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Christian: Getting into Gear

This week marks the second week that we have been performing weekly builds of Dawnroot. These builds serve as a way to do integration testing for our game. That is to say, we have all been working on our own pieces of the puzzle in a sort of isolation until now. We started the weekly builds to see how all of our pieces work together, and hopefully find the places that they haven’t. Well, it turns out it is much easier to see what needs doing when you have a “gun to my head we have to release right now this is what we have” game to look at. our first weekly build generated a large list of items to fix, and an even larger list of items to tune. Now, after creating our second weekly build, I’d like to talk about a few things I noticed. First, it is often the little things that make a game feel like a game. Sure a game without movement would be strange, but a game with almost but not quite great movement feels stranger still. Likewise with splash screens and menus. certainly these things should be added as needed for development, and then polished later, but they are more than deserving of time and attention.
Second, is how much faster game development can move when you have a clear marker to iterate on. Often, we would test our features in isolation. This is of course still a major part of our development process, and we will often make fresh scenes just to try out a new feature. However, by having a game “released” and unchangeable, we now have a razor to cut through to the most import aspects of our game. One question I find myself asking while playing a weekly build is “What is the part of this game that I would most like to change, or that I find most embarrassing.” Often these are areas that we prepared for and just need to be tuned, but some of the time we find something that we didn’t think about until we saw everything together in one place. This has been tremendously helpful for getting our priorities set. Hopefully, we will see a lot more tuning as we iterate on the builds.
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Sean: Why We Moved From Slack to Discord and Why You Should Too

We have officially moved our main communication platform from Slack to Discord and honestly, I couldn’t be more excited about this change. All of our text channels from Slack were easy enough to recreate in Discord and while we did lose old chat history to Slack, our oldest chat history had long ago been hidden behind a paywall. Something I realized during the transition is that chat history is not that important, specific links and uploads from the chat are. Pin those. Seriously, we were underutilizing the fuck out of pins.

My favorite part of Discord is, of course, its main feature, frictionless voice chat. I still can’t get over how easy voice communication is with Discord. No more waiting for people to connect on Skype, now we just meet up in the “Conference Room”. Yes, you read that correctly, we structured our voice channels like rooms in an office including a conference room, a game room and individual rooms for studio members. These final rooms are used much like individual offices, with team members sitting in their rooms when they are online and allowing everyone to drop into each other’s rooms to ask quick questions or chat in the same way as you would in a physical office.

The only complaint I have from using Discord is its lack of screensharing abilities, this is the only feature we still use Skype for and while I have read multiple times that Discord will be releasing that feature sometime in 2017, that mystery date can’t arrive fast enough.

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The Ultimate Game Dev Reading List

When I decided to start make video games I went about consuming as much material about the subject as I possibly could. I didn’t stop at game design, I wanted to learn everthing from animation to business.

I don’t claim to know everything or even to have retained all of the material that I have come across, but I am often asked the question, “What should I read if I want to do game design?” In short, everything. That is usually an unsatisfactory answer for most so I decided to put together a list.

Continue reading The Ultimate Game Dev Reading List

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Sean: Story Structure

I thought that this week I would share a bit of what I have learned while researching how to tell a good story. During the past couple weeks, I managed to read Invisible Ink by Brian McDonald, Save The Cat by Blake Snyder and Dan Harmon’s Story Circles, the two most recommended sources and which I highly recommend. While scouring the web I came across a useful little PDF that contains Harmon’s breakdown and Synder’s beat sheet along with other useful anecdotes.

McDonald’s main point in his book is the idea of creating an armature, that is defining the idea that you wish to convey and then using everything within your story to support this idea. McDonald uses the analogy of the wooden skeletons used to support clay models to show how the underlying structure is important but invisible at the end.

Snyder’s book revolves around his 14 point beat sheet that I have found incredibly helpful for structuring our story and which I will not reiterate here as it can be found in the pdf. Synder also talks about “the grid”, which is physical arrangement of all beats into three rows (three acts) on note cards.

Usually I work everything out digitally, but having just finished Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, in which Kleon advocates for the use of analog means while brainstorming, I decided to deviate from my traditional Trello, Evernote and Google Doc routine and get some notecards. Am I actually being more creative? I honestly don’t know, but it is immensely more satisfying to pin note cards to a board and rearrange them.

Until Next Week,

Sean

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Don’t Say Interesting

So winter break is over and things are beginning to pick up steam again. I have personally been delving back into story structure and climbing, but the newest and most useful development I would like to share is our new approach to the word interesting.

Interested?

But why? That is the real question.

