Well, fall semester 2018 is finished and I am pretty beat. I also wrote this right after the semester ended but forgot to submit it with gifs and images! A lot of time went into this semester, and because of how spread thin I was, I felt like I obtained way more lessons than polished products during my time in Montreal. I was taught by some awesome and varied industry professionals, I attended MIGS and attended some interesting talks, and I learned a ton about myself as a designer. So as I leave my favorite city in the world, I thought I’d reflect a bit on the stuff I learned and the projects I worked on all semester. As I made 3 games and a research project, I’d say I did pretty well for how much I had to do!
Metroidvania Research Project
Applied Ludology had us learning a lot about the psychology of game design and some of the less-discussed topics like balance and data analytics. By far my favorite project I was tasked with this semester, I was told to research an area of games that I was interested in so that I could dive deep into it and pull something out of it. Seeing as I’m extremely interested in a variety of genres, I decided to pick one I’d never thoroughly analyzed but still enjoyed, which was the Metroidvania genre. Specifically, I noticed that there were a lot of games coming out with interesting movement mechanics, and I wanted to learn about why this might be happening and how it may be affecting the genre as a whole.
Through 3 major milestones, I dove into the genre and its games and analyzed the effect that movement had on them. In the end, I learned that interesting movement was overall helpful to the major goals of Metroidvania games, and this can be applied to pretty much any game in an attempt to engage players more. These milestones are in the form of Powerpoint slides with slide notes explaining the content of the presentation. You can find the three milestones below. I’m extremely proud of the time I spent on this project, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot about this facet of game design.
Fugue Lounge (formerly Gas Mask Lounge)
As I stated in a past blog post, I decided for my final project for Interactive Storytelling to work on a first milestone prototype of my personal project, currently renamed to Fugue Lounge. My main goal was to get it to a playable state with all of the major pieces in it. That included example playthroughs for two characters, the new recipe system, and branching paths. My main goal was to gain feedback about whether the mechanics of the game felt good, were compelling, and tied well enough into the narrative.
Something I’m very proud of with this project is how many systems I have in place to make adding content easier. This is the first game where I’ve put systems this broad in place, but I’m extremely proud of it. There’s so much I can easily change and play with, and the game adapts to it. For instance, I simply create a recipe in the RecipeBook text file, and the game not only automatically takes those recipes in and converts them into recipes that the player will be able to create and serve, but it also populates the in-game Recipe Book with these recipes and has a Table of Contents that adjusts to the recipes that are include. It’s hopefully going to make adding content way easier later down the line.
Though it was a lot of work and it has a few bugs and errors popping up, the first milestone is done and functional. I got a lot of great feedback about the game. Essentially, people think I’m on the right track and are really compelled by the world and characters, and they think the gameplay ties well into the story. They wanted to see a bit more distinction from the major influence of VA-11 HALL-A, and we think that having two types of days in the game would be helpful, so that there could be busier days that focus more on making mixes quickly, and slower days where the focus shifts to the narrative.
Separately from the work this semester, I am going to continue working on the project and I have recruited a few more team members to make it happen! The original artist will be shifting to a character artist role, while another artist will be focusing on the environment art. I’ve also brought a UI/UX designer on because of how involved the UI is on the game. Finally, I am in talks with a game writer who will be able to write better dialogue than the atrocious work I had in the first milestone build.
Mow Off, I Guess
My Game Technology II class was a fun experiment in freedom, as our instructor decided to simply teach us a lot of random Unity tips and tricks and then set us free to make whatever we wanted for a final project. I decided that I wanted to learn more about multiplayer and controller inputs, and I also wanted to see what I could build quickly.
This led to the creation of Mow Off, I Guess. The game is a 1v1 grass mowing game inspired by Splatoon that has players mowing as much grass as possible and utilizing grass-based powers to maximize their mowing. The player accumulates grass that can be used on powers like regrowing grass and trapping enemies. Areas of the arena will spawn golden grass that gives more points and grass to players, which makes them hotly-contested areas.
Overall, I had a lot of fun with this quick project. It’s one of those projects that you know isn’t going anywhere, but you’re glad you worked on because it really let you flex your design and programming skills. Below you’ll find some gifs of the game in action! The multiplayer works, I just didn’t have a second player when recording so ignore the wall on that right half of the screen.
The odd-one-out of the projects, I had to make a project for my Emerging Media class that combined Montreal with some form of media that was emerging like games, VR, or podcasts. I decided that I wanted to create something that make something about my love of Montreal’s food scene while also putting me out of my comfort zone as a developer, and so Dining Dispute came to be!
Essentially, two players who can’t decide where to eat will play this game that helps them figure out the traits they want through the power of minigames! The game stores a database of restaurants I created that each are flagged with certain traits like outdoor seating, the time of day their meals are meant for, and the type of food like Asian or pub food, and players will decide what traits they’re interested in. If the players don’t agree, they’ll play a minigame themed around Montreal where the winner’s chosen trait will move forward. In the end, the game will calculate a restaurant that fits what the player is looking for. Players can also add restaurants they like to the database so that they can get those restaurants when they play the game later.
I loved working on this project, as I felt it was a good prototype/proof of concept for a program that would work in any city, not just Montreal. The minigames were easy to slot into the overall system, making future inclusions easy. Overall, I hope I get to return to this project and polish it up, as it’s a super easy thing to release as long as there’s a restaurant database to include.
So there’s the work I’ve done in Montreal! I’m very proud of how much I learned and put in this semester, and I will miss Montreal a lot. However, I’m excited to be back in Burlington and taking Production 2 with a team of really awesome developers. Until next time!