Adding A Texture To 3D Models

Creating a 3D model is only part of the 3D design process. Once the model is created, it is just a solid white object, which doesn’t really fit into any game. With the 3D pot plant I created (which I talked about in a previous blog) it needed a texture on it so it fit into the scene we created.

The pot plant, when I imported it into our game scene, it was just a plain white object. This really didn’t fit into the scene.

The pot plant without a texture

Because I made this model myself, the animators hadn’t made a texture for the object. This is where Unity’s inbuilt material creator came into effect. The look I was going for was a clay brick finish. I chose this colour because the level is set in a backyard, where clay pots are common.

I created the material in the editor and found a colour that was similar to what clay would look like on a pot. Once I found the colour I added the material to my pot plant. This instantly made the pot plant fit in the scene better. But it was missing the “plant”.

Fortunately for me, the animators created some great sunflowers with very nice textures. I added 2 sunflowers to my scene, and made them a child object of my pot. I then positioned them in the pot and created a prefab. The scene now had a pot plant with a texture and an actual plant, that my team could move around and add to our scene.

pot-plant.jpg
Pot plant with texture and sun flowers
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Career Goals

Game design opens up a lot of different paths for me when I finish Uni. The type of development I am interested in is level design, and how these levels come together in different ways to become the final level.

My interest in level design stems from being addicted to command and conquer and age of empires world editors when I was a kid. The design process of starting with a blank canvas, designing the layout of the level in MS paint and then spending hours upon hours terraforming the map and adding resources, trying to create a fun and balanced multiplayer experience for everyone who played.

My career goal is to be a the lead level designer for a large game publisher. My favourite type of maps to create are multiplayer maps, so I would want to work on the multiplayer maps. What interests me about multiplayer maps is the balancing and making it fair and fun for all players. There is nothing I hate more when playing a multiplayer map than coming across a map that is really one sided.

Some ways I can work toward this is with small steps in the game industry. The first step for me is to make personal indie projects. This ties into one of my personal goals, which is to have a game on Steam. Once I have built up a small portfolio of projects that I have worked on (I already have some projects in my portfolio) I will try and get a job at a small publisher. Once I have my foot in the door, it’s about learning new skills and improving on skills I already have.

Ideally, my career goal would be to work for a large game publisher as a level designer, with a couple of my own games on Steam or another marketplace. I am already on my way  with games on itch.io for download and a start on a portfolio.

 

 

The Mimic Mechanic

For our recent project, our main mechanic was “mimicking”. After deciding to base the game around a stick insect name Stanley, our team knew we had to create this mimic mechanic from the ground up.

When deciding on how this mimic mechanic worked we went through a few different iterations of how this mimicking would work. In the original pitch, we said that each limb would be controlled separately using the keyboard. In this iteration of the game, the top 4 limbs each had 2 buttons to control the movement. These buttons were QA,WS,OK,PL. One button to move it up, and another to move it down. This would give the player complete control over where each limb would be, but we ran into the problem of this using far too many buttons and it ended up just being confusing for the player.

After some redesigning, the limbs were now moving by themselves. The limbs would start straight out, and slowly drop over time. When a player pressed the corresponding key, the limb would move upwards. The buttons we decided on were QWOP. Q and W would move the top limbs, and O and P would move the bottom limbs. This is the control scheme we decided on for our prototype. We chose this control scheme because it was more simple to learn and use than the original scheme, but still was a challenge for the player. The QWOP keys that we chose for the limb controls were chosen for no particular reason, other than those keys are familiar to some players because of the game QWOP. For the goal of the mimic mechanic, we originally wanted a silhouette of the goal figure to be overlayed on top of the character. Instead of going for this in the prototype, we decided on a dummy next to the character that the player would have to mimic.

Looking back now, the control scheme and buttons we chose is still far from perfected. The QWOP keys are okay for controlling the limbs but there are much better alternatives. A good suggestion we received was that a controller would be ideal for this control scheme. We could have used the analog sticks to control Stanley and the camera, while using the triggers and buttons on top of the controller to control the limbs. This would be a much more natural control scheme to use, rather than the player having to have to move their fingers and hands to different positions every time they switched from mimic mode to standard mode.

 

BFXR for UI Sounds

When making a game, an important part of the experience is the main menu. Usually, it is the first impression of your game that the player will receive and can cement the players mood for the rest of your game experience. For our main menu I created a few different sounds using BFXR,  for different interactions with the UI. BFXR is an online tool that you can use to create video sounds, royalty free. It is a great tool for making placeholder audio, or in this case, UI sounds.

Here are all the Sounds I made.

The first sound I made was a sound that activates when the mouse is hovered over a button. This sound is a very short, blunt sound that is quiet, but subtle enough that the player would recognize that the thing they are hovering over is a button.

The second sound I made was a confirm click sound. This sound is a similar sound to the first, but at a higher pitch. The sound itself takes a little longer to decay so the audio clip has a bit of a tail. This sound would be attached to a button and when the player clicks to complete a valid command, this sound would play.

The third sound I made is a deny sound. This sound is a sharp sound that sounds very similar to the first hover sound. The difference between this one and the hover sound is this one has a longer decay. This means the audio itself plays for longer, and drops off slower.

The fourth sound I made using BFXR was a cancel sound. This sound is a mid ranged beep that would play when the player would hit the back or previous button in the UI. The sound I went for was a mid ranged pitch so that it wasn’t a positive sound like the confirm sound, but not as low pitch as the deny sound I mentioned previously.

