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1037440 Posts in 41905 Topics- by 33513 Members - Latest Member: Taschi

August 30, 2014, 12:25:25 PM
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1  Feedback / DevLogs / Re: Trudy's Mechanicals (3D Tactics Game) on: August 27, 2014, 01:47:23 PM
A few months back we decided to do a proof of concept for Trudy, which included mocking up a few scenes and creating a small tech-demo.

Trudy's original battle mockup.

The purpose of the tech-demo was to gauge some of the technical difficulties we'd encounter, settle on a few design issues, and use as potential pitch-material for grants. Some of the key points we wanted to implement and test were:

  • SDL-based rendering and input (for future ease-of-porting).
  • Overall scales of tiles/units/objects and camera positioning.
  • Orthographic projection vs. perspective projection with slight parallax.
  • Texture pixel density/UV space.
  • Pathfinding in 3D, including slopes and jumps.
  • Usable and destructible objects that affected pathfinding.
  • World-space indicators for movement ranges, usable objects, etc.
  • Basic UI system for buttons/menus in screen-space.
  • 3D particles that could collide with scene geometry.
  • Basic sounds and music using OpenAL.

We started off by doing a level sketch on paper:

And then proceeded to model it in Maya along with the required props and a single unit:

It took a good couple of weeks to put it all together, but we came away from the experience with a few important lessons:

  • Perspective projection -- no matter how slight -- added a lot of life to the scene. We still liked the old-school isometric look, but even a small amount of perspective (similar to Harebrained's Shadowrun Returns) made moving the camera feel much nicer.
  • Being able to create levels that could be rotated freed up a LOT of options for level design. We'll most likely still add some sort of a graphical effect for units obscured by level geometry so they remain visible, but we won't limit ourselves on overall architecture.
  • Texture space is worth it. Our single "mega texture" that covered the whole map looked quite blurry compared to the single character and some of the props.
  • Animations played out slower than expected and the lack of blending/interpolation really showed.
  • Colliding particles with level geometry worked out really well! It avoided awkward clipping issues and provided a surprising amount of polish, e.g., explosion debris splashing in water, rain drops hitting the surface of a bridge, etc.

Two GIFs of movement and attacking from our tech demo.

While we were quite pleased with the demo, it wasn't something we could build upon to make a full game. There was no proper level/scene editor, collision markers, AI, font rendering, resource allocation, etc. While individual pieces could be taken out and reused, we started on the overall engine pretty much from scratch and are currently building it up.
2  Feedback / DevLogs / Trudy's Mechanicals (3D Tactics Game) on: August 26, 2014, 01:47:30 PM

Making your own 3D engine is a somewhat daunting and time consuming endeavour, but being technically inquisitive we decided to take the plunge. A few months later and it's now far along enough that we can start showing off the game it was designed for: Trudy's Mechanicals!

Trudy's Mechanicals is a turn-based tactics game that takes place on a giant floating Steampunk dirigible. The tactics genre's had something of a resurgence in recent times -- and Steampunk is no longer a niche aesthetic -- so here's what we're hoping will make our game stand out:

Unit Variety - Many SRPGs have long relied on a combination of melee fighter, archer, mage, and priest serving as the pillars of all unit types. We'd like to break away from this format and make each class very unique in both appearance and function. The approach is closer to designing characters in fighting games than in tactics ones, and it encourages each one to have a unique play-style.

For example, our Supplier unit serves a support role early in battle; his attacks are feeble, but he's capable of activating machinery from afar and pulling in enemies using a large suction fan. Towards the end of the fight, however, he can suck in and process corpses littering the battlefield (of both allies and enemies!) and use them to launch devastating attacks.

Offbeat Steampunk - While we like the industrial machinery and intricate mechanisms common to Steampunk, we wanted to create an aesthetic that stood out a bit. The world of Trudy is a grimier, more grotesque place than the gentlemanly courts of Victoriana: coal burning furnaces have polluted the skies and the poor sell their bodies in order to become half-man/half-machine labourers.  

We also shifted the cultural heritage East taking some cues from Slavic and Greek fashions and nomenclature. Gone are bowler hats and fine brandies, replaced by fur caps and vegetable alcohols.

Interactive Environments - While individual tile types occasionally provide passive bonuses, maps in tactics games tend to be entirely static. We wanted to breathe more life into them, and also go beyond simple destructible props.

In Trudy it's possible to extend out bridges to form new paths, flood areas (and then electrocute the drenched units), redirect exhausts to provide smokey cover, etc.

