Back to Work! Starting the Thesis Game.

After GDC and becoming inspired by my contemporaries, I was ready to begin the week. With the long days that preceded our two weeks away from classes, I finally felt fresh to make this final push in my first year in the EAE. Nevertheless, this feeling of being rested assisted in addressing several issues to finally begin the project. Coming into this week we had four important matters that we needed to tackle. These included what engine to use, solidifying the core design, attached a theme to our game, and finally locking down a team name.

The first priority for the week was deciding what engine to use. We built the original prototype using Unity. However, after GDC and seeing what other engine could bring to our game, we wanted to explore both the Cry Engine and Unreal 4. We decided to take a couple of days to research each engine. After researching the two engines and determining how they could impact our game, the team decided to go forward with Unreal 4. The reasoning for this was the simplicity as to potentially designing levels for our game. Nonetheless, one of the biggest challenges for our thesis game is creating the circular walls that rotate in which people would be able to walk on the walls. At GDC, one of our team’s engineers overheard that being able to utilize the circular design, and especially walking on walls, could be problematic. Taking this information, we decided to go into our weekly sprint determining whether Unreal 4 would be suffice for our game and if not, we would fall back on using Unity.

This week we wanted to solidify the game’s basic design. Going into our break after finally picking our thesis game, I began to notice that our game’s scope might need to be tuned to compensate for summer months. This occurred after playing many hours of Battlefield 4 and Titanfall. What I noticed was the problems both games had with lag. Since our game is a multiplayer game with direct combat, as the game’s creative lead, I was a bit frightened with the thought that if developers with abundant resources can’t get the netcode correct, this will be a challenge for a ragtag bunch of student gamers. As a result, I began contemplating ways to address this problem. One way is to use indirect combat to attack other players. This would allow us to possibly overcome problems with lag since it would be less noticeable. Indirect combat hence became an important aspect going forward.

Also, with the thought of potentially showing our game off to IGF and others at GDC next year, the idea of multiplayer became a bane in my mind. I thought, how are people going to experience our game without playing against other people? One solution proposed is that we could use “bots” that are A.I. controlled NPCs. But bots in my experience take away some of the fun from multiplayer games – which is one of the critiques of Titanfall. This forced caused me to think of ways we could explore using A.I. players, but at the same time make the game feel compelling. Using this idea I began to look into games such as Monday Night Combat and SMITE in addition to Titanfall to see how mechanics from MOBAs could aid in our game’s design so as to make the game feel like a chaotic battlefield. With that in mind, the AI could be used to attack while being used as a resource for the player. Thus, we are looking into how we can make the multiplayer element feel exciting even with a limited amount of players rather than merely playing against dumb bots. 

One of the biggest challenges we have faced has been attaching a “juicy” theme to our game. Since we began the idea for the game centered on the game’s mechanic, a theme was developed from it. This led to our now famous rotating, circular environment. However, our professors were not too happy with our parallel universe thematic approach. They felt it appeared like “Space Marines” reminiscent of Halo rather than something provocative and memorable.

Because of their perspective, we have had to revisit our game’s theme. But since since many people on our team come from different walks of life, different countries, and political stances, finding a controversial topic can be difficult. One of the ideas our professors proposed was to use our mechanics to reflect ideas of religion in a humorous manner. However, some people on our team do not desire to address religious themes and thus people were not too thrilled to pursue it. So as a team we have done our best to find a theme we would all be motivated to pursue, but at the same time would be interesting. And as a producer, I want my team to feel motivated to work on the game. Thus, if we can’t find the juiciest theme I know I can live with that as long as my team is motivated to make an enjoyable game for our audience. The theme nevertheless is still in progress. So stay tuned!

The last priority to tackle this week was to finally lock down a team name. Luckily, coming up with a name was smooth and easy. After a quick discussion, since our game is now using indirect combat, we thought this somehow could be used as a name. As of this week therefore our team is officially called “Indirect Games”. This will be the name we will carry forever as we make our way into the industry.

It is exciting to be at this point. For me the future is whatever we make of it. Good times ahead and as much as we have faced challenges, I know this will be a memorable experience. Tallyho!