Author: Chris Ng

Mind the Trap

On the Front Page of Reddit! Your Questions Answered


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Last week, we shared a GIF of the boulder dungeon on reddit comparing how it looks before and after our artist puts in assets. Our mouths dropped to the floor when we found ourselves on the front page of reddit—the freakin’ front page! This, added to an already amazing week at Casual Connect, made us absolutely speechless.

Front page of Reddit 04

After going through the 1000+ comments of kind words, constructive feedback, intelligent discussions, and of course harsh words attempting to poison our soul, we’ve summarized it and highlighted our favorite ones. The internet is not the internet without someone being needlessly insulted by your posts. We had a good laugh and love the joy you guys bring to us.

First off, what’s going on in the image?!

gfycat

What is going on is called “white-boxing,” and is only a slice of what happens during the development of a game. Because level designing is an iterative process that takes a lot of testing and editing, our level designer prepares the levels with placeholder assets (like boxes) that can be used to quickly prototype the basic layout of the level. Art takes a lot of time and is not as flexible to changes. Compounded with the fact that every level is unique, it only makes sense that the least resource-intensive workflow is for the level designer to finalize the level before passing it over to the artist to beautify it. Hence, what you see in the right scene is the final result of the boulder dungeon after prototyping was completed.

As you may have noticed, some sections of the left scene have art assets, such as the mice and the boulder. These assets, which are integral towards gameplay, were already created; therefore, it only made sense that we take advantage of them rather than use a blank capsule for the character or a white sphere for the boulder.

The game looks really polished!

At this point the core components and framework of the game have already been fleshed out. In preparation for Steam Greenlight and Casual Connect, we put in extra effort into polishing a few levels to a nearly shippable quality in order to demonstrate how the game will look and feel once it’s finished. Some of you indicated that this approach is called a “vertical slice.”

What’s the name of the game?!

The game is called Mind the Trap. The reason I didn’t post the name in the title is that due to Reddit’s anti “self-promotion” rules, I have often in the past been blocked from posting when in reality I simply just wanted to share some cool content. So in order to hopefully get this post past the rules, I left out the details. I know it must’ve been frustrating, but it was really neat to see you guys find it!

Learn to spell you stupid piece of s***.

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Yeah… I messed up… Typos happen, and when they do, apparently you anger people so much that they wish death upon you. Damn I angered this guy badly! I will try to not make more typos in the future, I swaer!

 

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Game Jams, Games

DYSTOPOLIS Postmortem


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DYSTOPOLISbanner1.png

DYSTOPOLIS is a run n’ gun shooter set in a minimalistic cyberpunk metropolis, where you have the ability to redirect bullets using an ability called the “Gravity Well.” The game is available on itch.io for free here, so please try it out and let me know what you think!

Coming up with the Idea

At the time of the game jam, my brother and I were obsessing over the latest co-op indie game we picked up, Broforce. We were a fan of the different ways you could play the game, whether by going rambo and lighting up the landscape with machine gun fire, or by using stealth to sneak behind the simple AI characters and hit them from beneath the ground. No matter how you decided to play, this game was a difficult arcade shooter, where a single mistake would cost you your life. So while we were thinking of ideas for the game jam theme “rigging” we thought we could give making a shooter a try for this game jam, where you could instead “rig” your bullet trajectories through an in-game mechanic that we called the “Gravity Well.”

GravWell.gif

However, before we could get started on the game, my brother had to go on a vacation with my family, so I was left alone to work on the game solo. This gave me a great opportunity to practice some skills that my team usually handled such as the art design.

(more…)

Game Jams, White Rose

Synesthetic Beat-’em-up | Ludum Dare 34


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In a world created by sound, play as a boy with synesthesia as he fights the ever growing darkness with music and his fists, painting the world in color with every damaging blow. Destroy the monsters before they spread the ever-growing darkness. Turn up the beats and enjoy the visual experience.

Check the game out on our Ludum Dare 34 post! Or, play the game directly on our Itch.io page!

Screenshots:

White Rose gameplay gif 7 - Combo

White Rose gameplay gif 3 - Parallax

White Rose was actually one of the first concepts we came up with when we got into game development, so we were really excited to be able to turn it into something playable. Unfortunately, due to time constraints for this jam we couldn’t implement all the features, such as combo-ing to the beat of the music and adding a rhythm element to it. Check out the game and have fun!

Mind the Trap

Found the Culprits Affecting In-Game Performance


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For such a simply designed game, the Mind the Traps build for the Epic MegaJam was running around 47 FPS on our high performance computer, which was not a good sign. We had some culprits in mind but given the one week time crunch, we unanimously decided to forgo efficiency for a more complete game. Plus, the judges would be using hardcore computers to test the games, so any FPS drops wouldn’t be noticeable.

The week afterwards we played the same build on gaming laptops and the frame rate was unbearably horrid. That’s when we realized that the first thing we needed to take care of to make this game even worth selling was the frame rate. Who’s going to play a game where the characters are teleporting all over the place?

