01
Jul
13

Patrols – Milestone 1

Time, as always, has been a limiting factor lately. Still I’ve been determined to work on something tangible. As such, the brief has been to create something that is both simple to develop (development time currently sits at around 20 hours) and would offer a decent amount of gameplay (unlike my other recent efforts). I’m attempting to achieve these goal by focusing on simple wave-based gameplay with challenging mechanics, and score based replayability.

And I’m calling it Patrols.

Patrols-gameplay

Doesn’t look confusing at all.

Continue reading ‘Patrols – Milestone 1′

16
Jan
13

Rollback: Hydra

Okay! Time to write a post so I can consider this wrapped up and move on to the next thing.

It’s been closer to a month than it has a week, but my recent game making efforts have borne fruit.

I present you Rollback: Hydra, or: a Proof-of-Concept and Exercise in Polish.

I spent the initial 10 days working on core mechanics, with the plan to release at that point. Arriving at day ten, I had a couple of solid mechanics and a few more half implemented ones.

The decision was made to take what I had completed, spend a little time polish it up, and release that. When working on side projects it isn’t often that I’m afforded the chance to polishing something (generally you have to create said something first), so I was looking forward to the combined challenge of attempting to go ‘pencils down’ on feature implementation, working within the small set of mechanics I had adequately completed, while also stretching those infrequently exercised polishing muscles.

Continue reading ‘Rollback: Hydra’

02
Jan
13

Rollback – Day 6

It’s been a few days. I last updated after having developed a simple city generator, designed to create a place for the enemy faction to propagate.

With the city in place, I have spent the last four days and 1600 lines of code working on developing systems for the faction. I find writing AI to be a difficult task. I have no trouble thinking logically about the interactions I want to occur, but the complexity always blows out, and with complexity comes bugs.

That said, I am relieved to say that the heavy lifting is done and my enemy AI is all but complete.

I have attached a work in progress build below. I suggest skimming the following post as it will frame your understanding of what is happening.

The goal from day one has been to allow a faction to grow organically within the city rather than be hand created.

In real life I am sure the complexities of operating an underground resistance movement are staggering. This creates a challenge, as I must distill this complexity into simple components – while retaining behaviour that is representative of reality. I have taken some liberties.

Continue reading ‘Rollback – Day 6′

28
Dec
12

Rollback – Day 1

Phew, I’m winding down day one on Rollback and already I’ve learned a valuable lesson – do not scope out and commit to creating a game while drunk.

Regardless, my vision of the game is a lot clearer today and I am happy with the progress made.

Rollback is one part detective work – the player must identify enemy infrastructure – and one part warfare – the player then must crush this infrastructure, that they have hopefully been observent enough to locate. This creates a unique design challenge in that the enemy needs a place to hide.

If I could point to any one thing that has driven me to work on this particular project, I would have to say that it is one small piece of news that came out of the recent Israel offensive on Gaza – that of the airstrike on a Hamas media centre, situated in an apartment building that also housed prominent foreign news outlets.

Despite the very real risk of high profile casualties, a human being made the call to strike that infrastructure. I want to position my player in that situation.

Reading the above news story from a game designer’s perspective, we deduce that:

  • Hamas integrates their infrastructure into the existing city, rather than build it from scratch.
  • Hamas does in fact operate communication and media outlets.
  • These outlets are worth striking, despite the very real consequence of civilian loss of life.

Taking that reading, it seems obvious that the place to start is the creation of a civilian city, one which the faction can assemble and obfuscate their material assets within.

Today’s labour has been focused entirely on this endeavour, and below I share with you the results.

Continue reading ‘Rollback – Day 1′

27
Dec
12

Rollback – Day 0

I’ve stumbled upon a week or so of free time. With that time I plan to develop and release a small game of questionable quality. Reference my previous attempt for an idea of what to expect. The game will be of prototype quality with limited art assets, and I will likely lose focus and disregard the ever important polish.

I’m excited to undertake this challenge again, and I’m interested to see the result – and how that reflects on the progress I have made as a designer, and coder in the last year and a half.

So, the game. This time it has a name. I’m calling it Rollback.

Anyone who has even met me knows two things. That I have a strong interest in strategy games, and an even stronger interest in geopolitics. It will come as no surprise then, that this game will be a strategy game, based loosely around the recent Israel/Gaza conflict.

Before I dive into an explanation of the game, allow me to offer my reading of those recent events.

