Thursday, 2 May 2013

Pre-Produce Assignment

Every game starts from an idea which is eventually developed to a high-concept, before going into a full-scale concept that, in detail, explains the game’s plot, characters and amazing features within allowing the game. When Shigeru Miyamoto started working on Legend Of Zelda the high concept of this was for two players to create dungeons underground and explore, after testing this game he changed it to a one player exploring dungeons gaining the idea of letting player go above ground as well- thus creating Hyrule Field and Lake Hylia.

In the end the concept of Zelda was a normal boy going by name of Link (because he links people together) is thrown into conflict by an evil force that threatens Hyrule, the Triforce and the Princess Zelda.  Link must rescue the damsel in distresses by collecting spirit energies across Hyrule to stop the evil wizard Ganon, from seizing the power of the Triforce and bringing destruction to the world. After 25 years of working on this game and bringing out 17 different games (not including HD remakes or spin-off titles), the whole concept of the Zelda titles have been spilt into three timelines depending on how Link faces Ganon in Ocarina of Time. Even now the director and producer of Zelda: Eiji Aonuma states there’s three different concepts of the series in which the team have a variety of ways to make the next sequel, compared to other games that can’t continue because the storyline has come to an end.

Compared to Zelda franchise, Spyro the Dragon games went through a whole different process and have ended up in a spot where the story ends up in loop when all the games are played. The original concept behind Spyro with Insomniac Games is that player controls a purple dragon that is able to breathe fire and slightly fly. Spyro the dragon is then forced to rescue his brethren or the dragon realms (in Insomniac games), by collecting gems, gears or dragon eggs to defeat the evil sorcerer Gnasty Gnorc or a relative of his. Along the way you met different characters like Hunter, St.Bird, Yeti and Sparx your companion showed you your health. When Spyro was brought by Activision they slightly changed the Spyro games by scrapping some of the characters and in introducing ‘boring’ antagonists. In the end Activision came up with an idea by making prequels of Spyro where the game goes before the first of the series but yet slightly follows after Hero’s Tale. This is where the original concept of Spyro was scrapped and a new one was created. Spyro became part of a prophecy and was raised as a dragonfly with Sparx before having to endure a relentless battle against the evil purple dragon Malefore. In the last three games you had a health bar, Sparx was now something that only interacted during cut scenes (same with hunter) and new characters were scripted as well as Spyro’s features. In the end it made out Spyro and Cynder had a relationship and died in order to protect the dragon realms, there it leads on to a new generation of the purple dragon going back to the first game.
Another example of a different concept process would be for games that are based on a movie, series or even a story, because half of the concept has already been completed for games designers so all they have to do is think of game play rather than the story. Naruto, Beyblade, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and some games of Kingdom Hearts are all examples of this.

With my game’s high-concept it began with wolves that carries certain elements and are chained together, after that more characters and storyline starting coming together where we have the main protagonist who’s a peasant-girl with royal bloodlines and roaming around the streets of Japan unaware of who she really is. 

Personal research will have to be conducted to give a realisation of whether these concepts can be achievable depending on: time, money, budgets, commitments, knowledge, licensing and whether you’re working on this idea yourself, with friends or in a company- all must be considered to make sure your production doesn’t flop and no one goes bankrupt. The other side of research (this would most likely apply to businesses that have already launched a game and plan to release a sequel, prequel or HD version) is to discover what your idea has in common or doesn’t have in common with other games, what competition you’ll be facing and maybe one the greatest elements to gain knowledge on what the public wants or liked; you could also reflect upon what games you’ve personally enjoyed and have they influenced the concept you’ve created? 

That’s why a lot of people release questionnaires for a specific target audience, fan-base or even the general public to find out answers that can help their future sales (primary research). Although this hasn’t got anything to do with games the producer of the manga Naruto, openly confessed he researched on a lot of Naruto fan-bases gaining secondary research and decided to draw in a few ‘fan-service’ scenes where a hinted relationship between Naruto and Sasuke appear. This proved a huge success to Masashi as more people started to buy and indulge in this story; no doubt some games companies have completed the same thing by either releasing DLC, or by putting it in HD/sequels.
One of the newest games: Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is a co-operation between a famous animation studio: Studio Ghibli and an amazing game studio: Level-5.  Dennis Lee, Senior Global Brand Manager of Namco Bandai stated Namco personally researched on Studio Ghibli and Level-5, taking into consideration the awards and recognition  they’ve both received over the years and how much faith and trust people have put into their work- making them extremely powerful powerhouses. If they were to collaborate on a game together then immediately a huge amount of people would consider playing the game without knowing what it’s about. Now that Ni No Kuni has been released around 67,000 unites have been sold in the USA alone making an estimated profit of around 2 million already.

