Condors: Week Fifteen

Week fifteen update:

This week has been an exercise in listing out the small tweaks we want to make to BZZAP! before submission for finals and the ETC Open House on Friday.

From a gameplay standpoint, we have added a few features to encourage passing and team play more:

  • Players now lose possession of the charge when they touch the ground – meaning that they will need to pass if they want to avoid getting stunned and losing the charge.
  • The stun upon Zapping a player is slightly longer, which serves to break up the constant confusing dog fights we’ve been seeing players engage in.
  • Zapping (the lock on boost) now has a range attached to it. This forces players to use skill when attacking and defending – moving close to the target to get within Zap range.
  • Passing the charge is now much slower speed, allowing for ample opportunity for interceptions.
  • The overall gameplay has been slowed down to allow for easier parsing of the moment-to-moment gameplay.

The final mechanics are gone over in our tutorial video, which we released this week to supplement our experience. The overall reaction to the video in our Open House presentations were positive – but generally it was felt that it was too long (especially if there were players present who were already familiar). That being said, it did help reduce the learning curve for novice players, even if they weren’t able to absorb all of the information with one viewing.

Tutorial Video Courtesy of Omar Cheikh-Ali

In addition to this, in week fifteen we have made some polish improvements to the art and UI in our game allowing for greater playability. VFX for the charge has been amped up in brightness to make it more visible.

Charge VFX Courtesy of Healthy Moeung & Xuejun Wang

We’ve also added an end screen with statistics as a quality of life change. We found that beyond just winning and losing, players wanted to know how they were doing in our game (similar to how basketball tracks player statistics). Overall, we found that this made our game more fun for players to engage in – even if they weren’t consistently winning.

Stats Screen Courtesy of Xinyu Wang & Swapnil Mengade

To round out the week, we participated in the ETC’s first Spring Open House! It was exciting for all of us to be able to show off our hard work, and gratifying to see players engage in our game:

Thanks to all for following us this semester as we developed BZZAP! The last hurdle for us will be our finals presentation, and then we plan to be posting BZZAP! on and Kongregate by May 9th, link will be shared on this website!

Condors: Week Fourteen

Week fourteen updates:

This week we have been mainly focusing on tweaking things since our playtesting day in week 13. We haven’t planned to do a playtesting session at the end of this week in order to hunker down and finalize the game. We’ve also decided on a name for the game: “BZZAP!” inspired by the two stage sound effect that happens when players lock on to and attack other players.

Soft opening went well for us. The major questions we got from faculty were with regards to aspects of the game we were already thinking about – the question of defense still remains, as well as tweaks to the visual balance of the game.

This week from a design standpoint, we have worked on the finer details of how players move through the environment. Our week 13 iteration with halfcourt walls worked fairly well at funneling players towards the center of the court and giving them more opportunity for strategic play around the arena. However, we feel like it’s too easy to get stuck in corners, and have decided to open them up along the edge of the arena.

In addition to physically opening up the space, we’ve decided to change out the textures of the walls to make them transparent. This was a consistent problem players were running into, where they’d be facing a wall and unsure of their position since the walls were untextured (didn’t show movement), or had necessary information for the players on the other side.

Updated Wall Textures Courtesy of Healthy Moeung

In addition to this, we’ve decided to experiment with adding boost strips on the ground along those opened up sections, to allow for greater ground mobility.

With regards to defense, we’ve been experimenting with different ideas to restrict movement and make gameplay more strategic. These include:

  • Removing lock on boost towards the hoops.
  • Allowing players to change target that they’re locked on to.
  • Slowing down the player who has possession of the charge.
  • Prohibiting scoring from under the hoop.
  • A shot clock to encourage passing the charge more.
  • Slowing the speed of the charge when passing to allow for interception.

We will be testing these internally at the end of the week to see what works best for us.

From a UI/UX standpoint, we’ve also done some work on the main menu to match the rest of the game more thematically and allow for functionality that we want to implement regarding tutorials/controls, and the ability to exit out of the game.

So in addition to contextualizing the arena via a zoom into the computer upon hitting “Start,” players will have the option to learn more about the game before they dive in.

Finally, this week, we have decided to begin working on a tutorial video. One consistent problem we’ve been facing is that it usually takes a while for players to learn the controls and mechanics of our game. Typically it takes one playthrough for people to fully understand how to play – and we believe that adding a short introductory video (similar to the controls videos in Smash Bros.) would help us cut down on that time and get to the meat of the gameplay quicker.

Moving into next week, we plan to put finishing touches on our build for the ETC’s Open House, as well as wrap up our documentation for final presentations.

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.

Condors: Week Nine

Week nine update:

This week we have been working on our latest prototype to test both at the ETC as well as at GDC. In this build, we have been testing the beginnings of team play – taking feedback from how playtesters wanted to interact with each other in-game, and observing whether or not gameplay was in line with what we desired.

