Sink into the Sea of Imagination

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Meeting the Masters of the Sea

On our recent voyage, with our third prototype, which is actually the second version of the digital prototype (confused yet?), we sailed into uncharted waters and encountered the "Masters of the Sea," otherwise known as Alex and Kevin, here's the lowdown of what ensued during our encounter(s).

Besides the fact that our "ship" wasn't functioning in the first encounter with the Masters, and having to manually and verbally explain the concept to one very confused Master, in the end the lowdown of the meeting came to one thing, SIMPLIFY THE GAME.

Feedback from the masters concerned major balancing issues, as they felt that there was too much for the player to handle and juggle, with the increase in size of the UFO by collecting mass, the need to worry about energy, with the supply ships and KOKE, the need to avoid different types of enemies, etc., the overall conclusion was that the game was detracting too far from its core mechanic and too many additional elements were in play besides the core mechanic.
Kevin, suggested making things revolve around the "cool" core mechanic of collecting and attracting stuff and increasing in size, to think about things that the player collects that might end up hurting them, and probably something that the player can collect to help him/her.

Alex on the other hand expressed the inconsistency that we had earlier about the mechanic of attraction, whether it was something that the player could turn on and off at will, or whether it was something that was totally uncontrollable. After one gruelling hour of sailing, we left the "Dead Sea" and had to return to the drawing board to redesign the next prototype.

So after 3 hours of post-lunch discussion, we came up with the some new points in concern to design.

- Remove the health / energy bar to make the entire game revolve around mass.
- Introduce positive and negative rocks.
- Negative rocks causes the player to lose mass.
- Positive rocks causes the player to gain time / planet health (mission specific).
- Rework the supernova mechanic such that it is used for mining positive rocks, the higher level the supernova activated, the more bonus rocks the player obtains.
- Remove level 5 and above rocks since the UFO does not go beyond mass 5.
- Redesign the level such that they are simpler, level one is now a race against time to blow up a comet and level 2 is the original planet defence.
- Players lose by time out or collecting a negative rock when the mass is 0.
- Increase the radius of attraction.

So with our new "ship" design prototype, we went for another voyage with the Masters on Friday morning. Our second voyage was generally more positive as the changes to be made this time we quite a lot less. But still, here's what they felt about the new design:-

- Remove the positive rocks as the neutral rocks were already somewhat positive.
- Keep the drop mechanic as a new element to be introduced in later levels, to give the players a sense of player progression.
- Think of how to make previous mechanics remain mechanics in later levels, especially the supernova.
- Introduce a cut-scene between level one and two for better logical progression.
- Emphasize on balancing the game.
- Think about how else to expand the game after two stages.

So there. The Masters' have spoken and we are at work on the new and hopefully final prototype. Let's hope all works out well and we'll build a mighty fine ship.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Prototype I Test Results

Well.. after playtesting the paper version of the game concept last week, here is a general summary of the conclusions drawn from the test:

- Core mechanics of attraction and movement work
- Balance of speed of movement and attraction power work at the set arbitiary values.
- Supernova mechanic needs quite A LOT of fine-tuning as we could result in a deadlock if we make the wrong choices.
- In regard to the Supernova mechanic, more balance will be needed in the digital version to actually make it useful and fair in the game.
- Objective of game, even for the specific case we tested, which is of planet defence, might need further specification when doing the actual digital version of the game.
- Consider other obstacles besides time to add challenge to the player.

Yup, from our simple prototype that about sums it up. Kinda reminds me of the last assignment we had to do in 3216, where the paper prototype is not enough to give a fair represenataion of the digital game, since so much of the game is reliant on physics of attraction and the dynamics of that mechanic. Well guys, guess we need to build an early digital prototype soon so that we can start on the tuning. But as far as the basic concepts go, it is still functionable so far.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Prototype 1: Ship Rules

As discussed over Mac Dinner on Tuesday, here are the rules for the paper prototype:-

Things needed:-
- Hex Board / Grid Board
- Thumbtacks or pins, lots of them
- 20 sided die.
- String

Objective:-
- To build enough barriers to defend the home planet in a set number of turns before the meteor shower comes.
- To build a planet of a certain composition before the time limit is up.

