Thursday, October 1, 2015

Finn and Jake Investigations!

Hey all! We're wrapping up work on the DLC for Adventure Time: Finn and Jake Investigations here at Vicious Cycle, so I thought I would make a post detailing a few things about the project and what I contributed to it!

So one of the cool things (and frustrating things...) about Vicious Cycle is that we never do the same thing twice. I've got the chance to work on racing games, beat 'em ups, platformers, puzzle games, you name it. Even so this was a whole new fish to fry, we decided to take Adventure Time in the direction of old school adventure games like Monkey Island, Grim Fandango, and Day of the Tentacle. 

As one of three designers, I was tasked primarily with taking the over-arching story that our writer came up with and translating it into chapters and acts of gameplay that featured puzzles and plot. A big part of what I did was study the show for moments that we could reference to in gameplay to give fans of the show something to look forward to. Something to make the game feel just like the show. For example in one of my levels, I had Tree Trunks bake pies for you, which you then used in a later encounter. 

In addition to level and puzzle design, I more or less was tasked with implementing the entire combat system after it had stagnated for awhile with no design work put into it. In a matter of days we had the prototypes of arenas up and running so that the combat wouldn't interfere with how we built the areas for the adventuring portions of the game. The combat in Adventure Time wasn't ideal, but it definitely came a long way from the initial implementation, and it came together very quickly.

Lastly, I pretty much was in charge of all the design and pre planning for all three DLC acts, which we did after the main game was completed. After learning all the lessons we learned during production of the main game, the DLC went really smooth, and I think the fans will get a kick out of it.

I will update this post with some play-through videos once the game is released, but in the meantime here is a brief snippet about a few of the acts I worked on!

Chapter 1 - Act 2: Wizard City
This was the first area I worked on for Adventure Time. I wanted to do something classic that I have seen in plenty of adventure games in the past so that I could use it to learn and get into the groove, as this was a new type of game for us. I decided to present the player with a blocker in the first room they enter, and then have two offshoot rooms, each of which had elements that the other room required. 

This meant the players were free to explore and solve each side room at their own pace, while continuing to be reminded of the main obstacle every time they passed through the main room. In this case, it was a line of wizards waiting to get into where you had to get. You needed to appease each of them to make them move out of the way. This level ended up being one of the most well received internally, even at the end of the projects life.

Chapter 2 - Act 1: Dark Forest
The next Act I worked on was the dark forest, where the investigators are hot on the tail of a mysterious hairy beast. I designed these areas based on screenshots from the show, and tried to get a lot of humor out of the character interactions, from taking the bridge out from under an ape and making him fall, to barfing tree stumps. The puzzles in this section were more straightforward than in other sections, but it leaned heavily on character interactions and humor, and I think it performed admirably in that regard.

Chapter 3 - Act 3: Castle Lemongrab
This was probably my favorite level to work on, and also the level with the most pressure to get right. Lemongrab is a huge fan favorite, myself included. I decided to go with the idea of Pranking Lemongrab, as that was a recurring theme in the show, and one of my favorite scenes revolved around a creepy baby lemon doll that he had, so I incorporated that as well. 

The puzzles weren't very complicated, and this level was also pretty linear, but the voice actor nailed it and all the payoffs came out exactly how I pictured them. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Practice with UE3

Hey there! Decided to get some practice with UE3 recently, so I threw together this room as a visual prototype. Used all the standard assets that come with UDK and pieced this room together. I like the visuals, I think it looks aesthetically pleasing.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventured 2 (Continued)

Hey guys. It's been awhile! I figured I should wrap up my retrospectives on Pac-Man, since I am currently wrapping up our latest project here at Vicious Cycle, and I'll be posting about that one soon, too!

Rather than go into as much detail about the specific levels as in the last post, I will just link to the videos of them being played through, and let them speak for themselves! What I -will- talk a bit about is the final boss fight, which was my first boss fight I got to design here. It was a great learning experience, so it should be fun to reflect on that a bit.

Again! A big thanks to Tealgamemaster on YouTube for letting me use his lets-play videos to show off my levels!

Chapter 2: Paclantis

Chapter 3: Space

Chapter 4: Prehistoric

Chapter 5: Netherworld

Pac Pong Beat Down

Pac Pong Beat Down was the first boss fight I got to design here at VCS. I had some spare time, and our boss designer at the time was a little overwhelmed re-working some earlier bosses, so I stepped in and came up with a document, pitching it to the higher ups and volunteering to take ownership of it. With their approval I moved forward!

