Progress Report: Need Mesh, Will Ad-lib

Alright… Content…

Gathering thoughts… Rebuilding paths and lighting… Saving changes…

My team – Team ICE – is making not just a level, we’re making a game. It might’ve initially been intended as a level, but we flew with it and now it’s a mini game. We did our mock, our alpha testing, and now we’re polishing. I spent a good amount of time last night googling static meshes for UDK without success. Who knew that finding FOOD meshes would be so difficult?

I just want to say that my whole team is brilliant. They are also much better at modeling than I am, although I am being rather stubborn about Maya because I barely have time to finish learning UDK much less start learning Maya. If I could model in AutoCAD… maybe we’d be set.

So I’m building a maze in my part of the game. I need foodz for it. I reeeeeeeealy wish we’d had more time dedicated to 3d modeling. With four days left until we turn the project in, I don’t have time to learn to make static meshes. I do, however, have time to increase my knowledge of Kismet. What is a maze without obstacles? And stationary obstacles are so boring. With a plain sphere I can make little cherries, oranges, heads of lettuce… Things can chase you along the maze, or make you dodge them… Indiana Jones, eat your heart out. (Wow, that was totally unintentionally punny)

All I need are materials. And THAT I can build.

Expect more soon as I experiment!

Achievement Unlocked: Assignment Submitted

This past week has been crazy.

My Dungeon Match cyber version has been put on hold due to having to work in Maya and UDK nearly every waking moment to get stuff done for school. It seemed like every other tutorial I watched was way beyond my n00b ability, and a complete waste of my time. Seriously, this class needed a bit more direction than “google it”. But I got through it, and submitted last night. It’s not a pretty level, but it shows that in the last few weeks I learned to create level geometry, import models from Maya, add materials and mesh actors, make simple animations with UDK, create meshes that blow apart when you shoot them, make touch triggers and volume triggers, create creepy colored lighting, and abyssal pits of death.

That’s a crap ton of stuff. I’m actually quite impressed with myself for what I’ve managed this last week, considering I’d never used either piece of software before this. I’m definitely looking forward to my week of spring break this week. ^^ It’ll allow me to get to work on some of my other projects, like the Dungeon Match game and the Kobold 42 website.

Oh… I hadn’t mentioned that, had I? Kobold 42 is the name I decided to use for my Freelance Game Design Studio. I’m already signed up to do a bit of contract work for Krazy Pengwin on mobile apps, and Kobold 42 will be the place I showcase all my other freelance work. I’ve been playing about with the design whilst bored at work and it’s coming along quite nicely. Making the entire site by myself from scratch. It’s great fun. So far I put up a simple holding page until I get the site design completed. (You can find it on the left sidebar if you’re curious.)

Creating this site has proved to be a wonderful break from pulling my hair out with Maya and UDK. Since I can’t work on either of those whilst in work anyhow, it’s been something to keep me sane during this level project. Depending on how busy I get here at home, I’m hoping to work on it a bit more. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m shattered, needing my first #cupofcoffee for the day, and have to wake the children to get ready to go to grandma’s so I can go to work.

Expect more code soon, and check out the new links on the sidebar!

Creation of an Independent Game Studio

As you can see from my bio I’m located in the middle of nowhere, otherwise called South Dakota. This can pose a few problems, one of which tends to overshadow all the others… There are no game design studios within commuting distance of me. This is a dreadful thing, but in the face of adversity can be found innovation. What does a lonely game designer do when there’s no home for their ideas? They create an Indie Game Studio.

Many budding game designers and developers dream of making it big on their own. Most don’t manage it. I’m going to let you in on a few tips and tricks that might help make the difference if you’re thinking of going this route yourself.


