Its Been a While…
Well, well, well….we meet again! It has been entirely too long since our last blog post, but worry not as we have plenty (entirely too much) to show off. Why has it been so long you ask? Our games have been passion projects ever since we started our journey years ago, and recently there have been opportunities for us to work on other (PAID!) projects. We have had less time to focus on Humongous Bone games, but have fit in development time where we can while letting other items like blog posts fall by the wayside. We will continue to update the blog when there is enough to report on, but unfortunately these posts will no longer be monthly as they were previously. Now that the the air has been cleared, lets get into the update.
Our previous blog post explained how our last sprint focused mostly on completing the first iteration on the final look and feel of the game, as well as allowing for a full gameplay loop. Now that all of the core gameplay exists in the engine, and the game’s visuals are pretty close to what we envisioned, we decided to focus on tightening up the existing gameplay as much as possible. We want to continue driving towards the focal point of the game being movement, which means that character movement needs to feel very tight and fluid. There are many movements that a player can perform with their character including wall runs, wall jumps, air jumps, ground slides, etc. Chaining these different movements together should feel effortless but allow for a high ceiling of mastery. That being said, we felt that the system had a long way to go to accomplish these goals and adding coyote time was one of our starting points in building towards that:
If you examine the image above closely, you may notice that the character is able to jump for a short period of time after becoming airborne from falling off a platform. This is generally referred to as “coyote time” thanks to Wile-E-Coyote and his animated shenanigans:
There is a time and a place to think about game design strictly from a logical perspective when building mechanics, but when it comes time to polish and add some game-feel, some of that logic must go out the window. Getting back to how that relates to coyote time, it makes sense when building movement mechanics to implement character states such as “grounded” and “airborne” and to turn off sets of functionality based on whether the character is on a platform (IE “grounded”) or not. If taken literally, the moment the character becomes airborne they will no longer be able to perform “grounded” functions such as being able to jump. This makes sense in the real world, but when it comes to making platforming games FEEL good and characters fun to control, adding a split second between these states for a player to perform those movements adds a LOT to getting the most out of the movement controls.
Adding coyote time is a step in the right direction for improving movement mechanics, but we still felt more could be done to increase the skill ceiling of mastering movement in “Switch, Pit, Win!”. Previous iterations of movement saw us adding speed to the ground slide, and continuing that momentum in-air by chaining the ground slide into a jump. This felt fun to perform but was highly situational, so we decided to expand upon the idea of increasing momentum through movement mechanics. There are now a number of ways to build momentum including but not limited to: ground sliding, air jumping, and wall jumping. To supplement this, we also implemented a “base” movement speed that players start out at, and a maximum movement speed that each of the aforementioned movements will build towards. Idling or crouching will reset movement speed gains, which incentivizes players to move skillfully around the map to build speed while avoiding resetting their momentum. Skillful use of this allows players to close distance and sneak up on opponents, or to avoid and get away from players when in compromised positions.
The previously mentioned mechanical changes are larger updates to systems as a whole, but we have also iterated quite a bit on general movement variables to continue improving the feel of controlling a character. This is a bit harder to detail as we are tweaking a lot of numbers that drive the movement code, but just know that we are constantly tweaking and testing to make movement as fun as possible!
Finally, and unrelated to movement, we have updated the logic which controls the laser sight to make sure the laser originates more precisely from the weapon. This probably seems a bit obvious and something that should have been done correctly from the start, but sometimes we implement things quick and dirty to get them in and iterate later, which is the case here! We added a bone in spine which we can reference in the code so custom calculations are not necessary, and the origin of the laser can follow the gun accurately no matter which animation is being played.
We have been pretty busy in the art department as we have built entire menu systems since our last update! Up to this point, our game has only existed as a single gameplay scene which we have iterated on as a means to finalize mechanics and visuals in the game. Now that we have a complete “game” and can play full matches with multiple players on one level, it is time to expand to more levels and a menu system to facilitate navigating through the game. The first step to this was creating a first pass to a main menu which is temporary for now:
Loading times can be different based on what platform the game is on, and the performance of the computer if it is played on PC, so loading screens are important to tie scenes together. Below is our first iteration of a loading screen which displays a random piece of concept art to build the lore of the game world for the player:
The main menu and loading screen are very basic mockups using existing assets that are meant to be iterated on later, but hey at least we have something to get us going! The more important and less temporary implementations in our menu system can be seen when a match is complete via our end-of-match report screen. An accolade system was discussed briefly in our last blog post which has now been fully realized thanks mostly to the capabilities of Unity UI! We wanted players to feel rewarded at the end of a match regardless of winning or losing, and what better way to achieve that than adding accolade medals to the end of match report. We currently have 10 accolades which are unique meaning that only 1 player can earn that accolade at the end of a match. The end-of-match report screen allows for each player to have a maximum of 10 accolades displayed at the end of a match meaning that there is plenty of room to grow and add accolades!
The accolade system is almost endlessly scalable, and we are certain to continue adding interesting accolades in the future as we think of more.
Last but not least, we have continued to expand upon the animations that exist in the game and iterate on old ones which needed a little bit of love. As a general rule, we try to ensure that virtually every action in the game has multiple layers of visual feedback to make that action feel impactful. Most of the time, that means layering visual effects on top of character animations, or layering visual effects on top of some other object movement animation. One example of where we execute this is on the ground slide animation, where the character slide animation is accompanied by dust VFX, but we realized that the VFX look a bit out of place with the look and feel of the game currently. Because of this, we changed the VFX from a brown dust cloud to a grinding spark VFX colored the same as the character’s suit (which depends on what color each player has chose at the start of a match).
