Here is my first post since Sword Fighter. It contains everything that has taken place during the course of our second semester.
In the beginning of our second or Spring semester, everything picked up right where we left off as if our first semester ended. We began the voting process of all the various game pitches. There was six pitches selected as potential video game thesis projects that our cohort will be developing for the next nine months. In the end, three pitches will be selected and each pitch will have a designated team of about 2 or 3 producers, 3 or 4 engineers and 2 – 4 digital artists. The remaining months will be spent developing a finished Alpha and presenting the proto-types. Just like we did all semester long in the fall. We began the process of rapid-prototyping for each of the candidates. I was able to re-team up with my producer from Sword Fighter, Charlie Mimnaugh. Felix Lau was an Engineer who I worked alongside with for our very first Prototype, Stress Busters. Our 4th and final team member was Derek Higgs. Another programmer and author of the game concept for Flux Disposition.
I enjoyed working under Charlie because he has a great talent of managing stressful scenarios. I believe Charlie and Felix both worked on a game together during their Undergraduate Capstone so the team environment was a comfortable one.
Flux Disposition was one of the six pitches selected. The idea consisted the Tower-Defense kind of game-play. However, the roles are switched. Instead of defending massive hoards attacking the player generally with towers which usually are a variety of turrets. Switching the roles to being the attack and the AI defending was our attempt to aspire towards innovation. In my opinion, switching the roles of the player vs computer model is still a player vs. computer model. It doesn’t add up that you can make a competitive play based game and only take the solely offensive function and devise a new genre of video gaming. Even a sub-genre. I don’t even think you can make that a sub-sub-genre. It’s only a necessary asset of a style of game play that is required for the game to even be defined as tower and defense. This alone made me think about how closely related Tower Defense games and Real Time Strategy games and the more I think about it… really this game was Real Time Strategy from the very start.
Our game was a lot simpler than WarCraft (not WoW) or Command and Conquer. The player would have two factories that constructs your minions of bots. The goal would be to get your squad of bots from point A to point B. The rules of our game was a maze of turrets the bots would travel through and fight off to get to point B. In the beginning the player is given a brief allowance of time to construct the bots, see the lay-out of the maze, where the turrets are positioned and so forth. The player than would literally draw the pathing from manufacturer to destination and a line was drawn and visible to the player to confirm the routes the player is assigning to his or her troops. Each Factory would have their own route the bots they each deploy would follow. Then the game begins and an onslaught of tanks are released from their factories heading towards their assigned destination.
There was much concern about the player being static as all this played out, simply watching the action. I don’t think that the idea of the player being static during this time should be of any concern. It would just be turn based game play in essence and there would have been nothing wrong about that. It seems that constant player interaction was the only kind of game that people expected to develop. With that, we added the feature to be able to draw out and change the course of the bots on the fly sure during a skirmish. Again, I had no issue with this. It was a sound feature to keep the player immersed within our game. During a second presentation of our idea, another thought that came to light was the feature to give the player a bot upgrade feature over time, however this would mean obtaining resources would be another element of the game. This would be the defining change if we pursued it that would have taken the game completely out of the realm of tower defense, solidifying it’s foundation within a classic RTS model.
My task was to concept bots as our engineers developed the game. Charlie and I were on the same page that if I was just working on conceptual design, specifically for the minions. factories and turrets were secondary. I didn’t need to draw out anything on paper first. Charlie and I both thought just jumping into the design process in Maya from the get go would be more efficient. Mainly because we only had 1-month to have a functioning white-box version presentable to sell the idea. Keep in mind how I used the term white-box because I’ll be coming back to this.
During the course of Flux Disposition development, I was able to generate a decent amount of conceptual bots. I also was able to have a basic turret modeled and used as an asset in our proto type.
After our final pitching process in front of a board of video game industry professionals, I was actually pleased to see the board argue amongst themselves on whether it was a proto-type worth developing further. Mainly because all the members were unanimous in overall impressions of the pitches that were presented before ours. In the end, we learned that Flux Disposition had the most polarized response from the board. Apparently, an idea that can stir up the board of professionals as much as we did is not something that gets favor one’s video game idea. Even if it attracts attention… the proto-type contained enough to show a solid game idea and get industry professionals to re-evaluate what it is that makes a good game should have been compelling enough to be selected. Unfortunately that isn’t the case.
During the evaluation process, the proto-type was criticized for having absolutely no art during our presentation. It is obvious for me that even professionals. Retired journalists specifically that can’t see artistic efforts if it broad-sided that person with a semi truck. Probably because that person would be questioning why he or she is waking up in the hospital confines in the first place. Now, to return back to the assignment of having a white-box version of our game. Charlie, our producer requested that nothing on the art side of things should go beyond this point. We use the models as they are to demonstrate the game. However, I was frustrated to only see my first bot concept be the face of the rest of the squadron. I understand why however because in a white-box, you are putting emphasis on your core game-mechanic. That is what the assignment was.
In any case. Flux Disposition was put on the shelf. In the end of the evaluations, our leading faculty made their decisions of the three pitches that would move forward. Soon I found myself ironically in a project that attempts to take a classic game and reverse the roles of Player versus AI. Last March of the Dodo, inspired by the classic game Lemmings, is where I have eventually found myself. However, I will wait for the final installment of this post-mortem to discuss about Dodos. It was around this time when both 2nd year and first year program affiliates spent time in San Francisco to attend the week long event of 2012′s Game Designers Conference.