The Death of a Giant That Never Was

Tonight I sat down to write a discussion post for class about some random digital content creation software. I fiddled about on the internet for a while, looking at lists of software I could choose from. One finally caught my eye, but as I looked into it I realized it had been discontinued. A little disappointed, I continued to research the software and found that I was getting very interested in the story. I decided to write my discussion on it anyway, even if it was discontinued. You’ll find the post below…

I’m going to discuss the software called trueSpace that was developed by the Caligari corporation. The current version is trueSpace7.6 and it was introduced in July of 2008, after the Caligari Corp was acquired by Microsoft. The software was actually the second series produced by the Caligari Corp, as the first was called simply Caligari and was built for the Amiga platform. trueSpace evolved in leaps and bounds, promising to be the next “big thing” in 3D software. When Microsoft gained control of Caligari it was able to offer the software for free to all users, expecting to allow anyone to make professional 3D models at no cost.

trueSpace is a complete modeling/texturing/animating/rendering software that has been used in many fields including architecture, games, research, and education. The special thing about trueSpace is that it is built to offer “real-time” design, where users can gather in an online “space” referred to as Virtual Earth and manipulate shared objects in real-time. The software allowed you to render in real-time as well, and has been referred to as what a “box of crayons or paints” would be to normal drawing. All the tools you need, and you get out of it what you put into it.

In May of 2009 the company announced that Microsoft was no longer going to provide support for the software. Merely a day later there were services that would no longer function, and the support forums started to collapse soon after. The Caligari website is still live, and there are still portions of the site that are in working order, but it is clear that the software has passed its expiration date.

Rather than discuss pros and cons of the software, as nobody here is likely to ever use a working copy, I’m going to discuss the decline of the software.

trueSpace was hailed as one of the most innovative and intuitive programs for 3D creation available. The developers of Caligari were always pushing the envelope and even the heads of Blender showed awe and respect for their efforts. They aimed to put 3D animation into the hands of everyone, instead of only those that could pay for it. Being purchased by Microsoft gave them the opportunity to make the software available for free.

Unfortunately it was also the death of the software. Just shy of a year later, Microsoft made massive cuts to their supported software and trueSpace was one of those that was discontinued entirely. A letter sent out to users thanks them for their support and advises them to download the installers as backups before they are no longer available. It also urges them to form their own community space for support.

Today you can find very little online for trueSpace that isn’t recollecting or history. It’s a lesson for every software developer today. Caligari could have been the future, but for a hard business decision. It’s important to remember the stones upon which modern software is built even if they can’t be seen anymore.

Is DRM ruining the Gamer’s Experience?

If you don’t already know what DRM is, you should probably google it. Digital Rights Management is the way in which software companies attempt to protect their copyrights by preventing access or copying, requiring online authentication for software, limiting installations, and restricting purchased downloads, etc. As with anything, there are two sides to the story of DRM…


So you want a Beta? You can’t handle a Beta!

I have a gamer friend that lives in the UK, and he frequently sends me links he’s found that are opportunities for “US residents only” to either beta test something or to register for contests. In his mind it is better that one of his friends benefits even if he can’t register himself. I do the same for my UK friends with things I find in their neck of the woods, and I think in the end it all evens out.

But in the last link he sent me I noticed a lot of attacks in the comments about how companies aren’t letting out their beta testing internationally, like they think the rest of the world isn’t good enough to test their software. My first reaction to these comments was to laugh at the ignorance of the posters, but then I got to thinking… if nobody educates these people, how will they know any better?

Now, I’m a game designer in student form. I don’t confess to having a ton of actual experience in the field, but I DO know people that are quite familiar with “how shit works” in the gaming industry. I decided to ask a few about this subject.

Here’s how it works, in layman’s terms:

Software is developed in one place, typically the home base of operations. That software is developed, tested, and polished in that home area. If a company bases its operations in the United States, you can bet your shiny gold token that they’re going to test their software in the United States.

Why? There is additional cost and effort involved in releasing a system or a bit of software in the international market. There are language concerns (even between American English and British English), there are differences in hardware, and there are differences in regulations for every country that the company services. If you’re in the testing phase of a game or a piece of hardware, it is simply common sense to test it in one market before going through the trouble of localizing it for everyone.

