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As promised, here’s a 1-pager that does a better job at describing the gameplay. I started working on a general level progression to give myself a better idea of the size of the world. Maybe I’ll have that with the next update.

Akousmat

Genre

3D Puzzling Platformer

Premise

Akousmat is an exploratory puzzle game where the solution isn’t gained by intelligence or cleverness rather by precise and methodical exploration of a world where the solution may come from a falling rock or the wind blowing through grass. In standard Puzzling Platformer tradition; the player must get from point A to point B, where point B is obstructed from the player by a Sound Gate. Sound Gates only open when a certain sound is played to them and each gate has a different sound that it responds to (players can listen to the required sound any time they want, but they cannot record the sound directly from the gate). The player uses a small device to record the sounds of the world around them — which they then can take back to the Sound Gate for playback.

Goal

The goal is to find and/or create the sounds needed to make it through the Sound Gates.

How It Works

Players explore a fully 3D world chock full of beautiful and lush environments, magnificent creatures and, more importantly, a veritable symphony of sounds in their quest to explore the planet. By aiming at an object, players are able to isolate the sounds associated with that object, which allows them to easily record the sounds they want without having to worry about background noise getting in the way.

Once the player has a variety of sounds collected and stored in their sound bank, they will be able to go into an editing mode where they can mix their collected sounds to create new, unique, sounds. Along with being able to composite sounds on top of each other; players will be able to add Processing Effects to further tweak the sounds. Effects like Echo, Flanger, Reverb, Chorus, and Phazer can help create completely unique sounds that cannot be found in nature. In later levels; mixing sounds and tweaking them with effects will be necessary for success. Furthermore; it may be possible to allow the player the ability to alter playback speed of sounds for even deeper sound customization.

The player will also find parts to augment the power of the sound recorder, things that will increase the range, expand the memory to allow for the storage of more sound samples and different effects to use on samples.

Having recently found myself without employment and living in a new state far away from anything I’m used to, I figured it was time to get this blog back on its feet. So I’ll take this opportunity to discuss my intentions for this blog here on out.

I had a game idea awhile back that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, so it is going to be my goal in this new year to develop this game, at least a solid start on a game. I’ll use this blog to document and detail the process and to keep myself moving forward. I suppose I can talk a little about what the game is going to be like and some of my current thoughts so everyone else isn’t completely in the dark.

The game is a 3D action/puzzle/platformer that is heavy on exploration, light on confrontation and the only thing of use to the player are the sounds around them. I realize that isn’t very helpful in describing things, I’ll try and elaborate.

As the player, you’re in an area where the only way out is blocked by a door that only accepts a specific sound as the key to open. You need to find and/or create that specific sound in the environment around you in order to pass. You have no guns, no superpowers, no portal technology — all you have is a simple sound recorder. There will be dangers in the environment, most are best avoided though I would imagine, and there will be epic boss battles (from what I’ve been planning thus far anyway).

I’m pretty excited about the ideas I’ve been tossing around so far and I hope that I’ll be able to realize most of them, it is going to be a challenge as my programming skills are inadequate (to be nice) and my art skills aren’t that much better. This is why I’m going to use the Unreal Engine and make this a mod, I’ve got a lot of experience using it and am fairly comfortable with uscript so that should help out a lot. The only problem is, my computer can barely run the editor for the latest version so I’m not sure how far I’ll be able to get. I’ll figure something out though I’m sure, I always do.

So anyway, I’ll try and get the next update early to mid next week with a 1-pager that does a better job at explaining the game than I could do here, consider this a practice run. This will be the start of the real design stuff, maybe I’ll also start an outline of a schedule.

I’ve unfortunately ignored this blog for the past few months and there are any number of reasons that I could pin the blame on, but I’ll leave it up to your imagination to decide why I’ve been so neglectful. Maybe I was traveling the world, perhaps I was in a major car accident and only recently regained my memories, abducted by aliens could be a solid choice. Regardless, I am now back (stronger than ever?) and ready to discuss a bit about the little event I organized and talked about in my last blog post before my disappearance.

The results have all been posted here and I must extend my congratulations to rkcr for seeing the entire challenge through to the end, it really wasn’t easy and he was the only one to submit an entry for each phase. There were a lot of really cool ideas generated from this challenge and I really do hope that some of the entrants take their ideas further. Some of my personal favorites include:

Troli – A puzzle game that uses music in creative ways to bypass obstacles, I love the possibilities with this one.

Der Erlkรถnig – An Action-Adventure/Rhythm/Fighting game with some really unique ideas about how to mash the fun elements from various genres into one. I love the style and theme of this one too.

Hydro – An Action-Adventure game where the main character is nothing but bipedal water. There are some solid an unique ideas presented, but the sky is the limit with a concept like this. Just have to worry about how to actually implement this game, I know my tech director would freak out after reading a concept like this.