[old ground slide VFX]
[new ground slide VFX]
Another example of existing VFX that were tweaked is the player death VFX. This effect is shown when a character falls into the death pit on the map, causing them to lose the round. We felt that this effect among others was not exaggerated enough to depict such an impactful moment as a player being eliminated from the round, so we changed the effect to have more layered VFX on top of each other, and made it quite a bit bigger to sell the impact.
[old death VFX]
[new death VFX]
One obvious effect which did not previously exist in the game was a jetpack VFX for when it is in use. We love using the jetpack powerup (because who doesn’t want to fly) but it felt a little bit less like flying and a bit too much like floating since there was no visual feedback telling the player that they are in flight. Adding a simple looping flame effect to the boosters of the jetpack does quite a bit to sell the visual of being in flight.
We have implemented a lot of gameplay, so there are times when we have a lightbulb moment and notice that an effect doesn’t exist where one should like the jetpack flame VFX. We recently had this same epiphany with powerup pickups as we felt it wasn’t noticeable enough that something happened. When a player runs over a powerup, the orb disappears and a powerup icon appears on their character’s UI, but we felt that layering VFX on top of this would be the icing on the cake in selling the action to the player.
While VFX accomplish a lot when it comes to selling interactive elements of a game, more subtle animations can also add quite a bit to overall atmosphere of the game world. The first world that we are building levels for is a lava-themed weapon and armor-smithy, which until now was not obvious apart from the lava-filled platforms. To build on the feel of this world, we added very subtle smoke VFX scrolling in the background, and some conveyor belt animations which we will soon add weapon and armor molds on top of to finalize the world’s atmosphere.
That was a lot to cover in one post! We are still quite busy with other paid projects which means that we are unable to post regularly, but we will continue to make progress and post when enough new shiny assets have been implemented. Thanks for sticking around and reading our latest update, we hope you are as excited as us that the game is starting to take shape into a final product. We look forward to showing more when the time is right.
Talk to you soon.
July 2019 Recap
The gravy train is on the move! Another month down and the game looks more different than ever. Lately, we have been focusing a lot on nailing down the aesthetic of the game which is really starting to take shape. As our consistent progress continues, we look forward to having a beautiful and playable game by GDEX which will give you a great idea of what the game will be. Lets get into the recap!
Like last sprint, a few known bugs in core gameplay have been fixed:
- Fixed bug related to the aiming laser remaining visible when initiating a jump kick
- Fixed bugs related to selecting characters before starting a game
- Fixed bugs which allow players to switch with characters which had not yet been selected by a player
- Fixed bug which allowed player to slide left indefinitely
- Fixed a bug which prevented the character’s gun from aiming in the direction of the laser
We try to keep a good mix of fixing bugs that are known, as well as iterating on design and implementing new features each sprint. Our goal is to maintain a build that is playable to a level where we can continue play testing full gameplay loops at all times.
The left movement bug was an interesting fix because most forums that I find online tend to suggest making a character’s scale in Unity a negative value on the X axis to flip the character around. This is fine for game objects that are only images, but not for game objects that move and are modified by code. Note: negative x-axis scales cause unpredictable movement and should not be used. Thankfully we use Spine as our animation software, and through their API using JSONs we were able to flip the character in a much more programming-friendly manor.
Fixes were not the only thing we worked on this sprint! As mentioned above, we spent a lot of time working on the look and feel and a big part of that was adding weight to the character. We added quite a bit of weight by giving the player HUDs some movement lag and are quite pleased with the results:
Continuing along the look and feel of the game – we started implementing screenshake into the codebase so we may add more gamefeel soon. Keep a lookout next blog for examples on how we will implement this.
As we continue to iterate on gameplay, we decided that our sticky-aim system needed a bit of an update, along with parts of the switching system. As far as sticky aiming goes: players could previously break their own lock on another character by moveing the control stick 30 degrees above or below the enemy character. This did not account for the enemy character moving out of that threshold on their own. The new code makes that threshold a bit smaller (25 degrees) and accounts for enemy player movement as well as control stick movement. When it comes to the switching system: we decided it makes the most sense for ammo to transfer over from character to character when you switch. This incentivizes players to be a bit less trigger happy before landing a switch on a player, because having ammo to slow your opponent down once you are in control over their character can give you a big advantage.
Speaking of player switches, they just got a lot more exciting! We decided that there was not quite enough suspense or skill in gaining an advantage once a switch has been completed, so to remedy this we added button combos directly following player switches. Instead of gaining control of opposing characters immediately after the switch animation, each player must complete a button combo before they can control their opponent. While the full button combo is revealed in the same amount of time, the player who initiated the switch only has to complete a 3-button combo while the player who is being switched with has to complete a 5-button combo. We hope that this will incentivize players to initiate switches to gain that advantage, rather than waiting to be switched with.
Finally, over in the statistics department, we started implementing stat-tracking code into the character controller script. We came up with 19 variables (for now) which track player actions such as movement, weapon use, powerup use, and more. These will end up being translated into accolades which players earn at the end of a match. The full accolade system will be fleshed out a bit more during our next sprint so keep your eyes peeled.
