May is the New April!

So normally, I have a postmortem about last month’s project, but the project is going well so I want to devote another month to it.

The very talented Shayne Rodgers, music spectacular, is working with me on an interactive music experience!

For a little taste, I have set up a sample for you here.

Cheers!
Jordan

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March End! April Kickoff!

March has come to an end!

I set out to make a card game and I came out with a card game. Time prevented me from fine tuning it, but I did come up with a core game and a decent base of cards.

I learned some things about myself, love, life, and board games.

Let’s chat about it.

 

My Card Game

Project As A Whole

What I set out to do:

“This month, my goal is to attempt to make a game that can bridge that gap between immersion and off putting complexity so that I can share games, in general, with those I know who aren’t well versed in similar game mechanics. I do not know if it is possible, but I will explore my theory and approach in next week’s blog post.”

From the get go, I had a very clear goal in mind, but not a solid idea of how I would get there. In the end, I prefered to have my project evolve naturally and see how it shapes up against my mission statement. I have some experience developing board and card games, but it is a hobby of mine, not a focus. With that said, I at least know where to start.

Where To Start

I ended up sticking to a card game for several reasons. First, it seemed easier to create and prototype. The game data is simply spreadsheets separated by card types. From there, half sized index cards were my best friend and I cranked out assets for the playtest. I focused on a battle based game because I wanted to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of a physical game versus a video game when it comes to game mechanics. I also did not want to spend all my time writing cards and dialog.

Enough vague chatting about self awareness, here are the cards and here are the portals!

 

Core Concept

To minimize exceptions to rules, I wanted the game to exist within one core mechanic. This resulted in a battle system. What came out is a turn based strategy game. (This month was purely about mechanics, so don’t get caught up on names, terminology, or fiction outside of it’s functional purposes).

The set up is that the players are working together to close a portal. The portal is in the center and there is one player in each “slot” around the portal. While the players attempt to close the portal, the portal has it’s own defenses of monsters and abilities. Each portal is different and has different win conditions and setups to give the game a healthy amount of variety and replayability.

Each player takes their turn in order, taking two actions to use an ability, attack the monster in front of it, defend, etc. Once all the players go, the portal rolls for it’s ability for the turn. This could be to spawn monsters, progress it’s win condition, or change up the “board state”. Finally, the monsters attack the players, and the round is over.

 

Game Elements

Since the game exists within a tight system made up of modular pieces in the form of cards, each individual asset is easy to make and test. Here is an overview of each card type.

Players

The Brawler

Player cards were some of the most fun to create. Each player consists of a theme, two abilities, and health points. At their core, each player is simple. However, each player is designed to fill a role. Here is an example Player, the basic glass cannon.

Brawler
Action: Make an attack role at +1, roll one less defense die until your next turn.
Passive: +1 attack die
Health: Higher (I never got a chance to balance appropriate life totals within the game so I made rough estimations).

Being a co-op game, the players become strong when the work together. Strategizing is key. In the case of the Brawler, it may pack a punch, but the Brawler will be shredded if the enemies get in a few good attacks. Other players could heal or tank for the glass cannon.  I tried to keep that type of synergy in mind with every player.

On their turn, a player may make 2 of the following actions and each action only once:

  1. Attack
  2. Defend
  3. Rotate Portal
  4. Swap player spots
  5. Roll for Items
  6. Roll for Events
  7. Trade Items
  8. Heal yourself for one

Enemies

Like Players, enemies are simple by themselves and fill roles. Unlike the players, I designed the enemies to be of different power levels. Creating highs and lows for the players can build tension and make the feel powerful and accomplished. It is also important that enemies have varied strategies and abilities to hit the players’ weak spots. Here is a sample Enemy:

Acid Balloon

Text: When Acid Balloon is killed, deal 3 damage to the attacker and 1 damage to their adjacent players.
Health: 1
Attack: 1/4+
Defense: 2+

Some of the values on the balloon seem a little strange, let me give some context for the combat.

 

Combat

One realization I had during play testing was that I never wanted the players to roll for the enemy. In a game, the computer manages all moves for the AI, but in board games, there is no luxury of a computer. Since the players have to do everything, it seemed weird for them to roll for the enemies that are attacking them. Because of this, all enemy stats are checks that the players then have to beat.

