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My First Blog Post

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

Racing Game Prototype- Project Biography

Date 17/12/19- Today I have formally started my game’s level design within Unity 2019.3.0b10. I have downloaded some free asset packs from the Unity store that will assist in the creation of my level. Alongside this, I am watching an online tutorial on creating a forest environment, to assist me as through the process.

Date 21/12/19- Today I have decided to stay with the Unity Engine and start on my racing game level. I have downloaded a racing asset pack from the Asset store, so I can commence my work. I have also begun some simple coding and the rough outline for my Racing Level.

Date 23/12/19- Today I have continued with my Racing level. I have kept on with my map/level design. I have also downloaded some asset packs that will help my level look more visually appealing.

26/12/19- Today I spent all of my time working on my level design, I am almost finished too.

Date 27/12/19- Today I finished my level and have started some coding for the 3,2,1 GO scenes, along with the full time keeping of the laps around the track. Along with this, I have done some minor animation work and I will continue with more in the coming days.

Date 29/12/19- Today I was able to add sound into my game, in the form of background music, I added a track that is played when the player is racing, and I also added a track to when the player finishes the race. Plus I was able to write scripts for a mini cinematic once the race ended, a change of music once the race ended, and also I coded for a lap counter to be put in place along with with the ability for the car to finish racing after 3 laps.

Date 2/1/20- Today I was able to add my own menu screen to my game. I was able to add my own “Play” button along with my own “Quit” button and I also added a mini credits menu with an added animation to ensure that the credits travelled from the bottom to the top of the screen. I was able to put the scenes into the scene manager and code for the buttons to take me around from the main menu, from the credits scene, to the racing scene/level.

Date 5/1/20- Today I was able to add menu music to my menu screen (Rebelution “More Than Ever”) and I also was able to add a credits scene to showcase the people involved in my project. Plus I added my own Official Splash Screen, which I personally find adds a layer of personality to my project. When I finished these, I added a “SkyCoins” system, which gives the player 100 Coins per completed game. Sadly I was unable to add a purchasing/shop system to my game, although I was able to add a GlobalCash system to my game, so if in the future I decide to work on it more, I can implement it with ease, when I have more knowledge about it in the future.

Date 6/1/20- Today I finished my game and built it. I play tested it in the built state, and found no issues with any of the UI involved and I found no issues with any lighting that were present. I enjoyed building and testing it, and I even got my dad to try the build, and he enjoyed it very much. Overall I am pleased with my first game, and found it not that hard to do. I look forward to building my FMP later this year.

(Below are all of my scripts that I used in-game.)

Topic 4 Case Study

Loot Boxes & Gambling in Video Games & how what’s inside them can be game breaking

A “loot box” can be defined as a “Virtual goody-bag that reveals a random token/gift upon purchase.” In many Triple A games, publishers have now offered the concept of purchasing a random gift through the loot box system. In their defence this has added a layer of “additional content” to their games and so increases the re-play value of the game and can keep the player-count at a higher number for a longer period of time. Although the concept can be used for good and can allow players to strive to play the game more and purchase the loot boxes out of their own will, publishers can turn this to a darker side and allow vulnerable kids to spend real-money on in-game-products.

I have chosen this topic as my focus for this Case Study, as I have experienced the loot box system at its worst first hand, and I do disagree that a once harmless system implemented years ago, has now taken a turn for the worse, with more modern games having their gameplay and mechanics revolve around an unfair and bias loot box system. Along with this, another pressing issue is what is contained in the loot box and that the items can simply range from cosmetics such as skins, to more powerful items, such as a weapon or in my favourite case, from Star Wars Battlefront 2 (2017) the overpowered star cards that could only be upgraded by opening them from the loot boxes, each star card itself was game breaking, as they changed the player’s ability, and so fully upgrading them, gave the player a grave lead over others with lower levels, even a 1 level difference was a rather large advantage. I will discuss this further as the case study continues. Although my main focus is how the use of loot boxes promotes gambling and how vulnerable kids are exposed to gambling and addiction towards spending money in games on both items that are tangible and intangible. Again, I have decided to look at gambling and addiction, as the process of spending real-money to obtain a random item from a loot box. This has already been seen as gambling in numerous countries and has been banned as a result.

Although my stance on this matter is a complex one, I stand that no loot boxes should contain any other items that are not cosmetic. Any items that gives the player an advantage or any sort of leverage should not be placed in a loot box. Simply skins and other items such as emotes or banners should be available. Along with this, games should be making these loot boxes 100% randomised with no bias sway, during what could be called a dry season (where no new content is being supplied) yet when new items are added to the game, a secondary crate concept can be added with heightened rates for the new gear that is available for a short time, to the players who want to spend their “in-game money” on the items. Whilst we are on the concept of money, the loot boxes, in my opinion, should not be available for purchase using real world money, as in my opinion, it promotes gambling and this should not be implemented into games in any way. My aim with this case study, is to show that the implementation of loot boxes with both inappropriate and appropriate items can lead to gambling addictions. It has been proven that the younger audience of video games have become addicted through an improperly implemented loot box system, I aim to expose the link between child-gambling rates in the past few years, along with the quality of video games have been diminishing as the publishers begin to revolve their game too heavily around their incorporated loot box system.

How the content of loot boxes makes for an unfair gaming experience-

For the unfair nature of the loot box system, the main two games I will use many times will be Star Wars Battlefront 2 (2017) and Shadow of War (2017) as these two games were at the forefront of the loot box controversy through the end of 2017 and through 2018. Primarily we shall start with Battlefront 2. Upon its release in late 2017, Battlefront 2 was almost instantly scrutinized about the progression system that appeared to be severely reliant on the use of loot boxes, and in most cases, players who are on a free-to-play basis (will not spend any money in-game) found that they could not physically upgrade their unique Star Cards, as they needed more “crafting materials” which were only obtainable from loot boxes at the time. I personally have experience with both of these games and I played them at their peak of their unfair experience, and only after a month of playing each game, I refused to play any further as the items being sold through the loot boxes became too overpowered and game changing.

