This week has been absolutely insane. Our team is great at iteration but Sprint 8 has been a whole new level. To see the progress that happened, let's see where we started this week at.
Thursday, the build we brought into QA is the same one I referenced in my last post. I write these blogs usually pretty late on Wednesday nights (and sometimes really early on Thursday Mornings). During our Sprint planning meeting we decided to have a Spike meeting on Friday to discuss two things, Player Agency and our Game Loop. For the first time since August 30th nobody on the team worked on the game for a night because this meeting was about to be massive. (This literally never happens, due to our workflow someone is almost always doing something on the game.)
Friday rolls around and along with it the spike meeting. I’m actually a little mad that I wasted the Council of Elrond joke last week, because this meeting was like the Council of Elrond decided to have another meeting just to discuss the entirety of the Council of Elrond. It was that huge. What happened in this spike meeting basically boils down into this. We needed player agency, Greed currently just smashes stuff, and the players just kinda shoot greed. It is fun in the same way that a top spins, eventually it just stops spinning.
Our game stopped being FUN.
That is when the idea of poker chips came back up. We have a model in the game for one right now, but neither Ellie or I have made an effect using it yet since it has never really served a purpose (It still kinda doesn’t at the moment, but I have some ideas on how to use it). This is what got me thinking, what if when Greed destroys something it drops bags of chips, and those bags have to be turned in somewhere on the map to score points. The kicker is though that Greed isn’t guaranteed to get all of the bags as anyone is allowed to pick up the bags (along with that anyone can turn in bags in regardless of the form they are in). With this we now make the Act’s Special (Right Bumper move) be related to making whoever Greed is lose bags they are currently holding. We also now are going to make Greed cause the players to drop bags when abilities are used. Right there is what I would call killing two birds with one stone (or well, two birds with one gigantic grotesque monster).
Saturday rolls around so Dustin and I decide to do a work session the entire day until QA starts. We managed to get the entire gameplay loop in as well as sound effects for every single ability we had in the game at that point. This work session proved to be incredibly useful because we saw results immediately at QA later that afternoon. Suddenly we had a realization at this QA, and that was something big.
Our game was FUN.
Not only was our game fun, but we had people laughing and screaming. We brought in a similar build to QA on Monday, and I had multiple first years tell me that they want to play it more. One even told me it was the best game they played at QA, then they proceeded to go tell another person in the room (a tester who hadn’t gotten around to us yet) to come and play our game. For the first time after 8 weeks of long hours, constant iteration, 18 Quality Assurance Testing sessions, and way too much caffeine everything finally worked. Thankfully we still have 4 remaining sprints and 11 QA sessions remaining to keep making this game better, but it is amazing to know that the imposter syndrome that plagues the Game Majors can take a backseat when it comes to this project.
At Monday’s QA we also had a tester ask me a question we never thought about, “So uh… How does this game end?”. Thinking about it now we didn’t have an end state that made sense with the game anymore. It used to be that when every destructible in the environment was destroyed the game will end. Which in theory worked, but now we have the bags which need more context to be used other than arbitrary points. Oh, also the fact that there are at least over 400 destructibles in the level didn’t help either, so we decided to balance the level around collecting $10,000 as the goal.
Also our fantastic artist Ellie got some Environment Assets done, so we will actually have or game not just be basic boxes anymore! Here is an awesome scene she set up to show off the assets!