Postmortem – The Sound of Music

 Sound of Music Logo

A SCRAPS postmortem by Matthew Mathis

What once was is now no longer…

This is the story of a world in shambles with multiple societal casts that dictate the quality of life throughout the world.  This is the story of SCRAPS.  Scrappers are sent out into the wastelands to retrieve scraps of things leftover from a time when the world was still in one piece.  But our story had nothing to do with getting any old junk left around the world.  Ours didn’t bother worrying about the cast system or the morality of sending another person out on a potential death mission just to get some dusty old can of soda.  Ours was about the preservation of the last known piece of music in the world. The only beautiful thing left in a world devoid of beauty.

We were lucky in as much as having the core elements of the story and gameplay laid out for us beforehand.  Our team set out to make something that would take the preexisting SCRAPS story to another level. We had heard what other teams had done before us and we wanted to make something a bit different.  While other teams would be recovering items, we were recovering music.  Going after the intangible seems like a very difficult but worthwhile mission indeed.

 

What went right?

 

Dreams – By Thomas Gaff

Finding the right piece of music was far easier than we thought it would be.  Early on the team decided to use the idea of a world devoid of music except for one last rumored piece of it.  But with music comes usage problems.  We couldn’t just take any song off of the radio and place it in our game.  We needed something that was fitting to the mood of the game, but was available, and that the composer provided consent to use. It all fell into place at the end of the first week.  While surfing Twitter I stumbled across a post by composer Thomas Gaff, a close personal friend of mine, talking up his upcoming album.  So, letting curiosity get the best of me I followed the link to the sample clips he had and there it was: Dreams.  It had the right feel, it had the right ambience, and it was the right length.  It was perfect.  One of the hardest elements to procure fell right into our laps.  I called Thomas up and asked if it would be okay if I added it to our game and he immediately said yes with the simple caveat: just give me credit, done. That provided the footing with which to base the rest of the game off of.

 

PerFORCE your updates

Our initial impression and thoughts of Perforce (the software used to keep everybody’s workspaces synced up throughout the project) were honestly, abysmal. It felt clunky, user friendliness was out of the question, and the documentation to use it was basically written for a high level programmer to skim through as toilet material.  It seemed hopeless.  During the entire first week we struggled with un-textured materials and work reconciliation not coming through in the depot.  Thankfully we quickly discovered that it was a user side error and that the program was actually very efficient at the task it performed.  During the second week we had some major issues with uploads not coming through, it ended up with a team meeting in which we walked each member through the process of getting the latest revision of the software and uploading their changes.  This ultimately led to the ability of team members diagnosing problems in other members builds and being able to quickly implement the changes on their side and FORCING them over to the other persons client.  This allowed us to debug the game at a pace that would not have been possible using any other method.  This form of forced streamlining led our build and compile times to decrease dramatically each week from 2 minutes in the ALPHA week, to 45 seconds in the BETA week, and finally to less than 10 seconds in GOLD week.

 

All your SCRIPT are belong to meInspector

One of the challenges we faced was to resolve the problem of each team member writing their own scripts for the same function.  Initially this was not a problem, but when you have four different scripts for opening doors or sending a GUI message it can become a problem. We were making Unity save memory slots and think about scripts that all did the same thing, but had to have their own reference.  One of our most successful steps toward optimizing the game was the use of consolidated scripts.  We made a few scripts that had universal functionality.  By toggling serialized Boolean statements on a universal trigger script the designer could toggle audio, text, an interaction, wake up another object afterwards, destroy an object, play an animation, trigger a story sequence, activate a respawn location, or even adjust the setting of the over world such as toggling the world light on or off and setting the world darkness to the appropriate level at the appropriate time. Hell, we could even deal damage, play a sound, update health, update speed, and track the player location, all with the use of one or two scripts working in tandem.  Getting the world optimized by using similar scripts also reduced the bugs we had to chase in the long run, since changing the master script would resolve ALL similar problems throughout the world.  This in tandem with perforce meant that a developer could state a problem, a scripter could go type a line of code, and it would update everything it needed to, resolving the problem and any future problems that could have been caused in similar situations, all without ever actually touching the other designers scene.

 

Nice desktop background bro!

Skype played an instrumental part in our team’s success during this project.  It was the main method of contact between all of the team members and the screen sharing functionality allowed team members to share visually the exact problem they were experiencing.  On more than one occasion we had team members who claimed that the problems in their world were resolved, but when everything was checked in the persistent scene on another computer, the problems were not resolved.  Initially this resulted in small skirmishes in which each person was trying to prove that their work was functioning as intended.  Skype put the kibosh on all of that by allowing us a simple and quick way to confirm or disprove the functionality of a specific build of the product.  Often this lead to an advanced reconcile or a forced update of perforce to resolve the issue.  Without it the debugging process would have been so much more painful than it ended up being.

 

What went wrong?

 

Did you just touch me bro? I’m pretty sure you just touched me.

