Wednesday, 17 November 2010


So I've started this daily blog now where I create something everyday and post it up on the old interweb. That Sanity Meter article was the first item and since that it's been mostly art and fiction. But everyday something new shall be presented to you all!

Also I've made some decisions regarding Dread, and have decided to completely change much of the focus of the game. It's still a Metroidvania but It's currently kind of boring so I'm removing a LOT of stuff and adding it a whole lot of different stuff that should make it more interesting to play. More details soon!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Sanity Meter Improvement

So I'm a big fan of survival horror games, and I've noticed that in recent years there's been the implementation in some of a 'Sanity meter', which gauges the level of stress the player is under based on certain scripted interactions player actions. These tend to do things such as apply filters to the screen, make strange things happen. These were most notably used in the games Eternal Darkness and Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth. Neither, in my view, really did what they could have with the mechanic.

 Eternal Darkness implemented very strange gameplay effects such as screens instructing you to reset your console, simulating the muting of the television, and your character spontaneously exploding. Whilst these were certainly creative, they were often unintentionally ridiculous or funny, and actively reduced immersion by reminding the player they were engaged in a video game.

 Call of Chtulu on the other hand, chose to use sanity effects to improve atmosphere and tension, giving an audible heartbeat and breathing, visual blurring and shaking, and distortion to give a sense of dizziness. Whilst I am more in favour of this kind of mechanic, I feel they could have gone much further and expanded upon the sanity concept, given especially that sanity (or eventual lack of it) is a key element in Lovecraftian storytelling.

 Another problem is that the game is actively telling the player 'You are going mad.' This second person narration is not exactly immersive, and it would be far more effective for the player to begin questioning what they are seeing on their own, rather than being directly told something is wrong.

 Okay, so enough with what's wrong with the current usage, and onto how I feel it could be improved.

Firstly, there should never be a direct representation of player sanity in the game, so an actual gauge showing your level of sanity is totally out of the question. I would also rename the mechanic, referring it to as a Stress Level. This could have varying levels and ways of increasing or reducing it. Just so we've got some context to work with.

Stress Level 0- No effect on gameplay or atmosphere, everything is about as normal as it can get for a horror game.

Stress Level 1- Player character is agitated. More haunting ambient sounds and variance in volume of sounds. Audible heart beat and breathing.

Stress Level 2- Player character is distressed. More persistent stress effects, variances in brightness and lighting for areas. Enemies look more threatening or become larger. Very slight overall visual distortion.

Stress Level 3-Player character is terrified. Basically everything from previous levels but introduction of hallucination effects also, as described below.

Now, Levels 0-2 are similar to what we've seen before, and Eternal Darkness attempted hallucinations with extremely mixed results. However, we never want to tell the player that there is a change in sanity, so everything is presented as though that is supposed to be that way. Hallucinations should also not be telegraphed. Walking into a room and seeing that you're walking on the ceiling is not scary, it's comical. Walking into a room you'd previously considered safe and seeing it filled with enemies is scary. What if you killed them and then after the fight was over you realised they had been innocents who looked like enemies? Regret, confusion, general questioning of what is presented to them.

 It is essential that this is never telegraphed to the player, and that they actively question what is real rather than any clear differentiation being made. This allows the player's imagination to do much of the legwork, and as we know things are always scarier when you don't understand them, so the player must be provided with as little information regarding this as possible in order to maximise the experience, perhaps even intentionally misleading them if it will improve the overall game experience and immersion level.

Overall this is my idea for how the 'Sanity Meter' system could be improved. Some other ideas for mechanics following the hallucination theme.

Nonexistent enemies
The game could play sounds that indicate enemies to be present in times of stress, causing them to look around and try to find these nonexistent foes. Alternatively the player could see a large number of secretly fictional enemies surrounding the PC, then when they attempt to attack them they vanish, causing the player to waste ammo.

Puzzle operations
A complex puzzle may become near impossible when the character is sufficiently stressed, important images become rearranged and replaced by irrelevant visuals. Numbers on a keypad keep moving and changing their meaning. Words typed in may appear to be incorrect and make it seem as through the player is typing in sinister phrases to throw them off.

That didn't just happen
A player may enter a room and instantly be killed by a powerful enemy, before gameplay resumes at the point just before the PC entered the room. The PC may walk through a door and appear in the room they just left.

