SCALE Landing Page

Hey everybody! I have added a temporary landing page for SCALE here:

DAT SCALE PAGE

There are some new screenshots and information about the game and the team! Eventually there will be a real page on www.scale-game.com, but not quite yet.

SCALE is a Game!

UPDATE! If you think this game looks cool and want to help it get made back the SCALE Kickstarter:

SCALE KICKSTARTER WOO!

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So I was at E3 this week, showing a prototype for a new game at this year’s IndieCade showcase at E3. The response kind of blew my mind. People seem to be EXTREMELY excited by the concept. Far more than I anticipated. My roommate totally called it. GOOD JOB KYLE PULVER.

Scale screenshot
Click here to EMBIGGEN

Also, note that the awesome TED MARTENS is helping out with art.

E3 Coverage Roundup:
Kotaku
Gamespy
RockPaperShotgun
IndieGameMag
Yogscast
Joystiq
IGN

The idea’s been a spare time project for quite a while. I’ll get a steveswink.com/scalegame/ page up in the next couple days. For now, thanks for stopping by, thanks for being interested in the game, and here are answers to common questions I’m getting:

Q: When will the game come out and on what platforms?
A: When it’s a thorough, polished exploration of the ideas and mechanics of growing/shrinking objects at will. I firmly believe that games should only be shipped when they’re done, good, and worth a player’s time. That means…yeah, I dunno. Making games is hard, dude. Like a year or two? Something like that. As for platforms, the game is being made in Unity3d. So that means I get Mac/PC for easies. I have been approached by some of the major consolebros. I told them THANKS BRO + I’ll hit you up when the game is good and cool and ready to go. Let me know what platforms you’d like to see the game on!

Q: But the game looks done now. Why can’t I play it?!?!?
A: Woah man! Calm down. Don’t pee. The game is very VERY early. I’ve just got the core mechanics kinda working. Since Scale delves into some mechanics and ideas that haven’t been thoroughly explored in a game before, there are still a few crucial things to figure out. For example: how to gracefully exit scaling when something would be overlapping something else. For another example: how to launch the player in a sweet way when they scale something they’re standing on. I have a long list of ideas for creatures, structures, game objects, and mechanics I want to prototype. Making things bigger or smaller is on its surface simple concept, but a lot of interesting puzzles is emerging from that premise. With some game concepts I’ve explored, finding interesting puzzles/ideas is like pulling teeth. With this one, the list of puzzles to prototype keeps getting longer. I’ve shown a few examples publicly to help everyone understand the basic idea, but I’m keeping what I think are the most interesting uses of the mechanic secret for now. Plus, you don’t want all the puzzles spoiled…

Q: OOH OOH it looks just like MINECRAFT! You filthy INDIES need to stop abusing the pixel/voxel aesthetic…
A: This is placeholder art. The important thing right now is gameplay: getting the basics of the scaling working well and feeling good. The simple style really helps with quick prototying and experments. I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing for visual treatment for the final game, but doing low-res pixel textures on 3d objects is quick and easy for mocking things up. One interesting thing about this game is the degree to which the shape of objects changes their use in the world. So doing a bunch of high res realistic artwork isn’t really viable for the prototype phase.

Q: So it’s basically Minecraft meets Portal, right?
A: There are surface similarities. Portal is about portals, though. It’d be silly not to look at Portal and what it did well and think about how those lessons apply to what I’m doing. But scaling things up and down in an unconstrained way and exploring the consequences of that is pretty different. It’s an exploration of a mechanic and a concept. As I mention in some of those various videos, the concept of scale is inherently interesting to humans. Things have some ‘normal’ size and when they deviate from that size they become fascinating. Extremely large fish, bears, dogs, buildings, chairs, nickels – all suddenly interesting. That’s what the game’s about, and it explores it through a mechanic.

IGDA Phoenix Backburner Jam 07

UPDATE: Pictures are here!

Well, that was fun!

We (IGDA Phoenix) put together a little Game Jam last weekend. Nothing too huge, just six or seven of us, friends and acquaintances from local studios. Instead of the traditional ‘pick a theme’ or ‘insert random quantity’ methods employed by most game jams, we decided to make this Jam’s theme “Backburner.” Essentially, pick a game idea you’ve been kicking around for a while but haven’t had time to implement. Then talk it over with some bright chaps, think about implementation for a few minutes, and dive in. Make that sucker in a weekend!

