Developments with Game Development

Posted March 12, 2015, 9:22 p.m.

The last couple of months have been really exciting! I've been able to help organize a local game developer group, flesh out a few game ideas on the ol' drawing board, and work on a multi-month project with some folks I met at a game jam. It's given me just the right mixture of stress and fulfillment. Some thoughts on each...

Corvallis Game Developers

Turns out, a few people who were commuting to Eugene for game jams and events also live in Corvallis. Getting to know them has been interesting, and I'm excited to see where the group goes. Oregon State has a lot of eager students looking to get started with game development, so here's hoping we can get a few to join! We were able to draw around 30 people by having a meeting at the OSU library, but we're not sure if we can get that many people to show up again. It's looking like in order to get often-carless students to go to your events you've gotta have them right on campus. If the group gets big enough I could see having jams in town, fostering growth and skill development, and providing a place for developers to meet with and team up with local folks on long-term projects.

Games a-brewing

I've been thinking for a while about how much I enjoy good ol' turn-based strategy games like Fire Emblem and Battle for Wesnoth. Those games are so extensible, you know? You can have armies that behave totally differently from each other, and specific units that are super meaningful and full of character, and keep adding to the game in interesting ways after its release... Something about grid systems is really enticing to me as well. Another idea kicking around in my head is essentially a de-simplification of RPG fighting mechanics. In Final Fantasy, for instance, you equip all sorts of different weapons but they all behave the same - you press ATTACK and do some damage to a single target. Real swordplay is more complex. If I could bring back a little of that complexity, it could make things less boring. Swinging your sword can put you at risk. You have to worry about the position it leaves you in, and what openings you are required to give in order to deliver devastation.

Incorporating the balance between safety and aggression into a TBS might be crazy, but I'd like to try it. I'm imagining a system where the player has to build fighting styles from attacks and possible stances based on a unit's weapon. Maybe one sword-wielding unit has a really conservative fighting style that is low to the ground and fast, but never gives knock back. Another might have flashy moves, high damage and knock back, but has to choose its moves carefully to avoid being vulnerable. Yeah, man... Yeah...

Anyway, on to games that aren't currently just pipe dreams!

Fame or Death

So apparently there's an art show going on this summer showing off local indie games for mobile. The show, 8 Bit History, intends to represent historical issues in 8-bit style for different eras starting with present day. Submissions have to be for mobile, and they have to be about contemporary issues. Some friends asked if I'd like to work with them on it, and I shouted "would I ever!"

Since the game has to be for mobile it was the perfect excuse for me to dive back into Unity, albeit in the 2D no-animations realm. There was definitely a learning curve, but at this point I'm feeling pretty comfortable with C# and my ability to get ideas from my head to the screen. Maybe next project I'll dip my toe into making an actual 3D game!

So the project we're working on is currently called "Fame or Death". It's about social media presence - a subject that should be pretty relatable to our audience. Since it will be played on a touch screen, we decided to replicate a typical iPhone app list in 8-bit resolution using the NES color palette.

Players are presented with the ridiculous premise that the world is dying and they need to get enough followers to earn a seat on one of the ships leaving Earth. You'll struggle to keep up with various media outlets, make difficult choices, and conceal your negative thoughts in order to be selected as a worthwhile human being. This is how actual content creators feel. It's a life and death situation when being entertaining or insightful online is what pays your bills!

Anyway, all of the mechanical systems are implemented, and I'm taking every chance to play test and tune it. The art required for the game is fairly minimal, but I still feel bad for my artist since buttons aren't very fun to draw. For future projects I'll try to keep in mind whether or not the art will be interesting to produce.