PHASEgaming

Jason Pook's Games Design Blog


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Gamification- Research and My Ideas

Last week i was absent from the session in which Paul delivered a brief for gamification. The brief is the gamificate something that hasn’t been gamified before, we have to research ideas on gamification in everyday life to see if it has been done before then try come up with an individual idea to make a game from. If it has been done before or the overarching theme (example working) has been over done then it will be denied by Paul and we will have to find another idea.

With missing the session I have also missed any videos or examples that was shown in session. Therefore im going to research into gamification myself to get up to speed.

What is gamification:

The application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity, typically as an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service: ‘gamification is exciting because it promises to make the hard stuff in life fun’ – Oxford dictionary definition

That being the definition the key in that would be the example quote

“Gamification is exciting because it promises to make the hard stuff in life fun”

This should immediately spring loads of ideas to mind as surely everything can be gamified in some way or other. One example of this I found was a game called HabitRPG this game basically makes your life a game in order to create habits, it rewards you for meeting targets and punishes you for missing them. The idea is to form working habits so that could be do the ironing at 8pm every Tuesday, you can set this in a to-do which if you meet it a reward can be redeemed using in game coin to have say 1hour of video games.

Layout of HabitRPG on laptop and phone

Layout of HabitRPG on laptop and phone

This is a fairly simple idea but with rewards and graphs showing you your productivity progress it gives purpose to those boring household chores. Something similar to this targeted at children is the app ChoreMonster its a childs version and when they meet the chores they get a ticket to the monster carnival to earn random monsters to help them on their journey. Simple things like this really help people engage in what they are doing as it gives purpose, especially for children it adds fun to the dreaded clear your toys away as they get rewarded for it.

ChoreMonster multiple levels, design, layout, platforms.

ChoreMonster multiple levels, design, layout, platforms.

This was what i intended to do on first thought before research was a chore game so that when you ticked off chores done in a day you gained points to earn relax time, but as it has been clearly done for adults and children this can be ruled out as my tutor will most likely deny it.

My other idea I had was a waste/recycling game where if I made sure i partitioned recycling and rubbish waste i would be rewarded and shown a healthier planet. This could be a good app where you swipe the food on the screen into either the blue recycle bin or the green waste bin. It would make people more aware of what goes in which bin and reward them for it by maybe showing a field if you do wrong trees are lost as less recycling is done but if recycle more trees are saved.

With a bit of research I found out this is also done, not in the same style at what i was thinking but on a more global scale and has been running for a while called Recycle Bank and here is a article on it at mashable. Here is a video on it showing some really inspiring stuff to bring a wider community together to benefit the planet and reward them for it:

This may have been done in a professional manner but as a little mini game/app im sure i should be able to proceed with this idea. I was thinking due to the tutors and cleaners constantly mentioning about tidying up in the studio a cartoon style game where you need to clear the studio of litter as fast as possible but swiping the litter into the bin. This would be good on the app store as currently i haven’t found anything of the sort.

The best idea i felt I had though was a walking to work or shopping or anything you need to be at, the idea you set your track using a  map of your area and then you are time trialed to get there as fast as you can walking. This then would be saved into a leaderboard of times to compete with yourself and colleagues, when loading up you could choose previous tracks done named appropriately by yourself so try beat your last time or friends time. This would then give you points dependent on speed, beating others, beating your own time, arriving early to work and so on. The funny side of it I would like implemented but its unrealistic due to technical restraints would be walking down a road your phone connects to another if headphones are connected to ask another person to race on a set track, this would then show the other persons statistics, win ratio, average speed etc. It would look rather odd seeing two people busting a gut to out walk another from McDonald’s to city hall but it gamifies your standard journey. I know that walking races are an actual sport and profession for trained professionals but applied in a daily life journey I don’t believe has been done. How I would go about this i have no idea as of yet but if accepted i would have to research into custom tracks on a map that are timed and tracked by your phones location sort of like a sat nav in a car.

So these are my ideas I can propose there are many other things i have considered but dont feel them to be as strong as ones mentioned, but if none are accepted i can possibly fall back on other ideas. I think the key is to apply gamification to something that is boring, something you dont like to do so that it gives it a goal at the end of it. There are plenty of day to day life tasks that this can be applied to such as brushing your teeth for 2 minutes twice a day or more.

Once doing some research and actually thinking about it alot of things are now gamified in some shape or form, WordPress tracks your statistics and has little achievements for amount of blog posts, Snapchat has a points system dependent on your use, Tesco’s has club card points for purchasing products as do most shops on and offline now. The list goes on some seem dull but in many ways life is a game and everything is permitted to be made a game. Finding that unique idea though is the harder task in this.


