Thursday, January 24, 2013

Attraction Post #11: The Change, the Fix, and the Kickstarter

So this week has been a busy one.  I have been working steadily with the programmers in getting our model into XNA with its animations.  Before, we were importing sprite sheets and using them for our animations, but now we deciding to convert our model to FBX and use the 3D version instead.  This change took place because the 3D model will use less of the Xbox's memory than our sprite sheets.  However, getting this to work was tough.  We had multiple problems throughout the holiday break trying to bake the animations correctly.  Everything would show up fine in Maya, but in XNA the model would look like this:

This week Andrew and I sat down for a few hours troubleshooting and finally got the vertices to quit stretching to some random point in front of the character.  Ultimately, I fixed the problem by deleting the top 3 right leg joints and the IK handles associated with them, mirrored and oriented the left leg joints over, and reworked the IK handles.  After that, wahla, the model worked.

As far as the team goes, we have been doing a lot of work in various areas.  Our programmers are working on multiple new magnet ideas such as electro-magnets, (Magnets you charge up), and dynamic-magnets, (Magnets that can be moved and will move the player as well).  They have also been working hard on creating a particle system, updating the level editor, and getting our 3D model to work in XNA.  Our artists have been studying and creating concept sketches of a new form of shape design because we switched our game from being dark and somber to light and uplifting.  We are going for more of an art-deco look now, and the results will show in the game later in the year. 

Not to mention, we shot footage for our Kickstarter video this past Saturday!  We should have the Kickstarter page up and running within a couple of weeks.  We are creating a Kickstarter to help gain more exposure for our game, and we will be using the money to:
  • Pay for the fees trying to get our game greenlit on steam so that people who do not have an Xbox can play our game.  If we can't get it on Steam, it will pay for the bandwidth for making it accessible/downloadable from another site on a computer
  • Assist in the finances associated with taking our game to indie festivals so that we can show it to a broader audience and get more feedback on the game
This week we are working on creating multiple levels for our game so that we can bring our game to Utah Indie Games Night and have at least 3 levels to show off to participants.  If you can make it to the event, it's on January 31st, 7pm, at NinjaBee offices in Orem.  Maybe we will see you there!

What I accomplished this week:
  • Reviewed game/got the developer's support for our game
  • Fixed our model and worked with the programmers on making it work with XNA
  • Converted the run and idle animations to the new model
  • Created a "taking off the head" animation
  • Sent out a stable version of the model to our artists for them to start animating it
  • Logged the Kickstarter footage and started editing the footage

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Attraction Post #10: Verbal-Walkthrough

Hey everyone!

      School is back in session, and we have had some major revisions to our game.  Our professors sat down with our team and took us through a verbal-walkthrough of our game.  In other words, they actually talk through each part of the game, from the start screen to options menu to the actual game itself, so that we are all on the same page as far as how the game will act in the end.  For example, Roger will say, "So I'm in the options menu.  What do I see and how do I navigate through it?"  We each initially have different opinions of what should be included in the options menu, but after we talk about it in the verbal-walkthrough, we all are on the same page.  The whole game becomes more structured, and many specific features and mechanics of the game are nailed down.
      After doing a complete verbal walkthrough, we had some major changes we wanted to implement into the game.  First of all, there will be no more robot head you carry around that will act as a magnet.  Instead, the protagonist's own head will be used as the portable magnet.  We decided to create the head as the "portable magnet" because, for one, it gives our game a huge thing that people will remember.  When people talk about our game, it'll be, "Hey remember that magnet puzzle game where you were a robot who could take off his head?"  It's very memorable and people will cling to the idea.  At first, I thought it was going to be incredibly creepy seeing a robot take off his own head, but after thinking about it for a while, it actually seemed more silly and more towards the liking of our game.  We had thought about using another inanimate object to replace the enemy head but there was no real motivation without adding more story toward why our robot was picking up such object and using it.  Second, with using an enemy head, there would be a lot of dialogue that comes with the interactions between it and the main character, (if not dialogue then animations).  Our group had a chat and discussed the use of dialogue for the game, and since none of us are amazing writers, we decided that any dialogue could be more harmful than helpful to our game, even if it happened to be a very small amount.  Third, this opens the doors to very comedic moments in the game.  For example, near the end of the game the robot will probably lose the head temporarily and will have to do puzzles without it.  He may miss having something on the top of his body, so while the robot searches for his head he could place an inanimate object on top of his shoulders to replace his head for the time being.  Imagine a robot with a lamp as a face, wearing that until he finds his real head.  Then a little later the robot may find his head being used as a shell for a crab, with a very frustrated look on the face of the robot's head.  We loved the idea of an enemy robot head babbling dialogue to your character as the two try to escape an underground mine, but we think we could make a tighter, more memorable, and easier to convey game with no dialogue, and with using his own head instead.  
      Our team also decided that the actual body of the robot can only be moved by the magnets placed in the environment and cannot be pushed around by his own magnetic head.   This was done because it may cause some cheap ways to get through puzzles.  For instance, say the player throws the head up to a ledge that goes across the map and swings across the entire map with the head, bypassing all the puzzles below.  If we have the head be controlled by the body, and the body be controlled by the environment, it makes more sense volume-wise as well.  It's like a pyramid, the head is smaller than the body, and the body is smaller than the environment.  If an object is bigger that the other, it should have the means to fully control its movement.  It also makes puzzles more unique in that your head is a specific object no other magnet can be: a portable magnet that your body can fully control.  You can direct it to hit buttons, shoot it to land on specific places, and use it to pull objects to you, (Say you throw it behind a small rock in the way of a beam that will open a door if the rock is moved.  Press the attract button and the head will drag the rock towards you, possibly dropping it down into a hole in the floor, and opening the door).  These are puzzles that will make the player think more about what he or she is doing, (presenting a slower but more thought out puzzle to the player), instead of always on the move platforming across levels.
      Phew!  That was a lengthy blog post, and if you made it to right here, bravo.  To recap, our game is going to be a lighthearted game where you use magnets to make your way through puzzles.  Our main character will be able to take off his own head and use it as a portable magnet, but only the head, (not the body), will be manipulated if the player uses repel or attract on it.  We have nailed down much of the game's mechanics, story, and structure, and now we are well on our way towards the second half of development.