Leveling up!

This week has been difficult on the team. We finally got our new ping ability all the way done and we started testing it with our new level. We quickly were wary that it wasn’t going to work. At the same time we had a Microsoft Game Dev Evangelist visit our program and give us advice the same day we finished it. It was similar to when the designer from Ubisoft came and visited us right after our first iteration. He gave us some good feedback about going back to our previous iteration of the ‘ping’ He also gave us some advice that we’ve been pondering about making the game procedural generated.  At this time we’re not following the advice, but it’s something we’re stewing on.

This week we have been focusing really hard on level design. I put myself on the level design team with Kyle and Tony mostly because I want to expose myself to as much level design as I can and give a shot at it. So far we’ve created three new levels that follow our new design guidelines. I was put over the first level again to give a basic experience to the player. It’s been really fun and a good learning experience to work with the  team. They are insightful and give helpful criticism. They also have had patience with my slow learning.

In a couple days, we will be having EAE day and showing off all of our projects. We are making great progress to have 4 levels and some fun effects to show off!

Making Progress

Our team finished a big iteration on the make ‘premonition ability’ or now what we call the Ping ability

Ping Ability

It was modeled after the Gears of War Action reload where the player is rewarded for reloading when a meter reaches a certain point.

In the same fashion our ability will leave the player and come back. When it is within a threshold of the player can hit the ability again to send out the wave even further than it did the first time. We also have a negative feedback that if the player hits the ping ability again that it will deactivate and pixelize the screen for a brief moment. We are excited to finally have this in the game. Also it’s making us lean more towards 3rd person which is a little scary.

Another part of the game that we have nailed down was the narrative of the game. We have written out a small story that we want our protagonist, Ada, to go through to stop the ISP boss. Along side the narrative is a detailed structure of the setting the player is going to have to traverse. We also have set down set guidelines for each level we build.

Our team is now trying to move away from a very linear based level flow to a more open arena like level style that the player can choose different areas to go to. To put it a little more simply the old game was start at area A and get to area B and then get to the end. Now we have area A,B,C and the player can make more decision about where the player wants to go.

The Goal of the game now is to get to all the checkpoints to destroy the ISP bosses. When all the checkpoints are destroyed in the area A (for example) then Access to areas B and C giving the player the choice on where to go next.

These New directions are adding lots of work, but we believe that they are going to be for the best.

More and more iteration

This last week has been a bustle of tuning, tweaking, and iterating on levels and mechanics. After finishing another iteration of the enemy mechanics, I spent a night with our lead designer, Tony, going over our metrics and tuning values. I learned a bit more about designing which was a good experience. For this week, Our game had an iteration on most of the levels and we almost have our new wave emitter/Premonition – ‘ping’ ability in the game and ready to test out.

More on the ‘ping’ ability next time.

First week of Post IGF submission Iteration

It’s official. I’m now on the 100th iteration of the enemy ISP character in the game. We are changing it to be more scripted sequences that the level designer can plan out. This will help us be more careful in our level design and what the player will experience.
We are also doing an iteration on the premonition ability. We wanted it to be more of a server ping that the player has to keep going to have a ‘good connection’ to the server. This will make the area which is revealed grow based on how well the player keeps the ping going.

These two ideas could drastically change things for our game, and we are hoping it’s for the better. We are also tackling problems with resolutions, quality, disorientation, and the ever looming 1st or 3rd person decision.

Some other big news for our game is that we are already starting to get press about our game. We have a theme of protecting net neutrality and it is starting to become a big issue. The President of the United states has come out and stood with Net neutrality making our cause even stronger.

Moving forward we are going to build more levels, iterate on problems we find, playtesting the game!

Submitted and moving forward.

This week has been crazy! Last weekend my whole team spent most of the weekend pushing hard to get the game in a good place for IGF. We put art in levels, Fixed bugs, made cool particles, put together cinematic for our trailer, added end matinees for each level. Fixed how our enemy worked a couple times to make it fit our theme and our gameplay.  During the week we continued to push on all fronts to have a fully playable 5 level game that we could be proud to submit for judges. We worked really hard and got down to Oct 30 the day before the deadline and we made a build to submit only to find that after a couple levels the games fps dropped horrifically and became unplayable. Most of the team had left the lab for the day assuming that all we had to do was build the game and submit. So Tony and Sidd called me from home to get on to skype and look at a bunch of null errors that were being thrown from my boss and from a couple other parts of the game. My confusion of what was happening grew as we started to dive into the problem. We found a couple of null checks I was missing, but they didn’t seem to matter when we put them in.