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Development Diary- Hellblade

HellBlade_Teaser_Screenshot_05

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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Client Project- Christmas and Session 13

At the end of the previous session we discussed what we would be doing over the christmas period running up to hand in. Using Basecamp we set priorities in the form of to-dos some specified to individuals for example myself i had to blueprint pawn possession, or general to-dos for everybody like finish all building textures. This was made very clear before the holiday and the use of basecamp and communication was mentioned prior to that aswell as vital over the holiday period. This was evident due to basecamps tracking of log ins half the group didnt use the program at all and few used it regulary, this picked up when reminded but it should be a habit by now to be keeping well involved with all the work making sure your not missing one bit. That being said we reiterated it on return hoping for a collective group to be working professionally using the likes of basecamp on a regular basis.

Over the holiday period most had to admit little had been done or more could have been done, I myself know i did do work but could have done more if I had only special occasions off. Despite that I have managed to texture 5 of my 6 buildings after finishing the parliament street building model with the last texture in progress , my blogs are current in the client. Since return I have modelled an interior for the classic mini, blueprinted Pawn possession (with assisstance from Phil for the exiting of the vehicle which took a while and 2 heads to figure out), and most recently to much joy I have managed to correctly rig, weight paint, animate and blueprint my mini to be driveable in engine. I will now elaborate on my process for each of these with images.

As far as textures go most i have already uploaded so ill just show the most recent, which is a model im also yet to show.

 

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This is a building down parliament street, I chose it as I know modelling is one of my strong points so I felt a more difficult looking building would be better tasked to myself. I had some issues along the way despite that the making of the bottom half was the hardest part with the extruded sandy parts needing different sizes each time and to bend around the window. I am very pleased with my final product of the model and doing such a detailed building in 2781 polys when a high detail building was originally tasked at 20000, shows im getting better at modularity and having an eye for optimising my model.

parliament_textureThe texture i was very pleased with, I used simple planar mapping for most of the unwrap then just a few cases of needing to grab verticies to not have stretches around stiched corners and then just scaling so that the checker pattern created nice neat squares across each area. The changes i will make to this will be the bottom section, the stone part was a basic tileable stone texture that I have hand painted it to make it look like bricks, but after some digging a stone texture like that of the original building was found so its just needs applying. There is a slight issue with the bricks on the left window they skew a bit I wasnt sure on why this was at the time so i continued with the unwrap and when I textured it I forgot about that being left. This needs patching up once I find out why its done this but shouldnt be too much hassle hopefully. Next is to apply normal maps to my buildings to create more realistic textures.

Moving on I modelled an interior for my classic mini using my own reference and just reference from classic mini online stores for accuracy.

With this interior modelled we can now have the in car view for the classic mini not only for people walking past to see a interior but for the pawn possession feature we can drive this in first person view. Im really happy with my end result for the interior all that is left for the car now is to be textured. Im not sure ill have time for this before hand in but certainly will be a definate for the end product.

Now to have all this used to its max I was tasked with the pawn possession feature for interactivity which would be done in blueprints. This is a slight alteration of my initial idea early on of a racing game due to the figure of 8 on the map but i wanted to be involved especially when they are my vehicles in the project. Being fairly efficient in blueprints this was a task i felt confident in completing using the help of online tutorials and ue4 answer hub. Now this was the case i had it all working then realised that we need to get out once we are in. This was proving more difficult as the player would spawn back at player start instead of outside the car. Also spawing the player inside the car in view for 3rd person example purposes made 2 collisions collide and send everything absolutely mental.

With the addition help from Phil it took us most of the day but we finally figured out how to get them in and out of the car. After celebrating we then realised we can get out and in at anytime from anywhere. Simple fix of a radius overlap on collision enabling the key press to enter, then the exit the player could just bail tuck and roll at anytime like GTA. We didnt want this so again took time to work out how to calculate it to only be exitable when throttle is less than 1. This was completed by the end of the day and we now have a working pawn possession in our project to add to interactivity.

But to make this our own personal touch rather than Unreal Engine 4’s preset sedan vehicle in our game which didnt match the 60s theme at all, I was then challenged with the unknown area of rigging a vehicle for it to then work in Ue4 with our pawn possession. Im going to be straight I did this process over and over so many times due to issues with bones, not weight painting it right, UE4 claiming un-weighted bones, wrong hierachy for the bones. And that was just 3DSMax issues, when i got all the max issues resolved I put it in UE4 for animation blueprints not to fire, car controls not to work, the car to have everything set up and stay stationary, physics assets not correctly set up, the sedan to be clashing with the custom vehicle blueprints and setting up the front and back wheel blueprints wrong having all wheels rotating manicly. It was a laugh but i can now say ive done it that many times through trail and error the process has been memorised and hopefully mastered for future use. It was such a relief to see car wheels spinning after hours of stress and frustration on why it all was going wrong for me. Persistance got me there and now im proud to have the vehicle able to be possessed and driveable. Additional animation will need to be taken into consideration due to the interior view like the steering wheel with hands, gear changes, dials etc but for now it works to a standard im pleased with for a rookie in the rigging area.

Here are some screenshots of the process in 3dsMax:

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Then moving into UE4:

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Despite this lengthy process it was well worth me sticking to it, not only for end product for the client but this will also help me in my self initiated racing game.

