Friday, 16 December 2016

Game Prototype Development Presentation



Here is my presentation I created to show my prototyping work for 5002. Be sure to click the settings and open the speaker notes for my commentary on what is being shown.

-James

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Mike Pickton Meeting 4 - Time Splitting

In this weeks meeting with Mike I showed him my progress with my Game A Week and my learning contract stuff. Not as much this week in terms of a agenda apart from updating Mike with my progress but we did have a conversation about where I'm going, and I seem to be on track.

The main thing which was suggested was that I need a plan more than ever of what I'll be doing at what stage throughout the year, so I have my own deadlines which I would follow to avoid spending too much time on a particular module. I have started adapting a timetable spreadsheet by adding the academic weeks as well as putting all deadline dates in. However I can't add in my own module time-spans until next week when we have a meeting with the course leader to iron out some issues with the structure of the modules, so once that is cleared up then I should be able to plan the rest of the year how I want it.

Until then I have been trying to better define what I would be doing in each project so I can understand things better without looking at the learning contract structure. This overview underneath is what I have at the moment, and then I can adapt this for multiple uses and use this as a point of reference to check everything else against.

How can I create an independent game using experimental gameplay and then use this as a point to start an indie studio?

5002 Negotiated Module – Experimental Prototyping

  • Free flowing practical experimentation with game design, technical processes and ways of improving workflow and output.
  • Will take form in a series of short prototypes and experiments in the format of ‘A Game a Week’ Some including attempts at replicating certain types of gameplay or designs as well as my own planned short game concepts.
  • I will gain a more solid practice in the process of actually creating and releasing games, which is one of the main focuses of this module.
  • All of these prototypes will be accompanied with a detailed post mortem post, containing a breakdown of what I was attempting and any solutions for problems I come across. I will also be linking a download to the experiment so each one can be played/used.

5005 Negotiated Module – Experimental Prototyping II

  • A continuation of the prototyping module, but more developed and with a focus on streamlining certain processes for easier prototyping.
  • Again, a series of short prototypes and experimentations will be developed, but these will make more use of reusable elements and other assets to speed up development. Also these won’t be strictly ‘Game A Week’ like the last project as if a concept shows promise after a week I may continue it for another week to experiment with the design.
  • Most of these will probably follow more of a common theme, in order to explore a certain kind of narrative driven gameplay, diving deeper into game design principles.
  • I will gain a deeper understanding of how to create a structure for a narrative based game.
  • Myself and Amber Jamieson will share the continued direction of our research in order to keep our development in line with what we want to create as a company, this will involve feedback on each other’s progress.

5006 Negotiated Module – Game Concept Development

  • In this module I will adapt a prototype into a workable game concept using everything I have used previously, this will eventually become the basis of the game worked on for the Major Practical Project.
  • Before this point the prototype should have already showed promise, just more tests need to be made to expand the concept further into a full playable game.
  • This will involve deep design work and planning of the game’s structure as well as playtesting to get the feel of the game right.
  • Essentially, the barebones for the final game will be created here, which can be played start to finish.

5008 Major Practical Project – Commercial Game Development

  • In this final project I will be working with Amber Jamieson to create a small narrative-driven game under our Indie Studio ‘I_DO_TRI’
  • For this project I will be responsible for the technical aspects of the project
  • The core of the game structure should already be created, with most of the effort being put into fleshing out the game details, playtesting, refinement and the games look and feel.
  • Marketing will also factor into this project, as we use this game as our first proper commercially released title as I_DO_TRI
  • During this process a development blog will track progress of the game.
  • A game design document will be created and will have contributions from all team members: Detailing the games high level concept and all supplementary materials (For example, Art/Concepts, Screenplay, Sound Concepts, etc.) This is for the purpose of showing the game to potential publishers afterwards and to demonstrate a clear vision of the game.



-James

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Mike Pickton Meeting 3 - Game A Week Progress Update

In the meeting with Mike this week I let Mike know of what I've been up to in regards to my Game A Week work and what I plan on looking into next. So I got him to play through Cloud Bounce Cloud Bounce, which he wasn't very good at.

There wasn't too much of an agenda this week from myself as it was more a test to see if I am on the right track and if there is anything I could be missing from my critical analysis. We agreed that the game a week entries should be an attempt to experiment with different methods of working and as a process to figure out the best way to create the games we want to make, finding out the pros and cons of each different approach.
This can be evaluated through each projects post mortem post where I will write about each project and how each game fits into what I am trying to investigate. Currently for example on Cloud Bounce Cloud Bounce, I have attempted a shorter simpler project as a warm-up into becoming quicker with the prototyping process and as a focus on creating something extremely simple and easy to manage.

Mike suggested though that I add some areas to my conclusion adding more of a sense of progression through the different games:


  • The longevity of the game concept - More how I would scale the concept and how I might go and release each game, this is useful in identifying whether any of these game concepts have the potential to go forward as an idea. If it was to be expanded as a full game, what time would be needed to finish it and would more people be needed? This might not apply to all games as most of these games might not stand on their own, and the same thinking behind them might be applied to the next game.
  • Task breakdowns - For the benefit of seeing how I spend my time during each project and in what software, useful to see if I might have spent too much time doing something like asset creation when I should be prototyping gameplay. Also can be useful later on in evaluating where I should be spending time relative to what type of game I am making and what skills are needed.
  • Reusable components - Finding out where I can reuse stuff can be massive time saver and can be more efficient if I am developing a similar kind of game. Also figuring out where I might need some reusable components for a larger game can help me decide where I should aim a few of my projects to try things out, very important in these early stages. This is even easier in Unity as the engine is built around using scripted components, this is something I will be possibly trying out in next week's project.
Mike also brought up that reusable components should possibly extend to the games frontend, which means the UI, basic interaction and general look of the games could also be made to be reusable through different projects. Having a fixed standard for the frontend that can be iterated on will greatly help how long it takes to get each game ready to release. 


Continuing forward now I will assess how I write about each project and whether everything is relevant. For now though I have just thought up a new idea for this weeks game while writing this post, which I could do feasibly within the next two days, so I'm going to go away and take some notes.

I'm thinking something text-based which could help the writing and narrative component a little bit more. :)

-James



Game A Week Update! - 2# Cloud Bounce Cloud Bounce

Hi there,

I have just added a new Game A Week entry, here is a link just below, where you can download and play the game:

CLOUD BOUNCE CLOUD BOUNCE



I have also done a bit of write up, including suggestions from this week's meeting with Mike Pickton.
Enjoy!

-James

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Started Game A Week!

Okay, I've officially started the Game A Week challenge! As you can see there is a new Game A Week Challenge Page linked at the top, which will list all the games I will have worked on, any time I have added a new game I will add a new page under there as well as a blog update linking it with a link to download and play. :) Out Of The Blue is available for download there as well as a proper analysis, so feel free to check it out. (Note: It's a bit ropey, but that's the point of this challenge.)