In the three and a half years since Israel last undertook overt operations in the occupied Gaza territory, Hamas had rebuilt their infrastructure, and developed closer strategic alliances with other external parties, most notably, Iran. With the rebuilding of their tunnel network and these new closer ties, Hamas had been able to smuggle Iranian built Fajr 5 rockets into Gaza. Israel’s response was that of house cleaning – attacking Gaza in order to cripple this infrastructure, and destroy these newly acquired weapon caches, diminishing Hamas’ capabilities for at least another election cycle. Interestingly, international pressure forced Israel from undertaking a ground invasion – guaranteeing that they could not decisively meet these goals.

This is a simple, high level reading of the situation, and one I admit is likely flawed. Regardless it is the one I subscribe to, and one that I feel lends itself to some simple and contained mechanics that I will hopefully be able to tackle to completion within a week or so.
Continue reading ‘Rollback – Day 0′

28
Jun
11

seven day project – Post Mortem

After a week of hard work, I have released a small game (or a prototype and proof of concept if I act further on the idea).
The game is a puzzle/strategy hybrid, revolving around the player directing units in an efficient and ordered way to defeat the enemy. The game doesn’t have a title, so feel free to call it whatever you’d like.

Download for Windows
Download for Mac

The following is my post mortem of the project – an overview of what went right and what went wrong. If I expand the project or continue to explore some of the game’s mechanics and concepts, addressing the grievances below will be my starting point.

What Didn’t Work

Balance between the different unit specs was broken.

Although Armour and Attachment Level were directly related (the balance between these two worked fine), I made little attempt to relate Speed and Range to these specs, or each other.

This would result in players generally deploying units in a ‘1 speed, 1 range, 3 armour, 3 attachment level’ configuration.
Given that enemies would never autonomously path Speed was generally useless, with the exception of one puzzle, and for attempting to improve completion times.

Range, although having practical implications, generally played a very small role.

The UI was horrendous.

Entering the Unit Deployment screen for the first time presented the player with a wall of tutorial text that was very difficult to scale. Generally, the UI had very little work put into it.

Level content was rushed, and suffered for it.

Creation of level content didn’t begin until midnight the final day – which explains the delay in release.
After revising my schedule and requirements, I had planned the entire 7th day for content creation. This was continually pushed back by the appearance of major code bugs, as well as some complications with the ‘Zapper’ Attachment Type behaviour – which ended up being cut 4 hours prior to release.

Rushed level content resulted in a small number of levels, created at an inconsistent level of quality. I failed to achieve sufficient difficulty scaling and concept introduction through the progression of the levels.

What Worked

Unit creation and modification, and visual design system.

The unit creation system was the first developed, primarily because it was something fun and visual, allowing me to remain easily motivated when starting off. The original concept called for a higher number of discrete upgrade levels and a rewards system that tied into this. The player was to be awarded additional upgrade points at the conclusion of each level, penned as a way to give meaningful gameplay rewards to the player based on their progress.

In the final release this system had been simplified to just three levels for each stat, capable of being tweaked on a per unit basis. This scaled back version both limits the player’s options and creates greater distinction between each specification level – making the system better suited to the decisive nature of a puzzle game.

I had initial concerns that giving the player only indirect information about their opponents – via the units’ visual profile – would be frustrating. To an extent it is, the player must use observation both visually and through experimentation in interaction, to determine the strengths of their enemies, in turn, determining the units the player must deploy to defeat them. It requires a level of investment on the player’s behalf to learn these systems – but as this game is based on the interaction between units driven by abstract rules that the player must work to understand –  building that investment early was important.

Having the player rely on the units’ visual profiles conveys to the player that the game deals with ambiguity and obfuscation, and that use of observation and experimentation skills are required to succeed at the game. This obfuscation creates room for the player to genuinely learn and empower themselves as their understand of rules of the game world increases.

Just as an enemy unit’s specifications are not displayed, the solution to a puzzle is not displayed – the player must rely on their accrued knowledge to deduce the solution.

Changes in Direction from Initial Pitch

On Day 5 I approached having functional game systems. This allowed me to play around with unit interactions, and get a feel for the player experience. Getting to this stage allowed me to take stock of what I had created, and adjust my expectations for the outcome in scope and direction of the project.

