Uni Projects Update!

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
  • Customisation
  • Loot!
  • 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.

Weekly Update

It has been a busy time on multiple fronts for me so here are the fruits of all my work! I still have a long way to go and very little time so the next two and a bit weeks are going to be rather hectic. You will also see that there is a lack of the regular Games I have been playing section this week because I have little to no time to play games at the moment.

Superman: Man of Steel

This project has received the most attention, particularly in the past week. As I have very much gone back to the drawing board with certain aspects of it. Currently it looks like I am back on track with this design and you can read all the details about the changes (including the new name!) and the re-focusing on the prototype as part of the overall design process to spur me on, here.

Time Travel Game

There have been no further updates to the game’s wiki since the last update because I have been trying my hardest to get the mechanics I want to show off working in UDK. It has been a time consuming one step forwards ten steps back process. Currently it is looking unlikely that I will be able to get it all working in the timeframe I have given for the prototype portion of the project. So it is very likely that I will be reverting to plan B which will be producing a video to show of key mechanics concepts. I’m going to hopefully produce the video through UDK but the past two weeks has worn me down a tad. If for whatever reason producing the video fails I have no idea what I am going to do. Which is a tad worrying.

While a prototype isn’t integral to the design documentation it is always good to have one. So for now I’m just going to put this on the back burner for a couple of days while I hit the other projects hard. Hopefully coming back to it over the weekend will recharge my time travel batteries. This potential downgrading of the Time Travel Game prototype will also hopefully be made up by the physical prototype for the Superman design taking a more central role because both games are part of the same project.

Hunters of the New Dawn

There is nothing new to really report on this project at the moment. It is slowly chugging along as I am refining the rules and gameplay for the prototype. This will be getting a lot more focus in the next week as I kick prototype production into high gear for all three projects!

Honours Project Documentation

The final key aspect of my honours project which the Time Travel Game and Superman: Man of Steel are for is some documentation about the different design processes for the ideas. This is likely going to take the form of three blog posts:

  1. Detailing the Wiki Design Production Method of the Time Travel Game
  2. Detailing the One Page/Visual Design Production Method of the Superman: Man of Steel
  3. Comparing and contrasting the two Design Production Methods with an added master list at the end of the post of relevant posts and links for both games made on this site. 

Project Superman And The Gaming Changing Prototype

This was originally meant to be a part of this week’s Weekly Update (which will now be coming to you later than planned!) but it has proven to be worth its own fully fledged post because it is so good. Please take the time to read it and tell me what you think!

The actual design documentation for this is still coming together very slowly which is really annoying because I have found renewed enthusiasm for the game in the past week or so.  So I’m going to tweak my design process for the game a little bit in order to try and speed up the process. This tweaking involves re-focusing how the documentation is done and for what purpose. This is stemming from a 4am half-asleep brainwave that I had on Monday night that actually made me get out of bed and spend half an hour writing out so I wouldn’t loose it when I woke up in the morning. Once I woke up the next day I looked through what I had written and after I managed to decipher the half-asleep scrawl I had a road map for Project Superman to get it to a point I will be happy with submitting in just over a month. It is all to do with the physical prototype for the game.

Physical prototyping had kind of been my thing this year. It stems from it being recommended to me by a few people and mainly because I have been reading the Game Design Workshop: A Playcentric Approach to Creating Innovative Games by Tracy Fullerton on and off for the past few months. Which Richard Lemarchand recommended during a panel at Eurogamer back in September. It is well worth checking out not just for the prototyping stuff, it is full of helpful exercises that help breakdown and show your ideas at their most basic level. So from reading the majority of Game Design Workshop and experimenting with and watching a lot of web presentations and recordings about prototyping it is slowly becoming my go to way of showing my ideas. Hunters of the New Dawn will be getting a physical prototype derived from Dungeons and Dragons as part of its submission and I have been wanting to do a smaller one for Project Superman. 

The 4am brainwave changed the small, it will only show combat, prototype into a near enough fully fleshed out tabletop game. It will be a lot of work but it will be worth it because I will be tying in its creation with the rest of the documentation for the game. Assets created for the prototype will be used in the one page designs and presentation for the overall game design. So I am sort of killing three birds with one very large and heavy stone. So what will the physical prototype for Project Superman entail? Well it all starts with a game called Zombies!!!

Zombies!!! is a game I play with my friends when they are all over and we have nothing else to do. Most people would break out the playing cards or Monopoly, I pull out Zombies!!! Before I go any further you can check out and buy Zombies!!! from here

The gameplay for Zombies!!! is very video game like. At the start of each turn you take a tile from the map tiles pile and add them to the growing map on the table. You also have a pool of health and bullets for the game’s simple combat. For the combat you roll a D6 a 4, 5, or 6 results in a hit a 1, 2 or 3 a miss. You can use bullets to add to your roll (e.g. turning a 3 into a 4) or using a piece of health to re-roll. Run out of health and you die and go back to the start, loosing half of your pool of dead zombies in the process. To win the game you either have to kill a pre-determined number of zombies (this can vary depending on how long you want to the game’s length to be) or you find and reach the helipad to be taken to safety. You also have a hand of cards that are used to help you and help/hinder your fellow players. The cards can give you temporary bonuses or special items which can be gain by going into specific buildings on the map tiles. They can also make the zombies more aggressive to certain players or force players to re-roll, miss a turn, etc. etc. It is a very simple but deep game which regular readers of this blog will know is one of my favourite types of game designs! Simple surface with a deep core!