The first iteration was close to the final product, but there was some on-paper iteration. The original design was planning to use those balls that have spinning fire around them as the ping pong balls, but with the net and the ghost adds, we decided that the floor would be too busy.

I worked really closely with Visual FX and Gameplay Programming during this boss's construction, and I think during that time we fed off of each other and had a great working relationship. A lot of mutual trust went into it, we managed to take the boss from paper to completion in around 3 weeks or so. Check out the video, or even better rent the game and try it out for yourself! I'm hoping to get more and more involved with boss and AI design as I go.

Until next time!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2

This is going to be a long one! Also overdue! This post is about Pacman and the Ghostly Adventures 2. This was my first title as a designer after transitioning to the design department at my current job. Lots of learning happened on this project for me, so I figured I would just go through each of my levels on this project and talk about what I liked, what I didn't like, and what I learned from each.

I'll also give a few details about the project as a whole, what our timeline was like, and how other limitations and decisions molded what became the final, shipped product.

I was on Pacman and the Ghostly Adventures 1 as well, but as a level artist. It's much easier to sum up my duties on that project, so I will hit that as well.

To keep things from encroaching on TLDR territory, I'll make a separate post on my work from each world, starting at level 1 and ending at the final boss fight of the game, which was my first boss design I was allowed to tackle from concept to completion!

Big thanks to Tealgamemasteron YouTube for letting me use his lets-play videos to show off my levels!

  • Pacman 1 Art Duties
    • On Pac 1, I was still an environment artist in title. I cranked on levels with the other environment artists, but I handled a few key responsibilities as well.
      • Create the look/feel of the Netherworld
        • This one was pretty fun! Translating some concepts from the show into a re-use-able tileset that we could quickly build levels from. It was a lot of prototyping, and an overall fun process. When I finally created a bunch of props and did my first prop pass, I remember everyone remarking on the transformation of how it went from bland to awesome in the blink of an eye. I'm proud of that area!
      • Prototype Level
        • I was one of the first people on the project, and as such I was in charge of prototyping the first level with one other designer. 
      • 4-1 Design Hijacking
        • This is when my desire to switch into the design department got rather serious. I finding myself wanting to be able to contribute more to our process and vision, so decided to put in extra hours and design a level myself. The result was Killer Frost, my first level as an unofficial designer! This led to my eventual shift in title and role at work.

  • 1-3 'Gotta Bounce'
    • Gotta Bounce was the second level I worked on during production of Pacman. It was the first time  the player would see rubber pac in-game. Since it was still so early in production, we still had a lot of self-searching to do in regards to layouts, flow, and cameras. If I could redo it, I would have fewer camera transitions, and would have pushed more for just laying out the level in such a way as to not require transitions.

      Additionally, combat wasn't really implemented until we were almost done with Paclantis, and there was a separate designer assigned to placing and designing the encounters, as such a few of the combat spaces here felt off to me on retrospect.

      Some of the things that I liked about this level were the idea of 'mini' mazes, as kind of a tip of the hat to Pacman's roots. I also feel that I did a decent job of showing the player how to use his new rubber abilities. The very first bounce-wall has pellots on the walls in a pattern that suggests wall-bouncing, and I tried to guide the player where I could. I'm also fond of a few secret areas in this level.

      Sadly, the bouncy-dumpsters and the moving bricks didn't get used again, but at least they were fairly quick and easy to implement. Still, I would have preferred some more re-use. 

  • 1-4 'Dribble & Freeze'
    • This was the first level I worked on, during the early prototyping stages of the project. Because it was during the earlier stages of development, it had more time than other levels. It was during this level's moment that our FX Artist, Ryan Hoss, and I decided to ninja prototype out the Arcade Zone tileset for use in multiple levels, tutorials, and challenges. The secret Arcade Zone in this level was accessed by smashing boxes, and was the first zone created with that new tileset, hence it's simplicity.

      This was the first level that used 2 powers at once, Ice and Rubber. It was a challenge to ensure that the player could always progress, even if he fell or somehow got somewhere with the wrong berry. I ended up solving a lot of those issues by making multiple ways to get up to certain areas.

      This level also had more of a branching path feel then some of the later levels I designed. I liked this, but time constraints made it less and less likely to have the time to polish more complicated levels. This level was divided into 2 routes. The player could press on straight across the spinning cylindrical platforms for a quick level finish, or they could hop to the left and fight a few ghosts, and follow a sleeping ghost chain to a fruit pick up. I think it flowed fairly well by the end. 

  • 1-7 'Flip-Flop'
    • Flip Flip was a fun one! Simple, but fun. This was one of the later World-1 levels to get worked on, so we knew a bit more about the direction we wanted to go by this point. We were instructed to push our levels to shorter, more mechanic-driven traversal with pockets of combat between them.

