Monthly Archives: November 2015

Say Hello To My Little Friends

Say Hello To My Little Friends

Well, what do you know? There’s another video featuring Buzz Monkey’s unreleased South Park game with more footage and info. This post is pretty much just to embed a playlist of all of the videos that have been put together for this project. The guy who actually owns the Xbox was able to get to more of the features in the build and seemed to play around quite a bit more than the video that was posted a couple months ago.

Look What I Found

I’m also going to post a few images that I found for anybody who is interested. This first one was a mockup that was made for a demo DVD that we burned.

Say Hello To My Little Friends

Here’s a rendered image of the boys that were on some other box mockups. I still think the artists did an amazing job of modeling the characters in 3D.

Characters_Final

Roll The Clips

Here’s the playlist of all the videos about the cancelled game, with the new video at the start:

And here’s a bonus clip of a Happy Feet demo that we did as well, which was on the dev kit with the South Park game:

What Could Have Been

And for anybody reading this far, have a colored map of South Park with every location in the town through season 8:

SouthPark_Final

If any more videos or information come out, I’ll make sure to post another update and add them to the playlist above. I may even post some more art and stuff as I dig through my backups and find stuff worth sharing. Sweet!

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Gems Of War

Gems Of War

Gems Of War

It’s official! A game that I did some contract work on has shipped. Gems Of War is now available for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. It’s the latest Puzzle/RPG from the original creators of Puzzle Quest.

Match 3 Puzzle Battles

The game itself is based on a match-3 puzzle mechanic, similar to Candy Crush Saga. Instead of single-player puzzles with different layouts and special pieces, the puzzles in Gems Of War are openly laid out and played against an AI opponent. Each side has a team of up to 4 characters who have special attributes and abilities. The player alternates taking turns with the AI, and as you match different colored gems (or skulls), you build up magic points which allow the characters to use their special abilities. Matching skulls and, most of the time, using special abilities deals damage to the opposing team. The last team with remaining characters wins the match.

I was a fan of Puzzle Quest many years ago, so I was pretty excited to get to work on the game. I was familiar with the game mechanics and strategies, so I could focus on the Xbox Live stuff without having to learn the game as well. In addition, whenever I had to test certain things, I got to play matches. It’s always nice to enjoy playing a game while you work on it.

Xbox One

The mobile and Steam versions of the game were written in Flash for the AIR platform, and Pipeworks re-wrote the game in Unity for the console versions. I was contracted to implement the Xbox One functionality.

This project went very smoothly. The other programmers had the game ported and running in Unity when I came onto the project and I just had to add support for the Xbox-specific features. As is the case with development on a new console, digging through the documentation and learning the idiosyncrasies of the platform take the bulk of your time. After going through the process though, it makes it much easier during subsequent projects.

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Bang The Chains!

Bang The Chains!

I’ve uploaded the final submission of VR Discs Of Golf to the Leap Motion 3D Jam. It’s probably not super applicable to you if you don’t have an Oculus Rift and Leap Motion controller, but I’ll be adding gamepad controls, Cardboard, and non-VR support after the 3D Jam so that everyone can play it.

Screenshot6

You can download it and vote for it here: VR Discs Of Golf submission page

Lessons Learned

It was a pretty fun project, and I learned quite a bit from it. Plus, I got to write some custom physics code for the discs. I’ll go ahead and dump whatever I can remember right now into this post for posterity.

“Free” Hardware

When I first heard about this 3D Jam just over a month ago, I was told that anybody who submitted a project would receive the Leap Motion controller for free. If I only consider the $80 cost, then I easily made less than 69¢ an hour. Of course, having a playable game is a much bigger payoff than the hardware.

I had decided to make a disc golf game while I was reading about the hardware, since I know a bunch of avid disc golfers and hadn’t really seen many disc golf games before. Unfortunately, after I received the controller I realized that the hand positions for disc golf are pretty much the worst they can be for motion tracking. So, the controls are a bit simplified for now.

Custom Physics Code

This was easily the highlight of the project. I haven’t written custom physics code in several years and it was great to get back to it. I read quite a few papers about disc physics and pulled together the parts that were sensible. Being the internet, there are a bunch of people who like to talk a lot about things that they don’t actually understand. Ultimately, I found myself taking much of my model from a few research papers, which I came across in various articles.

I prioritized the various aspects of the physics model and focused on the lift/drag model and gyroscopic precession first, since they have the most influence and were the easiest to test. Due to the time limit, I didn’t get to the more subtle aspects; spin decay, instability, magnus force, variable moment of pressure, etc. The game feels pretty good though, so I’m happy with what I got in for the 3D Jam.

Simplified Controls

The Leap Motion controller is a small box with 2 IR cameras in it that can track hand positions within a couple feet. When mounted on the front of the Oculus Rift, it can track your hands as you move them around in front of your face. Due to the angle that the cameras are facing, when you have your hands pointed away from you and closed it presents a very small image to process. Unfortunately, that’s the primary position for throwing a disc.

So, I’m still not entirely sure that the controller can’t detect disc throwing movements very well. I think that a major factor with the tracking issues I had is my old computer hitting its limits. I’m already researching new components to build a new machine soon.

In any case, since I needed the game to work on my machine, I simplified the controls to that you hold your hand(s) in positions that are very easy to identify for the controller. The controller seemed to do a very good job at recognizing when you open and close your hands, so I based most of the interface on opening and closing your hands to trigger actions, while using movement and rotation to fine tune the input.

I had a friend try it out earlier today and watched as he struggled to make it do what he wanted. Since I had to finish the game by midnight tonight, I was a little bummed. However, I tried a minor modification that turned out to work and the game is much better now. I basically separated the aiming and throwing phases of input which made each of them more robust. Phew!

Pre-release Means It’s Broken Somewhere

This no longer surprises me, but it still wastes my time. I never did update to the latest version of Oculus and Unity for the game, which I really wanted to do. The main reason is that I haven’t been able to get the latest version of the Oculus runtime working on my computer yet. I’m sure I’ll figure it out soon, but I didn’t want to waste time with it when the game worked with older versions. I doubt it would have made much of a difference, but I still don’t like feeling like there isn’t time to upgrade everything and take advantage of any bug fixes and optimizations.

VR Meteors Update

I’ve also done a little bit more work on VR Meteors this past month and am planning to upload the Oculus version to the share site soon. I’ve come across a few issues with the Android version that I’ll need to fix before I release a Cardboard build. I suspect that this will progress much faster now that the 3D Jam is done.

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