I have also linked the original blog post by Rami there and I might go and add the GDC talk by Adriel Wallick and her website as I have used her progress as inspiration, and I thought it would be fair to share the awareness of it in case anybody wants to try out the same idea.

Wish me Luck!

-James

Some little things before I move to practical work

Hi everyone!

This week I plan on moving full time into some practical work, after a bunch of delays involving me trying to go back and reference some of my work. In the later half of last week I started some work in UE4 as me and Amber participated in the De Montfort Gamedev Society's first game jam of the year! Our entry wasn't completed for the deadline on Friday (it was a two day jam) but I have been touching the project a little bit over the weekend just to get it out released to some standard.

Out Of The Blue

The theme for the game-jam was 'Out Of The Blue' so after a little bit of brainstorming we came up with a concept of a gameshow set inside some bleak future, presented in a comical fashion using dialogue and simple interactions with an environment. A kinda Stanley Parable-esque game that drives the player through dialogue. We wanted this to be our first attempt at getting actual dialogue into a game and try and get voice clips to work within a game context.

The game involved 3 small areas; the player will start off inside a cryotube at the start of the game, while the game show host introduces the game. Upon leaving the chamber, the player is in the first room in which the player has to hit the right button (the blue one) but the room has quite a few blue buttons, misleading the player. Eventually the player will find a red button saying blue on it.

The second room requires the player to sort a group of items by picking them up and placing them in a container, based on whether that object belonged to the player's time period. The objects are references to pop culture and news items from this year, with other objects being stuff from history or fictional futures. For example: Tentacle, Raygun, a medieval sword.

The third area is essentially a lift from the second area, taking the player to the 'wheel of freedom' inspired by The Wheel Of Fortune. This is a simple interact with a button, which triggers the wheel to spin and stop, landing on the only option on the wheel that puts the player back into cryosleep.



Reflection

I still think one of the major issues I seem to be having with development is underestimating long things take and as a result the scope of the games I work on, even this game created by two people could be considered quite large as we don't have too much game making experience between us as of right now. The idea was create something a bit experimental and a little outside our comfort zone, so naturally it will take a bit of learning, only after some more experience can this speed up. The area we decided to focus on was getting in dialogue that reacts to the players input and we did that, and as a result I have a handy dialogue system I can iterate on for future projects.

Game A Week

I found a video last night from the GDC vault about the 'Game A Week' challenge in which a harsh time constraint is put onto your work in the hopes of allowing you to be more creative with constraints as well as building up a solid base of experience in the process of making and releasing a game, which is a crucial quality for indie developers. The talk was created by Rami (2014) at Vlambeer but the methodology was taken up by Adriel Wallick who presented the talk, who has currently done around 52 weeks of games, including the GDC presentation itself which was a game.

It seems like a great way to experiment and try new ideas out without getting caught up in the details, and probably how I might break up my work over the next weeks leading up to Christmas. Releasing games and the whole process is something I definitely need to get better at, especially as we aim to create larger projects at some point where more things could go wrong.

The game a week will involve me writing a reflection on what went well and what didn't on each project, allowing me to build from the successes of the previous weeks. Furthermore, I will be trying to keep each project focused to a particular area, in a conscious attempt to limit scope and improve or learn a certain skill every week. So before christmas I should have around 4 games made!

-James

Sources:

1. ISMAIL, R. (2014) Game A Week: Getting Experienced At Failure. [Weblog] Gamasutra. 26th February. Available from: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/RamiIsmail/20140226/211807/Game_A_Week_Getting_Experienced_At_Failure.php Accessed [14/11/16].

2. WALLICK, A. (2014) MsMinotaur - Game A Week [Website] Available from: http://msminotaur.com/?cat=9 Accessed [14/11/16].

3. WALLICK, A (2014) GDC Vault - Game a Week: How to Succeed, Fail and Learn. [Online Film] Available from: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1020866/Game-a-Week-How-to Accessed [14/11/16].

4. DMUGDS (2016) De Montfort University Game Development Society [Forum] Available from: http://www.gamedevdmu.co.uk/forum/index.php Accessed [14/11/16].

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Project Proposal Presentation

As I didn't do it properly before here is my original project proposal presentation with all the references underneath. 


Sources:

1. THEMEATLY.COM (2014) Meatly Game Dev Comic. [Online Image] Available from: http://themeatly.com/ [Accessed 19/10/16]

2. UE4 ANSWERHUB (2014) Cleaning Up State Machine Spaghetti. [Online Image] Available from: https://answers.unrealengine.com/questions/142592/cleaning-up-state-machine-spaghetti.html [Accessed 19/10/16]

3. KETCHAPP (2016) Ketchapp Tennis [Online] iOS. Ketchapp.

4. UE4 DISCUSSION FORUM (2016) Is Epic doing anything to address UE4's crippling shader problem? [Online Image] Available from: https://forums.unrealengine.com/showthread.php?106655-Is-Epic-doing-anything-to-address-UE4-s-crippling-shader-problem [Accessed 19/10/16]

5. KOTAKU AU (2016) A Closer look at why people are Pirating The Witness. [Online Image] Available from: http://www.kotaku.com.au/2016/02/a-closer-look-at-why-people-are-pirating-the-witness/ [Accessed 19/10/16]

6. GIANTBOMB (2016) Downwell [Online Image]. Available from: http://www.giantbomb.com/downwell/3030-48935/ [Accessed 19/10/16]

7. KETCHAPP (2016) Gravity Switch [Online] iOS. Ketchapp.

8. KETCHAPP (2016) The Pit [Online] iOS. Ketchapp.

9. KETCHAPP (2016) Light On [Online] iOS. Ketchapp.

10. NINTENDO EAD TOKYO (2014) Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker [Wii U Disc] Wii U. Nintendo.

11. GET SET GAME (2015) Mega Blast Images. [Online image] Available from: http://uk.ign.com/images/games/mega-blast-android-20037421/555a60c2005b5ea3137c54e3 [Accessed 07/11/16]
12. GET SET GAMES (2015) Mega Blast. [Online] Android, iOS. Toronto: Get Set Games

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Moving into ideation

Okay so I have played through a lot of games recently. Not just including the ones I have written about extensively here: including all of those played at Gamecity, some gems I have downloaded from Itch.io recently aswell as some of the winning entries in the UE4 Megajam. From this I have got a more solid idea of the kind of ideas and themes I want to pursue and some potential game concepts that I could try that focus on narrative.

