Welcome!


Welcome!

This site showcases the thesis capstone projects for the Full Sail Mobile Gaming Master of Science program. Students completing the program post their end of program project self evaluation here examining what went right and what went wrong during production.

The site provides examples of all completed projects, without regard to the quality of work. Final faculty evaluation of your project is separate from your postmortem. It is a place to share student work and start dialogue with faculty about completed and upcoming projects.

If you are adding a postmortem for a completed project to this blog, please do your best to provide a meaningful meta-level evaluation of your project. This helps students currently in the program have a better understanding of the critical points related to independent production, game development and design and project management. The template for the blog content and instructions can be found in the first post from July 2014.

Thank You,
MGMS Faculty

Monday, August 24, 2015


Capstone Game Postmortem: Scoundrel Squirrels



Game Summary:


Game App Icon



Title
Scoundrel Squirrels

Genre
Casual RPG

Platform(s)
Android

Revenue Model
Scoundrel Squirrels will initially be released as free to play, supported by interstitial ads.

Development Tools/Language
Scoundrel Squirrels was developed using the Untiy 3D and MonoDevelop, using the C# programming language. Advertisements are provided by the Unity Ads API. Multiplayer and social features will be implemented with the Combu API. Artwork was created using Inkscape and GIMP. Audio files were created and edited using Audacity.

Game Audience
The intended audience for this game is casual game players who would enjoy quick adventures but enjoy the aspect of developing a character over time. This game would appeal to younger and older players who enjoy silly experiences. I would estimate that it would appeal particularly to girls and women, but not exclusively so.  This game would have the most appeal for achievers and explorers, as described by Bartle (1996). I do not anticipate that this game would appeal to killers

Team
Tim Bradrick: game, artwork, and many sound files.
Additional sound files were acquired from Internet download.

Demonstration Screencast


Copyright/Reference
Scoundrel Squirrels is copyright Timothy J. Bradrick / FungiMuncher Interactive.
Bradrick, T. (2015). Scoundrel Squirrels [Android game]. Dublin, OH, USA: FungiMuncher Interactive.



Backstory:
Sound Bite
You’re a squirrel. Be a scoundrel! Accept the challenge and dominate in your dapper derby!

Executive Summary
In Scoundrel Squirrels, you role-play a daring squirrel adventurer. You can explore the world causing mayhem, taking on the challenge of wild adventures. When the chaos is done, relax to your tree-high home to enjoy your winnings and try out new outfits to show off in your next adventure.

Inspiration
I have always been an avid player of role playing games, both table-top and video games. However, I know the genre can be intimidating or overwhelming for many people. So I started wondering if a more casual take on it could be successful. Additionally, I wanted to explore something other than the typical science fiction/fantasy themes. The idea of using squirrels as a theme literally came to me when I was driving to work one day, and saw a squirrel crossing the street on a telephone wire. I thought was rather adventuresome, and my mind just started taking off from there.

Capstone Scope
The game as presented for the capstone requirements is a subset of the overall game I hope to further develop. The capstone game includes three primary features: dressing up your squirrel, exploring an area of the game world, and a race against the clock.

The dress-up features include being able to choose your squirrel model, its attributes and clothing it wears. There are fifteen unique articles of clothing, with some variations for attribute boosts. There is also a store and a prize box to get additional clothing. The exploration area includes random placement of objects and three different types of non-player characters. This area required the development of character controls, animations and sound effects. There is also a mini-game within the environment. The race area adds character jumping and climbing. A timer is implemented, as well as a set of awards based on one’s performance in the race. And of course, all of these features include a tutorial system to guide the player, and a means to save the squirrel for later play.

Ideal
There were many features I had to trim back from the initial planning stages. I had several additional adventure area ideas, which need to be postponed until later. I also wanted to implement multiplayer functions, with the ability to message other players asynchronously. I had hoped this would help facilitate the players making wagers on competitive races. There are also many ideas for an in-app store which were not implemented. All of these are still hopes of mine to implement in the future.



The Critique: What went right…

Design & Aesthetics
For the most part, I liked much of the art that I created for the game. This is a personal interest of mine, and it’s reassuring that, given time, I can do a decent job. I especially like the fruit and doughnut objects in the game. Overall, I like the cartoon like feel of the game.




