Team HyperPickle is working with CyLab Security and Privacy Institute at Carnegie Mellon University to create an interactive web-based game for the picoCTF 2021, a two-week competition where middle school, high school, and college students are challenged with cybersecurity questions. The game will be oriented around delivering a fun, engaging experience to attract a wide range of demographics to join the competition, and encourage them to answer questions created by domain experts. The game features the ability to exchange resources and make friends while exploring the cosmos.
As a designer on the team, my focus was on designing the economy for the game. Coming up with the numbers behind the availability of resources via mining, the prices that each different inhabited planet had that allowed players to profit via arbitrage, the costs for ship upgrades that would create a few bottlenecks so that players will feel like they are progressing after purchasing them, the amounts and kinds of resources that each inhabitant wants the player to deliver to them to gain their friendship and ultimately win the game, and the amount of time it takes to travel between planets which is closely tied to how many tokens it takes to speed up travel between planets.
Pepperbox Productions is a game pre-production project that aims to create an engaging and emotional experience that stakeholders would want to invest in through compelling art and visuals, narrative and gameplay design.
As a designer on the team, I collaborated with the other designers to brainstorm and iterate concepts for the game that are challenging to summarize as our final game design document ended up being over 100 pages long. As a result of this collaboration I cannot point to any design work that is solely mine, but I did tackle the financial side of our project’s deliverables by making an estimated development schedule and budget.
Even though it was only the pre-production stage, this is definitely the biggest game I’ve ever worked on and by the end of the semester I found myself wishing we had more time with it. This project gave me a better understanding of the notion that “games are never finished, they just get shipped.” One thing that the design team did that really helped over the course of the project, was making a technology document with regards to world building early on. Taking the time to clarify what level of technology is outdated, commonplace, a novelty, top secret, or even exists for the world we were making helped decide if new ideas fit with our world or not. Additionally, the specifics of the technology acted as a constraint that helped foster brainstorming about characters who live in the world. In the future, if I work on a game where I’m a part of the world building process, I will remember to make a technology document.
Blacklight Studios is a semester-long pre-production development team of the Entertainment Technology Center’s year long game studio project. Our mission is to lay the groundwork for a tactical RPG that brings a unique twist to the format. This includes design documents, playable prototypes of major game mechanics, concept art, and narrative details. The studio will develop a pre-production package that can be used by a team in Fall 2020 to produce and publish a game. Most importantly, the goal of Blacklight Studios is to explore and experience real world hardships of the pre-production process, and receive insight into the importance of pre-production in a professional space.
As a designer on the team, I contributed toward the design of our game’s mechanics and balancing through brainstorming and iteration, working closely with Yang, the other designer on the team. I proofread and suggested changes or additions for all the design documents that Yang created while also making Test Case documents to go along with the mechanics focused design documents to help with QA testing. I also performed the bulk of our team’s QA testing, which involved maintaining a living document of identified bugs while we were working on our combat demo.
Our pre-production package did not actually get picked up and continued by a team in the Fall of 2020 because the theme of the game does not coexist well with the emergence of the Covid-19. We were far enough into the semester by the time the pandemic started and caused our team to have to work remotely, that we wanted to stay the course finishing what we started rather than trying to pivot our whole game to something that feels less distasteful. Our vision for the game is not a bad one, but the timing for such a vision likely could not have been worse.
Ol-Factory is a game I helped make in one of my elective classes during my graduate studies at Carnegie Mellon University. I was a part of a team of four that did not really have specific roles, but my contribution involved programming and design tasks. In its current state, Ol-Factory first introduces the player to the ten different types of smells and then tasks the player with creating specific scents, based off of a description, by combining two of the basic smells through intuition and a bit of trial and error. Get enough of them correct and the player will have passed their technical interview and get hired, effectively winning the game. I specifically programmed the smell combination button console system and the structure of the technical interview part of the game.
