I am a Game Designer – a Meta Reflection

Over the course of this year, I was tasked with researching and designing a game. It was a long and arduous process, and I came out of it with three lessons. 1. That Inspiration can come from unlikely places, 2. That making a game is a lot of work, and 3. games take time.

Inspiration can come from unlikely places
When I first started out this project, I was a little frustrated. I just didn’t know what I wanted this game to be about. The prompt asked me what is something important that I want other people to understand. The first thing that immediately popped into my mind was Christianity. but what exactly about Christianity, I did not know. First, I thought it could be about apologetics, but I found that to be too broad of a subject. But then, I started to draw upon experiences from my life and other things that were important to me. When I was younger, I lived in Taiwan, In High School, I read books about Christianity in China, and in College, I have started to take Chinese. All these things came together in my final theme of my board game, the persecution of Christians in China. From this, I learned that inspiration comes from unlikely places.

Making a game takes a lot of work
Even my smaller quest games that I made earlier in the year took a fair bit of work just to make. first, I had to make the Rules, then I had to design the board, and finally, I had to make sure everything was in place, like the pieces. The second one was my favorite game to make, since I had the rules all set in place, I just had to cut out all the pieces, and there were a lot of pieces. The work that I had to put into my final project was enormous, and it took a long time, and at some times, i felt rushed. that is how i learned that this is a lot of work. speaking of time…

Making a game takes time
during the final portion of my final project, At Risk: China, i felt very stressed for time. I should have spaced all the developing and the board making out more. i should have had a schedule planned for the entirety of this assignment. that is the biggest lesson of all this, in my opinion, is that you need to be prepared, and have a schedule. Having schedule will hellp you get work done and reduce stress. this will be very helpful in the future.

Scrap Garden: the Day Before Review

I really don’t like this game. Well, that’s done. short review. Alas as much as I just want to end it here, I have to explain why I do not like Scrap Garden: The Day Before. Scrap Garden: The Day Before is a free prequel/Demo for Scrap Garden, a Game on steam that costs money. If the intent of a demo is to show me what the full game will be like when I buy it and that is supposed to make me want to buy the full product, then I want nothing to do with a poorly done, crashing product. let’s just review this thing.

Story
The story of the game is that a bot, name C4N, known to his friends as Canny, is called one day on a TV and told that the city’s water supply base is malfunctioning and they can’t contact the engineer, so they contacted you to go find out what is going on. So begins your journey out you door, down the street, into the sewers, and into a cave to find out that the engineer was eaten by a giant naked mole rat. oh, spoilers. sorry. I don’t care. So it’s your job to defeat the giant Mole rat, and that’s the end of the prequel/demo. as far as stories go, it’s okay. nothing too extraordinary.
I give story 1/2.
Gameplay
There are two modes of gameplay in this game, outdoors and indoor. when you are indoors, which is where most of the game takes place, you control Canny from a side view, like a Super Mario Brother game. when indoors, the controls are fine. but where the main bulk of the problems with this game come is from the outdoors sections. When you are in outdoors sections, like the city and the cave with the mole rat, you move move with a third person camera control. The way it is implemented is the real problem, since when you move the camera, your character doesn’t move with you, and when you try to turn left or right, you instead turn and move in that direction at the same time, making positioning for a jump really annoying. Oh, and there’s platforming, in a floaty 3D platformer. Another thing you need to do in this game is collect screws and bolts, some of which you get from boxes. First off, someone thought it was a good idea to set the use key to “F”, not “E”, “F”. Why did they do that? I am not used to “F” being a use key, it seems unnatural to me. second, when you throw boxes bolts stay in place where you threw the box, sometimes clipping into the wall you threw them against. I myself haven’t come across a problem where i cant get a screw, but that seems a little weird having them clip inside the wall. they also just float there, sou if you threw it a little high, you are going to have to jump up to get those screws. this control scheme, i imagine, would get really weird when you go up against the naked mole rat. I say “imagined” since I haven’t gotten to that point because the platforming is a little floaty and, most importantly, the game keeps crashing on me. I have a brand new computer, too, so it makes me a little upset when a game crashes on it. repeatedly.
I give Gameplay a 0.5/2 needs work

