November 20th, 2011 — By jason — Production
July 14th, 2011 — By jason — Production
So, I had some resources lined up to work on a Lila project (not *the* project, but a cool something nonetheless), but things didn’t work out. Such is life.
Meanwhile, I got hired to work on social games with some legendary game veterans, and now I’m in the middle of moving across the country.
When all of that settles, I’m going to make a dang MMO. I don’t mean a simplified Facebook game, I mean a real life MMO. If it’s just me, and it takes a year to get something playable, then that’s how it is. But it’s going to happen.
Having gainful employment means I am freed of the shackles of earning money from the project as it develops. Food will be on the table, regardless. Which means I don’t have to trim my designs so small that they are no longer what I wanted. It also means I can use some funds out of my own pocket to get assistance. I don’t want to wait a year!
I’m not sure yet if this means *the* MMO, or if it means something smaller first, but all of my spare time will be focused on this MMO–whatever it becomes.
April 9th, 2011 — By jason — In the News
There’s a rumor that something is rumbling in the distance. And it might have something to do with… Lila Dreams.
I just wanted to mention to the Lila Faithful (I love you guys so much!) that I have unveiled my new company website and will soon be launching my new game, Merchant Commander (website for that is not ready yet).
It’s not Lila Dreams, but it’s a stepping stone in that direction. The day will come, and I won’t give up.
Your support is very much appreciated.
March 9th, 2010 — By jason — Business
Hmm, I find this very interesting. Nexon (developer/publisher of Maple Story, et al) is apparently looking to fund games by indies (judging by the budget).
We are interested in finding original, unique and promising projects at an early stage of development in order to sponsor (and in cases co-develop) and later on publish through our global network.
I’m certainly considering what this could mean for Lila Dreams. But, I’m also hesitant because of what happens when you accept other people’s money, be it development funding, venture capital, etc. Usually, you lose IP rights and a huge chunk of your revenue. (Kongregate’s Premium Games Program was a rare exception and a beautiful thing).
In the short term, that could mean Lila would get made sooner. I would do a happy dance, and that would be amazing.
In the long term, that could mean I would lose rights to my own creation. I don’t really mind to share the money, because a company like Nexon could really help market the game, and you would definitely learn from working with them.
But, I don’t want to give up my intellectual property rights for short term gains. I think of my works as franchises, not just fire and forget projects. What about the graphic novels? The spin-off games in various genres? The epic TV series? The Lila Dreams movies?! *pant, puff*
Well, I am only assuming the worst here. I guess nobody is forcing me to do anything, right? I might submit the game and, if they like it, find out what their terms are like. You never know. It might be peachy like Kongregate!
July 17th, 2009 — By jason — Other Games
Very nice to look at, and I’ve heard that it’s a fun game, too. More evidence of great looking side-scrolling in 3d!
In case you wonder what was the outcome of all that MUD and server coding I did, well, I’m officially (but quietly) announcing that I have a new game in production! I have put up a minimal site and blog to get things rolling, but it’ll all be getting better over time.
This new game is a lot different from Lila Dreams, but I hope that you will like it. The type of game it is and my plans for it are all based on lessons learned and my constant research about the online game business. It’s also shaped by the fact that I have to keep things small because I’m the only one working on the game. That’s ok with me, though, because I want my games to be personal creations. I hope that some of the flavor of my imagination will show in all of these games, and more than that–I hope that you enjoy the flavor!
Plans are still in place to get Lila Dreams back on its feet as a project, but not until some time in 2010. I need to launch this new game, learn a lot more lessons, get cash flow going, and then I can bring Lila to life. I really want to do it right and have the means to give it the production values I envision for it.
Meanwhile, please check out the meager info about this new game: an online world called Spirits of Gaia.
June 3rd, 2009 — By jason — Production
The first time we tried to make Lila Dreams (I write that with a cringe and a smile at the same time), we used a server technology called SmartFox Server. It’s a nice bit of software, though it can be pricey for a lone indie. SmartFox offers some nice pre-built features like a buddy system and so on.
Recently, I was looking at another server tech called Project Darkstar. It’s got more advanced (but different) features than SmartFox and, yay!, it’s free and open source. I’ve been poking around with it for a few days, and I’m really liking it. But with these kinds of middleware technologies, you can’t really know how good it is until you use it for something that isn’t a demo.
SmartFox isn’t complex. That’s one of its strengths, really, because you can jump in quickly and go without a lot to learn. It gives you some high level features that you can use without any fuss.
Darkstar’s power can really only be utilized after you understand how it works. It’s designed to be built onto rather than providing ready-made features for you. So you have to know enough to be able to build your own features. It’s not beginner friendly. But that’s its strength, really, because once you get it, there’s a lot of power at your disposal for the problems that it solves.
Anyway, there is a tutorial from a 2008 JavaOne conference, and it’s based on working with a simple MUD engine built on Darkstar. You follow along and add to and change small bits here and there as a way to learn. It’s a really great thing, because you need every ounce of documentation you can squeeze out of the stone that is the Internet. (Translation: there is not much being written out there about Darkstar.)
It turns out, the code used in the tutorial is old and actually doesn’t totally work with the latest version of Darkstar. Instead of patching up the holes, I figured I’d just rewrite the whole tutorial server from scratch! No–really–this is fun! I need to learn about Darkstar, and I need to deepen my experience with Java.
