The Last Hurrah

 

Image found here

 

With the last two-ish weeks of Game Design (and of high school, for that matter), I spent a lot of time focusing in on new aspects of game design. I’ve spent time thinking about exactly which aspects of game design I would like to explore in the future. With my SMART goal, I decided to explore two aspects I haven’t had much of a chance to yet explore. These two aspects are concept art and storytelling/building.

In the past, I’ve worked on and considered other pieces of game design, and some have caught my interest and some haven’t. Two over-arching areas I’ve touched on are coding and in-game art and animation. I learned a lot about the both of them and the main lesson I learned: I love art, coding not so much.

I’ve created many pixel art animations for the things I have worked on, including sprites for games from last year and a game I worked on earlier this year.

An example of coding is demonstrated in the video below, where I made a small environment to test movement, extended jump, and wall jump.

These past two weeks, I’ve been so excited to explore these new aspects of creating a video game. Firstly, I worked on concept art for the game I’ve been working on building. A concept artist is an unbelievably important position to hold on any design team, as you make so many aesthetically important decisions. Frankly, you make the aesthetic- something that could make or break the successfulness of a game. I considered this position and imagined the importance of it and decided that would be where I first focus my energy.

CONCEPT ART

I started with sketches in journals, capturing the basic essence I hoped to create for my character. I focused on intentional design decisions in this portion of the development of a character, relating internal characteristics to external characteristics. Some examples are the star on the chest of her dress to represent her love for space and her small stature to represent her meek mannerisms. I also attempted different angles and posing when creating these sketches, in order for the result to be a more rounded, well put together product.

The next step of the concept art for this game was deciding color palates and relating them to the emotions/situations at hand. I was thinking of beginning with a very warm color scheme and have it progressively shift to a cooler color scheme throughout the game play until the climax of the game, where another shift back occurs. I also decided to use different textures for different environments. For example, when the character is on earth, everything is very solid and flat. Meanwhile, once she is in space, things take on a softer and dreamier aesthetic.

The examples provided below are of the finalized concept pieces of my main character and a concept of a star.

The idea behind the star creature design is that I wanted to bring life and innocence to space, creating creatures that hold the stars in their tails. The image below is a concept for the sun, styled after an axolotl.

STORYTELLING

Next, I decided to explore storytelling. Storytelling is another vital part of a good video game. Games with good substance do well in the industry, and I want to be the driving force behind such a game. I want to tell a story through interactive media that will touch and excite people. When writing scenes for this game, my goal was to learn to be descriptive in my narration of cutscenes in order to novelize them properly for later transformation into script/blocking and eventually into visual scenes. I put a lot of effort into all aspects of synesthesia to achieve this. Below are three pieces: the beginning, the climax, and the end.

Beginning

Climax

Finish

In order to create the best story I could, I followed the guidelines of the true hero’s story:

  1. YOU [establish a protagonist] – A young girl who seems to be in love with space is somewhat ostracized by her peers and is misunderstood by her mother. This young girl dedicates all her spare time to studying what she loves most, and she isn’t about to let anything get in her way. She lives in a classic small town and spends almost each night watching the stars.
  2. NEED [something isn’t quite right] – As the nights pass, the young girl begins to notice that certain stars and constellations aren’t where they’re supposed to be. At first, she dismisses it as a cloudy sky, but when more and more continue to disappear, she begins to realize that they really are disappearing- there is no other explanation!
  3. GO [crossing the threshold] – The young girl waits for her parents to fall asleep, putting on an astronaut costume and dragging her large, cardboard rocket out to her front yard. She’s packed food and drinks for the trip as she waits for her rocket to take off. While waiting, she dozes off and when she next awakes, the rocket has taken off and is heading directly to the stars!
  4. SEARCH [the road of trials] – The young girl learns of the poison infecting the stars and discovers that the juice she brought with her is the antidote. She begins to heal the stars.
  5. FIND [get what they wanted/meet with the goddess] – The young girl is so overjoyed that she has the opportunity to explore the stars. They are alive, and she is able to meet them all. The most memorable meeting was of that with the sun.
  6. TAKE [meet your maker] – Just when all the stars seem to have been healed, two more fall ill from the poison spread to them- the sun and the brightest star of her favorite constellation. She can only save one, and knows it has to be the sun. She loses the brightest star.
  7. RETURN [bringing it home] – She saves the star and the star in turn heals her of her star sickness. She feels like a new person with a newly fulfilled heart. She thanks the star and returns to her rocket.
  8. CHANGE [master of both worlds] – Once the sun has been healed, the rocket takes her back home. She is very tired from all her adventures, so she decides to sleep on the journey back home. She rests easy and when she next awakes, she is back on her front lawn in her cardboard rocket and the sun is only just rising. Her mother scolds her for sleeping outside, but the young girl simply hugs her. She’s excited for a new and different life. She waves to the sun. She saved the night sky.

