Author Archives: Garrett Kimball

Week 4: New Cycle

PDF Download: Newsletter: Week 4

Week 4 starts out strong with a brand new assignment from SCEA! Specifically:

“Assignment TWO:  Beauty is in the details.
Take what you have and build a simulation game about a beautiful fish tank. Please make your deliverable less about collection and more about the balance and management of your environment (i.e. SimCity not Farmville!)
Demonstrate how an individual can invest in a virtual world and also enjoy playing with the equilibrium they create. Create a challenge within the environment that can influence the progress.
This assignment should test your design abilities as much as being able to build upon your beautiful ocean environment.”

This time around, we’re not supposed to focus on character, instead pointing our design skills at mechanics and systems. Fortunately, we also have a wonderful opportunity to reuse some of the beautiful assets generated last cycle!

This assignment presents an interesting challenge, as our team does not have any dedicated designers. Additionally, none of us have any experience developing simulation games in the past. We’ve spent the week so far brainstorming ideas and generating a list of directions to take this next game, with possibilities ranging from a basic “pet” style fish tank game to scenario driven strategy simulations.

One of our goals this cycle is to try something new and different; we don’t want to do the blatantly obvious. The challenge is going to be in maintaining the sprit of the original assignment while delivering something that is pleasantly surprising. We have the stirrings of some interesting ideas of how we might accomplish this, but nothing solid yet. In order to head off any possible crunch time, we came up with a list of definite mechanics to begin development of this week, including:

  1. Grid based map environment
  2. Cell selection using a controller
  3. Basic fish AI, including flocking
  4. Fish and cell objectsPoster_Small

In this way, we’ve ensure that the programmers have something useful to do while the artists prepare concepts and other art. We have our work cut out for us these next 2 weeks! Our next big step is settling on the overall gameplay and developing the specific mechanics needed for it. We plan to have a playable prototype by next Friday so we can test and iterate over our last week.

Finally, on the ETC side of things we’ve settled on a new logo and Poster design! Thank you to Sahana for our beautiful new look. Please join us next week, when we should have something to play with!

-Team PlayStation Ignite

Week 3: Deliver

PDF Download: Newsletter: Week 3

Week 3 is over, and our first prototype has been delivered to Sony.  This week was a mad Opening Cutscene 1rush of asset creation, bug fixing, and implementation.  The story that we developed last week remained mostly intact throughout the assembly process, and the whole thing finally came together Friday morning.

In hindsight, we should have had a complete, start-to-finish project ready earlier in the week; originally our schedule called for merging and final implementations to be done by Wednesday so that we would have time for bug fixing and testing. Unfortunately, the schedule slipped and many needed assets were not ready until the day of delivery. The team did an admirable job bringing everything together at the last minute (kudos to them!) but in the future we plan to schedule better to avoid that kind of crunch.Opening Cutscene 2

Regardless of the issues we had, we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished during our first cycle of prototyping. The world really came together in a seamless, powerful way, and the emotional elements worked exactly as we imagined them to. There are, however, a few things that we would do differently, given another chance.

Our early brainstorming was truncated and limited due to the beginning of the semester. As we started our first cycle right on day one, we had some issues getting together as a team due to learning our schedules, elective and side project work, and sorting out Opening Cutscene 3equipment and material needs. Ultimately we got hung up on mechanics and game design, instead of focusing more time on developing our character to begin with. While our octopus did grow a deeper character over the course of development, more work spent on just defining the character earlier on would have helped us focus our design efforts from the beginning and saved us some time spent on mechanics that proved unnecessary.

Additionally, we didn’t have a clear view of the entire level until very late in the project. While this was partially a factor of splitting up of work between 4 programmers, it would still have been useful to see a regular “merged” version of the game as much as possible, in order to help find weak spots and inform our plans for focusing programming efforts.

With these lessons learned, we look forward to starting our next assignment! Beginning Monday, we do it all again, and we’re excited to see what more we can do with some experience under our belts!


-Team PlayStation Ignite

Week 2: Build

PDF Download: Newsletter: Week 2

The theme of week 2 was: build! With only 2 weeks until our September 13th delivery deadline, it was important that we begin building and testing our ideas as soon as possible. In order to facilitate this, we deemed it necessary to pick and idea and run with it rather than spend any more time brainstorming new ideas.

As a team, we decided to move forward on our Octopus Escape idea as it was the most fleshed out of all of them. Our little octopus friend is curious, naïve, and cute; we thought he would provide good opportunities to create emotions in our players.f_octopus-char

The basic idea was this: All his life, our little octopus buddy lived in a small tank in the San Diego Aquarium. But one day, an absent minded staffer accidentally knocks his little tank over and he ends up in the popular “Dangerous Sea Creatures” exhibit! Now he must learn to use his octopus skills (tentacles, ink, etc) to escape to safety.

As what often happens during the iteration process, plans changed over the course of the week. Originally, we planned for the controls to help support our character: the player would need to manipulate tentacles independently, using left and right sticks, to move and interact with the world.

During our prototyping, we determined that our unusual control scheme would not be effective for moving our character around. Since we don’t have a lot of time, we decided to continue with more standard controls so programmers can focus on other tasks.

Our story also changed as we fleshed out our character. We wanted to instill a sense of wonder and beauty in the player, so we decided that instead of starting in an aquarium, we would tackle the open sea. The story evolved into this:unwrapped-octo

Our octopus buddy has been plucked from his tank and brought out to sea for research purposes. After a tracking tag is attached, he’s plopped into the water. The player helps our little friend navigate this new world, see amazing new sights, and hopefully find a friend in this new world.

With this new direction chosen, we’ve spent the week creating assets, building scenes, and testing mechanics. On Friday we delivered a demo build to the Sony team, and next Friday we have to deliver our final version! The team is hard at work and we’re feeling good about our upcoming deadline.

By this time next week, we’ll be putting this one to rest! Stay tuned!

-PS IgSea Backgroundnite Team

Week 1: Conception

PDF Download: Newsletter: Week 1

Week One is over here at PlayStation Ignite, and we’ve hit the ground running! This semester we will be creating 5 prototypes of interesting new game ideas, each completed in the space of 3 weeks. We’re following in the footsteps of the previous Sony team, PlayStation BlackLight, a project that was deemed to be highly successful. The team spent the week moving in, getting acquainted, and meeting with out clients, Ken, Jeff, and Dom from Sony Computer Entertainment America.IMG_20130902_121006

Over the course of Wednesday and Thursday, we spent many hours talking to the Sony team about the project and how the rest of the semester will look. High expectations were expressed, and our first assignment has already begun. We are to create a new, interesting character that Sony hasn’t seen be-fore. No pressure!

The team has had two character design brain-storming sessions already, and a couple interesting ideas have already arisen: a split personality entity who’s different personalities see different perspectives of the world; an octopus who keeps escaping his tanks despite aquarium staff efforts; and a boy who exists only as a shadow and relies of a swarm of fireflies to exist. Concept and reference art is being collected, and we’re happy with how brainstorming has been proceeding.IMG_20130830_162354

These newsletters should become much longer and more interesting too look at as the se-mester continues. Tune in next week to see how our first week of development goes, and thanks for join-ing us on this incredible journey into innovation!


-Team PlayStation Ignite