Tech Escape: If You Can!

You are either a really dumb tech out to prove your boss wrong, or you’re just a really dumb tech who’s about to be fired. Maybe if you can do some damage and not get caught or killed you’ll show your boss what’s what. Which you are on your way to do. That is if you can remember how to close all those stupid programs and get the heck out of dodge before the thing in the room gets you…

Test your keyboard command skills in this fun and short gamebook adventure featuring keyboard controls!

My contribution: Everything! I.E. Sole game developer (with the exception of the theme that molded this game which was provided to me by Jose Zagal)
Tools used: Unity (created the game cover image), C#, git, brains, Quest, Chrome 😉

DankRoom

Platform: web browser
Genre: Experimental
Genre Inspirations: Text adventures, gamebooks, fighting fantasies
Controls: Read and click! (You can do it!)

Play now for free on the web

I hope you manipulate your way to a happy ending…

What Inspired Me

I was tasked with making a game featuring a keyboard. After several failed experiments I realized the game I wanted to make wasn’t so much about showing a keyboard in the game, but having the avatar use a keyboard in the game. A game book was the perfect solution!

A few weeks back my boss suggested I make a game about trying to exit from Vim properly. The idea intrigued me so I filed it away. When I was tasked to make a game featuring a keyboard this idea came back to me.

What I Did

I struggled a bit with making this game. I kept playing with 3D objects in Unity, but never really made a game. I thought about making different games, but I knew that I really wanted to make a game based off the Vim idea. It wasn’t until I realized that I didn’t need to the player a keyboard in order to feature it that I finally came across the right game engine: Quest. Even then I ended up choosing the wrong game type (text adventure), but it was because I felt that a gamebook was too simple.

I had envisioned a game with open-ended input. But when I realized that that was really just making an infinite multiple choice, I realized that simplifying the choices didn’t break the idea of the game: to tell a story. And that was best suited in the gamebook type.

After that the game came together rather quickly. I have always enjoyed writing (if you couldn’t tell by my blog), and was even a professional writer and editor for a while. It was nice to get back to something I enjoy in a creative way and be making a game at the same time.

As far as narrative goes I was really aiming for the player to step into the shoes of a dumb character.

What I Learned

“…It’s important to use a game engine that is designed to support the type of game you are aiming to make.”

I think the biggest thing I learned is don’t shove a game idea into a specific game engine/platform. That was what was holding me up the most. My game simply didn’t fit into Unity nor a text adventure. Which the first felt strange to me as I’ve never made a game before that I felt wouldn’t work in Unity. Now that’s not to say that I couldn’t have made the game in Unity, but I think it’s important to use a game engine that is designed to support the type of game you are aiming to make. Once I found the correct engine the game came together quickly and I got to play with what I really wanted to make!

“To feature something in a game you don’t have to actually see it!”

To feature something in a game you don’t have to actually see it! This stretched me mind! I got stuck on the idea of showing a keyboard in my game, but when I finally stepped back and let the avatar be the one to see and use the keyboard that’s when I hit gold.

“There’s a difference between a bad player and a dumb character.”

There’s a difference between a bad player and a dumb character. I think the hardest part of designing and writing this game was the balance between the player playing a dumb character (what I was aiming for) and the player feeling dumb (not what I wanted). I think in a couple spots this could have been improved. For instance I could have allowed the player to select the correct choice, but the avatar still messes it up. Or instead of giving correct answers each time I could have given just part of the answer, letting the player pick the part that is right, and allowing the character to mess it up. This was a fun challenge, and since the game is entirely text based the game design had to come out in the narrative after the choices were made. That’s also where the narrator comes in.

I wanted the narrator to break the fourth wall, so to speak, to add humor, but also to show the player that they are different from the character they are controlling. I felt very quickly into making this gamebook that I was writing a story similar to the game The Stanley Parrable. That was the feel I was going for in this experiment.

Ideas for future development

I like keeping this game in the text version. So I would fill it up with more narrative. The quest engine also allows for adding audio and images, even videos. I think it would be neat to add those in as well. I think the biggest design detail though would be to keep that distance between the player and the avatar while still allowing the player inside the character’s shoes.

If I made it graphical (which I would do after filling in more of the narrative to test out more ideas in an easier to develop and iterate environment), I would have physical things that the player could do (like pound on the keyboard), visual payoffs (like cool effects when answering correctly), and adding some eerie music, and of course some creepy critters…

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To Save or NOT to Save…

You are Rudey, a cool guy who finds himself in a universe alien to him. Impending destruction hovers over the unaware but cutest of inhabitants: bunnies. It’s always bunnies! Unsure of what to do next, and unknown here, you find yourself immediately faced with a decision: to save or NOT to save them. Even your indecision leads to consequences that are inescapable. What do you choose?

