Well, freeplay is coming up this week and for the event I wanted to make something to promote myself with. Tower City is all well and good but for the context of small indie development it doesn’t quite fit.
As many developers showing up to the event are focusing on the iPhone as their development platform of choice I wanted to put my hat into the ring and give my idea of what might make a fun and enjoyable iPhone game.
The result is MOLE. A game in the same vain of some classic retro games like boulder dash and dig-dug. You play as Mark the mole as you excavate the earth searching for precious gems.
It’s a simple game design in which the player has to navigate the earth and prioritise what gems they’ll go for as every second counts as Marks air supply slowly trickles away. You can find air pockets to top up your supply but they can’t be relied upon to always appear.
The game design was created with the iPhone touch screen in mind. There are basically 3 actions Mark the mole can make. Move to a location, use his metal detector or use dynamite. All activated by simply tapping the screen in some way.
Most importantly this game design has been created with the intended scope that it could be made by a team of a 2-3 people over the period of just a few months.
I’ll be handing this out in pamphlet fashion at Freeplay as part of my ongoing design folio work. While I realistically think that it’s unlikely that MOLE itself would catch the eye of a developer to be made, it’s another action I’m taking to get my name out there as a designer. :)
The 3ed image on this post is just an enlarged image of the art mock-up of MOLE if you wanted a closer look.
Overall this mock-up took about 3 1/2 days to design and illustrate.
How to play:
1: Download and unzip file.
2: Double-click and execute the file: WIP DEMO AUGUST BUILD.exe
3: Have fun!
- Player health: Players now have their own working health bars! :D
- Working enemies: Enemies now damage the player character when near them. They also have their own health bars.
- Working weapon: Pressing the right mouse button will fire a projectile weapon. Aim at the enemies legs to kill them. [projectile currently not visible in game.]
- Some refined environmental art props are now in-game.
Coming up next month!
- Title, start and credits screen:
- Improved weapon system: We only just got a simple weapon into the game for this months build. But next month we'll be aiming to implement fully realised weapons for the player characters.
- More enviornment art: We're now making a big push to get some art assets created for the game. So as the months roll by more environment assets will roll into the monthly builds.
- Character animations! =D
Thanks for taking the time to read and perhaps even playing the game in its current state. :)
This month marks a smaller update to the Tower City prototype demo project. The main reason being that I was involved in a large house move and it took 3 weeks to get internet re-established in my new residence.
A few new features added to the build this month:
Our music composer has created a in-dungeon music composition so our game now has some sound to compliment the visuals.
I myself got started on the visuals of the GUI. Creating some solid and simple overlays. But the GUI system isn't functional yet.
Finally the path finding system that the monsters use has been improved substantially allowing for a smoother frame rate.
And that's about it from Tower City this month. A new playable version of the build can be found here:
A bit of a departure from the standard showing of UnrealED and mod levels made from FPS engines. This 3 minute video is split up into two parts.
The first part showcases the level design iteration process, which is actually quite important. By designing and creating a strong and well thought out layout for your level you're endeavouring to make the level as strong a gameplay space as possible before you go building things in a level editor. Your level design lead loves this is because it leaves very little question into what you're proposing to design. It's much easier to make layout and gameplay changes at this stage then if you alternatively built the level without making a well documented layout, presented it and was then asked to change parts of it.
The second part of the video is footage from a level I designed in de-blob called "The Chroma Dam." This part is to showcase some final implementations of level design, which is important as well. You need to be able to finish what you start.
Note: On de-Blob the level designer was responsible for level layout, puzzle design, enemy placement, camera placement, relationship scripting and mission design. All art assets are modelled by a series of artists, I make no claim to the artistic work shown in the de-blob portion of the showreel.
de-Blob belongs to THQ. Created by Bluetongue Entertainment. Showcasing of the game is used for personal showreel promotion only.
The games industry event Design Aikido was held on Wednesday the 22nd. As a fellow industry designer I wanted to share my views on this event.
Held at a classy little Bar & Club on the Melbourne docklands, it was a good place to hold such an event. The space fitted the 50 odd attendants quite well. Most attendants were industry developers and a small sprinkling of press and students as well.