In this build, we can see the two teams competing for the ball (which is the purple particle effect), and dunking it into the opposing team’s hoop. The method to do this, is through launching off of the ramps, and hovering/diving to score or steal possession of the ball.

The biggest positive feedback that we got was that the movement felt good and seemed like a good basis for a game. People enjoyed launching off of the ramps as well as colliding to steal the ball. On the flip side, one of the biggest technical issues we need to address is getting the camera to feel right to the players. In addition to this, now that we’ve added team play functionality, we’ve opened up a whole slew of new design questions with regards to how to best present information to players such as the locations of the ball, teammates/opponents, score, time, position in space, etc.

In the coming week we plan to iterate on the level, as well as place more emphasis on player interactions. After all, how players interact will determine the level of competition they feel in real life with each other.

Condors: Week Eight

Week eight update:

Week eight is halves week for us – specifically this Thursday (3/7). We have been working full steam ahead on presenting our work to faculty and beyond – emphasizing the process we took to get here.

The link to our slides can be found here:

As well as the VOD of our presentation, which can be found here:

In addition to this presentation, we are currently planning for the upcoming spring break and GDC week – prioritizing feature backlogs. First on the list is to begin designing multiplayer experiences, exploring the interactions between teammates and opposing players. The current build we have is focused on a free-for-all mode with very little player interaction; this includes stealing, passing to teammates, other team play/strategy, which we want to boost all of in our next build.

Over the break we plan to build another prototype that begins to explore this. Work will be at a more relaxed pace, but we plan to test this build on Monday at the ETC, and Tuesday at GDC.

Condors: Week Seven

Week seven update:

This week we have committed to fully pursuing our pivot in the game we’re making. Over the weekend and Monday (2/25), our designers, Julian and Sally, worked on developing a new direction for us to take our basketball-like game in. Taking inspiration from the movement mechanics that emphasized verticality in games through momentum, like Super Monkey Ball, Arkham Knight, Tiny Wings, and Tribes: Ascend, we decided to prototype a game in which players perform a diving and gliding action.

Our game idea on Monday looked like this:

  • Third Person Perspective
  • Terrain is hilly with hoops on either side
  • Players can “ski” down a hill to gain momentum and speed
  • They use this to launch themselves off of a hill and divebomb into the other team’s hoop

This idea shifted a little bit as the week progressed: the ground and launching yourself off of hills still remained, but we decided to shift more emphasis on vertical movement and the verbs “gliding” and “diving.” Thus, the current prototype we have is a four player free for all, in which players navigate an arena, racing each other to be the first to score on the specified color hoop. Video footage of this prototype can be seen below:

This prototype provides us a good platform for us to keep iterating and polishing throughout the semester, and over the course of week 8 and 9, we are planning to rework the code to allow for easy expansion and modulation of gameplay variables. (jump height, time limits, player counts, etc.)

From an art perspective, we have been developing the character look. In the above video, we can see that characters are simple ball figures that animate based on different actions they take. The projected idea for the theming of our game is a cyberpunk look (slightly heavy metal similar to Unreal Tournament/Warhammer). A first look at the character iteration can be seen below:

Character development. Courtesy of Healthy Moeung.

Moving on from this week, we will be preparing for our 1/2’s presentations – thinking a lot about how we will be exhibiting our design process thus far, as well as our plans for future development of this prototype.

Condors: Week Six

Week six update:

After doing some internal playtests on our first build with stretchy and jello man, we realized that instead of designing from character to character, we should try to establish a framework for these characters to begin to fit in.

Thus, in week six we backtracked a little bit, deciding to first create a basic basketball game with which we could begin to push and pull on design elements to see what superpowers would work and how they could be implemented. For this baseline basketball game, we decided to break down NBA Jam – looking at aspects of it’s gameplay that we could simplify or riff off of.

Artwise, we are still exploring possible styles and animation that will fit our project scope. We investigated both 2D sprites as well as 3D models (animated in a sprite style).

The animation style we want to pursue this semester. Courtesy of Healthy Moeung.

As a way to block out these key poses for our prototype, our artist Healthy, drew the basic states we foresee our players going through as they play – idle, jumping, passing, running, and shooting.

Character poses courtesy of Healthy Moeung.

From a programming standpoint, all hands were on deck to get the prototype out for Friday (2/22). Our main programmer, Swapnil implemented the core gameplay elements into the game, allowing the scripts to be modified and tweaked later on by our designers, Sally and Julian. This led to an efficient workflow where we were able to quickly test new features.

On Thursday, (2/21) we had our client meeting where we discussed this design path. Unfortunately, we were off the mark with regards to what they wanted us to be doing. Instead of creating a more traditional basketball game, our client encouraged us to push the boundaries and think outside the box more.

Thus, we’ve decided to pivot away from “basketball with superheroes,” and investigate more novel ideas focusing on just a few aspects of basketball. The only constraints we have now are a ball and a hoop – tying the game’s basic theming and essence back to basketball in some way.