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Category Archives: Snow Place Like Home

The fourth and final prototype for this semester. This prototype consisted of hard work, long discussions, and a bunch of -interesting- interactions. For the final prototype, we were allowed to make our own teams, which resulted in people running ll over the lab to grab the people they wanted to work with. This happened when I was in India, and by the time I got to know about it, I feared it might be too late and that I would be left without a team. As it turns out, there were atleast two teams that wanted to me (which feels awesome), and eventually I was in a team of six people consisting of me, Skip Fowler (again) and Siyuan “Shelwin” Cheng as engineers, Joe Rozek (again) and Rachel Leiker as artists, and Tina Kailnger as the producer. As you can see, I was working again with a couple of former teammates, and it felt great knowing that they wanted to work with me a second time.
This time around, we had to develop a game, that will be published on the Windows 8 app store, so yeah it was kind of a big deal. We had a talk with Randy Guthrie, a tech evangelist from Microsoft, who told us a lot about how the App store works, and what type of games are succesful. With this knowledge, we came up with our game, called Freeze back then. It was a game where you had to protect your cabin in the mountains from evil winter creatures. The cabin was in the bottom right corner, and the enemies would walk in from the left side, and both the players and the enemies could shoot at each other. After the team meeting, we had an engineers only meeting that lasted about 1.5 to 2 hours long, where we decided to make in the game in C++ and DirectX, instead of using an engine like Unity or Gamemaker. The fact that we were using C++ turned a bunch of heads, with Randy commenting that we were brave to try that. Shelwin had some doubts about this, as he felt that using an engine like Cocos2D would be easier and quicker than coding in C++, but we managed to convince him that we could get this to work. After that, we wrote up everything that we would need from the engineering side, shown below:
Stuff needed for the Game
We divided the work into 3 seperate tasks, consisting of DirectX and Rendering, the C++ Classes that will be used, and the Game Loop itself.
Who will do what
I got the task of making the classes, which was amazing. I used all things we had learned in our Game Engineering class to make them, and I have to say that using all the Game Engineering stuff was the best decision I made. One of the best moments for me came when we added the classes to the game loop code, and they worked almost flawlessly. This was great for me because I had forgotten to test them, and seeing them work on the first try is just awesome.
We continued working on the game, adding and tweaking features, when in the third week we had a talk with Tobiah Marx, the guy who made Blast Monkeys. He played the game we had till then, which was simply swipe right to win. This made us realize that what we had was not fun, and had us rethink the game. We came with three different ideas for the engineers to work on, and this was where the decision to choose C++ proved right. Even though we were each doing different iterations, we didn’t need to remake the game from the ground up, as the classes worked perfectly in all three cases. We also knew everything about our code, which made it very easy for us to change it as needed. After working on the new iterations for a day, Tina told us that she had come up with a new idea, and having discussed it with Tobiah and getting a positive response, she shared it with us. Instead of shooting enemies to kill, the idea was to swipe across them, connecting them in big chains to score more points. Here is the concept art for it which Tina drew:

As you can see, the art  is amazing :P

As you can see, the art is amazing :P

The entire team liked this idea, and we decided to work on this. Once again, C++ helped us, as even though the core gameplay changed, the classes remained useful, with us only having to remove code from them to make them work without problems. We added a bunch of features to help the player see the combos that they set up, added all the amazing art in the game and had a fun game ready by 12th December. The name of the game also changed from Freeze to Snow Place Like Home, because there was already a game called Freeze. Here is the post mortem for this prototype:
Snow Place Like Home
No matter how great the team was, no development cycle is free of problems. Most of our problem was the huge loss of development time throughout the 4 weeks, with some minor technical issues, and one huge issue as well. At 5 PM on 11th December, our game simply broke. One of the engineers did a bad commit to the SVN which had the latest working version of the game, and that made the game unplayable. I was up till 1 AM fixing it, and got a playable version ready for the presentation the next day. C++ once again helped us, as I never had to think “Why is this code breaking the game?”, instead, I only thought “Why did he write this code?”. I was able to find the problems quickly, it was just the task of fixing them that took some time.
After the presentation, there was EAE Open House that evening, where we showed all our Windows 8 games, as well as some past prototypes, including Bounty Blast. The Open House was a huge success, and I met a lot of interesting people, some who were interested in the program, some who were already making games on the side, and some who just playing our games. Kids liked playing Snow Place Like Home, and pretty much everyone we talked to was impressed that all the prototypes were done within 4 weeks. After the Open House, we had till 17th December to submit the game on the Windows 8 App Store. We fixed some more issues in the game over the weekend, and submitted the game on the 17th. Another plus of using C++? Our game size is about 7MB, including all art and animations. Compare this with a sub-100MB “hope” for some other teams that used Unity. Here is the start screen for the game:
Snow Place Like Home
As of 18th December, it has passed certification, and will be soon available for download on all Windows 8 devices. Check back here for the download link and an awesome cheat for the game soon!