Advanced Game Design (Warhammer) Week 1: 8/27/2015
Never having played a turn based game of this size and complexity before, I was just baptized in the fire of Warhammer 40K. Watching, listening, learning and flipping through character and game books was all I could do to keep up with my confusion over the span of 4 hours. It’s not that I don’t grasp the overarching concepts, its just trying to follow the rules of engagement that are challenging for a first timer in this type of game. I will be watching hours of You Tube videos over the next week (Miniwargaming, Blue Table Gaming have been recommended as solid sources to watch) I have to learn the complex systems of Warhammer 40K in three weeks. Our first team project is to create our own race and codex for the race.
Playing Card Hunter For the First Time: I need to learn what makes this type of game fun for others. After playing for a little over an hour I found that I was not enjoying myself and that this is something I’m not doing for fun, I’m playing because it’s an assignment. I recognize that this is good for me. It get’s me out of my comfort zone and what I like. It forces me to enter into an area of game play and game mechanics that I do not fully understand or appreciate. Game mechanics aside, my greater concern is fun. Games need to provide the player a sense of accomplishment, reward or fun. So why do I feel none of these when I play card hunter? It’s obviously a popular game that many people enjoy. But I think I’m being a bit to critical about the “why” I don’t have fun. I guess it’s simply a matter of preference. I have fun reading science periodicals and had crazy fun in the Tough Mudder which was the most physically challenging 5 hours of my life. But these are my forms of fun, and something others would Not consider fun, in fact, I think many would consider it work. And I guess that’s where this exercise has led me. For me, playing Card Hunter felt like work, and not like fun. Can I find the fun factor? Can I find a way to feel satisfaction, reward or fun in Card Hunter. I will continue to try, but in the end, my wiring for fun may simply be outside the scope of turn based card games. What mechanics can I learn and apply to what I consider fun, which is open world FPS? There must be something, so this is the mission for myself. Learn new ideas and mechanics that I would not have normally thought of, and figure out new ways to apply them in an open world FPS. As I write this I have just realized something I’m learning already, and it’s not mechanics. It’s something cooler and what I would consider fun. It’s the lore and depth of the characters that turn based games provide. Now this I can appreciate and is something very important to FPS. Excellent, I just had fun and found a way to apply what I learned. Now that was fun!
Advanced Gaming (Warhammer) Week 2
Warhammer 40K gameplay is divided into four phases.
2)Psychic Phase (if possible)
3)Shoot/ or engage in close combat
Total War: WARHAMMER – The Battle of Black Fire Pass Developer Walkthrough
A new race has emerged and they are called the Bellator. The Bellator is an exclusively female race of humanoid women. You know when you are facing the Bellator, even from a distance you can see their bright red hair. Hair so red that it appears to be on fire. While they may look like human women there internal biology is far more evolved. Their average height is 7′, with some reported to exceed 9′. Their species was genetically created by an unknown. Their bones are said to be made of the hardest material in the universe. So strong, that the bones from the fallen are used by many as weapons or to fortify armor. Genetically superior to humans, Bellators lifespan is unknown since they heal rapidly, never age visibly beyond 25 and many are hundreds of years old. It is through this long life that add to the Bellators lethality. Their knowledge and wisdom have made them superior strategists on the battlefield. The Bellator despise the male species and do not trust them. They have been watching how the different species have dominated their female counterparts for hundreds of years. It is for this reason that Bellator will often refuse to battle a female from any species and will always choose to covert any species female to join the Bellator army. This converting of other female species started over 100 years ago when the Bellator learned of a maximum security prison exclusively for female species. These where some of the most deadly female criminals in the universe but the Bellators didn’t care. They refused to allow the abuse in the prisons by the male guards and slaughtered them all. It was from that point that the Bellators began to convert or kill females of any species. They understood the wisdom of assimilating the knowledge of their enemies while fostering their alien female sisterhood. Their favorite melee weapon is the slice glove. If they are able to grab you by the throat with a slice glove it’s probably too late to notice it’s elegant yet deadly design. Once the glove squeezes the throat of it’s victim a retractable blade instantly severs the head. The way the Bellator Army continues to repopulate is in part, why they go to battle. They are always on the hunt for a worthy mate to take prisoner and use to impregnate their genetically superior ranks. They may keep a selected mate for the purpose of repopulation for a few months. But none has ever lasted much longer and is typically killed in a ritualistic way. And it should be noted that all babies born of the Bellator are female. Space Marines are typically the preferred race but their have been instances when they have mated with other species, most notably demons. This is why you will find a large diversity of Bellator Warriors. But what you won’t find fighting in a Bellator Army, is a man.
