lördag 28 september 2013

Game engines, working on gameplay and story

So while checking out the possible game engines and programming languages I feel I have a huge amount of alternatives, that feels nice.

I haven't decided yet what medium to make the game in. I have thought about the pros and cons about different programming languages and game makers. Since no good programmer has joined my quest so far, the game will probably be made in a game maker and not in a programming language (such as python,c#,c++,java...).

These are the game makers I have in mind:





http://gamesalad.com/  (in the picture)

They are all great and you can see the games made in them by clicking on 'arcade' or 'games' on their sites.

The choice between an "app" and an in-browser game (games you can play in your webbrowser) is an important one. Some of the listed gamemakers allows us to develop the game for IOS and Android wich is a great way to make it popular and reach a great audience through google play and the app store. If we are to develop for touchpads there is allot to think about in gameplay. We can't put to much demand on the player to press with precision so the games buttons will have to be big and the neurons need to be big in order for the player to easily connect a neuron to it. We will think about this a bit more and hopefully next saturday we can make a choice. If we choose not to make it an "app" we will need a site where the game will be played or we can make it downloadable to a computer. I would think that making it available online for anyone to play is a good choice except for the detail of having saved games. I would love it if we could make a site where you can log on to a user, that way the player can have saved games and we could collect data about age and sex to see what audiences likes the game the most. By collecting the data we can make tons of user studies that can make the game alot better! But that would require some kind of database connected to the game and we would need to work with a programming language which would take up time.

I've aquired a friend who will be working with me on the game, he will be responsible for the music. His name is Svitri and he is a nice fellow!

We have worked on the gameplay and the story.


Stem cells
You will play a scientist who have come up with a device to quickly transform stemcells into neurons and other cells. You will have a petri dish where you will grow your network from stem cells (this will be the playingarea). Once you have played for a little while and built a little network, there will be an accident and a scientist will drop some bacteria into your dish, theese bacteria will slowly make it towards your precious network and you will have to defend it by placing either nanobots or building a natural immune system.


White blood cell (part of the immune system) is eating red bacteria
The immune system and other parts of the game will not be to advanced and there is alot of real facts that we will have to skip in order to make it before deadline. I'd love to one day make a whole game which contains all kinds of microorganisms, their proteins, aminoacids etc... But for this game where our team is small we will have to settle with a simplifyed version of things and processes.

Thanks for reading! If there is something that you didn't understand in this post please comment about it down below! I want to become as transparent as possible.

Until next time I will have decided what medium to use, for what devices to develop to and decided precisely on the gameplay. If you have any thoughts or tips let me know!

lördag 21 september 2013

Gameplay concept

I took some hours thinking about how to incorporate the information in a nice gameplay and I think that a tower defence style is a good take. It also makes it easier to do the graphics when the parts are structured in a grid.

This here on the right is the gamearea. Here you will be able to place neurons, evolve stemcells to neurons or glialcells, move parts and build your brain to defend against bacteria, virus and other threats. There will also be some kind of menu to make choises. Choises like buying nano flamethrowers or nutrition.

In the middle we have stemcells and nutrition that is very yummy for bacteria. To defend them we can evolve some of the stemcells to become nervecells. A part of a nervecell can become a "Lamellar corpuscle" and register touch, in this picture above the virus sets of a signal wich travels through another nervecell to a nano flamethrower wich in turn kills the virus wich then becomes nutrition which can be used to make more stemcells. Like in every tower defence game the enemies becomes harder so you have to be smart when building to defeat all the "waves" or enemies that can march at you.

I wanted to incorporate the fun in making big neural networks and the chemical processes so I need two different perspectives. Therefore the possibility to zoom in and work on individual synapses, axons and other parts may be a good solution.

If you choose to zoom in on a synapse (pic. on the left,) you can solve problems if some virus has destroyed a synapse or if there is garbage there. Hopefully there will be a possibility to place more neurotransmitters (the purple squares) or place more or less receptors (green).

I want to incorporate the "Practice principle" that James Paul Gee has found is a great advantage of video games. It's the 12:th principle in his book "What video games have to teach about learning and literacy" (absolutely an amazing book). The principle is about how players get allot of practice in certain tasks where the practice is not boring. If the player gets to place neurotransmitters, receptors and help myelinate the axons alot, the player will hopefully finish the game with knowledge that stays.

I also have alot of other ideas but had no time to put them in pictures.

I think that i'm going to send some emails to people that have done some tower defence games and see if they want to cooperate. I don't really seek any money, I want this game to be made because I see the profit as knowledge to humanity. I think that if we educate kids and help them to keep their curiosity alive and thriving, along with a belief that cooperation is key to survival, we all will get better lives.

