Things have wound down for the year at Junkfish Manor, so I figured it’d be an idea to wrap up the blog post with the team’s games of the year!
Well, most of the team’s anyway. Our Glorious Leader, His Imperial Excellency and Admiral of Our Hearts Simon couldn’t make up his mind, Bean got lost in space and time and Adam is swimming on a roof somewhere…
Anyway, let’s roll! In their own words and no particular order:
Steph: Ni No Kuni - A studio Ghibli game that is utterly gorgeous, the story and soundtrack are fantastic too. It felt like I had jumped right into a story book. Mr.Drippy is a great character, flippin!
Peter: The Last of Us – It combined a well-written, emotionally touching story with spectacular set-pieces, and competently designed action/fighting sections. The character dynamic between Joel and Ellie was very well crafted, and the manner in which it evolved over the course of the game was both compelling and endearing. It borrowed mechanics from various other games, primarily the Uncharted series, but it combined and executed them in such a manner that it would be a dismay to see this game missing from any GOTY list. 11/10. Very much yes.
Gary: Bioshock Infinite – Waited for this game for ages and when I finally got my hands on it I was not disappointed. The story of this game lived up to its amazing predecessors, delivered beautifully on graphics and had exciting and challenging gameplay. The change of setting away from Rapture to the new Columbia was a nice change while still giving the fans their nostalgia by having references to Rapture throughout the game. To anyone who hasn’t played this yet I would highly recommend it.
Grant:Outlast. While horror fans were gearing up for the sequel to 2010 hit Amnesia: The Dark Descent, this one really came out of the woodwork. Packed with beautiful set pieces (albeit a tad covered with blood and viscera), intense chase sequences featuring disturbing and memorable enemies, and scares as clever and memorable as the infamous ladder scene from F.E.A.R, it’s a shining example of what a good horror game can be. In addition to tight gameplay mechanics, Outlast has a great sense of pacing, and while it loses its momentum a bit towards the end you never feel bored or like the game is being artificially padded. It’s a very linear game, but the level design and art direction is so good that even though for many chases you will be running down a set track, it still feels incredibly tense. I would highly recommend this to any fans of the genre.
Runners Up: Bioshock Infinite, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Grand Theft Auto V
Andy Tait: I hate picking things. I love all my children equally. XCOM Enemy Within was gid. Aye. I liked that. Though I think I had a fantastic (and unexpected) blast playing through blood dragon and shadow warrior. Both so over the top. And funny. Yeah. They are my fav games this year, maybe. I can’t remember what I played. So my GOTY I ‘spose. Shadow Warrior if I have to pick between them, just because of the sword. I don’t know.
Judy:I’ll say Don’t Starve. Its a great rogue like game with a lot to it. I love how your able to plan your stratergy indepth. Stuff like what tools you make first, what materials you need to make said tools, how dangerous is it to get these items, planning wheres the best place to set up your base, exploring the randomly generated environment all the while trying to not starve to death are just a few things the game has to offer. Plus it has a cool creepy vibe.
Jaime: I wrote up a list for another site that was in no order, so having to pick one from that is a bit of a pain. I’m probably going to go with Rayman Legends, with Super Mario 3D World a seriously close second. The pair could flip easily. I’ve been playing both of them on the WiiU and co-op, which is probably why Rayman wins out over Mario (That bloody multiplayer camera! My only compaint with the game!), but in terms of single player it’d be the other way around. Both are bright, vibrant and just straight up fun to play. Rayman does have the music stages too though.
And there we have it! 7/10, and we’ll patch in the rest later :). We’ll be back in the new year with a slightly revised blog format and serveral other rather exciting things, so do keep an eye out!
It’s Judy the animator at Junkfish, here again to blog about pointless things.
Today instead of rambling about animatory (I don’t care if thats not a real word) business like I usually do, I shall instead talk about Christmas festive crap as it’s the last day here at Junkfish before we all go off the for holidays!
In keeping with the theme of animation as well as Christmas, I’ve decided to give a list of animated Christmas films that I personally enjoy watching around this time of year. Here they are in no particular order or ranking:
1,A Nightmare before Christmas. This is a confusing film in the sense that it’s hard to decide if you should watch it at Halloween or at Christmas. Either way the animation, story and set designs are all done extremely well and puts you in the Christmas (and even Halloween) spirit.
