Some bits of my early gamedev history (1999)

The 2000’s blurb at my http://slashie.net story mentions I “somehow” learned QBasic; well, yesterday while visiting my university I remembered a bit about how that could have happened‚Ķ let me share with you a little bit of my early gamedev history!

The high school I studied in was the junior of a local university, so every year they took us two or three times to it, for sports and cultural activities. But of course, I always ended up in either the library or the computer lab.

Here’s a pic of the library I took on May 2023

So I think it was 1999, after some initial encounters with QBasic in school, and having played a lot of DOS games on my PC. I had to take the chance of visiting the University library to try to find a way to create videogames, and after wrangling a lot with the library’s database, I finally found a book there: it was a 1986 Spanish translation of Tim Hartnell’s “Giant Book Of Computer Games” from 1983.

Image Source
The library still looks very similar (although it’s currently being remodeled so I couldn’t sneak in ūüė¶ )

Of course, it was already an old book by then, but it was a treasure for me… it contained BASIC source code listings for over 40 games! I struggled to find an interpreter that could run them but just browsing the source code, and trying to figure out what was going on, was enlightening.

But it was not just the source code listings; the book was full of insights from Tim Hartnell discussing different genres of games, and his experiences while interacting with other developers of the time. It really made me fall in love with the idea of becoming a game developer and someday being able to make part of such a community.

I also remember I grabbed the book from the library (we could get books from the University library with our high school ID!), and I was meant to return it in a couple of weeks or so… well, I could never return it, and I remember feeling super anxious that they would charge me a lot of money whenever I managed to deliver it back! I eventually did it after (over a year?) so I could enroll in the University and well, they put into consideration that I was a school student but still charged me quite a lot.

It’s amazing how, back in 1983, game developers were already referring to a dark medieval past of gamedev and the awesome modern tools they had at hand.

Back to 99; I believe my curiosity led me to investigate more games including the “Friendlyware” BASIC games, and then peeking into NIBBLES.BAS and GORILLA.BAS in QBasic (whose source code, as far as I remember, was pretty unfriendly for the newbie). QBasic’s online help, OTOH, was a trove of useful information and I was eventually able to create my own games through 2000, culminating in ArcherFire (the ASCII version).

Prior to the book, I think I had seen some BASIC game listings in even older magazines for computers that were never available in Colombia (like the ZX), but the book is what really put me on track.

Years afterward I would visit the library a lot, now a proper university student; I recall some of my favorite books were a collection of Object Oriented Design and Programming which again shaped my software engineering and game development history a lot.

Slashie’s 2022 Rewind

And so, 2022 is over. Another year of awesome game-dev. Here is the story.

NovaMundi is still in Early Access; even with some important progress on it, we still haven’t managed to execute the plans to add content and polish the experience to make the transition to full release. OpenArthurianX6 saw no development at all, seemingly failing to make the last mile, and roguenet was taken down and not used at all. Rainy Day saw no development but instead, Emerald Woods was revived with a lot of promising development.

FormulaProc was the big bet of the first half of the year, however, it failed to make a splash. Muyscamuy got a push for further development but was halted and will likely be revived for 2023.

I participated in 3 game jams (7DRL, trijam and js13k), gave a talk at the roguelike celebration virtual event, flew to Germany for GamesCom 2022, to Colombia 4.0 in Bogota, and to the FICCI festival in Cartagena, Colombia. I switched back to JS for my personal projects besides FormulaProc.

Slashware Interactive continued operations, focusing on our main client (Zynga) as well as co-producing a game with our friends from Bombillo Amarillo; we also put some work on TWO secret projects for clients, which we should be able to talk about next year.

See also rewinds for 201420152016201720182019, 2020, and 2021.

January

The year started with work in FormulaProc, with three Grand Prix events executed (Spanish, Monaco, and Azerbaijan) improving the engine to be less abstract with a top-down display, better UI, and even a lot of work in a discord bot for players to be able to interact with the simulation indirectly. We even did an intro video for the races and created a lot of background content for the drivers, teams, and articles covering the races.

There was also some work done for NovaMundi after a long break (a usual pattern now) prompted by an interview done for the official channel of the Congress of Colombia (!). Continuing with the migration to the new visual style for the units, and improving the UI.

February

More work in FormulaProc with the Italy, Texas, France, UK and Belgium “2021” GPs (!). As the simulation continued to improve, we continued pouring narrative content and visual improvements into it. Realistic characters were changed for Anime representations, and the abstract map was replaced by a satellite view. Some work was done to set up the simulation so it was more ‘cinematic’, highlighting the interaction between the characters.

Pixal, my old persistent-browser-based game from 2008-2010 saw a very short-lived revival; sadly it’s just too hard to open another work front. But at least I jump-started it and remembered how it works, even fixing some ages-old bugs in the process. So it remains unavailable to the public for now.

March

It was time for my 19th 7DRL, I made SpelunkyRL. It was good, I had been wanting to do it for years.

Also, as part of the quest I set myself to upload more of my games into itch.io for preservation (and sometimes include some minor improvements) I released a new version of my 2021 js13k entry, Distant Friends.

April

I couldn’t help myself from investing a bit more time into SpelunkyRL, producing an improved post-challenge version since some people really enjoyed it. It was focused on UX with a better tutorial and bug fixes.

