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Monday, December 11, 2017

This week in Game-Guru 12/11/2017


So we've all had a week or so to chew on the new Public Preview aka Open Beta of the PBR-enabled, DX11 configured Game Guru and.... it's buggy.  I mean it's good in a lot of ways, but it's seriously buggy.  I myself have encountered numerous problems with existing media's implementation (mostly based around the old shaders having lack of compatibility with DX11).  This is going to break a lot of people's old media which may not be a bad thing.  I personally am starting to wonder why Lee didn't just split this off into a separate project.  Doing it this late in the game seems ... a lot riskier now that it's actually reached beta phase.

With respect to my own works I tested my Lighting Kit and Weather System.  The Lighting system works fine.  The Weather system requires some adjustment.

Primarily you have to:
  • Open your GG folder.  Mine is in c:\program files(x86)\steam\steamapps\common\game-guru
  • Open the files subfolder, then the effectbank subfolder, then the reloaded subfolder.
  • Edit settings.fx in notepad.  Find this line: // #define ADDSKYBOXFOG 
  • Remove the // from the front.  Save the file.
  • Edit the setup or settings (i can't recall and will update this later), find forceloadtestgameshaders=0, change it to a 1, save it.
  • Restart game-guru.
That takes care of the fog issue not affecting the sky.
To update the  weather so it works (I will update my system after public preview becomes an official release so if you don't want to do this part, just wait):
  • Find the bagweather decal folder in your game-guru entitybank/purchased/bag folder.  
  • Edit the FPE file(s) for each weather decal.  Change effect_animate64.fx to decal_animate64.fx

I'm hoping Preben and Lee get this stuff sorted and these bugs sifted for a good release post-new years.


Unfortunately people are clearly winding down for the holidays so not much activity going on the store at the moment.

Lots and lots of sales though.

One new thing on the store is Tazman's bloody snowmen.  If you want that kind of thing, it's there for you.


In the world of free scripts and objects we have some really excellent stuff this week.
Amenmoses has produced a script which does some pretty impressive things with balls and physics.  Specifically it drops/spawns balls from the air which actually respond to physics after spawning.  Impressive stuff.  Check it out here:

Graphix has provided some really nice PBR-enabled free barrels!

Bod has given us more goodies this week - primarily a hay bale, pitchfork, and this neat laptop:

But this week everyone got eclipsed by LOTGD's release of several character for free use.  They are of exceptionally high quality.  I for one am humbled by this offering as it's really the kind of thing you'd expect to pay 5+ dollars on the store for.   You can find that here:

There's also this nifty scorpion he made on the same thread here:


Looks like Bored Of The Rings (BOTR) released the newest version of his heightmap to GG tool.  This tool now has a functional GUI and some better tuned settings.  Definitely check it out!


In the randomly creative arena we've got some real winners this week but I think this one takes the cake:

I mean wow, this literally makes my week. SCHNEEKY has also made a Christmas-time Yule log, which was pretty cleanly done.

And in the realm of actually 'Holy crap this should get released' works of creativity:
Duchenkuke has done some really amazing things with his "Cold Contract" game.  Looks absolutely awesome, the lighting is great!

Keep a real close eye on this one.  This is going to be a real show-stopper once it's released.

Monday, December 4, 2017

This week in Game-Guru 12/4/2017

Welcome back to my second update.  We've seen some HUGE updates this week.


First and foremost, the public preview was released this week.  The 'beta' is now a public beta.   Get in there and test!  I ran into a problem installing mine that required me to update certain elements of my Windows 7 OS to fix a D3DDIRECT_47.dll not found error.   Other than that though, it works great.  I've had a few assets with problems and am yet to test my own products but as soon as I can verify their function I'll note that here.

More info is available here:

PBR Assets look great!

Beware though; this is a test version.  It's not all there yet and so it's best to make a backup before you continue.  I personally copied my 50+GB of assets and GG to a backup folder.  If you can't afford that kind of space, then I'd recommend either getting another drive or putting a copy on (you get like 15GB free there).


The store this week has some interesting December sales which are worth looking at.  Artists range from "The Wizard of Id", "that model guy" and "grobyken" all having several models or packs up to individual packs like Teabone's new warning sign set.

These high quality clutter objects cost only 70 cents.. TOTAL!  For the whole pack!
Teabone's done a fantastic job of creating high quality assets that are extremely affordable but possibly more importantly - they are very useful!  I have several signs from older packs that just don't measure up.  They look chunky and out of date.  These signs are clear, easy to read, are well lit but yet still have just the right amount of grunge to keep them from looking out of place.

Also on the store I noticed this gem from an artist I've only seen the occasional piece from: AlexGCC.  I took a look and noticed two separate products which appear relatively new that are of pretty excellent quality:

The Arcade will go well with EAI's set and the playground will go well with dagored's Carnival.
They're both reasonably priced so definitely give these and his other interesting products a look!


As always, there's a veritable bevy of free stuff available on the Game-Guru forums.  This week we have a nice freebie from Wolf, a set electrical boxes which he's also put up on the store as well.  I have several of his 'junction box' sets and I've noticed a clear trend upwards in terms of quality and technical skill.  Of note are the illuminated lights on the boxes.

The perfect touch for all your cyberpunk set dressing needs.
Also on the forums it appears Bod's been at it again.  Now if you don't know Bod, you should.  He's made a titanic mass of free stuff over the past few years.  While his art style and approach might limit other assets you can use with it, it does definitely fill a role and niche.  Very often he's got things you simply can't find anywhere else.  Or things that you'd pay a fair penny for on the store.

In this case he's been working on a ton of railroad assets.  This week he's added a switching booth which looks great.  It's probably one of his best physical models for buildings that I've seen so far.

His texturing is really going places.

At some point I'm going to take all my free assets and open up a google drive with them so people can access them freely in the future.  It'd be a shame if this stuff just fell off into oblivion from lack of upkeep or if the forums went away.

The interior on this building is top notch.  I love the way it turned out.
One final one to look at is this thread: which has a repository of all of "tarkus1971"s hard work.  He's got some interesting things there but most notably he has been adding lots of great music for free use in your games.


