Donnerstag, 23. Juni 2016

How to Make Leaving Your Comfort Zone a Habit

In an earlier article, I talked about how important it is to get out of your comfort zone. But how do you actually get out of it?

Before I start, it's important to keep in mind the following:
  1. If you want to achieve goals, you must acquire habits that help you accomplish them. 
  2. Nothing will change if you don't stop making excuses. If the time to make a change isn't now, then when?

These two things are essential in understanding what I'm about to tell you next.

"Getting out of your comfort zone" may be one goal in a larger chain of goals you have in mind.Once you achieve it, all other goals can be accomplished with greater ease. So how could a habit look like that helps you get off your lazy bumcheeks?

Find something...
  • that doesn't require a huge effort to start doing (highly accessible)
  • that pushes you to the limit, at your own discretion 
  • lets you explore and expand said limits.

Let me show you two of these habits I acquired:

  • Taking cold showers. Cold showers expand your blood vessels, thus giving your metabolism a rush of energy. They may help if you are struggling with making physical exercise a habit, too. The fact you are forcing yourself to cold water exposure is a perfect way to teach yourself to get out of your comfort zone (and defeat the "innere Schweinehund" - the "inner lazy skunk" - as we Germans say). If you shower everyday make it a habit! That being said, you don't have to jump right into cold water. What I do is to wash myself normally, then proceed with cold shower, gradually making the water colder - and remain in the shower for a maximum of two minutes. Next time I'd shower I will try to make it even colder, trying to push my own limits. Keep in mind that if you notice you start shivering or feel your limbs are getting numb, you should stop with the shower and get yourself warm as soon as possible. Push your limits, but never drive it too far!

  • Physical exercise. Similarly to taking cold showers, it fires up your metabolism. Besides it keeps you fit and healthy. To make exercise a habit, I started doing situps before going to shower in the evening. For me personally I choose a familiar environment for exercise (the bed in my room), which meant less effort for me to start doing it. You can do whatever exercise you feel most comfortable with, like stretch lessons, situps, yoga - simply chose the lesser evil ;). Just keep in mind that workout - if done wrong - can be damaging to your health (like kickboxing with limb weights on). So if in doubt, I highly recommend seeking professional advice.

With these two habits I am fostering I basically got used to getting out of my comfort zone. Slowly I am expanding this to other parts of my life. I must say it helped me getting to know the unknown called "discipline".

But beware: Do not ever think about slipping on any of these habits. If you don't have time for them now, you're not going to have time for them later - because you are more inclined to find an excuse for not doing them at all. Try to remember this: If you're not investing in good habits now, then when? 

What will remain if you lost everything you have? You. So invest in yourself. Because you are the most valuable asset you have.

Samstag, 18. Juni 2016

How to avoid bad Color Schemes

Notice: you may want to get Krita in order to follow the steps described below.

I've adviced a few indie programmers with their games already. And all of them had a common issue: color choice. Good old infamous programmer art. How do you get better at it?!

Now I could bombard you guys with dry color theory in this post. But eventually this is all just "theory" and not necessarily helpful for you in practice (especially if you lack the understanding for it).

So let's start off with applied color theory. I'll show you some pics while explaining the basic concepts, adapted to gamedev.


Every picture can be minimized to black and white, right? You have hotspots here and there that attract your attention. You have dark areas that create contrast and can be used to create multiple effects in the audience (like emotion or tension).

In the above picture, there seems to be a dark blue cloud luring over what appears to be a yellow valley. Notice the white areas on the right and left top corners of the picture that surround the darker areas. The contrast of the cloud is rather prominent, creating a tense scenery. The tilted angle adds to the dramatic display.

Now the interesting thing about this is, that a lot of this can be applied to games. You want your enemies to stand out, peaceful items also needs to be highlighted (the white areas) and obstacles that cannot be passed (dark blue cloud). And then you have your environment, that balances out those two elements (yellow/purple valley).

You do not want to have a very similar contrast for your background and your walls, for example. Or all your backgrounds, obstacles and player in the same brightness of color. It will look mushy and they won't stand out, making your game look worse and harder to play.

Look at this picture here:

This looks like a ornamented floor, right? Let me show you what happens when I make the green tiles darker.

Now these tiles actually look more like walls that encase a tiny room. Darker. Impassable. Something you probably should not even bother messing around with!

Contrast is an important tool to set apart different elements in your game. If you have moving entities, they must be distinguishable from the rest of the environment.