While Shadow of War I believe fell into the same hole as Battlefront 2 did. The purpose of Shadow of War (SOW), at least rather far into the campaign, was to capture large “Citadels” and protect them from Orc sieges. You could capture Orcs and use them as your guards, but each Orc had their own level, and they can become too weak as the player levels up, as once the player levels up, so do the enemies, but your captured Orcs stay the same. Anyways, within the games built-in “Market”, you were able to purchase both the virtual currency along with the gained currency from playing the game. SOW fell under scrutiny, as the maximum level players, would buy the “gold coins” (only purchasable with real money) and open many crates that would give them better odds of a high-rarity and also high-level Orc, that would end up being almost too powerful for a free-to-play player to defeat if they decided to raid their Citadel. 

This Picture is taken from the Shadow of War “Market” tab in the main menu, here you can buy numerous chests.

Third party views on the loot box system- https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-49661870

I am referring to the “third/3rd party” in this context as the group of players/people that are in no way associated with the production of this game and also do not have any sort of bias towards the genre or franchise of the games that are being listed.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee made an inquiry into the Addictive and Immersive technologies after hearing that players had spent over £1000 per week or £5000 per month in such games, after Jagex (the company behind RuneScape) admitted that some players have spent over this much, in-game alone. Although the committee themselves could not establish when a person began to overspend, along with when the addiction had taken ahold of the player, they decided to take no action. Although no age was mentioned, the players were simply named as “Young Adults”.  Although no legal action or ban can be placed on a person’s spending, it has come down to the player or the close family and friends to identify that an addiction has arose, and take action before it becomes worse. Although MPs do say that they would like to implement an “age verification system” that would be put in place to restrict children from purchasing and so “gambling” within the game, although the intent is present, a simple declaration of a false age can bypass this system with ease, and render it useless.

“Loot boxes are particularly lucrative for games companies but come at a high cost, particularly for problem gamblers, while exposing children to potential harm,” Mr Collins said.

“Buying a loot box is playing a game of chance and it is high time the gambling laws caught up.

“We challenge the government to explain why loot boxes should be exempt from the Gambling Act.”

 “There is growing international disquiet about loot boxes, with a US senator calling for them to be banned and the government of Belgium ruling they were in violation of gambling laws.”

Still at the writing of this BBC article- 12/09/19

China has restricted the number of loot boxes players can open each day. Sweden is also investigating them.

Mr Lee’s view and that of EA- https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0213194

Mr Lee is the Hawaiian state representative and called for the loot box system to be banned as it resembled gambling. On the BBC, another report was posted where a Mr Lee criticised the use of loot boxes within EA’s Star Wars Battlefront 2 within a Statement that was posted to YouTube, labelling it as a “Star Wars-themed online casino designed to lure kids into spending money” Although the use of loot boxes can be seen as gambling, I do have to side with how EA has worded their response, EA stated to Mr Lee, that their “crates were not gambling and it was a gamer’s decision about whether they took advantage of the “Optional Feature” Now personally, I agree that the purchasing and use of the built in loot box system can be seen as optional, but if you can both buy the crate with in-game currency and “real currency” then this can give players with the “deepest pockets” the most advantage within the game and so can make the game unbalanced and unfair. This is where I draw the line.

As this is where I personally think where gambling begins to take hold on their victims. As once the player has been exposed to the loot box system and what it can offer to the players, the player does not want to be worse at the game simply because of their luck, so to reinforce their ego and skill, they choose to purchase the crates/loot boxes and hope they are lucky enough to become better at the game. Along with this, The Gaming Commission of Belgium has discovered this row between Mr Lee and EA and has placed the loot box system under investigation as it involves the use of paying money to receive a random award, which falls under their gambling guidelines. Whilst on the opposite side of the Atlantic another country has a different opinion. The USA states that “games using loot crates do not constitute gambling because players do get some kind of reward when they acquire the boxes” compared to the more traditional gambling, where the gambler might not even get a reward back after they spend money to perhaps receive a reward in return. It is not just the USA that had this stance, the UK sided with them too, as their Gambling Commission stated that the “rewards were usable only in the game”

Now that the views of the loot boxes have been discussed, I will start to talk about the Psychological “tricks” that these studios put in place in order to captivate children/ their younger audience.

The Psychological aspect of Loot Boxes-https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0213194

From the website listed above a Mr Barton stated that the “loot box opening, the sirens, the noises, the way it slowly opens-it’s all designed to stimulate your senses.” Whilst Mr Barton stated that “It’s like pulling the handle of a one-armed bandit- you don’t know whether you will win” he makes the resemblance to a slot machine. Whilst he also stated with importance that the “current legislation was not designed for this technology and loopholes need to be closed urgently”.

The link between loot box spending and the addiction of gambling- https://www.psypost.org/2019/03/two-large-studies-have-found-a-link-between-loot-box-spending-and-problem-gambling-53341

Primarily the journal of PLOS One, indicates that people who spend more money on loot boxes are also more likely to be unable to keep their gambling habits in check. Although it is unsure what tests PLOS One did, I personally believe that once a player can see the importance of the loot box and how it can benefit them in such a huge way, there is no way that they want to stop the feeling of paying a somewhat little sum to receive a critical reward. I think of it as once the player has experienced the elevated power that Loot Boxes can supply, why would they willingly deny using this power, unless they have to dismiss it by some other factor, perhaps they don’t have their own credit card to pay for the loot boxes, or they don’t find it right to spend more money on a game, after spending a hefty price of over £50+ for a Triple A title.

Along with this, there are sadly a lack of studies that have been conducted on this matter, but my favourite study is one that was done by Zendle, (authored by David Zendle and Paul Cairns)

“The researchers had 1,172 gamers complete psychological surveys regarding problem gambling and loot box spending.

