Year 3 Work – Honours Project

Documentation:

Time Travel Game:

Superman: Man of Steel:

Visual Design Document and Game Wiki Comparison

Extras: The Master Post

Pitch Presentation Video:

I toyed with presenting my Honours Project across several portfolio posts like the Franchise Development work……but…….My honours project is strongest when you can see it all in one go. It helps sell the idea behind it all to you. Here I have linked to all the documentation that was submitted for the honours project so get stuck in and tell me what you think. I have also put a link to the Master Post which also has links to all relevant blog posts regarding the honours project and it is well worth checking out.

Like any big undertaking the Honours Project had its highs and lows. There was a lot to do for it and in the end I think I managed to pull it off even when I had to cut a portion of the project’s content towards the end. Superman: Man of Steel is one of my most realised designs to date with the prototype playing a big role in that. It is a design I am going to go back to when I get the time and really flesh out. The Visual Game Design Document idea fits the design perfectly and I want to see how far I can push it.

The Time Travel game while a sound idea still needs a lot of work in my opinion. The focus for it was the use of the Wiki to document the design rather than the design itself but I wish looking back on it now that I had dedicated a bit more time to it.

Overall the it was one of the most rewarding pieces of work I have done simply because there is so much of it and I put a lot into it. The conclusion to in future mash the wiki documentation and visual document together could prove to be interesting too.

Honours Project Master Post

This is the Master Post for my Honours Project – DD3992 – For the Game Design Enterprise Course at the University of Central Lancashire

Production

Related Blog Posts: (Oldest to Newest)

Documentation

Time Travel Game:

Superman: Man of Steel:

Visual Design Document and Game Wiki Comparison 

Game Design Wiki and Visual Game Design Comparison

While the two design methods used in my honours project are vastly different and have their own major selling points and downsides. The conclusion I have come to is that both are good for the game designs being presented.

The Visual Document suits the Superman: Man of Steel idea perfectly and allowed me to showcase the design in a larger than life and colourful way. It allowed by its very nature the inclusion of all the image files used in the document that add to the overall look and feel for the game design. The document itself flows from one section to the other and presents things to the point and with the minimum of complication.

The Game Design Wiki suited the Time Travel game perfectly because it allowed me to take the time to explain the more complex ideas and concepts behind the game design. The document itself is presented in a way to easily explore and navigate.

The things is I can not actually come to a conclusion as to which method is better. I think in future, now that I have perfected the Visual Design method I will be able to generate contented for such documents at a much faster rate. As for the Game Design Wiki I am comfortable with editing and organising them now and the merits of presenting the design in an ordered maner make it stand out.

I think in future I would try to use an amalgam of both methods to present a perfect game design document. With the visual aspect covering the spine of the documentation and delivering the key information and the wiki giving you the finer details of the game design.

Visual Game Design Process

You can view the Superman: Man of Steel Visual Document by heading, HERE.

The process for creating the Visual Document for Superman: Man of Steel was a long and fraught process of trying and failing with multiple variations on the idea before coming to the final method used. But while difficult to pin down what was needed the process of creating the document has a few good points and of course some bad points too:

The Good:

  • The way everything is presented in the final document shows how strong visual presentation of a game design can be.
  • Everything featured in the document is presented in a very direct and easy to understand way
  • The format of the document also makes it fairly easy to navigate
  • I am personally very pleased with the finished results of the document

The Bad:

  • The learning curve and iteration process for the Visual Document was steep. Lots of testing was required before I was happy with the style and format I eventually went for. I had to go back to the drawing board a number of times too before coming up with the more long form but simpler presentation method used.
  • The time it takes to produce the document is lengthly to put it lightly. In the end I had to cut around a third of the planned content from the final document due to time constraints. Each page of the document has to be laid out and planned down to the smallest details while still making sure that it is factual, to the point and presenting the game design ideas.
  • To sum up the learning curve and time it took to generate the content for the document has somewhat outweighed the merits of the method

One major think that I have taken away from the project though is that is have improved my overall document formatting and presentation skills exponentially.

Looking into the theory behind the present information via presentation then adapting aspects of it to suit my final document has given me a much greater understanding of how documents should be laid out and presented.

In the end I am happy with the finished result despite the need to cut a lot of the planned content for it. The document speaks for itself and shows the game design in big, bold and bright way which is more than fitting for the subject matter for the game.

Game Design Wiki Process

You can view the Time Travel Game Wiki by heading, HERE.

The set up and process for using a wiki format in game design is fairly quick and simple. The the wiki method and the process of creating it has its many good points and bad points though:

The Good:

  • There is plenty of free wiki software and portals available such as EditThis.info (which I ended up using for this project) and Wikia among others
  • There is a full automatically generated log of new posts and changes that is updated every time you access the site so you can easily keep track of changes and edits. You can see the edits log for the Time Travel Game Wiki, HERE.
  • The learning curve is not to steep despite some large hurdles
  • Simple structure and emphasis on embedded links and material makes the design documentation easy to navigate and understand
  • Everyone knows how to read and navigate a wiki

The Bad:

