After this week there isn’t much that we’ll be allowed to do in the game. I’m pretty happy with how everything’s looking although there are of course endless things that I want to tweak to make the game perfect. We were able to get our game into beta on the Google Play store which is pretty exciting, we are planning on having the game released on the day of the senior show (one week from now!) I made the poster for our game that will hang in the gallery where all of the senior games are displayed. Also putting together the art that will be displayed with the app on the play store, although I’ll have more time to do that next week. Right now it’s just a matter of finalizing everything and making sure that it all works. I was able to accomplish all of the tasks that I committed to which I’m very happy about. Now I’m going to go back to making my personal reel that will also be played at the senior show.
One more week to go!
By this point our game pretty much needs to be finished, all features are locked in, we have final assets and no placeholders, we’re just working on getting everything finalized and looking good. I’m busily cranking out our final environments. There was an issue with understanding of the game’s narrative, and I’ll have to make one more environment than expected but I should be able to get it done. Unfortunately the extra environment is a second run-down village (there are two in our game apparently) which is one of the more difficult things to do quickly. I’m going to be reusing most of the assets though, and just making a few obvious changes.
This background is based on our existing village, just darker and less vibrant.
This is the second version, obviously very similar to the first one, but I happened to have an unused Torii gate which was perfect to make this scene look different.
This week I also finalized UI assets that I’d been avoiding for weeks. With some assistance we finally came up with a UI system for our second game mode, kanji drop. Additionally, I finally made a frame for our sensei when they are speaking to you.
A lot has gotten finished this past week and I’m very proud of my team for pushing through to the very end of this project. The end is in sight.
I’ve spent a lot of time working on this game this week, while I have a ton of personal work to do there’s a lot that still needs to get done before the senior show. I’m still working on making new backgrounds for the last few locations in the narrative, and trying to churn these out as quickly as possible. Right now I’m working on a shrine and a mountain scene and recycling as many pieces as possible from other background to minimize the amount of modeling that still needs to be done. For example most of the backgrounds have some sort of plane or geometry that looks like mountains to kind of enclose the space that I’ve created, the mountain environment is currently made up entirely of these planes which definitely saved a lot of time. Originally I was planning on actually sculpting a mountain range but realized it was taking too much time.
The Shrine is requiring mostly new models for the actual shrine model but I’m going to keep the rest of the environment super simple.
We also were able to get the new UI system implemented this week and I’m super happy with the changes. Not only does it look cleaner and nicer but it’s easier to read the word that you’re being prompted. Plus with some quick programmer animations it looks like the scrolls are unrolling which is super satisfying as before they just had an open and a closed state.
My main priorities this week are finishing up these backgrounds and also making the poster for our game that will hang in Champlain’s gallery next to our finished game. Hopefully I can handle it!
We’re super close to the end, and of course I want to change the UI again! What we have right now just isn’t working for us, there’s a scroll at the top of the screen which is supposed to fit the current word and a couple of other options, but there’s just not enough vertical space. This new layout I came up with during a work meeting uses basically the same assets we already have, just sized differently. This way we have much more space for the word above the grid which is the most important thing you need to see on the screen. All of the buttons fit in nicely and this layout even works for the battle modes when there are player sprites on the sides of the screen.
This is just a quick photoshop mockup so it’ll definitely look better with all of the proper assets.
We’re also adding another new UI element that came out of a couple different suggestions from QA. We’re adding a compass element to the screen that will point in the direction of that you need to draw the next line of the kanji. So if you need to draw a horizontal line to the right, the point of the compass will point to the right until you finish that stroke. Instead of the needle on a compass, we’ll have a cool spinning sword to guide you.
As for the rest of the game, our main priority is getting in as much player feedback and make it feel as good as we possibly can. Still looking for places to add particles and simple touches that will make this feel so much more like a polished game.
It’s officially crunch time, our Alpha is due this coming week and we’re speeding towards the senior show. We’ve begun working on our final video and promotional poster for promoting our games. This week we absolutely need to make sure that all the assets that will be in the final game have at least a placeholder. I’m focusing on blocking out all of the remaining locations so that we can put those in while we’re implementing the story and remaining groups of kanji. There are also a few other UI problems that we need to solve, ideally this week.