I am happy with many of the mechanics in the game. I like how the dress-up aspects developed, though there is certainly a lot of areas in which this could be expanded. In the adventure area, I like how the jumping and climbing perform, and how the player and non-player characters interact. Sometimes, there are some wild or silly results of all the actions, and this fits the theme of the game.

Screenshot of a knocked out character


Project Management
I really enjoyed working in Unity. I found most of the development process to be very intuitive, and in some instances, rather elegant in how solutions can be implemented. I enjoyed the process of working in an agile framework, and the sub-division of tasks into sprints. These processes provided a quick response to evaluate progress, and the ability to change things early if needed.  The early planning was also a great aide when things didn’t go as planned, which happened a few times. I was able to refer back to the plan, and evaluate what to do in the future based on my previously determined priorities.

Another aspect of the project management that I appreciated was the bug and feature database. This helped outline the various parts which needed work, and provided a convenient point of reference between myself and my instructors.

Development
Early in the project, I know my development process was sloppy and haphazard. However, as I learned more about Untiy, and reacquainted myself with good programming techniques, things improved and became more elegant. Towards the end of the process, I was more easily able to create code which was more flexible and adaptive. This is most evident with the system I developed for presenting the tutorials. The same system is used for all of the scenes, and it is very easy to make changes.

Testing
The usability testing I performed throughout the project was invaluable. The players provided some very useful insights, and brought a variety of experiences when making suggestions. I consider this type of testing to be essential for my future efforts. The other players see or don’t see so many things differently than me. Related to this, another event that was very valuable at the very beginning of the project was the focus group. This provided some very interesting ideas to launch the project.
An early character model from a user.

Business Model/Plan
I am planning the initial release of Scoundrel Squirrels to be free-to-play, supported by interstitial ads, and perhaps a very simple in-app store. For a first time effort, I believe it’s important to get something “out there” quickly, without sacrificing quality. This will begin the process of getting my name, company and efforts known to others. In the future, I am hoping to expand upon the game, including additional adventures, multiplayer features, and a more developed in-app store. I also hope to eventually release the game for iOS and Windows Phone.


The Critique: What went wrong…


Design & Aesthetics
Regarding the artwork, I know all of it is not where I want it to be. The main issue with this is the time available. For example, the bushes in the game are very detailed, while the leafy parts of the trees are extremely low in detail. I would like to bring both of these closer to the level of detail of the pieces that I do like.



As for the mechanics of the game, two big challenges were the climbing functions, and the character movement controls. With the climbing, getting the squirrel to transition from horizontal to vertical smoothly was very difficult. I now know that part of this was how I implemented the running and climbing animations – the figures are in different spots in the individual sprites. This was done simply due to my inexperience. In the future, I will know better. However the problem still exists – I simply created a work-around.  Recreating all of the animations is going to be a lot of work.

The character controls for the basic squirrel movement has also been a challenge. I have tried many different solutions, and the work is still on-going. I’m hoping that I now have a good solution.

Finally, regarding the overall design, a big problem was trying to implement climbing and jumping in a 2-1/2D, isometric environment. When starting, I only had a vague idea how these would be accomplished. As I progressed, I was actually able to implement some solutions, but these would introduce new challenges. Ultimately, I had to reevaluate this planned feature. I finally separated these functions into two separate scenes. In the isometric area, there is no jumping or climbing. The other area is presented a simple 2D platformer, where one can climb and jump.

An early mock up of the game


Project Management
The biggest problem with the project management has been the scope of the overall game. Again, I attribute this to my inexperience. There are so many neat ideas I want to include, but not previously having a solid concept of the time required, there was simply too much included. Time and again, I’ve had to pull back on the scope of the project. Towards the end, I simply got to the point of very deliberate decisions of what to include to meet the requirements of the degree program.

Another early mock up, showing an undeveloped adventure

Development
The biggest problem with the development process has been my own inexperience. Especially early on, I was conducting a lot of research and experimentation when writing the code. Many times a solution would be discarded for another method. However, I feel that I have learned a great deal in this process, and my confidence has grown.

An early plan showing several undeveloped features


Testing
If there was any failing with the testing process, it was with my solution for controlling the squirrel character.  It was still not acceptable after the faculty review of my game. When I conducted the usability tests, my players did express some frustrations. However, they were happier after the initial tweaks I implemented. I guess the lesson here is try to get some people experienced in the field to test one’s game.

