Tuesday, 1 November 2011

ConQuest Update - "Smart" Enemies



Or at least enemies which have two states. In their inactive state, they roam around on their own. When the player comes within a certain range of them, they activate and start to chase the player.
Big thanks to Chad Sexington (sic) of neoseeker’s RPG Maker XP forums for help with this. I should really be making a better effort to learn how to program this stuff myself, but his assistance was really great. 
Since this was scripted using RPGMaker's event system, I may need to take this out and replace with a script later. Reason being, with too many parallel processes going on at once I may get lag in the game. I'll wait and see.

Now that this is pretty much out of the way, what’s next?
Battle systems, I think. I’m going to start looking into them this Thursday after my exams - preferably a system which involves less bashing of the button to go through menus and select the same attack every time.
I’ve bookmarked another site/forum to help me with this stuff, but I’d really like to be able to customise this a little bit. Which is a big ask because I am terrible at programming/scripting. But I’ll try anyway!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

ConQuest Update - Level Design and Mapping

This is really two updates in one, I think.

First off, here's a timelapse of me mapping out a screen/area/level. Or half of one, at least. This was over the course of about an hour.



Here's what I did today - a bit of post processing with some fog effects. Just to give the place a bit more atmosphere.










I also figured out how to work treasure chests properly, though I guess that wasn't too big of an accomplishment - just a short move route and a switch statement. But I hunted down some custom sound effects for them anyway which were pretty cool, if I may say so myself.

This forest area has another few screens/areas for me to finish. Two large maps, along with a couple of small ones. It's grown quite a bit since my initial plans, but I like it better this way. Feels more like a place you could get lost in and an actual dungeon-ey type area, rather than a few screens players are able to rip through with ease.

I'm hoping to draw up some more character/enemy sprites soon... but map making is proving quite addictive at this stage. Whatever happens, I'll keep you guys updated.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Back from the dead!

Okay so I'm back again. Long time no see! University studies got the best of me even though I probably should have kept updating this blog anyway.

So today, a bit of housekeeping.

  • For starters - Convention Quest is still in development. 
I know I haven't updated since July, but don't worry - I have not forgotten about this project. I'm still close to this idea and I've shown it off to a few friends and classmates at uni now, and received a pretty good response which has further motivated me to finish it.

I'll post some screencaps or video updates another time. There's just been a lot of planning on paper behind where exactly I want the game to go. At one point I think I gave the game a bit too much of a serious tone, so I'm trying to get that back in the right direction too.

  • During my Uni semester I also worked on another game, which I'm calling Ultra Ordinary Lad for now.
This was a fast 2D platformer developed in Construct 2. Most of it was made in 12 hours, but I then decided to take it a bit further by adding new attacks, animations etc. I'll probably get back to this project eventually and I'll post a proper update about it on this blog soon. Here's a screenshot for now:


  • Last thing - don't expect too many updates from me until 2nd November, as I have one final exam then.
That's all for now, though. I'm keeping this update relatively brief so that I can at least publish it.

- Nathan

Saturday, 23 July 2011

ConQuest Development Blog - Day 21

Pretty soon I'm not going to have much time to work on this game at all, so I've got to pick up the pace a bit. My initial goal was to create a prototype of a game in 30 days, and I'm still working towards that. Today's going to be a formal update on how I've been doing with lots of screenshots and stuff. Might have to break this into two parts or something, actually.

Map Changes




Remember the first train scene? Here's what I've done with it. I basically drew out some maps on paper first and tried to visualise exactly how the player was going to get to the convention, and an underground train station in a city seemed like a better fit. Barrels and other junk are placeholder sprites. The stairs at the bottom of the screen actually function like escalators - move onto one and it will move the player in the appropriate direction without triggering their movement animation.




Full long-shot of the next screen. Final thing will have cars on the roads and traffic lights at the intersection. There's a few weird bugs I need to fix up with this section also.




Next screen - "park" which turns out to be your typical RPG forest area. Notice how the trees in the top screenshot look like trees and the ones in the bottom screenshot are all glitchy. This is because RPG maker only gives me four layers to work with including the event layer - so it's definitely not easy to layer trees nicely.



Next screen, also not fixed up. This is where all the enemies start to show themselves.



Next screen, and last bit of the forest area. There's a fork in the path because of some story stuff which I haven't scripted yet.



Out of the park finally. A boss fight is set to occur here.

Game Balance
Other stuff I've been working on so far - game balance. That includes character attributes and stats, item and weapon attributes, enemy stats -- all that backend stuff in an RPG which involves numbers and crap like that.

When I first opened RPG maker, the numbers weren't really to my liking. They were fairly well balanced - but each character had a three-digit number of hit points and other attributes in the 50s. This isn't all that big of a problem, but in my opinion it's better to keep these stats simple where possible. 40 HP and 5 attack/defense/etc works just as well and is much easier for the player to keep track of.

Same goes with armor. Now, I understand that some players like to stack the special effects of a few different pieces of armor, but that's really not what this game is going to be about. So ideally I want to get rid of shields, helms and plates so that characters only equip different armor types. Then (hopefully!) I'll be able to get these armors to affect character appearance. (I realise I've been spelling armour wrong this whole time but I don't like red lines and the engine spells it as armor, so whatever)

Can't be bothered writing too much more tonight, so goals for tomorrow:
  • script events for trainRoute05, trainRoute06 involving boss and story events.
  • create a draft item/armor/weapon list
  • finish a boss character sprite

Friday, 8 July 2011

ConQuest Development Blog - Day 7-8

Day 7:
Again, today was very laid back and not too much progress was made. But I hope that if I can make little adjustments each day and every day, I’ll reach my goal in the end.
I’ve shown yesterday’s video to a few more friends now, and the feedback has been pretty damn positive overall. That’s really encouraging stuff.  Yesterday morning I was really worried that this was too niche a project; that this was an idea that only I would think was cool. So using a test audience in this way has been rather helpful.

I don’t have any screenshots today so my update’s going to be a bit boring. I started off by fixing up some of the game’s script as well as a couple of bugs. No new additions, though.
I then got to work on some of the game’s lore and backstory. Plus character design. I don’t think I have created any original characters like this in a looooong time, but I’ll save the sketches and stuff from you for now. Trust me - majority of them so far have been pretty shitty!

Goals for tomorrow:
  • Finish writing up a basic story
  • Finish my second enemy sprite
  • Work on the maps a bit more
Day 8:

Today was pretty productive, but I didn’t actually put too much new stuff into the game.
My problem at the moment is with the player character and how I’ve made some pretty contradictory design choices.