We had a pretty significant problem with colliders throughout development.  We literally had items falling through the world all the way up to the GOLD build.  While the implementation and use of colliders is really simple and straight forward we ran into a few case situation in which it caused nothing but headaches.  On occasion an asset would be considered “open” and when a mesh collider was attached to it Unity would spam the screen with critical errors, occasionally leading to a lockup of the system.  It was discovered, in the last week, that some of our team members were attaching colliders to empty game objects, causing the error.  This was happening because some of the assets consisted of multiple sub assets combined and held in place by a parent object, which was empty.  Colliders were being applied to the parent object, with the expectation that it would place a mesh collider around the entire object.  Well, it didn’t, and you know the rest…

 

You said “15 minutes”, it’s been 2 days…

One of our team members was consistently absent from the team.  Throughout the month he would sporadically show up and get work done.  The main problem was that his work would just appear in the depot without anybody knowing about it and the team would then have to spend time debugging the new problems that just basically appeared overnight.

 

You’re breaking up; I think we are losing our connection…

Being a team of individuals everyone had a different time slot that they were available for peak production.  Some of our members did the majority of their work at night well into the wee hours of the morning.  Others did work in the morning, and left by early afternoon.  Some had to deal with circumstances that required their time be spent elsewhere for unknown amounts of time while still others just didn’t show up.  The team was almost never in full sync which slowed our production cycle significantly.  This was most apparent when work was all but halted while waiting for an update from another designer. While this marred the team throughout the month there were moments of clarity and it eventually led to the development of the unified script to allow for offline alterations to be made to other designer’s scenes without requiring them to be online or interacting with their world directly.

 

Pride comes before the fall

Some of the team members were not happy about the use of universal scripts to consolidate the functions of the game.  This resulted in certain areas of the world being less optimized than others due to their refusal to use the assets.  It also resulted in lengthy debugging sessions during which time the best method of solution was screen sharing with others and explaining what it happening, and how to fix it.

 

Takeaways (Advice)

 

Don’t overreach but don’t sell yourself short. 

During the first week, make a level you think you can make, and then scale it down. Your lofty ideas are likely bigger than you have the time to achieve during this class.

World overview

 

Treat it like all you can eat sushi or a buffet.

Don’t try to build an entire encounter at one time.  Pick one of the elements of your level and get it working perfectly.  Then you can move on to the next one.  Don’t do anything just halfway.  If you got only halfway, it should be scrapped (forgive the pun).

 

Don’t get ahead of yourself.

Do what is required per week, don’t get ahead of yourself.  Don’t worry about polish in the first week. Get your systems working, get your puzzles up and functioning as intended, debug them, and do it again.  Short of throwing a quick texture on pink objects, don’t worry about that until week 2.

 

Learn perforce early.

Don’t wait until the end of week one to make sure everyone understands perforce and how to reconcile and submit.  Get the entire team understanding perforce and its use as early as possible.  This will save you so much trouble in the long run. Also, DON’T DELETE THE DEPOT. Got that?

 

Set a deadline and stick to it.

Don’t use the end of the week as the deadline for submissions.  If everyone submits on Sunday, that leaves you NO TIME to debug and test.  Require a submission from every team mate by Friday at the latest, then you have the weekend to tweak it and fix problems. This does not mean that once you submit on Friday you are done, you can still work on it during the weekend, but if you haven’t turned anything in until Sunday, how is the PLK supposed to stitch the world together or how are you supposed to bug test the whole world? Simple answer: You can’t.

 

If you saved, SUBMIT, unless….

This one is simple as it gets.  If you just saved your project in Unity, upload it to the depot.  If it was important enough for you to save on your end then surely it is important enough to backup. You’ll thank me later.  The only exception to this rule is if you have a critical error in your scene.  If you submit a scene with a critical error in it, DOING THAT WILL PREVENT EVERYONE ON THE TEAM FROM WORKING ON THE PROJECT. Don’t be that person.

Perforce

 

Disable your FPC!!!

Before you submit, disable you FPC and ensure your level is working as intended.  Believe me; not having to search the hierarchy for a pesky FPC who is ghosting around the level triggering all sorts of random stuff is worth the 1 second it takes to disable it before saving.

 

Conclusion

 

For whom the bell tolls…

Overall this project was a fun and exciting undertaking.  Along the way we had our highs and we had our lows but overall we came out on top.  From a purely personal standpoint this was one of the best experiences I have had at Full Sail up to this point.  It allowed me to flex my creative muscles but it also led me to a deeper understanding of what a team project will be like in the future.  A deeper understanding of many programs followed the tasks that were required throughout the weeks.  I learned more things about Unity than I previously knew, I learned a bit more about re-mastering audio using Adobe Audition, and I learned texture creation in Fireworks, Paint, and Illustrator.  I learned light mapping and creating glowing materials.  I discovered the usefulness of linking scripts up to each other both through the inspector and by getting components from unlikely places.  Last but not least, I learned that a team can achieve a lot more than an individual can.

