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Emberheart – Developer Update #2

So, another week has gone by. Development on Emberheart has continued at a fast pace. The focus of this week was on finishing the Crystal Caves level 1 environment and the Vindovian Swamps environment. I’m pleased to inform you that those levels have indeed been finished and I moved on to the next environments.



Last week, the Crystal Caves level 1 was 70% finished. So I started by finishing that environment first. Here are screenshots of the finished level complete with spawning monsters:

 

Then I started working on the Vindovian Swamps, which was 30% complete last week. While I was working on the environment, I decided to start recording my process of level designing. (Somewhere this week expect a movie showing off the process behind making the swamp environment!) So here are some screenshots of the finished level complete with spawning monsters:

 

Then I went back to programming. I decided to finally start working on a more solid map/minimap system. So I implemented a fog of war system. Here is a screenshot of the map with fog of war:

After that I went back to doing some level design. I was thinking of making the Crystal Caves level 2 similar to level 1, but with this one change that makes it look a bit different nonetheless. Lava! I wanted to make the Crystal Caves level 3, which is the boss level, similar to level 2, also with lava. Since the boss level is a small one, this was a perfect opportunity to see how the lava worked out with the rest of the assets and to set the overall mood the levels will have. Here’s a screenshot of the boss level with lava:

I also started thinking what kind of unique legendary items I will have in the game and how I will setup their stats. Here is a sheet of the first iteration of designing unique legendary items and what legendary stats they will have:

Finally, I did another iteration on the design of the crafting system. Things are really coming together on this one. But more on this in the next developer update when I have more info to share!

Meanwhile, the great CaroTIllustrations is creating a new loading screen illustration and a new game logo! I will post the final result in the next developer update!

See you on the next developer update! And don’t forget to like/follow/subscribe to my facebook page, my twitter and my youtube channel!

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Emberheartgame

Twitter: www.twitter.com/Rebelcampgames

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzchYbiT7Ph7gD_qLiguxHg/videos

Emberheart Development Update #1

This week has been very exciting in the development of Emberheart! The main focus of this week was level design. I’ve had assets created for a while to make new cave environments but never seemed to get out of the programming flow. But this week I finally decided to let programming aside and create some more content for the game.

I decided to go more public with development, so I will now spend 30% of my time on social media and marketing of the game. Because in the end, nobody will play the game if they don’t know it exists. Also from now on I will try to release a development update post weekly.

First of all, I went in and fixed some level design errors in the existing level for the game, the Vindovian Farmlands, and the Vindovian Graveyard. Some of the geometry was blocking monsters from following the player.

Then I started working on the new cave environment. I’ve had a lot of progress and the first cave level is now 70% done. Here are some screenshots of the cave so far:

 

 

Also the monsters that will spawn in the cave have been set up and once the full level is designed I only have to drag spawn points in the level and that’s that. The monsters will be Giant Rats, Giant Spiders and Bears.

 

I also started thinking how I could randomize the levels better so they aren’t always the same. For that I will have multiple possible entrance and exit spawn points, which will be randomly generated. The empty spawn points will have a chance to spawn a chest or a random unique elite monster.

Then I also started on a Swamp environment. Which reuses the assets from the Vindovian Farmlands and the Vindovian Graveyard environments, but I managed to make it look unique because it adds the element of green swamp water. Also the monsters that will spawn here have been set up and are ready to be drag and dropped in the level when it’s finished. I’d say the swamp level is 20% finished. Still a lot of work to be done, but at least I managed to set the overal tone of the level right.

The monsters for the swamps will be Were Squids and Were Toads.

 

As this is the very first development update, let me first take the time to introduce myself a bit. My name is Stefan Geerinckx, and I am the sole developer behind Emberheart. I’m 28 years old and I’m a typical jack of all trades, so I can do all the work myself apart from a few things, but I sometimes hire people to do the things that I can’t. I love all types of multimedia, that’s why I started my career as a web developer. I’ve also worked as a QA Test Analyst/Engineer.

But it soon turned out that I have a passion and talent for game development. So I started to learn Unreal Engine 4 one year and three months ago. It turned out that my approach of “learning while doing” worked really well, and when I was 3 months in development with my “messing-around-project” I realised that the quality of the project was pretty damn good and worth spending more time on. I now also had unreal engine in my fingers to keep going even faster. Obviously I also spent a lot of time learning 3D modeling, animation, music composing etc..
I just kept on going learning something new every day by “just doing it and never be afraid to fail”. I also do archery, painting, sculpting, swimming and running to keep my life in balance. So that’s a bit of backstory about myself and the project Emberheart.

By next week I will hopefully have the first cave level and the swamp level completely finished and set up with spawning monsters.

See you next week for another update!

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Types of Players

Identifying types of players and what they want from a game is a great way to improve your design skills. in this article we will take a look at what I think are the different types of players that exist and how you can make sure that each type of player gets rewarded in your game.

