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Dream Build Play Returns–Time to get your Game on and this time you can use ANYTHING

SimonDarksideJ

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It’s official, the world has ended as Microsoft has resurrected the hugely successful Dream Build Play challenge for 2017. The biggest main difference in this resurgence, is that you can now use any tool, framework or language you wish, So long as it targets Windows 10 UWP!.

https://developer.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/projects/campaigns/dream-build-play-challenge

The competition is broken up in to 4 main categories with various Prize levels for each, totalling a MASSIVE $200,000 prize fund for entrants to win!

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The competition is open to all (AS IN WORLDWIDE) with only a few of the usual exceptions:

  • If you are a legal resident in your place of residence and 18 years of age or older as of June 27, 2017. If you are 18 years of age or older but are considered a minor in your place of residence, you must have your parent’s or legal guardian’s permission to enter; and
  • You have the technical programming education, experience and/or knowledge to create games for UWP; and
  • You are NOT a resident of any of the following countries: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria; and
    • PLEASE NOTE: U.S. export regulations prohibit the export of goods and services to Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria. Therefore, residents of these countries / regions are not eligible to participate.
  • You are NOT an employee of Microsoft Corporation or an employee of a Microsoft subsidiary; and
  • You are NOT an employee of any company or organization that is involved in the provision of prizes, equipment or materials for this Challenge; and
  • You are NOT involved in any part of the administration and execution of this Challenge; and
  • You are NOT an immediate family (parent, sibling, spouse, child) or household member of a Microsoft employee, an employee of a Microsoft subsidiary, or a person involved in any part of the administration and execution of this Challenge.

You also can’t (of note) submit a game that is being built by a major publishing house or one that is currently in development for console development programs such as ID@Xbox, PS Dev, etc.  It has to be your own work and not linked to your development studio or company.  If it wasn’t obvious, you also cannot submit games that are already published and sold, the game / project must be new. (AFAIK)

 

If you are up to the challenge, there are a few key dates to be aware of!

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A brief history of Dream Build Play

Dream Build Play which ran from 2007 through to 2012, has birthed some of the most famous Indies in the years gone by, including:

To name but a few.   Most Studios and 1 man bands, especially those that won, have all gone on to do great things and that was only with a single framework to build it in, Microsoft’s XNA Framework.

You can read more about the Dream Build Play History here on Wikipedia

Now, with the new and improved Dream Build play, the competition is open to anyone and everyone, with any tool, framework or language you wish, with only one single requirement:

It must target the Windows 10 Universal Windows Platform (UWP)


What is this Windows 10 UWP thing anyway?

Now you might think this is just one big push to get developers to build games for Windows 10 and you would be completely right in that but nothing says more than “come build for my platform” than the promise of money. However, this competition is SOOO much more than that.

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The Windows 10 UWP ecosystem is a singular platform for building apps/games for Windows 10, it simply allows you to build a project once and then ship it to any client within the Windows10 family, such as:

  • Windows 10 desktop (the primary focus for DBP this year)
  • Xbox One UWP (the secondary focus, which you get for free as it’s a UWP platform) – The retail deploy, native Xbox isn’t required!
  • Surface Hub
  • Mobile
  • HoloLens & Mixed Reality (also a focus for the competition)
  • iOT

All of which are available to deliver to with a single package.  Granted, given some have different screen sizes (some with no screen), you still have to think about how your game will work in each target but that is no different than if you were building for the Web, or for other platforms, such as Android tablets and phones.

If you want to read/see more about building for UWP, then check out the recording of my Future Decoded 2016 “Building UWP for Windows 10 & Xbox” talk.


What can I use to build my project?

Where previously the competition was limited to Microsoft’s own game development framework XNA, this year the doors have been flown open to any Tool, framework, middleware that you can use, so long as it’s able to target the Windows 10 UWP platform. To make things easier, many of the largest companies already provide “out of the box”, so shipping to Windows 10 UWP is usually no more than a few clicks away. 

For instance, these companies all support UWP natively as an export platform:

image image Image result for unity3d logo image image

And that’s not to say you can’t just go your own way, as UWP has a full D3D rendering surface under the hood, so you can always roll your own C++ engine and just start firing things at the screen.

