Category Archives: Newsletters

Week 15: Penultimate Edition

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Welcome back, just in time for the penultimate week of the semester! We got to spend Tuesday with the whole Sony team and talked about the semester, the project, and the industry at great length. The Building Virtual Worlds Fall Festival took place on Wednesday, and everyone had a great time playing games and showing off our project to dozens of visitors.Screen Shot2-city screenshot1

We’ve spent what development time we had this week polishing the driving mechanics and AI of civilian cars. We’re working on reducing the scope of our deliverable, as we’re wrapping up the semester and time is running short! Our current plan is to focus our attention on one mission type, based on the clues and target mechanics from the last assignment. We want to move away from a collection of simple GTA style missions towards a more fluid, interesting, and constant driving experience. This weekend we’ll be planning out exactly what we want to do, what we can do, and what to deliver next week.  Our final presentation is scheduled for Friday, and we’re busy planning and practicing for that as well. Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion to our semester’s story!

– Team PlayStation Ignite

Week 13: Single-Player Derby

PDF Download: Newsletter: Week 13

Our delivery of assignment 4 went well, and we’re very pleased with the game that we put new-map1together. Do ‘em up Derby is the most polished experience we’ve delivered so far! On Monday we got our final assignment from Sony: Take what we just built and design a single-player mode for it. We should retain the driving and shooting mechanics of the previous game but design a new experience that is fun for one player instead of four.

Our new story is this: the player takes on the role of a new mafia good getting his feet wet in the business. We’re designing a larger, more interesting city, and working on the driving mechanics onEsheetto feel more fluid and fun. The art style and theme will remain the same, but we’ll be taking this extra time to really polish up what we’ve got and add lots of variety to the landscape. The One-sheet for our design is one the next page, so take a look!

On Monday we’ll be presenting our work to ETC faculty for “Soft Opening” to get feedback as we look towards finishing up the semester. Check in next week to see how that went and how progress is going with our final cycle!

-Team PlayStation Ignite

Week 12: Do ’em up Derby

PDF Download: Newsletter: Week 12

Delivery day! Lots of work was done in the last week to put this whole thing together and we’re very pleased with our final results. During the week we made some changes based on the playtest we conducted on Friday; those included:

  1. Dressing up the clue photos with filters to fit the theme. We put the clue and target photos through a grayscale filter so they didn’t clash with the world’s color scheme.
  2. Tweaking the driving mechanics to made getting stuck harder. The cars were shortened so they didn’t get stuck perpendicular to skinny roads.
  3. Putting the photo clues in the scene instead of showing them all at the beginning. We put briefcases in the scene that the players have to collect in order to discover the identity of their targets.
  4. Made the “kill” feedback much stronger/more obvious to the players.

After making these changes, we conducted another playtest on Wednesday this week, first using our original play testers from last week and a set of new testers who haven’t played it before. This time around, we got another very useful set of data:Capture

  1. Briefcases weren’t obvious.
  2. Weapons were hard to use.
  3. UI on the edges of the screen was basically unseen.
  4. Targets and clues were hard to understand with the filters in place.

The most recurrent theme was one of lack of feedback. Based on these playtests, we spent our time improving the feedback as much as possible, including adding more visual and audio cues to every part of the game.ScreenshotGame

In addition to gameplay tweaks, we also settled on our final art style on Monday and spent the week prettying up the whole scene. We paid special attention to the lighting of the scene; the feel of a dark and ScreenshotCSrainy night is very important to our theme. We played with color and building style until we found something that sold our comic book feel theme well, and looked pretty awesome to boot! We’re happy with the final product we’ve delivered this week and we’re looking forward to our final cycle starting next Monday. Thanks for reading, and we’ll be back next week with a whole new game!

