Mario Progress

Closing in on the submission date for this Super Mario Bros. x Bridget Riley rip - off, I realise now that it was much harder to emulate Mario Bros. than I would have imagined. What started off as scraping assets off the internet and changing them to suit Bridget Riley's simple-yet-complex illusory art style.

Because I was confident that I would be able to closely emulate Mario Bros. mechanics rather closely with GameMaker, it was something that I didn't particularly worry about. Though inevitably just when you think you know a game's mechanics, you realise that there's a plethora of mechanics that you find make up what you though was a single mechanic, or simply didn't notice while playing.

Though because this task wasn't assigned to primarily test my skills in Game Maker, I wasn't particularly disappointed that I'm not yet able to have progressive jumps or haven't implemented a sprint button because I didn't know that Mario could sprint.

In my endeavour to learn the mechanics of the game, I actually purchased Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 2: The Lost Levels. Though it might take a while to get through both of them, having never played either of these games before. I think that it will be interesting and beneficial to learn about Mario's mechanics intimately enough to finish the infamous Lost Levels.

Aside from the mechanics of the game, I think that I adopted Bridget Riley's art style as well as I could without making the level unrecognisable or not traversable. Because Ms. Riley's art focuses heavily on tricks of the eye, I found it difficult to have the same kind of effect, or convey the artist's intended emotion.

I'm unsure of how I can improve on it as it stands right now, though I'm sure there's a way, I simply can't see it at this time.

 

Tylah Kapa

@JadeKapa

 

Project - DMCA Takedown

Recently I was tasked with merging the worlds of video games and art by integrating a specific artists' works with Super Mario Brothers world 1-1. For this project, I have been assigned to artist Bridget Riley, an artist born in 1931 London, England, and is most known for her Optical Phenomena (OP) art.

Untitled [Fragment 3/11] (1965)- Bridget Riley

Untitled [Fragment 3/11] (1965)- Bridget Riley

As seen above, in her painting Untitled [Fragment 3/11] it's easy to see the reason why her OP art is so well known. I feel that the simplicity of the work itself contributes even more to the complexity of the techniques and final product when it all comes together. It's clear that each dark line on the canvas relies on all of the other lines on the canvas to convey the true work. Much in the same way that a painter relies on their ladder to reach high spaces, if it weren't there the work could not be done. 

Untitled [Fragment 1/7] (1965) - Bridget Riley

Untitled [Fragment 1/7] (1965) - Bridget Riley

From here the only real question to ask is "How would anyone transfer this kind of art to world 1-1?" As Bridget Riley once said herself: "I work "from" something rather than "towards" something."(Riley, B. 1968) So I have these two things, Bridget Riley's works and World 1-1. If I were to successfully take this kind of illusory art style and transfer it directly into world 1-1 I feel that I wouldn't be doing the art justice. 

"My paintings are, of course, concerned with generating sensations, but certainly not the exclusion of emotion. One of my aims is that these two responses shall be experienced as one in the same." (Riley, B 1968)

To accurately replicate this style of thinking inside of a predetermined World will be difficult, I do however have the art style as meaningful justification for the use of illusion to trick the player. This kind of though process gave me the following palette and WIP tile set.

Project - DMCATakedown Tile set  (2016) Tylah Kapa

Project - DMCATakedown Tile set (2016) Tylah Kapa

As is quite obvious, the tile set does not utilise the stark white that Ms. Riley uses in her works. This was changed out of pure consideration of the player, as Bridget Riley's paintings ar already rather abrasive, to my eyes at least, having this scheme repeated and moving rapidly would be far worse. Of course there is much more I could to with this tile set, like try to incorporate the lines more into the 3D blocks, rather than simply a border and shading as indication. To have this properly done would take some time.

