How to “Start small to reach Your goal” ?

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I bet the quoted sentence in the heading of this article is something you’ve heard countless times. So have I. It is a self-explanatory sentence which requires little or no debate. Or is it? When put in the appropriate context within game design it sparks joy with one amateur game designer while at the same time awakens fear in another. I am afraid that when it was up to me, I was the latter of these two examples. Here’s why. A large chunk of my past time when I was in high-school was spent on creating complex card-game systems, fighting systems that can be used in various pen & paper RPGs and I remember Martin a.k.a. Helion doing a board game similar to chess involving mirrors and lasers.

So you see we were not the “start small” type of guys. This made things difficult for us to start with. Even our own point and click adventure game “Who I am” which we did on a game jam included three levels which was much more than needed if seen from today’s perspective. Instead of making it easy, we kept making it harder for us, because we loved working hard when working on games. We did not like simplicity in games. I remember the day when I got my first tablet and went deep into Android trying to discover a world of games previously untouched. I was devastated when I faced what gaming has come to. And what works. You know the answer, that same old – simplicity. At first it was a huge shock to me when I saw games like endless runners, match three games and “strategy” monetization machines covered with a layer of sweet design on top. Then, luckily I played games like Monument Valley and The Room which gave me hope and thought me a lot about today’s “small” games.

If need arises, give yourself a limit, make it a challenge!

My initial though was “Ok, make a stupid little game, earn some money, so you can make that big cool game you’ve always wanted.” But being exposed through The Internet to all those beautiful games developers are creating by themselves, in time crushed my boring idea I had one sentence ago. I realized I can enjoy the game development process with all of my games, no matter how small they are. Doesn’t mean they should be dumb. Actually being small makes them more challenging. A book can describe everything in detail since there is no page limit, but if you read short stories like I do, you can see that there is much that can be done with one page of text because there is a limit. Same goes for comic-book text ūüėČ

And if you stop and think for a minute you will see that there is a natural limit to everything. You can overdo work, but eventually you will faint ūüėõ You can play games for 12 hours strait and you will probably end up with the same result. This is why it is really important to do as much as you can within the limits you can and will set for yourself. A wonderful small game that manages to do a lot with just one level is Backterria’s RockRocket. I have probably mentioned it before and I will in the future ūüôā

This guy is a living proof that awesome games can be made and they can offer experiences like Journey or Firewatch with gameplay that lasts moments instead of hours.

In order to start small you need to change how you think.

“I was very sad when I realized I had to do small games before going to some of my bigger ideas. Yet to this day, all I have done are my small games.” – a quote…by me ūüėõ

It all started when I took all of my activities that I do in a day and severed them in separate chunks. Looking at them separately and putting some more thought into them. This actually helped me to enjoy them more and to become aware of all little daily tasks like: working on my PC, cooking, training, going to the store, walking my dog, talking on the phone… since I am a game designer I saw games within all of those things (Read my older article here that explains how). Finding out that these were not some boring every-day actions, rather tasks I actually find fun to do, (and have limited time to do) made me do them quite well.

This feeling/tactic transferred afterwards to everything I do, because I now knew that something small does not have to be something horrible, boring or something that signifies an amateur’s beginning . Some beginnings can be great so there is nothing wrong with creating a perfectly well made game that only has one level like Backterria’s game and there is nothing wrong in making more and more small games if you have too many ideas dwelling in Your mind.

Therefore sit back and explore yourself as a game designer and see how you work best. Are you that organized guy that really spends that 2-3 hours per day working on a game? Are you a total mess and need pressure to work hard but cannot create that pressure by yourself? Are you a night-crawler working weekends only from 4AM to 9AM? No matter. All of these game designers are creative I know. And everyone will tell you to let your creative side flow. I say the same. But I also say, let if flow into a nice little stream. Then slowly turn it into a river. Only then will you reach the lake.

Now go and make some small games people ūüôā

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Capoeira – a real life game

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I have been traveling these past months and I can’t say that it has not inspired me in many ways. Russia was a great country and before I even noticed I made some achievement icons for RhubberMan that kinda contained that red Soviet feel ūüôā

But my latest trip to Serbia took my inspiration for a spin like never before. I was on a big Capoeira event where almost all of the most famous Masters held classes for students from all over the world. I have been training for 5 years and the feeling is still the same as the first day I tried it. JUST GRAND!

But as I mentioned in a previous article¬†once you have the Eyes of game design you see everything as a game. Capoeira is easy to be regarded in this manner because this is exactly what it is – A GAME. It is a cultural phenomenon, a martial art that can really help with self-defense, a big spiritual boost, a healthy life philosophy and much more…

For me Capoeira means a lot, but on my blog I would like to focus on game-design and will try to describe Capoeira as a game:

Capoeira is a real-life¬†multiplayer¬†game played by minimum of 2 players but it is usually played by more than ten people. Everything starts and ends with and within the circle called the “roda”. It is a circle formed by people who are waiting to enter the game (to go inside the circle) and people who are playing various instruments.

