Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Love Reborn

I've been playing the Final Fantasy XIV Beta Phase 3, and I am quite impressed with the changes which were made.

First off, the UI has been completely redone. It was my biggest  pet peeve in the original iteration of the game. It took you too many interactions just to operate an elevator, and crafting was a nightmare of navigation through tons of tiers before you could make just one piece of an item. I had to use a controller to get any semblance of playability from the menu interactions, but then the combat hotbar was not conducive to using a controller. As a result, I was constantly switching between mouse + keyboard and my 360 controller.

Now all that has been done away with, and crafting has become very simple. You still have the same basic premise of using skills to affect quality/durability/progress, but the way you get there is so much easier. There are three columns where you choose the item level range, the item to craft, and then an optional third column where you can choose to use any high-quality materials you might have come across in your adventures. If you don't use the third column, then it's just two steps; pick the level, and pick the item, and you're all set.

The gathering system was thrown away and remade. No longer are you blindly hacking away at a tree or mineral deposit hoping to get a crafting component. Instead, a screen shows you what you are trying for and your percentage chance of getting a normal or high-quality item.

The hotbars have been re-done, especially for those using a controller. I started with keyboard and mouse, but soon switched to the 360 controller to see what had changed. The new cross bar interface is pretty slick, and allows for 16 buttons on the screen at once. You activate each half of the cross bar by holding down the left or right triggers, and then the d-pad or action buttons (A, B, X, Y) execute each skill. I even found it easy to quickly cycling between hotbar pages using the right bumper. I had tried setting up a PS3 controller to test that out and compare against my 360 controller, but there are not many good software interfaces for it. One option required a bluetooth dongle; and while I have one stowed away somewhere, it would be nice if a controller just worked through USB for once.

One last praise I'll give for the UI is the font which is used. It's much more sleek than before, evoking something of FFXIII's look. I did notice that the fills for the bars appeared to be messy as they animated. They are a few pixels taller than the regular fill, so it looks like the health, mana and tech bars spill over the outline a bit as they are filling up.

The environments have also received a facelift. I went back and started my 1.0 character in Limsa Lominsa, choosing marauder as my main class. Previously I had played a gladiator, but their starting city is now Ul'dah, and I had only spent a little time there so I wouldn't be able to tell what, if anything, had been changed. The town set up kept some of the same features, however some of the guilds which were there originally have been moved to other cities.

The areas outside town were completely revamped, much to my surprise. the repetitive copy+pasted geography is gone, replaced with areas which you can actually navigate and recognize by eye.


The writing in the game is decent; the Westernization of the text obviously handled by people who have some actual storytelling prowess. Too often I find games localized for English where the dialog is stilted and boring. There were a couple instances where some light Game of Thrones references were made ("as useful as nipples on a breastplate"), and a good lot of adult language; cursing, calling someone a "whoreson," and so forth. Maybe it was just the sailors I was around in Limsa - it could just be regional. The one spot where it got a bit cheesy was a Metal Gear reference where a character was talking on a Linkshell and on the other end was someone with the codename 'Master Snake.' while I ordinarily wouldn't mind it, the scene was supposed to be dramatic and it brought me out of the moment.

The story is handled in such a way that your character's past, as well as their goals are shrouded in mystery. Even as you progress in the main questline, the NPCs ask for your help, alluding to the fact that you may have other interests. This keeps the doors open to roleplaying your character with their own agendas, and it's something that I think has been lacking a lot in other MMOs released over the last few years.

I got a chance to use the new Duty Finder, which allows you to queue up for a dungeon or raid while solo, or in a partial or full group. The Duty Finder will fill your party with players across all servers; you even have the option to specify which languages you will accept. Currently the options do not persist when you log out and back in, but maybe they will implement saving the states at some point. I personally don't mind playing with people who speak other languages, especially when it results in such fun exchanges as this:

"mom. 5 minuten."
I think my favorite aspect of the game may be the character animations. The characters move with real weight; they feel heavy in very a logical sense. When they smile, their lower eyelids come up and it looks very natural and genuine. I found a video on youtube that shows some of the motion capture work, but it mentions that the facial animations were done by hand, which really impressed me.