 

References

Simche [username].  (2014). Sound of Music HD CLEARLOGO [image]. Retrieved from https://fanart.tv/movie/15121/the-sound-of-music/

 

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Game Journal – Massive Chalice

Designer/Developer: Double Fine Productions

Platforms: Linux, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, Xbox One

Release Date: June 1, 2015

Game Location: www.massivechalice.com

 

Explanation

Massive Chalice is a tactical combat strategy game that requires the player to not only manage their units on the battlefield, but throughout their lives.  There are no individual heroes in Massive Chalice.  The player’s characters WILL age and die throughout the gameplay experience.  Unlike most other games that take place in a small amount of time (say, a week, month, year or decade) Massive Chalice takes place over centuries.  Characters routinely die after about 50 years of age and the player is constantly tasked with training new heroes, seasoning them in combat, and passing on their bloodlines in order to raise the starting level of new attuned heroes.  Players have to deal with aspects like:

  • Genetic characteristics to pass down to future generations (trust me, you don’t want to be passing down the genetics of a character who has a maximum movement of 3)
  • The handling of the wills of dead heroes (passing on heirloom weapons).
  • Long term strategies that involve the defense of the country (protecting territory and getting success bonuses).
  • Individual decisions about heroes and citizens that arise during gameplay (sometimes it turns out very good, other times it turns out very bad).
  • Hero death (they die constantly, and permanently).

The gameplay is both methodical and fast paced at the same time.  Players have all the time in the world to make their decisions on the battlefield.  Even so, all it takes is a single wrong decision to ruin your day.  Players can be one shot by certain enemies.  The AI is smart enough to focus fire on specific targets, and they attempt to flank and pinch the heroes during combat.  Decision making is paramount in Massive Chalice.  Players have to research items, weapons, training all while handling combat, managing the country, managing dying and newly born heroes, and keeping their team as diverse as possible.  It is entirely possible to neglect the production of new attuned heroes for a few decades only to discover that you only have a handful of heroes to choose from, all your good heroes have died, and now you have to choose from level 1 children to fight your battle.  All bad.

Screenshot

Throughout gameplay the player’s territories will be attacked by the Cadence.  The three monoliths with glowing red squares beneath them show where the current cadence attacks are taking place.  As you can see in this image, there are currently three attacks taking place.  The player is only able to defend ONE of the three territories.  Each territory has three “lives” once it has been attacked three times without being defended the player loses that territory.  When the player successfully defends a territory, the amount of corruption it has is increased.  So if the cadence attacked a territory twice that the player chose not to defend it would only have one tick of corruption left.  If the third time the player chooses to defend that territory then the territory would gain a life back putting it back to two “lives”.  The game describes the “lives” as corruption.  Which makes sense.

World Screen

Below is an example of the research screen.  As you can see things are performed in years, not days or hours.  Typically this means that your current hero won’t be able to benefit from the research you recently started, they will either be old and decrepit or just plain dead by the time you complete three or four research options (dependent on what you research).

Research

Randomly as the game progresses certain scenarios will occur.  As you can see in this example the player has to make three tough decisions.  Each one will have a specific outcome that will affect the progress of the game in a positive or negative manner.  If the player chooses the first option they could miss out on an opportunity to learn more about the cadence.  If they choose the second option they lose an attuned hero.  The “Vanguard” box in the upper right tells the player that they will lose someone that they currently use to defend the cadence with.  The third option could result in the citizens of the territory becoming displeased or worse.  Hero’s attributes can be changed with decisions the player makes resulting in good or bad behavior in the battlefield.  In this example the hero Baltazar Weald will be gone for 10 years.  He will come back as an old man of 45, which in this game is close to the grave.  But he may also gain a new character attribute.  In another similar situation I encountered while playing I sent a character away for 10 years, only to be shipped back his weapon in a box and a message saying simply “I’m sorry”.  I lost a great hero that day…

Event

Here a hunter is shooting an arrow at a Cadence Advanced Seed. The range is just outside what an advanced seed can move in a single turn.  This would be an optimal position to be in if there weren’t two seeds below the hunter that flanked in from the right.

combat3

Players maneuver their characters based on a simple grid.  Below shows the area this hunter can move while still being allowed to perform a second action.  The player can choose to move outside of the orange area at the cost of an action. This is useful for rapid advance or retreat but typically is less useful than taking both a movement and attack action in each turn.

combat

 

Strategy

The heroes consist of three main types: Hunters, Caberjacks, and Alchemists.  Hunters are effective against single targets and at range, but they are weak defensively.  Caberjacks have high defense but they are a melee unit.  Alchemists are somewhat of a combination of the two.  They have a limited amount of ranged attacks that mainly consist of throwing bombs that deal AOE damage.  After they have depleted their ranged ammunition, they become high damage melee attackers.  Unfortunately, they are built like hunters, so they don’t hold up well to receiving damage.

Players of strategy games will immediately see the simple yet effective strategy of placing the caberjacks at the forefront of the battle in defensive positions while using the hunters and alchemists to deal the vast majority of the damage.

Dynamics

Hunters

Due to the two action turn system, hunters can be extremely effective if they utilize a retreat and attack method of fighting, also known as “kiting”.  The player can retreat to the furthest orange area in their hero’s movement radius and then shoot an arrow at the enemy.  This strategy can be compounded by the use of a special type of hunter called an enforcer.  Enforcers can utilize knock-back attack which further increases the distance between the hunter and enemy at the end of each turn.

