Help and Support

This morning I decided to try out some new software, which is always a bit iffy on a computer as old as the one I’m running. One of the requirements said that if I was fool enough to try installing the thing on Windows XP, I’d better have the 32-bit version. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that particular bit of information, so I decided to check.

Being the logical sort of person I am, I decided to go to the Windows Control Panel and look under “System Properties,” which didn’t say which version of Windows I was using, other than the fact it was Version 2002 (making it 10 years old… Now that’s a scary thought).

Before going online, I decided to click on the “Help and Support” button in the Start Menu, which led me directly to writing my first blog post in almost six months. Windows helpfully and supportively sent me the following message:

Windows Help and Support Error

New Retirement Plan

My wife and I talk about finances more often than she probably wishes that we did. I worry about retirement a lot, which may seem a trifle odd seeing as I’m in my twenties, but I just don’t see us ever getting there. I’m self-employed, which not only means no one will ever match my deposits in a retirement account, but also that I get slammed with self-employment taxes before I get to pay income taxes.

Anyway, I just calculated that at the rate we’re going, we’ll have to save up roughly 30% of the income we’re making to retire with a decent nest egg by 65. It seems at this point that the trick isn’t to save more of the money we make. The trick is we need to make more money.

Below are things that we have seriously considered to help boost our financial situation:

1) One of us needs to become a bestselling author. Books can keep making money long after the hours consumed in writing them are over.

2) I need to write a hit song and get someone famous to sing it, put it on their album, and then give me 100% of the royalties.

3) Make an online music store where people can buy the cool piano songs I keep arranging for my students. And then have PayPal NOT charge me fees for a million microtransactions.

4) Make a sequel to Arden’s Vale that is so cool that the notoriously cheap (I’m one of them) and small fanbase of retro computer games decides to purchase 100,000 copies of the game at $10 each.

5) Create an amazing video on YouTube that over 1,000,000 people watch. Multiple times. And have YouTube pay out for all the views.

So, I’m just asking here, is anyone else’s retirement plan dependent on creating a viral internet video, or is it just me?

Pride is evasive…

Well, Arden’s Vale v1.1 is released! And it’s better than it used to be. I’ve fixed every bug I know about, added music, animations, and an additional cutscene.

So far, the game’s got good reviews. It’s entertaining and the puzzles aren’t frustrating. It’s short, but has some replay value. It’s got some suspense, but plenty of quirky humor. It does everything I hoped it would.

So why am I still not happy with it?

Well, I still hate the monochrome floors, the lack of convincing lighting, the monotony of the death-by-enchanter endings, the lack of depth in the story, the shortcuts I took in the animations, etc. It’s hard to take a lot of pride in something that falls so short of the vision you had when you started.

But I really think I’m well and truly done. It’s like the songs I wrote in high school. Looking back, they’ve got so much potential, but if I try to go rewrite and rewrite and rewrite them, I’ll never finish them or write anything else.

So learn what you can, move on, and make the next thing better, I suppose. And at least I can take pride in knowing that somewhere in Serbia, someone played my game.

I’ve always liked Ben304…

If you’ve never played Shifter’s Box or Eternally Us, you’ve missed out on some amazing AGS games. Ben304 always has delightful graphics, clever puzzles, and a fun atmosphere behind all of his games.

But now I like him personally. He just picked Arden’s Vale as the AGS Game of the Month! Thanks to everybody who has already played, reviewed, or rated the game. I’ve never published anything like this online before, and it’s delightful to see where the game keeps turning up.

I only wish I’d gotten v1.1 finished a week earlier… It’s almost done, I swear!

Only as a last resort…

I’ve (after much deliberation) written a walkthrough for the game, but please don’t use it unless you’re about to rip your hair out. Half of the fun is all of the missed click responses in the game.

Anyway, just click on “Gaming” above for the walkthrough.

Thank you for playing!!!

And… Cut!

It’s a wrap! Arden’s Vale v1.0 was officially released last night at an hour that I’d prefer not to divulge. I hate to admit it, but Arden’s Vale was my first game.

Download awesome adventure here.

But why is that bad, you ask? Because it was much too ambitious a project. The original story calls for a game easily six times longer. A nice Sierra-size full quest. And me, being an idiot, decided to tackle it. I figured after about 3 months, I’d have the enchanter’s castle (which is the entire current game) done. And after three months of work, I had the following shameful game:

Download shameful early version of the game here.

Before

The puzzles had all been mapped out (except the raven, which came later, as the original puzzle was rather stupid), but I’d hardly even made it into the castle, much less animated anything past the walkcycle or drawn a background worth looking at. The one redeeming graphic – the force field – was rendered straight from GIMP using my 0 artistic talent.

Long story short: to make this game I had to learn to script (from YouTube, using densming’s videos), draw (using YouTube again, as well as an awesome book by Ted Smuskiewicz, which is, I believe, his real name), and reseed all the hair I pulled out. I’ve got a very patient wife to thank, who let me work on it so hard for so long, when I probably should have been taking her to the movies.

After

The point? I’m glad it’s over. I’m glad it’s done. I’m glad it ended up being such decent quality, considering where I started out. Just don’t ever, ever, ever, ever let me do that again. Next game: Either one room, or with a whole lot of help.

Perfectionism

There is, of course difference between perfection and perfectionism. Hopefully, we all seek perfection, but there comes a point where you have to step back and accept your own offering.

After reworking old backgrounds and poring over books on painting techniques as well as online tutorials… I’m still not thrilled with anything I’ve done art-wise. But the point has come where I need to just move forward and say, “If I’m ever fool enough to make another game, then my art will be better. I’ll start off where it took me all this time to arrive at.”

I’ve posted this on the ags forums, but thought I’d post the process of the first introductory shot. It was painful.

Here’s the first version. The house isn’t finished, but I don’t imagine that a house in the woods would be gray anyway. And the tree was the biggest disappointment. I wanted a good deal of action to happen in the foreground, and the tree was the big set-piece in the middle. And the more I worked on it, the worse and worse it looked.

Figured that I’d try again. I initially imagined a sort of Kung Fu Panda-esque (-esque only in the sense that the artistic style varies so greatly with the rest of the production) intro, with only slightly detailed sketches on a monochrome background. This one didn’t look too great, but the next scene, inside the house, was actually kind of moving.

I like the style and the angle and the emotion without seeing any faces. The other obvious perk to doing these sketchy backgrounds is that they don’t take forever to do! But deep down, I just wasn’t convinced. That, and the words over the picture looked terrible in the dialogs. So back off to the drawing board (ha, ha).

Long story short, this is what I came up with. The letterboxing is a pretty obvious rip off of the introduction to King’s Quest VI, but it’s effective, and the speaking looks great being UNDER the picture instead of marring it.

So the point is? I’ve decided to keep being a perfectionist about the intro. But the rest of the game is done. I’m not going back. I’m not going to repaint the rocks again. The hallway floor can’t handle texture. I don’t want to paint in torches even though there aren’t any visible light sources in most of the castle and it’s night. I don’t care that the backgrounds are inconsistent…

I’ll take what I’ve got, perfect or not.

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