Goodbye Greenlight

It finally happened. Greenlight is over.

This wasn’t unexpected, as rumors of Valve replacing Greenlight have been circulating for years, and the official announcement that it was happening at some point was made a few months ago.

We were originally planning to have a Greenlight campaign, because until today it was still the only way to actually submit games to Steam if you weren’t an established developer or partnered with an established publisher. Instead, we’ll now make a Steam Direct submission when that is available.

If we are approved for Steam Direct, we actually don’t know exactly what we are going to do next. We do need funding, and we don’t want to do Early Access yet. If we’re even allowed to do Early Access, Game Blocks is just not in a state to charge money for it yet. That’s one of the main reasons why it’s still completely free.

We’re probably going to do a Kickstarter campaign, but that deserves it’s own series of posts.

While Steam Direct is our biggest concern, because Steam is the biggest marketplace and our expected source of most of our sales, we are still going to offer Game Blocks through several other online marketplaces, pending them also accepting us. So if you really dislike Steam, Game Blocks will be available on a few other storefronts.

So… back to work!

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Games Making Games and My History With GCSs

Apparently I haven’t made a post about this yet? Okay then:

First of all, I just need to say that I prefer the term Game Construction Set because I’m using Game Maker Studio 2 to make my Toolkit-style game. So I’m going to be using the term GCS to refer to all the things he calls “Game Makers”.

My personal experience with Game Construction Sets starts with Pinball Construction Set. We did have Pinball Construction Set at the time, and I remember it being amazing at the time, mostly because there wasn’t anything else even a little bit like it.

Over the next ten years I heard of Wargame Construction Set, SEUCK, and a few others. Most of them either weren’t that interesting to me, weren’t available on the system I was using at the time, or simply weren’t available by the time I had heard of them. At the time, retail distribution often meant games would stay on shelves for a year or less, so if you wanted something that came out more than a year prior you had to try your luck at yard sales.

I was aware of GCS Game-Maker and did indeed want it, but my father refused on the grounds that it didn’t involve any programming and would be too limited. He didn’t want it to distract from my programming studies. In the end, I think he wasn’t completely wrong, but I also think seeing the limitations for myself might have inspired me to try to make my own version. Things would be very different if I had tried to start making Game Blocks twenty years ago.

3D Construction Set 1 and 2 were both terribly primitive games far ahead of their time. I had both, and did what I could, but they were just too limited by the technology of the time, the user interface designs of the time, and were basically too much like CAD tools and not enough like actual GCSs. If 3DCS had been more like the level design tools for Quake and other 3D games that came out later, I think they might have been onto something. But as the products actually were, I can’t recommend them.

Somehow I hadn’t heard of Adventure Construction Set, Bard’s Tale Construction Set, Unlimited Adventures, or Dungeon Master until after they were no longer available. Or perhaps I did hear of them but didn’t pay attention because I didn’t care about RPGs until later. I have several of them on GoG.com now, and ACK is free.

Fortunately, by the time RPG Maker 2000 was translated by Don Miguel, I did care about RPGs and boy did I love RPG Maker 2000. Don Miguel was a Russian computer science major who was not very fluent in English or Japanese, but didn’t let that stop him from trying to translate a game from one language he wasn’t fluent in into another. For those of us who couldn’t or didn’t want to import RPG Tsukuru from Japan because we wouldn’t be able to read any of it, Don Miguel’s just barely functional translation was far better than nothing.

I started a whole bunch of different RM2k projects, but the only one I really “finished” was a short one I made as a present for Mom on Mother’s Day. Even though my ideas usually proved too ambitious to actually complete, I did learn a lot about how a really good GCS works. Recent RPG Makers have become even better, but I think in a lot of ways they lack the simplicity of RM2k.

(Although I obtained it via filesharing at the time, I was one of the people demanding at the time that ASCII release an English version of RPG Tsukuru 2000. It wasn’t just because of the language barrier, but also the difficulty with American Windows’ lack of support for Japanese fonts. Fifteen years later, I was able to finally buy an English copy.)

