Tag Archives: play test

Union Town!: Post-Mortem

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What aspects of your game changed the most over the semester?


Originally, I had planned my game in a way that wasn’t really radical–it didn’t give the player the opportunity to choose their path. At first, it was just going to be the player could talk to the coworkers and do favors for them and that was it–but as my story developed the manager became more included and now the way the story of my game will play out is that the player has the opportunity to unionize or get a raise/promotion. There’s a genuine choice to be made between two seemingly good options, not just “unionize or don’t.”

What parts of the game stayed pretty much true to the original idea?

From the beginning I knew that I wanted cigarettes to be the social currency of the workplace. I wanted the player to use cigarettes to get to know the coworkers and build solidarity levels–the cigarettes also bring a playfulness to the game which I think makes the horrible workplace more fun.

How could you have used your paper model to save time?

The paper game was very helpful in figuring out how conversation would work. The first time we ran my paper game my conversations kept falling apart and they weren’t set up properly, which was helpful, even though it was at first frustrating. The paper model showed me how I needed to structure the conversations within the levels to ensure that the player would understand the goals of the game.

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Paper Game



What surprised you about your abilities to make your game?

Honestly, everything about this semester surprised me. I was very overwhelmed and a little afraid at the beginning of the semester–but I couldn’t believe that I managed to keep up with the class. Coding was a fun and engaging puzzle to figure out and of course I got frustrated but I am really proud of myself for getting conversations to work again after they broke for about three weeks after spring break.

What was easier to do than you might have expected?

Animation was easier than I was expected I think. It was super tedious, yes, but once you break down the steps it is easy to figure out to build the assets to move in a realistic way. Setting up the animator and controller in Unity was definitely more difficult, but overall animation was a more manageable task than I had expected.

SpriteSheet

Walk Cycle Sprite Sheet



  What was harder?

Though I already mentioned that I was surprised at how quickly I picked up some aspects of coding, that definitely doesn’t mean I thought it was easy. At the very beginning, learning the differences between very basic types of functions and variables seemed impossible to me. I didn’t know what any words meant and I kept a notebook to remember the definitions of all the terms the textbook referred to in the chapters. That was a lot of work, but after the first few chapters the hard work paid off and I felt somewhat on top of the code.

How important was time management on this project?

Time management was definitely important, since it was always a stressor if I had worked on something up until the last minute but then some aspect of the game broke and I had to come to class with a partially broken game because I didn’t leave myself time to debug and unravel all of the error messages that would pop up when I would try to play my game.

What would you have done / chosen to do differently?

If I had the opportunity to start over with what I know now, I would maybe attempt a to build a more linear story for my first game, as what I have set up now feels a little ambitious for my first game. I think if I had a linear story line with sequential levels, it would be a lot easier to build and I could devote less time to figuring out the logistics of the story and more time to expanding my understanding of C Sharp and the Unity engine.

Postmortem: Gentrifica-Town

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What aspects of your game changed the most over the semester?
The role of the player changed the most throughout the game. In fact, I would say that I’m still not really sure what the role of the player would be in the fully developed story.

I originally wanted the game to be broken out into three different acts and for the player to be controlling a different character in each act.

My plan from the beginning was to make a game about gentrification.

I wanted the first act to be about a young, upper-middle-class, recent college grad moving into a gentrifying neighborhood and having to face-off against the unfamiliar territory and the people who already live there.

The second act would be from the perspective of a younger, high-school-aged kid from a working-class family whose been living in that same neighborhood for several generations, and who now has to handle the changes occurring in the neighborhood (with those changes being caused by gentrification).

The third act would probably involve those two groups coming together and realizing that, while initially, they may have seen each other as enemies – both fighting for the same area – they actually have a common enemy. They need to come together to form a strong community to protect everyone who lives there. They would need to fight predatory real estate brokers and get laws passed to save the community.

I ended up simplifying the story considerably. I chose to limit the story to only being from the perspective of the college-grad who has just moved to the city and is looking for an apartment. I’m still not sure if that change is final or if it will just be temporary for this class.

Paper Game vs Final Game Build

Paper Game vs Final Game Build



What parts of the game stayed pretty much true to the original idea?
I went into building the idea with a strong and clear idea of what I wanted the theme of the game to be about and what I wanted the art and animations to look like. I think, coming out the other side, those things mostly seemed to stay unchanged.

Playing the Paper Game

Playing the Paper Game



How could you have used your paper model to save time?
I think the paper game could have been a good tool to lock in the game story early on and quickly test different ways of playing the game.

For example, I could have used it to decide between playing the game in three acts, with three different characters, as I mentioned earlier on in the post, or I with just one main character. It would definitely have been helpful to have seen how players reacted to both versions of the game.

Although I do think that in order to get helpful reactions from players, both versions of the game would have to be developed pretty fully, which I don’t think we had time to do in this one semester class.

What surprised you about your abilities to make your game?
I was surprised at how well my art and animations fit with the game format. They stood out from the other games in my class. And I think they made for an interesting and engaging world for players to explore.

What was easier to do than you might have expected?
I would have to say that the character movement was easier to add than I expected.

I went into the class thinking we would have to code in physics rules and ease in and out player movements so that they would come across as fluid.

There was certainly some coding involved but ultimately, Unity seemed to take care of most of that for us – which was certainly appreciated.

What was harder?
The coding was much harder than I expected it to be. I knew it would be an integral part of the process, but I don’t think I understood how integral it would be. I was surprised to find that in order to perform a function that, I would have initially thought to be extremely simple (for example, adding in a sound effect), was in fact at least a little bit more complicated.

