BuddyCops: A Look Into OmniBus

Hey gang! Kailey here,

First, a big thank you to Amir Badri and Jeremy Crockett, the creators of OmniBus, for coming and speaking to us.

As Amir and Jeremy gave their post-mortem talk, they laid down some helpful tips about the making of their game, OmniBus!

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After an introduction, they gave a brief history of the game. The idea of OmniBus started out as an idea that occurred in an ethics class that they both took while studying at DePaul University. This idea continued throughout the summer before their senior year but was then pushed aside once school started up again. Jeremy then brought the idea back up and thus the process of OmniBus began. They talked about the vices and virtues of having a Kickstarter, trying to keep up a social media presence and gaining a publisher. Pertaining to gaining a publisher Amir and Jeremy highlighted how their game peaked before its release. Their game had been played by the popular YouTuber, PewDiePie, which made the game explode and the pair were able to gain a publisher because of its newfound popularity!

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Looking back at their own project they told us to have a development blog to keep track of your own progress and to give teases to people who are invested. They talked about how looking back at their development blog was like looking back on your facebook pictures.

They also talked about the importance of being involved in the Chicago gaming scene. They encouraged people to go to meetings like “Indie City”, which is happening this Saturday (5/26 @ 1pm), “Industry Night” and attend festivals like “BitBash” to make connections with people, “Rub butts with all the indies” -Amir. They encouraged this because in their experience finding and making connections is extremely helpful, most people in the industry will be willing to give feedback to your projects; as long as you find the right people, “Indies helping indies” -Amir

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(Top two photos courtesy of Amir and Jeremy)

JDE Public Info Session Recap

Howdy Folks!

Zac here giving you a quick run-down of our public info session for the JDE. First and foremost, our expectations for attendance were blown out of the water, we initially thought only 15 people were going to come by. Instead we had a huge turnout of over 30 potential members who range from freshmen to seniors, and even some alumni showed up.

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Past the numbers, we did a run through of the history of what was, and the future plans of what will be. Long story short the future plans is essentially expanding upon what the glorious Josh Delson built before such that it continues to live on past the initial group.

Things to take away are the planned 4 Game Jams for the summer session, the independent study meant to help polish what was made during summer, and then the passing on of roles to the younger generation of students as the seniors go into capstone. With the structure in place, and the plans set pretty much in stone, we got a bright future ahead of us.

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TOKEN 5

We had a blast showcasing GAZE at TOKEN 5!

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Surprisingly we had a successful turnout with a full house of people wanting to play our game. The event was hosted in Emporium, an arcade bar, with other striving artists fomr the Chicago land area. The JDE was their first ever video game related showcase which became a massive hit. The owners of the bar loved what we were doing then put our game, GAZE, on every monitor in the actual building!

Overall we gained tons of publicity from people in Chicago and networked with some amazing artists as well.

PixelPop 2017

Major takeaways from PixelPop Festival:
1.) Game development community in St. Louis is friendly, reliable, huge, and inclusive.
2.) Its rapidly growing with strong independent developers from all over the country.
3.) Its a hidden gem of passionate people with some awesome upcoming games.

Overall this weekend was fantastic and it was so fun uncovering what the Midwest has the offer. We had an amazing opportunity to showcase in St. Louis and give a postmortem on our experience with GAZE. Thanks to that we even became one of their Festival Selections!

 

 

Bringing concepts to life…

Hello again! Tiffany here.

This week, we went through making a lot of changes to our designs and concepts for the ship game we are making. An idea everyone liked was some type of catamaran, and we came up with a collaborative sketch of what we all think might make a good model for our ship in Maya.

Our players have the opportunity to move around the ship and go to different stations of the ship, so we had to create an interesting space for them to move around on. While we haven’t completely solidified the shapes of certain things or the designs or things like weapons, we are working together to make it all come together.

Here is a quick preview of where our ship model is as of today, with more iterations coming in during the week.

I am really excited for this model, and it will be a lot of fun to throw some textures and sculpted elements on to it to truly bring it to life (at least, as much as an inanimate object can be brought to life).

Enjoy and you’ll hear from me again soon!

