Transmedia Excellence with an iconic property!
In late 2010, I had the pleasure of working with a local Atlanta-based animation production studio called Primal Screen. Their work is known around the world, having created properties and content for studios like Sesame Workshop, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network, to name a few. This project was a delight, because the quality bar was so high and the team was very driven!
For this project, I was tasked with developing the side-scrolling gameplay portions of a "transmedia" experience for The Electric Company, a timeless and popular kid's program on PBS here in the Unitest States. I served as the lead gameplay developer for a period of seven months.
For gameplay we strove to create compelling sandbox environments for the player to simply have fun in. I wanted them to bounce around, pick up things, swing around, flick switches and have doors open, etc. We needed a system that would do all of these things in more in a way that was stable.
WHAT I'M MOST PROUD OF ON THIS PROJECT
Never Compromise Creative Quality
One of the core tenets of my work with Primal Screen on this project was that I would endeavor to never place any limitations on the creative team to change the manner in which they produced content. This created a significant challenge as the studio was accustomed to creating television and film production animation which could be rendered out over many hours. I had to develop systems that would bake down slightly similar elements into bitmap-based caches due to the complexity and variety of vector-based shapes provided. Throughout the project, I would receive levels that ran at 15fps. I would optimize performance and our pipeline and return the level running at 30fps. Each time I raised the framerate, the content team raised the bar on visual fidelity. Over the 7 month development period, I was always able to find solutions that eeked out better gains and performance. The end-result was a fluid gameplay experience that never dropped frames.
After initial research, we used the World Construction Kit to facilitate our game wants and needs. This SDK proved to be a great choice as we were able to interactively layout our levels without the need to build our own level editor from scratch. This choice enabled us to meet our deadlines and still focus on creating unique content and engaging game systems. The project was developed in the Actionscript 3 (AS3) language and we employed heavily the use of the Flash IDE and it's JSFL Tools, and Flash Builder.
Key Systems for the game's implementation that I developed include:
- Custom Collision Tool - Designers could express a level's collision in vector format and, using a tool that I built that implemented an ear clipping algorithm, this information would be exported into collision data usable in our physics engine.
- Custom Bitmap caching system - Allowed design team to work in vector format and still get many of the performance benefits afforded to a Bitmap based system
- Trigger System - Created a system that allowed us to create interactions between components (e.g. a key opens a door, a remote turns off a device) that helped to enrich and connect the world as a more whole experience
- Custom Cinematic Camera System - Using the Trigger system, the game could pause and move the game camera across the level in order to highlight and interact with objects, characters, etc. in other areas of the game level. This was great for giving overviews and better context to the game experience, not to mention showcase the vast levels Primal Screen had created.
- Character caching system - Utilized and modified existing Flash API to take a completely custom character with more than 100 frames of animation, custom accessories, colors, etc. and render it to a sequence of flat images for fast drawing to the screen.
Client – Primal Screen, The Electric Company (Sesame Workshop)
Roles – Lead Gameplay Developer, Technical Artist
Platforms – Flash, Web Browser
Plays – Millions
World Construction Kit (WCK)
PBSKids.org Engagement – After game launch, average time on site dramatically increased by 900% to 28 minutes per user.
Total Visits To PBSKids.org – After launch of episodes and game experience, PBSKids.org saw a traffic increase from 31,000 to 3.2 million, an increase of 1000%!