Here is a preview of our game logo and main menu:
We have recently added some exciting features to the game ready for Protoplay in a few weeks time. In the video you can see some of the new backgrounds for the game, and see how the levels transition. We have also added a new way to move the bird by simply drawing a line, although this still needs to her perfected.
Here is a preview of our game logo and main menu:
Last month, I shared pieces of concept art, videos and music on my new game Strawberry Thief, as well as a short piece of early gameplay footage. Now some of the art assets are starting to be implemented in the game along with interactive elements.
First of all, you can see that newer backgrounds are in the game. It has a scrolling effect, kind of similar to how my early prototype I made at the V&A worked. This way, the player can explore more of the pattern and see it repeat, just as it would on a curtain or wallpaper.
You can also see that the player can now collect flowers (Which I often referred to as pollen in previous posts) These flowers will enable the player to colour the level. When they run out of colour, they will have to find the flowers again. At the moment, the colour level is represented by something that looks like a health bar, but in the final version, it will be shown in the petals trailing the bird.
We also have new artwork for the bird. We decided to change the character from the brown thrush from the pattern to the blue and white bird, as it is the one stealing the strawberries in the original print. We still need to include all the animations for the bird.
Cameron has also animated sections of the Strawberry Thief pattern. These animations will trigger when the player has coloured certain sections of the print.
The next stage of the project will be adding in the separate levels, carefully planing how they transition from one to another. We will also need to include things like a loading screen, in-game menus, and preparations for the Dare Protoplay Festival, where the game will be shown off for the first time.
Now that my team is working on assets for Strawberry Thief, I want to share some concept work that has been completed in the last few weeks.
This short video is made up of storyboard frames (by Ellen Brown), which shows how the game will run from start to finish. The audio in the gameplay section, by Neil Cullen, is sample of how the adaptive sound track will work, with the complexity of the music growing with how much of the pattern has been coloured. The audio in the menu and loadings screens is by Johannes Brahms.
These clips are visualisations by Cameron Moore, which show how the sketches could become colourful, and how it would bleed out once a section of the pattern is complete.
Here are some concepts for the line that the user draws for the bird to follow, also by Cameron.
Finally, here is a quick video of the build so far, with the colouring mechanic implemented (but not finalised)
In this past month, my development for Strawberry Thief has been coming along well. I have been thinking a lot about the game’s new mechanics, which involves bringing colour to a William Morris sketch.
In the first iteration of the idea, the player would use the same bird from the Strawberry Thief pattern to collect colour (represented as small flowers and berries) and deliver it to ‘colour points’ in the level. The level would be made up of light sketches that the player could fly over, and darker sketches which were walls / barriers, turning the Morris pattern into a maze. The player would completely colour the sketch, and then move onto the next level. As I want to make a short game experience, I thought 2-3 levels would be enough, each with a different Morris pattern.
I took this idea to my programmer Erin (from Quartic Llama) and we discussed ways we could improve the concept. We decided to forget the idea of having a level designed from motifs with colour points, and instead chose to allow the player to fly over everything. The first part of the game would be a zoomed in portion of Strawberry Thief, and the player would paint a few basic colours by collecting the small, colourful flowers. Once that section is complete, the level changes, the sketch zooms out to reveal more patterns, and the music would become more complex. The player would then be able to add more colours to the sketch, as well as added detail. This would be followed by a final transition for adding even more detail and texture to Strawberry Thief.
I recently had artists join me on the project, so I am looking forward to sharing new visuals in the next few weeks, as well as short videos of the build.
Now that my six month research and design period has finished at the V&A, its now time for me to start development on my Strawberry Thief game. I spent April back home in Norfolk preparing for my move up to Dundee / Abertay University, and the break game me more time to think about how I can develop my game to be more in touch with William Morris' artwork.
In the British Galleries at the V&A, there is a wonderful display showing a cutting of a William Morris wallpaper next to a sketch which has been partially coloured. I thought it would be a fun idea to have the player bring colour to Morris sketches by using the birds from the Strawberry Thief pattern. I feel this would make for a more creative and collaborative experience than my first Strawberry Thief iteration. The mechanics for this game will be simple and hopefully easy to understand, as I want the game to have a wide appeal, which would include people who are unfamiliar with games (but perhaps loves the work of William Morris.) My next step is to start working with a programmer, and getting the game to feel right.
I worked with some trusted games designers and academics in April to pinpoint elements like the vision of my project and who it will be primarily targeting. Narrowing elements such as how the player will feel, what they will see and hear was a fairly difficult task, but an important thing to think about.
During my time at the V&A, I took part in an in-depth workshop with year 7 students, setting them a game design brief. The students from Highgate Wood School were given galleries to look at for inspiration then design a game and make a small section of it.
The project was structured by having a day to explore the museum and learn from me about game development. I went over the different roles in the industry, what my next game is being inspired by, and let them try the older games consoles in my studio, such as the GameBoy, PS1 and Dreamcast. It's really interesting to watch children play on consoles that were around before they were born, as they approach playing so differently to people my age. The students then explored a few different galleries, formed groups and came up with some initial ideas. We gave them V&A postcards with questions on the back to prompt game ideas, and what mechanics to think about.
The students then had a 6 weeks to work on the concepts in their computer club at school. Me and Cara Williams from the Learning Department at the V&A took a visit to Highgate Wood School to see how they were getting on, and I was able to help with any technical or design problems they were having. When returning to the V&A, they worked hard to finish off their ideas and present them to each other and the V&A staff.
Most of the games were inspired by the Chinese and Japanese galleries at the museum, with the students creating Samurai and dragon characters. The students approached the task in a few different ways. While they all made game concepts and ideas, some made small snippets of the game, such as a game over screen, or animatics or a section of gameplay.
