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Bluefirehawk's: "Path to World Domination"



And now to something completely different, or why Diablo 3 sucks 2nd try

Posted by , in Info, Rambling 08 March 2013 - - - - - - · 1,416 views

Yes, I am starting a new project! But before I get to the meat of it, the game idea, I want to point out what I actually would like to accomplish with this project.

I want a platform where I can learn more about game programming and in general designing a medium sized code project. It should be a game with a very limited scope, a small game that I can dissect and inspect completely, that I can experiment with and test my expectations.
Wow, I almost sounded like Ghandi... anyways it is a study project with one main goal, learning. I want to learn more about game design, programming, and software architecture. The latter one is great, since I have this very subject in my current semester, yay!
Ok, so what is it? What is the game about that will flatten my path to world domination? Alright, here it comes:
ALIENS! Wait no, not this one, MAFIA!

This game idea is based on the social game Mafia aka Werewolf aka Assassins aka Witch Hunt. I thought it may be a very interesting concept for a multiplayer game. I also think it is a good excercise how you translate a "normal" game to a computer one.
Alright, roll up your sleeves, LET'S DO THIS!!... But how?
How do you base a game on a different game? Writing it down, it seems like a no-brainer: Let's research the original game! Wikipedia had a surprisingly good page on it:

...is a party game created in the USSR by Dimitry Davidoff in 1986, modelling a battle between an informed minority (the mafia) and an uninformed majority (the townspeople)...


Why do I bring this up? This little sentence sums up the whole game, it is the core mechanic! Alright, why should that help?

The core mechanic in my opinion defines what the gamer does but not necessarily why the gamer likes it. Sometimes the core mechanic is easy to find and sometimes it is as hard to find as your car keys you had 2 minutes ago.
What is the single mechanic in Portal? The Portal Gun of course! Nobody would make a Portal sequel without the Portal Gun. Think about it, in Portal, you have many different objects to play with. You have boxes, "hard light bridges", fluids etc. to play with. All of that are only new toys for you to screw around with the Portal Gun.
Yet in Diablo 2 I can't find a single core mechanic apart from it being "Action" RPG, which was the single revolutionary aspect in the
original Diablo, every notable RPG before it was round based. Thinking about the Diablo series like that suddenly makes more sense why D3 fell flat in everything gameplay related. The skill system is crippled with the extensive cooldown, resource system and limited skill selection. At the core of Diablo was the idea to just "use" your skills. On the other hand they fitted the D3's Monk with such ridiculously shallow resource "spirit", that I could only use the cool skills I wanted any 20 seconds or so and even if i had the resources, anything cool had a stupid cooldown timer too. No other skill reflects that better than the D3 Barbarian Rage skillset which all have a cooldown timer of 120 SECONDS. Blizzard, are you telling me that I need to wait TWO BLOODY minutes until my barbarian does something awesome again?! What the HELL is that, coffee brake mandated by *the hero's union*?
On the contrary, in Diablo 2 I could use almost every cool skill I wanted at any moment as often as I wanted, if the situation allowed it (e.g. enough mana and no manaburners). I could even use skills for somethng they weren't intended for, using the Paladins Charge skill to get away. That's why on surface Diablo 3 looks similar like Diablo 2, they correctly analysed what people liked at the old Diablo games but they completely forgot what you were supposed to do. That's why it isn't a true sequel to the Diablo series, like you made a Portal 3 without the Portal Gun...

buuut back to topic... at least how I understood this, you can make completely different games with the same core mechanic, you simply vary with what you give the player, with the core aestetics. You could make a shooter out of this, but that would be putting a different mechanic at the core and just use that as an "extra".
So basically I try bringing this social game in the digital realm. That doesn't mean that it is simple, now with networking, animations and fancy stuff I can add a lot more to the core mechanic...

AAAAAAAHHH SCREW YOU, BRAIN!

You may not have noticed this, but often things become more clear when I've written them down, and now suddenly my brain kicked in and told me that I could be trying to deviate more from the social game and explore more... and I had a few nice ideas how you could encorporate the game... so I am going to experiment more with this, but that should be the topic for an other post.

Damn, this entry is even less coherent than usual, maybe this really deserves the rambling tag. In defense, I am getting a cold, so that may be a reason why...


