Posts Tagged: Research

UE4 Experiment — 2D Sidescroller

I used starter content and followed tutorials to experiment with a 2D Side scroller. I did this to improve my knowledge of more varied blueprints as well as start playing with a basic collectible script which I could later use the logic of for my 3D prototype.

  • Two different methods of spawning the coin - constantly, at a set interval or by button press
  • Using Arrays to create more random spawning of coins
  • Using Target points to designate where coins can spawn
  • Ensure that the coins spawn on the correct plane (as it is a 2D game)

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Coins spawning every 2 seconds

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Showing the use of text strings to return when the player has touched the coin – this helped me figure out the logic of how to determine when the coin had been triggered, which could then be developed to add the coin to the player’s total count, and destroying it.

Overall, doing small tests like this is helping me expand my knowledge in a varied way. This will help me know how to apply my knowledge better and start to figure out how to create things more independently.

Research: UE4 and Blueprints

I’ve realised that it is necessary for me to move onto UE4 instead of Unity to develop my project while in my final year. This doesn’t feel ideal since I have become used to Unity and feel fairly comfortable using it. However, I believe that it is more beneficial than not, allowing me to learn new software and adapt. It broadens my skillset to be able to say I have experience with prototyping in both Unity and UE4. It encourages me to learn new techniques and step out of my comfort zone to continue pushing my learning further.

With this, I have begun seeking out learning resources for UE4.

The above tutorial series is a good place for me to start to get to grips with the UE4 interface and creating something from scratch using Blueprints. It’s also relevant to my planned design, as it’s focusing on 3rd person gameplay.

Above is a snippet from a video I found on youtube showcasing someone’s flying game project. Unfortunately they give no information or guidance on re-creating this type of movement, but it’s very useful just to use as reference. This style of character and camera movement is perfect for what I intend to create, so this is a useful starting point for my own development. Although its a plane flying through the air, the movement very closely resembles how I would like my player to swim underwater.

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Flight tutorials will likely prove as useful resources for learning how to develop this type of character and camera controller.

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More useful reference for flying style mechanics [Source]

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The above is a snippet from a pack of lowpoly resources that can be purchased and used in UE4. I saved this because the small section above is very representative for what I have in mind for a level design of my own. The colours, atmosphere, lighting and the way the camera navigates the space are all good reference to describe what it is I would like to work towards creating. I could also use this pack myself, put it into UE4 and break it down to get an idea of how I can go about creating my own similar assets. I can also use resources like this as placeholders while I’m in the process of designing the level but haven’t actually created the assets yet.

Reference material and starting places for low poly landscapes in UE4 [Source]

Some more useful UE4 resources [Source]

A useful article comparing UE4 and Unity 5, which is helpful as I make the transition to Unreal from Unity [Source]

The Subreddit for UE has some useful resources as well as a good place to ask questions later on [Source]

A good collection of UE4 resources, tutorials, documentation and guidance [Source]

A small example of a low poly water shader [Source]

Some interesting reading that may benefit me later down the line [Source]

Further explanation on using flat-shading for stylised low poly [Source]

 

Research: Cameras and Character Controllers

Super Mario 64

Ocarina of Time

A sensible place to start will be to study 3rd person movement controllers and how to create them. Games such asMario 64 and Zelda: Ocarina of Time are a resourceful place to start, and are often considered pioneers of 3D space – or at least notable in how they did so.

Ecco the Dolphin

Unfortunately, they don’t answer many questions about how to handle vertical movement, to simulate swimming underwater. The 3D Ecco the Dolphin game, Defender of the Future, is a useful starting point to observe how this could work. The gameplay GIF above shows this in action and also proves useful to examine how elements of the user interface can be handled. As the player swims, arrows and other markings appear on the screen around the character to guide them. This provides immediate and constant feedback on the location and goal of the player. Placing this information directly alongside/around the character works well – possibly better than if it were around the edges of the screen. This means it is where the player’s eyes are focused already, and may also make it easier to relate the information and map it to the 3D space they are exploring. However, having said this, I feel it is also important to be wary of detracting from the immersive experience of exploration. When creating a world, I want the player to become lost in it. Overlaying too many 2D, UI elements may start to take away from this experience and break the immersion. Perhaps the best option is to search for a balance between this.

Unity Third Person Control Tutorial [Source]

I’ve begun looking for some resources and tutorials online that may be a good starting point to decide whether I am capable of achieving this with my own game. I can follow the tutorials and experiment with the result to get a feel for whether this is a realistic goal, or if I need to rethink my plan.

