Project Duality – A Backstep To The Future

Keyframe, NFTS

“Duality – A single player game in split screen in which you help [protagonist] navigate two worlds – the memories of the past and their consequences in the present – to save a family relationship from irreparable damage.”

 

splitexp

Past Past Kai:   Hey lets make a game about projectors, no wait festivals, aha what about memories and split screen!! Yey!

Past Kai:             ARGH! How low can you go? Well, pretty low when you don’t have know how your main game mechanic is going to work. *weep*

Present Kai:     Okay, better, things are improving, and the team is coming together! The mechanic is almost there, that Easter break really cleared my head! Lots of work to do though…

Future Kai:      This game will never be finished! And the textures look funny! And I’ve run out of money for cereal! And I deleted the Unity project folder waaaaa!

Future Future Kai:      OMG WE DID IT!!!!!!!!!! *champagne awesplosions everywhere*

So the story goes. 😉

After some unexpected changes to the project my grad project has almost built the foundations necessary to proceed beyond the comfort of non-committal fluffy ideas. This process began with my pitch for Duality:

“Duality – A single player game in split screen in which you help [protagonist] navigate two worlds – the memories of the past and their consequences in the present – to save a family relationship from irreparable damage.”

The idea of using more than one screen to explore different worlds came from a number of influences, includingTV series “24”, the flashy cutscenes in anime games, the Nintendo DS consoles and actual multiplayer splitscreen. However, from the beginning of the Duality concept a question of how multiple view (i.e worlds) interact has been lounging its big fat bottom on the road to progress.

split screen

An example of different types of split screen: TV series 24, Mario Kart 64, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for 3DS

 

I got as far as defining two worlds to be represented by panels (divisions of the complete screen, similar to comic strip panels); one of the present and another of the subjective past. I am drawn to how our memories change as time proceeds, so the idea behind the game was to draw attention to the fluidity of memory. These two worlds and how they were shown to be simultaneously active was the first breakthrough in the concepting phase. Dual causality – our memories affecting our present day decisions, and then the procession of actions in the present affecting those memories – is actually the origin of the name of the project. Showing two worlds on the same screen gave me room to air out interesting ideas, and the concept seemed to stick well with tutors and other students.

Then the roadblock. What to do with these screens? From a cinematic perspective it’s certainly interesting to have multiple screens, but an essential part of good games design is the synergy between gameplay, story, and aesthetic. Up until now I don’t think I’ve had a way of describing the functionality of such a supporting game mechanic… but a drumroll please to announce my latest discovery…

Sliding Block Puzzle Mechanics! Tada!

tiles

Wikipedia says: This is a type of ‘tour puzzle’ that challenges a player to slide flat pieces along certain routes (usually on a board) to establish a certain end-configuration. The pieces to be moved may consist of simple shapes, or they may be imprinted with colours, patterns, sections of a larger picture (like a jigsaw puzzle), numbers, or letters. A great example is Rush Hour, a board game that has you moving vehicles stuck in a traffic jam to let one car escape.

Panels of the first prototype

Panels of the first prototype

When looking at my early prototypes of a classic horizontally splitscreen game the first thing I wanted to give the player the ability to do was to actually manipulate the two panels in as many ways as possible (their size, position, and content). I focused my designer’s gaze using the conceptual lenses of dual causality and memory, and thought that the nature of memory could be portrayed as a smörgåsbord of latent images sitting in the mind waiting to be activated.

Rush Hour - But what if each vehicle tile was a memory panel...?

Rush Hour – But what if each vehicle tile was a memory panel…?

Arranging these active memories like ingredients in the right order and in correct quantity sounded not only challenging but also fun! Much like that of a sliding tile puzzle. Then, multiple-splitscreens provided an oblongular context to contain these memories within their own dedicated panels.

metro

Also, while I hate to draw the comparison, the Windows 8 Metro tiles with their atomic representations of information showed me what could be possible with panels on a screen. Another influence, app game Framed, uses a multiple tiles each containing a scene, and also helped affirm the concept of moving tiles in context to create an desired outcome.

But alone moving panels around to make a configuration doesn’t exactly make for an interesting game, beyond the obvious puzzle challenge. The context of that movement needed strengthening. So I looked to another influence…

grow

I’m not sure if anyone reading will have played free flash games like Grow and Windosill, both of which always fascinated me due to their intricate puzzle spaces. Learning what the worlds could and couldn’t do always felt like a process of discovery rather than lining up a load of objectives and clocking the right ones off in a correct order. Getting the sequence wrong in Grow was just as satisfying because the consequences were played out the whole way through, and the mess you made was presented to you as a glorious accomplishment.

