Final Crunch: Getting ready for Level Up

For our final touches, I have been working on the storybook pages that will be found by the player. These pages can be scanned using the tablet that will allow the player to choose the narrative path and continue the story. Depending on what the player chooses, different images will appear in the tablet overlaying the page. After this, all we have to do is test and film.

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Level Up is fast approaching and our team has been working to get a display ready. Because we can not physically bring our game to Level Up, we need to document and present it as best as we can with a trailer and gameplay footage. I managed to borrow a nice camera and tripod and will begin filming this week. I have already begun storyboarding and editing the trailer, animating the intro.

Display wise for the showcase, because both Fish and I frequent selling at comic markets at conventions, we decided to take inspiration from some people’s display set ups.

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Exhibitors Display by Omocat

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Exhibitor Display by Artofcute

For our display, we want to make it a storybook theme to match our fairytale type aesthetic. To promote our game, we will be making buttons, stickers, and postcards to hand out featuring the characters of our game.

For the game showcase, we plan to bring the tablet, the storybook, and some interactible props. Visitors of the booth will be able to watch the trailer and scan the storybook, as how it can be done during the game. The props will be set up to hopefully resemble a small portion of the room to help with the atmosphere.

FINAL CRUNCH LET’S GO!!!

Devlog 4: Furniture Trouble

Finally back from the holiday! I wish I could concentrate more on the art aspect for my devlogs, but the digital art aspect for our game is already accounted for so all I can talk about is what I’ve been working on which is puzzle design and physical construction.

Over the break, my team spent quite a bit of time (and money) exploring multiple escape rooms around Toronto. The three prominent ones that I went to was Riddleroom, Escape Games Canada, and Omescape. It was interesting to find that each business concentrated on a different aspect of escape games. Riddleroom had the best and most thought out puzzles. I could really tell they put a lot of time to thoroughly test each aspect of the game, and my favourite part was that the puzzles integrated the narrative of each room very well. Their use of technology (arduinos and lighting) was creative. We got to speak the designer/creator of the rooms himself and he was definitely knowledgeable and passionate about his rooms. Escape Games Canada concentrated on bringing the ultimate immersive experience through professionally built sets- it was like walking straight into a movie production. The atmosphere sold itself, but the puzzles were lacking and mediocre. Omescape, based in Markham, made itself unique by featuring family friendly escape rooms. The one I participated in was Cat Kingdom, which stood out to me the most out of all the games I had done. I found Cat Kingdom to be the most unique out of all the games: the puzzles were fun to solve, technology was integrated well, and the story followed a very cohesive plot that made me feel like I was actually a part of it. Many escape rooms concentrate on the aspect of fear; jump scares, dark rooms- narratives that want you to escape with your lives at stake. Although these themes have been successful, there are just way too many of them and they start to become dull. Cat Kingdom was a nice change of pace and stood out for going against the norm.

Taking the pros and cons from our research, it made me really reflect upon our own game. What makes it unique? Will the atmosphere sell? Are the puzzles creative and enjoyable? These were things I had thought I already accounted for when creating the original design document but I feel we were still missing something.

 

What?? No Furniture??

So our original plan this week was to start bringing in furniture. The rooms at Sheridan were a no-go since they’re all shared spaces so we’ve decided to use the meeting room OR arcade room which has turned into a testing area for capstone. The space, however, wasn’t our real problem. Apparently we’re not authorized to move outside furniture into the school. This threw us off quite a bit since what’s an escape room without a room? After speaking to an adviser, we were given the advice of building furniture from cardboard. Although it would take quite a significant amount of time to build, it would definitely make our project more portable. This, however, means we would need to change up the narrative and puzzles to make it more suitable for this “cardboard world” theme.

 

By building our own furniture, this also allows me to be more creative with the mechanics of the puzzles. Heading forward, I’m hoping to fully build a few pieces of furniture to playtest the puzzles separately from the room. As we’ve found from our research, on top of atmosphere, the puzzles themselves are the most important part of making escape rooms a fun and enjoyable experience and therefore should be given more emphasis.