Pretty much everything at least needs at least some code attached to it – while I expected more things to be plug-and-play, or able to be dropped into the scene and be functional.

How important was time management on this project?
Time management was definitely an important aspect of the project. I would say especially when it came to the debugging process.

Often, I’d be able to follow along with the book’s example and 75 percent of the code would work for my game but then there would be another 25% where I’d have to adapt it to fit my game which almost always required some trial and error.

Especially given that these were problems with code that I was only learning as we went along. I was almost always able to get everything working but it would take some time, which I needed to be sure to budget out.

What would you have done / chosen to do differently?
In retrospect, I would have wanted to spend more time up-front working out my game story, and potentially testing it out on paper before I began playing it. I felt a bit like I was assembling my airplane in mid-air – by coming up with the game story as we went. I don’t think it ended up being as strong as it could have been if it was locked down ahead of time, and I wasn’t making creative decisions reactionarily.

Playtesting with a Paper Prototype

Playtesting with a Paper Prototype



A major caveat to that would be that I was really glad that we actually got to build a game of our own as we were going. I don’t know if it would be as satisfying if I left the class with a game concept and a paper prototype.

Also, without having built a game before I don’t think I would have been in a good position to know what game elements would be feasible and what wouldn’t.

Therefore, even if I end up starting over from scratch, I guess I’m glad that we did it this way. I would say that the important takeaway from the class was not necessarily the game file but was rather the knowledge of how to construct a game and how to go about building it. (Sorry if that sounded cheesy and cliché.)

Postmortem: Make or Break the Box

Photo taken during Game Night on May 2nd, 2018

Taken during Game Night on May 2nd, 2018

My game is based on the radical culture of the Sarah Lawrence College campus community. It is a whimsical critique on how many students pressure each other to over commit themselves and pursue social justice even at the expense of the individual’s own self-care. The core of the game focuses on the player’s decision to either fit into someone else’s box, or to make their own metaphorical box. To fit in, they must commit to other’s ideals even if it’s to an unhealthy extent. To create themselves, they must pick and choose (or choose not to choose) what they agree to commit to. The actual groups or goals that can be committed are concrete and feasible goals rather than abstract ideas. For example, the player could talk to a pink NPC who pressures them to build a ramp instead of stairs because stairs are ‘problematic.’  This game takes that tension and that cycle of hurt and adapts it into a lighthearted view.
One of the whimsical, fairytale-esque backgrounds of my game.

One of the whimsical, fairytale-esque backgrounds of my game.


My game is ‘radical’ because it is a Conform or Not Conform type of game. The game mechanics are not complex because I am fresh-faced beginner to coding. Thus, there are no branching dialogues, combat system, or a complicated web of interactions based on what you click or do not click. Instead, the mechanics are either you touch a NPC and initiate dialogue and thus conform, or you do not touch at all and ignore the NPCs. This is representative of the message of the game because you can either spend all your time listening to others by ‘touching’ them, or you can ‘keep your hands to yourself’ and explore the world by walking around them. You don’t have to listen to others and just listen to yourself. It’s up to you. Overall, I am proud of how far I developed my game. True, it’s not as accomplished or as sophisticated as my classmates but I am glad I took the class and got the chance to see a snapshot of game development process and culture. For example, I had no idea that game developers made paper prototypes of their games! It makes sense but it never occurred to me before. Otherwise, the game isn’t far along but I am glad I got as far as I did. I successfully implemented at least one conversation, freeze-player, and finally the map points. I also managed to implement the artwork and slice the sprites.     

Post-Mortem : House H(a)unter

A screenshot of the dummies Casper steals a costume from.

A screenshot of the dummies Casper steals a costume from.


My game is about two ghost hunter twins, Becca and Casper Radley, who attempt to convince a wealthy couple that their mansion is haunted so that the couple will be forced to sell it at a price the hunters can afford. They are given a week to do so, and so every day the siblings talk to the people of town to fabricate a different haunting. In the process, they accidentally stir up real ghosts who are connected to the emotional instabilities of the people in the town, and so the player must exorcise these real spirits or risk being killed during their con.

In the levels I am submitting for this class, Casper goes to the local bank museum and steals a cowboy bank robber costume from one of the exhibits. He does so by trapping the bank owner in a photo booth and convincing the only employee to go help her. The sheriff’s mannequin disappears once he has done that, and there is a mystery as to where it went (spoilers, it will attack Casper in the next level).
 
Tessa Wycome, owner of the bank heist museum.

Tessa Wycome, owner of the bank heist museum.


The radical aspect in my game is in its manifestation of emotional conflict. The ghosts are representations of the town’s denizens, and have been a part of their psyches for so long that they cannot notice them. The only people who are capable of comprehending the extremely damaging way the townspeople are going about their lives are the twins, who are outsiders. The twins are drifters, and show a sort of amused disdain for the connections that give rise to these ghosts (as evidenced by the fact that the only ghosts they have encountered before are fake ones that they self manufacture), and their lack of understanding about a greater emotional support network likewise hinders their ability to exorcise real ghosts at first. In order to effectively deal with the enemies of the game the twins don’t become physically more powerful, but rather learn more about how to handle interpersonal situations with a level of sincerity.
 
