Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Unit 22 & 72 - maze game development blog - Designing the maths puzzles and how they will be delivered

I already know that as part of the gameplay for this game, Brainbox will have to light a dragon lantern on each level to awaken the statue. This in turn will ask a sequence of questions based on addition, subtraction, division or multiplication. Answering these correctly will unlock the exit to the level. The advantage of this is that the puzzles can be very visual since they appear as on screen illustrations.

The dragon lantern concept process is below, along with the final character design:

As you can see, I did a number of character sketches that I then combined the most interesting bits of to make the final character.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Unit 22 & 72 - Platform game development Blog - Game play and level design.

Unit 22 & 72 - BTEC Level 3 Games Design
Platform game

Max has to go on some kind of a journey. This much is clear to me even at this stage. What I am planning is for him to traverse through several levels that represent different environments. What I would like is to make level environments that are interesting, imaginative and surprising but make sense in the game world. So what I am thinking about is this:
Level 1: Ground village and tree roots - beginning the ascent - Armored bug boss
Level 2: Honey comb mine - bees at work. Queen bee boss.
Level 3: Outside the tree trunk - lost colony - Squirrel boss
Level 4: Inside the tree trunk - a climb upwards through the dark - Scorpion boss

Level 5: Spider kingdom - Spider king boss

Level 6: Crow's kingdom and crow's nest - Crow boss

It would be good to inject an element of humour into the enemies. In fact the whole game should be built to entertain, I do not want it to be making any big, serious statement, just a fun game with interesting construction, gameplay and playability.

I like anything steampunk, so I may be daring and inject an element of that into it - clockwork insects or armored bosses.

I also like the idea of human characters scattered throughout the game to sell items, give hints or unlock new areas. Having small people in an oversized world would definitely help the fantasy adventure ideas come across more strongly.

Plot developments
Additionally, I have been thinking about the games story and how it will fit in with the parameters set out by the brief. Max must collect diamonds to progress. The original villain for the game was a giant crow. It has occurred to me that a giant Magpie would be better. The Magpie has stolen the diamonds and left them scattered throughout the levels. Perhaps Max could be attempting to recover stolen diamonds for his people. The Magpie could have stolen something within the town such as the town's clock (a giant pocket watch). This would make more sense in terms of the plot's parameters.


Monday, 24 November 2014

Unit 22 & 72 - Platform game development Blog - Brief

Unit 22 & 72 - BTEC Level 3 Games Design
Platform game

What does the customer want?

A platform game featuring a character called 'Max'. The main character of this game ‘Max’ has to move from level to level solving fighting (and/or dodging) monsters which either chase Max or block his way. Max progresses from level to level collecting weapons to fight the monster and/or avoiding the monsters.

Max gets score from collecting diamonds and from killing monsters. He has to collect certain items to unlock doors to progress to the next level. This is a platform game so I would expect Max to be able to jump over obstacles / monsters.

What does the design brief say?

The design brief specifies that there must be a main character, collectibles, puzzles and and enemies. There must be at least five levels that will eventually culminate in a boss fight. There must be a minimum of 5 levels for Max to explore.

The game play must be built around collecting diamonds and killing monsters. As a platform game there must be a mechanic in the game play to kill or avoid monsters.

Max has to collect certain items to unlock doors to progress through the game. This could be in the form of keys or any other form - this could be by completing mini side quests for non player characters. This might work well as introducing narrative into the game. 

There must be some kind of score mechanic. Perhaps this could be linked to unlocking new areas.

In terms of weapons there must be some kind of upgradable weapon system - this could fall under the mentioned collectibles that the player must find - tougher enemies may not be able to be bypassed until the correct weapons are found.   

Who is the target audience?

The target audience is the 7 - 14 age range. It could also feature game play that would appeal to families. The game play must be simple enough for young children to adapt to it, but intriguing enough for older players to discover hidden secrets. Families should be able to comfortably play it with their children.

It would also be interesting to make something that females would want to play. A challenge would be to make an action game that appeals and is challenging, but is not patronizing.  
I am also still very interested in making something that plays like a retro coin op arcade machine to appeal to nostalgic players. These players are likely to be the ones with families buying it for their children. Retro games are very popular, even today. It would be good to make something that kind of spirit, but freshen and update the gameplay with some new features and ideas.

What sprites do we need?

As a minimum, we will need:

- A hero, 'Max'
- Various enemies
- Several background designs
- Textures for the platforms
- Diamonds
- Keys or items that will unlock the next level
- Non player characters to help and guide the player
- A boss monster
- Weapons and weapon upgrades

What sounds do we need?

