WIP Portfolio Site Is Online!

I’ve had a bit of a go at web design and have put everything I’ve managed to conjure up online here at suzikagi.co.uk. The site is just a holding place for recent projects worth showing off, and can be used as my main portfolio from now on.

Check it out now and in future, as the whole thing is a work in progress and still needs a little work, not to mention the addition of a few missing images… I’ll be putting major updates there about ongoing projects too, like some of the changes I’ve been making to the new and improved version of Hanami (more about that later!)

Thanks to everyone who has helped me along through the Hanami project so far and to those who have taken the time to read any of this blog. You’re awesome.

Download Hanami Beta Now!

The Hanami Beta is now available to download from the Yoyo Games Sandbox website! Because the game won’t scale to account for various screen resolutions, I’ve created a fixed windowed version of the game which sits in a 960×570 window. Compared to the footage and images I’ve been showing so far, this version reduces the amount that is visible on the screen at once. I actually prefer this limited field of vision as the screen looks a lot less cluttered, although it does potentially make the game harder and much easier to get lost!

The sites requires info and images to create a dedicated page for the game. I took some screenshots from the new windowed version of the game to upload:

The zipped folder available by clicking on the download game link consists of a folder containing:

Folder of box art images
The empty save folder
Folder of game sounds
The game (windows executable)
PDF instruction manual
Readme text file
Supersound.dll (required to play sounds in game)

The game currently appears in the Beta type section of the site in the Platform genre. After the project is over I would love to continue working on and improving the game. I’ve already had some really helpful feedback and have started thinking of ideas for positive changes. Hopefully I can get some more feedback from the Yoyo Games site.

You can see the game’s download page by clicking on the link below!



Added: 12 May 2012
By: Hana Mi

Let’s Play Hanami

This video shows a complete run-through of the game, and every item collected. Details are explained with game dialogue style commentary on the way.

While the game is currently in a state where it can be played from beginning to end, it’s not necessarily a finished piece. You will notice a couple of glitches and problems, including:

at 10:33: The man who could walk through walls…
But didn’t get too far. I’m still unsure as to the cause of this problem. The character object is used in all of the first three levels, but only encounters this problem here. I’ve put plenty of measures in place to stop the problem from happening, but haven’t found the solution yet. If I can’t work it out before next week, then I will try to relocate the character and hope that this solves everything.

at 14:24: Some fairly poor level design.
The solution to this problem is to take away some of the walls and ceiling to simply provide the player with enough room to actually jump into the space, without loosing a whole lot of health along the way.

at 23:13: A positioning problem
Probably related to bad maths or bad coding. The kokeshi doll should appear in the centre of the screen like every other item when it is collected, but I may have accidentally programmed it to appear above the player. This just doesn’t look right at all, but is an easy problem to fix.

at 24:49: A score positioning problem
Again, not entirely sure about the cause of this problem. When the new game+ begins, the score shifts slightly to the left. You can hardly see it above the blossom icon, but it’s there. It slyly moves back to its proper place when the inventory is opened, it seems. Not sure how I’m going to solve this one.

Please leave comments/suggestions on anything else you notice, and I will fix everything up for a beta release.

Main Menu & Intro

I’ve made some changes to the main menu screen already. The background colour that I had chosen was supposed to represent an old paper colour, but after placing the screen in the game I felt that it definitely had to be the same as the menu colours I’ve been using throughout. I’ve also added a flashing “press start” icon which prompts the player to bring up the actual menu, which is something that no game is complete without!

When “start” or “enter” on the keyboard is pressed, the menu box appears. I’ve actually used almost an exact clone of the pause menu for this, with a little added transparency to take away the harsh contrast in colour. Obviously, I’ve changed the options to New Game, Load Game or Quit.

I’m not currently sure about the placement of the menu, however at the moment it rests in the dead centre of the screen, and moving it around makes it seem really oddly positioned! If anything, I’ll move it slightly to the right.

If the player selects “quit”, the game will shut itself down. If the player selects “load game”, the most recent save will automatically be loaded . I didn’t really see any reason to give the player the option to load previous saves or from a list of multiple saves, as the game only really takes between 10 and 20 minutes to play. If the player has not yet started the game but selects to load, a default save will be loaded which takes the player to the beginning of the game. If the player selects “new game”, instead of being taken straight into the game like previously, the player will be shown a slideshow of still images which act as the introduction to the game. These have taken me a few days to draw, as they involve higher resolution characters instead of the smaller sprites and tiles. The point of the images is to tell a brief account of the events that occur just before the game begins, hopefully these are fairly self explanatory:

1. Hana leaves the Hanami celebrations

2. Hana goes to the Ryokan

3. Hana goes to bed

I’m not sure how finished these are, but if I change anything much it will be the last slide. The story was originally that the Ryokan’s lucky cat comes to life to tell Hana about the “Hanami crisis” (in cat noises, as cats do…) I wanted to show a cat’s shadow on the floor as the cat approaches the sleeping Hana, but didn’t manage to draw anything that accurately represented this. My other option is to draw another slide where the cat wakes Hana up, but there’s something nicely concise about having three slides! I’ll get some feedback on these and work out how much more information is needed. A lot of the game is open to interpretation as it is!