It also made it into Just Dance… so GAMES!
2, Mickey’s Christmas Carol
Yep it’s a Disney animation, as well as an adaption of ‘A Christmas Carol’ a tale we’ve all seen a hundred times. But I like it, it’s a nice film that makes you feel good.
3, How the Grinch Stole Christmas This is a classic film that’s still good today as it was years ago.
You can also have a singalong.
4, Arthur Christmas This is a fairly newish film compared to the others. I like this film due to the disfunctional relationship between the members of the santa claus family. It’s entertaining and well done in the way the all develop as characters and as a family.
5, Rise of the Guardians Another newish animated film that came out around last year. While not entirely Christmassy the animations are still gorgeous to look at.
Well there you go folks, those are a few of my favourite animated Christmas films.
I hope you all have a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year!
It’s quickly approaching Christmas, and here in the Junkfish offices everyone is growing restless… Mr. Doyle even said he’d pay us if we were good employees! Eagerly anticipating the holiday season and some family time, spirits around here are jolly despite the unpleasant weather. We’ve given each other “lovely” presents and had a good laugh.
BUT THAT IS NO REASON FOR SLACKING.
So, because I am Peter, you’re all gonna get another helping of procedural generation chit-chat. This time, I’ll go over the system we’re using to create a “map”, of sorts, of the ship’s approximate layout. I refer to the pair of tools as the Region Window/Editor and Region Manager. The artists prefer to call these ’tilesets’, but that’s silly talk!
In my last blog, I spoke of how rooms were given Regions and Themes – the Region Editor uses these, along with its own data set, to tell rooms where they can and cannot go. I’ll start off with the Region Manager, as the Editor is rather useless if nothing has been added to the Manager.
Region Manager is a script on a GameObject, and this script allows the user to create a list of intended Regions. The name, associated themes, and colour of the Region are all defined when the user adds a new Region. When choosing the colour the alpha should be set to around 130, as objects in the Region Editor would otherwise be occluded (I’ll cover that a bit more when talking about the Editor). Various vibrant colours also help when distinguishing between Regions, so the user should try to keep them varied.
The more Regions the Manager stores, the more constrained the user can make the ship through the Region Editor. Regions can be further defined by adding Themes to them. It is currently necessary for a Region to have at least 1 Theme, otherwise that Region cannot be added to a room.
Bright colours for all the Regions!
There is also a second script hiding under the Manager called Region Control Initial Window. This script allows the entire set-up of the Region Editor to be reset, i.e. any user defined Regions in the Editor will be set back to the default of “Inaccessible”.
The Region Editor is to the level generation process as Mr. Doyle is to our company. They tie their respective processes together, and tell the various bits they’re in charge of: what to do, and where to go.
The Editor allows the user to define zones in the ship where rooms are allowed to spawn, through the use of Regions. When opened, the Editor can be slightly daunting. The user is presented with 2 grids of cuboids, and various buttons that, upon clicking, reveal even more buttons! A fair bit of UI for the user to get used to, but it is ultimately worth it.
The eagle-eyed user will perceive that the pair of grids are labelled with “Top-Down View” and “Side-On View”. These each represent, as you may expect, a top-down view and a side-on view of where the level is intended to go. Models that are dragged into the scene can be viewed in these grids, therefore, if the shell of the ship is dragged in, it will make life a lot simpler for the user when determining which Regions should go where on these grids. This ties back to when I was talking about the alpha of Region colours, as, if the alpha is at maximum, the colours of the cuboids would be fully opaque and draw on top of the models – preventing the user from seeing them.
Lining the top of the Editor are the Active Variables. These detail the currently selected values for the Editor variables, and tell the user where the level will spawn from (the level will spawn in the direction of positive X and Z, from that point).
Quick run down of the buttons that line the left side: each button, when clicked, will expand a list of other buttons. This expanded list contains all available values for the button the user clicked to begin with. The number in parentheses represents the current value of the button, and the colour of text for the Regions button represents the colour of the currently active Region.
Floors: This list allows the user to choose the currently active floor of the ship that they wish to edit.
