Welcome back everyone. In this post we are highlighting a large collection of Robotany concept art. The nature theme persisted throughout development, but I think you can see some very interesting early ideas in these pieces.
Well, that's all for today. See you all on Friday with a final installment of Robotany features!
This Friday Games @ GAMBIT will be a history of the Strike series. Popular in the 90s, but now totally forgotten, it was a series of brutally difficult isometric action games inspired (originally) by the first Gulf War.
The history of the Strike series is both a history of the shift from 2D to 3D gaming and also a history of America's self-image as a post-Cold War military power. Both will be discussed and shown as we go through:
- Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf
- Jungle Strike
- Urban Strike
- Soviet Strike
- Nuclear Strike
We will also look at:
BattleTech: A Game of Armored Combat (Strike variant with walking robots)
Future Cop: LAPD (the game that began development as Future Strike)
As always, Friday at 4pm in the GAMBIT lounge. There will be cookies.
We're going to star this final post of the A Closed World coverage with some screenshots of early versions of the game. I think looking through them you can see some of the path that was taken to get to the final version.
Next are some images of maps that were designed for the game. I think this shows how the world developed over the weeks working on the game.
Finally, I'd like to finish this little retrospective of A Closed World with some reflections written by the team's game designer. See you on Monday with our next Game of the Week!
Welcome back to part two of our first week of coverage of last Summer's prototypes. We are continuing our look at A Closed World with some images from our early development stages creating paper prototypes before starting work on a digital game. I think these images nicely illustrate how creative our teams can get in developing playable paper prototypes to iron out ideas and to troubleshoot difficult design challenges before even a single line of code is written.
Next are some concept art pieces done from early in development. We emphasize extensive concept work for our artists, audio designers and for our game designers. It is valuable to experiment and explore before settling on artistic directions.
That's it for today. We'll be back on Friday morning with more stuff from development of A Closed World so check back in then!
Well hello everyone! We're back with another Game of the Week series showcasing our summer prototypes from 2011. For those of you new to this series, we spend an entire week posting behind the scenes looks at how our games are produced. We have video interviews, concept art, design documents, blog posts and myriad other artifacts from our production process.
This year we'll be posting three items a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. The posts will be chock full of unique and interesting insights, so be sure to check in and see what we've posted.
This week we are starting with A Closed World! If you haven't played the game yet, head on over here and check it out. Then, come back and watch this video with Todd Harper, the Product Owner, and yours truly.
This Friday Games @ GAMBIT will be an overview of Konami's arcade brawlers from the early-to-mid 90s. Brawlers were once a popular arcade genre, and was a forerunner (at least partially) to games like God of War, Devil May Cry, and other games where you button-mash hoards of on-coming enemies.
Konami created some of the best and most memorable brawlers of the time, most of them connected to famous IP of the time including The Simpsons, X-Men, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
So if you're interested in kicking the crap out of cartoon people like it's 1991, come on down to the GAMBIT lounge at 4pm today. There will be cookies, veggies, and punching and kicking.
Application deadline extended to February 27th for US students to our Summer Program
We're Looking For A Few Good Game Developers!
Program Dates: June 11th - August 10th, 2012
Where: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
Local Area Applications Accepted: January 9th, 2012 - February 27, 2012
GAMBIT's Summer Program is a nine week, full time, intensive game development experience. Students from Singapore join students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to create video games at the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Development teams are composed entirely of student interns, who are responsible for all aspects of the project -- production to programming, game design and art, music and sound, and of course, thorough testing to create a robust, engaging game.
You must be a current college undergraduate; however, those graduating in the academic year 2011 - 2012 are still eligible to apply for our 2012 summer program.
Your home institution must be within 50 miles of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to be eligible to apply.
Please note that when selecting our local interns, the GAMBIT program strongly favors those students who have worked with us during the school year.
This week's Friday Games @ GAMBIT is being folded into the Spacewar! event, also being organized by our lab.
Today beginning at 5PM at the MIT Museum you can play a new version of Spacewar! built by our lab on a giant mockup of the PDP-1 monitor made especially for the 50th anniversary. At 6:30 there will be a panel featuring one of the creators of the original game, Martin "Shag" Graetz as well as two members of the PDP-1 Restoration Project, Eric Smith and Mike Cheponis.
The First Ever Crappy Game Complaining Marathon at the MIT GAMBIT Game Lab! February 18th, 2012
"We Mock So They Can Play"
Everyone has that one game, you know the game...The one game that everyone loves
but you despise. Well, here at The Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab we are
channeling all of that rage into one super fun entertaining event: The First
Annual Crappy Game Complaining Marathon to benefit our local Boys and Girls
Club Cambridge Clubhouse!
On Saturday February 18th from noon till midnight, Boston-area independent game
developers and our own GAMBIT staff will lash out publicly at the very games
they secretly (or not so secretly) loathe. From "Super Mario Galaxy on Wii" to
"Half-Life 2", watch and revel in the mockery on UStream, while donating to your
favorite team as each $2,500 we raise funds one program at the Boys and Girls
Club for a year! This year's goal is to fund three programs.
