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Spring 2015 Week 2 – Commitment, complications, and sriracha BBQ sauce.

Well, we didn’t get into IGF. It would be inaccurate to say the team and I aren’t a little disappointed, but honestly, we aren’t making the kind of game that IGF is interested in. The blow was dampened a bit by the insane amounts of press we’ve been getting this week, as well as the other competitions we are in the running for right now. IGF would have been amazing, but not being a finalist in no way has dampened our spirits or commitment to making this game amazing.

Implementing the new hotness is being a bit of a bear. Joe was able to figure out a new decal shader that pretty much removed our need for the ground level of our game to be tile-based. It’s a brilliant bit of tech that Joe figured out, however it did completely break the level metrics. There was some discussion then about adjusting current levels or creating new ones to match the metrics, we’ll probably have to figure the new numbers first and then make that call.

We had a visit from a potential new professor to the U by the name of Nick Montfort. He came by projects and gave some very interesting feedback about the game mostly in the form of visuals and looking to the experience of the internet to help inform the art style. Cool stuff, definitely good feedback.

I also did a final for the inhibitor model, we’ll wait to see what the team says about the final version.

inhibitorV3

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Spring 2015 Week 1 – Resolutions, progress, and ginger kombucha.

Winter vacation was really really refreshing. I spent precious little time thinking about the game, but I did spend a lot of time recharging my batteries. The new semester began and we hit the ground running.

Based on the feedback I received from the team and faculty about my performance last semester, I decided to step down as creative lead. I never want to be a block to my team, so it was just the thing to do. Joe stepped up as Art Lead and I maintained theme and narrative duties. Tony also physically left the team to go work for EA Tiburon in Florida. We’ll be communicating primarily with him via Skype and Slack. Kyle took up the design lead mantle, and we decided to implement some crazy stuff.

Before Tony left at the end of last semester, we had a kind of impromptu design meeting to talk through some of the ideas that had been tossed around the last few weeks. We landed on three ideas that all seemed to tie in nicely with each other.

The ping has gone from an always on, oscillating radius to a flashlight – that is the player may choose when it’s on and when it’s off. Certain paths will be blocked by inhibitors that the enemy hurls and plants in the levels. The inhibitors are activated when the ping comes into contact with it, so we now have a reason to use the ping strategically. The player will be given a bandwidth meter that is filled by travelling on fast lanes and depleted by travelling on slow lanes.  Finally, when one fills the bandwidth meter, the player can use a power shot to destroy the inhibitors when in range. We also toyed with procedural levels, which turned out to be a bit more trouble than it was worth. I think we are going to stay with the loading system we have, with some fixes of course.

So we got to work getting all of that madness designed and planned out. The first thing was the new ping, followed by the bandwidth meter. I created the meter and basic hookups in UMG, and researched how to do custom meters. I also began concepting out the inhibitor:

In other news, we received quite a few plays on the IGF build that we prepared for the judges. Which is amazing and terrifying. Hopefully we’ll hear next week who the finalists are and if we’re among them. Also we made the front page of IndieGames.com! Which is actually HUGE, their readership is vast and they are part of the UBM network, who hosts GDC. We had a significant spike in viewership due to these things and I’m pretty stoked about it. We will continue to move forward and get this thing ready to present at GDC!

 

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Week 3 – feature lock, bosses, and candy skulls

18 Days To Alpha
47 Days to IGF Deadline

Busy week for Team Retro Yeti. On Tuesday we feature locked. We decided at the beginning of the meeting to get rid of the action mechanic. This would have included things like switches and hidden rooms, anything that would require extra skills from the player. In the end we decided we didn’t want to have to design around these things and they seemed a bit out of place with the core gameplay.

So we feature locked the aspects of everything except the checkpoints and the enemy, those are a bit of a longer conversation. We also had a mini conversation about the narrative wrapper of the game. I gave some narrative notes that I had thrown together, and the team seemed to agree that it was a good direction. The TL:DR of that is the PC is a digital denizen who sees her world being taken over and “corrected” by big bad that has infiltrated the system. What was once beautifully chaotic is becoming stark, sterile, and locked away. The PC must use her ability to avoid capture and defeat the big bad, freeing the system of control.

Based on that little tidbit, Tony put together a level aesthetic that we were then able to build a level by level feature list. This was extremely useful in helping James, Tony, and Brenton design levels that made sense and provided flow for the character. We still have some features to work out, the enemy is still a bit nebulous, the win state and fail states are up in the air, and the actual ability needs to be tuned.

We messed around for a little bit with a projectile ability after receiving feedback from Jose and Ryan, but in the end it only felt good to use when the player is in the air after a launch. The problem we were trying to solve was the ability didn’t have a far enough radius to reveal where the player was going to land until just before they hit the ground. The projectile solved that, but felt off during the rest of the gameplay. So we went back to the radius-based ability and are continuing to develop and tune that system.

