Robert Hornbek

Game Development & Exploration

Posts Tagged ‘2D Graphics’

Iron Synapse: Once was ‘Synaps’

Posted by rHornbek on December 12, 2011

A lot has been going on since I last touched on our Synaps project, which has now been officially titled Iron Synapse.  This change is greatly due to the overall change of theme for the game.  Fundamentally the game is still greatly based on the classic Chinese strategy game GO, but instead of the sleek web 2.0 style we have chosen to go with a more industrial appearance.  This has been greatly influenced by the character designs which I shared in my last blog entry.

Example of the Iron Synapse Main menu. 80% of actual size.

For the last week and a half I have been working on updated all of the ingame art, excluding the characters.  This includes all of the interface, logos, buttons, bars, counters, timers etc.  While it has been a daunting task, it has been a fun and educational one!   Most of the content I have created is not all that interesting individually but I am excited to share it as whole in future updates.

Example portions of the playing board, called the Map.

Included in all of this work I updated the Map tiles; two point Elbo tiles for the corners, three point Tee tiles for the sides and four point cross tiles for everything in between.  Using procedural generation we can create any Map size using these three different tiles, which reduces the amount of content we have to create as well as the amount of content that the client/user has to load before playing.

You will also notice in the sample of the Map alphabetic and numerical coordinates on the top on left side of the image.  These coordinates will be shown on all four sides of the complete map which is common in most strategy games like Go and Chess etc.  To utilize a unique Font and glow effects, these tiles had to each be created by hand.  There are 21 numerical tiles and 21 alphabetical tiles.

Latest Node & Power Node artwork.

Creating each of the coordinate tiles was daunting, but I also had the pleasure of updating the Node and Power Nodes art as shown above.  Starting from the left side you will see the red and blue Nodes, or Basic Node.  These Nodes make up most of the game and will be seen throughout the entire game.  Each of the other Nodes are Power Nodes which have unique functions.  Starting from the left is the Strong Node, which can never be captured making them a great way to secure sections of your wall.  The next Power Node type is a Spiked Node, which will subtract points from your opponent if they capture it, detouring them from doing so.  The Power Nodes with the Golden rims are called Rich Nodes which grant the controlling or capturing User additional points.  Lastly is the Power Node without a color, this is called the Hollow Node.  This Node can be played directly over the top of opposing Node to immediately capture them turning them into a Node of User.

While we slowly complete and add the remaining features we are ramping up greatly on or content development and my hopes are that we can begin sharing the revised and cleaned up version of the characters really soon, as well as actual ingame screen captures with the new art.

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Synaps: Characters

Posted by rHornbek on August 23, 2011

In dire need of an artist, I began a search to find someone who could help us develop characters for Synaps.  I was reminded of an artist name Joanna that I met multiple times while attending the San Jose Fanime convention, and after looking at her various work online I was excited to ask for her contribution.  After some discussion about the goals of the project and the characters we were looking for, our new found artist comrade took a week to put together some concept art for us.  This was the result of our discussion and following week…

Synaps Characters, Rough Pass 01

Needless to say our team was pretty stunned at the quality and creativity of these character, and I hope you agree!  If you have been following along you may notice that these characters are a little different from the ones we have displayed in the mock-ups.  Well there have been a few changes.

While browsing Joanna’s portfolio I came across an image that caught my eye.

Steam-Powered SPN Chibi set 1 by Joanna Johnen

Being a sucker for steampunk I immediately asked Joanna a little more about the image.  Among her description she asked me if this was the style we were looking for our Synaps characters.  At the time it had never crossed my mind because our original goal was to create a spacey, web 2.0, sleek iPad looking world, but almost immediately I thought “HEY, why not?!”  So I ran it by the team and they all felt very much the say way.  So now the spacey world of Synaps is slowly turning industrial.

However, my goal is not to have consumers see the product for the first time and think “steampunk”, I simply wanted them to say “hey this looks cool”.  That said we are going to avoid many of the classic steampunk cliches, explicitly cogs, steam and of course goggles.  And while these things are not evil we just want to avoid or rater limit the cliches.

Despite being completely bowled over by the characters there was a lot of feedback generated for the next pass.

