Moving On

So, its been a while since I posted an update. Since my last one back in May , a few things have happened.

I did a major group project working for Sony and developing for Playstation 4

 

This was my final term project. I ended up on the team working with Sony’s technology, converting an earlier demo made in Unity into a PS4 dedicated application. The project was a fantastic opportunity, letting me work on the gameplay aspect in a role I’ve really found myself focusing on and wanting to enter the industry and work on. We also got to present the game in a public enviroment which was also an experience – nothing makes the overtime and late nights better than seeing people enjoying your game.

More information can be found on my portfolio site

I finished my Masters Degree

2014-07-11 16.11.11

With the end of the project, I also finished off my Masters and moved away from Dundee. I really enjoyed my year in Dundee; I met a bunch of fantastic new people who helped to show me a whole bunch of new skills and new viewpoints, I had some really good times both at the pub and during the work, I’ve expanded my skills immensely. At this point, I am 100% more confident at looking for jobs then I was this time last year. I’m also 100% more interested in working – programming is now something I’m passionate about, something I love doing.

Speaking of which…

I went looking for jobs

So I started looking for work way before I before I finished at Abertay. In an ideal world, I would roll straight out of uni, have two weeks off to chill/get things in order and then straight into a job doing gameplay programming. Thanks to the sterling work of Aardvark Swift and Amiquis, I got a good few interviews at several companies all for graduate positions focusing on mobile and gameplay roles. I fluffed a few  interview but literally today I got the final piece of news that lets me say…

I’m moving to Brighton to start my new job as a Gameplay Programmer on the 29th of September

So one month after leaving Dundee and four years (almost to the day) after starting at Teesside, I’m going to be start my new position down at Big Bit in Brighton. Aardvark Swift managed to help me into my dream starting role; the company looks great, the projects sound exciting and after meeting the guys down there this week, it sounds like they already have a pile of work ready for me to sink my teeth into. I’m still looking for housing so the first few weeks will be living out of a hotel but I’m excited to move into my first adult job and get to using my skills.

So, it may be a little quiet across my entire blogs. At this point, best place to see what I’m up to is probably twitter at @ChargeDog. There is also a very good chance that I’ll be slowing down posts across both this and my devblog – its going to take me a while to double check just what I can and can not post and to get used to working a long ass work week. Oh and also stop myself spending all my time on the beach.

 

 

LUFTRAUSERS!

luftrausers

So I’ve been playing a little bit of Vlambeer’s latest game Luftrausers, a cool little arcade flight game where you try to rack up kills without meeting your maker. The game is 98mb of utterly fantastic gameplay, backed by a great pumping soundtrack (see below) and with a huge number of different combinations you can make to play game differently nearly every time.

Like so many of Vlambeer’s game there is no great story – you are simply shown you are a pilot flying for the totally not WW2 Germans and each level starts off with you blasting off from the deck of your submarine. You then fly, pirotte, stall, shoot, crash and boost around the sky shooting down enemy planes, jets, missiles, boats, battleships, submarines and more. Its a super fast frantic shooter but there is still a level of complexity hidden in the games design.

Most of this comes down to the combinations of parts you use to make your Rauser. By changing the weapon, hull and engine, you change how the vehicle acts when you fly it, from how it causes damage (bullets, lasers and more, oh my), to how it flys (high speed jet, powered by bullets or even underwater) to how much health and other effects it can have. What makes each of these great is that each one has a massive change – no part feels like a waste of time. In addition, each Rauser has a cool name to go with it and a sweet new tiny graphic to play into the lo-fi gameboy screen looking aesthetic.

luftrausers-screen-1

Finally, the thing to make you keep coming back is the process of getting those parts. Each life takes about two minutes before you die horribly. In that time, the aim is to complete challenges linked to each part such as shooting down x number of bad guys in one life. Overall, its pretty damn great.

I’m really liking it and I’m going to play quite a few more lives. But now, I MUST RAUSE!

