We applied to showcase our game at The Bit Bazaar - a festive celebration of indie games, comics, foods and other crafty things from the great community that hangs around Bento Miso’s co-working space.
We crunched and we crunched and we almost made it. Actually we did make it having arrived with a newly baked playable build on a shiny USB stick around noon.
To my surprise rocket5 Tim was right there sitting and playing an older build of our game. I proceeded to update it and this is when the story starts to take a turn for the worse. The new update did not fair well on the laptop that was provided. The improvements we had made were too much for it to churn through leaving our first, and last player of the night with a horribly laggy experience. After some tinkering with the setting we decided that this was not how we wanted to show the game and after a quick word with the arcade team we pulled our game out of the circulation.
Yes it was a bit of a let down, but the game was in no way perfect at the state we had it. It was rushed in places and at times that painfully showed. Maybe this was for the better - we got the benefit of producing results for a deadline, as so much was accomplished in hopes of making this happen. We’re that much closer to having our game finished so overall the experience was great.
The Bazaar itself was an awesome experience. As always very inspiring. We’re looking forward to the next one!
Here’s a little shot of what the game looks like now.
I had the awesome privilege of attending the first day of Toronto’s Gamecamp conference yesterday and I’d like to just gather my thoughts here while they are fresh.
There were talks all day yesterday and most of them sparked my interests. There were three that stood out and connected in a way:
Jason Canam started the conference off with his thoughts on level design based on the experiences with Guacamelee. The message I got was to treat the game like a class of students. The content should be easy enough so that most of the class passes. You’ll have those that fail terribly and that’s OK. As long as they are few the game was simply not for them. On the other hand you want to make room for the other group - the hardcore over achievers who want that 100% achievement and wear it proudly. You want the game to be hard enough that that group is also not too numerous. Imagine a bell curve with the outlets being the people who fail and the people who matter leaving the bulk of players with a passing grade. The interesting thing Jason did was give the player options. There were 17 challenges and 10 needed to be completed to unlock the boss in Guacamelle’s DLC. Perfect scenario. On top of that the levels were all accessible immediately so players could skip what they couldn’t get through.
The next talk that felt relative to my current game developments was Ben Rivers on giving the player a voice. I’m not sure I agree with the title. I felt the talk boiled down more to making the player feel like he is part of the experience and making that experience genuine. The strongest case Ben made was Zelda telling you all about the princess trapped in the forest that needs your help then shuffling you into a pumpkin patch to gather veggies for hours. Ben emphasized the importance of sticking to the goal of your game and making sure that the tasks you give the player along the way don’t detract (too much) from the narrative. Mind you we’re talking core quests. Side missions or activities that are optional ate still a great thing. He also highly praised combining story with gameplay as most titles keep the two apart. You’re either in a cutscene getting story or you’re in the game. Mixing the two and finding a good balance is the trick.
Finally Nels Anderson presented his thoughts on systems in games. This spoke to me the most as he finally put a name to something I loved but never really defined: systemic games. Systemic games, as the name implies, wraps gameplay into a system, which you can think of as an environment. The player is then dropped into the system with a goal and ideally figures out one of many ways to complete the task. Games that do this well are Hitman and Thief giving you a non linear experience where you can be creative in how you pass a level. Then there are games like Papers Please where you are in the system but you are not given any specific goals, just a task. As you play you are simply provided input and it is up to you and your interpretation to decide what is important and to form your own goals to pursue. These games don’t make choices feel like a checkpoint. They just give you more data to complicate the scenario either morally or ethically trying to work on your emotions. This is also where ownership of gameplay happens!
My favorite game that did an amazing job of combining a systemic environment with a fairly linear plot would have to be DeusEx. The game would provide multiple solutions of accomplishing tasks and the world you entered was full of little side stories that you could completely ignore. These were things like finding someone’s ATM pin and making a withdrawal from a bank machine or breaking into a closed convenience store that had nothing to do with the story.
Getting back to Nels, he really emphasized the point that gamers have slowly been rendered helpless little creatures by modern game design, all in an attempt to make games as accessible as possible. Players have come to expect the game to tell them exactly what to do and when to do it and then what to do next. This usually results in very linear gameplay that puts the players in a mind-numbingly passive state. How mind-numbing? Well Nels backed up his case with an event was recorded during the testing of Dishonored. Being put in the role of a futuristic stealth assassin the player is tasked with taking out a target and told to seek the target on the second floor. Upon approaching the staircase a guard tells the player he cannot go upstairs. At this point testing showed many players were dumbfounded. The game told them they can’t go here and immediately in their minds this was an invisible wall that could not be passed. They would forget completely that they are a bad ass assassin and the testing showed they would aimlessly wander around not knowing what to do. Eventually a message was added encouraging the player to still attempt to get upstairs. This somewhat shows how disconnected players sometimes become from their role in the game as they have grown accustomed to very linear and highly curated experiences that kept them in the passenger seat. All the while, as entertaining as those passive linear experiences can be, you can’t help but feel that games could be so much more. It is really in our hands, being the game creators to make sure the player is aware of his freedoms, his capabilities and to create an immersive experience that lets the players take ownership of the way they play the game.