– Team PlayStation Ignite

Week 11: Mafia Racer

PDF Download: Newsletter: Week 11

We’ve had a productive week here at PlayStation Ignite. Our “Social Racing” game is coming along nicely and we’ve been iterating on our controls and theme. Our story is this: the players are taking on the role of mafia hit men in the 1930’s competing against each other to make various hits around the city. Their targets are mutual Facebook friends, but they aren’t told directly who the target is from the beginning. Instead, they are given clues in the form of photos taken from their friends’ Facebook albums and they must figure out the correct target based on the content of those photos.  The targets are scattered around the map, and the first person to correctly identify the current target and drive to their location scores the hit and gets points for that round. Once a target is taken down, a new set of clues appears and the players start again. After 3 rounds, the player with the most points wins.

The idea behind using the social aspect is that knowing your friends well enough to recognize their photos will give you an advantage over other players. By using photos from friends’ albums, we want players to need to know more about their friends than just their face; they also need to know something about the kind of photos their friends take or places their friends have been.

In addition to the story, we’ve spent a lot of time iterating on the theme and visual style. Below are some of the looks we’ve been experimenting with:



This week we’ve implemented all of the basic needs for gameplay; driving, skidding, photo playtest1PNGcollection, carrying out hits, scoring, and the end state. Since we had a minimum playable version, we conducted a playtest on Friday evening which provided a glut of useful information that we’ll be examining and incorporating into future versions during our final week. Currently we plan to conduct another playtest on Wednesday to determine if we’ve made the correct design decisions based on the previous playtest. playtest2

In our final week we will be polishing up our systems and finishing up the theming. Stay tuned as we move into our delivery phase, and start studying your friends’ photos for the edge you’ll need to win!

– Team PlayStation Ignite

Week 10: Social Racer

PDF Download: Newsletter: Week 10

This week marks the beginning of a new cycle and a new assignment for team PlayStation Ignite. This time, we’ve been given a very specific game mechanic to work with, but an interesting challenge posed alongside it: make a driving game like “Ivan ‘Ironman’ Stewart’s Super Off Road” or “Super Sprint”, but incorporate a social aspect that pulls from social media. The assignment is intentionally vague as to the actual social aspect we should use; it’s up to use to figure that one out! We have the freedom to explore all sorts of social media sources, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Newsletter10Pic2

We began the week by brainstorming questions of why people use various forms of social media, as well as why people might want to play a game that involves using their or their friends’ personal information. What does social mean in the context of a racing game? Why would people want to play our game over another game that doesn’t incorporate the social aspect? Using these questions as prompts  we’ve come up with something that we think is fun and can work well in the context of the constraints we’ve been given.Newsletter10Pic1

The idea goes like this: there are photographs scattered around the race course that belong to mutual Facebook friends of the racers. These mutual friends are scattered around the course at target locations, and the goal is to match the photos to the correct friend in the shortest amount of time possible.  The first player to correctly identify the mutual friend from his photos wins the round, and a new set of photos is introduced to the course.

We put together a simple paper prototype of the concept to test out the basic idea.  Try for yourself on the right!

We’ve spent the rest of our time this week working on theming, story, and art style. We have a pretty strong idea of the direction we’ll be taking this idea, and we’ll pitch that to the Sony team on Monday. We hope that with a strong visual style and story, we can deliver a consistent and cohesive game this round, and create something unique and fun.

We’re very excited about our new game and we can’t wait to see what this turns into over the next 2 weeks. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more excited game development news!

– Team PlayStation Ignite

Week 9: Delivery

PDF Download: Newsletter: Week 9

Another delivery down here in week 9! These last two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity and changes around the project room.  In addition to our ETC Halves presentation preparation and delivery, we also did some major restructuring of our the project based on feedback from Sony at the end of Week 8.