Screenshot showing the original character controls


Business Model/Plan
By simply releasing a ‘Lite” version of my game first, I am at risk of people not seeing the full potential for the game or my efforts. I am also risking not taking the game further, possibly allowing myself be distracted by other events in my life. I will need to remain diligent and have confidence with my efforts.


Summary:

In summary, I am thrilled by what I learned producing this game. I have learned quite a bit about the technical process of writing an app, and the important aspects of making a fun game. Additionally, I learned the importance of planning the project, and developing a schedule for completing the various parts. These helped me stay on course when difficulties arose.

As an initial effort, I am pretty happy with the resulting game. It certainly lacks many features I originally wanted, but I have much more knowledge on how to accomplish such a big project. While the game has yet to have the multiplayer functions, and a wider variety of features (adventures, mini-games, clothing choices, and so on), I know how to implement these, and am excited about what can be produced later. I do indeed hope to publish this game, but I do want rework some of the artwork, implement some of the smaller features suggested by my instructors and users. I’m hoping that this will become a reality in about six months.

A high point of the project was when, about three months into the development cycle (of about five total months), I noticed that this thing I was diligently working on started to feel like an actual game. The parts of the game came together and I could finally see the fun features. I actually started to laugh at the quirky little events in the game.




References

Audacity Team (2015). Audacity [OS X program]. Open Source Software: Audacity Team. Retrieved from http://audacityteam.org/

Bartles, R. (1996, August 28). Richard A. Bartle: Players Who Suit MUDs. Retrieved from http://mud.co.uk/richard/hcds.htm

Bradrick, T. (2015). Scoundrel Squirrels [Android game]. Dublin, OH, USA: FungiMuncher Interactive.

GIMP Team (2015). GIMP [Windows program]. Open Source Software: GIMP Team. Retrieved from http://www.gimp.org/

Inkscape Team (2015). Inkscape [Windows program]. Open Source Software: Inkscape Team. Retrieved from https://inkscape.org/en/

Skared Creations. (2014, March 16). comb├╝ [Unity3D API]. Retrieved from http://skaredcreations.com/wp/products/combu/#sthash.pJB4xhxb.dpbs

Unity Technologies. (2014, November 13). Unity Ads [Unity3D API]. Retrieved from https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/#!/content/21027





Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Capstone Game Post Mortem: Airship: Wary In the Skies


Game Summary


Title







Airship: War in the Skies

Genre

Tactical Naval Action

Platform

Android

Revenue model

The game is intended to be released for free, with the primary monetization occurring from in-app purchases.

Development tools/Language

Airship was developed using Unity 4.6 as the primary engine. Assets were generated using Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop. The online components were created using the Photon Unity Plugin. The store components were created using the Soomla Store Plugin.

Game audience

The primary audience for Airship are young adults between the ages of 18 and 25, who have a history of playing online competitive games, or are interested in naval combat.

Team

Avram Suson worked on design and development.
Zachary Haley worked on initial level design.
Jacob Suson created all sound effects and music.
Michael Press, Derrick Snodgrass, et al. created the models for the ships.

Copyright/Reference

Airship: War In The Skies © 2015 Avram Suson

Demonstration Screencast


Backstory:

Sound Bite

As the country’s last hope, only the bravest can defeat the coming tide. Lead your ship to battle for victory in the sky!

Executive Summary

In Airship, the player takes direct control of a flying warship and goes head-to-head with other ships and players. The game offers a variety of vessels and game modes, so that players can enjoy the game, no matter what kind of play style they are looking for. People looking for competition can try the multiplayer arenas, aiming to be last ship soaring. If you’re looking for just playing some solo battles, you can hop into Practice Battle mode to get some practice against the AI. In either case, prepare to get behind the wheel of your ship and guide your crew to victory!

Inspiration

I am a long-time steampunk fan, and have always enjoyed the concept of Airships. One of the earlier games I had made for a quick assignment was a naval combat game with really simple controls. After trying to come up with an idea for a while, I decided to try and enhance the older game, but to change from traditional wooden ships into airships. 

