Category Archive: University

Network Game Development

SuperNetworkGame

As part of the MProf course at Abertay, I selected to take a module that focused on Network Game Development. Through this module, I aimed to translate the skills I learnt at Teesside into a C++ environment as well as adding a dead reckoning implementation required by the brief.

To fulfil this, I created a multi-player top down shooter called “Super Network Shooting Game”. This game combines local and network multi-player, letting up to 8 players take part in simple top down combat. Each terminal support four controllers (thanks to SDL 2.0’s robust controller integration and Microsoft’s wireless controller receiver).

The network model is server-client, with both machines having players. The server is responsible for starting and ending the game. Required information for both machines (such as start and end messages) are sent via a TCP connection formed when the applications start. Standard game events are transferred via UDP. Linear interpolation is used to mitigate packet loss or delay.

In addition to networking, I used C++11’s multi-threading features to move the TCP and UDP listeners to separate threads to improve performance. This was my first major experience of using multi-threading in C++ environment and took a while to learn, however the application performs well and exits cleanly.

To assist in development, I used several third party libraries to assist:

  • SDL 2.0 was used for the basic framework, particularly the rendering and input elements
  • SDL_Net was used for the network framework, providing a feature packed layer to implement TCP and UDP connections.
  • SDL_Image was used to allow the game to render PNG and JPG images used for sprite sheets
  • SDL_TTF was added to allow the outputting of text – this feature was added after handing the module in.

For this project, I received an A20, the highest mark that Abertay awards for its module grades. After development I look forward to improving this demo, adding additionally game-play features while using it as a test bed for improving my C++ skills in a multi-threaded, multi-machine environment.

Source Code

All source code for this project can be found on my bit-bucket at https://bitbucket.org/michael_charge/super-network-shooting-game

Please note that I have branched off at the version I handed into Abertay which is titled “Handin_Branch” – it is missing the text rendering and some structural improvements.

Third Person Shooter Project

The damage zones outlined on the final model. The largest capsule is the model's collision mesh.

As two separate projects at university, I have been creating a series of demos to test out mechanic ideas for a potential third person shooter project. The overall idea was to bring realistic aspects of certain shooter games (such as location based damage and ballistics) into a touchscreen game. To assist in iteration, the demo was created in Unity, utilising its C# scripting as well as features such as Mecanim for character animation and its robust physics system.

Professional Specialisation

The Professional Specialisation aspect of the project was to focus on gameplay programming and the initial aims were split into three core parts:

  1. A basic third person cover sysytem
  2. Realistic ballistics with the aim of letting designers use real world values
  3. A location based damage system that can affect the player’s gameplay when they are injured.

These objectives went through a process – an investigation into how other games implement them, a rough idea on how they should work in code and then implementation. All three were successfully implemented in a prototype fashion.

  1. The cover system will look for a cover marked object, move the player to the cover position and force the player to crouch.
  2. Ballistics takes in values from real world weapons and outputs the correct kinetic energy. Rounds use a combination of raycast and physical collisions to both impart force and cause bullet effects on the health system from any distance.
  3. Each of the characters in the scene has a location sensitivity health system. This takes kinetic energy values, applies it to the hit location and then deals with the after effects such as knocking a character down or killing them.

 

The finished protoype can be played online at https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/6573563/DemoWebBuilder.html or below. Please note the cover mechanic has been disabled for web player

 

Further details of this projects development can be found here

Innovation Project

The Innovation Project module was based around taking an investigation from initial idea to its conclusion. I decided, to tie in with my third person shooter game, to look at a brief delivered by one of my tutors looking into third person controls in a 3D environment. I implemented to control schemes to compare a touch screen focused scheme with the standard soft joystick option used by many porting companies.

To test these scheme, I created a simple map and a timing utility to chart a players progression through the level. In addition to this, I also created an implementation of the shoot scene with touch screen controls.

As you can see in the image below, I got the final demo working and deployed successfully to both my Nexus 7 tablet and my HTC One phone.

2014-05-12 12.21.02

Further details of this project can be found here

Source Code

Source code for this project can be found on Bit Bucket at https://bitbucket.org/michael_charge/overwatch

 

Gnomes!

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Gnomes was a game produced in the final semester of the Abertay MProf project for Sony.  The project was to take a Unity prototype developed in semester two and convert it from Unity and PS Vita to the Playstation 4 while using the PhyreEngine framework. In the game, you play as two gnomes who, after stealing a removal van, are stealing items from an old ladies’s house. Players have to steal as much as they can and escape before the real removal van appears while also trying not to be revealed as Gnomes by the granny. This is made more difficult by the gnomes short stature, forcing them to stand on each others shoulders to maintain the illusion but causing them to be susceptible to over balancing, especially while carrying the loot.

