Author Archives: jmills

Ubisoft Leamington – Overview

Summary

I joined Ubisoft Leamington in 2017, enabling me to have unique the privilege of working in a small, intimate studio (fewer than 50 people at the time) on a huge AAA title – Tom Clancy’s The Division 2.

In general my role at Ubisoft, when working on an open world, consists of:

  • Researching locations to find suitable places for activities and collectables based on the location’s unique appeal, gameplay potential and technical constraints
  • Collating information into design documentation, presenting to leads and directors for approval
  • Whiteboxing layouts for activity locations, adhering to design guidelines and working with environment artists to ensure the design intentions do not contradict art direction
  • Setting up the logic of activities, including scripting side missions (spawning enemies, updating objectives and checkpoints, triggering VO and other sequences, etc)
  • Iterating on all content to adapt to changing requirements and director feedback
  • Working with environment artists, technical artists, technical level designers and narrative designers (often situated in other studios worldwide) to ensure all content runs smoothly, adheres to art direction, and makes sense in terms of narrative and world logic
  • Maintaining communication with other studios to ensure we are aligned with direction and keeping the quality up to standard
  • Maintaining the health of my content, including bugfixing and polish

LEGO Dimensions – Sonic’s Adventure World

Whilst working at Tt Games I had the pleasure of being the designer for Sonic’s Adventure World in LEGO Dimensions. I’ve put together a video overview of the entire hub, showcasing its content and explaining what my involvement was during the whole process:

This is a typical example of what goes into making an adventure world, and it’s a process I was a part of multiple times through Dimensions’ ongoing development; a general overview of what I do at Tt and what I’ve worked on can be found here.

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Tt Games – Overview

For a video showing off Sonic’s adventure world and explaining my role in its creation, please visit this page.

Summary

Working in design at Tt from 2015-2017 had the privilege of working on a large variety of notable IPs across four separate projects. I have summarised my role on each project below, but broadly speaking, and depending on the project’s stage of development, my role could consist of:

  • Implementing events and incidental gameplay myself using Tt’s in-house level editor and scripting languages
  • Designing each event (puzzles, quests, races, minigames) and collecting all the information into a concise but complete hub design document
  • Creating a blockout of an entire hub using SketchUp
  • Working with other departments to ensure that their created assets meet the requirements of both the design and the license-holder
  • Researching an IP, identifying key moments/set pieces/concepts that can be referenced or adapted into gameplay
  • Training new team members on both design principles and use of the tools, and maintaining the documentation wiki
  • Reviewing the work of junior team members
  • Fixing bugs, implementing feedback and maintaining old hubs as issues are identified through the development cycle

Projects

LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2
Released November 2017

LMSH2 continues the story of the first LEGO Marvel Super Heroes game, including an whole new cast of characters and a new hub to explore; Chronopolis – a mishmash of various places and times, created by Kang the Conqueror.

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Multimedia II – Drag Queen

This is an old project, from my first year of University. It’s the first video game I ever made and it’s still one of my favourites, despite being extremely rough around the edges. It was the main project for the Multimedia II module, where, in pairs, we were tasked with creating a game using Adobe Director. Despite the technologies we were asked to use, I was thrilled to have made a game by the end of my first year, and the experience definitely gave me the game design bug.

If you wish to play the game, you can do so on this page. It requires the Shockwave plugin, and is at least 5 years old, so may not load correctly. If this is the case, I have provided some screenshots and animated gifs in the gallery at the bottom of the post.

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Individual Research Project – Genetic Algorithms

The major project of my final year was for my dissertation. I chose to research the effectiveness of dynamic learning algorithms in providing an adaptive, real-time finite state machine in a game environment. After doing a literature review to get up to speed on Bayesian networks, artificial neural networks and genetic algorithms, I chose to focus my research on the latter. I felt genetic algorithms could offer a working solution, and I was interested in programming one and seeing for myself exactly how it would work.

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High Performance Computing – Parallelisation of Pattern Matching using OpenMP and MPI

This final year project focussed on using the OpenMP and MPI frameworks to parallelise an implementation of the straightforward pattern matching algorithm. The project was scored purely on the speed of the solutions (assuming the generated matches were correct), and in the module overall I scored a strong first class mark of 83. I have put the code on my GitHub for your perusal.

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Week 10 – Go Right

Week 10 marks an exciting first for my Game a Weeks; happy collaboration. Please indulge in Go Right:

The controls are explained in-game. If you absolutely have to mute the audio, press the M key.

Credits

I’m going to start this post off by giving a huge shout out and thank you to the four other people who contributed to the game.

Tom Lamey is the enigmatic hero responsible for the lovely character design and great spritesheets that bring the protagonist to life. He also advised me on the general look of the game

For the music I counted on the talents of the insatiable Jack Drewry. He brought together a couple of rag tag musicians to aid him, collectively they’re known as Squid Tooth, but separately they go by their birth names of Jack, Laurie and Rowan.

I hope you agree that these four all helped raise the bar on my games with their contributions. I’ll talk more about how it all came together below.

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Week 9 – Colourful Threes

And now for something completely different:

Arrow keys to try a slide, space bar to confirm it. Imagine it’s on a phone screen; pressing right swipes right, and so on.

Some bad news: this game is going to be incredibly colour-blind unfriendly. I wanted to have letters on the cards to give you a fighting chance but I ran out of time. I’m so sorry.

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Aspects of Game Engine Development – 2D Physics Engine

In third year we had an entire module dedicated to the different components that make up a complete game engine. The assessment for this module was based entirely around a solo project, where we had to choose one aspect of a game engine and develop it. I chose to develop a 2D physics engine, as I was interested in understanding how each step of the process worked, from the simulation of rigid bodies through to collision detection and resolution.

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Agile Development – Collada Importer for XNA

One of our modules in third year was focussed on exploring agile development techniques, culminating in a group project that we managed in an agile fashion, using scrum. We had to treat our tutors like clients, asking them about what they wanted from the solution, creating user stories from these requirements and turning them into backlog items. The project itself was to create a Collada model importer for XNA, able to import the model’s skeleton, mesh, skinning and animation data, packaged with an app to view these models and outputting complete logs of the importing process.

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