I can’t remember what podcast or book I learned the notion from, but the idea is that when discussing new ideas, be they game design, story, art, whatever, there tends to be a response of using the word interesting.

Don’t use it. It is a filler word.

Collectively we tend to use the word interesting to convey that an idea is cool or neat, but the problem is that unless the word interesting is followed up with because the sentence is at best filler and at worst a vague acknowledgment that the group should go along with the idea without examining why.

A game design idea can be interesting if it sounds cool, but does it serve the rest of the design? A plot line can be interesting but does it play into the larger story you are trying to tell.

The point is not to never use the word interesting ever again, but to follow up on why that concept is interesting. Interesting, right?

Until Next Week,

Sean

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Sean: Holiday Cheer

My biggest concern I had on implementing stealth mechanics is out of the way. Vision cones and sound ripples have been visualized and don’t look half bad for being a prototype.

Whew.

With visualizations out of the way, I can go on holiday without my mind interrupting me to think about how to implement that when I get back.

As for the actual implementation of the AI stealth mechanics, that can wait until Christian is finished with the behavior tree. By the look of things, everything should be in place when I get back to begin implementing guard behaviors and whatnot in the overworld. Super exciting. I have been waiting almost a year to get to this point in development, so I’ll take being at this point in development as a holiday bonus.

On that note, I would like to thank everyone at Namespace Studio for the work that they have done this year, we would not be where we are now without all of your efforts. 2016 may have been shitty for everyone else this year, but Namespace had a great first year. So thank you, all of you and have an awesome holiday and begining of the new year.

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Hadi: That’s it for 2016!

Hey guys!

It’s been awhile since my last journal entry; shame, shame, shame…

I’ve been so bad at keeping up with this DevBlog as we come to a close on 2016. I’d like to say it’s not my fault, but it’s totally my fault! That’s what I get for trying to juggle too many things at once, again… oh well.

So what’s been new since the last time I wrote you ask? The short answer is; a good amount.

Concept art, for now, is all but done. I’m looking forward to the concept pieces our awesome artist Andrew has been working on for the past month. Programming is coming to a point where we are combining all of the isolated prototyping done by Sean and Christian, who have done a great job getting us to where we are this year. Our social outlets have been doing very well thanks to Isla, our community manager, with new followers trickling in almost everyday, and our plans for our podcast, which has been changing back and forth due to various reasons, are well on their way and should become available starting in January of 2017!

As with any developer working with their team, I feel that there is so much potential for this ragtag group we’ve come to call “Namespace Studio” and moving into 2017 I hope that they continue to grace us with their hard work and creativity. I’m grateful for everything our team has done up to this point and I’m excited for the upcoming year! So thank you Sean Bacon, Christian Barentine, Andrew Mitchell, Dre Freden, Isla Schanuel, and Ben Reeves for all your hard work this past year. You guys are simply the best and believe me when I say that;

😀

Until next time,

Happy Holiday,

-Hadi

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Sean: A Brief Overview of Stealth

Not much to say this week. Stealth research was fun and I thought I might as well give a brief overview of my notes since I don’t have much else to talk about. All stealth mechanics seem to break into essentially two categories, hiding and detection. Hiding is the name of the game and comes in many forms, behind objects, in objects, in shadows, in disguise, in-visible(hahaha) and you get the idea. Detection happens whenever the enemy AI is alerted, whether that happens by seeing, hearing or smelling you or something you trick the AI into thinking is the player character. All of this is of course wrapped up nicely with clear communication to player of what the AI can sense and where the AI are located (not that this needs to be handed to the player from the beginning).

On that note, I am off to research how to code dynamic vision cones as that seem like the trickiest and most crucial part in getting this to work.

Until next week,

Sean

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Sean: Sneaky Snakes

Last week was an excellent break from all things game development. I spent a good chunk of the time climbing both inside and out with my brother before the season ends. Although with how warm it has been, who knows when the snow will come this year.

In relation to games, I played quite a bit of Gauntlet Slayer edition which was quite a bit of fun to play with a bunch of us sprawled on the couch.

Except for the last boss.

Fuck Morak.

I also got into some mayhem during a few local missions of Helldivers, first time I had played with three others in couch co-op.

Got to say that no matter how many times we accidently killed each other during respawn there is always something absurdly funny about it. It is almost as if the situations which require a respawn and lead to good comedic timing, which for some solid game design. Speaking of which, I am taking a short break this week from coding to do a little bit more research on some stealth mechanics that I would like to play with. Not that I haven’t played stealth, far from it. Sneaking is my default way to play if the game allows for it. I just find in useful to re-immerse oneself when dabbling with similar mechanics. Prime the brain as it were.

Until Next Week,

Sean