Well to put it bluntly our team was cut. Feel free to watch our presentation, which is below as I will be referencing parts of it in this Postmortem!
I prefer to start off with what went well for the project, as the good should be highlighted first!
Starting off for the Good of Capital Vice is our use of systems. I think our team really nailed down making our game as easy to expand upon as possible, which if we did end up making it through, would allow the game to grow rapidly in the second semester.
Another thing I think we did incredibly well was Iteration. We used every single QA session possible to rapidly fix bugs and implement new features. Our team was so efficient that we were almost too efficient at some points!
We also handled communication incredibly well. Our slack channel was always lively and every member of the team would constantly be checking it to make sure we could answer any question when needed.
Our game was too complicated for the professors to understand on demo night (hence why we were cut). The game needed to be a bit simpler. While I say this it is important to point out that simplicity was never going to happen with this team.
Our game also was hard to create. We were doing both networking and using a new system (GAS) to make the game. Networking alone takes a ton of time to work with, but GAS was a whole other monster. While Dustin and I learned a ton by using GAS, we also used a ton of time for 2 entire sprints just learning how to use it well for our game. We didn’t even really get to do some cool stuff with it that we had learned because of the need to play it safe with networking.
The Capstone process as a whole was also a bit of a mess. The requirements for each “Phase” were never entirely clear, and the Syllabus for the class was a behemoth. It never seemed like the documents we needed to turn in for class work made sense as actual game documents. I had a huge red flag early on when I learned that a GDD (Game Design Document) was NOT a requirement for the class.
Those are the three things I really wanted to highlight about Capital Vice for good and bad. The presentation days had their ups and downs as well. As for the actual presentation, the picture above is actually all of my notes I had with me while presenting. I had a whopping 18 cards, with the 12 blue ones being just for the 2 minute video on its own! I think we did a pretty good job with the presentation. Some of the faculty were not happy that we didn’t dive into our game very much, but we chose to do this as they would literally be playing the game the next night, and our game did not show off just the ridiculous amount of work we put into setting up our backend. (haha, I just made another unintentional butt joke!)
As for demo night I was actually home in Texas already, with my stomach full of tacos. We actually found out the results for cuts right as we were picking up my mom from the airport later that evening. Not being at demo night has been a weird thing to look back on as I was supposed to be in the room, but I didn’t want to risk flying out of the Burlington Airport the day before Thanksgiving (something always goes wrong in that airport on that day). I can now say without a doubt that me being there would not have changed the outcome. Hell, I probably would actually be more frustrated right now if I was there, because after talking to just about everyone it was not a fun time for any of the teams (even the ones that survived).
After being turned to dust by the faculty’s snap of the Infinity Gauntlet everything went dark for a few days...
Then all of a sudden a Wrong Warp (Games) appeared and pulled me into the next semester!
SAY HELLO TO ARACHNOTRON!!!
I will be working on Arachnotron this spring as a Level Designer and the Quality Assurance Lead!
To be continued in January of 2019
Today is the day! My team, The League of Evil, presents our Capstone Project, Capital Vice, to the entire school.
It is honestly a mixed bag of emotions for me. I am excited to show off all of the awesome tools and systems that my team worked on this past semester, but I am also nervous as not every team will make it through as the professors have to cut down to less games for next semester.
I have enjoyed every minute working with my team this past semester, and I honestly could not have asked for a better group of people to spend just about every waking moment with for an entire semester. Hopefully all goes well for us tonight with the presentations.
Come Tuesday I will be flying back home to Texas for Thanksgiving break, so my role is pretty much done. On Tuesday Night after the Demo Session we will find out if we get to keep going on this wild adventure for another 5 months. If it is the case my next post will be excited and happy and all about our expanded team and our new goals, but if not it will be a postmortem of everything that my team accomplished this semester.
Until then I can only give the best presentation of my life, and hope for the best.
As they say in Vegas,
Have a truly Golden Knight!