You only gain experience shortly after you needed it

Posted by , in Info, Game Design 22 February 2013 - - - - - - · 1,084 views

Hellooo again

As the title says, you gain experience shortly after you needed it, or in this case, knowledge I gained after abandoning my project that would have been useful at the start.
Basically, those are all the questions and tasks I should have tackled before I began. This post is partly for me and partly for anybody who also wants to start his own projects like me: HEAD ON!! . I guess many people are like me, when you have an idea you want to get started ASAP! But you tend to profit from stepping back and ask yourself some important questions, you have to be sure it is the right project at the right time.
This is in no way the best or only way, or the only questions to answer, this is only what I will be doing in the future.

Why do you even want to make a game, what is your personal goal?
This question isn't asked often enough. Why do you do it? It's maybe the most important question you need to ask yourself, everything else, the goal of your project, depends on it. This isn't a philosophical question, your answers can be very trivial like "I want to make a living", "I want to learn about X". Maybe you don't have only one goal but serveral, in that case you should settle on one main goal. The answers alone seem a bit useless, but they get important together with the next question, so bare with me.

What is the goal of the project?
Again, the answers can be very simplistic like in the first question ("I want to sell it"). Now if your main personal goal and the goal of the project deviate, you inevitably run into problems. For example, if you want to learn but the main goal of the project is to be profitable, then you probably are working on the wrong project. If you want to learn, it is important to be able to fail, sometimes you learn more by failing instead of accidentally getting it right.

What technology do I use?
Unless your goal is to learn a specific platform, toolset, language etc. this is the wrong question to ask yourself at this point. Don't settle on your technology to early, maybe there are better tools for the job.


Alright, I got everything. I have this great game idea, let's do it!
I was there too, you have written your game idea to paper, and are keen on working on your game, but wait, you missed something!
Do you know which mechanics are more important? Do they even fit the game you have in mind? Do the mechanics even tell the same story as the story?
Before I ramble on, I want to say something about how you get your ideas.
Very often, you come up with an idea by mixing existing games or genres together, because in your head, it plays like the next cool game (my earlier post about that). But that's not the only way to get new ideas, for example: the fine people at Valve came up with "Left4Dead" while AI Programmers were testing new bots for Counter Strike. They were fighting as a small group of human players against a large number of bots who only used knives and they had incredible fun while doing so.

Dissecting the game
Let's go back to Left4Dead, I think it is an easy game to dissect when you have listened to the developer commentaries, some things become strangely clear. I am no professional, everything I write here is purely based on my understanding of game design.
I'd say, every game has a core principle, the core gameplay, how you would describe the gameplay in one sentence, many unarmed enemies against few armed players. That is, at least in my opinion, what the developers at valve experienced and liked while playing against unarmed bots, they played the earliest prototype of Left4Dead.
We then have to set the core aestetics for the game (watch the video at the end, it explains this better than I ever could). For Left4Dead, it is undoubtedly Co-Op, but it didn't have to be. I am sure you could imagine a game where compete against each other player. Both can be explained with the same phrase, but nobody would say that these games are related.
Now why should this matter? Again, let's turn to our poster child. I challenge anyone to find anything in Left4Dead that doesn't enforce co op. From the items, over the levels to the story, everything serves only this purpose. Yes, it also has a competitive aspect when you put 4 vs 4 in the mix, but I argue it isn't a core aestetics, in the end you compare the team effort. Compare this to Call of Duty multiplayer death match, where a good player can essentially win the round while he drags along not so super players. In Left4Dead on the other hand, it doesn't matter if you have an uber player in your team, he can't win alone.
So, why is Left4Dead a zombie shooter? Because it fits perfectly with the core gameplay and the core aestetics. Valve didn't do it the other way around. That's why everything feels right in Left4Dead, there is nothing that seems out of place at least in my opinion.
I think this is by far the hardest step, this is where you see the difference between novice and senior game developers. If you do this right as early as possible, you have a good understanding what it is that you are producing and how valuable feature X is to the game. It gives you a scale to judge your features on.

And now...
...you should have a solid basis for your game project, mind you anything of the above should never change. But the reality is, they often do. If something does change, don't take it lightly, be sure what impact your change has on the game, the project and on you.
I think now

I wanted to write about my own game idea and how I tried to dissect it. Alright then, that will be the topic of the next entry.

Videos
  • Aestetics:
  • Starting your narrative



The future... good bye hopes and dreams

Posted by , in Info 17 February 2013 - - - - - - · 1,001 views

Alright, this is going to be a bit of a gloomy post, at least for me.

