Monthly Archives: April 2014

Week 9, Tuesday. Last week – Playtests, final art and story!

World Two art finished

As mentioned last week, Calle finished up the art for World Two. The amount of transitions actually came down to the same amount as World One, but with less effort without sacrificing results. In World One bigger parts of the background would had to be redrawn per transition, whereas World Two was more flexible and did not need things to be redrawn, just drawn upon. Below is a screenshot of the three first transitions (the ones during gameplay).

World2Speltest

Applying juice

Apart from finishing up World Two, a lot of time was spent on particle effects. The game was not quite clear with what happened, for example one piece destroying another by touching it. The particle effects clear these things up, by actually showing the piece being destroyed. This also adds to the games “juicyness”, which we value quite highly as mentioned in a past post.

By the weeks end Calle also started work on sound effects, which Michael implemented into the game with a solid system. Once again, sound effects gives the game a better feeling clicking around on the board, having things collide and react. Right now the sound effects hold quite low quality, but are easy to replace. As the time is drawing near to this productions end, art will be hard to implement. Therefore, Calle can use this time to update the sound effects for the game, amping up the juice even more.

 

Testing new story

Quite a few people playtested the game last week, and one problem stuck out. The players had a hard time understanding the story, and missed the connections Michael tried to make with the text. An entirely new version of the text was made, showing the perspective of a young girl writing in her diary about her arguing parents and an understanding teacher.

This new story was tested on new players, but a new problem arose. The story explained what was going on more clearly, and it became too obvious. Even though the players understood what was trying to be said, they did it so well that there was not much left to be discussed. This does not fall in line with what the game tries to achieve; to affect the player. It also does not resonate with the otherwise surreal and abstract gameplay and graphic.

Michael decided to go back to the first version of the story, although this time with slight modifications. Some parts of the story was removed, as it did not contribute enough to its core. With a pretty much finished game, more playtests were had.

 

Playtest session

Three questions:

  1. What morals can you derive from the game?
  2. What was the game about?
  3. Could you see a connection between the games gameplay/graphics/story?

The further you get into a discussion like this, the clearer things will be for the player. Once the player has thought about and answered one question, the next one will be easier. Therefore, asking the questions in this order felt important, as we would get the initial though from the player about the games core (the games moral and what it’s trying to teach). The questions themselves focus on the things we have worked towards accomplishing, like the games gameplay, art and story being in synch. They are also open enough for other discussions to arise.

With this modified version of the text, players found the moral of the game to be clear. Generally, the answers where how one should look at things from different perspectives. One should combine the different sides’ opinions to reach a conclusion, and share this conclusion. It was quite obvious for some, but not bothersome nonetheless.

When asked what the game was about, most looked back at the games story. They talked about the two persons (representing the christian and the secular humanist) whom looked at things in different ways, and how the player was someone neutral in between the two. When not talking about the story, the description of the game was close to the first answer; how it is about looking at things from different perspectives. Some made connections to one side being religious, some made connections to debate vs dialogue in the different worlds.

There were mixed reactions to our third question. Some thought all three parts worked well together, and understood how what they all meant in both worlds. How the first world showed two clashing sides with fire and ice, with pieces destroying one another in gameplay, and how the story describes the two differentiating sides. Same goes for World Two, where they start to combine. Others were too focused on the actual gameplay with solving puzzles to think about the parts around it, about the background and the text and the meaning of the gameplay. Others realized the connection between the art and the story in World One, and the connection between story and gameplay in World Two, but could not see any other.

Some problems arose during the early parts of the game, where the games logic was quite difficult to grasp. When being faced with two different pieces, one destroying the other when touch, misunderstandings where had. One of the pieces is a blue ball with stars, which some described as a black hole. These players either thought this piece “sucked up” the other pieces, carrying them along. Some thought this piece could not be moved, as they only had past experience with the other piece. This problem was however quite minor, as they realized how the game worked in the upcoming level(s).

Another is what the pieces represent. Not one saw them as arguments, they rather saw them as different views of life. Some saw them as the three characters in the game, two showing the two different sides represented in the story, and the other the players neutral view. They had a hard time seeing a connection to this and the rest of the game, but it was the most logical one when they did not see the game as debate vs. dialogue. This is not necessarily a big problem, as it brings up a discussion, and their answer is not downright wrong, but it is worth noting.

