For the last 4 weeks, Iain Gillespie and I have been working on a little project in our spare time.
We made it as something to keep us off the streets, and also for something to use as an entry for the Edge Online - Get Into Games 2013 competition.
Why one or two players? Well, there are two characters and roles to play in the game. One character is on a bike, and needs to dodge stuff. The other character is on a moving platform and must shoot things to clear the road.
One is controlled by the keyboard, the other by the mouse.
SO, you can either go HARDCORE and play it by yourself, or you can SHARE THE LOAD and play it with a friend (which is the best way).
The ‘making the game’ was the primary focus, with the competition being used as a catalyst and milestone. Of course, we’d like to do well in the competition, but we didn’t want to feel too restricted to ‘making a game just for a competition and trying to win and being all AWESOME and people loving us for the rest of time and yes I know I haven’t punctuated any of this sentence but that’s the point’.
I’m becoming a huge fan of small development cycles now. Rugby Skills Challenge 2013 was about 4-5 weeks of development, and this has been another 4 weeks. It’s small, refined, and we only concentrated on the things that it really needed to be in orde to deliver the experience we wanted and to a quality level we’d be happy with.
We’ll see how it goes and might consider doing a more complete version in the future, but for now, we’re SUPER chuffed with what we managed to do in such a short space of time.
Also, massive thanks to Sabrepulse for letting us use his music in the game. You should totally buy the First Crush EP, it’s pay what you want.
Anyway, I’m off to play Bioshock Infinite.
Before leaving Unity I was lucky enough to get to work on something very exciting that they are cooking up over there; doing some level design on the new learning content that Will Goldstone and his team have been busy creating for a little while.
Some of the content they are creating is aimed at teaching you Unity in context with the ways in which you might create gameplay mechanics for specific games/genres.
The first batch of content is based around a stealth game and has recently appeared on the Unity Asset Store for download. Lucky for me it’s the project that includes that aforementioned level designed that I was involved with.
As it’s for a game based around Stealth there had to be a lot of consideration taken for potential routes the player could take and balancing the ‘threat’ and ‘progression’ windows.
It’s a fairly short level, but I made sure that the level had points in which the player could use as a break point, so that they knew that they were safe from previous threats, and could asses the new threats ahead of them.
If I get an okay from the Unity folks I’ll do a more in-depth explanation about the level design…
Anyway, take a look if you’re interested, I think Will and his team have done an amazing job with this. (Especially the battle bus, which I had NOTHING to do with)
Oh hey there.
It’s a well known fact of life that sometimes you just don’t get around to finishing things. I for one should know, I’ve got 3 projects sat on my computer waiting to be finished, but yet I started another one. Why? Well, this particular game was an idea I’ve wanted to make for a while. It’s not a huge project, it’s not a groundbreaking project…it’s an achievable project that’s going to scratch a massive itch I’ve had for the last 18 months - to get something out onto mobile stores.
There’s nothing like a deadline to get you working, but we all know that self imposed deadlines are too easy to move. This project has a self-imposed deadline, but it’s one that was decided based on the fact the game has close ties to a sport, and an upcoming sporting event would be the perfect time to release it. I don’t want to spend days/weeks doing promotion, I want there to be some ‘natural’/cultural reason that would lead people to it without me asking. A sporting event is the perfect opportunity for that.
You see, I’m making a rugby game. Why a rugby game? Well, I’m a massive fan of rugby, and there’s a distinct lack of rugby games currently available, so why not?. This particular project started out as an experiment in creating ‘flick kick’ style controls, which very quickly turned into a prototype, which then turned into an experiment in different game modes. I quickly realised that this could be a project that could very realistically be achieved…so I decided to finish it.
I set myself a goal of finishing it by the end of January, which is what I’m working towards now.
Because it’s supposed to be a ‘one-man’ project in a short time frame, I’m doing 90% of the game myself, including art and UI, which admittedly isn’t something I’d every apply for as a job, but I can manage! The only area I’m getting help is with the stadium model, which is being created by Chris Pope.
90% of the code base is complete, and I’m now in the process of completing the art side of the game, and beginning playtesting and bug fixing. The initial launch will be iOS, and depending on whether it’s worth it, I’ll look into doing a build for Android at a later date.
Here’s where I’d like a little extra help, from you.
Sports stadiums have sponsor boards running around the edges of the pitch. Now, I’m obviously not allowed to use REAL sponsors, and I don’t have the tim to come up with incredibly witty puns on well known sports brands, or the time to dedicate to doing the art.
So I thought, “why not populate it with games?”. I want those to be indie games, and I’d like them to be your indie games.
You know what, it doesn’t even have to be games, it can be anything you’re working on.
What do you need to do?
