Monday, January 30, 2012

Collection Game and World War II

First time I made two blog posts in a day, yay.

Game Design and Production - INFR 2330

So last week, I talked about how we created a board game called "Portals, Sharks and Gates". It was a pretty epic game actually. Branan ended up modelling the entire board in 3D for some unknown reason. So what should have taken like half an hour to make in Photoshop ended up costing him an entire night. I mean, the end result was pretty cool though.

We wanted to make our game look legit, so we decided to print off our board on vinyl and our cards on card stock. It ended up costing us 40 bucks. It was expensive but we thought it was worth it so last Monday I ended up spending my morning cutting out the cards.

Looks pretty sick though.

Little did we know that we had to make board games every week. Knowing that, this week we decided not to spend that much money on it, since we'd be poor by the end of the semester if we did.

Since we already had a pretty epic board, we decided to re-use our board for our collection game. Our prof said we were allowed to do so, so I was totally for it. The board costed us $20 alone and I'm going to get as much out of it as I can.

So for our collection game, we're calling our game "Pirates, Sharks and Gold" so that the PSG on the board continues to make sense. The game premise is pretty simple, you're a pirate with a boat, little money and no crew. Your goal is to collect money to hire crew members for your trip before rival pirates get their ship going and steal your loot. So essentially you're collecting money to collect people.
I like to think you're playing this guy.

In addition to making a collection game, we also had to make a game with a World War II theme that didn't have the concept of capture, elimination or death. It was kind of hard to think of a good concept for it, and we spent almost two hours just thinking about some way we could actually make this work. In the end though, I came up with an idea of espionage and information hiding since it was a pretty big part in the war yet didn't necessarily need to deal with capture, elimination or death.

Unfortunately our cards that we printed out for "Portals, Sharks and Gates" couldn't be used for this game since they just didn't work. However I have a bunch of spare Magic cards lying around that I figured we could use as placeholder cards for now. There's only four types of cards, so I just picked out ten cards each from four lands.

I knew I'd find a use for these cards someday.

So this game is essentially a card based game for 2 - 4 players. The theme of the game is that you are a military commander during the second world war, and it's up to you to gather as much information about your enemies while protecting your own. In this game, information is represented by the cards each player holds. Essentially there are four types of cards, reveal, weapons research, battle plans and economy cards. Each card has a unique effect attached onto them which you can use to target other player in an attempt to either reveal their cards or to take their cards.

It's up to the player to determine how they want to "hide" their information. It can be done through mind games or just clever shuffling so that people can't determine what cards you hold exactly. Once a player loses all of their cards, they're out of the game. A winner is decided when all the cards belong to one person.

Indeed.

Having to make two games a week for Game Design is pretty tiring actually. It's fun to actually play the game and see what's fun and what's not though. Like for example last week when we were playing PSG, we noticed that the sharks were too over powered since we had it so they sent you back to the beginning. With that we decided that the sharks would just rob you and send you back 20 spots instead, which seemed to be better, but still somewhat overpowered.

At the very end though, like literally very end, there were two shark nodes one after another. If you landed on the first one, you got sent back 20 nodes. To another shark. And since our rules stated that when you get sent back you trigger the ability of your new node as well, we had to get sent back another 20 nodes. To another shark. So we get sent back again. To another freaking shark. That shark would send you back to the second spot on the board. So you went from the second last spot to the second spot.

The Internet never fails to deliver when called upon.

It keeps things interesting, that's for sure.

Game Design in Game Design

My computer is still dying but I must blog. I hope it doesn't crash on me.

Game Design and Production - INFR 2330

So ever since I entered the wonderful world of MMORPGs back in like grade 8, I've always kinda picture the real world as a not-that-exciting MMO. I mean it shares pretty much the same fundamentals. You control a character (You. Or in this case me.) who is improving skills and experience (learning and stuff) who also does stuff, like go to school.

It's not the most exciting or epic game in most cases. However, when you really think about it though, there are a lot of things that we do in our every day life that is pretty much like a game. We talked about game atoms in class the other day and we said that games revolve around fundamental concepts like systems of interactions and meaningful decisions. Well in that case, couldn't school be seen as a game too?

I wish my GPA was that high.

Naturally, school has systems of interactions as well. When we work in a group, that's team based interaction. When we do an individual assignment, you can think of it like PvE where you're soloing all the content. The guy that makes up the class structure essentially is the game designer and he or she creates the level that the players, or the students get to interact with.

