This week was all about the “backend” of our project. Dustin started off this week getting networking into our Unreal version of the game. We got to take it into QA early this week, and aside from some stuttering issues on one of the computers, it worked incredibly well. Another amazing thing we've been able to start using this week is Dustin’s QA tool. The tool allows us to record every gameplay session for footage that we can use for posts, social media, and bug tracking. It also has forms built into it so our QA process is seamless and super easy to run as a developer.
Dustin was also working heavily on getting Unreal’s Gameplay Ability System (GAS) to work this week. GAS is huge for our game as it will allow us to rapidly iterate on abilities for our characters to make gameplay fun and interesting.
Ellie made some concept art this week so we can now have visuals to go along with our documentation. The vision we have with the character of “Greed” is this disgusting monstrosity and the art really reflects that. Greed in humans is just this incredibly ugly thing so representing this in our game is important to all of us.
I updated our testing level a bit to make it larger and give it some verticality. This is important because we need to start toying around with level size and layouts to get our vision of how abilities should work in the environment to allow our game to feel and play great.
The key to this week was ironing out the final few technical things that we need to allow us to work as efficiently as possible the next few weeks. Now that we have the backend mostly done it is time to dive deep into Mechanics, Level Design, and Game Balance.
Also here is a video from QA testing of our game!
This week our team had two major goals that we needed to get accomplished.
1. Make our third and final prototype in Unreal. This prototype would use feedback from the original “Chaos Coven” to improve upon its design and change it to allow for some new game-play mechanics in the future. This Prototype we will also be testing out split screen to see if it is a direction we want to go into.
2. Get as many Documents done as possible so that we as a team can advance to the next step, “Proving the Concept”.
Sadly from a blog standpoint writing about documents is not the most interesting thing in the world but I'll go over what I have done pretty quickly.
Visual Design Document (Known as a VDD) - This is a one page document that is a quick reference sheet to understand the goals and basic game-play for a game. Think of it more as a in-studio game manual.
Intent Statement - This is just a paragraph that is a broad overview of our game. It also changes just about every single week as we slowly nail down exactly what it is that we are making.
Narrative and Context Summary - This document is about why we are going with the context of the world and why it fits in with our game-play. As for Narrative our game doesn’t truly have one, instead we just play off of the concept of “Greed” as a whole.
Other than that we went to 3 Quality Assurance sessions this sprint, and all of the sessions really helped us refine the prototype we brought in, and were incredibly excited to show it off in class. We also had an interesting pie chart that actually reflected what we as a team thought the role preference for our prototype would be. One of our ultimate goals is to make this a 50% split by the end of the semester, and giving the "Coven" unique move-sets should help with that!
It has been a long and interesting week to say the minimum. Last week we were incredibly sure of an idea that we as a team couldn’t explain too well, and it showed in capstone. Going in we knew we wanted to make a game with interesting roles and threw together context for it that didn’t really make sense.
We went too fast during the conceptual phase and it showed.
That being said going into capstone our team really knew our own strengths and weaknesses. We know the biggest weakness we have comes in the concept phase. Ironically this isn’t the first time this has happened to us. It’s actually the third time we've done this. If anything we are glad this happened earlier rather than later. The past two times this has happened we ended up making some of our favorite games (Space Pirates in Space, and Peter Wehr’s Bug Hunt). Another thing that I had learned from my past semester in Montreal was a quote from Jason VandenBerghe at Ubisoft which is,
“Fail Faster. Follow the Fun.”
We totally failed, but it is better to fail earlier and more often than to not fail at all.
After class and the realization that we needed to take a step back we decided to have one of our classic “Light Everything on Fire” meetings, where we discuss what worked, what isn’t working, and what can we change. (Interestingly similar to a SCRUM meeting). During this time we accomplished a few things.
The new mechanic is simple in form and really interested us. We call this idea “Chaos Coven” How it works is the game is set up in a 1 versus 3 setting. The one player represents an entity called “Chaos” and is tasked with destroying as much of the environment as possible. While the three players are tasked with taking down “Chaos”. If a player lands the final blow on “Chaos” they then become “Chaos”. This cycle repeats until the entire environment is destroyed. After everything is in ruins whichever player destroyed the most environment as “Chaos” wins the game.
This game idea excited us as we could also implement the role idea from “Codename: Florida-Man”. It also allowed us to prototype certain mechanics we could potentially import into “Codename Florida-Man” if “Coven Chaos” isn’t what we go with and vice versa.
Dustin headed up the “Coven Chaos” prototype, with a focus on Networking as we would need the framework for it regardless of what concept we actually end up going with.
