Nomad: Using Google Sheets to prototype the game

We are working on a new mobile title as we currently call, Nomad. We observed that the number of mobile strategy games on the mobile markets are too few. After hundereds hours of playing Civilization, Total War and Settlers of Catan, we decided to design a good strategy game on mobile.

Before talking about our prototype in Google Sheets, I would like to speak of the game briefly.

Nomad, as its name tells, is a game about nomadic tribes. It is a hexagon tile based, resource management, turn-based mobile strategy game. Instead of settlement games such as Civilization or lets say Catan, players are mobile. They can move their settlements according to their needs. This mobile settlements gathers the resources from the occupied hexagon tiles. Resources, food, wood, stone, iron and gold, can be used to carve totem heads which give certain or unique advantages to the player.

Basically, players place or move totems on tiles, gather resources from occupied tiles, extend their tribe, enhance totems with totem heads and overcome the enemies.

Nomad Game Animated Tile

However we had no experience about adjusting the game balance in such games. So we started to conceptualize the game by mixing a few board games. It really helped out to see how the game works, where are the main problems and how can we solve them.

When things get complicated on board we decided to move the idea into digital. But we still tried to avoid work on Unity. Because using Unity before the game design takes its final shape might lead us into trouble later. At least it might cost us weeks of work if we start to create actual game before overcoming the design problems. Unity is a very efficient tool for prototyping the gameplay, but for balancing the resources, using Google Sheets became the most efficient way for us.

So we divided the design into parts. For the MVP, we decided to have a small game map for at least 2 players. Players should be able to gather resources, move the totems, place new totems and carve the basic totem heads to enhance.

While there are no random map generator algorythm yet, we manually adjust the resources that will be seen on tiles. Tile resources sheet can be seen below. Each number in tiles column represents a tile in game map. Others are resources that will be seen on tiles.

The sheet above generates a game map as can be seen below. The resources are represented by the icons. It is nice to watch how the map is built.

We can simulate placing totems or moving them in Totem sheet. In that sheet we are able to place totem heads as well. As you can see below, the numbers in totem column represents each totem. The numbers in player column tells which player owns which totem. 4 head columns is for which totem heads applied to which totem. Check boxes in active column are for placing a totem into the game. Occupy column tells which totem occupies which tile. This is used for moving totems as well.

The variables above are written to the game map when the place totems button is pressed. As you can see below, the colors represents a totem and texts on tiles are for totem heads.

In the constant sheet, we adjust the game constants such as resources, map size, totem heads requests and their effects. As it can be seen below map ganerator takes the constants from this sheet. Even though most of the unique totem head effects are ready, their resource requirements are empty, since they will not appear in the MVP.

The game is actually played in the game sheet. It is where players can see their resources. According to their resources they can place a new totem or they can create new totem head to enhance their totems. Player also can end the game turn by pressing end turn button in this sheet. Game sheet can be seen in the picture below.

Game design and game balance is actually going very well with this small prototype. We will update this tool until the game can be played seamlessly. We will make changes on design according to the test that we will make. We will start to create the actual game if the design works and it give us fun.

There is another prototype we did a couple moths ago. However in this case the design did not work well and it did not satisfy us, so we stopped to work on it. We have clearly seen the efficiency of a detailed prototype in this project. This prototype was created in python.

I created this post to introduce our approach for adjusting game balance with google sheets. I am sure google sheets or microsoft excel are already used in game development to calculate economics. However we have a working prototype with all working core mechanics that we can play remote places on google drive.

 

 

Bilge Adam – Beşiktaş Vodafone Park Game Design Summer Class

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Between this July and August, we made a Game Design Class for highschool juniors. It was a great way to spend holidays for them. Amazing experience for us as well. It was a 3 weeks long program. We taught how to make a 2D game, a VR shooter game, motion graphics and video editing.

I explained basics of game art. We created a mobile game similar to Flappy Bird with Unity. In the course students created their own game design by changing minor things in Flappy Bird Design, they created their own stories, character designs, backgrounds, user interface and even their game trailer for market. Students had no design background but they learned everything rapidly. In my opinion most of their designs were even above industry standarts in the end of the class.

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Cem explained game programming with Unity3D by using Bolt plugin. We chose Bolt because its node-based interface would be easier to understand for students rather than C# programming.

