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Debug Menu in Flixel

October 29, 2013 Leave a comment

So for the first feature to review, let’s look at the last one I added, a debug menu.

debugMenu

The textbox on the left displays the details of the current enemy wave list. It’s only there for informational purposes. The one next to it is where the real business is. It can be used to edit and then reset the current wave list. Assuming my towers are already balanced (they’re not), I can use this to tweak the difficulty curve of each level while still in the game. This saves having to re-compile every time I need to update the enemy list for a level.

The other things I can do from this level are remove all the towers from the current level and reset the funds available in the current level. Again, these is used to reset the level state for testing.

The other menus I’d like to add would let me change tower and enemy stats on the fly in order to tweak game balance without having to re-compile. Obviously this menu won’t be in the production release, but it will help immensely during development.

Now, on to the code. My flixel game state is set to a zoom level of 200%. This makes the sprites look a lot better, but text tends to look like crap. My solution is to code all the debug textboxes as regular AS3 textfields overlain on top of the actual game. Here’s the constructor on my DebugMenu class.

public class DebugMenu extends FlxGroup 
{
public var bgSprite:FlxSprite;
public var waveDisplay:TextField;
public var waveEntry:TextField;
public var moneyText:TextField;
public var resetTowerButton:AltButton; // Custom button class
public var resetWaveButton:AltButton;  // extending FlxSprite
public var setMoneyButton:AltButton;   //

public static var width:int = 400;
public static var height:int = 150;

public function DebugMenu() 
{
	bgSprite = new FlxSprite(0, 150, null);
	bgSprite.makeGraphic(DebugMenu.width, DebugMenu.height, 0x00cccccc);
	var gfx:Graphics = FlxG.flashGfx;
	gfx.clear();
	gfx.lineStyle(1, 0x000000, 1);			
	gfx.beginFill(0xffffff, 1);
	gfx.drawRoundRect(0, 0, DebugMenu.width - 1, DebugMenu.height - 1, 3);
	gfx.endFill();
	bgSprite.pixels.draw(FlxG.flashGfxSprite);
	bgSprite.dirty = true;
	bgSprite.exists = true;
	this.add(bgSprite);
	
	waveEntry = new TextField();
	waveEntry.x = 220;
	waveEntry.y = 310;
	waveEntry.width = 200;
	waveEntry.height = 200;
	waveEntry.setTextFormat(new TextFormat(null, 6, 0x000000));
	waveEntry.selectable = true;
	waveEntry.border = true;
	waveEntry.type = TextFieldType.INPUT;
	waveEntry.multiline = true;
	FlxG.stage.addChild(waveEntry);

        //same as above for waveDisplay and moneyText
	
	resetTowerButton = new AltButton(215, 185, 0xcccccc, 
              "Reset Towers", 50, 30, this.destroyAllTowers);
	resetTowerButton.label.color = 0x000000;
	this.add(resetTowerButton);
	
	resetWaveButton = new AltButton(215, 215, 0xcccccc,
              "Reset Waves", 50, 30, this.resetWaveList);
	resetWaveButton.label.color = 0x000000;
	this.add(resetWaveButton);
	
	setMoneyButton = new AltButton(265, 155, 0xcccccc,
              "Set Funds", 50, 30, this.setFunds);
	setMoneyButton.label.color = 0x000000;
	this.add(setMoneyButton);
}

As you can see, all the Flixel elements are added directly to DebugMenu, an extension of FlxGroup. This makes it really easy to show or hide them. On the textfields, making them selectable allows copy/paste operations. The type has to be set to TextFieldType.INPUT in order to alter the contents.

Since I’m using a mix of Flixel objects and AS3 objects, I needed to write an additional function to show/hide the debug menu. If I was just using Flixel objects, setting Registry.debugMenu.exists = false; would hide all the elements. Here’s that code:

public function showHide(makeVisible:Boolean):void {
	if (makeVisible) {
		this.exists = true;
		if(!this.waveEntry.stage) {
			FlxG.stage.addChild(this.waveEntry);
		}
		if(!this.waveDisplay.stage) {
			FlxG.stage.addChild(this.waveDisplay);
		}
		if(!this.moneyText.stage) {
			FlxG.stage.addChild(this.moneyText);
		}
	}
	else {
		this.exists = false;
		if(this.waveEntry.stage) {
			FlxG.stage.removeChild(this.waveEntry);
		}
		if(this.waveDisplay.stage) {
			FlxG.stage.removeChild(this.waveDisplay);
		}
		if(this.moneyText.stage) {
			FlxG.stage.removeChild(this.moneyText);
		}
		FlxG.stage.focus = null;
	}
}

Above is a technique I learned recently that I wish I had known when I was coding this whole thing from scratch in AS3. On a textfield, .stage will be null if the object has not been placed and non-null otherwise. This is the most surefire way to make sure you’re not using .removeChild on an object that hasn’t been placed and that you’re not using .addChild on an object that’s already on the stage.

