Archive | December 2016

Daily Design: Post-Mortem

It’s over! Finally! I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel relieved, but it’s a (little) sad, too. It’s been a long, crazy year, and for many people – certainly myself – it hasn’t been a great one.

I started this year unemployed, and began this blog as a way to keep myself busy – even just a little – every single day. In that sense it worked wonderfully, but I realized pretty quickly that there were some serious issues. I decided to stick with the original idea for the whole year; a game concept built around three randomly generated words.

The following is a list of what I feel went wrong, what went right and what I’ll be doing next year.

What Went Wrong

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The Goal

So, I don’t like to say that “the idea” was wrong, but it was definitely flawed. Design is iteration, and by necessity I could only do a single run through of each post. This meant that it had precious little to do with game design, and everything to do with generating ideas; and there’s no value in being “an ideas guy”.

That said, there is obviously value in ideas, but I don’t think it ultimately taught me much about design. It did help me learn to conceptualise a game at a base level quickly, and I think there are some genuinely cool ideas among the 366 – but it wasn’t great for what I originally set out to do.

The Random Words 

I’ll admit it straight-up; I didn’t always use the first three random words I got. Some of them were very much inappropriate (the generators I used were apparently very much random) and others were simply foreign to me, or I just couldn’t understand how they could influence the idea. Similarly, some were just too similar to another word that generated alongside it.

Still, I tried to keep this to a minimum. My problem is largely how different the workload was on a day-to-day basis. Some days I’d smash it out in fifteen minutes, other days it would be two hours for roughly the same word count, and this usually came down to the generated words.

The idea of using randomly generated words was to challenge myself, but I think the restriction ultimately helped me, as they often do. Creativity can often be about sitting down and struggling through boredom while you try to, you know, create – having three words serve as a basis for an idea mostly bypassed this, to mixed results.

The Images

I credited people where I could, but the vast, vast majority simply came from Google images. I’m not sure if this is necessarily a “negative”, but I did find it frustrating at times – both because I wasn’t creating my own art (which would have been too time consuming), and because I spent the bulk of some posts just looking for an image that matched, and sometimes never managed to do so.

The Tone

I got sick of writing posts pretty quickly, which is no surprise. What this meant was that I quickly stopped experimenting with tone and style of writing and just settled into a kind of informal template – “X is a game about Y, etcetera”.

This is a lot less fun to read. I recognise that it was ultimately for my benefit and I wasn’t specifically writing to an audience, but that’s no excuse to write poorly and leads to bad practices. Still, some days I had to write on my phone in car trips (we’ve all had days where we’re busy 24 hours, though rest assured I was a passenger) and having this kind of thing was a godsend.

This is a big factor in 2017’s goal, which I outline at the end.

The Tagging

I’m just the worst with tags. I wrote this blog as an exercise first and as entertainment a distant second, but maybe that was a mistake. Developing a following is a great two-way street for you and followers, and I regret not putting more time into garnering that kind of audience.

There are a few dedicated readers, and I genuinely appreciate them. Seeing certain names come up “X liked your post!” nearly every day is very rewarding (thanks! you all know who you are).

In the future I’ll work towards promoting the blog better, as well as making the reading more entertaining.

I Missed a Day

One day! A single one! That’s incredibly frustrating.

It was hard to keep a running count, basically. I have a life (really), and the blog wasn’t always (or honestly, ever) at the top of my concerns list. This makes it very hard to keep a running tally, and so I had a system – I would occasionally Google whatever the date was and see what day of the year it aligned with.

For example, I’d search “November 22nd”, and Google would tell me that it’s the 326th day of the year. Doing Daily Design: 326 on November 22nd? Great!

What I failed to account for is the fact that we’re in a leap year, which would make it the 327th day. At some point, somewhere, somehow, I missed a single day and didn’t notice for a long time because of this. On the bright side, I did so in a leap year – maybe that lets me break even?

What Went Right

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It’s a Great Writing Exercise

This is the big one – writing every day, even a little, is an incredible way to improve. I know that’s true of everything, but writing is coming a lot more quickly and naturally to me now than ever before, and I absolutely attribute that to having written every single day this year.

It wasn’t necessarily a great creative writing exercise, and I still take a while to create characters, scenes and so on, but I absolutely recommend doing something similar to anybody interested in writing.

You’ll hear this, time and again, from every successful writer in the world. Want to write for a living? Then start writing. It’s a skill, like any other – you need to practice it in some form. This blog has been a great way to do that.