Depths: This list allows the user to choose how deep into the ship (into the Z-axis) that the user is editing
Regions: This list allows the user to choose which Region type they would like to “colour in” with
Fill Size: This allows the user to determine the size of area they would fill when editing the pair of grids
Undo Changes: This reverts any changes the user has made since they last saved
Save Changes: This saves any changes the user has made
Buttons, buttons, and buttons
Alternatively, to change the floor/depth, the user can also right click in either of the grids to choose the floor/depth they wish to edit, i.e. if the user right clicks a cuboid in the top grid, that row will become the new active depth.
Once the user has selected the values of everything they wish to edit, left clicking in the grids will colour each selected cuboid in the colour of the chosen Region. Thereby allotting this particular cuboid to that Region, and allowing rooms associated with that Region to spawn there. If the Fill Size is greater than 1, a cuboid around the mouse will display to tell the user all the squares that they will fill on click.
You can even use it to make smiley faces!
Finally, the highlighted row on each grid represents the currently selected floor/depth.
This whole tool essentially boiled down to me making a primitive version of Paint for our game, to create pretty pictures for rooms to spawn in. It’s nice for the artists, I suppose. And I received Mr Doyle’s signature pat on the shoulder of approval.
And with that, I shall wish all you lovely people a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Birthday (to those who have one, our resident soundman Jaime has his today – so wish him a Happy Birthday!), Happy Hogmanay, Happy Kwanzaa, and enjoy your holidays if you don’t celebrate any of those.
Brace yourself to hear more from me in the new year,
Jaime here. Given that it’s winter and we’re beginning to wind up for the holidays, I thought I’d give my blog a theme this week. So I’m going to talk about Obligatory Ice Levels!
Chances are if you’ve played a game you’ve run into one of these. Sometimes they’re purely a visual thing, you’re in a cold place so snow and ice abound! Other times they can have an effect on the gameplay. Platformers in particular get landed with slippery ground when these levels pop up, and Nintendo have a thing for planting ice worlds in their catalogue too. And boy oh boy, there’ll be a few Nintendo games in here. So I’m gonna be a little cheeky and list a few of my favourites.
Oh yeah, there’ll also be music if I can find it too. Because audio.
1. Mario Series
The various strains of Mario games usually have them in some format, with my earliest memory of Obligatory Ice Levels coming from Super Mario All-Stars, with World 4 in Super Mario Bros. 2 (complete with whales!) and the horrifying World 6 in Super Mario Bros. 3 that just didn’t seem to end. Infact, I could probably make a list from levels just from that franchise alone! And that’s not even considering the likes of Mario Kart either. Mario Galaxy has the Freezeflame Galaxy and the Ice Mario, Mario 64 had Cool Cool Mountain and penguins, but I’m going for something a bit more personal, so…
Behold! World 5 from Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island! Yoshi’s Island is probably my favourite Mario game (definitely my favourite 2D one), made memorable by its awesome boss fights and rather fetching art style. Do you want to see a skiing Yoshi? You’ve come to the right place? Want to fly some seagulls? Yup! Want to fight a raven on the moon to one of the best boss themes ever?
Oh I love the music in this game.
Yeah. I thought so.
2. Zelda Series
I’ll try not to bundle all the Nintendo ones together, promise. The Zelda games frequently have Link power through and ice level, usually a cavern, complete with ice variants of enemies, slippery surfaces and themed puzzles to boot. But there’s one ice level from the series that sticks out in my mind.
Snowpeak from Twilight Princess. Twilight Princess had some pretty interesting elements but I find it hard to replay due to the overly long tutorial section (and that damned fishing part). Which is a shame, because it has Stallord, arguably the best boss in the series, and Snowpeak, which is a bit of a deviation from Zelda’s norm.
For starters, you get to snowboard there. Secondly is the dungeon, Snowpeak Ruins, which takes place in an abandoned mansion. It’s part ghost house, part ice level, and manages to suitably capture the atmosphere of both. Also the ball and chain is found here, making it usable for the first (and only) time.
Oh yeah, the music is suitably creepy throught the game, with this track having a shoutout to Earthbound as well.
