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Rock, Paper, ShotgUnity, Part 13

Post Thirteen in the chronicles of Spong In A Posty Rock, Paper, Shotgunity – the game we're making using the free Unity development suite - and it's unlucky for some. That some is YOU. It's time for some barely coherent rambling, Build 07, after the cut.

Actually it's all my fault - these things usually are – you see by relying on forumite generated assets I've painted myself into a corner. The particular stickiness of the emulsion being: I don't understand how everything in the game works.

Let's get one thing clear up front: I love you contributors, with a passion bordering on lust. The fact that people have contributed anything at all is amazing and wonderful – and the efforts a subset of those contributors have gone to are quite overwhelming. But here's the pickle. I don't understand some of the contributions. For example Vitamin Powered contributed an excellent menu system, which I've been trying to get plugged into Shotgunity, but the trouble is because I didn't create it, I don't really know how it all works. That causes problems when you need to adjust something, or use the output of the thing the asset does in some other asset. I'm probably not making much sense - it's a sort of deadline fever - but bear with me.

The way this project has worked so far is by me tinkering around the edges of things, gradually gaining understanding of how things work and then trying to implement that knowledge into some aspect of the game. Say for example I worked out how to place an object and rotate it over time, I might then place a rotating ball in the world. In the early stages this method worked fine, it fits the autodidact in me like a self made glove, but as the complexity of the beast increased it demanded things that at that time were beyond my grasp. Call in the cavalry! I need a script that does X! And lo, there was cavalry, and a script that did X. Here's where I made the mistake. I didn't take the time to learn what that Script that did X was actually doing. It worked, that was enough for me, too busy to digest it now anyway, onwards! That's coming back to bite me in the behind with the False Teeth of God now.

Another example would be the AI scripts. The recent drive to produce more baddies was successful – if you check the new build you'll find several new enemy types who'll grumble and shriek their way towards you with something like animation – but I've got a horrible feeling the way I've shoehorned them in isn't going to mesh with the AI scripts properly. In some cases they work fine, but in others they just don't, and I don't know why. Similarly problems are arising from the the player controls script, which is yet another thing I didn't code, so don't really get. If I'd made these scripts myself, methodically plonking through til they did something like what I wanted, then I'd understand how they work. But I didn't, so I don't. So instead I've wasted countless hours in these last weeks scratching my head and staring at stuff I can't fathom while flicking between the Unity Script Ref and Forums looking for eureka-grade inspiration. Time that was far too precious to lose. We're now at the point where there's only one full build left before our time's up (I'm going to squeeze a 'final' build out on the following tuesday along with a post mortem) and the chances of getting Shotgunity 'finished' are basically nil.

So it's been achingly slow progress, but we are getting somewhere. Build 07 contains the skeletons for the levels Alec Moor and JimSpace, the latter of which has a musical update which is simply brilliant. In order to get to JimSpace you'll need to complete the finally-completable (though far from finished) tutorial level. Get through each of the training rooms in the tutorial level and it'll take you to a Hub room from which you can access both JimSpace and the proto-wilds of Alec Moor. We've also got a options menu window in there now for setting mouse sensitivity, restarting levels if you get stuck, and adjusting the music volume... which, as I mentioned, don't all work yet...

In the final week of Shotgunity I'm going to do my level best to get some kind of WalkerWorld and Gillenopolis up and running, plus finish off JimSpace and Alec Moor. It's a tall order, and it essentially means abandoning all efforts to improve the AI, or the animations, or the sound or, well pretty much anything. But surprisingly I'm not at all down about this. Shotgunity may never be the game I hoped to make at the start of the project, but I've learned so much during the process that the next one just might be...

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Jim Rossignol