When we said that the game looks very different – we weren’t joking! A big part of this game for us is creating the correct aesthetic to make the neon colors really pop. To accomplish this, we always knew we would eventually need to add lighting to the scene rather than using the standard unlit Unity sprites. This sprint, we focused on creating hand-painted normal maps for as much of the art as we could, and created a first pass of lighting in the scene. Check out the fruits of our labor below, the first image is the unlit scene and the second image is our normal mapped, lit scene:
Our original idea with the vents and grates was to use them as overlays on the lava portions of the platforms to reduce the brightness of the scene. Our goal with this was to continue to drive the characters and interactive objects in the scene as the focal point, and felt that the brightness of the platforms detracted from that. While the vents and grates helped grately with this (pun and spelling intended because dad jokes are awesome), we still felt that the scene was a bit too bright. To continue to tone down the brightness, we created another overlay which essentially turns the platform into solid metal with no lava in it. We will need to iterate on how to use these in conjunction with the vents and grates to balance the look of the level, but we are off and running.
To cap off our iteration of the environment art in our current level, some updates were needed for our pit art. Firstly, we wanted the lava to be able to flow from the platforms directly into the pit for future special effects purposes, and secondly we wanted to make the pit doors collapsible so we can easily animate the pit opening and closing. We are getting very close to the final look of the world 1 pit, take a look below at how it is shaping up:
A few character animations were added and iterated on this sprint as we start to give the character a bit of personality through its movement. Firstly, we added animations for two newer abilities that did not yet have animations attributed to them – jump dive and sprint. You can see both of these animations below:
As we attempt to bring more liveliness to the scene, we have been brainstorming things that we can animate in the foreground and background of the environment. One thing that we thought would look really cool was a bobbing animation on the recharge station bolt, as it will accentuate the lighting on the station. Take a look at the animation and light below:
When it comes to adding more personality to movement, we decided to start on the switch animation since we saw some timing improvements that could be made. This isn’t the end of the road for iterating on this animation, but it is a step in the right direction of iterating on all of our character animations.
Character and object animation isn’t all that we have been doing in the animation department during the last month! A big part of improving the visuals of the game involves adding a lot of beautiful special effects to add to overall gamefeel. We worked on iterating on the primary fire VFX as well as the primary fire shot hit VFX from a visual standpoint, as well as making them greyscale so we can color them based on each player’s color in the engine. Take a look at improvements below:
We are looking towards the future as we begin planning for GDEX. This includes generating ideas for shirts for our new game, logistics around what to have at the booth, and making sure that the game is in top shape for gathering feedback. We are so excited to show everyone what we have, and to hear what everyone thinks about how we can keep pushing this game forward and making it awesome.
Talk to you soon.
May / June 2019 Recap
With another two months behind us, we are still making quite a bit of progress. The last time we blogged, we had the most productive span of time in the development of the game. This time around, we are on the same pace and it feels good to see the game progressing relatively quickly! We are all systems go getting this game ready for GDEX 2019 so get hyped, buy your GDEX tickets, and read on to see how greatly this game is progressing 🙂
To start, we fixed a few bugs which were prevalent in core gameplay systems:
- Fixed wall run bug which allowed players to wall run up other plays
- Fixed wall run bug that allowed players to wall run up nothing
- Fixed visual bugs which made players vibrate when running up walls
- Fixed issues with the size of player colliders when performing specific actions
- Fixed bugs which prevented players from performing certain actions with a jetpack equipped (such as wall running, wall jumping, jumping, diving)
As we continue to iterate on core gameplay and introduce new functionality, we slightly break other pieces of functionality so staying on top of bugs is a relatively high priority. Although it is still super early in the game’s development, we want anyone who plays our game throughout the process to have as bug free of an experience as possible.
Along with fixing broken functionality, we added new character functionality which diversifies movement even further! Introducing the dive jump: while in mid-air, players can now jump a second time to traverse even more of the level faster. This jump acts as a more horizontal leap than another vertical jump. The dive jump works in conjunction with other abilities like the slide to increase your character’s velocity, so try using this to get around the map even quicker than before.
Note that we do not yet have an animation for the dive jump just yet, but it should make a lot more sense visually when we do 🙂
Jetpack movement has been greatly improved as it now feels more like a flying system than before. The previous iteration of the functionality was a simple system that took raw joystick input and applied it to player speed, much like running in the game does. This allowed players to change direction in-air in an instant, which really does not feel like flying at all. In addition to this, the only force applied by the jetpack was vertical, limiting the player to the maximum run speed in terms of horizontal movement. Both of these pieces of functionality were changed to provide a much deeper jetpack movement system. Velocity is now tracked and manipulated so when players change direction, it takes a bit of time to slow down and move in the other direction depending on their current velocity. To accomplish this, we added horizontal movement velocity to the jetpack so it feels more like a movement advantage as you can fly around the level at speeds much faster than running. Try tapping the “jump” button to maintain a level flight and stay in-air longer.
Along with the jetpack, we have continued to improve the “jump kick” switch mechanic in the game. Since the jump kick is a teleport ability now instead of a physics-based movement ability, some important features were overlooked during the first iteration of the mechanic. Movement distance was not normalized, and players could sometimes teleport into objects if they were close enough. We have since improved this mechanic to ensure that no matter what angle a player was aiming at, they always had a max linear distance that they could teleport to. You can picture this max distance as a circle around the player, where before it was more of a square because we were not calculating the vectors properly.
[ex. showing old max distance and new max distance]
Along with this improvement, we are now also properly accounting for the player’s collider size and calculating movement distance based on that to prevent players from warping into objects.
Many improvements and additions were made in the art department, making the game look very different and much more atmospheric. As detail passes continue, the looks of the background and midground art have greatly improved. The level as a whole is now completely detailed and the game’s look and feel is coming together.