The 4am brainwave for Project Superman resulted in an idea for a game that would play out in a similar way to Zombies!!! but crucially it would pick up on each major aspect of the gameplay for Project Superman. Project Superman will use the map tiles method to generate the play space with the exception being that you lay a new tile once you reach the edge of the on you are currently on. There will also be a separate deck that will be made up of event cards. Every time you lay a map tile you draw a card from the event deck. This is what will be happening on the tile you have just laid. These will vary from hidden items (causing the player to explore the new tile), random combat encounters (thugs, villains, etc.), saving innocents (because this is a Superman game after all) and super villain encounters (more complex combat/boss encounters). For the game’s combat you will just roll a dice (I’ve not decided on the number of sides yet) and success and failure will result in hitting the enemy or missing them. Each enemy will have a different set of hit points, most thugs and basic enemies will have 1 to 2 HP while super villains will have larger pools of 5 to 10. Finally you will be able to use Superman’s superpowers to perform each of these types of tasks. The different powers you use will also use up the game’s main resource, energy.

Everything in the game will be derived from the use of energy. Energy is basically my work around for Superman’s abilities. It stems from the idea that is used in many Superman comics and stories that he is powered by the energy from the sun and that his ability to harness this energy improves as he gets older. So it explains how he starts out running really fast and leaping over tall buildings to flying everywhere when he is hanging out with the Justice Lague. Project Superman focuses on the starting point of Superman’s career so players will have a limited pool of energy to draw from. This energy pool will be used for everything and will be constantly emptying and filling up during gameplay. It will be divided into two types yellow and red. Yellow is always used first and will be the game’s equivalent of being at full health and full MP. If you run out of yellow energy however you starting using energy in the red pool. Red energy is Superman’s reserve power. It is a smaller pool and it recharges slower than the yellow energy but the plus point is that each point of red energy is worth two yellow for the use of powers and abilities. If you run out of red energy Superman collapses on the floor and you are taken back to the last checkpoint. Also the more red energy you use the more tired and damaged Superman will look. Energy use will also be effected by the time of day so at night it recharges slower among other things. 

Power usage and energy consumption in the prototype will be shown by having two sets of cards one red, one yellow, spread out over the play mat (the prototype’s equivalent of the game’s HUD). Moving around the map tiles will result in Superman using his Super Speed, one yellow card per square moved (map tiles are 3×3 blocks of squares). Using your different abilities will result in a number of cards being used for example using your Super Strength to lift a large object will use two yellow energy cards while a blast with your heat vision will use three cards, etc. etc. At the start of each turn you will re-gain a set number of cards from the main deck. The main deck will be made up of 80% energy cards and the rest extra event and bonus cards that can be used during the game. Cards used go into a typical trading card game graveyard pile which is reshuffled and put back into use once you have depleted the main deck or due to effect of special event cards. The only exception is the red energy cards which are recharged at a rate of one per turn when they have been used. The game will be about having fun while keeping an eye on your energy levels to bring in a basic element of resource management into the game. There will also be a level of randomness to the game through the use of the map tiles and event cards.

The overall idea is that it should give a snapshot of the overall game experience. To make the prototype I have bought a set of Zombies!!! 6.66: Fill in the ……..!!! which is a blank set of cards and tiles that players of Zombies!!! can use to make their own cards and maps. I will be modifying these to make the cards and tiles for Project Superman I might have to buy another set of zombies 6.66 to make up all the cards I need but we will see. The other thing I am doing is using the Superman set of HeroClix Figures for the player character and the enemies they will encounter. I have bought a starter set, a second hand bundle of figures, a few specific figures I want and a couple of booster packs. Which should be more than enough. Any figures that I still need such as random thugs and bystanders will be tokens that I will be making during the production process for the prototype.

As you can see the prototype has a lot of stuff in it which is why I am tying its production to the final documentation of the game wherever possible to save time, energy and resources. Hopefully it will result in an awesome final product that will show that the Superman IP can work as a video game and that I am a kick arse game designer! 😀

The final thing about Project Superman is that with this prototype I cannot keep calling the game Project Superman because the idea is that the prototype will give you as close of a representation of the final game as possible. So I have finally decided on a name that will reflect the game:

Superman: Man of Steel

It uses a well known title for the character that was actually one of the longer running comics at one point. It reflects the power and nature of the game and character while keeping it grounded. He is a man of steel not a god. Steel can be broken if you push it far enough. Also it kind of riffs of the Batman: Arkham Asylum/City titles with the use of a known comic series or concept form the comics. It also happens to be the title for the latest big budget Hollywood adaptation of the property. So it can either be used to ride on the possible success of the new film or as an argument for, “This is how it should have been done!” in the film is a flop! Obviously because of the new film the title might have to change but I am happy with it for now.