A few weeks ago our summer 2011 game The Snowfield was chosen as a Student Showcase Finalist at the Independent Games Festival. I was Product Owner on the project, I want to share some of responses we've gotten so far.
There's a lot of good praise here, and a lot of valid criticism. Two things stand out for me.
The goals of the project was to create an open and emergent system, the theory being that this would encourage players to tell their own stories. In the end we weren't able to implement a lot of the depth and complexity we'd planned for, but we did try make the few simple mechanics and behaviors we had as evocative as possible. The going assumption in commercial game development is usually that narrative evokes emotion, but we wanted emotion to evoke narrative, to motivate players to dramatize their experience in the retelling. This quote from the SPACE-BIFF! blog does exactly that:
At one point I brought a soldier the letter he had been muttering about (or was it just any old letter, written by some other sweetheart to some other brave boy?). He stood there for a few seconds with the paper pressed to his face while I trembled and hoped to return to the warmth of the fire. He took so long that I turned away and began to head up to the bombed-out house where a few fellow soldiers had congregated. My conscience caught up to my numbness and I turned back to retrieve him. But he was gone, disappeared into the bitter grey.
I was also heartened by the write-up at The Nocturnal Rambler, for mentioning that The Snowfield reminded him the devastating final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth. Aside from real historical research, the two main inspirations on The Snowfield were the British sitcom Blackadder and Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory, both wickedly damning portraits of an especially damnable war. They are the two pieces of popular media that made me aware of WWI as a great human tragedy, and we tried to imbue some of their uncompromising sensibility into the game.
The Snowfield was an overly ambitious project, but that's typical of a lot of experimental games. Even though we accomplished a fraction of what we envisioned, it's nice to see the release version having impact on people. You're always so close to a project you're involved in that it's hard to know whether it works for an audience at all. Though I feel there's still a lot of untapped narrative potential in the project, the feeling evoked is apparently so strong for some it hardly matters. Also context, the fact that The Snowfield is being read against commercial war games, seems to lend it additional impact. It had never occurred to me, as one blogger mentioned, how few games (if any) deal with the aftermath of battle.
As we wrap up development on our Arduino version for the 50th anniversary of Spacewar! at MIT, undergraduate Kaivan Wadia reflects past few weeks in the following blog post.
3 2 1... Blast off!Spacewar! is ready to be played with all the peculiar features of the original game. The last blog post mentioned the clever manner in which the spaceships were drawn. We decided not to use that exact technique but instead use the Gameduino's sprite technology to implement our version. This turned out to be very efficient in terms of management of the game state and had the added bonus of making collision seem easy to implement, even though we did not use the Gameduino's collision detection mechanism in the end. The night sky background was also implemented using the sprite technique, thereby remaining true to the original game, where each star is drawn separately after checking to see whether it is in the viewable region of the screen.
Next, we went on to add the thrust and hyperspace features for the spaceships. Hyperspace required a bit of repeated manipulation to get the counters correct for the time spent in hyperspace and the cool down time between two hyperspace jumps. The thrust for the spaceships was implemented using sine and cosine functions, which also posed a problem considering the limited capabilities of the Arduino microcontroller. Using floating point and long variables was not very efficient, as there was limited RAM on the Arduino, which would be used up quickly if we kept using them.
Once we got the thrust feature working, the next logical feature to tackle was gravity, which posed the same computational problems. One of the main features of Spacewar! is the ever-changing gravity and its sling-shot effect on spaceships under certain circumstances. To implement the change in gravity we first simply divided a constant by the distance between the sun and the spaceship. This gave a very positive result in terms of the effect of gravity but did not produce the sling-shot effect that Spacewar! originally had. We then decided to implement gravity as the ratio between a constant and the square of the distance between the sun and the spaceship. This gave us the desired sling-shot effect. It was then just a matter of adjusting the thrust and gravity constants to make the game interesting and playable. One peculiar result of this implementation of gravity was that when you approached the star at a certain angle and certain speed you could be bounced of in a completely different direction or pass right through the star at a very high speed, which was crazy but fun and true to the original game.
The next task was to get the spaceships to be able to blast torpedoes at each other. This was relatively simpler to implement considering our experiences with the thrust and gravity problems. The amazing feature here was that the torpedo velocity also depended on the velocity of the spaceship. This later caused a problem in collision detection: if you were travelling at a very high velocity, turned around, and fired, you would shoot yourself. This solution to this problem was to store the velocity of the torpedo separately and have the first appearance of the torpedo completely independent of the velocity of the spaceship.
One of the last tasks was the collision detection algorithm. The Gameduino itself has an in-built pixel perfect collision detection mechanism, which seemed the logical choice, but later posed a lot of problems. The problem with the Gameduino's collision algorithm was that it only detected a single collision and could not report multiple collisions for the same sprite. Since we had implemented the stars as sprites it was very tedious to detect whether a spaceship was colliding with a star or something else. In some cases a collision would not be reported at all!