The participants all reported regularly playing at least of one of ten popular games that feature loot boxes: Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, League of Legends, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Counter-Strike: GO, FIFA 18, Rocket League, DOTA 2, Team Fortress 2, and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege.

“There is a link between loot box spending and problem gambling. However, we’re not sure if this means that loot boxes literally cause problem gambling, or if it means that people who are already problem gamblers spend significantly more money on loot boxes. In either case, though, it doesn’t look socially beneficial.”

On average, the participants reported spending $19.58 on loot boxes in the past month. But some had spent up to $2,300.

The study replicates the finding of previous research conducted by Zendle and published in 2018. That study, which examined 7,422 gamers, found that people with more severe gambling problems tended to spend more on loot boxes.

That research also found that people with more severe gambling problems tended to spend more on other kinds of in-game items — but the relationship was not nearly as strong.

Some researchers have compared loot boxes to a predatory form of psychological ‘entrapment’ where players spend an escalating amount of money because they believe they have invested too much to quit.

But longitudinal research is needed to determine whether loot boxes are directly related to the development of gambling problems.

“Researchers have suggested that loot boxes might create a gateway to problem gambling. We still don’t know if this is true,” Zendle remarked.

This short passage from https://www.psypost.org/2019/03/two-large-studies-have-found-a-link-between-loot-box-spending-and-problem-gambling-53341 -personally shows that there can be a heavy reliance and even addiction towards the loot box system, depending on how the loot boxes are implemented. For example, from personal experience, the loot box system in Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, is one that only offers cosmetics to the player, which provides no in-game benefit, its only for looks. These “Alpha Packs” as labelled within the game, can be won from each game for free and still offer a random cosmetic. These Alpha Packs can also be purchased using the in-game currency labelled as “Renown”, which are gained from playing online and offline matches. Or if need be, you can spend real money by purchasing R6 Credits which in turn can purchase the Alpha Packs. Yet how “TCR6S” handles the cosmetics I find personally fair as they can also be purchased outright by using the Renown system, if the player finds a weapon skin they like.

In Conclusion-

Although people are entitled to their own opinion even when evidence can be displayed, I will state my opinion followed by the overall opinion of the case study has projected taking into account both sides of the argument.

Personal opinion- I do think that loot boxes can be placed into games if they are done correctly. Primarily, if the loot box has a physical item that can be used by the player, that others may not have, e.g. a new weapon or shoes that make them run faster, then these should not be implemented. Only if the loot box offers a cosmetic item, perhaps a player banner or even a different colour of shoes or shirt. Plus, these loot boxes should be able to be won after each game, but there would be no guarantee. There should also not be a “Rarity system” for the loot boxes as in my opinion, this promotes the spending of real money in-game and contributes to gambling as the rates for items increases, and can cause players to strive for the “rare item” by spending real money in-game. Finally, the loot boxes should only be able to be purchased using the game’s built-in currency, and to reinforce this, there should be no way to purchase the game’s currency using real money. In my opinion, this is the foundation of a Fair and equal loot box system, that I personally think is loop hole free.

The Case Study & my thoughts about implementing loot boxes into my FMP-

By no means will I add a loot box system into my FMP, it will only promote bad habits. If I had to, I would implement it how I stated in my personal opinion tab above. The Case Study did show how Zendle’s results link to loot box spending and gambling issues. Yet EA did state that it is the job of the player to pay for the loot boxes as they state it is “optional. Purely having a system to see who can pay the most, defeats the purpose of any game title, instead it should reward the player’s skill and knowledge, rather than praise them for how much they spend.

Reference List-

http://theconversation.com/gambling-loot-boxes-in-video-games-could-be-conditioning-children-107667

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/333673812_Online_Gambling_in_Video_Games_A_Case_Study_on_the_Regulation_of_Loot_Boxes

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0213194

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-49661870

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-42110066

https://www.tomsguide.com/us/what-are-loot-boxes-microtransactions,news-26161.html

https://www.pcworld.com/article/3231668/loot-boxes-ruining-gaming.html

https://www.wired.com/story/videogame-legislation-loot-boxes/

https://www.psypost.org/2019/03/two-large-studies-have-found-a-link-between-loot-box-spending-and-problem-gambling-53341

Pictures- https://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&ccid=vvuC5B3A&id=A0A5D6016290FBA05592109B19D9BDC1CA0B5C34&thid=OIP.vvuC5B3A5Yk38XsSRtuVvAHaEK&mediaurl=http%3A%2F%2Fcdn1-www.gamerevolution.com%2Fassets%2Fuploads%2F2017%2F11%2FStar-Wars-battlefront-2-how-to-level-classes-640×360.png&exph=360&expw=640&q=battlefront+2+star+cards&simid=608030213007936771&selectedindex=1&adlt=strict&ajaxhist=0&vt=0&sim=11

ttps://www.bing.com/images/search?view=detailV2&id=DB90C08CE275185CE42AC4719C7E8496803C44BE&thid=OIP.34Ptrn_rfdU0IW2QIaaGuQHaEK&exph=1080&expw=1920&q=shadow+of+war+shop&selectedindex=0&adlt=strict&ajaxhist=0&vt=0&eim=0,1,2,3,4,6,8,10

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuxYDmvEiOo An opinion on the Star Wars Battlefront Loot Box system.

These pictures are from Star Wars Battlefront 2 and show how the loot boxes can be purchased through their own portal in the main menu. Then the picture below shows some of the Star Cards that a player can equip. A player can equip a total of 3 cards from the 2 categories listed, with 1 card taken from the “Boost Cards” category and 2 taken from the “Ability Cards” category. They provide the player with different “equipment” that they are able to use as they play. Ranging from items that can damage an enemy player, to those that can only damage vehicles.