Graphics
The Graphics and overall presentation of the game is nothing to write home about. it looks like they used pre-made assets to build the city, which is fine I guess. the robots, however, look nice, although a little simple. they all have a sort of cylindrical shape somewhere in their body, which makes calling one particular robot “canny” a little confusing. theres also some original art i have seen when it comes to a teenage mutant ninja turtle Easter egg. but ovrall everything does it’s job. nothing more.
I give Graphics a 1/2 standard

Sound
The sound in this game is okay too. robot noises with beeps and boops abound whenever they “talk”, although there are two people that talk in this game, the narrator, who has a nice voice, and the robot that calls you, who has a filter over his voice. there’s also some nice ambiance music. nothing special. also the sound that plays when you collect a screw is pleasent to my ears. that’s it.
I give Sound 1.5/2 okay

Fun
I didn’t really have fun with this game, mostly because it kept crashing on me. If it didn’t crash on me all the time, I would honestly say it was okay. Just okay. As far as replayability goes, I certainly had to replay it a lot of times, since it kept crashing on me, for whatever that is worth. I’d say if I got to the naked Mole Rat section and had to put up with it’s attacks with the controls I was given, I would think that I would not have enjoyed myself. I really don’t like being a downer, because I know someone or some people took time out of their lives to make this, and for me to say that I don’t like it, to me, says that I don’t what you did, or I don’t appreciate the time and effort it took for you to make this game. I truly wish this was a little better so I wouldn’t feel so bad about criticizing it. But the fact remains that this just isn’t a good game, and I did not have fun with it.
I give Fun a 0.5/2

Final Thoughts
Scrap Garden: The Day Before is, to me, a broken game that could be a lot better if it just fixed its controls and optimization. if you can get it running, I’d say you will be mildly amused by what you play, but overall, it is not something I want to return to. If this game is any indication of what the full product like, I don’t want anything to do with it.

I give Scrap Garden: The Day Before a 4.5/10

Pokemon Uranium Review

A word of warning: this review will be written by a long-time Pokemon fan. expect some things to not make sense
Pokemon Uranium is an unofficial and technically illegal Pokemon game. set in the region of Tandor, you embark on your quest to be a Pokemon master, to defeat 8 gym leaders and defeat the elite 4, and possibly collect them all. But as and unofficial Pokemon game, is it any good, as good, or better than current Pokemon games? let’s find out!

Story
unlike most Pokemon games, Pokemon Uranium starts out with a detailed story. after you select your name and genitals like you do at the start of every Pokemon game, you are dropped into a scene with your parents at a nuclear power plant. its just another day on the job, until someone comes in warning everyone that the power plant is going to go critical. Everyone then tries to get out, but your mom, goes in, trying to possibly soothe the reactor. but she fails and the whole reactor goes kaput. then the screen goes black and tells you how everyone dealt with the loss. Your dad dropped you off at your grandma’s house after drowning himself in his work. its a little sad and dark, at least compared to modern day Pokemon games. That’s when you start your Pokemon journey. continuing the motif of professors having plant names (Professor OAK, Professor ELM, Professor BIRCH, etc.) You receive your starter Pokemon from a Professor Bamb’o, which isn’t exactly bamboo, but it’s close enough. with your starter Pokemon under your belt, and after defeating your rival,(who chooses the weaker type this time), you are on your way to becoming a Pokemon Master. Sadly, i haven’t gotten far enough to write a proper review of the story,, so some questions i still don’t know the answer to. will you meet your dad? did your mom actually survive? you’ll find this out and more as you play through Pokemon Uranium
story gets a 2/2 standard Pokemon story

Gameplay
this section of the review is going to get very technical, as it delves deep into how has worked throughout the years. Pokemon Uranium plays like a standard Pokemon game, but takes bits and pieces from across the many Pokemon games. In the overworld, that it outside of battle, the game controls like pre Gen VI games(Pokemon X, Y, Omega Ruby, Alpha Sapphire), where your movement is grid-based and you can only move in the 4 cardinal directions.

The main heart of Pokemon games lies in the Pokemon battles. the battles have the same mechanics they usually do, as in you and your opponent take turns trying to knock out the opponent Pokemon, using moves to alter the battle in certain ways. along with the normal mechanics, this game adds a few new mechanics. This game also adds some new Pokemon, as you would expect from a fan-game, as well as some new evolutions to older Pokemon. The first example of a new evolution that comes to mind is Dunseraph, which is a new evolution of Dunsparce, who has never had an evolution.

