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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Burgundy Rise

For the Fall 2015 Student Game Developer Alliance Game Jam, I began work on a new top-down shooter game. Our theme was '12' so I included twelve weapons that the player could switch through using their mouse-wheel. For the weapons, I programmed in a nifty system - that I plan on expanding - that uses Unity's enumerations to help organize and control weapon switching, functionality, pick-ups, and diversity.

You can find the prototype for the game on the SGDA's Fall 2015 Game Jam page!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

My First YouTube Video - Minecraft!

Explore Polycraft World - A Minecraft Mod from UT Dallas

"Polycraft World is a comprehensive mod for Minecraft that features petrochemical refining, harvesting of new ore types and the construction of polymers, plastics and specialty items. This portal ( allows you to manage relationships with fellow Polycrafters, refine your private properties and find servers hosted at UT Dallas. Adventure awaits." 

In regular Minecraft, players gather resources, explore the world, survive the night, and build nearly anything. Polycraft is a mod for Minecraft that exponentially increases the amount of resources available for use in crafting. Players start out by tapping trees for natural rubber (PolyIsoPrene), and slowly move up the chemical chain by utilizing crude oil, minerals, and a good majority of the elements from the periodic table.

Currently, progress is segmented into levels. The chain looks something like this:
Tree-tap -> machining mill -> injection molder -> extruder -> distillation column -> industrial oven -> steam cracker -> merox treatment -> chemical processor -> condenser -> oil derrick.

There are low, medium, high, and extreme grade polymers, and the difficulty slope is exponential - extreme polymers can take up to twelve steps of chemistry or refinement before you can craft a pump or an oil derrick, and it can take a lot of time because as far as I know, you have to refine a single bucket of crude oil at a time. Polycraft also includes a piping system, which is a wonderful expansion on hoppers and dispensers. Instead of having single points of service, pipes allow for direct flow... as long as you can craft numerous pumps.

At the time of this post, I've reached the chemical processor. I've also entered into a couple contests which ends this coming November 16th. I could win a scholarship based on the number of views on the video above, so watch the full 60 seconds!

The intention is to help develop an in-game economy so that future players (mostly UTD students) can trade without being online. I'm also building a road in the small buffer zones in between private properties to help players navigate. Currently, private properties are off-limits unless the owner changes the permission to enter, which can cause trouble for explorers.

More to come!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Maya 3d Modeling and Texturing

I made this.

It's basically a Jetson-esque hover car, modeled after a 2015 Honda Accord, and made for my final project in an 11-week summer course. I have to say, I'm only an average modeler. I'm better at texturing, but since I'm not much of an artist I use a lot of procedural or pre-made pieces. In any case, I know now that I'd be happy to pay other people to do this kind of work for my games. I think I already knew that, but now I know what to look for, what to ask for, and generally how to communicate with 3d modelers and texture artists.

Also, many of the best individual pieces of a game, like the character model for a FPS, and how it animates and moves as a cog in the overarching mechanics, stem from how the model is textured and painted. My appreciation for the time spent making this stuff has dramatically increased. As always, I think the process could be improved, but I have a feeling that most of the people working with these tools know that, and are actively pursuing better methods!

I also made this!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Insurgency - Review

I snipe. It's what I do.



You the special operations soldier. First-person.

Tactical player-versus-player and player-versus-bots combat.

Released 2014.

Various middle-eastern looking cities. Maps are limited by restricted zones and invisible walls, but otherwise large maps provide for interesting bottle-necks and long-range encounters.

Battlefield 4 is expensive, and doesn't have bots.

Only a few first-person shooter games in the counter-terrorism category allow for cooperative combat against a common enemy.

Fantastically challenging A.I. Intricate maps and nice visuals. A good use of weapon sounds. One shot kills.

A.I. gets to cheat by seeing through smoke, fire, bushes, pitch-black darkness, and dead bodies. An appalling lack of weapon choices. Game design choices around respawn time, loadout limits, and map boundaries is disappointing.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Drive Forever

Ever play F-Zero? Ever play Midtown Madness? Respectively, speed and driving in a sandbox are two great characteristics to make a game out of. Drive Forever uses procedural generation to allow players to experience the best of speed and environment. Each time you play, no two environments are the same. There's no learning the track and committing it to muscle memory, no following the same boring road. Go fast, don't crash, and enjoy the scenery. Drive Forever.

