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How A Game Gets Made

I found this article on Gamasutra’s news page and it’s a pretty good article.  After reading through I was blown away at what it takes.  I knew it was a pretty epic undertaking but it’s amazing to see that so many people from such disparate fields come together to get it done.  It’s actually amazing to think that a lot of companies are able to do this in two years.  Funny how I used to think that a two year dev schedule was really long, it seems now like two years in the absolute fastest that a quality game can be developed.

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I arrived in Florida on Thursday after a 3 hour flight that went quite smoothly. Flying out left me without a car, so I begged an old high school friend to pick me up. So he picked me up from the airport and we started driving, quickly realizing that neither of us knew the address of my residence. So we spent a good hour or two driving around Orlando looking for a WiFi hotspot so I could look up the address and directions on my iPod Touch.

So I’m mostly moved in at this point, I will be posting pics as soon as I get my camera charger. I have a mattress on the ground, a table and chair from Walmart and my luggage in a corner and that’s it.

Anyway, on to content: I don’t start work officially until Monday but I decided to go in on Friday to meet everyone and to get paperwork out of the way.

Everyone was pretty awesome. Some of them were less sociable and receptive than others, but I wasn’t expecting hugs and a party anyway.

Shortly after my arrival and introduction we all went out to lunch and the hazing and initiation began. Dustin Clingman, my boss and co-owner of the company, tells me that I will consume a chip with a single drop of a special hot sauce. This hotsauce (the name of which escapes me at this time) registers at 1.5 million scouvilles — pretty hot.

So I ate it. It was pretty bad. Let’s leave it at that.

As for the people there are many people at the office, most of which I have not met to any functional capacity. Chris Oltyan and Dustin Clingman are the two head hanchos that I report to and they are both pretty awesome.

First piece of knowledge I learned at ZG was for iPhone programming: project names with spaces or other non-alphanumeric characters will fail using any calls to NSBundle. Instead, you need to go into your Target’s settings and change the Product Name field to something without spaces or weird characters. This will change the path that the os uses as well as any plist or setting that uses the Product tag. Of you still need the offending characters in your app’s name, go into the Info.plist file and change the “Bundle Indentifier Name” field. Enjoy!

Anyway, I’m a little unsure what I’ll be doing and will be bound by NDA but I will relay as much of my experiences as I can. Keep in there.

Just finished my portfolio and my new business card design.  Take a gander:

Business Card Mark II

Portfolio 2009

I’ve been trying to pull my portfolio together and I realize that I haven’t done a game review in a long time.  LBP slipped through the cracks a little while ago, so now’s the time:

LittleBigPlanet

Platform: PS3    Rating: E    Genre: Adventure/Platformer

What it is:

Imaginative, hilarious, and lots of fun.  The premise of LBP is strange to say the least, but it lends infinite possibilities to the world that is presented in the game.  Players jump, swing, and launch around beautifully crafted levels with stunning visuals and constantly interesting and challenging obstacles.  Races, ascensions, puzzles, collectables, LittleBigPlanet has got it all.

What it isn’t:

Lengthy, solitary, or boring.  The main set of levels felt a little short.  The levels were, however, absolutely amazing, to say the least.  LittleBigPlanet is fun to play on your own, but it’s a riot with other people.  The social aspect of it is frankly one of the best parts of the game, including the online world building and cooperative stylings.  There’s rarely a dull moment in LBP and levels are varied and unique enough to warrant multiple play-throughs, allowing for lots of replay value and extra collectables.

Pros:

Tons of fun with multiple players, customizable characters, world-building tools, a strong online community, expertly crafted levels and visuals, compelling collectables and extras, hilarious premise and interesting world, intuitive controls, and a bonus moral at the end of the game :).

Cons:

The points system used in the game seems somewhat unnecessary.  It detracts from the cooperative feel of the game as players vie to collect the most bubbles.  Other than that, nothing else really stands out.

Rating:

– Highly Recommended:

Get some friends together and play.  LittleBigPlanet is lots of fun and is a great party game!

I don’t own the rights to The Matrix, so I can’t sell this.  However, I can put it in my portfolio and show it off to potential employers.  So take a gander and let me know what you think.  Alex, eat your heart out!

The Matrix Role Playing System

The last playtest went quite well.  The characters went against an agent and actually survived.  I let them run away in the end, but if they had stayed to fight they probably would have all died.  Which is good.  It shows that Agents are sufficiently nasty.