Super Cool Thing: The Background Music

So a fun feature of the game is that the various weapons, hulls and engines you attach to  your Rauser actually has an effect on the awesome background music in the game. If you want to see how it works, you just have to open up the data directory in the Luftrauser install.

Screenshot 2014-03-30 04.34.09So the first thing you notice is that the backing music are split into three parts: Bass, drums and lead. Each part you can choose in game changes which file is played in its linked category.

From the little I’ve played so far its seems to be that:

Bass – Weapon
Drums – Body
Lead – Engine

I need to play some more to check this but its a really cool system for them to implement.

 

Long Term Project: Overwatch (Tactical Third Person Shooter Project)

Edit: The contents of this document are subject to change.

All images below are from other games. They are being used to help set the tone of the project and until I get an artist to help

What follows is a description of a long term project I have begun as a way of improving my portfolio and potentially develop into something. There is currently no timeline (although a large part of the initial concept is being developed as part of a university module and will be completed by May 2014), no team members and no funds so I don’t expect this to become a finished product any time soon.

Codg_Concept_art
Concept art from Call of Duty Ghosts – This sort of setting (industrial factory) would be a cool level basis while the idea of players cowering behind cover plays into a key part. Sadly I can’t see my game having that many dudes being shot at.

Pitch:

A small scale realistic third person multi-player shooter which combines the cinematic qualities of Gears of War’s combat with a focus on realism (often above all else) and customisation. Players take the role of mercenary spies, fighting around the world in a selection of operations in a variety of tactical situations. Success relies on tactical thinking, co-operation with team mates and sometimes a great deal of guts.

Key Points:

  1. Realism
  2. Multiplayer Experience
  3. Customisation

1. Realism

  • Realistic injury simulation – shots can tear muscle, break bone, cut arteries and inflict horrifying wounds to vital organs leading to various effects – players don’t take much to go down so cover fire and suppression become more effective. In addition, wounding a player can tie up his buddies and tempt them outside. On the other hand, compartmentalised damage means that players can be knocked onto their back but still keep fighting
  • A Useful Cover System – taking cover is vital. The cover system allows players to quickly move between cover locations, letting them stay safe from opposing enemy fire. A team using cover effectively should only be able to be knocked out by an opposition using flanking moves, covering fire and other tools relating to modern warfare – not just running at them and using a chainsaw. In addition, blind fire is literally blind now forcing you to remember enemy locations or rely on your team mates.
  • Realistic Ballistics – Each and every round is a physical object in the world, able to penetrate through wood, glass and flesh. In addition, it is possible for debris and other small objects to become potential weapons (thanks to the damage system) making explosives and certain materials even more deadly.
  • Protection vs Evasion – Body armour and other protective gear can help to protect the player from harm but each one negatively affects how manoeuvrable they can be. The more armour a player wears, the less easily they can mantle, sprint or climb all of which can be very handy when the bullets start flying. In addition, armour is only focused on specific locations and most will not stand up to repeated hits or high power rounds.
  • Deep Tactical Movement – as well as the cover mechanic, the game also will let players dive to the floor, slide into a crouch, climb and mantle over obstacles. Lying prone and turning will not move the player – instead they will slowly transition from lying prone to lying supine as they rotate their body. Diving to the floor will also tie into this – moving backwards and hitting the prone key will make the player jump and land on their back.
  • To take advantages of the above systems, a variety of weapon types will be included that would make sense for a small scale conflict (it is unlikely an undercover team in Hong Kong would be running around with an RPG for example but more likely would be carbines, pistols, sub-machine guns and shotguns).
mc4___environments_by_leopardsnow-d5nabh5
These concepts from Gameloft’s MC4 (created by leopardsnow) actually are close to some level idea I’d like to include. Call of Duty also is a big influence, with the Favela’s of MW2, the rainy Kowloon City of Black Ops and the Russian wastelands of Modern Warfare are all places that are cool inspirations.

