I’m a Level Designer?!?! O_O

I really don’t have time to write this but I’m doing it anyway because it’s part of the class and for all I know I have followers. ūüôā This week we had some internal playtesting with all the teams in the Cohort. It was really good to see how the other games have come along and how great they are. We also had a sit down with the team about some of our designs and such. We locked down what we are going to be doing with our sprint and charge shot, and now we are moving forward with levels. As for the sprint and the charge shot, we combined them into a dash that destroys inhibitors if you dash into them. We incorporated the bandwidth meter by having the dash cost a chunk of the meter and we are going to divide the meter into sections so the player has a visual queue if they have enough bandwidth to dash. We still have everyone on the team making levels, but we are working on a coherent 3 level experience for GDC. To nail that down, Matt, Tony and myself have put our heads together to come up with a plan. We have each been given different parts of the level to put together. I have been assigned to get the general floor layout of the 3 levels done and my deadline is this coming Tuesday which is why I have a lack of time. As of Saturday morning, I feel pretty good about my Level 1 Layout and I have the beginnings of the Level 2 layout. It’s going to be a lot of work in the next two days to get these two levels done, but I’m excited to do it.

Making Progress

Our team finished a big iteration on the make ‘premonition ability’ or now what we call the Ping ability

Ping Ability

It was modeled after the Gears of War Action reload where the player is rewarded for reloading when a meter reaches a certain point.

In the same fashion our ability will leave the player and come back. When it is within a threshold of the player can hit the ability again to send out the wave even further than it did the first time. We also have a negative feedback that if the player hits the ping ability again that it will deactivate and pixelize the screen for a brief moment. We are excited to finally have this in the game. Also it’s making us lean more towards 3rd person which is a little scary.

Another part of the game that we have nailed down was the narrative of the game. We have written out a small story that we want our protagonist, Ada, to go through to stop the ISP boss. Along side the narrative is a detailed structure of the setting the player is going to have to traverse. We also have set down set guidelines for each level we build.

Our team is now trying to move away from a very linear based level flow to a more open arena like level style that the player can choose different areas to go to. To put it a little more simply the old game was start at area A and get to area B and then get to the end. Now we have area A,B,C and the player can make more decision about where the player wants to go.

The Goal of the game now is to get to all the checkpoints to destroy the ISP bosses. When all the checkpoints are destroyed in the area A (for example) then Access to areas B and C giving the player the choice on where to go next.

These New directions are adding lots of work, but we believe that they are going to be for the best.

First week of Post IGF submission Iteration

It’s official. I’m now on the 100th iteration of the enemy ISP character in the game. We are changing it to be more scripted sequences that the level designer can plan out. This will help us be more careful in our level design and what the player will experience.
We are also doing an iteration on the premonition¬†ability. We wanted it to be more of a server ping that the player has to keep going to have a ‘good connection’ to the server. This will make the area which is revealed grow based on how well the player keeps the ping going.

These two ideas could drastically change things for our game, and we are hoping it’s for the better. We are also tackling problems with resolutions, quality, disorientation, and the ever looming 1st or 3rd person decision.

Some other big news for our game is that we are already starting to get press about our game. We have a theme of protecting net neutrality and it is starting to become a big issue. The President of the United states has come out and stood with Net neutrality making our cause even stronger.

Moving forward we are going to build more levels, iterate on problems we find, playtesting the game!

One Week and Counting

We are one week away from the IGF deadline and things are getting crazy among the members of Cohort 4. We are all working hard and spending extra hours in the lab to get things up and running for next weeks submission. Our team has been working hard getting the final touches on our game. We are adding art, effects, cutscenes everything we hoped would be in the game. The most recent addition to the game is adding the Boss that I’ve been working on and iterating on for the pass couple of weeks. We had a good change to the levels taking out all the slow tiles. We had lots of feedback that the normal tiles felt enough like slow tiles. With that change, we changed the boss to change Fast Tiles and Normal tiles to slow tiles. ¬†To make the boss actually affect the game, I had to do another pass on how the boss works. So I wrote an algorithm that will search for spots further ahead in the level according the speed of the player and it will launch bomb attacks to change tiles to impede your progress.

This actually went really well with the theme of net neutrality. The boss or the big cable companies are trying to control and slow down the connection of the once free running user. So instead of trying to kill the player the boss is trying to convert everything to their slow throttled internet.

Another feature I had to add was that the player could convert the tiles back. We are still in discussion on how this is to exactly work, but the boss/enemy has added a great level of depth to our game.

It’s been a great week for 404sight.

Next post will be: IGF submitted…now what O_O

Finding the Fun!