One of my biggest disappointments was to not change directions sooner, allowing me more time to focus on features and functionality directly complimenting the core experience. I have doubts this could have been assessed prior to having the game in a functional state, although I believe by taking some more time earlier I could have eased the process.
One contributing factor to these difficulties is that of the brief time I put into designing the concept. The entire concept from start to finish was conceptualised in less than a day – in fact no actual programming or ‘game creating’ took place on Day 1, this was reserved for conceptualising and documenting the game.

Although this was ample time to come up with and flesh out a simple concept, this tight time-frame did not allow for much exploration of parallel or alternate ideas – which is what I would describe the final product in relation to the original design document (which is available to read here, for those interested).

Improvements to the Concept

The following is a very brief list of some additions to the game I would have liked to see, had I been given more time.

The introduction of autonomously pathing enemies.

This would have made the Speed and Range specifications far more valuable, as well as improved the usefulness of the Cannon’s ability to continue pathing even when being attacked. Complex puzzles to do with timing and movement could be created, adding variety without venturing from the existing mechanics.

The introduction of environmental obstacles that can either help or hinder the player.

Traps, or areas that damage units when entered could be used to restrict or add strategic weight to player unit movement, while also having the potential of being manipulated and used against the enemy.

The introduction of additional enemy units, with strange or extreme behaviours.

Much care needs to be taken when introducing new player units, but a variety of enemy units could be created that follow strange rules. These could have large strategic consequences for the player in levels they are placed within, creating additional variety and giving the player new scenarios to use the existing knowledge and understanding of the game.

27
Jun
11

seven day project – day 7

What a week it’s been. Some purists may try to tell you I missed my deadline to complete the project within 7 Days, but I hold firm that while I remain awake, it remains Sunday.
So given that I haven’t slept in 36 hours, I’m going to keep this brief.

The game, proof of concept, prototype or whatever you are determined to call it, is now ready for consumption.

You can download if for windows by clicking right here, or download it for mac by clicking over here instead.

Anyway, I’m starting to shake uncontrollably, so I’ll wrap this up with just a couple of points.

I’m pleased with my progress over the week, although there were a lot of issues I encountered that gave me trouble and a few things I would definitely try to approach differently.
The game that you will play differs in a lot of ways from the originally pitch – on day 5 it became fairly obvious that the requirements I had outlined weren’t entirely feasible given the timeframe (and some unexpected complications), so something had to change.
The game is simpler and more puzzle based than initially pitched, but I think it works quiet well and seems like a concept that with some more time and energy, could have legs. If one thing disappoints me it is that I didn’t evaluate my position and make this change in direction earlier. I could have given myself more time for content creation, and maybe an opportunity to explore a little more of the territory opened up by the new direction.

That’s all for now, but I’d love to hear thoughts from anyone who decides to click the link, and tomorrow I should have a post mortem together where I’ll detail what went right and what went wrong, and give some insight as to where I would like to take the concept, if I ever were to decide to expand on it.




Playing on Playstation 3

Red Dead Revolver - I paid about $1000 for my launch model PS3, so I guess it's time I get some use out of that emotion chip crammed inside. I remember Red Dead Revolver looking rather good when it was released, and despite the low resolution and odd blurring (that I attribute to playing on a HD set) the game holds up well. It looks good despite these graphical limitations because the art direction is so precise and awesome. And it isn't just the art direction, the music, dialogue and set design (for some reason, set seems a more fitting word than level) all work in tandem to recreate an iconic Wild West atmosphere. Red Dead Revolver doesn’t aim to recreate life in the Wild West, it allows our imagination to take over and populates the locale with legendary men and their legendary stories.

Playing on iPhone

edge - Well I never thought I'd consider playing a game on iPhone as actually gaming, but edge has turned me around. The game is built for the iPhone. Sure, it could be ported, but the elegance of what has been created is astounding, it boggles the mind and makes me wonder what amazing gems we'd receive if current gen consoles weren't clones of eachother.

Playing on PC

Sins of a Solar Empire, Demigod, Generals - Zero Hour - It may be a temporary effect as I slowly reintroduce the PC into my gaming diet, but it seems every title I’m excited to play on the platform is either a strategy game, or a cheap indie game. PC gaming isn’t dead, it’s just restricted to titles that require complex input or a pointing device, and games that couldn't be developed or distributed on other platforms. I guess that’s part of the reason the AppStore is so far a success, there were a lot of indie devs stuck on PC for lack of a better alternative.
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