The itch.io quest continued with ZeldaRL having an update after 15 years, making it much more enjoyable (although there was some controversy around the removal of Permadeath, but it really wasn’t working there), and the Ultima Castle Generator being posted there as well, with some UX improvements.

I came back to FormulaProc to finish the “2021 season”, with Mexico, Brazil, and Abu Dhabi Grand Prixes, some failed efforts at trying to make people more aware of it, and progress on trying to make races more exciting with “emotions”‘ for the drivers.

We started work in “Flashlight Defense”, a tie-in for a series being produced by our friends from Bombillo Amarillo.

May

I kicked off season 2022 of FormulaProc with the Miami Grand Prix featuring renewed visuals for the portraits of the characters and their emotions, as well as the cars on the track and some promotional models. I also ran the Spanish and Monaco Grand Prixes, with the latter featuring narration and some efforts at editing it for other platforms (such as TikTok)

I visited the Colombia 4.0 event in Bogot√°, Colombia, where we showcased Slashware’s games.

The itch.io quest continued with “Ancient Shadows“, my old incomplete point-and-click adventure, being assembled back and put online. Noone has yet reported having completed it.

I also participated for the first time in the Trijam, the challenge to create a full game in 3 hours. I teamed up with QuietGecko to create No Survivors, a game similar to Vampire Survivors but the other way around with you controlling indirectly the hordes of monsters.

Work continued in Flashlight Defense.

June

At last, a new version of NovaMundi was pushed out, and it was quite an important package of improvements for gameplay and content, including the addition of visual hints in the minimap itself for the approximate location of things (instead of having to rely on vague cardinal directions).

I did some post-jam work for No Survivors since I believed the idea had some potential but of course, cannot be put in a decent shape in 3 hours if it’s meant to be experienced by more players (that is if it’s to be more than just a hardcore game dev exercise).

We also were selected as winners of an Endless+GGJ microgrant to further develop Muyscamuy’s visual aspects so we start working on that.

Work continued in Flashlight Defense.

July

Some work was done in Muyscamuy’s visual improvements, however, I didn’t manage to get it to a point where it could be shown due to missing art, as the artist that worked on the project was transitioning to other projects, so had to put that on hold.

We finished work in Flashlight Defense! at least covering the initial plan. The game is still not playable because the animated series hasn’t been released to the public, but will be soon! It’s something completely different to what I normally do but it was a nice change of focus and we learned a lot about Unity2D.

Thinking of some future similar project that could be tackled by other members of Slashware, I began conversations with the owners of a popular Colombian IP to create a top-down narrative-heavy, cute jRPG. This may see some developments in 2023.

August

Another interview powered another release of NovaMundi; it was light in features but bundled some important bugfixes fixes. Then an even bigger version was shipped with the foundation of the perks system that we had been developing to introduce some variety to the gameplay. I then went on to improve the procedural caverns but ran out of NovaMundi energy before I could release that.

js13k started so I jumped into making yet another entry, this time a simple arcade game inspired by tamagotchi.

The improvements for the Trijam version that I worked on June were finally released to little fanfare. Just something that improved the idea but still would require investing dev heavily to make it worthy.

HBO’s House of the Dragon series was premiering so I created a couple of cinematic intros similar to the ones I had made for Game of Thrones some years ago. Interestingly what I thought would be the start of Season 1 ended up being the end of it, as they took the entire season to build up the setting for the Dance of the Dragons (good idea!).

I ran the FormulaProc Monza Grand Prix which was basically a FormulaProx Grand Prix.

Finally, I flew to Germany for gamescom; there I had good prospects for NovaMundi and our upcoming project “Serenade of Chaos” (still hoping to see both things progress for 2023), and also met the dev team of Blasphemous and got to drive around Germany with Thomas Biskup. So it was all around great even accounting for having lost some cash and my passport at Frankfurt. (Michael Schumacher’s museum visit with Eivar Rojas was another highlight)

Frankfurt was also a milestone for the machinations leading to the planning of yet another exciting secret project that I hope to be able to announce in 2023.

September

Finished my js13k entry and did a small update to ZeldaRL.

Besides that, I decided to address something that had been haunting me for a bit now; due to crumbling architecture, the mobile versions of Ananias for Android and iOS hadn’t been working for a long time now; I was able to patch the Android version and did a maintenance release for the platform after 5 years (long overdue!)

October

I ran the Japanese FormulaProc GP, the last one of the year. I decided to experiment with different visuals for the track, going back to abstract instead of satellite, and zooming in to the cars for more action. It was surprisingly super demanding for my dev box, handling that huge image file for the map (not very optimized)

It was not simple (even more difficult because I lack a new MacBook where I can freely test the iOS build process, but I managed to send the update for Ananias on iOS fixing the crash on startup.

We drafted some of our plans for the full release of NovaMundi.

And finally, I did a talk for the virtual roguelike celebration 2022 about Moria and its impact on the world of game development.

We also put a lot of work into a COOL SECRET PROJECT to be disclosed in 2023!

November

Tendergotchi was added to itch.io

And then I fell into the black hole of Emerald Woods. First with an innocent usual necro-release (it had been 3 years already!), but then felt tempted to add a little bit to it (in the shape of a feature no one had asked for: painting the world). A popular feature that was requested for it was that a downloadable version was available so I decided to revive a long-dormant development submitted for JSRL by Erik Yuzwa to add Electron support; as that was polished and merged into JSRL, I integrated the changes into Emerald Woods, producing the first downloadable version.