On my part for researching I’ve taken into consideration what are my favourite games and why, I noticed Elemental Wolves genre does focus on my favourite genres as well (action-adventure, RPG, platform). It shares similarities with:
·         Okami- wolf combat, drawing features and animal recognition.
·         Pandora’s Tower- deciding on whether to make or break relationships with characters; possibly having more than one ending.
·         Professor Layton- solving riddles in side quests to gain locked content.
·         Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess- mounted combat.
·         Spyro the dragon: Dawn of the Dragon- limitless flying.

For this FMP our group consists of five people, all of which have gained some degree in computer game design, development, animation ect and have had experience in the industry as a tester or have worked a little for someone else. Between the five of us, we all have divided the jobs an AAA production team have  so each of us have a shared amount of work, meaning each we  will be working on the aspects of game development we personally enjoy most compared to other team mates that hate a certain aspect-  generating less stress and saving time.  For other jobs that will require us to pay money like audio and legal terms, we researched on what other companies would pay employees and started advertising and asking people to join our group later on in the production. Also we thought about giving other people a chance from sites off Youtube and Deviant Art to help with musical scores and enrolling them into KawaiixFukuro Studios as voice actors-this way they could help us by spreading the word around about our game and we can get them recognition, if your product was to be a success.
We’ve given ourselves budget of £150,000 that we hope can be produced from crowd sourced funding otherwise because we all work there is a chance of going independent and managing to raise 30,000 between us. Hopefully if our pledge becomes a success it means that’s we can use an original intellectual property licensing where we can created the game for ourselves instead of being told what to do under a publisher’s firm.

There are dangers with this; it could mean our work gets stolen once people see it on places like Kickstarter or Deviant Art if we were to place concept pieces up. A way to tackle this would be to get copyright so our work is protected even though it means extra costs. If research wasn’t done right then the public might not be interested so our product would flop or if were able to release our game through Xbox, PS3 or Wii-U they might not be interested and no one would be overseeing our work. If were my team members were to give up the whole concept of the game would be a complete and utter waste of money and time. My idea is to conduct weekly meetings where we share our progress that’s been produced at home, whilst once a fortnight doing something other than working on our games as a stress-relief plan. There’s no time limit in which we have to finish the project by, we plan to work four hours each day at home or together at someone’s house in order to keep up a steady routine; we aspire to finish our product in 2-3 years’ time.
If this were for triple a titles like Mass Effect there would be a large amount of team members, for example 42 people worked on Mass Effect compared to the team who created Thomas Was Alone which consisted of two people. For AAA titles they usually cost a lot of money but are protected by publishing firms like Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, EA ect and have licensed intellectual property which in a way makes work a lot easier but it means more stress, less money and your boss can pick and choose what he likes instead of it being a personal decision which in some ways is good.
After all the research has been conducted and the concept has been made official team members place all the work in a concept documentation, so that when the proposal date comes around everything is ready for our investor(s) to look through.

Elemental Wolves Concept:
Players play as Faith, a teenage girl of low-status that wanders around Osaka’s streets, unknowing her true heritage as princess of a parallel world: Crystal Dynasty. After being caught by a secret underground organisation led by two English aristocrats, Faith is forced to endure a Sekkusu house’s torture that begins to start her self-revelation slightly changing her internal and external flaws. Being branded as ‘un-broken’, Faith is thrown into a dungeon where she meets twelve Elemental Wolves that helps her return to her normal realm. Shortly after arriving the player begins to understand the calamity of which Crystal Dynasty has been thrown into, and now as Faith must fight against her own blood to recover the throne and return her world into a utopia by controlling the elements and befriending nature’s brethren. Elemental Wolves revels in action-adventure/ RPG gameplay aimed towards a target audience of teenagers and adults, the player must engage in fighting combos, learn fourteen elements, conquer mounted combat and engage in missions across the land. The gamer also has the choice to strengthen or break relationships with other characters that could change the game’s ending dramatically.
Otherwise the players can engage in back-to back combat with others across the world, using different characters that are unlocked by doing side-quests instead of having to download DLC. Reasons why we’re not engaging in releasing DLC is because it could attract more fans knowing they don’t have to spend more money to get extras, and if we couldn’t get the game released on mobile/game platforms then it isn’t going to cause any complications.

The next set of processes would be to engage in three documentations for feasibility, technical and design. Feasibility focuses on what the project is, needed for, how we’ll fund it and the time it’s going to take. Technical is about the handling, functionality of a technical product or a product under development /use. Design is writing a cleverly-crafted document which communicates the design decisions to fellow peers or mentors, meaning it can be written in two forms.
It has been known though that because technology, development teams tend to skip or at least dread filling in these documents which could cause some problems later on. In our team of five when it came to writing these documents we’ve written them together so each of us has an understanding of the topics so no confusion will be present later, it also saves time in the long run as we don’t have to create two separate design documents for ourselves and a mentor; which would no doubt be the investor.

