Friday, February 28, 2014

Minion Melee Update

Current Status of the game
I haven't had much time to work on my board game this past semester as we have a lot of work to do and continuing work on my board game has become more of a personal project, but I did some work over winter break that I can discuss here. 

After posting my board game on reddit  a large LAN event in Pennsylvania called Frag Infinity Tournament requested I send them the board game for further play testing and feedback. This was great for me since I'm pretty happy with the art I produced for the game but the mechanics, while not broken, are not nearly as fun as they could be. As my professor still has the physical prototype for my boardgame I constructed a new box and packaged a high quality version of the print and play to send. While I'm still waiting on feedback for the playtesting the podcasting group grown as gamers apparently played my game at the event. 

Because of the event and the fact that I eventually want to continue work on Minion Melee I made a very simple website for it over winter break. 

Stuff to implement for the future 
I've also gotten some feedback from people from around the web who found the  game and downloaded the print and play version which I'm hoping to at some point have time to implement. 

Another, possibly minor but interesting thing I'd like to change is the money cards. My mother actually gave me this idea when she played my game, and I can't believe I didn't think of it myself. She suggested I turned the money cards into potion cards, as with the scientist character I have on the box it would make more sense that the super villains are creating the minions with various chemical concoctions rather than simply buying them. 

Hopefully over the summer I'll have some time to spend updating the board game. I think it'll be a slow process at least until I finish school, but it's a fun project that I hope to keep going on the side.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Destruction Inspiration: Programming

This week in programming we're focusing on learning destruction effects. Our assignment is to create a destructible asset that fits the design of our level. Luckily for me one of the mechanics in my level is the falling rocks that rain down in the players, so this works out well for me.  Here's the initial concept sketch I made to demonstrate this mechanic: 

We were also asked to find inspirational reference for our effect, so I picked The Hobbit! I found this video pretty fitting for my destruction effect for a few reasons. Firstly, the falling rocks in this scene are caused by two warring giants, my falling rocks are caused by UFOs! So, in my level and the scene the effects are caused by external beings. Secondly, the effects in this scene are particularly stunning so who wouldn't be inspired? And thirdly, the kind of debris in terms of size and appearance is how I would like the effect to look in my level. 

History Of Game Art

Here's the textbook we're assigned to read each week for class.

History of Game Art is an interesting class. It sort of combines the history of video games, concept generation for games, and game analysis all into one. Video games are such a new form of technology that I don't think we've really explored the full potential of what can really be done with them. This video that my professor had us watch for class discusses thatt idea. It introduced a perspective on games that I hadn't even considered before. 

We also watched this talk given by Jesse Schell. Maybe it's bad that the ideas in this video really excite me, maybe it's all too much of the "big brother" thing but Jesse Schell projects an interesting future for game integration into our daily lives. I think in terms of video games we're either on the verge of a really exciting and interesting future, or a really obnoxious and invasive one 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Exploding Aliens!

Here's the final for my exploding barrel project in Programming class. Exploding Alien cutouts for my pinball invasion level. Enjoy.

 In my level there's a lot of UFO action for the first two laps.  I plan on placing these assets on the final lap as kind of a "big reveal" thing. Since it's a pinball level I wanted to make them into plastic cut outs that flipped up in front of the players car. The player must navigate around the aliens or be destroyed!

Here was my initial Concept:

And here's my final Mesh with my hand painted texture.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Inspirational Race Course Intro

We're at the end of the greybox phase and moving into the Alpha phase of our racing levels. For this week one of our assignments is to have a rough version of the cutscene that will play at the beginning of our course finished. To prepare for this we've been asked to research the intros in actual video games and apply the elements that work in our own cutscene.

I chose:
Bowser's Castle!
From MarioKart Wii

What I like about this intro is that it gives you a clear idea of the theme of the level and introduces some mechanics special to the level while leaving surprises for the player to reveal as they race around the track.

The first shot takes you down what looks the castle's entranceway. The one point perspective and low angle is reminiscent of Kubrick's cinematography in The Shining and reflects the creepy foreboding vibe of the castle and the warping track mechanic shown as the camera moves down the hallway. 