Our game, BumpBlasters, came along nicely in terms of features and mechanics. The gameplay was coming along nicely, but by the end of the second week of development, we were lacking a solid theme for the game beyond “aliens in space are fighting”. Subsequently, the game felt static and story-less. After talking to Sony and our advisers, we spent Thursday evening and Friday morning brainstorming for theme and story, coming up with the following 2 ideas:

Crazy Chefs: 4 Chefs are taking part of a cooking challenge with a very irritable famous chef. After one too many screw ups, Chef Bamsley stomps his foot so hard he breaks the earth and the 4 chefs begin plummeting through the mantle. On their way through the earth they must throw food to propel themselves around to dodge stalagmites and stalactites and hopefully make it out the other side in one piece!

Falling Robots: 4 Mining robots from rival corporations find a planet composed of 98% Newsletter9Pic1diamond! Only one company may hold the rights for mining, however, so the first one to the surface claims all! The 4 ‘bots charge the planet and plummet towards the surface, though the planet’s rings, upper atmosphere, lower atmosphere, and eventually crystal caves as they fight to knock each other out and be the only survivor at the end.Newsletter9Pic2Newsletter9Pic3

As a team, we liked idea 2 better because it played more to our art strengths and would afford   us some reusability of assets. With this stronger theme in mind, we re-pitched our game to Sony along with a  major switch in art style, and they were pleased with the new direction we were taking. Of course, now we only had a week left in the cycle to deliver.

Through the tireless efforts of the team, we managed to produce an entire new art style for the game, as well as set up the new falling and dodging mechanics. We did not have the time to implement everything we wanted to, such as the extra stages of falling through atmosphere and the planet core, but we are pleased with the direction we took and how it turned out in the end. As a team we feel that this game is a great vertical slice of what we wanted to do more fully, and given more time we could create a complete, fun experience.

– Team PlayStation Ignite

Week 7: Physics

PDF Download: Newsletter: Week 7Picture11

We started our brainstorming session Monday morning with individual presentations: each  Picture12team member worked over the weekend to come up with at least 3 ideas as fleshed out as possible to present to the team. The idea was to get people thinking creatively individually to such a level that they could explain their ideas concisely. This was an attempt to overcome our brainstorming problems of last cycle, where ideas were never really understood until very late in the cycle.

The rest of Monday was spent debriefing about the last cycle and planning our attack for cycle 3. On Tuesday we regrouped to talk about our ideas and pare them down as much as possible. Finally, Wednesday we had 3 solid ideas that we felt had promise, and we prepared 1-sheets for each to present to the clients.

Those 3 ideas were:Picture15

  1. BumpBlasters: An arena based combat game where players can only move by shooting.   Picture14 Picture13 Each player controls a ship with a cannon in its tail, but cannon balls do not hurt other players. You can only hurt players by stabbing them with the spike in your nose or pushing them into walls.
  2. Cube: A physics puzzle platformer. You must traverse an open space filled with floating cubes to reach a goal. The player can jump from cube to cube, and can attract or repel cubes with magnetic powers. Cubes have their own properties and are affected by the player in different ways.
  3. Neutron: A tower climbing platformer, except you can’t control your character directly. Instead you must use a magnet that encircles the screen to push or pull your character around the level. Avoid spikes in the walls and falling off the bottom of the screen in order to reach to top of the tower.

After these three ideas were sent to the client, we had a short meeting on Thursday to discuss them. After some advice from the client, the team decided to move forward with BumpBlasters as it is very simple at its core and has a lot of Picture16 Picture17 Picture18potential for growth and development. With this idea in hand, we spent the rest of Thursday and Friday planning features and beginning prototyping. Some of our features will include:

  1. Multiple battle arenas
  2. Power-ups
  3. Obstacles like boxes and mines
  4. Multiple game modes (Stock, Timed, etc)
  5. Possible single-player mode
  6. Customizable player ships
  7. …and more!

