Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Bubble bubble..

We'd looked at our last concept for a while but it was starting to become very difficult to work with. Utopia is a very wide concept, some of our ideas dealt with situations where utopia was impossible.

Some hunting through Jay is Games proved that our delivery might also drag the project down. Take Interaction Artist For 219 days in a row, Chris DeLeon designed a game. A lot of them are not great but it is a demonstration of giving an audience a (huge) variety of scenarios to play with. Since we're afraid of producing crap, we decided to keep looking for some inspiration.

Doodle God offers a sandboxy experience, by combining elements together to make newer ones.Vectorpark offers a variety of interactive toys and games, we got inspired to work on an interactive environment like tiny grow.

Interactive environments can be fun, especially if you don't know what's coming up. I like it when you've created something and it produces/spawns extra objects that are also interactive.

A quick look at a random word generator nets us:
- Toad
- Dinosaur
- Shipwreck
- Library
- Kangaroo
- Owl
- Volcano
- Spacecraft

Toad lead to Cauldron which leads to us working on a game about item creation. Trust me, it can be a lot of fun. For example:
- alcohol + air freshener = Captain Planet
- hourglass + cat = cat clock
- ?? + ?? + acid = refreshing drink
The possibilites are endless.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Idea Seeding #2

Yesterday's brainstorm session didn't end with much, we did have a few tentative ideas but felt that they wouldn't go very far. We did agree that letting the player devolve and disassemble a world or structure would be a hook. Something in the human condition makes destruction very attractive and rewarding.

Today we decided to go with a slightly different approach; come up with a game concept and adapt it to suit the sandbox theme.

Using a random word generator we picked out:
- Garden of Eden
- Overpopulation
- Happiness
- Puddle Poet

It was very tempting to conceptualise a Garden of Eden game. The risk with these games are how bored with the player get with nurturing or destroying the environment. Not to mention the political and religious connotations that come with it.

The trouble with sandbox games are the limits, every world has limits and play is bound by them. Endless possibilities are not truly endless but given the scope of the game, the player can achieve a lot. Our budget (non existent) doesn't allow us to produce a "true" sandbox game.

Planting the Idea
Following the train of thought that a sandbox has limits, I asked if we'd be happier making an interactive toy or a game. An interactive toy is the easier option and you can argue that it could be a game. It's a broad subject and has plenty of room for debate. (There's space to rant down below or at your screen if you please.)

If you can play with an object, it will not be a game unless you make it so. Developing rules, scores and goals lead to this, additional players and explosions are optional extras.

It's yet to be discussed if our current concept will just be an interactive toy, but it could become a game. Maybe.

The Concept
The initial concept was to give the player some famous artworks and let them deface or deform them. It's moved into presenting a series(no definite number) of interactive "blocks". (They need a better name but this will suffice until production)

"Blocks" are interactive images (not sure if this will include games). Each "block" has its own rules, what the player does is dependant on the block's design. The mighty mouse will be how you interact with objects, environments and what other junk is put into the "block".

Thematic Brainstorming
We also discussed the content of the "blocks", it was linking theme vs character. A character is a quick way of getting the player to emotionally project themselves onto and into the game. It doesn't fit the concept where the player (not their avatar) is interacting with the world.

Themes provide an abstract base to build lots of variations and interpretations. The difficulty lies in which one to pick.

Themes that we brewed were:
- Love (That one's for Truna)
- Grief/Loss
- Revenge
- Utopia (Dystopia's included too)
- Terror/Fear
- Trust

The winner was: Utopia

Important Details

Audience: The Jay is Games crowd
Scope: Scaleable
Platform: Flash
Team Size: 2 (for now)
Time: 7 weeks
- proportion (too much?)
- time
- repetative action can be boring

We'll see were this leads to next time.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Idea Seeding #1

Trying to come up with a good idea can be difficult, getting this idea to work as a game is harder. Brainstorming can be rewarding but it can also turn into some strange beasts.

Taking a cue from the 8th CGDC, Jasmine and I are going to be tackling the theme of "Sandbox".

