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February 9, 2013 by jonmillymiles

Design in progress

Design in progress

On my page University I explain my journey to this point, how I started off programming and moved over to the artistic side. I’m going to let you into a secret, into a moment shared between myself and my tutor in my interview for this degree: he recommended that I took a programming degree. I explained that what I really wanted was to get into design, not all that coding nonsense and he agreed that he would see how I went… hopefully he’s not too disappointed.

This week and last we started to play with Flash and for once on my course I don’t feel on the back foot: we’re programming! It felt like everything I had done up to this point had been for this. I was buzzing.

I have decided to take this opportunity to take stock of what I have accomplished this week, and to plan my next steps. I am aware that my tutors will have their own objectives and I aim to weave them into my plan as and when they become known. But I need to do this right and I need to do it well. My professional pride is rising high with this one, the self imposed expectations on me are high.

So what have I done so far?

We had to draft our ship, I used one of the finals that I submitted for my Photoshop module – but I had a vision when I designed it of what I wanted it to be able to do.

Player Ship 1

Concept art for a player ship

Initial Flash design

Initial Flash design

If you click on the first picture you should be able to see that ships 1 and 6 are quite alike. The idea that I had was to make the first expand into the other like a variable geometry aircraft e.g. the Tornado. I thought it could work more like the Super Pursuit Mode from the later series of Knight Rider.

So, with that in mind, my next task was to animate the ship, I also needed to get a handle on interactivity and so I began to use buttons embedded in the constituent parts of the ship to control the animations. I also included alternative engines and weapons.

Have a go and see what you think – the red buttons cause the parts to change.

The next thing that I needed to do was to put my ship into an environment. I wasn’t quite happy about this just yet as the animation wasn’t working quite how I wanted it to, but it was a requirement for this weeks tasks – so best to get it done early.  As it was infuriatingly hard to click on a button on the ship I included a button to pause the animation. I made this button dual purpose – click on it to pause and click on it and drag outside of the area to play the animation again. I also did one more thing, I created a button on the main stage which directly changed the guns on the player ship. Doing this meant that I could animate the parts of the ship externally from the object.

Have a go and see what you think – the button at the top left causes the clip to pause.

So where now?? I can now control elements from an external reference which means that I can begin to control more than one item with a single button. This meant that I could get the ship to transform from the short version to the long version with one click. I did it, but I’d messed up the code for the expand and so only the front panel moves properly.

Have a go and see what you think – the button at the top left causes the clip to pause.

So I fixed the animation and added in another button to change the engines. At this point I was getting a bit fed up with having to keep pausing the clip to see what was going on. So I got rid of the cloud and put the ship in the middle of the screen. As it was a space scroller I also changed the background colours to something a bit more spacey. Oh and I did something else too… I added in keyboard commands!

I wanted the person to be able to move the ship, and I found out from a Flash forum (credited in the code) that you need a listener event which reads the codes of the keys on the keyboard as they are depressed. You then test with an if statement to see if the key depressed is the one that you want and then git it to do what you want. My only issue with this is that you can’t press multiple keys at once… meh!!

Here’s the fifth prototype – have fun 😀

I then had a restless night… I get them when I’m programming – my head starts buzzing with ideas and I just have to do something. So at 4am I trundled downstairs to my PC and started on my next thing… I wanted a parallax scrolling star field.

I made it. How… well I know that our tutors cover this one in the future so I won’t let the cat out of the bag too soon!!! 😉

I also took the time to clear up my ship, buttons and library so that it was well-organized and easy to navigate.

So here’s the final one of this week – I hope you enjoy playing with it as much as I have enjoyed the brain exercise making it.

My next steps are to start tying in some more functionality. I want to get the ship shooting and moving properly, that is to use inertial control on the ship. This makes the motion smoother to use and it feels more “realistic” to the player. I want top speed and acceleration variables that I can alter depending on the engine type and form of the ship. I aim to have the weaponry balance out any gain in speed by reducing in power or fire rate when this happens.

Enemy Ship 1

Concept art for an enemy ship

I’m currently working on an enemy too, redrawing it in Flash – I can then begin to add in collision detection and other game play features.

In short I have lots that I want to do, but I need to pace myself and concentrate on my other module too… which is what my next blog post will be about.

See you soon.


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