Sunday, July 10, 2011

It's Been A Long Time

I haven't created a post in a while. This is mainly due to me working hard on Nitronic Rush.
Yes, the car is upside down!
Nitronic has come a long way since our gold submission to DigiPen. We always considered the gold submission to be a beta for us and we are still in our beta phase. Nitronic Rush still needs more levels to become a complete game. It also needs a bit more technology development to feel right to the player. One of these technologies is an arrow or some sort of object on screen that directs the player back to the track if they get off course or fly off the track. There is a chance that flying may be taken out of the main game. Worst case is that it becomes an unlock-able once the player beats the game, or it's only available in certain modes. Flying in the game is just not up to par with the rest of the game and it breaks levels. Players can pretty much bypass anything with the flying. We're working on changing that. Truly, the only thing that can fix flying is the mechanics that it is bound by. Level design can't do much as it would be an infinite process of figuring out how to box the player in to not be able to fly. The best idea, but the idea that would take the most time to implement would be to have flying be a power-up where the player has to get something or go through something to get flying and then they only have a certain area in which they can fly.
Sideways section for the Hardcore Red Level
Outside of our troubles with flying, we did not get into the PAX 10 competition. The entire team's morale dropped when they heard the news. We assume that we did not get in due to the game not being finished and the lack of levels in each difficulty. The problem with difficulties is that people tend to think that each subsequent difficulty is roughly the same in level layout but harder whereas in Nitronic that is just not the case. Each level in each difficulty is unique. I built every level so we technically have 6 levels, but 2 per difficulty. More than likely, the judges played one difficulty and that was it. Because of this, the team and I have decided to move all the levels into one difficulty, except the hardcore levels which are pretty damn hard for most. That gives Nitronic 4 levels to play and possibly more after I finish overhauling the current levels. That's where we are right now. I thank you for reading!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

2011 Spring Semester Playtest Session 8

This level no longer exists in the game
This is the playtest session that basically forced me to create a new level. I was sick of seeing people get destroyed by my level because of my lack of attention to detail. Keep in mind that the level that I'm speaking of was a fairly old level and I've learned quite a bit since then. Anyway, I created the new level and it can be seen in the Gold milestone video on the Nitronic Rush project page, or on the Welcome page. I am happy to mention that all the testers were able to get through all the levels regardless of the horrible level. In my view this shows how good our controls are at this point in development. Even though the controls are fairly good, they are still touchy for some players. We still need to get sensitivity settings into the game. We also need to get in the ability to have different control schemes as there are already two plausible control schemes that work very well for our game. One is where the trick system is activated through the left bumper and then tricks are made using the left-joystick, and the other control scheme is that the right-joystick handles tricks. Both systems are good, but testers enjoyed the right-joystick setup more.
The camera is looking at the side of car which needs to change
Something that still and more than likely always will need work is the camera system. We need to get the camera to not go to a side-ways view of the car when it is backing up. The camera needs to be more like Forza or pretty much any car game that allows the player to go backwards. The camera needs to flip to facing the from of the car when it starts going backwards, simple as that. As I watched playtesters I also noticed that a few were getting turned around in the level which means we need more indication that the player is going in the wrong direction. More than likely this will be done through a wrong-way wall that would pop-up when the player goes in the wrong direction for a period of time. Playtesters were also wanting to be able to destroy stuff in the world. This could be done in many ways and the team has spoken of it before and were interested in possibly implementing destructible stuff in the summer. Some of the ideas that came up were bashing through barriers and blowing up towers and such with missiles that are fire and forget as this gets rid of the issue of aiming. The game also needs tips for the player when they are having trouble doing particular actions in the game. Basically, this is for reversing the car, flipping the car over (though this may be automated later on) and even boosting over jumps. This will greatly increase the playability of our game. Not to say that not too many people can play our game, but only that doing these tips will allow more people to play it effectively. That is about it when it comes to this playtest session, all the other problems are minor or have already been changed by the team and I. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

