The Eyes of Game Design

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When preparing to experience something new I always tend to look back on something different that I have experienced in the past. Then I try to combine these two things to make the most of what I am about to experience in the near future.

Tomorrow I am going on a trip to Russia, thus I remembered some interesting game-design related articles and videos which have kept me motivated for long. Some of those articles spoke about Character Design in Japan and how that is a really big thing there. Game designers wrote about Japanese game characters, how they leave the TVs and PC monitors and continue living together with the players in forms of toys, books, street art like graffiti and how they become symbols for new generations.

The videos spoke about human interaction abroad. A game designer shared a story about a Japanese woman who has helped him reach a bus station and catch a bus on time. He then explained how this can be seen through a game designer’s perspective.

He was in Japan, that was a new world for him, he found a woman from that world with whom he shared his goal. The woman helped him get around in this new world so he can reach his goal.

This was a simple story, but it explained almost every aspect of games. Many introduce new worlds to players in which there is a player controlled character, this character has a goal, but a problem that needs to be solved in order to reach it. Through some in-game help and interaction with non-player characters, players learn to “play” in this new world, get better and finally reach the goal.

This is what I like to call “the eyes of game-design“. Let me elaborate on this: Many game designers don’t have any education about game design, they only have their long gaming experience, their creativity and love towards game engines. I personally have finished a course in game design and would do it again if I could, but it is not the course which gave me THE EYES it is the loooong time I’ve spent with games. People who don’t play games, regard playing as lost time (my parents thought so too at one time). Through playing however, you not only learn to play better, but you learn to stop. That’s right, STOP for a while and look at games. Look at the beautiful landscapes, listen to the music, feel the smooth animation, get deeply involved with the story…these are the moments when your eyes are not just gaming eyes anymore, they are evolving into GAME DESIGN eyes. 

This is the moment where questions come in. Wow! How did they made this? Wow! How much time did this animation took to make? Wow! How many layers are there in this 2D background? Wow! How long was this story when it was on paper? Questions you can answer by learning about game design online, or just by actually making games yourself.

But the best part of THE EYES is that once you get them, they remain yours forever. And then when you go out with your friends to a coffee club everywhere you look, you see potential games. Coffee making games, restaurant games, catching the bus on time games, conversation games, walking, sleeping, dreaming, singing, drawing, writing, everything you do…everything you are….everything can be made into a game.

And this is exactly why, we will see more and more unique games in the future!

I wish to all of my readers a good day, I will continue working on Rhubber Man in my free time in Russia and I hope I will learn a lot from the people there, their city and their ways of life, because there is a game in everything 🙂

Rhubber Man, Pulsating Arms of Fury!

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I have been honored to be on the Crotchety Old Gamer’s blog and he has been honored to be the first person online who got a really early demo of the game 🙂 HONOR EVERYWHERE 🙂

The Crotchety Old Gamer

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Punching its way out of Macedonia, Rhubberman is a game about beating things to death with fists of fury!  It has a flair that feels like it should be in an arcade and from what I’ve seen in the promo video on alt ctrl jam, the native controls invented by the developers would make this an arcade game of demanding coordination.  The best part is that the game in itself is not complex.  Don’t let the enemy aliens stop you from sitting and ruminating on your favorite thinkin’ spot!

Shoopy Games was kind enough to let me demo the game in late August, before there was sound.  A month has gone by and it shows in the game itself with sound effects, music and new enemies!  The player takes the role of a ‘Rhubber,’ one of the denizens of the planet Rh’ubba.  These guys look like mutated biker smurfs with…

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Get the Rhubber Man BETA version FREE!

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Just wanted to share with all of my readers that the game “Rhubber Man” that I’ve been mentioning in my latest articles (did the lore article about it) was submitted on the http://www.altctrlgamejam.com/ where we built custom controllers for our games. It was a new and awesome experience for me and my team and I would surely do it again if given the chance!

Here is the video through which you can experience the controller we’ve made:

And here is the link to the Game Jam site where you can download the free BETA and play it with a keyboard.