On reflection im pleased with the work that I have done but would have liked more done over the holidays to have a larger amount of especially assets to hand in. Due to the complexity of cars its not a botch quick job it takes time and with focusing on them in client and self initiated i think i need a break to rapidly produce smaller assets for the project.

As for the hand in, Myself and Phil will be making the modular road system again due to some slight measurement miscalculations and then texturing that ready for hand in. Hopefully we will have a collective textured section of our project which is the primary target. We already covered the interactivity side with a treasure hunt, involving pick ups, inventory system, gate and key system, driveable car (pawn possession), throwable object projectiles, and then a basic HUD with minimap and inventory system. My contribution to this was the pawn possession due to my main skillsets being in modelling and Phil taking the lead on the blueprints side of things.

Hopefully everybody does manage to get everything tasked on basecamp done within prioritising so buildings modelled and textured the priority then all the rest being added bonus. I look forward to our feedback as i know we should be alot further ahead and hopefully the group steps up to really get the best out of our client piece for the final product.

EDIT: I have now resolve the brick skewing issue it was a mistake on my behalf aligning some verticies horizontally that shouldnt have been, really simple fix thankfully.

texture fix


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Platform Expo- Rush n’ Crush

platform1

Around 4 weeks ago Myself, Phil Maclennan, Matt Lane, James Cook and Ryan Glover decided we was going to make a game for platform expos and hopefully display it. The idea behind the game was a small car racing game set in a toy workshop that you would race with your friends (up to 4 player) to stay on the track any way possible. If you was too slow the screen would eliminate you, or if you fell off the track you would also be eliminated until only 1 remained who gained the point respawning all 4 back into the race. It was inspired from a game called micro machines, just simple fun yet still competitive.

After pinning down the name to Rush n Crush we began using unreal engine 4 to work out the blueprints for the style of game we wanted to make. This was all down to James he is the blueprint expert out of the team, the rest of us are the 3d artists of the game we began to model our cars which were a mustang for me, a f1 car for ryan, a truck for phil and a rc car for matt. Unfortunately we didnt get chance to use our custom cars in the demo of the game at platform and instead used buggies with different emissive colours to represent the players. The cars however was placed around the track to make it feel like the workshop owner had built them so they wasnt wasted models.

Here is my mustang model:

As you can see with the amount of poly’s i used (6998) im really pleased with the outcome of my mustang. It took about 2 weeks on and off working on it but im still pleased with the outcome. i added a few progress pictures in there too so you can see how much it came on and what i added, most details are not nessacery due to the style of the game being top down and relatively far away with small cars so i was able to cut some corners on certain parts of the car, the white car is the finished textured mustang which would have gone in game time permitted but will be rigged and put into the game in the near future.

Then with all our actual course demands like client projects and self initiated we didnt do much until the final week where our tutors allowed us to be taken off lesson timetable on wednesday and thursday to push to get the game working and looking good. So we did long days of modelling, texturing, and testing to get a game we wanted to show to the people attending platform. Looking back if we had managed to free ourselves the time alongside our course work the game could have been alot further along.

An asset list was formulated to figure out what would be in a workshop, i believe that every asset should have a bio behind it like why its there, who put it there, what is its purpose and so on so nailing this was key to having a more immersive game. Here is what we came up with for assets:

Primary:

RC Car

Truck

Mustang

F1 Car

Table’s (for racing on)

Room (Walls & Floor)

Pickup’s (Projectile, Glue, Speed Boost, Super-Size)

Ruler (Maybe a couple of types)

Nuts & Bolts

Cogs

Books

Vice

Lamp

Fan

Paint Brushes

Paint Pots (Different types)

Pens & Pencils

Rubbers

Screwdriver

Mug

Chair

Bin

Hand drill

Cutting Board (Perhaps a decal)

Magnifying Glass (Multi sub, Render glass in engine)

Model Buildings

Glue pot

Alphabet cubes

Tires & wheels (For toys)

Plants

Stool

Secondary:

Tape measure

Scissors

Clothes

Empty boxes

Chest of drawers

Glasses

String

Bucket

Dust pan & Brush

Extension leads

Soldering Iron

Phone

Craft Knife

Plastic Tubes (Can drive through?)

Sketch Pad

Tool Holder (Wooden frame)

Tool Box

Parts of Toys (Can use bits of model cars)

Bits of wood

Pencil Case

Hammer

Plyers

Saw

Hoover

Paint pallet

Glue Gun

Broom

Tertiary:

Football

Needle and thread

Scrunched up paper

Computer screens

Clock

Empty Pots

Radio

Set Square

Cello tape

Cricket Bat

Xylophone

Fish Bowl

Cutlery

Sweets

Plug extension sockets

Toy Bike

Heater

Wire Coil

Ear Protection

Chisel

Slingshot

Ears phones

Ipod

Fairly extensive as you can see, we priotitised thing we felt needed to be in the game and then the rest was just extras to block out the level. Additions to this list was made along the way and some of this list was modelled and not used, its still all work taking into consideration what could work in the environment to make a decision whether or not we felt it played a part in the design well enough. Then it was down to the placement of the models to make a track ill go further into this later on.