I guess that feeling also arises from games that allows for emergent player behaviour – a blog post for another time methinks 😉

What I longed for in changing the dimensions and position of the panels was a way to affect the memories contained within them. I already knew that there would be a relationship between the configuration of these memory panels, and the character contained in the present day panel, but it was another breakthrough to think that changing the panels themselves might change the memories themselves.

cat

Still confused? Check out this link: http://roxik.com/cat/ and try changing the browser window size a couple of times. Imagine the cat having a variable called “fatness” and it changes with your choice of window size. Fatness at 100% is when the window is as small as can be, and at 0% when the browser is full screen.

Now take the case of a series of panels, one of which is at a max size. Shrink it, and the variable “focus” of that memory changes from 0% to 100%. At 100% the displayed image in the panel changes from showing a large room with many people in it to zooming in on a single face. As focus changes, so does the effect of that memory on the present day – in one case the protagonist is thinking about his emotional connection to a particular character, in another he is considering the memory as whole. Tracking shots and zoom shots would help convey this change. A few links follow :

Tracking shot: http://goo.gl/9a01F7

A variety of cool zooming shots from the man himself, Tarantino:  http://goo.gl/yc9YJI

So unlike sliding block puzzles, where the tiles are unchanging, the content of the panels now have significance and have variables such has focus that change depending on the panel configuration.

In summary the main mechanic of Duality shares this idea of a puzzle space. There are actions the player can make to set up a scenario for the main protagonist, and then when played out player is rewarded with the consequences on the life of the character. The actions in Duality currently incorporate actions adapted from actions taken in the sliding block puzzles such as board game Rush Hour[link].

Next post I’ll go more into detail about the panel actions the player can take to help, or hinder, the protagonist.

Phew! Long blog post!

Fast Forward – Feeling Stuck

Keyframe, NFTS

What a week. The beginning saw me returning from my grandparents’ place up in Sunderland a little happier that my Nana has gotten some social stimulus and better nutrition. Throughout the week my project began to develop some semblance of form, but was subsequently hacked down and boiled into its basic constituent forms. From everything I felt like I’d been brought back to nothing.

Capture2
My meeting with Sion and Jon gave me little hope that my projector concept could be worked upon. I was struggling to get a single sentence in that would describe what was in my head, but even given the opportunity I wasn’t sure what to say. I knew I wanted their help in moving forward with the idea. But getting that elevator pitch level of conciseness and complete understanding wasn’t possible. Everything was too nebulous. And their desire for me to work on another project was just too strong.

The Keycutter keeps coming back to me as an interesting mechanic and potentially strong theme with characters and stories and more. But it’s only part of my story…

And now I’m at a bit of a crossroads. In one direction lies a fresh start, a scary gulf that I’m completely baffled as to how to cross. The otherside of that ravine promises success, while over here on the ledge there are only notions of the crossing. A game that helps people? A game that challenges my artistic ability? A game that tells a story? A game that uses complex, intricate and beautiful systems? A game in real world spaces? A game involving festivals?

It's all mapped out for all to see, but I still arrived at the wrong castle grrrrrrrrr

It’s all mapped out for all to see, but I still arrived at the wrong castle grrrrrrrrr

The crossroads leads elsewhere also. Looking away from the ravine I can still make out the dim form of my projector idea, reduced now to something simpler. The use of found images, photographs, projection and hand drawn animations. Puzzles. Puzzles puzzles puzzles. I’m desperate to explore it further and there are people interested in the aesthetic. I think it answers a lot of my questions in its simplicity yet the connections are currently only in my mind…

Business Socks!

NFTS

I attempt to sum up my most recent expedition into London below… Trips into London were once an often rare affair before the end of 2014. Opportunity however has a funny way of knocking at your door when you least suspect it, even if you prepare for it.

Cryptic enough for you? Well it should be 😉 This year has brought me closer to London than ever before! Meeting some very special people in the world of film and interactive theatre has meant exploration of the busy city streets in some unique and unusual ways – exclusive movie screenings with top name celebs, motorbike taxi runs to meetings with Coney, saloons hidden behind secret doorways and the petal-soft fuzz of canalside wanderings. Courting with the trinket allure of London continues to delight and surprise.

