Author Archives: Nick Buonarota

New Posts

I have a few ideas for some pretty interesting blog posts. I hope I have time to write and publish them this weekend. If the following topics interest you, then check back this weekend.

  • Ripple Effects of dual wielding Weapons in Halo 2
  • Halo 2 and Xbox Live: How Halo 2’s multi-player systems changed the way online console games are played.
  • IGM Interactive Media Guild Halloween Hack-a-thon 2013 Postmortem.
  • A new Blog sub page on Multiplayer FPS Design, Opinion, and Research.
  • An update on “Mystic Mysteries”
  • Maybe I’ll even post some of my portfolio work up here.

I feel pretty confident that one of these will be up by Sunday, November 17, 2013.

Here is a little preview: ūüėČ

Fig. 2 - Pick up and dual wield

(from one of the upcoming blog posts) – can you guess which one?

Until next time… Later nerds.
– Nicky Da B

A Blog Post that has nothing to do with Giant Film Noir Robots from Space in a 3D Action Adventure Platformer Stealth MMO Game

As I sit here at my desk typing away furiously at a keyboard at 12:58 AM on a Monday night (Tuesday morning), I realize that most of the things that I do are because other people ask me to do them. Not to sound like some sort of depressed loser, but looking at my recent tasks and accomplishments, it is the truth. Even this blog post is a mandated upload from a Professor for a class assignment. I’m not saying that I’m not motivated and that I can’t get off my lazy butt and do things, but when is it okay to break away from the chains of mundane tasks and follow your dreams?

Yesterday I promised a student, who I worked on a project with in the past, that I would re compile the project and send it to him so that he could show it to potential employers.

Last weekend I really wanted to make a blog post about my experiences with the IGM Interactive Media Guild Halloween Hackathon. I planned to go into detail about how I hadn’t touched character modeling and animation in over 2 years and how I went from pre-concept all the way to a fully animated character model in about 18 hours. I really wanted to express my feelings of crunch time production and all the great bonding experiences I shared with other game developers who shared the same passions for greatness. But instead I had to do homework for my other classes.

A picture of my set up from the game jam.

A picture of my set up from the game jam.

Over the summer I wanted to make a cool and goofy flash game and publish it on the internet to a website such as Kongregate.

For this entire past year I wish I could go back to my hobby of level design and world building by having some time to work on my Counter Strike maps.

Yet it seems that I’m working crazy long days averaging about 6 hours of sleep on a good night. So where does all the time go? Is it Facebook, reddit, or maybe sitting on my ass telling myself to get my act together? No, it’s not! Well, maybe some of it…

But mostly the time has been getting eaten up by other people like I mentioned before. It’s usually school related, both directly and indirectly related to class work.

Honestly I don’t know why I’m writing this. El’ says to ignore the man and follow your dreams. Clive says that writing helps our brains exercise and what not. Everyone has their opinions. I’m not here to judge. Blogs are suppose to be short little dribbles of thought with 50% entertainment and 50% information. I’ve already past the point of no return in terms of attention span, and so far this blog has been 0% entertainment, 0% informational, and 100% garbage data.

So for the reader who is still reading, I implore you to stop. Close this window and go and follow your passion. You’re not fooling anyone, I know reading this blog isn’t your dream.

…You’re still reading…

Well okay. If you insist, then I’ll continue with a long and boring opinion of my first semester of Graduate school. Oooh. Feel the excitement. I told you to stop.

Well, here goes nothing. This is the story of Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man

Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man

Yep, that’s me trying to adventure through this crazy thing we call academia.

So Grad School for Game Design and Development, all we do is play games right? It doesn’t seem that hard. This semester I’m enrolled in four classes, which are Game Development Processes, Game Design, Gameplay and Prototyping, and Colloquium in Game Design and Development.

Game Development Processes is a very interesting class. In this class we discuss game production, how to produce and develop a game from start to finish, and how to deal with all the formal aspects related to documentation and such. It has really opened my eyes and reminded me of topics that I already knew about. I have definitely taken a new approach to game development while taking this class. One of the core elements that I took away from this class was that now I always make a game design document for any game that I work on, whether it is for a full fledged game intended for production or just a pitch with 5 slides in a power point. It really helps with making a better quality product.

Game Design is a very intensive literature and philosophical based class. I do a lot of readings for this class. Most of them are very interesting, and I wish I had the time to read them in full detail rather than skimming for material essence and core content. But the really valuable experiences in the class are from the dialogues with the other students in the class about the reading material. Bouncing ideas off of other scholars, arguing about opinions, and embracing new ideas is simply amazing.

Gameplay and Prototyping is a very work intensive class that simulates what, I assume, one of the parts of R&D to be, at a game company. Our assignments can be clearly mapped to a producer at the company coming down to your desk, informing you of a game idea, and asking if you can have a playable prototype by the end of the week to show to the rest of the team in order to figure out whether the game is fun or not and therefor inform the decision on whether or not to fund this as a full time project for the company. Getting the opportunity to practice these skills is super valuable. The only way to get better is to really get enthusiastic about the tasks and practice, practice, practice. Through time, critique, iteration, and willpower even a square marble block can become a grand vision of art.

Colloquium in Game Design and Development is a pretty unique class in the aspect that the topic changes every week. Sometime I call it “Special Topics” because of that. Sometimes we have professors come in and talk about there research projects or their special interests of study. Other times we have special guest speakers from industry, who give us an inside look on how the game industry works from their point of view.