Sometimes it's designed to be a deathmatch.

Take my Game Design class as an example. It's probably the class that is most like an actual game. Well that and Computer Graphics, but the homework questions are killing me so I don't want to talk about it. Anyways, in Game Design, our class is structured differently in comparison to other classes. Normally, the class syllabus kinda looks like this:

Still need to do that clippings assignment ugh.

So that class is my Entrepreneurial Finance class. It's a pretty standard class, a mid term, a final, a term project and a bunch of assignments. Pretty standard, not too exciting. My Game Design class on the other hand looks like this:

Online Participation marks are the reason this exists

For one, it has a snazzy graphic. And I'm all for snazzy graphics. Just looking at the colors and the chart make it a ton more interesting. In addition to that, the class is also structured in a different way than most classes. The biggest things is that there aren't any exams. We still have all the homework and assignments, but in addition to that we also have participation marks.

So how is this related to game design? Well, in the finance course, everything is pre-defined. Everyone gets the same homework questions, everyone gets marked on the same assignments, everything is the same for everyone. If I wanted to do something more, well, I couldn't. The class wasn't designed to be flexible like that. The game design course on the other hand has a significant portion of the grade dedicated to choice. We don't have to Tweet, we don't have to write a blog. We have choices.

Every time I write a blog I glow because shaders.

I mean you could easily make the choice to not play the game, and in this case you would fail the course. But if you wanted to succeed, there are different paths for you to take. We as students can make meaningful choices that affect the outcome. If I really, really, really didn't want to write a blog, I could choose not to and just Tweet a lot. If I really hated Twitter, I could use WebCT forums (Which are so gross btw) or write a cool blog.

These choices make the class more interesting. We only get to make one decision in the finance class, either do it or don't. In the Game Design class, we have more choices after we make that first choice to do things. This course promotes meaningful decisions, which is pretty cool. If we choose to do more work, we get a better grade. Grades are kind of like achievement points then. I like achievement points.

But trophies are better than achievements. Just saying.

I'm not even just saying that the participation marks are making it more fun. I'm personally not too big of a fan on participation marks, but that's a different thing. I like having choices.A game like Infamous is open world and allows us to make decisions that will ultimately affect gameplay and the story. I like having the option of frying random people on the street.

I mean, linear, pre-defined games are fun too. Like I love Final Fantasy X (I even liked XIII), but at the end of the day the gameplay is completely linear and our actions are bound by the story. Choices allow for more interesting gameplay, it might not necessarily be better, but it makes it more interesting. 


Just a few more days.

Not all "linear" classes are boring and un-exciting, but I think school would definitely be more interesting if all of our classes had a bit more flair to them.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

aoinfsanflsamfn

You know, with all the non-programming work I've been doing the last week or so for school, I realized that all I really want to do is sit down and program some shaders.

Really, I actually really enjoy programming. Shaders makes it a lot better too since I get to do cool things. So yesterday, I thought I could actually start doing some programming since I had a lot of my other school work done. But no. There's an issue and I really don't know how to fix this.

:(

Intermediate Computer Graphics - INFR 2350

Wednesday. I already had another homework question done and was itching to do more. Shaders are really cool, but initializing it and setting it up with OpenGL is incredibly messy. I decided I was going to created a Shader class so that everything would be neat and organized. So I spent a few hours sorting through the code and organizing it into a Shader class. It wasn't the best class in the world, but it was neater. I was ok with this.

So I hit F5 and lo and behold, it worked. There were a few issues with it, but I quickly fixed it up and my program worked exactly like it did a few hours ago, but my code was a lot neater now. Totally satisfied and happy with it. Went to sleep content with the day's work.

---

Thursday. I still had some time before my Sound and Audio lab, so I figured I would open up Visual Studio and do some more programming. I opened up my project and did a few small changes and hit F5 expecting the usual black box to pop up and start loading my stuff.

Looks pretty normal so far.

But the black box didn't pop up. Seconds passed and I got confused. That box was supposed to pop up. But it didn't. One minute. Still not on screen. I hit the stop debugging button expecting it to stop debugging. Didn't happen. The window stayed frozen like that. At this point I got kind of worried. What was going on?

A few minutes later this happened.

Not going to swear on a blog for school.

