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.
So here it is, PuzzleRaiser.
Without going into too much detail, I’ve had a pretty strict design brief for this one. The goals of the project were;
To focus on game design and level design, rather than graphical fidelity and pretentious overtones…
I wanted to create a game that was more ‘traditional’… Starlings was less of a game, and more of a ‘insert pretentious tag line here’. Whilst I consciously set out to create something a bit different with Starlings, I consciously set out to make something a little more mainstream with PuzzleRaiser.
I looked at games such as Angry Birds and Cut The Rope, and identified that the simple, physics based game mechanics allows the developer to concentrate on developing content, rather than fiddling with complicated programming problems (not to say developing those two games was ‘easy’).
I also wanted to make something that would fit into the ‘emergent gameplay’ area of video game design. Emergent gameplay gives the players simple game mechanics, but allows them to create complicated situations out of them.
The two of these goals fit together quite nicely, as once the game mechanics were developed, then the content could be the main focus.
I’m also making it as ‘open’ as possible. The version number isn’t just a little joke,it’s actually that early on in development,with lots of features to be implemented. Along the way i’ll be providing updated builds, as well as how certain things are created within Unity.
I’ll also be making the source files available with each version update in the near future,inviting you to create whatever you want to the game.
I also wanted to explain why I’m making it public so early in development…the short answer is “to see if it’s any fun”. I spent months and months working on Starlings without anybody really playing it that it made me want to create something that could be played, even in it’s most basic form, and still be fun.
Any bugs, suggestions, ideas, comments? Feel free to send them my way via Tumblr on through twitter @TheRussMorris
Some things are just worth blogging about.
Jordan Magnuson, founder of TIGsource.com has outlined his latest project, Game Trekking.
The plan is to travel the world and make video games about the things that he sees and experiences.
It strikes a resemblance to Sufjan Stevens’ attempt at creating an album for each state in the United States (which has all but been canned) but when that project delivered such delight and estranged beauty, in the form of John Wayne Gacey, jr and Chicago, it’s intriguing to think of the possibilities of doing a similar project with video games.
The intrigue is heightened even further when you consider that Jordan was behind the ‘Freedom Bridge’ Flash game, a game that is so aesthetically simple but so emotionally charged that if there was someone who ‘gets’ how to do this sort of thing, then it’s Jordan.
Each of my projects to date has had one thing in common, they’re usually large scale environments. The first two projects were based upon real-world locations, the Natural History Museum was a confined, static space, whilst Westminster Bridge required not only an accurate replication of the interactive game play environment, but also the surrounding area. Whilst replicating the obvious landmarks was important, from the outset of the project I knew that in order to succeed in my intentions I needed to spend a significant amount of time supporting the centerpiece of the map by creating the surrounding areas.
In order to fully justify the necessity of the surrounding environment to enhance the central, playable area, we can look into the world of film theory, and in particular ‘off-screen’ space.
In the simplest of terms, ‘off-screen’ can be attributed to 6 areas around a framed scene, to the left and right, top and bottom, behind the camera, and behind the set.
When relating to the composition of a video game environment, we can consider the ‘set’ as the immediate interactive area of the environment. When applied to designing game play environments, this area differs depending on the genre, or overall purpose of the environment. For example, a game like Fallout 3 (Bethesda Softworks, 2008) has a constantly changing ‘set’, but if the overall world is designed correctly, we can still define each area around the set. However, a racing game has a defined space in which the player is can interact with the environment, meaning that composing the space around the set is made slightly easier as all viewing angles and possibilities are pre-determined.
The ultimate goal of successfully utilizing the ‘off-screen’ space is to make the player feel that there is more to the scene than is currently visible. Expansive outdoor environments in games use visual cues, and games such as Fallout 3 rely on them as a way of encouraging the player to explore.
This week has been one of the most exciting, stressful and best weeks of my life. As mentioned in previous blog posts, I was very kindly asked to show Starlings for the Unity3DLondon event. I’m not sure if I can fully get across how much I appreciated the opportunity to show show Starlings to a room full of people I consider far more interesting and successful than myself.
The second event of the week was for the LSBU Graduate Show which I partly responsible for organising. After a very tiring week, I somehow managed to put together a short presentation that showed off some of Starlings key features.
Russ showing Starlings at Unity3DLondon
I was hoping the nights would go well, but I was more than pleased with the response that I got for Starlings. I’m never sure exactly what people are thinking about the project, but people seemed genuinely intrigued about what I’m trying to achieve. I really appreciate every single second that someone shows an interest in me or my work, and Wednesday night was a little overwhelming at times. I hope that I can continue down this road and keep people interested and increase the visibility of Starlings amongst the community.