Very few also noticed the games HUD, showing what will happen when two pieces collide. Most found it confusing at first, and then ignored it. They instead stuck to memorizing what piece destroys which and which combination does what. When the HUD was used, however, it filled its purpose. We are doubtful of using a help menu, as it would disconnect from the rest of the game and slow down the pace, there is however obviously room for improvement.

 

 

 

 

 

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Week 8, Tuesday

This is our first work-day for the week, as we’ve spent the weekend promoting another game at a games festival in the UK. With only two weeks to go, the schedule is tight but manageable.

Work done in the past week – Text, polish and World Two

Michael spent most of the time from last week on writing and implementing the text sequences for World Two as well as the Finale. Even though he now has text to go for each sequence, he isn’t fully satisfied with them as some of the texts are too on the nose, not leaving enough space for player interpretation. Michael spent the rest of the week working on polishing up the game, creating for instance a “spawn animation” for the board making the spaces and pieces fall down from the top of the screen. Below is a picture of the fall-animation in motion, just before the spaces come together:

fallingSpaces

Calle spent most of the week working on World Two. He finished the art assets for it and is now ready to continue with the animations for the transitions. Because of the time limit and the limited amount of levels, Calle will not create as many transitions as he did for World One. He will probably settle for no more than three transitions: An introduction, a middle and an end.

Today’s work – Animations, Menus and First Build

Today, Michael began working on the menus for the game preparing for the playtests tomorrow. There is now a pause menu which can exit the game, as well as a Main Menu which the player is sent to if he/she finishes the game. This will streamline the process of the playtests tomorrow. Michael also created the very first build of the game with no issues what so ever, a very strange occurrence in the software industry.

Calle started working on the animation for the stars in the second world. In the transitions, smaller stars will move towards the center of the screen creating a larger one. This should represent the different thoughts coming together as a whole, with the smaller stars coming from differently colored areas of the screen. Calle used a Lerp to make the stars move, going with the programming approach instead of creating an animation sequence. Calle does this since a class with this code can be applied to several different object, enabling him to reuse his animation.

The coming week

In the coming week Michael will work on additional drafts for the texts in World Two and Finale. He will also facilitate playtests in order to gather information on how the players interpret the game’s message. Calle will continue his work on the animations for World Two, hopefully finishing them so that he can create the art for the Finale in the beginning of next week. As soon as Calle is finished with his part of the arts for World Two, Michael will begin implementing it into the build.

Week 7, Tuesday

We missed writing our post for yesterday, so today we will summarize what we did yesterday and today, as well as what we will be doing in the coming week. We now have three weeks left of production and need to spend our final production-time wisely. Today, we have also updated our schedule for the remaining weeks, giving us a better perspective on the work we have left.

Finally finished reading the books!

We finally got to read the books recommended by the examiner. We had been waiting for the library to send them to us and yesterday, they did. The recommended are Credo by Gustaf Wingren and Humanismen som livshållning by Georg Henrik von Wright (the second title roughly translates into Humanism as a view on Life). These books gave us some valuable insights into the thought processes behind the Christian and Humanistic view on life, which we incorporated into our Bachelor’s Thesis. With this new information at hand, Michael is ready to start writing the texts for World 2 and Final Act this week.

Movement Animations for pieces

Michael started and finished work on the movement animations for the pieces today. He began by making the selected piece follow the mouse’s position as it moved across the screen. This looked good initially, but since the piece is never deselected when a move is made, we ended up with the selected piece never touching the board but instead always following the mouse while the player made consecutive moves. This made the game loose the feeling of pushing around game pieces across the board and instead felt like you were moving an empty space (with the pieces highlights around it) while the piece itself was stuck to the mouse.

We opted for a second solution, namely waiting with moving the piece until after the player had issued a move order. Michael made it so that as soon as the player makes a move, the piece is moved using the lerp function making it cross the board in a quick movement. The piece ends its movement once it reaches its destination. This looked and felt very good, but cascaded into several other problems. Since the Input Handler so far has been able to execute all of its methods directly after another, this created problems as the Handler now had to wait until the piece had completed its move across the board. More issues emerged as the player could move the piece while in transit, altering the end location effectively providing a cheat to get through levels. Michael re-routed the method sequence for movement in the Handler to wait for the movement in the Piece class to finish, which solved a majority of the problems. He fixed the in-transit cheat by making it so that if a piece is moving into a space with another piece in it, the player loses the ability to issue move orders until the current move is completed.