My models:

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Personally i did 21 models, not all ended up featured in the platform demo of the game and not all of the asset list was even modelled. for example the rocket projectile, speed boost and sweet were meant to be power ups along the track but we wasnt able to figure out how they would work in time so they are on standby for future additions to the game. Im happy with my work that i produced, the majority of this minus the mustang was done in the last 2 days before platform as we all needed to go full steam ahead to having something presentable to the public, some models are rather low poly like the drill its very box like but that was due to the game we had room to cut down and wanted not to go too mad on polycount just so it ran smoothly. My texturing ability is one i need to brush up on but doing this work has really made it come on i now know what im doing better and produced some nice final products especially the toolbench i was particulary pleased with that, the bin bags i used mudbox to sculpt a normal map to bake into the model, and the paper i photoshopped to create an alpha map showing i can used other texture maps to improve my model texture. I am looking forward to doing this all over again for a new level as it really benifitted my modelling work speed, work quality, and texturing. Cars currently being my best asset of modelling (see classic mini) modelling other simple realistic assets will be beneficial to alternate projects such as the client project.

The logo was done by myself, i am no illustrator but it did the job for the day it will need revisiting for a final product to add professionalism but for the time it worked. I used a impact font to give a bold clear type to the logo, then sketches of 2 of the cars in relation to speed and damage added speed lines to the rush to symbolise movement then a expolsion and crushed together font for the crush type. Then just a simple emboss and border to make it all pop.

RUSH AND CRUSH LOGO4With everything set and filled out in the environment we was ready for platform the next morning to get some people testing our game.

On the friday, it couldnt have gone much better really a few school trips arrived and we had amazing reception from them saying things like “id buy this game when its coming out?” and my personal favourite “this is more fun than mario kart” with feedback like that we all had smiles on our faces thinking this is what it feels like to be a games designer this is what we are working for the real deal. Here is some video footage we managed to capture of people playing during the day:

These lads age range 20-25 clearly enjoyed the simple re-playability aspect of the game, one of them gave our game a 9/10 with only feedback of custom cars and more tracks. So despite being a game you can relate to a younger market it clearly appeals to all ages who enjoy some quick easy to pick up racing fun.

This video is of some younger lads who were on a school trip having a race and enjoying it, the particular thing in this video is the ease of pick up and play. One lad had been playing for a while had enough decided to move on and his friend close by just picks the controller up to race. That is exactly what we was going for, in one case some were like “I’m alright ill just watch” but as soon as they picked up gave it a go they loved it i think it surprised a few how much fun it was.

My favourite video being this one, a group of school  trip lads again playing the game (younger audience target market seems likely) i have managed to get an angle of them in shot and the screen so you can see the reactions, its all smiles, reactions and enjoyment. One lad once again stating “i would buy this game” which we heard alot throughout the day especially from console players. A unintended feature of the video was the reflection from the TV but it does catch some reactions whilst playing so it sort of work, next time we would rather have screen capture software for clear game play and then a webcam on top to monitor people playing.

Then the final video is myself playing with another group of lads (we had alot of girls playing too one said she preferred it to micro machines in guild hall but didnt get any footage) im the red car and get wiped out completely by one of them straight away which i wasnt happy about. Throughout the day i played with most people just getting to know their feedback if they liked the game how they was enjoying it and if they would like to see it move on, this usually ended up in great feedback and then them all teaming up on me to ram me off as I am one of the game developers (i knew the shortcuts…or they refer to as cheating). It was great fun enjoying the game with other people of all ages, seeing how they reacted and making them feel free to express hatred towards me when i kept winning.

 

You can see the pure enjoyment which is exactly what we was going for something thats not overcomplicated there isnt too much going on its just pure racing against your friends and the track to win any way you can which i feel we achieved.

play

Throughout the day we had lots of people expressing their interest in the game and how they want to see it released. This got us thinking how can we do this, as we are students the software we use is under student licensing which means we cannot sell anything that we produce in the software we use. Speaking to a few fellow developers they suggested using blender for our models (but that means re-modelling everything in a brand new program we need to learn) or kickstarter which is an organisation that allows people to gain funding for a project through the public using a kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter seemed like the most likely until I was approached by a guy from microsoft who said to me that we should get it on steam, once i mentioned student licenses and where we was from being Hull school of art and design being game artists using unreal engine 4s blueprints he gave me his business card for me to contact him about our game and how we can make the next step. He briefly mentioned personally reaching out to the likes of autodesk and unreal to give us free licensing as good publicity on their behalf which is another option but microsofts interest was certainly a shock expressing how much he loves what we have done with the game. We have a few options but hopefully we will get the game finished and on sale to the public.

