Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Levels 1 and 3 Complete

I finished Level 1 last week and whipped out Level 3 today. I did the testing on these myself but will still have them tested by others for degree of difficulty. They are being done out of order to fit together in the DMap area. I am holding off on loading these for playtesting just yet so that I get more information on the Overworld first. They will be going up on YouTube tomorrow, however. Here are the two maps:

Level 1 - Croc's Head

Level 3 - Ghost

- VashTS

Friday, October 2, 2009

Zelda SoDak: Overworld

As promised, the Overworld to my Zelda Classic game is complete. Again, I'm sorry if you can't see the pencil lines. I'm going to have some playtesting of the Overworld and may have to make changes if something doesn't flow right. Here are pictures of the grid I made and the finished product:

- VashTS

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Austin GDC Roundup

Last week was the annual Game Developers Conference in Austin, Texas. For those of you who don't know, GDC is a massive game industry conference where companies of all sizes get together and discuss the latest trends in the industry. Sessions can vary from "how to grab the attention of the casual markey," "how to make sure you aren't infringing on copyrights," "how to better market your games," and "how we used this piece of software to make our game really cool and now we're telling you how to do the same (in other words: really technical stuff)."

There are several difference locations that hold a GDC every year at the same time. Austin's is always in September, San Francisco is always in March, Europe's (held in Cologne, Germany) is every August, then there's Canada's and China's as well. Out of the two I've been to (Austin and San Francisco), Austin is much smaller and has a more relaxed atmosphere whereas San Francisco is more like the E3 of GDCs. By this I mean that is it extremely huge, showcases new games as well as industry insight, and the after parties are pretty much all exclusive. I guess while I'm at it, I should explain what E3 is in case people don't know that one, either. E3 stands for the Electronic Entertainment Expo and is held every June in Los Angeles. Unlike GDC which is more technical, E3 is the time for all the companies to display all the newest games and hardware for the next year.

Anyway, back to GDC. Like I had said, Austin is much smaller and has a more casual atmosphere than San Francisco. You are able to walk around the Expo floor and talk to people for pretty much as long as you like whereas in SF you might have a minute if you're lucky. This was certainly true again but something else I notice this year compared to last year was that the crowd size had been reduce dramatically. Sessions weren't nearly as full as they usually are and the Expo floor was literally half the size that it was last year, if not more. The majority of booths at the Expo were also software and technology companies rather than actual game companies. I heard that there were 4,000 people in attendance this year, which by itself is by no means small, but when you compare it to previous years, some heads might turn wondering why the difference. I have two theories. The first and most logical to the average person: the economy. With things as they are now, most companies probably can't afford to send people to these events and would rather save up for E3 or even possibly GDC San Francisco since it is bigger. This theory is backed by reports I've heard on state government conventions, mainly dealing with the DoT (Department of Transportation). They had a big conference a couple of weeks ago as well and most places couldn't afford to send their employees. So many, including the guest speakers, had video phone conversations set up in their offices that were broadcast at the convention site.

My second theory is the main theme of this year's convention: MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games, or even simpler just MMO). While this is a huge market and brings in a ton of revenue, there really aren't all that many companies that are focused on this genre of games as compared to the industry as a whole. This means that while some topics can be beneficial for non-MMO companies, the majority are leaving the rest of the industry without much to take in. Several companies were also saying this as well as the indie crowd.

Overall, though, Austin was just as much fun as it was last year. The sessions I attended were extremely beneficial. I'm going to post some links to some articles on these talks below if anyone is interested in reading on them. For two nights, the Alamo Drafthouse in downtown Austin held showings of two different documentaries. The first was filmed at last year's GDC SF and is called Into the Night. It followed Chris Crawford, an early game designer and founder of the GDC, and Jason Rohrer, a young indie game developer, around SF as they talked about how games have changed over the years. The second night featured a documentary on the rise and fall of pinball, most notably Williams Pinball, called Tilt. Both were very good but I found Tilt to be extremely interesting - especially because of the fact that there is only one pinball company now and Williams, who used to be the largest distributer in the world, had made a ground-breaking new machine in 1999 that I had never seen and now they are gone.

