Superhero Training Center: Cultural Awareness Day, a 3D animated documentary created in Spring 2008 at ETC-SV, obtained the 1st Prize Animated Documentary award at Chicago Children’s International Film Festival (CICFF). It was a tremendous honor to receive such an award at CICFF because it is the only children’s film festival that is an Academy Award qualifying festival.
Archive for the ‘Spring ’08’ Category
This was a big day for the teams – they "soft launched" the projects they’ve been working on all semester. We celebrated this evening with a BBQ at Carl’s house. I was so busy cooking that I forgot to take pictures of the real meal, but we did s’mores for dessert.
This is a candid picture, but it looks like a posed picture from a magazine. I mean really, one person cooking and everyone else standing around being entertained by it? But you can see that everyone else was already eating. BTW, Soo is trying the advanced s’mores technique where you jam the chocolate INTO the marshmallow before you roast it – that melts the chocolate, too. Yumm.
On March 31, Hal Barwood, founder of Finite Art and best known for his games on the Indiana Jones license, came to ETC-SV to give a talk about “Designing and Building Small Games.” He encouraged us to make small games to learn our craft.
“In the old days, all games were little,” he said, and he emphasized, “The graphics and performance of computer games have revolutionized, and yet, game ideas remain unchanged.” He shared his favorite casual games such as “Zuma” and “Mummy Maze” as examples for games being small but still presenting fun and complex design challenges.
To address the advantages of small games, he compared them with big games. Unlike big games, which cost millions of dollars and take years to produce, small games are cheaper and faster to make, and thus allow for more freedom. They only require a tiny team where everyone is involved more and could learn more. Furthermore, making small games can quickly validate game ideas and do not require as much overall game depth.
He further talked about his experience in making a game “Snow Cruiser” as a holiday card. It was a racing game that was themed with Santa driving his sleigh to collect gifts. In the beginning, he thought it would be really easy to make it fun because he had a good narrative with a strong character on a journey and a goofy setting of Santa collecting things instead of giving them out.
However, it wasn’t the case. In terms of immersion, the player did feel constrained being only able to move left to right. It was also pointless to have only one feedback of losing health when Santa hits an obstacle.
For the first problem, he found because Santa was only represented by a rectangle it was too abstract to get any feeling from. Immersion needed to come from visual cues. Besides, games had to present challenges to players or they would get bored. So he added power-ups, which gave a touch of variety of strategy and avoiding crashing misery. Also, he tweaked the moving speed of switching between the three routes to balance his game more.
He also talked about other aspects of making games such as interface, meters, levels and resources. The interface frames the game. Meters tell players what their efforts turn into. When players gradually become better at your game, we needed to carefully build levels where it is progressively tougher to achieve a flow, avoiding boredom or frustration. As for resources, he highly recommended using flash to develop our games.
Hal was a screenwriter before he became a game designer. Bearing the film and story background, he provided depth to us by talking about games as a narrative form. Connecting the avatar and the player is a big challenge. He also thought there is still space for interweaving gameplay and story tighter. According to him, story can give us sense of scope, making things bigger than they actually are. Stories can keep things exciting and engaging while great game mechanics only last for moments.