W.I.P 1: Super Critter Kill

This is the work-in-progress of Super Critter Kill, a game knocked up in a few days for a competition. The name is a working title that I’m not particularly fond of (it was originally called Fur Cry, but I changed that before posting here to prevent getting sued).

It’s lacking in many many areas, and obviously absolutely everything should be considered really early placeholder work, but it’s available to download and play for PC via the link at the bottom of this page. It was created in XNA so a link is provided for the runtime files it needs.

mandl01

As mentioned, this was made in a very short time for a competition – the theme of which was Procedural Generation. The original intent was to procedurally generate an island, and make a 3rd person exploration game along the lines of Strange Adventures in Infinite Space, or The Wager – a typical island is shown opposite.

 

However, with just a few days left I realised I was nowhere near getting anything I could call a game out of that, so needed to come up with something else instead.

As an aside this original game went on to be my primary project (now on hold), and it’s one I’d dearly love to return to – but it’s massive. The basic premise is that the player is a Victorian-era explorer on a mysterious fantasy island populated by all manner of tribes and NPCs. The gameplay was intended to be almost entirely decision making with all manner of interesting consequences occurring based on the player’s actions. I do hope to return to this one in future, because it’s perhaps my favourite thing that I’ve worked on. (In the image below Branston is the players hapless manservant). At the very least I may cover it in a future WIP.

mandl002

Returning to SCK and the problem of the impending deadline – I’d always wanted to try making a first-person shooter, and knew the beauty of working in 3D is that a quick camera change gets you a different genre cheaply. So I quickly moved the camera down to eye-level and placed it at the player’s position and it worked a treat. I then changed the control method to move the camera around, and added mouse control for looking around

sck_arm001

Then I knocked up a quick arm and gun model, and positioned it just below the camera (the picture shows it with the camera pulled a little further back). Finally I added a bullet and got shooting in the game.

 

 

With that done I needed enemies, and with the art style and the time constraints I plumped for cartoon critters. Throughout my career as a game designer my stock response to the question “how do we improve this game?” is the answer “bears” so that’s the first thing I made, and added to the game.

sck_bear001

Next up I needed to be able to shoot the bear so I hacked in some collision. Collision is a real weakness for me (hence there being no landscape collision in the game yet), so I fell back on trusty old spherical collision. I know just enough maths to transform a line of spheres to create approximate sausage-shaped collision which was good enough (and incredibly fast).

sck_coll001

Having made the switch from XNA to Unity now, collision really isn’t an issue. I could probably even go the extra mile and not have completely flat landscape.

With that in place though I now needed to add behaviours to the bears. I kept this simple and created a set of states for them to be in.

  • Spawning: I didn’t have time to spawn them out of sight of the player, so decided to be silly and drop them in from the sky. I later added balloons and parachutes to them. (One of my favourite bits of advice for making games – if you’ve got a weakness try to make it a feature. Don’t try to hide it – stick it front and centre and make it work for you if possible.)
  • Mooching: When the bears land they start mooching if the player isn’t close. They pick a random location a short distance away, move to it, wait for a short while then repeat.
  • Following: If the player gets close turn to face and head toward them.
  • Angry: If the player shoots them, then they follow faster.
  • Dead: When hit points are zero keel over and wait to be skinned.
  • Skinned: Wait for a little while then disappear.

I then set up a simple set of timers to populate bears. There’s an upper limit of bears in the world at any one time, and the game spawns bears periodically until it’s reached. The maximum number of bears then also goes up over time so the game gets harder and harder.

sck_gameover001

 

With that in place I’ve almost got a game. I just need player death. This is handled really crudely – if a bear gets close enough you’re dead. It’s so harsh I put a warning alarm in when they get near, but it’s not a good solution.

 

However there was just enough game there that I decided to spend the remaining time creating new art assets – a swamp landscape type, and the panda and tiger models (largely recoloured bears). Perhaps the time would have been better spent adding scenery collision, route-finding for the critters or gameplay design that aspired to be better than the bare-minimum possible to call it playable.

superCritterKill01

So this is how it entered the competition – unsurprisingly it didn’t win. Afterwards I added the balloons/parachutes to the bears, and for release on this WIP I added the bear trap and crate pickup to make it slightly more worth a download.

