Cooper   [ updated Jan 19, 2012, 8:07 AM ]

So I have spent another few weeks adding the usual basics such as menus, settings (with ample resolution support! 10 different resolution ranging from 800x600 to 1920x1200), customizable controls, dialog/confirmation boxes, and saving/erasing progress. A few more things concerning the farming stage are also complete, such as viewing inventory window, fillable stardust meter, updating event log, better asteroid/stardust generator, spawning and picking up items from destroyed asteroids, and more form-fitting polygons for collision detection. This farming stage is mostly completed; it just needs more items for spawning and some bug fixes.

Elaborating on the "farming/crafting/puzzle mix" mentioned in the last post, there will be 3 main areas of the game. The farming stage allows the player, the Prime Mover (or PM for short), to search for and collect low-level items needed for the crafting stage. This second stage is where the gathered items are crafted in the "Star Forge" in order to create mid- and higher-level items needed for the third stage. I'm bouncing around ideas of using stardust as a sort of "crafting agent" that drains with each use of the forge. The third stage is the puzzle stage, where items can be used or placed to solve a puzzle. I'm going to be really vague about this part because I'm still not sure how to design the puzzles exactly. I want it to be focused on discovery and mystery, where the player isn't sure of what to do and must experiment to progress through the puzzle. 

Each puzzle adds a little to the overarching story, which is also shrouded in mystery and up to the player to uncover. I'll just let you know that it concerns the quest for finding some significance and order within the chaos spawning from the origins of the universe. Most of this story is still fluid too.

Keep in mind that a lot of these ideas are kept only in my head and constantly evolving haha. That said, please let me know via email or comments below if you have any suggestions, criticisms, or even ideas.

Now for the best part... screenshots!
(Note that these are all taken in "debug mode," so the FPS counter and polygon lines are drawn too. Also taken in 800x600 resolution setting.)

1) Main Menu: Exciting I know... figured I'd show off the layout and fonts at least.


2) Settings Menu: Another boring menu. Just showing the left-right scrolling of each setting option.


3) Confirmation dialog box: It's a REALLY COOL dialog window I made with highlighted buttons haha.


4) Player's sitting pose: This floating pose is shown when the player isn't moving around at all. Also shows off the terrific artwork my brother created, from space cloud to stardust to asteroid. Oh and the stardust meter too!


5) Player's flying animation: I know a short video or gif would be better but I'm lazy. When the player moves around, his beard flutters! (Yes I know there's no air, but it looks awesome.)


6) Player's attack animation: A short video or gif would also be good here, oh well. So here's an image of the attack mid-way through. Stardust flares and a flash of light for breaking asteroids!


7) Destroyed asteroid: This shot was taken just as the asteroid was destroyed, releasing the item inside... a Nebula Heart! If I wasn't lazy and showed you a video/gif, you would see the asteroid pieces break off in 4 different directions. You can also see the event log displayed in the top-left corner.


8) Inventory with items: This final shot shows how you can hit the Inventory key (default is tab) to view the inventory window. Each item appears in it's own box with name, image, and count. The maximum stardust you can carry is 100 (as also displayed in the stardust meter).


Winter Break Progress

posted Jan 3, 2012, 10:41 PM by Tom Cooper   [ updated Jan 19, 2012, 6:57 AM ]

Here's a quick progress update for the work I've done over Winter Break for the past 3 weeks or so. I'm not sure how often I'll get to update this blog or work on the game once the Spring semester starts, but here goes.

The main premise of the game is a space-themed farming/crafting/puzzle mix, named Prime Mover after the ideas of Aristotle. Just FYI, most of the game-specific terms I mention (e.g. stardust) won't make sense at this point, but here's the progress. I've added basic functionality for moving the player's character, attacking, damaging and destroying asteroids, and picking up stardust. Future updates will be more coherent and detailed as I eventually work out all the mechanics of the game. I haven't even worked out how to implement the puzzles for using crafted items yet.

That's all for now; I'll try to post a gameplay video or screenshots next time, when there's more progress to actually show.

First Post!1!

posted Dec 12, 2011, 11:53 AM by Tom Cooper   [ updated Jan 19, 2012, 6:57 AM ]

Hello world. More to come (I promise)...

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