Let's take a look at this screenshot of Sonic The Hedgehog (Genesis).

The overall environment is relatively bright, happy even. Yet the enemies are still easily to spot and distinguishable from the rest because they have a very strong color (red) that does not appear in the rest of the environment. Sonic himself has a different hue than the water, too.


So much for contrast. How to choose the correct color?

You can choose colors using color wheels or similar provided by graphics programs. If you keep moving the color wheel towards cyan in Krita and pick one color every now and then, it's a very good starting point to figure out rough colors that fit.

Like this, I've chosen this color palette. Let's imagine I want these colors in my game. These aren't perfect, but definitely usable.

The color picture looks like this:

So let's apply the contrast lesson here. I put the color picture layer over the contrast the black and white contrast layer. Then I applied blend mode "Darken" in Krita on the color picture layer. You can download this file here, by the way!

So the result looks like this:

...which is a pretty solid color scheme to use for your game. To modify it, you can use the HSV tool of Krita to make further adjustments. Keep in mind you will have to readjust colors to the correct contrast if you do that. The second color of "player, enemies" is too similar to the first color of "backgrounds" and may make problems in a final game!

Getting Color Schemes

You don't have to do this process all the time. There are numerous websites and tools that help you chose a fitting color palette. One of these tools is paletton:

Another website that is very useful is It provides very handy, user-created palettes. The palettes displayed below are actually very interesting colors to use in a game already.

Choosing the right Color Scheme for your game

So how do you choose the correct coloring scheme for your game? 

It always depends what kind of game you are making and what kind of atmosphere, experience and emotion you want to create. Colors can be a very powerful tool to help achieve this, as they have a strong subconscious effect.

If you make a post-apocalyptic game, you should probably use pastel colors (colors without high saturation) - as long as it looks rotten and pale, you're good to go!
When making a horror game, you may want to do the same. Or you maybe want to use dark colors only, with red being the only brighter color.

But not only the colors themselves are important, but also the context they are perceived. If the gameplay makes it clear there is danger near, I will perceive a red-black color scheme differently than say, a blue-black. The cold, blue colors may even create a sense of despair!

In the picture below, I created a few color combinations and listed the words that came to my mind when looking at them.

You can do the same experiment by looking at other games, movies or art and asking yourself how what you see make you feel. That also helps you figuring out a good color mood for your own game.

I hope this article helped you figure out more about colors and color schemes! What are your favorite games in terms of colors and atmosphere?

Donnerstag, 16. Juni 2016

Good reasons to get out of your Comfy Zone

I often see opportunities. Opportunities like, working together with someone to make a game, someone from the press asking indiedevs to send their games over to getting them covered on their website, people messaging me about my blog and whether I want to write for them.

Life is giving me MANY possibilities like this if I really think about it. Possibilities I could use to grow.

The thing is: I often don't even know how to respond or react to that. Things like this make me feel anxious. Scared to do it, even. It triggers an escape´mechanism inside of me. Often, I silently opt out pretending these opportunities never happened.

But then I realize that if I don't do things that are out of my comfy zone, I firstly waste so many opportunities to be a more successful indiedev, and secondly I will never ever grow beyond the limits my fears impose on me.

So I try to take my chances, allow myself to be a complete noob and just do it.

I will likely fail for everyone to see, on the internet that never forgets, but you know, you do it wrong until you learned how to do it right. If you're not doing it, how are you supposed to get better? The entire process is important - not just the end results (= you being successful).

The struggle can be exceptionally hard if you've had a trouble past like me - but know if you manage to do this, keep at it with outstanding persistence, passion and determination, you can say of yourself you went from "living in a dump" to "happy and rich".

Allow yourself to fail. Allow yourself to be rewarded for what you do - that's the only way to grow. 

And don't forget those who helped you along the way, too.

Why You shouldn't Always Translate Advice to Your Own Life

Some motivational sites claim that if you want to be successful, you sleep much less than the average person. The argument is that if you sleep less you have more time to get work done and be productive.

I have a few problems with this type of advice. I have no doubt people who can pull this off exists. But you have to adjust that to yourself individually, to the tasks you perform and to your schedule.

I have a dayjob and are ~9 hours per week in the office (including commute).  I still can squeeze in a few hours of gamedev into my schedule depending how draining the task at work were. In my experience, sleep deprivation is extremely bad for my productivity and will eliminate these few hours of gamedev in the evening. Instead, I spent these hours taking a nap because I am exhausted, later unable to go to bed at a reasonable time.