Project - DMCATakedown Ptototype  (2016) Tylah Kapa

Project - DMCATakedown Ptototype (2016) Tylah Kapa

Above is the work in progress prototype I have for this project. as you can see, the player character also takes on the same colour scheme, though has white eyes, so as to indicate the location of the sprite. my hopes is that the player won't have significant trouble seeing the player character, though the sprite is obscured enough for them to be hesitant of their movements and decisions. The red background will eventually be replaced with the opposing lines seen in the tile set above, however, for the sake of clarity I'm going to keep it there until all of the objects are placed. 

The creation of a simple prototype platform engine has taught me a lot about the way Game Maker Studio operates, and I hope that I can go on to use Game Maker for various projects in the future.

 

Tylah Kapa

@JadeKapa

Project - W I L L

I've been away for the past few weeks, slowly pondering and planning my next steps through my course. However, after a jaw-dropping deal from www.humblebundle.com, which was the GameMaker bundle, I decided that I would try my hand at making a game in GameMaker.  

Whilst it is a simple engine, I've had quite a bit of fun watching a small prototype quickly progress, albeit alongside a rather thorough tutorial. I have some ideas for this tutorial and I am looking forward to trying to have a working prototype around 2 weeks from now. 

Project - W I L L Health Bar Example  - Tylah Kapa

Project - W I L L Health Bar Example  - Tylah Kapa

This is a big learning opportunity for me, I've always wanted to dabble in creating pixel art or  game UI art in general and Game Maker is the best opportunity I have to do it. What's more, Game Maker is a great engine for games that I would like to make. 

In the meantime, I'm continuing on with my course, completing small projects. By the end of this year, I will hopefully have 3-4 prototypes under my belt!

Tylah Kapa

@JadeKapa

Post-Mortem: Wasteland Mayhem

The following is a post-mortem for a game that I recently worked on called Wasteland Mayhem. This project was undergon with the intent of learning the freedoms and restrictions of working within a team of people working on a single project. As the project manager, it was my job to ensure that all tasks were assigned effectively and completed efficiently. Though I feel that I failed my team, my full reflection is below.

Introduction

With Wasteland Mayhem finally completed, much of the tension surrounding the project can be released. With T1T1 Productions dissipating upon submission of the game, it is imperative that one reflects on previous projects and locates areas of key value so as to improve and maintain an effective method of producing games. Pulling reflective lenses on yourself and something that you participated in creating is something that is quite difficult, yet mandatory to master when in the creative arts.

 

What Went Right

Planning

When this project was first acquired, T1T1 productions did a great job of describing the processes and methods that the team should abide by for the duration of the product. Avenues of communication, task allocation and version control were promptly opened in order to allow for easy access to each team member and the current version of the game.

With the trimester only just beginning, it is simple to see that these avenues were quickly opened in order to ease the team’s mind. Decision of roles and key features of the game to focus on were relatively quick and greatly boosted the team’s morale. The appearance of having some kind of progress made so early spurred on the completion of many of the more basic planning tasks.

Deciding very early on who will do what and establishing a general yet strong outline of where the project should be at intervals throughout the duration of the project is a very strong morale booster. For me, having knowledge of where everyone is at, and anticipating where the project will be by the end of a set deadline helps in easing my brain and surely everyone else’s. This should be an automatic reaction to establishing that your team is going to take on a project in due time.

 

Creation of Components

When it comes to each individual component of the core game, much of it was completed quite well when members of the team were assigned to the task, the task would be completed at some point in time. The task would always be completed as desired and would follow the outlined mechanics from the project brief. Once these components were created they would be able to be applied to the project in due course.

All members of the team held the capability of completing these tasks if needed, although some of the tasks may have challenged the team member in some way. The completion of the task would always reward them with furthering their experience in their field whilst contributing to the project at hand. Undoubtedly the fear of failure will have helped in the creation of these components.

Having confidence in your team is important when it comes to their completion of tasks, though I did not feel confident in the quality of what was created because I had not created them to my liking, I entrusted the team with these tasks. As someone whom has largely worked independently throughout life, I found it hard to entrust people with tasks and roles as the project manager.

