Laptop Update!

This update is going to be short, sweet, and straight to the point: I have a new (and working) laptop! This means that I can actually get back to posting on here! So sorry for the lack of posts, but I’ve got a list of new posts and new ideas, and you’ll see them shortly. Stay tuned!

Turning Frankenstein Into a Game

Last semester, I took a Horror Fiction class, in which we had to read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. When finals came around, we had the opportunity to create almost anything we wanted, so long as it pertained to the novel. At first, I had no idea what to do, but when my final for Rapid Game Prototyping was announced, I decided to make a prototype game that followed the novel’s story as close as possible.

Read on to find out exactly how this prototype was developed, and a link to download the executable so you can actually play it!


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Books for Game Developers and How to Find Them

If there’s one thing I’ve noticed as a game designer, it’s definitely that it’s hard to find good books on development subjects. Obviously, since I go to a university with specific degrees in those subjects, it’s a lot easier for me to get my hands on development books, but even then, they’re supplied by the school, not always used, and not always very good.

So how do you find books on development that are good? Well, for starters, check out game developers’ resources and recommendations. Many developers in the industry have blogs or web sites that often link to things they like, including books. I find Twitter to be an excellent tool for this, as well. Twitter allows you the ability to ask specific people for recommendations on what you are trying to learn, without getting too personal or creepy. An added plus: it could also be a good way to get your name out there. Just be sure to keep it short and simple (there is a character limit), and don’t act like a fanboy.

Developers in the industry also have this neat hobby of writing their own books! Who better to get a book from than someone who is already in the industry? At least as far as I know, most books written by developers are usually cooperative efforts, i.e. more than one developer writes the book. This provides knowledge from two different perspectives, which is always helpful.

Another great place to find both good books and recommendations is GDC. The Game Developers Conference is packed with knowledgeable people, and asking for a book recommendation is a great conversation starter. There are also a lot of students and other people looking to get into the industry, and some of them may have found a great read you would have never found otherwise. And guess what else is cool about GDC? They sell books! That’s right: there is actually a little book store at GDC. Even though the books may be a bit pricey, you can always jot down some of the titles and grab them later. And if you have any questions about any of the books, there is most likely someone who can help you out.

Of course, you should always ask professors or other students in your major if you, like me, are attending a school specifically for game development. Professors tend to do much much more reading than students, and can help you to find a specific book that will be good for what you need. Most of the game design classes I’ve taken only have one book listed for the course, but oftentimes the professor will have recommended reading that goes beyond the required book, or perhaps focuses on one area in great detail.

Finally, there is the internet, which can be both good and bad. On the good side, it is full of book titles just for you; on the bad side, most of the books you may come across probably aren’t very helpful. If you want to avoid wasting time checking to see if a book is legitimate or not, narrow your search. Look for books on specific subjects and go from there, or else you may find yourself reading a book you don’t want. Also, check up on the author. You want to read things written by actual game developers, professors, indies, or at least people who know a thing or two about making games (NOT playing them). While I could go on forever about how to find good books on the internet, I wouldn’t really recommend using it if you don’t have to. These days, there are even game magazines that review game development books, so there are plenty of options to try first.

If you have any suggestions on where to find good game development books, or even some interesting and helpful reads you’ve found, please share! I’ve been adding books to the resources page at the top, so check back to that every once in a while to see if I’ve added any new ones. I hope this post helped!

Another Finals Week Update

Just wanted to post a quick update since I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been working on finals, trying to get ready for Christmas, preparing new game projects, and generally just trying to get everything together before next semester, which of course means that I’m extremely behind in posts. Not having a working computer makes posting very difficult, but I’ve been writing things on paper and will transcribe them here, along with references, etc., over the course of the next two weeks. After those two weeks, I’ll be going home for the break, so I will not be able to do much of anything on the internet. That’s why I plan on posting all of the articles I have lying around very shortly, when I’m not working on finals and whatnot.

