Bus Run: Alien Armageddon – Screenshot and Evaluation

For this assignment we were tasked with producing a concept and a prototype for a casual game. I set out on this task by coming up with a concept that involved a School Bus and an ‘Alien’ Cactus. The premise of the game was supposed to be a survival side scrolling game, where the player had to manoeuvre their avatar around the level in a Trials HD kind of fashion. Being that it was to be produced in Adobe Flash, I had to roll back the perspective to 2D to accommodate further.

PrototypeScreenshot

The Problem

When it came down to mid-development, approximately after the time I had successfully got the avatar to animate correctly, I began to question to mechanics of the game. You see, I was continually checking that the game was running as closely to its original premise as possible and this is when I stumbled onto a major issue. I discovered that the game had a logic flaw that would’ve doomed the player to certain failure, eventually.

In terms of gameplay, the player would effectively be predetermined to fail after a certain time. The problem with this is that the player had no offensive capabilities to get past said AI, so this would have meant that with the health system that was also intended to be implemented; the player was doomed to never make it past the first level.

From here I tried to negate the problem. I attempted to hypothesize ways around this issue without compromising the main premise. I initially was intending on making the bus leap over the AI, as they are situated in the ground but I couldn’t personally allow the logic gap of a bus miraculously leaping in the air to be permitted as it didn’t make any sense in terms of the original narrative concept.

I then thought of having the AI fall downwards onto the player, and this seemed like a viable option. However, the playable avatar was directly programmed to go to a certain constant speed to negate the navigational properties of the avatar going too fast. So eventually, the same fate would befall the original concept.

This is when I decided to back track the game and reduce some of the properties within it. I removed the AI and Health system and simply added a Time Score to mould the game in a slightly different direction. The game then turned into a Time Trials simulator, playing on the homage to Trials HD, as it was the closest game concept that could relatively work with the original concept.

Overall, I’m ‘satisfied’ with the final result. I wouldn’t say I’m generally content with the final product, having an idea that you’ve been working on for months be made redundant because of poor planning and foresight. As a learning experience this has certainly opened my eyes to how quickly ideas can and have to change to be moulded rapidly to fit into a deadline. If I could do this again, I’d certainly change the perspective of the game to a top down racer, for better AI interaction and to actually make it a relatively playable game.

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Bus Run: Alien Armageddon – Initial Sketches

For the casual game concept, i decided to do an initial sketch of what i wanted the assets within game to look like. Here is the initial sketch;

CasualRoughConcept

As you can see this sketch is pretty rough and i heavily dislike it. I decided to show it on this post as a process of evolution and how i came to the final result. I thought this version was too ‘sinister’ looking and wasn’t really matching the audience i’m appealing the game too. However, i did like the positioning of the Alien Cacti situated on the bus so i kept that element the same. Instead i went for a more child-like friendly approach with this more refined sketch;

CasualImprovedConcept

I’m fairly content with the result and will most likely incorporate this in the vector graphic design that will eventually be used as an ingame asset. Obviously with non-physical limitations to take into account the design can be slightly altered to fit correctly.

Bus Run: Alien Armageddon – High Concept Document

Nature of Game Play

The player has to face the main antagonists ‘minions’ in order to progress. To do this they must navigationally avoid these enemies in order not to crash the player controlled vehicle.

Player Achievement

In order for the player to beat a particular level, the player must navigate their controlled avatar through the level. Plot-wise the player is trying to save the world, in terms of game-play they are trying to accumulate a high score.

Player Motivation

In terms of gameplay elements, the motivating factor for the player is to finish the level to attain a highscore. Plot-wise the player is fighting to save the world.

Game Setting

Las Vegas/Nevada Desert/Area 51

Player Interaction

The player interacts with the world through a moving school bus on a 2D dimensional plane that accelerates throughout the level

Perspective

The game takes place in a 2 dimensional perspective with the player operating the playable avatar that moves to the right.

Structure

The game consists of varying levels. The player is proactively driving through the levels trying to avoid the minions of the antagonist, and as the player progresses through the levels the difficulty of said levels will increase.

Game Modes

Single-player with partial online interactivity via online leader board

Plot

An alien that resembles a Cactus has crash landed on Earth with the intent of destroying it by stripping the planet of its natural resources. You are a school bus driver from Las Vegas. And unfortunately for you, this deadly foe has crash landed on your bus. To save the world you must find the fabled Area 51, avoid the evil minions besieging their masters call and stop it from implanting onto the ground.

Genre

Side-scrolling survival game

Features

  • Highscore
    • The highscore system is based upon how long it takes for the player to complete a level, this time is stored and used in a highscore table to increase the replayability factor.
  • Health Bar
    • To ensure the game isn’t biased towards the player and ‘un-losable’ a health bar for the bus will be implemented to allow the player to know that the game has limitations.