A 512 x 128 banner image.
Send me a link/email (therussmorris[at]gmail[dot]com.) to where I can get hold it (whatever format you prefer)
Send me a website and or twitter account
Do it by Jan 31st.
What will I do?
I’ll put it in the game. The banner will appear on the adverstising hoardings, and a link to your website/twitter will appear in the credits.
If you create something, you can send it to therussmorris[at]gmail[dot]com.
If you do, that would be awesome. Super awesome.
Have a good day!
Skyrim is wonderful. It’s alive.
Wherever you go there is something going on. The characters you meet have stories, thoughts, desires. They have lives.
The more you talk to people, the more you have in common with them. You’ll do anything for them, as long as you get an XP boost in return.
However, once you finish the task that you’ve been asked to complete, they don’t want to know you. They’ll revert to the stock lines and VOs that come out of the mouths of any other Skyrim inhabitant, the same things the unimportant people say… the ones you can’t click on.
Soon you’ll have cleared out a small village. Then Whiterun. Then Winterhold. The people that once greeted you with open arms simply pass by and tell you the origin of their surname. Just like everybody else.
You’re sucking the life out of Skyrim. You monster.
It’s been busy at PLA Studios lately. Whilst in the middle of putting the finishing touches to our first game, we had a call to make a game for a well-know band. It needed to be done quick, be addictive, and give away a free song. We talked for a bit about the best approach, and then Iain came up with a great idea.
He came up with get182.
It was announced a few days later on BBC Radio 1, during Zane Lowe’s show, and within 2 hours had over 1 million plays.
You can play it at get182.com
Now we can get back to finishing our first game, which I guess is now our second game…
I’ve been keeping an eye on, the very aplty named ,Wonderputt for a while. It was created by Reece Millidge, who is otherwise know as Damp Gnat (twitter @dampgnat). It’s not Unity, it’s Flash. Regardless, it’s beautiful, charming, and golfy(DEFINITELY a word).
You can play the game on Kongregate here » Wonderputt
Check out Reece’s website here » dampgnat.com
This Friday is the first meet up for the new London Unity Usergroup. It’s an event that myself and Jasper Stocker have been organising, and we’re very pleased with the way it’s shaping up.
The idea is to provide inspiration and advice to both new and experienced users. In order to achieve this we’ve managed to bag two very exciting guest speakers. One is quickfingers, who is well know amongst the Unity community, and the other…well, that would be the kind folks from the Unity UK office!
On top of this, the kind folks over at Packt Publishing have supplied us with copies of Unity books to give away!
If you’re in or around London and you’re interested in Unity3D in any way, then I suggest you come along, who knows what could happen….
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I’ve always been a believer that the early days of learning game design and development should be like learning a musical instrument…you practice by playing the stuff you listen to. So why not practice game development by making the stuff you play? Then, when you’re good at the basics, you can move onto your own stuff… I really think one of the worst mistakes you can make in the early days is to get carried away and try to make ‘Left 4 Dead’ when you don’t even know how to make Pong…
On the flip side to that, it’s always fun to have small pet projects when you’re bogged down with all the difficult stuff. Creating something basic, with a quick turnaround is a good way to give yourself a quick pat on the back.
So, In order to help some of the newcomers along, I’ve attempted to show how easy it can actually be to create a game in Unity…by recreating one of my favourite games, Elektroplankton.
I loved Elektroplankton on the DS. It was a great mix of quirky and retro-chic…with a nice bit of music generation thrown in. So, for a few hours over the last few weekends I’ve been playing around with recreating the core mechanics. I don’t really have enough time to create proper beats and hooks, so it’s just placeholder sounds. Anyway, Here it is, and it’s called ‘beatLines’.
In order for it to be of any use to people, I’ve provided the source code, so you can see how it was made, and go about making your own changes. I’ve commented on most of the lines to give a good idea of how it all works, so hopefully you can work it all out.
Whilst the game is under 200 lines of code, which is a 1/3 comments, it still isn’t the best way in which to make something like this…why? Well, I wanted to cover some things that might become useful in your future developments. The main things that are covered here are…
Turning scripts on or off
Assigning objects to GameObject variables at run-time.
Setting min/max int values
Basic input from left and right mouse buttons
Referencing static variables from scripts attached to other objects
So, for example, each time we click on a waypoint, we change the position it faces. We are in fact loading a new texture. We would be better off actually using one texture and rotating the object to actually face the desired direction. If you want to experiment with optimising the code further, then it’s all setup for you, otherwise it can act as a nice reference point to see how you can do certain things…
It’s desperately crying out for some really cool beats, because at the moment it’s just placeholder sounds. If you want to add your own stuff, go ahead. Alternatively, if you’d like to contribute some sounds, then give me an email.
