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Well look who’s back.

05 Nov

Well it’s been a long time since I’ve posted something. Sadly I am not meant for the life of a blogger as my obvious lapse in postings shows. Long story short, keeping busy with life. Will revert back to the original intent of this website; posting projects and other gaming related information. May post progress reports on projects I’m working on.

After much hemming and hawing I’ve decided to go back to my engine of choice.

Without further ado, I bring you. UDK.

 

Silver Age Sentinels

02 Feb

Well it would appear that it’s been about 2 weeks since my last posting. Needless to say I have been quite busy doing this and that; none the less I decided that I should make a post appearance with a game system that I’ve played recently called Silver Age Sentinels. This is a modified d20 game that puts you into the role of a super hero. The system uses the normal six attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom, etc) and has general classes to better classify your hero. You also get a series of abilities, skills, and other customizable features to choose from.

So since I was a first time player I decided to play somewhat of a brainless build and go with a power house (hit hard and take a beating kind of build). I decided to focus on endurance based powers so I chose regeneration, toughness (more health), and a power that allows me to increase my other powers when I take enough damage. Yet one thing I didn’t realize when I took this power is that it didn’t have a cap (when it would stop working) or a time limit (in which case I gave myself a self imposed “until combat ends” limit). I realized that this created a positive feedback mechanism in which I would feasible take damage, increase my regen, heal, take more damage, increase regen, and go on and on until I became absurdly powerful. Will probably modify my character later if this power synergy become way to strong. Other than that I am looking forward to playing this system.

Now comes to the word of the wise section. As a designer that has developed a feature, ability, or small game aspect stop and ask yourself “as a player how can I abuse this feature”. I got myself thinking in this fashion and it has allowed me to take a step back from the design process and better analyze your work and improve upon it. Obviously if your playing some kind of role playing game the GM/DM/Story Teller has the authority to abuse you as an exploitative character, but an electronic game has less flexibility of punishing such evildoers. That’s about it.

Cheers

TJ

 

My first Boston IGDA meeting

20 Jan

It would seem that I haven’t blogged in a while, so I decided to quickly blog about my first Boston IGDA meeting. Taking place in lovely Waltham I made my journey from the southern end of the Red line up to Park and then hopped onto the Green line all the way up to North Station (fighting off people making their way to the Celtics game). From there I finally took the soul train to Waltham. Apparently the crowd can be sparse when you show up a little before 7 so I started mingling a little, enjoying my dinner consisting of a single delicious glass of Sam Adams Winter Lager (ran out of the house forgetting to have dinner; lost my granola bar on route somehow…..). Meeting up with 2 other Champlain graduates and mingled some more; other Champlainers unfortunately couldn’t make it. Got some new leads on careers in the wonderful world of gaming. Overall a successful venture, albeit a long one.

As I type this my train is making its way back into North Station. Sorry to be vague in the blog, didn’t know how much time I would have for myself. Hence I cut myself short. Will try to get more blogs out over the next couple of weeks (probably have said that before). Thanks for reading.

Cheers

TJ

 

Finished playing a game FTW (For The Win)

10 Jan

Hey everyone. I usually don’t post game reviews, but since I haven’t posted something in a while I figured that I could at least talk about the game and highlight things that really stick out to me as a game/level designer. The game: Starcraft 2.

To give reader unfamiliar with the Starcraft franchise a heads up Starcraft is an IP created by Blizzard Entertainment Inc. This delightful company has released such wonderful products as Diablo (1,2, and hopefully soon to be 3), the original Starcraft (go figure), and the Warcraft series from the first Warcraft released back in 1994 to the ever popular time sink of a behemoth called World of Warcraft. I’ve always been a fan of Blizzard products since I picked up the first Warcraft back in 95 from the computer games section of our local Staples. It hooked me, but also set up a mythos to an engrossing world. Pretty much the rest of the products have that feel; but enough about Blizzard.

Starcraft 2 puts you in control of a human space army (called Terrans) and challenges you to perform various missions ranging from saving a colony from alien infestation to searching for alien artifacts that could save the world. I won’t go into detail because there are numerous professional game reviewers who could bedazzle you with their word-crafting acrobatics much better than myself. Needless to say that as a game designer I loved it! Not just because I am committed to the canon, that’s a bonus. Nope, I love it for another reason, the level/missions are awesome.

I could write pages upon pages on why each level is awesome, but you all have lives to live out. Instead I’ll just make a series of bullets that highlights its strength and aspects that I like.

– Practical explanation and introduction of new units (ie “Hello you, this is the Medic, they’ll heal you like this [shown example in game]”).
– Variety of win conditions beyond simply defeat all enemies including ‘Race against the Clock’, ‘Single Unit Tactics/Espionage’, and ‘Access to Special Units’.
– Achievements creating incentive for replayability (reason to play fun levels again).
– Good graphics, sound/music, User Interface layout (buttons and other information), animations, and AI pathfinding (not gonna lie, I’ve seen youtube videos of hundreds of similar units move around together; it’s watching hundreds of birds int he sky fly together).
– Additional after game content such as Challenge Mission.
– Multiplayer feature (this is pretty much standard now a days).

