So what is a serious game? They are a game that ain’t what most people would think of when you want to have fun. Some serious games are there to entertain as the context is of a serious nature.
Ken Levine – Video Game Designer, Creative Director, Author, Screenwriter
Know for – System Shock, Thief: The Dark Project, Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite.
After listening to a podcast on Idle Thumbs from Steve Gaynor call Tone Control. He speaks with his former boss Ken Levine about his career and creative process. This is a look at how this speaks to me as the beginner in the world of designing.
I have learnt about the way i work and a lot more on topics that know but didn’t know as much as i do know. Before this assessment, I had never attempted any sort of story creation, let alone game story creation, and was therefore a little bit anxious as to how the quality of the product would be at the end of the project’s timeline. but I believe the quality achieved was of a very high standard, if not overall, as there are many things that i cut to meet the time frame we had and to schedule with all the other projects we had on the go.
The project idea was first conceptualized as an interactive website, much like a game, but would require a lot more work than one could possibly do in just a few weeks. This concept would have probably been feasible in the time given if the both of us were able to code at the level in which I could achieve it at, but that wasn’t the case.
I did a lot of research into a way to achieve such a project, I have previously experimented with UI components and button-driven menus and dialogue before with manual creation of such menus, great for title screens and introduction monologue. We came across a potential solution in the form of a Unity add on called Fungus. Fungus had simplistic programming concepts. Luckily once you know the ins and outs of what makes a programming language, you can pretty much pick up another language within a day or so as many concepts are translated transferable.
Overall, I have learnt so much whilst doing this project. I have learnt how to handle and fix the few issues I encountered along the way, and have taught myself very thoroughly, the ins and outs of Fungus, so that they are able to use such a powerful narrative solution in other games from here on.
I’ve had lots of fun across this project, as I love problem solving, hence why I think I do so well in the design discipline. In the process of creating this project, I have also learnt a ton of facts in field of current and future technologies in prosthesis and the processes that are carried out in the process of receiving a prosthetic, but also more generally in the subject of trans-humanism. Prosthesis may be given as standard stock or may be custom-made cosmetic looking silicone versions, with the latter obviously costing more. I did not realise how well customized prosthesis could get for an individual, down to the exact skin colour most of the time, and how similar the prosthesis dimensions are to their counterpart. I’ve learn that once you begin to look into a topic or a situation of human lives and interaction you start to find all of these greater connections to other topic that can help you explain or rationalise or better inform you about what you want to know or give a bigger question then the one you were looking to answer.
The overall product of the submitted project, I believe, is an immersive experience, with a good story line, above the expectations anyone could have asked of me. I have many plans to improve on the game in the future, by adding more materials such as background music and audio effects, as well as polishing the visual effect to game experience for players.
Making this project and this trimester was a great creative experience for me and has changed the way i approach my creative works in the future, thinking more on a premise and how it relates to this premise , to how people will interact with a work instead the nut and bolts of the work it self. Making something work on different level first and then making it work physically.
About two weeks into development on Sommelier we were invited by facilitators to exhibit our games at the Brass Razoo! SAE showcase event on the 17th of August. With some what of a daunting exciting as this meant we would have to get our games to playable state to present a public audience in test of a test group. As this was a first for a studio 1 cohort we could prove that even in studio 1 you can make something great.
The showcase’s location was ‘This Must Be The Place’ in Fortitude valley, a small venue but was nice and packed with student games from Studio’s 1, 2, 3 and Final Project + a new title from Handsome Dragon Games. The night insensitive was going to be the visit from many prominent industry professionals based in Brisbane, including my old facilitator James Bowling which was awesome.
“The designers and programmers of Game Studio 1 had been tasked with making a prototype that showcases a clear core game play loop. Some of their creative limitations include using a third-person camera, an in-game location set after-hours, and no form of text after the main menu”.
– Sommeliers by Adam Crompton, Philip Oterdahl, and Nicholas Staracek
– Transmutation by Pritish Choudhary, Jordon Dodds, and Nicholas Lyness
– Snöfyr by Caleb Barton, Marivan Ebrahimi, and Joshua Textor
As studio 1 i know our games would not be the main draw card of the exhibition, I did have some interesting iteration with the public and devs that played Sommeliers. I got asked questions about my game design, my degree and SAE.
