Monday, April 16, 2012


Thesis is finally finished!  For those who wish to watch, please follow this link to the Youtube video.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

3D: Forest

Here is a shot from another environment Amanda Cha and I are working on for our game Photosynthesis.  This should be finished within the next month, so look forward to that!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Game Design: Water Walker Prototype

This was an assignment to create a simple gameplay prototype using a nice learning curve and focusing on the design of the game, not so much the world/story/characters.  For my game, you are in a sewer-like system that is filled with dangerous acidic water.  You have a suit that allows to walk on top of the water to avoid getting hurt, however the suit is a prototype and requires frequent recharge using the gases of the sewer (in this case, they're glowing pick-ups).  You must escape this sewer by climbing your way to the exit.

Before building the prototype inside UDK, I sketched up some different puzzles that could be solved with a variety of difficulty levels.

Then, picking a few, I laid it all out.

The beginning allows the player to discover that the water is dangerous, giving them a little pool of it that can easily be avoided by jumping over it, or, if they decide to go in, jumping out of it.  The next step introduces the player to the pick-up, which will allow them to walk on water.  The area of water is too long for them to jump over and they will die before they able to swim across if they attempt that route.  They get the pick-up, and simply walk forward over the long area of water.  The next area is a puzzle, with a poster displayed three different colored lights in a certain order.  The lights are over the water, and the player must use the pick-up to hit each of the three lights to clear the path.  Next is the waterfall area, where the player learns they can also use the pick-up to climb up waterfalls.  The following area is a more advance use of the newly learned waterfall mechanic.  The player uses the pick-ups to climb the large waterfall, trying to get to a safe platform with another pick-up before theirs runs out.  After they climb the waterfall, they are rewarded with freedom.

Game Design: Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis is another game idea Amanda Cha and I worked on (and are still working on) together.  Photosynthesis is a sidescroller game that uses the character's power to light to interact with various plants that help progress the player through the level.  There are good plants the will assist you and evil plants that want nothing more than to see you dead.

The player character can both glow and dim their light to interact with different types of plants successfully.

I designed the map and possible gameplay for a demo level, keeping in mind a nice, steady learning curve and interesting puzzle opportunities.

In this level, the player must reach the temple (number 16) and then exit the level safely.  The player first learns how to jump, use their glow ability to make a plant bloom, and then realizes that their glow will enrage evil plants along the way.  With these mechanics introduced, the player goes through the level, utilizing their glow at appropriate times to achieve their goal.

We made a quick prototype for the demo using UDK.

We also have an animatic for a video game trailer that is actually a work in progress!  You can see any progress under my 3D Work section.

Game Design: Simon

I worked with two of my friends, Amanda Cha and Kez Laczin, on a game trailer and prototype demo.  Called "Simon," you play as a young boy in a point-and-click type game.  You are locked inside a house and must use the power of shadows to create new items in order to escape.

Here are some character designs and an illustration of how the game mechanic words done by me and my group.

I created the map and overall gameplay that would occur during the demo of this game.

With this in mind, we created an actual playable prototype using UDK.  It doesn't cover the whole demo, but gives the audience an idea of what the game will be about.

To accompany this demo, we also created an animatic for it's video game trailer.  I hope you enjoy!


Thursday, March 1, 2012

3D: Mother Plant and Some Textures

To throw in a little 3D work, here's the Mother Plant I've been working on, along with it's encompassing temple.  I am responsible for everything except for the pillars, which my thesis partner, Amanda Cha, did.

And here are some hand painted tileable textures I did for some variations of grass, dirt, bricks, tiles, and rocks.


Halo Reach: Those Maps

Before I start this large, hopefully enlightening rant, I'd like everyone to know that I love Halo.  I was a huge fan of Halo 3, putting thousands of hours into that game, and even playing a few Grifball tournaments with the big leagues.  To put it simply, I love Halo 3.  So you can guess how excited I was to get Halo Reach.  I was ready for new weapons, cool abilities, different map types, the list goes on.  I got the game, started it up, and played for a few days, trying to grasp my opinion on the game.  There was something about it I absolutely couldn't stand, and it was ruining the game for me.

Map design.

I dislike a vast majority of the maps in Halo Reach.  For the sake of this rant, I'm only going to use a few maps and compare them to one of the greatest maps from Halo 3, Valhalla.

Let's start with my least favorite map from Reach to get all a majority of my anger out of the way.

Reflection.  For those of you who don't do maps by names, Reflection is the level where everything is orange and oriental and clean.  This is the first point I'll address: visuals.  Everything looks the same.  There aren't any visual cues or landmarks that I can use to help navigate the space.  Sure, they have a center area with a pond full of koi fish, but running through hallways and different levels can get confusing fast.  Also, from a visual standpoint, the area doesn't seem to have a function or purpose.  Purely by looking at it, I can assume its some fancy executive building, or maybe a hotel, or maybe an art gallery since it's so EMPTY.  From a gameplay aspect, yeah, leaving narrow hallways empty during fast-paced combat is good for the gamer, but, for immersion's sake, I just can't find the space I'm running around in believable, and it leaves me with too many questions.  I don't stand for all gamers (or even a majority), but I get distracted and slightly frustrated when the space I'm playing in doesn't make even the smallest bit of logical sense.  Alright, enough about visuals.  I'm going into layout and design.

Here is a heatmap of Reflection.

The warm colors indicated lots of kills in that area, the cooler colors representing less so, and the grey space meaning that nothing really happens over here.  In a map for gameplay such as Halo's, there should NEVER be any grey space.  As you can see, in this map, there's quite a lot and only the lower half of the level seems to be where the most action is going down.  All in all, this map is not being used to its full potential.  Also, the area of most action is not at a central place, which is probably why I found myself running around with nothing to do, hoping to happen upon an enemy.

Now let's take a look a Halo 3's Valhalla.

Compared to Reflection, Valhalla is a lovely mess of color.  There is literally no grey space in playable areas.  It also has multiple points of high combat that covers a majority of the playable space with two at either end of the map and one giant glob of red in the middle.  With all of the areas of high interaction in this map, I'm told that I can be anywhere and still be in an area of combat.  Also, visually, I'm able to understand the map.  In each corner of the map, there's a visual landmark that not only helps players work their way around the map, but they also work as a combat motivator. At each end of the map is a base (friendly and enemy), to the right is the crashed Pelican, which can provide cover, allow players to be sneaky, and is a great sniper spot, and to the left is the cliff with the turret, which is another good sneaking spot as well as a nice wide space for vehicles to drive through (plus there's the turret, that's always cool).  Such a beautiful map.

I'm going to hit one more point before I close this post up.  Another thing that irked me about the Reach maps was this "King of the Hill" design.  One team spawns SUPER FAR AWAY from any action and spends most of their time trying to make their way back to any point of combat.  Two maps guilty of this crime?  The Spire and Boneyard, respectively.

I remember playing these maps and being extremely frustrated that I would have to run a long distance just to finally get to someone, where most of the time I would die anyway because I was on the low ground.  It's like those games that keep giving the better players more and more advantages over the less skilled players (I'm looking at you, Call of Duty).  And in this case, it might not even be the more skilled players, it's just the team that happens to spawn there.  I know this design is meant for the "defend territories!" style of gameplay, but it's just not fun for those at the disadvantage.  I already have to run halfway across the map, infiltrate their large defensive structure that's on higher ground, and somehow manage to stay alive as I capture their defense points.  I just want to cut these maps in half and get rid of all that pointless extra space.

Alright, I'm done hating on Halo Reach for now.  Any comments or other opinions are always welcomed!

(heatmaps from