Not strictly game design related but it is about a game, so there! Watch me open lots of little boxes filled with lots of little HeroClix figures based on the Avengers movie and other related films!
The Game Design Wiki is finally finished! WOO! To check it out head here. There are probably a lot of mistakes and corrections that is still needed to be checked over but I am happy with the overall results.
I did have to cut out a sizeable chunk of the planned content for the wiki due to time constraints but at the end of the day that’s my own fault for not allocating enough time for the wiki earlier on in the project. Still what’s there is good I feel and it serves its purpose of showing how the Game Design Wiki option works.
I’ll be sitting down tomorrow to write up the documentation detailing the Wiki’s creation, good and bad point, etc. But for now I have more work to do!
I haven’t done one of these for a couple of days because of my birthday and a major business module deadline that involved putting together a business plan and presentation with the other guys in my year. Anyway on with the updates!
Time Travel Game
Not the major progress I was hoping for but I am still on track. I managed to get a few more sections put together and ticked off the list today: Camera Systems, Animation Sets and Sound Design in a rough form. I’m trying to get through all the “smaller” sections of the Wiki first so that the if the worst should happen and I don’t get the major sections finished in time there should be enough content on the Wiki to show how it works.
Basically tomorrow afternoon/evening and Friday are all about getting the Time Travel Game Wiki finished and ready to submit (now that it is working like it should be!). So that I have time over the weekend to make the prototype for Hunters of the New Dawn and finish up work on the UDK prototype for the Time Travel Game itself. I can get it done because the Wiki is very much on the tipping point. A few more sections and the rest will basically write themselves.
Superman: Man of Steel
I am glad to say the the prototype for the game is finished and ready to play! WOOOO!!! I’ve been working on it in the evenings for the past couple of days and it has all come together nicely. The plan for tomorrow is to run a few test sessions with some of my fellow students before putting together the final ruleset for the game. All that’s left to do now really is finish off the visual design document for the game. Which is still lagging behind a bit compared to my other projects. I can get it all finished in time though I just might have to have a few late nights which in the grand scheme of things isn’t to bad.
The only major thing that is really behind at the moment is the documentation detailing the two design processes and comparing them. I’m going to be sitting down on Monday and really working on these because if I don’t there is a strong chance that I’ll miss the deadline on them! They shouldn’t take to long to put together and I have been making sure to take screen grabs of the various ways and methods I’ve used to put the two types of design documentation together I have what I am going to write pretty much planned out. It is just sitting down and writing it all out that is the issue.
Hunters of the New Dawn
Hunters of the New Dawn has been on the back burner for a bit while I have been putting the major parts of my Honours Project together. The only thing left to do for this particular project is the prototype which I have pretty much finalised in my head. Like I mentioned earlier part of this coming weekend will be devoted to putting it all together. For what it is, it should hopefully only be a day of solid work to make. The prototype for Hunters has to show players the following key things:
- Simple and complex combat
- Player choice
- Fast paced RPG gameplay
I have the first four planned out and the last one should hopefully be shown by the prototype as a whole. As with the Superman prototype I am going for functional first and looks second. And hopefully like the Superman prototype I will at least be able to refine most if not all of it before finally putting it together.
I also asked my tutor today how I was going to submit the physical prototypes for Superman and Hunters. The current plan is a document or video showing how they work. I will most likely go for the video option due to the relative ease and speed I can put demo videos together. Going down the video route will also give me the chance to explain how the gameplay of the prototypes would translate into actual gameplay for the final games but we will wait and see.
This week’s Extra Credits covers the topic of harassment online in gaming and in particular on services such as Xbox Live. A few ideas are thrown into the melting pot that is the argument about people behaving in the worst way online. They are good ideas but they are nothing more than a stop gap to the issue really.
To truly stop online harassment and bullying via gaming there needs to be a seismic shit in what both the companies and gamers involved in it do to combat it. The only way to truly stop it is to educate those gamers who are taking part in spreading needless hate. You can have the auto-muting systems talked about in the Extra Credits video but that doesn’t really stop people from just repeatedly setting up new and separate accounts to carry on doing what they are doing.
I’ve experienced a fair amount of abuse thrown my way online over the years. I’m not a particularly skilled gamer, I would call myself average, yet every now and then I will have a good few rounds in a game. Suddenly I am bombarded with messages about how I am a faggot just because I had a good game. Even when I play at my worst I will receive the odd message every now and then. It doesn’t stop there, I even had someone repeatedly send me abusive messages, including voice messages, over the course of a week or so. The reason? I haven’t a clue. The person was purposely trying to taint and ruin my Xbox Live experience because that is what they do to entertain themselves.
When I have talked about it with people in the past most just wave it away as being part of the online gaming experience because you cannot really do anything about it. People will be dicks. But there is a big difference in tea bagging someone’s corpse and sending them a steady stream of hateful, racists, homophobic, sexist and abusive hate messages. One is very much part of the gaming culture at this point that it is has become a joke the other is bullying. Plain and simple bullying.
