Brains Eden (2018)

As of 4PM Monday 16th July, I’ve concluded my first game jam! Four team members and I headed down to Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge for 3 nights to take part in the Brains Eden Gaming Festival and game jam. With the set theme of “unreliable”, we set to work on an approximately 30-hour build spread across Friday afternoon, most of Saturday, and Sunday morning to afternoon.

It all started with waking up half 4AM on Friday morning to make the meet up with two of the three other team members needing to go by car at 6AM. It took about 4 hours to get from Treforest to Cambridge. We picked up the fourth on the way, and meet up with the fifth there. Once we got there and checked in, we sat in talks from the COO of Frontier Developments, a successful interned employee of Ubisoft Massive, and a veteran Brains Eden jammer. I took away the aim to innovate with a social game and a no-word story, and that I most of all needed to have fun! When the jam started at 4PM that day, we spent about two or three hours spinning ideas and planning. We were mostly tired from the early start, but we had some good ideas. We first tried a pirate ship idea where players could form a crew on a ship midbattle. The game was to be online multiplayer based with tense action, fulfilling the social aspect of our aims. We had to abandon the idea due to Unity engine networking being blocked by the campus firewall, and we realised the entire idea wasn’t refined enough anyway. After about another hour of planning, we eventually formed the current idea.

“Fistful of ‘Nanas” is a Western-style multiplayer game – you play as a monkey about duke it out over a barrel of bananas. To satisfy the social aim, we tried to innovate by not having any of the players know which monkey they and the rest of the players are, but make it have incentives for the players to try and communicate through a limited medium. The game is played with Nintendo Joy-Cons, so we made it so you can press the +/- button to find out which monkey you are by making the controller vibrate your player number in an interval pattern. Then to communicate with the other players to either propose alliances or confuse them, you can use the analog stick to ‘nudge’ other players.

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Fistful of ‘Nanas opening screen, showing the map you play on, the barrel of bananas you fight over, and the general art style we were able to pull off considering the team was entirely made of programmers.

The monkeys were seen in game in a clockwise circle around the barrel that corresponded to players 1 through 4. The four ‘normal’ buttons on the controller are then used to select your target. Once everyone has selected (you can tell who doesn’t by seeing which player does not have a banana over their head), the game will reveal who shot who, show who died, and who won the round (shown by victory dances that include twerking)! Whilst the game did not win us any prizes on the last day there, it will be a good portfolio piece, and the stress and enjoyment of developing the game in a limited amount of time will be a fond memory and valuable experience for years to come!

Other notable things about our time in Cambridge include the after-party at the Centre for Computing History (sunday), and the final day’s (monday) talks from Frontier Developments, ARM, and HyperX. The Centre for Computing History was amazing! Having a soft-spot for older machines made the place feel like a dream home, and the free pizza and drinks provided by the Brains Eden! Below are some of my favourite picks from the place!

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Other than some misfortunes with my teammate’s car back in Treforest, the entire time there was just about the best experience I have had in a long time! I deffo hope to make a return next year! Thanks to Brains Eden and Anglia Ruskin University for setting up and hosting such a wonderful event, thanks to our lecturer Dr. Mike Reddy for getting the band together and taking us, and thanks to the teammates (Jack Smerdon, Jake Passmore, Nicky Jones, and Steven Sparkes) for the collective effort and the bants we had!

Also, the game will be on my portfolio (http://khalidali.co.uk/fon) soon so you can read more details and see more images of it. I aim to have the page ready by the end of the week.

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My first original ship

15th October.

That’s the date my Star Trek-themed website will be fully launched and online. As that day approaches, I will be continuing to refine the website’s design and adding launch content. Today, I am currently working on my first original ship design for the website. But before we get into that, I think it is about time I brief what this website is all about.

“Starfleet’s Path to 2265” is as nerdy as it sounds. It is mainly a creative written piece on the subjective fictional history of starships belonging to Earth and Federation design. It’s based around the Star Trek’s prime universe and conforms to canon (mostly). My biggest intention is to fill in the blanks in the timeline between Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Enterprise. Over a year ago, I wrote a small piece about SQL and PHP (In the deep end: MySQL & PHP) that demonstrated an older project called the “Federation Starship Database”. It is kind of like a continuation of that with a refined goal and scope. Pre-TOS and TOS ships are my favourite from Star Trek, and this website is dedicated towards them.

Now, the ship design.

This first of many starship designs I am creating is an early explorer of the United Earth Space Probe Agency, SS Voyager (UESPA-9). I have designed and written the ship to be an early ambitious failure – a complex deep space explorer design in a period of Earth’s history where it is still suffering from the effects of a World War. A recipe for disaster. The design is largely based on a successful canon design from the same period, SS Conestoga (which I have given the registry of UESPA-8).

SS_Conestoga
The canon SSĀ Conestoga, the ship my design is largely based on. Image from Memory Alpha, used under Fair Use.

In order to explain my process, I have briefly documented the design process here. The first thing I did was sketch up some small low detail forms for the ship based on a few well-known references from the same period (SS Valiant of 2065, SS Conestoga of 2067 and DY-500-class of 2076).

uespa9_stage_1

I found that the last form I did was the one I liked the most, as well as the most unique. So I took that form, refined the details, and did some basic annotations on the design.

uespa9_stage_2
Correction: the size measurements should read “145 (length) x 20 (width) x 30 (draft), 50,000 metric tonnes”. In hindsight, the width is far too small anyway and should logically be around 50 to 60 metres.

I then roughly recreated the form on a CAD software (I use TechSoft’s 2D Design V2) so that the design would be confined to a proper scale. I then made a copy of the form and revised the layout of the ship to better suit the length and draft I specified in my annotated drawing (although my specified width of 20 metres will likely cause problems and I am now presuming the width to be around 50 to 60 metres to accommodate the “wing” span of the nacelle pylons).

uespa9_stage_3

Finally, I produced a colourised detail basic render of the ship as a current progress preview for this blog post.

uespa9_stage_4

I hope to have this design completed by the end of the week, and it will be included in my next week’s blog update for the website. Have a good day!