Saturday, June 7, 2014

Review: GameMaker Game Programming with GML

I've been a user of Game Maker for over 20 years. Unfortunately, I don't retain knowledge fairly well, so in many ways, I'm still more or less, mentally, a neophyte. It takes a dynamic bold piece of work to get its tendrils working through the crevasses of my gray matter. Does Matthew DeLucas' GameMaker Game Programming with GML? Time will only tell, but I can tell you, reader, for sure, it's one of the better programming tomes I've come across.

GameMaker Game Programming with GML (henceforth, GMGP or "this book") is very well-written, a book that is obviously designed in an effort to grab the reader's attention. Most books these days either are incredibly dull, or overplay a humor or zany aspect too much. GMGP straddles the line between the two, keeping more or less serious and precise whilst still letting loose the occasional pun. It's like a "...For Dummies" book that doesn't treat readers like dummies.

Some basic knowledge of general GameMaker knowledge is required before diving in. Since the book is about GameMaker Language, the programming skeletal structure of YoYoGames' product, DeLucas does not waste any time introducing the drag-and-drop icons, instead jumping right into blocks of code pretty much immediately. It can be a little daunting for some, and to be perfectly honest large blocks make me go cross-eyed. But like all good things, a bit of a push out of the comfort zone is needed.

The lessons are well-structured and easy to follow with the right mindset. DeLucas goes over two of the most popular genre today - match-three puzzle, and platformer, and goes in deep, giving everything that a budding developer should need to create a functioning application in these genre. Of course, the code and skills that can be absorbed this way can also be applied, situationally, to other sorts of games. Be forewarned, though - this is a game programming book, not a game design book, so your game's success is based on your own skill and luck!

GMGP is a solid book, with a good, solid foundation, helpful visual aids, and playable examples accompanying it. If there are really any complaints that I'd have about it, is that at over 300 pages, it is a lot to digest, and isn't something that the TL;DR generation is likely to embrace. However, this is true of any how-to book worth its salt. If you need to crack into GML, GMGP is what I would recommend starting with.

FULL DISCLOSURE: This reviewer was provided with a digital copy of the book for the purpose of review. This reviewer has also been associated with the author in a professional sense. Neither of these were factors during producing the opinions within the review.

This book can be purchased at the following URL:

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Getting a Rash on the Streets

So with 2013 coming ever-closer to its end, I've looked back on what I've done this year. I hadn't been so proactive with game design and development since before I got this job (seven years ago as of last week!). In addition to Battle High 2 (see the previous entry from back in March), I worked with Lab Zero Games to get a character in the background of their game Skullgirls (which should happen within this next month or so, hopefully), and also released a few games, most of which were modified versions of stuff I did back in 2005/2006:

In addition, I'm nearing completion of Shady's Poopong: 20th Anniversary Edition, which should be released before the end of the year. However, I'm actually starting to get pretty sick of making games about gorilla poop. So, for the upcoming year, I want to try something different.

One thing I'm working on, is re-releasing my 2006 maze game, Chomperman, on Android. However, one of the major projects is a fighting game for the Atari 2600, called Street Rash. I've started basic development a little early, though, because working on the 2600 is tougher than probably all of my other programming endeavors combined.

So why make a game for a system that's been obsolete for probably longer than anyone that's reading this has been alive? There's a few reasons, actually. The first, being that the concept was originally made for the console back in the early 1990's. My brother-from-another-father-and-mother Carson made a bulk of the design choices for the game back when we were kids, including the name (which I assume was a play on words of the title of popular motorcycle combat-racer "Road Rash") and a majority of the characters and their attacks. A couple of months ago, I had found the original design documents that we were going to mail to Atari. Some of our ideas were dumb as hell (remember this was at like age 6-8 or so), but I was pretty sure I could make it fly in some regard.

A very early look at Street Rash.
I initially figured I'd make it just 2600-style for PC or something, but I've always had a fondness for homebrew games and have wanted to develop one forever. Making something on such a low-end console is also a good way to cut down on extraneous production, such as voice acting and sprites that don't look like butt (although I've hired the lovely Kelsey Jencks as the concept artist). It's kind of a lazy way out, I suppose, but I've got tons that I want to do next year and I want to keep it simple, even if the actual programming is going to be painful, thus saving my real focus for the bigger projects. Yes, Chomperman and Street Rash are far from the only things I have in store for 2014... they're just the only ones I'm ready to talk about at this point.