I myself was fortunate enough to score a free ticket via being the TSumea cameraman. You’ll be able to be my handy work later this month once the videos have been sorted out.
The event started with one of the guest speakers. Mr Chris Avellone from Obsidian entertainment in the USA treated us to an engaging talk on how he approached the story and character design of the games he was a part in creating. Going into detail about the methods in which they also tested game systems.
Breaks between the 1-2 presentations where well spaced. I think letting people out to breathe every 60-90mins was a generally good idea. And it allows some time just to network and hold a conversation with others.
Networking was a core part of this design event; I myself got to speak to many developers from many different companies. Business cards where passed, words where spoken. There was a bar tab which helped everyone relax a little near at the end at the event.
I was actually a little disappointed that I didn’t see more students and passionate people wanting into the industry attend, this event was welcome to them and as I said, the networking opportunity to speak to local Melbourne industry boss’s here was huge.
Other presentations that complimented the two core guest speakers where of varying degrees of quality and the context in which they where spoken.
Some came off as advertisements for a product like game development lawyering and music copyrighting, These two presentations where by no means bad, they where well presented and spoken, and there was people in the room that stood to benefit from such information, but there context within the focus of design is a little bit in question.
A presentation on the subjects of government grants and tax breaks was also quite interesting. Strong points where made for and against the necessity of game development tax breaks and I came out of that presentation with a confidence of the industries accomplishments and capacities without the need of government tax breaks.
A talk made on the publishing side of things was also a worthwhile presentation. We all got an insight into the logical rationale of a publishing business and their stance on movie tie-in games. A think everyone came out of that presentation a little more informed from the publishing side of things.
A commendable presentation by AIE regarding industry education and it’s need to communicate directly with industry developers was also discussed. With the focus just being an official call to developers to offer their understanding and experience into the education sector as a whole to create a more solid learning scheme is something I think we can all benefit from.
And finally the last presentation made by Mr David Gaider from Bioware was an in-depth showcasing on his experiences with writing for games and the systems that go into creating storylines that have choice and conscience actions. Some gems of information from that talk. To bad I wasn’t allowed to record the screen for legal reasons.
Overall no presentation was horrible or detracted from this event, whether you where press, a developer, freelance or a student there was something to learn from the presentations and the as I can’t keep stressing the importance of networking. I think at a price point of $150 and what you got for it, it was a worthwhile event.
Tsumea will be providing video recordings of these presentations later this/next month. So keep your eyes peeled for them. They’re worth your time to watch.
I wanted to give my thoughts on the Aussie developed console RTS Stormrise. Please keep in mind that I’m not a reviewer in any real sense, these are accounts of the game and my views of it as a fellow developer that’s worked on a console game.
So where to begin. Well popping the game in and starting it up I jumped right into the singleplayer campaign. The starting presentation built up an interesting premise and sets the scene, unfortunately the characters then start talking. The writing for these characters is in a word, confusing. The dialogue that hits back and forth between them doesn’t feel genuine and while efforts are made to try and make these central characters have that dysfunctional family vibe it just comes off as a poor performance in both script and voice acting. Coops voice is annoying, it's an opinion I know.
Ok, bad character interactions I can live with. So lets get stuck into the gameplay. What’s the first mission for the new Mech commander? Taking over a stronghold? Leading a group of grunts through a recon line to blow shit up and demonstrate the controls of the game to teach the player. Nope.
Instead you fumble around a shed, a level full of shipping containers and enemies that spawn bluntly in front of you.
We’ve hit a big, big problem right at the start of the game. Not only is the first few levels not setting the grand apocalyptic scene. But more importantly the tutorials required teaching you the controls and tactics for a game this complex is only half way there. Some elements like moving where you point the curser are explained; other elements like how to group troops together are not. The main problem comes from the levels themselves. From level 2 onwards the maps are huge and sparse and have vertical elements with them. This is great if you know how to play the game. But by level 2 I was just getting to grips with moving troops. I wouldn’t have minded some smaller starting levels and digestible mini missions that explain the many intricacies of the whip control system, the camera system and now to effectively micro manage your troops.
So in the second level we hit the heart of the issue behind Stormrise. The triad of conflict between the game camera, the level design and the whip select system.
