I have started a new video game project in collaboration with my friend Dylan Cinti – this project is called Ambrose Hunter. Ambrose Hunter is the story of a video game developer slash entrepreneur making his way in Los Angeles. My friend Dylan is writing the novel portion of the project, and I am making the video game portion. There are aspects of Ambrose Hunter that can be considered experimental infotainment because they double as a professional advice – including a free eBook we will be releasing called Rules of the Gamedev.
Dylan and I worked together on an interactive film project, Profiles of the Forgotten. Now, we are combining our talents in a new way – literature alongside a video game.
Technologically, Ambrose Hunter will be cannibalizing my past two video game projects, reusing the driving code and character code of one and the other. I will also be adding new systems which have not been implemented in prior games, including a save system, a time system (time is always passing and there is a night/day cycle) as well as an open world exploration model – you will be able to explore areas without being forced to do anything in particular, but there will also be missions and characters for you to meet. You will also be attacked by homeless people and infested by cockroaches.
In other news, I have been working on a multiplayer update to Archangel VR at Skydance Interactive. I will be releasing a VR Game Design eBook that talks about the development process therein, going into the details of network programming, VR design, and overcoming obstacles of VR development.
Stay tuned – more updates to come.
Book Recommendation: Edmund Burke’s “A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful”, for a analytical breakdown of how the mind appreciates art and literature with a focus on the elements of terror, uncertainty, fear, and negative aspects of life as the core constituents of emotional experience.
The above link is an exemplar of blog as recruiting tool and company culture branding. Reading through it, we find out about a smart, self-motivated engineer who works at Riot’s Hong Kong location. What is particularly effective about this blog is the way in which the man’s day is scheduled and how it reflects both his personality and the company culture, the two things that prospective employee are going to want to understand before working at Riot.
On the train to work, he spends time doing a little extra programming OR plays some mobile games. This shows that he is both disciplined but understands how to relax in smart ways that boost his knowledge in the games space: he is a go-getter. At work by 8am, we see that his morning is not too overwhelming, he gets communication and a bit of work in before the 10am meeting, programs hard until noon at which point he goes out to eat with his friends. When he gets back, he plays LoL against his co-workers until around two, he then goes into a deep focused programming session until around 5 at which point he works on his personal growth by researching tech or playing with Unity3D for his side project. Before heading home to his WIFE, he stops by a yoga studio to meditate.
Chalking up his day, this man only programs for two intense 2-hour sessions. The rest is communication, meetings, and leisure. You can tell that every day is extraordinarily well balanced and not oppressive in the slightest, and that this man is a highly productive, top talent, major value add who loves his job and lives an ideal life. Riot is a billion dollar leader in today’s game industry and a forerunner of “zen” tech culture replacing the “crunch” video game culture of the past. Riot seeks to enrich the lives of its employees rather than oppress them, but the more important fact is that this could be a myth and perhaps there are many overworked employees at Riot. Nonetheless, the best game developers on earth are going to want to work at Riot simply because they heard the myth in the first place, a myth that is generated by word of mouth and blogs like this.
Book Recommendation: “The Power Elite” by C Wright Mills, for anyone interested in a fascinating look into the origin of neo-conservative beliefs.
I have been hard at work on my game Sentry Wars, a VR RTS for HTC Vive.
I struggled for several days trying to figure out how to update the Color of a Network.Spawned object, but I finally got it to work. The trick is that you have to call a ClientRpc from the Server, pass the color as a parameter, and have the color set as a [SyncVar]:
In this case, SetMeshRendererColor is called from another script which checks isServer before calling it. GetBuildingColor in my case is just checking which player owns the building, and sets thisBuildingColor accordingly. Worked like magic. Thanks to Miller Tinkerhess and Zack Rock for helping me understand Client/Server relationships.
In other news, Mykolas and I are hard at work on our book about Pathologic, we have recently received advice from Gabe Durham of Boss Fight books regarding steps in completing a book of this sort. We are still gathering notes, reading up on additional resources, and coming to basic conclusions about how we want to approach Pathologic’s game design analysis. Mykolas found this gem: Pathologic Games as Art Manifesto which goes to show just how deliberate Ice Pick Lodge’s artistic intentions were when beginning the production of Pathologic – we definitely plan on citing this in the introduction to our book.
Book Recommendation: “Road Side Picnic” by the Strugatsky Brothers, for anyone who wants to know about an author who had a tremendous influence on Russian Film and Video Games, especially STALKER the film and STALKER Shadow of Chernobyl.
I have just started a new youtube series where I stream myself programming various game projects. For the next few months, I will be streaming the development of a Drone Simulator and the development of carPG-13.
My intention with these videos is to interact with other game developers and also reflect on my own game development process. Here is my first video:
In this video I build the basic components of a Drone Simulator. My gamedev videos will be long because I will often have to refactor and debug due to the lack of time I have in planning these videos – I am doing them on top of a full time job at a start-up. However, I will be sharing the source code for Drone Simulator which will help compensate for the lack of concision in my streams.