Sandbox can mean:
- a pit full of sand
- a virtual container in which untrusted programs can be safely run
- an online environment in which code or content changes can be tested without affecting the original system
- a game with non linear and open ended play

Sandbox is an undefined "genre" of games where anything is possible. Here's some games that fit loosely in this kind.
- Sandbox of God (Has to be downloaded)
- Grow
- Good Things Should Never End
- Sleep is Death
- Any life simulation eg. The Sims, virtual pets, trainer etc
- Little Big Planet, GTA etc.
- Balloon in a Wasteland, Shopping Cart Hero, Level Up

Word Association
This can be a helpful tool in finding a concept to work on or at least finding out what your team is like. Use with caution, hilarity and disaster can occur.

- Interactive (Very obvious but remember it. You want this instead of immersion)
- Rube Goldberg Machine (See one in action here with OK Go - Thanks Arash!)
- God
- World Creation
- (Pure) Play
- Sand (It's out of my system now)
- Simulation
- Hypotheticals
- Experimentation
- Different Outcomes
- Children
- Exploration
- Creation
- No (small?) Consequences
- Lego (Mechano if you're cool)
- Customisation
- Play-Doh/Clay
- Frankenstein's Monster
- Level Editors
- Duality
- Time Sinks
Where will this lead us? Stay tuned for more later.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


When you get that new rush of enthusism that makes you want to go at super speeds, ride rainbows and take on the world? I get plenty of moments like that, sadly I run out of steam when I need it the most.

Here's some images from while I was learning the ins and outs of Actionscript. I'm still a long way from coding anything decent but I'm still naiive enough to believe that I'll be able to make a complete game.

During some irratic brainstorm of confusing cortex functions, I came up with the idea of a literal space opera game. Going with impulse ideas is sometimes a bad thing, you'll thank me when you've avoided crashing the space time continuim while trying to find a cure for the common cold by constructing a cat powered time machine.

Why Space + Opera sounded like a good idea is lost to me. I've been rolling the concept in my head for so long, I've forgotten all the good bits. It's really too early to have this grandoise ideas but it's hard to stop coming up with them.

Early concept art:

The original main character was going to be a conductor whose opera gets overrun by aliens. It didn't make much sense since an opera in space would naturally involve aliens. I remember thinking of a mechanic that involved using the conductor's baton to make platforms move up based on which way you moved it.

When people (or your teacher) says they like to shoot stuff, well you might just go with the flow. Don't do it all the time, suicide conga lines aren't fun. Even if they offer pina coladas.

The next interation of the hero was based on the typical "Buck Rogers" acetype. Big chin, big hair and a dislike against opera loving aliens.

Along the way this all got converted into a basic platformer. Designing levels is interesting but can also be frustrating. Like making puzzles.

Concept for the level design:
(I can't remember why he has a jetpack)

Attempt at designing a level.

Teaming up with people can lead to some interesting results, good and bad. The final prototype ended up having our hero blasting away cooties who'd come to eat this ship. One day I might make the original version, until then I'll just keep trying to get something done.

The character line up, cooties are on the far right:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Flummox !

One of the problems with game design is find out how difficult designing puzzles is until you try it out for yourself. It is definitely a case of fail early and fail many times.

Below is a 'timeline' of how I learnt to make puzzles. They get better as along the way.

[Above: Some hideous early stuff from when we were trying to work out how the game would work.]

[Above: An old puzzle concept that had blocks(prisms) that would either bend light or shadow. Red lines show player movement.]

[Above: A puzzle design that didn't quite work out. The red lines indicate player's movements.]

[Above: Flow of an entire level, there's about 8/9 puzzles packed into this little baby.]

[Above: Because it's so confusing with all the lines everywhere.]

Things that I've learnt about making puzzles:

- Read The Platformer Primer (The advice in it also applies to other games beside platformers.)

- Know what's involved in your game eg. special features or difficulty.

- Figure out what elements make up your game eg credit, goals and risks.

- Try making basic puzzles that demonstrate what these elements/objects do. (Getting a feel for the how player and items work together is really handy)

- Map out when new elements/types are going to added in the game.

- Plan out a difficulty curve for the game or areas.

- Set out goals for each puzzle. What do you want the player to in each puzzle.

- Sometimes working backwards helps.

- Reusing parts are okay but you do need to "mix" it up for the player.

- Player's don't like mazes, neither do kings.

- Trial and error is good.

- Get someone else to "play" your puzzles, they might find a problem with it.

- Don't under-estimate the stupidity of people.

- Play some games to get some reference.