In the world of third party tools, it looks like BOTR's 'HeightMap to Game-Guru' tool is getting a new user interface which will really help with it's function.  On top of that he's added a preview mode which should REALLY shave time off pulling maps from and importing them into Game-Guru. Granted I'm really thankful for a free tool like this but I have to admit it's always nice when it becomes truly functional.

This is going to massively help level development for Game-Guru!

Also of note is that OldPMan's "normalizator" tool has apparently reached a new stage of development and will be offered shortly on the store.  Per OldPMan himself:

"Hello everybody!
I'm happy to report that I finally recovered the lost source code "NORMALIZATOR". So I added a height channel and several auxiliary functions, this is copying the image from layer to layer, cropping the image and copying / pasting the selected part of the image. Fixed several bugs.
Now I will have all my time in touch and any questions will not be left without attention.

Concerning people who donated to the development of the application, I sent everyone emails with the keys for NORMALIZATOR in the tgcstore store. I noticed that not all of the keys I sent were activated, if for some reason you did not receive a letter with a key from me, write me a PM and I will give you instructions for obtaining a key in the tgcstore store.

The new version will soon be available at the tgcstore store, now in the status of approval.

For those who expect STEAM version, now you can get access to the closed beta test of the application, just write me a PM and I'll send you the key for access via STEAM client."


So there's a lot of activity going into the holidays with projects.  I have a lot to cover here.

Let's start from the top!
First up we have MrEaKing(YT)'s 'Santa's Workshop(1 week challenge)'.  What can I say?  He's retextured assets and modified some of the soldiers to provide a shall we say a truly 'unique' experience.

Beyond that we have Dark Harbour; Honkeyboy's newest attempt at making a Skyrim Style game which will undoubtedly push the boundaries of how many assets Game-Guru can run without crashing.  He's got some interesting crafting scripts in there that he's working on and it's definitely got some work behind it.

Of particular note here is AmenMoses's 'asteroids-ish thingy'.  AmenMoses is the maker of the quaternion library for Game Guru and he uses it for rotation in very impressive fashion.

I'll have to play with it later but should run great, knowing AmenMoses.
Beyond that we have some updates to the Cogwheel Chronicles 1 and LenTheMan's Cowboy shooter.  Lots of good stuff in the pipeline.

Personally I have my own projects as well that are stalled out but will revive after the new year.  Lots of things to work on and do.  I'd like to get some stuff done for Christmas but it's really going to be tight at this rate.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

This week in Game-Guru 11/28/2017

So I've decided to start updating *MORE REGULARLY* than I did previously.  There's a lot of things coming for Game-Guru and it's worth reviewing in one place.  So I'm going to begin to try to encapsulate that as often as I can in digest format.


First of all, progress on the Game-Guru update to PBR/DX11 & bugfixes are coming along nicely.  Recent updates can be found here:

Most recent engine update progress

Lee has basically indicated he's in the bugfixing phase and he's squashing them in pretty rapid fashion.  I'd list them all here but he's put in over 40 items in the changelog this week alone.

He's also giving us a test level to work with that will take an older demo map and show off the fully upgraded engine's capabilities.


There's a whole host of new products on the store.  Notably very capable artists such as Wolf, Mad Lobster's Workshop, Bugsy and others are adding some really great things.

BSP's newest rifle looks phenomenal!
Don't forget to grab your free 'thank you sky' from my store here: 

Just one picture of one of my best skies ever, free for you all :)

One thing of note is that Ken "AKA Grobyken"  has made some pretty stunning progress in his work.  He attributes it to using some new tools for development.  I personally can't say I'd have the same success if I had better tools.

I'm definitely going to be keeping an eye or three on his upcoming works.


Of note this week is Bod (of Bod's Mods fame) has made a very impressive free train set.  It includes Three steamers, a rail model, a coal car, a dining car with functioning doors, and a caboose.  The art is his signature style with clean and simple graphics.

It's something I'm surprised isn't selling on the store for a few dollars, but honestly I'm happy for the free stuff, as usual.


Obviously my Light Kit is now available on the store, which does in a sense count as third party tools, however the big news here is that it appears that BOTR's  'terrain heightmap importer', 'autowelder', and 'entity welder' are all getting updates.

The one of primary interest to me will be the terrain heightmap importer, which has fit a crucial slot in Game-Guru development by providing us a simple and clean way to import heightmaps directly into the engine.

"for version 1.2, I quickly added a progress bar and will get a fully functional GUI implemented so you don't have to keep editing/saving the .INI file. added .tga format also."

For those who are using it, my personal recommendation is to use terrainxscale = 1, terrainyscale = 6.5 or 7.5 (10-32 if you want especially dramatic elevation changes), and a water level of about 450.  This should give you the best results.


This is where I plan to put anything in the realm of game demos or videos which are of special consideration for any reason I deem fit :)

First off, we have a really impressive demo of the now updated Cogwheel Chronicles.  It features airship to airship combat done in Game-Guru and is striking to me as a Lua coder at the sheer volume of work that went into making this work.

And lastly there's this great Holiday video done by often quiet forum member shn33ky.  He's done a really good job of recreating a beer commercial from years gone by.

Oh.. and somehow I got user of the month for the first time in four years.  What the heck?  Well, ok then :)  Glad someone's appreciating the work I put into this stuff.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Latest tidbits

So lately I've been exceptionally busy preparing for my house to be sold.
That said I've found time to complete my lightkit, place it on the store and begin selling it.
I also made a tutorial video.

Warning: I'm a terrible video editor.

The item on the store is located here:

Also I've gone through the trouble of collating important information on Game-Guru (as I've found it) into a reference list.  I used to keep this as a sort of 'private page' but now I'm opening it up to everyone else.  It can be found on the sidebar but here's a direct link in case you can't find it:

I've also added '' as a site in my sidebar list as well.  He's been around a while and has some good scripts as well as tutorial videos on youtube.  Definitely check him out!

Beyond that there's some interesting stuff coming but we are all waiting with baited breath for the latest GG update.