I’ve allowed the player to name the character and I continually refer to the character as “YOU” at the start of the game. But at the same time, I’ve given the character a personality and interests and even made them talk. It just shouldn’t work that way!

But I digress. I’ll figure that bit out soon. Mostly through ~dialogue choices~, which I haven’t used too much of just yet.

---

Today. Progress. I didn’t do any spriting… again. But I worked on the dialogue for characters that were in my last WIP video. Each time I wrote a few lines, I would start playing the game just to check how things were - then edit the lines. Sometimes I’d edit because they were too boring and needed more punch, other times I would simply break up the words, space them out a bit and work on the formatting so that each line was easy to read. RPG Maker doesn’t make this very easy in some cases, though.

The other thing I tried today was working on what’s commonly known as a sawtooth in level design. The saw tooth is that point in a level where something happens to prevent you from going back the way you came. It’s important in many cases that players are shown what their boundaries are. An example of a game I was playing recently which could have used more sawteeth in its level design - Half Life 2. In the beach area, you’re required to keep your buggy with you for a lot of the level since it allows you to make long jumps across large crevasses. At one point I didn’t realise I needed to shoot a wall to allow my buggy to get through, so I ended up traversing most of the level on foot. Then - half an hour later down the beach or so - I realised I needed my buggy again, and thus started a long trek back for the thing.



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This level here might not make much sense at the moment - it’s just a collection of stumps and mossy rocks. But think this way - each group of rocks or stumps represents a car in the game, within a carpark. Down the bottom is a “car” which will park into a vacant space when the player reaches a certain point on screen. This will block off their passage back to the start of the game. This would be a lot simpler with a diagram, so I apologise now for any confusion!

Goals for tomorrow:
  • edit the script and add dialogue choices. Player character should have little background story
  • add the next few map screens
  • do some goddamn sprite work like I promised for the last couple of days

Thursday, 7 July 2011

ConQuest Development Blog - Day 6



I'm quite disappointed in my lack of progress today. I'm hoping I can remedy this soon, though. Progressed alright since I started writing this. Hoping to have a playable demo of the game up in the next few days. Hopefully!

Heeeere's a link to a video of my progress, if you haven't seen it already.

I realised today that because RPG Maker allows for mp3s, it's possible for me to do voice recording for some of the lines of dialogue. I'm not sure if I'll actually end up doing this, but it's just something cool to keep in mind for later.

Some of my goals that I set yesterday included the creation of more art assets - sprite sheets for L on the map, as well as more character graphics for the battles. As cool as it is to have the L sprite finally in the game, I need to keep reminding myself not to focus on art assets alone. They just slow down development to a crawl when I'm working on them on my own.

The other thing with the spritesheets is that I can't just edit the pre-existing ones for the characters I need. I mean it's a plausible solution but a lot of effort for what it's worth - the art style of the default sprites isn't even that great to begin with.

ANYWAY. I look back and some of these blog entries and realise that I might have left some of you readers quite confused about what I'm doing with this game. Or at least, what it's meant to be about.
At this stage it's really hard to convey what's going on in my head. I might have to write up a more formal design document soon, otherwise I won't make much progress with the engine anyway because I won't have any direction.

Okay, first I'll sum up what I've already said or covered in some way:
  • Convention Quest is meant to convey the experience of being at a geek convention
  • The game follows a group of con-goers who, as part of their enjoyment of the convention, enjoy to cosplay. That is, dress up as their favourite characters
  • The gist of the story is that these conventions are overrun by unsavory types. I have yet to give these a name within the game, but they are the enemies you will encounter. They are the dark side of conventions, they are what makes it hard to attend a convention while keeping sane.
Unsavory types may include "glomping" fangirls, squealing fans, furries, elitist cosplayers, people who bring weapons, people who think they actually are anime characters, poor cosplayers and hambeasts. etc etc. It's really hard to explain these unless you've actually been to one of these conventions, but I'm hoping that the game will be able to sum them up for me.
  • The goal will be to fight through these enemies to find the root of the evil and destroy it, and hopefully bring happiness to the conventions again or some shit like that.
One thing that I haven't talked about so far which I'm hoping to implement later - different costumes for each player. Costume Quest already did this so it's not all that original. But I figured if I'm going to have a game involving cosplay then I may as well have different skins for each of the main characters. Suggestions are welcome here.

Oh right, well yesterday I said I wasn't going to do a name entry screen but I did it today anyway. And I think the game is probably better off for it. But at the same time, it's given me a couple of bugs that I'll have to iron out tomorrow. Le sigh.
Goals for tomorrow:
  • work on the next map screen after the L fight (this is hard, I'll explain why tomorrow)
  • write out more lore and player background stuff
  • Finish a second enemy asset that I started work on today.
  • Try spriting. Just a bit. (I found some nice bases on a site with a tutorial to work with)

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

ConQuest Development Blog - Day 5



Here’s some game art that I did today. This is L from Death Note, if you couldn’t tell - be it from being unfamiliar with the material or just because my art is crap. If you go to a con you will see these guys EVERYWHERE, because it is the easiest closet cosplay to do (he’s a pretty cool character also but that’s beside the point). It seemed appropriate that I use him as a mook. He’ll probably be the first enemy that the player encounters.

The trouble I have with this guy, though, is that I want to be able to show that this is a bad cosplay somehow. I gave him the wrong hair (shape and colour is off) but it’s still really hard striking a balance between recognisable and bad. I don’t think I’ve ever had to work with this kind of challenge when creating artwork before.

There’s one other thing I’ll have to look out for later on with RPG maker, and that’s the resolution of characters in the game. RPG Maker won’t let you resize assets within the engine, and the default resolution is absolute rubbish. As in, it’s impossible to tell what’s in L’s hand if it wasn’t hard enough already, and his face is obscured a bit also.


 Otherwise, today I didn’t do much. But I did make a decision to simplify the first area of the game, and I’m thinking about taking it even further tomorrow, too.



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I don’t want to post a comparison shot, so I’ll just say that this is different to how I had things before. There’s only one set of stairs now - I didn’t want the player to be distracted by the right side of the screen. I think there are better ways to do hidden items etc than what I was doing before.
I’m going to get rid of a lot of the NPCs on this screen too - they provide a bit too much unnecessary clutter and distract the player from progressing.

