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Christmas Special Update

written on December 24, 2010

WARNING: this post is going to be a rather long and boring one so you might consider skipping it altogether, just to save both of us from any headaches that might pop-up along the journey into the deep fires of Mount Doom; arggh sorry that was for another post called ... Lord of ... arrggh forgot the name.

This is more like a resolution type of thing (if you will), because I don't think that I'll write another blog post by the end of this year (or maybe yes ... who knows?), plus it will shed some light on some more obscure things I didn't mention or discussed about (publicly!) earlier.

Everything you read about here might be subject to change, so don't take it as written in stone, be sure to keep that in mind.

Lera3D

Loyal subscribers of this blog maybe have noticed that, occasionally I might mention Lera3D, the cross platform 3D game engine and framework I'm hacking together for a number of years now. Iteration after iteration, this year I arrived to the point where I'm happy with the architecture in overall (not 100% yet) so a lot of good stuff are ahead for 2011, stay tuned!

All I can say for now is that it will be dual licensed, GPLv3 and indie friendly commercial, (under 1000$, full game engine and tool source code, initially Linux, Mac OSX and Windows with more platforms coming later), all further information will be given on a need-to-know basis when the time comes.

Also registered lera3d.org and leradoc.org, will host all the related material including documentation; both redirect to leragames.com at this point.

People ask me all the time about the infamous origins of the L.e.r.a (3D) acronym, so let me break the news for you Lera is Entertainment Right Ahead; if you are a slightly more Romantic soul, lets take a different route V.a.L.E.R.i.A; it's totally up to you, how you dare to decipher the deep secrets of this quite playful piece of word geekery.

Lera Games

I came up with the name Lera Games last year and registered the domain leragames.com at about the same time in order to use it as an umbrella name to release Lera3D with the tools when the time comes. (no ETA!)

Initially, I made a long list and considered a few non-Lera alternatives, but I (and others, a respected closed circle of trustees like Panda the great) liked Lera Games the most; there you go!

As of now Lera Games is a core team of two, Melissa Davidson and Mihail Szabolcs (me!) but we are looking into expanding the team over the course of next year, slowly but surely with at least one or two additional artists and hopefully begin outsourcing some of the Audio production from this early stage for the first episode of our Ancestria franchise and flagship title called Ancestria: Flux (Episode 1) .

We are not rolling full time yet, Melissa is (also) working as a freelancer and I have a full-time day job, but hopefully this will change soon. shrugs

The dinosaurette in the room, Melissa ...

Earlier this year, at the beginning of the beautiful month of August, I was still looking for an artist, but more like a partner in crime to begin the production of the game idea I had, which would be built along side with game engine showcasing key features and visual richness.

After emailing >100 various artists, looking through their portfolios, asking them for hourly rates, etc, etc; Melissa popped up out of the blue and suddenly became the perfect candidate (from day one!).

It's very hard to find somebody who truly enjoys their work, and it's passionate about every single thing related to it; nowadays the world is full of fake punk asses who work just for the money, just because their parents, friends or whoever said that the certain profession is well paid and they should do it anyway, even if they do not see the sense of it, not even a tiny bit.

They work 8h straight without giving a fuck, break things, do a shitty job and go home leaving behind broken, unfinished or just plain bad quality things.

Most certainly I wasn't looking for any of those, and I can wholeheartedly say that I would recommend Melissa to anybody at any given time, without even thinking about it, just because I know that she does a great job plus she's open minded and a top-notch learner.

Ancestria

By the end of August, after lengthy discussion threads, we have sealed the deal and started forging the yet unnamed game which later became known as Ancestria .

I'm not going to reveal much (for now!), but Ancestria is an action-adventure, with the action taking place in an unique steampunk world.

Once more, I registered bravely ancestriagame.com as a dedicated all-in-one-place for all things Ancestria.

We didn't bother with tons of advertising, marketing and PR at this point but we'll pick up speed later as we shoot to have a playable demo ready for IGF. cough, cough!

(We are just the 666th of the indies who will do the same next year, and most probably we'll miss it, but it's good to keep it in mind, as a productivity booster if nothing else)

Ancestria [Christmas] Special

What's the deal with this one? Well well, along the way sometime by the end of October we decided that maybe we should shoot for a 2D (possibly Flash) game and have it ready before Christmas, hence the name Ancestria Christmas Special; using some existing and well defined elements from our main Ancestria game design document; like our heroines Vera and Maria. (guys sssh ... no worries, we got a heroe as well!)

