So we came back from GDC with a slump in our step. The week between GDC and Spring break was the hardest for the production of our game. With the down time in production, we actually came out being GREENLIT ON STEAM! We are super excited and are now pushing hard towards our publish date on April 16th. With the date bearing down on us, the team is hard at work getting the last of our features in. We are cramming for levels. The panic is setting in and we are running to the end.
I’ve been working on a concept and a layout for a end of game level. something challenging and fun. It’s proved to be a big challenge. I’m sorry these are getting shorter and shorter, but my time is getting more and more limited.
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*
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
After a summer of iteration and trying different things on our game, the team has finally come down to what the alpha version of our game has. I was starting to write it all, but here’s a picture of our Alpha Checklist that we need to have done before Oct 31st IGF submission.
So now our team has a checklist to go over to now if we are ‘done’ with our ‘alpha’. I put those in quotes because as students what we call alpha and beta are more of a prototype and what we call done is essentially an Alpha.
To highlight a bit of the engineering that I have done during the last week here are two snippets of blueprints.
This is the code snippet I put together to make our camera in 1st person now.
And this picture is what I put together to make a Tile that launches the player forward based of a directional arrow that is invisible (yet visible before running to help the Level Designers) on the Tile.
I know this post is scatterbrained a bit, but I’m also going to be doing some level design. I’ve always been interested in level design putting together my own maps in Starcraft and other engines, but I’ve never done it for a game that I’m developing. I’ve done lots of reading on gammasutra about level design and other places on the web. Now with some help from our resident Design Master Antonio Revard I’m going to be diving into it. I’ll post pictures next week of some of the things I come up with and why they all will probably be fails and ready for a third or fourth pass, but I’ll have something. Wish me luck. Only a month until submission!