Before and after these documentaries, there were short films that people had made that were inspiried by the look and feel of video games and also probably animation on the whole. Some of these were pretty funny but on the whole they were really messed up. I'll post links to two of them so you can see what I mean.

In other news, my Zelda Overworld is about 80% done by now. I'll have more screens of it up later this week. My plan is to have the entire Overworld (e.g. - layout, secrets, shops, etc.) completed by next weekend. Should be a pretty easy deadline. Then it's on to the dungeons.

- VashTS


GDC Sessions:

Storytelling through Independent Games

Splosion Man Postmortem

Flashbang Studios: How to Make a Game in 8 Weeks

Fantasic Contraption Postmortem

Gaijin Games: Holistic Indie Game Design

The Universe Behind World of Warcraft


Tilt: The Battle to Save Pinball Trailer

Into the Night (It's in English but has German subtitles)

Kings of Power 4 Billion %

Pirate Baby's Cabana Battle Street Fight

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Zelda SoDak

I'm starting to piece together my Zelda Quest. I've been drawing the overworld out on graph paper. The border is complete and so are two of the prime sections. I have some other pieces done as well but they aren't really in a "section" yet so to speak (e.g. - Lost Woods, Death Mountain, Kakariko Village, etc.). Once I complete something on the map, I have been placing it into ZQuest. I'm not fretting over secrets, shops, and other things of that nature yet. I know where I will be placing them but I'm not doing it in ZQuest until I have the entire overworld complete. Then these sections will come in followed by the dungeons. The only section I have actually put in is the Badlands maze because otherwise Link will get stuck in a wall.

Here are some comparison screens of the graph map I made and the end product in ZQuest. I have the graph blocked out for each square of the overworld (the dark black lines) and the normal graph squares represent one tile square. This way I know exact dimensions of everything. If you can read the graphs, 'S' means "stone," 'A' means "Armos," and 'T' means "tree." Anyways, here's the photos:

I may have to raise things higher on the bottom of the screen. I'll have to see based on playthroughs later. It won't be that big of a deal, though. These two photos show two of the dungeons. One of hidden in the forest...

In other news, GDC Austin begins in a week. I've had a bug of some kind for the past week because I've been going to bed/waking up with a lot of phlegm and coughing. It has been getting considerably better but I went into the doctor's today and got some pills just so that I'd be completely over it by the time the convention starts. Can't wait!

- VashTS

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Zelda Classic is Rolling

I had started to use a tutorial I found for ZQuest (the Zelda Classic editor) but it stopped in the middle. Then I found the "official" ZQuest tutorial created by AlphaDawg, the winner of Zelda Classic's Third Quest competition. His quest was dubbed the "Third Quest" and was put in with an updated version of Zelda Classic. The tutorial he made still doesn't cover every nook and cranny of ZQuest but it does go through all of the basics you'd need to make a quest in the same fashion as the original two.

A link for AlphaDawg's site is found below:

There were a couple of things I could not figure out while doing his tutorial and the YouTube tutorials of BikdipOnABus helped cover them. The first of his tutorials is linked below:

The only issue I'm having still is the drying up of a pond when you blow the whistle - like in the original game for getting into Level 7 (shown at 40 seconds in below):

I think the animation was taken out of my version and so I'll have to just resort to using a secret combo with no animation.

Head over to my portfolio and check out the end product of the tutorial. There are a few items wrong in it that I found the fixes to the day after making the video (of course). These issues involved the grayscale stairs you see. There was an audio glitch I also encountered which took all of my background music away. I found the fix for that on PureZC.com but the background music you hear in the video I put in manually to sync up using Audition. I'm pleased with the results, glad I won't have to do it again, but also mad that I had to in the first place.

- VashTS

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hiatus Complete!

