Lock Down

It’s like the F5 key is broken. I’ll back up. Here at Star Frog Games we do playtests. Lots of playtests. It’s the only way to see if something is working in a board or card game. Now, I can sit back and theorycraft with the best of them, run through a few hundred permutations and logic my my through the implications of changes to mechanics, or if a Dungeon Quest card would violate some bit of the core mechanic in a way I find unpleasant.

Now, I’ve previously discussed on this diary the concept a “tissue” tester. Those are testers that have zero concept of the game and how it is supposed to work. These testers are the best, because if something is confusing they have not yet internalized the concept as a given. So they’ll be happy to tell you, “Hey man, this is confusing. I’m confused.” This is important, since everybody that opens up a box of whatever game will play it for the first time, and if their conclusion is the same “I’m confused,” then they put that box back on the shelf. This is, well, bad.

For games like Dungeon Quest the best place to find testers of this type are at gaming events and conventions. You know, cool places where people will see “The Cooperative Dungeon Crawling Drafting Game” and say things like, “Ah, sweet! TEACH ME.” Those are testers that know what they like in games, have a broad depth of knowledge and can speak intelligently about mechanics and what’s working and are my target demographic.

The F5 key is the hotkey that makes Visual Studio compile a program. So all of the code that you’ve written and changed will (hopefully) compile and you can actually see how the new features interact with the old features. Well, due to the shenanigans that are currently going on, 2 things are true. 1) I get to work from home. And 2) I cannot do playtests of any kind for Dungeon Quest because we are all social distancing and on lock down. And since I’m still in the process of finalizing the core mechanics, I am loath to continue along and fill out the card file with things that I may very well have to discard.

That means that in the meantime I’ll start figuring out the shapes of the card file and start iterating on some card ideas that I’ve been playing around with, but avoid templating anything.

You know, on previous projects I had encountered problems where I was stymied during production for one reason or another. Usually something to do with a computer that exploded and earned a name. But a card game’s “platform” is “people in the world” and that’s down for a few weeks. Well played universe. Well played.

in any case, I’m finding that with the low level background anxiety requires me to be working on something. Otherwise the dread seeps in. So I’m going to focus on getting the Paper Engine back online in Monogame. Previously I was very precious about moving things around, recreating files and copy and pasting things into the new engine (you know, the one that I accidentally deleted large portions of because I am occasionally an idiot). But I learned a cool new thing about Object Oriented Programming, and especially C#. Classes it seems, are almost completely agnostic.

In programming jargon “agnostic” means that the code or class or whatever doesn’t care about where it is, just that it’s getting the right inputs. So in the original engine I had a UserControlledSprite class that was in the Game1 namespace. “Game1” by the way, was/is the default namespace convention for XNA and Monogame. In the new engine, I can created a new UserControlledSprite class and copied over the text and added it to the namespace “PZ.”

Well, it turns out that there was nothing special about where the original UserControlledSprite class was (namespace aside). As a bonus, I can import classes. So I can tell the new engine to import the old classes. I change “game1” to “PZ” and mash that F5 key. Then, since all of the code inside that class is just that robot chicken code that doesn’t care about what is feeding it data, only that something is, it just runs and is happy to do it. With that insight, I should be able to get the engine online pretty quickly now, especially now that the code SpriteManager class wasn’t deleted and is the core of the Paper Engine. Should make for an interesting weekend.

Sometimes I get an idea. Sometimes those ideas are exciting to think about from a purely intellectual perspective and then you discover that the problems that you envisioned when you began to think about aren’t really all that difficult to solve.

All of this is a long way of saying that, I think I want to build an engine. Like, a professional 2d sprite based game engine with a robust editor that is fundamentally tied into Monogame to let me make whatever 2D projects that I want with almost no overhead. And, here’s the weird idea, I think that I would like to make it available for other people to purchase / license. Does the world need a full featured 2D game engine? I don’t know. But I know that I do. So it’s something that I’ll keep thinking about. Since it’s interesting to think about, and you know, to keep out the dread.

Just added the Categories, and this post hit 5 total. I think that’s a record. That’s exciting?

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