Saturday, July 1, 2017

Bad, Good, and Nice news.

Every time when I write a new post, I’ll promise myself not to wait too long before writing another, then, just a few farts further, to discover yet another month passed. Oops. Well, I had some excuses for a change.

Sick Son
Bad news first, our little boy was/is(?) sick. Well, not that he felt or even realized, but in all of a sudden his legs and arms were covered with small bruises. Now of course, children without scratches is like Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles without pizza. But when I detected tiny red needle-like “Petechial”, my heart froze. Knowing a young girl that went to the dentist with somewhat bloody gums… she didn’t live another year, because those bloody gums were the result of Leukaemia. Googling for tiny red dots didn’t bring up cheerful results either, although Google is probably a terrible doctor when it comes to medical advice. According to the internet, I have gang-green, brain eating amoebas, and require immediate exorcism as well. Still, when the real doctor called only just a few hours after his blood was sampled, telling to go to the hospital NOW for a possible blood transfusion, my world stopped spinning. Not my two year old innocent boy, not like that.

Well, results aren’t final yet, but I think we can call ourselves lucky with the news it’s most probably just “ITP” – a blood disorder that can lead to excessive bleeding due the lack of platelets. Apparently little kids can catch a certain virus (especially when it’s getting hot again, like now here), then having their bodies react improperly. In 85% this is just temporarily, and the body will fully recover. In the other case, it can become chronic. Which sucks, because it basically means our son may have to wear a helmet the rest of his live, and learn chess instead of cage-fighting. When I asked if our son can still drink whiskey, that was a negative too. Then again, I remember having a kid with ITP on the sort-of Scouts. And now, 17 years, lot’s of karate kicks and barrels of beer later, he still lives.

But! Just in case you stumbled on this page while Googling for sudden bruises or petechial on your child, remember what I said about internet being a bad advisor. Just go to the Doctor. Now.

Anyhow, so basically we’re waiting now if he indeed has, or had, ITP (and not some other much scarier disease), and if he will heal from it. In the meanwhile, he has 24-hour YouTube duty (normally I give them a 1-hour maximum). No jumping off the couch, no running in the garden, no fighting with his big sister. Poor little dude.

-update (2 weeks later)
Other blood tests were positive (and I mean in a good way, not in a Doctor way). He still needs at least one check within a few months, but it seems everything is fine, as his blood levels went back normal quick. Thank God. But as I’m typing this, I just saw a news snippet of Michael BublĂ© (you probably know him from the radio); his three year old son Noah is diagnosed with cancer. And just looking at a few photo’s on TV, the little fellow looks almost identical to our son. Makes you realize how lucky we are, but it also gives me a slightly better understanding of families that weren’t blessed with such good news. Michael, I know you don’t read game-programming blogs of some unimportant dude at the other side of the world, but I wish you, your wife, Noah, and his big sister all the luck of the world with this. And that also goes for all you other anonymous friends. Kids shouldn’t be sick. Kids shouldn’t be blown up at concerts. Kids shouldn’t wash up on a beach. Kids shouldn’t see war. Kids should play, learn, love, and be loved. And live.

Amateur Architects
The brighter news then. I’ve also been busy with drawing blueprints. But not for some gloomy Tower22 apartment, covered in dust and slime. But a house –my house (covered in dust and slime). Yes, time to move to another house, so why not trying to build a new one, at our own taste? And I must say, even though level design is not my talent, all that game “experience” certainly helped in some ways. I mean, we have visited treehouses in Zelda, pirate huts in Monkey Island, Western taverns in Red Dead Redemption, Maya temples in Tomb Raider, Zombie infested mansions, mushroom houses in the Smurfs, floating or underwater bars in Bioshock. Oh, and how can I forget, I must have built a hundred homes in The Sims. I most definitely borrowed some creative inspiration from the wonderful world of games.

Only problem is that those ideas are often a bit expensive… or just completely impossible. I didn’t get permission for my basement laboratory, and the architect said it’s not possible to make a house on top of a crawling titan named Cronos. Bummer.
Concept sketches were rejected by the town community, exceeding the 11 meter height limit.

Tower22 - Getting the Playable Demo Playable
In the meanwhile, there was some Tower22 time as well. I’m filling the gaps and bugs so the game-demo can be “played”, with a beginning and an end. Then one of the guys who helped me in the past as well, will have a look, and see what we can do to turn this demo into something real. Either that means working very hard on creating (quite a lot) textures, models and sounds. Or… maybe we should take a turn, and simplify things instead. I wish I invented the endless Silent Hill corridor demo, because that must have been damn easy (asset-production-wise, not twisted-mind-wise)! If resources are few, maybe the current demo is too big / ambitious.

Then again, I feel just showing a few eerie rooms won’t cover the game properly. “Unfortunately”, the game is all about slow terror, not in-your-face blood splatter and constantly pumping adrenaline. Which means even a demo requires some breathing room to develop itself.

Major problem are those pesky graphics. They got too good. And even if I would be able to keep up programming/engine/shader wise, it still takes an army of artists. Not a surprise most Indy games took an alternative “Retro” path. Characters made of cubes and sticks, 8-bit pixel graphics, 2D platformers, and so on. Yet I think that won’t really work for a game like Tower22. It’s about showing you a claustrophobic skyscraper that gets stranger and stranger. I don’t think I can reach that effect visually with Super Nintendo sprites, cartoony looks, or 3D rooms without detail.

But what I could do however… just like one of my great inspirators Resident Evil did… is switching back to fixed camera’s. Oh dear, NO! Drunken tank controls, not able to look further than 4 meters, six seconds to rotate 180 degrees, seven seconds to open a door, NO! Well, ironically often the same people are complaining about the lack of horror in modern (Resident Evil) titles. Think about it. Would the original Resident Evil still be scary if you could see the zombie hiding behind a plant right even before entering a new room? Would the game still be difficult if you could headpop every, slow-shuffling, corpse from a safe distance? Would you still poop your pants if you can sprint away quickly when a mutated one-legged ape is trying to chase you? I never felt the Resident Evil controls or camera as something annoying. More like a challenge that makes the game scarier. But ok, opinions differ of course. And RE7 was pretty good as well, with full 3D (even Virtual Reality!) controls.
Unless using fixed camera's or laying dead on the floor, you won't enjoy this"toddler" perspective.

Whether you agree or not, a more solid fact is that fixed cameras can safe work. Another ROCKsolid fact is that Tower22 won’t succeed, unless I either get that army of artists, or give in some fancy 3D graphics a bit. See, the problem with full-3D is that every inch and every corner has to look good, whereas with fixed camera’s, you don’t even have to model a ceiling in case it’s out of sight. You decide the cool shots, and just focus on that. And if the camera is truly fixed, you can even cheat with Photoshop, drawing an overlay that holds details that require a lot of sweat to model / bumpMap / glossMap / … Certainly in a horror game where unrealism may prevail, 2D drawing can give a lot of freedom.

I’m not saying T22 will go that route. One of the downsides is that you will need a nicely animated 3D character in return, and yes, I reckon, it doesn’t matter if I’m charmed by fixed camera’s and clumsy controls, if the rest of the world isn’t. Anyhow, that’s why we’ll be looking on how to proceed with this demo; Beautify or Simplify. But first I’ll need to make sure he can actually play and finish the demo without falling through floors, getting stuck in too illogical puzzles, or getting bored in too unfinished environments! And fortunately, today I finally saw the End-Credits (of the Demo at least)... showing only one familiar name so far... Need more!

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