The school term ended at the end of March and I have been taking it rather easy since then. The graduation ceremony was in the middle of April and I had been teaching at my hometown high school. I really enjoyed showing the kids how to do things and they were very eager to learn, especially after knowing what I went to school for. There are a few students that are looking into going to Brown for Game Design because I had been coming in to show them various aspects of the game industry.

My college diploma - isn't it pretty? They left my middle name out, though, even though I told them to put it on...

For the month of June I was in Europe touring around Italy, Germany, France, and England. Learning about the history of the Roman Empire and seeing their architecture was really impressive. Germany was the most fun just to walk around and take in, however - especially Oberammergau and King Ludwig's castles. I may make a post here with some pictures from the trip, haven't decided yet.

Since I have returned from Europe I have been showing my relatives all the pictures and everything. I have also resumed the job search. I updated my website some yesterday and am currently working on two models and working with an editor called Zelda Classic. Zelda Classic allows you to make complete games from the original Legend of Zelda. Somehow you can load sprites from A Link to the Past and Link's Awakening as well as your own but I haven't gotten that far yet.

I am also dinking with a Mario editor called Mario Forever (the editor is called Mario Worker). The most frustrating thing with this editor is that you have to completely close out of the editor to test your level, test it, close that out, and then wait for the editor to load back up. There is no real documentation, either, so it takes a lot of experimentation to figure out the right combination. For this editor it wouldn't be so bad if it didn't take so long to constantly reload.

So that's were I'm at for the moment. Time to get back to work.

- VashTS

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Area 52 Progression pt. 4

The quarter is winding down. Everything is due in three days. The level is pretty much complete at this point. Only three items still need to be textured and then a bit more tweaking maybe on lighting. Here is the level currently:

The classic view of the level. Unreal is putting a lot of emphasis on the fact that the box in the lower-right is at an angle for some reason... The hidden doors are in place and you can tell the variation in color. I also added in the plexiglass that is covering the wall of the computer lab. Now players can see inside of this area and also use this section as a sniping position by climbing to the part just above the doorway.

Adam's alien creations in their tubes.

A view of the incubation chambers.

The other tubes. This is one of the areas I may have to brighten up a tad.

The ramp in place. The cables are one of the three items that needs to be textured still. You can see in this pictures (and some in the incubation picture above) that I extended out the catwalk in front of the Domination points. By doing this, and by having the crates where they are, a player is now able to jump throughout the entire level. The ramp section was already designed to do this but I had a request to also have this possible in the central area as well. It also adds a nice touch to the environment.

The computer room. The computer terminal here and some computers in the main area are the other two items that need to be textured. I have rigged three cameras (two of which you can see in the first picture) to show the main area on the computer screens. Two of the images are stationary on the Domination points while the other has a constant pan of the entire laboratory.

I'll keep saying it through the rest of these progression posts, but a huge thanks goes out to Adam Bergstrom and Jessie Brueske for their help. Adam's alien models turned out fantastic and they add a lot to the level by slowly moving in their tubes. Jessie has put a lot of effort into the texture work and it definitely shows. It all goes beyond my expectations. Thanks again!

- VashTS

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Area 52 Progression pt. 3

Not too much to say on these screens. All of the models now are either created by myself or can be found in the Unreal packs. The overhead lights I took from the Anteup level we had made previously. Besides that, if a model has a texture on it instead of bubble-wrap, it's from Unreal. The rest are mine and were created specifically for this level. The first two screens just show the difference lighting will make to a level. The last image is of the computer room.

The next post in this series will be of the level textured. Jessie Brueske is creating the textures for me. Adam Bergstrom has designed, modeled, and textured the aliens which will be placed in the tubes. Please visit their blogs and portfolios. A link to their blogs can be found on the right side of mine. Their portfolio sites can be found here:


- VashTS

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Area 52 Progression pt. 2

After I made some concept sketches for myself, I started work in Unreal 2004. I hadn't used the engine for over a year - since we made Anteup (see my website for screens) - so I started with just reaquainting myself with the engine. This didn't take too long, thankfully.

