Week 7 Update

Web_Headshots_Brandon

Greetings!  My name is Brandon, and I am the Design Lead on Chained.  It’s fallen upon my shoulders to give everyone who’s interested a little update as to the happenings around here… hopefully it is coherent.  I also tend to be long winded; I apologize in advance.

What do I do?

I’ll start off by explaining a little more about what I do on the team.  Most of what I do is to actually build the world in which “That Guy” exists in.  I do a lot of level planning, playtesting those levels, and iterating on those designs to ensure that we are delivering on our gameplay goals, but also, and equally important for this project specifically, is hitting our goals narratively.  Chained is a unique experiment where we are trying to utilize the mechanics, which the player is using to play the game, to deliver a story without explicitly delivering that through normal means such as spoken dialogue, written text, cinematic cut scenes, etc.  Using a combination of player action and environmental storytelling to get the player to think about why things are happening, and what they mean, is a very difficult but highly interesting challenge.

I also collaborate frequently between artists and programmers.  Designing the world of our game requires tech to make it work the way we need, and art to make it feel the way we need.  That involves a constant back and forth between artists as I’m laying out levels to ensure we can incorporate and highlight as much of their art as possible, and fitting all of that into the narrative we are trying to tell.  It also requires writing functional specification documents which our tech team can use to build the tools and systems we need to get things working.  As well as writing game logic scripts that can be used to bring all those things together.  But it’s not just that I’m the only one doing this stuff; everyone on the team is constantly in this back and forth process.

Updates about what I’ve been doing:

This last week I’ve brought the three different levels, which I was directly responsible for creating, up to a state of completion to were I could hand the levels off to our environment artists, Hojun and Adam, so they can go through and push the artistic value and visual interest of the levels.  This week I focused a lot on blocking in environmental animations.  Let me explain a little bit about what that means.  From a design standpoint, we need to ensure that gameplay is not broken by putting in some of the fun and interesting environment destruction pieces in the world.  There are times in the game where the players use of the mechanics will cause parts of the world to change, and the path the player takes through the world to also change.

This is done by using Unity’s built in animation system to shift the geometry of the world.  Why am I animating in Unity?  Well, as the gamespace is being shifted and destroyed, the gameplay is changing.  So I need to block in those animations, test that all the elements do not break gameplay, and ensuring that the player can continue to progress through the game.  That way, when I hand it to the artists, they can go crazy with their work and not have to worry about breaking the game.  This, of course, still requires a back and forth between myself and the artists, with constant testing to ensure gameplay is maintained, but it shows the boundaries within which changes can or cannot be made.

This next week is going to be particularly challenging for me.  This week I did a lot of polishing on the levels to build out the atmosphere.  I have an artistic itch that can really only be scratched through building out those fine details in a world that help to immerse the player into the world.  But alas, my job requires me to shift focus onto other aspects of the game as I hand those levels off to the artists.

Updates about what the team has been doing:

Stuff has been happening kind of sporadically as of late, no thanks to Midterms in our other classes, but I’ll do my best to summarize.

This week our team got news that DigiPen selected our game to be one of two games which will be presenting at the Intel party down at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on Thursday, March 20th!  This came completely out of the blue for us.  We are very grateful for the opportunity to show our game to a large crowd of industry professionals; it will be a great experience for us to show off what we are trying to do, and possibly gain some feedback on what we are experimenting with.

Jonathan has been working hard with Anne to get set up the animation controller, allowing her to animate “That Guy”, bring in the animations, and work with Mechanim to get the different animations implemented and to blend together between the different states.

Adrian has been working hard at getting our volumetric fog system to have frustums, as well as working to get textures working in local space.  This has given us a lot of freedom to play around with the atmosphere, and get some really good lighting effects.

David F. has continued to pour blood, sweat, and tears into the Player Controller; killing bugs to get “That Guy” to behave the way the design vision and playtest feedback is looking for.  It’s not small task to control two distinct objects that need to effect each other in different ways depending on the various circumstances the player finds themselves in.

Hans has been working with Design to get tools up and running, which includes a tool that allows the designers to warp through the game to speed up testing and development.  He’s also continued making additional changes to the AI system as bugs are found and tweaks need to be made.

Decker, Adam, and Hojun have been hard at work finishing up assets and textures, building VFX, and getting their hands dirty in the levels to push the atmosphere further.

David S has been busy building out the last few levels we need to fill out the game.  Building on the principles and mechanics taught earlier and bringing all the mechanics together is a big task, but headway is being made.

We’ve got a little over 2 weeks before our Beta milestone.  We are excited to be getting close to completing the project, but there is still a lot of work to be done.  Hopefully I’ve helped you gain some more insight into what we do and how we do it; come back next week to hear from another member of the team and about where the project is heading!

Thanks for reading,

Brandon

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