#GGJ15 Post-Mortem

BigGodLogo

So last weekend I had the pleasure of helping run the Lincoln site for Global Game Jam 2015. I worked with Kieran and we made a really odd game called “Big God, What Do?” which is about a tribal god and his little villagers. Here’s the little blurb taken directly from our submission on the GGJ website:

“Big God, What Do?” cry the tribes-people of a small, jungle village. The idol in the center of town stirs to life and an ethereal voice echoes around the near vicinity: “Okay, guys, you need to bring me some pigs and throw them in the fire.”

BGWD? is an experimental multiplayer game where one player assumes the role of an ever-present deity whose belief is slowly dwindling. This player has to yell orders to his followers in game through the shrine in the middle of the map, then the other players must go forth and collect the items he needs. There is a catch, however: the villagers can only hear their god when they are very close to the shrine, and the things that the god needs are constantly changing.

The game was really fun to make, it was quite a challenge to get audio streaming across a network clearly – the final result was still rather choppy which was a shame. Unfortunately we could only get the game working on local area networks, so the game only really worked in the computer labs.

FinalScreenBGWD

I learnt how to 3D model using a free package called Wings3D, I’ve never done 3D modelling before so I was very interested in trying it out. I don’t think I did an awful job either; apparently I went against a tonne of 3D modelling conventions, but I was bound to make some mistakes on the first attempt!

I think that after a few hours I had a reasonably good-looking low-poly art style going. I actually really love how the game looks, and I definitely want to use this kind of style again in the near future!

Oh… and I also managed to get a photo of me and Kieran where he’s not pulling a silly face:

KieranAndMe

It was very refreshing to work with Kieran on something other than Hashtag Dungeon. Working on a project for too long without a break can get kind of stale; I think this jam was exactly what I needed to remind myself that I love making games and that I can work on whatever I want, whenever I want.

It was definitely a great jam and I had a tonne of fun! Roll on the next game jam I’m hosting in March!

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#LD30 ‘Going Postal’ Post-Mortem

You can play ‘Going Postal’ on your PC or on an android phone or tablet for free if you go to our Ludum Dare entry page! (I’d recommend the android version as it feels really nice to spin the planet with your finger!)

After a long week of making sure that Alex gets on with her final year coursework, building Minecraft server transport networks and making new enemies for Hashtag Dungeon; I thought it’d be nice to take part in Ludum Dare 30 with a few friends.

For those who don’t know, Ludum Dare is a big, weekend long game jam where loads of people from around the world come together and make games and then show them to one another in order to be judged. It’s pretty awesome and this is the second time I’ve managed to find time to do one.

I called up my friends Mark Boyde-Shaw and Amelia George to see if they wanted to join me in making a game, they accepted and joined me at my house for a weekend of excellent game development work!

After waiting up till 2am on Saturday for the theme to be revealed (the theme was ‘Connected Worlds’) the three of us spent a good hour or so discussing possible ideas. These ranged from a horror game where you slowly bring more ghosts into a house by destroying wards, to a crazy planet destroying simulator. Eventually we all agreed on an interesting idea and swiftly moved to our respective beds to sleep.

Morning came and the three of us reconvened in the living room to start work. Mark had been very busy overnight working on a possible storyline for our game, the elevator pitch for the game (entitled ‘Going Postal’) is as follows:

You are a mailman on a small planet with a few houses on it. You deliver mail to houses in order to connect the people who live there together. You can however, choose to deliver mail to the wrong house in order to cause absolute chaos within the small community.

Amelia got to work immediately on making art assets for the game. I went to work on programming the main part of the game with the little help of some placeholder programmer artwork (yes, I do the art for #Dungeon and no, I don’t care that this art is terrible in comparison):

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I went into the game jam feeling pretty lazy and I wasn’t really looking to have very pretty code… so in the end I may or may not have put almost all the code into one giant script attached to the planet. This caused a few major problems later on in the evening but for the most part everything worked out fine so I am not too bothered about it. Game jam code is always disgusting.

