A Rat Betwixt Blog Post #6 – The Final Post and Additional Insight

This final post will be a long one, so Buckle Up!

So, it finally came. The end of what took up the complete majority of the last 2 months of my life. The initial release of the vertical slice of the game design studies game project – A Rat Betwixt.

So for this final blog post I will talk about the project and my final insights on the project as a whole and my involvment in it.

If you want to see the trailer, then you can find it here V

 

Adapting work to the need of a project

So when it comes to the final parts of working on a project pretty much all work has to be adapted to what is needed above all to achieve the results you want to present in the end.

Throughout an entire project such as this there is a constant discussion about what is wanted in the project compared to what can realistically be achieved. Grandiose thoughts and ideas about what we can achieve is fine and all, However, is it realistically possible to achieve, and will it be for the best of the project?

What to prioritize

From what I have learned throughout the various projects I have been part of over the last 2 year of my game design studies is that you should value quality over quantity. Meaning that it is a lot better to have fewer things that all work exceptionally well together rather than to have a ton of things all of which are subpar.

To create as good an experience as possible you have to make sure that what you have at hand all seem to fit in well in tandem. This is because people take greater notice of what is wrong rather than what is good. It is because bad aspects are more easy to take note of and explain rather than figuring out why something is good. The fewer things to complain about, the better a perception people will have for a project as a whole. It is quite easy for people to say “everything is good, except for A, B, C etc.”. If you ask me what I would describe games as, the best word I can use is to refer them as experiences. Be that positive or negative, you should focus to make the game into the sort of experience you want the player to have whilst playing your game.

Final workload

For the final parts of a project it is important to know what you have achieved up until that point and what you still need to do before the final deadline to make the best experience from it all. All the things you have discussed and thought about throughout the project, it is now up to you to decide what of it to do and if you can finish those things in time or not.

The best example of this comes from a goal we have had since the beginning of the project. The idea was that the project is going to have multiple different playable characters for the players to choose from. All with their own unique character designs and abilities.

The game originally had planned for:

  • 4 Playable Characters
  • 1 Modular enemy character (Meaning that you can use the same model for multiple characters with some alternations)
  • 1 Boss Character

We decided early on in the project that in the worst case scenario that we at least would have 2 different playable characters and 1 enemy character.

Near the end of development we have finished two out of these characters that you can see in 3D form in my earlier posts. Those being the Troll Boss Enemy in A Rat Betwixt Blog Post #1 and #4 as well as the “Dyrkare” in Blog Post #3. This was with only 1 week left of development! You couldn’t possibly create the rest of the characters in 1 week, right?

wrongkiddoorigin.jpg  – Meme by dajo42 on Tumblr

Optimization for sake of saving time

If you recall me talking about modular design where you can use the same model for multiple purposes. That’s exactly what we did to get the 3 missing playable character models into the game on time.

Meet the “Female Standard Mesh”

Female Standard Mesh.png – Model made by another member on the team

We figured that we did not have much time left but that we could squeeze in the rest of the characters if we are efficient and clever enough. Not all the characters are female, but thanks to the way the characters are designed we thought that we could for the most part hide the more feminine aspects if we wanted the character to be male.

A Rat Betwixt Characters.png

3 Different characters all based on one single mesh.

Alright, so the main character 3D artist figured that we could do this for the models of the characters. But what about the other parts, those being UV Mapping, Rigging, Skinning and Animating? Those parts still needs to be done from scratch, right?

Well, not necessarily. As the base mesh for all these characters is the same, all of them could use the same rig. One size fits all. As for UV Mapping, the character artist took care of that. Animations were made rough by the animator, so the animations were not the best due to time constraints but they worked well enough. Same rig also meant that certain animations could be used by multiple characters for the time being.

When it comes to skinning, that was most likely my biggest breakthrough for the final part of the project. I was told by the lead design that I had to suck it up and reskin everything from scratch. But since skinning is by far the most boring part of 3D characters in my opinion and takes way too much time for what you get out of it, I would have none of it.

After some digging online I found what would enable us to have all these last minute characters be acceptably skinned on time without driving me absolutely insane. I found out about SkinUtilities. This nifty tool would allow me to transfer skinning between characters using the same base. So then all I had to do was fill in the new stuff on the characters into the skinning such as the pieces of armor and different head gear. I saved at least 10 hours of character skinning for each variation of the characters doing this!

