Category Archives: Innovation and Professional Development

Posts created as part of the Innovation and Professional Development module at Abertay (AG1162A)

Post 7: Final Post

This is the final post for the project. In this, I will cover the basics of what has been created and talk briefly about the final product

Testing

In a different method to testing laid down in proposal, I decided to use a simple group test and gained feedback on the two methods developed. The test were run using the created level. In addition to asking for the player’s feedback during their playthrough, each player’s time through the level was tracked. These times were then taken and compared to see which method provided the faster playthrough time. Although useful, speed of control is not the most important feature in most games but it provides a useful benchmark to combine with a user’s input. Not every player finished the playthrough due to disturbances to the testing sessions but there was enough people to get a general idea of the effects.

For the soft zone controls, several people responded that this is the exact type of control that a lot of people did not want to play. There were actually several people who voiced disgust once they started using the controls. There were also frequent complaints about the sensitivity of the sticks, making it hard to fine tune positioning for jumps. On the other hand, the times found during gameplay were a lot faster than those using the tap to move system, often by around 10 to 15 seconds faster. This is down to multiple factors – the familiarity of users with this flawed system and the similarity to the control scheme it is trying to emulate. It was also noted that players found the control on the smaller screen of the HTC One M7 to be much more useable then on the larger Nexus 7.

The alternative tap to move controls worked much better. One thing noticeable to begin with was that players sat back and were much more relaxed in the tap to move mode. However, players did comment on the camera controls and location, claiming it to be sluggish to rotate and it was too close to the player. Many of the interviewees also wished the rotate axis had been inverted. There were also issues encountered with the jump functionality – the double tap used to jump also adjusted exactly where the player was heading, leading to issues with some puzzles. In addition, the tap to move demo had issues with the final puzzle that involved jumping through a physics object – there was no ways to tap “through an object”.

Final Product

2014-05-12 12.21.02

After testing, I decided to take the comments on board (such as the inversion of the camera) and attempt to link it in a prototype environment. Using some mechanics developed as part of another module’s development, a third person shooter demo has been created utilising the tap to move functionality.

This required a few slight adjustments. The first was to the tap to move script – rather than a double tap causing the character to jump, a double tap now acts as the shoot button. Single taps are no target dependant – on open space, the character moves to it while on a cover location the character will enter cover instead.

The prototype is only a proof of concept rather than a polished final product but it provides a possible forward point to take third person controls.

Post 6: Development Update

At time of writing this, the production side of this project is almost complete. I’ll go step by step and update as to what is going on.

Maze Design

Screenshot 2014-04-14 03.00.16

A key part of the testing for this project is a carefully laid out map. The map was designed utilising Unity’s built in prototyping tools and blocks. This was setup to test more than just the movement so it had to include a variety of terrain and gaps much like you would find in a third person action game. This layout also includes a time tracking system, letting me record how long players take to cross the course. Overall it should assist when it comes to getting the final prototype ready.

Control Methods

Both methods are now complete and working. It is possible to complete the course using either of the control schemes. Already through my own testing, I believe that the tap to move system is a much more useful system for mobile play.

Testing

As part of the two control schemes, both control schemes were tested using the above map on several different users. I have taken their feedback and will be incorporating it into the final prototype. This testing will be done before I leave for the holidays giving me plenty of time to use the lesson learned.

Post 5: Continued Development – Details of Control

With this post, I am to go into a lot greater detail about how the control schemes are implemented.

Unity, the chosen development platform, has several pre-built systems to help assist with complex features such as Input or the control of characters. To simplify development, I’m basing my structure off these pre-built system.

This splits a playable character into three parts:

  1. A character to be controlled – this includes all the logic of what the character is able to do in terms of its movement, jumping and other abilities. This also contains the model and how the input is converted to movement. For my project, I’ll be adjusting a few variables of the default
  2. A camera rig – this contains a camera and the attached logic to move it (if required) and keep it near the player without throwing it around or getting it clipping through walls. So far, I am using a generic one included with Unity’s latest sample pack. This is known as the Free Look script that follows the player and can be used to direct them. An alternative is a CCTV style camera setup with a stationary camera that follows the target character as it moves
  3. An input rig – this is a structure that deals with all the input. Unity uses an axes system (x and y) which lets controls deal with keyboard, joysticks and touch input. This layer is the one which will be edited the most – both of the methods would replace the input rig in different ways.

