Mission Maker: Game Features & Techniques

Game Design

To begin with you should keep your game designs simple and compact. You can make a small playing area more interesting by adding clever features and learn more quickly how to manipulate and program the objects as a small game will compile more quickly than a large one. Mission Maker is much more than a set of location tiles, you can make a small game as interesting as one that covers the whole game board with tunnel tiles. Your aim to begin with should be to explore as many of the resources and techniques available and to learn how to devise puzzles and develop clever game play rather than simply dragging location tiles onto the board.

Location tiles

Mission Maker provides location tiles that cover 12 types of location : baronial, block, city, drains, Egyptian, mini world, plain, resort, sci-fi, stone age, Victorian and western. Games are designed on a grid of 12 squares by 12 squares and each square can hold one tile. Each tile you include in a game has an identifier so it can be programmed in some way such as taking the player directly to a tile in response to some other action in the game.

You can design your games to be simple, with only a few tiles and lost of activity in a small space or you can design them with lots of rooms and connecting corridors in a maze or labyrinth style. The more complex your layout the more you will have to plan your game before you start designing it - see here for details.

Props

Props are items that are used to decorate a scene, to make the visual environment more interesting. While the props themselves do nothing they can be used to make something else happen, for example you can have a door open by clicking on a prop. The teleporter is a prop that does nothing until it is programmed, for example by adding a trigger volume and a rule that moves the player to another location.

Special Effects

Special effects add visual interest and they can also be programmed to do things such as moving a player to another location by placing a trigger volume over the effect and programming the trigger volume to move the player to another tile. To make the player recoil from a special effect add a trigger volume and a rule to send the player to a different location. Locations can include almost any object you add to a game so you could program a special effect (with a trigger volume) to send the player to another part of a room or to another tile in the game.

Active Props

Active props can perform certain actions, for example the fridge door opens and you can place food inside it. To make an active prop perform its action choose the Actions section and develop a rule for the particular action that a prop can perform. For an active prop with a door or drawers click on the Open action and create a rule something like 'When the fridge is clicked the fridge door opens'. Rules are at the heart of Mission Maker and come up in most of the sections that follow.

Doors

Add a 'City Four Door Room' and link two doors with single sewer pipes. Click the sewer pipes to rotate them so that doors align.

Click the play square to build the world. In design mode position yourself in the 3D design window in front of one of the 4 doors. Choose New/Door and drag one of the doors in front of the space. Note that the doors with no external connections are bricked up and unusable as they don't lead anywhere. Connected doors are automatically opened at the start of a game (unless you choose to close them by adding your own door).

You can make a door open in response to a variety of actions such as: when the door is clicked or shot, when some other object is clicked, when a score reaches a certain value, when player or a character moves through a trigger, and so on. You may want to make the opening of a door complicated and difficult.

Trigger Volumes

Still in front of the door choose 'New/Trigger Volume' and drag a spherical trigger in front of the door. Note the Properties panel for the trigger. Keep the size at 1.0 for now, making it smaller will make trial game play more difficult. Change the size later to make it harder for game players to locate the trigger. Note that you can attach a trigger to something else in the game.

Trigger volumes are used to bring many objects into play, for example the card swipe, which does nothing unless you add a trigger volume that is programmed to, say, open a door when the player passes a security pass through it. In the example below the trigger in the middle of the park is set to stop a character firing at the player.

Open a Door With a Rule

A door can be opened by creating a rule. In programming a rule takes the form of: "if <expression> then do <action>" where <expression> is something that yields true or false and <action> is something that the computer can do such as opening a door. A door can be programmed to open when it is clicked or by some other means such as passing through a trigger volume or collecting enough points from objects picked up and stored.

Click on a door that you want to be opened in response to a trigger. Click on the Actions tab and click on the yellow arrow to the right of 'Open'. This opens the dialogue for creating a rule. Select 'Spatial Trigger' from the list of possible triggers and then click on the trigger itself in the 3D window to complete the middle part of the rule in the three panels at the bottom of the screen. Choose 'Player' from the list of activators and the three panels should then be complete. These should read: 'If Player.. Enters cylinder trigger.. xxxDoor opens'.

Confirm the rule by clicking on the blue '>' symbol - you should see confirmation of the acceptance of the rule. If you click on the black '>' symbol you will be asked to confirm the rule.

Trigger volume in front of a door set to open it. You don't have to make opening the door so obvious and easy!