Dunsparce
Dunseraph

One of the cooler things I like about this game is how it plays with tropes that have been common place in Pokemon games for years. the most obvious example is the starter Pokemon, Orchynx, Raptorch, and Eletux.

Orchynx
Raptorch, the one I Chose
Eletux

in every main-series Pokemon game, the Starter Pokemon evolves 2 times, once at around a 15-18 level mark, and a second time for their final form at around the 36 level mark. I Pokemon Uranium, however, your Pokemon only evolves once at around the 27 level mark.

Metalynx
Archilles
Electuxo

I kind of like this change, but then they also have mega-evolutions. i find this kind of weird because, if you went to the trouble of designing a Mega-evolution for a Pokemon that only has 1 Evolution, why not just make that the permanent second Evolution? just a thought.

in terms of battles, Pokemon Uranium adds the Fairy type from Gen VI, as well as a whole new type, Nuclear type, which is very similar to shadow type in the Shadow Pokemon Games (Colosseum and XD) work, in that it is a sub-type whose moves are super-effective on ordinary Pokemon, but not so good at their own type and Steel types. since most Nuclear Pokemon are corrupted and acts more like a sub-type, They have the same weaknesses as their other type they already have. another addition to this game is Mega-Evolutions, Which was also introduced in Gen IV. at any point of a battle, you may mega evolve a Pokemon whose Mega-Evolution stone you have already. This mega-evolution gives the Pokemon stat increases, may change it’s type, and last for the duration of the battle.
Other than that, there isn’t very many other additions to the Pokemon Battle system, which is still fun to me and veteran Pokemon Fans
Gameplay gets a 2/2 still good, with a couple new additions.

Graphics
the Presentation in this game is uses a combination of the look of a couple of Pokemon Games. The overworld and GUI looks like a Gen V game (Pokemon Black and White, Black 2 and White 2) without all the fancy 3-d effects, which makes this game feel like a better looking Gen III game (Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, Fire Red, Leaf Green), which was on the Game boy advance. Many of the assets were taken or copied over from the Gen V games, such as the sprites and sound-effects. another thing that adds to the Game boy feel of this game is the fact that the Pokemon sprites don’t move at all, not when they enter battle, not during battle, nothing. this is similar to how they acted in the the normal Gen III games. Speaking of Pokemon, The New Pokemon (or “Fakemon”, as the fandom calls them) Themselves, I will admit, don’t really look “Pokemon-esque” enough in-game to fit my tastes. The Pokemon look a lot better in their official art than they do in game, in my honest opinion. so, the graphics, i’d say, do their job, but i wish they were a little better
Graphics get a 1/2 good, but could be better.

Sound
Like I think I said in my Metroid Prime Review, I’m not really a music guy. That being said, I think I should comment on the music. i have not played the whole game, so I cannot really speak for the quality of the game’s music as a whole, but I will say that from what I have listened to, it is pretty good. It does help that alot of the music is mashups of other Pokemon game music. I also detected similar motifs in some towns or cities to other Pokemon games. Special mention goes to Kevlar Town’s music, which reminds me so much of Agate Village’s music, a town which is in one of my favorite Pokemon games. Similar to how the game looks like a Gen V game, it also sounds like one too. some of the sound effects, like the menu opening sound, are taken directly from Black and White.
Some of the few complaints i have with this game, unfortunately have to do with it’s sound. First off, there are the Pokemon cries. Pokemon make a unique sound whenever some kind of even happens that pertains to them, whether it be entering a battle, opening up its stat summary in your party menu. Having been a long time Pokemon fan, I can recognize a few Pokemon sounds that have been re-used for new Pokemon. the most obvious (obvious for a Pokemon fan, that is) example is Tonemy.
Tonemy is one of my least favorite Pokemon in this game for a lot of reasons. one of them is that it reuses Zubat’s cry. This whole game is brand new, an I would have appreciated it if they came up with new cries for all the new Pokemon, but some of them don’t gt that treatment. I get that Tonemy is supposed to be the annoying cave Pokemon like Zubat was, but I would have preferred a new sound all together.
another one of the problems i have with the sound is some of them are missing. It’s sort of a case of you don’t miss it till it’s gone. Whenever you heal a Pokemon with a Potion or an status healing item in a normal Pokemon game, it plays a little sound that confirms that you healed Pokemon. This sound is helpful to me, since I don’t rellly want to waste all my potions, so I know that I healed them, and wont accidently use up a item a second time. since this sound is missing, I feel a little awkward trying to heal my Pokemon, since I dont want to accidently use it a second time, or waste it on another Pokemon.
Overall the sound is Pretty good, it could use some work though.
Sound gets a 1.5/2