Hanami Original Soundtrack

I wrapped up the Hanami soundtrack this morning by adding the finishing touches to the last two tracks, and adding a bonus end track which was pretty unplanned. I noticed that the game needed something to calm itself back down after the boss fight at the end, so I made a simple Final Fantasy inspired epilogue track which is just pretty. The famous “prelude” from the Final Fantasy series appears in almost all of the series’ titles (from one to ten atleast), and sums up the games when played at either the beginning or the end.

I’ve compiled each track into this video, in the order the tracks appear in the game.

Remember Save Points?

What was going to be a relaxed weekend of casual doodling has somehow turned into a few brain-mangling hours of discovering everything that’s wrong with Game Maker’s built in save and load functions. I figured I still haven’t sketched all the characters I’ve planned in the GDD- this is something I want to do, even if some of them don’t make it into the game. The next semi-important character I’d planned was a pervy guy with a camera who will “take a snapshot” of the player and save the game (remember the camera guy in Rayman? A bit like that… I can’t find a decent screenshot online, but it looks like they’ve done the same thing in Rayman Origins which I still haven’t managed to play yet)

I was inspired to design this guy after reading about perverted Japanese guys who like to get close to women on crowded subways etc, and somehow thought “that would make a good save/load system!” Well, I drew a little design of the guy, camera at the ready, and just wasn’t sure if he was right for the tone of the game…

I even got round to making a pixel version, which I might use later on for a less important NPC if I’m stuck for time. It’s difficult to make someone look creepy in such a small space, and more difficult to make a camera that actually looks like a camera, so all round this wasn’t a huge success.

So, back to the drawing board. It seems like these days you can save most games whenever you like, which is certainly convenient. This was pretty much unheard of until the past 10 years or so- up until then you would have to wait until you reached a designated “save point” if you wanted to save your game, and these were elusive and unpredictable little objects a lot of the time. In the harshest scenarios, such as the original Resident Evil, you had to collect items in order to use a save point, so the amount of saves were extremely limited.

My plan for Hanami is to include one save point in each level, which can be used infinitely as long as the player reaches it! The game will also autosave at the beginning of each level, so if the character dies they will either return to the last save point, or the beginning of the level- whichever occurred most recently. Instead of using a character, I tried thinking about more Japanese symbolism that could be used as an emblem of a save point. You can see my ideas in the sketch above, as I’m running out of sketch book pages and I’m trying to conserve paper :S

My first idea was to use a Hanami Dango, which is a special type of mochi on a stick eaten at Hanami. This was actually a coincidental discovery for me, as they popped up in the film Tekken: Blood Vengeance which I watched recently.

I considered placing a Hanami Dango stick on a sort of pedestal to create a sort of Hanami Save Alter, and this is where I got with that. The kanji means “to save”.

I didn’t quite finish this design, as I felt it didn’t really capture what I hoped it would. I don’t like wasting cool little things like this though, so there are plenty of food outlets throughout the world of Hanami that the Dango will probably make their way into! As I’m still trying to capture an overall image of Japan, I tried to find a nice little artefact to use rather than trying to keep within the realms of the Japanese spring time. After all, a lot of traditional save points were random emblems. I mean, what was the save point from FF7 supposed to be??

I had a look on the internet to see if there was anything seriously Japanese that I had missed out, and I found this article about must-have Japanese souvenirs! It includes a lot of imagery that I have already included in the game in some way, such as Maneki Neko, Hand fans, Umbrellas (Wagasa), Lanterns, kokeshi dolls, koinobori… On this list, I rediscovered Furin bells. I thought these would be a nice point at which a player can save their progress, as their inevitably interactive and look nice too 🙂 The bell consists of a domed glass case and a single glass chime running on a rope through the centre. A tag is placed on the end, where little bits can be written (I was considering trying to get a bit of kanji onto this, but haven’t managed to in such a small space yet!) I might yet put a design onto the glass, but for now I’ve settled for a simple Furin bell design:

On contact with this new object, the player can open up a new menu which asks whether or not they would like to save their game. I originally envisaged the object hanging from a rock outcrop or something like this, although I realised from a bit of play-testing that this object is too high up ¬_¬


If my last post has left you going “Wait…Hanami…What?” (and I hope it has!) then here is a little insight into Hanami. I can’t remember quite how I discovered it, but as I often have Otaku tendencies it managed to come up in some routine internet browsing recently. I love all things Japanese. Originally introduced through video games and cartoons, I’ve extended my knowledge of Japanese culture to pretty much every aspect, and I even speak a little bit too ^_^. I’d love to visit some day, and experience the culture and lifestyle first-hand.