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Making your Game stand out!

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As ever with these competitions, it’s all about making your game stand out, making your Unique features scream at a judges face saying Pick me.  Microsoft has already gone a long way to give you some pointers to make your final submission a big success, such as:

1. Cloud

It’s no secret that most big games these days need some sort of backend infrastructure, whether it’s for a MMO or PVP arena, or just for chat systems.  The competition literally screams out, do something unique with a cloud backend and make it scale.  The platform however, will have to be Microsoft’s Azure platform.  To help with this, Azure already has loads of samples and integrations ready for most of the big framework providers and if that wasn’t enough, there are open source libraries as well.

It’s fairly easy to pick up and learn if you are new to the area, so simply plan for it in your design and do what you can to stand out.

2. Xbox Live Services (both desktop and Xbox)

Microsoft provide the Xbox Live platform through their new Xbox Live Creators Program, which offers you libraries, connections to provide serviced for game engines include Construct 2, MonoGame, Unity, and Xenko (others are available as well).  This enables you to Integrate with Xbox Live social experiences such as sign-in, presence, Leaderboards, and more.  If you want more services, you can sign up with ID@Xbox to get access to the full range of services.

3. Mixed Reality

It should be no surprise that everyone is jumping on the Mixed Reality bandwagon, offering games that work in VR, AR or Both.  Adding this in to the Mix of your game will go a long way to impressing judges if implemented well.  One note to remember, is you need to also think about special audio and give a good audio experience with your 3D game, just having a pretty 3D scene will NOT be enough.

4. Mixer Integration

Originally called Bean, Mixer is Microsoft’s new Collaborative Video streaming service with a heavy focus on games (Like Twitch), what sets it apart is that you can now integrate the service directly in your game, giving YouTubers and players the ability to interact with the audience through the game (A truly mind bending experience).  So, if you chose to make your game “YouTuber” friendly and build a project that includes not just the player but an audience as well, you will be well on your way to a prize!

5. ALL OF THE ABOVE

No one said you should make your life easy. Providing you don’t go too far out of your comfort zone, do it ALL (or at least more than just a game).  Gamers today are always demanding more and to keep pace you should find ways to give them more, quicker and easier.


DREAM…. BUILD … GET PEOPLE TO PLAY

Dream Build Play is back with a vengeance.  You should look on this competition as the mother of all Game Hack events with huge prizes and goodies.

More than that, every previous DBP comp has always birthed new Game Development Super heroes as the competition really highlights just what devs can do (especially with limited time) and then go on to be uber rock stars.

From what I know, there will also be more info incoming, like Monthly Draws, Game Spotlights and much much more.  This isn’t just a one big bang event, expect there to be a few surprises along the way!!

So, what are you waiting for, the clock is ticking. Get registered and be ready to submit by:

 

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      Ludoaesthetics refers to the perceivable aesthetic appeals of the aforementioned set of tools and strategies given to the players. Players who aim towards this end do not necessarily look for the most effective ways to achieve the intended goals. But rather they tend to look for the added intrinsic benefits derived from unconventional play. These benefits include:
      Superficial Attractiveness: Visual and auditory appeal of using the subject matter or the subject matter itself. It can be represented by any entity the player can recognize in the game such as a character with great visual design, a badass-looking weapon with satisfying visual and sound effects, etc. Competitiveness: a.k.a. bragging rights. This is rather self-explanatory. There is always that portion of players who keep seeking greater and greater challenges to prove themselves to the world. They may even go as far as handicapping themselves with arbitrary limitations to heighten the challenge. Greater sense of satisfaction derived from greater challenges that may go beyond the goals intended by the game. People who have been through heights of overwhelming odds know about, and may expect, the immense amount of satisfaction that comes with them. Narrative Fantasy: Players may look for things that may not be effective or productive in terms of gameplay because they would align with the narrative better (in games that understandably contain some degree of ludonarrative dissonance), or they would add an extra layer of depth and intensity to the narrative and thereby enhancing it. Essentially, they’re sacrificing gameplay optimality to elevate their narrative fantasy. Design for Ludoaesthetics
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      Creating more depth
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      Essentially, Complexity is the amount of constituent elements that make up a game, and Depth is the degree of interactivity between those elements. The very nature of ludoaesthetics has to do with the deviation from the default, intended approach (a.k.a. Playing “by-the-book.”) Therefore, the more those elements “talk” to one another, the better chance it is for ludoaesthetics to emerge, because then the player will be able to find more different ways to control or manipulate each element.
      [Also read: Design for Theorycrafting]
      Depth is pretty much the prerequisite for ludoaesthetics even as a concept to exist. Without a lot of depth,  the window of opportunities for ludoaesthetics get significantly lower or completely non-existent.
      Creating patterns suggesting the possibility of gameplay aesthetics
      Adding more depth is not only about simply adding more stuff in a game and making them as obscure as they possibly can be. It is also about leaving breadcrumbs to suggest that there is more than meets the eye, therefore encouraging players to explore further possibilities. What kind of depth to even add? And how does one go about communicating it?
      Below is a conceptual representation of a set of challenges typically found in video games.

