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April 06, 2016

From this point forward I plan on keeping development journals on my game dev experiments.

This first journal will cover my first Unity 3D game. Well, truthfully my second 3D game in Unity but it is the first since I returned to Unity afterΒ  leaving to check out various other 3D game dev options.

What you’re about to see is my approach to developing a game. You’ll notice I define some things in more detail than others. Some things I like to “nail down” but normally I just like to define a general direction.

 

An Introduction

So hey there. My name is Gar. I’ve been developing little games for a long time now. Long before it became the cool thing that everybody wants to do.

I’m on a journey to make something cool. And this journal will document my journey from this point on. I want to make games that provide very interactive highly engaging experiences. However, don’t expect these games to look beautiful. That is just not a priority to me. In a sense, I am sacrificing the visuals in exchange for hopefully ending up with more depth and interaction in the games. Of course, I could always contract out the artwork once I actually have a good game. πŸ˜‰

Up until now I have spent my time trying out hundreds of different ideas. And a lot of time just improving my software engineering skills and better understanding game design.

So where is this masterpiece of a game? I haven’t made it yet. lol And I never said it will be a masterpiece! It will just be the kind of game I have always wanted to play.

This game will not be that game. What this game will be is a step in that direction. My plan is to make a series of games that will ultimately end up where I want to be. Like I said, I have done numerous experiments over time testing out different things and I think I have the bulk of what I need at this point to start taking this a bit more seriously. The rest I will figure out as I need to along the way.

What a deal, eh? You get a ringside seat as you watch me take on this challenge. You might cheer when you think I have succeeded. Or maybe you’ll laugh when I fail miserably. Either way it is great fun, right? πŸ™‚

 

What Is The Goal For This Game?

My goal here is to make a 3D game with the focus on AI and interaction. Figuring out the best way to do various things and finally bringing it all together in a little game that is fun to play.

I’ll be making an FPS style of game but definitely not something along the lines of COD. LOL!Β  Nope. That is not something I enjoy.

What I will be making is a sort of adventure style of Wolfenstein / Catacombs game. When playing those older raycasting 3D games I greatly enjoyed the interaction they offered with the breakable walls, secrets to find, simple lock-and-key puzzles and so forth. However, I always wanted a little more. A little more interesting AI and a little more interesting interaction all around. A little more depth. So this is my goal with this latest experiment.

Yes, ultimately, this is just another in a long list of experiments I have done in game dev.

My plan is to take you with me on this journey. You’ll see the challenges I run into. How I overcome them (assuming I do). What I tried that did not work. Hopefully it will be interesting at the least and educational at the best.

 

Game Design

As mentioned above, this will be a FPS style of game with some twists.

I’m inspired by games such as Catacombs:

…and Wayout:

…and Hovertank 3D:

All of these provide a 3D environment (albeit developed in 2D as far as the players are concerned they are exploring a 3D world) with clear simple goals. They are simplistic and that is part of their appeal. The kind of experience they provide represents the core of the kind of experience I would like for this game to provide. With a little more interesting AI, interaction and depth.

 

A Beginning

Thinking about all of this I began to imagine different scenarios to answer questions such as who is the player, what are they doing, why are they doing it and so forth.

With a bit of daydreaming I arrived at this:

Seven years ago a new Earth type planet was discovered [snipped for brevity].
An exploratory mission was set up using our most advanced technology combined with a team of 4 highly trained personnel.
While orbiting the planet running a routine scan for life disaster struck forcing the ship to perform an emergency landing.
During descent a metallic structure was seen at the base of a rocky mountain.
The primary power supply is damaged and two of the crew are severely injured. The third (medical officer) is remaining aboard the ship tending to them.
Your mission is to explore the mysterious structure in the hope of finding something that can be used to restore full power to the ship.
Of course, mission control has added what they feel is an equal priority… to collect and report any artifacts you find.

That was pretty easy, right? Not perfect but certainly provides a very solid base for a game and it required only a few minutes to come up with it.

What may not be immediately clear is the way the background story is written provides a basis for a very simple intro sequence. Basically, I envision some kind of very short opening sequence in the style of the old NES game cinemas. Each line in the above description can easily become one “slide” in the sequence for a total of 7 “slides”. It will be short and to the point. Effectively setting the foundation for the environment while not annoying the heck out of players by making them wait for a 1 minute+ video to finish. Of course, out of respect for players’ time I will almost certainly allow this to be skipped.

 


 

April 07, 2016

Interactions

Okay, so I have a basic idea of what I want to make. And I have the environment loosely defined.

So… what exactly will the player be able to do?

  • Obviously, they need to move around in this 3D environment.
  • Jumping would be good because it can be fun for some folks to just jump around in general and jumping allows adding another type of obstacles and / or puzzles.
  • Collect things. This can be items that provide some benefit to the player such as health restoration. It can also be collecting things for points or even completing a sort of quest.
  • Battle with enemies. This could be done with melee or range or a combination of the two. And I just decided this will be limited to ranged attacks. So I’ll need some kind of ranged weapon system. Could be a gun. Could be something offered by the suit the player is wearing. Or even both.
  • Use things such as doors and machinery.
  • Explore, experiment and find things. I’d like to have a few secret things for the player to find. Maybe secret panels or maybe even standing or jumping at a certain location can reveal some kind of reward.
  • Finally, it would be very cool if the player can upgrade their abilities and / or skills in some way. Whether there is a very simple system for movement speed, jumping distance, weapon damage, armor, health regen mods, gear to equip or what… well I don’t know yet. But I personally find games where I can upgrade gear and such to be more immersive. This is basically just another way for the player to interact with the game. Upgrades allow players to make some kind of impact on the game-world or at least their game experience.