That's all for now. Nothing really else planned for next year other than surviving (although I'd like to attempt to be cast in another voice acting project. Matt DeLucas is working on an update for Battle High 2 for next year but I don't believe I'll be recording anything new for that). Maybe this seems under-ambitious to most of you, but believe me, despite all of the low points 2013 had, working on game design and development has made it the first year in a long time that I've actually felt good, even during the frustrating parts of it.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Battle High 2 + stuff

This is a project that has taken up a bulk of my time over the past year and a half: Battle High 2. It's an indie fighting game that just released last Wednesday on Xbox Live, with a PC version releasing probably within the next few days. The original Battle High (alternatively subtitled San Bruno or Elemental Revolt) was something I'd heard about months prior to my purchasing of it, and had always intended to check out, but I kept forgetting about it. When someone started submitting an entry to it on the fighting game database website "Fight-A-Base", I remembered how much I wanted to try it. At $1 there really wasn't really a lot to lose. I found the game to be pretty well done, especially for something that cost a dollar, and one of only two indie fighting games I thought were worth playing on the platform at the time (the other being Chu's Dynasty).

Using a bit of Google magic, I tracked down the message board for the development studio (it was also in the credits, but I couldn't get the URL written down fast enough before it scrolled away). I read that they were working on a second one, and I asked if I could help in any way. Mostly, I wanted to get a good, solid break into voice acting, seeing as how everything I'd done before was either canceled or something low-key like a Youtube video. The developers were pretty receptive, especially since I told them I could possibly pull some strings and get some other actors into the fold. I ended up providing vocals for three characters - Bryan Harrisworth, Ryken Volynski, and Christopher "Heavyweight" Morgann. I also submitted some announcer quips but they were never used in the final product.

As time went on, the lead developer (the super-awesome to work with Matthew DeLucas) let me know that he wasn't really feeling up to wrangling up these actors and working with them. So I took the reigns (although he did still help out a bit) and sought out more actors, wrote up some scripts, had them submit me their work and gave feedback when necessary. Essentially from that moment, I was casting director as well. We managed to snag quite a few awesome folks, from the well-known to others like me that were getting their big break. The full cast of course can be found at various places such as IMDB and Giant Bomb, but to point out just a few, we've got Kyle Hebert (Street Fighter, DragonBall Z, Naruto, Bleach, Wreck-It Ralph), two Skullgirls alumni (Kira Buckland and Danielle McRae), Tim Sutton of the Slender Man webseries "Marble Hornets", and a couple of dudes I'd worked with in a TMNT fan video.

I also became something of a marketing director, using every tool at my disposal to get people interested in this. Hiring some actors with pre-established fanbases certainly didn't hurt (although their work was the deciding factor in their being tapped for the project), but I also ended up making entries and articles on websites, started up, made a Cafepress store, and loads of other stuff.

Overall, it was a very rewarding experience. There was a lot of pressure and stress that came along with it, sure, but I enjoyed it immensely for the most part. The game is getting mostly positive reactions and I'm glad I could be a part of something like this. Although the project had me mentally, emotionally, and financially tapped toward the end there, I'd like to be a part of something like this again (although it might have to be a bit before I'm replenished, heh). I'm looking into some other collaborations in the meantime, working on a few of my own things, and I don't doubt that there will eventually be another chapter in the Battle High saga, which I'd love to be a part of.

Of note, I realized late last year that 2013 is the 20th anniversary of the mascot character created by my brother from another father and mother, Carson, and myself, "Shady". I've got a few things brewing in the pipeline for that. I also converted a couple of the older Game Maker games that I'd done back in the mid 2000's to browser. They're not exactly good, especially compared to today, but it's nice to have them archived like that.

For the first time in years, I feel like I've done something worthwhile, something people can enjoy. If I can take advantage of the lines I've got out right now regarding further potential products, I do believe that the good could just outweigh the bad in 2013.

Knock on wood, of course.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Future of Marvel Universe figures

Looking back at the rundown of figures I'd like to see back in July (holy crap, has it really been that long?), I've seen some new upcoming figures from Hasbro, some of which fit the bill of what I was looking for. Let's see what we've got:

As noted shortly after my last post, there's a first appearance Wolverine coming out. Nice indeed.

These First Class Cyclops and Marvel Girl aren't exactly first appearance accurate, but they're close enough. I'll take 'em. Now I just hope for the remaining three members.

We're finally getting a Sue Storm figure, in a Fantastic Four team pack with Ben, Reed, and H.E.R.B.I.E. (replacing Johnny just as he did in the classic cartoon). I can live with that.