“The Old Ones” Lizardmen
The Lizardmen are about to get an upgrade in Warhammer 40K. Our advanced game design class is going to be building a new codex for Warhammer. The class has been broken up into 3 teams. Mechanics, Level design and Creative. I have sided with the creative team and have voluntered to be the creative leads assistant. We need to pick up where the fantasy left off. The Lizardmen where driven from their home world by escaping in ships left behind by their creators. Unknown to them, the ships were their temples. What else did they discover in the temples? What technologies did they gain that the temple provided. Whatever it is, they have 40K years with it to learn. What is the ships power source and how can they use it to power a new generation of weapons?
The lizardmen culture is reminiscent of the ancient Aztec. They have similar weapons, writing, architecture and clothing. They are primitive in the fantasy world but will be gaining new technologies and perhaps customs that will occur over 40K years. What happens to a civilization over this timespan is profound. So much can change, it’s up to our creative team to decide what that is.
Each of the Lizardmen species was bred for a specific role by the Old Ones for the purpose to ensure a functional and organized society. They are the Slann, Saurus, Skinks and Kroxigor. They have also trained Beasts of war which are large Reptiles, Dragons and dinosaurs. Giant Fire breathing Salamanders, Carnosaurs, Stegadon, Cold ones, Horned ones, Terradons, Arcanadons, Razordon, Coatl and thunder lizards. So the question is, did they take these creatures with them? Was the temple ship large enough to be used as an ark? We could write into the story that there where very deep and unknownn chambers that extended below the surface, making the ship a gargantuan ark. Also… The temples could have been a bio-terifoming lab, housing the genetic technology to create Dinosaurs, dragons and even Lizardmen at will, the power to customize each new creation with customized traits. This is how the old ones created the lizardmen. Now the Lizardmen have the same power of creation, that created them.
After working through a variety of concepts and directions to start tacking our Lizardmen codex, we finally got our work flow started. My job is to provide research for the Lizardmen races. The Lizardmen races have not evolved or changed much in physical appearance. But their are albino Lizardmen that are bigger and stronger that will be taking more of a lead roll in leadership. After considering may ideas for a power source, it seems we will be focusing on the wrath bone. The wrath bone is a building material which is controlled psychically to take on any form. It would have great power that is derived from the fallen ancestors of the lizard men. One of the biggest challenges we are facing is how to evolve the Lizardmen from fantasy to 40K. What we are starting to steeling is the idea that their weapons are made from wrathbone and what they fire is a plasma based weapon. The weapon would gain it’s power from Lizardmen’s fallen ancestors. Their main handed weapon would resemble a type of gauntlet made of wrath bone and would offer thunder claws/plasma/power fist. My idea for their shield would be that it is made from wrath bone and when a unit of 4 are together, can link the wrath bone shields to form a 360 plasma shield that extends 6″ in every direction from it’s center. Any failed attack on the shield would cause plasma damage to the attacker.