I am glad I was able to focus in on these two aspects of design that I did not have a privilege to yet learn. I was able to realize the importance of both of them and have a new appreciation for the process in both cases. I learned much about intentional character design as well as much about story formatting as well as descriptive writing. Exploring these areas was a good way to end the year, and I could not be more excited to further explore my passion for game design in college in the future. This game design class has been amazing.

Here’s to the end of two fantastic years!!

 

Portfolio Work for Colleges

I have expanded my portfolio thanks to a number of college applications I have been submitting. Here is a list of work I have collected over the years.

upper-leg

Upper Leg- Piece created to display upper leg muscle anatomy.

pastiche – Written in the style of Tim O’Brien as a pastiche for an IOP in 11th IB English.

nuclear – Written for a creative thinking assignment in my Game Design class.

 

lion-girl

Headache- Created for enjoyment during free time I had.

 

star-spangled-man

Star Spangled Man- a commission for my father’s birthday.

 

iron-man

Iron Man- another commission for my father’s birthday.

 

beaten

Beaten- completed for enjoyment during free time.

 

no-trespassing

No Trespassing- created for a project in my art class in the style of Bansky.

 

disorder

Disorder- created in my freshman year art class. This was submitted into the CHS art fair and won second place.

 

brothers-d

 

brothers-s

Brothers (S&D)- Both of the above were created for enjoyment during free time.

 

nosedive

Nosedive- created in a middle school art class.

Me as a Game

The Last of Us

Image found here.

     This game is very important to me for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it was the first console game I was able to complete and became my inspiration and drive behind wanting to become a game designer. This game is laced with meaning and significance and has left an impact on a large number of people. It won the game of the year award in 2013 and has gained even more popularity since then. I want to make something like this. I want to make something that has an emotional impact on others like this game had on a great deal of people, including myself. I want to impact people and inspire them and captivate them with something I have created. One of my favorite things about this game is that still, even after around 7 play-throughs, I find something new within the game. It makes the characters feel human and real, makes the world feel tangible, and gives the story much more depth. It is a beautifully designed and written game.

     I first played it at age 14, the same age as the main character Ellie.

Image found here.

     This was the first game I had played in around 3 years, and it was refreshing to be able to connect and relate to a character so easily. She was resilient, brave, and underestimated. She has suffered loss among other tragedies, but was still childish and carefree. I would like to imagine that I would be like her if I was ever put into her situation. Another thing that made her very relatable and important to me was that Ellie is LGBT. Having come from a very religious family, it was almost unheard of to see an openly queer character in the media I consumed. It was a comfort since that age was a major turning point in my identity.

Image found here.

Synopsis

The game commences at the starting point of the apocalypse. Infected people are slowly emerging from hospital and attacking civilians, and the panic has begun. We are introduced to the main character, Joel, and his daughter, Sarah. After a brief period of running, Sarah is killed and Joel’s younger brother is all who remains. From this point, fast forward twenty years, and Joel is in a settlement with a “business partner” by the name of Tess. The settlements are government run and controlled by soldiers. Due to the strict regulations that are enforced, Joel found work in being a smuggler. Ration cards are the currency, but someone failed to deliver on a deal. Joel attacks this betrayer and finds that they are connected to the Fireflies, a rebel organization dedicated to opposing the government and to finding a cure for the infection. In order to retrieve what was stolen from him, Joel is tasked with smuggling a young girl, Ellie, out of the settlement and to an outpost. She holds the cure for the infection.