When an enemy attacks, it attacks a number of times equal to the first number in the attack stat. The player then rolls a number of dice equal to their defense value. For each roll they make that equals or beats the second number of the enemy’s attack, they block one damage. If an enemy attacks more times than the player can defend, it is an automatic damage.

When a player attacks an enemy, they roll a number of dice equal to their attack stat. For each die that beats the enemy’s defense number, they deal one damage.

Dice checks and attack stats are not new to games in general, but I do feel that the bastardized combination of the two is confusing. I like what the system does for the game, but i will have to pay special attention to how I write the rules and how I display the stats on the final cards.

 

Portals

Portals are the both the boss and the battlefield in the game. The enemies alone have no random element and are predictable in battle. The portal stands as the driving force. They spawn monsters, have unpredictable turns, and define the win condition for the game.

I wanted the portals to be dynamic. As the game progresses, the portals also progress, becoming stronger and more unpredictable. I also wanted each portal to have a different impact on how the game is played to the point that it is almost an entirely new game with each portal. Here is a sample portal:

Scattered Thoughts

Setup: Any portal shape. Shuffle in the special enemies to the monster deck.
Health: 4 * number of players
Weakness: When a player kills one of the special enemies, deal 1 damage to the portal
Defense: –
Win Condition:  Accumulate 10 points

Dice Check:
On dice check, fill all spawn points.

d6

Result

6

Special Enemies deal 1 damage to the player in front of them

5

2/3 health: Special Enemies deal 1 damage to the player in front of them

4

1/3 health:Special Enemies deal 1 damage to the player in front of them

3

Heal all special enemies 1

2

Discard a damaged enemy and spawn a new enemy

1

 

Special Enemy

Text: If this monster is in play for three turns, discard it, replace it, and add a point to the portal

Health: 2
Attack: 0/2+
Defense: 3+

Damage Effects:

-2/3’s health: Check Dice Chart

-1/3 health: Check Dice Chart

Let me break it down for you.

First and foremost, the setup dictates what the player needs to do to prepare the game for the specific portal. The portal shape sets the number of players and minions that can be on the board at once. This portal uses all shapes meaning it can be used with any number of players. At the moment, I haven’t found a reason to limit a portal’s shape, but I like the notion of it. This portal also has special enemies tied into it’s win condition and play style. To begin, you shuffle the enemies into the deck. As they appear on the game board, they will be the means to win or lose the game.

Next is the portal’s health. I set it based on the number of players because the players gain advantage the more there are. This allows the portal to scale with the number of players.

Each Portal loses health differently as demonstrated in the weakness. I designed the portals to take damage based off of their unique mechanics. It may complicate each portal, but I also like that it makes each one different.

If the portal could be attacked directly, they would have a defense.

The win condition is how the portal defeats the players.

 

Next is my favorite part of portals, the die chart. Every round, the portal has a random effect on the game. The players roll a die and follow the chart to see what happens.This is the one time I make an exception for the “players don’t roll for enemies” rule. Seeing as this is more of a world event than an enemy action, I don’t feel like it breaks the immersion.

The Special Enemies are the enemy cards that would be added to the enemy deck for the portal.

Damage Effects are how the portal progresses throughout the game and becomes a more dynamic opponent. In this case, as the portal becomes damaged, it opens up more slots on the die chart making it more dangerous as the game carries on.

 

Items and Events

The last elements are Items and Events. They are pretty simple and give the player options outside of combat. Items are permanent buffs players can have and trade. The top one is revealed and the player may choose to roll for it or a random one. To roll for it, the player rolls one six sided die. On a “6”, they get the item.

Events are similar, except they have one time effects that happen immediately. They are also easier to get since the player rolls two dice. If they get a six on either die, they draw the top card (it isn’t face up) and play it immediately. Here are some sample cards:

Spikes – Item

Enemies that attack you take 1 damage

Chilling Breeze – Task

An enemy of your choice cannot attack this turn

Now that you, hopefully, know more about my game, we can get on with the post mortem. Finally, right?

 

What Went Right

I made a game and I was able to play it.

Seriously though, the pipeline was great! I made the game in a few hours and tested out some kinks by myself. Shortly after, I was able to have some friends test it with me and tweak it. I cannot stress how useful that was. Paper prototypes are a valuable tool for video games, but it is more often than not an approximation of gameplay (unless it is some turn based strategy game); In this case, it was the entire game and was testable after only a few hours

Secondly, the core combat system that is the game is solid and expandable. One particlar aspect I enjoyed was the theme of adjacent enemies and players effecting each other. Players can buff and heal the allies next to them and some enemies hurt players next to the one they attack. A lot of strategy emerged from planning who is next to each other, what order they take their turns in, and who they are facing off against. Thanks to the circular nature of the game board, one mechanic I am excited about is the ability to rotate the portal, causing all the matchups to change.

