Monday, 14 July 2014

Portfolio Showcase Assignment: Working To A Brief 2

With our last assignment, Web Authorising, having been completed this next assignment Portfolio Showcase links well with its predecessor. Why? Basically I’ll be expanding on both subjects (working to a brief and web authoring); yet adding my personal twists within. For example in the first task I’ll be explaining about our recent FMP brief and how it’s developed since last August. Task 2 involves me making my own personal website to design an online portfolio for potential employers.
Task 1- Working to a Brief 2
At the start of our second year at Confetti we were given a brief to make a computer game, either as a group or individually where it was to be completed at the end of the course. The design, structure and genre of the game was left up to us as long as we don’t use commit copyright and plagiarism, plus keeping the game’s rating under 16 at least for the prospect of having the demo displayed at GameCity nights in Nottingham. With that in mind, the group I’m in now (Drastic Studios) decided to get organized and we basically began putting our response to the brief together as a group effort.
At the start of our course we all made separate GDDs for separate game ideas, when we came to making a game together we had the option of taking somebody’s current GDD so that pretty much all the initial designing, planning and structures were laid out. Or we could create a whole new game between us using characters from our previous games into this one. With the idea of working someone’s game without anyone else’s creative inputs didn’t seem fair to the rest of the group, although it meant more work our team decided to work on one game together using our personal characters to take on the main roles. After having a few discussions during some spare time in our lessons I jotted down notes of initial concepts for story, arranging who’s character should take what role such as mentor, protagonist, villain ect. The major problem was though a few team members what certain roles which I then came up with the idea of doing things based on chance- probably not the most professional way of doing things, yet it meant less fallouts within the new team and character’s roles would be decided on a game of ‘Rock,Paper, Scissors’
Content Outline
‘The Depths Between’ is our modernised game where our renegade hero Tai  ( a deceased supernatural) has to combat his way through his own personal “limbo”  hunting down his nemesis Greed, who slaughtered him on Earth and encounter “Death” so not only can  his soul can rest peacefully, but the afterlife realm once again be restored to its retrospective form .
Following the art styles such as: Final Fantasy, Disgea and Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, we aim for a possible semi-realistic feel, adding in darker themes which reflect on our chosen target audience sort to be young teenagers to young adults. The game’s core play will be on the verge of over-world exploration in various central hubs and warped environments, including battles that will fight out in an action RPG style, once again resembling the franchise mentioned above. For the fights, the action will pan out with a battle palette that can be used to select various moves that will be used and have different effects in battle. The main protagonist can also level up, upgrading his elemental skills in numerous parameters.
So how did all this develop?
As a team consisting of six members and two free-lancers we decided to take everyone’s old game concepts, creating one huge brainstorming idea that not only includes all our concepts but a character from each story. The reason why as a team we decided this was because it wasn’t morally right for one person to see their whole game idea come to life, when others deserved the same opportunity as well; it’s for this reason we’ve decided to start from scratch and build a ‘team-game’.
Target Audience
Already we’ve given a slight hint towards our audience, being between young teenagers to adults as well as looking at the unisex reception. Our research for this is by looking closely at what games we love playing and how they appeal to us as teenagers with unique selling points, gameplay, styles and even the story compared to possibly how they affect younger or older audiences. ‘The Depths Between’ takes on a more mature approach that will contain an emotional storyline revolving around war, death, betrayal as well friendship trust and team spirit. The darker themes would comprise more exposure to horror/ fantasy styles of characters, the situations they’re placed in and even the quests themselves as well as gameplay that will ask you, to use such powers such as ‘Hell-Fire’, or complete certain puzzles/tasks that will be created for a more experienced mind.
We find games like Xenoblade Chronicles, Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Disgea all follow these certain trends, known under the genres of RPG and Action-Adventure which is where we believe our game lays. For research on different genders and how we can appeal to males and females is by showing our unique selling points. Stereotypically males prefer more violence and conflict within the game which is what ‘The Depths Between’ is focused on, for the female audience however we’ve added a deep storyline, creatures that you have to communicate with (one of them being a wolf, resembling Twilight Princess) and different ways to combat using spells and wit- rather than brawn and fighting techniques.
Using this hypothesis we created a survey asking 10 questions that relate to the game and thus the survey concludes that between four girls: five boys, with ages from the lowest being 13, the eldest 46 and the majority being between ages 17-22  the favourite game genres consisted of : Action-Adventure, RPG and MMORPG. The next set of questions were based around what games others had enjoyed and why, 65% had mentioned games we used to familiarise our game with such as Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts and Legend of Zelda with comments mostly praising about how the creators have collaborated both an amazing storyline that instantly grips you the moment you begin gameplay, as well brilliant play that allows you to feel as though you as yourself is battling within this world. Yet our last question in this category was what do the public believe is more important in a game. Is it gameplay, story or both? More people chose story with 3 people asking for both. Now the last set of questions was about what people would enjoy seeing in our game.
In unique game elements Superpowers won by 56%, Zombies, Steampunk and Weaponry become joint second with all being 44%. The next question was about whether Leash’s fauna being a wolf popular, giving our audience a list of animals she could be now wolf and dragon came joint first which worked well in my favour as Leash is a wolf/dragon hybrid. Finally we asked the question of what weaponry would people be interested in and we basically left it up to the public to decide. Some people thought the companion should carry certain pieces like swords, potions, elements or really sharp claws, again tying in with Leash having claws as she’s a wolf/dragon and carry an Elemental weapon; others again went for swords, claws and knuckle dusters. With all this in mind our team did create a relatively good game that incorporates what a lot of the public would want to see in a game and possibly enjoy our game because it’s similar to some of their favourite franchises.