We had interest from Smashed Crab studios who are a team of programmers that was interested in helping us take the game further using programming, this is something to consider as we are no programmers we just make everything look nice and we did make it work to a re-playable extent. And then a guy who is building up his portfolio for sound said he would love to work for us on a free basis as long as he can display the game in his portfolio piece, which was great as we have no sounds so its definately something we will consider taking up.

I personally left friday thinking to myself this is amazing, i couldnt believe how well recieved the game was and the amount of interest in its release. Telling people we couldnt release yet due to being students wasnt what we wanted to say and now we want to turn the table to say yes it will be out.

This has a potential not only as a game but us 5 as a team to go far as we showed how capable we are with plenty of room to move forward. Features was suggested to us by varied people throughout platform, things such as different/ custom cars was a popular one (already have) aswell as new tracks. Gameplay we have thought about all the time, from a kitchen scene where plates in the sink are balance your way across to a games room with a scaletrix track on the go.

Overall this was a extremely valuable experience for us 5 even if the game doesnt go anywhere we can say we built a game and displayed it at a gaming expo where it was a hit with most, one group of lads was on it for a good 3hours laughing, ramming and replaying. If all funding doesnt work we can still release it for free and have a shipped game behind us. We are definately going to proceed with working on the game to getting a finished product we can hopefully sell, who knows the game could be a hit starting us as a indie studio in hull.

What platform is all about is bringing the gaming industry to Hull, its not as well developed in games design as many other places in the UK so with the city of culture coming up now is the time to thrive and push to making Hull a contributing city to the gaming industry. Thats what platform does it gives small teams like ourselves to display our game to get it out there to the public for feedback and testing, its great for marketing. Calender did a bit of footage of the day reporting on what platform is http://www.itv.com/news/calendar/update/2014-11-14/hull-becoming-major-player-in-computer-gaming/ We are extremely grateful to platform for allowing us this opportunity to display our game, hopefully next year we can come back with the finished product. Keep watch on us there will be more from us and Rush n Crush.

i have set us up a basic online presence for now:

Facebook

Email: RushnCrush@hotmail.com

Youtube

if you need to contact us please email us or post to facebook.

 


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Casual Game- Tower Defence

So originally for my casual game (the proposal here) i wanted to make a brick breaker style keep the ball up and hit targets football themed game relevant to the stick man kick ball flash animation aboveflash, i was having alot of issues with the coding for this in the form of levels and the collisions in the targets code. Due to thinning time and frustrations hitting a new level i decided it would be best to put this to one side and pursue it in the summer. By doing this i obviously needed a new casual game for my module briefs so i went down the path of a tower defense game, this tower defense game would be styled on many other tower defense games which involve a maze for the enemy to try get from start to finish but you stop them using turrets or methods of some sort. Games like this include Bloons tower defense series which is a hugely popular and now multiplayer game with micro transactions features various monkeys which pop balloon’s  using everything from darts to plasma laser super monkeys.

Bloons_TD_5_Gameplay

Heres some more examples of different and popular tower defense games at casualgirlgamer.

So i wanted a tower defense game with a maze and varied difficulties of enemies and a few levels nothing huge or complex but a challenge. The game would need a money value to place the turret onto the game and therefore a money gain function when an enemy died and dependent on the level the higher the money gained. the turrets would have range if i could find a way to show that maybe a hover over radius or click to select tower. obviously a limited amount of levels and lives so the game is both there to win and lose with a reset button on the win/lose screen. the turrets need to fire bullets at the enemies perferably lock on so its not impossible which then means health of the enemies is considered and bullet damaged to that health which will alter with level of enemy. if i have time id like to make different maze levels and possibly more expensive better turrets.

I used a tutorial online at FlashGameTuts to get me a focused on how to program a tower defence game, as we are not here to be master programmers but it helps to understand and be able to work with code. This tutorial was very useful it wasnt spoon fed in all case you had to find and place the code given in the right areas making sure you had everything named correctly matched going to the right areas etc. there was no asisstance if you had done something wrong which allowed you to really read into the code over and over to make sense of what you had to find the problem. I really got far with this tutorial with no compiled errors shown up but as i knew flash wasnt going to be nice to me all the way and i came to a stop mid way through the tutorial. The reason for this was that the coded dynamic text in the user interface at the bottom (hud) which displayed money, lives, level and enemies left, what it was sopposed to do was to display the actual value and then when you did an action that directly affected one of them it would decrease e.g. to place a turret its £20 you start with £100 but instead of displaying 80 it just vanished this happened with each of the dynamic texts. this was the first of the problems it also when winning or losing was sopposed to divert to a win/lose page but soon as this was triggered it flashed between the 2 uncontrollably until you clicked to reset the game. The win/lose slide was a massive issue most flash users will relate to me when i say Capital letter instead of lower case was the issue, so it was easily solved but such a minor mistake will break the script. Despite that i check and checked the code to the given code and it was identical my tutor Paul also looked over it and couldnt find any issues which ultimately said why is it not working then. Using trace ( ) coding to track what the function you are tracing is doing showed no change or issues so the problem was unidentifable. Hitting a dead end i noticed he had set his timeline out differently to me this shouldnt have mattered at all confirmed my tutor as the scripting and keyframes used are the same its just the layout, despite this i decided to restart and lay the timeline out this way and it worked so i was allowed to progress. I then went on to finish the game finally putting in harder enemies and level plans so with frustration, stress and hardwork i had finally completed my casual game.