In short, I am postphoning Project: Phoenix indefinitely, as studios like to put it. I am not going to work on it in the near future, but maybe later when I am wiser, more experienced, have more resources at my disposal and a better grasp of what actually needs to be done in a game project. I wrote in my last post why I am abandoning the game, here I want to show you why it is the right choice.

The simplest explanation is, my goals changed. This first started as a framework to dig deep into C++ and more low level programming. After starting to think more about the game I want to be making, I got more and more excited about this project of mine, until I had a cool game in my mind that I really wanted to see coming to life. Without really realising it, I changed my goals.
That isn't a bad thing, until I came to realise the second thing, I haven't done a single game before. Making a 'good' game, let alone the quality game I had in mind needs more than pretty ideas.Excluding story and artwork, it needs solid game design, fitting mechanics that envoke the feelings you intend to invoke, about the pacing of the game.
It is like writing a poem, just because you can write words on a sheet of paper doesn't mean anybody will like it. It also doesn't just take hard work and time. It takes a special way of looking and analysing your writing, what it tells the reader conciously and subconciously. And that in a nutshell is game design, at least this is how I understood it.

And here lies the main point, I don't know anything about this. To learn it, you need to gather analysing skills, you need to analyse different work, and most importantly, experiment with it. This may be the best way to learn about game design more than in any other field. And with Project: Phoenix, I had no room for experimenting, wich also means room for failing.

So I abandoned the project, the goal was not really reachable for me and it was the wrong goal to begin with. My goal should be about learning, learning how to solve the problems in game programming and how you design a game.

That doesn't mean that I wasted my time, quite the contrary, I know now very precisely how you should NOT start a game project, I know how and why games can change so vastly during development, I aquired the best grades in my college C++ classes, I started gathering skills to analyse games and game ideas. I learned about human psychology, the uncanny valley and pacing, I learned about the story structure, the journey of a hero and the badly written plot. And those are only the non technical aspects, I learned much about topics I didn't intend to learn about, which is a good thing I guess.

To the future! With a project that I can experiment and possibly fail.
What is it going to be? I'll write that in my next post.


About Core Aestetics and how you DO NOT start a game project

Posted by , in Game Design 18 January 2013 - - - - - - · 1,233 views

sooo... this week's entry is about the completely same topic as the last one, but a bit from a different side. In a nutshell I want to show what I did wrong in my first game draft and what I further change. At the same time this should be a bit of a example how fast your game idea can change.

in this post, I rely heavily on the principles explained in this video:
[url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uepAJ-rqJKA"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uepAJ-rqJKA[/url]
So, everybody watched it? Yes? Everybody understood it? NO?! GREAT, let's move on!

The Original "Project: Phoenix" Game
In retrospect, the game I had in mind when I wrote the first entry, has something like these three core aestetics:
  • Co-Op
  • Exploration
  • "Strategy"
Looking back at it, this seems a bit overblown. I fear it would have been too much, a too mixed experience to be any good. It is like combining drama, documentary and action in one movie. Even if you pull it off, it is too mixed for the viewer, not focused enough.
Especially the Co-OP and Strategy aspect would have been in conflict with each other. The original game would have been more like two completely different games in one.
I am sure there exists a way to make a beautiful game with very similar core aestetics, but maybe not for this type of game.

It may be important to note here why this happened, I am sure many new game developers do the same mistake I did:
You want to make your game you always wanted, your awesome revolutionary idea, so very different etc. Even if you KNOW this to be wrong, it still felt that way when I first wrote about my game. I see a lot of similar dream posts when I have a look at the forums. When you first write about it, you tend to explain it with different games (Oh, it's gonna be like StarCraft, but with your friend being able to play as a champion like in League of legends... etc.) and that's basically what you did, what I did. Mashing games together. That's why this won't work, you end up trying to provide many different core aestetics without analysing if they actually fit the game. How could you, you just started really experimentnig with game design. The best you could achieve is getting two different games packed together in one, or the worst and more likely solution, you get a game that is neither of those you originally mashed. Like having a bollywood romantic plot in a shocker movie like Repo Men.

