Moley Moley Moley Mole

It occurred to me yesterday that one of my major projects from this year was lacking it’s own page, so I spent a little time today typing up some info. There aren’t pictures yet, because I’m away from my desktop at the moment (actually its in pieces too) and I could never get the Android SDK running on my laptop, but at least there’s something there.

Head over to the new Mega Driller Mole page to check it out, if you like.

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Summer 2012

Since handing in my last assignment of the year, I’ve had a good amount of time to recover from the previous stressful semester and make a start on some of the things I wanted to get done this summer. This’ll be a short post outlining these mysterious things, mostly for my own benefit, though I guess it may be of interest to any passing traffic.

For the most part my efforts so far have been centered around finding work, and following a small series of WebGL tutorials based on the popular Nehe OpenGL series. I’m using WebGL to brush up on the OpenGL I covered last summer, and to serve as an introduction to JavaScript and general web development. Working with JavaScript has been relatively painless given my previous experience with ActionScript 2.0, and the useful developer tools included with Firefox and Chrome. Still, an environment which doesn’t crash when you call a non-existent function has it’s pitfalls.

Expanding my experience with a variety of languages is a priority for me at the moment (I’ll be starting some Python tutorials later today), but ideally I’d also like to move back into C and bring my OpenGL experience up to par with my DirectX experience so that I can make an attempt at some sort of deferred shading system. Graphics programming isn’t my favourite of subjects, but it’s challenging and the results can be very satisfying. The implementation of a renderer using deferred shading seems quite intuitive to me and could be a lot of fun to experiment with. To this end, I’ve also been brushing up on some maths, as I’m aware my lack of A-level puts me at a disadvantage in the eyes of some employers, and It’ll really help to fully understand more advanced techniques in graphics and other 3D programming tasks.

I found a decent book to help with my maths studies, but it’s part of a larger stack of books I’ve yet to wade through, including one on API design, and another one on x86 assembly programming. Assembly programming is something I particularly enjoyed during the first semester this year, but it remains to be seen whether or not I’ll get back to it this summer. I’ve resolved to get hold of a decent graphics tablet as soon as I’m sure I have a little time to burn – I may be a programmer now, but there’s only so long you can suppress your creative routes. I never really got into digital art before, but working with pen and pencil for so long has gotten me into a bit of a rut, and I feel like I need to stretch over into new mediums to escape it. While we’re off the subject of programming, I’ve also been studying Korean a lot more since the semester ended – even if the majority of that has been reading 루쿠루쿠 (Lucu Lucu) and playing Pokemon White. I should get back to Lang-8 and make a post there sometime soon to try out the new grammar.

At the moment I’m still living with the majority of Pillowdrift, and watching as they work away on Mega Driller Mole. I’ve even joined in with the effort this past couple of days, lending them my technical and artistic abilities to enhance the mineral system and throw in some new enemies (yes, there are demon cats now). Mostly though, I’m proud to say that they’ve had little difficulty adapting to my original code-base, and twisting it to their needs. I wasn’t even here during their initial work – they had to figure it out all on their little own!

I also worked with Bombpersons following a quirky little framework he threw together for a discontinued Mini-Ld attempt. He used SDL to create a very lightweight graphics module which allows the setting of pixels, never clears the screen, but blurs its contents every frame. I threw together an equally light weight (and not really well coded) game framework over the course of a day, and implemented a controllable player, just to see what it looked like, while he developed a simple particle system, which it turns out looks really freaking cool in such an environment. That’s as far as we got with this quick and dirty prototype, but we definitely think there’s room for a decent game implemented around the blurring gimmick.

Coming Soon
I mentioned something a while back about decent games made in Game Maker, and how I wanted to write something about that. Well, I’ve been playing a lot of Hyper Princess Pitch recently, and instead of tackling the subject head on, I figure I’ll come at it via review instead. Expect something up in the next day or two.

Kick Demon Cats to the Curb and go Beyond the High Score ◥▶̸̱◀◤

Okay. So there aren’t any demon cats yet, and that was my most desperate reference of the entire project, but this is a post about Mega Driller Mole, and I shall weather no more digressions.

Mega Driller Mole is a prototype Android game created for the Mobile Development module of my course at the University of Derby. The objective is to guide the mole around the screen using your finger, collecting minerals and avoiding mines, enemies (such as typically giant worms or the aforementioned demon cats), and other hazards. Combos build up as you collect more minerals without taking damage, and you must drop off your current load on the surface if you want to get any points out of it at all.

Moley McMolemole (doesn’t actually have a name) can currently run into three mines and then it’s game over, but if you’re good then the game could theoretically last forever, and your combo can get ever higher. Currently the difficulty doesn’t scale as the game progresses, and this is one of the things that will need fixing if the game is ever to hit the marketplace.

See, some friends of mine are setting up as a company this coming year while I’m (hopefully) off on placement, and while I won’t be joining them, I told them they can have this prototype and, if they wish, make something special out of it. I’ll probably end up helping them out, if only in an artistic capacity – since I’ve set such high standards – but it’s really up to them whether this goes forwards.

You can see some gameplay of the current version in the video above, where I show off awesome things, like, jumps and flips and stuff, and the awesome parallax scrolling, and the highly optimised, threaded particle system, and- and…just watch the video.

There are some obvious things missing – mineral varieties are one, along with graphics for the minerals and mines. Difficulty scaling will also be entirely crucial.  I’d also like to hide super valuable minerals in the bedrock and make it tunnelable (slowly), implement a ‘dug-out’ graphic for where the player has been, add second means to get more air (and hence more height bonus), enemies (demon cats and giant worms!), other power-ups, perhaps, and bonus score items.

Obviously I won’t be putting up source or downloads for this project since it may one day be put to commercial use, even if it may be released for free with ad support. Oh I should also mention that the game uses LibGDX, which is why it can be run under Windows, which is why you can see a mouse on the video up above, stepping into the shoes of touch control.

For now I’ll leave you with a little vector graphic I whipped up for the title screen, and head off to bed.

G’night!