3. Skies of Arcadia
Skies of Arcadia is one of those games that’s spoke about in hushed tones, usually with “HD remake” somewhere in the sentence. And rightfully so. Even today, the game hold up really well in almost every regard. Its overworld is quite easily one of the best in a “traditional” JRPG sense, mainly as you’re flying around in an airship, but also because it actively plays upon the sense of discovery and wonder that the characters experience. It’s separated into 6 main areas, each under a different colour of moon that usually matches the stereotyped trope (ie. Red is desert, green is forest, etc.). And of course, it has an ice area. The Purple Moon and the frozen continent ties up one of the earliest storylines introduced into the game, a play on Moby Dick with the character Drachma. Anything further would be spoilers, so go play it if you can!
4. Dark Souls
Dark Souls is becoming a trope/meme as of late (see “Oh it’s like Dark Souls meets…” quotes regarding difficulty) but the game is still a beacon of solid, engaging gameplay wrapped up in a fantastic setting. The games ice level is more in appearance, but the boss battle for that area makes excellent use of it. (Minor spoilers ahead…)
That is Crossbreed Priscilla, from the Painted World or Ariamis. Ariamis itself is gloomy, bleak and very much on par for what you’d expect from a snowy level in the game. So why Pricilla? She has an ability that turns her invisible, and she has a fairly wide sweeping attack that means that she can clip you quite easily. To find her you have to make use of the environment, watching for her footsteps in the snow. It’s a simple thing, but I like Dark Souls and the fight.
5. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories
Okay, so this one’s cheating a bit. The remake of the first Silent Hill has the town covered in snow normally, and freeze over in the Otherworld. The game itself is excellent, focussing on the “survival” part of Survival Horror and not just being a basic port of the original. Also the real time transitions between worlds are pretty awesome.
Tie that into some other nice little touches like the psych profile and the use of the Wiimote for a number of different things and you get a pretty excellent package. Also I’ll take any excuse to post some Akira Yamaoka stuff.
6. Metroid Series
The Metroid games don’t have that many ice levels. Infact, there are only two (we don’t talk about that Other game that doesn’t exist). Firstly there’s Sector 5 in Metroid: Fusion, which is an inversion of the heat levels of the other games due to Samus’ inability to handle the cold. It also holds one of the best bosses in the series on concept alone.
That is Nightmare, and to people unfamiliar with him he can be exactly that.
But I’d be remiss to not talk about Phendrana Drifts from Metroid Prime. The game as a whole is still beautiful to look at, but Phendrana also has this to fall back on as well.
7. Final Fantasy Series
There are a few obvious examples here: Narshe from FFVI, the mountain from FFVII, the snow caverns… But as far as ice themed levels go there’s one winner.
Oh yeah, it has this thing…
Paramina Rift from FFXII, complete with blizzards and hunts that only appear during them. Story wise it’s part of an almost spiritual climb to a holy temple, and plays upon the hardships that are often tied with pilgrimages. Hardships that may include the above enemy and a giant dragon that pops up later in the game. The music is quite nice too.
Actraiser is a bit of a curio. Part 2D action/adventure, part god sim complete with city building. It may sound like a clash of styles, but both are really well done and make sense within context of the game. So much so that the sequel’s omission of the god sim elements make it a far weaker game.
Anyway, Northwall is the snow covered area of the world in the game, with the city building sections forcing you to deal with the snow covered ground and the likes on top of the more traditional ice themed action sections. This is less for the music and more for the audio changes during the boss fight. It’s nice to see even little implementations of audio effects over two decades ago!
Sounds like a cave!
9. Chrono Trigger
Chrono Trigger technically has two of these. The first is 10,000 B.C. beneath Zeal, which I’m using as an excuse to use the music from it.
Or a remix of it at least
The second is a bit spoilerific, but it involves a mountain in the future and ties into why Chrono Trigger’s story is so massively well regarded. It’s also completely skipable, despite being a fairly major thing. Chrono Trigger’s multiple endings allow you to finish the game at practically any point in the game, including right at the start. If you can, grab the DS remake which has a load of bonus content and a better translation.
Sometimes a picture paints a thousand words. And music even more so.
There are 10 to keep it rounded!
And here’s what the rest think! Well, most of them. Adam and Grant aren’t here just now :(. (I predict that it’d have been Metal Gear related for Adam and Metroid Prime for Grant though)
Peter: Winter section from The Last of Us – “Ellie’s character development and the creepiest character in the game appears there too. And the snowstorm.”
Tait: Doesn’t have one :(.
Simon: A Symphony of Frost and Flame from Warcraft 3: The Frozen Throne – “Because it has the two big characters finally facing off. And it’s f**king cool.”