Sounds provided by http://www.superflashbros.net/as3sfxr/ (thanks to @iainlobb )
Studying a video games related course? Then you must be pretty excited about the prospects of having a career that revolves around one of your hobbies, right? Well, you should be, but there is a constant whisper through the fog that suggests what you’re doing is completely irrelevant and wont help in your search to ‘break into’ the games industry. Oh dear.
Recently graduated from a video games related course? Then I’d probably guess that, unless you are one of the lucky few, you’re pretty lost and bemused right now.
The stories of how worthwhile game design courses are pops up every 6 months or so, with studio heads claiming that students don’t graduate with the necessary skills and it costs too much to train them up. To be honest, they are probably right, but if you’re on a games related course then you should really be making the most of the time that you have. You need to make sure you’re in a good position come graduation, because that’s really when the hard stuff starts.
The industry, and the mainstream industry in particular, likes to employ ‘specialists’. If you’re not REALLY good at a particular thing, then you’ve not got much of a chance of getting employed in that area. If you’re looking to be an artist or a composer then I’d suggest taking a course that focuses specifically in those areas.
However, general game design courses aren’t all bad, they do give you the opportunity to learn a whole host of skills that you can either put to use to create your own content, or provide you with an opportunity to make a decision on what area of the industry you want to focus on.
There is also an alternative to the ‘mainstream’ industry. Small indie start up studios are always looking for individuals that are multi-talented. There’s no black and white answer to whether or not your course is irrelevant, it’s all down to how you choose to spend your time.
I spent three years at London’s South Bank University, studying the Game Cultures course, and since graduating I’ve also been a member of the teaching staff. The one thing that was blatantly obvious from both sides of the fence is that a lot of the students don’t understand how much work they actually have to put in.
So, whilst there’s a million things that could be said to help any current or prospective student, here are some of things that helped me through it…
Read your unit guide and assessment criteria
So many students ignore this. For the first few sessions they seem to be idly dream of the amazingly beautiful games that they will create in the next 12 weeks, preparing their Bafta acceptance speeches, and boasting about their 1337 Halo skillz…When in reality, if you don’t have a good grasp of what you’re actually going to be marked on, and when it needs to be finished, you’re going to struggle to pass.
Once you understand what this particular unit is asking for, design something for it. If you’ve got an idea you’re desperate to do, but it doesn’t quite fit the unit, then don’t do it, save it for later.
Preparation is key
Arguably the most important part of the development is pre-production. You need to make sure that everything that you are intending to create is written down and that you understand it. Why? So that you know what you need to do. It also helps to solidify an idea, meaning that most of the important areas will be covered. Buy a notepad and pen and stick it in your stylish satchel.
Start writing down what your basic idea is. Then try to look at what control mechanics are required. Once you start thinking about the environment you’ll understand what 3d models are needed. Then you need to think about the textures…and don’t forget sound.
There’s SO much stuff that needs to go into creating your work that writing it down is actually quite a daunting process, but it really helps you understand how hard you need to work.
Stick to your goals
Once you’re into the swing of developing your ideas you need to regularly remind yourself of what you’re trying to achieve. Focus on the core goals of the project and what the ultimate goal is, and make sure you achieve them. If you’ve done a good job in the pre-production and design stage, then you will already know that your project is fleshed out enough, so all you’ve got to do is get it all working.
Starting to design extra mechanics/features during the development stage can really affect your work. Not only could it unbalance what you’ve designed, but it can also waste a lot of time. We all know that coming up with new ideas is exciting, and it’s very exciting to start developing them to see if they work, but the best thing to do is to write it down in as much detail as possible and shelve it for another project.
Talk to others
Talk to other people about your ideas and try and get them to give honest opinions about your work. If you’re asking fellow game design students about what they think, they are usually more than happy to tell you how they would have done it better, so why not listen to what they have to say.
Similarly you should be offering your opinions on other people’s work. Don’t just say you think an idea is bad, but instead focus on the positives and suggest how these could be complimented to improve the overall idea.
You also need to be accepting that not everyone will agree with your opinions, but never take it to heart. Also don’t try to take the moral high ground and hope for a ‘I told you so’ moment…it’s just not nice.
Don’t be afraid to stand up and present your work
One thing I never understood is why people don’t like to stand up and talk about their work. Especially those that are producing work to a high standard. Being able to confidently stand in front of a room of people and articulate your ideas is a great skill.
If I hadn’t of been open to talking about my work then I wouldn’t have been on the front page of the LSBU website, which wouldn’t have contributed to a greater web presence, which wouldn’t have led to my work on the Nissan Leaf project. Standing in front of people might seem a little pointless sometimes, but it can really pay off in the long run.
