Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Game Maker Progress 46: Zooming, Tile Up-Scaled and UI Scaling

Hello everyone,

The last week has been focused on something which I've been meaning to do for a while. Previously the sizes of the map tiles were around 200 x 200 pixels. As such - all UI elements were designed with this in mind. This size made it difficult to put certain detail into the art of the game, and as such - I've been meaning to scale it up to a larger amount - a tile is now 800 x 800 pixels. This has meant that the UI needs to also be scaled up in size, to match the new tile sizes as the camera is further zoomed outward. 

Since I was working with the scaling - I decided to put in Zooming once more; since this feature was planned to be in the game - which I decided to put on the backlog for a while. Now re-added - my goal the past week was to ensure that if I decided to scale up the tiles once more - I wouldn't have the issue to re-adjust the size of the UI again. 

After a few days of working out the mathematics of it - it's working quite well! The system essentially increases the scale of the sprite of the UI element, whilst also maintaining it's position on the screen. This was done by using variables containing the distance from the centre of the screen where the camera is centred, and then using percentages to position the elements on the screen. As long as the scale of the image was correct - the element will remain in place whenever you zoom out.

This has - of course - meant that I have a day or two of going through various UI elements and adjusting the code that positions and determines their scale. However once that's done, everything should be in working order and future proofed to deal with this automatically if I decided to upscale the tiles again!

Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Game Maker Progress 45: What's next?

Hello everyone,

The next development cycle is under-way - the next play-test currently planned for the end of August. Due to the shorter cycle this time around - the feature list includes far less time-heavy work; and will instead of focus on fine-tuning the issues with the core game-play loop. 

One of the major changes will be moving towards a new way to build your nation - starting with villages, and expanding into larger cities with districts. This has a two-pronged benefit - the first being it eases the player into the growth, requirements and expansion of larger cities, and it also provides a more believable feel to the way the nation expands and grows. Together with this - new structures will be added, together with new resources, all to help encourage a different approach to solving various problems faced within the game, and also tackle new obstacles.



Warmth and health are both planned to be within this next build. Simplistic versions of the larger systems - but it will help gauge the effect of these systems on the game itself, until slowly expanding them to become more enticing and engaging, in relation to planning and consequence. Nation Traits - one of the features which has been planned from the very start - will also begin to be implemented. Nation Traits can be seen as the nation's general understanding of a particular field. As Farming is done more and more in the nation, your people will learn more about farming - unlocking new benefits, structures and ideas. This will help give both a feeling of progression - as well as an indication that the new budding nation is finding it's footing in it's new land.

That more or less tackles the more in-depth and complicated features that might give rise to unexpected issues. Some are prioritised over others - however, they should all fit within the allotted time-frame. Finally - a number of less work-load intensive, more convenient features are planned - such as the ability to view the composition of the workforce in a menu to know how many people are doing what - to an event tracker which will help inform the player of any issues that might be arising, or any events of note.

Much of what's been decided has been based on the feedback generated from the play-test - it was both a motivating and highly insightful experience, which I plan on hopefully replicating more and more as the game progresses forward. 

Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Game Maker Progress 44: Play-Test Update and Planning the Next Step

Hello everyone,

Yesterday - the first group play-test of Foundation of Civilisation took place. Whilst the game is still heavily in development, the first feedback was both promising and insightful! I was a little bit nervous - as I think many people tend to be when showing of their new work; especially when it is of personal importance. The overall response to the game was positive - the game in it's limited state shows promise to being a fairly enjoyable game to play. 

Before-hand, I'd like to take this opportunity to, again, thank the play-testers for their support and willingness to help try the game at this incomplete state - which I am confident will help make it a far better experience as a game!

A small informal survey at the end of the play-test helps shed some light on how the play-test went. The results will now be used to help plan what needs to improve, what needs to change, what is highly requested to be added next, and where there is interest. Needless to say - this was a small play-test of around 6 individuals, so the size of the sample is limited - but it remains useful none-the-less.

When asked what should be prioritised for the next build of the game - the average responses were as follow;

========================================================================

Higher variety of resources and approaches to fulfilling different needs and tasks: --------------2.16
More structures to build that perform different tasks: -------------------------------------------------2.3
More depth to the population: ----------------------------------------------------------------------------2.83
More depth to the environment [By environment - it is referred to the tiles which structures occupy]: -------3.16
Better reasons to explore the world itself: ---------------------------------------------------------------4.6
Better authentic-feel to tiles: -------------------------------------------------------------------------------4.6

========================================================================

At it's current state - there is also a major need towards giving players a reason to plan ahead, and perhaps even the tools to plan ahead better. When asked how much did you plan ahead when placing your structures, players responses average was as follows;

========================================================================

How much did you plan ahead when placing your structures? [1 not a lot, to 10 a lot]: -------------- 5

========================================================================

When asked about what they'd like to see in the game, the suggestions and ideas were highly varied. Ideas ranging from different types of events to help cause disruptions to the game, which would make planning more critical, to tools that would aid in planning, and controlling the nation itself. Many of these suggestions will likely find themselves in the already planned out systems, to perhaps even being added to the list of features to be added in the future!