2011 Spring Semester Playtest Session 7

The camera does not lock-on to the back of the car
There are still issues with the camera. Testers are still bothered by the fact that the camera does not stay behind the car. This was mainly done to not make the car snap to looking in front of the car when it is going in reverse but it is probably something we will have to revisit. In switching the camera to act in this way, we can possibly playtest having the right joystick be used for doing tricks rather than camera control. Other than camera issues, testers were having trouble with remembering the car's control scheme. Basically to mitigate this the game needs to give feedback to the player when they need to do something, such as popping up a tip when the player needs to back-up or when they need to boost to get over a jump. These are little things that can make a player's experience more enjoyable as the tips are helping the player learn the control scheme. Some testers mentioned that the tricks were hard to pull off. This is true as there is not a system in place that helps the player complete a trick. This system is needed to make the trick system feel right to the player. The physics programmer knows about this system and will work on it, but to make this system we need some other technology to be created to make it work. Basically a line that follows the track. This is so at any point in time we know where the track is. This will help with setting up a lot of other systems as well, such as an arrow system that points to the track when the player is flying.
Failed tricks happen more often than not in Nitronic Rush
Testers also mentioned that the announcer should be more predictable, or at least make more sense. Right now the announcer will basically say random things when the player completes a trick and when they crash. Player's wanted the announcers sayings to match what is happening on the screen. So if the player were to crash into a wall the announcer may say "Stonewalled" or something along those lines. That is about it for tester feedback, but I also noticed some issues with the game that testers did not mention. One of the biggest issues that I noticed is that the heat meter just gets in the way of the fun in our game. To mitigate this issue the heat meter is going to switch to being a heat more akin to the plasma gun in Halo. Basically, this means that the car will not blow up when the player reaches a full heat meter; the car will just not be able to boost until the heat meter is fully cooled off. I also noticed that testers were not using the trick system at all. This may be due to the unintuitive controls so for the next playtest I will be changing the trick controls to the right joystick. That is everything that came of this playtest and I hope to continue doing these playtests into the summer. Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 4, 2011

2011 Spring Semester Playtest Session 6

You have to hold down a button and flick a joystick to flip the car over, would you know that without a tutorial?
From this playtest we received a resounding need for a tutorial. So we've created one and will be testing it today actually. Now the tutorial was not created specifically because of the playtesting incident; we have known that the game has been screaming for a tutorial for quite some time now. We just haven't had time to do it until after our Beta milestone. So one of our goals for our Gold milestone is to have the tutorial for the game and to update our menus. That is it unless we find time to do other stuff like updating the HUD or getting the trick system fully integrated into the game experience. Even though we're not looking to do more than what was mentioned above I can still think of things that need to change and the team can work on them over the summer as our game is going beyond our junior semester. Some things that I noticed during playtesting is that we still need sensitivity settings for the car controls, this goes for flying and ground controls. Some players seem fine with the controls while others are having trouble keeping the car straight. This is more for flying than the ground controls though. The obstacles in the level that testers were in also seemed a bit tight for them. They didn't have enough time to react before they crashed into the barrier or whatever they were crashing into. To mitigate this I'm beginning to test levels by counting to a second or two before I react to give a sense of a player not knowing what is going to happen next. I should also keep in mind that the level that testers were in was one of the later levels. I also noticed that dieing takes too long when the car flies off the road. This is partly because
Having a system that would rotate the car when the player is not pressing any buttons would be a good system to have for player empowerment
of our wing mechanic, but it is also because of our static kill plane that is a good distance below the road. There are a lot of ways we could fix this, but I believe it will deal with us getting a spline or some sort of system that follows the track to determine when the car is off the track. We will more than likely use this system to setup logic for rotating the car to land on the road. This system will empower the player as it makes them feel more badass since they are not crashing as often. Once this system is implemented it will be very useful for making the game feel better to players and making it easier to setup logic that deals with the track and the car. That is it for this playtest, everything else is just small things. I'll keep you updated on anything else that occurs with the game. Thanks for reading.