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This is screen 2. You may notice my affinity for tree stumps. Nothing special, just an easy way to map out how I want paths to look before adding proper sprites and objects etc. This one’s linear, but I want the player to take a scenic journey and soak things up for a while. I might end up expanding this actually, since it scrolls off screen but doesn’t go too far. Let the music play out a bit more before the next big event.

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More tree stump love. Here’s when (hopefully) the player notices something is up. I’ve cut all the crap with the scenic route through the forest - this is a funnel used to guide the player into a mandatory battle. The tutorial fight, and first bit of story.


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Here’s L in the game. Or… “Plain-Clothed Squatter” as I’ve named him for now. As I said in the previous blog, he’s the mook of the game - the goomba. The rattata.
But yeah, that’s all for now. Unfortunate that I wasn’t able to get more done.

Goals for tomorrow:
  • give background for the main characters, then draw up concept art for each
  • edit a sprite sheet for L
  • edit the first few screens of the game and clean them up

Monday, 4 July 2011

ConQuest Development Blog - Day 4

I know these posts are fairly close together and there's a lot of reading here, but I'm trying to catch up with them since I've been posting them on a tumblr blog at the same time. Anyway -


Four days down already! This time around I have a video to do the talking for me. I’ll try to figure out how to package files properly for a playable demo by the end of this week. :D



Yeah, that’s the game so far. Today I...

1. Created the recruitment  scene for Snake. Worked out pretty easily without too many hassles at all, actually. (Snake is a placeholder name btw, it was just because the sprite in particular sort of looked like Solid Snake)

2, Figured out how to do public switches, or Control Switches as RPG Maker calls them. Before I was using private switches, called Self Switches. I still use these, but now in conjunction with public ones.

Why are they used? When using a private switch, you are only working with one event. Public switches allow you to control stuff outside of the event they’re contained in.

An example of a public switch would be when changing the dialogue of other characters after an event has occured. I make sure Snake doesn’t let you recruit him until after you have talked to Franziska (again, placeholder name).



image
Here's a picture. Because bitches love pictures. This is just the editor with the first map.



3. Edited the map and tileset.
I had already done this to a larger extent with past RPG Maker projects, I just needed a quick refresher. I had to resist the temptation to go all out, though. While I’m more familiar with the art side of things, I can guarantee that this project would get no where if I focused on art alone. Maybe at a later time.

Despite this I sort of regret not having a train there for the first shot. Even if it was a crappy one. It just doesn’t really work without one. :C

4. Finished a custom battler sprite
This is the first of hopefully many cameos in the game. I wanted to capture the feeling of being at a convention and recognising a lot of characters from famous games - even if you didn’t necessarily know their names. Real fans of the games will be able to recite names with ease, though. So instead I plan on using fun, descriptive names for the characters which don’t state outright who they are.
If you’ve played the Pikmin games before, think to the item names. As the player you already recognise the items and have your own names for them, but the in-game names were quite humorous (at least, to me). The below examples are hardly the best, I mean one object was a freaking Duracell Battery, but they’ll have to do.


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That’s the sort of idea I’m going for with enemy and NPC names. But I really want to stray away from everyday adjectives and nouns. “Fat” and “Stupid”, for example. Even using the word Hambeast for certain characters - as good of a word as it is - it doesn’t feel like it fits in with the rest of the writing style I’m going for.

Oh right. Well, here’s the sprite that I managed to finish, anyway. I posted it on its own yesterday. I’m pretty happy with this art style overall, but I may need a tablet soon - drawing this out with a mouse absolutely KILLED my wrist.
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Goals for tomorrow:
  • you know what, screw the name entry screen. I’ll probably just give the main character his own name, since he speaks on his own and has a character of his own. I don’t really understand games that let you name a character after yourself, then give the character history without your consent.
  • continue to flesh out the first few areas of the game like the second screen. Add tutorial fights, more NPCs.
  • Write out a proper story. I have to be careful with this one, though - I don’t want to spend too much time doing stuff that isn’t directly involved with the engine.
  • create another enemy sprite which can actually be used and isn’t just a character cameo

ConQuest Development Blog - Day 3

Today was a little bit of a let down. After working most of the day, I had one of those moments where I somehow managed to overwrite my project file. Not cool.
So on one hand, I don’t have much to physically show for my progress today. But I’m still able to list what I’ve learned with the program.

1. Switches
Switches are used to trigger one event the first time you do something, then another different event when you do it again.

The first way I implemented this was with a hidden treasure. The first time the player clicks on a box, they get 100 Gold as a reward. The next time, they get a message like “Nothing more to be found”.



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Originally I had set these treasures up so that their event would be deleted after it was activated, but this wasn’t a good thing. If the player exited the screen and came back then the event would reset, aka INFINITE MONEYS. Also using this as a solution was bad since I couldn’t add a separate event like an error message or just alternative text.

2. Use of images and other cool stuff for speech bubbles
This was one problem I ran into early on with the prototype. When talking to NPCs, it was really hard for me to show exactly what was speech, and what was internal narration or backchat from the player character.

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So here I have a test image displayed next to my NPC’s speech. This is the most basic option - there’s also options for animated images as well as little pop-outs which show the character’s name. Aaaaand a whole heap of other stuff that I won’t go into, it was the character image and name pop-out which were the main goodies.

For the record I owe DustCollecter of rmxpunlimited.net for this script. Pretty handy stuff!

3. Scripting character movement (both player character and NPC)
One of my original goals for today was to script the opening game “cutscene”. And I was managing it pretty well until my files got lost!

Using a whole string of different event commands in conjunction with each other, I was able to script the opening cutscenes which involved specific movement of characters, pauses and dialogue. Getting it set up in the first place probably didn’t take too long overall - it was mainly the tweaking and repositioning of events to get everything *just* right which took the longest.

There was one problem I faced which I couldn’t quite figure out, though. I ended up changing the way the opening event played out because of it. When I was controlling singular characters at a time with scripts, I seemed to be able to let them keep walking until they had disappeared off-screen. When I controlled a group of characters’ movement with one script, they would stop together at the edge of the screen no matter what I did with their separate movement patterns.

4. RPG Maker XP accepts mp3 files for music, not just midi files.
I swear earlier versions of the program couldn’t do this! In any case - this poses a bit of a dilemma for me. Some of the midi files I’ve been using are actually pretty cool in terms of bass, and they fit the project a bit better. But they’re not as easy for me to edit. May have to worry about this more when I stop using placeholder music.

That’s about it for today, though - still enough to make for a fairly long blog!

