CSE Game Design Lab

Innovation in game design

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Improving children’s eating habits

Posted by on June 29th, 2011 · Games for health

My undergraduate thesis project involves designing, building and testing a game which aims to encourage young children to eat healthier.  My research has shown that education isn’t an issue; children know what’s healthy, they just don’t choose to eat those foods.  As such, the strategies involved draw a few things from numerous fields and ideas, taking multiple paths to hopefully alter their behavior:

  1. Evangelism – making a player “convince” another person to eat a certain food has been shown to convince the player himself
  2. Pattern matching – human behavior is built on patterns created in the brain, to solve problems. Presenting problems and solutions which create these patterns in the brain, may shape future behavior which draws on the patterns
  3. Responsibility/ownership – if somebody chooses to buy, cook or create a certain food, they will feel responsible for it, and consequently won’t feel like they are being forced to eat it
  4. Value from rarity – limited supply artificially creates demand
  5. Practice – giving players time to practice the ideas of healthy eating turns them from abstract notions of good or bad, into actual choices made by the player

Combining these paths, we arrive at the high-level design for the game: players shop for food, grow vegetables in a garden, cook meals, and feed a virtual family.  Different foods affect the player-character’s stats, making actions easier or harder.  Some evangelism is necessary when feeding the family, and the size of the family increases over time to complement the player’s increases in skill and stats.

At this point, my hope is to finish the game by the end of July, allowing room for balancing and verification with Malcolm and the nutritionist helping me.  Ideally, testing on children will begin soon after that, to allow as much data as possible.

General Platformer – Idea and Introduction

Posted by on June 5th, 2011 · Uncategorized

The platforming genre of video games has been around for a long time and has a long history. There are many famous video game series that started out as 2D side scrolling platformers. Super Mario, Sonic, Kirby, Donkey Kong, Castlevania, Megaman, Metroid… and the list just goes on.

The core mechanics of running and jumping through a level to reach a goal remain the same for all platformers. On the 2D screen, the player controls their character by running and jumping on the different platforms. However, each title is different and unique in many ways and this gives each game a unique ‘feel’. Mario feels ‘bouncy’ while Sonic feels ‘fast’.

There are many things that make two platformers different. Yet, they still maintain the core mechanics that make them platformers and not any other type of video game.

The abstract idea of the general platformer is to create a system that is general enough that any existing title can be emulated by adjusting a set of parameters that are available to the user. Combining all the different parameters from all the existing platformer titles should produce a set of parameters that are common amongst all the titles. Super Mario World and Sonic and Knuckles would then become certain configurations of these parameters. As long as the set of common parameters is complete, any platformer will become a configuration of these parameters.

The user will be able to change the movement of the player’s character, select and import graphics for the game, control the movement of the camera, control the levels, create new enemies, create objects in the level, configure how the player interacts with those enemies and objects and anything else that makes platformers different from one another.

Using the system, it then becomes possible to ‘invent’ or ‘discover’ a new ‘feels’ by adjusting and experimenting with the parameters. This then reduces the need to re-invent the wheel each time someone wants to make a new platformer, as the core game itself is already there. The user then only needs to define the parts of the game that make it unique. The system could
then be used to prototype certain elements of a game, test level designs and its interactions with the player. It would be possible to save and load configurations from a file, so they may be shared.

An existing system that does something similar is M.U.G.E.N, which generalises 2D fighting games and is worth checking out.

The initial scope for this project will be much smaller to start with, focusing only on the basic movements and animations. As this project progresses further, I will post additional updates. 🙂

Art Of Stealth – Playtest results

Posted by on August 28th, 2010 · Uncategorized

Over the last week I had 5 playtesters trying out my current version of the game.

To pass the level there was a requirement that the player had to survive for a certain amout of time to pass the level they played. This time was converted into a score and a target score had to be reached; I noticed that players liked accumulating points rather than finishing the level quickly. I did not like this so the target is now a bar that fills up instead of accumulates.

A roaring consensus told me that the single object of surviving for a certain length of time in order to pass the level was incredibly boring. My playtesters agreed that a second of object, a snatch and grab kind of play, would be far more interesting.

I felt the whole game was a little fast for my liking, my play testers on the other hand thought it was a little slow. I’ve decide to alternate the speed of the game a little bit, speeding up the guards to make them feel like they are actually chasing you while adding a penalty for having the player run.

I asked if I should leave the particle filter on during game play; the playtesters thought, while interesting, it made the game far easier.

Some players commented on the movement of the guards and some of their more subtle behaviour. I am endeavour to fix them as best as possible.

Other suggestions mostly were around having pick-ups/power-ups, snares, laser alarms and other things to create more challenging gameplay.