This project started from the notion of what visualizing smells would look like. The particle systems associated with each of the ten smell types remained the same, outside of some refinement, since the beginning, but originally the game allowed the player to combine smells at their leisure to see what would result. It was more of a toy or experience than a game, but halfway through development it was suggested to flip the script and turn it into a guessing game. We went through a handful of iterations, making many user interface and experience improvements each time, and got to the current version of the game which can be downloaded and played here: https://eangrady.itch.io/ol-factory
The Curse of Lavagedara is a game that resulted from Round 5 of my Building Virtual Worlds class during my graduate studies at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center. I was a part of a team of five which consisted of two programmers, two artists, and a sound designer and we were given three weeks to make a game for the Valve Index VR device with the addition of four computers. The Curse of Lavagedara is an asymmetric multiplayer game where a single VR player uses spells to slow or prevent the four PC players from getting to the center of the maze. The curse is that the player who defeats Lavagedara is the player who, in time, becomes the next incarnation of Lavagedara.
In the first iteration, the maze was square shaped and composed of smaller colored squares. The VR player had the power to rotate all squares of one color in an attempt to thwart the PC players’ progress. The maze proved too complicated to navigate and the VR player was too powerful. The latest iteration involves a circular maze divided into layers where each layer is made of four quadrants. The VR player can drop spells into a quadrant to unleash harmful effects on the PC players who happen to be located in that part of the maze. I specifically worked on the design of the maze and focused on getting as close to a balanced multiplayer experience as we could.
The Ring Toss experience is more of an interactive experience than a game which resulted from Round 4 of my Building Virtual Worlds class during my graduate studies at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center. I was a part of a team of five that consisted of two programmers, two artists, and a sound designer and we were given two weeks to make the story focused experience for the Occulus Rift S VR device. The player plays as a father who does not give enough attention to his daughter who wants him to win a specific bear at a carnival. An argument leads to the daughter running into the street and get hit by a food truck. Filled with immense regret, the father jumps at the miraculous opportunity to be a time travel test subject. Given a second chance, the father makes sure to win his daughter that bear. While not the most successful world I’ve worked on, it was still a good learning experience. I specifically did more timeline work to have various story events happen when they were supposed to happen.
Safari Pinball is a game that resulted from Round 3 of my Building Virtual Worlds class during my graduate studies at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center. I was a part of a team of five which consisted of two programmers, two artists, and a sound designer and we were given one week to make a game for Leap Motion attached to an Occulus Rift S Headset. The game on the surface is a simple pinball game, but the thing that makes our game unique is that the player’s physical hands are the flippers with which to hit the ball, and board or play area of the pinball game completely surrounds the player rather than merely being in front of them. I specifically worked on layout of the play area and the code for the points and lives systems.
Unearthed is a game that resulted from Round 2 of my Building Virtual Worlds class during my graduate studies at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center. I was a part of a team of five that consisted of two programmers, two artists, and a sound designer and we were given two weeks to make a game for the HTC Vive VR device. Unearthed is a short story driven experience where the player digs to find shards of a mural that detail a tragic love story. Once the mural is complete, it turns into a mirror to convey that the player is the protagonist of that story. I specifically worked on timelines that were used to have the world change around the player as more shards of the mural were dug up.
DIEt is a game that resulted from Round 1 of my Building Virtual Worlds class during my graduate studies at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center. I was a part of a team of five which consisted of two programmers, two artists, and a sound designer and we were given two weeks to make a game for the Magic Leap AR device. DIEt is an area defense game where the player uses a fork (controller) to prevent unhealthy foods from being eaten by your friend who wants a midnight snack. This is done by either stabbing the foods before they get to the plate or swiping them off of the plate before your friend eats her next helping of food. I specifically worked on the food spawning and movement which affected game balance.
Glyph is a tabletop game that resulted from my participation in the Pittsburgh’s chapter of the International Game Developers Association’s Annual Board Game Jam. I was part of a five person team, two students programming background and three students with an art background, who prototyped and iterated a four-player stone placing puzzle game where players try to maximize points by filling personal shapes, that represent different language characters, with colored stones that are worth more to them based on a randomly assigned color value sheet.