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Jason Pook's Games Design Blog


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Development Diary- Hellblade

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I was just checking up on latest game progression and news on my phone when i came across a game in production called Hellblade. In this brief article was a video attached which showed some amazing work for such a small team showing me personally some of the skillets required for industry, and how broad knowledge can help a pipeline massively.

This game is also being made in Unreal Engine 4, the engine we are using for both our client and my self initiated work. The part what amazed me was the blueprint scripting for naturalistic blends of assets in environments which are a combination of photographs and textures to create high detail that of which matches what you’d expect in a AAA game and allowed multiple duplication’s of the same asset to be used without breaking immersion being unnatural.

“We’re not  competing on scale, therefore you have to compete on being different. Hellblade has to be unique, something you wouldn’t be getting in a big budget AAA experience.”

Here is the video:

This gave an insight into how to work in small teams to accomplish big things, the ability to adapt workflow habits to enhance production and collaboration, and ways in unreal engine we have not yet experimented with to create amazing aesthetics.

To my surprise this was the 8th part of a development diary from developers Ninja Theory according to Loadthegame it the best look at the game so far.

They go on to speak about character development in enemies and how simple adjustments in software with slight alterations in textures can create an array of different characters quickly and efficiently. The use of silhouettes to prototype different shapes and deformations of the body allowed a character designer to modify the base character add assets like helmets to create what appears to be a completely different design. A very clever pipeline is being created here are Ninja Theory despite the small team as quoted above they are achieving alot more than expected not on a AAA budget.

The idea of time distortion and using perspectives in both combat and world to create visuals and illusion (illinx) was one that could give them the edge using a different idea to compete with the AAA budget they dont have with a small team.

This gives hope to us who may want to go into indie developing as with alot of work and research that we can achieve high quality AAA standard work with just 1 artist like they have done.

The idea of the development diary id like to implement into my own work for my self initiated, with a development diary it shows my unique way of a design process which can be used or changed to create a solid process of producing work. It also gives proof that my work is not a one off and actual thought has gone into the work I produce.

Id like to thank Ninja Theory for this video as its a great example to people like myself as a Games Design student on how to work in a industry pipeline, create multiple iterations of work, design and develop work from start to finish and delve into new ways of working. I will now watch there other development diaries to see what I have missed.


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CATS Presentation Evaluation

For my presentation I had to create a timeline of the history of gaming with key moments in that timeline with links to each topic. The 3 topics I chose was Pong, How Nintendo saved the Games Industry and The Evolution of the PlayStation. The key content that I addressed in my presentation was that each 3 topics are iconic in there own way and it works perfectly linked as without the previous topic the next wouldn’t have ever happened. Pong is the first commercially successful game which incidentally caused the beginning of the gaming industry, yes there was games before but Pong was the first one to be commercially successful making Atari Inc. the main runners in the games industry. Without Pong doing this Nintendo wouldn’t have come about as Nintendo entered the market originally with a variation of home pong on a home console.

Thus leading to my 2nd topic Nintendo saving the game community after the video game crash of 1983-85 with rules such as the Nintendo Seal of Quality and the limitation to 5 games a year to prevent flooding of the market which resulted in them dominating over 70% of the market. So this was probably the biggest turning point in gaming history.

Which then incidentally links to my final topic of Evolution of the PlayStation, without Nintendo saving the games industry this would have never happened but that’s not Nintendo’s only involvement in the PlayStation. Nintendo worked with Sony and Phillips to create a CD-ROM/ Cartridge system called the Play Station (notice the gap this is how Sony escape Nintendo’s grasp) but when the operation went sour Nintendo closed it but behind there backs Sony continued and launched a few systems, dropped the SNES port closed the gap in the name so Nintendo had no hold on the PlayStation. Which is now currently with the Ps4 the fastest ever selling console in the UK.  This outlines my PowerPoint briefly and points out key factors showing the links.