This shook the infrastructure of the project and required to push an unpublished npm update to circular-functions.

And then, another long-requested feature: Adding graphics to the game. I decided to follow a similar pattern of first adding support for that to JSRL so that more people can make use of it. I used Pixi.

End of November I also went to the Colombian Game Dev Summit, which happened to be made in my hometown. I met some friends I hadn’t seen in a while and saw some good talks.

December

Once support for graphics was added to JSRL, I ported it into Emerald Woods an, after a sizeable amount of work, the first graphical version was released. I decided to initially use a 1-bit tileset serving as a transition between the character-based display and a graphical version. I went from Kenney’s tileset (which I decided to include as the sample for JSRL) to use a good old Denzi tileset.

However, we were already experimenting with more detailed pixelart; I spent the month adding support to it to the game but also doing the required pixel art to cover all the things we are representing on it, along with improving the farming aspects. I didn’t manage to release it but it should come out early January 2023.

September 15, 2022 -Misc update

Here’s some things I did the month since the last update:

I completed my entry for the js13k2022, TenderGotchi, with great contributions by Ryan Malm on the audio side, and reusing illustrations from last year made by Mateo Robayo. A complete post-mortem post about it will be out soon.

We had a mentoring talk for Colombia’s Women Game Jam 2022 sharing our experience with Muyscamuy. (Spanish)

I did a random update for ZeldaRL to address some accessibility issues.

I created a video for the House of the Dragon series for Slashbits Retro Cinema, in the same style as the previous Game of Thrones videos.

It was actually two videos because I decided to create another higher-res intro for less super retro people (90s instead of 80s)

I flew to gamescom, where I had good prospects for NovaMundi and our upcoming project, and also met the dev team of Blasphemous and got to drive around Germany with Thomas Biskup.

My talk for the roguelike celebration 2022, “Celebrating Moria – a roguelike before the roguelikes”, got accepted. I started gathering community info for it.

After a long hiatus, I ran the FormulaProc Monza 2022 Grand Prix, no commentary this time, but it was good.

Slashie’s 2021 Rewind

And so, 2021 is over. Another year of awesome game-dev. Here is the story.

All in all, there was a lot of work in NovaMundi, now with a clearly defined theme, its Early Access release, and subsequent efforts to polish it and fill it with quality content for a full release, ultimately failing to perform it as motivation fell and project complications happened during the end of the year. OpenArthurianX6 also saw some important progress with three more milestones completed tho it is still not finished. Roguenet also saw further development and I even ran some events growing in attendance numbers using it. Rainy Day and FormulaProc were created and are likely to see future development.

I participated in 4 game jams (7DRL, js13k, Cultural Heritage, and ProcJam), had a lot of interviews mainly related to NovaMundi but no structured talks, and participated in just 2 virtual events (GDC21 and DevCom 2021). Switched from JS to Unity2D for a lot of my personal projects.

Slashware Interactive continued operations, supporting the development of NovaMundi and focusing on our main client (Zynga).

See also rewinds for 201420152016201720182019, and 2020.

January

After all the turmoil from 2020, I finally chose to focus on a single theme/scenario for NovaMundi: “The Spear of Chaqu√©n”, which would be about joining the Muisca territories to foil the plans of European invasion.

Work was done in preparation for the Steam Game Festival Winter 2021 including procedural generation fun creating Andean valleys (which I don’t think I’ve seen in lots of strategy games), and also in the placement of the towns, as well as their appearance and its populators. The models for the units on the map also got a facelift.

February

NovaMundi’s first public release was in the shape of a free demo for the Steam Game Festival Winter 2021. This got us our first coverage from Nookrium which didn’t go very smooth but was useful, along with feedback from all around else, to plan for improvements.

The UI was remade, the onboarding was improved, and lots of facets of the game evolved including forest exploration, units leveling up, battle loot, and equipping blessings. Also included some critical roguelike-like elements, like finding huts scattered around giving gifts to the expedition (akin to items in the dungeon) and being able to hire units in other towns.

We also worked to improve the rendering of the rivers and their procedural generation, finally settling on a way to represent them re-using the “Ocean” plugin we were using for the sea before. In general, we also took a pass over the lighting of the game, doing a lot of tweaks that greatly improved its appearance.

Finally, worked in the less flashy but still needed Save/Load mechanics, something I thought was critical to have working perfectly for our planned Early Access release.

March

I completed Milestone 7 of OpenArthurianX6 after a streak of live-coding sessions and also participated for the seventeenth time in the 7DRL Challenge creating a great entry, Rainy Day, along with QuietGecko (and produced a couple improved versions afterward).

For NovaMundi, continuing preparation for the Early Access release, I worked along with PixelRiverPR in an effort to increase our reach and let more people know about it. It’s hard to measure this kind of effort but I believe it was well worth it, with the press release making a lot of places, and creating a good base of searchable content for the game. We also created new cover art and a trailer for the release.

Beyond the PR work, there was a lot of development, of course, improving the procedural generation for forests and adding a new biome (“p√°ramos”, which I always struggle to translate into English, “high mountain tundra” comes close), a new type of location (caverns), and overall making the game “winnable”, and more accessible.