As I'm fluent in a dozen of languages and coding game technology myself, I'm always more than eager to try out other people's tools, and it was no different this time with Love2D and Flixel.

Now with the 2D game, I had an excuse to mess around with them, and ultimately create something awesome, while Melissa started working on the necessary artwork, plus I was going on vacation for the whole month of December. (perfect timing, I'd say!)

Love2D

So, started building a rough prototype of the game with Lua, it's always 10x faster to prototype in it, than any other language, except maybe JavaScript (they are kind of on par in my agenda).

I found Love2D to have a quite clean and well documented API, very very generic and it doesn't get in your way much; this was a pleasant experiment and experience.

Sometime in mid-November, I realized that there is no time to build up the whole game in Love2D and then port it over to Flixel (or FlashPunk) .

FlashPunk & Flixel

This wasn't a pons asinorum type of thing, because like I said above, I'm fluent in JavaScript, but I find some of the limitations and type-safety in AS3 quite annoying and last but not least insulting. I do understand that it's a lot more easier to create well optimized code from the compiler's point of view this way, but it becomes pain in the ass for the developer.

But, enough of that, I didn't like FlashPunk (way too heavy for my puritan taste), but I really liked the minimalistic approach of Flixel so went with it, so far so good even though Flixel is aimed towards "platformers", so I had to kind of reinvent the wheel; it well worth the effort.

Flixel is definitely defacto for platformers, enough said! Go, find out who is Adam Atomic now?

Deadline?

We kind of missed the deadline, December 24th, we'll finish the game, I just wasn't that productive as I thought I would be, being on vacation has tons of distractions, there are guests all the time, etc, etc. I still stand up tall behind my belief about having an office, otherwise you'll never get stuff done, even if it's just for the weekends.

People might disagree with me about this one, there are people who can work just as fine in a home environment; I'm just picking on you because I like you!

In overall, doing this small scale 2D project proven to be very very useful for both of us, validating ourselves as a team; it's useless to put talented people together in the same room, but who cannot work with each other for whatever reasons, then try managing them; that's worse than herding cats believe me.

It's not that bad, all the artwork is done, so hopefully the game will be out as well in a week or two with full GPLed source code, so watch out for it, and it will also be available in the Chrome Web Store.

The Chrome Web Store can offer a huge exposure for your Web 2.0 product (not just games), compared to the infamous portals . (the wise indies have their games in there already)

Indiega.me

There's never a time for me to be focused only on a single project; My attention span is huge and it involves at least 3 side projects, which I like to call my dirty little pleasures, if I may be so bold; these projects can vary from reverse engineering (in order to satisfy my strong taste for patterns) to plugins for various software and everything in-between.

By now you are probably wondering, why on Earth I'm telling you all this when the subtitle was Indiega.me ?

Twinkle, twinkle little star ..., ah wait this was for another post, damn copy-paste ... bleah!

In one of my inspired moments, while searching for yet not taken domain names involving the words indie and game, it struck me out of nowhere and to my surprise it wasn't registered, so I took it without looking back.

The next logical question is what I'm going to use it for? All I can tell you now is that it will be a small web product, obviously indie game related and open source, but again more on this in 2011. chuckle

Linux as a primary game development platform

You are like oh my god already, which is fine! I discussed this subject briefly before, but I'm going to dive into it again, touching a couple of different issues.

If you tell somebody that you are building a cross platform game engine from scratch their first reaction is like are you out of your mind?, there are a lot of good ones out there and besides that you are going to build it on your own? you should be make games instead ...

My first reaction to these is something like i beg your pardon, but show me one of those super awesome cross platform open source game engine which have been used in more than 1-2 (successful, very very important aspect we should not lose sight of) commercial titles.

You can mention Ogre ( Runic Games and their Torchlight ) if you are brave enough and pretty much that's about it, but still won't answer my question.

First of all there are no real open source game engines, but graphics engines at most, which is a huge difference.

Don't get me wrong, I perfectly understand the following things:

The things mentioned above are true for most of the indie game developer community, the so called professional developers don't have much to say because their hands are tied by managers and publishers; which again is a very very lame excuse.

