Friday, 9 November 2018

My new course in game development

💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖🎮💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖💖
Hi everyone! It's been along time since I've written a post. :D During the summer I intended to work on a 2D prototype game that I had begun making in the summer of 2017. Unfortunately due to my laptops failing computer fan and it overheating whenever I powered up UE4, I decided to halt progress in order to save my machine. Now however I have gotten a more powerful piece of kit to help me make games. :D It's second hand but pretty decent and should allow me to open UE4 without bursting into flames, so to speak.

As of now I am going to be starting the beginning of a level 7 course in game development. I'm extremely excited as I will be learning how to use Unity: A game engine I'm quite unfamiliar with. When talking to one of my teachers I asked them about the prototype I have and they encouraged me to experiment and learn in my spare time with UE4. Due to the improved hardware I have and knowledge gained from practice I am now moving forward with my prototype to begin making something I can hopefully release and show to others.

My plan for the next few months in rather simple. My focus will be  put mostly on practicing with Unity and learning new aspects of game development (my college course is my priority after all) but in my spare time I will set to completing the original list of goals I had.


(⛏ ) Implemented but still needs fine tuning.
(🎮 ) Done
(X ) Not done

❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤

-Checkpoints ( X)
-Ladders  ( ⛏)
-Dashing (🎮 )
-Wall jumps (🎮 )
-Teleporting (X )
-Intricate enemy AI (X )
-Projectiles (⛏ )
-Weapons ( ⛏)
-Weapon upgrades (X )
-Final/mini bosses (X )
-Cutscenes (X )








Another thing I have begun to do is bind certain commands to my controller. The controller is a Piranha pc controller that I bought for pc gaming, but it can also be used in early prototyping for testing out how the game feels with a controller. It's not a huge step but it is important to remember to see how your game feels in early prototyping and to make sure you assign certain controls to the right options. It would be pretty embarrassing if I finished the game and didn't properly map the buttons. ^.^'


As of now I'm busy with college and learning new stuff but I will try to keep this in mind. Bye!


Thursday, 31 May 2018

A long overdue post: my 2D game and it's development.

Ok, so the school year is out, my assignments are in and I'm relatively confident I didn't fail my multimedia technology exam. With my current academic year finished I've now got three months to kill at home. During this time, I want to work on a few side projects and create some new things. Last year I was working on a 2D videogame that I would use as a portfolio piece and for the process of getting better at coding. I made a bit of headway with it during the summer and I want to work on it more this summer. Something I've been toying around with lately is 2D animations being done using 3D rigging.



I've done some work before using the blender COA plug in tool but nothing to this scale. I'm trying to see if this would be ideal for prototyping purposes of having in basic animations for my 2D game. The issue however is that apparently the animation only exports to a game engine called Godot while I use unreal. Thankfully, I can just export the animation and the individual frames can be used in a spritesheet for UE4 so I don't have to abandon this tool completely.


Last year during the summer I worked on creating basic code and assets to make a 2D game. This included basic things like walljumps, health, lifts, arrow spawners, etc. This summer I intend to polish these elements to make a proper game I can release to the public. With the new animation tool I have discovered in blender I can now create fluid cut out animations for my game.






As of now, I intend to make a game using the cat robot girl I made a while back. I may remake or edit her current sprite to make it look better as the current one is a bit... eh. She's ok but it was only ever intended to be a prototype to see how I liked her design when colored. (I've since updates her horrendous looking tail btw so it isn't just a single piece of geometry).










This image of her one of the other hand is a bit rough but looks more dynamic and ready to fight. The above pose needs a bit of tweaking, but she does look quite nice. As of now, I'm going to try to make Feralina's above sprite and test out some flipbook animations of her in UE4 just to see if it works ok. I'll probably then go and either fix bugs with my game or work on making some proper sprites for the game so it will look pretty. I don't really have much to write about as of now, but I'm working away at then and will try to keep this blog updated on my progress from time to time. ^_^ Thank you for reading!




