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IGF Student Showcase Q&A: Level 11 Games (Goliath)

February 9, 2006
 

Introduction

In the run-up to the 2006 Independent Games Festival, which is held at Game Developers Conference 2006 in San Jose from March 20-24, 2006, Gamasutra is showcasing a number of the IGF finalists in different categories. As part of a series of Gamasutra Education-exclusive articles, we profile the 2006 IGF Student Showcase winners by interviewing them about their award-winning titles, which will be playable at the IGF Pavilion at GDC this March.

The second interviewee for this feature is the Level 11 Games team from the Media Design School in Auckland, New Zealand, who successfully won one of the places in the Student Middleware Category with their RenderWare graphics engine powered title Goliath, described as follows in the students' entry form:

"Goliath is a team-based vehicle action game. The player takes on the role of one of 16 human or AI controlled vehicles known as the Road Warriors defending a world under siege from an enormous and seemingly indestructible tank known as the Goliath."


Level 11's impressive-looking Goliath

Gamasutra chatted to the Goliath team about their background, the concept behind their game, and their plans for the future, as follows:

GS: What's the concept behind your IGF Student Showcase winning game, and give us an outline of the team that's behind it?

First and foremost we wanted to make a game that we would enjoy playing. We all enjoyed multiplayer games and decided it would be good to do a game where single player missions could be played cooperatively by more than just one or 2 people. The other key concept we decided on for Goliath was many small vehicles fighting one large enemy with greatly superior firepower. This was inspired by a tabletop game called Ogre by Steve Jackson. We decided to go with a post apocalyptic setting, pitting a team of Road Warriors against the Goliath battle tank.

The development team consisted of five artists and seven programmers some of whom shared dual responsibilities helping manage the project.

Project Manager

  •  
    • Phillip Mayes

Lead Designer

  •  
    • Stephen Harris

Level Design

  •  
    • Stephen Harris
    • Rob Haines

Programming

  •  
    • Cameron Hart [Lead]
    • Robert Green
    • Stephen Harris
    • Phillip Mayes
    • Darius Molloy
    • Stephen McIntyre
    • Daniel Silk

Art

  •  
    • Rob Haines [Lead]
    • Nikolai Gregory
    • Xian Guan
    • Karl Lodge
    • Gordon Smith

We were also lucky to have many high calibre industry experts as tutors so special mention goes to Robert Daly, Richard Hicks, Will Vale & Todd Gantzler who were involved during the development of Goliath. Thanks also to the many others who taught and supported us during our course.

GS: Tell us a little bit about the school and school program which were behind
the game's genesis? Was this part of a course or final project? What kind of
degree program did it count towards?

Goliath was developed for the final project for the 2004/2005 Graduate Diploma of Game Development at Media Design School .

Media Design School , located in Auckland , New Zealand , is a private tertiary institute specialising in undergraduate and graduate qualifications in 3D animation, 3D visualisation, visual effects, graphic design, digital media, creative advertising, and creative technologies as well as game development.

The Graduate Diploma of Game Development is a 64 week program with specialisations in Game Art or Game Programming. It is the first time a course of its kind has been taught in New Zealand.

GS: How long did development on the game take and what tools did you use to create it?

The development time was a bit over 6 months in total. We spent the first month in pre-production - that is coming up with a game design and technical design documents and a production schedule. We spent the next five months producing the game.

We used a number of game development middleware products to create Goliath, allowing us to focus on our game rather than the underlying technology. We chose RenderWare Graphics, ODE, FMOD, RakNet and Lua middleware packages.

Our development environment for programming was Visual Studio .Net 2003.

The artists used Photoshop, Maya, Flash and some custom built tools for level editing and particle effects.

GS: What was the all-time best and all-time worst moment that you encountered
during the game's creation?

 There were a lot of good moments seeing things working in the game for the first time. However the most fun would have to be the team multiplayer games of Goliath towards the end of the project. We also noticed that it can be fun to just ignore Goliath and play death match while the world collapses around you.

The worst moment was realising it probably would have been a good idea to test multiplayer earlier. The first time we tried with more than about 4 players the network lag broke physics and all the land based vehicles suddenly started floating gently off into space. This happened far too close to the final deadline for our liking.


Some extra Goliath

GS: Do you (yet) have any success stories or positive experience based on showing the student game to people in the game industry (praise, actually getting a job in the biz, etc)?

The final project of our course was marked by an industry panel and was graded very highly. We took Goliath to the Australian Game Developers Conference where we received a lot of positive feedback from conference attendees. We've also received a great response to the game through our website.

Several members of the team now have jobs working for local game developers in New Zealand and Australia .

GS: What are the most important things that student games should be showing off, in terms of both getting high marks in your courses and impressing potential employers?

Our most important goal was producing something very polished. To achieve this we decided to focus on creating a single playable level that demonstrated the key features of our game design rather than attempting to build an entire game.

During the pre-production phase of the project we came up with a very tightly scoped design document and production schedule. Any feature that wasn't core to our game design's key concepts was not included in the demo. Once we finalised our design and started production we didn't allow any unnecessary changes to the design. We had a running joke during the project forbidding anyone from starting a sentence “Wouldn't it be cool if...”

The key is deciding early on what makes your game different and focus on that.

GS: Have you tried any of the other Student Showcase finalists? If so, which
ones did you especially appreciate, and why?


After looking through the other games one favourite that stood out was Narbacular Drop. The game play seemed fun and truly mind bending.

GS: Name one thing that people probably don't know about your game.

While only a limited amount of gameplay was ever made, a full game of 10+ levels was designed which also had a lot of other cool features. However due to time constraints we had to slim down our vision of the final game. As many of us are looking for opportunities to complete the game we cannot reveal Goliath’s final fate.

GS: Have you any other messages for your fellow Student Showcase winners?

Congratulations on all your hard work. We have first hand experience on how much effort can go into making a game up to standard for this competition. We hope you all had as much fun doing it as we did. Best of luck in your future endeavours.

_____________________________________________________


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