We hope you’ll enjoy it:

http://www.altctrlgamejam.com/games/54208b9264ff4f2c5a10ccce

As we say in the video, we will make a full PC version and an Android version as SOON as possible!

The languages of Game Design

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If you want to be a game designer you need to be more than that. By more, I mean being a: friend, boss, 2D & 3D artist, composer, coder, level designer, writer, producer and much more… While working on Rhubber Man with a team of three people which grew on the Alt Ctrl Game Jam to FIVE I found myself in different roles. Among them were: art director, developer assistant, project manager, product owner… which are quite different positions from what I’ve seen from the corporate atmosphere of companies I’ve worked in. The work of these people is highly complicated and has evolved over the years into many separate fields which all posses a science of their own. A casual game designer knows game design, but only knows bits and pieces of everything else. Apart from the ability to create a game in your head, you need to have the skills to put that on paper and to explain your idea clearly to everyone in your team. But “clearly explain” can become a big issue here. Communication is vital in an indie game dev. team and in order for the game designer to be listened and understood he needs to speak several languages:

  • Coder Language: Game Designers don’t need to know many programming languages but they should try and learn the basics of the languages or engines which are used in the team. They should also try and recognize which engines could suit their coders better.  For example, before we started using Construct 2 I found about the game engine through LudumDare, got into it a bit and then explained the basics to my dear coder Helion. Today, Helion is light years away from me in Construct 2 but this is how it should be 🙂 Coders want simple and straightforward solutions, they are interested in the functions and features that a game will have. They don’t care about art, story or music. Yet once there’s a complete prototype they give valuable feedback on all the things they don’t care about 🙂

 

  • Art Language: These are the people who will listen to the game’s story. Artists are interested in transferring the feelings of the game designer in the game. If every thought is turned into suitable art then their mission is complete. They love to draw, make sketches, make errors and can be lazy at times. You can always go into details with them, talk about the smallest things such as a character’s eyebrows, muscle veins, texture details etc… Go really in depth with them, open your creative self and listen to their ideas. Artists care about art, story AND music!

 

  • Music Language: I consider myself weakest in this language although I have spoken in twice already with my dear sound engineer Bole. Don’t know how other game designers speak this language but I do with an almost finished product. I usually work on a prototype and sometimes show it to the composer, but  nice game-play with some art already implemented is as a far more suitable choice. Having this, the sound guy will fully understand the game and the feel, he will look at the colors, the characters and enemies and the game will speak his language instead of you. Two times have I done this(not to many times to generalize anything) and two times the music and sound effects did not fail.  Music people are also interested in the art and story. It helps them find the best suitable notes and mix them into something wonderful. The best way to talk their language is to know their language (have some musical background), but if you don’t then describe what players should feel in given moments. Should this be scary, should it evoke happiness or sadness? This is the essence of the music language.

 

  • Player Language: Maybe the last language in this list but a really important one. Presenting the game to your dev. team is one thing, presenting it to the players is completely another. The main difference here is that the other languages in this article thought you how to communicate separate areas of your game. Here you are talking about a complete product. Yes, you can have a development blog, show-off art and music, but If you’re constructing a smaller game you’ll most probably be presenting the complete game. In that case, people regard your game as a….well as a game! They won’t pay special attention to music, art or eyebrow animations (there’s that eyebrow again) but they will feel everything as a part of the experience. So what you should present is the experience itself. It’s the gameplay, the feeling of playing the game. Because this is what will make people try it, buy it, play it, enjoy it. Master this language and the players will be many.

As you can see, the life of a game designer can be hard but becoming a master game design linguist will ease project management, will ensure that all “sectors” of your team work flawlessly and will give birth to a game everyone enjoys playing.

Lore sets the score # 1: The three

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Thousands of planets endlessly float in the Zh’eev-Oth sector. Some too young to utter life, many too old to produce new sentient beings… but only three planets in their perfect age to make a difference in the vast cold universe.

