115: Changes to Come

After the first build of the game, a couple issues have risen. Namely the framerate. Normally the speed/smoothness of media is rated in frames per second, but after making an actual build of the game, seconds per frame seems more appropriate. I’m going to look back in the Lerpz tutorial section about optimization to see where I went wrong. As it stands, the game is literally unplayable right now.

115: UAS, USA

Lerpz was a decent intro into what could be done in Unity, but browsing through the Unity Asset Store has shown me a much better slice of what is possible in Unity. I came into this class as a first semester animation student, the idea of creating all of the assets for the game initially. Having such a comprehensive suite of assets to sift through is definitely a major boon.

115: Classroom Blitz

My game idea may have made it into the top 3, but it was finally beat out by Lucky Cat and the CSG Beatdown. I’m not too upset about the situation, the Lucky Cat game sounds simple enough to complete and it has an interesting spin on the bullet hell shooter motif. Even going off of CSG-110 and the game I’ve pitched for that class, scale seems to be a consistent theme as far as things I need to work on.

115: Punch-Boy and Kick-Chick

In class, we voted on idea pitches for video games to be made in class. I had the idea of an arcade side scrolling beat em up, a la Double Dragon or The Simpsons. The game would have a cast of two playable characters, the eponymous Punch-Boy and Kick-Chick. The player would have to choose which character is the right for the job as certain enemies or obstacles can only solved by punching, and others by kicking. In addition to my own game, Lucky Cat and the CSG Beatdown are also in the running.

110: Voting with your wallet

feffvppgei98nzi-mediumNot sure what to work on first? Terrible at prioritizing what’s most important about a project? Need a quick, fun, and easy way to make sure everyone’s voice is heard? Well why not try buying a feature? That’s exactly what happened in class for both groups at the instruction of our teacher, and honestly, I really enjoyed it. So much that I plan on using this idea in projects outside of school, whether for serious matters or just as a helpful decision making tool with friends and family.

Buying a feature essentially has you take each feature you have decided on being important for a product, and writing each down individually on its own index card. From there you pass out exactly one of each denomination of currency to each member of your team. In class we used monopoly money photo copied on white sheets of paper; I’d most likely use playing cards in the event that I used this method again outside of class. Once everyone has one of each currency, each member places a bill face down on a feature until they have voted once on each feature. After votes have been placed, the values of each bill are shown, and features arranged according to initial value. From there, starting with the developers or lowest ranking team members in terms of management, and ending with the product owner, everyone may silently move one feature up one or down one. Then the discussion may begin. Once all features have been voted on, the process can then be repeated for any features of features, and so on, and so forth.

This gives a general idea of where the team is at in terms how important they feel features are, allows each individual team member a chance to affect the results in a meaningful way after the fact, all while still resting final say with the product owner.

In the end, none of this is set in stone and when it comes to actually developing the product, the order very well may change, but this at least gives a starting point to go off of.Below are the results of my teams go with Buying Features for our game Mischief.

capture

All in all, this was a very enjoyable experience, and I’m glad to have had it introduced to me.

110: But Does It Make Cents?

mischief-bmc-1One part of the term Game Industry often ignored by many trying to enter it, myself included, is the word Industry. The business of making games is a business just like any other, and a business isn’t successful if it doesn’t make money. How do we make money in the game industry? The same as all the rest, by selling something that people want to buy. But then who are we selling to? How are we selling it? What do we need to do in order to make it? In order to sell it? How much is that going to cost us and how do we expect to make that money back? How do we figure any of this out?

One smart way is to make a Business Model Canvas. In order to create a BMC, you need to think critically about 9 specific topics.

  1. Value Proposition: What it is we’re selling and why would anyone want it
  2. Customer Segments: Who it is that we’re selling to and their lifestyle
  3. Customer Relationships: How do we acquire these potential buyers, how do we keep them, how do we grow them. Essentially how are we interacting with them?
  4. Channels: Once we find out who we’re selling to, how do we sell to them?
  5. Revenue Streams: How does that make us money?
  6. Key Partners: What non-consumer relationships do we need to do what we need to do? These will change as we find success and transition from start -up to a fully realized entity.
  7. Key Activities: What do we need to be doing right now, to make sure we have a product to present to our consumer?
  8. Key Resources: What do we need in order to create our product?
  9. Cost Structure: What is it going to cost us to do everything we’re setting out to do?

Separately, these are all important and essential questions to ask of your own company, regardless of what it is you look to put out into the world. Together, they have the ability to road map and define what type of company you will create, the market you will enter, and the resource you will provide.

110: Winds of Change

kai-zen-1An agile ship will raise its anchors and change course when it sees a storm approaching. In this same vein, our Agile managed team should be able to recognize what is slowing our own progress, find solutions, and change our course of action to avoid our own incoming storms.

Just as the sea is full of many storms, this won’t be the last time we will need to reevaluate our thinking in how we self manage ourselves. The idea of Kai-Zen is that we will, and should be, constantly changing for the better.