Finally, we have a Falcon figure, with, of course, Redwing. Could the other Pet Avengers be far behind?

All images courtesy of

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Marvel Universe figures I'd like to see

A while back, despite not being a fan of 3.75 inch figures on the whole, I got into collecting the Marvel and DC lines of figures (Marvel Universe and DC Universe: Infinite Heroes, respectively). Although my collection started out slowly due to the figures being so bleedin' expensive for that scale ($7-10, which is the same price range that the larger versions of those figures were going for just before these lines hit), eventually I started finding some on sale and clearance, as well as a few cheap ones on Amazon and eBay, and now altogether, between the two, I probably have around thirty figures, including a much larger Skrull Giant Man. Most of these are Marvel figures, as the DC figures are rarely on sale and the local stores don't have as enticing of a selection as they do of Marvel.

Recently, whilst setting up my newest batch on a shelf, I began to ponder which figures I'd like to have in my collection that hadn't been made already. Thus, this list. Some of the figures might make more sense in other Marvel 3.75 lines (and in fact, I actually suggest a subline by itself in the list), but for simplicity sake, I've lumped them all together. By the way, if any reps from Hasbro happen to come across this and decide to crib some ideas from here, I won't raise a fuss ;)

So, without further ado, in now particular order, I present the list!

The Deadpool Corps
It's no secret that Deadpool is one of Marvel's most popular characters right now, what with his appearing in a dozen titles a month (a feat that he actually mocked Wolverine for), plus appearances in several modern Marvel video games, the Hulk vs. Wolverine animated film, and a role in X-Men Origins: Wolverine that has led to his own spin-off. Being an overly violent character who is also insane, funny, and is a frequent breaker of the fourth wall, it's easy to see why he's so well-liked.

Deadpool himself started out as a semi-parody of DC's Deathstroke the Terminator. Likewise, when he was given his own team to lead (The Deadpool Corps), its existence became a pastiche of different superhero teams, most notably DC's Green Lantern Corps. Interestingly enough, Ryan Reynolds, who portrayed Deadpool in the Wolverine movie and is set to reprise the role in his own film, is also playing as Green Lantern in a film.

The roots of The Deadpool Corps. has its roots in a mini-series called Deadpool: Merc With a Mouth. The disembodied head of the zombie Deadpool (from the Marvel Zombies universe) landed in the standard Marvel universe (henceforth to be referred to as Earth-616), and was being worshiped in the Savage Land. Deadpool was sent to retrieve the head, as it was being treated as a biological weapon (due to its zombifying bite). Through a series of crossing dimensions to attempt to return the head to its own world, Deadpool came across several alternate dimension versions of himself, including an army major (working for the "United States of Canada"), Wild West gunslinger, and a distaff counterpart.

Later, due to an intergalactic crisis, Deadpool was recruited to form a team. Crossing dimensions again, he picked up the female version of himself ("Lady Deadpool"), a child version ("Kidpool"), a canine counterpart ("Dogpool"), and the disembodied zombie head ("Headpool").

There are a couple of different ways that I can think of that would be handy in the release of The Deadpool Corps as action figures. One method would be to collect all five in one box set; alternatively, they could be released in the original line, with smaller members accompanying the larger: Deadpool could come with Dogpool, Lady Deadpool and Kidpool would be together, and then maybe Zombie Deadpool would be his own figure, but with a detachable head and a beanie accessory.

The Pet Avengers
Sort of a modern-day Marvel version of the Legion of Super-Pets, the Pet Avengers are a whimsical super hero team composed of the animal sidekicks of known heroes and other Marvel animal characters. Hasbro might actually be edging toward this release, as the last two waves have included Lockheed with Kitty Pryde, and Ms. Lion with Mary Jane. In the future, I'd like to see combo releases of Falcon/Redwing, Speedball/Hairball, Ka-Zar/Zabu, Thor/Throg, and either Black Bolt/Lockjaw or (since Lockjaw is so large), Lockjaw/Puppy.

Squirrel Girl
My second favorite Marvel character (after Deadpool), Squirrel Girl is an innocent-looking, happy-go lucky throwback to the golden age of comics. She also occasionally breaks the fourth wall, and although her perceived abilities are lame on first glance (talking to squirrels, retractable little knuckle claws, and a prehensile tail - she's been able to beat some of the mightiest villains in the Marvel universe. This makes her undeniably badass. She would obviously come with several of her squirrel sidekicks.

