Has it been two weeks already? It seems like the further I get into the semester, the faster time seems to pass! This past fortnight, the team has been working hard towards their Alpha deliverable. Initially, the team believed that due to the Greenlight milestone being pushed back two weeks, that the Alpha milestone would be as well, but we were sorely mistaken. Now with less than two full weeks to create a systems complete build, the team has kicked it into overdrive to try and get everything done. In today’s post, I’ll be doing a mini retrospective on how this situation presented itself to us and how the team has decided to take on the issue! Adaptability in unforeseen circumstances is one of the greatest assets a Producer can have, so I’ve been trying to be as flexible as I can.
NOTE AS OF 3/11/2020
As of the writing of this blog post, the situation regarding COVID-19 has worsened, calling for the Campus of Champlain College to be closed for at least the next three weeks. This news has drastically impacted how the team will be able to do work, test the game, and deliver content considering we aren’t allowed to use the campus facilities, such as the computer or game testing labs. This will make it hard for some members of the team complete work as their personal hardware isn’t able to run the programs we use to create Cash Force. However, the team leadership has worked with me to draft contingency plans to allow for a (somewhat) seamless transition to remote work. We face this problem like many other studios do around the country, and we still plan on delivering a kick-ass game!
With that news out of the way, let’s get into this!
Alpha Deadline Crunch - What Happened?
So, let’s get into the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of this situation by defining the situation itself! What happened with the Alpha Deadline that made it so short? If you remember some of my earlier blog posts, I had mentioned that the Greenlight Deliverable was pushed back by the faculty to give the team more time to focus on their ‘Contextual Arc’, or their reason the player is in the game world and or the narrative if it applies. Put simply, the narrative of Cash Force was to shoot bad guys a lot. That has changed and was fleshed out more by our wonderful designer Lauren, who worked hard to make sure the context for the player was clearly outlined.
While this time was well used, it also came at the detriment of other key deliverables. Other classes spent a sprint or two at most on Greenlight, and were able to get through it very quickly and had plenty of time to work on Alpha. For our class, we had much more time allotted to Greenlight from the beginning. That time was also extended by an additional two weeks meaning that the total time allotted for Greenlight clocks in at 6 weeks.
With Alpha expected by the end of this week (Week 8), that only left the team with 2 weeks of development time. This is an incredibly tall order have a systems complete build coming from a series of early prototyped systems.
Other Major Impediments
Even though better communication and planning of how the milestones were communicated would have helped the situation, there’s more to the equation than just the timeline of key deliverables. The Cash Force team planned to bring our game to PAX East and demo it at our college’s booth at the event.
However, due to increasing concerns about the spread of COVID-19 at conventions, and the sanitation logistics of cleaning headsets, the decision was made by the faculty to pull both VR games from the event. This decision made sense to both the Cash Force and Camera Shy (other VR team) teams – but the delivery of that critical information came far too late for impacted developers who already made plans to attend the event to reschedule.
This led to several team members spending money on travel, only to now not being able to attend the event due to the changes. This announcement also came 3 days before the start of the event, which both teams had committed considerable time and development resources to prioritize. With the event now being dissolved for the team, we had to play catch-up and refocus our efforts towards Alpha, which was now even closer.
Not a great couple weeks in terms of logistics, communication or planning – but now that we’ve covered the situation that the team has been presented with, let’s actually see what we were able to accomplish despite these circumstances!
PAX East Build
Since the team planned on going to PAX East to demo our game this year, we created a special build of the game that streamlined content. We wanted players to be able to easily pick it up and play for the first time. Despite the unforeseen circumstances of the developing COVID-19 situation, the build that we produced had the majority of the content that we wanted to show off to potential players in it, making it’s development not a complete waste of time. This build was then used for QA Testing for that week. Despite the setbacks, the team was able to do a lot over these past two weeks, so let’s take a look at everything that the team has been working so hard on!
New Guns + Grabbing System!
Before, our guns had pretty limited recoil that was pretty easily predicted by the player. Now thanks to Karl’s rework of the grabbing system, the guns (and everything else you can pick up) can be grabbed no problemo!
As you can see in the gif to the left, the pistol has new recoil that the player will need to mitigate in order to get a clean shot! By grabbing the front (outlined as a red de-bug box for easy testing) the player can easily manage recoil, making for a skill based yet easy to interface with system that will change how people play the game!
The new grabbing system also allowed us to make really, really awesome looking reload animations. Now, when the hand pulls the charging handle or the slide all the way back on a weapon, an animation will play once the weapon is cocked! This looks really clean and is super satisfying to do in-game!
Another welcome change is that the old grabbing bug that caused so much suffering last semester is finally dead. Long live the new grabbing system, the hands will never get stuck now!
Here’s the new Battle Rifle we added!