That is just a few of the more standout treatments, overall there are 30 treatments to be read. I really must applaud everyone that participated, it was a lot of hard work, but fun and rewarding (I hope). I do plan on doing something similar to this again in the future, but I’ll likely revise the structure a bit, please sound off if you have any ideas that you think would make this a better challenge.

In other news; my son has graduated himself from playing Dora Saves the Mermaids and now plays Lego Star Wars: The Original Trilogy. He can beat a majority of the levels all by himself, which is just crazy to watch. He can’t even hold the 360’s controller as designed, it sits on his lap and he uses the movement stick like you would an arcade stick. I’m going to have to make a video of him playing one of these days, he’ll sit there and laugh his ass off while he drops R2-D2 off of a ledge and mimic the screaming noise that he does on the way down. I’ve started trying to teach him how to play the Rock Band drums, like seriously hit the notes at the right time and not just wail on the kit randomly, and he can get through the tutorials alright but still has a hard time with any real song. The foot pedal is really hard for him to hit, he has to look down at it and put a lot of his weight onto it, I may have to rig up some sort of special kit for him to use. Maybe I’ll mod this one when the Rock Band 2 bundle comes out…

Game Design Challenge

It’s been a little bit longer than I wanted between posts here; things are finally starting to pick up at work. We are at that phase in a small project when the programmer is done enough with the engine for the designer to finally be able to start putting stuff into the game to see it work. Up to this point, I’ve been doing a lot of research and paper design, its nice to be able to finally stick the designs into the game to see how they play out.

Anyway, enough talk about stuff that I can’t really talk about, on to the title of this blog.

My wife works as a freelance writer/artist, (shameless plug to her latest published work), and she always seems to be talking about various contests and challenges that she’s entered in. This got me thinking; its pretty rare to see contests or challenges that stick strictly to the paper design of video games. I’ve seen a few here and there (and there is of course the game design challenge for game design celebrities put on at GDC each year); but the landscape is still pretty sparse.

So I decided to go ahead and organize one myself.

I’m putting it on over at ScoreHero because I carry a little clout over there and we have over 180k members, which is a bit more than my blog pulls in, so go ahead and check it out here. Its been quite its own little challenge trying to pull this thing together, my overall goal is that participants come away from the challenge with some fresh, new, ideas that they like, as well as a higher understanding of the game design process. To help cultivate new and interesting ideas; I decided to adopt a ‘game a week’ approach similar to what Patrick Curry did in 2006. In addition; I decided to introduce the idea of twists to each week, that way there will be something that will force participants to think in a direction that they may not be accustomed to.

I hope that a lot of people stick it out for this challenge, I know that it won’t be easy, but hopefully they find it rewarding. A lot of people have already expressed interest in the challenge; so we’ll see how it goes. I’ll be sure to go ahead and post recaps of the progress here, the challenge officially starts tomorrow! Good luck to all who attempt it!

One Proud Daddy

It’s official, my son is now a gamer, and at just over 3 years old, he’s got a better start than I did.

The other day I got my free copy of Dora Saves the Mermaids from 2K Play, when I brought it home, my son saw it and was seriously like “Ooooooo, wanna play daddy’s game?” He’s obviously seen the game on my computer at work during development so he recognized it from that.

I, of course, had no problem popping it in to let him play ๐Ÿ™‚

He’s ‘played’ the game before at my desk and he’s always enjoyed the imagery and the actions, but he never could really play it. I mean that he didn’t have the dexterity required to operate either the thumb stick or the d-pad and the action buttons at the same time, he would usually just jump in place when I gave him the controller.

Imagine my surprise when he started the game up all on his own (including navigating through the menus to start the game) and was able to guide Dora around without any trouble. He played the game for over an hour and made it all the way to level 6 all by himself. I couldn’t help but just sit there and watch, even though I’ve played the game a million times and can recite the dialog to a T. There’s just something awesome about watching the pure, un-distilled, pleasure wash over your child’s face as he interacts with something you’ve created. I imagine it’s a similar feeling traditional toy makers would get when their own child would prefer a small wooden car they’ve made over the latest Matchbox cars.

He would also dictate to me the things he was going to do in the game, and then actually go and do them.

“How do I get over the water to get that gem daddy? Oh, I have to find the bridge. There it is!” (He has conversations with himself all the time)

“I need to go back and get that gem.”

He finished playing for the night on Level 6 out of 9. When I woke up with him the following morning, the first thing he said to me was “Play the Mermaid game?” Well who am I to say no to my son when he wants to play my game? ๐Ÿ˜€ So he continued the game from where he left off, played for another hour or so and had officially completed his first real* video game from start to finish. I’ll try and get a picture of him playing.

Alex playing Dora Saves the Mermaids

Now to get him good at Rock Band, my band needs a drummer!

*Note: I’m defining a real video game in this instance as a game rated by the ESRB, or one that would have been rated had the ESRB been in existence at the time of said game’s release (Super Mario Bros.).*

So not much else to say on that I suppose, I guess I can reiterate how proud of a daddy I am at the moment, but I have a feeling you already know that.

