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You are very optimistic about the project as a whole, what you have learnt, and what you have overcome. I think it is really good to have such attitude towards other things, but not writing a PM. I cannot see your actual thoughts in the PM. Everything is very general and cheerful, even when you mentioned that your one of the programmers were leaving. I do not want to comment on that but if that was me, I would focus more on what went wrong throughout the project. Of course, mentioning the cheerful things make you feel good, but what teaches you much more is the nasty experience. You are going to find out the reason behind them thus learning how to avoid them the next time.
And a comment on your game. The overall feeling is good when enemies where all around. The boss fight sucks, though. There is only one solution to win the fight and it is not really fun.
Throughout the course Game Design 2: Game Development, I worked with Team Hastur and Developed the game “You may Kiss the Bride”. As a game designer, I discussed about the design aspects of the game with the group and made some creative changes to the original concept document to better meet the aesthetic goal. As an artist in the team, I have created a character animation, a cut scene about the same character (cooperated with another art student, Johan), various environmental tiles and objects and a set of GUI assets.
The overall result is not as satisfying as I expected. For a brief overview, the game works smoothly and is fun for some. The art assets I created turned out to work well together in the game and help improve players’ immersion. The aesthetic goal of the game is also achieved to a large extent. It is a functional game which matches the course requirements.
The reason why I am not satisfied is that there is nothing unique about the game. In short, the game is just a about a guy running through the level with a bride chasing after him. It is fast pace as we expected, but it is far from exciting. It is just like lots of other shoot ’em ups and gets me aesthetically fatigue after playing for one or two games, not to mention how would I feel after having been developing it for months. I do not like our creation.
What went wrong? Probably everything. First, the course. The course tries to teach us agile scrum methodology, which requires lots of iterations and inspections. However, the course sets rigorous requirements for specific dates. There is literally a “milestone” on a fixed date, while agile development is encouraged. We were asked to deliver a game with certain requirements. The requirements, however, are merely what the course responsible think are essential to the game (moving, shooting, a power-up), which are not at all the essential elements to our game. We were forced to make this rather than focus on what is important to our game. Second, the group. I did not enjoy work in this group and I did not feel my creativity was appreciated in the group. Some of the group members just wanted to meet the course requirements and ignored the creative ideas that could possibly make the game more fun. They thought trying these idea out would consume their precious time. (The idea probably won’t work anyway). However, this is against the agile practice. It is by iteration and inspection do we find a better design solution, rather than arguing during the meeting whether the idea would work or not.
I could feel better if I lower my expectation. But I never did. Is there any other way to do it better if I have a chance to start over? I honestly cannot see that so far.
Starting Menu and GUI
Starting menus are very common elements for video games. They are so common that game designers would make these menus without justifying the necessity. In some cases, however, a traditional starting menu with different bottoms can be totally unnecessary. The menu will only break the illusion without providing any utility. Instead, a starting scene or a “safe zone” can well substitute the functionality of the game and help improve the immersion. The starting scene below made for the game “you may kiss the bride” is an example.
At the beginning of the game, “you may kiss the bride” has a cut scene, where the background of the story is told to players. In the end of the cut scene, the avatar throws a holy grenade and stun the bride. The glaring holy light illuminates the whole screen. As the cut scene ends, the screen fades into black and then the next scene is loaded. If the developing team insert a start menu at this point, the immersion built by the cut scene will be gone and the narrative of the story will get brusquely interrupted. Besides, the start menu’s utility cannot be justified. There is only one game level. It is a short and fast game so players will not save their progress. If there is a start menu, the only functionalities it will serve are entering the only level, reading the controls, checking the credits and quitting the game. The team found the credits can be placed shown at the end of the game, and the quitting function is already in the pause menu. The only functions the game still requires at this point are entering the game level and reading the controls.
The team thus refused to have a traditional starting menu. Instead, a starting scene, or a safe space is introduced to provide the functionalities while extending the narrative of the cut scene and improving the immersion. As the screen fades out in the end of the cut scene, it fades in when entering the starting scene. The connection is seamless except for the perspective. After entering the scene, the player will see the controls explained on the floor. He/she can also roam around in the scene and try shooting and using the powerup. And a red carpet is used to guide the player to pick up the powerup, magazine and go to the top of the screen. Once the player reaches the top, the player enters the actual gameplay scene. To exit the game in the starting scene, the player can hit the “esc” key and trigger the pause menu, then click quit to exit. With such a starting scene, the narrative is more coherent, the immersion is constant, and it serves all the functions in a succinct way.
In a broader sense, game designers should reconsider the “must have”, “necessary” or “essential” elements of video games. Nothing is “necessary” nor “essential” unless they make the game more fun or contribute to the aesthetics. Nothing should be taken granted. Only if the designers have such mindset can the games be concise and unique.