Windwaker character controller (WIP) recreated in Unity 3D [Source]

Windwaker HD on the Wii U [Source]

Journey PS4 Gameplay [Source]

An excerpt from The Art of Journey [Source]

All aspects of Journey are a huge inspiration for my own project. In particular, there are a few things I want to take away and learn how to recreate in my own way:

  • Emotive colour-script – how colour changes/progresses throughout
  • Sense of scale and wonder the player experiences
  • Simple, minimal yet beautiful art and modelling – looks low poly
  • Atmospheric lighting/shader techniques, particularly the underwater-esque scenes
  • Fluid movement of the player – especially sliding/gliding mechanics
  • Innovative, minimal (almost non existent) UI

Reading: The Shape of Design by Frank Chimero

Above is a collection of excerpts I’ve saved from my reading of The Shape of Design by Frank Chimero. I have highlighted anything I find particularly true, relevant, notable, etc that I want to remember and may want to include in my Research Report. I will use quotations as the basis of points I make or to support and evidence them.

Youtube Series: Revui

Revui is another Youtube series offering analysis and critique of various games and their UI & UX.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 14.17.26

A critique of Titanfall, showing the author’s suggested improvements

The videos are very informative and I will use them in the same way that I have been watching UXP. The overall design and editing of the videos is very effective and clear, as well as aesthetically strong. As shown in the screenshot above, the speaker gives his critique and then offers a concise, logical improvement on the issues he finds. I think this is particularly important and reminds me of a quote from Donald Norman:

“I make it a rule never to criticize something unless I can offer a solution.”

—Donald Norman, The Design of Everyday Things

What is particularly useful for me is how the content of the videos leads to many new paths for me to find more research material.

A Revui Roundup Video

The channel features some ‘Roundup’ videos that discuss current happenings in Design within Video Games. Although the videos are fairly old now, and the channel doesn’t seem to be active, it’s still a useful archive of information that seems perfectly current despite it’s age. While working on my report, any information looking at design within video games is valuable.

Youtube Series: User Experience Points (UXP)

UXP is an interesting Youtube series discussing the user experience design of various video games. I’ve been watching the series to gather more research on the topic for my report. It’s useful to find any series like this as coverage of this subject is minimal, and finding information about UI in Video Games specifically can be tough.

The UXP Video analysing the user experience of Dark Souls

The UXP Video analysing the user experience of Dark Souls

I will use these videos to help support, challenge or form my own conclusions, finding examples that I can take further in my own case studies later on. If I find a particular game or section of UI that is notable, I can make note and write up a more detailed analysis of it further down the line.

It serves as a useful platform for observing games I may not have played or seen before and also gives me other perspectives – rather than just focusing on my own opinion.

Journey UI & UX Analysis

Journey PS4 Screenshot [Source]

Journey is a notable example for my research as the UI is so successful through the lack of UI (similar also to Monument Valley). Innovative methods of interaction and giving feedback to the player are employed to heighten the experience.

The game communicates changes in state and provides feedback to the player’s action within the context of the game rather than laying them over the top in the form of GUI elements. For example, the length of the player’s scarf communicates the player’s health.

  1. Collect glowing symbols to increase the length of your scarf
  2. The scarf grants the power to fly, but using it gradually drains this power
  3. See the amount of flight that is left by how many symbols are on the scarf

Above is an example of giving the player meaningful feedback, in a Diegetic and immersive way. The game does this throughout. Another example is how when two players are nearby one another, their scarf will glow and is charged due to the proximity of the other player.

“Glowing symbols and glyphs are tracked in the chapter select area. In the chapter buildings, the glyphs that you have found will light up, showing you in which chapters you are missing them, except for one in the introductory chapter. The glowing symbols are tracked in total off to the side of the buildings, but you will need to reach the end of a chapter to see how many you’ve collected out of the total for that chapter by the number of lit up symbols in front of the altar where you receive your vision.”

The player can check which symbols they have collected by actually looking at the environment of the game.

The glyphs you have found will light up on the chapter buildings. This replaces the need for graphical progress bars and similar HUD elements. It allows the player to feel that their progress is more intertwined with the game’s world, the story and environment. It increases the sense of agency that the player has – they can see their progression directly influencing and altering the outcome of their environment and its role in the world. Their choices and gameplay are reflected in the world they explore. The lack of these graphical/HUD/UI elements also adds to the mysterious, unknown atmosphere of the game. This is fairly crucial in allowing the game to succeed in the way that it was intended to. It allows the game to set and portray the tone that is intended.

The game provides absolutely minimal information on how to play, the story and your goals

The ‘Start’ screen

The only information the player receives regarding the control scheme [Source]

Uncharted 4 User Interface (UI) Analysis

Uncharted 4 Screenshot showing the minimal UI and the bubble in the lower right, alerting the player there is a grenade nearby

Uncharted 4 (and previous games) makes good use of minimal and clean contextual signifiers to keep the players well informed without breaking their immersion within the game world.