New Network Environment Trailer: Space Station

Hey everyone,

Exciting news involving the Network project! Check out the video below to view a new environmental trailer I created in-engine showcasing the Space Station level that we’ve been developing from UDK to Unreal Engine 4!

The project has been making awesome progress with new team members and the development of game mechanics inside of the new engine! Keep an eye out for the next level in development, the Abandoned Subway. Please show your support by sharing the video and checking out more information on indiedb here: Network

 

Network: Using Unreal Engine 4

Hey everyone! It has been a long while since I have last posted here on my blog/portfolio, but that is because of how busy I’ve been the last few months. My YouTube Channel, DevinLevelDesign, has started to become popular with almost 200 subscribers and almost 12,000 total views! Here is a preview video that will let you guys see what my channel is about:

 

The main aspect of this post is to share with you guys that the project, Network, has been lucky enough to be given beta access to Unreal Engine 4! This means that the project will be using the UE4 game engine as its backbone, but it also means that all of the content, including the construction of the levels, have to be brought over from UE3/UDK. This is where the project is currently doing, transitioning content over, but unfortunately I am unable to show any screenshots of its progress. For any and all updates regarding this project, please visit the IndieDB page here: Network.

 

Thanks for reading guys and I’ll see you next time!

 

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Fundamentals of Game Design | Practices and Exercises II

This is the second of many posts that I will be making that will outline my responses to the practices and exercise questions at the end of each chapter in the book Fundamentals of Game Design by Ernest Adams.

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The following are my responses to the questions and exercises posed at the end of the first chapter of this book. You can also download the Word file directly here: Chapter 3 . I am still working on the questions and exercises from Chapter 2 of this textbook and it will be posted next. Please leave any comments if you agree or disagree with anything that I have said in this post!

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Fundamentals of Game Design | Chapter Three

Design Practice | Questions

Once you have a game idea in mind, these are the questions you must ask yourself in order to turn it into a fully-fledged game concept. You don’t have to be precise or detailed, but you should have a general answer for all of them.

1. Write a high concept statement: a few sentences that give a general flavor of the game. You can make references to other games, movies, books, or any other media if your game contains similar characters, actions, or ideas.

a. It is tornado season once again in the state of Kansas and it is your job to defend your small farm from the force of Mother Nature. Taking advantage of various debris types and the construction of different defenses, protect your farm at all cost.

2.  What is the players’ role? Is the player pretending to be someone or something, and if so, what? Is there more than one? How does the players’ role help to define the gameplay?

a. The main role that the player has is to construct different types of defenses around their small farm in order to prevent any damage from incoming tornadoes. The surrounding area around the farm is littered with different debris types that the player can use to fortify their defenses or sell to earn money to upgrade their current defenses. In this game, the player is pretending to be a farmer, (either male or female can work in this situation) who must protect their farm from the incoming tornadoes. The players’ role of being a farmer helps to define the gameplay because the main gameplay is to fortify the defenses surround the farm in order to protect it from any damage by incoming tornadoes.

3. Does the game have an avatar or other key character? Describe him/her/it.

a. The game has a total of three different characters, but only one represents the avatar for the player while the remaining two are NPC’s that assist the player. The avatar for the player can be customizable in terms of the name, gender, skin tone, hair color, eye color, and clothing. I would also like to see pieces of clothing that can be unlocked through achieving some sort of challenge through the gameplay. The player doesn’t actually see the entire body of the representative avatar, but the avatars’ face is used as part of the GUI as feedback for how well the player is performing based on the damage dealt to the farm from tornadoes in a Doom sort of fashion. The second character featured in the game is named Patrick Lightning who is the famous weatherman of Kansas. He is a handsome, typical television persona who streams live information about incoming tornadoes through a ticker at the top of the screen. The information provided by Patrick Lightning will relate to the type of tornado that is incoming, the direction the tornado is moving in, and the time remaining before the tornado hits the farm. However, like a lot of weather predictions, the predictions made by Patrick Lightning may not always be accurate, for example, he may predict that a tornado is closing in from the northwest, but it actually comes in from the northeast. This will add a dimension of unpredictability that will keep the player on their toes and force them to make quick decisions constantly throughout the game-play. The third and final character in the game is Michael Barnes owner of the Black Sheep Parts Shop. His role in the game is to buy/sell different types of materials to the player as well as offer upgrades to current fortifications over time.

4. What is the nature of the gameplay, in general terms? What kinds of challenges will the player face? What kinds of actions will the player take to overcome them?

a. The nature of the gameplay in general terms is using debris and materials left over from previous tornadoes and from the Parts Shop to construct defensive fortifications around the players’ farm in order to protect it from waves of incoming tornadoes of unique varieties. The first type of challenge that the player will face in the game is the different types of tornadoes that attempt to destroy their farm; each tornado based on a natural element. A few examples of the different types of tornadoes would be fire, water, ice, etc. Each type of tornado has a debris/material type that is strong against and weak against, so the player must change the different types of fortifications surrounding their farm based on the type of tornado/tornadoes are approaching the farm. The second challenge is the management of the farm itself, making sure that is remains as undamaged as possible, as well as the management of the different debris materials and fortifications. The primary actions that the player take to overcome these challenges are the scavenging of debris and materials from the surrounding environment and use those parts to construct and upgrade fortifications to protect the farm. Players can also buy and sell parts through the Parts Shop as well as purchase fortification upgrades and farm upgrades to make them stronger.

5. What is the players’ interaction model? Omnipresent? Through an avatar? Something else? Some combination?

a. The players’ interaction model is a combination of omnipresent and through an avatar. In a Doom-like fashion, the players’ avatar will be shown on the screen in order to display the status of their farm house as well as the players’ overall performance. To be clear, the avatar’s face will be shown on screen and will change facial expressions real-time based on player performance. The omnipresent aspect of the game is that the player will be interacting with the game without using an avatar to represent their actions. The player will be able to scavenge for material through the environment, construct defensive fortifications, and purchase upgrades without a need for an in-game avatar to represent those player actions within the world.

