5 days from Steam launch and I’m writing a blog post??!??!?!

Yes it’s true. we are 5 days away from launch and I took the time to write a bit about what I’m experiencing. The last couple of weeks have been crazy. We created a total of 14 levels to be shipped with the game. We have a small 20 min experience for our players. Right now it is my task to make sure all the levels get their art and are ready to be strung together in our final game. I’m furiously doing it so that we can have the full experience as soon as possible so that we have a couple days for testing the final build. Oh the crazy that is now. I’m only leaving you with that so I can get back to work.

woot!

Week before GDC

Our team has been working hard this last week. We worked over the long weekend and we plan to work over this weekend, but on the plus side. We have 3 levels! Don’t know how I got it done, but I did. They are being worked on by others on the team to get them cleaned, art-ed and ready to move forward. We have so many little things that we need to get done before GDC, but we have our task list and we are steadily knocking them out one by one. When this week is over I’ll post some screen shots from our game and we will have our new trailer ready! ¬†I will also post pictures from the 3 Levels ūüôā

I don’t know what more to post, mostly because I have so much to do I can only give this quick run down of progress.

Hopefully after GDC it will be a little less busy (yeah right).

I’m a Level Designer?!?! O_O

I really don’t have time to write this but I’m doing it anyway because it’s part of the class and for all I know I have followers. ūüôā This week we had some internal playtesting with all the teams in the Cohort. It was really good to see how the other games have come along and how great they are. We also had a sit down with the team about some of our designs and such. We locked down what we are going to be doing with our sprint and charge shot, and now we are moving forward with levels. As for the sprint and the charge shot, we combined them into a dash that destroys inhibitors if you dash into them. We incorporated the bandwidth meter by having the dash cost a chunk of the meter and we are going to divide the meter into sections so the player has a visual queue if they have enough bandwidth to dash. We still have everyone on the team making levels, but we are working on a coherent 3 level experience for GDC. To nail that down, Matt, Tony and myself have put our heads together to come up with a plan. We have each been given different parts of the level to put together. I have been assigned to get the general floor layout of the 3 levels done and my deadline is this coming Tuesday which is why I have a lack of time. As of Saturday morning, I feel pretty good about my Level 1 Layout and I have the beginnings of the Level 2 layout. It’s going to be a lot of work in the next two days to get these two levels done, but I’m excited to do it.

Fixing it all and making Levels!

This last week has been crazy. The TLDR; is that I put together two levels,¬†implemented a bunch of the art onto our inhibitor,¬†and tried to get some MoCap into our game. My team has been working hard. The Faculty has chosen our game to represent the school at the Intel Showcase at GDC this year and we’ve kicked things into overdrive. We have most members of the teams working on levels or concepts of levels. Our artists have been getting new textures and assets to us quickly. ¬†We’ve had some design hiccups with the charge shot feature that part of the team isn’t too sure on and the other half really wants it in. My only concern about it that I’ve raised to the team is that it is going to require that everyone works ¬†more than we are. The team said that they are willing to put in the time so we are going for it. My goal moving forward is to get enough levels created by myself and other team members that we can start piecing¬†together a solid build so that we can start really delivering on our narrative. We have most of the pieces we just need to start putting it all together.

On a side note I’ve been applying to lots of jobs and hope to get some responses from them. *crossing fingers*

Breaking all the things

So we jumped overboard. We put in all the new mechanic completely which broke all our levels. This weekend I put together a tutorial level so we officially have one level! I worked from simple sketch that Rachel gave to me of teaching the player and rifted off of it to come up with a simple level. Right now it’s a very linear level but it is the tutoral so I’m not too worried about it.

What I am worrying about a bit is that we don’t have our levels anymore, but it will be good in the end as we push forward building levels with our new mechanics. I am of the opinion that none of our previous levels are going to work with the new bandwidth meter and the inhibitor mechanics. They may be able to be modified, but in their current state they didn’t really fit in my opinion. We’re still pushing to get the theme more involved in the game. The team is working really hard and although we weren’t a finalist for IGF we are still working hard to get an awesome game before the end of the year.

Also our game has been getting some great press from notable sites like indiegames.com and WIRED. This has brought lots of excitement and drive to the team which has been good with the moral hit of not being a IGF finalist.

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.

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!

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!