Starting with the highs, GDC was one long high of relevant, high quality sessions one after the other. Mostly we split and followed separate tracks and probably covered 20 plus sessions together. Rather than delving into each or some of them, let me instead try to share some general trends that seemed to cut through the whole event. First, the gaming industry has never been more exhilarating, promising and confusing than in its current creative destruction of everything just recently seemed tried and true. The future never looked more promising. The gatekeepers of the old order, both the platforms and the publishers are no longer the only game in town. They have to change and they know it. Power that first shifted to the developer, now clearly is moving towards where it ought to have been all the time, to the gamer. But the gamer is also changing. The stereotype of yesterday is there, but is now a minority. Large new groups of players have expanded far beyond the young male demographic and this is where the growth and action is currently. Zynga was bashed both in the creative and business sessions, yet grudgingly it was admitted that the social gaming and free to play mechanisms perfected by the likes of Zynga mainly are responsible for this phenomenal player growth. Who are these players, and what do they want in the future? Hardly another FarmVille, most agreed. But they want choice, they want free to play, or at least free to try, and they will vote with their wallet, but most of all they want to be entertained, and they will pay for quality and sustained entertainment value.
As for independent developers such as us, the bonanza of the early iOS period definitely is over. The competition is fierce and the marketplace is maturing with the big players muscling in on these new platforms. Yet this is where the action still is. If you had to sum up GDC 2012 in two words it would have to be mobile and free to play.
Than you to GDC and to all the speakers, no one mentioned, no one forgotten! Great job! We’ll be back! You confirmed our belief: We are in the best industry ever!
As for gamescom 2012, I am sorry to say that, on entering the first hall, pangs of doubts hit me, literally, in the stomach, with ear-splitting immediacy: Is this juvenile testosterone driven megalomania, the same industry I just professed I loved? Will it ever grow up? Seriously, are the booth babes still necessary? And why do these mega displays all look the same, hall after hall of continuous sensory rampage? Is this what we want to be known for? It is certainly something not deserve being remembered for.
Or is it just me getting too old?
- Erik Hoftun
Hello again everybody!
Its time I posted another design thought piece on Project FoM.
Just to give a quick recap, last time I wrote a short post about the direction we wanted to take the combat for Project FoM. How we want to give the player the fundamental combat gameplay experience found in Final Fantasy VII, yet add some of our own ideas in to it all to make it a more fun and challenging experience.
Today I want to share some of thoughts we had on one of the key elements to our game, the Spud Gun!
In most JRPGs, the main character has to have a special weapon, one which he/she is identified with, something which is iconic in its own right, but together with the main character, they become unforgettable. For example, when you think of Cloud from FF7, you imagine him with his giant Buster Sword. In Kingdom Hearts, Sora is associated with the Key-blade and in Pokémon, Ash uses Poké Balls to summon Pokémon.
Point being, in each of these games, each characters weapon (or method of attack) is as big a part of the character design as the character itself.
For Project FoM we created the Spud Gun for our main character Amon. Not only will this distinguish him visually, but also has a profound effect on the gameplay for the game, and how we build the game around it. Beside, how many games have you played with a weapon like that?
So what is the Spud Gun? The Spud Gun is as the name implies a gun which shoots Spuds. The Spud Gun is a very prized possession on our game world, much in the same way what a sword was to a knight. The gun is made to fire magical Spuds, which vary in type and abilities, such as Fire Spuds, Lightning Spuds etc.
With Project FoM we wanted to make the Spud Gun a big part of the game experience. Obviously it is a vital part of the combat, but the player will have to make sure the character has enough Spuds (ammunition) for the Spud Gun, when they are in battle. Now, you might think that it would be as easy as picking up “ammo crates” or purchasing spuds from a store. But we want the player to be able to grow their own Spuds!
This will be done through our Farming Mechanic, where the player will have to plant, nurture and harvest their own various spuds. The Farming Mechanic is a whole ‘nother major feature, one which we’ll write about at some other point.
I think that will do for now, just a quick thought on the Spud Gun. Next time I will be going in depth into what an enemy NPC is in our game, which variables it consists of, its abilities, functions and general behavior, so it will definitely be a more technical game design post.
Thanks for reading!
- Mattis “Matt” Bødtker
The character was designed with a design follows function mind set. He works in the Crystal Excavation Site where his only function is to mine crystals and unearth the statue hidden in the huge stalactite discovered during the work.