Caberjacks

Caberjacks are really useful for blocking bottlenecks on the map.  If players use caberjacks to fill small holes on the map the enemies will be forced to take turns trying to kill your strongest unit.  Which allows your hunters and alchemists to wreak havoc on the enemy forces.  Players should combine alchemist with caberjacks so that they can breed blastcappers.  Blastcappers are caberjacks who can deal AOE damage to enemies.  It is devastatingly effective when combined with the bottlenecking strategy mentioned earlier.  Enemies will line up just to get smashed into minuscule particles by the power of the blast cap.

Alchemists

Alchemists are mostly a utility unit.  They are best kept near the center of your formation so that they can provide AOE support as needed.  Players should avoid using the ranged attacks of the alchemist on single units since they are limited and AOE.  Because of the ability of the alchemist to dispatch multiple units per attack, it is a wise investment to research the upgraded throwing claw early on.  This will allow the alchemist to throw further.  When paired with a hunter who has the advanced technique of listening to the enemy the alchemist becomes a murder machine.  All other characters are limited by line of sight for their attacks but not the alchemist.  Players can position hunters against a rock face or similar obstructing object to listen for the cadence soldiers on the other side.  The sound markers can then be used to aid the alchemist in throwing a bomb over the obstruction, decimating all of the enemies on the other side without ever needing to be in line of sight.

Additional Notes

The manipulation of time has long been a novel theme for games but to my knowledge it has never been applied in such a massive fashion.  Fast forwarding through years is so interesting and it raises questions about how important characters are in games now.

Similar Games

Heroes of Might and Magic

Final Fantasy Tactics

Fallout Tactics

Jeanne D’Arc

Design Ideas

The idea of having time progress in such a macro fashion gives me ideas for all sorts of games. I could foresee a game in which players manipulate time on the micro scale instead of the macro scale.  Where this game progresses in years I could create a game where the player is manipulating milliseconds.  The concept of the game could be something atomic in nature.  Maybe handling  and manipulating atoms in an attempt to create different elements or reactions.  Another idea could be having situations where the player is faced with situations that require split second decisions but the player is limited by the speed of the current avatars thought process.  The game could progress in slow motion allowing the player to make decisions each time the avatars thought cycle completes.  Afterward the player could be shown the entire scene played out in real time using the decisions they made while in micro time.  Situations could be things like car crashes, robberies, fights, deactivating bombs, manipulating delicate objects or even controlling packets through a computer system critical for defending a cyber attack.  Anything is really possible.

Game Journal – Fallout Shelter

Title: Fallout Shelter

Designer/Developer: Bethesda

Platforms: iOS, Android

Platform Tested: Android

Release Date: August 13, 2015 – Android

Game Location: Your Local App Market

 

Explanation

Fallout Shelter is a widely popular mobile game in which the player takes on the role of a vault administrator from the popular Fallout series.  Gameplay mainly consists of players building and maintaining their vault.  Gathering resources, fighting fires, defending the vault from enemies, and exploring the wasteland are all parts of the experience.  If you are looking for a mobile version of the popular console games, you have come to the wrong place.  This game is mobile, thru and thru, and rightfully so.

 

The gameplay is not meant to be something the player actively engages, or so it seems.  Periodic check backs are more than enough to keep the game flowing.  As a matter of fact, if the player decides to sit and stare at the screen they will be introduced to the fine art of waiting.  Unless you are attempting to achieve a Zen like state, it’s probably best to collect your resources and pocked your device for another 10 minutes.  If you do decide to zone out on the screen however, Fallout Shelter does not force the player to sit idle for hours, or DAYS at a time.  The longest the player will be waiting to do something is minutes at most.  Many players and reviewers alike, have criticized the game for being slow, boring, and monotonous.  To them I say, QQ moar, it is a mobile game.  I don’t disagree that the game definitely has some pacing issues, but from a design point of view it hits the mobile game mark perfectly.  The controls are simple, the pace is not hectic and allows for periodic play sessions throughout the day, the gameplay is forgiving, and it has a well thought-out monetary system.  On top of that, it is MOBILE, and it’s FREE.  I find it hard to complain about something that was handed to me for absolutely nothing, but that might just be me.

 

Screenshot

This first image shows the game as the player will typically see it.  The layout of the players vault is shown and the selected room is denoted by the green brackets in the corners (as seen on the far right lower room).  Screenshot_2015-08-16-07-58-27The top of the screen shows the player information about their vault.  From left to right, the amount of Dwellers (people) they have in the vault, the dweller happiness, electricity, food, water, caps, and level up selection icon.  The bottom of the screen holds most of the player interaction options.  Again from left to right, the clipboard shows stats about the currently selected room, the camera allows the player to take a screenshot, the room name, SPECIAL indicator, room production rate, next production time, rush button, and the main option button.

