Simoroshka & games

Nov
30

My first game

I was supposed to start my blog with this game post. But I didn’t and now it is time to fix it.
This project is important, because it is the first game that I have finished. After making this I was absolutely sure that this is what I want to do with my life. Games. Also for the first time in my life I knew that it is what I can do, and not something from a parallel universe where awesome people create new worlds with some sort of magic. I had my preconceptions about the whole game development thing, I admit.

But back to the game. Take two nerdy girls with a shared love for Doctor Who, put them in a game project course, and let them do whatever they want. Advise them to use Unity or something similar. And leave them for a few weeks. By the set deadline you might get this.

Nana, my project partner, was a game-designer. She proposed the initial design, made the 3D models, got sounds, wrote texts and came up with a name.
For me it was easier to play with code and game logic, and I did just that, solving problems one by one. I never opened Unity or any other game engine before. With a help of some official video-tutorials I have put together something that resembled the idea we had in mind and on paper. It wasn’t all too easy and I spent days and evenings and a weekend during the last week, but it definitely was fun.
The game is a collection of tiny and big bugs and problems but it does what we wanted, at least partly. We had so much more in mind, but simply didn’t know how to do it, nor did we have the time with all other courses and exams. But we loved it. It was ours. It was the first.

One awesome thing that we did was the progress log. We couldn’t meet too often and had to work separately, so it was easier to track our progress this way. And it the end it was much easier to reflect and write the required postmortem. I still love to re-read it. It is inspiring to see how we went from “we have no idea how to do anything” to “I’ve done these things and am doing these”.

I look at our game, see all the imperfections and you know what? I have a sudden but a very strong urge to re-make this game with my newly acquired knowledge about game physics and unity. I will make a separate post with an analysis and plans. Aah, excited!

Nov
27

Thesis? Games, please!

After 2 or 3 months of reading scientific papers, taking notes, reading more, making plans, rewriting them, reading more, and so on, I can finally say that I have my master’s thesis on the way. At least now I know what I am writing about. And I want to share, because even if the about section here says that this is a blog about computational creativity, among other things, I haven’t said a word about it so far.

Let’s say that computational creativity is a subfield of artificial intelligence studies. As I see it, it is actually a combination of many different things: AI, psychology, algorithms, art, philosophy. It studies creativity in humans and attempts to make computers creative, or at least model some aspects of creativity. That’s it. You can imagine that the area of application is as vast as it gets: starting from art generation and ending in creative problem solving.

And of course it has strong ties with games. Computational creativity and games walk hand in hand, and benefit from each other. In fact, that old thing called procedural content generation (PCG) that gives us endless sets of levels, is an example of computational creativity in its infancy. The procedural systems are not being very creative as we understand it, but it is a start. One day computer software will be generating complete games, making its own creative decision and even participating in competitions. Oh, wait… it already does.

I am going to do some research on creative idea generation, particularly on how to generate ideas for games. Preferably interesting ideas, those you wouldn’t probably think about yourself. Oh, and they should make sense. And be connected to the providied theme or keywords. So basically I am going to dive into linguistic computational creativity and then try to make use of all sources like ConceptNet, WordNet, MetaphorMagnet and alike. We will see if anything cool will emerge from this.
Sadly, master’s thesis in computer science should be about reading and writing and then, maybe, just a little bit, about practical implementations. I am a practical person, all that scientific writing slightly upsets me, I would rather do things instead.

Okay, back to writing. I mean… blog posts don’t count as work, even if they are about the topic. Right?

Nov
25

I must do more

The time has come when I start actively looking for real job opportunities. As it goes, if you want a summer internship, you need to start looking for it in December. But this is not the only option I have. I can also send open applications to game companies that accept them and hope for the best.

So I did some research and created my spreadsheet of all game companies in Helsinki, excluding very small ones. About a dozen of those I found accept open applications and maybe will have a look at mine. Suddenly a dozen doesn’t look like a very big number. I start to question my learning path and the quality of my portfolio, because I am not sure, how impressive it is. Unfortunately, I have nobody to ask for a professional opinion.

