My first step into the gaming industry and how I’m turning my career into a game

The journey so far…

 They say that a journey of a thousand miles begin with a single step, and if that is so, then I’ve made my first step into the game industry. Its been a long time since my last post so here is my update. I’ve just gotten into Anino games, one of the first game development companies here in the Philippines. Its a company that I’ve been wanting to be a part of ever since I got out of university. I still did not get a designer position but I guess quality analyst would do for now. Its still a very long way from my ultimate goal of making serious games but it’s a start.

I watched a video of game designer Brenda Bratwaithe’s talk during the Game Developer’s Conference 2010. The talk inspired me and made me re-evaluate what I wanted to do as a game designer( well a hobbyist game designer at least). The game was a board game called ‘Train’ and it was about the holocaust and from what I’ve heard the game moved people to tears. I thought to myself, “these are the kinds of games I want to make someday”. I want to make games that can actually move people, and make them ask questions. I want to push the boundaries of games as a medium for telling people’s stories.

I’ve also come back to my roots which are non digital games(board games and card games). I figured that it would be easier for me to create games for my portfolio if I make non-digital games also.

My Quest

I’ve been reading a lot of research and articles lately regarding the game industry, and its intimidating how competitive the games industry is. Sometimes I question myself if I have have what it takes to get into those big companies. Questions like ‘am I creative enough’ and ‘Should I stop this now and get a law degree’ always pops to mind. But then I’ve also read ‘Reality is Broken’ by Jane Mcgonigal and about those all those games that have actually moved people into action and I tell myself that I can take this journey a little bit further into the next hill or crossing. In order to motivate myself into accomplishing everything that I need to accomplish within the next two years I made a game for myself. The game is called My Quest.

The game is not really a game but more of a series of tasks that I need to accomplish before the end of the year. I’ve pinpointed some larger tasks which I needed to do in order to achieve competence and up my chances into getting into serious games or a AAA game company and they are:

  • Know the market and the latest trends( demographics, what is popular)
  • Know and learn the technology(learn a game engine, read about the latest research in game design)
  • Know people( make contacts around the world and meet people who have the same goals as I do so that I can learn from them and them from me)
  • Gain exposure( I need increase my online presence, by writing about games and be involved in forums)
  • Be the best game designer I can be( by playing games, making them and studying

I broke these tasks into smaller goals. Every time I do one of these smaller tasks I earn points towards a goal. For example:

To complete the Foresight achievement I need to get a total of 1000 points. Everytime I read a news article regarding the latest games I earn 1 point towards that goal.

Another achievement is the Designer achievement. This is a bit harder to get since in order to complete it I need to make a minimum of three complete and play tested games which are to be used for my portfolio.

There are also unlockable achievements that have pre-requisites like: Make a compelling resume, Make an online portfolio, and create a demo reel.

Finally there a NPC ( people that are not me) given tasks which are tasks given by other people to help me improve as a game designer. I’m going to post this in a forum to see if I can actually get people to help me improve by giving me tasks.

By the way, the game is inspired by Assassin’s Creed. So I’m calling the missions contracts. So yeah, I’m ‘assassinating’ these challenges one at a time. Someday I’ll be a full fledged Assassin and make games that will help humanity or something like that.

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Post mortem- The Necropolis

From Ludum Dare:

Hello, this is my postmortem for The Necropolis, the first Ludum Dare that I’ve finished not counting the mini Ludum Dare last month. Looking at some of the games here is quite overwhelming since there are a lot of great looking games considering that we only have 48 hours to make them, and I told myself that someday I’ll make great looking games but not this Ludum Dare. This Ludum Dare I’ll have to make do with crappy art, and my current programming skills. This is the result my friends.

The Theme

So in Ludum Dare we start out with a theme first(and build the mechanics from there), as opposed to making the mechanics first before pasting on the theme. The night before the Ludum Dare I looked at the round 4  list of  themes and chose parallel dimensions(since it was on the top of the list) to think about. I thought about gameplay ideas for it just in case it was chosen and then went to sleep. The next day I woke up sat down in front of my laptop, excited like a kid on a Christmas day. The theme I saw on the screen was ‘Alone” and I thought “great!’ at first until I noticed the ideas were not coming. I wanted my game’s dynamics to be reflective of the theme but when you think about it(at least from my perspective) the majority of the games out there can justify the theme of being ‘Alone’. It wasn’t that I wasn’t getting ideas,it was that there were too many ideas(about 80% of them I can’t implement..yet). I spent the whole day thinking of a suitable game mechanic that I can implement and that would reflect on the theme of ‘Alone’ as best as it could, and after sleeping on it I came up with one.

The Gameplay

The first game I thought about was ‘The angel of Death’. In the game you are the angel of death sent to kill one of the baddies in the level. The idea was all the baddies in the screen with you will take damage until they die as long as you were there with them. So you had to avoid them while looking for the baddy you were sent to kill. I scrapped the idea because the screen was too large and the hero was limited in movement for a 2d platformer to avoid the baddies.