Fun
Overall, I am having fun with this game, like I would most other Pokemon games. However, I am kind of stuck right now. the next big battles I have t do are the second Gym. in place of one-type Specialty gyms, Tandor’s Gym Leaders follow a theme instead. The second Gym’s Theme is Caves, which have Rock-type, Ground-type, and Poison Type. Rock and Ground-Type aren’t really an issue for me, but what is an issue is the Poison types. Poison-types 2 main weaknesses are ground and psychic. however, the main poison type in this gym, Tonemy, Has the ability Levitate, which makes ground type moves ineffective. since my ground types are out of the picture when fighting Tonemy, my best bet would be to use a Psychic type. however, there doesn’t seem to be any psychic types around. however this just seems like a personal problem.
On the subject of Replay-ability, like all Pokemon games, Pokemon Uranium is very Re-playable. go back, see what you can do better, and catch them all if you can.
That’s how these games work.
I give the Fun a 2/2
Final Thoughts
Pokemon Uranium is a standard Pokemon game, that has a few twists on the formula. if you area a veteran pokemon player and are looking for a good time, i would definitley recommend Pokemon Uranium
I give Pokemon Uranium a 8.5/10 a great game

Game Design Log Phase 4

Game Content Scouting Process
The reason I chose persecution of Christians in China as the theme of the board game is because it touches upon two things that are very important to my life, Chinese and Christianity. I have grown up as a Christian in a Christian household, and in my high school years, I attended a Christian school. Earlier in my life, when I was 4, I lived in Taiwan, an island off the coast of mainland China. What little I remember of those years, I remember them fondly. Once I was asked to design a game based on something important, I decided to design a game based on these two themes put together, Ministry and China. The theme that draws these two together is persecution. I was already quite aware of the persecution that happened (and is still happening) in china thanks to a book called The Heavenly Man. It included examples of raiding House Churches, tearing down crosses, and arresting and imprisoning people just for not conforming to the Three Self Church, the “official” Christian Church in China. My research for this game largely consisted of looking for examples of persecution today on the internet. I used mainstream news sources, such as the BBC and Time, as well as sources whose specialty is on persecution, like Open Doors and China Aid, a “non-profit, Christian human rights organization committed to promoting religious freedom and rule of law in China.” Also, because of the nature of my game, I needed to know the Provinces of china, so I had to look those up as well.

Game Content
The main thing I want players to learn from this game is that even in our modern era, a superpower like China still persecutes and restricts people based on their faith. The very existence of this game, to me, is like a starting point for a conversation. “Do you want to play this game?” “What is it about?” “It’s about religious persecution in China.” “There’s still religious persecution in China?” and so on. Also in the game are bonus cards that sort of show some of the human rights abuses that the Chinese government has inflicted upon its people of faith. Tearing down church crosses, turning an area next to a church into a dump, restricting what can be taught about the Christian faith, like the Resurrection. Through this, I want players to realize a couple of things. 1) how lucky they are to live in a country with religious freedom, 2) that persecution still goes on, and 3) I want people to ask themselves what they are going to do, now armed with this new information.

Game Design Process
From day 1 was very hostile towards the idea of making a game. the idea of making a game was not the problem. If I could make any old game I wanted, I’d pour so much time and effort into the world of lantavia, where the knights of Arcus must protect the King from the invading mushroom people. Of course, that wasn’t the assignment at hand. the assignment was to create a game that would make the player understand something. I thought that was kind of dumb. In my blog, I wrote about my thoughts at the time “’why does my game have to be about something? lots of games aren’t really about anything.’” But I ate some humble pie and then considered the prompts given to me by experts who clearly know what they’re doing, or they wouldn’t be teaching. The very first prompt was the most important one, since once I figured that one out, the rest just fell into place. “What are you passionate about?” The answer to this question took 3 tries. My first answer was apologetics, that is the defense of the Christian faith. I was having a hard time coming up with any game mechanics for that so I decided to move on to a topic a lot more fun, Power Rangers. That certainly answered the first prompt but another prompt got in the way of me making my super cool Power Rangers game. “What do I want people to understand?” my flimsy answer to that prompt was “I want people to understand why power rangers makes me happy.” Once I was told by my professor that, I’m paraphrasing, “that’s too vague”, I then settled on a combination of two things that matter a lot to me, Christianity and China. It was even better since I’m taking Chinese right now. Once I decided on that I needed a game. So, I decided to remake Risk in the image of China, since I found a good parallel between world domination and trying to suppress a religion.
You can read my design logs at my site