Well yesterday was…interesting… I spent most of the day fighting with the Wiki site for the Time Travel Game, in attempts to both add things to it and make it run smoothly. I got to the end of my tether with it and was about to declare the whole thing a giant failure when I came across a Google Group for EditThis.info. There had been no activity on the group for pretty much a year but I had no other option.
I asked about the issues I was having with the site and my wiki and within two hours it was magically fixed! So I am back in business with the Wiki now and you can head here to check it out.
So due to all this faffing around with it the past couple of days I haven’t added as much as I wanted to the wiki but I managed to get a bit up yesterday.
The wiki is now on version 1.10 as I start adding the content to key sections. The current plan is to sort of do it in the reverse order of what I usually do. I am getting all the other sections finished before tackling the Game Mechanics one. This is because the controls and in particular interface of the game are integral to how players use the majority of the game mechanics.
So yesterday I managed to get the Story Synopsis section done in a very loose and basic form with the plan to add to it as I go. The overall Game Objective and the Controls page which involved the creation of the following image and table:
Personally I think the Controls section of any form of Game Design Documentation is one of the most important sections. Many student GDDs I’ve read on the internet seemingly overlook it or put it in as an afterthought. While the section is relatively small and basic compared to others it has great importance because it is the tool/s for how your players will be interacting with the game. If you don’t think about it you are doing them a disservice. I always sit there with a controller or mess around with my keyboard and mouse when writing these sections. It is surprising how helpful it can be. You can test out the inputs and ergonomics of the controls you are developing.
Anyway that’s it for now, hopefully I can get back on track with it now that it is all working as it should be again.
It gives both the good points and some of the negatives but overall it shows how it can be used in the future to enable the players to buy and play the games they want to on their terms. The video also details the more traditional methods of funding for games for added clarity.
I didn’t get a lot of work done yesterday simply because it was my birthday and I really didn’t want to spend it all working away on my various game designs. So I gave myself a half day of working on the Superman: Man of Steel Prototype. I tried doing some stuff for the Wiki and attempt to optimise it a bit more but it is still throwing hissy fits so I needed a pick me up. (After I have written this I am in solid Time Travel mode for the rest of the day to make up for lost time!)
With the prototype I am nearing the finishing line. After yesterday afternoon I now have two things left to do before printing it all out:
- Make the Event Card deck
- Make the Map Tiles look better
My plan is to sit down and get them done on Sunday/Monday so once it is all done that is a major part of my Honours Project done and dusted. The rest should start falling into place from then on (hopefully!)
Anyway here’s what I got done yesterday:
The tokens will be used during events as objectives basically. You will have to save/help civilians and children, stop out of control cars, aid the cops in their work and find the hidden 5th Dimension Cubes. Which I have hilariously represented by a sphere! BWHAHAHA!!!!
The idea is that the tokens of people will be the non combat NPCs featured in the final game. There is also a system of gaining bonus XP/Power Points by helping and saving them. It plays on the inherent OSD of many gamers’ need to max out their XP bars and stats while keeping it inline with Superman doing what he does, saving people. All without forcing the player to do so. It is pure incentive. Players will be able to be two types of Superman, one that tries to save everyone or one that only deals with the big problems. With the defence for it being that this is a Superman who is still learning his trade so he cannot save everyone. It also avoids the forcing of saving civilians that has crippled many a previous Superman game in the past (Superman Returns: The Game being a prime example). The idea is that if a player fails at or avoids saving a civilian they will feel a pang of guilt and try better or will be galvanised into action the next time.
The cars and trucks are obviously going to be cars and trucks in the final game and behave as such. Working as enemies, obstacles and weapons. Enemies in the sense that they can kill unsuspecting civilians or the player. Obstacles in the player’s way as they race and leap around Metropolis and weapons with the player being able to use empty or abandoned vehicles as large melee weapons or large throwable objects. If the player wants to grab a vehicle that has occupants there will be an extended animation/lag to allow the people inside to exit the vehicle before Superman can use it. The trick is to do it in a light hearted way. Make it a funny moment for the player rather than a punishment. More, “Excuse me Ma’am I need to borrow you car.” Less, “YOU CANNOT KILL PEOLE YOU ARE SUPERMAN!”
The 5th Dimension Cubes will be one of the game’s collectables, hidden in the nooks and crannies of Metropolis. Why and what is the 5th dimension though? Well it is all to do with my favourite non-Lex Luthor Superman enemy (I use the term loosely!) Mr. Mxyzptlk.
Mr. Mxyzptlk is a being from the 5th Dimension who claims to be Superman’s biggest fan. People from the 5th Dimension can shape reality as they wish and Mr. Mxyzptlk likes to test his favourite hero in a variety of bizarre ways, giving up when Superman either overcomes the challenge or tricks him into saying his own name backwards (which forces him back into the 5th Dimension for seven days). Yes he is a bat shit crazy character but one that sums up the greatness of Superman as an IP. In Superman anything can happen no matter how crazy or stupid. All because of the long history of the character and the inherent fantastical nature of superhero stories.
