Week 4 Objectives + Global Game Jam


Looking back on my Week 3 Objectives, I realize that I really didn’t do anything.  It is a bit sad considering we .  BUT!  I spent the weekend at the Global Game Jam and my team and I made a disco zombie game.

Prior Objectives

  • Start CG programming and tutorials to finish homework questions
  • Learn how to do cel-shading/toon shading
  • Figure out how to properly do mesh skinning
  • See if I can export the weighting of the joint structure from maya to our game engine
  • Work on inverse kinematics to reduce foot skating

Aside from reading the first chapter in the CG tutorial book I have not really found the time to do the other objectives.  However tonight I plan on working through the second chapter of that book so that I can begin cutting away at a few homework questions.

Week 4: Objectives

Our modelling professor (Derek F.) said “Whatever you think you can do, take that time and multiply it by three and that is how long it will take you.”  Clearly I overestimated what I could do in one week, but nonetheless I have a set few goals for the next three weeks.

As of now my priority is learning shaders.  The mesh skinning, IK and toon shading will soon follow.

Global Game Jam

My GDW team and two other guys (Mike A. and David Y.) created the game Zombie Fever!  I learned a lot, more about scope and how fast I can create pixel art.  We decided to use GameMaker for our basic game engine and Branden and Kevin took the reigns on that while David, Tyler and I created lots of pixel art.  Mike A. tried converting himself from pictures to pixel art and the other Mike found awesome disco music to use while he post processed them in Soundbooth.

Timmy The Zombie

This is the zombie I made, he is supposed to be moonwalking in the game.

The game started out from us looking at this years theme, the ouroboros, we started talking about infinite loops and the circle of life.  My idea was we create a game about zombies that follows the concept: Human turns into zombie, Zombie eats human, zombie turns back into human.  Then we got thinking more and we wanted a bright colour palette and somehow disco dance dance revolution made it into our game.  By the end our concept was one main character (the pixelated version of Mike) turned into a zombie and dances his way back to humanity.

HERE is the final build of the game if you choose to play it.
HERE is just the .exe.

Till next week
– Moose

Game Opinion: The Shelf Life of Video Games

Happy Thursday Reader,

This series of blog posts will be called “Game Opinion” where I vent my personal opinion regarding some aspects of the games industry.


I believe that each game has its own shelf life and play time (time of each play session) that the player imposes on the game at some point.  This impacts the development of any game just as much as its mechanics and dynamics but more importantly it should morally and ethically effect the developer/publisher of the game.


I feel that we can group all video games into 4 main categories: MMO’s, casual games, hardcore games and virtual reality and motion games.

First lets start with the easiest, VRG or virtual reality games.  These games are very interactive and are played by combining advancements in technology and motion capture devices to be played.  These games have a very short shelf life or play time due to their interactive nature.  For example, wearing a giant piece of headgear as your visual aid would be fairly cumbersome after half and hour or less of playing the game.  Motion games are limited by the amount of our stamina, someone can only jump up and down or perform action moves for so long until they get tired and need a break.

Then we have the largest group, hardcore games.  When I say hardcore, I am referring to the RPG’s, FPS’ and action games we play on our home console (PC, Xbox, PlayStation).  These are games that have complicated rules and require significant commitment from the player.  While I do understand this is a HUGE group to bunch up together, I still feel that it was worth compartmentalising them into one group.  This group is already sub sectioned very heavily ie: RPG’s, Action, Shooters, Adventure.  However all these genre’s have similar play times, the only thing that defers are their shelf lives.  Games like Call of Duty have very short stories but the real fun is in the hundreds of hours people pour into the online mode.  Then there are games like Oblivion and Skyrim that have very well built worlds that allow for endless play in their single player modes.  Lastly there are games that go for quality of gameplay over quantity and have very well built and scripted stories that can be played and beaten between 18 – 48 hours typically.

Next we move on to the most controversial one: casual games.  Now what is a casual game? I would define a casual game as an entertainment item that has very simple rules and does not require any commitment.  The keyword in that sentence is commitment.  Games like Angry Birds, Pac-Man, Solitaire, Plants vs Zombies, etc.  These games are very easy to pick up and play for 5-20 minuets and after that they become fairly repetitive.  This is why these games are excellent for mobile platforms.

Lately people have been classifying Facebook games like FarmVille, Mafia Wars, FrontierVille and Dragons of Atlantis.  Now these are NOT casual games.  Sure some of them have fairy simple rules, but most of them require commitment.  Lots of commitment.  For example, in FarmVille the main way to advance is by planting crops and harvesting them to gain experience and money.  As simple as that is, the gameplay is in real time and once the player plants a crop they would have to wait however many minutes to hours in order to harvest that crop.  Once someone continues to do this they essentially begin to reorganise their life and schedule to get back on the game to harvest their crops to get more money and reach the goals that the game has laid out for them.  This is what makes the game not casual and even more hardcore then “hardcore” and sometimes MMOG’s.

This leads into the big one: massively multiplayer online game (MMOG).  These are games that take the mechanics and dynamics from hardcore games and add a “massive” new level of online and player interaction.  These games allow for millions of players to be playing the same game online and  are typically played on PC (for our purposes).  Most MMO’s fall under the MMORPG’s, MMORTS and MMOFPS category combining the RPG, RTS and FPS game mechanics with a gigantic online mode attached.  These games have endless shelf lives and huge play times because the developers are constantly adding new content to them.  Rather then paying $60 for a video game, many of the MMO’s have monthly fees or a free-to-play model with micro transactions. While the monthly fees allow for a good quality game, the free-to-play model is built upon making the player the play game for as long as possible to entice them to buying items with real world cash.