Continuing on the theme of environment art, we decided to create vent and grate overlays for the platforms to break up the brightness of the lava platforms. We want the lava to glow (so it looks like lava), but the predominant lighting in the game should come from the neon colors of the characters. Our solution was to significantly reduce the amount of lava on the platforms by overlaying more metal pieces on the platforms.
We have also recently decided to iterate on all of our UI art by turning it into vector art. Currently, all of the art in the game is raster art, which makes certain artwork difficult to scale if we need to. Since the UI could scale different based on different screen sizes, and as we iterate on the look of the UI, it made sense to convert this artwork.
Since atmospherics are a big focus for us, we have been spending a lot of time iterating on normal maps and seeing how they react to lighting in game. Our most recent iteration of the recharge station normal map is very close to how the lighting should react, and makes us confident that we can move forward with hand painting normal maps for the rest of our objects! Check out the normal map and its lighting effects below:
We have made quite a bit of new animations and VFX recently as our focus has been on giving the visuals in the game more character and more “punch”.
We improved the crouch pose to give it more character so it looks more in line with the themes of the game. We wanted the character to be closer to the ground in a sort of speedy / stealthy position reminiscent of the matrix.
Like the crouch, a lot of our animations are poses rather than animations with actual movement. This is because some actions need to feel really snappy, and can be accomplished by a pose without any movement. The wall hang was previously a pose, but we wanted to give it a bit of movement to give the player a dangling feeling when they are hanging on a ledge. Check the new animation below:
Since sprinting is a new feature in the game as of our previous sprint, we needed to develop a new sprinting animation to go along with it! The idea behind the animation was the angle the character forward more to make the running feel more laborious, as well as exaggerating the movements more. We will iterate again on this so that the gun is parallel to the character’s body since you cannot shoot while sprinting, but this works well as a first pass.
We spent quite a lot of time these past months working on the look and feel of characters switching bodies since it is a cornerstone mechanic of the game. This new animation shows the switch from the time one character teleports to another, and goes through the visuals of ripping off each character’s hoses, the characters’ color essences switching, and the idle pose of the characters being stunned before players regain control. We intend to iterate a lot on this and add more visuals, but check out the first pass below:
We are making great progress with our eye on GDEX in October as a time to showcase a vertical slice of our game. We are very excited to continue polishing and can’t wait to hear your feedback!
Until next time.
March / April 2019 Recap
Its been a bit longer than usual, but we haven’t forgot about you! Statistically speaking, we have accomplished more in the last two months than any other two months so we’ll use that as our excuse for skipping a month’s blog. Yeah.
Although we have done quite a bit, I’ll try to keep this a bit shorter and sweeter and get to the juicy stuff. Without further ado, check out the progress we have made:
A few major mechanical changes have been made to make the game feel even more fast paced, and allow for more diverse movement options.
Since our first time showing off the game, we have had a few design meetings and decided it made sense to change the aiming quite a bit. We gathered valuable feedback about the difficulty of hitting shots, and realized that joysticks just aren’t precise enough for our current aiming system when paired with the fast paced gameplay we are trying to achieve. With this in mind, we went through a couple iterations of auto-aim systems (1337 h4x0rz) which ultimately landed us on what we call “sticky aiming”. Sticky aiming requires the player to aim directly at another player in order to shoot them, but once you place your laser sight on a player, it will remain on that player until they leave your sticky aiming point of view or you move the joystick too far away from them. Right now this angle is about 30 degrees away from the character on any side to break the sticky aiming.
As you can see in the example above, sticky aiming is not the only improvement to the aiming system: you can now aim without moving! Since aiming and moving share a single control stick, this requires you to apply half of the full pressure on the horizontal axis of the control stick…apply more than that and you will move while continuing to aim. Ignore the legs running in place in the above example…we’re working on a more permanent pose for stationary aiming 🙂
To continue the theme of promoting a fast paced game, we have modified an existing ability and added a new movement ability!
The jump kick ability for initiating character switches has changed to be “hitscan” rather than physics based. What this means is that a hit will be detected immediately when the player pushes the button to execute the move, rather than having to land the move by moving a certain distance across the screen. This should accomplish two things for the player: 1. Make the game faster paced and more responsive, and 2. Guide the gameplay to be more in line with utilizing your movement abilities to avoid another player’s sights. We will continue working on this functionality, but are happy with our first pass results!
And the new movement ability is…drum roll……………………………WALL RUNNING! This ability is perfect for roleplaying neo from the matrix, as it allows you to run up walls for a short duration, and chain that into a wall jump, jump kick, overhead shooting jump, whatever matrix-esque moves your hearts desire. Again, this is very much a work in progress and will continue to be improved and polished.
One last addition has been made recently in terms of movement abilities….the most standard movement ability that probably should have already been in the game (oops)….sprinting! Like moving fast? Of course you do. Now you can move faster (you just can’t shoot while doing it).
If you glanced at the screenshots above, you probably realized pretty quickly that a lot has changed in the art department. We have new and far more detailed character art, new badass lava platforms for our first world, shiny new bloom effects, updated powerup and recharge stations, and a lot more…
Our development strategy from the beginning has been to lay the groundwork first, and keep iterating until we are happy with the results. For this reason, every piece of art seen so far has been placeholder and non-detailed art used to get a feel for the game and lay the foundation for more detailed pieces of art. That being said, we have finally gotten around to making artwork a bit closer to the final thing, although we will keep making small changes and improvements. Check out some of the new artwork below!
Along with simply detailing existing artwork, we have been hard at work on the overall mood of the game and have been running tests to see how to approach that. Our goal is to light the entire game using mostly real-time lighting which means that all of our 2D art needs to be normal mapped. We have experimented with normal map generators and landed on the idea that hand painted normals will simply look and function the best, so we have been running tests to find the best method of creating those. Below is our fist normal map and test in the game engine.
