Friday, 9 December 2011

UDK Level progress

So December, as most of the months this year, has not gone to plan.  In November I did manage to block out most of the level I wanted to create.  I expanded on my previous idea to make progression through the level a lot more interesting.  As it stands, the first area for the puzzle has been blocked in so once the kismet has been written this should be good to test.  The second puzzle I think will need to be more of a challenge via an interface.  I have no idea how to implement this so I have three choices: 1.  Learn how to do this, 2.  Change the puzzle so it can be implemented within the environment (this may involve a change in the layout) or 3. Skip this puzzle and just have the two puzzle rooms and various enemy encounters.  Hmmm...I'll have to have a think about it.

So back to December, with my deadlines at work moved up I had even less time to complete my set tasks.  The first project that I was leading was an overall success.  Many players seemed to love the addition to the game which was brilliant.  A few bugs did pop up but with the time that I had to test the project and the amount of game that it encompassed, I think that I didn't do too badly.  All a learning experience or so they say.

Because of the extra time that I spent preparing for my project and the rest of my tasks, I sadly neglected this UDK level.  I want to complete this level to make it the first in a long line of outstanding game design pieces, but it looks like I may need to go back to redesigning the level again in order to move forward.

The rest of the and next year should be very interesting for me.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Match Maker 2: Update 4

So another late update.  I didn't get much implemented over last week and last weekend I've been at Runefest for Jagex (check out the amazing smoking RuneScape cake below) so today I have been fully resting up and rehydrating after the eventful and tiring weekend.

So from the tasks that I listed last week I have:

  • Move the delete button to underneath the main board
  • Remove save button
  • Warn player about the letters randomly changing

I've also re-organised the Main Menu page to give the player the option of entering the Challenge or the Casual mode of the game.  Once the casual mode is implemented this button will work.

Lastly, I had a simple thought to encourage players to replay the game.  When the timer runs out or when the player unlocks and moves onto the next level (during Challenge Mode or Casual Mode respectively), the player will be shown a fraction indicating how many words they managed to correctly spell and how many remained during that level.  As I say simple but I think it's a good one.

Over November I'm calling a brief recess on development of this project but when December rolls around I'll be back to work on Match Maker.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Match Maker 2: Update 3

So this update is a week late.  Last week I added the following to my prototype:

  • Added a menu
  • Added a save a load function (but on after contemplation I think I'll remove this as it's not needed)
  • Add points to the player's score when they correctly spell a word
  • Add 5 seconds to the timer when the player correctly spells a word
  • Restart the level when the time runs out
  • Check off words that have already been found
  • Output a green, red or orange square next to previously entered word to indicate a correct, incorrect or already found answer (respectively)
I also changed the layout of the components like so...

I also tried the demo on 3 of my work colleagues which gave me some useful feedback and even pointed me to some similar games to study.

From the feedback I came up with the following that needs to be added:
  • Implement 'casual' mode - linear progression through new levels where more letters are unlocked every level.
  • Add High score board
  • When all words in the level are found/session ends/time runs out, save score in High score board
  • Implement in-game menu
  • Move the delete button to underneath the main board
  • Remove save button
  • Warn player about the letters randomly changing
So I still have a lot of work to do unfortunately, but overall I think that this project is moving in a good direction.

If you'd like to play the latest build of my project so far, you can download it here.

Send me all your feedback too.  Anything will be useful :)

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Match Maker 2: Update 2

So this week I have made considerable progress with one of my prototypes. The player can now click on the the randomly displayed letters in the grid to spell out a four letter word.  If the player spells a word that is on the list of words for the level they will gain score for that word.  As each letter carries an individual value (like in the game Scrabble) some words will carry more score than others so it is up to the player to try and work out which letters carry the most score and create words using these.

At the moment the layout of the board is at a very placeholder state where only the board, the empty spaces and a basic delete button are shown.  This is something I'll be working on this week to enable all of the important elements are displayed as well as adding a timer to create the Challenge game mode.