This leads me into my main point, people using game design for monetary gain and crafting meaningless goals rather then crafting an experience.  As a huge fan of this medium I love how people can design games to build giant and rewarding experiences that entertain the player.  They do this by setting meaningful goals that the player is self-motivated to reach, and in order to help self-motivate the player we try to immerse the player into the game so that they are having fun.  What angers me is when designers create a game that motivates players to continue playing for hours and hours with really meaningless goals and once they reach a plateau in gameplay and the only way to progress is by grinding for hours with repetitive gameplay.  At this point many developers create items and cheats that help the player advance by buying “exclusive” items with real cash.


Starting with VRG, these games shelf life begin to slowly erode away as time goes on.  The initial concept of being fully immersed into a video game is very entertaining but the most important thing is constantly setting new goals for the player to reach so that each play session is geared toward reaching a new goal rather then the same virtual experience every time.  If the goals are the same each time then the game begins to loose its spark very fast after the player has spent an hour playing the game.  For these games we must continue to create dynamic and worthwhile goals that the player wants to achieve rather then just simulating the real world.

Hardcore games are the bulk of the games industry and each game has its own ups and downs.  If you want a game with a long shelf life you would either go for a game with a extensive online mode or a game with a long single player experience.  If you want a quality experience with an excellent story and gameplay you are typically looking at games with a short shelf life but are very entertaining and rewarding to play.  As game developers our goal is to provide a full fledged experience utilising new technologies and graphics to help our gameplay mechanics flourish to bestow upon the player the best and most entertaining experience we can.

Casual games are meant to be enjoyed for people who are on the go and have time to kill.  These games are not meant to provide a full virtual experience with 3D sound and state of the art visuals, rather provide a simple and fun experience for people who don’t have access to a home theatre system at that time.  This is why as game designers we must create very simple and rewarding goals for the player to achieve that can be achieved through smaller game sessions.

MMO’s are tricky games to develop for.  First of, developing a game for the MMORPG market is futile.  As long as World of Warcraft exists no other game can dare to compete with its worlds vast size and content. It has been in development since 2004 as well as having released 4 massive expansion packs to extend the life of the game.

Closing Remarks

When developing MMO’s and other games designers need to ethically think about their impacts on the players.  By creating such vast worlds and forcing player immersion, what happens when the player is too fully immersed into the game?  What happens when the player logs 8 hours in your game every day and the player looses all social interaction with his friends to keep up with gameplay elements?

Sure these are choices that the player makes, but as designers we can’t be ignorant to these issues.  We need to place limitations on gameplay.  Nexon does this nicely in Vindictus by giving the player a maximum amount of tokens to enter dungeons per day to limit gameplay.

Maybe it is just me, but I think it is in bad taste or bad moral fibre to manipulate the player into buying items for your own monetary gain.  While designers do need money to survive, there are better ways in getting paid for making games rather then cornering and attacking your players.

Thank you for reading

– Moose

Week 3 Objectives


I know what you are thinking, where the hell is week 1 and 2 objectives.  Well I skipped the first week because I really didn’t do any graphics work we (Scorching South Studios) mostly went over our future deliverables and requirements and our game vision.  As the team leader I was fairly swamped trying to set up meeting dates for the coming weeks.

This week (week 2) I was also swamped with other course work and readings so I did not get a chance to start looking into SHADER programming.


I know a lot of people are complaining about how much work we have to do in our course, while I am not one to complain, my classmates are not entirely false.  We do have quite a lot of work in terms of outside class work and preparation for the next class.  Lastly, the game we have to build outside of class is essentially the biggest workload.

While I love the fact we get to build a game with a group of your good friends, it is no easy task.  What would be really beneficial to our program would be a student run game development workshop.  The current workshop is fairly useless in my opinion.  I find that sometimes the proctor wastes a bit of our time with project management lectures that I personally do not find helpful.

What I think we should do is:

  • Sign up for separate smaller workshops taking place in the game lab
  • Rather have an official proctor, have one of the very helpful TA’s our program has the pleasure of  having manage the session
  • The time is essentially a 3 hour work session having all the game lab tools near you to work with (3D screens, motion capture, sound and audio recording software, projector screen, etc.)
  • Rather then standing in long line-ups asking the proctor for help then getting shot down because he says “figure it out” , your peers and the TA can help you
  • The original proctor can stop by for the milestones to check and see how we are doing similar to the current workshop

I feel if our workshops were in smaller compartmentalised sections, it would allow for better peer-to-peer collaboration rather then having 80 people in one room working in their own group.

If we had smaller sessions, people would be able to go up to the front and ask for help, while peers who have run into the same problem could help them.  Also during the testing and debugging period, teams can place their game at the front and other members can play the game and help the team collect data as needed.

Week 3: Objectives

That was a pretty massive aside.

Nonetheless, this week I hope to begin doing some CG tutorials and try to get some experience by doing some homework questions.  Aside from the team leader, I am one of the 3 programmers in my team, and will most likely be doing a large chunk of the shader programming and the report that will be handed in at the end of the semester

I plan on figuring out how use the cell shading algorithm so that we can use it to make our game look a lot better.

Cel-Shading or Cell shading or Toon shading?

As you may or may not know, we are using a lego theme for our game, and as a group we thought that rendering our game with a toon shader would really make it look a lot better.

Aside from figuring out how to do that, my other objectives are trying to implement a skeletal animation system in our game.  We are currently able to load and play BVH files, the next step is to get mesh skinning done.