Continue button for text sequences

From the playtest we had two weeks ago, we received feedback that the text in World One seemed interesting but that the tester didn’t have enough time to read it. A “Continue” button was requested, which would let the player read the text at his/her own pace and continuing with the game once he or she’s done. Today, Michael spent some time on implementing this feature, making the text appear together with a “Continue” button and then fading out quickly once the player presses it. The art for the button is currently Unity’s default and will be switched out later.

Continue Button for Story Text

 

The coming week

In the coming week, Michael will start implementing the board spaces and HUD icons. Now that we have read the books, Michael can also start writing the story bits for World Two as well as the Finale. With the level design done for both worlds, Michael can spend some extra time on making the message come across with the text in the Story.

Graphics for board done

Calle has continued working on the board, which has since last post been finalized. The idea of a transparent board stuck, and some rapid concepts were done for the special bricks, giving us this final board:

disIshowitIs

What the picture does not show is the subtle animations from particle effects across the board. The highlights have a slight spin, the win brick is shining and the turn too has some spinning going on. Something else not shown is a brick, the“not win” brick, which is basically the win brick desaturated, showing that the player cannot yet step on it to win. When the winning conditions have been met, having one piece left on the board, the brick will turn gold.

HUD and World Two

Part of the HUD has also been worked on; mainly the one showing what piece will end up when two collide. A “ghost” of the piece to come will float next to the players mouse, letting the player know what will happen without having him/her trial and error his/her way through.

There are still minor HUD left to be done before we can call World One finished in the graphics department, so looking forward World Two is to be started. According to schedule Calle will have the world implemented and done by the end of the week, but as it stands right now that is not possible. The world is only in a conceptual stage, and speaking from experience from World One more time is needed. With some of the crucial HUD done however a day or two has been saved, as it was planned to be made in the future. This means that it is not as bad as it looks, but the schedule is still quite tight for Calle.

 

 

 

Week 5, Friday

The past week

During this week, we have gotten ahold of one of the books our examiner recommended, although we have not started reading it yet. We can’t push this task too much ahead of us, during our next work-week we will need to read the text so we can complete the research for Part 1 of our Bachelor’s Thesis.

Second text draft for World One done

Michael has finished the second draft of the texts for World One, the draft has been implemented and tested on two play testers. The test was made spontaneously and without any preparation, but still gave us some insights on how the text was interpreted. The gameplay worked well for the testers without too many uncertainties, both managed to complete the game within a reasonable timeframe. The tests revealed the need for a “Continue” button when text appears on screen, pausing the game and letting the player choose when to continue.

The Intro for the second draft (world one) can be read below. The complete second draft is split into Intro, Mid and End with each part being equal in length.

Fire. It reminds me of my time in the streets. They said the demonstration was for the good of all, that everyone participating would get an eternity in warmth and peace. All I could see from the tears in my eyes was the fumes and scorched meat.

Ice. My fellow streetwalkers turned on me after I left the group. The place I left for wasn’t any better of course, no one would trust a former believer. “How could you be so gullible!?” they exclaimed in cynical distrust. Seemed pretty convincing at the time, I thought.

With this text, Michael has tried to take the essence of what it could be like to switch from one world view to another, leaving as much as possible up for interpretation by the reader. Michael envisioned a religious demonstration made on the streets of a large city, with the main character breaking free from the religious group as the leader’s promises do not hold up to reality. The main character tries to find a place to belong which shares his mindset of right and wrong, but is not socially accepted in any other place. The story is told using an inner monologue where the main character is contemplating previous events in his life.

Level design done and movement tweaks

Michael finished the level design for both worlds this week. After trying out some different designs, he decided to make it easier to move with the red-green and blue-red pieces, since even we ourselves would get stuck too often in our levels with these pieces. The combined pieces were meant to be “stronger” than the non-combined, which is also why we opted to go for this change. The new movement pattern for the red-green piece can be seen below.

redgreen improved movement

The red-green piece (selected) can now move to its inner spaces as well, which makes a lot more versatile and viable in different puzzle scenarios. As the picture shows, we have started implementing the final art assets for the pieces in-engine.

