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Wednesday, 23 March 2016


And decide to abandon the FRIENDS naming convention for future post titles.

So it occurred to me that, out of all the various creative things I do, the one I haven't mentioned on here yet is GAME PROGRAMMING. As in COMPUTER GAMES!

I've been unemployed for bloody ages now, which is extremely disheartening. To try and ease the misery of having stupendously rotten luck, I've been finding things to have a go at. Regular (or even irregular) readers will know that two things bubbling away in the background are monster toys and my latest novel. The toys involve sculpting (something I've been keen on but never given much time or effort to before) and the novel is, well, finished and just waiting on beta reader feedback. The stuff I've had back so far is extremely positive, and everyone thinks the ending is excellent, which I'm super chuffed about.

Now, writing is the secret passion I gave form to the last time I had a stupid amount of time on my hands, and I've done pretty well from it so far (I've also been asked to edit someone else's novel for Belfire Press at the moment). Three weeks ago, I decided to teach myself how to make an actual video game; like plenty of people, I always have/had a ton of ideas, I just decided to finally actually do something about those ideas.

There's no point doing something unless you can utilise a suitable amount of discipline - without it, whatever momentum and focus you might have when you're first excited about a project can soon fade away, either through frustration, boredom or simply choosing to do something else. When I first decided to take writing seriously, I set 7pm - 10pm aside every single night for writing. No TV, films or trips to the pub. Well, maybe the occasional trip to the pub. Some nights I didn't even write anything, but I thought about writing and worked out a lot of plot points etc in my head.

With making a game (I'm using GAME MAKER STUDIO, a free and remarkably versatile piece of software), I decided to methodically learn and work through various ideas, in a bid to create a platform game involving a ninja. After three weeks, I now have I suppose a game that's 40% complete. I've created a robust movement engine for the player character and coded the fundamental parts of enemy behaviour so that, realistically, I do actually have a finished working game. It's just not interesting enough. What's the point of doing something like this if you're not going to challenge yourself? With this mantra swirling through my noodle, I've started to refine and tweak what I've coded so far.

Honestly, I'm rather pleased with myself for making constructive use of my time. I'm also rather pleased with myself for using what I've learnt after following a bunch of tutorials to figure out how to code certain things. For instance, the ninja can now use a sword to chop enemy heads off, complete with a short death animation. This is very much a case of 'now I'm doing it I can appreciate how much work goes into something even as simple as a pixel art ninja platform game'.

I have no idea how long it's going to take me to have a game that fits the idea in my head, but I doubt it'll be a three or five year magnum opus like BRAID or FEZ. I'm making something a bit daft and fun, not reinventing a genre or anything. My next game, however...

So that's it in a nutshell. Once I have something a bit more solid, I'll start to divulge proper plot/game mechanic details. Also, once I'm in a position to start properly promoting it I'll reveal tidbits of art etc on here, like a proper game dev blog haha. What I will say for now is, I'm finding that by refining and/or adding one thing, it tends to muck up something else that worked fine before. Which is frustrating but not unexpected. It's also likely because I'm jerry-rigging a lot of code; I bet if a seasoned coder had a look at my scripts they'd have a stroke.

I will now leave you with a slice of truly excellent wonky electronica. This comes from one of the best albums I've heard in a long, long time. Stick it in your ears!