We came down to loading and unloading levels. For some reason the boss wasn’t unloading from the previous level and was still trying to find references to the other parts of the level causing lots of null errors. We didn’t know how to change the unload level funcitonality of Unreal so we did the next best thing and on our trigger to go to the next level we did and delete of all the things that were bugging out. It worked and we got rid of the errors, but we still would like to find a better solution.  In the end we had a complete build of 404sight that shows off our mechanics and a small taste of our theme attached.

The next weeks are going to be improving our build and involving our theme more into the game.

My next task is to  create an interactive loading page that could potentially teach our mechanic in an unorthodox way. We’ll see what I can come up with.

One Week and Counting

We are one week away from the IGF deadline and things are getting crazy among the members of Cohort 4. We are all working hard and spending extra hours in the lab to get things up and running for next weeks submission. Our team has been working hard getting the final touches on our game. We are adding art, effects, cutscenes everything we hoped would be in the game. The most recent addition to the game is adding the Boss that I’ve been working on and iterating on for the pass couple of weeks. We had a good change to the levels taking out all the slow tiles. We had lots of feedback that the normal tiles felt enough like slow tiles. With that change, we changed the boss to change Fast Tiles and Normal tiles to slow tiles.  To make the boss actually affect the game, I had to do another pass on how the boss works. So I wrote an algorithm that will search for spots further ahead in the level according the speed of the player and it will launch bomb attacks to change tiles to impede your progress.

This actually went really well with the theme of net neutrality. The boss or the big cable companies are trying to control and slow down the connection of the once free running user. So instead of trying to kill the player the boss is trying to convert everything to their slow throttled internet.

Another feature I had to add was that the player could convert the tiles back. We are still in discussion on how this is to exactly work, but the boss/enemy has added a great level of depth to our game.

It’s been a great week for 404sight.

Next post will be: IGF submitted…now what O_O

Less than a month, Running to the finish line!

This last week has zoomed by. My personal tasks were iterating on the boss a couple times. I did probably 3 or 4 iterations on the boss mechanics and I feel like it’s in a good spot to get us some fun gameplay, but the easy setting for the boss is going to need some tuning. Our team has been hard at work making levels and adding everything in the game. We started playing through all the levels as a whole and we’ve started putting art, lighting and backgrounds into the levels. These tweaks made our levels come to life!

titleScreen1080

 

Here’s a sneak peek at what we have. We need a little more life to the level, but it’s coming along! Another big event that happened this week was a big playtest that the whole cohort participated. Our team got a lot of positive feedback about our game and had a lot of good suggestions on how to fix our game. We left the playtest feeling really good about where the state of our pre-alpha Alpha was. I’m excited to work this week and take our game to the next level!

Finding the Fun!

This week Retro Yeti has made some awesome leaps and bounds.  We had a design brainstorm at the beginning of this week to try and make our game a little more fun. We wanted to give a reason to the player to left click. It was a cool effect, but many people would run through the level without using our mechanic. The answer we came up with seems simple enough, but it hit us like a ton of bricks.

Make the Tiles only work when using the ability!

We made this change and FUN happened! The game started being challenging and fun!  My next task was to fine tune the level that I built. So I took some pieces of other levels I had started and put them on the level that we had in the build. After playing it quite a few times. I started stripping pieces out and tuning what was there. I got it to a place that I like it and had our lead design Tony sit down with me and the level and run through it. He made several great suggestions and I was off making more changes.  In the end the length of the level has been cut in half, but it is a lot more fun and has decent flow to it. I’m pretty proud of it though I know that It will probably be changed more in the future.

With the new iteration of the mechanic in place, I added my boss to levels and started playing. I played with the difficulty of the boss and found that it seemed really fun. So I started grabbing others to play through the level and see what they think.  Everyone that tried it liked it. It wasn’t perfect, but it was getting there. I got some good suggestions, but the part that gave me the best feeling is that people didn’t just play it a bit and quit. They kept playing until they beat it. It was a fun and interesting challenge. Even our professors, who were against the idea in the first place, were having fun with the boss challenge.

My next tasks are to design a level specifically for the boss and also fix a lot of things with the boss. Our game is coming together and it’s exciting. All the extra time and work is starting to pay off!

 

Prototyping a Boss Fight!