Showing off our game to the public was an experience that I’m glad i participated in this event, have all a lot of people circulating through this small environment and made for a lot of opportunities to get chatting to people about the games on show. I was able to gather some useful feedback on player motivation and player response within your game, as well as visually witnessing this as they are playing your game. It’s a play test experience on a hole different level.
It was great to chat with other uni member from studio class above mine, getting there thought and experiences and advise had me coming away from the night with a few new ideas and outlooks on my work and interaction in the future.
Before any of this at the start of studio 1 my out look to a career was something that i didn’t know to well or were i really saw my self in the future. After experiences the projects i work on this trimester and the advice of Brisbane professionals. I’m not looking at AAA title as I’m looking at working in Brisbane or Australia on smaller games. After the Brass Razoo and the attention that iPad game where receiving and the fact that the professorial that attended were attached to iPad games that have don well in recent months.
Based on my work in class i have found that i am understanding and fine turning my working with collaborates and groups. I think that i would work will in a small team environment to help work other with the tasks that need completing. I enjoy have a few things on my plate at once and be involved with many areas of a game all together as a posed to work on a element and then dust my hands of it. see have all elements are interconnected and planning and design that at a high level sets me challenges and problems to solve. This is something that excites me and drives me to make new and creative things.
Working in a rushed state of mind , and from recent experience is something that should be avoided. Last Wednesday before our Brass Razoo! exhibition we were pushed for time and had a lot outstanding implementation on Sommeliers.
We needed Sommeliers to be in a playable state, so not only a core mechanic that was playable but a game loop also. We needed to show our core game play loop and demonstrate our design of this core loop and how it would be experienced within the game, however for this to be effective our mechanics needed to be polished and implemented fully Now let look at where it fell down slightly.
What Went Wrong
Repository conflicts: the great repository issues of 2016. These have been present several past projects and feature here in “what went wrong” round ups i have, but this issues cost us a lot of time work that was on polish to the menu scenes visually and functionality. While work on the scene was happen a members deleted a button within the same scene as it was linked to other functionally that they were working on. This caused all sorts of push and pull issues within our repository and resulted in loss of work that was made on the project.
Player movement: a key thing in most game however it wasn’t as function as we would have liked. During production on Sommeliers we had character movement implemented but it was consistently buggy, the player would get stuck in the game space on virtually Nothing that we could see and in other insistence it would just float away out of the play space. One of the predominate errors that we faced with our player movement was the uncontrolled force that would push the player back once they had turned around within the game, this was game breaking and was top of the list to fix.
Drinking effects: this was a aspect our game loop the need to work for the intended experience. We had it implemented somewhat and they looked like they worked correctly but once our test build was made it would consistently fail to execute correctly. We wanted these implemented for exhibition as it is a major interaction and win state of our game. There are vital indicator in game as they would trigger when a bottle of wine had been drunk by the player, with these not working, our players would be lost and not know when they had done something.
What We Did About It
At the time there wasn’t much that we could do to save the changes that had been made to the updated scenes, so we had to roll with that punch at the time. Lucky although not great they were only cosmetic changes and easy controller commands that could be fixed easily as apposed to large amounts of game play or key areas. We pulled what we could from the changes and move on with more important issues. The polished elements would have been great to draw people to our game during our exhibition, you can learn from all out come and situation.
We intended to have our horizontal and vertical axis movement working also we desperately needed our horizontal movement implemented so that players could strafe, as this was something that from play tests play wanted because that is what they felt was natural. Fixing this issue was relatively simple, as we figured that the majority of problems were in the setting for the x and y movement and then calling them one after the other, meaning that they were being overridden.
We had one of our drinking effects working ,speed boost on the white bottles however the jumping effect was not in to add variety, and then if we were able to implement mixing the wines together and drinking them, then we wanted to have a different effect for that which would logically be the combination of the two original effects. We worked on implementing hopping to the character if they drank red wine, we had some issues with setting an appropriate jump force and had this “working” but was not consistent across different test play troughs.