This week Retro Yeti has made some awesome leaps and bounds.  We had a design brainstorm at the beginning of this week to try and make our game a little more fun. We wanted to give a reason to the player to left click. It was a cool effect, but many people would run through the level without using our mechanic. The answer we came up with seems simple enough, but it hit us like a ton of bricks.

Make the Tiles only work when using the ability!

We made this change and FUN happened! The game started being challenging and fun! ¬†My next task was to fine tune the level that I built. So I took some pieces of other levels I had started and put them on the level that we had in the build. After playing it quite a few times. I started stripping pieces out and tuning what was there. I got it to a place that I like it and had our lead design Tony sit down with me and the level and run through it. He made several great suggestions and I was off making more changes. ¬†In the end the length of the level has been cut in half, but it is a lot more fun and has decent flow to it. I’m pretty proud of it though I know that It will probably be changed more in the future.

With the new iteration of the mechanic in place, I added my boss to levels and started playing. I played with the difficulty of the boss and found that it seemed really fun. So I started grabbing others to play through the level and see what they think. ¬†Everyone that tried it liked it. It wasn’t perfect, but it was getting there. I got some good suggestions, but the part that gave me the best feeling is that people didn’t just play it a bit and quit. They kept playing until they beat it. It was a fun and interesting challenge. Even our professors, who were against the idea in the first place, were having fun with the boss challenge.

My next tasks are to design a level specifically for the boss and also fix a lot of things with the boss. Our game is coming together and it’s exciting. All the extra time and work is starting to pay off!

 

More Levels and needing a narrative?

The start of this week was a huge focus on levels. Brenton, Antonio and myself started creating levels. We all created very different types of levels. Tony’s were compact and precise. Brenton’s were large and complex. Mine were expansive and simple. We played through a lot of them and couldn’t really get a grasp on what our levels were doing. After a Wednesday of pondering and talking we came to a conclusion on what we needed to do for our game. We needed a precise direction with the levels. We needed to know where the character started and ended and why. We needed to know the purpose of the level and what the level was going to bring to the game as a whole. I’m usually the last person to say that a game needs to focus on a little bit of the narrative, but we needed a little bit of narrative to tie our levels together. Tony bounced ideas off of me Wednesday night and we came up with how to progress our 5 levels we want for the IGF build. We created a document that conveyed the what each level needed as far as mechanics, goals, aesthetic, duration, fail states, mood, enemy, and a couple more things. Now that the document is filled out we can direct the art that is done, we can create and iterate on levels, we can actually start forming our game. The team is super stressed still about the state of the game and it’s been difficult to get the team hyped about what we are doing, but we’re continuing to push forward and build things and hope that they work.

StartLevel

Level_overview

 

Also one thing I did Thursday was make our mechanic into a throwable item. So the player would toss out an orb that would reveal around where it landed. The prototyping went really quick, and it was a pretty slick mechanic, but the problem was is that it didn’t solve any of our problems really. It was a good try and adjustment, but in the end it didn’t work.

I also added a visual ring for our mechanic so the player could see the radius that is used for the mechanic and can see how the click is actually working. It’s still a prototype visual, but it’s there.

All in all I feel that we ended the week pretty strongly. ūüėÄ I’m excited to move forward and see where we’re going to be in another week.

 

Finalizing the Design

After a summer of iteration and trying different things on our game, the team has finally come down to what the alpha version of our game has. I was starting to write it all, but here’s a picture of our Alpha Checklist that we need to have done before Oct 31st IGF submission.

AlphaChecklist

 

So now our team has a checklist to go over to now if we are ‘done’ with our ‘alpha’. I put those in quotes because as students what we call alpha and beta are more of a prototype and what we call done is essentially an Alpha.

To highlight a bit of the engineering that I have done during the last week here are two snippets of blueprints.

This is the code snippet I put together to make our camera in 1st person now.

http://wiki.retroyeti.com/index.php?title=True_First_Person_Camera_from_Thirdperson_view

And this picture is what I put together to make a Tile that launches the player forward based of a directional arrow that is invisible (yet visible before running to help the Level Designers) on the Tile.

LaunchSnippet

 

I know this post is scatterbrained a bit, but I’m also going to be doing some level design. I’ve always been interested in level design putting together my own maps in Starcraft and other engines, but I’ve never done it for a game that I’m developing.¬†I’ve done lots of reading on gammasutra about level design and other¬†places on the web. Now with some help from our resident Design Master Antonio Revard I’m going to be diving into it. I’ll post pictures next week of some of the things I come up with and why they all will probably be fails and ready for a third or fourth pass, but I’ll have something. Wish me luck. Only a month until submission!

Ready for anything!

 

Brushing it up for end of semester.

