Welcome to the online portfolio of Game Designer Robert “Logan” Francis. To learn about what I’ve been doing click here. To see a few of my random musings, check below.
Project Update 4
It’s been a an endeavor of love to develop Astronomicon. This particular game development cycle has been the most challenging I have ever faced due to the massive scale of the project, but the team continues to work on what we believe to be a genuinely unique take on the sci-fi horror genre.
Project Update 3
Designing and implementing levels in Unreal Engine 4 has lead me to appreciate all of the improvements they have made. Whether it be the preview lighting settings or just the improvements they have made to additive and subtractive brushes, it has all made my work flow become much, much faster. This can be particular important when I want to quickly test if the environmental storytelling I have incorporated into the lighting and asset placement is accurate. Our new project has quickly shaped into the most ambitious thing I have ever created as I am constantly having to iterate on the different areas for playability and storytelling. Environmental storytelling is a concept I am trying to stress immensely throughout my work due to the type of game being made. It is unlike anything I have created before.
Play Striking Aeternus
Below is the link to my latest finished game, Striking Aeternus. Striking Aeternus was made using UDK with a small team and I hope you enjoy the unique puzzle gameplay we showcased throughout the game. Keep checking back to see what I’m up to as I am heads down into my teams next project now using UE4. Download Striking Aeternus
Project Update 2
Space, the final frontier.
Project Update 1
I recently have started full preproduction on a new project with a small development team. Currently, we are working toward prototyping all of our games main mechanics and getting the base playability of the game in place, as well as blocking out several of the levels. This project is a big departure from some of my previous work and I am excited for all the challenges that lie ahead. I can’t wait to share more as we move further into the games development!
The process I have been going through lately is one that many designers must deal with on every project that is made. Not every idea is a good idea. Sometimes these ideas may sound good, but ultimately don’t work out when applied during prototyping. I can’t count how many ideas for levels, concepts, and game mechanics I have junked because the idea ultimately wasn’t as enjoyable once prototyped. It may take hundreds of attempts before you have an idea worth displaying to the world. Do not be afraid to abandon concepts when necessary!
UDK It’s Been Fun
The unreal developer kit has been my primary way of building games for many years now, but just like with everything else there comes a time to say good bye. With the recent release of UE4 I decided that it was time to move one and have diligently been working with the new engine for a few weeks now. I wanted to send UDK off with a picture of the last set piece I made using the engine. I call this one Water Flows and plan to continue with the theme in UE4.
Something that I feel I have wanted to say for awhile focuses on the layoffs that many game studios have been having over the last few months. Don’t get me wrong, hundreds of people being out of work is an extremely horrid event, but something I haven’t seen anyone talk about is how it affects those of us who are new to the industry. Having several hundred very talented game developers unwilling put on an over crowded job market is making it virtually impossible for newly graduates, like myself, to find a decent job. Again, I would like to reiterate that it is in no way the qualified developer’s fault, but the companies in which lay them off rather. I do not think trying to find a job at an established studio and fulfilling my life long passion/dream has ever been harder. How am I supposed to even stand out when hundreds of developers on the market have four times as much experience as me? Until then, I will continue working as hard as possible to create interesting designs to try and showcase my talents on the indie level because this something I believe is the only thing I have available, at the moment. This problem is something I hope solves itself with time, and hopefully no more shake ups in the market will derail my dream.
THE DESIGNER’S BLOCK
One of the most frustrating things I have started to run into on a regularly basis since graduating college is the inability to think of interesting designs in some of my current projects. I believe this is something that is very common in any artistic endeavor as “mining” for ideas can sometimes just not work. The biggest problem that I personally fight with is the lack of an inspiration for my work. Whenever I make something I always want it to be something that I am very passionate about, otherwise, what’s the point of making it at all? I guess you would say this is my second big hurdle that I have to try and cross since entering the indie game industry. Several exercises have helped me cope with this frustration and weirdly enough NOT thinking about design is what has lead to some of my greatest ideas lately. Inspiration can come from anywhere it mainly just depends on experiences that you see on a daily basis. Some days,when every idea that I brainstorm up is not up to the standards that I want it to be, will just get out of my office ASAP. In conclusion, finding experiences throughout everyday life is the biggest boost of inspiration out there so remember kids EXPERIENCE LIFE!
