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I’ll tell you now you can’t win this, You’re way too slow

Aside from some great Three Days Grace lyrics, the title of this article has a lot to do with what i have been doing when I’m not making art, prototypes, blogs, or swearing at my computer screen for who knows what other reason. At the start of the semester is was brought on to work for my masters program, with a new team, on a game that we called the Todd Dunn project, based on the amazing client who wanted this game made. This game would be latter dubbed Reflex Speed.

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The idea of reflex speed is to help improve a player’s reflexes threw playing the game, while giving them detailed information on how the are improving with each play thru. But to also give variety to the players by playing the same game but with different skins that makes each play feel fresh.

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Here’s a cross lateral reflex. These will kick your brain and body’s butt.

Above is an example of the radar game. As you can see the screen is broken up into four different quadrants. each of these quadrants corresponds to a limb the top being the arms and the bottom being the feet. As the little radar icons appear on screen the player would respond using the limb that the quadrant was assigned to. For the inputs we used two different devices, the arm/hands held razor Hydras and would hit the triggers to respond. To record the feet we chose to use a DDR pad (dance dance revolution). The player would stomp the the pad on the assigned button side to trigger that event.

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The above pictures has the player hitting with the left hand in the plasma skin of the game. While the gameplay seems simple it is actually quite intense, the player hit the trigger in 0.382 seconds that’s a pretty fast hit, most player just starting out playing the game would hit it at about 0.5-0.8. The icons, called reflex buttons, would appear in different intervals based on the difficulty mode that the player chose.

diff_lightMy personal favorite one to play on would be champ but its always best to start low to get used to using each limb. Each level was broken down to 4 warm up levels and one action level. Each warm up level would teach the player about the different kind of reflex’s they will they use in the game. The first covered single motions, such as left hand, right hand, left foot, right foot. The second covered transverse reflexes, both hands at once or both feet at once. The third covered sagittal reflexes, left hand and left foot or right hand and right foot at once. the fourth, and most difficult, would cover cross lateral reflexes, left hand and right foot or right hand and left foot at once. Then in the action level the player would have a full game where all the reflexes could pop up and they would have to react to them one after another. After the action level the player would be taken to this results screen:

info screenHere the player could see the hits and misses of their last game played and the best times they have gotten on on the ten different reflexes right hand, left hand, Right Foot, left foot, right hand and left hand, right foot and left foot, right hand and right foot, left hand and left foot, right hand and left foot, left hand and right foot. after going there a player could go right and see a hard numbers view of the data or the can go left and pick a new game type and keep playing working to improve their performance at the source. Due the the training nature of the game this was developed with athletes primarily in mind, but it also has applications in a few other areas such as ADD (attention deficit disorder).

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Pick a game any game!

Now that you have a really good understanding about the game i can go into a bit more detail about parts i personally worked on and parts i enjoyed the most. The team on this project was small and we had 8 weeks to make this in. The team was Zeph Fagergern as our producer, Vaibhav Bhalerao as the engineer, and Rob Guest and I (Joe Rozek) as artists. I loved working with the team everyone worked hard and made this project possible. One of the most exciting things for both a design and art perspective on this project was that we had free reign to make skins for the game. The three that made it into the current build of the game were radar, plasma, and modern, a minimalist design made for those who don’t like overly showy effects and want to focus on training. We built out another game called Defend the tube but didn’t have time to get a build of it in the game, in it would would be turning off lasers that were trying to boil a creature in a tube alive.

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protect this happy lil face!

While building the game we ran into an issue with the DDR pad. When playing the game you get the best results if you stand on the buttons and then just quickly stomp when icons come up. But when we did this there was a weight shifting issue where the board would read the leg that you put your weight on, instead of the one your were about to stomp with. I took on the task of fixing this issue, and all things DDR pad became my baby. To fix the issue with the weight shifting i had to research DDR pad modifications, there is quite the impressive little community that is really into this so there some good documentation for building your own from the ground up, modding what is called a “soft pad” wasn’t very well documented so i had to get a bit tricky with what i learned from building a pad. I’m going to cover in more detail how i modded the pads in another post for reference. But after cutting open the pad and getting some padding in it to off balance the weight sifting, sewing it back together by hand and hot glue gunning the out edging back together its functionality was just about perfect. Now it was time to skin the pad to fit our game. threw testing a few designs by taping a bunch of paper to the pad, drawing out designs with a sharpie, and getting player feedback with observations on how the players interacted with each design we were able to get the design down to a basic and effective design:

big_skin_2The above design is not the final but was the starting point from the data gathered threw player testing. you can also see two different shoe prints, shoe prints were found to be the most effective way to get player to stand where you wanted and to keep them in that spot. These shoes took more time to work out than i really want to admit, but for very good reason. on the left we have one of the first shoes designed for the pad. Feedback on this shoe made is clear that his was not an athletic shoe, after all it’s a game designed for athletes, it was a hiking boot. The shoe to the right was the final iteration of a long series of more athletic style shoes. The major issues in the iterative process of that shoe was it kept looking like real shoes out on the market and we really didn’t want to get sued. So after a few more iterations, and some very good feedback from my very patient EP, we reached this design that I’m quite happy with. To make the rest of the pad fit the game a bit more we added the synapse designs that we have on our title screen and came up with these two designs:

After more player feedback on the mats we determined the one with the horizontal logo to be the most effective one to what we were trying to do with this pad:

1426714_10202641611743934_1587558331_nWe took our finished game to the EAE Day open house here at the University of Utah and the game received tons of attention! People were able to run threw the tutorial quickly and understand how to play the rest of the game very easily. Threw most of the night the game had a line of people waiting to try it out. I am very happy with how the game came out. If we get another chance to go at the game there plenty i want to add to add extra juiciness and polish to the game, as well as a few more game modes. But with the game wrapped for now I can eagerly wait for the next project. Next blog i’ll be covering how i made the mod to the DDR pad and what i used to do it! check back soon!