This game idea was inspired by my love of cheesy ghost hunting reality TV, and from learning that in many locations a homeowner must disclose that a house is haunted before selling the property. It has for the most part remained true to this original inspiration, though in the earliest iterations of the game Casper was himself a real ghost and the events of this game were not the first time the twins had committed this con. The iteration I brought to the first class of the semester is fairly similar to the one which I ended up completing for my conference, especially Casper’s general amorality. The major change in concept over the course of the semester is the concept of ghosts as a manifestation of emotional turmoil. In previous iterations, there was only one real ghost (the ghost of one of the homeowners’ deceased brothers), and I felt that this reduced the importance of the other NPCs since they weren’t involved in the central haunting.
 
Sheriff Wycome's Hat

Sheriff Wycome’s Hat.


Development hit a bit of a snafu when I ran into an issue with the advancement of conversation flags resulting in the player missing some conversations. This has been rectified for the time being, though in the future I will likely end up removing the dialogue system I made and replacing it with a plug in.

From crits, I learned that people wanted more sound, and considered the strong point of the game to be the characters and humor in their interactions. To that end, the next thing I intend to add is more hitbox animations, extending the background music, adding sound to Casper’s footsteps, and stopping all background music when in the back of the museum.

I could have used my paper model more in earlier phases to predict the extensions I’d have to make to the maps. One of the weakest visual points of my game in its current phase, is, at least in my opinion, that there’s large areas of empty space beyond the boundaries of the map. This was done to avoid blue space visible on the edges. Had I used a frame around my player character during the initial testing, I would have been able to see how much extra background I would need and could have redone the art so that I could balance out where the walls were with how much space I needed in the map (my first draft was extremely crowded as well). One of the major critiques I received was that people were confused as to why they couldn’t walk further once they hit some of the invisible walls, and this could have been rectified if I’d paid more attention to my paper models.

The thing that surprised me the most about my abilities when making this game was how smoothly most of the initial programming went this time around. My last game, managing scene transitions was very difficult, but using the Game State Manager I was able to program in complex scene states and maintain a game across multiple rooms.
A screencap of one of hte conversations in the game.

A screencap of one of the conversations in the game.


The most difficult thing to program was the conversation manager. If I were programming the game again, I would have written it with a simpler dialogue system in mind for easier debugging. Though I’m satisfied with the dialogue interactions that I came up with, the system we used from the book was not intended for the level of complexity I ended up with. I would have also started implementing the dialogue sooner. If I had discovered that it was having issues earlier, it would have been less stressful to debug it before the due date.
 

Postmortem: City Watch

 
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Paper game model of the town scene

    My game is about a young adult, Lena, who starts off working in the City Watch, but later decides her path in life.  The City Watch is an organization in this city that protects people and prevents crime.  Their main objective is to shut down and underground organization, the Thieves’ Guild, that is committing most of the crime in this city.  The City Watch and the thieves are the two factions in this city.  While the City Watch is “morally right” and the Thieves’ Guild is “morally wrong” at first glance, that is not necessarily true.  Both factions have their upsides and downfalls.  While Lena works on her main objective of shutting down the thieves, she learns more about their objective and purpose.  As she learns more about them, she can decide to go through with her original goal of shutting them down, or she can join them and abandon her place at the City Watch. As Lena gets closer to the thieves, she learns that they are not as bad as the City Watch makes them out to be.  They steal a lot of valuables, but they do it out of necessity.  The city has an “every man for himself” vibe, so people have to do what they can to survive.  There is a lot of crime in the city anyway, and the thieves are at the root of most of it.  The thieves, however, are a sanctuary for any person that is struggling to make ends meet in the city.  So, even though the thieves may commit crime and steal, they are truly morally grey.  They help people while also committing crime.  Lena also learns that the City Watch does not help people who are in need; they only stop crime from happening.  They do not help people who are struggling to survive, they only help people when crime is involved.
The Thieves' Guild from the paper game

The Thieves’ Guild from the paper game

My game is radical because the player has a choice in which side they want to end up with.  Neither side is truly right or wrong.  Each side has its positives and negatives, so where the player wants to be is up to them.  The player can help out the thieves more, or the City Watch more, and those choices help shape the story in the game. My game was inspired by the games that I play often.  I tend to play a lot of RPG, fantasy-style games.  I like games where decisions and choice-making are heavy influences on the game’s outcome.  The Witcher franchise, and the Dragon Age franchise are a couple of the games that inspired my game idea.  These games use choice and player actions as a way to shape the story.  I wanted my game to be like that; I wanted the player to have a say in how they impacted the game. I think the art of my game that has changed the most over the semester has been the mood of the city.  At first, I had the city be fairly light.  The sky was a light blue and the colors of the buildings matched the palette of the City Watch and the color of the sky.  But I did not really like how that felt.  I thought it would be better if the town had a darker color palette.  I changed the sky to a dark grey-purple, and the buildings to reddish -purple.  The windows closer to the City Watch are light grey and light orange-pink.  As the buildings get closer to the sewer, the windows become darker grey.  While building this scene, I also decided that the characters should have an attitude of “I do what is best for me and no one else.”
The town from the game

The town from the game

  Lena stayed the same throughout the course of the semester, and the sewer scene also did not change much.  Lena’s design and personality have stayed the same throughout the semester.  The sewer’s design changed slightly, and it gained some more events, but it remained mostly the same across the semester. What surprised me the most about my ability to make the game was how much simpler coding it was than I remembered.  The longer I spent working on the game, the easier coding it became.  I had very few issues when it came to coding features in the game, and I had more issues when it came to putting together UI elements.  Before starting the game, I thought the difficulties of both those aspects would be switched. I think time management was super important when it came to making the game in this class.It is definitely easy to fall behind if work is not done on time.  I think I did well in managing my time and not falling behind, but I can see how it would be easy to get caught up working on one feature and letting all others fall by the wayside.    