Friday, November 10, 2017

New project in the works

With respect to projects, I don't know why I choose to do more hard work when I am already busting my buns trying to prep my house for sale.  However, I have some really great stuff in the pipeline.  Primarily I'm working on a toolkit (in the prototyping phase) which will allow pretty heavy duty control of dynamic lights in Game Guru.

We're talking script-based controls of lights which will allow very functional utility for the average game-maker.  It will also be competitively priced, by that I mean very affordable :)  Right now I'm looking at putting it up for around 3.50 or so.

That's what's going on.  I'll post a video here once I finish a few more lighting systems for demoing.

So far I have about half of the following:
  • A steady strobing effect
  • A random strobing effect
  • A 'campfire' effect
  • A light up on trigger zone
  • Several  lights simultaneously
  • Several lights sequentially
  • A single light moving in a pattern
  • Several strobes at once
  • Several strobes in sequence
This should provide some really excellent controls for new and existing users to work with dynamic lights.  As the updates come I'll add further functionality too, for free, to purchasers.

Keep your eyes peeled!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Something's wonky with blogger.

I'm getting 3x the pageviews with unlabelled posts vs ones that have meta tags for easy searching.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Repricing a few items on the store

I noticed a few of my terrain items were way overpriced for what they were.  I've lowered them by 30-50% depending on the item.

Primary offenders - 1024px HQ Roads, 1024px HQ SCIFI terrain.

The terrain pack was also slightly reduced to reflect these changes.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A little micro-addendum

I always liked totalbiscuit; his style and prose are very good to me.  

This gem relates to the maze discussion I had a few days previous:

Real solid stuff here, totally worth watching.

Also, this is worth looking at:

It appears that BOTR has made a functioning bmp to terrain generator for GG!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Technique Discussion: Modern games and Mazes

Recently I was following the progress of this gem:

Dimoxinil is not only a hard to spell username, but also one of the premier Game-Guru creators.

His previous works (though uncompleted) really set the bar rather high for what's capable with this handy little engine we all like to dick around in from time to time.

This newest game is a really well thought out piece of work and we got a little off topic discussing level design principles;  specifically this particular image:

And also it was noted that there should be some differentiation in the shapes being used by Dimoxinil on this image:

It's really hard to believe quality like this can come out of Game-Guru.
So this got me thinking and I had to expand on some of my own thoughts posted there by way of a highly verbose piece written here :)

So I really have no complaints myself about this particular image. It's a little washed out, maybe, but the shapes used are really pretty good at providing a maze-like feel.  If that's what you're going for, that is.  If you are trying to provide a clearly navigable experience, however, you get lost in it.

I personally don't really like the trend of modern games going the route of "This is my linear movie level.  It's highly detailed, but not mentally stimulating in the least."

An oldie, but a goodie!

The above picture really illustrates once again that no matter how you dress up a simple linear FPS game, it's really just that - a Linear FPS game.

When I read "Masters of Doom", which I consider a must-read by any serious FPS game dev, I saw that John Romero had gotten his start in 3d level design making mazes.  Now this is an important differentiation between modern game design and 'old school' game design. 

Because of the lack of horsepower, gamedevs were FORCED to use more inventive methods to stimulate the player's interest.  This included mental stimulation on the level of insidious puzzles and secrets. This wasn't even a new concept.  The further back you went, the more obvious the mazes were (primarily because of the limitations involved with graphics,storage, and processing hardware).

One of the first mazes I recall from my youth showing on my TV screen.
In fact, if you look at video gaming history, it's rife with mazes.  At least, until, hardware improved.

Then we found ourselves in a place where the streets were long and flat but the window dressing was really good.  I noticed a correlation with this in the early 2k's.  Games were getting prettier .. and easier.  Tutorials, controls, everything started slowly getting simplified. 

Maybe our games are making us dumber?  The lack of mazes means lack of higher order thought; people can't process their environments anymore.  It's difficult to really figure your way around a maze with no clear start or end.. with no walls to guide you.  That however can bring it's own enjoyment.  There are, however, certain tricks you can use to make sure your players aren't getting lost (at least, until you intend for them to be!).

Now it's not hard for you to figure out I live in Pennsylvania.  I've lived here my whole life.  I have spent many, MANY hours as a boy meandering around the forests.  It's real easy to get lost because so much of it is just .. so ... SIMILAR.  As I got older my interest in Survivalism and Hiking helped me get a solid sense of navigational techniques.  These same techniques can be used to help guide a player.  Some games virtually beat you over the head with modern methods such as the 'use a light to guide the player' technique:

I absolutely enjoyed Doom 2016 but the hell maps were a case study in 'follow the green light to move on' 
While I respect and appreciate some of the things modern level designers have done (the aforementioned Doom, for instance, had superbly designed secrets), I really feel like we've over-simplified some of the bits that made gaming fun for those of us who cut our teeth on the Atari, Nintendo, and 286/386/486 PCs.

Rule One: Try to provide a significant landmark to guide players.

That big rock gives you a clear sense of where you are.
When you're out navigating the woods, when you find a major landmark you latch onto it.  It is your anchor, your safety net.  Landmark-based navigation is among the oldest and most easily used methods of finding your way through difficult terrain.  In the above picture, you have two great landmarks.  You have the big rock but ALSO a winding river.  Now if they diverge into separate paths, most people will automatically use that to triangulate where they are.  It's sort of a built in function of the human brain.  Giving people a clock tower, obelisk, large river, mountain, or building can easily change a level from a faceless, winding maze to something where you never truly feel lost.  After all, you're always still anchored to that rock in the distance.

Rule Two:  Light is a landmark, but don't overdo it.

Another time-honored tradition in the real world for navigation is using the position of the sun, moon, or stars to determine where you are.  It's natural for humans to seek light as a source of navigation; cave exits, campfires, houses, all are denoted by lights.   When you get to the point of literally cutting almost every single light out to give people a deliberate trail though of 'green lights' then you are at that point going a little too far, in my humble opinion.

The light is a precious resource; something you don't realize until you are lost in the forest, alone.

