New game! Road Rage

I made another in-browser game! This one doesn’t use my own art (I only had a few days to make it) and the assignment was to practice level design so I needed to make a bunch of maps with different themes.

Road Rage

I tried to make each map play different from the others. The cityscape is really cluttered, the island is more open. The bridges map is mostly corridors and long-range combat, the Crossfire map is claustrophobic and bullets will (unlike every other map) rebound off walls and remain in the playable space until colliding with another bullet. And the circus map has bouncy walls, meaning players will rebound if they crash into obstacles

Also, if you’re wondering where those dev diaries went, I’m posting them on the other blog every Saturday. Here’s the first one, you can figure it out from there.

Dev Diary #0

New quarter, new set of dev diaries! They didn’t actually assign one this week, but I’m writing one anything just for recordkeeping purposes. These upcoming Dev Diaries are gonna have a slightly different tone from the old ones because we need to write them as if they were press releases. So kinda like the “What We Are Up To” updates the Killing Floor 2 devs love to release. And I don’t think a press release would talk about the first (and, honestly, only) hurdle we had to tackle: somehow it wasn’t until our third meeting as a team that I finally discovered none of them played shooters. Like, there were fundamental elements to the core concept of shooters that they were really missing. So yesterday, we skipped our daily meeting and all played Team Fortress 2 together on a server full of bots. They had a blast, learned a lot about the relationship between different classifications of firearm, and I’m hoping I can get them to play Counter-Strike next, even if it probably won’t be as fun and accessible.

And on every other front, we’re ahead of the 8-ball. San Jose University dropped a bombshell that they won’t be sharing their artists with us next year, which affects every team except us because we already have Will and his art degree. Unity decided to restrict free Unity Collab to teams of three or less, which all the teams are freaking out about. Luckily, my team is only four people and I don’t program, so the other three just made a Collab and we’re off to the races. Me, I’ve been working on a design wiki, since I love making wikis and I’ve found it a great way to sort my thoughts out in a clear, understandable way. Enjoy looking at what you see, because my team requested that I port everything to a private wiki so we aren’t forced to commit to everything I write down. A reasonable concern, I just have an uncontrollable urge to publish everything I ever work on so the hypothetical masses can see it. I really need to work on reining that in.

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Had fun making these little filler icons too. They’re not Rembrandt, but I do think I’m getting better at pixel art. 

 

I was cited in an academic book!

So I was googling my username, and on like the seventh page of Google I found this: Kings of Greek Mythology by Burton Menomi. For whatever ungodly reason, he decided to cite the Wikipedia page about Odysseus, and include the names of every single user who’d edited the page up to that point. I don’t even know what edit I made, but now I can say my writings have been cited in an academic publication.

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Update: Went and checked my contributions history, looks like it was this sentence about Mrs. Dalloway. At least I wasn’t just fixing a missing comma or something.

 

That’ll go nicely with my other dubious achievements, which include ordained minister of the Church of Universal Lifeonly verified Overwatch player to level-up three times after a single match, winner of the first PvP duel in Legends of Equestria history, and the existence of this bizarre video that someone made to show how to (incorrectly) pronounce my username.

Happy New Year! I drew a box

Last year’s new year’s resolution was to give up sugar drinks and candy. I’ve been doing really well, and I’ve lost a bunch of weight. Down to 210, only ten pounds over what I’m supposed to weigh at my age, and this year I’m taking the next step and doing meal prep Sunday. I need to eat healthier, this is the only life I’m going to get, and I’m not going back to the chronic heart pains that used to haunt me since I finished undergraduate.

But this isn’t my New Years’ resolution: instead I’m spending it learning how to art good. Drawabox is an ongoing art lesson made by a programmer who wanted to apply the same practical and analytical coding mindset to learning art. I’m really attracted by that attitude, so my New year’s resolution is to make progress on drawabox every day. (It was originally 1 lesson a day, but the website stresses that you shouldn’t put solid deadlines and schedules, and instead just focus on never falling completely off the boat.)

