Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It's Done! Complete Board Game

Wow, can't believe it but I guess it's finally done

Boxart!
In the box...

Player Pieces (Starter Pieces, Second Evolutions and Final Evolutions)
Board Tokens (Face-down, Child enemy, Juvenile enemy, Adult enemy, and Wild Card)

Player Token Cards (Starter, Second, and Final Evolutions)



Left & Right: Mini-Boss token. Center: King token.

This whole game-making process felt like an adventure; a mini-preview of what an actual game production pipeline might feel like. It was filled with difficult puzzles, unexpected surprises, and extremely insightful moments. I wish I could continue polishing the overall quality of the product, but it's time to let go of it! I guess that's how it might feel to ship off a game.

Despite seeing all the little things I could still work on, I'm happy as to how far I was able to take this idea. I honestly never expected to reach this far.

Welp, that's about it for now. Off to get some coffee and stare at polygons on a computer screen.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Print and Play Version

A print and play version of the game is now available! Click on the link below to check it out!

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4vD5POQVAn2WFYwaGxpa3lUbjg/edit?usp=sharing

Box Art Illustrations

Every game needs a cool looking front cover. And that's what this post's all about! Here's my process on making the (semi)final illustration for my board game:

Thumbnails:






Rough Sketches:




After seeing a preference and storytelling possibility for one of the thumbnails (second page, bottom left), I decided to switch my focus to that thumbnail. Here's the progress:

A huge thank-you to Yaron Farkash, Danica Jokic, and Diana Castillo
for helping with awesome critiques.

Welp, that's it for illustration (now off to refine this).



Prototyping

When they say game testing's the most important part of creating a game, they mean it!

Before making a printable version of the game, there was a lot of preplanning involved. Developing player mechanics, brainstorming on board types and spaces, testing other boardgames to see how'd they function; it was a process that really branched out...

Literally:


Tree charts felt like the most comfortable way to approach idea generation, so I tried to make a tree based on basic elements of a games design. Due to time constraints (and honestly, lack of knowledge) this tree will remain half branched. 

After the preplanning came the first iteration which can be found on the link below:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4vD5POQVAn2eXdYbmpKTlFXWUU/edit?usp=sharing

Setting up for playtesting during Game Design club


This iteration consisted of many mechanics including but not limited to:

• HP, Attack, Defense, and Speed stats
• One stat benefit corresponding to each creature
• A miniboss that must be defeated in order to fight the final boss
• Zones that would activate miniboss' movement towards player

And other mechanics that ended up being scrapped

Common feedback from play testers:

•Acquiring creatures became too easy too quickly
•More player interaction ("Right now, I feel like I'm isolated from the player. I can't influence anything he/she's doing.")
•One of the characters was unbalanced. It could win the game too quickly.
•There were too many components for the players to take in. A lot of confusion happened between playtesters during gameplay.

Then came the next iteration. This included:

•Simplifying stats to Attack and HP
•Every player character had the same stats (no stat bonuses)
•Eliminating grounds blocked by guards
•Placing King at the end of the board rather than the middle

Still, common problems such as confusion due to the many components come about.
Also, another interesting feedback came about. The game felt like there was no risk to it. And I never thought it'd be such a challenging element to implement...

Then came the third iteration, a checkerboard drawn on graph paper with mechanical pencils while my inner designer cried forever:

Much thanks to Elisabeth Smith for the many play tests.
Streamlining the movement of the players (a suggestion given while play testing) really helped simplify a lot of the game. Things would start moving more quickly and player vs player had a higher chance of occurring quickly. Other system within the game, such as pvp, enemy fighting, and evolution requirements were also streamlined.

The current version can be found on the latest post. This includes the rules (which are still going through changes) and the current board game pieces.


Welp, that's it for my playtest adventures. Thanks for reading!






Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Game Board Prepro Start! Ideas and Themes

After playing a good deal of board games and breaking them down, it's time to get down to business. It's time to start making our own board game!.. But where to start? I mean, there are so many possibilities!

Possibilities. That's the starting point. It's the moment where you can be as messy as possible. It's a chance for you to experiment with your ideas as freely as possible! Throw some game mechanics here and there, merge them together, or break them apart. Round up some friends and start bouncing ideas, or maybe go and find some inspiration from real life mechanics first! There are numerous ways on how to come up with ideas, and these are just a few of them.