PSY-NIN!! Teaser

Posted by on August 25th, 2010 · Uncategorized

Hi Guys,

please have a look and come for our playtesting

We’ll do the playtesting very soon 🙂

Video of our game so far

Posted by on August 18th, 2010 · Uncategorized

Hi Guys,

This is the video that we have so far..
This video is actually given to welovejam.com.au, that generously offer their help to fill our games with sound effects, but i guess it might be good if we have some feedback..

At the moment, we’re working on the graphics of the game, the background, tiles, etc..

Art Of Stealth

Posted by on July 22nd, 2010 · Uncategorized

So far my thesis topic has been a big learning curve for me. I had never really thought of trying my hand at game design, which is why I was slightly hesitant when I came to understand that the game engine I would be using for experimentation was somewhat “a work in progress”.  Throughout the uni break I was working almost diligently on modification of the game mechanics to something I was happy to start working with. It is a pleasure to say that I am almost there.

I am happy to report that I am pretty much to schedule with what I had intend to have ready by second semester. I have namely been experimenting with different  methods of motion planning and am surprised as how something so simple can drastically change the feel of game play. The two methods I have mainly been looking at are;

  1. Delauny Triangularization using equidistant points between the level boundaries
  2. Random Roadmap methods which employ generating a number of random points across the level and running Delauny triangularization across them as to create suitable paths for the AI to explore.

While the first method is quite simplistic and reliable, the paths the AI take can be reasonably limited in the exploration space. The second methods is interesting as every game is slightly different, and with the monotony of testing it is nice to have the playing ground mixed up; but whether this is suitable for an actual, solid implementation, I’m not sure. What I am doing at the moment is working on constructing my own paths about the level, “hand drawn” if you will.

As far as tracking goes I have implemented a shared particle filter. Every guard contributes to the maintaining and updating of the single distribution. I have found, while being a very simplistic approach, that it is unsuitable. During the resampling portion of the particle filter algorithm, a single focal point tends to emerge when the distribution contains less than about 500 particles. This becomes incredibly boring to play with as every guard then heads towards this single point, converging uselessly – especially when the centre of the mass is chosen. The guards paths then tend to overlap more than my liking, and this is not the behavior I would like to see emerging.

So far I have not experimented to much with planning algorithms, but the night is still young, as it were. So far I have only looked at choosing points at random from the cloud or sampling them in order to find the mean of the distribution. As above, sampling the mean of the single distribution makes the game play quite boring. What I would like to try is taking a handful of particles, randomly, and finding their mean as to determine a psuedo-mean. I am hoping this method will provide what I originally sort after and reduce the overlapping of search paths.

First prototype demo

Posted by on June 4th, 2010 · Uncategorized

I created the skeleton of Magic Battle’s graphics and gameplay, which is what I submitted for COMP9018 – Advanced Graphics. If any of you get an opportunity to do this course and haven’t done it yet, I highly recommend it! </plug>

You can play with it here.

Enjoy 🙂

battle gameplay in RPG and Action games: thesis report A

Posted by on May 27th, 2010 · Uncategorized

Hi Guys,
just want to share our report to everyone, hopefully you guys get better understanding of our project and can help us on playtesting stage 🙂


Latest milkshake game – Slurp

Posted by on May 12th, 2010 · Amblyopia project, Malcolm's Projects

The latest prototype of the milkshake is now online. I’ve changed the look, removed some of the UI elements and added sound. I also made the control scheme more forgiving. Feedback is welcome.

Update: I’ve added a glow effect which makes it look really cool, but sadly it relies on graphics hardware with pixel-shaders which will not be available on the iPhone or iPad.

Reasoning About Space (Update)

Posted by on May 5th, 2010 · Uncategorized

Upon doing further research and receiving feedback from my presentation, the direction and focus of my thesis has slightly shifted. I will still be proceeding with the development of an artificial agent that plays the pursuit evasion game, ArtOfStealth, convincingly and realistically, but I will also be looking at creating a modifiable agent framework which can be used to create different functionality and behaviours by using a parameterised and expendable particle filter.

I will also be running a series of experiments using a range of different modifications of this particle filter to see what different kinds of behaviours I can achieve by the modification of 3 main components; the number of particles used to represent the probability density function, the motion model used to predict the movement of player and hence the particles, and also the  observation model used to update the particle distribution.

There are a huge number of different aspects I could look at in this project but I will be trying to narrow the scope such that I don’t get too sidetracked from my initial proposal and also so my project doesn’t blow out of proportion in terms of work and complexity. Because of this I will be looking at only a limited number of algorithms for use in the decision making process and planning process.