Topic 5+7 Reflection

Evaluation- Overall my product was able to work perfectly and also incorporate all of my ideas. I was able to replicate the track in my draft without any issues and also incorporate a lap system along with a timed system too. It was not as difficult as I thought, and I was able to complete my project with ease. My overall product was everything I wanted it to be. I was able to download Paradise City online and I was able to make it the background music very easily, while I also added Dual of the Fates Theme as the finishing music too. I was pleased with adding my own menu screen with functioning buttons (Play, Quit and Credits) and an animation for the skybox background and some more background music which is a song called More Than Ever, which is sung by Rebelution. Besides the songs that I personally added, the other audio files that are included are the files for the Car’s audio, such as the acceleration and deceleration of the car, along with the file for “skidding”.

I personally feel that my game does have a large amount of interaction and I focused more on the coding aspect rather than the aesthetics as I preferred to offer lots of interactions to the player rather than focus on making it look pretty.

My planning of the game project, in my opinion, was satisfactory and I was able to create a rough sketch of the track for my game that I ended up keeping as I liked it so much. I kept it simple as I believe simplicity is best for planning, as it provides a quick foundation to be worked upon.

My time management throughout the project was fine with my mini-deadlines being met on time or even earlier than expected. This in turn gave me more time to reflect on my actions over the past few months and gauge how to move forwards from there.

For the management of my written work, I was able to complete all of the tasks again with ease, and I was able to complete all of the tasks within a week.  I was able to write in a professional manner and provide informative blog posts with reference lists, that is written in proper English too.

For assets, I was able to complete the whole project for FREE. I was able to download free assets from the Unity asset store and incorporate them into my project. Although I did not use any of my assets from Topic 6, I plan to use them later on for my FMP. While when I compare it to other products, I suppose that I took inspiration from Forza Horizon’s 3 HotWheels DLC, as I thought about making my own SkyTrack, similar to that in Forza. Besides that, I do not think that my game resembles any other present game in the market

Compared to my planning, I used and referred back to my planning on numerous occasions, I kept most of the initial track planning intact and I was able to follow my plans without fail. I did not change my planning whilst I was working through my project and found my Paint drawing very helpful when I was constructing my track.

During my solo “play testing” I was able to sort some bugs with “Cash upon completion” system. Initially the car wasn’t able to collect the 100 sky coins upon the race completion. I quickly found that the code had some errors in grammar, and they were fixed. I was also having troubles with the mini cinematic animation at the end of the race, I planned for the camera to revolve around the car in a circle, but at first it did not, so I rectified the issue by fixing the spelling mistakes within my script. Then once I resolved these small issues there were no other problems to list, and the game worked perfectly. I wrote a script for an AI car that the player would have raced against, but I found that the script was not working properly and the car would not go through the check points that I put in place for it to follow. So I decided to just make my racer game, a “Time Trial” game instead.

Issues- Overall from the start, up to the end, I had very little complications cloud my project. In terms of the level design, I experienced no issues with importing assets or placing them upon my terrain. The only issues that are worth mentioning, was my issue with adding a raceable AI. Upon placing my waypoints for the car to follow I had no issues, yet later when I started to write my script, Visual Studio saw no problems with my code. Yet when it came to test it, I found that once my AI car drove past my first waypoint marker, it stayed behind and began to circle the cube I placed, after spending over 5 hours tinkering with the script and the waypoints, I had no other choice than to not include an AI. Whilst I was building my level, I began to think that perhaps if the player completes my lap within 3 minutes, then there can be a “level 2” for the player to complete, and it would on the same track, but against a veteran AI.

I was able to get my Dad to test my game. I allowed him to look at some parts of the development stages and talk him through my choices. Once I finished my game and built it, I allowed him to formally test the final product. He stated that “the car seems to be rather scrawly” followed by “it looked better than I thought, and you have come a long way from the early developmental stages that I saw a few days before.” He personally liked my chocie of game and enjoyed playing it.

Overall I am pleased with my functioning game project and I am pleased that most things worked perfectly on the first try, saying that it is my first game that I have made. I have learnt a new set of skills that I will be keen to use in the future, especially for my FMP.

Topic 5+7 Planning of my Interactive game product-

My Game product will be a Racing Game that will incorporate some sort of coin system which means that as you drive around the track, you collect coins that you can use to buy other cars. I will have it lap based, which means that the player can complete many laps, (around 3) and collect coins as they do so. The track I have in mind will be one that is both on the terrain (ground) and also somewhat in the air, almost like a SkyTrack. The track will start off on the ground and then proceed to the sky, then followed by proceeding back to the ground, in order to complete the lap. I will not include any AI racers in my game, as I want it to appeal to the younger audiences, in a way that is not too difficult for them, and also my game will serve as a “Time Trial” where the main focus is to beat your previous lap times and be the fastest around!

Assets- I have an idea of what assets I will need to include, these would be… Track pieces, road signs, road cones, fences/walls, trees, rocks, pillars for the track to stand on, ramps, loops, water, Player’s car, coins that need to be collected, Skybox and the other purchasable cars.

This is my rough Track Sketch using Paint. I really like my draft, and I doubt it will change when it comes to my game being made.

These are my reference pictures, they will give me inspiration for the shape of my track, along with some ideas for my coin system, that will be spread around the track, as the player races around.

For my sound list I will use the default car sounds that are pre-applied to the car. Instead I will add my own sound to the countdown of “3,2,1” and also apply some background music. For the countdown sounds I have 2 in mind.

Along with this, for the background music I have chosen 1 song. It is the Guns N Roses song called Paradise City. I find that this song would be fitting for my track, as it is almost labelling my track as a Paradise City. While along with this, I have also chose this song, as it is a personal choice as I loved playing Burnout Paradise when I was younger, and this was the main OST that was played in the background.

