Capstone and Experimentation

Production Blog

  • Date: 9/12/2019
  • Project: Senior Capstone
  • Team Size: 5 - 1 Producer, 2 Designers, 1 Programmer, 1 Artist
  • Tools used: Unreal Engine, Visual Scripting, Adobe Suite, Blender
  • Platform: Developed in Unreal for PC using visual scripting with Bluprints
  • Ready, Set, Go.

    Capstone is off with a flash with the new school year and it has been full steam ahead! Senior year is both an exciting and stressful period for Champlain Game Studio students as they are tasked again to form team of each discipline, and create a polished, viable, in-scope, video game using all of the combined skills that we have mastered over the past few years at Champlain College.

    Capstone however, is different than Production 2. Instead of making one initial concept into a game, we instead must concept and prototype three different potential games before selecting one to move forward with. At the end of the first semester of senior year we present these games to faculty and the rest of the Game Studio who later play them and decide which teams go through depending on feasability, level of polish, design, artstyle, and the teams ability to output. Teams that are cut at this midmortem phase are then absorbed by the passing teams bulking up their games.

    And with that I am joined by many of the main members of my production 2 team, forming our team Holo Hexigon.

    Meet The Team.

    ○ Austin Roorda - Producer

    First we have Austin Roorda, the producer and team lead. I have worked with Austin throughout my time studying abroad in Montreal on a three day game jam project, and am excited to work with him in a professional and ever changing environment of a larger team. Austin brings a lot to the table including (but not limited to) strong leadership, great documentation, and true care to our well being as developers.

    ○ Emmett Friedrichs - Systems Designer / Level Designer

    Hey that’s me! I’m one of the two designers in the team. I plan to work on my teamwork and system design abilities, along with a focus in level design which I plan to specialize in. While my title is a designer I am also comfortable coding which I will utilize to assist the programmers on the projects we create.

    ○ Karl Lewis - Systems Designer / Sound Designer

    Karl is also a game designer on our team, I have worked with Karl all throughout production one and two including working on Simple Sandwich! I have always been impressed with Karl’s ability and skill set in sound design, along with programming and systems design. Karl and I have always seen eye-to-eye when it comes to game design, we are a real duo and share a love of similar games.

    ○ Josh Grazda - Gameplay and Systems Programmer

    Josh also joins in from the previous production team offering a programmer point of view during team meetings and design decisions. Josh grazda is not only a very strong programmer, but focuses on tools and organization that greatly improves the teams efficiency. I know that no matter how stressful our projects can get I can always count on Josh.

    ○ Adam Streeter - Prop Artist

    Adam not only stands out with his art skills, or his impressive side portfolio, but also with just how nice he is to his fellow teammates. Adam also joined us last semester where he designed many of the environment and gameplay props in Simple Sandwich. Adam initially impressed me by presenting us with concept art already completed just as he had joined the team.

    Week 1: 50 Concepts, down to 10.

    We started off the first official meeting by each brining ten or more game concepts. We then gave ourselves one minute to elevator pitch the concept to the rest of the team, which would then vote to either kill or keep a concept once they have all been pitched. We found that after the voting we were left with around ten strong concepts that we wanted to explore more with and present to the class.

    After much deliberation we settled on 20 different game concepts. Which we then cut down to ten.

    Our twenty narrowed down ideas ready to be cut again, many of which were in VR

    10 Concepts in Detail.

    At this point in the project the current level began looking outdated with the old prototype artwork, the temporary setup needed to be reworked for the new mechanics and four player gamplay. As the level designer in the team I took on the project of remaking the main level and blocking out future variations. Not only did the main play space have to be updated to accomodate up to four players at once, but the surrounding background needed to be updated to maintain a constant theme for level while also providing players with hidden items / something else to look at while waiting for the game to start.

    This new level also connects more with our core demographic as the minimal edge-work and bright colors makes the players pop to stand out form the environment.

    1: VR USB Shenanigans - 3D, First-Person, VR

    Plugging in a USB drive into a PC in VR... Except it won't let you! Fight against increasingly crazy events to plug in your flash drive!