Achievers

The first type of players are the achievers. Achievers want a list of things to do. They want special challenges that award bragging rights like titles or achievement points. Special challenges and achievements should be optional in your game, they should not give rewards that give you power like gold, equipment, upgrade points. The only reward it should give is optional stuff like achievement points and titles.

How do we create designs that appeal to the Achiever type of player?

– Have a statistics page that includes total number of kills, double kills, gold collected, deaths, gold medals acquired, time played to reach max level, total playtime etc…
– Have numbers for everything, like total achievement points earned so they can brag how much they achieved.
– Progress bars with percentage or x/150 displays so they can brag how far they progressed.

Collectors

The collectors are the pokémon card players among gamers. That’s the best way I can compare it. Collectors want visual progression of things to collect. Like a greyed out template of all things to collect, and when they collect something it will be in color. Collectors don’t only focus on things to collect, but also on things to complete, much like achievers but they want it presented differently. Where achievers want numbers for bragging rights, collectors want visual progression for own satisfaction. The way to achieve great designs to appeal to both collectors and achievers is to create both visual progression like progress bars or greyed out templates and add numbers of total things earned.

How do we create designs that appeal to the Collector type of player?

– Visual progression! Greyed out templates of what to collect, progress bars, visual representation of stars to earn, etc…
– Visual customisation. For example in RPG games the ability to change cloths to custom cloths or colors, different equipment to collect that changes appearance of your character. Haircuts to collect that you can use at a barber shop, custom weapon skins to collect, etc…

Explorers

Explorers want to see as much content in the game as possible. Therefore it is important to have a lot of levels, a lot of play fields. What’s important to satisfy explorers is to reward them for doing so. Add experience gains, collectibles or gold rewards for exploring every inch of the game world. Find out which is the usual route players take when playing the regular game objectives, then find out the places that players usual don’t go and add in rewards for going there anyway. Special points of interest like they say. It is important though that the regular game objectives are more rewarding than exploring, else exploring is not optional. Other types of players usually don’t want to spend time exploring.

How do we create designs that appeal to Explorer type of players?

– Add rewards for exploring special points of interest.
– Add achievements for exploring.

Grinders

Grinders are the players who like to find the most efficient part of the game and keep repeatedly playing that one part of the game, because it is the most rewarding. While your game should in the first place be balanced so that every piece of content is more or less the same in terms of rewards for the amount of time spent. It is a good idea to have a few spots that are more rewarding for a particular type of reward. For example, spot one could be more rewarding for gold coins, spot two could be more rewarding for badges, spot three could could be more rewarding for experience points, etc… This way the grinders have something to “grind out”.

How do we create designs that appeal to Grinder type of players?

– Add spots that are more rewarding for a particular type of reward.
– These spots of interest should be the most fun parts in your game to play.
– You could add achievements for completing these spots multiple times in a set amount of time.

Crafters

Crafters are the people that like to create their own things. Breathing animals so they become a pet or a mount, collecting materials to create your own weapons, or to create a custom skin for your weapon, creating own clothes or a custom clothing skin, buying upgrades for your racing car, building houses, etc… Here again, you want crafting to be optional. Not every player likes to spent a lot of time to farm for materials, or spent time to optimize the looks of a weapon. Some players just want to start racing or start shooting stuff as soon as possible.

How do we create designs that appeal to Crafter type of players?

– Add stuff that can be created by the player
– Add stuff that can be customized in looks (even something as simple as a color change can be enough)

Final word

As you can see there are a lot of different types of players. Most players can be categorized in 2 or 3 of these categories. Therefore it is of great importance that you try to create your game so that it appeals to as much of these player types as possible. If one of the categories a player fits in is left out of the game, the player might quit the game before you know it.

I hope this overview gave you some great insight in how to improve your game designs. You really have to consider every type of player when designing a particular system so it fits multiple categories.

See ya in the next blog post! 🙂

Rabbits want carrots, players want rewards

One of the most important aspects of game design is finding ways to keep your players rewarded and motivated, so they keep coming back for more play sessions. There is nothing more frustrating than spending time in a game and then having to go to bed while you feel like you didn’t progress, didn’t receive any loot or weren’t able to get a triple kill in your play session…

In this article I will talk about the different types of reward that you can add to a game, and how to maximize the amount of joy the player will experience from the reward system.

Types of reward

There are many ways to add reward to your game. A common misconception is that reward can only be something that you “receive”, for example gold or loot. Reward can be part of anything in your game, including progression, audio, visual effects, performing well as a team, or performing well against other players. It is the job of the game designer to identify the actions that require reward and accentuate those action with correct reward. Consider the following types of reward you could add to a game:

– Currency (gold, resources, badges, etc…)
– Loot (equipment, upgrades, collectibles, etc…)
– Progression (upgrades, experience, level unlocks, skill unlocks, etc…)
– Kill streaks (extra reward for double kills, triple kills, killing sprees etc…)
– Competitive (personal score points, achievement points, etc…)
– Co-op (team/clan score, team achievement points, etc…)

Baseline for rewards

Every good game, game system or design philosofy starts with a strong baseline. A baseline is what you should experience in every playsession. It is not related to luck, player skill or being smart. Every player should get these baseline rewards. It is not related to how long your playsession lasts.