I'm hoping with these and a few other essential features worked in this week, I'll be able to upload my first WIP version to my site to get people to play and give feedback to this idea.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Match maker 2: Update

So, mid-week I sat down and worked on my prototype for a simple word creation game using Game Maker.  The game reminds me a lot of the the non-digital game Boggle that I used to play a lot when I was a child.  But the idea for this was actually derived from a previous idea I had for my 'mobile' game, Match Maker (this project is no longer solely a mobile project).

Over the past few months I have iterated on this idea so many times.   The main reason was that I was not convinced that enough challenge existed and that the game simply wasn't fun.  This led me to two different ideas but similar gameplay methods.

The first idea was a simple pattern matching game.  The player is presented with two 4x4 boards. One is placed above the other and the one on the top is smaller.  The smaller board will depict the pattern, using blocks of colour, that the player needs to match in that level.  Each block on the larger board will randomly change colour.  Once the level begins the player needs to select each block on the larger board to correctly match the ones on the smaller board.  The player will be timed and the faster they match the pattern, the more points they accrue.  As they progress through the levels the patterns will get progressively more difficult i.e. more blocks will need to be matched or a mixture of colours will be required.  So this was my first idea.  I'm still not convinced with it, but I figured if I make a simple prototype it will help to demonstrate my idea and I can get others to play it and let me know their thoughts.

So my second idea, is very similar to the first.  In this game you have a set amount of blank spaces (the amount depends on the difficulty of the level) shown above the larger 4x4 board.  Instead of coloured blocks, the board will randomly show letters.   The player will have to create i.e. a four letter word using the letters that appear in the larger board.  Once a word has been successfully created, the four spaces will turn blank again and the player can begin to create another word.  Players will be timed and will have to create as many words as possible within the time limit in order to score the most points for that level. As they progress through the game more letters will be added into the 4x4 board and the length of the words to create will get longer.

So far I have been dedicating two nights a week to my projects so that I can play more games, devote a decent amount of time to Take Initiative and work on improving my other non-game related skills.  I hope to post an update a week detailing how this is going. 

What do you think of these ideas from what you have read so far?  Worth developing prototypes for to judge their potential?  Or should I scrap them both and start another project?  Or have you got any questions for me?  If so, feel free to comment :)

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Improving my skills and revisiting writing

It's been a while since I posted so I'll catch you up.  I have been working on my mobile game idea, which again has gone through another change and been looking at the skills I currently possess and the ones that I need to improve.

After thinking about the skills that I need to develop to become a better designer I have realised that I need to work on improving my communication skills, particularly when I am trying to describe an idea or give my opinion on anything.

So I've decided that I am going to use this blog to help me improve this skill.  By analysing games that I have played I believe that this will help me to learn what I think makes a good game, will help me understand why a game fails and the design issues I need to consider when designing my own games.  So from now on when I finish a game I be posting a piece analysing the game or an aspect of the game.

I have also been recently writing a story for a new UDK level that a few friends and I are planning to create.  I'd obviously like to be involved in the design of the level but at the moment I have taken the role of game writer.  I have forgotten how inspiring it is to imagine a new world with new rules, characters and possibilities and being able to put this idea into a game that I'll have a hand in creating is very exciting.  I have gotten so into this new idea that I'm thinking of turning it into a short story but I guess after the level is created I'll have to see whether it is a good idea or not.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Where I am with this year's targets?

This is a good question and this year by far has been the most interrupted so far in my life. But, however depressing looking back on this and knowing that I haven't yet achieved much is, I still have to do it so that I know where I'm heading towards by the end of this year.

So my targets this year was to:

  • Get through a good number of my 25 games that are catching dust.
  • Create 6 games, levels or maps using either UDK, Gears' Editor or UT3's Editor. 

Towards the first half of the year I did manage to get through a few games, however I still have a mountain to get through (it doesn't help that I keep buying more and the bargains/new releases this year have been unavoidable).   I'm thinking of dedicating one day a week to gaming in a hope to seriously reduce this game pile before christmas hits.

The second target has been slowing drifting away.  In total I have started or had the intention of completing 5 projects this year - Prison Break, a Gears of War level, a mobile game (working title MMH),Tiny Adventures and The Epidemic.