6. What is the games’ primary camera model? How will the player view the games’ world on the screen? Will there be more than one perspective?

a. The games’ primary camera model is an isometric one where the player will be viewing the game world in a “God perspective” as seen in games such as The Sims or Civilization. The camera model will only change when the player is purchasing/selling items at the parts shop in which case only the menu/GUI for the shop will overlay the isometric camera model so that the player can view it head-on.

7. Does the game fall into an existing genre? If so, which one?

a. This game falls into the existing genre of tower-defense; where the goal of the player is to keep the “tower” safe from enemy harm for as long as possible taking advantage of resources to create offensive and defensive structures. In this game, the “tower” is the players’ farm and instead of both offensive and defensive structures to protect the farm, the player will only take advantage of defensive fortifications to keep the farm safe for as long as possible from the incoming waves of tornadoes.

8. Is the game competitive, cooperative, team-based, or single-player? If multiple players are allowed, are they using the same machine with separate controls or different machines over a network?

a. As of now, the game will be a single-player experience only with potential plans for multiplayer in the future. The most important/critical task for this game project is to ensure that the game-play is fast-paced and enjoyable for single-player experiences and from there, experiment and expand to the realm of cooperative and competitive multiplayer.

9. Why would anyone want to play this game? Who is the games’ target audience? What characteristics distinguish them from the mass of players in general?

a. Gamers would want to play this game because of its fast-paced actions and for its style of player; tower defense. In todays’ market, the most popular games are shooters and action games, at least for AAA game development, and for mobile platforms the most popular genre is puzzle games. Creating a unique and interesting tower defense game will allow for gamers to become reintroduced with the genre and want to share it with others. The games’ target audience is casual gamers between the ages of 12-30, the largest audience within the mobile gaming market. These gamers enjoy games that have simple controls and the flexibility to possess gameplay that can be both complex and simplistic. These gamers are the ones that enjoy games like Angry Birds.

10. What machine or machines is the game intended to run on? Can it make use of, or will it require, any particular hardware such as dance mats or a camera?

a. The intended hardware that the game will run on is mobile/handheld devices such as the IPod, IPhone, IPad, and Android devices. Since the game will be a part of the mobile market, the visuals need to be simplified, but should still be pleasing to the eye. The game will not require or use hardware such as dance mats, but does have the flexibility to use the camera found in most mobile devices in order to create the in-game avatar based on a photo.

11. What is the games’ setting? Where does it take place?

a. The games’ setting takes place in the state of Kansas in the United States; a farm country that is plagued by the high amount of tornadoes/twisters that cause massive destruction. As for the time period, the game takes place in the early 1900’s much like the Wizard of Oz and will be bright and colorful like the nation of Oz and not in sepia tone like the beginning of the movie.

12. Will the game be broken into levels? What might be the victory condition for a typical level?

a. The game will be broken into different waves that will serve the purposes of levels. Each wave will contain a certain amount of materials that the player can find in the environment and will also contain a certain amount of tornadoes of various types. Each wave will get even more difficult by decreasing the availability of resources in the environment and increase the amount of tornadoes that move towards the players’ farm.

13. Does the game have a narrative or story that it goes along? Summarize the plot in a sentence or two.

a. The game has a very simple narrative/story that goes along with the gameplay. The player is a farmer located in Kansas during tornado season and must protect their farm/farm house from the onslaught of tornadoes in order to stay profitable.


Design Practice | Exercises

1. Create a high concept document for one of your favorite games or one that your instructor assigns.

a. To answer this question, I will be creating a high concept document for the Pokémon franchise, and in particular the first generation games Red and Blue.

You are a young boy who has been thrown in the mysterious world of Pokémon; creatures found throughout the world with unique powers that humans capture and train to battle one another. Your goal is to become a Pokémon Master by finding and capturing all 150 known Pokémon and recording their data in a Pokedex. In addition to capturing all 150 Pokémon, the player must defeat all 8 Pokémon Gym Leaders scattered across the region, all of which possess a specific Pokémon type. When a Gym Leader is defeated by the player, they will receive a badge that represents their victory over a certain Gym. Once the player defeats all 8 Gym Leaders they are qualified to challenge the Elite Four; a Pokémon Battle marathon that challenges the player to battle the strongest trainers and become the champion.

Pokémon are categorized by type(s) such as Fire, Water, Grass, Bug, Normal, Fighting, Flying, Dragon, Electric, Rock, Ground, Poison, Ice, and Psychic. Each type is strong against another as well as being weak against a certain type. To provide a few examples: Fire types are strong against Ice and Grass, but are weak against Water, Rock, and Ground. Water types are strong against Fire, Ground, and Rock, but are weak against Electric, Grass, and Poison. Lastly, Grass types are strong against Water, Ground, and Rock but are weak against Fire, Flying, and Bug. The player can only carry a maximum of 6 Pokémon in their party, although other Pokémon caught are kept in a PC where they can be withdrawn/deposited by the player, and so the player must be strategic in terms of the different types of Pokémon that they carry. Possessing six of the same Pokémon type is very ineffective as compared to possessing six Pokémon with unique types. There are some Pokémon that possess two different types such as Grass/Poison, or Water/Flying so carrying Pokémon with two types can lead to more advantages, as well as significant disadvantages that need to be weighed against one another by the player.

The player must train their Pokémon by battling other trainers or defeating Pokémon that are found in the wild within tall grass. When the players’ Pokémon defeats another Pokémon, they earn experience. When a Pokémon earns enough experience, they will level up to the next numerical level such as level 12; the highest level achievable level in the game is 100. At predetermined levels, Pokémon will be able to learn stronger and more strategic moves, but can only have the ability to use four moves. As a result, players must pick and choose the four moves that they want each of their Pokémon to know in order to have the most effective Pokémon possible. Pokémon can also be taught moves through the use of TMs and HMs, though HMs once taught to a Pokémon cannot be removed whereas TMs can. HMs is used as a necessary part of the game in order to reach certain locations or to reach a certain path. Cut, for example, is a HM that must be learned by a Pokémon in order to cut down a large tree in the players’ path.

