Robert Hornbek

Game Development & Exploration

Posts Tagged ‘Single Player’

Arc Fantasy: Skill VS Luck Shot

Posted by rHornbek on November 5, 2011

In the wake off everything else that is going on I have been thinking about another exciting project code named Arc Fantasy (AF).  So not to waist the creative juices, I have been keeping notes and mulling over some of the gameplay specifics for the concept.  Recently I have been trying to decide if the combat system should be based on primarily on Skill or Luck. Arc Fantasy’s combat system is based on the familiar trajectory mechanics of games like Angry Birds, Worms and the original Tank Wars, with of course our own twist which I will disclose at a later time.

An example of a Skill and Luck based mechanic for Arc Fantasy.

In both examples above it is Blue’s turn and he wants to throw a rock at Orange.  Like other trajectory based games, Blue must set the angle (purple arrow) at which the projectile (the rock) will be thrown and set the velocity to determine how much force is applied.  The velocity will also have an effect on how far or near the rock could travel, but to simplify things we are going to assume the velocity never changes in either of these examples, because it is the method of aiming that is really in question.

In the Skill Shot example, the user would only have a very general idea where the projectile will travel based on the angle of the arrow.  The same angle however would always send the projectile in the same direction, creating consistency.  That consistency combined with experience would generate a Skill for Users to choose the best angle for each target they confront.  Despite the limited information given by the arrow, Users would get better at predicting where the projectile will land.  This is the most popular method used by most of the games described above.

In the Luck Shot example Blue is given the full range of information, except the projectile’s movement is NOT consistent.  In the example above (right) Blue knows the shortest distance the projectile could land (lower purple line) and the furthest distance the projectile could land (upper purple line).  The user has no control over where the projectile will land, only a matter of where it could land making it a matter of Luck.

 

The primary reason these mechanics are in question is because of their effect on another mechanic I am implementing into the game; action specific accuracy.  Users would be given the opportunity to choose between less powerful but more accurate attacks or very powerful less accurate attacks.  In the Skill Shot case, the arrow would get much longer, giving the User a much better idea where they are sending the projectile.  In the Luck Shot case the cone would become much more narrow reducing the possible places the projectile could deviate to increasing the chance of success.

To be clear I intend to take a little from each of these mechanics, but what I am really interested in is what other people think about these two concepts, and which one they would be more compelled by.  I should have more information about the project and its other systems and features soon.

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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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Breath of Fresh Air

Posted by rHornbek on August 5, 2010

While browsing Reddit today I came across two impressive looking games.

The first is called Monday Night Combat by Uber Entertainment, which I guess is a spoof on Friday Night Football, maybe?  The game clearly takes places in a very sporty setting, but with more guns and robots.  Many of the comments compare the game to a cross between DotA and Team Fortress 2… if you watch you can see why.

The concept and possibilities for this game excite me, so I will have to keep a solid eye on it.  When additional demos appear I plan on writing another article with a more in-depth look and criticism of the game.  I look forward to it!

The next game has no title, but looks fascinating!

If you didn’t figure it out yourself, the game has apparently been canceled.  Only the developers really know why, but it is a shame we may never see this game again.  Hopefully the video gets enough attention that Ubisoft might consider restarting its development.  My friend was the first to point out that this could all be a clever viral marketing ploy to generate interest for the game that is in fact not canceled… I guess we could only hope.

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Cell Shading in Naruto Shippuden: Untimate Ninja Storm 2 Part 1 Chapter 1 of 2010

Posted by rHornbek on July 30, 2010

Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm continues to impress me with a nearly flawless use of cell shaded art and animation, comparable only to Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.  Absurdly long names aside, I may have to argue that Naruto Ship… NS:UNS… Ninja Storm may be THE best use of cell shaded art and animation to date.

Unfortunately the stunning cinematic quality of the game comes at the cost of gameplay.  Most of Ninja Storm’s action occurs during frantic cut scenes that are driven by timed button presses similar to that of Shenmue, Tomb Raider, Darksiders and that other game Wad or Door or something like that.

Zone of the Enders, but more so The Second Runner was the first to impress me with this sort of art style.  The game even had anime cut scenes woven in between just to add to the animated flavor.  While the game’s graphics are showing their age, there are a lot of qualities to cell shading that preserves well with time.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker still holds up today as some of the best cell shaded graphics I have ever seen.  In many ways the tools used to produce cell shaded graphics can really make a game look better than it would otherwise be on that system.  There was a lot of controversy over the art style when Wind Waker was first announced, but I am glad they did it anyways.

I hope to see more games execute the cell shaded style as well as Ninja Storm if not better.  That is not to say many games have not tried the style, but none come close to the quality of Ninja Storm.

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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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E3: 2010

Posted by rHornbek on June 15, 2010

Due to financial restrictions I decided only to attend E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) for a single day this year, and honestly I think that was about all it was worth.

Initially I was going to use this space to rant about how much worse E3 has become since the first time I attended it back in 2001.   Then I decided to take a moment and really analyse my disappointment so to confidently identify the culprit.

A few things occurred to me…

The first time I went to E3 I was 16, so I stood on the sidewalk outside the convention center asking everyone who passed if they would sell their badge to me for $40.  Needless to say I was able to score a badge, however the next step was getting in without being carded for my age (18 or older).  After spending a few minutes studying the entryway searching for an opportune moment I managed to get inside the first of three halls. So it is safe to assume the impact on me for the first event was compounded by the amount of effort it took to get in, and it was the first time.

After a few years of that I managed to acquire enough contacts to get tickets without pan handling on the street.  However the events were still rather exciting.  What has killed the magic?