In addition to gameplay ideas, we’ve also begun concepting possible themes and art styles for the game. We’ve decided to stick with 2D art for a change of pace, and we’re sticking to three possible themes: Space, Abstract, and Forest. Sahana and Rex are hard at work producing example art and we’ll review what we have on Monday to choose the final direction we’ll take the art in. We plan to have a playable prototype by the end of today, and Monday we’ll be delivering final design documentation and concept art. We’re off to a good start and we’re excited to see what we can make of this cycle! Thanks for reading!

– Team PlayStation Ignite


Week 6: Delivery Part II

PDF Download: Newsletter: Week 6

It’s delivery day here at PS Ignite, and we’re happy to reach another deadline! The game has Simthing Fishy 5 fishnetmade few changes since last week, as most of our time was focused on implementing all of the features discussed in last week’s newsletter. It’s been a wild 3 weeks, and we’ve learned a lot about how to better structure our future cycles

One of the most important things we learned this cycle is to ensure proper, regular integration of all facets of the game. Since our programmers split up work, it’s easy to fall into a very segmented, isolated development environment. This cycle we had problems when programmers would move their work from test scenes into the new scenes, and that created problems towards the end that ultimately stunted the final product.

On the art side of things, we need to work out a better concept-to-final pipeline that allows the artists to explore the visual feel of the game without feeling like everything they do needs to be final art. This time around, our artists felt very much like “asset machines”, and that’s not a good place for them to inhabit.

Finally, we need to do a better job tracking individual tasks to ensure the right amount of time is being spent on each feature of the next project. Estimation and follow-up is very important for these short cycles, and we’ll be implementing a much stronger Scrum setup to ensure everyone is staying on task.

We are all going to sleep well tonight and recharge over the weekend, and we look forward to tackling our next assignment on Monday. After some time spent on introspection, of course!

Thanks for following!

-Team PlayStation Ignite



Week 5: Pushing On

PDF Download: Newsletter: Week 5

IMG_20130921_135325We’ve reached the end of Week 5 and development of our fish tank is well under way. As a team we went back on forth on the actual format of the game a number of times during the week, and a visit from our client Alex Lee generated some new ideas and possible directions. In the end we decided to use a stripped down version of our original idea combined with a new, more action-y element.

The basic game is played on a grid inside the aquarium. The tank initially starts empty and dirty, with only 1 structure in place. There are 3 types of structures the player has access to: Fish Homes, Cleaner Homes, and Food Sources. The player can place these structures on the grid inside the tank, and they interact with each other in specific

  • Cleaner Homes send out snails and bottom feeders to clean up the dirt in surrounding plots.
  • Fish Homes add fish to an area, who then gather food and deliver it to the Cleaners.
  • Food sources provide food for the Fish to collect, and are depleted over time.

The player’s overall goal is to clean up and maintain the tank. The other major element that makes this difficult is the introduction of “Bad Fish” that disrupt the tank drastically. At random points during gameplay, Bad Fish will show up in the tank, begin eating Fish, destroying food, and adding dirt. The player must remove the Bad Fish by using a net that he controls with the controller.

This more tactile element was added to provide moments of tension to the game, much like Overall Conceptnatural disasters in SimCity. We want the player to be engaged and paying attention, and we think this element will be fun in and of itself.

Now that we have a solid game plan, we are beginning to combine these elements into a complete game. We plan to have a playable build by Monday evening so we can begin play testing. Since balance and numbers are important, we want time to see how everything interacts with each other so we can best design a fun experience. Our last week of development will be focused on this balance, and finishing up the look and feel of the whole experience.

Finally, the visual element of this assignment is very important, so we’ve dedicated much time Picture1to those aspects as well. Cheng’s flocking algorithm allows us very appealing and realistic fish movement throughout the tank; Shaveen’s shader effects for the tank and water are beautiful and realistic; Sahana has been working on multi-colored and flowing fish to populate the tank with; and Rex’s structures capture a semi-realistic style that fits well with our theming.

Delivery is scheduled for 5:00 PM Friday evening, and we’re confident we will be able to hit that goal. Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next week!

-Team PlayStation Ignite