Luckstone Lore #001: For you, it was Saturday

[Isaac, thx for getting in touch.  Found the below on the old rig. Rough draft, rougher than I remember. Mind the grammar]

“For you, it was Saturday. But for me? It was the start of the rest of my life”

I didn’t know it at the time, but I had just experienced my first “Robert-ism”, a name given by the peers of John Roberts to the quips and idioms he repeats at every opportunity.

Roberts, a stocky man in his mid-30s with a closely-cropped beard, is disarmingly pleasant. The first thing you notice about him is how he is always smiling, always ready to laugh at some hidden joke that only he can hear. 

His eyes glimmer as he waits for me to ask which Saturday he’s referring to. I eventually relent, and do so.

“August 22nd, 1987,” he says without hesitation. “You know what happened that day? The Legend of Zelda was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It changed everything for me.”

Our interview is in his office, an expansive room nestled in an equally expansive office building. His desk –  a solid slab of mahogany polished to an almost blinding sheen – is unadorned save for a notepad and single picture frame facing him.

“I was always a big gamer,” Roberts recalls, “Pac-Man at the Pizza Horn in my hometown. Rogue and Castle Wolfenstein on my brother’s PC. But Zelda was more than a game. It was a world, you know? It was a feeling! Freedom and exploration and adventure. It taught me what games could be. I never saw them the same after that.”

The walls of his office are as bare as the desk, save for one spot directly behind him – a framed poster of The Legend of Zelda


“Five years later, when the 3rd one released – Link to the Past – it’s like I had this vision of the future of video games. I didn’t want to just be an outsider anymore. So I gathered a bunch of coworkers at Shockley-Bell and we all quit together. Formed the studio that same day”

Luckstone Software, founded in 1992, has become something of a legend among hardcore video game enthusiasts. 

Roberts downplays it now, but his business connections – thanks in part to his father and successful businessman, James Roberts – propelled his ragtag team of developers into a multi-million dollar studio.

“My connections got my foot in the door”, Roberts is careful to concede, “but I’m the one that gave the door a shove.”

That “shove” was the game pitch that Roberts has since become famous for. Securing initial funding of $10mil, then an additional $25mil after that, Luckstone Software and its debut project – The Tale of the Monster Slayer – quickly became the most funded video game and studio of its era. 

But perhaps more famous than its inception and funding is the secrecy surrounding both studio and game. Very little is known about The Tale of the Monster Slayer other than “it’ll be a world you live in, not a game you play” – another Robert-ism often recounted in interviews.

There are also hints that there’s been a great deal of trouble behind the scenes. It’s been delayed twice – once for 6 months, missing its initial holiday 1995 window, and then again after that. No new release date has been offered.

Roberts appears to be nonplussed by the delays. “The price of innovation,” he explains, “It’s a non-story. It’ll be done when it’s done.”

Our 5-minute interview – the longest Roberts would agree to – is nearly finished after that. I thank him before being escorted out of the office as the next interviewer in line is ushered in behind me.

This would be the last time that I – or anyone else – would speak with John Roberts for 4 years.


The Roberts of 2000 appears to have aged two decades since we last spoke. His hair – now more white than brown – reaches to his shoulders in an tangled mess. His beard is unkempt and stained near the edges. There is no smile this time, no Robert-isms as we sit down to talk.

Luckstone Studios shuts down this week. It was able to survive nearly 7 years of bad publicity, lawsuits, and even rumored reports of arson. But few companies can survive the incarceration of its owner.

“I’m not dead yet, though. Not dead yet.” A hint of a smile – of the Roberts I spoke to back in ’96 – creeps onto his lips. “They’ll need to

[Cuts off mid-sentence – very dramatic! Sorry, buddy, this was the only page I could grab. The rest of the draft is corrupted.

I’m working on the recovering the other documents. There’s also the transcript of my convo with Lovette. I’ll send them as soon as I can. Hope this helps! -J]

Sprint 1 – Here We Go! – Retrospective

HERE WE GO!

