Today is a good day for Ludosity Interactive (http://ludosity.com/, 10/12/2009). Ludosity is a game company founded by a bunch of my friends back from the University and they've made some small games. Both "gaming games" and "serious games".
For a long time I've been visiting them about once every two weeks to check up on them and see how far along their awesome game "Bob Came In Pieces" was. It's been a joy to see it develop and it's been great fun to be able to give some feedback along the way.
They've just released a trailer and the response has been great and they're popping up all over the Internet! Not bad for a little indie game.
(All URL worked 10/12/2009)
It's a physics based puzzle game and I really enjoy playing it! You should definately have a go at it when you get the chance.
And btw, it's made using Unity3D which I've been writing about every now and then.
So here's a shout out for my friends over at Ludosity Interactive! Fun game and good luck!
There's an international game creation competition called Global Game Jam (even better than Strawberry jam) and I just wanted to give a shout out to the Swedish branch.
Each country as I understand it has their own competition, with different branches but they're all a part of the big Global Game Jam. One of my very close friends is Project Manager over at Gothia Science Park, the ones holding the Swedish branch this year. It's the first year Sweden is a part of it.
The Global Game Jam (GGJ) was founded in 2008 as an IGDA event to broaden the outreach of the organization while giving the world an opportunity to create games in the world’s largest Game Jam to date. The 1st Annual Global Game Jam was held January 30-Feburary 1, 2009 to much critical acclaim and success. With over 1600 participants in 23 countries, the GGJ produced 370 games.
- http://globalgamejam.org/jam (28/11/2009)
If you participate, you're placed in a team and you're supposed to create a game within 48 hours. Awesome! Have a look if there's a Game Jam in your country as well.
And if you're in Sweden, why not join? I have, so maybe we'll end up in the same team?
See you there!
Okay, enough game design for today.
I was thinking that I've been trying several different kinds of documentation. The classical "document", wiki and even Power Point to name a few.
If I have to chose a "favorite" I'd say it's the good ol' document, even though I could tell you enough stories about how they're not great untill your hair turns grey, if it isn't already. (I don't know how old you are or what color your hair is. And if you're bald, I don't mean to offend you.)
It's common for people to say that the best kind of documentation depends a lot on the team. The size, the people, etc. I absolutely agree with that, but I also start to think more and more that I depends even more on what kind of game it is.
Maybe something as "straight forward" as a Four of a kind puzzle game works great with a regular document, while a complex Role Playing Game might work better with a Wiki.
Unfortunately I don't know what kind of game works best with what kind of writing.
What kind of documentation do you prefer to read, to write or to work with?
These are the best news ever for indies!
The really AWESOME game engine Unity3D, previously priced at (very) reasonable $200 for an Indie-licence is now FREE!
The project I've been posting about, "Iskall" is using Unity. I've been using Unity for some of my own projects. I personally recommend it.
I really think they're right with the following statement:
For the pros, the difference between a $2000 fee and a $0 fee is almost nothing, except that individual developers can just try it out for free and fall in love with it. We think it's really exciting. The [Unite] conference is already underway, and we already had a couple hundred people do classroom sessions.
- Unity People
Now, go get it at: http://unity3d.com/ (28/10/2009)
Funny thing, I was just browsing through some folders on the computer and I found this picture. It's a sketch for my test to get my job at GRIN, which I wrote about here:
Anyway, thought it might be fun to see how it looked on paper before I started with the document and building process.
And sorry about the whole "not posting for a while"-thing. I needed some time to rest, but I'm back now and my next post will about how to create a lovable video game character. Seriously, how does one do it?
I think Project Natal can prove to be a stroke of genius from Microsoft’s side if the technology actually works.
But the one big issue I have with it is that it is input only.
I’m not in any way saying that this will cause it’s utter and complete failure, but it is something that every “Natal game designer” will have to work on.
If Natal actually works, it will be able to pretty much keep track of your entire bodies motions, facial recognition, color recognition and voice recognition. These are all inputs. It gives nothing in return.