I know it will be hard to believe but 80% of the prototype stuff came from the 4am brainwave. I am really excited for the game now as I have essentially cracked the problems I was having with the game design and what I think are the problems that people have with Superman games. So I am once again very excited about Project Superman, oops! I mean: Superman: Man of Steel!

Oh one last thing!

I will be publishing all the card sets and rules for the physical prototype once I have got my final grade for my degree. So you have that to look forward to!

Weekly Update

It has been a very productive week for me even with the ever present distraction that is Mass Effect 3. I’ve managed to make some headway on all three projects so things are starting to look up! (Yay for me!). It have been a week of game mechanics and prototype planning and it has got me back into the groove of game designing. (Double yay for me!)

Project Superman:

The past three or so weeks of working on Project Superman can be summed up as, “OH MY GOD WHY DID I CHOOSE TO DO THIS?!” then proceeding to do little to no work on it. This week however I sat down and went through everything I have and have done for the design and remembered that it is actually a damn good idea!

So in an effort the get back on track I have started organising my game mechanics in various categories and fleshing them out in my note book ready to begin visually representing them via one page designs. I have also made a lot of progress in the most tedious part of the design, the character boards. While they look fairly simple it is taking a surprising amount of time to get the right images together and on the page. I’m just thankful that there is so much imagery out there for me to use to help get my ideas across. So I’ve managed to get the boards for, Clark Kent, Lex Luthor and Jimmy Olsen done and dusted this week. 


While tedious, doing the character boards has also lead to some good gameplay ideas being derived from the characters. I think I have cracked what I am going to do with the Clark Kent gameplay and I’ve come up with more things to show Lex Luthor as the bad ass I know he can be. As for Jimmy Olsen…..well I have big plans for Jimmy and they are going to be awesome!

Time Travel Game:

I haven’t made any additions to the Wiki this week because I am still slightly ahead of schedule on it, so I took this week as an opportunity to start trying to figure out how to get my gameplay prototype up and running in UDK. I’m using the ‘Bill and Bob’ tutorials by the Underground Game Design Course on YouTube (the playlist of which can be found here) as a starting point. This is because the switching mechanic in the Bill and Bob tutorials is similar to what I will be doing and it is a far easier way of tackling the problem than making the game physically rewind itself. So while it is not a perfect solution to showing off the game mechanics it is fine for this proof of concept prototype. The only problem is getting it to work as I want and need it to. If I can’t get it working in a reasonable amount of time I am going to have to resort to showing the mechanics off via a video. Which is the easy option at this point. While it is not what I wanted it will make a good Plan B incase I cannot get the mechanics to work in the prototype.

Hunters of the New Dawn:

This week for Hunters of the New Dawn I have mainly been thinking about how the physical prototype will work. This has involved writing out the mechanics and gameplay elements I want to show through the physical prototype and thinking about stats. A few weeks ago I talked about the class set up and focuses (go here for a read!) this week I have been looking at those stat focusses and working out how they will effect damage output, defence and health. I’m trying to keep the number of stat types to a minimum because while I am a fan of multiple stats they can be incredibly overwhelming to people starting an RPG. Also I am using a whole simple surface level/complex optional depth idea for all of Hunter’s game systems. So I am applying the K.I.S.S. method to the games stats then having things like weapon and skill modifications being the complex layer for the stat effects. I’m trying to keep it down to three at the moment but that might grow to four depending on what happens in the next week or so. I am setting my limit at five though because any higher an I have failed in my design goals for the game. 

Games I have been playing:

At this point I would go into detail on how much I am enjoying Mass Effect 3 but I have nearly finished the game I’m planning on doing a full write up once I have reached the end of the credits. I am also planning on doing another write up on thegamecompany’s latest game, Journey which is just one of the best games I have played in the past few months and possibly the best PSN game I have ever downloaded.

So expect to see my thoughts on them soon!

Infrequent Update

I’ve fallen behind on the Weekly Update Schedule for the past couple of weeks because I have been crazy busy. Busy with work for business modules, a deadline for one of my game design modules and playing Mass Effect 3! I’m still a bit behind so this will be a short update.

The past two weeks have been spent working on a few things for business that I won’t detail here but just know they are time consuming! The other thing I have been working on is the Franchise Development document for Hunters of the New Dawn that I have polished off and handed in today.

At this point I would throw up a link to the final document but I am currently looking for a new secure work holding solution due to iWork.com planning to close down this year. So the sooner I switch the better! So I will link to it in due course once I have found a good alternative. 