Ingenious Media - our cohort amassed in these fancy lit halls

Ingenious Media – our cohort amassed in these fancy lit halls

Tuesday this week was the beginning of our NFTS Business of Games module. Oh yes, learning all the things about the world of money. Big money at that. Biggest shock for me was a lot of the conversations we were having with our guest speakers (arriving from all sorts of backgrounds – games lawyer and gamerlaw.co.uk blogger Jas Purewal, indie success Mike Bithell, The Guardian Games Editor Keith Stuart and representitives from Miniclip and Bossa Studios) never mentioned amounts lower than £10k! Everything was pitched at revealing the inner workings of real business, and was invaluable even if only to know that it’s all ultimately the same salesmanship as car dealers when it comes to merging and acquisition of studios!

With so much occuring over the last week, and a lot I’m not necessarily allowed to repeat, I’ll keep my “lessons learned” brief:

i_love_gobbledygook_business_card-re4c0ef8ad8e5495fb5ecf6f6cd55fe98_xwjeg_8byvr_324

#1 I need to research business terms… like wtf are revenues, options, equity and tax credits?

When I’m casually chatting with anyone from business I become the nodding dog, whistfully allowing the waves of financial phrases and terminology to wash over me. In 4 days I’ve let my lungs get quite soggy. Thankfully, I know that in the time it takes to watch Spirited Away I can probably get a lot of the jargon down. Jas’s gamerlaw.co.uk looks like the place to start, alongside researching SEIS funding opportunities and tax relief and all that. I’m not expecting to become a business boffin. But man do I need to swat up!

Guerilla Games HQ... dribble...

Guerilla Games HQ… dribble…

#2 I want to run a studio

Hells yes I do! And hells yes I’m now terrified of that prospect! After attending the TIGA event I was really encouraged by the offerings available from investors and funders, but the statistics just seem to add up to a sobering stone-walled gloominess. As quoted by our speakers at Ingenious, games companies are traditionally expected to make 1/5 games a hit. Now that means I’ve got to potentially make 5 games before I see any return!! Naive of me not to think otherwise, but really? And it’s expected by investors / funding schemes to show that you can create “revenue” for at least a year before they’ll take you seriously. So evidence of survival in a hit-driven entertainment industry has to be there too. Essentially all the advice points to making a business plan as early as possible.

It’s making me ponder what kind of games I want to make and how they will be viewed by potential investors: the one thing TIGA investors recommended was to UNDERSTAND THE FINANCIAL INCENTIVES OF THE INVESTORS (especially TAX INCENTIVES) because your game won’t fit everyone’s bill. So am I making a game that can be proved to have appeal to investors and audiences (and myself)? Well, the audience must come first in my opinion, because there’s no business without an audience!

But instead of Guerilla, should I be aspiring to be like Dan Pinchbeck and co?

But instead of Guerilla, should I be aspiring to be like Dan Pinchbeck and co from The Chinese Room?

#3 I want to run a studio (of a different sort)

I really want to do a proper interview of our successful Games grad students, because I think the passion that they infuse into their projects springs from all sorts of reservoirs. I ask myself now what my lake might look like. The plausibility of actually setting up a studio in the next 10 years is not unimaginable and I think now I’m starting to think about how I might run a studio. My manifesto follows:
Firstly, I want to run a studio that is the Punchdrunk or the Coney of video games. Secondly I want to encourage young developers and artists and support them in a creatively and professionally safe environment. Thirdly I want my studio’s success to be measured in the amount of time given to my team, not in digits and dollar signs.

