Week 2: Ideation and Planning

Hi everyone! I’m a junior in the 3D Digital Graphics program at Rochester Institute of Technology. Over the course of this spring semester, I’ll be independently designing my own game for my Project Planning and Production class.

I’ve been dwelling on the concept for my project for a while. My idea is to create a crane game using Unreal Development Kit, based on real life crane games that were the source of my many stuffed animals as a kid. Over the course of this semester, my goal is to prototype a fully playable level of this game. Being more on the art side of game development, the style development and polish of the assets and visuals are a primary focus, and I hope to achieve a very high quality product in that respect. I expect to complete the gameplay to the level of a proof of concept. I have many exciting ideas that would enhance this game to be more than just a virtual crane game. Those ideas may go beyond the scope of what I’m able to learn and accomplish on my own in a semester, so I am structuring this project to be extensible, in case I decide to pursue the project further as a senior thesis.

In brainstorming ideas for this project, I was really inspired by games like Surgeon Simulator, Octodad: Dadliest Catch. These are games made by relatively small teams with inventive, unique premises. A lot of the appeal in these games comes from the hilarity that ensues when struggling and trying to complete seemingly simple designated tasks, especially with sloppy physics based controls that seem to have a mind of their own, leaving you fumbling with the controls. I always enjoy quirky games like these that have a sense of humor that break up a game industry overruled by mundane and generic first-person shooter games. Games like these open up gaming to a wider audience.

This is something I’d love to achieve with my crane game. In real life, crane games are a struggle to win as it is, and often times are obvious scams. I don’t want my crane game to be impossible to win, but I want it to epitomize the frustration of real life crane games. I want the player to fumble with the physics based claw to pick up a prize out of the machine. I want to allow for the possibility of the prize to slip, for the physics to screw up, and for the unexpected to happen. Each claw of the crane will be individually controlled, so you have to coordinate all of the claws to grip the prize.

Eventually, I would like to add in power-ups and handicaps that would adjust the level of difficulty for a limited time period after picking the item up. For example, maybe it takes away some of your claws and you have to pick something up with just two, or even one claw. Or maybe you get rubber grips on your claws and the friction is adjusted to make it harder for the prizes to escape your grip. I’d also like to add in achievement detection, so that you would have requirements to pass a timed level — like you need to pick up a specific stuffed animal (the one all the way at the bottom) in a particular way (by the head, arm, leg, or tag.) And looking to the future, I’d like to make different levels with different themes. This first level will be set in an arcade, but what happens if your crane machine is underwater? Do you have to pull a plug? If it’s in space, watch out for black holes. In the forest level, maybe your claw turns into an eagle talon and the prizes are small forest animals. There is a lot of potential to take this game further than I’ll be able to push it in these upcoming 12 weeks.

This project presents a lot of challenging but exciting tasks. I’m relatively new to developing for game engines, and although I have programming experience, UnrealScript is brand new territory for me. I suspect many of the game mechanisms I’ll want to implement will require me to program with UnrealScript. A large part of this game will also be experimenting with real time physics and interactions between rigid and soft bodies. Additionally, I’ll be looking into Scaleform and ActionScript to be able to design a UI, HUD, and menus for the game.

Here is a timetable breakdown of my work schedule for the semester. I’ve given myself (what seems like) enough padding to make sure I complete the week to week goals I’ve set– let’s hope that holds up!

Crane Game Timetable