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Recently finished work on Speaking Simulator, which is getting a pretty warm reception at various conferences around the world... I made this video breaking down the soundtrack production process. Video is pitched at programmers & designers (not just audio folk) to foster an understanding of why audio middleware exists. Enjoy! https://youtu.be/_C1AxGpyO-s =) Andrew

'Typical School Days' is a action adventure PC game with a focus on school yard bullying, which was one of the many third year University projects I was apart of.
Within the project I was tasked with the challenge of creating an engaging user interface that would be highly visual and immersive while connecting to the theme of a child's perspective of school. As a group we voted that colourising all UI elements associated with the tormentors, should be purple to highlight their selfish and toxic natures, while showing that they are of a collective. In a similar fashion, all UI elements associated with the player character are displayed as torn pieces of note paper taped together with doodles and notes.

UI assets displayed, from top to bottom;

Combat Bar: Player's combat display broken down into individual elements; Poses to achieve(small), Successful Poses(large), Fail Arrows, Success Arrows, Neutral Arrows & Combat Bar base.

Interest Bar: Indicator for a bully or tormentor's interest in the player character.

Annoying Kid's Combat Speech: The kid who always takes your things.
Bully's Combat Speech: The kid who always picks on you.
Scary Crush's Combat Speech: The kid who is always confessing to you, not taking no for an answer.
Snobby Rich Kid's Combat Speech: The kid who is always sneering and looking down on you.

Confidence Bar: Displays the emotional state of the character through changing facial expressions, and takes inspiration from the 'Gold Star Sticker' reward system.

Notice/Attention Sprite: Quick notifier for the player that they have been spotted by a tormentor.

Please note that all characters(excluding silhouetted poses) and environments shown are credited to others involved within this project and were not created by myself, Maeskye.

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For a university, third year group project called 'Vanity', we needed to visualise how both our main character's dialogue and selection of inventory would display within the two-dimensional space.

Here you can see that we were contemplating either a bland 'stock-standard' approach, or a tailor to the character approach for our character's dialogue. While using a monochrome interface for the scroll and fade inventory system, with the intention for it to 'pop out' to the player.

The credit for the environmental background goes to Lysander Sky Wilkins, who was lead in environment design for our project, 'Vanity'.

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It has been a while since I have developed a game due to personal reasons. I am pleased to say that I am right back into it!

Over the next few weeks I'll be working on a brand new game called CatStack which I hope to be cute and fun

It will be my first attempt at a Facebook game. I am also hoping to port it on all major mobile platforms

Stay tuned :)

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After a month on hiatus, due to exams, I've created a new episode of Designer's Playbook. In this episode I focus on Halo: CE Anniversary.

The key topics I look at in this episode are:
- Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey.
- Its application to the story structure of Halo: CE Anniversary.

I hope you enjoy the show and feedback is always appreciated. YouTube link: http://youtu.be/6PGj8BDwTuE

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In this episode of Designer's Playbook I focus on the XBLA game ilomilo.

The key topics I look at in this episode are:
- Disproportionate feedback and its use in puzzle games.
- Building brands with games and the impact of it.
- The use of repetition to create catchy melodies.

New episodes on the 1st of each month.

I hope you enjoy the show and feedback is always appreciated. YouTube link: http://youtu.be/r7UlXvB_rFY

Submitted by kgp (not verified) on Mon, 17/10/11 - 3:55 PM Permalink

Hello Dominic, just wanted to say that your reviews are very interesting. I am particularly interested in the psychological aspects of game design. Could you please recommend some starting points to look further in this matter? For instance, some articles read by leading game designers, or books to read?

Submitted by Dominic-1GR on Fri, 02/12/11 - 10:23 PM Permalink

Hi, thanks for the feedback and taking the time to check out the show.

Here are a few of the most helpful sources of information I've found so far.
- http://www.psychologyofgames.com
- Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal
- Fun Inc. by Tom Chatfield
- A Theory of Fun by Raph Koster (he created Ultima Online)
- YouTube: http://youtu.be/CdgQyq3hEPo this is a game design lecture by Will Wright with a strong emphasis on the human mind.

Hope that helps as a starting point!

PS: Sorry for the slow reply.

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In this episode of Designer's Playbook I focus on Dragon Age 2.

The key topics I look at in this episode are:
- Pattern recognition and its impact on user interfaces
- Mechanical Chaos in combat
- Habituation and its effect on repeated environments

If you have any comments or topics you'd like to see me investigate in future episodes please let me know.

Lastly, I will be releasing a new episode on the 1st of each month as fortnightly releases proved to be a little too ambitious with my study load.

I hope enjoy the show and feedback is always appreciated. YouTube link: http://youtu.be/E-SB-ptfjWI

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Helping to fill the void and explore the medium.

