Week 10 – Mid Production of Rain Boy

Following off the back of a busy first week I happened to find myself working during the weekend. Passion for the currently poject personall reached a new hight and I ended up working with my team to begin critiquing the currently work and talking about the texturing style we had been working in so far.

For the most part we all seemed to be working in line with one another om terms of colors and texturing style, having small discussions between the artists and also taking our idea or work to our designer and programmer to gain any new insights. Given the all around from the team, I took it upon myself the past weekend to finish texturing both my small platform creature and tree that I had not yet textured.

 

 

We have decided to keep reflections off and no metalics to keep the clean matte style of our work very present in the aesthetic. Given a round of good feedback and a few revisions to the texturing I managed to get these aseets into engine and looking nice. It was simple enough with out BPs to fit in the assets with ease and be able to use thekm in gameplay rather seemlessly.

Adding Character

I felt it was nessasary to add a little of movement into the game as currently we had a rather static environment. I had alwsy wanted to challange myself to start experimenting with shaders. While I have done a number of tech art jobs in the past, I had not yet fully finished a shader project that I was happy with. Given our use of UE4 I thought it might be a great time to have another go at creating something new and exciting. I thought a great idea that always adds plenty of detail and character into a scene was grass.

I started very simple with some basic photoshop alpha cards. They’re easy to make with a little of painting and a few alterations to the alpha channels. They didn’t need to be very detailed as they were planned to be small and moving so there was little need to go overboard. I have worked on creating alphas for graw before but always utilized them as staic meshes or foliage brushes.

 

Fig 1

 

Fig 2

 

This was the simple alpha plain I began work with. I took this into maya and created a simple low poly mesh using this as a guide. Given a short amount of time I managed to build up a patch of grass as seen in fig 2. The gradient was easy enough to program with the wonderful node system in UE4 as seen here.

 

 

Next I planned to work around creating movement. This is quite simple in UE4 providing you know a little bit around node work. Wind is already programmed into UE4 with the Wind node provided you also general normals for the wind to work correctly. it looked something like this.

 

Wind Normals

 

Wind Node System

 

This is easily customizable with speeds, direction, size and intensity. I also added a simple wave effect however I may plan to remove this later if it becomes too noisy.

 

Wave node system

 

With all this done, I managed to get it into engine and test the static meshes to see how well it worked. I planned to add it as landcape material or foliage brush depending on how well it works and looks, as well as if the blockout layout changes. This is the finished product.

 

Finished Grass

Some more changes are to be made. I feel I need to use a brush to control the density and also fiddle with the behavior of the shadows as it looks slightly off and at times causes slowdown.

After further tweaking throught the week I managed to get the brush working and fixed the shadows to give a far softer look. The blade were also large in compairison to the character so I also tweaked the sizing a little to make it seem more ‘grass-sized’. The new and finished look came out something like this.

 

And with myself and the team happy with this, my last few goals were to impliment this grass into the level, help with populating the blockout and finishing off a few assets.

Continued Efforts

A large part of my week was working both with Eric our designer and Eduards our othe environment artist to finish removing the greyboxes and placing them with our brand new assets. I overtook a lot of the large scale replacing. This of course took a lot of the week to achieve as with many level building tasks there are a lot of added changes and tweaks to be made. While I made some of the changes myself, such as altering hitboxes, reimporting items at right scales and resdesigning some of the level to fit with what we had to build, a lot of help was given from the whole team. Any issues were handled and communication worked seamlessly even considering how busy everyone this entire week.

While replacing grayboxes is slow and uniform, I did take a lot of enjoyment out of seeing the world come together before me. I took a lot of time to grab my team and ask to see if they would playtest and give feedback where they felt I made any error or if anything could simply be improved. The continued support and help from my team was a godsend and I feel very honored to work with such lovely and passionate people. Here are a few snips showing the slow progress. There are a number of assets I made also in the mix, showing some of the time I had to spend away from level building to help and give myself assets that fit better into the level as it slowly developed.

 

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And without further ado here is what the whole level turned out like.

 

 

And with that the large portion of my work was done. We all worked insanely hard this week to get everything into engine and have some time to finish polishing the last of our work before submission. I can’t wait to see our peers have a go at Rainboy.

 

Reflection

This second project was a different experience from the first. I felt swamped with the load of work I was asked to achieve in my first project and it seemed overwheming. Once again this project was alot of work to pull out, however I have had a much more enjoyable and wonderful experience this time round with the help and support of some very passionate young developers.

I pushed myself hard to achieve a lot of new things this time around and I feel as though even if I learned a lot in the first project, this time I feel like I prefected what I hoped to more-so. It was a difficult two weeks filled with a lot of work hours and researching and reiteration. I am insanely proud of the amount of work I managed to pull off, however I still think I’m suffering from the same problem os overworking myself. While it has been fun and engaging, I feel burned out with the large plate of work myself and my team put out for ourselves to do.

I still feel I need to work more on underscoping my projects a little as I still try to take on as much as I can, going out of my way to even help the other team members when I know I have too much work to finish myself. Whilst this was managable with my wonderfully talented team, I realize there will not always be times where I can rely on others to help should I fall behind. I still strive to fix this flaw of mine, yet I feel as if I am slowly understanding what I can achieve comfortable more and more as I take this journey.

 

To Rain Boy!

Week 9 – Rain Boy

The time for the next game project is upon us. This time we were asked only to work along the theme of empathy following our research into systems of power and empathy in the past weeks. My team and I are all very excitred to work, having studied and worked together before in our BA at Falmouth. We plan to make a ambitious project considering our team size is noticable larger.

We consist of 3 artists, 1 designer and animator and 1 programmer. among the artists we have a range of different skills, Emma focusing around Character and Creature 2D & 3D art, Eduards majoring in environment, texturing and tech art and myself an enviroment and prop artist.

Our idea phase began around the last two weeks pre organinizing before we was set on the team to get ahead so we can start production smoothly. We plan to make a puzzle platformer with management of a compainion being the main gameplay loop. The weeks spent researching differnt approches gave us many ideas when it came to settling on an idea, however the empathy we think we can achieve around the goal of helping a small critter in need has been a large talking point in a lot of our brain storming sessions.

As a side note we are all, besides our programmer, living together which has been massively helpful in these social distancing times in terms of being able to easily communicate and work and help together to push us all towards a common goal. Of course we have and still plan to keep the communication between us and Toby our programmer as freqent as possible as we have all reflected on the struggle it is when dealing with a team that has a lack of communication.

This is the design doc we put together as a group to present for the seminar this week.

 

Production

Production for myself has began quickly with us three artists taking the time to chat about the aesthetic we wish to achieve. We wanted to do something new and different and that really revolved around the main hazard of our game. Rain.

Rain plays a big part in our game in that your traveling compainion does not fair well under the rain conditions. You as a player are tasked with leading hime along their journey together with your trusty umbrella, guiding him to safe shelters and pressing on to create a pathhe can safely traverse. We feel the empathy players will feel comes from the helplessness of the compainion, the poor critter not doing much in terms of helping the player. In a way it’s almost a crutch for your journey. While there will be times it will help in getting through areas, it’s mostly a helpless thing that solely relies on you for safetly.