I didn’t even scratch the surface of the places this game could go. That is the advantage of a strong core system. Unfortunately, that is also where things went a bit wrong.

 

What Went Wrong

What went wrong? I’ll tell you what’s wrong. My battle system. It is a solid battle system with interesting choices and mechanics embedded into the gameplay, but as the month wrapped up and I started to consider what I would write, it suddenly dawned on me. This system works the same, if not better, in a video game environment. All my concerns about having the players act for the enemies would be gone with the aid of a computer. On top of that, I could have enemies be more dynamic, have more variations, and have more of a battle logic and strategy.

That isn’t to say the game doesn’t work as a board game, but in the future, the hard part will be defining the elements that make the game most enjoyable in a physical space.

One last, minor thing. As rules are still trying to be figured out, some of the cards on the lists don’t make a lot of sense. Hopefully their themes come through, but not every one of them is playable in the system right now.

 

What Else I Would Do

Play tests play tests and play tests. There is a lot I could do with the game like I mentioned, but that also means there needs to be A LOT of playtesting and with A LOT of people. I would need as many as I could find. Of course, forming a community around the game would both be the easiest and most difficult solution. Easier said than done, I know, but the internet and even local hobby shops could have people willing to check out my game.

The second thing I would do was define the board game and card game elements. What spatial and physical aspects of the game make it a pleasure to play on a table top instead of the virtual space? I don’t quite know, but I sure as hell would find out!

 

April

And last but not least, we come to next month’s project. Err… I mean this month’s project (yeah, i know it’s already April).

This month, I will publish an iOS game. As much as I like these small experimental projects, I am only dipping my toe into large year long endeavors. This month,  I want to make a finished project. It would not be big or flashy by any means, but it will be simple, fun, and available on iOS. Something with the scope of Flappy Bird, but no, not a Flappy Bird clone, and no, I do not expect it to make me money at all. But it will be mine, and it will be awesome.

But before then, here are the links to my game one last time:

Cards
Portals

 

Cheers!
See you next month.

Jordan

Posted in Development Blog, Game Design, Uncategorized

Board to Tears – Week 1

Board to Tears

A Breakdown on Board Game Approachability

Week 1: The Good


This month, I am developing a card game. Over the past couple of months, my gaming friends and I have been drawn to board games and card games when we hang out, particularly co-op games. Something about the physicality, the teamwork, and the personal social interactions make these games more alluring than other activities including video games. Our favorites include games like Eldritch Horror, Zombicide, and soon to be Betrayal on the House on the Hill, once there is another production run…

Though one might think that board games have a lower barrier to entry allowing a wider appeal (one being me), I find it difficult selling these games to my less “gamer” oriented friends. Even though my March project is not evolving in such a direction, I would love to dissect these barriers and find “gateway” board games for everyone to enjoy that still hit the same highs.

Before we can find out what is wrong, I find it could be useful to find what is right with these games that I enjoy so much.

First off, there is something… empowering about the physicality of the game. Controlling the movement of pieces, the drawing of cards, and the rolling of dice means we take the place of the computer. It is more work, but it also means everything that happens in the game is at our fingertips. As a result, everything in the game is transparent. Unlike video games, nothing can be blamed on technology. Server lag, connection issues, glitches, and bugs are non existent. In fact, any faults in the game can be fixed with “House Rules”. No MODing or reprogramming is necessary, simply a vote. (I normally don’t like to do this because I have a certain level of trust in Game designers, however, occasionally this is misplaced). The cherry on top is that there is never an electronic barrier to entry. Most of the time, the only thing needed is a copy of the game. No controllers, TV, or consoles are required.

The second appeal comes from the person to person interaction. Sure, multiplayer video games allow me to interact with my friends, but it is over voice chat or next to each other on a couch. Board games allow a face to face interaction. You would be surprised how much facial cues and eye-to-eye contact can add to an interaction. A lot of noncooperative games take advantage of this making social interactions, bluffing, and mind games a core mechanic in the game. These interactions are what define common games like “Monopoly” or games devoted to this concept like “Resistance”.