I knew that I wanted some sort of Menu Music to be played, but at the time of writing this I am unsure. I would like to keep the player occupied with sounds at all times if possible, and only use silence as a cinematic effect if need be.

I chose not to incorporate my own car into my game, as I found collider issues when I first treid to, ver yearly in the levels design. I chose to not do so after I added a lap trigger and finish trigger, as the car was not recognised by the triggers, so I tried using the Unity Standard Asset car and it worked perfectly, so I stuck with this choice from there.

Topic 1 Reflection

Objective 1- My use of English

Throughout my initial topic, I was able to consistently use appropriate English when describing and paraphrasing records I was able to access online. I have written with the correct English structures of sentences and paragraphs, and using sophisticated vocabulary when appropriate.

Objective 2- My own contribution to my work.

I was able to conduct my own research for the majority of the topic’s work. I was able to re-phrase descriptions online and use my own knowledge where applicable. The only resources that were not mine, were the pictures included in all of the data entries along with the videos I used and referenced within the game level comparison post. I used these as I was able to hand-pick my references and I was able to explain the reasons for my choices, which are displayed under the videos within the blogpage of the existing game level comparisons. I strived to include as much of my own work as possible, to best convey my knowledge with each post. I only resorted to using other forms of data (pictures, videos and definitions) when I knew there was a gap in my current knowledge that needed to be filled by doing external research.

Objective 3- Issues I encountered

Throughout this initial research task, I personally did not undergo any struggles. I was able to swiftly and professionally gather information from numerous websites and compress them into my blogpost. Perhaps the only issue that arose was choosing my information wisely. Due to numerous websites having the same or altered information I found it difficult to cherry-pick the website I would use to supply the information that I needed, so to avoid this in the future, I should check the publisher of the website and the information, and see also, whether the information had been taken from another website (perhaps the original source) and check if any alterations had been made to the information that I need, to ensure it is correct and unaltered.

Objective 4- My time management.

From the start of the research for topic 1, I would personally say that my time management has been outstanding. I was able to research and write up my entire data entry within a day, whilst also ensuring that my data gathered is correct and I have cited the information with accuracy and professionalism. This is particularly evident in the task of comparing pre-existing game levels, where I needed to research and compare 3 levels. Aong with the research about how those levels are created and the steps taken from an idea, to a physical product.

Survey analysis of results

My survey consisted of 10 overall questions ranging from short answers (Yes or No) to longer answers such as “Explain why…” My survey had been posted to the Games Design Facebook group where 3 willing people completed my survey. Underneath are the answers to my questions.

Q1 had a majority of people answer with the age of 16-17, while the lowest amount of answers were 17-18. Here I was able to get a set of data from 2 different age groups.
Here all 3 people answered as male.
All 3 of my participants played over 10+ hours of video games each week.
2 of the 3 participants answered my longer answer question. Sadly one skipped this question, but the other 2 gave their own creative answer in response.
Here each of the 3 participants gave their own different answer to the question. One preferred the Aesthetics over Narrative, whilst the other preferred the Narrative over the Aesthetics. Compared to the final participant which remained rather indecisive and so valued both as equal to each other when playing a game.
Overall the answers were in the ratio of 2:1 in favour of the Xbox console over PS4, although I am glad to had participants that play on different consoles to answer my questions, to provide some insight on their decisions/answers to the questions.
Sadly only 1 of the 3 participants answered this 2nd elongated answer question. Although his answer is valued, I do wish the other 2 spent the extra minute to gave an extended question.
Each of the 3 participants gave a different answer, one preferred the 1st person camera angle in a game, while the other preferred a mixture between the 1st and 3rd person. Whilst the final participant opted for the VR option, showing that some people prefer the newer VR camera format over the more standard 3rd and 1st person camera arrangement.
Here yet again, all 3 of my participants gave a different answer to the question. One person would always pay for DLC when available, while one other person valued the “battle pass” aspect over the more conventional DLC package. Whilst again, the 3rd person remained rather indecisive and valued both additional content variants equally.
For this final extended question, all 3 participants thankfully answered with their own creative answer, giving me an insight into their own opinion.

Overall I got a rather balanced and varied set of answers from my 3 participants. this shows me that at least 1 person enjoys the aspect and future of the VR industry. Whilst the others enjoy their own genre of games.

Unit 6-My Asset Pack

Time scale- Japanese period (1919-1949)

My pack will contain 5 assets that can be used for this timescale.

My asset pack will include

1.Old military candle lamp

2.Cavalry Sword

3.Old army tent

4.Sake bottle

5.Old Train Key

Problems that I shall face.

Although I have used 3d software such as Blender, I know my way around adding and modelling shapes within the software. For no. 1 and 2 the main issue will be finding reference images with sized labelled. There are pictures of people holding these items, but each hand is a different size, and it can be rather challenging to gauge the correct measurements. For the 3 and 5, I would find that baking and texturing would pose some issues with my current skills. I would have to learn fast and effective techniques to maximise my time on other sectors, perhaps the sculpting. Although the hardest would be no. 4. Finding a texture or even creating my own texture would be rather time-consuming as usually these bottles have an extensive array of colors and patterns that I could either print flat onto the mesh, or I could sculpt the shape into the mesh/mould and extrude it slightly to give them a better and more realistic look and appeal.