Over the course of the day, Mark wrote out all the possible letters we wanted to have in the game and the outcomes of each of them. He then printed them off and cut them out in order to arrange them into a cohesive story. PHYSICAL PROTOTYPING FTW!

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Once we had an order of letters that we all agreed upon, I set about adding them into the game. It was a very time consuming part of the jam which went on for several hours. Each letter had several recipients who each had different writing styles, letter artwork and house locations around the planet – some of them also had special events tied to them.

It was around this time we also started replacing my horrific excuse for placeholder art with Amelia’s glorious artwork – the tiny microplanet town of Dreamsdale was born:

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Mark and I worked on giving each of the characters a believable and unique personality. There were a total of eight characters living on the planet in the end:

  • King Harold IV – The pompous king who is loud, bold and brash. He lives in the palace.
  • Queen Anne III – The wife of Harold who we based around Mrs. Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances. She also lives in the palace.
  • Daisy ‘Sugarplum’ Dumpling – The baker who has the personality of a particularly annoying american teenage girl. She lives in the cute gingerbread house.
  • Sergeant R Murphy – A war veteran who has seen his share of horrors in a ‘Great War’ – he is a no-nonsense soldier who doesn’t like to express his feelings. He lives in the fortified bunker.
  • Mr Frank Fisher – The town fisherman who lives on a small boat in the only lake on the planet. He is a kind natured man who likes poetry and the outdoors.
  • Mr Boris Bletchley – The manager of Dreamsdale’s waste disposal and energy plant. He is a perverted old man who smells horrible – but he’s trying to turn over a new leaf.
  • Dr Eugene Egbert – The geeky scientist who moved to the planet in order to study the local area. He doesn’t really get other people. His letters are all typed in the same manner as Terezi Pyrope from Homestuck (A, I, and E replaced by 4, 1, and 3, respectively). He lives in a hi-tech tree house.
  • Sister Jane Jazzpunk – A nun who is also a talented musician. She is always looking for more people to donate to the church and spread the word of her god. She lives in the church.

Of course we didn’t manage to get everything we wanted to into the game. We wanted it so that if you sent letter to the wrong houses then the world would change slightly in appearance. We also didn’t manage to add all the ending cutscenes we wanted. The options on the letters were also not particularly clear to players, and could have used some work.

Luckily we also managed to get in touch with our friend Will Bryce, who frequently writes music for our games. He managed to come up with a cute little tune to play in the background of the game. Adding music and sound really brought the game to another level of juiciness.

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All in all the game jam went well, we took it easy and had plenty of rest breaks. We didn’t want to burn ourselves out doing a full 24 hours straight and I think it really was beneficial because the end result was far less buggy than I’d expected. The feedback we’ve had on the Ludum Dare website has been incredibly encouraging. I look forward to seeing our final scores!

You can play ‘Going Postal’ on your PC or on an android phone or tablet for free if you go to our Ludum Dare entry page! (I’d recommend the android version as it feels really nice to spin the planet with your finger!)

#GGJ14 Post Mortem

So myself and a bunch of the staff at The University of Lincoln decided to host an event for the Global Game Jam this year! It was very daunting as we’ve never done a whole 48 hours before – we’ve always considered 24 hours to be a pretty crazy feat on it’s own. We had students from a bunch of other universities and developers from outside the university come along too. It was pretty awesome to see so many new people coming to make games together over a weekend.

Not going to lie though “We don’t see things how they are. We see them how we are.” I didn’t really like that theme – I know for a fact that Alex was almost going to bail on me when he saw it.

Luckily we kept the band together and managed to form an idea for it with the help of a pint of alcohol and some good hard thinking. We looked at the idea of propaganda and how it pushes people to form somewhat inaccurate opinions of the world around them. We decided you’d play the role of a person employed to put up posters around an area for the government or those who opposed them.

