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Ludum Dare 33

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This is for being an awesome sport!
Awarded by Dizzyman572
on September 14, 2015

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Greetings, Human: Visual Overhaul

Posted by (twitter: @boardtobits)
Monday, September 7th, 2015 5:26 pm

My time has been split between working on Greetings, Human, and some other, less digital game projects, but I wanted to share some of the aesthetic progress I’ve made since the compo.

Sketches of possible alien heads/features.

Sketches of possible alien heads/features.

Heads designed in Illustrator and rendered in Unity.

Heads designed in Illustrator and rendered in Unity.

Updated UI implemented in Unity.

Updated UI implemented in Unity.

I’ve also been doing deeper research into cultural dissonance and what makes cultures different. There’s obviously a lot more than just saying hello and goodbye, including things like:

  • Rites of passage
  • High-context vs. low-context
  • Class systems
  • Values (personal, material and societal)
So, the final product is going to have to be more nuanced and less simply memorizing actions in order to do the situation justice. I’m excited to take it on, though!

Greetings Human 2.0 Concept Art

Posted by (twitter: @boardtobits)
Friday, August 28th, 2015 3:24 pm

After playing over 150 LD33 entries this week, I figure it’s time to start looking at where to take Greetings, Human as a more polished game. So, here are a couple concept pieces for the menu & codex if I were to port the game to iOS/mobile devices. The biggest challenge is fitting entries into the codex screen. Right now I’m down to 16 races, which is about half of what was in the base game. With that said, there’s going to be a lot more stuff to juggle, so maybe having fewer races to hunt through is a good thing. We’ll see.

Anyway, here are the first two “screens” as a preview.

menu_concept codex_concept

And, as always, you can play the original Ludum Dare edition here: http://ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-33/?action=preview&uid=57679

Greetings, Human Post-Mortem

Posted by (twitter: @boardtobits)
Monday, August 24th, 2015 6:05 pm

AKA I Ludum Dare’d (And I Liked It!)

I’ve seen a lot of people on here recommend game jams to new developers, and while I’ve liked the idea of jams, they didn’t seem right for me. So, I honestly wasn’t planning to participate in Ludum Dare 33. I only realized it was this weekend when another blog posted the theme on here. But a series of events led me to participate: namely a book, insomnia and a weekend alone, so I participated (the result is Greetings, Human). And I’m so glad idea.

The Idea

Friday night, I was reading The Design of Everyday Things (not a software book, but recommended if you deal with UI/player interactions at all). There was a section about cultural knowledge, and how when someone “misbehaves” in a foreign culture, they seem bizarre and uncouth. This felt like a just-close-enough concept to the LD33 theme, You Are The Monster.

Later that night, I couldn’t sleep, so I pulled out my laptop and started cobbling together a ScriptableObject that could hold pieces of alien names and gestures like “wave,” “scream” and “jump up and down.” I still wasn’t certain I was going to participate, but I figured I’d get some content down, even as a future side project.

The Project

The next morning I woke up early (yes, Greetings, Human was designed by a man with only about 3 hours sleep, that probably explains most of it). My wife was traveling for work, so I had the day to myself. I sat down and started programming.

I’d worked on menu-based games before, so setting up a series of canvases for the Assistant, the Meeting and the Codex all went pretty quickly. Likewise getting the transitions from screen to screen went pretty smoothly as well (these were all problems I’d solved in previous projects).

The big new thing was building the universe of aliens. I’m a fan of procedural generation, and this was a chance to do it with something other than a map. Each alien was built with a unique name, as well as a unique appearance, and a set of gestures. Once the algorithm was in place, it was just a matter of populating the codex with prefabs of buttons with each races index. That way, once you clicked the button, a new entry prefab would bring you the appropriate information.

I knew from the start I wanted 5 gestures per interaction, including the insulting one (if it existed) and the off-gender one (if it existed as well). The biggest trick was shuffling them each time, but ultimately I got it done.

Art & Sound

One of my other jobs is graphic design, so I wasn’t overly concerned about getting art done. I made a couple simple, sci-fi-looking boxes in the afternoon (hint: just clip a couple corners, always does the trick). The procedural aliens were kind of a nice to have, but also required me to just make 4 heads, 4 eyes, 4 noses, etc., instead of 30 different portraits. They came out looking like something between an early 2000s flash game and the Muppets, in my opinion, but they get the job done.

I took myself out of the audio category almost by default. I don’t have much background in composing or making sound effects, so I just hacked a few things together with Otomata and SFXR generators. To the people who complained the music got repetitive, you are right.

Bug-Hunting

Sunday morning was spent fixing a bug with the timers on the screens. The Update() function in Unity always just begs for trouble I find, but it’s hugely helpful for a universal timer that works across screens, as opposed to using a Coroutine, which can get sticky when trying to interact with other scripts. Utlimately, I got the game working the way I wanted it to, so I was able to upload with a few hours to spare.

Reception & The Future

As simple a concept as it is, I’m very happy with how the game turned out. It looks clean, it runs fairly bug-free (the biggest bug that was found so far was an issue when you went to play a new game after the first, which means people are running multiple play-throughs), and people appreciate that it’s not another platformer or top-down dungeon crawl. I’ll be the first to admit it’s a bit of a stretch on the theme, but whether you count that as clever or off-the-mark is up to you.

I think I’m going to pursue making this a more polished game. I feel like it could work really well on mobile devices (very touch/click focused, feels like your holding the codex in-hand). I’d also like to add much more depth to the interactions, with things like:

  1. Multiple-gesture greetings and farewells
  2. Unexpected schedule changes
  3. Mistakes made by your assistant
  4. Negotiations and small-talk

Of course, there will also be an art and sound overhaul, but the core of what makes the game stressful and fun will still be there, just better. So, ultimately, yeah, I’m very happy I did LD33; I got a whole new project out of it, and a new sense of what I can accomplish in about 48 hours.

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