It Led to Some Great Ideas

I originally planned to do a kind of “Top 5 favourite ideas” list, but then realised I absolutely could not be fucked to do so. Still, some ideas are stand well-and-truly above the rest. I don’t remember the names of them (there are 366!), but a few were ideas that I believe hold genuine merit and could be developed into something successful and interesting.

This isn’t true of the majority, though. Many are basically reskins of others, intentionally or otherwise. Some are simply terrible ideas, others aren’t commercially viable, others may be commercially viable but just aren’t unique or interesting. Still, the handful that are really great more than make up for this, at least to me.

The Names

I struggled whether or not to put this in the “Right” or “Wrong” section, but ultimately I’m pretty happy with them. They mostly rely on alliteration, but some are really great, my far favourite being the early “Conflict of Interest” in a war game about destroying your own structures to generate an income. Others – like “Avoid Molten Chickens” – maybe weren’t so interesting.

It Got Me a Job

That’s right – I’m employed! In my industry! I haven’t properly started yet (soon!), but it’s a great feeling.

I can’t realistically say that this blog got me the job, but it sure didn’t hurt. When somebody asks “What have you been doing this year?” and I truthfully answer with “Stopping the Burning Legion from destroying Azeroth”, I’m a lot less likely to be hired. Being able to prove that I’ve been part of a creative endeavour, however small, was essential.

It Stopped Me Being Depressed

Realistically, not depressed – I don’t actually have depression, and I want to make that clear. However, being unemployed for a long time has been the most challenging point of my life.

To those who haven’t been unemployed for several consecutive months – it’s awful. I know that’s probably what you were expecting, but seriously, it’s the fucking worst. Do not recommend.

Without a work/life balance, I could never relax. Spent 9:00 to 7:00 looking for work and building a portfolio? Good luck enjoying 7:01 – 10:30 or whenever you go to bed, because trying to enjoy yourself will make you feel immensely guilty. It sucks.

Applying for work is also awful. Ever tried to go into a store with your resume post-2010? Every manager I’ve met just gives me a look that mixes apathy with intense pity and tells me that they only accept applications online.

Go online and you’ll spend upwards of 2 hours on filling out individual application forms, then send along your resume and cover letter (and prepare to be re-asked questions that you’ve extensively covered in that paperwork).

That stuff is fine – my problem is that there’s absolutely no payout in any form until you happen to get lucky. And it is luck; with thousands of applicants for some jobs, there’s an extremely high chance your resume simply won’t even be looked at. But spending hours a day to receive nothing but a handful of rejection letters isn’t great for your mental health.

Having something stable to keep me occupied and productive in this time has been invaluable, and I cherish it immensely, even if I didn’t always enjoy actually doing it.

It’s Done

I did it! For the whole year! I had no shortage of doubters (mostly close friends who are unabashedly honest with me), and I don’t blame them, because I’ve dropped out of similar commitments in my formative years.

Having done it, I’m damn proud. It’s not climbing Everest, it’s not winning a grand award and it’s certainly not becoming the president with literally no political experience, but I did it, and I’m happy about that.

What’s Happening Next

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Through 2017, I’ll still be updating the blog daily, but I’ll essentially be rambling about an individual facet of games. Health Bars, for example, or ammo counters, skill systems, talent trees, shoes, strange trends, whatever.

It’s way more loose, thematically. I’m basically going to incoherently ramble at my PC for several minutes a day and hope people enjoy the read. They’ll be stream-of-consciousness posts, and I hope to basically dissect an idea and give some (hopefully informative) thoughts on the subject.

It’ll be design focused, so I won’t be rambling on about specific industry terms unless I feel it really helps nail a point home. I hope you enjoy it!

Thanks a lot for reading this and, if you did, for reading my previous posts. It means a lot, and I hope to see you continuining to read them in the future.

Happy new year!

The Final Daily Design: Day 366

Daily Design is a series of game concepts devised daily through all of 2016. These are just basic concepts, designed based on randomly generated words. Today, they are;

Classroom, Neglect and Language. 

As such, the game I’ve designed today is…

Brief

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Brief is an asymmetrical multiplayer cooperative game about a terrible military briefing and the subsequent – and equally terrible – military operation.

Players begin each game in a team, either pre-formed or grouped with strangers. From this team, one player is randomly selected to be the Commanding Officer, and it’s their job to brief the others on their objectives.