Psyberfire Plasma Goodness. Today I learned a lot about Psyberfire from Samantha. Because I am Jeremy’s assistant it is important that I have a good understanding of Psyberfire so I can help with it’s management. Which involves keeping the workflow moving, keep the backlog filled with things to do, and ride the content team to finish their projects. And finish them correctly. After our first week getting officially into Psyberfire I was the only one that had a task complete. To be fair, I did not do any original work, my task was research. But it does show that Jeremy and I will really need to stay onto of the content team and make sure they are completing their tasks. I am starting to identify some people that seem to want to fly under the radar and have other people do all of the work. This will obviously not fly. I have noticed people in a few of my classes that are this way. People that either don’t want to do the work or people that have a hard time taking direction. I really hope they either drop out of the program or get their act together soon because it’s pretty annoying. This week my job is to come up with weapons and armor for the Lizardmen. My card requires that I come up with four of each but I already have about 8 weapons. I talked to Garrett about a shield concept and it sounds like he likes the idea. One area I need to be moving forward is the creative images. I will be making some more prototype ideas for weapons and armor but I would really like this to be my greater area of focus. I order for this book to really look good, we will need a significant amount of art work. By next week I will have some good examples to share and I need to let Jeremy know that I would like to take on the job of art on as my main contribution for this project.
I am happy to be working on the graphics for the Lizardmen codex. I received a positive response from a few people regarding my weapon prototypes i created in photoshop. To the left is an armor suit photoshop mashup I created in class. I think that the art for this new codex is crucial. I haven’t seen the art that has been used in past books but from what I hear I hasn’t been very good. Garrett would like this book to mimic as close as possible the look and feel of the 7th series codex. This is a challenging task because the available lizardmen art is limited and not at the same quality art level as the newer codex. These codex are extremely art heavy so it is a huge task to create art for the entire book by recycling images and heavily depending on photoshop to create elements in a frankenstein fashion. One of the many things I have to be very carful of is that I don’t use knows assets. I have already had some people point out that a shield looked like it cam e from Skyrim and a weapon looked like it was lifted from Halo. This cannot happen. I can’t have elements that can be tied back to some other game, peer review is essential.
This level of Project Management is not something I have been a part of before. Our lizardmen project in psyberfire seems to be a bit arbitrary regarding the numeric difficulty level assigned for each job. I think it would be better if that number was an estimate based on hourly increments. Regardless, it’s a system that I’m getting my head around using effectively. I knew before going into the program that it would be essential because there are so many people and so many systems that need to work together. I guess I thought that I would be a cog for a number of years before working up to a Project manager. My professional goal is to work up to a lead level designer position. What I know now is the importance of understanding how the Project management systems work and how to be both an effective leader and cog. I feel fortunate to have Jessica to bounce ideas off of. She uses a variety of management styles including Waterfall and Agile. Her knowledge of managing such large software development, testing and implementation is outstanding. I would have never believed that the knowledge she has and what she does would translate into game development. I wonder how she would manage me if she was PM? Of course there are many things about our industries that are quite different and don’t translate. But one thing that does is hard work and the development of complex systems that need to work together. It takes dedication to a project and no excuse making should be accepted. You work until the work is completed and on schedule. No excuses that there wasn’t enough time or you had a busy week. If everyone gave those excuses nothing would ever get done.
Focus on building up our team. Our codex is having some issues. I haven’t created a book before but it seems like we had better kick into high gear. I think our progress is much slower then it should be and it feels like we are unorganized in our management of the project. I’m not sure who that falls on exactly but I’m sure we all can be doing this better. I talked to Garrett about the art this week and came up with a game plan for approval and production. I also emailed Tim Decker and explained that we could use some help from some of his students. Jeremy and I also have a plan to get together outside of class so we can get the project back on track. It’s becoming clear who is in it to win it and who just wants to do the minimum. I’m continuing to build my alliances with people willing to put in the hours to get the job done. I’m not sure how some people believe that these projects can be completed purely in class. I don’t see this as an appropriate commitment for success. I had a great conversation with my CSG 110 class this evening. We are really starting to gel as a team and they are all becoming more focused and optimistic regarding our success. They really believe we have a better game, plan and financial model.
Having something to believe in is everything.
Our Lizardmen codex is coming along but has had some stumbling points. I am fully confident that I will be able to provide all of the needed art assets but I’m very concerned about content. I understand that we are being taught pipelines and agile process. But it seem like we have more critics than creators. I would think that with this small group and this large of a task their would be a better balance, but that is not what I see. I think this needs to be a all hands on deck situation and help the content team. I see no reason why the 2 product owners and scrum master have not added any content. I don’t think that they appreciate how the real world will view failure of a project. They will not be able to just blame everyone else for the projects failure. Their comes a point in everyones (who’s successful) career that you roll up your sleeves, get in the mud and get it done for the sake of the project. Its pretty annoying to listen to those in charge worry about their own little power struggles, who’s responsible for what and who’s in charge. Those of us doing the actual work don’t want to hear about it or get dragged into drama that distracts us from what needs to get done.