I started out with the main building shape and catwalk system. Then I went and got the doors and central area made with the jump pads and tubes and ramps on the sides. Movers and triggers were also completed. Everything right now is made with brushes from Unreal.

As I continued, I began to change the level a little bit. Instead of having the central tube completely broken off, I increased its height all the way to the ceiling and added support pillars to increase the amount of cover in the level. The central tube will now have two entrances on the top and ground levels. The two Domination points and capture screens were set up and I started to create my own models in 3ds Max and placing them as well (ie - the catwalk).

Here I replaced the temporary ramp I made in Unreal with the one I created in Max. More cover was added with the five boxes shown, which are incubation chambers. An entrance to the Domination point was also added on the lower level.

I fleshed out the six tubes a bit more, making the one look like the jump pad I had in the concept art.

I also added more tubes in another section of the laboratory and made a jump pad there as well. This gives players five ways total to get to the Domination points on either side. The door you see on the upper level on the left is a hidden door. Remember the Library level in Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64? I added in this door based on the hidden doors in the walls in that game. Players can either hide in here or use the hallway inside it as a shortcut to the other side of the map, without having to going through the open. At this point, the majority of the meshes in the level are still created with brushes in Unreal.

The next post will show how the level has changed after my own Max models and lighting are included.

- VashTS

Friday, February 27, 2009

Area 52 Progression pt. 1

Area 52 is my Capstone project. It is a Double Domination match created with the Unreal 2004 Engine. Area 52 is a secret government base - even more secret than Area 51 - in which research is done on different alien species. Unlike Area 51 where they just try to understand different aliens and their technology, Area 52 experiments with different species, DNA splicing, and other tests that would most likely be deemed inhumane and illegal. One of the aliens the laboratory was testing with broke loose and began to wreck the site.

Each of these parts will display how work on this level has progressed. Today will be some basic concept art:

This was the level layout I designed. The two Domination points are on either side of the map in two rooms on the upper floor. Switches are scattered throughout the level that will close doors on these points to help a team either offensively or defensively. There are also switches that will activate a door that holds the Redeemer.

This is the computer room, which is at the bottom center of the level on the second floor. Several of the switches are in this room and the monitors will display the action in the central area.

This is in the middle of the laboratory - the tube that held the alien which broke loose. The plexiglass underneath is where the Redeemer is held. The air bubbles that are still coming out of the tube will allow a player to fly up to the second floor.

In the bottom-left corner of the lab are six tubes which are used to hold some of the aliens. One of the tubes is shattered, allowing players to use its air bubbles to jump to the second floor.

Tune in tomorrow to see the beginning of the stub level progression.

- VashTS

Friday, February 20, 2009

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

I am very open when it comes to different genres of music, film, books, and games. There is always at least one thing that I like about each genre. However, like everyone else, I do have my favorites...

Anything with a piano in it gets bumped up on my list. That being said, Jim Steinman is my all time favorite composer and songwriter. Not only does he make what I feel are the best songs period but almost every one of them has piano in it. His solo album, Bad for Good, all of Meat Loaf's albums, Bonnie Tyler and anything else he has done is just amazing. Listen to Tanz der Vampire sometime (my personal all-time favorite musical). He wrote the music for this musical and Michael Kunze wrote the libretto. It is based on a Roman Polanski film entitled The Dance of the Vampires in Europe and The Fearless Vampire Killers here in the States. Even though most of the score is from previous works Steinman has done, they all sound beautiful and fit very well with this musical. It is the fullest sounding musical I have ever heard.

Classical, Oldies, and Classic Rock are my favorite music genres. Rap and Country are my least favorite, although there are some songs in there that I do like. I also enjoy soundtracks to video games and some movies. Along with Jim Steinman, John Williams, Koji Kondo, and Nobuo Uematsu are my favorite composers.