Now I feel that I could sleep for a week, so I might just give it a go.
I’ve been wanting to announce this for a while, and now I can finally do it.
A big part of the Starlings experience is down to the way in which the music interacts with what is happening on-screen. As your flock grows, then so does the accompanying musical score. What this does is offer a sense of progression whilst rewarding the player. It also serves as encouragement, reminding the player that the more they play, the more they will experience.
In order to effectively immerse the player within the experience the music needs to be good. I mean, REALLY good. This is where Christopher Chong comes in!
For those that you that played Beatnik Games’ ‘Plain Sight’, you’ll already be familiar with his work as he provided the soundtrack. For those of you who are not aware of Chris, well, he provided the music for Beatnik Games’ ‘Plain Sight’! :)
I’m hugely grateful that a talent such as Chris, who has provided work for a commercially released video game, would agree to work on Starlings, and the way in which his work has benefited the experience is huge!
If you want to find out more about Chris, and his other work, then head over to his site.
This ties in to a gentle reminder that Starlings will be shown to the public for the first time tomorrow, as part of Unity3DLondon, complete with the inclusion of Chris’ music. Hope to see you there!
What are you doing on May 26th at around 6.30pm?
Nothing? Good. Why don’t you come along to the 3rd Unity3DLondon event…
I’m really chuffed to announce that I’ll be showing Starlings for the first ever time to a room of people that I consider much more important than myself, but they seem to want to see what I’m doing… So I couldn’t say no.
I’ll have some more info closer to the date about what I’ll actually be showing…
You’ll also be treated to the works of Iestyn Lloyd, as he takes us through the official Iron Man 2 web game…
More information can be found here
You can also follow @unity3dlondon
or you can follow me @therussmorris
or you can follow Iestyn @yezzer
Production on Starlings took a turn for the worse last Wednesday. I woke up like it was any other day, stumbled down stairs, filled the kettle, put coffee in the plunger thing…pushed the power button on my Macbook pro…and that’s where it all went wrong.
It just didn’t boot. Well, it tried to, but just stopped after about a second. A few calls to Apple customer care later, probably an issue with the logic board. No worries, I have Apple care…I’ll get a genius bar appointment. NONE UNTIL A WEEK FROM NOW?!?!. Double-ewe, Tee, Eff.
Thankfully I found a reseller in Watford North (www.twilight-zone.co.uk) and it’s been sent for repairs, it just means that I’ll be without it for 2 weeks.
Apart from that, nearly everything is done for what I’m calling the Starlings V 0.5. In terms of everything I wanted to create initially, it’s all there…but my ideas about what it could be, and the potential of it as more of a game mean that it is actually NOWHERE near what I actually want it to be….
Oh, and I’ve got a proper fucking musical genius to do the musical score.
But more on that next time.
“It’s kind of like a massive conga line,but each person is at various stages of drunkenness,so it doesn’t really work”
Today was one of the most boring, repetetive days I’ve had during the development of ‘Starlings’.
After putting in all of my flocks, the next ste was to assign each of them to a ‘flock follow’ point. There are roughly two birds for each follow point, so I not only had to keep track of which birds were connected to which follow point, but the damping values also, in order to make sure that the birds wouldn’t ‘merge’ together. It was also necessary in tracking how many times I’d used each value, to ensure that there was an even spread throughout the flock.
The way that the flocking works is that each bird follows a ‘flock follow’ point, each with a different ‘damping’ value, this is essentially the delay in time it takes for the bird to follow that point. Each ‘flock follow’ point then follows the main starling, with a similarly different damping value.It’s kind of like a massive conga line,but each person is at various stages of drunkenness,so it doesn’t really work.but it does for this.
Basically it took 5 and a half hours… and here’s the record for it.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been busy rebuilding the Starlings environment, experimenting with the number of trees I can get on screen, as well as finally finalising the geometry of the environment. I thought I had everything mapped out and finished, then when I had a breakthrough with the trees, I kind of needed to extend the environment…it felt a bit too ‘bunched’ with the original map, so I’ve been building the ‘extensions’…
The successful implementation on trees not only gives Starlings an aesthetic facelift, but it also means I can ‘hide’ more Starlings around the environment. I had previously had Starlings in flocks, or sitting on telephone cables and other structures…now I can have Starlings flying out from wooded areas to join the flock…which is nice.
Over the next 4 weeks I’ll be placing all Starlings and flocks into the environment, and getting everything in place. Areas still need to be painted…Sounds need to be triggered, but slowly, it’s all coming together…it feels like it’s nearly here…because it kind of is.
Ignore the purple field colours…