Eat. Sleep. Indie. Portfolio

Professional Freelance Game Design

I recently decided to start keeping a devlog for my personal projects. Here you can find progress updates for my current projects and also check out any new mechanics I've been playing around with in my spare time.

Note: I have archived older posts which can be found via this link to the archive. I will eventually put in the time to setup a proper system, but for now I'm busy working on other stuff.

Kick & Shake

October 22nd

Last night was another night of short and sweet updates. I keep telling myself that all of these small updates add up together over time, but looking back through my devlog at just how slowly this game has progressed is honestly a bit disheartening. Nonetheless, I plan to stay the course, even if the destination still hides behind a think layer of mental fog.

First up: Camera shake, which is now applied anytime an explosion goes off in the general vicinity of the player. The amount of shake is determined by both the force variable that is used for physics calculations as well as the distance between the player and the exploding object. As a developer, you have to appreciate small feature updates that have such a keen impact on gameplay, and now that this camera shake is in place, I can't even begin to explain why I waited so long to put it in place.



Some kick from guns and shake from explosives

The same goes for the second update: Animated kick for guns. I didn't want to have to create an animation in Blender since my skills in Blender aren't quite to the point where I could have done this with any sort of confidence. I considered going through asset packages I already own or perhaps purchasing a new one for an animation that would work, but that seemed daunting and unnecessary; I instead opted for some more IK work. Taking the current weapon's recoil setting into account, this IK configuration increases its weight value based on said recoil setting being evaluated via an animation curve. Again, nothing too time consuming here but the payoff is certainly noticeable, at least for the shotgun and rocket launcher. This will need some polish in the future and I am already thinking that my best option would be to rework this system in such a way that would allow for a custom animation curve for each weapon, but that seems like a task for future-me, so onto the Trello board it goes to likely get lost amongst the fray for weeks.

Lastly, I have added a compass to the top of the screen. When playing a game, I want to be able to look at the map and determine which direction I need to go to get to my destination, and a compass such as this allows the player to continue making progress in that direction without needing to refer to the map any time they may get turned around searching for items to pick up or engaging enemies. This may end up being replaced with a minimap in the future, but for now, this was an easy implementation considering it is a package I purchased from the Asset Store years ago and has been used in several of my prototypes in the past.

 

Tea Kettles & Trunks

October 19th

It was another busy freelancer day today (and one that began extra early) but I did manage to get two small items on my list taken care of.

The first is a solution to making the flamethrower and molotovs viable as weapons by causing the zombie's heads to "tea kettle" as more and more fire damage is applied. If they are on fire for long enough, their head will explode, which serves as a great way for the player to take out a large number of zombies fairly quickly using the flamethrower. This is still in a very basic concept phase of development, but I will add to it later and follow up with some gameplay video of large, flaming zombie hordes.


Next up was to turn one of the disabled vehicles into a container, which leverages the same setup as the crates that were completed earlier. I've gotten to the point where I can create these simple rigs in Blender and add basic animations to them, which gives me the freedom to do a lot of things that I was incapable of doing just a few years ago. After a long day of programming, I tend to find working in Blender to be almost therapeutic; these meshes are so easy to work with and I have repeated these processes so many times that it has become fairly easy for me to do the work, even after a long day of programming.

I'm not sure what will be added next, that's all going to depend on how tomorrow goes and if I get enough free time to continue expanding the inventory system or not, but for now it's time to call it a day and close up the shop.


 

Mixamo Test

October 18th

I decided to try out some Mixamo characters in my zombie shooter today, mostly just to satisfy my curiosity. I didn't put too much focus on polishing anything up, just went straight towards anything that could be considered the finish line as quickly as possible. The original blood effects are still present, I skipped severing arms/legs altogether and focused entirely on the head, but I think it turned out halfway-decent considering I didn't want to waste too much of my day on a whim.