From the start of this month my productivity hit a low because I have screwed with my sleeping schedule, sleeping an average of 5 to 4 hours per day (6 including naps) this and last week. You can probably tell by the fact I haven't written many blogs this month so far. In order to be productive (whether it is coding or writing blogs), my brain needs to be in good shape in order to perform them.

That means: enough sleep, enough sun exposure ("recharging" my nerves), a bit of workout (taking a walk and doing sit-ups in my case), healthy diet (lotsa bluebewwies!) and being in peace of mind (I can't code when I am emotional distress). If one or more of these things are lacking, I am simply not in the shape for these kind of tasks. When tired, I am much better at doing art or music, which flows much better then.

Contrary to the initial advice (sleep less, get more work done) sleeping less actually impacts my ("logical") productivity negatively. However, your aim should create the conditions and environment required that enables you to be productive. If getting enough sleep is one of them, you shouldn't ignore that.

(There may be other reasons why sleep is a requirement for me to be productive, namely that my energy in general is low; it can be raised by correct posture or working out more. Still working on myself :])

It's always good to foster good habits to grow. See the basic point in advice given and see what you can adapt, keeping in mind your own strengths, weaknesses, daily routine and habits.

Just keep in mind not every advice is useful to you or directly applicable to your life. You are on a unique journey and your journey is never the same as someone else's.

Samstag, 11. Juni 2016

CamoTactics: Where will it go?

CamoTactics is a top down shooter set in a futuristic and turbulent future, where mankind has ventured into the depths of space and crashed into a planet with strange and bizarre alien life. Despite the hostility of this world, mankind finally has managed to get over its blood-thirsty past that exploited its environment - Until events turned around and tensions between two countries, Rubia, known as the cradle of mankind, and Panta rose again. Someone has gotten hold of ancient war technology and is trying to stumble the entire planet into chaos. Can you identify and stop the evil forces trying to disrupt the fragile peace?

Read more about its gameplay concepts below. This article applies to CamoTactics 7.1.

Environment, Stealth & Camouflage:

What's already in: Enemies won't see you if you are well camouflaged or behind them. How well you are camouflaged depends on how well your current camouflage color matches the terrain color. It also depends on the distance from the target. A sensor system makes sure that even if you cannot be seen, you still can be heard. The soon to be released demo version 7.1 features day and night cycles and lighting effects.

What's to come: hiding in bushes and being in the shadow will make you harder to spot. Appropriate sound design, weather conditions like fog, rain, thunder, snow, many strange and bizarre plants and animals that you may encounter (who may eat you alive while you sleep) are planned. The game plays on a alien planet and as such I want to display an adequate atmosphere and make the impression of a whole new world for you to explore. I want this game not only be fun, but also an unique experience for YOU.

Detailed Combat:

What's already in: Weapons have attachments like scopes and magazines that can be edited. They affect overall weapon performance. I want players to discover and collect new guns and mods. This mechanic is very similar to weapon modding in Fallout 4. Weapons overheat and break as you use them, too. To shield you from different types of projectiles you can equip armor. It's possible to use health kits and repair kits as well. If you're not boarding and driving them, vehicles explode if you destroy them.

What's to come: The possibility to freely assemble your own guns is subject of future versions. Earlier versions included rocket launchers and shotguns, which will definitely come back. That will include close combat weapons.

World and Character Depth

What's to come:
The game gives the player a whole new world to explore. It's a futuristic society that sometime 2000 years ago crashed on an alien and hostile planet (that happened to be home planet of an ancient precursor alien race). That also means: spaceships! Well, ancient wrecks for you to explore, that is! With notes, dialog, and speech bubbles the player can explore the characters, animals, plants, locations, technology, history and structure of society humanity has adapted in this strange world.

The story is written out for the most part and was as described as "inspirational" and "giving a different perspective" by some proofreaders. It will be delivered via missions and presentation-style cut scenes.


CamoTactics started out as simple prototype that has grown a lot in two years. Many games inspired me to make it what it is today. Let me list the most prominent ones:

  • Thing Thing Arena
  • Metro 2033
  • Metal Gear Solid 3
  • Fallout 3

During those two years developing this game, I've readjusted it quite a few times. There was a huge setback, too, considering I switched frameworks halfway through which delayed its release. But it's back, being better than ever.