A first roguenet event was organized, featuring some of the games from the 7DRL challenge. Used this to test a bit how it would work with multiple people in, it worked fine.

April

NovaMundi was released to Steam Early Access, including an intro sequence and further UI improvements. We finished adding the p√°ramo biome and game saving/loading and made important changes such as random chatter to make exploration feel less empty, balancing of numbers, procedural generation of lakes and wetlands, changed the appearance of the automap for it to look like a Muisca painting on stone, and improved combat so you could check the stats of your enemies and have your units start in a formation based on their stats.

Furthermore, the Spanish translation was released, also opening the possibilities for other future translations.

May

I attended the virtual Game Carnival 2021, which opted-in this year to use a streaming service which I think worked great. Looking forward to seeing how it evolved for 2022. I also won their Razer laptop giveaway ūüôā

Development of NovaMundi continued with so much stuff that it’s hard to summarize, but it included rewards given by quest towns when they joined the alliance, consolidation of barter as the only mechanic to trade, using story points to hire people instead of “gold value”, small towns ravaged by war if you take too long to reach them, a new unit (crossbowman), the removal of time compression which was a huge deal, and many small actions of game balancing, phew!

In addition to all that, I created a roadmap for the project, and Jose Manuel joined the team as an advisor which would shape a lot of what we would do in the next months. We also created a new cover art of a Muisca expedition crossing a p√°ramo, and there were a lot of interviews and local media coverage for NovaMundi.

June

More NovaMundi work with improved placement for vegetation and rocks, as well as in the rendering of forests and plains. A new unit was added as well (conquistador cavalry), and many optimizations were done.

The “compress time” command was added as a much-needed gameplay element, and there were even more interviews and media coverage.

I also overtook the hosting for Roguebasin, and updated it to the latest Mediawiki version to make it blazing fast and cool.

July

Manuel’s first batch of work on NovaMundi was finally integrated, replacing the names of the units and characters with the results of his research, and adding new dialogs including tooltips for words in the Muisca language. We also started improving the fauna displayed in the game to further match the one of the Muisca territories, adding the Andean Condor and Pumas.

Along with the pumas came the “wandering mobs” in general, so the overworld map feels less lonely and cool. UX improvements and optimizations continued, of course, and we also started a new batch of work in the Audio which was a bit neglected.

We had another playthrough by Nookrium which went slightly better but still didn’t manage to generate a lot of interest (indicating we are still missing something). And there was also an interview with Semana (one of Colombia’s biggest written magazines).

I also participated in the virtual GDC21, pitching a project as a new entry on the “NovaMundi series”. There was some interest in it from publishers but ultimately all the possibilities fizzled (not without leaving important lessons).

Roguenet revived as I organized two events using it (a celebration for the 7DRL Challenge 2021, and a roguelike fans party happening alongside GDC). With important usability improvements/experiments for the conversation mechanics.

August

For NovaMundi, August was July powered up, with more changes to adapt the content to historical research, a new slew of dialogs integrated, and even more fauna (spectacled bear, solitary eagle). Wandering parties of enemies were added replacing completely random battles, giving even more life to the world, and we started the revamp of the visuals of the units, which started looking weird in their low-poly appearance they’ve had from since about two years.

Two important interviews were made for Divulgark and Congreso y Sociedad; the first one grabbed the attention of Jorge Gamboa, Coordinator of the Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia РICANH, who provided me with important insights that would further shape the theme of the game based on recent historical research on the way the Spanish and European culture spread on the Muisca territory.

I started the development of Distant Friends, my entry for the js13k.

September

While flying to Virginia to fetch a new computer for client projects, I finished the development of Distant Friends for the js13k; was pretty happy with the results: a fun little arcade game with bits of story here and there, I don’t make a lot of games like it.

Tried to take one week off to Disneyland but some client-work stuff happened. Both things helped NovaMundi’s development slow down, but I still managed to integrate the improvements on audio made by QuietGecko, as well as the new realistic models for units.

Devcom 2021 happened, we participated but frankly, there wasn’t a lot of action… maybe GDC’21 was just too close.

October

The last stretch of work done in NovaMundi for the year included integrating stuff from the rest of the team such as new fauna (King Vulture), new characters, hairstyle variations, updated European units, and audio for animals.

The biggest chunk of work, however, was implementing different quests for each one of the towns, as designed by Manuel, so that instead of just discovering the towns you had to do something for the cacique. This was long overdue.

I was invited to a panel on IndieXChange 2021, where I talked about all we’ve done in NovaMundi, and how to fund the development of a game from Colombia.

Milestones 8 and 9 of OpenArthurian were completed, including the “chunks” world model so you can now in theory create really huge maps and explore them seamlessly.

Roguelike celebration was organized again virtually this year, and was pretty fun with nice talks! I had a surgery so I’m glad I didn’t submit a talk this year which would have required a stronger involvement during the weekend.

However, I managed to organize a fourth 2021 event in roguenet, which included a good chunk of development including private chat areas, inventory, buying stuff, examining people, environment audio, and a first version of the roguelike museum.

November

Out of nowhere, I did some work in the ages-old Elite International Detective game, critical fixes and UX improvements based on some feedback I received.

