Google closing off Reader and asking users to move to G+ is perhaps the best proof that RSS is the only social network we ever needed. But why have something free and democratic when you can lock users in your little proprietary walled garden?
If your profession can’t be performed in the absence of electrical power, you’re useless to mankind. I’m sorry, electricians, you had a good run.
Most of you have heard about J.S. Joust and want to play it (the few of you who have no idea of what I’m talking about, I suggest you go consume this website). If you want to live the full J.S. Joust experience, your best bet would be to travel to attend one of the events where J.S. Joust is demoed. But if you’re like me and have no money (and don’t live in a future where the game is already released on multiple platforms), you’re kinda stuck. However! If you’re willing to sacrifice some fidelity in order to get a similar gaming experience, let me tell you about my dirt-simple, dirt-cheap analog demake.
For 4 players, you’ll need:
- Around 1 meter of PVC pipe or any other rigid tube, between 1,5 and 2 inches diameter (yes, empty TP rolls work fine too).
- 4 same-size and same-weight brightly colored balls, not bigger than 3,5 inches in diameter. Ball pool balls are a great fit and are cheap and plentiful.
This is where it gets complicated so pay attention:
- Cut the pipe in 18 cm segments (that’s roughly 7 inches for you Imperials). Ask an adult for help on this if you’re not confident with a saw.
- Place one of the balls on one end of the pipe segment.
The main gameplay variable you can tweak is the ratio between the pipe and the ball. A ratio of 1/2 calls for a very sensitive setup. Playtests show that the ratio’s sweet spot is at 2/3 to allow some roughhousing.
Sadly, some original features of J.S. Joust get lost in translation:
- Ability to play with the controller upside down (gravity’s a bitch).
- Ability to dynamically modify the controller’s sensitivity to shocks during gameplay.
- Ability to make the ball change colors to give feedback.
- Ability to play in the darkness (included in this demake’s “premium” version).
In return for these shortcomings, this demake offers some interesting new gameplay opportunities:
- Ability to play anywhere, even in the absence of electricity.
- Gameplay area is no longer constrained by the Move’s communications radius – go wild.
- Ability to play with an infinite number of simultaneous players.
- Gameplay can now be influenced by atmospheric events – mind the wind!
- Ability to cheat.
The premium version tries to regain some features lost in the demake, at the cost of being more expensive to build. I haven’t tested all improvements yet, but these are the ideas I’ll be developing to refine the “emulation”.
One of the neatest side effects to the Move’s tracking ball is that it looks very cool in the dark.
The easiest way to replicate this effect is to use a cheap 9-LED flashlight. You can either put it inside the tube or just use the flashlight as tube, since they usually have a protruding ring at one end where a ball could rest. For this to work you need to be using balls made of translucent plastic (again, like ball pool balls), and voilà! Nighttime fun.
The original J.S. Joust loss condition is having your controller shaken over a given threshold, which means that players can try putting their controller upside down (or in any direction other than up) to protect it from other players. To achieve similar possibilities in my demake, the most obvious solution for now seems to be using magnetic force to bind the ball to the stick, thus keeping the ball from falling if upside down all the while allowing both to become separated if shaken strong enough.
Ideally the magnet would be hidden inside the stick, while the ball would have some small metallic object inserted into it or stuck to its surface. I guess the setup should not allow the magnet to touch the ball, otherwise they might become too difficult to separate.
Atmospheric events will still have a diminished influence on the ball, providing some dynamism to the gameplay.
If you manage to make the device gravity-independent (see above), adding a lanyard to the end opposite to where the ball goes will allow dangling it to attempt to reduce shocks.
We’re entering speculation territory here… There are various ways you could do this, depending on your tech solutions…
- To control the sensitivity to shocks of each device, you could maybe use a centralized computer system communicating by RF to each device. You could also imagine that each device varies independently its own sensitivity and tells the player (maybe dimming the LED lights when the system is more sensitive)
- Since you’re using electricity, use an electromagnetic coil as magnet and vary its intensity.
