Archive for the ‘ Dev Log ’ Category

Nordenfelt Dev Log 37

It’s time for a Nordenfelt status update. On Saturday my dev machine went belly-up so I have time to write a blog post while waiting for the new machine. 🙂

Procedural Level Generation

Designing fun levels isn’t easy. Teaching a machine to generate interesting levels is even more difficult. It’s like telling an instinctless child how to behave. Each time it does something wrong you have to intervene and adapt its behavior for the better. E.g. don’t send in the most difficult boss at the end of the first level.

Developing a level generator relies heavily on iterative improvement. I’m no longer that naive to try to estimate when it’s finished. It’s an ongoing process, aside all the asset and AI programming work. I’ll simply abandon the generator when everything else is done.

Assets, Assets, Assets

I’ve switched from pre-rendered 3D models to “hand-drawn” 2D sprites. It turned out that drawing enemies in GIMP is faster than the first-3d-then-render approach. This blue hovering plane was completely done in GIMP – no 3D involved:

hand-drawn bomber sprite

The level generator needs quite a lot of different background tiles and enemies to spread throughout the levels. So I’m busy cranking out new enemies, floor textures, building sprites, vegetation, etc. at the moment.

The good thing about the generator is that it integrates new backgrounds and enemies immediately. There is no need to add new assets in levels by hand. This is a nice side effect which enables continuous extension in a rapid manner.

Plans For Desura

In 2011 I’ve asked Desura if Nordenfelt would be a candidate for their alpha funding program. The reaction was positive. The only flaw they wanted fixed upfront was the soundtrack. The tracks were preview versions from audio stock sites and had voice overlays saying “preview” again and again.

At this time I ran out of money so I had to get a job. Desura wanted their alpha funded games to be in constant development with regular updates. I did not want to be forced to deliver this aside a full-time day job. Therefore I’ve abandoned Desura.

Now I’m ready for the alpha program. I just have to get in contact with Desura again. This will happen within the next few weeks. I’ve already set up Nordenfelt at IndieDB, as an entry point to Desura. I’m not active there yet but that will change when Desura greenlights Nordenfelt.



P.S.: Get real-time updates via Twitter feed @nordenfeltgame.

Nordenfelt Dev Log 36

The last Nordenfelt dev log is quite old now, dating back to June. Time to continue this “diary”.

What happened during the last weeks?

Primary Weapon Level System

The primary weapon got a charge meter. Destroyed enemies drop charge balls which fill the meter. This way the weapon gets stronger the more enemies are killed.

screenshot showing new weapon charge gauge

This feature will be interesting to tweak. Theoretically the weapon can reach its maximum strength and keep it. But there could also be charge decay, lowering the strength over time. Charge balls could be reduced to full pattern kills (e.g. all planes in a formation). There are plenty of ideas for balancing this feature. Let’s see what turns out as best solution.

Tech Tree Work

Unlocking equipment in the tech tree is done by beating specific levels. E.g. availability of the Tesla gun may depend on resource Dilhamid. This resource has to be conquered by beating level X. The order in which levels get played is not linear. Therefore it’s up to the player which levels (s)he wants to play to unlock the equipment of choice.

No More Money

To simplify the equipment complexity I’ve dropped the money system. In the public demo version money is used to buy equipment. The current version does no longer rely on money but on resources. Unlock a resource and the depending equipment is yours.

I’m Full-Time Indie Again

To be honest: I’ve lost my job a few days ago.

It wasn’t that surprising. The game dev department I had worked for got disbanded in September. Since then more and more game devs have left the company. I’ve tried to contribute my workforce to a high-performance project dealing with CUDA, age-old FORTRAN code and petabytes of satellite data. It did not work. You can’t switch passion to another focus, externally specified.

Shit happens.

So here I am, back in my loft where everything started. I’m full-time indie again, armed with more marketing knowledge (from selling my book), more business insight, and a little wiser in general. Will it be enough to survive? Don’t know.

The only thing I know:

I’m happy to be released from the “machine”.

2013 will be a great year. Come what may.


P.S.: Get real-time updates via Twitter feed @nordenfeltgame.

Nordenfelt Dev Log 35

Wow, seven weeks passed by since dev log 34. Time to give you a quick update.

Tech Tree

Currently I’m working on the tech tree and its interactions with the level system. There are artefacts you will get from beaten levels. These artefacts then give access to more advanced equipment in the tech tree.

There is still much work to do and hardly illustrative stuff to show. Sorry, no screenshots this time.

Side Project: Book

I’ve started writing a short book about a specific game development topic. At the moment I don’t want to reveal more information about this. The only thing I can say right now: it should be done within this month.

I always wanted to write books but kept waiting for the right time. But then Rage Against the Machine’s Guerilla Radio opened my eyes. I just stopped postponing and kick-started the first idea on my book ideas list.

What better time than now?

Due to this small side project Nordenfelt runs on 50% at the moment. No worries, after the book is finished all attention goes back to the game.


P.S.: Get real-time updates via Twitter feed @nordenfeltgame.