Now don’t get my wrong for a moment. The Whip select system is a great idea and an interesting way to approach navigation control. If the camera was in a classic RTS top down view and if the level layouts where designed around the camera as primary consideration then controlling and navigating in stormrise would be efficient.
However, The camera is full over the shoulder 3D on your currently selected unit and the level design does not take this fact into consideration. Disorientation due to ‘Whipping’ all over the place, especially in the internal spaces can be a mindfuck and you are continually adjusting your camera in order to get things into view. Internal spaces are usually poorly lit making trying to find out how you get to places an issue. [Gamma and contrast is such an issue that the game has you adjust it before you start. Not a good sign.] The colour palette is also an issue. While the artwork in stormrise is really top self stuff in some regards the bland colour palette makes identifying units and objects difficult. I understand the desire to make the game gritty but is it worth it at the expense of game play? Overall level design isn’t completely broken but the nature of the game camera makes navigating these mammoth levels a chore that never lets up. It’s a nightmare in dark internal spaces.
This is all further compounded by pathfinding issues. Levels are large but have small choke points and gaps. In these gaps it’s far too easy to gridlock units. Units sometimes continue to run past a point you’ve told them to move to only to magically respawn a few seconds later at the allocated point. Units can get stuck easily on geometry; all in all it’s an important feature of this game that needed more time and attention.
It’s hard to judge the power of units in comparison to other units. It’s hard to create a crafty strategy when all that seems to work is building 18 squads of grunts, grouping them and sending them all at once in a tidal wave of tank rush dominance. And it’s annoying that secondary abilities seem to only work when the unit feels like it. My defensive machine gunners only dig down three quarters of the time. The other they just stand there idle, even if the enemy fires at them.
Also, I don’t know if it’s just the PS3 version but it’s got it’s fair share of shipped bugs. Here are a few that I can remember:
· The opening title videos for Sega and Creative Assembly run at a choppy rate.
· Frame rate is inconsistent. Rarely plays smoothly on the PS3. The game also encounters performance hiccups that don’t seem to relate to things on screen.
· In 6 hours of playing the game it has frozen up the PS3 twice. Please keep in mind I own 11 PS3 games and this is the only game to have frozen my PS3.
· When you save the game the process of saving is done is done while the level is running and you have no control over your units.
I understand the PS3 is a bastard to program for, but the excuse of “developed for 360 and ported to PC & PS3” doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s painful to see these bugs in an Australian developed game and to know the level of quality that the guys in CA have brought us in the past. The lack of polish in this game comes off as a surprise. Was there rush from Sega to get this game out quickly? I honestly can't say.
There are some positive things to note. The production of the art is consistent and of a high quality. It’s quite a sight to see 200 of your men traversing the urban terrain at such level of detail and that’s commendable. The soundtrack does its job well and some serious love has gone into the level environments art wise to make them look as impressive as possible. I only wish there was a stronger working union between level design and level art.
Multiplayer I sadly can’t comment on because being a PS3 owner in Australia I’ve yet to find a game probably because the aussie user base is so small. Which is a shame because the game looks like it’s focused some multiplayer love into it.
In my opinion this game needed more time dedicated to polish. Some technical aspects of the game are in need of rationalising like an unruly in game camera and optimising and addressing the pathfinding issues. Level design is hit or miss. I can see that the focus was on trying to create large, capture point-based city scapes. But multilevel indoor areas only help to demonstrate the cameras shortcomings and there’s an inconsistency in level design. It’s never clear where and what your units can and can’t traverse due to your point of view, the lighting and the lack of consistent visual indicators in the levels geometry to poster such things like climbable rubble.
Despite the technical issues the games biggest downfall lays in it’s vague and confusing tutorials [and lack off.] that makes the player have to dip into the instruction manual and controller screens to get their head around how to do half the actions required to play. The learning curve is step and I honestly gave up at level 4 because the AI just continued to throw wave after wave after wave of enemies in an automated fashion. I didn’t feel like I was playing an enemy. I felt like I was playing a basic computer AI.
I think the art team did their job well. Units look detailed and only minor bits and pieces of inconsistency, the Mechs look awesome; the node point shields look horrible.