Getting to work on art

Hey everyone, welcome to Team Phoenix! We are working on a battleship type game set in a bio-luminescent world, so our art direction for this game is going to be very interesting and a lot of fun.

To start, we have been gathering references of cool settings with vivid colors – mostly oranges, blues, greens, and some purples. We are going for a kind of tropical world, as well. All of these neat colors are going to be reflected in our ships, environment assets, shores, and characters! So far, my team has been putting all of these references together, as well as having conversations of what we might like to see. We will have some cool concepts coming soon, so keep an eye out for what we have been up to. This is something we are super excited about!

Here is a sneak preview of a WIP for one of our ship designs. We are working with a lot of different ship types, and we will be adding more to these designs after everyone kind of talks through what we have and what our gameplay goals are. An interesting concept we want to play with is having the environment becoming a visual aspect of the ship, almost like it is kind of taking over the vessel. Enjoy!

 

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Designing Eachother

During a class session, we decided to collaborate with each other’s teams. Since we both have a general understanding of what we want to create, we decided to add a twist in the design process. The twist was designing each other’s games.

The two teams that partook in this was Chimera and Phoenix. Since the teacher called in sick that day, this was an excellent opportunity to get some creative freedom. How this was structured started with half an hour of white boarding then pitching to each other the significance of our ideas. We both came up with new perspectives on each other’s concepts. Some the complete opposite of the original concept, but it worked out somehow.

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More Planes!

Today starts the end of Humani Tsunami and the beginning of Contrail. We as a group started looking at concrete festivals related to the game we were trying to work on. Contrail is a competitive multiplayer game where players fly around a unique space and attempt to cut one another off by creating a collidable trail. The trails persists on the map, creating more obstacles overtime for the players to avoid. It was like Tron, but in a 3D world. What we want the audience to feel when designing this was an easy to pick up game, but can be hard to master. Something with a stylized reality visual, but if need be, solid color pallettes.

In the team meeting, we talked about what can we make in 10 weeks, a base game mode. What is our vision as a team was Futuristic Modeling or Wind Waker Visuals. Below are some things we put on our mood board.

 

Mini Maker Faire

The Maker Faire is the Greatest Show and Tell on Earth—a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement. It’s a place where people show what they are making, and share what they are learning. During the JDE showcase in the summer, we connected with people affiliated with this faire. 
Trevor, Edgar, and I accepted this offer to promote projects they showcased together. Each game are different from the norm of games. Stay Cool! was a DDR Pad Controlled party game and LemonGame Stand was an experience where the player gradually loses their senses while making the perfect lemonade. We spent the whole day getting told of positive feedback from the people at the fair.
What was interesting in my opinion was how we were able to have a variety of people play the games. This wasn’t like a video game festival with gamers everywhere, but there were families everywhere consisting of children, parents, young adults, and grandparents. Each one of them passionately walking up to our tables with a strong interest in playing. They asked about next steps on these games and where they will go, but right now we have them on hold for the future.

Back to Square One

We brainstormed 14 potential ideas for our next game. The majority of the games were focused on creating local based games and we were researching if our brainstormed games have been created in the past. Over the weekend the group was assigned to brainstorm and bring in new ideas for the next week. The methods we used were paper jams, talking about what we liked about our favorite games, talking about what we disliked and how we could improve those games, looking into the core of a certain games within genres, physical activities we played in the past, and researching other local based games.

We looked into successful franchises such as rock band, Nintendo, Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution, Wario Ware, etc. The reason why we looked into these franchises was because they were playing the game locally. We grew up with these couch games and had fond memories of playing them. The thought of playing together in one room was an experience we wanted to portray to our players.

As a group, we found a research study about multiplayer games. The study was researching if players were more competitive or cooperative. In the research they found out that the older the player, the less competitive they were. We had to consider who our audience and we found this study to be helpful information.

The next week consists of a pitching to our instructor. We had two plans, if one of our pitches was approved, we would continue working on that game. If the game was denied, we would continue brainstorming and pitch new games to our instructor on the first day of class.