In order to capture Pokémon in the wild, the player must use different types of Poke balls. There are a total of 4 Poke balls; Poke balls, Great Balls, Ultra Ball, and the Master Ball which the player only receives one of in the game. The Master Ball guarantees a capture while the other Poke ball types still hold a percentage of the Pokémon escaping capture, though some are higher than others.

There are two versions of Pokémon on the Gameboy platform, Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue. Each version of the game is missing specific Pokémon that can only be found in the other version, as well as having Pokémon that can only evolve when traded. This promotes the use of the link cable and playing with friends in order to capture all 150 Pokémon in the game. The use of the link cable also allows players to battle one another in a Coliseum, though no experience is earned from defeating a Pokémon through link cable battles.

2. Write a short paper contrasting the players’ roles in a Tomb Raider game and in a Civilization game.

a. One of the major aspects that separate games from one another is the set of tasks given to the player and how the player interacts with the game to complete those tasks. The players’ role within a Tomb Raider game and in a Civilization game are vastly different from one another due to the type of tasks that the player must complete in each game as well as how the player interacts with each game. In order to effectively establish the major differences between the players’ role in a Tomb Raider game and in a Civilization game, we must first do two things. First, we must examine the players’ role as Laura Craft in Tomb Raider, what tasks the player is given, and how the player interacts with the game world to complete those tasks. Lastly, we must explore the players’ role within a Civilization game, what tasks the player is given, and how the player interacts with the game world to complete those tasks. Once those two objectives are met, the major contrasts of the players’ role in Tomb Raider and Civilization will become clear and distinct. Let us begin by analyzing the players’ role as Laura Craft in Tomb Raider.

In Tomb Raider the player controls Lara Craft, an English female archaeologist in search of ancient relics. The game presents a world in 3D full of tombs located throughout the world in which the player must guide Lara through. Within tombs, as well as the overall game-play of Tomb Raider, the player must kill dangerous creatures or other humans, collect objects, and solve puzzles in order to gain access to a powerful artifact. Tomb Raider uses a third-person camera and third-person shooter mechanics. Many of the puzzles featured in Tomb Raider games involve the 3D environment that the game takes place in so that the player can discover a new room or area to explore. In the most recent Tomb Raider game developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix, Laura Craft is depicted as a younger, much more vulnerable version as compared to the rest of the series where she is shown as an older, more powerful figure. Tomb Raider games are also more linear in terms of how the player can actually play the game in comparison to the Civilization series because players in Tomb Raider are pushed from room to room where puzzles can only be solved in very few different ways and the final results are always the same.

In Civilization the player takes control of an omni-present God-like character that controls the action of people through an isometric view-point. The goal of the game is to advance a civilization from pre-historic or primitive origins, to a near-future utopia of power and wealth. The game-play involves turn-based strategy where each turn the player is given tasks that involve exploration of the game world, warfare with computer controlled civilizations, and diplomacy efforts with other civilizations. In addition to these tasks, the player must also make decisions about where to build new cities, which improvements or units to build in each city, which advances in knowledge, should be pursued, and how to transform the immediate area surrounding player controlled cities for maximum benefit.  The game takes place over the course of thousands of years and the game can be won by having the highest score by 2050 AD, taking control over other civilizations’ capitals, getting the most diplomatic votes, or by winning the space race by reaching the star system of Alpha Centauri. Civilization as compared to Tomb Raider is more of a non-linear game in terms of how the player can reach their goals and how unique each player’s experience is with the game. The number of available choices given to the player in Civilization is vastly larger than the presentable choices given to players in Tomb Raider, and as a result each player can cater their play experience to how they want to play. For Tomb Raider, players play the game more or less how the developers want them to play, whereas Civilization provides flexibility in the gameplay to allow players to create their own experiences.

The major difference between the roles of the player in Tomb Raider and in Civilization is the available options provided to the player to complete the task(s) at hand. In Tomb Raider, the tasks involve the player shooting enemies or solving puzzles in order to discover artifacts, whereas in Civilization there are more tasks available to the player and the player also has the choice to pursue certain tasks over others. As a result, the gameplay involved in Civilization is vastly more complex and player driven and the gameplay involved in Tomb Raider are limited and more story-driven.

3. Certain genres are more often found on one kind of machine than on another. Write an essay explaining which machine each genre works best on and why. How do the machines’ features and the way that is used in the home facilitate or hinder the gameplay of each genre?

a. Instead of answering this question in a typical essay format, I am going to be breaking down each major genre individually in its own set of paragraphs and discuss which gaming machine works best for that specific genre and why.

