Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Final Thoughts

The Red Sun four month vertical slice is completed. A vertical slice represents a cross section of a game with in this particular case focused on player movement, abilities, and puzzle navigation. This is not a complete game and contains only a tutorial level and one full puzzle level. We presented the project on August 22nd at Sheridan College.

The version that we released there is available for download if you so choose. There are a few notes about the project. We have had the most testing on the following settings:

Played on Windows 7 and higher
quality setting fantastic

There is keyboard and Xbox controller support and you can select the sort of prompts for the tutorial you would like to see in the options menu. While we would strongly recommend that all players play the tutorial, it is not required but it is assumed you have played the tutorial when entering level one.

Download from Google Drive: http://goo.gl/jWVJhV

The download contains three items, the RedSun_Data, RedSun.exe, and the TestXML.xml. All three of these are necessary parts for the game to run and we recommend that you download them into a single file folder. Launching RedSun.exe will start the game.

Now for few closing thoughts on the project. The project was drastically changed and trimmed from the initial proposal. Some of this was expected some less so. The vertical slice represents a significant portion of the mechanical elements but almost completely excludes the narrative and extensive world that the proposal contained. If the project is ever revisited, this lack of explanation of the world and narrative would be a primary focus. While it did not end up being the game that was expected, as a four month project it accomplished many of the goals set out for it.

We hope you all enjoy the game!

This blog will be on hiatus for an indeterminate amount of time but comments and queries can be directed to the creative director on the project at her email: firecatrich(at)gmail.com

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Now that we're in the thick of things - there's only a month left in the project - most of the news we have for the public is that we're fixing more bugs and hammering out some of the smaller details. So much of what's left in the game is arting things and making sure that it all fits properly and looks right.

That said we have some good and some bad news. To start our animator is gone for a little while. We knew this coming into the project. Hopefully she'll be back for a week or two in August to put some finishing touches. It's in a state where we are comfortable with what we have, but more is always better.

There's a lot of fancy art things going on. Here is what I can share with you this week...posters! We have some really nice posters that will show up in the tutorial level and possibly throughout the rest of the game. I thought it'd be nice to share some of them so here you go.

Really the big thing now is testing the levels and getting the animations ironed out. They are a pain to get right and are probably the first thing that people will notice if they aren't extremely polished. All we can do is hope that the extra couple animations that we added recently don't hurt the product with what little time we have.

Aside from that we are, as always, fixing many bugs and quirks. We will be having another testing day soon as well which means a lot more feedback and a ton of changes to be made to the game in the coming weeks. The testing day is probably just internal testing but we might pick up some outsiders to get some less biased perspective.

Another week down and that much closer to the end of the summer. It's a bit nerve wracking that we're so close to the end now. It's crept up on all of us I think. That said we're well on track to getting things finished and making it awesome.

I know I promised that I'd get something for you guys about the lighting but it's not quite ready yet. As of last week we only had it implemented in the tutorial level and a very small portion of our first full level. We'd like to get it into the rest of the level and polish up our library portion before showing the world this little thing that we're proud of. So look for that in the near future.

Lastly, there's a high chance that there will be no post next week as a third of the team is gone for the weekend at one of the conventions nearby (if you're going to ConBravo! let us know and perhaps we can meet up at some point) which will keep us busy. Work resumes Monday.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Another bug bites the dust

As the title suggests, we've got a lot of bugs fixed. There's still plenty to go as there always is but we've made a lot of progress when it comes to getting a working game.

This has been a very productive week for everything from getting the animations in - we've got sheep and wolves added - to some major camera improvements. So lets get into some specifics now shall we.

We had some very interesting new bugs crop up this last week. We were trying to make some improvements to the way we had the conveyor belts working. The "improvements" led to some very slow belts. Phenomenally slow belts. We haven't fixed that entirely yet so for the time being we've reverted back to the original set of belts. Speaking of slow things, we've had some strange interactions with the sheep animations that cause them to fall very slowly. It's actually quite comical to watch them fall slowly while apparently flapping their ears.

Animations. We've got all of the sheep animations in and nearly all of them are working perfectly. Easy fix I'm sure but not something that would've been easy to catch at the start. Lots of bugs to track down and fix but we've got them mostly under control. Wolves are also in! As I'm typing this I have some of the crew working setting up the animation tree. Can't share any more of that with you yet but the wolves look pretty cool. We haven't even gotten the bubbling wolves in yet. A couple other things we got into it are the edge grab animations and cycles, it looks pretty fancy so far. She can actually hold onto the edge and pull herself up. This is another one of those things where small imperfections will stand out so we'll be continuing to work on stuff like this where we need to.

Enough about animation, on to the fun camera improvements. Throughout testing we found that there were many issues with the frame that the player was looking through. So we've constructed a room camera to get around a lot of these issues and I have to say that it looks wonderful. We're discussing some options for switching between the regular player camera and the room camera but that's one of those design decisions that's easy to implement but has larger over-reaching consequences. I'm sure it will go through a fair bit of testing as well.