It is honestly hard to even begin to talk about everything that has gotten done this week because we’ve been working full force on the game since Thursday night after QA. This week was focused on bug fixes and player agency. We have changed so much so quickly that it is becoming almost impossible to keep track of what we have done without looking at backlogs.
While this is cool and exciting, it also is incredibly scary at the exact same time. This blog post literally marks the beginning of the end. We only have sprints 11 and 12 remaining, and neither of them are full sprints for our team since for sprint 11 Ellie will be in Mass from Friday to Sunday, and Dustin (along with myself) will be in Montreal from Sunday to Tuesday. Sprint 12 we only have from our usual Thursday start date until Sunday the 18th. (This is due to the Capstone Presentations being on that next day, Monday the 19th.)
Dustin also just wrote a post that is incredibly important that pertains to this week (and more specifically last night) and he describes what Champlain’s specific crunch is like. (LINK) While I don’t stay up nearly as late as Dustin on most work session nights I definitely am there until pretty late in the morning. Dustin is also great at knowing when to end work sessions or sending me home because I am losing my mind due to it being early in the morning. Thankfully we have really only done these late nights the past 2 weeks and have been pretty good about getting everything we need done at normal hours of the day.
I am also about to begin working on editing our gameplay footage. One of the coolest things about our game is the absolute massive amount of footage we have lying around from every QA session. We are going to frame the video part of our pitch as a basic match of our game, but it is going to start off from Sprint 1 and progress to (hopefully depending on what footage we get this next week) Sprint 12. Our game is really rooted in our rapid iteration process and we change things after literally every QA session. It will be fun to show off how our game evolved overtime, and how our workflow will keep it evolving if we are to make it through to the next semester.
Tons of fun things have happened with our game this week!
We added in our final remaining features. First up is the task system. Tasks are a way to level up the Vegas Act abilities so the players feel like they are accomplishing something while going after Greed. These level ups increase damage, decrease cooldowns, and more. There isn’t a ton of feedback with it quite yet but the backbones are there!
The other remaining feature we added in is the ability for Greed to pick up and throw other players. When we first added this it was incredibly buggy (albeit the bugs were hilarious), but after a few QAs it is now working almost flawlessly. The main idea for this came when we realized we needed more player interaction other than just shooting each other. Chunking another player across the map is so satisfying and giving players the ability to do it just made sense.
Something we also have started doing is implementing environment art and textures! Gone are the days of gray walls and in with the red! Ellie has also started texturing the characters as well. Gone are the days of blue figures!
Overall we are now aiming to make our game have as much player feedback as possible to make our game as fun as humanly possible. We are also beginning to test out and use Dustin's YOGURT (Your Own Games User Research Tool) so we can see where players are going in our game to help guide the level design. More on YOGURT at Dustin's Website
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!
In these posts I normally don’t give an explanation to the titles, as they speak for themselves usually, but this one not so much. The title is a reference to Lord of the Rings’ Council of Elrond where they decide what they are going to do with the one ring (Note, I have never seen LotR, but I have seen the Martian about 15+ times). I chose to go with this title as we had a meeting that was just pure magic and Cody, our Producer, leads all of our meetings. Hence the name The Council of Douglas is born!
The Council of Douglas set a ton of major things into motion and set up the second half of capstone perfectly.
The first and probably most important was that we did Doomsday style planning for every remaining Quality Assurance Testing (QA) session in the semester. This way our team would know exactly what we will be testing for in the next 13 Sessions until of Presentations on November 19th!
One of my major tasks this week was doing a basic level design blockout so that Ellie could have a better vision of some environment art that we could have in the game. I put the majority of my time this week into creating a space that is open enough to allow for some chaos, and have definitive sections that create a believable environment. The map currently may not seem like it has much in it, but that is because we only have destructible objects at the moment and grey/white bricks don’t do the best job at selling our world feel.