I prefer the original, but this was fun nonetheless

 

Back In The Saddle

October 16th

Today was the first time in quite a while that I have been able to sit down and spend anything more than 30 minutes here or there on my zombie shooter. I used it wisely, and managed to get several things done that have been on my to-do list for far too long, and after my most recent gameplay session, I can say that I am very happy that they're done and in place.

My first task was to update my reticle system so that they could be used to help differentiate between weapons. I currently only have two versions in place (one for rifles and another for shotguns, RPGs, etc) but I can expand on this when I am ready to design more. I have also extended this new feature to the modular scopes, each of which can have their own custom sprite to be used as a reticle in conjunction with the weapons. The scope reticle is set up to only show when the player is aiming down the sights, and while I am not sure I will keep it that way, it's working well enough for now.



This is sorta starting to look like a game

I also began extending my inventory system so that it leverages the modular weapon options I put in place a while back. Whereas before the UI layout gave me access to all options for the sake of testing, the player is not limited to the mods that they have in their inventory. In the video above I swap out some iron sights for a scope part way through, and you can see that once the scope is attached that I gain some help from its custom reticle.

I will eventually be extending the inventory system to the equipment panel as well, which will allow the character to swap in larger backpacks, armor pieces, and accessories. That likely won't be a priority for a while, and I am leaning towards my next task being the implementation of the player stats that are going to be taken into account for weapon accuracy, reload times, etc. This will hopefully create unique combinations for players, in that both the mods being used for their weapon as well as the stats they choose to boost as they progress will play off of one another.

 

Ballet of the Undead

October 16th

Not really sure what to say here, except that I was left unsupervised and felt inspired to do something a little different. These zombies are quickly becoming my own version of Buster from Mythbusters, and I don't think I will ever grow tired of finding new ways to mess with them.

You'll want sound for this one.



A conductor's baton is optional, but highly recommended

 

Day & Night

October 15th

After finishing up work earlier today, I decided to start playing around with a nighttime scene in Unity. I have implemented a day/night controller in several of the side projects I've created in the past, so it won't take me long to impelment them in this project if it ends up working well for the game. For now, I just tweaked lighting/skybox and attached a headlamp to the player for quick testing of the idea. I am leaning more towards a survival game as I progress, one in which the player is assumedly the last person on Earth that remains human, their goal being to try and locate others (if they exist), and they must deal with the undead, the elements, and of course darkness during the nights. Whether inspiration hits at some point and sends me off in a different direction, that plan has given me at least a vague direction of where I'm headed.



Shining some light on an idea

As with the driving mechanic and several other features I've played around with, I'm still not 100% sure that there will be a day/night system in this game, mostly due to the fact that I am still not 100% exactly what game I am making. Either way, this was fun to play around with and it's certainly something I wanted to be able to actually play before making a final decision. Now that that has been done, I can continue to work towards making final decisions with regards to the actual gameplay, whereas most of what is done up to this point is purely mechanics.

Roughly 10 minutes later...

At least that paragraph was what I had written orginally... Then I went and actually recorded the video and watched it. This will almost certainly be a part of this game, and I feel it has provided a pretty big step in the right direction as far as where the design will ultimately end up. It was definitely more difficult to stay out of harm's range, it was more difficult to aim correctly, and I really liked the smooth (and slightly delayed) movement of the flashlight while aiming; now that I've seen the gameplay, I feel as though the dark during night hours is what's going to help make this feel more like a zombie game rather than just a shooter with heads exploding; during the daytime I feel like Rambo when playing, but during this nighttime playtest I felt like I was always this close to being eaten. Count me in.

 

How It Started

October 14th

I am still nursing a back injury and most of my limited daily stamina quotient is being used on freelance projects, but I decided after my shift tonight to put together a little side-by-side comparison of my first gameplay video and my most recent gameplay footage. Nothing has been added to the project since my last post due to a very slow healing process, but I am feeling better every day and hope to be back to 100% by next month.



