Week 4

Dragon Song has been cut, the greatest factor being that we were unable to find the correct type of gameplay that both satisfied the needs of the game, and which offered breadth and depth for the player to explore and use.  We’ve now refocused our efforts on our three remaining ideas–the Mech MOBA, the Turn-Based Strategy, and the shape changing puzzle concepts–and hope to challenge the first of four stages very soon.

The turn-based strategy game is now becoming a social Facebook game, though it will likely remain targeted at a more hardcore audience.  The most obvious reason behind this decision was the fact that the very nature of the game–turn based–lends itself to asynchronous, short bursts of gameplay.  Now the challenge is successfully making use of the social mechanic, as well as solidifying gameplay.

The Mech MOBA concept has not changed much, though the paper and digital prototypes are nearly at the point where they are ready to test as a whole.  Hopefully the combination of the paper prototype’s multiplayer gameplay, plus the digital prototype’s visual character creator and basic gameplay, will be most representative of the actual game.  Likewise, the shape changing concept’s prototype of the base mechanics are nearly ready for testing.

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Week 3

This week was largely iteration and re-hashing of ideas.  Dragon Song received the most drastic change, going from a world represented in 3 dimensions, to a full world represented in 2 dimensions.  We are currently discussing either a perspective similar to this image–though horizontal rather than vertical–or placing the camera  in the center of a ring, which would then rotate as the player moved around the outside.  The main force behind this change is to reduce the impact on the artists, as well as offer a different type of perspective on a 3 dimensional world.  The cacophony mechanic has also been implemented in the digital prototype, now tasking players with reducing excess to noise–via traditional puzzles, such as standing on a pressure plate, as well as point and click, scripted, puzzles–so that they can uncover the sounds necessary to create the level’s song.  The driving force behind this decision was to add additional breadth to the base mechanics of the game.  Whether the puzzle aspect is, in fact, more interesting than simply exploring the environment free-form will likely be answered during testing.

The MOBA idea is proceeding largely as it has been, though a quick paper prototype has been created to test the basic combat and ability customization mechanics.  After two quick tests within the group to test for any outstanding mechanics issues, the prototype appears to be ready for testing.  We also spent some time hashing out where we wanted to begin on the various systems going into the idea.  For example, base stats will consist of Health, Total Ammunition, Movement Speed, Ballistic Resistance, and Energy Resistance.  Players will then be able to further modify these stats via ‘Allocation Points’, which they will gain more of as their overall player account increases in level.  We’ve also decided to begin testing by removing in-battle items, and instead giving players four upgrade slots, any of which can be filled with any of the three upgrade for a given ability.  This was decided largely to place greater emphasis on abilities, and the players skill with these abilities, rather than simply increasing the stats of the mech, and allowing for an easy victory over mechs who are not yet as strong.

The turn based strategy idea has materialized as a combination of Risk and Advance Wars, with mobile devices as the target platform.  Units and tiles all have specific stats, and units can be stacked to combine their stats, resulting in a middle ground between them all.  For example, soldiers might be able to move into ‘mountain’ tiles, but when combined with tanks, they are unable to do so.  However, their overall offensive and defensive powers are greatly increased.

Finally, a new idea has cropped up for a puzzle game–largely concerned with perspective and spatial reasoning.  Though not fully thought out, some ideas could include traversing the inside of a sphere from a top down perspective, fitting a changeable shape through various shaped obstacles, and  moving through a series of rooms which, when not occupied, alter their orientation, position, and entrances/exits.

Summary of Week 2

This week was largely concerned with prototyping and trying to hash out existing ideas.  The mech MOBA prototype is coming along nicely, currently allowing players  to move around and customize their mech’s aesthetics.  Once abilities and basic stats are added, the prototype should be ready for its first test session.  Likewise, the prototype for the Dragon Song idea was essentially ready, yet feedback received during the class session has caused us to redesign some features.  Now the environment will be filled with a cacophony of sounds, tasking the player to use solve some basic puzzles to get rid of unnecessary sounds, and free the sounds needed for the level’s song.  Additionally, the team programmer has begun prototyping a grid based turn based strategy game framework, which may possibly be used in conjunction with the mobile touch prototype, should we decide to pursue a mobile game.

Concept art is likewise coming along nicely–the concept mechs strike a nice balance between humanoid shape and mechanical war machine, and a concept splash–done by the other designer–has seemed to aid in the direction of Dragon Song’s art.

Finally, the second major meeting took place, and largely ended up concerned with trying to figure out where to start the various systems required for the mech MOBA.  One of the most important areas that was first firmed out was the decision of whether the aesthetic body parts of the mech should be tied to its functional stats in game.  The team decided the two would–for initial testing–not be tied, as we would not want a player’s decisions about the aesthetics of their character to be undermined by their desired functionality.

The First Meetings

During the first class, Team 10 scheduled its first group meeting, with the goals of basic housekeeping and the setting and discussion of initial direction.  The team began by reviewing and performing a risk analysis of the stronger ideas we had concepted.  The first idea, titled “Dragon Song,” is an audio focused idea, wherein a young girl–one of many slaves captured by dragons–finds sounds within the environment which she memorizes to create songs.  Two of the largest risks with this project appeared to be the creation of quality sound assets, as well as the selection of a proper target market and audience.

The second, untitled, idea is a mech themed MOBA style game, wherein players are free to create whatever character they choose, mixing and matching from a pool of abilities and aesthetic pieces.  The greatest risks for this project appeared to be successful networking, asset generation, mechanics balancing, and successful market analysis.

Other concepts, which were not yet fleshed out, included a third-person stylized dungeon crawler, a 2D platformer/rpg, an iterative first-person shooter with random dynamic objectives, and three way team warfare.

By the end of the meeting, we decided to begin very simple prototype of the Dragon Song, MOBA, and 2D ideas, to begin some exploratory concept art, and to attempt to flesh out some of the more bare-bones ideas.

Introduction: Summer to the First Class

This is one of the development blogs for Team 10 of Champlain College’s Senior Capstone in Game Development, from the perspective of  a designer.  The project, as it was outlined at the end of Junior year, begins with four months of conceptional work and preproduction, followed by an evaluation and culling–often of at least half the projects–before the surviving projects proceed to four months of production, ending just before graduation.

In preparation for the semester, the team created a list of simple ideas or mechanics which we were interested in exploring, some of became more fleshed out as the semester drew closer.  Unsure of exactly what direction the actual class would end up taking, we waited for the first class before doing any serious work.

The first class, which was largely housekeeping, proceeded to outline the flow of the course, as well as make sure everyone was aware of the goals and means of evaluation.  Groups would be using Agile Development and would need to challenge four escalating stages in order to qualify for evaluation for Senior Production in the Spring semester.  Members of teams which do not pass–or qualify for–evaluation will then be redistributed, via a selection process, to the remaining teams, allowing the entire Game Development division to focus its efforts on those projects deemed the strongest.