Blog #9: Course Reflection

Game Studies Reflection

Final Presentation

For the final presentation of CS108 Game Studies, I presented two games: ZenWing and Grandma Force.  ZenWing is a space shooter that pits two players (called Runners) against each other to earn credits. It was born out of a passionate idea that I knew I had to pursue fully.

During the final presentation, most people complemented the cohesive style and cyberpunk look that blends retro games like Star Fox with PS2 like futurism (or in their words, "Zone of the Enders" or Blade Runner (what I was going for). Play testers thought the game was fun and had satisfying sounds.

I noticed that some players had difficulty finding and eliminating each other, but flight games are also often difficult to play and skill based. However, I still feel I need to find a way to make interactions more fluid and not turn into a vertical spiraling chase. I also got feedback to put a visual indicator to display when reloading was happening since players could not tell when the reloading was finished. Lastly, the game needs more controls mapped and mouse and keyboard input.

I worked tirelessly to produce this work and wanted to get it out because I wanted my final project for this class to be something that would make people's jaw drop from the love and effort that comes from the project. Once I felt the initial spark of the idea (less than a month ago), I knew I had to spend whatever time I could spare to build it in time to show one last epic project before graduation!

Lessons and Reflection

I would say the major thing I learned and reinforced during this course is how powerful a single polished experience can be. The key thing to creating a game, in the words of extra credits, is to fail more often and faster. While some art assets are essential to visualizing a game, paper prototyping and writing out mechanics allow designers to get an idea of how good a mechanic can perform and how fun it is to play with. 

In my opinion, this is equally important to either the narrative or the evocative story through style. If the world is interesting enough and the mechanics are fun, players will stick with a game and attempt to learn the language of play if the visual style can keep them hooked. Therefore, the lecture on "juicing" games is essential to making a game appealing.

Therefore, I would argue that Grandma Force was a failure in the sense of extra credit's view of failure. With Capture the Cubes and Xenith Defenders, I was actively motivated from the start with the mechanics, lore, and visual style of the games.  Capture the Cubes emphasized hex based area control with a squad of soldiers where Xenith Defenders paid homage to Atari games that had limited color. In both contexts, simplicity of the mechanics and concise and targeted style worked to their benefit. However, on Grandma Force there was no preparation, but rather an idea that we came up with off the cuff. I had several ideas including pizza delivery (like Crazy Taxi),  a retro gameboy samurai infinite runner, and grandma force.

The idea itself was actually too big from the start, but possible if I was motivated enough (as ZenWing was built in a short time, the concept of GForce could have been implemented in the same time frame). Unfortunately, once I began designing the mechanics of the game, I realized I wasn't visually interested in the world of grandma force, and felt the gameplay was boring with little depth. 

Even if I wanted to make the mechanics more fun, it was simply a game that sounded better on paper than in the engine. Once it was brought to life in Unity, I found that I hated the workflow of using Tiled, the game was hard give a definitive visual style, like my other works, and the mechanics were simple.  Adding in AI was the original intention, but that would be difficult to do using Unity's 2D framework and requires more passion than I had. Ideally, the project should have existed in GODOT, but I did not know Unity would be annoying to create pixel perfect 2D games. It is better suited for hi-res 2D games.

ZenWing Development

So while I was feeling unmotivated about Grandma Force, I thought about the games I would want to make if I started another solo project for fun. I had thought about making another FPS shooter with the style of Coded Arms, a tactical SWAT game, or attempt to recreate Halo CE multiplayer using Unity and Photon (to learn about networking). 

While thinking about retro games I was talking to a friend about Star Fox and the game stayed in my subconscious until around May 2nd, when I couldn't fall asleep until 3AM because I was in bed thinking about how I would make my own small scale vertical slice versus game. I looked up all the necessary API I would need from Unity to recreate the 3D reticle system and ship movement lerping. From that night, I wouldn't stop working on it every chance that I got until today when I presented it.

I would argue in conjunction with CS108 and my overall experience, this game is my is my magnum opus. It has immense potential, is incredibly satisfyingly "juiced," has slick UI, sountrack, and unique gameplay. And most of all, its the first game that I made that I would actually play repeatedly. I honestly don't know if I can say that for my other projects. Really, it all comes down to the quality of polish. If Ka'Poon had this level of polish, it would likely be just as fun.

I want to say thanks to James Morgan for being so passionate about this and fighting for a class that critically analyzes why games are so important and interesting, as well as introducing me to some games that I did not think I would enjoy. Also, thanks to Carlo for grading everything. Love ya guys!

Also yes I turned this in late, thought I had until midnight and took a nap because I crunched so hard on ZenWing.  oops

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