This game needed more time to bake. Needs a rationalisation in terms of some of its features and a storyline editor to make the confusing conflict and characters of the single player campaign make more sense.
I don't really care much for 'RTS for the home console' thing to be honest. I went out to play stormrise as it's own game. And There is a soul to this game; there is an idea and a premise that can work great. But in it’s current incarnation it’s bogged down in frustration and glitches.
I present to you kind people a proposal. Seeing just how large and willing the
indie scene is at the moment and with the projects currently in circulation
I would like to put forward a plan for creating a playable prototype alongside
the game design document development for Tower City.
If this proposal doesn’t take off. The design document and video logs
will continue regardless. My aim with this prototype is to not only give prospective
greenlight funders a tangible example of the design proposed. But also provide
the indie community with an interesting project to participate in.
As I’m currently living off saved funds and plan to until my game design
folio is complete my dedication to Tower City is more then full time. Spending
up to 45 hours a week working on design documentation and video log presentations.
People interested in this project can rest assured that the designer will be
supporting them 100% of the way.
Please read the small proposal below. And if you’re interested in working
on this project please send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with the
What your skills are and any accreditations. [Previous work, folios, education.]
What you would like to do for this project.
How much time per week can you dedicate to the project.
Anything else you’d like to add. :)
As for people I can put to work right now I need a responsible and dedicated
programmer to become the programming lead. I would get him to start researching
into the game engines. And a 2D concept artist is someone I need to put a real
artists vision into the world of Tower City.
Cheers! :) Tower City – Prototype Proposal.
To create a fully refined and working prototype that demonstrates the core
gameplay principles behind the design of Tower City.
The Prototype will represent a “vertical slice”
of the game and fulfill the following features in a playable demonstration:
1 level/floor of the tower dungeon. – Playable from entry to exit
The level must contain an objective that the player needs to fulfill
to progress to the next floor.
Player characters - The two main characters along with a basic demonstration
of their unique abilities and skill sets.
Weapons – 4 weapon types that all give a different way to approach
Inventory and equipment – The inventory and character equipment feature
must be demonstrable.
Enemies – 5 enemy types showcasing different basic AI behaviors.
End product is a PC demo that can be installed and played on it’s
What is a “vertical slice”?
A vertical slice in the game development industry refers to making a demo that
demonstrates what a fully produced final product of the game would look and play like.
Only it's focused on a small slice of the game, the demos running time being around
5-20 minutes of play. For games of a moderate to large production scale, creating
a polished vertical slice that’s fully playable is one of the best ways
to approach green lighting for a new IP.
With the focus of the prototype being a demonstration of the game play concepts
described in the game design document being created at the same time. Tower
City will use a pre-existing engine that can be scripted and modified to suit
the needs of the project in order to focus programmer efforts towards implementing
gameplay-based features. This engine will be ether be an indie licensing of
Unity 2.5 or TGEA. Chris Watts will initially provide the funding to buy the
The production of this prototype will go hand in hand with the production of
the game design document. The production plan is broken into time based 3 stages,
which are further broken up into milestones. This outline is as follows:
Production plan outline:
Project Start – 1st Apirl 2009
Project End – 1st November 2009
Stage 1 – Pre-production
1st April to 30th April
The pre-production stage of the prototype will be fronted by a lead programmer
and a 2D concept artist.
The Lead Programmer will be tasked to download and trial the two engines
Unity 2.5 and TGEA [Torque game engine advanced.] He will research and evaluate
the two products and present the funder [Chris Watts] with which one will
give the most benefit to the type of game desired to be prototyped.
The 2D concept artist will begin work on illustrating the world of Tower
City and create a consistent artistic continuity for 3D artists to reference
in the production stage.
Once the engine has been decided upon. The project will kick into production.
Stage 2 – Production
1 May to 31st of August
The production stage of the prototype will have a team of two-four programmers,
one concept artist, one GUI artist, two 3D artists and one rigger/animator.
These people will be needed at different times of the production stage. Programmers
and Artists will have a lead they report progress and problems to. Leads will
report to Chris Watts. [This list is a current estimate and is subject to change.]
The production stage consists of:
Programmers - Coding and implementing features like:
Player character skills and abilities
Enemies and their AI
Level entities [start and exit gates, random monster drops etc.]