Other screens allow the player to select individual dwellers to see their stats and their current actions. This particular dweller is out exploring the wasteland for gear and caps. The player can also opt to see all of the dwellers they have in a sort of roster list.  It displays the dwellers name, level, SPECIAL, happiness, current work status, and what their job is.

Screenshot_2015-08-16-07-58-30 Screenshot_2015-08-16-07-56-46

 

Strategy

The strategies in this game are very simple and yet somewhat unintuitive at the same time. Here are a few examples of strategies that will aid you while you are playing.

  • Complete challenges often.
    • Challenges give caps, but they can also provide the user with a lunch pail. The lunch pail can have many strong and rare items in it which can greatly benefit the player. Completing challenges eliminates them from the challenge board and allows new challenges to be drawn up. The more you complete, the higher your chances are of getting a challenge that rewards a lunch pail.
  • Stack characters in rooms during hazards.
    • When a fire breaks out or radroaches start invading your compound don’t just let the dwellers who are in the room handle it. Max out the number of dwellers in that area to help eliminate the problem as quickly as possible. You can also cycle out low health Dwellers with others to prevent unnecessary death and resurrection cost.
  • Don’t rush if the risk is over 40%.
    • It seems as if the percent calculations for rushing production are not completely fair. If possible avoid every using rush when the percent is over 40%. It is almost guaranteed to fail. That being said, a really good time to rush is right after a standard production cycle. The risk percent drops and the player can usually get a two for one bonus on production.
  • Assign dwellers to their best suited task.
    • Use the SPECIAL meters to gauge the players best task. If they have more strength than any other stat, then they should be manning the power generators. Each room has a letter identifier that shows what it requires to function. Pick the best characters for each room and you will be producing more resources faster. This can greatly ease the difficult of managing the systems of the game.
  • Build out not down
    • Before you proceed to dig your way down, you should focus on building as far horizontally as you possibly can. If you place similar rooms next to each other, they will merge into larger versions of themselves, increasing the amount of workers allowed in the room and increasing the productivity of the facility. If you caps permit, you should try merging level one facilities when placing them. Just make sure that you have the room maxed out before you expand. NOTE: In order for rooms to merge they must also be the same level. You cannot merge a level 1 kitchen with a level 2 kitchen, if they are adjacent and you make them both level 2, they will merge.
  • EXPLORE
    • You should always have at least one person out exploring the wasteland. This is a very effective way of getting gear and caps. Just be aware, the Dweller who is exploring takes half the time they spent exploring to return. If they were out for an hour, they will take 30 minutes to return. Once they start facing enemies they can’t kill, it is typically a good idea to turn around. Otherwise you will be paying to revive them, which is never fun.

 

Dynamics

Due to the nature of the game there are not a lot of dynamics that occur during gameplay.  One dynamic that is usable though is during a raid.  When a raid occurs the raiders will walk through the vault rooms sequentially.  They stop in any room that is occupied.  One simple tactic to ease the danger of a raider attack is to leave one person in each top level room, including the front door.  The raiders will stop in every room spending time there to loot and pillage.  If you move your attacking force into each room as the raiders switch rooms you can effectively force them to walk through each room twice, doubling the amount of damage you deal, which prevents them from reaching further down into the depths of your vault.

 

Additional Notes

This game serves its purpose as a reminder of the soon to be epic-ness of Fallout 4.

 

Similar Games

  • Tiny Tower
  • Tiny Tower: Vegas

 

Design Ideas

The gameplay itself does not inspire much in regards to design ideas but the menu system they utilized in the game does.  I have thought of a small game where the player just sends units out to retrieve items like the exploration in Fallout Shelter.  But with no real reasoning behind sending a person out the idea kind of flops.  The 2D and 3D art mix that they used in this game is inspiring though. Additionally, the menu system they created is absolutely astounding.  It gives me ideas for other similar types of menu systems.  I believe that iconic loading screens and menus help provide a sense of immersion to the player.  Using common assets like character faces, in game items, and other such things as button elements in a menu is a great way to subtlety introduce a character to an important aspect of the game without blatantly telling them “LOOK AT THIS”.

Game Journal – Corrypt

Designer: Michael Brough

Platform: Web Browser

Date: May 8, 2014

Game Location: http://mightyvision.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/corrypt.html

 

Explanation

Corrypt is a Sokoban (warehouse keeper) style puzzle game in which the players must retrieve mushrooms and solve box puzzles in order to progress. Initially players must simply solve movement puzzles that involve pushing or pulling boxes with the goal of reaching mushrooms. Throughout the game NPCs warn you about magic and ask for your help. After successfully saving one of the NPCs children you are introduced to a magician. He begins casting spells that affect the world around you. The spells the magician casts either remove or add tiles on the screen. Your character is also able to use magic at a price. As the game progresses the magic begins overrunning the world and eventually leads to what I would describe as a calamity. The game ends when the player has collected all 7 score gems as the magic finally overruns the world, causing more changes than the player can keep up with and it fades into nothingness.