To make sure that it was not just a straight copy i made sure i tailored features of the game to my own specifications. This included the dynamic text user interface was chosen by myself in wording and colouring, the inclusion of a win/lose frame was my own wording and colour, the main one which was the levels was all my own specifications i decided the spawing of the enemies in amounts,order, level, difficulty and speed. I decided to alter the code for the amount of lives from 20 to 1 so you only get one chance making it tactically more difficult and challenging, i altered the amount of money gained from defeating an enemy the original value was 5 per enemy per level but i changed it to 1 per enemy per level e.g. level 1 kill=1money then level 5 kill= 5money and so on so less money gained upped the difficulty and decreased the amount of turrets you could possibly spawn on screen. This was all down to fine tuning i played the game over and over making it harder then easier altering starting money to amount of lives or money earned it was a tweaking process but it gave my game my own personal touch to it.

I would like to if i have time create another level with a different maze and possible research into having a health bar above the enmies so i can really tweak it to be addictingly close to winning, but this is all time dependent.

Im currently in the process of uploading what i have online as my game so i have a shipped game. Thanks to David Smith for being a games tester giving peer assessment so i could focus on gameplay alterations.

 


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Dead Space and Outlast Psychoanalysed.

The two video games I will be comparing by using psychoanalysis will be “Outlast” and “Dead Space” on the characters of Miles Upshur the reporter on Outlast and Isaac Clarke a space engineer in Dead Space both are the main protagonists.

Outlast is a first person horror game set in a mountain asylum, you the player are a reporter who has received a tip of suspicious goings on at this location anonymously. By the time you realise to abort this case it’s too late your trapped and have to find a way out through many jump scares and monsters or crazy people running around. The story behind it is contextual to the real MKUltra experiments conducted by the CIA in the 50s, 60s and 70s in the U.S. and Canada. Those experiments, which are still shrouded in secrecy and that some think continue to this day, dealt with drug use, torture and some form of mind control. Instead of a narrative to the story the game is run by individual investigations throughout by the player using his video camera which engages you in the story to try solve the madness. It’s purely designed to make the gamer suffer as you only have three options told to you at the start of the game “Run, hide or die” no combat skills or weapons to assist you which just fuels the fear. The “Walrider“ is the main antagonist of the game who causes the sacrifices of the mental patients and worship as it is all powerful apart from the machine which allows it to live and host a body.

Dead Space is a 3rd person futuristic horror game set in space on a malfunctioning mining ship called the usg ishimura which is used for new resource gathering planetary methods called “Planet cracking”. Isaac Clarke a space engineer is sent to fix the ship, to find the ship is thriving with an undead species called the Necromorph. Isaac is also looking for his girlfriend Nicole who is assigned to the ship, he received a confusing message of “I wish it didn’t have to end this way”, throughout the battle of uncovering what’s behind the Necromorph he is also going through his own battle with sanity as the “marker” which controls the Necromorph also causes Isaac’s hallucinations and visions which constantly freak out and confuse the player. The psychological battle with the church of unitology the cult behind the Necromorph’s and his nightmares are the driving force of the plot. You fight to fix all this and your own problems it’s a truly on edge game with plenty of jump scares.

I have chosen outlast and the main character Miles Upshur as I want to analyse how the character is used to make you feel as a player like you are in the game. You never see the face of the character you instantly place yourself due to the 1st person view as the character despite the name which is easily overlooked. “That’s the thing about survival horror: if you’re empowered, then the threat is not as big…you feel you have to be proactive to fight back. But if you know there is no way you can fight back, then that’s when I think the horror is most effective.” This is a quote from co-founder of Outlast Philippe Morin describing the mindset behind the mechanics of the game, I read into this further and found out they got inspiration of this from a game called “Amnesia” this game released in August 2010 was a clear inspiration for outlasts game play style of a huge focus on psychoanalysis and how they can engage the player into the world of horror, with quotes like this “I think it is safe to say that Amnesia is the most successfully frightening game to have been made.” – Rock, Paper, Shotgun so basing the game on this was a solid bit of context for a successful horror. With that in mind it really helps assist the player’s engagement with the character, you feel his vulnerability, his fear and his desperation throughout various escapes and pitch black navigations. The feature that supports this the most effectively I feel is the 1st person view, this places you immediately in the mindset that you are Miles Upshur, you experience and consider all the notes and video clips he records throughout the game like a detective to try figure out where to next or what’s around the corner. The use of 1st person is supported by the camera you use to record the happenings of the story, but the battery life on this camera is reliant on you finding batteries which are scarce causing missed clues and some scary no night vision glowing eyed enemy moments. Its features include whilst running away you can look behind to see how close your pursuer is, if you approach a corner your hand will rest on the wall so you can peak round and the options to bust open doors or be silent in your stealthy movement depends on the situation its truly immersive and slowly engages your connection with the characters physicality as the game goes on, not forgetting the increasing audio of Upshur’s breathing if people are spotted or noises are made which automatically engages you to do the same. “While there’s rarely any let up in the tension, it always feels like you’re in the hands of a developer at the top of its game, revelling in making the player uncomfortable, but never forgetting to delight at the same time.”- Edge review online. This quote from edge’s review rated 4.5stars of 5 sums up the intentions of the designer they love making you believe it’s you but don’t neglect some breathers so it’s not overwhelming tension. Although everyone around him is mentally unstable with signs of dementia and insanity miles manages to keep mental stability until becoming the host of the antagonist the walrider in the end when he disconnects its original host’s life support system causing Miles to be in the end the cause and reason behind his investigation so you the player are essentially mentally stable but end up the cause of the insanity through digging into something you shouldn’t have. The player never loses touch with the game as there are no cut scenes in the game so you are purely playing and stopping the take notes then back to the madness, no breakages in the plot means smooth game play that doesn’t disengage you at any point and never reveals the appearance of Miles.