First-Person Shooters: This is one of the few genres in video games that work well on both home console platforms and the PC; each with its own set of pros and cons. After discussing the pros and cons of the first-person shooter on each platform, I will come to the conclusion that either the home console or the PC is the superior gaming machine for this genre. Let us start with the home console, in particular the Xbox 360 platform. Unlike the PC, playing on an Xbox 360 is easier in terms of simplicity of set up for localized multiplayer play. LAN parties do exist and are a lot of fun, however plugging in an extra controller to enjoy localized play is much easier than setting up your gaming rig. This next argument can be seen as either a pro or a con for either side, but the idea that Xbox 360 platform, as well as the games developed for it, are all on the same playing field by means of power the machine possesses. PC is a very customizable machine and the games developed for the platform need to make sure that it can be played smoothly across different specs, whereas games developed for the Xbox 360 only need to make sure that the game can run on the manufactured specs of the machine. The point here is that for a very competitive gaming genre like the first-person shooter, it is nice to know that all of the participating players are on equivalent playing fields based on the hardware they are using, whereas with PC, a stronger computer can perform the game systems faster than a weaker machine and that may lead to unfair advantages for players with a better PC. One of the more popular gaming modes that are available in almost all first-person and third-person shooters is online multiplayer. In this respect, the PC has the Xbox 360, as well as the overall label of home consoles, beat. One of the main functions that a PC serves is connectivity to the internet, with or without a game attached to that connectivity, and as a result the PC platform has stronger online play. Online multiplayer for home consoles involves connecting all of the players within a match-making session to the player with the strongest internet connection. For the PC, there are different games connected to the main server hosted by the developers that the player can pick and choose to join, instead of being brought to one automatically by the game as seen in most home console first-person shooters. The freedom of choice, allowing the player to choose which game to join is the main reason why the advantage of online multiplayer is more in favor with the PC and not home consoles. Another advantage that the PC has over home consoles in the realm of first-person shooters is the input devices used to the play the actual game. The PC uses a combination of mouse and keyboard; most times the mouse is used to look around the game world/aim the players’ weapon, as well as fire the players’ weapon and the WASD keys on the keyboard are used to move throughout the game world. The main input device for home consoles are the manufactured controllers shipped with the console itself; the inputs varying from each console. The PC has a huge advantage over home consoles in respect to input devices for a few reasons. The first being the sensitivity of the input devices for the PC is much higher than those on a home console. With the first-person shooter genre, this sensitivity is key to victory because the player relies on their reflexes to succeed. The sensitivity of the mouse increases aiming precision and accuracy, and the use of mouse-clicks increases the amount of weapon fire used. The joy-stick is not nearly as accurate as the mouse in terms of aiming precision and the use of trigger buttons for firing are not nearly as fast as mouse button clicks. The other advantage of input devices that the PC has over the home console platform is that the PC is very customizable and allows the use of multiple different input devices to fit the needs of the player. If the player wanted, most PC games allow the use of home console input devices instead of traditional mouse and keyboard to play the game. This doesn’t work the other way around where home consoles allow the use of mouse and keyboard to play their games instead of the controller.

Overall, the PC possesses the following advantages and disadvantages:

+ Customizable input devices

+ Sensitive input for increased weapon aiming/precision and fire rate.

+ Stronger online multiplayer services.

-          Weaker/Inconvenient localized multiplayer.

-          Ranged hardware specs can lead to unfair advantages/disadvantages in play.

Overall the home console possesses the following advantages and disadvantages:

+ Stronger/Convenient localized multiplayer.

+ Universal hardware allows for fairness in a competitive environment.

-          Weaker input devices lead to weapon inaccuracy and drop in weapon fire rate.

-          Static input devices, no customization.

-          Weaker online multiplayer services.

The winning platform for playing first-person shooters is the PC over traditional home consoles.

Fighting Games: Unlike the first-person shooter genre, fighting games function very well on the home console platform and not so well on the other platforms such as PC or mobile devices. One of the strongest selling points of fighting games, even with the development of online play, is localized multiplayer matches because of the sheer competitiveness of the genre. Localized multiplayer is where the home console shines brightest and for that reason the home console has a huge advantage over PC and mobile platforms in terms of fighting games. With the PC, it is very difficult for more than one player to view the screen at one time and because of the fast-paced and intense action of fighting games, this close proximity between players could be disastrous. Mobile platforms rarely support localized multiplayer experiences that don’t require a turn-based system of passing the device to the other player for their turn. The lack of simultaneous localized multiplayer on mobile platforms strongly cripples the effectiveness of fighting games. One of the staples of fighting games amongst a large crowd of people is the establishment of tournaments for long sessions of play. This can only effectively be accomplished on the home console platform because of its strong localized multiplayer. Very much like the first-person shooter genre, the player input device is crucial in order to effectively and enjoyably play a fighting game for hardcore fans. Many fighting game enthusiasts use arcade sticks that are compatible with home consoles, as well as the PC, for precision movement and button presses to unleash powerful combinations against their opponent. The mobile platform doesn’t possess this feature and as a result, is the weakest platform for fighting games. The last aspect of fighting games, especially in recent years, is online multiplayer. Online multiplayer can be done across almost all platforms with minimal issues in terms of user experience and is only a matter of player preference. Some can argue that the PC is the strongest platform for online experiences, and in most cases this is true, but home console services such as the PlayStation Network or Xbox Live do a fairly good job of connecting players online, especially for fighting games because it is holding a connection between two players and not 16 or 32.

Overall, the strongest platform for fighting games would have to be the home console, with the exception for arcades themselves, for the following reasons:

+ Localized multiplayer capability for tournaments.

+ Arcade sticks peripheral compatibility.

+ Online matchmaking capability.

Action/Adventure Games: Action/Adventure games are one of the few genres that can work on any platform because of its gameplay. This game genre focuses on single-player experiences, with certain exceptions that include multiplayer such as the Uncharted series or Assassins Creed, and as a result can be played effectively across all platforms. The only question the player has to ask themself is what kind of experience they want from the action/adventure game. If the player chooses to play the game on a PC they are saying that they enjoy the use of mouse and keyboard as input and depending on the power of the PC, the player is also stating they enjoy amazing graphics and smooth frames per second. If the player chooses to play the game on a home console they are saying that they enjoy the console controller over the mouse and keyboard. Home consoles are only slightly behind PCs in terms of graphical capabilities, so generally speaking players on home consoles receive the pretty graphics from their titles as do PC players. The mobile platform is the really unique contender in this argument for a few reasons. The first being that mobile devices have nowhere near the graphical power of home consoles and PCs, and as a result the art of the game suffers. The lack of graphical power in mobile devices also leaves some wiggle room for innovation; to find new ways to make the game look good while still allowing the game to run smoothly. The second unique quality of mobile devices, in particular the Nintendo DS or the iPad, is the form of input from player to device. For the Nintendo DS, the use of the stylus and the two screens can lead to innovative puzzle and quest design. The same can also be said for the touch-based input of handheld devices such as the iPad.

