Dev Diary #1: Draw something (picture heavy post)

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The first weekly roundup is here and I am pretty excited. It does not mean we’re just starting the work on our game, but this kind of documentation is new for us. Every Monday we’re having a weekly meeting where everybody gives a short outlook on the tasks and challenges for him or her during the upcoming week. In these roundup posts we will try to collect all those things that happened during the week and post them to the world to see and for us to visually track our work. These Dev Diaries shall be regular updates of our work on Mercury Shift 3D In this week, the art department received the leveldesigns in Unity3D by the gamedesigners. The levels contain all the statics and level elements relevant for gameplay. Except for the player-models these levels are completely empty.

You can see that on Matt’s screen here:


So the artists got to work and sketched out some rough ideas on paper. Our game features stages, which contain levels. Those levels consist of three sections. In this phase, the levels are printed out and are being worked on with traditional media. It proved to work pretty well and the process is sped up opposed to digital concept-art. Everybody involved in the artworks for the levels is part of this progress, which assures a consistent vision. These are our mighty fine artists (Elena, Niko and Simon) at work.


In this picture you can see a level and its sections:


And here is one of the sections separately. The scribbling is a pretty fast progress and helps developing ideas visually, which is quite important. In the past we stuck to written descriptions, but visual communication works way better for us.


Apart from the planning, some actual work was done. Niko took the exported 3D heightmaps and painted some terrain on it. Left in the picture is a height profile of the level, on the right you can see the resulting heightmap.


Placing some geometry on the statics is the basis of most of the levels. We’re using some tiling parts and some unique assets per level. Elena is trying to recreate the look of the old prototype with the new levels and new assets. This is one of the old screenshots:


And this is what it looks like right now with a bit more interesting terrain and a forest yet to come.


Simon is also working on placing the assets in the level. Sometimes problems are encountered, such as strange topology or minor changes to the leveldesign. He also worked on the shaders and particles. In this image, you can see a fountain, a geyser even, which propels a platform out of the water at high speed.


Mic and Niko developed a tool for placing stalactites. The Unity3d script for placing rocks works with various input to generate a surface of stones for caves and such. It is always nice to see the different departments to work together on such things. Here is a little screenshot:


Apart from various bugfixes, Mic set up an experimental system for displaying the tutorial messages. As we want to refrain from using text, we thought of something, that displays necessary information in an adequate manner. For that we are at the moment trying to flick a screen on the screen, which displays short movies that explain the function or situation. They are triggered once the player passes them and can be triggered again on demand. We are trying to keep the tutorial as minimal invasive in the gameplay as possible. This little gif shows an example:


It seems Mic has an infinite resource of time, because he also implemented statistics for every playthrough for the gamedesigners as a tool for further testing. A typical report generated looks like this:

1p_forest_03, Wednesday 15.01.2014 17:20:44


Time taken:          368.232s
Coins:                     233
Coins Total:           233 / 235
Deaths:                  6
Game overs:          0
Bonus Object:        Collected
Shifts:                    34
Swaps:                    62
Throws:                  6
Far Throws:           9
Toss Ups:               4
Jump Toss Ups:    1
Put Downs:            0
Inactive Uses:       14”

Rika was busy working on the player functions, especially the animation system. Blending between predefined animations and match-targeting for picking up objects and the other player is working better from day to day. She also implemented the new Swap-function for the singleplayer-mode. Nora is making the characters move. She works closely with Rika on the animations and sets them up. The state machine looks pretty complex by now, but things are getting smoother and smoother. The result is this new interaction with boxesand characters:


More good news for Nora even: UnityTechnologies fixed a bug that kept bugging her when blending animations, causing unwanted movement. Although it look quirky, she is happy it is now patched into oblivion. Another feature for the singleplayer is a new “throw”. If the player gets thrown at high places, he does not only fly in a straight vector to the top, but he performs a tiny little parable. The singleplayer gameplay gets a bit easier with that, as less action by the player is required now. Not that less action is good, but at this point the action was quite fumbly.


Beff is working on designing the tutorials and the adjacent levels. The tutorials were always and are still one of the hardest things to do. Player have to learn certain things, but have fun at the same time. And this is even more important in the coop-mode. Two players are hardly having the same learning curve, especially if one of them has played the game before. We have been working on these for a long time now and it feels like we are doing it for the 42nd time, whereas it is actually “only” the sixth time. But enough babble, this is one of the levels:


Not that too much can be drawn from this screenshot, but we are hoping for some transfer of learning in these levels. We’ll see how the first playtests turn out. Matt and Oliver have been working on a different “Swap” mechanic for a while now. This function is essential for the singleplayer, but it was hard to coordinate on the controller. Being way too fumbly and not easy, we now think we found a reasonable fix for that problem. Same thing here: Playtests will show. Luckily we are having two people over on Tuesday next week.

Jeebus. That was just one week, not including the usual overhead and stuff Oliver and I had to get by. It is great to see the amount of work that was done during a single week.

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