Target Audience

Due to the comical style of the game and the lack of violent behaviour on behalf of any of the characters, the game would have to be aimed towards children around the ages of 7-15.

Platform

The game is aimed to be a Flash game primarily on the PC but could be considered to be ported to iOS or Android.

Character Concept #1: Cerebral Knight – Final Render

Here is the final render of the Cerebral Knight character that was previously shown in sketch form in this post. I deliberately kept the sketch form when moving forward into the final render because i was not comfortable in my ability to use Photoshop to the ability of replicating this sketch to a higher standard. Instead i opted for importing the sketch and using the tools shown in previous tutorials to enhance the visual aspect of the character.

Here is the final render:

CharacterDesignSheet

Overall i enjoyed going through the process of turning a simple sketch as it was into a more visually appealing render. I feel the quality of the sketch itself wasn’t to the best of my ability and could have been vastly improved upon. Nonetheless, the end result is one of which i am content with and will be a motivating factor to enhancing my skills.

‘Casual’ Game Concept #1: Research

When looking at this project, i knew that for a casual game this concept would have to be fairly basic. So i immediately came up with the idea of a side scroller, and from here the notion of a vehicle being used became a focal point for research and development.

Instantly i thought of the bus concept i created for a tutorial session in another lesson and thought that would be a great premise for conceptualizing the game.

Here is said concept image from a previous tutorial:

If you wish to see said tutorial, click here

PShopBusAttempt1

From this concept, i began to visualize what i wanted the casual game to be and the setting. The image presented to me, the visualization of a desert and from this the first location that sprang to mine was the Nevadan Desert surrounding Las Vegas. So from here, i began to research what the Nevada Desert actually looks like to get a greater feel of what i’m trying to replicate.

NevadaDesert1

NevadaDesert2

These pictures gave me more of the interpretation that the scene would be barren with only distant scenery in prominence yet, have a warm vibrant with a near dusk sunlight radiating the scene.

Coinciding with this, i took the initiative in another tutorial about Perspectives, 3D Shapes and Contours (link) and began crafting a brief concept image. It started off in the tutorial as a regular rectangle to perspective, the more shape it took the more it reminded me of the game concept i had been envisioning, so it used this to began plotting ideas. When the idea of contours arose within the session i began crafting said contour onto the rectangle, and as the rectangle began to take shape as a bus i was struck by inspiration as the contour free-formed image resembled similarly to a Cactus. Thus resulted in this sketch;

BusConcept

From here i went to researching what the Bus and Cactus would look like in a real life situation to get a better sense of what i’m attempting to incorporate into the game.

Cactus1Cactus2
Bus1
Bus1

 

From this research i utilized, i took to using the main premises of how each individual asset would look like but instead of creating realistic version of their real life counterparts, i’m instead opting for creating vector graphic imagery as a more ‘cartoonish’ feel to more target towards my casual audience and be better effective in its appeal.

Hardcore vs Casual

One of the more prominent questions within the gaming in world is the definition of a hardcore or casual game. A misconception arises when individuals attempt to categorize a game based on their own personal experience of it.

For example, if a player of whom plays a game for 1 hour a day, they would be classified as a Casual Gamer, but the game isn’t essentially categorized in this same manner.

I believe that the way in which you categorize a game itself is down to personal preference. I could say that from experience Mass Effect 3 is a Hardcore Game because I’ve played over 200 hours of it, yet someone of whom has played for less time and at a less frequent pace could easily classify it as a Casual Game because of there preference.

So, the way i see the classification comes down to one easily distinguished point. And that is the complexity of the game itself. If a game is designed to be easily played and is targeted at individuals of whom don’t have to put much effort or time into said game, then i believe this is what would classify as Casual Game.

As for Hardcore, again it depends on preference but i believe that it’s distinguished by the complexity of the game. If it has a story based campaign level that takes a minimum of 8-10 hours to complete and requires the individual to put the time and effort in, this is what i would classify as a Hardcore Game.

Overall, the classification in my opinion between Hardcore and Casual Games is the complexity in design issue. The easier a game is in design and scope, the increasingly casual the game is and the more complex and time consuming a game becomes the more hardcore it is.

Character Concept #1: Cerebral Knight – Initial Sketch

When visualizing the character being a Telekinetic who can fly, and incorporating his occupation of being a professional skydiver it was a given that his attire would have to reflect this. Initially i had the idea of going for a fully equipped squirrel suit with the atypical ‘superhero spandex’ but decided against it. I wanted the character to have an everyday feel by incorporating average clothes into an non typical situation. Instead i managed to add the main fundamental part of the squirrel suit that i had initially visualized with the ‘wing’ affect, which is added to an ‘average’ everyday hoodie.