The document itself was interesting to write. It made me feel a bit evil looking through and writing out plans to get gamers to continually hand over money for products related to the IP. While the reasons behind the practise are sound the morals of some of it can be sketchy at best. Still it was fun to come up with all these plans, product lines, spin-offs and tie-ins. It is something I will be considering with 90% of the games I design from now on by asking three simple questions:

  1. How can we take the game/IP further? 
  2. What are the opportunities for expansion beyond sequels?
  3. How will people respond to it and does it fit with your target market?

If anything it will work to making my game designs more focused because there is always the temptation to throw any and all of your ideas into a project rather than tailoring your ideas for the specific game being designed. By expanding the horizons for an IP a bit you can really work on what is at the core of your idea. For Hunters the setting of the game and potential stories that could be developed became a strong focus alongside the gameplay. It was a very worthwhile exercise I say.

The next step for Hunters of the New Dawn is getting the table top prototype sorted and to begin testing it heavily in the run up to the final submission. For Project Superman and the Time Travel game I am now officially entering a self imposed crunch on those to get them back on track from this coming Monday. It will cut into my Mass Effect 3 playtime (/sadface) but it needs to be done! So I am expecting to be a gibbering wreck in a week or two. It should be interesting for the people around me to watch at least…..

Weekly Update

Big changes were on the cards this week for a lot of things but despite some big distractions I’ve managed to get a fair bit done. 

Oh and there hasn’t been any Dungeons and Dragons post for the past two weeks because one week the game was cancelled due to a couple of the players not being able to come and in the week just gone there wasn’t enough to warrant a full post. This week though the Learning to Dungeon Master posts will return with a larger post to kickstart things again!

Project Superman:

After spending an afternoon putting together another character sheet I came to the conclusion that the current methods I am using to put the design together are just taking to long for the time I have. The One Page Design method has its good points such as simplified presentation, only showing key information and it is usually aesthetically pleasing, etc. But it takes up a lot of time to get stuff right and looking good. The method hinges so much on visual presentation of the information to the point where it could be detrimental to the ideas being conveyed. 

So after some thinking I have decided to go back to the drawing board a bit with how I am tackling the project. I am still planning to use the method but only for the main aspects of the game (I have mentioned this previously as a plan B). But instead of just putting the rest of the documentation in a traditional game design document I am going to take the basic ideas behind one page design and try and take them into a large presentation document for the rest of the game design. 

The information will be presented in an easy to understand way with the slides of the presentation showing the key information with the presenter notes giving any additional and further reading where necessary. There will still be the larger poster sized one page designs though for things like the characters (since I have already done a fair few of these), combat, game mechanics, the city of Metropolis and a few others. They should hopefully work alongside the presentation document. That’s the plan anyway!

I spent most of the weekend coming up with this new plan and all I need to do now is get my tutor to sign off on it. It should be all ok because the work is still going to be there but just presented in a different way. It also stays with the basic idea behind the project of presenting game design documentation in two different ways with the Time Travel Game

Time Travel Game:

The main reason I decided to change around the Superman design was because I made a lot of progress with the Time Travel Game Wiki. It is really starting to come together quickly and the wiki format fits game design surprisingly well. I got most of what I planned to accomplish this week done with the only left over Key Information sections being Market Consideration, Platform and expanding the Gameplay Elements and Features. The rest was done in two sittings over two afternoons. One for just getting it all down and in the wiki, the second for editing, formatting, checking and additions.

The left over sections are unfinished because I looked at them and realised I hadn’t chosen a platform for the game yet. I could have just gone for the usual multi-platform choice and carried on but the I started thinking about how the game would work on different platforms like my shiny new Vita or focusing on a specific platform like PC gaming. So I decided to take the decision to a Facebook poll.

The typical multi-platform choice won out in the end but it was worth doing I think because it took the choice out of my hands. So now I am having to adapt the idea to work across a number of platforms which should be interesting because my usual designs tend to focus on one specific platform or type of platform like home consoles. PC gaming is now part of the equation which is something I haven’t really designed for up till now.

Hunters of the New Dawn:

This was the project that took a back seat this week as I started jotting out a plan for the next piece of documentation for the module the game is for. I also came up with a couple more ideas for the table top prototype for the game. (More on this in the next week or so!) That’s it really for Hunters for this week but the next week or two should see a lot more being done for it.

Game I have been playing:

This week I got my hands on a PlayStation Vita and I haven’t touched another console since! I’m very impressed with the final product and while there are a few teething issues, particularly with the initial setup procedure, the overall experience out weighs the bad points. I got Uncharted: Golden Abyss with the console and grabbed Escape Plan as part of my pre-order pack along with Frobisher Says. I then got Wipeout for free for topping up my 3G Vita with £5 credit which an’t bad and MotorStorm RC because it was less than a fiver and reminds me of Micromachines! The initial costs of owning a Vita are pretty high at the moment with the price of the console being high and required “extras” like memory cards being needed for the console to work. Still I’m happy with my purchase and providing that Sony can keep support for the console going it should get a steady stream of games coming out for it. The console offers so much game design potential from the variety of user input methods alone. He’s hoping that game developers take advantage of what the console has to offer. Now if you will excuse me I have to guide Lil and Larg through the puzzles of Escape Plan!