A top down view would look like this (gta 1 style):

roda

Rules are everywhere. The play zone itself is formed out of players, so it is easy to make the zone smaller or bigger. The diameter of the circle is directly connected with the difficulty of the game. If it is extra small, that’s ULTRA HARD difficulty, while when it is large, the game is in easy mode. Players that are playing are guided by the music played by the band called “Bateria”. The type of the beat and the tempo directly dictates the speed and type of movements they use in the game.

Here is an example of the most basic beat:

Movements are split into escapes and attacks. One attacks, the other escapes then attacks and so on. Accompanied by acrobatics and smooth circle shaped movements, Capoeira is fun¬†to watch almost as much as it is to actually play. All movements require speed, strength, endurance and stamina (RPG elements ūüėõ ) and players get tired quickly(especially level 1 players).

This is why players switch often. A rested player who was forming the circle (on cool-down) by standing (while at the same time clapping and singing the song currently played) goes into¬†the “entrance” zone (see photo above), kneels and waits an approval from the leader of the band. Once the approval is given¬†he/she enters and plays with the more rested player inside the circle. The other player who is taken out of the game quickly goes to the “exit” zone, catches his breath, stands still and instantly starts singing and clapping. As new rested players go in the “entrance” zone, tired players go to the exit zone and thus the circle moves flawlessly from both sides. Everyone will play, everyone will rest, players will mix so that everyone plays against everyone.

It is a simple yet brilliantly made game system which evolved through the course of around 300 years.

As with many games, Capoeira also has many secrets for those who know where to look. More experienced players already have the skill “fluent in Portuguese” which enables them to understand every song and decipher the story behind it and the metaphor it represents. For example through a certain song a Master can secretly notify his student of a certain change in the game, warn him of a dangerous opponent or tell him to go easy. Another skill that is developed through continuous game sessions is the ability to always be aware of your surroundings. In this game, multitasking is key! Players must be aware of everyone’s attitude while standing in the circle, they should also clap and sing at the same time, follow the game of the players inside the circle, follow the songs, move a bit when the circle moves, watch their breathing, be ready to go in and to go out and lots of other things ALL at the same time.

Therefore, Capoeira is a big game with a lot of mini games which offer tons of variety and make every session feel fresh and different – there’s just sooo much to learn. One class you’ll learn to play on an instrument, on another you will learn your first direct hit, another time you will only sing.

The only game element which is not present in Capoeira is safety. Usually games keep players safe. Whatever happens in the game doesn’t apply in real life. Being a real life game, Capoeira influences all aspects of one’s life, if you make a mistake, you will be hit, if you don’t sing with real emotion the lack of energy will be felt and other players won’t get buffed by you. So please do not regard Capoeira as a versus fighting game. It is a cooperative game which teaches about team spirit, friendship, happiness, compassion, hardships and overcoming problems.

It is a game everyone should try.

Read more:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capoeira

Play this game:

http://www.shockwave.com/gamelanding/capfighter3.jsp

And no matter where you are in the world, ask for the group called Senzala. There you will learn to play the game!

http://www.barrapulmao.rs/ -Capoeira in Serbia

http://www.decacapoeira.com/ -Capoeira in Serbia for Kids

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 ūüôā

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. ūüôā 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!

Pen & Paper. All else LATER!

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A finished game is a unity of combined activities (game design, art, programming, management, prototyping, testing, publishing, promotion…) done by lots of¬†people who all know exactly what they’re doing. Before being¬†able to distinguish between all of these elements let’s start from the drawing board (it’s better than getting back to it).

You only know what your game looks like when it’s done.

You’ve probably heard this saying before and while it’s mostly true, there are a few place where you can see your game before you actually SEE it. The first place is your head. It’s the place where all ideas are born and it is imperative to transfer your game from your head to the real world as effectively as possible.

To do this grab the most trustworthy tools of the HUMANS – pen and paper!

It all starts here

It all starts here

Board games, card games, miniature games(even¬†Pen & Paper RPGs) – you can make them all just by investing time. These are the games you should start with. And today we’ll start a series of articles and youtube videos in which we’ll make a simple board game together.

Before we start, I’ll just make some notes here in this article that will guide me:

    • Our game is going to have two players
    • They will play against each other
    • Both move on a same path formed of fields
    • Fields have effects when players step on them
    • Effects could be determined by a six sided die or cards
    • Each player has to reach the opponent’s starting¬†field

Through these six¬†notes I’ve made the basis for our game. At this point it’s really important to continue with actual work rather than letting your creativity get the best of you (don’t think about the story of the game, don’t think about the characters, the theme, the name or anything else that will help you lose your focus).

So let’s start! Two players, two starting points, each player has to reach the starting point of the opponent. Good¬†enough. Time to draw a board (as SIMPLE as we can). Thought about using¬†Gimp¬†or Photoshop right now? Bad move(takes more time, and design is our least priority now).