As students we are going the Indie way, meaning we will have to pay for licensing, programs such as the Autodesk collection (Maya, Mudbox, 3D Max), Photoshop, Renpy, UDK ect, all of which can costs thousands to pay for. When piecing this altogether it will cost a heck of a lot of money, luckily all members of the groups all attend the same college (Confetti Studios) which supply the programs and licensing allowing us to download student versions of the programme for free, giving us more time to work on projects at home. Another good thing is some of the group members may already have programs such as Photoshop or even hardware like Wacom Bamboo tablets, so they don’t have to fully relay on using college meaning more work can also be done at home. The only drawback to this is it means we can’t sell our idea, that doesn’t mean though we can’t create a reputation for ourselves by giving free demos away to the public, friends and family and requesting their feedback for you guys to see!
Each member of the group may/ may not need personal resources. For one of the members they have to supply their own art materials to make concepts, paintings, storyboards, animation cycles ect.
Personal Requirements

In our team we’ve each taken a main role within the group so far consisting of: modellers, coders, concept artists, animators, scripters and then given ourselves, ‘sub-roles’ where although we may not feel as comfortable in this role we can help out other team members that are trailing behind or just need a boost. The team that way can work more effectively as well as build bonds amongst ourselves so we don’t get confused on how we are maintaining our progress. We plan to create a demo that consists of one major quest revealing some of the main characters and how the situation blows off between the protagonist and the antagonist before we complete our 2nd year of our diploma. Naturally the team has decided that if the production of the game was to be completed before the time given, as individuals we will try and complete our own NPC Quests that give our customers a little extra if they really enjoyed the demo. Before then though, each  week our leader takes into consideration what each team member has done and explains to them what needs to be done next and when by once again avoiding confusion, tracking down our production on a team Gantt Chart and Sprint Sheet. Even though we are at college, we also have online meetings via Facebook and a Dropbox account where we present all our work for others to see. Finally we have meetings in town or at college to discuss the team’s progress and invent team-building exercises to give our minds a break from creating games.

My role within the team so far has been quite mixed between modelling, planning, scripting and concept art. I feel I have to do these roles in order for my team to progress further in the production, for example if I don’t have the concept art done for my level design, characters and enemies than how will I or anyone else be able to model them? For the group I’ve contributed in making the team’s GDD before passing it on to the leader and then re-writing the next version so more information is stored in there. Added two characters with a backstory, bio, concept art, mock up-images of the designs and mock storyboard pieces, an enemy concept with bio. Level design sketches, animation walk-cycles, started models of my main character and finally a fully scripted NPC quest that contains two more characters with final design images, backstories and much more. Other than that I’ve helped the leader organise certain things within the groups like meetings, progress, homework ect
For me it costs:
Travel~ £2.40 one way from my house to Nottingham (so for a week of going to college (2 days) £9.60)
Food~ £4 (Covers days at college)
Art Supplies ~ £2 (Pencils)
                          £2 (Pens)
                          £0.99 (Rubber)
                           £ 3 (Paper
                           £30 (Printer Ink)   Total: 37.99 / 7 = £5.42
Now when working in the industry or as an indie company it is going to cost a heck of a lot more than what I’ve stated here.  Shown below is a sample clip that shows what the budget would come to if our group were to work solo.