Given that rain was such a big part of the game, I went hard into researching artstyle and more importantly color pallettes. I planned to pitch two different perspectives. A warm and desaturated environment with sunny rays and warm raindrops. The other is one of deep reds and dark blues, giving a more moody look to the game to drive home the feel of sympathy for the creature in the game’s drab looking world. Here was the moodboard I came out with.

 

 

There are also a humber of minimalist looking enivonments and games that may fit well as a key art piece. I wished to give differing moods to the team to get a solid vibe settled before we began further into creating any assets.

 

Alien To Us

We have settled around the setting of the world. Cuteness is a powerful gem for setting empathy for players. The likeliness of players feeling the need to help and protect something that is considered adorable and helpless is far more easy and achieveable than empathizing with something scary or villanous. Because of this reason we felt is might be useful to settle on something abstract in terms of world setting. Absurdism is a great tool in art in that it gives you a lot of freedom in creating what comes to mind without much thought into how well the concept stands against the real laws of the world. We plan to use absurdism to not only create something uniquely cute, but also cultivate a interesting and wonderous environment that we hope players find intriging.

With this in mind and a lot of other reference collections and ideas from my team, I got to working on concepting some prop pieces to help sell the idea of what we planned to make. I tried to keep the designs simple, readable but with a bit of wackiness. I found mesing with shape language did a great job in keeping things looking like they were designed to be, but also tipping the idea of what you might think a tree looked like. These are some of the very quick designs that I came out with.

 

 

These got a lot of good feedback from the team. Thankfully they all seemed to fully agree with the way I pushed the designs. Without sounding too boastful, production and moral always goes a long way when you find the team is all on the same page with the vision they all share. I plan to move these designs ahead and potentially tweak them. However considering the level od detail we have in that the game is planned to be a fully 3D 3RD person perspective, there will be a lot of asset production that needs doing.

Given that myself and the designer were working together at this current time to get the blockout working and figured out I did feel as if moving one or some of the first designs into 3D might give myself and the artists a perspective to start talking about how we really want our assets to look. We plan for midploy workflow as we are working in a small prject in UE4 which can handle a lot of high poly models with ease. Even so we have discussed having simple designed assets to keep the pipelines fast and easy and keep more of the heavy lifting around texturing, color choices and shader/lighting work.

Here was some of the early Maya sculpts I made in preperation for texturing. Given we also had a desperate need for a platform asset to slot into the BP for the pickable platform object, I also concepted said platform and managed to work towards texturing a base coat.

 

Foliage

 

Platform

 

 

Reflection

And thus has ended week 9. It’s already been a busy week with the whole team outputting a lot of work and effort. In my past experiences with other teams, it’s always a hard task to stay motivated when the team or a select number of team members are struggling to grow their passion to work on the project. We so far have been doing well motivation wise and can probably work that up to the fact we all had a talk around the kind of interesting topics or pipelines or concepts we want to pursue and managed to fit that all in together so we can all get something out of the project.

This of course isn’t always a solution that can be achived, but I have began to find even in failing or doomed projects, there is often motivation and passion found if the team is doing what they want to pursue in their professional and creative journeys. Even in failure you can have fun working on something and learn plenty during the way.

Besides that I feel happy that we have manged to keep a good line of communication. Even given we have a large portion of us living in the same house, there is often busy schedules for all of us with everyone having work to be done or lives to live. I feel I’ve learned a little more that giving effort into managing work and other responcibilies is not only something to consider for your own sake, but to consider how best to work around other’s. Being a good team member is to be understanding, helpful and responcible.

With out subject matter on hand too, I have found that Empathy goes a long way in working well in a team too.

Week 8 – Empathy

Our week started with a seminar talking about a common yet often misused emotion that games try to convey.

 

 

Empathy is a strong emotion. Empathy is the ability to recognize, understand, and share the thoughts and feelings of another person, animal, or fictional character. This is common in games as most players typically can empathize with their character as they often are more or less imprinting their own likeness to the characters they spend hours playing and and getting invested in.

Of course that is the most common use of empathy in games, it’s an easy thing to do with the level of interation the player has with the main character. It’s easy to sympathize with yourself so to a degree games that cause players to feel empathy with their PC often are relying on the conjoined-ness of the player to the player character. Especially with games that allow players to create their own being from scratch with appearance, skill and job choices, backgrounds and choices. Of course this is still technically empathy, however it relies heavily on the player’s ability to sympathize with their own actions which give a strange and disconnected form of empathy I personally feel.

Even so games do well in making players feel their character’s drives and motives and personally connecting them to the character they play. However great games do more than that. Great games use empathy to make you feel deep empathy to those outside your control. As it takes a good hearted person to feel for those less fortunate then them or even those whom may not share the values as them, good games make you feel deep empathy for the people you meet, the worlds you explore and even sometimes the villains you fight.

We were asked a very simple question about the games we’ve played. What shocked us and Why did it shock you.

This was broken down further. What emotion did you feel and what questions did it ask about the ethic and moral ramifications.

Faking Emotion

We all spoke freely in the seminar about the games that had made us feel these powerful emotions. Some of the biggest and most prominant moments were in games such as “GTA 5” and “CoD MW2”.

Both of these games feature a number of difficult moral and ethical questions. GTA gives us a very bleak vision of the world, full of racism, facism, inequality, crime and offencive steriotypes. In a way it’s a very on the nose parody of the world, providing a very exagerated world in which it’s steriotypes push the boundaries into the absurdist valley. To some this is very shocking and it is proven in the number of times the franchise had been in the news, becoming a flagship for those whom consider gaming to contribute to violent bahavior.

GTA stands in their oppisition proudly, almost taunting it’s critics as it uses controversy to further it’s sales. In fact their first game was instantly marred with news papers and anchors condeming the game before it’s release. Little did people know at the time that this was a planned controversy, something the developers pushed into the media to gain hype and traction around their game. At a point they even faced lawsuits and court cases but eventually managed to release their game to great sucess and now stand in defiance as one of the largest companies in the market.

It’s all documented here if you would like to read more into the background behind the start of the biggest developer on the market.

“This was the first ‘Grand Theft Auto’ history more than 20 years ago”

Unfortunately this ‘wokeness’ that GTA totes as it’s prize motif does fall flat. Especially considering the less wacky, more streamlined, mainstream release of GTA 5. The game seems to almost stop caring about a lot of it’s original absurdist exagerations. Characters have become just normalized steriotypes doing morally injust things not to parody themselves, but because they were merely written too. The francise has seemingly settled into it’s world and honestly become what it was once parodying. This has the potential to really cause social harm, giving players a somewhat grounded story with morally injust and racist or facist charactures of races, communities and societal systems. This is almost proven in the fact the biggest controversy at release was not the shrewd exagerations of people of color or people from other nations or even whole commnities, but in fact the inclusion of a torture scene. It almost begs the question if the developers have normalized the terrible way they convey different people or groups.

To a degree the same can be said in CoD MW2. It’s traditionally a game filled with excessive violence against normally non-american ‘bad guys’ so as a whole violence is to be expected. However the game features a tasteless scene where you play as a terrorist tasked with mowing down innocent people at an airport. It serves no purpose and almost seems like it’s wanted to ride off the, at the time, very present ‘War on Terror’ in the middle east.