This next week is mainly going to be an ideas and inspiration gathering week as I start to read up on some more varied subject matter and begin to play around with some simple gameplay concepts. There will be a lot of brain-farts scribbled out of lines on my lined paper pad and plenty of inspirational images stuck to the wall of my lab space, anything that can get me into that creative zone. This is my favourite part of the whole game dev process so I tend to try and soak up as much as I can while I doodle down ideas. The Lego on my desk will be rearranged again and again constantly this week...



This isn't all staring into the stars though, when I feel I have an interesting enough idea pool to work from I will start to put together very quick and dirty proof-of-concept prototypes to test out possible gameplay ideas. These will act like gamejams almost, focused on creating short, fun games within a short space of time, usually focused around some kind of theme.

I already have some up on my wall of things that could be interesting to make but as a general rule of thumb I never go with my first idea, I prefer to scout around for alternatives and use the first as a point of reference for where I want to go searching next. I usually evaluate what each idea lacks or what works in each and see if there is a different way I could approach it, aswell as writing any passing thoughts down at all no matter how small they might seem.

Me being strange and sticking a load of lined paper to the walls. I find it easier when I can look up and see things straight away and I can make new connections between ideas, and also grouping similar concepts together so I can make something stronger.

Death


Explaining the ominous subtitle, me and Amber came to a realization that a lot of our game ideas and stuff we have made focus around the theme of death and all of it's connotations; our FMP was mainly about a world where you are a girl stuck in limbo, being guiding by two spirits of the dead. After making this realization it seemed like something that we could continue exploration of as a subject matter within our games to come up with some interesting meanings and subtext for our games designs.

Approaching our games with a theme in mind makes the design process a little easier, as I have an area I can look into and build a game around rather than having an open ended concept. For each prototype a smaller aspect of the subject will be explored, keeping each game quite specific and having a certain point. The theme of death will be found in some way across all of the games though, just explored and interpreted in different ways in a video game context.

Other things to explore

There are some other points of inspiration me and Amber latched onto, one in particular was the idea of dialogue options and expanding on the idea of conversation, so there is a potential lead for experimenting with narrative based gameplay. Most other inspiration points revolve around locations or vistas, which I guess is a result of doing an art heavy course for three years. One way to put some depth into those ideas might involve doing some reading into these specific areas and see if there are any unique stories that could be used to ground the ideas; Amber had an idea for a snowy mountaintop setting which could mean that we would have to look into something like 'Mountain Disappearances' as way to flesh it out.

Anyway that's enough for now, next post there should be a little documenting of the kind of things I have been looking at.


Game Narrative Analysis - Oxenfree

Oxenfree (2016) is a 2.5d supernatural mystery graphical adventure game by Night School Studio, and here is a trailer:


Oxenfree is a game revolving around dialogue choices and options, however it is different from most as the dialogue continues to flow regardless of the players input, and the game does not stop for you to make a spoken decision. Instead conversation will continue to flow, even if you are performing other actions, making dialogue seem more natural. The player's main methods of interaction are through the dialogue choices or through using a radio tuner to access certain frequencies which can gain access to otherworldly elements, get pieces of information about the setting or to open radio locks. The game also takes place in a 2d map that is navigated along paths by 3d character models, similar in fashion to old point and click games or something like final fantasy vii with it's prerendered backgrounds.



Like Firewatch the relationship between the characters change according to the dialogue choices you have made, affecting how people treat your player character 'Alex'. They don't really affect the overall plot progression too much as it's still a linear game but it has the same techniques of giving options to players to build up investment in the actual characters as opposed to just going through a narrative with no give. The overall focus of Oxenfree is the telling of the story as opposed to focusing on the directions the plot can go.



The characters of the game fall into quite easily definable personalities, but not in a bad way. The characters have clear understandable motives and the reason the narrative works is as a result of the interplay between these characters, which is affected by the player's decision throughout the game. This starts to help more when the game starts to get a bit more weird, having characters and situations beforehand which are easily relatable.

The game gradually ramps up the weird, supernatural elements after the two of the characters enter a cave and use the radio to activate some kind of dimensional portal. After this event the game spreads all the characters around different points on the island, where the player must have to rally everyone up and figure out what is going on.



The game begins to really twist expectations, throwing time loops, ghostly possession and alternate dimensions into the mix. These kinds of concepts begin to have odd effects on the characters, with the time loops and possession combining to show visions of characters dying or to show memories. This is demonstrated when Clarissa jumps out of a window to commit suicide, with her body hitting the floor, when the player reaches the ground the the body is gone, and Clarissa reappears and disappears at several points in the game, essentially as fake visions of the character. The game takes certain horror tropes and turns them around, using it to misdirect the player into guessing about the overall mystery.





Sources:

1. NIGHT SCHOOL STUDIO (2016) Oxenfree [Steam Online] PC. Glendale, CA: Night School Studio
2. RELY ON HORROR Review: Oxenfree (2016) Park screenshot. [Online Image] Available from: http://www.relyonhorror.com/reviews/review-oxenfree/ [Accessed 07/11/16]
3GAME INFORMER Oxenfree (2016) Woods screenshot. [Online Image] Available from: https://www.gameinformer.com/games/oxenfree/b/xboxone/default.aspx [Accessed 07/11/16]
4. POLYGON (2015) First gameplay from Oxenfree, 2015's coolest-looking adventure game. [Online Image] Available from: http://www.polygon.com/2015/5/18/8621337/oxenfree-gameplay-13-minutes-from-new-2015-adventure-game-night-school-studio-telltale [Accessed 07/11/16]
5. ENGADGET (2016) 'Oxenfree' and the sweet spot of supernatural, teenage drama [Online Image] Available from: https://www.engadget.com/2016/01/15/oxenfree-and-the-sweet-spot-of-supernatural-teenage-drama/ [Accessed 07/11/16]
6. NIGHT SCHOOL STUDIO (2016) Oxenfree: Launch Trailer [Online video] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAhrOoNR4ng&feature=youtu.be [Accessed 07/11/16]

Friday, 4 November 2016

Game Narrative Analysis - INSIDE

Inside (2016) is a puzzle platformer game by Playdead. It shares a lot similarities to Playdead's previous game Limbo, in that it features realistic physics based platforming, an interpretive story and a minimalist art style, but builds on these previous concepts in more depth. Like last time, here is a video trailer of the game:



Immediately with Inside you are drawn into the atmosphere of the game, there is no main menu really. The game start of the game is simple the game's title then when a button is pressed the boy character walks out from the left of the screen behind as the title fades, leading straight into the gameplay. The game includes no tutorials and no holding of the player's hand whatsoever, there is no on screen text or dialogue during the game.