The reason why we need to have the skeletal animation system is because we have several models we would like to incorporate in the game, and doing a keyframe animation for all of them would be very brutal to our artists and animators.  This would also cause them to deter time from making the models and in game assets look better to animate everything while exporting 100’s of obj’s.  With a skeletal animation system we can use BVH files found on the interwebs and use that for many of our idle animations to add polish to our game.

The only problem is that I theoretically understand how to do mesh skinning, but converting that to code is proving to be difficult.  I am having trouble figuring out how to add weights to the mesh from the joints.  I can visually see it done in Maya (heat map), and I need to figure out how to export that skeleton with all the weights with respect to the mesh and convert that to code so that the joint will move with the mesh.

Once I get that done, my next step is using inverse kinematics to bind the feet of the character to the floor.  But that is optional… for now.


  • Start CG programming and tutorials to finish homework questions
  • Learn how to do cel-shading/toon shading
  • Figure out how to properly do mesh skinning
  • See if I can export the weighting of the joint structure from maya to our game engine
  • Work on inverse kinematics to reduce foot skating


That is all for this week,
Thank you for reading

– Moose


Game Autopsy: Realm of the Mad God

Hello! Merry Weekend

I would like to introduce you to Realm of the Mad God. (RMD)


RMD is essentially a co-op fantasy MMO shooter browser based game made by Wild Shadow Studios.  The game is basically about surviving in this fantasy realm.  You pick one of 3 main starter classes (archer, wizard, priest) and in order to unlock the 10 other classes, the player must reach up till a certain level with each class.  For example, in order to unlock the warrior, the player must reach level 5 with the rouge, in order to unlock the rouge the player must reach level 5 with the archer.  The top level classes require you to reach level 20 with other classes.

Classes In RMG

The Hook

I saw this game while browsing through the Google App store, and saw some neat pixel art and looked at the overview and review tabs of the App store and decided to give it a try.  This was just around the same time when I was finishing my second semester of my first year in the game development program and I knew how difficult it was to create pixel art and this game looked like it had a good aesthetic to it.

Game Mechanics

The way I played the game was I waited at a server entrance (little cave like things) to be nearly full and joined it.  These servers allow you to enter the wilderness or Realm where all the enemies are.  The point is to go to this wilderness and kill monsters to gain experience and level up.  The game is easy to play for the first 5 level’s solo, however once you reach level 10, the monsters you need to kill are very difficult to fight alone.

Server Entrace

The reason why I wait for the server to get full is because its a LOT more fun to play with hordes of other players.  Since it is cooperative, there is shared experience but not shared loot.  So everyone wants your help to kill huge monsters, but the real game is running to get the final kill on the monster and grab its loot before everyone else does.

Basic Low Level Boss Battle

The key is to get into these things called “trains” and “hordes” to level up really fast and gain rank.  By levelling up to level 20 in each class you gain rank and that allows to to get better items in the shop and other rewards.  But the hordes are huge groups of up to 30+ characters in one blob shooting their attacks outward and in every direction hoping to hit the enemies.  These hordes have priests that help heal characters, warriors that stand in the front to deal damage, paladins to take damage and increase the packs damage resistance and then the mages and archers in the back firing their spells.  A train is a moving horde across a pathway, and being in a train is lots of fun.  The ability to run and try to lead the pack and get the first hit on many monsters is very entertaining.

Example of a Horde

As you can see, things can get very hectic in a horde and many people die.

The basic game mechanics are you click the mouse to shoot your spell, arrow and sword, while dodging the enemy attacks.  The enemy attacks are normally projectiles in different sprite shapes and sizes.  The main game element is survival.  Death means something in this game.  When you die, its over.  All of you items are dropped for other players to pick up and depending on how well you did, you gain fame that can be spent in the item shop for rare items.

Death makes the game fairly difficult because there are times when a player is at level 19 fighting the huge bosses in the high level area and one massive attack from a big boss can take away almost all their health and they would be dead.


The point of the game is to survive and live as long as possible to gain fame and rank.  You gain fame and rank by killing level bosses and big monsters.  The basic attacks the player can utilise are his main unlimited attack by using a wand, scepter, bow or sword.  Wands and bows are fast and can shoot multiple projectiles.  Scepters are stronger but much slower and swords are very strong but have a very low range.

Each class has a secondary attack that does different things.  The archer can shoot magic arrows while the priest can heal everyone within a certain radius.

Likes and Praises

The reason why I liked this game the most was because it was really easy to pick up and play for as long as you wanted.  Anyone could play for 5 min and level up and be content or they can put in about 45min and they could get a character to level 20.  Like many MMORPG’s on the internet, it takes months and many hours out of ones life to advance in the game.  This game can be played very casually and it would still be very enjoyable.

The overall aesthetic of the game is really nice.  everything follows the same pixelated art style and all the game assets come together to be presented very nicely.  For a free game you really get a good polished piece of work.

Teamwork!  A lot of MMO’s put you against every other player in the world, but this game really enforces cooperative gameplay.  You cant reach level 20 while having fun without a good group of team mates to have your back and buff you.

NO GRINDING!  Many MMO’s make the player grind for hours to reach level X and get $XXX so they can get this piece of armour.  The armour drops are all at random, or dropped by certain monsters.  The only way to get that armour is to be the fastest clicker and pick it up before anyone else.  There is also player trading.

Dislikes and Criticism

Very overpowered bosses.  While I do realise they wanted to make the bosses difficult and so that only packs of people can kill them, I find that there is no way to “be a hero” in this game.  If you try to rush in and do some damage you end up becoming the epicentre of the bosses attacks and even at level 20 with decent equipment you will die very easily.  I would make the bosses attacks do a little less damage so people can rush in without dying so quickly.  Most of the time I felt like a coward in these battles sitting at the back lines trying to avoid the enemies attacks without dying.

