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Lone Star Blog



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2013

Posted by Emzee , Dec 31 2013 · 171 views
retrospective
Thinking over 2013 reminded me that despite certain issues, this year was pretty good. Not better than 2012, or 2011 (or any other year except 2007 and 2005) but still pretty good. It started off disappointing, then awesome, then horrible, and has been steadily getting better ever since. I'm glad I was able to make it to PAX East, BrickFiesta, and Brickfair VA this year. The BZPRPG is (in my opinion, both in writing and community) the best it's ever been. Lastly, I got a new job in Austin, which is cool, even if the lack of college ties in this city makes it hard to find a group to repeatedly hang out with.
 
I'm not so glad my first job out of college was a waste of my time and theirs. I'm not glad that it's apparent that certain problems I've had since childhood will never be going away (nothing quite like learning that there are somethings in life that you will never be able to do well). Ironically, life in Austin has been borderline lonely. There's not a lot of people where I work and constantly trying to find a new group to chill with is quite draining to an introvert like me. The fact that I'm a lot more selective of who I hang with and less tolerant of certain mindsets doesn't help matters there either.
 
There were a lot of lessons learned this year, and overall, I'd label 2013 as one giant learning experience. Lots of people are going through issues that I didn't even know existed just a couple years back. Lots of people I know also struggling with the high demands of adulthood, and being harshly criticized for not meeting the mark. Sometimes I really miss living in Houston - not because those days came with a lot less stress and expectations (they didn't), but because the consequences of not always making the best decision weren't nearly as harsh then as they are now. Young adults everywhere are realizing we now have a lot less room for error then we did before.
 
2014 will basically be about what I do with what I've learned, and what decisions will I be making in the future, now that I know more then I did before. 
 
Happy New Year to you all!


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Fan Media Soundtracks

Posted by Emzee , in Game Dev Dec 15 2013 · 214 views
3d bionicle game and 3 more...
Hi BZPers, I know it's been awhile since I've posted something. Well, here I am!

I felt like rambling about soundtracks in Bionicle fan-works, and you're more than welcome to partake in the discussion with what you think.

So about soundtracks, I'd say that there are three major methods (this probably isn't the word to use... I'll try and think of a better one later) to providing music in your game or movie:

1) Use official Bionicle music (ie. MNOLG, Mask of Light, Bionicle Heroes, etc.)
  • Pros:
    • 1.21 gigawatts of Nostalgia - especially if music from MNOLG is used.
    • "Free" (in a sense)
    • When trying to get that perfect tribal/techno/quasi-orchestral Bionicle feel, you can get much closer to that than the original music that established what we know as the "Bionicle feel"
  • Cons:
    • Not actually free - there are likely copyright issues when ripping and using even the MNOLG music, much less the Bionicle Heroes soundtrack or something that you had to pay money for.
    • Because the MNOLG was designed with dialup in mind (I know this, I remember those days of the Mata Nui clock and they usually only took forever where there was an awesome cutscene coming up), the soundtrack has lower bitrate and doesn't sound very good by today's standards (at least I don't think they do). To be fair, even some of the newer tracks I come across sound like they were recorded from a microphone. At any rate, most Bionicle tracks that weren't ripped directly from a CD seem fall short of the quality one would expect from studio-quality music.
  • Personally, neither of the cons really bother me all that much just because I'm a sucker for good ol' fashioned nostalgia. If you ask me, from a moral point of view, using music from these content creators doesn't do harm since this products are fairly obscure anyway. From a reality point of view though, how Lego, Templar, Miramax, and the other studios who made music for their products feel about you using their music is the only thing that ultimately matters. Even if Lego doesn't mind if you use their stuff for your little fan game or movie, the folks who made Bionicle Heroes might.
2) License / Buy production quality music (lots of places online to do that -- even the Unity Asset Store has some tracks that would fit rather well with Bionicle media)
  • Pros:
    • Music sounds a heck of a lot better - with their super high bitrates intended for film scores and what not.
    • Royalty free - a must if you don't intend to charge for your fan media (which I hope for your sake that you're not)
  • Cons:
    • $$$$. The "you get what you pay for" rule generally applies. If you're not like me and still in High School or College, even the "budget" prices mind seem unreasonable. Always remember though, that, like artwork, you're paying for someone's talent and if they're starving to death, their quality of work isn't going to be as good as it will be if their living costs are taken care of. Basically, artists gotta eat too. ;)
  • Not much to say here. If you get your music from a professional, you're going to get professional-quality music. Didn't know that now did you? ;) Personally, I might go this route, simply because I have that good ol' disposable income. But the soundtrack (and by extension the overall feel of Power Lies Beneath) might not be nostalgic though.
3) Reach out to the community for help
  • Pros:
    • Might be free. Even if not, you might get a good discount by hiring folks here on BZP.
    • Obviously, BZPers will know the "Bionicle feel", which might be worth more than the film-quality production music.
  • Cons:
    • I don't know of any truly professional music composers or producers advertising their services here on BZP. It's unlikely that you'll find film-quality music among these artists like you would with royalty-free music sites.
    • Most patrons here are in school or are otherwise busy with their own lives. As such, they can be hard to get in touch with, or they might have trouble getting content to you on time (especially around finals time)
  • I realize what's considered professional-quality might vary from person to person, and indeed, a more accurate term might be "film-quality", except this term cannot apply to just films anymore as video games have had "film-quality" soundtracks for years now. But yes, I do mean "film-quality" in this case. This is a route that I probably won't take, as I have other options and would rather not take up so much of someones time like that if I don't have to. For those without a good cash flow, I think this is a great method, and yet another way to make a good friend.