The rest of the game consists of Ellie and Joel’s journey together as they search to change the world. As the game starts, Ellie is little more than cargo to Joel, but quickly that changes and she becomes his second chance at having a daughter. They face many challenges together and form an incredibly tight bond, one that Joel is not willing to give up- even at the expense of the world.

_________________

My favorite part of the game is at the end. (((SPOILER ALERT))) Joel discovers upon arrival to the Firefly outpost that in order for them to be able to derive a cure, Ellie must die. Earlier, it is revealed that tests like the one they hope to perform on Ellie have been done on other subjects, but with no success. Joel hunts Ellie down and finds her in the operating room surrounded by doctors.

The song linked above plays as Joel attacks the doctors and carries Ellie out and to safety. This effectively pins him as the antihero and cements the finale of the game. Though he never admitted it, he began to consider Ellie his child and would do anything to protect her. After all they worked for, he chose her over the future of humankind.

 

Image found here.

 

Level 2: Start!

              Image found here.

Senior year has finally rolled around and I returned to game design for a second year! I have a lot of high hopes for this class and look forward to the progression of the year. I hope I will really be able to build off what I have learned and further develop my portfolio.

How to Present with Power and Poise

Great presentations have many ingredients from the structure of the visuals to the delivery. But what makes it all work from voice, eye contact, word choice, to body language, the visuals used, etc? Let’s take a look at the act of successfully presenting or pitching an idea to reveal these ingredients.

Resources

Notes

TED: Body Language by Amy Cuddy

  • We are very fascinated by body/nonverbal language
  • opening our bodies up= expression of power
  • closing our bodies= powerless
  • There is always a power dynamic. People seem to complement each others’ dynamics. Dominant vs submissive. You will always fill the role opposite of what is being expressed
  • Related to extend of participation
  • Line between dom and sub seems to fall within common gender roles
  • Our nonverbals govern how people think/feel about us
  • they also govern how we think/feel about ourselves
  • fake it ’til you make it
  • Our minds change our bodies, our bodies change our minds
  • Powerful people= assertive, optimistic, take more risks, confident
    • TESTOSTERONE
    • CORTISOL
  • Not only about how dominant the person is, but also about how the person reacts to stress
  • High power= increase of testosterone, decrease of cortisol
  • Low power= increase of cortisol, decrease of testosterone
  • Can power posing for a few minutes really change your life in a meaningful way?
  • It’s not just about you speaking to others but also about you speaking to yourself
  • Posing changes your presence
  • Our bodies change our minds, our minds change our behaviour, and our behaviour changes our outcomes
  • FAKE IT UNTIL YOU MAKE BECOME IT
  • tiny tweaks can lead to BIG CHANGES

NPR: How A Position Of Power Can Change Your Voice

  • Voice coaching used to sound more powerful
  • Do peoples’ voices change predictably when put in positions of power?
  • Feelings of power are reflected in peoples’ voices
  • their voices changed when put in power
    • people in power- steadier, less sing-songy, more dynamic
    • increased in pitch and intensity variability
    • went in and out of loudness more than those in low power
  • Margaret Thatcher (ex)
    • deliberate changes were identical to the automatic changes made by the speakers in the study conducted
  • Can listeners tell who does/doesn’t have power
    • They can

TED: How to speak so that people want to listen by Julian Treasure

  • Warm up your voice= “no engine works well without being warmed up,” do warm ups before every presentation!
  • Volume= use it to draw attention, use variety, don’t always be loud
  • Pitch= use diff. pitches for different meanings
  • Pace= moderate your pace! be slow, and emphasize, use pauses to your advantage
  • Prosody= sing-song, don’t be monotonous!, no repetitive prosody
  • Timbre= rich, smooth, warm
  • Register= speak from the chest, lower voice, depth associated w/ power & authority
  • “7 deadly sins of speaking”
    • gossip
    • judging
    • negativity
    • complaining
    • excuses
    • exaggeration/lying
    • dogmatism: confusion of facts with opinions
  • 4 powerful foundations
    • H= honesty, be clear and straight
    • A= authenticity, be yourself “stand in your own truth”
    • I= integrity, be your word
    • L= love, wish them well