The final sound I made, and my favourite out of the 5 was my invalid input sound. This sound consists of 2 sounds stitched together. This sound is played when a player tries to click an invalid button. It starts with a short, low pitched beep, that then is followed up by a slightly lower pitched beep.

BFXR is a fantastic tool to create basic game sounds for placeholders or for your final game. After playing with it and becoming more familiar with this tool, I will be using it more in future projects.

Project Pivoting

Project pivoting can sometimes be an important part of the design process. Project pivoting usually occurs after a prototype is released and feedback is received. For our third project, Sticky Situation, we had both an internal and external playtest session. From the feedback we received I think it would help the projects final product if we pivot towards an easier to understand main mechanic.

What People Liked

After our external play test we got a lot of constructive feedback. Overall, the people who played the game enjoyed the aesthetic the game was offering. Some other feedback we got was that people enjoyed the scale of the world compared to the player. Another piece of common feedback was that players liked the idea of mimicking to hide from predators.

What People Didn’t Like

As well as positive feedback, we also received some negative feedback that well help us distinguish what players liked and disliked. A very common occurrence in the feedback was that the controls weren’t very good. They were a bit stiff when controlling Stanley around the map and the controls for mimicking were very hard to work and were confusing. Some other feedback to do with mimicking was that it felt useless and had no point. This was because the AI didn’t react to the player at all, and while in mimic mode, your hunger still went down to the point that you would die. Some other feedback included players wanting to be able to scale the scenery, disliking lack of animations and wanted to be able to mimic everywhere.

What is Changing

I think from the feedback, the big thing that needs to be changed is the mimic mode. By adding better AI to the predators, it will give the players a bigger incentive to use the mimic mode. By also removing the health depletion while mimicking, it will allow the player to take a little bit more time and focus more of the gameplay on the main mechanic of mimicking.

Another big change would be the controls. By making the controls easier to learn and understand, and making them smoother, it would make the play experience more pleasant. Another thing that would help the controls that got some mentions in the feedback would be making the game controller ready.

By pivoting the project in these directions it would tend to the feedback of the players and make the game much more playable.

Sticky Situation: Level Design Document

The level design document for a project is important because it tells the level designer how to construct a level. The document needs to explain why everything is placed where it is, and how players will approach and encounter the game mechanics. Unfortunately, the level design document (or LDD for short) that we made for Sticky Situation did none of this. In our LDD, which is far from finished, we explain is slight detail about how the map was originally going to be created, and that’t about it. These are the things that our LDD was missing.

As mentioned before, the LDD should explain the layout of the level and the game mechanics required to complete it. The start of the document should have an introduction to the level, to set the scene. For Sticky Situation for example this should have been a paragraph that outlined that the game was set in a backyard at around midday. This sets the scene for our level.

The next thing our level design document needed was how the game mechanics are integrated into the level. This section would have included where the food for Stanley would be, the places where the player can enable mimic mode, as well as where the enemies would be within the level. Each section would go into detail about why it is important to have why each mimic mode zone is where it is, as well as why there are certain things around it. For example, a paragraph explaining why this mimic zone has more enemies patrolling around.

The next thing our LDD would need would be a couple of different images to show the layout of the scene. This image would consist of the physical layout of the scene including obstacles and level boundaries, all the the collectables that are available to the player, all the of the mimic zones, and all of the enemies and their patrol routes (if eligible).  To help distinguish between each specific object, they would be colour coded.

Unfortunately, our project never had a fully completed LDD, or even a completed level for that matter. But if we were to continue to work on this project we would need to update our LDD with this information so when it came time to actually create a proper level, it wouldn’t be a jumbled mess like our temporary scene.

 

Finding Audio Assets

Audio in video games are just as important as graphics and models. In some of the projects I have been involved in this trimester I have had to source audio assets for my games. Unfortunately I have no skills in creating these audio assets, but there are a many online databases of music, sound effects and more that is available to choose from that you can either pay for, or use for free. Some of my favourite websites to use are newgrounds.com for music and freesound.org for sound effects.

In my first project I had to make a 2D game where you control a spaceship. For this game, I needed an upbeat tune that went for approximately 1-2 minutes long. The tune itself didn’t have to loop, but if it did it would be a bonus. After searching newgrounds for a bit, I found I nice little tune called “My Pixelated UFO“. The song is 1-2 minutes long but doesn’t loop perfectly, but on repeat the end does blend into the start quite smoothly.

I also needed a shooting sound effect for this game. Because the ship uses a front mounted laser, I looked on freesound.org for some laser shooting sounds. After searching a little bit, I found a good one that was short and solid. When I imported it into Unity and wired it up to fire with my laser canon, I didn’t like how low pitched the sound was. So inside the unity inspector I changed the pitch to 1.3, which meant the sound would play a little faster, as well as little more high pitched. This felt much more suited to the feel of the game. I also found an explosion sound effect for the death of the ship on freesound.org.

In the third project, I didn’t have to find as many sound effects as I did for the first project. I did create the main menu which required a click sound when pressing a button. Once again, I went to freesound.org and searched for a UI click that I thought sounded okay. Once I found one, I imported it into Unity and attached it to my button, and I had a working click sound effect on my UI buttons.

Audio is extremely important for setting the feel for a scene or just giving the player audio feedback. I would like to learn how to create some of my own audio assets, but until then, there are a lot of websites out there that offer royalty free sound effects and music.