That being said, I blitzed through the first lesson because I’m not a complete newcomer to art. It was entirely drawing lines, something I’ve been doing in the margins of my schoolnotes since first grade. I was working in pencil right up until the part where he mentioned you’re supposed to work in pen, and it’s in a lined spiral notebook because I don’t have a sketchbook at my parent’s house. You’re supposed to turn your work into the subreddit, but I’ll redo the lesson on proper blank paper tomorrow and turn that in. I can’t properly do the work until I’m back home in Santa Clara.

But you nonexistant readers can still see it!

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WordPress keeps forcibly rotating the image. It’s oriented properly when I upload it, I promise

 

Seriously took me like five minutes. The hardest part was the “ghosting” lines, where you place two lines and then draw a line connecting the two. I’ll put in more time tomorrow, this is really just to get the ball rolling. No time like the first of January, right?

So, uh, I won

the Greenlight pitch. And immediately failed in my self-made promise that I was going to decline even if I won. Medical Necessity had great reception, I had seven full minutes of questions, way more than anyone else got. I couldn’t have asked for that pitch to go any better.

So what next? Well, during the two-week winter break I’m going to write a design document. I’ve already chosen my technical director: Tyler, my old partner for the two-person project ZoneOut. He had a strong work ethic and a great grasp on programming. I also got to pick one teammate before the prof started assigning people, and went with Will, the only student who’d approached me about joining the team before I’d already won. Will got into the master’s program on his art portfolio, but his real dream is to be a programmer, and he’s made some great Unity games since then. His hybrid skillset will be extremely useful on a team this small, especially when we need to communicate with the designated art people at San Jose University. To round the team out, the professor assigned us Simon, a programmer from China and the only person on the team who actually specialized in programming. Since the bot AI is our biggest issue, I couldn’t have asked for a better final teammate.

Not much more to say. Normally I’m more talkative, but I’m just tired and really need these two weeks off. Onward and upward.

Ford project conclusion

In an NDA-friendly nutshell, Ford Motor Company showed up and invited everyone to pitch games that fulfilled very specific criteria. The three winners got three thousand dollars each, and my game was one of the three winners. I’m not gonna lie, it feels weird thinking that I just won three-thousand dollars for making a game.

I’ve been thinking about why I won. There were some great games up against me. Honestly, I think it was my presentation. I printed my cards out on cardstock, the Heroes and Weapons were light blue decks, the Culprits and Catastrophes were pink, and The President was yellow. The font was professional and the text was properly spaced. and I brought a sheet full of 40 card artworks I paid $120 for, just to hammer home that I was serious about my game looking spick and span. Most of my competitors were using hand-drawn cards or, even worse, scraps of papers.

Update: I talked to the prof, and he says the reason I won was because of how flexible I demonstrated the concept was. How you could basically delete the entire game’s content and replace it with an entirely original frame narrative with all-new keywords. Considering I added that in last-minute, it’s nice to hear that helped. 

The other reason I won, IMO, was that my opponents forgot a few of the requirements. Ford said they needed a game playable by 2-5 players, and several of the other games were not two-player compatible (granted, neither was mine, but that’s why I added a 2-player variant in the ‘alternate rulesets’ section). Ford said the game needed to stimulate natural conversation, so half of my opponents made codeword-based games. This was the wrong call on their part, codewords are the exact opposite of natural conversation.

The real question is what happens next. I’ve spoken to the other two winners, they’re buying iPhones with their winnings. I want to invest it into this game, because everyone is telling me this game is amazing. Most people seem to think I should start a Kickstarter, and I’m not against the idea in theory. So I guess let’s cover that option first.

Option 1: Self-publish. In this day and age, self-published board games are downright commonplace. More than any other creative industry, the board game industry has loads of support for the developer who wants to skip the rat race and market to consumers directly. My battle strategy would probably look like “create a public domain prototype (not a normal step, but mandatory in this case because the 66 cards in my Ford prototype are required to be public domain) –> market it through the Daily SPUF, reddit, twitter etc –> people fall in love with the free version hopefully as hard as all my playtesters do –> create kickstarter and make money –> use money to pay artists and, uh, I guess that’s it until –> use an online card-printing company so people can order decks printed on demand and sent to their house.