Book Recommendation: “The Stranger” by Albert Camus, for anyone looking for an introduction to existential fiction.
I recently developed a standardized design process for my team at BrainRush because we had so much design work that it needed to start being distributed to members that were not previously ordained as “designers”.
If you do not create a Design Document before implementing a design, you will find yourself conceptualizing solutions to problems while working rather than just quickly implementing items off of an already solved list. Determining development solutions on the fly can lead to lulls in attention of “what to do next” and make for a slower development process. Of course, a Design Document does not need to be followed in extreme detail, but it certainly serves to expedite the process of implementation and keep a nice record of work progress.
At BrainRush, we follow the Design Document template below to complete a design task: a creative task that a developer must complete before implementing a substantial feature into a game. Design Documents do not work for everyone, but in order for teams to share responsibility, trust one another’s design sensibilities, and maintain transparency of intention, it is always best to have a preconceived set of solutions and tasks before programming, modeling, and developing a feature.
Design Document Requirements:
Written List of Core Design Elements
All of the core pieces of programming functionality required for a design to work from start to finish
All of the art assets that will be required for the design to be visually complete from start to finish
All of the audio assets that will be required for the design to be aurally engaging from start to finish
A paragraph about how all of the programming, art, and audio will work together in the completed state of the design.
A paragraph about major challenges or unknowns that will need to be confronted during the design process
A paragraph about the goals behind the design and what the user will ideally experience with the completed version of the design
Technical Design / Drawings / Flow Charts
A technical design for a strictly programmatic design can be
A highly detailed pseudo code word documents that outlines the functions and variables of each class
A flowchart or diagram for the flow of input data, classes and their relationship to one another, and changes of state that may occur in the application.
A level design, UI design, or 3D Art Design can be
A hand or computer drawn sketch organizing the visual elements with text description of each element
A series of images that represent the different visual states in which a design may appear and how they transition between one another
NOTE: Hand drawn/written documents are encouraged and are to be photographed and uploaded to the design document in addition to written text of sections 1 and 2
Submit the document for manager/peer review
Book Recommendation: “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Betty Edwards for anyone looking to improve their drawing and perception skills. This book provides foundational insight into how to interpret images you want to draw such that you can break them down into elements and procedures rather than feel overwhelmed by their complexity.
caRPG-13 is the early prototype of a game in which human beings have all become hover cars and consume gas to survive. When a car runs out of gas, it dies just like a human would if it ran out of oxygen or food. Just like humans, these cars can also fall in love. I wanted to make a game where you felt romantic feelings toward a car while struggling to survive in an apocalyptic, resource starved, labyrinthian city. The goal of the game is to reach the top of the city and get into an escape pod before it is too late – time is always ticking and gas is always being spent.
So far, all art assets in caRPG-13 are modified versions from a failed racing game I worked on a year ago – shout out to the artists who made these – you know who you are. The practical thing about using hover cars as humans is that you do not have to worry about animations of any sort, so you can focus on programming other features – in my case I am most interested in NPC AI and character interaction and how they can fit into a game’s design and emotional experience.
I am modeling caRPG-13 off of the famous game Pathologic by using resources vs time to propel the game objectives forward. However, unlike Pathologic which focuses on the simulation of a complex, evolving society, caRPG-13 will focus on character evolution over time and aim to derive narrative meaning out of non-static character interaction.
While Pathologic was a masterpiece, it left a little to be desired in terms of character interaction. With a whole cast of interesting characters all you could do with them was go into one of their houses and talk. These main characters did not move and could not react to you in physical space. In games, it seems that the most common way to interact with characters in a non-violent way is through quests and text trees. While these are a nice staple for storytelling, there are certainly many other ways to build relationships between characters – namely through physical action. What I want to do in caRPG-13 is experiment with a few new types of non-violent interaction between a player and NPC that may enrich the emotional consequences of player agency in the game. In my next blog post, I will talk about the romance that evolves between two lucky cars in caRPG-13. Please subscribe.
Book Recommendation: “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” by Leo Tolstoy, a novella for those who prefer to work hard and make tons of money rather than address their deeper personal issues.
My name is Pablo Leon-Luna. I work at a company called BrainRush in Santa Monica where I develop corporate Unity Games and attempt to build backend web technology using NodeJS. This is how I survive in Los Angeles.
However, when I am not at work I am developing my current game project: CaRPG-13, writing about video games, reading assorted books, and teaching myself to draw. I wanted to write a book called “Mechanics of Dread” inspired by the game Pathologic by Ice Pick Lodge and how it affects the future of games as an art form, but then I realized that writing a book was too much of a time commitment so I am going write this blog instead. Future posts will be about video game theory, software development, tech company culture, and the development of CaRPG-13. At the end of each post I will recommend a book. Please subscribe.
Book Recommendation: “Excavating Kafka” by James Hawes for those who want to explore how history distorts our understanding of an artist’s life and the meaning of his work.