Gameplay:-
- Player starts at level 1.
- Player moves die a set number of spaces.
(Depending on current player level)
- Attracts objects from surrouding hexes.
(Type of objects that can be attracted depends on player Level)
- Mass increases with each object attracted, turn die according to mass attracted.
(Mass only increases at higher levels when a mass corresponding to the current level is attracted.)
- As mass increases, attraction level increases
(refer to stats below).
- Player can activate Supernova at will to blow up bigger masses.
(strength of supernova depends on current level.)
- Players collect enough mass and surround home planet with barriers.
- Meteor storms occur every 20 turns.

Stats:-
Level 1 - Mass 1-4, Movement 5, Supernova range 1, supernova strength M/1
Level 2 - Mass 5-8, Movement 4, Supernova range 2, Supernova strength M/2
Level 3 - Mass 9-12, Movement 3, Supernova range 3, Supernova strenth M/3
Level 4 - Mass 13-16, Movement 2, Supernova range 4, Supernova strength M/4
Level 5 - Mass 17-20, Movement 1, Supernova range 5, Supernova strength M/5

Supernova Effect - when player activates Supernova, the all masses within range will become
(X) x M/(X) pieces, where X is the current player level.

Mass Levels:
Level 1 - Green
Level 2 - Yellow
Level 3 - Red
Level 4 - White
Level 5 - Black

Well guys.. think its confusing enough as it is.. lets play it out tomorrow and see how it goes.. till then..

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Idea Voyage: Land-Ho!

After weeks of deliberation, we have finally FINALLY settled two things, firstly, about the Roles and Responsibility thing, and secondly, about the FINAL game idea. In regards to the roles thingy, the breakdown is as follows:-

Chan Si Wei - Artist and Lead Programmer
Jeremy Kang - Lead Designer and Marketing Head
Ng Ling Xiang - Project Manager and Co-Programer
Teo Kim Sheng - Creative Director and QA Manager

I love my roles (since i personally chose them myself), but seriously, these two roles would be the roles that i would love to really land in the game industry, in their respective orders. Hope everyone loves their's too, esp Sheng since he was involuntarily assigned QA...haha. But seriously, like what I said guys, we will still all be involved in every process of the game design pipeline for this project, its just that when it comes to discussion, we should try our best to approach the problems from the perspectives of our assigned roles, like my creative ideas as designer vs. siwei's practical approach as programmer. Oh yeah.. and its also great that we have two roles each.. cos it makes us all the more important ppl...haha.

Anyway.. on to the second and more impt point... after thorough brainstorming of the potential of creative development, the flexibility of the gameplay mechanics, and the feasibility of implementation, and the possible problems we might encounter.... we finally decided to go with BIG BANG! instead of BATS IN A CAVE. So as designer.. it is my job to put up the new design vision of the game.

BIG BANG!

Game Concept:
About the same.. still controlling some body with a gravitational field attracting objects or elements in space, using these objects as fuel to trigger off explosions called Supernovas, to blow up bigger objects that the player cannot currently attract due to the objects being too big and so on. But the thing is... even though we are keeping the same core mechanics... after brainstorming we realised and came up with many more interesting scenarios in which this mechanic might work. Oh.. and we also added some form of conflict in the form of meteor showers and random comets. And... we gave more character to the player character by making it a UFO (tentatively) so that players can at least have a bit more relation to what they are playing rather than the cold, inpersonal (but scientifically correct) gravity well thingy, (of cos only after much protest from Siwei was this decided on).

