Once again a successful meeting. Mostly everybody showed up: Julia, Darren, Kevin, Susanna, and myself. We spent the couple hours the meeting lasted designing the assets for the Garage Assault. Currently, we have 46 objects, 25 sounds, and 17 level elements to create. The level is going to be a lot bigger than I had originally planned, and I have no problem with that. We’ll also be throwing in lots of environmental puzzles and using Unreal 3′s dynamic lighting to create puzzles and atmosphere. Also, plenty of exploding barrels, some of which will affect the environment and blow holes out in the floor.

Bunnies.

Just kidding. I’m at GDX. So how’s everyone in Savannah?

I’ll make an update on GDX when there’s really something to update. It was funny watching Costikyan freak out when his cell phone rang at the risk of being put into Bogost’s “Time Out” chair but that’s it. K peace ya’ll.

Progress - Behind Schedule

Over the next 10 weeks I will be making weekly updates on the development of the “The Garage Assault” level from NightRise. This is, officially, the first major production piece for NightRise, and will be the main setpiece for the eventual demo of the game. It’s a big step, and this blog is here to keep you guys updated on progress. Only now, you’ll get to see something. I’ll be posting screenshots, fly-thrus, commentary, scrawlings, drawings, videos, photos, and a ton of other material too. It’s all for you, the readers.

Now, you may notice that I started this post with the words “Behind Schedule.” This is unfortunate, but not deadly. The only thing I haven’t be able to do is the drawings, which I am going to be getting to tomorrow. Really, I have my entire schedule typed up and I’ve got a lot of reference photos already with more on the way.

All I am missing is 3D Studio MAX 2008, which I have been unable to find. Seriously, I don’t think version 8 will cover what I need to do for this project. So I’m in a bit of panic mode because of that.

I also need to get copies of Adobe Audition 3, Premiere CS3, and After Effects CS3. But those are not as important at this juncture.

So this week, I need to do more drawings and begin modeling. Hopefully I will have a few models done by the end of this week. I am giving myself 5 weeks to model (6 weeks  maximum for finishing textures) and that leaves me another 4 – 5 for putting the level together, with another couple of weeks in there for writing and recording music. I hope I’ve afforded myself enough time, but we shall see.

By the end of this week I am hoping to be “On Schedule.” Keep your fingers crossed.

I’ll start this post simply with my take on a universal rating system:

SAME LETTERS.

That would be my only limitation. Let’s face it. The ESRB’s letters and the MPAA’s letters may be different but they mean the same thing. E = G. E10+ = PG. T = PG-13. M = R. AO = NC-17. Heck, E10+ is new compared to the E or T, so they really just added their own PG rating. I say, because of this, we could very easily have one unified system for letter ratings, and then you can keep whatever descriptors you already have for your industry’s rating. So basically, the ESRB could keep its descriptors, but it would just put a unified rating on the games so that people don’t get confused. Obviously, I would prefer the systems to stay separate. The RIAA feels that slapping a simple “Parental Advisory” sticker on a CD is enough to deter some parents from buying it for their kids, good for them. The ESRB really does have the best rating system currently. It’s incredibly descriptive. If anything, the other industries should probably adopt the ESRB’s descriptors, but obviously there’s some bias in that statement, being a gamer and all.

Now onto the second part of this post. HB1423, legislation in Massachusetts that would forbid sale of games deemed too violent by the state to minors. Now let’s hit the brakes here for a second. There’s already a rating system for games in place. A VERY GOOD one at that. This “state rated video games” thing sounds eerily similar to what a Mrs. Clinton and Mr. *Ahem*son want done. The whole thing just really makes me feel sick, that Menino and the house would fall to such lows as to copy a bill that already failed in Utah. Not to mention in a state that has an ever growing portion of industry studios. This legislation would hurt both gamers and the studios that make the games. If this bill were to pass, it would only be a matter of time before the studios themselves were attacked. Also note how neither movies, music, nor TV are being attacked by ANYONE, and in all honesty, you see more filth on Fox than you do in a videogame. Why? Because TV is free. Anyone can watch an episode of this year’s new teen drama with all the sex and drugs you can shake a stick at. But put that into a videogame, and suddenly the state wants the right to determine if you can play it?

Boston is beyond this. We can’t let this pass. Here’s some links to more info and how you can help:

The Article at GamePolitics
The Video Game Voter’s Network

I’ve got two games submitted for SCAD’s Entelchy competition. The first game is a quick flash game I developed entitled “Triwing – The Astraeus Conflict,” which you may have seen up at the main DeviateSoft page. I’ll be continuing to develop this game in my spare time over the next year or two, but NightRise will remain my priority. For now, I’m just trying to get it working up on the website. It’ll be up there at some point soon.