Overall, the action/adventure genre doesn’t possess any unique gameplay mechanics that would benefit the game being played on a specific platform in a general sense. This genre has the ability to be designed to be played on a specific platform and to make use of the unique features of the device, such as the Nintendo DS. It is really a decision of preference by the player to choose what platform they play the action/adventure genre because it works well across almost all devices.

Racing Games: The Racing genre, in my opinion, can be effectively played on almost all platforms and it is up to player preference to which platform they play it on. Both the home console and the PC possess the ability to use steering wheel peripherals to allow for more “realistic” experiences. These steering wheels have the ability to provide vibrational feedback and realistic pull and tug of the steering wheel during game-play to provide a different experience than a player playing with a console controller or a mouse and keyboard set up. Mobile platforms though can provide fun racing experiences, lack the ability to use effective peripherals to increase the intensity of the experience and as a result fall behind consoles and PCs. If arcade cabinets are a viable option in this discussion, my vote would be that arcades are the strongest platform for racing games in general, even though they lack online multiplayer and the graphical capabilities that PCs and home consoles possess.

Horror Games: Horror games, like the racing game genre, can be effectively played on almost all platforms and it only depends on player preference to which platform to play the game on. The horror game genre is a very personal, story-driven experience and as a result, any platform that supports single-player capabilities can host an interesting horror game, which is all gaming platforms. Some players may enjoy the enhanced graphical capabilities of the PC or home console platforms to exaggerate gore or gruesome details of the environment or the games’ characters, while others may enjoy keyboard and mouse over the console controller for their input. There are many external factors that slightly enhance the experience of horror games on specific platforms, but do not overall change the genre itself.

Real-Time Strategy Games: Real-time strategy games, in my opinion, is a video game genre that works best on the PC platform for one main reason; the control scheme. Real-time strategy games require a lot of different inputs from the player within small time windows and the precise and quick controls from a keyboard and mouse set up allow doing just that. Games like StarCraft emphasize the need for swift, precise, and numerous player interactions and this type of interaction has not been well integrated into the home console platform. An example of a poor transition of real-time strategy to the home console is Halo Wars because of its lack of strategic depth and the need for over-simplification of the control scheme due to the use of a controller and not the mouse and keyboard combination. Some gamers appreciated the simplification of strategy and controls, but hardcore real-time strategy games did not. In terms of the mobile platform and real-time strategy games, the only way I can see the genre working is through the Nintendo DS interface and stylus-control scheme. The dual-screen set up of the system would allow for more information to be displayed to the player and the use of the stylus could simulate the precision of the mouse. Overall, the PC platform is the superior platform for the real-time strategy genre because of its large array of inputs and the precision and swiftness of the mouse. A majority of mobile platforms would not be able to effectively create an accurate real-time strategy game without the need to simplify certain tasks or procedures, the Nintendo DS being the exception, and the home consoles have to take advantage of simplification due to the input devices of standard controllers.

The Escape: PolyCount Environment Challenge

The newest addition to my portfolio is the Escape environment created using the Unreal Development Kit by Blake Bjerke, Patrick Gantt, and I over the course of a month. You can check out the PolyCount forum here: The EscapeYou can also check out my contributions to the project here: My Contributions.

Thanks again to both Blake Bjerke and Patrick Gantt for an awesome learning experience and congratulations to all of those who participated in the challenge. There has been a lot of amazing entries into the competition and everyone should be very proud! Below are the images posted to the final submissions.

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Fundamentals of Game Design | Practices and Exercises

This is the first of many posts that I will be making that will outline my responses to the practices and exercise questions at the end of each chapter in the book Fundamentals of Game Design by Ernest Adams.

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The following are my responses to the questions and exercises posed at the end of the first chapter of this book. You can also download the Word file directly here: Chapter_1 . Please leave any comments if you agree or disagree with anything that I have said in this post!

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Fundamentals of Game Design | Chapter One

Design Practice | Questions

1.       As a potential designer, do you see yourself as an artist, an engineer, a craftsman, or something else? Why do you see yourself that way?

a. As a potential designer, I see myself as a World Builder more than anything else. This may fit in with the term craftsman, but from this point on I will refer to World Builder to describe myself as a potential designer. I see myself this way because I enjoy the creation of the game world through narrative as well as the construction of the game world within the engine. World Builders, in my opinion, are the back-bone of every game in that they serve as the anchors to keep the other aspects on track in terms of the overall vision of the game. World Builders set the stage of the game world and lay the ground work for the creation of player challenges, mechanics, and the art style of the entire game and that is something I see myself wanting to do as a potential designer.

2.  Do you agree or disagree with the definition of a game? If you disagree, what would you add, remove, or change?

a. According to the textbook, the definition of a game is as follows: A game is a type of play activity, conducted in the pretext of a pretended reality, in which the participant(s) try to achieve at least one arbitrary,non-trivial goal by acting in accordance to the rules. This definition makes solid points through its emphasis of play, pretended reality, arbitrary goals, and rules. The idea of a pretended reality goes back to the concept of the magic circle where once players enter this imaginary circle, they actively participate in the game by giving certain actions contextual importance and meaning based on the rules of the game. One of the more thought provoking aspects of this definition of what a game is, as well as many others, is whether or not a game needs a goal in order to be a game. I personally think that they do because I have found that in games where the rules do not specifically outline a goal or some sort of victory condition, players themselves create one. In the Golden Age of arcades, arcade games did not have an outlined goal for the player, though they may have had milestone goals for the players to complete such as individual levels or destroying individual enemies. The idea of having a high score chart/list became the overall goal for players because they made it their goal to achieve the highest high score and specific machines. If a game does not have some sort of goal, and just has repetitious actions for the player to perform, then that is where I draw the line and say that is not a game.

b. To think about this concept in a different light, people can turn remedial tasks such as doing the dishes or raking leaves in the front yard and turn them into a game by adding the element of an achievable goal such as raking all of the leaves until the biggest leaf pile on the block, or washing the dishes within a certain time limit. The process of turning chores into games by just adding some sort of achievable goal emphasizes the concept that games are games because of those goals. Another idea about the definition of a game provided by this textbook is whether or not everyone in the magic circle should be aware that they are participating in a game in order to be participating in the game. In other words, can it be possible for one or more players to be unaware that they are playing a game in order to actively participate in that game? Can one players’ unawareness to the magic circle be the driving force behind their actual participation in the magic circle?