Topic 5 & 7- Analysis and Research of level design and audio

Primarily before a level can be designed, the designers must have an idea of what kind of level they want to be designed. Once the ideas have been conveyed and agreed to be worked on, the next stage would be the setting of a location and theme. This would allow for the designers to focus more solely on a set place, where more focus can be placed on the assets that would make the setting a replica of the location and overall theme. Once this has been chosen, a project purpose must be analysed. This is to ensure that all designers know why they would be taking part in the project, and what this level would contribute to.  E.G. The level would be used in the newest most popular game series of the studio. Once this has been done, the “set of features” that the level will include will need to be chosen. These features are chosen/built upon, to differentiate your level/overall game to the competition that is also on the market. This can be such features as “a fully customizable character, a seamless and real-time raid system, and a new sense of destruction.”  These could also be marketing material when the game releases in the future. Features can be a good set of guidelines that the level designers should follow, for them to incorporate all the features into the level. Once these have been chosen and have been able to be incorporated correctly into the genre of the level, then references will need to be taken. This is the research aspect which needs to be collected for reference, as this research will be the starting point when primary sketches and 3d designs are made when the research has been fully collected. This research which needs to be collected, can be such research as environment and location reference which would allow designers to almost replicate or take inspiration from the location that the level may be trying to replicate. Along with the set design and prop reference, which would give the designers the research to make geographically identical/ similar products to the set, and to ensure that realism is present in the level.  Besides that, lighting reference and style/visual references can be taken. This would allow the designers to take inspiration again from the lighting present at the location, and that make appropriate and life-like lighting throughout the level itself and make appropriate lighting for the assets designed from the photo references. These will then start the stage of concept art, based on the research. The concepts will analyse such things as physics and shapes, along with age that would need to be implemented onto the assets, depending on how long the level occurs after the year that the assets have been taken from. E.G. Times Square used for inspiration now, but the level is set in 2120, and so the assets would need to be aged accordingly, so the user still recognizes that the level is Times Square, but it has aged significantly, but that’s not all. Alongside this, the sound team will be starting their work on sounds such as dialogue and sound effects that will be implemented into the level, such as gunfire or even the sound of the playable character walking along with ambient noises. This stage will last as long as to stage 10, where visual development occurs. Once this has been started, then the Story developers begin/project their story to the rest of the level design team, and so will begin to express the story, both explicitly and implicitly. The explicit way of storytelling is told through the level that the player plays in. This can be through the character/characters speaking with each other (dialogue), cinematics, and game level objects/assets. Everything is told/shown directly to the player and so, is the simplest way to convey a story without any confusion. Compared to implicit storytelling, where the surroundings and environment tell the story without directly stating what occurred. (The player must infer based on what they can see around them.) An example of this can be that the player finds a body lying next to the firearm on the floor covered in blood. The player was not told that the person shot himself, but due to no other bodily marks, E.G. bruises, the player can infer that the person committed suicide and that nobody killed the person while struggling. Both of these methods of story-telling must be implemented early in the development stages, as the story writers and the environmental level designers need to work very closely together, so that the level is appropriate to the level genre, and that the story can also be told properly and effectively within the level itself. After this stage. The next step, (step 7) is to analyse and implement the O-O-S. These are the Objectives, Obstacles and Set Pieces. The Objectives primarily focuses on what the player will need to achieve/complete to progress in the playable level, this can gravely vary in difficulty, from a simple task to one that can be more difficult and time-consuming. Alongside this, the Obstacles that the player must face are those that can either take the form of a puzzle, exploration, battles ETC. The focus of the Obstacles is to add an additional layer of challenges to the level which in turn adds challenge and elongates the level’s overall playtime. Finally, the thought and implementation of Set Pieces, otherwise known as Scripted Events, are the pieces that enable the player to feel immersed within the game level/world, as this can influence the player’s choice within the level, and they can see what their actions have to lead to. This allows the player to feel a sense of belonging within the game’s world/level, and allows them to make informed choices, as later in the level or game, the player could be shown how their actions affected the game world, and what consequences arose from their choices. But besides this, the focal points must also be thought about and implemented with all prior steps in mind. The next step is to use and implement the Focal Points. The reason for the use of focal points are as stated:

Functional purpose – helps the player to orient themselves in the environment. The player will always know where they are in relationship to a focal point.

Visual aesthetic function – visual appeal

Helps to draws the player’s attention to a location. It becomes a point of interest to explore.

The use of Focal Points allows the player to mostly orient themselves within the map/level, and so gives them an extra sense of exploration that needs to be completed. Whilst also giving them a perspective of the level, whether it be in a town or a field, and gives the player a sense of distance when travelling from one place to the next and allows the player to recollect previous maps/levels by implementing a landmark that differentiates from place to place that they may go. But it does not have to be large or outstanding, something as simple as a single ray of light in a dark room, or even a crashed car within a field, gives the player a sense of direction, based on leaving the car as they walk away, or perhaps looking at the object closer, as it could further the story in the level itself as the landmark could house an interactable object. Yet a designer’s task is still unfinished, the next process would be to create a Top-Down layout, which implements all the previous steps. This layout is a bird’s-eye view of the level that will be created/early concept of the level that will be enhanced later. This can give designers a guide on where to place assets, along with judging the overall size of the level, and can also perhaps start to judge the overall play-time of the level, and so any adjustments to elongate or shorten the playtime can be justified and be made here. Finally, the proper level design and infrastructure can be designed and made. The Visual Development can start to occur with the utmost efficiency, as the designers have all the pieces for the “puzzle” and all that they need to do now is to build it to their standards. Implementing all that they have analysed and read about, ensuring that the level, not just only looks outstanding, but the story flows and all assets and sounds function properly, which will soon lead to a fully playable level. But again, a designer’s work is far from over, they must submit a list/report that entails such items as Asset Lists, Production List and Project Management. {For less of an eyesore please console in the more visual representation seen below.}

Stage 1- Overall idea is thought of and eventually chosen to be developed as the groundwork for the level. (this can be where the level is set, (location) or even the initial thought of the story.)

Stage 2- The more in-depth decision of the setting and theme. This would have been influenced by stage 1.

Stage 3- The project purpose, whether it would be for a new game company’s NO.1 game, or simply as additional DLC to a pre-existing game, would change how much time and money would need to be spent on the design and build of the level.

Stage 4- These are the features that will be implemented into the level, that set it apart from others in the competition. This could be pre-existing features that are more refined in this level, or even a new set of features that are the first of its kind being implemented into the newly designed level.

