A new beginning

Posted: February 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

Well, all good things come to an end at some point. If you read this blog and read gaming news sites, you might have heard that there was a major layoff at EA Salt Lake this past week. Unfortunately, me and many of my coworkers were laid off, many of whom were like family. However, as the adage goes, when one door closes, another (or two, or three) opens. 

I’m actively looking for work right now in Game Design here in Salt Lake and around the country. Let’s see where my next adventure takes me!

The Sims 3: Into the Future

This is the Launch Trailer for the game that I was on this past summer. It’s a fun expansion pack for The Sims 3, the 11th in fact! This was a wonderful project to be part of and I worked on tuning the bots in the game that you can program as a player with various personalities. Pick it up on Origin!

Link  —  Posted: October 22, 2013 in Uncategorized
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The Sims 3: Into the Future Expansion Pack

I haven’t updated my blog very much these past few months, because I’ve been pretty busy with this awesome project that I’m on! The game releases on October 22nd, 2013. Pre-order it today! 😉 It’s been a great experience where I’ve learned more about the process of working on a large team, tuning gameplay, and working on an established franchise.

Link  —  Posted: September 16, 2013 in Uncategorized
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So, this happened…

Posted: June 24, 2013 in Life & Beyond

I am now an employee at Maxis for Electronic Arts Salt Lake. I am an assistant game designer and part of The Sims 3 team. Needless to say, I’m excited, honored, and humbled to now be part of a franchise that was so important to me as a young queer teenager. The Sims allowed me to create happily married same sex couples, and to a kid in a Christian School at the time, the game meant the world to me and showed me that the vitriol preached by my school was wrong. I am incredibly happy to be part of this franchises’ legacy.

Here’s to new opportunities and the beginning of an exciting career!

*Drumroll*

Posted: April 25, 2013 in Uncategorized
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ZODIAC IS MOBILE!

….that is all. 😉 More to come soon.

Updated Zodiac Extended Trailer

Posted: April 4, 2013 in Kinect, MGS

Here’s an extended trailer for Race of the Zodiac!

Zodiac Teaser – March 2013 from Brandon Karratti on Vimeo.

Zodiac Updates, My Hopes for it, and Reality

Posted: February 26, 2013 in MGS

A few weeks ago we had a feedback session on our game’s current state and we’ve laid out some plans on the feedback received. Some of the session notes are below and I’ll include our responses to them and plan of action.

A child will have difficulty processing the information in the game quick enough to correctly play it (due in large part to the automation of the running). It’s a complicated thought process to have to switch to a different animal and then jump or steer away from an obstacle or collect coins- especially for children who will have a hard time even remembering what they should do.

Our response to this is that in all of our playtesting with kids, we haven’t seen this issue. When difficulty arises in switching the poses, it is when the poses themselves are difficult, like our old cat pose.

-I have no idea how this game is about the Chinese Zodiac- it could be called “Zoo Breakout” or “Animal Team Mountain Racing”. The game is too generic and hasn’t embraced the theme. 
-UNEXPECTED MOMENTS OF DELIGHT should be plentiful in a game for children.
-Reaching the finish line should feel much more rewarding than it does.
-The changing of the animal should feel like it’s magic…(vfx, sounds,etc.) Children will totally accept it (the fact that they are a tiger and then a bunny and then a ram) without being confused if it feels like magic.

We are addressing this by the inclusion of more art assets, such as story pages for the zodiac animals, 2D billboards with animals for the bushes, and an enhanced UI that gives more Zodiac tones. At the finish line, there will be fireworks, extra characters, etc. to give it more of a celebratory feel.

The majority of time in a Kinnect game should involve movement… it seems like there was a lot of “standing around” in this game.

Last semester, I had a LOT of obstacles and collectibles for players. However, I received feedback that there should be less in the game so that players have more time to catch their breath. It’s funny how these things go back and forth. When playtesting the other day with an EAE visitor, I noticed indeed that they stand around a lot. This means that I need to add more obstacles and collectibles to the level in order to find the perfect balance of movement and rest for players. I think I may go ahead and place collectibles immediately after turns to challenge players. I’ll jokingly refer to this game for hardcore players now with all the jumps and scrambling they’ll have to do.