Now for the downside. I noticed that using a controller, while it was very convenient for most actions, was a nuisance when attempting to target anything. When I wanted to select something in front of me, it selected things in the distance. When I had something in the distance selected, I wanted to switch over to the creature right next to it, and it locks on to something right in front of me. When enemies are all bunched up on top of each other, it's nigh impossible to tell how to go about selecting anything.

I also had issues switching targets. If I wanted to pull a creature off a healer, for example, I found myself navigating over to the monster and only hitting it once. After that, my target returned to the original monster. I found that if I hit the A button after naving over, it locked down my selection. So that's just something I'll have to get used to.

I couldn't find the option to bind a key to assist a target, nor could I find a way to change how the targeting behavior works for a controller. The T key should assist my target, but if I hit anything on the keyboard, I begin typing in chat. Which is usually fine. I may just need to do a bit more research and maybe bind an /assist macro to one of my hotbars. I played mostly solo, or was the main assist myself, so it was not too big an issue.

When I first started the beta several weeks ago, I had to begin anew because my 1.0 character was not available. In one weekend I made it to level 14 on a new character as a thaumaturge. I could have swore I had made it to level 17 or so on my original character, but once I had access to him a week later, I found that he was only 13. So I had leveled up a beta character in one weekend farther than my main in the old game. Well, to be honest, I had at least level 10 in almost all crafting professions, so I had been spreading around the experience quite a bit. And since the crafting was maddeningly horrible before, I guess I was really punishing myself.

When I had access to my 1.0 character, I took him all the way through the available story quests (up to around level 20) as a marauder, and then began again as a lancer. Trying to find new quests was difficult, but the hunting quests for each class helps you limp along to the next milestone, provided you supplement with rested experience gained at the inns and food which gives you a mild boost to your XP gain. Each class has certain creatures tagged in a log book which, when you kill the required amount, net you bonus XP. Even the Grand Companies you join later give you hunting quests, and those reward you with Grand Company Seals.

Soon Beta Phase 4 will start, and all progress made during that time will carry over into release. It will mark my third time through the story. I don't mind it so much; the producer Yoshi P said that a lot of the story currently in game is placeholder in order to not spoil anything. There was also mention of adding voice acting to the game for the main story quests, though I wonder if it will be relegated to NPCs. Currently the main character is silent, but the animations are so expressive it really doesn't hinder the experience at all. If voice acting is added, hopefully the main character will remain silent but I wonder about the parts where NPCs address my character by name - those may not be voiced. In text-only dialog you can use variables so that the character's actual name is used instead of cheating the writing around by mentioning gender or class; variables which are more easily planned for. I would like it if I could turn on the Japanese audio with English subtitles; that would make for a better experience, personally. I found this article where Yoshi P states that players can choose whichever language they like, and I think that's an awesome feature.

I used to point at my Collector's Edition box for FFXIV scornfully, saying it was a waste of money. It was, at one point, the most I'd ever paid for a game where I'd invested the least amount of time. I thought it beyond redemption. I read the apology email from Yoichi Wada, president and CEO of Square; I read that Yoshi P was taking over... all of these things I dismissed. "The game is beyond saving," I thought. This is not true. I've played three beta weekends this past phase and I have had a blast. I look forward to the new classes, especially the Summoner, and I'm interested in seeing what kinds of housing options are available in the final game.

I'm the only one wearing decent clothes.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

E3 Round-Up

I was going to write on E3 quite awhile ago, but I went on vacation one week, and then had to learn ActionScript3 the next week, so I got kinda busy. Anyway, here's a brief rundown of some of the things I saw.

Day 1 was spent primarily in the South Hall, as the West Hall was terribly crowded due to the fact that it had more playable game demos.

Every year, I take a picture in front of the Harvest Moon display at the Natsume booth. Unfortunately, this year there was no Harvest Moon display. Instead, Natsume was showing off a game called HomeTown Story instead.

This lovely lady had a basket full of plushies, but refused to give me one =( 

Apparently they were handing out stamp cards at certain times of the day, and you had to play the games at the booth and receive a stamp for each one before you could get a plushie.