What Went Wrong

Completion of Tasks

As discussed in the ‘What Went Right’ section, tasks were created and completed quite promptly as this project was received. However, the team’s productivity as deadlines neared slowed to a crawl, which nearly completely halted progress on the project. Some of the simpler tasks such as having some particular features in the game which would assist in the creation of the game were not placed in the game.

As these small tasks stacked up against the team, stress for other commitments only grew, which did not help. I don’t believe that the neglect of these tasks were the result of negligence or lack of skill. I believe that this entire team mutually agreed that other projects took precedence over this project.

As the project manager, I feel that I failed the team by not chasing up these incomplete tasks sooner. Getting these small tasks in line so as not to overwhelm in the end would most definitely have helped whilst definitely keeping the pressure off of this project so that the team could focus on their own commitments.

 

Communicating

Communication between the team, or lack thereof made it exceptionally difficult to keep up with the development of the project. At various points throughout the project I felt that I as the project manager was left out of where everyone was up to and as a result I felt less confident in placing more tasks onto a team member. The team did have a maximum of two modes of communication outside of face to face meetings and so a lack of communication should not happen.

I’m unsure of the root cause of this problem, though it is quite possible and understandable that other commitments stopped the team from trying to communicate with each other. Some of this lack of communication may have come from the embarrassment of not being able to complete a task, or a lack of confidence in the team in general. It is also entirely possible that the team was waiting on status reports and direction from me.

In order to try to rectify this large communication error. I attempted to provide to the team a form to fill out weekly outlining tasks completed and not completed and reasoning why so as to evaluate where to allocate tasks in the future. Though even this weekly form was not filled out often, and turned out to be little more than a meagre attempt executed later than it should have been. I would have been more beneficial to establish that a survey/status report on tasks be completed after each session or working week while the spur of activity was still fresh. This would have motivated the team to work harder and evaluate the way that they were working on the project.

 

Time Management

When it came to the overall completion of the project, I would say that the entire team could have managed their time better. I think that all of us severely underestimated this trimester as one that could easily be passed. Assessment quickly crept up behind us and we found ourselves stressed out trying to focus on these outside projects and not progressing towards the completion of this one.

Overall it would be acceptable to say that I did not manage the team adequately. My position as Project Manager fell naturally as a result of role selection rather than being a volunteered status. Because of my lack in confidence as a leader of a group, I feel that I was not correctly assigning tasks to the team, or failed to complete my duties as the project leader. I think that this project acted as a good indicator that I prefer to take orders rather than give them. I found that I felt that I had more manpower at my disposal than necessary, which deemed problematic as I did not know whom to place on what tasks. The fact that this was such a small scale game also contributed to that factor. Having two people work on creating one simple level, or working on a slider script felt redundant and so I attempted to split up those responsibilities as best as I could. The fact that I did not know where everyone was up to in regards to the project did not help.

I think that if I were to manage a project again, I would want to lay out strict ground rules of regular reports to let me know what has been done and to what standard. I would then want to see these tasks and their effect on the project. From there I could then more accurately decide which member of the team should be assigned to which task. I could have also not hesitated to use my full manpower, I found that I was not assigning many tasks to Jack because I did not know his potential and I already felt that I had an excess of manpower working on the project at once.

 

Unexpected Events

In regards to this project, I do not feel as though there were many unexpected events or events that served as major distractions from this project that aren’t commitments to other projects. However, that is speaking only for me, I know that some of the team members were struggling with their studies, and I tried to acknowledge that whilst I was assigning tasks to the members of the team.

  

Conclusion

Time Management

I was not fully satisfied with the way that my team and I performed. I feel that as the team’s leader I let my team down by not utilising the team’s strengths in order to maximise efficiency and progress on this assignment which would have, in turn, led to a smoother and less stressful production trimester. I feel that I could have vastly improved on what was done if I had not hesitated to lead myself and my team down a more productive and active path. As I have said above, if I were to lead a team in the future, I would like to be very involved with the team, with frequent reports on status and confidence so that I would be able to assign more small tasks to all members of the team rather than a single component of the project to one or two members of the team. This would boost my confidence as a leader and also help the entire team stress less about the project knowing that their leader is confident in their abilities and where they are at.