It's come a long way, still has a ways to go

I still make progress every day, but these days said progress is mostly in the form of fleshing out ideas in a notebook while laying as flat as possible. While I am anxious to get back to making progress in the Unity editor itself, I know from experience that pushing things too far too fast will only set me back. For now, the plan is to continue to organize my Trello list while getting a schedule in place for the first gameplay demo.

 

An Open World

October 2nd

I figured I would share some gameplay footage recorded last night, which features an open world concept level. This scene was imported into this project via a custom package file I created from a battle royale project I was playing around with a while back. The scene is fairly empty save for the downtown area, but it has been working out fairly well and saved me a ton of time laying all this out manually. The battle royale project will be added to my portfolio soon, as well as a space exploration game I had done a few years back.



It's not much, but it's a start

Given that I was in no mood to program last night due to my freelance gig having me working with several assets packages with which I have little to no experience, this was my way of making progress on this game without actually having to do much. Most of the work invovled updating the layers for the roads, sidewalks and buildings, but for the most part I simply imported the scene I had exported and was able to start playing the game on it without any fuss.

One thing I am very happy with regarding this new setup is that I can still spawn roughly the same number of zombies as I was in my testing scene without my framerate dipping below my target. This required turning off anti-aliasing in order to achieve, but I know there is a ton of optimization that can still be done to improve performance in a lot of avenues. Occlusion culling, coupled with a map more suited for leveraging it, will likely get me right about where I want to be. It is very obvious to me that I am still bound by the number of animators in the scene at any given time, which is something I may try optimizing even further in the near future. For now, it's back to work for my client; at least until later tonight.

 

Weapons Showcase I

September 22nd

I was closing up for shop for the day when I realized that although I had shared the most recent gameplay via social media, I had not added it to my own devlog yet. Too whooped to write much about it, but most of what is featured here has been covered in previous posts.



Showing off a few special weapons

 

Zombie Flambe'

September 17th

It's been a pretty busy week with regards to my freelancing schedule lately, but I did find some time this past weekend to play around with a few ideas for my ongoing zombie shooter and am just now finding time to share them. There are certainly days where I feel as though I am not doing this project justice, due in no small part to the fact that I love my day job (even if it takes up most of my dev time) in conjunction with the fact that I have no idea what it will end up being. I think that maybe the key to why I have continued with this project for most of the year even though it is still considered a "side project", in that it feels a bit further removed from my day job since, when it comes to my job, clients provide me with documents to build a game that is already designed on paper, whereas with this zombie shooter I am basically wingin' it and working on whatever item in my overflowing Trello list looks like it'd be fun to play with before I close up shop for the day.



Cookin' with propane

Not much to say here: just a propane-tank-fueled flamethrower being used to barbecue zekes, before and after their heads go missing. I'm honestly not sure how useful the flamethrower will actually be in the game, but regardless of how ineffective a weapon it may end up being, it's too much fun to cut. This is one of several special weapons, each of which has specific mods that the player must collect in order to construct a fully functioning weapon. I'll be expanding on the special weapons in the future, but for now, I wanted to share the flamethrower in all its barbecuing glory.

 

Melee Weapons

September 8th

Late last night I opted to brew a cup of coffee rather than going to sleep, and that irresponsible act has led to the results of my first tests with melee weapons. As with the vehicles, I am not sure whether the final game will include melee weapons, but I did want to put in some time to make them accessible for experimentation later and figured it was best to do this while recent work on the modular weapons system was fresh in the ol' noggin'.

It is certainly far from polished, but I am far more concerned with getting the code in place now than I am with making it look realistic. Some day in the future I'll go searching for a more fitting animation package and begin making the weapons work against the zombies. I will likely look for an animation set that has matching leg movements for all the directions that the current firearm system uses, but for now the character is running those firearm clips on the legs and overwriting the torso and arms with a newly imported melee animation set, which produces decent but far-from-great results.