For example is how the game communicates that the people in the background are not good by using subtle means like lighting, sounds and the scared body language of the player character. This is done one way through the player's reaction to being near another human character, if there is some sort of cover the player will crouch automatically, indicating that he really doesn't want to be found. If you are spotted you will be tranquillised by the people, the game is quite punishing when the player makes mistakes but then a lot of satisfaction is gained from figuring out each little movement puzzle as the punishing difficulty makes the player think about the puzzle more.



The game's atmosphere is it's main selling point however. The game carefully builds and releases tension over the course of the story, using the music or lack of music and environmental sounds to push a sense of unease onto the player. Usually after harder puzzles or stealth sections that take up a lot of the players energy, the game will then go into a quieter period. This is shown mostly in the submarine section which slows down the pace of the game dramatically, which opens up the environment a bit more and introduces a new way of interacting with the game. The music in this area becomes a lot more peaceful and the environment becomes a lot less cluttered and full of open space, making this underwater section of the game really standout from the last.



One core game mechanic is the boy using some kind of head device which allows him (and by extension the player) to control the bodies of people who appear to have been experimented on. This is a central mechanic used to complete some of the games puzzles but it also acts as a key part of the narrative, establishing that this mind control factors into the game's plot. Later on in the game this idea is expanded on with the boy able to control people who in turn can control others as part of some sort of 'mind control chain'



About two thirds into the game after a really tense section involving deadly shockwaves, you go down an elevator which is suddenly hit by a shockwave making it crash into the water below. An underwater creature that attempts to drown you earlier in the game fits you with breathing equipment that stops you running out of air underwater and something else that allows you to control people without the use of the head device. This opens up more gameplay potential in the next section of the game but does this through clever advancement of the plot.

After this as you reach the end of the game you end up in some kind of testing facility which the boy navigates, this area twists some of the mechanics you have encountered in the game so far making you think about them differently, as you go deeper into the lab there are people which don't attempt to chase after you like before. A large of group them can be found looking through glass at something offscreen, making the player interested to find out what it is. After a bit of platforming, you arrive inside a vat of water in which a hatch can be opened into this large tank with some kind of weird blob creature in the middle, composed of what appears to be the kind of experimented people from earlier in the game. It is fitted with some of the head devices the boy uses earlier in the game implying the blob is controlling something else. The boy attempts to break it free but is then absorbed into it, giving control of the blob to the player, changing the pace of gameplay again allowing the player to take control of the blob, escape the underwater container and rampage around the facility.



This segment of the game includes an area which foreshadows where you end up right at the end of the game, which appears to be some kind of 'film set'. When you are the blob the focus of the people in the background shift and they start to observe and even help you escape, even to the point of using a puzzle mechanic against you at one point as bait to get you to fall into a hatch in front of a large audience. The game then ends shortly after this after you break out of the facility and tumble down a large hill side into the same scene depicted earlier in the 'film set', the context of this is hard to understand at first but the story is clearly designed to be interpreted in different ways.



This is a big part of Inside's design is the interpretation of details and the occasional vagueness of the story. The motivations behind the characters in the game are never explicitly revealed, only hinted at through gameplay and through subtle cues and it is left up to the player to interpret them as they feel. This works similar to games like Journey or The Witness which use similar techniques to encourage the player to think about the situation which has transpired as opposed to a conventional narrative.



Using this as a game mechanic can be quite hard to pull off as for full immersion it requires clever use of game design, visuals and sound together to create a strong atmosphere that the player can be absorbed in. The whole design of the game is created with a message that the player should figure it all out on their own, from the controls, to the eureka moments in the puzzles and to the overall story of the game.

Sources:

1. PLAYDEAD (2016) INSIDE. [Steam Online] PC. Copenhagen: Playdead ApS.
2. PLAYDEAD (2016) Playdead Official Site. [Webpage] Available from: http://playdead.com/ [Accessed 04/11/16]

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Game Narrative Analysis - Firewatch

As part of my research this week into game design, more specifically that of narrative-focused games, I decided to play through the acclaimed game Firewatch (2016) by Campo Santo.

"Firewatch is a mystery set in the Wyoming wilderness, where your only emotional lifeline is the person on the other end of a handheld radio."

Here is a little video as a little taster:



Firewatch is an interesting game that uses dialogue interaction through a radio to push forward the narrative of the game, this is done through the player calling in significant points of interest on the radio where the player then receives guidance or objectives. There is no up close human interaction in the game, nearly all of the games character interaction happens through the radio with a character called Delilah, your character's boss.

With Firewatch each dialogue option can have a slight effect on the plot, it is largely linear with one ending but the actual plot points and some story details will differ slightly. An example of this is at the start of the game, where the game starts with a prologue explaining the background of the player's character 'Henry' where the player is given options like the breed of dog him and his wife got before and how Henry perceives his own physique, each decision factors into the character of Henry and affects how he talks and how he is spoken to, this is a theme which continues through the game.


The dialogue instead serves to help place the character in the world and help understand their thought processes, as well as helping to shape the character in different ways. Without the choice the game would just be a linear adventure and would be uninteresting, the dialogue choices help to complete the characters and add a contextual motivation for their decisions, even though the plot might not deviate much as a result. This is a different take on narrative games, where the focus is on moulding the personality of a character as opposed to using decisions to create complicated branching narratives, this means the designer still has the control of the overall story beats but the player can interpret each part of the story differently. It presents a new, intriguing idea for how narrative-driven games can work in a linear fashion.

Because the plot is quite linear it also uses a lot of misdirection to keep the player guessing on where the story is going, throwing in other plot points like government conspiracies, missing teens and the disappearance of a previous 'Lookout'. These plot points however don't often bear fruit and are fairly inconsequential when it comes to the end of the game, they don't matter as much as the core relationship between the player, Henry and Delilah. 

Another technique used for advancing the plot involves the jumping of time, which happens at certain points through the middle of the game. This done to establish how long Henry has been in his lookout post while using the contrast to the previous scenes to establish how the character dynamics are changing over time. Quick jump cuts are also in subtly building up tension and an unease over what is going on. 


Other points of interest

Firewatch does encourage a little exploration within it's world. The map essentially works similar to a classic point and click adventure map with linear paths leading around and interlinking with each other into different locations, with some areas blocked off until the player receives certain items like an axe or ropes at certain points of the story. There are also 'Cache Boxes' which contain extra snippets of backstory featuring two other characters called Dave and Ron, these are dotted around the map and sometimes key items for progression can be found in these boxes aswell as extra information that your map can be updated with.

I really enjoyed this game and it has given me great insight onto some narrative techniques I can employ, next I will be covering Inside by Playdead before moving onto Oxenfree which I am playing at the moment. Past that I will do more of a breakdown of certain mechanics I found use looking into within each game I have played.

