Where I am now: The last two weeks I continued work on Act 2, game 1. I aimed to finish as much core gameplay before the end of February, and now I’ll be returning back to working on Act 1 until the end of April.
Before I begin, I would like to emphasize that all graphics are placeholder, which is hopefully obvious by just looking at the screenshots and shuddering from the TOTAL LACK OF GLOBAL ILLUMINATION. Don’t worry, I’ll get there. I’m looking forward to seeing what that’ll look like down the road. But back to the post.
Gadgets. I have more gifs to show this time, and instead of me describing things as accutely as I can I’ll let these wonderful moving pictures (I watched the oscars last week) do the talking. Apologies for the quality of some of them. I wanted to reduce file size as much as possible, so I compressed them to the point where you can still see what’s going on, but they lose their crispness, and on some of them the colors are washed out.
Not only can you “grapple travel” to placed markers, but also anything that’s made of wood:
I added some wiggle to the arrows when they hit a target and made them stick inside what they shoot into (you may have to lean forward to notice these):
The blue sphere is a placeholder for an explosion effect. These bombs can also be exploded manually with another gadget, like so:
These are the three gadgets I’ve implemented so far, and I’m still deciding which other ones to include. Some of the excluded gadgets are redundant in their combat and environmental function, such as a heavy hammer, while others don’t have enough use in the environment like, such as a magical lense that allows you to see invisible objects. There’s only so much space to create gameplay around the gadgets, and if I try to make every item I’ve excluded feel useful the spaces will feel too stuffed, and the pacing will suffer as a result. For now, these three will do as they have clear functions throughout each space.
The environment. Speaking of spaces, last blog post I said I’ll talk about the environment this first game will take place in. I’ve been blanking on things to say since they don’t have a whole lot going right now, so instead I can just show you more pictures! Here are several rooms throughout a larger temple-like structure they’re placed in:
Please ignore the awful texturing. I was experimenting on how I could get consistent uv-unwrapping throughout each space for things like the walls, ceiling, ramps, and odd shapes. I have a fairly good idea on how I can achieve this, but I’m gonna do more reading on how it’s done by the pros.
Edge Jumping. For this particular game the character can jump, but only by running off the edge of some surface, like so:
To implement this in Unity using their default First Person Controller, I check whether the player was “grounded” (touching a horizontal surface beneath their feet) in the previous frame, and whether they’re grounded in the current frame. If it’s yes and no respectively the character jumps. If the player wants to drop down an edge without jumping, they just have to look down while running over it which will bypass the jump. This seems to be working for most cases in the environment, and with some fine-tuning this might end up making the final cut.
Climbing. The character can climb a ledge that’s at most double their height. To implement this, I split the climbable walls’ meshes from the rest of the environment and put them on a different layer. When the player rubs into a wall it checks whether it’s one of those meshes by checking its layer, and does further calculations such as the distance to the top of the wall to make sure it’s low enough to climb. The result is fine for now:
I’ve also implemented climbing angled walls:
and small “step walls”:
You can also jump-climb a ledge:
I’d like to put in actual climbing animations for the arms rather than what’s currently in place, but this is absolutely a polish feature that will come in later.
Doors. Before placing in doors between rooms, the temple was just a continuous space and felt really open. After placing all the doors it made it feel much more believable, as the doors act as barriers and allow each room to be defined as its own space. It was really cool to see how placing a bunch of thin rectangles could change my perspective of the environment and give it a sort of mood.
So, here’s how to open a door and access another room:
To place your hands on the door you hold the left and right mouse buttons when you get close enough.
The animation is fully in control of the player up until the door is opened, as demonstrated here:
This is useful incase the player accidentally moves toward the door and prevents accidental activation. I also feel it’s important for each hand to be controlled by its respective mouse button as it mirrors the default control scheme presented throughout the game, of controlling your left hand with the left mouse button and the right hand with the right button. Consistency!
There’s also a different animation if the door locks behind you:
I’m fairly happy with the transition animations, even in this rough state. It’s the first thing I put in that makes the game feel much more like its reference.