Throughout the past semester, we’ve been searching for “the fun factor” or our game. To put it into one sentence, I believe that the fun is the feeling of success when you solve a challenging puzzle; the feeling that you have contributed to your team.

E.g. We were stuck on a puzzle while playing the escape room Castle at Riddleroom, and I was the one who solved it. My friend tells me I did a good job and praise me. I’m the best.

With this goal in mind, I’ve decided to take more time to balancing the difficulty of each puzzle to the feeling of self-satisfaction. Self-satisfaction is only acquired when the player succeeds but is proportionate to the difficulty of the puzzle.

If Fun = Self Satisfaction

Level of Self Satisfaction = Level of Difficulty + Success

DEV LOG #3

Since the last update, a lot of assets have been completed for our alpha. It was decided that our goal for semester one was to have the digital completely implemented. Although some things were held back such as receiving the floor plan of the room and obtaining furniture, many of the goals for the digital game were met.

LIST OF COMPLETED ITEMS THIS UPDATE:

  • Puzzle designs and game progression
  • Character sprites and animation
  • User Interface (buttons, panels, dialogue boxes, etc.)

PUZZLES! MORE PUZZLES!

All the puzzles in the first half of the game that do not require AR mode (phases 1 and 2) have been designed and ready to be tested. In addition the overall flow of the game, from narrative to gameplay, have been mapped out. Here’s a quick peek at the first potential puzzle.

Phase 1: A Simple Lock

Iris will hold the player’s hand throughout the beginning phase. She gives obvious hints and guides them through the first puzzle, a locked drawer requiring a 4 number sequence. The numbers correspond to dated posters on the wall, which also correspond to CDs on the shelf. E.g. 4 posters are aligned, given a hypothetical sequential assignment of 1 to 4 from left to right. The player can find the dates of released by checking the CD case. To find the solution, the player must date the posters from oldest to newest.

SOLUTION: 1423

Phase 1 is intended to help the player familiarize themselves with the tablet and the game system, in addition to building trust with IRIS.

 

DESIGNS AND SPRITES

Based off of the description of the NPC, I created a few simple drafts for IRIS, the assistant. We chose a design pretty quickly, and I created the sprite sheets and basic animations such as her idle bob and walking animation. This process was fairly simple. First I created the main sprite and separated the head, hair, body, and limbs into separate layers. I brought them into Photoshop and moved each part individually a certain pixels up or down.

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USER INTERFACE

My partner Fish created a great layout sketch with the colour palette and potential fonts. I used this to create our first UI draft in Adobe Illustrator. Labelled text buttons were chosen to give the player a clear understanding of what each one does. I also created a dialogue box that features a small portrait on the left, which could be used to show sprite emotions to go with their speech.

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After the first layout was created, I found that the game started to look like an ipad ordering system for a breakfast restaurant, which was not what we intended. The buttons looked too big and interface took up too much of the screen. In addition, our logo was hard to see due to the yellow scheme. It was also lacking user feedback: the player could not tell if they had pressed the button when they tapped it.

Taking all of these problems into account, I decided to make a set of round symbol buttons instead. It was argued that these buttons could potentially be confusing if the player was not familiar with them. After some research, I chose extremely recognizable and popular symbols that were also used in other programs and games. This proved to be a successful fix to our previous overwhelmingly large buttons, and made it look more like a game than a breakfast ordering system. I also made a darker version of each button that would be used when players press down, to show that the button has been tapped on.

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Moving Forward

In terms of art assets left to implement, I still need to make tiles and sprite the furniture we will be using. I also need to make different simple expressions for IRIS to be used in the dialogue box. Moving forward to the next semester, we will begin building and testing the physical puzzles when out tags and sensors come in during the winter break. The AR system is also almost ready for use, and I will begin modelling as necessary.

