Wow, Art Makes a Difference

Over the weekend, our engineers worked really hard to put in several different weapon types for our game. Today, they showed off the different weapon types and tested them all and tried to find a good order for them around our little planet. I found an order I liked and thought was balanced (though our “flamethrower” weapon is still crazy overpowered) and they implemented it and I started testing.

While I was testing and discussing gameplay tweaks with the engineers, Daniel, one of our artists, pulled me over to check his artwork he was working on. It’s amazing! It evokes space and planet, but also abstracts both a little bit. After playing a bunch of the game and seeing the artwork, it made me think a lot about chaos and order and civilization attempting to keep things in line and in order despite the inevitability of chaos and lots of such philosophical mumbo-jumbo.

These ideas were already in the game, and the artwork just helps tease it out. The core gameplay is still fun because we made the decision to go for fun above all else last week, and in looking for the fun we kind of stumbled upon a cooler theme than we ever came up with on our own.

And just look at it, this is a game you want to keep playing just to look at:

TeamTronScreen1

I am suddenly completely renewed in my excitement for this game. We’ve got a great team and a great idea and things are coming together.

And they better come together–this thing is supposed to be done next Tuesday!

The Question of Fun

We had quite the experience yesterday with our “informal pitches” to Bob and Roger around a computer. We did really well. Jon, one of our engineers, threw together a playable prototype that we could show off and they really liked our concept. However, while they loved the mechanics, they wondered if we could find a more effective aesthetic hook than just defending a planet. They left us with that thought to chat about as they moved on to the other groups.

And chat we did.

We ended up having around an hour and a half meeting as a whole team discussing all the ways we could use this same mechanic and re-theme it to be more of a unique hook than just a planet. The idea we spent the most time on was immigration, with the game taking more of a Papers, Please direction by giving the players rules about which colored dots to let hits the center circle and which to “deny” by shooting them denied stamps before they close in.

After a long discussion on statistics and “the system” and other things, Jon (he’s turning out to be kind of the hero of this project), spoke up again and asked if the new game we seemed to be making was any fun compared to our original pitch. We all agreed that it sounded less fun, and fun was the most important factor for us. We all decided we wanted to find the fun first, then we can aim for a compelling and original theme if it fits our mechanics.

And after all that we divided up and went back to doing basically exactly what we were doing before the meeting.

I think it was important to take the time and talk our design through together, though. I think we all understand each other more because of it. After the meeting, we all went back to our computers and I think we were a lot more productive working apart while collaborating via Slack than we were sitting together and talking. I’m noticing most of our progress is actually happening that way this time. I’m learning that every team is different and you kind of just have to find what works for the group. Despite the long meeting all the Slack work separately seems to be going really well and I think we’re going to have a great game. It’s going to be really exciting to be able to share the playable game this time and not just a video.

I’m excited.

A New Day with Team Tron…ish!

A new week, a new team, new game, and new set of requirements. The requirements for this next prototype are using Flash or HTML 5, reworking a pre-1983 arcade game that has just joystick movement and one button.

My new team all worked on different projects before and this time I’m the only producer. It’s exciting to meet a whole new group of people. We had quite the ride today coming up with out concept too.

The short story is we came up with a concept we liked and then were told it wouldn’t work. Twice.

Our first idea was to riff off the Tron cycles game, make it a 2 player game and provide power-ups to shoot or break through the light walls created by the bikes. We all liked it and we all started working, but then we were told that we shouldn’t do two-player games because they get played far less often. So we met again and came up with an idea for “AsteroidsCraft” where it’s Asteroids but your ship breaks off pieces and you can pick up new pieces from alien ships you destroy that give you different properties (weapons, rams, shields, etc.). Then we were told Asteroids doesn’t count because the thrust button is different than a move button and so the game technically has two buttons. So we met again again.

The new new idea we settled on (and checked for approval of from Bog and Roger just to cover our backs), is riffing off Missile Command. Basically, our major change is you’re defending a planet in the middle rather than cities at the bottom of the screen. We’re playing with ideas like different guns on different parts of the planet and when you shoot in that direction, it shoots from that specific gun, and the planet slowly rotates making you strategize your play. We could also have non-threatening units pass by not on a collision course that will allow you to gain powerups or something when you shoot them down.

