That’s right I managed to achieve that most hallowed of final grades for my degree! Time to celebrate in the time honoured tradition of internet gifs:
That’s right I managed to achieve that most hallowed of final grades for my degree! Time to celebrate in the time honoured tradition of internet gifs:
Time Travel Game:
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.
Documentation: Franchise Development
This final document for the Franchise Development module was an interesting task. We had to work on it from the point of view that the first game in the franchise had been a success and now we were coming up with a plan to take the IP further and beyond.
Writing some sections was easy, areas like sequels were easy enough to come up with a basic roadmap to keep the franchise going. It was when I started to write the sections in what I term as Franchise Exploitation. With things like Player Incentives and Merchandising you can quickly end up hitting a massive grey area. I found myself questioning the implications of things like pre-order DLC and tied-in merchandising more than I had in the past. The DLC question is something that is growing as an issue in the games industry. At the start of the current console generation it was seen as a cool little additional extra to supplement your experience with a game. Now it is used in so many different ways to bring additional revenue to a publisher and as a wall to attempt to block out pirates. When designing a game or IP at this level you have to take it into account. If you choose to embrace DLC in a certain way you are sending a message to a large portion of gamers.
Other areas of concern was the plans for the expansion of the franchise. Before writing I was looking forward to writing those particular sections. During the writing though things changed. I laid out a basic plan for some sequels then a roadmap for spin-off games and finally plans for tie-in media. I then realised something, I had in the space of 2-3 days of writing diluted my franchise IP idea. With a mild panic I went through it again and tied things up a lot more and tried to make everything seem like it would stick to the core idea of the franchise. We have all seem franchise dilutement happen in game IPs and large media properties (Star Wars and Star Trek immediately spring to life) but to see it happen first hand showed how easily it can happen. This is with approaching things with the best of intentions too.
Documentation: IP Statement
The actual IP idea for this module came together fairly quickly. This is because the basics of it are something I had been sitting on for a long time, so all that was required was to make a few tweaks and changes to fit my target market and then I could just run with it. The sci-fi/fantasy mix has been done before but I think I managed to find a unique spin on things.
The other noticeable additions I made to the IP Statement was the focus on the customisation option available to the player. It is something I had touched upon in previous projects but I took the opportunity to expand and refine the idea of open customisation.
As a document it is not as robust as the market research but it was never meant to be as big as that particular document. This was the starting point for the idea of a franchise IP. The next part was to come up with a plan to expand and exploit the IP.
Documentation: Market Research
Extras: Top 40 New IPs
My game design work for my final year was divided into two distinct modules. My honours project which took up the bulk of the work and the Franchise Development module. Franchise Development was all about coming up with a new IP that would be a multi game franchise during the module we would be creating documentation to reflect the game in a few stages in its lifespan as a franchise. The first part being market research.
Being a fan of the research process I jumped on the opportunity of doing an in-depth report on the current market. So I set off on my research journey looking for as much data as possible to do with the most popular franchises in gaming, what games people like to play and the most popular new franchise.
Getting the data for the top selling franchises of all time was easy enough. That data is readily available in a basic form via Wikipedia and other sites. It gave me a great starting point but I needed more. It was then that I started looking or data about which of the new franchises created this generation were the most popular/sold the most units. Easy enough to get a hold of (you would think) but aside from a few very contradictory blog posts and flame wars on forums dotted around the internet there was nothing. So I did the only sane thing and compiled the data myself!
My Top 40 New IPs report became the back bone of my IP idea as I could see the gaps and emerging trends by spending a lot of time going through the raw data and analysing the finished result. The final results are referenced constantly in the Presentation and Documentation, I have also included a handy PDF of the finished results of my research and the methods used to obtain and compile the data in the extras.
The other key point of my research was derived from the above table a friend on the degree showed me. This is a table of franchise efficacy which is mixture of the popularity, engagement and retention a given game franchise has across multiple ages and gendres. I look at these results and mostly agreed with the total and male columns but I had a major issue looking at the Female column. I know many female gamers who are more comfortable with games in the total and male columns than the results for their gendre. I did a bit of digging and found as I had suspected that the data for the table was from questioning average American families, which is fair enough but the is one thing that a lot of average American families do not have: A Core Female Gamer.
This lead me to looking into and attempting to define what exactly the Core Female Gamer was and what games they would like to see more of. Part of this was compiling a survey that I made publicly available. From the results of the survey I started putting together my definitions of the Core Female Gamer. Once again just to cover my back, I am a guy, so I am no way near being an expert in this field but if you disagree with what I came up with please let me know.
This is the best research report I have produced to date and I am proud of it mainly because I had started doing something I hadn’t really done in the past, compiling my own data rather than regurgitating the findings of others. I recommend it to everyone because you learn so much in the process of putting it all together.
Research: NGP Research
This was my big final project for year 2. What is interesting about it is that it was about designing a game for the PlayStation Vita. Except at the time information about the Vita was still thin on the ground. It was still called the NGP (Next Generation Portable) at the time of the assignment! So that should hopefully give you an idea as to how much information I had at my fingertips. So if you are reading the research document you might notice a few points of incorrect information or omissions about the Vita’s functionality/specs.
It was a learning experience to design a game for a console that was a while away from release with only half of the specs and details of its functionality being available to the public. I really liked what I came up with for a few reasons:
The creation of the game’s main character, Alice Rhodes, was at the time both a self indulgent and rewarding exercise. I’m a bloke so I as far away from an expert on women and female characters as you can get but I found coming up with Alice a deeply personal experience. An experience which eventually lead me to looking into the Core Female Gamer market in my third year. I’ve included a blank version of the character questionnaire I made for fleshing out Alice in the extras. It is a mash up of a couple of different character questionnaires I have come across over the years and it is a very helpful tool. I say this because if you are ever coming up with a character and can only include/come up with the basic details of them then you know straight away wether they are a two dimensional character or a more well-rounded character.