More inventory and elements for free players.  There is only one treasure chest with 6 item slots for your character to save loot in.  Also you only get one character slot to start.  Unless your want to dish out money to conform to the free-to-play micro transaction model to get more items, inventory space and character slots.  The game emphasizes on the micro transaction model way to much and it breaks a lot of the immersion that the game play builds up on.  Granted that the inventory slots and more character save slots are not needed.

More RPG aspects.  The base of operations where you pick your server and store your items is called the Nexus.  There is an arbitrary store there that you can purchase items with fame and real money.  However it would be nice if there were more NPC’s that gave you quests and had item shops.  More RPG elements would help the immersion a lot.

Closing Remarks

There really is not much else to say about this game, but it is worth checking out.  Who knows you might spend 5min to 30min playing this game.


– Moose


Midnight Munchkin Madness

Hello Mr./Mrs. Reader,
Game OverviewToday I will be going into a review of the board game Munchkin

  • Card game for 3-6+ players (expansion packs allow for more players)
  • Role Playing Game
  • Play time: 1hr+
  • Set up time for new players: 10 – 20 min
    • Need a large table or surface to play
    • Need a pen and paper to record level and token count or any other method (iPhone Munchkin Application, phone note taking application etc.

Game Rules

Essentially Munchkin is a dungeon crawler.  There are two decks of cards, a treasure deck and a door deck.  You play the role of a level 1 human dungeon crawler.  The point of the game is to kick open doors (draw a card from the door deck) to find out what is in that room and to be the first to reach level 10.  You will encounter one of three things when you open a door: a monster, a curse or a buff.

If you encounter a monster you can fight it and if you beat it you get a level and you get to draw from the treasure deck.  If the monster’s level is too high then you can ask for help from one person and other players can play curses and buffs to aid or backstab you.  If you can’t beat the monster then you can flee, depending on the monster you may die, loose a level or have a negative penalty of some sort.

If you encounter a curse then the player has to submit to the effect of the curse.

If you encounter a buff you can keep it or play it immediately.  Buffs can be anything from a race (elf, dwarf and halfling) to a class (thief, warrior, wizard and cleric) and other bonuses (raise a monster’s attack by 5, loose two cards etc.).

A players turn begins with the door kick, then a combat phase if they fight a monster.  Followed by the looting phase where they get the monster’s defeated loot or they draw another card from the door deck if a monster was not encountered.  The player can also summon a monster to fight from their hand to fight if they did not normally encounter one.

Munchkin Items


  1. Very entertaining once the player is able to learn the rules.  All our group members were fully immersed in the game and had a great time playing it.
  2. The balance for the player levelling system is mostly fair.  There are plenty of ways to increase your level and decrease your competition’s level.  There were many times when two players were near to winning the game and everyone ganged up to backstab the player in the lead to keep the game going.
  3. The social aspect of the game was also very fun.  Since board games are meant to be fun social experiences, Munchkin did this through the use of their class and combat system (Thief’s can back stab other players to create obstacles in their battle).  You can form alliances and bribe your friends with items that are not in the game.  At one point I formed a secret alliance with another player and it was our goal to team up annihilate the other team mates because we were both clerics and the rest of the players were thieves.
  4. The game can be as complex or as simple as you want it to be.  If the players would like to play a simple game where they would just draw cards and play free-for-all, they can do that.  Whereas, if they wanted to players can form alliances and gang up on their friends while creating obstacles for others, they can also do that.
  5. The level of simplicity is probably one of its best points.  While the game may seem complicated at first the actual gameplay is fairly simple.  A player’s turn can be finished in 10 seconds e.g. open a door, fight a monster, collect treasure.  If others were to interject, then the turns would last longer going into alliance agreements and player’s asking for help and what not.  This makes the game flow nice and quick at times while the other players are not waiting a long time for their turn to come.
  6. The art style of the game is also very enjoyable making it both graphically and aesthetically pleasing.  The names of the cards and the pictures on them are along the lines of comic-mischief making it seem like you are playing a game with the characters on your Sunday morning comic paper
Chicken on your head


  1. The rules were a bit tough to pick up for very new players.  The rulebook is essentially a small pamphlet that could be turned into a more graphical and easier to read book.  The pamphlet is informative and it seems like it was meant for players that were ecstatic to be playing Munchkin and familiar with these types of games.  For new players it was a bit like drinking water out of a fire hose.
  2. The coin and monetary system was very useless and didn’t serve such a good purpose.  The description for it could have been better in the rule book.  If there was something to change in a future version, this could be it.  The game does not include tokens to use for money, it simply states use whatever you want (poker chips, tokens, real money).
  3. There should be more classes and more variety.  When our group was playing, we had 3 players playing as thieves that coordinated their backstabbing ability with other players to annoy them.  This was a bit demoralizing to those players and it felt like they were losing interest in the game because of trouble advancing.  However there are expansion packs available for this game that you would have to purchase elsewhere to solve this issue.  However given that the price of the game is about $30, there should be more content considering it only comes with about 170 cards and one die.  Not the best bang for you buck.
  4. More items!  It would be nice if there were more physical items, like figurines, visual aids and some other physical devices players can have to increase immersion.
  5. The levelling reward system for killing monsters was a unfair.  If you managed to kill a level 16 monster and you are level 5, the level boost should have been greater.  I don’t think players were rewarded enough for great efforts in killing higher level monsters.
  6. The classes and in-game combat could use a bit more depth.  It felt like sometimes it was over to quick.  Since this is a Role Playing Game, it would be nice if it came with a history book or something advanced players could read to pull off more moves in combat.  For example, if you were a cleric and you were fighting a vampire or an undead monster, the history book would show that if they defeat that monster they are allowed to take a specific item from a treasure pile.  Something along those lines to give the battle and classes more depth.

