To beard or not to beard; Reflecting on the first day back

This year is all about team work, which is a good and a bad thing. after listening to [insert lecturer whose name alludes me] for ages going over the brief, the usual stuff you’d expect from a brief should be old news to us all now the real interesting part was the first paragraph, the “actual” brief before all the lists and guidelines. From the second we were all told the nature of our work this year all I wanted to do was to get the team established. I already had 2 people in mind and welcomed the offer of a fourth to join. Within seconds of us being free to sort the groups for the year out “To Beard or not to Beard” was born. Sam, Alan, Nathan and I have joined forces for collaborative greatness.

After joking about pretentious people who go to coffee shops to write screenplays/novels for a bit we decided to go to a coffee shop and do our work in the public eye, the creative process began. For us the creative process started with listing our individual strengths which didn’t take too long, we all know what we are good at, the issue then became “who will do what?” which was quickly buried in more jokes about pretentious hipsters in coffee shops (of which to the general public; included us no doubt). The key progress came when we began talking about the game, i pointed out to everyone that in my opinion we need two things; an interesting art style and an interesting/unique/rewarding game mechanic, to me these are the core of any game. The first hurdle was the game mechanic, we discussed several idea, games we had liked and mechanics that worked, we twisted and joked around with a lot of off the top ideas and eventually got into discussion developing some of the small ideas. 

One idea we focused on and discussed in some detail was an idea originally put forward by Sam based around smoke and mirrors and mimes. memory of this conversation is somewhat blurred due to the immense random nature of it so ill cut it short; we discussed the possibilities of the player bursting into smoke to move through things, collecting different powers to smoke through various different material walls (wood/glass/stone etc). this idea kept our interest for a little while until BAM! the grand idea (or current grand idea) was born.

This idea, im happy to say was at first my own, obviously developed further by the team. I started with the idea of a linear time trial games a la sonic. Start at one end, run to the other, avoid obstacles and reach the end of the level in as fast of a time as you can. the thing that has always annoyed me about games like this is the clock, it’s always a clock. I honestly couldn’t and still can’t think of a game where the representation of time isn’t either a 00:00:00 or with the occasional timer being something in the HUD, a graphic that fills as time moves, essentially a sand timer, just replace the sand with pixels. This train of thought led me to think of an interesting way to play with this, I considered time as a grander effect on the gameplay than just a ticking clock, in keeping with our team name, which was chosen because none of us were cleanly shaving, stuck in a perpetual state of “to beard or not to beard?”. 

Could you run with an 8 foot beard? how long would it take you to unravel a beard wrapped around a lamppost? Only Time will tell and time is your beard.

TL;DR - First day back was fun, we laughed, we hugged, we learnt and we bonded. Shits dope, Beards are awesome.


(“World Map” Sketched, scanned and coloured in PScs4)
I forget I even have a dev. blog, I’ve been up to various little projects over the summer, most as usual making it barely past the “hmm that’s a cool idea, I think I’ll draw some stuff” stage. I’ve done a lot of work towards the untitled Flash RPG but I’ve put it on the backbench again for now while I refine the idea, I get so sucked into the graphics I forget to finish designing the game. Once again tried some actionscript and failed…it just never sticks no matter how often I repeat things, on the plus side I’ve been trying to do a lot more traditional drawing and I have started painting some sketches in photoshop, something I haven’t done since early college days. Although i have some graphics for a side scrolling flash RPG I have also started designing, mostly as a method to keep myself focused while building up drawing and painting skills, a whole world, filled with several races, plenty of creatures and big differences in the cultures and their histories. This has given me a great base to build up some concept designs from as well as a solid idea to build games from. All in all it could be said i haven’t done a much as I could have over the summer but I’ve done enough to be happy with it.

(“World Map” Sketched, scanned and coloured in PScs4)

I forget I even have a dev. blog, I’ve been up to various little projects over the summer, most as usual making it barely past the “hmm that’s a cool idea, I think I’ll draw some stuff” stage. I’ve done a lot of work towards the untitled Flash RPG but I’ve put it on the backbench again for now while I refine the idea, I get so sucked into the graphics I forget to finish designing the game. Once again tried some actionscript and failed…it just never sticks no matter how often I repeat things, on the plus side I’ve been trying to do a lot more traditional drawing and I have started painting some sketches in photoshop, something I haven’t done since early college days. Although i have some graphics for a side scrolling flash RPG I have also started designing, mostly as a method to keep myself focused while building up drawing and painting skills, a whole world, filled with several races, plenty of creatures and big differences in the cultures and their histories. This has given me a great base to build up some concept designs from as well as a solid idea to build games from. All in all it could be said i haven’t done a much as I could have over the summer but I’ve done enough to be happy with it.