3. We have defined game-play strictly in terms of challenges and actions, leaving out the game world or the story. Do you feel that this is appropriate? Why or why not?

a. I feel that the definition of game-play being strictly defined in terms of the challenges and actions, while leaving out the game world and the story, is very appropriate because game-play is simply how the player plays a game. The game world and the game story set the stage in terms of giving the challenges and actions that the player needs to perform and accomplish contextual meaning, but in most cases the game world and the game story do not get involved with game-play to the extent of being included in its definition. Space Invaders, for example, challenges the player to shoot and destroy alien space ships that are heading towards Earth. The game-play of Space Invaders is simply to move back and forth horizontally at the bottom of the screen and shoot upwards to destroy the slowly descending enemy space ships. Additional elements such as the barriers placed just above the player to use as temporary cover, the speed and overall  motion of the enemy ships, the slowly increasing music/beat that causes anxiety in players as the game progresses, the speed of the projectiles for both the enemies and the player, as well the UFO type enemy that appears on screen for extra points and the overall point value associated with destroying an enemy ship are all a part of the game-play of Space Invaders. The idea that these enemies are extraterrestrial beings coming to destroy the planet and the player is Earth’s last defense has nothing to do with the game-play of Space Invaders and just provides context/background to the players’ actions, perhaps making it more enjoyable or enhancing the overall experience, but is not part of the game-play.

4. Why is it fair if one athlete trains to become better but not fair if he takes drugs to become better? What does this say about our notions of fairness?

a. The idea of using any type of performance enhancing drugs is thought of as cheating on some level. The more popular drug, steroids, is thought of as cheating in most sports as well, and the reason that I think this is the case is because athletes are putting external/foreign chemicals into their bodies that the body does not produce itself naturally and therefore is cheating or looked at as being unfair. What if an athlete takes off the shelf or behind the counter vitamins to help boost different chemicals while they train? Is that the same thing? My thoughts are that on a very basic level using steroids and taking vitamins are the same thing; you are introducing external chemicals into your body in order to make some sort of enhancement. On a more ethical level, that is where things become different for most people. I don’t know much about the use of steroids and how strongly it effects the human body, but it does seem to effect the body in more drastic ways than any kind of vitamin available in stores. Is there a point where an athlete is introducing too much of a foreign chemical to call it cheating or unfair and should there be? Would things be different if all athletes were able to use steroids while training for their respective sport? If there were to be a baseball league where all of its players were able to use steroids if they wanted to, what would change? Would there be players who would choose not to use steroids and try to prove themselves naturally?

5. We’ve listed only the most important things that computers bring to gaming. What other things can you think of?

a. For this answer, I will first reiterate the most important things that computers bring to gaming as presented in the textbook. They are as follows: Hiding the Rules, Setting the Pace, Presenting a Game World, and Creating Artificial Intelligence. The first aspect that computers bring to gaming that I can think of is Massive Multiplayer Experiences. In today’s world, games are able to support thousands of players connected through a networked server and this allows different types of players to effectively communicate and coordinate with one another in order to play the game differently. The primary examples of this are World of Warcraft and EVE Online; these games bring thousands of players together in order to create a world that feels alive. A second aspect that computers bring to gaming is Global Sharing of Content. By this I mean that players can now share their gaming experiences with one another from all around the world. Through services like Ustream and YouTube, players can record their game-play and show essentially the world that content. Sony has implemented Ustream services into its next generation console, the PlayStation 4, and now the sharing of video content from the player to the world is becoming much easier. To extend even further, players are able to share game related information with one another through computers. Information such as video game reviews, previews, strategy guys, and overall game industry news is only possible at this scale it is today because of the power computers possess. The third and final aspect that I can think of that computers bring to gaming is Mobile Gaming. Mobile gaming has become extremely in most recent years, but the concept of mobile gaming has been present ever since the creation of the original Game-Boy. Having the ability to play a game while away from the television or the conveniences of the home is only really possible because of computers. Some may argue that table top games like Magic the Gathering can be played almost anywhere and not just in the home have a solid point, but one main difference is that a game on the phone can be played while moving, whereas players must be stationary to effectively play card games such as Magic the Gathering.

6. The list of ways that video games entertain people is only a beginning. What else would you add?

a. The list of ways that video games entertain people provided by the textbook include the following: Gameplay, Aesthetics, Harmony, Storytelling, Risks & Rewards, Novelty, Learning, Creative & Expressive Play, Immersion, and Socializing. On my first attempt at answering this question, the two additions I thought of were already part of this list in some shape or form. My first addition was Social Interaction through play, with my example being Sissy Fight 3000 but I realized that the original list already contained Socializing as one of the ways video games entertain people. My second addition to the list was Realistic Simulation, with my game example being Microsoft Flight Simulator but this addition can already be found in the original list provided by the textbook; Immersion. To start over now, the first addition to the original list of ways that video games entertain people would be Real-World Change meaning the use of the serious game genre to express a real-world concern through game-play. There are many examples out there for this type of entertainment, so I will choose one. My game example of this addition would be Darfur is Dying because this game aims to teach players about the real-world living conditions of those in Darfur through its game-play. There are some developers that want to send a strong message or at least bring some sort of real-world issue to the general public and choose video games as their medium for that message. My second addition to the original list provided by the textbook would be Competition. At one perspective, Competition can go hand-in-hand with Socializing in that competition is a potential off-shoot of socializing with friends such as when two friends come together to play a multiplayer shooter such as Halo. There are a tone of players, especially in the MLG (Major League Gaming), that are entertained by video games that provide the possibility of competition like the Call of Duty or Halo franchises. The third and final addition to the list provided by the textbook of ways that video games entertain people that I would make is Stress Relief. For some players, video games are a safe outlet to relieve stress from their everyday lives. Perhaps after a long day of work, a gamer would like to play a video game to get his/her mind off of the real-world or to get out their frustrations through a interactive digital media.