Putting on Hold and Finding a Core

The reason why we put HumaniTsunami on hold was because our instructors asked us to find the core of our game and we were unable to discover the core. Within the last week, we looked for 20 other games that are similar to the game, and find what made our game unique. The core makes the whole experience of the game and what our intentions were for the audience to take away from playing the game. The core that we found was the level design, destruction in the world, and exploration. Our core didn’t seem strong enough and we felt like our game wasn’t able to be completed in time. During the past couple of weeks we ran into technical issues, constant reiterations, and availability to meet together at the same time. Before we had to show our instructor a prototype, we made a decision to put HumaniTsunami on hold.

Shooting for IGF Submission

When the producers of JDE came together to decide on a schedule for the summer, they decided that a submission to the IGF would be the ideal goal for games that we created. Now, the IGF is not the definitive end goal for JDE. In fact, if our games don’t end up as IGF submissions, it will not be the end of the world. However, the producers believed that having it as a goal would be important in ensuring members were focused and had something to look forward to. Initially, the producers wanted to have the majority of the chosen game (at least the alpha) to be completed by the IGF submission deadline, Oct. 26. However, as time went on and the schedule for the JDE changed for the summer, so did our expectations and planned deliverables. Instead of having the alpha completed by submission, a vertical slice for our games would be completed instead. The producers believed that this was way more realistic since our teams split up to work on two games instead of one large game.

For Snow Angel, we decided that our vertical slice would consist of 5 distinct levels. Typically, a vertical slice is a demo of the game and consists of one completed and polished level. However, because our levels are much lake that of Super Meat Boy, which are relatively short and focus on introducing and testing one mechanic, we decided that 5 was realistic goal to achieve. Initially, we thought 10 levels would be appropriate, but quickly realized that it would probably be unachievable given our current timeline. Thus, we wanted 5 levels that represented the typical flow of our game. They break down like so:

  • Level 1: Tutorial (Breaking down the basic structure of the game and introducing players to placing platforms)
  • Level 2: Introduction to ramps (In addition to adding standard ice blocks, players will learn to change their upward direction via ramps)
  • Level 3: Introduction to bouncy blocks (Players are introduced to blocks that allow the player to drastically change their forward momentum)
  • Level 4: Introduction to changing direction (Players are introduced to blocks that allow the player to change direction)
  • level 5: Mini-Boss (Now that the player has been introduced to the core mechanics of the game, they must use them in tandem in order to conquer the level).

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Art Style & Aesthetic

While deciding on a art style for Snow Angel we went through a number of revisions. However, the one thing that became clear as we began working on the game was that we wanted our environments, characters, and aesthetic to evoke the same feelings that a player got from playing classic platformers, like Mario and Sonic. Back in the old days, characters were created to be visually distinct and different from one another. This served a number of different of purposes, all generally beneficial to the game and its characters. The first purpose was creating a visually distinct character allowed the character and the game they inhibited to  stand out from the crowd. Furthermore, the focus on a primary character allowed said character to be more relatable and important to the player. Finally, from a purely mechanical perspective, it made the character easy to distinguish when playing, making the game more approachable and fun. At our first pass at the game, we did a pretty good job of making a distinguishable character in the form of a baby penguin:

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Now, for the purposes of a game jam, this did a pretty good job of helping the player understand their role in the world, as a crying baby penguin (even from large distances), is easy to spot. However, after we had time to look at our game outside of the jam, we realized that while the character was nice looking, it ultimately did not completely serve the purpose we had intended: to create a iconic character. After all, while a baby penguin is easy to spot, it is still a standard penguin. Therefore, we brainstormed on ways to improve the initial design.

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Here is a rough draft of what we were thinking. We thought that we needed to make the art more exaggerated, wild, and slightly chibi. After all, we were not making anything resembling a realistic penguin game, so it was only natural that we go a little wild with  the design of the character.

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Here is the current penguin, which we have named Ziggy. Now, this is clearly without his crazy hair and backpack, but the differences between the original and the updated version are clear, as Ziggy is more rounded and even cuter. With additional changes (additions to his overall style), we eventually hope to achieve an iconic player character.

