Good Boy – Pre Matt Games

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A couple of years ago (some time in 2017), during the development of TYRED with Tom (my business partner at the time), we decided to take a few days off and do a couple of game jams. This was to re-calibrate our creativity; we’d been working on TYRED for a year or so at this point, and must have been struggling from some sort of mental block, it’s hard to remember now.

We both had ideas for what games to make. Our plan was to work on a game each, improving my 3D Art Skills, and giving Tom some practice at programming.

Tom wanted to do a side-scrolling hack-n-slash. It was about a viking girl with a possessed axe; it would follow her around a level, and she could summon it to her hand to fight with, like Thor’s Hammer. This was done in the PS4 God of War, but our game jam happened before that came out, so the idea was somewhat original.

My idea was more family friendly. A side-scrolling puzzle game about a man and his dog. The player would progress through levels using the game ‘Fetch’ as the main mechanic, much like the level you need to retrieve Farley the wolf in Spyro: Year of the Dragon.

This has always been my favourite part of Spyro, and I was always disappointed at how fast the level is to complete. It only had three parts to the level and could be completed in under five minutes.

I started by creating two character blueprints in unreal engine, without character meshes, just blocks to determine the sizes of them. Within a couple of hours I had:

  • Human block could walk left/right and jump using a gamepad/keyboard
  • Human block could throw a projectile
  • Dog block would run after the projectile and stop when it was caught
  • Dog block would return after the player pressed a button
  • Dog block would drop the ball after returning to the Human block
  • Human block could pick up the ball and repeat the process

After this I decided to give the game a simple art pass.

I am not a Character Artist… Clearly

It took far longer than I wanted to create these characters. They weren’t anywhere near the standard I wanted, but as far as I was concerned they were placeholders, and I just wanted meshes to better show what was going on. I added a few animations to the project, and it was shaping up pretty well, but after the game jam we didn’t pursue either game, because we went straight back to working on TYRED.

Fast-Forward to August 2018

I was still working on TYRED, but I’d just finished programming the online modes and wanted to work on something as far away from anything related to tyres as I could. I decided to re-invest some time into Good Boy.

I wanted to change up the style of the game, make it with 3D environments rather than the 2D side-scrolling style I had before. My main goal for this game was to create a bond growing between the man and the dog. I needed them to somehow meet at the start of the game, and possibly be reluctant to help each other, but discover, whatever situation they are in, could only be progressed with team work. This can be seen in both The Last of Us (2013) and Bioshock Infinite (2013), but in both instances it’s a father-daughter scenario, and my aim was to create a bond between a man and man’s best friend.

My first decision was Third or First-Person. I felt like if you could see the main character you could see the human-dog bond happen. I often feel unattached to first person characters; not being able to see them makes them harder to relate with. Despite this, I did end up choosing to go with First-Person. My main reason was because I wanted it to be possible of releasing a VR version. This wasn’t the aim, but I didn’t want to rule it out. I also felt the player would get a better look at the dog.

I started by creating the project from scratch, focusing on the throwing mechanic and dog AI. After that I created a couple of basic meshes, the human was just a 3DS Max Biped I converted to a mesh and skinned it, using another Biped. I had to go with a full body, rather than the usual arms-only most games go for. This was because I planned on puzzles including buttons/pressure pads on the floor so I needed the player to see where they were standing. The dog, made from blocks, looked a bit like K9 from Doctor Who. It wasn’t long before I showed a couple of friends my project, and within a few days I was approached by a character artist (Jake Evans – and asked if I wanted him to make me some proper models.

Placeholder Dog

He made a base mesh for the dog and put a quick texture on; he had a lot of work on at the time so his plan was to finish the dog later, but to give me the finished model at a later date. I spent a few hours giving it some placeholder animations.

Much Improved Dog – Jake Evans

After a few weeks I had a level with 7 rooms of puzzles.

This was a recent run-through of the last prototype build I had for Good Boy on PC. I can only apologise for how horrible I am at the game, it was still pretty clunky and the Dog AI still needed a lot of work.

It wasn’t long after I started working on this project, maybe a month or so, that I switched my focus onto mobile games, and Good Boy was cancelled yet again.

Good Boy v3

It’s just over a year since I worked on Good Boy v2, and over two and a half years since I first came up with the project idea. I’m confident that this third time will make it to release. It will be on a smaller scale than v2. This time I’ll be aiming at a mobile release, on iOS, Android, and Amazon.

I’ve mixed things up in order to make it work on mobile.

  • Third Person
  • Point and Click gameplay
  • Simpler Puzzles, but more of them

I look forward to putting progress posts on here when I have more to show.

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