Inventory/Equipment screens and their usability.
Artists - Creating and implementing in game artwork for:
The two main characters. [Requires animation support.]
Weapons and weapon effects.
Game User Interface design and Art.
Enemies. [Requires animation support.]
Dungeon rooms and corridors.
Nick-knacks to populate the rooms.
As we move into the production stage a more detailed outline of what will be
needed will be provided.
If artistic requirements cannot be meet then the prototype will opt to be presented
in a clean gray-box style representation. Coding requirements must be met however.
They cannot be downscaled.
Stage 3 – Polish
1st September to 31st October
The stage of the prototype will give the developers of the project 2 months
to polish and refine the prototype from all facets. From September onwards no
new code features are to be added and all art assets must have a placeholder
1st of November
To coincide with the final video log of the game design folio which ends with
presenting a full production plan, the prototype demo will be released along side
it. This will give prospective greenlight funders not only a full game design
document backed up with video logs. But a Vertical Slice Demo that showcases the
game concept as a fun and engaging experience.
This vertical slice prototype is a proposal however and requires the willing
help of other indie talent to make it materialize.
What's the benefit of being on this project?
Even though the focus is on creating only 15 minutes of gameplay, the amount
of time and effort needed to create this prototype is quite large. But with
a focus on showcasing a couple of highly polished features the aim is to wow
and impress people in those 15 minutes. To claim that you worked on a game demo
to that level of quality would shine very kindly upon your folio whether you
coded, modeled or animated.
The focus here is quality over quantity.
Just under 2 months in the making. I present the beginning of the Game Design Project: Tower City.
Before you is the first of many video logs. A full resolution, uncompressed version can be found here if you find the youtube compression not to your liking: http://www.designerwatts.com/Videos
So. Some Q&A about all this:
Q: What is this project all about?
A: It's a game design project that will grow and evolve over the next coming months. It’s an idea based on a game the author would love to play and it’ll materialise into a full wiki-style game design document by projects end.
Q: Who creates the animated presentations and trailers?
A: I do. While I make no claims that my artwork is up to standard in the game industry, because it's simply not. I use the skills I do possess to present to you these video logs and other treats to help illustrate the engine and soul behind Tower City. Consider it designer level artwork. :)
Q: What is your goal with this project?
A: I intend to make the move from Level Designer to Game Designer. And being passionate about the subject I seek to accomplish that objective in a unique way. By using monthly video logs to showcase that months focus on the game design it'll allow my peers and other viewers to get an abridged digest of the game design. If they want more detail they can delve into the game design document.
Q: What's the trailer at the end all about?
A: The next few months will be very focused on the game design and game mechanics for Tower City. Meaning I'll have very little time to create content for the game fiction. I wanted to give viewers a look into the heart and soul of tower city as well as the brains. While perhaps not important to the game design. It's important to the game as an evolving IP.
Q: Do you intend to make this a real game?
A: Not immediately. When this project comes to its conclusion in November. Who knows? In the meantime if people like the idea of Tower City and feel it's something they can get behind. I would like to create a prototype of the game concept using a pre-existing engine like Unity 2.5
Q: Does that mean you want to create an indie team?
A: Yes I do :) More details will be coming to Sumea in the next day or two outlining the prototype production plan.
My musings and thoughts on the PC port of the game , Puzzle Quest Galactrix.
The video sources, excluding the 3 second work in progress animation near the start of the video are all based off assorted promotional videos floating around the net that show Galatrix gameplay. These vids can be found at places like Gametrailers. I just simply chopped and jumbled them up.
These are just personal observations about the game. I hope you all enjoy the musings. :)
We've been trying ourselves out with iphone platform, and decided to start off with a small game. We bought a license for Unity3D.
Our game went up to appstore just yesterday and is now on sale!
There's just 3 of us working on this, we're students from Auckland, New Zealand.
The game is a simple arcade-action based, with a very neat fireworks simulator aside. Themed around Chinese New Year, the mini-world is styled around that. You're in control of an Ox (represents 2009) and you gota stomp onto rats (represents 2008) as theres swarms of them around the place. Get the best time.