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Commando Attack Sub posted 3/23 at 12:31:01 PM PST by Mason McCuskey

Development Team:Team Chicken Bomb: 5 programmers, 2 artists, 3 musicans. Robert Aldridge, Jack Song, Charlie Burns, Robert Pasquimi, Drew Canitz, Lucas Selbe Hele, Jamien McBride, Ryan Mote, and Michael Delgato (Nathan Sorenson)
Coded using:C++ / OpenGL
Essential tools:3D Studio Max v4

Commando Attack Sub is a well-made game of deep-sea cat and mouse made possible by voxel technology. The development team has succeeded in creating not only a believeable underwater atmosphere, but has also made a game that's pretty fun to play.

To me, Command Attack Sub felt a lot like Wing Commander, only underwater. The player pilots a little deep-sea pod with weapons, moves through canyons and tunnels, and attempts to destroy huge submarines.

Team Chicken Bomb made the game from the ground up, writing their own engine complete with collision detection and tons of other features designed to showcase their talent and hopefully land them a job within the industry. One feature of their engine Team Chicken Bomb is especially proud of is its ability to handle a virtually unlimited number of lights. This makes it easy to create dramatic undersea weapons effects.

The game is currently in the alpha phase, but I'm hoping that a finished version will be appearing online soon.

Mason McCuskey
Spin Studios

Dissension posted 3/23 at 2:46:37 PM PST by Mason McCuskey

(click to enlarge)
Development Team:one guy (Rob McConnell, Digital Legends)
Coded using:C++, DirectX 7 (for 2D) and 8 (for 3D)
Development Time:about a year
Essential tools:3D Studio Max, several internally developed tools

This game fascinated me like few I've seen. Essentially, the game is a role-playing game with an emphasis on interactive storytelling. What sets Dissension apart from other RPGs I've seen is its tremendous emphasis on realistic dialog between characters. Rob has really thought through this, and has come up with a system that sound really exciting.

Each character in the game behaves like a real person. There are no silly shopkeepers who say the same thing over again or mindless drones who divulge the same clue repeatedly. Instead, the characters in Dissension remember, through an AI, what you've talked to them about, whether you were rude, nice, brownnosey, etc. They get irritated with you, become friends, and even talk about your behind your back. This facilitates some truly intruiging gameplay: talk to a shopkeeper offhandedly about something when you're buying a loaf of bread, and when you approach someone else, they may have already heard about you, because they are friends with the shopkeeper or perhaps related to him. Characters might also have their own motivations: the shopkeeper may want to charge you a higher price because you irritated him before, or charge you a lower price because you're friends with one of his friends. There's a very complex system under the hood, soon to be backed up by reams of conversation trees and dialog subjects.

What Went Right: The storytelling emphasis in the game helped to set it apart.

What Went Wrong:A long development cycle required some technical things to be redone (i.e., moving between versions of DirectX).

I really want to play Dissension when it's complete (Rob estimates 6-8 months). Currently, the engine is complete but there's still much content that needs to be created.

In summary, the game seems like a great blend between classic RPG iso gaming (Baldur's Gate) and interactive storytelling (the text-based games of yesteryear). Combine this concept with an enthralling story and you've got a game that represents how independent developers are taking games in directions that traditional publishers would never even attempt. Kudos, Rob.

Visit the Dissension home page: http://www.digitallegends.ca/dissension.html

Mason McCuskey
Spin Studios

Elite posted 3/23 at 2:46:37 PM PST by Mason McCuskey

Development Team: Simone Leal Filgueiras Mota, Solange L. F. Mota (Estadual Paulista University Julio de Mesquita Filho, Brazil)

Elite is an electornic RPG in which players investigate the game scenery and retrieve items and information to increase their character's knowledge and ability. It supports three specific teams (Axicon, Rebels, and Elite), and can be played in both single player and multiplayer mode.

Mason McCuskey
Spin Studios

Orbs of Attrition posted 3/23 at 2:46:37 PM PST by Mason McCuskey

(click to enlarge)
Development Team: one person (Kristian Olivero, Univ. of Oklahoma)
Development Time: two years
Coded using:DirectX 7, C++
Essential tools:Photoshop, Milkshape, Quack
Download it:http://www.ba3d.com

Orbs of Attrition is a solid game that takes a common concept - breakout - and builds on it, adding things like a 3D playfield that changes perspective as you progress from level to level. The game also contains a number of interesting visual effects. I really enjoyed seeing how Kristian was able to extend a game we already know and love, and make it into something uniquely his.