Goals for tomorrow:
  • Redo the opening cutscene
  • Create some custom sprites, and/or look into alternate resources
  • Figure out how the armour system is going to work (I have ideas for this, but I’ll share them a little later)
  • Name entry screen! Still haven’t figured this out

Sunday, 3 July 2011

ConQuest Development Blog - Day 2

So, hey again. Long time no see, huh?
 
This here's is my development blog for ConQuest, a small game that I hope to be able to finish and publish in the not-too distant future. Just as a test of my skills and to try and learn how to script using a program I haven't gotten too deep into before.
 
I actually only started developing ConQuest yesterday, after thinking up the basic idea just over a week ago. I downloaded RPG Maker XP, or at least the trial, then set to work. My goal: create a decent game prototype within the 30 days that I have with the program, working little by little each day. Hopefully by the end I’ll have something I can publish for my followers to download. I’ll post bits and pieces along the way and try to document the process as extensively as I can.

Okay, so what exactly is ConQuest then? I basically had an idea of a game which summed up the atmosphere of your average geek convention. At first it started as a project showcasing all of the different people you could learn to hate at these conventions, from your typical hambeast to your hetalia fan to your Vic Mignogna fangirl and so on. But then it started feeling a bit too hateful, and I began to wonder whether I was just making a game for myself and whether anyone else would really want to play it. So I decided to show both sides of the spectrum instead.

I’ve mainly been busy figuring out the ins and outs of the program so far, so I don’t have all of the story arcs fleshed out yet. I think the initial idea was to have a game where you had to fight through a bunch of hambeasts or other such irksome con-goer before eventually getting to their queen and defeating them. So something like that, perhaps, but happier.

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Here’s a screenshot of the editor, and my first test level as it appears in the editor. Last time I used RPG maker I barely learned anything because I didn’t persevere with event creation - this was one of the first things I made sure I learned this time around.

Each of the little grey boxes above represents an event of some sort. Most are just text based - others will consist of a combination of things. Shaking the screen, making a flash, playing certain music, causing a battle to start - all that kind of stuff.

Ideally, the end game is going to have a *lot* of flavour text for players to be able to go through. The difficult part is that I want to give the game a humorous tone, and humour is one of the hardest things to achieve with videogames. I’m foreseeing a lot of script changes to get things right.

If you’ve seen the short film on youtube called College Saga? That’s the kind of tone I want to go for in terms of parody on the genre and whatnot. If you haven’t seen it, rectify your mistake as soon as possible. Watch it!

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Here’s how the battle screen looks, for those who haven’t used RPG Maker XP before. Static images of your fighters on the bottom and images of enemies up the top.

I realise it’s not too flashy, but it’s good enough for a small project like the one I’m working on here. The images here are placeholders FYI, and I don’t think I’ll be creating any enemy sprites which go this tall, either. The engine has animations for attacks which is good enough for me, though. Remember oldschool Pokemon? It’s a lot like that.

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Aaaand here’s one last screenshot for the day. Here’s hopefully how the game will start out, with you and a few buddies getting off a train out the front of the place. Placeholder art, again.

Goals for tomorrow:
  • script a “Name Entry” screen, before the player gets control
  • script a scene where the train rolls into the station and the player’s buddies run off, before the player gets control
  • finish the creation of an enemy sprite for battle
Feel free to leave feedback in replies or reblogs or in my ask box or whatever. Thanks for reading!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Story and Writing in Games #3: Deadly Premonition

Deadly Premonition might be a bit of a controversial addition to this series of blogs, at least among those who know its name. The game was released in February 2010 and has achieved cult status after some of the mixed praise it received. IGN called it the definition of a system seller - "once you play it, you'll want to go sell your system". Other reviews since then have been kinder, some sites like Destructoid even deciding to give it their top honours and a perfect 10/10 score.

Detective Francis York Morgan. Call him York.


Deadly Premonition follows detective Francis York Morgan as he travels to a rural town of Greenvale to solve a mystery murder case. When zombie-like creatures that only he can see start sprouting out of the ground upon his arrival, it's clear that there's something supernatural going on behind these murders.

The game utterly reeks of Twin Peaks - hell, Greenvale itself is a recreation of the same town which was used to shoot the show. The gameplay is, admittedly, terrible and the controls are at times unbearable. The graphics don't look acceptable for a game from five years ago, and the music has a habit of playing the wrong tunes at the most inappropriate of times. But - at least in my opinion - the story has enough twists and enough of a payoff at the end to make it worthy of playing.

I don't really want to focus on the story today as much as I want to focus on one particular character, though. Francis York Morgan is one of the most interesting player characters I have ever seen in a game - perhaps even my all time favourite. More details after the jump, but be warned that there may be significant plot details below. (or not. I often can't bring myself to spoil a good story... but just in case:)


Thursday, 16 June 2011

General Update - 16th June 2011

Okay, so my semester of university study is actually over this time. For reals. Had my programming exam Tuesday afternoon, and think I went fairly well. I know I got some stuff wrong like an algorithm for one of the early questions, but I wrote it out in pseudo code and java anyway just to prove I knew some stuff. It's going to be a while before I get my results back, though.

But now that everything's done, I have a few weeks to do some work in my spare time. Build up my portfolio a little, learn some new programs and work on a few projects of my own.

I went down to the local library last week and picked up one of Stephen King's short story compilations, since I hadn't read anything in a while and wanted a bit of inspiration for a psychological horror-based game. So far I haven't had inspiration for that - but his works have inspired some ideas for other small games that I might be able to work on myself. Hopefully I'll be able to do enough with them to be able to pitch something by next  year. At the very least, I want to be able to come up with a few different game concepts to file away that I can bring out when the time is right.

I've started playing around with Flash again since holidays started. I've created a few simple programs so far, and it's proving hard to keep myself from rushing ahead at times. Last night I tried grabbing someone's code for a Pong game, but even though I could see which parts of it didn't work so well and which parts of the design I wanted to improve, my knowledge of Actionscript 3.0 just wasn't enough.

A Flash Program I wrote demonstrating a few basic skills - importing objects to the stage from a library, drawing shapes using ActionScript, creation of working buttons, rotation of objects using code - all that sort of basic crap.


I think the other problem is that for the past six weeks or so I've been learning Object Orientation with Java. So when I jump back to basic code, regardless of the language, it just seems really messy and gross to work with. Especially when the programmers don't format their code right or name variables terribly vague things or whatever.

I don't have much else to say today, but I wanted to post an update anyway. So I think I'll finish with a motivational quote from Jesse Schell, in his book "The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses" - just something that I read today which felt pretty inspiring, but also felt like it could be applied to any field and not just game design.