These are ways I feel shock value really does not add any value. We should be shocked by things we never thought about, never experienced or were able to see from our own perspective. Shock for purpose of purely prodding your players is cheap and potentially harmful.

 

 

Emotion Done Right

(Spoilers for Undertale Ahead!)

 

Given that I spoke of it only last week it comes to no surprise that Undertale is a game I feel does empathy right. I detail the many ways it uses it’s system to make the players feel for the very cold world they are presented with. What shocked me in the game the most was the combat system however.

Given our natural disposition in games to fight whatever the games puts in front of us it come as a massive surprise in Undertale that should you take the combat oriented path, the game proves to you that in fact the people of this new and strange world were right to fear and distrust you. It’s so natural to fight in games, made harder so when the game forces you down a harder path just to win without harming anyone. It’s easy to just fight.

But that’s the point. Disposing of oppisition is easy. Why deal with a problem or do things to change it when you can just get rid of the roots of the problem. Why should you give those who push you away the mercy that they never thought to give you.

It really explains to you that if the world is unfair to you to you from start, should you be the villan that everyone thinks you to be, or should you be the one who struggles through life taking the steeper path just to prove those wrong. The game is even made to almost force you into that path of no redemption. Passive playthrough are harder and the game offers no clues as to how to play or hints to what fighting actually means. It wants you to make that easy choice so it can subtly shock you with the ramification of what you really did. It makes you fight your friends, those who you spend hours with and those who have deeply wonderful qualities.

And then it gives you the ending, the bad ending. And it shocks you again when it tells you this is what the game expected of you. When you decide to play again, even if passively, the game still remembers those you killed in past playthroughs. It sticks that death to you game file, getting very meta in speaking to you directly and changing files depending on how you play. It really give you a hard time for doing something that is commonly just a typical gameplay loop.

If makes you feel sad.

It makes you feel guilty.

It makes you feel empathy for the world that gave you none…

Week 7 – System Love

In this week we had two tasks to set out to complete. The first was to set up a repo in preperation for our upcoming game project. This went rather standard as I already had worked out my team whom I have worked with well before and also we all have experience with version control so this came easy to us.

The other more challanging task was to set oout to take a deep dive into ”System Love”. This was a research task into the complexities of Cultural or Societal systems yet also Technical or Aesthetic systems. At first this was a little confusing to me as I feel I didn’t quite understand the task at hand. I understood it as an exporation of how games use these systems to juxtapose the very real systems in place in the real world, or to look into processes used by technitians or artists to create creative media.

I choose to look more into the idea of systematic relations and how one of my favorite games uses hierachy in an interesting way to show the unfairness and burden that these cultural or societal systems put on the people it is in place to protect. I choose to focus around a game that shows inequality based purely on looks and not on the color of your kindness because as Nicolas Kristof says in his 2014 Article “An Idiots Guide to Inequality”

 

“Inequality causes problems by creating fissures in societies, leaving those at the bottom feeling marginalized or disenfranchised.”

 

While this focuses on the gap between finantial classes, it still rings true as with many pyramid hierachies, those at the bottom suffer and those never included in the system suffer harder. We often aim for the top in life, but never look down to see who might need a hand getting to where you might be.

 

Week 7 Challenge

 

For the workshop please prepare written and visual or even audio material to illustrate your research
and thinking from two systems:
1. Cultural or Societal – This refers to systems in our environment some of which are explored in
the lecture but you should use this as inspiration rather than prescription. These could be
systems of government, religion, natural, political or cultural systems that you want to use as a
theme for your next sprint.
2. Technical or Aesthetic refers to systems of production. Whether it is researching an artist or
movement or an engineer, designer or field of science to understand a process that you are
passionate about deep diving into

 

As stated this was my written short essay regarding Undertale, a story based around raw emotion in which you overcome and disprove a world with a system that rejects you from the very start. Where often no one belives in you and where those who believe too much only aim to push you down.

 

Undertale, an abstraction of Raw emotion.

 

Undertale drops you the character into a new world where you are almost instantly seen as an outsider. From the get go you learn of the immense power in the game world beyond your benign abilities. In terms of societal powers at play, you come to learn very quickly the Monarchy based hierarchy the underworld of Undertale takes from.

 

Given that you’re put into already not part of this pyramid hierarchy, you are constantly reminded on your journey of the line of responsibility the world follows, you learn of the issues this system causes to its people and you see the issues this system has when dealing with someone that is “Not part of the system”.

For very little reason, the small child you play is an unknown detail in this world, different from the monsters and claimed to be the real “monster”. This touches not only on the closed minded attitude of a sovereignty, but also many different social or cultural real life systems, where those who are not “The same” are seen by some as dangerous or alien.

This concept is already chilling enough to think about in real-life, but the attitude this game has towards the PC is to kill them or push them away or to find anyway to rid themselves of this issue. Given the story progression, this fear starts from the top of the hierarchy, where the king fear losing his sovereign power over his people. It expresses this issue from a selfless point, as a fear for the safety of this people, but also subtly eludes to the king’s own fear of losing his power.

In contrast to this society of power in play world-wise, the actual mechanics push themselves too. The entire message of the game is to really be given a choice of peace over violence. The “power-level” in the game is Determination. A raw emotion that gives such unchecked power that people would fear your for.

This idea is game-ified when it comes to gameplay too. Your determination is represented as a heart in a small box arena. Enemies attack with their Determination to beat you, causing projectiles to fire at you, obstacles to rush towards you and other hazards that you have to dodge with your heart.

 

It visualizes the both raw emotions but also physical attacks derived from the enemy. For instance Undyne is a spear wielding soldier from the King’s guard. Her attacks consist of many spears flying towards your PC’s heart. While this would be a normal attack in game, Undertale abstracts that simple attack and transforms it to a pure exemplification of her emotions. It’s as much of a collection of the character’s themes, aesthetics and ideals, but they abstract it through emotion.

Of course seeing as the game asks you to make a moral choice about, this is one of the few abstracted mechanics. In terms of fighting against these attacks of poor emotion, you have two ways to fight back. The violent route consists of a simple rhythm chart, stopping the small pointer will give different dmg when it stops on different parts of the chart.

 

In terms of peaceful retaliation however, Undertale takes a different approach than most JRPGs it follows after. Peaceful solutions often take the form of non-aggressive actions, such a petting a dog or feeding it treats or such as. It works well with the first system of Determination, which is often a representation of the character’s looks, personality or traits. In the same way peaceful attacks are used as puzzles. Some Enemies don’t appreciate the kind action you take, some like a Dog knight require you to pet them a few time before switching it up and grooming their fur, creating passive options to surpass both the person the world-view has on you, but also game-ifying passion actions into gameplay that is engaging

 

Reflection

I found this very engaging to work on. I know for a fact I focussed a lot on many different aspects of the game and became a little distracted from the original message. However I felt that the game really pushed itself as a whole package and that I may not have been able to express my point if I had no given time to explain those other systems that support it’s deeper meaning.

re-reading the essay I do wonder if some of my points seemed stretched and maybe misunderstood, however given the background of Toby Fox I do feel he often is someone trying to tell something important, hiding behind the facade of asurdism to get his points across. Even if my points are invald or misunderstood, I still enjoyed looking into a game I thought made a real personal difference on me as I played it all those years ago and it was very enjoyable to be able to take a deep dive into a game from the perspective of breaking down it’s many subtle systems.

