Recharge and Readapt

I decided to take a small break last weekend from working on my game. Usually my week mostly consists of sitting in front of my computer working (including weekends). I try to be social at least once a week and stay active (I run when the weather and motivation permits). I also have other hobbies aside from video games, I’m an avid reader and owner of a kindle (I’m reading The Witcher books at the moment) and I enjoy noodling around on the piano.

While working on my first game is exciting and interesting, I try and mix it up when I decide to take small breaks during the day. Sometimes it’s not enough and I had a strong desire to shake up my routine. So I went skiing. It was fun.

Over a period of 3 days I didn’t obsess over my game. Before I went on the trip it would always occupy a constant part of my mind, when I was doing chores around the house, showering, running or even trying to sleep. It has it’s upsides, sometimes a new idea or solution comes to me and I cement it in my mind before jotting it down in my notebook. But as you can understand it can be draining, so a short trip over the weekend with friends was just what I need to recharge. I think the only time when I thought about my game was when someone asked what I had been up to.

We drove (a four hour trip each way) in two cars as a group of six to Mount Hotham and stayed two nights. It was my second time, so the experience is still novel and even for the experienced in our group it was an exciting and good time.

IMG_0178
IMG_0174 Top Image: A view from our accommodation. Bottom Image: At the top of the summit. 

I stuck mostly to the beginner courses but I did dip my toes in an intermediate course a few times as my technique slowly improved. I found that as you get more confident and build more skills you can enjoy skiing a lot more. Anyone interested and uninitiated in skiing should limit their first time to a day or two with a more experienced friend or family member. Going as a group has it’s advantages, the more the merrier and it can keep costs reasonable. Discounts on lift tickets and on gear hire are usually available so it pays to do your research in advance.

For anyone working on a game, my advice is look after yourself both physically and mentally. Game development takes time and effort but it shouldn’t impact too negatively on your life. Take regular breaks, hang out with friends and consider taking a break where you can really forgot about your work.

After the trip my sleep schedule normalised. No longer am I staying up past 3 AM or waking up after midday. I feel less anxious, more motivated and hopeful about my game. For the longest time I had struggled to find a name for my game. I have decided to call it “Readapt”, a fitting, if rather straightforward name. On reflection it describes not only what players have to do constantly in-game but what I’ve done to get to where I am now. I think that’s a topic for another blog post though.

Recently I have been working on a main menu screen (among other things) and making it functional and scale to different resolutions, below is what it looks like now.

mainMenu

It’s pretty basic and needs some work, but it’ll do for now. Oh and I’ll keep to a weekly blogging schedule, I find it helps me process (and hopefully it’s not dead boring to read). So stay tuned and more importantly, be well.

Advertisements

Should I Play This Game Podcast

I’m a big fan of the guys at Giant Bomb, I’ve read and watched the hilarious yet informative stuff they have been making for years, even since the old Gamespot days.  My favourite weekly feature is without question the Giant Bombcast which you can find on their site and on iTunes. Over a month ago while browsing the forums I came across a thread asking about people in Melbourne interested in doing a podcast about video games. Sign me up! I enjoy podcasts, I listen to them while I’m working on my game or when I’m playing a game that has some down time, like Hearthstone.  Michael organises, hosts and edits the podcast, while Graham, Steve and I just show up and talk about anything remotely related to games. We have managed to record two episodes and we even have a website where you can listen to episode one. Like right now. Apologies if the audio quality is a bit average, we are looking into proper audio equipment sometime down the track (except for Graham, he has a nice mic). After episode two we will be taking a few weeks off and then we will return. In the meantime send in your questions via email (they can be about anything) and we will answer them near the end of each podcast. Oh I forgot to mention that Steve, our resident fighting game expert, thinks that Super Smash is a game for babies.

Colour Blind Friendly Game Design

I’ve mentioned in my first post that this is my first game. I’ve learnt a lot and I’d like to share ones of those experiences with you here. In my game various elements are randomised and assigned a specific colour. In older versions of my game all red objects would harm players and could be destroyed with one projectile hit, while orange objects were neutral and would require two hits. I had colour coded essential information and expected players to be receptive to this information. Only during this last week I realised that people who are colour blind would be at a constant disadvantage, which was not intended from a design standpoint.

In my home country of Australia, almost 10% of males and less than 1 percent of females are affected.  So there is a need to make my game more colour blind friendly, but I’m not colour blind, so how can I improve my game?

Some quick internet research lead me to a program called Color Oracle (link: http://colororacle.org/) which applies a colour blind filter to your screen. It supports three forms of colour blindness and most importantly the program is free. The only downside to the program is that it only applies the filter to a single frame and therefore does not support videos or gameplay. Having said that, it is perfectly adequate for my purposes.

Reading more about the topic I realised how important different shapes, symbols, icons and even lines (solid, dotted, dashed) are to the colour blind. Anything well designed (most maps for instance) take all of this into account.

I also have a friend who play video games and happens to be colour blind, he graciously answered my questions on the topic and gave an insight on how colours are harder to distinguish while moving.

Armed with this information and a perception altering program I began to change my game.

Shape and Colour Comparison
On the top left is the old art, the top right is the new and slightly improved. The bottom row shows them with a colour blind filter applied (Deuteranopia).

The players are squares with a triangle “pointer” that shows the direction the player is facing, it turns from yellow to white when an ability cooldown period is in effect. I changed the colours to make them more distinct, light blue rather than red is the lethal colour and grey makes a better background colour.  The colour blindness being simulated above is the most common form and limits colours to blue, yellow, white and black. So it makes sense to convey important information with colours that are perceived well.

You may have also noticed that I changed the shape of the pointers, below are how the four players are currently represented in game. I have assigned a different shape “pointer” for each player.

new_players
While some of the player colours (red, orange and green) can be hard to tell apart the symbols are clear and distinct.

As you can probably imagine it is an improvement from all players having triangle pointers. The player colours could use extra tweaking as green looks too close too similar to the background and I have yet to fully implement this approach to all other aspects of my game, but it’s a start.

I recall talking to my friend about his frustration about games that relied too heavily on colour (some colour matching puzzle games) and how happy he was to find that Battlefield 3 had a colour blind option. I don’t want my game to disadvantage players just because they are colour blind – not to say that my game won’t frustrate people. My game is designed to surprise and disadvantage players through randomised mechanics, but they are applied and felt equally. I simply want my game to be played and enjoyed by everyone, with or without the ability to see colour.

It’s Alive! First Blog Entry

Hi I’m Paul and this is my blog. I will try to keep this updated as I work on my first game: a local multi-player, versus, dual joystick shooter. The game is scripted in C# on the Unity 3D engine. Nearly all aspects (from weapons to movement to environment behavior) will randomise for each round. The aim is to adapt to multiple randomised elements and defeat the other players. More details and screenshots coming soon.