A lot has happened in the last three weeks! We got a programer, we lost a programer, we might have another programer coming on. It’s been a ride, but the good news is we’re still on track and one way or another we will have a proof of concept ready for October’s ImagineNATIVE! I have to say that I feel that if I hadn’t been using sprints for this project we might have been in trouble, as it is I’m finding I’m learning a lot about how to prioritize features and set task lists for sprints.

I’m getting to see first hand how useful Agile and Scrum can be, but also that what they provide is a way of moving with the flow not really a way to mitigate all future problems.

In the meantime Tara has done up some dummy scenes for promotional purposes and they’ve been a great way for us to start solidifying the artistic vision. In the next two weeks I want to have a functional build of the first three levels to test the movement before moving on to adding the triggered challenges.

So we’ve decided to use AI now for the secondary character which means I needed to rethink how the game world would work entirely. Here you can see in this newest movement test that I’ve created a 3D world but that it will look 2D once the game is working. This is because AI uses NavMesh and currently Unity3D does not have a 2D NavMesh nor can I create NavMesh anywhere but what Unity deems is the “Top” of 3D objects.
So first I created a world that the AI could move through, using distance to create locations where I can gate which sister can do what. For example the purple block represents climbing areas, only Sister 2 can climb so I wanted to be sure that Sister 1 would not be able to reach these places when the AI was in control.
However, this meant that there would be times that the player agent needed to move down, but I didn’t want gravity on so I adapted Ground Check to drag the player down to each level once they were not touching ground or water, I will have to figure out how to do the opposite to get them out of water.

Right now I’m only focusing on getting the player controls working. The player has two states, human and seal, as a human currently they can only travel in the x-axis on land or water (Sister 2 will eventually have an exception when climbing), but when they are seals in the water they will be able to move freely in both the x and y axis.

Currently human form is represented by pink and seal by cyan. When the player is pink they cannot move up or down, only left to right, even when in water. When cyan and on land the player can only move left or right, but once they are in water they can move up, down, left and right to represent swimming.

Tara sent me the designs for the two characters and they look awesome!
When I started this project I had envisioned it being about these two sisters of similar age, one who was stereotypically beautiful and the other who was this kinda of brute looking girl who then needs to go out and save her sister…but there was always something a little meh, about that whole idea.
Then two things happened I saw Tara’s (@seaohso ) drawing of her Dragon Age character and I saw this animator’s work where she was testing jump cycles on a character. This character totally changed my idea for the game, becuase it was a woman with a cloak and no other clothes but she wasn’t sexualized at all. Suddenly, I realized I wanted unsexy naked ladies running around and Tara just jumped on the idea.

I didn’t give her a lot of information on what the two girls should look like, I wanted her artistic vision to inform their design. All I said was their was an older one who was strong and a younger one who could climb high. I had never considered having the younger sister be a little sister, but I liked it, a lot, so we went in that direction leading us to the initial human character designs in the top picture.
The third is a sketch of possible seal-forms, but I think the older sister’s design will be changing soon.

Sketched out the first three levels.
I find drawing them out how I would like to see them in the game helps me quickly identify where I should introduce a new mechanic, where I should have the player test that mechanic and then when I should ramp up the difficulty. So for example in the level 2 sketch (middle), I want to show the player that certain things will break when the older sister hits it, I then have the player use this a few times. In the next level (last) I show the player that sometimes tall rooks in the water will break trapping them in ( and that they’ll die if they stay underwater too long) THEN I want the player to realize that sometimes THEY are the reason that the rocks can break and trap them in.

Going through all of this I can look back and see that right at the end of level 2 is a good place to show that the player breaking through things (even though they have no choice) can cause unintended effects (Like big ass rocks breaking off and hurting you!)

Once I start going into the next two or three levels (this is only a 15-25min demo after all) I will look back and see where I can add relevant information for my player or suggest things that are going to happen.

I’ve started a new project, hopefully will have the proof of concept ready to go by September.
Basically, I’m making my Sealskin pitch (Which you can check out in my Pitch section). I’m working with a great new artist Tara @seaohso, check her stuff out!

Here I have a quick prototype of my controls, since I made this I’ve reconsidered my approach to the player controls and I’m now moving to RootMotion and NavMesh. I’ll be prototyping those controls for next week. I’m taking a lot of my ideas on motion control from Oxenfree by Night School Studio. It’s a 2D game but it uses a 3D space and models with a 2D world layered on top.