You also have to look at how many people the testing phase will involve. If there is a limited amount of material, and you have a surplus of testers available in your home area, why does it make sense to go through the effort to localize the material and make it available worldwide?

Then there is the argument about game developers padding their own pockets, and why can’t they shell out a little bit more for the consumer. Well do you want to pay a little bit more for every game you buy? Do you want the next big game to be scrapped because they didn’t know if the profits would be worth the cost? The world is the way it is, and business is always going to be business.

Next time you want to complain about not getting something for free, why don’t you make better use of the internet by searching for opportunities in your own area?

Masquerade Madness in Ascalon City

I play Guild Wars with a guild called Dragons United Knights [DUK] and while we are a small guild, we try to get together on the weekends to play. It’s hard with half of us in America time and half in UK time. Tonight we decided to do something none of us had tried before, and take part in a community sponsored event. To be honest, I mainly wanted to go for the costume contest, as it sounded cute. We all thought it was worth a try, and if we got bored, we’d go kill something.

We got there a bit early, played around with synchronized dancing and chatted with each other on a conference call on skype. None of us was quite sure what we were in for. Then the games started.

It was amazing to experience the effort that the hosting guilds went through to put this event on. It was like they’d practiced for months just to time everything right and to know who should be where and when they should say what. The crowd of players listened (for the most part) and played by the rules set out by the hosts. Everyone had a great time.

There were games, trivia questions, random prizes… the hosts entertained everyone with jokes, rhymes, and audience participation… there was in-game drinking, as every party should have… and there was schwag… oh yes there was schwag. //carefully pets my new miniature shard wolf//

The entire guild stayed for the whole event, and even for about an hour past. We were profuse in our thanks to the hosts. Although I’m sure they got a hundred messages of the same from the other attendees. As I sit here now, my avatar looking out over the bonfire in the middle of the Ascalon City square, there are STILL people partying. It’s been a great night and I haven’t killed a single mob.

This is what community is about in games. This is what makes the avid MMO gamer sit at their computer for hours on end talking to pixilated versions of people. The hosts of this event didn’t get things to give away from the game publishers, they collected them from players that wanted to give back to the community. They gave freely for no other reason than to make people happy.

I watched my guildmates have a BLAST tonight. One of the best nights we’ve had in ages, and it was because of the spirit of the people that play this game. It was because of the spirit of giving and camaraderie that Guild Wars is filled with. This is a community that I am happy to belong to.

The future of MMO gaming is not just building a better game, it’s building a better community. I realized tonight that as a game designer I must build that ability into my games. A game is a lifeless thing, but when you allow the players to take it and build a community out of it, it becomes a force that can change people’s lives. There are hundreds of smiling people tonight because of the efforts of a few wonderful people.

My thanks go out tonight to the Myth And Legends [Myth] and Sweet Misty Fire [SMF] Alliance. There were many players that contributed to this event in their ranks and I can’t list them all, but you can find them here: Masquerade Madness

I want to put out a special thanks to those in charge of the district that we celebrated in… Trust Finland, Holy The Masked, Baneling Altreides, and our bartender Amsel The Forgotten. You guys made it wonderful.

All My Best
Amaya Noir

GDC-2011 Missing Out

This year I knew I’d not be able to attend the GDC well ahead of time. But I still held out hope until a few weeks before it actually was due to start. And we’re halfway through the ordeal now. I am tempted to turn off my twitter and pout by the truckload.

There is so much that can be gained by attending the GDC, and I was so ready to do that. Do you realize the tickets to get into the conference for the week are about the same price if not more than the plane tickets to and from? My hard-working farmer husband was appalled at the cost. I think that means that I can forget about GDC Online in October as well…

A few things I have learned while peeking at twitter these last few days, however:

  • Keep your business cards handy
  • Designers need to learn to code
  • Hobnob with the industry peeps
  • Attend as much as you can and forget about sleep
  • Make yourself “there” and be memorable
  • Don’t drink too much or too little
  • Beeeeee yourself

Ok that last one I just couldn’t resist throwing in there. Anyways, hash about it with #GDC11!