Consider this; you are walking through a forest, on a path without a compass.  The path is winding with many forks and the trail is faint.  The trees are like walls, blocking out any landmarks.  You have a watch and know it's 8am.  Suddenly, you get a glimmer of light from the sun; you realize it's to your right and because of that you know that the sun rose in the east - making your direction currently north.  That's opposite the way you wanted to go! You return to your previous fork and try a different path, carefully keeping the position of the sun in line with the direction you wish to go.

These are real world usages of this.  I've been lost in the forest myself before.  I was literally standing on a path wondering where the hell I was.  I knew the path had diverged before.  Obviously I was *SOMEWHERE*.  Until I caught a glimpse of the sun though, I really had no idea which direction I was headed. 

Rule Three: Paths are guidelines, not rules.

Sure, you can keep following the path, but what happens when you go off the trail?
The expression "off the beaten path" is an oft-used one but really denotes that most people tend to follow the trails as given.  Which, let's be fair here, trails exist for a reason.  They are the typically navigated path.  The problems arise when you put the player on a trail they cannot deviate from.  That's not a trail; that's a railroad.  Providing a player a rewarding experience is more than simply giving them a huge art budget and professionally written story.  It's about making the game fun too; exploration is an oft-underutilized component of modern gameplay.  Worse still are examples (I'm looking at you, World of Warcraft) that literally turn exploration into a clinical exercise in boredom. 

Rule Four:  If you really want to get a player lost, take away their frames of reference.

Variety is the spice of life. While it's wonderful to give players a thoughtfully done level that is intuitive to navigate, yet challenging in it's complexity, it's often good to sometimes pull the rug out from under them.

Photo by Alex Wise.
When you dump your player into an area with no clear beginning or end and everything looks the same... they're going to feel a type of helplessness that really can't be described in words.  This type of change of pace can often be enough to really help break apart the monotony of longer games.  Putting in a hedge-style maze that's got a ceiling on it, a teleportation maze where every room is almost the same, or just a great big forest with a whole lot of trees can really change the tempo of a game and give you a real hand in the player's fate. 

In conclusion:

I think Wolf really said it best on the original forum post in question:

"I think divisions like this are toxic in a medium that should be about freedom of art and expression. Multiplayer legends like "killbox" or "facing worlds" wouldn't make me an expert?
A lot of very simplistic multiplayer levels are well loved. This also feeds into the culture of bearded, flannel wearing people with a mild depression that tend to overthink and navel gaze game development. This statement is personal, neither objective, nor fair, nor grounded in anything but my own petty dislike for some happenings in the indie scene lately though."

Or if you really want to simplify it, take Bugsy's sage advice:

"remember kids: if your map doesn't have a rotunda, you're not an expert level designer"

Sage advice, indeed.  I'll settle for just telling anyone reading this to maybe think about maybe adding more intellectually stimulating mazes, if only for my own gaming pleasure.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Advanced Time of Day and Weather Control, Mk3

It's been a few months since I made any major updates to the Advanced Time of Day (TOD) and Weather Control System I made and put on the store earlier this year.  The second iteration added lightning storms, sound effects for lightning, and specularity changes as well as some color tuning.

Well version 3 is out and it's on sale (9.98, 27% savings!) 

It's added the following:
  • Better documentation
  • Better sunset and daytime transitions
  • Bugfixes for the brightness issue
  • A time of day clock usable by NPCs and scripts
  • A 12 hour conversion system to provide time of day to players in AM/PM format.
  • Lots of little small updates such as better variable names and cleaner code!
All of this marks a pretty good spot for this.  There are currently no bugs known and it's running flawlessly on my system.  Grab your update if you have one and get to work :)

Friday, October 20, 2017

Latest news from Game Guru

Looks like Lee's reading my blog, his update had a very similar format.

Right now there's also a pretty interesting set of discussions on the webforums on two topics that are near and dear to my heart with #gamedev:

First off, there's a good discussion going on Terrain Generation and modification externally:

In that thread we have actual source code on how the file for m.dat is output (m.dat is the map data found inside of the fpm file, which is really just a zip file using the password 'mypassword'). 
Apparently it's just a 1024x1024 array of floats, with a 00004000 metadata tag at the beginning.  There's a lot that can be done here.  Apparently game-guru does a lot of the actual interpolation/etc so it *SHOULD* smooth a significant amount of it between each floating point value. 

Then you have several AI related discussions:

Mostly centered around AI performance.  The big  issue is people are making 'hordes' of zombies and it's pooping out game-guru. Big surprise there.  Most AI is written as a singular entity and eats a lot of cycles.  Writing mob-based AI is completely different.  I might have to step in on this one though I'm really tremendously rusty on AI writing.  It'll be a lot of work.  But basically if I recall you kind of give each 'mob' zombie a sort of thin-client style AI where there's one main process and a bunch of minor processes.  The main process then controls the subprocesses.  You need functions for computing things such as the centroid (a fancy way of saying a central point they can all reach).  It's a big project, something that would eat a lot of cycles I don't have.

In other news, I got a request from a customer to add a timer or minute/time tracker.  It should effectively be easy enough to implement. I may actually go do that myself if given the time.

Some good stuff out there on the forums, which have generally died down due to a lack of interest from lack of obvious development - but definitely keep your eyes peeled.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Excited for new GG updates.

I realize I've been silent here for a while but I wanted to just say I've been off and on in communication with Lee Bamber with respect to the upcoming release of Game-Guru.  It's slated to be available by Christmas.

So a few important tidbits here and I'm going to list in no particular order, but they are all MASSIVE improvements over the existing system.

  • DirectX11 - Huge huge visual/processing overhaul. 
  • PBR (Physically based rendering).  This will drastically change the way lighting is done.
  • Unlimited dynamic lights.  Assuming this applies to PBR it's going to be a very cool addon.
  • Static lighting fix (removing sun baking into the final static lighting) which has been ruining indoor scenes since forever; maybe now I can actually finish my sci-fi game!
  • Drastically reduced load times, especially the outright evil AI pathing system.
Now let's go through some of these differences one at a time.
DirectX11 - The current version of DX is 9 as used by Game-Guru at this time.  11 provides a more up to date graphical experience as well as better hyperthreading and utilization of graphics hardware.  In laymen terms X9 is more CPU dependent, X11 is more GPU dependent.