Designer's Playbook is a new video series I have been working on in the last few months. The inspiration for the series came from my love of psychology, which I studied for 2 years at QUT prior to my current degree, and the limited amount of game design analysis I could find particularly in video form on YouTube.

About the series:
Designer's Playbook, a brand new series for all budding game designers and gamers alike! Designer's Playbook discusses LA Noire from a game design point-of-view based on research of leading designers and game theories.

For now this is a side project because I really enjoy researching games on a deeper level... I hope you enjoy this episode and feedback is always appreciated.

YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6vuo6aeixI

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In BittersBBB Episode 002, we look at Bioware’s Mass Effect 2 to discover how Core game Elements are Introduced at the outset of the game.

BittersBBB is my somewhat new project where I aim to analyse/deconstruct a game along the lines of a specific topic of discussion. As a hopeful game developer/designer, a common theme made in the many "So you want a job as a game developer?" articles that exist is that you obviously need to play games to understand more about them. BittersBBB, as a video series, attempts to highlight a part of a game for you to learn from.

If I could do these weekly I’d be a happy happy man, but there are still a lot of things I would like the improve upon:

* Video recordings of me personally: specifically for introductions, conclusions and length moments of speech.
* Better audio recording: recording voice 25metres from a main road has it’s downsides.
* More production value: first time I’ve touched Premiere Pro in a loooong time, I learned a lot, but still have more I want to do.
* Some comedy: was a bit formal, but I’d rather be formally analytical as a start than risk “not-funny” comedy.
* An actual half hour game development show: …weeeeellllll, it’s a little bit of a pipe dream…

If you enjoy it and would love to see more, please view the video, show your friends, rate, comment, favourite, subscribe, etc. I’d really love to hear feedback!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zdAaXSbr4Y&feature=feedf

Journal Category:

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog on what I’ve been up to. Mostly because I’ve been quite busy with all sorts of work. Thankfully the outcome of which is that I now have quite a deal of things to write about.
First to talk about are my efforts to materialize an indie game studio and to shape it into being an entity that is considered professional and not in fact an unemployed designers idea to create a job for himself.

For the last 6 weeks I’ve been attending a small business program called NEIS. NEIS is an abbreviation for New Enterprise Initiative Scheme. It’s an initiative created by the Australian federal government to help people form all walks of life to start their own small business. Whether it’s fashion, a bakery or game development. At the core of this course is you, the business hopeful sitting down and writing a detailed business plan.

This has been a fantastic experience for myself. While upon reflection it was ludicrous to go into the indie game development space without a viable business plan, I nonetheless started work on Mole last year without considering the games platform feasibility and target market. With these considerations now in mind for my new projects I know that the games I produce from here on in will be scrutinized for their financial feasibility on top of their creative merits.

The other benefit of completing NEIS is that starting from June onwards I’ll be receiving payment assistance from the government for a period of 12 months. It’s intended that I use this money to live on a baseline while I develop the games and products required to make the business self-sufficient.

Overall I’m glad that I took on the NEIS training and look forward to spending the next 12 months utilizing it’s provided resources to the fullest.

I can also say that April has really turned out to be the month of paperwork. Additionally to NEIS I submitted a funding proposal to Film Victoria for a slice of the Downloadable Games Intuitive funding pie.

From talking to those who follow the funding closely I know that Film Victoria has received dozens of applications over this round of funding. I know that competition will be high but I do nonetheless feel a sense of accomplishment over my application as I spent the time to not only explain the proposed game project itself. But to also explain how and why it can be financially viable. While my business plan doesn’t include the funding money to make my business viable, getting that funding will most definitely help my start-up to get working on a solid social-game project.

It’s interesting that both the NEIS and Film Victoria funding application came about the same time. I’ve used both to feed into each other. I hope my many hours of hard work with all this documentation pays off. I’ll find out the result of that application in July.
The last piece of news that I wanted to cover is that Mole – Quest for the Terracore gem will be going through a big art and content update very soon.

Working with Ben Britten, we want to basically reboot the release of Mole. Giving our customers and current users a free upgrade to further improve and impress reward customers.

There are a new slew of features coming to the 1.2 update of Mole. I’ll be writing up an official press release and announcement within the next couple of days. But to summarize what our customers will be receiving within he next few months:

  • Rare collectables to be found.
  • More medals to be earned.
  • Power-ups!
  • A brand new level.
  • A completely redesigned menu and in-game GUI art style.
  • Mole – Quest for the Terracore gem will be getting a name and icon change.

Stay turned for more information.
And that’s basically what’s been happening in the March and April period for me. With NEIS all but wrapped up and the funding application sent out I’ll be spending the next few months rolling out the update for Mole and some other upcoming stuff.

