This has been a very interesting and busy trimester, probably more interesting and busy than I’m used to which made it even more interesting and more busy. I learned a lot and worked on quite a few games over the course of the trimester which I know for sure is going to benefit me in the immediate future.
What did I work on?
Out of all the things I worked on this trimester my very first game, “Light Rider” was probably the easiest. It was a short arcade style racing game in which the player had to make it to the end of the level while avoiding the obstacles and out of bounds areas. I didn’t spend as much time as I should have on it however which meant that the final product was substandard in terms of both gameplay and performance.
The brief for this game was centred around a perpetual motion mechanic, fairly easy as far as briefs this trimester went and not difficult to develop for. The most interesting part of development was making the track out of splines in 3DS Max, something which allowed me to create both the background for the track and flawless triggers which made it extremely easy to tell when the player was in the track and when they were out of the track.
The next game I worked on was Virion, a project which honestly took me by surprise. Virion started as an extremely strange and difficult game but quickly evolved into something that was found enjoyable by playtesters and tutors alike. It was our first group project, and though I wasn’t heavily involved in planning it was a fun and educational experience to watch take shape.
Virion was definitely an enjoyable game to work on. My roles mainly consisted of level design and particle effects along with creating some models (spyware model and environment model), and some very minor UI things (placeholder instructions screen). One of the best things about working on Virion for me was probably how well organised it was. We had many online resources which helped us know what we were meant to be doing and when to have it done by, and we had semi-regular skype meetings which cleared up any confusing before it could seriously hinder the project.
The third studio game that we worked on was Sibterfuge. Sibterfuge was very difficult to work on, mainly because of the very restrictive and specific brief, something which I feel reflected itself in working versions of the game. To specify, the brief stated that the game was not to be based on any of our favourite genres, had to have a child as the player character, could not contain any writing, could not contain any UI, could not contain any words from any spoken language and had to make the player feel “wily”. The biggest issue of design was figuring out how to achieve the “wily” feeling, something we needed external help to figure out.
Sibterfuge was less enjoyable than Virion to work on purely because of the many design issues we faced that plagued us for a very long time. There were however more things for me to do during the project as there were only two designers (as well as two animators) working on it. My roles in Sibterfuge were mainly level design, audio creation, implementing animations into the game itself, documentation and some extremely minor scripting roles. I learned quite a bit about audio creation and a little about asset creation in 3DS Max.
The “final” thing I made, a game called Sight, doesn’t exactly count as Studio as it was made for CIU, but I’m going to include it anyway. The project was quite different in terms of both what I am used to working on and what I have worked on in the past. It was a short game based around a blind character who would use a unique skill, echolocation, to “see” their surroundings. The game was meant to focus on the character and the fact that they would be one of the first people in the world to receive bionic eyes so they might be able to see for the first time in their life.
Sight was definitely interesting to work on despite the limited time frame. I didn’t exactly learn anything new, but I was allowed a further opportunity to explore level-related asset creation in 3Ds Max as well as a first foray into audio. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to add any real story elements to the game, so as it is the game can be quite confusing if the player doesn’t know what’s going on when they’re playing for the first time.
What did I learn?
The first and foremost thing that I learnt in terms of non-skill related stuff would be the importance of documentation. Well done documentation is extremely useful when creating games, as it is essentially what you want your game to be in written form. I’ve already started writing Game Design Documents for pre-existing projects that I have been working on and I already have a better understanding of what I want them to be. Project planning, things like Gantt charts I have also found to be useful as it’s a definitive layout of what needs to be done, how important it is and when it needs to be done. It gets rid of the confusion and makes things seem more manageable in the long run.
In terms of hard skills, the biggest and most important (in my opinion) things I learnt were related to Audio, 3D model creation and Unity.