 

2. Multi-player Experience

  • Small, Fast, Action Packed – with a focus on 4v4 multi-player, the aim of the game is to simulate small scale gameplay. Four player teams work well as they can easily split into buddy pairs without leaving a man left over. This number will be investigated and possible expanded during development depending on testing.
  • Multi-player Campaigns – Each mission ties into a larger campaign that keeps the same players through multiple setups. The results of each game affect the following ones, with victories (or defeats) in earlier missions giving various bonuses for the next.
  • Co-Operative Actions – To assist in players co-operating with each other, there are a selection of controls included to make it easier. Players can stack up on each other, with the rear players passing movement controls to the lead player in order to concentrate on shooting. In addition, pairs of players can go back to back, lift each other to higher locations, drag their injured colleagues and revive them if downed. Finally, players can pass magazines and weapons to each other, either to assist them when they run out or to let them reduce carried weight so they can move more efficiently. This can be especially handy, such as moving across gaps in rooftops or as an alternative to a two man lift.
  • Potential Co-Op Modes – Although not the main aim, the idea of including co-op focused missions with AI opponents is something I’ve been pondering. This is more of an additional goal rather than a focal one as it requires coding AI that can deal with the networking as well.

3. Customisation

  • Deep customisation of weaponry – Starting with the AR15 (M4 / M16 /416) family and working up from there, the idea is to let players take a base gun and modify it with as many modern day attachments as they can. Forward slots allow the use of multiple laser/light/camera items while different calibres  allow for a variety of gun roles to be performed without requiring huge numbers of models.
  • Limited unlocking – Pretty much everything is there to begin with. The items players will have to unlock will be tiny motivation patches or other minor cosmetic items. As this is late stage, exact ideas are unfinished.
  • Customise your character – Gender, race, clothing, equipment, webbing/vest, pouches layout, perks. All are available for you to select.
  • Perks – Unlike Call of Duty, kept minor and realistic. Call of Duty staples, which massively alter things like knife reach and such, will be ignored. Instead, perks will link to additional training or bits of kit such as improved medic interactions or letting players carry additional weapons.
  • Cool dumb little customisations -Want to magpul your magazines and throw on a BAD lever? Go for it! Cool little stuff like that is great! Want your character to hold their rifle in a different way such as by the magwell or in the magpull grip? Sure, different animation sets would be a great thing to add down the line. Don’t want everyone to holster their knife or pistol in the same place? I think that looks dumb as well and would like it to let players mount holsters to plate carriers, belts or drop legs. The aim would be to have some smaller variations but this is very reliant on artists and animators assistance.
pmc__shrike_operator_by_alexjjessup-d6ju8k7
This is the sort of look I would aim for players to have to begin with but the aim of the customisation is to not limit players to just PMC looking guys or hardcore military operators – the idea of players kitting up as Inspector Tequila. (On another note, AlexJJessup is a pretty fantastic artist)

 

Inspiration:

  • Gears of War
  • Spec Ops: The Line
  • The Last of Us (several realism mechanics)
  • Brink (customisation and multiplayer/single-player merging)
  • Enemy Territory (multiplayer campaigns)
  • MGS: Peace Walker (Focus on co-op aspects)
  • Metal Gear Solid 4 (Character movement)
  • ArmA series (Focus on realism)
  • Army of Two (Co-Op action)
  • Dark Souls (Hard but mechanically well-made games are fun)
  • Medal of Honour: Warfighter (Fire team multi-player)

Description:

Okay, I am a big fan of third person shooters like Gears of War and Spec Ops The Line. I think that it can be a very fun way to play, with characters moving between cover, swat turning across doors or diving over the top of cover into an opponent’s face. It looks cool, plays cool and overall can be a great laugh, especially in co-op.