Character #3

Character concept #3 is the first in our lineup that we would like to see back in the next pass.  While the image of this character looks refined, his clothing is a little uninteresting.  As a commoner this character would be perfect, but we are dealing with 6 to 9 unique characters that will represent the user during the fight, so a little more depth is in order.

Characters #5, #6 and #7

These three female characters are great because they are diverse and interesting!  We expect to see them again in the next pass, especially #7 who we would like to see refined to same polish as the others.

Character #8

We liked this character because he was a bit younger than the rest, and that also meant he was a little smaller in size.  We aim to take a page from Team Fortress 2‘s book in character design by creating characters that are recognizable in silhouette.  So characters of different size and proportion will be important to achieving this goal, in addition to hairstyle, clothing and expression.  It was also with this character that we decided to avoid the cliches of steampunk and remove his goggles.

Character #10

While greatly unfinished, this character really caught my eye.  We wanted to have a multicultural group of characters to represent all the regions around the globe who are coming together to play this game.  I almost immediately imagined this character from a South American region with cornrows, large golden earrings, ornate bracelets and a silky red dress that just sort of drapes.

Character #11

At first glance I did not like this character, he did not appear to have anything going on and the unrefined nature of the image did not help.  However, after a few comments by the team we found a lot of value in this guy!  First off we liked his stature, it was different than many of the others.  We also liked his large belt, and later discovered that it looks like he is wearing a hood.  After some thought we came to the conclusion that this would make an interesting monk, one who dresses in simple robes but with a grand belt to match his stature.  We look forward to his revision.

Character #12

I was quick to like this character, his clothing pretty much won me over in terms of style and dept.  However I felt like his expression was inappropriate for the character as a whole.  Without changing much about his clothing I requested that this character’s expression be changes to look stoic, like he is a serious dude ready to win.

Characters #15, #16 and #17

As previously stated, diversity in the characters is paramount, and we felt these guys fit the bill.  Posture, expression and style is different on each of these characters, so needless to say we decided to keep them on for the second pass.

We look forward to seeing the results of these discussions by the end of the week.  If you would like to see more and learn more about Synaps please check out he FaceBook fan page HERE!

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Synaps: End of Release 01

Posted by rHornbek on July 7, 2011

As of a couple weeks ago the Uncharted Interactive team has officially completed Release one of our second project Synaps!

In the last articles I showed you the following image of the game:

SYNAPS test screen roughly four weeks into Release 1

Originally you were only able to place stones one at a time and there was not way to actually capture opposing stones, not to mention we were using placeholder art from the Go Wikipedia page.  Now we have not only implemented our own original placeholder art, but we have also added many of the important features!!!

An image of Synaps after Release 01.

Excluding the background art, every asset has been replaced with an original one.  And while most of it is still placeholder, we feel the final content may not be too different in terms of style… quality on the other hand should be much higher!  Some of the added features include:

  1. Capturing opposing Nodes (stones).
  2. Random Node Arrays, that allow the user to place multiple Nodes at a single time in a preset, but rotatable, pattern.
  3. Node Array display at the top of the screen.
And of course it is now playable through a browser window, which will be important when we make it available online.
When I think about where we are not from where we were then I cannot help but wonder “what have we really accomplished!?  But with proper reflection it becomes obvious, we were forging the foundation for the rest of the game.  In short, we needed to create the game Go with random Node Arrays, and we did just that!  Now we simply have to focus on adding the other features we had in mind to make the game exciting, add additional polish as well as make it properly available to everyone online.

A concept image of the Versus screen.

The image above is a mocked up concept of what I image the Versus screen would look like in the end.  While different that the image of the actual game right now, there are many similarities which means we are getting close!!!

Some of the features illustrated in this concept art are:

  1. A stylized score board that uses unique characters for the numbers.  A minor detail but one that makes things look even better!
  2. Dead spaces, indicated by cross shaped icons, communicating to the user where Nodes can no longer be played.
  3. Synapse connectors between each of the nodes indicating where the walls have been formed.  Hence the title Synaps!
And of course the two characters (from Advance Wars: Day of Ruin) on the left and right of the Map!  These characters will represent each user as they compete against one another and will react to the game as it is played, like the characters from Puzzle Fighter but probably with a little less animation.
Or of course like Advance Wars
By the end of Release 02 we should see a more well rounded product with a title screen, and end-game stats screen, the characters and even the previously mentioned Power Nodes!
If you would like to learn more about what is going on week to week, please check out he Syanps FaceBook page HERE, Like it and share it with friends.  Oh and if you have ANY questions please ask, because in the following release we will be reaching out to gather our community and we would like to hear from you!
PS: we are also working on an official website for Synaps and our development team… more on that coming soon!