To Save or NOT to Save is an ethical dilemma game where player decisions create game-world consequences which the avatar is forced to experience. Careful your decisions! They are not free!

My contribution: Everything! I.E. Sole game developer (with the exception of the theme that molded this game which was provided to me by Jose Zagal)
Tools used: Unity, C#, git, brains 😉

GameCapture_Achievement

Platform: PC premium (but could be modified for mobile later on)
Genre: Experimental
Genre Inspirations: Runners, push your luck, 3D platformers
Controls: Movement is WASD/Arrow Keys, and “E” for the quick time event for bunny saving

Download a FREE copy!

(easy one-click download)
And tell me what you think!

Continue exploring this universe by reading below to discover how this game was created.

What inspired me

This was an experimental game made in a week based on a theme from the board game mechanic of push your luck. 

I’m not a fan of push your luck games (though admittedly there are a few I enjoy). I came up with a few ideas, but they were even more dull than the versions of push your luck games I didn’t like. None of the ideas excited me or seemed thrilling. As the game was for an assignment, and I could “free pass” once in the class I thought about using that up for this one where I felt so dispassionate about the theme. But I wanted to challenge myself. I thought about an experimental game made by a previous experimenter, Sydney, in which she combined two genres she didn’t like either (idle clicker and match three) which turned out fairly interesting. I thought then, “What would a cross between push your luck and a runner look like?”

What I Did: Lucky Running

My first thought was, “What if you were a runner and had to pick up a bunch of somethings as you ran, but as you picked them up they obscured your screen? How about that something was bunnies (because they’re cute!) you need to save, and if you don’t pick them up it kills them?” When I pitched the idea to a friend she said she’d just kill the bunnies. So I thought, “Fine. Kill the bunnies, but blood splatter is going to obscure your screen anyway!”

Either way, you end up with a covered screen the longer you play. The only difference is that the bunnies don’t go away after you’ve picked them up, but the blood splatter does go away slowly over time. If you want your screen to be full of blood you have to keep killing. So evil!

To add depth to the ethical choose presented to players to save or kill the bunnies: I added judgements based on their behavior.

As far as camera and perspective went: I found the 3D avatar in the standard assets of Unity and was a bit enamored by him. I liked moving side to side and even backward with the basic camera I made for him and knew that a basic runner wouldn’t fit this movement. So to give the sense of urgency (which also plays into the narrative of impending danger) that comes with a true runner, I added a timer. If you fall off the edge or when your timer runs out, you get passed judgement. Then the game restarts.

I spent more time on this 7-day game than previous 7-day development games because I stepped out of my comfort zone to try something different and experiment with styles of games I haven’t really made before. I’m happy with the end result, though it’s not my personal favorite of the games I’ve created. But it does get immediate laughs, which at the end of the day was what I was going for, and I enjoyed working on the project.

What I Learned

Something unexpected was just how fun it was to play with an obscured screen that doesn’t clear up, but only gets messier the longer you play. I think the bloodiest juiciest part of the game was the obstruction to the screen.

However the re-playability increased when I added the judgements based on the player’s behavior. In play testing: the obstruction of the screen and killing of bunnies got quick laughs, but people kept re-playing to see what judgements befell them based on their choices.

“I love designing games that are ‘Pick up and play!'”

I originally planned on making the game a 1st person game, but after seeing this cool looking dude I was intrigued and made it a 3rd person game. Other play testers where also intrigued by this character who clearly doesn’t fit in this world. He’s gray and colorless, while the world around him is full of color, including the effects of “his” decisions.

With concern to the perspective, I don’t believe 1st/3rd really made a difference in gameplay, but I do believe the simple camera I made did. Though the camera moved in all directions, unlike a typical 1st/3rd person camera, it didn’t follow the player in rotation. This added to the obscurity of the world as you couldn’t rotate the camera around to achieve different viewpoints from different angles, but could only move side-to-side to possibly see between the cracks. Moving backwards is particularly difficult, and it adds to the fun. Camera controls are also one of, if not the hardest mechanic for new, and even more experienced players, to master even in well-designed games. Thus a natural consequence to the player not being able to control camera angles is that it actually makes the game easier to pick up and play, which is my thing: I love designing games that are “Pick up and play!” But that doesn’t make the game any easier to master, nor does it detract from the experience. In my opinion simple cameras add to the experience by removing a layer of complexity in controls from the player. It’s why I think side scrollers, 2.5D, and other fixed rotation cameras are so popular: it’s not about the camera! It’s about the game experience.

