Jason Pook's Games Design Blog


Introduction to Gaming- Group Project “Alaskan Secret”.

In todays session of Introduction to Gaming, we was told that we are going to be assessed on a small piece of work (well dependent on how much time you want to put into it), this project would be a group task but we would be allowed to pick who we would work with to test our group work skills and see if we have a comfort zone. To decide this the pick of a card was needed, numbers Ace-6 would be a group, then 6-8 and then 9-kings. I drew the King of clubs, i shortly found out after the rest of my group was Phil (drew king), Dave (drew 9) and Victor (drew 9) this group i knew would be good to work with before we even started; this immediately lead to us deciding our team name would be “Kings of the Nine” we also drew a logo which had a crown above the name and text written as “King of the 9ine” a clever logo design i thought. Regardless of how professional our team logo was it was irrelevant to the task as we was currently waiting for our 3 topics of choice. The topics were a random arrangement of everything and anything (from girls night out, Cornish pasty to under the sea, zombies) and whatever we had chosen we had to use our creative minds to follow the design process to create a game from it. We picked out from a hat the topics of “Haunted/ Ghost”, “Musical Instruments” and “Alaska”; these topics pleased us as so much can be done with haunted/ ghosts as it can be totally myth or rumour nothing factual has to be considered in this case. Musical Instruments could be used well as a range of time periods involve music throughout history. Then Alaska was possibly the toughest of 3 topics chosen but we decided to set the game in Alaska used Alaskan history to assist us in the making of the game.

The process we had to follow throughout the day was: Ideas Focus, Plan, Write Up, Mechanics Ideas and then finally Visuals of the game (3D, Sketches or Demo).

We was sent on our way to prepare ourselves and fully get into our task set to us. We began brainstorming ideas immediately, keywords that appeared regularly were: Haunted, Scary, Soul, Mansion, Peace, Songs, Floating, Instruments, Russian (Alaska research reference), Musician, Action buttons, Classical, Realism, Consequences, Play to Calm. These are a few of many common features we had to take into consideration and try to piece together a playable game from. In the end I did a small write up on the games overview possibly even a selling pitch: We have a Russian Musician who was mysteriously murdered in his mansion, he is now haunting his house causing instruments to levitate/ fly all over, you have to venture through the spooky haunted house collecting each instrument and playing that instruments part in his most famous song. As you progress further through the game you piece together what was a musical mess (symbolising his rage) to a piece of art (finally letting his soul rest). So with this brief write up we continued on with the design process and that was the mechanics of the game.

Now I already briefly mentioned the mechanics in my short write up but just to clarify this is what we went through ideas wise so it wasn’t just the first idea out of our heads: Guitar hero style note player, Taiko Drum Master style note player, Action buttons (hit button specified on screen before timer runs out to play notes), find the actual separate note sheet in the house for the specified instrument and then finally something totally random also unique which would be to use motion controllers to level out the note strip to make the music sound correct rather than distorted. Our final choice was the action buttons but in a Taiko drum master style, which is a side scrolling bar of notes that you have to correctly match the combinations on the screen to the buttons on your controller to complete the piece, if you fail below a certain percentage consequences will happen (we wasn’t too sure on what as of yet).

Dave found the person that we could use for our musician in our game his name was Alexander Borodin (1833-1887), he was a Russian musician who’s most famous piece was Prince Igor (the song of our game). The reason we chose a Russian musician was because in 1867 Russia sold Alaska to the USA (time period of our musician) meaning that we could do a Russian musician being killed shortly after Alaska was sold to the USA and therefore causing him to haunt his house to protect his work. That’s the contextual reference to our game which does actually make it plausible (if you believe in hauntings etc.)

