Wicklog #3 – Menus for daaaays

Oof, it’s already been a month since the Kickstater ended? Time is flying by, it feels like I barely get anything done each individual day, but looking back I’m always surprised by how much I did.

Quick note: I’ll be showing Crescent Loom at Betacon in Portland this weekend! (Apr 15-16) If you wanna see how the game’s coming along, that’ll the place to say hi!

Changes for this week:

The biggest visual difference is that I finally added a user interface! You can now click buttons instead of having to tab through a thousand different options:

I looked at a handful of other construction games as reference points. I think it’s pretty obvious which one of these I stole the most from:

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Wicklog Two – Postmortem, Better Brains, and Beautiful Bodies

Decided that a bi-weekly update schedule’d be better to avoid spamming the email lists, which is why I skipped sending out an update last week (but I did publish a postmortem on the campaign – it took a quite unusual path!):

So what’s been happening in the last two weeks? Looking back, a suprising amount given how slow things feel on any particular day.

First off, I’ve been redesigning the creatures to make them feel more organic and less robot-like. Here’s the concept art:

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And once I tweaked the drag physics (edges that are facing other parts aren’t included in the drag calculation, and thanks to Benjamin Morrison springs are now damped) and added non-rectangular pieces, I was pleased to discover that it was a *lot* easier to make things swim & steer!

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So pretty. I spent way too long just cruising around as this lil guy.

I’ve expanded the scripting language implementation from last update to maps + neurons, though it’s not quite done yet. It’s a lot more work than it sounds, since I have to code each function in triplicate. Wish there was an easier way. :/

Speaking of neurons, I spend last week visiting Gabriel Barello (a computational neuroscientist math friend) in Eugene and he hammered out the solution (several, actually) for simulating actual electrical currents flowing through a neuron in real time:

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This is just fantastic. It’s so so much more accurate than the janky version I had before, is prettier, and allows for a lot more nuance.

Finally, I’m almost done with my application to Stugan which, if accepted, will let me work on CL in Sweden for the summer. This would be a rad opportunity — not only is it a great focused work environment, but meeting + working alongside other devs is important if I want to keep growing this weird game/science independent career of mine.

Crescent Loom Kickstarter Postmortem

Hi! Quick intro: My name is Wick, I’m a neuroscientist / solo indie game dev, and I just ran my second successful Kickstarter campaign. The game is called Crescent Loom; players build creatures, weave brains, and explore an underwater ecosystem.

Common wisdom says that most of the time campaigns see a big spike at the start, have a big plateau in the middle, and another spike at the end.

Crescent Loom… did not follow that pattern.

What happened? Lemme back up and give some context to what things were like right before that huge jump.

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Wicklog One – Scripting & Production

(I hope it’s not too tacky to call these wicklogs instead of updates. It makes me feel sorta like a smurf to put my name on everything)

So! The Kickstarter gave eight months to make a game. This is doable. I can do this. Hoo boy.

Scripting

In the demo, I have all the content (levels, cell behaviors, body parts) hard-coded in the game’s files. It’s a quick-and-dirty way to get things working, but not a great way to structure a game long-term since you need to recompile everything whenever you make any sort of change or addition (and it’s hard for non-coders to make contributions).

A better way is to load external files. Games already do this for art and music, but the way this happens with code is generally through scripting languages. These are code files that are loaded and run on-the-fly, like so:

Monkey X has a custom scripting language called mini c thanks to a few programmers who decided to do the impossible task (for me, at least) of writing it from scratch. So rather than having to cobble something together myself, it was just an afternoon of downloading their modules and starting to integrate it into my game.

Bizness

Steam: Crescent Loom got Greenlit (which is an arbitrary and brutal internet popularity contest), so yay! But I’ve run into a few snags due to already being associated with Starship Rubicon on the Steam backend. Their system is confused since I’m not running the finances on that project, but will be for CL. Emailed ’em.

itch.io: I’ve set up a way for people to still preorder the game & join the beta via itch.io. I’d like to eventually completely host the online demo through them, but I haven’t yet figured out how to save/load creatures to my database from an external source. Gonna have to get that done for the desktop versions, anyway.

Funding: I’m looking into applying for funding beyond the Kickstarter, which generally falls into one of three categories: 1) Publisher! 2) Investors! 3) Government Grants! (#4 aka rich friends is not reliable) All of these are gonna be brave new worlds for me, so that’ll be fun.

Goals for next week

  • Do my taxes / work out how the KS funds affect my Obamacare-provided health insurance
  • Publish a postmortem on the campaign.
  • Set up milestones for the next eight months – backer rewards
  • Concept art/design of new creature bodies.

(there’s a distressing lack of programming on that list. I need to remind myself that Production is real work too, and super important to get right)

Kickstarter at 100%, tournament results!

nbd, just achieved a years-long dream of mine to be able to work on a neuroscience video game and finally get some basic neuroscience into the public consciousness. I’M JUST A LITTLE ECSTATIC.

Also, I ran the first creature tournament! Eight creatures, competing for a $250-tier laser-cut neuron art panel.

Congrats to the winner! What a strange upset.

 

Creatures of the day — hookshots, heartbeats, and faeries.

More created creatures! Did some more graphical work to bring them to life. Since having a big ol’ eye in the center was confusing since eyes are a literal organ that matter ingame, I replaced it with a pulsing heartbeat. On the todo list is to maybe link it up with a pacemaker neuron in the center of the brain to really drive home the brain/body connection.

Oh also now there is kelp. And little blue faeries. Since all the art in the game is vector-based, I’ve been looking for ways to show off its unique capabilities. Realtime point-by-point modification of graphics is not something I see a lot of games do, so I’m excited to keep exploring it.

 

There are hookshots now! Good way to get around…

 

…and to catch prey.

 

MY GAME IS PRETTY DO YOU THINK IT’S PRETTY I THINK IT’S PRETTY

Creatures of the day: breathing and player-versus-player races!

RACE MODE! Compete against another random player-created creature to reach the end of a short tunnel. It’s harder than you might think.

 

In order to make the creatures seem more animal-like, I made the central circle more eye-like and added a slight breathing effect across the entire body.

 

Playing around with using touch feedback to drive motion instead of pacemaker cells; it makes swimming feel more fluid.

 

I’m not really sure what this creature of the day is besides big and pink. Was going for tardigrade? Sorta doglike.

Creatures of the Day: interactions!

This was an exciting week for development. The biggest changes is that I added support for multiple creatures and a few ways for them to interaction. Creatures can latch onto each other / the ground with suckers, and cause damage and disassemble body parts with stingers (first step towards predation).

There’s also now two introductory levels that teach the basic of how to weave and control muscles. The learning curve and UI still have a lot to be desired, but I’ll be adding more tutorials over the next few weeks.

 

All this led to me needing to change enough things under-the-hood (I was up til 2 last night fighting with the coordinate system for rectangles UGH) that the old saves no longer would work (and it broke some of them? oops. 😐 not unexpected though) so I’ve bumped up the version number to v0.2.

Development during a Kickstarter campaign is fun (immediate feedback by invested players!) but dang does it split my priorities. I’m so excited to be moving towards the ability to have an ecosystem of user-created creatures, though!

By Wick Perry | © 2017 Wickworks
Proud to be a member of PIGsquad and Playful Oasis.