Comics and Mongolian Beef

I work a regular job and I also color comics for a living. I have a weird combination of jobs, but I’m a weird combination of traits.

Yesterday, I mapped out (in Tiled) a few townships and added a few new tiles to the mix. Inexplicably, I lacked a tile graphic for kindling so I hacked one together.  I liked it so much I ended up using it in several places to help forests have a better feel. It seems like the smallest details are the ones that make something feel more authentic.

Authentic is a funny concept and I often wonder what is “authenticity”.  Take this “authentic Chinese” Mongolian beef recipe for instance. Is it authentic?  Well, it’s authentic US Chinese take-out.  Mongolian beef doesn’t exist in China – it was invented in the US. It’s pretty great though, right? So are these dolls – and they probably would be considered authentic.

There’s that word again – authentic. Does authenticity have to do with the craftsmanship, materials, and style that an object was created with, or does it have to be made in a certain place by certain people? I’ll leave that to you to figure out.

Anyway, I’ve got a big coloring deadline coming up so I’ll probably be working on that for a while. I should be able to create some maps here and there, but development of my game (which is a hobby) will spread out.


Maps and Monsters

Here are the little dungeon extras I sculpted with Apoxie. Once they’re painted up and on some flooring they should look pretty good. I didn’t win awards with my “I just got started” sculpting skill, but I did manage to use up the extra Apoxie I had on hand. Perhaps I’ll give myself an award.


Some sculpted creatures
That is a stalagmite, not a poo.


Yesterday I was able to finish up more world maps, a castle, and a couple of incidental areas.  Mapping will go quickly now and I actually hope to be done with it (at least as far as terrain and buildings go) by the end of the week.

My next task is to decide how to split apart “objects” from other items in the game.  Is an object simple an item that needs to exist “on top” of terrain and water layers, or should I categorize them so that an object is anything that can be used?  It makes a difference in how I structure the sprite sheet since I can only have one sheet per layer.  In thinking about it, I should probably have my criteria set by sorting layers, not interactivity. I guess I answered my own question.

While mapping, I made terrain and water separate layers.  This allowed me to use “river tiles” with a transparent center as a mask over the animated water layer, giving rivers some wave animation too. If I have time later, I will animate the “flow” or “current” of the water so that it acts more like you’d expect a river to act.  Currently all water animates in one direction only – like the Ultima games before Ultima 6. It still looks better than no animation at all.


Walls and Oatmeal

Over the weekend I worked with some stiff board, glue, and scissors to create the skeleton form of a dice tower.  It has 3 interior “bumpers” and an exit.  It can currently accommodate up to a D100.  I never use my D100, but I thought I might if it didn’t roll all over the table.

After crafting the interior of the structure I decided two things.  One, I will never use that black card paper again because it got black *everywhere*.  Two, if I do this over I will use foam core.  Three, I decided the exterior was boring and could use some help – so I went to my friend Apoxie and started sculpting.

I slathered on a bunch of Apoxie to one wall and then went back to create bricks.  Square bricks felt a little too uniform so I rounded the corners a bit and tried to add some cracks.  I thought the effect was pretty good in the end, albeit time consuming to do.  You can see a picture below.  That is the “exit” wall and thus shorter than the others.  I still have 3 walls to go and then some edges to touch up.  In total the dice tower is about 20 centimeters tall.  I was going to say “8 inches” but I’m trying to switch over to metric in daily use.  Metric is much easier to use for crafting projects.


It's tiny wall maria
A texture brick wall made in Apoxie


I had Apoxie left over at the end (once you mix it you have to use it) so I made tiny dungeon props.  I made a unicorn horn, my own monster miniature, a leg bone, and various other decorations.  The monster miniature was fun to make and I’ll post pictures of that tomorrow.

Working with Apoxie is  relatively easy, though it is very sticky.  If you allow it to rest for a while after mixing, the stickiness begins to wear off and you can start to work it like a stiff clay.  Apoxie’s characteristics change as it cures so you have a few hours to play with it before you get to the point of having to use carving tools to alter it.  The stickiness is desirable in situations where you want to do something like I’m doing above – sticking it to a piece of board.  For creating miniatures from scratch I should probably be using something else.

This week I’ll work more on the tile maps and then next weekend I’ll try to finish up the dice tower.

Here’s a soothing smooth jazz channel I found.  It doesn’t always have to be  recipe does it?  It does?  Well, eat some real oatmeal.  The studies I’ve read say the real thing (AKA not instant) is quite good for you.  I’m not a doctor though, so read for yourself.