I like died. What was this error. What is going on. anfnsafnf. I hit ok and the window dissapeared, but Visual Studio was still frozen. After a bit it resumed it's regular functions. Hoping it was just a random freak occurrence, I decided to run it again. F5.

LINKER ERROR: I CAN'T OPEN YOUR .EXE BECAUSE I HATE YOU.
I didn't get a picture of it and I can't replicate it anymore since Visual Studio is being dumb. I think it looked something like this though.

Can't open my exe?! What?!

I mean, I've seen that error before. I think. I was completely confused and at this point I was actually worried. Something was wrong with my program and I didn't know what. I hit F5 a few more times just to confirm my fears, and each time the same linker error would occur.

I restarted Visual Studio and re-opened my project. Hit F5. Same linker error.

Restarted my computer. Re-opened Visual Studio and my project. F5. Same linker error.

At that point it was almost time for class so I decided that I would go to class and see if the TA could help me out. I get there and ask him about my error and I show him all the errors I got. He said that if Visual Studio recommended that I save all files and exit, that wasn't good.

Well yea. I got that.

He told me to close Visual Studio and then delete the debug folders and see if that would fix it, so I tried.

But it's not opennnnnnnnn

Restarted my computer and finally could delete it. Opened up my project again and hit F5. Visual Studio compiled all my code and almost immediately the black box I was hoping to see popped up and my application ran perfectly. I was ecstatic. So happy that I could finally go back to programming.

I closed my application and thinking that my troubles were behind me, I could start working again. Made a few changes and hit F5.

asfdsafsaf

Same error. Waited it out, then hit F5 again. Same linker error.

Closed Visual Studio and tried to delete the folder again, same folder error.

I opened up another project and ran it, worked perfectly. Hoping that it was my solution file that got messed up, I created a fresh project and copy and pasted all my code into it. Hit F5. Same errors.

Every other project I had was working fine. But this one wasn't. WHYYYYYYY?! I tried a trillion things I could think of, but nothing would fix my issues. Not knowing how to fix it, I went to sleep.

---

Friday. I did a defrag and a virus scan over night hoping that it would fix something. Opened up Visual Studio again and bam. Error. I would be crying if this wasn't so terribly terrible. Since I couldn't delete my folder, I figured if I renamed my project I could create a new .exe and wouldn't have to deal with the fact that it couldn't open up the .exe. I renamed it and ran it. It worked. Closed it and started working. And for about 20 minutes I actually was somewhat productive.

The process went like this. Program -> Compile -> If it compiled properly, test and repeat, if not, close, rename and repeat. It was such a terrible way to circumvent this issue. But on my fourth iteration, that method entirely stopped working.

I tried to delete the actual .exe itself to see if it was possible.

I heard you like .exes so I put your .exe in your .exe so you can't program.

Naturally it wasn't. Apparently my .exe was open in my .exe. So my program was open in itself. Thanks. With that new piece of information I decided to open up my task manager and check my processes.

You are seeing things that shouldn't exist.

I had nothing running or compiling. Yet there they were. Three of them in fact. I tried to end process. Obviously didn't work. However I came to to the conclusion that somehow they were still running even though they weren't supposed to be, which is why I can't delete them.

And here I am.

Like I'm actually dying here. Help me.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Board Games and Game Vocabulary

In this blog post, I'll be talking about the board game creation process I went through in class and during the week as well as talking about game designers and common vocabulary.

Game Design and Production - INFR 2330


Board Game Prototype - Race to the End

In class on Monday, we were tasked to created a race to the end type board game. I never really had any real experience making a board game before. Well actually no, back in grade 6 we had like a month where we had indoor recess all the time since it was too cold to go outside. Me and some of my friends actually went and designed a board game. I don't remember what the development process was, but I ended up making an actual board and tokens and it was actually an epic game.

The board is now used to block sunlight from growing algae in a fishtank

I actually kinda wanna play this game now, but I digress.

Anyways, so during the development of this game, I really didn't know what to do, so I just went and drew a a giant spline since I like splines.

Kinda looks like Cat-Mul-Rom

I figured that a single path would be kinda boring, so then I added a few more paths.

Meh

The point of the game was to obviously go from the start to the end. Every player would start off with a modifier of one and then when you hit a divide 2 slot, you would divide your modifier by 2 and if you hit a multiply 2 slot, you would multiply your modifier by 2. Depending on your modifier, you would flip that many number of coins which would determine the number of spaces you would move.