If you have made any tower defence game before, please feel free to contact me and we can see if we can team up!

Here is a picture of a Lamellar corpuscle that is one of the touch-registering nervecells (also found in the top picture):

Lamellar corpuscle

lördag 14 september 2013

Content of game is neurons!

So the content of the game will be based upon what is at wikipedia.

I really like the summation of information there. Once I have chosen the content, it will go through my brain and I will also try to check with my proffessors about the information to see that the game is based upon the latest research. I think that choosing what information the player will be exposed to is a big part of my role as a cognitive scientist. Information help create the models we make of the world and it's important that you get the right info at the right time.

I think theese drawings by Santiago Ramón y Cajal are amazing. If they are up for grabs I will put them in the game as kind of prices/achievements that you can win by playing well. So you can later check your trophé-book for stuff you have earned. I strongly believe that a piece of art just like this picture or a trophy is more appreciated the more work the artist has put into it. Santiagos drawings seem to be drawn with skill, enthusiasm and patience, and they are so simplistic. They really give a good embodied experience of what a neuron is.

A simple piece of conceptart I made of how the game may look like:

If each level would be narrated or guided by a different real character from neuroscience it would be a nice mix of usefullness, fun and information presentation.

lördag 7 september 2013

The 4 month plan

The plan is set. Four months of gamemaking every Wednesday and also with updates here on Sundays.

I decided to try the planning system from the Game Dev Tycoon which I mentioned in the last post. When making a game there you choose how to distribute your workload on three subjects. For example: First stage is to distribute the worload on Engine, Gameplay and Story/Quests...

I checked the difference between level design and world design and here is a good post from "Jamie P" where he talks a little about some games and the focus on world design.

I have been thinking allot about gameplay and will let that influcene what kind of development medium i will choose. I am mostly familiar with python so I will probably use that but we'll see if there is some gamemaker out there which is up to the task.

I am not a programmer as much as I am a cognitive designer/scientist. So I will probably try to make a simple engine and let my skills progress mostly in gameplay and story/quests. I know how to record sound and make graphics in GIMP. Also A friend volunteered to make graphics in blender so maybe that will save some time and give an extra flavour to the game. Friends feel free to express your feeling about joining on my quest or just give feedback. If I get the time I will conduct a user study on the game early in december.

Currently I'm taking A.I at umeå university (It's a part of the cognitive program) and maybe it will help me with something in the game. I'm also taking Human-computer interaction which will hopefully help me recall some important design principles that I should use.

The game will be in 2D unless some miracle happens.

It will probably be about a network of neurons and every level will be about one of the neurons. So the gameplay could be about how to help a neuron to gather proteins or making energy (ATP).

I want the levels to congregate and perhaps the network as a whole will have some kind of overall score such as IQ (in a fictional way). This would tie together concepts to increase creativity in the player and a sense that the game is not isolated from reality.

My main focus will be to make a finished product where you learn at least something and this something is repeated according to Ebbinghaus repetition curve or some other analysis of when to strengthen memories.

I hope that the use of fiction in the game will make the game more fun and not cause to many problems when the player takes this knowledge to reality.

-I didn't know neurons had eyes and teeth?!?

*Neurons doesn't have eyes and teeth

söndag 1 september 2013

Game Dev Tycoon

I have found an educational game that I think is perfect for anyone who wants to join the game industry!

This here on the right is Game Dev Tycoon from Green heart games.

This is a perfect example of games I like to make. A game that contains concrete experiences that can occur in real life. The game is presenting more and more advanced concepts the longer you play. It introduces solutions to problems while giving the opportunity to be creative. A game like this can easily be remembered outside the game which is very important in educational games. This games conditions me to like the challenges that a game developing company can face and makes the whole bankruptcy less of a stress factor (good use of psychosocial moratorium!). It also goes through the game industry from the 80s and an understanding of the gaming history can be very good to have under the belt.

As I play through it I will try to find good principles that they have implemented and see if I can see things that could be improved. If I find anything interesting I will share it with you!

On a second note I have realized that it would be very nice to visit a game developing company and see how they work. A small company with just 1 to 5 people would be very giving and to visiting a bigger company would be great if there would be someone to explain the whole chain of distributing the workload. So I am going to see if there are any here in Umeå since that would make things very easy.

On a third note I have decided to dedicate Wednesdays to work on my educational game quest and on Saturdays I will also update the blog.

So check in once a week to be updated on my quest to change the nature of education as we know it!

Thanks for reading! :D