Hanami literally means flower viewing, but generally refers to watching cherry blossoms or ume blossoms. It has become a custom in Japan, where cherry blossoms bloom and fall within a short one or two week period around the end of March or early April. People go outside for parties and picnics, simply to enjoy the short period when the blossoms are on the trees. Japan-Guide.com states:

Hanami can be just a stroll in the park, but it traditionally also involves a picnic party under the blooming trees. Hanami parties have been held in Japan for many centuries, and today are held in public and private gardens and parks across the country. Famous cherry blossom spots can get very crowded, and the best picnic spots are fought after.

After reading about this for a while, I started to wonder what happens at the end of Hanami, if there is such a thing as the end. My imagination immediately flashed up images of parks and streets void of people, where everyone has simply retreated back inside. I imagined a world where the blossoms just drifted on the wind and sat on the ground before eventually completely disappearing. At first, I assumed it might be quite a calm and peaceful scene, but after thinking about it a little more I thought “perhaps it would be lonely.”

I’ve never been to Japan, but I’ve seen enough photos to realise how beautiful it can be. This sense of beauty comes across well in anime set in Japan, where backgrounds are typically exaggerated. In 5 centimetres per Second, the falling blossoms are compared to falling snow, and are placed floating around ordinary objects to make them appear nice than they really are!

I think this kind of imagery would work well within a game, immediately any object can be stylised with the addition of a slightly pink hue and an array of blossoms! There are plenty of other typical Japanese objects which could be applied to give any game world a far-Eastern feel, without having to recreate actual Japan.
This video is a compilation of photos after a man’s one year stay in Japan. It helps give a good, personal sense of what makes Japan different to anywhere else in the world, and with a little help from the music suggests an sense of calmness and serenity. There’s a huge difference between Japan’s big cities and rural areas, but these are often brought closer together with the help of things like Sakura blossoms in urban areas.

I don’t think Japan is really a lonely place, which is why it might be so poignant to portray it as deserted and eerily quiet. The objective of a game set in such a place would probably be dispel its loneliness…

EMP First Thoughts

Clues about my intentions for the Extended Major Project may have cropped up somewhere in the preceding posts! We were given the official briefing for the EMP at uni yesterday, so now the clock is counting down to that fateful day in mid May when my latest creation will appear to the world.
My thoughts have turned recently to questions like “what makes a game?” and more importantly, “what makes a good game?“. I read a lot of books on game theory over Christmas and I’ve been left in one of those states of existential pondering… I’ve been asking myself “what makes a good game developer??” which has a lot to do with why I decided to write seven posts on some really awesome ones.

So I guess the theme underlying all else throughout this project is:
How can I use characteristics from “good” existing games to create a brilliant, contemporary, unique new game?

The aim is to create something new, but which echoes games past. The final outcome will emerge in the form of a 2D platformer, so already it has (or should have!) echoes of the great platformers of the early Nintendo years…
This kinda sums up my thought patterns so far:

In answer to my questions about good game developers, the release of Indie Game The Movie is on the horizon, and this little online extra was released a couple of days ago. Unfortunately I can’t embed the video for privacy reasons(or something), so watch it at the link below. I think this immediately separates the exceptional from the ordinary:
Indie Game The Movie Online Extra

It feels to me better than Mario, which was in my mind the perfect way for a platformer to feel. It feels like Mario, but in a lot of ways a lot of aspects in it feel better. It feels faster, it feels like I have more control, especially in the air. I feel like I have complete control over the character. And that’s number one with a platformer.

The movement code for meatboy is nothing that isn’t nature. And it’s totally just scripted, fixed, duct-taped stuff, but there’s so much of it, and it’s so often that it actually feels pretty good. I think it’s just because I complain.

You can’t make a platformer and when somebody dies they say:
“aww, the fucking game feels stupid”
“aww, it killed me because the button feels dumb”

Advice accepted. That’s going straight onto my list of goals!
For this project, I’m revolving my research and development around a theme rather than a genre or aspect of gaming. Before, I vaguely asked “how can I make a game which simulates a strange experience?” This time, I’m saying “let’s make a game about the Japanese custom of Hanami.” All I have to do to create the game is apply the characteristics I discover from researching good platformers and combine this with some sort of objective, eg. “collect all the cherry blossoms that fall post-Hanami.” And then obviously there’s the complicated technical and arty parts to work on, but that’s what the next 18 weeks are for…