Enemy effects
The enemies or threats in the game may begin to look even more terrifying and take on symbolic forms relevant to the PC.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Duck with Strawberry Jam

Yesterday I attended the GameCity5 Strawberry Game Jam. Myself and a bunch of other guys hung out in a restaurant for a while and made some games, although I didn't get to talk to everybody as much as I'd have liked as nobody was really sure what was going on. Anyway, we jammed for 3 hours, and I came up with this-

Where's my Ducklings?

The theme, as you may have guesssed, was Duck. I'm quite proud that due to my utilisation of GameMaker, I was the only one to create a fully functioning game, although the other guys came up with really interesting prototypes as well. I had a blast and would totally do it again if given the opportunity.

In other news, work on Dread presses on and is going well. I'm also considering reviving Thalidomide and PsychoNoir as well, as I see those as having some real potential and not being especially difficult to work into full games. But Dread of course comes first, so we'll have to see.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Returning to an old one

Hey chaps! There's been little word from me recently largely because there's been nothing to talk about. I'm still searching for work as a priority rather than game development, however my wife has started back at Uni this week so I'm expecting to have a lot more free time in which to fit in both job hunting and developing my game design expertise. I've recently got a hold of (re-been gifted with) a book on XNA and C# development, an avenue I'm interested in pursuing as although GameMaker is awesome I can't help but want to make things more advanced than what I'm working on ATM. Reading through it has been very interesting, and as I love to learn I wager I'll be doing a fair bit of experimenting with it over the coming months and perhaps even releasing something.

My aim over the next year is to recover through game development and creation of other materials all the money I have invested into my pursuits so far. Fortunately, as I'm not one for spending a lot of money, this only amounts to around £70, however this is a big goal for somebody who has never sold something of his own in his whole life. How I'm going to do this is rather vague at the moment, but I have a few ideas swimming around on how to do it.

I've also returned to one of my old projects recently and have to say I'd forgotten how enjoyable it was and how much work I'd put into it. Thus I am reviving it and intend to have it released by the end of the month. It's called Dread, and after many abortive attempts at creating a metroidvania I scaled it down just about as far as I could, resulting in the concept for Dread. Everything else about it I shall keep a surprise.

Expect more updates related to game design and development soon friends!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Doing stuff but without a lot to show for it

Hi guys
Been ages since my last update. I've been doing a whole bunch of different things but haven't finished any projects. Mostly I've been experimenting with new techniques and mechanics, in particular I've been playing around with 3D and Multiplayer. I've also checked out a whole bunch of other engines and develeopment programs but have come back to GameMaker again every time, although Construct does look promising.
Anyway, in terms of my experiments things are pretty good. As I said I've been focusing on 3D and multiplayer, both new ground for me. 3D gives a whole new spin on things and a new way of seeing the world, as well as the opportunity to utilise new game mechanics and atmosphere. I've been working mainly on a project currently called Dogmeat, a 3D horror game which to be honest I'm struggling to get into alpha, not because of teachnical issues but because I'm not sure where to go with it, so clearly I need to get more design done on it.
In regards to multiplayer, I had an idea for what I considered to be a totally amazing game, but then realised it was way beyond my current technical capabilities, and decided to to a proof of concept experiment for it. That's my other project atm, a splitscreen multiplayer game, also horror themed.
I've also continued playing around with procedural generation but have nothing much to report other than I'm trying to make something small and replayable with it.
Other than that, I think as I've called this blog my 'Game Design Dungeon', I should really write about it a bit more, and I'm planning on doing so in the near future. May as well actually give some thought to what I consider a real interest.
More soon chaps and chappettes!

Friday, 21 May 2010

Been a while

Been a long time since I posted anything here. It's not that nothing's been happening, I've just neglected communications. I've released 2 games in my non speaky time, BBBBBB and SD10. BBBBBB was my entry into Braingale's Butlers Competition, but it came last. This kind of sucked, but to be fair it was a rushed project and I did a lot of things I'd never tried before- lighting effects and procedural levels for example. The game, although I'm not entirely pleased with it, was certainly something I could learn from.
SD10 was intended to be my entry into the EGP '10 Seconds' contest, but I ran out of time to work on it. Rather than do what I'd done with BBBBBB and release an unfinished, half baked game, I decided to ignore the competition and just spend some time polishing it up and making it generally more presentable and playable. It also used procedural levels, although it does a much better job than BBBBBB mainly due to increased experience in the process as well as not having to account for physics. I'm really pleased with SD10 and would be grateful if anybody could give it a go and give me some feedback.