What the player will get is audio/visual feedback from the TV/speakers just like with any other game and the designers will have to make that part top notch if it is to provide a great gaming experience.
A “normal” controller gives lots and lots of feedback! Not only does is shake/rumble that might be the first thing people think of, but every time you press a button you can feel yourself doing it, you can feel when it’s pressed and when it’s released. When you’re pulling the sticks, there’s a force applied to your thumb that along with its position and angle tells you how far you’ve pulled it.
Some might argue that Natal is like Wii with its motion sensors, but I disagree. You still have the physical Wii-mote, its weight and its buttons. I don’t think it’s anywhere near Natal.
I think even the iPhone would be a better comparison. There are tons and tons of games being released for the iPhone and many of them suffer from not being able to give the player enough feedback when it comes to controls. I get sad every time I see an iPhone game with a D-Pad smacked right onto the screen. It really never works.
But games using the accelerometer and make games that you lean and tilt the iPhone to control, they work like a charm, because you get 1:1 feedback. I lean the iPhone, I lean what’s inside the iPhone.
Another input only gaming device are microphones used in singing games, like Singstar. The microphones don’t give any feedback to the player and the great thing is; they don’t have to!
Just as Singstar single handedly proves that it doesn’t have to be problem, a game for Natal could easily do the same. But I’m really hoping that all Natal designers out there will work hard on this issue and create something other than karaoke games and “dodge the ball”-stuff.
I have no doubt in my mind that it’s possible.
And btw, no one said you can’t have a game that uses both a normal controller and the Natal-camera, right? Enhancing!
When applying for a job in the game industry, chances are you'll have to do a work assignment before even getting an interview, for them to make sure you're The (Wo?)Man! That is, unless you're über and everyone knows who you are, in which case, you won't learn much reading this.
The thing about these work assignments are that you can never be really sure about what to expect, but there are some "unwritten rules" that you can think of to help prepare yourself. Now, these rules are just what I've managed to gather myself, so don't expect much of a basis for them:
- It's small enough for them to be able to review several ones, since you're not the only one applying for the job.
- It's small enough for you to be able to finish within a week. They can't really demand more.
And by these two rules, you can use your own references of your diciplin (artist, level designer, etc.) to make some conclusions. Like for Level Designers:
- You will not be asked to build an entire level.
- You will not be asked to learn a new editor and build anything.
I've personally done only two work tests for level design and they were both quite similar, becuase they both were about designing (not building) a level/area based on prerequisites from the company.
I've found it very hard to find real examples of work assignments for level design positions online. Most articles are more in the likes of "they could be like this, similar to that, imagine this" but not an actual and used test.
I will post the actual level design test I got from GRIN back in the spring of 2008. I do this with approval from GRIN GBG's Lead Designer at the time, the man who gave me the test.
And in hopes of being helpful for all aspiring level designers, I'll also post my reply to it. The result that actually got me the job.
I hope you like it.
The original (but PDFified) assignment can be downloaded here:
If you don't feel like reading the entire thing, here's a summary:
Design a level for four player co-op FPS, each player with their own set of tools (from a list in the document) and write step-by-step instructions on how to play the level.
- A fictional game
- The gameplay is about solving things together with the teammates
- Realistic setting
- Must draw a map
- Pretend the game is done using Half-Life 2's Source Engine
First of all, take note that even thought I'm a Swede, applying for a job in Sweden in an office with only Swedes, the test was still in English. All documentation is always done in English in the game industry. At least in Sweden.
After reading the assignment, I reached two conclusions:
- I decided to write a short document for the Game Design as well. I don't think anyone else that applied did that. It wasn't part of the assignment, but since I have a passion for game design, I felt I needed to clarify how I imagined this "fictional game".
- I was happy that we were to pretend it was for Half-Life 2 because I have experience modding for that engine. I therefore decided to actually build a playable mockup of the level as well for Half-Life 2.
I tried to keep the game design document short since it wasn't an actual part of the assignment and I didn't want the employer to get bored before even looking at my level design. It ended up as a four page document, describing the setting, playable characters, tools, enemies, actions and how I defined "realistic" in a game:
After I was done with the game design, I started sketching on a level design. Strangely enough, I never started over from scratch but I kept with my original idea during the whole process. I kept iterating on it, sketching varieties and whatnot.
