Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Elements of Game Technology Part 1: Game Engines

Now that I have dipped my toes into the basics of importing assets into UDK, I think it’s time to look into various other game engines and what they have to offer!
Here are some of the game engines that I have discovered and will be comparing:

CryEngine 3
Source Engine
Unreal Engine 3

I’ll start from the top with the CryEngine 3.

Oh Timesplitters, you so crazy! Bring back the madness Crytek!
CryEngine 3 is the game engine from Crytek that runs games such as Crysis franchise, Homefront 2, Mecha Warrior Online, to name a few. Crytek UK was formerly known as Free Radical Design responsible for one of the awesome game franchises that I grew up on known as 'Timesplitters' (a bit pointless, but it's what comes to my head when I think Crytek!)
It’s not free software and is reported to cost roughly 1.2 million dollars to have it licenced. However there is a version called CryEngine 3 SDK that’s free of charge for educational purposes and non-commercial game development. If distributing a game you had created for free then it also requires no license.

Truthfully, there are a whole lot of things that I read up about game engines and I have only the slightest clue in what they mean by it at the moment, but I'll do my best to research them and get a better understanding of them!
Apparently unlike many other game editors that use a subtractive style of editing which retracts areas away from a filled space in the world the CryEngine 3 uses an additive style within their sand box.
Hmm, I think I preffer the CryEngine in this image
Since the sand box can potentially be large, it uses an algorithmic form of creating the textures onto the landscape and other objects. It does this by utilising many parameters within the software to work out the distribution of textures and vegetation, etc. It supposedly saves time and makes it feasible to edit large terrain and maintain the sandbox free roaming style.
Because of something called “What you see is what you play”, you can jump right into whatever you were designing.
A few disadvantages with this engine is that it’s limited in its free version and that it’s only compatible with Windows and the Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles, limiting itself further. For me though, it’s fine as I’m still at the stage of learning game engines and what not.

The Source Engine was developed by the Valve Corporation and games such as Half Life 2, Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2.
The game was originally designed for powering FPS games, however it has also been used to professionally used to create many other genres such as side scrollers and RTS games.
As with UDK and CryEngine, there is also a SDK version for educational and free use.

However upon doing some further research into the engine I have learnt that it has been criticized for being outdated and a “near broken” state with bugs and crashes. It requires varying level of (potentially long) text based scripting manually before the commands are executed.
Currently a new set of tools is being created by valve so time will tell if the problems will be addressed. I think I’ll stay away from the Source Engine for now…
It's a shame cos it looked quite nice in that video. I might look it up at some point when it's updated.
It can however support the Mac, Xbox 360 and the PS3 (as well as Windows of course).

Ahh UT... brings back memories... *teary eye*
Unreal Engine 3 was developed by Epic Games. When I think of the name Unreal I instantly think about the Unreal Tournament games I had enjoyed oh so much back in the day (I make myself sound so old…)
Anyways, moving on swiftly; some games that ran on the Unreal Engine 3 are Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, Borderlands 2 and the upcoming games BioShock Infinite and Aliens: Colonial Marines a currently being developed on the engine.
Like the Source Engine, it was primarily designed for running FPS games, however many other genres have been successfully developed such as MMORPGS. It is a rather popular game engine used by many game developers. It could be because of its support of C++ making it very universal and familiar to use.
It’s also in support many of the current platforms such as Windows, Mac, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii U, the iOS and Android.

Hmm, I think I prefer the Unreal Engine in this image
The latest Unreal engine (that being 3) is designed for the use of Direct 9,10 and 11 and can read systems using OpenGL managed by the non-profit technology consortium Khronos Group.
With UDK, anyone can sell there games by paying Epic 99 dollars and 25% royalty on UDK related revenue all UDK based games or commercial applications above 50 000 dollars.
One advantage with the Unreal Engine is that it’s considered widely as being ‘easy to use’ compared to a lot of other engines. I guess if I were in need of some tutorials or need find out a problem, it would be more likely to find an answer using this engine as many people use this popular engine.
Since UDK is free, it’s no surprise that its features are limited. The platforms are severely limited to only Windows and the iOS and it costs around the 1 million dollar mark to get a license for Unreal Engine 3.
This shouldn’t be a problem to me though as I’m only learning the program through educational purposes.