Project Breakdown
When making a game there are stages in which we must complete in order to advance. So far our team has finished the planning stage which is where the creation of the game begins. Next is our production stage which is where we make our game, the next stage is the testing which allows us and others to play our game and find little bugs within the code. Finally we go back and fix these errors, giving the game one more chance to play through and fix any more errors before present again to an audience such as the public other than testers.
Beforehand I’ve already discussed what our team does and how as individuals we help the progression of the game. All of us look up to our leader to point us in the right the direction and in return he allows us to give him pointers on what should be done next if they are needed. The good thing about the group is we always have a contingency plan so that if the leader was to disappear it doesn’t mean all our information goes with him, but stays with us so we can still work on our game.
In any group we need to have a back-up plan in case something happens where a member of team becomes frequently absent, or can’t get into college to hand in work or simply the files on our memory stick is lost or broken. For the team members part if something were to happen to the team leader, my job in a couple of groups is to take in everything the leader has said/wants then distribute it to the rest of the team members if need be- this way if something were to happen to me, everyone would know what to do and how to carry on. The internet is also another way we can all stay in touch other than relying on meeting up at college or other places in town, on sites like Facebook, Google and IM messengers- plus in some groups there’s an online meeting held every week for the group to discuss anything and everything that concerns the game which is a brilliant idea.
Now if we were to lose work or couldn’t get in to college to hand it in, the teams usually have a storage place on the internet for other to have access to and retrieve like Google drives and Dropbox, which if anything did happen to your memory stick you can get your work from there also. It may also help if someone else has a copy of your work just in case of this situation of well but the internet would be much better.
Our team planned out our production pretty well sometimes using assignments to develop certain pieces further like the level designing, on the other hand by looking at my sprint sheets you can easily see we had a few problems within the production of team.
Our team has gone through quite a few problems since we started. I think the major problems were lack of communication and management. In the beginning I found that I was keeping the team afloat with working on the GDD by myself, getting my character’s thoroughly designed with both art and character’s backgrounds, arranging team meetings and much more even though I wasn’t the team leader or vice-captain.  After having a discussion with the team leader I agreed I would step down yet the work on the initial stages weren’t being done so again I started completing things for the group, giving it to the team leader to quickly adjust and then distributing it throughout the team.
Coming close to the end of the year this has been continuous until quite recently. Having another discussion with the team leader after Easter holidays about others needing to pull their weight, everyone being on target and getting things done for the game at this crucial time. He agreed and since then it’s been like working with a brand new team with some members, we are on track with what needs to be done, whoever needs someone to do something for them it’s done and all of us are communicating better on Facebook. The team leader I find has changed most of all, even though I’m still giving everyone homework, he’s making sure people get things done, writing down both sprint and gantt charts regularly and paying attention to online discussions on Facebook.
Our next major problem was the lack of communication within the group. At the start we had 7 members of the group and two left because for most of the time, the team leader wouldn’t tell us what needed to be done and when, what the structure of the story was and sometimes left certain aspects to the last minute.
So what have I been doing to help get the team further? Through most of the year I’ve been having frequent meetings with the team leader about the game and what I’m doing as that contributes to the game’s progress. There have been times where I’ve created documents for all the team to use such as mood boards, mind-maps, initial notes and a pitch speech for the team during the production management assignment. I’ve based a couple of my assignments on the  game as well making assets that can be used during a later stage, a preview of my level that’s to be included in the demo along with a level design document and various sketches. During the start and quite recently I’ve been giving people homework to be getting on with each week and check that things are ok which has been proved to help.
As I mentioned before things have gotten easier since I had a discussion with the team leader after the Easter holidays. When we came back everybody decided on a certain role they wanted to pursue to create the game such as level designers, artist and asset builders so I’ve taken on the role as animator and artist. With this in mind I stated to the group I can’t continue what I’ve been doing for most of the year because I’ll be busy animating cutscenes. The team leader since then has been getting people to get on with their work and have helped me try and sort problems with people getting scripts ready, finalising the GDD and structure of the story. He’s also giving us mini-deadlines to work to and checking that the game’s process is on track. There’s still times I have to chase certain members of the group to do certain pieces that’s vital to the game’s completion but I suspect in the end it’s all worth it.

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