On this project I was part of a 15 person team including artists, designers and other coders. I took the role of Gameplay programmer, focusing on the game implementation of the game’s core mechanics:

  • the player character’s balance
  • the ability to carry (and drop) objects
  • a box to ease the carrying of multiple objects

This required the use of the PhyreEngine’s built in tools (such as a component system) as well as talking with the designer to both gain the direction they wanted and be able to communicate the tools need to modify the created systems (such as a LUA script to control the balance and custom editor components for the steal-able items). In addition, several of my created systems overlapped with other parts of the game, requiring tight co-ordination with the rest of the team

In addition, I also helped in the implementation of the audio system, communicating with other programmers who had moved onto other tasks and projects and the audio designer himself. This utilised the FMOD framework to ease integration of the audio designer’s vision.

The game was demoed at Protoplay between the 7th and 10th of August 2014. During that time, the public seemed pleased with the game citing the art style and the difficult but humorous gameplay. In addition, we spent the following weeks to work on bug fixing and final improvements

Media

Video:

Images:

Legal Note

Please note all elements of this project, including images and video displayed on this page belong to Abertay University and Sony

 

A Clockwork Disaster

main_menu_background A Clockwork Disaster is a 2D puzzle platformer prototype developed in my second term on the MProf course at Abertay.

The brief was provided by Sony and was designed to target the Playstation Vita, utilising some of its key and unique features. After a short pre-production stage, we settled on a puzzle platformer design while using the hand painted artstyle produced by our artist. The key feature was the main character’s ability to adjust time – by using the front or rear touch screen, players are able to speed up and slow down time.

My responsibilities on the project were originally the creation of the time manipulation gameplay and the objects associated with it, the integration of the character’s animation and working with the audio designer on implementing the music and sound effects.

This project was implemented via Unity with the coding written in C#. We took advantage of Unity’s extensible nature and utilised the Sprites and Bones plugin to make the animation of the character faster and more streamlined than using a frame based system.

The Team

Art: Sam Heisler

Design: Charlie Reily, Gavin Stewart

Programming: Michael Charge, Stuart Martin

Sound: Ronan Quiqley

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Please note: All aspects of this project belongs to Abertay University.

W.A.M.

StartScreen

W.A.M. (or Whack A Mole) is a simple 2D games prototype developed in my first term on the MProf course at Abertay.

The brief was to produce a simple game demo designed to be played on a mobile device based around three titles (“Impact”, “The Few” and “A New Day”). Our design was based around Impact and we created  a Whack A Mole game featuring multiple different types of mole, a scoring system with music and assets created in house for the game. The control scheme is entirely tap based, designed to be quick to pick up and play.

The project was implemented primarily in Marmalade 6.2 using C++ and the IwGame Engine available here, especially utilising the XML setup functionality in IwGame. The game has been tested on Android phones and tablets and shows the controls to be ideal in their intended environment. Feedback from classmates and tutors has been positive.

In order to continue development, the game is currently being converted to Unity from Marmalade due to licensing.

The Team

Art: Mustafa Cetiner

Design: Sean Winston

Programming: Michael Charge

Sound: Anthony Sheridan

Download

Source code may be available September 2014 pending the conclusion of the MProf program.

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Final Year Project

Final Year Project

As part of the final year of  my BSc Computing degree, I did a personal project to utilise the skills I had learned over the previous years.

My project was entitled “Assessing the suitability of the Google Nexus 7 for games development“.

The project was split into two parts.

  1. Part 1 investigated the Nexus 7 device and the Android Operating system with an eye towards using it as a gameplay platform. This resulted in the creation of the Nexus 7 Workbench application, a simple tool used to showcase some of the technologies and capabilities the device can use such as camera and GPS support.
  2. Part 2 compared and contrasted the differences in developing the same game for the Android platform in two different ways. The methods selected were using the Android SDK and using YoYo Game’s GameMaker Studio application to develop a simple memory game using the same art assets across both development platforms.

Part 1 went in-depth with the hardware of the device. Thanks to the use of various sources such as iFixit and hardware reviews, the individual capabilities of each part of the hardware as well as the reason behind some of the design choices were analysed, experimented with and explained. The final product created for this section was a small app created using Java in the Android SDK that used multiple facets of the hardware such as the camera, the GPS and the suite of sensors available.

Part 2 looked at two different methods of creating games for the Android platform. This was done by using the same basic game (a simple memory game) and creating it using different software packages. Originally the project was going to utilise Unity as one of the two but due to an issue with getting the licenses required to push to Android platforms, GameMaker Studio was used instead. It presents a different challenge to the Android SDK and contrasts its designer/scripting focus against the Android SDK’s programmer focus.

Deliverables

The project delivered three things:

  1. The Android Workbench application
  2. A memory game created for the Android platform using both GameMaker Studio and the Android SDK
  3. A dissertation presenting my findings and showing my methods

My source code and dissertation is available on BitBucket at https://bitbucket.org/michael_charge/final-year-project

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UnderCurrent

UnderCurrentLogo

As part of my final year, I took part in the Advanced Games Development Module. This module is designed to introduce the various different disciplines (artists, animators, programmers, designers and sound designers) into working with each other to create a working game prototype within 7 months.