Pros: I make way more money than option 2. I retain full creative control. I have many different groups who can market for me, from Mom and her businesspeople to my internet circles and UCSC. Also, I can technically skip the part where I earn startup money because the costs are extremely minimal for this particular project.

Cons: Fuckton of work. High chance of failure due to the nature of the industry. Will never reach as many customers as option 2.

Option 2: Pitch game to a publisher. Use the extremely positive reception from my playtesters to sell the game to Milton Bradley or Parker Brothers. Far as I can tell, I basically hand them the game, they do whatever they like and I just get a slice of the sales forever.

Pros: It’ll be in Targets and Wal*Marts and shit for free. They’ll do marketing and other stuff for me.

Cons: I’ll have to explain the public domain thing. I will lose a bunch of creative control. I’ll make less money in the end of the day (unless it takes off beyond my wildest dreams. But even then I’m not sure how much money I’d get after corporate takes their cuts)

Other issues: Not sure The Just Us League title is going to pass legal, but I’m having a lot of trouble thinking of a name with the same punch. Heroes of Just Us is best but has the “Begging To If you Seek Amy” problem. As previously mentioned, the core cards are mandatory public domain since they won the contest. (I retain no rights to them, but Ford doesn’t either). My only option for selling is to make a bunch more cards and sell those as like “expansion packs” to the free-to-play base game, or to make dapper glossy artwork’ed versions and justify a price on those extra bits. Ford’s gotta be okay with that, right?

This is all something to worry about after the Greenlight pitches. Luckily I’m not even fussed about whether I win or not. Gimme a choice and I’ll take $3K and working on someone else’s game for the rest of the year.

dev diary #9

The practise Greenlight pitch went poorly. A good carpenter never blames his tools, but I do think it would have gone slightly better if I’d known that pointing at a slide would cause it to click to the next one, and that “swiping left” would not return it to the slide it was on previously. I must have skipped seven of my slides trying desperately to return it to the place it was on, which ultimately led to my pitch finishing far faster than expected and with most of my content skipped. I guess it’s a good thing that everybody understood my premise despite this problem. Several students have asked me questions about the concept since the pitch, but they’re the probing sort that means they get the core concept and want to know more. I was seriously considering scrapping Medical Necessity and choosing a last-minute replacement idea, but for now I think it’s performed better than I expected under the circumstances and I should be able to make a decent pitch out of it.

I am bummed I didn’t get to test my method for showcasing the gameplay. The two ways I’ve seen people explain their core loop is through parallelisms to other games and with screenshots of other games, or through gameplay demos displayed as videos or GIFs. Neither really worked for what I was designing (a puzzle game with a bit of a learning curve, but fast rounds and infinite tries) so I wanted to verbally walk through a sample level, describing the player’s actions and repercussions while clicking through screenshots that displayed the level in slideshow format. Unfortunately, these slides were the ones skipped during my projector issues, so I’ve only been able to test the format on tiny groups of 1-2 watchers. So far it seems to work well enough. Akshay liked the format so much he said he’s gonna use it to showcase how his game works too, so it can’t be a completely wrong direction.

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Joey asked if I planned on having icons like this in the final game. Honestly, I originally was, but maybe I should switch to top-down humans, like Hotline Miami. I also should add a gif of Hotline Miami gameplay in case someone hasn’t played it in the audience

I’m also working on whatever changes I might need to make to The Just Us League before pitching it to Ford on Friday. I’ve playtested the game with a group of people who have never played it, and I kept silent so they had only my instruction sheet to go off of, and they were having a rollicking good time by the end of it so I’m pretty convinced the game is ready for Ford’s perusal.

Speaking of playtesters (the focus of the ninth and final assigned chapter), the book helped me through a big problem I had (aka finding playtesters for running the mute playtest). Since everyone in the class knew about the game, I wasn’t sure where to turn after that. But then the book specifically mentioned roommates, and I realized I’d never playtested anything I’d ever made with my roommates! It’d also be nice to see them play it since they aren’t game designers. That playtest went great too, so I feel confident I’ve made the best possible product I could. Hopefully Ford likes it!