I also enjoyed coming up with mechanics focused on the Vita’s various inputs. I think I did a good job of it with the information I had at the time and now that I am a Vita owner (FYI this assignment sold me on the idea of the console more than anything else) I have a load of ideas brewing in the back of my mind as to what you can do with the console. I feel that the TV show style structure with a bit more tweaking could really work for a portable device like the Vita because it clearly breaks up the gameplay into chunks that players can play in one go or protracted chunks.
From the GDD Checklist I made for the assignment I pretty much managed to hit everything I was aiming for all that is left to do is to add more detail to the document and add sections like detailed level concepts and layouts. With the layout of the document itself I think I managed to find a happy medium between the more detailed focused traditional GDD and the visual elements I started to develop with the School For Superheroes design.
One of my favourite assignments and top three designs!
Level Design Example: Level Design Document
The series of assignments was the culmination of my year’s worth of work learning how to use and make games in UDK. To begin with we had to come up with a basic level design using some of the concepts we had previously learnt. The next step was to implement it in UDK while added a few extra flourishes to show we had learnt further aspects of UDK outside of the tutorials we had been going through.
Learning the basics of UDK was an educational process that really added to my overall game design knowledge and skill base. Since finishing the second year I have occasionally been known to mess around with the odd SDK and game engine from time to time. I’m also planning on experimenting and learning the basics of a few more in the future. You can see my personal notes on learning and using the basics of UDK in the extras.
The level it self is nothing that will blow your socks off but it shows my knowledge of UDK from basic to intermediate skills, with the intermediate being implementation of custom particle effects and destructible objects with some Kismet thrown in there for good measure. I have also included my GreyBox which did actually start as a grey box style environment but quickly turned into testing space for the ideas and concepts being used in the final level implementation. The project schedule is also in the extras to give an idea of the time it took to put it all together (bare in mind I had about 4-5 other projects on the go hence why the deadlines are a lot longer then they usually would be).
Checklist: Game Design Checklist
Controls: Design the GDD – Controls
The World: Design the GDD – The World
These are the results of a series of assignments that where all about looking at specific areas of a GDD that the majority of people had been overlooking. This was done by looking at examples of existing GDDs for inspiration and then reverse designing a couple of games to make our versions of the given sections of a GDD for that game. It sounds like it could be a bit boring but it was actually really good fun.
The first was the GDD Checklist which is perhaps the most helpful thing I did all year. It involved adapting an already existing GDD checklist from Gamasutra (I have lost the link and cannot of find it, sorry!) to fit our design process and style then checking it off against our first game design of the year, for me it was my School for Superheroes design. It quickly became apparent that I had left a lot out. Since doing this assignment I have used a variation of the GDD checklist for every design I have done list. I adapt and change it for the specific design and the stage of development it is aiming for. It is something I can recommend to anyone. It doesn’t just show you what you need to do but it gives you a good roadmap for your designs.
The second was a look at the controls section and how much detail is needed for it. The game we had to reverse design for it was the classic version of Street Fighter 2. So yes this meant playing a lot of Street Fighter II! The controls section for beat’em’ups is one of the most important sections for that particular genre of games and it was fun to break that particular game down into its base parts. Since then I always make an effort to give my controls sections that added bit of detail to make them more robust.
The last one was a look at the world section of GDDs which are the break downs of levels/missions/areas/etc and how the players can overcome them. This involved picking apart a testchamber from Portal and rebuilding it in Google Sketch Up as an example of a basic level layout. I have not really had the need to call upon the things I learnt from this yet mainly because my designs have a tendency to be aimed more at the concept stage of production but I am planning and going through a couple of my more “complete” designs and adding world sections to them. At the end of the year as a wind-down assignment we had to turn the Portal testchamber level document into a UDK version of the level, which had interesting results…
Research: Level Design Research
Another short research assignment, this time about the fundamentals of level design. After finding a good starting point via a Gamasutra article I summarised the key points and added a few extra bits of detail. Not the best research document, in both form and content, I have ever done but it was still helpful.
Level Design is something I have looked into in the past and every time I look into it, it becomes clear that it is a complex science. One that very few people can ever truly master. It is also a science that I am planning on refining my knowledge of in future, mainly out of interest but also because it will be very beneficial to me in the future. If can hand a refined basic version of a level idea to a Level Designer it means they can then quickly run with it and make it awesome rather than wasting time correcting my mistakes and poor decisions due to a lack of knowledge of things like through lines and markers. It is very much in the vain of the idea of game designers having to be a jack of all trades to a certain extent.
There was also another reason for making us do this level design research though. The other half of the year’s worth of gaming related work was spent learning how to use UDK (Unreal Development Kit) and this gave us a good base to work from.
Research Document: Behavioural Game Design
Source Article: 5 Creepy Ways Video Games Are Trying To Get You Addicted
This assignment was a nice change of pace that caused me to reflect on many of the more questionable elements of game design. Starting with the linked Source Article from Cracked.com we had to explore the links presented in the article, then summarise them before drawing our own conclusions on these areas of game design.
I had a lot of fun putting it together and reading through the various articles and websites I ended up going to. This kind of research is interesting to do and it is something in general that I enjoy doing. It is not the way I put together or present my current research work but this was a good starting point. As a game designer I should always be researching something wether it is to do with games and game design or something else entirely. Currently it has fallen to the wayside a little bit but I have big plans to take my research work further in the future and share it all with you, naturally.