Firewatch Screenshot


Sources:

1. CAMPO SANTO (2016) Firewatch. [Steam Online] PC. San Francisco: Campo Santo Productions LLC
2. BEAUTIFUL PIXELS Firewatch Review (2016) Prologue Screenshot. [Online Image] Available from: http://beautifulpixels.com/mac/firewatch-review/ [Accessed 02/11/16]
3. CAMPO SANTO (2015) Firewatch Hi-res screenshot: Meadow at sunset. [Online Image] Available from: http://blog.camposanto.com/post/131026941869/here-are-some-new-screenshots-from-firewatch-to# [Accessed 02/11/16]
4. CAMPO SANTO (2016) Campo Santo - Firewatch Game [Online Image] Available from: http://www.firewatchgame.com/ [Accessed 02/11/16]
5. CAMPO SANTO PRODUCTIONS (2014) Firewatch - August 2014 Reveal Trailer [Online Video] Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d02lhvvVSy8&feature=youtu.be [Accessed 02/11/16]

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Meeting 2 w Mike Pickton - Breaking down narrative games

This week I wanted to talk to Mike about the possibility of moving onto more research into the type of games I would like to make, and get into starting to create practical prototypes.
So far I have shown a progression in my research; from what is indie development, investigating how dev teams are built, talking to developers, the software and techniques they use and then how prototyping and experimentation factors in.
Now I am at a good point to move into analysing games and start to break them down for my own uses, but I needed an angle. After talking with Mike about the suggestions I got from people at Gamecity about small narrative games, moving forward it might be good to start to break down exactly what that is and establish what makes them work. Before I can implement their techniques inside some small game prototypes.


Feedback
  • Could split off techniques post a bit more and have some more research into why developers use certain tools over others
  • Look into narrative games next, breaking down the core components of the games I have looked at and look into applying that in some small experimental tests 

Objectives:
  • Start to analyse some narrative games, break down key points or design concepts that could be used
  • Create some game concepts using the analysis as a base

This next week should be quite fun as I get to play and watch some games. Now I am coming close to actually getting something practical running. My main question is also getting there aswell, now including all the main parts I have been researching, and with a focus on keeping it a practical based project: 'How can a small team create a narrative focused game using experimental gameplay and use this to create an indie studio?' It might need a bit of work yet, but over the next week or two it should be solid enough to include in the presentations and the learning contract.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Prototyping In Game Development!

In game development, prototypes are hugely beneficial. Essentially they are a test an idea or a concept, in a very simple rudimentary form, ideal for showing whether an idea has merit or will actually work. These can come in different forms: In a typical small piece of a program, with basic code to represent the idea or in a physical form like a paper prototype used to communicate the idea of the game before anything has been coded. (BORYSOWICH, 2007)

There are also different purposes of Prototypes, some of which are used in games in different ways:

  • Proof of concept/Concept Prototype - A high level prototype or overall vision, this in games is usually represented by the 'core game loop'
  • Feasibility Prototype - This is used to compare and contrast different solutions for specific situations, this is more relevant to technical approaches to the game as opposed to the design. For example: Comparing the feasibility of different lighting systems.
  • Horizontal Prototype - More commonly used as a way to define the function of various buttons, menus etc, can be visualised in a paper prototype. 
  • Vertical Prototype - A stripped down but working, complete system. Ready to implemented, usually data orientated. So something like a character inventory system that works, ready to be migrated to the main game.
  • Benchmark - A 'Visual' prototype, used for a projects art direction, materials and texturing. A small sample scene to demonstrate the potential look of a project

Why prototype?

A prototype is used for the purpose of finding the correct solution to a problem, to whether an idea will work or not. Without prototyping developers will be going in blind attempting to make a full game project with preconceived ideas on how things will work without actually knowing if it will. Prototyping is essential, especially if you are an indie developer looking to come up with experimental gameplay. Prototyping and experimentation goes hand in hand.

In a development cycle it is useful initially as a way to figure out all the core game mechanics in a controlled environment, without focusing on non-important elements. This is used to implement the 'core game loop' which I talk about here Core Game Loops, which is the highest level game mechanic which the player will be repeating through most of the game. In FPS games for example that may be running around and shooting enemies. When that basic feature is implemented and feels good to play then the next feature is worked on and prototyped. This iterative process is whats needed to construct a game.



The developers behind 'World Of Goo' created the initial game using rapid prototyping techniques they honed in the Experimental Gameplay Project. (2009) World Of Goo (2008) was originally a small game called 'Tower Of Goo' which was created by one person 'Kyle Gabler' during the experiment. After the experiment Tower Of Goo received huge praise and around 100,000 downloads, so development began on a full game using the same core concept.

Other uses

Prototypes are also useful in game pitches, where a playable prototype is used as a way for possible investors to judge whether they want to support a project or not, this can be seen on Indie-fund.com where they ask for a playable prototype to show the game's unique qualities.

Game-jams are a similar concept of building up a core game concept very quickly, quite often popular games in game-jams can go on to be released as full games down the line. This is the same situation for Sigtrap's SubLevelZero (2015), which started of itself as a game-jam project.


Sources:

1. Experimental Gameplay Project (2009) [Webpage] Available from: http://experimentalgameplay.com/ [Accessed 31/10/16]
2. GRAY, K. GABLER, K. SHODHAN, S. KUCIC, M. (2005) Gamasutra - How To Prototype A Game In Under 7 Days [Webpage] Available from: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/130848/how_to_prototype_a_game_in_under_7_.php [Accessed 31/10/16]
3. Sigtrap Games (2016) [Webpage] Available from: http://www.sigtrapgames.com/sublevelzero/ [Accessed 31/10/16]
4. 2D BOY (2008) World Of Goo [CD] PC. Mastertronic Group.
5. SIGTRAP GAMES (2015) SubLevel Zero [Online Steam] PC. Sigtrap games.
6. Prototyping at Hyperspeed (2015) Available from: http://gram.gs/gramlog/prototyping-at-hyperspeed/ [Accessed: 24/10/16].
7. BORYSOWICH, C. (2007) Prototyping: Types of Prototypes [Webpage] Available from: http://it.toolbox.com/blogs/enterprise-solutions/prototyping-types-of-prototypes-14927 [Accessed: 09/11/2016]

How are indie games made? Software and production methods

Like the actual formation of an indie studio the process of making them also differs slightly between studios as they make different types of games. For some smaller developers, a lot of the process is experimentation and tinkering with the project in spare time while moving to larger groups there could be more of a solid project structure in place. However, that isn't to say that there isn't something in common with all projects; certain things like project management methodologies, source control and file management are crucial to the successful running of a game project.

Game development is just like normal software development. Both require regular testing for usability and bug fixing, only games are more tailored for a specific experience of play as opposed to having a practical function. Also games include a much more artistic component; through extensive use of images, sound and graphics game development invests a lot more time on developing these assets.