Prison Break was completed a while back but I am sad to admit that it is the only project that has been completed :(  I didn't want to show this video earlier in the year as some people didn't give me very constructive feedback on the level, but it's all a learning experience so i'll share it.

There are a lot of issues with this level so I think more time spent constructing levels in UDK is definitely needed to help me practice better lighting, layout and gameplay, level flow.

I have been thinking a lot about reworking The Epidemic with better graphics however, this does not seem to be a worthwhile cause.  The gameplay is all there however I won't be developing this into a full title.  So for now, the ground work is done for any future platformer that I want to make in Game Maker (as most of the gameplay features that I created are quite typical of platformers) but I'm finally going to put this one to rest.

I did begin a Gears project however it occurred to me quite early on that what I had planned was a lot bigger than I had intended.  So instead of continuing on it fizzled out.  I think the skills that I learned should be used to create a small level in Gears in the future but at the moment it as well is on hold.

My mobile game got some feedback from a couple of designers.  Sadly this was not positive either.  So for a while I felt a bit low, but I re-worked on the gameplay and have planned out a shed load of levels.  I've estimated that I could get the game prototyped within 24 hours.  And now I have sorted my licence for Game Maker 8.1 I'm good to go  again :)  So, yeah this game isn't in UDK or any form of Unreal engine like my targets indicated but it will help me to create a game quickly to assess how well it will actually do should I choose to release it in the future.

Lastly we have my latest project Tiny Adventures.  After working out how to reposition the camera and change the controls using Kismet and a bit of the code, UDN released a platformer prototype with all of these functions present and better than what I had.  So I have migrated to cannibalising this version to develop my own prototype.  I have planned out a few basic levels which should show the basic features of the game.  The only challenge in my way now is to learn how to swap out the default character for my own.  This is going to be a major project as I'll have to not only code the behaviours but model the props too.  So far building the test levels are my priority and at the end of September I'll assess my progress once more.

So I started with 5 projects.  One complete, one cancelled, one deferred, one nearly there and one in the intial phases still.  I'm not going to reach my target of 6 projects this year sadly.  I have to accept this.  But at the very least, I'm going to aim to get this mobile project done and then continue with one project at a time from now on.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Why I've been so quiet

So I have been a bit out of it. This last month and a half I've been extremely busy with moving and adjusting to a new project and a new team. My gaming time was also affected. I'm going to try and dedicate a night a week to getting through my backlog before christmas comes and more arrive.

My mobile project is still ongoing. Although I have been losing faith in the idea, I am still going to complete the idea. Even though the move made my computer set aside, I have drafted out a number of levels that will be suitable for a demo project. I have estimated that this project should be finished in about 24 hours so I hope to block in a weekend very soon to finish this project and get it tried, tested and either polished or shelved. So hopefully early September there should be something.

Having finally bought a new laptop I am now fully equipped to start working towards creating more UDK projects. Below is a preview of one of the characters for a UDK project I am hoping to develop.

As usual I have been falling behind on my targets for the year., but I still hope to be able to get something good together by the end of 2011.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Not much work done :(

Sadly, life has been getting in the way again and I've behind again on my posts. So during this busy period I'll be posting as often as I can, but this may not be regular intervals.

Work redesigning MMH is going well though so I hope to show some progress with that soon.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Late/Early MMH update

The progress with this game is on hold for about two months :( as a massive TV is situated in front of my PC that I use to develop the game on and we can't move it because a) it's way too heavy and b) we have saturated the rest of the free space in our flat with 2 other TVs (we currently have 5 in our flat - 2 we're using and 3 that are old). Anyone want a free TV?

I have considered sitting on this massively heavy TV and using it as a makeshift chair but I'm not sure if that's entirely sensible. So I guess I could either try and create another version of the game using another tool or wait until we move in 2 months (yeah, we found ourselves a house!) as the move will disrupt things enough. I decided on waiting and as I have other half finished/started projects, I figured this would be a good time to roll back to one of those.