Camera movement and Board creation

Michael has spent parts of Thursday and Friday on juicing up the game, i.e. making the game feel better to interact with. He started by adding a cinematic for the introduction of the game, making the camera slowly move downwards revealing the fire and ice. He also added the Spawn animation for the board spaces, making them fall down randomly from the top of the screen. These smaller parts of polishing up the game is extremely important for player immersion and experience. If the game looks and feels good to the player, he/she will have a much easier time with engrossing themselves in the experience.

Implementing the background art for World One

Michael began this week by merging Carl’s background assets with the mechanics and levels. This proved to be harder than expected, creating errors in Michael’s classes that tried to access the classes put on Carl’s assets. Michael eventually fixed the issues, the main problem being that there were two child classes on Carl’s assets that inherited from the same base. This is an issue we haven’t run into before, but we will take the lessons learned with us into the creation of world two. Michael created a system where the BackgroundHandler will look in two specific folders for the background’s animation and idle prefabs, as long as Carl names the prefabs properly, they can be placed in these folders and be easily loaded into the BackgroundHandler.

Finalizing art for pieces

Throughout the weekend Calle has been hard at work with the pieces. This Monday one piece was done, the red book, but now all six of them are finalized, the first three being the basic pieces and the other three the combination pieces.

Vecka5fredag-PiecesFinal

Two posts ago we discussed what the pieces could represent, but the time to conclude design had come and functionality had to be taken into consideration. The choice to color-code the pieces, covering them in a general color, came early. They could rely on things such as silhouette and design, such as simply calling a piece ‘the book’, but to make it simpler for the player to remember what is what color-coding is a good choice. With pieces combining things can quickly snowball and become convoluted.

The choice to make the pieces in 3D was decided when Calle looked at his options. Unity provides neat frame-by-frame 2D functionality, but the problem was not the game engine itself but the method. Frame-by-frame often results in choppier animation than tweened (3D-animation), which did not fall in line with the games art. Calle had tried making frame-by-frame work for the background to world one, but concluded that static frames fading in and out gave the smoother result. The chopping attracts attention and distracts from the otherwise subtle movement in the games art, which is not something Calle wanted. There are programs which tween 2D sprites, but Calle is familiar with 3D-animation and time is of essence.

One backside to making the pieces in 3D is the contrast between the pieces and the background, which is in 2D. Calle worked on a solution, as a consistent art style is important for the games immersion. The 3D pieces are simply treated as 2D sprites, meaning that they are painted on from a specific angle, the one the game has locked throughout the game. As the camera will not change angle anytime throughout the game, this was possible. The red piece is seen below, first from the correct angle and then in other, faulty ones.

Vecka5fredag-bookPiece

More dynamic objects within the pieces, such as pages turning in the book, had to be treated as regular 3D-objects. This did however not ruin the overall 2D-look of the pieces, which now all animate smoothly and “juicy”.

Work begun on the board

The board which the pieces are to be placed upon has also started taking shape. The problem Calle was facing was its colors and how they were to be treated. With a background consisting of red and blue on each side, and pieces ranging from red, purple and green, it was hard finding a suitable color for the board. A white board would help the pieces pop, but looked uninteresting next to the flames and ice in the background. A dark board had a hard time defining some of the pieces and hid their shadows. The solution was a transparent board:

Vecka5fredag-board

This board is not final, but it conveys the idea pretty well. Each “brick” in the board is easy to read, it doesn’t steal attention from the pieces or the background and it actually shows the background. This was a problem Calle had to face sometime; the board hiding the oh so pretty background. With a transparent board the player may see it better, and it helps bring its animations onto the board where the player will spend most of his/her time looking.

Special board bricks such as the win brick and the blocking brick are still to be done. There is also crucial HUD to be made, and some more pretty effects for the pieces would be nice, however there are more pressing matters at hand. Following this Calle will finalize the board, with all the bricks ready to be used. This means that world one will have, more than last times almost, all graphical assets ready.