Nexus: Status Update Week 11

Heavily prototyping the new power system was the goal for this past week. The producers prototyped a lot of different scenarios to test out the new power system.

The goal of all of this prototyping was two-fold. First, we wanted to continue to make sure that the new system was actually fun and playable. From our prototypes, we discovered that it was indeed an improvement over the original system and we all feel that the change was definitely for the best.

Second, the prototypes were being used to test out puzzle ideas for the Sun God area (a section of the Aztec Bridge area). Through the prototypes we were able to implement some new unique puzzles this past week. We also figured out the pulleys system in UDK and we were able to integrate that into our puzzle ideas.

One of the main puzzles derived from the prototypes was the dangling lanterns we are using in the Sun God area. To start, one of the lanterns in the area is lit by flames, with the rest being unlit. The player first has to use the new power system to create an elevator to get up to the upper platform where they can access the lantern.

From there, the player’s objective is to use the powers to collide the lanterns found in the area. Once they collide, the unlit lanterns catch on fire. This was an idea that we really liked and through prototyping we were able to figure out how to transfer the fire and we learned that it made for an engaging gameplay scenario.

The end goal is to position a Servant Statue and light it on fire using the lanterns. From there you would push the statue using your powers to a specified location were the Servant Statue would offer up the fire to the Sun God statue. Once the fire touches the Sun God’s orb, it lights up and unlocks the first piece of the Aztec bridge.

Aside from the prototypes, this past week we also mapped out most of the Bridge area as well as defined how the player will go about receiving the powers. We created a power progression process that will ease the player slowly into the power system.

The prototypes and design ideas kept the producers busy, but the producers also spent some time this week working on a lot of organizational stuff. I myself reorganized most of our Perforce structure this past week. The original system we had in place was not efficient for the artists and I worked with them closely to create a folder structure they felt comfortable with.

The new structure is in place and should definitely help keep the pipeline moving a bit more efficiently as the artists now know where to easily put their content and the producers know where to look for new assets.

On top of that, we also iterated on our Production pipeline this past week. Post Vertical Slice production has been challenging for us since we haven’t had that inherit pressure that comes with Vertical Slice.

Prior to Vertical Slice it was merely get something up and quickly so it could work and we could show it. This made us make decisions quickly. Now we have to build levels and systems to full completion. This has led to some analysis paralysis and we’ve been struggling a bit.

First, we started out by creating a new updated burndown chart of the tasks we need to complete and modified some of our projections for better accuracy. Now that we’ve done a lot of this before, we now know how long it is going to take for certain tasks.

From that we have created a new two phase level design system. First the producers go through a design process where they create the layout, purpose, game script and come up with a list of key art assets. This is mostly identical to our original pipeline.

After that however, we now have a higher emphasis on prototyping. As mentioned earlier we prototyped a lot of the puzzles this week and this is something we will continue to do. We will try out various puzzles and ideas and see which ones are the best to keep for a given level.

Finally, to finish up Phase 1, there is some internal playtesting, tweaks and the continuation of any art asset creation and programming tasks.

Once that Phase is complete, the level is then handed off to the Phase 2 team. The Phase 2 team handles most of the polish as they add in music, cinematics, sound effects and place the art assets created from Phase 1. At the end of Phase 2 there is some more playtesting, both internal and external.

While the Phase 2 team is working on polishing the level, the Phase 1 team now starts designing and prototyping the next level. This is in an effort to stay ahead so that when Phase 2 is complete on the previous level, the Phase 2 team can instantly get to work on the next level.

In the end, this system is not much different than our original pipeline. The major changes are more prototyping the puzzles and a lot more of the polish aspects. This modified pipeline is more transparent and has allowed us to force the pressure on ourselves as everyone knows who is responsible for what and there is clear due dates for each phase. We are confident this new pipeline will help us get back on track.

While producers prototyped and organized, the programmers continued to fine tune the traversal system. They worked closely with our animation team to start getting very accurate animations. We did hit a snag with a deforming rig that set us back, but we have learned a lot from the process.

For the most part though, we cannot venture forward with traversal too much at this point since we are in the process of redoing Chris, which includes a new rig. Once we get the new rig, we can then continue to get new animations for traversal.

While working on traversal, we also modified how we did our AI system. We’ve cleaned it up and made it more effective and easier to use. A Producer can now just plop in an AI actor class into any of our levels. The new AI system is better structured now that we’ve had time to take a step back and re-access without the time crunch of Vertical Slice.

For this past week in particular we were able to get AI for three new enemies! Using the Spider models completed by the artists this week, we were able to implement three spider types a Spitter, Spinner and Swarmer. We can easily place these enemies now with the improved AI and they each have their own characteristics and movements.

While working on those two items, the programmers also continued their work on the power system. They added in constant force so that the player no longer had to continue to tap the button to use the powers.

This was something we noticed from our internal playtesting session this past week. To use the powers you had to spam the buttons and this was cumbersome. Now it is simply a constant force based on holding the trigger buttons.

Finally, the programmers worked on data tracking and metrics system. We got UDK talking through a DLL to an external application where we can track the players location and height. Using this we created a small application that allowed us to show a map of a danger room and show the position of the player, nearly real time.

You could jump in the game and it would send out that information and update a mini-map. The map is a bird’s eye view of the level that shows you where the player had moved. This is definitely a great start into tracking metrics in our game and will be great for playtesting.

While, the programmers and producers were doing their thing this past week, the artists were busy working on enemies and our new Chris redesign. They were able to get the high-poly sculpt of Chris ready to go and have since even gotten the low poly completed. Chris should be ready to show in the next few weeks.

They also worked on creating the new enemies mentioned above, the spiders. We also got animations in for those, as well as worked on some new animations for our first enemy the boar.

The artists also continued work on the Aztec Bridge area as they completed the Sun God version of the God statues. They also reworked one of our original bridges and created some new statues as well. They also worked on a matte painting to use as the canyon background for the Bridge area.

Well, this wraps up another post. We won’t be having a video status update this week, but we will definitely have one for next week. In the meantime I will leave you with renders and concepts as usual.

 

Artwork

 

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