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Monthly Archives: November 2016

TeTron – Teaching Via Gameplay

I don’t believe I’ve ever written about TeTron on my blog up until this point. TeTron was a 5 day game jam game. But afterwards I decided to keep plotting along adding features and making the game better. Refining mechanics, adding double boost and the particle effect, short burst of speed, main menu, level design and the tutorial. TeTron is a game where the player operates a hovercraft to collect blocks and deliver them to the factory’s black hole. The inspiration came from part of the game jam idea that an ‘L’ has to be part of the game we create among other things. I thought of the L block in Tetris. I wondered where those blocks came from and spawned an idea that what if this is the realm where Tetris blocks spawn and you have to deliver them to a black hole which portals them into Tetris the game.

TeTron Download Link

tetron-best-art

Arbitrary Award. But an award nonetheless.

With TeTron I wanted to teach players with the controls and mechanics of the game via gameplay instead of an instruction or control screen like I’ve usually done. Because TeTron was a game made over a week for a game jam and not as a specific university learning process, it doesn’t have a due date. Not like a due date like we have at uni anyway, because there always needs to be an end date for game development. It’s just TeTron isn’t exactly in a rush to be “finished”.

Tutorial Button.JPGIt has its own tutorial level. And while this is bare bones and still very work in progress having a specific scene that teaches players through gameplay is rather exciting for me. I’m hoping that this tutorial will not only teach the controls to players, but also the mechanics and how to use mechanics in way’s the game will expect the player to.

Tutorial Level.JPG

Currently as the tutorial level is, it has rather abrupt text typing telling the player that this is in fact a tutorial level and through a series of instructions, states what exactly the player is about to be taught.

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Like teaching the player that these are both modes of input for moving the hovercraft and these control icons disappear as each of them has been held down for a second or longer. Players are forced to hold down each button for at least a second to realize the effect of what that button does, rather than just “mashing” them without realizing what these inputs actually do. Although basic movement is almost a given, at some point I’m going to assume someone who has no basic knowledge of video games and general key mapping is going to play one of my games.

Boost.JPG

How to double tap boost and perform a short burst of speed.

Tutorial Gif.gif

For now the tutorial consists of basic movement controls. There’s still so much that can be added and that I want to add. Such as:

  • Fuel consumption.
  • How boosting consumes more fuel.
  • How short burst of speed consumes more fuel.
  • Picking up Tetris blocks.
  • Tetris blocks effect the weight of your hovercraft.
  • How to release Tetris blocks.
  • What black holes do.
  • Delivering tetris blocks to the black holes.
  • Gaining fuel.
  • Utilizing movement mechanics to platform correctly.
  • Boosts

Eventually more features are going to get added into the game and into the tutorial level. But that’s all for now.

Until next time –

Nic

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Posted by on November 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Story Telling Techniques – A Bit Of Game Play Research

So in all of the games that I’ve created, none of them have narrative. And to be honest I’m not a narrative type of guy and That’s not to say I don’t appreciate it, because it’s still an art form in itself. But it’s a powerful thing that I want to learn to tap into. My knowledge or skill to write narrative or story telling? I can’t say I have the practice, nor am I aware of my narrative writing or telling skills. I found a few games to play and tried to pull apart elements that I found that might help me try and build some story telling techniques or just techniques alone to try and create a connection between a person (player) and a game or objects inside of a game.

The three games that I chose as examples are:

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little-partyWelcome Home Master.PNG

A Dark Room is a browser text based resource gathering game where you build a village and people end up populating the village you build. Even though ‘A Dark Room’ is text based, I’m sitting here trying to visualize the environments.

In my head I was building an environment from nothing. Contextually there is a setting, you are in a freezing room where there is a fire, but nothing points towards theme. It was creating a sense of home and community from nothing, literally out of text (Is this what books do?). It’s telling you your own story, only because there’s no visual representation of it. The mind is a powerful thing.