Gary: Ice Cap Zone from Sonic 3 – “First one I can remember playing.”
Bean: Assault on the Control Room from Halo – “REASONS. And it feels open even though it’s not.”
Judy: Icy Peak from Spyro the Dragon 3 – “Because the swimming instead of flying was magical and being able to headbutt ice is cool and…” Judy really liked this level.
Steph: Snow Town Yule from Ni no Kuni – “It’s very pretty!”
And there we have it! Got a favourite ice level that’s not on the list? Drop us a comment :).
Next time might be next year, so happy holidays :).
With the unstoppable rise of digital and online entertainment over the last decade, one could be forgiven in thinking that tabletop games would be on the way out. However, this is clearly not the case, with games like ‘Catan’, ‘Resistance’ and others achieving success amongst gamers recently. Why is this? Well, my belief is that tabletop games are very well suited to certain types of games, as they have a specific set of properties that enable unique mechanics, allowing for experiences that video games currently struggle to reproduce. This article is not an attack on video games, merely a defence of tabletop games for their relevancy in the modern age. So, without further ado, I present to you my reasons for ‘Why Video Games and Tabletop Games can still be friends':
The first point about tabletop games is that the vast majority of them are local multiplayer. This is the area I believe tabletop games show the most promise for maintaining their place in gamers’ lives, so whilst there are single-player board/card games, this is will be the focus of the comparison. Additionally, consoles are typically the go-to devices for convenient local multiplayer video gaming, as many games support multiple controllers and can be played from the comfort of the couch, so they will be the point of reference. LAN gaming is also relevant, though this is generally more inconvenient as everyone is required to bring their own hardware, and depending on how they are set up, may not benefit from the same face-to-face social aspect that a lot of local multiplayer thrive on.
To begin the comparison, let’s look at how current local multiplayer video games and board games are laid out. From a social perspective, tabletop games are well suited for player-to-player interactions, as in order to actually play the game, gamers must usually face towards the middle of the table and thus face players on the other side, compared to video games where the focus is on a display somewhere else in the room. This has the immediate advantage that it is easier to talk to more of the players face-to-face, and allows players to see reactions and other body language that would otherwise be missed if a player was facing the screen. Some well known games have even used this as their primary mechanic, like Charades and, to a lesser extent, Resistance.
Additionally, the tabletop setup has another advantage in that a table can potentially portray more game information at once to a player than a typical screen. This is because a table can take up more of a player’s vision, due to the fact that a standard table surface is larger than a lot of screens and that a player sits right next to it. And that’s before we even consider that players often have their hand of cards as well.
The Settlers of Catan
One of the best contenders for video games solving both these issues is that interactive coffee table thing that Microsoft was demonstrating a few years ago, but the cost of entry for this hardware would likely have been quite prohibitive for mass-market adoption.
There is a mechanic in tabletop gaming that has existed for decades has only recently been made convenient in local multiplayer video games, and that mechanic is hidden information. Hidden information allows gamers to plan strategically and surprise other players with their actions, something that isn’t really possible if all the game information sits on one screen. From Poker, Cluedo or Scrabble to more modern games like Catan, Dixit or Resistance, tabletop games have used hidden information as a great strength, with some of these games being based entirely around the concept. For example, in Resistance, players are divided in to two teams: the spies and the resistance. The spies know who the spies are, but the resistance members don’t know who anyone else is. Your goal as a resistance member is to simultaneously figure out who the spies are, convince the other resistance members that you are on their side and make missions succeed. It is also the goal of the spies to convince the resistance members that they too are resistance so they can go on missions and fail them. The game then quickly becomes a fantastic mess of logical thinking, lies, bluffing and deception.
The reason for the lack of this great gameplay element in video games is obvious: nothing can be hidden if everyone is looking at one screen. Of course, if players are using two different screens, such as playing online or via LAN, then the hidden information mechanic can be achieved, but come with other disadvantages, with the former having a lack of locality and the latter having the inconvenient hardware requirement. The Wii U, whether intentionally or unintentionally, partially solves this problem, since up to two players can have an extra screenful of information all for themselves that they can keep secret, allowing for new types of games not previously seen in the video game realm.