I chose Isaac Clarke the main character in dead space as I want to question the player’s engagement into another person’s journey of both mentally and physically how they use realism of the story and backstory with cut scenes to emotionally attach you to this character. Isaac had previously been living with Nicole Brennan prior to her assignment to the usg ishimura 2 years before the blackout of communications, so when assigned to go fix it the mission became much more personal and also engaging as despite a alien outbreak there is focus to be achieving that “epic win” that Jane McGonigal talks about in her TED talk on “gaming can make a better world” as you the player want Isaac to succeed. Only to be dragged along his path of insanity when he contracts dementia, you are witness to this man’s mental torture which the ‘marker’ uses Nicole to haunt Isaac despite the actual truth being she died at the start of the outbreak taking her own life which is the end of the video clip that he is sent, so the marker uses her to try destroy him and you which several frightening hallucinations and very eerie voices in his head. This powerful narrative really drags you deep into someone’s mental instability and you connect the protagonist Isaac strongly creating your own mistrusts and views on other crew members when separated who also seem to use “We will find Nicole” to manipulate Isaac further into helping them. The key to Isaac’s recovery was acceptance and letting Nicole go after the shocking realisation of her suicide, you the player witness all this as a 3rd person party this gives you the opportunity to derive your own theories on what has actually happened and what hasn’t, in some cases you are wondering what is a hallucination and what isn’t, this psychological journey is of Isaac’s mentality but also your depiction of the actual events. By designing the game in this way you the player naturally try to predict what is coming next or who did what, as soon as that kicks in the writers grip you with many twists and shocks you never saw coming like Kendra a crew member betraying Isaac trying to escape on her own to her own peril. As the 3rd person view with many means of killing these necromorphs it gives you chance to appreciate the world around you more you pay more attention to the finer details in the scenery for example in one of the elevator hallucinations where Nicole’s eyes look like they are beaming right through you the effect you can see on Isaac really immerses you in his feelings of what horror he must go through and how you have to get him out. Also 3rd person allowed me to see the physical exertion going into the character when taking hits or dealing damage, he hobbles on low health grabbing his stomach breathing heavily that engagement of visuals supports the emotions you are supposed to feel for the protagonist further supporting his cause. But they do not give him a voice “the original which features no voice acting for the character and is only seen out of his helmet at the very beginning and ending of the game” (giantbomb.com article) so by doing this you the player make your own assumptions on his personality and all of his features due to the majority of the game he is just a suit.

I want to contrast the differences between the user experience of 1st person in outlast to 3rd person in dead space and how it makes you feel. This is a much debated topic in gaming culture of which is better for a horror genre game 1st person or 3rd person. Multiple blogs I have sourced have different views here are some “First person, hands down. Instead of being some bodiless entity floating over the left/right shoulder of main protagonist, you ARE the protagonist seeing what he sees through his eyes.”- (horrorgameforums.com) that is in support of 1st person but on the other hand “I feel third person would be better because you can see your character, which makes you more immersed in the game and feel the horror that the character is experiencing. Also, you can see yourself get attacked”- (yahoo.com reference question) but then there is the middle ground of “I think that 3rd person tends to emphasize the player’s sense of vulnerability via the visible exposure of the player character, whereas 1st person emphasizes the sense of viscerality by situating the player as the direct recipient of attacks. 3rd person horror = exposure, 1st person horror = enclosure. Each perspective has its respective strengths, but given that ‘horror’ tends to encompass a range of emotions, it’s hard to say any one is better than the other.” (idlethumbs.net/forums Walter). Many views can be taken on this from let’s say quote 1 the capitalised “Are” emphasises his point that you are the character you see through his eyes so you experience his fear. Whereas the contrast quote 2 references to having a connection to the character and seeing pain through emotion or physicality it’s like you’re on a journey together. Then quote 3 sums up the differences and how you pick specific ones to portray specific styles of horror game exposure or enclosure. My personal view is that 1st person is lots more engaging so I was alot more scared of outlast than i was of dead space purely down to it felt like I was the main character throughout you could be stood still in a narrow corridor thinking im not going down there and have no idea that a 8ft hulk like monster is behind you towering over your body that’s the mindset I was in. Yes I did feel a connection to Isaac as a protagonist and that I was there to guide him with weapons but I can’t think of anything more scary than 1st person realistic horror with no means of fighting back relating back to outlasts co founder quote of “That’s the thing about survival horror: if you’re empowered, then the threat is not as big…you feel you have to be proactive to fight back. But if you know there is no way you can fight back, then that’s when I think the horror is most effective.”