Its been a while…

ok so the first year of university is over and i came out of it with some good grades, good friends, amazing experiences a great relationship and not that much debt…cant really ask for more than that can i? My last day was kind of hectic, i wanted to go round and see everyone but i just didnt have the time, as usual i left all of the pack right up until the last minute. good times down at the forest though, was nice to do that one last time before i left. Packed up all my shit, handed out my frozen food and left over alcohol and closed the door on Fairoak Flat number 4 forever, im going to miss room number 5 and im really going to miss having the legend that is debs right across the hall from me, what im not going to miss is being kept up all night by foreign students, having to smell weird foreign food all the time, going days without hearing english being spoken etc etc, im not a racist but the culture diversity in university was a shock to my system, im just not used to it. Goodbye campus! goodbye fairoak! and Hello OPAL!…oh after 3 months back at home.

Its like escaping from prison, spending a year on the run enjoying the freedom and then being arrested and thrown back inside. I dont particularly like being back at home, its great seeing my parents and friends but being back in my room….back in the box…is really playing with my head. luckily as always ive been keeping busy!.

Over the course of the last week ive been getting quite involved with CLEAR UK, i had been following them for a while from a distance when i had an urge to design something that wasn’t game related, decided to whip up a poster for the campaign, followed by 6 other posters. since i designed them, posted them and spread them around a bit ive gained a bit of attention from them and im now hoping i can get even more involved in the fight against prohibition. www.Clear-Uk.org

Despite spending a lot of time designing the posters and networking with related people i have been doing something productive towards the university course and overall life goal; i have began playing around with Source SDK, so far only using Hammer world Editor but ive managed to learn how to build simple maps, with simple doors. its looking good for source SDK so far even though i have been advised to use UDK because i can receive support from course tutors….seems a bit stupid that a university games design course doesnt have anyone around who knows how to use Source SDK 0.o

Thats all for now folks.

07th May: The Return to Power Working!

Time is running out and with two active projects on the go im starting to loose my mind! So far we are two weeks into the scheduled time for these projects and very little actual work has been done. So Far:

Essay

- Decided on a topic

- Began research and structure plan

Maya Animation

- completed hours of tutorials learning the basics of Maya

- Designed Whale character (not using it anymore)

- Re-thought the project idea

- Designed “TerrorBird” character

- Sketched Run and Walk cycles

- Started modelling

Throughout the animation project we have been tasked with smaller week long projects..somewhat irrelevant to the final result but i can generally understand the logic behind doing it this way although i much prefer to just be told “you have to do this this and this and you have 6 weeks” i dont like short projects they mess with my work flow on the larger projects. so now instead of doing all of the planning work for the animation in the first two weeks i spent those first making a 2D typography character and then learning to model and rig in maya for a deadline the end of the second week. so with a little under four weeks left finally the proper work has started and the future looks bleak for these two.

Learning Maya…or not

havnt so much learnt new things in maya, more carried over what i knew from cinema4D and fucked about modelling a few things. and here they are! an elephant, a Knife, a Shotgun and a velociraptor.

Learning Maya Day #1

Ok so its finally come down to this; learn maya or suck forever. Time to learn Maya. After going through the very easy process of setting up a student account and downloading a full version of Maya 2011 for free with a 3 year licence i started it up and was greeted with a screen i was very unfamiliar with, having only been to two of the scheduled tutorial sessions for maya (whoops) i had very little experience with it, Thankfully a pop up window saved my life and offered video tutorials. I watched the first few to get to know the basic controls and then jumped straight into it!. I have some experience with 3D modelling but not with Maya, so i decided i wanted to model something fairly complex but simple at the same time, i decided to model a fairly low poly elephant. This is the result:

Project No.3 Dev Log 10th/12th March

Took a break from the heavy working for a few days, treated myself to some new games and transferred my frustrations with work over to Tomb Raider, not a great plan as TR is a frustrating game to play through. Once i got back into the work i made some significant leaps forward:

10th: Spent most of today going over what needs to be included in the hud, despite being told 100 times that concept art is the best way to get quick ideas down i prefer to work on screen rather than with a pencil, its just as easy to map out a HUD with a few simple shapes than with a piece of paper and pencil in my opinion. So i spent a few hours mapping out the HUD with a few simple rectangles and circles to represent the locations of the different displays, thankfully im not new to HUD designs so this process was not a learning one, although i did look into all of the current facebook games to see how they achieved their HUD designs. i knew what needed to be there, i knew the space i needed to leave for the game to play through and i knew the colours i needed to avoid to stop HUD and map blending together. After mapping out the HUd and rearranging it several times it was time to start creating the final graphics for it. The first design i did, for the bottom bar (the HUD is split into a display bar along the bottom with a few buttons over the top, leaving the middle area clear for gameplay) wasn’t up to the standard i wanted it at, it looked good but it didn’t work very well, after staring at the design for a while i realised my issue, i had recycled a lot of graphics from elsewhere in the library. The HUD needed to be completely fresh from the rest of the games graphics. Back to drawing mayan symbols! but not today. Fin

13th: Its all about the HUD graphics today, creating 2 new mayan symbols for use in the HUD and finalised the bottom bar shape. After spending an hour creating all the individual assets that make up the bottom bar i realised i was missing something, symbols for the resources etc. Another two or three hours was spent designing and creating these symbols, making sure they were easily recognisable for what they were. Most of todays work was purely creating graphics, very few issues along the way, just straight up creation. With a few minor tweaks to the positioning i have come up with a final, complete design that im pretty sure ill stick without throughout the project:

Project No.3 Dev Log 6th/7th and 8th March

6th: Spent most of my work time today focusing on creating some more of the art assets, designed the 4 mains resource gather points and edited a few of the buildings slightly and completely redesigned the Temple graphic. Started planning the Logo and designing the logo. Not happy with it at all at this point, the again im never really happy with my first designs. Avoided doing too much work today, Red Dead Redemption has me hooked!. Fin

7th: Spent more of today working on the Logo designs, really didnt like my original design as it didnt have any relation to the game at all, it was very plain and boring sub standard piece of design. Knowing what was wrong with my first design pushed me towards my second and eventually the final design. Today has been all about Identity.

8th: With the Identity design finished and finalised, the design document notes to the point they are becoming too detailed for notes and the fact i spent a good hour or two today designing the trimmings for the final design documents i decided it was time i started working on the Final Design Document. Spent an hour or two designing the page layout as well as the Front page and Contents Page designs. Did another couple of hours work writing for the first few pages and setting out the art asset examples i would use. Now that i have a good solid plan, a lot of detailed notes, a decent amount of research…despite me still not reading any books and the page designs i have now completed the first 5 pages of the Final Design Document. Not much left to do now! Lots of typing in the future, bad times. Over the next few days ill continue adding to the pages of the Final Design Document as well as finishing the Art assets i have yet to design and create, for example the HUD and Main Menu screens. Fin

Project No.3 Dev Log 3rd March

Over the last two days i have continued on with the art assest, mainly finishing all of the building (minus the outpost, still unsure wether the game mechanic that makes the outpost building necessary would be classed as non-violent or not) With all the buildings complete and a the design document thickened out a bit more (not a lot though) i decided to start focusing on a name….this has been a particular annoyance for me as usually the name will just pop into my head, i might alter it slightly but generally im pretty good with names for games, this game was the exception. i want to avoid the standard Zynga have set with their games “FarmVille” “CityVille”….they all follow the pattern SUBJECT + VILLE and the exceptions to that statement still maintain the two word structure eg “TreasureIsle” “CafeWorld”. I understand the reasons this is done, for a game on facebook the title needs to be clear, lets face it a lot of people on the internet are young and/or stupid. Through brainstorming the name i came up with a few options that i deemed suitable, unfortunately no matter how hard i tried, long game titles just did not work, for example one idea i had was “Civilisation:Sun Gods” or “Temple of the Sun People”, they just do not suit the genre and target audience, they sound too much like serious/console RTS/MORPGs so despite me trying to avoid sticking to Zyngas standards i found that there is damn good reason they do this, IT WORKS! after this realisation i continued brainstorming ideas for names and came up with this list of finalists:

  • TempleBuilder
  • TempleLife
  • MayaLife

despite these being the finalists i still hate them all…too generic and well boring, the only one that majorly jumps out, to the point i can visualise the identity design is MayaLife, a quick google search to check the usage of the title already came up with no results except showing that it hasnt been used. Still disliking conforming to Zyngas set i decided to push it a bit, the main title of the game is MayaLife but with a sub title Sun Gods….mainly because i liked the sound of sun gods but it didnt make sense as a stand alone title. With a Title decided on i will spend the next day or two designing and creating the identity graphics as well as beefing out the design document some more. 4 weeks left and im practically done although i have the feeling this attitude of “hey i got loads of time and im almost done” will quickly descend into “oh bollocks ive got two days left and a hundred things i want to add”. Oh well. Fin

Designs for all of the buildings (minus the Outpost):