The more I work with 3D the more I realize that I still have so much left to learn. I’ve only barely just begun!

End of a chapter

So yeah, our 2 months of work on this project is now over. We presented our game at the Gotland Game Conference, people liked the game but we were not awarded any prizes nor nominations. Also no one in the group seems all that keen on continuing this project any further. It was a nice experiment, but we all have different goals to strive for and different things that we all want to do.

But I’m still happy, I do not regret this time I’ve spent. I feel like I got a ton of work done over this period and I feel like I’ve gotten better and more efficient at 3D. I had a good group of fun people who were all more than willing to work to get the job done.

We had good use of our game design knowledge and previous experiences when it comes to time management during a game project. We knew when we got over our heads and we knew how to fix the problems we faced with the time that we had. This is a huge change from earlier projects I have been on.

Signing off

With all the newfound knowledge as well as all the experience I have gathered, I am now ready to tackle new challenges. I will do my best to continue my studies and I will work hard over the summer trying to improve myself in any way that I can. Just gotta keep working my way towards the top!

This “additional artist” will now become hidden once more.

Until next time, I hope you have a great summer!

 

Advertisements

A Rat Betwixt Blog Post #5 – Additional Problems

Featured image – “This is fine dog” by KC Green

 

Personal Status

Hello! Back again with another insight blog post into the Game Design Project – A Rat Betwixt.

So, a project such as a game project takes quite a bit of time and work to get finished. This can be quite the stressful period with a lot of crunching (working extra hours beyond the “normal” amount of extra hours. Often multiple hours after midnight after a normal 9-17 work day) just to hit those project deadlines.

Of course you can’t completely give up your life just for work. However, sometimes it feels like that is the case. The struggles of balancing your personal life alongside your project. Also as for my case, having to catch up on old unfinished schoolwork at the same time as you have a project loaded with deadlines that geenrally can not be crossed, such as alpha, beta and release. I am here to tell you a bit of such a moment in time for me during my involvment in this final school project and how it has affected me and my work during it.

Loaded work schedule

I’m sure you’ve all been there. Either you have forgotten, procastinated or not quite had time to finish a specific work assignment and therefor have had to push it along until later. I’m sure most of you can also relate to how those things really can come back to bite you in the behind eventually. This time of my life was just such a period.

There was this one hellish week where I had to work at least 8 hours a day on the finals project at the same time as I had to finish earlier missed school work that I had not quite started when I should have had. Not only that, this was the same period as when I had to apply to further studies in case I did not want to wait for a full year for another chance to apply. This last part doesn’t seem like much work unless you know what applying to these studies would require of you to hand in alongside the application.

The application did not only require knowledge of what exactly I wanted to study, but also a personal Curriculum Vitae (CV), Personal Letter as to why you’re applying as well as a personal portfolio of work showing that you have what it takes. Yes, it was like applying to a job. Which depending on if you have had applied to similar work before or not would take more or less time to do. In my case I have had not applied to something like this before. Which meant a lot of time had to be put aside to write an all new CV, all new Personal Letter and figuring out what work to include in the Personal Portfolio. Not to mention the stress coming from applying to something not previously applied to with the stress of not knowing whenever you will get in or not. Alongside the pressure from a big 2 months finals project at the same time as finishing earlier schoolwork that was planned for a few months before the final project began put a lot of weight on my shoulders.

All in all

You might ask “what exactly does this have to do with your project?” as to which I have to say “depends on what aspects of a project you want to look into”.

This post has probably been my most personally loaded one where I tried to give you readers an understanding of my personal psyche during by far the most hectic week I have had in this project.

I think this is important because this is something that can happen to anyone. It can suck, it can bring you down and it can break you. However, do not give up. If something is truly important to you, then sometimes you have to completely give up some time out of your life to accomplish what’s needed for you to reach your goals.

Do not give up, but also, do not expect to be given to you on a silver platter just because you feel like “you deserve it”. I have done this many times in my life, and it has Never Ever turned out in my favor. Only thing that makes you deserve something is if you put in the workload and hours to make your hopes and dreams become reality.

But, you did work, right?