I’m very excited by this project and to play this game we’re about to make. We’ve only got three weeks this time but I’m confident this game will be even better than our last games.

Final Pitch/Postmortem

Here it is! Look at our final glory of Glow, the stealth grapple puzzle platformer:

Our pitch went well, we were just too eager to defend ourselves from suggestions a little bit.

After we finished our pitches, everyone went back into their groups and did a postmortem, meaning we chatted about what happened good and bad and how to do better with our next projects and stuff.

Here’s the whiteboard we wrote everything on:

Postmortem

Obviously, we had a lot to talk about.

Overall, I really enjoyed making Glow and I think I had an absolutely great team.

Dry Run Fun

We did our dry run for our pitch today and it went pretty well. We didn’t have much negative freedback and most of the feedback we got was just ideas to expand the game from what we have.

The best part for me was that after a very successful pitch, all our team wanted to do was make it even better, so everybody’s working hard to implement their own version of an extra final touch to make our final pitch all that much better–simple sound effects, printing the player’s time on-screen, additional short videos to show off individual mechanics, and more.

I hope we can all keep that same attitude as we head into our next prototypes and our careers. I want to be the kind of developer that takes the time and has the energy to go back and add that final extra touch.

Final Steps

Just as Tuesday was one of my best days so far, today has been one of my worst. So many little tiny adjustments, trial and error, and playtesting over and over and over again. We’re very very close to a pitch, however. And we’ve made something playable, fun, and all-around impressive for four weeks of work, really.

So, I declare us victorious. Almost. One star.

GlowVictory

Just kidding. 3 stars for us!

GlowVictory3

Marching Toward a Pitch

Wow, it’s my birthday. (Literally, it is. I’m 24 today.) It’s been an amazing day for Chameleon Assassin (or whatever our game is  called now).

My favorite part about this story is that this morning, we had a bunch of stuff done in terms of level design, systems, and art, but it was all flying all over the place on different machines, books, etc. We knew we would have to show Roger and Bob our new build, and our team really came together and wrapped everything all up in a nice bow.

And we pulled it off!

 

ChameleonScreen1

Obviously, we’ll need more animations in there, but the systems, level design, and background came together for a great update for Roger and Bob. We have the snakes moving along their platforms (blue rectangles), the owls (red circles) whose vision (and collision boxes) increase as you eat the fireflies (yellow boxes). We have our “tongue grapple” mechanic, which works even as you’re falling. We also have a “hide” mechanic where you press space bar and the snakes can’t see you as long as you don’t move or stick out your tongue.

Overall, a great birthday, and a great day for Sticky Games.

Playtesting Adventures

Yesterday was my favorite day yet in Rapid Prototyping. Akshay, one of our engineers, is a coding boss and made an extension for Inkscape that exports the code to put directly into our game to create a level, essentially making a level editor for us so we can rapidly iterate on level design ideas.

Level design fell to me yesterday, then,  and I spent all day in the lab just tweaking the level, testing it, tweaking again, testing again, and so on and so on and so on.

I’m seeing the value that everyone has placed so heavily on playtesting as even the littlest things can make a game more fun–like using WASD controls instead of arrow keys, or increasing the movement speed of your character slightly. The proudest moment of the day was when Bob, one of our professors, was watching over our shoulders as we tested the latest iteration and said, “Now this is fun.”

We’re in a good spot, and I genuinely enjoyed myself the whole time as I messed with moving platforms and enemies and fireflies all around the screen. I think we’ll be in great shape when presentation time comes around.

ProtoPrototype

Yesterday, we hit a big milestone for our prototype–the protoprototype, which is literally a green square the shoots out a red line and hits rectangles, after which the green box moves toward the rectangle. It’s fun for that moment, but there’s a lot of work yet to make a fun level of a fun game built around that idea.

We’ve started tweaking speed and length of the “tongue” and other variables, and we’ll playtest again on Thursday.

Good things are happening.