Speaking of testing, we have another build getting compiled today. Another round of internal testing. Last time we had a bunch of people from outside the projects come in to check out our games and play around with them but now it's just the faculty and other students. This means a lot of bug hunting and testing. While it might sound like there's tons of work to be done, things are moving along smoothly. We're getting a lot done and we should be hitting all of our goals. These sorts of projects are a lot of work.

Lastly we've got some really cool lighting effects getting set up right now but it's pretty far from being finished so all I can give you is a teaser image of the one tiny section that we've got working and hint at a feature article about our lighting when we have the time. So for now, here's a low-rez shot of some light effects.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Week ??: Starship Troopers

Welcome back everyone! I'm going to start this week off by saying I have no idea which week it is. I might be a week or two behind on the numbering so I'm going to drop it and just have more fun with the titles.

Alpha testing was a huge success with a couple notable problems.

To start we had a few very common almost game-breaking bugs with the way our levels were streamed/built. At one point if a player died they would respawn into an unloaded area of the map. Easy fix but was frustrating during testing.

We had a few other gravity quirks and some stuck issues but for the most part we got some great feedback so thanks to everyone who came out and tested games for all of the groups. While I can't actually speak for the other groups I'm sure they get a bunch of great feedback from you guys as well.

Back to real news though.

Over the radio silence we had some exciting days. We had a sound tech come to a farm with us for some sheep sounds! As you can see there are also some images we got from the excursion. I'll include several more of them before the end of today and perhaps some more over the week if people are enjoying them.

We've got some test music for our ambience and we aren't ready to really share it just yet. We also haven't gotten many other sounds into the game just yet. Because it's an interdisciplinary part of the game (sound tech and musicians and programmers), it will likely be a while before we can really get moving with that section.

As always we have been getting a lot of the art and design into the game but right now the biggest and most important parts of development right now are the bug fixes. We have an incredibly long list of bugs, most of which are minor and some a quite major, that we're working down. The vast majority of our time is devoted to finding and fixing these bugs.

Lastly we're continually editing the levels. The tutorial is likely to go through another 20 to 30 revisions before we settle on something we like. We're hopefully going to get another level in before the end of the summer.

I'd like to give a special thanks to CFA (guesses at what it stands for in the comments, don't ruin it if you already know) for allowing us to go out there to record some of their sheep and take some pictures. As I said before everything is about bug fixes and the camera right now so enjoy the pictures of sheep.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Weeks 3, 4, and 5: Nothing to see here, move along.

Welcome back. Lets start by saying that there's not a whole lot that's been going on that I can share with everyone aside from: everything is moving along smoothly.

Animations are coming along nicely. Bo now has the beginnings of an edge grab animation among some other important bits. As always there are lots of improvements across the other completed animations such as extra frames and touch ups. Not a whole lot to share on that front aside from lots of progress.

In other news, the tutorial has been through at least a dozen passes and is constantly going through more. It's looking pretty good right now with a few rough spots that need a bit more iteration and inspiration. There are also two (2) other levels that are getting built though they're not as finished as our tutorial level.

There's so much that's been going on with the programmers that it's really hard to get all of it to you in a meaningful way so here's the two largest things that I feel are important.

1 - Checkpoints and saving. We've got the beginnings of the checkpoints and saving functions in the game and will be working on it more as time goes on. Now when you die in a level you don't have to start it all over again. This also means we can start putting things together. Levels wont have to be separate things loaded up independently. This leads into getting the game flow (between menus and getting into levels etc) up and running.

2 - More camera work! The camera is looking really nice now and is into more revisions. The panning or peeking as some are calling it is a lot smoother than it used to be.

There's a whole lot more going on under the hood but these are the things that people might notice coming into the game, things you might not notice such as tweaks to things like slippery surfaces and better level flipping gravity without having seen it before are also happening.

Lastly, the big news. We have our first alpha testing day coming up next week. Right now we're all in a mad dash to get things ready for testing so there's not a whole lot to show. With that in mind we wont be here next week but we will be back the week after. We're going to be extremely busy focusing on the feedback from testing and getting things ready for testing that we'll see you in 2 weeks!

Monday, 26 May 2014

Week 2: 2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back

Week 2 of Red Sun Development has begun, and already I've made a mess of things. All of the notes and information for this week's update got lost when some re-organizing happened. We're working mostly from memory folks so bear with me.

I'm going to start of with the programming side of things this week. The big news here is that we've been trying to decide whether or not to use a regular physics based character controller or build on ourselves that doesn't get caught up with the limitations of Unity's engine. The upside is that Unity has a pretty nice physics engine but forces you into a few things that can give you problems, especially when you tie it into animation. So we're going to stick with the homebrew controller that doesn't stick to Unity's physics engine. It's going to mean a bit more work in some areas but based on what the programmers have told us, a lot less work in others including fewer headaches for the team as a whole.