There is also track mode which allows players a more traditional way to test the controls and the hover car's ability. Split screen allows multiple players (right now two, but four is what were aiming for) to race, explore, and generally goof around with each other. The car's engine and thrust is highly based in physics, and having multiple different car options will make this game exponentially deeper. I personally would like to see the procedural generation used to create lush forests and monumental cities to drive through. There's also a full day cycle currently, which will be followed soon by a night cycle.

Other possible features include destructible structures (with weapons of course), an antagonist, probably a wall of fire or something else equally menacing, that chases you around, prompting a de-facto survival mode, multiple various tracks, and hover jousting.

We plan on developing on PC, and then porting it over to Mac, Linux, Xbox, and Android mobile. IPhone and IPad support may also come depending on accessibility.

We want to have beta ready mid-September and release by the end of November.

  • Jordan Black - Programmer / Project Manager
  • Dan Modesto - Programmer
  • Zach Checkeye - 3D Modeling
  • Natan Golynskiy - Level Design
  • Josh Donnelly - Sound Design

Friday, June 12, 2015

Banished - Review

If the developer doesn't make Banished 2 I will be disappointed.



You the village leader, Birds-eye.

Secluded village builder. Singleplayer.

Released February 2014.

River valley areas far from everything, but still close enough to enjoy river trading.

Medieval life simulator. This is basically what it means when people in movies say "It'll send us back to the stone age."

There hasn't been a good 3d medieval citybuilder in a long time. Resource management is difficult to find in entertaining forms.

Great in-game economy, realistic survival challenges. Dynamics such as firewood for warmth, and tool and clothing deterioration, that many games ignore for simplicity's sake.

No combat, weapons, or walls, and a limited building set.

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Sims 3 - Review

I just build houses.

The Sims 3

PC, PS3, XB360, DS, Wii


You as anyone, Birds-eye.


Life simulator.

Released June 2009.

Sunset Valley and Riverview, small towns complete with a variety of career choices.

Live a life without the complications of actual effort and danger.

Aside from living vicariously, you can layout and design properties with more attention to detail than some CAD software.

Wonderfully designed radial menu, a "create-a-style" tool that lets you tweak the default textures, and an immense array of activities and objects to play and build with.

Some limitations on control, and particularly boring segments of play while your sim(s) work. Horribly unrealistic ability to get a job instantly.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Dawn of Discovery - Review

Archipelago Citybuilding

Dawn of Discovery (a.k.a. Anno 1404)



You the colonial city-planner, Birds-eye.

Island-based real-time strategy citybuilder.

Released June 2009.

Randomly generated temperate and desert islands.

Simulate a romantic and fading section of history.

Dependence on resources, commodities, and logistics makes this game a great tool for teaching both economics and history. Not to mention great micro-management practice.

Simplistic yet insanely steep learning curve. A great sense of achievement for overcoming the impossible. Hundreds of hours of challenging gameplay. As real-time strategy as it gets.

Extremely time consuming. Eight hours of gameplay and barely having one scenario finished can be mentally draining. Ubisoft's DRM prevented the game from being popular.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Cities: Skylines - Review

Highways: the veins of modern society.
Cities: Skylines


You the omnipotent city planner, Birds-eye.

Highway-based city building within a square area. Build roads, walkways, rails, etc. and zone areas for construction. Place civic buildings.

Released March 2015.

Nicely crafted (river) settings with pre-placed highways and railways.

SimCity2013 was bad.

An increased building area combined with a well-made traffic system make this the game SimCity was supposed to be.

Population is the most accurate in a game to date. The large construction area can make for quite rewarding scenes and screenshots. Just enough challenge to keep your attention. Volumetric water flow mechanics. Mods help fill the holes and persuade the developer to keep adding to the game.

Resource-based economy is mostly for show only. People do not require food to survive. Nature feels like a low priority. Slightly imbalanced early and late game.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Grand Theft Auto 5 - Review

This car might as well be a cheat code.

Grand Theft Auto 5


PC (also PS3, PS4, XB1, and XB360)

You as multiple characters that you have to switch back and forth between, First Person or Third Person.

An open-world illegal activity simulator.

Released September 2013 for consoles, April 2015 for PC.

Los Santos, a Los Angeles parody, complete with its northern desert counterpart.

Do all the things that aren't allowed in real life.

The game gets remade to utilize the current technology, and offers the Rockstar brand of thoughtfully irreverent and satirical situations.