Ideas for further development

“The level I created was very basic and meant to merely communicate a basic idea: obstruction and an ethical choice.”

Game Level Design: Adding Life

Though I think this game works as an endless “runner,” I think it would work best as a procedural level based game. With a few crafted game level pieces (and by a few I mean probably 20), and a creative procedural level creation algorithm, I think interesting levels could be made at every reload thus increasing the re-playability of the game.

Adding to the depth of the world by creating an environment for bunnies to live and hide  in (more on that below) by creating a space for the bunnies to be unaware of the danger that the player is trying to save from, or add to, would immerse the player more in th world.

And of course adding to the life of the bunnies by making them move, breath, eat, (poop?), and react to the player based on player decision. Giving them a voice through audio and reaction would make them so much more real and make the decision the player makes have that much more weight. In games like Skyrim — which present you with ethical decisions — when you see the consequences of your decisions you feel more connected to those things: it becomes an ethical consequence and although in a virtual world, it still shapes the way you feel about the decision and even yourself.

I could add other animals or environmental threats, but I think keeping it simple would play on the thing I want to push on the most better.

Pushing on Obstruction and Ethical Choice

The level I created was very basic and meant to merely communicate a basic idea: obstruction and an ethical choice. I think the combination of choice and obstruction played well together. It would be interesting to push on those ideas combined more.

“To play on ethical decisions in games it’s not enough to merely present the player with a decision. You must also provide a consequence to that decision. Their choice must not be without consequence.”

I think the combination of choice and obstruction played well together. It would be interesting to push on those ideas together more.

To push on screen obstruction

I had wanted to make the placement of the obstruction random but ran out of time, but that would be the first thing I’d add. Also, on the technical side, the size of the obstruction would need to be scaled properly with the screen resolution.

An interesting idea that was pitched was actually having the bunnies take up space around the character instead of on the screen. It would still obstruct the player’s view, but in I think a more interesting and immersive way.

To add interesting gameplay ethical decisions…

To play on ethical decisions in games it’s not enough to merely present the player with a decision. You must also provide a consequence to that decision. Their choice must not be without consequence.

Good

I could add making it more difficult to pick up bunnies the more bunnies you’ve picked up (even adding the chance of accidentally dropping them and killing them that way), could even make player slower the more bunnies that are collected. But on the flip side I (with the basic game addition of slow-moving pace for the bunnies), to make it easier to save them the bunnies to come to the player. Screen obstruction could increase by making the screen could become lighter and brighter the more bunnies are saved. If you manage  to save all the bunnies (Is that a challenge?) it could be a fun bright-out moment! The player could further witness what they’ve saved the bunnies from: or what they’ve left the bunnies they were unable, or unwilling, to save, were left to.

Evil

On the reverse, after adding a base slow-moving pace for the bunnies, I could make the bunnies faster and even attempt avoiding the player the more bunnies the player killed, especially when the player is clearly intentionally killing bunnies. As an additional threat the murdered bunnies could come back to haunt the player. Player’s insanity could increase shown by a blurred screen, tinted red of course. The more insane, the blurrier the screen. If you manage to kill all the bunnies (Is that a challenge?) there could be a red-out moment with the player witnessing what they’ve done.

Conflicted

A lot of the game results are based on the difference of choice: a scale if you will, between these ethical choices. But what if the scale was basically equal? The bunnies become unsure to trust you or hide from you. Maybe some of the bunnies you managed to already save try to get away, maybe some you haven’t come to you. And your insanity is the highest because of the conflict. The screen could glitch with black and white and red. I mean, you got problems, so it could also become increasingly more difficult to control your avatar and his decisions as your insanity takes over!

Platform Porting

“I think… the biggest issue with mobile games [is] when the game designer/developer doesn’t design gameplay mechanic input specifically for the device they are targeting.”

I think this would play well on a mobile devices, perhaps better than on the PC where players are looking for more immersive, longer gameplay. This game is more about a quick experience which most mobile players look for. But to play well on mobile the controls would need to be modified. I think that’s the biggest issue with mobile games: when the game designer/developer doesn’t design gameplay mechanic input specifically for the device they are targeting. But with a few purposefully designed tweaks to gameplay mechanic input I think this game would work beautifully on a tablet or phone.