Indie game development

Different studios work on different types of games, in indie dev this is more likely to come from the developers own background, previous strengths in certain software among other things. This results in the use of different software or techniques. 2D games are more likely to require pixel art for example and will use an engine that is more optimized for 2d levels like Unity or Game Maker, whereas 3d graphic intensive games are more likely to use game engines like Cryengine or Unreal 4. Some may even use their own custom engines for specific uses if they have a programmer on the team that can create it.
A lot of the tools used in development also depends on the teams budget, some engines and asset creation tools are free, making it perfect for starting out but teams that have more money behind them may have access to industry standard software like the Autodesk suite or Photoshop. (Francis, 2012)

Here is a list of commonly used programs in indie development, separated into engines and asset creation tools with a little bit of a description on each software's best uses:

A handful of the engines used in game development. (Pixel Prospector, 2014)


Game Engines

  • Game Maker - A 2d game editor used must commonly for creating 2d, retro feeling games
  • Construct 2 - A 2d game engine which can be used to create games for mobile or web
  • RPG Maker - A 2d top down, grid based engine used for creating classic RPG style games
  • Unity 5 - A 2d/3d general game engine that is most commonly used for mobile game development, very scalable
  • Unreal 4 - A 3d engine that features an intuitive visual scripting system, also is building on features for 2d games and VR
  • CryEngine - A high end 3d games engine for the most graphically intensive of games, includes a lot of high end features like real time GI lighting and translucency

Asset Creation Software

  • Gimp - A free image editing software, an alternative to photoshop with layer functions and pixel editing tools
  • Blender - A free 3d modelling and animation suite
  • Tiled Editor - A free, intuitive 2d tilemap editor with export functions into other programs
  • Autodesk 3ds max/Maya - Industry standard premium 3d software for creating models and animations
  • Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects etc) - Industry standard premium software for image editing, creating vector graphics and game fx. 
  • ZBrush - A premium 3d sculpting package, used in games for creating high detail models which can then be crunched down to a low poly 3d model using a process called baking

Project management methodologies

As I have mentioned before in my reflection on our game art final major project 'Guiding Sprites' on of the things that could have helped development along was a solid project management methodology. For development to go smoothly in most cases some type of methodology should be used, for example: Agile Scrum or Waterfall.

Agile v Waterfall (Segue Technologies, 2013)

Waterfall as a method means a linear progression in the project from concept and design then into production then into testing and debug at the end. Waterfall typically doesn't allow for much user feedback during the development cycle and usually works better when a solid game design is in place (for example, a sequel in a pre-established franchise) for newer, experimental concepts it might not be as suitable.

Alternatively, Agile works by having shorter development 'Sprints' which focus on an iterative product, focusing on releasing a packaged executable frequently and then using feedback from the previous cycle to feed the next sprint. This is a lot less risky to use on games with more newer concepts and is more commonly found in indie game development. An example of this kind of development can be seen in Minecraft, where a new playable version is released on a frequent basis with new features in each released build. (Segue Technologies, 2013)

Ideas for my game development

Moving forward I'm thinking it might be best to stick to my strengths in using Unreal Engine as I have a much better understanding of it compared to any other engine allowing me to get things done faster. However, I'm thinking as some practise trying out simple game concepts it might be beneficial to attempt some simple prototyping in Game Maker or Unity, if only for the sole purpose of representing ideas and help my understanding. I have a little previous experience using Unity so I may be able to navigate my way around the code again.
When it comes to software I am very accustomed to using the Adobe Suite and Autodesk suite as I have been using autodesk for around 3 years while I've been using the Adobe package since I was in school, so I am able to navigate through the software quite quickly using shortcuts. The problem with this software though is if we wanted to release a game after university for money using the assets we have created in with 3ds Max then we wouldn't be able to as the student license does not cover any commercial enterprises.
Some research will have to be done in that area in order to see if there might be a way we can continue using Autodesk, if not then we will have to raise fund for the full software or use free software as an alternative.

For project management, some implementation of Agile is preferred as it encourages an iterative project and a focus on keeping the game in a playable state. This kind of workflow is helped with source control, which is built around the concept of iteration. Waterfall would require too much of a commitment and might be more risky for us as we are not as well versed in actual game development, Agile would work better as it allows us to actually course correct and implement outside feedback on our games during the development.

Sources:

1. PIXEL PROSPECTOR – The Big List Of Game Making Tools (2014) Big-list-game-engines. [Online Image] Available from: http://www.pixelprospector.com/the-big-list-of-game-making-tools/ [Accessed 31/10/16]
2. SEGUE TECHNOLOGIES – Waterfall vs. Agile: Which is the Right Development Methodology for Your Project? (2013) Diagram. [Online Image] Available from: http://www.seguetech.com/waterfall-vs-agile-methodology/ [Accessed 31/10/16]
3. FRANCIS, T. (2012) PC Gamer - The Indies Guide To Game-Making [Article] Available from: http://www.pcgamer.com/the-indies-guide-to-game-making/ [Accessed 31/10/16]
4. PREISZ, E. (2012) Gamasutra - Waterfall Development Done Right [Article] Available from: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/181992/waterfall_game_development_done_.php [Accessed 31/10/16]
5. KEITH, C. (2007) GDC Vault - Agile Game Development [Presentation] Available from: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/638/Agile-Game [Accessed 31/10/16]
6. GALANAKIS, R. (2014) Gamasutra - Agile Game Development Is Hard [Article] Available from:  http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/RobGalanakis/20140219/211185/Agile_Game_Development_is_Hard.php [Accessed 31/10/16]
7. MCGUIRE, R. (2006) Gamasutra - Paper Burns: Game Design With Agile Methodologies  [Article] Available from: 
http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/131151/paper_burns_game_design_with_.php [Accessed 31/10/16]

Friday, 28 October 2016

Indie Developer Research Part 2 - How are indie dev companies built, and advice gained from Gamecity



Gamecity Festival (2016)

I needed to look into how indie game studios are started and how the teams are structured. For this, I headed to the Gamecity Festival; an arts festival where indie developers can go to to show their game to the public. National Video Game Arcade (2016) While there I talked to quite a few developers, all of which have different ways they have gotten into creating indie games, and this affects how each team's roles are split up into different areas.
Humblegrove is a team that is composed of two people with a background in Illustration, which serves their games art style. ZeroFiftyOne creates games on his own but has a background in computing: Button Frenzy (2016) Whilst developers like Small Impact (2016) have a larger team of around seven, including people who have been in industry for a while mixed with a few recent graduates. (Black Death)

29 by Humblegrove (Released early 2017)

From talking to these developers I have learnt that it is common for indie devs to crossover roles to what's needed to be done. As the games get larger so does the team and there is more of a requirement to specialise a little bit more. Small Impact despite being a slightly larger indie studio still has some crossover in terms of skillsets.