Design Practice | Exercises

1. Create a competitive game for two players and a ball that does not involve throwing it or kicking it. Prove that it is a game by showing how it contains all of the essential elements.

a. The competitive game that I have created for two players and a ball is an off-shoot of hide & seek, but instead of one player hiding while another tries to find them, the goal of this game is for one player to hide the ball and for the other to find it. The first objective for both players is to define the boundaries/borders of the game that will limit the space in which the ball can be hidden. Once the boundaries are defined, one player must count to a pre-determined number with their eyes closed and the other player takes the ball and hides it within the bounds of the game space. After the ball has been hidden and the seeking player has finished counting, the search begins. The player who has hidden the ball keeps track of time in that the seeking player has a limited time to find the ball before they lose. The goal of the player who has hidden the ball is to manipulate/deceive the searching player into wasting their time searching in places of the game space that the ball is not located. The goal of the seeking player is to find the ball within the given time limit as well as determine whether or not the other player is misleading them or not. The game will also contain a three round-structure where players will alternate roles after each round so that each player has an opportunity to both search for the ball and to hide the ball. Based on whether or not the ball is found, a point will be rewarded to a player. If the ball is found within the given time limit, the seeking player will receive one point, but if the ball is not found within the given time limit, the player who had hidden the ball will receive a point. The player with the most points after three rounds is the winner of the game.This is a game because of the following reasons: each player has his/her own unique set of objectives, there is a winning and losing condition, and there is no throwing or kicking of the ball.

2. Using a chessboard and the types of pieces and moves available in chess, devise a cooperative game of some kind for two people, in which they must work together to achieve a victory condition. (You do not need to use the starting conditions of chess, nor all the pieces.) Document the rules and the victory condition.

a. The cooperative game that I have in mind involving a chessboard and the types of pieces and moves available in chess would be for both players to choose a total of 7 chess pieces: 1 King, 1 Queen, 1 Rook, 1 Bishop, 1 Knight, and 2 Pawns. The goal for both players is to get all of their chess pieces onto the opposite back row of the chessboard without accidentally removing one another pieces. The same rules of chess apply with this game, but the goal is not to remove the other players’ queen; it is to cooperatively move across the board without removing any of their pieces. This game will require in-depth knowledge of the rules in chess as well as require careful cooperative tactics to ensure that each player keeps all of their pieces and successfully reach the opposite end of the board. The initial set up of the board requires players to place their 7 chess pieces at opposite ends of one another on the back row of the board. The game-play will be exactly like chess in that it will be turn-based so players must play cautiously and cooperatively in order to succeed. If either player loses at least one chess piece, the game is lost for both players.

3. Define a competitive game with a single winner, for an unlimited number of players, in which creative actions are available. Be sure to document the termination and victory conditions.

a. The competitive game that I have in mind is intended to be generic because of how large a spectrum creative actions thrive within. The goal of the game is to create a piece of visual art using any type element the player deems fits. Participating players cannot work together, but can find individuals outside of the game to participate or assist in the creation of a players’ visual art. Players have a total of 24 hours to go out into the world and create the most creative/stunning piece of visual art as possible within the given time frame. Players must also document the visual art through the use of photography or video and players also need to make sure all proven documentation is accessible to all players before the conclusion of the 24 hours. After the 24 hours have finished, participating players will then be placed into brackets randomly, much like a tournament. From there, each round will compare two pieces of visual art by two different players and a winner will be chosen based on the number of votes from other players. The winner will then move onto the next round until there is only one player left who then becomes the overall winner of the game. There are only two termination conditions for this game; the first is to not submit any documentation or evidence before the end of the 24 hours of play and the second is to have the smaller amount of votes when it comes to the round-based judging. The overall victory condition is to win each round, earning the most votes than your competing players. This game will challenge the creative minds of the players to use any resource available to them within a 24 hour time period to create the most compelling and creative piece of visual art.

4. Describe the elements of the game-play in each of the following games: backgammon, poker, bowling, and Botticelli. (Use the Internet to look up the rules if you do not know them.)

a. Backgammon – The main game-play of Backgammon consists of moving your set of chips in a horse shoe path to your home section and then systematically removing those pieces from the board; all of which takes place based on a dice roll of two die. I have never played this game and just reading the rules does not clarify the game-play to me, but I will do my best to describe the elements of game-play here. Based on the numbers rolled between two dice, the player must slowly move all of their chips between 4 quadrants in order to get them all on your home quadrant. Once all of the players’ chips are in the home quadrant, the player must roll the dice in order to determine from which spaces that the player can start removing chips from their home quadrant. When all of the players’ chips are removed from the board that player wins. The specifics of the dice roll when players need to move their chips to their home quadrant still confuses me, but the main game-play involves moving chips systematically based on the numbers rolled by the player.

b. Poker – The main game-play of Poker consists of players combining their hole cards with the community cards to make the best possible 5-card Poker hand. One of the larger aspects of the game-play is to psychologically convince your opponents into thinking that you have a better hand than you do. This can be done by placing large bets on the table to trick opponents into believing you have a better hand than they do, or by physically showing no signs through-out the game of how good of a hand the player has. At the beginning of the game, each player is dealt two cards. Once the first round of bets are placed, the dealer reveals three cards on the table called the flop. After a second round of bets and players choosing to fold, to exit the game, the dealer will then reveal the turn; a fourth card that players will then use in conjunction with their original two cards and the flop to begin concocting the best possible hand. Finally, the dealer reveals the river, a fifth and final card, that players must then use to complete their final hands. At this point, players can choose to fold or place one final bet. After the last betting round, all remaining players must reveal their hand and the player with the better hand wins and receives all of the money that was used to bet by all players throughout the course of the game. In short, the game-play of Poker consists of players trying to obtain the best hand at the table or convince their opponents that they have the best hand at the table.