The level was basically designed by first sketching it, then building it for Half-Life 2 and then creating the map. Building it helped me get the scale right and I could trace an overview of the actual map in Photoshop, making my map picture have a perfect scale. I reused this technique for another work assignment I've done for another company.
The actual map ended up like this:
I worked hard on making the map easy to read, clear and I made small icons with explanations on what they meant. Like enemies, covers, switches, etc. Afterwards I started making notes on it by writing them by hand. I chose to do them by hand because I wanted them to have a "friendly" appeal and to exaggerate the "notiness" of them. I don't regret that decision.
The playable version of the map can be found here:
I provided both the playable file and the workfile. I didn't expect them to play it or open the workfile, but it's a lot about appearance and I wanted to make it clear that I want to keep my way of working transparent to them. And of course, I was hoping for extra points for dedication.
In my Level Design Document I went through the entire map, Step-By-Step, by showing zoomed in areas of the map and describing it with text.
You can find all the images here (also shown in this post):
And the most important file of them all; the 17 pages Level Design Document here:
Why did I get the job?
Of course, interviews and showing who you are as a person are just as important as a work assignment, but putting that aside, let's focus on the results of my test.
An extremely important thing to know about work assignments are that your result is not simply quantifiable and it's not easy to say that one result is better than another. What it all comes down to is what the reviewer happens to like, personally. I was lucky in that way, because the lead at GRIN happened to like my way of thinking. If there had been someone else reviewing my result, I might not even have gotten an interview. Who knows?
I focused heavily on three things:
- Height difference
- Working in pairs
For me it's a natural choice to have a lot of height differences in the level, because a flat level is among the most boring things you can do.
Since it was supposed to be four player co-op, I had to come up with an interesting way to play it. I decided on having the players split up into two pairs from time to time, instead of having them all work in one group or splitting them all up.
With the help of the tools I'd divided amongst them, I made two players being able to see in dark places and two players could survive within areas with poisonous gas.
Afterwards I had the higher areas of the level be full of the gas and the lower parts being extremely dark, thanks to this I could have the players split up, helping each other progress within their own "kind of environment".
The Lead Designer told me he liked this approach very much at my first interview. I was very grateful, because I still think I took a chance there with such a different idea.
I think I was the one applying with most text with my 21 pages and to this day, I'm not sure this was good or bad. It was good that I managed to explain everything I guess, but I can imagine people scratching their heads before starting to read it. But really, have as much text as you feel you need. Don't try and shorten it just because you think it's too long.
In the end, my result landed me an interview. My interview (with only the Lead Designer) landed me another interview later on with the producer, lead level design and associate producer and finally, a month after that I got a call saying I got the job.
I hope you've found this post informative and helpful if you were curious as to how a work assignment for a level design position can be like. This is just my scenario, but still, it's a real one.
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to comment.
Thank you for reading!
All links: 17/9/2009
When you're trying to get a job within the game industry, there are two things you need to do.
- Be able to present yourself in an attractive manner.
- Be ready to do a work assignment.
Today, I'll the discuss the first thing.
Presenting yourself is preferably done with a kick-ass portfolio. Depending on your profession this will manifest itself in various ways. Are you a designer, programmer, 3d artist, animator or perhaps a level designer?
Let's assume you're new and you want your very first job as a game developer, then you'll have a real hard time becoming a game designer.
It's very hard to build a portfolio on your own as a game designer. You can write as many game ideas and game design documents you want, but chances are slim that any recruiter will actually read them. The best thing you can have are actual games made and those usually require more than designers to make, right?
What are you gonna do, put a lot of .pdf's on a site? Good luck. Have fun.
Personally, I think that all the game development programmes at Universities are great for this. That's the "path" I took and it helped me greatly, as I had a couple of projects in my portfolio before my first job. Sure, none of them were a success, but it's still better than nothing.