Additionally in the world of code, our camera has been working wonderfully. We're getting some added features there including camera panning to see more of the level and zooming in/out. Some of the major design considerations here include what we want the player to actually see when moving the camera around. Since we're focusing on the puzzle element of the platformer genre the goal is let people see what they're up against almost as much as possible. This usually means that the restraints we're likely going to put on it include preventing them from zooming too far out and preventing them from seeing the next room or level. That could really pose some problems. Players aren't meant to see the man behind the curtain.

Speaking of cameras and zooming. We've also started work on the parallax backgrounds. Unity has some pretty sweet built in stuff so it makes things incredibly easy for us. There's a little bit of tweaking to do but for the most part we're working actually constructing the backgrounds. This means lots of drawings of scenery and buildings. It also means that it's coming up on time to actually skin the levels. I don't mean taking the skin off of the levels as you might an animal but just the opposite. We have to put all of the tiles and art into the level. As you saw last week it's just a bunch of small boxes with Xs and Os on them to tell us what they mean. In the future you'll see lots of pretty walls, spikes, and various other hazards. We'll just have to deal with the jarring images for now since the tile sets aren't quite ready.

Moving along, just as Bo can now do, we've got Bo running around fully animated now! It's a pretty big step to have the basic animations nearly completed. They don't look quite right just yet but no one really expected them to look perfect from the get-go. We've got a fair bit of tweaking to do and one more large problem that is rearing it's ugly head. Currently we have agreed on a fairly low framerate for the animations. We don't need a 60 fps game. That said the animations are looking a bit staccato with the current setup so we might have to generate some more frames. This isn't necessarily as easy as just pulling the arms in here or there but might require a fair bit more work. Unfortunately we don't have our animator for the entire summer, but we're confident she's up to the challenge.

Lastly we've got a bit more concept art and the tutorial level is starting to take shape. Things are coming along quite nicely even though we're still quite early in the cycle, so lets keep this ball rolling and return to you guys next week.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Week 1: And They're Off!

Hello everybody! Welcome to week 1 of production for Red Sun. I expect that everyone here already knows what's going on but for those of you who don't here's the summary. Red Sun is a capstone project being built by students of Sheridan College here in the great white north, a.k.a. Canada.

We're now a week into the trenches and it's time we took a look at what's already been done and what we have to look forward to.

Starting with the art team. First up is animation. Our resident animator has been working hard at getting Bo's walk/run cycle to look right. This stuff isn't easy as much of the smaller details can really throw off the way it looks but it's going strong and we're well on our way to a very nice looking shepherd. Looking forward there are some concerns about getting other animation sequences just right since it's really hard to turn our wolves into something that has the right feel.

Next up, non-animated art assets. There's a ton of concept art going around the group right now, and you can see why some of it might be hard to translate into real game art. Some of it was done before we got this far in since a whole bunch of pre-production happened during the school semester. These pieces are some of the few things that are getting carried forward. Some of these pieces are really wonderful and some are still getting worked on. We recently saw the Huntsman finished but he's not read for here yet. You'll see plenty of him in the near future.

Also in the art department, we've got some of the background art getting started. Hopefully by next week we'll have some menu backgrounds and maybe, no promises though, some level backgrounds to share with you. Parallax backgrounds can sometimes cause weird issues, especially in 2D games. Since it isn't actually 3D and we're trying to simulate what they would look like in a real 3D environment we have to cheat a little bit. Unfortunately this can cause problems in some cases so it will take a bit of work to get things looking right. Also a concern is Bo's primary movement in the game is upwards and downwards. If you're not familiar with the game, it's going to be a dream-like city-scape. She'll be travelling up and down buildings which stops us from tiling the background the way you could in a side-to-side forest or hill environment.

Music. This isn't something that we are really going to have much of until significantly later in the project. Sensing a theme here? Early on in the development there's a lot of stuff for the programmers to do and the artists are really just getting things rolling so they can get more fancy things and add touch ups to existing assets. That's not to say they aren't working hard, but the fancy stuff that we get to show off comes much later. That said, music falls under the same category. We've had some trouble getting musicians so far. Initially there were two of them that were going to be working with us but they aren't anymore. They got better, and in some cases paying, opportunities. Hopefully we can find someone (or someones) to take their place. If we're really lucky we might have some help finding sound techs through the school.

Now we get to move onto the meaty stuff. The programmers have been very hard at work so far getting a working environment for us. We're using unity, which makes things easier for the designers, and already have a level that can be played through. No framework outside of it but it's an art-less level that has all the things we want in it so far. It's got elevators, switches, buttons, sheep, doors, and a fair bit of death. Working hazards in the level this early really helps get this thing off the ground. We haven't put this into the context of the rest of the game yet but there is concern it might be a bit too easy and that we might have to go back and change things, but that's a process for later in the development cycle and I know I can't wait to test it myself.

Behind the scenes the programmers have also been working on the Wolf AI, more room components, and some basic game infrastructure. You can expect some neat things like gears, conveyor belts, and wolves in the future. Nothing ready to show there yet but from the things I've seen it's looking pretty sweet for it being this early. I expect the momentum to carry on into the summer months.

Things are off to a great start. Sometimes I find it hard to make work for myself but the rest of the team is very hard at work making sure that things are working and look pretty.