As I work to make Zombygon a non linear experience that still follows a narrative I really have to thank the gentlemen above for steering my game design to a more systemic and player empowering direction. I know now that I want my game to constantly move the players closer to the main objective but provide them with various options of accomplish the smaller stages of the game. I want to design the levels in a way that teach the player and suggest different possibilities providing different perspectives on accomplishing tasks. All of this to empower the players and give them a sense of ownership. That is what makes gameplay immersive. That is the kind of gameplay that I like and I really hope it is the kind I can provide in our game.
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Yesterday we made official our new identity as a team. Some confusion arose on twitter as to whether Zombygon was being renamed - not it is not.
Numizmatic is our new team name. We didn’t really need one before but now as development on zombygon ramps up and we are certain we will finish we decided we need some name or brand to represent the team.
@numizmatic Very good then. Does the name stand for anything?— Sebastian Dwornik (@appliedpda)
Yes the name does stand for something - it comes from the word numismatic or numismatics. Think of it like mathematics. Numismatists (not numismaticians in this case) are people who study and collect coins, tokens and other objects.
We really liked this idea seeing that most of the time that is what we do in game - collect! Whether it is coins, stars, rings or achievements we spend our days building our collections. We are gamers! Digital NumiZmatists.
Keep an eye on numizmatic.com - we hope to have some really cool stuff there near december.
- Hugh, Rob and Puppy
I spent all of last week decyphering mecanim and re-animating the characters. Looking back on my daily journal it took a lot longer than I had planned… and its still not done! I started friday. Rigging took most of that day. I made a nice IK rig based off a great tutorial by CG Masters on Vimeo. For those who don’t know I work in Blender3d. It took me a little over an hour to get my rig right and it really works great now that I am animating with it.. but about that a little later.
I moved on to mecanim. In my mind the model would just pop into mecanim and I would be able to apply the tutorial animations to it. That did not happen. My character’s bones would get mapped without any problems to the unity humanoid template but when I applied the animation to him he would just float in that pose from the muscles tab with his legs hanging out below the level. I had no idea what was happening. I had this idea in my head that I need to have a model with no IK or restriction bones and then I have to animate with IK (inverse kinematics) but save positions in FK (forward kinematics). As it turns out unity translates your animations to FK so that is not needed. I spent a lot of time trying to find a way to convert those files. So I was not able to get the standard animations to play over top my avatar but I was able to get him to play his own animations.
After making a few test animations and playing them in unity I proceeded to animate a run and walk cycle. They came out well. Better than I thought. Well unless I tugged on the wrong bone ;)
As you can see before he melts all over the screen he is walking in one spot. Unity’s new mecanim feature needs you to make the displacement. Before we would always do this in code but now I had to animate the motion in the blender before exporting. Trying to adjust the lines to make it all work proved to be a disaster. The animation came out horrible and I decided it had to be redone… it was one of those frustrating moments where I had spent 3 hours doing something and it was all for nothing.
Not giving up I finally got back to work. I completed all the base movement animations and brought them into mecanim. I am now starting to build the controller for our character and it is looking promising. There are some strange foot behaviours on the diagonal walks but I am working around those.
This time tomorrow we should have an animated and mecanim powered character in the game. WIsh me luck!
I dedicated some time today to wrapping my head around a dialog system. I had just completed the speech bubbles and implemented a zooming function so I decided it was time to organize dialogs and make them interactive.
I took a look at some XML parsers and after deciding they are too much I just wrote a basic one of my own. The dialog system is built up of XML files. Each file contains a text element and then several options for the player. Some of these options have an action and all of them have a link to another XML file so it is fairly flexible.
I can now easily make interactive dialogs and drop them anywhere in the game with content fed via XML files.
I also did some polishing on the UI to make it expand nicely and darken when interacting. I liked the darkening effect so much I actually implemented it on all the other interface elements so every time the screen is occupied with a UI element the gameplay in the background is taken a little out of focus.
Here’s a pic - you can see the different from the pic I posted below.
So many things have changed. I recently came across a bucket of time, which means Zombygon development will get a boost. Rob is also switching to a more predictable schedule which means he’ll be making some solid commits to the code base as well.
We’ll also make a solid effort to turn this devlog into a proper feed of our progress rather than monthly snapshots of vague nonsense about how we are making progress :)
Today I fixed up the dialog boxes and gave them a camera zoom when active.
Hey folks. I’ve been mostly updating the TIGSource devlog so if you want more details on progress visit there. We’re adding lots of interfaces, gameplay elements, story elements. The game is slowly shaping up to being a co-op adventure survival game.
I was just adding grass to the level and noticed how much the game has changed since last year. Here’s a little before and after shot.
I’ve been working on the interfaces in the game and finally got the doors going. Rob’s been implementing changes to the camera and the new run animation which I don’t have yet so you won’t see in the gif.
The plan right now is to get the game’s first puzzle implemented in full so that we can take the game to some testing events like the Bento Miso ‘Game’s with friends” night.
Here’s a peek at how the door interfaces currently work. Still debating whether the panel alone is enough or whether it should come in with a background.