Jamming is fun because it puts the focus on what’s fun about game design and development and provides a hard-as-a-hammer deadline at the back end which really helps design ideas crystallize and prevents any kind of waffle. It’s easy to prioritize tasks and test whether or not an idea is working if you only have two days to make the whole game. I think the games that got completed are unassailably fun. Says me. Anyhow, play em and judge for yourself:

Conformity by Scott Anderson


Download Conformity here!

Controls: Click and rotate

It started out as an experimental abstract game idea that Rohit came up with about not conforming. The core of the game was the shape and I started to prototype it a couple of days before the jam. Manipulating the shape was appealing enough that I decided to work on it during the jam and put gameplay into it.

During the jam I went through a variety of failed experiments, including a raycasting collision system that didn’t quite work. In the end I ended up with something inbetween Rohit’s original experimental idea and a casual game. To me the shape looked like a web or a net and that’s how I thought up the final “fishing” mechanic.

Interestingly enough you can still apply the conformity metaphor to the game successfully. The rest state is conforming, while you conform you are always safe but can never make progress. In order to make progress you need to break the mold, but if you are too risky you will get hurt.

During the jam I went through a variety of failed experiments, including a raycasting collision system that didn’t quite work. At one point near the end of the jam the game reminded me of cheesy pornographic arcade games, so I threw in a sexy picture as a joke. In the end I ended up with something inbetween Rohit’s original experimental idea and a casual game. To me the shape looked like a web or a net and that’s how I thought up the final “fishing” mechanic.

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Raptor Assault by Matthew Wegner (Art by RC Torres and Wadam Mechtley)


Download Raptor Assault here!

Controls: WASD

Mostly, it was a test in executing a feel. I wanted to do everything I could think of to make it seem more like a helicopter: first with the physics control, and then with additional visuals like the grass. The ragdoll raptors were an amazing afterthought.

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Alone or Gravity Guy by Steve Swink (Art by R.C. “Sharkfox!” Torres)


Download Gravity Guy here!

    Controls:

A, D – Rotate
Spacebar – Grab hold (when touching walls)
Click and drag – change gravity direction/amount

I started with the idea of infinite gravity control. I wanted to be able to set direction and amount of gravity at any time as much as the player wanted and see what came out of that. Also, I wanted the player to be compressed by gravity (not really in there at the moment, but I did a spring rig dude that looks pretty cool.) Other stuff I didn’t get a chance to try: enemies who affect gravity in their own way, creating ‘gravity wells’, objects that behave differently under gravitational manipulation, areas with fixed gravity directions, making a traditional platformer guy who was unaffected by his own gravity manipulation. Good times!

We started with five designer/programmers and two artists. Three created something show-able; everyone had fun. Success! I think we’ll plan for another jam in two months’ time. If you’re local in Phoenix, come on down!

Tune Project Update #1

“Game Design With the Boring Parts Removed”

Making games is my favorite game to play. For me, it’s more fun, more challenging, and ultimately more rewarding to create games than it is to play them. For quite some time I have had a powerful desire to give this experience – the joy of creating levels, designing and balancing systems, and tuning game mechanics – to as many people as possible. I do a reasonable job in my various game design classes at the Art Institute of Phoenix, but the audience is necessarily limited. I want to reach out, to provide these rewarding experiences on a larger scale.

So, what I really want to do is test the assumption that tuning game mechanics is fun, hot, and compelling to everyone. If the sloggy tedium of game development and massive learning curve are removed, is what’s left super fun? My Jumper Exercise seems to indicate as much. As soon as a goal is provided, this simple little mechanic test has a great deal of capture. I tell my class to “make this mechanic fun” and turn them loose. The students have a blast playing with it and often continue fiddling for an hour or more before completing the write-up portion of the assignment. Last week I took this exercise to Gavalin Peak middle school to show at their career day, having some of the 7th and 8th graders play with it; it seemed to have some awesome traction there as well. Providing ‘game design with the boring parts taken out’ as a focused, encapsulated experience should be hot, innovative, and fun.

I can’t help but wonder what would happen if the goals were a part of the system. Can I make a satisfying progression out of tuning a bunch of different game mechanics? Tuning the same mechanic differently to accomplish different tasks? What kinds of tasks and objectives would require different tunings to be successful and would players be able to figure that out? Would it be fun to figure that out, to discover tunings that allow them to optimize results for different assigned tasks? How about level design elements? Could I include spatial manipulation, iteration, and other fun elements of level design in this progression? What if the whole game were a level editor as well?