Possible mobile gameplay mechanics

  • Maybe a single tap rotates through the speed of the player (stop, walk, run), OR add a single speed uncontrolled by the player in the forward vector (for the direction the avatar is facing)
  • Drag to change the direction of avatar movement
  • Make the quick time event a quick double tap (if using a single speed), or a swirl.
  • Jump (unnecessary in this very basic, experiment of concept level, but would work well in a platformer with either crafted or procedural levels) could be a quick swipe.

 

Is This A Match? No!

Use your well devloped little brain to match the 3D objects to their photographs, or not. 🙂 You’ll get fun feedback when you make a match!

I made this game in a week with nothing but a graphics engine and rudimentary game loop (for submitting the graphics assets every frame of course!). Okay, so it’s not pretty, but sometimes you just need to get to proof of concept; beautifying the game can come later.

This game is not pretty, but it was fun to make and to present to my class. And it was one of only two-three unique games made out of a class of 30.

Praise for this game:

Thanks for taking the time to discuss your project so thoroughly, and also for spending so much time making a cool game. I was impressed!”

— John-Paul (Professor for EAE 6310:Game Engineneering II, real-time graphics engineer, and graphhics engineer on the Infinity Disney games.)

My contribution: SOLE developer
Tools used: C++, D3D, OpenGL

Platform: PC, but works on wine 🙂
Controls: Use arrow keys to move the 3D object to its matching card.

Development Blog: I kept a weekly record of the devleopment of the game engine leading up to and creating this game. Read all about it here.

Schrodinger’s Uncertain Butterfly: A Principle in Perception

This is one of my personal favorites. Become a butterfly and explore a meadow of treasures. But beware: things are only as you perceive them to be.

2nd place judges choice at the Global Game Jam 2014

Praise for this game:

“OMG this game rulezzz!

–Roger Altizer Ph.d. (Associate Director, EAE University of Utah)

My contribution: team lead, gameplay engineer, unique player movement, original concept, design
Tools used: Unity, C#, SVN
UncertainButterfly.PNG

Platform: PC
Controls: Use the mouse for the menus. Then discover a different way to move with the same WASD

FREE download: Uncertain Butterfly

The More Betterflies team: Nancy Newren (team lead, gameplay engineer, design, original concept), Shane Sumsion (artist), and Swapnil Sawant (engineer), Casey Deans (producer). More Betterflies is on Facebook. We’d love to hear what you think!

Armadillo Smash N’ Roll

Armie has been a “lab rat” — nearly nothing to compares to that insult! — to aliens for far too long. But what the aliens haven’t realized is that they’ve trained and taught him, possibly enough for Armie to make a daring, and fun, escape! Help him smash n’ roll his way to freedom in this fun experimental mobile game for windows 8!

This game won Editor’s Pick Award, 2013

My contribution: UI/UX, platform build and publishing engineer, ideation
Tools used: Unity, C#, SVN

FirstImage_1024

Platform: Windows 8
Controls: Touch the direction on the circle to roll armie up and manuever your way to freedom!

Free on the Windows store: Armadillo Smash N’ Roll!

Team:  Gagan Singh (engineer), Nancy Newren (engineer), Robert Guest (artist), Casey Deans (producer), Brad Dedea (producer). Soon after this fun little project, and before we could refine our level designs, our small team moved on to bigger and better things, but  we’re on Facebook!

80’s Arcade: MOD

Test your gamer skills against this difficult arcade game! Remember it only counts as winning if you carry the plumber with you to the little blue “door” at the bottom. You’re wearing heals so you can’t jump on/off ladders, and carrying him really slows you down, but you can’t leave him behind! Jump over the barrels or, in a pinch, throw him at a barrel to avoid getting hit yourself. He’s a man. He can take it! At least a couple times…

Just for promoting girl power I had to include this fun little game we made in ActionScript. The assignment was to take an 80’s arcade game and riff off of it. We decided to base our game off the arcade game where a certain pumbler goes against a certain giant monkey; only this time the woman gets to be the hero! That poor, tall plumber dressed in green did everything but stay concious after defeating that monkey. Now this strong woman has to carry his heavy self out of the building and all the while jumping over and dodging barrels, in a dress and high heels no less! Her date just had to end badly…

This game is really tough. Many have played. Few have won. Good luck!

My contribution: gameplay engineer, player controller, design, and the juiciest and most important part: the plumber toss!
Tools used: ActionScript, git
level2_mock_up
This is concept art for future levels that sadly will never be made.
Platform: Web
Controls: Noted on the webpage. Be sure to click on the game window before attempting to make your escape!

Play now for free on the web!

Team: Nancy Newren (engineer), Swapnil Sawant (engineer), James Hulse (producer/engineer), Christopher Cherrington (artist), Travis Turner(producer)