11 Things To NEVER Say In A Presentation

Garr Reynolds Brain Rules for Presenters

Practice

  • Create a simple visually stimulating presentation
  • Practice in front of an audience, stuffed animals, parents, friends, anyone who will listen
  • Record a video of yourself and analyze it

Tools

  • Google Presentation
  • PowerPoint
  • Apple Keynote
  • VoiceThread (you can upload, narrate the slides on this site, and then embed the presentation into an online portfolio or blog)
  • YouTube

 

Game of School Production Presentation Project

Summary

The main focus of this project was to help students in some way learn/gain a better understanding of an aspect of high school. The purpose of this was to create a game/app that could serve as an educational aid in this way. For my project, I came up with the idea of “Capital RPG.” This RPG would be used by incoming freshmen. The intention of my game is to introduce them to high school and inform them on what is required/expected of them in an entertaining way. It is a classic RPG with a basic map, enemies to fight, and objectives to complete. There are four levels to this game, modeling high school, and the objectives of each level must be completed to gain the credits required to move up to the next “grade.” The students will be able to make decisions on how to form their schedules each year, which would affect how they progress through the game (i.e. varying levels of difficulty, different required credits, etc.). This would be useful to incoming students because they would be able to map out any potential paths through high school in a game format.

Production Team 21st Century Skills

  • Pick one 21st Century Leadership Skill from each of the three sections below to demonstrate during this project
  1. Learning and Innovation Skills
  2. Information, Media and Technology Skills
    • Information Literacy: ~ By mocking up this game and doing this project, I learned a lot about just how many credits are required of high schoolers as they progress throughout their high school career. I used this chart found in the CHS Course Catalog.
    • Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 8.51.51 AM
  3. Life and Career Skills
    • Flexibility & Adaptability: ~ In this project, I exercised a lot of flexibility. This is because I cycled through many ideas in order to adapt one that would work. When an idea would not work, I would tweak it, adjust, and build off of what I already had until I developed my Capital RPG idea.
    • Initiative & Self Direction: ~
    • Social & Cross-Cultural Skills: ~
    • Productivity & Accountability: ~I prepared well for my presentation, having made pixel visuals and a powerpoint presentation. I practiced my presentation so as to perform well, and I feel that my presentation was strong because of it.
    • Leadership & Responsibility:  ~

21st Century Goals

  1.  I hope to be able to produce a good and detailed mock up, even given the small amount of time. This would represent productivity and accountability.
  2. I also hope to improve both my media and ICT literacy
  3. I also hope to continue to collaborate and improve my ideas using my neighbors.
  4. I also hope to take initiative and follow through with this ambitious project.

The Game

 

Reactions to the Final Version

Anakin Duncan-Kimble: While going through the presentation, the audio matched well with the visual presentation. Timed very well. Good voice, good tone variety. There was a good backstory leading in to the presentation.

Rex Daley: The presentation had really good visuals that matched your words very well. You also talked with good clarity.

Evaluation of the Final Version

I am proud of my presentation and final product of my game mock up, and I believe it demonstrates several of the principles from the SUCCESs Model.

  1. Simple
    1. I focused on my core idea throughout my presentation- I kept it to the point, did not stray from the main goal of the game, and prioritized what was important to relay my message. My pitch was very high-concept, with a design plan and pixel art examples to support as visuals.
  2. Concrete
    1. I used visual examples (pixel concept art) to make my idea concrete in the minds of those who were in my audience.
  3. Emotional
    1. I spoke about my struggles coming into high school from middle school and expressed my desires to help young students who are in the same position I was in. This ties in with the story aspect below.
  4. Stories
    1. I opened my presentation with a story of how I struggled as I entered into high school and tied the rest of my presentation to that idea and to helping students so that they are not in the same position I was.

What I Learned and Problems I Solved

I learned not only a lot about generating strong ideas, but I also learned a lot about high school requirements and the credits that are behind each class a student takes. It gave me a better understanding of why students are required to take certain classes and what goes into earning your high school diploma. As for generating strong ideas, I learned how valuable it was to mass produce ideas and use an aspect of many- if not all- of them to build a strong and effective idea/plan. This taught me how to efficiently piece together a design and a proposal. I did not encounter many problems, except for running into a few obstacles when generating ideas. When I learned that any idea could be constructive, even the “ridiculous” ones, it became much easier to think of them.