 

Our team is getting ready for the end of our first year in grad school. Our game of premonitions has three levels or iterations. We have a hallway run through while everything is exploding  and the floor is falling(the premonition ability shows the player what floor tiles are going to give out), a small room that lasers that run through the room in sequences (the premonition ability allows the player to see the laser patterns before they activate),   the last is a stairway that has spikes in the floor that are traps (the premonitions will show the player where along the stairway he will die).

I’ve been working on the stairway iteration and making sure that the mechanic will function in the level. I’ve set up the design, traps, and coding of the level. The part I’m not working on is the base premonition mechanic. Below is part of one Blueprint I created in Unreal 4 for the stairway level.

MYBLUEPRINT

Our game has a semi-theme and style. We are going for a more Cartoony, comic book style or art, and we are thinking of using a super hero theme. Our professors tell us that we have a good start, but because we are a student game, we need to have something to stand out. Like super heroes fighting obesity or something like that. Taking a topic that people know about and use the game medium to get people thinking about it. We haven’t found that piece yet, but we’ll get there.

As far as normal producer tasks, I have been getting more of that experience from The GApp lab. My team just got approval on our Alpha and we are now working hard for the next month to get a polished awesome beta. I’m super excited for another year of learning and growing!

Finding the Game Design

One of the biggest struggles I believe our team has had is really nailing down the question, “What is our game?” We have had several design meetings that we’ve covered the topic and team members have thrown out ideas, but So far what we are doing is recreating our hall scenario from the pitch. We’ve centered around a Comic book Cell Shaded art style which gives us lots of liberties with the mechanic. Meaning that we could make the mechanic a super power or a paranormal feature. So far we still haven’t found the fun of our game. Because of the excess of producers on my team I have taken to prototyping different ideas that have come up during meetings. My hope in doing this is to find and show what can and can’t be fun with our mechanic.

On a different note, The GApp lab project that I’ve been producing is in crunch right now getting ready for a harsh alpha review this coming Monday. We have one big feature to get in tomorrow then bug testing for the rest of the week. I’m nervous and excited to see this project moving forward. I’ve been learning a lot in The GApp lab about how to be a good producer. I still have a long way to go, I’m still learning things everyday from Zac and Zeph (the Lead Producers of The GApp lab). One of the big things I learned this week was how to go about planning crunch. I was just going to sit down with my team and tell them, “Look we have a lot to do we are going to have to put a lot of hours in this week to get it done.” In the team meeting, I starting running over all that we needed to do. Zac then led a discussion on how we could get everything done. He laid out a couple options. The team responded with a couple options. We then analyzed our options and chose a direction to go. I was shocked at how easy the discussion when and then took some time to think of how I could use that to be a better producer. I’m hoping that one day it will all just click, but until then I’m going to keep working and trying to get to being a good producer.

GDC Postmortem

GDC was this last week and it was very enjoyable. One of my instructors gave me some good advice at the end of the week and told me to do a postmortem of the experience. Think of things that I did during the conference and analyze the good and the bad things. With those in mind, I can make things better and then progress as a developer and a producer. I also thought that it would make a great blog post.

So here’s my list of how my experience was at GDC:

The Good:
– I spoke with more people that I thought I would.

– I met some great people that work on the production side of video game development and got some advice on how to market myself as a producer with programming skills.

– I had the opportunity to pitch my thesis game concept to other students and game dev professionals. Also was able to pitch other games from my cohort when asked if students build games for the Oculus Rift.

– I went to more networking events than I thought I would. I actually made contacts at the event. Usually in large noisy crowds my introvert side takes over but I was able to maintain composure and take to game devs.

The Bad:

– I am going to plan out my week better. I want to attend sessions and talks next year. I also would like to attend more parties and networking events. With a little more scheduling and a better pass I can accomplish this.

– I had a hard time approaching people that weren’t at a booth or at a party. When it came to seeing Game devs from companies I like or seeing names I’m familiar with, I was hesitant to talk to them. I missed several opportunities to speak with Game devs that have been an inspiration to me.

– This is a generic note for me, but I need to have more confidence in who I am and what I can do. I am aware of what I can do and what I can contribute to a studio. Sometimes I’m just a little to hard on myself.

The Ugly:

–¬†The Career Pavilion. Looking for an internship was more of ¬†a distant prayer and finding a job wasn’t a walk in the park either. The only use I saw in the career pavilion was to have professionals look over your resume/ portfolio and give tips.

 

Well there you have it. ¬† I don’t have my time to cover all of my doings while at GDC, but I think this is a good basic¬†overview of some of the things I learned from my GDC experience. Now we start on the Thesis Project. I have Unreal Engine 4 Downloaded and now it’s time to make some magic happen!