Global Game Jam 2015: VAST

Last weekend, I was at Global Game Jam 2015 up at the Uni. Thus far, this is my 7th(?) game jam, and second game jam as staff. This was also my first year where I was mostly in a solo team. My regular collaborators were not present and I didn’t make too much of an effort to join or enlist others to join my team. Later on, a student whose team had dropped out while he was at work joined in and created some cool looking ships (previously just triangles).

The theme for GGJ15 was “What do we do now?”. A broad theme which to me could easily be contextualised as “Here is a choice: choose” which is basically the essence of gameplay. Alternatively there is emphasising words (What do WE do now, What do we do NOW, etc.), but by the time I heard it, I had already come up with a concept based on the diversifiers.

VASTGame

The game I created is called VAST (GGJ link) and it is a space dogfighting game. Originally pitched as a space exploration game, the player controls a ship in procedurally generated space (e.g. asteroids, planets, pirates, etc). The player could then choose to play by fighting, robbing, or exploring areas of interest. However, being a timed event, I only basically got the fighting part done. But, the key ‘gimmick’ of the game was the use of the ‘Stephen Hawking’ diversifier: control is only via one key. Each ship is controlled with but a single key. Hold the key to fire left or right thruster alternatively, or tap to move forward. Simple! I also used the ‘Drop In’ diversifier which allows anyone to join in (by pressing a key).

The final product includes single-key ships, auto-firing ships (only when something is in range), breakable asteroids containing artifacts of power (more guns), AI-controlled pirates, and sweet sound effects.

You can play VAST right here in your browser! Most keys are available. Hold to turn, tap to go forward. Every key press changes the direction of turning. Shooting is automatic.

Wind Tunnel

Back in 2008, I was an undergrad working a bunch of other undergrads on a COMP314 (Software Engineering Project). The project actually turned out pretty good (then again, most of them do).

I was recently asked by a colleague who remembered the project if I still have the source code for it. I was smart enough to keep it around (though I think it’s CVS’ed somewhere out there) and fired it back up. The results still impress me, so I’m chucking it up here on my Featured Work.

The project was to extend an existing 2D Wind Tunnel simulator. But the difference between 2D and 3D was too big for a direct extension, so we opted to ‘roll our own.’ The resulting Wind Tunnel application is a 3D, real-time simulator which fires wind ‘particles’ at objects and simulates the effect of the wind on it.

The physics of the wind particles is built upon layered octrees, where each particle is evaluated at each timestep and will attempt to escape heavily populated tree nodes to emptier nodes. In theory, this causes the wind to continue to move from the emitter.

I’ve uploaded a zip of it to Sourceforge, along with a brief wiki explaining it. In theory, the in application ‘help’ should work, but it wasn’t for me.

The simulation is quite visually appealing and would make a neat screensaver.

Review/Design: Three Dragon Ante: Emperor’s Gambit

Review

Recently picked up the Dungeons and Dragons themed card game Three Dragon Ante: Emperor’s Gambit. I was introduced to it by my friend and ex-DM ‘Canadian Matt.’ The game is somewhat like poker but fantasy-fied. The game involves playing cards to win the most gold.

The game is played by betting an ante at the start of the gambit, which consists of three rounds in which each player plays a card from their hand. Each card has a type (coloured dragons, or mortal creatures), a value (between 1 and 13), and a special power. One person leads the round by playing a card which activates. Each following player then plays a card. If the card is lower/equal to the previous player’s card, that card’s power activates. This continues for three rounds, at the end of which the player with the highest valued flight (three played cards) wins the stake.

That’s the general gist of the game, but for it’s simplicity, it is great fun. The game seems quite simple initially, but looking into it deeper reveals there are decent strategies for playing. Many of the mortal powers drastically alter how a gambit plays out, so things stay fairly fresh. Play time is quick and play style varies depending on the number of players. The visual and thematic design of the game is very nice and the cards are solid enough to withstand sleeveless play. What’s more, it was a steal at under $20NZD for the Emperor’s Gambit expansion/stand-alone game. And the box is, like the game, deceptively simple looking, but flash with a little cardboard catch for the lid.

As for balance, it doesn’t seem to favour one card over another, though some cards are generally worse than others, but because of the random element, there is no bias towards a particular player. My main complaint is that the game doesn’t come with any betting chips, which would’ve really made it a flash little combo.

Design

Not only is the game thematically tied to D&D, it also lists some rules for playing it in campaign and making use of the characters’ skills. At the beginning of the game, each character selects a skill they are trained in (only one player per skill) to use for playing the game better. The only problem is, these are all in the rule booklet, which isn’t huge and will probably requires the players to constantly look at what their particular ability is.

To make things easier, I have designed some cards which match the design of the playing cards which are easy to refer to in-game. Graphic design is easy-peasy. I don’t know why you even need training to do such a thing (nevermind the fact it took me all day…)!

Here’s an example card (front and back):

As you can see, I’ve modified the colour of the back of the card to distinguish it from the regular cards. All the images I used for the skills were from Google Image Search and as far as I’m aware they are all Royalty Free.

The full pages of all cards and backs can be found here.