One of the things that particularly impressed me about the game was the quality of the sound effects. Kristian explained that they were all created by hand, using a program called Quack, which lets you start with a basic sine wave (or other wave) and layer on modifiers that distort the sound.

What went right: Writing a design doc, and waiting to code until after the design doc was completed. Kristian explained that by completing his design doc, he was able to dodge a lot of "feature-itis" problems and spend time instead on other areas of the game.

What went wrong:Not following stringent rules on how to "version" software in preparation for a release. Orbs has undergone several "tweak" releases to incorporate features that people wanted to see, and to fix bugs, and not having a good mechanism for version number incrementing really made things difficult to manage.

Orbs is available online at http://www.ba3d.com.

Mason McCuskey
Spin Studios

T.H.U.G.S. posted 3/24 at 8:19:10 PM PST by Mason McCuskey

(click to enlarge)
Development Team: 4 programmers (Ricardo Villarreal, Mark Thrall, Jhon Restrepo, Nathan Feldman) at DigiPen
Coded using:C++, DirectX 8.1 for audio, OpenGL for rendering
Essential tools:Photoshop, Visual Studio
Download it:http://www.videogame2000.com/thugs

In T.H.U.G.S., the player becomes the leader of a street gang bent on the complete and total domination of the city Barrioville. It's a turn based strategy game inspired by the board game Risk - there's only one main unit (the thug). You recruit thugs at the arcades, and move them around the city, capturing buildings. When you try to capture a building belonging to an opponent, you descend into a battle screen where you watch your thugs duke it out for control of the building. Obviously, your outcome in battle is determined largely by the number of thugs you have.

One of the things I liked most about T.H.U.G.S. was its attention to detail. In the city, you can see cars and buses zooming by on the streets. These have no bearing on the game but do serve to make the city look a lot more realistic. At night, the patterns of traffic and the types of vehicles in traffic change, also adding to the realism.

What Went Right:Having a collorative design effort. All four developers shared in the design of the game, which led to more creativity flowing through the project and ultimately to a better game.

What Went Wrong:Adding multiplayer too late into development, which caused all sorts of technical issues, and not having an artist on the team.

You can download T.H.U.G.S from http://www.videogame2000.com/thugs.

Mason McCuskey
Spin Studios

Takeout Weight Curling posted 3/23 at 11:31:34 AM PST by Mason McCuskey

(click to enlarge)
Development Team:one person (Nathan Sorenson)
Coded using:A5 3D Engine from Conitec
Essential tools:Blender, Milkshape, Paint Shop Pro
On The Web:www.takeoutweight.com

Takeout Weight Curling is a great example of one person taking a niche sport and converting it into a game. I didn't know this, but Weight Curling is actually an Olympic sport, and this game is a faithful reproduction of the rules and essence of that sport. Essentially, it's like shuffleboard on ice: you try to push a weight, using something similar to a broom, as close to a target as you can. As the weight moves, two other members of your team can use their brooms to sweep the ice ahead of it, turning the ice into water and giving some degree of control as the weight slides towards its ultimate resting place.

I really liked the spot-on animation of this game. The 3D characters behaved realistically, and combined with the easy controls, made this game very playable.

What Went Right:Using the scripting engine in the A5 engine to create the game. Doing this freed Nathan from the minutia of writing a graphics engine, and let him instead concentrate on the gameplay of his game.

What Went Wrong:Some of the physics code was a bit tricky to do. The problem was that the weights moved very slowly over long distances, which required a high level of accuracy that the A5 engine couldn't provide. To solve this, Nathan reversed the problem, first calculating where the initial force of the push would cause the weight to end up, then interpolating backwards from there to arrive at the position of the weight for each frame leading up to that point.

Takeout Weight Curling is complete, and will be available online soon at www.takeoutweight.com.

Mason McCuskey
Spin Studios

The Artifact posted 3/23 at 2:46:37 PM PST by Mason McCuskey

(click to enlarge)
Development Team: Team Icarus - 2 programmers (Tim Schwalk, Scott Nadeu) and one artist (Allen Chamberlain) at Full Sail
Development Time: 2 months
Coded using:C++, DirectX
Essential tools:Worldcraft 3.3, Milkshape
Download it:http://www.timtheruleroftheworld.com/TheArtifact.htm

I wasn't able to meet with Tim, Scott or Allen at the GDC this year, but I did stop by their booth and play their game. I think what's most impressive about The Artifact is that it was developed in two months. The Artifact is a first or third person shooter with a solid engine ("The Septic System") that includes particle systems, collision detection, 3D locational audio, and artificial intelligence. It implements these features by extending WorldCraft 3.3.