- If you’re using an actual magnet, varying its distance to the ball will vary its attractive power.
There is no practical, easy solution worth implementing that I can think of to mimic this behavior. Maybe you can?
In mid-2011, David Hart approached me with a prototype he had been working on in his spare time. It was fairly simple: you had a Spongebob-like square character in a simple brick maze you could rotate with your finger. Upon each rotation, the character fell to the new “down” direction until it reached the exit.
The prototype had a level editor looked something like this:
One of my first tasks was to design new mechanics to expand upon David’s original idea, sort them by feasability and test them once a rough version of it was implemented. As usual, the amount of stuff that didn’t make it in the game far exceeds the amount of stuff that did, but luckily we managed to iterate quickly and reach a stable number of different mechanics in under a month.
At that point, I got serious on the level design. Our goal was to do a first release of the game containing a hundred levels, which we decided to split into five packs. These packs later became temples once we settled on the theme.
By now the game looked even uglier than when we started, so we decided it was time to get serious about visuals. After some searching, David hired Andreas Inghe, who is awesome. Expanding upon the idea of long forgotten temples, he started doing the assets for the different elements and backgrounds, bringing a new dimension to the gameplay.
By now, it had started looking like this:
If you have played the game, you’ll recognize some elements that later became World 2 a.k.a. The Earth Temple, and some early versions of Gravi (the player’s cube) and the exit portal.
When we started thinking about what the game would sound like, Andreas showed us some ideas he had been working on and we were quite frankly blown away! Here are some samples of the game’s music:
With new assets being added almost daily, it became clear that David’s initial choice of tech was becoming too constraining. Previously based on UIKit, David ported the game to cocos2D which gave us a lot more of elbow room to expand and polish the game to what it looks now.
To say that I’m proud of how it turned out would be an understatement.
Please visit the game’s official site for more information: www.gravimaze.com, or get the game by clicking on the button below.
I’m pleased to report that the game was pretty warmly received by most (if not all) those who reviewed it.
The game currently holds a solid 4.5 star rating on the app store with around 100 reviews. It was also picked up by some specialized sites, garnering generally favorable reviews:
App Store Arcade – “As puzzle games go, GraviMaze achieves almost puzzle perfection as well as being one of the best puzzle experiences that we’ve seen yet from the Apple AppStore.”
iFanzine – “Like any logic puzzler worth its weight in megabytes, GraviMaze stirs in plenty of nuance as the player dives further in.”
Mac Trast – “GraviMaze does a fine job of being simple, yet at the same time, produces a lot of brain challenging levels.”
The following is a refactored translation of the talk I gave at the EVA10 Expo in Buenos Aires, on 11/12/10. It does not mirror exactly what I said during the talk, but it should give you a general idea. I’ve divided it into three parts: Player limits and systemic constraints, Cheap tricks and easy ways out and Best practices (this post).
To avoid the need to take a design shortcut, I had identified some desirable characteristics of high quality motion mechanics. Whenever I designed or refined one, I tried to make it understandable, detectable, responsive, permissive, humane and sensuous.
I believe these 6 characteristics to be fundamental to good motion design.
The following is a refactored translation of the talk I gave at the EVA10 Expo in Buenos Aires, on 11/12/10. It does not mirror exactly what I said during the talk, but it should give you a general idea. I’ve divided it into three parts: Player limits and systemic constraints, Cheap tricks and easy ways out (this post) and Best practices.
I’ve detailed in my previous post all the most evident pitfalls and traps a designer must work around when designing motion mechanics to make them more accessible, fun and engaging. Now I’d like to illustrate by listing some of the most common default solutions (read: bad) solutions that have been used far and wide by most developers (including me, I admit) when time, skill or budget were lacking.
Hopefully you’ll be now able to identify them and at least understand some possible reasons that led the designers in adopting it.
The following is a refactored translation of the talk I gave at the EVA10 Expo in Buenos Aires, on 11/12/10. It does not mirror exactly what I said during the talk, but it should give you a general idea. I’ve divided it into three parts: Player limits and systemic constraints (this post), Cheap tricks and easy ways out and Best practices.