Friday, March 25, 2011

2011 Spring Semester Playtest Session 5

This week we actually playtested the Beta level with a larger audience, rather than just having specific people test the level. Players still thoroughly enjoy the game, but there is always room for improvement. While watching testers play the game I noticed that many had trouble with the flight controls.
Car turning axis depicted with white line.
The handling of the car was too responsive and rotated too quickly. Since the physics programmer was there he noticed it as well, and felt, as I do, that the flying controls should move towards a sweeping motion. Right now the car just rotates on its vertical axis when you move the left joystick right or left. Outside of the flying controls, testers wanted more feedback from the game, such as a completion meter for the track, and an indication of what tricks the player is doing. One tester mentioned that they wanted a point system for the tricks which should definitely be done as it just gives more feedback to the player. But if the trick point system was made then it would have to have a purpose, I wouldn't want there to be points that the player gathers and can do nothing with them. An answer to this could be done simply by having a high score system at the end of each track that rates the player on their speed, and tricks. I should also mention that the player only receives feedback on the trick that they are doing when they land it. The player should also be receiving some feedback before they land the trick as well so that they are fully aware of what they are doing.
Car trick system as it stands.
Testers also gave feedback on the HUD and had some interesting ideas. One tester mentioned that we may want to go for a HUD more like Split Second, where the HUD is actually displayed on the car rather than in the corners of the game screen. This is an interesting idea, and is plausible to do now since we have artists. I've already spoken to one of our artists about the idea and they are willing to create a few concepts for it. Another idea a tester mentioned was to allow the player to hit a button to slow down the car's rotations to have a better chance of landing a trick. This is a great idea and I will definitely be speaking with the physics programmer about getting this mechanic in as it is something to make landing tricks easier for the player. Beyond testing, our game still needs a tutorial and it also still needs controller hints for the player when they are upside-down or when they are getting close to going off of a jump. When I say controller hints I just mean that the button the player has to push would pop-up on the screen so that the player knows what they need to press in order to get the car to do what they want it to do.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Beta Level Testing

With the beta level I wanted to create an environment that felt more intense, and was more menacing to look at. I feel that I was successful to this end, but not without the help of the rest of the team members, especially the artists. The artists came up with the color scheme, and many of the models that are in the beta level. When I tested the level, testers were telling me that I should make the level even more difficult than it was at the time of the playtesters. I also wanted to know how the visual appeal of the city was. Testers wanted more dynamic objects in the game, more vibrance. So, I placed fans down and scaled them to be able to fit the road within them. This added a lot more dynamic movement in the game, but it wasn't enough.
Traffic Quad texture, it's actually moving in the game which is why it's blurry
I needed something to give life to the game world. This is when I noticed that our graphics programmer was working on a quad that had parallaxing textures that looked like traffic moving in one direction. I decided that I would put that into the game, and it gave the game a more lively feel. Things were moving around in the game world, and they are not there just because the player is there. Dynamic movement was still not enough though. I now needed lighting to make the game more vibrant in itself. So, I placed more lights into the world, and changed the alpha of many object textures to make them more vibrant. To give the game an over-the-top feel, one of our team members created a glass road that gives that "wow" sound in the crowd that our team was looking for.
Traffic Quad texture, it's actually moving in the game which is why it's blurry
With the beta level, I really wish I had not assumed that I would have time when I got to school on the day of the beta presentation. I found that I had no time to tweak some things in the editor to make the level feel better. Luckily, the level was already laid out and was playable. But I should have planned for the worst and worked on the level more before the beta presentation. Next time I will plan for this and be prepared for the worst. The thing that came out of creating this beta level and receiving the beta presentation feedback was that our car needs to have better controls and we need to have more people playtest the level. My focus for the gold milestone is to get the car to feel better, and to get a tutorial into the game. If the tutorial needs to be dropped then so be it. The controls for the car are paramount when it comes to a game based-on a driving a car. I'll keep you updated on any more playtesting that is administered for Nitronic Rush or any interesting design issues that pop up.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

So You Want to Work in the Video Game Industry

This video seems to be travelling around like wildfire. I noticed that a lot of my friends are posting it on Facebook, and I felt that I should post it here. This video is definitely spot on when it comes to the video game industry. You still have to love it to do it though. 80 hours a week is too much to spend on something you do not enjoy. The "knowing that a game idea is going to be fun" thing is also an extremely important part for a game since it's expensive to prototype games, though the gaming industry is getting better at it. DigiPen had a company day for blizzard a few weeks back and one of their guys was showing off how quickly they could produce prototypes, roughly 2-3 weeks, and it's possible to only have 1 or 2 people working on it. This cuts down on costs and if the idea doesn't work out, well, at least there was not an entire team dedicated to the idea.