Puzzle Design and Game Mechanics
Puzzle design and game mechanics were developed in the second week. Our first idea involved a torch that you could use to combat fear but it transpired that this mechanism was too ambitious to develop in two weeks. I liked the idea, that light could defeat fear and this was something that Elliot could program into the game. We came up with the idea that Phobot could draw fear into the light to defeat it, and this was a meaningful addition to our game.
Bringing the character’s to life with animation: Spine
I stumbled once again on a giant-sized animation rock in Rapid Ideation One. To conquer my animation woes, I researched the best animation software available for 2D art.
Animation for 3D art is wide-ranging, and there are millions of tutorials and helpful guides. I could use Maya, Blender, and so on. Animation for 2D art is a little more niche. I love 2D illustration in games, works like Gris, This War of Mine and works that include a mix of 2D and 3D or 2.5D like Hades, Tear Away Unfolded and Astrologaster.
In preparation for Rapid Ideation 2, I watched tutorials from the Esoteric Software, and the Indie Studio Think Citric. Animation software like Puppet 2D, Toon Boom and Spine are available and are all great products, but Spine was in-the-end the best choice for my continuing practice. Spine was recommended by one of our Development Practice tutor’s Giovanni Rubino (2020), as a tool many professionals use and a good alternative. I am also completing an intensive course in After Effects in January.
Limbo and Stine Serensen’s animations inspired the embodiment of fear in Phobot’s game. The animation builds a terrifying atmosphere in Limbo.
I designed the boss character first and created small from this original concept.
Animation and Unity
The terms of a Spine licence includes run-times for only the animator, and additional licences need to be purchased for other team members. I exported the animations for idle, attack, and afraid and imported them into Unity for Elliot to program. This technique is complete within the licencing terms for Spine.
Little girl’s first animation & her second improved version:
Little girl, idle-animation
Little girl, run-animation
Animating human characters is (I think) more advanced. At my skill level, creating a realistic run was a challenge. I had fun trying, a cartoon-like character would have been easier to animate, but I wanted to have a go at it. There is a light grey outline around the shoes because initially there was a shadow around her feet.
On the last day of the game jam I added lamposts, a lantern, light and some UI screens.
Last-minute UI screens
I designed, ‘won’, and ‘game over’ animated screens; unfortunately, we didn’t have time to upload them into the game. Instead, I made last-minute still-screens. I also threw together some text and images for instructions, intro-screen and credits.
“Once again, the visual aspects of your work are very strong. The lamp mechanic was effective and the spectres were quite terrifying. I really love the game over screen. There is a lot of repetition in the level but this is to be expected in terms of output from a jam. I had a lot of fun pushing the girl away and watching her bounce back. There was something quite thought-provoking about the whole experience” (Parker replying to author on Week 9 Open Forum 2020).
“Great work. Really striking game. I think there’s a great match between the images in the game and the speed/feel of it. The flat 2d layer style works really well also. Well done both” (Griffiths replying to author on Week 9 Open Forum 2020).
“The ‘stories in your games so far have a real elegance” (Griffiths replying to author on Week 9 Open Forum 2020).
Reflection on Rapid Ideation 2
Valid “critical feedback from others, when properly given, can make the difference between success and failure in our lives. It provides us with information on what’s working and what’s not” (Hathaway 1998: 3).
While my illustration (character design and background art) are still a little rushed, I have built well-rounded characters (Phobot, Penny, the little girl, Fear) and brought them to life with animations.
I tend to gravitate towards “flat 2d” style, and it might be worth trying a different art style for Games Development. The background art could be more detailed and artistic. The art style is simple but effective graphics, which is faster to create. As a result, Parker (2020) has noticed both a polished visual aesthetic, but there is some repetition where I have struggled with time. I have accomplished a bigger and polished game, but I would like to push myself hard next time.
The pace was something that Elliot and myself considered, as you move through the light, the speed of the game slows down. The colour palette is bolder and more fun.
The level is relatively short, by introducing vertical layers, small AI enemies and one long big boss fight we drew out the game longer. I’m glad that Griffiths (2020) gave us feedback on the pacings, as I know I am heading in the right direction with this feedback.
“Open feedback can relieve stress, permitting people to stop playing games of guessing at expectations and evaluations. Because honesty promotes trust and paves the way to intimacy, constructive feedback can improve interpersonal relationships” (Hathaway 1998: 43).
Receiving feedback is invaluable, and I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to do so, giving feedback can also support your reflective practice and development. We are currently a User Experience (UX) and Indie Games Development cohort, providing feedback as best as I can to the UX students informs myself of how better to design UI for games and present my work. Matthew White (2020) created a portfolio for a talented artist and musician. Providing feedback for his portfolio inspired me and allowed me to think critically about interactive portfolio design. The same principle applies to the feedback I gave to fellow Indie Games Developers. Paul Griffith (2020) created two beautiful prototypes in Rapid Ideation 1 and 2. Looking through his work and reviewing his process, bolstered my ideas and allowed me to take a more in-depth critical look at my work.
