Review

Terraria…

Terraria (@Terraria_Blue) was release yesterday on Steam. As I understood it, it was the top selling game yesterday as well with a lot of folks, like myself, waiting in line to take a peek. It’s by no means flawless, but I’m not going to say I was disappointed.

What is it?

If you’ve not seen the official trailer, I highly recommend it before you cast judgment simply based on the “type” of game it is. Not that I know anyone as short-sighted as that or anything…

Terraria is a side-scrolling 2D action adventure game with a few very familiar hooks we all know and love.

It’s got co-op and terrain deformation. It’s got building and blocks. It even has pickaxes!

“Ooo! Ooo! Doesn’t that make it Minecraft?!”

No.

This is commonly touted around YouTube and the like from initial impressions as though every indie game that comes out now is going to be a Minecraft clone.

A note on the Minecraft clone, koi: Pixels are square; 3D squares are cubes… get over it. There were thousands of games before Minecraft to use squares – there will be thousands more after.

With that said, if I were to say that Terraria didn’t take a page from Notch’s book I would think myself a liar.

So basically, you get to run around and kill baddies (way more than Minecraft, by the way) with your friends in a 2D platformer with create-able/destructible terrain.

Now for some details.

Worlds

World generation is a bit slow initially, but that’s not a complaint really. The real hassle comes in with loading one of the levels. For the first bit, I’d recommend rolling a Small world just for the settling and load times. There are three variations of world size, but Medium was annoying enough to try and bounce out to from the Small I was serving last night for the gang.

Other than that, the worlds seem to go on forever vertically. You’ll really just be stopped in digging by encountering harder and harder mobs as you go deeper. Horizontally, we’ve found a new biome and something that somewhat appears to be a dungeon or quest, but it’s too difficult for us currently.

Characters

Character creation is comical. You’re a tiny little sprite that you can pick ~20 hair styles on. Then you’re given +/- control on the literal RGB values of various components of your look (hair color, shirt color, pants color, etc…). I created my Twitter avatar (as always) and it worked out fine. Only problem was he has minimum values in place that prevented me from having my black cardigan.

The important part about characters is that they persist. Yes. The characters persist… independent of the worlds they play in. That means that if I play my local toon to get all of these epic items (materials, accessories, weapons, armor, etc…), I can go hop on a buddy’s server and have everything that I left the other world with.

Servers

Playing a co-op game obviously requires a server. It would have been nice if Terraria would have offered a master-server system, but no such luck. Running a server is pretty simple though, and it appears that any world you create can become a server. My only real complaint, and it is a complaint, is that you can only enter an IP into the server (not a host name). Since no one is providing dedicated serving off this game yet, this is a huge pain. I shouldn’t have to memorize everyone’s IP address. Actually, I shouldn’t even have to memorize my own.

tl;dr

Terraria is an awesome, creative, cooperative, 2D adventure. It currently runs ~$10, and is worth every penny. It has some growing to do, but it’s exactly one day after an indie game release, so what do you expect?

Buy it.

That is all.

PlayMaker…

I just got done jotting down some thoughts on RageSpline yesterday and I thought “why in the world haven’t I written a review of PlayMaker yet?!”, so here goes.

First off, @Unity3D, that review system in the Asset Store should get some love. Real reviews are more than just testimonies, and there’s no way someone can write an honest review in there. 😉

We’re here about PlayMaker though, not Unity, so I’ll get started by saying that I’ve only had PlayMaker now for about a month now, but in that time I’ve had many small projects (and one big one) that use it, so I think I know enough about it now to write a decent summary and review on the product.

Marketing

Not joking, PlayMaker is marketed through the Asset Store (and Twitter… @CaitlynUnity!) as a way to write games in Unity without having to write any code. Let me break down what that really means – as to be honest, as cool as that sounds, it was almost a turn-off immediately.

PlayMaker can enable you to create a game without writing a single line of code, yes. The problem with the statement is that to a developer (what I actually pay the bills with), the idea of an extension to Unity that would constrain me to some WYSIWYG process wire-up was not at all something I wanted.

I did however, get very interested in the lack of a need to rewrite tiny scripts every few minutes for the simplest things (e.g. spin an object, turn a light on, etc…). Fortunately, I was interested enough that I went and found some videos and got the real sales pitch.