Styled after soviet-era weapons such as the AKM, blended with the style of FN FAL and the M16 – our Battle Rifle has an iconic design and hits like a truck. Shooting bursts of 2 rounds, players can deal a lot of damage with this new toy!
If you’re interested in learning more about how this system works, why it’s important and a more comprehensive and fleshed out perspective – take a look at Karl’s blog! He’s our lead designer and he worked his ass off to make sure that the new grabbing and recoil systems were both functional and worked as intended. Click the button below to check out his post on what he was working on!
New Player-Facing UI!
Before, players health was based entirely on how much cash they had in their inventory, with each kill giving them cash and each hit they took decreasing their cash. Lose all your cash, you die – easy right? Our testers let us know they’d rather see a more traditional system for health and we agreed, but how do we show that to the player without breaking immersion?
Enter Lauren’s awesome watch! Acting as a stylish and useful gadget for the player, the wrist-mounted watch tracks player health as well as the money earned in that mission.
Incoming Damage VFX / Enemy Attack Telegraph!
Our QA results from both last semester as well as this semester informed the team that they players believed that they were getting shot / taking damage too much. We faced a question as a team – how do we still keep the player on their toes by making them feel immersed in a high-stakes gun battle while not destroying them?
The answer came to us from the past, with games like the 1995 arcade shooter Time Crisis. Enemies telegraph their attacks with a distinct, easy to read telegraph for player to see and react to. We took inspiration from this system and created our own version of that telegraph, to make sure players know who’s shooting at them so they can prioritize targets!
The design team has really been killing it as of late with their content deliveries! From awesome new enemy types (you’ll see those soon!) to awesome UI and UX changes that will improve how the player interacts with our game – the design team has really been cranking out awesome content. Here’s to them, and all the hard work they do!
With that, let’s go see what the other Cash Force developers are working on!
Procedural Generation Prototype!
As I mentioned in my last post, Josh and the programming team have really been working hard to get the procedural generation for the game world to function in engine. We had a major breakthrough over the past two weeks and were able to get that generation prototype functioning in build. This allows for player to generate a map and select their route! Now all that’s left to do (sounds easy when I say it like that) is to hook up that data to the actual map data so the map is generated, we’ll see if we can get it to work, and have contingencies in place for it what we’re trying to do isn’t possible or takes too much time to accomplish.
Bad Guys at the Ready!
Jonah’s been hard at work on the character animations for our bad guys! As you can see, these two baddies don’t follow the rules of the road very well and would rather take aim at you than drive their car! This is an early pass on the animations for the enemies leaning / shooting out of the car window!
These enemies will (ideally) not be taking up the drivers seat, but will be leaning out of the other windows of the car, taking pot shots at the player. You can choose to frag these guys first, or just go for the driver and take them all out at once!
In order to make our drivers fit into the vehicle, we needed to make them a bit more compact. In order to do this, Jonah decided to make them look like a cartoon character with road rage… it’s perfect!
These drivers are planned to have some basic animation later down the line, such as their arms moving when they go to make a turn, as well as death animations for when the player takes them out.
Make sure to shoot the driver in the face to wreck the car he’s driving! An easy way to take out a whole vehicle without having to use a lot of your ammo!
What would a shooter game be without enemies to blast? Kaylee has been hard at work bringing her character art concepts to life with some groovy-looking models! Let’s check his fashion disasters off of our patented 1970’s checklist!
- Suspenders? Check!
- Mullet? Check!
- Bell-Bottoms? Check!
- Too much cheap cologne? Check! (probably)
I don’t know about you, but I wanna blast this guy! He just has that look about him… with his grey, un-textured demeanor. We’ll be working on finalizing all of the other enemy characters before we texture them. We currently have 2 men and 2 women enemies planned, since we believe that 1970’s-inspired crime syndicates allowed anyone to be cannon-fodder!
Despite the series of setbacks with PAX East (plus a global pandemic being declared) the Cash Force development team has been cranking out awesome content despite being faced with adverse development conditions. This next sprint has the team working towards some of their beta milestone deliverables. With the development of the COVID-19 situation leading to a series of delays and our campus being closed, the team faces a lot of new challenges, including:
- Meetings / Work Sessions
- Content Deliveries to Faculty
- Milestone Deliveries
All of these things are easily done in the classroom setting where we present the content that we have created to the faculty and our peers, receive feedback and make sure we’re adhering to the project plan right there in person. Now that the Campus is closed and the team must work remotely, the logistics become more complicated. I’m currently working with the team leads to make this transition as easy as possible for the team, so let’s for the best!
I believe that our team is very well equipped to handle this situation – since they’ve all proven themselves over the course of the semester by working hard and creating kick ass content! I know that I can rely on the team leadership to help keep everyone on track and focused on the tasks ahead. Even though the campus may be closed, and work sessions disrupted – I know the Cash Force team will be able to develop this game into what we want it to be!
Talk to you next time!