 

I also pitched the revised art style to the art team. Because of the deadline is 57 days, and art lock 43 days from now, I was concerned about getting everything into the game that we needed. Joe and Cory have been cranking out the kit super fast, and that is great, but there was a lot of detail work that had to happen to achieve the original vision. So my proposed revision of the game is to take the same aesethetics of the closed-in city streets and abstract it. Taking out the literal storefronts and balconies and replacing them with a high density of shapes still has the same effect, but leaves us more room to play with the modularity of the level and level kits. I also feel like it creates some interesting contrast between the “real” world and what the ability reveals.

I also proposed the level by level aesthetic based on the proposed narrative. Basically, the style of the level goes from cluttered but beautiful geometry to minimalist, sterile environments. This is a metaphor for the overabundance of content and the curated, tightly controlled content. Here’s a detailed mood board to express what that looks like:

moodboard_Rev

 

I personally spent some time this week attempting to come up with some interesting tile configurations and icons to help the player understand what they might do. I’m playing with the idea of giving the player iconic feedback that is region and culture neutral so (hopefully) it can be played by many types of people. This is kind of harder than it seems, especially when it comes to arrows. There will probably be a future blog post all about arrows and all the problems they cause, but for now enjoy some concept art (not final).

tileConcepts

tileicons

 

 

There is still a bunch of work that needs to be done on the design front for both art and levels, but as of today, I feel like this thing is finally coming together. Next week we will be starting public playtests of the game so we can receive feedback and further refine the design, so stay tuned for that!

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Week 13 – On teams, freeze rays, and hot sauce.

So this week was… interesting.

At the end of last week it was mentioned that we’d be able to pick our own teams this next round. What that meant was up to us to decide. Immediately, artist Joe tagged me to be on his team, and we met up with Tina, Sidd G, Skip, and Shelwin. We tentatively invited Owen not knowing if he was able to be on our team. The studio quickly became a feeding frenzy of people recruiting and being recruited to different teams. Everything was in a bit of disarray until Monday evening when it was somewhat decided that we should stick to the traditional team structure so all would be fair among the teams.

But it wasn’t.

Suddenly there were orphans who were once part of teams standing alone. This included myself and some other severely talented people. So quickly, I got Owen on board and we picked up Peijun and Dayna on engineering, and acquired Jed at the last second. The other orphans filtered into other teams needing artists and engineers. I was feeling good about our new team. But then we learned that we would be down two team members halfway through the project – Owen’s twins are due any second, and Peijun is leaving to go back to China for the break. So we had a choice – stay together and get as much done with the full team as humanly possible, then punt the rest of the time with the remaining three team members, or dissolve the team into other teams. Dayna and I were heavily on the dissolve side. Since we are publishing this prototype (more on that later) we decided that spreading the resources among other teams would result in a higher quality game than staying together and attempting to piece it together at the end. It also alleviates the pressure on those team members that have to leave half way through. Owen and Peijun were torn, they really liked the team and wanted to work with us all. I reminded them that this isn’t the end and there is still the opportunity to work together on the thesis game. Jed wanted to keep the team together and see what we could do. In the end, we all voted to dissolve, it was best for the team members and the group as a whole.

So, I was then immediately picked back up by Tina and Joe’s team, where I originally started. But that is exciting because I get to work with another artist! Something that I haven’t been able to do up to this point. Our engineering team is top-notch, and Tina is always fun to work with.

So, this prototype is going to be published on the Windows App Store. We had a huge presentation from Randy, Tech Evangelist (yes, that is a thing) from Microsoft telling us about the cool features in the hardware and software options for the new Windows stuff.  We will be publishing the prototypes on the MSAS because it is ridiculously underpopulated and easy to publish. Plus we get a whole bunch of MS swag and software to play with.

So, we wanted our game to be casual, have an audience of people that received new fun things for the holidays, and people who will be needing distraction during family functions. We wanted something with repetitive play and big payoffs to keep people coming back. After tooling around with the design box for a while, Joe and I came up with a game where you defend you winter getaway cabin from the hordes of snow goons trying to destroy your fun.

I threw together some concept artwork for the monsters (snowmen, penguins, and yeti for now) and a couple weapons to use (hairdryer, hot chocolate hose, and a sun gun) to melt the icy monsters before they get to the house. The bad guys will also be capable of tossing snow at the house, potentially destroying it. Concept sketches at the bottom of the post.

We presented to the group and received some excellent feedback, the most exciting of which is the potential to craft the main weapon instead of switching it out mid-game. So you start with a hair dryer, and after the first wave you can go to “The Attic” and rummage around until you find something like a motor or super heating element to enhance the original blow dryer. This has huge potential I think, and the changes you make to the weapon can be visually represented at the beginning of the round. You can also choose to make upgrades to the cabin to make it more snow-proof.

I’m really excited about this prototype, I think it’s really fun to develop and should be fun to play. And really, nothing is better than penguins with freeze rays.

 

winstateconceptColor3conceptColor2conceptColor1 weapons