may 1, 2017
it's may. justin timberlake was right.
It's been a year since my last blog post, and what a year it has been!
I arrived back home in Boston in June 2016 following a two year adventure in LA, and early into the summer was treated to the very pleasant news that The Final Specimen: Arrival had been greenlit by Steam! Think that's awesome? How about a double whammy - a few months later, we were accepted into PAX East for exhibition in March 2017! We spent the winter months integrating the game into Steam and putting together loads of promotional materials. By early March, The Final Specimen: Arrival was ready for launch on Steam, and a week later, we showed off the freshly released game on the PAX East expo floor!
PAX was a huge success. Our booth had three separate stations where festival goers could play the game, and our booth was almost always full. People loved the game's sense of humor - even folks who simply walked by the booth and noticed our display were visibly amused by the cartoon antics. Perhaps the most important thing I noticed was that even though the game's high difficulty curved knocked a lot of players on their butts, the vast majority kept coming back and pushing through to the end of the demo levels. This means the game is ENGAGING and leaves you wanting more, which is exactly what I wanted to achieve.
Following PAX, we remained in touch with a number of media contacts who we had met at the festival. Throughout the rest of March and into April, The Final Specimen: Arrival was featured on several podcasts, live streams, and let's play videos. Most impressively, we were contacted by NewsWatch who produced a 60-second spot about The Final Specimen that aired just this morning on AMC! It's almost surreal to me that all these amazing developments have happened in under a year's time, but maybe that's how it feels when your dreams become reality. Or maybe I'm just really, really tired. Either way, it's a beautiful thing.
What's next? Well, this week we are releasing an update that significantly increases the difficulty of the boss fights on Hard Mode. This patch also will include updated audio that has been balanced to enhance the game's "arcade-y" feel. After that we will be working on another update, the neighture of which is just too legendary to reveal at the present time. And finally, we are looking ahead to the sequel, which will begin production later in the year. No release date is set at this time, but keep your eyes peeled for updates as we continue to move forward with this epic project!
may 11, 2016
EFFICIENT WORKFLOWS ARE YOUR FRIEND
I am happy to say a LOT of progress has been made over the past month. I've done a tremendous amount of reworking to the game to make my entire process, and the application itself, more efficient. Most importantly, I will be making as many events and groups of events as possible into global events, meaning I won't have to make them all repeat level by level. For instance, the events that run when the player runs out of health (a death animation, death sound, a counter that counts a certain amount of time until the level restarts and a life is subtracted) can all be put into a global event group since these events run in every level in the exact same way. The same has been done to objects such as a black "FADER" object that covers the width and height of the screen, fading in and out at the start and end of every level. By running events in this way, I can save myself a ton of headache and remain delightfully consistent with all the recurring instances in the application.
You wouldn't believe how many different varieties of events I had previously littered throughout the event pages of my editor. Recalling the "FADER" object once more: there were levels in which the duration of the "fade out" event was 125 frames, while in others it was 120. This was the result of me haphazardly putting these events into random levels at different times during production. Now that I have taken a holistic, outside-looking-in approach, the obvious necessity of defining all these recurring events ONLY ONCE has become clear. THE TIME I HAVE WASTED... ARGGGGH. But the best way to learn is often to do something wrong, and then fully appreciate the beauty of the correct way - so I'm not too upset.
Looking forward, this approach is going to make the production of the sequel (which is an even bigger project than the current one, at 12 levels instead of 8) streamlined and much simpler. Another key thing will be for me to properly name all the values of my objects. It's absurdly confusing to look at some of the events I've created that use randomly numbered flags to run events. Per the advice of a Clickteam expert, I will be removing flags entirely from my programming method and using named values instead. Flags are either on or off, so I can simply check if a value is equal to 0 or 1 - same thing. You cannot rush this process, and you cannot be vague about ANYTHING. It's confusing enough when everything is clearly defined, for Christ's sake.
So yeah. Huge strides. Check back soon, as I will be posting updates about the progress of the Android port.
APRIL 5, 2016
THE FASTLOOPS AND THE FURIOUS...LOOPS
Hey gang! As part of my CODE OPTIMIZATION BONANZA I am this week and next (and possibly next after that) running through all the code in my game and tying up a lot of loose ends. This includes replacing a lot of basic movement events (e.g. Move Player Horizontal Position X+3) with more programatically sound fastloops (e.g. Move Player X+1, run loop 3 times), as well as commenting each line of code to give myself a comprehensive overview of everything that's going on. I, of course, should have done this all from the start, but if I hadn't dived headfirst into this project out of pure passion, I doubt I would have had the patience to learn all the stuff from the ground up without context. It'll probably be better for me in the long run that I had to find a lot of the answers myself too - it gets ingrained in you that way, rather than just having a rote formal education. Not to knock formal education or anything, but I find it much more gratifying that I had a burning desire to find answers instead of simply having them given to me before I appreciated what they meant.