As a minimum, we will need:

- Music
- Character sound effects
- Monster sound effects
- Weapon sound effects
- Collectible and incidental sound effects

How many levels do we want?

A minimum of 5.

What other elements do we want?

Ideally it would be advantageous to have:

- A start screen
- A how to play screen
- An ending screen 

What do we want to do by the end of this session?

24 / 11 / 2014 - To have written this plan and completed the game play design brief
25 / 11 / 2014 - To plan and design the look of the character of Max.
How long do we have to create the game?

We have approximately four weeks to create this game.

How can we break down the tasks in making the game?

The tasks can be broken down as follows:
1) Design game play
2) Design sprites
3) Bring sprites into Game Maker
4) Make objects and platforms in Game Maker that interact with one another and create something that can be played
5) Implement physics for player, platforms and weapons
6) Implement score and collectibles
6) Implement a way to progress from level to level
7) Implement health and lives
8) Fine tune game play
9) Add in start screen
10) Add in end screen

Gameplay outline

A fun, bright sparky cartoon adventure in the spirit of old retro arcade coin op games. The game is set on a planet that is populated by trees that are miles and miles high. Everything is big and over sized. The tree tops are largely an unexplored area and are home to many races, cultures and creatures. Many of these have rarely been seen by men. On the ground, a gardener and his son Max, tend the plants and trees. It is their job to water the roots and flowers and maintain the plants and wildlife.
One day a large crow that rules the tree top kingdom swoops down and kidnaps the gardener, taking him back to her kingdom. It is up to Max to rescue him as he begins the ascent to the crow’s kingdom. Along the way he encounters friends and enemies, collecting power ups and discovering the truth about his father’s disappearance. The aim of the game is to travel through several vertically scrolling worlds until the two gardeners can be reunited.
The game will feature large, chunky sprites, imaginative backgrounds, fun power ups and a catchy soundtrack. It will be deliberately simple and not overtly violent. The game will instead focus on a cartoon, knockabout style of action like Mario or Zelda. Not to say it won’t be challenging at times – there will be levels and obstacles that will heavily test the players reactions.

The power ups will vary from simple gardening equipment through to spells and artifacts and inventions of ancient cultures later in the game. In fact each world will have its own specific objectives, obstacles and available power ups.

Here are some initial sketches of my game - my first thought for the hero Max, and a quick thumbnail sketch of a level layout :

Max is a little boy who carries a large can of bug spray on his back. His enemies are all oversized insects and creatures found within nature. The bug sprayer effects can be altered by attaching different units on the top of it. The effects could be as follows:

- A standard bug sprayer to ward off enemies
- A freeze sprayer to stop them momentarily ;cools them down to freezing temperatures
- A fire sprayer to scorch them
- A seed sprayer that acts as a ranged weapon
- A reverse sprayer that sucks up enemies like a vacuum cleaner
- An air sprayer that blows away enemies and enables a boost jump.

You can see that the Max also wears a hat. He could collect different hats that grant different effects: for example, a propeller hat that enables flight.

This is a small section of a level. You can already see there are plans for enemies, platforms, ladders and explorable areas of the map. These will create depth to the levels, hidden areas and secrets to find. Hopefully this will begin to create a depth to the game play that is more interesting than just going from A - B and stop the game being repetitive. I want there to be a reason that the player has to explore. Exploration and game progression should go hand in hand.

You can see more detailed mock ups of the levels in the next blog.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

P2 recap

BTEC Extended Diploma in Games Design
Unit 78 Exercise : Computer game graphics

Pixel art :
File extensions

Image capture

Storage Of Image Assets

3D Art:
3D polygons
Rendered cut scenes and animations

Heads Up Display

Background graphics
Logos, graphic design and typography
Advertising - eg: Posters, Adverts, Point Of Sale, TV adverts, Viral videos, social media
Concept art - drawings, photographs, mood board, videos
Artistic Styles - e.g: Photorealism, Abstract, Cartoon, Cel Shaded, Anime
Texture art

Unit 78 Exercise : Computer graphics specification
The dictionary definition of the word "specification" :
an act of identifying something precisely or of stating a precise requirement:
"give a full specification of the job advertised"
a detailed description of the design and materials used to make something.
"one of the telescope's mirrors had been manufactured to incorrect specifications"
In terms of computer graphics, the term specification could refer to the individual components of what the graphics are made up from. The individual components could cover areas such as:

    • Resolution
      - This refers to the how sharp graphics appear on screen

    • Compression
      - This refers to how files are shrunk down to reduce their size, and how much this affects image quality

    • File extensions
      - Naming conventions that the computer uses to identify types of files

    • Image capture
      - Ways of bringing an image into a digital computer environment

    • Optimizing
      - Ways of allowing a system or its graphics to run at their very best performance

    • Storage Of Image Assets
      - Ways that data and graphics are saved securely within a computer environment

      These requirements are directly related to the platform, application or operating systems that is displaying the graphics. For example a higher spec machine may be able to handle a greater resolution than a lower spec machine. For example, a PS4 will have a different set of specifications to a 3DS - there will be acute differences in the graphics, resolution, file types, storage of assets and compression.