Postmortem: Wild Tale

Playtesting during game night.

Playtesting during game night.

Wild Tale is a game that takes place on the movie set of an old west movie. The player controls a traveling cowboy who is looking for a place to settle down. The player will need to make choices that determines the type of cowboy he becomes.

This game is about the construction of identity. The game mechanics reveals to the player they are able to become the person they want to be through their actions. The interactions with the movie set reminds them of the constructed nature of reality. The game pokes fun at the myth of the Wild West subtle commentary on the way media affects the way we act.

My game is a response to escapism media. Many forms of entertainment get praised for the ability to immerse the audience in a new world and become someone else. However, they are often more reinforcing and restrictive instead of empowering. I want to call attention to the reinforcement that media can have on our perception of self and empower people to reexamine their self-perception.

My game subverts the typical idea that the player character has predeveloped personalities. Instead, the player character’s personality is shown only through the player’s actions. Instead of the player becoming a character, he or she inhabits the shell of the character and interacts with the world through that.

There are some games that emphasize on player choices. However, games with narratives like The Walking Dead by Telltale Games rely on analogue choices where the options are clearly presented. In my game, some of the options are not immediately obvious and there are no pop-up dialogue options to choose from. In a silent movie, the characterization is done mostly through actions. This choice reflects my answer to how I think one can express their identity. In real life, I think the thing that people can do to express themselves is through action.
An early sketch for the game.

An early sketch for the game.

I watched some old western movies as research for my game. I think the one that influenced me in term of aesthetics was The Good, Bad, and the Ugly. I think the movie fits very well within the stereotype I wanted to critique. I used the parts I thought were representative of the old west as influence to help me reference the genre.

When I researched western games, I was very surprised to find a game similar to my own. Westerado is also a game also about creating narrative by giving players freedom to express themselves. However, I’d like to note I discovered the game after coming up with the idea so it is not a direct influence.
I used LMMS to create the music for my game.

I used LMMS to create the music for my game.

Since my last update, I’ve fine-tuned the interactions with more efficient codes to prepare for game night. I learned a lot from showing my game at game night. The movie aspect of the game isn’t obvious enough but people responded well to the concept after I explained it in the end. I got helpful suggestions and comments that inspired new features in the future. One important suggestion I got was to add more movie set elements in the game. I think adding cameras, microphones, and wires will be a major step forward for my game. Otherwise, people liked the art style and the humor in my game. I think I will be adding more humorous elements in my game in the future.
A playtester explaining her thought-process as she replayed the level.

A playtester explaining her thought-process as she replayed the level.

The development of this game is, in a way, a reflection of my personal growth. I didn’t come in development with a firm idea of what the story was going to be about. As a result, the story of the game changed a lot. Because I gave myself freedom to alter the story dramatically during development, the game eventually became a manifestation of what’s on my mind. The story is still evolving as I’m developing it. I’m still thinking about the idea of identity and I’m using the development of this game as a tool to help me process it.

The idea that I was going to represent the old west with the twist that the player is going between the movie and the real world stayed true to the original idea. This was the idea that sparked the development of the idea about identity and what it means. The immersion breaking aspect of that idea was interspersing to me and I based my game off that.

I wished I had planned more hitbox interactions within my paper model. I was lucky that people responded well to my digital version. However, it would’ve costed a lot more time if I had to test and iterate the interactions digitally.

It was easier than I had expected to work in Unity. Importing sprites were quick and simple. I found that my experience working with level editors in other games I’ve played helped me understand the workflow of Unity. I thought Unity would’ve been a lot of codes but I learned that a large portion of the coding is actually done visually in the inspector. Understanding this made the development process a lot smoother. Also, I was surprised by my ability to make the music for my game. I plan to continue exploring music making after this project.

It was harder than I had expected to code many of the feature I envisioned for my game. I think I was overly eager with the feature lists. I was not able to realize many of those features within the semester long timeline. I should’ve realize earlier that this process was going to be new to me and decide on a project with a scope that is more achievable.
The auto-slicer for sprite in Unity is amazingly helpful!

The auto-slicer for sprite in Unity is amazingly helpful!

Time management was especially important for this project since my development schedule had to align with the school’s timeline.

I wished I had budgeted more time in the beginning for creating all the assets of the game because creating assets later on I disrupted to my workflow. I noticed that when I spent time creating assets, I wouldn’t have the mental focus to be able to debug efferently. Because of this, I ended up scheduling different days for coding and asset-making. If I had known about this situation earlier, I would’ve used early development time to create a pile of assets and pick from those assets instead.

The scope of my game was too wide for a semester-long development cycle. I should’ve made my game more focused so I could polish my game to a greater extent. I was also too focused on creating the story for the whole game when I haven’t finished the first level.

Postmortem: A Knight’s Quest

Facing the Dragons of Questionable Time Management Skills

Facing the Dragons of Questionable Time Management Skills

Trying to make this game was a learning experience to be sure. Going in, I had a very tenuous grasp of code from a crash course I’d taken before deciding not to join the robotics club, a semester of general art in high school, and a hobby of arguing with strangers on the internet about how games should be made. I was sure to try and place as conservative an estimate on how far I would get in making the game as I possibly could, and yet, I still fell short. Despite that, though, last night, when I finally had combat working well enough that I could attack an enemy and it died when its health reached 0, I could’ve cried with joy.