Obviously, Project: Phoenix has to change. One aestetic has to step down from the core. It can still be in the game but only to enforce the other two aspects. This means that there would be a planning phase but far less powerful,more as a platform for players to communicate what they want to do.
But by having these two core aestetics in focus, Co-Op and Exploration, makes for a different play, a different experience. It is, a different game.
Welcome to "Project: Phoenix 1.1".
I think this could make an awesome game, putting in many of the ideas I touched upon in previous entries. The soundtrack fits perfectly.
Even the theme I have in mind only enforces the two core aspects of the game. I'd like to explore the very human feelings you get when you are sent out in a world where everything is here to kill you, where your life is essentially in the hands of the guy next to you. I would need to scrap the previous lore and story drafts but I wasn't too happy with it anyways.
Maybe you haven't noticed but I am very fond of this crude draft of the game, so why am I using words like "would"?
I won't be working on that game. Not in the near future. It has a more serious theme and requires serious artwork, it's a beast of a game that needs more content, it requires more resources than I have.Furthermore it is my fist game, this isn't a good platform to experiment with. I would be too attached and too fearsome to release any version of it to playtest.
I would trap myself in a circle of doom and never progress further.

What to do now? Well, I can play with the aestetics, setting and theme of the game and have a look what comes out. Maybe I can reuse some ideas from the original game. Maybe something comes out that takes less time and may be interesting to experiment with from a game design perspective.

Variation 1:
The biggest resource eater is the Exploration aspect. So let's get rid of it. It's still a post apocalyptic isometric shooter, but not the same game anymore. The basic storyline would be something like "Old bunker should be breached and cleared for a new base in this area. Make it happen." This leads to a more Level-like area, with limited space and limited possibilities. This would also get rid almost rid of any strategy aspect. This game would have the player to think about the tactics but that's not as in depth and complex than anything you'd expect from a strategy game.
This is the closest I get to the original game idea, not bad.

Variation 2:
Let's scrap the Exploration part and the game theme and instead, play with the gamer's "Trust". Let me explain:
Normally in a multiplayer game you can very much trust your partners. They have the same goal as you, if you lose, they lose too. Unless you have a troll, they probably don't want to stab you in tha back.
But what if your partner has a different goal?
The idea is taken from a social game I think the english world knows as "witch hunt" or "mafia".
Reimplementing a social game is a bit futile, then the gamers could just play it via skype. But I can take out the basic idea of the game, there is an informed minority in a group that try to work against each other.
I haven't figured out much, but I know that it makes sense to change the setting too.

You see, now I have a completely different game that shares almost nothing with the original draft.

Variation 3:
Scrap Co-Op, exploration and the theme. Instead focus on action and storytelling, making it a single player experience. There probably won't be a leveling system in this variaton. In the Project: Phoenix 1.1, the leveling system is used to enforce "Co-Op", each member is trying to get more valuable for the team, being the guy the team needs him to be. But in this variation may a leveling system even be wrong.
In such a world, a more scary theme could be a good way to go but that also requires a different protagonist that isn't a soldier.

So what is it going to be?
I don't know, I seriously don't. But of one thing I am sure, the game I'll be making probably deserves a new journal.


Evouluushun, why scrapping a game is good

Posted by , in Game Design 11 January 2013 - - - - - - · 837 views

sooo... this week may be a bit of a weird post. More weird than usual? Maybe, probably...

I am sort of scrapping everything of Project:Phoenix and start again, except for the code, there isn't much around yet, but more to that later.
I didn't write about it, but a lot changed since the last time I updated this journal, the game today and the game I wrote about in my first post back in August are more different than they could be. It seems very similar to species evolving, diversifying and eventually becoming so different that they are considered different species.
The same thing happened with the game idea, I added, changed and removed ideas and ways I thought about, now it is a different game.They still are related, I am proud that so many ideas persisted for so long and how many will persist that I haven't even written about. I am sure that this could become a great game one day. But I'd have to work on it till the end of times to be in a fit and finish I have in mind, until I can move on.

So what changed then?
Something I found out I defined without really knowing what I did. I first imagined that people will play it at LAN-Parties, just having a good time.
Without knowing, I defined a theme, a feeling for the game, something the player should experience while he plays. But I also had a second theme in mind, I wanted to be more realistic in how a military team works. Look at the Battlefields and Call of Duties out there, Everybody does what he wants and shoots around. In reality, an attack is planned beforehand, the bigger the attack, the more vigorous the planning.
I didn't put both in, because they fit well together, they don't. I put them in because I liked the idea, because in my simple imagination it worked. In reality however, they are more conflicting than not.