Stage 5- This is the collection of references and the conduction of thorough research. This allows the assets to be designed according to the research conducted, and so offers the basic planning of assets and the environment of the level itself to occur.

Stage 6- How the environment tells its story to the player, this can be in the form of how the level looks at the relevant time of the player being there, or how it changed from before the layer making an entrance to it. As stated above, this is the introduction of the explicit and implicit story-telling that the environment and level convey to the player.

Stage 7- This part is the setting and implementation of O, O and S. (objectives, obstacles, and set pieces) this allows the designers to begin to understand the purpose of the level and also allows the designers to introduce obstacles and puzzles that the player may have to complete in order to proceed playing in the level. This allows the designers to analyse the overall playtime that will be needed to complete the level, and from here, they can shorten or elongate it accordingly.

Stage 8- This is the introduction of focal points. This is usually in the form of landmarks and allows the player to reorient themselves in the level and so ensures that the player will be less likely to become lost, even if the level layout may be complicated.

Stage 9- This is the part where the “Top Down layout” is drawn. This gives an overhead view of the entire map and shows such things as boundaries, player paths, alternate routes, spatial relationships, flow, pacing, cover, player starts, AI position, important locations, and focal points.

Stage 10- This is the stage where visual development becomes the focus. Usually, the art style will be determined here, but in a larger game’s studio, this would have been chosen earlier in development. Concept art will arise here more and allows changes to made with the characters and even more minor details in the level if need be.

Stage 11- This is the final step of level design and occurs after each level is made. The developers must create a list of everything in their levels, including assets, production list, and project management. These are titles for more in-depth lists of models, textures, materials, audio, particle effects and any ongoing bugs/errors that need to be fixed and what work will need to be done shortly.

The Design process- (concepts, narrative, characters, mechanics development)

The overall level design process can be seen above, while I’ll go into more detail below on the subjects of concepts, narrative, characters, mechanics and development.

Concepts- These are usually done first, after the initial idea of the level/game has been chosen. This is the stage where initial designs and ideas of such items as architecture, character design and even the environment start. This process although started first, usually isn’t finished first. As this process can last if even to the alpha build of the game, as assets can be changed and altered accordingly based on the studio’s own choice or even pressure from the public.

Narrative- This part usually is started once the initial draft of the story arc has been devised. This can be speech from the narrator, or even the characters. This process, once the correct scripts have been made, takes a while to complete depending on how much spoken dialogue is in the level/game, but this process can take months to execute perfectly and can even not be completed by the time of the public beta of the game. (a few months before the game’s launch)

Characters- This process usually occurs alongside the concept design, as characters are incorporated into the initial design, then branching to be focused on later. This can be the most difficult part to execute depending on the scale of the level/game, and this process usually has the most people working on it, as the characters are the most visible thing seen to the player, and so such things as the bodily shape and texture of the characters along with the outfits and the speech must be the best quality, as they are the forefront of the level itself, and this is what players will usually see and interact with the most.

Mechanics- This process is usually completed early in the development of the level/game, as a level’s mechanics depend heavily on the genre of game. E.G. a space game would have less/no gravity to simulate being in space. The mechanics/physics of the level can differ from game to game, but this process can be created quickly or reused from existing titles that can be reimplemented and improved on in future titles, an example of this being the Assassin’s Creed series, where the mechanics are similar from each title, but behave slightly differently due to improvements being made.

Development- This would be the overall process from the beginning to the end of developing a level/game. The phrase is rather vague as the overall “development” of a level is split into sectors and even those become more sectors, but for some, the development side, can be building on pre-existing items, such as assets, mechanics dialogue etc. Where the initial footwork has been started and the “development/improvement” has commenced. There is not an end to the development process, as it can still be done even when the game has been released, as this process is key to future updates and content that could be released with patches and fixes, to payable DLC. (downloadable content)

Audio- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfwDLONo7nI

Creating audio within a game, is very similar to creating audio for a movie. Primarily the game clips will be created first, where designers have an idea of what sounds should be incorporated. Then the Foley artists along with the audio mixer, will be given a range of clips where they can add real, non-synthesised sounds to the clips, so it can be added in time with the clip. However, this can be time-consuming and expensive, so some sounds can be artificially synthesised/made which in turn would take a shorter amount of time and so reduce the amount of expenses. This is just for sound effects. Although for a soundtrack, OST, this would usually be done using a live orchestra. This is to ensure that the OST sounds as best as possible giving a premium sound as the level progresses. Once a list of sounds has been chosen to be used the editing process must begin. Usually the studio will use their in-house software, they may use some 3rd party audio editing and trimming software such as Audacity if they do not have their own in-house software.

Software used-

Modelling:

  • Maya
  • 3DS Max

Sculpting:

  • Zbrush
  • Mudbox

Texturing/Materials:

  • Quixel Suite
  • Substance Painter
  • Photoshop

Game engines:

  • In house engines (made by the company developing the game)
  • CryEngine
  • Frostbite
  • Unreal Engine
  • Source
  • Unity
  • Snowdrop
  • (Although all departments need different software to accommodate to their specialty, some software will be shared between departments and so software will be used throughout.) In terms of what order the modelling, texturing and sculpting occurs, primarily the modelling occurs first. As this action interacts with the mesh itself and alters the shape creating the digital canvas which will place the work of sculpting later. The next stage would be sculpting. This is the part of the process where the designer will add detail and alter final shapes within the initially designed mesh, this can be such detail as adding muscle definition or even adding scars. But the main purpose of sculpting is to add brushed detail easily, without using too many meshes, which would lead to the asset being hard to implement into such engines as Unity or Unreal, as the poly count would be too high for the engine or the PC/console to handle. Once this has been completed, the final step is to add textures to the asset to ensure that it looks realistic, and that it matches with the levels time setting and genre. For example, a designer could make a teddy bear with an eye missing look like a normal teddy, with a nice brown fluffy texture. But change the texture to black and add blood patches, and the bear would now fit into a horror game. This goes to show that the asset can be initially be designed for one purpose, but the texture applied to it, can give it many purposes and can be used across many game genres.