"Well, here is a little secret about gifts. There are two kinds. First, there is the innate gift of a given skill. This is the minor gift.
[...]
The major gift is love of the work. If you have the major gift, the love of designing games, you will design using whatever limited skills you have. And you will keep doing it. And your love for the work will shine through, infusing your work with an indescribable glow that only comes from the love of doing it. And through practice, your game design skills, like muscles, will grow and become more powerful, until eventually your skills will be as great, or greater than, those of someone who only has the minor gift. And people will say "Wow. That one is a truly gifted game designer." They will think you have the minor gift, of course, but only you will know the secret source of your skill, which is the major gift: love of the work."

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Story and Writing in Games #2 - Braid

Yeah, I decided I'd continue this series because it's fun, plus I've been getting some interesting feedback and comments on these blogs from both friends and casual readers.

[On that note - feel free to comment with your opinions on these blogs, especially if you have a different view on things - I won't bite. I'm a young uni student with a passion for learning about game design, I'm not trying to write these as some know-it-all god of creating games. I'll let you be the judge of that once I actually put out a game of my own. For now, though, any feedback is appreciated, especially thought provoking comments and questions that don't just agree with everything I have to say.]

Anyway, enough of that. Today I'm going to be talking about a little game known as Braid, designed by independent developer Jonathan Blow. I've mentioned Braid several times in this blog already and it's one of my favourite games, so I guess it just made sense to me that I'd write about it in a little more detail.

Braid's interactive title screen


Braid is a downloadable puzzle-platformer revolving around time manipulation. It only spans about six hours, maybe less if you're really smart (or if you happen to cheat with GameFAQs, I guess). It's available to download on the PC, Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network, and I'd strongly recommend you to pick it up as soon as possible if you haven't already. You should probably download before reading further anyway, since there may be significant plot details revealed below.


E3 2011

Because there was no way I'd personally be able to make a game design blog without making some sort of comment on E3.

I've kept up with the conferences of E3 for the past 5 years or so, 2006 - year of the Giant Enemy Crab and Riiiidge Racer - being the furthest back I can remember. Of course I had heard of the expo before then, I just hadn't been so interested in keeping up to date with all of the announcements, especially when I had to stay up so late to see them. This year I watched all of three of the main conferences - I didn't mind missing EA, Activision and Ubisoft's too much.

Microsoft's conference was a real bummer, even more so than last year since I thought they would have looked past Kinect a bit by now. A bunch of third party games were utilising its features but, as usual, they just seemed gimmicky and awful. The voice commands in Mass Effect - while a cool show of the technology - were really pointless and not something I'd want to be shouting in my living room whether by myself or with friends/family. Most of the time it seems like designers are just using voice, touch and motion control to substitute the use of a button. Bad substitution, I might add.

I'll probably buy Gears 3. I didn't finish Halo CE too long ago so I'm not sure about the HD remake, and I still have to get through Halo 2 and 3 so Halo 4 wasn't too exciting. As I said though, the conference was a bummer.

I woke up early with about four hours' sleep for Sony's conference, and it turned out being a little better. The Playstation Vita looks like a nice step up from the PSP to compete with the Nintendo 3DS, but even then I couldn't help but think the thing was dead on arrival.

In terms of games for the handheld, I felt a bit conflicted. Uncharted looked great for a portable game - but it was also at the point where I'd rather just be playing it on my television with a controller instead. I'm sure it was a good decision since it will sell a lot of PSVs, but it doesn't look like a good portable game.

Uncharted on the PSV

For good portable games I generally like to try something called the public transport test. That is, if I can take the game with me on a bus - be able to boot it up, play for a few minutes without being overly immersed, then pause or stop my game without missing my stop - then it's a game well tailored to the portable system. Games on the DS without too many cutscenes that you could put into sleep mode were generally good for this. Grand Theft Auto: China Town Wars was a good example. The Professor Layton games, even better.

If you can't quite pass the public transport test, then at least have some reason that your game is better off on the portable system than on a console. Kirby Canvas Curse was a great DS game because of its use of the touch screen in platforming. The Pokemon games are best suited as portable titles because they're designed for getting out there, meeting new people and trading/battling your monsters. With the Uncharted game at E3 I could only see myself plugging it into my PS3 to play on a bigger screen.

Nintendo seemed to steal the show this year, rebounding with a new console and a pretty nice slew of games for the 3DS. I'll probably pick up a 3DS for myself later this year when I have the cash. Ocarina looks great. Co-op on St--Lylat Wars was a great move and actually something I had written down as a game concept just a few weeks ago, so I'm glad Nintendo's finally doing it.

Luigi's Mansion 2 I'm a bit skeptical about since the ghosts don't seem to have the same charm as the first game, but otherwise it looks okay. The two Mario games coming out (Super Mario and Paper Mario 3DS) will likely be added to my collection pretty quickly. Mario Kart 3DS wasn't too stunning, but the Animal Crossing game sort of caught me by surprise just by the fact that they had added more new stuff to it than the Wii version.

Nintendo talked briefly about a free version of Zelda: Four Swords on the 3DS, a game I'd really love to finally be able to play with three other people. Kid Icarus also looked nice for a series reboot and different from all of Nintendo's other standbys.

From what I've heard so far, navigation of the 3DS shop is great (at least compared to that of the DSi) and the virtual console library is also something I'd love to get my hands on. But the best thing about the 3DS so far in my eyes is probably the great level of support from third parties, which carries over to the other side of Nintendo's press conference this year.

The console itself is pretty easy to confuse for a regular Wii from afar


I'm glad that the Wii U is finally trying to compete on the same field as the Xbox 360 and PS3 - being able to play some of Nintendo's prettier titles in 1080p has been long awaited. The controller is also pretty big, but I love the concept of being able to continue playing your game on it while something else happens with the television, or being able to use it as a map in Zelda or whatever.

But again - best part of the Wii U for me was the solution to an ongoing problem I had with the Wii - third party support. A handful of third party games and developers were shown, and several top third party designers such as Ken Levine of Irrational Games (the one I remember clearly who wasn't Warren Spector) sounded off with their support. The Wii's main criticism was a distinct lack of variety of its games - the best usually being first party titles from franchises which had already been done to death. Throwing top franchises like Ninja Gaiden, Bioshock and Rocksteady's Batman Arkham City into that mix makes the console a lot more appealing than the Wii, especially after its drought of games in late 2008-early 2009.