      Each challenge is represented by a window of failure and a window of success. These windows can be spatial, temporal, symbolic, strategic, or a combination of all. They are the spaces in which the player enters by behaving in a certain expected way. Secondly, the black line represents the player’s interactive maneuvers: where to get across and which direction to turn to next, in order to overcome the set of challenges without stumbling into the windows of failure.
      For example, say we have a situation in a 3D platformer game where the player is facing a pit, and across the pit leaning towards the right side there is a narrow platform. In such a scenario, we can assume that the window of failure includes any and all sets of behaviors that lead the player plummeting down the pit, and the window of failure includes those that lead the player to landing on the platform across the pit safely.
      Now consider the same representation of challenge above, but this time with  a slight deliberate arrangement.

      As you can see, the sizes of the windows of failure and the windows of success stay exactly the same, but the positions of the windows of success have been altered so that they align somewhat (but not exactly aligned to the point of being too obvious). You can see that nested within the windows of success is a narrower window where the amount of the player’s maneuvers stays extremely minimal. Stepping into this window offers the opportunity for a non-disrupted gameplay flow, where a deliberate and guided set of behaviors will let the player “breeze” through the challenges seemingly almost with ease. This window is where ludoaesthetics occur.
      Of course, the downsides of it are aplenty: it can be extremely difficult to realize such a window exists in a real scenario. And in order to stay inside such a narrow window, the player has to be extremely precise and/or smart in their gameplay. You can think of this window of non-disrupted flow as an intended “weak point” of the challenge, where a single and concentrated attack will break the whole thing apart in one fell swoop. But the process of identifying such a weak point, and delivering the finishing blow with great accuracy may require a lot of trials and errors, and can be extremely tedious and/or difficult.
      An Example from Master Spy
      A common manifestation of ludoaesthetics comes in the form of speedrunning. Finishing with speed is, for the majority of games, not the primary intended goal. Games are rarely ever designed to be speedrun, and most players do not have to finish any games at high speed in order to not miss anything. So speedrunning has always been a sort of arbitrary self-imposed challenge by those who seek greater sense of enjoyment from their favorite games.
      However, there are a few exceptions. And you can find the above mentioned window of non-disrupted flow in levels like this one from Master Spy by Kris Truitt.