 

Communication Skills

I feel that as a whole, the team failed to communicate with each other despite being in a day and age wherein not having access to peers via the internet or locally should not be a problem. I believe that in spite of this, I still contributed to this team’s radio silence, contacting the team about the current task that they were working on or trying to get status reports was more of a hassle than anything, and I’m unsure of whether it was my lack of attempts at getting the team to fill out these reports, or just simply forgetting to fill the form out/ neglecting it completely. I think that it is difficult to reflect how well I communicated with the team if the team in general were not communicating.

 

 Self Confidence

As stated previously that although I am studying a heavily team-based art, I am a largely independent worker. Finding the confidence within myself to attempt to lead this team was rather difficult given how small scale the project was. I felt that before I could lead the team, I would have to build confidence in myself as a leader to then place trust in their abilities. Though I don’t believe that I was able to accomplish that. Overall I’m quite disappointed with the way that I led this team, and I fully intend to attempt to improve myself as a leader rather than a lone-wolf worker.

  

Positive Attitude

I tend to think of myself as a jaded person, I’d rather stay neutral than be overcome by emotion be it positive or negative. It can definitely be hard for me to genuinely uphold a positive outlook on my status, specifically when I overthink things or am focused on other projects. With this trimester being more stressful to me than any other trimester or semester in my educational life, I found it hard to keep a positive outlook on our progress, especially as time went on. I wouldn’t say that I was particularly harsh on the team, most definitely not, worse words could be exchanged, much more extreme measures could be taken. Though at times I did feel like I was driven to be kind of the whip to keep the team in line. It’s difficult to hold that persona of authority whilst still upholding a positive attitude on what you’ve done especially if you’re that stressed out as I was at the time. I think that I’ll have to reflect on exactly how I can increase productivity with positivity whilst maintaining an authority figure in my team’s mind. Though upholding this authority figure would be unnecessary if a team has good communication skills, as good communication skill would great a naturally positive environment for the team to work in.

 

Overall, I’m not very satisfied with the outcome on this project, more specifically I’m unhappy with the way that I led this team. I hope that I will be able to overcome my doubts in the future in order to lead a successful team to complete an even bigger project. Until then, I’ll need to train myself to trust in others more so than I do now, while also trying to maintain an aspect of authority if given a position of leadership. 

A Game's Lense

When you're in charge of what the player see's via a camera in your scene, be it a first-person, third-person or isometric camera, you need that camera to be natural or intuitive for the player to use. 

X-Com Gameplay

X-Com Gameplay

When it comes to cameras, the best view one could use ultimately comes down to the style of the game and  what you would like to achieve with your game. For example, X-Com simply wouldn't work as well as it does with a first-person camera, or Bioshock Infinite wouldn't work nearly as well with an isometric view. The idea of immersing yourself in the story wouldn't be as exciting if the player couldn't put themselves in the character's shoes. Just as realising the sheer scale or strain of a battle wouldn't feel the same if you couldn't see it all happening safely from above. This is not to mention mechanics that pertain to a game that work much better with specific camera angles.

My own Porject

My own Porject

This being said, I had the opportunity to get the framework for a simple bird's-eye camera which I can use for my own games. The base framework is in likeness to League of Legends'. A simple bird's eye camera that could be moved by taking your cursor to any edge of the screen, or by pressing any of the direction keys. This camera could also be zoomed in and out to give a more detailed view of your champion by using the scroll wheel. 