But honestly, I really love it. It has been a great experience so far. I only see it getting better. We are going to make the next great games of tomorrow.

Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip: It's a magical world, Hobbes, Ol' Buddy... Let's go exploring!

It’s a magical world, Hobbes, Ol’ Buddy… Let’s go exploring!

Who We Are and How That Affects How We Play

It’s simple really. Humanity is made up of many different types of people. Each person is different. We all have our own personality, and our personality affects how we interact in everyday situations. From greeting a friend in the hall to ordering lunch at the sandwich stand, our psychological personality comes out in every activity that we participate in throughout the day. It affects how we respond to all the stimuli around us. It should be of no surprise that our personality also affects how we experiment, learn, and play.

One of the big questions of life is, “Who am I?” Now we can have another blog post dedicated to that entire topic. So maybe we should just put that topic on the back burner for now. Maybe we will come back to that some other day. One approach to answering this question has been to take many many tests. These tests are sometimes psychological examinations that help us determine our personal preferences. These personal preferences, when analyzed by researchers, turn into data that we have labeled as “personalities.”

So what kind of personality do you think you have? Are you the calm, cool, collected, hero? Maybe you are the loose cannon cop who doesn’t play by the rules? Perhaps you have the quiet reserved personality type that prefers books and logic compared to the reality of the busy everyday world. In any case, society has some predetermined notions of some “top” personality stereotypes. But if you are interested and your curiosity pushes you beyond the cultural accepted stereotypes, then I encourage you to take this personality test here:

http://www.personalityassessor.com/ipip300/

My IPIP results below: (Not meant to be seen as a model or to be judged. Simply an example.)

bigfive

chart1 chart2 chart3 chart4 chart5

The IPIP-300 is an in depth psychological personality test that is used by personality psychologists everyday! It is based around the “Big-Five” personality model of psychology, which is currently one of the most popular models of personality traits among psychologists. The “Big-Five” model categorises your personality in five distinct aspects (Openness to new experiences, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism – aka O.C.E.A.N) and also sub-divides those five into 30 more specific personality facets for a more detailed analysis.

Jason VandenBerghe, Creative Director at Ubisoft, argues that these “Big-Five” personality traits and the 30 personality facets translate into the “5 Domains of Play and the 30 facets of play.” I’m not here to spoon feed you his presentation you can read that here:

2013 Presentation: http://www.darklorde.com/2013/07/slides-gdc-2013-acting-like-players-applying-the-5-domains-of-play/

2012 Presentation: http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1015364/The-5-Domains-of-Play

(Or if you are lucky enough to have access to the GDC Vault, then you can watch a recording of his presentation.)

slide1 slide2 slide3

Okay, okay, what does all of this psychological mumbo jumbo mean? What is the bottom line Stan? Why do I care about this? How should we interpret this?

Well, it comes back to another question first? “Do we play for the same reasons that we live?” The answer is “pretty much.” We play to learn, grow, experiment, practice, and try out new experiences in ways that we simply can’t do in real life. So obviously our personality would, should, and does pour into our play styles.

Our personality tells us or at least hints at what types of games we like to play. This is certainly helpful to designers because it provides a good solid starting point when developing games. By understanding the human mind and the 30 personality facets, we can develop games that we enjoy playing because they reinforce the experiences that our personality wants to explore.

Jason VandenBerghe, provides some very relatable examples in his presentation. I encourage you to read it if you decided to skip it. There are example personality types, interconnections, and how everything is related. The presentation is definitely an eye-opener.

In conclusion, I believe that we play games for similar reasons to which we live our lives. Because of that assumption, if we understand the human mind through established psychological processes, like the O.C.E.A.N model, then we can provide ourselves with a good foundation and starting point to create games and experiences that we are intrinsically motivated to play because they complement our psychological personalities.

Game Review: Star Raiders

Game: Star Raiders
System: Atari 800
Players: 1 Player
Year: 1979

title

Star Raiders is a simple 3D space shooter. The majority of the game is in the 1st person pilot view. The player flies around in an asteroid field and shoots asteroids and enemy alien ships. That’s it. It’s a simple game and there is not much to it.

fight

Yet it gives the illusion of depth. It seems to come in the rule of three’s. First off, there are three types of enemy ships, which boil down to easy, medium, and hard, but they are all unique. Second there are three distinct gameplay screens. There is a part where you fly through space with a 2D top down view. There is another part when you shoot enemies with a first person 3D view. Then there is a part where you choose the next warp jump on a map grid. Then you repeat the process. Changing between these screens and actions gave me the illusion of playing a much larger game than what it actually was when you take the time to dissect it.

longRange

The controls also helped in the immersion for me. The controls were grouped together very nicely. This game combined the joystick and the keyboard very smoothly. You use the joystick to fly the ship and the keyboard for support functions. The keyboard controls especially impressed me. Similar operating controls are grouped together, yet each has its own section on the keyboard. Each section was spread out enough to give a sense of a “zone” for each type of job that you would find on a ship. For example, all of the controls that dealt with ship thruster speed where on the top of the keyboard and laid out in order from slow speed to fast speed, and then all of the controls that dealt with your view screen were located at the bottom left hand corner of the keyboard. The key layout wasn’t about mapping the keys around your hand so you had access to all the controls at any instant. Oddly it felt like a space ship control panel rather than a keyboard. I feel like a lot of time when into the thought of the layout of the controls, even though it might not be apparent at first.

grid

Good example of a game that can do a lot with a little. 4/5 stars. ****