Another promising video game platform for local multiplayer with hidden information might include mobile devices, as each player has their own screen, though they lack the large centralized public information space a.k.a. ‘the middle of the table’, that tabletop games utilize so well. Battery life is also a concern, at least for now.
This one is possibly more of an emotive reason, but I think it has merit anyway.
Board games are inherently physical. This means they are bound by the laws of physics. Every card, piece and coin takes up space in the real-world, and there is a finite number of them. This allows certain kinds of player-feedback that video games would be jealous of. For example, if I just had some great dice rolls in Catan and picked up a bunch of resource cards, I might have a hand so large I might struggle to hold them fanned out all at once. To me, this means I must be doing well, not just because of the number of cards (something a video game can replicate) but also reinforced physically by the fact it is more difficult to hold and manage the cards. Conversely, if I have no cards in my hand in Catan, the fact I can move my hands freely implies a bad/lesser state. Similar examples include placing reinforcements in Risk or even Monopoly money!
It’s not just the feeling of the pieces either. The fact that pieces are bound by the rules of reality means certain gameplay elements can become more intuitive, or may even affect the gameplay itself. For example, if I run out of reinforcements to place in risk, it is very intuitive that I can no longer place units. In a video game, this might be an arbitrary limit put in place by a game designer. Another example might be in card games using a standard 52-card deck. If I have three Jacks in my hand and I know Bob has one, then none of the other players have Jacks, and this may affect my gameplay decisions. This board/card game language is so intuitive that even video games can use it knowing that players already know how it works; coin flips, dice rolls, card draws and hands are all well-known mechanics that can help convey a system faster, similar to the language of health bars, checkpoints and experience/levelling that video games rely on so heavily.
Hopefully I have convinced you that board games will remain relevant at least for now, mostly due their focus on people, utilizing unique mechanics and tactility! Now, back to makin’ games…
For the games, just google the names I mentioned. I’m sure you’ll manage.
Potaito time. Well now, what should today be about? Last time I revealed the prototype monsters and gave you my little insight into the Oculus Rift. Today? I don’t have any exciting products to review, nor do I have anything to reveal. Maybe I’ll have something for January. In the meantime we could go over the process for creating some art assets, I suppose! At beginners’ level, yes?
It’s OK, I know poetry.
You’ll learn faster with poetry.
A bit of Chopin whilst we’re… CHOPIN up some polys!
When making assets for the environment
Keep in mind this requirement
You will want to have some management
And save yourself some embarrassment
So in order to not be impaired
You must ensure you are prepared!
Plan ahead what you are doing
So people will know what they are viewing
Grab yourself a bunch of reference
Pictures and images of your preference
Draw for yourself some concept art
And make sure it comes from the heart
Open up your chosen modelling kit
Which one? Don’t worry about it!
Max? Maya? What about Blender?
You don’t have to be a big spender!
All of these programs are just tools!
There aren’t any overarching rules
They can all do pretty much the same
Just pick one and stop being lame!
New scene. Daunting? No. Be positive
We will start by blocking with a primitive
Soon enough it will feel like building with Lego blocks!
So chill and have yourself a whiskey on the rocks!
(No don’t do that you might be in university or at work and that would be quite bad)
More advanced levels have many more strings
Polycount, edgeflow – all these technical things
For a beginner, try to worry not
Take each step at a time, soon you’ll be shit hot!
Once you have your model its time to unwrap
Learning this at first might feel like a slap, TO THE FACE
But in reality this is not the case
It’s quite easy, just take it at your own pace
Once that’s done, have a little break
Why not go to the kitchen, cook up a steak
You know what would be good with that? Birthday cake.
Unless you’re on a diet. Then a healthy shake.
Why not go outside? Stretch your legs. Have a walk
Move about the place and have a talk
But if you’re employed then get BACK TO WORK
Your model is grey and could do with a texture
Almost done, get off the TV, stop watching Dexter
There are many ways to achieve the look you want to get
But starting with something like Photoshop is a good bet
Once you’re done you’ll have a finished asset!
What? It looks terrible? That’s because there is much to learn!
Pretty normal, no need to raise concern
Bury your pride and go look at a guide
It might look bad now, but at least you tried
It’s a learning process so take it in stride
OK, now you should be pretty much be a master at creating art assets. There might be a few knowledge gaps in there, just Google them and I’m sure you will find all you need.