Three planets: Bul’hee, Rh’ubba and Oh-vi… this is where our story begins.

Where heroes and villains are born.

Where heroes and villains are born.

Oh-Vi

The smallest of the three, this green planet surprises by being the most fertile one, continuously bringing life to new intelligent sentient races. Over 20 different people with their separate politics, counties, histories, religions and beliefs, Oh-Vi quickly became a crowded place where too many different opinions clashed into wars that lasted hundreds of years. The inhabitants of Oh-vi quickly abandoned their prosperous nature entangling themselves in the internal conflicts. This made them forsake their adventurous spirits. Thus they never visited other planets. One scientist (going by the name of Whal) however, did leave determined to share his knowledge with new races that were willing to listen. Knowing that his life will soon come to an end, he chose Rh’ubba as his new home because Bul’hee was hidden under a cloak of mystery he was to old to unveil.

Rh’ubba

The middle-sized planet that contained all the colors of nature. Pink forests and grasslands, red fertile soil, violet mountains and blue seas, green skies,  greenish glowing crystals and yellow mist. All of this was common on Rh’ubba. The dominant race known as the Rhubbers fully committed themselves in mining the valuable green crystals creating various sorts of food out of them. Consuming only this type of somewhat radioactive food, the Rhubbers mutated and developed more muscular bodies and two more arms evolving into even more efficient miners. Besides work, these people didn’t knew much. Their homes were the mines and they led peaceful lives never striving to explore the stars or create some advanced technology. But their lives are about to change.

 

Bul’hee

For thousands of years Bul’hee was a giant silent planet. What roamed beneath its bluish islands and icy mountains was unknown and no matter if there were predators in the waters or harmless herbivores in the hills, the circle of life went on and on without creating a dominant race that would conquer others. This natural way of coexistence ended however when an ancient race called “Eed” scanned Bul’hee and found that it was suitable for colonization. A highly ritualistic people, the Eed did not bring an armada. Instead they sent a single ship with one male and one female Eed. As their ancient custom, this couple should breed and spread the Eed race slowly. Adapting to the planet’s climate and life conditions they would evolve once again, they would recreate technology with the resources given, they would defend against nature’s disasters or any other races who dwell above or bellow the surface. Only if they survive will the Eed race move on. Only then will it truly change and really evolve. On some planets the couple would have thousands of children eating away all the resources of the planet taking everything by force, while on others science would flourish and endless stream of energy would be created. Every time a new extension of the Eed race is created. They have done this ritual thousands of times before and they have succeeded every single time, becoming stronger, smarter and faster in dominating the galaxy.

Lore sets the Score

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Even LORE has its own LORE

Even LORE has its own LORE

Since Dungeons & Dragons first came out in 1974, LORE became a big part of every game. Knowledge about the origin of fictional worlds started to become important. Life stories of heroes and villains made players more connected with characters & if they knew who the owner of a fictional Inn was it was a lot easier to play the “Lets pretend” game. This fashion kinda stopped when

Simple games like flappy bird conquered the market and lore became imprisoned only within MMORPGs, RPGs and Pen & Papper rpgs. I hope to change that.

Since my blog is aimed at helping more people get involved in game design, there are a lot of other areas they need to become good at too like: drawing, writing, singing and acting that will greatly improve their game creation. Why? Because if you can write a song, that can be used as a starting point for a custom race creation. If you try some voice acting (doesn’t have to be extremely good) that can bring your future character closer to you and your players, if you write a mini story about a village you could use it to later to expand your story from there and so on.

The latest game that I have been working on is called “Rhubber Man” and it will be a simple PC & Android game (as far as I know for now). I did the art and game design while my dear friend Helion did the code(as always). And when I played it yesterday (yes, the PC version is 90% complete) I realized something was missing. A story screen which explains why my main character is muscle pumped, why does he have four arms (yup, he has four arms) and why is he so eager to destroy his enemies?? Lots of questions!  But I plan on doing even more than just answering them.

In other words I WILL BE WRITING LORE!