I didn't really like the board layout so I scrapped that and made a new one. Unfortunately I didn't take a picture of it. It was awesome though. I had a lot more paths and modifiers and I had a few wildcard zones where you had to say your modifier in binary, octal and hexadecimal. Yes, I'm a giant nerd. I'm a nerd baller.

We had to work as a group to design a game too, so on Wednesday after class, me and my friends Branan, Rachel and Mackenzie talk for an hour to show each other our game. Mack's game had a linear game with a money system which you used to buy items that would influence the game and open gates. Rachel's game was a linear game where you would encounter sharks that would send you back to the beginning. Branan's game wasn't complete, but he talked about an idea with portals.

We essentially took the one concept from each game and fused them together to create a super game. Mack's money and gate system, Rachel's sharks, Branan's portals and my modifiers.

So many colours.

Our end result was a game where the goal is to make it to the end, gathering money and getting items from shops while avoiding sharks. Pretty epic. Not sure if it'll be the next Monopoly though.

Game Designers and a Common Vocabulary

After reading chapter 1 in our textbook and then reading the article "I have no words and I must design" by Greg Costikyan, I feel like I have a better insight on game design vocabulary. Previously, I always kind of knew that there wasn't really a set definition for these kind of things, but reading it made me realize just how important it is to have a set definition for certain things so people not only know what they're talking about, but also so that there is a clear direction for development.

While reading through both sets of work, I kept getting reminded of the threads I've read on the Internet about eSports. For those that don't know, I love eSports a lot. They're essentially electronic sports, or competitive gaming. I follow the StarCraft professional scene, and I absolutely love it. Every once and a while though, there's always a thread that pops up that eventually leads into the discussion of whether or not it's actually considered a "sport". Some people advocate that it's not a sport since it's not a physical activity, whereas other people advocate that it is a sport since it's a competitive game that has physical (APM) and mental elements. 

Every blog that mentions pro StarCraft needs to have a picture of BoxeR.

Similarly, Costikyan asks a lot of hypothetical questions in his article, one of them being "What is a game?". I have to agree that there is no definition of what a game is, similarly to how there is no true definition of what a sport is. He goes through a lot of things he doesn't consider a game, and then goes through a lot of things that he believes that a game must have as well. I agree with all the things he said a game must have, but I disagree with certain things he said a game wasn't.

But I guess that it proves our points in the sense that there really isn't a generally accepted definition of what a game is. He said puzzles aren't games, I feel that they are. He says games aren't toys since toys don't have intrinsic objectives, but aren't games like MMOs like that as well? Games like World of Warcraft have no rigidly defined objectives, but are made up of what the player feels like doing.

Yea, I was a Warlock with Thunderfury. I spent a year farming random stuff for stuff.

Even in the textbook, the authors also spend an entire chapter dedicated to game design terms, even saying that "there are many definitions of the word 'game', none of which has been universally accepted" and then later saying that "[they've] made [the definitions] up to describe process that [they] both experience and regularly hear about".

When I first read that, I did a double take as best as I could while reading. I was kind of confused, since I wasn't used to reading a textbook where the authors themselves admit that they made up certain things since things don't have a universal definition.

Both texts together make me believe that although the fundamental concepts of designing a game is known by professionals, we don't really have an accurate description of everything that could encapsulate what we want to express. I could say that StarCraft was a sport, but you could disagree since you might not think so. I could say that puzzles are games, but you might think that they aren't because it isn't dynamic enough.

StarCraft is a sport btw. No one can ever take that away from me.

Overall, I do feel like there needs to be some sort of universal definition for some of the main and core concepts on game designing. It would make it a lot easier to communicate and instead of spending time explaining definitions, people could spend that time designing.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Shaders and Homework Assignments

I've also decided to split up my blog posts into two separate blog posts per week, one for Computer Graphics and one for Game Design. Makes it easier that way.

Intermediate Computer Graphics - INFR 2350

So last week I said that my mind was blown when I learnt about shaders. Man, shaders are pretty cool. I spent the last week playing around with shaders trying to get my homework assignments done, and they can actually do some pretty sick things.

Shaderman!