Let's say that, out of that huge swarm of ideas swimming around your head, you fish out one or two that you really like. That's great! Reel em' in! What do you like about that idea? Can you visualize it more clearly than your other ideas? Is there something innovative about it? Or does it simply feel right? Ask yourself these questions and more. You may not have the answers for all of them at that moment, but it'll definitely help for the breakdown process of your game.

Once you've interrogated your idea at the detective's table, it's time to find something that'll keep your idea unified. The most viable way to do this is through themes, motifs, and concept statements. What's gonna be the core of your game? What's going to make it stick together when it starts branching out? Establishing a theme, motif and concept statement will not only help give your design unity, but something for you to fall back when making important decisions about your game.

Here's a personal example on idea generating and assigning a theme:

Inspiration- I'm really interested in systems that take place in the natural world. I was also really impacted by a game I played some years ago, called Cubivore. So one of my ideas was having a game that revolved around the "eat or be eaten" and evolution mechanic.

Idea merge- But there was another idea that seemed to be really easy to visualize in a board game format. Two to Four players would start from respective points of the board and proceed towards defeating a mothership that was in the center of the board. Other mechanics included upgrades for weapons and PvP mode. When I asked my Game Design professor for feedback, he echoed the same thought. This idea was much more easier to visualize, but he suggest to merge the two ideas and see what'd come out of it. The merge was simple and effective (or so I think). It was a matter of changing the wrapping of the box. The content is pretty much the same, but the way it's being delivered is visually different.

To tie this together I'll need a theme, some motifs, and a concept statement. Here's what's spawned from my head so far:

                • Theme: Survival/ Survival of the Fittest
                • Motifs: Eating another creature in order to become stronger, evolution/continuous rise to a stronger state.
                • Concept Statements: "Devour and conquer."It's time to rival survival." "It's the arrival of  survival."

There'll probably need to be fixes here and there, but I hope you get the gyst of it!

Oh before I forget: Here's a possible color scheme


Creating a board game will prove much more challenging than expected. Regardless, the learning experiences and process are proving to be worth the meticulously mechanical thinking sessions. Let's see how this continues.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Here's 20 possible ideas for a board game:

1) A game involving a simple goal that must be fulfilled within a time limit
2) A game where creatures must acquire points from other creatures and players in order to defeat a boss.
3) A game of cooperative gameplay where you must create the most interesting path towards the top of a mountain.
4) A 2 to 4 player chess game where you can customize your pieces to suit your strategy (Attack, Defense, Speed)
5) A tower defense game where one player must uncover the weak point of a base and attack it before the other player does
6) A game revolving around divergent thinking. Players find simple tools in-game and must make the most creative use of them in order to reach the end of a board.
7) A game about world building. Each player starts out as a small deity and must expand their influence in order to grow into a stronger deity. Whoever gains the influence of 4 major points wins.
8) Idea merge: A game involving a time limit where players must gain enough strength in order to defeat a boss before it awakens
9) A 4 player game where one player creates a message, encrypts it and breaks it apart, and shuffles it. The rest of the players must try to piece the message together.
10) A 2 player game where you must turn inanimate objects into animated creatures and fight each other.
11) A 2 to 4 player game where every player movement has an effect on the board placement
12) A game where you play as a pastor trying to defend a flock of sheep against predators in the land.
13) A board game where board arrangement, piece placement, and character locations change depending on the time of day you are playing
14) A game where you must use certain blocks and shapes in order to make a picture out of shadows (must be played in daylight or with a strong light source)
15) A word game where players break 1 word, turn it into 3 words, and create a story around those 3 words
16) A 4 player game where 2 people might cooperate with each other in order to take down the other 2. Backstabbing may be enabled
17) A game with a time limit where you must create the most ridiculous yet logical message using 3 pictures from a picture card pile
18) A game involving magnetic pieces where players must build a stable pathway towards the end of a board.
19) A game where you must build your way towards the other player's base in order to invade it.
20) A 4 player game where one plays as a traitor, and the rest play as member's of some sort of rebellion. Each turn, the player has a chance to change something on the board/environment. The traitor would have to find a way to sabotage the rest of the three players without being called out.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Hexit Strategy: A Game Design Breakdown

Playtesting Hexit Strategy gave me a lot of neat insight on what an entertaining game can be composed of. With the introduction of game mechanic, I was able to take this study a bit further. Here's the breakdown so far:


Mechanic 1: Space

     •Continuous Space
      •2D
      •Map is created and connected by player.