c. Bowling – The main game-play of Bowling consists of rolling a ball down a lane in order to attempt to strike down a total of 10 pins. The game consists of 10 frames and within each frame the player has two attempts to roll the bowling ball down the lane in order to knock down the 10 pins at the end of the lane. The 10th frame is special in that if a player earns a strike, meaning they knock down all 10 pins in one roll, or if the player earns a spare, meaning that they knock down all 10 pins in two rolls, then they are given an additional frame. Within this additional frame, with the player earns a strike they are given one last frame, but if they earn a spare on the first additional frame then their game ends. Bowling is a unique sport in that there is a fixed “high score” in that the highest score attainable is 300 and the goal of the game is to reach that score or earn the highest score among competitors.

 d. Botticelli – The main game-play of Botticelli consists of one player thinking of a famous person, either fictional or non-fictional, and the remaining players take turns in either guessing the famous person or asking the player yes or no questions to reveal more information about the famous person. The game-play of the player choosing the famous person is to answer the questions posed by the other players of the game as best as possible. The game-play of the players guessing the identity of the famous person chosen is to either ask the one player questions about the unknown famous person or try to make guesses to the identity of the unknown celebrity. It is a general rule to make sure that the player choosing the celebrity chooses a celebrity know by all players. If, by the end of the game, the guessers give up and the identity of the famous person is revealed, the guessers can come together to claim that the celebrity was too abstract or unknown by most guessers.

5. List examples not already mentioned in this book of video games designed for single-player, local multiplayer, and multiplayer distributed play. Explain how the games’ design supports these different modes.

a. Single-Player – Most single-player experiences are based around some sort of story that the developers want to tell to players. Some examples of video games designed for single-player  include Banjo Kazooie, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario 64, Dishonored, and Bioshock Infinite. These games are purely story-driven games that challenges a single-player to complete challenges that coincide with major story elements. Banjo Kazooie, for example, holds potential for local multiplayer game-play because of the separation of the characters Banjo and Kazooie. Having two players individually playing as either Banjo or Kazooie would allow for more cooperative play, having each player possess a certain skill-set that they can use to solve puzzles individually or to solve puzzles together.

b. Local Multiplayer – In today’s video game world, there aren’t many games that support only local multiplayer; in most cases games support both local multiplayer and multiplayer over a network. In the past, there have been games that only supported local multiplayer game-play in conjunction with a single-player campaign. The original Halo: Combat Evolved for the Xbox is a good example of a game that did local multiplayer well, and containing a single-player experience. The same goes for the original Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Mario Party series found throughout the Nintendo console history. Halo, for example, was designed for multiplayer cooperative play through the single-player campaign as well as multiplayer death-match game types. As technology advanced, the Halo series introduced online multiplayer as well.

c. Multiplayer Distributed Play – In most recent game releases, especially on the PC platform, there have been titles that only allowed for multiplayer distributed play. Some of the earliest games to do this were EVE Online and the World of Warcraft. Both of these games took advantage of the connectivity that is used in PCs and allowed for large groups of people to come together and play. In these games especially, players can choose to play the game by themselves while others form groups/clans to play the game together, which is a very interesting concept. A newly released PC title that only allows for multiplayer distributed play that I enjoyed is Planetside 2. Planetside 2 pits three teams against one another in the acquisition of territories across three continents (very large maps).

d.  All Three Game Modes – Examples of games that have all three game modes available in their designs have already been mentioned in previous answers to this question such as the most recent entries from the Halo series like Halo 4. Halo 4 has a single-player campaign, local multiplayer, and online multiplayer available. The design of Halo 4 allows this because the games’ roots are in single-player and local multiplayer game modes, and the advances of technology, especially in the fields of network and connectivity, allows for multiplayer distributed play.

The Afflicted: GDC Play 2013

Hey everyone,

As most game industry people know, GDC 2013 took place last week at San Francisco at the Moscone Center from March 25th-29th. GDC Play, a subset show floor adjacent from the main expo and the Career Pavilion, is a recent addition to GDC where independent game developers are able to showcase their games to professionals and other independent developers.

For those who stopped by our booth, let me reiterate how thankful I am, as well as the entire team, that you took the time during GDC to check out our game and play it. For those who were able to play it, or take a copy of our game home, did you enjoy the experience? What are some aspects of the game you enjoy most? What are some aspects of the game that you feel need improvement? Please feel free to comment on this post with your thoughts on the game.

If you came to The Afflicted booth, but I was unable to speak to you please take down my information here and come into contact with me at your earliest convenience through email or LinkedIn.

Devin Sherry

Level Designer

Email: DevinSherry16@gmail.com

Phone Number: (516) 996-3347

Here are some images from The Afflicted kiosk on the show floor!

The Afflicted: Game Case

 

The Afflicted: Kiosk 01

 

The Afflicted: Kiosk 02

The Devin Sherry YouTube Channel is Up & Running

This is just a quick post outlining my new YouTube channel that can be found here: My YouTube Channel

On this YouTube channel, I will be posting my level design work as well as my UDK/Kismet tutorials that everyone can view and hopefully learn from. Every video on this channel can be found scattered in certain locations throughout my portfolio, but this is an easy way of having all of my videos in one place.

If you decide to check out any of the videos that I upload to my YouTube channel, please take the time to like videos, subscribe to my channel, and comment on a video with recommendations for improvements or if you would like me to cover another aspect of UDK or Kismet.

Thanks again in advance and I hope you enjoy the content that I put out :)

Here is the most recent addition to my channel:

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