The next week will involve planning what to add and test in the next prototype build - which I am hoping to schedule at the end of August. Needless to say, due to the shorter cycle [For the first prototype, it was a 2 month cycle] - less features will be added, and the focus will likely be on both refining what already exists, and adding new features that are planned out for testing.

Thank you for reading through this if you have, and thank you for the play-testers who participated in this play-test!

Until next time,
Dylan


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Game Maker Progress 43: Project Update Prior to First Group Play-test

Hello everyone,

Preparations are more or less complete for the group play-test which is scheduled for next Saturday (29th July 2017). I feel both excited, and nervous; as the project makes it's first step towards being tried by players as a game. 

The last few days have been quite the joy when it comes to Foundation of Civilisation. The project has made huge strides since it's planning, concept, and the hours of work that have been put into it until this point. There are still hours, days, if not months of work left before the game can be anywhere near what I believe it could be ready for public release - however progress is being made. The most exciting feeling from play-testing the game came from it actually feeling like a game - like a game I would play. 


With so many ideas still left to be tried and tested, both exciting ones, and ones focused on making the project just that little bit better of an experience; in terms of optimisation, and in terms of game-play. 

Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Game Maker Progress 42: Preparations for Play-Test and Next Step

Hello everyone,

As I begin preparations to have some play-testers try out the project - I started working more towards usability by fixing the tool-tips and working on the interface. The play-test will help offer a few insights on what's already been done and what can be improved, and changed. Aside from a few parameters being tuned, and fixing a few basic bugs - the game for the initial play-test. At the moment - most of the parameters have been set with testing in-mind; as such they need to be adjusted to what they could be for game-play purposes.


I have a number of ideas on what to change, add and remove that could help the game's experience. Thinking on how to go from the early-game to the late-game and ensuring the game remains compelling was one of the more important considerations as I continued thinking on could be added next, after the play-test.

Two ideas that came to mind is to have an underground-map which the player can dig-out to create underground structures. The second idea is to allow the player to have certain decisions and choices that will influence their nation. These can range from trade deals, to large immigration, to dealing with issues and so on. Following the play-tests - I will begin planning out the next build, plan out what features to implement, fix issues, and adjust elements based on feedback!



Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Game Maker Progress 41: District and Workpost Upgrade Plots and the Production Menu

Hello everyone,

This week I worked on two fairly work-load heavy elements. Both still have work that need to be done beyond simply tuning - however, since one depended on the other; it meant that I could not focus on one to completion before moving onto the other. The most work-load heavy is the new Upgrade System for the various Districts and Work-posts. 


Plots represent a space in which a structure that has a certain functionality can be built within a district or work-post. Previously - the Artisan District was the only structure that would have had these types of structures - the sawmill for instance, refined logs into timber. However, moving forward each structure will have plots where upgrade structures can be built with functionality ranging from increased efficiency and productive, to different resource production and a number of other ideas. The idea of 'Plots' came as I intend to make the menu as shown above, a small map of the area - with plots of land along roads being available for structures. This helps give a more tangible feel to the districts and work-posts as being actual places within your civilisation. 


The production menu - the more incomplete of the two systems listed here - will be able to show the amount of resources being produced 'per game tick' so to speak. Each tick - represented by the temporary clock-like indicator above the season and weather indicator - represents around a week for instance within the game world. So based on the production rate - we can see that 9 logs are being cut per week for instance. The production limit listed here will be adjustable by the player to limit production of resources. This is mostly important based on feedback of previous play-testers about artisan structures using so much raw material to produce refined resources, that it became difficult to have enough raw resources to do other actions. 

I have also replaced a few of the UI backdrops - in particular the ones used for both menus - the plan in this account is to have these menus appear on paper-like material; that you as the leader of these people are looking at whilst making your decisions on a day-to-day basis so to speak.

Until next time,
Dylan 



Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Game Maker Progress 40: Workers and Real-Time Game-Play

Hello everyone,

This week - two more critical components of the project have been implemented. These being the ability to add and remove workers to and from work-posts, together with the relevant code to ensure that if a population loses a member who contributing as a worker - the working population reduces; and the second component is that of real-time game-play. 




The ability to add and remove workers has been a major element of the project which has now been taken care of. Ensuring that the player does not somehow end up with a large amount of workers, when residential districts only have a few workers, as well as ensuring all the correct figures are shown, was a small head-ache. Thankfully - much of the work to ensure the system works was done with the concept build, which now only meant I needed to refine it and re-implement a new version. 

There does need to be a lot of adjustments to parameters based on the fact that game now operates in real-time. The real-time element in essence functions by having an 'Alarm' on-going during game-play which triggers a set of functions and resets the alarm; to signify time passing by. The way this has been implemented allows for a fairly simple way of allowing the player to choose speed - be it slow, normal and fast - which will be implemented along the line. This is a major change from the concept build - but a necessary one based on the type of game-play I am offering. Some of the feedback on the concept build described the game-play to be too slow; this might be the solution for this, this remains to be seen with play-testing however. 

There remains a few other tasks before I can begin refining the current build to a form to allow play-testers to test the game. More specifically is adding the Artisan District's functionality, possibly add the ability to save and load, and add the Production Menu to allow for better management of resources. Following this - I will be focusing my attention on the User Interface and the place-holder graphic elements. I will be keeping most of my efforts on the UI and the place-holder graphics in a more general form - for instance - attempt to have a single button graphic that can be modified using code and scaling to perform multiple tasks. 

Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Game Maker Progress 39: Weather and Seasons

Hello everyone,

Two key systems were implemented in the last week; weather and seasons, together with a resolution manager. 

The weather and seasons are two of the most basic or fundamental obstacles that players will need to contend with and plan for. They do not necessarily pose negative effects - for instance, farms produce far more during rainy weather - they do however, suffer a production hit during winter time. 


For the moment - the only way the player can tell what season and weather it is currently is by looking at the indicators at the bottom left of the screen - with the left showing season and right showing current weather. This is, for the most part, temporary as I wish to reflect the changing weather on the tiles themselves - as well as provide a better indicator to show the current season and weather. I also have plans to have area-specific weather events, for instance rain in the north, and clear skies in the south, these are however in the back-log; as the priority is to have a playable prototype using these new systems.

The resolution manager is an addition which I find to be quite enjoyable and pleasing. The resolution manager calculates the optimal resolution based on the width and height of the display that the game runs on. The game's resolution will then adjust based on this figure - allowing it to be played on various screen sizes fairly well. That being said - I hope to implement a way for players to choose the resolution and aspect ratio they wish later on. For the moment, this does aid in providing play-testers with a build that can adjust as required based on the display they utilise.

Everything is progressing nicely - the game's systems are nearing a stage where the game can be played, however there are still a lot of systems, code and elements that require attention before I can begin to play-test the game, and begin thinking of more advanced systems to put into place.

Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Game Maker Progress 38: Continuing Foundation of Civilisation Project

Hello everyone,

After a fair amount of time focusing on other work; it's time to continue on Foundation of Civilisation. One of the first steps after the fair amount of time being not working on the project was to re-adjust back into the work I had already done - and seeing how to adjust to the new schedule now that University work is for the moment complete. 

I have chosen to move the project onto Game Maker Studio 2. The new work-flow and features have already proven to be extremely valuable - the most key of which being the new layering systems within the room editor. This has made layers the interface, various instances of objects and so on - far simpler and intuitive. 

Whilst Game Maker Studio 2 did allow for a very simple import of a GM1 project - I have slowly been adjusting the project to not use any of the compatibility elements that come with importing the project. Eventually, I aim to make sure that the project is a GM2 project rather than a GM1 project. Now moving forward what are the priorities? 

The first priority will be getting the project to a playable position and to begin testing in that way. As I have previously spoken about - getting the core of the game-play working is urgent. As such - the first milestone will be that - having the project to a state where the core game-play is functional. After this is done, other game-play elements will be added to add depth, and ensure the user interface is intuitive and convenient. 

Much of what I've achieved in the past week has been hidden system components - such as getting the population code working, the work-posts code working, and changing old systems to fit into GM2 in a way I can work with GM2's workflow easier moving forward. I have begun working on adding the UI elements needed to play the game.


One of the key pieces of the UI elements was the selection of structures. I had a few ideas on how to achieve this in a way that does not take over most of the screen, but also relay the information needed in a manner that both clear and readily available. The above image shows one of the structures available to be built, the Artisan district; by selecting it, you open a few interface elements that will fit as shown on the right image. 

I will also be adding At-A-Glance [AAG] elements that give the player information on specific tiles that they can access during game-play quickly. Depending on what type of structure, the AAG elements will differ - for work-posts, the players will be able to quickly see the workers set and maximum amounts, the efficiency and the current production of that work-post.

It's good to finally be working on this project once again - I plan on getting the playable version ready as soon as I can so that I can begin getting feedback on the new way the game plays - and work with this new feedback to improve the project.

Until next time,
Dylan


Sunday, 11 June 2017

Types of Resources in Games

Hello everyone,

Things have begun to settle down and I can begin thinking on continuing the blog and progressing on my personal projects. Something that during my research has come to mind, as well as when I continued reflecting on how to better design and develop Foundation of Civilisation was regarding Resources. Something which I will be discussing today.

As I researched certain concepts of Economics, and began to reflect on their application when talking about digital game economies, I began to think that it may be worth distinguishing between different types of resources. A possible way to distinguish these is based on their ability to impact game-play;

Short Term [Here we talk of Execution]
E.g. Consumables
Ability to affect game-play now. Whether it is by affecting specific parameters such as Health and Mana, or by apply certain effects such as Invisibility or curing conditions.

Medium Term [Here we talk of Tactics]
E.g. Currency
Ability to affect game-play outside of now. Such as the ability to purchase items like potions to prepare for combat.

Long Term [Here we talk of Strategy]
E.g. Attribute Points
Ability to affect game-play after a long period of time. Such as the ability to specialise the player character in specific ways.

One does need to look at the game in question - for instance, a sword in a game where upgrading equipment takes a very long time - might be considered a Medium or Long term resource; if a game however uses durability, and the sword needs to be replaced regularly, one might consider it to be a Short term resource. Why would making such distinctions be useful one may ask? Simply put - it can allow you to make better informed decisions on design choices and what players will likely be thinking about when they are planning their characters. This can help you guide new players, or offer better choices and alternatives to existing players. 