What to change

If I was able to design some parts of the game differently I would choose between changing how the monetary and coin system worked, to increasing the depth of the combat system.  The combat system currently is fine for new players.  However, if you were playing with more advanced users, it would be nice if there was a history book or extended rule book that had class, race and item profiles that gave a nice twist.  This way when a character is in a pickle fighting a high level monster they could pull off some expert move and get away safely without losing items or dying.

For the coin and monetary system, I would create a shop where it holds decent items and other things the character can buy.  Also after each monster kill you would be awarded treasure and coins.  This would give the player more cash flow.  Not enough to amass for a level increase every turn, but enough to get cheap items to use.  This would give a more RPG feel to the game and give players more cash flow.  Otherwise the old way to get money is to trade items in.  However items are very valuable and are worth more in your hand then gold is.


To get some feedback on this post here are some questions that I hope you take the time to answer in the reply box below:

Those who have not played Munchkin before:

  • Do you think that board games like Munchkin offer a better social experience then an online console game (Call of Duty, Gears of War, Starcraft, League of Legends etc.) or Facebook social game?
  • Would you rather pick up Munchkin for $30 bucks or spend that money on a video game? If you pick the Video game, write down which video game and why.
  • Do you still play board games? Which one if your favourite?

Those who have played Munchkin:

  • Do you agree that Munchkin is a fairly simple game, or do you think it is really complicated?
  • How do you feel about the level system? Do you think it is balanced? Should players be offered greater rewards for killing monsters?
  • Do you agree with my idea for a small in-game store that with a few items?  What would you do differently?
  • If Munchkin came with a history book, would you read it and plan out advanced strategies to use with your favoured class or race?

Also feel free to criticise and comment on whatever else you would like, the questions are just guidelines to help formulate an answer.

Thank you for reading 😀

You have just been Moose’d

– Moose

Game Construction: Assassin’s Creed

Happy Saturday dear reader,

Today I will be going over the wall climbing technique used in the first Assassin’s Creed.


Assassin’s Creed is an open world stealth adventure game that takes place during the Third Crusade (1189-1192) with the main player character being Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad or Atlair.  I wont go into to much detail about what the game is and other gritty details because it is a fairy popular game (over 5 million units sold) and part of a popular franchise.

One of the core gameplay elements of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, is the ability to parkour across any in-game surface and climb any building.


My goal is to figure out how they created the wall climbing system for Altair, both his locomotion and animation.


Starting of with the gamplay trailer breakdown:

  • From 0:15-0:20 – Here we can see that Altair is in fact floating above the ground showing us that they are not using Inverse Kinematics to bind the feet to the floor.  This is also known as foot skating.
  • 0:34-0:37 and 0:43-0:51 – Altair does not seem to be walking up the stairs like a normal person would rather it seems like he is diagonally interpolating  to give the illusion that he is actually climbing the staircase. Altair is not walking up every step, he seems to be playing an animation and another force is slowly increasing Altair’s elevation making it seem that he is walking up a staircase.
  • 0:53-3:00 – Wall climbing


First let’s begin with user input.  Assuming the player is playing on the Xbox 360, he will be holding the ‘RT’ and ‘A’ button in order to run up a wall and begin to climb it.  After this point they use the analog stick to pick a direction to climb in.

Now the only way to climb a wall is to look for different ledges to point to and then Altair will climb to that direction.  Most the most part he is limited to horizontal (X axis) and vertical (Y axis) movement.  For the most part there is no diagonal movement (X and Y axis) unless there are special landmark buildings where they have certain designs that can be climbed differently.  For the most part there is just X and Y movement on a building.

For the normal movement locomotion, they are not doing anything special other then basic physics across the world.  Altair’s movements are segregated into 2 categories

  • Low Profile – Basic walking movement, the ability to blend and steal
  • High Profile – The player must hold down the Right Trigger and the low profile buttons change.  Atlair can now run, jump and start a wall climb as well as assassinate others and pull out his weapon.  Altair can also tackle and shove people while he is running.
This makes the locomotion for the wall climbing a lot easier.  In the normal default stage (low profile) Altair is grounded on the floor and cannot scale buildings.  However as soon as he begins his wall traversal (0:50 – 1:00) Altair is in another “mode”.  In this mode all his other actions are unavailable.  All Altair can do is traverse the building, drop and let go of the building or jump away.  Essentially Altair is bound to that face of the building.  He switches one axis of freedom.  While on the ground Altair can move on the X and Z direction, as soon as the wall climb starts, he looses either the X or Z axis and gains a Y axis to move upwards in.

In this first image, we can see Altair hanging down on a ledge.  To prove that they used a similar system for almost all the buildings you can see his right arm is going inside the mesh.  This means that the ledges are essentially small bump mapped graphics separate from the locomotion system.  If the locomotion system was parented to the mesh of the building that Altair was climbing, then he would not be going through that ledge in the picture.

The hardest part to figuring out how Ubisoft managed to code the wall climbing system is the “ledges” system.  Did they use nodes that were hand placed on the buildings that indicated the ledge type? Did they physically make ledges in the mesh and had Altiar read in the the triangles to determine if it was a ledge? Was each ledge manually stuck on and treated as another object?

It took me a while to decide on one, but with a little helpful discussion with Kevin a.k.a. @Iceninja77 we were able to agree it was a mixture of nodes and separate objects. We believe that the basic buildings are plain rectangular texture mapped objects and the landmarks are just several polygons in one mesh. The level designer might have manually placed nodes on the building using their game engine to indicate where he wanted ledges.  Those nodes would have different type depending on what type of ledge they wanted and what animation Altair would play to reach it.