That’s pretty much it. Since this is a pseudo review I’d like to give my final review. I don’t give score because I find score to be subjective and arbitrary. Instead I give what you might call a mood rating. What kind of mood would you been in to want to play this game? I would recommend this game to you if:

– You want to play a good Real Time Strategy (RTS)
– You want to dive into the story of intergalactic war between 3 races while bing able to tolerate/enjoy a Strategy game.
– Get involved in a competitive Multiplayer RTS (more power to you, there are some insanely good players out there).
– You have sold your soul to Blizzard and buy anything that their crack addictive ideas have birthed.

Thats pretty much it. Hope you enjoyed.

Cheers

TJ

P.S. If you seriously think about purchasing this game after reading this review please, please make sure that your computer meets the system requirements to play the game. Don’t want any upset readers complaining to me about why their Starcraft 2 game can’t run on their Dell Microsoft 2001 computers. ;p

 

For the greater good?

04 Jan

So if it hasn’t occurred to anyone who has been scoping out my website I’m a little bit of a nerd. With that in mind I’d like to share something with some of the readers. I like to make games. Surprise!!! Just kidding, that’s not the thing that I wanted to share. I’ve always had an interest in education in some fashion. Games ultimate boil down to a series of challenges and choices. One quality of games that make them so appealing is their engrossing nature.

With this in mind I’d like to share an idea that I’ve always had kicking around in the back burner. Creating an entertaining game or encounter has been fun, but one thing that some Game Masters aim for is gaining new information from said series of events, the “that’s cool, but what’s the point” comment in some cases. The idea is to create a play session for students that require knowledge from the classroom to complete a challenge, or at the very least reward the player for learning additional information. The Game Master would need to collaborate with a given Teacher on what information the students are currently learning or need to learn. Then it is the responsibility of the Game Master to tie that information into the game. Don’t worry, it’s been done before, such as “Where in the World is Carmen Santiago.” A none electronic game will give the Game Master more flexibility to customize the session to better fit the learning material (though I’ve come up with some concepts for an electronic in-class software). Student intensives could include: after school activity, extra credit, optional homework assignment (write the paper or play the game), further interest and studies (best case scenario, students want to learn more), detention based activity (…..not 100% sure about this one), or many other reasons.

So that’s the idea in a nutshell. Play a game and learn something, pretty straight forward. Many of us have probably played Mathematics Jeopardy before, think of this idea as a more prominent teaching tool that gives the Teacher more options. Feel free to comment or contact me if this is an idea that interests you.

Cheers

TJ

 

4 Corner Poker

03 Jan

As a means of prototyping the Draw System I created a rule set for a modified poker game call “4 Corner Poker.” The rules are as follows (please note that I wrote the rules with the assumption that players are aware of normal poker hand combinations and betting):

– The deck is shuffled and 6 cards are dealt to all the players.
– The dealer is known as the Big.
– After the hands have been dealt 4 cards are placed face down on the table in a 2×2 square.
– The Big starts by choosing 1 of the 4 face down cards and flipping it face up. They place a chip (or other token) onto the face up card to identify it as the Trump Card. The Trump Card may be used by all players to form a hand combination.
– Players place bets.
– After bets have been played the Big must move the chip either clockwise or counterclockwise along the 2×2 square. The Big then reveals the new Trump Card and places the chip on it.
– Players place bets.
– After bets have been placed the Big may choose to either leave the chip where it is or move it clockwise or counterclockwise. If the chip falls on a face down card flip if face side up and place the chip on it.
– Players place final bets.
– Any player who did not fold show their hands, and the best hand wins.
– The next game begins with a new Dealer/Big being chosen (usually the next player in a clockwise fashion).

One difference that appears to me with this variation of poker is that it gives the Dealer/Big the distinct advantage over players of navigating the Trump Card into their hand. Although this may seem like an unfair advantage I would like to point out that not only do all players have access to this Trump Card but they also have a 5 card hand that may well beat out the Big’s hand.

I encourage people to try playing this poker variation; probably not with actual money since it’s still a prototype poker game. If it works and is fun great, if you find problems with it even better. Post your comments on your findings bellow.

Cheers

TJ

 

Some more progress: Draw System

30 Dec

So I finally got around to coming up with the simple rule set for the “Draw System”. This gaming system is a grid based combat system using 2 decks of cards; one deck is shared amongst the players while the second deck is used to layout the grid. The system is based off of poker hand combinations to determine damage dealt to an opponent. Players possess a number of cards determined by their “Draw”. Depending on where a player token is located on they grid, along with where the enemy token is located, players can form poker hands using their current hand along with cards on the grid. Cards are discarded into a discard pile when used and reshuffled into draw piles when necessary. I’ll work out a more concise rule set/instructions later.