As you can see above, some of the angles of the normal map do not reflect the light as we would expect, and some of the portions of the art are a bit too detailed for the map. In the coming weeks, we will create the next test using the same art asset and continue iterating until it works as expected. Then its on to mapping all of the other assets and lighting our game up!
Along with real time lighting, something we are already utilizing in the engine is bloom. This really makes the lava look like bright flowing lava, and the colored lines on the character suits look a bit more like bright neon lights. Although we like the effects on the platforms at the moment, we think it is a bit too bright and orange so we will be creating grates and vents to overlay on top of the current platforms. This should also create an awesome glow effect through the small holes of the grates / vents once we animate the lava in the platforms flowing 🙂
BLOOM!!! (And yes, some of the platforms are a bit unaligned, we’re on it!)
After adding aiming animations into the engine, a lot of our existing animations broke since we needed to add IK to the arms. This means that we spent a lot of time reworking existing poses and animations to make sure they work again! That’s not all that we have been up to…we created a slick new recharge animation when you are recharging your weapon, a dope recharge station animation for when you pass by the recharge station, and a new idle animation. Check them out below!
Along with making vast improvements on the artwork and continuing to iterate on our look and feel of the game, we have started polishing passes in the animation department as well. As you’ll notice above, we cleaned up the idle animation and put a little extra love into it with a chest breathing effect. We also have two different idles to choose from with a gun inspection animation to go in between idle loops to break up the monotony of long looped animations like this. We will continue looking for ways to do things like this with other animations and loops, and have been talking a lot about how to add “character” to our animations. We really want you to feel connected to the character and feel like an athletic futuristic badass.
We hope to have some information soon on when and where you can play our game. We have big plans for releases a bit into the future, but in the meantime we will be taking our game to any and all shows that we can as soon as it is ready. Keep following here and on our social medias linked in the right sidebar to stay up to date!
Until next time.
February 2019 Recap
We are back and refreshed from showing our game for the first time ever at the 2019 BOGS (Business of Games Summit) at OU! For those that saw us – thank you so much for checking out this VERY early version of our game and offering valuable feedback. We have already had a few meetings and plan to implement much of the suggestions we were given, and have some great new ideas on how to improve the game. For those of you that didn’t see us – we will be showing our game at other expos in the NEAR future and will continue updating the blog here so stay tuned. This recap will take a bit of a different approach since we were more involved in playtesting and gathering feedback last month, but should give you some interesting insight as to where we plan on going from here.
We talked about our game to a wide variety of people – from developers to professors and consumers, and it was great to hear different perspectives. One thing we heard repeated was how much people liked the pace of the game and how fast it felt. This feels great to hear as we have been deliberately building the game around quick movement and fast paced gameplay, so it is good to know we are already executing on that. Taking the good with the bad, we also realized that the game is pretty difficult to understand – even when the player is given an explanation of the mechanics.
In the coming weeks, we plan to add many more visuals and more exaggerated animations to sell the core mechanics of the game and make it more readable. The overall concept of the game is confusing, and from here it is our job to keep iterating on the visuals to make sure the gameplay is communicated effectively. In particular, players seemed to get confused when they switched bodies because there wasn’t an animation to show this happening. This coming sprint we will implement that animation, and play around with effects to make that the focal point and ensure players understand which character they will be controlling when the swap is over.
We had a discussion which almost caused us to start from ground 0 and rebuild the game – but ultimately we decided against it. We are focusing on detailing the artwork this sprint, and had a tough decision to make around LOD in the game. Since the camera is fixed, we have been building all of the artwork around the pixel density of a typical HD screen. Although it may seem like a lot, this doesn’t give us a ton of detail to work with so we are learning quickly how to maximize detail with a low pixel count. Each world unit accounts for 64×64 pixels, which is the size of a single platform on a level. As an example, the character is roughly 1 unit wide and 2 units tall, which only gives us about 128X64 pixels to work with. We played with the idea of scrapping the fixed camera with screen wrapping in favor of a dynamic camera and a much higher pixel count, but ultimately realized that this would greatly sacrifice the speed of the gameplay and the size of the levels.
As for now, it is full steam ahead on the current low pixel-count art style so stay tuned to see our techniques for making the most of it! By the end of this sprint, the demo level should start feeling a lot more like a world than it does now with all of the placeholder art.
Animations are getting quite a bit of an overhaul as well! We have about 90% of the character animations implemented in the game in a very early state, and plan on implementing first passes of the ones we are missing. Along with this, we have developed a new process to begin adding “character” to our animations to give the character a bit more life. This coming month, we will begin storyboarding much more intricate character animations to go along with our art style and fast-paced exaggerated gameplay. We are excited to see what we come up with and hope you are just as excited to see the process and how we develop our game world!
Thanks again to everyone that had a chance to play our game at BOGS – you guys are amazing! As we continue along the process of making this very early build into a full game, we cannot stress how important everyone’s feedback is to us. Please don’t hesitate to comment here or send any suggestions to email@example.com; we discuss ALL feedback together and implement the vast majority of it as features. YOUR ideas could end up being in the finished product and we hope they are. Until then, stay tuned on our website and social medias for continual updates.
January 2019 Recap
New year, new game. Its 2019 and we are finally getting our shit back together! In recent weeks, our game has been reaching first playable status with the vast majority of mechanics in place, and first pass / early representation of game art and animations implemented into the engine. A lot will change as we show the game and play test, but we finally have something to show and gather feedback on…and your first opportunity to do just that is at Ohio University’s Business of Games Summit on February 22nd!! Get pumped, and get reading this fresh monthly recap.