Figure 2: Ledge Types

Here we can see some of the basic types of ledges there are.  There are the Purple ledges that are just pieces of geometry that pop outwards and are not connected to other ledges.  The purple edges are only used as stepping stones.  Then we have the Blue type of ledges that wrap around the whole building that Altair can shimmy toward the left or right on.

Figure 3: Ledge Highlights

Each colour seen in Figure 3 is a ledge that Altair can climb on.  The window pane (Blue, Green, Pink, Red) would be a special node that has sub-nodes (Sub-Ledges) in it so that it can be traversed. The normal ledge (Purple) would be another example of a ledge Altair can shimmy around.

So far we have learned:

  • The only inputs are a direction given as a degree from the X-inputfrom the Xbox 360 controller. For example:
    • Left = -X axis
    • Right = +X axis
    • Up = +Y axis
    • Down = -Y axis
  • Once Altair enters a wall climb he is only limited to three options and the other walking actions are locked from use
    1. Move in a direction – Analog Stick
    2. Drop – ‘B’ button
    3. Jump in a direction (upwards or away from the building) – ‘A’ button
  • There are several basic ledge types:
    • Stepping stones – Used for Altair to from to other ledges
    • Shimmy Ledges – Altair can move left or right on these ledges until he finds a stepping stone to climb up, or another Shimmy Ledge.  Shimmy ledges can also wrap around the whole building
    • Sub-Ledge Objects – Special objects like window panes and steel grates that are a mix of Shimmy Ledges and Stepping stones.


We have a choice to pick between a key-frame animation system or a skeletal animation system.  Assuming that Ubisoft has lots of motion capture data for Altair climbing from and to different ledges, a Skeletal animation system would be the better pick.  Using a keyframe animation system would involve a lot more coding and a much larger animation blend tree.

Lets say that the wall climb is done in a doubly linked list, tree data structure.  The root would be the the top of the tower and the children would be the start of the building.  The way to traverse the tree is to give a direction from the analog stick.  For example, if you initiate a wall climb by walking up to the building and grabbing the closest ledge you would start of at one of the youngest children in that tree.  If you initiate a wall climb by running up the wall you would pass one child node and go to its parent.

Figure 4: Ledge Climbing Tree
  • White is the Root node for the top of the building.  This can be either a point or another flat surface like a roof where Altair is no longer locked in wall climbing mode and is free to roam in the X and Z axis
  • Red/Pink are the Stepping stone ledge types
  • Blue are the Shimmy ledge types
The colours of the line are the types of movements Altair can make.  Altair can go from Stepping stone to Stepping stone provided they are on the same level.  If Altair would want to move up a level he would have to use either a single Stepping Stone or a Shimmy ledge to move upwards.

Now the basic idea here is that you would start at the bottom and work your way up.  This is NOT a BST (Binary Standard Tree) so some rules of tree’s do not apply to us.  So if you start at the bottom on a Stepping Stone ledge type you can traverse the tree by going upward and increasing your level to a Shimmy ledge type and Altair would play the animation from Stepping Stone to Shimmy.  If Altair does not move then he would play the animation for idle on Stepping.

So the best idea is to store the animation to be played in the nodes themselves.  A boolean would be changed and then that animation would play while also moving Altair to that new position.

The reason I would use a tree like this for the wall climbing is that it makes it easier for combining user input and traversing the tree.  If the user inputs a negative X value and if Altair was on a Shimmy ledge he would move left until he reaches the end of that ledge or forever if the ledge wraps around the building.  If the Shimmy edge has a Stepping Stone to the left of it and the user is still inputting a negative X value then Altair would climb to the stepping stone.  If the user wants to climb upwards, the just input a positive Y on the analog stick and Altair will keep climbing upwards until he reaches a dead end and has to move left to right to find another ledge to climb upwards with.

Closing Statements

This was a fairly quick overview of how the climbing system would be done.  I didn’t go into detail about the linked list aspect of it because that would be more complicated.  We would have to factor in several items to choose which animation to be played.  Since sometimes Altair is grabbing the ledge and hanging freely, and other times where Altair is grabbing a Stepping Stone and two level’s under him there is a Shimmy ledge and his feet are held up on that ledge.

I think that having a logic tree for each building would be easier to program rather then giving the player unlimited freedom thinking that each ledge is special and there are unlimited ways of climbing each building.  In reality they are just picking a random point in the matrix and depending on their inputs they are just following a predetermined path.

Thank you for reading 😀

You have just been Moose’d

– Moose

Game Autopsy: Dragons of Atlantis

Good Wednesday to you,

I am planning on creating a post-mortem analysis for some games I have recently played or enjoyed and felt that it was worth blogging about.


To start of let me introduce you to Dragons of Atlantis (DOA) made by Kabam.  Kabam is a developer of “Hardcore Social Games” using a free-to-play business model.  They mainly release their games on Facebook, but also have a playable client on their website.  They mainly make strategy RPG games or Real Time Strategy MMO’s that can be played in a browser.

The main point of DOA is to build an empire while finding and raising dragons.

4 Playable races that govern the art style of your buidlings

The Hook:

The way I was introduced to this game was via the Google Chrome Application Store.  Since I rarely play video games (<10 hours month) due to classwork, I am always looking for quick games that I can play for 10-30min that offer a quick and entertaining gaming experience.  From the past I have been able to find these types of games on the Chrome App store, which is why I browse the game section every now and then.  I find the Chrome App store a good place to find some quality games without going to Kongregate or some other free online game site with thousands of flash games.