Weekly Update

This week has been a mixture of high productivity and extreme procrastination as I have had to meet a couple of deadlines. One for one of my Uni projects others for secret things that I am working on, that I can’t tell you about because they’re secret!

To keep the initial post length down I’m putting the Hunter of the New Dawn update and Games I have been playing sections after the jump. Please check out the Hunters section because it what I have worked on the most in the past week!

Langstroth Game Design:

As you can see I have changed things up a bit around here. The website has a new and better look which is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. The new layout should be a bit easier on the eyes with all the key info you need readily available. It also looks pretty slick I think.

You may have also noticed that there are more posts popping up relating to wider game design ideas and theory beyond the stuff I make and post about already. Future posts like this will mainly be in the form links to news articles, blog posts, videos, other people’s ideas and whole websites centred around game design. I am doing this for two reasons. The first is so I can easily re-find and go back to game design related web content I find interesting by just going through this site’s archive. The second is because I have had a surprisingly good response to what I have been doing with this site recently and this is a way of taking the site further to bigger and better heights. 

Project Superman:

The alternating of working on this and the time travel game continues this week as Project Superman takes a back seat. The work I have done on this is fairly minimal, just getting things ready to turn into the various boards. In the coming two weeks I am planning to make major headway in this design because I really need to just to keep on top of things!

Time Travel Game:

I spent a lot of time yesterday reformatting various sections of the wiki to make them easier to navigate. I also added a bit more content to the Time Travel explanation page. Which I should get finished, proof-read and locked off later today or tomorrow afternoon. The plan for the rest of this week it to get all the key information pages finished and to begin work on the main event, Key Sections, and in particular the game mechanics. Then once that’s done everything else should start falling into place.

Hunter of the New Dawn and Game I have been playing after the jump.

Hunters of the New Dawn:

Most of my time this week was taken up with finishing the IP Statement for Hunters of the New Dawn which the above image is showing off. The final document can be found by heading here. It is also worth your time to check out the preceding Market Research Document to get the context for how the idea behind the design came about.

As ever with any documents I share, if you want permission to download or reproduce it please let me know and I will give you the relevant permissions.

Completing the document has given me a very clear picture of how Hunters will work as a game and I now have a good plan of where to go with the idea which is all good. It all fits together well and the idea of simple surface level of gameplay with deeper core gameplay hidden underneath works well as one the underlying ideas behind the game. It should also work to achieve maximum appeal for the game and IP as a whole. I also decided to include and expand upon the idea of free form character customisation that I came up with for a project last year.

The basic idea behind it is that customisation is staggered and has various levels of depth to it. Initially you have almost free-reign to make the character look and play how you want. Then in the opening sections of the game you are free to change the genetic and cosmetic features of your character as and when you wish with only things like class choice being locked in place. Then once you have finished the starting area/tutorial the genetic customisation features are locked off as your character’s physical look is set in stone. This leaves you with the cosmetic features of your character being free to change as and when you wish.

Cosmetic features include:

  • Facial and body accessories (tattoos, piercings, etc.)
  • Hair style and colour
  • Clothes editing
  • Accessories
  • And more!

This type of customisation should serve as a work around to the problem I have with many games that offer character customisation, your character not fitting in with the game world. It is very easy in many character editors to make a character that looks great during the initial creation but when you start the game you realise that they just do not fit in with the NPCs of the game world or are out of proportion (for example, having a head that is too small). The only solution to this problem is to restart the game which completely breaks the flow which is so crucial to the opening sections of a game. Some games offer you a re-edit chance at the end of the tutorial but there is not really an option to road test your creation in the game world.

As the genetic customisation options are locked off you are left with the cosmetic features being free to change for the rest of the game. This is because people change their clothes, “look”, hair style and more on a regular basis and it is something that should be represented during the length of a game. Particularly if the game is set over multiple years like Dragon Age 2.

Dragon Age 2 does indeed have a re-edit option built into the game but it is in there as almost an afterthought. It is part of the Black Emporium/Project $10 content for the game. Which is badly implemented into the game and many players who buy the game second hand can only access it by paying extra for it and at an extortionate price too. The results are that many people’s Hawke ends up looking the same throughout the whole game which is set over multiple years. With only the equipment they are using changing.

Giving the player more choice and chance to make the main character their own can only serve to immerse them further in the game. It also paves the way for alternate revenue streams for the game in the form of DLC customisation packs which would negate the need for things like online passes and content systems like Project $10. Optional items and character flourishes as paid content work well for many Facebook and Free 2 Play games so why not try to make it work for a core console experience?