The biggest reason I’m trying this approach is that I have two characters and while I can also make it multiplayer I want it to be functional for a single player first before implementing two player controls and that means I’ve got at least one character at all times who needs to follow the player.
This was something I had started with in Wanisinowin but had to create a control that merely let the player switch between the two a la The Cave, however, I don’t think that creates the best narrative in this case so in to the deep with me!

More logos! Apparently February was the month of working on logos and while I’ve had fun, I’ve also realized that logo design is something I appreciate more than I enjoy doing.

Today I’m showing you the progression from the original Wanisionwin game logo to our new logo. My first plan was to just find a new font and then add a texture to it but those all fell flat and by the time we had agreed on a look (#2) I felt it was just too boring. I thought adding the Cree Syllabic to the logo would make it more interesting. The thin version just seemed too weak and the bold version was too strong, making both the roman and the Cree almost unreadable.
To fix this problem I moved the Cree down and then played around with colour and tone to get our final logo, which I like the look of but still feel it’s a little boring. Might be time to find a logo designer who can give me a hand.

Apparently this is the month of logo design, this one however I did in collaboration with Henry Faber of DMG. Indigicade is a joint DMG and Indigenous Routes initiative, the same one I was a part of last year where I created Wanisinowin.
This year I was approached to create a new logo for the programe.

The first is the sketch of my original idea, I wanted to take Woodland Style methods and meld them with a more digital look for the second half. You can see in the next image that’s essentially what I did but as logo design is not something I had studied all I could tell was that it just didn’t look right.
That’s where Henry stepped in. In the third version you can already see that with the use of the new font for ‘icade’ the logo becomes more balanced but in creating that balance the connection between ‘Indig’ and ‘icade’ becomes cut off, literally as the line of communication has been disconnected.

So I asked Henry to merge our ideas for the first ‘i' in the 'icade’ section. What we ended up with was the third version. Even though it was closer to what I imagined it still didn’t feel right so I moved the connecting line so that it connected with the corner instead of slightly to the side and I gave it a rougher squiggle more in keeping with the first half of the logo. After I realized that the line had been too thin the entire time, so I thickened it a little and I’m pretty happy with the finally result.

Now I just need to wait for final approval!

I think I’ve found the direction I really wanted to go with this. I wanted to keep the overall look of the Sheridan S but with more of a hand drawn feel to it. I think I’m getting closer!

I find that logos really are a huge part of selling an idea to a client. It seemed weird to me at first, I mean the real meat of the project is in the actual game, but I started to realize that a logo is a quick (though not easy by a long-shot) way of summing up what your game is.

Here I’m playing around with a few designs . I’m not crazy about them but it’s a first step in the direction I want to go. I’m limited by the school’s brand standards, but at least I don’t have to pick from a million fonts and it allows me to focus on the @ as my indicator of what the game is. I mostly looked to Simon Dean’s Designing Game Logos article on Gamasutra to help inform my direction.

Every font says something. In my examples above I’ve tried a few types for the at symbol. The first is round and soft, it looks casual but neat. The second is a little sharper looking, it speaks to a more professional look, less student friendly. The third is thicker, looks more like it was made with a marker. It’s causal and bold. With these first three I’ve woven the at-symbol through the two words to show how the game is about integrating life (as you know it now) with post-secondary school life.

The last is an 8-bit style, I don’t really like this one because I think it sets up an expectation that the game will be 8 or 16-bit style which is not what I’m going for.
I will probably come to an entirely different conclusion once I get some feedback on the designs.

Spent the week fixing up my team’s (very broken) Global Game Jam entry! It’s was a lot of fun and so very frustrating. Reminded me that I have so much still to learn.

I think the most interesting part was getting to work with Unity animation system again. I had been working on either just art or just scripting and I don’t think I’ve actually worked on animating sprites since last March. It was fun to play around with it again.

You can play the game here if you dare!

Finally got my first layout together!
It was kinda nice putting together all the pieces in Photoshop. I often use it like a workboard where I’ll make all the pieces I think I need on different layers and then just move them around until I’m happy with how they look.