I’m going to set up an artist meeting so that all of the artists can get together and draw pretty versions of kanji which the team wants for when you go through a menu of all the kanji you have learned. Basically you’ll be able to scroll through a list of kanji and see which ones you’ve mastered and their associated meanings.
I’ve also been nit-picking the entirety of the game, taking notes, and telling the appropriate people what I would like them to fix. I really just want this game to look as good as possible!
It is almost the end spring break and I would like to have gotten more work done, but taking breaks and self-care are very important to me as well. Hopefully I will be rested and rejuvenated by the time we have to get back to work so I can power through the rest of the semester and finish strong.
I spent a lot of time over this break playing through the game on my phone, jotting down all of the minor (or not) things that I want to be changed. Most of the changes are things that I will need to sit down next to a programmer for, and walk them through exactly what I want changed. I have a couple suggestions for tweaks to design and dialogue types of things, but I mostly care about aesthetic changes. Once we’re all back together as a team I’ll plan out a meeting with a programmer so I can try to get my changes implemented into the game. I’d rather spend time perfecting what is already in the game (the necessary stuff) rather than keep on working to add all the new elements of the game.
Now I’m going to enjoy my last few days of rejuvenation before I go into hardcore work mode.
Now that everyone’s back from GDC, we need to prepare to be off again next week for Spring break. This week we were focused on touching base with everyone, seeing what was accomplished last week and making a plan for the next few days. The artists are starting to make pretty art for each kanji, something that you will see after you master a specific kanji. It’s going to be a nice calligraphy version of the kanji with a watercolor style graphic of what word the kanji represents. I made a nice spreadsheet for everyone to keep track of what kanji they’re working on, which ones are finished, and which ones we still need to do. I also will be either making or finding a Photoshop brush that we can all use so that our drawings will look as unified as possible.
On a separate note I’m going to try to start being a better art lead, and maybe organizing some group work sessions for the art team. It’s the point in the semester when people are starting to run out of steam so I think that making an effort to keep everyone (including myself) on track will definitely benefit the art production for the last few weeks of this project.
This week I was at GDC – traveling to San Francisco on Tuesday morning and leaving Friday night. I didn’t get a chance to work on the game, but Emily (our producer) and I both had tablets with us with which to show off the game. I got a few people to play the game briefly and give me their feedback, no major changes were suggested I just got relatively minor suggestions which was a relief. One person that I showed the game to actually has been studying Kanji and trying to learn it and they were very enthusiastic about the concept of the game. I didn’t have the tablet with me at all times (certain parties I thought I should leave it behind) so there were times when I was just describing the game to people and that also went over pretty well. Emily was able to go to more panels and round tables about educational games so she picked up a lot more information that could help our game while I was focusing on going to visual arts panels. Overall not a very productive week in terms of work on Kanji Samurai, but a very productive week in terms of networking.
Making the different backgrounds for different levels of this game is my favorite challenge of this project. I’ve been creating relatively simple scenes that just give you the idea or the impression of a space without being too detailed. The most important new background that we need right now is a new tutorial background, as the one we are currently using in the tutorial is a mountain scene that I had never really intended to leave in the game. I’m creating a Japanese zen garden for the tutorial as we want the tutorial to be calm and stress free, so the player can focus on understanding the mechanics of how to play the game. This is going to be a super simple scene for me, the player is just going to be facing one wall of an enclosed rock garden, you’ll see a couple of rocks and I’ll have reused bamboo shoots filling the space of the wall. I’m planning on using terrain tools to achieve the affect of sand ridges on the ground, and that’s essentially it for this scene. Hopefully I can accomplish all of this quickly so that I can iterate on some of the UI elements this week as well.
This week I am focused on setting up a system for making our new UI elements, texturing/applying colors, rendering, and getting them into the game. I have a nice lighting scene set up now where I can drop in elements at the origin, snap the view to a camera that I placed and take a render of the UI elements under the good lighting. Now that this is set up it’s going to be super fast to put new UI elements into this scene as each is made and make them game ready as soon as possible.
I’m finishing up making the buttons that we need for all of the options in our game, the buttons are based off of Japanese frames that I’ve seen. So far I think they look pretty good on top of the scrolls that I made, but they will still need some more adjustments before I’m satisfied with them.