Fluid Development

This week we decided to finalize our level blockout and change how our level looked. Originally, we were planning to have the level be made as a low poly terrain, until we found out that hexagonal terrain stands out and doesn’t blend with our assets. It looked better than how we originally planned and shifted our level design to be made out of hexagonal pieces. After we completed the level design for one portion of the map, we discussed that the map would be too large. Since one region of the map was too big, it would have been a huge map if we added the other two regions. Since we were restricted on time, we decided to have that one region layout as the entire map. That one region would be split into the three regions that we originally planned (Jungle, Boneyard, and Tar Pit).

Near the end of the week, the basic animations and our character models were completed. We were also designing on how the regions will be split in the level to create an unique experience that allows the player to explore through the level. After finalizing where the regions go, we will be adding the quests and environmental assets into the game. Since we made the hexagonal level change, our programmers were looking into how the player can navigate through the level.

Designing Levels

While Designing levels for Snow Angel, we do so as one large group instead of assigning one person to design each level. We do this for a number of reasons, the biggest being that it allows us to quickly bounce ideas back and forth with each other (including iterations and additions) and gives each team member a voice when making the game. Furthermore, it helps each member of the team stay on the same track and know exactly what they should be working in. We typically go through the following process when creating levels:

  1. Brainstorm potential additions/interesting ideas for a level. We brainstorm as a team, using a whiteboard, paper, and generally a computer to bring up examples of games or ideas that inspire us. Furthermore, we then breakdown how we think the level will play out (creating a rough draft on a white board).
  2. After creating a rough draft of our level idea, we go ahead and discuss any changes we want to make (in terms of how easy or difficult the level will be and in terms of what is realistic in terms of production). This process takes the most time, as we want to make sure the level is balanced and is fun to play.
  3. After deciding on a basic level composition that we will use, we then highlight the various obstacles in the level as well as what the player will do to proceed through the level. For example, I would draw a dotted box to indicate I would place a platform in that location to proceed. We use various symbols to help us reference later when we go about implementation levels.
  4. With the level composition completed, we then go ahead and break down new assets that are needed for that level. For each level, we only add a list of new scripts, art, and sounds needed. The list pertains only for that level, which helps breakdown workflow for each level. We also use the highlighted object we created in the previous step to help demote where that new asset would be located.
  5. After creating a list of assets, we (or at least I know I do) “wizard of oz” the level. Basically, I act out the level with my team until everyone understands exactly how the level will work. This is helpful for a number of reasons. First of all, it helps get everyone on the same page, as we only stop acting the level out once everyone understands how the level works. Acting it out also helps everyone remember the intended behavior of character and player.

The ‘Shark Fin’ Theory

The designers of the JDE had the opportunity to talk to industry veterans who were also Founders of the former DGE. One of them, Patrick Curry, is a current developer at Unity who gave a lot of insight from his time at DePaul University. Since Patrick has so much experience, Sam, Andy, and I spent our afternoon doing a Skype call with him about the DGE to now.

Lets start with a little about him. Patrick Curry was an employee at DePaul who overlooked the first two DGEs at DePaul. The first DGE was supposed to be a one time thing with the university, Devil’s Tuning Fork. Because the team had so much success and was able to showcase their game at IGF, the school decided to go a second round. This soon led to Octodad, a comedic like adventure that made DePaul what it is today. Once this was done, Patrick Curry and the co founder Alex Seropian left DePaul to come back into the industry.

 

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Bit Bash!

Going to Bit Bash this year was incredibly useful as a fellow designer and producer of games. The biggest thing that stuck out to me was the focus on couch co-op games. From Regular Human Basketball to Pocket Rumble, we are, at least in the Chicago scene, are seeing a renaissance of sorts in terms of local play games. Even more astounding than a focus on local co-op is the clear dedication to simple, but fun mechanics. Now, a cynic may say that this dedication to simplicity has its roots in the fact that many people at Bit Bash were casual gamers, who were more interested in having a good time then experiencing deep, layered mechanics. However, I would say that this laser focus on the basics allows a team of developers to hang their hats on thoughtful design and smart choices, rather than unnecessary flash and a retread of the past in a different skin. This is a lesson I hope to take with us as we continue to work on our games. Below are some games that really caught my eye while at Bit Bash.

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