During this JAM, it was outside of the normal weekly JAMs that we had every week since the start of the course as they were all centred around our first semester project. However, on this occasion a member of the multinational technology company called IBM was coming in and we had to create a game that directly used a special type of AI known as Watson. This is by utilising certain features within the program, such as text to speech, a chat-bot system, speech to text. It is also has the ability to use these features to understand and take instructions, and then proceed to carry them out in certain scenarios much like Siri, Alexa and Cortana.
Tuesday was the day in which we were given our task which was as previously mentioned to create a game that used some of the features of IBMs AI Watson. We initially looked through several tutorials that had been recommended to us due to the complexity of the AI, as I for one have never touched upon AI before so this was definitely a first. Once that was done we then began brain storming possible ideas for games which could include the Watson features and so many ideas stemmed around digital novels, RTS (Real Time Strategy) games and horror. Some would utilise the speech area and would be entirely based around having the environment described to the player, which they would then use to formulate a response to move forward.
Group Idea 1:
Our first idea as a team was to have a atmospheric horror game based around an impossible decision which the player would have to try and venture through and survive. The game would be set in a research base on Antarctica where a team member tasked with delivering supplies, would arrive at a base with no human contact. This would immediately be curious as team members would usually come to greet you, however due to the circumstances you decide to radio through to home base with the information. They would then tell you that there isn’t a scheduled expedition today and to go ahead and take the supplies in as they might be in an emergency situation I.e. fixing equipment etc. You would continue inside with still no human contact and would again radio through only to be met by static and decide to return outside to a now locked door. The game would continue to give you tasks in finding out what had happened to the research team until you discover the AI that has been helping them, but has an ulterior motive unbeknownst to the player.
Game Idea 2:
The second idea that we came up with as a group was surrounding a RTS and would be based around the player having to solve and make it through several situations and puzzles. This would be based around a bank and would be spread across the first year of the player becoming the manager of the establishment. Every month they would under go various issues ranging from robberies, vandalism, hiring and firing members of the staff as well as overall public and staff moral. They would need to take in the situation at hand and decided what would be the best way forward in order to reach the highest score possible at the end of the first year. with all of the issues going on throughout the game, the player would constantly need to keep in mind their total amount of money as well as other stats whichever could have a drastic affect of their income.
Choosing a game:
With the first idea, I liked the idea of having it based around being in the wrong place at the wrong time, however there were other problems that would arise in later stage of its creation. One of them being that although this would’ve been an interesting idea for a game, we still had the deadline to think about, and an incredible short length of time to have it finished and have a working game at the end. With this in mind we decided that it would be better if we go forward with the bank RTS game as creating many of the components for the game would be manageable within the given timeframe.
Once the game Idea and elements had been finalised, we decided to create physical elements of the game and test it to make sure that each area fitted together smoothly without any problems (known/unknown) that would arise. My task along with George, Sarah, Jordan and Samantha was to make the currency section of the game which would include money, staff and public morale as well as the security levels. This meant that we would be able to keep track of each change in either of the sections of the physical game, almost acting as the computer itself to have a more full experience. With the game working smoothly and not being too easy or too difficult, we decided to move forward with the creation of the game which would happen on the Wednesday.
(Images taken during the prototyping stage of the IBM JAM)
At the start of Wednesday we decided to get started on converting the physical game created no Tuesday into a functioning digital game hopefully by the time IBM returns on Thursday. We covered all of the sections created on Tuesday, and allocated them accordingly amongst ourselves in order to get a larger amount done quickly. This would be better as opposed to waiting for a certain section to be completed before starting on the area allocated to you, which would be a overall waist of time. Out of the 9 members of our team, 3 began to get started on coding the libraries for all of the events that would come up every quarter as well as actions, buttons among other features of the game. The other group were tasked with creating the main game environment such reception, bank vault, background and characters which would consist of your assistant Jeff and also a robber for any instances where the bank is robbed. My group on the other hand was tasked with creating the UI (User Interface) which would be one of the most important areas of the game as it would be the one that the player utilises the most.
This was the final day of the jam and with most of the assets completely and compiled, we spent the majority of the day aligning and positioning many of the assets. Doing this would give us a clear indication on where they would go actual game, which would also save time later on when we would need to give all of the assets to the programmers. Alongside this we also changed some of the styles/designs of many of the UI elements to fit with other areas of the game which would’ve stood out unnecessarily if they had not been altered. By the end of the day we had completed all of the UI elements of the game include a pause screen, as well as saving all of them separately to make it easier for the programmers to organise and sort them.
We started with one of the most important features, the morale bar which would need to clearly indicate to the player the level in which they are at as it will inflict upon later elements in the game. The overall style of the bank was going to play a part in the design but we went with simple bars, which would be split into 10 sections and again inbetween to show 5’s. This would make identifying the number easier in the event that we didn’t have a box to signify what their current morale level was at. It was initially going to have curved edge but by the end of the three days we decided to add a drop shadow instead to allow for it to stand out slightly from the background as it had become difficult to see. One main problem we had was that we had to remove the white background for the bar which resulted in it becoming an outline, this meant that the drop shadow stopped working. We had to find out by how much the shadow had moved and go into illustrator and remove the excess bar that wouldn’t be seen in order to get it to work.
(Changes with the Morale Bars)
Money and Security Bars:
Both bars took inspiration from the morale bars in terms of their style however the followed similar changes with the security level indicator having its curved outer line removed. The money bar wasn’t altered much in relation to other elements of the UI, however i created an icon of a money stack to better indicate what the corresponding box is about as if doesn’t have a known currency symbol. This turned out to be more difficult than i had initially expected as i had to draw a minimalist note at an angle that would cause it to appear flat. Once finished it was then grouped, copy and pasted several times to give the appearance that there was a large stack before rasterizing. With the security bar however, it followed the same process as the morale bars in terms of having the curved border removed. On the final day a drop shadow was added much like the moral bar to both the Money and Security level bars to keep the design consistent.
(Final Designs for the Money and Security Bars)
The other features of the game included the action bar which would have initially sat off screen before appearing on-screen if the player wanted to view their options before they decided what their next possible move would be. However, when we started organising all of the UI elements we discovered that there would be enough room to have the action icons on-screen at all times due to the width of the screen. Alongside this, we decided to create another box which would display all of this information but only in the circumstances where the player would need to make a decision.
(All of the Action Icons were created by Sarah Partington)
With all major areas of the UI completed, the only components left to create were the speech boxes which would display the current event the player would need to choose an action towards, however we needed to make sure that they would accommodate all of the events. This meant that a speech box needed to have 2 smaller boxes for the times where the player needed to either except or deny a loan, and a red box for when the player was robbed. Before we could place them, we first had to place the character. This was to ensure that they wouldn’t seem out of place when compared to the rest of the game, but once this was done the UI was complete and we could begin to save each element as PNGs to make compiling all of the images easier for the programmers.
Overall, the IBM JAM was a brilliant 3 day activity that allowed us to gain an insight to the workings of a small development company, in a sense of how things work and how a moderately large team of people operate effectively. It also gave for a different point of view in terms of working as a team, as previously there have only been a handful per team i.e. 3-4 where each person dedicates there time to one element whether it be coding, level design or asset creation. Another aspect was the fact that we were able to create an entire game even be it a small one, which is entirely due to the amount of people we had working on each aspect as before we would only create either a level or a small section.
(Final finished game UI with characters, compiled by: Sarah, Venny and Myself)
Header image was taken from: https://pixabay.com/en/gaming-tv-players-player-home-2259191/ on 20/11/2017