Overall though, shaders are really cool. I ended up finishing two of the homework questions for the week, so I have a pretty solid start, although I really want to be even higher than I am now. I learned how to color, texture and move objects using shaders. Actually now that I think about it, that's pretty much all there is with shaders isn't it? Pretty much just the manipulation of colors and position. Obviously there are harder and more complex programs, but at the end of the day, it's pretty cool how all we're doing is just modifying two values.

I was pretty surprised as to how easy it was to transition and program in Cg. Makes sense though seeing how Cg was designed to derive from C and to be as easy to use as possible. I found that actually coding in Cg wasn't the hard part; getting the shader program to work in my regular C++ program was such a pain. Took me forever to get parameters to work, and even now it's just like ugh.

Yes, I have problems, displacement-map-troll-face.

As shown above, I managed to get displacement maps working. I think I'm starting to understand the power of images. They can store so much information and you can actually do so much with them if you know how to use it. Really gets me thinking of cool things that can be done. Granted I'm still pretty terrible with implementation, but it's still pretty cool.

Gonna try to attempt some of the harder homework questions over the next two weeks. See how much I can actually get done. I'm actually pretty excited to see what I end up accomplishing.

---

I know that a lot of people have issues and complaints with the homework questions. I'm not sure who actually reads these blogs, but I kinda wanna just state my opinion on them too. I know that I'm probably in the group of students that aren't going to be majorly affected by the system change, but still. Is the change justified? Yea, it totally is. I mean come on, there were 16 people that could write the final for Animation last semester the week before the exam. It's so obvious that most, if not all of the 70 or so people that actually managed to get their points that week probably didn't do all their work themselves.

That said, I feel like the system is too biased to people who actually get the content faster or read ahead. I mean, people (including myself) were getting questions done before the TA even taught us how to set up Cg. That would be fine and all if it wasn't for this fancy equation here.

Fancy.

I mean it totally makes sense. People should be rewarded for doing their questions first, and naturally the more people that have it done, the more likely that the answers will be shared around the class. It solves a lot of the problems that came up in Animation, yet at the same time ends up creating new problems as well. But this system doesn't even reward people for doing it first, it's just an illusion that we're being rewarded since we're just getting the full experience value, we're not getting an extra bonus for doing it first.

The people that are slower programmers get screwed over so hard. I mean so hard. Like I said, I already had some questions done, but I'm still in competition with the other people that decided to work on the questions too. This competition sucks since I only got two points for one question, but at the same time, it sucks even more for the people that haven't gotten any questions done since A) the easy questions are all done, and B) the somewhat easy questions don't even give full points for their questions. It's going to make getting to 65 harder for everyone.

The current system deals with essentially punishing everyone. Honestly, if I were to design this system, I would change it so that there would be both rewards and punishments. That way theres more of a balance. The way I would do it is:

I hope I didn't make any errors. That would be embarrassing.

In essence, the way I would do it is to reward the first person to do a question by giving him an additional 20% experience for the question, and the following four people would get the full experience value. After that, every question is only worth 60% of their original value. This would reward people for getting their homework questions done early (and first) while punishing people who decide to slack off and do it last minute. I feel like this would be a better compromise since although work sharing would still exist, people would need to do a lot more questions to get the points needed while not completing shutting down those who want to do legitimate work, but are just slow at it.

Of course, the current system works too. I'm a bigger fan of smaller classrooms anyways.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Uno - What I Liked and Didn't Like

Game Design and Production - INFR 2330

Game Details

So for my very first Game Design Class, we had a section of the class where we played board games in an attempt to analyze those games for design features. Our group played Uno. We had a group of 8 people and we played three games of Uno wherein each game took about 20 - 30 minutes.


Major Observations

Uno is a simple multiplayer card game where there are three types of cards. The first type is regular numbered cards, the second type is “ability” cards and the third type is wildcard cards. The rules of Uno in a nut shell is essentially to get rid of all your cards by playing either a card of the same color as the last played card, or of the same color of the last played card.

Uno.

Five things I liked about Uno was that the rules are really simple, the cards are very clear, the game can be played with as many people as you like, the game requires skill, and that the game is fun. 