A baseline should be:

– Linear in time
– Measurable
– “Steady Progression”

Why is it important to have a baseline? It is important so that there is a steady way of progressing through the game, especially important for casual players to feel rewarded as well as for people who just have long periods of bad luck.

The baseline can be created by identifying the core gameplay loops in your game and adding straightforward rewards for those actions.

Adding milestones

Milestones are short bursts of reward on top of the baseline. They require a certain amount of time or effort to get. Milestones provide you with short motivational boosts to keep on playing the game. The longer term milestones, that require a lot of time/effort or luck are there to provide the player with bigger motivation to keep playing the game. But they also give you point at which you can end the play session with the feeling you achieved something. Following my rule of three design principle, there are three main ways to add milestones

short term, much effort, Max 10 minutes, steady, not much luck required
Mid term,  not necessarily much effort, max 45 min, some luck might be involved
Long term, requires a lot of time or luck

Adding randomisation

What casual players want and what hardcore players want from a game can be very different. Especially in terms of reward this can be a hard topic to balance in your game. You definately want to get the baseline right so even a short play session at least yields some reward. The hardcore gamers though, they want increasing rewards the more time you spent (milestones). But hardcore players usually also like to min/max things, prove that they are better and smarter in this game than others. Thats where luck and randomisation comes in. It provides more depth to the game. People can start keeping statistics in excel and try to find out the most efficient ways to play the game.

A game where everything is steady and balanced is a BORING game!!

Special FX & audio

A great,way to accentuate on rewarding certain actions the player performs is by creating special interactive GUI FX, sounds or particle effects. for example, leveling up should be accompanied by a popup with sparkles and a clear, loud sound effect so the player really knows that he just increased in power. Having a great sound effect or special FX when a key action in the game happens can feel really rewarding.

Final word

So, I hope this article gave you some insight in different ways to reward the player. It can be really fun to figure out ways to make the player go “woow” or “woooot”. Also balancing, adding milestones and randomisation can be really fun to figure out.

Designing my “King Crab Catching” mini game

Today I want to give you some insight in designing my King Crab Catching mini game. I created that game to reherse my unity programming skills with C#. Ofcourse, before I could start programming or doing some art for it, I needed to have a clear design of the thing I was going to create.

The game is still in development at the moment of writing, but here’s a movie of what I have so far:

I started out with 2 “requirements”:
– It was going to be an endless scroller type of game
– It had to be procedurally generated

So I started looking at existing games to take as a starting point. The first game I came across was Rayman on tablets/phones. This was already to complex as a starting point, but gave me some ideas, like collecting coins and having to jump from platform to platform.

The following game I came across was an old arcade game for mobile phones (not smartphones in that era). The game where you are a helicopter and you have to push the up-arrow to go up and then it automatically falls back down with gravity. And you have to fly through a level filled with deadly obstacles. If you hit a obstacle like a meteor or a floating rock you die. This game was a good starting point to start designing. So I started brainstorming for more features to add in, and to give it a new setting, cause helicopters are boring.

The brainstorming for a new setting made me come up with:
– A level where you have to jump from platform to platform (like rayman)
– If you miss a platform you will fall in water and die.
– There will be Crabs on the platforms.

The Following brainstorm was about new features and the goal of the game:
– The goal is to keep going as long as possible to collect score points.
– There will be rock abstacles you have to jump over.
– There will be coins to collect to increase score
– You have 5 health points (hearts)
– Hitting an obstacle makes you loose 2 health points
– What to do with Crabs?

Then I had enough to work with and started programming in unity. I started from the platformer tutorial I believe, which already provided me with character art and a character controller to run around and jump. After I had the basic features implemented I started going back to the brainstorming board. Things I noticed during the current gameplay were:
– The rocks spawn to often, so I either have to make them spawn less, or provide a way to destroy them.
– If you try to collect all coins you will die soon because when you jump to collect coins you will likely end up between 2 platforms.

So the following brainstorm session made me come up with the following:
– Player can shoot to destroy rocks
– Player can shoot nets to catch crabs which will increase your score
– If you hit a crab, you will loose 1 Health point
– You can collect hearts to increase your health points by 1 (every 20-30 seconds a heart will spawn)
And that’s how I ended up with the final design of the game.

Currently the game is still in development, but all I have left to do is implement the health points system.

Hope this gave you some great insight in my design method for a small game!

Peace
Stefan “Stellar” Geerinckx