A huge list of vehicles and vehicle upgrades, purchasable properties, large variety of weapons and their upgrades, and a fantastic presence of secondary game systems (such as a reactive stock market, sports activities, achievements, and TV). Multiplayer

Really mean cops. The AI generally has better aim than us humans and it can ruin the fun. Helicopters and planes don't feel quite right. Multiplayer feels awkwardly disconnected, especially during missions. Many game crashing or freezing bugs, which consistently make the game unplayable.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Kerbal Space Program - Review

The Kerbin Solar System

Kerbal Space Program


You the Kerbals, Third Person.

Part building system in sections and flight simulator. Player is given navigation readouts and an interactive 3d radar to launch ships into space.

Released April 2015.

Kerbin, an Earth twin in a similar Solar System.

Space Simulator from start to finish.


Career and sandbox modes allow players to experience the challenges of space exploration.

Ability to mod give this game its edge: more parts, different physics, multiplayer, autopilot, etc. A uniquely potent creative simulation game with a simple premise.

Atmospheric flight is consistently broken: nerf-football physics. Part balancing is an issue. Lack of end-game sense of achievement.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

DIRT First - Design It Right The First Time with Cities: Skylines

Welcome to the first in a series of design articles about general design concepts I'm calling Dirt First - Design It Right The First Time. Regardless of what you're designing, if you put more effort in up front and design it correctly at earlier stages, each layer of detail will be all that more meaningful. End users will appreciate simplicity, other developers will appreciate not having to redesign what you've done because of an issue left unchanged, and you'll enjoy less work if you every revisit a design.

To exemplify this design concept, I'll be using Cities: Skylines, a city-building game with a lovely traffic simulator. Part of the challenge in starting a new city in the game is designing the road system to handle higher traffic volumes later. You're limited in cash, road size, and you have no mass-transit options. At first, you can only build a two-way street, then you get one-way streets, avenues, and boulevards. You can't extend or change the highway. Here's how you design your first few roads so that, even late in the game where you'll have high populations and lots of industry, your traffic will still flow smoothly.
  1. Connect the highways together with a two-way street. This gives you a quick way to unlock the one-way streets, which is vital for the next step. (You can change the two-way to a one-way later.)
  2. Using one-way streets, create a counter-clockwise loop big enough to place avenues or boulevards on each of the three remaining cardinal directions. Right turns means almost zero wait times at intersections.
  3. Place avenues left and right, and a boulevard towards the center of your city plot. Don't go too far with two of them, you only need one long one for the residential development.
  4. Your industrial should get priority nearest the highway connection. Then a small plot of commercial to separate the industrial and residential. Then place residential along your long avenue.
  5. You'll want to try and drive your residential development towards a water source so you don't have to build too many power lines, and your pipe will service everyone from the source to the industrial.
  6. If you've done it correctly, it should look something like this!
The avenues lead to a water pump and sewage drain, and the power plant never runs out of fuel.
I've played this game a bit since the screenshot, and the city is now at 23,600 residents, and I have over $1 million in cash. I might build slower than some people, but I design it right the first time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

DIRT First - Designing the Oracle Class Omni in Space Engineers

I spent a couple hours making this based on an earlier large mining ship design. It features two levels, a clean main level and a spacious sub-level, as well as a safe room and cockpit. The safe room houses an auxiliary control station, medical bay, and an array of batteries. Twenty-four gyroscopes help rotate the ship, Sixty-eight small thrusters and six large thrusters keep the ship moving. The ship come standard with two airlocks with functioning entry and exit buttons.

I'll use the ship's design later for various specializations, such as mining, cargo transport, and gunboat. Right now, it's just a shining example of my design aesthetic.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Are you a leader?

... most likely not. One problem I've run into in my experience is that everyone has a brilliant idea that they want to see become realized, but they have no idea, or the wrong idea, about how to accomplish that goal. If you're going to create a game, especially a big, fancy game, you need a team. That means you have to be a leader, and if you want anything better than garbage for an end product, you have to be a good leader with the ability to effectively communicate, contribute, be personable, and potentially be political. Or, you could simply get some skills, market those skills effectively (by building a great portfolio), get a job with a game development company, and slowly create your game, or game ideas, into undeniably potent productions on the side. Being a leader means taking an awful lot of risk for potentially no or little reward. Being a member means filling a role (who knows, maybe you even enjoy it?!), earning money, and still perhaps following your dreams over a longer time.