Until next time,

Chris Watts

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 20/05/10 - 4:06 PM Permalink

Hi Watts. I'm very interested in your work. And also I don't care about money I just want to be a member of a creative team such like yours. Is it possible to join you? Or maybe you need my resume or something? My E-Mail address: zspzspzsp@hotmail.com. If you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact me. I'm in Melbourne.
Michael Zhang

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/05/10 - 1:30 PM Permalink

What I found with the VicFilm application because they wanted me to succeed, they came back with a whole heap of feedback.

Plus I had a lot of connections so I learnt alot through learning other people's jobs.

Submitted by Wednesday on Fri, 21/05/10 - 1:41 PM Permalink

Thanks for sharing and the insights, Chris - Best of luck!

Journal Category:

Moving Target Games – March

Deadlines, demos and development.

Moving Target Games Team

Andrew Bittman – Project Manager / Designer
Matthew Tuxworth – Game Programmer
Craig Peebles – Audio Programmer
Roberto Ardila – Programmer
Stein Lagim - Artist
Edwin Vargas Cortés - Artist
William Algar-Chuklin - Artist
Daniela Alethea Hammer - Artist
Jay Taylor – Sound Designer

Report

With the end of February comes the end of our “deadline”. I throw it between quotation marks, because it was a loose deadline that didn’t ask for anything tangible to be delivered to anyone in particular. Instead, the deadline asked the team to “get as much done as we can by then, and then discuss our next steps for the game and Moving Target Games as a whole.” After over a year on the same game, despite some new blood here and there, some of those that have been in this for the long haul have become a little tired continually working on space and music, particularly with little solid work to show to date minus our flirtation with Freeplay.

But more than all that I just wrote, I love deadlines. I’d set them every week if I felt it wouldn’t ruin their impact and that I could rely on the availability of a team whose commitment can only be part-time at best.

Unlike the last deadline (Game Connect Asia Pacific 09), which was fraught with technical issues, this one has come out, I feel, where I expected it. We practically have all the key bits and pieces ready, just not thrown together in the cauldron with a dash of seasoning. What this meant was, that after seeing everything we have to go, we set ourselves another deadline quickly.

2 weeks = demo on website.

I say demo for many reasons, but the major reason at the moment would be testing and content. A lot of content still needs to be generated, though at the same time Cosmos Concerto is a game we can have an almost unlimited number of ideas to work with, and thus its reaching a point where we can look at it and “feel” we have “enough”. Enough enemies, enough pretty lights and enough variation in gameplay to make everyone’s experience as unique as the music which they will be using. Secondly, of course, testing. We’ll be releasing the demo quite shortly after bringing all the pieces together, and so we won’t have the time to properly test all aspects. Since this is not a demo of the final version, but more an alpha build, the testing will officially wait for later regardless.

So what will our alpha build demo deliver?

  • Action-oriented space fighter simulator controls
  • The working Audio Analysis Director [AAD], though there are potentially issues between a web player and downloadable version we’ll have to look into regarding this.
  • Primary player weapons
  • A slice of our art direction with 2-3 unique enemy types and a host of visual effects.
  • Free mode: akin to a “quick play” feature of Cosmos Concerto
  • (Potentially) tests for online community scoring

What will still be in the works to look forward to beyond this version?

  • Smoother and tighter player controls
  • The final AAD (able to work with any style of music)
  • A broader selection of player weapons
  • Many more enemies, obstacles and also bosses
  • Enhanced visuals regarding everything from the UI to skyboxes
  • Levels of difficulty
  • A collection of “challenges”, each with unique visuals and goals
  • Local and online high scores
  • Supported audio tracks and an immersive set of sound effects

And the alpha build is just the plan for the first half of March. During the second half of March, after being enamoured with the global game jam’s work in Sydney, steadily counting the growing number of hands I have available to my team and in the continued conquest to have my team learn anything and everything of value, Moving Target Games will be running our own “game jam”. Amongst our team, over a 4 week period, we will break up into two smaller teams to compete against each other to develop two small games using the Unreal Development Kit (something none of us have any experience in, but are all keen to work with).

The Moving Target Games ‘gamejam’ will include (forced) blog updates from almost all our active members (assuming the complete website is up) and give us a much needed break to stretch our minds away from space and music before ultimately returning to our legitimate lovechild Cosmos Concerto.

March is a big month. Ambitious would be the word my mother would use if she knew what I was going on about. Instead she nods, smiles and asks how long until I move out of home so they can convert my room into something useful.

Stay in school kids,
Andrew Bittman
Level 36 Project Manager of Moving Target Games

Journal Category:

Hi everyone!

Chris here from Roo Games.

After the release of Mole - Quest for the Terracore gem! We've been hard at work on our next project for the iPhone.

It's Called Power Surge!

Power Surge has the player linking neon coloured circuits to create larger circuits and link them to power connectors to bring light to towns and cities!

The game starts off easy enough with only two circuit types to make power from. But as the player progress's to new cities and difficulty levels they're introduced to more circuit types and even dreaded virus circuits that can dismantle a players strategy.