The Commanding Officer (or CO) is given all the information they need. They’ll be given a detailed description of the objectives, the area that the mission is taking place in, the evacuation point and enemy details. It’s their job to convey this to the rest of the team before the mission begins – unfortunately, they can only do so by drawing information on a whiteboard.

Once the briefing begins, the mission timer starts to tick down, so the longer that the team spends in briefing the less time they have to complete the actual mission. Each team member can designate themselves as ready at any time, and when more than half the team is ready the operation begins.

The actual operation takes place as a first-person shooter in a procedurally generated environment. Objectives and enemies are randomised, too – sometimes it may be hostage extraction, sometimes it’s bomb disposal, sometimes it’s simply clearing out the area. There are other factors, such as certain NPCs in the area that are friendly, and so this should all be communicated in the briefing. Players can’t actually see the time limit counter, either – though they can set a timer on their in-game watch at any time, even in the briefing. If the CO is good at their job, this means that most players should have a rough idea of the time limit.

During the operation, the CO controls security cameras in the area and can choose to relay the feed of one to the team’s HUD at any time (it takes up a small space in the corner). The idea is to keep the CO active by having them show the most important areas at any given time. They can also view the map from several angles and see how the team is performing, as well as watch objectives get ticked off in real time.

The most obvious problem with the idea is that players can communicate via voice chat outside of the game, which undermines the whole idea. I’m not personally worried – I think the game would be a lot less fun, but if players want to play that way, that’s their prerogative. I can’t see an unlock system being especially fun if it was based on performance, though, as it would massively encourage this kind of “cheating”. New weapons or cosmetic options could be unlocked via play time, though.

That’s it! Thanks a lot for reading. That was the final Daily Design! A special thanks to those of you who have followed along, especially to those who have taken the time to provide feedback. Thanks to those who have liked most of the posts throughout the year (you know who you are!). 

I’ll be writing a post-mortem in a few hours that goes over what I feel did and didn’t work about the whole year of writing. I’m largely relieved, but that’s massively offset by the fact that I plan to do something similar (though different) through 2017. 

Thanks again! Enjoy the new year. 

 

Daily Design: Day 365

Daily Design is a series of game concepts devised daily through all of 2016. These are just basic concepts, designed based on randomly generated words. Today, they are;

Research, Competition and Stem.

As such, the game I’ve designed today is…

Culture War

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Culture War is a multiplayer strategy game about two laboratories that are competing to create the first Panacea – an elixir capable of curing all disease. In order to turn a profit – which is obviously the sole purpose of all forms of science – each lab is aiming to be the first to create and patent it.

Each player manages a lab of their own, and there are up to four players per match. Players mostly focus on resource management – what their staff should focus on, how to designate resources (money, materials) and so on.

The Panacea project is how players win the game. The first person to complete this project is declared the winner, but just rushing for the project almost certainly won’t work. Project time is based on how many scientists are assigned to the project, the quality of available facilities and materials and staff morale. All of these things are affected by completing other projects and assigning staff.

So, say players begin with 3 staff members. One can be assigned to researching better facilities (such as improved laboratory equipment or sleeping quarters) that improve other areas. Another may become a chef, which improves morale that affects each staff member’s performance across the board, and so on.

Players can also research things to be used against their opponents, such as creating mutants to attack their lab and potentially kidnap staff. This means that defense is also important – but spending too much on defense may cause you to fall behind elsewhere. Players can also spend resources to scout their opponents and get a rough approximation of their progress.

That’s it! Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow with the (final!) Daily Design. 

Daily Design: Day 364

Daily Design is a series of game concepts devised daily through all of 2016. These are just basic concepts, designed based on randomly generated words. Today, they are;

Bomb, Top and Traffic. 

As such, the game I’ve designed today is…

Mile-A-Minute

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Just to make this as concise as possible, Mile-A-Minute is just the movie Speed, only in a car. If the car falls below a certain speed, the car explodes and the game is over.

It’s a kind of combination of survival games, endless runners and racing games. Players drive along a procedurally (and endlessly) generated highway, dodging traffic and other obstacles for as long as possible. The game slowly increases in difficulty (more obstacles, faster traffic and so on) until the player fails, at which point they’re awarded a score based on their performance.

Score can be increased by performing stunts, such as going off jumps and weaving through oncoming traffic. Riskier play is awarded with a higher score, but is more likely to reduce the time survived. Points can be used to customise the car and unlock new vehicles entirely.

There’s also a multiplier mode, in which player drive in a large loop going in different directions. There can be an odd number of players (up to 12), and each subsequent player begins driving in a different direction – so, the first play with drive clockwise around the track, the second will drive counter-clockwise, the third clockwise and so on.