On Monday we got to go to our first (of many) Quality Assurance tests. QA is hands down one of my favorite things at Champlain, because we get to see our games in action, find bugs, and answer questions we have. For QA we ran both games, and our results were actually a surprise.
Our testers had fun with both prototypes.
There was laughing, strategy, and the desire to win at mundane tasks the entirety of QA. Our physical prototype that Ellie created worked incredibly well. It was based on the roles for “Codename: Florida-Man” and every player had tasks they had to accomplish that rivaled another player’s tasks. The best part of this prototype was the fact that it was physical so we had the players all running around throwing paper on the ground and stealing a hat from one another. Dustin who joined me for QA, and I were actually amazed by the results because it showed we finally had a way to explain the concept to people, and the concept actually worked. We also tested Dustin’s “Chaos Coven” prototype and it was incredibly fun. Full networking was working really well for a prototype and the game as basic as it was drew players in, and got them wanting more. Hands down it was an awesome return to QA and a great session.
We had a meeting on Tuesday to give context to “Chaos Coven” and decided to make it based around human greed, and the desire to become rich and famous. “Chaos” has been changed to “Greed” (our title is a working title so we are still calling it “Chaos Coven” for the time being), and we are setting it in a Casino because we can design interesting levels around a casino, and destruction will be fun with money flying everywhere. Players will be playing as different Las Vegas style acts such as a Magician, a Cirque Du Soleil dancer, a Danger Act, a Popstar, and more. In this meeting we also decided that we really want to go with Unreal for our game because it will allow Ellie to do more interesting environment art for either of our concepts.
All in all it has been a productive week for us and we are excited to go to the next 3 QA sessions for this upcoming sprint and see how our updated prototypes (and a new third and final prototype) are received. Hopefully we will be able to exit concept phase at the end of this next sprint with the game we want to make for the rest of the semester!
Back in June of 2014 I visited Champlain for the first time and heard of the tales of a class called Capstone, and how it emulated a game studio in form and function. Now this past week this big “scary” class finally began. Just like any RPG however my team and I are well equipped with swords, armor and potions. On top of that we also have gained all of the experience we need to be at the right level for the class.
Over the summer we were communicating about different ideas, while none of them really were too interesting for the entire team we did have a few mechanics that stuck out here and there. Nothing was ever entirely solid. Once we got back to campus we had a meeting to nail down our top three ideas, but we weren’t really sold on anything quite yet.
The Three Ideas Consisted of:
Codename: Florida Man - Inspired after an article I read about a Florida man getting arrested because he brought a gator into a supermarket and claimed it was his “Pet”. This concept was originally based around one player becoming Florida man in the middle of a game and the rest have to find out who is Florida man.
Bastard Captain - This idea was based around the rule that a Captain is the last one to leave a ship, but our Captain is greedy and knows the ship is going to crash and he wants to be off first. It would involve the Captain sneaking around the ship to collect objects for his escape. We originally started with a Groundhog Day type of idea for this then someone brought up a few years back when that cruise ship crashed in Europe (the coast of Italy if I remember correctly), and the Captain was one of the first ones off of the boat.
How Candy Destroyed the World - From the first day of forming teams we always wanted to do a game with old school 3D platformer elements. For the concept of this game you play as a Child on Halloween that has a plot for world domination that requires copious amounts of candy to execute. The Child would find and befriend the Spirits of Halloween who will grant them powers to explore more of the world.
Little did we know that not only would we want to go for Florida Man, but the concept would entirely change in the span of a day because of one Mechanic.
That’s right you play as a Liquid! (Just kidding that was a dumb joke.)
Dustin (Our wonderful Lead Programmer and actual Wizard) and I recently held a meeting about Systems and Mechanics for the game. We already have a ton going for this concept, which is awesome! Even though it hasn’t been approved just quite yet our team knows that this is the concept that we want to roll with, so us two decided (in our usual breakneck workflow pace) to start prototyping and documentation for this game concept. Dustin has started on the basic systems, a chat log (for QA cheats, in game manipulation, and talking crap to each other while playing), and networking! I have just recently begun our master role document, which will essentially be the game’s web of interactions. It will lay out all of the roles, their tasks, and what roles each task interacts with.
I then met with Cody (Our Producer commonly referred to as “Father”) and we planned out our tasks on Pineapple (Champlain’s Redmine) so that we could make sure our documentation and taskboards can keep up with the workflow that we plan to have.
It has been an incredibly productive week so far for Ouroboros Creations, and I can’t wait to see what this semester has in store for us!