THE WOES OF INDIE GAME DEVELOPMENT
Recently the development of a new indie project I am involved in has started to move at an extremely slow pace. I guess one of the cruxes of small scale indie development is the lack of resources to use toward the beginning of the development process. When your team is very small, and communicating remotely, it is very easy to see many, or all members, get side tracked from the development of the game by other things. I’m sure this is an issue many people have when starting off on a new project, especially when you really don’t have anyone to answer to when it comes to deadlines. Hopefully, implementing a milestone schedule will help speed the process along, but you still run the risk of having people not take the time that is necessary to contribute in meaningful ways. Hopefully the pace will begin to quicken once we leap further into the prototyping phase.
Whenever I read things about how people got into the game industry there isn’t anything from the perspective of someone who has just started fighting to break through. So I decided to create this real-time journey mainly because I felt it would have been something I would have loved to had access to when I first decided to earn my degree in Game Design. Below is my origin story. I would like to start by giving an introduction to my background, and why I decided to pursue a job as a game designer. I am from a very small town in Oklahoma where people care more about farming than technology. My family is a pretty normal, middle-class, “Bible Belt” family that was fairly strict throughout my school years, I wasn’t even able to play games on the computer unless they were watching. Throughout high school I was the mysterious creature known as the “jocknerd” as my passion for sports, and video games, ruled over all that I did. So why would I ever consider becoming a game designer? I have always been a bonafide “gamer” even back to the days playing Wizards and Warriors on the NES at my grandma’s house, but I first came across my passion for game design when I was playing a video game called Habbo Hotel in middle school. I entered a really big room design contest centered around the theme of designing something inspired by PopTarts, and won the entire thing. From that point on I knew, not only did I love designing all things, but I was fairly good at it! My love of video games then fell to the back burner of normal “high school drama” until my sophomore year when I destroyed my knee playing football. Being in a cast for six months can be particularly boring so when my friend came to me one day and said, “You have no life now. We are going to buy you World of Warcraft,” I obliged. From the first time I started playing WoW I was hooked by, not only the brilliant world, but the ability to feel like you are making an actual impact within a game through prolonged character progression. I would go on to play WoW, on and off, for over five years thinking to myself, “I want to make something that impacts people’s lives as much as this game has mine.” After graduating high school, all of my friends went off to college, but I decided to take my academic career the only route I had available at the time, which involved earning my Game Design degree through Full Sail University. Doing this caused me to accept a lot of ridicule from friends and family as they were clueless as to what a game designer does. Countless times people have come up to me and said, “So are you going to work for Pixar?”, most of the time I just accept it, and walk away rather than try to explain the many differences between the two professions. This type of rift between people’s knowledge of animation and game design is something that has plagued me. A few times, I have told people I have a degree in computer sciences to avoid the frustrating conversation that would come when I say video game design, but the hope is with the growing market of game development those conversations will become easier as the years go by. Presently, I am in the phase that comes after earning a degree in this very competitive field. I am constantly working on projects whether it is just prototyping or creating levels to showcase in my portfolio.
Some Prototyping Fun
I experimented with a few interesting puzzle/game concepts in Perlenspiel a few months ago. For some reason I find puzzles that have dire consequences something worth exploring. In a few of the scenarios I prototyped I made the game start over from the beginning of the level, or even the entire game when the player messes up once! With the surging market for “Roguelike” games this type of hardcore end-state will become more common even in the most basic of games. I also had some fun developing a different puzzle concept in which your movement is impaired by certain objects allowing for the creation of unique obstacles.
Striking Aeternus Complete
I recently finished a four month long project that was one of the most ambitious undertakings I have ever done. The project, Striking Aeternus, was an undertaking by a team of 5 members, and centered around the mechanic of time shifting between two alternate periods to solve puzzles. Posted below is a puzzle in one of the final levels of the game. The player must find a way to keep the boat from getting smashed in the future by altering something in the past.
Past is displayed on top row. Future is displayed on bottom row.