In order to make the whole process easier you need to be prepared. Presentations should never be left to the last minute and you should start thinking about them at least a week before. Practice what you’re going to say and always focus on the positives of your work. I’ve seen quite a few presentations where students mentioned the things that they didn’t get a chance to put in and all it does it make them look like they weren’t prepared enough.
Once you’ve graduated you’ll realise that all the talk of a ‘competitive marketplace’ for jobs was grossly under estimated. Everyone that you studied with will be applying for the same jobs as you will..and so will everyone else at all the other universities.
What you need to remember is that there will be a lot of self proclaimed ‘game designers’ out there (I’m one of them), so you’ll need to show that you’re one step ahead of everyone else.
Here’s some of the most important things I’ve learnt over the last 9 months…hopefully you’ll find them useful.
Make small projects that showcase your skills.
Make as much stuff as you can. I’ll be honest and say that in the past I’ve attempted projects that were too large for one person to realistically achieve. Starlings, in it’s initial conception wasn’t too large, I actually spent a lot of time making sure that it was a good balance. The problem was that when I was close to completing the original prototype build I tried to add a lot of extra stuff. I didn’t take the same approach to designing these new ideas, and they were too ambitious. I regretted this period as it took a lot of time to realise that whilst I wanted to develop the new ideas, it would be more beneficial to actually focus on smaller projects.
One of the best bits of advice I’ve received was from Neil Holmes from Blitz1Up. He said that many people attempt projects, but very few actually finish them, which is the most important thing. To be able to show that you can conceive and complete an idea is actually hugely beneficial.
Have a quick think back to all of those people applying for jobs with their generic game design graduate CVs…If you can link potential employers to playable content that you’ve created then you’re going to be ahead of a lot of those.
You’re going to need to learn how to program
The moment I realised this I nearly cried. It wasn’t through the sheer terror of knowing I’d have to be one of ‘those’ guys, but because I couldn’t believe I didn’t realise this sooner.
Anyone on your course will say that they are a game designer, but very few will be programmers. If you’re a passionate designer and want to get your ideas working on screen, then the best thing to do is to do it yourself.
You don’t need to learn to be the world’s best programmer, you just need to learn how to use an engine to prototype your ideas. Start following tutorials online and creating little games based around traditional mechanics and go from there. Once you get the hang of things you’ll feel like your really in control of your own work…
Don’t take yourself too seriously.
One thing I’ve noticed is that students and individuals are taking themselves too seriously. For some reason students are spending more time coming up with fictional company names to attach to their work. I really don’t support this idea, as it actually removes you from your work.
Another reason is that it actually makes you less ‘available’. If you’re putting yourself as an individual out into the marketplace, talking up your talents and portfolio, but all of your work has a ‘company’ name on it, then who actually did the work? Potential employers could be turned off hiring you based on the fact that you already look like your involved in your own business projects and wouldn’t necessarily need a job.
If you’re making games, then put your name on it instead of some imaginary company, and make it easy for people to find you if they like it. The more things you have your name attached to the bigger online presence you’re going to have, making you easier to find.
Networking really helps, it’s the same with any career…Sometimes it’s more about who you know rather than what you know. Obviously you’re still going to have to be pretty good at what you do, but knowing people always helps.
Get involved with development communities, either on the web or IN REAL LIFE. Bafta host some great game industry events that are always excellent opportunities to meet industry contacts. Twitter is a brilliant way of finding people of similar interests, as well as just doing a good ol’ google search.
If you find someone who you find particularly interesting, or someone that provided a tutorial that you really liked, then give them an email and let them know…follow them on twitter. Just start making friends.
Hopefully you’ll find some of this useful….
If you’ve got anything to add to this post then feel free to comment. Whether you agree or disagree I’d love to know what you think….
Valve are busy finishing up Portal2, entering the final stretch, where the last remaining bugs are being ironed out and marketing strategies are being revved up.
Valve are also a success. You didn’t need to even read the news last week that Valve make more money per employee than Apple or Google to know that.
That success wasn’t only because Half-Life was awesome, or any of their other games being some of the most critically acclaimed games of all time, but what really helped was a great eye for innovative marketing strategies.
Around 8 minutes in there is a good outlining of Valve’s pricing structure with Steam, and how cutting the price by 75% can give a 40 fold increase in revenue.
Take a look.
Other highlights include
- Highest grossing item in the TF2 store was the most expensive item
- Second highest grossing item in the TF2 store was the cheapest item
- one price for everyone isn’t the best deal, people’s expectations of value is different.
- Valve are a bunch of dropouts. Awesome dropouts.
- Valve look for people that can build communities around their projects and manage that community successfully.
This post was lifted directly from my blogger account, so excuse the formatting issues…