Our aim with Power Surge is to create a puzzle game that's colourful, easy to pick up and play and most of all just be tons of fun for anyone looking for a new puzzle fix on the iPhone. Sporting a neon-pixelated style in respect to the games of long ago like Space Invaders and Pacman.

Power Surge will offer:

* 10 difficulty levels of play. -Each level being a town or city to power-up!
* 18 achievements. - Some of which only the dedicated will be able to get.
* Local and Global leaderboards.

Power Surge is planned to come out Late April / Early May on iPhone and iPod Touch.

Stay tuned in the next upcoming months for Game play videos, screenshots and beta. :)

I'll also be offering our sales metrics and post-mortem for Mole in the next week or so.

Chris Watts

Journal Category:

Moving Target Games – February

I think this is our first report since August, and yes, I plan to do these monthly, at least, this time. Probably more when we get the full website up, but moving on to the report:

Moving Target Team

Andrew Bittman – Project Manager / Designer
Matthew Tuxworth – Game Programmer
Craig Peebles – Audio Programmer
Stein Lagim - Artist
Edwin Vargas Cortés - Artist
William Algar-Chuklin - Artist
Daniela Alethea Hammer - Artist
Jay Taylor – Sound Designer

Report

From our conception in February 2009, I can’t help but feel we’ve come a long nicely as a team, despite the fact that we’re still without a finished game to our name.

Upon reflection, when I first prompted the idea on Tsumea forums on that sunny day sometime ago, I felt I’d be lucky to get an entire contingent of 3 blokes interested. And when I suddenly realised the Tsumea group had grown well beyond double digits, I realised I probably wasn’t ready for this. Heck, a year on I’m still not ready to manage a team, but I can’t back down from a challenge like this, else I’ll never find myself “ready”.

It’s been a tumultuous year for some of us, yet our team is still miraculously kicking and keen. I won’t deny I wasn’t disappointed halfway through last year when Sunday meetings were lucky to get 3 people, or at the end of October when a storm of technical issues ruined our changes of having something that appeared playable for GCAP (didn’t stop me from trying to enter though!), but nevertheless were still here.

After sitting on the unimaginative “Team A” group name for almost 10 months, a hesitant Craig offered our new name: “Moving Target Games.” With the new year comes, not a fresh start, but a renewed commitment from those in Moving Target Games to get this game finally done, so we can move forward.

This year we’ve already adopted two new artists (William and Daniela), moved our discussions and meetings onto Google wave and set ourselves an end of February deadline that aims to consider the plan for continuing Cosmos Concerto in the hopes of releasing it sometime near that date. We’ve moved everything, and more, onto Unity3D, targeted more realistic goals that should actually enhance the game, and, just last week, launched a splash page for our website.

So look forward to an update concerning Cosmos Concerto early March, and in the meantime, visit our website, follow the twitter and/or sign-up for the mailing list (all available on the website). It’ll make us feel a bit special.

Best Regards,
Andrew Bittman
Project Manager – Moving Target Games

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Hi everyone. After much hard work from the project mole team i'm proud to announce our game is now in the app store! Mole! You play as Mark the mole as you quest to find the fabled Terracore gem! Gameplay features: · An easy to play touch based game with no complex and cloggy GUI controllers. Simply touch any location to have Mark dig to it! · Explore the deep underground and dig through randomly generated levels. Each level is a new bite sized adventure! · Collect metal to upgrade your mining tools so Mark can dig deeper, faster, longer! · Post your best dig scores on twitter and ranked online leaderboards! · Progress through 4 different mining ranks and unlock 10 achievement medals! You can check it out in the app store here: http://tinyurl.com/ydkmsaj We also have a website and online leaderboard portal. You can access the website here: http://escfactory.com/mole/

Submitted by Bobanliz on Thu, 04/02/10 - 11:28 AM Permalink

Congrats on the game mate it looks fun. Would you know when the game will be available in the Aussie App Store?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 04/02/10 - 8:38 PM Permalink

Cyrus:

"You're standing right now with nine delegates, from a hundred gangs and there's
over a hundred more. That's 20,000 hardcore indies, 40,000 counting affiliates and
20,000 more not organised but ready to fight.! 60,000 soldiers.! Now there ain't but
13,000 games in the whole appstore. Can you dig it?"

-

Well done Chris + Ben, hope the appstore gods smile on thee.

-- Chuan

Submitted by souri on Fri, 05/02/10 - 12:09 PM Permalink

Give us a yell when it shows up on the appstore, I'd love to make a post on this as well.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 05/02/10 - 9:02 PM Permalink

Congrats guys! Its very encouraging for an indie-wanabee to see some local talent have a crack at the indie scene, i hope it goes well for you. If possible, let us know how well it sells and performs over time. Getting any info on iphone game sales performances is pretty difficult, almost impossible for aussie developed ones (Firemint being the exception).