The game certainly changed a lot from how I had originally planned it out. Honestly, in its first iteration entirely contained to my head, it was more of a visual novel than anything else, so it would have had to change, but still, it’s remarkable even then. I had originally envisioned the game to be a series of days, where each day would comprise you selecting various activities to do, such as drinking, praying, or spending time with specific characters, and at the end of each day a battle would occur against the evil king’s forces, where you would fight alongside an ally you would have to protect. Now, how much of that didn’t come to be due to it being a poor idea and how much of that didn’t come to be because it was significantly beyond my ability to actually put into the game is up for debate, regardless, the game doesn’t resemble that in the slightest.

The model it’s now settled on would just have one long and drawn out battle, with brief respites for attempts at comfort by Red and the nun while the other rebels fought led by the General. The General as a character was changed rather dramatically in design as well, his look from Roman to something more knightly and his personality to something less unintentionally abrasive towards the hero.
General

The General Now

Actually, that brings up another interesting change which occurred that I hadn’t even realized until now. I had shifted away from conversations affecting Levi’s blood entirely. The only way to gain blood would be to kill the enemy soldiers and the only way to decrease it would be to physically remove the blood from Levi i.e. by having the nun wash his hands. This change really affects the general most pronouncedly, since he’s no longer going to actively harm the player by conversation, and is instead the one who gives Levi the respite necessary to speak with the nun and be cleaned.

Still, even now I’m trying to figure out better ways to have built the game and more interesting ways it could have communicated what I wanted it to. The roles of the Nun and Red were something I wasn’t too happy with at the end, and I think I could have made them both more interesting. I think that it would have actually made more sense for Red to be more in favor of Levi fighting against the evil king while the nun would have been more cautious and reluctant to force their problems onto some poor guy who just fell through a portal and landed in front of them. That would have allowed for a cleaner transition to the nun helping Levi handle fighting, and would have let Red be less of an antagonistic character at the start.
Screen Shot 2018-05-10 at 8.22.02 PM

The Outside of the Church

Something that surprised me was how much easier it was to make the second scene after I had done the first. Due to some very lackluster time management skills, I was quite pressed for time when I finally settled down to make this scene, but I was able to do it with relatively little issue. Admittedly, there are quite a few things I would improve on in the scene if I were to go back to it, but it is certainly serviceable, and I received some compliments on it from my class. I did notice that people really wanted to go into the little houses in the back whenever they play tested the game, however, so now I know that when I include doors people will try to go into them.

Speaking of play testing, some interesting trends appeared in that. While there was some variation in how people responded to my first level, with some trying to run around between the pews, others talking to the nun immediately and then running into the sword which they couldn’t pick up, and still others who accidentally ran into Red, most people didn’t finish any of the conversation which I had put into the game. Each character had around three in any given scene, but frequently people would leave after only one or two. Some people even went through the second scene without talking to the general at all. That may have been an issue with the second scene, however, since the barricade on the right-hand side was being used as the barrier, and touching it loaded the battle scene after it. That seemed to catch a lot of people by surprise when they played my game, so I’ve learned a bit of a lesson there as well on the importance of making it clear what will and won’t lead to the next area.

I’m finally finishing up combat now. I still need to give the enemies the ability to attack the hero, and the selection circle doesn’t actually disappear until the enemy dies, which means on subsequent turns, when the hero selects an enemy for the second time, an additional selection circle is spawned. So there’s still more left for me to wrangle with, but I’m impressed at how far I’ve come since I started the year and balked at the idea of having multiple conversations going in one scene. And I’m looking forwards to what games I can make in the future as I gain a greater mastery (or any mastery at all, really) over Unity.

Postmortem: Down and Out

d&o cap1

My game tentatively titled “Down and Out” is about a human woman named Kaira who lives in post-apocalyptic Florida and has amnesia. She is trying to regain her memories and help the friends she makes along the way. Down and Out is radical in that while it is in a post-apocalyptic setting I don’t want the entire world to seem hostile. The game takes place after a sense of normalcy has returned to the world. The swamp Kaira lives in is her and her generation’s normal.

I was inspired to create this game several years ago when I wanted to explore a water-based post-apocalyptic setting as nearly all the post-apocalyptic media I have seen has been largely based on arid/desert conditions. It has since become much more than just the concept of a swamp with talking animals in it. The protagonist Kaira has come alive over this past year in ways I hadn’t foreseen when I started doodling her in my notebooks as a first year.


Kaira

Kaira



Development has hit a few unexpected snags and roadblocks along the way but overall I’m holding my own when it comes to coding and creating sprites is relaxing for me.If I could’ve done anything differently I would’ve developed the Tavern map more and filled it out more. As it is the map is quite barren and has no real interactions within. This map is one of my favorite places in the game so far so I really wish I had worked on it more than I did this semester. It is also a location that introduces another major NPC to the narrative who I didn’t have time to properly implement into the game.

Nadia

Nadia, Tavern owner



The Tavern map

“The lost and found bar” Nadia’s Tavern



My game hasn’t changed significantly over the course of the semester. It has changed since I first got the idea three years ago but over the semester Down and Out has remained largely the same. I’d say the biggest change was scrapping Zhis’s follow script and possibly changing the title from “Down” to “Down and out”. The character Zhis has remained largely unchanged since her original inception. If anything this semester has cemented her role as “The Companion” more than before. While Zhis is a character with her own motives and goals as will be seen at a later point in the game right now she is like a protector for Kaira. Kaira has lost all her memories and Zhis thankfully is there when she wakes up and is her friend. As she reintroduces Kaira to the world she’s lived in all her life she also guides the player into the world that is familiar yet foreign to them.