I completely missed out on both ZZT and Megazeux back in the 1990s because I had the mistaken impression that they were both basically Caves of Thor clones with no real customization. I thought Caves of Thor was okay, but lacked depth. If someone back then had explained to me what ZZT-OOP or Robotic was, I would have demanded to have registered versions of both ZZT and Megazeux as soon as I could.

If you’ve read this weblog at all, you know how much I like Super Mario Maker so I won’t say too much here. Instead I’ll point out how he completely glossed over WarioWare Inc.! WarioWare’s incredible potential and tragic lack of support for more advanced features is, even more than Mario Maker, what inspired me to start working on something like Game Blocks. Sometimes, when I’m taking a break from programming, I’ll still reach over and play with WW Inc.

Anyway, hopefully soon people will start adding Game Blocks to the lists of Game Creation Tools. In the meantime, I guess I need to get back to work on it.

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A Change Of Pace

Over the weekend we decided to go in a slightly different direction for the next release. For the last few months I’ve been focused on adding new essential features and “test” versions of objects and all that pre-Alpha foundation building you need before you can get to the main game building part. Content-wise, the very first release was essentially a newer, heavily modified version of Ben Anderson’s Cave Boy code nestled inside an original menu system I had originally been working on in Game Maker Studio 1.4. The last few releases after that were fixing bugs, adding new things not in Cave Boy, fixing bugs, adding bits from the Make Your First Game Quickly class, and fixing bugs.

But now we’re changing direction. Game Blocks was always supposed to be a collection of example games that could stand on their own as well as a platform for making your own games. I want to do more “under the hood” work: there’s still no moving camera, there’s no tiles yet, hardly anything uses the new features of GMS2, there’s a whole bunch of “undocumented features” that need to be implemented as actual menu options, the shmup objects and features are still half-baked, and so on. But there is enough substance here that we can finally put together a complete example game of our own and not just a testing sandbox.

So we’re taking a break from adding new general features to working on the first game-within-a-game. It will be 100% compatible with the editor on release, because that’s how we’re making it ourselves. There will be a whole new category of objects and some new general features to support making your own versions of the game.

When this part is done, we’ll go back to adding general features and support for future game types. If Steam Direct isn’t ready yet, we’ll most likely be doing a Greenlight campaign. Also, we’re going to need to start work on the Kickstarter campaign and pitch to publishers and all the annoying business-things we need to do to continue having rent, rice, and ramen.

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InDev Release 0.0.0.4

Release notes:

(Mostly bugfixes. Some new stuff.)

Moving blocks in the editor now updates doList as intended, this also fixes a bug with saving the level.

maxFallSpeed properly implemented for RelativePlatformer, bundrums, and jumpers.

GravChanger now collides with middle of creatures.

Made bullets spawn relative to ship angle instead of just ship’s absolute coordinates.

Fixed bug where facing actually was saved for every object, but it didn’t appear to be.

Fixed bug with doList updating during gameplay when moving objects with the mouse.

(Moving objects with the mouse during gameplay is an intended feature that will be expanded later.)

Fixed the getting-stuck-in-the-ground-head-first bug.

EDIT: Oh and a new shooter enemy that is supposed to shoot back but doesn’t yet.

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Indev Release 0003

A new version is out! This will conclude the platformer parts for now (other than bugfixes), as we are focusing on shmup gameplay for the next release.

Release notes:

Indev Version 0.0.0.3

Version 0.0.0.2 and earlier game data probably now incompatible because of editor changes

Added relative gravity for new RelativePlatformer character

Ledge grabbing broken, then fixed.

Bouncing on enemies broken, then fixed.

Added ladders.

Added “grav changers” (arrow thingies).

Gravchangers affect the platformer character.

Added Tool Buttons (right clicking)

Changed the eraser to be a tool button

Added Rotate Tool button for rotating cardinal direction of instances.

Added Flip Tool button for flipping profile of instances

Rotate Tool button and Flip Tool buttons also work on panel buttons (right click)

Editor now saves facing and cardinal direction for all level objects.

Editor now updates doList when player uses any tool button.

Changing levels asks for confirmation if you have not saved.

Gibs now subject to relative gravity.