Test

Click the black '>' symbol and test the rule. The door should open when you move in front of it.

Pickups

The things you are going to want to add to your game as soon as possible are a gun and ammunition, though not all games need involve shooting. To add an item that the player can pick up choose New/Pickup and search for the gun and ammunition. In game play the player can pick up items such as the gun and ammunition and add them to the inventory at the front of the game. In the case of the gun there is a 'Use' button - when clicked this turns on the sights and the player can start shooting objects in the game such as props, doors and characters. The wand also has

Pickup items can add to the overall score of a player - enter a value in the pickup object's Properties. Total player score can be used to trigger other events such as picking up objects and adding them to the inventory. Different objects can have different values and can be scattered around the game environment. The number of objects that may be held in the inventory at any one time can be changed through the My Game/Game Attributes menu option. With a limited number of items that can be stored and with some objects having negative scores it should be possible to create an interesting game play based on collecting objects to accumulate points to enable actions that allow something else to happen and so on (for example, a character can be made to attack the player when the score reaches a certain value).

Characters

To add a character choose New/Character and drag it from the palette onto the game area. Sometimes a character cannot be dragged onto the scene because there isn't room for it, in which case you need to reposition the player. Characters have a number of properties including size, walk style, head, torso and legs and vulnerability. The higher the vulnerability score of a character the harder they are to kill in a shoot out.

Characters are more interesting when they are programmed with rules. To create a rule click on a character to bring up its properties and actions. Set the properties as required and click on the Actions tab. A typical rule might be to make the character attack the player. Choose Seek and Destroy Player from the list of actions. Choose one of the triggers displayed:

A simple scenario would be to have a character seek and destroy the player when it is shot at. In this case choose 'Shot by Player' from the list and complete the rule by clicking on the character to set the Activator so it reads: if character is shot by player character seeks and destroys player'.

This action could also be brought on by the player passing through a trigger - select Spatial Trigger and click on the trigger as Activator to complete the rule. In this scenario (the player does not know about the trigger) you would probably want to give the player the opportunity to escape down a nearby a tunnel, pick up a weapon and return to kill the character, the details are up to you.

The seek and destroy action could also be activated by clicking on or shooting at another character. You might be interrogating the characters in a scene to get some information and this might cause one or more of the characters to start shooting at you. You might mark the rogue characters by making them small or giving them simian heads so you don't shoot the ones that carry information; or you might allow the player to shoot the ones with information so they cannot progress: the detail is up to you. If a character's size is large they will not be able to follow the player as he escapes but if they are small then they will.

The RayGun is currently selected. The character is programmed to attack when clicked. You will need the gun to destroy her!

Another strategy might be to make a character attack when the player's score reaches a certain level - points accumulated by picking up items around the game.

Pickups can be used to provide clues or to tell a story. The simple piece of paper (pickup, not active prop) can have text associated with it through the Description property. If the player picks up the paper the zoom tool can be used to examine what is written on it.

Sounds

To add sounds to the actions you have created so far choose New/Media/Audio. Double click a sound to add it to the game. Rename the sound so you identify it later - the default names are 'Audio1', 'Audio2', etc. but 'Bang' makes a sound easier to find. You can now add the sound to an action such as passing through a trigger or opening a door. To do this click on the object such as a door, choose Actions/Emit Sound and choose a sound from the list.

To add a pre-recorded sound such as music click on the Filename property and choose the file you want (mp3 works fine).

To make a sound or audio track play in response to an event decide on the event you want to trigger the audio. One trigger might be an event such as shooting a player which produces a bang, a scream or a grunt. Another trigger might be an event such as a door opening with a creaking sound. Another might be picking up an object such as the walkman. In each case select the audio file you want to play and then choose Actions. Choose Play and create a rule such as 'when object xxx is clicked audio1 plays' or 'when object xxx is picked up audio 1 plays'. Set up a similar rule to turn off the music. Note that when you save a game containing an audio file Mission Maker takes a few seconds to add it to the file.

Popups

Popups are coloured backgrounds on which text can be written to provide messages, clues and information for game play. To add a popup choose New/Media/Popup and select one of the images from the display bar at the top of the screen. Rules to display popups can be developed such as playing one at the start of a game or when an object is clicked. Popups can be displayed on active props such as the TVs.