Last but not least, the teamwork aspect of co-op games strengthens bonds and makes the whole experience more unique. Most games pit players against each other. I have some very competitive friends, this lead to grudges amongst our group. But with co-op games, we succeed together. Even better, with roleplaying games or games with a strong character element like the “Horror” series, we even create a shared experience together, one that is tailored to our styles and imaginations.

So in short, the types of board games I love…

1.Take advantage of the physicality giving the players the ability to control the game, but not too much that it becomes tiring to manage.

2. Encourage the players to communicate, joke, and enjoy each other’s company.

3. Allow the players to strategize, work together, and win together.

So board games sound PREAAAATTY awesome right about now, right? Yet, anyone who isn’t already sold seems to turn a blind eye. At best, one could drum up support for a “Settlers of Catan”. Though the German Oldschool brand of board games are pretty sick, there are more experiences out there beyond economic simulations. Next week, I will explore why some people may be turned off from board games.

photo credit: Great Beyond via photopin cc

photo credit: qousqous via photopin cc

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Febuary End! March Kickoff!

February has come to an end!

My month of modding has matured to a marvelous… measure? Merit?

Alliterations aside, the month has been fruitful. I have learned a fair amount of Bethesda’s Creation Kit and even got to put it all to use in making a level for their Skyrim game. It may be a simple level, but it is well rounded and complete!

Sorry for the long blog, but I figured since I was simply grinding away at Bethesda’s tutorials, intermittent blog posts seemed like overkill. So, instead I have it all at once!

Project as a Whole

Here is what I set out to do:

“[T]his month I am going to learn the Skyrim mod tools and make a mod of some sorts. This will allow me to focus on level design for a whole month.”

The mission statement was left vague purposefully. Most of the month was learning the new tools in depth, and I figured dangerous to set misinformed goals.

After a few weeks of watching tutorials tutorials, going over the  tutorials again, and practicing the tutorials, I was ready to create a map from scratch. Here is an overview of the steps I took just in case you have never made a Skyrim mod and are curious about the process.

1.Basic Layout

The first step is to setup the layout of your dungeon. This is means laying out the basic rooms (walls, floors, and corners) and connecting hallways. Things can get more complicated if you are going for a more natural cave formation. The tileset becomes slightly more complex and specific and you’ll often have to work off the grid to get things feeling just right.

2. Room Definitions

After you have the rooms set up, you need to make them stand out. Utilizing the basic tilesets for each room is not enough. They would just blur together which may disorient the player. Each room needs a unique definition. This could come in the form of a different tileset, a more complex shape, lighting, a unique prompt, and anything else that makes it stand out.

3. Clutter and Knickknacks

Next you need to give the player things to look at and pick through from room to room. Not every room should be a combative bloodbath. Players like to scavenge to get stronger. This means filling your level with pieces of gold, weapons, potions, spells, and anything they can sell. You also need clutter that isn’t scavengable to make the rooms seem more believable and to differentiate them further. Add crates, furniture, chests, boulders, candles, burned books, skeletons, and anything else that stands out.

4. Pathfinding

After your rooms’ aesthetics are in place, it is time to give the enemy AI some pathfinding. In so simple of words, this is placing a grid of points over all areas you want AI to be able to walk on. The grid doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does have to be clean. Even if you have the Creation Kit generate the grid, you still need to clean it up and even make parts by hand. This may seem daunting, but at it’s core, this is a straightforward task.

5. Encounters

Next you place the enemies, traps, and ambushes in the dungeon. This could come in the form of dart traps, sarcophagi bursting open and a zombie attacking, or patrolling warlocks overseeing their domain. You set up triggers, spawn points, patrol points, and trap orientations to make the player fear for their life. At the same time, you need a fine balance between a constant swarm of enemies and an empty dungeon. Pacing is the subtle art of level design.

6. Optimization

Some house cleaning comes next in the form of rooms and portals. In short, you must box together rooms in chunks so the engine knows what to render when the player is in each area. The engine cannot render all objects at all times, or else the game will begin to chug. In addition to the boxing, you must add portals between adjoining rooms so that the engine knows that if a player can see through a portal, the adjacent room must be rendered.

7. Lighting and Effects

Finally, you ups the ambiance of the level. Lighting, fog, and eerie wind blowing sound effects all set the scene can make the difference between a bright and cheery market square in the daylight, or a grey, deathly crypt at night.