Zhis

Zhis



Getting a follower script running on Zhis turned out to be a challenge I couldn’t quite overcome this semester. This is unfortunate but not completely surprising. This is, however, something I intend to work on in the future. Time management was very important to this project and I wish my time management had been better so I could’ve accomplished even more with my game. For now, however, paired with what I accomplished last semester I am proud of how far I’ve come since starting game design.

While I had a few struggles while designing this game I also had some very pleasant surprises.  Such as discovering that not only did I enjoy composing music but I was fairly good at it considering that I have never composed music before. It went over well in play-testing and set the mood I was hoping for so that was a pleasant surprise. I have gotten a good handle on LMMS (the audio program I used) and I plan on making more sounds for my game in the coming months.

Radical Games: Master Cube

d1fd2907396e9a36752890bc8745a4c8 Master Cube is about a young man named Davis. Davis is a store greeter sick of his work and the people in town. He envies the heroes he sees pass through the store, taking what they please for their quest. Davis has very little for him in town, and tries to venture outside but the guards won’t let him, they say it’s too dangerous. He can leave if he can pay off the guards by working tirelessly as a greeter for hours and hours, the thought of which makes Davis want to blow his brains out. A robed figure calls out to Davis and promises to pay the guards for him if he signs his soul to him. He agrees and is told to seek out the great cube center, in the forest. He travels to the center, and is initiated into the Master Cube Society. To do so he completes 3 trials and then is sworn in by the leader. The leader tries to kill him for aligning with the cube better than he did. Upon defeating the leader Davis is summoned to the cube dimension where the master cube will change the universe for him in one way. Davis chooses to make the universe a universe where people will like him, and the cube makes everyone in the universe him.   IMG_20170306_155223 My game is radical because my goal with the game is to make the player feel that joining a cult is their best option.  Most people view cult members as aliens or freaks that must have been insane to give in to a cult’s ideology. I want my game to play with the idea that anyone could be put into a situation where they view joining a cult is smart of them. The life of the character Davis is unfulfilling, and players play games to fulfill needs. Basic needs such as wanting to have fun, or needing a distraction from every day life. This game initially does not offer the player what they want in the world to proceed or explore the world, and the fastest way out is to join the cult. Development is tricky. I’ve never been an artist with visual arts like drawing or painting and so the art design aspect of development has been tough if not overwhelming at times. Getting everything to look and feel right visually can be very frustrating. Luckily I’m used to using programs similar to Unity so that portion of development has been smooth. Unfortunately development rarely gets to building in Unity as the art still needs work! The ability to make pixel art that looks anything like what I want it to be has been the most surprising about my abilities to make the game. From paper game in class I’ve learned that my ideas are clearer than I thought they were visually, but I need to learn to better express my ideas so as not to confuse people as to what’s going on or going to happen. The biggest way my game says a lot with a little is the design of the player character. One look at him and you know he’s miserable and bored with his life and the people around him. I’m also trying to get the player to feel the way the character looks in the rather small space of a simple town store you’d find in most RPGs but rather than being the hero that comes and gets cool gear, you simply greet the heroes as they come in. The player can clearly see that there are others more important than themselves and so hopefully they will want to be more like the heroes and quickly realize how nearly impossible it is to do without some sort of outside help, or rather extreme patience.

