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Phaser Engine and Its Games

This week marks the first time that I have used Phaser and even heard of the engine so to help get up to speed with what it can do, I decided to explore what games have previously been created on the engine so I can get some expectations and set some realistic goals that I can achieve within the engine.

Fireboy and Watergirl is a popular series of online co-op platformer/puzzle games. Src: https://phaser.io/content/news/2020/06/fireboy-and-watergirl-5-elements1.jpg

Fireboy & Watergirl is a game I heard a lot of in my childhood and I’d always see people playing it in break time at school or even in lesson when the teacher wasn’t looking. It was a nice surprise to see this listed on the Phaser staff picks knowing that such a popular game was made with the engine. I personally never played too much of the game in the past so I decided to give it a try, but being a co-op game, it was a bit tricky to control 2 players at once. The game overall is a simple premise but it is well put together and plays with the characters traits to create some interesting obstacles (Fireboy can’t go in water and visa versa), the graphics are pretty basic but they get across what they need to plus being a puzzle game the simple graphics help distinguish things more so that you can focus more on the puzzle side of things. After my dive into Fireboy & Watergirl, I felt I’d try to find a game of a completely different style to see how diverse Phaser can be which led to…

Miner Dash is a pixel art progressive game about digging down to the Earth’s core. Src: https://phaser.io/content/news/2020/07/minerdash1.jpg

Miner Dash! This game caught my eye for its visuals, I’m a big fan of pixel art and this game seemed to have a lot of love put into them, so naturally I clicked play to see what this game was about. At first it came across as a pretty simplistic game, dig down until the tool breaks and upgrading them, however the upgrading side was a lot more interesting that I anticipated, with resource collecting being an important feature rather than just for score. Each item has unique sprites instead of just a level bar from 1-X like a lot of online games have, plus a crafting grid akin to Minecraft where you crafted new items that allowed you to progress further like, pickaxes, drills, bombs and even more fantasy inspired items like youth elixirs for character buffs made the upgrades have a bit more character. The better items were unlocked as you progressed through the Earth’s layers, with each new layer unlocking a new recipe which was fun to see what kind of item would be next and made the game pretty addictive. Overall I was very impressed with this game, the visuals were pretty, vibrant and clear which was paired with simple but addictive gameplay, which gave me more confidence in Phaser on how adaptable and customisable the engine is.

C.A.T.S. is a free-to-play online and mobile game about building “battle cars” to become the best engineer. Src: https://phaser.io/content/news/2019/04/cats-instant-fights1.jpg

The final game I will talk about is one that I played a fair bit when it first came out and I’m very surprised that it was even made in Phaser, it’s called C.A.T.S. and falls into the category of mobile free-to-play with microtransactions and wait timers a fairly common sight within the game. Now, I don’t play many free-to-play games, or more that I simply can’t get into them and don’t really come back after a couple days, but this one had me hooked for quite a while, I just found building the cars and trying to get the most damage and survivability out of your items you had a fun challenge and when you got a more powerful item from the loot boxes it was exciting because sometimes it wouldn’t be compatible with you current battle car and you’d have to rethink the whole thing if you wanted to use the item. The game has a general cat theme to it too with the graphics aiding to bring out various aspects of the world and cats to create a fun, cartoon aesthetic that worked well for the tone of the game. Though it may not be among the most popular free-to-play games, it certainly had a lot of players, including my friends where we would always fight to be the best in the weekly leagues that we were in, and to see a game like this made in Phaser really puts into perspective to how adaptable the engine really is, especially for its simplicity.

In conclusion, I’ve been impressed with the quality of games that the Phaser engine has produced, not just in gameplay but in graphics and customizability too, and it gives me great excitement to learn more of what the engine can do in the future. With these games in mind, I feel like I can set myself a clear goal for where I’d like to be by the end of my time using Phaser academically, and that would be a project similar in scope to Miner Dash since I enjoy making progressive games and I feel would not be too big a task once I’m more familiar with Phaser.

