Week Fifteen – Walkthrough & Reflection

As the hand-in for this semester rapidly approaches, the weeks have been getting busier and busier. As a result though, things on the design front have been massively improved upon, and this week in particular has seen our biggest leap forward yet in the development of our now named game; DELTA-V.

Let’s start with that, then. Towards the end of last week, Josh and I were throwing around various words and synonyms of each in order to try and come up with a name for our space game. There were a lot of them, and since naming things is an incredibly difficult task (as the name is something you really have to get exactly right) the list of potential ones simply got longer and longer, without any real decision making in between.

capture3

(A selection of the potential names we came up with)

After a great deal of discussion, Josh and I had settled on three of the best name ideas that we had come up with; Undiscovered, Boundless and Delta-v. Of the three, we then most preferred Delta-v;

Deltav (literally “change in velocity”), symbolised as ∆v and pronounced delta-vee, as used in spacecraft flight dynamics, is a measure of the impulse that is needed to perform a maneuver such as launch from, or landing on a planet or moon, or in-space orbital maneuver. It is a scalar that has the units of speed.

The word is very much relevant to outer space, and particularly our game as some of the major mechanics are orbital manouevring and finding escape velocities in order to escape a planet’s gravitational pull. Delta-v is also a rather ambiguous title, as it gives precisely nothing away about the game other than the fact that it is about space – which is very inkeeping with the “unknown” aspect of our overall “pushing through the fear of the unknown” theme for the game.

We resumed the game name discussion in the early hours of this week, and eventually decided to keep Delta-v as the title going forward. It does fit rather well, and if we come up with anything better in the future then we can always replace it.

It was then Tuesday, and I spent much of the day further developing the design document. Incidentally, coming up with the name for the game the previous day had given myself and Josh a bit more of an idea of who our Audience was. We already pretty much knew that they were primarily going to be space exploration “enthusiasts” (due to the more realistic aspects of space mechanics in the game), and by naming the game DELTA-V we felt it kind of hammered that audience home, as only people who are majorly interested in space are going to understand what the name means (as delta-v is a calculation for orbital escape velocity, something that most people wouldn’t know). The name of the game should directly appeal to our primary audience, which is exactly what we want (as it is quite a niche audience).

With this in mind, I then began thinking about secondary audiences – going broader in terms of interested parties. The game does have a rather steep difficulty (due to the realistic mechanics)  along with a loose narrative (that can be quite spooky at times – the sentient bacteria for instance) so I decided that the target age group should likely be 16+. Going even broader, I looked into and further analysed specific elements of the game, picking out things like the science fiction elements (i.e. the discovery of alien life) as well as the emphasis on exploration (of both space and alien worlds) so decided to add enthusiasts of these to our target audience as well. The full paragraph on Audience can now be viewed in our design document (link in the menu above).

I then spent a little more time on Sound Design. From last week I had a pretty good idea of how music was going to work in the game (mainly minimalist) but actual sounds and sound effects was something I had not yet considered, so I decided to focus on that for a while. Things like rocket sound effects were obvious, but then I had an interesting idea. In reality, there is no sound whatsoever in space, due to the vacuum – so what if there was no sound in space in the game? It would certainly add to the “unknown” and rather eerie mood we were going for (not to mention being in-keeping with our realistic theme), and of course would be less work for us to do (and since we’re designing an entire Solar System, this is probably a good thing). I then consulted with Josh, and he agreed – there would be no sound in space.

I then began looking into how planets might sound – wind noises and things like that. Each world is different in the game, so each would have different environmental sounds. Finally, I considered the “AI Voice” that would form part of the game’s Narrative. It is essentially a vocal form of the Fortitude’s computer systems, and will help the player during the story as well as certain parts of exploration. Since it’s a computer, it made sense to be a computer-generated voice, so I began exploring this idea using online text-to-speech systems, such as this one. The voices thankfully didn’t sound quite as horrendously robotic as I’d feared (some were actually quite cinematic-sounding!), and so left me quite pleased as a result.

texttospeech

(A screenshot of the AI Voice website I used)

The computer-generated voices then got me thinking. It was the end of Tuesday, and we still didn’t have a presentation to show to our classmates on Friday – mainly because we didn’t really know what to make. In previous years, I have always tried to make a trailer, as I believe showing works far better than telling in presenting games. The voices I had been playing around with also had a bit of a cinematic side to them, and that gave me an idea; we should make a gameplay trailer. After all, we had several prototypes that could do the job, and Josh had a number of sketches/pieces of artwork that could work well with them. Additionally, in Week Twelve I had created a cinematic-style video showcasing what the “Rogue Planet” Event could look like gameplay-wise, and Josh and I had been very pleased with it. It was also quite a dramatic and very visually-stimulating event, and would be pretty perfect to use as the major event in a trailer. So, we had assets, prototypes, a story – the trailer was coming together already.

(The rogue planet event video from Week Twelve)

Early on Wednesday, I messaged Josh and told him my idea. He was rather enthusiastic, and was keen to help, so I gave him a list of things I would need. Primarily, I needed him to make the Fortitude. It’s the star of the show in the full game, and it would be very cool to have at least a beta version of it in the trailer. I also needed a more detailed version of the rogue planet (as it would be a major part of the trailer too) as well as some terrain for the planet the “player” would be standing on as the event occurred. While Josh then got on with creating those, I began creating the Trailer Prototype.

