Finals Week Update

At long last, finals week is over! Sorry for not updating in a while everyone, I’ve been bogged down with finals, but you can rest assured that I am already at work on several posts! The following will be posted over the course of the next week, so keep checking back for anything new.

Upcoming posts (in no particular order):
– How Board Games Lead to Better Design

– CTF Map – Strife in the Sky walkthrough videos
– Foster’s Isle Level + screenshots and videos
– Terrain is Your Friend – A Guide to the Terrain Editor
– I Don’t Know How to Do That! – Resources for the Unknowing
Losing Sleep: Why You Shouldn’t Wait til the Last Minute
– “MacGyver It!” – How to Work Around What You Have

Keep a look out for new challenges as well! And I’ll be learning Unity over the next two weeks, so more posts to come with that, too!

CTF Map – Strife in the Sky

The latest assignment I had for my level design class was to build either a solo or multiplayer map, and seeing as how I’ve never actually made a multiplayer level, I decided to try it out. We had about three weeks to build our levels, and we had to include at least two teams and bases for each, distinguishable landmarks for the different bases, at least two scripted events, and some sort of back story. I completed my level in about two days, give or take, but had a whole lot of fun making it. Keep reading to see screenshots and learn more about the making of the level!

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Tips & Tricks: Pre-Production

Pre-Production is possibly one of the most overlooked or misunderstood aspects of game and level design, and yet one of the most helpful. It is the brainstorming step of level design, in which you evaluate the level’s intended goals, rewards, progression, and more, all before even opening up the editor. My level design professor mentioned to our class the other day that one of the biggest complaints regarding level designers fresh out of college is that they don’t do their pre-production, something my fellow classmates and I can definitely relate to. It seems like such a waste of time, and if you’re really excited about making a level, you want to jump head first into the editor and start building. I’ve done this many times, always skimping on my pre-production, but from here on out, I say no more! I’ve come to realize how significant pre-production truly is, and it is most certainly a step you don’t want to skip.

Keep reading to learn more about the importance of pre-production, as well as tips and tricks on getting it done, and done right!

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Tips & Tricks: Making CTF Maps

Making levels for multiplayer maps is like a completely different world than single player maps, which is what I learned this past week when designing a CTF (capture the flag) map for my level design class. The level, which will be featured in a later post, was the the first multiplayer map I have done, and since I am new to making multiplayer levels, I decided to start with something fairly simple: a CTF game. I have had the concept for the level in my head for a while, but multiplayer levels aren’t exactly my forte, considering I like to focus on environmental details. However, I believe I found the right match between aesthetics and making the game fun for more than one person. Keep reading to read some of my tips and tricks on making CTF maps!

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Storytelling in Games: How Details Can Destroy Your Work

Before I had the grand idea to become a game designer, I was planning on writing for my career. I have been a fiction writer since about third grade, and later decided that Game Design was the perfect compilation of my creativity and writing, storytelling and design skills. Since attending the University of Advancing Technology, I have learned that while writing is critical to Game Design, writing for games is not the same as writing fictional stories. I will explain this in more depth in a later post, but for now I want to focus on one subject in particular: details.

Details are amazing tools if you know how to use them right, as every good writer should, and as our generation of games becomes more interactive and advanced, game designers should master this as well. Even if the game you are working on doesn’t have much of a story, details are a necessary part of every game. However, too many details can destroy your work.

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Print and Play: Stop the Oil!

Today in class, I got to present a five minute demo for “Stop the Oil!” Despite my terrible explanation, the game seemed to be fairly popular among on my classmates, who had many questions regarding the game. I’ve also received a lot of interest from friends and family, so I’ve decided to make the game a “print and play” game! Keep reading to find out how you can get this game ready to play at home!

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The Robo-Dino Project (Tentative Title)

The Robo-Dino Project, which is a tentative title, is a 2-D Platformer game I am developing in Game Maker. It is currently only in the design phase, and I am working on a design doc. I’m hoping to later get a programmer, artist, and possibly someone to create sound effects and music tracks for the game. The game is intended to be done in a traditional 8-bit style, with the two main characters, which are controlled by the player on-screen at the same time, being a robot and a dinosaur. The game will feature plenty of puzzles involving utilizing the mechanics to one’s advantage, with the robot being the long-range character and the dinosaur being short-range. The game will have a very fun feel to it, with memorable and silly characters. Character development will play a large part of the game, as will story and most importantly mechanics.  As I stated, the game is only in the design phase as of now, but I have been getting a lot of questions about this project so I thought I’d give a brief overview. I hope to get more updates on this project very soon, and would like to get a small team together for next semester.