However, I created an online portfolio, went through my CV and LinkedIn again, updated everything there was to update, wrote a cover letter, and posted an open application for Finnish gaming industry in general (fortunately, there is an option to do this on one of the major recruitment websites). Just in case.

But I have to make a change of plans if I want a better chance of succeeding. I need to become a better game developer and a better candidate.

  • I am starting a Game Physics course. It looks very interesting, advanced and like something that can be extremely useful in the future.
  • I will go to the IGDA gathering in December and try to network a bit and maybe ask for an informational interview.
  • I will learn more Unity3D things.
  • I will have a look at mobile game development, since most of the companies make games for mobile platforms.
  • I will think about refreshing my C++ knowledge and updating it to the current versions. But, unfortunately, it is not something that can be done in a month.
Nov
21

Jupiter Hadley plays my games

Jupiter Hadley plays a lot of indie games, game jam games and other stuff like that. I must say, it feels pretty good everytime to unexpectedly get this sort of player feedback. She records video compilations, and here are the video parts with 3 recent games of mine being played.

Quantum Cat


Well, I do agree, there is too much text in this one, and the game mechanics are too strange (so are quantum physics).

Portal Tennis


This seems to be more enjoyable to play, and it makes me a little bit proud. All those hours fiddling with AI and balance were not in vain. =)

The Endless Maze


Jupiter likes my game more than I do! I will probably take her suggestions about timer and other stats into consideration before posting it on OneGameAMonth.com.

Nov
21

Project progress update. None

Last month I promised to keep posting about our group game project every two weeks or so. Well, it doesn’t go so well unfortunately, nothing to post every two weeks. We had one quite productive meeting, where we finally got everything sorted, all story-line settled, all puzzles designed and documented, all objects listed, all game logic in place. And we have original music recordings. That’s it.

It is difficult to make a group project work when it is not a priority on everyone’s todo lists. I have my thesis, Nicola has his book, Ir has her everything else. And we have no deadline whatsoever, apart from “it would be nice to finish by the end of the year” but who cares. Maybe now when I have a very concrete thing to do on my programming part I should set myself a personal deadline. Otherwise no one is going to do anything.

Anyhow, I am still not very comfortable with Godot engine, I need some video tutorials to get my head around it. These ones look okay. My task now is to make inventory, basic point-and-click mechanics and navigation between different in-game scenes. Sounds much easier than everything I’ve done so far.

Shaman Escape Plan

Nov
17

ProcJam 2015

ProcJam is an online game jam which is all about procedural generation. It is organized by Michael Cook, who is an awesome researcher and who accidentally inspired me to choose a particular topic for my thesis. Since I am now all about computational creativity in games, I couldn’t miss this event.
The tagline that is supposed to guide people through this relaxed 1-week long game jam says “make something that makes something”. Participants were to create a game or a tool that would make use of any procedural generation algorithm. No other theme, no constraints.
For me, it was yet another chance to try something new. I didn’t have much time and the week was rough, so I ended up implementing in Unity3D a depth first search algorithm for labyrinth generation. Very simple and the result is not very exciting, but still it is a new experience.

My inner game designer is not happy with the game and refuses to call it such. There is no winning condition, just endlessly generated labyrinths of increasing size. The controls are not very responsive and the ball player annoyingly bumps into walls. The labyrinth itself is not very suitable for a labyrinth game: of course, it is a proper labyrinth with no loops and closed rooms, but going through it is very straightforward and poses no challenges. Maybe it would be better if the labyrinth weren’t visible from above.
It would be cool to add collectables, or enemies, or both. Or to make it first-person and add a possibility to leave marks on walls. Or inverting the labyrinth and moving the ball on top of the walls. Or tilting the board instead of controlling the ball. Or making the labyrinth transformable with walls appearing and disappearing here and there. Or adding portals (I like portals). So many options, so little time…

As for the jam experience… I find it more difficult to be completely on my own. I like constraints: a particular place where you have to be, a theme, a team, a strict time frame. I like to be all in the project, without juggling it with studies, theater rehearsals, home errands and other very important things. I really want to participate in Ludum Dare, but I need to think how to organize my life around those dates (like finding a local event place and saying no to everything else).