What Went Right

Several things went right with this month’s project. To start, instead of breezing through the tutorials to merely understand them, I practiced them in depth to gain a workflow. Though it took a long time, when I finally set out to make my own level, I had a deeper understanding of what was involved. This allowed me to scope appropriately and develop a good workflow instead of getting lost and overwhelmed. Additionally, I worked faster because I merely needed the wiki for reference rather than a guiding hand.

What I hope went right is that I had an idea for my dungeon and I feel that I followed through. It’s a simple concept. A mad frankenstein-like warlock broke into a small ancient crypt to set up shop where he/she can cut up the bodies to make new monsters. As he/she settled in, he set up traps for the main tomb where the undead kept rising to attack him, made a bedroom surrounded by specimens in a smaller crypt, and discovered an icy cave area where he/she can work and keep all the body parts cool and fresh. Additionally, this concept would easily be translated into a quest. One of the necromancer’s abominations escapes and you are hired to stop the horrors in the cave.

What Went Wrong

You can never have enough detail in these maps. As I would place clutter and come back every day, I would think of new things to add or notice empty spaces in my dungeon. This is a dangerous cycle that could never end. On top of that, the clutter, by far, took the longest, mainly because I do not know what is available. I got so caught up in the general clutter, I feel that the loot is lacking in the level. Piles of gold and simple potions could really add to the player experience. At the end of the day, it is simply a matter of knowing what is available. I spent hours during the tutorials learning the naming conventions and looking at different tilesets or items. Despite that, I still I have a very basic knowledge of what is there. Overcoming this problem is mainly a matter of experience. The more I work with the tool, the less this becomes an issue.

Finally, I don’t think I hit as high of a note on the ambiance. On the last night, the editor started bugging out and would not display the effects of the lights I was adding. They would not lighten up the scene or cast shadows in the editor. I had to go into the game to test them. I would like to spend some time to either straighten out the bugs or develop a workflow so I can properly implement the lighting.

What Else I Would Do

In addition to polishing up the map, I’d like to, of course, create more spectacular maps. A whole month creating a map instead of learning the toolset sounds appealing.

I do plan on tidying up some loose ends, recording a run through of the map, and posting it to the Steam workshop sometime this week/month.

March

For March, due to some vacation time and some personal interests, I want to switch gears a bit and create a board/card game. Recently my friends and I have been getting into a more involved tier of board game beyond Munchkin and Settlers of Catan. More specifically, we have been excited by the prospect of co-op board games, championed by the recent game Eldritch Horror which is a FANTASTIC game.

I am personally drawn into the immersive Dungeon and Dragon like experience these games can offer in a contained package that can last an evening instead of months. Also, no one person has to prepare and DM. Everyone can simply sit down and play. At the same time, due to the complex mechanics and nerdy settings, these games lack a broader appeal.

This month, my goal is to attempt to make a game that can bridge that gap between immersion and off putting complexity so that I can share games, in general, with those I know who are not well versed in similar game mechanics. I do not know if it is possible, but I will explore my theory and approach in next week’s blog post.

I hope enjoy my mod and my write up.

On to the next one!

Cheers!

Jordan

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Year of Games Challenge – February – Week Two


The first week of my Skyrim modding month has passed and I am still learning the tool. I have spent a good amount of time playing around in the Creation Kit. The tool is powerful. I have spent years working in Unity and I have enjoyed my time, but after working so long in something that was created to do “anything”, it is nice to work in an editor that is focused on doing one thing and one thing very well.

With that said, I do have some issues with Skyrim’s approach to level design. There has to be a better balance between a crafted experience and the open world playstyle, at least within the individual dungeons themselves. I hope to, by the end of this month, have a full blog post about the matter.

I am finishing up the tutorials and hope to have a well crafted, but small 3 room cave together by the end of the week.

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January End! February Kickoff!

My first month is over and my project complete! It may be a little rough around the edges, but it is playable and is a neat little experience.  I decided to combine the last two weeks since the last week was shorter. And for this post, I am going to do a brief postmortem and talk about next month’s project.

First off, here is the final project.

Project as a Whole

Here was the project Statement:

“One (working title), is a an urban survival in which the player must use each of the items at their disposal once to avoid a periodic creeping darkness in an abandoned city. The darkness may be avoided by slipping into an alleyway or finding a source of light, but of course, the alleyways are blocked by wood panels and the streetlights are missing a power source. That’s where your axe, match, skeleton key, and battery come into play.”