So, those are my thoughts on the matter. What are yours? Before I close out, I should probably give a shoutout to OverClocked Remix - quite a few of their (recent) tracks are studio-quality, and some even fit with the Bionicle feel. You can use their music for free as long as you give credit, don't edit the music files, and aren't charging for your work. I've already claimed quite a few of them for Power Lies Beneath though. :P


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Ohhh boy.

Posted by Emzee , in BZPower and LEGO, Game Dev Nov 03 2013 · 224 views
bionicle the game, playthrough
Well, at least I'll be able to contribute to discussions about this now. 
Posted Image
 
For real though, one way I felt I could get a feel for what to do (and what not to do) for Bionicle-themed games is by experiencing an official one (I've only ever played the online Bionicle games. Yeah really). It was crazy cheap too. 
 
I mean, how bad could it be?  :sarcastic:


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War is Taking its Sweet Time

Posted by Emzee , in Game Dev Oct 30 2013 · 228 views
3d bionicle game and 3 more...
War is Taking its Sweet Time (This is the only blog entry that I'm reposting from the data loss. These updates help me keep track of my progress)

It's hard to believe it's been a whole month since my last entry. I must have been a lot busier than I thought.

Anyway, I thought it might be time for another update for you guys on progress.

First thing, I've purchased more assets to use from Unity's Asset Store. It had some duds, but occasionally you can find something good, and on sale too! I paid for some animation sets to use on my player character and NPC Matoran, and thanks to Unity 4's Mecanim animation system, getting them to move was not all that difficult.

I've also ironed out the overarching (but simple) plot for the Le-Wahi course. I don't really want to describe it too much to avoid potentially spoiling any part of the adventure. With this game, like the MNOG, you're supposed to learn even the basic story elements by playing through and figuring it all out.

Next, I added a music track and some more sound FX to the level. The music will range from totally nostalgic to totally obscure for you all. I think it will fit very well with the environment though, and it is from one of the many Bionicle themed media that we've been given.

The HUD is more or less finished and I love that I made it to be mostly like the HUD from the canceled PC game. Even the UDD symbol spins!

I made some changes to the course itself, technically making it bigger and thus giving the player more room to explore. I'm also adding more of those "coins", treasures to find, Rahi to fight, and all of that typical action-adventure game stuff.

Finally, I'm adding a game mechanic that will be a surprise for when the beta is released. I don't want to reveal it because many of you have encountered this mechanic before and some of you were not impressed due to it being rather dull. My implementation won't be dull at all though, and it'll actually be one of the more challenging parts of the Le-Wahi course (next to the Boss Challenge, which I also won't describe just yet). The secret feature requires a lot of design work and art, so I'm currently working on getting all of that modeled and put in place. Hopefully, the coding won't be too demanding.

This doesn't sound like a lot, but it is. I have to model all the props for this game feature, and then put in some fun game mechanics for the "extra space" in Le-Wahi. I still can't give you guys an approximate date for release, but progress is still going strong.

Until next time!


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A Lesson in Trying Something Different

Posted by Emzee , in Game Dev Aug 15 2013 · 315 views
flow of the river, MNOG and 1 more...
So I played Flow of the River for the few-hundredth time a few days ago. 
 
Honestly, my major inclination to play it again was really just to see if it even remotely stood the test of time. After all, that game, which barely runs correctly on modern Windows machines, is over 12 years old. 
 