Nordenfelt Dev Log 34

Nordenfelt comes full circle. I’ve revived two features which disappeared from the design documents a year ago: level generator and world map.

These two features where part of the canceled adventure mode. This mode was cut due to the pressure of making a living from Nordenfelt. During the last two years just bullet hell shooters were released. At least that’s what my news channels reported. It seemed the market was reduced to this type of shmup. So I tried to adapt Nordenfelt accordingly.

Now that I have a steady income again the need for entering this crowded market is gone. Now I can go on experimenting and do things differently. That’s what I like most about making games. Participating in the rat race of faster-higher-stronger sounds like long-term suicide anyway.

Level Generator

Level design follows rules which should make levels interesting, challenging and fair. An example would be: difficulty has to rise over time. Players get better so the challenges have to get tougher as well.

Another criteria to meet is the learning curve:

MMO RPG learning curves

Courtesy of

Ideally games should present new mechanics or features to learn after the last one has been mastered. The level designer’s job here is to find out how long it takes the average player to master each skill.

Third example: dramatic structures in their usual sequence of intro, crisis development, climax and resolution.

Further, simpler rules would be scalar factors like level length, boss strength, bullets per second, powerup density, risk/reward amplification, etc.

Finally many tasks in level design, at least formal ones, can be automated. There’s no need to sit down and plan each level from scratch. Nordenfelt’s level generator will serve at least as boilerplate for creating level skeletons. The rest is filling out details by “design intuition”. Time will tell how much level design can be formalized and converted into code. The optimum would be a full-blown, no-intervention generator. That would be cool!

World Map

Nordenfelt has random-accessible levels now. There’s no longer the need for going through level A and B just to play C. Therefore there has to be some kind of level selection. This will be done here:

Nordenfelt map screen

The big dots are test markers for the available levels. I’ll draw proper graphics for them tomorrow.


P.S.: Get real-time updates via Twitter feed @nordenfeltgame.

Nordenfelt Dev Log 33

Already 2 months passed since the last dev log entry? I can’t remember climbing in a flux-capacitored DeLorean …

Whatever. Let’s have a look what happened since begin of February.

Finished Music

The game’s soundtrack is finished so far. Because there’s just one level yet there will be more work to do. Nevertheless, finding appropriate tracks isn’t that easy. 99% of stock site tracks simply don’t fit the dynamics of the game. So it took quite some time to find the current compilation.

Time System

Nordenfelt got a time distorting system which can scale the effective time flow. There’s a factor for scaling frame times which is usually set to 1. If the game should run faster, e.g. for testing purpose to reach a specific point in the game immediately, this factor can be set to any value >1. Slowdowns can be caused with values <1. Logically pausing can be done with a factor equal to zero. The only thing I’m not sure about is if negative factors work as well …

Released Nordenfelt 0.5.3, Silently

Version 0.5.3 was published in the preorder forum. I did not shout it from the rooftops because there were no real gameplay changes since 0.5.2. I’ve just finished details like explosions and audio, nothing game-changing.

Now I’m busy working on new level content and fresh equipment, the game’s essence so to speak. An equipment type already available but far from ripe is the Tesla weapon:

For future level work I’ve decided to cut back graphical complexity and go for reusable tiles and segments. This idea is quite old as the left of the following two screenshots from 2010 illustrates:

Left half of image shows version 0.1, right half shows coming version 0.2

I’m not sure what exactly distracted me from following the tile concept. Most likely the urge for boundless creativity was the reason. Nearly two years later I know that boundaries are your friends. They coerce you to not expand artistically ad infinitum.

Time to meet finitude.


PS: Just to remind you about the @nordenfeltgame Twitter feed. Feel free to follow and get dedicated info about what’s going on at the the Nordenfelt development front.

Nordenfelt Dev Log 32

After several weeks of tweaking the explosion sound effects got finished. Ticking off this big task from the todo list was great. 🙂

More illustrative work is the improvement of the gauge graphics. Here you can see a pre-post comparison:

gauge pre-post comparison

I’m quite happy with the result. An essential part of designing the new version was to get inspiration from other gauge designs on the internet. Just a few examples:

gauge inspiration

The longer I’m into game development the more I see how important copying given design is. There is no applause for wheel reinventers.


PS: Just to remind you about the @nordenfeltgame Twitter feed. Feel free to follow and get dedicated info about what’s going on at the the Nordenfelt development front.

Nordenfelt Dev Log 31

During the last few weeks I’ve spent most time on improving the first boss, fixing minor bugs and finalizing music/sfx. The last point is quite bothersome. Each time I think the sounds are OK and revisit them they are no longer acceptable. Is it the mood changing each day which keeps me off from completing these tasks?

Finally the boss’ cannons became separately destructible:

stepwise boss destruction

There’s a new twitter feed dedicated to Nordenfelt. Just info about the game will pop up there. Feel free to follow @nordenfeltgame if you’re interested in fat-free, just-the-game news:

@nordenfeltgame icon