Monday, 30 April 2018

Post 3: How will Steam develop?







Steam has done a lot of good for the world of gaming. It brought us games like Shovel knight, Hyper Light Drifter and Undertale. However, with games constantly evolving and new platforms coming to fruition all the time, once may wonder how a online platform such as Steam can be sustainable. For my final piece, I want to examine how I think Steam can become a better platform utilizing it's positive qualities. Steams main flaw is its lack of quality control. The platform has a larger amount of games than it should and some red flags have gone under the radar for quite a while. A game known as "Shadow: Treachery cannot be tolerated" came out on Steam and barely even functions. The lack of quality that is apparent even from the very beginning of the game just shows how severe the quality control issue is with Steam.




In under three seconds you will lose the game as there is not enough time to shoot all of the men present. An internet reviewer known as Jim Sterling attempted to play the game and was appalled at how awful it was. The game is more or less unplayable and is a key example of the flaws of Steam. So, now that we know how bad Steam is, where can the platform develop from here?



Steam has previously stated that they wanted to be more open with the game types  they allowed on their platform. Steam is a business after all and it's products need to make money. However, due to stricter rules and curation, some games such as many visuals novels didn't get into Steam. It wasn't until later that when Steam began to release visual novels that they realised some game genres could be quite marketable.  An example of this would be a recent game called Doki doki literature club, a visual novel about trying to mingle with cute girls form a literature club. This game received overwhelmingly positive reviews and is an extremely popular visual novel.

4





Due to this, Steam became more open with allowing many more games in and allowed the community to judge what games should get in. Unfortunately, this led to many issues such as the trading card issue I discussed in my second post. So, if Steam wants a wider variety of games but maintain quality control, what should it do?




For starters, Valve should hir a team of curators to review each game before it goes on Steam and evaluate its quality. According to Sergey Galyonkin, Steam earns 2.5 billion annually. This is more than enough money to pay for a quality control team. For each game released and each genre, Steam could easily have a group of reviewers who could play games and judge how good they are based off of their experience. The difference between this and Steam curators is that these people would be payed by Valve so there would be no point risking their job by being payed off by con artist developers. This would put a knife in the trading card scam games on Steam and also make Steams selection of much higher quality. There could be judges for different game type sand genres:A section for metroidvanias, sidesrollers, 3d open world, beat em up etc. If Steam is still worried their judges may push away games that could be a hit (such as in the visual novel debacle) them Steam could get some members of the community to test demo's of the game to see public opinion. The paid workers would still hold the final say, but it would allow a nice blend of public opinion and professional evaluation to dictate wheter a game gets on steam.







Another idea would be repairing Steams reputation. In the beginning, getting your game on Steam as considered a high achievement. Many developers were proud to get their game on steam as it was an achievement and a mark of quality. There are other indie game platforms out there such as GOG which has a reputation for high quality control than steam. GOG quality control in comparison to Steam is much stricter, leading to less games but a higher quality selection. "This standard is created by an internal team that handpicks and reviews the projects carefully as part of a strict approval process. This resulted in a near-high quality library of GOG games with absolutely no low-quality games that were usually common in Greenlight." (N.Bui, 2017) 






Steam itself is a very popular platform, but these flaws are a serious issue. If they remain as they are, people may begin flocking to other platforms such as GOG, thus leaving Valve to suffer serious financial losses. The money for a curation team is there, but Steam is stuck between being strict and allowing potential games that could be best sellers. I personally think a new system will be introduced to replace curators and Steam will possibly take to paying professionals to review games. I think that while allowing public opinion to dictate the games curation process may seem eerily similar to the Steam curators debacle, it would become very clear when a game was good quality when a payed employee plays it versus con artists looking to abuse the trading card system. Many developers enjoy Steam and the platform practically runs itself at this point with minimal effort to input in most areas. While I do love Steam and hope to publish games on it later in life, it needs to evaluate its curation process and realise that it may not be the king of indie platforms if it keeps going down this path.













Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Post 2: The crippling flaws of Steam

Steam may be a blooming platform for many developers, but it is not devoid of faults. 





In 2016, nearly 40% of Steams library was filled up with games that was released in the span of that year.  (L.Plunkett, 2018) While some may think this would be a positive event that would have gamer's jumping for joy, it's actually quite the opposite. The spontaneous spike in games being released on Steam is due to Valve (the company who owns Steam) deciding on a new method of verifying games as to whether they should be on Steam. "In an attempt to manage the effects of this flood (rather than the flood itself, Valve has recently introduced concepts like Steam Curators, and more importantly has redesigned Steam's store page to help users filter out the garbage". (L.Plunkett, 2018) This new concept arises in the form of Steam curators. Steam curators are individuals who recommend a game based on their own personal enjoyment of it. These are not payed reviewers or workers but rather members of the gaming community.  


The issue with this system is that a cheap developer can pay others to vote their game to being greenlit (aka a game that has yet to be verified will be if enough people green light it) leading to some people making groups to green light games. Some of these people are legitimate gamers who want to see good games get on Steam but there are other curators with more sinister intentions. There is a growing practice in which developers will give away a ludicrous amount of free keys to their game (free copies of the game) with steam trading cards in the game.  John Risinger of The Know, a youtube channel focusing on big gaming news has talked about the severity of this issue.


"A developer makes game that's barely a game and puts in the ability to get steam Marketplace trading cards. People want these cards because they can be sold for money. Cards are generally only bought or sold for a few cents or to trade in for gems which can be used to get other items. So once the developer makes this game they charge barely anything for it. The developer requests thousands of free keys from Valve. Then they put those up for free or for sale for pennies on third part sites. Someone with a bot network can buy them and put a bot to the work of idling through the game to farm achievements and get cards. Then the cards are sold on the marketplace. If it's sold for say three cents valve gets a penny the person who farmed It gets a penny and the developer gets a penny. That sounds pretty harmless at first but if we take Jenkins example from earlier and multiply that times 500,000 steam keys that turns into $5,000. You can see why this became a problem over time and t why Steam has so many clones". (J.Risinger, 2:29)



These underhand practices can lead to barely functioning messes of games being put onto Steam. These games, commonly referred to as 'asset flips' are often composed of a variety of either remade or bought assets thrown together into a level with no artistic skill or effort put in. These assets flips may also be accompanied by ludicrous amounts of downloadable digital content (often referred to as dlc) which may be purchased but often have nothing of value.  The problem with this lack of quality control means that there is such a severe over-saturation of awful games on Steam that good games are buried beneath the slog. Not only has this significantly damaged the platforms overall reputation but it has made it harder for both gamer's and developers. This issue may seem like a simple bit of over sensitivity, but the reality of it is quite dire.  An example of this comes from the developers of who developed a game known as Blossom Tales.




Blossom Tales was developed by FDG Games  and was released on both Steam and the Nintendo Switch, a handheld console created by Nintendo. Blossom Tales reported to have done better by 20 to 1 on the Nintendo Switch due to its strict quality control. The striking difference in sales from a platform such as Steam with poor quality control versus a platform such as the Switch has never been put into such a stark contrast until now. The company who developed Blossom Tales has stated that if not for Nintendo, they may have gone out of business. 




The lack of quality control makes it more difficult for actual game developers who are trying to make a living. Their games get less time on the front page and are mixed with a multitude of subpar games made by developers out for a quick buck. This practice not only lowers the overall quality of content Steam is now providing but it could also destroy several small indie companies as they are not gaining the attention they deserve. Steams quality control is not something to be overlooked as it is quite literally killing careers as well as its own platform. The problem however doesn't just end with developers: Gamer's too are hurt and possibly at risk of not only getting ripped off but on being stolen from.