Though for my project that I'm currently working on, I found that it would be more convenient for the player if the camera were able to rotate around the battlefield for a different view, rather than a single direction. This is because some terrain can inconvenience the player, and they wont be able to move to a certain position on the map, and so rotating the camera will allow them to move to that part of the map. This is similar to Starcraft's camera rotation, wherein the rotation is designed to give the player a more desirable view depending on their spawn point if that is what the player wants. It's more aesthetic, yet can be convenient for those whom would prefer that view.

 

Tylah Kapa

Twitter: @JadeKapa

Real-Time Synergy

One of the biggest appeals to real-time strategy (RTS) is controlling your own army, evaluating your chances of victory and reacting to your enemy's movements whilst managing your own. It is having this kind of vantage over the movements in the game that many RTS players thoroughly enjoy. Though the game wouldn't nearly be the same if the player could only control one unit at a time. The idea of battalions or squadrons in an armed force is heavily ingrained in contemporary minds, if a player weren't allowed to control such a large number of troops as they are, the games probably wouldn't be as popular.

This week, I looked over one of the fundamentals of the RTS, the mass unit selection system. This system is arguably essential to all RTS games. Age of Empires II, Starcraft and Warcraft, all arguable grandfathers of the contemporary RTS included the feature of mass selecting a chunk of units present on the player's screen.

Although the action of mass selecting units simply consists of clicking on an area on the map, dragging to encapsulate all units you would like to select in the selection area and letting go, there's much more going on behind the scenes. A manipulation of various elements of the object used to select the objects, such as it's onTriggerEnter and Exit events alongside the scale of the object dependent on the mouse's position on the screen is significantly more complicated than I had first imagined. Not to mention that this was only selecting units. The aforementioned RTS games included a feature wherein you could select specific units based on their class within the mass that you has selected. This was no doubt because any special abilities that the units had could be essential to changing the flow of the game, therefore the feature was essential. 

I would like to attempt to extend the script further. The selection box is already able to select buildings, and so I would like to change the UI depending on the unit selected. This would require a feature wherein the player would be able to cycle through each type of unit that they have selected, much like the referred to RTS games. The user interface would show to the player what they would be able to create with the unit that they currently have selected and allow them to build the unit or building as if the unit were selected on it's own. This is a very common feature in RTS games though as I've seen I have no doubt that it would be more difficult than it seems

Tylah Kapa

We Happy Few

"Happiness is a choice."

In a world set in the sixties, disease runs rampant, bodies line the streets, and nobody cares. Such is the norm in Compulsion Games' first-person survival game: We Happy Few. Currently in Steam early access for $29.99 USD We Happy Few is a game that jumped out at me during Microsoft's E3  2016 Conference due to it's Bioshock-esque aesthetic.

Compulsion Game's We Happy Few

Compulsion Game's We Happy Few

Unfortunately the early access build of this game is quite bare bones, with only 3/5 traversible islands in the game able to be accessed. Some gameplay features, and polish that needs to be applied to this game are still in development, which is quite a shame. Because of this, the "story mode" of this game is not yet available.

However, a base narrative can be established. All civil citizens in this world are forced to take narcotics called "Joy", an addictive pill which relieves the user of their depressing memories and masking their vision of all things deemed morbid. In this beautifully ignorant world, Arthur Hastings, a simple office worker opts out of taking his Joy on the job. As Arthur finally understands the effects that Joy has on it's users, his co-workers label him as a Downer, one who refuses to take Joy, and Arthur is quickly apprehended and moved to the slums. This is where the clear narrative of the game ends, and the player is then allowed to bustle through this interesting world. 

Player in a location of the game which requires Joy to access

Player in a location of the game which requires Joy to access

When I fell into this world, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was an open-world survival game. I'm not sure what I expected, likely something more along the lines of a linear, story-driven experience. When a new game is started, an option is given to enable or disable perma-death. Personally, I dislike this feature, the reason behind this lies mostly in the gameplay as it stands right now.