It's odd how some booths make you jump through hoops, while others just outright give you things. It's tough I know because quite often they run out of supply, and all you're left with are XXL tshirts. The nVidia gal came past me in line with a pile and said "XL?" and I shook my head. "Nope," I thought, I'm either a large or medium; depending on how much I want to show. She never came back. I had to hunt her down when it dawned on me that they only had XL shirts left.

Kneel before Gaius van Baelsar.

The most ludicrous by far had to be the Square Enix booth for Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. On the first day they were handing out tickets for a confirmed time to battle the primal, Ifrit. Two teams of 8 players would fight separate battles simultaneously as the crowd watched. Two announcers were on hand to call the action as it went down. If you failed the battle, you did not get their polo shirt. Sadly, we did not arrive in time to get any tickets on Day 1. But for Day 2, we were certain to make it our #1 priority.

Some MMO noob was about to get stuck with a controller. But the UI works surprisingly well.

On Day 2, they were no longer giving out tickets. Apparently they had technical issues with the game and it caused some battle times to be pushed back, and that led to people not showing up, which caused all manner of confusion. So there was a line. And with our positioning, they told us the wait was approximately four hours. It ended up being only about three, as some people gave up and left. Also, we were able to jump ahead because they were looking for a group of three and Matt, Ashley and I fit the bill. All the alliances I had made in line with people around me who assured me they knew how to play went out the window, primarily because Ashley had to go work the Forsaken Planet booth in 30 minutes.

Dracula, from the new Castlevania game.

Standing in line for three hours to get nothing seemed a grim prospect to me. I really wanted that polo. There were three of us, lumped in with five strangers; I had no idea if any of the others knew what they were doing. Ash and I ended up playing as healers, and Matt was on the Pugilist; a melee DPS class. Over the course of the three hour wait in line, we'd seen countless other groups fail or win. Sometimes, they'd get a chance to play the fight a second time, as there was an allotment of 10 minutes to finish the encounter. So I had hoped that the strangers with us had been paying attention.

Naoki Yoshida, aka Yoshi P, wished everyone in line luck... he said we would need it.

Thankfully, they were, and we beat the boss Ifrit on the first attempt. I was trying not to look a fool, as there were people waiting in line just half a foot behind me, looking over my shoulder as I ran around, avoiding the plumes of fire and throwing heals on the group. The screen I had was 30", so I had to turn my head to see the party members' health. My hands were shaking by the time it was over, but I was glad to have that polo in my hands. If I had lost, I was of a mind to just throw a wad of cash at the shirt person and demand they give me three. Thankfully, it didn't come to that. Also, I would feel like I didn't really earn it.

Elder Scrolls Online characters painted on the side of a trailer.

Some of my thunder was taken away when days later I found out that it was a scaled-down encounter; but you can't imagine a really difficult boss fight being played by people completely new to MMOs to be very successful. By the end, the announcers were giving not-so-subtle hints about how to defeat the different phases of the encounter.

Part of the crew, part of the ship.

My luck was also with me at the Skylanders booth, as I was able to win a Bronze Hot Dog on my first attempt. You had to spin a wheel and it had on it images of the lower half of different Skylanders. If you landed on the octopus tentacles it would complete the character and you'd win.

This gal has a lot of outfits.

I played a demo level of Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning Returns. The combat was pretty engaging; similar to the paradigm shift system of FFXIII. Lightning would change outfits on the fly as you switched between three different attack modes, each with their own power meter which was filling up when you were not using that form's attacks. It was fun, but without some kind of variation, I could see it being a bit boring. There was a commercial released recently that shows her in a pre-order exclusive Cloud-style outfit, complete with a buster sword. That's pretty difficult to resist.

Getting paid to cosplay.