More Mapping and Vegan Shepherd’s Pie

The mainland map is essentially complete.  I finished up the northern area yesterday evening (all work on this project is done in the evening) and went on to tweak a few areas that needed tweaking.  While I had the editor going, I roughed in another map for the next large area I have to create. This new area will have a different sort of terrain and I hope to keep interest high by adding in several “focal” elements to explore. The difficulty in making maps is largely in making them interesting enough to explore.

Modern map design tends to crowd a lot of “stuff” together so that the player doesn’t have to wander too far to get to something interesting.  Old map design tended to keep things spread apart and allow random combat to fill in areas in-between towns. Both styles have some merit. What I’m going for is a “natural” design with areas dictated mostly by natural processes. I’m not coding those in, I’m just doing the equivalent generations myself – by hand. Hopefully it will yield a hand-made yet somewhat “natural” look.

This weekend I’ll probably stay away from the map editor and catch up on some manga, watch some movies, and work on a hands-on project.  I haven’t decided if I’m going to paint some miniatures or sculpt walls for a dice tower. Maybe I can work on both. If you like manga (or anime) I’m currently recommending “Girls Last Tour” which is kind of a buddy-movie travelogue through a wasteland. It’s sweet in a melancholy and vaguely depressing sort of way.  I tend to like that sort of show.

I’ve eaten vegan shepherd’s pie before and it’s actually pretty good.  This recipe calls for lentils and appears to be fairly similar to the one we use at home.


Mapping and Corned Beef

I generally only post an update here when I actually have some progress to report (like today for instance).  I only have a map showing right now, so game-play still needs a lot of work, but for what I’ve got I thought it looked in keeping with the “retro home-brewed” feel I’m going for.

The mainland
a tile map

You can get free tiles over here so please don’t take mine.

Anyway, I’ve mapped a large section of the game world. Creating terrain brushes allowed me to speed through the process of making a landmass and getting mountains set in. Now I’m able to “decorate” terrain with vegetation and other details. I made a bunch of variant grass tiles to keep the world from feeling quite so repetitive.

RPGs deal with a lot of data. They’re not exactly simulations, but they also kind of are. To deal with all the data I’ve purchased a data management asset that will allow me to pull numbers and text from a comma separated value sheet that I can create in Excel. I’ve already input a good deal of the necessary data, but I still have some items to go. It seems like most of game development is tedious setup followed by fast development, but maybe that’s just the way I ended up doing things.

I’ve coded up a “turn based” game loop that takes into account NPC “speed” values. Some monsters will be able to move more than one tile per turn, with one “turn” being taken after each player movement. I will also probably pass a turn automatically if the player hasn’t moved in a certain period of time. This will make “game time” pass whether the player moves or not, and allow me to fire events off at certain times of day (in game).

Here are some cool links I found, including a good looking recipe for corned beef in a crock pot (with a horseradish sauce).

This person is molding tiny bricks to construct a late medieval period palace. Click his links for pictures and explanations of his process.

This person read through the original source code of Rogue and added comments to each section that explain what’s going on.

There’s always time for corned beef.

Terrain Brushes and Carnitas

I spent an evening and figured out how to use the terrain brushes in Tiled.

I’m currently using Tiled to create maps.  Tiled is a map editing software that’s been around a long time and any noteworthy game engine should support it.  I use Tiled so that I have a standard file format to deal with in case the engine I’m using unexpectedly ends development (this happens more than you’d think).  Proprietary map editing software with proprietary file formats can leave you high and dry in that case, so I’m sticking with Tiled.

To learn how to used Tiled’s terrain brushes, I recommend this Youtube video.  It explains step by step how to get brushes working in a concise manner.  Using the tutorial, I was able to make terrain brushes and draw my own coastline tiles very quickly with a good amount of variation.

Terrain brushes have been a time saver. If I had used the manual method of tile placement, I’d still be making coastline right now. Using terrain brushes, I finished that job in ten minutes. It was definitely worth the effort of learning.

If you’ve never eaten carnitas, head to a good Mexican food truck and dig in – then check out this recipe.  I haven’t tried it yet but it looks promising.


Brushes and pizza dough

I spent the weekend trying to figure out fringe brushes (or “auto-tile” brushes as they are also called). Fringe brushes are brushes that automatically draw the correct tile as you move the mouse. An example of use would be coastline. Fringe brushes are quick to use, but require some setup. They also create a modern tile-game look, but I’m not entirely sure that is what I want.

I’m currently debating as to whether I want a “blocky” look or a “smooth” look for the tile game.  The further I get from the old tile look, the less nostalgic I feel about the game, which is probably telling me what I need to know right there.

I have not yet started my Apoxie Sculpt dice tower. My recent attempt at creating a wax seal stamp was somewhat of a disaster, so I paused to clean that up. As it turns out, hot wax sticks to Apoxie and does not release.  Ooops.