To anyone unfamiliar with game development, if you have, say, ten events that create a sequence in your game (for example an enemy moves from left to right, turns, maybe does something funny like looks around and scratches his ass and then moves the other way), you need to very clearly define what is going on, when it starts, and when it stops. If you ran your game and saw your ass-scratching enemy move to the left, scratch his ass, then move to the right but somehow continue standing still scratching his ass, you know something is off. The answer could be that you did not include a condition that forces the enemy's walking animation to play while he is moving. Or, if the walking animation was the character's default animation, you could have set your ass-scratch animation to loop instead of playing just one time, in which case the default animation would not play because the other one would be running indefinitely without finishing. This is a simple example, but one that illustrates how, especially when you get into very complex coding, you need to have full dominion over everything you've put down. If you:
A. rush and don't label your actions, conditions, strings, values, etc., AND/OR
B. don't think out beforehand every angle about what you truly want to happen...
...you will find yourself days, weeks, years down the line with a problem you never knew existed, searching through a needle in a haystack to find one little anomaly that could delay your progress by a factor of FUCK THIS SHIT.
I find I'm actually very excited to go back and clean everything up. It's a daunting task, but the result will be a clean program and a work ethic that lays a smooth foundation for many more projects to come.
MARCH 2, 2016
SOCIAL MEDIA SORCERY
Last week marked the beginning of our social media blitz, and the possibilities are limitless. Doing a campaign like this really opens your eyes to just how many people there are out there. I mean yeah, there's what, 7 billion people out there, I knew that. But when you start to get some followers and begin to understand the true scope of the number of people in the gaming field alone, you gain valuable (and sometimes mind-numbing) perspective. It really hammers home the fact that with enough support from the right communities, any project can get off the ground. There are simply that many people. It's helpful to anyone who finds themselves feeling alone or misunderstood - there's always folks out there who will get you.
Sitting at a cubicle all day, seeing the world from the lens of the people I know on Facebook...it's incredibly limiting to the mind. Having never personally made much professional use of social media, especially Twitter, I find myself now finally getting what the hype is about. Call me a late bloomer, or call me someone who spent a large majority of the social media revolution years working on a video game not paying attention to that shit. Call me anytime, actually. The point is, it's never too late to tap into proven resources, even if you might have some qualms about how some people behave via said resources (I won't name names).
I have some overarching urge to keep this whole thing professional. Like, the hyper-neurotic professionalism I've been taught in college and in previous jobs and internships. Yet a huge portion of our social media blitz is fucking memes. It's really awesome and an experience much more informal that I ever expected from the world of marketing. This whole game, after all, is largely a counterbalance to my frustration with the bureaucratic nature of the world I grew up in, so why should I worry that much about structure? To celebrate this notion, I give you now some psychobabble.
Shaboomity bum bum da brah! Brah! HOM DIGGY, WAH, GAH DIGGY DAH, GAH DIGGY DAH!
CHEEEEEERRRRAP AP BOODILLY BAH BAH, SHAMPIGEONABIGEONAHWAM! HOOOOWANKYWANKUMBABA, SHABIDDILY INYOMAMA, RICKSHAW ROCKETY BOO BOO, KA DAZZLEFRAZZLE!
Thank you and stay tuned.
FEBRUARY 23, 2016
THE FIRST BLOG POST
Hi everyone, my name is Thomas DaSilva, and I am the designer, programmer, voice over actor, and music composer for THE FINAL SPECIMEN.
What a ride! This is a project that has roots as early as 1997 (I was in third grade), when I began mapping out strategy guides for a game that did not yet exist, but that I so badly wanted to see made. Pulling ideas for levels largely from all the places my family would visit on vacation, or from simple settings like the woods behind our house, or my neighbor's pool, I assembled a blueprint for a 20-level game over the course of a year and half complete with enemy, obstacle, and boss descriptions, level maps, and walkthroughs. For many years that strategy guide sat around the house for me to constantly look at and dream about, up until high school when I started to get serious about music, and from that new venture sprung 20 original tracks for each level of this imaginary game. It only followed that by the time I hit college, I had discovered Clickteam's Multimedia Fusion software and was well on my way to making this dream a reality.
Nearly ten years later, after fumbling through hours upon days upon weeks of developing an efficient workflow, reworking my code, cleaning up a lot of artwork, and struggling simply to fit this project into a life that is constantly dumping other, seemingly more important things on me to worry about, I have a completed version of The Final Specimen: Arrival up and ready to be played. Its sequel, The Final Specimen: Redemption is currently in development. Cross-platform ports, social media campaigns, merchandise and live event promotions are all underway. And with help from my brilliantly gifted partner Chris Dedrick, we are steering this ship to a very promising future. From a young child's dream to a young man's reality, The Final Specimen is, just like its protagonist, proof of what comes from sticking it out til the end.
I love this game, its world and its characters, its comedy and its heart, and it is my fondest hope that you will too. Please check back frequently to read up on the progress of the project as we rock our way through 2016 and beyond!