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Prototype Development: Week 2

This week there were 2 main things that I introdcued to my prototype that I felt expanded the idea to a basic game using the foundation that I had created in the previous week to demonstrate the potential of the prototype.

The first was a time system which is an essential to a simulation oriented mechanic like this; I started by tracking the amount of frames that had been rendered for a basis for the time system. Next I had to make the date into a readable format, so I added a variable for years and months and had an array with the month names, these would increase every certain amount of frames passed which was done in a function that would be called every now and then in the render function. The final step was to create speed option so that players can speed up and pause the time, these would become more useful during the second feature that I added, but with the time features all finalised, I could move on to the more major feature that I planned.

The final part of my prototype was to create a money system, where players would spend money to build and upkeep buildings, but would get income from tax. Adding the spending was a fairly easy task, with a few lines a and variables it was working smoothly, I also made the bulldoze tool give back half the cost of the building demolished too which was a few if else statements. For income I used the date system as a basis were money would be given or taken away at the turn of a month, so I simply made that function call a function that calculated the income for a month with different types of buildings contributing differently to the value.

With all these new features, I had to re-arrange the UI so that it was readable and not cluttered and added a simple tutorial for understanding the income mechanics. The end result of my prototype looked like this:

The UI is something I will have to make minor tweaks to in accordance to the testing hardware since it is hard-coded which changes location based on monitors, but since it is a prototype and only a minor issue, I decided not to fix.

Overall I think my prototype when very well, I managed to achieve my goals that I set out to do with very few setbacks, Though there are some bugs, I don’t beleive they’ll impact the user negatively. Making a prototype is something rather new to me so getting a chance to practice making one will be a good learning experience and I hope to learn throught the testing that will commence too.

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Protoype Development: Week 1

The start of my city builder prototype was to get a tilemap in place so players had a map to work with, plus a tile-based grid makes it easier to build a more ordered city. Getting the tilemap logic in place was fairly easy and was drawing coloured tiles fine, but it had some issues loading images, after some digging I found out that I needed a load handler in place to handle image drawing, so a few alterations made the code work with images too, so with this in place, I could work on the main focus of the prototype.

The building mechanics were initially simple to implement, I started with some event listeners for mouse clicks and created a boolean to check if a player is building, to test this I created a road and house asset that would change a tile on the map to the item that the player selects with a button on the webpage. Of course I needed the boolean to activate something, so I created an if statment in the render function that calls a building function if the boolean is true which did the trick for basic building.

The tricky part came when creating roads facing different directions, I originally planned to create a unified ‘smart’ road tool, but after some trial and error, it seemed out of this projects scope to implement well so I scrapped this system in favour of a rotate key that rotates pieces that the player chooses. With this I implemented an icon on screen that shows the current rotation to improve the user experience.

The final piece of the main building mechanics was a click-drag to make building lots of things easier, this was easier than I anticipated as it only required another event handler and a couple of changes to where the building boolean is called. Since this was rather quick, I used my extra coding time I allocated to adding some more buildings to the game which was some simple copying of code and drawing some new assets which gave the player some more choices when making their city.

With the main things in place this week, I can focus some more on polishing and adding some challenge elements next week to finalise the prototype, so I am pleased with my progress this week.

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Mechanic Prototyping Project Ideas

When tasked with making a prototype for a game mechanic, I was wondering what kind of games I’d like to see more of as well as something new to try and implemet in Javascript that I hadn’t before. Previously I had worked on making driving and shooting mechanics so I wanted to do make something more relaxing instead. Combining these factors together I first thought to make a tycoon based mechanic, similar to the likes of Game Dev Tycoon or Software Inc. After some thoughts I realised that simulating such things would be rather time consuming and wouldn’t have much user interaction or graphic elements so I thought about some similar games and thought of some building mechanics from games such as SimCity and Prison Architect which I felt would be more fun for the user to interact with and woul be more achievable.