After what seemed to be a fairly well thought out and well planned idea we all moved on to our own little delegated pieces of work to model the game, to give it a visual side which would be easier to present to people. Myself and Victor started on the level design (Drawing and Sketch Up), Phil did a detailed interior in both Sketch Up and Photoshop, and Dave did an instrument in Sketch Up. We all agreed to our individual positions so we got on with the work. After a short amount of time clear progress was being shown, so much in fast on myself and victors interior level design that I decided to leave him to it as we had the focus drawn up it was not necessary for 2 of us to be doing 1 mans job. So I made the decision to go personally figure out and get down ideas on the names of the game, I went through a lot of different names asking for the groups opinion on some of them to try get me closer to possibly the final product. The list of names were: Haunting Alaska, Musical Exorcism, Soul of Music, Borodin, Lingering Musician, Musical Secret, The Lost Musician, Musical Limbo, Alaskan Secret and finally Russian Haunting. From this list myself and my peers agreed that Alaskan Secret was the strongest of the lot in reference to our topic. This then progressed me onto logo design for the game, with the title being Alaskan secret I immediately sketched the geographical shape of Alaska on the globe, I tried to turn it into a shape but couldn’t visualise it so I just put ALASKAN underneath it. Then I needed Secret, but it had to have a musical reference as that is the main focus of the game; I researched into musical notes and strips of music to see what I could do. I decided to do a musical note called a treble clef to represent the S in Secret then the rest of the text to be in old fashioned calligraphy on a slightly wavy strip. it looked like this:


My intention is to put this into Photoshop and fully do a graphic design on this product which I can also use in other areas of my modules as importance of graphics in games.

With the logo finished to a sketched standard I was happy with I went to look at my peers work. Dave had just began his Sketch Up design of his flute, this flute caused a lot of problems for Dave but as he was doing prop design for his 3D Realisation course he wanted to design each process himself no matter the time period taken. prop-piccolo-flute-no-lines

This is the design of Dave’s flute coming along nicely, this could be the finished product but im sure he will add colour and other features as we progress further into this project in our own time. Nevertheless its a good looking flute which took him some substantial time to draw all these features on the flute, including the very precise note pushers for the flute.

Then I moved onto Phil who had been doing a interior design of a random room in the house of what it mike look like in Sketch Up, then importing it into Photoshop to add effects and shading to the design.


Basic Sketch Up

Haunted House Room Template

Photoshop and Shadows Added

This is Phil’s finished product of the room, complete with one of the instruments a black grand piano. He also added some images into photo frames to give the room some art as im sure musicians appreciate art as music itself is an art. The bookcase was an idea pitched by most of us as we could use the books well if they were to fly off and hit the character every note missed.

Firmly assured we was really getting well along with this a went to see how Victor was getting on. Victor was trying to do the Level Design for the interior as well as the exterior all in one lesson, to do this would require much focus and no problems to arise (which they did) he was explaining to me about how the walls kept disappearing when he tried to erase a line even though he had segregated properly. Due to this I agreed with the rest of the group I would take our original sketch and do purely the exterior of the House just to take a work load of Victor so he could focus purely on the 1st floor and 2nd floor layout. Below are the finished products of Victors work with well structured rooms which does look like a house interior layout.


Victors Level Design First Floor


2nd Floor Level Design

With this I went into Sketch Up, my personal 3D Realisation topic is Environments and I have taken a particular shine to Sketch Up in recent works (Spaceship and Level) so this would be a good thing for me to be assigned to in the group. It was coming along brilliantly up until the roof of the building, normally to build a roof on sketch up you just do a flat square segregate it down the middle with a line then use the move tool to drag it upwards. For some reason this wasn’t working for me (possibly an push/pull problem or alignment) so I built it myself with the line tool, to have the same effect the move tool would have just a longer process really. Then using textures I filled in all the plains of the building including translucent glass windows and marble pillars to complete the exterior of our haunted musicians house. Here it is fully animated after I finished with the music added which is “Prince Igor” from Alexander Borodin:

This is a concept of the haunted house that we have chose to include in our project game of “Alaskan Secret”. This was obviously slightly different to what Victor had designed for on his layout but it could still be incorporated easily with scale and a bit of extra time as i have already fitted a spiral staircase.

