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Coolsoft Games: Developer's Log
Thursday, 29 September 2005
"School" and "Of Hard Knocks"
I would like to take this moment to express my thanks to all those illustrators/writers who have had a part in creating the textbooks I am using.(There, that's the "school" part...)

Now, in other news... No, I haven't finished the Java book yet; however I have managed to make it half-way through, something I haven't been able to do since I began learning DreamWeaver 3 some number of years ago.(I think it's about 3 now, but I'm glad I stuck with it enough to learn how to use the program.)I've recently been turning down spriting offers for these reasons:
1)I am still hard at work pursuing my education.
And 2)At times, I know I cannot meet the expectations of some persons who ask me to draw some sprites for them; I generally end up working past the deadline, and then not being able to finish them; I feel I have no choice but to turn them down.
I am not adverse to doing something different, it is rather that I feel I would be under too much pressure to create something for which I have no passion, and I seriously do not have the necessary skills to create some sprites.

I originally began spriting for free that I might improve my spriting skills while I was not working on games of my own. So how does turning down what I think I can't do help me improve? It doesn't most of the time; however, I do generally try to aim for something a little harder with each project I accept. This does not mean I want to take giant leaps into working with sprites the size of Capcom's used in their fighting games; but, rather, that I would prefer to advance gradually.

Anyway, those are a few thoughts on recent events. I'll try to get a philosophy post finished here soon, even if it isn't the entirety of what I have to say.
(And I believe that covers the hard knocks for those of you whom I have had to turn down in the past few days..)


Posted by coolsoft_games at 10:00 PM EDT
Thursday, 8 September 2005
Age of Empires III Demo is out...
Yep, it's out. I'm currently in the middle of downloading this 300 mb file; just thought I'd post that little tidbit. http://www.ageofempires3.com if you want to see it too.

Posted by coolsoft_games at 8:01 PM EDT
Post Comment | Permalink
Friday, 26 August 2005
Summer Wrap Up...
It's been really busy for me, though maybe you can't see it all. I've worked on about 7 different sprite projects this year(turning down about 5 times as many offers) Attempted to redesign the entire web layout here, a project still in process. Created a new website(http://fifth-of-eight.tripod.com) submitted some new art to various portfolio pages. Finished several books, started creating about 6 different new games, tracked down details in the personal lives of the people who work for my favorite illustration company(http://www.portlandstudios.com) never got past chapter 2 of my book Maya 3D For Beginners Never learned Javascript, have begun a new book on programming Java(Chapter 2 again...), have two pending art educational offers sitting on my desk, made a 3 week trip to China, and somehow managed to survive it all.

So, School starts in earnest on Monday... I pray that I shall be able to get something done anyway.


Posted by coolsoft_games at 9:56 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 29 September 2005 9:36 PM EDT
Friday, 19 August 2005
Street on Game Design
Was browsing through a question thread a couple of months ago, and ran across this "interview." Looked like it had a few things to say on game design.

(For those of you who are reading and probably don't know, Greg Street is the lead designer for Age of Empires 3 (http://www.ageofempires3.com).)

Greg Street on Age of Empires 3 Design:

I like Theris264's questions, because most of them are about the design process and not the game itself. We're likely to answer all these questions given enough time, but we don't want to blow anyone's mind with information. Everyone is still just adjusting to the game having been announced.


You believe in a design by play-testing. But then what is the actual job of your gameplay-designers (the people who think up ideas to put in the game)?

DS: The designers come up with a lot of (but certainly not all of) the ideas to be playtested. At the end of the day, we look at all the feedback and try to come up with a plan based on what the team is saying and how passionately they are saying it. It's a common misperception to think that designers are the ones who get to come up with the cool ideas (cool ideas, frankly, are pretty easy to come up with) -- instead, we're the ones who figure out fun ways to implement the ideas, and try to keep the whole team excited about the project.


Most of your employees have done jobs very different from game design and computer work before they joined ES. Do you think an education for game-designers is really needed?

DS: It's hard to learn "game design" the way it is to learn programming, art or even QA. But if you look at Ensemble's designers, you will notice one thing they have in common is that they are all highly educated in something. In design, good communication skills, especially writing, are paramount. As the industry grows larger and larger you will likely see more formal training in game design. Until then, read a lot, write a lot, and make sure you can finish things you start.


Where do you get your ideas for gameplay from? Books, other games, boardgames?