Video and Images

Video and still images can be added to certain objects in the game such as the TV sets found under Active Props. To add a video or still image to a TV set choose New/Media/Video and choose the file from the Filename property. Now under Actions for the video choose Play on and create a rule such as 'When the TV on Stand is clicked video 1 is played'. You could use video to communicate information about the game, as an entertainment or as a piece of education.

Speech

To create a piece of speech choose New/Media/Speech. You may have an audio file pre-recorded or you may create an audio file within Mission Maker by recording it or by using the TTS converter. To use the TTS converter click on the TTS Speech box and enter the words that you want the character to say. You might use this to distinguish between different characters of the same type where one of them has a real message for you while the others just say 'Hello my name is Jimmy', or whatever. The response sought might be a clue to way out of a particular scene or a line of a poem that must be collected.

Speech can also be used to create dialogues with question and response. You may want a character to say something in response to an action such as being clicked on or passing through a trigger. In the list of character actions choose Say and choose a speech that you created earlier.

Conversation

The Player can have conversations with characters by acquiring speeches in the course of game play. The simplest way to make speeches and conversation available is to assign them from the start of the game. To do this make sure the speech is recorded and then select it from the My Game/Media/Speech list. Choose Actions and click Add to Player List to build a rule. From the list of options to trigger the rule choose 'Global' and select 'From Start of Game'. This gives you access to the speech when you play the game. Alternatively you can have the speeches added to the game by a rule, for example by collecting a certain number of points.

A conversation is created when you create a rule that involves the Spoken in Conversation By or Spoken in Conversation To options. Example:

The player confronts a character that displays the mouth symbol when the mouse moves over it. This indicates to the player that the character may have something to tell him. The way to develop conversation is as follows:

The player might say "Which way should I go to reach my destination?". This speech should have its TTS property set to False (there is no need to hear it) and its Add to Player List set to True. You will also need to add a rule to this speech. Choose Actions/Add to Player List, choose Global Trigger and Start of Game.

In response the character might say: "That is your problem, space wanderer. You must find the path that matches the imprint of your mind". Create this speech and set TTS to True if you want to hear it spoken (you don't have to), leave Add To Player List False and choose  male or female voice. Now choose Actions/Say, choose the character and set up a rule that sets the trigger to Speech 1 Spoken in Conversation by Player.

Together these should create your first conversation.

This conversation might be developed further.

Game Attributes

Now that you have established some features in your first game (at the operational and tactical levels) you can investigate wider properties of a game and set up some more strategic aspects. The MyGame drop down includes basic properties of a game that help to define the overall mission and also a list of each type of item you have included.

Game Attributes

These include whether the player can see a compass or a map from the start (the default for these is false, which gives the designer the option of letting the player turn these on from picking them up during the game), and the key Actions of Succeed and Fail. Note that the map will provide information on triggers, props and characters. A game can be defined as completed if a condition set by the designer is achieved, for example picking up an object in a room that is unlocked when something happens in another room. To set this click on the yellow arrow next to 'Succeed' and set up a rule to define the winning condition. This will involve a trigger from the usual list of 6. Likely candidates for signalling the end of a game would be the Global Trigger. The Global Trigger includes: Score Exceeded, Time Exceeded, Time Expired and Player Health Zero. We might, therefore, set the end of a game when the player's health reaches zero or when it reaches 1000 (the default is 800).

Player Attributes

Player properties include:

Player actions include:

Teleport

Under Actions it is possible to make the player do things in response to events such as passing through a trigger. To make a player move quickly from one part of the game to another use the teleport action. Drag a Teleport object from the Props area and place a new Trigger Volume next to it so that the player will run into it. Choose Game/Player Attributes and select the Actions panel. Under Teleport to click on the yellow arrow to build a rule that will take the player to another location. The game has been extended by adding a single cell with a locked door on one of the doors off the city square. The rule will be: 'if player enters sphere trigger n, player teleports to science fiction room 1'.

Once in science fiction room 1 the player can only escape if he can figure out how to open the door. First place a door across the single exit from science fiction room 1. Next provide a means of escape. This can be done by placing a pass card in the room (pickup) and dropping a card reader in there too. Place a trigger volume over the card reader and then build a new rule for the door. Select the door and choose the Actions panel. Click the yellow arrow next to Open and choose Spatial Trigger as the trigger for the action. Click on the trigger volume you added earlier to select it as part of the rule and then choose 'Any pickup' as the activator. Thus picking up the card and passing it over the card reader will open the door: 'if any pickup enters sphere trigger n, SciFi door 1 opens'.