This rush time before the exhibition has in-bedded a greater importance of planing scheduling for these element early on in the process of a project. Greater iteration and breaking down of the structure of a project. Would mean the lose of aesthetic after functionality wouldn’t happen if the planning of these elements was flipped and realized early. A stronger TDD would have found this early and an art bible would have had this atheistic definite before it implementation. Which i explain here.
During the last 13 weeks, there has been areas that I have identified as room for improvement. Not to say that they are areas that I don’t have a good understanding about it’s that they could have been forfeited better. Which I would like to break down.
An Art bible is a reference document/ guide that contains the details of what your game is going to look like. This is something that you can figure out with the help of a few question like:
- What is your games purpose?
- What do you want to achieve from your game?
With these question in mind your able to start looking at the artistic style you want to depict in your game and how this will specifically compliment you purpose.
The road block for our project was that of writing our games art bible and harnessing a reasoning or purpose of our game.
- What were we trying to tell players during play?
- What should players feel when they playing?
- What do player take away from this game?
After many different feel, we lead to comedic feel and in some ways we hit these markers with our game, but we were lacking to a degree and I fell that this was down to not honing down on this purpose impacted those issues.
Having decided on a art style you can start to answer:
Why this style and how will it do what you want it to?
Answering this question there are different things to consider, and this isn’t something you can rush , you may have just chosen your art style because it was something you want to portray or that seemed achievable , which in itself is something you want to be looking for but with the assurance that its going to compliment the purpose you’ve set out for your game.
Choosing to with a specific art style will directly impact the purpose of your game and the things that you’re trying to achieve. We went with a low poly with our art style to keep to a simple colour scheme for our game, our reasoning was that its would more achievable with the style and to fit with the length of project, but with a longer projects we would have like to elaborated on this and more thought and consideration into other art styles. This would have given us time to look at the benefits and downsides of using one over the other.
Technical Design Document
The TDD is something that didn’t receive the attention that it should have early on in our project. My understanding and realization of its impact when done bad.
In planing stages we knew of sommeliers it was a while for us to pin down a core mechanics to our game and what the player experience would be. This didn’t help the iteration and proper break down of what we needed to plan out and what would connect to each other. As we did work out what “each other” was until we were making these elements, we didn’t see the possible problems this would impact until they happened.
Make a TDD in the beginning of a project help cement the plan and important that element have over each other and the best order the should be connected and structured so that fixes and changes later in the project are easier. Also so that you don’t have to pull apart half you project to fix a simple problem.
Having a TDD structure from prefab that the start would help for a few different iteration down the track.
- It would make testing and changing of the scene or setting up of a scene easy so that changes are easy fixes not large reworks of assets .
- structuring what a prefab needs would mean that additive of simple box colliders would need to be consider late project.
- these above make different scene work easier and apparent to a team
- would give all members a better understanding of scripts content and functionality
The take away is that mistake have been made, but I can learn from these and take this forward so that you can make new mistakes on the next project. Before this point i felt documentation as the part the you do to support the game. But its this documentation that should the law you adhere to for you game, if this is precise and heavily details so as the making of a game is more of a creative fun time instead of a frantic catch up of mistake making.
Recently i recorded my own lovely voice in a bad way for a good use. On your game Sommeliers, we have french robots casing and drinking wine to say it for mankind. As our game is limited to allow for not text or work on screen during game play, the use of record voice is how we are looking to info players.
So this as seen our three members of our team recording our bad french accents. Say funny phrases and statements was the first set that i completes. However these are french robots so i went about mixing the audio of my voice.
I used Audacity to record my voice assets, i had used Garage Band in the past but i sort out this program as a different learning experience to better my understanding of different programs and maybe come out the other side with a program i might use in the future.
To add a robotic feel to my audio I add a couple effects to my tracks, First i changed the pitch of my voice down. Which turns out not by much as i have a voice that is of a lower pitch to begin with. Then on top of this i added an echo to give a metallic ring to the track and to distort the sound enough from a normal human voice.
These elements although simple were effective in giving our vocal for our game the sound and aesthetic we wanted. Our Sommeliers now have a voice of their own.
A little while ago i set about making some backing music for my games and just to have a a little library of assets i can pull on in the future. As it is only a small one at this point in time, it will be something i add to when thew occasion arise.
