Dev blog #13 progression at it's finest!
Dear readers, it's been quite a while! I hope everyone is doing fine during the current tough situation surrounding Covid-19. It has affected many people whether it was the virus itself or the other issues caused by it related to work/school. We took a hit too, nothing too big or serious thankfully though, but it halted our progress significantly.
Either way we have not been idle! This is probably going to be my longest blog yet so you might want to grab a nice drink while you will continue on to read this.
Let's first start with Audio Infection. The first game I have ever officially released and also my little baby that I have seen grow in terms of development, looks and overall user satisfaction. I enjoy keeping track of my progression to see my growth, decision making and mistakes to learn from. You can find a nice progression video here, which is roughly 10 minutes in length. In it you will see the very first build that even the first play testers had not seen. Near the end you will see one of the latest builds (that is not yet live).
At the end of 2019 we started working on the final update for Audio Infection. This was supposed to be the major winter update, which got postponed and renamed to the summer update... summer of 2020 of course! A lot of things needed to be cleaned up. A lot of things needed to be improved and a lot of things were not efficient enough. I am quite the perfectionist when it comes down to efficiency. Both in my private and work life.
Since this is going to be the final update for Audio Infection (at least the final update for new content), I had many mixed feelings throughout this tough ordeal that lasted many months more than I initially anticipated. I was sad and happy that this chapter will be closed and that we can move on to the next chapter with both our focus and attention; the chapter being named Eternal Wanderer. This chapter will by far blow away any of the past projects I have worked on and the ones I have released. This chapter contains an interesting mixture of modern technologies and amazing graphics that can be achieved by the small army that only counts the numbers of 2 people. But enough of that for now, back to AI.
In this update I wanted to improve the performance. There were several things in the game that did work... but not good enough. There was also a small amount of features present that in the long run would prove useful, but in reality was never used. All these things gave the loading time a big hit. One of the features that got removed is the ability to add your own music to the game. Yes it is fun and no it did not work proper enough for me to decide to keep it. It was not broken, but not good enough either. It would only bring down the overall quality of the game. A loader for example is a lot trickier than you think it would be. Too much time and effort in a function that was barely used. So there was no indicator. Not only that, Unity is not the best when it comes to audio assets that can be loaded on the fly and imported on the fly. This caused the loading time to be "long", since everything was dynamic. Lazy loading was not an option due to other issues it would cause... and this is just the PC side of the game. Good luck trying to select and upload files from your computer in VR. Now that in it's own is a tricky challenge that I decided to drop.
The removal and rewriting of audio mechanics resulted (and I am not exaggerating) in a loading time that is 20-50 times faster! People with a HDD are closer to the 50 times whereas a SSD brings you closer to the 20 times. On top of that, certain data now remains in the memory to create a slower initial loading, but faster scene transitions. Once everything has been fully loaded we are talking about speeds that are at best 1 second. And that is something that I can appreciate. Switching back and forth between the menu and pub goes extremely fast now, as well as starting the game!
But that is not everything. No custom tracks means a lack of diverse genre's and a small audio library, so I have hooked you up with a fine selection of royalty free music that varies in genre, BPM (intensity) and overall feel. Going from electro swing to hardrock. Right now there are over 50 tracks(!) that you can play on... once the update goes live.
We have also completely revamped the pub to be... no longer a pub, but something that is more fitting the overall style of the game. This introduced plenty of new assets with a clean and simple design, removing unnecessary complexity on certain elements. At this point a tutorial is honestly not even needed, that is how simple it has become. But the tutorial will also be completely revamped.
A lot of ambient sounds have been added to give each level a more unique feeling as well as to improve the immersion. Extra sound effects have been added as well and where needed sounds have been replaced. For example the level 3 and 4 minigun now sound like a weapon that will only bring mayhem and chaos.
Plenty of bugs were in the game, they weren't game breaking, but they could be annoying and they have been fixed as well. The final boss now with the final mechanic (the gravity pull) allows the shields (which are more visible now) to be a lot closer to it. Some hard fixes to other bosses have been added as well as small overhauls for enemies their movement and spawn behavior. This makes every time you play feel more unique and less predictable. However, nothing is random. Everything is calculated. This is in order to ensure the fact that if you plan on playing the same thing over and over again that you can predict things due to experience and eventually play a track flawlessly at the highest possible difficulty (which scaled dynamically based on your performance).