We finally decided to implement the collision algorithm used in the original game. The original algorithm considered imaginary circles around the spaceship and detected whether any object capable of blowing it up was within that circle. This resulted in a slightly mysterious effect where torpedoes could pass through the spaceship occasionally. Sometimes two spaceships could pass through each other at certain angles. A spaceship could also be blown up by a passing torpedo that was not going to hit it, but was simply within the circle. This was faithful to the original PDP-1 game, and thus acceptable for our version. Implementing this algorithm was computationally heavy on the Arduino but did not slow it down. We also got the desired effect we were looking for: torpedoes would occasionally pass through a spaceship.
After collision detection, we were left with the explosion of the spaceships. In the original game the explosion of a spaceship resulted in a large number of dots on the screen at the site of the explosion. We wanted to implement the same but with a Gaussian distribution. On implementing the algorithm to generate random number in a Gaussian distribution the game slowed down dramatically when an explosion took place. Although this did not matter much as the game would be over after the collision, it did not look very good. After manipulating the algorithm to remove square roots and logarithms, we finally reached a point where the explosion looked good and did not affect the game speed drastically.
You'll be able to play our version of Spacewar! on February 8 at the Stata Center.
Friday Games @ GAMBIT - Global Game Jam Grab Bag! (GGJGB)
Global Game Jam, the event where people from all over the world form teams and create a finished game in one weekend, was last week! The theme, which each team had to interpret in their own way, was "Ouroboros" - the mythical (or is it?) snake eating its tail.
Several hundred games were made at the GGJ 2012, so we cannot obviously play them all. But we will start with those made at the GAMBIT Game Lab U.S. - which included people from all over the Boston area, not just MIT - and those made at the GAMBIT Game Lab Singapore - which included people from all over Singapore. We'll then branch out and try whichever ones we think look interesting.
So come over to the GAMBIT lounge at 4pm today. Cookies, veggies, and global games.
The Snowfield: Experimental WWI Video Game Combats "Over-Engineered" Storytelling
A new video game from the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab takes interactive storytelling trends to task. Developed by student interns over the summer, "The Snowfield" has just been announced as a finalist in the Student Showcase of the 2012 Independent Games Festival.
The game challenges the notion that simulation-driven interactive stories -- the sort depicted in Star Trek's Holodeck -- require highly advanced technology to evoke strong emotional and dramatic experiences.
Instead, "The Snowfield" provides evidence for the opposite: that limited tech is an opportunity to address such challenges artistically, leaving space for players to find their own meaning in the workings of a simulation. This approach is more accessible for casual players, even for war games, which are typically the realm of hard-core gamers.
The game was created by team "M.I.A.", a group of ten student programmers, designers, and artists who worked together as part of GAMBIT's 2011 summer program, which brings in students from top universities in the U.S. and Singapore to conceive, research, and make a game in just eight weeks.
"'The Snowfield' intends to simulate a World War I scenario at the right level of fidelity and abstraction," says Matthew Weise, GAMBIT's Game Design Director. Research on interactive storytelling has moved in the direction of simulating a storyteller, an approach called 'drama management'. But the problem, Weise says, is in the assumption that players cannot find drama for themselves. "The Snowfield" just tries to give players an optimal amount of raw material for their imaginations to assemble a compelling experience.
"Because WWI was an especially horrible, insane, sad war," says Weise, "we wanted an emotional, dramatic situation that didn't lend itself to heroics. War in general -- contrary to what is seen in most video games -- doesn't lend itself to heroics, but WWI particularly so. We liked the concept of trenches as a way to constrain player movement, even though we mostly ended up using cold as our main constraint in the end. Even the German/English language barrier gave us a way to limit character interaction in a believable way."
Singaporean student Teng Chek Lim says his time at MIT offered insight into life in the game industry, especially team-based efforts. He praised how the program advanced his job prospects, adding that as the game designer of 'The Snowfield', "actually seeing players 'getting' the idea of the game and enjoy playing it was the best part of making the game for me."
About the team's IGF acknowledgment, Jason Beene, Game Director for "The Snowfield", says they are thrilled and honored to be selected for the Student Showcase. "I couldn't think of a better reward for such a hard working and talented team. Knowing that 'The Snowfield' resonated with the panel of judges is prize enough. To be a part of the showcase provides the unique privilege of being shown directly on the Game Developers Conference expo floor this March in San Francisco, exposing our game directly to those whom we desire most to experience it: other inspired game makers. 'The Snowfield' is in great company historically and this year is no exception. We at GAMBIT are delighted."
Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab (gambit.mit.edu)
The Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab is a research collaboration between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Interactive Digital Media R&D Programme Office hosted by the Media Development Authority of Singapore. The lab experiments with the theory, aesthetics, culture, craft, legacy, technology and play of games, developing, sharing, and deploying prototypes, findings and best practices to challenge and shape global game research and industry. GAMBIT builds collaborations between Singapore institutions of higher learning and MIT departments to identify and solve research problems using a multi-disciplinary approach that can be applied by Singapore's digital game industry.
Media Development Authority (www.mda.gov.sg)
The Media Development Authority of Singapore promotes the growth of globally competitive film, television, radio, publishing, music, games, animation and interactive digital media industries. It also regulates the media sector to safeguard the interests of consumers, and promotes a connected society.
Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab
Massachusetts Institute of Technology