So I came up with the current game after more thinking. I came up with the idea about a character refusing the idea that monster’s exist. I heard in a university lecture once that ‘your perception is your reality’ so I imagined a character trapped in an underground labyrinth with a lantern. He firmly  believe that he is alone and that the monsters he keeps seeing just beyond his lantern’s light(to limit the vision) is just his imagination. Unfortunately they might not be, and the moment he realizes that he is not alone his mind breaks down and its game over. To do this I thought of putting( inspired by an emotion engineering lecture I attended lately) the following stuff:

Blood trail(not implemented)- the monster leaves a trail of blood on the floor which disappears after a few seconds so that the player knows where its been and the direction it is going.

Heart beat(not implemented)- I actually put this in the game but the sound that I got was inaudible(its still in the source folder) so I just removed it. Whenever a monster was near the heartbeat would warn the character.

Compass(not implemented)- for game play reasons purely. The compass would point to the direction of the nearest scroll to help the character.

Light(implemented)- The core mechanic. Any monster revealed by the players light will give him sanity damage.

Scrolls and portals- the goal of the game is to explore and collect this stuff(so its an exploration game).

Lurking Monster(not implemented)- something that wanders the Necropolis randomly.

So yeah I removed a lot of stuff and decided to finish with just the core mechanic. I would like to put them in the game sometime in the future( I’m learning how to program them now) . Looking at it(at least to me) the game play reflects the theme of being ‘Alone”, alone in the screen as much as possible(game wise), and believing that we are alone, and that the monsters we refuse to believe are not really there(philosophical shit to make me sound more intelligent ;p).

What went right

I decided to use Flixel, I’ve been using it for the past months and so far so good. I’ve been learning Unity and almost decided to go with the ‘alone in the island’ game (e.g. put a guy in an island , tada! he’s alone!) just so that I could test the stuff I’ve learned. Good thing I realized immediately that I can’t model stuff yet.

What went wrong

I lost a lot of time trying to implement the pathfinding for the lurker monster before scrapping it and go with the other stuff first. I was supposed to make better art too( better is something better than my art). Forgot to put kittens in my game.

Overall

As always, I’ve enjoyed this Ludum Dare and I can’t wait for the next one. I almost thought of giving up the first day but I trusted myself enough to come up with ideas with just a little help of sleep and a dose of dreaming. Thinking of other stuff to say but I’ve ran out of stuff for now, I’ll probably put up follow ups in my game journal if anyone’s interested. So there, good luck with your games and thanks for another sleepless but excellent weekend!

Game Festival Lessons

After the games festival I just noticed that all of the lectures that I went to are about game design, far from my original plan to attend all of them. Too bad it wasn’t possible because they were all happening at the same time. Now I’m rummaging through my notes to see the most important(core) lessons I’ve learned during the event:

From Emotion Engineering:

-Your game must be remembered. This can be achieved through the use of narrative, game mechanics, visuals and audio to immerse the user in your game.

From Common Misconceptions about Game Design:

-Working with team mates and self discipline is important for a games designer. Ideas are cheap, execution is king. Good ideas can still ruin a game with bad implementation.

From Designing Casual Games: The Boomzap method:

-Design for your target market and not for yourself. Keep story simple and playable. Designing games for 50+ years old women is way different from designing games for hardcore gamers.

From How to Get Your Game Out There:

-Find good partners who you can trust to market your games.

 

 

Neverwinter Nights trial map- Castle Emmerich dungeon

Just started learning the Neverwinter Nights 2 toolset. Its an old game but I think it will be easy for me to learn level design with this since I’m already familiar with the Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 system. Another reason I chose this is that I have some D&D stuff(old adventures, campaign materials) on paper that I can use.

Castle Emmerich Dungeons

The dungeon beneath Castle Emmerich will be a low level adventure for players level 1 to 3. It is a lightly guarded dungeon with a secret door that leads to the Emmerich family crypts. The players begin in one of the dungeon cells and must find their equipment first. After doing so, they need to find the incantation to open the secret doorway to the crypt entrance.

Castle Emmerich

The Emmerich family was one of the few noble retainers which followed Locke Wyndorf north of the great wall before the decline of the Kremshan Empire(I’m using my own world for this rather than the default Forgotten Realm’s world). The castle lies in the eastern part of the frontier near the Dragon’s Teeth mountain.

One of the bastards of the late Lord Emmerich now holds court in the castle plotting to overthrow the aging Lord of the Wyndorf barony.

Where to go next

There, I’ve written all I wanted to write for the last two or three months. There are so many things to do and study. Some stuff I have planned are:

-Get a job in games design or QA

– Join a modding team, found one actually looking for a story writer but don’t know yet if the project will push through

-Learn Unity and some level design tools its an old game but its D&D so I already have some ideas in stock

-Enroll in a game design/development short course early next year to get some creds

-continue writing and reading post mortems at game career guide(there’s a treasure trove of articles out there)