It may not have been very noticeable in previous screenshots, but the laser sight used to aim did not previously wrap around the screen while aiming. This past month, we worked on fixing that in an attempt to move ever closer to getting a feel for how the game plays. While this seems like a minor addition, it has large gameplay implications since we are driving for gameplay that revolves around baiting your opponents into up close and personal combat. When seeing a laser pointed at your character, it is natural to avoid it because you are in immediate danger of being hit. This will drive where you move your character, and give players more of an opportunity to make plays around this mechanic.
During recent tests of mechanics, wall hanging has been turned off since it was triggering too often in its “first pass” state. This past month, we iterated on it again and it is now much closer to its final state of functionality meaning we can test it more rigorously and design more interesting movement around it. Vaulting off of a wall hang? Aiming and shooting while hanging? Jump kicking from a hanging position? The possibilities are endless!
The platforms that you see in the above images, and in many of our other blog posts were supposed to be a first pass of the final platforms used across all levels and worlds. This was at a time when body switching was not initiated by players, but happened to everyone on a global timer. These platforms were meant to carry player colors through them to visually show which new character you would be controlling, but since this is no longer how switching works, we elected to create different platforms for each world. Below are examples of how the first world’s platforms may look:
Along with art and mechanics, we have been in iteration mode in the animation department as well! After implementing animations in engine, we noticed that certain animations like the recoil and damaged animations are not very noticeable when performing other actions. Because of this, we have been iterating on these to give them a bit more “oomf”. Keep your eyes out to see examples of these soon!
As the groundwork has now been laid, we are very excited to keep building on this game and get it to a state of releasing it to the world. The first step towards that goal is to gather as much feedback as possible. That being said, come see us at the Business of Games Summit (linked in the first paragraph) and play our VERY early version of the game! Games can’t be made without help, and we would love to hear what YOU have to say about the game. See you soon.
November/December 2018 Recap
WE HAVE A NAME FOR OUR GAME!! Sorry for the caps lock but it seemed necessary…please meet our next game, “Switch, Pit, Win!”. Belated happy holidays and a happy happy recap! It has been a busy time of the year with the holidays, but the team has managed to (relatively) keep our stuff together well enough to keep things moving. Hopefully we can start holding our promises of making these updates a bit more consistent and predictable, but alas the recap!
Now that most of the core gameplay mechanics have been implemented, we have been spending time on polishing those mechanics and thinking of how they work with all of the other systems in the game. With this comes new functionality for aiming as well as shooting that should make a fast paced game such as this feel much better than before.
In previous builds of the game, projectiles would physically travel through the level similar to a game like Battlefield. This may seem obvious, but this type of projectile is very different from McCree’s revolver from Overwatch, for example. Our new iteration of projectiles is more in line with McCree’s revolver, being a “Hit Scan” type of projectile rather than one affected by physics. This means that instead of traveling through the level, the projectile is deemed as either a hit or a miss depending on where the player is aiming at the exact moment that the trigger is pulled. This should make for a much faster paced and much more responsive feeling game.
Along with this new way of handling projectiles, we thought that the aiming system needed a bit of an overhaul as well. We previously locked the aiming at a few defined angles since aiming and moving happened on one joystick, and aiming seemed a bit difficult without a bit of assist. Although this seemed correct at first, our new approach for projectiles demanded a new way of handling aiming. Being locked to a few angles seemed bad because of how easily players can change direction, and being able to aim at a full 360 degrees seems to feel much better.
One final change was made to quicken the pace of the game, which was removing the button for reloading. Instead of having to press a button when in range of a recharger, you may now simply walk into range and start recharging instantly!
We have continued shaping the game world with concepts and finally have a first logo iteration to show off! Along with this we have begun reshaping our first world platforms to more accurately match the world aesthetic, and created concepts for the round win screen and what switching into your opponent’s body might look like. These concepts should continue to shape the game world for you, and give you an idea of how and where you will be fighting. Check out this awesome art below:
Animations have been in progress as well as we continue to improve our previous animations, as well as ensure all character actions have an animation attributed to it. Animations that are more noticeable like the running animation have been iterated on quite a bit and are close to completion, where animations like the player damaged animation and primary fire animation are being iterated on more to ensure the movement is crisp an noticeable. Most of these animations were not previously implemented in the engine, but all animations currently created are now visible in game! See them in the engine at work below:
Along with all of these awesome assets which have been created and implemented in the past couple months, we are working on plenty more this month. If you are in the Southern Ohio area, check us out at the Ohio University Business of Games Summit on February 22nd! We will be showing our game for the FIRST TIME, and hope to have a playable demo which exemplifies a first pass of the full game. Until then, we are hard at work to ensure that the game feels good, and looks great. Until next time…
October 2018 Recap
Its time once again for the monthly recap! After attending GDEX, one of the largest gaming expos in the midwest, we refocused ourselves and had some design decisions to make. This past month was a result of that refocus, and for that reason we have plenty to talk about in terms of upcoming mechanical and art changes! Along with some of these changes to the core game, we have also created plenty of sleek new promotional art pieces to show off some of the objects in game. Now, enjoy the recap.
In the upcoming weeks, we will be making some widespread changes to some of the core game systems as well as building upon others that are already in place. Some of the systems that will undertake considerable change are aiming and shooting. Systems that will be iterated on are most of the systems that keep the game together such as scoring and the core gameplay loop. It has been our short term goal for a while to complete a polished vertical slice of the game, and we feel we are close to achieving that goal!