  • Why Punchdrunk? Because they developed a model for interactive theatre and made it renowned, profitable and innovative beyond compare. Why Coney? Because they subvert, surprise, and dedicate themselves to the stimulation of community consciousness. Why not choose a games company to compare to? I still feel ill-equipped to judge the ‘spirit’ and ethos of most games studios at a non-superfitial level. It’s an area I will persevere to find more about
  • I remember when I first mentored at the Festival of Code with North Liverpool Academy. It was a huge eye opener to the possiblities that were available to young students, and the work they completed (on time) and presented was astonishing. I never had the support that they had, and I recall thinking “I can so do more to help.” Giving something of the things I’ve learned in education and outside of it feels like the most natural progression, so when these whizkids are looking for work experience or a job in their first studio, I want my studio to be the enticing and exciting place to serendipitously see advertised on Twitter or in a magazine.
  • Both Imre from Bossa and Dan Pinchbeck of The Chinese Room (on different occasions) have mentioned their desire to create environments for people to flourish. The success and momentum of their companies are, at their core, built around giving folks the hours to work at something they could quite possibly love, and not just focused around profits. THis idea rang with resonance within me the first time I heard it and I can’t imagine operating in any other way that wasn’t out of necessity. Survival doesn’t mean taking on a huge contract or expanding wildly when the opportunity arises, no it’s about seeing that risky maneuvers risk the livelihoods of your staff! The guy from Miniclip told us how scared he was having this kind of responsibility. Rosetinted Speccy over here sees it as a very arduous, wonderful gift to be able to provide a creative industry for workmates and their families. Fingers crossed I might make it some day.
I should have gone with something people could rave on and on about!

I should have gone with something people could rave on and on about!

#4 I was looking at Kickstarter all wrong!

This deserves a post all to itself! But really a lot of issues that arose with my Kickstarter campaign (which ended up successful btw!) came from the fact I didn’t dedicate myself to retaining backers. I did send many post-event emails about. But with school work came distraction and a lot of my investment into the mailing list for Threshold Forgotten Futures just simply fizzled out. An interesting talk from Digital Jam’s Tanya Laird talked about upgrading backers from simple donators to become awesome ambassadors of the invested project. In that way they move from just giving money to actually diverting more people and more social media coverage into your project, above and beyond just the kickstarter. Crowd-lifting is the name of this process of uplifting backers. In principle it’s good community building with an aim to get better loyalty. I’d argue that community building is really hard and just depending on the goodwill of ambassadors would not have solved my many campaign issues, but they may well have alleviated had I spent more time with the evangelical supporters on my side.

End of brief almanac of thoughts!!

NFTS Graduate Year Project – The Beginning

NFTS

First, welcome to the new and improved website! It’s still undergoing some changes, a lot of structural stuff still needs work. It will be smart and snazzy, one day, and then maybe will get decrepit over time.

An ageing website, hmmm…

Anyway let’s get straight onto the rather exciting process of documenting my graduate project! This will be the focus for the next year of blogging. Commitment or what?!

Here’s a condensed version of opening graduate brief that each NFTS Games Design student received:


 “The graduate project is a substantial piece of practical work – a working game of your own conception, design, development and implementation. The game you choose to make can take a variety of different forms or formats and be targeted at any particular platform or combination of platforms you decide on, (PC, web-based, mobile, tablet, console, custom hardware etc)

It could be a completed project ready for release, a prototype of a much larger project, or the first few chapters of a suite of episodic releases. Crucial is that the end product is polished, competent, original and innovative. Something which has a potential playing audience, however small.

Use this opportunity to create a game project which pushes the boundaries of the medium and genuinely delivers an engaging, meaningful and edifying experience to its players, making its mark as your calling card for a creative future in the world of games.


What a tantalising prospect! I’m not sure of the limitations similar MA courses set out for final-year projects but I feel excited and grateful to say the least! I’ll come back to the broad foundations laid down in this brief from time to time, although with so many degrees of freedom to operate within I expect I’ll be constructing (with the help of tutors, peers, team members and games testers) a lot of the rules to this project as I go.

After working on some commissioned work during January it was liberating to jump back into the freedom of conceptualisation! The Christmas holidays were focused around Unity tutorials and some games jammyness, so ideas for the grad project took the form of the flickering of light bulbs. These occasional flashes looked something like this:

IMG_20150217_014046

Some ideas followed me all the way from the start of first year:

  • For example, a kind of ‘documentary game’ really intrigued me even though I felt I had attempted such a direction with “Anuli and Obi”. The very real RFA Fylingdales (a British air base that is part of America’s Ballistic Missile Early Warning System) and its history of controversy surround the local opposing protesters stood out as a potential source of investigative journalism, kind of in the same vein as groundbreaking podcast Serial.
  • Then there was the inspiration I received from Christos Reid (aka failnaut) after visiting last year’s GameCity. Christos challenged a group of us to talk about an autobiographical experience, and to discuss how games can reflect personal struggles. Culminating with a panel from Christos and Zoe Quinn, I was sure I could take my own experiences and discover an interesting mechanic to marry with a personal story.
  • The influence from my research into music festivals and play would perhaps always have led me to conceive of a dancing game. I imagined a while ago multiple players bouncing around an open space, trying to outdance each other, and it just seemed simple enough to work!