The playtest showed that this system is actually surprisingly balanced, interesting, and playable.  I’m REALLY pleased with how this worked out.  The only thing that really needs to change is some AP exchange rates.  And that’s it really.  I think experience points, AP, weapon damage, locations, movement, all that works pretty well at this stage.

All of the players have been begging me to continue using the system and actually set something up for it.  This is very encouraging and it’s probably the most powerful driving reward that I seek in game design: people loving your game and letting you know.

As far as setting something up to do more, I’m not sure what I can do.  I’m swamped with classes, I’m already in charge of 3 different clubs on campus, I’m going to FL for an internship over the summer.  I really WANT to continue using the system, but I’m not sure how much farther I can stretch myself.

I will be posting PDFs of all of the resources in the next post after I do some clean up.  Thanks to Tim, Malec, Jo, Mike, and Tyler for playtesting!

The playtest for the Matrix RPG went *very* well.  It’s reception was quite good, the players weren’t very serious about it, but they said that they really liked the system and the possibilities it presents.  One thing I’ve noticed is it’s decently complex, but that didn’t seem to matter to the players.  The reference material needs to be available for all of the players, and some values and other miscellaneous rules need to be ironed out.  In general though, I think the playtest went very well and I plan to continue playesting on Wednesday.

Also, I plan to pit the players against an Agent.  That’s right, a ridiculously overpowered nearly invincible dauntless death machine.  The recommended level for an Agent encounter?  10: the highest level possible.  The playtester’s  character’s level? 4.  Should be fun :).

Well, poo.  This project has taken a lot more effort than I had originally imagined.  Object rotation took over a week to get working and it’s still not fool proof.  SAT will take even longer, and I don’t have that kind of time.  I’m dropping the Maze project until this summer.

As for VA 306, I will be working on a Matrix TTRPG that has been in need of polish and new playtests for quite some time.  I’m hoping that Dr. Monnens will let me switch considering the ridiculous scope of my previously-chosen project.

I decided to go with the maze game for the iPhone/iPod Touch.  It will consist of a target that will either be circular or cuboid that the player must move to the end point using their fingers to guide it.  Touching a wall or object will set the target back to the last checkpoint.  I haven’t decided whether I want to implement lives or a timer.  I will try both and see which one playetesters enjoy more.  I think lives will be best, but that remains to be seen.  Simple game with some decent potential, here’s what I have for the “boring architecture part”:

Graphics

  • Don’t need texture loading (that I can think of)
  • Simple style of colored shapes
  • View scrolling when the target gets to the edge of a defined area.
  • Will have to rebuild Radiance to make sure all of this works well.

User Interface

  • Basic Cocoa UI elements, using Radiance I can overlay what I need.
  • Want to experiment with different kinds of menus and UI displays.
  • Need to make sure view scrolling is adjustable.

Physics

  • Implementing Separating Axis Theorem which requires rebuilding Continuum.
  • Need to detect edge triggers for things like doors and victory conditions.
  • Unit test the crap out of my revamped vector system and rotation implementation.

Game Logic

  • Target resets to last checkpoint after (5) seconds of not being touched.
  • If the target touches an edge or another object, reset.
  • Timer?  Lives?  TBA
  • Later levels will have the target orbit the touch point.
  • Later levels will have multiple targets.
  • Later levels will have multiple targets with independent end points.

Level Builder

  • Grid system to start, build level with “positive” tiles on negative background.
  • Want to implement this in Lua to allow for greatest flexibility.

So, that’s pretty much the gist of it.  I have a lot of work to do.  Already rebuilt the vector class I was using to be a little more friendly.  Looking into SAT implementations.  I understand the concepts, but I’m unsure about implementation.  This is gonna be a lot of work at a difficult time.  Cross your fingers…

That’s right, the end of the semester is rapidly approaching.  For the last few weeks of class we are supposed to pick a personal project that we want to do and run with it.  I have a few ideas for this one.  I already told Prof. Monnens I was going to do one of these, but I am still deciding.  Here are the possibilities:

  • A maze game for the iPhone
  • Help Tim with Mass Effect TTRPG
  • Realistic space combat game
  • 4x TBS game that I have been working on in the past
  • The Speciation Sim outlined in ‘Life, advanced’ below.

I’m probably going to do either the maze game or help Tim.  Both of these are relatively simple and would fit within the purview of the class.  I may just assign them percentage values and roll a d100 like a good nerd.  I’ll be sure to post what I decide and how I got there.  Peace.

EDIT:  I have opened it up to a poll.  I will be deciding shortly, so get your votes in now!