So I stated the basic system above, now I’ll give it a premise. “Grid is a game where players take on the role of a AI program in cyberspace. The game itself is moderated by a Game Master who designs the missions, challenges, and encounters for the player(s). A supplementary skill sets are developed by each character that allows them to perform various tasks such as “Scanning” databases or “Breaching” firewalls (in process of developing the skill sets). The AI characters can be given missions by a “Human User”, but nothing says that a player can’t operate on their own.

Inspiration for the game came from watching the Tron Legacy movie in theaters. I originally thought of a game played on a shifting grid where players needed to discover grid spaces to perform actions. Off of this thought I figured a 2 normal deck of cards would work, and develop off of a poker game (a familiar concept that many players can pick up). Classes (along with unique abilities), archetypes, skills sets, and hand combinations and specializes develop from this premise.

One final thought came to me while developing this system. I could adapt and modify the Draw System to develop a new type of poker game. Might look into this and see if some people might be interested in trying it out.

Cheers

TJ

 

The future of documentation? My swing at a different design approach.

23 Dec

First off I want to apologies if I do not post anything over the next week. Things have come up that will no doubt keep me busy for the time being. With that in mind I want to talk about something that popped into my head. I remember the times in college when I had to create design documents that would be the be all, end all documentation for a given project. From a design and production standpoint it was a necessity and an asset. Then I remember telling my programmers and artists to read it…..

Yeah right, I was better off trying to pick a fight with a pigeon outside the office than getting them to read that 50+ page documentation. A saving grace of online technology, aka the use of wiki’s for documenting, has alleviated this process for said team members. Yet this bring with it similar problems in a different form; 1) they don’t want to read it from beginning to end, and 2) they might miss over aspects of the documentation that might appear to be given for a designer.

I remember my artist coming up to our designers and saying “wait, when did we had this feature” with a response of “since the beginning….didn’t you read the documentation.” Their response, “oh course I didn’t, I have art to create.” As much as I would like (well, more like need) everyone on the team to be on the same page I also know that some members have a ‘get to work’ mentality that pushes them to be productive and active.

With that said I will break down the FINAL DOC (adhoc name, call it whatever you want). Here’s the documentation format in a nutshell:

– Each section of the documentation starts with a bulleted, brief summary (no need to going into detail). This allows team members to grace over the bullets to see if what they are looking for is in this section.

– Following the summary section comes the designer’s section. This is the content heavy section that probably scares of the majority of the team (the “I don’t want to read this” section). This section is geared towards the designers, level designers, producers/project managers, QA (more or less depending on team makeup).

– Following the design sections are the specialized sections. Ultimately there should be one section for each “sphere” of the team. By spheres I mean the broad categories of the team. This includes, but is not limited to, Artist section, Programmer section, Music section, Marketing section. The team could also throw in a Production section if they wanted, but the producers probably have their own documentation that would cover this section.
Why these additional sections? I’m a scenarios man, I’ll look at a given situation and say “alright what’s the best thing that could happen, what’s the worst, and what are possibilities that happen in the middle.” Best case scenario is everyone reads the entire document, is happy, and receives free beer and chocolate as a reward; probably not gonna happen. Worst case scenario is a given person asks “what do I have to do for this given aspect/feature.” So what do you do, you tell them.

– I would probably also add a link in the summary section a link to each section so that a team member is one click away from getting to the nitty gritty of what they need to do. We could say that Life Made Easier is one of the mantra’s associated with this documentation style.

On a final note I just want to add a little insight that I’ve noticed of the years of review and writing different documents. One could say that having more detail is better than not having enough detail (think about camping, you’re better off having and not needing then needing and not having). However, if sufficient detail is enough to get a point across then sufficient detail is all that is needed. Bizarrely enough I’ve seen team members get thrown off rail when they come across more information than they expected (almost counter thinking, but it’s happen to me). That’s all.

So that’s my long winded thoughts on design documents. Thank you for reading.

Cheers

TJ

 
 

Added new page

20 Dec

Just added the new LFG page to my website. This page will hopefully be a means of including people into my prototyping process. Also allowed commenting in this section since I don’t allow comments in my Projects or Portfolio sections.

Cheers

TJ

 

Movie Inspiration

20 Dec

So I remember Tron growing up as a kid, and I loved it. Tron falls into those categories of movies, in my opinion, that were awesome growing up, but looking back at it now it is kind of dated. Regardless I loved it. So I went to see Tron Legacy this past weekend and I got to say that I really enjoyed it. The graphics were superb, the story was better than I thought it would be (though nothing so amazing as to win an award), and I actually like the characters and costume design (watching it in 3D also helps).

So after I leave the theaters I think to my self “self, how can you make a game that takes place in a cyber world, placing you in control of some kind of software or AI program.” I’m more of a systems man over a content designer, so I started thinking about how one would go about playing this game. I also like to think about what unique game assets to use. I’ll probably be fleshing out the details in my projects page in the future. The main catcher is that the game utilizes multiple normal decks of cards for playing. It also uses these decks of card for a grid like system. There will be character archetypes, simple skill set, and navigation system.