The Wii U still has a year until it's set for release, though - plenty of time to prove itself worthy of purchase. I'm pretty excited for it, albeit a little wary this time around - not about to rush in and get suckered a second time after what happened with the Wii.

Overall, though, I think it's safe to say that this has been a pretty good year for videogames - be it games that have already been released or announcements of what's to come. My only regret is not being able to be there in person and demo some of these products myself, such as one of my most anticipated downloadable titles, Bastion. But perhaps I'll be there at some point in the future. Perhaps I'll even have something to show off, myself. We'll just have to wait and see.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Story and Writing in Games #1 - Bioshock

This is part one of a new series of blogs I feel like making about the story and writing of games. Now that I'm working towards a game project of my own with a small team at university, I'd like to analyse a few games with particularly good writing, ideas or storytelling - so that I have a better idea of the best practices of storytelling in games, and how to help construct a well told narrative myself.

I should probably clarify on that point - I'm not so great at writing stories myself, at least without borrowing too many ideas from stuff I've read or experienced. I might be getting someone to help with the story itself for my own projects. However, the important part I wish to focus on with games is not the story itself, but how that story is told. Since games are an interactive media form, one has to take into account the player being a part of the story rather than just a simple onlooker. It may be acceptable to read in books, and it may be acceptable to view in films, but in games the goal should not be to read or view - but to play.
Space Invaders. One version of it, anyway.

In single player games, story is of great importance, even if it is paper thin. It puts motive behind the player's actions, and a reason to keep playing. The best story is one which creates a hook, appealing to a player's natural human curiosity and their desire to find out what happens next. Even in games like Space Invaders, you may not notice it, but there is a story used to give the player a motive. In the name alone, Space Invaders gives a setting, an antagonist and a player motive. Would the game be as successful if it had been called Spaceship Shooter or some such variant? Perhaps not.




Bioshock is a game which was released in 2007 by 2K Boston (Irrational) and 2K Australia. The game was a spiritual successor to the PC game known as System Shock 2, and shared several story elements with that game. I'm going to be talking about Bioshock today though since a) more people have played it and b) it's the one that I played. Note that there may be significant plot details revealed below - don't read further unless you have finished the game.


Friday, 3 June 2011

Collectibles in Games and Player Reward

This was something I started thinking about this evening (okay, yesterday evening since I'm late in finishing this), when looking at some of my favourite games which utilise collectibles, and how well they reward the player (if at all!). I wanted to make a small study on this aspect of games, so that I had something to base my design on when creating a game of my own with collectibles involved.

col·lect·i·ble also col·lect·a·ble (k-lkt-bl)
adj.
1. That can be collected: a collectible loan.
2. Worthy of being collected: collectible antique coins.

  - thefreedictionary.com

That last line is the key. How do we define what is worthy of being collected in games? Is something worthy of being collected simply if it has a reward of some sort at some point? I wouldn't say so. We still call them collectibles regardless, but that doesn't mean they're good collectibles that players will actually want to go out of their way to find.

For this blog I've decided to analyse a couple of examples of collectibles used in games from the last ten years or so. Yes, let's just ignore the 90s right now and all of those platforming games which focused on practically nothing but collecting junk.

Collectible Example 1: Assassin's Creed - Templar Flags
Number: several hundred
Payoff: Eventual (after collecting all of a certain kind)
Reward: Achievements


Ubisoft has gotten slightly better with the AC flags as the series has gone on, from a terrible collectible in the first game to a sort-of-tolerable one in the most recent game, Assassin's Creed Brotherhood.

In the original game, there were roughly 100 flags in each area, with the exception of Masyaf. They could only be seen from a certain distance and from the right angle and had no real indicators of being there aside from some sparkly-ness. The player was only rewarded with an achievement after collecting every single flag from a particular area eg all the Jerusalem flags. They did not affect the story or the player's abilities and were only used for achievements.

In Assassin's Creed 2, flags were replaced with feathers. There were only 100 feathers in the entire game, and this time a reward for collecting them all was not only an achievement but also a special cape to wear around as an in-game trophy of sorts. Better, but not perfect.

In Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, there were 101 flags in the entire game along with 30 feathers to collect. From what I remember the only reward for collecting these was an achievement/trophy. However, the developers still managed to design these collectibles fairly smartly. For one, 101 flags was just enough to make finding them all a challenge for the most devoted of players. Second of all, the game introduced special maps which could be bought from stores, which would reveal the locations of most feathers on the map.

While it's arguable that revealing the locations takes away some of the reward in discovering a flag on one's own, showing them in this way also gives the player enough motivation to collect them, to go out of their way to collect a flag which wasn't in plain view.

The collectibles in the Assassin's Creed games have never been perfect, but it's easy to see from analysing each game in the series that they've definitely gotten better.

Collectible Example 2: Metroid Prime - Missile/Energy Tank Expansions
Number: 50 missile expansions, 14 energy tanks

Payoff: Immediate and Eventual
Reward: Increasing Player Strength, Unlocking Hidden Endings

To be fair, this type of collectible didn't start with Metroid Prime - it's been around since the original Metroid, Super Metroid and Castlevania: SotN. While games may have evolved tremendously fast over the past twenty years, this element of design continues to rear its head in new games like Shadow Complex -- because it's just plain fun and works!

I immediately use Metroid Prime as my example here because it's one of my favourite games, but feel free to replace Prime with any of the other games I've mentioned above. The difference with collectibles in Prime, as opposed to games like Assassin's Creed, is that the collectibles have an immediate payoff. In Metroid Prime, one of the protagonist - Samus's - key abilities is a missile launcher built into her firearm. While the player starts off with a measly 5 missiles, they can increase their total missile capacity by collecting missile expansions. The same applies to the player's health - while the player begins with 99 units of energy, energy tanks can be collected to increase the total energy high above that amount.

How this works, I liken to traditional roleplaying games, where the player would constantly be trying to improve their abilities and stats through experience - either by defeating monsters or completing tasks. The only difference in Metroid Prime is that you improve your abilities by exploring and seeking out these upgrades, rather than fighting more monsters than required.

This system puts the player in control of the game's difficulty. Seasoned players can choose not to seek out energy tanks if they wish to be challenged by particularly tough boss monsters. On the other end of the spectrum, new players who are having trouble with certain parts of the game can take a break to explore and build their strength before continuing.

The game also puts rewards in place for those players committed enough to retrieve all of the game's collectibles, though these could possibly be improved upon in modern games. A hidden ending probably shouldn't be used as the reward for the more dedicated players unless there is additional gameplay involved or something else interactive involved. I know this from my own playing habits - if all I'm missing out on is a hidden ending by skipping all of those monotonous sidequests in a game, then I'd prefer to just look it up on youtube instead.