At its core, this game is a hectic precision-shooting action game, and we want to leave plenty of room for you to pull off some crazy moves while playing. It is for this reason that we are looking at other options for aiming systems. In its current state, aiming can only be done on around 10 locked axes in a circle around the character. This is not precise at all, but was a direct response to how difficult we felt aiming was when we tried it with all 360 degrees around the character being free to aim in. We are going to revisit 360 degree free-aim, but make some changes to make it a bit easier to hit your targets. Rather than using raw input from the controller joysticks, making the aiming feel very difficult to control, we will be averaging the movement from the joystick out. Along with this, aiming will be slowed just a bit so that smaller adjustments can be made without having to be uber precise in the direction you point the joystick.
Another system we feel has some room for improvement is the general shooting system. If you have seen previous blog posts, you are probably familiar with the laser sights that come out of the gun of each character. We want these laser sights to identify “danger zones” to drive gameplay so that you are constantly trying to avoid being the line of sight of other players, as it is a risk to being debilitated. Because of this, we felt like having physics-based projectiles that actually moved in the game world was a bit detrimental to that style of gameplay. In the coming weeks, we will be transitioning the gun play to being more of a “hit-scan” style (pressing the fire button while aiming on a player instantly counts as a hit).
Along with these system changes, we are building upon the groundwork of our current game loop and setting out to achieve a fully playable version of the game. We currently have a rough version of the round counter screen (which displays after each round ends, with each player’s current wins) which we plan to iterate on, as well as a match over screen which will display accolades for each player as well as other statistics for the match.
A lot has changed since we first started making the game, which is the reason for evolving some of the gameplay systems. As our gameplay systems evolved however, some of our art which complemented old gameplay systems did not evolve. We realized this, and decided to iterate on some of the artwork as well, particularly the platforms on each level.
Back when player switching happened on a timer rather than being initiated by the players themselves, we wanted a visual way to easily communicate this switching of players. To achieve this, we decided to have the colors of the players suits transferring through the platforms and into the new suits. Because players will be initiating this themselves, and will always be right next to the player they are switching with, we found that there was not longer any reason to do it this way and decided to make platforms fit the theme of the world/level they are on instead. Below are some concepts for the first level, which is themed as a smelting facility with a lot of red hot lava:
More of these concepts and actual platform art will be coming soon as we iterate through different designs and create new worlds.
We also decided to do a bit of world-building lately and provide some hints into the functionality of weaponry that is used in the game world. The below concepts outline the gun and the suit currently found in the game, and the features each have:
This was a bit more of a short and sweet update, but there is plenty of exciting news pointing towards coming updates! Stay tuned to this site to follow our progress, and be sure to check out our social media feeds updated weekly on the side bar to the right of this page 🙂
August/September 2018 Recaps
I know what you’re thinking: we said we would post every month at the beginning of the month and we already failed on that. Well…I have no excuse, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t been busy! The last two months we focused mostly on iterating on and implementing existing assets in the engine. Improvements were made to character movement, a totally redesigned character was implemented in the game engine with a couple basic animations, the character’s HUD was improved, and the flow of matches was redesigned from the ground up. We also attended GDEX and met a ton of awesome people who provided valuable feedback to the direction of this game. Now that you have an overview, let’s get into the update!
Wall hanging has been added to the game to increase the options players have when navigating a level. Use the wall hang to avoid direct fire when there is not cover, or to plan your attack before dropping on an unsuspected player! Vast improvements have also been made to ground sliding, giving players an opportunity to generate momentum and launch themselves across levels. If a player becomes airborne while ground sliding (either by jumping, or falling off a ledge), they will retain their momentum and can use that in combination with the jump kick to traverse large areas in quick fashion.
Comparing the old HUD to the new one, many things have changed. First and foremost, powerups have been added to the HUD allowing players to know which powerups are being carried, and other pertinent information related to individual powerups. When looking at the HUD, you may also notice that lives are no longer displayed. This change has occurred as a result of the previous redesign of weapon play (see the last blog post for more on that), allowing us to design matches around round wins rather than kills. Instead, progress is tracked at the end of a round by displaying how many rounds each player has won, until the game ends by a player reaching the necessary wins.
Your gun used to debilitate opponents just received a visual upgrade! Previously, we were using the same projectile image for primary and secondary fire. Now we have more appropriate art for the different shots which better exemplify their purpose. The primary fire is a standard looking projectile, while the secondary fire is a much larger charged ball of energy. This will allow you to easily identify what kind of projectile has been shot, so you may act accordingly. Along with the various weapon improvements, there has been work done to character aiming and fast falling to help players visually during gameplay.
The game has made some exciting progress recently as each character’s suit now lights up with the selected color! In previous posts, you may see each character have a color overlay as a placeholder to determine the different characters, but now the color mechanics are working as they will in the live game. This new bit of art allows us to show you which character belongs to you (by the color of each character’s body), and the character that you are presently controlling (based on the color of the character’s head). This makes the body switching mechanics playable from a readability standpoint, and brings us much closer to our goal of a playable build.
As we continue developing in-game art and mechanics for the game itself, we also place importance on promotional art materials that look really cool and show gameplay / what you might experience as a player. The piece below took a really long time to create and we are happy with the way it came out. It shows off some of the core features of gameplay while looking super badass; we hope you like it!
