Sunday, March 18, 2012

Salvage Youth - Mad Rush Toward Beta

It's been an interesting couple of weeks in the development of Salvage Youth. Most of the team was out of town for an entire week during GDC and work ground to a halt, and it's been an uphill climb to get everyone back on track. We expected this delay, though, and accounted for it in our planning, so we're still on track to meet our goals. We just have a lot left to do, and not a lot of time left.

Our major milestones are coming back to back - we want to have a Beta build done this week, and the following week we'll be rushing to get everything ready for Career Day, our school's annual Job Fair where we'll be demoing the game for upwards of 30 different game studios who will tour through our campus and see our individual efforts.

To prepare for GDC, we got a lot of promotional materials created, including our website - is live! It has a brief description of the game, gameplay video, concept art and screenshots and a complete list of credits for the game, including links to all of our respective blogs, portfolios and LinkedIn accounts. The game is really built as a portfolio piece, after all. We also put together a number of PDFs to highlight the game's features and development, and they were extremely well received by everyone we showed the game to. We're hoping to submit it to a number of contests and showcases once we release the Gold build in May. The gameplay video we brought to GDC is below, and already so much has changed from this version that I'm excited to make a new one.

As far as specific progress, we spent a lot of time tracking down bugs and polishing assets over the past few weeks. Just a huge amount of work. The biggest change is that we're finally able to upgrade the project to Unity 3.5, which has revolutionized our workflow. The ability to make changes to multiple objects, use the enhanced profiler to identify the source of specific bugs, the new particle system and the upgraded light mapping tool, as well as the more efficient engine itself, has really made our game and pipeline so much more efficient and effective. Just by installing the new version we gained over 30 frames per second, and are shaving hours off of our efforts in the engine. It's absolutely spectacular.

In terms of specifics, however, we've gotten so much back-end stuff done, it's great.

  • The dialog system is in and fully functional, with animated sprites per character. It pulls dialog directly from a database, allowing us to easily translate and localize the game into different languages. We'll be supporting English and French, and possibly others.
  • Jenny's "fixing" animation is now working, and it makes her interactions and "powers" make so much more sense.
  • Sound effects are in for footsteps, triggering on event, and changing according to materials they walk along.
  • Buzzbots now hold platforms above and below their heads, giving us thematic reasons for floating platforms. We can constrain them to one-time-use or looping iTween paths, giving us a lot more platforming gameplay.
  • Refined our level 1 "bus" puzzle over and over, with playtesting data, to get it as streamlined as possible. Still needs work, but it's a solid section of gameplay now.
  • We created an entire new platforming area after our initial Level 1 "bus" puzzle.
  • Re-lightmapped areas in the background to fix problems with shadows and other errors.
  • Added new utility buzzbots to the world.
  • The run, jump launch and jump landing animations for all the kids have events set up for them so they'll play at the correct speeds and have sound effects play correctly when their feed hit the ground.
  • Background music is added to the opening splash screens.
  • Added a more consistent check for whether or not the kids are standing on solid ground using ray casts.
  • Refactored jenny's fixing ability to be more consistent across the different objects she can interact with.
  • Adjusted how we're creating the dialog boxes so they're easier to move and manipulate around the screen.
We figured out how to create animated textures in the engine by sort of hacking the Particle System and making it do what we need. It's pretty great, though, because we can do cool stuff like this:

We've also got decals working in-engine now, giving us the ability to enhance a lot of the art in our game.

Alexei made some great new accessories for our yards to help fill up the world.

He also retextured the telephone pole. well as our collectibles.

Zach and Stephanie worked on some new accessories, as well - toys to litter around the world and give the yards and neighborhoods a more lived-in feel.

Beau's been creating some great concept paintovers to guide our work - we're making a big push this coming week to polish how the garbage bags look in our game, making sure they read well. They're such a critical part of the look of our world, it's critical we get them just right.

We've been going over everything in our first level with a fine-toothed comb, looking for anything that can be polished and made more presentable, and making sure that it all gets the attention it needs. It's been a fun process, really polishing the game and the layout of the world itself, building little areas of story and composing the main gameplay areas for the camera. We're getting closer to our goal, and the game has come an astounding distance already. I played a build from January just a little while ago and it is hard to believe it is even the same project.

We're hitting the ground running this week, now that we've got our momentum built back up after the lag of GDC, and we should have lots of great stuff to share next time. See you then!

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