I'll still try and post something every week as it will keep me in check and push me to progress so keep reading.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

How playing games helped me in real life

Over the last two weeks I've been busy trying to look for a house to buy (it's true what they say, it is one of the most stressful things you can do in life!) so unfortunately, no time has been spent recently developing games. But last week I had an interesting problem while going to view a house that I believe without the random skills of learning to think around a problem that I learned playing point-and-click adventure games like the Broken Sword series and the patience that games like The Lost Vikings taught me I wouldn't have overcome this problem.

Friday, 29 April 2011

MMH: Gameplay overhaul

Oops!  So yeah I missed a week posting.  Things have been very busy for me with work and holidays so I am a bit behind. Here's what's been going on so far.

I recently got some feedback for Make Me Happy from a couple of designers (those who are actually paid for it and have done for a number of years).  The feedback I got was a little disappointing so I had to have a big work around of the gameplay.  Luckily, the basic idea of the game hasn't changed only the objectives per level.  I think this will be a great little game for very young children and could be useful teaching them all sorts of good skills like identifying and learning colours, shapes, pattern matching etc

Only time will tell with this little game.  I hope to jump in and rejig my code next weekend so between now and then I need to properly hammer out the mechanics so that everything is solid.  Fingers crossed that it all goes well.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Make Me Happy: Initial playtests

So, these last few weeks have been a bit of a rollercoaster for me (and I expect next week will be a lot of the same).  So not much development has been done to MMH this week.  I let a few friends at work playtest an early version and from their feedback I have decreased the speed at which the images rotate in the first levels.  I need to revisit this later as I want to gradually increase the speed within each level to improve the challenge.

Another issue was the GUI.  My participants seemed to misunderstand that the score was being displayed on the meter and the time as a number.  I decided to switch these around so that the meter now displayed the elapsed time and the points for the round was displayed as a fraction (shown in the previous posts screenshots).

This change seems much better.  The placement of all of these items are being tweaked but so far this is how it's looking.

I hope (if I have time) to implement "connect 3" and "match the sequence" functionality into the later stages of the game to mix up the gameplay and constantly challenge the player.  I'm thinking the best way to easily show that the gameplay will be different in each level (other than a pop-up) would be to use a different coloured board.

I'll see how effective this is during playtests.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Make Me Happy: So far...

Make Me Happy is a simple, small and smiley mobile game. The smiley's appear in a grid 3 by 3.  You click on the happy smiley to increase your score to make the character happy.  When the character is happy you will progress onto the next level. If you click on a non-smiley you will either not gain any points or lose points.  This is because these make the character sad.  Make the character happy before the timer runs out.

If you gain enough score you could unlock the Bonus round for the world.  Each Bonus level is different.  Follow the instructions on screen here to make me happy.

Keep Smiling!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

A quick update

So, now that my jam packed weekend is over I'm going to be powering on adding materials and meshes to my Prison Break level.  It's actually taking me a lot longer than I originally anticipated but watching the whole level take shape is great fun so I don't really mind at the moment. 

The Gears level is on hold until I get the Prison Break level completed.  I've got a lot of researching creating e-holes, better cinematics and splitting the gameplay routes for each player to look into.  So I figured it's better to tackle this again when I can give it my full attention.

A friend has also asked me to put together a prototype of his game using UDK (I know another project) but since this will be great practice for me and is only a prototype to prove the core mechanic can be done using UDK I thought I'd give it some of my attention.  So visit back here later in the year to see how that's progressing.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Kicking myself into gear

After my long and well deserved week off from work I've had time to think in detail about where I'm heading this year and what I need to do to ensure I reach this year's end goal.


I finally completed Mass Effect 2 (applause please) last week!  I'm still aiming to work through my backlog of games so that's not going on the backburner (I've also just purchased another game today as it was too good an opportunity to pass up) and with the amount of good new releases this year I can't actually afford to stop playing.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Prison Breakout

So during a bit of downtime at work I used my time to delve a bit deeper into Kismet in UT3 (sadly I haven't got access to UDK at work).