In other news; Noah Falstein was at the office yesterday for our weekly meeting concerning the project we are working on. He told me that he saw my blog where I mentioned his secret method for getting to the head of the line, apparently he has some sort of Google service that contacts him anytime his name pops up in a website. I thought that was really cool that Noah Falstein read my blog (now to just figure out who the other 5 people are :D), then I thought it would be funny to see if I can get him to read my next blog by plastering his name all over it so Google will serve it up to him again.

Let’s see, what else… oh yeah, Noah Falstein. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Game Developers Conference

I had the pleasure of attending the Game Developer’s Conference this year, going to the last three days, all day. The overall experience was very positive as I was able to attend a number of very interesting and useful sessions, in addition to the booth crawling in the expo halls. The networking possibilities alone is usually enough to make the experience worth while, and I was able to meet a whole slew of new professionals, but it was also great to be able to get back in touch with a lot of friends I hadn’t seen in awhile.

On my way to the Portal Post-Mortem session, I was riding the escalator up and looking back down on the floor. I saw a friend from school so I waved, that caught the attention of the man directly behind me I mean (who I didn’t notice since I was looking past him), this man turned out to be Noah Falstein. Noah contracted Totally Games (to hear Noah say it) to work on something, so I’ve been working with Noah for a few months now, but it’s still easy to geek out on someone at a big gaming convention

Once we got to the top of the escalator, we were greeted by a line so long that you would have thought it led to Space Mountain. We cruised around the line for a bit trying to find someone up front that we knew and could use to chat our way to the front (totally Noah’s idea, I swear!) That idea didn’t pan out though so we ended up going to the end of the line. My friend that I waved to earlier was back there as well, so I got to chat with and introduce him to Noah, turns out he rightfully had heard of Noah, unlike me. My friend was amazed that I got to work with industry legends the likes of Larry Holland and Noah Falstein and wondered how I did it, I told him that the secret must be to have never heard of the person before meeting them.

I got lucky by landing a job at Totally Games, and though I had heard of the X-Wing series of games, I had no idea who Larry Holland was. Larry and Noah have known each other since before I was even born, Noah was responsible for giving Larry his first job in this industry even, so one day at work, Larry stopped by my desk and said that a Mr. Noah Falstein was going to stop by tomorrow to chat with us about a project. I said “cool” and proceeded to that very Wikipedia page I linked with Noah’s name earlier, since I had never heard the name before, I was duly impressed with his pedigree of course.

So there’s my secret, if you want to meet someone particular in this industry, the trick is to have never heard of them before… I’m not sure how well that will work with someone that you want to meet. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Other notable moments; it was cool to be able to check out and play a bunch of the indie games on display that don’t have demos available yet, like Crayon Physics Deluxe (winner of the IGF grand prize) and Fret Nice (which now has a demo available). I gave the ‘game’ Guitar Rising a shot too since I’ve about mastered the plastic guitar, I figured it may be good to try and learn the real thing. The presentation is pretty non-existent, but the core experience seems solid, and that’s all that really matters right? I’ve never picked up a real guitar before, but the game was setup in such a way that it was really easy to learn. It only took me about two seconds to learn how to read the tabs that scroll by, so it seems very promising that this game will be a good way to learn guitar.

Well, I’m closing in on 700 words, which means that this post is getting too long for most people to want to read, so I’ll go ahead and end it at this.

Turok is Complete

So I went ahead and finished Turok last night (it’s due back at the video store) and if you remember what I said in my last post about the game, then this will be a bit more relevant. From the point I was at when I wrote about the game last to the end of the game, I only had about 30 minutes of gameplay left. In that 30 minutes of gameplay, I fought 1 more helicopter (bringing the total of helicopters turok takes down to 3, not counting the dozens you see without actually destroying) and 1 spacecraft thingy that the final baddie had to pilot. Take into account that you only get to kill TWO t-rexes and I think you can start to see why they left off the sub-title of yore.

One of my major gripes with this game is the fact that it forces you to mash buttons anytime Turok is in close-quarters combat (a raptor pouncing on Turok for example). In these moments, you have to mash whatever button pops up on screen to get the attacker off of Turok, if you don’t mash fast enough, Turok gets killed (usually satisfyingly). This wouldn’t be that big of a deal if you had to mash the face buttons, but no, they force you to hammer on the shoulder triggers or the left analog stick. The analog stick isn’t that bad, but the shoulder triggers were not made to be pressed repeatedly and quickly, this was made deftly apparent during the final battle with the soldier we were there to kill in the first place, a battle ripped straight out of Resident Evil 4’s play-book. It seems like they made that particular battle harder by requiring you to press the buttons faster than you’ve had to throughout the rest of the game. I lost this battle about 10 times before I was able to pass it.

If I didn’t know I was at the end of the game and I didn’t want the achievements, I would have stopped playing this game at that final battle.