Uno is a very simple game, and as such the rules can be learnt really quickly. Many of the members in the group have not played Uno before, or forgot about the rules. However, since the rules were so easy, everyone got the rules after only a few minutes of going through it. The cards are also very clear which helps when playing the game. The cards themselves are really simple, with being just a coloured card with a number on it, or a very simple picture that shows what they do. This goes hand in hand with the simple rules to allow new players to jump right into the game. Since Uno is a game that does not have a true limit on how many people can play it, as many of your friends can play it as you want, assuming that you have enough cards. This is good since with other card games that have player limits, people don’t have to sit out and rotate out after ever game. I’m also a really big fan of skill based games, and although Uno has a luck component, I feel that there is still a skill factor involved that allows people to play mind games with each other which can make the game more fun and exciting. Lastly, the game of Uno is fun. I wouldn’t like the game very much if it wasn’t fun, so I was glad we got to play a fun game.

What. They have card holders?!

Five things I didn’t like about Uno was that the pick up four card is imbalanced, luck plays too big of a role, re-shuffling the deck gets annoying after a while, it’s hard to play when there’s a lot of people sitting at the table, and that wildcards can only be played if there are not alternatives.

The pick up four cards is the most imbalanced card ever. It makes the next person pick up four cards, skips their turn and allows you to choose whatever color it is. I don’t like that since compared to the other cards, it is the absolute most broken card of them all; it’s just vastly superior to every card. Although there is still a skill element, there is an even larger luck element which sometimes can make the game very volatile and uncontrollable which I feel is not very fun. I also found that re-shuffling the deck after you run out of cards gets kind of tedious and annoying after a while. Even though it is unavoidable with these types of games, I don’t really like it. Although people don’t have to sit out when you play Uno, if there are too many people playing then the actual deck of cards also needs to get passed around the table since the game is not very space efficient; people need to be able to reach the deck and main pile, which not everyone can do if there’s a large group of people playing. Lastly, I don’t like how wildcards can only be played if there aren’t alternatives. I feel that it limits the game, and that limits like these don’t necessarily make the game better.

Putting the guy next to you on lockdown is not fun for that guy.

One Design Element I Would Change

The biggest thing I would change would be the pick up four cards. As it is right now, they are completely broken because playing the card results in three events: the next player picks up four, skips their turn, and you can control what the color is. This is like combining the wildcard with the skip a turn card with a pick up two card and then making it even stronger by making the next person pick up four instead. I understand that this card is supposed to be strong, but it’s too strong in my opinion.

Nerf plz.

If I designed Uno, one thing I would definitely change would be to remove one of those effects. Removing any one of the effects on the current pick up four cards would still make it a very strong card, yet will lower its power so that it is not completely over powered. I would personally opt for removing the wildcard effect since I feel that of the three effects, the card pickup and the turn skip both affect the same player, whereas the wildcard affect affects a different player. As such, it makes more sense since both effects target the same player and are working synergistically to essentially destroy that player.

Friday, January 13, 2012

First Week Back at School; Already Tired.

So apparently this semester we have to write online blogs. Not really much of a blogger so this would be an interesting thing for me to do. I'll try to get new blogs posted every Thursday or Friday and for this semester, I'll be splitting up my blog into two sections, one for my computer graphics course and one for my game design course. Should be fun. Anyways, to actual content!

Intermediate Computer Graphics - INFR 2350

So when I was younger, video games were like magic. I didn't understand much back then, and I certainly didn't understand how video games worked and how they were made. There was a bit of mystery and magic about them that just made them really cool. As I got a bit older and started to learn how to program, bits and pieces of this magic started to go away as I learned about how things are done.

It's kinda like when a little kid figures out that Santa doesn't actually exist. It kinda sucks that your favorite home intruder doesn't actually exist, but then you realize that adults everywhere managed to somehow convince so many kids around the world that something like that exists, and it's cool in it's own way.

This kid just realized he's sitting on a big pile of non-existent.


Computer Animation was the first course in university that really started to make me figure out a lot more about how video games were done. I learned all about animation blending, forward kinematics, inverse kinematics and many other fun things. The prof also used a lot of Uncharted examples, which was unfortunate because I actually had Uncharted 3 at home, so when I just wanted to relax and play some Uncharted, I ended up running Drake into the walls just to see dem IKs.

With that course behind me now, and my experience of Uncharted ruined forever, I made it into Intermediate Computer Graphics with the same prof. Now, when I got Uncharted 3, I actually had Arkham City as well, but I decided to play Uncharted 3 first. Just as luck would have it, the prof would end up using Arkham City as an example when talking about the magical (or should I say, non magic destroying?) things known as shaders.

No Kanye, not those "shaders".