In the game Mr. Mxyzptlk plays a pretty important role. Yes I am playing favourites but he is a great character that works so well in the realm of a video game. Seeing as this is very much an origin story game for Superman, Mr. Mxyzptlk’s storyline will be about establishing his relationship and obsession with Superman. Towards the start of the game an event will happen that sees the 5th Dimension seep into ours temporarily. A result of this will be Mr. Mxyzptlk escaping into our dimension along with all these cubes being scattered around the city. Players will be encouraged to find the cubes because after collecting certain amounts of them they will unlock the next part Mr. Mxyzptlk’s story and encounters. The encounters will see Mr. Mxyzptlk testing Superman’s abilities in a variety of comical and bizarre ways. So far so Riddler from Batman: Arkham City you might say, but the character fits that model nicely. Where it gets different from Batman and better is in the game’s New Game Plus mode.
At the end of the game Mr. Mxyzptlk will be very impressed with Superman and very much his biggest fan. This will give him the brilliant idea of wanting to play a more important role in the origin of our hero. So the last encounter with Mr. Mxyzptlk will end with him having this brilliant idea then disappearing into the time stream to the start of the Man of Steel New Game Plus mode. In New Game Plus the challenge won’t just be greater like it usually is. It will also be slightly different with Mr. Mxyzptlk reshaping it as he wishes. Sort of like the What If? Mode from the PSOne Spider-Man games. It also allows the game and players to experience and play with the crazy gold and silver age stories and ideas. You know things like Ant Head Superman:
Or anything involving Jimmy,
“My life is crazy,”
So the New Game Plus Mode should be a good fun extra experience for the players and keep them playing the game for a long time.
The other piece of prototype goodness I got finished yesterday was the power cards players will be using. For the prototype I am only giving players a limited number of abilities to keep it as complication free as possible. In the final game players will be able to spend the Power Points they get from earning XP upgrading and unlocking new powers via four skill trees. One for each type of power with a further division between two major trees and two minor trees.
Sensory abilities are aids to help the player get through the game. Super Hearing is used to help players find 5th Dimension Cubes by listening for their distinctive sound and alert them to possible dangers or events. X-Ray vision is used to find hidden objects, solve puzzles and help the Metropolis PD and civilians. This is a Minor Power Tree.
These are Superman’s inherent abilities and are mostly passive skills and buffs that the player can take advantage over. At higher levels they will allow the player to take more damage and recharge their energy at a faster rate. This is the Power Tree for the min/maxers out there it is also a Minor Power Tree.
These will be the powers that players use to get around Metropolis. From running at Super Speed to Leaping over tall buildings. The tree will expand into combat varieties or uses of these movement powers. Like running rings around your enemies to confuse them and that kind of stuff. This is a Major Power Tree.
This will be the tree most players will be interested in. All those meaty combat powers that Superman can use will be unlocked by putting points into this tree. Heat Vision, Freeze Breath, Super Punches and Combos are all here. This is a Major Power Tree.
That’s it for now. Now I’m off to kick my Time Travel Game up the arse!
That is correct! You’re eyes do not deceive you! You can grab the PlayStation®Suite SDK for free and start making games for the PS Vita and PlayStation Suite devices like Sony phones and tablets!
I’m gonna have a mess around with it over the weekend me thinks!
Link: Kickstarter – Grim Dawn
I don’t back many Kickstarter games for the simple fact that I don’t have the money to fund every game that is popping up on there every day.
But Grim Dawn is worth it because it is a new hack’n’slash Action RPG from a few of the people behind the modern classic Titan Quest. As a big fan of both TQ and ARPGs seeing this “spiritual successor” set in a victorian like world has me excited in that “Shut up and take my money!” kind of way.
Go check it out and back it if you wish!
The linked article is an interesting read over on Kotaku. It sums up a lot of the reasons why my choosing to start physical prototyping my game designs is a good idea;
The accessibility isn’t the point. The point is that this is lossless game design. There is no shark pit. When you buy a board game, what you take home and play is the original concept precisely as it was in the designer’s head. That’s the mecca for video games. For board games, it’s the norm.
Creating board/card games help me to try out my design ideas quickly and easily. While they can’t be used to test out all the mechanics of a game they can give you a damn good representation. Case and point being my Superman game. While it cannot give the player the full experience of beating up crooks and leaping over tall buildings it gives you a really good idea of how the average gameplay will flow and how the game systems like the energy and powers work and interact with the player.
I would recommend to anyone to try it out. You will learn more about your game designs in the process and how good they actually are.
If it ends up sucking all I have lost is some paper and printer ink. While ink for printers is extortionately priced the costs of producing a prototype are still relatively low compared to other methods. Also it isn’t hard to get people to test it when I mention to people that I am making a Superman tabletop game nine out of ten of them ask me if they can play it. Board games have an inherent novelty that people love. My mum may not understand how video games work but she can wrap her head around a board or card game easily. It gives me a much wider testing pool to refine the initial idea and design before moving it onto theoretical production.