Switches. Here’s a prototype for a switch:
I spent a bit of time making it stand out a bit from the environment. The goal is making it something the player would want to use (read: SMACK WITH THEIR SWORD OR GADGET) and for now I feel it should have that affect, barring a playtest. Here’s a switch being activated:
Looking at it now it seems a bit too magical, but perhaps that’s from a general lack of detail in the environment. For now, it does the job.
Treasure Chests. You may have noticed it in the grapple gif, but here’s a treasure chest up-close:
The fairly-polished look of the chest may mark me as a hypocrite since I’ve been stating all graphics are placeholder, but I SWEAR this only took about 20 minutes to texture and shader-ize. The chests are supposed to be fairly special as something you look forward to interacting with, so I decided to spend a bit of time making it visually stand out from the environment as well as making the interaction animations. Even though this is still placeholder, I’m happy with the current result:
It may look like the arm, camera, and key animations took a while to create, but I think it was only an hour total including some fine-tuning.
You open a chest the same way you open a door. I placed the chest on a podium to make it level with the player’s view. I did this to create suspense for what might come out of the chest, since you can’t see inside of it like you would if it was on the floor. This is another nod to the reference game, and I feel it’s an important one as its chest-opening was fairly dramatic.
That’s act 2 for now. Back to working on act 1. I’ll be returning to this scene at the beginning of May to hopefully get all core gameplay in by July.
Lack of player agency a good thing? I’ve been wondering about the next game I’d like to work on and have a base concept figured out. One thing I’d like to explore is having a lack of player agency. The main reason I want to explore this is believability. Current popular (single-player) game designs focus on making the player the heart of the narrative. The story doesn’t progress until the player shoots the hinges or kills the strider. While making for a complete and understandable narrative since there’s little chance the player will miss a pivotal moment, it kills the believability of the world and makes other entities, such as characters, seem shallow, no matter how much conviction or heart you give them. I’m a firm believer that if you have a player dropped into a world where they have very little agency they will seek out their part in it because they want to interact in the first place, otherwise they would be watching a movie rather than playing a video game. For the sake of crafting a believable world, I really want to take the persistence of a game like DayZ (but in single-player), inject a narrative into it, and see what happens.
Bioshock Infinite has a damn interesting world. Not because of it’s re-imagining of Columbia as a floating city-state set in 1912 (though this is cool too), but because of all the history it brought with it. Racism, sexism, a shit-ton of patriotism, and a religious zeal. All these juxtapose so nicely against the stunningly beautiful scenery and makes the setting much more grounded (hey-ooooooooh) and interesting to move through respective to other big-budget games. Yeah other games offer pieces of history and take a stance against them (nazis are bad, templars are snakes, etc.), but I think it’s that bioshock reveals a setting that’s much closer to home and a history that still lingers and is relavent today that makes it more engaging. Hell, it’s brave of a published game to involve these sorts of topics in a mainstream shoot-em-up. Good on you bioshock. Of course it’s fairly easy to take part in bioshock’s world because the player is rebelling against these ideals. Booker and his gun make a clear statement of what he thinks about these ideals, and so do we when we play as Booker. It would be a VERY different tone of a game if the player were to take part in Columbia rather than destroy it, and perhaps a difficult game to play through depending on what it would lead to.
Footstep fetish. I love listening to footsteps. I think the first time I realized this was from playing Oblivion. At one point I remember turning down the music and increasing gameplay volume so I could hear the lovely footsteps better. But the game that comes to mind for having really good footsteps is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Each step has a clear beginning and end, and has a base thud of the boot’s heel, then a texture sound played over it. having that base and texture sound play over gives it a wonderful depth, and there’s so much variation I feel I never hear the same step twice. And it makes sense the game would make a star out of its footsteps as listening for your opponents movement is crucial to finding their location.
I don’t just listen to game footsteps though. Part of the reason I adore my running shoes is the sound they make when I walk in them. When my heel strikes the ground, it has a sharp and powerful thud and the toe will add some texture by rubbing against whatever is on the ground, like pebbles. Sometimes I let me feet strike the pavement harder than usual to pronounce their sound more, and it reminds me of Destiny’s bootsteps which sound amazing when you’re moving through an enclosed space, such as a hallway.