Week of January 15th, 2017

OVERVIEW

My first sprint is over, and I think I can with a straight face that it was a resounding success.

I got a ton done! Given that I now have 8+ hours a day to work on this project instead of ~2-3 then I guess I better have, but still, it was really nice to see come true.

Working from home and being my own boss is cool. And hard. Each morning I try to get up and get dressed as if I’m going to a real job. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not wearing a tie or anything, but I do wear shoes and a nice(ish) pair of pants and shirt and the like. My chair is not nearly as ergonomic as my previous work chair, but then again this cost $10 at Goodwill and not $1,000 from an office supply store.

It’s working for me.

Anyway, let’s move onto the highlights and lowlights

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The game looks and feels and plays nothing like it did before – and that’s good! The whole project was ripped open, rebuilt, polished, and put back together
  • I have entire systems working now, such as bug catching, interior transition, creature interaction, notifications, and more
  • I got way more art done than expected, and ended up replacing every piece of placeholder art with my own stuff
    • Everything is still WIP, but it’s also much, much closer in style and tone to the final product
  • I have a much deeper understanding of GML in general, but also specifically the powers of scripting
  • Everything went really great and I sincerely had a blast doing this all week. I am so genuinely happy about what I’m doing

LOWLIGHTS

  • I tried working in the city for one of the days and it was a real drag. Really hard to concentrate and I felt a lot more aimless than I did at home
  • I’ve run into a couple bugs that were clearly from my own lack of expertise as a developer, and that’s bummed me out
  • For as much as I got done, I do wish I got even more. I feel like I met my expectations for what I thought I could do, but I want to be at the stage where I am suprassing them. I need to be efficient in time and money

SHOW & TELL

Feature Friday: An Early Look at Catching Critters

This is the first of what will be many Feature Fridays. Each Friday I’ll take one major feature or interesting mechanic that I’ve been working on in Monster Village and really dive into it.

Today, I’m going to talk about the first of at least three hobbies: Critter Catching!

What are “Hobbies”?

At its heart, Monster Village is a village life simulator. With this in mind. you’re probably already expecting a fair amount of “stuff” to do, and you’d be correct to think so.

The game is going to be chock full of activities, pastimes, and a whole lot of other tasks that you can do on a daily basis. Today’s feature is about one category of activities called hobbies.

Hobbies are more involved than other activities, and there are a few things that really set them apart:

  • They require several specialized & upgradable tools to perform
  • There’s progression in the form of skills, titles, and other upgrades
  • Most important, the end result of each hobby is to find collectibles for your Compendium, the museum, your house, or just to sell

At present there are three hobbies in the development: Critter Catching, Fishing, and Treasure Hunting.  As you may have guessed already, today’s Feature Friday is digging into the first one!

 

What’s the best tool for catching critters? A critter-catching net! Seems obvious in retrospect

Tools of the Trade: Nets, Traps, & Bait

There are many type of critters out there to catch and collect. Some, like the annoying Sea Fly, require no hunting – they’ll find you

You again!

However, most critters aren’t so easy to catch. Take the Half-Hopper, pictured below. One look at the player and they’ll bolt away before you can catch them.

Don’t talk to me or my half-son ever again

Your net is your primary tool to capture critters. Sometimes you’ll need to chase the creature, and other times you’ll need to sneak up on them unawares.

But what if you can’t catch them with just a net? After all, this Half-Hopper – despite only having half the legs you’d expect of a frog – is pretty fast!

That’s where bait and traps come in.

Bait allows you to lure your quarry either toward you or a specific spot. This is especially valuable for critters that run away, but it can also be used to flush out creatures that are hiding in the environment.

Traps are often used in conjunction with bait to capture critters without the need of your net – in fact, you don’t even need to be around at all!

