Okay, so “failed” isn’t the most constructive word to use, but I am feeling somewhat masochistic and in need of a stern talking to. This has been a difficult year for me, but I feel I’ve been making a few too many excuses. I’ve been made redundant, headed out onto the hostile airless moon that is Self-Employment, and I published my first book; which nobody knows about and I’m struggling to figure out how to make people know about it. But I am free; what more do I need?
I thought that with my workday effectively under my control, I’d be able to negotiate with myself to get the necessary time I need to write 1,667 words a day (or sixteen-and-a-half centiwords, as I have started to think of it). Problem is, that amount of time with me is a bit long, it would seem. Something like 4-5 hours, most days. Which makes the challenge at best a 150-hour commitment that earns me exactly zero toward my monthly deficit of bills.
Back in something like 2003, I was laying on my back, looking up at an angled skylight and seeing only lightly clouded sky. I found myself wondering: what if that was down? What would it be like to live in a world where the sky was like an endless ocean, above and around you? Where you travelled in airships between floating cities, like islands in the vast blue void?
So earlier this week I released the preview version of my first novel, Cloudgazer, somewhat low-key as it’s still in draft 5 and only the first 8 chapters are up for feedback. But it’s been quite exciting just in this short time, starting to discuss with people the characters and plot points that I’ve been working on for over ten years. So if you’re curious, check out the link above and grab the PDF for your e-reader of choice. All feedback and critique welcome. At this stage there are still probably several misspellings & typos, but I’m mostly interested in how people feel about the tone and pacing and the like.
I’ve often thought about the musical side of the world of Azimuth and what approach I would take in an audio-visual medium: primarily because the game Azimuth Skies is just that, and the question applies. I’ve recently taken interest in a genre that calls itself Electro Swing, which to me seems ideal. The mixing of old and new is perhaps its key feature (which can be done successfully or clumsily, for certain) which, with the art deco overtones, suits Azimuth very well. Caravan Palace in particular are a group that, given a blank cheque for making a Cloudgazer movie or big-budget game, I’d love to have creating some tracks. But I’d also like to share this as another fine contender; “Vive le Swing” by Italian singer In-Grid (but yes, it is in French). Give it a listen!
On an unrelated note, I left my job today! Despite still needing to complete my pilot licence and move out in a weeks time, I hope that I might have a little more time to pursue my creative endeavours both here and in Australia. I’m certainly feeling more inspired than I have been in a while!
Possibly the biggest challenge in the development of Azimuth Skies, besides making the ship construction accessible to a non-modding player, is organising the weapons and how they will be controlled/fired. The system in Iron Skies presently is a simple enough evolution from Battlefield-style games where you simply switch between several turrets and fire them like a First Person Shooter. The big complication is in the custom ship structure; there has to be a simple way that shipbuilders can group and setup their turrets without bogging the whole thing down. I could just make things easy on myself and go for a system where turrets are placed on ‘hardpoints’ on sections, but that’s just too tired and limiting for my taste! So now I find myself in crazy territory, as not only are all the components of a ship in Azimuth Skies able to combine in any configuration, but the weapons can be wherever you can fit them in.
And just how do I define where things do and don’t fit, anyway? Well you shall see later when I get into the shipbuilder with a little more gusto. Right now my priority is making a skirmish mode type thing that’s actually got some solid gameplay behind it. It’s all just too unstable at present.
And so we come to my current task. The Weapon Group system evolved out of the need for organising varying numbers of turrets in varying directions with as much automation as possible. The ship’s creator places the turrets on the ship first. Then, they select all the weapons to be in a group together. This then creates a Weapon Group, say Group 1. These form the basis of your combat gameplay.
Pressing 1 takes the player to that group. This will attach the camera to an invisible object in a set place on the ship, the group viewpoint. The camera will pivot around this point. It is then offset by whatever Vector3 is specified, and a Crosshair is created in a straight line, at a specified distance from the group viewpoint (parented to it, like the camera). Thus, when the player moves the mouse, the group viewpoint rotates on the relevant axis and the crosshair points in line with it. Meanwhile, the group instructs all the turrets that are listed as a part of it to track that crosshair object. Rolling the mouse wheel will change the range of the crosshair +/- 50%.
The result should be a turret system that doesn’t suck! I’d like to illustrate more graphically, but I’m pressed for time and I think it’s probably better spent actually solving the problem. Wish me luck.
EDIT: Webplayer update posted! It’s still rough as hell, but it’s progress!
Well I really wanted to post a new version of the Azimuth Skies web demo this evening but it just doesn’t look as though it will be happening. Lexbox (that’s PC#2) got malware infected somehow at the weekend and I spent most of this evening fixing it to retrieve some files back… that, and apparently making oneself a chilli takes two hours. At least I assume this to be the case, short of someone tampering with the number of hours between 7 and 9.
So I shall round up the basic features coming in the next build and thereby force me to include the new webplayer tomorrow:
Re-Re-RE-enabled damage on skyfighter Machine Guns, but this time they don’t push objects around and are working properly. Big thanks to the folks at Unity Answers for helping solve this one some months back.
Airships have AI, that can move the ship to any given location. So they’re almost to the point where they’ll start shooting you (might even be, when I post the update)
Put in a ‘debug’ reload zone for skyfighters
Pressing ‘v’ will toggle Invert Y for skyfighters (till I put in a menu)
Ships can now spawn, on a somewhat limited basis
Sinking works properly, and ships tilt with their motion up/down
More damage effects
ADDITION: Ships now shooting each other, although they are crap shots
January 2011 marches on and I still don’t have an entry for the new year. Well, here it is. Now, what’s been going on? What indeed.
I just released Tales of Wobells on the neat indie dev website GameJolt. I was thinking of also putting it up here, but right now I think I ought to get on with other things. For those unaware of what it even is, ToW was a joke retro RPG game I somehow spent hundreds of hours between 2002 and 2008 putting together. It follows the loose story of a bunch of kids based mostly on people I know, in a world that’s reminiscent of a dream one might have after watching 24 hours of solid Youtube.
In the world of sane games, work on Azimuth Skies continues. I have begun putting the ship editor together, as in my mind it will be one of the core features to the appeal and I’ll need to sink into it sooner rather than later. And on that note I shall end this brief entry and get cracking!
A lot has been going on recently. Partly due to the holiday season, partly due to a foul little piece of malware corrupting my windows installation and effectively wasting a week. However, much has changed since the last webplayer. There are more ships, they are more sophisticated, several things have been fixed and I really only have AI left to do (and some sounds) before the core gameplay model is complete. Check out the Webplayer above to give it a go!
Perhaps the biggest change has been of name. For the last four years, this project has been known as Iron Skies. A name I came up with for the incarnation that was my university project, I decided to change it in light of the Finnish indie film of a very similar name.
My game is now known as Azimuth Skies. Seeing as the name of the world within which it is set is Azimuth, this seemed like an obvious choice. I also toyed with the likes of Azimuth Wars and Azimuth Air Battles, but there really is (or at least, will be) more to the game than just combat.
For the uninitiated, Azimuth is “an angular measurement in a spherical coordinate system”, such as a compass bearing. It is also a term found in artillery, meaning direction of fire. So now you know.