By George, I Think We Got It!

We’ve found the fun! Let me say it again: We’ve found the fun! After a year of working hard on this project, we’ve have struggled finding what makes our game fun. So much so that some people that playtested our game kept telling us that our game is interesting and has potential to be something special, but it’s missing something. Today, I believe we’ve finally broke our game down to a place where we can say we’ve found that “something”.

It all began on Thursday when we were discussing camera. We spent much time discussing how we can make our camera better for our gameplay. The problem with our camera is that it didn’t reinforce our core mechanic. Our game focuses on ascertaining territory that can be removed and replaced at the player’s discretion to defeat his/her opponent. However, in order to maximize this mechanic, the player needs to see more of the playing field. This became a subject of debate, and we addressed this idea ad nauseam.

Through our discussion we began conversing about our core mechanic. Working with our engineer Skip, he pointed out to me that most of our deaths were a result of accident. For example, I’ve died many times falling through a removed tile or by backtracking off the cylinder. This detail made me realize how little the players are influencing the game and instead error determined victory within our game.

Realizing this problem, I began discussing with members of our team how the core mechanic did not feel advantageous to the player. In other words, it really didn’t matter if the player controlled territory because it really didn’t enable them to truly exploit it to defeat the other player. Deaths resulted from human error. Through my diatribe, Skip was listening to my points. As we continued to discuss the core mechanic and how it needed to change, Skip tweaked it slightly. He then invited us to test the change he had made.

What Skip changed blew our minds. His simple change dramatically affected the feel of our game. Skip decided to merely remove the toggle function that would replace the captured territory. Thus, once the player chose to remove the taken tiles they would never return. What this did was make the game more about attacking the opponent then merely trying to focus on territory control. The permanence we added made the game feel fast and furious as the two players battled in the cylinder that degrades as the players try to kill each other using territory. Now players need to traverse the destroyed environment in order to destroy tiles so as to trap and ultimately kill the other player.

The gameplay felt right and the rest of the lab could here us screaming for joy because we were finally having fun. It took a year to really see that our game could be fun. But no matter how long it has taken, I am very happy to finally be playing a game I would say is fun!

We are moving forward with this core mechanic and I am excited to say that we are going to ride this into the sunset. I’m stoked to see where we are headed. And I wouldn’t trade the journey to get to where we are today.

The Last Semester Begins

Well here I am beginning the last semester in the EAE program. Crazy how fast it has come. This week we entered the final semester losing two teammates and gaining a new one. Our producer Casey Deans did not return nor did our engineer Ron. Fortunately, their absence is unrelated out our game. However, we added a new member, and producer, Owen to the team. Owen left the program briefly to work for EA as a sound designer. Luckily EA allowed him to return to the program to a game that would not be in direct competition with their library of upcoming games. Thus, Owen desired to join our team and we gladly accepted his offer.

On the first day of class, we redefined the theme behind our game. Since we changed the nature of our environment to allow for wall-walking, a jagged/rocky hellish environment caused issues with movement and our game’s camera. As a result, we smoothed out the surface to address the issue. We also made the surface tiles easier to see so it would communicate better with the player. Because of these changes, the environment looked less like hell and more like demons fighting in a technological tube. Thus, the environment and the avatars just didn’t feel right together, and many people noted this problem during the EAE Open House.

To overcome this issue, I took inspiration to what occurred to Xbox Live and Playstation Network during Christmas day. Both networks were taken down by a DDoS attack from a group calling themselves Lizard Squad. The DDoS attack became an inspiration for how we could communicate our theme better. When we returned, I proposed this new theme using the same core mechanics. Our team agreed that this new theme worked better in relation to the visuals for our game.

We also decided to test our assumptions first rather than set anything in stone when it came to design. In other words, instead of just inserting a mechanic into our game, we would first prototype it into our test build, and if it stood through a rigorous playtest, then we would keep it for our game. This allowed us to generate weekly sprints so we can do our best to make a fun game with the little time we have left in the program.

Well, I am very much looking forward to this semester. Although last semester presented many challenges, I know I am better for it. I hope you will follow my blog throughout my last semester in the EAE and witness the conclusion to this journey.