Game of School Ideas

Image found here

Card Game Ideas:

  1. kind of like uno??? you start with a card for each credit and must get rid of said card in some way

 

Board Game Ideas:

  1. Game of School- similar to game of life, board laid out like hs career, need to collect credits to win
  2. chutes and latters- do’s and don’t’s of high school?
  3. monopoly?- “buy” different credits
  4. candy land?- run the course of high school
  5. sorry- each game piece = certain credit(s), get all of them to home to “graduate”

 

Digital Game Ideas:

  1. RPG modeling school system
      • Start as a freshman, progress from there
      • make decisions that affect health, level, ability
      • decisions you make affect how ready you are for the final boss
      • Final boss = college
  2. text-based rpg
  3. time management game
    1. complete a number of activities in short, given time
    2. objectives get harder or increase in number as time gets shorter
    3. new levels=new credits

App Ideas:

  1. Something modeling Habitica?
      • character gains levels the more credits you gain
      • place to enter “to do’s”
        • more to do’s you complete, you get money
          • you can buy things with this money
            • {buy what?}
      • able to be connected to skyward?
        • better grades = better health
        • missing assignments = enemies
          • complete an assignment, enemy is defeated
      • etc etc
  2. tamagotchi
    1. take care of it, educate it
    2. does poorly if person does not complete certain things
    3. does well if school is kept up with
  3. story teller
    1. characters in a story
    2. the direction of the story depends on UI
    3. UI is information input about completion of to do’s or whatever else

 

 

Creative Thinkers and Writers Block

Notes:

  • Fail faster
    • no idea is made fully formed
    • fail faster- without testing, never create good game
    • don’t wait for a “perfect” idea, it wastes time
    • look for criticism and accept hard truths
    • fail before you even have a line of code
    • get a prototype up asap
    • no art in this prototype, focus on how it plays
    • later you fail, more it costs to fix mistakes
    • every failure is an opportunity for betterment
    • failing is how you get it right

 

Notes:

“Here are some easy ways and some not so easy ways, to deal with writers block.
Here are my notes from the video.
1. You can’t come up with an idea.
writing exercises work.
2. You have a ton of idea’s, but can’t commit.

Put it away, more stuff is coming

3. You have an outline, but that one part….
Try a detour/tangent

4. The Inner Critic
You need it later in revision not while creating, get rid of it.

In contrast, geniuses think productively, not reproductively. When confronted with a problem, they ask “How many different ways can I look at it?”, “How can I rethink the way I see it?”, and “How many different ways can I solve it?” instead of “What have I been taught by someone else on how to solve this?”

GENIUSES LOOK AT PROBLEMS IN MANY DIFFERENT WAYS

GENIUSES MAKE THEIR THOUGHTS VISIBLE.

GENIUSES PRODUCE.
Thomas Edison held 1,093 patents, still the record. He guaranteed productivity by giving himself and his assistants idea quotas. His own personal quota was one minor invention every 10 days and a major invention every six months. Bach wrote a cantata every week, even when he was sick or exhausted. Mozart produced more than six hundred pieces of music.

GENIUSES MAKE NOVEL COMBINATIONS.

GENIUSES FORCE RELATIONSHIPS.
make juxtapositions between dissimilar subjects

GENIUSES THINK IN OPPOSITES
Harmonic minors, lyrics

GENIUSES THINK METAPHORICALLY.
grab audio

GENIUSES PREPARE THEMSELVES FOR CHANCE.”

Off the Deep End Artist Post Production Journal

Summary

The focus of the post-production stage was on creating both an opening and closing cut scene. I created an animation for the opening of the diver falling overboard and into the water and then a fade to black. Anakin created the background for my animation, along with fading words of the title screen. I scripted and sketched a storyboard of the closing cut scene, later animating the scene. Anakin created the background of the first piece of the scene (before the fade to black) and the chat, and I did the character animations and the second background.