Streamlined UI - Battles in tactics games tend to take a long time to play out. While this isn't bad in and of itself, a big reason for the extended durations is the interface. It often takes a very long time to figure out the movement and attack ranges of all of the player's troops and those of the enemy. Once that information is gathered and processed, and a decision is reached, even more time is spent inputting an action, previewing its results, confirming its execution, and finally watching it play out.

Since these are common issues, we're focusing on presenting as much information as possible while minimizing input logistics. One way we're streamlining input is filling-in movement range tiles for only those locations from which the current unit can use an ability. Mouse-overing these tiles also shows exactly which abilities can be used on which units allowing a quicker way to parse viable options.

Voluntary Content - While we think we've created an imaginative world and have an interesting story to tell, some might not dig that aspect as much. We've certainly played our share of games with seemingly endless streams of dialogue, so we sympathize. To limit this problem, we're not only making all cutscene-like content fully skipable, but also providing a lot of it via optional content.

Some more concept art below:

Eventually we'll post more in-depth articles on our website (and create one for Trudy itself), but in the meantime we thought it'd be a good idea to post about our trials and tribulation on Twitter/Tumblr and, of course here, as a devlog. Let us know what you think!
3  Feedback / DevLogs / Re: Screenshot Saturday on: March 15, 2014, 12:19:26 PM
A GIF of our jolly clerk animation from Feeding Time's title screen
4  Feedback / DevLogs / Re: Screenshot Saturday on: March 08, 2014, 01:32:20 PM
One of the minigames in Feeding Time
5  Feedback / DevLogs / Re: Screenshot Saturday on: March 01, 2014, 12:35:58 PM
Tundra gameplay GIF from Feeding Time

6  Feedback / DevLogs / Re: Screenshot Saturday on: February 22, 2014, 01:22:23 PM
Another GIF from our upcoming Feeding Time

7  Feedback / DevLogs / Re: Screenshot Saturday on: February 15, 2014, 11:49:09 AM
Quick GIF from Feeding Time
8  Community / Townhall / It's almost EAT o'clock time! on: February 12, 2014, 03:14:34 PM

Hey guys, hope you check out the site (and the game, once it's out)!

On a *slightly* less self-promotional note, we also plan on updating our website with more dev-related posts (like this one) that some of you might find useful, so feel free to check out http://www.incubatorgames.com/ as well!

9  Developer / Design / Re: 2D platformer design studies on: July 05, 2011, 08:52:55 AM
Glad you enjoyed 'em.
10  Developer / Design / Re: 2D platformer design studies on: July 02, 2011, 07:15:34 AM
I've posted the third part of my SMB 3 articles if anyone's interested: http://www.significant-bits.com/super-mario-bros-3-level-design-lessons-part-3

This one veers away from typical level design to focus on how the overworld hubs are structured and linked to the core stages, but I think it's still relevant to the topic.
11  Developer / Design / Re: 2D platformer design studies on: February 21, 2011, 01:50:58 PM
In case anyone's interested, I posted a follow-up to the SMB3 article that goes over the remaining worlds: http://www.significant-bits.com/super-mario-bros-3-level-design-lessons-part-2
12  Developer / Design / Re: 2D platformer design studies on: December 30, 2010, 02:59:14 PM
Deconstructing SMB 3 is a huge task, but if anyone's interested, here's my first stab at it: http://www.significant-bits.com/super-mario-bros-3-level-design-lessons
13  Developer / Design / Re: Tactics games. on: November 29, 2010, 11:54:45 AM
I've never heard of Future Tactics, but it seems pretty neat. We actually wanted to implement a bunch of its features, but only a few (such as destructible objects) will make it in as we had to pair-down the scope of the game.
14  Player / Games / Re: Why are there so few top-down 2D indie games? on: November 18, 2010, 09:34:38 AM
Like some people mentioned, I think it's mainly an issue of "bang for the buck."

Side-view games show visually more interesting environments while requiring fewer assets -- left/right character poses can be flipped (without worrying about up and down), Flash-esque bodypart animations work much better, it's easier to fill out the scene with 2D props while utilizing effects such as parallax, etc.

Of course it also depends on the type of game you want to make. Platformers work well with a side-view, whereas top-down games usually avoid complex jump mechanics due to the skewed/limited perspective.

15  Developer / Design / Re: 2D platformer design studies on: November 18, 2010, 09:14:31 AM
Thanks for the compliments!

Last time I took a stab at it I played through all of SMB3 and captured a bunch of screenshots as visual aids, but when I returned a week later to write the actual post, I forgot what a lot of the screenshots represented. I'll probably do the same exercise again, except this time with a notepad in hand.
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