“Doing the same thing, and expecting different results,” is the oft cited definition of insanity, and with that in mind, it’s time we looked inward at what craziness we’ve been allowing to slow us down.

From easiest problem, to most severe issue

  1. Commitment: With team numbers dropping from 8 at the start of class, to just 3 in our final weeks, it’s imperative that we hold on fast to what we have. That said if the team we’ve currently got hasn’t been scared off yet, I’d say we’re safe.
  2. Communication: Keeping in contact with one another has been an issue from the start, but strides have been made on all sides of the table to make sure it hasn’t gone too far.
  3. Getting Outside: Here we have, in my opinion, our first major problem. As a group of semesters, we’re going to need to rally together in order to shift our development from the waterfall that it is, into a lean mean surveying machine.
  4. Documentation: There other big problem I feel holding our team back as a whole is the proper logging of work, both completed and needed. I personally feel that tackling this problem alone could greatly increase our team effectiveness, while simultaneously stimulating positive change as far as our other 3 problems are concerned.

So how do we solve?

Well, it is my opinion that, by under utilizing our Google+ team community page, we our simply hampering ourselves. A change in the posting culture on our team page is essential for growth. From getting members more involved to increase commitment and communication to getting that visible and concrete body of work that we desperately need, I feel that the more posts, regardless of the polish they may have, will only benefit the team in the long run. To inspire this change, I’ve taken to posting direct shareable links with commenting privileges of all my work to the G+ page, finished work or not.

Change won’t come without effort, I just hoped that it wasn’t too late.

110: Role Playing Game

char

Civilization as we know it now would not be possible with one type of person in the world. The advent of agriculture led to humans as a whole being able to settle down and grow. From there, machination allowed us to specialize and everything you see before you was able to be created by a person who didn’t have to hunt for their own food, or build their own house.

Like creating the world we live in now, the prospect of making a playable game world is a daunting one, and more often than not, falls on the shoulders of a team rather than any individual. The successful team is the one that is coordinated, and having defined roles for each individual member of the team is a good way of organizing your group. Having designers, animators, programmers, leads, developers, producers, and owners all in one capacity or the other is required for putting a viable game to market. It helps a lot to have these various hats and the responsibilities associated with them assigned to different people, although hat juggling isn’t uncommon, and single manned project success stories are not unheard of, despite their rarity.

On my team, for instance, I wear the hat of artist, owner, and CFO. While this wasn’t originally the case, through different cuts for various reasons, it is the situation now. With the help of team mates also picking up multiple hats, we’ve managed to progress and continue on in the development of our game Mischief, despite setbacks.

 

110: The One with the Sticks

Capture.PNG

The one thing I’ve brought up most often to contrast video games from other media is the idea of interactivity, but how does that happen? This is where the idea of the interface comes in. There are two large parts of the interface spectrum when it comes to allowing your user to play the game you’ve made. One is the UI, or User Interface, the information the game gives the player in order for the player to make a decision one way or the other about what action to take next. From the health bar, button prompts, a list of available resources, or a message letting them know that the mission is complete to a menu that lets the player control the settings of the experience or start it in the first place.

The other part of the interface is the way you tell the computer that is the system what it is that you want to do, the controller. Through its lifetime the video game industry has introduced more varied ways to physically interact with digital spaces than you can shake a stick at. In more recent years, many controllers have become just that. The Nintendo Wii, PS Move, and HTC Vive literally give you sticks to shake at the media you’re interacting with. We’ve come quite some distance from the roller track balls and dials

110: Level and the Player

level

One of the most vital parts of any piece of narrative media is the setting. Where an event takes place can have a huge affect on how the story unfolds, and the mood the consumer feels while digesting. Just using the idea of “space” as the space for our scene to take place, you can use the emptiness of the void to evoke loneliness in films like Gravity or Interstellar, while the space station in that vast emptiness can bring fear and claustrophobia in the Aliens series. On a more positive note, picture the aww and wonder felt by a first time viewer the first time they see a fully fleshed out world in Star Wars or, giving credit where credit is due, Avatar.

All of this is interesting enough as a tool to use for most narrative story tellers, the idea of the setting is especially useful for video games as they are an interactive media. This is where level design comes in, and as game creators, we have to think about how the setting moves our story forward, the moods it gives our players as they play in the world, and how we can use that to create a unique experience.

Our textbook divides the structure of a level into 6 parts, however, I will speak on two specific points that stick out to me. I’m going to start off by talking about space again, but not in the sense of moons and stars, but more the physical space things occupy and more specifically how it is framed for the viewer. Depending on how you space the camera from the world it’s showing can wildly change the type of game/story you’re presenting. The top down god view present in RTS’s, tycoon simulators, certain turn based strategies, and games like Pac-man serves to separate the player from the action, giving them the player a large view of the world around them, encouraging informed decision making.

Also the book is the idea of flow, essentially, the carrot on the end of the stick that leads the player towards a goal. In a more recent episode of Extra Credit (Asymmetry in Overwatch), the concept of flow is brought up quite a bit as an example of designing maps for competitive multiplayer.