Reality

Wow, how far from the marketing. After looking over the videos provided by Hutong Games (its creator) I was floored. It wasn’t a “you don’t have to know how to code” at all! Also, unfortunately, to sum it up in a similar expression would be a great insult to the product, so here are a few of the things it actually is.

It’s a solid FSM. It’s a visual scripting tool. It’s a hierarchical logic framework. It’s a time saver. It’s a code-snippet storer. It’s an inspiration engine.

That’s the reality; so much more than the pitch.

FSM

As a finite-state machine, PlayMaker does its job with style and grace. Hell, it even adds per-state debugging to your game with zero-effort. Write cleaner logical processes and game states; trust me, without help this can get unwieldy.

Support

Hutong Games offers the most amazing support compared to any third-party developers that I’ve ever known… in any industry. They make sure PlayMaker is well documented, they offer professional videos, and have an amazing community that is always willing to help.

Growth

The improvements that made it into it right as I got into it were pretty significant (v1.1), and while 90% of what is discussed as needed are actions (the bits of visual scripting that let you do with PlayMaker), the suggestions that the community has raised have been addressed and are looking to make an even brighter future for the extension.

Price

At first, I was reluctant to buy this at its current $100 (USD) price point. I mean, I’m just an after-work indie. I have a very limited budget for things like this, so to me $100 was a lot.

I basically just used the expected “lift” from not having to write those simple scripts I mentioned before as the basis and justification of the cost. Wow. If only I had broadened my perspective. I wouldn’t have waited a second.

If you think about it, for most of us (older) indies, we are new to awesome engines like Unity3D being free. I remember paying $100 for my indie license to Torque (as I’m sure many others do as well). Given how drastically PlayMaker changes the way you write games, it almost feels like jumping into a new-and-improved Unity. So here’s the way I would suggest looking at the cost:

“Old indie-engine” == $100 || “New amazing indie-engine” == (Unity + PlayMaker) == $100

tl;dr

If you write games in Unity, can afford $100, and aren’t an idiot… you’ve already bought PlayMaker.

RageSpline…

I bought RageSpline last week and wanted to take a moment to give my thoughts and opinions of it.

First off, let me say that Keely (@JuhaKiili) has done an amazing job on this little marvel. Given that this set of tools was simply intended to assist him in making a particular game (RageCube) it is truly inspirational how professional and capable this turned out.

What it is…

RageSpline is an amazingly simple way to draw vector graphics in Unity. It can help you improve performance by reducing your loaded texture memory (which is very important on mobile devices). It can greatly simplify a lot of the process of creating a 2D game in Unity if the Flash-style cartoon look is what you’re after. It will generate colliders from the shapes you draw to allow you to create levels and simple objects to physically respond.

What it is not…

It is not Flash in Unity. Don’t expect this to be an entire solution to writing a game. Sure, you may be able to pull that off as a challenge, but that’s not what it appears to be there for. It’s not a cartoon animation system. As a matter of fact, it currently does not support animation at all. It is also not forgiving of the predefined coordinate mapping where colliders are concerned, but that’s another story. 😉

What it will be…

Of course, this is subject to change and whatnot, but Keely has said that he intends to do many things with RageSpline over time. His official comments on the matter can be found here, but these are just my highlights. It will have animation support at some point. This alone would easily double the value of this tool. He will be working to improve the collider support, which again, will make this even more amazing. It will also get SVG importing and exporting so you can work on your vector resources in other (more familiar) software than Unity (Inkscape, Illustrator, etc…). He will also be improving upon an already solid set of drawing widgets and capabilities.

My final word on RageSpline is this…

If you have the $50 (USD) to drop on this, do it. Not kidding.

I had a plan for this. I was going to write Fizzle with this solely comprising its visual resources. That didn’t work for a few reasons, but all-in-all, I’m still extremely pleased with the purchase. I am using it to create 2D resources for Fizzle still, just not all of them, and let me tell you – it’s fun.

He’s made 2D resource creation not only possible in Unity, but fun and easy as well. I have no drawing talent, and I’m still creating vector drawings very easily with this utility. Check it out, you won’t be disappointed if you know what you’re going in for.

Also, check out the Unity forum post for some really cool scenes and drawings that other users have already posted.

When it comes down to it, I’m glad it’s in my arsenal.