Most of the reason these studios seem to work so well is that each game they make plays to their skills. Humblegrove's game 29 (2016) is a good example of that because of it's gorgeous graphical art style. Because of the small size of the teams, each individual's skill or personality is reflected in how the studio operates and how the overall game looks and feels.

All The Delicate Duplicates

I also gained some other really great advice during the day which could be beneficial to me. When I asked developers what advice could they give to new indie studios a number of them said the same thing: Market the games as much as you create them. While talking about our FMP a number of them said it needs to be shown, even if it might be incomplete, as it gets people interested in possibly helping out with the rest of the development. A producer of the game All The Delicate Duplicates (To be released) gave me plenty of advice for things I should do, one of which is attending events with our games on a frequent basis. They are crucial for spreading knowledge of your game aswell as gaining valuable feedback about your game. Another point she mentioned was that of funding avenues and getting publishers, which will require some sort of business model to be prepared in advance along with a playable prototype and a game design document. I also heard this from another developer National Insecurities (2016) who also added about being careful with choice of publishers and be sure to shop around even when a deal looks certain.

My Observations

For our indie studio to work well it must do these things:

  • Have a strong unique point which sets it's games apart from others on the market, whether through art style, game mechanics etc
  • Marketing - All team members should have some sort of entrepreneurial quality to get their games out there , this is one of the biggest reasons indie games tend to fail is because people don't know about their games even if they might be great.
  • Enjoy the process of making the games
  • Have some sort of financial support system in place (I will be covering options for this in a future post down the line)
This following diagram I found on Gamasutra (2016) suggests a line of thought for deciding whether to start an indie game studio. After talking to developers at Gamecity I noticed that the decisions in this diagram are all thought about very carefully by developers and they come up with their own solutions to each stage.



Now if I were to approach this diagram with the idea of creating simple arcade-like mobile games I probably won't get as much creative mileage as I would from making the kind of games I enjoy, which are adventure games and narrative driven games. I thought before that making a game like that had to be really long and take a while to develop but I received some recommendations about games I should look, about small contained narrative games which can work up to a larger project down the line. I was told about a number of games like Thirty Flights of Loving (2012) and Gravity Bone (2008) by Blendogames, these games are very short but contain a clear story that is told very efficiently, the narrow scope allows the developer to really hone in on what matters most in the game.

I think as development goes forward I will concentrate on making more experimental gameplay of limited scope like this with a concept behind it as opposed to more arcade-like games. This should make an easier transition into my goal of doing more ambitious adventure style games later on down the line.

Sources:

1. NATIONAL VIDEO GAME ARCADE (2016) NVA Patrons. [Online Image] Available from: http://gamecity.org/patrons/ [Accessed 07/11/16]
2. HUMBLEGROVE 29 ITCH.IO (2016) 29 Screenshot. [Online Image] Available from: https://humblegrove.itch.io/29 [Accessed 07/11/16]
3. GAMASUTRA (2016) Starting An Indie. [Online Image] Available from: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/JeremyLam/20160414/270383/So_you_want_to_start_an_indie_studio.php [Accessed 07/11/16]
4. ALL THE DELICATE DUPLICATES (2016) Screenshot. [Online Image] Available from: http://allthedelicateduplicat.es/ [Accessed 07/11/16]
5. HUMBLEGROVE (2017) 29 [Online] PC. London/Tokyo: Humblegrove
6. DREAMING METHODS and MEZ BREEZE DESIGN (Release date to be confirmed) All The Delicate Duplicates [Online] PC. Dreaming Methods and Mez Breeze Design.
7. NATIONAL INSECURITIES (2016) Itch.Io - Disorient On The Murder Express [Webpage] Available fromhttps://nationalinsecurities.itch.io/disorient-on-the-murder-express [Accessed 07/11/16]
8. WILSON, B. (2016) Ben Wilson Portfolio [Webpage] Available fromhttp://www.ben-wilson.co.uk/portfolio/category/game-dev/ [Accessed 07/11/16]
9. PETLENKO, A. (2016) Gamasutra - Starting your own Game Development Studio One Year On [Webpage] Available fromhttp://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/AlexPetlenko/20160307/267328/Starting_Your_Own_Game_Development_Studio__One_Year_On.php [Accessed 07/11/16]  
10. MADSEN, R. (2014) Gamasutra - Starting an Indie Game Studio Part 1 [Webpage] Available fromhttp://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/RobertMadsen/20140731/222331/Starting_an_Indie_Game_Studio_Part_1.php [Accessed 07/11/16]
11. SMALL IMPACT GAMES (2016) GameCity Festival 2016 - Surviving Survival: Building a Community In Early Access [Online video] Available fromhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOtsHaZfM4Q [Accessed 07/11/16]
12. MARSH, D. (2008) Gamasutra - Nine paths to Indie Game Greatness [Webpage] Available fromhttp://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/131952/nine_paths_to_indie_game_greatness.php?print=1 [Accessed 07/11/16]  
13. CHUNG, B. (2016) BLENDO games [Website] Available from: http://blendogames.com/ [Accessed 07/11/16]  
14. BLENDO GAMES (2012) Thirty Flights of Loving [Online] PC. Blendo Games.
15. BLENDO GAMES (2008) Gravity Bone [Online] PC. Blendo Games.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Indie Developer Research Part 1 - What is an Indie Developer?

To further clarify what I need to do going forward I need to wind it back a little, looking into what an indie game developer actually is and as importantly what it isn't. This blog will serve as a bit of an investigation into how indie companies work and what makes them successful, picking out some examples now and again.

What is an indie developer?

This is a tough one to answer! Indie games have always suffered from this weird sort of identity crisis. Indie games have historical been small hobbyist developers, working in their own time.

This was until around 2008 with games like Braid, World Of Goo and Minecraft achieving massive success. These games changed the perception of what could be done with indie development and shifted it's meaning from typically meaning bedroom developer.

Minecraft shifted cultural perceptions of indie gaming when it was released, and made people aware of the fact that it could be a commercially viable option as opposed to working under publishers.

Originally indie meant 'Independent from Publishers' but now it has grown to include all sorts of categorisations. However, a lot of people class Journey for the PS3 to be Indie, but ThatGameCompany was under a publishing deal with Sony and partnership with Sony Santa Monica for that game. An indie game could include meaning a small team, but nowadays it is possible to see indie developers with larger team sizes. It could also mean big budgets as proven by games like The Witness, which was all money reinvested by Jonathan from the development of Braid.

There is still quite a lot of debate on what is a good definition of an indie game. A good example I found on Gamasutra (Gril, 2008) refers to the fact that an indie game is mostly about trying to present something brand new and innovative. This is a game conceived of by the developers, and not passed down by other means like a producer or investor.