 

The comparison of the two games I would have to go down the path of the usage of mental instability to drive or coincide with the storyline. Outlast uses it alot being set in a ‘mental asylum’ but it did have some contextual reference to it as explained before in mysterious CIA conspiracies of mind control and dementia. Whilst your character isn’t mentally unstable everything around him seems to be crumbling all of which you are trying to get to the bottom of with many scary obstacles and strange sacrificial occurrences going on. I feel the use of mentality in outlast is key to capture it correctly in the game if they hadn’t have possibly gone over the top in some cases with the doctor taking a few of your fingers you might not have believed the scale of the madness which then loses interest.

Whereas in Dead Space not only is Isaac fighting a alien outbreak you are being affected by the ‘marker’ which caused the outbreak and is now making Isaac lose his sanity taking the form of Nicole his loved one in hallucinations a side effect of dementia. It’s a real exhausting journey for you and Isaac slaughtering countless necromorphs and dealing with what is real and what isn’t as his condition escalates. This is vital in the storyline you really gain connection with Isaac it’s like you are on this journey together but you’re not sure what is what or who to trust as nobody seems to be trustworthy as they use Nicole as a driving force for Isaac to keep going thinking he will find her and repent for telling her to take the job here in the first place. Most people said on the blogs I read for 3rd person horror vs. 1st person that the 3rd person narrative does sometimes heavily rely on strong narrative and dead space really pulled it off “An incredibly atmospheric and disturbingly gruesome deep-space adventure that will haunt your dreams and leave you begging for more.” – (LarkAnderson on October 13, 2008 gamespot.com review 9/10).

So in both games this feature is a key factor of the narrative and has been pulled off successfully enough to make the different interpretations of dementia and insanity believable for the player so that they can truly engage in the game.

In conclusion the topics I have discussed behind the psychoanalysis of main protagonists of Dead Space Isaac Clarke and Outlast Miles Upshur is that both games have different styles of engaging the player into the horror by means of either game play realism or gripping narrative throughout. If I have to pick my choice of which did the better job of getting into my head it would have to be outlast purely on the basis of the 1st person view I can’t help but feel that when the character Miles is attacked that I sit there and say “that monster just hit me run!” emphasis there on ‘me’ whereas with Dead Space it was “Isaac run keep going its behind you” or “he’s dead” not im dead so it was more a personal engagement to believing it’s me that made it more scary. But to keep it neutral ground for their different but also similar styles of horror game you can’t say either one had done a bad job at making the player engage with the game in some way that would grip them to the screen begging for more.

 

References

Butler, M. 2014. Interactive Nightmares: A History of Video game horror. Kindle ed. Amazon.

GameSpot. 2014. Dead Space Review. [online] Available at: http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/dead-space-review/1900-6199349/ [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].

Giantbomb.com. 2014. Isaac Clarke (Character) – Giant Bomb. [online] Available at: http://www.giantbomb.com/isaac-clarke/3005-1197/ [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].

Horrorgameforums.com. 2012. First Person vs. Third Person?. [online] Available at: http://www.horrorgameforums.com/public.html/showthread.php?95-First-Person-vs-Third-Person [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].

Idlethumbs.net. 2014. Horror games, 1st person or 3rd person? – Video Gaming – Idle Forums. [online] Available at: https://www.idlethumbs.net/forums/topic/962-horror-games-1st-person-or-3rd-person/ [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].

Krawczyk, M. and Novak, J. 2014. Gave Development Essentials: Game Story & Character Development.

Official PlayStation website. 2014. Outlast. [online] Available at: http://uk.playstation.com/ps4/games/detail/item620625/Outlast/ [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].

Official PlayStation website. 2014. Outlast. [online] Available at: http://uk.playstation.com/ps4/games/detail/item620625/Outlast/ %5BAccessed: 30 Mar 2014].

Outlast Wiki. 2014. Miles Upshur. [online] Available at: http://outlast.wikia.com/wiki/Miles_Upshur [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].

Polygon. 2014. Outlast is a stealth horror game designed to make the player suffer. [online] Available at: http://www.polygon.com/2013/6/19/4444548/outlast-is-a-stealth-horror-game-designed-to-make-the-player-suffer [Accessed: 30 Mar 2014].