I’m continuing to create new art assets in and outside of class. It seems like their is a lack of communication between groups working on this project and I fear that is hindering our progress. I’m going to bring it up in our next meeting and have already talked to a few people individually about it. My main impediment is the lack of communication. 2 days ago I reached out to 2 people that have information I need and neither has responded. From a mechanics standpoint our Lizardmen cannot defend themselves from an arial attack so I’m working on the graphics for a rocket system that I’ve talked to Garret about. Garret and I have also talked at length regarding some of the disfunction happening on this project and he is going to make some changes in the way he approaches this project.
Not much to say other than I’m keeping my nose to the grindstone. Jeremy and I are staying in close communication. We are both like minded and will get the codex done come hell or high water. We have a timeline for our completion and everything seems to be on target. As long as everyone completes their assigned tasks we will have a quality product when were done. There has been some drama this week with Eric being asked to step down from his position of assistant product owner. Having him as another person creating content is a welcome addition to the content team. I’ve heard he’s a good writer so I look forward to reading his work.
Psyberfire is down indefinitely so we will be transitioning to Trello. I don’t really think I’m learning much about Agile other than how it’s not supposed to be done. I think I’ve hit a learning wall of diminishing returns. One thing I am starting to notice is the tremendous lack of creative people in the program. Not just in this class, but in many of my classes. And while I get that for those who are programmers, it’s many of the designers that I’m noticing who have no creativity. I really hope that I don’t see some people next semester, unfortunately I probably will. How I will handle that is TBD. I think that a collation or alignment like Survivor is what is needed here. I need to work with people that are willing to work and not talk about working.
I finally ordered my computer so I will finally be able to be productive at home in Unity and get started learning Unreal and 3Ds Max. I cant wait to get started developing all of the time. Hector and I have been working very well together and hope we can build a winning team of developers that expect nothing less than greatness. I have not seen another two people in the program that work as well together and I think that our game will reflect that. I’m looking forward to second semester and build a team of focused developers. People that want to work and learn together. Not just do a project because its an assignment, I want people on our team woking because it’s a labor of love.
The codex is almost complete. Jeremy has set the cutoff for content to be next Tuesday. I’ve been giving him a lot of last minute assets to use. Many of which I created towards the beginning of the semester. I didn’t think they would be used but I’m glad that they will. Its been an eye opening experience to both work with a group of people on a project like this but also learning about the Warhammer game. There is such a depth of lore and a unbelievable passion for those who play the game. I think it’s part of the genius of the Games Workshop to convince people to spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars on plastic. With that kind of financial commitment, it’s had not to love the game.
Demo day was a particularly happy day for me. It was a clear marker indicating that first semester projects are complete and it is finally over. My Advanced Design class was defiantly not my favorite but it was also not my least favorite. I’m happy to have been a part of the experience. I think I’ve said this before but the lore in the Warhammer universe is amazing. The art is beautiful and the complexity of the mechanics is humbling. I understand much better why the lore is so important. It is an important immersive component to truly experience the game play in your minds eye.
Got together with Hector today and had an opportunity to start talking through our second semester game. Although neither of us particularly like 2D RPG games, we think that we have some great ideas to make the game innovative and fun for us to work on as level designers. We also had an opportunity to scout out some buildings to photograph for their textures. I have an idea that I want to try for making our own realistic textures we are going to work on over the break. We also had an opportunity to do some gaming, it is the first time that I’ve actually gamed with anyone from school. Looking forward to the break but looking more forward to learning something new over the break. Hector and I are hoping to have some gaming design breakthroughs and I know that with our tenacity, we will.
Our Codex is complete and viewable here. http://online.fliphtml5.com/ezfw/vczy/#p=1