So now that I’ve looked into these three engines, I think I’ll give the SDK version of CryEngine 3 a crack at some point. Though learning UDK should probably be my first choice for now (especially since the group projects are coming up!)

This is pretty interesting. I personally find them both to look quite appealing and have their own little charms (in this demonstration at least). I'll definately be giving these two a go probably and getting a grasp at them before checking out another game engine... (probably... :p)

Also, saw this very recently and just remembered. I'll just leave this here... ¦3


Elements of Game Design, Part 8: Documentation

Imagine how a game in production could turn out if there wasn’t any documentation to guide and form the project. There would be no specification to the project and the whole production time would be hindered become a big mess! Without documentations to specify whether the game will be multiplatform or exclusive to a certain console, which audience the game will catered to, the concepts and personalities of the characters and the settings.

For this blog I will try to outline documentation for a

The Project:

For this project I will be documenting the lead characters, and NPC, a steed, and scenery objects to fit within the environment for a 2D multiplayer co-op action adventure beat’em up (similar to Dungeons and Dragons) with elements of strategy with NPCs on the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii. It will be sold digitally for download as an arcade game.

Had an awesome element of co-op and adventure, arcade style!
The reason I chose these platforms is because of the ability to have 4 player local gaming (couch gaming). Online multiplayer will also be an option as the game is designed around multiplayer. There will also be an emphasis on character customisation (both visual and ability wise).

The idea of the game is that you and your friends lead your created character through a series of dynamic stages with many different paths to take during each play thru. The player gets access to a few customisable squads and squad types in which they can upgrade and feel attached to over the course of the game. Squad members may be recruited by spending in game currency found in chests throughout the course of the game at certain checkpoints.

Cos we're cool like that...
I feel there is a cry for couch gaming to come back within certain genres of the gaming industry. Gaming these days have become extremely popular and should not be limited with a single gamer online per console (for console gaming); since not everybody has a good internet connection (or even access to the internet altogether.) I also feel the there is a current rise of popularity for the indie games from the arcade sections (adding to affordability).

For this project, I am trying to achieve a balance and keeping everything within the theme as well as improving my management skills for projects.

The targeted audience will be towards late teens and mid ages as there will be some violence within the game. It will be focused towards the casual gamer for drop in and drop out sessions.

This project could further develop my practice for character designs and my skills through digital and traditional techniques.
It will feature a wide variety of environments to immerse yourself within. For those who have played old arcade style side scrollers typed games such as Dungeons and dragons, my goal with the level designs are to hit a nostalgic nerve with them.

The lead characters:
Kind of similar resolution the the far right sprite
In this stage, I will be researching into many cultures of the world that will be explained further in this section, using the cultures from around the world to influence and develop my designs for the characters.
The characters in game will be high detailed sprites.
For the player characters, there will be a choice between male and female genders as well as choices between weapon disciplines and factions (affecting the overall play style and customisation choices.) The player will also have a squad of 5-8 soldiers to customise.
The setting will be in an ancient fantasy world and the appearance and style choices will reflect upon them.

The player can choose to customise their character’s and there unit’s appearance depending on their style and faction. Players will be able to customise roughly 5 different helmets, upper armours, lower armours, gauntlets, capes and create their own flag and emblem using a set of 10-15 layers and a wide range of pre-set shapes. Colours can be customised.
There will be 6 playable characters and factions.
The factions are based off these concepts:

Faction 1

Their appearance will be based off of the medieval knights. There will be a heavy emphasis on health, defence and area of effect damage. They will have slightly above average power with a slight lack in speed due to their weaponry and armour. The squad play style is to shield and balance out damage between the units as they push back enemies. They are generally able to take care of themselves in combat and the player can join in the clashes and essentially the play the style of a steam roller faction (however the slow movement compared can become a weakness). The appearance will reflect this faction’s kind of play style with heavy armour and helmets.