I played The Last of Us, primarily for the tshirt. I was getting the game that Friday, so I wasn't in a hurry to spoil the story. I can tell you, the level I was on was very difficult. It was Pittsburgh, and I started with 1 bullet in the revolver. I think that even though the demo was re-started, it maintained the ammo count from the player before me, or something. I was able to blunder my way through the controls (I didn't read the placard in front of me), and beat down something like six guys, all wielding guns and bats. One guy I fought near a busted convenience store freezer door. Somebody got their throat slammed into some glass. And it wasn't good'ole Joel.

Here is the XBox One. Hooray.

We lucked out again at the line for Battlefield 4. They were using a ticketing system, but kept a standby line to fill slots for people who didn't show. It was amazing. The fidelity of the Shanghai level blew my mind. The towering skyscrapers, gunfire echoing in the distance. 32 on 32 action. I had an amazing run in a tank. A stranger hopped on the gun emplacement. We rolled around, blowing up other armored vehicles and infantry. The choppers did give us trouble, so I would duck under overhangs and avoid them. I saw a bunch of enemy infantry clustered in a doorway so I let them have a sabot round. Some of them lived and rushed out as I was reloading a shell. I quickly backed up, but was not fast enough. The had slapped some c4 on the front of my dear tank. It was destroyed.

I was at first skeptical of the destructible environments, but once I played I was sold. Seeing that skyscraper in Shanghai come down was pretty epic. There's even a 'Commander Mode' with a bird's eye view of the battlefield, a la Natural Selection from the old Half Life mod days. This is a game I could see myself throwing tons of hours into, and I'm not too big into FPS's these days.

I saw a demo of Destiny, which looks very cool. I like their world they've created. It also showcases destructible environments, but I wondered as I saw some towers in the distance being toppled by an alien drop ship, "Do the towers respawn? Or are they just knocked over after the first time someone does this encounter?" I do think that Tom Clancy's The Division handles party dynamics a bit better. I especially like the waveforms above the character's heads when they talk.

This looks much prettier than the devkit systems we have at work.

An intriguing PS4 title I played was called Contrast. You play as a cabaret-style gal in a 3D platformer, but she can meld into a shadow and it becomes a 2D platformer as you run across the shadows of objects in the 3D environment. I really enjoyed the puzzle elements of this game. I unlocked a new ability, dashing through shadows, and I could see that the progression of the abilities and puzzles was well thought out and would likely continue throughout the game, always keeping it interesting.

Matt in Rome: Total War II

I always enjoy going to E3 with my friends and seeing new games. This year I took the train into downtown, and was rewarded every day with a new crazy person story. The metro is definitely a great way to get around, but probably not so great if say, you're on a date.

Monday, June 3, 2013

You Can't Always Get What You Want

I have a philosophy when it comes to UI, especially on mobile devices. I think the fewer the button pushes it takes to get a user somewhere, the better. I don't like wasted space, and I don't like 'back' buttons. The more tiers you have, the more likely a user will get lost in your menus.

That's why, on a Blu-ray or DVD you will often find that selecting an audio option jumps you right to subtitles. And Selecting a subtitle option often jumps you to 'play movie.' The reason being is that's probably where you're gonna go next. This minimizes user input and is just good intuitive design.

Personally, I start by choosing 'scene selections' and then pick chapter 1. Why? Because it skips a lot of warning cards and logos. That's a free tip. You're welcome.

So, I wanted the UI for our game to have one menu. All buttons visible at the bottom of the screen at all times. No matter where you are in the menus, you can always get to where you want to go. In one button push - it's right in front of you. The worst menus I ever experienced were the crafting menus in Final Fantasy XIV. I kid you not, there were around 9 tiers you had to go through to craft one item. When you were finished, you had to back out of each tier. There was no 'close all' option. Terrible UI design.

What they should have done was had the same button that opened the menu close all tiers. Say if it's 'C' to open the Crafting menu - you navigate through it, open a bunch of tiers, etc. - then you just hit 'C' again and they should all go away. I played that game with a combination of a controller and the keyboard & mouse. They had made the game with the controller in mind, but honestly it's difficult to have standard MMO controls conform to a controller's setup.

For our game, people argued against me saying that a 'main menu' with a big 'ole "play" button on it would be more intuitive to users. And if they go to a sub-menu, hiding all other options would make their choices easier, and having a 'back' button would fulfill their need to know that their selections were registered.