Take this quiz: it will tell you if you fit into either a leader or member role.

What role do you fill in the game development community?
Information Technology
Level Designer
Q/A Tester
Creative Director
Game Designer
Web Developer
Sound Designer
I don't make games.

Do you consider yourself organized?
Others help me stay organized.
Others depend on me to stay organized.
I don't think it matters.

Your favorite group is meeting less often, and at bad meeting times. What do you do?
Ask the group leader to change the meeting frequency/time.
Get with the other members and set up unofficial meetings at convenient times.
Leave the group and start your own, with more meetings at better times.
Attend/join a different group's meetings.
Do nothing.

Your annual evaluation is coming up, how do you plan to make the best of it?
Tell them you are the best and you deserve a promotion/raise.
Explain any shortcomings honestly, and inform them that you will continue learning and working hard.
Apologize profusely for mistakes, and show them that you are passionate about becoming better at your job.
Blame the people/events responsible for mistakes, and show them how dependent they are on your work.
Calmly accept your evaluation where it is agreeable, and generally don't make waves.

You're the boss and your friend asks you for a job. You don't necessarily like this person, but they have potential to contribute to the project and some desired skills. What do you do?
Hire them on the spot. If you need to you can always fire them later.
Deny them immediately. You didn't like them then and you won't like them later.
Allow them to apply with other preferred applicants.
Make them complete a series of tests; if they pass, hire them.
Ask them to work for free for a while. If it's going well, the job is theirs.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Space Engineers Hangar Update

Added the bullet-proof glass and rearranged the resource dump in the center to make the hangar more streamlined. Next up is steel plating for the hangar doors in the background there.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

List of Needed Changes - Space Engineers

As of 1 January 2015, Space Engineers lacks:

  • Microgravity - All objects with mass are pulled towards each other, even if it is by an incredibly small amount. This would make locking landing gear and active inertial dampeners all the more important. This game already sets people's computers on fire because of the amount of calculations required, but I feel this one is important even if it's present in a simplified form.
  • Anti-gravity - Either a thruster with power inversely proportional to the amount of gravity in an area, or a field generated (like gravity generators) that cancels out the before-mentioned microgravity or simply cancels out all gravity period. If it's reasonable to assume we can generate gravity then it should be a rational next step to cancel it out. This would also be useful for creating immobile stations in space (assuming there is microgravity).
  • Rotational physics - This is a steep request, but currently there is roughly simulated rotational physics with two objects attached to each other, such as a ship and a rotor or piston. Thrusters NOT placed on an axis with the center of mass should pitch, yaw, or roll the craft instead of simply translating it in space.

  • Economy - Resources and items need a generalized monetary value, which could serve as a medium for trades and sales. In single player, economy should have the form of a trade dock, which stores goods for sale or trade. Neutral ships fly in, dock, complete the transaction, and then fly off and despawn. Adventurous players who decide to damage or destroy the trade vessel are charged with either a cool down timer where they must wait a longer period between shipments, or a monetary amount equivalent to the damaged parts of the ship, x time after spawning. In multiplayer, the same dock could be used to carry out passive transactions; players could enter in the good they wish to sell or buy, and then other players could come in and fill those orders. Orders could be transmitted through the antenna. Orders would also persist even if the player is logged off.
  • All the resources - I know that in terms of game design, developers generally lean towards simplistic so as to be accessible by a greater audience. I think this logic is flawed because an increase in possible choices doesn't necessarily mean a decrease in accessibility. Choices should be presented organized in a tree-diagram, and in my mind that's how Space Engineers already works: players have to find iron and uranium for basic building materials and fuel to begin a new game, and then move from there. Adding in the rest of the elements, or a majority of them, won't muddy the water, it will simply make the end-game more diverse in possibilities.
  • Convergence of small and large. This one might be impossible from the developers point of view, but theoretically (Let's say I'm the executive producer now) the design choice for making small and large parts and ships and then trying to get them to work together (i.e. conveyors) is more work than is necessary. Parts should be uniform across the board: New Ship, New Station. Done. If the developer really wanted bigger ships, then they should make the uniform parts list scalable in three proportions - small, medium, and large. So if the smallest block is 0.5 meters cubed, the medium would be 1 meter cubed and the large would be 2 meters cubed. Everything fits together nicely.