Yes. 12 years.
 
This game played a major role in me joining this community and getting into game development, even if said development was really just tinkering around with RPG Maker. While I disliked the idea that this game would only be laughable now, a game only of its time, made by a few teenagers, I had naturally presumed and accepted that this would be the case.
 
Except it wasn't the case.
 
This game, outside of the repetitiveness that comes with any Japanese-style RPG like that, still isn't half bad. 
 
A while ago, I played through the 1st MNOG, having the same reservations I had had before playing Flow of the River again. Yet, as you might expect, the game still gives me that positive feeling that it gives everyone else, hence why it's still to this day hailed as one of the better Bionicle games. 
 
That game is even older than Flow of the River (obvious considering much of the design of the Koros in Flow of the River were based off of the MNOG). It's funny actually, I remember back in the day, competing with these games, especially Flow of the River, pledging to and eventually believing that I had, in fact, created a fan game that was better than Flow of the River in every way. 
 
And then I played Fall of the Conqueror. Right after Flow of the River. 
 
Fall of the Conqueror is the closest thing I have to a magnum opus. It was the game that I decided to have everything I wanted to have, tell the story I wanted to tell, and feature new characters and Rahi born out of 3 years of role-playing alone in my room with my Bionicle and action figure sets. I had finished that project knowing that it would be my greatest and last game made with an RPG Maker program. How could it not surpass Flow of the River in greatness?
 
Well, I soon realized after completing my recent playthrough of Fall of the Conqueror is that I needed to find an answer to that question, and fast -- lest I make another Fall of the Conqueror. 
 
That's not to say that I think my games are bad... but they're not Flow of the River, and they're definitely not MNOG (Fall of the Conqueror in particular had some rather shocking moments -- and not the good kind of shocking). 
 
Just today, a revelation appeared in my mind. 
 
Instead of trying to surpass the greatness of Flow of the River and the MNOG, maybe try matching them?
 
It's an interesting thought -- one that I thought I'd just share with all of you. 
 
With that said... well... let's just say that I'm taking a hard look over the mechanics and storyline of Power Lies Beneath. As fun as making something I'd like is... maybe it's time to make something everyone would like. 
 
P.S. If the game will run on your computer, I highly recommend checking out Flow of the River if you've never played it. 
P.S.S. Character System update was a success. Power Lies Beneath is chugging along just fine!


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Welp *pulls up sleeves*

Posted by Emzee , in Game Dev Aug 09 2013 · 194 views
power lies beneath and 2 more...
I'm about to start that big overhaul on my Character Controller system a.k.a. the literal backbone of my game.

No pressure right?

Not if I back up my project!


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Upgrades and Bug Fixes

Posted by Emzee , in Game Dev Aug 07 2013 · 181 views
power lies beneath and 2 more...
My Character Controller system, a vital asset that I use for my game mechanics, got a big update last week, and I decide to take the plunge and try integrating the new version into my current project. It's not going to be easy, and it's probably not going to be fun, but the new features that the new version has has way too many advantages to pass up. Not only will it make developing the player character much easier, I'll even able to add some new tricks that the player will be able to do.

In other news, I did a test build on my first level and discovered that there are some rather disastrous glitches in the build of the game that aren't present when testing inside the Unity engine.

That... could be an issue.

I have one idea to fix this bug and I hope it works. Otherwise, it will probably call into question the integrity of any features I implement. Exporting a build takes a lot of time, and this project won't work if I have to do that after every new feature.

Other than that, Power Lies Beneath is moving at a steady pace.


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BrickFair 2013

Posted by Emzee , in BZPower and LEGO Aug 06 2013 · 231 views
virginia
It was awesome and weird* and refreshing. The con featured great MOCs, great presentations, and great people. It was a pleasure meeting all you. Special thanks to those who came up to say hi to me. 
 
I'm still kinda tired since I got in very late and had to continue my job today. Caffeine is keeping me in good shape for now though. Back to normalcy, I guess.
 
*=in a good way of course


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Fan Created Games Contest Entries

Posted by Emzee , in BZPower and LEGO Jul 29 2013 · 203 views
monster contest
So... you guys are all still working on yours right?
 
It's a little less than two weeks until the deadline, so you still have time. But yeah... hopefully there will be lots of cool ideas come August 9th. 


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War is Coming

Posted by Emzee , in Game Dev Jul 25 2013 · 109 views

  • kongu
  • Cc
  • ring menu
  • throw projectile

It's been awhile since I posted an update on my upcoming Bionicle game. During the period of silence, I've actually gotten a lot of features completed (though they're still virtually all core game features). Anyway, I just thought I post some updates to my project. Check out this entry to learn more about what I'm working on.
 
