So I’ve come to the conclusion Monkey Island 2: Le Chucks Revenge is actually a deeply tragic game about growing with absentee parents while being surrounded by a poor network of family and social support and being crippled from reengaging with siblings, and not about finding treasure at all *strokes beard*
Short post, haven’t done anything for a while, I’m managing 25 people is my reasoning, but something new needs to go here none the less. So let’s go!!
I’ve had a really successful holidays and beginning of this uni trimester working with lots of different, cool and interesting people. Collaboration is something that I was never great at, but I feel I’m getting significantly better at it. This is a handful of dot pointed tips on what I’ve learned for a successful collaborative process.
If it’s your project originally and you’re getting someone else involved, figure out what’s important to you, what’s your stake in it, and what is just the vehicle to make that happen.
I’ve been dealing with a lot of narrative stuff lately, and I feel this is a prime example of the above. I have a few very pivotal things I want to see happen in the story. Sometimes these are plot points, others might be overall tone or message. Everything else is structure, or a method of delivery. Figuring out what must be kept for you to still have a stake is a good thing, because there’s no point in collaborating if you end up disengaging with the project. But know your reasoning, WHY are these important to you. Be able to talk about it top to bottom from every angle. If you can’t answer everything about it, it loses its weight with your collaborator and probably wasn’t that important to you in the first place. Everything else, be loose, be open. One of the reasons you collaborate is to push that other stuff that you’re not so on top of to a greater place!
Have a clear understanding of roles, who has what strong points and what are they best suited to do.
One of the principle reasons I see collaborations fail is because you have two insanely talented people in the same place at the same time with the same knowledge and the same roles. As much as they might get along, there’s not a lot one can bring to the other in terms of the collaboration. Having an understanding of who you’re working with, why and how you’ll go about it will help you identify really early on if things are going to work. Even if it’s a case of the project being so big that you can’t do it by yourself, still take the time to define what those involved will be doing.
Understand that the person you’re collaborating with has different knowledge and might need to enter the discussion from a completely different angle. Take the time to understand the background to entering like that.
I’m a digital games guy but one of the people I work with a lot is from a non-digital games background. We work really well together, but I do sometimes need to step back from the actual problem we’re focusing on and make sure I understand what knowledge and experience she’s leveraging. This really comes down to trying to understand what the other person is saying as best as possible. An idea she might put forward might sound rather frivolous in my background of digital games, but once I understand how she’s seen that idea implemented in another medium, we can bring the good things of that into a digital space. Otherwise I would be referencing solely off a digital game, which (let’s face in) there’s a lot of things we’re not great at implementing in a rewarding way.
Communicate consistently in a way that works for both people.
Really obvious but I see this one not happen a lot. As much as we all love the romanticized perfect creative partner who always understands what you’re thinking even when you’re on the other side of the planet, chances are that won’t be the case. Always be in communication on elements and plans of the collaboration, keep your person (or people) in the loop of where you want to push to. But this doesn’t mean 4AM phone calls and Facebook messages all day long every time a little thing pops into your head. Make specific times to talk, doesn’t have to be formal meeting times or anything fancy. Just that ‘Okay, around this time, this is where we’re going to put things on the table and bounce ideas around’ sort of thing.
A few reason for this, first of all it’ll stop you just throwing things out there that aren’t really fully formed ideas at the drop of a hat. Secondary, it’ll give your collaborator their own head space to ponder and think on things. Thirdly you don’t know what’s going on in their life every second. Trying to pitch ideas at the worst possible moment will end in those ideas not being given the time they deserve, and even worse, if you move on things based on that conversation, it might end up steering you in the wrong direction!
So there we go, a few short thoughts on collaboration. These work for me, I have no idea if they’ll work for everyone, but there they are!
Update: Thankfully this is now redundant!
So next week is the Qantm Student Gallery!!
We’re showing off our new game, Cubic Capitalist Conundrum. A new folio style website is on the way to DaijoubuGames.com which is where the games gallery page links to, but what with living in a capitalist society and all that, we need money to make that happen, which won’t be until Monday. Depending on how long it takes the universe to update, there’s a chance you’ll be popped through to here while the website goes up. So it the mean time, feel free to have a flick through the previous months work and mash F5 on DaijoubuGames.com until a website appears!
It makes me giggle to no end.