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FanCon Battle: Update & Setback

Posted by rHornbek on April 25, 2011

Please check out some updated images for FanCon Battle; a collectible card game based on Anime, Internet and Convention culture!

Concept cards in each of the five FanCan Battle suits; Clovers, Spades, Moons, Diamonds and Hearts!

An example of a FanCon Battle card based on MineCraft's Creeper & details that break down the card.

All these updates to the game mean we have been busy working on it!  However FanCon Battle’s development has been put on hold due to time issues.  Our goal was to complete the game for Fanime 2011 but due to uncontrollable circumstances we are going to have to put the game off until a later date!

On the other hand we now have more time to refine the game by getting a lot more play-testing in as well as collecting a lot more original art that we have, and need, at the moment.  Also, if you are interesting in seeing this game through to completion, please like the official FanCon Battle page on FaceBook.

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Synaps: Begins

Posted by rHornbek on April 25, 2011

The placeholder logo for SYNAPS has been in the Games section of my blog for some time now with little to no explaination, yet quit a bit of buzz has spawned from it!  For those of you who have been  interested I am please to say that the development for SYNAPS has been underway since February and it is coming along swimmingly.

An image of the classic Chinese strategy game Go.

SYNAPS is a strategy puzzle game based on the classic Chinese strategy game Go, where users capture and secure territory on a grid using Stones to indicate ownership.  SYNAPS follows many of the same rules as Go while expanding on others and adding completely new ones.

Image of StarCraft 2

As stated, Go is a strategy game based on playing stones to earn points and acquire territory.  Our goal is to take elements from other strategy games that would make the classic Go experience even more exciting and diverse.  I will touch on this a lot more in the near future as we still need to complete the foundation for the game.  In the mean time, here is a sample of how far we have come…

SYNAPS test screen roughly four weeks from Release 1

It is not a lot to look at, but we have almost completed implementing the fundamental Go rules and mechanics, sans some major play-testing.  But after Release 1 we will begin adding advanced features and ultimately taking it beyond the standard game of Go.

PS:  The original team is still polishing off Kernips.  It’s a slow process at the moment but we expect it to be ready to play when we launch the official Uncharted Interactive website.!

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Kernips: Not Dead!

Posted by rHornbek on February 1, 2011

Alas it is February and Kernips has not been released to the general public, and here is why:

Near the end of our production (some time in December) key contributors to the project fell on hard time and had to allocate their time to more life saving activities, such as making enough money to eat!  This drastically reduces our ability to complete the game at the level of quality we would have liked.

So we had to make a decision, to ultimately end development of the game, even in its underdeveloped state (play sad music here).

A month or so later I had my birthday and for my birthday I was given an updated version of the game!

New Art Oh My!

There are a few outstanding issues that should get addressed, but we are all still dedicated to completing the game… at some point.

On one hand we can view the development of Kernips as a failure, not meeting our final deadline and not making any sort of return.  This is not uncommon to indie project, most of which never get played or completed at all!

On the other hand, we started this project as an experiment with no intention of creating anything great.  But when we discovered the potential that we and the game had we pushed ourselves a little further.

In the end we are happy to have come this far and glad we experienced the pitfalls that we did.

I plan to post more about the state of Kernips as time progresses, but don’t hold your breath.

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Kernips: Gameplay Demo

Posted by rHornbek on September 15, 2010

Take a look at this rough gameplay demo I put together today.  I plan on making a much more thorough demo sooner than later, but this should be a quick fix.  Keep in mind you are basically looking at the skeleton of the game.  Nearly all of our resources are going into adding skin to this monster so that it will be much more presentable.  I hope you enjoy it!

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Kernips: FaceBook Page

Posted by rHornbek on September 2, 2010

In case you have not seen the official Kernips logo, here it is!!!