The designer tasked with creating a game experience using some flavor of motion control is always fighting a pitched battle against two cunning and deceitful enemies: the tech he’s using, and the player he’s designing for. Both will lay traps for him that might prove dangerous if he designs naively.
Having had some catastrophic encounters with those foes myself, I now attempt to pass on the knowledge I’ve taken from those experiences, hoping you will be able to avoid easy mistakes when designing for motion capture systems. Continue reading
Unlike movies, game credits are often hard to find, or overlooked. Since most players don’t finish their games, developers try to place them in menus or make them interactive to have the players at least glance at them for a second.
In Raving Rabbids: Travel in Time, they’re hidden in a subscreen of one of the game’s “bonus images” menus. You’d have to know they’re there to find them!
Since I happen to have programmed the rolling credits, I saved the source text file for this occasion.
Some weeks ago was my last day as an employee of Ubisoft’s Paris Studio.
Having stayed there for two years and four months, having shipped a game and completed another production, I’ve moved back to sweet Buenos Aires town, where I’ll be staying from now on.
I have much to say about that period, and sadly I fear I will bore you, since you probably don’t remember why you subscribed to this blog’s feed anyway, or got here by accident. But hey, It’s my site, so I can do whatever I well damn please.
I started there straight after my second-year student project passed the final teacher’s examination, as an intern on Rayman Raving Rabbids: TV Party. That kind of transition can be delicate; you go from believing you’re the most awesome dude in the world to being crushed by all these guys seniority, experiences and professionalism. Obviously the learning’s not over.
So I soldiered on, learning the ropes, and managed to get one or two mini-games on the disc I was pretty proud of. I also had one of my ideas kinda stolen (but hey, it became a cool minigame afterwards too, so no worries) and countless others aborted in various stages of completion, mostly due to my inexperience.
It’s amazing how much you learn on your very first professional production. Yes, both production exercises we had done while at school were terrific experiences, but nothing else can teach you what being a game designer actually means…
…for Ubisoft, at least.
The designer’s role in a big company is delicate: you’re stuck between 3 supervisors, you have no ownership but full responsibility; other professions view yours as one of goof-offs that runs on passion in stead of true skill and everyone thinks they can do better than you. When you do have carte blanche on something it’s usually too trivial to matter or treated as a “crazy” prototype with no chance of moving forward without an infinite string of review meetings. Or you might be asked to cripple something you lovingly designed and replace it with a plagiarism of what Nintendo did.
But hey, even that sounds pretty nice when you’ve been doing it for only six months and all your best friends are working within a six-foot radius.
That is, obviously, until they get arbitrarily shifted from project to project and ultimately booted out. Like what happened to Atien, who was put on a really great and revolutionary project, then shuffled over what would become Just Dance when that other project was taken out back and shot in the head. He had worked on that for six months but hey, he took it in and was key in making that game the hit it was (and all in a new low record of time and budget). I mean, the guy did gameplay design AND interface programming, he always managed to keep it simple enough to make dancing so fun and is responsible for at least half the sales of that game, hands down.
A few months down the road and Atien gets “non-renouvelé”, technically fired in french labour law, and replaced with interns. The circle was complete.
Due to a folly of the fates, I was kept. While Atien had worked on four games and shipped two of them, I was still in the process of producing the second. While he was the only designer on his team, I was one of a team of five. Some bullshit about quotas and priorities. Go figure.
Ironically I was already planning on resigning, so that put a nice bow on my resolve of doing so. Because how big do you need to get to allow yourself the luxury of passing on great talent? Worse, how big do you need to get to allow yourself to NOT care about talent? Clearly if Atien was let go, then Ubisoft wouldn’t miss me; every year a fresh batch of younger, cheaper interns is ready to replace the crusty old OMG-2-years-experience game design veterans. The emotional bond was severed.
Nevertheless, “Raving Rabbids: Travel In Time” will be a great game. Play it in good company.