Submission Approved! Our Baby is All Grown Up

The big news for our game this week is that Desura officially approved our submission. After the long year and half of working on this game, it is finally ready for primetime. The moment we’ve been waiting for is finally upon us. We’re releasing Hostile Territory into the wild. As a result of being accepted for submission, we spent much of the week fine tuning and including the new tutorial in our game for our launch day build. We also worked on the game’s music so that as players come closer together, the more intense the music becomes. Owen has done an amazing job with the music and this easily shows why he works at EA as a sound designer. The game has come a long way this semester and we have so much to be proud of as a team. It’s exciting to see it finally available for people to enjoy!

This week we also spent much of our time putting fine tuning our thesis defense. On Tuesday, we presented a mock version of our thesis defense to the projects faculty. Although we were told last minute we would use the time normally reserved for our All-Hands Meeting as an opportunity for a mock thesis presentation, and at the time I wasn’t too happy about it, it was definitely worth our time since we received useful feedback. In addition, it was great that the faculty provided a 1 on 1 feedback rather than as a whole class. This made the setting intimate and the feedback much easier to receive. It was a great opportunity to evaluate what we roughly put together and determine what we can do in the next week and a half to improve it.

Well it is almost finished. Next week I will be writing my final blog post. As I come close to this end I am reminded of the long journey. As Jose noted today, these blogs are for us to reflect on what we have done. With that said, I hope to one day, long in the future, read some of these blogs and be reminded of this challenging, but yet enjoyable journey. And I hope in my distant future self that I will remember these wonderful times with the friends I have been fortunate to have made along the way. I’ll definitely drink to that!

Stay tuned to the final installment. The journey has come full circle.

The Finish Line is in Sight

This past week was all about finalizing our game. Specifically, we focused on submission and composing the final two presentations. To begin, we finally received the specifics as to what Desura wanted changed for our game to pass submission. Luckily, the main issue noted by Desura is to include a tutorial to help gamers understand the gist of our game. Topher has taken the initiative to create a video detailing how to play our game Hostile Territory. We will implement the video this Tuesday with the necessary UI so we can resubmit our game and hopefully publish it before we graduate.

Also this week I spent much of my time working on our final two presentations. The first presentation is our last All-Hands meeting. Before Thursday, I took on the task for creating and presenting the entire presentation. Since the theme of the presentation is around the game going gold, I purposely made the presentation around the evolution of our game to what it is today. It was my desire to center the the content around the growth of our game and not necessarily about us as students.

However, last minute we learned that the faculty desired this to be a dry-run for our thesis presentation. At first we were panicked since we had a presentation already and as a result of their change of heart, we needed to create a new one  to accommodate our faculty’s late request. Luckily, Allen was able to negotiate with Jose that we continue with the presentation I had composed. But to satisfy the faculty’s demands, instead of only me presenting, all the leads would have an opportunity to speak about their areas role in the evolution of our game. I am happy for this compromise since I spent hours working on the presentation and would not have wanted much of it thrown away. I’m am very happy the faculty worked with us so we can not only satisfy their desires, but also allow us to give a good presentation.

This week we also continued conceptualizing the thesis presentation. My goal is to center the thesis presentation less about our game but more about us as students. It became a hot topic on Tuesday. So much so, that even Ryan added his two cents on how we should go about creating it. His suggestion was to have everyone on our team speak when addressing their specific areas instead of just the producers providing the bulk of the presentation and then having the rest of the team individual speak about his or her contribution to the final game. Even though I was opposed to it at first since it would take a bit more time to organized, it seemed to be the best option to allow everyone a moment to shine. As a result, we decided to compose our presentation around Ryan’s game plan. Well played Ryan, well played.

The program is reaching its climax and we are at the cusp of its completion. My only regret at this point is that I wish we had more time to work on our game. This semester our game finally became a game we can be proud of. But instead of feeling like a complete game, it’s merely a vertical slice of how cool our game could be in the long run. It’s there, we just need more time to make it a complete experience. we found the fun. Even my fellow cohort has been having enjoying playing it. Just wish we had more time to make it go from fun to memorable. So close.

Well stay tuned for my last two blog posts. The journey is just about over. I need to invest in many tissue boxes soon.

The Week That Was: Getting Harder to Find Something to Write About Edition

As we reach the final days for completing our time in the program, it is becoming more difficult to cover a specific topic. Since our game is almost golden and ready to ship, there is not much major updates or significant changes to relate. Therefore, instead of relating information like in past posts, this week,I will relate the week’s happenings like an old RKO news brief — that analogy predates me too!

