General Project Based Questions
- Describe your project
This term we have created a 2D, Indie, side scrolling, pixel art based game from scratch. We were given a criteria in the first week that we would need to follow throughout the development of the game. For our criteria, we were given a random character and time period that we would need to incorporate into a suitable plot for the game. Each group would need to work together to create a synopsis of the game. Our group was given Ada Lovelace, a significant figure in the history of computer programming and Ancient Egypt. Throughout the term we would need to create all the assets needed for the game as well as researching each element to get the highest quality in the end result. This included sprite design, animation, environment design, sound design and GameMaker programming.
- Explain the pre-production, production and post-production techniques and processes you used to create your media product.
Throughout the term we have worked on many different techniques needed to create a game. One of the main techniques that we have focused on was sprite design. I found this very beneficial since I hadn’t created any sprites before. We practiced over three
weeks, creating pixel art characters that would help us improve our skills for concepts and the final sprites in the game. By creating pixel art characters based on reference images, I was able to focus on improving my skills with this particular design format. Since practising on this kind of design format, I have been able to improve my shading technique and character proportions/posture illustration. I have also noticed that I now find it easier to recreate something based on a reference image, since this was one of the main processes whilst working on sprite design.
Whilst working on pre production, we also experimented with animation, sound design and the GameMaker software that we used to produce the game. Once we had our sprites and a better grasp as to how pixel art can be used well, we began to experiment with animation. Over the space of a week we researched the principles of animation and how it can be used to increase the quality of the game. Since we were working with character sprites at the time, I focused on experimenting with the animation to create the illusion of having a life like movement. I felt that having both pixel art and life like motion could be an interesting contrast of features. We worked with Photoshop to create frame by frame animations of our characters. To get a better idea of how it could be used well, we created several animations showing a different kind of movement. Each movement had two variations showing basic and advanced movement.
This kind of animation was interesting since I hadn’t worked with it before. However I had worked with Adobe After Effects so I felt that I could use my knowledge of that and incorporate it into my game. Therefore I animated an introduction and ending animation that could be used in my game. I prepared the assets for them in photoshop and then imported them into After Effects. Here I created the movement which made the beginning and ending screens more dynamic. I felt this would be a good way to captivate a player into playing the game. I also created an animation that could be used within the game in the last level. I thought that a text drop down would be a good way to show information without it being static and most likely to easy to see.
Sound design was a very important part of our projects since it is another way of conveying information to the player without actually showing it on screen. To back up our retro theme of pixel art design, we focused primarily on using sounds that would have been used at a similar time as pixel art. This meant that we needed to use chiptune sound that would have been used on the older games produced in that time such as Pong and Gunfight. To achieve a chiptune styled sound we used a website called BFXR. BFXR is a sound production system that specialises in creating chiptune styled sounds. It has very good functionality since the sounds can be adapted with over 30 different controllers. I found that this was very useful since our only other option was to use Foley sound and create the sound ourselves however this would be very difficult with what we had access to.
To program our games, we were going to use GameMaker which is a free software that is easily accessible with basic a drag and drop system that could be used as a substitute for coding. Since this was the first game that we had made, it was a suitable software and served the purpose of what was needed. Once we had all the assets we had created over the term, we were able to start learning GameMaker. To start we set out to create a basic project to act as a test so that we could experiment with the controls and mechanics within the game. We needed to learn the basics such as character movement, gravity, enemy mechanics, environment and more. Since there was a substantial amount of features that we needed to learn we spent two weeks learning how to use the software, working on our projects. This was very effective since I have become much more confident with GameMaker since completing the project which is what I needed before starting the main project that would follow the criteria we were given.
Overall I was happy with the pre production work I had completed before starting the main project. Although all of the work done was time well spent, I feel that the sprite design was most effective since I didn’t have any experience designing sprites before and was not comfortable especially due to the fact that we were using a pixel art format. Since I had completed all of the pre-production work I was well prepared for the ending project. I had all of the assets needed as well as a plan as to what I was going to do in each part of the game.
To start the project i created a folder, allocated specifically for the games project file and the assets that would be imported. This was put on a usb since i needed to work on the game both in college and at home. I also created a second folder that would be used to backup my progress in the event that any of the files became corrupt or broken with irreversible changes. I gave both folders suitable names so that they could be easily found whilst working on the game. Within each folder I then created two more folders named
‘project file’ and ‘game assets’. By doing this I created a navigation system that would allow me to know exactly where each file was. This essentially helped save a lot of time during the development process which was very effective.
After creating the folders for the project file and the assets for the game, I created a new project in GameMaker. I ensured that it was saved in the folder that I had allocated for it since the file could become broken if the location of the file is changed when there are paths connected to the game’s assets. I then imported all of the assets I had created for the game and gave them suitable names so that they could be found in the recourse tree. By doing this I found that my layout was very effective and saved me a significant amount of time. I then created subfolders under sprites so that I could organise each sprite into groups so that the layout was as basic as possible. Once I had all of the sprites imported into the project, I created an object for each sprite. Again, I made subfolders so that I could assort each object into a group to make the project as time effective as possible. Before adding any events or actions to the objects I wanted to set up the project with the rooms and other elements needed for it to work properly.