You can download The Artifact from http://www.timtheruleroftheworld.com/TheArtifact.htm

Mason McCuskey
Spin Studios

The Past: Escape From Terra Prime posted 3/23 at 11:27:20 AM PST by Mason McCuskey

(click to enlarge)
Development Team:two programmers (Kent Bolton and Jim Nguyen), Blue Dojo
Development Time:Five months
Coded using:C++, DirectX 8.1
Essential tools:3D Studio Max, Corel Photopaint

The Past: Escape From Terra Prime is a unique game that can best be described as a cross between Asteroids and Diablo. You pilot a ship around a 2D space plane. You use thrusters to get where you're going and rotation to fire at enemies. There's also some RPG elements: your ship gains experience points for destroying enemies, and occasionally enemies will leave behind items when they die that you can pick up and equip (using a Diablo-like paper doll interface).

I really liked the targeting interface on Escape From Terra Prime. To fire at an enemy, you move your mouse cursor over it and hit the space bar. As you move your mouse cursor your ship rotates, eliminating the problem of having to hold down arrow keys and wait for the thing to pivot into position. To move your ship, you can fire your thrusters by hitting the left mouse button. This game interface is unique, especially for an Asteroids type game, but it seemed to work well when I played it, once I got used to it.

What Went Right:The team had a really good software engineering methodology. They went through all of the steps one's supposed to, including building a comprehensive design document before starting on the game.

What Went Wrong:So far, they haven't been able to find a publisher for their title, though they remain hopeful.

You can get The Past: Escape From Terra Prime at http://www.bluedojo.com/projects.php.

Mason McCuskey
Spin Studios

TTwister posted 3/23 at 2:46:37 PM PST by Mason McCuskey

(click to enlarge)
Development Team:one guy (Dylan Petty)
Coded using:C++, DirectX 7
Development Time:2 months (one school semester)
Essential tools:Paint Shop Pro, Visual Studio

I really liked TTwister's core idea. In most games, you try to avoid the tornado. In TTwister, you *are* the tornado, and you're out to catch as many cowboys, cows, horses, and indians that you can. Your objective is to catch whatever you can, and then throw it and attempt to hit a target.

I spoke with Dylan, who told me that TTwister was a simple game made for a class project for his junior year in CS at California State University, Chico. Now a senior, Dylan is busy with his final classes.

TTwister was one of two games that Dylan submitted for the student showcase. The other game was in 3D, but I'm glad the judges chose this one, because it's a perfect example of how to think outside the box and come up with a unique and creative game design.

More about TTwister can be found at http://web.csuchico.edu/~dp53/cgi-bin/projects.cgi.

Mason McCuskey
Spin Studios

Xenohammer posted 3/23 at 12:34:45 PM PST by Mason McCuskey

(click to enlarge)
Development Team:3 coders (Brian Smith, Chris Haire, and Jason Shelton) and one artist (Roger Norris)
Coded using:C++, ClanLIB game libraries
Development Time:2.5 months
Essential tools:SourceSafe, POV Ray, 3D Studio Max, Ogg Vorbis
On The Web:http://saberx88.tripod.com

Xenohammer is a great implemention of your classic retro top-view space shooter. You've all played these games - you fly up the screen and shoot enemies that come down.

The graphics in Xenohammer are pretty impressive. I especially like the explosions, which are simulated using physics: if a ship blows up when it's moving right the momentum of that movement will also carry the explosion right. It's a great effect that, when combined with some good artwork and particle system code, creates a nice explosion.

Xenohammer was developed by seniors at the Georgia Institute of Technology as a resume piece, designed to help them look for a game job. It took only two and a half months to create.

What Went Right:The short schedule and motivation of the team were a powerful combination in getting a high-quality game out quickly.

What Went Wrong:If they did it over again, the development team would choose to do full 3D instead of just 2D in 3D.

Xenohammer is currently in alpha, and is available online at http://saberx88.tripod.com.

Mason McCuskey
Spin Studios