Over the course of the year I have been engaged in a number of projects outside of University. The most extensive project which I was involved in was a Windows 8 Game built in the Unity engine with a fellow coursemember as well as a programmer from Hull University.
I had previously worked on a related project which did not come to fruition, however I did manage to get my art work from the project featured in Develop magazine in 2013. http://www.microsoft.com/en-GB/developers/articles/from-uni-to-indie-platform-expos-and-three-promising-startups
The first project was a 2-D side-scrolling game in which the player controls a gnome. Throughout the game the player can use mushrooms to jump and avoid obstacles and to reach other areas. While we had a simple working prototype, the concept was ultimately abandoned to make way for the next 3-D Project. Below is a selection of screenshots from the side-
Gnome Way Out
After enrolling into Platform Studios based in Hull, we started constructing the prototype of our 3D game – Gnome Way out. The game is a simple wave-based survival game in which the player must use weapons and traps to defend themselves from increasingly difficult waves of enemies.
We met regularly at Platform Studios to discuss the design direction of the game as well as logistics of implementing code and gameplay into a build that was shared across 4 seperate people. We experimented with a variety of pipeline methods; ranging from simple ideas like using a dropbox to hosting a using an SVN system. We soon ran into trouble with the SVN system and decided instead to meet up and manually merge builds.
Over the course of the project I produced models, textures and levels for the prototype, and also served as the world-builder- implementing models created by the second artist into the levels of the game.
After working on this for several weeks we had a functional prototype which we could test art and code with and also display to interested parties. Around that time the Platform Games Expo was being hosted in Hull, and as active participants in the Platform studios we were asked to host a booth and display our game at the event.
I had used Unity previously, but I found that this project helped me come to grips with the more advanced features offered by the engine. Conferring with programmers also helped me understand some of the more technical aspects of the engine, and how to optimise my workflow to aid the optimisation of the game.
I also spent a lot of time designing the interface for the project which was also a new learning experience. Again I had only briefly experimented with interfaces during my time on the course, and I had never designed an interface for a smartphone before. I researched the implementation of the Windows Phone interface extensively, and found that Microsoft have strict guidelines concerning the consistency and quality of icons and interfaces which must match their “metro” style interface. This research also helped me to understand interfaces for the client project which also follows the Microsoft design philosophy, owing to the client project’s origin as a mock- Xbox One game.
Along with the 3D and 2D art involved with the project, I also created the textures for the Gnome Character. At the time, I had no knowledge of the rigging and animation process to implement functional characters in Unity. As a workaround, the team leader purchased the below character pack off the Unity store for us to use in the prototype.
Below is the character skins which I created for Gnome Way Out. I used a flat-colour shading palette similar to games such as Zelda: The Wind Waker, albeit without the cel shading.
At first working with such a defined art style was outside of my comfort zone – In the past I had a tendency to use Photo-textures in my work and I found the process of manually colourign and shading the textures painstakingly slow. After a while however I found ways to speed up the process. One of these methods included simply creating each seperate part of a texture on a different layer in black and white. I would then adjust the darkness level of the individual layers until I was satisfied with the result. After adjusting the levels of each layer, I would simply overlay a colour layer over the entire canvas which would allow the shading to remain consistent.
At this stage in the project, I also managed the promotional material for the event, including giant cutouts used to advertise our booth, aswell as posters and small leaflets to advertise our game and website. I learned a lot through this task alone, as I had never previously printed anything so large before. I made the mistake of using Adobe Photoshop to create the banner which was a whopping 1 metre by 2 metres high. After attempting to transfer the file and failing, I spoke to some artists based in Platform Studios who advised me to learn Adobe Illustrator, which uses vectors over rasterized images and is ideally suited to print. I had only ever used Illustrator on one other occasion, 6 years ago to create a small logo so I had to retrain myself how to use the software. As with most things digital I scoured the internet for as many tutorials as possible to learn how to use the software. At this point I had 18 hours left to produce the banner and send it off to print.
Below is a scaled down version of the original Photoshop banner(Right) compared to the illustrator banner (Left)
During the Platform Expo event I had the chance to display our game to members of the public, which ranged from small school children to older people who were all interested in the Project. The event was also a great opportunity to playtest our game with a live audience and identify bugs and problems with the build. Our team was also featured in the local newspaper, the Hull Daily Mail, along with other developers from Platform Studios.
The event was above all a great opportunity to network with over developers, one of which had travelled from Saudi Arabia to display his game.
When not manning our stall for the day, I visited one of the guest lecturers which had travelled from all over the country to perform demonstrations and talks about the games industry.
After the Expo had wound down, the project was kicked up a gear. Invigorated by our experience at the event, we continued development in earnest, ironing out bugs which were present and continuing to build levels and art assets. Soon after we travelled to Salford, Manchester to attend the joint Microsoft/Nokia appcampus which was an event organised to promote development on the Windows 8 Store. Having just launched, Microsoft was eager to give incentives to develpoers to produce content for their store which faces harsh competition from the likes of the google Play Store and Android store.
The event gave us the opportunity to pitch our game concept to a panel of judges from Microsoft and Nokia, which weighed our product against the other teams present. The day was a greate opportunity for witnessing other teams and networking with people from all over the country, it also provided us with the opportunity to receive funding for our project. At the end of the day after the independent presentations we were shortlisted for application under the condition that our programmers could implement multiplayer functionality into the game, which was one of the key pieces of feedback which we had received from the Platform Expo.
Over the course of the next few weeks we continued work on the prototype; I expanded the asset library and also built several other levels. At this stage we began to refine the key concepts of the game, justifying the player’s motivation, aswell as unify the theme of the levels as gardens spaces from around the world. At this point I developed several pieces of concept art for other levels to be featured in the game. These rough pieces show both the layout of the levels, aswell as certain functional elements which can either help or hinder the player (the bubble gum in the subway train for instance, slows down both the player and the enemies)
Our brand and concepts started to coalesce to prepare us to send our application to Microsoft and Nokia.
We were also approached by the dean of our school to provide information for an article in the college group’s newsletter.
As coursework intensified during the second semester of the course, work on the game petered out; with deadlines looming for both the artists and programmers, we were forced to put the project on hold.
Throughout the course of this project I learned a great deal about every aspect of games design. Never before had I been placed in the position of actually working on a functional game from start to finish, witnessing and contributing into every stage of development from concept to final build. I expanded my knowledge of 3D modelling, the Unity engine and also learned several pieces of software in the process. To this day I had expanded my knowledge of Adobe Illustrator, using the package for the upcoming degree show aswell as my own personal projects.
With the final deadlines of the course soon out of the way, I am looking forward to continuing development on Gnome Way Out.
Below is a a selection of screenshots of my work from the project.
And below is a short video showing the prototype in action.