Once I had imported the sprites and objects, I continued to set up my project with rooms, sound, and backgrounds. After doing this I had filled the resource tree with the assets that were going to be used in the game. I also ensured that everything was named suitably and was in a subfolder with its assigned group. I then went on to start setting up my game. In post production I had planned to have five different rooms (levels). The first and last were the animations that I had made in pre-production and the other three were the levels that I had created for the game. I wanted to follow the plot so I stuck strictly to what I had planned so that I knew exactly what I was doing. Now that the assets were in place I could start to program each object to act how it should in the game.
To start I began programming the characters in the game. Since this was the main part of the game and would be needed in each level I thought it would be important to do this first. Firstly I worked on the Ada Lovelace character since I would be able to duplicate the events and actions to use them on other sprites in other rooms. I added five different events to the object. I used a step event, a collision (with the key/bag) event, a ‘w’ key
press event, an ‘a’ keypress event and a ‘d’ key press event. These would act as the the gravity, the screen wrap, a collectable pickup and the movement of the character. I then added the actions to each event. This took some trial and error since it takes time to get an idea as to how the variables in each action effect the game. I then repeated the process for every object, applying the necessary events and actions to each one to create a fully functioning set of objects.
In the game I have a bag sprite that is used as a ‘key’ to move from one room to the next. I programmed the game so that Ada would pick it up in the first room and then throw it at the enemy in the last room. To do this I had to duplicate my object for the bag. The first one would be used in the first room. I set it up so that the bag would disappear when Ada collided with it. I then programmed Ada to change to a different sprite of her holding the bag when she collided with it. This would give the impression that she had picked it up. For the final room, used the second version of the both Ada and the bag sprite since they needed to have different programming. I added a key press ‘f’ event to Ada that would be used to throw the bag. I then added the necessary actions to complete the bag movement. I also added a coded script to show the bag rotating. Again this took some trial and error since I had to also make sure that the game ended when the projectile collided with the enemy.
Once I had programmed each object with events and actions I placed them in the rooms needed. This would then create a sequence so that the player could move from room to room. I created it so that the player could restart the game once it had finished so that it could be played in an endless loop without the player having to restart the game. Again I had to experiment with the placement with some of the objects since GameMaker sometimes struggled with the collision of certain parts of the game.
QA Testing was the main part of our post production for the development of our games. This meant that we needed to test the games made in our class and leave feedback on a questionnaire. After reading my feedback I was happy with the outcome since I thought it was fair and helped me learn about my game. I thought that it was a great way to learn how my game could be improved and what its strengths and weaknesses were. As a summary, the people who tested my game said that the animation and design was of a high quality and suited the criteria. I thought this was justifiable since I spent a considerable amount of time on this. In terms of bugs and glitches, almost everyone mentioned how the character didn’t collide with some objects and teleported across the screen at some points. This is definitely an area that I would need to improve on in the future.
- What were your goals and expectations?
When starting this project I had sets of targets that I had set for myself. The first was to complete what was needed of the criteria. This was to create a 2D, Indie, side scrolling, pixel art based game from scratch that included both Ada Lovelace and Ancient Egypt. In doing this, I needed to use a variety of different software and techniques such as Photoshop illustration, GameMaker programming and sound design. As well as this I already knew After Effects which is one of the main software used for animation so I felt that incorporating some animation would be a great way to give the game some life as well as keeping the target audience engaged.
- What is challenging, different and interesting about your media product?
I think the game I have created is unique because it is based on real characters and places. This brings an educational element to the target audiences entertainment which could be the beginning of an interest or hobby for those who are interested in history or the people featured in the game. I also think that it is unique in the sense that it was made in a very short space of time and could motivate someone else to do the same and learn GameMaker. Since it is an open, free programme I think that the game could easily inspire someone to start learning the software and potentially interest someone into becoming a developer. Although the possibilities are slim, I still think that it is possible when given the context of this game and what the criteria was that we had to work with.
- Who is your ideal target audience?
Our game is based around historical characters, locations and events, so it would be played most by people of a young age. It is not only a suitable game for young people but it is also educational and would be a great way to get a young audience to learn about the history of influential people in computer programming. In particular, I think the game would be played most by students aged between 13 – 18 who are interested in history. This is because the game is based on different historical events that are tied into one another. As well as this, it is made up of a pixel art format which is a very nostalgic design foundation. To some people the contrast between historical elements and the pixel art format, could be a significant reason as to why they would want to play the game.
I also think that the game would be played by other people who are learning about GameMaker and the processes needed to develop a game. I think that this is a good example of an average game and shows what would and wouldn’t work well in a full game. The animations included would work well since it gives something unique to the game, however the collision programming needs some major work for it to work to a good quality.
