Confrontations with “exterior” reviews, delays in 3D production, a new concept of arena, game design, visual feedback, improvement for Héphaïstos’ gameplay and the arrival of a new prototype : Dionysos, were the main events of this month of June, and we’re looking forward to share all this in detail in this new blog !
– The Manitou’s visit
The boss came to test the very last build of Héphaïstos… No pressure. NO PRESSURE. EVERYBODY STAYS CALM. The exterior review was here, it was a crucial step for us, we’ve had our heads plunged into Héphaïstos gameplay, 3D and game design for 3 months and it was really hard for us to form our own opinion on our work. The 3D team panicked and realised how late they were. Luckily for them, the tester wasn’t here to look at graphics but at pure gameplay, playing sensations and concept.
Some brief explanations of the game’s concept, some games, the handling seemed quite easy, players understood what they had to do and how.
Many issues became however blindingly obvious, zones were unclear, the lack of visual feedback caused many failures of understanding, the UI was too discreet and didn’t enable quick decisions, some clicks were naturally more directed towards UI elements than towards 3D elements… These were a lot of indications that allowed us to set up a new planning for further adjustments. Globally, feedback was really positive. Adrien was surprised by the qualitative visual rendering, he liked the concept of the game. The most helpful feedback related to the end of the game, which was a bit “confusing” and boring for the player, and the delimitation of the action zones.
– Héphaïstos’ revision
We then started a month lasting period on the gameplay update : the invention of a new mechanic for the end of the game which needed to be written, the graphic conceptualisation and polishing. On their side, the 3D team had a lot on their plate, they had to texturise many assets and create animations.
To motivate the 3D Team, some of the excel tables went from dematerialised to “wall + sticky notes”.
In order to give a better definition to the zones where players have to remain to make their craft bar fill up and to highlight the fact that you can “push” your opponents, we chose to change the slabs. They until now were used to show the player where to go. We’ve changed them into progression zones, from which everyone can be kicked out easier, and offer a better legibility of the arena.
> Slab Capture
For the new mechanic, Solune (our gameplay programmer) and I began to wonder if there were ways to ensure that the player didn’t get bored in the last seconds of the arena during which they couldn’t start a new object. We wanted a mechanic that could allow the last player to fight for ranks and the first players to fight for their place in the ranking. Many ideas showed up, including an idea of a great duck hunting in the forge that will even become a fully-fledged game mode, I’ll speak about it right after !
Finally, we opted for a zone capture and resistance, giving a deeper meaning to the dash mechanic in this arena in particular. We decided to schedule a new test for July, once the full game mode is textured and animated. A deadline once again, and this time, the 3D team was much awaited !
– New game modes
Poséidon and Apollon made their first appearance in our minds during a meeting fully dedicated to the creation of game modes consistent with our universe. Let me just remind you that those are only code names, and that, in reality, there’s no link between greek mythology and dWARf.
Poséidon came up when we were trying to find a mechanic for the end of Héphaïstos. As we get overjoyed by a duck-hunting, which was absolutely incoherent with the very principle of a forge, and as we went deeper and deeper into the complexity of the mechanics, we decided to keep all of our ideas and to use them in due course. The due course had arrived, and this is how we drew a new game mode. We don’t tell you much about it now, but the mode is the upcoming after Dionysos, the Lake in the upper-right of the image ? In fact, a duck pond 😉
We also developed during this meeting an idea of mini-mode inspired of “Grandmother’s footsteps” and musical chairs. All this came to fill an already loaded Game Design Document and we decided to prototype directly these ideas to know straightaway if these modes were viable instead of keeping them before giving it a serious interest.
Everyone ended up with a lot of work, and I couldn’t believe that the month of June has passed so quickly !
Let me check my notes ; I feel like I haven’t touched Dionysos for a little eternity ! I made several proposals on visual feedback, which we shared with you on Twitter and Facebook to evaluate the general feeling, and noted some relevants reflections !
For the loss of beer doses, only the direction of the animation can mean different actions (violence, fall, impact…). Its realism can influence its legibility and its harmony. Its space hold and the length of time can influence its importance. But this also depends on the moment where the animation appears (a thing that is already defined a priori), and on the fact that other effects can accompany it (flashing of the doses bar, sound effect, global effect on the screen…).