You can read more about the workshop on the V&A Blog
February Half term ran from Saturday 15th to the 23rd at the V&A. This year, they decided to theme the half term events around my residency and games.
One of the activities was a live, interactive performance, which was inspired by my game development. In the performance, a parent and their two children had been sucked into the Strawberry Thief fabric at the V&A and turned into thrushes. The children in the audience had to help the parent break the curse by collecting strawberries and following an on screen map. I think the performance was a huge success, as it incorporated lots of little game elements (collecting, timed quests, following maps, decision-making etc ) into a show that the children engaged with and enjoyed. The meetings for this show were early in my residency, so there are elements of my idea to look at the animals in the British Galleries. For example, I looked at vases with lizard designs on them, and this was turned into a game in the performance.
During this week, I also decided to put on extra open studios so that the public could chat to me and see the Strawberry Thief game I'm working on. The numbers for these sessions were more than any I've had before and so I'm happy that many people got to see my developments.
My prototype Strawberry Thief game is currently like an arcade game, where there is no way to win and you just have to get a high score. Rather than putting in a virtual scoreboard for the event, we thought it would be a good idea to have a paper one like we had before at the museum of childhood.
All of the game playing took place in the corridor outside of my studio, where I also had a NES set up and a few gameboys (to draw attention to my studio). I then had my studio set up to talk to people about my development process. Many parents ask me how their children can start making games now, so I often show then programs like Scratch, Game Maker and Game Salad.
I also got some badges and stickers made for the event that children could take away for free, displaying my logo and game background.
Other activities included making your own tops trumps style card game based on objects in the gallery. There was also digital game making workshops, building game environments and workshops by The Conductive Craft Company.
Due to the great reception I've had to the Strawberry Thief prototype, I have decided to develop it fully. I'm now going to write briefly about some of my ideas and design decisions.
When I first got selected for this role at the museum, I already had an idea of the kind of objects I would be working from. I loved the iconic court dress in the rococo room, and was fascinated by the wood carvings of Grinling Gibbons. However, after about a month of exploring the galleries, it was the strawberry thief pattern that I wanted to base a game on. I'm happy that I picked a Morris' object, as he was very involved with the museum. Morris helped acquire objects for the museum, studied there, and was commissioned to design the V&A's dining room, which was the world's first museum cafe. His patterns are also heavily featured in the V&A Shop, covering tea towels, notebooks and more.
With my last game Tick Tock Toys, I started the design process by thinking about the mechanics first, and the context and visuals later. With this game however, my starting point was a existing piece of artwork. My main motivations and ideas for this game was to bring the pattern to life. My first thoughts were to take control of one of the birds, and to have the background repeating (to emphasise that its a repeating pattern that is used for furniture and wallpapers). Through various experiments, the idea turned into a game genre called 'Shoot-em-ups' or 'Shmups' What I like about this project is that I'm kind of taking a game genre, which is known for being difficult and having sci-fi themes, and (hopefully) turning it into something more accessible to the V&A's audience.
The most famous types of Shmups are by the Japanese company CAVE. I tried looking at other more accessible shmups, and found a game made by students called Solace. I am hoping to have an orchestral soundtrack for my game, so it is interesting to see how this game has used music.
I have thoroughly play tested my small prototype with over 200 children by now, and have a good idea what I want to achieve with the game. I am now working on a game design document which will be used to communicate the game's content and mechanics to the team I will be working with in the summer. I will be sure to post the finished document on the blog, for students to look at. I am very excited to bring some of Morris' other patterns from the V&A into my game as different stages, and ideas for power-ups and enemies.
Recently, we decided to mix things up and hold an open studio session in the V&A Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green.
I was based upstairs in the dollhouse section of the museum, with my sketchbook, notes, books I've been studying from and six iPads running my Strawberry Thief prototype. We also had a physical scoreboard, which really engaged the children.
Even though the game was a prototype with placeholder art, a few bugs and very last minute touch-screen controls, the response was overwhelmingly positive! Most of the children were very engaged with the game - some playing it for half an hour! A lot of parents likes the game too, and found making a game based on existing art fascinating.
The event was successful, with over 60 children playing my prototype. At this time, I was having a dilemma over whether to continue developing my Strawberry Thief game, or to work on my William Morris / Alice in Wonderland inspired adventure game.
I decided in the end to carry on with Strawberry Thief. The children at the Museum of Childhood gave me some great ideas how to expand the game. Not to mention my idea was briefly mentioned in my interview with the Evening Standard, which was great exposure. Also, I was worried that my other game idea would be too big of a project to make now, but I want to keep working on it after my residency and complete the game in future. Here are a few early sketches of the project. The idea was to play as a young victorian-era girl who helps out various animals which are found in William Morris prints. It would be similar to games like Banjo Kazooie, and perhaps Animal Crossing. I collaborated with Kristian Francis on the level designs, who created the levels for Tick Tock Toys.
I finally got around to visiting the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow last week to learn more about Morris' life and craft. The gallery was impressive and even won Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2013. There are roughly 10,00 objects in the museum, organised thematically to make understanding his work easier. For example, there are gallery about his early life, the arts and craft movement, skills and practices and so on, making it very easy to find exactly what I wanted to know.
For this trip, I booked in advance a research visit, which gave me access to the learning and research centre on the top floor. This allowed me to work with the museum staff to get the ideal books and materials for my project. Looking through the books and documents was extremely helpful, as I studied what influenced Morris, books he had written himself and even what plants he added to his patterns, and grew in his garden at the Red House.