Friday, December 18, 2009

P.T.E.R. is D.O.N.E.

Last time, I showed the trailer I made for my Intro to Machinima midterm. This time, I've got the final thing done, uploaded to Youtube, ready for your viewing. Please do view it, and please do enjoy it. Immature Youtube comments about how I am a "faget" are not required, but appreciated. If you can somehow work Barrack Obama into your insult, bonus points.

Part 1

Part 2 (Yes, it is long enough for two parts. Go grab a sandwich if you must.)

I like to think that I am a really good judge of my own work. I know when I half-ass things. I'm aware when things don't work. And I can feel the difference between having to work on something and wanting to work on something. I definitely don't think I half-assed this project. I feel that it works really well in almost every area (almost). And I think that's because this wasn't a project that I was told to do. I chose to take Introduction to Machinima as an elective, and I got to choose what I would make. Even if I didn't have to make this film, I probably still would have. And I think that shows. I made this to see if I could, and I feel extremely proud of it.

I came up with this story idea last semester, I think. It was definitely sometime last spring. And originally, I was going to write the whole story as a text document (not even Word, just plain text) from the point of view of the robot, and what his CPU was "thinking". So really the whole story would look like machine output and code. I thought it would be interesting to write a story entirely in program scripts, but it was incredibly exhausting. It just wasn't fun, to write or read.

So when Machinima class came around, I dug it out of my Ideas folder and adapted it. Let this be a lesson: always put your ideas somewhere. Even if it's just a quick thought that you don't know what to do with, put it somewhere. Organize it. You never know when you might be struggling to remember that great idea you had once.

I realize that I am now rambling, which is what blogs are for, I suppose, but I'm still going to wrap this up pretty quickly. I'll end with a series of thoughts about "PTER" that I don't feel like organizing into structured prose:

-Before resorting to Second Life, this was going to be filmed in Halo 3. PTER was a monitor, Assets Protection was two characters (a Scorpion tank and a Hornet), and Clifton died from a shooter in the crowd of people (since everyone has guns in that game). It was going to be filmed in Orbital, for the most part, and Avalanche was going to be Hell. Avalanche was the reason this film ends with a snowy landscape.

-I got rid of the shooter ending for 3 reasons. 1) If you hadn't noticed, this film deals with religion. Quite a bit. If one of the religious characters gets so mad that he shoots another man, the film would suddenly be about something else: religious zealotry. I didn't want this project to imply that religious people are violent or crazy or in any way prone to shooting people. I wasn't comfortable with it. 2) When I switched from Halo 3 to Second Life, everyone lost their guns. I would have to buy one and then buy a "shot" animation and ugh- I didn't want to deal with it. 3) I wanted to cut down on the writing. The script was getting pretty long by this point, and if there's a shooter, I would have had to establish this character, and then explain what happens to the character after the shooting, and I didn't want to. Exploding welders need no motive... Or do they?

-Second Life isn't all that bad! I probably won't be spending my free time there (Second-living, if you will), by there are some incredible environments made by extraordinarily devoted people.

-I realized about a week ago that my plot follows Shakespeare's 5 act structure almost perfectly. It kind of freaked me out, and I shivered.

-Before I decided on the "PTER" story, my machinima project was going to be chess, with a story. I abandoned it because it's hard to find 3D chess games that let you zoom in. I realized I could just make it easily with a real chess board. I still want to make this.

Friday, December 4, 2009

PTER Trailer

Oh hey there, Blog. Haven't seen you in a while. I've been, um, busy. I know I shouldn't have neglected you, but things were out of my control. I started this blog as a digital place that I could access any personal projects I've worked on, a sort of unofficial portfolio I could access anywhere with an internet connection. Well, the problem is that I'm taking 15 credit hours of classes and often working 30-34 hours a week at my job, so that doesn't leave much time for personal projects, much less uploading them to the internet.

Update on projects: None. I haven't done a damn thing that isn't directly related to work or class or homework or sleeping. My schedule has literally been face-fucking me since August. The only reason I'm doing this post is because I have some time while my video renders.

Which brings me to the content of this post! I'm taking an Intro to Machinima class this semester, and the final project of the class is to, surprise, make a machinima film (machinima is cinema made with machines, like video games and software programs, by the way). I'm working on that right now, actually. For the midterm, though, we had to make a 1 - 2 minute trailer for the final project, which is what I'm presenting here.

The story has to do with robots (in the future!) that can scan microscopic chips inside of people. Then they decide if that person can go to "heaven" or "hell". It's very highbrow stuff. Very existential and analogous and a bunch of other college words that I don't know the meaning of. It's got robots, ok?

Please excuse the audio popping, terrible volume levels, and the fact that I sound more robotic than AT&T's text-to-speech program. I was recording this at 4 am with a shitty $12 Logitech Rock Band microphone.
Just... robots, ok?

P.S. Oh, and the "Coming Week 15" part refers to the 15th week of school, aka the week the finals are due. But you could probably figure that out.

EDIT: Forgot to mention that I didn't make that music. That music was created by Kevin MacLeod, whose website you can see here. Mr. MacLeod is a fantastic musician who puts out incredibly high-quality for free use on the internet, so long as you credit him. Which I forgot to do. Sorry, Kevin! I love your work!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Art Skills, and My Lack of Them

So last week I talked about how I wanted to finish up that idea I had for an adventure game before another idea struck. Yeeaaahh, about that.....

The problem I ran into with that was the problem I run into with every game I try to make on my own. I can't draw for shit. See this post for proof of it. This adventure game I wanted to make was about a guy who is about to die, and then his whole life starts flashing before his eyes. You would basically play through the biggest moments of his life, and then time would start flowing again and he would kick the bucket. From a gameplay point of view, that should be pretty simple. However, if you're flashing through this guy's life, each "flash" would require a new background, new characters, objects, sprites and animations for each tiny little segment. And these segments would only be like 30 seconds long each. And I had a list of 16 of them I wanted to make. When I realized how long it would take to make all those art assets (and how crappy they would look if I made them), I became disheartened. So that game is on hold for now.

Now, I'm working on a new game. It's an RPG (being made with RPG Maker) set in the Metroid universe. This is a game I've been thinking about making for a long time, and now that I have the tools to make it, I thought, "Why not?" I also came up with a pretty ballin' story for it. Well, as ballin' as Metroid fan fiction could be, I guess.

Now, the problem (again) is the art. Most of the art I'll need for this game already exists. A lot of Metroid art is out there already. Art for environments, items, enemies, and whatever else already exist in the Metroid games. There are also some more free-to-use assets on the internet. Most of what I need, I can get through no artistic effort of my own (gotta love this age that we live in).

For the art that doesn't exist yet, art that will be unique to my game, well... I'm just going to have to learn how to not suck at art. I've already started, and so far... it's not bad. Here is a sample of what I've made so far, next to the inspiration I was working off of. Obviously, I made the guy on the right, not the left.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Adventure Games

It has been entirely too long since my last post. I blame work and the apartment finding process. Good news though, my roommate Jon and I have found a place, and if everything goes according to plan, we should be the proud leasers of a nice 2 bedroom apartment! I'm very excited to have separate rooms, so we no longer have to constantly make death threats to each other just to entertain ourselves.

Anyway, I've found myself in a position where I'm coming up with dozens of game ideas that I want to make, but not enough time to make them. It's really quite frustrating. Just in the last month or so, I wanted to make an RPG using RPG Maker (which was going really well, until I unexpectedly quit), I wanted to get back into Flash (so I don't forget everything I learned), I've been Forging a lot in Halo 3 (I'm up to 3 new maps, and I would be working on them right now if Jon hadn't stolen the Xbox!), and now I'm playing around with Adventure Game Studio. Guh. That is way too much stuff. I will eventually write about all of these things (and hopefully make them, too!), but for now, I just want to talk about AGS.

I got the idea to mess around with Adventure Game Studio a couple months back. I've heard it mentioned a few times before, as you tend to hear about these kinds of things when you're in a game design major at art college. But I really got interested in adventure games when I was at a used book store and, for some reason, they had a used copy of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey there. I didn't buy it, but it got me thinking about the adventure games I used to play, like Myst and Carmen Sandiego. I realized that, unlike a lot of other game genres, I had no idea where adventure games had gone in the last ten years. I hadn't played one in God-knows how long. I had no idea of what kind of advancements or improvements they've made over the years. It was like I had ignored a whole side of gaming for the last decade.

So I decided to make up for it. I got a copy of The Longest Journey (the first one, not Dreamfall) and I started to play it. And its good. I found myself being surprised how captivating a point-and-click adventure could be. I felt stupid for neglecting this genre for so long. And I promise I will get around to finishing it sometime. Around this time I also downloaded AGS, as well as one of the most critically-acclaimed user-made games for it, 5 Days a Stranger (made by Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw of Zero Punctuation fame, oddly enough). Not only was 5 Days a good reintroduction to adventure games after my 10 year absence, it is an excellent example of what someone can create with AGS.

After that, I kicked some adventure game ideas around in my head for a while, but didn't do anything with them. But THEN, a few days ago, I heard about another indie AGS game (is that redundant?) called Heed. This game is... weird, honestly. But a good weird. It's visuals are fantastic. The soundtrack consists of distorted lounge music from the turn of the century, as in the late 1800s-early 1900s. The music gets annoying after a while but creates a wonderfully unsettling atmosphere. It's light on the puzzles, which is really the only gameplay that adventure games offer, and the story could be interpreted in a few ways (if you're into that). Overall, it was definitely a memorable experience. And it spurred me into full AGS use.

Now I'm working on an adventure game, with the hope of making a short, reflective experience like Heed, and hopefully I'll get it done before some other idea strikes!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Forging My Own Fun: Battle Stations

Lately, I've been playing a lot of Halo 3. Perhaps you've heard of it. Perhaps not. My friends twisted my arm into finally buying the new map pack (called the Mythic Map Pack) by basically saying they wouldn't play with me until I bought it. Pretty childish if you ask me, but there were about 7 of them and only one of me, so they were holding all the cards. I folded.

Included in this map pack is Sandbox, an exceptionally bad map with one good thing about it: you can Forge the hell out of it. All the structures on this map (yes, all TWO of them) can be removed or altered with Halo 3's in-game map editor. And then you can use their large but finite list of objects to make whatever you want. As a young child, I was fascinated with LEGOs. Forging in Halo reignites the same kind of creative spark I had back then. You can only use whatever blocks that the designers saw fit to give you, but half the fun is in trying to accomplish your goals using only the limited pieces. I've been Forging pretty much since Halo 3 came out, and now, with Sandbox, I've gotten back into it.

But I haven't finished anything on Sandbox yet. I'm in the middle of two new maps, but nothing ready to show off. However, since I have this blog here, I figured it would be a good place to pimp out my previously made maps, screen shots of which can be seen here. And if these maps look like they might tickle your fancy, download them for yourself and murder your friends on them. And if you do, please tell me how they play. Most of them haven't been play tested at all.

Battle Stations

The first map I made in Forge, on Foundry (actually, all the maps I've Forged are on Foundry, with the exception of these new ones on Sandbox). It uses all the space Foundry has to offer with it's symmetrical battle grounds. Originally, the concept of this map was two equally-sized sides that would be separated by a large, nearly impassible wall. The teams would fight long-distance, hurling grenades and power drainers over man-cannons to the other side. It was supposed to be a little like naval combat, I guess. You're stuck on your ship, fighting another. You can't really get at the other ship, but you can shoot at it. And you can hurl stuff at them. And maybe, every once in a while, someone would board your ship for some close-quarters combat.

This didn't really pan out because it wasn't very fun to stay in one place. People get impatient when they aren't shooting things, especially in a game where it screams out "Killing spree!" whenever you fell five foes. Eventually people would just go over the man-cannons themselves, which broke the flow of the map and made it unbalanced. Also, sending trip mines and power-drainers through the man-cannons was terribly ineffective. So the man-cannons were removed, and the big wall was altered to be a little easier to get over. It's been tweaked and refined over a course of almost two years, and this is the only one that has actually been combat tested, to my knowledge. I still think this is my most polished map to date.

So if it sounds interesting, give it a look, play it a little, and shoot me some feedback. Also, if you clicked those links up there, you now know my Xbox Live Gamertag, so we could potentially play it together. I think I would enjoy that.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Doodle Cloud

Today I'm showing off a Flash game that I made. The very first Flash game I made, in fact. But first some history. Back in October 2008, I was forwarded a link from one of my professors. The link was this one, for the Labs at Located on this site are a series of delightful tutorials, called "Shootorials", that can teach anyone how to use Adobe Flash to make a simple side-scrolling shooter. I highly recommend these tutorials for anyone who has thought about using Flash for game design purposes. The tutorials are extremely easy to use, understand, and follow along with.

Using these Shootorials as a guide, over the next six months or so I made my own side-scrolling shooter. What came out of those six months is Doodle Cloud, featured below. It's not incredibly fun, nor is it entirely balanced, and there is at least one glitch that I don't know how to fix, but goddamnit I'm still proud of it.

Arrow keys to move, space bar to rain... and that's it. I would tell you the goal of the game, but you can figure it out. I believe in you.

More than anything else, Doodle Cloud was an experiment. I had no clear idea of what I was making at first. I just chose a cloud because they're easy to draw. I chose the "child-like drawing" aesthetic because I have the artistic talent of a child. And since I was learning how to make side-scrolling shooters, it follows that the cloud would "shoot" rain. Downwards, naturally. And the rain could grow flowers. That's pretty much how it happened. The rest of the game mechanics just came out of what-ifs: What if you had no defense against the enemies? What if your score was the same as your health? What if I kept the interface clean during gameplay, and how could I still show the necessary information? Pretty soon I had something resembling a game, and that was good enough for me. It was all an experiment, without a hypothesis. I'm glad that it ended up as good as it did. The only thing I didn't do was the music and sound effects, which I got off a freeware site called

First post

Well, here we go. Time to jump into the world of blogging. I'm only about, oh... 8 years late? Whatever. I'm like the fat kid who cannonballs into the pool when everyone is already crammed in there together like chlorinated sardines. There's no room here, in this metaphorical pool, but I'm jumping in without regard to the other swimmers.

Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. My name is Brendan Gilbert and I'm a game design student in Chicago. I created this blog as a sort of online place to gather and share all of my work. Facebook wasn't really doing it for me anymore (but I still want to be friends, Facebook). In addition to projects, I might be posting some general thoughts and ideas. And probably a few rants and raves. This is the internet, after all.

This first post is just to test the engine out, see how everything looks, and so forth. Basically, if you are reading this, then it worked, and all is well.

If you were wondering about the name of the blog, "spider teeth" is an old inside joke that is barely worth explaining. I really just thought it sounded good, in addition to being unique and memorable, so I chose it for the blog title. Cool story, right?