Well this week we focused on juicing up our game as well as bug squashing. Our artist Rob created a new jump animation as well as added some FX to the jump. He also is creating a disintegration of the avatar when it dies. So far, these changes are making the game appear more solid than it did a month ago.

I began focusing this past week on the all-hands meeting by creating the presentation around our gold build. This presentation will focus on celebrating the growth of the game over the past year. While also working on this presentation, we continued to solidify our thesis game presentation. The thesis celebration, unlike the final all-hands presentation, will cover not just on the game, but us as students. I want to present the challenges we faced, what we did to overcome them, and in the end what we learned through the process of making a published game. The central idea is to celebrate us as students and the lessons we will take into the professional industry.

And to begin relating our journey and what we have done, on Tuesday we will have everyone on the team bring in a slide with a few details on what they contributed as well as what they learned as a result of our time in the program. What we hope to accomplish through the creation of the slide a few weeks before the thesis presentation, is to allow us the opportunity help everyone on the team contemplate what each person has done, eliminate any redundancies with everyone’s part in the presentation, and help focus the content in a 30-second to one-minute timeframe. Thesis presentation is in motion so stay tuned.

I can’t believe I was able to write so much this week. Well I hope next week I will present something more significant. But for now, as we reach the end, we are quickly reaching the end and that is making for a smooth ride towards the finish. It’s almost over and the final three weeks will reveal how far we have come in over one year’s time.

Camera Obscura: Finding the “Zero Point”

One of the ongoing debates on our team is finding the most effective camera for our game. What we have debated for months is the appropriate camera angle in order for the player to best see the playing field and the opposing player. The difficulties with a camera lies in how to translate it technically to achieve the feel we desire for the game. The two traditional cameras in a shooter genre entail a camera that is locked to where the player’s aiming point and a free camera that locks onto the opponent when aimed at the nearest enemy. Since our game is competitive multiplayer shooter, we decided to go with a locked camera perspective as used in many games in the genre. This wasn’t just based on a whim. We studied many third-person shooters such as Gears of War, Minimum, and Sunset Overdrive to understand how they implemented their camera as well as how it felt overall. They all use a camera that is locked to the weapon used so that aiming is emphasized rather than necessarily viewing the environment.

Aiming shoots towards roof rather than being centered

However, what this caused is a difficulty for seeing the opposing player. Since the player’s camera is locked onto their weapon’s perspective, at times the player will lose track of the opposing player. A person on our team felt that an independent camera would help alleviate this issue. I, on the other hand, felt that the issue lied more in aiming. Aiming at the time wasn’t connected to what I called the zero point. The zero point pertains to centering the aiming so that the player can see an ideal perspective of the playing field while maximizing shooting projectiles towards the opposing player. The problem with our game is that when the player is dropped into the level, the camera suggests the ideal camera. However, this ideal perspective depicts aiming that shoots up at the relative top of the cylinder (see the above image). After playtesting the game ad nauseam, I noticed that it took a large degree to move the camera up and down since the player is aiming high. This also caused the camera to see less of the playing field when attempting to capture tiles closer to the player since it was pulled in to see tiles closer and the opposing player.

As a result, I proposed to first zero the aiming to the center using the noted image. This was meant with some resistance as it wasn’t seen as a large enough change to overcome the issues with the camera. But like I noted in a previous post, it appears when there is an issue, there is a tendancy to focus on the technical aspects rather than first understanding what the ideal user experience is, in this case specifically how aiming should feel. Using this idea once again, as Lead Designer I wanted to first capture the feel we wanted for the player. Afterwards, I worked with Skip our engineer to create this ideal user experience. As a result, we centered the zero point at a point that both gavethe player a perspective of the playing field while lessening camera movement. In other words, the aiming was moved to the center rather than to the relative top of the cylinder.

This change ended up providing the player with more perspective of the playing field and at the same time reducing the degree of moving the camera up or down. It made the camera movements therefore less jarring and helped better track the opposing player. To make it even better for the user, we moved in the camera in so as to connect better with the player’s avatar. For us, it finally made the experience more beneficial and enjoyable for the player. What we’ve been trying to accomplish with the camera seems to finally be upon us.

Moving forward with the final weeks with our game, we have a few surprises that will make the experience feel more complete. So as usual, stay tuned.