Right here, on this blog. And this includes planet histories, character stories, art and more. The point? As always, teaching you the ways of game design through real examples. After reading through a couple of the upcoming LORE articles I hope you will have a clearer answer to the question:

Why should I create lore for my game?

So “stay awhile and listen”  😉

P.S. While I’m brewing my articles you can listen to the full lore of World of Warcraft

and also enjoy Blizzard’s latest mini story

these are great examples of what LORE truly is.

Home-brewed game jam weekends

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As you probably saw in my Pen&Papper article series, making a game nowadays is not as hard as it was back in the The Lost Vikings days. Although on this blog we made a simple board game, nowadays, we all have the hardware and software required to make a PC, mobile or console game. I frankly believe that we all have the ideas too. Something that we may lack is persistence.

Shoopy Games still makes prototypes and I know a lot of people in my country that do the same. Building prototypes is not a wrong thing but in time it could take productivity away. Many young game designers can’t keep working on one idea because they feel the next one that popped in their mind is a lot better. But jumping from one idea to the next actually makes you work less and less( I’ve experienced this multiple times on my team), so my advice would be to start with one really simple game and actually finish it in two weekends(yea…THAT SIMPLE). Then, add more features to the same game. This way you will never have an unfinished game.

Learn how to split your work and plan ahead.

Type the short game design document before the first weekend (during work on Friday :D).

Let’s say you want to make a simple game in which a ball needs to fall into a bucket. The bucket moves left and right and the ball stays in a static position on top. When the player taps the screen/pushes a button/clicks the mouse…the ball starts falling down. This is fun enough because the player will need to calculate both the speed of the moving bucket and the speed of gravity and actually tap the ball earlier so that it falls exactly inside a bucket that has just arrived (you get the picture).

Now, once you have the basic idea, split the work during weekends. If you’re unemployed doing this is really easy and you can try working on your game every day. Always work with a friend that keeps you motivated.

So let’s see how this would go in Shoopy Games (the way me and my coding pal Helion do it):

  • First your whole team needs to decide to WORK for 12 hours on Friday (after work if you can), Saturday & Sunday.
  • Saturday: The game designer(in our case also doing art) explains the whole game in detail to the coder. Then gives him instructions on how to make a prototype with props (the bucket will be a 2D square and the ball will be a 2D circle) and a losing condition(ball falls outside of bucket). Then game design guy starts working himself on important art such as in-game background, the bucket and the ball. If the team consists of beginners, this is enough work for one day, if they’re more experienced all of this can be done with the speed of light!
  • Sunday: The development team implements the art to the finished prototype and commits a lot of time playing the newly born game. 🙂 With the art added, even at this point the first prototype represents a simple finished game. So if you’ve come this far you’re awesome. Sunday is usually art day, and the art guy/girl does some animations for the bucket movement, the ball movement, background animations and does the splash screen, loose screen, button states etc (as much as possible). Making the splash screen and its buttons work is simple for coders SO THEY NEED TO DO MORE! A score counter might be great. Nothing too fancy. If the ball falls in the bucket, 1 point is awarded and that is visible on the screen ( I NEED ART FOR A SCORE COUNTER ASAP! – yell so the art guy drawing next to you can actually hear you).

After this weekend you will realize that you’ve actually made a game!

Art looks great (usually pixel art with us), the game rewards players and tells them when they’ve lost. Next weekend should be reserved for background music and sound effects. We have another friend in our team known as Bole which usually does the music after we have a complete game so that he could wrap his head around the whole experience. Your music engineer may want to work differently so go ahead and ask him what suits him best. Once you have the music & sound effects, your coder will easily implement them(it’s easy but it takes time) to your game and you’re good to go.

Many of you know all of this and could feel weird when reading this sentence. But for those of you who never made a game before I hope that now you realize that it’s all about the desire to make a game. If this is present and is followed by persistence your first prototype is not far away.

I hope I’ve inspired those who still hesitate on whether to make their first game or not. Use this article as a guide and believe me you’ll have the time of your life!