  • If you are going for the default online hosting options that many wiki providers offer, you have no control on making it private. For this project it is a sort of bonus because it makes sharing and editing it on the go easy. 
  • In the industry private offline hosting would be the only option to guarantee privacy. While the option I went for, EditThis.info does allow for private wikis it is not a perfect solution because it requires having a tight control over pages created and edited for the wiki. You can set overall privacy controls for the Wiki but each page can be set to private and public as well. So you can see the hypothetical situation of a disgruntled employee flipping the public switch on pages that they are allowed to edit.
  • Not all wiki editors allow for settings to only allow specific users to add and edit the wiki (EditThis.info provides this option hence why it was chosen) most wiki editors and providers require you to make the Wiki you create public and editable by all
  • Learning material on editing certain formats of wiki is out of date. The help documentation for EditThis.info is really out of date, thankfully the help documentation for Wikipedia which uses the same system as EditThis.info is fairly up to date!
  • MAJOR ISSUE! Problems with Wiki host and site speed. Towards the end of the project the Game Design Wiki for the Time Travel Game slowed and filled with page timeout errors. This issue slowed down production to a very slow and painful grind. It meant that every edit/addition needed to be poured over before hitting submit and the average wait time was 3-8mins for pages and the editor to load. Eventually I managed to get in contact with the owner of EditThis.info and resolve the issue but it showed that wiki’s can be very temperamental. If I was to be unable to resolve the issue I would have been stuck in a very dead end.

One interesting aspect of the process behind putting the wiki together was that I found myself relying on a lot of external programs and software to create a lot of the content for the wiki itself.

Apart from the obvious sourcing of the various images in the wiki things like the tables and layouts had to be created outside of the wiki editor and then added in as image files. The problem with this is that the wiki has limited screen space and while you can technically have images of infinite size in the wiki is you pull them from elsewhere rather than uploading them to the wiki itself. The results can be less than appealing because it can break the overall formatting of the wiki. The work around is to have two versions of an image that needs to be seen in detail. A smaller one to call directly into the wiki and not break the formatting and the full size one as an external link. It is not the best solution but it seems it is the only option in this case.

So while it may seem like there are way more bad points to using a Game Design Wiki I feel that the good points more than make up for it. This is because the majority of the bad points are system and technical problems rather than functional problems. At the end of the day the wiki presents the design for the Time Travel game in a clear and consistant manner that is easy to navigate and get your head around. I think in future if using the wiki method again I would look into having my own private, off-line wiki so that it avoids the technical problems I encountered while creating the Time Travel Game Wiki.

Time Travel Game Update

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!

Time Travel Game Update

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.

Superman: Man of Steel Update

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:

  1. Make the Event Card deck
  2. 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:

Tokens!

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,”

Olsen!

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:

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.

Might:

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.

Movement:

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.

Combat:

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!

Time Travel Game and Project Superman Update!

Today has been a day of mixed progress on my various projects. Like I have said in previous posts I have spent the majority of the day focused on work for my business modules. Thankfully I have managed to squeeze some time in for work on both the Time Travel Game and Superman: Man of Steel.

Time Travel Game

I talked to my tutor about the problems I was having with getting the UDK prototype for the game working. After a brief chat I came away from it feeling better. It is not going to be heavily weighted compared to the rest of the project and is their mainly to show I can understand and attempt to turn the theoretical design of the game into some form of reality. Even if it is very rough and hardly working! So I am not as worried about it currently. The plan now is to spend some time over the weekend looking up how to solve the problems I am having with it and to really try and get it in a working state during next week.

On the Wiki side of things I have been having a few problems which are really not welcome at this point in the project. For some reason the Wiki is running incredibly slowly 99% of the time. At first I thought it was optimisation issues but it seems to be a problem across Edit.info wikis. It has slowed production on the Wiki to a crawl today which has been really disappointing. I did manage to eventually get all the pages for the Key Information section finished, edited and presentable though so there’s a good point!

I think from tomorrow onwards rather than writing things up directly onto the Wiki I will the written side of the content on Pages first and then copy it into the Wiki and format it in large chunks. It may even increase my productivity, you never know!

Still it is a tad annoying that this is happening right at the time that it will be seeing an increased amount of traffic as many people head there to mark and read it. I think I am going to have to put a disclaimer on my submission form to say people could be waiting 2-10 minutes for pages to load! The other option is to create a back up of the material featured in the Wiki in a program like Pages or Word. But that kind of defeats the point of having the Wiki in the first place!

Superman: Man of Steel

I have only managed to get a small amount of work done on the game today. While I haven’t had the chance to add anymore to the visual document I did manage to finish of the cards that will make up the player deck.


Along with getting all the character cards for the enemies featured in the prototype ready to be filled in:

I would say I am pretty much 3/4 of the way there with the prototype now which is amazing because I thought it was going to take a lot longer to produce. All I have left to do is the following:

  • Filling out the villain character cards
  • Make the power cards
  • Make the events deck
  • Make the tokens
  • Spruce up the map tiles

If I put my mind to it I am certain I can get all of that done in an afternoon. After that it is just a case of printing it all out and putting it together which shouldn’t take to long especially since I snagged a laminator for cheap at ASDA today. (It was £8!) So my aim is to get it all done and dusted by the end of Monday which will then give me the rest of the time I have left to finish off the Visual Design Document and get the Wiki for the Time Travel Game finished and hopefully running smoothly!

Also don’t think I have forgotten about the prototype for Hunters of the New Dawn! Even though it is now on a rather small scale compared to the Superman: Man of Steel one (my how the table have turned!) I am still working on it in the background with the plan to start actually making and putting it together next Wednesday.