A New EAE Day, A New Game

We still are unsure as to what to call the new version of the game.  As it currently is, and what it was on EAE Day, was a one player driving game where you drive a car down a track that you are building at the same time.  It was a success.  It was very popular at the show.  We had people of all ages playing the game and giving us their minds on it.  Most of the reviews were astoundingly great.  It was a week of crunch to get the beast done for the show but we, once again pulled it off in time and had a great show.

The semester is coming to an end now and we will all go seperate ways for a few weeks.  I think that this will be good to let people get some R&R.  See you next year!

Smooth Control

For the next little while I am going to work on the design of the car.  More specifically the “smooth control” of driving the car.  The car is really wobbly when you drive it and it is also hard to control.  I am working closely with Leo now to get the feeling just right.  When I first approached Leo about it, he told me that it is hard to control  is because he had the car scaled down very small.  So first item of business was to put the car back to regular size.  Even just that seemed to be very helpful but we still have a lot of work to do to get this car just right.  We do not want to have the player feel like the game is broken because the car feels weird.

After the play-test, we got a lot of feedback on the game.  This is what made me want to design the hell out of the smooth controlling of the car.  Feedback is important this way.  I play the game so much that those kind of things often get overlooked.  Glad to have fresh eyes and hands on the project to help out.

Killing Candy

After another excellent meeting about our theme, we have decided to kill the candy idea all together.  There is probably something to be said about not finding any candy themed games on Steam.  We are hoping to publish the game on Steam so it would not make sense to publish something that does not appeal to that market.  Instead we are going to focus on a red rock southern Utah theme.  Also with all this art theme change the design of the game has changed as well.  We are now giving the builder a three piece option to lay track.  Each sequence will need to be placed in the correct order to link one stationary track piece to another.  This will make the game more simple.  We have a lot of work to do now and it is starting to feel like we are very behind.

I also had another peer review.  This one did not go as well as the previous.  This time my “quietness” has got the best of me.  I have a few people on the team who do not think that I am contributing.  Jose also mentioned that he did not have anything to yell at me for.  Which sounds like a good thing until you consider that what he meant is that he cannot link me to a particular task on this project.  I tried to explain but it seemed the more I talked the more I was being lead down a rabbit hole.  Not the greatest experience but something to learn from I suppose.  All my design efforts and work are being overlooked by my instructors and peers.  I will now work harder on being loud.  That is my take away from that.

Art Direction and Theme

After all the time it took to get art in the game, we are now advised to change the art.  The problem is that it appears to be too close to the theme of another popular game.  We were advised to change the theme to something else.  We had a long meeting about different themes where we wrote down all kinds of themes that we could do to differentiate us from this other game.  The art team is not happy that they have to do this again but I believe that it is in our best interest.

We are still doing candy but we are going to focus the theme a little more to be specifically candy caves and floating islands.  Hopefully these new ideas will be enough to differentiate our game from others.  We are having a lot of art meeting now and really trying to nail this down.  While this has been happening I have been working on a inside a floating island level with Drew.  This level will focus on catching the car in the air.  We are going to have the builder build track to a stagnate track piece that will launch the driver high inside the cave and the builder will have to catch the car with a track piece while they are on that right level.

“Fall Break” and IGF

What a crazy couple of weeks!  Even now I find myself writing this blog post in Canada.  Why am I in Canada?  Because I am attending a conference on live escape games.  I own a business called Mystery Escape Room where we run escape games in Salt Lake City.  The IGF submission was due this past week and it feels good to have met that deadline.  We had a major pivot for our submission.  Our game is now called Sweet Ride and it is in a candy themed environment that you are building and driving.  Another design change is that our game is now a two player co-op game where player 1 builds the track and player 2 drives the car to reach a common goal.  If the driver falls off the track the builder is able to catch them with another track piece.  The game is fun!  I am very proud of all the work we were able to put into it over fall break in order to meet our deadline.  The team is taking a little R&R now.

Play-Test coming up

Yesterday we had an All Hands Meeting where the producers show the games progress to the whole class in a presentation.  Warm Tirez, as we are calling the game now, got some good feedback.  The game still has the driving mechanic in it and that seemed to feel like a disconnect to the hot wheels theme.  In real life you cannot drive your hot wheels down a track, you just launch them and see where they go.  Although turning off the driving capabilities is on the list it did not make it in what we have now.  We also got some nice feedback where people talked about how they liked the idea of mixing the hot wheels track with the angry birds objectives.