These two music track were made in Garage Band, This is a program that i have had experience use a long time ago during my short iteration with music in few different as i was part of a three year long program that mentored performer and teachers in music with student to collaborate on sound to make an album as the final goal.
Using the program was both a new learning venture and a dust off of some old skills that i for got that i had. As is was over 8 years ago this was
Both of these tracks i layers different elements to add a depth the what you hear instead of a start, finish, feel as this is a boring progression. Having different elements overlap or have elements louder then others allows for a interesting mix what you hear.
In the images below is my two tacks,
- one image showing the the breaking down and sequencing of the elements with in the track showing how the elements have the moments where this is one sound having its moment over the backing.
- The second (Game Music 2) shows how i was able to add drop out and increase of intensity so as elements would be about to accompany each other in the same sound space and not over power or drain out the parts i wanted to stand out over the others.
This doesn’t mean that you throw 20 different thing in all at one as it will become a mess of sound. So balancing and have element have their monument to transition into an other element of the song or clip means that things are there for a reason and a purpose. As is many thing in the realm of making a game it self and music is one of these elements that adds a layer to a game but if this isn’t add in a way that adds to other elements it can feel like a big mess.
Track: Game Music.
The process of my design with this track started from the drum backing. I look at different ways to start this process with things like types of music of fro a certain game genre. but i felt that that is was getting stuck at impasses. the simple fact of the matter is i made these songs base a backing beat that i felt i could add to. Following this i broke this take down to a intro, chorus, and bridge, will as much as one as i could in a track this short.
At the start i found three instruments or sound t set a collective of sounds. The progression of the song strips back these sound all the while keep the backing as a way for all the sound to stay connected. Despite the changes in the song the they are conjoined by the backing. This lets the rhythm sections to have there moment to move the song forward. By the end of this track i found the sound leaning toward something that of a space shooter. I tweaked the pitch and intensity of individual element and make some element start when one finishes as as key beats in the progress of the track.
Track: Game Music 2.
As above i started with a backing beat that i felt i could add to, after the first i decided to make something less intense. So i look for a jazz feel to the track i switch up the synthesizer to “abstract atmosphere” which is the high pitch moments in this song a couple this with 70’s piano to give the song a collective consistency. I add more layers to is track and i experimented with the drop of and fade in more then the first. I fell that this rising and falling in pitch of element helped the song flow from on element to the next. If there was solid stop start you would help the feel i was intending. I also keep a intro, chorus, and bridge so as the song had progression.
In the future i hope the iterate over this and improve them when i learn more interesting techniques.
Building on my bank of assets from my previous blog, here are our player character bottles of wine and iteration on elements made by other team members
Robot Player Character
Here is the design i came up with for you robot Sommeliers with the hook and cork screw hand to fit with the wine theme. The two models are from our animators( Fiona Fotheringham and William Struthers) one as a placeholder and on our fine by the other of our final play test.
The Robots design had a few factors taken in to consideration, the Practical elements were:
- Having wheel instead of legs for easy of animation
- the look of the hair and mustache for a comic french feel
The bottles for players to catch i modeled from the images below so as our different wine in the game would have distinct shapes from each other. The colours of each was something that would help this also.
The bottles were made draw a line in 3Dmax of one side of the bottle from top to bottom.This line follow the outline of the bottles on one side and the i was able to convert the line by adding a lathe to it to make the line wrap around 360 and make the shape off the bottle
max image of bottles
In my previous assets blog, i made object like crates, supports and the wall of our barn. these were use to for the different layouts of our barn (blog here) as after some play testing we felt out play area wasn’t quite right (Also blog here).
Since then we have had our animators rework our barrel model, and a the barrel work out great. The animator also allowed us to colour the rings of the barrel separate to the of the barrel it self.
It was however a little.. well little as one barrel doesn’t seem to say much in the play space that we have. I was about to take this barrel and created different arrangement of obstacles for our level. As can be seen in this blog of our rough layout that use our early assets.
These where updated in different ways:
- instance instead of all barrels being stake on top of each other laying them on there side to form a pyramid.
- Walls where taking and broke in two to form a barricade. So this way it looks as if it belongs with the other objects around it.
The assets are all the same from barrels to crates but it comes down to the arrangement and variety these throughout your level that way less work and bring more effective out comes.
asset image crate cart boxes