And that's what I changed and what I haven't yet decided, the theme. One idea for the theme is Trust. You are sent in a dangerous world with your fellow gamers, you live because the guy next to you doesn't let you die. But he is encouraged to. In the end you are set to face a dilemma, only one of your team can survive and join at the side of the commanders. So you either have to kill your team or you all die.
I like the theme, you can have plot twists which are not in the plot, but in the action of each friend you are gaming with.

Sadly, empowers the game as much as it hinders it. This game does not make sense in single player model. Let's be honest, I never released a game, practically nobody knows about it, there is nothing I can show. I am lucky enough when somebody takes a look at it, when it is required to play with a friend or two, who probably aren't around at the moment.
In short, scrap it. Valve could pull something like that off, but I don't. So I don't

What am I doing?
I don't know, I am still dreaming about different things, scenes, and in general, what you should actually let the player do, how do you tell a story, how do you let the gamer experience something about himself. But I can tell you this much, it will be a single player game, some mechanics will prevail, but it will be vastly different from the game I have in mind.
When I have the theme laid out, I will rewrite my basic game idea, trying to draw a more acurate picture than I did before and, try to show you just how much it deviates and where it is very much the same game.


The lesson to learn here: if you want to make a game and you have a game idea, try thinking about the theme, what feeling the player conciously or subconciously is exploring while playing your game. What question he's left with when he finished. It defines EVERYTHING!


What the hell, usability? What are you doing in a game?

Posted by , in Game Design 20 December 2012 - - - - - - · 779 views

Sooo... this week I write about the overworld. "Why?", well, I missed writing about it in previous posts and it is important enough to get it's own entry. Without further delay, here it is:

The Overworld
If you remember, I have an overworld. This feels weird writing it like that, as if it's an illness. But back to the topic. The first thing that I missed thinking about, when do I switch from overworld to "fight view", and vice versa? And since everything else kind of depends on that, I should think about that first, right? Maybe, but I won't. I try it the other way around.
The Overworld is rasterized, I call one square a "sector" in game. Of course it doesn't make sense mathematically, but it sounds cool and very military like.
While trying to solidify the idea of the overworld, I came up very Usability-Like requirements... I am baffled, what has dry technical stuff to do with fun games? This makes sense, in Jagged Alliance, you could have let the player run through every sector of the world, but that wouldn't be fun. So my overworld only exists so the gamer can cope with the vast levels. Pure usability. Well done, I tried to do a project to get away from the dry stuff, at least it has more colors and features guns.

But anyways, the overworld view should provide time saving mechanisms and should serve as an information hub, giving an overview of all relevant informations (well duh, it's called OVERworld, of course it should give an OVERview). I know this is a bit like being captain obvious, still it is an important requirement to meet.

time saving
This too seems to be a no-brainer at first, FAST FORWARD! It gets a bit complicated when looked at carefully. When is the gamer able to fast forward? Does it have some kind of dark side? How can he simply command tasks that are to be fast forwarded?
For example, is he able to let his soldier do reconaissance on it's own and fast forward it? Well then it is a useless mechanic and I only waste the player's time, even if it isn't much. Or do I let him chose to do it himself and award him with something? Or do I get rid of it and tell in the lore that satelites provide all necessary info? It is amazing how you can easily include or remove a whole gameplay mechanic. This decision is more important than any "what language to use" decision for the actual game.
Back to the most obvious fast forwarded task, travelling. This too hides some problems. In Jagged Alliance for example, you could fast forward when you travel from sector to sector, there wasn't anything "between" the sectors, even when you manually walked through a sector, you still had some travel time to go to the next. Project Phoenix on the other hand, should have a seamless transition from one sector to an other. In a game like that, where you could get ambushed at any time, it is important for you what route you choose inside of each sector. So I need a powerful tool to let the user chose his path of desire at the right level of abstraction. Furthermore I have to define when the gamer is allowed to fast forward, how far away enemies have to be, and so on... and an other very important question, if I allow the gamer to fast forward, do I allow him to stop time? ...oh boy.

information hub
Still, very easy at the first glance, but what information should I put in the overview? What is relevant to the gamer?
...
What information do I actually have?
I don't know, or I don't know everything not one thing definitively, this shows that my game is "work in progress". At least I now know what I don't know, this is progress, progress is good.
A view thinks are self descriptive:
  • Your camps, and as a pop-up your equipment and supplies.
  • Yout home base and save zones.
  • Your target city/stronghold
  • Enemy movement you know of (somehow)
Now it already gets messy, what enemy movement. For example a fast moving group of hunter demons that hunt YOU is very important to display, but a group of demons that are going to fortify a position, is that important? If not, how do I intuitively hide the info so the user can see it if he thinks it is necessary?
Here, Jagged Alliance has a nice solution idea, there you can toggle displayed information on and off. For example, you can toggle to display enemy troops on and off.

