Sunday, November 6, 2016

Homework 11: Game Design

Two great games I have played

1. Banjo-Kazooie

   This game was developed by Rare for the Nintendo 64 and released on June 29, 1998. This game follows the story of the title characters Banjo and Kazooie as they try to stop the evil plans of Gruntilda. The game features nine nonlinear levels where the player must complete a number of challenges like solving puzzles, jumping over obstacles, gathering objects, and defeating opponents.  The reason why I love this game so much is because it required a lot of puzzle solving strategy while still including an element of fighting.  The game also had amazing graphics and sound for its time.  This provided a pleasurable gaming experience.  The controls were simple and the idea of catching music notes and golden puzzle piece items was very pleasing and satisfying. This gave the game perfect balance in my mind.

2. Half-Life

   This is a first-person shooter game that also has a place in my heart.  It's developed by Valve in 1998 (same as Banjo-Kazooie) and was revolutionary for the time. The player assumes the role of Dr. Gordon Freeman, who must fight his way out of a secret research facility after a teleportation experiment goes wrong. This game does an amazing job of balancing the fighting of enemies and critical thinking puzzles.  It blends those two elements together to create an amazing gaming experience that is very aesthetic. The gaming mechanics involving the user input and the virtual interface is very simple and clear to understand right away. The controls are so simple yet the game is so much fun to play because it feels like you're watching a movie at the same time.

Two bad games I have played

1. Elite Dangerous

   I barely played this game at all because it was in VR and made me completely sick.  It involves flying around in space shooting down other spacecraft, and when you're in VR flying around when you're really just sitting still is a recipe for disaster.  On top of that, the virtual interface was very difficult to understand along with the controls.  Even though there are people who are lucky enough to not get motion sick as easily who like the game, it doesn't have the best reviews online.  What was worse was that HTC wasn't willing to give me store credit after trying to return the game which was unfortunate.  An all around bad experience.

2. The Sims

   Although this game was very novel, I was never a fan. I got bored too easily with it. There wasn't enough action or complexity for me to stay enthusiastic about it. So the experience was not what I was looking for or expecting. I was more of a fan of Sim City which is at a larger scale and has more complexity associated with it. I wanted to control armies, not a family.  So for these reasons, I did not play this game for long.

Homework 10: Interfaces

1) Ten examples of interfaces between people and the real world.
1. A vacuum cleaner is an interface that allows the user to suck up dirt from anywhere in there environment.
2. A microwave is an interface that allows the user to heat up any item (usually food) that will fit.
3. A bicycle is an interface that allows the user to quickly travel through their environment.
4. A table is a physical interface that the user can use to place objects offset from the ground.
5. A smoke detector is an interface that monitors smoke levels in the surround environment.
6. A microphone is an interface that amplifies the users voice so that others can hear.
7. A dresser is an interface that someone uses to keep their clothes organized to simplify retrieval and storage.
8. A photograph is an interface that someone uses to remind them of the past.
9. A light is an interface that someone uses to light up the surrounding environment.
10. A bed is an interface that someone uses as a platform to sleep and regain energy.

2) A good interface is one that utilizes multiple dimensions in an elegant way to give the player a sense of power and control. One such example is in the game Halo when the player switches guns. It's obvious when the gun switches because you can see that it's a totally different gun. And it switches very quickly. This is good feedback. Also you can see the amount of ammo you have left by looking on the gun. This is an example of using a specific dimension to display data, and it's better than having the number listed elsewhere where it wouldn't make much sense.

3) A bad interface is one that has a lot of different controls that are confusing and hard to learn. Having pop-up menus for a gamepad is one classic example of an incorrect usage of interfacing. Also having different actions depending on whether a button is tapped compared to being held down for every button will leave the player overwhelmed and likely to give up playing because they loose the sense of control and fun because it's not transparent.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Homework 9: Balance

The blog will describe each aspect of balance from Book of Lenses 1st Ed. as it applies to our game Fly Fairy Fly.

1. Fairness: It's important to think of the game from each player's point of view. One of this big questions is whether to make the game symmetrical or asymmetrical. I plan to make our game asymmetrical because it seems more interesting to me. In other words, the main character (the fairy) will have more powers than the AI, but other elements like weather and obstacles will balance the game and not make it as easy.

2. Challenge vs. Success: A game is defined by its goals and its challenges. The player in our game will have to juggle many different challenges simultaneously (health, power, time, etc.) just like real life, but in a way that makes it fun and not too strenuous. There will be multiple levels in the game, and each one will get tougher to match the increase in skill that the player obtains after completing each subsequent level.

