Building an XNA Game Studio XBox360 Indie Game.

[page 0017] ~ XMLSpy and the Dragon … et al. :

The Extro-Intro.

It has come to my attention that these monthly synopsis are starting to congeal into their own form.  Most notably is this first paragraph.  So I’ll just run with it and say that this introduction paragraph is set aside to tie the previous post [extro] into this new post [intro].  It sets the tone for what was and then what has come up next.  Recently, this has been my way of letting go of those proverbial reigns, and to then sit back and watch it become what it will.  So far, I see this hobby hobbling along without any real direction, presumably on some kind of brain-storming autopilot.  I guess I need to build an infrastructure so, when I do accomplish something, I’ll have an idea of what and when it has become part of my recollection, within a toolkit.  Self management has become an apparent issue because the desire of an endgame.  The capability to press start on the XBox 360 game pad and play a game of my own creation is the only real endgame I have had in mind.  In between is just a whole lot of, that’s cool, it worked, wow, with even more consternation and hmmm’s dispersed throughout the entire process.  It’s a great way to start out when looking for what’s out there and what can work together with what else.  But when it comes down to saying, OK, I’ve built such and such and it works when I do so and so, and then a few months later, after I had completely forgotten that that had been built at all, and then I can only say, wow, I built that, well, hmmm, again.  So up to this point, there hasn’t been a real way of tracking how it worked when tried with something else, or how it worked, or didn’t work.

Tools of the Trade.

What do I know about building?  Going to a technical school to learn about carpentry and then getting the tools together to construct a house, put on an addition, refurbish a bathroom or add a second story is something that I have already done.  Going to the university to learn about programming and business has also been a side line during that time.  Actually, it started before that time line and has now lead through and into App Hub and Indie games for the Xbox 360.  Both involve a multitude of processes.  So what do they have in common?  You don’t just wake up one day and say, yep, I’m goin’ to build a house today.  The same can be said about building a video game.  So how and where does it all start.  Back in junior high school I took drafting and learned how to draw orthographic views of various items like chairs, desks and mechanical fasteners, i.e. nuts and bolts.  In high school I took a basic programming course and learned about the protocol of software design and how flowcharting becomes an essential part of that process.  Those two courses allowed me to work on a drafting board and a computer and gave me the chance to look at something and then see how that could become something different.  At the technical college I used my previously learned drafting skill, and blended it with another course for residential and commercial blueprint reading.  My software design and flowcharting skills helped out at the university when taking C++ data structure courses and economics.  Now lately, after doing some reading it seems that all of those skills have the potential to transform into something others have called the Game Design Document.  And this document sounds like what I’ll be needing to track my progress as I consolidate my resources so I’ll be able to revisit what I’ve done, and then to become able to grasp what I have previously understood, with a consistent train of thought.  Actually the game design document – “GDD” is to be drafted beforehand and not to be a freeform trace of what capabilities I have a grasp on.  So with that in mind …

Back in the Day.

Having the need for a GDD, I’ve dug up some old programs.  Dragon Naturally Speaking, circa 1999, is an oldie but goody.  The general premise is that I talk and it writes what I have spoken to the screen.  But this Dragon first needs to be trained to understand the way I speak, so I have been feeding and training it with my previously written blog posts.  Giving it the documents in whole, so it can build a dictionary of the words I use, and then reading those same blog posts back, such as this, so I can proof read and append corrections within it when it prints something that sounds like the words I’ve spoken, but are not, is how it learns.  When speaking, I liken it to something my dad had shown to me some time ago, Victor Borge and his “Phonetic Punctuation” routine.  Here, Victor would tell a story.  But for the punctuation which he would also pronounce as the story went along, where differing sounds were consistently dedicated to each period, comma, exclamation point or otherwise silent syntactic symbol.  The same is true for dictating to Dragon.  It takes a little thought at first, and then some reciprocating references to the help file to know what it is capable of and how to verbally produce the intended edit.  It seems a little clumsy, possibly silly, actually saying comma, period, open quote, close quote, new paragraph, select that, read that, but it works.  It works well enough to use it to journal what I’m doing as I think of where I should be going with what I’m doing.  It lets me keep my hands on the keyboard and the mouse while it does its own thing, that being, keeping track of the bread crumb trail from what it is that I say.  OK, I’ll say it again, cool.  Then there is Microsoft Office 97 and Project 98, which, some time ago I had upgraded to 2000, probably because of the Y2K scare, but not necessarily.  Along with those Office 2000 products I have also found my 2000 version of Visio.  But most notably, though, of those is Visio which has tools for flowcharting.  Having a way to schematically diagram the high and low level paths and processes of a program should delude the abstractions I’ve found so cumbersome.  This should give me a way to map my own help files to concepts I’ve created which are briefly comprehended, but become so quickly fleeting as other tasks take precedence. The other office products should help with the construction of a respectable GDD and its presentation.  Word, a place to paste my Dragon journals, and the many other textual ideas that are perpetually revealed.  Excel, to test numeric prototypes from zero sum game theories to like typed statistical scenarios.  Access, to allow for labeled input interfaces which provide search and tracking of game asset names, their properties and related quantities inside a database.  PowerPoint, to use as a scrapbook to bind it all together as a fluid presentation.  Project 2000 is something that, for me, makes no real sense.  I would love to keep track and keep a schedule of what I’m doing, but, ok, alright, maybe I’ll try to drop something in between those lines, just to see if it does something I can understand, but no guarantees, or maybe I’ll just use its calendar.  To move on, within these applications I should be able to build a consolidated GDD.  Another application is XMLSpy 2004 which should help out with some of the web pages in my site, and to also use it for the Role Playing Game from the education catalog in App Hub.  This game utilizes xml files extensively to store and load data into the game.  The Content folder is filled with these files.  And so, if I am to build a game document design, I might as well build one for this education catalog sample game first.  This way, I know the story line and it should be easier to dredge out a format from what is apparent.  Lastly, there is my ancient version of TextAloud from back in the day when SMS was the newest big thing, and with Safari Books Online, when the book is HTML enabled, power reading becomes the mode of choice : see Review.

“Games Without Frontiers” – Peter Gabriel.

So it looks like I need to figure out what a GDD is, and how to piece it together using the tools that I’ve got.  This isn’t quite a proper programming venue but it still inspires intrigue.  And from all accounts, has seemed to be deemed indispensable.

It’s still good!  As seen from a can of bacon grease sitting in the middle of a smoldering campfire.


December 18, 2012 - Posted by | 2012 [0006] to [0018], The Process

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