The first thing that attracted me was the dragons.  At this time I was stoked that Skyrim was coming out and developed a 6th sense that made anything with dragons and Skyrim terminology pop out.  Without reading the description I installed the application and got distracted and left it in my App collection.  After a few days when I took another procrastination break on the internet I remembered that I downloaded an app for this game and decided to give it a try.

A high level city

Game Mechanics:

Essentially the point of the game is to gather resources (lumber, metal, stone, food and gold) and build an army to conquer wildernesses (lake, hill, mountain, forest,  savannah and plains) and indigenous enemy camps. You use the resources to create and upgrade your buildings (level 1 – 11) and army (Conscripts to Minotaurs to Giants etc.).

Resources can be gained by creating fields (lumber mills, quarries, mines and farms) or by looting and pillaging camps and cities.

Buildings are what your city is comprised of.  The buildings like garrisons allow you to build your army and a science centre allows you to research new technologies.  There are many other buildings for different purposes like a house to increase your population and a theatre for increasing the overall happiness of your population.

The player is governed by a level and power.  Power is essentially what most other games use as experience.  Power is governed by the size of your army, level of all your buildings and a few other insignificant gameplay elements.  The only real benefit to having a high level and power is to join stronger alliances (guilds) to get higher in the leaderboard ranking.  Some gameplay elements like building an outpost and unlocking other dragons are locked if you do not meet the level requirement.

Researching also plays a huge part in the gameplay.  In order to get better troops and be able to train a greater dragon to fight in battles, the player has to sacrifice resources to research certain technologies.  For example, the player can increase his lumber production by researching Woodcraft.  If the player would like to train Longbowmen he would have to have Woodcraft lvl 5 in order to research Weapons Calibration to create the Longbowmen.

Each player starts of with a basic dragon keep at level 1. At level 1 the player starts of with a dragon egg.   The more they upgrade it the larger their greater dragon grows.  Dragons are very powerful and require lots of resources to advance in level.  Once the player manages to find 4 pieces of dragon armour by attacking enemy camps he is able to research Aerial Combat and have his dragon fight with him in battles.  The idea is to bring your dragon into battle so she can find other dragon eggs for you to expand your empire with.

The penultimate game mechanic are the troops. Essentially you can group all of them into 5 categories (5th is dragons):

  1. Pack mules – These are somewhat the “bitch” troops that only exist to carry your spoils of war (resources).  Once you defeat someone in battle you get to loot their place.  Normal troops cannot carry too much weight and make up for that in combat skill.
  2. Speed Troops – These are the faster troops (Swift Strike Dragons, Spies etc.) that are used for killing ranged enemies.  They are also good for farming for resources because they can reach areas fast, kill quickly in large numbers and return to your city with the spoils of war.  This would be faster then sending out an army with many pack mules.
  3. Ranged Troops – From what I have noticed these are the strongest troops able to demolish the enemy if deployed in large numbers.  They seem to be very effective against melee troops.
  4. Melee Troops – These are the cheap cannon fodder troops that are easy to build and effective when used in very large numbers.  However there are stronger melee focused troops  like giants and ogres.

Battling is pretty much the last part of the game.  In order to start a battle the player picks a target: wilderness, AI enemy camp  or another player city.  An attack is simply initiated by selecting a General (can use a Facebook friend to be your general) to lead your army and then selecting however many troops to send into battle.  If the player attacks a:

  • Wilderness –  They are able to place an outpost on that wilderness and get an hourly resource increase proportional to its level. For example, a level 2 hill would give a 10% increase to stone per hour to the player whereas a level 8 lake would give a 40% increase to food.  The reward for defeating a wilderness is a small number of resources of that wilderness type, the only reason to attack a wilderness is for the hourly bonus.
  • Anthropus Camp – The indigenous camp can be attacked for a substantial amount of food and a minimal supply of other resources.  The camps are a good place to find items and if the player attacks level 5+ camps he is able to find pieces of dragon armour.
  • Player City – These are the other players in the game.  Attacking them is the biggest risk of all.  Cities have the most amount of resources however they could have the strongest defences.  If a player makes the mistake of fighting someone much stronger, they can loose their army and entice a counter-attack.  Worst of all if the player attacks a city in an Alliance, he would have 5 or more other people teaming up to fight him because of his initial unprovoked attack while the victim’s guild fights for revenge.


Overall the point of the game is to expand your empire by finding other dragons to build cities around.  To find other dragons the player must train his main dragon to fight in battle.  In order to train the main dragon the player must procure resources.  In order to attain resources faster, the player must construct more buildings and train an army to loot and pillage camps and wildernesses.

Likes and Praises

I have been playing this game for about a week now and I believe it is a fun casual game.  Since I do not have the time to sit in front of my wonderful gaming set up (55″ Plasma and 5.1 surround with my Xbox 360) and play Skyrim/Dead Island/MGS HD Collection for hours, this game fills a bit of my gaming appetite.  It requires about 5-10 minutes of thought in deciding on what troops to build and what to upgrade then you wait for the command to execute while to get back to your previous task.  I found this helpful for time management since I would upgrade an item that would take an hour to complete and then send all my platoons for an attack.  After an hour or whenever I remembered I would come back and do it again.

What  DOA and most Facebook games do well is addicting you to the game.  You become compelled to create a gigantic city and gather all these dragons to reach a goal that you don’t know.  You end up adjusting your schedule to comprise for the wait times in the game so that you can create another task as to not waste time.  This is where the line of a “fun” game and a game “addiction” begin to cross.  When you are setting an alarm at 4:30am just to wake up because your Weapons Calibration Lvl 6 is done and you want to start researching Mercantilism lvl 3 so it will be done by the time you start class is when the game begins to take over your life.  Surely this might not have been the designers intention, but nonetheless it is a problem.