 

Schedule Summary

Flipside

sunnyside-logo-text

a game by

Fish Song – Jennifer U

11/04/16

Dates Task Description Owner
Nov 7 – Nov 13 Order NFCs Buy the NFC sensors Fish
Nov 7 – Nov 13 Update required tools list Update with Vuforia, Fungus, and other plugins we’d like to use. Also add in tools such as sound system, webcams, etc. Fish
Nov 7 – Nov 13 Implement map movement Program portion map control for the player into the digital prototype Fish
Nov 7 – Nov 13 Implement touch controls Program touch controls into the digital prototype Fish
Nov 7 – Nov 13 Tilesets Sprite floor tiles, wall tiles Jenn
Nov 7 – Nov 13 Sprite expressions Give the sprite three expressions Jenn
Nov 7 – Nov 13 Game Design Draft 3 Update Roles Jenn
Nov 14 – Nov 20 Implement chat log system Program a dialogue log system into the digital prototype Fish
Nov 14 – Nov 20 Implement NFC triggers Program the NFC triggers into the digital prototype (provided that they come in by this time) Fish
Nov 14 – Nov 20 Character Portraits Draw a 2D character portrait including expressions Jenn
Nov 14 – Nov 20 Puzzle development Detail the existing puzzles further. Create a step by step solution for what the player must do. Jenn
Nov 21 – Nov 27 GUI Concept Sketches Create the sketches for the graphic user interface of the digital prototype Fish
Nov 21 – Nov 27 Narrative Plot Points Connect the narrative to puzzles Fish
Nov 21 – Nov 27 Blueprint room Identify furniture required and blueprint the room (provided we have finalized the space we can work in) Jenn
Nov 21 – Nov 27 Find sound effects Find or create sound effects and music for both digital and physical spaces Jenn
Nov 28 – Dec 4 Tutorial Dialogue Write the dialogue for the tutorial  portion of the digital game Fish
Nov 28 – Dec 4 Game Logo Concept Create the logo for Flipside Fish
Nov 28 – Dec 4 Render GUI Render the finalized GUI design Jenn
Nov 28 – Dec 4 Render Game Logo Render the finalized logo design Jenn
Dec 5 – Dec 11 Implement Help function Implement an email system to the digital prototype Fish
Dec 5 – Dec 11 Write all narrative/dialogue Write all dialogue needed for the digital game Fish
Dec 5 – Jan 29 Sprite furniture Sprite all furniture needed in the game Jenn
Dec 5 – Jan 29 Render AR elements Begin rendering the alternate reality objects required Jenn
Dec 12 – Dec 18 Implement everything Dialogue + objects + events + sounds Fish
Dec 12 – Dec 18 Test TEST THAT GAME Jenn
Dec 16 – Jan 9 BREAK TIME ENJOY
Jan 9 – Jan 15 Implement AR Implement the Alternate reality portion into the digital game Fish
Jan 9 – Jan 15 Bug Fixing Fish
Jan 9 – Jan 29 FURNITURE HUNT Begin finding/building furniture required Fish
Jan 16 – Jan 29 ROOM ASSEMBLY Begin moving in furniture Fish
Jan 23 – Apr 2 PLAYTEST Jenn
Jan 23 – Apr 2 Implement tweaks Change the game according to playtest feedback Fish
Feb 20 – Feb 26 READING WEEK ENJOY!!!

Basically continue the above until it’s due, I’m not sure when the project is due still.

* Schedule is subject to change with updated deadlines

Unfinished weekly tasks can go into the weekends and following week if it doesn’t compromise that week’s work

Sprint Week Plan (10/31/2016)

General Summary: ARE YOU READY TO RUMBLE.