I feel I may take note of this task and mayhaps work on writing more about videogames I love as this was a very insightful and interesting task to complete. Given I spent enough time playing games, for once it was interesting tot ake a step back and intead think about what they are trying to tell you with their many systems and small detail.

Every game is a labour of love and sometimes art has many stories to tell.

 

“Art is a line around your thoughts.” – Gustav Klimt

Bibliography

Kristof, A. (2014) An Idiots Guide to Inequality. Accessable from <https://sites.duke.edu/videoforsocialchange/files/2014/08/IdiotsGuidetoInequality_NYTimes_Kristof.pdf> (Accessed Nov 10th)

Week 6 – Reflections on Key To Adventure

A Finished Product

Our first game project is submitted and finished to the best of our abilities. I have had a lot of fun learning new and exciting art pipelines and really challanged myself to learn lots of new thing, experiement and undertake a large pool of tasks. It has been fun working with my team and we for the most part communicated very well.

I look forward to seeing our peers playtest and give critique on our finished game as I always find the reactions and critial thinking feedback to be the most rewarding part of game development.

New Experiences

During these part two weeks, I’ve had a lot of new and interesting things to research, practice and deliver upon. Nothing that I have worked on in the past two weeks have been something I have felt 100% confident in undertaking yet the challenges they provided are rewarding to no ends. 2D art, character design, UI, Unity, pixel-based art and some minor animations. These are all fully new subject I have taken on board and I feel happy I have had the chance to be able to experiment and learn about so many fancinating new pipeline.

My character design and 2D art I feel I have come far in this project. They are the most comfortable subjects that I have undertake as they are both personal hobbies of mine and 2D art is actually where my roots lay. However despite this I had yet to have taken any of these skill and test them in professional waters and the experience has instilled me with a new found boost of confidence that I may be able to undertake them once more with some added effort and practice.

As with many typical softwards, my limited Unity knowledge has grown, espcially considering I had not tried making a 2D based game. I found it to be actually somewhat easier than I had imagined, even if it came with it’s fair share of challenges. Working with Animations was also fun given I was planning on taking a course in animation during my search for a course before studying at Falmouth. It was of course very simple stopmotion-like animating, however working witht he programmer to learn about how you go about cutting together images to form a running animation and how best to tweak it was engrossing and will definately help iun the future, if only to understand better what other artist, animators or programmers are talking about or require from me.

UI and pixel art was where I was most at lost here. I have never even researched into either, so these took me a lot of time to wrap my head and around and understand the basics. UI basics were easy enough to understand given a little time, however concepting for myself it became a slight brickwall as I have never flexed my brain muscles in the context of designing for UI elements. Pixel art furthermore proved an issue, easy enough once again to understand the basics, but a struggle to fiddle with when it came to working. The range of tools and programs, different resolutions and paying great attention to those numbers as well as the size of each element in game proved to be rather hard. Even designing in limited resolutions was at times difficult. However it was still a great experience to have gone through and I do feel I will try to continue working on these skills in my own time to see if I can better yet understand how they work and what makes them such powerful tools in the gaming industry.

 

Key To Adventure – Final Reflections

I had a number of issues going into development as foretold in my previous writings. Given I had a lot of work and a lot of new things to learn, I feel my bigger mistake for this project was taking on far too many tasks and new tools.

I feel I personally didn’t have the hindsight to speak up a little more in early development when it came to concepting as it does seem like the game suffered from a large amount of feature creep or overscope. This overscope relfected badly for me as I found myself buried with a lot of work to handle by just myself. I also made the mistake of lending a hand to our designer from time to time, as well as managing the design docs, meeting planning and sprint planning. This meant I was rushed for time for the two weeks, which proved to be unhelpful considering I had a lot of things to research and study to undertake.

I still feel massively impressed and proud with the work I managed to put out as I feel a lot of it is to a adequate quality considering the circumstances.

One of the second largest issues I had was a two part issue. I struggled for a long time with working out resolution scales and ect for the pixel art to read as it should. A lot of time went into researching and troubleshooting and I found I ran into many scaling issues. This is common in game dev of course so I didn’t let it deter me. These issues would have been rather easy to solve if there was not as much of a problem with the communication between myself and my Designer. To to fault of both of us, we weren’t entirely on top of communicating well and this meant as I ran into issues that were down to a fault or mistake of my designer, or if something was built in a very specific way that wasn’t readily understandable to me, this lack of communication meant there were no fixes to the problem. This often resulted in frustraion and myself taking time to correct or understand or rebuild things correctly which wasn’t helpful considering the time frame we had to work in. This presented itself very apparently early-on in the way the blockout was built as it was done in such a way that I was required to rebuild it when the replacement assets were finished.

There were also a number of small problems that didn’t effect gameplay much but that I would have liked to have been able to fix. Things such as a broken resolution on the PC, some scaling or opacity issues, small tweaks to art that could have been made.

Despite how it might seem however, I am happy with what we managed to pull on. In my personal opinion I felt it was too much for us to have finished comfortably and professionally without any hiccups, so I am quite glad we managed to geta  good looking and well working game out of the past two weeks. I do feel sad that the design work really let our game down. The gameplay loop boiled down to a rather bland and non-existant puzzle clicker with movement and some dialogue. The idea really didn’t get enough work or development to be as engaging as I hoped.

I don’t fault this as I feel I’ve learnt that there are times that ideas fail, because they are impossible to achieve, lack passionate parenting, need more or for other reasons. There is often more you learn in failure then in sucess, for doing everything right won’t tell you what will cause you failure in the future. I still strive to learn something even if things look like they may not work out and I am glad that I actually learned a lot this term. I hope to continue to work on these new budding skills and hopefully become better as a developer, artist and person.

 

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.

Albert Einstein

 

Here’s to Key to Adventure and to future projects!

Week 5 – Finished cast and Environmental designs.

Week Start

Week 5 starts anew and development is in full production. We still have a lot of the design work and writing to be done, however the map has been drawn out and implimented with blockouts. Our programmer has done well with implimentation of ths systems, movement and inventory systems being fully implimented, as well as NPC interaction. The gameplay loop has yet to be fully finished and as does trading, but with NPCs and the map fleshed out I can get to putting my work into the current build.

We have had a lot of discussion this week so far as well as over the weekend of week 4 about a lot of the design details. We have fully commited to the full gameplay loop around the trading plot/mechanics drawn out in my post for week 3. We had planned to have a longer puzzle to solve out with more items and trading to be done, however it doesn’t seem viable with the time we have let especially considering the items all need assets and the map would have to be increased in size potentially to hide more things.

Another detail we spoke over was art based. I hashed out a number of different color palletes to give different options we could go for instead of sticking with the two tone purples I used in the original concept art for the main character. Even so myself and the team still felt the purple color pallette was the most strongest.