Along with the same persons working in NovaMundi (plus a new person from whom you may see some work in 2022), I worked in the Cultural Heritage Game Jam producing Muyscamuy (plus a greatly improved version). It’s a single-screen strategy game/tycoon, themed around the Muisca culture. Pretty happy with the results as well.

December

Participated in Procjam for the first time with FormulaProc, a procedural formula-type racing show with ongoing development. The idea with this is to simulate races and have “fans” engage with the simulated tournament. Expect to see more development of this in 2022.

Development of NovaMundi resumed partially (not still in full strength), integrating some of the visuals that had been produced in previous months, and planning for the definitive release in 2022.

The Olympic pictograms

The Olympic Games are a celebration that comprises more than sports.

My personal highlight of this year’s Olympic Games opening ceremony was a videoclip made to celebrate the creation and the evolution of the pictograms used to represent every discipline, as these were born in the Tokyo 1964 Olympics.

I am not a professional graphics artist, but I really enjoyed the production, its music and the little details in the desktops of the designers as they were shown ideating and illustrating the pictograms, with their tools, references and more mundane items. So here’s a capture of all of them, enjoy!

Slashware’s 2020 Rewind

And so, 2020 is over.

Another year of awesome game-dev. Here is the story.

All in all, there was a lot of work in Expedition / NovaMundi, focusing mostly on improving the procedural generation but also doing a lot of further exploration in thematic and gameplay aspects. OpenArthurianX6 also saw some important progress with two more milestones completed tho it is still not finished. Emerald Woods and Roguenet were created and are likely to see future development.

I participated in 3 game jams (7DRL, AdventureJam and js13k), gave talks at Colombia 4.0 and two local universities (Unipanamericana and ITM), had a presence in 4 virtual events (Game Developers Carnival, Tokyo Game Show Online 2020, DevCom 2020, Colombia 4.0 2020). Learned a lot more of Unity and C#.

Slashware Interactive continued operations, supporting the development of NovaMundi and focusing in our main client (Zynga).

See also rewinds for 2014201520162017, 2018 and 2019.

January

I started the year by wrapping up work in Expedition from CREA Digital, mostly working in visual tweaks and some procedural generation…. maybe? my records are not very clear but I know there was some groundwork done here for future months.

February

I completed milestone 4 of OpenArthurianX6, which involved being able to use items as well as having some foundations for the inventory system, the big work was yet to come.

For Expedition, we did some further work on rivers, now rendering them in a way that was more fitting with the new appearance of forests, and also worked on the visuals for the oceans.

March

I participated in the 2020 7DRL Challenge with Emerald Woods, a relaxed survival and crafting game where you live alone in a hut in the woods where you can roam around exploring caverns and abandoned buildings. I was pretty happy with the results and was my first cooperation with Mapedorr (as well as important contributions by friend QuietGecko). This was my XXth 7DRL entry, keeping my record of submitting an entry for every single one (with varying levels of half-bakedness). I continued working on it thru the month, producing 2 improved versions.

I also worked hard in OpenArthurianX6, managing to complete milestone 5 after a LOT of work to make the inventory system work as I wanted, with drag and drop between containers and the world.

There was also some important work in Expedition’s procedural generation, in order to generate “Coastal” maps inspired by Colombian geography (replacing the “island” generator for the maps with sea).

April

It doesn’t look like I managed to invest a lot of time in Expedition in April, but I worked on making the beaches look a bit better, and probably continued improving the visuals.

May

I teamed up again with Mapedorr and QuietGecko (and two more friends) to participate in AdventureJam 2020 with our entry, No Salem D’ La House. The end result was incomplete but looked pretty nice.

I also participated in Game Developers Carnival, a virtual event conceived, I think, as a response to the physical GDC going down because of COVID. It was pretty fun (tho I don’t think I would have been able to enjoy it if not for my super powerful gaming PC)

For Expedition, I continued working in the beaches, added different “cultures” into the game and also completed the “bartering” system.

I also did some work in Emerald Woods to add fishing, but I don’t think I released it.

June

Further work in Expedition focusing on improving the UI as well as explorations to actually create a fun game with procedural generated dialogs and cultural discoveries.

July

Following advise from Rami Ismail, I created a board game version of Expedition (and then created a videogame version of the board game). It was useful to come up with a core gameplay cycle and balance it a little bit.

I then worked on integrating that design into the game, including adding random events and a full screen scrollable map.

I also decided to rename Expedition to NovaMundi, after a long process involving many considerations and feedback, and proceeded with the launch of our Steam page as well as the creation of a new trailer.

August

Following up on the initial reception of NovaMundi, I went on to consider some aspect of its theme and focus, which took a lot of energy. In parallel I continued developing some gameplay aspects such as expiration days for the food in order to make exploring more challenging.

We also participated in Devcom 2020 (virtual) with some interesting contacts, and I also “revived” the Temple of the Roguelike forums doing some work in the theme but also in the rules and finally deciding to kick out an old time troll.

September

Thematic exploration continued for NovaMundi, while at the same time subsystems for camping, hunting, and cavern exploration were further developed.

I participated in js13k with 404 Rhythm Not Found, again teaming up with QuietGecko, Mapedorr and agar3s (thus briefly assembling back the Black Mamba team). A good entry not without its failures (but still got a good place in the scores) and pretty fun to work in.

We also participated in Tokyo Game Show 2020 (virtual), which was pretty event-less besides some streaming sessions.