I felt like my presentation went well I turned up in a Christmas jumper and funny Santa glasses to lighten up the mood in the classroom before I began so people might be more engaged in my work. Once removed and professional I felt I delivered it well to the class, I must say I did stumble a few times when speaking and had to refer back to the screen for words but I tried to make as much eye contact with everyone to engage them in the talk. I used my own personal experiences with certain features to bring slight humour to the PowerPoint as it was quite information heavy and less visual but I still felt I made it work. Things I learnt from researching this topic was that I learnt that I myself do have a good knowledge about gaming history as most of my topics I knew enough detail about to expand on without script whilst presenting, things I gathered such as statistics and key facts were useful to help make an addition to my knowledge as its something I can use in the future being my chosen career path.

The improvements I would make on my PowerPoint would be mainly the way it was portrayed, I did feel when I was putting it on the projector that it was more text orientated than visual so if I included a few more pictures as a visual aid maybe it would have helped assist the talk better. Also I would like to improve on my personal presentation skills I was referring back to the screen a few times and this could have been avoided with say some little note cards of speech which would have given me a much more strong body language than I felt I had.

Other information I would include is a few videos to help me present, I did have a video on the PlayStation topic but due to timing I didn’t get chance to use it so if I cut down the information I could have shown some video with some narrative information. Other than that I felt for my topics that I covered them well in my script and presentation, I presented it like everyone in the audience was completely oblivious to what I was talking about so facts and information was all given to not a patronising level but an informative level.

I felt that I have learnt some very useful key statistics for my chosen topics which will definitely be relevant in my other work, I have learnt how to improve and mould my presentation skills to assist me to present in a better way should I need to present my work in the future, I learnt some interesting facts about the likes of how much Pong earned a day $400-500 which was un heard of in the coin operated system industry previously and things like a survey in the USA found that more of them recognised Mario to Mickey Mouse at the time of Super Mario Bros after the game crash. Overall I am really pleased with my outcomes from the presentation I felt I did a good job and gave the audience enough information as well as my own personal views/experiences to assist them to a more personal level of the information.

 


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Childhood Revival for £3.99- Crash Bandicoot.

Yes, you heard correctly tonight I discovered that whilst im waiting for the PlayStation 4 to arrive I can be revisiting some of my favourite games of all time from my childhood. This is a fantastic discovery I made on the PlayStation store, the first game I went to look for was the one and only Crash Bandicoot. Crash is such an iconic character in video games history not just in my personal life of religiously playing crash bandicoot when I was a kid. ########crash-bandicoot-av

And where better to start than the original PlayStation 1 classic of Crash Bandicoot which on the PlayStation store was only £3.99! this amazed me so much I swiftly bought the game and had the download running.

That’s a little glimpse of the introduction to the game and how it was back in 1996 (I was 1 years old), I got my PlayStation 1 when I was 4 or 5 and games such as Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the dragon was my utter idols that glued me to the screen. Safe to say for Sony at 18years old when I loaded this game up I must have had the exact same expression on my face of extreme concentration crossed with overwhelming amazement and my childhood screaming out “play it Jason!”.

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Although compared to now a days the graphics and performance of gaming is miles ahead of what it was back then this game is still fantastic for gameplay and fun. I can honestly say that the 2hours I spent on this after downloading it for 30minutes was the most fun I have had on a game in some time (actual fun enjoyment not raging one minute then telling other people how sick you are the next minute).  Crash has everything its got levels that have you running towards the screen away from a boulder which have you heart in your neck moments after running a long way from the checkpoints, to hog riding dodging spikes at a fast pace and other obstacles then sometimes if you collect the 3 pictures you have a bonus mission which goes left to right like Mario or sonic. I am currently on the second island right at the end, I have beat bosses Papu Papu and Ripper Roo with much difficulty it has to be said. I haven’t found this game easy in one bit and that pleases me as I wouldn’t want to feel like my endless hours of childhood could be smashed out in a 3hour session now I have played games most of my life. Emotions run high in gameplay from frustration at your own silly mistakes to utter joy when you finally get across that collapsing bridge after several (I counted 32) attempts at doing so.

“Experience one of the best action/platform games ever made! Enter the vivid world of Crash Bandicoot, a marsupial on a mission! His brain’s been scrambled, his girlfriend is held captive, and his arch nemesis has a big N on his forehead! And you thought you had it tough! Over 30 crazy levels with the type of gameplay you love the most! Encounter bonus levels, fiendish traps, hair raising enemies and disappearing bridges!”- PlayStation Overview- Sony.