Mechanic 2: Objects, Attributes, and States

Objects

      1. Hexits
      2. Base pieces
      3. Ships
      4. Black Holes
      5. Supernovas

Attributes

      1. Have attack, defense, and movement points. Attributes may vary from hexit to hexit.
      2. Starting point for player. Also has attack, defense, and movement points.
      3. Spawned by sacrificing a hexit card from your deck. A maximum of four ships can be placed on a hexit
      4. Trap's player's ships. One ship on the hexit will be sent back to the player's reserve every turn.
      5. Sends all surrounding hexits into the discard pile. Sends ships surrounding it back to the reserve.

States

      1. Hexits (upside-down)- Player's ships must move towards them to reveal the exit.
                     (face up)- Ships within the hexit will be affected by the space's attributes (attack, defense, movement points). May only hold 4 ships in place.
      2. Ships (movement mode)- Player must sacrifice hexits in order to gain and use movement points for ships
                    (attack mode)- Attacker will multiply attack points of current hexit times the # of ships on the hexit. Defender will multiply defense points of current hexit times the # of current ships on hex.

Mechanic 3: Actions

      • Player can place a hex in an unbroken chain from their base to their opponent's base
      • Player can discard a hex to spawn a single unit on their base hex
      • Player can discard a hex to gain two movement points
      • Player can spend movement points to move units off a hex
      • Player can discard three cards to move a hex that the player occupies into the discard pile

Mechanic 4: Rules

      • The player who occupies the opponent's base hex for one turn wins the game
      • Players draw three hexes at the start of their turn
      • Players can have no more than 12 hexes in their hand at the end of the turn
      • Only four ships may occupy a hex
      • Trap cards affect ships from both sides
 

Mechanic 5: Skills

      • Able to read body language in case of a bluff
      • Memory
      • Critical thinking/strategizing
      • Capable of deception

Mechanic 6: Chance

      • Players have a small chance of drawing out one out of two deadly trap cards.
      • Players have a small chance of unveiling a trap card that will eliminate an opponent’s ships.

_______________________________________________________________________________

I hope I'm doing the game justice with this breakdown. Thanks again to Cliché Studios for developing such a fun and elegant board game! I can't wait to see what they might come up with next...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Print and Play Adventures

To be honest, I've never heard much about print and play games. So when a Game Design class tells its students to go and print out free boardgames, I was bewildered. "Free board games? To print out?" I've never heard of such thing! I guess I've lived under a boulder rather than a rock.

I ventured through the interweb for about an hour or so. And, after much searching (and bickering with uncooperative web browser), I always came back to a game that really made an impression on me. It's a game called Hexit Strategy, by Cliché Studios. It's playing cards looked really appealing, and there was just something about it that tickled me into thinking it'd be a good choice.

During that same day, I gathered around with two other classmates of mine. We each brought the print-and-play games of our choice. Once we had all our paper pieces cut out and our dice apps ready, it was time to play some board games!

The first game we played was a quick one called Bad Grandmas. If the tittle itself isn't amusing enough, then the card illustrations might win you over.


A big thanks to my friend Elisabeth Smith for sharing her photos with me!
A grandma like this might be hard to de-feet.

The game was pretty simple, 2 player game. You'd shuffle the deck and each player would take about 7 face-down cards. Two face-up cards would be placed in the middle of the table. These would serve as the rule modifiers, which would determine the conditions for winning. After that, each player would look at the cards they had in their hands. Both players would do a 1-2-3 countdown and place one card on the table. Whichever card fit the winning requirements more would win a certain amount of points for the round (the greater the difference between the two cards, the more points the winner gained). We had some good fun playing it, but it quickly became somewhat repetitive. Since the rounds last such short turns, you can already gain a grasp of the possible events that can take place in one game. So we continued off into another game.

The next game we played was one called 12 rounds. Well, more like the next game we tried to play. At first we were pretty excited to try this game out. It seemed like an RPG in a nutshell, where you'd choose a character with a certain amount of stat points, traversed a small world to gain items, and fought against enemy cards that would spawn on the board.

The land that could have been explored...

I bet it would have been a pretty interesting game. But after almost an hour of going over the rules and trying to understand what the "gods of this board game" wanted from us, we gave up on trying to play it /ragequit. The same happened with another game we tried playing, called "Vampire Dance." It was a bit too complicated and unclear for me to appreciate. An hour to try and understand a game? That's pretty absurd for my taste. If a game's going to take more than 15 minutes to grasp, it's gonna take a lot from me to try to keep my interest alive.