-TIP: I think it would be great to automatically record the child playing the game and show it at the end of the game so the child can look at themselves playing and laugh about it.

We looked at this feature, and as much as we’d like to include it, we couldn’t get it in last semester and due to the fact that we don’t have any engineers on a regular basis anymore this is something we’ll just have to forgo in this build. 😥

There was a lot of other feedback, but these were some of the ones that we felt we could address quickly or found to be out of reach and quickly nixed. In addition, below are our priorities.

Need to Do:

1) Attach the particle prefabs to the characters
– Speed Lines
– Breakaway effects (logs, rocks)

2) Zodiac Animal Profiles – “Moving Cards” system
– 13 Cards (Original twelve and the cat)

3) Messaging for the player to perform ideal poses in sections (On UI)
– Decided the popping it up for the player would be more helpful.

4) “Fake” Tracks to “trick” the player – Waterfalls, caves, etc.

5) Pop-Up characters during the race.

6) Coins Float to UI Coin Element

7) Export Unity Scene to Maya (If possible)

These are features that we can implement with little or no engineering needed, or at least we hope so. Our UI issues will hopefully be solved by floating plane images of the animals that are “recommended” for the current section. In regards to “faking” track features to “trick” the player, we have those art assets available (bushes, waterfalls), that we can place on the track to add unexpected moments of delights for the player.

I’d really love to see Zodiac go mobile. Hypothetically, we have the pieces to turn it into a distance runner – the track left, right, fork, and straight pieces could be each textured with multiple “terrains” to give them variety. However, before we attempt Zodiac as a distance runner, we could look taking our current game and porting it into a mobile experience. Since the game runs on rails and there are automatic turns, we could have players tilt the device left and right to move their character in the appropriate directions. Or, we could take out the automatic turns and implement the swiping feature prevalent in many distance runners currently that requires the players to swipe in the direction of the turn they want to go. Additionally, animals could be chosen by tapping on an icon on the side of the gameplay screen, and jump could be a button as well. Or perhaps it should be a swipe to jump up as in other distance games like Pitfall and Temple Run. I feel that turning Zodiac into a free mobile experience could give us far more exposure than a limited release on Desura for the very small amount of people who use Kinect on Windows.  However, we face a variety of challenges in looking to turn this game mobile.

A mockup of what Zodiac could look like on a mobile system.

A mockup of what Zodiac could look like on a mobile system.

Currently, our polycount is at around 500K triangles. One of the drawbacks on developing on such high end machines is that we didn’t sit out at the beginning of the development process and think about what types of PCs we’re developing for. As our game stands right now, only high end PCs can handle it. Oversight definitely had a part in that, but we also found out that Unity’s environmental terrain builder puts out an incredibly high poly-rate. Thus, what we need to do is extract the terrain out of Unity and import it into Maya. Ashley will be culling down the poly-count for the terrain and we hope to place it back into Unity to get the polycount down to 10K. That will be a huge undertaking, and frankly, I’m unsure about the outcome of this endeavor. However, even if we can’t cull it down to iOS or Android standards, the lower polycount will allow it to run on more PCs. We also need some engineering brains to think about how we can optimize our draw distance and occlusion rates to see if that will help enhance game performance for other machines.

It is daunting to have such high hopes for the game as this program draws to a close and still have so much work left over. Our lack of engineers this semester due to (awesome!) internships leave us with not a lot of options in regards to the programming for the game. It’ll be interesting to see where this goes. I have suggested to our EP, Roger, that we need engineers if we are to get any of the heavy work done this semester, so I hope it all comes into place that we can attempt a beta version of a mobile version of the game.  I sense a lack of a commitment from people about attempting a mobile version this semester, which is disheartening. I won’t be holding my breath, but it’ll be interesting to see where the game goes.