I intend to make a basic verion of SimCity like features as a prototype. Src: https://www.abandonwaredos.com/public/articoli/immagini/simcity-6.jpg

After setting myself a topic to work on, it was time to decide what the prototype would include, of course I couldn’t have a full simulation of people and transport so I decided to focus on the building aspects more that simulation. Hopefully by the time of the deadline I can create a road system that’s easy to use and have multiple buildings to place down, if time allows it I would like to include random maps and money aspects.

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Ethics in Computer Games: Violence

Many triple A titles and popular franchises of the modern day contain graphic depictions of violence, such examples such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto are widely popular titles where the main gameplay focus is around violence. There have been many concerns about these kinds of games causing increased aggression and also desensitizing people to violence, gore and other related topics.

There have been numerous studies to do with violent video games, one in particular was carried out by the Michigan Youth Violence Protection Center in an article titled Do Video Games Influence Violent Behavior? (http://yvpc.sph.umich.edu/video-games-influence-violent-behavior/) where they point out that violent games can increase precursors to violent behaviour but whether any drastic action is taken after this is down to an individuals situation, making crazy stories that come out from time to time (e.g. Kid Shoots Parents Over Halo 3, https://www.tomsguide.com/us/Halo-3-Shot-Parents,news-3153.html), seem more down to the person rather than the game.

Personally I don’t think violence is a bad thing within the games industry, but I do feel that it is a lot more saturated and normalised than it should be. Companies like Sony have censorship policies that I find quite strange where high content of violence is allowed in games for their consoles but slight suggestive themes or nudity is often banned or edited before release on their console, especially if it’s from a more indie developer.

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Schell’s Lenses: #2 The Lens of Surprise

Schell’s second lens talks about the element of surprise within games and entertainment media as a whole, he says that it is crucial to entertainment as “Our brains are hardwired to enjoy surprises”.

In games design, I believe that there are 2 distinct ways of causing the user to feel surprised while engaged in playing. The first is intended to be a surprise where the developers purposely added some element of surprise which could be for various reasons. Horror games like Slender: The Arrival make use of unsettling figures popping up out of the dark to surprise and scare the user which is the main feature that the game plays around, which highlights the importance of surprise in games of similar caliber. More story-driven games surprise players with twists in the narrative, Halo:Combat Evolved is a great example of narrative surprise as at the halfway mark, the game’s focus switches to a hidden third enemy which changes the course of the story from what the player would have expected. There are plenty of ways to invoke this kind of surprise in a story, whether it be through a catastrophic event or a sudden switch of focus.

The second main way of causing surprise is through randomness within the game. Though this is usually present in all games, sandbox games are the most prevalent of random surprise. Titles like The Sims 4 entice players to create their own stories for their characters which are fueled by the unpredictable nature of the game, using The Sims franchise as an example, things such as fires, burglars, encounters with other sims and countless more events are not able to be consistently anticipated which can startle players and make the game more enjoyable for the different experiences you may have.

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Drawing API Devlog

This week’s entry is focused on experimenting with HTML and JavaScript to utilise the drawing API, the base program contained 2 colours and 1 tool.

I first started with colours as they seemed the most simple to implement. In the style element, I copied over the ‘col1’ section a few times and assigned different RGB values to each one and of course re-named them to ‘col2’, ‘col3’ e.t.c.

With the colours now added, all I had to do was put them into the div element assinged to the colour menu and then they would show up and be usable for webpage visitors.

This didn’t take too long and surprised me on how simple adding new features to a HTML document is once you have the foundations down. It is definitely something to keep in mind for games development as adding new items to a game may not be as big a burden as previously thought.

My second task was to add some more brushes into the program, I started off simple by making a thicker brush which was simple since it only required minor edits so i quickly moved onto researching different things I could draw onto the canvas.

After outlining what brushes I wanted to make, it was off to JavaScript to make it happen. I found it faily easy to pick up and use since they all stem off the same variable ‘ctx’ which allowed me to see similarities between the brushes.