Are you guys planning to market it anywhere, online publications maybe (touch arcade, etc)?

Submitted by designerwatts on Fri, 05/02/10 - 10:14 PM Permalink

Thanks for the compliments. :D

I was planning on releasing the sales data for Mole when they come about. Regardless of how good/bad the game does in that sector.

Although being the first game from our little indie group where not predicting massive sales. We want to build a reputation of making some fun, solid games. I'm predicting as we produce and market new games they'll compliment and amplify each others sales.

We're gotten expressed interest for promo-code reviews from a few apple/iPhone websites of the small-moderate size areas. When the game gets it's importent update patch we should see at least a handful of reviews materialise. :D

Submitted by NathanRunge on Sat, 06/02/10 - 12:46 AM Permalink

I know it's been said, but congratulations once more. Getting a project finished and shipped is a pretty sweet achievement. One that's been escaping me all year so I have a strong appreciation for it. I might see if I can get my fiancé to buy it for her iPod touch considering I don't have an iPhone, but there should hopefully be one more sale.

Submitted by NathanRunge on Sun, 07/02/10 - 10:24 PM Permalink

Definitely enjoyable thus-far. My fiance also commends your work. I've been happily digging down into the purplest depths of the Earth and, somehow, finding my way out again. Only criticism so far is the instructions, which I am passing on from another source without exploration of my own. My fiance, who is not a gamer, found the instructions a tad confusing as to the overall objective of the game. That said, with minimal explanation, understanding was achieved.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 08/02/10 - 2:22 PM Permalink

Buying now.

Interestingly, it seems that "Mole" is a rude word on the app store, and they censor it to be "M**e". Searching for "mole" won't bring up any responses... I had to search for "terracore" to find it.

Scott.

Submitted by designerwatts on Mon, 08/02/10 - 2:29 PM Permalink

It seems to just be an Australian thing.

American buyers tell me "Mole" comes up just fine.

I think because Australians can describe someone as " A mole." as a negative term or slander they may of listed it as a bad word.

Just speculation of course. I don't really know for sure.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Journal Category:

Hi everyone.

With Mole just about close to a month until it's iPhone release I wanted to show my thought process in how I went about designing Mole.

One of the best ways to show you guys is to showcase the design document.

So in the interest in sharing free information within our dev community and perhaps giving you guys something to reference. Here is my design documentation for Mole:

http://www.designerwatts.com/Mole+-+Design+Directory?responseToken=a737…

Also I made an article describing my personal ups, downs and experiences for 2009 in my quest to become a game designer:

http://www.designerwatts.com/2009review

I hope you find the design documentation interesting and the 2009 review insightful.

Cheers!

Journal Category:

First off I’ll disclaim that as far as my experience at GCAP is concerned I was only a exhibitor. I didn’t attend any of the keynotes or talks. I sat in at the Mole table 90% of the time. The rest was spent talking to people and playing the other indie games.

Play our GCAP submission of Mole!

I noticed was that the event was quite small. Not to many stalls apart from the 9 indie games on display. I have to give props to 2K Australia for putting a stall up there and having so many of their development staff come down. It gave the many students [and myself] some great networking opportunities. Of course I myself handed out my card like a bandit. But I’m a designer for hire. Deal with it. ;)

The 9 indie games on display was a great selection. Each game was very different and unique in its own way. Some were more polished then others but I could understand why each game was a finalist.

I’ll give my own thoughts on each game:

Axis Mundi: A very beautiful looking tower defense game. Presentation was excellent. Gameplay was a bit average though.

Blackely Van de Buckle’s Brass Cabaret: Game name is far to long! But the game itself was interesting. I think some design choices didn’t make total sense. But there is a solid platforming concept there.

Last Life: An interesting take on exploration and tower defense. Although lack of tutorials and overview map meant the designer needed to explain the objective of the game to me.

Bunni: A browser-based game I feel was inspired by animal crossing. Solid design concept and art. But hard to get you’re head around when starting.

Hazard: The Journey of Life: An interesting FPS puzzles game with a unique gameplay hook and graphic style. But much like Last Life it was hard to understand at first. Designer basically played the game for me. :/

HPlus TD: A multiplayer turret defense game. An interesting concept that I think has great potential. However the game needed more art and gameplay polish for GCAP to make the impact the other games made.

Mole: Our game. In comparison to the other games on display Mole is actually a vanilla game concept. But I think we sported a lot of polish and a complete, easy to play game. If there was an award for commercial viability I think Mole would of taken it.

Pillager: Sporting a graphic shader to make the game look like a painting. It looked great. But the gameplay was standard fare. Controls and combat design are a bit stiff as well

WordCore: A “guess the word” mastermind game. A well polished and a solid web-browser puzzler. I could see it making money on a platform like Facebook.

As for my opinions on the winners, and I emphasize the word “my opinion” here.