Oh, of course I did. As I said earlier, I did work at least 8 hours a day during the entire week for the project. Mostly that work involves stuff I have already told you about. Making 3D objects for the game as well as UV mapping them and giving them textures. Not much new under the sun on the project front.

So until next post where I will tell you all about the final project period and how everything went –

Take Care!

A Rat Betwixt Blog Post #4 – Additional In-Game Content

Hello, everyone!

So yes, in my last Blog Post I promised that I would show off some actual 3D coming from me! This is not me saying that rigging and skinning characters or drawing 2D turnarounds for characters isn’t 3D. In 3D projects where characters and animations are important, those things are just as necessary as making the 3D models.

However, skinning and rigging are not really the most interesting topics when it comes to 3D. In fact, they are amongst the most hated parts of working with 3D! They are slow, boring, tedious and not really all that difficult either. It’s just slow pased, drawn out and rarely appreciated by those outside the development team. They are like a clean and tidy room. No one will mention it if it’s clean, but everyone will point it out as a bad thing if it’s not.

That being said, let’s get to something more interesting! 3D modeling!

Importance and use of props

Props.png

A prop is something that can be found inside the game’s world. Everything from items to pick up such as potions and weapons, or furniture and other items to interact with or fill a room with etc.

Props are important when it comes to giving life to any given game world. Imagine a room with  nothing inside it. Quite boring, isn’t it? Now, add in a chair into the room. Still not that much, but it’s something. Now add a table next to the chair, and you have somewhere to sit. Depending on what you put on the table, your interpretation of the room and situation changes. Putting a computer there could mean that it’s a work space whilst putting some plates and silverware on it gives more of a dining room feeling. Each individual part you add can tell its own story depending on how you use it and what you pair it with. Like if you put the table, chair and whatever was on it on its side, then you will probably get a more dire feeling from it. Like something is off about this room. Maybe there had been a fight or something?

UV Mapping

Of course, this being a HiddenMaxDesign, I have to show you some boring but important stuff! Can’t go without that, now could we?

UV Mapping is something you do when you want to texture an 3D object. Which is basically painting stuff onto them. To be able to do that, we have to let the program know what can be textures and how it should apply to a certain object. Each object is unique and require its own UV map to apply textures to.  You do this by extracting the surface information from the object by opening its UV map, rearrange it and open them up to get a flat surface, a sort of canvas you could say, to paint on.

UV Maps.png

Hey, remember our old friend, The Troll?

This is the results of proper UV Mapping. In the top picture the textures are all stretched out and weird as well as impossible to paint textures onto. Whilst the lower one is a lot cleaner and has some clear flat surfaces to paint on top of.

Rounding things up

Phew, quite a lot of work for a single thing to be created in 3D, isn’t there? It’s not just make the 3D model, paint it and get it animated as one might first think. You can bet a ton of love and care has been put into a 3D anything if it ends up looking good in the long run. There’s no room for slacking if you want things done properly!

For my next post I will go more in depth with how someone’s work process can be affected by outside forces. Oh boy, the next post will be a doozy.

Well, anyway, thanks for reading and take care!

A Rat Betwixt Blog Post #2 – Additional Characters

Hello again!

It’s been quite some time, but now I’m back to further give you the story of how I was involved in the creation of the game “A Rat Betwixt”!

In the last post I told you about how I first got introduced with the project, me getting accepted into the group and the work I was first assigned going into it all. In this post I will give further details on my work as well as other things going on in the background.

What I’ve done

So, after I provided the group with the design for the game’s main big enemy – The Troll – I also got assigned the job of designing the game’s minor enemy. Which in development has been called “The Mole People”.

This is the image I was given to start my work V

Moleman.png

What I was told about the character before doing the design was that these “Mole People” are ones who have inhabited the game’s bunkers for quite some time. So they have gathered stuff they found in the bunker such as old army clothing and weapons as well as equipping themselves with different things they seemed useful.

They can carry weapons, have lamps attatched to their helmets or carried around with them. I was also told that they really wanted to have a typewriter thrown in there somewhere.

As for the gender of the enemy. One big part of the game’s characters at this stage was that they need to be androgynous – not clearly male or female.