 

 

Screenshot

Corrypt Screenshot

The purple headed figure in the center of the screen is the player character. Notice the mushroom near the top of the screen, these are collected and used for various reasons like purchasing magic (mostly) and helping other characters in the game (somewhat). The orange box next to the character are the puzzle elements that often block your path, in this image the box needs to be placed on the small blue circle adjacent of it. This will cause the blue blocks in the upper right to “disappear” or open would be a better term. This image is of an older build of the game. In the current build there is a counter on the right side of the screen (in the grey area) that shows the amount of mushrooms you have collected, your magic, and your point tiles if you have any. The bottom right shows the map of the area you are in and the two icons at the top right represent the backspace (undo) and escape (menu) options available to the character.

 

Strategy

  • Trial and Error
    • While this may not be a valid strategy in the typical sense it is in Corrypt. Players can undo changes they made by hitting Backspace (Delete on Mac). This resets the room they are currently in to its default position.   Allowing players to reset the screen provides them with a clean slate to begin from, thus allowing new movement combination to be used with the hope of successfully completing the puzzle.
  • Build Up
    • Players are provided more and more complex puzzles throughout the game. By adapting the lessons learned from previous puzzles players should be able to determine the correct solution to the current problem.
  • Use Magic
    • If a player is truly stuck they can resort to using magic to make a cheap hole in the area they desire. This can aid players by allowing them to circumvent areas they are struggling with.
  • Watch a Walkthrough

 

Dynamics

  • Because magic costs three mushrooms to purchase if a player uses it unwisely they can find themselves unable to proceed. Using magic can also be a double edged sword. While it may make a specific puzzle simpler, it can also unexpectedly increase the difficulty of another puzzle.
  • Because the “magic effect” can occur anytime you enter a room that is new, contains a new item, or has a magician in it the game can become extremely frustrating in a short amount of time.
  • The character pushes and pulls boxes adjacent to it. This can cause problems when a player only wants to walk away from the boxes and increases the complexity of what looks to be a simple puzzle.
  • Collecting score gems destabilizes the world as evident in the screen and in the music. This provides the player with the sensation that they may have just done something they shouldn’t have.

 

Additional Notes

For me the way the world ends after using magic had significance to it. It made if feel like the designer was trying to convey the concept of life itself. If we continually alter everything around us eventually there will be nothing left. I also liked the idea of having a game world become more or less explore able depending on user based decisions as well as scripted events. This is an interesting concept that I applied in my final project game in Programming Fundamentals, the player was able to destroy certain walls so that they could progress, but radiation would leak out sometimes blocking a path requiring the player to walk through it to go back, this would lower your health. Players had to think about their next move carefully in order to make it to the exit successfully.

 

Similar Games

Yellow Out – Move vehicles in a parking area to provide a way for the yellow car to drive out.

Sokoban – The original warehouse keeper. Push boxes onto the designated positions in order to progress. Playable at: http://sokoban.info/

 

Design Ideas

I have actually used the idea of this style of game to produce some similar box pushing games myself. Though they are nothing in comparison to the polish and complexity of the games presented here I was proud of it. Relating it to other games though may prove to be an interesting concept. Imagine a board game, maybe a dungeon crawler in which you have to find a key to exit the dungeon. The key could be behind a box puzzle and the player would need to solve the box puzzle while fighting monsters (and survive) in order to exit the dungeon.

Game Journal – Depression Quest

Designers: Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey, Isaac Schankler

Platform: Web Browser, Steam

Release Date: Feb 14, 2013

Game Location: http://www.depressionquest.com/dqfinal.html

 

Explanation

Depression Quest is a click through adventure in which the player lives as a person suffering from depression. The game is almost completely text based with a couple images and sound effects smattered throughout to provide a sense of being. Players navigate the game through predefined answers usually to questions given by other characters in the story. As the player makes decisions the options available to the player can increase or decrease but there are usually one or more options that are completely out of the question. The blocked options are the ones that the player would likely want to choose but the character literally cannot bring their self to that solution no matter how bad they want to. As the player progresses a text box on the bottom of the page explains the level of depression your avatar is experiencing. The goal of the game is not just to make it to the end, but to keep your avatar alive. As you play and coping options begin to become increasingly sparse and the player is forced to make decisions they may not want to. Eventually the player may end up running out of options, which does not seem to end well for the player’s avatar.

 

Screenshot

Depression Quest Screenshot

Notice the three grey bars at the bottom of the screen. These represent your avatar’s level of depression, whether a therapist is being seen or not, and if medication is being taken. The messages in the three boxes explain exactly how depressed the character is feeling and what they are struggling with. It also shows how well sessions with a therapist are going and how the avatar feels towards the drugs that are being used to treat them, if any. The pictures in the top center of the page change depending on what situation the player is in. The keyboard as seen here is representative of the character being in front of his computer. The game also includes music and sound effects that are associated with the picture being shown. The left side of the screen always has a link to restart the game in case you get stuck or cannot continue on. When options are available to the player they appear as the blue text seen near the bottom of the screen. The red text has been struck-through and is not available for selection. Players make decisions by clicking on the desired response in blue. Additionally throughout the text players may see nouns that are blue. These allow the player to gain additional information about the items without affecting the progression of the game. Clicking on any blue text acts as a link and takes the player to the appropriate part of the story.