Game Mechanics
My game is essentially 2 player risk, with attacking, defending, building up Churches, fortifying your positions mostly the same. I also swapped out the territories for the provinces of China. I decided to use the game Risk as a base I fell that the theme of conquering the world by defeating your enemies and trying to destroy or co-opt Christianity in your country parallel quite nicely. I also wanted the communists and the Christians as opposing forces to highlight the fact that the two ideologies are at odds with each other. If they weren’t, the Christians would not be persecuted in the first place. While playtesting, I realized I had no way of incorporating what I learned about what the Chinese officials to suppress Christianity into the game. since I also did not want just a straight up rip-off of risk, I decided to add some new cards into the mix. These cards would either be a hindrance or a help to the person who played them. These cards would either show the power of the church, or it would show what the governing body does to restrict access to and the expression of faith. the colors of the pieces also have a meaning. Red represents the communist party, since its red, which is the color the communist party uses the most. The yellow represents the Christians, since I see yellow as a color of light. I tried to incorporate an element of surprise into the game through the aforementioned bonus cards.

Play Testing Reflection
My first play test for my game was a little weird. I asked my Dad to play with me, but he clearly wanted to just wanted to watch the game that was on Television. We played the game, but dad was really mostly there to remind me of the rules of original risk, since at the time, it was still only a carbon copy of risk. During this play test, I mainly focused on the 3 main parts of normal risk, which were getting troops, attacking and fortifying my position, since that is the fun part of Risk. It was during this play session I noticed that there was no way of incorporating the things I learned about the Communist party’s tactics into the game. that’s when I decided to come up with bonus cards that would either hinder or help you. I also decided to change the way you gain troops, since the number of pieces was a concern to me. So for my second playtest, I made sure the we focused on getting the bonus cards. In all honesty, the game played like a fairly standard game of risk.
My second round of play testing did not go so well. I realized I needed to add a few things to the rules. For one thing, I forgot to include a better system of how to get more troops. You put one of your pieces in each territory, taking turns till all the pieces are filled. Then every turn, you divide the number of provinces you have by three. That’s the number of new pieces you get. I also narrowed down my focus on what it is I am representing when I am playing with the pieces. The yellow pieces represent churches being built up and torn down. When you are attacking as the yellow side, you are really converting and putting up new churches in regions. With that, my play testing was done and now I can present it for play for you today.

Game Design Log Phase 3

Play Testing Reflection
My first play test for my game was a little weird. I asked my Dad to play with me, but he clearly wanted to just wanted to watch the game that was on Television. We played the game, but dad was really mostly there to remind me of the rules of original risk, since at the time, it was still only a carbon copy of risk. During this play test, I mainly focused on the 3 main parts of normal risk, which were getting troops, attacking and fortifying my position, since that is the fun part of Risk. It was during this play session I noticed that there was no way of incorporating the things I learned about the Communist party’s tactics into the game. that’s when I decided to come up with bonus cards that would either hinder or help you. I also decided to change the way you gain troops, since the number of pieces was a concern to me. So for my second playtest, I made sure the we focused on getting the bonus cards. In all honesty, the game played like a fairly standard game of risk.
My second round of play testing did not go so well. I realized I needed to add a few things to the rules. For one thing, I forgot to include a better system of how to get more troops. You put one of your pieces in each territory, taking turns till all the pieces are filled. Then every turn, you divide the number of provinces you have by three. That’s the number of new pieces you get. I also narrowed down my focus on what it is I am representing when I am playing with the pieces. The yellow pieces represent churches being built up and torn down. When you are attacking as the yellow side, you are really converting and putting up new churches in regions. With that, my play testing was done and now I can present it for play for you today.