According to this, Indie can refer to 'Independent thought' rather than just restricting the meaning to meaning away from mainstream publishers. With this distinction games like Journey and Child Of Light can fall into this category along with games like Hellblade with it's AAA budget.

Hellblade - Developers Ninja Theory class this as a 'Independent AAA production'
So because indie games can encompass a lot of different things, where do I focus my research? To find out the kind of games I will develop I need to research examples of the kind of games I want to make, finding out about how the teams behind those games are structured, and what kind of roles do they have within them.

In my next post I will start to break down some games that I would like to make, and figure out how different development teams are built up.

Sources:

1. YOUTUBE Ninja Theory (2016) Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – Senua Trailer. [Online Image] Available from: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/hL2RhY2vJes/maxresdefault.jpg [Accessed 27/10/16]
2. NINJA THEORY (Release date to be confirmed) Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice [Online] Playstation 4. Ninja Theory, Ltd.
3. GRIL, J. (2008) The State Of Indie Gaming [Webpage] Gamasutra. Available from: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3640/the_state_of_indie_gaming.php [Accessed 27/10/16]
4. THATGAMECOMPANY (2012) Journey [Online] Playstation 3. Los Angeles, CA: Sony Computer Entertainment
5. MOJANG AB (2011) Minecraft [Online] PC. Stockholm. Microsoft Studios. 
6. MINECRAFT FORUM (2012) Minecraft Classic! + Link to Play! [Online Image] Available from: http://www.minecraftforum.net/forums/minecraft-discussion/discussion/173387-minecraft-classic-link-to-play [Accessed 27/10/16]
7. GILBERT, R. (2014) What is an indie developer? [Weblog] Grumpy Gamer Blog. 18th April. Available from: http://grumpygamer.com/what_is_an_indie [Accessed 27/10/16]
8. BLOW, J. ANDERSON, E. ANTONIO, L. BEL, S. CASTAƑO, I. SMITH, A. SPANYOL, O. (2016) [Weblog] The Witness Dev Blog. Available from: http://the-witness.net/news/ [Accessed 20/10/2016].

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Meeting 1 w Mike Pickton - Starting my research

As part of my masters I am required to write out a summary of the meetings I have with tutors each week; writing down feedback and setting an agenda and outcomes for the next week. This is to get an idea of my progress and hopefully course correct along the way as I need it. So this could be extremely helpful.

In my first meeting with Mike Pickton we discussed the direction of my research. At the moment I have summarised my work in the FMP, provided some thoughts on it, as well as continuing and providing some research on prototyping but more specifically to how prototyping should involving creating an engaging core game loop. But before I get to more work on that I need to answer some other questions first. Mike suggested splitting my research up into a few areas, which will allow me to add things relevant to each and saves perhaps unrelated things being jumbled up into one blog post.

The focus right now is to find out more about indie developers, their structure, how they work so I can use this information to come up with solution to what I need to be working on.

Below is a list of all the feedback I received, with the key three areas receiving a blog post each then others following on from that:

Feedback

Indie development
  • What is an indie developer?
  • Find games similar to ones I like and research them, break them down
  • How is a indie dev team structured?
  • What are the roles involved in an indie studio?
  • Research people to find out more about their roles
  • Dev blogs, GDC talks and Gamasutra for information on indie development relevant to the areas I find interesting

Technique
  • How do indie developers create their games, kind of related to roles.
  • Investigate what techniques or processes are involved
  • What engines or software do these studios use?

Prototyping - More of an offshoot of technique but more specific to how I will be starting off my projects
  • What is a prototype?
  • Why do we prototype?
  • When do you stop prototyping?

Objectives
  • A blog post on each key area with my posts expanding on certain interesting points of research
  • Measure some of the scope of games, density etc.. effect on team size, include some research into team roles of companies of different sizes
  • Outcomes - diagrams, flowcharts of how indie companies work and some of their main processes
Next weeks agenda

  • How to transition into starting the experimental prototyping stage
  • Aim to begin practical work

Monday, 24 October 2016

Game Design! - Core game loops and rapid prototyping

A fresh start this week, finally getting into some actual work. Today I began designing and prototyping a small game. Beforehand though I dived into some research on good practices just so I know what kind of things to focus on. The first thing I looked at is the idea of core game loops.

Core Game Loop of Super Mario, the main part being the running and jumping along map. - By Ethan Stanaway https://prezi.com/gyqljrywdmzu/super-mario-bros-core-game-loops-and-reward-structures/
Core game loops are at the centre of every game you could think of. It is essentially the action you will be repeating all the time while playing the game. So essentially while prototyping for a game the best thing to do is prototype the core game loop, iterate it, refine it and perfect it because if it's not fun or at least doesn't have potential then it's not worth continuing. This makes prototyping a very good indicator on whether a game idea has any value or not.

Using this knowledge I aim to create a simple game, where I will focus on making an interesting core game loop. This should be more in the form of something interesting to play with like a toy, and when that is perfected I can add win/lose situations, scoring and other little bits which make the game feel like a whole.

I'm going to approach this as I would a gamejam, giving myself a couple of days to complete the game, if I can't make it interesting in that time then it's not worth pursuing with the idea. Below is a simple process I will be going through:

  • Get game idea/theme, extrapolate themes and possible meanings and explore ideas
  • Create 'paper' prototype - I will be doing this a bit different, I have my Lego Serious Play set with me in the labs so I will be creating a physical prototype of the mechanics using that, keeps things very fun and intuitive and saves me cutting up paper.
  • Write down basic game loop and begin to create base code in UE4
  • Refine basic gameplay and test, iterate and test again, doing small course correcting as needed
This first attempt I'm not expecting to be anything special as I'm just looking to get more of a feel for rapid prototyping in UE4 but this will still be an excellent learning process. The aim here is to fail fats and fail hard before the cool concepts to start to emerge.

Sources:

1. Tips and Lessons leanred from 7500+ hours of solo game development. Part 1: Prototyping - GameDev Reddit (2016) Available at: https://www.reddit.com/r/gamedev/comments/426148/tips_and_lessons_learned_from_7500_hours_of_solo/ [Accessed: 24/10/16].
2. GRAY, K. GABLER, K. SHODAN, S. KUCIC, M. (2005) How to Prototype a Game in Under 7 Days - Gamasutra. Available at: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/130848/how_to_prototype_a_game_in_under_7_.php [Accessed: 24/10/16].
3. LLOPIS, N. (2010) Prototyping: You’re (Probably) Doing It Wrong - Games From Within. Available at: http://gamesfromwithin.com/prototyping-youre-probably-doing-it-wrong [Accessed: 24/10/16].
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