So that’s largely where this prototype stands – the barest semblance of a game but bags of potential I reckon. If I was to resume this project the plan going forward would be as follows:

  • Decent collision – should be dead easy with Unity.
  • Level design – I’d probably remove the procedural map, and replace it with something nicely designed. The procedural island was a benefit to the original exploration game, but I’m not sure it brings much here. TBD.
  • Weapons: I need to replace that basic pistol with a range of cool and unusual weaponry (the beartrap is a nice aaddition and I’d already started work on a blunderbuss).
  • Vertical mouse look – omitted purely for lack of time – it’ll allow flying critters, and short ones.
  • Critters – more of them, the more taboo the better.
  • Animation – I’d rather not do animation, so I’ll either pull their legs off and rotate them to make a run cycle, rotate the whole animal in a kind of loping gait, or maybe create posed frames and swap the models. The benefit of being cartoony is that this is another weakness that could be turned into a plus point perhaps…
  • Animal behaviour – what’s there sucks, so this needs to be better and needs to be varied. Maybe getting more natural stuff in there – predators and prey doing their thing, herds, charging/stampeding etc.
  • Design: Add small details like a goal, a game structure etc. Is it a hunting game with animals sticking to habitats, or is it just a frenzied shooter, or something else entirely? TBD…
  • Name: Find a better one, or learn to live with this one.

The game is available to download below. Simply unzip it somewhere and double-click the exe to play. One warning though – the video at the top of the page shows pretty much everything that’s in the game – it’s fun to pootle around in, but there’s not much in the way of gameplay beyond shooting endless critters.

Download Super Critter Kill for PC 

Download XNA 4.0 runtimes

Finally, I’d love to hear any feedback for this game, so please feel free to post in the comments below.

The Plan

The plan is changing on an almost daily basis. The current plan is as follows:

The program I used to make my website named all the pages weirdly meaning I didn’t want to tell anyone about the release of AVC. I’ll get this fixed – manually if need be – tell people about it, and then park the website for a bit whilst I work out what went wrong/find something better to use.

The Works-In-Progress will be done via my blog initially – maybe moved over to the webpage later if I think there’s merit in that. I’ll try my best to get the first one out this week.

Game development is switching to Unity. I love XNA, but I need everything on my side – and that means as few barriers to entry and as much flexibility as possible. I’d tried using Unity before but the sample game it tends to push as a demo – Angry Bots – is a big old brute and not a pleasant way in to learning the package for me. My reluctance to move on from XNA and unfavourable first impressions meant I wasn’t looking forward to diving into learning Unity, but after a lot of procrastination I finally sat and watched all the beginner tutorial videos whilst having a bit of a play with the editor itself, and by Crikey! – now I’m a convert. I reckon I can do really good stuff with this. Absolutely cannot wait to get cracking. If the website and the works-in-progress don’t show up for a little while then Unity will be to blame. These games aren’t going to make themselves.

A new plan

Well things have changed somewhat.

I was working for Blitz Games when I made my first post, and as of last Thursday it ceased trading, so now I’ve got to find something else to do instead.

Time to give the indie thing a pop for real then.

To that end I’ve just released the one project that I’ve ever finished as a freebie, and then it’s on to new stuff. It’s a simple PC game called A Vicios Circle, knocked up in a matter of days, fittingly for a coding competition at Blitz. You can get it at www.bearcatgames.com

I still plan to do the Works-In-Progress, but they will have to fit in around my current new project which is intended to be my first commercial game. The first was almost good to go though, so it shouldn’t be too far off.

Introducing Works-In-Progress

For this the first blog post by Bearcat Games I’d like to outline my current focus – a series of works-in-progress. One of the hardest things to do as a game developer is finish a project, and this holds true for me too. However, I’m also guilty of getting bored and starting something new mid-way through a project – meaning I’ve got a lot of work sitting on my hard-drive going nowhere, and seen by no-one other than me.

So a short while ago I decided that perhaps the best way to deal with this is to start releasing these to the world in their current state (maybe with a few tweaks here and there to kick them into a state where they can be shown, and more importantly played). So in the coming months I will be releasing a new one every week or so on my website (www.bearcatgames.com) along with some accompanying notes – these might include topics such as how it came about, design decisions, implementation, planned features etc. These works-in-progress will be in varying states – some of them have had many months of development, some were knocked up in 3 or 4 days.

Each new game will be accompanied by a blog post here, and I’d really appreciate feedback in the comments thread for each game. One of the things I’m hoping to get from this is motivation to get back to some of these projects and push them towards completion.

First up (hopefully coming in the next few days) will be Super Critter Kill (working title) – a cartoon FPS game about shooting endangered species for their skins.