 

 

 

 

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Do you want to burn them with me?

The final prototype, and boy did i luck out with the team i got! We had a team of rock stars! But enough talk lets meet the team:

1483310_10202655456770051_171003271_nIntroducing, from left to right, Skip Fowler, Siddarth Gupta, Shelwin Cheng, (a really bad pic of me), Rachel Leiker, and Tina Kalinger! If you follow this blog you will know some of the people in this group from past prototypes. We enjoyed working together so much that we wanted to do it again for the last prototype, as we were able to pick our teams this time around. Besides the amazing people this group had a few things interesting and different about it it from my other groups. First this group has 6 members and second this group has two artists. Six people means we can do more and two artists means better art and getting to practice matching styles and ideas with another artist! Going into this project was the most exciting yet for me! But enough of the team lets talk about the game!

In this round of prototypes we were approached by Microsoft to make some games for their app store. In the meeting with them they showed us a few of there devices and were really pressing how touch is a new aspect of gaming that can be explored more than it already has. Meeting with the team we wanted to make a defense game that coudl be played with a mouse or a touch screen, like a phone or tablet. Out of the design we came up with Snow Place Like Home.

The point of the game is to defend you home from the creatures of winter who want nothing more than to bury your house in snow, and your job is to defend your home from them. While iterating on this game we started by having the game be a sidescrolling defense game where you would fling things as the winter monsters marched to your home. In play testing we found this version boring, painfully so for me. all you would need to do was flick the screen to shoot no stop to take out all the monsters as fast as possible no decisions needed to be made.

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Any early mock up of how it would look.

This caused a bit of an issue as when we decided to change the game we had little over a week to get things working. We decided to change the perspective of the game, instead of a side scroller the game would be a top down defense game. In this iteration you would draw lines to each monster and when you released they would be defeated, the line would be gasoline and they would disappear in a fount of fire! after moving the house to the center of the map it was clear that players would need to make better decisions to defend their house when attack can come at any angle.

As players got a hang of the game they would start chaining the lines together to take out more and more monsters at once! this would award the player with more points based on how many were hit. We had an idea that player would use there points to buy upgrade to there home or the area to help them in level going forward with the points they received but we didn’t have a chance to iterate on that idea.

As you progress through the game now and then your hose is going to get hit! Instead of showing a health meter we opted to use the house itself as a visual representation of the health of your house.

As you can see your house will slowly be overtaken by the snow, once your house takes its last hit it will collapse under the weight of the snow ending the game.

I cannot state how much i loved working with this team! after we presented the game it was time to have the postmortem meeting same as always.

1458636_10202655456290039_1890203982_nThe biggest issue we had was time loss. We had the Microsoft visits that left us with only about an hour of class time, than we had an EA visit, than we had another visit from Microsoft, and than we had Thanksgiving. These different events ended up taking a lot of time from the game. But there was also a large plus to the team with the amount we communicated by using Trello and Skype. In most cases the team was always keep up on what was going on or what everyone else needed. In the end i want to work with all these people again, they are with out a doubt amazing! With the semester coming to an end there’s defiantly time to reflect on all the growth we had this semester and i’ll be covering that in a blog soon. Also ill be posting a blog about what i have been doing at work. Our project just finished up for the semester and the game that team made is amazing! check back again soon!

 

 

 

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Don’t make a sound

The third round of prototyping is done! … okay it was done a while ago and I forgot this post… again. But with the completion of the prototype im proud to report we had a fully functioning 3d game that had the elements of a great stealth game in the making! if you want to see some game play here is a video provided by the very awesome Abhishek Verma: Game play

As in all teams we had our ups and our down and we reviewed this in the same fashion that we always do. threw a burn down!

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Some of the big negatives to this group was we didn’t communicate to effectively to get ideas a crossed, or used a management board to know where things were at in the pipeline. Another thing that hurt us that we didn’t have a clear audience for the game. It seemed in some ways that each person on the team had a differ goal for whom the game should be for, this was apart of poor communication in my mind. Two large things that sent me personally back was learning how to use our engine, unity, and i keep breaking the sharing software that we were using, github. It took me a little over a day or two to get the hang of using unity’s tools and how to import assets and get the corresponding textures to go on them. Me and github never got along, which is sad to admit i was fighting with software and it was winning, for some reason I could never get the software to upload any changes i made to the game without having to grab and engineer and have them show me how it broke this time, i found at least 6 ways to break the dang thing i swear. But despite the few issues we had the game turned out great!

One of my favorite lessons that i learned from this game was that in playtesting players will find ways to bypass everything in a level if there is one possible. In testing levels i thought that i was really smart adding in a few different ways to get threw a level and one tester found a way out of the starting area that let him by pass all of the starting area. We even had a tester who found a bug in our crouching mechanic that let him walk thru fences.

All in all the team was pretty happy with how the game turned out. Speak of the team i should introduce them!

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Here we have Lee, Abhishek, Sid, Me, And Jen Jen. Be sure to check out the game play, and look back soon for an update on the exciting and final prototype of the semester!

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