Goal Description Breakdown Lead
Video Documentation Two minute video documenting process throughout the week
  • Filming (Jenn + Fish)
  • Editing (Jenn)
Jenn
Summary Schedule Schedule detailing the next 18 weeks of the project
  • Compiling (Fish)
Fish
Sunnyside Logo Official logo of Sunnyside Studios. Team logo as well as used as in game letterhead.
  • Concepts (Fish)
  • Render (Jenn
Jenn
Interface Prototype Interactable interface prototype with basic functionality implemented.
  • Move between screens
  • Trigger dialogue
  • Player choices
Fish
Character Sprites Character design and art for the NPC.
  • Concepts (Jenn)
  • Sprites (Jenn)
Jenn
Puzzle Design Three puzzles designed and finalized.
  • Design (Jenn + Fish)
Jenn

SCHEDULE
Monday Sprint Plan due 12AM
Fish Logo Concepts
Jenn Design Puzzles
Both Discuss which logo to move forward with
Tuesday
Fish Begin Prototype
Jenn Logo Render, Character Concepts
Both Discuss which character concept to move forward with
Wednesday Design Meeting at 9.5AM | Advisement Meeting at 12.5PM
Fish Continue Prototype
Jenn Character Sprites, Design Puzzles
Both Discuss Puzzles
Thursday Elective at 12PM
Fish Continue Prototype
Jenn Design Puzzles
Both Discuss Puzzles
Friday Video + Summary Schedule due 8PM
Fish Summary Schedule
Jenn Edit/Compile Video
Both IMPORTANT: Order a pizza or something

Dev Log #2: Character Development

After a few more weeks of designing, we have finally solidified our concepts and narrative!

DIGITAL COMPONENT: ARTSTYLE

Since we still haven’t been able to take a look at the physical space being provided to us yet, we still need to work on the blue print, but we did do a mockup physical prototype!

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The room looks quite doll-like because of its smaller scale, but it’s something I want to retain in the digital room. Using RPG Maker, I did a quick digital mock of the room.

We decided to use a top-down pixel style for the digital component because it is something everyone is familiar with. Everyone knows of Pokemon or Legend of Zelda, therefore it should be easier for the players to interact with. In addition, simpler sprites means less detail, and when there is less detail, players fill in what’s missing with their own imagination. People tend to see what they want to see. It’s like when people read books they have a mental image of what the characters look like despite not having it shown to them; they may have their own image of the character that they become attached to.

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Pokemon FireRed (2014) vs fanart of Red, as imagined and drawn by はとり (pixiv ID=724188)

In terms of colour scheme, we have yet to decide- we’ll probably get to spriting when we purchase the physical furniture.

 

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

Because our game is focused on providing a immersive narrative experience, the use of a character that the player can bond to was implemented. This character is a very important aspect of the game, thus a lot of thought was put into them; how old should they be? What gender? Mannerisms? Goals and Motives? These questions were crucial to developing this character and so we decided to try and answer some of these questions before moving on to designer their physical appearance. We want this character to be trustworthy, someone the player would not doubt at first, and thus we took it up to a twitter poll.

According to the poll, the majority with 52% votes voted that it didn’t matter if they were male of female, some stating that they would not trust either. Because female had the second most votes with 36%, we decided our character would be female. Since the age range of people who will be playing our game will be around 15-25, she will be presented as late teens or early twenties. After Fish listed out some potential names, we decided to name her Iris.

Now for the big question: What is the importance of this character and how does she tie into the experience? This all connects to the room itself- the waiting room. To incorporate her and the digital room, we made her an AI that was created to guide the player through the game. Many escape rooms use walkie-talkies to call staff for help. Calling for staff and having someone that is not a part of the game or experience breaks immersion, and in this narrative,  Iris was created specifically for this purpose. Instead of asking staff for clues, the player can “talk” to Iris who has everything installed to help, from giving small hints to teaching how certain locks work. People tend to trust computers as they have no personality and work to only give information. As the player progresses, they can find pieces of code that upgrade Iris’s system until she becomes her own sentient personality. Working up from an AI guide that the players can trust, Iris begins to become more human like and tries to convince the player to free her. In the end, the player has the choice to restore her to factory settings and escape alone, or risk failure. Other potential narrative endings are still in development, but there may be an option to escape together if certain extra puzzles are solved.

When I take an overall look at our narrative so far, I can see it holding a slight resemblance to Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2015). I feel like we can further enhance Iris as a believable character by looking more into other AI and android themed media.  