PBR - See this link for more detailed information on what's going on here, but basically a PBR map is applied to the object and then the renderer applies lighting to that more realistically.  It's something I'm not super familiar with but the results are very good thus far.

Unlimited Dynamic Lights -  This is an important side effect of better lighting overall.  Currently Game-Guru works with  only two Dynamic Lights at a time.  Dynamic lights can light all objects including Dynamic objects such as AI driven creatures, collectable items, doors, etc.  It's very important if we want to get a functional system for lighting that we get more than two available at a time. Unlimited would be absolutely fantastic in terms of levelbuilding. 

Static Lighting Fix -  As reported on this thread I was able to find and duplicate the issue.  Once I analyzed the issue in detail I was able to report the actual problem being that the sun was baking in without any respect towards the level's sun settings and as such causing overlap and excessive shadows in baked mode.  This has been a major issue for a long time which has caused a lot of oddities and irregularities in Game-Guru's lighting system. 

Reduced Load Times - If you've ever made a level and exported it in Game-Guru you faced the biggest obstacle towards developing an actual commercial product - the incredibly long load times.  I'm not joking here but my old 'Silent Hill Game Guru' map that my son and I made for my wife's birthday had *15 MINUTE LONG LOAD TIMES OR HIGHER*.  Most of this was from the computation of AI paths.  There's literally no way you could sell a game in that environment.  It's simply not possible to explain to a user that they should go take a shower and come back and the level might be loaded by then.  Lee is claiming much improved load times, specifically in the realm of AI pathing (per an email I had with him).  So as a result we should see some really functional export capabilities.

In conclusion - I'm really looking forward to playing around with the newest iteration of GG though it might take a little while for it to show up given the massive amount of work being done.  I'll probably write some new lighting guides, tutorials, or a review on the engine itself.  I'm sure there will be some bugs to iron out, thing always slip past QA even in large scale corps these days.  So a one man show like Lee runs it's veritably guaranteed.  But still, these changes should really propel Game Guru to be a more mainstream capable engine.  Perhaps not AAA, but at least not bottom shelf.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Lessons learned from: What remains of Edith Finch


I didn't think I'd do one of these anytime soon.  I mean I think the last time I did one was with my reviews on the 90's version of Doom.  Click here to see those reviews.

My wife recently introduced me to a game which apparently was impressively reviewed.  It was called simply:

"What remains of Edith Finch."

I remember her coming in and telling me to check out the video she took with some funny scenes.  I was impressed by the creativity of it on it's face.  Then, rather quickly I might add, she stopped talking about it.

This caught my attention.

She finished the game quickly enough, approximately 3-4 hours play time.  She came in, tears streaking her face and I thought - uh-oh.  This must have had a pretty heavy story.  She says to me simply: "You have to play this."


So I took the bait and sat to play on her computer.    I won't give away the plot or gush over it.  I willy simply say for my review that there are a few games in your life you *MUST* play.  

This is one of them.   There's no wiggling around it.  You have to play it if you want to see some of not only the most creative storytelling around but a bevy of impressive game design techniques which are keenly honed and exceptionally executed.

Warning - what comes next might qualify as a spoiler.  I am assuming you play the game first, then return to this.

Ok, let's begin.  The first thing that struck me was how obviously it was an Unreal Engine game.  If you know what you're looking for it's fairly easy to tell.  This initially gave me mediocre hopes for the game; I mean UE4 puzzle-style games are a dime a dozen.

The floating world text is usually a good indicator it's from UE4.
There's a lot of little things you notice right in a UE4 title.  For instance, the aforementioned floating text.  There's generally sweeping terrain that's quite striking with an obvious linear path.  This is often the way with these types of titles.  Nothing here is particularly original though you may notice your first tinges of feeling like something is different when you view the bizarre house's architecture.  You realize that something so magnificent and well detailed is probably a prelude of things to come.

Speaking of details..
The game play up through the first bit is fairly straightforward and normal.  In years gone by, they derided this type of game as a 'walking simulator'.  It really isn't though, as you'll soon see.   Throughout this part though you will be almost completely overwhelmed by the insane attention to detail.  Every nook, cranny, and edifice has some sort of eye-catching detail.  Clutter objects are on the by and large extremely unique.  Normally you get a lot of similarity as it's a situation where you feel as a developer a little rushed to finish smaller component pieces.  However this game is an excellent study in the concept of both exterior and interior design architecture.  The lighting and design draw you in the path you'd expect but the environment itself begs for you to scour.  I probably spent fifteen full minutes in each area just looking at the wide array of high quality clutter.

Detailed clutter like this literally fill the game from top to bottom.

I'm a big fan of well used clutter;  I feel like it provides a sense of reality to an otherwise boring or drab game.   This game at first comes at you with an overwhelming amount of clutter.  However soon you realize this game is meant to be viewed from a series of frames or slides in a sense.  It sort of underscores how utterly important it is to not only have a good artist to design such perfect clutter pieces but to also have a good eye for how to put it together like a director for a movie.

Next up, the narration.  A lot of story-based games (such as the Parable of Stanley) use some form of narrator.  However a great many low-level indy titles use fairly poor narration.  As a sometimes Sci-Fi writer of literally zero acclaim, I feel that totally qualifies me to provide some on-the-spot judgement here.  Right? Right.  So I have to say I really felt the narration here was absolutely fantastic and further underscored having some experience in creative writing.  If you haven't taken a creative writing course at your local college (often offered at very low rates) you really have no idea what you are missing.  This critical element of storytelling is often overlooked in the name of fancier graphics or big ideals.  

Of course, stories are about the stories.  This game clearly had an experienced writer working on it; the narration reads like a really familiar book.  You get a good sense of each individual character's state of mind and they truly come to life with every word in front of you.

It helps to have your text boxes be more dynamic and interactive as well.
One interesting element 'WREF' provided was highly interactive text bubbles.   Very often the text was portrayed in new and unique ways that were actually quite fun to mess with.  Sometimes they exploded, spun, or were wiggled off.  In one case a kite is used to spin them.  In another you shake them loose like dandelion seeds.  It's really quite interesting and is almost always relevant to the story.