      A specification could also refer to a client brief - they will specify certain parameters for the project from the outset. For example, they might say that they want a 3D fantasy adventure to run on the 3DS. The artistic style should be cel-shaded and be bright, fun and appealing. The client may say that they want a mixture of 3D sprites and 2D backgrounds.

      Specification can also include typography - a certain sort of font, look of the graphics' text or design of the games' logo. If the game already has an established brand, the client could opt to specify the inclusion or updating of any existing logos or typography.


      Tuesday, 18 November 2014

      Unit 78 - Defining copyright and libel

      Unit 78 Exercise
      Defining copyright and libel

      What is copyright law?

      Copyright gives the creator of any media or product exclusive control over how their work is represented, reproduced, preparation of derivative work, used and distributed. Music, books, video and software can all be covered by copyright law. Exclusivity means only the creator of such work, rather than anybody who comes into possession of it.

      Limitations imposed by copyright law
      As an example, when you buy software, copyright law would forbid the user from:

      • Making a copy and giving it to a friend
      • Making a copy and then reselling it for your own profit
      • Using the software that is installed on a network (unless the licence approves this practice)
      • Unlawfully renting the software without the consent or knowledge of the copyright owner
      The law that governs copyright in the UK is called the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
      Prevention of software piracy
      Software companies are taking ever more complex and elaborate steps to combat piracy of their products. These can include online registration by the user or licence and serial number keys that must be inputted upon installation. In terms of video gaming, developers have traditionally employed some creative methods to stop unlawful sharing of their games. These have included answering questions mid game that can only be found in the games manual or inputting information from the back of the packaging. One of the most novel ways has been implemented by ‘Rocksteady Studios’ to protect their 2009 game ‘Batman: Arkham Asylum’. Batmans’ cape glide is a crucial part of the gameplay, mastery of which will allow completion of the adventure. Many sections of the game cannot be bypassed until the cape glide is brought into play. ‘Rocksteady Studios’ employed a hidden routine in the game code that would recognize whether it was an official copy or not. If it was not, the cape glide would be removed from game. The game would still be able to be played, but without the cape glide the player would only be able to see a small section of it.

      In general terms, purchasing software and installing it requires the following safeguarding processes:  
      • An agreement between the software developer and the user is mandatory and must be agreed before the software is installed. This is called the licence agreement and covers copyright.
      • Certain software requires a unique licence key to be entered before the installation will complete.
      • Many applications such as console games can only run if there is a copy of the disc in the drive..
      • Although less common, a peripheral called a dongle is sometimes needed to be inserted into the computer. This dongle contains the driver software that will enable the program to run.
      The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST)
      FAST was originally founded in 1984 by the software industry and is now supported by over 1,200 companies. It is a not-for-profit organisation whose aim is to prevent software piracy. FAST has a policy carrying out prosecution towards anyone found to be breaching copyright law, and is strict in it’s approach and guidelines.
      FAST also works to educate the public about legal requirements and the expectation of upholding good practice.

      What is Libel?
      Libel is generally termed as an untrue statement that has been published, and can therefore be classed as a written defamation. If false, it can be damaging to a person or company’s reputation. Libel can be personal libel or trade libel, which is also known as "product disparagement." Product disparagement can include a product, service or entire company. It is a wrongful act to defame or disparage someone and harm their reputation. The terms ‘Slander’ and ‘Libel’ are closely related, but do actually bear a distinct difference:

      • Libelous statements, whether they are aimed at a person, company or product, are published statements that are false and damaging.

      • Slander is defined in the same way as libel, but is spoken rather than written.

      There are three ways to test  whether a statement is libelous:

      First, the statement must be untrue. In order to be classed as defamatory, the statement must be untrue. If the statement is true or mostly true, then it is not defamatory. In a court of law, at this point the case will be over.

      Second, the statement must be damaging. In order for the plaintiff to make progress in the case,  the statement must have caused substantial harm to the person or business. In a court of law, the plaintiff must at this point present evidence of the substantial harm done.