DS: All of the above. Like I said above, the actual ideas are easy. It's making them work that's hard. Consider the Home City, which is our number one feature. The concept of persistent elements in RTS games frankly isn't that radical in and of itself. What is audacious is how completely we are embracing the concept, even in multiplayer. It's a nightmare to balance. But that boldness, that "how [] are they going to pull that off?" is what makes it so cool.


What do you do with the ideas from the fanbase? (like the civ designs in this forum and the entries from PAoM's age of unit contest)? Read them and thus gain ideas, only read them if they are hot-topics? Only use them to get elemtary ideas (with this I mean for example, taking only the general idea of a GP from one's civ design, but renaming it and giving it to another civ)? Something else?

DS: We read everything. What fans sometimes forget is that we think about these things an awful lot, and there are a lot of smart people working at ES. So it is rare that someone will come up with a completely new idea that hasn't already made the rounds here in some form or another. Instead, we generally pay more attention to general trends we see. If a lot of fans are asking for more interesting economic decisions, that's something we look at. If a lot of people say a single trigger addition would make a huge difference in their scenario work, we pay attention.


How long does it take to design the detailed general idea for a game (civs, gamelay, etc. evrything except the precise statistics, so evrything you do before starting the actual programming)?

DS: We use a slightly different approach. We come up with a very general design at first and try and get it playable ASAP. So the game is playable at an even coarser level than you describe. The original version of AOE3 had a single civilization, no Ages, a couple of buildings and one unit. We hadn't even worried a lot about how many civs we'd have, or what the resources would be. There is no point spending a lot of time brainstorming about features if an initial test shows you that there is no way the feature would work. For AOE3 (which is a bit unusual in that we iterated on the design for so long), we probably spent 3-4 months in the pure brainstorm phase before we had a playable version of the game. Everything after that was trying out different designs. It would have been longer if we were also making a new engine from scratch, but a lot of the engine changes for AOE3 came online over time. One day the new renderer was turned on. Then the new multiplayer backbone was added. At some point we decided we had enough good features to make a game so we cut off the spigot and started polishing what we had. The process is much more like decorating a room (a bit here, a bit there, a few mistakes along the way) than it is like baking a cake (follow a linear recipe from start to finish).


Posted by coolsoft_games at 4:36 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 19 August 2005 8:51 PM EDT
Friday, 5 August 2005
Strategy Games...
Yep, it's my typical summer endeavor, to create a new game, that *hopefully* I will finish. This time it's a side-scrolling strategy game. Very simplistic by nature, though I will probably add some things to complicate it. A screenshot follows from a pre-beta version that I have currently. I'm not giving out many(if any) details, but the screenshot may be nice for a few of you anyway.(If for nothing else just to give you an update on what I've been working on in addition to these blog entries.)

That being said, you may not use any of the sprites from this picture without permission from their creator.(E-mail: coolsoft_games@lycos.com)

Disclaimer: These screenshots are merely representations of what is currently in the game, and any graphical details/interface buttons, sprites which are visible may change at any time.


Posted by coolsoft_games at 11:07 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 19 August 2005 4:46 PM EDT
Friday, 3 June 2005
Recent Sprite projects...
Just thought I'd post some pics from my most recent sprite projects so that you can see some of what we've been working on. Please note: None of these are to be used without permission. Enjoy...


Posted by coolsoft_games at 3:27 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 19 August 2005 4:47 PM EDT
Monday, 9 May 2005
Of Website Frustrations and Bad Designs...
Yes, I finally updated the site today. It's not exactly perfect, and I doubt it ever will be. unfortunately I couldn't get all of the stuff on it that I wanted, and also, I am unsure of how to download entire directories including their files from Tripod.(Ah the pains of hosting on such a server.) The old site date is archived. And will be made private ASAP. I'm still working on some crucial log entries here, so bear with me as I continue to restructure.

Current projects:
Working my way through Introducing Maya 5: 3D for Beginners.


Posted by coolsoft_games at 3:41 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 19 August 2005 4:47 PM EDT
Wednesday, 4 May 2005
Recent Going's on...( 3/16/05 )
I've been up to quite a bit of work recently. I just got a DSL connection, and have been busy since last month redesigning the webpage. I'm attempting to make it easily updatable and consistant in artistry, but we'll see how it turns out.

I've also been involved in several different sprite projects in the last few weeks, and as soon as I can get some web addresses, I will provide some more specifics.


Posted by coolsoft_games at 9:08 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 19 August 2005 4:48 PM EDT

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