Tomorrow is a play-test.  We are going to have the cohort come around and play our game.  Drew and I have been hard at work building interesting levels that would be the players playground.  I have built 3 levels so far in white box and I feel proud of my work.  One of the levels you have to find your way to the other side of a wall and then down a narrow lane.  Another level I built to be like going through a house.  You have to build ups some stairs and through some rooms and out a window where you find your goal was behind where you started all along.  I have quite enjoyed level designing the past couple of weeks.

A day for Review

This semester we are required to submit peer reviews for those who are on our team.  Last semester we did this but just at the end of the semester.  We will have to do it two or three times this semester and we just finished up the first.  It is an interesting thing to be able to write about your team anonymously.  I mean, in a way that they will get reviewed but not know who wrote what things.  I am generally a nice guy and I know that I tend to see the world through rose colored glasses so it is difficult for me to find bad things to write about other people, unless they have really pissed me off.  For this round I had generally good things to say about everybody and if nothing changes, I’ll probably have good things to say next time too.

In the same vain, I also was reviewed.  I got to hear what the team thought about me and my work.  I met with Brian and he told me that I had glowing reviews.  This made my day.  I usually have a difficult time being heard among my peers because I am a naturally quiet person.  I work with Drew who is quite the opposite and that leaves me drowned out a lot of the time.  I very much appreciate the feedback though and I am glad to know that even if I am not heard, the team recognizes my drive and effort on the project.

Angry Birds meets Hot Wheels

This past week, the team has looked more into this Angry Birds meets Hot Wheels idea.  We are now making a game where the player would experiment with track design with the purpose of trying to reach a city at the end of the level.  There would be obstacles in the way that they would need to build their track around.  If they find a way to do it right, they would be able to launch their car down the track and send it flying at the city for the win.

The teams seems to be on board with the idea and we are meeting every Saturday to work on it.  This allows us to have an extra work day every week.  I think that it is a good idea to have the extra day.  Our team seems to have a slower velocity on getting things done so hopefully the extra day helps.

Starting Off the New Year

This week has been a blast and past by so fast.  School is in session again and I think that I may have taken the summer a little too easy.  Getting back into the swing of things is challenging but very fun.  On the first day back we had to present our game.  The team has been hard at work throughout the summer so our game has changed very much since EAE day last spring.  I have been heavily involved with personal projects over the summer so I was not as prepared for the presentation myself but Erik did a great job handling the presentation.

Some of the major changes in the game have to do with taking out the city and moving more towards the classic fun of playing with Hot Wheels on tracks.  With this build we are experimenter with the idea of having the player build their own track to send a car down.  They will then have to set up the track in a certain way to reach check points along the way.  That would be the challenging part.  Right now the game is set up for you to hit four checkpoints and after collecting them a building will blow up in the middle and you win.

Some of the feedback for this idea  was interesting.  There seems to be a disconnect with the joy of playing with Hot Wheel cars and driving the car avatar.  I agree with this criticism and we are now working on a different design for it.  I spoke with Drew about an idea to explore where we are going to create a sort of Angry Birds meets Hot Wheels type game and we are moving in that direction for now.  It will be exciting to see what the next week brings.

EAE Fest

Scene 2This was a surprising week for me.  It started with a fight breaking out within the team.  It was not what I was expecting because I have always felt that we were all working hard and getting along.  I think that it was for the best though because we have not had such experiences yet and I think that it probably happens often on dev teams.  It would be great to avoid things like that but better to happen here rather than out working at a job.  Right now I think that they will make up and things will smooth out but my biggest worry was about showing the game at EAE Fest and how the team would react to hearing about the fall out.

EAE Fest went great.  We got a lot of users to play the game and even faculty that have not seen the game in a long while.  They all had great feedback for where we could take the game next.  It was crowded but fun.  It was really great to have my 3-year-old son there playing Crash City and just having a blast with it.  The game has come a long way and he loves playing it.  There is no real clear objective in the game now and that is perfect for him because he is so young.  He just likes seeing the buildings explode when he gets a car to hit them.  I am looking forward to the summer and the next builds of the game.