 

 

 

The Finished Cast

Given the list of things I have to complete this week for the finished project, there was not much time to give alterations to the rest of the townsfolk, as much as I wanted to. Character designs are something I have a great personal interest in, however I don’t have the confidence nor is it my major so I felt rather pressured to get these all done. We settled on a cast of three characters, one being from the original designs for the Main character. The goal with these guys was to make something wacky and alien looking in compairision to the player character to drive home the fact he did not fit in his home town. I tried my best to make original and abstract looking characters, taking inspiration from a lot of very loose and experimental shows such as “Adventure Time” and “The Midnight Gospel” which feature trippy designs.

 

'The Midnight Gospel': A Trip for Stoners and Non-Stoners ...The Midnight Gospel

 

I was rather happy with the finished designs as was my team. I still think perhaps my ‘ghostly’ character needs more time to have some more intreging detail work come out however with the time I have left that will be likely left for if I have enough time to finished everything else.

These were the following two townsfolk I finished and managed to impliment today. Whilst they both seem to not be following the same resolution of the others, that was down to an issue I ran wen implimenting the first two sprites into engine. Due to some issue we found in the blueprint, it was too large for the sprite and was stretching out my sprites still the point where they were becoming blurry and losing detail. While we have now found the problem, at the time I had redrawn them with with double the resolution so the sprite did not lose so much detail. It was a quick and messy fix, but we were unsure if we could fix the original issue and this worked perfectly at the time.

 

 

Replacing Blockouts

At the start of the week we had our design finish the blockout of the map. That means that I was now free to go about replacing those greyboxes with nice, clean art assets. There was a number of things needed to make for the map, namely the houses and the walls of the town. I manaed to get at least one varient of the house made this week, along with a semi-modular wall set.

Doing top down and 2D has been a struggle for modularity as I have never had to really think about how to make something tilable. It’s only made worse as our game camera is slightly tilted, meaning there was a lto of work to be done around getting the perspective right. Foregrounds were a struggle for me this week, thus I have let to do the southern walls to the town as I am still researching how to do it.

Even so I managed to get a large number of assets drawn out. They have a large resolution than the character sprites, indicitive of the Genesis’s resolution scale of 320px by 224px as I found working with only two values for a larger piece was too time consuming and I was struggling to fit everything in whilst giving all the detail I wanted to.

As our backdrop was also the light purple value, I also put in a small floor decal to add more eye candy for the players and to make it seem less bland and I got feedback during last weeks playtest from another team that the environment was too bland.

 

 

My lack of experience with both Unity and 2D sprites meant I wasn’t sure how to set up these walls to click together. Given the time frame and the small size of the map, it was just easier to fit them together by hand. They were drawn to tile well which made it easy when lining them up and replacing all the blockouts.

Our designer had made a number of mistakes in building the blockout, causing me to have to almost entirely rebuilt it which took some time. I think this was due to a lack of communiaction between him and myself, our designer not having lots of experience in building graybloxes in Unity. If I had the time and had known in advance, I wish i could have communicated with him better and maybe gone about building the level together to share advice and tips so it made replacing the blockout easier and faster, however I was not aware until I came about implimenting assets.

I added a number of small assets and got the house done to impliment. Drawing flat and in a tiled perspective gave me some issues with drawing the house, so I ended up actually drawing an impossible house. The front facing wall is drawn in slightly incorrect perspective however it was far better looking this way as it gave a clearer idea of what it was players would look at. Asking my team instilled hope that it didn’t flow too far into the uncanny valley vibe and break the illusion too much.

 

 

Last Touches

One of the last things I did this week was moving towards UI. This involved 3 things, the items that was mostly a UI element anyway, the Inventory system and the dialoge boxes. I have never looked much into UI design before and never taken a stab at designing any myself so this was a challenge I was uneasy to take on. I took some time to look into what made good UI design and some of the processes that go into the pipeline. In his blog post “Game Design UI” Brian Oppenlander says

“Players don’t want to sit in front of UI’s — they want to be interacting with the bacon of the game. Every time you put a UI element in front of a player you’ve just removed the player from the experience to deal with a boring UI.”

This stuck with me as I wanted our UI to be mostly uninteractive, more-so a snippet of infomation that the players could use to continue on with the actual gameplay without having to worry about micromanagement or diving into any menus. Anthony Storehouse’s blog post “User Interface Design In Video Games” was great in giving me infomation for what kind of UI I wished to create, ‘Meta UI’ as it states. This is typically detatched from the gameplay and overlayed on the screen yet with meaningful and relevant tact. A great example he uses is the phone from the GTA franchise. The phone is overlayed like tradional Non-Diagetic UI however emulates an actual phone for the player to loosely connect the traditional menu to what their PC is doing.

Using this research, I worked on the inventory system first, emulating what the play would use to actually store items in. It is to be overlayed always on screen as there is no need to program added key bindings to bring up menus as it would take away from the theme of quick and easy infomation gathering the player will go through when exporing and talking. We want the player to always know what they have or don’t without forcing them to waste time in menus.

 

This was the first iteration. Without experimenting I decided on reducing opacity on the bag to avoid the opposite effect of causing the players so miss infomation or things on the map due to the inventory system always being displayed. I also worked on the first item asset, this one being the key.

I found it was rather hard to actually notice any of the items due to the colors. Sometimes the items would often look too blended with the actual map backdrop to understand what you were looking at seeing as they were overlayed on the screen.

Because of this issue, continuing onward I made a very decisive design change. Changing the hue of the items seemed to help but still didn’t feel right in line with the game. I trialed changing the colors entirely but stuck with keeping only 2 values. While not the best solution in my personal opinion, the team and myself felt it was the best design choice to keep the game feel correct.

 

I also drew these in the higher resolution as we spetn a long time tweaing the size and having a higher resolution meant any changes in size was not to the detriment of the actuall look of the assets. While the color change was a very distinct decision, it felt right in that the assets felt more important, if easier to find in the world. This also gave myself and my team another idea to compliment our main character’s personal drive. I played around with upping the resolution and also giving him a very garish and noticable color change. I worked with the outlines being ligher and more saturated and the block color being the darker and desaturated value, in juxtaposition to the previous colors. This was to make him stand out even more amonst the world. I also worked on simple different states to emulated a very minimalist walk cycle for the programmer to snip together. Small details were remworked too/

 

 

Last thing I had to work on this week was something I had planned to be a stetch-goal as our programmer has actually managed to make a makeshift one in engine. However seeing as I had the time to work on it, I got to working on a dialoge box for the text to overlay over. Given the small stretch of time I had to work on it, I kept the design rather simple and opted for a piece of paper to have text written on. It came out well but required a few reworks to get the right resolution and size working.

 

 

A Finished Product

With that last detail sorted out this equaled a finished prototype save for small bug fixes and changes here and there. This was a heavy undertaking for us all and I honestly wish I had been more aware of the amount of work this concept would be for myself on the art-side of the project. However I had a lot of fun learning new techniques and pipelines, gained a lot of knowledge and enjoyed working with new fellow game developers.