Another reflection was the idea of how do resources behave in game economies? Resources can be consumed, they can be Exchanged or Traded, or they can be Refined into other resources. This is nothing special per se - it's pretty straight forward. However, when dealing with resources is such a prime activity within Foundation of Civilisation - this will likely allow me to better optimise my code, and think along the lines of what players could potentially do with resources - opening up opportunities to use the resources in a variety of different ways, and ultimately providing players with a more interesting experience whilst playing the game!

Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Providing Information with Embedded Narrative Elements

Hello everyone,

Recently - during my research in Deus Ex and it's repeated area of New York Hell's Kitchen - I've noticed a technique or approach towards embedded narrative beyond simply providing text information. 

Often times - when we talk about embedded narrative we look at either the Environment itself - or things like diary entries or audio logs for instance. Whilst Deus Ex definitely makes use of objects that convey text information - such as Newspapers, Books, Data-pads and E-Mails - there is further insight in the way this information is portrayed. 

When you find something written in a newspaper, you might assume that the information you are reading is wide-spread. At least more wide-spread than if the information you've read was found in an e-mail. This is something that is worth thinking about and reflecting on when you are creating your own embedded narrative elements - as it offers more depth and gives the player a better sense of the story world itself. 

Having multiple embedded elements pointing and reinforcing one another could serve to be an effective and often interesting means to allow players to form a narrative. Providing them with not only multiple perspectives on the same information - but also different mediums [Newspapers for instance being public, whilst an e-mail is private] can help players form a narrative more effectively, and possibly an even more interesting narrative!

Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

A Small Update

Hello everyone!

If you've been following my previous posts - I talked about how things have been quite busy the last few weeks - and they still are. Right now, there is a lot of work I have to do with regards to the Masters programme I am doing - so unfortunately that means a lot of personal projects have been put on hold.

I will be most likely continuing on Foundation of Civilisation later on - once things have settled down. I will also be continuing on pixel art practice once things have settled down. I may also decide to do more analysis type posts - perhaps going further than Embedded Narrative or simply broad analysis of concepts of other areas [such as economics] and their application to games. These would hopefully be both helpful and insightful to help guide design choices and even get ideas among other things! 

Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Embedded Narrative Techniques within Deus Ex

Hello everyone!

Recently I have conducting research on Embedded Narrative and the repeating aspect of the New York Hell's Kitchen area within Deus Ex, released in 2000 by Ion Storm. It has been proving to be an insightful look into rewarding players willing to explore and read the material left around by explaining events in the world through multiple 'channels'.

For instance - when you first arrive in Hell's Kitchen from the subway, you are able to access a Public Access terminal that has a few articles and announcements about what's happening in the game world. The first entry talks about a chlorine leak poisoning the Hudson river and causing problems in one of the water purification plants.




Further on through the level - you may choose to investigate the sewer areas - after being provided a key and asked by a smuggler to go rescue a friend of his. If you choose to do so - you will discover a group of what appear to be private military individuals. One of the data pads simply state that they are there to covertly observe a warehouse in the area.



However once you do some more investigating - you discover that they set up base in one of the water purification plants - and have been administering chlorine into the water supply from the plant. 


Here we have simply one story that a player can discover and learn about. All these different approaches and channels funnel into delivering the information and story for the player to piece together as they explore the environment. The game also mentions places that the player will be going to later on [Brooklyn Shipyards] and also lays the foundation as to what, why and how what will happen was able to take place.

An insight that can be taken from Deus Ex's approach to relaying information about events is to take different approaches. What a player can learn about in a news paper article, you can then reinforce and provide further information in a e-mail. Piecing these specific pieces together provides both an interesting way for you to provide information about the game world, and what the player is seeing and experiencing!

Until next time,
Dylan

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Tile-Thursday 8: 32 x 32 Volcanic/Barren Tile Set Progress 4

Hello everyone,

The last week has been very busy with University work - and it seems that the next few weeks will likely be the same. I may have to pause on pixel art for a small while - whilst I work on University work. 

I have been playing around with layers in Pyxel Edit and trying out different ways of making the same tile / object re-usable in a way that it appears to be different. This can be seen with a number of the objects in the below image - such as in the background, the cave rocks and the shrub on the small elevated piece of terrain.




Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Reflecting on Economic Ideas to Understand Games

Hello everyone,

The last few weeks I have been reflecting more and more about the usage of economic concepts and ideas in understanding games. Among the benefits of using economics within game development - we can use it to help guide design decisions - should we add a new quest to the game that will reward player a sizeable amount of currency? Should we instead give the player an item reward? These may sound as questions linked to balancing - however economic ideas help with other design decisions such as how many types of currencies do we have? 

When talking about a MMORPG [I will be speaking of MMORPGs primarily but realistically - this counts for most games that have a persistent world / economy with large numbers of players] - the concepts of economics seem to be more apparent and clear. Whilst developers often are able to control an economy of a non-MMORPG - the same is more difficult and intricate within an MMORPG setting. For the sake of ease when discussing contrasts - I will also be thinking of single player RPG games when I refer to single-player games.

I decided to reflect broadly on these ideas within this post - I may decide later on to explore more specific ideas and situations - however I have yet to decide on this. I will also be speaking in more simplified definitions and terminology - and should I choose to explore the topic more, might delve into the more specific definitions and terminologies. These are simply reflections so of course, do not take these to be facts or necessarily true, they are simply a few thoughts that came to mind when reflecting on economics and game economies. So look at this post as a simple sharing of thoughts so to speak.

