Tune Project Update #4

…UI edition!

The goods:

Tune UI Prototype

Oh. Mighty. Rocketskates.

It’s been some time since I undershot a prediction that badly. Prediction as to how long it would take me to complete something, we’re talking about here. This UI protoype, specifically. I’m usually very good about judging how long it’s going to take me to do something, as I tend to write up all the relevant necessary outcomes and do a quick mental calculation about how long I expect each section to take. I was off on this one by a factor of three, at least. Barf!

Right, so, what I have here might not seem all that impressive but it did indeed take a fantastic amount of effort to implement. It just goes to show the fickle nature of game dev – a simple little idea like spring rope connectors for your UI elements can become a time-devouring behemoth! Up next, I’ll finish up little menus at bottom from which you will be able to select and spawn both parameters (gravity and so on) and elements (slider bars, text entry and such), merge this back into my main gameplay file, and hook these parameters up with my new dynamic parameter setup. Whew! Then I’ll have everything in place to create a proof of concept demo. Sheesh!

Funding provided by the City of Melbourne…

Oh my, my, my.

This is just amazing. There are so many layers of references, videogame and otherwise. I can barely keep up. I’m giggling insanely; I can’t help it, the giddy glee of it all! This makes me feel like I’m twelve years old. In all these ponderings of video game violence and children and the role of violent play, it’s easy to forget just how ridiculously, laughably enjoyable a spot of cartoony videogame ultraviolence can be.

Also, Walter Sobchak special attack = the greatest idea for anything ever. I dearly hope someone takes these assets and actually makes this game.

And – wait for it – funding provided by the city of Melbourne something-something council for the arts. Oh, Melbourne, you give us so much.

How Warcraft Went Flacid

*Rise from your grave…*

I’ve been rather busy of late, evidence the lack of posts. The rub: we (Flashbang) are kicking the ass out of Potion Motion, our next title. If you have any interest in such things, there’s an extensive thread on the excellent AIPX Student Game Developer’s Association forum where we’ve been posting test builds and getting fantastic feedback.

On principle, I’m opposed to the concept of crunch, but there are a few exceptions I will make. One is when you’ve got the design by the tail; due designer diligence is to ride it out, to see where the design wants to take you. To be honest, we were sidetracked for quite some time, obsessing over aesthetic polish. We hadn’t user-tested design assumptions in many iterations. Bad designers. Anyhow, lesson learned. E3 was a bit wake-up call and now we finally have it by the tail, due in no small part to the many gracious participant testers we managed to round up. Many thanks to you all and a tip of the hat to Sir Joel who has taken on the role of surrogate lead tester.

It was said many times at GDC this year, and I’ve seen it in action many times before – prototypes solve everything. Make the thing, put it in front of some users and watch design arguments disappear. This is why “Advanced Prototyping” was such a hit this year, and why I believe those skilled in rapid prototyping are poised to lead the game industry into a new world. Making good games is all about iteration and iteration is a function of speed. The math is simple: the faster you can complete a single test –> observe –> change –> test cycle, the more times you’ll be able to iterate over the course of the project. The more times you iterate, the better the game gets. Unlike a painting, it’s not really possible to ‘overwork’ a game, especially a huge, sprawling videogame. The closest thing I’ve ever played to an ‘overworked’ game, I’d say, is Warcraft 3.

Despite many attempts, Warcraft 3 has never managed to hold my interest. Even when I was using it as an assignment in my class I was never able to engage with it. On the surface level, I never fell in love with the treatment, but that’s never stopped me from liking a game with a good design at its core. Warcraft 3 turns me off because the design is overpolished. It’s been played so many times in testing, the numbers balanced and rebalanced so many times, the gameplay’s gone limp. Every possible outcome and type of player has been accounted for, every strategy weighed and balanced against every other. It feels sterile, like playing a game in a vacuum. To most if not all players, this is, like every other Blizzard game, a huge win. They find enjoyment on many levels. For myself, as a designer, as someone who has at least a modicum of understanding about the nuts and bolts of creating a game, there’s just nothing left for me. There’s no interesting asymmetry, no novel mechanics, nothing for my mind to tinker with. It’s just too well balanced. Blizzard games stand as monuments of achievement in design, polish, and playbalancing, but they’ve lost their soul along the way. Give me something dirty and flawed, created by an auteur mind toiling away in some basement. Give me a tool to express myself. Give me something alive.

So, yes, there is a spectrum, and I think it is possible to overpolish a design. So few games are in danger of arriving at that point, though, that it’s pretty much safe for all designers to ignore the possibility and try to power through just one more iteration. Test, observe, change, test. Quick, before the money runs out and the game is lost forever.

Tune Project Update #3

Meant to post this yesterday but got wrapped up in what I was working on:

Prototype B (most recent)

Prototype A

That build actually has my new dynamic parameter setting system in place, it’s just not hooked up yet. What I got wrapped up working on is a UI prototype, how the UI is going to hook into the various parameters, making it feel good and so forth. I’m pretty far along with it, just not quite to showtime yet. Once I have that done I can hook it back into the prototype above, write out a three-mechanic tuning progression, and implement it. At that point, I should have a reasonable proof of concept for this whole ‘making a game out of tuning game mechanics’ thing :). Huzzah!

In other news, I updated the game section of the site with nice little thumbnails and links to all the games I’ve posted, including the up-to-date prototypes for Tune. Also, I updated Swinkeroids with some actual gameplay, making it quite a bit more fun to tinker with.

Look for a rant in the next couple of days about how I’ve been watching the entirety of Deadwood and The Proposition, playing the Deadwood Virtools Game and Gun, reading “Killing Monsters“, and how all these things in conjunction led me to an interesting musing about violence in games.

New Look!

As you can see, I’ve a new look for the site :).

All I know about CSS I learned last night, so I’m sure I’ll be working little kinks out for the next few days. Thanks once again to Dan Pratt for creating the artwork and to Matt Mechtley for the CSS crash-course.

UPDATE: Yes, I realize the site is schnitzel’d in IE. I’ll poke at it more later. Right now it is time to play Hitman: Blood Money.

UPDATE the Second: mostly working in IE now. For some reason, there’s a random “S” at the top right of the side bar. It does not exist if you view source, nor does it show up in Firefox, so I have no idea how track it down. Anybody know about phantom S’s? ;)