One last interesting piece of code to deal with textfields in AS3. I thought I could just use .text.split(“\n”) to divide the text into an array of lines. Unfortunately, .text removes the new line characters, but using .getRawText().split(“\n”); gives you the behavior you want in order to split up the text by line.

In order to get all this stuff working the way I wanted, I needed to rewrite my PlayState class in order to update certain parts of the game when the debug menu is visible, other parts when the game is paused and basically everything when the game is running. I might have shown how I did the last two parts before, but here’s what my PlayState.update() function looks like now.

override public function update():void
{
	//NUMPADPERIOD is used to show and hide the debug menu
	if (FlxG.keys.justPressed("NUMPADPERIOD")) {
		trace("Toggling Debug Menu");
		Registry.debugMenu.showHide(!Registry.debugMenu.exists);
		this.debugActive = !this.debugActive;
	}

	//Freezes everything once the level is over
	if (gameIsOver) {
		if (FlxG.keys.justPressed("ENTER") ||
				FlxG.keys.justPressed("P")) {
			FlxG.switchState(new MenuState());
		}
	}
	//Only update the debug menu when it's visible
	else if (this.debugActive) {
		Registry.debugMenu.update();
	}
	//Update the game otherwise
	else {
		//PlayState.update gets run at 30FPS
		//Scaling gameSpeed allows the game to run
		//At 2x/4x speed in order to fast forward the game
		//This is a common tower defense device
		for (var i:int = 0; i < gameSpeed; i++) {
			super.update();
		}
		
		//Runs things like checking for mouse clicks,
		//button presses and allowing tower placement
		//while the game is paused
		this.runNonGameUpdates();
	}
}

So that’s pretty much it for my debug menu. If you’re curious how the AltButton class is set up, I can answer questions in the comments or do a separate post.

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Finding Motivation to Finish a Game

October 27, 2013 Leave a comment

It’s been a long time since I posted, so here’s a related joke.

Q: How many people does it take to NOT develop a game?

A: Hundreds. One person to not develop it and hundreds to make all the 
   games and books that the one person plays with instead of working 
   on their game.

I’ve been slowly adding things to the game over the last 4 months, but I just couldn’t work up the motivation to make a post until now. I’ll try to post several updates in the near future talking about some of the difficult or fun bits of code I wrote in the last few months. This post is just to talk about the ups and downs of seriously working on a video game.

I have heard many people say that the most important thing for an indie developer to do is to release your games. They said that you will want to keep working on your game until it’s perfect. They said you will have trouble seeing past all the flaws in your game. That you’ll never think it’s good enough. I thought they were all full of shit.

I was wrong.

I went into working on this game saying that I had a reasonable set of features I wanted to include. I was so proud of the first few steps, that I didn’t think I’d ever feel ashamed of showing my game to the public. But as I got closer and closer to having an actual “Game” on my hands, I started to feel less and less confident. When you’re still thinking of your game as a prototype, everything that isn’t broken is a point of pride.

PurePride

Pure Pride

As soon as you start thinking about releasing it, every single flaw sticks out like a sore thumb.

LevelSelectionShit


GameMenuShitComplete Crap

At some point, you have to learn your limits. I can get the buttons and text to look a little better. I can add sound effects and find some music to play during the game. I can even animate the sprites that I currently have. But I can’t make sprites that look much better than they currently do. I can’t design a beautiful looking menu. I can’t write a stirring soundtrack that everyone will want to listen to.

So that’s what my game is going to be. Coherent looking menus, crappy but functional sprites, basic sound effects, basic music and a decent selection of levels. It’s a first game. It will work and I’ll be happy with it. And I will get it released.

I’ve been working on my own game instead of playing other people’s games the last week or two, and I’m very happy with the progress I’ve made in that time. The best advice I can give to anyone else that gets stuck on their first game is to keep pushing through it, because it gets better. My game isn’t ready yet, but I’ve accepted the limits of how good it’s going to be and I know what it’s going to take to get it finished.