Week 7

Week 7

We started off week 7 with our client meeting on Monday, this meeting was pretty important for us, as it would be the first time that the client saw our new game design and prototype. The clients were impressed with the look and feel of the prototype, and seemed excited by the options that our new method offered. They offered up the idea of perhaps changing the setting between tracks to add variety to the game, which we considered, but believed would add a significant amount of development time. This may eventually be a stretch goal that we are capable of meeting but in the short term we plan to continue finalizing our functionality. Our clients wanted to be sure that there would be ample opportunities to “wave the flag” as they put it, and particularly wanted to confirm that we would be able to effectively work their athletes into the game. The clients asked us why we shifted from the 8 lane concept that we had down to a four lane concept, we explained that this was because we did not intend to have same screen competition in this new design. The clients were interested to know if we had come up with a name for the game yet, and asked us if we could name the game Run With Us so that it would blend with the rest of the marketing for their program. We told the clients that we intended to make the main character an alien cat, which they did not oppose provided that the athletes would not be cats as well.

We began to focus on developing the flow of the game, and created rough UI elements to simulate the flow of the menus. We also began the development of the level builder system, and completed the rough draft of this system later in the week. We developed a character model for the cat character, but realized that animating the character would take up a significant amount of development time. We did some research, and found that with our Adobe CC license provided by the school, that we could make use of Mixamo’s auto rigging and animation software at no cost. We wanted to be sure that the school would be ok with us using these animations however, and added this to our list of questions to ask our faculty at our Wednesday meeting. Our faculty said that since we only have one artist on our team, they did not see a problem with us importing the Mixamo animations if animating was going to cut in to our ability to properly develop. The remainder of the week was spent integrating our new art assets and level builder into the working prototype, and setting up the menu system to follow the game flow that we designed.

Week 6

Week 6

Reasonable Suspicion:
We started out week 6 by presenting our modified game design to our client. They seemed apprehensive of our idea, as it only integrated a limited number of track & field events, and particularly disliked our decision to theme the game around ninjas, as it would be difficult to integrate the athletes that they sponsor into the game. We took this into consideration and began to revise our designs once again. We still believed that the Temple Run concept had potential, but the clients concerns about the limited number of activities was something that we had to seriously consider. We came up with another design based around track & field mini games spaced out with running, to make the game seem more like a decathlon event. We did a SWOT analysis of these ideas and decided that either would take at least 3 weeks in order to be feature complete. With halves in 4 weeks we considered such a route to be risky, particularly if our clients asked us to pivot our designs again.

A Challenger Appears:
With our apprehensions about our current designs, we spent Tuesday morning coming up with a new design that could cover the concerns of the client and still be developed in a shorter time than our current design. We came across the concept of obstacle courses, and in particular the show Wipeout, which makes use of ridiculous obstacles and water pits to make their courses entertaining. We decided that we could take a concept like Wipeout and theme it around track & field, so we could fit in a large number of different track and field activities. We felt good about this new idea, but we still wanted to get faculty input on all three to ensure that we were headed in the right direction.

Survival of the Fittest:
Throughout the day on Tuesday we had 3 different faculty meetings with Dave, John, and Mike. Dave was immediately apprehensive of the Temple Run and mini game ideas, as he didn’t see where our entertainment value was coming from. He also disagreed with our estimations of replay ability, and challenged us to consider what is motivating the player to put physical effort into a digital game. John felt that the Temple Run and mini game ideas were feasible, but we would have to massively redesign them, because, like Dave, he could not see where the player was being rewarded for their physical activity. When we mentioned the obstacle course concept to John, he was instantly more interested that he was in our other ideas, and commented that one method of motivation would be to allow players to build their own courses, and use the course elements as unlockable content. This completely changed our perspective on the obstacle course concept, and made us realize that it had far more potential than we had initially credited it. Mike put the last nail in the coffin on Temple Run and mini games when we mentioned our obstacle course idea, and the potential to add in level creation. He thought the idea had the ability to give the players the ability to challenge each other through their own levels, and was very flexible for live events, as custom tracks could be easily made for each live event. He recommended that we work our best to get a prototype up and running to show the clients, or at worst make use of our playtest on Friday to get direct feedback from students as to which model they preferred.

Nose to the Grindstone:
We all worked well into the night on Tuesday working on a new 3D prototype with the basic obstacles that we wanted to include on the courses and completed the working prototype for Wednesday morning. We developed all new 3D assets to support the obstacles, and redesigned our input system to work within a 3D space. On Wednesday we met with our faculty mentors and they were impressed with how rapidly we had scrapped and rebuilt our entire project. They liked the direction that we had chosen to go in, and supported our decision to use the playtest on Friday to affirm that our demographic would engage with the game. We spent the remainder of Wednesday and Thursday developing character concept art, level designs, and mechanic refinements.

Playtesting:
On Friday we went to Winchester Thurston’s Upper School, which is where their older students take classes. Winchester Thurston makes use of free periods, so we went to the school during the 9th graders free period. Adam Nye met us in the lobby and walked around with us to recruit students to try our game, as a result of this we were able to talk with the majority of the 9th graders who were in the building. We tested with most of the 9th graders that we found and then presented them with a survey following their play through. A majority of their feedback was positive about the game itself and the physical aspect of the game, but the students pointed out some major issues in our level design that we had not yet noticed. When we asked the students to look at the concept character art, almost all of the students picked the cat character set, while some others picked the realistic and goofy character sets. We left Winchester Thurston with strong level design and mechanic refinements in mind, which we proceeded to develop on over the weekend.

 

cat001 concept art- character girl NIJAR concept goofy1

Week 5

Week 5

Week 5 started out with faculty walk arounds on Monday, from which we gained some important insights into our project.

