The last few months have been filled with many conversations about several different topics. They ranged from the absolute bottom of the development process, like what software we plan on using, to the top where we determined whether or not the player should be able to quit the game at some point. Don’t worry, the vote is currently 50/50 on that quit button.
While the conversations about the technical aspect of the game tended to be on the shorter side, the discussions about design were much longer. So long in fact, that these discussions will likely continue up until after BRAX 2 is complete. The reason being that it’s easy to determine what software should be used for development, or set up and maintain coding standards. However, it's difficult to actually design and make a piece of software. A project scope needs to be set, mechanics, features, and goals need to be determined, priorities need to be defined and timeframes need to be made.
While the journey was long and arduous, we have finally finished preparing and I am glad to say that Development of BRAX 2 will begin in January of 2016.
ABG Rush is an educational game funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The project was started in January of 2015. The goal was to provide nursing students with an alternative way to both learn about and practice diagnosing arterial blood gas. And after the better part of a year, development on ABG Rush is complete and the game is available for all to play.
In it's current state, ABG Rush features 4 real-life case-studies, an interactive glossary, a practice tool, and supports both English and Spanish with the ability for more languages to easily be added.
You can learn more about ABG Rush and download it here. And you can play ABG Rush online here.
So today was the first big play-test for ABG RUSH.
The current version of ABG Rush as of July 7th can be found here.
We had upwards of twenty people come and play the game. The majority of play-testers were Nursing students and faculty from Quinnipiac University. It was really exciting watching people play the game for the first time. We definitely learned a lot about our game and the people that will be playing it.
We were able to gain a lot of really great feedback about all portions of the game. The testers were able to point out and pin down bugs they found, and any inaccuracies in the data we were using as reference materials. This was great help because our team is incredibly small and our limited testing had not found any of these bugs and inaccuracies.
The most criticized portion of the game was the timing of different interactions such as the player washing their hands, or the player's character having conversations with patients. Timing and planning out actions are a very important part of the game. Patients will only wait for a set amount of time to see the player (nurse). If they are not seen within this time frame, they will storm out of the building, and cause the player to lose points. Due to this importance players were unhappy that specific actions took a very long time. For instance, the action of washing hands (which includes walking to the sink) takes between 3 and 5 seconds.
The wait time is fine with a single patient, but when there are 2 or more scattered around the room, that 3-5 seconds for washing hands quickly begins to add up. And there are more equally time-consuming actions within the game. As a result of these actions: as the game progresses and the number of patients increase, players continually fell behind and were unable to keep up which resulted in a loss players did not feel they deserved.
While there was a lot of criticism, there were also a lot of suggestions for ABG RUSH. One particular suggestion I think was great is to assist the players with building connections between symptoms, vital signs, and other information before diagnosing. One option to do this would be to ask the player to provide a guess or their idea of what the diagnosis might be before they are able to request blood work.
At the end of our play-testing session we got a big thank you and a push to keep moving forward with our game. The play-testers like what we have done so far because it's drastically different from anything they've seen before. They really appreciated that we were making a game that they could use to learn.
Based on the feedback we received today, our goal for the play-test two days from now are:
This weekend Zach and I presented our game BRAX at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institutes Game Fest. It was a 5-hour round trip but It was definitely worth every minute.
This was the first time we had ever shown BRAX to the general public. Not just one person, but 3 players finally beat BRAX. We also got a lot of great feedback from people that had no prior knowledge of BRAX. The feedback we gained was very helpful and has given us some insight on changes and additions we should implement during development of BRAX 2.0.
The feature requested the most by players happened to be a fast-forward option for ghosts. Many people explained that although they liked how the ghosts and the feature in general was implemented, they did not like being forced to wait and watch the ghosts perform all their actions. This was especially true in later levels when attempts would take longer.
Since this was a feature requested by the majority of players, it has definitely become a priority in our design for BRAX 2.0.
Other requests happened to be a way to display information about ghosts to the player, such as when a ghost might die, or which ghost is which. This feature was scrapped from the original BRAX due to time constraints, but now that players have asked, it's likely to be in BRAX 2.0.
As of now, development on Time Takes Its Toll has been suspended. After meeting with other members of the team, we have decided it would be best to continue working on TTT after classes are over and our schedules are much clearer. We would be able to come back to the project with new ideas and fresh minds.
During our recent meeting, we discussed several ideas for a game we could create with our remaining time. While there were many good ideas, one was a clear winner. We will be building a God-Game focusing on exploration and management.
The player has a complete 360 degree view of the planet their minions currently inhabit. Although the player is a “god” they are unable to see areas clearly if no beacons are in the area. So the best way for the player to see more of their surroundings is to colonize by moving minions into other areas and building structures like beacons that can remove the fog.