Now I kinda knew what to expect going into that class. But shaders absolutely still absolutely blew my mind. My brain was so blown that I used absolutely twice in that sentence and don't feel like fixing it. As a programmer and a terrible artist, I always wondered how the big game companies made their graphics so awesome. The concept of normal maps absolutely changed my perspective of texturing. I always knew that textures were just data, but I never even considered any other ways to use them. Completely changed my view on how things are done and what can be accomplished with a bit of creative thinking.

I played some Arkham City today. However I also spent a lot of time not playing Arkham City since I was too busy rotating the camera around the character trophies playing spot the shaders. My favorite one to look at was Zsasz. He has a ton of tally scars on his body that he cut into himself apparently since he likes cutting things, and they look kinda bumpy and like they would feel gross if you were to touch them. Also because he looks like he would be really sweaty. Aside from that though, his scars actually look really cool. I mean with all the shadows that give them depth, the way the light reflects off his scars, and even the way the scars seem to meld into the mesh once you look at them from the side. Apparently Zsasz is doesn't actually have scars. They're just an illusion produced by the magic-killing concept known as shaders and hes just a big phoney.

His name is also really hard to spell. I mean come on. 
Omg it's a palindrome.

A ton of other characters also have this phenomenon where certain parts of their body/armor are completely flat when you look at them from the side. Makes the world seem kind of flat.

Game Design and Production - INFR 2330

When I actually got around to playing Arkham City, I obviously started playing as Batman because spoilers alert, I'm Batman.

And apparently I'm also Catwoman since I get to play as her as well. I really liked how Eidos included multiple playable characters this time around. Arkham Asylum was awesome, but I feel like they really improved on the mechanics and overall design of the game in general in Arkham City.

The most interesting thing about Arkham City in my opinion is the way the combat is designed. Combat in the Arkham series has always been unbelievable unrealistic and sometimes kind of silly. I mean, I'm pretty sure people can't physically move that fast. But come on, you play as Batman, he's supposed to be overpowered and straight up 114% awesome. Catwoman on the other hand isn't as overpowered as Batman, and the developers had to figure out a way to make it so that Catwoman and Batman fought relatively similarly, but still different enough that it would actually feel like you were fighting with different characters.

How is Catwoman so tall.


From a design perspective, I still really don't understand what they did or how it works. But it does, and the game certainly feels a lot different depending on what character you're playing. Batman feels like a tank. I almost feel invincible when playing as Batman since it seems like he takes a ton of damage (Except against shotgun guys apparently) and deals a ton of damage. Catwoman on the other hand feels incredibly squishy. I swear her HP goes down just being near enemy units. That I can understand though, they probably just adjusted the defense values for each character so that they take less damage or something.

What I don't understand though, is how they designed it so that even though I'm using the exact same button presses and playing the exact same way, both characters just feel incredibly different. Is it just the animations that give off a certain illusion? I mean, Catwoman definitely has some more uh, flexible animations whereas Batman just kind of barrels through everything cause hes a boss. It might actually be the animations that changes the feel of the gameplay, it might even be that they actually change the stats of each character a bit so that Catwoman is just straight up faster and weaker. Regardless, its something that is interesting to me, and interesting things are interesting.

In my GDW game I made last semester, we ended up creating a top down RTS game called SHFT. In that game, we were only supposed to have one character, but later into the development stage, I decided that I wanted a second character, so being the main programmer, I just added a second character. Our first character Jack was designed as a melee warrior-type character that also knows magic, and our second character Warlock was designed as a magic-based character that has weak defenses but a lot of damage potential. Thinking back on it now, it does actually kind of have somewhat of a resemblance to the whole Batman/Catwoman thing I've been talking about, but I digress. I had a hard time designing it so that the characters actually felt different since at the core, they played exactly the same way, and there wasn't really a situation where it would be better to attack enemies with non-projectile/magic attacks.

I could go up and hit him, but hes over there and I'm not.


I tried a few things such as buffing Jack's melee damage and reducing Warlock's as well as increasing Warlock's magic damage and lowering his health while raising Jack's. It certainly made the characters feel a bit more different, but at the end of the day, both characters still felt pretty similar. Maybe it was just the scope of the game that made it a bit harder to make things feel different. I mean, we certainly didn't have as much development time or experience doing these things.

Obviously the end goal is to get that experience and be able to do that in the future.