Learning to Play Well with Others
Here you’ll find two little video game projects I worked on in a game design class I took at Northern Arizona University. My role in both projects was to create animation and UI assets. These are not fully-fledged games, but I like to include them in my portfolio because working on them was a great learning experience. The class was cross disciplinary so each group of four had an equal number of design and computer science majors.
Feel free to contact me if you’d like to try either of these out.
Eldritch Nightmares of the Abyss – terrifying underwater exploration
This was a fun one. In Eldritch Nightmares of the Abyss, you travel in a submersible down into the deepest depths of the ocean. Your objective is to explore as deep as possible while avoiding giant sharks and squids. And very, very rarely, you might encounter something much worse.
One of the developers I worked with for this project was my friend Travis Addair, the mastermind behind the game’s Lovecraftian concept. He and I ended up taking the project a bit further after the class by adding new creatures and mechanics. He wrote an excellent blog post about how he created the game’s procedurally generated environment and flocking AI. The latter was used for a very gratifying new mechanic where you could use your submersible’s light to attract an army of smaller creatures that love to munch on giant squids.
And then there’s this happy fellow. I finished his animations, but we never quite got him into the game.
Deadly Ascent – climb a haunted mountain
Deadly Ascent was my first game project. It was also my first leadership position, or at least it felt like that since my idea was the one the group wanted to do. That idea was a survival horror game where you have to climb a mountain and explore its haunted caves. Gameplay is divided between those two activities, both of which require you to listen carefully to the game’s audio cues.
When climbing you have to listen for falling avalanches that require dodging, brace yourself when the wind picks up, and listen for the heavy breathing signaling that the player character is tired. Let him get too tired and he falls.
In between climbing levels the game becomes a side scroller inside a pitch black cave with only the light of your flare to guide you. Just make sure you hold the attack button when you hear rapidly approaching footsteps and release right when a creature reveals itself to you to whack it with your pickaxe.
My main contributions to this project were the animations and sound effects. I’d never created animation assets for a developer before and had to learn quickly how to produce usable sprite sheets. The sound effects required a lot of creativity as well.
I think the most crucial lesson learned from this project was the importance of communication. The climbing sections got done first because I talked with the developer who worked on it a lot more which lead to properly crafted animation assets. I hadn’t discussed the cave sections as much with the other developer and realized almost too late that what he had developed wouldn’t work at all with the animations I had been working on.
The other designer on the project had also spent way too much time working on the title screen and his environment tiles didn’t seamlessly connect to each other. Oh, and we didn’t have any cave environment assets plus I hadn’t thought it might be important to make a screen that explains the controls.
Pretty much all of these project-crushing realizations came the night before the game was due. So I bought everyone pizza and we pulled an all-nighter in my tiny apartment. The next day we walked into class with the game fully playable, though we never quite got the environment tiles working.