One of the major things I’ve always found interesting about sandbox games is the concept of ownership. Sandbox games from GTA and it’s car theft to Minecraft and other players creations give the player the understanding that if they can take it, it’s theirs, even when all the evidence is to the contrary. What would it take to give the player the feeling that what is theirs is theirs and they need to care for it, and what is someone else’s that you either have to negotiate your way into owning or make peace with the moral implications of taking it. Stuff like theft in Skyrim is a challenge, not a moral battle. What would make it the latter instead?
We’re done for the year at Uni! I thought it would be an idea to do a list of everything I want to accomplish (or at least try my hand at) over the break. Next week we have a hilarious meeting over some design choices (or at least that’s what they’re telling us) we made for our GTA in a Week project, the college wasn’t super thrilled that at one point you can pick up hookers in the game, but we’re almost certain that’s not what its about. We’ll see how that goes.
So in the mean time waiting for that meeting, here’s what I plan to do on the break and why.
-Read up on architectural design theory, particularly looking at commercial retailers and how they push customers around.
Why: We had a project this tri to design a level which we tried to build as an open world. We wanted to not have in any arbitrary barriers to path the player, but we had an order of how the path needed to play out, and objectives that the player needed to hit. We tried a whole bunch of interesting cool stuff, how we used lighting in the level to high light paths and then upon hitting objectives, gave the player information that would allow them to disregard the information of light paths. However, while it got the results we wanted, it wasn’t consistent or constant. For a lot of players this whole system was invisible to them. There needs to be better ways to do this.
-Learn how to build games in data, not the renderer.
Why: So much of what I’ve done this tri worked solely in the renderer with game objects. Even stuff like GTA in a Week and Portal in a Week was all about objects hitting other objects. This is a terrible system, performance impact is huge, it’s unreliable especially for a consistent results, and it’s inaccurate. I first learned this with a tower building game that relied on collisions, you needed to be able to neatly slot blocks into gaps and around each other. All it took was a slight error for the block to not slot in. Instead what needs to happen is a way of tracking these blocks inside data, the visual representation should just be UI. That way there is absolute yes or no as to whether a block is going to slot in. In something like GTA, this expands out to everything from traffic, to mission markers, pedestrians, whatever. Having a reliable system for all of that is an exciting thought.
-Prototype ‘Jump Pursuit’
Why: One thing I forever love in GTA4 is running, jumping over fences, and using the environment in interesting ways to get away from police without ever using a car. Along with that, games like Crackdown and Prototype seem to miss a huge opportunity in that (at least from memory) so much of the game play is getting to the objective point and beating the shit out everyone. I’d like to do something that uses those super hero environment navigation as part of objectives rather than just how you get to them. Police pursuit is the angle I’m tackling this from. Our GTA in a Week project has helped a lot in how we can de-link player action to reaction, in the sense of things not happening the moment player meets the conditions for the event, and instead letting things unfold in an aesthetically pleasing way.
-Make the Tower Building game from earlier this year as a proper game.
Why: The prototype itself didn’t work right but what did work proved manically fun. I’d like to do this Sim Tower meets Tetris game up in Unity, perhaps ship it. If nothing else this would link in to learning how to work in data.
-Research MDA Design
Why: Mechanics, Dynamics, Aesthetics. Wiki stuff here. This is new-ish stuff which on the surface has made a lot of sense for me as far as how I like to design my games and what I like the gameplay outcomes to be about. I’m not going to comment beyond that because honestly at this point I don’t know enough, but often I will be trying to achieve a specific emotional aesthetic through the gameplay. Most of my favourite games are ones that, no matter how intentional or unintentional, do the same. Dead Rising is a good example, its rule set is really pretty straight forward, but it’s the dynamics that come out of it that lead to this pressure filled panicky emotional aesthetic. That’s very cool.
-Learn Some C++
Why: Mostly I’ll be in C# over the break but it’s C# in Unity, which tripped me up when going to something that wasn’t Unity, or anything for that matter. I have no idea about classes or pointers or anything like that, but I’d like to know.
-Learn some useful design art stuff
Why: I don’t even know what this really means but I have to do a drawing subject over the break. I’m still not super interested in drawing for drawings sake, but something I’ve found quite useful is being able to quickly sketch out an idea and pass it to someone who can actually do something useful with it. I want to get better at that, what makes or breaks that sort of thing as a tool rather than an art.
Okay cool, that should fill up two months nicely. Wheee!
