Casual Game Design and Development
Game Development; The Journey Begins
“When does history fade into mythology?” is the opening line to a casual platform game that Joey, a developer in Georgia and I working on. One of the questions I often here is how do a couple or group of independent developers get together. Often it is happenstance. I wrote something in a forum for “Adventure Maker” a game development engine and Joey contacted me. We exchanged emails and decided t give it a go. Joey had skills and software that I didn't, and I had some skills he didn't. That is not to say it is a perfect game development marriage, we still have gaps in our skill set, but we have options to fill these gaps.
The Game Maker's Companion
Ironically it was a Hidden Object Game that brought us together, but I felt that we needed to work with a simpler genre, or at least one that fitted our chosen game engine. Added irony, we chose “Game Maker” as our engine, we both had purchased the professional version, and the introduction of a new book by Jacob Habgood, Nana Nielsen, Kevin Crossley, and Martin Rijks entitled “The Game Maker's Companion” was probably the final push in the direction of creating a story platform adventure game.
A Books Role in Game Development
“The Game Maker's Companion” is all about game design and development with two additional positive caveats; it uses the Game Maker as the development engine, and it focuses on a single game genre, in this case the Platform Game. Another aspect of the book is that it integrates a story into the game platform such that the two rely on each other giving the game player not just the experience of playing a game, but integrating the player into the story allowing the player to participate in the story telling process. This is a function that is missing from a number of games that have been recently developed by the industry today in more complex and expensive games, let alone less expensive and simpler casual games.
For game developers of all experience levels, whether they use Game Maker or not can benefit from the sections in “The Game Maker Companion” that relate to this process. It adds a complexity into game development that could complicate game design, but it it will most definitely lead to better game for the consumer.
Our Game Development Journey
“When does history fade into mythology? We know our world was once a single planet like so many we have seen, there is sufficient evidence to support that. We even know when the apocalyptic explosion and breakup of our world occurred. This we have as established history. How we survived and how we banded together is only know to us from the stories that have been handed down through the clans and tribes that survived. Since the various Sky Island States exist today we know that there is some history in the stories of our fathers. This is the collection of those stories.” - From “Kayala's Journey”
As Joey and I begin our journey, we need to figure out where each of as can add to the whole without stepping on each other in the process. Distance also adds to the problem, I am in California, and he is in Georgia. We both must continue to work at other jobs to maintain our own independent incomes. We have no immediate time table, but we may adjust that as time moves on as we do want to complete our project. Our budget consists of what ever disposable funds we each have for discretionary expenses. Not a recommended position, but at times it may be necessary for fledgling developers.
My major expertise is in programming, some artwork, and in story telling. Joey's is in graphics, programming to a lessor degree, content positioning, and analytical thinking. He may be surprised at my description of his skill set, and I suspect he has more to offer, but he has already demonstrated these capabilities for me. He is a great collaborator, and to date we have worked extremely well together. The qualities that we share is the love for gaming and the enthusiasm necessary to see a project through. We are still in the honey moon period, but that could last for years.
A View into Kayala's Journey
I have created a loose outline for the story and the game structure. I have introduced a couple of elements that should make “Kayala's Journey” unique. Here is a a section from the story line for the first level, before reading past it, see if you can spot an odd trait to the story telling.
When Kayala awoke the sky through the jungle trees was a purple umber and the stars were barely visible. As Kayala sat up, muscles complained with pain at the slightest movement. Kayala stood and surveyed the surroundings. The jungle was familiar, and yet Kayala had never been to this place before.
“Where am I?” was the first conscious thought, and then, “What happened?”
Images of the apocalyptic explosions erupted in Kayala's consciousness and the next thought was “How am I still alive, and what happened to my village?”
Kayala's stomach began to rumble and thirst crept into the dry throat. Food and water were the first needs for survival, then shelter, and weapons. Kayala's hand reached reflexively for the knife in the belt. Relief, it was there. First clean water, something to carry it in and food.
At first Kayala could not find water. The valley held no springs, yet the ground had been damp is places leading Kayala to believe the re had been a recent rain. The large upper leaves of of the trees often held small pools of water and birds were often the telltale sign of where those leaves were. It required climbing skills and the ability to read which vines would support Kayala's weight.
While climbing the trees, Kayala came across long narrow thorns that would act as needles and the thinner vines would work as thread. Tree sap would provide a water proofing material. When Kayala reached the higher branches the water leaves would be able to be sewn together and sealed with the sap and that would provide a pouch so that Kayala would be able to carry water when there was none to be found.
Food, at least fruit would be easier for Kayala to find, although picking it would be a challenge, as there was often competition from smaller more aggressive animals for the ripe prize. Kayala would have to devise a way to secure fruit before the smaller more fleet footed critters would get there first.
A Secret Revealed
There are aspects to the story that may seem clumsy, but this question should help in one of the aspects that I hope will make the game more interesting. Is Kayala a man or a woman? You can reread the story section for clues, but they are not there. This story is being told without pronouns.
Which one is Kayala?
In the opening cut scene the player will be focused on two characters, a man and a woman, neither will be identified. Before the player starts the game play, the will chose whether Kayala is a man or a woman. From there the game avatar will be selected and the strengths and weaknesses of the avatar based on sex will be integrated into the game play. This add an element of difficulty in the game development, but it provides an element of interest for the game player, because actions and decisions will have to be made based the adjusted skill set of the avatar. In a sense, “Kayala's Journey” will be two games. Game completion will be the same, scoring will be comparable, but level and puzzle solution will have to be approached from two different points of view. Oddly, most of the puzzles have the same solutions, but there can be more than one solution or option available to either avatar.
So Kayala's Journey begins, and so does Joey's and mine. Come back, and I will keep you apprised.