Josh Unsworth and I spent a dedicated January afternoon sharing such thoughts and concepts, with an aim to discuss 10 or so game ruminations.We each wrote down some personal key parameters we would measure the ideas up against. Out of the half-baked concepts that stuck out, a certain pattern started to emerge; looking long and hard at my options I realised I really want to innovate beyond the screen. My placement with interactive theatre group Coney taught me a lot about the importance of “liveness” and “presence in space” in both theatre and games design. Entice by these principles I started adapting the core essence of the themes of my ideas (interdisciplinary, social, engaging) into something more akin to an art installation.

As you’ll later discover my dear readers, this shift from the boundless accessibility and distribution of the digital age to a limited yet dedicated series of occurrences (dare I say… Happenings) of a game is not an easy sell to the modern games designer. Platform is everything when it comes to intuitive, fun, well designed experiences, and outside of the digital world it can be considered highly challenging to make a game with these qualities. Board games are a perfect example, which require hundreds of painstaking hours of testing to perfect.

I’ll talk in my next post about the pitches I gave to HOD Jon Weinbren at the start of February, and the roads I took to get to each pitch. Until then, peace y’all.

SOCCOBAN – GENERIC NFTS Games Jam [Part Two]

NFTS

This Part Two, it should be clarified, is actually a few half days mashed together. Christmas puddings, long cold winter trains and many a gifted ale may have prevented me from knuckling down to do a full report this past festive week. But don’t worry, here’s a summary of what I’ve managed to achieve so far…

 The Setup
Technically I already knew that I’d be making the game in Unity3D in C#. It’s a comfortable place for me to start and there’s still so much more for me to learn! So to begin with I defined a few familiar key verbs, nouns and phrases that I wanted my audience to be able to act out in a football game.
Passing, Tackling, Kick Off, Throw Ins, Save, Tactics, Offside, Formation, Corner Kick, Goalkick, Penalty, In Off The Post, Foul, Sending Off, Possession
Looking at the Overall Experience I wanted to make, I also did a wee brainstorm.
Shot Power, Leaderboard, Home/Away Kits, Shirt Selection, Stamina, Player Marker, Stadium, Practice Mode, Challenge Mode, Career Mode, Player Choice, Controller Swap, Score, Crowd, Advertisement Boards, Match Options, Match Length, Teams – Rank and Collective Skill, League Table
I decided to focus on the mechanics first, and worry about the desired features of the OE later. In five days I will be lucky to even get them up and running!
Mechanically I started with the core concept of possession. A whole game of football could be played without a single pass really; I thought that perhaps a successful tackle can be seen simply as the exchange of possession from one team (Getting the ball into a goal area being the final objective of the game).  This gave me somewhere to start with the design of the code for individual avatars (players) – I quickly mocked up the below model for possession exchange.

Calvin and Hobbes both very happy with the tackling system I created on the first day!

Using OnTriggerEnter() it was easy enough to make a player in possession lose the ball if an opponent moves into their associated collider.

I thought about how to make sure that the ball would not flit between opposing players during contact, which led to the idea of a “dazed” status that a recently tackled player would adopt. During that state they would be unable to move or gain possession on the ball.

Simple beginnings yes… and at this stage I hadn’t even designed a concept of ‘time’ in this world of leatherbound pigs bladders! But it paved the road for the next step of designing the player script architecture.

I refreshed my understanding of Interfaces and created a seperate C# script defining necesary functions that my PlayerBallController script would need to include. These were things like public interface IRunner(), public interface IPasser(), public interface ITackler(), public interface ILosePossession() etc. After adding the interfaces to the class definition of PlayerBallController I created some other functions that would call the interface-defined functions when needed. A few examples:

    public void CheckPossession()
    {
        if(pState == PossState.InPoss)
        {
            Dribble();
        }
        else if (pState == PossState.NoPoss)
        {
            Run();
        }
    }
    
    public void MoveBallToFeet()
    {
        ball.gameObject.transform.position = feetMarker.transform.position;
    }
    
    public void KickBall(KickType kType)
    {
        switch (kType)
        {
            case KickType.Pass:
                Pass ();
                break;
            
            case KickType.Shoot:
                Shoot ();
                break;
        }
    }

Dribble() Run() Pass() Shoot() are all required by the interface defintitions. I didn’t know how I these functions would act, however at this stage I didn’t need to : the structure was at least taking a nice form.