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Ex Machina (2015)

CHARACTER BRIEF

Name: Iris

Age: Presented as late teens

Gender: Female

Race: AI

Background: Iris was created to be an AI guide for players of the escape room. Instead of having staff walk in when players needed help, Iris could teach players how some puzzles worked and provide hints, as well as monitor the game progress. However, the AI program has been known to “malfunction” with the AI guide (Iris) straying away from its code and acting on its own.
Personality: Iris in factory settings acts like a friendly tour guide, popping up to give hints, teaching players, and sometimes even giving answers when the players seem to be having too much difficulty. As Iris’s program is updated and she begins to learn, she developes her own personality. Quirky with a bad sense of humor, she makes giving information a two-way deal. She will only help the player if they promise to help her.

Archetypes: The Innocent -> The Jester/Trickster -> The Rebel

Values: Freedom

Objectives: To escape the digital space, her AI being/role

Appearance

Body Type:

Hair:

Eyes:

CHARACTER DESIGN SKETCHES TO BE UPDATED!

 

WORKS CITED

Garland, A. (Director). (2015). Ex Machina. Canada: Film4, DNA Films.
Gamefreak. “Pokemon FireRed”. spencer1519 (2014) [Photo] Retrieved from
https://forums.sufficientvelocity.com/threads/noob-plays-pokemon-fire-red.5718/
はとり. “シロガネやまで“ (2009). Retrieved from http://www.pixiv.net/member_illust.php?
mode=medium&illust_id=4510690

Deep Dive Statement

DEEP DIVE STATEMENT

My goal is to become a character artist; whether it be character design, character renders, or in game  or animated character assets. According to Get In Media, and entertainment careers site, “The character artist takes a concept to fruition; this person works under the supervision of the art director and lead character artist to create character assets for use in games and marketing materials.”.

As part of our capstone team, I am responsible for designing our NPC character(s) as well as work together to designing the blueprint and layout of the game. I will mainly be focusing on creating completed art assets for the digital part.

For the deep dive, I will be concentrating on the process of bringing assets from its original concept to its completion in-game.

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Get In Media | Entertainment Careers., from http://getinmedia.com/

Get in Media is a site dedicated to educating about Media careers in the fields of film, music, games, and live events. They have different listings of jobs within the fields which gives a job description, its duties, required skills and education, and what to expect. They have jobs detailing entry level careers, to art careers, and even management and marketing. In specific to the deep dive, the Artist Careers listing gives a wide range of jobs that provide information on the process; from concept artists to Texture and Character artists.

 

Solarski, B. C. (n.d.). The Psychology of Lines, Shapes, and Volumes. , from http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/185676/the_aesthetics_of_game_art_and_.php?print=1

The author Chris Solarski writes The Aesthetic of Game Art and Game Design to help creators enhance the game experience through the psychology of design. He describes line and form and how it effects a composition. Although this document can be applied to any sort of art, Solarski relates it back to gaming, how these design principles can affect a player’s perception and experience. He also highlight the process of character shapes and the development from concepting, rendering, and animating them within the game world.

 

Thomas, N. (2014, May 20). Character design art process from scribbles to 3D Models. From http://blog.spaceduststudios.com/space-dust-racing-character-design/

The author uses his own experiences to create an article that could serve useful to other artists. He describes the art development process by using his own game as an example. Thomas provides an insight on the steps he takes to complete a game character design, taking the readers from silhouettes and review sheets to its final 3D model.

 

Anhut, A. (2014, July 02). Let’s Get Real About Concept Art – Howtonotsuckatgamedesign., from http://howtonotsuckatgamedesign.com/2014/02/lets-get-real-concept-art/

The author gives insight on the industry and how concept art really works. They describe how the art that is shown to the public is different than what goes on behind the scenes. The author aims to teach the reader about concept versus promotional art by comparing and contrasting different pieces shown by game companies. In addition, they provide diagrams of the work flow.

