Over the weekend of September 8th and 9th, 2018, our team participated in a Game Jam hosted by the Nashville Game Developers and The Adventure Science Center in Nashville, TN. The event kicked off on Saturday morning with introductions and our challenge for the weekend: create a science-based game with an educational spin. Given that The Adventure Science Center had dedicated September as "Make It Month," creating a video game based on the science of water seemed perfectly in sync with that idea.
Through a bit of brainstorming and ideation, we came up with our theme: Water. Water is one of the most interesting substances in the universe with a host of properties and uses. We wanted to use our game to teach about the 3 main phases of water - solid, liquid, and gas. The player would be tasked with navigating a 2D puzzle environment using game mechanics to heat or cool their water character to make it through obstacles and finish the puzzle. Following a ton of online research on water, we all got a little bit smarter about how water acts, what it can do, and why it's such a versatile substance! Now, to make that into some interesting and educational gameplay.
We knew we wanted the experience to include the player having to change between the various phases of water to complete the level. The challenge became how to do that in an educational, yet fun way. We decided to utilize the idea of a Bunsen burner to heat the water into a gas to be able to float. We would use a freezer to turn the water into an ice cube to be able to break through obstacles. And we'd use the idea of time and friction to turn the gas or ice back into water to navigate grates in the floor. From there, the team began pulling together assets, coding, and building the game level. By the end of Day 1, you could start to see the results of the team's work.
For Day 2, our goal was to put out a finished game that would be fully playable start to finish, while also providing some polished visuals and gameplay. One of the aspects added during Day 2 was our water molecule character, Mo L. Cool, who would serve up interesting facts about water or helpful hints to get the player through the puzzle. Seth, our artist, came up with a very cool, unique take on the water molecule, showing the hydrogen atoms as headphones on the "head" of the oxygen atom. Mo L. Cool would live on the game screen and pop up with info every so often throughout the game, triggered by keys the team placed in the level.
By mid-Day 2, we had some Adventure Science Center guests come through to see what we were working on at the Game Jam. We decided it would be a perfect time to get some outside opinions on the game and let them play test the current version of the game. With an Xbox controller in hand, the 2 guests gave the game their best shot while providing us some helpful insights into where we could make adjustments and fixes to make the experience even better.
By the end of Day 2, we had our completed prototype game, which we dubbed "Mind Over Matter." While we were able to build a complete game level and experience, there are still a few tweaks we'll be making for the final product. We'll be putting it out on our social channels plus this and other gaming sites for folks to download for free to play (very soon). It was great to see at the end of the weekend what all the other developers at the Game Jam had been working on. Each of them showed off their science-themed gaming creations to the group. Some had been working solo on their project, while others also worked in teams. Everyone had amazingly creative ideas and were able to get completed game experiences built over 2 days. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and look forward to future game jams!
Here's a gameplay video showing our completed prototype from start to finish (that first part is tricky)!
ASC Game Jam 9_17_2018 2_14_17 PM-1(4).mp4
BencinStudios Dev Diary August 22, 2018
Early in a video game's development, specifically when it comes to the artistic style, brainstorms create ideas and those ideas become concept art. Artists will take cues from real life and infuse them into a concept that feels authentic yet has a uniqueness all its own. It's that uniqueness that's key to developing a game that stands out among its peers, and one that players want to experience for themselves.
At bencinStudios, our talented lead artist Seth has been working on some new concept art for a 2D platformer. These specific pieces of art are all water-themed enemies for one of the potential levels in the game. You can see how Seth has taken some visual cues from a real-life counterpart and integrated those ideas into his concepts.
Ranging from a riff on a "seahorse" to an "angler fish," Seth has managed to give each character an instant personality that will help the game programmers translate it into a gameplay experience that will thrill players. As the team moves through the game development process, it will be interesting to see how these conceptual illustrations turn into specific in-game assets, including how they move, how they attack, how they die and so on.
Stay tuned for more game development goodies from the bencinStudios team!
A Game Art Development Story
by Seth Dranes, Lead Artist at bencinStudios
As lead artist on Lucky Lotto Match, a new mobile matching game for Android and iOS devices, I wanted to share my experiences as we worked to bring this game, its characters, and its world to life. As the only artist working on the project, I started off by getting in contact with Dennis, Lucky Lotto Match's creator. Dennis was very clear with what he wanted, so we didn’t have to spend too much time coming up with early concepts.
The game pieces were the first thing I decided to tackle. The pieces would change as production went on, originally including a mix of items and animals, including a horseshoe, a cornucopia, an emerald, and a four-leaf clover, with only the Neko Cat and Dolphin pieces having been there since the beginning. The lineup was eventually decided to be animal-focused, while some of the original pieces would become power ups (Horseshoe and Emerald).
After the game pieces, I went straight into backgrounds, as I wanted to tackle what I believed was the hardest task next. Dennis had stated he wanted the backgrounds to be Italy themed. Of course, I picked some famous landmarks (Leaning Tower, Colosseum), but I also didn’t want to go with all the obvious choices. I picked North Tyrol and Palermo specifically to add some uniqueness to the locations. The difficulty the backgrounds brought me was the amount of time each one took. I had initially anticipated a much simpler style and on my initial estimate, I figured I could finish two or three backgrounds a day, where as in reality, I was finishing ONE background every day or two. Patience was the key, as it was very easy to get frustrated with myself when I ran into any hiccups.
The last big challenge was the map backgrounds. I wanted to give the feeling of a pathway to follow without ACTUALLY putting a pathway in every illustration. I had also misread the dimensions for the maps, but by the time I learned this, I was already finished with them! This created an interesting challenge, as not only did I have to add more to the drawing to make sure there was no stretching, but I also had to figure out a way to link the maps together for scrolling through them. Luckily, since I chose the harder stuff first (on purpose), the rest of the project was pretty smooth sailing.
I continued to get Dennis’s input on things like power ups, bombs, block pieces, and other game mechanics, and those were fairly easy to tackle. For the UI, I really didn’t want to be messaging the client every few minutes asking him if each asset looked alright. (Each individual asset took anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, depending on detail.) Instead, I decided to tackle the UI on my own, and instead, have him pick the ones he wanted to change after they were all done. Since the theme of the game was luck and lottery winnings, there was a heavy amount of gold used. I decided on purple as a secondary complimentary color and went with that for the color scheme of the UI. After completing that, we took care of any additional assets (Title screen, Fortuna animations, etc.).
So there you have it. Hopefully you’ve got a better idea of my thoughts and processes as I moved through the design and development process. You can get Lucky Lotto Match now on the App Store and Google Play Store now.