So all that is in the IP Statement for the game because it is one of the key features that would be used across multiple titles. With the idea that your paid customisation options are carried over into sequels (think of it as clothes instead of tracks for Guitar Hero/Rock Band). The IP Statement also covering topics such as the setting for the game. How combat will work and the basic structure for the environments and game as a whole. 

Games I have been playing:

After finishing the IP Statement for Hunter of the New Dawn I was feeling a little burnt out so I spent the next couple of days doing little bits of work but mainly playing games. During this time I managed to complete not one, but two games!

First I completed my playthrough of the sublime Metal Gear Solid. Which is a lot harder to complete than back in the day. It can be so unforgiving at times but it works because when you overcome the game’s tougher challenges you get a great sense of accomplishment. I would recommend that anyone with an interest in game design plays the original Metal Gear Solid. Just to see how much things have changed in the relatively short time since it came out. I have since moved onto MGS2 in the HD collection and just gotten to the opening of the main Big Shell mission for the game with Raiden, the Metal Gear character that everyone loves to hate!

Playing the Mass Effect 3 Demo (more on this in a bit) got me off my lazy gaming ass and made me finally finish my Insanity playthrough of Mass Effect 2. It was tough, tense and as ever fun to run through the Suicide Mission again, especially with the higher difficulty. During the playthrough I managed to make near enough all the same choices I made the first time around and managed to have everyone survive at the end. So I am now totally ready for Mass Effect 3 next month with a great save file that should give me a few bonuses when starting the game.

I have also been messing around with the ME3 demo. I have only run-through the single player part once and enjoyed it. The changes and additions work and while the game looked a bit rough around the edges I’m putting it down to it being the demo and not indicative of the final game. The multiplayer though has been a big surprise. Initially I was optimistic about the addition of multiplayer to Mass Effect, unlike the rest of the world that seemed to scream, “THE HORROR! THE HORROR!!!!!” at the mere mention of if. I am happy to say that my optimism has been rewarded because the multiplayer is good. I am surprised though that it is really good! It is much more than your standard horde mode. Mainly due to the progression systems built into the experience. There is loads to do and unlock from individual characters to bonuses, weapons and weapon mods. It has legs as a game mode that will work alongside and complement the main, single player experience. Download the demo and check it out, you won’t be disappointed.

Weekly Update

This week has been fairly busy and productive for a change, so yay for me! Also I am putting the Games I have been playing section behind a read more jump for this week because it is fairly lengthy but worth a read if you are interested in the original Metal Gear Solid and how games design has changed since it came out.

Project Superman:

Progress on the Superman game is still slow despite taking the approach of just getting stuff up on the various one page posters and worrying about refinement later. I’m currently putting together character boards like the above Lois Lane one which I will then stitch together to form a larger character poster. These mood board should hopefully set the tone for the characters and the game itself. Also even though I have included some images from the various Superman films and TV Shows as a point of reference I’m trying go for a more comic inspired look to the game. This is turning up a few interesting character points. One thing I noticed from spending a couple of hours sifting through various images of Lois Lane is that artists and actresses/directors like to have her chewing on the end of a pen or pencil a lot. It is an interesting little character detail that comes with all sorts of connotation which I have never picked up on during my many years of reading Superman comics!

The aim for the coming week is to finish the main batch of character boards then to start work on the combat boards so I will start getting the major game mechanics laid out. From there I will decide wether or not the project needs to be scaled back any further so that I can hit the deadline. I think as long as I have the characters of both friend and foe variety, major mechanics, the combat, a basic story and metropolis sorted then the rest, if needs be, can be detailed in documentation. 

Time Travel Game:

This design has taken a back seat this week as I have been concentrating on Project Superman. But I have managed to find the time to sketch out some mechanics ideas in my notebook which I will be adding to the Wiki in full detail soon. I’m finding it odd that I am finding this game the easiest to design currently. Ideas are flowing fairly freely and it is starting to come together fairly quickly. The only time consuming aspect is getting all my notes, ideas and research up on the Wiki. You would think that dealing with the complexities of time travel would be a major headache, and to be fair at first they were, but now that I have got the ground work for the set of rules I will be using I am quickly generating ideas and mechanics for the game. Some good game mechanics too I think!

Hunters of the New Dawn:

Apart from working on my IP Statement which is due in on Wednesday, (I still have so much to do for it!) which I will show off once it has been handed in. I have started thinking about how my tabletop prototype of the game will work. Taking the basis of KISS (keep it simple stupid) for the RPG elements I am thinking of the game only having three main stats; Strength, Dexterity and Will/Intelligence/Spirit (whatever you want to call the magic stat). With all the other stats deriding from these three main stats. D&D does this with its modifiers system so I have been looking at that and seeing how it could work with Hunters. 