Dontcha just love a good gamble? This is the latest results of our rapid “prototyping” class, Valve’s Portal loosely remade in DarkBasic, totally not my choice of game engine. Prototyping is in quotes mainly because I wouldn’t really call this a game prototype, more an little adventure to see if we could pull it off, and it turns out we can!
The majority of the code work was done by Andrew Kite and myself, him working on the networked gameplay while I got together the core mechanics. Chris (from the earlier prototype FlipIt) also jumped in to throw together a proof of mechanics level, and Rhys Knight and Adem Turedi covered the art side of things.
Find below the complete source for the project. You will need to strip out code lines relating to image and audio data before it will compile. This is just to play it safe with legals and all that. I’m hoping this will come in handy for anyone needing a first person camera systems, shooting, multiplayer systems, or (funnily enough) Portals. It’s also worth saying that a lot of the core gameplay was built on the ideas that Ruccus had in his Darkbasic FPS tutorial (which despite what the post says still works pretty well). If you wanted to look into more shootery based stuff, I recommend you take a look at that.
And without further ado, source code!!
I remember being completely blown away by one of the early Grand Theft Auto San Andreas’ screenshots when the game got announced. It’s not the one above, I couldn’t find it, but it was CJ barreling down a hill on a bike in the middle of the country side, back wheel off the ground, orange sunset silhouetting him. I think it must have been the organicness of the situation that had taken me. The country side was obviously the big show here, first time the series had got off the road so to speak. But I think the action played a big part, this little nimble bike clearly not glued the ground, in an environment that wasn’t predictable. That opportunity for things to go so wrong, but right there and then they were going right, that was cool. It was exhilarating even in concept, an emotion high of thought.
I’ve been feeling a bit anxious the past day or so. The two major projects on my hands is a multiplayer Portal clone made in Dark Basic, and a UDK level design. Neither of these are going poorly at the moment, they’re certainly not up to scratch yet, but things are moving in the right direction. What has me worried though is that like that moment in the San Andreas screenshot, the snapshot that is now is looking pretty good, but maybe a few seconds after it was taken CJ came off the bike. However, the schedule is looking good for the UDK level, and all the frame work tech for Dark Basic Portal is coming up solid, so rather than let me little moment of anxiety roll over other people with useless panicking, I decided to take an hour out of this evening to go driving.
Driving in San Andreas that is.
I like to go for walks a lot, with no objective in mind, no point to reach. Typically I will pick a direction, and walk. Simple as that. I will continue to walk until it gets boring. More and more I’m finding entertainment value in similar activities in the game worlds. Tonight on my San Andreas I mimicked the real world behavior in a lot of ways, I picked a direction, and started driving until the drive got boring. San Andreas and GTAIV for me share a similar design of having all this open world that exists to provide land marks and backdrops for a driving experience. You can explore them of course, these rolling green country sides or docklands or whatever takes your fancy, but the value in them for me in this scenario is that they exist. It’s like playspaces whose sole purpose is to back up the active play space. Vice City and even more so GTA3 don’t feature that, every mile in those games is used very well, but it means there is no dead space, no relaxation zone, no neutral horizon. And this isn’t anything to do with size, this is space use. San Andreas on the other hand has a lot of visually complex wasted space, cool things you see that at best come into mission play once or twice, if at all. This is what made the journey worth while tonight, being on the road and admiring all these complex spaces, but not having to engage with them, potentially with lack luster gameplay. Along with that is choice, this isn’t circuit driving. If I enjoyed that I would walk around my house 30 times instead of walking under the freeway into the industrial and port lands. It’s choosing which way you want to go, taking a gamble on what sights you see. It’s that little bit input into how the scenario plays out.
So from this I wonder, is there a possible interest out there in ‘relaxation’ games. Games that sit somewhere between making glowly lights by waving your hands in front of a webcam, and a full blown challenging gameplay experience. Say we took San Andreas, stripped out everything aside from the world and the driving, would it be as relaxing? Or is that part that makes it relaxing the act of me walking away from my gangster life, if only for 30 minutes, to cruise in visually stimulating country side. After all, isn’t that what I do when I go for my walks? Take the action of walking away from my computer and coding, if only for 30 minutes?
The game took weird turn yesterday, I’ll blog about this in full at some point because I was pretty happy with the design, it’s the result of reverse engineering two other games, but right now enjoy the giggle.