There were various controversies including over crowding at the center, exploiting booth babe marketing and at one point many of the big boys (Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft and Blizzard) all threatened to leave entirety.  One year E3 was beat so bad it was almost unrecognizable from its former self.  Things have gotten much better, but it is still not the same

Blizzard has moved its operations to BlizzCon so I can attribute some of the problem to that, but nonetheless what is reallying missing?

Ultimately I began blaming the games.  Too many sequels, too much cliche, nothing that looked interesting or genuinely new.  While much of this holds true you will soon learn that I found a fair amount of interesting things at the event this year.

So where did the magic go?

I have decided in addition to much of what I have already said, the primary reasons why E3 has lost its luster is the following…

I have seen a lot since then, played many games and have grown as an individual and an industry professional.  My expectations have refined and not every flashing light interests me as much as it has in the past.  So while E3 used to be a cave of vast treasures, it is now an adventure to find only a handful of gems among the rubble.

Here are some of the gems I found this year!

DISNEY’S EPIC MICKEY

At first much of the advertising for this game was unrecognizable, and while it wasn’t the most amazing thing I saw at the event it was fascinating to see a new game about Mickey Mouse that wasn’t Kingdom Hearts.  Speaking of Kingdom Hearts, I can’t help but thing much of the inspiration for this game was based on the success of Kingdom Hearts.

Honestly the only thing about this game that really caught my eye was the fact that it was a relatively dark looking game featuring entirety Disney characters.  This kind of reminded me of the Sega Genesis game Mickey Mouse World of Illusion which has great nostalgia value for me.  However I found the title “Epic Mickey” to be down right terrible!  I guess we can only blame the internet culture.

CASTLEVANIA: LORDS OF SHADOW

While watching a series of videos I came across a trailer for this game.  I am not a fan of the series but it looked interesting enough and had a killer cast of voice actors!

So the game play doesn’t scream creativity but I am hoping that it stays consistent with Castlevania’s RPG elements and it doesn’t just turn into another God of War wannabe.

DEUS EX: HUMAN REVOLUTION

Unfortunately all I got to see was the cinematic trailer for this game.  Now I just hope the game can hold up to the standards set by the video.

What really struck me was how much this video came off as a trailer for a movie and less that of a game.  Even the credits at the end were displayed like that of a movie’s.  The soundtrack they chose was really spot on, it gave me chills accompanying the visuals and the dialog.  Once again we can only hope the game itself can keep up.

STAR WARS: THE FORCE UNLEASHED II

I was fortunate to kick my day off with this video playing on a massive screen with a rocking sound system.  You NEED to watch this in the highest quality you can!

This has got to be one of the most impressive cinematic video I have ever seen since the opening for Onimusha 3.  Aside from the realistic quality of the main character, you get drawn in by amazing sound effects, lighting and an ever rising action.  Of course this is so far removed from the original Star Wars movies, but honestly I almost forgot it was Star Wars and really didn’t care that it was.

END OF NATIONS

Up until this point I have only talked about games that caught my eye graphically, which is part of the problem I have with E3.  While Mickey’s game and Castlevania look interesting, the Deus Ex and Star Wars videos really said nothing about what the games are actually like.  End of Nations however is a Massive Multiplayer Online Real Time Strategy Game… MMORTS… G.

Ok so the graphics don’t come off as exciting, nor does the game play appear incredibly deep, but they are trying something different.  I had a conversation today that made a lot of sense.  The Wii and its motion control has been hailed as groundbreaking while most of the time gimmicky and anyone in their right mind can see most Wii games that use the motion control don’t need to.  But Microsoft and Sony are bother jumping on the motion control bandwagon.  So while the Wii may not be the best application of the technology others are helping it grow.  I imagine a similar affect could occur for End of Nations.  It may not be the best MMORTS, but others may not be afraid to try it themselves and thus usher in a new genre.

DONKEY KONG COUNTRY RETURNS

This has got to be the highlight of the day and the whole event for me.  Aside from impressive graphics, the game manages to maintain much of the original gameplay and the Wii motion control acts as an added flavor and not an overpowering gimmick.

This was the only game I played besides Sonic Colors (waste of time, RIP Sonic) and I am glad I did.  The controls felt solid and familiar, even the motion control with the Wiimote felt pretty seamless.  There was only a certain carnivorous green muskette totting villain who didn’t appear in the demo, I do hope he has not given up the fight!  I know there will be at least one game on my holiday list this year.

So while the magic has not completely vanished it has changed form.  This has continued my ongoing investigation into what makes games different today than days past.  I plan to explore much of my findings in another article, until then you will have to think about it yourself and see if we come to any of the same conclusions.

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Kernips: Going Beta!

Posted by rHornbek on June 3, 2010

Starting (June 2nd) many of our friends and family will begin to play Kernips for the first time in our first ever Kernips Beta!  Each of our 15 or so tester got an email from me containing a game guide and the game itself.  I am hoping by the time we are done the game will be self explanatory enough that I will only have to send out the game.

This will be a great opportunity for our team to hear what others think about the game and hopefully the feedback will help make Kernips a lot better.

Latest Look of Kernips!

Some of the major changes we made for this version is art.  This includes new images for each of the Kernips, their full life cycle, bench items, fire and water effect.

For the most part gameplay is right on target.  Based on the feedback we get from our testers we will make minor changes, but we cannot see any major changes occurring to the game at this time.  We did however change how points were earned.  Before I could earn as much as 100 million points in a few moves, which is utterly too much.  We simplified the amount of points you earn so that the numbers are not as ridiculous while still maintaining motivation to pluck more at a time.

This is regrettably a short short post, but I hope that the following will be much greater.  At that time I should have a lot of solid feedback that I can share here as a precursor to Kernips’ 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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