The next game is my board game SpideRip, developed with Julia, Alicia, and Jesse. I mentioned how to play it in the last post. This is the game I’m excited about. I’m fairly certain Triwing won’t win. It’s badass, but the game over screen doesn’t work and people are frustrated with the rudimentary collision detection. But SpideRip is flat out amazing… except for the print job Kinkos did. Grr I’m gonna have to give them a piece of my mind. $136 for a late, messed-up print job. But I still love how just about everything came out in the game, especially the spiders themselves. Pitch black with black-widow dots to determine the player color. The webs are also pretty cool, they’re magnetic so they can sort of lock together in the box. Personally I think the ends are a little big, but that’s a minor flaw, and it makes the webs easier to move around.

If either of my games are going to win, it’s going to be SpideRip, and that’s the one I’d prefer to win. Triwing is up against some serious competition, but I’ll be submitting it again next year in a much improved format (campaign mode and multiplayer included I’m hoping).  But SpideRip’s simplicity in play yet complexity in strategy, I feel, sets it apart from all the other games submitted. SpideRip has no cards or dice, and it only has about 6 rules. Some of the other games have about 14 pages of rules. Having that many rules makes a game unapproachable, in my opinion. But a game like SpideRip can draw anybody in, and its cohesive color really helps tie the game together. I can’t wait to see it at the Entelechy competition. Win or lose, at least it’s there.

And now the moment you have been waiting for – NightRise News.

The team is counting down the days to Studio 1. Kevin is still on board, but seems to be taking more of an interest in programming. Another friend of mine has expressed interest in joining up as well, so we shall see what happens there. Alicia and Julia are still in too. Over the next week I’ll be finishing up the Unreal 3 tutorials and setting up a schedule for my Studio 1 work. I’m still wondering what level to make, but that’s the easy part. The hard part will be realizing that something is actually getting done. That may take some time to come to grips with. I still haven’t, and I doubt I’ll be able to.

I think the end result, if good, will elate me about the whole thing. But in the meantime, my nerves are wracked. On the one hand, it’s just been sitting idly for seven years. On the other hand, it’s not sitting idly anymore?! CRAP CRAP CRAP! It’s moving! Catch it! Don’t let it get it away! That’s kind of how I’ve been feeling these last few weeks, and I know it will only get worse as more gets done. I know you’re supposed to get that “my game is the best game ever” feeling as you’re making it, but I think I’m going to have a “good Jesus, this sucks, I want to kill myself” kind of feeling, just because it won’t end up playing the same way I’ve been playing it every day in my head for the last 2496 days (whoa it’s almost existed for 2500 days!!!). I’m pretty sure there isn’t counseling for this sort of thing, so I just have to press on.

Here’s to pressing.

I’m currently designing another board game with the same group I made “Sleeper Cell” with, a board game in which you attempt to stop a bomb from destroying a city. So the process of coming up with rules was going a bit slow, so I suggested, “Why don’t we Calvinball it?” I got weird looks all around. So, here, I will go through the process of playing Calvinball.

Oh, and if you’ve never read Calvin & Hobbes, leave my blog and never return.

The Basics

In terms of game design, I’ve used the Calvinball approach on many occasions, but I actually haven’t since… middle school, probably. I used to in my RPG’s all the time. The simplest form of Calvinball is just to throw out a number and try it. For example, “How many spaces can a player move per turn?” Then comes the argument. “He should move two!” “No! He should only move one!” “You’re all wrong! He should move six!” The Calvinball approach to this would be to just set one of those numbers and stick with it until it needs to be changed.

Implementation

Then there may be the scenario where you’ve come up with a feature you want to try out. For the sake of trying, Calvinball it in. For example, in the game my group is developing for Brenda’s class, you play as spiders trying to catch other spiders in your webs. Originally, you could shoot the web anywhere on the board. This led to the games going by far too quickly, so I threw out the idea that you could only send out webs radially from where your player token is. This made the game much more strategic, as you could not as easily trap the other spiders right at the beginning of the game.