Demand and Supply

As one of the fundamental concepts in economics - Demand and Supply are elements we can likely envision the most in a game setting. If a player demands an item - health potions, equipment, cosmetic items and so on - then they may be willing to attempt to acquire it. In a single player game - these often involve finding them in the world - or simply purchasing it from a Trader using the in-game currency. In an MMORPG - the situation becomes more a bit more interesting - at least in my point of view. 

Demand in an MMORPG - especially where a Trading Post, Auction House or similar is available that allow players to place purchase orders and so on - is often influenced by a lot of factors beyond the usage of the item. In games such as Guild Wars 2 - players purchase skins, mini pets and tonics that have little functional purpose in the game outside of aesthetics. The same can be said in single player games - however in a single player setting - the developer can balance out items to attempt to ensure different types of players have what they want. Which brings us to the concept of supply.

Supply refers to the amount of a particular item available within a market. In a Trading Post - these are offered up by other players - who choose how much to charge for the item itself. This shift from developers having control of prices within single player games to often having to alleviate at least a little control to players begins to show us a better picture as to why economics is useful to game developers. 

Influencing Price or Introducing New Content

As a developer in an MMORPG who is about to introduce new content to the game - it is worth noting at least what the effects of the new content will be on the game itself in terms of it's economy. Player demand and supply will shift and change as the game goes on - and a lot of new content is often a major driver towards this change. If one were to look at a number of items in games such as Runescape before and after the introduction of Raids - one can see how players would demand more of a specific item they believe will be valuable - often driving up the price of the item. Another consideration is when you add too many quest and rewards - but not enough ways for players to spend their rewards if it is currency. 

When there is too much currency within a game economy - what is likely to occur is that the general price level of goods will rise - in a general way of speaking, each gold coin is worth less in terms of purchasing power. The implications here mean that older quests become meaningless in terms of currency rewards unless adjusted to the inflation. This means that in the early game - we can't count on players to interact as much in the player economy - and may have to settle for NPC traders; or as it sometimes may be the case - the players may decide to skip the quest and content entirely. 

Conclusion

Realistically - it is difficult to keep in mind all the concepts and effects a particular decision of piece of content may have. Sometimes - players will simply surprise you or act in ways you didn't even consider. Regardless - Economics is something I believe could be beneficial to look into for developing games - perhaps more so for games with persistent economies rather than others. Understanding a few of the fundamental concepts so to speak could be enough to prove beneficial; then perhaps looking into other concepts if you feel like they may be more useful or insightful or simply interesting!

Until next time,
Dylan

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Tile-Thursday 7: 32 x 32 Volcanic/Barren Tile Set Progress 3

Hello everyone,

During the last week I've been experimenting and trying out a few ideas on the background. Usually I would try to use a slightly opaque or light colour to make distant objects. This time around - I decided to try out a new approach by adding a layer that darkens background objects to seperate them from the foreground. I definitely like the result!




Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Embedded Narrative within the First Chapter of Dead Space

Hello everyone,


This week I decided to bring forward a small analysis I did for the first 10 to 30 minutes of Dead Space (Visceral Games, 2008) - approximately the first chapter. The analysis was in regards to Embedded Narrative - for those of you who are unaware of what this implies - think of it as methods through which a develop can tell a story through the environment and objects within the environment. A few examples of these include codex entries, notes, environment objects, audio logs and markings. 

When conducting my analysis I tried to take on the role of a new player who has yet to play the game itself. Using the environment - I attempted to interpret and imagine what possible could have taken place. We will be interpreting what we see based on the environment - assuming that we have next to no knowledge on what the state of the story is within Dead Space. The analysis will be done sequentially - from when the game gives us control of the avatar to around the end of Chapter 1.


The Analysis 

Docking Area 


From the start - as we depart from our crashed maintenance ship - we walk onto the docking bay area bridge which seems to be filled with luggage bags. Whatever happened - we can possibly assume that it was sudden - and people seemed to be just arriving or just departing from the ship just before or during what was happening. 

Lounge / Waiting Area


As we make our way into the ship - the amount of luggage left around the waiting area, coupled with coffee cups and what appear to be stains (stains of what exactly is debatable - is it just coffee or blood?). This seems to reinforce what we already assume - that whatever happened - it was sudden.

Security Desk


As we walk around the security desk in the lounge we are presented with a large quantity of blood stains. Arguably the first signs that whatever happened - people got hurt. However - what was it? Were people rioting because they were kept out of the ship? Were they being forcibly kicked out? Were they being quarantined? Also if conflict did occur - where are the bodies? Was it settled without casualties and people were taken to an infirmary? 

At this stage we are introduced to the 'Aliens' who answer the question we have on what might have happened - but raise so much more... 


Some initial thoughts would be how did they get on the ship? Who or what are they? What lead to this? Where are the crew and where are the bodies if they are not alive? Do these aliens take the bodies of the crew members?

Maintenance Room


As we escape one of the aliens chasing us through the back areas from the security desk - we arise to this. Perhaps the most significant feature in this room aside is the dead crew member and the writings in blood. This tells us two key elements - the crew did survive the initial attack by the aliens - and they are fighting back. As we collect the plasma cutter from the desk we can assume what that the instructions written in blood are instructions towards killing the aliens. Presumably - the crew member was dying - injured by one of the aliens - and wanted to leave a message for any other person to find so they do not suffer the same fate. 