The issue is that it also is makes camping play very easy despite most games teaching flanking manevoures in the very first single-player mission. In addition, games like Gear’s have huge meaty characters that can absorb a full mag of machine gun ammo without breaking a sweat which goes against the idea of realism. This project aims to deal with that.

The rough aim is to make the game in small confined stages. Each stage of development relates to a key point detailed above. The idea is to fill on the key points, producing a demo showing off the features and then taking them forward into the next stage. So:

  • Stage 1 will end up with the creation of a fully detailed realistic third person shooter. This will show off the basic gameplay and will take the form of a single-player sandbox letting the user test the movement, fire various weapon types into targets that will show the damage (and let players swap into them in order to feel the effects) and toggle between various armour sets ranging from knee pads and gloves only, up to EOD levels of protection.
  • Stage 2 will let multiple players take part in missions on a small number of maps. The multi-player systems will support the 4v4 teams and will let players play on at least a LAN setup – this is probably the hardest section to get the netcode working and have players have fun shooting each other and not break the game.
  • Stage 3 will add in the customisation elements. Initially, this will be a standalone application that allows players to customise a character and loadout without the game needing to deal with the variations. This will be folded in eventually leading to the game’s release
  • Stage 4 is when the game is fully complete and any bugs caused by the merging of the previous stages has been fixed. This is the point I would be happiest to sell the game. There is also a lot of work to get to this point

THIS IS ALL VERY NICE BUT WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING ABOUT IT?

Well, I’m making three demos as part of one of my university modules, due for completion May 2014. These will:

  1. Implement a third person cover system, letting a player move to the cover, attach themselves to it in a crouched position, move between a crouched position and a standing position and then leave cover.
  2. Implement a realistic damage system, letting a model report exactly which area is hit by a round which has a potential to penetrate. This can then be mirrored to the player, showing how that injury would affect the player.
  3. Implement a ballistics system that support different rounds with different velocities and create a simple demo.

The demos above will be created in Unity. The project will probably continue on using Unity, although the use of CryEngine 3 will be evaluated due to it already containing several features (bullet physics, weapon customisation) that would need to be implemented otherwise. On the other hand, Unity provides a very helpful tech base and is widely used.

As you can see these prototypes are just a small start. However, using the tech and ideas these create they can be combined and used as the basis for a more feature rich prototype down the line. The key thing is that the game will work its way through the three main features in order, getting one working before moving to the next.

Before anyone jumps on me, I understand the sheer scale of this project.

As I say at the top, this is a very ambitious idea that will be a little side project for me to work on in the evenings and weekends for a good few years. I want to to make it, because I think it sounds fun, its a game I would love to play with my friends and I don’t this a super realistic third person game being something someone would be interested in.

As the months progress, I will continue to document my progress. Some (primarily focused on the three demos) will be documented on my portfolio blog

Projects Time!

2014-01-19 08.32.59

So we are now into the main part of the term which means its group project time. I can’t say exactly what I’m doing due to an Abertay NDA  but I am very excited about it. Its a bit of tech I’ve never used/had much experience with so it should be pretty challenging. Luckily, I’m working with a good team of guys.

More interesting (at least of what I can tell you) is my other modules. Narrative Theory was the black sheep of the family compared to the other subjects I was studying seeing as it appeared to be a designer focused module. After starting it, and being introduced to our lecturer, its going to turn into creating content for a D&D style game. I’m interested in seeing how it plays (especially as one of our group has never played it before) but our basic idea leads to a lot of potential ideas. The end result is to create a wiki to describe the world and its rules. The first play session was a little slow but everyone was getting used to the pared down rules.

There is also my innovation (which is gradually rolling along) but more interesting is the product I have been creating for my Professional Specialisation module. Its something I’ve been working on the concept for a good few months at this point. This module is letting me start creating it for university credit. I’m going to put it up in a separate post as its going to detail a good few points. But I’ve got it started this week and putting in a cover system is an interesting experience.

Expect another post this week