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After the 2D game, Gökhan explained 3D modeling in 3Ds Max. Students created their own pistols for a VR Shooter game. The game was based on one of our studios VR experience, Medieval VR.

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Here they are proudly presented their games to their parents and gain the certificates from Bilge Adam.

Results were amazing. I believe that the students have revealed their creativity. I would really like to see some of them in gaming industry in the future.

“BUG Spring Jam 2018” Notes

BUG Spring Jam was held in 13-15 April at Bahçeşehir University/ İstanbul. It took 48 hours. We teamed up as Gökhan (3D Art), Cenk (3D Art), Cem (Programmer) and me Günışığı (3D Art). Actually we have already spent a lot time as developer team. Because of that, the jam felt like an ordinary weekend for us. However it was great to work really dedicated on a project from idea to a prototype ( i think the result was little more than a prototype ) without distractions and obstacles.

The theme was ” Death… to the demoness Allegra Geller ” from the movie ” Existenz ”

We had individual ideas before the jam. Nowadays we are playing local multiplayer games such as “Gang Beasts” and “Stick Fight” and we really enjoy these games. We all agreed to create a game like them. We kind of mixed those games with the art of Gang Beasts and the pace of Stick Fight. We also influenced by Flippy Knife.

Game mechanics was cleaned up as;

  • Game will be a local multiplayer deathmatch
  • Max. 4 players
  • Players will spawn at the same time in different spots of the map
  • Players must throw the axes that they grab from ground to the enemies
  • Axes can be grabbed again after being thrown
  • Dead enemies will spawn again immediately

We started to create assets as quick as possible. We shared our needs. I undertook the characters, their textures and animatons and some props for the gameplay area. Gökhan created the axes and their textures and also some props. Cenk mainly worked on environment art. We used no pre-made assets. All the assets we used were created during the jam.

While we were working on models, Cem was working on codes and stuff. There is an early footage of the work.

Art

As I mentioned above, we tried to create a similar atmosphere with Gang Beasts. We used Unity 3D’s standart shader for every 3D model. Environment models have solid colors. The color palette we used is below.

For the characters and axes, we decided to have more detailed 3D models. So for those models we just added substance painter into our pipeline. We detailed them with normal maps, height maps and metalness maps.

To make the characters more distinguishable, I gave them different colors and cosmetics. We are planning to make more hats that player can select. Currently there are 4 different hats as above. Comrade, Janissary, Kendo Guy, American Chief. Ignore the dead guys in the background.

Axes are very detailed and have different shapes according to their effects. They are currently the same but finally they will have different abilities. The first one is more likely to hit and kills instantly but goes shortest or the last one will trace enemy etc.

Here we are presenting our game to the other teams. Cem was talking about game while we were playing it. I really enjoyed the game, i couldn’t even listen the presentation.

We are planning to publish our game to Steam as soon as possible. It can be also published for Xbox and Play Station maybe even for iOS and Android.

 

Gaming Istanbul 2018 – Developers Conference

GIST 2018 Developers Conference

I explained my previous experiences on VR, mostly about Diesel Express,  my workflow that i used in the games, performance in VR and how to optimize 3D models for VR games. There is the workflow diagram i prepared for the presentation below.

I skipped the concept part and started with a pre-made 3D model of a car. Without UVW’s and vertex paint. I created UVW and vertex paint in 3Ds Max. Then i followed the diagram until rendering the final model in Unity3D. It took about 1 hour.

Optimizing Low Poly Style Shading in Unity 3D 2017

I started to work on a VR game project with Low Poly Style graphics. I am going to announce the new project next months. It’s very crazy and something never been tried. We are realy excited to work on it!

Eventhough, I used to work on Low poly style graphics in 3ds max ( I have even a tutorial post in previous pages), it is quite tricky when working in Unity 3D. When it comes to creating 3D models for VR experiences, keeping the vertex count low is very important. Models must be really low poly and the scene must be very well optimized for a fluid experience.

However, when i export my low poly models with individual smoothing groups per polygon, vertex counts in Unity increases to astronomical numbers. I was very surprised when i realized smooth objects are more performance friendly rather than flat objects (Low poly style). Because i was expecting the opposite.

