• Josh Grazda

Capstone: Ready... Set... Prototype!

Updated: Oct 12, 2019

With my senior year at Champlain College kicking off, we enter the year long process of Capstone and Senior Production! At the end of last semester (Spring 2019), we were given the task of creating teams. So without further to do, I present you with the members of Holo Hexagon!

Austin Roorda - @roorda_austin - Production & Management

Emmett Friedrichs - @Emmett_Fried - System & Level Design Karl Lewis - @KarlJamesLewis - System & Sound Design

Adam Streeter - @4damAvenue - Artist

Josh Grazda - @Jagman926 - Gameplay & System Programmer


Having worked with everyone on this team in the past, I was very excited for what this semester would have in store. Given the task of creating 3 prototypes before continuing with further production, our team set out to brainstorm and figure out what ideas we wanted to explore this semester


Brainstorming...

is something that our team was able to do very well. We came up with around 50 ideas and had a very hard time narrowing it down to about 10. Many of these final ideas included VR games, which our team was very interested in working in, as well as other experimental concepts. With the help of some majority wins, we were able to eventually land on our final 3 ideas!


1. Cash Force

Intent: The intent of Cash Force is to create a fast-paced, colorful, and elaborate Virtual Reality single-player FPS experience in which enjoyment is derived from the frantic speed and detailed interactions with objects in the environment as well as snappy and responsive gunplay mechanics. Players will experience in-depth weapon handling systems with a variety of manually operated guns, along with wacky items and upgrades that merge both the realistic and fictional aspects from high octane 70’s crime films


Concept Overview: Cash Force is a single player VR first-person-shooter where you defend a moving getaway van from pursuing cars and helicopters. Set in a colorful and vibrant city with 1970s aesthetic, the players take point in the back of a moving van, firing upon pursuers in a frantic high speed chase. With a focus on intricate gun manipulation and upgrade systems, players can choose their own playstyle using cash earned from defeating enemies. Upgrade or purchase new items: from weapons to oil cans, street cones to bananas, all items have a unique purpose and are fully manipulated with VR touch controls and gestures. This creates gameplay that, unlike other VR shooters, does not feature artificial movement, since the van is not driven by the player. Instead it allows players to focus entirely on their interaction with objects and how those objects change the gameplay.


2. Robo Charge

Intent: The intent of Robo Charge is to create an exciting, modular, single-player experience in which enjoyment is derived from the physical mesh destruction of the robots, and intense combat scenarios. Players will experience robotic part combination systems, along with physics based combat that challenges players to balance both defensive and offensive parts.


Concept Overview: Robo Charge is a 3D, single player, third-person fighting game where you take control of a customizable battlebot raging in physics-based combat against your robotic opponents. Set in a metal, trap, and spark-filled arena, players fights to the death against enemy battlebots that vary in both size and fighting style. With a focus on customization and mesh deformation, players can specialize their battlebot to suit their playstyle while cutting directly into and bashing the opponents armor. Different areas of upgrades include armor for shielding the interior battery core or offensive weapons for destroying your opponents. This creates gameplay that, unlike other combat games, does not rely on health bars, and instead the direct destructibility of the battlebot models.


3. Toy Deploy

Intent: The intent of Toy Deploy is to immerse players in a VR childhood fantasy of bringing your toys to life in which enjoyment is derived from the whimsical interactions with toys and thoughtful planning to defeat enemy forces. Players will experience nostalgic exploration with new toys and abilities, while having “God Mode-esc” control to assist and reinforce your units in the heat of battle.


Concept: Toy Deploy is a VR single player tower defense game where you discover toys to mount a defense or attack against the enemies forces. Set in a child’s room filled with toys and nostalgia, the player is charged with the task of using what is at their disposal to plan, stage, and fight as their toy setup comes to life. With a focus on exploration and strategic planning, players can move at their own pace to prepare each stage for the upcoming battle. Using common objects like books and knickknacks, players can build defenses to protect their units, or wield small projectiles to help your units and launch at the enemies defenses. This creates gameplay that, unlike other tower defense games, is engaging even during automated combat.