I also enjoy musical theatre. With Tanz der Vampire being my personal favorite, my other favorites include: The Phantom of the Opera, Whistle Down the Wind, Wicked, and RENT.

There are very few movies that I don't enjoy. They aren't all classics and epic in proportion, but they still entertain. Some of my favorites include: The Lord of the Rings, Rocky Saga, Amadeus, The Dark Knight, Die Hard Saga, Donnie Darko, Ghostbusters, Labyrinth, Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy, The Notebook, and Wall-E . One of the best cinematic moments was the death scene of Captain Beckett in Pirates 3: At World's End. I would post it but the only videos available are pretty long, so check out this YouTube posting of it (start watching at 4:40 in and go through the end - or just watch the entire thing, haha).


TV Shows
I don't have too much time for television but there are a few shows I watch. Even though it's a soap opera, Days of our Lives has been fun to watch. I started up in 2003 and while the storyline has gone down some since then it is still a good show. You can get inspiration from anywhere and if a show has been able to stay on the air for 44 years, they have to be doing something right. I prefer shows that have some form of continuous plot (which is one reason why I like Days) so One Tree Hill, 7th Heaven, Gilmore Girls, and Friends are also things I'll watch if I have time.

South Park is another show I will always catch. Matt and Trey do an excellent job of satire. I love to cook, so Iron Chef (both the Japanese and American versions) are something I try to watch as much as I can.

Besides these, I usually just watch Japanese Anime. I used to watch more American cartoons but they have all become episodic and fairly generic. Back in the day I always watched Reboot, Pirates of Dark Water, and The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog. The old-school cartoons are still fun to watch as well (Tom & Jerry, Flintstones, Jestons, etc.). My favorite animes include: Rurouni Kenshin, Trigun, Bleach, Yu Yu Hakusho, Dragon Ball Z, Gundam Wing, Death Note, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Cowboy Bebop.

I read as much as possible in a variety of genres. My favorites are: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, Twilight Saga, Day of the Cheetah, Resident Evil Series, Pride and Prejudice, Alice in Wonderland, and Wicked.

Video Games
Finally, we come to the games. I prefer Platform and Action-Adventure games but again I have favorites in every genre. Here is a list of game series I like: Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Kid Icarus, Metal Gear Solid, Castlevania, Devil May Cry, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Mega Man, Resident Evil, Prince of Persia, and God of War.

Other games not in a series I like include: Ikaruga, Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG, Raiden, X-Men Arcade, Eternal Darkness, Killer 7, Viewtiful Joe, Shadow of the Colossus, and Zack & Wiki.

I picked up Deadly Creatures for the Wii last week and have been enjoying that so far.

So there is a little taste into my favorites. The next post will show the progress I have done on my Capstone project.

- VashTS

Saturday, February 14, 2009

FIRS - oh, wait...

You know how on a popular blog - and especially on a popular YouTube video series - whenever a new addition is added all of the commentors scramble to be the first one to say 'first?' Well, that is exactly how this post feels. By all rights it should have actually been the first. Unless you consider the last post as a preface or the very introduction, just getting you comfortable. This post could also be like the beginning of the sequel to a book, giving the readers reminders of past events while cluing in those who may not have read the previous installments (the Twilight Saga is a perfect example of this). That would probably be the best definition because those that have read my other blog know all of the following information, or at least should. Therefore, this post is dedicated to those that have never heard of me or have only a vague idea of me.