Best graphics: Pillager.

I think it was going to be a toss up between pillager and Axis Mundi. Pillager had its excellent shader going for it. Axis had presentation, solid GUI and game-industry quality artwork.

Personally I was siding towards Axis Mundi. Because I get the intension that the artists behind the game have an understanding of making good game art. Pillager looked great. But the design and style behind the buildings and characters went as strong as Axis intentional and consistent stylization.

Best gameplay: Last Life:

I’m a bit on the unsure side with this award. Going for last life was a working and understandable gameplay mechanic that encouraged quick thinking and exploration.

But as I said above. The game was lacking some principal courtesies to the player like tutorials; hints and an overview map which would of helped greatly. If a designer needs to explain core gameplay elements to the user then there may we a problem.

Each game this year was so different in gameplay to each other. So this award could of really gone to a number of games. I think it was Last lifes concept that earned its reward. I havn’t played a game like it and that’s an impressive feat for the designer.

Best Game: Hazard:

I knew from the moment I played this game that it was going to win.

As silly as this will read. It was simply the most “Indie” of the indie games at the event. It was different and sported a unique gameplay design. It has a minimalist art style and incorporates somewhat loose philosophy in its gameplay and structure.

To be fair though. The dude had worked on and off on this game for around 3 years. So if only by sheer time and effort the dude deserved to win it.

My only complaint is that as it’s stands, player control are a bit sketchy. The game is also very niche in appeal. But I wish the best for the designers’ success as he plans to release it on steam.

Overall I felt that if there was a theme going for the gameplay and best game award. It was that the judges liked the games that tired to express the most unique and creative gameplay concepts. These games didn’t need to be polished or even finished. But they were fun and designed well.

I think Mole didn’t win any awards because our goal was one of both presenting a finished, polished product and a commercially viable game rather then any sort of unique style or gimmick. I think that money-orientated focus probably annoyed 1 or 2 of the judges. Who by my guess want games to be about more then just making money. Nonetheless I felt that Mole was judged very fairly.

As for how Mole went down at the ones who sat down and played it. We couldn’t of asked for a better response!

People sat down at our game and played for anywhere on average of 10-20minutes. Considering this is an iPhone game I think that’s fantastic. Everybody who plated the game got concept behind Mole and how to play it. They would play for multiple digs and some even came back to play more then once.

It was great to get advice from some of the senior designers of studios like Firemint and 2K. Advice and critique we intend to take on board for one last polish pass before we submit Mole to the iPhone store. That alone is worth more then any award we could of gotten.

Overall I think attending and presenting Mole at GCAP has allowed us to get some fantastic feedback and make our game even more polished and fun to play.

It was totally worth our hard efforts.

Thanks for reading.

Chris Watts

Play our GCAP submission of Mole!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 11/12/09 - 11:53 AM Permalink

Hey Chris.

Was nice to meet you at the event, and I wish you all the best with your game. From what I played, it was fun and seemed to be a definite fit for the iPhone market, though I said that at the event as well.

Just thought I'd point out a couple of quick things about what you said about Hazard. Your concerns about the game are purely because an exhibition is not the best time to try and learn how the entire game works, hence why I jumped in to play the game and show things off. I did that with many people. Showing off what makes the game unique, and then letting them mess around some more. The controls seemed unintuitive because I threw you straight into the end game, where you didn't have time to learn how things worked progressively. The other comment about niche appeal is yet to be seen, but from competitions and conferences, I'm not really concerned about that one. A whole lot of people are finding it really interesting.

Thanks for posting your thoughts on the event. Your assessments of everything seem quite fair.

Thanks,
- Alex

Journal Category:

[Note: This post is quite long. Just wanted to establish that so no one tells me to shorten it. :D ]

Designerwatts' 7 rules of making your first team-based indie game.

Hi everyone,

I wanted to take the time to write out my experiences and lessons learned with the projects I've been working on for the better part of this year as an aspiring designer and indie developer.

Most of these rules have come from lessons that either I've had to learn through my own errors or by the nature of the projects I was running. Some of these rules come from practices that I've found to work as well.

These aren't expertly proven methods, and I'm not a senior in any regard. But I think that perhaps if I explain why these works for me as opposed to the opposite then you might skip making the same mistakes I did.

1. Design the game before you make it.
There are many indie projects that are spontaneous in nature. Designing a game by yourself within a week or month may not require you to create a coherent design as your just "playing by ear" That's a completely valid form of rapid development but I'm referring to project of a team based nature.

Within a team environment and on a project that's of a commercial scope. Like say an iPhone or facebook game for instance. It's a good idea to plan what you're going to make before you make it.

The design document should be comprehensive but very much to the point. I write my design documents like it's an instruction manual on how to assemble the game and why it works. [And why it's fun.]