Each class would naturally concentrate on one of the stats over the others and use its main stat to work out its damage output. Currently this is what I have come up with also bare in mind that I’m still thinking of class names:

Fighter/Warrior:

  • Main Stat: Strength
  • Secondary: Dexterity
  • Weakness: Magic

Thief/Duelist:

  • Main Stat: Dexterity
  • Secondary: Magic
  • Weakness: Strength

Mage/Tech Wizard:

  • Main Stat: Magic
  • Secondary: Strength
  • Weakness: Dexterity

That should give things a fairly even spread in combat when you take into account things like defence and health are derived from the Strength stat. Also making Strength the magic class’s secondary skill will allow for them to take a bit more punishment that they are traditionally allowed in RPGs. 

I have also been thinking of how the combat will work for the prototype. I want it to be fast so the prototype can be run quickly and with as little fuss as possible. I am currently toying with a beat of three system similar to the one used in Phantasy Star Online. So each weapon/ability/spell would have a beat that the player would have to perform in rhythm to pull off successful combos. It also means you can keep combat simple in the final game with a button for each type of attack (Melee, Ranged, Magic) then the complexity comes from keeping up the rhythm and using the different types of attack together. In the end the combat should be a healthy mix of Phantasy Star Online and Fable’s. For the prototype this will be represented by the player rolling three dice in quick succession. 

Go beyond the jump for my thoughts on Metal Gear Solid for the PSone.

Games I have been playing:

After receiving the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection last week I mentioned that I was planning to playthrough them all in order starting with the PSone classic, Metal Gear Solid. While I would prefer the Twin Snakes remake that came out on the Gamecube which brought a host of new and updated features along with re-recorded dialogue and up to date graphics. Sadly that was a joint venture between Silicon Knights, Nintendo and Konami so the chances of it ever being updated and re-released on any console apart from a Nintendo one are super slim. Anyway, I was happy to find I had £15 in my Playstation Network Wallet so I took the plunge and bought the digital version of Metal Gear Solid.

I haven’t played this version of the game since my original copy of it snapped in two inside my PSone, disk one I think it was (it broke from over use and my first PSone having a tendency to break disks towards the end of its life). So it has been an odd experience to go back to it after all this time, probably over ten years! Boy do they not make games like they used to! Which is both a good and a bad thing. So let’s start with the good reasons why they don’t make games like the original MGS then move onto the bad!

The Good:

  • I decided to go through the optional briefing before starting the game so altogether along with the opening movie when you load up the game and the opening cutscene itself it took me well over 45mins to actually gain control of Snake. I think there is a sweet spot for how long you can make a player wait until you let them do something. Usually 10mins max. MGS breaks this rule completely even without me doing the optional stuff beforehand! Breaking up the opening a bit would have worked better. Intercut the SDV with the full briefing while letting the player control it, avoiding all the underwater mines and laser beams. Then have a big exposition dump if needs be once Snake gets to the opening warehouse. Still it was a different time and all that.
  • There is a lot of waffle…..A LOT OF WAFFLE. MGS as a series is known for this (as I went into detail on last week) but there is so much unnecessary dialogue and exposition in MGS 1 it is crazy! So many needless lines, re-treading of story points and information it is can get annoying. Say what you will about the more recent MGS games but they don’t have you experience the same conversation told in different ways five times in a row.
  • Controls have come a long way. The controls in MGS are fiddly at best and frustrating at worst. I have been spoilt with modern control schemes and pressure sensitive buttons. The number of times I have accidentally grabbed a guard and flung him over my shoulder instead of choking him is beyond count. (You have to get in exactly the right position to do it.) Also I keep finding my thumb naturally moving to the left thumbstick for movement control, usually in times of panic during combat or when an alert goes off, and being very confused when Snake just stands there being shot at. Finally don’t get me started on the aiming and shooting which is a minefield of twitching and pure luck at times!

The Bad:

