In the past 2 weeks, we’ve made good progress on the visual half of the game, and less than good progress on the engineering half of the game.
We had no visual style chosen or specific direction to start creating assets towards. During the first week, the art team decided to create a low poly environment (+ assets of course) for the game. However, this was a stand-up discussion – there was no official style guide. Due to circumstances, the style guide was almost completed a week ago but Kat realized that artists were moving in different directions all under the same umbrella of “low poly.” As producers, Nick and I called an artist meeting to mediate a discussion with real decisions about specifics like which games were we pulling model inspiration from, which games we were pulling palette inspiration from, etc. It’s a pro and a con that most of the team’s artists love to work hard and work fast rather than debate or deliberate. So while the meeting might have generated some exasperation in the end we confirmed via check-in conversations that the meeting was necessary, and it was instrumental in getting the style guide completed, which finally happened last week.
Additionally, we knew we needed more specifics for designing the one level we are submitting to IGF but we knew getting the general assets in the correct style in the game was paramount to those decisions. After getting an early version of what will become our final IGF level in the game, Nick mediated a design meeting with a mix of interested artists and engineers to come up with a final spec document for the level including player verbs and the pathing and experience we want the players to have. Thankfully this sets up the art team to move with specific focus for these last four weeks before our IGF submission deadline.
While all this has been bustling among the artists, the engineers have been plagued with dependencies, making their progress sluggish. Despite the urgency of our impending deadlines, the decision was made to re-factor our existing project code to make it more efficient in the long run. Unfortunately, because networking is a relatively new endeavor for all of our engineers, taking the makeshift networking code and organizing it into modules to facilitate future code has presented problem after problem every week. Additionally, it’s common knowledge for all teams that the engineers have the hardest class of all EAE students this semester and their assignments take a lot of time. Finally, all of our engineers work at least part-time not just for the program but also for outside companies. The demands on their time leave very little opportunities to sit down for a dedicated amount of time and knock out a complex project like re-factoring. It’s hard to say if this will be worth it in the end, given all the time and resources it’s eaten up the past 3 weeks, but I’m crossing my fingers it will indeed pay off.
One great experience we had as a team was having recruiters and executives from Infinity Ward visit the lab and play our game. That happened before we had any of our art assets in, which was actually to our benefit actually because Infinity Ward was able to give us advice just on our mechanics. A great piece of advice we got (and implemented) was trying to push the game with controllers so players could get feedback through vibration, to reinforce visual and audio feedback.
Some engineering tasks that have been completed helped a ton with design questions and hypotheses we had. For example, we are always questioning and testing ways to give the blind character more visual juice, that won’t take away from the player relying on the binaural audio cues. One idea was to show the blind character her hands (with some kind of magical-looking shader) just so there was something else to look at. However when we implemented it, we realized it interfered with the compass which was necessary to show that the blind character was moving. So while time went in to placing and showing the hands with a shader, we ended up removing it from the game. Additionally, we just had a particle effect put in to show the blind character when she collides with a wall. We’ll be testing it for the next sprint to see how it works and if it’s really valuable or interesting to the player. Looking forward to more playtesting!