Faction 2

This faction will represent the more tactical sense of gameplay rather than the ‘steam rolling’ approach. The faction will lean towards an ancient Greek army resemblance in terms of appearance.
The player character will emphasise more on a speed and tactical focus with the squads, pushing slightly towards the support role. Using range focused weapons and special tactics to whittle down the enemy numbers.
The squads will play a little more of a centre spot for this faction as the player will be focused a little more heavily as playing the commander. The squads will have hard counters towards the enemy squads and must be a little more attentive to the actions of his squad and assist where needed (for example the standard squad unit holding a Dory spear and Hoplon shield would be great at range and rather weak up close, the player will need to assist). This Faction is designed for those who like to take a backseat and like the heavier focus on commanding his squads. The squad however is one that will need support from the other specialised squads or the support of the player.

Faction 3

This faction is the fast moving heavy hitting faction with low defence. This is the faction for the players who favour speed and power. The focus is to raid weak spots with hit and run tactics and create an opening to strike at the heart. This faction will have a striking resemblance of the Vikings brutal raiding and pillaging and will play on that part of the history. The player will bear less armour than that of the other factions and will reflect upon their nature of fast heavy hitters. Soldiers of this faction will follow the nature of the player and will join him on his quick and heavy hitting play style. Because they die the fast, they were will look like they can make a quick retreat through their appearances.

Faction 4

This faction will play a similar role to the first faction but will focus more on attack rather than the defence. They will not be as sturdy as the first faction in terms of defence but with high stamina and average speed, they will still survive longer. The theme of this faction will be that of the Japanese samurai culture.

Faction 5

This faction will also play a similar role to one of the previous 3; in this case, the second faction. This faction will be based off the ancient Chinese dynasties military culture. They will have access to special kinds of equipment such as early flamethrowers and explosives.

Faction 6

This faction follows suit of the third faction naturally. It is based off of the steppe warriors and relies on their speed, ranged attacks and when they can obtain one, their natural skill of shooting off horseback. The culture is based off of the nomadic days of the Mongolian culture when they were said to have hunted using bows off horse back with great talent.

NPC characters:

In this section I will be researching the kinds of enemy types that will go in to the game.
Researching into soldier and warrior types of ancient history will play into how they will be portrayed within the game and how they will act towards the players.
As this is in a fantasy setting, it will feature mythical creatures as well as the standard human enemies. I will look research into the stories and myths of a wide range of related cultures and use their influences to portray them in game.
This includes:

The steed of the players:

I decided against putting in mythological steeds for the game (mythological creatures at least) because I didn’t want the players to become confused with what is and isn’t a mountable steed.
I thought on just having the standard horse as the player’s primary steed. It will serve as a kind of power up, with certain styles and factions being more proficient with them (with some others faring better than others on foot).
Horses will be customisable as well according to your faction. Designs for the headdress, stirrups, horse armour will be detailed.
I will research into the armour and equipment that were put onto horses during the periods in which when they were needed.
The horses will most likely look a little larger than a usual sized horse to give the impression that horses in this game are indeed power ups and that they absolutely feel like one.

The environment:

The environments will be influenced from cultures from around the world. Depending on the scene, it will include areas most commonly seen within fantasy games such as caves, the plains, forests, battlefields, etc.
Because of the squad like element to the game with your small amount of soldiers, I will naturally research into kinds of battlefields and places of skirmish as well.

This will also tie into the research of props that could be included into the environment as I research what could be populated or littered around the stages such as scenery objects.
Destructible objects will also play a role for gathering items and in game currency so research into the detail of barrels, pots and vases etc. will be needed.

I'm not sure if I got the whole point of this assignment, but I found it quite fun to write up! Although I had to delete many things from the documentation as I felt they were irrelevant or too long, but hopefully when it comes to the real thing I’ll have a better understanding of how to layout and talk about my documentation plans.