Monthly Archives: August 2014

Back to School and Utah Game Wars Finalist

In an ideal world the current post would have been made distinctly at three differing times.  The post is not being made in such a manner however.  The ideal was not met due to circumstances being less than ideal.  My circumstances have been amazing during the past week, but have limited the time I have had to formally address a blog.  To begin the story let’s go back to my last blog post regarding my leaving the thesis team I was with from January 2014 in late June 2014.

In June 2014 I made a post regarding leaving my thesis team.  Prior to that point I had sent an e-mail letting my team know I was leaving and provided two weeks to get any additional work I needed to finish done as a courtesy.  I still like the people on the team, but felt that the culture and environment was not a good fit for me on the original thesis team.  I decided that I would create a new team.  We would prototype during the month of July and build a game during the month of August.

The team formed with three members.  The members were Lonnie Egbert, John Schwarz and Skip Fowler (myself).  Our first prototype was a side scrolling game about climbing upward.  The game featured a rope that the player could sling to surfaces above them and climb.  The rope was supposed to allow swinging, but that feature didn’t get implemented.  That week John was the only other person on the project.  The week was spent fooling around with ideas with a presentable version of the climbing prototype.  I learned about setting up expanding objects in real time.  I also learned about the physics system in Unreal Engine 4.  I started working with sockets for rotation around a single point, but wasn’t able to get the system working.

The next week was spent working on an idea involving marbles and dominoes.  We spent time working with marbles and dominoes.  We came up with a hot lava game where the player had to stay on top of dominoes as a marble.  We also thought about a game where the player knocks down marbles to move through puzzles.  With a suggestion from Lonnie we added the rope from the climbing game to the marble.  The suggestion was to make the game a jousting game.  Removal of the rope, which we were calling a lance, led to the game that I presented at the Utah Game Wars contest as a finalist called Roller.  Lonnie made neat exploding blocks that never made it into our prototype.  Roller is a project I am still pursuing.  I am going to be releasing it on this blog with updates.  I want to build a community around the game.

The next week we kicked around an idea about a “Guess Who” game where the player tries to guess who they are.  After doing some prototyping the game ended up feeling like a game show.  We abandoned the idea.  I prototyped a horse racing game with camera tricks that got some laughs.  Lonnie prototyped a game called “Pizza Rock” since there were no pizza assets and rocks were used instead.  The game was supposed to be about delivering pizzas.  The week was short due to holidays, so we didn’t have any real prototype to show off.

The next week we worked on a narrative based sword game.  I worked on the sword mechanics.  John worked on the narrative.  The sword mechanic was first implemented in top down using mathematical operations for rotation and translation.  I later moved the project to a third person view with a third person controller and applied an animation.  I learned a lot about animation systems, models and bones from the project.

I finished my internship building user interfaces for an Android embedded system at Blackrock Microsystems in Qt using QML and C++ just before school was going to start.  I entered Roller into the Utah Game Wars contest since I felt the game had a firm foundation.  My last day at Blackrock Microsystems I received the e-mail that I was a finalist in Utah Game Wars selected from over fifty games developed in Utah.  I was one of ten in the finalist competition.

I started school on August 25.  I spent the weekend prior and that day polishing Roller for the Utah Game Wars competition.  I added support for four game controllers that I picked up that weekend.  I added a better HUD.  I made the game mode support four players.  I fixed camera issues.  I added dropping in and out of the game.  I made sure the colors of the balls were colorblind friendly and tested them on my father.  I spent time playing Roller to make sure the game felt okay.

Tuesday was my first day back in classes.  I found a thesis team since I didn’t meet the qualifications for the formation of a new thesis team namely seven other people on the team.  I have joined the Hostile Territory team.  I am working on the networking code for the game.  I plan to build up a good system for players to get into games with other players.  I am also interested in handling movement around a tube so that players can move around the structure.  I really enjoy problems that incorporate heavy mathematics and Hostile Territory seems to be a team with complex mathematical problems that I can solve.  I have worked with Rody on Reflex Speed last spring and think the culture will be a good fit for me.

I attended the first day of Game Engineering 2.  Game Engineering 2 is going to be a class about code architecture with a spattering of graphics.  I am excited about learning a new way to architect code.  The first homework has been a lot of reading.  I didn’t have AI this week, but am excited to dig deep.

I presented Roller at Utah Game Wars.  I spent an hour and a half each way driving to Logan to pick up Lonnie and my sister.  Lonnie was involved in development of the Roller prototype during the week in July.  My sister wanted to come down and support me.  Overall the driving time was six hours.  I was tired on Thursday, but made progress on Hostile Territories networking.

Lonnie and I setup the demo on the show floor while my sister saw a movie.  We presented to the judges and the reception was positive.  Lonnie, John and I build a prototype that made it into a large contest.  Even though we didn’t win the prize money I think we did something awesome.  We also have a certificate acknowledging that we were finalist in the Utah Game Wars competition.

I am going to be releasing Roller to build a community.  I would like to see families play together.  I will be releasing a full version of the game sometime.  Overall persistence and community is what Roller needs.

Prototyping cleared my head.  Last spring and summer I was frustrated with my thesis team.  I needed time to get back to building prototypes and games.   I was doing side work for Reflex Speed in the morning at 5:30 AM or 6 AM to 7:00 AM or 7:30 AM.  I would then go to work at 8:00 AM or 8:30 AM and work until 5:00 PM or 5:30 PM.  At 6:00 PM I began prototyping with the team and finished at 9:00 PM.

I have been working on getting work done for Game Engineering 2.  I am now setting up my first blog post for the semester.  I am going to be reorganizing my blog separating out the components.  I want Roller to have it’s own portion of the blog.  I want my work with Hostile Territory to be in it’s own blog.  I want Game Engineering 2 to be in it’s own blog.  I want more separation.  The semester is going to be amazing.  Reflecting on my experience with EAE to this point I have learned a lot about myself as a worker and programmer.  I have learned about separating my passion for game development from the work I am doing.  I am trying to not get as emotionally destroyed as I was by the process from last semester.  Having side projects has helped me remove myself from the drama associated with the thesis game.  I would advise any engineer in the EAE program to keep some side projects to make the thesis game development less dramatic.