In The Coming Weeks...

our team will be working on prototyping out the 3 above concepts in order. All of the prototypes will be done in Unreal, an engine unfamiliar to most of us with, so we can begin to get comfortable in what we plan to use for the rest of the semester. The switch to Unreal was due to our games benefiting from what Unreal has to offer over Unity, such as networking (if we decide to go down that route), first person shooter development, easy VR integration, and destructible meshes. Our team also wanted to expand our knowledge in another engine since most of us have only worked in Unity during our previous production and independent work. While both learning and prototyping in Unreal, we plan to get more comfortable with developing for VR and expand our understanding of what these games might offer going forward for the rest of the semester. By the end of our prototyping phase, we will have to choose a single concept to move forward with for the remainder of the semester.

Reflection:

Overall the past couple of weeks has been a great learning experience. With our team having worked together in the past, I knew our communication as a team would be strong. This allowed us to both share and reflect on how to improve our process for these first few weeks. Some things we did as a team to allow better communication and workflow


Meeting Flow:

We discussed how we should run our meetings and the best way to facilitate both a productive and fun environment while we brainstorm and work. In the past we often goofed off during meetings or got caught up on one topic in particular, but with meetings needing to be more efficient with our lack of availability, this became important. I read some articles about how other game companies did their meetings and stumbled upon some ways to make meetings more productive. Ideas like Riot Games Lighting Talks, where votes would be had to see if the current topic needed more time, or to be moved on from. Bringing these ideas like this up to my team gave us a general sense of how we wanted to structure meetings in the future and maintain optimal flow with our limited time!


Repository:

As someone who has worked on many projects with other programmers, I have always been comfortable using repositories and letting others dictate how we wanted to work on the same project and maintain our revision history. Since the responsibility is on me as the programmer of our team, I spent some time going over repository use and how we should organize how we comment, push, and pull information within our repository. I gave everyone a crash course on using Git and Git Clients in order to at least give everyone basic knowledge so we could begin prototyping. After a few weeks I have made a list of additional topics I plan to go over once we begin to work on a single project.


Mattermost:

With Champlain College moving online communication to Mattermost for Capstone teams, we have been exploring how to leverage this new form of communication for us. We have created multiple discipline and update channels to allow our team to efficiently communicate with each other and organize our means of updating the rest of the team on what we are working on each week. While there was little to no learning curve, we did have to adjust to the new means of communicating with each other in a more professional environment.


Individually I also has a few learning curves to adjust to with the prototypes we were going with and the engine we were switching to. Being one of the most challenging parts of my first few week was also balancing a new schedule for the semester, a part-time job, and the additional meetings time that I had to conform my schedule with to meet with my team. Some of the things I worked on and learned during these past few weeks were


Unreal Engine:

Having used Unity almost exclusively the past 3 years, moving to Unreal was a bit of a challenge. While at first the new editor and blueprint scripting was daunting, I was able to start prototyping out of first concept relatively quickly with the rest of my team. Watching and reading tutorials, as well as experimenting in the editor has given me a good understanding of how to use Unreal. I will be continuing to hone my skills with this new engine and look forward to working with it this semester


VR Devlopement:

I have developed in VR during my time abroad in Montreal, so I was more comfortable with this change for the most part. I did use a HTC Vive in previous work, and for this project we are mainly developing with Oculus Rifts. Thanks to Karl and his knowledge / availability of Oculus integration, we were able to get going on our first prototype promptly. I did spend some time testing controls and the VR environment for Oculus just to get comfortable, but overall I feel at home with the use of VR for this semester moving forward.


Availability:

Having a very unusual work schedule (Working event support which has a new schedule every week), I'm often the most unreliable person on out team when it comes to meeting times. With Emmett also joining the work I do in event support, this became even more of a pressing issue. Luckily we have been able to find availability later in the evening to have team meetings. Overall this has forced our team into having very productive meetings and work sessions, which I think has shifted how our team functions for the better. We will see how this continues during the semester, but I'm hopeful we will be able to work through any issues that might arise in terms of scheduling during the semester.

I'm very excited to be kicking this semester off with strong concepts and an even stronger team. I like that we have decided to explore Unreal and VR to gain a new look on game development, and hopefully create a great game! We will be working on prototyping for the next few weeks and by then we will have decided which game we would like to move forward with. Till then... we got some work to do!


If you want to read about the process of prototyping these 3 concepts and which we chose to move forward with check out my next blog post!