This may seem simple but a lot of strategy will come into play when deciding when, where and how quickly to expand. All minions and infrastructure like beacons have an initial resource cost to create, and more resources to keep them working. If the player expands too rapidly, and is unable to keep up the flow of resources, they may lose half of their workforce or an entire area back to the fog. This could then cripple them further because they may not have the workforce necessary to keep up the current level of operations.
There are several other aspects of the game that have not yet been decided such as whether or not there will be a form of combat, what the win-state is, if the game will follow a story, and more. I can speak for myself though when saying that I’m very excited for this new game, and I hope that everything will go much smoother than Time Takes Its Toll. We have already set up a more frequent and stable way to communicate with each other, assign tasks, and organize. These things alone show that we are off to a much better start than we were with Time Takes Its Toll.
It has now been a month since we began work on Time Takes Its Toll, a Reverse RPG. Seeing that we only have 1 month left to continue working on a project, it’s time to reflect on this one, and see if we should continue moving forward with it.
There are many things about our process that should have been done differently with this project. Although our game was initially designed back during the 2014 Global Game Jam, much of it was revamped for the current project. These changes, our initial lack of communication, and our lack of defined schedule gave us a thrashing.
While the game was initially small, the changes being made greatly increased the size of what we wanted to accomplish. We did not notice how much of a difference this was until after work had begun.
Due to our eagerness to work on the project, we easily and quickly designated roles, but we did not balance them evenly among ourselves. We also did not thoroughly plan out all of the work that needed to be done and set deadlines for it. And each of our busy schedules only made it more difficult to try and prioritize work for this game over other things.
While those things hindered us, the worst happens to be the lack of communication during our initial weeks. We rarely met outside of the classroom to work with each other on the game. When we did work together outside of class, it was rare to have all the team members there in person. Unnecessary work was sometimes completed, and other times work came to a standstill.
When it comes to my work on the game, I was filling the position of both artist, and audio. Since audio is normally back-loaded and art/asset creation front-loaded, my first two weeks were spent creating sketches of multiple assets that would be in the game including weapons, characters, cards, and more. The following week was spent digitizing those sketches. Knowing that cards would be the most important, I focused on those first, and created something that everyone on the team was happy with. It gave us some art we could use now during internal testing, but also something that could be added onto later. If we continue with the project, my next task is going to be creating a tile set that will be used for the scenery of the game.
If we are to continue working on this game, I think that several things would need to be changed in order for us to create a successful project on time. Otherwise, we need to find something else to work on.
Although communication has improved, I would still like it to be better. I feel that meeting with the people I am working with or being in frequent communication with them while working is very important. The size of the game needs to be trimmed down to the bare minimum. At the moment, we would burn ourselves out if we tried to accomplish everything on time. And the quality of work we had for assignments in other classes would definitely be lowered.
Another necessity is that of a clear plan with deadlines. We need to know exactly what is due and when in order to keep the ball rolling. Guesstimating what we should be doing now, or next for that matter really put us in a hole initially.
All in all, I am not resigned to working on this game any further, but I do believe some changes will need to be made in order for this game to become what we set out to create.
Last night I went to the Playcrafting NYC March Demo night. I got to meet quite a few people including the creators of several games recently released and currently in development. All of the games were awesome, and it was really nice to meet the people who made them. I think my favorite of the night was the card game: Bycatch.
A game about remaining invisible to both yourself and to your predators. The game has an awesome camouflage mechanic, dynamic difficulty, branching paths, and generative soundscapes.
A card game that employs your phone's camera for surveillance, Bycatch sees each player control a nation on the hunt for suspected terrorists. Players try to locate suspects hiding abroad using drone surveillance, and eliminate them with drone strikes. Meanwhile, they must shelter their citizens from the attacks of their opponents.
A short first-person adventure game and takes place in one giant area with multiple nooks, crannies, and even some hidden passages. Due to being circuitous, the game can be explored from any direction at any pace.
Gay Fighter Supreme -
A satirical take on 2D sprite-based fighting games from the 90s, Gay Fighter Supreme features character types from within the LGBT community. Fight your way through foes to be crowned supreme! The only colors in this rainbow are black and blue.
Bunny Love -
An endless runner that takes place in Bunny World, which has been ravaged by the evil wolf gang. Only two bunnies survived, Bun Bun and Twitch. It’s their job to repopulate the world with bunnies using the power of love. However, the wolf gang is hot on their tails. Do you have what it takes to protect them on their journey to Carrotopia?
All in all, I had a great time at the Playcrafting Demo Night, and I am currently thinking about attending another either the April Demo Night or the April Spring Expo.
Over the course of the past month, I have been getting feedback and usability results from people that have come to the site. I have been continually making changes to the site based on this feedback. I think the site is much better off for it now. A list of changes since the soft launch are:
After making a few more changes in the coming weeks, I believe that the website will be ready for a full launch.
I'm a Game Designer and Developer. I will be posting about my progress on different projects and about events I attend.