[FDS] Why did you create Tick Tock Moddable?
There is this top down zombie shooter called They Do Not Die that I have been repeatedly abandoning and remaking. There is also a 3D FPS I was making for PS3 called Cubicle Shooter which had destructible walls (I love games with destructible or otherwise dynamic environments). There was also a car race game dev competition happening at sdltutorials.com that I wanted to participate in. So I kind of merged those two into a game that I titled Tick Tock Car Race so that I would have something to enter in the competition which it actually ended up winning.
I'm still a bit surprised that I won the competition because it was really meant as a learning experience with the source code for all of the games being released and Tick Tock Car Race was a really horribly put together thing that nobody should try to learn from. People seem to assume that because of the sheer quantity of games I've made I must then be good at it. But I still firmly believe that I am a terrible programmer. The stuff I make works but behind the scenes its just a collection of kludges with a lot of it being done somewhat unconventionally and more of it that I'm probably not even realizing that I'm doing wrong.
But anyways I liked how Tick Tock Car Race turned out or at least I liked the idea of it so I made several sequels to it. A tank fighting game, a boat racing game and finally a zombie shooter. I was planning to also do an open world game.
But it seemed silly that I was making them as completely separate stand alone games when they where all basically the same. So I decided that it would be a good idea to just externalize as much as possible so instead of needing to modify source code and recompile you could just change a few variables in a text file and make your own Tick Tock game that would run with the same executable. That's pretty much what Tick Tock Moddable is.
[FDS] Most of the games you included in Tick Tock Moddable were survival games. You must love zombie apocalypse scenarios don't ya?
I'm not really all that crazy about zombies or at least not as much as some other people are. Really what I find oddly fascinating is just the concept of crowds. There is something really cool about seeing large groups of people in a game. So zombies become useful as a means to that end. If you made a game set in a city with massive unending crowds of disgruntled robots, aliens or normal humans then it raises the questions about where all of them came from and why they are so hostile which means that cut scenes become increasingly necessary to explain it all. Not that there is anything wrong with having narrative it is just that I find that it can be easy to end up spending more time making scripted events, cutscenes and dialogue trees then anything else. But if you just say the word zombie then everyone immediately understands the scenario and you can focus exclusively on the gameplay.
[FDS] In today's state of the PC Gaming industry most companies don't even release mod tools due to being able to profit off of DLC. How do you feel about this?
I think the problem is made worse by the fact that there aren't many PC games anymore. Casual and free to play games are doing alright on PC but the more traditional "hardcore" stuff have pretty much unanimously decided to go to closed consoles which have never really supported modding. So what gets released for PC are just ports that are done incredibly cheaply and when presented with the challenge of getting a console game running on PC with as little time and money as possible and with the assumption that only a small handful of people will play this version you aren't going to bother building unique features like any kind of extensive support for mods.
But this seems to be the general trend with everything. Computers and electronics are no longer used primarily by nerds and hobbyists. So everything is being designed knowing that the average user just wants to consume media and isn't really interested in making their own mods or doing anything complicated.
[FDS] You have created games/applications for almost all of the current systems out there. Which system do you prefer to work on? Which one is the easiest?
Windows is by far the easiest. It is what I develop on and I can't understate the value of being able to just hit compile and run. Needing to transfer data from one piece of hardware to another, physically move to view it on another screen and then in some cases install it and navigate a simple menu to run it all just adds to that delay between each iteration and discourages quick trial and error. If you aren't planning on being portable then Windows also has other benefits. For starters there is a seemingly endless number of freely available libraries and tools that you can use (which are rarely ported to Mac and Linux let alone for homebrew enabled game consoles). There is far better documentation for everything. Lastly there isn't the same need for optimization. Instead of optimizing or limiting the scope of what you are making you can always just blame the user for bad performance and say that they should upgrade their hardware. It is a nonsensical argument considering that in most cases I am the user but it is still an oddly easy habit to get into.
Wii is probably the most fun to develop for. For starters it has the most interesting input mechanism. Its always fun to get a chance to take advantage of the motion controls. Unlike with a Windows PC it has unchanging and fairly limited hardware (especially when you are weighed down by needing to do all of the rendering in software which I was doing until recently) so you are more limited in what you can do and you need to be a bit more intelligent about how you do it. That might sound like a negative but being forced to find ways to do things more efficiently can be fun. It makes programming into more of a puzzle to be solved. Wii also has a great homebrew community (though I get the feeling that it is beginning to dwindle a bit as the console ages). This might make me sound egotistical but it is really great to know that people actually pay attention when you release something and even better when you get feedback. It is really easy to lose motivation when you know that nobody will play or even acknowledge what you make and with the PC market so crowded with free games that's what inevitably happens when you make something for PC. But people pay attention to what gets put out for consoles like Wii.
GP2X is everything that I said about needing to optimize when working on Wii but taken to an extreme. It still blows my mind when I see that other people got even simple polygonal 3D graphics working on it. Unfortunately the community is pretty much dead. Few people use it anymore and absolutely nobody develops for it anymore.
DS is cool. I don't really have much to say about it other then that I am still eagerly awaiting for someone to get the camera working for DSi homebrew.
PS3 is mostly interesting just because it is new. Its been possible to run homebrew on it for a while now but people pretty quickly started shunning the use of the leaked SDK and the open source tools for making homebrew for it are still in a bit of a stage of flux. There also still aren't nearly as many people developing for it as there were and still are for Wii.
On a side note, am I crazy for seriously contemplating spending the time learning to develop for the original Xbox?
[FDS] As an indie game developer, do you find it hard to sacrifice time for your plethora of projects?
I tend to find it more painful to sacrifice time to do things other then making games.
[FDS] What do you have planned for future releases of Tick Tock Moddable?
There is a lot that I would like to do.
First thing I'll probably be doing is finishing up the collision detection for vehicles and objects.
The most significant addition after that will probably be the editor. At the moment you need to do everything outside of the program and text editors like Notepad aren't really ideal for placing tiles with. With that editor will come the ability to place people (including the player) and objects at specific locations (currently the player always starts in the center of the map and everything else must be place randomly). I'm hope to release a version for homebrew enabled Wiis. I would like to also do the same for PS3 but that is further off. The game is and will continue to primarily be rendered in software but I would like to eventually add support for hardware accelerated rendering with OpenGL.
[FDS] Are there any other major projects you are working on?
I'm planning to return to working on Cubicle Shooter and The Untitled project. Cubicle Shooter is that FPS that I mentioned earlier on with the destructible environments. the last time I worked on it I was making it exclusively for PS3 but now I'm thinking more about moving it to Wii and Windows. The Untitled project is an open world 3D cyberpunk game with a massive procedurally generated city. The Untitled Project also started out on PS3 but I've since ported it to Wii and I plan to also support Windows. It is very early on in development though.
You can download 0.4 of Tick Tock Moddable here.
If you want to see John Doe's other projects you can see it on his website ThatOtherDev.com