October

The Roguelike Celebration (virtual) took place. It was fun, informative and inspiring for future projects.

Continued exploring different theme possibilities for NovaMundi, including a fantasy world fighting against giant bugs. (Still on the cards!)

A new project was born fueled by roguelikecel (but also something I wanted to make since a long time ago), roguenet, a social space in roguelike format. I managed to create a fully functional version of it if a bit raw, as well as a rexpaint map loader.

November

I decided to halt the development and art efforts for NovaMundi until some things regarding the theme and gameplay directions where decided. Based on consultation with many experienced friends, I planned some changes in the theme including focusing on an authentic representation of the Muisca people, focusing on historical scenarios and reviving the Children of Bachué campaign.

I was also appointed as an advisor for Marketing for the winners of the CREA Digital 2020 initiative, sharing my experiences and learning thru the journey of many talented and energized teams.

December

I gave talks at both Colombia 4.0 and Congreso Economía Creativa ITM (link).

For NovaMundi, I completed the translation to English for the first scenario of the Children of Bachué campaign, in preparation of having a demo that includes it.

I also pushed hard in procedural generation for rivers, wrapping up work from past months and shacking the foundations of my current generation process.

Some more work was done in roguenet, polishing the user experience in preparation to some initial public tests. It’s currently up and running here, tho it’s mostly empty (there are plans to include more content in 2021)

Finally, I decided to revive the 1884 Golf Over Africa project, doing a BIG push on it and releasing a new version.

Slashware’s 2019 Rewind

And so, 2019 is over.

Another year of awesome game-dev. Here is the story… stay tuned for the 2020 plans, coming soon!

OpenArthurianX6 saw its second and third milestones completed although not nearly enough dev time was invested into it as planned, Expedition was worked hard through all year, both a first phase following the original design (inspired by Seven Cities of Gold but without a clear focus) and a second phase, Children of Bachue, a campaign (or stand-alone game?) using the theme of the Muisca people (Colombian native tribes).

I participated in 2 game jams (7DRL and js13k 2019), gave a talk at JSConf Colombia, was interviewed for a podcast, went to 2 events away from home (GDC 2019 at San Francisco, and Bucaramanga GameQuest). Learned a lot of Unity, C# and TypeScript.

Slashware Interactive continued operations, supporting the development of Expedition but also doing work for 4 different clients.

Also, since I’m now working full-time in Slashware, doing these posts gets a bit more complicated… I don’t know what level of detail to use! Some months this year I had a lot of people working in Expedition, for instance, and it gets hard to summarize the things that were done.

See also rewinds for 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

January

I started 2019 working with Camilo Ramirez in a small fun project, a recreation of Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch game. It went nowhere, but it was fun.

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Afterward, 2019’s development of Expedition started (also with Camilo Ramirez), we added support to navigate the full world map into the game (a huge, boring, plain world), including the system to load batches of terrain on runtime. We also worked in the weather system, different approaches for storms, and the cutscenes for the James Cook campaign, hoping to have a playable thing instead of just an engine.

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February

Work continued in Expedition, doing some experiment with clouds, as well as triggers inside the campaigns, further pushing the James Cook campaign, which ended up not being very exciting to play so we went back to think how to provide a fun experience there. We developed the hunger and morale systems a bit, as well as a simple interaction to supply the Expedition, looking forward to add some interesting elements to the mix.

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March

As usual every year, I participated in the 7DRL Challenge. In my entry, Heroes of Noresskia, I tried to generate “overworld” adventures with parties of adventurers following the track of a villain from town to town. It was not a very traditional roguelike, but I was rather trying to go after the intent of creating an automated dungeon master as the original motivation of the developers of Rogue. It’s also not very fun.

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I went to GDC 2019 in San Francisco, talked with many people about Expedition and got very valuable feedback. Also, I organized the roguelike developers’ meeting, went to the parties (including POWx9) and explored a little bit of the bay area.

All along GDC and Afterwards, work in Expedition continued of course. We sought to improve the visual quality of the game, one of the main pieces of feedback we got. This also included doing additional experiments on forest rendering. I also briefly worked the idea of adding procedural storylines to the game.

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April

Some work was done in Age of Golf (an evolution of my Ludum Dare entry, Golf Over Africa), mostly in the visual department as well as adapting it to mobile controls. I planned to add some animations, however, that never happened and the project got stuck.

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Work in Open Arthurian briefly resumed, adding the initial support to define Doors and Keys opening these doors.

And of course, we continued working in Expedition, doing tweaks on scene lighting, camera position, camping, and fatigue systems, as well as doing some general changes in UI to increase its resolution. More info here and here.

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May

Visited Bucaramanga, Colombia, for the BGA GameQuest. It was fun and useful. Posted a complete report about it here.

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Some smaller developments included Tweet of the day, a small module for my projects’ page to select a project randomly every day and present it in a tweet format, and fixing the web renderer for the Stygian Abyss level generator, to display tiles correctly.

Morgaelin, the Ultima 8 – like Java engine powered by libgdx, was also open-sourced. No developments happened on it throughout the year.

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For Expedition, work continued on improving visuals and UX, with more experiments for the display of forest as well as adding more detailed combat commands similar to a RTS.

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However, most of the efforts were centered on building an alpha for our submission to the CREA Digital government program, in the shape of the “Children of Bachu√©” campaign, themed in the Muisca culture and legends.