The last game we tried out was Hexit Strategy. After two unsuccessful attempts to play a game, we were bracing ourselves for more complicated rules and explanations. Surprisingly, the game was pretty quick to grasp. It even came with a small card that had the rules simplified for each player. Really great for times when you're not sure if you're following the rules. The game looked like a dynamic form of chess, where you had to build a path towards your opponent's base with hexagon-shaped cards, or hexits. Each hexit has different movement points needed in order to enter it, along with different attack and defense values that will affect the pieces stationed in that spot. In order to perform actions, you must sacrifice cards. The more cards you sacrifice, the more ships you can spawn/movement points you can get. 




The funnest thing about it was this game was element of strategic surprise. When building the path towards your opponent, the path cards must be placed upside down. Well, that sounds fine, but there's a catch. There are two deadly hexits that could be placed on the field: Supernova (which eliminates all hexits surrounding the card, and sends player ships back to their base), and Black Hole (which traps the incoming player's pieces in the card, and sends them back to their base one by one). As I played with my friend, I was racking my brain around what kind of hexit she placed on the field. Was it a normal card? Was it a trap? Is it safe to unveil? Will she fall in my trap? (Funny story: The first time we started playing, my friend had four ships advance towards one of my face-down cards. It was a Supernova. Much rage and laughter flooded the room). I think that was one of the elements that kept the game interesting. That, along with seeing your opponent make bold risks such as sacrificing 10 cards to make bold decisions on the battlefield, and constantly think over how you'd use your turn; I think those were fantastic ways on keeping players immersed and actively thinking about the game.

Simple yet complicated, engaging, and exciting. These are the succesful elements that I've been able to draw out from this game. I hope I'll be able to recreate the same enjoyable experience some time.

Now, if you excuse me, I must ask my friend for a rematch. Things are going to get hectically hexit. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Camera Angles and Gameplay: A Picture worth a Thousand Words

While analyzing a game trailer for my game design class, something hit me. It pounced on my critical thinking and left me wondering for days. Level and world design in games are of great importance. But what about camera angles? What about camera directions? These aspects play such a powerful role in influencing a player's experience within a game! Whether the game is played through an extreme long shot, medium shot, or close up, most games will need an established camera angle for their levels and scenes. This decision will affect many areas of the gameplay, from the way a player will approach problem-solving to the emotional connection that the player might have towards the avatar.

(Disclaimer: I do not own nor am I affiliated with any of the following screenshots and games presented)



 The level of immersion played through the lens of a first-person game would be quite different from that of a distant, third person game

1st screenshot: EA Electronic's Mirror's Edge
2nd screenshot: Supergiant Game's Bastion 

Let's take Mirror's Edge and Bastion as examples. In ME, the player navigates through the lens of a point-of-view camera shot. This kind of camera-view (along with believable movement) helps to create quick immersion since the player is seeing things through a lens that mimics our everyday POV, to the point where a player will adopt the characters actions and movements as their own. This can put a player in a more personable, "my story" kind of mindset. This game's camera goal is to tell you "You are the character. You're the one doing the stunts. You're the one who can take a nasty hit or fall."

Bastion plays a different game with their camera angle. From the start, we're given a low-angle long shot. Instantly, we feel distant from the character. This is not about your story; it's about this character's story. He's the one bashing monsters and collecting treasure. You're simply moving him along. A distant camera angle such as this can also allow a player to assess the world around her/him with greater ease. Bastion's broken, platform-like world is one that you'll need to keep your eyes on, for the roads in each level rise and fall as you move closer or farther from them. For a game whose world is constantly changing and story is narrative-oriented and character-centered, Bastion's camera choice can give way to a comfortable game experience and a passive story viewer.

Camera-angles can affect the way we immerse in a game and relate to the avatar. But can they also affect the ways we perceive a situation? Of course! Camera angles play a big role in helping a player assess the urgency of a situation. Let's take Naughty Dog's The Last of Us as an example.


A medium close-up shot will have a different effect on urgency level...


than a strong close up.

Oh, a shout-out to the overall camera use in The Last of Us: The overall camera movement within this game is very comfortable, placing the character at the bottom left screen, allowing players a good view of their surroundings. Its camera direction in cut scenes is refined and effective. And even the player-directing system (L3 button command) that orients the camera towards the next goal a player must read is nicely made! Kudos to all who worked in the camera department (and the whole company)! 


