Week 9

This week was entirely focused on getting targeting the requirements for challenging Stage 2.  The Digital Prototype is our main focus, as it is required to be both tested and deployed on the target platform.  As of this writing, the prototype is capable of simulating turn structure and movement, as well as character creation.  Remaining to be done are the combat systems–which are currently structured out, but not yet implemented–and being able to load created mechs into the battle.  Additionally, we will need to make end states for the various gameplay modes, and successfully deploy the game to a mobile device.  Once we have successfully implemented these structures, it should be a fairly simple matter to add in a variety of different gameplay modes and structures as well as mech weapons and environmental effects.

In terms of assets, a work in progress background track has been created and additional temporary sound effects will be used to act as a showcase for the audio direction of the game.  Though we received many different ideas on how to take mechs visually in different directions, we have decided to stick with a distinctively futuristic mechanical theme, in our artist’s own style.

So far our QA sessions have gotten largely positive feedback–though testers continually ask for the digital version.  We have tested the ability of players being able to control two mechs at a time–rather than just one–different ways of structuring turn order, new weapons, and a ‘destroy the generator’ style gameplay scenario.  Additionally, we intend to test ‘Uber’ abilities–usable by a mech only once per game–as well as additional weapons, gameplay modes, and turn order structures, though these tests may take place either at the same time, or after, the testing of the digital prototype.

With a solid amount of QA testing, and the finishing of documents and other miscellaneous requirements, the team hopes to be ready to challenge Stage 2 by next Wednesday.

Networking Game Jam Post Mortem

In this game jam we were tasked with making a networked version of the game Space Wars.  One of the first things that went most right with this project was the fact that the other member of our team of two, had a strong and effective codebase from which we were able to work, as well as the fact that his game had many similarities to Space Wars.  Another aspect of the game that went successfully was the fact that we were quickly divided up what we wanted to do to accomplish the goal–I began looking at how to make a ‘functional’ gravity well in the center of the screen to affect players and bullets, while my partner reorganized his some of his existing code to make room for the altered functionality of the game, as well as programmed the acceleration/deceleration mechanics.  Likewise, we were able to quickly and easily merge the two projects together to test the game.

Likely what went worst with the project was how long it took me to successfully get the gravity well into a functional state, as well as the actual effectiveness of the well.  Bullets do not use the acceleration code that the players do, so they are free to fly around the screen as the gravity well directs them on tangents.  The result can be a chaotic mess where the winner of the match is seemingly decided at random.

Overall, however, the experience was interesting.  I learned a bit about game physics, as well as learning more about how to work together with multiple programmers on the same project.

Week 8

The team has successfully passed into Stage 2.  The focus of this stage is on proving artistic direction, design intent, and getting a playable prototype of the concept onto the target platform.  We received a lot of great feedback from the presentation, including ideas such as the concept of ‘organic mechs’ to further define the mech theme, or the possibility of offering asynchronous networked or AI play.

Going forward, we will be focusing on getting a version of the concept on a tablet device, testing and iterating on systems using the paper prototype, and creating visual and audio assets for use within the digital prototype.  We intend to begin testing additional weapon types, game objectives–such as game modes and objects interactions within the environment–and team compositions–beginning with players controlling multiple units–within the paper prototype, followed by experience and general playability tests once the digital prototype is successfully deployed to a tablet device.  Finally, we intend to challenge Stage 2 as soon as possible.

Week 7

This week was concerned largely with fleshing out the Turn-Based Mech concept, documentation, prototyping, and preparation for the Stage 1 challenge presentation.  The act of playing the game has been more shaped as a party-style structured game, using a single tablet device–that is to say, players will take their turn, and then pass the device off to the next player.  Players currently design and control a single Mech per match, structured in the form of a 2v2 first to five kills deathmatch.  We intend to test additional game modes, maps, and objectives, as well as the possibility of controlling multiple mechs at once, very shortly.

Currently, the art style as well as the game world is set to be 2D, though it is possibly we will use simple 3D models with textures ‘painted’ on, so as to still look two dimensional.  Additionally, our current initial audio direction is centered around a base of simple orchestral instruments, such as drums, and stringed and wind instruments, with an emphasis on bass and percussion, which might then have more futuristic and electronic sounds overlaid on top.  We are also currently prototyping the game in paper board game form, the art pipeline and 2D display, as well as free-form turn based movement–meaning that players can move anywhere within the world, rather than being constrained to squares or hexagons–in Unity, the engine we intend to use for the project.