Audio Logs 


As we move forward from the maintenance room we locate an audio log - which follows a crew member named Bensen and a group of survivors. From the audio logs we can't be sure how long ago they left these here - but it is a possibility that the crew member found dead - was part of Bensen's group. Leading us to believe that Bensen and his group could be alive. 

Tram Tunnels 


As we continue moving forward we find this scene. At this point - we have no idea how ago this had taken place - and who these individuals were. However as we make our way forward it becomes more clear. An audio log within the Tram Maintenance room tells us that Bensen and his group were attempting to repair the Trams to try to reach a different area of the ship - but they needed a stasis module. Presumably - these individuals might have been the ones bringing the stasis  module to Bensen and his group - however we can only speculate on this point.

End of Chapter 1

By the end of chapter 1 - we know that aliens were clearly what caused the USG Ishimura to require assistance. We know that there was a group of survival alive - but we have no clue as to what happened to them. We also know that the alien attack was sudden and unexpected - and that the body count seemed low relative to the size of the ship up to this point. Whether this means the ship had a small crew - or the aliens are taking the bodies somewhere - is unclear. 

Concluding Remarks

This analysis highlights the potential use that a number of techniques using simply the environment could have for relaying information and story. Embedded Narrative is often used to tell a story of past events - encouraging players to piece together an idea of what took place before they arrived. However it can also be used to teach the player in a diegetic [Diegetic meaning that it lies within the story world - think of it as the player character is aware and can see/manipulate/hear it etc...] manner. 

Through simply embedded narrative elements - we were able to piece together a large amount of information with regards to Dead Space. [Spoiler Alert] Those of you who have played Dead Space would know that the 'Aliens' were Necromorphs as they are known within the game world - brought onto the ship - which answers two of our questions as to where the bodies were - and how the attack happened and how sudden it likely was. 

Hopefully this has been a useful analysis that might have given you ideas on how to use Embedded Narrative elements within your projects - or simply as an entertaining read if that is what you're looking for!

Until next time,
Dylan

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Tile-Thursday 6: 32 x 32 Volcanic/Barren Tile Set Progress 2

Hello everyone,

A small update for this week! Progress on the Volcanic / Barren tile-set is being made. I am enjoying working on this tile-set a fair bit up to this point! I worked on the tiles themselves for some variation and added a few decorative objects. 



Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Game Maker Progress 37: Next Step - Production Menu


Hello everyone,

Before moving onto the next set of tasks - I fixed a couple of issues that were left with the resource sets and resource tracking slots. This is not final - I will be changing the icons themselves - however for the moment these will suffice for testing purposes.




The next major element I will be moving onto next is the Production Menu. The production menu will be an important tool for the player to manage their nation. It will allow the player to assess what is being produced, how much and also set a production limit to prevent structures that generate a particular resource to overflow the storage or consume needed resources. 

Until next time,
Dylan

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Tile-Thursday 5: 32 x 32 Volcanic/Barren Tile Set Progress 1


Hello everyone,

As I've mentioned last week - I've chosen to jump on making a different tile-set! Moving onto this next tile-set, I've increased the tile-size from 16 x 16 to 32 x 32 to give me more room to work with, and switch things around.


I started working on this tile-set more or less hap-haphazardly. I started with trying out a few ideas, putting things down and starting over a couple of times before I settled on something and decided to essentially just go with it and see how it comes out!

Volcanic/Barren Tileset

I'm not completely settled on the theme for this tile-set; although it's more or less a volcanic or barren type tile-set: based on the colours and ideas I have for it! 

I look forward to bringing you more updates!

Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Game Maker Progress 36: Resource Sets


Hello everyone,

So the last update I had that talked directly about Foundation of Civilisation itself - I was still trying to get the Resource Trackers going. I have finally managed to get this taken care of - it turns out I had a small issue with the code that was causing the buttons to stack in a particular spot - it turns out I forgot to put in the break; command in a switch function. Oops...




The resource track slots - which refers to each individual one of those white squares that displays information on a given resource - can be set to show other resources. The idea I have is to allow the player to set which ever resource to track by clicking on the slot and switching it. An alternative is to have pre-set options - Resource Sets - such as food. 

By selecting a Resource Set - the track slots switch to that particular set of resources - similar to what can be seen above. The next step is to have a few more pre-sets set up and make some adjustments to the track slots to remove the background image of previous resources - then it's moving onto a new category of tasks!

Until next time,
Dylan

Friday, 17 March 2017

Tile-Thursday 4: 16 x 16 Desert Tile Set Progress 4

Hello everyone,

I haven't done too much towards adding onto the tile-set during the last week - between other work; I've had to make a few adjustments. That being said - I did re-work the sky backdrop primarily and made adjustments to the ground terrain.





I've decided to hop onto a new tile-set next; whilst this tile-set is far from finished - I've felt like excited working on this particular tile-set so to keep the spirit of practice going - I want to jump to work on something else!

I will show what I begin working on next week!