In order to demonstrate implementation more properly, let’s take a look at a game we all know. Monopoly (sorry Brenda) as a pretty well-known set of rules. But what would happen if we made the game board a bit more dynamic by forcing players to travel to the opposite train station when they landed on one? Well, it would both cut down and increase travel time around the board, depending on which station you landed on. You could potentially play through an entire game and never collect $200 as you pass Go. Or, you could win just by taking the train basically right to Go. Something like this would add another layer onto the game. It’s not much, but remember that every rule you implement affects the ENTIRE game in one way or another.

Limitations

Try not to Calvinball in too many rules at once. Treat Calvinball like a scientific experiment. Only change one variable at a time so you can keep track of what works and what doesn’t work. Granted, this isn’t “Calvinball” in the truest sense, as true Calvinball never keeps the same rules for more than a minute and can never be played the same way twice. However, for true game design, Calvinball must be used one rule at a time for an entire playthrough, or until the rule fails miserably, whatever comes first. If the rule lasts an entire playthrough, you (and your group) must decide if the rule stays or goes. Never keep in a rule that makes the game unplayable, thinking you can fix it by adding another rule. That’s not Calvinball. Also, figure out when you’re done playing Calvinball before you have too many rules to keep track of.

Conclusion

Calvinball does not exist to fix broken rules in your game. Calvinball exists mainly to experiment with the rules you have currently implemented, or to create a rule based on a loophole in the current ruleset, or even a rule just to generally break the game. Worst case scenario, you take the rule out. Best case scenario? You create a rule that not only works, but makes the game more fun.

Poop of War

Now you may be wondering why I’m suddenly being so immature. Well, it’s occurred to me recently that any game entitled “__ of War” is bound to sell at least a million copies. Let’s analyze this.

  • God of War
  • Gears of War
  • Frontlines: Fuel of War
  • Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War
  • Men of War

And that’s only to name a few. So I am hereby throwing my hat into the ring and creating, “Poop of War.” It’s basically Battleshits Online. However, you play it in real life. What you would do is place “Poop of War” decibel meters in bathroom stalls. When two people enter adjacent stalls, the meters light up and a match has begun. When the light on your meter flashes green, it’s your turn to poop. The decibel meter then records how loud a crap you just took. After three rounds from each person, a winner is declared, and this person is awarded with… special “Poop of War” brand toilet paper! Then you input your user name and password and your score is recorded online.

Yeah so all of a sudden, new people onboard NightRise. I know right? Crazy. And there’s likely to be more soon. So I’d like to officially welcome Alicia Forrest, our new Lead Environment artist and Julia Smith, our Lead Caffeine Addict. I dunno if that’s a job that’s, you know, worth money, but it looks good on business cards.

A lot of stuff at this year’s GDC that I missed out on. Now Phil Harrison is leaving Sony, EA wants to buy Take Two, a drunk guy tried to steal “Still Alive” for “Rock Band,” Gears of War 2, lots of new stuff from Street Fighter IV, plus obviously the parties and morning board games and coffee. We should do board games and coffee at Monty. Like someone should just bring board games to Byte and we play between 7:30 and 8.

With that I end the first ever “There in Spirit.” Keep an eye out for the “Game Developer’s Exchange” (GDX) one.

So I’ve been working on something in Flash that I’m thinking of developing further. And by further, I mean a lot further. For fans of “Raptor: Call of the Shadows,” I’m thinking you’ll be in for a treat. =)

New stuff for Unreal Engine 3. Soft body actors, better lighting, better shadows, all stuff that gets a big thumbs up from me.

And now my take on “One Hundreds Dogs.” Brenda Brathwaite, a professor of mine and a competitor in this years Game Design Challenge at GDC, has designed what could easily become the next Jetman on Facebook, although it’s more along the lines of Parking Wars. I’m just talking in terms of popularity. It is a game where you and your dog must network to meet many, many other dogs and complete challenges issued to you on Facebook. I don’t know if these challenges are real or virtal; I’ll ask her on Tuesday. However, if they were real, this would be like Parking Wars meets I Love Bees. A very strange combination if you ask me.

I love WordPress and I hate Apple. The Quicktime update popup just made me computer crash for the umteenth time. So I finally gave in and updated. Hopefully that will stop that from happening, but I swear I’m on the verge of uninstalling Quicktime, iTunes,  and even selling my iPod Shuffle if this keeps up.

And now for an idea I had about an hour ago for a game called, “Awesome Opossum” (not to be confused with “Awesome Possum“). In the game you would play as an Opossum collecting food. As you collected food, predators would come at you, tracking you by your heartbeat. You could calm your heartbeat down by feigning death and then the predators would not be interested in you. However, as the game is on a time limit, you would get less points for feigning death overall.

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