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Myself and Alex decided it’d be cool to revisit the country of Happystan that I created along with some of my friends back home. It’s a dictatorship ran by a crazy man who expects everyone to be CONSTANTLY happy ALL of the time. I’ve always wanted to make a first person game in this world so this seemed like a perfect time! After having finished our drinks we went up to the computer labs and started work: Adam Bowes made 3D models of security cameras, buildings and trucks, Alex Saye programmed real-time poster physics and I made a metric-fuckton of poster graphics ranging from government propaganda to XXX strip club advertisements. (Meanwhile we were all listening to plenty of Caravan Palace…)

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Unfortunately we didn’t get the game finished. Despite our solemn vow to never make a branching tree-like story for a game ever again we ended up making one anyway. We had a load of bugs that we didn’t manage to squash in the last few hours and they ended up leaving us a little stressed out and on edge.

On the plus side we got a heck of a lot of comments saying that we’d created a really nice atmosphere for the game, which I tend to agree with as it’s pretty much exactly how I’d imagined the land of Happystan to be like (it was very heavily influenced by Orwell’s 1984). I also really liked the cool billboarding effect we had on the NPCs – totally gonna use that again at some point! I consider ‘District Smile B’ to be a glorious train wreck – both beautiful and terrible at the same time.

The Scary October Jam #ScareJam

Boo! So it’s time for the first of my many little game jams that I’m going to be running at the University of Lincoln! Since it’s Halloween soon I thought it might make sense to make it a spooky-themed scary game jam of occult hi-jinks!

Halloween

So ‘The Scary October Jam’ will be coming this Friday (18th October) to the University of Lincoln. I’ll be starting it at around 5pm and it’ll be finishing 72 hours later on the Monday! Anyone at the university is welcome to come along, we’d like to see as many first year games students there as possible – you can use the weekend as a crash course in GameMaker!

Let’s make some games that make people jump. Make games with all those creepy things that go bump in the night. Make something terrifying that’ll terrify the judges!

This time around we’re having an online poll to decide on a mechanic to add into everyone’s games. This should give people an interesting challenge and push them to think a little outside of the box with their game ideas. (Let’s avoid having a thousand and one jump-and-run games, people!)

You can come in a team of up to five people. The event will be in Computer Lab B on the top floor of the MHT building. Don’t be afraid to ask me some questions about it: if you want some more information on the jam then send me an email or drop me a message on Twitter.

Updating The Blog! (It’s been a while…)

So its been quite a while since my last blog post… theres a good few reasons for that and I’ll list them below. None of them are bad of course – in fact I’d say all the reasons for me being off the radar are pretty awesome and cool. It’s been a very eventful university semester.

Firstly, I completed and handed in my dissertation on visual variety in crowd simulations. I’m pretty happy with how it went… the project was completed on time and the results gathered by the evaluation supported the changes I’d made to the agent’s model in the world. You can read the full project report here, hopefully you won’t find any mistakes in it (if you do… please don’t tell me as it’ll make me panic.)

Secondly, I completed my last two assignments of the year:

  • A games design document for a ‘critical’ game looking at illicit gun-running, capitalism and dictatorships. The player assumes the role of an unscrupulous arms dealer who travels to a fictional island in order to make money off of the war brewing between two countries.
  • A pathfinding assignment in which I implemented a pre-baked pathfinding solution in order to simulate more agents at runtime… it allowed for the simulation to have 20,000+ agents moving around all at once.

Thirdly, myself and the rest of my wonderful council at the university’s anime society (JAMS) put on a big event in the university’s bar called ‘LinCON’ – we had a load of things going on such as an artists alley, a sumo suit arena, sushi, origami and calligraphy. It was a great night and from all the feedback I’ve received everyone had a great time. I’d specifically like to thank Pia Davison from Lucky-Con for taking a big chunk of her free time out in order to help us get ready in time!

Fourthly, it was my birthday last Friday so I had a wonderful party at The Shed, my local student pub. We took on the theme of “Steampunk… like a sir.” and I was most impressed with how good everyone looked in their shirts and dresses. I like my parties to be classy and with whiskeys and victory cigars this was no exception to that.

