Comic Recommendations

So for a while I have been thinking “I should write a review stories I really like”. Part of this is that I read a lot of web comics, another is I read more than a few books, and finally I enjoy having people to talk to about these interests. As such it is helpful if other people also read these stories… and now we come to the reviews.

Unfortunately I can’t pick just one property to review so initially I will just list a few I recommend and give a short summary to try and get you interested.

First up is a long running series by a semi-legendary couple:
Girl Genius by Kaja and Phil Foglio
Home page:
In the world of Girl Genius being a mad scientist is not something you chose to be (I mean you can, but you will be at a disadvantage) it is something you are born into. This is called “The Spark” and gives you insight and inspiration into inventions. Surrounded by steam punk gadgetry everywhere these sparks via for power. Our main character Agatha is a small town girl attending an academy… but nothing she constructs works. It all falls apart and she doesn’t know why. One day her heirloom necklace is stolen and that triggers the unwinding of many secrets about both Agatha’s heritage, and the world at large.

Next up we move from sci-fi to fantasy with:
Namesake by Megan Lavey-Heaton
First page:
Current page:
One day a girl witnesses an accident in a library that catches the building on fire, and ends up transported to OZ. Yes that OZ, of Dorthey and Yellow Brick roads. Upon accidentally solving a “wicked witch” incident she is all set to go off on an adventure… except for a few problems. Firstly, as you might expect, not everything is as it seems and something in OZ is… off. Secondly, this girl… ISN’T DORTHY! Her name is Emma and would you stop calling her “The Dorthey” please!
Welcome to a story where fairytales are real, magical, and dangerous.

Now we have a much more recent creation:
Aurora by Red of the YouTube channel “Overly Sarcastic Productions” (I also recommend the YouTube channel:
First page:
Current Page:
Welcome to the world of Aurora. A world literally crafted from the dying forms of 6 elemental Primordials: Earth, Fire, Water, Wind, Lightning, and Life,. A world with a myriad of races crafted by the creator gods known as The Twins. A world where any sufficiently sized and old city/forest/mountain/lake has a god of its own, where mages sculpt the energies of the Primordials that died to make this world. But darkness lurks at the edges of this world… or should I say its heart? An ancient evil lurks sealed away and another actor, simply known as “The Collector”, has started hunting the gods themselves. As the curtain rises a great city is brought low by this “Collector” and the broken vessel of the city’s captured god has somehow gained a life of its own! Follow along as a motley crew of people, each with their own baggage, group together to face these evils… and any other they find along the way.

And finally (for this post anyway) we have:
Grrl Power by Dave Barrack
First page:
Current page:
Welcome to an alternative version of our world… if our world had super people running around. That is not to say that super heroes are running around. Super powers are fairly rare and not well understood, and not everyone that has them is heroic (or villainous for that matter. Some are just like, barbers who happen to have super strength). Enter Sydney Scoville, the co-owner of a local comic shop. Sydney is a bit of a… hyperactive spaz with a few quirks. And after some appropriate shenanigans ends up joining the first super hero team… as a recruit. Can’t just put her on the street and say “Go get bad guys” need some training first. But her unique powerset, and talent for getting into and out of trouble, will keep her near the front lines whether she is ready or not.

Adding Theme and Stars

For most of the development of my game I have specifically avoided theming any element of the game, focusing instead on purely mechanical elements. Basic button images, abstract shapes for icons and simple monochrome colored backgrounds. As development progressed I eventually shifted into trying to make the elements look better of course. Adding a simple gradient to the background, having the background color react to the game state, and custom (if simple) images for the buttons.

But more recently I have decided to try and start actually incorporating a theme into the visuals. First step: What theme should I go with?

If you read the title you probably know what I went with, but let me tell you the process. Firstly I have been using a temp name for the title in the main menu of “Sky Lights” as such I have always had a bit of a star/space theme in the back of my mind. But when I was first making the game the ideas of a circuit board or even magic scrolls where also present as theming ideas. However, in the intervening time I have taken to using transparency as a big motif in the images I use for the game, and so the idea of putting a shifting star field behind everything captured my imagination.

So, step 2. I have decided on the theming and the first element I was going to add. Now comes my favorite part: implementation. First was to make 3 “star fields”. This was a simple, if tedious, process. I don’t have a good graphics editing program (or looked into free options yet) but have found that PowerPoint makes a good fall back for quick prototyping of simple shape designs. A few tweaks to object settings latter and I had a “star” to copy around a space. A giant transparent box behind everything to set boarders and I just needed to arrange the stars. 3 patterns made I whipped up a script to cycle through them at random via random intervals (fade in/out times and time sitting on one image randomized each cycle). It looked nice, but I had a few ideas to improve it.

