After our Minecraft sessions last week, we came out quite a few screenshots for our artists. I debated on whether or not it would be worth putting this on the dev diary, but I figured that since I partly worked on it then I might as well. Some of these screenshots will be repeats of ones in the Weekly, forgive me for that one.
Towards the end of last week, me and our level designer were approached by one of our artists about level design sketches. In the midst of a bit of uncertainty, I had an idea. What if we “sketched” the level in Minecraft? I think figured out the idea was great when upon bringing up the idea to any of the other team members, their first instinct was to just grin.
By essentially treating Minecraft as a collaborative 3D modelling software, me and the two designers could sketch out the level design together in real time and there’d be no worries about experimenting with different designs. As well as this, the artists would have a 3D sketch to observe from any angle they so desire as opposed to just a fixed 2D sketch.
With this idea, we had just hit gold.
Blockout – Day One
At the beginning of this week, we got to work on blocking out the levels. We had a concrete base for the level idea initially: An arena map split in two by a river with flowing logs that could be used as platforms, with two bridges (one broken, one standing) on hills on the edges of both sides.
There was a bit of initial contention as to the aesthetic of the hills, whether they’d be smooth slopes (like real hills) or blocky stylised hills like those in Super Mario 3D Land (2011). In all honesty, we argued about that for god knows how long. Eventually, the blocky hills won out on the grounds that they’d add to the platforming. Towards the end of the first day of “sketching,” we’d finished the river, the logs and the two hills.
Blockout – Day Two
I had a meeting with a doctor when the two designers got to work, so they did a fair bit of “sketching” without me. When I got down, they’d finished most of one side of the map, the clearing area, based off of Little Red Riding Hood. They had built a small cottage with a flower garden that we then later expanded, a large path running through the flat areas of the stage and a few more hills to place power-ups and collectables on. As well as this, two fences were added on the edges of the map. The fences exist as exit and entry points for the level’s main stage hazard: Grandma Wolf.
Grandma Wolf occaisionally walks onto the stage, making a growling noise on entry. If no player is in her line of sight, she’ll simply walk to the other fence and jump over, making a howling noise to signify that she’s gone. If a player is in her line of sight, she’ll go after them and attack them, stunning them and making them lose a star, and then walk back to her standard route towards the exit fence.
Afterwards we got to work on the other side, the forest area. The forest area was to have a lot more elevated platforms than the clearing area. We had made a small amount of progress on the forest area on the first day, with a small tributary river acting as a minor hazard by the unbroken bridge.
The first thing I built on that side of the map was the log cabin on the edge. The cabin is a lot shorter than the cottage, with the idea that much of it would be hidden behind the background fog.
With the cabin done, we placed down some trees around the house. We avoided placing down trees too close to the river as they would potentially allow the player to just jump over the river without fail, removing any risk. We initially planned to use tree branches as the main form of platform in the forest area until it occured that branches that low down on what was to be a very tall tree would’ve looked unnatural and all-around a bit weird. After another pretty pointless yet long argument, we just whited out the platforms and decided to let the artists do whatever they so desired with it.
Towards the end of our session, I added a few decorative bits, such as the waterfall on the edge of the map and the more winding path than the one in the clearing. After that, we were finished. After two days of fiddling with controllers and a few senseless arguments over what things should be and what should go where, we’d successfully “sketched” out our entire arena in Minecraft.
We also had a secondary “sketch” of the arena that showed the spawn locations of the game’s power-ups and collectables, but unfortunately we didn’t screenshot those, perhaps I’ll get to show those another time.
As of the second week of the project, our team finally has a name to call our own! Initially, we went by the moniker of “Sigma Arcade” (a pun on “Beta Arcade”, the name of the unit this project is for.) Whether we were going to keep that name or not was initially up in the air, since we didn’t have any other ideas. Instead we decided to wait on theming our idea before coming up with a name, but more on that later.
On Monday (Oct 4th ’21), we held our first team meeting in the student union to decide on an idea as a team. From the get-go we decided we all wanted to work on a 3D platformer of sorts until our 3D prop artist came in with a fully fleshed, almost complete idea akin to the game Bullets Per Minute (2020). However, we turned down that idea on the basis that it was an idea that him and a friend were working on regardless, so it wouldn’t really be our game as it would be a tech demo for them. As well, it seemed way too out of scope for us to even get close to finishing in the twelve weeks we have to finish. Instead, a few nights before the meeting, me and a friend sat down and brainstormed how we could further develop our 3D platformer idea. Eventually, we settled on this initial pitch:
“The game is a 3D multiplayer party platformer game for a general audience that puts more emphesis on the ‘platformer’ than the ‘party.’ The game involves up to four players on an arena-based map competing to collect a set amount of Collectables to win. Collectables will spawn around the map randomly and can be stolen from other players by attacking them.”
We left out a few things so that the rest of the team could more easily have a say and thankfully the rest of the term took to our idea quite well. The next thing we had to decide on was an engine and a theme for the game. I had insisted that we rule out a general ‘spaceship’ theme from the beginnning as to not draw comparison from our game to Among Us (2018), perhaps the most popular party video game in recent memory. Eventually, we settled on a Chibi art style and two potential theming ideas: A high-fantasy / fairtytale-esque theme (somewhat based around the theming of the movie Shrek), or a pantheonic myths-and-legends theme (seemingly based from one of our programmer’s fondness for the game SMITE.) We also decided pretty early on that we’d be working in the Unity engine. Many of our team members are programmers and know both the Unity engine and C# pretty well.
By the end of the week, we had decided on the fairytale theme. From there, we also decided that the first and main player character would be Little Red Riding Hood, easily fitting the 4-player Red-Blue-Yellow-Green colouration that almost all party games use. With that, we came to settle on the name “Little Red Games” for our team.
And that just about wraps up Week 2 really. We finally have a name to call ourselves and a game in the works. Who knows what we would’ve been called if we’d gone down the Myths-and-Legends theme?
Hello! This first week was mostly about gathering a team for the project, so there’s not really much to write about when it comes to game development, or anything really.
When it came to actually putting together a team, there was almost no trouble whatsoever. There was already a team of five of us ready before the unit even started because the five of us already live in a house together and all do the unit, so it was a no-brainer to work together. As for the other half of the team, we gathered them the week. Our sixth and seventh members were 3D artists that we had known since the first year and were both at the time team-less, so picking them up was easy. Members eight and nine were an artist and a programmer who were previously planning to work with another team, but liked our initial idea and found better prospects working with us instead. Finally, our tenth and final member was a fellow Technical Development student who was looking for a team. Technical Development is a small course where we pretty much all know each other, so we knew what he was capable of and were happy to have him aboard.
Compared to many other teams, who at the time of writing are still looking for members, we managed to bring ours together very quickly. Hopefully this is a sign that everybody will work well together and that our finished product will be great!
I’m Emily Burns! I’m a final year student at Teesside University and the environment developer for Little Red Games! I’ve been working my way through the game development scene since 2017 and put out my own commercially available game in 2020! Here I’ll be running through my experiences week by week on our little university group project.
Whoever you are reading, I hope you enjoy your stay and look forward to our finished product!