The use of lighting in this game was particularly impressive.
If you've read my previous blog posts on game design or game development (specifically for Game-Guru) you already know that I am a huge fan of intelligent lighting principles.  This game really took the things I already knew were capable and pressed them to their limit.   Some of the area lighting is .. well just beyond impressive.  Especially considering how there's virtually no power available in the game's 'house'.
The lighting provides a clear sense of both ambience and direction without beating you over the head with it.
There's skylights that let in just the right amount of moonlight, blacklights, blinking buoys in the distance... dim candlelight, bright studio lighting... I didn't feel as much like the developer was trying to impress me with a bag of tricks so much as just use every sound lighting principle ever conceived for a game in a purposeful and efficient fashion.

And yet - none of this really is anything particularly noteworthy.  

Don't get me wrong - it's great, shocking even - with it's lush details and environments.

But what absolutely astounded me - what blew me completely out of the water were the game mechanics.

Yeah.  If you played the game, you know - you KNOW what I'm talking about here.

This game had the potential to be a rail shooter without shooting; a simple walk and click game that told a story.  And yet, it takes the time to provide a wildly variable experience that not only gives you differentiation but also makes you feel like you're learning something.  The fish packing plant is one of the most incredible scenes I've ever seen in an indy title.  I will get back to that, however.

Shortly after you begin the game you play as a young girl.  Her story is ... intriguing to say the least. 

Yeah, that's a shark.
Time for some unvarnished truth.  My wife told me about the shark scene.  It was probably one of the funniest things I've ever seen.  It's insane, wild, and fun.  I do kind of wish she'd not ruined it, but what can you do.  During this phase of the game you evolve through various creatures.  EACH one has a different way of interacting with it's environment. 
The use of the camera on the tentacle monster was particularly interesting.
The cat can jump and run across thin ledges.  The owl flies and swoops down on it's prey.   The shark... kind of flops around until it lands in the ocean, then rushes forward to much on seals.  Each one represents it's own challenge in reverse engineering for the purposes of figuring out game development.  The one that was of particular interest was the weird tentacle octopus monster.  It took me a little bit to realize that the camera would move when it pulled itself and then simply used the tentacle as an actor on a static camera (until it pulled forward with left click).  Pretty ingenious and definitely worth playing around with to try to figure out.
Most of these were done in a simple fashion but above all they worked rather seamlessly.   I found that it was very easy to navigate, locate, and complete the objectives as stated by the narrator.  The game was structured in such a way that the scenes were mostly fairly loose; they consisted of a smaller arena that would simply loop back in on itself if you got too far off track.  This helped keep the players  from accidentally breaking out of the bounds of what amounted to a very simple minigame.
The games start simple - move the fish over, get the head cut off, throw it up.  Then they add complexity - walk through a maze while performing the fish-cut-toss minigame.  It's really quite impressive.
This of course changes and evolves as the game goes on.  There are several minigames ranging from snapping pictures with a camera that has a manual focus to a fish packing game where you literally play two separate minigames at once to illustrate how people can do a menial task while doing something creative.

Yep, there's a sailboat there, that the player controls!

The games evolve at times, in the case of the fish packing plant they start as a simple 2-D wireframe maze to a 3-D isometric view, culminating in a first person view.  The entire time music builds to a rousing crescendo as the 'world' develops.  It's really incredible.  All while still doing the fish minigame with your mouse hand.  I couldn't believe it and I really can't describe it - you have to experience it to really understand it and that's saying something.  I consider myself extremely verbose and this really should go to show how awestruck I was by this.  

This picture doesn't do this scene any justice.

This is more than an uncommon game.  This game is special.  I mean that.  It's something that if you play it with an open eye and open mind you will maybe pick up a fraction of the work that's been put into it and will never forget that.  It will teach you things about game design and yourself that you didn't know.    The story is brilliant too, of course.  Truly powerful stuff.  It's an experience I will likely revisit like an old movie once in a while to really refresh the memories.  This combined epic scoring, fantastic art, an incredible plot, brilliant writing and innovative gameplay all into one neat package.  I'll be hard pressed to ever make something even approaching it.

I'm sad that it's over.  Play it.  Learn from it.  Take your time and really enjoy it.  Just like life really; which is kind of the point of the game in the first place.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Interesting Developments

So as you may have seen, my weather system finally got to the store.  However...

I got some great ideas for 'version 2' which will probably just be an upgrade for existing owners.

Namely as I was explaining to my wife how to achieve a 'wet' look in a game (specifically Black Desert Online) I realized I could probably do the same with my own system.
So now, I've implemented specularity control.  It works wonderfully :)

Note the shine on the texture, giving an appearance of wetness.

I've also resolved a problem with shadows on highest settings for the decals.  It looks vastly better with them disabled.

Lastly I plan on improving the actual decals themselves, which look frankly too chunky for my tastes.  The rain is ... ok .. but only because I've already meddled with it.

Lightning is working again!
It needs some cleanup but so far I'm pleased with the results.  Timing's good, colors are acceptable (I had to use brightness to avoid interfering with the interpolation engine) and the overall effect is quite good.

Good progress tonight makes Mike a happy man :)

More comparison shots:

Friday, July 21, 2017

Weather system is FINALLY ON THE STORE WOO!

It took a lot of emails, a lot of time, and even longer development but it's finally there!

You can check it out here:

I'm sure problems will arise in some capacity but I'm very happy just to see it finally show up on the damn store.  It felt like an eternity but here we are :)

I may do a video tutorial of it's use/function as well.

I need to do some updates for the mad lobster stuff because he just keeps adding more to his mad scientist lab.  It's gone from a good deal to a fantastic deal.  I'm reminded of the amusement park kit that just kept getting better and better.

Anyways right now I'm extremely happy about my weather system being available.

A few updates were made to the previous attempted upload:
1) You can now add a lightning sound.  Granted there's code in there for a lightning effect but it's non functional at the moment. When I make that change I will release it as a module for free.