Hulked-Out Heroes
During the World War Hulks storyarc (or maybe it was Fall of the Hulks... I dunno), many prominent heroes became irradiated with gamma rays, transforming these already powerful lads and lasses into berserk monstrosities with severely upgraded powers. The body count included the likes of Wolverine, Cyclops, Deadpool, Spider-Man, Thor, Storm, Human Torch, and many more. Getting at least one or two of these folks into the Marvel Universe line should be no problem.

Invisible Woman
Not terribly one that I'd be excited for, but she's the only member of the core Fantastic Four to not show up in the line yet.

Kick Ass & Hit-Girl
I haven't read the book or seen the film yet, and I know they're not part of the standard Marvel universe, but I'd really like to see figures of at least Kick Ass and Hit-Girl of this scale, even if they were just released under the standard Kick Ass figure line (which I'm not even sure who produces that line... meh.)

Having read the one-shot that came out back in May, I found the daughter of Galactus to be one of the more endearing (and adorable) characters I'd come across in comics in some time.

Venom (Mac Gargan version)
I know Eddie is the definitive Venom in most peoples' eyes, but Mac Gargan is the most recent one. Yeah, they have "Dark Spider-Man" coming out soon, but that's not the same. Strangely enough, in the current Spider-Man line, they have art for Gargan venom all over the place, but the only Venom figure of the line is Brock.

First Appearance X-Men
I'm pretty sure Toy Biz or someone made a set like this for the old line back in the day, but I'd like them in MU scale. Ol' Slim Summers, Marvel Girl, snowy-looking Iceman, human Beast, and bazooka-wielding Angel together in one set. And speaking of which...

First Appearance Wolverine
Straight out of The Incredible Hulk #180 and 181!
EDIT: Looks like this one's been confirmed!

'90's Rogue
'90's big-hair Rogue just like the one that was used in the animated series at the time. 'Nuff said.

Marvel Movie Classics

The Iron Man 2 and X-Men Origins lines seem to have done well, so how about revisiting some of the beloved movie characters of the last few years in a sub-line? I'd love to have the movie versions of Green Goblin, Beast, Hannibal King, Invisible Woman, and more in this scale.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Killing in the name of...

Whilst bored at work, I decided to Google the phrase "i kill people for money" (sans quotes).

This blog came up on page one. Not bad.

Strangely enough, the domain I own,, is not even in the top five pages.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

TMNT For Dummies 2: Vintage '87

For many, uttering the words "Ninja Turtles" will immediately conjure up memories of the 1987-1996 cartoon series produced by Murakami-Wolf Swenson (MWS) Films. And with good reason - this was the gateway to the Turtles for nearly everyone on the planet who are currently over ten years old - including myself. I have warm feelings for the old cartoon - if it weren't for that series, there's a chance I would not know who the Turtles are today.

But there lies a problem; for a majority of those who have ever called themselves fans of the TMNT, the MWS series (and likely the movies, video games, and toys released during its heyday) is/are all these folks are familiar with.

And there is a vast world outside this.

By today's standards, the old show is corny, cheesy, poorly animated (including with several dozen animation errors per season), and overall, kind of lame-ish. Now this is by today's standards. True, there is a lot of crap out there these days, but I'm pretty sure if the world were introduced to the Turtles through this series, this year, there'd be little chance of it surviving more than a season. Heck, I think we were lucky to get 7 seasons out of the 4Kids series.

But what really broils my briskets, are those people who refuse to see anything outside of this series and immediately poo-poo everything else. The most irritating of such are these kind of people:

(Person sees an Utrom) "Hey, that's Krang!"
(Person sees the Utrominator) "That's like some crappy rip-off of Krang!"
(Person sees Ch'rell, the Utrom Shredder) "Why is Krang, Shredder?"

The Utroms have been around since 1985 - two whole years prior to Krang. Krang, in fact, was partially inspired by the Utroms. However, other than a fleeting similarity in appearance, and the fact that they spend much of their time in the gut of an android, Krang and the Utroms are wholly different.

The Utroms, also known as the "TCRI Aliens", are a race of tentacled aliens that crash-landed on Earth long ago. A byproduct of their experiments resulted in the Retromutagen Ooze that mutated the Turtles and Leatherhead. On the whole, the Utroms are allies of the Turtles, as well as Leatherhead, who was adopted by the aliens. There are a few "bad eggs", however, such as a The Illuminated and the Utrom Preservi, as well as the Utrom Shredder from the 4Kids cartoon, Ch'rell.