I could definitely see the point in their argument. I likened it to the system settings in Macs vs. PCs. On a Windows machine, I'll often hit the 'Apply' button before hitting 'Ok.' Either way works, I'm just a bit OCD about it. On a Mac, if you go into System Preferences and change a  setting, it's done. There is no 'Ok' button. You made the change, you obviously knew what you were doing when you chose it, so it is finalized at that moment.

I find the second method to be more clean. There are no erroneous button pushes. But, as was pointed out to me numerous times, the average user wants a certain set up. They're comfortable with it. And I had to agree that while my way may be the best for me, it is not for everybody.

Another thing I had to contend with was some art criticism. I've probably never had my art critiqued. Well, except for film projects, and they were always given an A+. Lots of people wanted to be on my crew. I really credit Gavin's writing for all that; I just pointed the camera at things and had a knack for editing.

I remember from friends who majored in art that the way to react to criticism is to just shut your mouth and take it all in. Don't try to justify or argue; although I found myself explaining a couple of things. It was very humbling. A lot of people I showed my work to really liked it; it all just boils down to tastes and what one is used to seeing. I refined my work based on the criticisms it received and ended up making most of the adjustments. A large portion of the work was going over the edges of the image with fill paths to give them more natural strokes. There were over 700 paths in the Illustrator doc at one point, so there's a lot going on in there.

Skeleton images from Sorcerer's Odyssey.

 As an aside, I've been learning to code in C#. It's been a long time since I've written any code, like since 1998 when I did C++; so I'm basically just starting over. I have some simple game ideas I could probably pull off with a couple weeks' worth of work, so I want to pursue those in my spare time.

Learning to compromise is a big part of making games for a corporate entity. You have to navigate around the wants of the people paying you, as well as what the programmers are willing to do. A large part of my job is managing people by influence rather than authority. That means I need to be able to bend as much as I ask others to bend for me.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


I've been playing this F2P WWII fighter game with Eric, called War Thunder. His character name is DelroyLindo and I'm LouisGossettJr. The game is basically a re-skin of Wings of Prey, which I also own on Steam. It follows a similar model as World of Tanks with its currency and XP progression. While playing for free you get a limited amount of XP per mission, but if you pay for a premium account using their high value currency, you gain more XP per mission, planes repair faster, and you can progress much more quickly to unlock better content.

For a controller, I usually use my Xbox 360 gamepad, because it makes flying so much easier. Unfortunately, when it comes to targeting an enemy, the way the analog stick snaps back to the center is constantly at odds with me trying to get pinpoint accuracy on a target. It's like trying to get a headshot in an FPS. Consoles usually have a bit of auto-aim built in. It's easy-mode. No one likes to admit it, but it's true. So I use the mouse. Like, ...at the same time. I'll be flying along, and when it comes time to shoot someone down, I grip the elevator controls in my left hand on the 360 pad, and the mouse with my right.

What sucks about this is you can't designate one as inverted flight controls, and the other as point-and-click-and-kill. So I have to remember that "down is up" on my mouse, while pulling back on the stick for the controller. I kind of wish they were independent, like I'm grabbing the mouse to man a turret. Needless to say, I kind of suck at the game. I might as well plug in a Guitar Hero Stratocaster into the USB port and play with that instead.

I'm playing as Japan, and once I unlocked my Ki-61-lb, things started to get better. I am able to catch up to people and pull off some pretty good flight maneuvers. Eric and I have been studying some flight combat info, and I'm not talking about youtube videos of people playing sim games (although I've been watching those, too). I mean a typewritten combat manual from the 60s. I think my favorite moves are the snap roll, and my pull up/inverse barrel roll move I use to turn around when someone passes me. I didn't realize it, but after reading the aerial attack study we found this is the fastest way to make a turn. You will always beat someone who banks and pulls up.

