Sunday, 29 June 2008

XNA Robot Game

Now this is too cool to let by. The folks at Creator's Club have released a new mini-game for Premium members.

Robot Game is created by a South Korean game company, Zapetto. Download and try it out. Besides the fun factor, it boasts several cool technical examples you may want to check out. It also features a nice split-screen co-play mode. (Hint hint nudge nudge - cough, Assignment 2, cough).

Fancy the next mini-game coming from a team here in SP... now just imagine that... :)

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Why Mini-Games Don't Work

There has been a rising trend to include mini-games in commercial games, and to a certain extent, student projects have been trying to emulate the model of gameplay. In commercial games, mini-games work to various degrees of success, depending on execution and diversion from the main game. What does this mean exactly?

What works?

For a mini-game to "work", it should not detract from the enjoyment of the main game you are playing. An positive example of a mini-game is the chariot racing segment in the Suburban Babylon chapter of Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones.

In the chariot racing segment, the player steers the Prince's chariot through the streets of Babylon. During the race, the Sands of Time abilities are still available to the Prince. This means it's a racing game where you get to reverse time to do minor corrections to your gameplay.

The Sands of Time is a major feature for the POP series in that it introduces a more forgiving gameplay that allows players to tweak and make corrections as they play, without the need for instant death scenarios which lead to frustrations and needless replay.

The chariot mini-game works for POPTTT in the following ways:
  1. Similar gameplay: Rules and skills players learned in main game still applies.
  2. No new rules: The player does not have to learn any new skills.
  3. Enjoyment: The transition of the gameplay is logical and fits well into the story of the game, driving the player forward and giving him motivation to play the level.

What doesn't?

A counter-example on the other hand would be the mini-games included in Spider-Man 3. The gameplay and handling of the player avatar (Spider-Man in this case), is quite well done and much improved from its hugely successful predecessor (Spider-Man 2), but the mini-games put a dampener on it all and really spoiled the game for most fans and new players.

While the entire game is littered with mini-games, let's take a look at one of them for argument's sake.

Throughout the game, you are tasked to defuse bombs that have been set as part of terrorist attacks (cue 1st cliche in modern game themes). These typically start off with you swinging/racing against time (tried-and-tested concept from SM2) to find the location of the bomb. Once there, you hit a context button to activate the mini-game.

The mini-game requires a series of accurate button hits and thumbstick twists on the controller. This is reminiscent of successful rhythm games/minigames such as DDR or Guitar Hero, but doesn't really work well here. To it's credit, the gameplay for the mini-game is tight but quite pointless. Why would Spider-Man have the neccessary skills in defusing bombs, and what do button presses and twists have to relate to something as sophisticated in real life such as explosives disarmament?

The mini-games in Spider-Man 3 do not work in the following aspects:

  1. New skills needed: All the swinging and acrobatic moves you've learned as Spidey previously are meaningless in the mini-games. All you need here are fast twitchy button mashes and twists. Our grade school cousin would do better in this than us.
  2. Detraction from gameplay: You're no longer the Amazing Spider-Man; you're the one-man-bomb-squad. Even Spider-Man admits this as a smart aside during the game.

Looking at the above, the success of mini-games in longer form games depend on their execution and design. On their own, a string of mini-games could be compiled into a game itself very nicely, but for a mini-game to succeed as a task in a game, it should not detract from the main gameplay, nor should it require the user to learn and apply a radically different set of skills.

In my next post, we'll take a look at how mini-games can be implemented correctly for Final Year Projects (if at all?).

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Dream Build Play 2008

Can't get enough of XNA Game Studio 2.0 in class? ;)

Microsoft's Dream Build Play challenge is on again. The emphasis for the competition is as usual, fun games.

Register to get a year's subscription for the XNA Creator's Club (worth US$99 or S$179).

If you're doing the Console Game Development module in DMIT, you might want to think about putting in the polish for those assignments and submitting them as an entry in the challenge.

Due date is in September 2008. Submissions may be made from 1 - 23 September.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Now! Open to Public! is now open to everyone! This means you no longer have to login to read the latest posts and updates on game development.

You'll still need to login to post a comment though. You can use any email to register for a google account.

I'm using my school email for this account. This means for login, I'm typing my-name@sp-dot-edu-dot-sg. Try it!

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Microsoft Game Developer's Day 2008

The Microsoft Game Developer's Day is here again. Looking at the schedule, it looks to include what's new in XNA 3.0 and a peek at the XNA Community Games.

Registration is only $30. Learn more here.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Sony PlayStation Kits for Education

Sony announced today that they'll be releasing educational development kits for their PSP and PlayStation 2 consoles.

This looks to be for the US and Western European institutes for the near future. Let's see if we can get someone to start organising Sony Game Developers day in Singapore soon. Keep your fingers crossed!

XNA anyone? ;)

Thanks to Darren Quek for the heads up.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Roles in Module Assignments

One question that comes up very often in group assignments is: Can we work in groups of 2 / 3 / 4?

Most of the assignments I write have mandatory requirements of 2 members and only 3 where the numbers in the class are odd.

If a group is well organised, the team can benefit from having 2 to 3 members for small Module Assignments.

For example, a team of 3 people for a programming assignment (Console Game Development / 3D Game Development / fill-in-your-module-name) may organise themselves as such:

1. Graphics / Engine Programmer - takes care of the nuts and bolts of the game engine such as camera, models, physics (collision), input handlers.

2. Gameplay Designer / Programmer - designs the gameplay mechanics and logic AND programs those. This is a small project so you'll save time and manpower by being the game designer and programmer at the same time. It also gives you a good idea of what's possible and what's not logically and pragmatically.

3. Modeller / Graphics Artist - this role is optional and nice to have (READ: Non-critical). A dangerous position to be in in a programming assignment, as your teammates can / should easily be able to locate simple public domain models or art without you. Programmer's art is always acceptable in a programming module assignment. If you do take up this role, strive for excellence and support the requirements of your team as far as possible.

On the other hand, a disorganised team can have overlap of roles which may not only create duplication of work, but also unneccesary dependencies. The worst case scenarios may have sleeper members who clock in simply for the credit at the end of the project.

Choose your members carefully and plan your work well at the beginning for a successful delivery.