Evil Genius VS Spies released for free

Evil Genius VS Spies is finally finished and the cards have been printed. The cards in physical form look absolutely amazing. It was a surreal experience seeing the printed cards for the first time.  Up until last week we were still playing with plain text cards that had pencil marks over them.  I decided to buy clear protective card sleeves to keep them in good condition. What was really surprising is how they fit the sleeves perfectly even though we adjusted the card dimensions to reduce printing costs.

Gameplay is still a bit rough in a few places and I will likely continue working on it in the future. It is completely playable and a lot of fun to play although I’m probably biased. So if you don’t believe me, go to the project page by clicking on the image below and print yourself a copy of the game. We decided to release the game for free under a creative commons license in hopes that people will build upon the game. If you do please let us know as we would like to hear about what you came up with.

Evil Genius VS Spies coming soon

I’ve been working on a card game called Evil Genius VS Spies which is nearing completion for my advanced game design class. My team finally has a decently balanced set of cards and now we’re  designing the card layouts and rule book. It is an asymmetric card game with gameplay that focuses on the spatial relationships between cards. One player takes the role of the evil genius and constructs an evil lair to carry out an evil plan. The other player plays as the Spies, building intelligence networks to support spies and infiltrate the lair to thwart the evil genius’ plans. The objective of the game is to thwart or carry out 10 evilness worth of evil plans.

In my game design class the focus has always been on learning game engines rather than actual design skills so amazingly we got permission to do a card game. The best part about it is we went through tons of iterations to see what worked and what didn’t. It really taught us a lot about game design and balancing in general. The card set will eventually go online so everyone can print them out and try it. I was hoping to release it on thegamecrafter.com but with shipping for a small card game to Canada being almost 3 times the cost as the product, it might have to wait.

Below is a sample card from the game. I created the card art in Maya and Brooklyn Hillman created the card layout.

Fruit War project finished (previously Towers and Catapults)

I finished up my game project for my Advanced Game Design class. We managed to implement just about everything in the original design. My role in the project was mostly programming but I also contributed to the design. I don’t consider this project done because it could use some game balancing and bug fixes.  A couple of my friends played a single game over an hour until they introduced house rules of no more growing trees to end the game quicker. The game is available for download on its project page.

Game pitch for immersive environments class

For my immersive environments team project we decided to create a puzzle game sort of like Mist using the Unreal Development Kit. Our focus is on high production values using ZBrush and Maya. For our game pitch we greyboxed the game world using the primitives in UDK and recorded a video with voice over explaining the project.

The essential experience of Towers and Catapults

I’ve been working on a new game tentatively called Towers and Catapults but the design has changed enough that it no longer describes the game. I’m working with four other people in my advanced game design class. My role is primarily programming but I also do some game design and project management. We’re programming it in C# using XNA and the Farseer Physics library and considering eventually releasing it on XBLIG.

The game is a turn based strategy game where players try to attack each other’s slingshot fruit trees by launching fruit they grow. Players can also use up more fruit and plant a seed on a floating platform which will grow and allow them to get a more strategic position to fire from. The game ends when either side defeats the opponent’s mother tree. Trees take damage when their trunks are hit and their branches act as a shield absorbing damage but will break off if hit hard enough. We’re still tweaking the design so it might change. Below is a screenshot of an earlier build which is still missing a lot of core gameplay.

Early development screenshot

Early development screenshot

We came up with this idea by thinking about the essential experience we wanted the player to have. Jesse Schell, in his excellent book The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses describes the essential experience to be something every designer should focus on because games like architecture are all about the experience. The experience we decided to go with is the fun of launching a slingshot. This particular experience was proposed by me thinking back how I would create catapults out of Lego to launch blocks across the room.

The experience can be broken down into three components or phases. Setting up the shot by pulling back to adjust angle and power. The projectile flying through the air creates anticipation. When the projectile lands it interacts physically with whatever it hits. We were able to confirm with playtests that these phases not only exist but they are incredibly fun if done right.

The stages of the essential experience

The stages of the essential experience

We looked at what kind of catapult to use and decided on a slingshot because it has more degrees of control than a trebuchet.  Then we looked into the properties of rubber bands to see if  any of that could be translated to gameplay. Heat makes the rubber band contract; if you stretch it, it creates heat. It’s used to launch air crafts and also as a motor for toy planes and boats. Our final idea didn’t incorporate these points but I thought it was worth mentioning.