Ideal

The ideal design for Airship is to have an active multiplayer system, with lots of players making rooms and fighting against each other. Similarly, players would be able to experience a story in Campaign mode, or play against challenges to test their capability. The ships would be customizable with a wide array of upgrades and power ups that players would buy and earn. This would also result in each battle being unique and exciting, as players could use power ups at unexpected times.

The Critique: What went right… 


Bug Database

Using the database to track bugs and features that still needed work really helped with keeping the workflow organized and efficient. It provided a list of everything that still needed to be worked on, while also showing what was more critical than others. It also served as a reminder of how much of the work still remained to be completed, and could be used to see how much work had just been completed. It was a helpful tool for keeping me focused on a task and knowing what I needed to focus on.

Development

A lot of the code structure was developed freshly and taught me a number of significant tricks that will be useful for a long time to come. The system that I developed for loading models during runtime turned out really well, and will be useful in the future. Also, the system was developed in a very open-ended way, which allows me to easily add more features and content as desired, which makes the game very easy to expand upon. This is predominantly because of the way the system reads from binary files for the content, rather than relying on the content being hard-coded into the project. This is something that will prove beneficial for expansion of this game, as well as future projects.

Testing

While some of the testing happened a bit too early on, some of the user tests proved really helpful with the feedback and helped show me how the players would interact with the project. While I have done testing before, my experiences with user testing throughout this capstone was different and substantially more useful than my past experiences. I was able to see what caught players’ attention and what didn’t, which allowed me to know how I needed to re-focus my work, or adjust certain features to help players with the game.

The Critique: What went wrong…


Design & Aesthetics

One of the original plans of the project was to try and build our own models, or find models online. However, after two thirds of the project timeline had passed, it was discovered that the team would not get around to making the models, and there weren’t any models of the desired type available online. I sent out a request for model-help and was contacted by a student group working for one of the professors, who offered to assist me with the models for free. I sent them a list of models needed, but the list was too much for the time remaining in the project. Before starting, we should have created a more realistic and solid plan for the assets, and we should have recognized when the asset plan was failing earlier so that it could have been fixed sooner. It is even more critical to catch when the asset plan needs to be changed early, since asset development can be one of the more time-consuming parts of a project.

Project Management

The largest reason for failure with this project was scheduling and time management. When I had developed the plan for this project, I had planned a tight schedule with a little bit of time for debugging at the end. However, as the project went on, some features took longer to be implemented than I had planned. Similarly, there were more bugs than I had expected, and I found myself quickly working to just keep up with the schedule while fighting bugs. It didn’t take long for me to become swamped and fall behind the schedule, requiring large features to be cut from the design to make up for the time to work on the bugs. In the future, I will plan that at least half of the development time, if not two-thirds of the time, should be dedicated to fixing bugs and features.  

Controls

One of the bigger issues that appeared late in development was a problem with the ship controls. This problem primarily appeared after I entered the final review stage, when the reviewers stated that they had trouble with the controls and couldn’t control the ship. This resulted in confusion, because it had contradicted with earlier user tests that I had run. The end result was a series of alternative controls hastily implemented to help the reviewers control their ships. What I ultimately learned out of this was, while testing with the public is still good for development, I needed to test more with the client for my game, the reviewers in this case, and ensure that the product was matching what they desired.

Summary:


Overall, I would say the project is well on it’s way for what I had desired. It is much more of a prototype and proof of concept than a completed product, but most of what remains is implementing assets and content, which can be done over time. There are a few major features, such as a Campaign mode, which had to be cut from the design due to time constraints, and I would want to attempt to implement these before final release. I did learn to plan for significantly more time for debugging, as well as to plan milestones more carefully so that I can spot when an aspect of the game is starting to not meet expectations earlier in the development cycle. I also learned that programming for abstract content benefits development in the long term. Similarly, maintaining a database of issues and features is a great way to maintain organization and focus of a development team. If I had to redo all of this from the beginning, I would probably implement those changes and more properly plan out the project in detail, using the experience I had from this project.  

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Capstone Game Post Mortem: Legend of the Stormblade


Game Summary

Title
Legend of the Stormblade


Genre
2D Space Shooter.

Platform
Android (Jelly Bean and above).

Revenue Model
Legend of the Stormblade is currently free, however there are plans for micro transactions in the form of power ups and customization options.