Bundrums now called Bundums internally instead of Smartwalkers.

Bundrums now subject to relative gravity.

Bundrum AI FIXED and working in ALL directions!

Bat AI is close enough for now, might tweak for next release.

Jumper AI still buggy, will fix next release.

Added LuchaBoss.

Fixed most LuchaBoss bugs. Some still persist, but movement in all directions works.

(Luchaboss not currently affected by gravchangers, but can be rotated in editor.)

Added lava blocks.

Panel buttons now toggle on and off.

Left clicking and dragging now moves things placed in editor, if no panel button is selected.
The following things are still WIP, but I included them anyway as a preview of version 0.0.0.4:

Added a shmup player character to second editing panel.

Added Shmup enemies to second editing panel

Added Shmup shooting & movement.

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The Joy of Exploits

I love this video, and I want to take this opportunity to explain my position on glitches and exploits in Game Blocks.

I love this stuff. In case I didn’t make that clear enough in the Words of Wisdom 03 post: I really love this stuff.

Now, as a professional game developer I need to try to ensure that the typical customer is not frustrated by the product itself. As a game developer in general, I don’t want any bugs or glitches to unintentionally frustrate my players. As a programmer, I want my software to have good user experience.

As such, there may come a time when a really cool glitch is tragically ruined by fixing a genuine problem in the software. It’s hard enough to keep the intended feature set in my head as I’m programming, and I’ll probably ruin a good unintended feature more than once over the course of maintaining the software.

One solution is to take unintended features and make them actual features. I can’t do this for every cool glitch every player finds, but I may do it for a few.

Anyway, hopefully someday Psycrow and Darby will notice my game and find some awesome exploits!

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Indev Release 0002

Indev Version 0002 is out!

Here are the release notes:

Indev Version 0.0.0.2

Added Settings Menu (only volume settings for now)

Pausing implemented. Start button or P key when gamepad is not connected.

Fixed the window title (was still “Game Blocks Prototype”, now “Game Blocks Indev”)

Changed SmartWalker AI to change direction when bumping into other baddies. (Bundrums
use this AI.)

Fixed bouncing off baddies not refreshing jumps used.

Fixed falling out of level not ending play session properly.

BackToEditMenu script no longer shows debug message.

Simplified credits. (Expanded credits coming later after more research and double-checking.)

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Sheldon Pacotti’s Game Blocks

Well of course someone decided it was a good name for a programming library a few years ago.

Sheldon Pacotti’s Game Blocks

Does this mean we’re going to change the name of Game Blocks? No, not really. Like how GameBlocks LLC is clearly not a software product, Sheldon Pacotti’s Game Blocks is also clearly not a software product.

If too many more Game Blocks-type things turn out to already be in existence, we might tweak the name a little bit. Like how GameMaker became GameMaker Studio partly to avoid confusion with other products called Game Maker and Game-Maker and so on.

Anyway, if you’re into Scratch, you might want to check out the Game Blocks programming library. Completely different thing to our Game Blocks.

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Game Blocks Indev is live!

Well I’ve been quiet for a while, but the in-development version of Game Blocks is finally ready to show off to the public!

Gamemaker Studio 2 Beta was first released when I was working on the previous prototype, so after a bit of thought I decided to rewrite the entire prototype for GMS2. Some things needed to be done from scratch, other things were improved from how they worked previously, and things that just didn’t work were fixed.

There’s still a lot to do, but I feel Indev is good enough to finally put out in public, unlike the broken and more-buggy previous prototype.

The platforming gameplay is based loosely on Benjamin Anderson’s Super Cave Boy, with several added features. The menus are all 100% original work, with the overall concept being loosely similar to Super Mario Maker. So, in a sense, the current version is not unlike some kind of Super Cave Boy Maker, but with original graphics and sound.

Compatibility with the next version is NOT guaranteed! This is Indev, not Beta, and you will likely need to start over from scratch each time I make changes to the way levels and game data are saved. Sorry in advance.

Anyway, feel free to download it here (Windows-only for now, sorry):

https://madtinkerer.itch.io/game-blocks

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