So I wanted to test what is actually happening.

I created this two geosphere above in 3Ds Max. They are absolutely same, clone geospheres. I named them as “smooth” and “flat”, then i added smooth modifier to the “flat”. Then i lower the smooth treshold like picture below.

Then I exported them to Unity 3D 2017

Keep in mind that an empty scene in Unity 3D causes 5k vertex eventhough there is no object around. It is because of the skybox in the scene. If you clear the skybox from lighting panel you can decrease default vertex count to 4, I assume. 

As you see the picture above, you will notice that flat is 4 times more, compare to smooth. In larger scenes, this difference will be beyond acceptable limits.

What is the correct way to create Low Poly Style Scenes?

The best way to solve that issue is creating the low poly style in shaders. Exporting 3D Models with 1 smoothing group is best for performance. Then you can give it low poly look with shader below.

http://www.shaderslab.com/demo-90—flat-shading.html

As you see in the picture below, object “smooth” has flat shading material which i downloaded from the link above, has no vertex difference compared to its default.

The result is absolutely wonderful for me.

I hope the post was clear and helpful for the people who stuck in that problem.

 

VR Days Europe 2017

A couple months ago i came upon open call for VR Days Europe 2017 volunteers. This kind of events gather many people all around the world from the industry and developers as well as the speakers. It is a great place to meet people and see what is going on in the industry. I applied to the open call and i was selected.

First day started in DeLaMar Theater with an opening speech by Zilah Watson from BBC then continued with conferences of the speakers. Due to i had no shift in the first day, i listened all the speakers and it was really valuable resource for me.

Martin de Ronde from Forcefield talked about his predictions of the second rise of the VR and the similarities of its current situation and mobile games  in 2007 according to his observations since then. Leen Segers explained the business side of the industry. Jason Toff from Google, showed some of the first prototypes of google’s VR projects and explained how did they used the prototypes to develop a stable version of their project. He pointed out mostly spending a dedicated time for prototyping, sketching ideas, brainstorming, sharing before being ready and letting people test the prototypes oftenly. Tenderclaws, showed some examples of their project and talked about creating the interaction in VR. Yitian Han explained the current situation of VR Cinema industry in China. Philip Rosedale from High Fidelity made a live VR performance of their massive online multiplayer videogame, Second life. Jeff Burton from Woodside Creek shared his previous experiences as an ex Electronic Arts employee.

So it was an very busy day 🙂

Next day i arrived to the construction of the exhibition place. It was 7 in the morning.

Exhibition hall is completely empty.

In a few hours the hall is getting ready.

This is the hall i actually worked 2 days. It is called Church of VR. I dont know why they named this place as church. Fun fact: I was the only one turkish or from muslim country to work in the church. It was fun though. We had around 15 VR experience and several movies to show. Some of them was really cool. “Gloomy Eyes” and “Chocolate” are my favourites. Visitors also liked the experiences. Their feedbacks were very positive.

This is the choir area. Visitors experienced VR movies with Gear VR. It was like a place from the future. People was looking different places in same movie. I understood the personal space that is offered by virtual reality again. Persoanl space was created with cinema curtain for above a century. But VR will increase it to a upper dimention.

Nice marketing 🙂 Sadly and surprisingly all the beverage and food was on sale. Including coffee and tea. This is the only summit i went and pay for them. Well i actually didnt pay anything because of i rejected to pay. So i bought what i need from markets.

We had a boat which worked between Central station and Exhibition hall (Kromhouthal). I came across it by chance. It was written nowhere in the papers i had. It is a cool thing.

PSVR stand. First time i have tried the PSVR. It was really comfortable. Screen resolution is same as oculus and vive. But the trackers sucks. Or maybe controllers, i dont know. They told me that trackers are interfereing with the others. It makes sense.

Pimax 8k VR headset is something you cant find oftenly. I waited a very long line to try it. It absolutely worth. Resolution is great. Tracking is not worse than Vive. They look very same. Device has a wider screen, so you dont see the end of the screen horizontally as well as vertically. I saw 2 seam lines in middle right and middle left side of the screen. It feels like they connected 3 screens in headset. After all, great device.

This one is the craziest experience i have ever seen. You actually jump in a pool with VR headset and a snorkel to swim with dolphins.