Many things may have gone wrong in my attempt to make a wax seal out of resin.  Perhaps I need to make the seal out of a material like silicone. Perhaps I was too slow to move the seal away from the blob of wax when I tried to stamp. I’ll investigate it more later – using a new sculpt to test with.

If you’re interested in learning how to mold things and use resins, I recommend watching the Smooth-On channel on Youtube.  I’ll try to work on the dice tower (or something like it) this weekend.

We ate some pizza over the weekend using a new (to us) type of flour that is actually ancient.  It’s called Einkorn.  Einkorn was grown and harvested for ages in ancient times, but modern wheat (a mutation) is easier to machine harvest, so the use of Einkorn fell away.  Some people find Einkorn easier to digest than modern wheat. Einkorn makes a great no-knead bread, and an excellent pizza dough.  You should be able to find it in most health food stores and food coops.

Salmons and Prefabs

I finished up tweaking the anim brushes. I’ll probably say that again later. I love tweaking. I need to move on though. When I scan through all the animated brushes now I don’t see any glaring problems so it’s time.

Today I will plan and start to create a bunch of prefabs. In Unity if you create and manage a lot of prefabs at once I’ve read that there could be performance issues. In practice I haven’t seen any issues, but it’s also possible that I just haven’t tried to manage enough prefabs yet. If I make world objects (eg: a clock, a sword), and NPCs prefabs, everything else can be a tile. Maybe that will work out. I’ll create some test maps to see how things are going to go before committing to a design.

Speaking of maps, I’ve got a couple projects to do this weekend. I’m either going to work on a custom dice tower or a pen and ink world map (or both). I have some hand-made paper to scrawl the map on that  I got on Etsy from Kelsey Pike.  For the dice tower, I am planning on using Apoxie. Apoxie is a resin that cures without an oven, and once cured it can be sanded, painted, or carved. I’ve made a few small things with it and I like it so far.

Here’s a recipe for salmon cakes. They’re the best I’ve ever eaten anywhere. Instead of fresh salmon we use frozen since it’s easier to acquire and manage.

Chili and RPGs

I don’t participate in social media anymore. It’s not a positive space.  I enjoyed my time with friends, but I like a quiet venue where people talk to each other, not at each other. I’ll branch out into dedicated topic sites (art, game dev., etc.) and reconnect with old friends in a while.

After creating a lot of anim brushes I noticed that some of my sprites needed a little help. Animation isn’t my forte and I’m only doing four frames per monster. Four frames gets the idea of movement across and helps to maintain the naive “retro” feel of the work. Four frames also helps me finish the game – because I have a lot of monsters and it takes time to animate. What I’m not going for is the “glitch” look, so I did at least go through all the anim brushes and fix the most apparent errors.

My inspirations for this project include Ultima, Pools of Darkness, Might & Magic, Rogue, Planet’s Edge, and The Magic Candle. I like the “simulation” aspect of Ultima, the “crunchy” combat of Pools of Darkness, the goofy monsters of Might and Magic, the survival / procedural aspect of Rogue, the multiple worlds of Planet’s Edge, and the idea of party members having “jobs” from The Magic Candle. You can find links to a lot of those games on my links page.

Combining all of those games into one is a tall order, so I’m trying to keep the features list trimmed into something manageable. I do have other hobbies after all. Mostly I just want to make a game that reminds me of what I used to play 20+ years ago. My goal is to have a nostalgic feeling while keeping some of the modern niceties like mouse support.

By the way, this chili recipe is great.

RPGs and Butterscotch

Most of the titles on the blog will never make sense.  I’ll just warn you ahead of time.

In my spare time I use Unity to create an “old school” tile RPG sequel to “DBQuest” – a game I originally made 25 years ago. I have worked on the sequel on and off for decades.  I programmed my own engine, scrapped it, programmed it again, scrapped it, decided to go with Unity, scrapped it, came back to Unity, and now I’ve gotten as far as I ever have.

Last night I started using a Unity addon called Super Tilemap Editor in earnest.  I got all my tile sheets in and created a ton of anim brushes.  If you have used Unity’s new tilemap editing tools, Super Tilemap Editor is similar, but more advanced.  It also has Playmaker extensions, which are handy.  I decided to use Playmaker to speed development.

You can find Super Tilemap Editor at the asset store.

You can also find Playmaker at the asset store.

You should also check out this butterscotch recipe.  That’s extra.  I just like to post recipes.

Despite developing a computer RPG, I don’t actually play as many PC games as  I used to. In the face of loot boxes, horrible online behavior, and unending DLC, my interest in PC gaming waned and I went back to board games.  My interest in board games almost immediately got me into painting miniatures, which lead to interests in mold making, resins, and more.  Talk about giving a mouse a cookie!