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Fifthly… and I think this is the biggest and most awesome news of this entire updateI’m lucky enough to now be the managing director of my own games company! I’ve literally been buzzing this whole week after receiving the news that I’m now in such a position at the age of twenty two. I’ve been in touch with a couple of initial clients and hopefully in the future Top Notch Studios will grow to be a well-known development company here in Britain!

Thank you for reading! I’m sure I’ll be doing more updates soon about other things I’m working on… and I’ll be typing up the next Laundry RP files soon when I get chance to!

#CanJam13: Post-Mortem

Well… I can honestly say that was perhaps the most stressful and tiring jam I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of. I should have known not to go to a 24 hour long game jam with a horrible cold looming in my sinuses.

The jam itself was incredibly well run, shout outs to the Lincoln Computing Society and everyone else who ran the show, you definitely trumped last year both in terms of turn-out and quality. Plus, the pizza wasn’t as spicy this year… so I didn’t spend most of the night gagging for a drink!

So myself, Amelia, Alex and Craig got together to make a game based on the randomly chosen themes of “Uranium” and “Madness”. We all went downstairs to the pub in order to discuss what our idea was to be… but unfortunately the pub was closed (at 11 in the morning?! What?!). We decided to make a game similar in style to Oregon Trail, Warioware and Super-Wagon Adventure… and we kinda succeeded… in a way:

Not going to lie, both myself and Alex have agreed it might be one of the most generic games we have ever made. It’s mechanics are stale, old and overly-used. It is badly balanced… either making the game a cake-walk or a hellish, nigh impossible nightmare. It was a bitch to code for Alex… and a soul-crushing, time-consuming, pain in the arse for me to input the 150 odd elements that made the game up. On the plus side, both Amelia and Craig made some top-notch assets for the game.

What would we do differently? Choose to make a game with more unique gameplay would probably be the first thing… dodging and shooting games are a dime a dozen. We’d also probably avoid making such an complex and branching story in such a short period… and we’d also take more breaks. We both also agreed that the themes were a tad too easily attached to one another, which made it harder to come up with something unique (A great deal of the final games we saw made the radiation make the player ‘go mad’).

But… somehow it managed to get the Award for “Best use of Theme” and also an honourable mention for something else (I can’t remember what… I was far too tired.) I have no idea how, and I don’t really want to question it. But I guess I want to thank Rockstar and Crytek for finding something we couldn’t see by the end of the day-long dev session. Hahah.

#1GAM February – “Hideous” Initial Update

Six days into February and I’m proud to announce that game number two is well under way! Myself and Alex Saye have been programming and designing like madmen for the last two days… and we now have some stuff to show!

Let us present our idea:

“Hideous” is a multiplayer Unity game based around the central mechanic of players not being allowed to see one another without dying. The game is set in a Victorian/Lovecraftian maze in which the player has been transformed into a disgusting monster that causes anyone who sees him to die – unfortunately the player is also in a maze with several other horrors… so a battle to be last one alive begins!

We’ve already got the basics done – but the game is still in pre-alpha right now. We’re using the same technique as I used as part of my first #1GAM game to get the networking right (it seems to be working fine… for now). We’ve got some really sexy looking rain particles in the game right now… they hit the walls and ground and bounce really nicely – I’m sure they’re gonna look really great when the models and textures are in the game.

Once again Kirt and Amelia are working on 3D models for the game! Kirt is working on the environment (hedges/walls/floors) and Amelia is designing and then making the horrors that the players will become. It’s all coming together nicely… and we’ve got ages to polish it up and make it look awesome.

Untextured "Creeper Peeper"

"Hideous" Walls

We also have Will Bryce working on some macabre music for the main-menu of the game, I’m looking forward to hearing what he has cooked up come the end of the month. He’s been doing a lot of research into scary game music and Victorian-esque compositions… so it should be pretty awesome!

We should be getting some models imported into the game either tonight or tomorrow… so expect another video and a blog update soon! This game is hopefully going to be wonderfully terrifying!