I also made some messy animations for the teleport, working on the shape, the effect, and the time necessary to develop it.
I worked back on Héphaïstos to draw a zone ready to receive the new mechanic. The central cross not having a defined visual, I took advantage of it to harmonise the whole. Editing the concept art in the build under construction rocked ! But drawing over anything would imply the 3D team to modify it all, and in way longer than I draw; I restrained my ardours, it was not the purpose !
New mission: the FX, which I realize with Sarah supervision. Let’s recap: a jet of steam escaping from the pipe, maps of lava to adapt, still images of steam that she animates on the cooling tank, and an animation of flame that she updates with sparks and smoke! This is the first time I have created such FX, and I admire how 3D artists incrust and adjust my work !
As my colleagues merged their brains and imagine new arenas, I was assigned to work on Hadès. I’ve had for a moment very few game design information and I spent my time gleaning references and sketching some researches… with a pencil ! It’s crucial to grant yourself such a madness when you’re working full-time on a computer!
JI indeed reached an agreement with Lauriane concerning the arena’s atmosphere and the basic ideas that will lead me. Ideally, these strong ideas will be unchanging, irrespective of possible evolutions of the arena. Aka, we made a mood board!
Finally, a construction logic of the level was decided, and ► I adapted my researches to the in-game camera angle that Solune gave me. I traced some lines of construction to make the perspective visible and therefore drew the elements as they will be seen. (I’d say that my distant lesson on projective geometry helped, but I’m not even sure). I could then visualise the passages where the player could misinterpret the way. But I had to remember that the perspective, which unthreads and deforms the overview of the elements, can hide some others and disturbs the players; it’s tricky.
This month purpose was to come once and for all to the end of the map of Héphaïstos. There were some textures to finish, and once every model integrated in the game engine, I could re-work the scene : replacing some elements, and peopling the scene with little objects placed here and there, to give a little life to our environment.
Then, for the scene not to be too static, I needed to animate some elements of the scenery : for example, the bellow that fuels the oven, and the moulds that open and close. Audrey and Sarah also worked on some FX (Digital effects) that will be integrated : the lava that flows, the torches’ flames, some smoke… Solune also had to configure the materials so the runes shine at specific moments. And thus the forge came to life !
Finally, I needed to animate the characters. The dwarves will have to move in the environment, craft objects, wear them, etc… On the other hand, the player will be able to craft very different objects (crown, shield, fork…). The character will then have an attitude depending on the object they hold. For example, they will hold the crown with their two hands above their head, the fork with two hands in front of them, the shield on their left arm… It was then necessary to make different animations for the dwarves’ movement according to the object they are holding in their hands. It’s the same for the dash and the character’s idle.
Once all the animations done, Solune could import them in the game engine.
That way, dwarves can move in this environment, interact with the scenery, and we finally had a functional map.
We could finally bring Héphaïstos production to a close (almost really closed), and start the new map ! Phew!
In Unity and in programming in general, the generic programming (making a code that can be used in as many cases as possible) is a very important notion to save time and stay efficient.
dWARf isn’t an exception, quite the reverse as there are mini-games, it was therefore important to ensure that as many scripts as possible could be reused from a game to another, for example the controls.
Even if the controls were not exactly the same from a game to another, the generic programming of these scripts allowed us to reuse them in any case, requiring only a few changes in the configuration, which was made really simple by Unity with the “inspector” (what you see above).
These generic scripts had to function with other generic scripts, as well as with specific scripts, which managed what is never in another game than theirs. For example, “DwarfInputScript” received user inputs and transmitted them to the scripts that had ‘signed up’ to these inputs.
With the gameplay of our first game done, a great part of the “generic” scripts (which will be used in every game) were functioning and approved, as well as the movement, the interaction with objects, etc.
These generic bricks allowed me to quickly prototype next games and thus validate their gameplay, and organise a first “level design”, either from an Audrey’s concept, or even before any graphic work was made on it.
► The prototype of Dionysos was then ready to be tested, and to welcome 3D elements as soon as Héphaïstos was graphically validated !
Poseidon is moving ahead step by s… pedal stroke?