The study was written by John Boyd, and while it's dry and full of maths and section titles like "Procedures for Maneuvering from an Overhead Attack with a Negative Delta Mach," there's a lot of good info that can be applied to simulated aerial combat that's easily understandable.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Shroud of the Avatar

I've been following Richard Garriott's launch of a new MMORPG on Kickstarter entitled "Shroud of the Avatar." Garriott explained that they are making the game using the Unity 3D engine, which is cool because that's what we're using at work. I can't really explain how excited I am about his return to fantasy RPG making. A lot of people have been talking about how awesome this is, and for me it is as well. But I have a really unique tie to the game series because it became the basis of my oldest friendship.

When I was in 2nd grade, I met a friend named Mike who was a year ahead of me. We hung out for a bit, but because of the way our school was situated, the 1-3rd grades and 4-6th grades were segregated, and when the year ended, he basically disappeared from my world. I went on, drawing maps and inventory screens during recess on reams of computer paper my mom had brought home from work. Obviously, I was a very popular kid. When I moved up to 4th grade, Mike and I met again in school assembly. We spent the entire time talking about Ultima.

I had been playing Ultima 3: Exodus on my NES, and he was elbow-deep into Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny on his Tandy 1000. Over the course of the assembly (which we both paid no heed to), we became fast friends once again. So it went, that I would spend hours hanging out in his family's downstairs computer room, watching him play Ultima.

We would always switch off playing RPGs. For the most part, I did the heavy lifting of grinding for XP. I also memorized the runic alphabet used in the Ultima games and whenever it appeared in the game, Mike would have me translate it. To this day I can read and write it fluently.

When Ultima Online was in beta, he got in and we played the hell out of that. When the game launched, we both had horses and named them 'Paraguay' and 'Uruguay.' I've always enjoyed coming up with names, especially pets. For instance, my turtles are named Green Tea Mochi Ice Cream, and Walnut Brownie Surprise. I call them "Mochi" and "Walnut" for short.

Recently a friend of mine posted on his Facebook: "Ultima VII or Final Fantasy VII?" At the time, I said "It's a hard choice, but Ultima VII." Looking back, it's actually not a hard choice at all. I love Final Fantasy, but U7 had a book, written from the perspective of one of the characters in the game, that was a kind of 'Lore Guide' for the land. There was a medallion in the box, related to the story of the game. Most of the Ultima games came with trinkets and cloth maps like these, and put you as a player into the world, and cemented the experience with these tangible items.

Aside from that, the writing, the re-occurring characters throughout the series, and the immersive sandbox-style gameplay really stood out to me. These games are amazing. I listened to Metallica's "Master of Puppets" and "Ride the Lightning" while playing U7, and to this day whenever I hear songs from those albums I think of the game. Also: those albums are awesome. All good things surround Ultima when I think of it. Hell, I drive a Nissan Altima... but I wish it were called an Ultima.

Ultima VII had an kickass box. It was a black box with nothing but the title on it. I remember thinking at the time that this was a bold move, especially considering how so many books and games are sold based on their covers. It was very foreboding.

The kickstarter for Shroud of the Avatar ends on Sunday, and while they've already met their funding goal of $1 million, they still have a few stretch goals they're aiming for. One of the pledge tiers they have gives their backers access to original content developed for the game, completely royalty-free. This is great because it gives fans who are aspiring developers the opportunity to learn and use professional assets they wouldn't otherwise have access to.

The game itself has been prototyped using dummy assets bought cheaply on the Unity Asset Store. Using temp assets like this has allowed them to focus on gameplay and story and later they'll replace those assets with more refined art.

They also have a call out to any artists to create content for the game. Portalarium is going to publish a style guide and artists can submit work to be used in the game. If work is selected, they will pay four times the price on the Unity Asset Store, and the player will get the piece of art as a virtual item for free. If their work is not selected, then constructive feedback will be given.

It sounds like a lofty promise, but I think it's a great opportunity for any artists who want to see their work in a major game.

I'm excited to see how the game turns out. I really like MMOs, and I usually try every one that comes out. The game is supposed to dynamically join you with friends so you can play online with small groups of people you know, but still have interactions with strangers. Watching all the live Q&A's has been really inspiring, and it seems like the entire team is a group of people I would definitely hang out with.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Action is My Middle Name

Monday is behind me and this week is shaping up to be very busy. I have three distinct jobs to do. I say jobs because each one will require something akin to full time commitment.