I mean what else is there to say other than in that brief overview its epic. So for just £3.99 you can have one of your most cherished childhood games on your PlayStation 3 like me. That’s if you don’t still have your PlayStation 1 and if you do you are epic. This will certainly occupy my time very well up until the PlayStation 4 on Friday alongside work.

Recent news that Activision are considering reviving the Crash Bandicoot series had my jumping from wall to wall with excitement as imagine Crash on next generation PS4 I cant even think of how awesome that would be for me personally. Thank you Sony for so cheaply reuniting me with my childhood.


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Platform Expos Day 2- Social Event (16/11/13)

After the eventful day from Platform Day 1, we had returned to platform the next day to see the rest of what was going on. Day 2 was slightly less planned out than Day 1 as we just wanted to play on most of the games, talk to a few of the stalls like marmalade, and just enjoy the wonderful world of gaming. Really it was just do this then “ok where shall we go next” then move on, this allowed us freedom of time as we wasn’t constantly checking our watches for the time as we had to be somewhere (all being said day 1 was amazing for seminars). We started our day collecting our tickets for the 18+ section, Hull College had been given free tickets for us Games Design students but when I went to collect my ticket there was some confusion with the staff which led to me nearly being arrested by a storm trooper, all being a joke of course but I don’t fancy being Princess Leia in the death star thank you. Once sorted we headed straight into the City Hall which was the main area for all ages of gaming, but of course we had been here yesterday and no confusion of where the 18+ section was arose and we headed straight there.

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The 18+ section had games like GTA V, Call of Duty Black Ops 2 and Gears of War Judgement. All very violent games with a lot of blood so we was in the right place, as soon as we walked in there was a free for all tournament taking place on Gears Of War so we decided to jump in and do our best being that everyone was already 7-10kills ahead at first to 25kills. This didn’t stop us though we entered the game and started playing, myself being a gears of war beginner I used my little knowledge on the game I learned yesterday combined with the skills from the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield to try get into the game, it worked I was sawing people in half sniping even using a helicopter turret at one point to put me in the lead. Being very impressed I was even in the race never mind winning was short lived as one of our friends Lewis killed me to win the game with Phil 2nd and Myself 3rd, yes I was slightly gutted I didn’t win being a rookie and 1st placed at one stage I was still happy with my effort. Doing this made me realise how quickly I can pick up a game just from experiences on other similar genre games, not to mention that Gears of War was a fantastic game which I had never even played before and unfortunately to me its only on Xbox which is a system I have never owned. Moving on from Gears of War we ventured over to GTA V, with myself being a avid GTA player I decided to just spectate as one of our group had not played it and I have completed it fully so I didn’t want to spoil, GTA V is a fantastic game nevertheless one of my favourites. I have done an analysis piece on the game in 600 word essay as well.

Obviously after this we had to walk past the PS4 and David couldn’t help himself but challenge me to another rematch on FIFA 14 thinking this time was his time. Well I won again and he didn’t have a shot I personally felt embarrassed for him playing that badly in front of so many people or was it just I was too good, unfortunately no video of this match but it would have been very one sided. Moving on with one man with his head firmly planted down on his chest from shame we headed back through to the main area to see if there was anything we had missed on Day 1.

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Well we had missed one thing that even might have not been there yesterday and that was a stand with representatives from Marmalade. Marmalade is an SDK which allows you to code in C++ but the unique thing about it is that once you have coded once it makes your code accessible to a multitude of platforms, basically its a cross platform SDK for building games. We was personally educated at Marmalade by a man (I forgot his name, think it was Scott) who we introduced ourselves as Games Designers then explaining we are fairly basic users of code so was there a quick and easy alternative to Marmalade as code is not our area of study particularly. Then he quickly told us about Marmalade Quick which was a faster easier version of the normal version as it was purely in 2D, he made a bouncing beach ball game with gravity and collisions in just 5minutes showing us using basic code and it still supported the platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, Windows Desktop, Mac Desktop, Tizen, BlackBerry 10, BlackBerry Playbook and Roku). For us this could be a very useful program in the future and he offered us many different things but being students we lack the funds for the full version of software’s, so he suggested the 30day trial and if we produce a game with coding up to their standards we will get a years free licensing on marmalade (personally I thought that was awesome). This gave us an option to do in possibly the near future as if we plan it well enough we could do a 30day game of a good standard and win a year free. For now we agreed its best not to waste this free trial as we are not prepared, then we got given a merchandised bag with leaflets and freebies in to send us on our way.

