Condors: Week Thirteen

Week thirteen updates:

Week thirteen has been a process of nailing down the final important details we want to tweak before soft opening on Monday, April 22nd.

One of the major gameplay elements we’ve been actively refining the past couple of weeks is making the defensive role more active. We’ve been working more to figure out player priorities and motivations in relation to the flow of the game.

Courtesy of Julian Ochoa

Consistent with improving the flow of the game, we’ve been iterating on a final design of the level. We found that the added platforms on both sides of the level didn’t really bring much to the table; feedback from playtesters was that they were hard to navigate on/to, and that they distracted from the visuals. In addition to this, we wanted to give players a little more breathing room, expanding the play area.

The work in balancing visual elements has still been a work in progress. We’ve decided to tone down the texture on the court floor once level designs are finalized, as well as brighten up the characters and ball. In addition to this, we’ve worked on updating the dome surrounding the court in order to dial down the visual busy-ness of the background and make the dome more consistent with the rest of the environment aesthetic.

Updated Dome (WIP) Courtesy of Xinyu (Mimi) Wang, and Healthy Moeung

In preparation for soft opening next week, we plan to have a final build to polish for the end of the semester. Playtests will be happening on April 20th this week, we plan to bring in guests who haven’t yet played our game in order to get a fresh take on the controls + visual hierarchy.

Condors: Week Twelve

Week twelve updates:

This week we’ve been continuing development, full steam ahead.

Our artist and UI/UX designer have been focused on clarifying the visual information that is being conveyed to players. Thus, we have toned down the moving textures on the ramps (which were drawing the eye a bit too much), as well as the electric trail particle effects, so that we can free up some visual space to convey important game information to players. Continuing on this improvement, environmental objects that can boost you upwards (fans, ramps) now share the same blue color so players can easily tell how to engage with the environment.

Improved Ramp Assets Courtesy of Healthy Moeung

In addition to this, we have implemented a minimap to give players more information on their location in the arena. Each player has an icon of a unique shape denoting their team, and unique color denoting their specific icon. This color and shape correspond to their individual resource UI, which have replaced the energy number display in order to make the information more easily readable.

UI Courtesy of Xinyu (Mimi) Wang

Our programmer has been working on improving both camera and controls – we’ve decided that we need to pick a scheme and stick with it, as long as we allow players to learn how to interact with the game easily, through consistency of control mapping. Camera has also been improved; ball cam now pans to and from the player/ball instead of cutting, in order to provide more spatial context for the player.

The arena has also evolved since last week, reducing the number of fans and adding platforms for defenders to take advantage of next to the goals. This has stemmed from thinking about how players will get from one side to the other with more intentionality.

We’ve also added some features to the arena this week. The aforementioned platforms are now one-way, meaning that players will no longer get stopped from boosting upwards when they run into the bottom of them. In addition to this, we have been experimenting with team-specific fans directly below the goals and fans on the walls to allow for more interesting traversal to the goals.

In thinking about these additions and how they influence competition in our game, we have also been discussing how much our game feels like an arcade experience, vs a simple fun experience. We’ve been looking at some of the differences between the depth and engagement of precedents like NBA Jam and Rocket League, seeking to push our game closer towards one or the other.

This upcoming week, we are going to continue development, solidifying the control scheme, clarifying the animation visuals (making glide/dive more clear), and adding in more polished SFX.

Condors: Week Eleven

Week eleven updates:

With most of our movement and camera systems settled (for now, we believe they’re good enough to move forward with), we have been focusing our efforts on really nailing the attack/defend player dynamics. What do players do when they have the ball and are attacking? What do players do when they don’t have the ball and are defending/assisting their teammate? These are important questions for us, especially because the majority of the time players probably won’t have possession of the ball. Fostering the ability for players to strategize will help us promote the couch conversation we’re looking for with our game.

To break down some of the gameplay flows, our designers drafted this chart:

Currently, some of the solutions for encouraging more dynamic attack/defense in our game have been attaching a resource pool to the diving action – meaning players would have to pick and choose appropriate times to attack and get possession of the ball, as well as modifying the levels to account for different player movement across the court (thinking about choke points created by the boost pads, and ways that navigation can influence strategy).

In addition to this, since a lot of our playtesting time has been eaten up by players figuring out the controls, we have decided to print out control cheat sheets for each playtest (these would eventually be put in the game for players to check at their own convenience). Hopefully this will help us get to the meat of the game quicker so we can begin soliciting clearer feedback.

Art has also been added in this latest build – our artist and UI/UX designer have been working on overhauling some of the assets to provide more information and feedback to players. This includes graphic representation of players’ resource pools, VFX to convey direction and speed, and an enhanced pointer indicator to show players where their most relevant objective is.

Courtesy of Healthy Moeung

As always, we have weekly playtesting on Fridays, and this week we got a mix of faculty and students. Most of the feedback this week was with regards to solving what defending players do, as well as how much skill is involved in attacking/defending.

This is overall good, since we were able to mitigate a lot of the problems with camera and controls in general, we are now able to focus on the actions with relation to gameplay – as mentioned above in this post. We will be working on refining these player interactions this week to promote more communication and strategy within the game.

Condors: Week Ten

Week ten updates:

In this week 10 of the semester, we have been working to tweak movement and gameplay systems. Specifically, camera changes to make the game more accessible, and attacking the person who has possession of the ball.

We aim to solve the camera controls this week because so far in playtests two big things have been eating our time: testers learning the controls, and complaints about the camera control. Thus, we hope to tackle at least the camera controls and get them to a good place before we take a tally of the information we want to convey to the player. This way we won’t go overboard on the amount of UI or other features that could possibly be solved by simply allowing the player to look around.

Our artists have made great leaps in terms of the assets that have gone in since last week – working on environment and UI to better improve the gameplay experience from just flat colors and the default skybox. These will be implemented for next week’s build, and we will continue testing visibility on the court as well as the necessary UI we will need to implement.

Courtesy of Xinyu (Mimi) Wang

In order to get our camera to a place we like, we have gone all out on testing. Running playtests with other ETC students, as well as ETC faculty. This way we could test different camera control methods against each other, and see which setup worked the best for us.

From a gameplay side, we have begun fleshing out the attack/defend aspect of our game a little bit more this week: players can now do a targeted dive on the person who has possession of the ball, similar to last week, but now they have to be above the player they want to dive on. This way, we have begun to introduce more strategy in the gameplay. For now, we have held off on introducing a resource meter (like stamina) to the dive mechanic just so we can see how it feels to play the strategy of getting above other players.