So, to start, the design changed some. I cut the match because it didn’t really add much variety to gameplay. Then, with one less item, the “one use item” mentality didn’t feel as appealing. I did no twant to make a game that was overly challenging either, especially since the game lacks polish to finely balance it. Instead, I enjoyed the tension of getting from safezone to safezone in time.

What Went Right

I think the eeriness and tension of the game comes through really well, both through the effects and the gameplay. I’ve had several times playing around with the project where the darkness is coming, and I’m still picking a lock only to dive into the light just in time. Hopefully I am not alone in this experience.

I also feel like the color/light design works well to subtly guide the player. The beacon of light should give the player a direction, and hopefully they can associate the gold light with the alleys and lamps so they know where to hide. I guess I will find out how well it works once people play it.

 

What Went Wrong

The biggest thing that went wrong, personally, came to my workflow. I was unexcited by the game up until the end when it came together. In retrospect, I spent too much time focusing on the individual parts (art, scripting, audio). Perhaps, instead, I should have hit milestones across the board so that all my work can come together sooner rather than later and I can see how the game is playing out.

 

What Else I Would Do

If I gave the project another month, I would see where I could take gameplay to the next level. The effects, art, and ambiance of the game is at a good point for another month (though a few more animations and some tweaks to the SFX couldn’t hurt). What I would focus on would be to experiment with a level generation so it is not the same every time. I would also experiment with an item pick up system. Each item can only be used once, but you can scavenge for more items, making an interesting balance between making it to the goal and finding more resources.

 

February

And that brings me to February. As much as I like having control over every aspect of a game, it prevents me from diving deep into one field, particularly the design. That’s why this month I am going to learn the Skyrim mod tools and make a mod of some sorts. This will allow me to focus on level design for a whole month.

I can’t really set milestones because I have zero experience with the Skyrim mod tools or how long it will take to learn them. So I will have to play it by ear, hopefully I can start designing after a week of tutorials and monkeying around. I have some ideas of what kind of mod I want to make, but realistically, it will be a well crafted dungeon instead of a whole new game. No point in over scoping with my first go at the tool.

So with that said, next week I will have an update.

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Year of Games Challenge – January – Week Two

“Week 2: Art update. The game has a simple art style. The goal of the game is not art focused, but I do want the game to have a cohesive style that is a step up from “programmer art””

Better late than never. This week I attempted to focus on art. I wanted a model update to the buildings and all player items completed. I also had the gate functionality from the previous week. I did accomplish all of my goals, but I got carried away with some building models that I ultimately had to scrap from some bad geo. I remade several buildings with a more minimalist approach as a result.

Next/This week is…

“Week 3: Effects and Audio. Week three will focus on bringing out the atmosphere of the game. All visual effects will get some attention (lighting, particle effects, and the darkness will all need attention). Of course the game will also need some simple sounds.”

I’ve already put in some atmosphere touches. I added a parallax scrolling sky, so check them clouds out. I also gave a little attention the creeping darkness wall.

Next are some basic sound effects, but I don’t plan on spending too much time on that, except for maybe a nice rumbling sound effect for the darkness wall. Then I want to work on the level’s lighting and visual effects for when the darkness approaches.

Oh, and check out the build here!

See you next week.

Cheers

Posted in Uncategorized

Year of Games Challenge – January – Week One

My first week of my Year of Games Challenge was somewhat fruitful. I fell short of my goal of finishing up all of the mechanics, but I came to some realizations about my pipeline, workflow, and scheduling that need to be taken into account on these projects. Here is what I set out to do on week one:

“Week 1: Finish the core mechanics. The mechanics are inherently simple. Items need to be usable for their specific purpose and the player must have a threat.”

I was not too far off my goal. The threat being the inevitable shadow wall is implemented and working. Secondly, a larger part of the week was spent revamping the animations on the Player’s items to use Unity’s Mechanim instead of the legacy system. This proved difficult because in addition to learning the new tech,  I had to figure out how to force Unity to use Animations made inside Unity instead of imported from outside software like Mechanim was designed to use. I also modeled and implemented the battery and street lamp assets. The battery can now be hooked up to a streetlamp to turn on the light, offering the player safety from the impending darkness.

Check out a build here.

So what did I learn this week?