Working With the Team

Because the cut scenes are such a large piece of what defines a game, there was much to discuss. Everything from color schemes to the script were brought up with the team. After deciding what to include in the cut scene, we also made plans for what to work on next. Evidence of these discussions can be seen in the screenshot below.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 1.05.53 PM

 

Also, here is the story board created for the script:

 

Evolution of Art

Coming into this project, I had little experience with art and no experience whatsoever with pixel art. Not only this, but I had never tried animating before. Doing this project has given me a lot more experience, but I know I have a long ways to go. The following images are examples of the progression of my art, from the first pixel I created for this project to the final animations I made for the opening and closing cut scenes:

 

Ending Scene Animation

(if the image isn’t moving, click here or see animated version at top of post)

Art Issues and Fixes

The only issues we faced with art was the piskel program tending to freeze up and prevent us from completing sprites and animations more quickly. There was not a way to fix it, but we managed to complete our work just fine regardless.

Evaluation of Final Art

While I am still not the best at pixel art or animation, I feel I have made progress while on this project. At first, my shapes and designs were awkward because I did not know how to make the boxy look work for what I had in mind. As I continued creating pixels, I began to get a feeling for how to create aesthetically pleasing shapes for the sprites of my game. My animation is slightly choppy, but it’s the first thing I have created and it’s one step up from nothing.  I still would like to improve much further and hope to be able to add more detail and finesse to future works, but I am proud of the progress I made with my art and animation during this project.

What I Learned and Problems I Solved in Post-production

I learned some new things about animation in this stage of game-making, and I have discovered that I really enjoy it. Although my animations are still rough, I want to pursue learning more about the art and I want to improve. The only problem my team faced was the malfunction of the pixel creator we used and the only solution was to save more often than usual.

Off the Deep End Artist Production Journal

Summary

During the production stage, the main focus for Anakin and me was on re-drafting concepts and finalizing them in order to achieve the desired aesthetic. A few concepts were completely re-imagined while others have not changed from their original design. All of the finalized art succeeds at aligning with the aesthetic of the game. Anakin re-drafted the title screen, main diver, and a level concept while I re-drafted several enemies and friendly characters and the dolphin food game object. Everything else remained the same as we were satisfied with their appearances.

Evidence of production notes

In general, the only milestone that I had to focus on was the completion of the sprite art for the game. This is shown in the following screenshot:

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 1.06.56 PM

To keep closer track of the progression of the finalized art, I made an ‘Art Production Journal’ in the documents section of Zoho Bug Tracker. The screenshot below shows the contents of that document. It displays which sprites were finished on which days.

 

Discussions with Team

In the screenshot above, there is also ample evidence of discussions the team shared. In regards to art, one of the only big discussion point was the decision to exclude animation until the mechanics and the dynamics of the game were figured out and highly functional. Secondly, I spoke with Anakin about animating a closing cut scene, and we decided that we would animate it once everything else to do with gameplay is sorted out (post-production). We also discussed a lot about the new character designs to keep a common aesthetic. In general, we made the decision to keep things simple in the initial building stages. We started from the ground up, first focusing on getting the main character from point A to point B, and from there we decided to embellish in order to complete a good and entertaining game. There are other discussions that can be seen in the screenshot, but they are more involved with coding and terrain-building.

Essential Art/Graphics

The following images are examples of the finalized art for the game that I completed. Our team made the decision to exclude animations for the time being to instead focus on the mechanics and dynamics of the game. For this reason, I have only provided a single, still perspective of each of the objects and characters. Some characters have been re-imagined, but others are the same. The finalized sprites achieve the wanted aesthetic, and everything works well together.

3 different seaweeds:

Shell (armour):

Dolphin food:

Enemies:

Urchin (normal/morphed):

Jellyfish (normal/morphed):

Shark (normal/morphed):

 

Friendly characters:

Dolphin:

Merchant turtle:

What I Learned and Problems I Solved in Production

I’ve learned how to fine-tune some of my skills involving pixel art creation. I also learned how to collaborate well with another artist in order to keep the art style consistent. While finalizing the sprite art for the game, neither Anakin or I encountered any problems that needed to be solved. Everything went smoothly and I am proud of the outcome.