Monday, September 14, 2015

Triple Project Update

I'll start with the bad news. My old computer died a couple of weeks ago, and while I've been able to carry over all of my important data to the new machine, I have, of course, had to reinstall a much of my software. One of those programs, Game Maker Studio, is my primary weapon-of-choice for game development. Between the day I originally installed GMS and the day my computer offed itself, YoYo, Game Maker's developer, changed its licensing system. The old version of GMS allowed me to export games to both Windows and Mac - the current version only allows me to export them to Windows. Regaining the ability to port games to Mac will cost me a $150 upgrade. While I would like to purchase this upgrade, I really can't afford to until I find a god damn job.

Long story short, it's going to be a real long time before you'll be able to play Bloodjak and Monsterpunk on your Macs. I hate it that most of my creative work isn't going to be playable by a significant portion of the desktop computing population, but that's the way it is. It'd be an understatement to say that I'm deeply unimpressed with YoYo for stealing a piece of paid software from me.

However, a more pressing matter than my GMS downgrade is my loss of the previous version of the software, Game Maker 8. Game Maker 8 lost all technical support ages ago - even if you can find an installer and have a legal product key, the servers through which you'd register the program are long gone. Unfortunately, GM8 is the version of Game Maker that I had used to develop Waker.

I haven't touched Waker in nearly a year. Student game projects and an undergraduate thesis occupied my attention for most of the past 12 months, and completing Monsterpunk has taken priority over Waker, being the smaller of the two projects. However, I've changed a lot since I started working on the game in 2012, and I have doubts as to whether Waker is the sort of game I still want to make.

My plan has always been to revisit the project, polish it up for new demo build, and then decide whether I wanted to see the game to completion or dump the unfinished version as is, and then move onto something more creatively fulfilling.

As I said, the game was originally developed in the now defunct GM8. While it is possible to continue working on the game in GMS, it would require me to recode a very large part of the game. A lot of GM8's features are incompatible with GMS because the latter is designed for multi-platform publishing, while the former could only export Windows builds. It just so happens that Waker depends on many of those obsolete features.

It doesn't mean the death of the project, but it's completion is less likely now than it ever has been. If I don't complete Waker, it'll be due to a number of factors that are well worth writing about, but only worth writing about once. I hate to repeat myself, so I'll save the (possible) post-mortem for later.

Okay, here's the good news.

Monsterpunk's development is nearing its end. I need to add a couple more songs to the soundtrack, I write the endings,  finish implementing a couple of side quests, and playtest and polish the thing. But everything else is done.

Speaking of the soundtrack,  I recently composed a new loop for the game called "Prom 1999." It's probably some of the best digital music I've written so far, give it a listen.

I'm currently in the middle of programming a mini-game for Monsterpunk. It's a birdwatching sim in space. You flip through the pages of your guidebook and correctly identify space birds. It looks like this.
And, as if I weren't busy enough, I'm ready to formally announce a project I've spent the past month working on.

Digimon Red: A Pokemon ROM hack
Digimon Red

That's right kiddos, I'm hacking Pokemon FireRed and am replacing all of the Pokemon with Digimon. 179 Digimon, to be exact. Deal with it.

Why do this? Well, Digimon fans really never got a good Digimon game besides Digimon World (and even that is disputed), and the original Pokemon Kanto campaign holds a lot of meaning for us 90's kids. It's been a lot of fun so far to redesign and reinterpret a classic campaign and breath some fresh life into it.

Oh, sorry, I misunderstood your question. You're really asking: why are you spending hours of your life replacing the characters of a game from one highly commercialized children's franchise with the characters of another? Not only that, but the other franchise in question is one that everybody stopped giving a shit about when they turned 10. Aren't fan works inherently immature anyhow?

I'll begin to answer these questions by introducing Gargomon. Gargomon is a Digimon. He's a fat dog that wears jeans and has machine guns for hands.

Gargomon is a Digimon. Gargomon is a fat dog that wears jeans and has machine guns for hands.
You know your favorite character from your favorite fiction of choice? Sydney Carton? Mal Reynolds? Bigby Wolf? Is that character a fat dog that wears jeans and has machine guns for hands? Oh, sorry, is that a no? Then that character ain't got shit on Gargomon.

Also, most internet users spend their time masturbating to memes of pop-tart cats who are actually John Cena. Most of the media we consume (and like) is trash. We're all in this wretched pit of consumer media shit together. Not all of the media I consume is trash, but of that trash, Digimon is my favorite.

Finally, regarding the stigma against fan works: it's mostly a byproduct of copyright law. When you use characters such as Robin Hood, Snow White, and the Big Bad Wolf in your stories, you're a "creative genius" who's taking advantage of the pre-existing narrative meaning inherent to them. By contrast, when you use Darth Vader, Pikachu, and Harry Potter, you're being "creatively immature." All pop culture characters have the potential to be folk characters - however, copyright law makes the usage of those characters in  mainstream culture difficult, resulting in terribly amateur representations of those characters outside their source work, resulting in the general disdain for fan works.

I'm not going to be too pretentious about this project - it's just me screwing around. But it's some of the most fun screwing around with a computer I've had in a while, and I might as well share the end results of that labor with the rest of the world. While it won't be legally possible for me to distribute the hacked ROM, I will be able to distribute a patch you can apply to your (legally) obtained ROM of Pokemon FireRed.

I'll talk more about the technical and creative challenges of this project later on. For now, here's some screenshots.

Disclaimer: Pokemon and Pokemon FireRed are property of Nintendo; Digimon and the Digimon sprites are property of Bandai. This project constitutes fair use: work is transformative, noncommercial, and has no impact upon sourced work's market value.