By now I’d also began to think about the OE and how I’d actually enjoy augmenting the tactical element of the game. It hit me that I could make a turn-based football game with one-off challenges (individual set pieces, phases of play,  skill shots etc) that someone playing the game would be ranked on based on how many win/fail conditions they activate.

http://soccersweep.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/tactics-board1-620x350.jpg

This new direction meant I immediately had some classic aesthetics to draw from (i.e. the tactical field-of-play board with it’s arrows, circles and crosses) and was more akin to the Football Manager than my initial sources. It goes against my original desire to make a pure backyard kickaround game, but I feel that this is something I can revisit after pursuing a genuninely interesting idea – making a football puzzle-game. Thinking I could take this challenge on I went about cannibalising my concept.

From this perspective the game needed to have a overarching turn manager and a way of communicating tactical decisions made by the player of the game to that manager. I remembered this exceptionally useful Notification Center C# script from Alan Thorn’s resource list (http://wiki.unity3d.com/index.php?title=CSharpNotificationCenter) that allows for ONESHOT messages to be sent to any other scripts. Its use is beyond the above

For example; I want to tell a player in possession to shoot i.e. call the Shoot()  function, but only when I have clicked an ACTOUTINSTRUCTIONS button. This would be simple to do with a OnMouseDown() function. But now let’s say that the ACTOUTINSTRUCTIONS has to trigger all of the other additional moves that other players will make. OnMouseDown() now needs to communicate with many players and their functions. Using bools and a forever-listening Update() is a painful waste of time, but the NotificationCenter() script allows us to add a simple line of code to send a global message to any designated listeners.

    
    public void Pass()
    {
        pState = PossState.NoPoss;

        Hashtable playDir = new Hashtable();                 
        playDir[0] = FindPlayerDirection();                          
        NotificationCenter.DefaultCenter.PostNotification(this, "ApplyForceToBall", playDir);

    }

“ApplyForceToBall” is the name of a function in the listening script which will be called when it receives a posted notification. The code lower down the page shows the AddObserver function being called in the Start() method. And that’s all that’s needed to accept a message! Such an elegant solution to calling oneshot functions!

What’s more, the above line of code in red shows that you can (but don’t necessarily have to) send a Hashtable containing any data you want with the message, and any listeners will be able to access an instance of that data! For example a snapshot of the player’s direction, or perhaps their stamina, that is passed through to ApplyForceToBall().

Interestingly I found that Unity was kicking up a lot of errors about sending this data… and it turned out that a function called by the notification, such as ApplyForceToBall(),  can only accept an argument of type Notification. For some reason I couldn’t access this type, even though it was public in the NotificationCenter script! This cause you issues too? Well my solution was to reference NotificationCenter.Notification as the argument type. This worked, woop! Then converting the Notification format into a useable form requires you to access the Hashtable type using DictionaryEntry.

void Start () 
    {
        NotificationCenter.DefaultCenter.AddObserver(this, "ApplyForceToBall");
    }
    
void ApplyForceToBall(NotificationCenter.Notification vector)
    {
        Vector3 dir = Vector3.zero;
        foreach (DictionaryEntry entry in vector.data)
        {
            dir = (Vector3)entry.Value;
        }
        gameObject.rigidbody.AddForce(dir);
        print ("Ball receives a force of " + dir);
    }

Check out this link to learn more about DictionaryEntry and Hashtables. By the way if my Hashtable contained more than one keypair I’d make the dir variable an array.

Okay I’m going to stop with this post and come back for another check up later tonight! More to come from the design and aesthetics front, including a look at Editors, OnValidate() and Unity’s new UI system! 😀

~Peace

SOCCOBAN – GENERIC NFTS Games Jam [Part One]

NFTS

Getting my hands dirty with some bog-standard games design couldn’t have come at a better time! The NFTS Games Jam (first of it’s kind) marks the start of the festive Christmas period. Much of December whizzed past due to the Moments of Consequence project and it’s only now I can recover a spare thought for another Unity project!

The rules for the games jam appear nice and liberal : simply make a game over a 5 day period from 18th Dec 14′ – 4th Jan 15‘. Make it GENERIC, and make it so that you learn something you didn’t know before.