The second reason to give feedback is to “improve interpersonal relationships” (Hathaway 1998: 43). I try to be honest when giving feedback but always encouraging. I would never tell someone that ‘they don’t have it’ or ‘to give up’, primarily because I feel everything is a matter of time, patience and practice. In the process of giving feedback, you get to know someone better, and they also get to know you a little better.
Time management and teamwork
My Rapid Ideation nerves subsided for Rapid Ideation 2. I felt able to concentrate and achieved more.
Elliot Handley (2020) and I worked well in a team; we respected each other’s talents and time. We communicated throughout the process, and both achieved a game. I used The GitHub management software and Kanban board to organise my work and share my progress. My time management improved with a formal timetable and the pressure of not letting down my team.
Art and animation
Firstly, my 2D animation skills have improved over the last few weeks. I am beginning to make progress in my learning, and in some of my animations like Phobot, Fear and the rotating moon coins, you can see my skills are progressing from Ideation 1. I enjoyed creating characters and feel I designed two relatable protagonists and a scary antagonist. Animating humans is a different story, and the little girl was a struggle.
The visuals for Rapid Ideation 2 were more complicated than 2. The colours, characters, backgrounds were all designed to create that innate sense of fear at the dark, with relief in the bright pink and green foliage. I used black and greys so that the enemy ‘fear’ would hide and rush out to attack our characters. Overall I feel I achieved something cohesive compared to Rapid Ideation 1.
Version control and Unity
I am gaining confidence using Unity, and I understood Elliot’s folders (they were very neat and nicely organised). I kept my folders tidier and more organised for Rapid Ideation 2, as part of my goals from Rapid Ideation 1. Rapid Ideation 2 and working in a team emphasised the importance of structuring your folders in a team and for your own organisation.
Working a team was great practice for Unity and Version Control. I now feel much more confident about using both. I was a little terrified about the dreaded merge conflicts, but we generally avoided them. In one instance I did try and merge in some background art, at the same time as Elliot changing the code – I asked for help outside of the course and managed to delete the work with GitKraken (phew). I was only adding some plants, so I was quite happy to start again.
While it’s easy to focus on where you could do better, I did create some nice animations, load them into Unity and got them working – small steps.
How did Rapid Ideation 2 compare with 1?
- Specific – Manage time better in the future (to avoid repetition)
- Measurable – Produce a game for the next module that is polished
- Attainable – In Games Development we build one game over approximately 12 weeks
- Relevant – Practicing polishing original games will improve my practice and help me towards my goals
- Time-bound – Over the 12 weeks for Games Development
- Specific – Continue to work on animation
- Measurable – Read The Animator’s Survival Guide, practice animation
- Attainable – Complete as part of my personal development
- Relevant – Art and animation are important parts of my skill set. I would like to work towards drawing and animating my game
- Time-bound – Before the Games Development module starts
List of figures
Figure 1. Screenshot of Spine
Figure 2. Screenshot of Unity Project
Figure 3. Sarah MASTERS. 2020. Little girl idle.
Figure 4. Sarah MASTERS. 2020. Little girl run.
Figure 5. Sarah MASTERS. 2020. Fear idle.
Figure 6. Sarah MASTERS. 2020. Fear attack.
Figure 7. Sarah MASTERS. 2020. Phobot idle.
Figure 8. Sarah MASTERS. 2020. Phobot afraid.
Figure 9. Sarah MASTERS. 2020. UI screen game over1.
Figure 10. Sarah MASTERS. 2020. UI screen game over2.
Figure 11. Sarah MASTERS. 2020. UI screen1.
Figure 12. Sarah MASTERS. 2020. UI screen2.
Figure 13. Sarah MASTERS. 2020. UI screen3.
Figure 14. Sarah MASTERS. 2020. UI screen4.
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Tear Away Unfolded. 2015. Media Molecule, Tarsier Studios, Sony Interactive Entertainment.
This War of Mine. 2014. 11 Bit Studios Crunching Koala’s, 11 Bit Studios.
WHITE, Matthew. 2020. ‘Week 9: Open Forum’. Falmouth University Discussion Board [online], December 28. Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/872/discussion_topics/18645 [accessed 3 December 2020].
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Wikipedia. 2020b. ‘List of assassinations by the Assassins’ [online]. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_assassinations_by_the_Assassins [accessed 3 December 2020].
Wikipedia. 2020c. ‘Phobot’ [online]. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phobot [accessed 3 December 2020].