 

 

Strategy

  • Determine the path of positive interaction
    • The player needs to determine what the best course of action for the avatar is at any given moment. This is usually the option that places the avatar in a situation where they need to interact with others. Simply put, avoid all answers that involve allowing the player to be alone with his self or to interact with his mother (mostly) as she is an antagonist in the game.
  • Seek help
    • Choosing the options that lead to seeing a therapist and utilizing medication as soon as possible drastically increases the chances of the player successfully completing the game.
  • Stick with your girl
    • The girlfriend is a rock of positive emotions that the player can latch onto to keep their head above water. Almost any positive option regarding the girlfriend will result in a better outcome for he player.
  • Treat it like real life
    • Players can successfully navigate the game by treating it like it is truly happening to them and making logical decisions. That being said it can be treated like a real life depression problem and will benefit from ideas and practices like the ones provided by Hannah Myers in the article “How to Battle Depression Naturally” located here: http://www.livestrong.com/article/35091-battle-depression-naturally/

 

Dynamics

  • Because options available to the player depend on the avatars mental health the game may end up making decision for you.
  • Because it is a web game, players can use the back button to “redo” their decisions.

Additional Notes

This game really hit home for me. It reminded me of some recent life changing events that occurred within my family and really opened my eyes to the signs that were there but were misread by my family members and myself. I think games like this are extremely important for others to experience so that they can have a sense of what it feels like to be extremely depressed. Knowing the signs and what help can be done can literally save lives.

 

Similar Games

Passage – A game where the player walks through their life and ages as it progresses. There is not true point to the game only the inevitability of death. Passage can be found here: http://www.kongregate.com/games/raitendo/passage-in-10-seconds

 

Design Ideas

It gives me the idea for a similar game depicting what it is like to live with rage, PTSD, or any form of psychological trauma that results in a person acting out in unexpected ways. Knowing the trials and tribulations that a person who is mentally ill goes through could go far regarding understanding of and the appropriate treatment for said problem.

Game Journal – Valiant Hearts

Designer/Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier

Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One, iOS, Android

Release Date: June 24, 2014

Game Location: Variable

 

Explanation

Valiant Hearts is a side scrolling puzzle adventure that tells the story of the soldiers during The Great War (aka WWI). The player takes the role of four characters throughout the game: Emile, Karl, Freddie, and Belgian nurse Anna. Emile is the main character in the story and he joins the military to find his son-in-law Karl. An unfortunate circumstance of the story is that Emile is a Frenchman and his son-in-law Karl is German. The German army conscripts Karl into service and forces him to fight against the people he has lived with for many years. During Emile’s journey he meets an American soldier named Freddie. The soon discover that they are both seeking the same people. Eventually Anna, a Belgian nurse becomes a playable character and as a group Emile, Anna, and Freddie attempt to find Karl while defeating Germans and saving each other. The gameplay is quite robust for a side scrolling puzzle adventure game. Throughout the game the player is tasked with solving puzzles that require reflex, timing, pattern memory, and reasoning. The player almost always unarmed, receiving the required equipment when and only when they need it to advance the game. A dog is also provided to the player to aid them in retrieving items required for advancing the game.

 

Screenshot

As players proceed through the game they encounter items that reveal facts about The Great War. The facts often reveal the horrendous conditions that soldiers had to face while fighting in the trenches. While following the story of the characters players are placed into high-profile situations and events that occurred during the war like the battle at the Marne, the battle of the Somme, and the Nivelle Offensive. The game progresses through a myriad of backdrops and scenarios ranging from dank and

Valiant-Hearts-facts

bleak destroyed cities to bright and colorful county sides. The image above shows an example of an information snippet provided to the player during gameplay. Below is the scene of a zeppelin crash were the player controls Anna who is hot on the trail of Karl and has tracked him to this crash site.valiant-hearts-0002

 

Strategy

  • To discover all of the objects the player should always progress left in each area first. By doing so they will typically discover one or two items that they may have missed if they had progressed to the right as is the natural tendency of the typical player.
  • The game does a good job of showing the player the attack pattern of the enemies they encounter. In order to progress steadily the player should take a moment when encountering a new situation to study the pattern of the enemy.

 

Dynamics

  • Because the character is only able to utilize one item at a time it is often in the player’s best interest to pick up whatever item they come across as it is more often than not the item they will need to solve the next puzzle.
  • When the player is assisted by a dog they can give an item to the dog and leave it in his care for the duration of a level. That way they can call the dog at any time and swap items.
  • When going for 100% completion of the game the player need not worry about getting every item in every level on their first play though. The game will allow the player to replay any level or mission again after they have played through the game.
  • During the driving scenes in the game the bombs typically land on the quarter notes of the song being played. The machinegun fire often comes during times in the song that use 1/16th notes.