 The closer we have the camera towards a situation or scene, the more attention and focus it'll demand from us. Having a camera that's backed away from the fray of a fight can keep our stress-level at a controlled level, informing us that the situation is still in our control. But once the camera dives into a close up, it's a way of the game saying "You better do something fast or else you're done."

So far, we've seen that camera angles can affect the way we immerse and perceive a game and announce the urgency level of situations. But there's one function that can make camera angles extremely powerful: Leading the player.

In every game you have a start, decisions and rules that make up the gameplay, and a goal. There are many ways in which you can inform the goal of a game. You may lead the player with a road. You might also use character dialogue to present this. You could even put a good amount of text for the player to read before starting the game...
Or you could use camera angles.

As mentioned on the previous small-notes, The Last of Us has a comfortable system that directs the camera towards the next goal. But there's one game that I will forever praise for its exquisite design, including the use of camera angles.


Up till this date, Journey has been one of the best games to use camera angles as a way of directing the player. The overall game is nonverbal; there is no dialogue excluding simple control commands presented twice in the game. Dialogue is replaced with camera angles that lead and present the player with possible areas to go and the goal that must be achieved. From the start of the game, you are given the main goal (and dare I say the whole story of the game) in one extreme long shot. You. The cloth. The mountain. Move forward. As you continue throughout the game, this goal is being reminded time after time.





The fact that the goal is a simple objective that is constantly being reminded with visuals gives the player a clear idea of the objective of the game and the overall direction that they'll need to follow. And, when purposely taken away, the loss of direction can prove to be a powerful element in setting a tone and invoking a sense of loss within the player. The non-verbal nudges and hints of information can also allow a player to immerse in the game with more ease, for a clear camera direction (if executed well) is much quicker and easier to process than a dialogue or written text.

Camera direction can be a powerful ally to your game. They can either build and enhance the experience of a game, or wreck and ruin it. When trying to communicate a situation to a viewer, a player, or an audience, think about just how much you'd be able to say with one camera angle. Chances are that one shot is worth a thousand words.

Are there any cool camera angles that you've seen (or would like to see) in a game? Comment and share!





Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Shuffling through Old Works

Looking back at my works, I think one of the things I've enjoyed the most was making these sculptures. Making illusions on a 2D medium is really great and has a magic of its own, but it's not as satisfying as knowing how something might look in real life from every angle. It's definitely a challenge, getting most if not every side to look believable and appealing. But, for someone who likes to know where everything is and how everything works, sculpting has been one of the funnest, artsy, puzzle-solving joys I've experienced.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Trailer Gushing - "The Last of Us"

The Last of Us’ trailer was something that really caught my attention. It’s action packed, dramatic, well paced, and built with strong cinematic qualities. But what really catches my attention is the fact that all animated cut-scenes and rendered shots are part of the in-game experience. Since this is the launch trailer for the game, it’s understandable that they add in-game content since it’s now available for use and product promotion. But even in the beginning, when its first trailer gave a simple scenario, it really looked an event that one would experience in the game. There was a clear idea of the world, the mechanics that might be available, and examples of how enemy encounter would take place. The trailers from the Last of Us promised something that could be fully experienced within the game, rather than showing high-definition cinematic that might not be relevant to how the actual game would unfold. I’m really excited to see game engines getting close to cinematic gameplay, and the trailers for The Last of Us made me jump for joy. Just look at that spiffy quality, movement and detail! High-five to the Naughty Dog team for such an advancement. Makes me wonder where game engines will improve on next.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sculpture and Quadruped Walk


Hey everyone! Sculpey sculpture, done!

The Breathrider- A flying whale spirit that rides on the breath of life. So long as life breathes, this spirit will rejoice in its flight of whimsy



Also, here's a quadruped practice from this summer


Quadruped Breakdown from Zenphonica on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Scribbles from a Summer Sketchbook (and new sculpture preview!)

Summer's here, and I've been scribbling here and there on a lil sketchbook. Here's a few pages:


 










Geez, I'd really like to understand how to organize these images. Anyways, these are a few sketchbook pages. And here's a preview of an in-process sculpture. A gift for mum, to be exact:


I'll be done soon with this fella. Then I can start painting and all that good stuff.

Hope everyone's having a great summer. Learn, laugh, and stay productive!