Screenshot 2014-02-24 03.54.08

As for progress, the input zone method has been mostly completed due to its similarity with some of the examples. The maze design and tap to move modes are ongoing.

Post 4: Start of Practical Development

With the beginning of Term 2 and the hand in of the initial proposal/literature review (as well as the ethics review for the project) I can now begin to proceed with the development of the project according to the finalised details.

The first step of production has been to setup Unity and learn how to use greater details of it such as it use of touch controls above an beyond simple mouse emulation. This has involved lots of reading through the documentation and looking at the examples Unity provides. These will then be utilised later.

In addition, I have also begun working on creating the level to be used for testing. It needs to present a challenge while at least working with both control schemes. The idea is a simple maze layout but will be developed in the following weeks.

Post 3: First Presentation on Topic and Initial Research

At this point in the year, I have just delivered the initial presentation about my Professional. I have embedded the slides below but the overall reception seemed good. The consensus is that there is a lot of work to be done and I need to get hold of a Unity Pro license in the new year during the practical side of this module.

[gview file=”http://hntdaab.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Platform-Specific-Game-Mechanic-Implementation.pptx”]

I am continuing gathering resources for the literature review due in January. Due to the nature of this project, there seems to be a dearth of academic papers. However, I have extended my search for papers a little wider to include the basic understanding of how controls feel comfortable to users.

In addition, I have been running some analysis on the games mentioned above. At the moment, most of this is from playing the games and taking note of any annoyances encountered with the controls. I will write up some of these as a record on this blog in the next two weeks.

Post 2: Project Assigment and Introduction

At the time of writing, I have been assigned my Innovation Project. Rather than coming up with my own brief, I was interested in the various project titles set by some of the lecturers at Abertay. Several caught my eye (including one looking into an interactive documentary framework) but the one assigned to me is looking at Platform Specific Mechanic implementation.

The brief reads:
As touch screen devices such as smartphones become more powerful, we are seeing ports of a growing number of existing titles on to these devices (GTA3 etc.) These ports often make use of mechanisms to emulate the original control system (virtual joysticks) that can result in a poor user experience. How can the implementation of game mechanics be altered to create a user experience that is enjoyable to user while still encompassing the essence of the original mechanic? Player navigation in a third person game is an example of this, but is not the only thing that could be considered here

After a meeting with the brief’s author, I’ve found a few initial points of research to look into.

  • The first is to try out several games that originated on controller driven platforms like the home consoles but have since been converted over to mobile. These games include GTA 3 mentioned by author but also Rockstar’s other mobile converted game, Max Payne. The aim with this is to work out exactly what doesn’t play well and how it can be replaced.
  • The second axis of attack is to look at how some games have successfully bought console style movement to a hand held device. I have been recommended to look at Uncharted on the Playstation Vita. It uses the touchscreen for several different actions to assist with movement (detailed here). Similarly, I was  linked to FIST OF AWESOME which also uses a touch screen focused system with the functions split between either side of the screen (movement on the left, attacks on the right). Both of these form a good base to look into improving the idea third person movement.

The aim of this project is to suggest some ideas based around third person movement that work and is designed specifically for touchscreen devices. I will as part of this produce some tech demos to implement these ideas as well as theorising other possibilities.

Post 1: Introduction

As the rest of the site says, my name is Michael Charge. I’m a Masters student on the MProf Games Development course at Abertay as a programmer. Before Abertay, I achieved a First Class Honours degree at Teesside University on the BSc Computing course focusing on Games Programming modules. So far, I have had experience in topics varying from engine construction to network programming to the creation of mobile applications to coding elements for the Unreal Engine and Unity. Outside of university, I have assisted with various mod teams and projects in either an advisor role (due to other time commitments) or as a beta tester as well as working on various personal projects in various stages of completion. I have also written as a games reviewer for two separate websites, Geeks.co.uk and This Is My Joystick, focusing on PC and strategy games.

My key interest in terms of research relate to two modern innovations – mobile operating systems (the Android platform specifically) and the Oculus Rift. Both of these have the potential to massively affect the games industry – in fact, mobile games are already changing just where games companies invest and where new companies target. The Oculus Rift is something I have already worked on as part of Undercurrent (my final year group project at Teesside) and I would be very interested in testing just how effective it can be in games outside the usual FPS viewpoint as well as finding new ways to utilise it.

In terms of career aspirations, I would like to have a gameplay programing role within the industry. Eventually, it would be nice to develop games independently and taking a designer/programmer role but I would first like to gain experience at a larger company.

Michael