 

 

Additional Notes

I found this game to be compelling in both story and gameplay. Aesthetically the game is amazing. I spent a good 20 minutes when I first started playing the game trying to determine what type of design they used to create the scrolling backdrops. At first I thought that they were using flat 2D backdrops and a parallax algorithm to move the background appropriately but then I saw the side of a building coming into and going out of view. That led me to wonder if they were using 3D assets in the background and 2D assets in the foreground. After a bit more studying I determined that they were utilizing a combination of 3D and 2D assets in both the fore and background. That is not to say that they were though. If the game was utilizing dynamic 2D lighting techniques it could very well be completely 2D. But I will stick with my combination theory.

 

Similar Games

While I am hard pressed to find games just like Valiant Hearts a few do come to mind.

Never Alone (Kisima Innitchuna)

Dust: An Elysian Tale

Bastion

 

Design Ideas

This game is almost too good for me to get any ideas from it. If I were to make a side scrolling adventure game I would want it to have a compelling story, an amazing soundtrack, and relatable characters. If I had to choose something I would say that this game gives me the idea of making more games about events that people are likely undereducated in. I think as a platform, Valiant Hearts is right on the money with a game that can be just as fun as it is educational. If educational game designers took a page out of Valiant Hearts playbook I believe they could successfully transition from mostly boring games with good ideas to good games with good ideas and a good method to convey educational lessons to people of all ages.

 

Game Journal – Hollywood Stock Exchange (HSX)

Designer/Developer: Max Keiser and Michael Burns / HSX

Platform: Web Browser

Original Entry Date: May 6, 2014 – May 7, 2014

Game Location: http://www.hsx.com/

 

Explanation

The Hollywood Stock Exchange is a multiplayer online virtual stock market in which players buy and trade stocks in actors, movies, TV shows, and other entertainment based stocks. Players use virtual money called Hollywood Dollars (H$) to trade their stock with. Players start with 2 million H$ and can buy stocks in whatever they desire. Purchasing a stock occurs when a player chooses either the trade button next to a stock or the buy button within the stock detail screen. Purchasing a stock requires players to select an amount they wish to purchase and the value of the purchased stocks is removed from the player’s cash total. This places the stock in the player’s portfolio for quick and easy monitoring. Selling is the same. The rules for the game are simple: Buy and Sell whatever pleases you. The point of the game is simple too; make as much money as possible.

 

Screenshot

HSX SS1
This screenshot as seen from a multiple monitor point of view shows the basic game screen available to the player. The left side shows the players Portfolio which contains all of the purchase and sale information that the player has performed. It also shows the daily gain and loss of value for any of the purchased stocks. On this screen players can check their trade history, orders, virtual banking history, leaderboards, net worth history, and their personal profile. If a player selects a stock from the list they are sent to a page similar to the one on the right, which is for the top MOVIESTOCK security named ECHO. On this screen the player can see a chart representing the current trading value of the stock for that particular security. Below the graph is a chart that shows the High and Low trading values for week, month, season, and year. It also contains information about the movie like the distributor, director, cast, and even the trailer for the movie if it is yet to be released like in the example above.

Strategy

Strategy in this game is extremely complex. It mirrors the difficulty of the real stock market. But there are still strategies that can be used to affect gain and profit for the player.

  • Buying
    • Buying stock on movies that are hyped is a good way to earn cash. The further out (lower the stock costs) the better. Purchasing stock at a lower cost is almost always a better idea than waiting for it to inflate exponentially just to crash on opening weekend.
  • Selling
    • This takes practice but simply put selling is where you make your profit. If a stock has risen in value since you purchased it selling will gain you your money back plus that additional revenue. That being said, waiting to sell is usually a good idea while stock price is climbing, but can also break you if everyone else sells out beneath you.
  • Short
    • Taking a short is similar to profiting on somebody’s failure. If you believe a movie is overhyped or destined to fail then taking a short out on it is a good idea. You will profit from the crash of the film.
  • Cover
    • Covering, simply put is selling your shorts after they have earned you money.
  • Arman Khodaei has more tips on when to sell and how to earn H$ in the article located here: http://www.ehow.com/how_6196472_play-hsx.html

 

Dynamics

  • Because the game data is populated by the players, anticipating what a stock will do is near to impossible.
  • Scoring is based on the amount earned over the players starting 2 million H$. Therefore, getting on the scoreboard requires players to really understand what they are doing and earn H$. This can be frustrating for beginning players.
  • Because the stock market updates and resets between midnight and 2 AM, there is a lot of time to do research, but not much else. There seems to be a lot of down time in this game.

 

Similar Games

Virtual Stock Exchange (VSG), the Stock Market Game (SMG), the World of Warcraft Auction House. Both VSG and SMG are clones of the stock market. They allow players to dabble in economics without putting real money up while learning, similar to HSX. HSX reminds me of the auction house in World of Warcraft because it is a system of supply and demand run by the players. People can flood the market with an item which drives down the price of it much like flooding a stock will lead to many people selling the stock, thus driving the price of it down eventually. Both games require the player to know when to buy and when to sell in order to affect profit.

 

Design Ideas

It may be interesting to apply a stock market type of situation to an MMO style game along with the standard auction house mechanics. This could really lead to an interesting economy within a virtual world by allowing players greater choice in their method of play and mode of earning income.