Until next time,
Dylan

Monday, 13 March 2017

Game Maker Progress 35: Approach to Design

Hello everyone,

The past week has been rather busy - I didn't have too much of a chance to work on implementing the resource tracking systems I had in mind at the end of last week's post. Whilst I was tending to other tasks - I did have time to reflect about the approach I was taking with designing the systems and experience for Foundation of Civilisation. 

Whilst I am keeping an open mind as I iterate new prototypes and ideas - having a type of philosophy or set of guidelines to use to concentrate my focus and attention seems to be necessary. Whilst working on the concept build - i.e. Dawn of Civilisation:  I had a lot of ideas, a lot of excitement of how these can tie together. This is great - but when it comes to implementing the ideas - some work together, some don't - some turn out to be good ideas, others leave a lot of room for improvement. 

That being said - after I switched to working on this new project - I knew that I needed to focus my approach better to keep things both in perspective and tied together in a comprehensive yet in-depth manner. A few weeks ago I showed you a mind-map - at the centre of this map of ideas and systems I thought of - is the core components I've chosen that will guide this project. 


These 3 components allow for a huge amount of depth - if worked on correctly. As I expand on each, I can more allow the player for more and more freedom to experience the game in a meaningful manner. Take the component of Population for instance.


In a game where the player is controlling a small nation/group of settlers - the population is definitely a key component. Population systems can include education, clothing, entertainment, health, housing, and food just to name a few ideas. These sub-components can be broken down even further to bring forward their functionality. This allows for depth - however the core components remain at the centre of the game experience. 

As the project move forward - I hope to continue working on this approach to design; see what works and what doesn't - and if it turns out to work well - keep using it. To this point - it is helping me concentrate my focus, ideas and priorities - without complicating the game with too much elements that seem redundant or unnecessary. 


Until next time,
Dylan

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Tile-Thursday 3: 16x16 Desert Tileset Progress 3


Hello everyone,

The tile-set is slowly coming along! I worked on a few more decoration tiles as well as adjusting the background and ground tiles a small amount.



At this point I'm trying to think of what style of tiles I wanted to go for. I was to go for some desert ruins and have tents that show signs of people exploring these ruins. Maybe go for a small desert treasure hunter type tile-set!

Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Game Maker Progress 34: Resource Costs


Hello everyone,

The final pieces of functionality that deal with construction is more or less nearly dealt with!



Now the cost of the structures will be shown below the build icon itself - with in-sufficient resources being marked with red text at the moment! In addition to this, modifying the cost of structures is less 'inconvenient' in a way than it was for the concept build, having centralised all the cost-related elements of structures in a script for easy adjustment!


The last task left at hand related to construction is the resource HUD. Unlike the concept build, I plan on having 'Resource Track Slots' at can be seen in the screenshot above. These would be able to track any resource that the player selects. Moreover, the player can pick from a few pre-set selections of resources such as Food, Construction Material etc. I hope that this will help ensure the player have the information they require more readily at hand when making decisions during game-play.

Once this is complete, I will decide what to move onto next; most likely the elements involving the population, work-post functionality or district functionality!

Until next time,
Dylan

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Tile-Thursday 2: 16x16 Desert Tileset Progress 2



Hello everyone,

Progress on the desert tile-set is coming along nicely. The more consistent practice has been a refreshing change of pace from the consistent focus on a single project! I also look forward to writing these posts more and more as I make progress on the tile-set itself!






I have added a few basic decoration tiles, i.e. a ruined pillar and some sand stone bricks, together with an elevated terrain piece and background details. I plan on adding more and more decoration tiles; possibly going into a few full structures or the like! 

I do like how the tile-set is slowly taking shape to this point!


Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Game Maker Progress 33: Work-posts


Hello everyone,

Progress on Foundation of Civilisation is going well! I've implemented the new build interface along with the basic tile-structures found in the concept build!



At the moment - the structures non-functional; as I have not yet added the code dealing with the interactions and functionality of the structures. A major priority moving from the concept build to this prototype build is ensuring that the code is easy to work with and clean. A mistake I made in the concept build was that a lot of elements were hard coded - and often in their own relevant objects, making it tedious if I needed to modify something.


I set about doing this in two ways primarily; using scripts to handle a lot of the aspects that I believe will need a lot of tuning and adjusting - as well as code I believe I will be returning to often as the project goes on; and with the use of Managers. Managers - ranging from BuildManager, BuildingsManager, and ResourceManager up to this point; are simply objects I use to keep certain functionality and variables within. For example; if I wanted to bring up the Build Menu for the player - I simply create the BuildManager. The BuildManager will keep track of the Menu specific information - such as showing Districts or Work-posts. Once the player wants to remove the menu, I simply need to run the return to game script which removes non-relevant UI elements, and remove the BuildManager until it's needed again. This has been working very well to this point; it has meant that I am working slower than previously - due primarily to needing to plan how I to implement things in a way that remain easy to work with and as clean as possible.

The next step is continuing to add the elements to the UI such as building costs, tool-tips and the HUD showing resources and other sub-menu buttons that the player will have available. I have planned out the elements I will need before the project will be more or less similar to the stage the concept build was in - at which point I can begin adding new components to test and play around with!


Until next time,
Dylan

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Tile-Thursday 1: 16x16 Desert Tileset Progress 1


Hello everyone,

I have noticed that a lot of the posts I have been writing on Tuesdays have been involving Game Maker primarily; which is to be expected as I progress on projects. That being said - I do not wish to neglect other types of posts - as well as my other skill-sets; such as pixel art. These posts will likely be short - focusing primarily on the tiles themselves.