In Little Party, you play as a mum (From third person) in your own house while your daughter (Suzanne) is throwing an art party and you are kind of awkwardly in the way and also make conversation with your daughters friends. It uses a separate black image overlay with text as conversations. Suzanne and her friends are positioned in ways that force the player to have to run into them, and while the dialogue isn’t exactly spine tingling, it gives a real sense of ‘If I was a person who was unfamiliar with all of these people in my house but I was trying to make conversation for the sake of trying to engage with friends of someone whom is important to me’. Not to mention that house is my ‘Home’. The house itself was populated with things that made it ‘Home’ but wasn’t the focus. The focus was the interaction between beings and that sense of being the awkward mum.

Welcome Home Master is a first person perspective game where you are a dog who gathers objects for your “master” human. Game play doesn’t evoke anything, other than representing what it’s like to have a dog sometimes. But there’s a deeper meaning and that’s what I want to latch on to and convey. Like I am a dog and I have a connection to my companion, likewise they are my human and they have a connection to me. Create a connection between two things. Regardless if they’re actually close to each other or not.


These are all rather helpful things to learn because, in my latest game – which I shall refer to as ‘FTF’ at the moment, is a first person walking sim where the objective of the game is to interact with particular people in the world and engage in meaningful conversation. Not make any decisions which changes the outcome or progression of the conversation but rather soak in the conversation and relate to or create particular thoughts and emotions inside of the players head. I’m really trying to address a partially automatic negative stereotype. I hope that some of the conversations will create or shift ideologies that are

There are elements from A Dark Room and Little Party that I feel I could help me in my narrative & story telling dialogue. Although A Dark Room is practically text based and didn’t have drastic visual representations of environment, I still constructed environments in my mind and let my imagination run wild with the elements presented to me. Little Party had me directly interacting with humans inside of the game (much like what FTF will). FTF‘s most important part will be the dialogue and the conversation between player and persons of interest. The playable character within the game and the persons of interest that they talk to are going to feel like this isn’t the first time that they’ve spoken, because it won’t be. But to the player it will. They’ll have to make sense of the only dialogue they’re reading and create their own perception of that person of interest. So much like A Dark Room only so much makes sense contextually and the rest I’m leaving to the player to form their own back stories of previous encounters or how they got where they are now. But at the same time like Little Party having a visual representation of something in front of you, another human being, consolidate imagination with a physical object. Something that you can create an attachment to also much like the intent behind Welcome Home Master.

Until next time –

Nic

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

MindState – Post Mortem

MindState

Download Link: Itch.io

Untitled.png

I would have liked to bash this out a bit earlier but I was in Melbourne attending PAX. Don’t worry, there’ll be a blog about it!

What:

The intent of MindState was to represent four different emotions. This was made in just over 3 weeks by myself and a team of people.

Games Designers:

Games Programming (Specifically Camera):

  • Marivan Ebrahimi – Blog

Audio:

Animator:

  • Macauley Bell- Blog

Graphic Designer:


Design Intent

The section that was primarily under my design was the third section – Anxious, Stressful, Jittery. The intent for the game was to transition through four different areas seamlessly.

anxious

Originally I was hoping that the overall feeling of my level would be accomplished by lighting, player character animations, level design + flow and audio. While these were still very big contributors, It lacked the very essence as a whole that would really pull this section together.

From the start it was intended that this section within the level would be a dark cave that flows from right to left and had a small amount of non lineal progression. Where the end of the cave was to be filling up with water that really pushes the player to want to leave that cave pushing them straight into the next section of – calm, relieved and relaxed.

Making my section of the level as an unlit underground cave was one of the first changes that I needed to make, because the majority of my section relied on it being dark and would set the mood/feel. Also in combination with having the camera positioned close enough to the character that only reveals a portion of whats to come. Even in a placeholder level with practically no level design at all, having a light on the player character model with only a small radius of light completely eliminates predictability on what’s coming and where to go. By having only a small radius of light around the character, it instills a sense of unfamiliarity and make the player jittery from the unknown. Have you ever tried to navigate a room or an area with no light at all, let alone in a completely new environment to you? That’s part of experience my section is trying to achieve. Although you can replay this game as many times as you like, it doesn’t exactly have replay-ability. The more that you become familiar with the terrain and the game the more that experience diminishes. So part of the design intent is to make the game feel anxious, stressful and jittery the first time it’s played. And less so if played again.