But also I’m learning about how to build a multi-user game. (You may think that a game without fancy graphics isn’t like a game with, but that’s not true. With graphics or without, it has the same networking, data management, and multiplayer game logic issues.) The idea hadn’t dawned on me that making a MUD would be a great way to cut my teeth on client/server coding and technical design for an MMO. It’s loads of fun, and I’m going through all of this with Lila Dreams in the back of my mind. Lots of lights are coming on in my attic.
And, of course, my little test MUD is set in Lila’s wurld. 8) But this isn’t something I will be releasing. It’s only a prototype from which to learn. If it all goes well, I’ll be working on a real game next, but not Lila Dreams. This is a step in that direction, though.
It feels good. Like there’s hope.
To anyone who visits this blog regularly, above all, I thank you! But also, I hope you will keep Lila Dreams on your radar. The project is at a standstill, but it’s not dead.
Cave Story took five years to be created, and it’s not even an online game. I’m not saying expect that kind of epic time frame, just that the previously planned release date worked on the assumption that there would be funding and a team. Well, it’s just me and my pocket lint now.
Lila Dreams is no longer slated to appear on Kongregate as a premium game. In fact, Remnants of Skystone is the only premium game which will be released in the future. Kongregate will not be green lighting any more games. The economy is bad, so certain things had to give, I’m told.
[Correction: I was under the impression that Skystone was the only other game to be released after Zenning, but it sounds like I may have misunderstood what I was told. My apologies. I didn't mean to confuse or misrepresent anything/anyone. I wish the best for all the developers who will release their premium games with Kongregate!]
This is actually not a bad thing! Since I retain all the intellectual property rights, I am now free to pursue other ways of getting the game off the ground.
The current circumstances are that I can’t continue the project immediately. I have to build my way up, starting with some other projects which are all designed to get me to the point to where I can work on Lila Dreams again. I need backend infrastructure. I need client code. I need art. And so on. That’s all coming, but being one person, I can only do it in stages.
I am pretty sure that I will be using Unity for the client. Lila Dreams will be a 3d game. Being web-embeddable or downloadable is also a nice option to keep open. Plus, there’s a fast growing number of people working with Unity, so I think the pool of talent will be rich enough to tap into later.
I am going to make some fairly big revisions to the design as described in this blog. The game has to be scaled down to a size I can manage alone. I have some ideas for directions I want to go, but I’m still contemplating several different possibilities that I like equally. The difficulty is to choose which one best fits this setting and what I want the game to be about in terms of multiplayer activities.
My plan is to keep quiet about the project for a while. I don’t want to raise any expectations until I have something tangible to show for it. I don’t want to reveal anything until it’s a certainty, be that gameplay, art, or business model. I will post here from time to time, but there won’t be a lot of noise until significant progress is being made.
This is indie game making, and this is reality. I am sorry to those I have disappointed, but I hope you will give me another chance later. This is a game that I won’t stop working on.
So, some time from now, when you see that Lila Dreams is back in production, it will really be back in production!
I’m generally an optimist. I try to see the good side of bad things. Sometimes, bad things turn out to not be bad things after all.
Something bad: we’re waiting for Lila Dreams to get back into production. The good thing: I get a lot of time to think more deeply about the game design while I’m working on smaller projects.
Right now I am working on a game design which isn’t Lila Dreams, but it is actually revealing a lot about some fundamentals that I hadn’t considered enough. Eventually, I would have, but with constant financial pressure bearing down on you when working on a game someone else is paying for, things just get skimmed and even skipped. It’s actually really nice to just think about the game and not have that constant nagging in my head to “hurry, hurry up!”
So this other game design has as its core mechanics a competitive combat system (which I hope to make into a multiplayer Flash game). In the course of studying other games and reading articles and all that, I am improving my process for developing a combat system. I don’t think that I would have seen some of the dimensions of the design that I see now without the “leisure” afforded by putting Lila Dreams on hold which has allowed me to marinate the ideas in my subconscious for a while.
This will undoubtedly lead to some changes in my ideas for classes and combat in general for Lila Dreams–especially if the combat is not in the context of side-scrolling control mechanics.
The more I think about it, the less I want combat to be restricted to the twitchy, 2d-plane of a side-scrolling game. It would not only open up some possibilities otherwise absent, making encounters a lot more tactical, it would also reduce technical hurdles. Action gameplay (even the more plodding sort I have planned) is a lot more demanding in terms of technical design as well as from physical resources, that is, the servers. (If combat isn’t from a side view, that change cascades to a bunch of others, but I won’t be talking about that for a while.)
The real thing I’m wrestling with at the moment is how my new insights will affect the nature of classes and skills in Lila Dreams. The old debate arises: classes or skills? There will be some of both, as I’ve always planned. There are a lot of ways to make those two play nicely together, and by exploring various approaches in some smaller projects, that will lead to a stronger design for Lila Dreams.
February 9th, 2009 — By jason — Other Games
In this game, you are a wind spirit, and you use the Wii-mote to gesture and help a boy past obstacles and dangers. I haven’t played it, but it seems pretty novel in its mechanics and definitely has nice production values.
I love the background elements and how they make the game world feel like it has some depth. NPCs, houses, and distant hills all add to the sense that there’s more “out there” than you see in the gameplay. The soundtrack is really good, too.
I found this inspiring, so I thought I would post it in case you missed it.