Keep an eye out for these new posts:
– More “What I Learned at GDC”
– Scriptwriting and Game Writing
– Creating Characters in Games
– Killing Characters in Games
– The Power of Emotions
– Gameplay, Gameplay, Gameplay! (Integrating Story into Gameplay)
– Tips & Tricks: The Path to the Design Doc
– Tips & Tricks: A Guide to Portfolios
– Tips & Tricks: A Guide to Resumes
– Tips & Tricks: A Guide to Interviews
– Creating Games from Other Mediums
– Turning “Frankenstein” into a Game
– Tips & Tricks: How to Use the Internet (to Make the Most out of your Education)
– Game Maker and Me
– Interactive Fiction and its Role in Games
– Books for Game Developers and How to Find Them
– The Quest… for Writing Quests!
+ Many More Coming Soon…

What I Learned at GDC: The Writing of New Vegas

About a week or so ago, I was in Austin, Texas for the Game Developers Conference Online as a Conference Associate. This was my first trip to GDC, and I had a lot of fun, as well as learned a lot. I wasn’t able to attend all of the sessions I wanted to, but the ones I did attend were very insightful for me. As an aspiring writer, I attended a handful of the Narrative sessions as I could, and plan to check out the sessions I missed on the GDC Vault when available. I wanted to share what I learned from GDC, so the next series of posts, “What I Learned at GDC,” will cover just that, starting with this one.

The first session I’d like to talk about was called “Surviving the Apocalypse: The Writing of New Vegas,” lead by John Gonzalez of Obsidian, the Creative Director for Fallout: New Vegas. This was an extremely insightful session, as we got a chance to see firsthand how Obsidian goes about their narrative process. Keep reading to see an outline of the notes I took during the session, along with some of my own comments.

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Making Board Games Leads to Better Video Games

It is a game designer’s job to understand the inner workings of games, a skill that takes some practice to get the hang of. Throughout my college experience, I have found that game design is much different than I had imagined, and requires a lot of puzzle solving and critical thinking skills. One of the most significant aspects of designing a game is mechanics; game mechanics are what make the game interactive and enjoyable. So how does someone like myself, who is looking to make it into the industry, learn the secrets behind creating good mechanics? The answer is simple: make board games.

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MacGyver It!

If you’ve been working with the provided assets in any game editor, you’re probably getting tired of using the same old assets over and over. Maybe you can’t import anything new, so you’re just stuck with what you have. What do you do then? MacGyver it!

When it comes to working with what you have, it seems like a dead end, but this isn’t necessarily true. There are ways of creating things you don’t have out of what you do. You just have to get a bit creative, and remember that the following three methods are going to be your best friends.

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GDC Update

The blog is not dead! I’m working on several posts, but between schoolwork, personal projects, a school project I’m working on, preparing for GDC, and getting my portfolio site up and working, I’ve been busy. I’ll be heading out to Austin, Texas next week for GDC Online as a volunteer, so come find me if you’ll be there! In the meantime, please be patient as I try to get the posts up. I have a lot of upcoming posts, but I just haven’t had the time recently. No promises on any posts this week or the next, but after I get back from GDC, I’ll try to have everything back up and running. Thanks again to all the awesome people who keep reading.

Tips & Tricks: Terrain Is Your Friend

When it comes to creating outdoor levels, the terrain editor should be one of your closest friends. It’s a great way to give your level depth while making it appear more realistic visually. Most game editors have some sort of terrain editor built in, although they may seem a bit daunting with all the different preferences and settings. However, after only a few times playing around with terrain, you’ll find it be both helpful and even a bit fun.

The following will guide you through the basics of the terrain editor in UDK and Unity. Most game editors use a similar form of the terrain editor, but since these are both free programs with easy access, I thought it would be best to start with them. Keep reading to learn more about terrain tips and tricks!

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Speed Design Challenge: Ninja Love Massacre

For one of my last assignments in my Game Design Workshop class this semester, we had a speed design challenge. We came into class, split into groups of five, were given ridiculous names from a random name generator for video games, and were told to create a game using the name we were given and a pack of 100 different colored index cards. In the pack of index cards, there were 10 each of the colors pink, purple, green, blue, and yellow, and were given the opportunity to manipulate the cards in any physical way we chose. We were timed on completing different aspects of the challenge, while the goal was to create a fully playable game. The title of our game was Ninja Love Massacre.

Here is an approximate of how the time was to be used in class:
5 minutes to create a concept and rules
5 minutes to make a prototype
5 minutes to play test
5 minutes to revise
5 minutes to play test
5 minutes to revise
5 minutes to play test

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