The Results

Here’s the basic design for how these enemy characters will look V

Rat Betwixt FIende Turnarounds.png

One of my first ideas when creating the design for the enemies was “How can I fit the typewriter into their design?”

I had different ideas such as them having parts of typewriters added onto their clothing or them carrying one around on their back.

Then it hit me. How could I have the typewriter in the design and further make the enemy look androgynous? Cover up the chest area. With this in mind and them carrying around typewriters on their backs I switched it around. I’d have them carry them on ther chest instead! But why stop at typewriters? With this new hanging contraption they could hang whatever they want up front! Such as typewriters, filing cabinets, work tables, you name it. This design decision opened up for a more modular approach – meaning that we can use the same design multiple times but change some minor things around in order to make each of them seem different. In turn also giving them different roles in the bunkers depending how high ranks they have as an example.

Summary

With this new enemy design as well as the modular approach I feel like I managed to give them I have now created a new set of characters that can be used in many different ways to further develop the world of A Rat Betwixt. With multiple different ideas and figuring out how to use them in multiple different ways you can make a lot of variety with minimal efforts put into it. Which is perfect for a short 10 week game project such as ours!

Hope this has been insightful, take care! 😀

A Rat Betwixt Blog Post #1 – Introduction of an “Additional Artist”

Hello, everyone!

You probably don’t remember me, but for those who do I am now back once again on a new Game Design Studies Game. Before it was the Pirate fights fish swimming space shooter “Yarr! Swimulator” (Codename Mermaid River) as the main animator. Now I have joined the game project named: “A Rat Betwixt” under the position “Additional Artist”

So, as to introduce all of you to this project, why don’t I start by explaining how I got introduced and eventually involved in the project?

Introduction

Before the project began I looked around being set on not having too big of an important role in a project so that I could take it a bit easier than how I had it with another project after Mermaid River (During this other project where I got burnt out from having too many important roles including lead design, lead art etc). I also wanted this because it is good to not only work as the project’s figurehead, but also as a projects’ “underling” doing more what is asked of me rather than telling others what to do and making all the tough decisions.

From this I met one of my aquainted classmates who told me about a project that he is having the role of producer. This project being under the codename “A Rat Betwixt”.

Project

I was told that the project was about a future just about a thousand years after a nuclear catastrophy or something of the like where people were just about getting completely back on their feet all strewn about over the world in different new societies. Different representatives of these societies somehow happened upon eacother near a Swedish bunker where each of them were sent to explore, all with their own missions to accomplish. The 4 players need to work together to get through the bunker, defeating all that oppose their missions on the inside. It just happens to be the case that one of the given missions is to murder the other players. This is the rat betwixt. So it is up to the players to go through the bunker, finish their tasks given to them and also figure out which one of them is a traitor. If there even is one to begin with. So the game is based on teamwork, betrayal, communication and psychology to get through it all.

Joining the group

I thougt that the project sounded interesting and promosing. I was then told that most of the roles had been filled in and accounted for, but that they could use an additional programmer or, as I later became, an “Additional Artist”.

So I met up with the group, discussed the project further with them and showed what I was capable of providing the group when it comes to graphics and design. They were impressed with what they saw and later contacted me saying that they would love to have me on their team. A proposal of which I later on accepted and became the final group member.

First weeks in the group

My time in the group started with me mainly getting into the hang of the game’s true visions and me researching what I need to get into the same mindset as the rest of the group. This included me looking through all the documents, all the visual references, talking with the group members, bringing up ideas and seeing if they work or not as well as why they would or would not fit into the scope of the game.

First major task

This became extra necessary once I got my first major job to do in the project. I was assigned the task of creating one of the game’s main big boss like enemies. As the game takes place in a bunker in Sweden I was told that the bunker the game takes place in would have big trolls in it. The trolls were to be based off of the troll designs of John Bauer whilst looking a bit more orcish to give them more of an antagonistic feeling.

John Bauer Trolls as reference:

This is the results of my design. VTroll Turnaround.png

One big change from the John Bauer general troll designs is that our troll does not have any hair. This is to make it easier for us when it comes to animation.

Summary

So there you have it. I am working as an “Additional Artist” for the game design project “A Rat Betwixt”.

My next blog post will tell you more of how my tasks have been evolving as well as how my workflow is changing with the flow of the project as a whole.

Take care, everyone!