 

Bit by Bit

September 5th

It's been nearly a month since I've posted here so I've got several updates to share. Unfortunately I've been incredibly busy with freelance work and personal matters, but I am resilient in my dedication to making progress on this zombie shooter, even if it's only in short bursts. So, here's the last month's worth of bursts:

I've made improvements to my IK system so that the barrel of the gun is always pointing correctly. This led to bullet trails, since I could now spawn the trail effects at the correct place and ensure that they traveled in the correct direction; before the IK improvements, trails would have had to displayed at very odd angles which led to some unrealistic results.

The biggest improvement done over the course of the last several weeks is the modular weapons system. Players can now customize their weapon as they see fit at any workbench in the game, and each mod has it's own stats that, when combined with other mods, results in tons of options. Players can have anything from single shot pistols to fully automitic shotguns, and all of these parts will eventually be incorporated into the inventory system once that is in place.




A month's worth of dev sprints

The rest of my weekend is booked, so I won't be able to post any new updates until at least next week, but I am very happy to finally be able to share this update with everyone.

 

ZomBBQ

August 6th

Molotovs...

...and naplam barrels.

 

Little By Little

August 4th

I try to get at least a little bit of work done on this project every night, regardless of how dog-tired I am from my freelance schedule. Even if it's just 15 minutes before I call it a day, I feel it's important to be making continuous progress, and those little spurts of development really add up over time.

The last few nights I have been adding a few small things that have existed on my to-do list for a while now and I figured I would share before I take a meal break and then leverage my time off tonight to make some more progress in this project. First, I updated the pathfinding setup for zombies to leverage root motion, which has really opened up my options with regards to having unique zombies with unique movements. I don't have a lot of animations to choose from at the moment, but I will likely be picking up a new package or two from the asset store this week to make full use of this new configuration.

The next night was spent adding accuracy and range settings to firearms. Gone is the assault rifle that was as accurate as a sniper rifle at any distance, replaced instead with one that sprays bullets in a cone and provides a more realistic experience. This then led to the next night's work, which was the addition of a shotgun that sends off multiple projectiles with each shot and is set up to work best at close range and is capable of hitting multiple targets.

The short clip below features the test scene I have been using when working on updates, and it features some basic UI buttons that allow me to spawn and despawn zombies at will, both in the editor and in builds. You can see that there are two new movement animations being used for the zombies, and the original animation has been updated to use root motion as well. Shooting at the ground shows the cone pattern that the bullets take when exiting the barrel, and you can also see that the shotgun is capable of maiming multiple zombies with each shot but is also much more limited in it's range than the assault rifle is.




Several night's worth of dev sprints

I'll eventually put in the work to polish up my IK aiming system which will then lead to adding bullet trails, but for now I am happy with how these few small changes have significantly changed the overall gameplay. I'll also be expanding on my weapons system to allow for various types of rifles, shotguns, and possibly even some sniper rifles.

 

Drivers Test

July 29th

I spent some time after work last night making improvements to the driving mechanic I recently added. I've swapped out the original top-down view for a follow camera and made some small adjustements to the vehicle settings, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. I'm not exactly sure how this driving mechanic will play into the game, I just know it's a lot of fun and it serves as a great way to break up gameplay between zombie waves.




This configuration is known as 'Woo Hoo'

 

Zombie Roadkill

July 26th

I had built a small racing game during some off time between freelance gigs back in 2019. It was nothing special and was the result of a desire to play around with a new idea and the fact that Death Race was on in the background. I used some low poly packages from the asset store, set up some vehicles using wheel colliders, added some weapons, and the following was the result:




This old prototype ended up being the perfect vehicle controller for roadkillin' some zekes

I exported one of these vehicle prefabs and imported those assets into Bite Me, and after swapping out the meshes and making adjustments to colliders, I was off to a great start. I had tested hitting my zombies with a vehicle back in March, but the vehicle I was using back then was just a simple controller that drove the car forward indefinitely, it didn't even include steering; I had just placed the zombie in its path and then positioned the camera so that you were looking directly at the victim and the car would come rushing into the frame, hitting the zombie and sending his parts flying.




