This week we formed a new team to work on our next rapid prototyping project. The requirements are we have to take an old arcade game from the late 70’s or early 80’s and remake it, but make improvements to it. Each week we have to iterate at least one improvement over the game.
We picked Robotron: 2084, one of my favorite games of all time. I remember playing it when I was a kid. I know all the rules of the ships and robots, so that should be covered pretty well, and I’m going to make the artwork for it. I’ve already had a meeting with the engineers to discuss some of the more problematic aspects of the game and I think we have everything covered so far.
Our main problems are the engineers figuring out what language to use and program in, and what changes that might make to the art. I’m currently outputting sprites from Maya, but that might change if there are any problems with how the program uses image files. Fortunately for me, the art from Robotron was pretty simple and I can makes the art assets pretty easily.
Well, this week was the week of our final pitches for our first game of the rapid prototyping class. Our pitch was way better than two days ago. There were a lot of suggestions before and our production team was able to implement most of them into the new presentation to fix them.
Afterwards we had a meeting to analyze how we did and what we could do better in the future. After much discussion we came to the conclusion that our biggest problem was that we had too big of a project to begin with, and we didn’t take the time to work out the problems we would face and give each team member specific tasks. As a result, there was a lot of repetition of work and often decisions were not made because people didn’t know if they were supposed to make decisions or have someone else do it.
In the future, I think any game I work on should be as simple as possible. We should pick a single task and try to do that very well, and make sure it is fun before starting on the next task. The artwork needs to be well done and polished, and should all match together. There should be better planning of the artwork so that things can be planned out ahead of time and planned and designed with the entire project in mind.
I also think a big problem is that there is “feature creep” into the game. People get excited and keeping wanting to add more and more cool things into the game. Often these things are really cool, but trying to implement them distracts from the main effort. If I ever lead a team, I’m going to make sure the game is stripped of all unnecessary items and focus on making the things that remain really good.
Last Weekend I went to Comic Con for the first time in Salt Lake. It was pretty interesting. The EAE program had a booth there and there seemed to be a lot of interest. Stayed in time to see all the booths and listen to William Shatner and Stan Lee. They certainly had a down-to-Earth attitude towards their work and its impact. Both seemed a little surprised at how influential their work was.
This week our team is making good progress on our game. I am working through building all the assets for the game, and the engineers are working double-time to get a working version of a single level by the end of class today. Hopefully I’ll be able to plug in my assets and see how they work together, and make any changes.
The project has been interesting because I’m trying to fit the assets into a much smaller space of a smartphone screen. It’s quite a bit different from making short films for HD theater screens. Everything has to be so small and yet clear to the people playing. We also have a problem because we’re layering the terrain tiles of the game with alien gadgets on top and then animals on top of that, so we’re concerned that all that layering will get visually confusing. Hopefully by seeing the assets in the game we’ll have a good idea if there are any problems and I’ll be able to make any necessary changes before next week.
Our team is working well. We’ve all settled into our roles pretty well and everyone is working hard towards a goal. The producers are helping pitch in by coming up with sounds and designing the levels. That means the engineers just need to take the level designs and immediately plug them into the game. Way to go engineers!
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Well, things are continuing on the game. I think we have all the major elements of the game locked down, so now the engineers and I can work without worry that things will change greatly (although they probably will).
I’ve made tile-based games before, and I have tried an interesting idea before that I hope we can get to work on our game. Most tile games suffer because the tiles are either square or hexagonal, and the different terrains look very boxy and artificial. One solution is to make a large number of tiles to match up with each other and form more pleasing shapes and edges.
Another idea that I came up with is to give each tile four borders, one on each edge. The central part of the tile will just be whatever material the tile is, but the edges will have a merging layers that transitions from that tile to the next. The four border tiles are for each of the four neighbors that every tile will have. Because these can be swapped out easily, it won’t be hard to make any number of combinations for the game, which will save me a lot of time as opposed to trying to make a large number of tiles.
Fortunately our engineers are awesome and they say there is little problem with doing the concept. We had a design meeting and it too a little while for them to catch up with my basic idea, but I think in the long run they understood and said it would be very easy to do. I made some place-holder tiles for them to experiment with and this week will work hard towards making sure I get the better tiles done.
First week of class at the EAE program at the University of Utah. In our rapid prototyping class we formed teams and had to decide on a game idea to make in the next four weeks. We each pitched an idea and then voted on which one we wanted to make. I thought that was a good idea, pitched by producer Li. My idea is the one being made, which I’m happy about but also feel the responsibility to make sure the game works well.
We are supposed to make a game that will appeal to married women age 40 and up. It will be an interesting task not making games for the standard demographic. We’ll need to make the games shorter and simpler, judging by what advice they gave us about making the game.
The game idea is to mix the basic game concepts of Lemmings with that of the game Portal. The player will be a group of aliens trying to gather the animals of Earth onto their spaceship. They can use various alien technology to assist in this, but the animals don’t really want to go onto the spaceship and might be more difficult to work with than expected!
So far it looks like a good team. Two engineers, two producers, and me (the artist). I’ll definitely have my work cut out for me on the art side, needing to make all the different assets myself. But I have some ideas of mass producing the tiles that might make things easier. I’ll need to run those by the producers and see what they think.