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On our way out we bumped into our tutors once again doing a character building workshop but in the entrance of platform this time so much more people had drawn, we did go to tell them of how it was going mentioning things like the Sony conference yesterday and what we had done with our time which pleased them a lot as they could see we had taken things away from this Expo which are relevant to our course. We then headed to Guild Hall which was said to have every games console in history inside according to one of the Platform volunteers so understandable we was pretty hyped for this and headed straight there. Only to find out a handful of consoles and nothing iconic so it was a little bit of a disappointment after being told different, still we played as much as possible and discussed our opinions. Personally by going there I thought I could have gathered a lot of gameplay information for my icons of gaming research as it was supposed to be retro-present but unfortunately it wasn’t. (icons of gaming research and survey on icons)2013-11-16 14.32.28

A few games that surprised us to be there was things like Congo Bongo  for ps2 which involved small bongo drums which you hit to the beats on the screen, I enjoyed playing this as I like games that try to revert away from the traditional controller to bring a different experience of gameplay as in most cases with games like this they are party games.

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Then we noticed that Taiko Drum Master for ps2 was in the building, this game was something I was unfamiliar with but David had owned and knew about all its Japanese origins (which I later found out was on a massive scale compared to what we was playing), so we had a go. I must say it was awesome I really enjoyed it.

This game being released before guitar hero had all the similar features as gameplay such as a rolling bar with beats to hit by playing your instrument, with added extras like hit the edge of the drum to hit the blue notes and hit the drum with both drumsticks for the big circles and go mental drum solo on the bars or notes. The gameplay was brilliant we happened to stay on that one game for nearly 1hour before coming off as we was having drum battles versus each other over and over on different songs just really enjoying ourselves. We collected a few videos of the drum battles as well.

After being all drummed out and feeling pretty boss about getting a drum master score on one song we left to head back to platform city hall. On the way I realised I had now seen everything I needed and the only reason to go back would have been for some freebies and cheap last minute clearance offers which I wasn’t too bothered about, unfortunately we never got round to seeing any talks on that day which the indie developers stories would have been interesting but due to enjoying our day and not planning to go unless it came around we never got round to it. This rounds up 2 fantastic days at Platform Expos and im sure that I will be going to it again next year as well as many other expos hopefully in the near future.

Check out my YouTube page for these videos and more or like my Facebook page for updates. Let me know what you thought about Platform Expos!

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Social Event- PS4 Lockdown- 25/10/13

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I and a fellow games design student attended a lockdown at GAME in St. Stephens for one of the most anticipated consoles coming this year, a next generation of gaming console the PlayStation 4. As I had already had the console pre ordered for some time I was very excited to finally get my hands on the console to really see if it lived up to all my expectations from reading multiple psn magazines and latest console rumours. I must say even for the short amount of time I had (roughly 30minutes) due to GAME wanting rotation on the console due to 50people between 12 places on the PS4’s the console was magnificent. The smoothness and clarity of the console and controller was so much of an improvement on any previous console. The controller (which has undergone some radical new changes to become the dual shock 4 from the dual shock 3) was very comfortable in hand and after 5minutes I had got used to it, the new very grippy analogue sticks stopped the previous problem of your thumbs slipping off (usually at a vital moment e.g. hanging off a building on Assassins Creed), the touch pad on the controller something that is completely new to the controller was so smooth to use we tested it on a program which comes with the console called the Playroom.

Here is a brilliant quote on the Dual Shock 4:

“Its a big step forward from what we have [on ps3]. It feels incredibly accurate and with really high quality materials it feels solid in your hands. There are tweaks to the indentation on the sticks, where you have your thumbs on them- we’ve slightly raised them so there’s more precision. These slight changes make a huge difference. It feels like your in control” – Hermen Hulst- Co founder Guerilla.