 

Bibliography

Oppenlander, B. (2015) Game UI Design. Avaliable at <https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/BrianOppenlander/20151223/262574/Game_UI_design.php> (Accessed at Oct 25)

Stonehouse, A. (2014) User Interface Design In Video Games. Avaliable at <https://gamasutra.com/blogs/AnthonyStonehouse/20140227/211823/User_interface_design_in_video_games.php> (Accessed at Oct 25)

Week 4 – Creating The Cast

Finding Inspiration

Week 4 marks the start of development for our first game project. Given the character driven gameplay we hope to achieve, my goal in week 1 of our sprint will be to work around designing the main character and with hopes the rest of the cast.

One of the first tasks that I take on when designing anything anew is research. Having done a lot of research around pixel art and the different technical challenges, I now need to look into what inspirations I could draw from when designing both the main character and rest of the cast. One of the key details my team had made clear around the designs of our characters was to keep the designs freeform and quite abstract. We need a cast of either boring charcters or weird and strange characters to make the player feel either disinterested with the town, or out of place with the bizzare cast.

One of the games I first took interest in when thinking about the first designs for the cast was “Monster Boy and The Cursed Kingdom” a follow up game to a old game one the SEGA. The game features a main human character and small cast of anthromophic animal forms he can transform into. The artstyle is semi indicitive of almost traditional cartoon shows such as ‘Pinky and the Brain’ and ‘Rocko’s Modern Life’ with very soft curves to the linework and large shape language to emphasise details.

 

Monster Boy And The Cursed Kingdom Interview: A Big ...

 

Another game that really hit a beat in my research was the narritive based game “Night in The Woods” which has you in the shoes of a struggling college dropout finding her way in the world. At first it was the narrative based gameplay that took my interest, given we were trying to create a text based game that used a lot of visuals and free movement.

The gameplay consists of a collection if small minigames that seem adapted to the main core loop which is most certainly the actualy dialouge between you and the many town’s people and friends and family you run into. It isn’t inheriently noticable at first either, the game really serves it’s small minigames in small doses and it becomes more and more clear that each game was designed specifically to fit in with the consistantly present story, something that often comes as emergant gameplay rather than core. More interestingly as the game unfolds, you begin to realize that even the small snippets of gameplay in these minigames are designed and placed for a reason, to compliment the story and give yet more power to the real core focus in Night in the Wood’s strength, it’s character development.

In his Gamasutra breakdown of the game “Narratizing Night in The Woods” Justin Reeve says

“Infinite Fall wrapped the game’s mechanics around a story about Mae’s daily struggle to keep on keeping on. This approach can be seen in the minigames. Deeply embedded into its narrative, these are part of Night in the Woods for a specific reason: character building.”

In a market saturated with developers and consumers who value gameplay over story and plot, and increasing lack of time and passion poured into mainstream storytelling in games, Night in The Woods not only provides an excellent and deeply moving story to follow, but turns it’s weaknesses in the lack of highly deep and engaging gameplay into strengths merely by having them purposefully compliment their core appeals.

Considering our approach to the game we planned to make I thought this research was heavily helpful and that we could learn a lot from Night in the Woods to help us in designing the kind of narritive story we wanted to tell, while also taking a page from their book in that our ‘minigame’ of puzzle solving and item juggling fit organically and complimented the narritive drive we hope tp achive for our players.

This wonderfully intriging writing style sinks into their artist aesthetic too. The game features a wide range of characters, each with their own unique appearances and small character details that gave personality. Every character is some kind of human-like animal each with destinct motifs that give away a detail about the character’s personality. Even with the very minimal general detail work put into their designs, they still manage to give enough attention in their minimalist style to give a clear idea of their character.

Color wise they stick to a very strict pallete. Warm and desaturated colors paint the world of Night in the Woods, each character generally sitting at around 3 primary colors with varibles for shading. The value work the main character has in her fur interested me the most, as it fit closely to what I had planned to work with, giving a flat color value with linework. Something I noticed however was the lack fo outlines, which in a game with a wide range of colors to work with, I knew would not work well with GameBoy color theme we planned to have.

 

 

Iteration

Moving away from my research and starting to actally get back into working on the main character, I took to furter developing the two best designs from the start of the week. I cleaned the designs, added more personality to them both and given them some small details to give visual clues to their character. I also started to use a custom brush I had made specifically on procreate to emulate single pixel painting as well as setting my resolution down to 240px by 160px.

While I am aware it’s just as easy to use programs such as Krita or Asesprite which are specifically designed or have tools designed for pixel art, I both felt more comfortable using a IPad Pro to draw and get that hand drawn look that would take more time in Asesprite and also thought while Krita could also give me that hand drawn look it might be too time consuming to learn all the new necessary tools to be able to start.

Here were the new cleaned up designs that I presented to my team this week for feedback. I wanted to character to seem unique and out of place. He was ether to be too boring and plain for the wacky villagers, or too weird and wonderful for the bland villagers. We are still experimenting with what angle we wanted, The core detail was that he had to look alienated with his surroundings and that is what we planned to work around.

 

 

As I might have assumed my team much prefered the second character. He seemed to have more detail put to him as well as as general more appealing design. The look of worry and sadness seemed to resonate and I found my team understood and empathised with his reasoning to leave seeing his sorrow be so outwardly present. However given their different looks in terms of ‘normality’ from Number 2 as my team said and the ‘wackiness’ of Number 1, my team both wanted to see me use the first design as a villager.

Given this feedback, we have naturalyl descided around the idea of achieving that empathy but alienating the normal looking MC against the strage and abstract personalites and looks of the rest of the townsfolk akin to the DLC “Shivering Isles” from The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, where the MC traverses a weird land filled with nothing but insane denizens.

Personally I do agree with my team’s feedback. In reflection I do feel like I often become content with the simplicity with some of my design work and try harder when moving to the next iteration. This often leads into a common flaw of mine in that my designs are often unequal in effort and passion, one leaning on the side of simple and sometimes almost lazy, the other showing my personal preference to it on it’s sleeve with the added time and attention that I paid to it.

This is something I have struggled with very often in my studies. Typically I have began to concept only one design to avoid spending the extra time on work I know I may not like, however I have been pushing myself in the past few week both in GAM and GART to produce extra iteration and as many designs as I can push out. I find often that it’s commonly the feedback that I have given about the collections of variations I have design that spur on ideas and passion for designs I though I didn’t like. Given we have a year to continue to improve alongside other passionate students, I still hope to make the most of that priveledge to hopefully move away from my currently artistic and design flaw.

Week 3 – Key To Adventure: Beginning Development

Getting Organized

Going from the start of idea phase and into actual production, our ideas and concepts had changed a lot and work had piled on with passing time giving us the moment to realize the work we required to have our finished game. However we did meet often in the first week in order to produce our Title, Elevator pitch, Art & Writing style and some of the Deliverables we needed for the finished game.

 


Elevator Pitch – Key to Adventure is a top down point and click pixel game where you are trying to leave town to go on an adventure. You require a gate key however that seems to be in possession of a certain NPC. You are going to need to trade something of worth to get said key, which means trading found objects with the other denizen(s) of the enclosed location until everyone has what they want.

Finding objects of worth and trading with the NPCs will be the main goal, listening to their hints to what they want and using that to further figure out how to solve the dialogue based puzzle till you can finally get the key and escape!