  • Hurdles are difficult to react to in the current perspective.
    • To solve this we are pivoting to 3D, using a 3rd person camera
  • It is difficult to tell which player the user is controlling.
    • We plan to make opponent’s characters 75% of the size of the player’s.
    • We are also considering the possibility of not putting the players all on the same screen.
  • Powers should be used strategically, but it is difficult to have accurate touch input while running in place.
    • We have come up with two possible solutions to this problem:
      • Make any touch to the entire screen activate a power.
      • Have a slower, autopilot run speed, so that players can top running in order to use the powers
    • We plan to test the full touch screen method at our playtest next week
  • Because of the competitive element, the game is tiring and it is unlikely that players will continue to come back to the game.
    • We are still struggling with this problem, we have had multiple suggestions but have not settled on a solution.
      • We can make the races shorter and use a tournament bracket to encourage replayability. (Heat Races)
      • We can make the races longer and encourage player pacing.
      • We can add in an autopilot run speed so players can rest at points during the race.
    • We are open to other suggestions.
  • The game has a lot of losing in it and only one winner, this can discourage students.
    • We plan to include feedback regarding improvement over time, as well as add in frequent badge unlocks.
    • We are considering making new powers unlockable through the single player mode.
    • We are also considering switching to an endurance model, where everyone ends up losing eventually.
    • We are considering adding daily challenges.
  • The player needs a reason as to why their character is racing, in general it all needs more context.
    • We have looked into multiple different theming options, and have run into the challenge of finding a theme that appeals to both genders.
    • We are currently looking at 2 head sized characters in a ninja themed environment.
      • We are doing this because upon reviewing research of gender associations in video games, the most overlap occurred in racing games with ether high tech environments or relatable characters.
      • We hope to make the characters relatable by making their heads large and their expressions evident.
    • The game needs more humor.
      • We want to include humor, we just haven’t decided how.

After quarters, we immediately began development on our 3D prototype, as the perspective was one of the most evident problems with our game. Since we decided to try for a ninja theme, we also began developing our 3D assets within that theme. On Wednesday, we had our weekly client meeting and discussed with our clients some of the feedback that we had received from quarters. The clients were happy to allow us to pursue our own design decisions, but offered a few suggestions in regards to optimizing the difficulty of the game. They pointed us in the direction of heat races, if we wanted to shorten the length of each individual race, but still retain the overall play time. If we were interested in a longer race, they pointed us in the direction of the steeplechase event. We considered the options, and we decided that we wanted to try for an endurance event. We looked particularly at the design behind Temple Run and considered ways to make Temple Run a head to head multiplayer experience. On Friday, we met with our faculty mentors to review some of our decisions following quarters and the general status of the project. After our meeting with our faculty mentors, we met with Ralph for our faculty sit-down as part of quarters. Ralph advised us on different kinds of physical activity that could be tracked through the accelerometer.

Week 4

Week 4

During week 4 we made significant progress on our prototype’s functionality and art assets; we added in a lobby based server, character art, power up art, and background images. We also spent a lot of time this week optimizing our branding; we attended a branding critique after which we got a lot of very useful feedback that was used to change our logo, half-sheet, and poster.

Week 3

Week 3

During week 3 we developed a tech demo to show our clients and instructors, both of which liked the direction in which we are headed. Our instructors commented that the game as it was currently is potentially hackable , which would allow kids to do well at events without actually running. We took their comments and continued to refine our design. We began working on a full prototype using the skeleton we had created in the tech demo. We finalized the first drafts of all of our branding elements, such as our poster, half sheet, and logo. Finally we watched the CMU Track & Field event on Saturday, and established a playtest with Winchester Thurston School in order to test our ideas with our target demographic.

Shantanu Das

Shantanu Das

Shantanu is on the programmer track in the Entertainment Technology Centre, Carnegie Mellon University.

Prior to ETC, he worked as a senior software engineer for 4 years at Sony India. As a programmer, Shantanu has worked on building prototypes to showcase how new technologies like augmented reality, gesture recognition can enhance user experience in Sony applications. He has also worked as an optimisation engineer where he was responsible for enhancing the graphics performance for Chromium Engine.

Shantanu is interested in gameplay programming and wants to explore how new technologies can be used to bring out new game play mechanics to enrich user experience.

Ankit Patel

Ankit Patel

Role: Gameplay Programmer

I am currently doing Masters of Entertainment Technology at the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), Carnegie Mellon University. I have 3+ years of professional experience as a Game Developer and I am proficient in cross platform mobile games and applications development on iOS, Android and Web platforms.

My work in games began with programming in 6502 assembly for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in a highly constrained environment with 2K RAM, 8K for programming and 8K for graphics. This was a MacArthur Foundation funded project to create new games (and a development kit) for a $10 computer that is widely sold in developing countries. I worked with a team in India (and an international open source community) to create innovative educational games for underserved children in rural areas. We distributed $10 computers with our preloaded games and conducted field trials in Ahmedabad, India. One of the most interesting experiences during this field study was to understand which aspects of our games engaged our young clients and how we could improve their experience. I have learned to contribute in multifunctional teams consisting of designers, co-developers, fellow-researchers and testers.

Since 2012, I’ve worked as a Lead Game Developer at Playpower. Most of my time at Playpower has been spent creating games for building core math skills that provide a foundation for success in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). I have worked extensively on dozens of games on multiple platforms over 3 years and I have developed phenomenal ability to manage and lead multiple development projects at a time. I don’t just believe that fun aids learning—i believe learning is fun. My interests include thrilling sports, travelling and cooking food.