PHASEgaming

Jason Pook's Games Design Blog


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Pac-Man-Game Theory

pac-man-logo1

Pac-man is an arcade game that was developed by Namco and released in 1980. Pac-man is a little yellow circle with a segment missing (mouth) which believe it or not was a design from a pizza with a slice taken out. Pac-man runs around a maze to pick up as many of the dots as possible whilst avoiding the ghosts (Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde). If you get caught by any of them pac-man dies and you lose a life, once all your lives are gone the game is over and your score from how many dots you collected is revealed.

Flow:

Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi’s theory of flow applies to pac-man as the arcade game requires the player to deal with collecting dots whilst navigating around the maze quickly or intelligently to avoid the enemies, If you eat a big dot you can then eat an enemy but only for a limited amount of time as they return to the ghost enclosure to come back to get you again. The aim is to collect all the dots and gain as many points as possible, the difficulty is the same but you can get yourself into difficult situations where the ghosts are closing in on you and your reactions really have to be sharp to get away otherwise its a life lost. I achieved flow in pac-man due to playing against class students to try get the highest score possible so I was really focusing on every move made and how I can get to the next set of dots without being caught.

flow

Using Csikzentmihalyi’s flow diagram Pac-man can fall into any of them categories it depends how addicted and immersed you in the game. Some cases of flow when Pac-man was released were quite extreme, in the documentary “Thumb Candy” they meet the makers of Pac-man to discuss the popularity of the game 24minutes into the video is the section on Pac-man. 28 minutes in they mention it made “60 billion yen, so roughly 60 million dollars…in one year” for Namco.

Categories of Play:

For Roger Caillois’s ‘categories of play’ Pac-man would fall under primarily ‘Agon’. Agon is games of competition, with Pac-man you are playing to achieve as much points as possible which will require you to survive longer and gain a high score. The replayability to make this a competition with others includes leader boards and also trying to beat your own personal best. An example of Agon would be when we was asked to play free online PC games to later analyse through game theory and in teams of 4 we was to also play against each other for score then rank through score before moving onto the next game.

It also falls under ‘Alea’. Alea is games of chance, with Pac-man the movement of the enemy that the game presents you with is that chance, you could be pinned in a corner by the enemies but somehow manage to escape the navigate randomly but primarily try to chase you but if not they patrol the maze. So chance has a part to play with the enemy, some would say skill is a large part of avoiding them but sometimes you just need that bit of luck to reach the big dot in time before they catch you and eat them all to give you space to continue.

Bartle Test:

To link this into Bartle’s test which defines you as a player through a series of questions this type of game being puzzle based and score based would appeal to an ‘achiever’ style of player due to the points system and the survival aspect.

But it also links to the “Killer” category as Pac-man is a predator, he eats all the dots and if a big dot is activated can eat his enemies which rewards you with bonus score. Therefore it does have killer aspects to the gameplay and rewards.

Socialiser can also link in as when Pac-man was a hugely popular arcade game people would go down to the arcade to play with or against each other, at the end a leaderboard would reveal and you could enter your initials so you was constantly competing with others if you should so choose to treat it that way.

My personal playing of pac-man was that I was either really good at it or just rubbish, when I doing well I enjoyed the game alot and wanted to play more but when i was doing badly it just frustrated me and i wanted to move onto another game. Emotional reactions to the game shows this game has a psychological effect on the player through performance. This is arguable present in all games but this proves the game could be critically analysed using psychoanalysis as a perspective.