Then next, once a placeholder level was in place I needed to make the ending of the cave fill with water. It’s just a sprite with an animation that rises non linearly over time which is just tweaked by the amount of frames and positioning of the animation. The water starts to rising after falling from a higher platform and into a new unfamiliar place. If it’s not already apparent to the player that they’re being submerged, the intent is to panic the player by the thought of not wanting to drown and push them to always stay above the water. Causing this particular part of the level to feel stressful and making the player anxious to evade.

Crystals were a part of the art and I decided to utilize them and make them illuminant crystals. Add the similar source of lighting as the player but with different intensities. The crystals were placed in positions to act like a small guide so the entire level isn’t just black and boring. It makes it less of a maze and more of an environment. But it didn’t detract from the unfamiliarity of the level, it added a “now I’m not stumbling in the dark, that looks like where i should go”.

At this point it felt like the progression of the level was:

  • I can’t see a lot at all times.
  • I should go here
  • Oh water, I don’t want to die.

So as I mentioned earlier there was something missing that really pulled this section together to make it whole.

It was making every area fill with water.

By making every area fill with water the entire level was a constant push to not drown. There are safe zones, but to reach them, you had to run, run fast. It pulled everything already in place and made you feel it at once and constantly. Not knowing where you’re going, not seeing much, having to navigate in all directions and the constant fear of drowning.

Among other small things like making light intensities of all light sources resonate between certain intensities and extra art.

 

What Went Right

Source Tree:

I set up a private repository on BitBucket and got each of the other designers set up and had a unity gitIgnore file at the ready. If you don’t have one or want an easy link: HERE. In the entirety of this project – the team and I wasted about a total of an hour. In about 3.5 weeks (588 hours) we lost a single hour due to source tree conflicts and troubles. That’s an amazing result.

I’d learnt from my previous mistakes in Studio 1. Making sure the ignore file is in the right location and don’t work in the same scene. From making these mistakes previously I was able to not only not make mistakes and lose time while working on MindState – But also impart my wisdom onto my team-mates to better their knowledge and help us perform better and smoother as a team. Along with the other designers also being on the ball and not wanting to make a sourcetree pile of rubbish. Announcing when they’re working in particular scenes/scripts so we don’t end up having any conflicts between pushes.

Micro Managing:

Three other designers, one programmer, two audio, one animator, a graphic designer and I was the external talent liaison. Meaning I was the point of contact for/between all 8 of them. Sure there was communication between others (especially between all designers) and documents were updated and shared – But ultimately when issues (game related) arose or collaborators needed chasing up it was majoritaly me that stepped up. The problem solver.

I didn’t have to exactly  manage the other designers or graphic designer, but collaborating with the audio students for the third time was a breeze. Give them a list of what we needed. Have a face to face once a week, every few days have an online catchup and discuss direction and progress, how we felt and how they felt about certain sounds/implementation processes.

This was the first time I was dealing with a 2d artist/animator, I was rather inexperienced in that field. The team knew what we wanted for a character – alot of Mac’s knowledge and expertise helped guide the creation, because ultimately this was his field and he knew the little tips and tricks on what makes 2d work and fail. Weekly checkups and implementing his work into our game almost as soon as we got it allowed alot of time to make fixes and tweaks to things that needed the attention.

At times trying to communicate to 8 people at once felt a little overwhelming but never got the better of me or my abilities. I feel rather fulfilled that people are able look to me for assistance and that I have the willingness/capabilities to work well in teams. We are all in this trying to achieve the same thing and I always want to help others achieve and learn


Without making this blog any longer, some of the other things that went well were

  • Four Designers On A Team
  • I Learnt FMOD
  • Working In Four Scenes Combining Into One

Until next time –

Nic

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2016 in Uncategorized