I have been pounding through a couple levels for the final build. It’s coming along, but it’s not a quick process.
I’ve been tasked with putting together the final level. This is to be the longest hardest level in the game, but it still needs to be possible. When putting it together it rose a lot of questions with what we could do with the final level. Mostly I wanted to make a boss level of sorts, but it’s not going to happen in the time we have. So I’ve been creating and iterating on the level. I feel like it is in a good place.
My favorite part of the level is the ending jump puzzle that I’ve creating.
The team has been hard at work putting the final touches on the last of our levels, some new animations, some passes on UI, and just making our game shine as much as possible.
Another big news is that Epic Games gave our team a $13,000 grant. We are honored and stunned to be chosen for their help.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
(boss in the sky with his minions) (all art is UE4 starter art stuff)
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!