Since we didn’t have artwork for the player yet (because it would take far too long to animate for the trailer) I decided to use the 2D “Stick-Man” animations from my Year 2 trailer prototype. I created it just over a year ago for the cinematic trailer for my game idea A Starless Sky, and decided to use it again here for several reasons. For a start, there was no real point in creating “Stick-Man” animations again if I already had them from last year. Also, the trailer prototype from last year had some nice “torchlight” code that had really added atmosphere to the subsequent video, and I felt it could be used the same way again for DELTA-V’s trailer. Finally, having a previously created trailer prototype meant I could concentrate more on making the trailer itself look as great as possible, as we only had two days until Friday.

A Starless Sky Poster New Version.png

(The poster from my Year 2 game idea – A Starless Sky)

Armed with my Year 2 code, I then set to work. I created a brand new Unity file and added the animations and torchlight code to it, and then set about coding in the rogue planet’s appearance – partly using the code from the event video a few weeks earlier and partly writing new lines. I then grabbed a fair amount of placeholder assets from Google Images (things like trees, rocks, clouds etc.) and added those in too. I had all the building blocks I needed to create the Trailer Prototype, but Josh was still building the terrain, so I decided to take things a bit further.

We knew the trailer was primarily going to be showing off gameplay, so I thought; why not show off all of the gameplay? Specifically, the space travel elements of it. We already had a prototype for this (the original NASA Space Game Prototype that started it all) and so I then cinema-d it up a bit by adding stars and textures to the planets, and then added asteroids to make the transversal of space a tad more dramatic for the video. I was on a bit of a roll at this point, so decided to cinema-up the “Solar System” prototype from Week Ten as well, as it gave quite a nice overview of the environment that the game is set in and so would help set the scene in the trailer.

solarsusttem.PNG

(A screenshot from the newly cinema-ified Solar System Prototype from Week Ten)

Josh then finished up the design for the Fortitude, and it simply looked amazing. He based it off some basic design and iteration work we did in Week Eleven, primarily this drawing:

Initial Fortitude Sketch.png

(Initial sketchwork for the Fortitude)

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(Josh’s subsequent artistic design for the Fortitude)

It looks fantastic, needless to say. In our initial idea generation we agreed that it should be “function over aesthetic” and should be quite “messy-looking”, and even then it still looks great. I then added the ship to the cinema-ified space and Trailer Prototypes, and began filming various segments of the trailer. The Solar System prototype would open the video, giving viewers an idea of the setting of the game. This would then be followed up by the NASA Space Game prototype, showcasing the Fortitude flying through space and navigating towards a planet, which the Trailer Prototype would then show the surface of and some gameplay of the exploration side of things (gathering samples etc.) before kicking in the rogue planet event to end the video.

Coding, filming and then editing took a considerable amount of time, and I think by the end of the two day crunch we had poured at least twenty hours into the making of it. It was all worth it in the end though; after watching it in full for the first time I was beyond pleased. I then showed it to Josh, who was just beside himself – especially after seeing the rogue planet event fully realised at the end. In all honesty, spending all those hours creating this trailer was worth it for his reaction alone.

So without further ado, here it is! Enjoy:

And here is a video walkthrough of the making of the trailer, including code design and decision-making:

It was then Friday, and therefore time to present our new trailer to our classmates. We were unfortunately rather low down on the schedule for the day (second to last) but when the time came – we dimmed the lights, shut the curtains and just hit play. Eight minutes later, the round of applause we got told us everything we needed to know. We then answered a number of questions around the game, talking about how the narrative events would work in tandem with the exploration side of things, as well as how space travel and planetary elements would work. Adam then spoke up, expressing how much he liked the trailer, particularly praising its reportedly excellent showcasing of the game’s primary mechanics as well as the overall “pushing through the fear of the unknown” theme that the rogue planet event got across really well. He did also express that there were a few things that probably needed refining, but also that we had an entire semester to do that as we designed the game. Josh and I then sat back down in our seats, smiling at a job well done (sorry if we sound a tad full of ourselves, but honestly we are really proud of it).

The last day or so of the week was then spent adding various bits and pieces to the design document, mainly in the way of refining certain descriptions of mechanics and environmental elements, as well as adding a bit more in the way of Potential Issues – namely how certain elements of development could go wrong as we would be in massively uncharted territory coding and design-wise, so we should be prepared to cut bits down or abandon some mechanics entirely if it comes to it. We also then added an “elevator pitch” for the game, intended to give readers a quick outline of what DELTA-V is about;

DELTA-V is an open world space exploration game, where you as the player are dropped into a faraway Solar System with one not-so-simple task; finding evidence of advanced extraterrestrial life.

This brief paragraph pretty accurately describes the major aspects of the game, as well as the main goal that the player must strive towards in order to complete it.

 

Reflection On The Week

Week Fourteen has been one of the busiest weeks in this semester, but I do feel that it was worth it. Josh and I have made significant progress in terms of continuing with creating the design document this week, as well as refining mechanics and environmental designs. We finally have a name for the game (DELTA-V!) as well as a very cool-looking design for the player’s ship the Fortitude, and so this combined with our refinements for the document mean that we are closer than ever before to having the fundamental ideas and designs for the game nailed down. The creation of the game trailer also massively helped with this, as in creating it it gave us a really good idea of what DELTA-V will actually be like in practice. The actual gameplay in the video is of course prototype-based, but it was the first time that each mechanic (combined with overall space and planetary exploration) fully came together, and seeing that for the first time really gave us some perspective into how our game will be (hence the subsequent refinements of the design document that we conducted at the end of the week).

Seeing the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the trailer from our classmates, our tutor and other people that we shared it with has also not only really made me happy about creating DELTA-V, but it has also shown us that our fundamental game idea is good, as people actually really like it. DELTA-V is really coming together now (like, far more so than previous weeks) and now more than ever I look forward to actually getting into developing it and fully realising our vision.

Damn, it’s been a good week.

 

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