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Along with the dev work, there was a lot of documentation to do, mostly boring but useful including a simplified version of the Game Design Document. David Florez and Juan García joined the team as visual and sound artists respectively, in order to publish something convincingly good (it worked great). More info about the work in Expedition can be found here, here and here.

June

While waiting for the response from CREA Digital, we continued worked in Expedition. I did my first big actual code contributions with some work in procedural terrain. We also implemented battle music, worked a lot in combat and mouse movement. More info here and here.

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Another batch of work in OpenArthurian was made to get out of the way a big block of stuff, by adding support for saving and loading games.

July

Work in Expedition continued with more elaborate procedural generation, added support for discoveries, and moving combat to a separate scene. We also added the first version of the automap.  Posted some info about it here.

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August

Finally, a BIG batch of work for OpenArthurianX6, adding many things including Line of Sight, packing as a native App, support for reading books, using inventory items, levers, multiple floors, solo mode, pathfinding, and a lot of foundational AI work. Milestones 2 and 3 were completed!

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For Expedition, we worked in defining the scale for the overworld, as well as an implementation of field of view using camera vignette, and a first approach of adding rivers to the map.

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Additional work was done in the procedural generation module to distort the scale of mountains to provide a more dramatic appearance.

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We also added a first version of the “hometown” screen (used to stock the expedition) and the “voyage mode” (representing the long transatlantic voyage, added pathfinding for combat, and did a lot of UI tweaks.

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We also got the news that we were selected as winners for CREA Digital. So we started organizing work with the team and planning the three months-long project. Posted some more details about all this here.

September

Most of the Children of Bachue team started working this month; we did a lot of concept artwork, trying out some ideas for a new representation for the overworld, as well as the mood to project in the UI and its art style. There was a lot of debate and examining different references for both things.

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We went beyond the concepts and created the first 3D art for the overworld. This didn’t work well at first due to performance issues with the number of trees we were trying to render, so we hard to circle around it and consider other ideas.

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We also conceptualized the Spanish characters.

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Likewise, we documented the references for audio and music, started working on them and did some initial casting for the voice-overs for the cutscenes.¬†¬†We created the infrastructure for the voiceovers (which we changed afterward) and integrated the inventory model with the “units” model.

I also participated for the 3rd year in a row in the js13k jam, creating a simple monster hunter game called “Backpack monsters“. I almost didn’t participate due to lack of time, but I’m glad I was able to scrap some hours to work on it. It was great fun.

October

I gave a talk about Procedural Content Generation at JSConf Colombia. I also posted a summary about it here.

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Continued work in Expedition / Children of Bachue: Given the performance issues that we hit with the forests, and also keeping in mind our production budget, we decided to aim for a more “comic” look for Expedition, similar to Northgard. As a result, we came up with a different way to represent forests.

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This also impacted the unit design, we also felt this way it could work better for gameplay purposes (given the issues that games like AoE 3 had, with all units looking the same and being hard to distinguish in combat)

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There was also a lot of work in UI integration, with a more finalized minimap design, and the windows of the game using the newly designed appearance.

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We also worked in the landing flow, the first time user experience, the definitive appearance for the cutscenes, the style for the character portraits, and all along a lot of work in the music tracks and SFX. Some of the work we did was detailed here.

November

Was interviewed for Spazcosoft Podcast, talked about gamedev in general, roguelikes and Expedition.

This was the last month for the CREA Digital “boost” for Expedition, so we did the best we could, creating models for the different types of European towns, integrating the unit models and their animations into the game, illustrating as many cutscenes as we could.

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I decided to make the maps in the history campaigns procedural as well, and created a procedural generator for highlands, and polished it to use different types of terrain textures.

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I’m probably missing a lot of other things we did, but it was hectic!

December

While most of the team assembled for the CREA Digital project was disbanded here, work in Expedition continued beyond the initial deadline. I took a chance to integrate everything we had done, run tests with players, perform content fixes and additions.

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I also took some last-minute decisions, like discarding the low poly forests and replacing them with the trees we had made originally, but with a much more closed-up camera angle so having fewer trees to render at the same time.  Also did lots of tweaks in the procedural generator, and integrated the conversations for all the characters we had designed. This all happened before the CREA Digital deadline.

Afterward, with a more relaxed pace, I improved the minimap rendering the roads between towns.

I also posted about candle based procedural terrain generation, just for fun.

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GDC 2018 – Parties

Here’s a summary of some GDC 2018 parties and events based on my experience, hope it’s useful for someone planning their next GDC journey!

For each one, I tried to categorize it under a type and rated how interesting it was FOR ME. I also marked the parties where I think you should still have a good time even if you go alone (this is important if you don’t have friends ūüė¶ )

Kongregate Party

  • Type: Corporate, Academic
  • “Hmm… Interesting!” rating: 4/5
  • Lonewolf OK: Yes

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Networking like a pro. Also, free food yay!

After an initial networking time (lots of good food and drinks), there were three talks: one about the current status and plans for Kongregate (nice one), a pretty weird one about ideation in games which was fun, and another one (pretty good and practical) about taking the right amount of risks while developing a game.

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Pocket Gamer Party

  • Type: Club Party
  • “Hmm… Interesting!” rating: 1/5
  • Lonewolf OK: No

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Having lots of fun

This year, as far as I could see, it was a fairly standard club party. Drinks were a bit expensive. It’s loud so it’s hard to network except on the line to enter the club. Also since it’s on Monday it may be a bit out of place to get crazy when you are on GDC for business.

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IGDA Serious Games @ Google San Francisco

  • Type: Academic
  • “Hmm… Interesting!” rating: 2/5
  • Lonewolf OK: Yes

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I’m not sure how I ended up in this one. It was interesting tho I didn’t do any networking since I just didn’t feel this was my target community. There was a talk about applying serious games to youth audiences and then a short ceremony to deliver community contribution awards.¬†Still nice to check out Google San Francisco building with a great view of the Bay Bridge.

There was good food too.

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Github Party

  • Type: Game Showcase
  • “Hmm… Interesting!” rating: 4/5
  • Lonewolf OK: Yes

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Some games (not many) put together in the awesome Github HQ at SF. The main conference area was occupied by a versus game where you competed in different obscure games for about 10 seconds. There was also a multiplayer coop game where you had to navigate in a ship-like thing with your friends, and another one you controlled with a telegraph-like device.

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Meeting Leaf Corcoran, one of the masterminds behind itch.io

The cafeteria was open for you to bring your laptop and display your game, I saw a couple interesting games there. This one was the one I liked the most for networking (with other developers) due to the nice ambient (great chiptunes!) and everybody being a geek there.

It was supposed to be a celebration of the Global Game Jam but I didn’t really see anything related to it.

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The Other Party (GameJolt Party)

  • Type: Game Showcase Party
  • “Hmm… Interesting!” rating: 4/5
  • Lonewolf OK: Yes

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Lots of games put together in a club. Music was a bit¬†loud but you could still interact with the game developers, play cool games and network. Pretty cool if you’d like to check and play some games.

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Roguelike Developers Meetup

  • Type: Networking
  • “Hmm… Interesting” rating: 5/5
  • Lonewolf OK: Yes

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We met together and talked about our games and projects, around 20-25 people showed up which was nice. Planning to do something cooler for next year (hope I can gather enough people again!)

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The awesome developers of Caves of Qud

GDC XPerience Networking Mixer

  • Type: Networking
  • “Hmm… Interesting” rating: 1/5
  • Lonewolf OK: Yes

This one was a bit of a let-down, but maybe I was expecting too much. Basically, the entry fee (around 20 USD) gives you access to a hotel rooftop bar to chat with other developers. Met a couple interesting people there tho, but I think they hyped the event and failed to give it more spice.

Nice view of the city tho.

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that.party

  • Type: Game Showcase + Club Party
  • “Hmm… Interesting” rating: 4/5
  • Lonewolf OK: No

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One of the most popular “public” parties at GDC time. Some interesting indie games were being displayed too, and I met some roguelike developers too.

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Drinks were a bit expensive, but the electronic music was super cool. Gather some Friends and go if you like electronic music and video games!

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Zynga party

  • Type: Arcade party
  • “Hmm… Interesting” rating: 4/5
  • Lonewolf OK: No

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Zynga opened their offices for people to go in, interact with their employees and get a glimpse of what it’s like to work with Zynga. Arcade machines, slot car racing, shuffleboards, three type of hamburgers, beer and drinks. Great to have a fun time with friends! They also provided shuttle service from and to the Moscone.

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5th Latin American Gathering at GDC

  • Type: Networking?
  • “Hmm… Interesting” rating: 1/5
  • Lonewolf OK: Yes

This one had the potential to be good but I think the venue choice was not very good for the event: it was too loud, too dark and the space reserved for the event was far too tight to fit that many people!

A real shame since I was really interested in meeting other devs from Latin America. I hope next year it’s better!

Marioke

  • Type: Karaoke Party
  • “Hmm… Interesting” rating: 4/5
  • Lonewolf OK: No

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Same venue as that.party (smaller space tho). Nerd people yelling popular karaoke songs with their lyrics changed to be related to games and gamedev. Nice time if you like karaoke and you bring your nerdy friends.

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I’m told some famous indie devs can be found around but since I don’t know any that didn’t appeal much to me. This year they also had Botnik displaying cool predictive text stuff including Pokedex entries, sentences that Cloud would say to Tifa on FF7 and more cool stuff.

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I created this one

It was also open tab so cheap/free drinks, yay!

Pow x 7 Bonus Round

  • Type: Chiptune Party
  • “Hmm… Interesting” rating: 4/5
  • Lonewolf OK: No

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This one had two ambients, one more chill with video game music and the other crazier with stronger chiptune music and people dancing around. Nice way to close GDC, just for fun!

California, March 2018

Took 903 pics on this last trip:

  • 264 at Computer History Museum
  • 104 at Fort Point
  • 46 at North San Francisco
  • 96 at GDC Day 1 (Kongregate and Pocket Gamer parties)
  • 90 at GDC Day 2 (IGDA Serious Games + Github party + GameJolt Party)
  • 85 at GDC Day 3 (GDC Expo + Roguelike meetup + That.Party)
  • 129 at GDC Day 4 (GDC Expo +¬† Zynga party + Marioke)
  • 52 at GDC Day 5 (GDC Expo + Downtown SF + Pow X 7 Bonus Round)
  • 37 at Stanford Area

There is a lot of cleaning up to be done!

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