When in doubt, if it all seems too much just remember these three easy steps:
Hello to you all again, Gary “The Goat” here, it’s been a while. They finally let me out of my pen once again to let me write a little blog post about what I do here at the company.
Since my last post all that time ago it seems to be apparent that my little secret about the monster I was working on has now been made public. I mainly blame my team members Andy Tait and Jaime Cross for this. Almost right after I teased you about my monster I see that this wee “selfie” pops up on the next few posts.
At least it wasn’t in the bathroom mirror
Yes that was him. Lovely little thing isn’t he. At first you may be wondering why we just showed you that right after I was being so secretive about his appearance. This is because the monster didn’t always look like that and doesn’t look like that any more. Far from it. Gather round and get comfy as I am about to tell you a tale.
Chapter 1: Humble Beginnings
When the task was given to me to be in charge of the monster of “Maize” I was immediately faced with a challenge. It was the beginning of development, we had nothing started, no art assets, no code and no audio. How was I going to create a monster on my own without anything to start with? Everybody who knows me knows that I am not artistic so making the monster look scary was out of the window straight away. So I did my best attempt at programmer art in Unity and created the most beautiful creation you will ever see. I was taken aback by how well it turned out.
The selling price for this piece is £500
However when I looked at it again I realised that my phone call to the Louvre was a little bit premature. The Mona Lisa still holds that post, my humble little cube stood no chance. However with this floating around the scene I could begin programming the basics of the monster code. I could make this search around the scene for you and chase you down whenever he sees you (Because everybody knows that cubes have eyes) just like the actual monster would in the game. It was a start and even after a while even a floating black cube of death with a big red light slowly making it’s way towards you began to be intimidating after a while. But what I needed was a monster.
Chapter 2 – The Monster Is Loose!
We made sure to get his good side
I felt like Frankenstein getting first looks at his monster, minus the craziness and lightning. The monster finally had some context. This guy looked as if he was going to bash your face in instead of bumping into you and not saying excuse me. So many ideas rushed through my head about the possibilities that could happen with this running around now. Needless to say the mood was on a high here at Junkfish when he was working and walking around the scene and doing his monster business. By that I mean searching for and killing the player, not using a litter box in the corner. However progressing from a floating cube to a big a$$ monster like old Sparky also brought a lot of changes that needed to be made. The most obvious one was the scale of the beast, this guy needed a lot more space to run around in. When the designs of our level were brought into reality by our “Procedural Proprietor” AKA Peter, this was a big problem. He became a huge guy in a very small space, it just wasn’t going to work. This is sadly the reason why Sparky is not going to be making an appearance. Luckily the monster knew this and evolved accordingly.
Chapter 3 – The Future is in the Future
I got a new design of the monster through to my desk and I was immediately looking forward to working with it. He looked more menacing, more agile and more ferocious than ever. This is the current monster wandering my scenes right now so it is here I must tell you that you are now up to the present day in relation to how the monster has progressed in the development of “Maize”. He has really come a long way since a black cube with a light attached to it. He is getting more animated by the day and he is really starting to come together you will be glad to know. There is not too much more I can say about him right now unfortunately because of secrets that we want to keep under wraps for now, but maybe by the next time they allow me to write to you I will have more to tell you.
Pssssssst. I lied. I am going to show you a sneak peek at the new monster right now.
I’m keeping this post short and sweet as I’m writing this off the back of an important meeting which seems to have sapped a good amount of my daily brainpower – and writing time. Also my subject notes for this week’s blog literally read: “paper prototype” which any regular readers may recognise as a subject Grant decided to cover in depth in his last entry. The swine.
So instead of something Maize related I’ve decided to do a quick run down of my three favourite H.P. Lovecraft tales.
Who is H.P.? Just one of the most prolific horror writers ever, with everyone from Steven King to Neil Gaiman acknowledging his influence on their own works. Best of all his stories are short and are all public domain. Really, if you are in anyway a fan of horror you have no excuse not to give at least one of them a read. The only thing you could lose is a little time, it’s not like his tales ever drove anyone mad.
Although if you do buy be aware that even the cover will be bloody incredible.
