New screen system, but stuck on the visuals

Bubble Tower is still underway, but the progress has been somewhat slower since its inception. There’s a lot that I fixed and improved under the hood, but I’m at a standstill for creative work. First the good news…

I spent a lot of time last week with moving from a game state management system to a screen management system. If you are familiar with the XNA code sample, you’d know what it is. If you’re not, I basically have moved away from using a last-in-first-out data structure to manage game states. Menu management and state management are now one and the same, with them all being treated as “screens” which can be added on and removed at any layer. This adds a ton of flexibility for creating better interactions and transitions within games, and easier to scale in more complex games.

Through the course of converting all of my code, I stomped out a lot of bugs related to loading and displaying menus, background screens, and content in the game. I also got around to getting levels to save and load correctly with a flat binary file. All the levels in the main single player mode of the game are to be stored in one file. Before, any level you saved completely overwrote the entire file, so it was impossible to keep more than one level at a time, but now all levels should save and load correctly. Now to improve on the menu so that I can scroll through several “pages” of levels.

Coming short on visual details

Now for the stuff I’m still stuck on. I really need some art for my game. After doing so much to improve the functionality of the game, I want to move on to the more artistic visual work. Problem is, I’ve hit a creative roadblock. There’s not much inspiring me to add some nice art to the game, and it’s really killing me to keep working on my game when visually, it’s not so appealing.

I know this is a puzzle game, where I can get some leeway to be more simple and abstract with the art, but I’m already getting tired of looking at the same plain screens and graphics. Maybe this is part of what game testers feel when they’re repeating the same tasks, but at least they’re not responsible to do the work that artists will eventually do.

What’s interesting is that I’m a visually inclined person- I majored in art, and know a good UI when I see one, but I am not really that good in going into extensive periods of drawing and sketching out from my ideas. Those only come to me in short bursts. Also interesting is that making 3D art tends to come easier to me than 2D art. Not that I make some super detailed, realistic stuff, but that I am more satisfied with the finish product in 3D than whenever I take a shot at doing 2D art.

Looks like I should start playing more games for inspiration. The theme of climbing and ascending towers is still something I want to do, so at least I have a starting point there. I might have to go the 3D route to do most of my art, but it will take me some effort to actually get into sketching out some ideas on paper until I find something that I like and can work with on the computer. Time to get my other side of my brain to work overtime.

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2 thoughts on “New screen system, but stuck on the visuals

  1. I spent a lot of time last week with moving from a game state management system to a screen management system. If you are familiar with the XNA code sample, you’d know what it is. If you’re not, I basically have moved away from using a last-in-first-out data structure to manage game states. Menu management and state management are now one and the same, with them all being treated as “screens” which can be added on and removed at any layer. This adds a ton of flexibility for creating better interactions and transitions within games, and easier to scale in more complex games.

    • That’s basically in the direction I’m going. My screen system is directly adapted from the code sample, with a few improvements for my game. Menus are screens, I make different screen classes to differentiate behavior, like a Splash Screen, Level Editor Screen, etc. I truly agree that it makes more complex games easier to implement in your head and for once would can figure out how to build a slick character menu and battle system for an RPG (not that I will make one any time soon, the biggest bottleneck to RPG making is providing content).

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