So, that’s what “Tune” is all about; does game design with the boring parts removed make a compelling game? I think it does, and I want to explore that question fully. Another interesting question is ‘could a game teach game design?’ That’s sort of a secondary goal, to teach the nuts and bolts of game design in a simplified, interactive, easy to understand way, to perhaps help capture and educate future game designers or to contribute to a better understanding of what game design is. So, like the underlying question behind Guitar Hero, “does it rock?”, my question boils down to “is it game design with the boring parts removed?” If ever I get stuck or am unsure about a design decision, I can refer to that. In fact, I’m printing it out and putting it on the wall next to my desk :).

Next Steps

So, milestones.

By the end of today, I’ll have completed the brainstorming portion of the project: brainstorming different mechanics that might be fun to tune, what elements of level design I can bring in to the overall game progression and how they might fit in, how the overall system design will work – collection, resources, how everything will fit together and such, UI design and how to present all this stuff in a logical, simple manner, and art treatment.

After that, I’m going to create a master list of questions to be answered from which I’ll generate a prototype map, a short list of the kinds of experiences I want the player to have (and references from game, film, music that create those kinds of experiences), and a series of art and gameplay mockups. Then it’s time to prototype like a maniac. Once I know what I’m creating I should have a better idea how to schedule it – I hope to do a prototype every Monday once I get all the concepts complete.

So I’ll be updating the site each Monday with progress reports and new stuff to show. I’d love feedback; feel free to contribute!

Swink

(Game) Sketch Dump

As part of the previous post, I quickly put together minipages for the stuff that’s come of my Experimental Mondays work, when I’ve not been doing lame stuff:

Exswinkbike
CritterSwing
Swinkeroids
Wormsworth
Bionic Commando 3d
Jumper Exercise
Noteswinger

Exswinkbike!

…so named by gentleman RC, who did the character art.


Exswinkbike 1.0

Development time: ~20h including creation of background art assets, mechanic tweaking, and briefly flirting with creating an editor (not quite ready for primetime.)

Exswinkbike Prototype 1
Exswinkbike Prototype 2
Exswinkbike Prototype 3

The Practical Value of Cloning

As the name might indicate, Exswinkbike started as a clone of Excitebike. So the design goal here wasn’t particularly lofty; it was mostly intended as a learning experience.

A note on cloning: in learning how to create art, one must master the ‘fundamentals’ – figure drawing, perspective, realistic rendering and the like. One way to approach this is copying the works of great masters. Picasso mastered photorealistic painting before venturing into cubism and making bulls of handlebars. Likewise, every competent artist has copied thousands of Bridgeman or Hale-Richter hands, heads, feet. Copying great works is a great way to master skills. In games, this is cloning. There’s nothing wrong with cloning successful mechanics as a learning experience; people who are learning to program games often start by making a Pac Man or Asteroids clone. As aspiring game designers this is what we need to be doing and doing rigorously. At some point I’ll move on to cloning Ski Stunt Simulator, Mario 64, and things of greater complexity. I encourage any aspiring designer to do the same.

‘Clone’ is not a bad word.

Aesthetics * Skill Ceiling * Input Sensitivity * Abstraction Layer

In its current state, Exswinkbike is similar to Excitebike in two ways. First, the agent you’re controlling is a motorbike with a rider on it which is viewed from a slightly angled side perspective. Second, succeeding at the game is mostly about properly aligning the bike to match the terrain you’re trying to land on. There it parts ways with Excitebike, now more closely resembling an amalgam of Trials and Ski Stunt Simulator, with just a sprinkling of Excitebike.

Exswinkbike has the beginnings of some nice impact aesthetics, provided by the physical nature of the mechanic. These could be enhanced with basic particle effects (dust or smoke particles from the tires, an explosion of particles if the rider hits the ground) and faked video effects (a screen shake on impact).

The input is at the “second layer” of input abstraction because your mouse movement controls the rider, not the bike. So, to influence the direction and rotation of the bike, you move the rider around. Moving the rider changes the center of mass for the whole system, altering rotational vectors. The result is that you can tuck her against the bike closely and lean her forward to increase the speed of your rotation, or push her away from the bike and backwards to decrease or reverse your rotation. The skill is in predicting the direction and speed of rotation you’re going to want and compensating early, sometimes before the bike is even in the air.

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