Playing with ostracism

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I’m taking a course in advanced game design right now in which we’re doing a lot of rapid prototyping. Our first assignment was to create a prototype around the theme “Every finger in the room is pointing at me”. Together with two of my classmates, we tried to make a system that would convey a feeling of ostracism through movement. This is what we ended up with: (more…)

Mechropolis – Organic Puzzle Design || Understanding the Machine

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When making Mechropolis, it was very important for us to create open-ended challenges that invite to exploration and have a natural presence in the game environment.

So what makes a challenge open ended? For Mechropolis, we defined an open-ended challenge as one that can be solved in several ways, giving the player a new experience each time the game is played.

When working with challenge design for Mechropolis, I found that the best way for me to reach this goal was to approach it from a narrative perspective. What is this thing that makes up the puzzle? How does it fit into the environment? How can I problematize it? By posing questions such as these, the parameters of the challenge can be defined. How does the player interact with the challenge? What is the win condition? How is the state of the puzzle conveyed to the player? (more…)

Mechropolis – Rotating the long way around

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During the development of Mechropolis, our level designer came to me requesting the ability to limit the area in which the Stationary Thrower robot could turn to keep it’s arms from clipping into walls and to give the level designer more control when creating challenges.

The robot in the image above is the Stationary Thrower. It turns toward the player and throws her into the air when she steps onto it’s plate, kind of like a robotic jump pad.

Limiting the angles allowed for the robot was not a problem, but smoothly turning toward it’s target angle while avoiding the restricted segment proved to be a bit more of a challenge than I had anticipated. I had previously used Unity’s built in Quaternion.RotateTowards function for this, but that function always does the shortest rotation possible which would cause the robot to rotate through obstacles if that was the shortest route.

I decided to approach the problem by manually rotating the robot towards it target on a plane with support for my own angular limits. I’ve tried keeping things as general as possible and while my use for this is limited to the xz-plane, this approach should work on any plane. (more…)

Mechropolis at the Gotland Game Conference

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Today it’s a little more than one week since Mechropolis was shown alongside several other fantastic games made by fellow students here at Campus Gotland at the annual Gotland Game Conference.

It has been a while since my last post and a lot has happened since then. The team has been working very hard on the demo for GGC. We had to cut some of the planned content because of time constraints, but in the end we’re all very happy with what we’ve managed to put together in only 10 weeks.

The demo was well received at the conference and received a nomination for best 2nd year project. We got some great feedback on what is working and where improvement is needed, the bottom line being that the concept of fusing robots and making use of their abilities is an interesting one, but we need to work on how we teach the player how to play the game as well as how we communicate the game space to make sure that the player is always aware of all the pieces that make up a challenge.

Below are a few screenshots from the demo as well as the trailer we made for the conference.

Mechropolis – The Grabber And It’s Chain

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We call this cute little thing the Grabber. It’s able to fire it’s claw at a distance and grab onto things. A clever player might lure it into pulling a lever that is out of reach, or fuse it with a Controller (a robot that enables a fusion to be controlled by the player) and hookshot over a chasm.

One thing about this robot that we knew would be a challenge when we designed it is it’s ability to fire the claw around corners by bouncing it off a Shield robot’s shield. This meant having the chain bend around corners in the environment. Mathias, another member of the team had already done some great work on creating a path for the chain that wraps around environment geometry and I took over where he left off, putting it to use in the game. (more…)

Mechropolis – Flipping Buckets

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Work on Mechropolis has steadily been moving forward. I’ve been doing a lot of under-the-hood work lately, iterating on the systems already in place. But I have also done a few animations for some of the robots that I can actually show you. And so I give you these two robots doing their thing:

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I made the small one shake it’s bucket a little just before striking in order to announce the attack to the player. Note that the movement of the large robot’s bucket is not well synched with the physical influence of the throw and will need to be iterated on.

Mechropolis – Fleeing AI

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I’ve recently started working with the talented folks at Digital Tuna (creators of CoBots) on a new project for the course Big Game, the grand finale of our second year here at Campus Gotland. The game’s name is Mechropolis. It’s a first person action puzzle game in which the player is invited to explore a long lost underground civilization. The only remaining inhabitants in this derelict world are the robot servants still carrying out the orders of their vanished masters, blindly digging deeper into the planet.

Mechropolis’ core mechanic is something we’ve dubbed “Fusion”. The player is able to stun a robot, pick it up, and throw it into another robot, fusing them into a single entity that combines the characteristics of the other two. By exploiting these fused robots’ unique traits, the player is then able to progress through the environment.

My main task so far has been to implement the robot AI and fusion system. The AI system is a simple but flexible state machine with single purpose states (e.g. “chase”, “flee”, “attack”) that are tied together and transitioned between when certain conditions are met.

I’d like to tell you about one such state that proved to be an interesting little challenge: the “Flee” state. (more…)

SGA Conference – Day 2

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Yesterday was the second and final day of the Swedish Game Awards Conference. I attended several interesting talks, among them:

Dan Thronström from Avalanche Studios gave a talk about how the dynamics between publishers and developers in the AAA segment seems to be changing as developers turn to other ways of financing their games, such as crowdfunding or self-funding.

Romi Gråhed from DICE gave a passionate talk on project management, the best part of which was a segment where four audience members where invited onto the stage to demonstrate the differences between scientific management and directed management, where our own Oskar Månsson played the part of an over involved manager telling an artist exactly how to draw a house.

Martin Lindell, also from DICE, gave a talk on an interesting subject that’s becoming more and more significant every day: What happens to our digital cultural heritage when our consoles and cartridges decay beyond repair? Should we store and preserve our games, and if we should, then how?

I’m pretty sure many of the talks at the conference were filmed and I’ll try to get a hold of them. If I do, I’ll put some links up!

Overall, my experience this weekend was very positive. The talks were great, but in the end, what I found most rewarding was seeing old and new friendly faces from the other game educations spread across the country. That, to me, is SGA’s greatest strength: bringing Sweden’s game development students together to form a creative community rather than bloodthirsty rivalry.

Me charming some first-year students from Skövde

Me charming some first-year students from Skövde

The Campus Gotland Gang

The Campus Gotland Gang

SGA Conference – Day 1

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I’m in Stockholm over the weekend for the Swedish Game Awards Conference. After a long day of traveling (got up at 5.30 in the morning to catch the ferry to the mainland), mingeling and lectures, I retreat to a well deserved night’s sleep.

Two highlights stood out for me among the day’s events:

I met Angelica Norgren and Josef Fares, both involved in the Swedish gaming-focused radio show P3 Spel that I enjoy every week in podcast format. Josef Fares is also a well-known filmmaker and game director behind Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons.

Me and Josef Fares

Me and Josef Fares

The second highlight was an incredibly fascinating lecture by Sjoerd De Jong from Teotl Studios. He demonstrated Blueprint, the visual scripting language in UDK4, which I must say looks very powerful and flexible. He also showed a small slice of Solus, the game he’s currently working on. The attention to detail and atmosphere made my mouth water :)

Enticing scenery in Solus

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