Dev Log #1: Design Process

Hello friends! I’m Jennifer U from Team 1 (aka CYFISH). Our team consists of me and Fish. I live in Fish’s closet.

 

CONCEPTS AND CHANGES

We were prepared to create a 2D pixel RPG game. We initially considered this route because what we wanted to achieve a strong narrative game with a major focus on player emotions and empathy. This could all easily be done in RPGMaker as neither of us are actual coders. As we kept discussing, however, we realized this was not particularly a game we wanted to make for our final year of the program. The RPGMaker genre was something we were both very familiar with; hundreds of thousands of such games exist, yet none stood out much in terms of gameplay. Yes, RPGMaker would have been a simple platform for us to complete a game and yes, it would have achieved our goal of a narrative and  visual appeal, but how would it stand out from other RPG games or even our peers? Our capstone year allows for so much more experimenting and freedom, so why should we do a game that we could easily do on our own time without help? We are in a game design program after all. It’s really not to say that RPGMaker is not a good enough tool- in fact, the engine and community has been growing so much. I could go on RPGMaker games (or I could just link to my alternate devlog done for our original concept), but let’s move on!

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Goodbye Doggo, you will be missed.

Our project adviser Jose Rueda discussed with us about how the lack of programmers in our group should not stop us from pursuing a potential greater idea, and gave us examples and inspiration of interaction design projects and installation pieces. After further discussion, we had a new idea.

 

Meet “Flipside”

Flipside is an interactive game using both a digital and physical game space that parallel each other. The player is brought to a room and locked inside with the game device. In the digital game, the player is introduced to the exact same room in top down view. The visual style resembles old RPG games on the Gameboy. In the digital game, the player is introduced to  a character who also seems to be locked inside the digital counterpart of the room. The player must control the character in the game to find clues which will help them solve puzzles in the physical space and vice versa. By working together with this character and exploring both the digital and physical game, the player will learn more about the mystery behind the theme and narrative, with the ultimate goal to escape. In 20 minute to 1 hour game (depending on how fast players can complete the puzzles),  we want the player to feel completely immersed in this world that is shown through just one room, with the theme centering around empathy and morality.

The main highlight of this game is that both the physical and digital space is interactable and reactive of each other. If the player moves a photo frame from the wall of the real room, the interaction is processed into the game (the photo frame is knocked off in the digital room). Another potential puzzle involves finding numbers for a PIN that needs to be inputted into the digital room.

Another interesting aspect we will be testing is AR (Augmented Reality) with phone cameras.

Escape Rooms

Real life escape rooms were originally based off of escape room games you could find online. Nowadays, escape rooms have been a successful rising trend and business in Toronto. Being an avid escape room customer myself (I’ve been to 5 different locations and completed around 20 rooms over the summer), I’ve found that it is an extremely immersive experience.In addition, a lot of rooms use cool tech that really enhance the game.

opening-your-own-escape-room-facility

What I find is lacking, however, is usually the narrative. Although thematic, many escape rooms have very common themes and narratives such as Haunted Room/House, Prison Cell, and Ancient Cave/Tombs. It’s rare to find a room that connects the story and puzzles together well and in a unique way (with the exception of Escape Games Canada).

 

Research and Technical Questions

A lot of research needs to be done before we get started, mainly surrounding the technical aspects. How will we build this room? How will we make sensors work? What kind of sensors are we using to trigger things? What platform can we use to develop this cross physical/digital game? Considering we got the go signal for this idea yesterday, we still have a lot of designs to solidify. Hopefully all this will be fleshed out in the next entry. Until then, we do have plans of action; we plan to contact some escape room managers in Toronto and see if they can give us some advice and show us what kind of technology they use to build their puzzles. If we can figure out one wiring/sensor puzzle, the rest should be easy to do. We also have to look into what platforms support these devices. For now, I’ll be fleshing out the game mechanics.

Stay tuned!

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Works Cited

ESCAPE GAMES [Photo] Retrieved from http://escapegames.ca/opening-your-own-escape-room-facility.php