Game Mechanics:
- Players control a UFO from a top-down view.
- Attract objects to the UFO with a gravitational field. Size of objects that can be attracted depend on the current size of the UFO and its attracted mass.
- Attract bigger objects as UFO gets bigger.
- Have on button that will allow the UFO to drop the current mass its holding and pick-it-up again.. thereby controlling the gravitational force.
- Trigger off Supernovas based on attracted mass to blow up bigger objects. Range and power of Supernovas depends on the current attracted mass.
- When Supernova is triggered, half of the current mass becomes debris again. The other half is lost in the explosion, thereby giving some limit to the number of times a player might want to activate his/her Supernova, adding a bit of strategy to the mechanic.
- Avoid random moving comets in the game map that will cause the player to lose mass if said comets collide with player.
- (Tentative Idea) Avoid meteor showers which occur every few minutes by finding blackholes to take shelter in. This mechanic and the one above give a semi-shooter edge to the game, and make it like a cross between katamari and some shooter like raystorm or something.. without the shooting.
- (Tentative Idea) Speed of UFO gets slower as mass increases thus making it harder to avoid said disasters and have players make choices as to when and how fast they think they should gain mass.
-(Tentative Idea) Reversal of the guide concept here, players might have to avoid attracting some stuff such as space bombs which will blow off mass as well if attracted by player. Speed of such bombs depends on the current mass of player.. so if the mass held is bigger.. such bombs will zoom more quickly towards player.

Objectives:
Ok.. basically, the above sums up the mechanics of the game... which lay a good foundation for some interesting gameplay scenarios. Some of which we came up with include:-

- Big Bang:
The most basic of objectives. Gather as much mass as possible within a time limit and activate a Supernova big enough to be a Big Bang!. Could be used as the tutorial scenario to introduce players to the mechanics of the game.

- Planet Formation:
Attract objects of certain elements in a certain composition to form different planets. For example.. attract enough red elements to form the planet Mars say.. while avoiding the blue elements that will be drawn towards the player but will diminish the count of the red elements. Supernova mechanic can be used to blow up big masses of red elements that are too huge to be attracted.. or to blow up planets to uncover the red elements hidden underneath them. For more challenging scenarios.. could build planets with more diverse compositions such as Earth, which require red inner core, brown middle layer and blue surface layer.

- Guide the Stars:
Attract enough mass to attract and guide stars (which cannot be assimilated by UFO, but can follow the attractive force of the player). Can guide such stars admist all the obstacles into a formation to form certain constellations like say, simple ones like Orion's belt, to more complicated ones like say Cancer.

- Planet Defense:
Sheng's good idea of a defense concept. Attract mass of objects to form barricades around a home planet to defend it from an alien invasion or a meteor storms which happen periodically. Bigger masses are able to sustain more hits than smaller ones totalled together. Drop them off in strategic positions to defend the home planet. Take too long and see your home planet destroyed before your very eyes.. yeah something like that.

- Boss Fight:
Attract mass of objects to launch through a cannon against a boss say, to Siwei's fancy, a space dragon. Or run in to trigger off Supernova blasts to damage the boss to kill it or chase it away.

So there... just some of the possible gameplay scenarios and objectives noted down from the simple mechanics. Jotted down so that we don;t forget the ideas we came up with. Now that we have decided on the gameplay idea and mechanics... anyone who comes up with any possible additions or ideas can just post freely here.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

angels and demons?

abit late for brainstorming, but this is the idea of the good/evil game i was thinking about:

main concept is somewhat similar to Black and White. but for B&W, you are a neutral god who can choose to lean towards the good or the evil sides. for my game idea tho, i'm trying to implement a system where you have to be both good and evil at the same time.

the background story could be a ludicrous comedic parody (like katamari) - humans are obsessed with their blasphemous Science, turning away from their roots. No one believes in the old stories of God and Devil anymore. They got real peeved at being ignored; now they are teaming up to convert men back to the true path again.

the core mechanics - probably a topdown perspective, a puzzle-like game. will probably be real-time rather than turn-based. the player controls one of two characters - the Angel or the Devil. characters can be switched in at any time, and each has its own set of powers and/or limitations too. for example, the devil cannot enter a church?