Radical Games: Rescue

Rescue in its current form is an attempt to subvert the common RPG adventure trope of a hero rescuing a princess, but has been through numerous iterations and pivots such that numerous aspects of previous versions of the game appear in this most recent version. This history is long, complicated, and largely irrelevant, contributing to arbitrary aspects of the project. As it stands, the game is about a mother attempting to rescue her daughter, failing, and needing to be rescued by the supposedly helpless little girl. Village The inspiration came very soon after finishing LISA: The Painful in early February. My initial need was to create a game about a parent willing to do anything to save their child. This led to the character design of Isha, a middle-aged war veteran who is the mother of a small girl named Gemma. While initial aspects of the game revolved around the conflict between the Verda (Isha’s species of green skinned people) and humanity, I eventually dropped this idea in favor of trying to work off the medium of adventure games like Zelda and Mario, as it lay more within my areas of expertise. Because of this however, aspects of the previous world such as the Verda and Human conflict remain as backdrop and partial catalyst of the game’s events. The way I wanted to challenge the hero rescue damsel in distress narrative was to have the natural hero (Warrior character) be rescued by the small child. Since Isha was the main character of my previous idea, I made her the typical warrior character by virtue of that being what she was before. The idea was that the player would become comfortable playing as Isha and slide into the usual rhythms of an action RPG. However, once the actual quest began, Isha would be captured and the player would begin controlling the imprisoned Gemma. From there, the player would discover that Gemma had reality altering powers, able to tear holes in existence, and would go on to save her mother. Woods  Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 7.51.52 PM This section in particular during the paper test revealed several problems in the design I had laid out. Foremost was that when control of the characters changed from Isha to Gemma, it was not clear that that was simply meant to happen as an established event, not a mechanic that the player was in control of. Because of this, the player believed that the point was to return to a more powerful body, since Gemma seemed helpless and died anytime she came into contact with guards. This revealed both that the player felt mor e kinship to Isha (partially expected given the structure and my intentions) and that the player did not realize Gemma had any powers aside from running. Much of this was a symptom of oversights on my part that did not adequately inform the player of their abilities. What was positively revealed was the idea that the player wanted to chase Gemma, who in the beginning flees from the player, reinforcing the idea of following/rescuing the “princess.” However, I’m not sure that this adequately illustrated the relationship I wanted to express. State of the game was also fairly positive, but again showed mistakes made in character design (misunderstanding the age of Isha) and the pallet of objects blurring together at times. The art otherwise has been part of the easiest of this process for me, which I found exceptionally surprising as I have no real art education. While I’ve drawn for fun before, I’ve always found the details that I mess up too marring for me to really care what I’ve create. The abstraction of pixel art however, has made me feel exceptionally good about the kind of work I can produce. I feel this is well represented in the game. Aesthetically I wanted to go for darker, earthy tones, because the original idea was to try and make the Verda seem folksy, and slightly other, but in a natural way. I also then wanted to draw attention to certain characters by using slight deviations in these colors. One of my original Verda designs thus had bright purple eyes, at odds with the dark green of his skin. I also wanted this earthiness to contrast with the humans, who I planned to put in lots of pristine, white, clothing, evocative of the Roman Republic.   FullSizeRender-1   FullSizeRender Development up until state of the game felt very smooth, exciting, and pointed towards a specific goal. Since then, because of revisions, expansions, and downscaling, I feel that things have slowed somewhat to a near stall as I try and figure out connections between the things I had already decided I wanted in the game, while maintaining the structure I had envisioned. The path forward is a continuing distillation of what I’m trying to express, while retaining the impact fulness I want to create. In terms of art, I have a number of assets and environments left to build, as well as more animations for the characters and the world.
    Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 4.15.34 PM   Nazi Punch:The RPG is a hands on probe into the ethical dilemma of who it is or isn’t okay to use physical violence against.  The goal of the game is to provide the player with a myriad of options as to how to approach “combat” with traditional physical violence being only one of the many choices.  The goal of the game is to be a think piece that makes people probe deeper into their moral stances to find more nuanced understandings of their own self-imposed ethical guidelines.  You play as Jacob Liebowitz, a Jewish twenty-something living in a small New Jersey town.  You go to work, you buy groceries, your days are finite. The routine gets a wrench thrown in the mix when right-wing rhetoric begins to seep into your home town. Alcot_big_NoColl Is it okay to punch Nazis? That question is at the core of this game. The environment and the player character are meant to ground the player in a very real world as an attempt to make the question less hypothetical and more theoretical. Every secondary element serves this backdrop.  The notion of finite days, of limited time is meant to make the player question the weight of their actions in a world that changes on a day-to-day basis.  It’s meant to make you feel as though idly standing by is the losing stance.  Beyond that level of incentivization though, the player is free to choose to spend their days however they please, whether that’s arguing with internet trolls, or it’s saving up enough money to move by working full days. Just like real life, there are no rules of engagement on the social battlefield. The inspiration for this game came from the intense debate online about whether or not punching Richard Spencer was ethically sound as a course of action.  It was a question I myself initially grappled with.  In my own experience with the question, I found myself enriched by a deeper understanding of the ethics of violence then I had previously, and the aim of the game is to bring that to an audience.   Mechanically the game has two major wellsprings of inspiration.  One is the 2d RPG genre, games like Earthbound and Super Mario RPG, or more recently, Undertale.  The main mechanical grounding comes from these roots, and as a player, you function along these lines.  The second source of inspiration was Papers, please and it’s ability to use time and financial resources to put pressure on you as the player.  Grappling with necessity on top of the ethics gives them a grounding layer, they are no longer what if scenarios but instead they are divergent paths: do you prioritize your short-term needs, or the long term health of your cultural homestead? Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 4.16.40 PM Development is going fairly well, and the art resources for the game are coming along.  The main source of frustration on my part is finding a way to create turn-based combat without inserting a clunky UI.  In my prototype I was able to write out samples of what the conversations might sound like, and give the players choice within that. It demonstrated how the combat might work in the theoretical, and people seemed to respond relatively well to it.  As a way of making entire areas playable, I may create a twine file to serve as a stand-in for the combat system, and create a series of locks and keys, with the locks existing in the game proper, and the keys being at the end of the twine combat encounter.  In that way then, the game can respond to those encounters without them ever taking place within the Unity file itself, thus bypassing the UI bottleneck I know find myself at. If you had told me that the art would be the easiest part of the game to develop and enhance, I would’ve balked at you.  I have never been a particularly talented visual artist, but in working on this game I’m finding that my limitations were mostly mechanical: I have tremors that make it very difficult to draw a straight line. In Piskel these problems disappear, and I’m finding my aesthetic sensibilities to be keener than I had realized. IMG_7520 My state of the game went fairly well.  People understood the level layout for the most part, and they grasped what I was going for.  There were no serious elements of confusion where the visuals couldn’t guide people towards an understanding of utility. The paper game more than anything taught me the importance of secondary narrative threads accessible aesthetically within the world.  Every design feature needs not only a general narrative purpose, but a specific one. In building it out to a larger game, I think I’ll have to go slower, more purposefully, about designing future areas, and redesigning the central map. IMG_7526 The central goal of the aesthetic in this game is to present a world that is, visually at least not at risk.  Trees aren’t dying, buildings are holding up.  The threat and the emotional stakes are provided by the conversations, and eventually the appearance of threatening characters.  The world does not visually change to meet their appearance, just like the real world.  The central escape that this game provides is that it lets the player work out the ethical quandaries set forth at the outset in a safe environment where they can really engage with them, rather than letting the fear of real-world physical or verbal violence stand in the way of a greater, more nuanced assessment of bigotry in America. IMG_7523 In that way then I think character design is what is most meant to convey large narrative threads in concise imagistic detail.  The trump supporter and the internet trolls both have clear visual markers as to who they are as people, what they stand for, what they believe.  They don’t need back stories because it’s all explained in their appearance.  As more enemies pop up, I hope to continue that trend.  Every encounter should happen in a way that you as the player understand your circumstances from the outset. By the end of the semester I hope for a strong, playable vertical slice of the game that conveys the larger scope and narrative future that the game has to offer.  The meat of that work will come in the form of writing dialogue and narrative development on an aesthetic level.  The tile sets I have so far are the majority, and only a few small interior spaces are left to be created.  Overall I’m hopeful that by the time the semester comes to a close, the purpose of this game will be realized in its encapsulated form.  