To conclude Phil wanted a JPEG 2D export of my house at a perspective angle so he could use it in Photoshop to set it on an Alaskan background and reflect it in the water using opacity. This was the finished product which we all thought looked pretty fantastic as a concept design.

alaskan secret

This rounded up our days work on the Group Project “Alaskan Secret” I was very pleased with my own contribution but more so with how well we worked as a unit to create a solid design for our game. Paul suggested at the end that due to this being assessed we may want to continue this in our own time possibly to gain a few extra marks but not to focus everything on it as its not a substantial chunk of our marks it was just a mini brief exercise. I really enjoyed this lesson it got my creative mind going and I took a lot away from the lesson in terms of how strong I am in a team environment and my personal skills so far in software/creativity.

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Technical Skills/ 3D Realisation- Sketch Up Advanced.

Progressing from out previous Sketch Up lesson on the basics (previous lesson), we had enough to go upon to advance further in sketch up so make a magnitude of fantastic things. Firstly Gareth went back over the basic set up and how we should have it so turn on large skill set, tools and styles. This set our Sketch Up user interface up nicely ready for the advances we was about to make.

We was shown to use the free form drawing tool to create a shape of any imagination just a random shape then to use the push/pull tool to expand it width wise to any scale we could think of as this was our advanced sketch up project. Before we did this for ourselves we watched Gareth create his own Sketch Up model using multiple techniques. First thing he introduced us was to the 3D Warehouse then Get Models, this is the place where other Sketch Up users have uploaded there models to the warehouse for all others to see and comment, but the feature that makes this warehouse useful is that you can then import them models into your current project. So Gareth wanted to go an aircraft he imported many different ideas such as a cockpit from a harrier jet, some small angled drone wings, body of a apache helicopter and much more. These were all full models of e.g. a harrier jet but the good thing was that when you import these you go to Edit->Components in Model->Explode, those steps make the models you have imported spilt into different segments depending on how it was made, the repetition of exploding maybe required to get the smaller more detailed or little parts of a jet e.g. the wing flaps then use the move tool to keep the items you like. Make a Group by selecting the set of objects you want and then clicking make group so it all bundles together and keeps your model moving as one. If you want to mirror an object to the other side e.g. a wing of an aircraft just copy, paste, then use the scale tool to drag across to overlap current format  and flip the image (tip: use the measurements in the bottom right so you have a complete mirror of the image you are flipping/ mirroring). He then pieced together using multiple items and models he liked over the top of the original random shape to make a futuristic 2 seated aircraft.

The mini-brief we was then given you can probably guess is to build our own 2 seated aircraft doing this same process using the 3D Warehouse. I have taken many images on my progress throughout the model and then even animated it to upload to my YouTube channel. After I had finished with my model I could do many things with it of my choice really, I had the choice to upload to YouTube which I did, Export into Photoshop to experiment on it as a model and maybe turn it into concept art, or weaponise it develop the model more in Sketch Up which I will return to at some stage.

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This is how I started you can see the random shape in the middle and then I had gathered a drone from the Model warehouse taken the small front end body wings placed them on what is currently the back of the shape to give it a streamlined futuristic look then the front is also from that drone it was the panels on the bottom of the ship but I mirrored them to give a modern panelled look to add the cockpits onto the ship.

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I then wanted wings for this model so this was key for the model as the wings need to be scaled correctly or the aircraft will look unbalanced its the same with dragons if they have tiny wings and a big body they look like a cartoon funny dragon rather than fearsome so a sense of scale is important. Then I tried to experiment with how to add a cockpit so this front end was from a different drone to try panel it and add a cockpit in-between these mirrored panels.

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This was an attempt to add weapons to the spaceship, which I decided against for now as I wanted the basics of the ship first. But I got rid of the front end from the previous photo as it didn’t look right but the body of the ship was coming together nicely. This was all done with all I learnt from the last lesson on the Sketch Up basics like rotate, move, and scale.2013-11-06 16.19.422013-11-06 16.48.36

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This is the cockpit I found on a spaceship this is the only piece I took from the ship as the rest didn’t appeal to me so I exploded the ship until it allowed me to take the cockpit and place it on the front of my ship, I particularly like this feature and design of it as the glass allows panoramic view for the pilot so he can see a lot more than say a single slot. Also I move the gun scaled it down rotated it and tried to place it on the bottom as I liked the cannon for firepower but it just wasn’t working. I also made the wings bigger to make the scale more realistic.