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Manic Moles- Studio Game Jam 2

Continuing on from the previous Game Jam (Plant Trap) our tutor decided to organise another game jam to once again give people the opportunity to gain extra credit. With this Game Jam my team was Me, Phil, Mark and Shane. The topic for this game jam was an application (mobile game) and we have to have 1 main character, 1 main mechanic and 1 environment. We could do this however we liked to build any game we wanted along as it tailored to these categories. To begin the design process as always we planned our what makes a good game. We went down the route of mobile games being addictive, fun to play and easy to pick up. Due to this we collectively thought of examples of games on our phones:

  • Flappy Bird
  • Bloons: Tower Defense
  • Paper Toss
  • Angry Birds

These are just a couple of examples, from this we determined that animals in games birds and monkeys etc. So from that we tried to list as many animals as we could that potentially had or hadn’t been done. From this we narrowed it down to a Mole, obviously games like Whack-a-mole are in existence but we could do our own game with a mole character. From this somehow we decided it would be fun to make him a funky disco mole with huge sunglasses and an Afro who has friendly disco moles and rival gang moles trying to sabotage his funky life. Alongside other moles trying to sabotage his mole hill we looked into common predators for moles, this came back with snakes so another enemy designed was a snake. Then to gain a life we had what moles like to eat which is worms once you collected enough worms you gained a life. My personal involvement in this project was in 3D and HUD, I designed the main character also known as “Molevin” it was a really simple design but could be edited and re-textured to create other characters. Which is what I turned Molevin into the enemy character who had different attire wearing a vest and a top hat with a flower in, then for a boss I scaled it up added a bandanna, match in his mouth and a bomb in hand with gloves on. Simply by reusing and editing the initial main character I created 3 characters for in game use good, bad and boss. I also created a tree stump that i projection painted using a mudbox preset to be used for the environment which wasn’t implemented in the end due to it being a unnecessary obstacle on a small environment game but it was used in the Game Over screen to add a visual. The environment is a field and the mole sits in the middle in what was supposed to be a mole hill but its more of a ditch at the moment. It has randomly place assets of grass and stones in the level just to add to the visuals.

This is my work for the HUD designs, using Photoshop to create simple circle icons, i took images of the characters to link it directly to the game, good guy is people saved, worms are lives, and the enemies are how many you have killed throughout the game. Very simple icons but still useful for covering the HUD elements in the game and also with it being a mobile game we didn’t want too much going on to get in the way of the game so small simple icons were effective in avoiding too much distraction from the game.

Here is the in game screenshots of the working HUD and game with my characters in. The menu system, game over and leaderboard design was made by Mark using the custom typeface we created by using a paint brush to go the font on paper then scan them in to be textured on the signposts. Mark used assets from all team members to piece together the menus, start featured everything, game over features the bad guys to symbolise they won and you lost, then the leaderboard was just visual models like grass, rocks and tree stumps. This game I had quite a prominent role in the modelling due to my increased skills over the year and primarily being the more advanced modeler in my group. As for HUD designs I was pleased with my products as they was simplistic but worked well with the theme of the product. As for the game to evaluate it we was very pleased with the end product it was fun and addictive players had to click (or tap for mobile which didn’t work) the enemies to kill them (1 for standard enemy and 2 for the snake). This racked up your score for kills and the aim was to last as long as possible as move and move waves of good and bad characters came into the level at varied speeds and difficulty as it progressed. Only disappointment I had was that my boss character never got time to be implemented but like the other game jams if we had time to progress we would implement a boss level for example. This was my personal favourite of all the game jams as i liked the style of game we had created. I’m looking forward to next next game jam which is in Cambridge Jun 2015.

Here is the video footage of game play from Mark Shaw’s YouTube channel:


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Client Project Session 16/17

Through illness I missed one client session but have been informed by fellow students on the goings on of the project. In session 16 (my absent session) the group held a group critique so that we could evaluate if the new formed pipeline and sub-teams are working more effectively than the process we was following previously. From what ive been told much higher quality work and amount has been produced since the formation of this pipeline. This pleases me greatly as the method of industry practice that we have implemented has worked and collaboratively we are now showing that we can work as a team effeciently. For the rest of that session everybody continued with the work already tasked to them after Phil had introduced to the group the research on PBR (Physical Based Rendering), with a little bit of research we realised that UE4 our engine is a PBR engine, therefore all the texturing we have currently done is not going to be the standard it could be if we did PBR methods.