How much time you dedicate to the initial design of the game is up to you and your team. As an example I spent 2 1/2 weeks writing a wiki based design document for the iPhone game "Mole" to covered the following elements:

1 - Game overview : Why is this game fun?
2 - Singleplayer campaign and Level design : The core elements of gameplay explained.
3 - Player control : How does the player interact with the game?
4 - Menus : How menus work. A listing of every menu in the game.
5 - Level GUI : How the user interface works.
6 - Achievements and Leaderboard mode : How online play works.
7 - Values, art and sound asset list. : The nuts, bolts and numbers of the game.
8 - Production Plan : How long should it take to prototype and produce everything?

While it's true that the end product may resemble very little to what you initially designed. I stress that you don't skip this step. If you dedicate the time to think about how the nuts and bolts of how your game works before you go into prototyping then you have a solid foundation to start on. As opposed to no foundation and an idea that may not hold up to the implementation.

To summerise this into my own little quote:

Start with nothing and you'll end up with something.
Start with something and you'll end up with something better.

2. Your team will be small and multi-skilled.
This is my opinion. But the smaller and more skilled your team. The more each individual can contribute to the team. As the designer for mole I'm also responsible for all its artwork. Effectively taking on two jobs at once. This works out because once I've written a detailed design document then the designers' job is to play the game to tweak it and to maintain the document. Which for a small-scale iPhone game does not take up all my time.

To give some examples of multi-skilling:
a: A Game designer who contributes in another discipline like level design, concept, art or programming.
b: A Character artist who can rig and animate.
c: An environment artist who can also make particles and effects.
d: A programmer who can work on more then one feature of the game code side.

It's important that you try to keep the team as small and effective as possible. Every new member you add to the team will create new lines of communication that needs to be maintained. The smaller the team the less lines of communication and the quicker changes and implementations can be done.

3. Keep the team local.
There are a few reasons why one should at the least initially try to keep the core team of a project in the same country and preferably the same state/city.

Firstly communication is easier to maintain when everyone is awake at around the same time. Changes and discussions can happen spontaneously instead of a back and forth e-mail based communication.

Secondly if you're trying to make a profit share based commercial game you stand to simplify that issue if everyone is in the same country and has the same rules as to how they are paid and compensated.

Thirdly if your team is truly localised then you can hold face-to-face meetings to discuss the project and other endeavours. Which is very important. There's a stronger claim to responsibility in this enviornment.

4. Unified communication is mandatory.
Everyone will need to agree on a method of quick, easy communication that is allows all team members to communicate with each other. Any IM messenger service will do the trick.

Everyone must implement the messenger service and be responsible to maintain communication with it. If even one team member refuses to use this or is hardly ever online with this then it'll create a communication gap that can undermine the project.

Likewise electing a task tracking service is a step forward as well. Not everyone is good at maintaining deadlines and due dates. Task tracking does help in this regard to keep people in the know.

Unified communication is very important. Make sure everyone is on the same page with this.

5. Keep projects small in scope and short in time.
This rule is for those who are engaging in their first project with a team of people.

The project needs to be scoped that there can be no question on how something will be produced or implemented. If you're coming across any "Not sure how this is going to happen." issues of your game then chances are the scope of it is to large for your team and you need to rethink it.

The timeline of your project. Not including the initial 1-person design writing period should be anywhere from 1-4 months. Any longer and the project might sink into a lack of motivation or stalled progress. Especially if it's the first game your team is making together and if it's a project that relies on profit sharing.

Keep the project short and well within the capacities of your team. The projects after that can focus on grander scales, bigger timeliness and scopes. First you need to prove that the team can actually work together to make something. Even if it's small and simple.

6. Middleware is a great asset.
There exist many free engines that can save your team months and months of time of not having to create an engine and it's required user tool sets. Engines like Unity3D give you the power to rapidly prototype a game.

As a small indie team you shouldn't snob idea of using free or cost effective middleware. If a member of your team already has something substantial to bring to the dev team that works as well. But otherwise you should explore every opportunity to seize any tool that will cut down your development time.

7. Outsource whatever isn't full time work.
For my teams in development iPhone game. "Mole" we outsourced the sound and music for two reasons.

First is that no one on our team of two had the expertise to write and create music or sound effects.

Second was that music and sound for our iPhone game doesn't constitute a full time development effort. It wouldn't take the sound guy 2 1/2 months to create two digital music tracks and 2 dozen sound effects.

So we outsourced the music. This does cost money but it allows for our core team to focus on the implementation of the game in terms of gameplay and art.

If the game you where making needed a full-time job worth of sound and music for the duration of the project. Then add a sound guy to the team. Otherwise outsource it. This goes for any facet. [Although you'd probably want at least one dedicated programmer and artist. ]

So in summery:

1: Write a design document before you start production.
2: Have a small, multi-skilled team.
3: Keep the team locally based.
4: Everyone must use a messenger service.
5: Keep projects small and easy to complete.
6: Middleware is your friend.
7: Outsource whatever you can't do.