Definitely something to think about though, both for myself and anyone else interested in designing something. Is that collectible you're using really worth it, and have you thought about why players might want to go out of their way to pick it up? If not, stop, go back to the drawing board for a second and rethink your implementation. A collectible used for the sake of having a shiny thing in your game is not good design.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

'sup, Pitches?!

I could have updated about this a few days back, but Uni semester's just finished and I've been having a pretty lazy, laid back weekend with friends. Now that it's time to get my head back into work though, I guess I can share what I've been up to.

Last Friday I attended a quick meeting up in the city by letsmakegames.org, my city's game developer community. We crammed ourselves into one of the theatrettes as a few developers got up to make micro-talks (3 minute time limit) about what they were working on. There were a lot of talks by teams doing games for the iPhone and social networking sites - one team of which I remember since one of my university tutors had landed a job with them to do the art. But aside from potential designers and programmers to help me out with future projects, I wasn't too interested in these. iPhone games just seem like too much of a risk, and the most successful Facebook games don't respect their players at all (see this lecture by Jonathan Blow to see what I'm talking about).

I had expected a lot of these kinds of pitches, though. So it came as a pleasant surprise to see some more interesting talks, about 3D games or just other interesting stuff. Like the importance of making a (good!) website to get yourself out there. It was applicable since I had gone through the list of pitches on letsmakegames beforehand, checked each of their websites. There were two pitches from a company called moonstudios but their website had virtually nothing there, so I had no idea what to expect. Funnily enough, their work and pitches ended up being my favourites of the night.

Moonstudios is working on a few things. A very pretty 2D platformer called Sein being the first, and a strategy-based shooter called Warsoup being the second. I tried the demo of Sein and really liked the visuals and atmosphere of it all, but was a bit annoyed by the level design - enemy placement, the way it taught you what to do and how it introduced concepts to the player. It felt pretty clear to me that the developers needed to look for a bit more player feedback and adjust the game accordingly.



Warsoup, on the other hand, I was super (souper? ...sorry) impressed with. At least for something from Perth. I'm not exactly sure how Moonstudios is set up, whether they have a few developers over in Perth and some in one country overseas like the US or something. But it was a really neat idea - it found a niche between two popular game genres, offering something new and unique without being so radically different that it would turn off players. Definitely looking forward to seeing more of the game.

I wasn't able to stay around too long afterwards so I didn't head down to the bar with everyone else, but I did manage to talk to a few of Moonstudios' team members. One, a programmer who had studied game design at a local university, the other an animator who had studied in Perth and worked for a short time as an animator for Blizzard with Starcraft 2. I said straight up that I was a student and didn't really want a job as much as I did some tips or a bit of mentoring.

What they said was more or less a confirmation of what I already knew, but it was great to talk to them all the same. Universities in Perth are crap at teaching game design, and should only really be used for getting to know like-minded individuals, and getting the little bit of paper that says you have a degree. What I'd been thinking for a while was pretty much confirmed - use the time at University to work on a bunch of personal projects and study stuff on the internet from places like Autodesk in your own time. Join forums, give feedback on others' projects while getting feedback on your own. Learn how to use a bunch of different programs and engines, and build up your portfolio while you have spare time to do it.

There was one other talk there on the night by a guy whose card I regretfully forgot to steal, about funding for Perth projects. He said his company was looking for projects which were in development - nothing which was finished, but nothing that was a simple concept written up on a napkin either. So I'm pretty pumped now about working on a project of some sort in my spare time at uni so that I can pitch it next year should they host one of these events again.

That's all for now, though. I'll try and update with some of my 3D stuff that I've been working on in the last couple of days when I get the chance.

~ Nathan

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

3D Showreel - May 2011

Another semester at University has come to an end. Well, sort of... I'm writing this a little before I'm officially done, but I've finished all of my projects now so all that's left to do is wait on my programming exam and then my results. Whee!

I'll be honest - I'm not actually completely satisfied with my standard of work this semester. A bit of laziness early on wasn't a good start, but even still I think I could have pushed myself a bit further especially in my unit for 3D Modeling. Embedded below is my final showreel with the three projects I ended up submitting for the semester.






A few points of note: 

- I'm actually moderately proud of how my walk cycle turned out, but that said - it wasn't looking good until last night, just under 48 hours until the showreel deadline. I followed a tutorial for modeling the man out of a cube, which seemed fairly easy for me to get my head around compared to the various alternate methods of modeling characters. 

Rigging also had a few different paths to go down, and I ended up dumping IK handles because they were just too fiddly and hard to understand with so little time. Some of my topology was off, resulting in what I'd dub "coke-can deformation" in places like the man's ribcage, where the polygons would just crumple. But otherwise some good use of edge loops in the right places managed to make him deform fairly nicely while animating. 
 
- The gun was my first project of the three, and is my least favourite of them all. I never managed to get the textures quite right, and the actual structure of the gun could have been improved too, from a design point of view. Using the HDRI was just a bad idea all around - the man taking the photo in the background sticks out like a sore thumb.


- The public bathroom was my favourite piece, but there's still a lot of work that could be done to improve it. I think I may have messed up the lighting at some point during the tweaking stages, and the graffiti wasn't quite right either. If I'd had more time I would have added more grime, a bump map to the tiles and the appearance of a wet floor. 
Oh, and I realise the bathroom didn't really get enough screen time and the shots sort of flew by too fast, but each of those shots took between 6 and 10 hours to render so I wasn't about to redo them with so little time to spare.



Anyway, enough bitching from me, what's done is done. I'm hoping to use these pieces as a launching pad for my future work and build up a better portfolio over the next few months. The character in particular was an interesting experience - in taking the path less traveled, it felt like there was a great payoff when I actually got things to work. Rigging is a pain, but I might just play around with it a bit more as it's only going to get easier from here and it might actually end up being something I enjoy. It was better than animating a walk cycle by hand, I'll say that at the very least.


That's all for now. Hopefully you can look forward to some more 3D work from me in the near future.


~Nathan

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Building the Bastion

Normally I wouldn't make blogs like this that are basically just advertisements for a game without me saying anything of much significance. Normally. But SuperGiant Games' Bastion is a game which has held my attention for quite a few months now and I can't wait to play it when it finally hits the PC and Xbox Live Arcade later this year.