Audio creation was a necessity for Sibterfuge, as it was my responsibility to create the voices for the Siblings. I had to learn a little bit about Audacity, an audio creation and editing program, and use it to make my voice sound nonsensical, and also to make it sound like it belonged to both a 13 and a 7 year old. I faced a few challenges while completing this task, namely getting the voices to sound “right” and to remove as much noise as I could from the background. To get the voices sounding as young and cartoonish as possible I had to change the pitch and speed multiple times, making adjustments as necessary so that they would just sound cartoonish and not too much like chipmunks.
3Ds Max was something I already knew at a beginner level, but I learnt quite a bit in relation to plane modelling, which I used for both Virion and Sibterfuge. I also learnt how to animate, which was a massive step forward to me. I used plane modelling to create the environmental area in Virion, which was never used in game but was created nonetheless. The environmental map was essentially meant to be a futuristic sort of arena that looked partially like a Tron city and partially like a motherboard. How well I succeeded in that task is arguable, but it helped further my understanding of using plane modelling to create structures and very rough architecture/aesthetic features. I also used plane modelling to create the rooms in Sibterfuge, an easy task by comparison, but a task that was greatly assisted by the use of knowledge taught to us by our tutors. The knowledge consisted of setting the unit scale within 3Ds Max to metres, so that we would be able to create our models to a set scale so nothing would be too big or too small when we imported it into Unity. Creating the rooms was greatly assisted by this, as I didn’t have to guess distances or anything, and when I imported the rooms into Unity they were all the same size and ready to be put together. Animation was something I briefly delved into and achieved a limited understanding of. It was something I was learning for Virion, as I had wanted to animate my spyware model. The animation process at it’s most basic level was far easier than I expected to be, though I am not sure if I will pursue it further. Another thing I learned in 3Ds Max was how to texture things roughly via material channels, something which helped in both Virion and Sibterfuge.
Unity was a tool I thought I knew pretty well, but there are some functions which would be used for pretty much any game which I hadn’t touched until now. What I learned exactly was how to implement animations into games with Unity’s animation tool, as well as how to create spritesheets. This was an interesting process, aided by a tutorial and a lot of guessing. It took quite a while to learn fully, and then quite a while longer to get the animations working well enough in game, but it was worth it and now I know another thing about Unity.
As for soft skills, I feel like my ability to talk with others improved significantly, which also helped with my confidence. I think this came from having an extremely small class, which forced me to get to know the others in our class which in turn helped me with things like open day, in which talking to strangers was a requirement. Open day also helped me with that, for reasons I just stated. I also find myself participating more in class, answering questions and giving input when I feel it necessary. All in all, I feel a lot more involved and confident than I did last year, and even last trimester. I even feel like my ability to talk in front of others (speeches, etc) has improved slightly, even if I still have some trouble with it. Any progress is good progress in this case.
Where to from here?
The holidays are going to be quite busy for me, as I will be working on many personal projects as well as Virion. I do have some things I wish to focus on on the holidays however.
- Continue to write documentation
- Set up adequate project planning
- Find an easy and immediately accessible way to set up a to-do list
- Continue to work on level design
- Learn how to use UDK, continue to learn how to use Doom Builder 2
- Investigate player psychology
These things mainly relate to my personal projects, but I feel like they are necessary things to learn and know in general. The most important out of these for me is to continue to work of my level design skills and to investigate player psychology as that directly relates to level design. Learning how to use UDK is a close second and something I very much look forward to doing.
In trimester 3 I hope to mainly improve my scripting skills. Out of everything I know and do in game design related things, scripting is the thing I am the worst at. A notable trend with my scripting skills is that with each project I do, I learn a single new thing. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s probably the slowest way to learn things ever. I have no motivation to learn scripting, so making use of the pressure of studio in Trimester 3 seems like a good way to start. I also need to start learning to ask for help, as that is another massive problem I have. I will spend forever trying to work something out, wasting time when I could just ask for help and solve the problem while learning something new. One thing I am afraid of in relation to this though is making it seem like I am asking others to do the work for me, as I do get stuck when scripting very often.