Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Final Year Project

It is now far enough into my final year and I have a solid background and development of my final year project that I will be able to mention exactly what I am doing and how far I have got into my project. As mentioned before, I am using the Oculus Rift for my project and am doing research on simulation sickness and its impact on the VR industry as it currently stands.

I have almost finished the development of my project and will soon be moving into the testing phase of my project, which I am starting to get quite excited by the concept. I will finally be able to see how what I have created will work for other players and test their limits to simulation sickness.

Whilst my project is still incomplete, I will not be posting screenshots or specific information, this will follow shortly after completion of my project and my report to go with it. Until this time, there will be limited updates about the progress, but I will be sure to update as soon as possible.

The project however has had an unexpected effect on me, whilst looking to create simulations where the player feels the most nauseous, this has meant that through personal testing, I have made my own experiences of feeling sick using the Rift more common. Hopefully, exposing myself to simulation sickness, I will get used to it and this will in turn have a positive impact on my experiences, Hopefully...

Frozen Fishy out.

Monday, 2 February 2015

New Release: Grand Theft Seagull

For almost as long as I have worked at Troll Inc there has been development of Grand Theft Seagull actively taking place with varying amounts of programmers and artists working on it. I have a very short experience with this project with my participation only lasting almost 2 months.

Grand Theft Seagull sees the player take control of a seagull flying through the streets and causing havoc in the only way it can, by stealing food and making a 'mess'. The game features multiple environments from streets to sewers and many obstacles and people that will try to stop you. Collect coins and powerups to create more havoc and get a higher score, upgrade your seagull for better powerups and see how long you can survive.

When I joined the project, it had been moved around, re-written and the core gameplay had massively changed from the original game design document to make it play better. The game itself at this stage was good, just not finished, and I was given the task of finding problems to fix and to make sure that our players will want to come back. I was new to the project and I found that where the game was fun, there was nothing that made me want to come back for more, after a few plays I was happy with the game and would leave it.

After looking around at ways to make people come back for more, it was decided to add collectibles to the game and daily challenges to give the player something to aim towards. Once I had gotten the daily challenge system in the game and got the collectibles made up, we wanted to make sure that the player was rewarded for their efforts and so that not all their collecting and challenges they completed were in vain, and so we added in leveling up.

By leveling up the player can increase their base multiplier and get higher scores to beat their friends through Facebook, the player can level up by getting score from the game, completing missions, collecting the letters(collectibles) and completing daily challenges. With a base multiplier of up to 10x the score and an in game multiplier of up to 9x, the players who achieve this will be in with a good chance to beat their friends scores.

Whilst I never had a big part in the development of Grand Theft Seagull, I am familiar with the project and have seen the troubles it has faced. From running slowly on less powerful devices to having to change the game to make it play better. The game has gone through many changes over its long development, but it plays well and is much better than the prototype from January 2014.

Grand Theft Seagull was released today on iOS, Android and Windows Phone, it's free to play and I truly believe the game is enjoyable and the effort put into the game really shows with the level of quality of the finished game.

Link for iOS Download
Link for Android Download
Link for Windows Phone Download

Frozen Fishy out.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Oculus Rift and Virtual Reality

I have had my Oculus Rift DK2 for a little over 3 months now, and due to several factors, I have been unable to truly experience it properly until recently, When I first received it, I had a problem with performance and would struggle to run even the simplest demos at low quality, but after upgrading my computer over the holidays, I can now run decent games and experiences. The other main factor was time. I was spending most of my time either working at university or working at Troll inc, not giving me a lot of time to sit back and relax and really appreciate the Oculus Rift.
DK2 Arrives]
My overall satisfaction of Virtual Reality (VR) is very high and along with my final year project at university using the DK2, I am even more excited to start development with the headset. I have tried a few demos over recent weeks with a few standing out above the rest. With a simplistic setup the Rift is easy to travel with and pack away easily, and is very comfortable to wear. 

There was little discomfort I faced when using it, first, was in the Tuscany demo and similar experiences where I was seated and controlling a walking player. The problem for me was not the movement of the player, but moving my head when moving and stopping movement makes me feel slightly nauseous. The other feelings of discomfort came from playing for too long, where focusing on the screen started to cause eye strain and I had to stop before I gave myself a headache.
Oculus Rift Tuscany Demo
Over time I am getting used to the movement and the immersion, but before then, I will ease myself into walking games and demos to help myself get used to the experience. I can tell that there is great potential in Virtual Reality, with great experiences and great reactions from people I have had play with the DK2. I do, however feel that with slight problems with VR the potential has not peaked yet. 