2) There's a semi-smart fog system for weather conditions.  Having been playing a lot of Fallout 4 (specifically with the TrueWeather mod) I found I really enjoyed the combination of fog AND weather environmental effects.  So right now if it's NOT nighttime (it uses a less than stellar method of determining, specifically the color red of ambience) it will NOT override existing fog settings for that specific state.  If it DOES override it is done with some fuzzy logic that will basically determine if it's a storm, a heavy storm, a snowstorm, a duststorm, etc.  Basically there's a light fog for light storms, heavy fog for snow/thunderstorms, and a dust storm setting which gives it orange colored fog.  It also tempers the nighttime fog orange (this is the one exception to the night rule). 

3) I managed to get the environmental systems (rain, snow, dust) installed.  I also use my improved rain, which was accomplished by simply running a better smoothing and alpha texture on algostep's original rain model.  Snow and dust are unaffected currently.

 4) I fixed the errors with the demo level which includes a lot of extra moving pieces now but they all worked flawlessly for me.

Again if you get a chance, swing by over here: and check it out!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Another rejection on the store

So my offering got rejected.  I sort of expected that, given it's complexity.  It takes time to dial into the right setup for the store to deploy to customers.

That said.. some of this stuff becomes inordinately frustrating as it ends up delaying projects by weeks or months due to their slowness.  It took two weeks for a reply this time.  How long I wonder, will it take for them to do the next version - and what if that one fails?

It's no wonder people sell their scripts directly.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Slowness, turtle club, etc

Waiting on my weather system to be admitted to the tgcstore site.  Spoke with an admin today and.. nothing yet.  Eventually maybe?

I've already begun work on version two. 

And grown a new beard.

And it's still not approved... let that sink in.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Weather System Status

So recently I posted an update to the forums.

I resubmitted my weather and time of day system last night to Game Guru's store.  I made significant progress on some pieces that have been outstanding for quite some time.  I added a modified version of my function library that shows how to transition to a specific state and also a simple 'instant state change' script. Added better documentation, made a test map, bundled it all properly so the store would read the weather stuff etc.

I made some pictures and sent it on up.  We'll see how it goes. 

In the meantime though..
Recently though I had a spurt of inspiration and have begun adding some minor improvements to it. So I might already have to revise my update... assuming they actually accept the submission which has always been a chore.  They're needlessly bureaucratic on the site and it's frustrating to work with in that regard. 

Rant aside, I'm planning on adding some really interesting things to the weather system such as:
  • Random rainstorms will have a 1/3rd chance of being a lightning storm (with sound)
  • Heavy/light fog conditions which will override preset TOD settings.
  • Possible ambient music/sound using 'startrain/snow/etc' trigger zones.
Little things like that ;)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Review: Mad Lobster's 'Scientist's Laboratory & Lair'

It's been a while since I've been compelled to do a review.  I generally have little free time and these reviews receive very little looks or comments so in general I don't feel like it's very useful.

As such I'm not going to do my usual spate of pictures/etc.  I am going to keep this clean and succinct.

The Mad Lobster is a relatively new artist in the Game Guru world.  New artists are always a mixed bag.  They either are an old pro who is intimately familiar with model making or a new guy just looking to release his poorly textured objects for some attention.  I understand and can appreciate both positions.  Often the old pro runs into the issue of not knowing the limitations of the engine (20k polys, for instance) or can't get the textures to look good.   It's a fine tuning act in most  cases where they begin their forays and you can SEE the raw talent but it's just ... not quite built around Game-Guru's limitations yet.

This is a rare exception here; The Mad Lobster is obviously an experienced modeller.  The poly counts are good, the textures are excellent and properly positioned and there's clearly some good normal mapping.  It's the best first go I've seen done in Game-Guru in a long time (probably a year and a half, really).

The first foray was a whole kit called the 'Mad Scientist's Lab and Lair' - it's a huge array of beautiful objects with tons of work put into them.  Moreover it's really got just about everything you could ask for.  Tesla coils, panels with buttons on them, big robot arms, ominous looking walls, the works.  It's really impressive on a level I wasn't prepared for.

All told you get *43* exceptionally high quality objects that look fantastic in Game Guru for a very reasonable price (18 dollars).  I'd reckon this kit is easily in the top 10 of all available products on the store and is easily on peer with Wizard of Id or Rolfy's products.

So if you're still hanging around here for the odd periodic review, here you go :)  The best new product of 2017, IMO.

TGCStore updates and weather system delays

A few weeks ago I put my weather system in queue to get put on the site but unfortunately was rejected (as expected).  However, I've emailed support about the issue and heard nothing.

So at this point I'm kind of floating in limbo.

Should I sell it here directly?


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What's wrong with Game Guru?

Long post warning!

Let me start off by saying I don't want to diminish Lee's hard recent hard work.  A little context before we begin.  About a year ago, Game-Guru had stagnated.  A great many of us felt that the project was being let go in favor of another, bigger project.  After all, we've been through the following already:
  • Several kickstarters
  • FPSC X10's failure
  • A C-code rewrite
  • A few years of semi-active development
  • A few "big updates" that were little more than content drops.
  • A rebranding (Reloaded to Game-Guru)
  • Several new product launches for unrelated projects (AppGameKit, MyWorld, etc)
  • A very long stagnation period (on the order of about 6+ months).
Despite not reaching stated milestones for the initial project, I think it was felt that this project was probably nearing it's endpoint and that we wouldn't see much coming in the future.
I for one, started to drop off the radar.

Then, suddenly, Lee really got his shit together.
Like monthly updates became a thing but not only that - they were substantial.  The EBE (easy building editor) which was stagnant for like.. literally around two years got off the ground.  This is, was, and will remain seriously fucking cool of him. 

Multiple codefixes were done.

Major updates were included with some hard work by one forum member who rewrote a number of shaders and was selling them separate.   Lee opened up the LUA code significantly.

Yet recently I dove in to try to get my weather system finalized for sale (it is, though I have to get it on the store yet which is always a monster, monster chore).

So my son has been making some really awesome stuff lately.  My weather stuff is almost done for the version 1 weather and time of day system...

That's when we run into problems.  Things which are glaring, GLARING monsters in the room that need addressed.  I'm going to go into them in no particular order.

Culling, culling, and more culling.

If there's one thing that absolutely DESTROYS this engine, it's the seemingly total lack of culling being done.  Here's a prime example.