Radical Games: Borrowing

borrowing_1The elevator pitch for “Borrowing” goes something like: you play as a little yellow man who is moving into a home in the suburbs that’s way too big for just himself. By unpacking, you take part in the yellow man’s kleptomaniac tendencies, uncover his peculiar obsession with particular pieces of popular art, and learn a little about his past. It aims for a balance between dry, sardonic humor and a Twilight Zone-esque sense of unease. Ultimately the game is about plagiarism and was inspired by a moment where I was publicly accused of stealing the plot of a famous film for a short story. In designing a game where you control a man who habitually misconstrues and rationalizes stealing for borrowing, the point isn’t necessarily for the player to feel sympathy for the yellow man so much as believe that stealing is the correct way to progress and therefore be complicit in his actions. In a fully completed version of the game, it’s conceivable that there might be multiple end states: one in which you’ve fully unpacked and furnished the house with things that aren’t yours and get caught; and a second where you’ve fully unpacked without taking anything at all, with the game’s design hopefully leading the player naturally towards the former on a first playthrough. The game has its roots mostly in the mechanic-as-metaphor styled abstraction seen in Jason Rohrer’s Passage, perhaps with a bit of the inquisitive exploration of molleindustria’s Every Day the Same Dream. borrowing_2The original intention for the aesthetic of “Borrowing” was to be reminiscent of old-school Atari games. I wanted to challenge myself by using a very limited amount of colors for each sprite, relying on the shape of each object to convey what it was more than its texture and detail. I feel I’ve accomplished this in some ways – the two houses, for example, are limited to four shades of yellow or blue each and have no heavy detailing – reached mixed results with others – the yellow man himself and the home interiors in particular – and completely abandoned this idea in others, as with the lawns and sidewalk. I still find myself a bit more attracted to the low detail aesthetic and would hope to continue it as more art is made. There may be something to be said about a “blander”, more empty world that uses swaths of color to define itself rather than a richly detailed one. Perhaps the yellow man, dull and unoriginal as he is, sees the world this way and so is shocked (and maybe the player is, too) when he sees the richly furnished insides of the blue house contrasting so starkly with the greater suburbs and his own home, but I feel that’s something of a stretch. State of the Game was based mostly on aesthetic development and focused in on the outdoor environment and the yellow man’s design. While I agree that the more detailed sprites for the exterior were more pleasing than the simpler ones (the solid green lawn sprites in particular hurt my eyes when the character moved), I’m still interested in finding some kind of compromise between the more highly detailed sprites that are used now and the less detailed work that’s found elsewhere in the game. Comments on the yellow man I found particularly helpful and amusing, and it was in his design that I saw the biggest drawback of attempting to adopt an Atari-like style. Though many thoughts tended more or less towards what I had intended for him – an average Joe, busy businessman kind of look – the simplicity of his design and restrictive use of color legitimately can make his hat look like horns and possibly does give him a more shady, sinister look. I was specifically fascinated by the latter, especially knowing what I wanted him to do in the game. He stands as he did during the State of the Game for now, but I’m not opposed to redesigning him in any way. borrowing_4 borrowing_3Going into the paper game, I was interested in seeing how it was possible to encourage the player to steal more than just the initial item required to open the boxes. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that some classmates’ first thoughts were to steal the items in the blue house, though I would hesitate to believe that that inclination was a direct result of the game, its design, or even the player’s/observers’ “gaming instinct” so much as the fact that it was readily observable in the paper models that each piece of furniture existed on its own and was therefore collectible rather than being drawn into the environment and inaccessible. The way I had originally thought to encourage the player to steal furniture from the blue house was for them to finish unpacking a box, then revealing a text prompt from the yellow man to go into the neighbor’s home and steal the corresponding piece of furniture i.e. by unpacking the box with books in it, the yellow man would indicate that he wants a bookshelf. This design does not account for a player who is disinterested in completely unpacking a particular box (the prompt from the yellow man was technically never reached, though I allowed the stealing mechanic to be unlocked and take effect anyway) and could be solved simply by having less objects in them if I wanted to keep this kind of design. The actual contents of the boxes are more or less obscure depending on how much background knowledge the player has about historical examples of actual and alleged plagiarism, and that’s something I’m willing to embrace, though having some kind of flavor note that tells the player that the yellow man is collecting pieces of supposedly plagiarized art would definitely be a plus. I was happy to see that the found flavor notes and plot hook items were capitalized on by the player (albeit at the encouragement of the observers) and the given connections between the notes and theme of the game were apparent. In a case where the player found more of these (again, probably a fault on my part from putting too many objects in each box), I feel that the theme of the game would have soon become apparent. In general, development is coming along quite nicely so far. The initial tilesets for both the interior and exterior areas of the game are entirely completed, and spritework has moved on to boxes, furnishings that can be borrowed, and the items that are unpacked. At a continuous, casual rate, I can see the majority, if not all, of the initial spritework completed sometime between a week and a week and a half. From there work on the code for picking up and placing down movable objects would commence, and I would be content to meet that milestone by the end of the semester.