When we first heard that we had been accepted to Dare to be digital 2010 we couldn’t believe our luck. To get to Dundee was what we had been working towards for months and now all our hard work had paid off and we would get to make our game surrounded by some of the best students and mentors in the business.
The game we are making is ‘Grrr!’ a casual, multiplayer action strategy game for the Wii that turns the RTS genre on its head by removing all the complicated tech trees and base building and replaces them with simple controls and short, action packed battles.
Instead of tanks and soldiers our units are designed for younger players, like a Shark in a robot suit, a Crab with a Cannon and a Bear with a Jetpack. Gameplay is made more exciting by powerups and themed levels, like the Unicorn Palace belonging to our 4th character, the Emo-unicorn, that is filled with smashed TV’s, gold-plated skateboard ramps and a wishing-well.
Players pick a squad of 3 characters from the varied selection and using the Wii-remote attempt to outmanoeuvre and outgun their opponents team in one of the arenas.
Battles are in a last-man-standing format designed to take around 60 seconds to complete and matches are played in a best-of-3 fashion. The whole map is always visible on screen, meaning both players play on the same TV and can always see all the action.
After 5 weeks of development our game is starting to really come together. We have had a slow start as we are writing our own engine in DirectX rather than using middleware, but are now beginning to see the benefits as we can add our own functionality as we wish and are not bound by the limits of 3rd party engines as many of the teams are.
We took the decision to develop an engine ourselves as Dare is not just about making the best game you can, but also showing the industry what you are capable of. We are very mindful of the fact that the games industry is one of the hardest to get into, and while Dare is undoubtedly the best springboard available to students we still have to make ourselves stand out from this very talented crowd.
As the competition has gone on we have found that one of our best strengths is our team harmony. We have seen many other teams having arguments and heated disagreements, but so far have managed to avoid any confrontations like this. One of the contributing factors to this is probably the fact that we were all good friends before coming to Dundee, and since we have got here we have been staying deliberately close.
We take turns to cook for the whole team every day, make sure we eat lunch together and play on our consoles as a group in the evenings. Because of this we can resolve any issues before they become major problems. After all it’s much easier to forgive someone for messing up if they are cooking dinner for you that night and any argument can be resolved with a game of Mario-kart.
One of the major advantages Dare provides is the chance to exhibit our games at Protoplay. This event is attended by thousands of people, and the thought of them all playing our game is very exciting indeed. To get this sort of publicity without Dare would be next to impossible, and we would probably have to wait years to see a game we had influenced so heavily played by the public, if ever.
A major part of exhibitions such as protoplay is watching other people play a game before you have a go yourself. People generally watch a section of game being played and then go on to play the same part themselves, which can become boring. Our game has the advantage of being different every time as new people play and try new strategies to beat their opponent. Hopefully this, combined with the fact our game is competitively multiplayer, and is easy to pick up, will make our game one of the more exciting ones being exhibited.
The other main reason Dare is so valuable to young developers is it gives you the experience of a full development cycle before you are in the industry proper. This is something most studios are looking for from applicants, and while a lot of students will have developed a game prototype as part of their course, Dare provides mentors and industry professionals to help along the way.
These visits from the people who are directly involved in making the games we play every day have probably been the most valuable part of the Dare experience so far. They have a talent for seeing through your game, picking out the problems you have already or will soon face, and giving you either a solution or a push in the right direction.
When we found out we were coming to Dare we knew we’d be given probably the best opportunity of our lives, and so far it has lived up to our expectations and then some. The advice and lessons we have been given will stay with us for the rest of our careers and I have no doubt that Dare has easily made us twice as employable already.