I have decided to start posting on Thursdays something I nicknamed Tile-Thursday. Every day, I will be working on creating at a minimum 1 tile. That 1 tile will form part of a major tile-set I will be working on for a while. Whether I decide to change tile-sets every month or a few months I have yet to decide on. However, the style will needless to say, need to be consistent whilst I am working on a particular tile-set. These tile-sets may be used in future projects, or I will simply have them on hand for prototyping. The intention here is to practice pixel art, even if I am currently not working with pixel art.

The first tile-set I decided to work on is a 16 x 16 pixel Desert tile-set. 


Up to this point I finished up a few basic floor tiles - however moving forward I have a few ideas on what I want to add - including elevating terrain, ruins, and natural features such as sand piles, and rocks! 

Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Game Maker Progress 32: Zooming and Interfaces

Hello everyone,

Progress on Foundation of Civilisation is proceeding nicely. One the feature I knew I wanted to implement after the concept build is the ability to zoom in and out. Zooming has a lot of benefits to it; from allowing easier planning to giving a sense of scale.

Zoomed In                                                         Zoomed Out
The feature was fairly simple to implement in a basic form at least - it was simply a matter of increase the room size shown within GameMaker's view system for rooms. The challenge part comes in the form of making sure the interface remains consistent.

Zoomed In                                                                       Zoomed Out

Since an interface element [button, text, sprites etc...] were aligned to the interface itself to keep it on screen, should the player move the camera; it needed to have a separate parameter for each zoom level. After a couple of hours work - I managed to find a way to make sure the interface elements remain in place at various levels of zoom. I am currently debating whether or not to modify the size of the interface elements - an argument for keeping it the way that it is being that the player will be able to see more of the map whilst making decisions, one of the reasons I wanted a zooming feature in the first place.


I will keep it as is for the time being; the next play-testing experience will help decide whether it is something to add or keep the way that it is. 

That's it for now! 

Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Game Maker Progress 31: Map-Style Art Style

Hello everyone,

Work on Foundation of Civilisation is progressing nicely. I am taking time to plan out the game-play further before I head into coding it in; in the mean time I decided to test out a few graphical ideas I had! The style I had in mind was to go more towards a hand-drawn map style as a test. 


Districts and Work-Posts would be represented as shown above; giving the game a more hand-drawn style. I will most likely move towards having a more parchment-like graphic for the tiles themselves to fit this style - if I decide to go forward with it.




In terms of the game-play itself - currently I have been using mind-maps to try to determine how I want to take the game forward in it's design. More specifically - I listed the core components that would make up the game; and starting to build outwards, fleshing out those core components until I feel they have sufficient depth. The concept game seemed to have a decent amount of game-play with it's limited amount of elements and options; fleshing out these same components to add depth and also adding other elements that might enhance the game-play [Such a During Game-Play Tutorial, Achievements, and Story Journals that characters in your nation write up based on your actions] could give the game the unique feel I was looking for. 


I will continue to try to concentrate my ideas towards these 3 core components - I will add different major components; if I believe it would be beneficial to the game itself!

Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Game Maker Progress 30: Map Generator Re-built

Hello everyone,

Progress on the new map generator for Foundation of Civilisation is progressing nicely. The new generator uses a different tiles [or rather two types of tiles] to create maps - the sprite sizes have also been increased to allow for better functionality!



The generator works in a simple fashion; a central hexagon tile is spawned, which spawns squares at the top, bottom, left and right of the tile. The square tile then spawns a hexagon, and so on until a map is formed. 

Biomes are operated in a similar fashion to the old generator currently - depending on the sizes of the biome, tiles have a chance to spread their biome to a new tile; otherwise they are assigned a new tile. Certain tiles (such as forests) have a greater chance that if the next tile is not the same, it will become a grasslands biome. This is not necessarily staying as it is - but it does allow me to have extra functionality already built into the generator to use when ready!


I have a few ideas for the square tiles - they can be used to spawn certain special resources or special biomes later on. The idea for adding square tiles with the hexagon tiles came to me whilst trying to figure out what tiles to use for the generator. After trying the hexagon and seeing how those tiles connected - I decided to try to fill the spawn between the hexagons with another type of tile. This was either a square or a triangle, I went with square as it was more simple and I had a good idea of how it would fit into the design of the game later on.

I look forward to bringing you more on this later on!
Until next time,
Dylan

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Game Maker Progress 29: Project Foundation of Civilisation


Hello everyone,

Since things have settled down mostly for the moment; it's time to continue with my own personal projects. The Dawn of Civilisation Concept gave me a lot of skills, ideas and feedback which will serve me well for my next project - which I am nicknaming Project Foundation of Civilisation for the moment. 


The first thing that needs to be done is planning out what needs to be done; I plan on having a more solid - yet flexible plan for this project. I want to try out some new project management techniques and systems to help in it's production. 

Following this, I will be working on raising the sizes of the tiles. This will allow me to provide better detail on tiles, as well as add certain features such as the ability to zoom in and out, and better UI elements. I look forward to bringing updates on this project!

Until next time,
Dylan