3. Meaningful Choices: Our game will not have a dominant strategy, and the choices will equal the desires giving the player a sense of freedom and fulfillment. I will give the triangularity at certain points where the player can choose a low risk/low reward (skipping collecting all of the coins to complete the level and avoiding death) or a high risk/high reward (going for it and collecting all the coins to gain the most points but risking death).

4. Skill vs. Chance: This game will most likely require more skill than chance.  There may be some elements of chance here and there, but it will be mostly about improving one's skill to complete the game.

5. Head vs. Hands: This is an element that I want to have around 50/50 in my game. I want the play to have good hand/eye coordination while at the same time using their mind, senses, and intuition to progress.

6. Competition vs. Cooperation: This is a one person game and will most likely have no sense of cooperation. However competition will be relevant especially since the player will get a final score after completing the game to compare with their friends who also play the game.

7. Short vs. Long: Since this is meant to be a simple game developed within a semester, I see no reason in designing it to take a long time to complete. Therefore this game will be relatively short. There will also be a time limit imposed on the player within which they must complete the game.

8. Rewards: The players will be praised based on how they complete each level most likely with positive word text and sounds. Also extra points will be given based on how many items they collect and the time in which it takes them to complete each level. We will try to implement a spectacle at the end of the game to give a good sense of closure.

9. Punishment: Because the game will be relatively short, if the player dies, they must restart the entire game. This will hopefully not be too negative of a punishment since it won't take them very long to reach where they left off. This will make the risks more excited. Resource depletion will be necessary if they player gets hit by the enemy.

10. Freedom vs. Controlled Experience: There will be a controlled amount of space within which the player can explore but, because of the time constraint, the play must always be thinking about moving forward as quickly as possible.  This game will not have much of an exploration element. It will be more like a racing game. However, the player will have the freedom to go about collecting items and defeating enemies in whichever order they prefer.

11. Simple vs. Complex: Our game will be a combination of very simple tasks but oriented in a way that makes it emergently complex. Every time the fairy lands on a new island, they will have to use their ears to find a compass which they will then have to use to find more fairy dust so they can fly to the next island all while avoiding enemies and beating the clock.

12. Detail vs. Imagination: Also due to the short amount of time to develop the game, the level of detail will not be extremely high, and instead will rely on the players imagination to fill in the gaps.  This is a win, win since it will also be easier on the computer to run most likely. We want to be able to inspire imagination in the player which is why the game environment is set in a dream world.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Homework 8: From Blender, to Unreal, to Git

  I am developing the male player character for the game. This will be a third person game, so the entire body will be seen during the game play. I started creating the character in Blender using the Manuel Labs character creator plugin.  This plugin provides characters already drawn and rigged, and you also have the ability to adjust how they look.  The final size of the character that is created with this plugin is only about 5 MB.
  However, this character does not come with animations, and those have to be done for the game.  I was able to create a running animation, export the blender file as an .FBX, and then import into Unreal along with the animations.

The figure above is the character created within Blender.

This figure shows the character after being imported into Unreal and demonstrates the animation.

This figure shows my asset along with assets of my other teammates within the same project folder that was pulled from git.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Homework 5: Game Assets

The landscape was the first asset that I created.

This figure shows the material editor, and how the landscape material was created. The lower left portion of the blueprint shows how the landscape texture changes as a function of slope. The top middle shows the base textures along with the normal map. The lower right shows the creation of different assets that were used in conjunction with the grass tool. Those labels will now show up in the Paint section of the landscape editor. Each grass type has options associated with it that allow the adjustment of density, placement jitter, cull distance, LOD, scaling, etc.

Some changes were also made to the third person character.

These adjustments include giving the character the ability to fly by pressing the "F" key, adding the HUD widget to the viewport, and giving the player health.

The radar pulse was created by editing a radial gradient the I made in Photoshop and, after performing some math operations, applied it to a tangent curve with time I was able to animate it by expanding it out. With the radial gradient, black equals zero and white equals 1. This can be used to our advantage by multiplying the gradient by certain values and then clamping those values to change the boundary where white fades to black. The characteristics of the ring (thickness, speed, color, fade) are fully customizable by changing the values of some of the constants. The figure below shows the math on how the ring was created and animated.

The final figure shows an in-game screenshot with the HUD.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Homework 6: Create GitHub Account

I created a GitHub account. My username is nicksuttell.
A team repository was created titled Team_Fairy. Click here for the link.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Homework 2: Team Meeting

We had our first full team meeting on Friday, 9/23/2016 to discuss the future development of our video game.  We decided to create a third person game as well as the types of characters for the player and enemies. We agreed on how to split up the different tasks, and we were able to determine the skill sets of each team member.