However, every critter in Monster Village is different, and catching them will require some planning. In fact, each critter has its own unique behaviors, likes & dislikes, and temperaments, so to be successful at hunting you’ll need to be observant, curious, and be willing to research.

Take the aforementioned Half-Hopper. It is known by all that these frogs have a special hankering for Sea Flies. As such, if you could just capture the easily catchable Sea Fly and then release it near the harder-to-catch Half-Hopper, you just might have some better luck…

Incredible! That frog was so hungry he didn’t even bother entering his walking animation!

Ok, so clearly there’s more work to be done here, but hopefully you get the idea!

The Future

Each area of the game will feature its own set of critters to catch & collect, and this will be a huge driver to explore and adventure through the many strange lands seen outside of town.

Some critters might be especially unique or bizarre, and they will certainly not be easy to get, so be sure to level up your skills, your net, and your knowledge to catch them all…

sure, why not?

Critter Catching is going to be a major part of the game, so expect to hear more about it in the near future!

PRE-SPRINT-14 – IT’S REAL AND IT’S SPECTACULAR – RETROSPECTIVE

IT’S REAL AND IT’S SPECTACULAR

Week of January 8th, 2017

OVERVIEW

This is it, friends. This big ol’ life change no longer needs to be spoken of in future tense or hypotheticals – it’s real.

(and yeah, it’s spectacular)

The career is dead; long live the career.

All in all this sprint was absolutely wonderful. I was able to get some real good work done, and I even published the first were-release – it’s not very good, of course, but it exists.

Just the act of putting up a build helped bring my goals and ideas into sharp focus. I now have a great sense for what the next release (code named “Snow”) has in store, as well as some strategies for getting there.

This is the final “Pre-Sprint”. What starts tomorrow is Sprint 1, and we’ll keep chugging away until this thing is finished or the wheels come flying off going highway speed.

Thanks for following along

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The first official release has been, uh, released – no matter how rough, it’s impossible not to be proud of that
  • Lot of good work, like with a new text system, a very basic dog fetch, sea fly AI, and more
  • Oh, and I actually quit my job to dedicate my life to this new thing – guess that’s important?

LOWLIGHTS

  • Leaving work was incredibly melancholy. There are certainly some things I won’t miss, but those people? The people I sat with and worked with for 6 years? I miss them all terribly
  • Had some very frustrating Git moments in which I completely hosed my “master” branch seemingly by accident
    • Lesson learned? Treat master with a bit more respect and branch more often

SHOW & TELL

 

Pre-Sprint 4: Retrospective

Overview

Man, I got a *ton* done this sprint. Lots of dev work. Lots of porting previous prototypes into a more finalized design. Refactoring. A whole bunch!

Looking ahead, it seems likely that this sudden increased velocity will continue for a time, but can’t last forever. Still, I’m enjoying it while it lasts

Development

+ Added variable tail wagging animations

+ Created entities for dog and bugs

+ Added bugs. Like, flies, not coding bugs

+ Also added coding bugs

+ Then I added way more bugs

+ Implemented state system

+ Implemented new map

+ Basic physics

+ Created entity for human

+ Lots of refactoring!

+ Rudimentary day/night prototyping

Demo

peek-2016-11-04-20-56

peek-2016-11-05-19-04

sure

Pre-Sprint 3: Retrospective

I’ll probably mix the format of this up from time to time, especially as I’m still firmly in the “pre-game” of sprint planning. So, let’s do this thing!

Overview

Sprint went well. Did a little bit of everything, from coding to design to art to my business itself. As I’ve said twice already these “pre-sprints” are going to be weird and disjointed, but that’s ok because it’s still progress.

Change Log

Coding

+ Made scaling crisper

+ Added portrait to dialog

+ Locked camera to map

+ Implement two additional monsters

Generally made the code far worse and hacky and terrible, and everyone hates it

Design

Puttered about with TFS

+ Designed several new monsters! See them below

+ Began reading The Art of Game Design

Demo

well2

green-ball-1 masked-ball bollywood