      Third, the statement must be knowingly false. The plaintiff must also show that the defendant knew the statement was untrue, but published or broadcast the statement despite that knowledge.

      The best way to make sure that you can avoid libelous action is to write only that which is true. Proof of your actions on this subject can be shown through research and note taking.

      How are females represented in games?
      Females in games have a tendency to be sexually objectified, and have a history of being secondary to game play and plot. They are often unrealistically represented, with an emphasis on what the developers perceive to be a 'perfect' physique.  

      It has only been in the last few 10 years that players have been given more realistic and 3 dimensional characters; Females who can think for themselves and are more than capable of carrying out tasks in primarily male dominated environments.

      Sunday, 16 November 2014

      Unit 22 and 72 - Maths game development blog - Designing Brainbox

      Designing Brainbox the Ninja

      Here is the sprite for Brainbox the ninja, based on the concept sketches in the previous blog. It has been with certain things in mind - a bright flash of yellow to help the player see it on screen and above all a sense of personality.

      I envisage Brainbox to be a bright, clever teenager - she is determined and brave but also a little rebellious, hence the shock of blonde hair showing through from under her ninja outfit. 

      This sprite was then expanded into back and side views to create more of an illusion of character movement.

      Unit 22 and 72 - Maths game development blog - Designing enemies

      Designing enemy sprites

      The main criteria for these is that I want them to be part of a japanese world, and be consistent with the world of a ninja. That will require research and a mood board (see previous blog post). 

      I have designed 5 enemy sprites that are based on japanese theatre masks and folklore spirits. They are meant to be supernatural ghosts or demons that follow the player around the maze. It was important to make each one unique and also bear in mind how they will stand out on each level. They also need to all work at a relatively small size.  They may change depending on how they adapt to the game environments I have built, we shall see what happens when all the sprites are in place.

      Wednesday, 12 November 2014

      Unit 22 and 72 : Maths game development blog - Artwork & Concepts

      Step 1 - Initial maze designs and concept art 

      Level 1
      Level 2
      Level 3
      Level 4
      Level 5

      Above are several maze layouts I have already designed. I have tried to make each one interesting with scope for exploration and gameplay. This is because I really want there to more than just maths involved in the game. Ideally, I would like to include objects and adventure gameplay. The game admittedly cannot be to complex however, due to time scales and the workload. As a starting point however, I have this idea for a basic overview of the gameplay :

      1) Get key
      2) Unlock room which has an object (torch, water bucket, seeds, etc).
      3) Collect object which will then give instructions to get first number puzzle
      4) Use object according to reveal first puzzle (light torches, use bucket with well, plant seeds, etc).
      5) This will cause a character to appear and ask the player a question.
      6) Getting this right will reveal the exit which will ask the player another question to move on.
      7) Arriving at room 5, the player will encounter a boss who engages in a battle of wits with the player. Completing this and exiting the room will clear the area and return the player to a central 'hub.' After defeating each boss the player will be given a token. Completing all areas will give the player enough tokens to solve the last equation and exit the cave.

      Mood board

      Below is a range of imagery and type that I believe reflects the look and feel I am going for in my game. I intend to use a number of the colours, ideas and themes in my own sprites and environments to get a feeling of ninjas in old Japan.

      Sprite Designs

      Here are a number of sprite designs that will be tiled to create repeating backgrounds and maze elements. Having them repeat makes sense in that they will take up less disk space than making big files and backgrounds. It will also make it easier to fit them into a given space.

      Enemy sprites
      Based on Japanese theatre masks and folklore spirits:

      And here is a mock up of how I envisage the elements to look when they are arranged. I didn't want a top down view, so opted for a slight 3D effect :

      Graphics and elements that have been tiled to produce a 3D effect - this allow me to bring in further atmospheric elements such as torches, masks, stonework, etc.
      Concept artwork

      Below are a number of initial concept designs for the ninja character 'Brainbox', her mentor 'Calcula', and two of the four bosses, 'Subtractorous Rex' and 'Divisio'. I have also included a mock up of how I envisage the bosses to appear in game - they will have bitmap sprites on screen but large painted pop up illustrations to convey character and detail. Finally I have added the storyboard for the game's intro sequence, featuring Brainbox, Calcula and a conversation about what is to come.

      Brainbox concept designs - based on a japanese 'Q' style of artwork (cute with oversized heads)

      Calcula concept designs

      Boss monster concept design

      Boss monster concept design

      Boss monster appearance on screen

      Intro sequence storyboard