Tuesday, March 15, 2011

ImagineCup Spring 2011

I've participated in the last 3 ImagineCup competitions, it's a great competition, and it definitely pushes me to work towards something great on a deadline. This is actually the first time my team has decided to go 2D instead of 3D, so it was a little different for me this time around. This also means I now have a delightfully fantastic framework for making 2D games in the future!

New World Africa was my first IC game, and it took Danny and I to the world finals in Cairo, Egypt.

This is also the first time I didn't just land in the middle of a team, I get to work with a couple members from Team To Be Announced, who won last year's US ImagineCup with Sixth. All of them are delightfully talented, so they're a lot of fun to work with.

Qualia was my second IC game, which honestly was quite a masterpiece... too bad the judges didn't agree.

Another new thing for me, was that I wasn't making my own world editor for once. The nice thing about 2D games is that there's a lot more resources for building worlds in a generic enough format. We used the delightful Tiled editor for making maps, and I couldn't have been happier with it! I'm planning on making it an integral part of my framework, and using it in future projects I have in mind.

Split Reality is the working title for our current game. We'd have changed it by now, but other things are more important.

We went for a pixel art style, which I think is one of the better ideas we had for the project. It really made it easy to fill the screen with stuff and create new art resources quickly. That's another thing I'm going to remember for the future! It's almost like cheating, except it still looks good =D

Yay for cutscenes! We have another one, but it still needs some cleaning up.

I've got a list of things I still need to code for the project... Prefabricated objects for one, Tiled is a nice editor, but it's a horrid environment to be designing game objects inside of. A cleaner event system, I had to hack the current one in before Spring break got started, so it's a fair bit messy. I also want to do a little more with the cutscenes, pathing, loading from file and all that good stuff. I might even bring in an old cutscene editor I made for Zimbie the Zombie, a game I worked on for my first Game Jam.

Everything came together in such a short amount of time, why, oh why did I start with 3D games?

He does the "Master Chief jump", as Nic says. A better prefab system would help with that >.>

We also had a smashing video for the judges. We'll see if it gets us through to the next round. I'm not counting on it, it wasn't quite where we wanted it to be by the deadline... but you never know! If it doesn't, I can take the stuff I've learned so far, and start chowing down on Umbra, which I've been itching to work on for a while.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Unity Videos

I just made a video introducing some of the basic elements of Unity. I'm kinda excited, I don't do video stuff all that often =D Two parts on Youtube!

Part One

Part Two

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Being a Game Designer

Making games! What a dream that would be! It's actually quite hard for me to imagine why someone wouldn't want to make games for a living, it's just too fun. However, a lot of people have a bit of a delusion that it's a simple thing to do. It's a lot easier than it used to be, but it's still not necessarily easy! If you want to design a game, you've gotta learn a few things first.

First things, what role does the game designer play? Their primary role is to make sure that the game is fun and plays well! Another important role is to describe exactly what the game is, documented, in a way that the team can see it, refer to it, and rely on it. They also need to make certain that everyone on the team knows for sure what the game is.


The game designer's primary skills revolve around communicating their ideas to other people

Documentation and communication begin with writing! This is just basic, rudimentary literacy. Make sure you can form sentences and spell. It's surprising how often people lack this skill, but it's probably one of the most important skills for a game designer. Beyond that, a good game designer would be an extremely competent writer, especially for story based games, but also to ensure that documentation is clear, concise, and difficult to misinterpret.

Sometimes communication with words just doesn't cut it, being able to clearly sketch an idea out can help tremendously with illustrating an idea. You don't have to be a master painter for this, you just need to be able to sketch things so other people can recognize them clearly. Learning basic drawing skills isn't all that difficult, and it can give you a delightfully new perspective, not just enhance your ability to show people your ideas.

It doesn't have to be gorgeous, but it should get the idea across

Prototyping is the key for making games fun. Fun doesn't just pop out of midair, or happen on the first try, it has to be found, cultivated, and carefully tweaked! Being able to work with a tool like Game Maker can help with the early stages of development, when ideas are still up in the air, and being able to work with someone else's code for programming or tweaking game-play mechanics. If you're working with a game that supports scripting, you should be able to script with whatever it might be. Programming is important even for a designer, and you shouldn't be afraid to dive into it.


An extremely important item in any team is respect, but especially in the case of the game designer. You see, everyone goes into game development with their own ideas, not just the designer! Why should they even be interested in making your idea come to life, instead of theirs? You have to be an important asset to the team, or they'll go off and make their own game without you.

The easiest way to get respect as a designer, is to specialize in an additional skill. While it may be rare to find someone who can design with true skill, it's downright common to find someone who can design a game. Ideas are cheap, writing is something we're taught from birth, and communication is the foundation of our lives.

Imagine this scenario, with a game programmer who has dedicated his life to coding, and a designer, who has an absolutely fantastic game idea:
Designer, "I've got this fantastic idea for a game! Would you like to work with me to make it?"
Programmer, "Cool idea, but what skills do you bring to the table?"
Designer, "I have lots of ideas, and I'm a great designer!"

At this point, the programmer will:
A. Strangle the designer
B. Tell the designer just what he thinks about 'Idea people'
C. Politely decline, go home, and write a strongly worded blog post about the encounter

Some programmers get angry, you wouldn't want this to happen to... you, now would you?

The problem is, being a programmer, or an artist, or a sound engineer takes a lot of technical knowledge and skill, in addition to the skills the designer has already claimed as his own! Let's just say that's a pretty bad first impression.

If you're a born leader, and you have people following you just because you're awesome, pick up some people management skills, that's all you really need. *lucky bastard*


Get those basic skills down, and then pick up a specialty... work hard, and pay attention to details. Learning is a fun experience, especially when it comes to game development!