A game that was released on Steam a while back known as Flight Simulator X was seen to have actual malware in the files. This malware is a type of data protection known as DRM. DRM, an acronym for Digital Right managment, is a type of anti-pirating software put into a game in order to prevent it from being resold without the developers consent.  A malicious file is called ‘test.exe’ and it is designed to extract passwords from the Chrome web browser, according to the user who discovered it. (B.Calwell 2018)  The issue with DRM however is that it is often extremely invasive and viewed to be close to cyber spying.  The specific DRM installed alongside the game Flight Simulator X has the ability to snatch passwords and usernames from the internet browsers of people who bought the 100 dollar DLC for Flight Simulator X. Of course, people were outraged and when the development team known as FSLabs were asked why this occurred, the founder Lefteris Kalamaras had to explain that it had been added for the sake of tracking pirates.  

This did not ease the anger of the gaming community. Some even argued that the DLC could be a backdoor for other malware to get in and make the buyers PC more susceptible to other hackers and viruses. Many also stated that the safety of individuals who had bought legitimate copies of the game through the perfectly legal route could be negatively impacted by this DRM. 


Taking into account all of the factors I have discussed above it is very clear that Steam is in serious need of a revamp. Steam used to have a very high reputation among the game development community. Nowadays however, the site is considered to be a mess and has lost its prestigious reputation. Valve must reconsider their approach to greenlighting games or else I fear other competitors will take on the developers who are losing faith in Steams capability.






Post 1: Steam: A platform for blossoming independent games.

Steam is an online platform that enables independent game developers to publish their games on a well known gaming site. These games can then be bought or downloaded for free by eager fans and fellow developers. Independent game companies (often referred to as Indies) are developers who want to make a game without the backing of a professional company or publisher. (Steam 2018) An indie developer can be a game veteran with years of experience in the industry or a fourteen year old making games in their bedroom. The important factor is that they both fall under the title of indie as they don't have the backing of a major publisher. While professional games may also be ported to Steam for people to download and play, it's more common to find small independent developers than larger titles.




While some use steam for fun, it is also a means to make a living for many companies. Heart  Machine, for example, is an indie company based in California and was founded by Alx Preston. Alx is a lover of video games for many reasons. One of the reasons, however, was due to their ability to let him ignore living with a congenital heart condition and feel immersed in a fantasy world. Alx wanted to explore the way how living with a heart condition effected people and created a game where the main character has a life long illness. This game was Hyper Light Drifter. He created a game called Hyper Light Drifter and began a kickstarter to help fund it. It was highly successful and blasted past its initial funding goal of 27,000 dollars. (Vice, 2016)


As you can see, Alx was not a professional developer. However, due to the existence of Steam as a platform, he was able to develop a game and create a business from it. The ability to release their game on Steam has led to not only crafted a platform for smaller developers, but Steam has enabled developers to make a living from doing something they love.





Personally, I adore Steam. It's a platform that enables independent developers to release their games and has a strong emphasis on freedom. Just about anyone can create a beautiful unique game and release it to the masses without the backing of a massive publisher. It allows for creative freedom and creates a sort of level playing field. Anybody from a kid playing around on their second hand laptop to a professional game developer can make something to put on Steam. This is why I have come to love Steam both as a gamer and a game developer.




Steam. 2018. Steam, the ultimate online game platform. [ONLINE] Available at: http://store.steampowered.com/about/. [Accessed 17 April 2018].



(Vice, 2016) ‘Hyper Light Drifter’ - Inside the Video Game Inspired by a Life-Threatening Illness. [Online Video]. 14 June 2016. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUT5SBZkVys&t=135s. [Accessed: 8 February 2018].

Heart Machine: Hyper Light Drifter. 2018. Heart Machine: Hyper Light Drifter. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.heart-machine.com. [Accessed 17 April 2018].


Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Renegade Prince February: Week 3 development



-3D model
-Hair
-Skin
-Eyes
-Armour
mixamo
-Plan for us all
-What we've all been doing
-kieran: level editing texture painting
-Dean: UI signs texture editing
-Adam: Programming (was absent for day)




Katie:

Hello everyone! This is the third week of development for Renegade Prince. This is the week where I was supposed to get the character model of the prince completely finished for my programmer.


This was the work I did. I added a texture to the characters skin turning him blue. It was actually a yellow/beige leather texture that I put a partially transparent blue square over to give it the blue tint.







I used the rectangle tool to draw a blue square. I also lowered its opacity so the texture of the leather was still visible.












This is a skin texture I'm making for a process called UV wrapping. This is when you apply a texture to a mesh in order to give a mesh color and texture. Here's a quick example I drew up:





In Blender, I left clicked on these three lines and pulled them. This created a double window so I could check the UV mapping while selecting the 3D model.




In the bottom left corner of the right window, I selected the square tab and was able to select a different editor window.








I then selected the UV/Image Editor.









I hit A with my mouse hovering over the 3D editor window in edit mode. I hit U and selected smart UV project to unwrap the mesh.






On the right, you can see the mesh on the UV editor segment.



I then needed to create a material to help UV map the model. I created a new material called skin_prince.



I then went to the textures tab and opened a png of the skin texture I had made in photoshop. Clicking new created a new texture and allowed me to edit it.





I clicked the open button and selected the skin for the prince.








In the rendered view, here it is applied to the model.










 I then went about making his hair. Boy, was that something else!



Making the princes hair was no easy feat. I spent a lot of time looking up tutorials and what not to understand how to make his hair. 










First of all, I had to make a vertex group where I selected a bunch of sections of where his hair should be and called it scalp. This is important to do so his hair would come out of there and not sprout all over his body.




After selecting the areas I wanted to be his scalp, I went to the vertex group tab (the triangle icon with the three dots) and I clicked the plus to make a new vertex group. I then named it scalp and clicked the assign button. This assigned the vertex's I had selected to this specific vertex group. To test if this worked, I clicked the select and deselect option on the right. Deselecting deselected the vertex group but when I clicked select it had selected all the same vertex's as in the image above. This was good as it meant the vertex group was assigned to the correct vertices.









After that, I went to the particle system option and clicked the plus to get a new particle system. This is how I would make the hair. 



When selecting the emitter type, I changed it to hair as this particle system is supposed to be hair. An important thing to remember before doing this is to select any modifiers on your character mesh and apply them so they don't mess with the particle effect. This happened to me a few times because I forgot to apply the mirror modifier on the character model.









After doing that, I then began to alter the character hair length. The prince has relatively short hair and I didn't want to have to cur each individual strand. The white/grey strands in the pictures are the hair particles, by the way. I also selected for the hair to emit from faces because if they emitted from vertices they would be too tightly bunched together and not look right. Hair is distributed all over the scalp anyway, so having individual hair strands in a more dispersed manner looks more realistic.







Now that the hair is done, I can now get to making the material for the hair. This was the hair color the princes hair would have. I clicked on the material tab and clicked the plus to make a new material. I then double clicked the materials name and named it hair. The blue material above is the skin of the prince who is blue in color.









I then double clicked on the hair material and began to change its values. I started off by clicking on the color tab and from a color wheel pop up I dragged the icon into the orange section of the wheel. This changed his hair color to orange. 







Now with the hair material made, I needed to assign it to the particle effect. The material itself may be made, but without linking it to the particle effect the characters hair would never change. To do this I wnt back into the particle settings  and selected the material slot to be the material I just created called 'hair'. 




Now when looking at the prince in rendered view, his hair finally had the material color. Now you'll notice his hair is all on the left side of his face and looks very pointy and stiff. To make the hair less stiff and have it behave more like a hair strand, I needed to give it a B-spline and steps of six. Six steps basically means the hair strand is 6 times more bendy and flexible as opposed to being as straight. This effect will have no immediate impact on the hair but is important for later on when I am styling the hair.