Well as soon as I heard this it was straight to the bargain bin of my games nostalgia to look for a game so generic it would be a war crime to try and make yet another version of it. Admittedly I could have ended up making a FPS (TimeSplitters, Goldeneye, and Halo call up some fond memories). Maybe I could have learned something from these great obelisks of the past. But I went with these classic memories of old instead…

Oh yes, the original EA FIFA game from 1994, who could forget the isometric joy of passing a ball that could be barely distinguished from the background. Great celebrations, and there’s stars around the players! Aw.

http://img.gamefaqs.net/box/4/3/4/40434_back.jpg

Then there was Ronaldo V Football, remarkable not only for it’s dogged dedication to making Ronaldo the centre of the universe, but also this too-catchy tune that is forever samba-ing in my head…

http://199.101.98.242/media/shots/51799-Actua_Soccer_2_(E)-3.jpg

And who wouldn’t be fooled by Actua Soccer’s attempt at realistic player-on-player animated sequences, such as these meatbags trying to square up to the man who his place on the front of the disc box, Alan Shearer!? His posture and high definition stare says it all really.

To clarify something…. I have always found football games outside of the realm of my interests because my brother was so addicted to the sport. His passion was my annoyance for a while as I was relegated to precarious goalkeeping in school matches during our youngest years. But the games had a truly strong design and flavour that it was hard not to get sucked into them. Picking up these games was fun and frantic, and always revolved around (not Ronaldo but) local multiplayer antics. The rich seam of fandom was a glossy coat to a me, and a game-changer for my obsessed little tyke of a sibling. For a time it would suit the two brothers to play and play and play, blood guts and grit in every last shot on goal.
Then suddenly, as if a lightening bolt had struck the very core of the sportsgames market, it came to be that micromanaging every last aspect of your team and the way it’s run became the new killer-feature. Football Manager and other tinker-games had been infiltrating the fun for years. Finally those aspects of tactical replacement and multidimensional resource management moved to the forefront of sports games; an acknowledgement of the extreme level of strategy and mastery at the heart of the sport maybe…
Well if I’ve learned anything about football fanatics from working in pubs and bars, it’s that they are hooked on conjecture and facts. What better arena to prove themselves and their mass accumulation of knowledge than that of a hyper-real simulation? So it came to be that the endless stream of FIFAs and Pro Evos come out every year to haunt the shelves of soccerfans everywhere for decades to come, each more perishable than the last. I lost my faith in the format fast.
So I want to return to the days of a less complicated sort of football game. The personal challenge comes not only from my out-of-date understanding of football (hopefully nothing much has changed in 9 years to affect the mechanics!) but also creating a fun experience with a physics system in Unity. Convinced this would be enough to spur me on, I accepted the self-made mission just hours ago. [EDIT: this has since changed!! Read new posts]
Operation SOCCOBAN is underway!
Not sure quite yet how it will be tackled, most likely I’ll try to build a rapid prototype to get the basic actions (passing, dribbling, tackling, shooting, saving etc) up and running.
I’ll be posting up code, GIF videos and snapshots showing my progress asap. Wish me look sportsfans! 😀

Life Drawing Classes with Varvara

NFTS

Here are my unashamed explorations into how to draw naked people, prompted by my return to life drawing classes.

I’m really excited to be able to start drawing again, as our last outings with Pam were sadly cut short after the NFTS couldn’t find vacant rooms for a model in the nip to hang out in. To the staff’s credit I’m really pleased that they could find an external course for me to take (and help with the costs for!).Man it did take a lot of pestering though, another bit of concrete evidence that bloody fisted persistence is the only way forward sometimes!

The illustrious Varvara Neiman of St. Petersburg fires up our winter classes in the local community centre. So far I’ve been tortured by my lack in skill with an eraser, painted in the long shadow of Rembrandt, and discovered a fondness for charcoal shading.

Next term I expect the games course wil have more opportunities for life drawing, until then here are a few of my first attempts this November.

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Peter and Chair

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Peter 3 Poses

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Peter 3 poses

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Peter Eraser

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Peter Charcoal

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Peter Eraser

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Peter Charcoal

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Lady 3 Pose

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Lady Pencil

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Lady Charcoal

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Lady Blue Paint

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Lady 2 Minute Pencil Sketches