Our game is progressing really nicely this week. We’ve uncovered a few key areas that we need to focus on and we’re working hard. We’ve been pushing making levels to discover what works and what doesn’t work in our game parameters. So we’ve gotten more than just three of us creating levels now which I think is going to help us learn and get closer to an even more amazing game. Today also we have a build done and ready to release into the wild for playtesting. We have posted the link to the build on several gamedev forums to ask for feedback on our preprealpha build. We’ve already received some feedback about punishing the player a bit for spamming our revealing mechanic and focusing on good level design. Hopefully we get more feedback to sift through to make our game even more amazing.

Mechanic in Action

 

One idea that our team has tossed around is having an enemy or a boss scenerio. This was worrisome because we didn’t want the ‘boss fight’ to take away from the gameplay we have or add tons of new mechanics that made it feel like it’s not part of the game. It kept being brought up and no one was doing anything about it so I jumped on it and made a small prototype of what a boss could be. Our game is about the pace and flow of levels with getting to the ending pillar of light at the end of the level. Riffing off of the idea of getting to the light pillars, I build a boss that was connected to all the light pillars on the map. When the player runs into a lightpillar it cuts it off from the boss and once all the light pillars are gone the boss is destroyed. The boss has minions that spin around it and then throw themselves at the player. They show the player where they are going to land so the player can adjust his path and dodge the incoming minions while also traversing the arena-like map. I also added an Easy, Medium and Hard mode to the boss that adjusts the AI and speed for the minions. This is going to take lots of iteration to make the boss fight feel fun, difficult and fair. The one concern I have is launch tiles because when you hit a launch tile you don’t have full control over the player. The player shouldn’t be outright punished by the boss for choosing to use a jump tile. Another concern I have with it is the Level Design that has to go along with a boss fight will take lots of extra time and iterations. We are just getting to a small understanding of the Level Design for our other levels, but this is another beast. My next step is to pump out lots of scenarios that the boss can be used.

A couple other ideas I want to prototype with the boss is that the minions don’t attack you but attack tiles and turn them into death tiles. This would make level Design even more crucial as we don’t want to make the level impossible only more difficult if the player doesn’t complete it. Another idea was that the minions wouldn’t permanently change tiles, just neutralize them. With a little more time and testing, we’ll see where this idea goes.

Screenshot 2014-09-19 10.05.05(boss in the sky with his minions) (all art is UE4 starter art stuff)

 Boss Animated GIF

The next step in our overall game is to get in art in the build which I feel is going to be a long process. Also lots of level Design needs to happen. I’ve been reading lots of articles on gamasutra and other such sites about methodologies of Level Design and how to really focus in on making my personal stuff better. My next step in my research for that is contacting actual developers and getting input. I’m scared to do that, but I think it needs to happen to improve.

We are 2 weeks away from our ‘alpha’ igf date and 6 ish about from our submission date. Team Retro Yeti will make it!

 

More Levels and needing a narrative?

The start of this week was a huge focus on levels. Brenton, Antonio and myself started creating levels. We all created very different types of levels. Tony’s were compact and precise. Brenton’s were large and complex. Mine were expansive and simple. We played through a lot of them and couldn’t really get a grasp on what our levels were doing. After a Wednesday of pondering and talking we came to a conclusion on what we needed to do for our game. We needed a precise direction with the levels. We needed to know where the character started and ended and why. We needed to know the purpose of the level and what the level was going to bring to the game as a whole. I’m usually the last person to say that a game needs to focus on a little bit of the narrative, but we needed a little bit of narrative to tie our levels together. Tony bounced ideas off of me Wednesday night and we came up with how to progress our 5 levels we want for the IGF build. We created a document that conveyed the what each level needed as far as mechanics, goals, aesthetic, duration, fail states, mood, enemy, and a couple more things. Now that the document is filled out we can direct the art that is done, we can create and iterate on levels, we can actually start forming our game. The team is super stressed still about the state of the game and it’s been difficult to get the team hyped about what we are doing, but we’re continuing to push forward and build things and hope that they work.

StartLevel

Level_overview

 

Also one thing I did Thursday was make our mechanic into a throwable item. So the player would toss out an orb that would reveal around where it landed. The prototyping went really quick, and it was a pretty slick mechanic, but the problem was is that it didn’t solve any of our problems really. It was a good try and adjustment, but in the end it didn’t work.

I also added a visual ring for our mechanic so the player could see the radius that is used for the mechanic and can see how the click is actually working. It’s still a prototype visual, but it’s there.

All in all I feel that we ended the week pretty strongly. 😀 I’m excited to move forward and see where we’re going to be in another week.