Board Game Design: Stop the Oil!

This semester, I’ve been enrolled in a pretty cool and interesting class: Game Design Workshop. The cool part about it? We make board games! It’s challenging and fun, and has most certainly been helping me better understand game design. So far in the class, I’ve created a total of four board games along with other classmates for most of them, but today I am going to focus on one in particular. “Stop the Oil!” is a game about cooperating with your teammates to clean wildlife and clean up the BP oil spill currently affecting the Gulf Coast.

My friend Nigel and I created a group together, and began thinking up game mechanics after I suggested making a game about cleaning up the BP oil spill. The requirements for the game included incorporating a fog of war element, cooperative game play over competitive, and some but not necessarily all of the components in a “piecepack.” The Professor provided us with the “piecepack,” which included twenty-four tiles with various numbers and suits, six-sided die, circular tokens, and player tokens. We decided to use the dice and the tiles for our game, and spent a day play testing to figure out how the game would work and what mechanics we wanted to implement. We also had to include an “alien” in the game, which was a rather loosely used term. Most other games in the class used a literal alien, though not all. Our “alien” was the BP employee, which was one player who would attempt to sabotage the other players in a secretive and cunning manner. After several play tests, we developed an interesting game play that seemed to work. We still needed to polish the game, fix a few mechanics, clarify the rules, and finish implementing the “alien’s” dastardly methods, when suddenly, Nigel got sick! I attempted to play test the game in class by myself, and my Professor actually came over, learned the rules, watched how the game play worked, and offered several very insightful suggestions. The core of the game play remained the same throughout most of the design, although the aesthetics were altered, with permission from the Professor of course, to better fit the game’s theme. Now that the game is nearing completion, I thought I would share!

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Welcome to the World of Sprites

As many of you know, I am always full of ideas for games, but fail to execute them, so I think it’s time I began work on my first real game. No, I’m not talking about my horror game; I am waiting to create that until I feel I have adequate knowledge of game engines to do the game justice. In other words, I will continue to do design work for my horror game, but will not begin to make it a playable game until I have more experience. At this point, I am on my third semester at the University of Advancing Technology, and most certainly do not have enough experience with editors or even design to comfortably lead a project. So here’s the plan, and I suggest it to any other up-and-coming designers: make a game, a simple game. And what better way to start simple than with the world of sprites!

For the next month or two (maybe more, depending how things go), I will be designing and creating an executable game in Game Maker. If you know me, then you know I adore oldschool games and 8-bit graphics, which is why I’ve decided to do all my own graphics, rather than using other people’s sprites. The game will have a more oldschool feel to it, while bringing in new game play mechanics that were not seen during the era of the 8-bit. I also plan on creating my own polyphonic tones to use in the game, although at this point in production, I am not focusing on sounds, and they will most likely come last in production, during the polishing stage, as I have yet to figure out exactly how to make my own. If this fails, I will probably use free sound effects and music that fit the game. So don’t expect any sounds in any demos I release, or if there are any sounds, they probably won’t be the final versions used.

Why sprites, you may ask? Well, quite frankly sprites are easy and simple. They’re small, usually fairly quick to make, don’t require a lot of animation, and are just easy to work with, especially for beginners. There are loads of games out there using sprites, and there are lot of really fun ones. Furthermore, sprites appeal to a wider audience than, say, the graphics in Final Fantasy XIII. Sprites don’t have a lot of detail, but they are lovable, whether you’re an eight-year-old or an eighty-year-old or somewhere in between. As fantastic as the graphics in Final Fantasy XIII are, they do not appeal to everyone, and I know quite a few people who would never play the game because the way it looks. Visually pleasing your audience can certainly be a challenge, but for simplicity and fun, I prefer sprites.

For now, I’m still playing around in Game Maker to learn the editor inside and out, as well as grinding out mechanics and story for the game, so check back soon for more posts, and possible demos and screenshots, of the game!

I’m No Modeler!

When it comes to level design, there is one thing I have the most difficulty with: limited models. Depending on which editor you are using, you’re generally restricted to their models, which can be excruciatingly frustrating when you want to build a specifically themed level. For example, I recently came up with a design for a desert level, but when using UDK, I am largely restricted to using only their static meshes, which do not include any desert-themed meshes. This is one of the most annoying aspects of level design if you don’t either know modeling yourself or have a team of modelers at your will. So today I will be looking at how to get custom models into an editor, specifically UDK in this case, without having to model them yourself!

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