Take note however, that my first job was not as game designer, it was as a level designer. I'll get back to that soon.
Artists can "easily" create a fat portfolio by himself, assuming he's actually good enough. Same goes for animators. Both have their pretty galleries and show reels to show off, having a very tangible way of showing their skill.
Here's an example of a show reel by an animator friend of mine, currently working at Epic Poland / People Can Fly; Markus "Metal" Hammarstedt:
Programmers are tricky, because it really depends on what kind of stuff they code. But they still often create something... Concrete. So if luck is with them, they can share their creations in one way or another. Demoing physics on YouTube or having entire applications/games on a site.
Lastly, Level Designers are kind of like artists but still... Not.
A level designer can in most cases work independently and create level after level, hosting them all on a website, take some pretty screenshots and let it speak for itself.
Here's an example of an amazing level designer I had the pleasure to work with at GRIN, who's done just that; David "CozyDave" Lundvall:
You can also record some videos. Like I did with my bachelor degree project DM-Theatre:
The problem is; screenshots and videos don't actually relay the actual play experience. You can't tell how fun the level is, just how pretty and a rough estimation on its flow.
If you got ze über-skills a lot of people will play your levels online and you'll build up a reputation and if you're mega lucky, the guys employing will have heard of it. But... That's not likely. And no, that sure as hell didn't happen to me.
But it's still useful to have that portfolio with levels, just to show people that you know how to handle the tools, editors and have an understanding of art in level design.
The funny thing is, I didn't have a portfolio site or any levels created available to the public when I got my job at GRIN. Oh no, what I used was luck.
In two days I'll publish my actual work test I got from GRIN and what I did to land a job as a level designer at what was at the time; one of the most awesome developers in the world.
PS. Sorry all you audio guys, producers and all other professions that I left out. Still love you!
A couple of weeks ago a reader on this blog, gutek, recommended using a tool called yEd.
I have, and I like it!
yEd is a very powerful graph editor that can be used to quickly and effectively generate drawings and to apply automatic layouts to a range of different diagrams and networks.
yEd is available as a free download with unrestricted functionality!
I decided to do a flowchart for a game I'm working on and thought I could just as well try out yEd in a "live project" instead of just trying to play around with it. I usually use Visio for this kind of thing.
And after just 20 minutes, I loved it. It's super easy to use and has a friendly interface. It's definately worth the price of 200 nothing.
So if you're about to work with a flowchart, a diagram or something similar, I highly recommend yEd.
It's now part of my game design toolbox!
Is the iPhone the new indie game developing platform? It could very well be.
Indie game development has for a long time been pretty restricted to PC by self distribution via communities and other channels on the Internet. Indies haven't been able to get their games on the consoles by Microsoft, Nintendo or Sony.
This is finally changing with Microsoft's Community games and Apple's AppStore for the iPhone and the iPod Touch.
This is how the 40 million iPhones and iPod touches, a figure given by Apple at the WWDC Keynote, stack up against actual consoles.
- Gizmodo (11/6/09)
Sure, the DS has sold way more units but the only way for you to get your game on there as an indie is to create a "homebrew" and hope for people with Flash-cards to download and try it out. And I can tell you that there aren't 100 million of users with Flash-cards. And amongst those who've actually have one, the chances are slim for them to try out your product.
The big thing with the AppStore is that you can distribute your games in a pretty unrestricted manner. You just have to pass Apple's check, basically meaning it shouldn't crash or contain pr0n. When it's out there, it's on the same terms as with all the big companies.
Of course, it's harder for you pump $100'000 into advertisment but it's still there. Try making your game famous on the PC; it aint all that easy either.
In about 5 months I've downloaded and tried 107 apps to the iPhone. 51 of those were games. That's way more than I've done with the Xbox. Why? Because it's simpler, easier access and it's fast.
This isn't the case for most people, but for people like me it's also nice to know that 60% of what I pay for the game goes directly to the developers.
If you want me or other people to try out your game by accident, I think there's a greater chance of that happening on the AppStore than on the PC.
Now, you do as you wish but I want to make games for the iPhone.