The major bottleneck of the existing open source engines is their very own license. All of them are distributed under liberal BSD or MIT like licenses and this is their nemesis.

I also understand that the developers don't want to generate any revenue, which is quite nice of them, but a BSD like license won't make any difference, it will make things even worse.

No sane company or even independent professionals, (unless it's a hobby project which won't have significant impact anyway; Runic Games is brave and quite bold exception) will invest time and money adding features, fixing bugs, etc. with a BSD like license.

Why? The reason is a very obvious one, if company X can take it and make their own closed source fork (pointing at Apple, gotcha!), it just doesn't worth it for company Y to invest significant amount of resources and help company X indirectly.

A true game engine is almost like a mini operating system, with the kernel or core managing and providing access to hundreds of little components.

If the Linux Kernel wasn't under a GPL license, Linux would be nowhere near where is today with major companies contributing thousands of patches each month, you can take that for granted.

Another systemic problem is that there are no companies backing up commercially these infamous engines, limiting their area of exposure and credibility by orders of magnitude.

Don't get me started when it comes to the architecture of these systems; put 10 senior software engineers in a room and tell them to create the perfect architecture, what you'll get? you'll get a huge MESS like Ogre or Irrlicht.

At most 1-2 people can create the core architecture and then have a larger group, preferably early adopters test the feel of the API, by providing input on how tie up the loose ends, how to make it more accessible, more friendly and provide non-mission critical patches. Any major changes/features, (i.e rewriting an existing sub-system) should be discussed with the core team beforehand in order to avoid duplication of effort, frustration (i.e the patch is not accepted) and other issues that may arise.

Also, in order to maintain the quality upstream, you cannot just let any code get into your master branch. (TrollTech) Qt's way of accepting contributions works great IMHO, and it's ideal for large scale projects.

There are indies who roll their own well written and totally reusable (between projects) closed source custom technology like Frictional Games (they just [earlier this year] open sourced their previous generation of the technology HPL1), or like the now defunct Radon Labs and their Nebula Device engine, which is clearly the best (speaking of internals and architecture, maybe a little bit overengineered, sorry Floh) and only (open?!) game engine out there with several commercial titles (with limited success) under its belt.

Never wondered why Nebula Device never took off? It had a very very liberal license Do whatever you want with it, but give us credit and it still didn't make a damn difference; early adopters, solid documentation, a streamlined patch/fix submission process are a few of the key elements to run a successful large scale open source project like a game engine; true free software licenses will help to gain credibility and stability, by assuring your potential customers that the product will stay and it's just as rock solid as any other commercial alternative and even more, they have full control over every tiny aspect, there are no hidden API calls, fees, or whatever marketing mockery you can think of.

Inadvertently, Linux suffers from the lack of commercial quality open source game engines, games are pushing Windows, if there were no games people would just go and better use OS X for their office and photo/video editing needs like most people already do.

The chicken-egg problem persists and haunts Linux even now, when the %1 Linux users is just a Myth of the past, Microsoft losing their share of the pie on the Desktop every minute, obviously there is a long way to the top, but we are getting there with emerging markets like Net-books dominated by various Linux distributions.

Fair play and competition is good, healthy, that is what makes the world spinning around.

I have the feeling that in the game industry, when I say game industry, I think about EA, UbiSoft and other big shots, the perception of Linux being a tiny platforms persists still, I'm saying that after finding out that Epic games is dropping the idea of having Unreal Tournament on Linux for good, and others just refuse to release Linux ports, when you pay $60 for a triple A game, it would be nice if you could play it under Linux, without Wine and other hacks .

In closing ...

Together with Melissa, we'll do the right things, not the wrong things beautifully.

Oh well, I'm looking forward to a great 2011, Lera Games will kick some serious ass, most things work out when you expect them less to quote a wise and intelligent man called Me.

Damn, spent my whole day refining and tweaking this post, it should be ready to go by now ...

Feel free to comment if you got anything interesting to say, otherwise please remember, there is no I in a team, but there are three Us in shut the fuck up ...

There are at least a zillion of other things I missed and would like to write about, but I'll write a book one day ... entitled Piercing the heart in 10 words and it will include it all ...

Until next year, as server said ... Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone.

(ppsstt ... yes! Trolls included! but don't tell to anyone!)

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