That’s plenty to work with. Certainly more than enough to make a fairly involved and enjoyable game.

The “secret” to accomplishing all of the above is to keep everything as simple as possible. Of course, another way to keep it all manageable is to simply cut some things. I’ll worry about that later. For now, I’d like to have the game feature everything listed above.

 

I probably should mention that I don’t follow some kind of formal design process or similar nonsense. I just think about the game. Let my imagination take over. I kind of imagine the game already being done. In a way I see it in my mind and I just watch as I play it. What am I doing? What is in the game? So… all of the stuff I am writing in this Game Design section, after choosing the initial broad concept (the section above with the screenshots of older games), is a result of “playing the game in my mind”.

 

Collectibles

Thinking about the items the player may collect… basically I can see there being 3 types:

  • Treasure
  • Tech
  • Gear

Treasure is just things that award points. Although these could also be used for simple quests. I’d imagine these being things such as small statues, gems/crystals and so forth.

Tech because you are exploring an alien structure on an alien world. These would be the items of interest to Mission Control.

Gear because this offers a way to do upgrades and with the gear being of an alien (and likely advanced) origin it provides a way to offer unrealistic “powers” and so forth in a way that fits in and supports the environment.

The gear could be something very detailed sort of like a Diablo system where different pieces of “armor” can be found and fit to various body parts such as a helmet, shoulders, gloves and so forth. But that is definitely way too involved for this lone wolf to focus on so I just axed that idea.

Something like Upper Body Armor and Lower Body Armor would be much more reasonable to implement. However, thinking about it just a bit more (and yes I am just thinking as I write and writing as I think) there has to be a simpler way.

What if the player can find a single suit (that either just happens to fit or perhaps they find several suits of which only one actually fits) of alien armor? And then the player can find mods that can be plugged into the armor granting enhanced “powers”. Yeah this is definitely the way I’d do it.

So the gear now becomes a single usable item: Alien Battle Armor (ABA)

It appears to be some kind of armored suit. Although nearly weightless as you tug at it you realize it seems to be extremely durable. In many ways it looks very much like the armor worn by the modern military. However, you notice it has three holes in it running vertically down the center of the chest and torso area. There seems to be some kind of connection apparatus inside. In fact, it almost looks like something is meant to be plugged-in.

 

Tech then becomes items such as:

  • Healing
  • Movement Speed Boost
  • Shield Generator
  • Weaponry

So yes, I also was able to just now sort out the weapon system. Sort of like the Iron Man battle armor, the player’s weapons will originate from the ABA itself. And likely be used by extending the hand and shooting. This system would support a variety of energy-based weapons such as electrical charges, fireballs, poisonous bursts and so forth.

Not sure how much of this will go into the game because after all it is just me doing this and I don’t like projects that drag on for a long time. I do like the ideas though and can likely get at least the essence of them in. Just need to focus on keeping things as simple as possible.

 

“Bad” Things (aka Enemies & Other Obstacles)

Environmental Dangers

As I run around the environment in my mind I imagine there being a radioactive area. And I think it would be sort of cool if normally this radiation quickly saps your health and yet it actually recharges the power of the ABA. Or perhaps a nice twist would be that if you have the shield mod it not only protects you from the radiation but also converts the radiation into energy for the ABA. Hmm… I think either could work but the second might be a bit more interesting.

And how about a poisonous area? Some kind of poisonous gas leaking from something. This would be an ideal match for the Healing module. And perhaps the shield is not very effective. I think this could work.

Enemies

Of course, it would be good to have a few different types of enemies. But what and where do they come from?

It seems reasonable this could be some kind of research base or at the very least it could have a research lab. And with this in mind, the aliens could have been conducting experiments. And the experiments resulted in the enemies the player must face.

For now, I will just name the enemies as experiments. πŸ™‚

Let’s see now… what did these aliens create?

Maybe some kind of carrier to transport large and / or heavy objects. This would be very strong and probably some kind of crawling thing. Likewise, they may have experimented with some kind of smaller faster moving delivery method for smaller objects. It certainly seems reasonable they would have experimented with some kind of guard. And possibly some kind of brain… basically something that just monitors and collects intel.

With that in mind, the four experiments might be something like:

  • Experiment #1 Code-Name Borgdilla with the idea being each of these creatures has some kind of combat ability. Borgdilla can transform into a ball and perform a rolling attack
  • Experiment #2 Code-Name Batborg resembles a bat and is always flying. It can quickly swoop down and use the edges of its wings and sharp overly large claws (used to pick up and carry small items) to attack
  • Experiment #3 Code-Name Dark Sentry it patrols halls and rooms and aggressively defends its “home area”
  • Experiment #4 Code-Name The Watcher the brains of the experiments. It does not attack and instead focuses on fleeing the player while calling upon the Dark Sentries and other enemies for help

Again, I am not sure how much of this I will implement but I think the above would make for some interesting gameplay.

 

Making great progress on the design. Very soon I can move on to the artistic and technical sides! πŸ™‚

That’s a great thing because I only focus on this part enough to get some rough ideas defined and then move to the development phase.

I just don’t find value in trying to create some kind of formal micro-level game design document. Seems like a waste of time to me. However, I find a lot of value in taking the time to do some design work. At least documenting the major things needed. There are a lot of folks who talk about having massive design documents. Sometimes having iterated on them for years! That is great and all but the thing they never seem to have is… well… an actual game in any sense of the word. So I design until bored with it then move on. And I am getting very close to the point where I will be moving on. πŸ˜‰

I’ll revisit design again in the coming days as and when I need to.

Next up is the presentation style.

 

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