First, being a sole developer has it’s perks, but this week, it made me start to question my pipeline and workflow and how I approach each task. My goal this week was to focus on the mechanics of the game. Normally, this would mean whiteboxing in the assets to focus on the actual implementation. Then, during another pass, I would create the art for the implemented mechanic. However, since I know I will be making the asset eventually and I know how I want it to work, when it comes time to white box it, I do it all in one pass: Design, programming, modeling, animations, and even particle effects.

Is this a bad thing though? I am still deciding. If I jump the gun on a feature, I might be making more work than I am saving by skipping the prototyping phase. At the same time, it allows me to carry momentum on an item and find flaws in the design and programming that may be irreversible if found later. Since this vertical implementation of each mechanic works for me, I am going to roll with it. I just have to anticipate it when scheduling out my features.

So, next up is week two. Ill post a new update then. I am behind so I’ll have to play catch up. Luckily, with my vertical approach, I can program the last mechanic as I make the art for it, and some mechanics already have some updated art.

“Week 2: Art update. The game has a simple art style. The goal of the game is not art focused, but I do want the game to have a cohesive style that is a step up from “programmer art””

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Year of Games: January Kick off!

The Year of Games Challenge


As a game developer, if you want to improve, there is a simple truth.

Make games.

Reading design books, playing games, talking about games, and studying games is fine, and they all have their merits. But, at the end of the day, I am here to make video games, so… I should make video games.

This year, to keep developing my skills and my portfolio, I will be partaking in the “Year of Games” challenge. The “Year of Games” is, at its core, is quite simple. Every month of the year, you set out to create a game. In truth, a month is not a lot of time to make a video game, so during the challenge, it is important to understand what you want out of each month and making the time worthwhile.

For me, I know the types of projects interest me are not ones that can be made in a month. With that said, with some intelligent planning, I can break down what I want into manageable projects and still gain skills and experience with each month. As a result, here are my guidelines:

  • In the first week of every month, a new project will be decided. The decision will include a mission statement with everything I plan to accomplish, some simple documentation to help drive the idea forward, and project management (task lists and scheduling) to help manage my time.

  • The goal of each project is not to complete an entire game, but to learn a new skill or prototype a new idea.

  • Ideas can be continued from month to month.

  • A weekly blog must be published to show my progression and experience with the project.

  • Though I am focusing on video games, other projects such as board games, learning a new skill, or exploring new creative outlets are still acceptable projects.

It seems daunting to commit to such a challenge, but at the same time, I am infinitely excited to see what may come out of this. Who doesn’t want to be some hotshot, game making, computer talker?

With that said, it’s time to make some video games!

For my January project, I will be continuing a project from my last ludum dare that got cut short. The theme for the game jam was “You only get one”. My interpretation was an urban survival game where you have a series of tools at your disposal, but you only have one use of each. The player must use the tools sparingly and efficiently to make their way through the abandoned winding streets and avoid the deadly darkness that spreads across the city periodically.

Here’s the rundown.

Goal:

Finish the game jam game to be a simple but complete standalone experience. The game will be available for the web.

Project:

One (working title), is a an urban survival in which the player must use each of the items at their disposal once to avoid a periodic creeping darkness in an abandoned city. The darkness may be avoided by slipping into an alleyway or finding a source of light, but of course, the alleyways are blocked by wood panels and the streetlights are missing a power source. That’s where your axe, match, skeleton key, and battery come into play.

Scheduling:
Week 1: Finish the core mechanics. The mechanics are inherently simple. Items need to be usable for their specific purpose and the player must have a threat.

Week 2: Art update. The game has a simple art style. The goal of the game is not art focused, but I do want the game to have a cohesive style that is a step up from “programmer art”

Week 3: Effects and Audio. Week three will focus on bringing out the atmosphere of the game. All visual effects will get some attention (lighting, particle effects, and the darkness will all need attention). Of course the game will also need some simple sounds.

Week 4: Polish Polish Polish. Bugs happen, art will need another pass, and there will be something I simply do not like.

It will be nice to have an existing base to revisit. I figured that would be a good start for the first month. The next update will be in about a week.

Wish me luck!

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Ludum Dare 27 COMPLETE!

This past weekend, I participated in my first Ludum Dare game jam. I had 48 hours to make a game completely from scratch that goes with a theme.

The theme this time was “10 Seconds”.

Here is a link to my submission entitled “Here”. Enjoy!

 

A memory

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