The possibilities of VR are great, from truly immersive games to helping people overcome phobias, the potential future has begun to really excite me, being too young to have experienced the early rise of VR in the 1990s with the Virtuality Systems, the idea of Virtual Reality is new to me and every experience I have is new and exciting. 

Some of the demos I have played have been really interesting and fun, I generally don't play horror games, so have not gotten round to playing any of these yet, but I'm sure I will eventually. I downloaded the standard demos; the cinema and the rollercoaster, both of which were really good but I soon found the frame rate to be a problem on some rollercoasters. 

Recently there are 2 games/experiences that I truly love, the first is Euro Truck Simulator 2, having played this game before the release of the Rift, I was excited to try it out, and the freedom it offers really adds to the game, however, with the low resolution, I felt that some aspects were hard to read and the constant focus was causing a lot of strain.
Sightline: The Chair
The second, is an experience that I have had great fun with and had some great reaction. SightLine: The Chair is a game where your environment changes when you are not looking at it, the great idea is backed up by some stunning art and scenarios that take your breath away every time. This game has been green lit on Steam and will be releasing a full game, which I am really excited about.

My experience with VR has been hit and miss over the last 3 months, but with the enjoyment I have felt on polished games, I am sure that VR will go from strength to strength as more time is spent on big titles. I feel like VR as a tool for developers will help to bring imagination closer to the player in a new and exciting way. Over the next few months I will be starting development on my Oculus Rift games and experiences and there will be updates to follow. 

For now, I will explore games with the Rift and look for interesting and game breaking features to help me in my development. Any suggestions of games will be appreciated as I look for new different games to play.

Frozen Fishy out.

Monday, 22 December 2014

New Release: DayTrackFelixW

I have recently released a fitness app for Windows Phone as part of one of my final year modules, the app will track your route as you record a session of exercise, this can include; walking, running or both. For my module, I was given a specification with features that must be included, including the use of polyline to show the route taken and using the sensors in the phone. The name was as defined in the original specification for the module, hence the standard nature of it.

DayTrackFelixW Screen
The app took a total of 6 weeks to make, along with designs and programming in the app. This is my first app to be released, where all of the assets and work is my own. The app has a fully working session tracking screen, where it will tell you how much energy you have used, the distance you have traveled and the time elapsed. There is also a history screen that will show detailed accounts for every session you completed along with the ability to share a session on Facebook. The app also makes use of live tiles for background updates and the ability to mark your favourite locations on a map for easy planning of routes.

The development started after creating and defining the specification that would be needed, and the development would take a back seat to other modules for the first 3-4 weeks, due to the more intensive nature of the others. I was using Visual Studio along with the Windows Phone 8.0 SDK for this project, software I had used before and understood the tools available. The actual development of the app was very smooth and ran into very few problems during the process. Once again, I would have to integrate Facebook, but with previous experience using the API, it was not so bad this time, and I had it working within a few hours.

With all the data being saved locally, through isolated storage, there was a slight issue with my naming conventions to allow me to get data back to the app, but after re-thinking and evaluating how it would be used, I was able to figure this out before the app was due to be published.

Whilst I have created other apps before this one, the experience gained from this one has been really helpful to learn the whole process further, from design, to implementation and to publication, for this module I was responsible for all parts of the development as I was the only person to work on the project.

App available to download on Windows Phone now

Windows Phone Link

Frozen Fishy out.

Friday, 21 November 2014

New Release: Democracy: The Board Game

Its got climate change, human rights, the economy, civil unrest, social stability and elections.  You can control and develop your education, health, agriculture, transport, housing or military.  You can defeat the Dictator, or you can be the Dictator.

Dictatorship or Democracy … YOU DECIDE!

You are playing for Votes, and Votes mean Power.  So will you gain Votes through co-operation or domination?  Votes can be lost as well as won.  Will an economic collapse take away all your votes, or will a natural disaster wipe out all your developments?

Play DEMOCRACY... The fate of the world is in YOUR hands.