It needs work, but that will have to wait for another day

If you exclude the 20 minutes I spent playing Death Race as I took short trip down memory lane, the process to complete the work shown in the video above took about 15 minutes total. It actually took me longer to record these two videos, upload them to YouTube, and to writie this post than it did to get the controller setup, but I figured that I would provide some sort of update tonight given that it has been a while since I've shared anything here. I am still committed to finishing this game, it just isn't being worked on nearly as much as it has been in the past due to a busy freelancing schedule. I'll likely fix a couple of bugs remaining on my Trello list tonight before calling it a day, but I am happy that I remembered this little racing prototype I built last year given how well it seems it will work for my current project.

 

Thriller Party

July 19th

I extended my dismemberment mechanic to 32 more zombies last night and decided to have a little fun with them this afternoon. I ended up writing my own editor scripts to handle the setup of the ragdolls since the native Unity system resulted in colliders that weren't accurate enough for realistic results. I then did the same thing for each and every limb of each of the zombies, and now the time to go from an intact zombie model to a character that I can explode to pieces in-game is roughly 10 minutes total.




In the event you want the music that I can't add because of copyrights: Thriller Music Video

There are still more zombies at my disposal that are not set up yet, but most of them have some unique characteristics that will need some unique configurations. I'll be progressing forward with the 33 total I have in place now and will worry about the rest later on down the line. For now, my plan is to make each of these zombies even more unique with the use of accesories, animations, and more.

 

Downtime

July 14th

This will likely be the last post on this devlog for a while, but before I set things aside for a bit I wanted to do something a little different. After weeks of having fragmented this guys skull, severing his limbs, and sending him sky-high via high-velocity explosives, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to give him some downtime. If nothing else it was good for a laugh when I needed a reason to.




In the event you want the music that I can't add because of copyrights: Thriller Music Video

 

Waves of Zekes

July 11th

I worked a one-day gig today so I haven't added anything new since last night, and I really didn't feel like programming once my contract was completed. But since I try to do something every day, I figured I'd take some gameplay footage of the work I had completed yesterday. This is the first video featuring the addition of weapon swapping as well as the concept layout I did for a small city block. One of my favorite parts of this video is the number of undead corpses that pile up as I progress, and knowing that every body part on the screen has rigidbodies attached just waiting for an explosive to send them flying - while still maintaining my target of 60 FPS - has me feeling like this project is going to turn out better than I'd originally hoped.




For now, I'm overdue for a movie and a good night's sleep.

 

Aftermath

July 10th

I'm about to wrap it up for the night since I have a short-term freelance agreement to fulfill tomorrow. This should leave me Sunday to put some ideas for expanding on today's work into place. The screenshot below is my first test of a game scene, which was a fun departure from the test scene I have been using up to this point.

I've placed some structures, roads, and a few destroyed vehicles to provide a play area, and they are laid out as a three-way intersection. Zombies are then spawned in a circle a set distance from the player and the zombies find their own path to the player-character from there. This setup provides alleyways and shortcuts that the zombie can take, such that some zombies come into the play area from the end of the street, while others will come into view with only a short distance between them and the player. I've also added code to increase the maximum speed of the zombies based on the current wave so that they get a little faster the longer you survive. There is no end-game yet, but this was a nice start of some actual gameplay and it certainly provided me with a new perspective on how this project could progress.


Bird's-eye view of the play area

 

Weapon Swapping

July 9th

Don't feel much like writing today, but I figured I'd share the latest addition: weapon swapping.


Where's the party?

 

Kaboom!

July 8th

In keeping with tonight's theme, I present to you the RPG. I'll need to implement a better reload animation, but I'm very happy with how this turned out.


Insert your preferred comic book onomatopoeia here