Gastown building design project

The last three weeks my team for IAT 233 Spatial Design worked on creating a contemporary building in Gastown with a showroom for Vitra and an office space for Area/Code. We started by creating folding architecture and with the idea of bringing a game to the street like Area/Code does. It eventually involved to include the idea of visual surprise, which is similar to Steven Holl’s concept of parallax, and finally integrating the Net ‘n’ Nest concept of the office by Vitra. Below are some renders of the building using Cinema 4D. Not quite finished but not bad considering we only had a few days to work on the design and model.

Seattle Design Charette

Recently I went down to Seattle to understand space at an urban scale for my spatial design class. We toured the city looking at changes between neighbourhoods and abandoned publis spaces. The Olympic Sculpture Park, Pike Place, Seattle Public Library, and Knoll’s new showroom were some of the places we visited. While there we had to come up with a design for a derelict site under and near the Alaskan Way Viaduct. This was a three day design charette and most of us didn’t get any sleep the second night. I worked with 11 other people on the project. Half of them I’ve never worked with before.

Our theme was originally “continous dynamic space” which means to create a space where there is always something going on in different lighting, weather, and seasonal conditions. Ultimately the idea was too ambitious to do in such a short time but we were able to think of some smaller ideas which do this. One such example is the movable square tables which we hope people will push together and move to different locations or even make a stage out of them.

We had one week to refine the concept and I spent a great deal making a 3D model and designing as I went along. The facades beside the pedestrian street is where I spent most of my time. Two other people helped me with the model so this is not all my work. It is the most complicated 3D model I’ve ever worked on. We weren’t able to model everything we wanted to.

A ramp leading up to the Viaduct.

A ramp leading up to the Viaduct.

The facades on the top were individually designed or modelled after the existing facade.

The facades on the top were individually designed or modelled after the existing facade.

Lux animatic

I’m taking another animation course this fall and my team finished our animatic last week before we headed off to a design charette in Seattle.

What have I been up to since the last post?

I’ve been working hard on the weekly projects for  IAT 233 Spatial Design. Each week a massive assignment is due that any sane university professor would give at least 3 weeks to do. I’ve created book covers using constructivist design principles, magazine spreads, researched architects and built scale models. This week is a 3D model of St. Ignatius Chapel located in Seattle. Thankfully almost everyone on my team knows 3D modeling. However, the plans we have are not consistent and almost every wall is curved in some way.

I feel that I’m learning material that would normally take years of experience or schooling to learn. I’ve developed a better design process which is affecting how I do everything. So even though I’m spending over 10 hours a day on this one course, it is the best course I’ve ever taken. It’s hard to believe I’m only half way done this semester as it feels I did two semesters worth of work.

I better get back to work now.

Cryodream, paper prototype love

I’ve done some paper prototyping in the past but I forgot how fun it is. Recently I organized a tabletop game design competition and made a pretty sweet cooperative card game called Cryodream with Ryan Bujnowicz and Alex Ryan. The story is you are on a ship in cryogenic sleep heading towards a far away planet to colonize and every so many years one person wakes up to check if everything is operating fine. Before going back to cryogenic sleep you choose who will wake up next. Each member of the crew has a different job, for example, a mechanic can build and fix things while a diplomat is good at running away from hostiles. Over the course of the game you go through six different environments which have a special event (eg. a virus infection or being hit by asteroids) and probabilities of encountering hostiles, friendlies or nothing. If you acquire a second engine you can look at the next two environment cards and choose where to go as a branching mechanic.

It was quite hard to create and balance this game in about 8 hours and it ended up being too easy. The battle mechanics notably need work since there is rarely an instance where you’re in danger of dying. The environment mechanics worked quite well although I feel they could be expanded upon. One idea that we dropped during development was a grid based movement system inside the spaceship where proximity between generators and items that require power matters. I really liked this idea so perhaps it will make its way back into the game.

In short if you haven’t tried paper prototyping it is simply awesome. The developers of Shadow Complex discuss how they used it in a recent interview, which I highly recommend reading.

Card game prototype at a club competition

Cryogen playtesting