Hatchlings Games

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Fighting Noise?

The battle between me and the noise begins…

From the previous post, I’ve explained noise in game design but what kinda noise does Encephalon have anyway?

Lack of Preparation Stage

Every time when I play Encephalon I have no idea what to do first. I know is a strategy game and I needed to think of a strategy to win beforehand but… there weren’t enough information or anything that I can plan ahead. Ok look, I’m holding a bunch of cards which we call it the deck then 2 cards are drawn to be laid on anywhere on the first row of the board. Alright, the cards are randomly drawn and so hopefully I’m lucky enough to get the card I want so that I can think of a strategy later.

Newmw made a comment about my previous post at my personal blog:

“I remember the first computer ‘games’ being all about randomness. Around the beginning of the 80s designers creating viruses just battling each other. That’s pretty random too”

Randomness can be a friend(signal) or an enemy(noise) but the randomness that “attacked” Encephalon will then change our game from a strategy game to a chance based game.

“…hopefully I’m lucky enough to get the card I want so that I can think of a strategy later.”

So why is this preparation stage so important? Duh, it is a strategy game.

Let’s take a look at soccer (I’m not a soccer expert). A soccer team consist different type of players with different positions (Ah yes… is the team building that matters, not individual spoon-feeding!). Imagine the team playing on the soccer field without any preparation or some strategy… even playing among friends, I’m sure you will at least say something like “Hey, Ben stay there and be good” *pat* *pat*. Thing is, the customization feature of our game concentrated on individual card building rather than team building or the deck building.

More problems to solve ahead 😉 but we will have to think out of the “BOX” first…

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January 9, 2007 Posted by | Encephalon, Game Design, Game Development | Leave a comment

Concepting Encephalon

Here in Hatchlings we have four artists, and I’m one of them. Now before I get the others to put their stuff here, maybe I’d demonstrate how I usually complete a picture… Here’s some concept art for Encephalon.

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I first do a rough sketch using my three-year-old Wacom Graphire 2 in a drawing program. My current program of choice is ArtRage 2, look at the gorgeously realistic pencils. I do have a scanner, but I hardly use it – the only reason that I bought it was that it came along with the printer.

This is a concept sketch of an ‘Aspect’, sort of a digital avatar of a character in the game where they menally project themselves into an arena in an alternate dimension… or something like that; I’m not talking about world setting here.

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I then export the sketch as a .jpg file and open it in Photoshop. In there I do the thick black outlines in another layer using a 5-pixel solid round brush. This part takes a lot of time as I’m quite picky about uneven lines.

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Coloring time! I insert new layers under the outline layer, and color between the lines. Easy enough. The Hue/Saturation sliders are very useful here as I use them to adjust colors to see which combination matches the best.

Aspect 2 by ~no-wing on deviantART

After adding in shading and lighting, I am done. I keep the tones simple by using only one shade of shadow and light.

And that’s it 🙂 It’s pretty simple when compared to the other artists here like Moy, but we’re special in our own way.

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January 9, 2007 Posted by | Encephalon, Quasr Art, Quasr Concept | 5 Comments

What is Noise?

Noise is randomness which lead to the quality of lacking any predictable order or plan and also unable to see a pattern or a signal.

Fighting noise is definitely one of game design challenges. To fix a game design problem I usually locate all noises before I start going in too deep (and yes, it is ok to dislike your own game and force yourself liking it by fixing all the problems, not ignoring them!)

Back from the horrible scolding and driving, Slade shoved me a copy of Raph Koster’s A Theory of Fun (Do read the book if you want to know more about noise). I went to a quiet corner and started reading it. I didn’t read much because I spent most of the time arguing with my mother over the phone, darn. Ok, what exactly is wrong with Encephalon’s design? Let’s take a look at the concept of some popular board games.

Chess – Complexity to simplicity
You start with a board with pieces and slowly clearing up the board to make space.
The chess pieces are not random and is all laid out on the board and therefore you can plan and predict.
No noise occurred.

Othello – Simplicity to complexity
You start with an empty board and laying down your pieces to force your opponent to play moves which relinquish good moves.
Pieces are coin-like with a light and a dark face and have a defined starting position and therefore you can plan and predict too.
No noise occurred.

Interesting fact about Othello: Originally, Othello did not have a defined starting position. Later it adopted Othello’s rules, which state that the game begins with four markers placed in a square in the middle of the grid, two facing light-up, two pieces with the dark side up. The dark player makes the first move. (I guess he might have figured out that without a defined starting position, players can then place the pieces wherever they like and therefore creates a lot of randomness that leads to noise)

Encephalon – Simplicity to complexity to simplicity to complexity to simplicity to… wait, I lost count… Encephalon is a two player strategy game using customizable card as chess pieces. The game start off with an empty board and each turn you will get two new cards to lay on the board.
With customizable card “pieces” that creates a lot of randomness and the game concept that is so confusing it unable players to plan ahead and therefore it didn’t allow the player to even think or play strategically.
Noise occurred

And we dare to call it a strategy game… Shame on us!

So, can you imagine how it would play? Try on a few seconds and your brain will go bzzzz…. *wrecked* There were definitely a lot of noise in the game.

*Pushing back sleeves up to elbow level*

*Cracks knuckles*

“Time to kick some noise!”

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January 9, 2007 Posted by | Encephalon, Game Design | 5 Comments

Slade went mad

We weren’t trying hard enough.

I was confused. Being a game designer but dislike the game that we are going to make and still can live through every day. What is wrong with me? Every time when I imagine myself playing the game, I will stop after a few seconds. I just didn’t like it.

One day when we were out for dinner, we discussed about the game. I kept thinking that maybe it is just me who doesn’t like the game because I dislike playing strategy game and trading card game. So, I went on asking more about the game to understand it more so that I can force myself liking it. It was a bad idea. I mean, a bad idea to think that I dislike specific game so it is ok not to be bothered of. All of a sudden, Slade went mad and started scolding all of us. (Hate it when he does that)

All the while all of us known that there is a big problem with the game design but we were so blinded with the old design and never wanted a change badly. Slade was mad again and wanted new game design. All of us were contributing ideas in the car and nowing was the driver. (Never discuss something like that in the car) I’ll talk more about nowing’s driving later.

No matter how we come up with new ideas we were still stuck with the old design…

We weren’t trying hard enough.

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January 9, 2007 Posted by | Drama, Encephalon, Game Design, Sharing | 6 Comments