Now that's not too bad of a start, I wanted to write anything about the overworld here, but I start to think I wrote about everything I currently can vote. Like I've written before, I now know what I don't know, I have to write more about the demons and furthermore I have to think about something I call macro strategy. What strategy the gamer can pursue to defeat the demons.


Power of Music, Part 2

Posted by , in Uncategorized, Lore/Story 07 December 2012 - - - - - - · 880 views

sooo, this week I try to write the entry drunk... yeah, I am really drunk, so don't think to harshly about any spelling errors.

This is the second part of the "Power of Music" series, but I have to disappoint you, this won't be a huge entry writing about the missing music pieces of my current project. So why did I have the need to write this?

Basically, I was listening to pandora.com and literally tripped over a piece of music that couldn't represent my game more perfectly than any piece of music that I know of. Here it is:

I can envision it as only a sort of "travel" soundtrack for my game, and yet it strangely underlines my overall vision of the game. It draws a sort of torn apart picture. I can imagine the artwork I'd like to be associated with the game, I can imagine quite a lot.
To be blatantly honest, that's why I had the need to post yet another entry about the music, without having diferen soundtracks for diffenent situations that I coudln't cover before. Until today, it was I kind of searching for music that made ME feel the right things for the specific game moments. This isn't too bad, but now I feel like I've found the music style I would tell to a professional composer (if i had the money).
It seems to me that this day marks a very important decision. At the first glance, it seems more trivial than anything else, but defining the STYLE of the ingame music can be very difinitive to what kind of person likes the game or not.

I first didn't grasp the groundlaying outcome of this decision, but I think defining a music style for a game is more than just "a music style", it defines your overall feel of the game.
Thinking about Portal 2, if it had an other type of ingame music, it wouldn't be the same at all, it is not only the style of music you settle on, it is the style of emotion you try to set for your game.
I am very sure that this decision is often not taken too serious, not thinking about how much the music influences the overall "feel" of the game (in the end, that's what the people will remember of your game).
So, while just posting one music file for my game project, which won't be available in the actual game (due to copyright issues if I am not mistaken), this single soundtrack may be more important than any posts I've wrote over the last couple of months. If I have some art piece posted to me,. I can actually decide if it fits to my world or not, I started to define the remebrable part of the game, the art and feel of it.

Having an arstyle, story, sound and music that fits your world is one part, but making it distinctive enough that people will remember it is an other aspect. I always compare Borderlands to Darksiders. Both games have a good looking artstyle, butTa I am very sure that Borderlands will be remembered as one best games of all times, while Darksiders will eventually be lost in the flood of games.
Darksiders doesn't have an ugly art style, but it is just so generic, it fits to every halfways epic music, it is so mainstream fantasy style.
Borderlands on the other hand has a very distinctive world, very distinctive artstyle. This is not only a good thing, Imagine the difference of the Borderlands 1 and Borderlands 2 theme songs. From a "money" perspective, making a sequel to the predecessor isn't easy, especially when it stood out with it's exceptional artstyle and overall feel, as a game designer, you may be limited in your enovations.

Still, defining a style is to me like having a face for a game in the flood of games we have today. People may not necessarily like your game because of your artstlye, but they at least will remember it, for the good of bad of it.


Maybe you missed my latest entries in this journal. I wrote this in my last "almost missed entry", some weeks ago I wrote the journal entries days to weeks before they were published, I sometimes scheduled the topic of the entries a month before the entry was supposed to get posted. The last few weeks have bitten me in my ass, by not completing me pre-scheduled entries, they were published in a very unfinished state. I was already very annoyed by that. But when I took the already published entries down, made them fit and finish and reposted them, they weren't listened in the gamedev.net latest journal entries.
So if you haven't already, take a look of my past entries, maybe you have missed one if you are interested.

That was it, I hope it was at least entertaining for you to read my text written by drunk me. Have a nice week end.


The Power of Music

Posted by , in Lore/Story, Game Design 23 November 2012 - - - - - - · 737 views

Sooo.. this weeks entry is about what the title says.

Why? Because of everything.