https://www.quora.com/What-software-do-AAA-studios-use-for-game-development

https://www.methodj.com/modeling-vs-sculpting/

HARDWARE NEEDED https://www.pcgamer.com/game-development-pc/

As mentioned above how different departments need different software, different departments need different hardware that can primarily run the software along with doing other hardware such as drawing tablets that can draw pictures/concept art straight into the software. While the sector that probably would need the most powerful PC would be the sector that deals with the test gameplay and video editing, that would be done to create the game trailer. This is to make the game look as good as possible (highest resolution) and also as high a framerate as possible. Depending on the studio, whether it be an indie studio or a AAA studio, their spending would differ on their hardware. Verified sources for the hardware used in a game studio, can be hard to find, so it can only be left to speculation, or even asking a game studio employee. Besides the design aspects of level design, the in-house testers need such hardware as controllers (usually the ones that the game will release onto, e.g. Xbox controller and PS4 controller) but this would depend on the studio. If the studio made video games for consoles. PC and mobile, then they would need all the consoles on-hand to use as the game/levels are created to ensure compatibility along with ensuring that no errors are found.

https://www.quora.com/What-kind-of-computers-do-game-developers-game-programmers-use-and-what-are-their-specs

What I will need to create my own level.

Required assets- The assets that I will need, will be a mixture of being created my myself, along with using some from the Engine’s assets store. Such assets would be buildings and nature, clothes, furniture and even a skybox. I could create most of these myself, but I would rather give myself more time to use on scripting and planning.

Mechanics- I would need to choose how my level operates and how the player operates within that. I could try to replicate pre-existing mechanics or even use them, or I could plan and write my won scripts to introduce mechanics that could be solely in my level. How the character interacts with the environment will be crucial for the overall playability and so must be given lots of time in order to be executed properly.

Audio- + recording hardware I will try to make most of the audio in my level myself. This would challenge me as I have never done this before and would mean that I would need to conduct research beforehand and then incorporate what I learned into my level. Some sounds like gunshots or explosions I could artificially replicate, but I would prefer to make each sound heard, as real as possible, even if it means using sounds from the asset store. The hardware that I would use would be a good microphone that can record the audio being recorded, and perhaps a music mixer, that I could use to compile sounds/tunes to create a general basis for an OST, but I would prefer to make an OST within such programs as Audacity. Whilst incorporating audio into the Engine/game is also very simple, for example, addding background music to a menu screen is as simple as dragging the MP3 file into the audio file and again drag the MP3 onto an object in the menu, and it will play by itself and it can be looped if need be.

Software- Each process will require different software, at this current time, I would use such software as,

Unity, Cry-engine, Blender, Maya, Audacity, Word Photoshop and Quixel.

Not all the software is free, and some operate on a monthly subscription. The software would allow me to venture through the entire process of level design ranging from, the initial drafts and texts, to the mesh creations and texturing later and finally compiling all if the assets into the game engine to be tested and modified accordingly.

Game engines- For the game engine, I would either choose the Unity engine or the CryEngine. Both are formidable and offer rather similar tools to use and can offer almost the same results in terms of performance. I primarily would choose Unity as I have spent longer using the engine, but I would like to learn to use the CryEngine as it offers some tools that unity does not in its current build.

2d/3d content creation- Content creation will take a long time for me, as I’m not very familiar with Maya, and my current PC cannot run such software as Blender anymore. Although the 3D creation for my level would include asset creation and perhaps even architecture, along with some assets for the wilderness, that I can change to make the backdrop look more realistic, or even photorealistic. This process would be the most difficult for me, as I would usually spend too long on creating a certain asset that I would use once, when I could have spent my time more wisely. To fix this, I could watch tutorials on creating certain assets for my level, as this would make the process quicker, whilst I also learn how to use different tools to further speed up my work.

Textures- This workload, I would need to do research for, such as reading blog posts and watching tutorials, as I am not familiar with creating a texture along with applying it to an object. This would be my weak point as I have never done texturing before, and so this would take the longest to master and start doing more occasionally and comfortably.

Narrative- Although I do not have any experience with adding sounds to levels, I could either pay somebody to read/voice act for me, or even ask a family member to read. The difficult part would be editing and compiling the audio reel to the visuals on screen and keep everything in sync. I would probably use audio software like Audacity as it is easy to use, and I have some experience using it.

Research- The research I would need to conduct would not only be for guidance when using software, but also for reference images when designing/modelling assets. This would allow me to ensure that the assets do look realistic and that I have the skills to make them look like this. This process would be slower than usual, but this is due to learning alongside designing the asset, which the skills that I would gain, would allow me to use them more efficiently further down the line. Alongside this, I would need to research such things as clothes of the era along with the environment of Japan in that era. This would contribute to the asset creation and allow me to even make my own replicas of items from that era.

Planning/design work- I would conduct my designs by using Adobe Photoshop. It has a great host of tools and can be easily learnt if need be. I do not have any experience with Photoshop, so I would need to read some books and watch some tutorials on how to use Photoshop most effectively for the design process. The initial planning that would also need to be done, could be completed using Word or even PowerPoint, to convey the processes that I went through to then decide what to plan for my final level. Scripts- For scripts I would use Visual Studio, as it is compatible with most game engines such as Unity. It can be used for different programming languages and so I can use this to my advantage. Having learnt a little Python, I could incorporate this knowledge, but I would prefer to stick with C# as I have learnt more of it. Along with this, I could research ands watch tutorials on the process of adding scripts to assets, and this would broaden my scripting/coding knowledge and so I would then use what I learnt for such projects as my Final Major Project.

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