The Weather Factory at Dare 2011
17th June 2011
Hey, I’m Ed Campion, Project Lead on The Balloonist. Here is what we got up to on the first week of Dare To Be Digital 2011.
The goal for week one was to have a rigged animated character moving about a plane and doing basic platforming. As well as this Dan and Louise would continue getting to grips with Maya. I was, as usual, trying to find out what this game is.
Dan got to work on creating more concept art for the early game objects, and Louise began investigating the complexities of Maya’s rigging and animation tools. By the end of the week we had some awesome 3D models: pipes to give the background some much needed factory feel a cool conveyor complete with shredding/stamping chamber as well as two, count’em, two cannons. Louise also researched Maya’s UV mapping and was able to give the pipes some nice textures.
While the animations and meshes were being created, Conor and Stephen were busy creating scripts to provide the behaviour for the early game objects, as well as getting basic platforming working.The initial section of the level design called for an ice cannon. This ice cannon would fire at the player until by hiding and dodging the player got close enough to it to rotate it. The ice cannon puzzle also includes our first enemies. These are giant snowball shooting artillery. They shoot massive snowballs onto the ceiling where they stick until the player is foolish enough to walk beneath them where they fall on the player; suffocating them. Muhahaha... The second of our two cannons is part of a puzzle where the player must shoot a cannon ball at two bounce pads.The player can rotate this cannon by swiping on it.
To allow the player to touch the environment and interact with it directly consoles were needed. These consoles define a space where the player can touch objects far away from The Balloonist(player character).We wanted loads of touch and tilt input but we also didn't want the player to ignore moving the player character.
An example of these volumes is the Swipe-able Door. This consists of a console and a door. When The Balloonist is in the consoles volume the player can swipe down on the door to close it and swipe up on the door to open it.
A notable success was the scripting for a Tarzan-like rope swing across a chasm. Instead of modelling any rope physics we instead used a sine wave, to give the shape we wanted to the player’s path. No rope physics required as Phil Collins would say if he was a games programmer.
The first priority for Design was to setup a design document and fill in the sections for mechanics,which mechanics were required in which sections, what models were needed, and also an explanation of the mechanics used in the prototype level design I created before the competition.Once the Design Doc was in a decent state for the first level, I moved on to designing more puzzles for the Ice Room, trying to come up with puzzles for the Lightning Room.
As well as this I began my first battles with the monster in the closet of this project, which is the Context Sensitivity feature. From a design standpoint, having the game change depending on the weather or other local factors sounds awesome, but it implies a tripling of the work.You now need multiple interesting puzzles for each interesting puzzle in a typical game. So the Context Sensitivity will have to be at the level of a tech demo. We will have maybe two sections of the game where a room is different in different conditions.Obviously this feature can be expanded to almost any size. Exclusive loot in certain territories plus a trading system would encourage exploration.
Finally I also designed a couple of screens of our Giant Teapot Escape. More on this when I’m bored of teasing you.
Planning/ Project Leadery / Project Lederhosen...that's just silly.
On Wednesday the Project Leads were invited to a talk by 14principles (@14principles on Twitter) a Lean Development consultancy firm.This talk was about their version of Lean Development which they have used for game development. Main things came out of this talk; the first being Minimum Viable Product (MVP). This is a bare bones playable version of your game with most if not all of the mechanics present in some fashion.
A sample schedule of three weeks for MVP, three weeks to iterate on this and add things, and then three weeks for additional polishing was advanced.Prioritisation was the second important point raised, i.e do the stuff you need to do. Not the stuff you could do or want to do, do the stuff you need to do.
Finally some interesting things were said about product backlogs. By all means have product backlog, but only concern yourself with it on Monday morning. After Monday morning the team should only be thinking and stressing about this week’s work.
On Thursday we met Tone and Toby from Dundee games company, Outplay Entertainment. We got great feedback from them including many laughs at the little jokes and funny mechanics which had been worked into the design. I did however, terrify them a bit as I spoke for 5 solid minutes, explaining mechanic after mechanic, and puzzle after puzzle.They thought we were taking on far too much. It took many reassurances, and also showing off the prototyping we had done on the iPad, to convince them that we would pick only the best of the mechanics and focus on producing the best 5-10 minutes to show at Protoplay.