I recently came to the conclusion that designing a game doesn't only mean designing mechanics, designing the gameplay. Good games design the feelings the player has while playing the game. And those are the games we remember, we know and love.
On the other hand, the very bad games have much in common with bad horror movies. Instead of feeling scared, you laugh your pants off in the worst case. Not because it has such good humour, but you see the director trying, and terribly failing at giving you an emotion.
Making a good game, starts by you knowing what atmosphere your game should have.

I try doing this by going out there and finding music that reflects the atmosphere I want to have in the game. I know this is starting to look a bit esotherical, but trust me, I am an engineer.
No seriously, think about the greatest moments you had in video games, movies, etc. When you find the soundtrack of exactly that moment, you feel the same way you did during that scene. I think music is a very good way to make atmosphere tangible and if I was working in a design team, this may be even more important. Without it, there is a bigger chance that the designers have different images of the game in their head, therefore the game can become inconsistent.
In my opinion, inconsitencies in the game are the most accidentally hilarous thinks that can happen.



World
Finding music for the World itself was the most important task. It should help defining the settings and the overall mood. Also, how the people react to earth's transformation from a habitable to a very hostile planet. It also gives a bit of a "I am fighting for earth" mood.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=702_VYOQpAE&feature=related

Gameplay

Planning should be important in this game, so it deserves a soundtrack.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUSIi7OouGI&feature=g-hist
I am not completely happy with the soundtrack, it is a tap too much A-Team like, it has a different style that doesn't completely fit with what I have in mind, but it gets in the right direction. It gives a kind of urgency that I very like.


In Project-Phoenix, you have three basic tactics, therefore they have to have a completely different appeal, they deserve a different soundtrack. That's the reason, why playing splinter cell as a Rambo just feels wrong.

Attack
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqL5eu8DOgI
I stumbled upon this by watching people play Halo 4. I enjoy this soundtrack very much and it happened to fit in my vision of gameplay for an attack. It isn't too fancy, you don't feel like being part of one big army, it starts and ends bitter, almost sad. I want the player to feel that he is fighting, because the only other choice he has is death for him or his comrades. So they fight not for glory, not for freedom. not to be remembered, because there is nothing left to do. Because it is there last hope for a better world.

Assassination
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cXLYxx1yBA
/Argument
To me, this soundtrack fits perfectly to what I envisioned, if I could, I would put it in the game. I love the way the soundtrack builds up urgency.
I want the gamer to sneak around, finding his way to his target and either take out an demon before he sees him or sneak around him. Or if the player was spotted, kill the alerted before it is too late and he has to flee.
The sudden rises in the soundtrack fits that perfectly. If I want to make the gameplay awesome, I should incorporate that uprising in the game.I dynamically change fade in and fade out a soundtrack if he was spotted or is attacking.

Ambush
I currently don't have a soundtrack for that. I first wondered why, if i don't know enough different songs. Well, here comes the practical application for finding soundtracks to your game design. My vision of ambushing an enemy is just boring. Find a place to attack, find a spot for each player, BOOM, flee, rinse and repeat. It is too short compared to an assassination or attack, and frankly, too repetitive. I also wanted to have the ambush fail, let the demons take an other route and miss the ambush spot. Then I frankly just wasted the players time.
I didn't find anything because there wouldn't be a soundtrack not good enough, my vision isn't good enough.


I still don't have soundtracks for the other way around,when you have to Hide, Run, Retreat, or when you die. It's possible that I don't include a "Victory" theme, as you have in Call of Duty every time you've won a round. I'd like to give the player a feeling of accomplishment, but having victory trumpets is just wrong an a dark, bitter world like this. Ideally, the player would have the feeling that he accomplished SOMETHING, but he is not sure if it is for long, or if he got closer to his end goal, liberating earth.

In the last two weeks, I accidentally published a couple of entries that weren't supposed to go up. I normally use the function to schedule a specific entry for publishing. I then normally wrote the entry one to three weeks before it was actually visible. Now with all the exams, I stumbled out of schedule and you saw this and the next entry already in a very unfinished state. I apologise for that.


The Enemies you fight and Hellooo Plotdevice

Posted by , in Lore/Story, Game Design 16 November 2012 - - - - - - · 745 views

Sooo... this is a bit of a mix post in terms of categories, since thinking about the antagonists sort of touches upon most Categories in a computer game.

Talking about enemies is one of the most obvious crossover between game mechanics, story and art. All of them are equally important to form a good antagonist, that is fun. To me, it also means the disciples are influencing each other as well.

