Higher & Higher
Hello again, dear reader!
We're getting closer to the finish line now. Just one more week until the Song of the Bardbarians has reached gold. It honestly feels like an actual game now; we pieced together all three secions and played through the game from start to finish. The session left me with childish excitement as well as relief, since seeing the complete game being played assured me that we had stayed more or less true to the original vision (though things have definitely been refined along the journey).
Before my group had this play session together, my work was fairly monotonous from Monday to Friday. I was helping out with optimizing the section that I was resposible for conceptualizing as well as actually building.
There were an incredible amount of draw calls because of the high number of assets in all levels. For instance, a corridor wall could consist of many wall assets, but by combining them into one, it would be counted as just one object. I also made sure that the collider that the new object would use was the proper one. A basic plane mesh (which the floors are made of) does not need a box collider, since they don't have six sides.
This kind of work was immensively tedious, because it took many days to complete while it could also be done on auto pilot. Of course, this is an important reality check. Not all tasks are fun, but they must be done non the less.
Luckily, I got to do some playtesting as well. I, together with another designer, spent a lot of time working with the Guitar Mode (a Quick Time Event where the player plays guitar) and the Metal Mode (a buffed-up state the player enters after completing the Guitar Mode).
The most important thing that happened is that the Guitar Mode has changed a little bit. Before the change, buttons that the player must press in time were scrolling down the screen at a certain pace. When the player had hit enough buttons, they would start falling down even faster, but successfully hitting them would also result in greater rewards. However, the interval between each button was still the same!
After some feedback from a teacher, we had a discussion about the Guitar Mode and what kind of sensation we wanted the mechanic to offer. We were told that falling buttons looked slow, even though it was actually hard to play. Looking at someone play a game is completely different to actually playing the game yourself. With that said, a game should also look entertaining, so the other designer and I talked about what reasonable changed we could do to the Guitar Mode.
The conclusion we came to was to make the intervals between the buttons shorter as the player continued to play their guitar whenever they reaches certain checkpoints in the guitar solo. This way, it looks more hectic as the solo continues even if the movement speed of the buttons itself is not changed.
We checked with the programmer who was responsible for the Guitar Mode to see if it was even possible to make time for this change. After all, we were running out of time and changing things up at this point comes with a risk. The programmer was hesitant and us designers let it go, but we were then presented a few days later with exacly what we had pitched!
I am so thankful for all of our programmers; they are aboslute gems.
With an updated version of the Guitar Mode, I and the other designer began playtesting both the mechanic itself (how fast all buttons should move, where each checkpoint should be etc) and how it worked together with the other components in the game. We are not completely finished with it and we also need to spend time on polishing the attack mechanic since it still feels a little stiff. We are waiting for the final animations for the attacks, which I think will add to a better game feel as well.
Finally, we managed to finally release a build of the game that the other group could playtest! It was supposed to happen last week, but the version we had at that time was not very presentable for various reasons. The build that the group could play was not perfect either, but in at least a much better shape. I and some other people from my group were watching as they played and I saw some issues I had to fix with the section I had built, such as collision issues. Regardless, it was such a joy to finally see people from outside our group play our game!
To have all of this end in just one weeks feels unreal and a little sad, but I'm also kind of excited for it to happen. It's a strange feeling, but in a good way.
We're almost there.
Title song: Jackie Wilson - Higher and Higher