I have a high-profile BD/DVD project I'm working on, I have to capture "hours" of video for a sizzle reel, and I also have to do creative and advise on other people's work for this new game so that a polished, playable demo is ready by Friday morning.

I was able to capture some footage for the sizzle reel, and it seems to be a lot more manageable than I had originally anticipated. I basically broke down all the shots that were listed in the spot and organized them into digestible chunks. The sources range from the PS3 to an iPad to a PC, and using a Gefen scaler I'm able to capture to my Mac via HD-SDI. The catch is I have to be actively using the apps and websites, so I can't just put it on auto-pilot. I may farm this work out to someone else as the week goes on and other deadlines loom.

The new game has us all excited and the Design team is going to be ready to show some of their work tomorrow. I was busy most of the day updating our internal wiki with guidelines for the designers. Matt and I also showed the designers how to use the Mantis bug tracking software; creating an entry, assigning it to a designer, and how to resolve and close out an issue.

What do I have in common with Quentin Tarantino? We both had floor seats at the Staples Center for Morrissey on Friday night. I briefly imagined a conversation where I chided him for not getting back to me with his approvals on a certain project. However, I realized it would not have been nearly as funny in reality as the poor guy was instantly mobbed the moment the lights came up.

I was trying to make my way back from whence I'd come when event staff told me to turn around and go another way. Someone was down on the floor, clearly injured. I passed a pair of EMTs who were wheeling in a stretcher on my way out the doors. It was actually the second stretcher I'd seen brought out that night. Some kind of fight had broken out in the section next to me about 3/4 of the way through the show.

For some reason, the Morrissey show required more EMTs and stretchers than the Marilyn Manson concert last week. Morrissey himself was blissfully unaware of any disturbances, however Manson's show at the Nokia was much smaller and intimate, so he felt the need to address the combatants. What are you tusslin' over? Are you tusslin' over a woman? Are you tusslin' over me?

Is Paul playing NIN's 'hurt' at the onset of this clip?

I'm looking forward to seeing the design concepts tomorrow and hopefully I'll get to make a few assets myself before the day is out.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

New Game

It's been a bit since I last posted. I had hoped to continue something of a regular series of posts as I work on projects, but honestly I've been far too busy to stop and write.

Since the last entry, I was able to get a higher-poly version of the character put into the game without much fuss. The framerate didn't dip significantly, even with all the particle effects from the traps I made (flame gouts, arrow traps, etc.) going off all around the character. I also refined the walking and added a jump animation. I went for something akin to Mario with the fist pump in the air and the character's front foot propped out front. I feel confident that I could delete it all and do it again in about 20 minutes. Same with all the rigging. I know because I've had to, hah.

I was about to add the obligatory /dance animation as well as one of my faves from the DAoC days, /beckon (Think Neo from The Matrix), however that project has been put on hold.

Come at me, bro.

For the past few weeks, people have been kicking other ideas around. I spent countless hours prototyping 2D and 3D concepts. The directions were to come up with something simple and fast, but fun and engaging. Oh, and new & innovative. Finally, one night last week, Matt and I sat down and wrote a game design doc for an idea we've had for a few months. It was definitely not something that could be done quickly, but it was a game we would actually play and really liked. We stayed up til about 2am working on it. I stayed up another hour or so drawing concepts and wireframes. We presented it the following day.

While it was received very well, the higher-ups were looking at a really short turn-around time on development. So we went and cut about 80% of our ideas, leaving one core gameplay element and a little bit of flair. This concept was accepted, and we've begun work on the new game.

The assets are mostly 2D, and some 3D elements are going to be displayed as 2D. I think the game should be fun, and will hopefully pave the way to doing the full-blown concept we had originally mapped out. We have an internal wiki set up so that we can share the design bible and keep everyone on the same page. We can also use it to track bugs when the time comes. I'm having meetings with the design team today to go over my concepts for creatures as well as the UI layout. I'm really looking forward to working on this new title and I think it will be fun.