The last two brushes are unconventional for general drawing but it’s always nice to make something silly and who knows, someone might find a use for them. As for the final webpage, it looks like this:

Overall I found this project to be a lot of fun and I feel it was good for getting used to the API. Drawing seems to play a big role in HTML games since it can create complex shapes and allows for the fundementals for a 2D game to be built. To expand this further, I could add sliders for colour to give users access to all RGB colours rather than a set amount, this could also be implemented for brush size to allow even more freedom.

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Sustainability in Games

Sustainability in computing is a rising issue within the industry which means its impacts and concerns also coincide with the video games industry.

With the ever rising use of personal computers, laptops and similar devices, problems arise when consumers desire newer machines or updated tech, especially due to the rapid advancements made by hardware manufacturers, and tend to dispose of their older computer. The sheer bulk of computers means that illegal dumping of electronics has become a big problem, with some hardware like older monitors containing harmful materials like mercury. Africa is usually the target of the e-waste and ends up creating huge ‘electronic graveyards’ with mountains of old electronics being left there, which has huge environmental impacts since most computer parts do not contain biodegradable material and as mentioned before, can potentially contain harmful materials.

An ‘electronic graveyard’ in Africa, 2015. Src: https://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2015/04/23/01/27D5FE3E00000578-3049457-Damaging_The_mountains_of_e_waste_that_builds_up_in_landfill_sit-a-64_1429747413866.jpg

Another point that concerns sustainability is the aforementioned technological advancement of hardware for computer systems. Though this point doesn’t concern general consumer PC’s to a large degree, it affects the rising market of PC gaming, as the system performance requirements to play the newest titles is climbing. With this demand, companies like AMD and Nvidia are pushing higher end components like CPU’s and dedicated graphics cards to fulfil the needs of the consumers. The problem with this new hardware is the increasing power demand of the systems that use the new technology, in 2015 the high-end GTX 980Ti had a power draw of 375 Watts, now in 2020 with the release of the RTX 3080, similar calibur hardware is now requesting a 750 Watt power supply to handle the hardware. If progress rates stay similar, then 1000 watt demands may become mainstream for high-end gaming within a few years which would put increased strain on power networks.

The latest card in Nvidia’s new range of cards, the RTX 3090. Src: https://www.wepc.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/NVIDIA-GeForce-RTX-3090-3080.jpg

The final topic for sustainability that I will discuss is online servers and their impact on the environment. In a study from 2009, the Google servers release around 0.2g of carbon dioxide per search (Src: https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/01/powering-google-search.html), though it may not seem much, the high use of the service means that it can soon add-up.

An internet minute. (Src: http://www.allaccess.com/assets/img/content/merge/2020/m-03-10-pic1.jpg.pagespeed.ce.fOkDznfn-L.jpg)

Using this infographic, each minute, Google searches add up to 820kg of carbon dioxide release, which is a huge amount. This data also concerns the gaming industry with its high player numbers on multiplayer games and servicies which also use more bandwidth than a standard Google search. Huge online games like Fortnite have thousands of players online at once wich means that server demand must match the players which plays into the previously mentioned power consumption but also the carbon dioxide release from server algorithms, meaning that the rise in multiplayer games is having an effect on the environment and global warming.

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Introduction

Hello everyone, I’m Ollie, a first-year in Games Development at NUA. I first got into developing games when I was around 12, experimenting with programs like Construct 2 to start with. 2 years prior to joining NUA, I did a BTEC course in games developent where I had my first experiences with developing games with a deadline, with teams and the various skills and concerns that are in the industry. Games have always played a large role in my life and I hope to pioneer the next generation of gaming and beyond.

Here is some of my previous work:

Artwork created during development of Sword of Sendai, my first completed project that was developed between October 2018 and May 2019
An RPG battle system created within Python 3.8 which was started during Summer 2020
A render created in Blender around Autumn 2019
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