Art & Writing- The art will consist of handrawn and lightly animated 2D sprites. We plan to work with a very limited color pallete or maybe 2-3 colors and work more-so with values, such as the early GameBoy console would display games. Thematically it is quite loose and not grounded in reality. Characters will be weird and wacky and the PC will likely look very out of place, with either colors or general looks to make the player feel he does not belong in the village. We look towards having dark colours to contrast well against one another.

The writing will follow similar suit. The only writing needed will be small bits of dialoge from the NPCs you trade with. They will mostly talk in short riddles or weird abstract ways, giving subtle hints to what they want or need. We want to give off a very bizzare dialect for the NPCs to speak in, to further alienate the PC from the village.

Mechanics – The core system will be the trading of items. This means there will be a basic inventory system, the ability to give and pick up items. We will also have a top down camera with full movement. There will be a dialoge system but it will mostly be text said to you without any further interation from the player.

Deliverables – We want to have a full 3 NPCs to talk to, each with a personal item to trade and something they want, unique personalitys and small dialoge puzzles. We need aaround 4-5 items, including a Key to finish the game. We need a village with small assets and a few houses. We need UI for the inventory system and dialoge boxes. We also need the trading and talking programming, as well as a fixed camera and movement. Events for picking up items and opening the gate are very important but very easy to impliment.

Core Inspirations – The Oregon Trail, Civilization Franchise

Art Research

 

My research into the artstyle began with the idea of the color palletes. I didn’t perticularlly have a style or key art to work from, as I dicussed with my teamates and was given the permission to draw with my personal style. We did speak about the art in one meeting however and it helped to lay out some core features that we wanted in terms of art.

 

  • Handrawn Pixel-Art
  • Minimally Animated Sprites.
  • Dark colors, 2-3 only to contrast and give a ‘GameBoy feel’
  • Abstract and weird designs

 

These were the core focuses of my role for the game. I wanted to stick to these as best as I could as not only was it something the team had asked of me, but something that would help me keep focus when getting into deeper development for the game. Following this brainstorming session I went about doing some research and moodboarding

 

 

The first work that I started on was the main character. For the most part the environment was to be quite simplistic and run of the mill. As much as I wanted to push it to look wier and wonderful, I felt I had little time to make that work with little room for failure. The team had asked it to be a rather standard, boring village to make the need to leave home seem all that more enticing. Taking that into account, the main character sprite was where I felt most of the personality might come out, along giving the other NPCs alien designs.

I started with a number of quick interesting designs just using a green backdrop and only linework in a single, daker value. I wanted the MC to look different and a little unique, something eye catching. The Idea was to have something for the player to stand out with in contrast to the other denizens of the town.

There were some of the first designs I did to give the tem general ideas of what I planned to design the player character lik as well as to get some feedback from them on what the liked, didn’t like or wanted.

 

 

I got  a lot of really positive feedback from the quick drawings, especially considering how little time they had taken to draw. Most of the feedback was that for one the colors were not very readable and that it might be a better idea to decide on another set of color palletes to still slightly differentiate ourselves from the traditional Gameboy color scheme.

My teamates seemed to responce nicely to the first and second character design, the second in perticular. They asked me to me to push them both forwards and experiment with adding mroe detail to them to see if I can make the two colors work better before talking about whether or not we need a third value.

 

Technical Research

I also took some time when drawing these to research pixel art as a whole. I hadn’t actually managed to delve into drawing pixel art before, besides using a handful of free, casual programs for fun. I took time to look into programs and the different technical details, such as what resolution to drawn in and such. There was a great resource I found in Brandon James Greer’s Youtube channel, especially his video titled “What Size is Pixel Art (Intro to Sprite and Canvas Size)” His content revolves around a lot of lessions around pixel art in videogames and it well informed on the pipelines that developers use for their 2D art games.

Using this infomation, I decided on sticking to around the standard Gameboy Advance resolution of 240px by 140px canvas size as it gave a nice amount of pixels to look curvey and arounded for a semi handrawn look, but not too much for the work to look too bland without the introduction of extra colors.

 

Week 3 – Reverse Engineering

Fail Fast

For our fail fast prototyping challenge, we were tasked with taking a mechanic from everyday games and reverse engineering them with new ideas or themes to fit along-side our first 2 week sprint. It also asked us to think of a text based game that utilizes that mechanic heavily as a USP.
From my experience so far in game dev, I know this to be often known as a Bottom-Up game design approch. Top-Down and Bottom-Up design approches are two sides of the same coin, both focussing on the same design princibles, but both putting a higher emphasis on different princibles at different points of the development cycle. There are many different varients of this approch such as the process out-lined in the Gamasutra Article  “Game Design Cognition: The Bottom-Up And Top-Down Approaches” In which they try to streamline the process to be more digestible and less risky.

We considered both design processes and how they fuction.  Bottom-Up focuses early development mostly on mechanics that are often reverce engineered from real world concepts or tasks and Top-Down puts their early focus on abstract concepts of the art, world or game feel they wish to achieve. While obvious, we still thought long and hard about what we planned to use to help our development process. We kept in mind that there are issues with both, such as those outlined in Ernest Adams article “The Designer’s Notebook: The Perils of Bottom-Up Game Design” in which he explains the issues in concepting only mechanics first. “-the more variables you include in a simulation, the greater the chances are that there’s only one best way to play the game-“ He explains  “a dominant strategy, as it’s called in game theory”

Keeping this in mind we still decided on using Bottom-Up approach as we had little time to work on the idea and our team also had no experience in working with one another so we hadn’t a feel for where everyone’s strengths were. As the only artist too I explained how flexible I could be in terms of fitting a style into our game idea once we had out mechanics down pat.


Forgotten Genres

To much dismay to myself and my peers, the only details of the game that was predecided were subject and genre. The subject was rather simple in terms of game design, titled ‘Call and Responce’. In terms of most modern day and past day games, call and responce is a rather common and simple subject to follow.

This duality is often refered to when speaking about music. A lead singer will sing their line, the ‘Call’ and the second soloist/group will ‘Respond’ or echo the lead soloist. The theme follows a similar journey in game design, having a call often being a something for the player to look up or towards to and the responce being their journey playing and chasing that call. It can be used in many ways, some taking the theme literal such as games such as “Emily is Away”  and also “911 Operator” both games following the formula of an actual ‘Call’ or text and the player’s ‘Responce’ to that being a large part of the gameplay.

The other detail of our game that is decided for us is the genre. Games that utilized text were some of the most earliest games of the industry when videogames transitioned from arcade machines to home computers. They are cited as being programmers tools more-so than games, lots of early games developers making text based games to learn coding. However they went back further than the golden age of Arcades even in the 1970s, small text based simulations being installed on mainframe computers. One of the most well known games was ”The Oregon Trail” a text based game based around around the actual Oregon Trail.

The game was originally void of any visuals, replying on descriptions only to give the players enough infomation to to make decisions. The player is made to set on on the Oregon Trail and see how far they can make it, with challanges, dangers and moral choices to be made to keep your cart running. It does very well to utilize words to create a mood in which the player can sink themselves into. Given the lack of any mecanics it also asks players to type in each amount and command they wish to take. This approach given the lack of mechanics, this small forced interaction between the player and the game adds more stress when the game progresses far, giving the players a task of typing out their choice even when they know it’ll be a massive loss or sacrifice. The games was re-realized almost ten years laters with visuals, even then sticking to very simple pixel art with highly saturated colors and few small animations.