I was part of a team working with the Unreal Development Kit, a free version of the Unreal Engine 3. This was selected early in development by the design team as it was the platform they were most comfortable using. This meant that I had to learn UnrealScript as well as creating new gameplay systems.

For this module, I received a 1st. The game is being continued by elements of the team at Hammerhead Interactive.

Download

An executable of the latest build is available at https://share.oculusvr.com/app/undercurrent

Media

UPDATE: UnderCurrent has been making the rounds of various gaming sites after the release of our alpha gameplay video went up

Joystiq: UnderCurrent aims to bring deep sea exploration to Oculus Rift

Polygon: UnderCurrent uses Oculus Rift for a deep sea exploration simulation

PC Gamer: UnderCurrent bringing deep sea exploration to the Oculus Rift

VG247: Oculus Rift goes deep sea diving in UnderCurrent

NBC News: Explore the ocean floor with virtual reality

Alpha Gameplay Video

My main role was in writing a series of gameplay affecting fish that the player would interact with to change their speed or other properties. These are visible in the proof of concept video below.

Gameplay System Proof of Concept

Initial Proof of Concept

Games Software Development

 

Launcher Image for Navy Game - More Images Coming soon

The brief for this project was to produce a gameplay demo (in some ways a prototype) to a certain specification and using a selected theme. It was to be done in C# and Microsoft’s XNA, a very useful addition to the C# language. The primary focus of the demo is the gameplay rather than any of the other aspects.

I selected to make a vehicle simulation game based around the concept of speed and exploration. Rather than creating the usual driving game through a world, mine is focused on the tasks of a Coast Guard helicopter. In the game, you need to fly round an area of sea, scanning the various ships in order to find any carrying suspicious cargo. This is done by simply hovering near them for a period of time

The game was primarily designed and written to be a highly customisable two player challenge style game, with the players competing with each other for the fastest time. This customisability was accomplished by a launcher tool (coded in Silverlight) with various options that could be tweaked such as number of ship, number of opponents and even the if the game was in two player mode. In the game itself, the helicopter is controlled by an Xbox 360 controller and allows a full range of movement. Ships are scanned by hovering close to them and once all ships have been scanned, the game over screen is displayed including the total time.

Overall, I was happy with this demo. There are a lot of things that could have been improved if I had had more time such as the overall level of polish in the presentation department. I am most disappointed with the animation code as I was unable to get the rotor blades to turn. However, I successfully used XNA, Windows Forms and Silverlight in the same project and made a playable demo.

For this assignment, I received a first (73%) with my tutor applauding the launcher tool, split screen mode and control system.

Controls

Right Stick – controls your heading

Left Stick – controls movement (including strafing)

Left and Right Shoulder Buttons – adjust height

Back – Exits game (Player 1 only)

Downloads

Both compiled and source versions can be found on BitBucket at https://bitbucket.org/michael_charge/navygame-prototype

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Network Programming Projects

ncp_screenshot1

As part of my BSc Computing course at Teesside University, I did two modules that covered networking programming in a chat room with avatars enviroment while utilising Java. These built upon each other and so have been merged into a single project page.

Part 1

In we were briefed to produce a Java TCP/UDP chat server. Before the project started we were provided an interface.

The chat client combined both text chat along with a 2D avatar. Chat messages were location dependant, unless commands such as /shout or /whisper were used. In addition, the server had a hierarchy to it, keeping track of owners and moderators with their own special powers such as setting new mods or silencing users.

Overall I enjoyed programming in Java – it provides a great platform to develop network enabled and multithreaded applications with a very friendly language.

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Part 2

In my final year, I took part in a second module using Java to create networked applications. The improvement over the last project was the requirement to be entirely non-blocking and to use another language to as an optional component. By using a framework created for the project by my tutors, I created an alternative to blocking TCP module included as well as adding UDP and limited SSL functionality. For the alternative languages, I used a Java based implementation of Python called Jython to allow me to call Python implementations of TCP and UDP and fulfil that requirement. This is due to Python’s quick and easy syntax.

Overall this project was very useful in teaching how to deal with large projects and granted some limited experience in Python

Download

Both projects’ source code is available on Bitbucket at https://bitbucket.org/michael_charge/networking-projects

Mobile Games Programming

For my Mobile Games Programming module, the programming component was to create a game based utilising mobile technologies such as Bluetooth and motion controls to play a multiplayer game around Wild West gun-slinging.

For mine, I decided to do a top trumps style game, where players select a hand of cards representing different Wild Western characters. Once selected, players would move the phone in a gun-slinging motion to set readiness. I used Cocos2d for the display of the ingame menus as well as for the sound effects.

Overall I was quite proud of my game. Although I could have done more in terms of using the motion controls and more work could have gone into the art, I thoroughly enjoyed developing for the iOS platform despite some of the oddities of pushing builds to device.

Download

[warning]Due to being developed on iOS, a compiled version is currently unavailable. However, the source code is linked to below. It can not be tested on solely via the simulator due to its Bluetooth requirements.[/warning]

Source code is avaiable on BitBucket at https://bitbucket.org/michael_charge/cowboygame

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