    2: The BEST Deal In Town - 3D, First-Person

    Quest based adventure game where you're a baragain hunter looking for the best prices on wood in a seemingly endless hardware store. Barter with employees that have made the store their home and shifty customers.

    3: PvP VR Arena Combat - 3D, First-Person Shooter, VR

    Play as robots in a fast paced VR arena, using guns and melee weapons to destroy foes, use their severed robot limbs to restore your health!

    4: Nuclear Power Plant Manager - 3D, Top-Down

    Build a nuclear power plant, manage its workers individually, and prevent nuclear meltdown in a 3D real time strategy format.

    5: VR "Dimension Shift" - 3D, First-Person, VR

    Rip open gateways to other dimensions with hand gestures, grab items from them, and use them as a weapon.

    6: VR Telekinesis - 3D, First-Person, VR

    Use hand gestures to pick up and throw objects at enemies in a game where you play as the monster in a horror movie escaping from a government facility.

    7: Robo Charge - 3D, Third-Person

    3D PvP/PvE 3rd person robot arena brawler with customizable robot parts and destructable robots and environments.

    8: Cash Force - 3D, First-Person, VR

    VR FPS getaway van defense. Shoot pursuers with a variety of fully interactable guns, earn cash, and buy upgrades for the van and your weapons.

    9: VR Tower Defense "Toy Deploy" - 3D, First-Person, VR

    Set in a child's room, pick up various action figures and place them on a table to make them come to life and do battle with other units. Tower defense like strategy game with customizable defenses and units.

    10: Sniper Duel - 3D, First-Person, VR

    VR PvPvE sniper battle where players track, locate and elminate target and each other.

    Week 2: The Final Three Concepts.

    Our goal for this week's sprint was to recieve feedback on our ten game concepts from both faculty and fellow students so that we could narrow down three of these ideas to move forward with.

    After much deliberation we decided that while we really liked the other concepts some of the ideas could be molded into others, and some were not as expandable as others. The game concepts we moved forward with were: Cash Force, Robo Charge, and Toy Deploy. Moving foward we dug into these ideas further expanding the concepts with design, art, and programming documents backing up each game. We are then expected to spend a week on each prototype QA testing the prototype and analysing the data we recieve.

    ○ Cash Force
    - VR Getaway Defense

    Intent:The intent of Cash Force is to create a fast-paced, colorful, and elaborate Virtual Reality single-player FPS experience in which enjoyment is derived from the frantic speed and detailed interactions with objects in the environment as well as snappy and responsive gunplay mechanics. Players will experience in-depth weapon handling systems with a variety of manually operated guns, along with wacky items and upgrades that merge both the realistic and fictional aspects from high octane 70’s crime films.

    Concept Overview:Cash Force is a single player VR first-person-shooter where you defend a moving getaway van from pursuing cars and helicopters. Set in a colorful and vibrant city with 1970s aesthetic, the players take point in the back of a moving van, firing upon pursuers in a frantic high speed chase. With a focus on intricate gun manipulation and upgrade systems, players can choose their own playstyle using cash earned from defeating enemies. Upgrade or purchase new items: from weapons to oil cans, street cones to bananas, all items have a unique purpose and are fully manipulated with VR touch controls and gestures. This creates gameplay that, unlike other VR shooters, does not feature artificial movement, since the van is not driven by the player. Instead it allows players to focus entirely on their interaction with objects and how those objects change the gameplay.

    ○ Robo Charge
    - 3rd Person Robo Battles

    Intent:The intent of Robo Charge is to create an exciting, modular, single-player experience in which enjoyment is derived from the physical mesh destruction of the robots, and intense combat scenarios. Players will experience robotic part combination systems, along with physics based combat that challenges players to balance both defensive and offensive parts.