The second shot shows what I'd call the level's hero asset; A giant metal bowser that shoots fireballs at players. This shot works for multiple reasons. Firstly, it shows you Bowser.. And it is of course Bowser's castle. Secondly, this course has a lot of mechanics and obstacles for the player to overcome, and is included in the "special cup" which is the very final most daunting cup in MarioKart Wii.. And giant metal bowser shooting fireballs is a pretty menacing image, so I believe it reflects the challenge players will face in the level quite well. Thirdly, The high camera angle shows the massive scale of the Bowser of Death which is pretty intimidating. Fourthly, lava and fire are continuing elements throughout the level so showing them here was another good idea to introduce players to the level. 

The third shot is a nice conclusion to the quick intro. Switching to the castle's exterior shows players that they are back outside of the castle. The camera pans down vertically and  leaves the player back at the starting line, a choice that lets the player know they're out of "let's watch this pretty cut scene mode" and should get back into "fast and furious" mode. Also, the castle's facade is just as foreboding as the interior, and includes a giant relief of Bowser which again reflects both the menacing nature of the level and whose level it is.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Exploding Barrels: Programming

So this week for programming class we've been assigned to create "exploding barrels" which are kind of a common trope in video games and have been for a while. Our creations don't necessarily have to be barrels but they have to be applicable to our level and contain two steps of particle reaction. So, since my level is a fusion of pinball and alien invasion I decided my barrel would be an alien.

I'm not going to model an entire realistic alien because it wouldn't really fit the cheesy pinball theme. So, my alien will be a cut out that either pops out of the ground or flips up in front of the player in kind of a graphic cartoony style. Since the tension on my track escalates with action from the UFOs I'm going to have a few aliens pop up at the very end as the kind of finale to my level. 

Eventually we'll be making particles for the explosions. My first effect will be cartoony sparks and a glow effect that comes from the mechanism in the ground that rotates the cutout up and down. The second will be a green slime effect that simulates alien blood.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Greybox Process

So, after we're finished with concepting for our levels we move onto what's called a "Greybox phase". Greyboxing is basically blocking out our level design in 3D space. It's less about art and fine details and more about getting a block out down. In this stage the focus is to translate our 2D designs to 3D. The idea is to get major shapes and elements in for aesthetics, program the game mechanics, and play test until the mechanics work properly. 

For the racing level a lot of the process included tweaking the track so that players could navigate easily and making sure the major points of the level were reading well. A particularly challenging part of this phase was making sure the mechanics were tuned so that obstacles weren't too easy or too hard.

Here's an example of the beginnings of my greybox:

And here's some examples I turned in for my final greybox:

You can see that I changed a bit of the layout from what I had planned for my initial concept, but that's to be expected in this phase. Things come up that you hadn't thought of in your initial concept. For example, the first track I built was way over the time limit parameter we had set per lap. During play-testing, I got the note that a lot of people wanted an alternate route, so I also implemented a secondary track that players take on the third lap of the race. One thing that hasn't changed from my initial concept to this phase was my mechanic ideas. I'm pretty happy that I was able to incorporate all of the ideas I had for obstacles into this level. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tom Scholes Ringling Visit

Ringling is great about getting amazing artists from a lot of different fields in the entertainment industry to present, and Tom Scholes, a successful concept artist is no exception to this. I was excited about his presentation mostly because he did concept and cut scene art for Guild Wars 2. I love the concept work for this game and have played it for more hours than I would like to admit. 

Here's an example of some of his work featured in game. This is featured as a backdrop during a cut scene for the story quest element of GW2.

And here's one of his concept pieces for the game.

Tom's presentation was actually one of the best I've seen. He's a very charismatic guy, who had a lot of energy and was great at engaging with the audience. Sometimes, artists who present are amazing artists but not great at public speaking, it was nice to see someone who excelled in both areas.

I also learned a lot from the demos Tom gave. I'm very familiar with photoshop, but the shortcuts and workflow methods Tom showed us pretty much blew my mind. He walked us through his process for creating a piece, and told us about his life as a freelance concept artist. He also went over his history and how he got to be as successful as he was. All in all, the presentation was a great experience and very informative.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Final Level Design: Isometric Map

Here's my finished isometric design for my level. Since bringing the concept to the greybox stage a lot has changed in terms of layout but the mechanics and general aesthetic feel are still quite accurate to this design. I had a lot of fun with this. The big challenge that has persisted since I began working on this level is the marriage of the narrative and the idea that you're inside a pinball machine. It's easy to have too much of one and lose elements of the other, but keeping that in mind I think I have a pretty good balance.