Sticking with pen & paper I got this:

board

Having this done we have A LOT! We now know where players start¬†(or where they are summoned if they’re demons from other worlds and now they’re here in the arena of gods to prove who is….NO NO don’t go there! Stay here!) and how many fields they need to walk to reach their goals. Every game has some rules or boundaries in which players play. Board games, card games and pen and paper games usually have turns too. Instinctively we have already made the first rules:

  1. Players start here and here
  2. Players can walk
  3. Players walk only on fields

Let’s focus a bit on the second rule and ask ourselves? How do they walk? Well we could make them walk only in opposite directions, but if we do that and say “Each player can move 1 field on his turn” then they’ll both collide in the middle and then what happens? Are we stuck? No, in game design you’re never stuck, you just need to explore all possible options with the rules you’ve created this far. So let’s write this question down:

What happens when both players are on a same field?

  • ¬†They could both die and re-spawn at their start positions
  • ¬†They could both bounce one field in the opposite direction
  • ¬†The second player that reaches the same field kills the first player on that field (ludo board game)
  • ¬†They both roll a six sided die. The one who rolls less doesn’t move, the other moves one field forward – we’ll use this for now
  • ¬†Nothing happens they both stay on the same field together
  • ¬†Or even something better that¬†you can imagine

So, now we know that players move in opposite sides only(for now) and we have a question about their collision. We’ve chosen one answer for now in order to go on.

Writing everything down Is really important don’t forget that!


 

Next Stop – Field Effects

The simplest form of making effects for fields is making one effect for all of them. This is good enough to start with. Let’s create a simple rule where a player rolls a die once each turn after he/she moved. Now we have another question? What happens when the dice rolls. Let’s give some options here:

  • From 1-2: Player moves one field backwards
  • From 3-4: Player doesn’t move
  • From 5-6: Player moves one field forward

With what we’ve done by now¬†we are ready to show our prototype game. Yes! It was that fast.

Let’s look at our notes and form a¬†quick rule book out of them polishing our prototype a bit:

What happens in our game:

  1. Both players roll a six sided die to determine who goes first. (this is a classical board or card game rule)
  2. The one who rolled the highest number moves one field forward and rolls.
  3. The player who goes second moves one field forward and rolls the die.
  4. If they happen to be on a same field they both roll a die. The one who rolls the highest number moves one field forward, the other doesn’t move.
  5. The player who reaches the opposite starting position WINS the game.

I¬†hope that through our article and video I¬†gave you some insight into¬†beginner level game design in action! I will continue with these types of articles and with your help we’ll have a basic game in our hands. This is OUR game and we can shape it any way we want. If you have any ideas on how to improve this simple idea, please share your thoughts with me in the comments bellow.

 

Ok let’s write this…LEEEERRROOOOOYYYY JJJEEEENnnnkiiiiinnsss!!

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The picture for my first post

Click picture for more info

Sharing the same enthusiasm as this famous character, I plunge myself into the world of blogging. Already¬†did this some time ago really (got killed by whelps), but this is my one and only blog made purely out of fun. Hope to post a lot about games, game design, more games and some game reviews. That’s why the legendary battle cry!

So here’s just a quick “I AM” part so that you know who to blame after reading tons of gibberish. Besides being a Troll Hunter, in my spare time I studied¬†Business English and then moved to Marketing ending up as a content writer and a content curator who makes games during weekends with a friend.

 

Weird combo right?

For me creating a fantasy realms is the most fun thing ever! Drawing up some mountains, bringing¬†them to life with ancient spirits adding a lava river to spice things up and writing some big history events about that fictional world…Those kinds of things come natural when being a Dungeon Master is your thrill during weekends. I always imagined doing the same thing at work. Imbuing life into a product, creating a back story for the company, writing endless streams of articles or truly add meaning to a marketing campaign through some short compelling copy. And I really do this at the office which makes the bigger part of my day GREAT…the other part…yeeeaaa weeeelll…Blizzard could make those legendary cards drop more often…. ūüėÄ

Why games? Well, I guess my dad is the one to blame being an electronic engineer and hooking me on computers since the first day I opened my eyes in 1989…or maybe it was the third day I don’t really remember.

Then once I could use a keyboard it was The Lost Vikings, Lion King, Wolfenstein and after that…well you know how that goes… I still can’t understand though why I started doing game design 4 years ago and not earlier. I guess I was more¬†focused on making stories for games than the actual game design. But after playing games for more than 20 years, game prototypes kept coming…first on paper, then started doing some art in Gimp, then some board games and now, my own team Shoopy Games doing games on weekends…still can’t believe it! Two, extremely short games that you can check out here¬†(and a lot more prototypes that I’ll just skip sharing with you guys).

That’s all from my HELLO WORLD article.

Hope you liked it and hope you got a basic idea of who will be doing the writing around here.

Hope there’s no one out there who actually missed this video:

Lots of hope!

Now, I think it’s time to get to know my readers. Write something about you in the comments.

Or, just read more about Leeroy here:¬†http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leeroy_Jenkins ūüėÄ

Sound effect Credits