Welcome to my blog: The Realm of the Humanoid Typhoon II. Back in May of 2006 I started up a blog on IGN for two reasons: the first was because E3 was just around the corner and I wanted to share my thoughts on what was coming. The second reason was because I was about to transfer schools. At the time I had been going to South Dakota State University in Brookings, SD studying Computer Science. It wasn't exactly what I had wanted but it was the closest thing I could afford at the moment. What I really wanted to do was go to school to learn how to create video games. The only two options available to me were DigiPen out in Washington state and Full Sail down in Florida. Both of these, especially considering where they were located, were very expensive. I had planned on getting my BS in Computer Science in state and then transferring to DigiPen to get an Associates. During my Junior year of college, I started seeing commercials for a Game Design major being offered at Brown College in Mendota Heights, MN. I was somewhat upset at this because I had already spent going on three years of college when I could have just gone across the state line and gotten the major I had wanted in the first place if it had been offered when I graduated from high school. Over Christmas break, I applied and got accepted into Brown. I would finish out the year at SDSU and then start the new term at the new school in July. Seeing how IGN was a gaming community, I figured it would be beneficial for others to at least get a small taste of what a gaming college was like in case they were interested in applying as well. The name of this blog: The Realm of the Humanoid Typhoon. Vash the Stampede has always been a favorite character of mine and his attitude is quite similar to my own - very joking and good natured but also very serious when the situation calls for it.

Skip ahead almost three years and I am about ready to graduate (Countdown: 33 days). During this time, I have completed four games from Concept Proposal to Gold while at school and my IGN blog has been fairly popular. I also started up a podcast series called Knights Reborn which consists of myself and three other IGN blog members talking about anything but mostly game related material. Come tomorrow we will be recording our 21st episode.

While I have been pretty good at just about every aspect of game development, the level design aspect has been my personal favorite. Animation is too slow and tedious for my tastes and texturing is definitely out. If given enough time I can turn out some amazing texture work but since I'm color-blind I need to have others tell me which colors go well together and if things that look right to my eyes look right to theirs. Programming, since that's the major I started in, I'm decent at but wouldn't care to have as my career. Audio is okay. I took piano for 10 years so I have musical ability but I get extremely frustrated when I can find the right instrument to match what I want. Besides, if I had it my way everything would be piano and only piano. Level design, however, was different. While it too can be extremely tedious, it suited my OCD-like tendencies for perfection. I could spend just enough time making things perfect while not going overboard and spend too much time. I enjoyed making levels and I was good at it. I had created a stub of our first group Unreal CTF level in the first week of class, had some people playtest it, and they said it was perfect. I have a strong love for the Zelda and Mario series for their puzzles and platforming respectively. As such, I have made some interesting obstacles within Unreal and other levels to reflect this while retaining the feel of the game that is supposed to be played.

As I had stated previously, my personality is normally very up-beat and easy going. However, I do know when it is time to be serious. I was in Boy Scouts and earned the rank of Eagle at the age of 13 - something that's very unheard of. I then went on and earned 9 Eagle Palms before my 18th birthday. During this time I was in a leadership position about as much as I was in the subordinate position. This gave me the ability know both sides of the coin - being able to follow orders and being able to give orders so that people will follow them. This trait has benefitted me in group projects throughout my years in school and in other areas as well.

That's a summary of me. I would say a brief summary but it isn't exactly brief, haha. Those that know me know that I like to make a novel out of everything. I hope this has given you at least a glimpse into what makes me me. In the next post, I'll expand a bit more (if that's possible) with some favorites. Then it's on to the primary purpose of this blog - my work pertaining to the game industry. Cheers.

- VashTS

Friday, February 13, 2009

Kicking it off on My Day

It's Friday the 13th. The new Jason movie is out and so I figured it was also a good day to finally start my second blog. While my IGN account spans all topics of interest, this site will be primarily for any updates concerning my work in the game industry itself. This includes all solo work on levels for my website (and any other website updates), reviews of games I have played, my thoughts on different game articles (posted on IGN, Joystiq, Gamasutra, Nintendo Power, Game Developer Magazine, etc.) and any information I can actually disclose about the industry itself (the Game Developers Conference and E3 information and such). Some posts I may put on both sites but we will see. Along with starting up this new blog, I have also updated by website quite a bit. The Portfolio section has been rearranged to showcase the level design aspect more, the link to this blog has been activated, and I have included some links to other sites I frequent as well as some of my favorite quotes.

I hope you all enjoy this site as much as my IGN one. I will be doing another expanded post here tomorrow. Until then!

- VashTS