The team intends to challenge stage 1 this week.  If we successfully pass, we will begin working on more a more complete digital prototype that functions on tablets.  We will continue to flesh out and refine gameplay systems, as well as begin adding audio and visual assets.

Week 6

In another set of changes, the group has decided to drop the Block puzzle game, and instead focus on a concept which merges the Mech MOBA prototype and the turn-based strategy–in fact, a more polished, digital version of the Mech MOBA paper prototype.  This decision came from a variety of factors, mainly being our artist was no fully invested into or interested in the art that could come from the design, and, similarly, our programmer was having great difficulty in getting the base mechanics of the concept to function.

The concept as it currently stands focuses around party style play, where all players are sitting in the same room, taking turns using the same device.  Players begin by creating their mech, customizing their stats and the weapons–which themselves have unique stats and capabilities–before heading into the arena-styled battleground.  Destined for a 2D art style, and likely using XNA, the game would be played from a top down perspective, and would feature the use of a free-form mechanic, rather than being grid based.  Similar to how tabletop games such as Warhammer, where a measuring tape is used to physically measure the distance a unit can move, and the exactly same as it was in the paper prototype, players will be given the capability to move anywhere within their movement distance, so long as it is not an impassible obstacle.  Player turn order will be decided by a random dice role at the beginning of each turn, and whichever player or team first fulfils the given objective will be declared the winners.

This will likely be the last major direction change we will be able to make in order to still have the possibility of qualifying for passing the game into full production.  However, the concept appears to be a strong one–as we have received much positive feedback on the paper prototype–as well as a concept that the entire team is motivated, interested, and prepared to work on.

Professional Workshop 1 Reflection

This week Jean-Francois Dugas and Mary DeMarle of Eidos Montreal came to talk about their experiences working on Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

 

Prompt 1: In what ways did the speakers reinforce your existing understanding of game development in today’s environment?

The most obvious was the production cycle.  Every game begins with a concept, a great amount of research and iteration, before finally becoming a basic vertical slice, and production moves into full swing.  Likewise the structure of the team–programmers, designers, artists, production staff, public relations, audio designers, and so on–was rather familiar, as was the ways in which they constantly bounce ideas off one another, using each other’s work to further their own creative endeavors.  The example being Mar DeMarle’s narrative being the muse of the lead artist, whose work in turn stimulated DeMarle’s narrative pursuits.

 

Prompt 2: In what ways did the speakers challenge your assumptions about game development in today’s environment?  Be specific.

One of the biggest challenges that stuck out was that the Deus Ex team, though backed by Eidos and the juggernaut Square-Enix, still had to deal with lacking budgeting, staffing, and time, resulting in the infamous boss fights, as well as Mary DeMarle not having enough time to fully implement all the conversation gameplay she desired.  Often, it seems that large publishers and developers have access to all the money and resources they could possibly need, when this is in fact simply not true.

Additionally, while it is known that great ideas do not often occur in a void from one lone individual, this mindset often tends to be the popular perception.  It was most interesting to hear of the concepting period of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, wherein most of the design team spent a great deal of time working together, concepting, researching, and analyzing what it truly means for a game to be a part of the Deus Ex series, before moving into full production of the game.

 

Prompt 3: What, if anything, did you draw from the presentation that applies to your current capstone work?

The biggest draw was that being able to iterate, and iterate successfully, is absolutely critical.  Likewise, testing, as well as being sure you have the resources necessary to complete that which you set out to design, is necessary to ensure the experience proceeds as intended, and that players are able to successfully play and enjoy the game.  Additionally research is very important, especially in an existing series.  Developers must fully understand what it is they are trying to create, just as they must understand their players.

Week 5

The group has decided to cut both the Mech MOBA concept and the Turn-Based Strategy concept.  The Mech MOBA concept was deemed to be too far out of scope, and we were unable to brainstorm an interesting central mechanical twist to the Turn-Based strategy genre.  As such, we have decided to focus all of our efforts on the shape-shifting puzzle game.  Iteration has now changed the concept to be focused solely on the cube form, though now players may acquire additional cubes throughout the level, allowing the player to alter their cube-based shape by changing the arrangement of the cubes.

The overall task remains the same, tasking players with navigating levels to reach an end goal.  We’re experimenting with additional goals, such as requiring the player to move through all possible squares in the level, or destroying different parts of the level.  Additionally, we’re looking at a variety of possible ways the player could change the capabilities of the cube–such as a fire or ice cube–as well as the many possible tile types that could allow the player to interact and move through the levels in a variety of ways–for a basic example, tiles that force the player to move in a direction, or tiles become unusable or dangerous upon passing through.