I also turned the display to show the hair rendered and the color to have 6 steps.











I have also not yet assigned the characters hair to the proper vertex group. This was the earlier hair group I had created for where the hair would sprout from. I went into the particle effect settings and under the vertex groups drop down I selected the scalp for the density setting. This meant the hair would come from the scalp.







In the pictures above, you will notice the hair is on the left side of the character model. The reason is because I have not applied the mirror modifier yet to the characters body.








Now the hair is all on the scalp. As of now, it looks quite thick and pointy. It also doesn't look like hair and more like spines. In order to fix that, there are a few things I needed to do. 




First, I selected the interpolated option under the children tab. This was because the characters hair needed to have smaller sections of hair like how most people do for added realism. However, I decided to go for the option interpolated. Simple would only create more copies of the same hairs. Interpolated on the mother hand would vary the length of the the hair strands so they were more realistic.





After this, I then went into the styling options. To do this I went into the bottom options and clicked on particle edit. Here I was able to edit the way the hair looked. I used the tools on the left to change the characters hair. Comb was used to brush back the characters hair and I cut his hair with the cut option. 






The next thing to do was to give hair hair a more realistic tone. To do this, I brought up the node editor option. This is a segment where you could edit the hair's material in more detail to make it look better. The code below shows what the hair's code looked like by default when I opened it up. Material output was the box that showed how the hair looked when done while diffuse BDSF was the shader I had used with the hair material I created earlier.










I then began to add more nodes to change the way the hair looked. I used a hair BDSF node that is orange for the princes main hair. I also had another hair BDSF node which was set on showing the color the hair reflected when hit by light. The mix shader node combined this information and put it into the material output so both values blended together nicely. 






This is what the princes hair looked like after a while. For the finished version I actually changed his relfection color to a darker orange so it didn't look so grey. I then began playing with some alternate styling by giving him different hair options such as curl.





His eyes were a simple black material with some heightened reflective to give them a wetter look. For his hair, it was also a material that I gave some different qualities in the node editor.

I've also been finishing off his armor in my spare time (the weird white thing around his chest is an early build of the armor) and I'm trying to get him fully finished before week 4 begins so my programmer will have a character to use. The issue with this however is that I don't think I'll have his armor made and the character exported properly by that time. His hair is giving me some issues and I doubt I will be able to get him fully done but I'll still try. He is almost finished however so I should be able to get him done. This is my first time making a character model completely from scratch, but I hope to get him finished soon.

UPDATE:

Although I never actually got to use the princes hair for the final character model, it was still very fun to make. His hair seemed to create issues with the mixamo rigger (an online platform that allows you to rig and animate a 3D model) so I had to scrap it and just give him a helmet.  I wanted to keep hair hair very badly but I needed to think about my teams well being and focusing on a small cosmetic issue as opposed to the bigger picture would be very selfish of me. Due to this, I had to delete the princes hair and give him a helmet instead. It wasn't as pretty but it worked.



Team stuff:



Kieran:


Kierans task was to learn how to do texture painting and to set it up. This was a difficult task that I intended for him to start but he actually managed to get it done and fully implemented (with a little guidance from our mentor). I'm really impressed with his work so far and I hope to cover some more stuff on the Monday. He's new to game development (as he transferred from multimiedia) so the fact he's picking up on so much stuff so quickly is extremely impressive.





Adam:

Unfortunately, Adam was absent from class on Monday (doctors appointment). He will however be working on some more code on Monday.


Dean:

Dean has created some menu's and been doing research for creating a real time menu. A real time menu is essentially a menu that shows some sort of scene in the background to give it a more realistic and professional look as opposed to being a still image with buttons over it. It's a more advanced menu but will benefit the game polish wise in the long run.



Well, thats all for this week. Bye! :D