Before anyone starts creating the real game, people will release prototypes or short demos which can be used when making a proposal to certain investors or stakeholders. It’s also a way to receive some public opinions on your game which you can use before presenting anything to anyone else. A good place to share these demos would be on live networks for Microsoft, PSN or Virtual Console; other places would be at certain expos (MCM Comic Con, Gamescon or E 3). In some cases you could distribute the demos amongst gaming college or university students. When the Wii-U was being tested, they put up a Zelda demo at E3 in 2011 which received various opinions and comments about the new style, in the end it helped Nintendo because it’s been announced they plan to release a Wind Waker HD version on this platform. Compared to this another game known as Rhythm Thief was released on Virtual Console as a demo version only, after so many good reviews saying how promising the game looks the creators suddenly brought it out on 3DS.

With our prototype we’re creating a short demo version of the game which will show the player delving into the brush techniques used for elements, leading onto a rendezvous point of dragons. Trailer and cut scene clips will be present so people can not only see the gameplay but the art style as well, hopefully this will entice a bigger audience- especially if it can be presented at certain cons or allowed on live arcade, PSN or Virtual Console later on after pitching, keeping in mind it will be at a price.

Proposal, Plan and Pitch
As I said before our funding will hopefully be crowd sourced, we’re pledging for £150,000 to get the game finished in two years. On Kickstarter we’ll be posting up rewards for those who back us in the production as well as giving weekly updates on the process of the game. In the description there will be a break-down of what we could achieve with the money and pieces of the concept, art, musical scores and a description of the team and our education/ experience. We’ll also offer up the chance for people to ask us questions and will respond as quickly as possible. Later on if the crowd-funding becomes a success and the game is being made, we will then pitch our product to Nintendo, Microsoft or Sony about gaining a deal where our game can be digitally distributed and reviewed obviously paying the costs. For example Microsoft Live Arcade state we’ll have to pay £99 each year and they get 30% of our earnings.
Another plan is if the crowd-funding failed then we would go independently raising money through work or loans initially gaining £30,000 each before we start, ultimately doing the same as before.

Instantly we started making our prototype that’s going to be used for our Kickstarter pitch, during this time two members of the group were allowed to focus solely on creating an animated trailer for the pitch, as well as making another animation of the main character giving an interview about Elemental Wolves. After adding this on Kickstarter and writing down all the details given some of the concept art and work was done before the prototype, Elemental Wolves soon became a ‘big hit’ in the public’s eye.
Eventually our pledge became a success going just over the £150,000 mark with people from across the world joining us to have their little input in the game. Another good thing was that between the five of us in a short space of time, the team managed to bank £8000 and was cleared to have a loan if needed.
During the start of Elemental Wolves we paid for flight expenses of international supporters who backed us in the £1000 margin, it’s then we worked on their little inputs of designing their unique characters and setting up places for them to name.  Our team worked hard on the basic model shapes, concepts, settings, scripts and level designs and animations; with our success on Kickstarter Nintendo were very interested in releasing the game for the Wii-U. However in an agreement they would receive 40% of what we earned but they would allow us to keep our IP, protecting our designs with copyright, after agreeing we started breaking down the semiotics of Wii-U controls for the game. What we didn’t know was Sony wanted Elemental Wolves to be released through the PSN network. We were now completing our Alpha milestone.

Code Freeze
One of our team members enjoyed the programing side immensely and took on most of the programming tasks, with a couple of other team mates left to help him if need be. In the meantime most of us started getting to work on the level and asset creation, with having intervals by working on something else so no one got bored and any mistakes personally found in the modelling or animation for example could be fixed, before our programmer released the code-freeze. After nearing an end in the programming we started picking up on the art and audio production, to have a break from work we met our voice actors and had fun messing around with the character’s voices before letting the pros do their work, in the same week the team started trying to record FX sounds and had fun creating tunes with our hired composer. Personally one of the greatest things were getting people off Youtube and Deviant Art involved for voice acting, creating music or even indulging in fan-art. That way more amazing people can get recognised and so can we which will also help with the current fan-base.
 At least we ‘code-freezed’ the game

Beta, Code-Release and Gold Master
At last things were coming to an end and we were allowed to release Play Station 3 and Wii-U demos to testers provided by both Nintendo and Sony, unfortunately there were a few minor bugs in the software but it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be dealt with. After a couple of different demos our code once again became frozen and was allowed to be moved on to conventions. We picked three of the major conventions that sprung to mind: E3 - Los Angeles, Gamescon-Cologne and  London MCM Expo May and October, we were granted permission to set up our game demo’s along with us titles and we even got invited to set up the gear at Santiago’s Comic Con supported by Deviant Art.
In the end Nintendo physically distributed our art promotion in quality stores like GAME, Grainger Games, Block Busters, Harvey’s and WHSmiths, as well as our game Elemental Wolves. Sony released it on Play Station Network and thousands of units were sold. Our loyal backers on Kickstarter got their rewards all signed by the team and we all earned quite a bit of money. Our next step now would be to create a sequel or possibly look into other medias for the same story.

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Journals and Books
7.       NEO Magazine
8.       Dark Horse Comics-Hyrule Historia Book (Released February 2013) 

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