When I originally started with my rough sketch I had imagined that I would be using way more of the bottom then I ended up using. In fact the only thing I really ended up using the bottom of the screen for was the student success wheel and the peer mentor tab. Seeing as I had all this space I ended up using it for the player character to show up and give the player feedback or introduce a new task.
I ended up adding a little bit of branding to the screen overlay right before the pitch and I think it actually made it easier for the client to buy-in when they could see as part of the brand from the beginning.

Note: I’m not showing the screens with the characters as I used another artist’s work without permission and while I’m a big believer in using whatever you can to show a client what their product will ultimately look/feel like this is my personal portfolio/blog and I don’t want people assuming those parts are my artwork.

Trying to work out the main mechanic for the game.
The student will be getting a whole lot of information in the tutorial on how to use certain systems but I needed a way to have the player practice those systems until they can navigate them correctly and without help.

So I decided the best method would probably be a resource management-style game where the player spends their time filling up their “wheel of student success”.

The first playtest gave me a LOT of feedback, mostly about how the rules were confusing and the goals were not clear, so now on to iteration #2!

Started a new project this week, creating a student life simulator to help students learn the ins and outs of navigating the post-secondary system.
Here I’ve started brainstorming to figure out what I want the actual game play to be like. I know that the system will be heavily tasked based (because that’s college in a nutshell) but I also want my players to have fun while they’re learning the systems they’ll have to use for real at school.
I have a pretty good idea about where the game play is heading so I’m going to start paper prototyping tomorrow!

After writing the script for our Romance Game demo I realized that my team needed a quick reference map. The script is colour coded the same way as the flowchart, but I would probably put the lines in the flowchart next time.

As this game was designed to be used in your sleep I realized, as I tried to use my phone with my eyes half-opened, that having two rows was just going to cause confusion so I pared it down to one row.

I placed it in the centre because that would be the most comfortable area for the user. I also made the buttons larger to compensate for sleepy fumbling.

I also ended up adding a little bit of gradiant at the bottom to make the cancel and select buttons clearer while also making sure the user can see that there are more slots they could pick from.

Designing UI for 7-12 year olds is interesting enough, it’s even more interesting when you’re trying to create a game to help kids go to sleep. Looking at what I was trying to accomplish I decided that the way to go was to focus on the four directions with very little going on. Incredibly basic, was my motto.
Is there too much going on?
How can I pare that back?

I originally was think about going with text, but then I thought about my brother who had difficulty reading even at seven so I designed this for my brother when he was seven. The app has two modes: story (where the user just listens to an ASMR bedtime story/passive adventure) or Game Mode (where the user can participate in and influence the story) The book and the game controller are pretty standard in apps designed for children, although I’ll have to test it out to see if kids understand the difference when they see it for the first time.

I’m going to play around with this layout and see if it ultimately meets my goal of being so easy to navigate that a child can do it with their eyes closed.

Starting a new project! Going to be working on narrative design for a romance sim/light novel app. This one is a test run to see if we can make a dating app for the North American Audience.

I studied up on the most popular romance sub-genre’s/themes for the 25-30 crowd in Canada and it looks like it’s mostly Fantasy (like Harry Potter or Fairy Tales) and Cowboys… who knew?
Mostly this info was put together by looking at romance stats (which romance books are they buying), book genre stats (which books are getting bought the most), TV stats (what shows are they watching) and I also looked at video game genre stats.

Now to be fair, this is just me looking at a bunch of numbers and extrapolating based on what I’m seeing, I’m not really trained in stat analysis and I’m pretty sure a professional would have a much better idea of where the romance game app market is trending towards. So I could be off base but to me it looks like the big things women 25-30 go for in romance themes are stories that involve Cowboys, a Fantasy Adventure, Wish Fulfillment of some sort (like making it big or being recognized for being amazing at something), or a Sugar Daddy Fantasy (basicly having someone who can take care of everything so they don’t have to worry about money).

We already had a Persona in place who was all about being in charge of her own life so I figured she wouldn’t be very interested in a story about being taken care of. Keeping that in mind I wrote up three quick theme pitches each with only three possible love interests (because this game is a test run and there’s no point in writing more than three options when you just want to see if the idea works)

In the end the team picked the one about the Horse Ranch which happens to be the thing I know the least about (why am I not surprised, lol). Looks like it’s off to the big library for me…also I may have to watch several episodes of Heartland.