The warlord Krang, however, lacks the extensive amount of tentacles that the Utroms have, and relies on just two of them, which are normally used to control and manipulate objects. Krang is also a disembodied brain, having been banished from his body and his home of Dimension X on the charge of war crimes. Being an actual brain, he actually looks more brain-like than the Utroms, who actually sort of resemble cephalopods in a way, as well. Krang is also a wee bit larger and heavier than his predecessors.

The most recent rash of Utrom/Krang buggery comes from the upcoming Wii (and according to some sources, PlayStation 2) game, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash-Up. The game includes a playable character called the Utrominator. Message boards and blogs across the internet accused this character of simply being an inferior version of Krang (although their choices of words were a bit more... colorful....), when in fact, the Utrominator is an upgraded version of Krang's predecessor. In the 2005 episode of the 4Kids series, Donatello is thrown into an alternate future where The Shredder rules supreme. Amongst his legions are brainwashed, and apparently undead, Utroms - some of which are in large mecha-like exoskeletons, which were named as Utrominators on 4Kids' website. Although it does not appear to be zombie-like in appearance as its animated counterpart is, nor is it known whether he is affiliated with Shredder or comes from the aforementioned dystopian future, Smash-Up's Utrominator is obviously drawn from this episode.

Another repetitive theme from these individuals, is the apparent need to have the MWS characters crammed into every aspect of the Turtles. As mentioned before, if these characters or themes are absent in some facet of the TMNT, they are looked down upon. The TMNT franchise has many interesting tales regardless of if they have these things or not, and should not be so easily dismissed simply because of such. I have read and heard countless times about how supposed fans of the series think 4Kids' show is "crap" because Bebop, Rocksteady, and Krang are not found in it. A co-worker of mine refused to accept the original Mirage version of Leatherhead as said character, simply because he was not the gumbo-eating stereotype he had seen in his youth. Smash-Up is being boycotted by many unless some of these characters are present. An online journalist claimed that Shredder's appearance on the title screen of Turtles in Time Re-Shelled (which I'll get to in a minute) is "how he is supposed to be". These are all accusations and meanderings of a society that is viewing a piece of their childhood through rose-tinted glasses, and now that said glasses have been taken from them, they are whining for them back.

Perhaps the most bizarre of these slanderings was the vast number of people who refused to see the fourth TMNT film because it "wouldn't be any good if Bebop/Rocksteady/Krang were not in it" - despite the fact that every single one of them had admitted to liking at least two out of the three previous films, none of which had either of these three characters in them!

Alas, there are items being released this year that are catered to the fans of the TMNT cartoon of the previous millennium. Playmates is periodically re-releasing twelve figures that were initially shipped back in the '80's and early '90's. Ubisoft is developing a 3D remake of the much-loved classic video game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time for the Xbox 360's "LIVE" service, and PlayStation 3's "Network", given the additional sub-title of "Re-Shelled". And later this year, 4Kids is to show off a new, direct-to-DVD animated film, which will feature the Turtles of the MWS series meeting their own incarnations of the Turtles, and it's been thus far confirmed that Bebop, Rocksteady, and the MWS versions of Splinter, April, and the Foot Soldiers will accompany them. The animation for these characters looks exactly like it did 20+ years ago, too, albeit a tad bit cleaner. Unfortunately, these characters seem to not have their original voice actors, which is already turning many away from what may end up being a stupendous project.

Reading through the above paragraphs, you may come to the conclusion that I in some way despise the MWS series, despite my earlier objection to such. Nothing could be further from the truth. If I hated the series even today, I would not be excited for this direct-to-DVD project or Turtles in Time Re-Shelled. I would not have purchased oodles of the merchandising even as recently as last month. I would not have pre-ordered all four individual discs of the MWS series' seventh season, which released last month. My concern is that since there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people claiming to be TMNT fans that are steadfast in their belief that the old cartoon/toys/movies/games are the only way to go when it comes to the Turtles, the newer (and in the case of the Mirage comics, older) stuff is losing out on a huge audience that could possibly push it forward into the next decade. As it is, the Tales of the TMNT comic may be dropped within the next year, and despite promises of Playmates delivering a wealth of new figures during the second half of their silver anniversary, many stores are dropping the line from their shelves.

My primary reason for these "TMNT For Dummies" posts, is to educate. I may come off a little snippy or heated about it from time-to-time, but that's because I'm so passionate about it. Stick around, and I'll touch another aspect of the Turtles that you may be unfamiliar with.