There’s still traffic in this mode, and it still increases in difficulty. The last surviving player is declared the winner regardless of score, and players also have to take care to not hit each other.

That’s it! Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow with another quick game concept. 

 

Daily Design: Day 363

Daily Design is a series of game concepts devised daily through all of 2016. These are just basic concepts, designed based on randomly generated words. Today, they are;

Chicken, Swell and Gratification. 

As such, the game I’ve designed today is…

Pride Before the Fowl

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In Pride Before the Fowl, players manipulate events from the shadows to make a chicken feel like an extraordinary hero.

It’s a 2D side-scrolling puzzle game, more than a little bit like Lemmings. There’s a single character (the chicken) who constantly walks across the screen unless something (like a door) is stopping it. The chicken will constantly walk and will willingly walk to its death, because it’s not so bright.

To stop this, players can reorder the level in several ways. Certain items will have a glow that indicates they can be manipulated – these items can be dragged out of the level and added to the player’s inventory, which allows them to be replaced elsewhere. Players also begin each level with a small set of items, determined by the level itself.

The idea is to get the chicken to the exit safely, but also by making it do death-defying and impressive stunts along the way to earn Pride. Pride can be spent on unlocking new upgrades and levels, and is earned by having the chicken do things like killing monsters, bravely dodging traps and so on. Pride isn’t optional, but all levels can be replayed to earn more, and each level also has a rating (from bronze to gold) based on how much Pride is earned in a single run.

The obstacles are things like ramps, collectable items (like parachutes) and barricades – basically things that manipulate the movement of the chicken, It’s essentially a simplified version of Lemmings, where players are rewarded for making their run more complicated and fun to watch.

That’s it! Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow with another quick game concept. 

Daily Design: Day 362

Daily Design is a series of game concepts devised daily through all of 2016. These are just basic concepts, designed based on randomly generated words. Today, they are;

Slide, Rotation and Friendly. 

As such, the game I’ve designed today is…

Cold Shoulder

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Cold Shoulder is a two-player competitive game about snowboarding. Player 1 tries to ride for as long as possible without falling off the course, and player 2 builds the course in front of them as they go.

For player 1, it’s a fairly simple (isometric) snowboarding game. The course has sides, and the player can fall off them easily, so they have to be cautious. Otherwise there are also ramps – jumping off these grants large point bonuses, but “stacking” will result in disqualification.

Player 2 generates the course by moving the cursor – the course automatically generates wherever they’ve placed it. However, they can also change the height (up or down) by holding the corresponding button. The idea is to make the course as difficult as possible – ramps are a good way to encourage the other player to take risky jumps, but may result in granting them more points.

After the first round is over, players switch roles and start again. Rounds go until the first player fails, but the game constantly speeds up to avoid going for too long. After both rounds, a winner is declared – this is based on the total score of each player, which is a combination of tricks performed and time survived.

That’s it! Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow with another quick game concept. 

Daily Design: Day 361

Daily Design is a series of game concepts devised daily through all of 2016. These are just basic concepts, designed based on randomly generated words. Today, they are;

Slime, Sensitivity and Retire.

As such, the game I’ve designed today is…

No Country For Old Slime

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No Country For Old Slime tells the story of a once-great hero slaying slime monster, long-since retired. Players take the role of this (player-created) slime as it finds itself roped back into the business.

It’s a turn-based RPG in which players form a party of monsters and have to guard dungeons against hopeful adventurers. Players have access to a customisable and upgradeable lair, from which they can select missions, customise their party and evolve their slime.

Each mission is a series of battles against adventurers, but players also have access to an arena in which they can fight other monsters. By defeating monsters in the arena, they can recruit them for their own party – monsters can be collected Pokémon-style but only 3 can be added to the party at any given time (for a total of 4 members including the slime).

By levelling up and collecting items from battles and missions, players can evolve their slime in several ways. They essentially select the statistics to upgrade – strength, intellect, endurance and so on. As these increase the slime will change appearance according to it’s stats, becoming more imposing as it grows in strength or more mystical as it gains magical power. Players can choose to customise their slime’s appearance separately from this growth, though.

It’s essentially a turn-based RPG for people who love that kind of combat but aren’t as big on the exploration or story (I swear they exist!). The idea is to build powerful parties, tackle increasingly difficult battles and watch your protagonist grow (literally).

That’s it! Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow with another quick game concept.