I think the best part about this game is the presentation.  There are many games that have pretty much the same content as DOA like Tribal Wars and TRAVIAN however DOA does a fairy good job in its aesthetics. While these browser games won’t bring anything special to the table in terms of graphics (Good technical rendering techniques) however DOA’s overall aesthetic is very good.  The game elements look every well put together with a nice colour palette and bright colours.  Also its not like some other browser games where you are loading web pages, it seems to be presented using flash which allows it to have animations playing.  I played Tribal Wars a few years ago and I remember how terrible the aesthetics were.  While graphics may make games looks pretty, aesthetics pretty much bring everything together in terms of sound, visuals and gameplay.  I think DOA has some pretty decent aesthetics and it would be nice to see more animation rather then just building and dragon animations.

Dislikes and Criticism

I really disliked some technical aspects of the game.  Whatever server they were using was way too slow and the update timer for wait times and resources was painfully slow at times.  The game would state that it only would take 5 min to complete a task but with the server lag it would take 8-10 min to update.  Also at times your entire army would be empty.  They would be lost in a state of virtual limbo in-between your city and the wilderness where you can only wonder if your troops are okay and if they will come home safe.

However it seems like the technical issues are being dealt with, and occur the most in high populated servers. Since the game is free-to-play and seems to be in some hybrid beta-release stage where they are adding and fixing content weekly these bugs are expected.

I think their resource system could use a bit of a revamp.  Food is a pain to get during the first day and after that point you begin hoarding millions of bushels of food not knowing what to do with it.  Stone on the other hand you rarely use, but when you do, the game requires thousands of tonnes of stone to continue upgrade items.  Lumber and metal are needed throughout the game as they are the main resource needed for upgrading dragons and training your army.  It would be nice if they incorporated more food in that equation to equal out the metal and lumber consumption.

Since this is meant to be a social game, there are very few social widgets available.  For now there is just a world and guild chat box, marketplace and a simple guild menu.  There should be more options to interact and friend other players to add to the “social” aspect of the game.  The marketplace could use more options, as of now you can only trade resources for money, it would be better to trade resource for resources and add a few more options (haggling, gifting etc.).  The chat box serves a decent purpose however the guild menu needs a revamp.  Aside from browsing other players to send messages, resources and reinforcing their troops, there really isn’t a lot to do.  There should be some way for the Guild Master to communicate with the members and ways to coordinate attacks and create treaties and other items like that.

Battle highlights that show resources gained and troops lost

Closing Remarks

From DOA I have learned how important the technical side is.  The server issues are almost game breaking and lack polish, nothing breaks immersion more then a “sorry can’t load page” or issues with resources and in game items.  I have also seen the importance of balance, DOA does a pretty decent job of balancing the resources and maybe the influx of food and massive stone upgrades are intentional to let the player focus his time on lumber and metal.

Overall, DOA and social games are good to study for game designers because the design of these games is completely different from any other game I have seen.  There are several new parameters to take in as opposed to making a puzzle game or a first person shooter.

Thank you for reading 😀

You have just been Moose’d

– Moose

Template Description

Welcome to the template description:

This will be the template description for my Game Autopsy Series in the Game Design category.  The goal of this series is to analyse games and learn what they did right and what they did wrong.  Also to look at their mistakes and think of ways to fix them.

  • Overview – A bit about the company and the game
  • The Hook – What compelled me to buy, try out this game as well as how I found out about it
  • Game Mechanics – This section will vary for different game types but it will essentially be a high level overview of what the game is made of.  You can think of it as a bit of a wikia summary
  • Summary – In case you are not interested in reading the long Game Mechanics section, you can skip to the summary where I summarize the main point of the game
  • Likes and Praises – An analysis of what I liked about the game and what it does well
  • Dislikes and Criticism – The mean part where I talk about what I disliked and what I would change
  • Closing Remarks – Some last items to state to summarize what I learned from this game’s design

Hope you like my structure, it’s a  bit like a Game Review but it works.

This will be the template description for the Game Construction Series in the Computer Graphics category.  The goal of this series is to look at video games in the industry and somewhat reverse engineer them.  Rather then  doing the whole game, I will pick a gameplay video, or a part of the gameplay that intrigues me and try to see how I would go about coding and executing it.

  • Overview – Some information on the game and company that I will be constructing
  • Goal – This is where I play a video or discuss the gameplay element that I will try to reverse engineer
  • Breakdown – I take the goal and break it down into bits and pieces
  • Closing Remarks – I address how I would implement this system in one of my own games
There is not really much of a template to be built for this one, rather each construction post would have a personalised template.
This will be the template description for the Game Opinion Series.  The goal of this series is to look at the industry and analyse what is going on and how as game developers we can learn from the mistakes others have made and something more or less along those lines.
  • Overview – Overview of the topic I will be discussing
  • Rant – A few paragraphs on what the topic is
  • Summary – Analysis on the rant
  • Closing Remarks

– Moose

First Post!

Welcome to my BLOG!

What will be going on here:

  1. General posts of stuff that interests me
  2. INFR 2330: Game Design posts – Posts related to Game Design
  3. INFR 2350: Intermediate Computer Graphics – Posts related to Computer Graphics and Shader Programming

I will also link blog to our game studio, Scorching South Studios, where I along with my team:

Will be making a weekly update (developer diary) on our development of our current game: Ultimate Gladiator Colosseum: 80 A.D.

I also have to think of a cool way to end my posts… for now… I will just go with the generic Oblivion one until I think of a better one.

May Talos Guide You,

– Moose