Development Tools
Legend of the Stormblade was built from scratch using Java and OpenGL, a custom 2D engine was built to handle game responsibilities.  Development was done in Android Studio, assets were created in Paint.net and Audacity.  All APIs used were provided by Google as part of the Android SDK, e.g. creating OpenGL surfaces, playing music files, connecting to Google Play services.

Game Audience
Teens and young adults who enjoy hunting achievements and trying to get a high score.  In order to exploit the engagement loop I added achievements and leader boards through Google Play services so the player keep track of their progress and compare against their friends.

Team
Brandon Patterson : Engineering, Art Assets
Lari Norri : Art Assets
Wade Patterson : Music Assets

Copyright / Reference
Legend of the Stormblade © 2015 Brandon Patterson




Backstory

Sound Bite
MegaCorp controls the galaxy, can you uncover the legend of the Storm Blade and free humanity?

Executive Summary
Legend of the Storm Blade is a traditional on-rails 2D space shooter in which the player must destroy enemies while safely traveling through a series of levels to reach bosses found at the end of each level.  The player will upgrade their ship after defeating each boss from a wide variety of differing weapons.  The ultimate point of the game is to achieve a high score and complete achievements.

Inspiration
I have always been a fan of shooters, from older classic games such as Darius Twin and Einhander to modern takes on the genre such as James Town and Luftrausers.  I wanted to take this game play style and get it to work on a mobile device while taking advantage of the platform benefits such as multi touch and the Google Play services.

Ideal
The game and engine are fairly complete, however if I had more time there is quite a bit I would like to add to the project.  The most noticeable thing to add would be proper assets, most of the assets for this project are would could be defined as "programmer art", since I had my hands full with code for the majority of the project I did not have time to find / create / buy better art.  After that I would just like to make the game longer, add more content, more bosses, more types of enemies, more achievements, essentially just take what is already there and just keep adding more.  To aid in that effort I would liked to have had the time to make some tools to create new entities and levels.

What Went Right

Android Studio
The improvement of Android Studio over Eclipse (the previous Android IDE) is immense, without the benefit of this new tool I am not sure if I would have been able to accomplish anywhere near what I was able to with it.

Previous Experience
Another factor that made development go more smoothly was looking back on assignments from previous classes.  I kind of had an idea of what I wanted to try and accomplish during the capstone so whenever I could test or try something out with an assignment from a previous class I would incorporate it into the assignment, this way I was getting some research and testing out of the way.

Testing
Each month of development had a week of testing incorporated into it, this turned out to be great for the final result of my project.  Due to the testing (mostly the 'talk aloud' type), I received some great feedback, once implemented greatly increased the quality of the end result.  Many of the suggestions and features were things I never would have thought of, or thought wouldn't work at all, yet since we had a week to test and implement changes I had the time to see what worked and what did not.

What Went Wrong

Android Studio
I listed Android Studio as one of the things that went right for this project, however it was also one of the things that went wrong.  Some days the IDE would just not work, it would constantly lock up, or not be responsive, or fail to connect to any devices, etc, etc.  These days were rare, but when they would occur it would cause a day to become much less productive.

Asset Issues
Since my goal for this project was to display a technical aptitude I spent as little time as possible with assets, visual and audio.  Due to this the project does have a hand made feel to it and I see now that I should have set aside more time to the project would have much more polished look.  Though like always, where would the time come from, at some point something has to give.  Additionally the sound assets gave me some trouble, I am not very proficient in that field so I wound up having more problems with those types of assets.

Garbage Collector
I wrote my game in Java which is not my most comfortable language.  One of the features of Java is that it handles memory allocation / deallocation for you, the problem is that it decides when that clean up happens.  For many applications this is probably not a big deal, in game development it is very difficult to keep a constant frame rate and a poorly timed call to the garbage collector can cost hundreds of milliseconds, which in turn creates a noticeable lag.  In the end I was able to tame memory usage, but it was a constant issue that I had to be aware of.

Summary

In the end I feel that I accomplished everything that I set out to do.  I wrote an extensible, well performing 2D game engine for a mobile device.  The interesting thing for me is that I feel that the hardest work is yet to come, my plan is to take this engine and all of these lessons learned and go out now and try to actually make something from all of it.  No guidelines, no rubrics, no deadlines that I don't set myself.