Character Customization System
You can probably guess what this does. In Power Lies Beneath, players, upon creating a new character / save file, will be able to choose their character's gender, name, primary color, secondary color, mask color, and mask shape. I may put in other customizable parts like arm and leg type, but these would take considerable amount of work, so we'll see. Also, you can zoom in/out and pan the camera to get a good view. Lastly, the character will do some sword movements to give an idea of how he/she moves.
 
Spinning Main Menu
If you've played Secret of Mana, then that's pretty much what you can expect the main menu to look like. Five or so icons rotating around the camera. It's one of the very few scripts that managed to be carried over from Influx (that's one of the main reasons that I'd like to keep it, plus it looks cool). 
 

Dialogue System
Dialogue in this game will be simple. Player says something, NPC says something, then player says something, etc. This is an action adventure game, so the branching dialogue isn't really needed, except perhaps exposition. Though I would prefer to do almost all of my plot-explaining through discovery of objects and clues, with some slide shows here and there for massive events that took place in the early days of the Bionicle universe.
 
Ranged Combat
Your character, lacking any innate elemental powers, must use the objects on the mysterious island of Mata Nui to his advantage. Among these objects is the Madu Cabolo fruit. For enemies who are difficult to fight up close, you can simply throw an exploding fruit at it using the same "sword attack" key, but with your sword sheathed. Also, enemies can shoot their own balls of dark energy. That script has a couple glitches that need fixing though.
 
Bionicle-themed GUI
I've been taking pictures of my own sets in order to incorporate Bionicle set pieces into the menus and GUIs, like in the cancelled PC game. So far, it looks goooood.*
 
*Not quite good enough to post yet. Still needs more pieces.
 
More Sound FX
As per my last entry, I need snag some free-to-use sound FX for the character and enemy's actions (e.g. unsheathing sword, shooting poison blob, throwing madu fruit, walking).
 
While this may seem like a lot of progress (and it certainly felt like that), all of these accomplishments are, in fact, a mere drop in the bucket in what's needed before I release the public beta. There's still so much to do, but the fact that I'm making semi-consistent progress is really helping me stay motivated. 
 
Right now, I'm working on two major things:
 
A Complete Walking, Talking NPC Matoran
So far, unfortunately, it looks like I'll have to custom script each and every NPC if I want them to do more than just walk in a circle, which I do. Very much. Ideally, every moving NPC in the game will have places to go and people to see, like in MNOLG2. Otherwise, they'll be behind a table or inside their huts. The pathfinding system I have set up works. Now it's just a matter of programming exactly where I want my Matoran to go, and what that Matoran will do when he gets there.
 
Addition Enemy AI features like dodging
Honestly, the dodge / deflect mechanism is really the only big thing I need for this enemy AI script. Outside of some glitches and animations that I need to make. The enemies in this game are almost complete. The dodge mechanism won't be very complex at all. I intend to mostly use random values along with a little bit of logic (e.g. it the enemy's at a corner or near a cliff, don't bother dodging, but deflect if possible). 
 
Most of my attention is being given to this NPC Matoran (who is Kongu -- he'll likely be the first Matoran you speak to in this game). I want to know what all it takes to get this character operating like it should. Hopefully I'll be able to use at least some of it for a template for other NPCs. 
 
Lastly, I'm doing more storyline stuff. I may have to change the synopsis slightly when it's all done. Basically, I want Power Lies Beneath to have no ties to my past games. There's no point.
 
Well, I hope you enjoyed reading these updates, and I'll catch y'all later!
 
Visit my Gallery to see the screenshots!






My Bio

Age: 25
Gender: Male
Location: Austin, TX
Favorite color: Cyan
Occupation: Software developer
Games I'm current playing: The Stanley Parable
TV shows I'm watching: Game of Thrones
Interests: Bionicle, Ninjago, Game Grumps, RWBY (Rooster Teeth in general), assorted genres of music (electronica, alt. rock, classic rock, instrumental, classical, and hip-hop), music composition/remixing, programming, and game development.
Attended Brickfair VA 2009 and 2013, Brickfair AL 2012, Brick Fiesta 2011 and 2013, Bricks Cascade 2014
Also attended PAX East 2013 and RTX 2014.
Lactose Intolerant
Pumping more iron than I probably should
Actually a liberal arts guy who just majored in Software Engineering

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