Idea one, instead of one big “Field” behind everything I would have 5 “Fields”, one in each corner for the main stars and one big one for extra stars. At first I tried making the corner “Fields” overlap slightly so that it wouldn’t be as obvious that there were 4 distinct quadrants, but quickly discarded that idea when the overlapping areas got overcrowded and actually drew more attention to that.

And so I moved onto idea two: Rather than having 3 big “star fields” to cycle through I would have 3 sets of 3 smaller “star fields” each set to its own cycle rate. Trying it out I loved the effect. Theoretically I would want each “star field” to only be one star and have something like 16-22 sets per corner… but that feels like extreme overkill.

Idea 3, because yes we aren’t done yet, was fairly simple: vary the size of the stars. This is where the 5th “Field” comes in, it includes smaller stars, a few normal size stars, and one collection of larger stars. The smaller and normal stars are on a normal cycle and exists mostly to hide the “line” between the 4 corner “Fields”. The large stars originally also cycled through a set of 3, but after talking with some people one thought changed this idea: “Larger stars wouldn’t completely disappear while smaller stars were still visible”. So I set a single large star set to simply flicker (going to a low opacity rather than a 0% opacity and then back to 100% opacity) and it looked good. I latter cut that single image into 3 images to put the flickers on different cycles.

Buttons and UI layout

So most of the game has been designed and is working, what comes next? Making it look good… and making the UI make sense.

At first I just put buttons in as I needed them. Need a restart button? Here’s one. Need a stats screen? Here is a button to bring it in from off screen. Need a hint button? Getting a bit cramped but I can fit that. As you can imagine this did not look “good”. Functional, but not good.

So I did a pass to see what was actually needed. Obviously the main menu button and main control buttons (restart, hints, new puzzle for randomized) all needed to be visible all the time. But a few buttons could be hidden, such as the level select buttons and the custom difficulty select, when not in use. I also came to the decision that the hint button should be disabled after the player starts the game, since with player input the hints might no longer be relevant. As such I had the hint and restart buttons overlap with only one of them active and visible at a time (saving some screen space).

Back on the main menu it now starts with a selection for what kind of puzzle you want (classic, match, or “experimental” (still need a better name for that one)) and then slides in new options for if you want levels, random, or to go back and pick a new puzzle type.

While I am still deciding what the buttons are to look like, I am happy with the layout I have now created.

So, Where am I?

Been a while since I last posted about my game. As such this post will be a catch up that assumes you have read none of my previous posts about my game.

So, what game am I making? I am making my take on a classic game: Lights Out. In the game you have a 5X5 grid of lights with some number of those lights turned on. Your objective is to turn them all off (as the name suggests), the cavate is that if you press one of the lights the lights adjacent to it also toggle on/off. This creates a puzzle for the player to solve. It took me a bit to figure out the background logistics of how to make this work in Unity (that “Right way to do it” mind set I had getting in the way here and there) but eventually I got the basic game working.

That is when I started making my takes on the game. The first alt version I call match pattern. In this mode rather than trying to turn out all the lights you are trying to match a given pattern of lights. The second alt version adds a different dimension. In the basic and match pattern game the lights only have an on and off state, in this new version the lights have an off and 3 on modes with the objective still being to turn them all off.

So far we have 3 versions of this puzzle game, but where are the puzzles? Now, I could (and sometimes do) hand make these puzzles, but instead I created a program to create these puzzles for me, basically by working backwards. The program starts with a blank grid (or a completely randomized one if creating a match pattern) and simulating moves until it reaches the number of target moves desired. Using this I both created 100+ puzzles to progress through for each mode and a randomized version for each mode.

Since creating all of this I played with creating a tutorial (but have currently put it on the back burner as the game feels self explanatory enough) and several passes on the UI elements. Now I am working on the visual design and figuring out how to get the game published to the Apple and Android stores (and pc if it is viable).

Returning to Posting

Okay, here we are again. THIS time I am going to try something a little new, at least to me. In the past I have tried to set myself a strict schedule and stick to it, but as with many strict things such a schedule was brittle and once broken was hard to keep going. I have come to realize (from similar experiences in other things) that part of this is my having preconceived notions of “how this is supposed to be done”. And if I couldn’t do them that way I must be failing and better to run away.

But then, when talking to someone about one of those similar activities, I said “Wait… I can do that?!” because it had honestly not occurred to me that I could change the schedule of when an event should take place. In my mind it always took place at a specific time, and to deviate from that was to do it wrong. But now with this new understanding I can be much loser about things.

Long story short: hopefully this time I will have made the changes I need to so that I can actually keep posting here. The main two being this: one I am going to post about work on Fridays and two I will also allow myself to post whenever I want about whatever I want if I feel like it.