PBR basically deals with light naturally like it is in real life, the most common maps to use are diffuse/albedo and gloss then you can apply normals and so on. Basically with PBR there is no need to adjust brightness/darkness on your textures for different lighting in engine it is one texture that works for all the albedo map has no lighting information on it so its all calculated in engine. It the latest exciting thing in games that is currently being used in next gen games such as RYSE and Dragon Age Inquisiton.

PBR is briefly explained here:

Then an example of how amazing PBR can be is demonstarted in Quixel’s Demo Reel here:

A brief glimpse there of the types of maps all used just to make a incredibly realistic leaf. If we want our project to look and feel real we have to really look into this and learn the tips and tricks behind pulling it off for the project. I found this demo reel after a bit of PBR research one night and then showed it to the group, it just proves how amazing the detail can be all in texturing we just need to knuckle down and work it out to maximise the potential of our work. This project using PBR could we a fantastic porfolio piece, so this is now the art teams main focus.

Moving on to session 17, I return still not 100% but I dont like being off. The begin the session Phil had been showing me his progress on a portion of the street he was remodelling from semester 1 which he had now included shop interiors, this had been discussed earlier on in the year but never materialised. Now to show what it would look like and how it would be done Phil showed his work to the group and we delivered a group meeting based on interior design for the buildings. We stated this would not be applicable for all the buildings as we may be trying to run before we can walk but certainly for certain shops that we can show off 60s fashion, music and culture this oppurtunity shouldnt be passed up. This means more work for me and my 3D team but it will be beneifical for the project, one of the feedback notes we was given for the project at Hand in is that the shops dont look realistic when looked at because of the shop fronts/ windows by modelling a simple interior (possibly inaccessable) it creates a more naturalistic feel to the project that will further immerse the public in our work.

We then proposed to the group to do a section of the project each for my 3d team. By doing this models should all meet up correctly, be to scale, and having multiple buildings produced side by side by yourself will be great for a porfolio piece. The street i chose to take was Silver Street (Right side) this was because i currently have wetherspoons on trinity house land which goes round the corner onto that side of Silver Street so its only logicial to continue with that area. The street section chosen by each person will require them to model interiors (where applicable and approved by myself) and all assets related to that area of the street. For example if my street has a flower shop, that would require me to model flower shop related assets such as a flowers in a vase to go in the shop window.

After this i had a little talk with Paul my tutor, he expressed he is pleased with the groups advancement and focus since the return but as team leaders myself, Phil and James need to keep a close eye on who isnt working enough. To tackle this Paul proposed we set weekly tasks to the individuals in our team to complete by the next client session, this will make sure people have a sense of deadlines and produce the work. Now as a leader i have to dicuss with my individuals what they think for them is achievable in that period of time. I explained to each one of them this will be a trial and error thing what do they think they can do in a week and what they actually can do, so one week i may realise that as Viktor has sculpted a statue by friday instead of tuesday is that he has been under tasked so in coming weeks a balance can be formed to how much they can do. Its a test to show that those that might not always be in fifth gear if they complete an amount of work then underachieve in the following weeks they should be working harder as i know they can.

Alongside this obviously i have to task myself some work to do. Currently im working on wetherspoons on trinity house lane and my new tasked street is Silver Street’s right hand side.

This will be very helpful for the speed of the project, the sooner we get the streets done the more time we have to fine tune and improve every aspect of our work. With 9 weeks left times running out for us but we can do it.


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Year 1 Challenge revisited- Low Poly Guitar

In the Year 1’s session today they was set the same task we had last year, to model assets with a restricted polycount to make them aware of polycount limits in games also known as a budget.

They proceeded to model the items they had drawn by card and by the end of the session handed in what they had got. Paul then proposed for the guitar controller to be done by next week in 128 polys to everyones disbelief and shock, operant conditioning was applied to this of a reward of a sausage roll if someone could complete it in half of that so 64 poly’s…challenge accepted. Realising i did the guitar last year i did it in 188 polys, now i thought it would be beneficial to myself to try model it again as fast as i could in as low poly as possible.