The playroom used the new camera to help you maximise the controllers capabilities, a futuristic version of air hockey was very entertaining using motion sensors on the control when you tipped it to bend the platform of the air hockey as well as sliding your finger up and down the touch to move your puck and pushing the screen down to add power to your return. I dominated this winning 7-1 but we really enjoyed using the new features on the control, this was only to start with so I could tell this was going to be a leap in games consoles purely on that. I was also pleased to be told that the playroom will be installed onto every ps4 for free.

Another thing we tried out was the latest edition to the FIFA series: FIFA 14 on ps4. although it was a demo much debate has come up on whether will it be any different to FIFA 14 PS3. Well just from the demo I could see a difference certainly in graphical terms, the clarity of the stadium and its crowd was a much improved on the ps3 version. Whilst much features I didn’t see any difference in (maybe due to it being a demo) I definitely felt once again the controller improved the gameplay for reasons similar to when we played in the Playroom. The new Ignite Engine for EA on next gen will definitely play a huge part in the differences between the ps3 and ps4, most companies had to build new engines to support the ps4’s immense capabilities.

The final demo we played was KNACK a new IP for PS4, this was a very impressive game which ran throughout with effortless flow of battle and growth or transform of your character. KNACK has a feel of Ratchet and Clank to it which we both said straight away, especially with smashing the boxes to reveal bolts which magnetized to you. Although with KNACK the blots added to you symbolising health in stature of your character.  Another feel of ratchet and clank was when KNACK turned into a small laser proof robot so you can get into small areas and through security this character resembled clank a lot. Despite that the combat was very good and used combinations just like most fighters do with added superpowers when enough crystals had been collected. Overall KNACK was the most enjoyable game that I had tried at the PS4 social event and will definitely be a game I will purchase in the future.

“What we’re seeing here is a game that fully utilizes the processing power of the PlayStation 4 system, bringing massive amounts of graphic pieces together to tell a story that’s not just impressive graphically, but in its ability to blur the lines between storyline and gameplay as well.” -Slashgear, Chris Burns.

The PlayStation 4 is set for release in the UK on 29th November, I have my pre order sorted have you? if not you definitely should. With just those 3 experiences on PS4 I wanted one even more, and that’s without the like of Killzone: Shadow Fall, Destiny, Battlefield 4, Elder Scrolls Online and many more exciting games and indie games to come.


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Log Book Entry One: 4/10/13 CATS

In our first lesson for CATS (Critical and Theoretical Studies) we was given an introduction to what we would be doing in CATS, this involved learning the history, theories and perspectives of Games Design to give us a “toolbox of information” about our chosen course. We will study others to give us inspiration which we will also critic.

For our first exercise we was given  multiple pictures and asked to us what they meant to our subject, for example there was a range of pictures from the Magnavox Odyssey (the first household games console) to the iPad (the all in one tablet). We decided as a group to individually discuss each picture and how it was relevant.

Then we was asked how Cultural artefact, Material culture, Media practice and Form of entertainment was relevant to Games Design, first off as a group we identified they all are in some way. Cultural artefact– The history and future of gaming shapes cultures of all ages due to the social participation and how it brings people together, for example: women’s role in gaming. Material culture– that a game has evolved into a social gathering online to speak and play co operatively. Media practice– one of the largest industries in the world with around 70% of people play video games. Form of entertainment– Goes without saying really one of the most prominent forms of entertainment around with around 3billion hours a week spent gaming as a planet.

We was then asked our opinions of what we believe the relationship is between a game and a gamer. This is not a straight forward question to answer due to it is totally reliant on both the game (emotional, shooter, adventure etc.) and the gamer (regular, occasional, rarely or hard-core) these factors both play a part in how engaged the gamer will be in the game so it totally depends on the situation.

After this we watched this TED lecture by Kevin Kelly on How technology evolves

Once we had watched this we was given our brief and some homework. The homework set was some keywords and also was to bring in a picture which to me personally meant gaming, I have chose to pick a childhood system which to this day is the reason why I am so passionate about gaming and have chosen to pursue it as a career, The PlayStation 1. This system was bought for me when I was just 2years old and I enjoyed many hours on games such as Crash Bandicoot and Spyro, which are still my favourite games to this day.