By Uncharted Interactive. Kernips is a puzzle game where users cultivate and grow precocious plants called Kernips. As they mature the Kernips may be plucked from the ground revealing precious gems for points. Points can then be spent to purchase additional Kernip seeds and utilities to further the development of the garden.

However, this post is intended to announce the grand opening of the official Kernips Fan Page on FaceBook!  This is our first attempt outside of my blog to present Kernips to a wider range of the community.  The goal is to develop awareness of the game and hopefully interest.  Later on when we decide to raise some money to bring the project to completion we will have venues to do so… oops spoiler!  Keep you eyes open and spread the word.  Cheers!

Click here to check it out!

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Game Experience: Update

Posted by rHornbek on June 23, 2010

Recently I added 2 new titles to my Game Experience page.  I found them both fascinating an inspirational for their designs, I’m sure you will be rather familiar with at least one of them!

I am lucky not to have been beaten senseless for taking so long to eventually play Portal, but honestly besides the hype I did not feel an urgency to play it.  However I really had no reason not to once Steam made it available to play for free.  And it should come as so surprise that I loved it and am glad I finally played it!

I must add that while most people praise the game for its creative gameplay, what I found most fascinating was the Aperture Laboratory setting and GLaDOS’ dialog.  Now I am looking forward to its sequel teased in the video below!

At first glance the browser game Transfermice does not seem all that interesting.  After playing it for even a few minutes you quickly learn the nature of the game and the nature of humans operating in a large unorganized group.  The object of the game is simple, get a piece of the cheese and return it to the mouse hole.  Of course in the flurry to achieve this everyone ends up killing one another or themselves.  This video should give you an idea what I am talking about…

Of course you really cannot understand Transfermice without playing it yourself, which I highly recommend.  I might add that in addition to dozens of player controlled mice there is always one Shaman during each challenge.  The Shaman has the power to conjure objects that are meant to aid in the objective.  However most Shamans abuse this power and typically use it to destroy the other mice and take the cheese for themselves.

While the game has many fascinating gameplay elements it was ultimately executed pretty poorly.  I had a concept for a game that played off of human nature and now feel I should revisit the idea after seeing how it was done in Transfermice.  I look forward to reporting on that in the future.

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Cursed Treasure

Posted by rHornbek on May 20, 2010

While looking for interesting tower defense games I came across a website dedicated to the genre itself.  On the home page of TowerDefence.net (with a “C”), I was immediately drawn to a game called Cursed Treasure.  In this game you are charged with protecting 5 cursed treasures that lay together in a cave.

A pretty standard tower defense setting, however notice the different terrain elements...

I was excited to learn that when an enemy reaches the cursed treasures they will attempt to run back with it.  This is exactly the mechanic I wanted to analyse among others.  In addition, if you managed to kill that enemy he would drop the gem and others would try and pick it up.

You might also notice the different terrain; Grass, Snow and Stone.  There are three tower types and each can only be placed on its respective terrain tile.  Orce Dens go on Grass, Undead Crypts go on Snow and Demon Temples go on Stone.  At first I was not so sure about this mechanic, but it really grew on me and it made the game far more interesting and strategic.

Each tower as it deals damage will gains experience and eventually level up.  With each level you can upgrade the tower to have greater stats of even change how it functions.  Each of the three basic tower types has two paths that it can take at level 4 creating a whole other level of strategy

In this image you can see the large boss character called a Champion!

In addition to earning money for kills you will generate mana that can be used to case any of three spells.  Cut Trees allows you to do just that, clear a forest allowing you to place a tower in that tile.  Meteors drops a shower of fire and stone onto enemies dealing great damage.  And lastly Frenzy which increases the attack speed of all your towers for a short time.

All these tools are equally exciting to manage through the game’s 15 stages with dozens of waves and enemy times.

Each section of the skill tree is based on one of the three tower types.

As you complete stages you generate experience points and eventually level up.  Each time you level you earn 3 skill points that can be spent in a skill tree.  At first I was a little unsure, but there was quite a variety of skill to choose from that really allows you to change the way the game is played!  One of my favorite skills returned any dropped cursed treasures to the cave after a short time.

My aim is to continue playing tower defense games and learn about the trends and failures.  So far Cursed Treasure has impressed me greatly and taught me a lot about where my concept is headed.  I highly recommend this game and if anyone has any tower defense games they would like to recommend to me please do so!

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