Saturdays are for realising you turned thirty while you slept (in both senses), preparing your Biggles outfit for the flying lesson arranged by your lovely missus, and releasing Build 03 of the now legendary Rock, Paper, ShotgUnity game. (Which we've spent the last few weeks making using the free Unity package.)
This week I promised the baddies would get some more bite, that I'd take away your infinite ammo and that, most importantly I'd ruddy well fix some bugs. See how I got on, below
The quick poll earlier this week suggested most of you would like to see me squish the larger bugs before I tried stuffing more half-baked ideas into the game. So, as of Build 03, the occasional walls should be more solid, the trigger bug (which if you remember sometimes stopped the countdown ticking on a dropped rock) should be a thing of the past, and sundry other rock related bugs should be ironed out. I need all this tested though so away to the forums with you! Go on, go and bash your heads methodically and repeatedly against my walls, go on break it! BREAK IT. Don't bash the noggin too hard though because if you do find bugs I'll need detailed, clearly reproduceable steps if there's even a chance of me duplicating and fixing them. This raises an interesting question: How should small/solo developers do QA? It's grand for me to have a standing army (well, a ragbag band of rebel scum anyway) of RPS readers to slog through the quagmire of my code, but it makes me wonder how other people cope. It's all too easy to become blind to flaws in something you're so close to and if you've written much you soon learn the value of that second, editorial-eye so I wonder what you should do if you're on your own.
Perhaps doing as Wolfire do with Overgrowth - freely releasing WIP builds to your community for testing and development feedback - is the way. Or maybe even charging them for the pleasure, as was the case with TaleWorlds' Mount&Blade, or Steenberg's Love. Both of these methods seem to foster a sense of belonging, a cliquey clubbyiness that encourages people to chip in, help out, volunteer. That's certainly what's been happening with Shotgunity and seems to me to be a powerful weapon in the battle of Making Games. Collaboration is very human thing and we all want to belong, so surely making things not only for but with an engaged and communicative audience can produce better work than could be achieved by people sat alone with their code.
I like this idea a lot, and Unity seems perfectly suited to it as a movement. I've talked enough about how good the Unity forums are as a place for finding help and collaboration, and how natural it seems there to prototype an idea with the tools as a means of demonstration, make mini-games and say 'what about like this?' but I wonder how that could grow now Unity indie is free and word is spreading. Projects like Mars Explorer offer up more or less the entire project (always read the license, kids!) for use in your own games, slashing the time it would take you to create this stuff yourself and I'm sure this is only the beginning. I can see a time when there's so much free project material out there for Unity that you'd be hard pushed not to find exactly what you need for your own projects. Why reinvent the wheel? (Go on, tell me...)
But back to Build 03. The bug hunt has meant I got less done in terms of new material this week, but I've still managed to get SOMETHING new in there. I've taken away the infinite shotgun ammo and created a basic ammo pickup instead. To go with this the baddies are now faster and more aggressive, though still easily avoidable, more an annoyance than a threat. This is just an indicator of where things are headed What I really need now is a few new enemies. Ones that you'll actually want to run from. Hopefully then the mechanics will start to make more sense. Rather than see your shotgun and ammo as a basic right and fixture, I want their application to feel more judicious, more like a noisy key than a brush for clearing the path...
Oh, one last fix: I've also very obviously addressed an exploit where you could hop on top of the Rock O Matics and get onto the walls... The solution is not what you'd call subtle, but I like that. I could have recessed the Rock O Matics inside the wall but I didn't. I like that a problem was found by a reader, and that the solution doesn't try to hide the problem as if it were never there, but rather show that the game has grown in some way because someone found something that had to change. Kind of like that building conservation ethic – show the bits you've fixed. Which brings me nicely back to that audience participation thing I was banging on about above. Coo it's almost like I have a plan for these isn't it?
Grab Build 03 from the forums. While you're there, why not see if you can lend a hand? Go on, it's My Birthday and/or Christmas.