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Monthly Archives: December 2016

The Past 13 Weeks

The last 13 weeks have been crazy. I’ve collaborated with 17 people and made three games.

Worked on TeTron since the game jam – did a main menu, and started a gameplay tutorial.

Showed two games at an art exhibition – This Must Be The Place.

Volunteered for an Open night at SAE and a Study for a day at SAE.

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Open Night SAE

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Study for A day SAE

Improved on project management.

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Went to Melbourne for Pax Aus 2016.

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Went to a melbourne game scene meetup.

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Had two of my games have press attention.

Had two people purchase my games, and almost broken 300 downloads.

itch-io

Until next time –

Nic

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Creative Direction – A Face to Look to

Nearing the end of studio and wrapping up my latest game Feeding the Forgotten after exhibiting it (and The Ride) at This Must Be The Place, like earlier in the year, I wanted to reflect a little. Almost all of the feedback that I got from my most recent game Feeding the Forgotten was positive. I had a good number local Brisbane townsfolk – and some local game developers, pop through and play, including a few of team from Defiant. After the exhibition I wondered what it’s like to work on a project that’s longer than 3-6 weeks and some of the creative directions those longer projects can and do go and what other things influence the process.

I watched a few videos, interviews and read a bunch of articles that hosted the creative director of Defiant – Morgan Jaffit in hopes to pick up on a few tips and tricks along the way. There’s plenty of decent information that he’s shared floating around on the web, but I’d like to bring to attention two videos that spiked my interests and I felt were extremely relevant, not only to me, but to the game development process. This isn’t about specifically about how to make 3D meshes with less vertices or faces, or how to program better, how to make a great texture, but on a broader topic of just being in the development process and being aware what you’re doing and where you’re going.

Morgan has an extensive list of history within games development. He has over 16 years worth of experience. That experience comes from working on titles such as Hand of Fate, Hand of Fate 2, Ski Safari, Heroes Call, Warco, Ben 10 Slammers, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, Freedom Force, Teen Titans among many others. From Studios such as Defiant Development, Pandemic Studios, A2M, Relic Entertainment, Irrational Games.

The two videos below are the ones I wanted to bring to attention, but don’t feel like you have to spend the next two hours watching them to make the rest of this blog make sense.

Bare with me, because this might be a bit of a back and forth.
In the first video Morgan talks about a range of things, such as some of the earlier games that he and the team at Defiant made, their (games) ups, downs and what they learnt. Eventually leading onto Hand of Fate. For example he mentions in an earlier game Heroes Call that they randomized a lot of stuff, and had a heap of systems but it’s hidden from the players – hence no one notices. Later on in the video he describes that  Heroes Call did ‘okay’ and then they drew inspiration from a system in there and wanted to push the same/similar concept into Hand of Fate. But this time around make it visible to the players.

(Snippet)
A bit later in the first video he mentions that they went into an earlier project had no road map. It went from we had an idea to just ‘make the thing!’. It didn’t go well. From there they re-evaluate and go on to make something that they’re more familiar with and can nail the concept of (snippet). Almost much like I did with The Ride, I knew it well enough that it was a straight forward vision and easily for me to replicate the experience I wanted. Now I’m not saying that we should all go and make thing’s purely off existing things we can draw knowledge or experience from. I think at this point throughout the worlds timeline, is anything one hundred percent original? Or is it just an adaptation of something pre-existing? It’s just something to take into account. Sure go ahead and challenge yourself and push the boundaries of the box but at the same time think about how long you want to spend on this and who the target audience is. Which leads me to the next point.

Plan ahead – evaluate how well or what the game will do within the market at the time of release. What’s the current market like? What technology is available? What’s up and coming? How are you putting this to the market? What’s the name of the game? What’s the elevator pitch? What’s the hook, at it’s core what does it do? (snippet). Originally Hand of Fate had a communication a barrier trying to express what it is, without a 10 minute conversation as Morgan says. So what I take away from this is still practical game design –  but refining those things alone can be a streamline to the specific direction of your games direction. Have an idea, have a documented direction, know exactly what the end goal is. Why would we play this game over others in the marketplace (maybe regardless of price?) (snippet) What makes this appealing to the public?

Look at things with similar design that are popular – without replicating what they do, what makes it tick? (snippet) Have a critical eye next to your creative eye.

Eventually if you’re at the point where there’s something that’s core playable or even further than that give it to an audience, not just game devs (snippet). I have the intent on making games to be played by an audience – not just to be played by me. Are they trying to do something that I didn’t account for, something that they want to that I haven’t taken into my design?

One of the most important things that I’m taking away from listening to these talks is one of the things he mentions in the second video. (snippet) Don’t put everything on the next game. Even if it’s not a hit, don’t disband, stay as a team and hone your skills.