  • There is a huge amount of extra material on the “disks” for Metal Gear Solid. You have the optional briefing that gives the game more context and background. Summaries of the previous 2D Metal Gear games and when you reload your save file you get a nice little summary of what has happened and where you need to go next. You also get the VR Training Mode which if released today would come under DLC that would be released in packs over several months. Ten missions for a fiver and all that. None of this stuff is mandatory it is just there as added extras. They add an extra level of depth to the game. The VR Training is there to show what they are on about in the main game when they talk about how the soldiers are trained and conditioned. The briefing gives you a better idea of the kind of man Snake is and who his support team are. The summaries of the previous games fill in the backstory if you want to read them, giving the finer points of the story more impact. It is something a lot of games could benefit from.
  • You are encouraged to take your time. MGS 4 is a fairly comprehensive game and the stealth elements are more advanced in what is on offer over the original. But you are constantly moving forward. Always heading into new areas. The enemies are constantly getting harder and bigger. In the first game the enemies remain near enough constant throughout the whole experience and their patrol routes are long and slow (like real patrol routes!). You also have to go back on yourself quite a few times either intentionally or to head into previously locked optional rooms and areas. You are rewarded for going back to earlier points in the game to see what else you can uncover and do. Which is something rarely done in modern games. The last one I can think of that did it well was Shadow Complex for Xbox Live Arcade. 
  • Story constantly happens. Even when you are exploring optional areas you know you will find something helpful for the immediate or long term problems you are facing. Even though there is no strict deadline, only the time limit imposed by the story that only counts down at specific plot points. Everything is pretty much happening for a reason. Plot points are dangled in front of you then pulled away for exploitation later in the game. Your original mission gets expanded as you hit each objective. It is one long mission rather than several smaller ones. You can take the time to get to know your support team via the Codec conversations. Learn their backstories and motives. If you have no idea what I’m talking about look at it this way, the story is broken up into these three categories:
  1. The immediate: What Snake needs to do in the here and now, sneak past a guard, have a shoot out, use an item, etc. This is a very basic form of emergent gameplay that is used in almost all game, as it is your successes and failures that define the “story” of what is happening.
  2. The room: Each area is divided up into rooms of the Shadow Moses complex. Each has it’s own look and feel, a set number of guards and items to find and come back to get later. You have the immediate short term goals of “beating” the room then the longer term ones of how it is used in the story and if you need to come back to it at any point.
  3. The long term: the over-arching story for the game, broken up into distinct acts. The immediate and the rooms add to this to give it more depth. At it’s core you move the story along rather than the story happening around you which is a popular approach taken by modern games (mainly of the FPS and action variety). Finding a specific weapon or item allows you to advance the plot or finishing a certain area will give you the next major bit of story.

I still have to finish the game but these are a few things that have stood out during the time I have currently spent playing through it. So while it is a bit clunky, crummy looking by today’s standards (like most PSone era games) and archaic in it’s sensibilities it is still a damn fine game worth picking up again or trying out if you have never played it before.

Weekly Update

The past week has been surprisingly productive! Some projects more than others but that can all be addressed in the coming week.

Project Superman:

Project Superman has been my least worked on design for this week. I have just been finishing off the title cards for the various one-page designs. The coming week will be filled with stuff to do for this project because I am starting to fall behind on it.

Time Travel Game:

I have made the most progress on this game by far. I have got the wiki up and running properly now (head to: http://editthis.info/time_travel_game/Main_Page to check it out). All the relevant sections are there and I have started filling some of them out. All the others just have the basic details of what will end up on there in the coming weeks. So while it may not look like a lot just know that it took aaaaaages!

Wiki editing while starting out with a bit of a learning curve has quickly become second nature as I speedily add, change and mass edit the whole site. I have also found a way around the image size issue that plagues many wikis. I am hosting the images externally via my public dropbox folder and then embedding them within pages. This overwrites the image size rules for the wiki and allows me to show things in the sizes I wish. While using Dropbox isn’t the perfect solution in the long term, for now and for this project it should be ok. I will just have to clean up and delete a lot of things I have on my whole Dropbox account as I approach my storage limit. 

Hunters of The New Dawn:

Apart from adding more things to my IP Statement documentation I have been planning ahead a bit with the prototype I will be building for the game. I have found my old Warhammer kit so I have a huge pool of paints and older miniatures from both the Warhammer and 40K games to use in my prototype. Many of these need repainting and I am still missing a few key figures to add extra flavour to the prototype. The ones I currently have and a few others I have purchased in the past week should do the job but if I see any more futuristic fantasy style model kits or figures I will grab them. So after a morning of gassing myself due to base coating all the models with spray-paint I am now ready to start painting them! I’m going to be doing it at a per model basis rather than batch painting, mainly because batch painting takes a lot of time and effort to keep track of. Also while painted miniatures look great they are not a necessity for the prototype to be a success. It is very much an extra thing I am doing outside the time I am allotting for this project.

Games I Have Been Playing:

This week I haven’t really had the time to play much. The only game I got any real hands on time with was Metal Gear Solid 2 from my fancy Metal Gear Solid HD Collection for PS3 (because Metal Gear on the Xbox is just weird!). While the controls take a bit of getting used to after all this time (they are very fiddly!) the game still holds up very well against modern games. I only played for an hour or so because I’m planning on doing an epic series of playthroughs of all the Metal Gear Solid games soon. Starting with MGS1 for the PSOne (sadly I no longer have a Wii or Gamecube to play The Twin Snakes version of the game) from the Playstation Network. Then working my way through 2, 3, then Peace Walker (which I have never played!) and finally MGS4 for the PS3.

I am a big, big, BIG fan of the Metal Gear games. I love the gameplay, the crazy and overly complex plot, cheesy stock characters and lengthy cut-scenes. In other games lengthy cinematics put me off but in Metal Gear I am oddly fine with them. Mainly because I, like everyone else, associate MGS with really long cutscenes, so my brain goes into the game expecting not playing for up to half an hour at a time. It is an interesting aspect of the game and is the main reason MGS as a franchise is a love it or hate it type deal for many.