Some other things Dustin and I have started adding is player feedback. This can range anywhere from VFX using Cascade in Unreal, SFX either by finding free sounds online or using my voice, UI for basic images that show players something is happening, and controller rumbles. Player feedback in our game is huge because we really want players to know what is happening at all times in our game. We added a hitmarker and noise for when players successfully use an ability on greed, and a rumble for greed when they are hit by an ability.
The main few aspects of “The Council of Douglas” allowed for all of the progress our team had this week. With the QA scheduling, future sprint planning, and overall preparation to guide us to the Presentations!
Something none of us knew though that it would also create a new drive within us to change our team’s name to what we originally wanted it to be going into the semester. Say hello to “The League of Evil”.
Not much has happened this week design wise due to our Fall Break being the majority of this sprint. I went home with my good old Chromebook which sadly can’t run Unreal. I gave my docs a quick look through while at home and made a few changes where they were needed.
At our Sprint planning meeting this week we realized that we needed to give the Acts and Greed their distinct roles and fast. Moving forward we are going to try and morph Greed into the giant monstrosity that uses melee and short range attacks, that way it has to get close to its destructible target. Greed however does need escape options, as our game is a bit cat and mouse like (If the mouse was on steroids I guess). We also are beginning to rework the way players become Greed. At the start of the match players must rush to the center of the map to unleash greed from a pedestal, whoever touches it first becomes Greed. Once greed is last hit that player will receive some sort of bonus (we aren’t sure if we want it to be points or something else yet, but this is why we have QA). Then the spirit of Greed will fly to a random pedestal in the map and players must race there. The player who was just greed will have less movement buffs on them right after being Greed so it will be tough for them to become Greed a second time in a row. This allows for more player strategy and planning when it comes to turning into Greed.
Dustin also began a ReadTheDocs for us this week, this serves as our master document its a combination of a Game Design Doc (GDD), a Technical Design Doc (TDD), and an Art Pipeline. The goal of this is to make sure anyone on the team is able to read about how anything works in case they get stuck and nobody is available to help them. Dustin has made a few sections of it already, but along with getting more in engine (aside from my GAS work last week) this next week I will be writing a few sections in this as well.
The link to our ReadTheDocs can be found here!
This week was all about GAS (Not the passed kind). GAS, otherwise known as Gameplay Abilities System, is a feature in unreal that allows us as a team to rapidly make abilities with tons of different effects for our game. These can range anywhere from a simple speed boost to a multi shot explosive that sets everything on fire. It's an extremely useful tool, but the huge downside is that it is not documented online well.
To go into detail on what exactly I do when using GAS I’ll run through how one of our basic abilities is set up.
First we need to decide which of the ability slots that it will go in. For this blog post I’ll show off a primary ability (Right Trigger). From there we then need to make the ability and give it the correct tags. Tags allow for the ability to have cooldowns and other effects, they also keep the ability from firing off multiple times on one button press. The “Target Blocked Tags” keeps this ability from firing off while the secondary is firing.
Now we need to make the cooldown. This is called an Effect. These allow me to change a property of an ability, this can be anything from Movement Speed, Attack Speed, Attack Distance, and more. For cooldowns we will need to change the duration to .250 (Or 1/4th a second).
Next we need to give it tags so it works with the ability. Once that is all rigged up, this ability will now be able to fire 4 times every second after we attach the cooldown to the ability.
Now we make the physical look of this ability. This one is a yellow sphere with some flames particles coming out of it. The particles are done in Cascade which I may do a post on later as I got to play with it a good amount while at IronBelly Studios and grew to really love it. Regardless of that though, we can do a few things on the sidebar like change the damage and lifespan!
Next we need to hook up the physical part of the ability. It goes into the “Spawn” area of the ability graph.
Now that all of that is done we just need to compile all of the code, save and hook it up on the Character!
Since we finally have everything hooked up, here is the primary in action! It does 1 damage, and shoots 4 times per second!
And here is the secondary I made to show contrast between abilities in action! It does 2 damage and shoots 2 times per second!
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!