But the largest thing of this update was the pub. We felt that the trophies on which you can see your enemy kill count... were simply not good enough. We want to deliver something proper since you paid for the product (hopefully). Therefor we have created an interactive enemy preview section in the pub. It shows a video montage per enemy and a 3D hologram (in VR it is epic!). It also shows your kill count and works the same as the previews trophies mechanics wise.
We all have our own favorite level that we would rather play 24/7 in. And with the level selection section you can now always play in the level you want to play! By default it is random, but you can easily navigate through them. Yes, you can also see a level preview!
The weapon selection functionality was tedious, messy and not really straight forward. Now it is just a single 3D hologram with a table full of buttons which you can use to easily navigate between weapons. Purchasing them in order to unlock has never been easier!
The overall pub navigation (in both VR and non-VR) are so smooth now! It feels more natural as a gamer and it looks more clean. Everything has been simplefied including the jukebox, which has been completely released. Trust me, it was not an easy decision as this used to be our showcase product, but it felt out of place. A more simple and more fitting jukebox has replaced it.
Since this update is going to be massive I have decided to roll it out in 2 parts. All that you have read until now... was just part A. So allow me to introduce you to part B!
The particles were okay... but not good for a final product. These will be revamped as well into something that looks a lot cleaner and better. Custom sprites will be used for this. So definitely do look forward to that. By particles I mean the hit effects on the enemies, the explosions, the subtle bullet trails and plenty more. Everything will look a ton better.
Unity rolled out a HD render pipeline, which we will fully utilize for a higher quality of the game. This will improve the overall look of the game as well as making the best of the shaders currently in use. While this is a small add-on, the results are not that small.
The tutorial was a nice place and will be rolled out in part B, but it will be completely revamped. The islands will remain, but all the functionalities however will be replaced and rewritten.
Since this will be the final update, we will be adding a new simple enemy that can only be reached once you defeat the final boss in the game. It will spawn as a mini boss that will get very annoying very fast as he creates multiple low level enemies. While a singular enemy might be easy to deal with... a large magnitude will overwhelm you. They come in great numbers so do be cautious! There is only a handful of songs which will allow you to reach this point, will you be one of the very few to make it that far?
When a boss spawns... it feels bland. Like cool, all enemies vanished and now rockets are flying towards me from some massive object with anger issues. But that is to boring. When a boss spawns the old pre-release "indicator" will be used in a very very very nice way to show where the boss is at and what you are dealing with. This is a one of the many little fine touches that will improve the overall quality of the game. Facing a boss will now feel more like an actual boss fight since it will be "introduced".
And honestly that is about it from the things you guys will notice. I can write an insane length of scripts that have been modified, performance improvements that have been made etc, but that is boring and you most likely will not notice it.
So let's move on to the next subject (yes I was serious when I wrote that we weren't idle); Eternal Wanderer. This passionate project has been estimated to take 3-5 years in order to fully develop. A proper prototype would probably take 8-12 months to create.
But the shining star for this subject is the artist Baris. He has been working on his skills behind the scenes. Learning new methods and mastering new tools are just two of the many things he did!
From the past blogs you might remember some of the sketches he made for the assets. Well now we have some 3D models to showcase, which you can find at the bottom of the blog. A nice house for the poverty district for the kingdom in disarray. This is just one of the many buildings, because we feel that it is important for every building to be unique (to a certain degree) in order to improve the overall quality. Through smart artsy methods he will be capable of delivering a high quantity of buildings with all being of great quality!
We also continued on the drawing board for the overall style we are aiming for, settling down on type of characters, mechanics in the game and plenty plenty more! All of those are still conceptual though and will be showcased throughout the blogs in the future. At least we have a clear vision of what the product will look like in the future and over time you guys will have it too.
I hope you all can join us on this amazing journey of development where our third game will be our craziest project yet and most likely the craziest one we will have pulled off in our lifetime.
If you have made it this far then you might be interested in more visual stuff. You can find a lot Eternal Wanderer related content (and just great content in general) on his Instagram! Just click here and you will be linked to it. You can also see his progression from this past couple of months on it, so definitely check it out.
That is all from me for now. Stay safe out there, it is a crazy situation and we need you as future potential customers (but seriously, stay safe).