If I had to think of a game to compare We Happy Few to, off of the top of my head I would have to name Skyrim with survival elements. With the exception of many of the story quests, there are various objective for the player to complete scattered around the game world which can absolutely keep you occupied for a hefty amount of time. However, there are some overarching objectives that the player will feel inclined to completed. Now, I likened this game to Skyrim in the way that you receive a quest, only to discover that there is very much a 'But I must find this thing, or I must do that before I can do this' chain along each of the quests.

Many of these links lie in the fact that the player is starved of key items, or cannot find items that would be useful. This would be fine if the player had a suitable amount of time to find these resources, that is that the player's hunger, thirst and rest bars quickly decline throughout the flowing days, forcing the player to scavenge constantly, possibly even putting their play through at risk by eating rotten foods which could give diseases that could be deadly if the player does not know how to tend to them. This is the greatest quip with the perma-death function that I have. The player's resource drainage is so brutal if pared with the fact that useful resources, or resources essential to progression are so scarce that the player will most likely die multiple times, while trying to simply explore the world. 

Player in combat with an NPC

Player in combat with an NPC

Aside from this, the game does have a basic crafting system, which simply requires varying amounts of resources to create a simple item. More complex items can be crafted at specialised tables found in the player's safe house. Though again, the scarce resources of the world does hinder the player. Though the player may be forced to replay some areas of the game due to perma-death, the map corresponding to each play through is procedurally generated. An island will hold the same buildings and events, though each section of the map will be rearranged. A nice little addition, if somewhat overkill. 

I do like We Happy Few. It's quirky art style and theme alongside an interesting combination of RPG and Survival elements compels me to observe its development process. From what I have played through so far, I can appreciate the game in it's current state and I eagerly await it's full release. 

If you think that you would enjoy this game when it is fully released, I would recommend waiting until the game is on sale. Looking at it's current features and balancing, it is nor worth as it stands right now. 

 

Tylah Kapa

Twitter: @JadeKapa

Side Scrolling

This week I had a small look at a minimal layout for a state-driven side scroller. I don't have much interest in creating a side scroller, yet when I look at games the like of Super Mario, Super Metroid, Castelvania and Limbo, I can't help but appreciate them. 

AI Finite State Machine Diagram (Bevilacqua, F. (2013).  Finite State Machines: Theory and Implementation.  envatotuts+ )

AI Finite State Machine Diagram (Bevilacqua, F. (2013). Finite State Machines: Theory and Implementation. envatotuts+)

A state-driven side scroller is a side scroller driven by just that, states. Entities within the world would hold various states, and would act according to the state that they are currently in. These states run on a finite state machine, a machine that changes it's state depending on conditions fed into it. For example, a player walking would switch the player's character to a walking animation, jumping to a jumping animation etc. Though finite state machines are often used for AI implementation, an AI enemy would prepare to attack if the player is within an attack range - idle if this isn't the case so on and so forth. It's a simple yet effective way of implementing artificial intelligence into a game. . 

Finite state machines aren't unique to side scrollers, and so it would be beneficial to me if I learned how to set them up properly. I could see it being used in all projects that require an artificial intelligence of any type.

Key Frame Animation  (Anon. N/A.  Multiresolution Mean Shift Clustering Algorithm for Shape Interpolation.  IEEE Xplore)

Key Frame Animation (Anon. N/A. Multiresolution Mean Shift Clustering Algorithm for Shape Interpolation. IEEE Xplore)

Specifically in this session, I looked over a helpful technique in the Unity engine called key frame animation. As a programmer, I could see myself likely using this a lot if I'm working on a project by myself, else I'd rather let someone more experienced take over that for me. However, because key frame animation is relatively simple to use, likely hard to master, I will try to invest some time into learning how to effectively key frame animate. Hopefully I will have something to show for it in my own projects. Perhaps even for this upcoming project.

I'm currently working on one of my assignment briefs, and so I would like to try to implement key-frame animation in this project, however because of assessment strain I likely won't be able to. 

Tylah Kapa

Twitter: @JadeKapa