The Music of Erich Zann
Possibly my fondness for this story stems from the fact that while reading through Lovecraft’s tales for the first time I had recently left home to move into university halls. Similarly the tales protagonist, a poor student, has been forced to take up the only accommodation he can afford in a building who’s only other tenant is the elderly German violist Erich Zann. Over his time in the building the student hears otherworldly music emanating from Zann’s room after dark and eventually discovers that this is part of a battle between him and the inconceivable other-dimensional beings that attempt to invade his room every night.
So yeah, quite like student halls.
The Colour out of Space
Widely considered one of Lovecraft’s best stories the colour out of space is the best example of H.P.’s truly ‘other’ antagonist.
A local surveyor investigates the ‘blasted heath’ an area of farmland where vegetation disintegrates, livestock become physically deformed and humans are driven mad or disappear. The only noticeable feature of the landscape is the sense that the land has taken on a slight ‘tinge’ as if a colour has been subtly changed.
The story is simultaneously fascinating and terrifying due to the inexplicable nature of the enemy – if it can even be called that. Even four years after my first reading the only way I can really imagine it is sort of like the colour correction used in Breaking Bad during the Mexico scenes.
At the Mountains of Madness
The longest tale Lovecraft ever wrote is one of his best. To list the stories main elements is basically to write the ideal recipe for horror:
Isolated Antarctic environment. Scientists out of their depth. Uncharted “supposedly” abandoned ruins. Forces beyond human control. A frantic chase sequence. A final maddening twist.
If love “The Thing”, “Prometheus” or … penguins, then this is almost definitely the Lovecraft tale for you.
Also the fantastic Lovecraft inspired rogue-like Eldritch is releasing a Mountains level as a Christmas expansion. Check it out here.
So those are my favourites. If you have your own already feel free to disagree if you don’t get reading some Lovecraft.
Rations: Dwindling, biscuits gone (Lindors non existent).
With hunger setting in, I’ll tell you about how, during the summer, I led a team composed of 5 Junkfish members on the grand voyage that was Dare to be Digital 2013. Our team name was Prehistoric Spatula and we created an augmented reality game called ‘DinerSaur’.
For Dare you need to create a pitch video to get through to the interview stage. We decided to mix ours up a bit and to have fun with it! So what better way to pitch a dinosaur game than by having some Jurassic Park references? (Andy Tait did a fantastic job of editing the video).
The feedback we got from our pitch video was brilliant, some even said it was the best pitch they had received. If you are looking at getting into Dare, my best advice on the video would be to make sure you clearly get across what it is you hope to achieve in the 9 weeks. Make sure your video includes how your game will be played, what features you want to include and a suitable Gantt chart. The next phase of the Dare process is the interview. For the interview you need to show that you can create a finished prototype for Protoplay within the 9 weeks. Our biggest problem was showing we could get the augmented reality working in the 9 weeks. Luckily we had a working prototype on our phones showing Rex stomping about with the use of a marker (Which at the time happened to be a Muppets music book).
We were very happy to find out we got into Dare 2013 and thus the summer of ‘DinerSaur’ came into full swing.
Dare had 15 teams from around the world all with their own amazing ideas and plans for the 9 weeks ahead. Our lovely neighbours, Stone Hammer Games, hailed from Ireland and were a great laugh. Their game ‘Two Remaining Souls’ was really fun and I was impressed with their networking (I adored their ‘Overly Irish’ theme too). Lunavark Studios, who made ‘Cosmic Couch’, were a great bunch of guys plus their art was amazing (It was no wonder they won the Wacom award)!
During Dare mentors from multiple game companies would come, play your game, and give you advice on what could be done to improve your game and what to watch out for. One of the best mentors for us was Denes from Lift London – he sat down with us and talked through a new mechanic we didn’t even think about and it added a whole new level of fun to our game. (Thank you again Denes)!
After the 9 weeks it was time for Protoplay.
Protoplay is the public event held at the end of Dare where the general public comes in to play your game. This year Protoplay stretched across 4 days and attracted 13,000 people. It was a very exhausting experience, but seeing kids running to our booth and coming back time and time again to play our game made it all worth it!
At the end of the weekend we didn’t win anything but the teams that did truly deserved it as their games were fantastic.
Overall, Dare was a great experience: it provides valuable insight to how an actual job in the games industry would feel, you get to make a lot of new friends, and you get to meet many professionals from different aspects of game development. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in making games to do it!
I’ll leave you with the trailer for our final game: