Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Unity Game Development: My Game Design Story (Cliffsnotes)

Hello Everyone!  If you don't already know me, let me introduce myself.  My internet name is Belart Wright and I like to create stuff.  I've been doing it for a while now and currently my imagination has extended to the formats of books and game design.  I'm only decent at one of them though.  The other, I have no clue where to begin.  I'm on the cusp of releasing a book this year so you can clearly infer which one I am lost in.

To give a little history, I began my experiments into game design a little before 2007.  Back then I made a few crappy flash shorts and some interactive stuff.  None of it elevated beyond the level of a child playing with finger paint for the first time.  If I had examples, I'd show you.  Actually I do have one example from my account.  You can find it here in it's full barely animated glory.

I've made worse and tried to get them through the portal but that's the only one that made it.  Anyways it started then and continued into 2007 when I went to a game design school.  There I barely learned anything at all really.  I did pick up some beginners programming and made some cool text based games with that.  I also made a pretty neat board game but beyond that I didn't learn much more about the craft and with the flood of Gen Ed high school level classes I was getting along with the slight peppering of one or (if I was lucky) two game related classes I honestly couldn't justify spending so much money on that tuition.  So I quit and dealt with other personal problems I had at the time.  I also wrote my first book around that time so that was awesome.
My Flash Bros. "Artwork."  All images belonging to Crystal Dynamics, Silicon Knights, Sega, Ubisoft, and Nippon Icchi.

Since then I've been dabbling with a few experimental game design projects.  I've played around with M.U.G.E.N. and RPG Maker.  I made a pretty funny and irreverent RPG back in 2009/2010 with the lovable fighting game character parody, Ipatch Hedband and the boss character Pimpmaster Poundmax along with the Overpowered/Game Breaking fusion character call Mayan Jesus, who could of course walk across water.

All fun stuff but it didn't really feel like I was learning anything lasting in the field.  My closest friends and I were talking in depth at the time about designing a fighting game and all came up with amazing ideas and characters for an epic pet project.  This was the unofficial beginning of our game design group, at the time called Digital Dragon Studios (more on that later).  Now, many years and project concepts later we've finally come up with a solid game plan (no pun intended) and now have the technology and ease-of-use of it to back us up.  We've always had ideas but little money and now with jobs and other priorities, little time.  Unity3d software is our beacon of light guiding us through the depths of hell.  With it, a lot of our design and monetary nightmares are put behind us and we are free to just worry about designing our games.

With that said, I still suck.  I'm honestly still a beginner at game designing.  I've been out of design school since about 2008 and my only frame of reference are my various critiques of the games I like and dislike and my own friends.  It's my fault because I didn't take game design seriously.  I didn't think I could do it all on my own, with no one to teach me.  I didn't think I had the time to do it.  My life was not easy, by any means, back then but I had many choices and I could've chosen to dedicate more time to it.  I deeply regret that.  I do understand however that I was ignorant.  If I had known such a resource as Unity was available, I would've jumped on it long ago and experimented with it.

My game design group, Flubberknuckle Studios has been consistently working on games for a few years now.  I've picked up a few tips and skills working closely with my friend Ryan.  I've given up programming long ago, leaving my skill at the beginner level but my friend Ryan has flourished after rigorously teaching himself the craft.  I've crafted the design documents, created some concept art, designed menus and other UI, written a few things, and co-crafted a few gameplay systems.  All that stuff was very involved but I definitely want to get more hands on.  So to that end, I'm delving into Unity creation.  I've done a few tutorials like learning the interface and Roll-A-Ball.  I'm about halfway through the Space Shooter one so I think I'll start posting my progress here.  Maybe somebody out there will find this helpful.

So that's my story, the summarized version anyway.  What about you guys and gals?  Anyone interested in game design?  Anyone going to school for it or doing it solo dolo?  What's your experience been like and what software do you swear by?  Please if you have any opinions go ahead and comment below.  I'd love to hear from you.  This has been Belart and I just want to again thank you wonderful viewers for the browse!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Indie Book Review: Know Yourself: The Concise Enneagram Guide By Dragan Matijevic

This book by Dragan Matijevic is simply amazing. I sampled this on a whim and saw how Dragan broke down a few of the base 9 Enneagram personalities. What got me was when I saw mine as clear as day in that sample. I always thought that I broke the mold, that there was no one or at the very least not many others remotely similar to me but this book broke me down and listed all my inner problems as if it knew me. It also listed my strengths and ways that I can "defeat" my shadow or negative/destructive traits and become more whole as a person. I'm a type 3 all the way, with a lot of tendencies of type 5. I bought the book and read type 8 and showed this type to my friend. I told him that I thought this was him and asked what he thought. He read it and agreed with me then promptly bought the book.

I'm now thoroughly interested in this subject and have taken to trying to classify my friends, family, and coworkers. I'm going to do it with characters I've created too to see if they fit the guidelines. This is honestly, as the author says, a great way to really understand the core of people and their motivations. I'm not sure what to do with this info but it feels like I understand others a bit better.

There is more available on the subject of Enneagrams online and in libraries. It's a really complex subject with mathematical formulas, probabilities, and statistics. The author breaks the issue down here to it's most basic and humanistic version. This will give you an understanding of the nine personality types, so far as it relates to personal relationships and personal development. Now I want to really delve into this subject. Kudos to his book for piquing my interest.

Indie Book Review: The Ridiculously Amazing Adventures of Haley Spaghetti, by Christopher M. Krerowicz

Cover for the Kindle Edition

My Likes

+I found Haley to be unique and interesting.

+Haley’s relationship with her dad was cute, fun, and interesting.

+I liked Haley’s backstory, and the real life consequences her and her mom dealt with after a family tragedy.

+Haley’s attitude at the beginning is quite positive.

+Crazy characters and worlds filled with unlimited and unrestrained imagination.

+Felt like a really cool Saturday morning cartoon with videogame influences.

+Great action scenes
There were some really great action scenes all throughout the book.  All with the over-the-top action of a videogame or action cartoon.  Three scenes immediately come to mind.  Haley has an epic kung fu, bullettime inspired dodgeball showing near the beginning.  Near the middle she ends up in a fight with some elemental ninjas that’s amazingly over-the-top.  When I say some, think hundreds!  Out of nowhere she ends up fighting this towering skyscraper of a beast called Drighver, which could’ve easily been a fight in a God of War game.  I’m missing a ton of other top notch scenes too for the sake of not spoiling anything.  One scene is even better than all those I’ve listed.

+You can tell that the author’s having fun with this book.  It’s just so joyfully over-the-top and playful.  I can’t wait to see where he takes it.

+Tons of wrestling references (mostly Attitude Era)

+Tons of videogame references

My Dislikes

-Extremely long chapters.
The book is only 13 chapters long but it has 351 pages.  That should clue you in as to the average chapter length.  Youngsters will probably find this to be an excruciating read based on the length alone.  Sure, bookmarks were invented very long ago but people(myself) like to feel the accomplishment of conquering a chapter before bed or leaving to go do something.  There’s usually a lot going on in each chapter and enough transitions to warrant a chapter break.  I think that you should definitely give the reader that break when you can.

-This book feels inappropriate for any target audience.
The author talks to the reader as if they’re Haley’s age (10 years old) but depicts gore in a scene or two, and has a tiny (microscopic) bit of inappropriate humor.  I’m mostly talking about the fight in chapter 12 which treats death too casually for my tastes and a bloody battle with a monster called Drighver.  This fight could’ve easily been in the videogame God of War.
Scene from Sony Santa Monica's God of War 3
The author’s choice of diction also seems too advanced for the younger set, for a great length of the book, and chapter length is definitely way too long for youngsters. The content however is mostly juvenile so it’s a strange mix to be sure.

-Haley’s, kind of, a jerk.
Once Haley’s adventure really begins and she gets a little confident (trying not to spoil anything) she really starts using, abusing(lightly), and humiliating her companions.  I found her treatment of Vognar later on to be loathsome.  She treats a character named Narst even worse than Vognar.  There were other parts too but those parts made me want someone to show her some humility.  You have to keep in mind that she is only 10 years old.

-Lackluster Ending
The ending fell a bit flat for me.  This is part one of a series and there is a lot more to come and this book makes you feel like it.  The villain is merely touched upon here and only really revealed in the epilogue.  This gives the book an incomplete feeling.  It feels like you’re leaving the adventure right in the middle of a main and sub quest line.

-Too many blank pages at the end, annoyingly so.  I think the Chris K. forgot that we readers would have to actually scroll through this.  It was a mischievous prank of sorts for the epilogue, a fun little immersion experiment but for some reason turning those blank pages made me absurdly annoyed.

What Set This Apart

(This section is special and exclusive to books with ideas and implementation of those ideas that really stand out and connect with me.  Honestly, not every book I review will get this section but those that do deserve to be highlighted.)

+Chapter’s 7 and 8 of this book truly stood out to me and marked this book as a clear departure from the “norm.”  For a book like this to have such philosophy and themes really took me by surprise.  These chapters are definitely a departure from the feel of the rest of book which is of youthful adventure.  It’s a two chapter training session and it’s ridiculously cool.  There’s a touch of eastern philosophy mainly dealing with self-improvement.  I won’t go further into it but it reminded me and inspired me to continue to seek self-perfection of the body and mind in a way that Dragonball Z and Batman did to me as a kid.  It stirred up my deep desires to train and to train as hard as I could.  To end I’ll say that the scenario was really well written.

+The author’s concept of his universe’s source of personal energy, CHO, was pretty clever.
It’s based on Chi but has some philosophical and metaphysical peculiarities.  Here Cho stands for Consistent Human Objection and brings understanding to all beings.  It is a philosophy that if an object is understood to be one way, that it is also another way because everything is open to all paths because we all see things differently.  It’s based on individual perception and a constant questioning of the very universe in order to fully understand it and empower oneself.  These concepts resonate with me and in many ways are how I live my life.  I was super surprised to find them nestled in this cool little adventure tale.  Anyways mastery of this energy turns you into a super powerful Naruto/Avatar the Last Airbender character, so yeah pretty cool.
A scene from the anime Naruto by Mashashi Kishimoto, published by Shueisha Jump and Viz Media.  Animation by Studio Pierrot.

Final Thoughts and Humble Tips
I really liked this book.  It reminded me of a book I started back in sixth grade (that I’m going to revisit soon) with 10 year old protagonists and a crazy world inhabited by crazy creatures.  It’s not a novel concept (no pun intended) but each author can bring something new to it.  Cristopher Krerowicz definitely brings something new to this concept.  I’d like to see this indie reach his full potential just as his protagonist, Haley, is trying to reach hers.  To this I just will sort of reiterate some of my negative points and how I think they can be fixed.

Please, for the love of whatever deity comes to mind, break up your chapters into smaller more satisfying bits.  This is a tactic I have used for my first (unpublished) story.  If possible, each chapter should be centered around an event or major revelation.  If not possible, they should be fun as heck.  Haley’s worlds (all of them) are not lacking for fun so just break those chapter’s up.  The youngsters need it, the old timers need it, and the in-betweeners need it.

Is the book mainly for kids or adults?  This distinction should be made early to affect the tone of the writing.  Adults don’t want to be talked down to and children have a lot of trouble when stories have a lot of big words or complex phrases.  If it’s a book for everyone as I suspect then a happy medium should be found, not condescending or needlessly complex.  If one imagines telling a story for their friends (with their kids around) then they can easily tell such a grand and youthful story for everyone. 

Anyways it’s a fun read so pick it up and review it yourselves.

You can download a free sample and then buy it at

I believe it’s on Wattpad as well.

As always, thanks for the browse!