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This is pretty much the final product I found the rear end of a spaceship as I wanted futuristic thrusters to power my spaceship and then the wing just glide it around in space or future earth. To get just the rear end I had problems with exploding the image as when I tried to take the rear end it was stretching the ship rather than separating. so to do this  and get just the rear of the ship I had to make a rectangle then use the push/pull tool to cut straight through the shape then select the model going to edit->intersect faces->with selection. This will cut the shape when you then move the rectangle out of the way so there I had my rear of my ship. I also needed one more seat to I put a harrier 1seater cockpit on top which is still streamlined.

And there is my finished animated version of my 2 seated spaceship. I showed this to my tutors today they was very impressed with my full animation of it and the style of the ship, Gareth imagined it dropping out of a huge star destroyer then the wings raise up to a glide then the thrusters has the option of hyper speed. That’s exactly what I was trying to get across so therefore I felt like I had done my job with this well and now all there is to do is possibly weaponise it or concept art it in Photoshop.

This was all to let us get better at Sketch Up as its a useful software for doing really quick 3D Designs and concepts for example buildings, I am currently doing a gladiator arena in Sketch Up for my Adaptation task so I have really taken a shine to Sketch Up.

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Technical Skills- Sketch Up

In todays session of technical skills we began to learn the basics of sketch up. Sketch Up is the program that was used to build the buildings on Google earth and also was used for a lot of the environment of the game Uncharted. So this for us as 3d games designers could become a very useful software to get the hang of for such things as: level design, environment art and even concepts.

So Sketch Up the basics was the lesson, we learnt pretty much all the basics in one lesson it was just using our own creative minds to create a building or a car or anything you can visualise as long as you piece it out step by step. Today wasn’t about amazing buildings or extreme detailed missions though it was about the basics and getting us Sketch Up beginners to get a grasp on the program. To utilise the program properly you needed a good understanding of the basic tools. These tools were Orbit (rotate camera view zoom in and out with scroll), line/ shapes (draw your objects using the guidelines), select (drag to select certain parts to modify), move (move shape or a line in a shape), push/pull (make the objects 3d in or out) and rotate (rotate object or a line once selected). These are as I say the basic tools needed to begin with sketch up. Other tools such as follow (stretches shape into all sorts of things), paint bucket tool (add colour/texture/ transparency to your object) and even animate (create a small guided tour of your project using scenes) were all tools which just added onto the basics.

Another thing you may want to get used to is having an idea of scale, when you open Sketch Up you have many options of scales e.g. millimetres or inches etc. this is useful to know as when you try to enter this into another project that may be to life size scale your little project may be way out of scale.

You can also go into the Trimble Sketch Up Archives to upload other peoples exported projects onto your own project and use them for inspiration or even dismantle their work to add to your own its up to you. I tried this immediately when I searched games design and a robot showed up it wasn’t elaborate at all I could see how it was done it just takes planning and vision to do so. So this was useful to me as a learning compound.

After learning the basics we began to experiment with the program. I began trying to build my statue upon which my eagle will sit upon in one of my other modules of 3D, so trying to kill 2 tasks at once really but what began as a platform I slowly built into a building with a sort of balcony level entrance through a tunnel. This immediate showed to me that one idea can easily grow into another and then another and you just keep building on your original ideas, I started with a simple cylinder with a circle platform on top it turned into a basic outline for a level in a game.

platform 1 build

platform 1 build

platform transform onto building

platform transform onto building

added colour and transparency to level

added colour and transparency to level

final product of first attempt with Sketch Up. Level 1 platform building.

final product of first attempt with Sketch Up. Level 1 platform building.

I was very pleased with my first attempt with sketch up, if anyone is interested in using the program the Pro version is free for 30days otherwise you can use the free version or pay for pro. Although we may not use this for 3D in the game itself it will be useful to me personally for concept design and modelling.

Here is a Getting Started video for Sketch Up with step by step help for beginners, for more help see the Sketch Up Learn Centre.