Monday, April 16, 2012

Salvage Youth - Going for Gold

It's been a couple of weeks since the last update, and a lot has been done on the game in that time. We had a very successful and exciting Career Fair showing (and thanks to everyone who stopped by our booths and checked out the game!), took the weekend off to recover and catch our breath, then rolled up our sleeves and got right back to work.

The first thing we did was very, very carefully review everything in the game that needed changes, tweaks, polish and attention. Then we looked at how much time we had left (not much!), who we had available to work on it (a very, very strong team) and came up with a plan on how to get everything looking as perfect as we could.

The biggest thing we wanted to do was get in more content - we had the tutorial section working very well and two good, polished puzzles for the start of level one, but we we wanted two more puzzles to wrap up the gameplay for our Gold/RC1 release. We set Vinny and Thor loose on a brainstorming session, got Bobby to write some new gameplay scripting code and we ended up with some of our most fun new additions to the game - our third puzzle falls back on the skills the player learns in the first half of the game and adds some new additions, creating a great little area for players to explore. We even got to add in a new mechanic to our game - our AC unit can be repurposed by Jenny to create a Cyclone Booster to launch our other characters over obstacles.

This puzzle leads to the finale puzzle for the game, as it stands for our first release candidate. We're still locking down the final details for it, but it will use mechanics we've used in the past, combined in new ways, to be a great big over-the-top sort of puzzle to finish off the level.

We spent a lot of time and attention on the world itself and how the players interact with it. We've been devoting a lot of care on Jenny and how she plays - right now her skills offer the player the least amount of choice and autonomy, and she feels less fun as a consequence. We're adding bigger rewards for her actions and adding a bit more of a challenge to the way the player controls her, making a mini-game to the "fix-it" animation and interaction where the players have to button-mash a simple sequence. We have the base mechanic in, and the GUI and particles for the action will be added in the next couple of days to complete the effect. On top of that, we're making sure it is clear where and when she can use her abilities and what effect they may have.

We have a couple of Buzzbots, tasked with holding up platforms, that have... seen better days. They don't have the strength to hold up much more then their platform, so when a character jumps on it they fall to a new location. To help communicate their status, we added a new animation of the Buzzbot struggling, as well as black smoke pouring out of them to show how they're malfunctioning.

We also added in new art for the name tags that appear over the character when they're selected - a simple, but effective - little touch.

We finished and polished the letterboxing and dialog system, then worked on adding small cinematic moments in the world where we do a camera fly-through to introduce the player to the next challenge they'll face. It works great, giving them enough information to let them come up with a strategy for tackling the next puzzle.

We also added the ability to create background animations, with Buzzbots flying around in the world carrying trash. It's another simple little touch, but it adds a lot of life to the scenes and ties it all together with the backstory really well. Using the iTween plugin for Unity and changing the interface to work easier for designers and artists was a huge win for the project, as this sort of thing would be a lot more work without it.

The tutorial level itself got a lot of love this last week, getting a full art/content polish pass and a lighting and shadow pass. It gives the player a nice introduction to the world in a safe, contained small play space and visually communicates the levels of trash and abandonment we want before setting the player lose in the more open world of the neighborhood.

We got the new elevator and button modelled and textured and added to the game, and they look great. We also added a little hang-out area under the scaffolding where Stu and Dustin spend their time while Jenny works on the rocket - a great little story-telling setpiece.

The lighting pass really made the level look great. We created some "hot spots" on the platforms to direct the player, then reappropriated some lamps from the work bench to create reasons for the lights to appear, making them all motivated by on-screen lighting features.

The intro cinematic is coming along beautifully, with all of the line art finished, the backgrounds painted up and half of the animation done. We just need to finish the last of it and spend time polishing it and we'll be all set. Laura and Beau have done a great job on this stuff.

We completely redesigned the Main Menu. Instead of the floor of the playhouse, it is now set up on Jenny's workbench. There's some lighting and texture polish we have left to do and a little bit of functionality coding, but we're nearly complete, and it looks awesome.

We have some new models to add to the level as well, creating more story areas and variety to the trash. It's amazing the amount of different models and set pieces we already have. Our environment artists have been so prolific over the whole project it blows my mind.

We've got concepts and starts on models for a few other objects, mainly backyard toys to show more of the history of the neighborhood, hinting at other kids living in this world that may or may not have made it onto the rockets that took off.

Overall, we've got a lot done, and a whole lot more left to do. We're going to be getting our gameplay trailer cut together this week and meeting later tonight to plan our last big push for the semester. We'll have a release to let people play in the next couple of weeks, then take a break for a little bit to recuperate from a long, stressful, successful school year. We are planning on coming back to the game this summer to get it ready for submission into contests and showcases, and will be sharing a lot about our plans for this phase of development once we've had a chance to really nail them down, but for now we're nearly done with this last big effort and ready to take a well-earned vacation.

I'll have more news next week, so I'll leave it at that and sign off. See you next week!

1 comment:

  1. The art in this is amazing, and it looks like it's going to be tons of fun. Can't wait!