The Oregon Trail (video game) - Wikipedia

 


There is a simplicity in micromanagement of resources. Nowadays there are many qualms around whether managing resources is fun and a general dislike for the classic ‘Fetch-Quests’ in which the narritive is interchanagble, yet the general mechnics around fetch-quests resort to grabbing a thing for someone to reach the quest complete screen. Some argue that the typical fetch quests are lazy and boring and often times they can be, merely a task to be done alongside the main quest or plot of a game.  In his breakdown of the excellent game design seen in the side quests of the game ‘Ghost of Tsushima’ Sukhraj Johal says;

“The devs at Suckerpunch packaged it in a way where the players feel like they are slowly unravelling a mystery. This is done by drip-feeding new goals as the player progresses. For example, once the player has investigated something they may gather a clue that will lead them to something else. This approach keeps players intrigued rather than laying out all the goals they need to hit before the quest starts”

While the quest wasn’t entirely a traditional Fetch-Quest I still took a lot from the blog post made by Sukhraj. I personally felt the two weeks we had to work on the project would almost be alike designing a short five or so minute side quest, as so taking lessons from breakdowns of great side quest design work may greatly help.

Rapid Ideation

Given all this research, considerations of the topics, genres and problems we might run into we came up with a number of fast prototypes or ideas. Not one member of the team had any experience in making text based games and given typical text-based games utilized 2D artwork, I had very little experience in creating game ready 2D art. It was definately something I hope to work on, but not something I had confidence in.

Our ideas boiled down into few key details. We all wanted movement, it would be 2D and we wanted to really play against the idea of twisting a typical ‘Fetch-Quest’ into a new and interesting idea. The dominating idea that we brainstormed using techniques spiderweb diagrams and word association was based heavily on trading.

We spoke of making our game almost like a classical escaperoom game, but felt the puzzle making and plot may prove too hard and time consuming. We also wished to keep writing short and sweet as we all lacked confidence around our writing skills and felt we couldn’t deliver on good enough story or scripts.

We eventually settled around the idea of a top down trading game. Our ‘Call’ was the the PC’s wishes to leave his town in search of adventure and the gameplay and the ‘Responce’ was the player’s journey to gather the means to be able to follow their calling.

The general idea followed similar concepts in other games, the process of trading your items for better items in games such as “CS:GO” or “Team Fortress 2” yet also following suit in that typical Fetch-Quest you might see in games such as “The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim” where a quest ends in gathering an item to bring back to the quest giver for rewards.

Our idea consisted of 3 NPCs each with differing personalites and desires. The PC would start with just a single ‘Personal Item’ and be presented with a ‘Key’ which would allow them to leave home. In order to get said key, the PC will trade with each NPC, finding out what each person wants via personality quirks and subtle hints and then problem solving how they might aquire that idea, through trading with other NPCs or exploring town.


On paper it sounded rather bland, however we really thought we could comfortably work on a interesting social based dialouge puzzle with short yet interesting lines from the cast. Our programmer was certain he could complete all we set out for him to do and myself too told the team I can deliver on the themes we discussed.

Artstyle was set to be minimalist hand drawn pixel art with a very limited color pallete. I planned to use my own typical 2D artstyle as I was asked to create a fair number of assets in a genre I had not worked in before. The implementation of 2D assets too was something I would have to work to learn, as well as things such as UI creation and simple sprite animations. Both I have limited knowledge so I felt comfortable in that I could achieve at least enough to make the game work, however in hindsight it was far too much for myself to work on comfortable, especially as the number of assets on the list seemed to grow as we flesh more of the idea out.


Reflecting on this week, my only worry that troubled me during development was that I felt we were all quite aimless and not perticularly inspired during our ideas phase, which may have lead to us picking too broad of a theme to focus on and picking the first idea that had popped into our heads with not enough exploration outside this idea to give any alternitives. Given the lack of time spent on the project, I do also wish we had time during this first preperation week to set out a basic art bible, asset list (for art, design and programming) and have a session of making each task that we needed down on the Trello board to be able to stick to those as even during this first week there was a lot of feature creep and added assets that the team asked or required, which began to push scope out of our comfort zones.


Bibliography
  • Lopes, G. Kuhnen, R. (2007) Game Design Cognition: The Bottom-Up And Top-Down Approaches. Avaliable At: <https://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/130542/game_design_cognition_the_.php> (Accessed: 10th October 2020)
  • Adams, E. (2004) The Designer’s Notebook: The Perils of Bottom-Up Game Design. Avaliable at: <https://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/130563/the_designers_notebook_the_.php> (Accessed 10th October 2020)
  • Johal, S. (2020) Ghost of Tsushima – The Art of Complelling Quest Design. Avaliable at: <https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/SukhrajJohal/20201120/374076/Ghost_of_Tsushima__The_Art_of_Compelling_Quest_Design.php> (Accessed 12th December 2020)

Week 2 – Remediation and Innovation

Transformation

In a task set towards translating a subject of our choosing into something new and fresh, my team member and I focused very early on towards two key goals in our task.

Something that gave us both free creative control and participation in the creating. And  a idea that was feasible for the two of us to prototype and deliver on.

 

While a lot of our ideas were fun and exciting in their own right, given our little timeframe to work on them, we figured a lot of them to be undeliverable in the two days we had with the task, at least to a point we would be proud of. We were most interested by the subject of animal reconstruction however, which is to take uncovered bones of extinct animals and to piece them together, using things such as typical biology, physics and other found clues to eventually come up with scientific research and illustrations of what they may have looked like.

Our idea formed into following the same kind of methods but using a pipeline that many concept artists may use, photobashing. This idea fit well with our key goals, being quick to deliver on and also enough to have use both be able to work on it.

We both made a version of what we thought an extinct animal may have looked like using reference images of skeletons and old drawings to photobash and paint over. This task was fun and great practice in something I often have to use in typical concepting with a little more freedom in the fact that it was a short time frame and nothing blocking my creative freedom.

Here is what the task resulted in. I made one in sepia just so it would perhaps mimic the original idea of old animal reconstructing illustrations.

 

 

Reflection

In reflection I do feel that although we both delivered on the task and created something I was proud and enjoyed working on, I do feel almost regretful that the idea was almost too safe. I believe one of my flaws both in life and work is my inability to rightfully judge what is or isn’t deliverable within my skills.

When studying my BA I found I would often let my ambitions run wild, my briefs turning into long and large projects that I often had little hope in completing to a degree of perfection that I would feel happy with. I do think often I see myself as a thinker, someone who had a lot of great ideas and ‘hopefully’ original concepts but I feel my actual skills often trail behind my ability to deliver on my ideas.

Given that I do feel the task was too easy and safe and within my comfort zone. The practice is ultimately great for me in the fact I’m being more able to step back and take my tasks and properly time manage them given what time I have, however it still feel frustrating how I feel I have a lot of work to put in to be able to be making big and crazy projects that I want to make.