- Does the finished project present and promote your idea to your chosen target audience?
Overall I think that the game needs to be improved in terms of showing what was given in the criteria. Although the design of the game (colour schemes, etc) work well I don’t think that the target audience would be able to accurately distinguish who the main character was and where it was placed. However I think that if I added some more information such as detail in the settings and props etc, I think that the audience would be more likely to know what the game is based around.
- Why should the audience consume your media product?
The game I have made is based on true characters and locations tied in with a plot suitable for a younger audience. I feel that it would be a great educational resource since it would get young people interested in the characters and locations involved. Although it isn’t a strictly true story, I think the plot could interest some of the audience into playing more educational games or even looking further into the history of Ada Lovelace and Ancient Egypt. The game could also be bought by people who are looking to start programming/developing their own games. As said before, this project would be a great way of showing what does and doesn’t work well within a game.
- What is the message of your media product?
I think that the game I have created holds two moral messages, depending on who is playing the game. I think that it stresses the importance of how education, particularly history can be made fun when there is an interactive story and visuals. I also believe that it would be a great way for children to develop since the game isn’t challenging in the sense that there are a lot of enemies but it does have a certain puzzle like aspect to it that could test some of the younger audience. For those who are playing the game to help develop their own skills in this kind of field of work, I feel that this game would be a good piece of inspiration and would show what can be accomplished a short amount of time. This could be detrimental to someone’s decision making if they are thinking of starting game development as a hobby or career.
- How did your creative decisions help communicate your message?
During the development of the game I focused on how I could give information without directly putting it on the screen. I found that one of the best ways of doing this was by paying close attention to the use of colour in each level of the game. By using certain colours I was able to create a sense of atmosphere and location which was my intention. I feel that I also illustrated Ada (the main character) and the enemy in a way that the audience would easily be able to know who is the good and evil in the game.
Specific Skills Based Questions
- What audio/visual/interactive problems did you encounter during the production and post -production process?
When developing the game I noticed that one of my main problems came from the use of horizontal collision. I found that using this would allow the character to easily move from platform to platform, however I would not be able to go from level to level since the character could not properly collide with the checkpoint. This meant that the game was very difficult to play since you could not move to each level without having to move the character around the checkpoint until the two objects collided properly. My other option was to removed the horizontal collision. This meant that I would easily be able to move from level to level by checking the ending checkpoint. However this resulted in the character sometimes glitching through platforms since the collision properties weren’t there to program the character to not move the solid objects.
Another problem that I came across was that I was unable to change the backing music of the game depending on the room that the character was in. This meant that I was limited to one track since I was unable to have more than one. Although I feel that the music used suits the game, I feel that it would be significantly better if I had been able to use more than one track.
- What did you do to solve audio/visual/interactive problems you encountered?
I couldn’t find any solutions that completely solved the collision problem, however I thought about how each option would affect the game and I decided to remove the horizontal collision on the character since it would make the game much smoother. I noticed that even with the horizontal collision turned on, the character would sometimes glitch through platforms so I felt that leaving it out was the best option. Again, with the sound continuation I was unable to find a solution that solved the problem although I did find other actions that helped me program the sound effects for movement etc.
- How effective was your finished project in solving audio/visual/interactive based problems at the end of your creative media project?
Overall I think that the game I have produced does solve the problems we faced although I feel that it would be significantly better if I could have resolved the few problems regarding sound and character collision. Despite this I am still happy with how I used colour and animation to portray the character and location I was given in the criteria. I feel that I was able to represent the two elements in a way that would capture the target audience into being interested in the game.
- How could you make it better?
As said before I think the two fundamental weaknesses to the game are the collision problems and lack of sound. Once I am able to figure how to solve these issues the final result would be significantly better. Since these problems make the game more difficult to play, I feel that fixing them would make them more interactive and playable which means that it would be more attractive to the target audience. I also feel that it would be great to add some more levels since this would allow me to show more information as to who the character is and where the game is placed. As well as this it would give me more opportunity to include other enemies and game mechanics, making the overall game more enjoyable.
- What audio/visual/interactive skills have you learned during this project and how can you develop them further for your FMP?
During this project I have learnt many different skills. I have been able to use the BFXR website, allowing me to further my knowledge in sound design and get a better understanding as to how sound can change the entire atmosphere in a situation and can convey information without showing anything on screen. I also learnt about sprite design which was very interesting to me since I hadn’t completed anything like this before. Since doing this I feel much more confident with pixel art illustration and sprite posture, style etc. Another skill that I have learnt is how to use GameMaker. Before this term I had also never used this program so it has been great to learn about how games are developed and the time that it takes from start to finish. One of the main skills that I have been able to use and progress with is my animation work. This will definitely be used in the final major project since I feel that this is one of my strongest abilities. I feel that this project has opened up a good amount of opportunity for the final major project since I have learnt so many new skills.