      In the spirit of that, I decided to make the entire latter half of the level based on the flip-platforms. It used to be pretty brutal, with many more roller spikes, and some enemies to boot. Kid testing proved that was a bit too tough, though.. so it was vastly simplified in the end.

      I toyed with the idea of optional mini-bosses here as well, and I personally think while it worked out okay, it was rather unprecedented, and I don't think there were many other skippable mini-bosses implemented after this one. (I can think of one in Space that was also mine, but that's it..)

      This level was sort of the flip platform 'test' since the player had seen them a few times up to this point. In terms of what I learned from this level, it was that the more you can make the player interact with your mechanics, the better the level will feel. No one just likes walking, so having a level where half of the time was spent on flip platforms was a pretty good change of pace in World 1.

  • 1-B 'Paczilla!'
    • I was mostly in charge of the pre-boss sequence here. I had to make it look like a disaster area where Grindertron was wreaking havoc. I went about it by adding some panicking citizens, and placing some smoldering fire effects. Additionally, I requested a special skybox for this level to give the boss a more dramatic feel while fighting him.

      Additionally, I felt like it was a good opportunity to reward story-driven players, and so I placed Sir C, the President, and some of Pac's friends that he could talk to before engaging the boss. They offered a few words of encouragement, and talking to all of them awarded the player an extra life. I figured that Cyli and Spiral were talking to Pac about Grindertron at various points leading up to this encounter, so it should make some sense that they would be there to help!

      As for the boss design itself, I played more of a QA and support role, offering feedback and ideas as it was implemented. It was mostly design-by-committee for bosses at that point, but it enabled me to get familiar with the nuances of implementing and working on a boss, which would help me later on when i designed the final boss-fight for the game.

WELL!! That's it for now, you made it to the end of the post, congrats! Next time I have some energy I will post up my learnings from my World 2 and World 3 levels, so stay tuned!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Scripting in C# - Wombat Game!

Hey all! Been awhile, I've been pretty busy!

I switched roles at work last year, moving from Art into the Design department. I've had strong opinions on game designs and systems ever since I've been building levels and art, and my current company was kind enough to move me over to a department where I felt I could do more good for our products!

So this is a personal project I started to teach myself scripting in C#. Everything is written by me in monodevelop in the unity game engine. It's a game about wombats and poop!

You may not know this about wombats, but they poop out cubes, for real! Google it! I'll wait...

... Weird, right? Anyways it gace me an idea for a simple platformer where you rely on your poop blocks to make platforms that allow you to traverse the levels. This little prototype is the result of that.

Wombat Game!!
(You need Unity Web-Player installed. It should give you the option to download it when clicking the link if you need it!)

The goal is to make it up to the top left of the level where it says Goal! Arrow keys move you, space jumps. Left click when you are on top of the grass (green cubes) to eat them, and right click to drop one poop per grass you have eaten. once you poop, it starts a timer that causes the grass to re-grow so you can try again if you crap in the wrong area.

Also has xbox 360 gamepad support if you prefer that!

Anyways, here it is, enjoy and leave comments!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ben 10: Omniverse!

Here's some work from our latest project over at Vicious Cycle Software. A beat-em-up adaptation of the new Cartoon Network show, Ben 10: Omniverse!

Let's see, on this project I was half responsible for the creation/ownership/bug fixing of levels 1,3,6, and 11. I was partly responsible for the last segments of level 2 as well! Also I was involved with the E3 demo levels and prototyping phase.

On this project, I was also heavily involved in a bunch of meetings and decision-making, although not every idea submitted by our department made it in, I feel that me and my co workers in environments had enough input that made a really positive impact on the overall end product!

So here's some choice shots of the stuff I was mostly responsible for, enjoy!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Hey, sorry it's been awhile since I've updated anything on here! Quite a bit is on the way. Last year involved my layoff from Vicarious Visions, and my new gig at Vicious Cycle Inc in North Carolina! Loving it here so far~

So I wanted to update the blog and show off some stuff I've been up to at Vicious this last year. I'll be posting some images of my work on Madagascar 3: The game here, first! I was one of the artists responsible for the prototype level in Rome, and then after breaking off into teams, I was one of two artists responsible for all of London, and we also handled the bugs in Rome, but London is what I'm going to show off!

I was responsible for building/prop creation, some texture work, prop layout and working with gameplay to ensure everything ran nice and smoothly! The images showcase sections I was directly responsible for! Click to expand 'em, and leave a comment or two!