In around 5 minutes i had a 88 poly guitar, loosing some loops and strategically placing certain edges to create a similar shape without the loop i managed to get it down to 68. Not much could be seen to do, then i realised i still had my reference image underneath my model for shape…this cut it down to 48. So i had won id done it, but i didnt stop there i wanted to optimise it to the lowest possible it could be still looking like a guitar.

Fully optimised I managed to get it to 39 poly’s by this time a had the majority of first year surrounding me.

lowpolyguitar_39polySo in around 15minutes i had a 39 poly guitar, which was modelled in 5minutes then it just took some thinking to how i could keep the shape but lower the polycount. In comparison to last years 188 which admittedly i loaded up and it was horrific topology I can clearly see how much i have come on since this time last year. The 1st years now dislike me as I have proved it can be done and in very little time giving them no excuses…sorry guys!


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Client Project- Session 15

Following on from last weeks session we asked the group inidvidually what area of work they would like to be in for the rest of the cleint project. As explained last session this is purely to try maximise workflow getting people to work in the area they want to go into industry with for the majority with other areas on the side. This group session really felt like we had all clicked and finally collaborated to try maximise the potential of the project.

Here is what we came up with:

hierachy2

3d team is myself, Viktor, Brad and Rinalds with myself as leader.

Art team is James (wolfy), Barrie and Abbie with James as leader.

Engine team is Phil, David and Steve with Phil as leader.

Steve, Viktor and Brad was absent for this session so as leaders we placed them into the teams that we felt they are most effective in and want to do in future.

We then sat down and discussed the plan of action (POA abbreviated) for each of the teams and how we would collaborate between teams. For my 3D team we set a target of a street a week, this maybe rather high expectations but until we test if we can meet this deadline we wont know also placing this deadline will push us as a team to focus and improved speed of work. I personally think a week is a good target dependent on the skill and difficulty of the buildings but 2 weeks should be the limit if we are to push on.

The art team we all sat down including myself and Phil as we are overall team leaders to have final decisions on work. We discussed the art team and their collaboration with the engine team, there priority is to upskill in texturing and uv mapping to work with the 3d buildings handed over. Then to produce basic, slightly visual and then some high quality (public viewed) concepts. The engine team just need the basic concepts where its simple boxes labelled car or building etc with some annotations of angles and maybe movement mechanics. This will assist them with the engine block out and add to our design work rather than first decision of put that there it will do. James is inevitably leader of the art team and will have to pass on some skills to his co workers to produce quality for this process. Im sure more has been added to this plan of action i believe the production of atlas mapping has been worked on over the day.

Then the engine team currently has HUD to work on, additional blueprints that could be implemented for interactivity (e.g. ladder climb) and then the rest is working on the block out with relies on the 3d and art team to collaborate with them. I think we have formulated a effective team workflow with a good balance to it for everyone to have equal input. Hopefully this goes as well as we plan it to as this goes towards credit for our professionalism and industry practice marks.

For today we borrowed Phil and David from the engine team as currently they have little to do and 3D is a priority so loaning them to 3D was a way of showing we are all team players if needs we interchangable team positions to accelerate the process will occur.

As 3D team leader i tasked my group to Trinity House Lane, myself and rinalds picked 3 buildings and Phil and David picked 1. Leaving a few for Viktor and Brad when they return, the lists are up on Basecamp and they are yet to claim buildings and i havent seen them so hopefully they are in tuesday to catch up. Currently i am working on weatherspoons up to Bob carvers they are my 3 buildings all connected so should be no issues.

Throughout the day teams sat with their teams worked together and it just felt like we had missed a trick not doing this from the start, lots of peer to peer learning and group/team critique will come from this our communication has definately improved and has been underlined as key for this to succeed. On a final note we have decided to implement the Oculus Rift into our project which will hopefully attract alot of attention when we finally display to the public.