the aim for a stage will be to convert a certain number of people or specific targets. however, plaers will have to maintain a balance between the light and dark sides (god and devil are supposed to be buddies now) - so the player cannot just rely on using the devil's Nightmare powers while the target sleeps to pump his Dark belief; or to repeatedly Bless him so he is uninjured after suffering a car accident. the key is to think of creative ways for the two to work together to stage a setting and event so they can make their appearance and be worshipped/feared.

the biggest draw will probably be the interesting concept. the main problem is...we the developers will have to think of a LOT of possibilities to create a free non-linear gameplay. and as with many puzzle games, once a way has been found to complete a stage, replayability goes down. so it will definitely need a lot of work.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

A dog's life

I remember someone mentioned that in the future we might be able to use our sense of smell in games. Even though this feature is technically not available now, I was thinking of how we can make a game that focuses on the sense of smell.

Game idea:

We control and navigate the dog around the environment and using it's sense of smell, we try to accomplish certain objectives like searching for things, detecting danger etc. I figure we need a sort of unique indicator to indicate what the dog is smelling(I was thinking of a combination of the dog's expression and a meter that shows maybe the type of smell). I read somewhere that the dog can "smell" fear in human beings and danger as well so maybe we can make use of this information also.

The concept is abit sketchy now but i will post this up anyway in case someone strike on a better idea after seeing this.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Second Voyage

Another game idea I came up with during lecture yesterday, after thinking about what Ling Xiang said about the Valkyrie Profile world map flying thingy. So posting it here as part of SSS21.... hah. Anyway, as usual, take a read through, and see if you guys like the idea.

Game Idea #4: Rain Cloud

Concept:
Players control a rain cloud, indirectly though. Players actually control the wind speed and wind direction to move the rain cloud. Move the rain cloud over water bodies to gain mass. Rain cloud changes to different types of clouds as the mass increase, and hence unleash different kinds of rain to fulfill the different objectives. Probably played from a top-down view or isometric view. Can be played either mission based or something like GTA where we have one large overworld and we guide the cloud to a certain spot to take a mission or something.

Objectives:
The objectives can really vary, some mild and mundane for beginners and some destruction based. Some that i thought of so far are things like:

- Rain a gentle summer rain over a pair of lovers.
- Rain to make crops grow.
- Produce a certain number of rainbows.
- Unleash a heavy rain to flood a river, or put out a forest fire.
- Unleash a storm / hurricane to destroy a town or buildings.
- Unleash a lighting storm to power a generator.
- Rain the heaviest storm to flood the world during the time of Noah's ark.

ok.. maybe the last one is a little far-fetched.. but everyone of these games need some sorta extreme rite? anyway.. think you guys get the idea.

Gameplay:

- Players control wind speed with keyboard or something.
- Control wind direction by holding the keys down or something.
- Cloud gains mass as they move over water bodies, e.g. Seas or oceans, or at higher altitudes, or merging with other clouds, or moving over forest or somethings like that.
- Cloud loses mass when it goes into sunny or dry areas, like deserts.
- Realistic lighting can be considered to play a factor for the sunny areas.
- Real time can play a part in changing the time of day, affecting gaining or losing water mass, e.g. gain more mass in the night.
- Whether of environment can also be used as some sorta random factor.
- Clouds can change shape based on real-life cloud formations to produce different types of whether or storms, e.g. nimbostratus, cirrus.
- One button to activate rain, and maybe lighting, and maybe typhoon or what-not.

Yup... that's it.. again. This is a rough concept of it so far. Gameplay objectives and all can be further expanded, the important thing is deciding on a concept that we all like and think there is potential for it to be creatively expanded upon and probably easily implemented. This one is quite feasible i think. Give it some thought. And will someone go think of a way to expand the "vision" game thing and expand on it and propose it officially?

Losing a game

I am thinking that if we can design a game that the objective is to lose the game. All games in the market are designed to win, I think it will be innovative if one could design a game for losing. The further you get into the game, the worse ending you will be. The challenge is in how to lose as fast as possible, but if the person lose really quickly (to win the game), the person could not play the whole game, which is a pity too.