Speaking of visuals, a few new effects were created. Going back to the gun, the projectile laser was improved into three separate animations; the beam, energy lighting, and the tail. Although this new projectile laser will probably be iterated on again, this is a much closer representation of the look we are going for. When a player is shot, the player may be affected in one of two ways. If the player is not already slowed, the player will lose their outer shield and become slowed, which is now represented through a visual effect. If the player is already slowed and shot again, or the player is hit directly by the secondary fire of another player, the player will become stunned for a brief moment, which is also accompanied by a visual effect and animation.
We have also been developing ideas for what a player death might look like. To continue the theme of a futuristic, neon-colored aesthetic, we decided that we wanted to make the player death a sort of ‘phasing out’ effect similar to how a CRT television would look when you turn it off. This was all developed when player’s were still able to harm each other with their weapons, so we may need to revisit this later; however it’s looking pretty awesome right now!
Last but certainly not least, we are getting close to having all of the player actions animated for the characters. These are all still very rough animations in their early stages of creation, but as of right now most of the actions possible in the engine should have an animation attributed to them!
Not only have we been working on the game in the last two months; we also attended GDEX and had a great time! Thanks to everyone who came to the booth to check out Shark Thrower as well as some art we were showing off for this game. Check out our instagram for images and videos of the event. To everyone we met: it was awesome talking to you and we hope to see you next year! To anyone reading this who did not go: check out www.thegdex.com and think about attending the next event. It is a really great opportunity to talk to creators of awesome games and see exclusive content that you don’t normally have a chance to see.
Until next month.
July 2018 Recap
Another month, another recap! I know what you’re thinking, we released our last recap a short while ago and we already have another one? We usually don’t post recaps in such quick succession but there’s a method to the madness. We have been posting recaps at the end of our condensed work periods (which last a month), but we realized that once we factor in planning, those work months become a bit skewed from the calendar months. To realign, we are posting a bit of a shorter recap for July as a sacrifice to get back on schedule. This means that you can look forward to our recaps being posted at the same time, somewhere during the first week of each month! With that out of the way, let’s jump into what we have been working on for the last couple weeks.
Although it hasn’t been very long since our last post, there have been some pretty significant changes to the gameplay which we are all pretty stoked about. We set out into making this game loving local multiplayer games and wanting to make our own mark on the genre with the unique mechanic of controlling your opponent’s character as a win condition. Since we consider this the core of the game, we have been finding ways to build around this mechanic as a focal point and always ask the question when we think of a new system to implement: does it help encourage the core gameplay?
We asked this question recently after playtesting, and realized that being able to kill players with weapon fire did not support this mechanic, and it seemed that gameplay outside of being switched into an opponent’s body was just not very interesting. The result of this is removing all damage from the game other than the instant-kill mechanic of a player falling into the pit. This means that players may no longer damage others by shooting their primary or secondary fires, or by landing a jump kick. To ensure the weapon still serves a purpose, the primary fire now slows any enemies hit by it and stuns any enemies who are already slowed. Secondary fire is an automatic stun if the shot connects.
Along with the weapon changes, we have updated the jump kick and player switching mechanics. Instead of players switching based on a global timer, players may now target other players and switch into their bodies by landing a jump kick. We feel that this will create more interesting and emergent gameplay, as players will have direct control over which player’s character they are controlling, and can strategize throughout gameplay around that.
Another major change is the addition of a laser sight for the purpose of aiming. The idea behind this is to show where each player is aiming at all times to both assist in more accurate aiming, and to allow players to maneuver around enemy fire / bait others into areas of the maps. Below is an early representation of how this will look:
Polishing existing mechanics has been a focal point for this month to make character movement feel more enjoyable. We have improved the feeling of the jump kick and general player movement, and have more improvements coming in the near future such as jump, wall jump, and ground slide mechanics.
This month has also been big for art, as we finally have a scene in engine full of original art – no placeholders!
The final piece to this puzzle was getting the platforms in the engine. This took a while due to a few issues, namely a bug with Unity’s tiling tool in 2018.1 (resolved when 2018.2 was released) and the team learning how to create a proper tileset. After trial and error, we finally have a usable tileset for many platform combinations which can be seen below.
We have also been diligent in creating a new character, as we decided that the old character did not fit well into the resolution that the game is being displayed in. To shape the character, we first created some new concepts and went through a few iterations before deciding on a new character to move ahead with.
Since this has been a month of improvements and iteration, we also decided to iterate on the effects we created last month for weapon firing. We felt that our first iterations of the fire and hit effects were not large or impactful enough. For this iteration, we focused on greatly expanding the size of the effects and focusing on the silhouette to make the effects feel more powerful. These changes can be seen below, and we think these are already looking a lot better.
Since we created a new character, all of our old animations for the character have become obsolete. This means new rigs and animations for our character! We are trying to take things we learned from the first pass of creating the character and apply them to create better looking and feeling animations. A problem with the old animations were how slow they were, which made actions feel lethargic and clunky. This new crouch animation is literally 2 frames, making it barely classifiable as an animation but a hell of a lot more responsive!
Not much has changed in the level design department, other than finally being able to build our existing level with the new platforms. We are continuing to playtest that level and polish it to make it balanced and fun to navigate.
Although it hasn’t been long since our last recap, we had quite a bit of changes to show. Once again, you can expect these recaps at the beginning of every month from now on, and can keep even closer tabs on us by following our Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages linked at the bottom of this webpage. Near our social media links, you can also find an invitation to join our discord community (which gives unique insight to our dev process and will allow you to directly participate in development and community events) as well as a link to twitch where you will be able to find our live playtests once those start next month. As always, thanks for checking in on our progress and have a great August!
-Humongous Bone Games