We figured he’d have to have a bulky upper body, tree trunk arms and small legs, seeing as how he doesn’t use them a whole lot.
This guy is also the first NPC designed and made in 3D for Project FoM! We’re pretty happy with him!
When doing characters like this, I always start in Zbrush. (High poly 3D sculpting package) I take a good look at the concept art, and try to visualize the model in my head. I go forth and block out the big shapes, concentrating on the silhouette first and foremost. After I got the basic shapes down, I start going into detail. I get to do all the little wrinkles and folds in the cloth, and the cool bulky anatomy. This isn’t a hyper detailed character though, so I tend to spend a lot of my time just scaling, repositioning and tweaking proportions. Cause it’s the silhouette and the proportions that make out the character.
High Poly Sculpt
After the sculpture is done, it’s time to make this bad boy into game res. I use Topogun for the retopology. Basically what retopology means is that I use the High poly as reference, and “draw” on top of it to create the new, lower res geometry. When the low res is finnished, I go into Maya to lay out the UVs. The UVs are esentially a 2D plane of the 3D geometry that is used for texture painting. When the low res model has uvs – It’s time to bake. Not cakes, but high res geometry and light! That’s right. I use a program called xnormal. What it basically does is it projects the high res detail onto the low res model. Using the Uvs as a canvas. That’s how the normal map and the ambient occlusion map is created. I use these maps when painting color onto the charater. So the character has light baked into the texture map, and a normal map that simulates lightning and detail information as another map. Making the model looking more detailed than it really is.
You’ll be seeing more of this guy when he gets his tools and is ready to move!
I thought it was about time that I shared some thoughts on the design in Project FoM. I’m not going to write too much and I’ll just stick to one small feature this time. As we progress further in the development, I’ll be sharing more technical and detailed descriptions of the mechanics and design thoughts I/we have.
Today I wanted to talk a little bit about one of the main features of any good JRPG… The combat. In many regards there are certain combat mechanics that make up a traditional JRPG that have become staple features in “every” JRPG, and certainly we will have those too.
When we decided we wanted to make a homage to JRPG games, we wanted the combat for the game to give the player the same fundamental experience as the one in Final Fantasy VII, but take these tried and true mechanics, improve and add many new elements to give a new dimension to them.
One of the things we wanted to do was to have the player character party consist of 6 characters, but divided them in to teams of two and two, each team consisting of a Warrior and a Protector. This is only one of many features we did to introduce more tactics to the combat. This forces the player to think about how they want to fight their battles and use their characters, as they have to control the Warrior and Protector as one, and only perform one of their abilities each turn.
Another addition we have made is that, as the player characters level up and gain new abilities, their abilities lists will grow longer. We designed it such that the player will not be able to use all of the characters abilities in combat, but only a limited selection. Think of it like in any of the Pokémon games where you can have hundreds of Pokémon, but only use 6 at a time. Again, the player will have to think tactically and select the abilities with care and build the party up as they like. Of course the player can at anytime outside of a combat scenario change the abilities to adapt to their needs.
There are a couple of other things I want to talk about regarding the combat, but I think I’ll save the best and more unique features for a future update. If anyone has any questions or suggestions on what I should write, please leave a comment or send me a mail. I would like to hear from you.
The design for the first interior in the prototype is getting interesting. The Crystal Ruin used to be a busy station connected to one of the greatest crystal mines in the region. The giant crystal located in the centre of the room was probably placed there to channel and spread sun light inside the cave. In the current condition of the building this crystal mechanism is in ruin, only to light the entrance hall. Because of the channeled sunlight plants have grown out of the crumbled walls and floor creating an interesting microcosmos.
Next step will be adding some color and detail to the environment. I will probably use Sketchup to find the right size and angle for the composition. I also need to inhabit it with props and interactive elements. In the station Amon will encounter the first critter in the game, talk to a wounded miner, solve a puzzle and explore the room for treasure – a lot of gameplay in such a small space!
Hey everyone! We’re back from vacation and have gotten going on Project FoM again!
Frits did this map outlining the chapel, the bridge and the castle which I used as a guide for the concept.
And here is the concept art.
As always; click the images for larger versions.
Thank you for stopping by!
Vacation Time!! SnowCastle will be pretty much shut till July 23rd. I’ll be off to Spain on Monday for two weeks of intense relaxation – although I might go online during siestas or utter boredom (so hopefully I can give you an update regarding the mysterious couple portrayed in the illustration bellow!)