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).

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.

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!

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. ūüėÄ I’m excited to move forward and see where we’re going to be in another week.

 

Finalizing the Design

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.

AlphaChecklist

 

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.

http://wiki.retroyeti.com/index.php?title=True_First_Person_Camera_from_Thirdperson_view

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.

LaunchSnippet

 

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!

Ready for anything!

 

Brushing it up for end of semester.

 

Our team is getting ready for the end of our first year in grad school. Our game of premonitions has three levels or iterations. We have a hallway run through while everything is exploding  and the floor is falling(the premonition ability shows the player what floor tiles are going to give out), a small room that lasers that run through the room in sequences (the premonition ability allows the player to see the laser patterns before they activate),   the last is a stairway that has spikes in the floor that are traps (the premonitions will show the player where along the stairway he will die).

I’ve been working on the stairway iteration and making sure that the mechanic will function in the level. I’ve set up the design, traps, and coding of the level. The part I’m not working on is the base premonition mechanic. Below is part of one Blueprint I created in Unreal 4 for the stairway level.

MYBLUEPRINT

Our game has a semi-theme and style. We are going for a more Cartoony, comic book style or art, and we are thinking of using a super hero theme. Our professors tell us that we have a good start, but because we are a student game, we need to have something to stand out. Like super heroes fighting obesity or something like that. Taking a topic that people know about and use the game medium to get people thinking about it. We haven’t found that piece yet, but we’ll get there.

As far as normal producer tasks, I have been getting more of that experience from The GApp lab. My team just got approval on our Alpha and we are now working hard for the next month to get a polished awesome beta. I’m super excited for another year of learning and growing!

Finding the Game Design

One of the biggest struggles I believe our team has had is really nailing down the question, “What is our game?” We have had several design meetings that we’ve covered the topic and team members have thrown out ideas, but So far what we are doing is recreating our hall scenario from the pitch. We’ve centered around a Comic book Cell Shaded art style which gives us lots of liberties with the mechanic. Meaning that we could make the mechanic a super power or a paranormal feature. So far we still haven’t found the fun of our game. Because of the excess of producers on my team I have taken to prototyping different ideas that have come up during meetings. My hope in doing this is to find and show what can and can’t be fun with our mechanic.

On a different note, The GApp lab project that I’ve been producing is in crunch right now getting ready for a harsh alpha review this coming Monday. We have one big feature to get in tomorrow then bug testing for the rest of the week. I’m nervous and excited to see this project moving forward. I’ve been learning a lot in The GApp lab about how to be a good producer. I still have a long way to go, I’m still learning things everyday from Zac and Zeph (the Lead Producers of The GApp lab). One of the big things I learned this week was how to go about planning crunch. I was just going to sit down with my team and tell them, “Look we have a lot to do we are going to have to put a lot of hours in this week to get it done.” In the team meeting, I starting running over all that we needed to do. Zac then led a discussion on how we could get everything done. He laid out a couple options. The team responded with a couple options. We then analyzed our options and chose a direction to go. I was shocked at how easy the discussion when and then took some time to think of how I could use that to be a better producer. I’m hoping that one day it will all just click, but until then I’m going to keep working and trying to get to being a good producer.