So within about 24 hours (maybe a tad more) I managed to blockout a very small level that I had on my mind for a while.  The objective is very simple.  In order to escape the prison the player must open the bridge.  To do that the player must power the generator.  To power the generator the player must find 3 crystals (I know, who uses crystals to power a generator but bear in mind these are only placeholder at the moment) and then operate the bridge controls to escape.

The crystals are scattered around the map in high and low locations.  To prevent the player from escaping and to create a bit more of a challenge I have spawned bots (the other prisoners) at various points in during the level. 

Currently due to the limitations of the PC I'm on (or maybe just UT3) the editor always crashes when I place terrain and rebuild :(  So the addition of terrain and water volumes will have to wait until I get this project home. 

There's also no SFX hooked into picking up the crystals or opening the doors but I'll get those into the final game.  

Here's a video of the level with the full gameplay implemented in my blocked out environment.

(Apologies for the dual monitor view).  As always any comments are appreciated.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Gears S.A.S. part 1: January Update 2

So I'm not exactly where I wanted to be at this time in my Gears project but I thought I'd do a quick update regardless.  I have set up most of the coverlinks on the vehicles/sandbags placed within the environment and I'm still refining the placement of them during the later stages of the level.

I've got about half of the enemy spawn points in an triggering and now that I have got to grips with the simple spawning I'd like to get the emergence hole spawns in.  As I have a busy month ahead of me I now want to try and get this all blocked out by the end of February.  This may require a few long evening and weekend stretches but it will all be worth it once its in and blocked out.  The sooner I can get that done the faster I can get some playtesters in on the fun.

Here's a WIP video of my progress so far.   Apart from my abysmal encounter with the wretches I think this video shows good progress.  Any comments are appreciated!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Gears S.A.S. part 1 Level Update

Right, so largely what I've been doing with this project so far is blocking in the basic layout of the environment.  Making sure the scale is correct is highly important to me in this level as I thought my UT3 map was scaled completely wrong.  I've also been sorting the flow through the map, placing pickups and learning how to set up cover points behind cover objects so I can start having a play through soon.   Cover has been placed very loosely at the moment so I have to make sure I do not overload or place too little cover objects.

I'll stick up some WIP images soon as I say, I hope I have finished refining the layout of the buildings so it should only be the pickups, cover points and AI to place and script.

Needless to say I think my ambition of completing this part of the project to a functional stage will not be possible by the end of the month.  I am now aiming for the end of February.

EDIT:  On the plus side I am really pushing getting through a number of my 360 games.  Gears 2 and Batman Arkham Asylum started last weekend!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Gears of War 1 completed!

I completed Gears 1 over the weekend and I have to say that I am now more informed about how to layout my buildings and flow through an environment and I know first hand how difficult each enemy type will be.
So before I complete blocking out my level in the editor I think it's sensible that I review my initial layout and see if it will still fit in well with the game now that I have a better idea of the flow through levels.

Also, because of the time limit (and the fact that the image I wanted to use in the WoLD contest was more suited to a Source map) I decided not to enter.  Instead I would like to try and get this Gears level fully blocked out with the main gameplay features by the end of the month.  If I can do this then it will keep me well on track to my 6 games in a year target.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

New Year, new projects!

So I've just arrived back from London and was going to jump straight into finishing blocking out my Gears level when I noticed the the World of Level Design are having another contest.  I feel compelled to enter this one too as its going to stretch me again to not only working to a deadline but this is split into two parts so that I focus firstly on the gameplay mechanics and then the visuals.  And, by February I should have a fully complete game level.  I guess I'll have to see if the amount of time I can put in will be enough to participate.

So over the latter part of last year I did manage to play more games.  Not as much as I'd liked to as I still have over 25 360 games to play but I did finish Fable 3, have played quite a bit of Mass Effect 2 and have nearly finished the co-op campaign of Splinter Cell Conviction (I have to say I am quite enjoying even though it has been irritating at times).  This year I want to get through a good number of my 25 games that are catching dust.

I created two Unreal projects last year which was great but this year I want to create 6 games, levels or maps using either UDK, Gears' Editor or UT3's Editor. 

Hopefully I haven't set my targets too high.  Should be an eventful year.