So, what exactly was causing the drop in performance?

Crazy scientist. Young boy performing experiments (more…)

Mind the Trap

Procedural Generation, Part 1: Looking Good So Far


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Mind the Traps is designed to be a fun-filled party game that you play with your friends for a few rounds, kinda like Mario Party and Super Smash Bros. For those reasons, it needs to be action-packed, short and replayable. Originally, we had a few options, such as creating a large amount of levels and adding character classes, but given that this would be our first commercial game we decided to go with a more risk averse approach—procedural generation.

So far, it’s turning out pretty good for the basic floor plan.

proceduralgeneration

If you had a chance to play the prototype, you’ve probably noticed that the game is broken down into pathways and mini-game rooms. We’ve continued with that method of level design and created a blueprint that procedurally generates pathways and rooms at the beginning before the game starts. It follows the simple logic of: for every 2 pathways (white colored blocks), a mini-game room (black block) is created. The final room (red block) is a boss room. 

All of this is kept uniform by following a simple set of rules:

  1. All rooms and pathways follow a simple grid system, where every 1000 by 1000 UE4 units are considered one “unit” in our grid.
  2. All rooms and pathways origin position are the centerpoint of the first 1 by 1 unit. So that if we have a room that is size 3 by 3, the centerpoint is at 1 by 1, the bottom-left-most corner of the square. This is so that calculating the entrance and exit positions of each room and path is uniform and easy.
  3. Every path and room is entered from the south, meaning the players only enter each room and path from the bottom of the room/pathway.
  4. Every path and room is exited from the north, meaning the players only exit each room and path from the top of the room/pathway.

Each previously created pathway and mini-game room is randomly chosen from preset arrays. Having arrays gives us the flexibility of adding more pathways and rooms in the future. (more…)

Wispy Willows

New Level Complete


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Woo!!!!!!! Just finished up the design for a new level of #WispyWillowsGame. This one caused me some especial pain. Lots and lots of unseen bugs came up during testing. I’m quite happy with the layout. All art are placeholders at the moment.

Level15

Don't Breathe

May Update: Game Jam!


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Hey guys, sorry for the lack of posts. We’ve been kinda busy with other things, and we’ve put Ruin on delay till about September to focus on some events we got going on now. Chris here, just wanted to mention that I’ve been working on a month long Game Jam with two of my friends, and I wanted to show off some of the mechanics I’ve made for the game. The theme of the Game Jam was “I can’t breathe,” so we’re going with a kind of reality bending, creepy, psychotic journey of a mad man through a haunted mansion. The basic mechanic is weird stuff happens, and you “hold your breath” to make it all go normal, and you essentially use the world swapping mechanic to solve puzzles in this odd mansion. Lemme know what you guys think of the two gifs attached!

Edit: okay… I’m still new to blogging, and the gifs don’t seem to be working. Here’s an imugr link instead.  http://imgur.com/a/NTdQI

RUIN

Daqri


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Oh man, this is awesome. Check out what my friend Mars made for me for fun. Download the app called Daqri, and point the camera at the image. You’ll see a 3D model show up right in front of you!

Business & Marketing, RUIN

LOOKBACK: Being an Effective Manager


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Managing a team of student this past quarter has been a huge learning experience. Before the start of the quarter, I planned on working on this game part-time along with 16 units of courses, and was aware that for student volunteers joining my team this was just an extracurricular activity. I hoped that my enthusiasm, the game concept and the idea of joining a start-up would motivate them enough to launch this game off the ground.

My brother and I prepared as much as possible. We used a google drive approach, where I had a task list, complete with details on the task needed to be done, and linked it to all our members. There were additional design documents that they could look at for more reference. I would also dedicate a couple hours each week for office hours to either guide the students in the right direction or to tutor them on the programs we use. We even created a special google site for the team.

The opening pitch turned out to be very successful: we garnered a bunch of students interested in helping out. From there the challenges came…

Students floated in and out, were not coming to meetings, and provided us artwork or code 2-3 weeks after they said they would. Progress was really slow.

Admittedly, we were a bit disappointed. Halfway through the quarter we reflected on what happened and realized we really needed to change our management style.

Forget the google site and the tasks breakdown document. Nobody looks at that.

Let’s use a Facebook group to post tasks that need to be done. 2 minutes later…Wow, people are already signing up. 

Let’s do a pizza dinner ice breaker sometime to get the team together and thank them for their efforts.

We are an ambitious studio. We need to emphasize the benefits of joining a start-up and how it could boost their resume/portfolio. 

For the rest of the quarter, everything became more efficient. Our team members were more responsive and provided results in 1-2 week’s time. Although we didn’t have a complete prototype by December, we had enough to create an awesome teaser that you all will see in the next couple weeks. Our efforts are not perfect but we’re getting there.

TL;DR: Aside from being personable, a manager must adapt to his/her team’s individual personalities. Communication is key and has to be tailored.