    Concept Overview:Robo Charge is a 3D, single player, third-person fighting game where you take control of a customizable battlebot raging in physics-based combat against your robotic opponents. Set in a metal, trap, and spark-filled arena, players fights to the death against enemy battlebots that vary in both size and fighting style. With a focus on customization and mesh deformation, players can specialize their battlebot to suit their playstyle while cutting directly into and bashing the opponents armor. Different areas of upgrades include armor for shielding the interior battery core or offensive weapons for destroying your opponents. This creates gameplay that, unlike other combat games, does not rely on health bars, and instead the direct destructibility of the battlebot models.

    ○ Toy Deploy
    - VR Tower Defense

    Intent:The intent of Toy Deploy is to immerse players in a VR childhood fantasy of bringing your toys to life in which enjoyment is derived from the whimsical interactions with toys and thoughtful planning to defeat enemy forces. Players will experience nostalgic exploration with new toys and abilities, while having “God Mode-esc” control to assist and reinforce your units in the heat of battle.

    Concept Overview:Toy Deploy is a VR single player tower defense game where you discover toys to mount a defense or attack against the enemies forces. Set in a child’s room filled with toys and nostalgia, the player is charged with the task of using what is at their disposal to plan, stage, and fight as their toy setup comes to life. With a focus on exploration and strategic planning, players can move at their own pace to prepare each stage for the upcoming battle. Using common objects like books and knickknacks, players can build defenses to protect their units, or wield small projectiles to help your units and launch at the enemies defenses. This creates gameplay that, unlike other tower defense games, is engaging even during automated combat.

    Instead of immediatly starting on our first prototype Cash Force we decided to spend the week creating a testing environment for all of the VR mechanics we were especially worried about. This would allow us to test these systems to view the feasability without wasting mulitple weeks if the mechanic did not work or had core issues.

    In this sandbox prototype we worked on multiple systems at the same time that we wanted to test. One of these systems was for the Cash Force Concept, testing how a player would react to being in a moving van looking backwards would they get motion sickness? What speeds could the van be moving at to mitigate this issue? We found that surprisingly players did not experience motion sickness at all no matter the speed.

    Testing for reverse motion sickness in VR using Unreal

    The next test focused on a system used by every VR action game which revolved around detailed interactable weapons. The weapons should have multiple grip points which increases the ability to aim and interact with the guns. Here we not only testing a shotgun with a reloading pump action using two hands but also a submachine gun with a magazine function. Focusing on the interactability of the weapons creates a more engaging experience for players and a bit a realism to the concepts. More importantly it proves that these concepts are feasable for Capstone.

    Testing multiple grip points and bones for guns
    Testing different fire modes and magazines for weapons.

    Lastly we wanted to test destructable meshes in Unreal that could be used in concepts like Robo Charge. These proved to be very easy to impliment but tough to balance as the entire mesh would collapse with little editable variables. While this works it would have to be built upon to be used in our prototypes.

    Karl testing destructable meshes in Unreal

    Week 3: Guns and Testing.

    This week and the next few weeks were focused on clearly prototyping the core pillars of each of the chosen concepts. For Cash Force, we identified the follow three gameplay pillars of the core experience and set out to illustrate them through quick and dirty prototyping.

  • 1: VR gunplay and weapon component manipulation.
  • 2: AI pursuers that chase the player and can be killed.
  • 3: Endless runner esque dynamic world with automatic backwards movement.
  • Due to the extra week of mechanic sandbox prototyping we already had a great start on some of the core pillars of this concept, we jumped right in! We ended up reaching all of our set out goals, and what didn't get accomplished was thoroughly researched for the future in case we went with that concept.

    The initial Cash Force Prototype, with all three core pillars covered.
    View of the smg complete with a reloadable magazine.

    After the sprint finished we presented our three game concepts as well as their core pillars in order to complete step 2 of the Capstone process


    Looking forward I am glad my team decided to choose this game over our other prototypes, so far this experience has been extremely rewarding as we complete and impliment more and more features into the build. This production experience has also been scoped in such a way that I have not been extremely stressed over deadlines. Everyone on the team knows what they are doing and deligates tasks accordingly, our production pipeline through scrum has done wonders for us meeting our deadlines.