In August 2014 we were tasked with recreating the board game into an app for iOS devices with local multiplayer as a necessity and the opportunity to develop into network multiplayer. Once the project was given the all clear work began on it quickly.

The development of Democracy: The Board Game was always going to be different to any other that I had done before. This was a mobile game based off of a real board game, so a lot of the key features and core gameplay was already set up and figured out. This meant we would have to recreate the board game for mobile devices as closely as possible.

We started by actually playing the board game, this meant sitting down round a table and playing a board game the old fashioned way to give ourselves a chance to understand the game better and start to figure out the process to make the app. After a good 3 hours, and some bad luck from the dictator, the delegates had won and the game was over.

The models had been created already when the concepts for the game were made a few months ago in the pitch for development, so now we had to add models to the game and start making the game. It was important to get a good set of base code to work from and develop as we introduced more and more features. The basic code structure was in place by the end of the second week and we were able to start looking at adding in AI behaviours to make sure every game is full of players.

It was 4 weeks before we got the basic gameplay sorted and working with the menus created within NGUI, the players animating, the ability to control facilities and developments, handling receiving votes (currency) from players and selling facilities when needed. Now we had to make sure everything was animating, the sounds were in and adding in a tutorial for new players to understand the game better.

By the 5th week we were in a very strong position and the game had come along really well, we could now focus on fine tuning the game and making sure the player understands what they are doing and how to play the game.

As it came closer to the end of my work at Troll inc and the start of my final year in university. It became closer and closer to getting the game finished in time, with small bugs needing removed and polishing added. We had just a week of working later to make sure we had the project finished before we were to head back to uni.

Democracy: The Board Game Development
The game itself was fully functional with audio and all core functionality included and was beginning to look like a full game. The week of testing proved to be important for the development and great for the look and feel of the game. In the final week we were able to create a full tutorial system for the app and the board game, along with some finishing touches that add to the quality and feel of the app.

It wasn't for a further 6 weeks that the app was sent for submission to the app store, this was due to a few bugs that were being found from specific scenarios being played out. These bugs could have only been found by countless hours of testing. Therefore, the delay from app completion to app store submission has been vital in insuring the app with polished.
Democracy: The Board Game

Democracy: The Board Game is now available to download on the app store.

Download Here

Frozen Fishy out.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Autumn 2014 Update

I did a summer update recently, and as I don't have much in terms of actual news at the moment, I thought I would do a simple update. I am still at uni, working on an app, a mobile game and my final year project, all of which I will talk about in more detail in other blog posts closer to Christmas and early next year.
University of Ulster

On the side of university work, which doesn't offer much time, I work at the uni for 3 hours a week,
helping 1st year students in their first programming module. I help a group of 14 game developers every week by going through a tutorial, then by helping them with their own work and practical questions they have been given.

I have been working at Troll inc on the odd day during the last weeks, working on any games that have bugs, testing and getting help on my own projects.

I guess the biggest thing for me since my last blog post, has been the purchase of an Oculus Rift DK2 for use on my final year project, whilst development has not begun yet, I will be sure to update with full details once it has.

There are still games which I have worked on at Troll inc awaiting release, each of which will receive its own blog post from myself. There will be plenty of blog posts in the coming weeks and months as apps get released, apps are completed and my final year project starts development.

Frozen Fishy out.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

First Week of Final Year

After being a year out of university working 5 days a week, its back to the old routine of lectures and labs that university brings. After my first week I have had a small taster of stress and work needed to get me through the next 8 months, Juggling my modules and my final year project at the same time along with work on the side. It will be very stressful for sure, but I'm sure once I come out the other end there will be a lot of pride and relief that comes with it.

I have recently got a job at the university helping the 1st Year students with their first programming module and helping them to understand the module a bit easier for those that struggle. This will take some of my time during the year, but will be invaluable experience for me in developing my ability of what code does and ways to explain to others how it works.

My final year project will be officially decided in the coming weeks, and when it does, I will be sure to post on here about it. I also hope to do updates about progress as I go through my implementation stage, lets just hope the work doesn't get too much for me.

My work at Troll inc is not quite over yet either, I finished working full time on Monday but I'm sure I will be back in the office before I know it, making more games, apps and testing existing ones.

Now its time to get to work and get my final year started in a strong way, updates will follow soon about my project and the premise.

Frozen Fishy out.