My son built a nice little house using the EBE.

Not my son's house, but a good representation nonetheless.

This house had probably a few hundred trees around it. They weren't anything special.  Trees, by the way, are the Anti-Christ when it comes to Game-Guru.  They have too many polys at too odd of angles and it just nukes performance.


So anyways, we're inside this house and literally there's nothing in there - just a few floors, no windows, and some solid walls comprising a room.

And at this point I notice it's running like a leg-less dog.  I mean it's just absolutely CHUGGING - 8 fps.  12 fps.  My machine is no slouch.  I have a  quad core AMD 3.2 GHZ, 16GB of very fast gaming DDR ram on top of a gtx 960.  It isn't top notch, but it's damn quick.

8 FPS is just painful. So I open up the tab screen and check and it's got massive computations for polygons that aren't even showing.  I notice it's only happening when I look in the direction of the trees.

There's ZERO good reasons for this.  Those trees should be completely occluded (occlusion was at 100%) and completely out of the graphics processing pipeline, for all intents and purposes.

Performance is a major issue right now and culling would fix 75% of this, by my estimate.

Trees for instance would be significantly less obtrusive if they weren't trying to render all of them simultaneously (including ones three layers behind the current front row).

The goddamn sun!

So obviously this one is near and dear to my heart.  The Sun is a fixed object, immovable from a level standpoint. While some good progress was made by breaking out the sun's shadows into their own source, it is something that I just cannot see being a viable thing - a fixed sun makes level building difficult on so many areas.  Your skies have to be perfectly aligned or it looks absurd. Sci-fi levels (in space, no ground/etc) always have a mystery light coming in.  Nighttime maps have 5pm shadows.  On and on it goes.

The inconsistent handling of third party objects by AI.

AI supposedly has come leaps and bounds over the past few months.  I honestly couldn't tell.

One of the biggest benefits of using Game-Guru versus any other engine is the massive library of cheap or free objects.  These objects give you a huge amount of models to work with at a tiny fraction of the cost you'd spend in other engines.

Let me just stand here, at this fence and try to figure out why I can't walk through it.

I use a wide variety of objects and while there are fixes for this, they don't work most of the time.  AI still doesn't know how to navigate around half of the stuff out there, specifically dealing with interiors.  It's frustrating to have them just stand there unable to move while you have this beautiful level made up.

Water levels and terrain generation.

Over the past few months I've tested out other engines (Unity, Unreal, Lumberyard) and come to discover they have a major advantage in terms of rendered terrain.  I will say I'm happy to see the random terrain generator has returned to it's previous iteration but that's not to say there's not room for improvement.

The fact there are two modes really doesn't escape any new users.  Flat level vs 'Random Terrain'.  Cool.  I'm not asking for much more than that.  I would, however, love the ability to actually import my OWN terrain from an actual terrain generating system that provides far more realistic looks and value than what's available from me spending probably on the order of hundreds of hours making my own terrain.

I'm lumping water in with this because the fact the water plane cannot be adjusted in-game is a major travesty.  This simply not tenable to have a single water layer that is completely and utterly immutable.  I don't know what else can be said on it.  Before any other work is done with water, we need controls inside of the GUI which will allow adjustable water planes or better yet, MULTIPLE water planes with their own individual controls.  Now that, right there, would be some seriously cool stuff.

A real development environment.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again:  I would be willing to pay more for a professional-grade version of this product.

Simple? Yes.  But it feels like using crayons to try to paint a Rembrandt.

This is tremendously important to me.  I use several enterprise-grade tools in my day job as a Linux Systems Engineer at a Fortune 500 company.  I've grown to appreciate their simplicity on the surface while having a deep undercurrent of customization for those looking for it.
I've also worked with a plethora of engines in my 20+ year journey doing indy-video-game goofing around  and let me tell you that unequivocally this is one of the worst interfaces I've ever used.

To be fair, at least it's not Blender Game Engine...
I don't know what it would take, but I'm tired of the tool being aimed at people making indy games but having kiddy-pool level controls.

There is literally NOTHING I hate more than the inventory management system. NOTHING.

It just seems like a cop-out at this point.  I mean how hard would it be to add a simple set of checkboxes for options that are ALREADY in the engine?  It can't be that difficult.  These are settings that are already being assigned.  Why not have a search function or meta tags for your objects?  Why do we *HAVE* to scroll down through that terrible little list on the left of objects for our levels?   Why not have a simple game properties pane?  Something where you can adjust settings outside of being IN a test loop of the game?  I shouldn't have to load the damn thing just to configure it.  This is *ESPECIALLY* onerous when you have a large level that needs a simple edit and you spend 10+ minutes waiting for the AI to compute it's paths (which don't work anyways) just so you can change the skybox or fog levels.

We need an option for level properties.  A properties pane.  A way to pass variables through the GUI to objects (say to pass a specific starting value to AI).  Lots of little tweaks.  I don't mind if you keep the kiddy-tech exterior, but give us more under the hood here! 

Better component pieces.

Let me just say the Character Creator has REAL potential.  The EBE was a great piece and if he keeps at it, it will add a massive amount of value.  These pieces come to us raw and unpolished though.  The original thought is good.. mostly.  But the implementation is kind of ugly at times.

This is about as good as you can manage for a custom character.
The female characters, for instance, have some godawful hairstyles available.  But moreover, there's a lot of potential for the character creator.  There's a huge amount of variability there and it really gives the engine the feel of being a REAL engine with big boy pants and everything.


I realize this comes off as a bit of a bitch-fest but we're talking several years of development and it's just ... disappointing.  Less so than previous years, but still disappointing.  The performance is abysmal.  The interface is atrocious.  The fixed sun is a throwback to 2004.  The AI is embarrassingly bad.

All that aside, it's come a long way.

Given Lee's current pace I can only hope he sees this and gets inspired to bang out some quick, meaningful changes that will produce big results from low hanging fruit.

With all that I just want to say thanks to my readers for sticking with me, the community for Game-Guru for sticking with the engine, and Lee for sticking with the project.  It's been a long road and there's miles to go but we're getting there one patch at a time.