There’s a few other topics that he flows through which are still very relevant:  (snippet) community management – don’t make a different game just because the audience wants you to. If they’re that unhappy with it. What about a refund?

Also if they’re asking if somethings going to be in the game that they might like – don’t lie to them if you have no intention of adding it. Telling them no before they’ve bought your game is the best thing you can do, you don’t want people to play your game under false pretenses. You have an idea of what you wanted the game to be, and that’s where it’s headed.

And if an industry veteran is offering this knowledge based on their own experiences and the processes of what’s influenced the direction on Hand of Fate, I want to soak it up. Although I may have mentioned any of these in previous blogs, or almost repeating what’s been said in the videos, I’m at the point where all of these things need to be taken into account and start to be applied earlier rather than later.  Ultimately for a more streamlined creative direction.

Until next time –

Nic

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Play Testing – Data Capture and Analysis

My latest game is called ‘Feeding The Forgotten’. It’s a first person walking sim where the player walks in a city engaging in conversation with some less fortunate people and providing them with things that they might need.

For play testing I think it’s extremely important to have a questionnaire and ask if there was any particular dialogue that players found offensive and why. Although ‘Feeding The Forgotten’ might bring to attention thing’s that aren’t appealing to think about or might not have even crossed your mind, I want to know IF and WHERE I crossed the line for your particular play experience. When discussing a topic that doesn’t make it into every day general conversation, it’s not a matter of if I’ve offended no-one, it’s a matter of when. To me that’s important. If the general consensus is that one specific topic offends a very small proportion of the audience, I’d gladly revise the topic at hand and review if I’m portraying it incorrectly (based on the mass consensus of my research).

questionaire-response-to-dialogue

A small sample of responses – if any inappropriate dialogue?

Because this was my first time ever writing any form of narrative or story within a game, I wanted to see If what I was trying to portray (without bluntly stating it) was easily interpret-able to players. So I asked the question if anyone was able to describe any of the situations of my seven characters.

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Character profiling responses

And while not everyone commented on every character, for what information I did receive seemed to be pretty accurate to what I was trying to portray. The exception was Liz though, one person stated struggling with addiction which is 100% true. While another person said drug addiction. Within the game itself, Liz’s dialogue does imply that she is/was struggling with addiction  but not specific as to which. It’s left open for interpretation, although the intent behind it was alcohol addiction.


I also recorded player movement within the game scene and exported coordinates each frame and drew a line to an SVG file.

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Character Locations

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Some of the player tracks were a little off where I intended for them to walk. Which must mean they’re not exactly sure of where to go. These player tracking images weren’t the only times that I got to see players play Feeding The Forgotten, also at an art exhibition like earlier on in the year at another “Brass Razoo” event. The characters that I wanted the players to speak to had a “?” above their head with a shader that can make the mesh visible through objects.

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Person of interest with ? marker

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Size Of Marker

 

Having the mesh of the question mark visible through walls was to interest the player and guide them to the people of interest. However when at a distance the markers didn’t exactly stand out because of their small size in comparison to the city landscape. Especially because to actually notice the ones flying above the person of interest head, the player had to look to the skies. As Ben Droste mentioned in one of the public lectures that I attended, player’s never look up. At first the floating question mark particle’s start size was rather small and gradually increased to a larger size over its life time, then to shrink at back into nothing. The size that I was increasing it to still wasn’t enough to grab the player’s attention. I didn’t want to over do it and make the proportions ridiculously out of whack. But that changed. I started the scaling up the size of the question marker earlier (and in total size) to make it visible for players to see without having to look up, and to grab their attention.

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Easily Visible Question Marks


Another player guidance issue was trying to find the first person. The one that the shop keeper is initially introducing to the player.

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Original conversation

But when he said left, people might have taken it a little more literally than I was hoping for. When the players started to wander in the world, they happened to stumble right past him.

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Original position and direction the player went

In addition to making the question marks substantially bigger and in the players line of sight sooner, I moved the first person to interact with directly out the front of the store.

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New position


Also in addition to that, changing the position of the first person of interest – Curt, I wanted to make sure that even if player’s did so happen to follow the “I think he went left”, I changed the dialogue of the shopkeeper to specifically state that he’s outside the store underneath a tree.

shopkeeper-conversation-change

New conversation

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Changing those three elements helped the players to understand more specifically where they should go. Then once they reached Curt, realize that the question mark is a guidance system for the people to speak to. Once they’ve spoken to curt that the next place to look for is someone with a question mark. And with the newly sized markers, it made the new direction to travel easily visible.

Until next time –

Nic

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2016 in Uncategorized