April 20, 2017 Student Spotlight: Bestiary
Brandon Evans

I have a college degree in game design and have worked in the industry for about 7 years, so I’m no stranger to game development. As a designer, I love dreaming up new ideas or twists on old game concepts. If I get really excited, I’ll mock them up or write design docs. In the past, I’d take these to coworkers or friends and bug them to help me make a prototype. Or worse, they’d just sit on my hard drive, gathering dust. This is what led to my interest in Unity.

There are tons of tutorials and learning resources for Unity online, so I figured I could teach myself. I’d done it with so many other programs. Unfortunately, I kept hitting major frustrations and roadblocks in Unity. There’s a limit to what you can brute-force or google your way around. Feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, I decided to give the Playcrafting classes a go. It turns out that this was exactly what I needed.

The classes helped me get over those first few-hundred hurdles. Having a real life instructor and other people learning alongside you is an indispensable resource. When I’d hit roadblocks, I could reach out to my classmates or our instructor, Eli, for help. I never felt embarrassed or stupid asking questions. We were all learning together. By the end of class I felt much more capable and comfortable developing in Unity. Now I’m confident enough to actually build and release games on my own.

Splash screen for my final project

My final project in the class was a game called Bestiary. It’s a weird game to describe. One part tamagotchi, and one part Pokemon. The idea is that you attract a variety of beasts to you using food and other lures. Instead of catching or fighting or taming the beasts, you investigate and learn about them. As you learn about the beasts, you’re slowly completing a compendium (your Bestiary). It’s kind of like you’re Charles Darwin or Jane Goodall, but with magical beasts.

I started development with just the basics. I wanted to be able to put out food and have beasts show up to eat it. This is a real time game, so I also needed to be getting the actual time of day and making calculations based on that. Luckily, Unity makes all of that pretty easy, so I got a very basic prototype working in like 2 days.

This is a very early version of the game working

After I had worked out the basics, I went back to one of my old mockups (from years ago) and started to import the artwork. Admittedly, this was all done long before class, so I had a small advantage there. Importing the sprites and getting the animations to work were pretty easy.

A little artwork goes a long way

Next, I started implementing some basic UI, so users could investigate the beasts and then see the info they’d gathered. Through playtesting, I learned that I should probably add some sort of guidance for players as well. The easiest way for me to do that was to slap some text in the middle of the screen that would let players know what they should be doing next.

I may have gone a little crazy with my particle effects

You’ll also notice that I started messing with particle effects. Unity’s particle tools are AWESOME. I was able to get a wide variety of effects with just a little tinkering. They’re also very performant, so I didn’t have to worry about them blowing up smartphones.

By the end of class, I was able to get a web and mobile version of the game up and running. I improved the menus a little and added some more creatures. I also started working on adding new features, which I’ll be excited to show off in the next few weeks.

Here’s what the game looks like currently

As you can see, the game has come a long way in the few short weeks I’ve been working on it. I could have never gotten this far if it weren’t for the Playcrafting class. I just recently showed my game off at the Playcrafting Spring Expo, and intend to keep working on it. It should be done no later than August.

There’s a working version of the game up at bestiary-game.com but the browser is a horrible platform for this game. If you’d like to try the phone app, reach out to me on twitter @loxmythart (https://twitter.com/loxmythart)

If you’re curious about me or my other work, you can visit my website.

Quick Questions

1. How did you get into games?

I spent a lot of time as a child playing board games and card games. Then at some point my parents got an NES and it was over. That changed my life. The possibilities for games seemed limitless.

2. You’re part of the first manned mission to Mars! You’ll be gone for 5 years and can only bring 3 games to play alone or with your 3 fellow astronauts. What are they?

Is D&D a cop out? It would engage my creativity and is infinitely replayable. Maybe some chess too (I’m thinking longevity). Number 3 would be the mobile masterpiece Threes!

3. What would be your dream game to build?

Well I always said I wanted to make a game that was purely about exploration, but then Nintendo went and made it with the newest Zelda. So I don’t know anymore. Probably something that had to do with building. I’m really into those Primitive Technology youtube videos, so maybe something about surviving out in nature. But not like Rust or Ark. I’d focus more the actual construction of your tools and structures.

4. What do you love best about the game community in SF?

SF has a high density of skilled and talented people. Especially in the tech realm. It’s inspiring to see my peers work and create new things.

5. Choose 5 words to describe your experience making games so far.

How about 5 emoji? ????????????????????