I hope you find this helpful. :)

Cheers.

Who is Designerwatts?

My real name is Chris Watts. I'm an aspiring game designer who is trying to become skilled at the craft of game design through running projects and making games. I have a few years professional experience as a level designer but currently work in an indie capacity. I'm working on the iPhone game with the current working title "Mole"

The opinions expressed in this writing are of my own and represent no one else's point of view.

Journal Category:

Our submission for GCAPs indie awards.

To be honest I didn't submit Mole in the hopes of winning awards. I'm more so interested in getting the opportunity to showcase the game to developers and publishers in December. At which point Mole will be much more refined in control, graphics and quality then it is now.

Still we're quite happy with this submission. It showcases the core game play of Mole and also allows the player to progress through buying new equipment so they can dig deeper into the earth to find the fabled Terracore gem.

You can play our GCAP submission here: https://benbritten.s3.amazonaws.com/moleWeb281009.html

Cheers. =D

EDIT: It seems that uploading the embed to the video upload section works in preview but not when uploaded. :/ I'm investigating this.

None the less you can view the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7WWHEwx06A

Journal Category:

Another busy month in the world of freeware game development.

Due to the efforts of some very dedicated and skilled volunteer developers. There have been some noticeable changes to Tower City this month.

Our talented enviornment artist has been hard at work to create a set of environment props that have given the dungeon of tower city a fantastic and colourful appearance.

Fully realised 3D models of the monsters that inhabit the dungeon have been implemented as well.

New weapons and a very cool inventory system are updates from the teams code side.
The player can now use the Rifle, Shotgun and Gattling-Gun.

To access each weapon:
"1" on the keyboard access the Rifle.
"2" on the keyboard accesses the Shotgun
"3" on the keyboard accesses the Gattling-gun

The downloadable demo build can be found here!

Cheers!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 11/10/09 - 11:24 AM Permalink

with 'tower' in the name, i was expecting a 'tower defence' style game, not a diablo shooter, so that was a pleasent surprise.
not certain about the setup (exploration of fantasy tower of anthropomorphic 'doggie' character, mention of radio contact suggests highish tech level? perhaphs being more ambigious with the background story, changing to just 'lost contact with'?)
anyway, there is a lot of work done on this, environment, characters, game mechanics.
The animation, fighting interaction and gameplay flow (menu to game, back to menu) are presumably ongoing.
The sound helps a lot,
I'm just not getting the big picture concept and don't get the character icons, what do you mean the cutle little puppy' is the representation of the trigger happy monster murder in game that i am playing....woof

Journal Category:

Team name:
Team Tower City

Project name:
Prototype Project Tower City

Brief description & Target aim:
Tower City is a freeware project created for promoting the volunteers who help to create the demo and to claim they have worked in a team enviornment to produce a solid product. Tower City is a non-profit and non-paid project. Our desire to make a fun game and to impress our piers [and to maybe secure a job through it.] is our goal and reward.

We aim to release the finished product in November / December 2009.

Compensation:
No monitory compensation is offered for this project as no monitory profit is intended to be made for it. The creator does however retain content rights to the work they produce. The game design of tower city and the gameplay concept is retained and owned by Chris Watts.

Technology:
We are using an indie build of Unity 2.5 and we are releasing on PC

Talent needed:
To complete the project within the next 3-4 months we need the following positions filled with dedicated volunteers:

- 1 to 2 Rigger & Animators - Tasked to rig and create animations for the player characters and monsters. - You will work from an animation asset list.

- 1 Texture artist - Tasked to create high quality and consistent texture work for the environment art. You will create textures using your own artistic initiative.

- 1 Environment Artist - Tasked to create meshes and UV wraps for the game environment. You will work from an art asset list.

- 1 Programmer - Tasked to help implement sound, character animations and art into the game. You will work the C# platform in unity.

Team structure:
As it stands at the moment the people who we have on the project are:

- 1 Designer/Project lead - Chris Watts
- 1 Production manager
- 2 Programmers
- 1 Character Artist
- 1 Environment Artist
- 1 Concept Artist
- 1 Music Composer
- 1 Sound Designer

Website:
Designerwatts.com

Contacts:
Please contact our Project manager Kayleigh at: k_m_oliver[AT]hotmail.com & also the project lead at designerwatts[AT]hotmail.com

Previous Work by Team:
The latest build of the game can be found here: Latist Build

Additional Info:
I'd like to add an important note here.

As a freeware project we've been fortunate to find some dedicated and consistent programmers and artists. But many who apply for these propositions quit when they realise that the project does require them to create some rather solid content. Please only apply to this job if you have read all of the above, taken a moment to look over the website and completely understand this is a non-profit venture and that you can truly dedicate the time to help us create this game.

Thank you for your time,

Chris Watts

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