Full Sail …or not

•May 2, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Hello again, my humblest apologies for vanishing for so long (wow, two months! I really need to get more diligent about this blog). A lot has happened since my last post and I am really excited to post about it!

To pick up where I left off last post: I have completed the first prototype of Ghoul Chess, which is a territory acquisition board game. The goal is to capture more of the board than your opponent by claiming squares through sacrificing your units. Zombies are used to carry the artifact and are sacrificed to claim the square they are on. Any of your ghosts in squares adjacent to your zombie can also be sacrificed at the same time to capture the squares the sacrifices ghost is standing on. This means up to 9 squares can be captured at once. Zombies can attack one another, but cannot attack ghosts. Whereas the ghosts can move multiple squares and can attack any unit. I have a few other units and mechanics I want to add to the game (such as possessor spirits, a pet cemetery deck and curse deck, headless horsemen, ect.) but I’m not sure when I will since I’m already working on my next project.

After getting Ghoul Chess to a base balance I moved on to my next project: Cave Explorer. This is a board game focused on an exploration dynamic and collection mechanic (as per the next two exercises in my “Challenge” book). It’s still in the works but right now I’ve got as much of the key design elements pinned down as I can without playtesting to get the values balanced. The goal of the game is to explore every area of the cave while trying to collect more treasure than the other players. At the start of the game players shuffle the deck and place the cards face down on the indicated explore card spaces on the board. As players progress through the cave they turn the cards face up to collect treasure, face monsters, or overcome obstacles. The game is over when all cards are turned face up.

That’s a wrap on my game design project progress. In other news last month I was looking heavily into Full Sail University for their bachelor’s degree in game design. This degree is only offered online, which, according to my research employers do not look down upon online degrees so long as they are from an accredited school with a campus such as Full Sail. I was pretty convinced that this was a good move for me, but after filling out my fafsa it turns out that I’m not eligible for pell grants or scholarships. Ouch. Sixty thousand dollars in loans is pretty heavy. So at that point I decided to pause all my Full Sail forms so I could re-evaluate my next step. Since then I’ve done more research and was able to talk to someone who’s worked in the industry for advice. It looks like now my best move will be to continue my self-education and work on building a portfolio with games I’ve made myself. Aside from working on my portfolio I also plan to start studying up for getting an entry-level job so I can get some experience under my belt. (This does not mean Full Sail is out of the picture completely though; one day I may start taking their online classes when I’ve got the income to support the tuition and loans.)

Next post I’ll tell about the awesome book on being a great game tester that I’m reading in preparation for getting my foot in the door.

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Stalk Climbers

•March 29, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The first challenge in the book “Challenges for Game Designers” is to make a board, card, or tile game with a “race to the end” goal made for at least 2 players. The first step was to brainstorm. I jotted down every idea that crossed my mind, no matter how lame or absurd, until I found one that really stuck in my brain about a race to grow your beanstalk up to the giant’s castle in the clouds before your opponent. I thought about making it a four-stage game: collecting equipment and seeds, growing, climbing, and finally infiltrating the castle. I may still use that idea for a video game later (maybe like a Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past type game but with side scrolling platformer stage when climbing the stalk). After a couple more brainstorming sessions, one of which Tammy (my beautiful girlfriend) and family were a part of, I wound up deciding to make it a race to the top game where you pick your type of plant to climb, climbing equipment, and weapon before starting the race. Now it was a lot of fun bouncing ideas off each other, giving all kinds of awesome or goofy thoughts, and working together to fill out my whiteboard. After that I made a mistake where I started outlining how the different items, equipment, plants, etc. would work without figuring out the core mechanics of how the game would work (feeling extra dumb about it considering that I just read an article in my Game Developer magazine about how you should not do that). So at that point I began working on the core game: standard beanstalk board, no climbing equip. Figuring out the size of the board, the amount of spaces and how the climbing should work started out pretty frustrating until I remembered the “Rule of Twos” which says that if your having trouble getting things balanced out or to work in your game you should try multiplying and/or dividing various values by two. So I doubled the amount of spaces and used two die instead of one and BAM! I broke through my designers block and kept on truck’n. After I got my first rough prototype made, I had my family and friends come do some playtesting. It was a blast! And the best thing was how fast bugs and balance problems were fleshed out. Everybody was a huge help in not only finding the bugs, but also in helping me figure out the best way to rebalance the game. After a couple of playtesting sessions the game was as good as I wanted it to be (at least for finishing the first exercise of my book) and I drew up a board that actually looked like a couple of beanstalks, drew a couple of climbers, made the final versions of my equipment and weapon cards, and done! My first full(ish), balanced, game complete. Now that is just the first out of five exercises on the second out of twenty-one chapters. Not complaining though, that just means when I finish this book I’ll already have a ton of games (even if simple paper ones) under my belt. Right now I’m halfway done with my next project: Ghoul Chess.

Hello Blogosphere! Game Designer Errick Falcon has arrived!

•March 9, 2012 • Leave a Comment

My name is Errick Falcon, and it’s been my dream to be a game designer as long as I can remember. Now I’m taking action to make my dream a reality. I’ve been reading books, gamasutra articles, and just about every and any other piece of information, advice, and statistic I can on being a game designer for over a year now. Finally I decided I had absorbed as much info as possible without actually putting my hand to the craft. A few months ago I started reading through “Game Maker’s Apprentice” which takes me step by step how to make games in a free program called Game Maker. I had read through the lengthy help file manual on how to use game maker already when I was in tenth grade. Between reading the help file and going through half the book, I walked away with a pretty decent foundation for understanding how game programming works. Which is valuable, but right now I need to get my hands on making some games. The holiday season came and pulled me away from my studies for a time, which I am now very grateful for, because since then I’ve picked up a book that I’ve had laying around my room for a while: “Challenges for Game Designers.” This is so far the most valuable game design book I’ve bought thus far (well… second to “The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses”) because it takes you through designing your own games and ideas. Unlike “Game Makers Apprentice” which just shows how to program their games in Game Maker. With Challenges I am coming up with my own game designs and making playable, paper prototypes. Finally using all the theories and processes of brainstorming, gameplay balancing, and playtesting that I’ve been reading about for the past year, I’ve already made my own game from scratch which took me about a week and a half (could have been done faster if I was more diligent, which I will be as time goes on) and am halfway done with another. My next post will outline how I went about making my first game: Stalk Climbers (shut up…names aren’t that important right now).