For the past few months, Giant Bomb has had a feature going where they document the development process of the game. They'll give the independent team a camera and send them off for a month or two to shoot some footage, before bringing them back to the office for an interview. The interviews are also pretty interesting because most of the time the Bastion team will bring in a really early build of the game to show how they've progressed. I won't say too much else, will just let these videos do the talking. Grab yourself some snacks and a nice drink if you plan on watching though, since it's a good 2 hours+ of video altogether.

(For the record, these were recorded live. Don't worry if the footage doesn't play immediately - sometimes it doesn't start until a few minutes into the video. Just let the thing buffer for a while, then scan through until it starts)

Part 1:


Part 2:


Part 3:


Part 4:



There's always four team members on the couch in these videos, but I should probably mention that the team is actually six members large, or seven if you count the voice work done for the narrator. It comprises of
  • Amir Rao - Design, Studio Operations
  • Greg Kasavin - Writing, Creative Direction
  • Gavin Simon - Engineering, Design
  • Jen Zee - Artwork
  • Darren Korb - Audio, Music
  • Andrew Wang - Systems Engineering
They also have some 3D models outsourced, but otherwise that's it. Pretty impressive.

I follow Jen Zee on DeviantArt already, so you can view her work here if you liked what you saw. Fucking gorgeous stuff -- it has to be said.
Greg Kasavin is also a bit of a hero in the industry to me. He used to work as a reviewer at Gamespot, and was probably my favourite while there due to the respectful way he treated each game he reviewed. His favourite games are quite similar to my own, so I have no doubt that Bastion will be something I will enjoy.

While the game looks stunning in terms of visuals and I like a lot of the small touches, such as the way weapons like the shotgun work and the way the narrator comments on the story and the world - one of the more interesting parts of the game to me at this stage is the Shrine system that the team has put in place for players to control the difficulty and rewards. Difficulty and rewards aren't often given enough attention - for example, in old-school platformers the good players would end up earning the most extra lives without needing to use them, and the worse players would never have enough. It'll definitely be interesting to get my hands on the game and see how the Shrine system works for myself.

That'll be all for now. Give the videos a look, hopefully you like what you see. And if you do, be sure to buy the game when it comes out and support good independent developers. Cheers!

Friday, 20 May 2011

The End is Nigh

For this semester, at least. Just one week left for most of my units. I have another few weeks to go before my exam for programming, but I'll kick back and relax a little before that anyway. Definitely won't stop me from staying up all night 7-9 June to watch E3.

My new head of course briefly went over the second semester units for our course today, and thankfully a game design unit is now available. The course handbook doesn't say it has anything to do with game design, but he made it sound like games were a pretty big part of it so I quickly enrolled anyway to secure myself a spot. If it turns out he's lying to us I can always pull out during the first week, I suppose.

Since this elective is being done in place of 3D, I'll get to do programming again next semester which is pretty cool. The game design unit itself doesn't sound all too different from what I've been doing in my spare time (or from that project I posted about from last semester), and the course coordinator never got back to me on whether group projects were allowed for it. I'm happy the unit exists, but I still think it's probably a good idea to take initiative and start up a study group-type thing.

What the unit consists of? From what I hear, the first half of semester consists of bringing (one of) our favourite game(s) to class to show off to everyone else, then deconstruct why they're so good to the rest of the class. The other guys in my class immediately fired off, saying stuff like "if anyone brings in COD I will hit them" and while I'm no huge fanboy of the Modern Warfare franchise I found it fun to argue back that it was actually well designed. They might not like the game (or at least the majority of the audience who plays it), but you cannot argue that the game would be nearly as popular as it is if it was poorly designed. But I digress.

I didn't even touch this game until last year, actually! It's kinda great. Multiplayer is good, but I've only played it at a couple of LAN parties with friends - online multiplayer would probably only reduce my appreciation for the game.


A pretty-freaking-huge list of my favourite games can be found here. While I'll admit that a few of the top entries are only really there because of nostalgia, I have a fair few options of games I can take in to show off and talk about. I'm leaning towards Metroid Prime at this stage, but I would be happy to talk about
I'll probably end up deconstructing the design of some of these games on this very blog anyway. But I'd like to choose one of these which has (a) impacted me in a pretty big way and (b) isn't likely to be chosen by other people in my class. Metroid Prime seemed suitable for this since it's a pretty old game compared to the rest (almost ten years now) and was developed for the Gamecube - a console I doubt a lot of students would have even touched. There's a bit more I can pick apart in its design than some of the other games, but it's actually really surprising how well it holds up. I'll write up a full blog on that later, though.

Model detail might be a bit rough now, but I think I can still say this game is gorgeous in 2011.

I'm not too sure whether we're only going to be bringing in one game each, but it would be nice to be able to look at those last three entries on the list too (plus Portal). Mainly because I'm looking to hopefully kickstart a career with an independent project, so deconstructing indie games might be more beneficial to me. But I guess that's what this blog is for.

Between now and the start of next semester though, I'm hoping to do a few things in terms of extracurricular study...

There's a conference for Perth game developers going on next Friday which I'll probably attend -- I'm not sure about the standard of games from Perth, but it'll be good to network with a few people at least, particularly programmers.

My university doesn't have an advanced unit for 3D and the intermediate unit is coming to a close, so I'll need to develop those skills in my spare time. While I want to be a game designer or director, getting to that is quite tough without getting your foot in the door first. I think the advice  I read from a lot of developers was to pick a side - programming or art - then develop your skills and specialise. I enjoy taking my programming units for a more well-rounded knowledge, but I'll probably end up specialising in the 3D art side of things anyway.

In terms of game design, I'll try and make it my goal to write up a concept for a game per day or so, or at least do some further research into current niches of the industry. I'm not sure if I'll post this work up unless something comes out of it -- while I'm not really scared of anyone stealing my ideas, I'm not sure whether there's anything beneficial to myself or others by posting blogs about ideas themselves unless they've been developed in some way.

I also want to play around a bit with Unity (since it's being used at Uni next semester) and UDK as well as Flash and some engines for smaller games over this break. Will probably look at some tutorials and import my Maya scenes just to see how everything works and to familiarise myself with the programs. I think a large problem of mine so far has been the fact that I am intimidated by totally new software, but the only way to fix that is to get out, start reading stuff and start messing around instead of sitting around worrying about how I can never get stuff to work.

I think I'll leave things there for now, though. This blog has gotten pretty long without saying anything of too much importance to others... it's just another one of those wordy, bloggy-blogs. But I felt like updating on how things are going and where I'm headed with my studies anyway. Cheers for reading!

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