      In this game you play the role of the Master Spy, to infiltrate ridiculously well-guarded buildings, palaces and fortresses with a huge number of different enemies, hazards and contraptions standing in your way. And you are given no tools whatsoever but an invisibility cloak that can help you sneak past the eyesight of certain enemies while halving your movement speed.
      In the example above, your goal is to retrieve the keycard on the other side of the wall slightly to the right of your starting point, and then to escape through the white door right above your starting point safely. And while your cloak can get you past the eyesight of the guards, it is of no use whatsoever against the dogs, who can smell you even when you’re cloaked and will sprint forwards to attack you at horrendous speed as soon as you’re on the same ground as them.
      So what you have to do as a sequence of actions in this level is first to cloak yourself, then drop down from the first ledge past the the first guard, then quickly decloak to regain speed as the cloak is useless against the incoming dogs. Then before the first dog reaches you, move forward to the right, then quickly jump up. Keep jumping to retrieve the keycard while avoiding the second and third dog. Cloak up, then get on the ledge with the three moving guards. Finally, jump to the left to reach your destination.
      However, as you can see from the footage above (courtesy of a speedrunner nicknamed Obidobi), as soon as the player reaches the ledge with the three moving guards on the right, the guards turn to the other side and begin moving away from where the player is, effectively freeing the player from having to cloak and having their movement speed halved. And then right before the player reaches for the white door, the guard on the far right is about to touch the wall and thereby turning back to the left. This is such a tiny window of success that should the player not have begun moving right after they start the level and stayed uncloaked at the end, they would have failed. The level is designed in such a way that it can be completely solved without wasting any moment and action.
      Is it significantly more difficult to play this way? Yes. Was this arrangement absolutely necessary? Not really. But the designer made the level with the expectation that people are going to speedrun the game and will be looking to optimize their timing with each level. Thus, the levels in Master Spy are designed so that should the player start looking to speedrun the game, they will easily recognize that sweet, sweet window of non-disrupted flow. It is an immensely satisfying experience to discover it.
      Ensure Usability
      As usual, it is easy to get too extremely logical about design and forget all about the equilibrium, which is almost always what design is about.
      In this case, it is important that designers must ensure that whatever tools they’re making for their players to achieve ludoaesthetics, MUST have at least some sort of usability, even if it’s incredibly niche or extremely difficult to pull off. Things that serve nothing and mean nothing are NOT aesthetic. Say you have an RPG, and one of your players goes out of their way in order to build an unconventional character because they see some sort of future potential from this build, only to find out later that when they’re finished with the build, the meta of the game has changed and the window of opportunity for such a build has long passed. This means that the entire amount of depth you added, and the ludoaesthetics you might have intended by allowing that player to go in such away, is utterly useless and entirely wasted. So always remember to ensure usability for everything you add in your game.
      Conclusion
      Organic Difficulty and the ELS are not only, and not necessarily, an alternative solution to the whole difficulty problem. But rather, they represent an entire paradigm shift away from the idea that games should find more and more complex ways to serve players with different skill levels, and towards a design philosophy where players are given integrated tools within the context of games to set their own difficulty at any point without breaking immersion and perhaps the extra baggage of shame. It is not enough to have your players stay at the same level of difficulty throughout the game, or dynamically adjust the difficulty on the fly to suit them. It is best, in my opinion, to let your players cook to their palate. Just make sure that the process of cooking and the game itself are one and the same.
      References
      The Designer's Notebook: Difficulty Modes and Dynamic Difficulty Adjustment (2008) by Earnest Adams. Retrieved at https://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/132061/the_designers_notebook_.php The case for dynamic difficulty adjustment in games (2005) by Robin Hunicke Cognitive Flow: The Psychology of Great Game Design (2012) by Sean Baron. Retrieved at http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/166972/cognitive_flow_the_psychology_of_.php Depth vs. Complexity (2013) by Extra Credits. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jVL4st0blGU The True Genius of Dark Souls II (2014) by Extra Credits. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MM2dDF4B9a4 What Makes Celeste's Assist Mode Special | Game Maker's Toolkit (2018) by Mark Brown. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NInNVEHj_G4
    • By byteparrot
      In Slopecrashers you have to use items and your glider to get into tricky shortcuts.
    • By bravesttrojan
      There is a game called the Attack on Titan Tribute game (it runs on unity and has to be played in the browser): http://fenglee.com/game/aog/
      If I would like to make it playable in first person and on PS VR with move controllers (with online multiplayer like the original), how should I do it?
      Will I have to start from scratch, basically making a whole new game thats just very similar or is it possible that I get all the recources from the developer himself if i reach out to him and explain myself.
      Is it very complicated to port such a game on a different platform (PC -> PS4 VR)?
      How do I get access to the technology that allows developing for PS VR? What are possible obstacles that could deny me access and how can this be solved?
      Is it possible to publish it in the PS store so its available for download? And if so how?
      Is most of the things I ask for even possible bc of the (aot) licenses? Is it only possible if its completely noncommercial? Will I have to change names and some aesthetics so it only strongly resembles AoT?
      And the most important question: Is this even possible and if not why?
      Please consider that im a big noob and excuse my englisch.
      Im excited to read the things you all have to say about it!
       
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