Some information about them both-
BBBBBB (Butler Basement Booze Bottle Bringing Bonanza) is a platformer with procedural levels, in which you play as a butler exploring a basement in order to try and find three bottles of wine to bring back to your boss. It's a kind of mixed up affair due to the time limit, for example rather than an actual tutorial I thought I'd explain the game through song on the title screen. Don't really remember why but it's certainly something different.

SD10 is a frantic arena shooter with procedural maps. The aim of the game is to blast through enemies and walls in order to hit a switch, which then opens up the level exit. Allowing you to escape. If you take longer than 10 seconds on a level, you DIE! It's simple to learn and very action packed.

In other news, I lost my job just over a month ago. This sucks. If I weren't also planning a wedding, I would have pretty much nothing to do. Today I got a letter telling me I only get half JSA because Anna has a student loan, which is just such bullshit. I'm not at all happy with the situation, but I'm hoping to find work soon so I don't have to be worrying about it any more.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Operation Chiroptera- Postponed

I've decided that I've not been working fast enough and Operation Chiroptera: Return to the Cave, is going to be postponed, therefore I won't be entering YoYo's competition 05. I've been more interested on playing around with other projects, which is pretty fun. I still plan on working on Operation Chiroptera, but for now it's having a break.
Other news:
Released a game for Braingale's Butler competition the other day. I didn't finish quite in time so it's a bit rough, after the comp ends I'll release a more polished version to the general public.
Other stuff I'm working on-
PsychoNoir: A neo-noir style psychially themed run n gun where you don't have any guns, but can fling objects about and reflect bullets.
Dread: A really small scifi metroidvania that'd only take around 20 minutes to play through.
Self Destruct Sequence Activated: A game for the new EGP "You have only 10 seconds" competition, a procedural arena shooter in which you have 10 seconds to complete every level.

That's it for now! I'll update again when BBBBBB can be released.

Friday, 19 February 2010

A new release (as usual it's a complete surprise)

Made a new game yesterday, for Quite Odd Games 100 Epic Minutes competition. Obviously it was made in around 100 minutes, and it's about killing zombies in the mountains as they are dropped off by UFOs.


I'm still working on my other projects obviously, but I thought I'd do my usual trick and announce loads of stuff I'm working on before just spontaneously making something completely unrelated.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Updates on things

Been working on a number of little projects recently, as well as focusing on Return to The Cave, which still needs a better name. Progress with that is going well, but I want to say a few things about other projects I'm doing at the moment.

The first is called The Slip, and it's a top down shooter focusing on the mechanic of teleportation. I've got most things down now, and the engine mostly works so I can start making it into an actual game rather than a tiny test room.

The next is Losst, a strange horror themed platformer, with lots of little hidden messages and things. Currently it looks like the least likely one to be finished, but I like where I was going with it so may still complete.

The last one is called No Room In Heaven For You, and it's intended to be an entry into the EGP Rejection contest. It's like a cross between Ranger X and Double Dragon, set in the beautiful land of Hell, and actually has a proper narrative to it. So far I've only worked on it for about 3 hours but a lot of the engine works and it's more exciting to me than The Slip or Losst at the moment. I'll be interested to see how it turns out.

Might release a demo for Return to the Cave soon, once animations and game flow are finished. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, 8 January 2010

YoYo Comp 05

Hi again. As usual I'm going to tell everybody here that I'm starting work on a new game, and for a competition nontheless. Entering Comp 05 on YoYo I am, a competition to make a handheld suitable game, and despite some restrictions that are obviously far below the specs of current handhelds, it looks like a competition that's right up my metaphorical alley.
I'm going to do a sequel to One Night In The Cave, with obvious expansions on everything within, as it was a mere 2 hour game. However, I learnt a lot from it and it was fun to make, so a sequel should allow me to realise the potential behind the concept.
Not much work done over christmas, I was busy with awesome things like Rock Band, Borderlands, and Resident Evil 5, as well as some great new tunes from Rammstein and some old classics like NIN and The Human League, as well as the obvious partying that comes from the festive season.