Minerals of Plot
I've read the guide to bad plots(http://www.ansible.c...le/plotdev.html), I tried to not use plotdevices, but I almost have to have at least one in a game like this, I just can't get anywhere without one. BEHOLD: The Minerals of PLOT!
I cleverly call it Diabolite. The name is not the greatest of all, I know. I am likely to change it when I find a better one. For now, it will serve it's purpose.
And since I am already writing about names that are subject to change, I let the humans call the enemies "the Horrors". The name doesn't satisfy me either, it is a better way to refer to the antagonists than "the enemies" or "monsters" I presume.

But back to the Diabolite:
the minerals come from far down under the earth: Natural Diabolite grows in a crystal shape. Even in it's unrefinded state, it is a valuable resource for both the Horrors and the Rising Sun. The Diabolite crystal is remarkably sturdy against most steel alloys. It tends to enclose precious metals like Titanium, Gold, Cobalt, Palladium and sometimes even Platinum that can be retrieved by refining the mineral.
But it's main application is to serve as a source of power for the humans as well as the horrors. Since the invasion, the humans have almost no other powersource left.
For the Horrors, it is more accurately described as a nutrition, the more primitive Horrors seem to feed on the raw Diabolite, while refined Mineral is eaten by the more intelligent creatures. Either way it is the only thing left after defeating one of the Horrors.

More on the mechanics side:
Diabolite is the main mineral of the game, the player needs it at LEAST to buy ammunition. Maybe I will do more with it once I give more thought into the Items/Skill system.
The weapons of the later game mainly use high performance ammunition. While effective, using them is also expensive, using it against a weak target is essentially wasting resource.



The Horrors
From a design standpoint, I always knew I wanted two groups of enemies. One group attacking with melee and one attacking on long range. A team of players has to use a completely different strategy for each group. While dealing with long range attacks, each player should dash from cover to cover and trying to provide cover fire. But fighting against fast, melee enemies it is generally saver to stay in a open field and take them out when they run towards the players.
I also played a bit with Ghouls, Zombies essentially, in my head. They never seemed to really fit. By fleshing out the resource idea, they suddenly make sense: Ghouls are the resource eaters, plus they potentially alert the more dangerous enemies. They themselfes are not a real threat, but a group of ghouls at the right time at the right place can change the situation.
The long range enemies are represented by the "demons", generally humanoid creatures that are also fairly intelligent and are able to form teams, flank and ambush the player.
Close range and let's call them 'special purpose' enemies are called 'Nightmares'. From an evolutionary standpoint, they don't make sense at all. Most of them are fast and vicious opponents, although most of them are not very intelligent. But there are some Nightmares, the humans call them Overlords. Alone, they are no threat whatsoever, but they seem to be able to control the simple minded Nightmares and let them attack in packs, wait for the player around the corner, flank them from behind etc.

The Horrors are now in a very raw state. I will carve them out in a later entry. I need a crude idea of what the Horrors are and what they can do, so I can think more about the overworld strategy.


When the storm hits

Posted by , in Info 09 November 2012 - - - - - - · 757 views

the Inevitable happened, the exam storm has hit the harbor. And it hit hard.

Also, I maintain other hobbies than programming, I also do some martial arts and now have the chance to train for amateur full contact fights. That would mean more training and less time for other stuff.
But I don't want to stop programming this, I love the concepts, problems to solve and design thoughts while starting my own game engine. Abandoning the project is not what I want to do and not what I will do.

Long story short, I don't have time writing more journal entries at the moment, I was very lucky to have time writing this one. Because if I am not writing a journal, I am studying or try to educate myself more on how to tackle such a complex software, or I am fighting with minor problems of QT and Doxygen.
(Talking about QT, bugger me but getting QT and doxygen working together was very anoying. The plugin for the QTCreator needed a newer version of QTCreator. The right version installed, I've found out that Linux Mint used an older version of a library, I think it was a C Library. In the end I installed Kubuntu, had trouble installing the latest versions of QT, and settled with the older QT Package but the QTCreator 2.5.0)
And When I am doing neither of those, I am training.

I am still figuring out what problems design problems I have to solve, and when I try to maintain the interval and length of published entries, I won't have any time left to do what I came here to do, to program.

This means I will probably lengthen my Entry interval, maybe write less structured and shorter entries. Only time will tell. But I try to update on my thoughts and design questions/choices.






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