Dev Update #14 – Softs A.K.A. Demo Day

Such a massively busy week for Faceless!  We've made many various improvements and fixes to the game this week with the goal of demoing the whole game experience.  Demo Day was on Wednesday so everything we were doing was in preparation for that.  Bing, our artist, got the team new art for the in-game menus which brought everything together.  Getting the phone to menu navigation working properly was a bit difficult though.  Currently, players must swipe to browse videos and transition between menu options.  There's a whole UX flow to it that were not particularly great at determining but we're modeling off of other mobile apps.  We also added a combo system to the game so players can get massive combos for extra points during gameplay.  We got the effects to look really good, at least we think they look great ha.   For the demo, we chose 5 of our favorite videos and used the 2-object panel version of the game.

During the day, we had two big TV's set-up for people to player our game.  We picked up as many mobile devices as we could so we could potentially have 4-player gameplay on each TV too.  We also brought candy for the winners of the rounds, an extra incentive.  The demo was busy and a lot of fun for us.  Many EA employees came play and we received a lot of positivity from them. Some people really enjoyed the game while others had some fun but it was obvious it wasn't for them.  Either way, we realized that multiplayer was fun and many people said they could see themselves playing the game with their family.  🙂  

We're really happy with how well things turned out.  We still have some more work to do with polishing the experience, adding a level unlock system, improving the menu UX, deciding on the 3-panel or 2-panel version for the final game, and doing our promotional videos.  We began working on our promotional video on Friday and have to finish it by Monday.  This will be our first video showing the new gameplay!

1...more...week of dev left.

-Faceless Prod.

Dev Update #13 – Softs Preparation

It's Thanksgiving this week! Which means that our dev time is going to be a bit shorter this week as well.  Soft Opening demo day is next Wednesday at which we will be demoing our game at EA for everyone to play.  (sounds a little scary.)  We're excited!  But we're in the process of finishing some things to prepare for this big event.  Mainly, we've been working on our level selection menu.  We have mock-ups and the phone controller has been set-up to work with the menu.  The menu just has to be completed.  We're designing it to only use swiping as a selection method, no buttons.  Hopefully that's a cool and works as well as we think it should.  

We've also been working on some new videos and new systems in the game.  Not going to reveal what those are yet, but it'll be a surprise next week!  Here's a small update on our phone UI to tie things over.  

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-Faceless Prod.

Dev Update #12 – Aliens & Art

A game really feels like it's coming together when you begin to see the art for it and it fits the game.  Our UI artist got some great new art assets to us this week and we implemented them for our FIRST demo with kids.  Along with the art changes, we also added additional sound effects and visual feedback for the demo.  Each alien character had their own individual sound that plays when a player finds an object.  These two layers of feedback help A LOT.  The kids and their parents that played the game all understood who their character was, when they found an object AND how many points they received.  

The multiplayer results stayed relatively the same with a few small changes.

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In addition to the playtest, we had a surprise visit from some people who are involved with the games platform that we're developing for.  We had them play our game and they really enjoyed the experience.  Definitely a huge plus for our team.

We are still in the process of creating our menu navigation system.  The level select menu is being created on one end while the phone navigation is being created on another.  Using your phone, you will be able to navigate through the game screen on the tv; select your levels, choose difficulty, select the mode, and start the game.  Once this is in place, the complete overall game experience will be together.  

If we had to say what stage of development we're in, it's a mixture of polish and finishing some final features.  Without a doubt, we still have some more layers of visual and sound feedback to make the game more exciting and create a good feeling for players.  We're also making some new content but that's an ongoing thing.  We would liek to have great guidelines for future designers to make more fun levels for the game after we hand our project off to the EA team.

Next week is Thanksgiving so it will be a short week for us.  Work hard and eat a lot!

 

-Faceless Prod.

Dev Update #11

This week's focus revolved around multiplayer changes, testing some new ideas, and creating some new features for our Authoring Tool.  

Our multiplayer experience feels okay right now but we wanted to try another method for the game, mainly what would it be like if player's had to compete for only 1 item at a time.  Our fears were true about this mode.  Once one player started winning and was really good, the other players would not get any points.  So we scratched that idea.  Now we're polishing the current multiplayer.  We finally added a temporary result screen for it which is great.  What's missing now is some additional levels of feedback and placing the feeling of competition throughout the level.

HOG_multiplayer_results_11-13

This week we also experimented with a new location-based controller.  Player's must swipe in the direction of the "object panel" and not the location of the object on the screen.  This was a simple idea that we thought to try for dealing with our accuracy and object overlapping problem.  It also should add a small amount of difficulty.  We're going to test this next week.

object_panel_location

Currently, we don't have any menu screens or ways to navigate the game experience using the phone.  These things are crucial to the final game so we're going to begin working on that next week.  We already have some mock-ups so all that's left is implementing those and testing which navigation ideas work the best.  We also plan to add level rankings to each of the levels we currently have and showing those on the level select screen.  The functionality has been added to the tool as of now.

Tool w/ level ranking
Tool w/ level ranking
Here's a random idea we're going to try!  What if we had a level that was 10min long?...is there a way to make that engaging to players for the entire experience.  We don't know so we're going to make one!  Look out for updates on how that went next week.

 

-Faceless Prod.

Dev Update #10 – Toys and Competition

What a interesting week! Our UI Developer, Jack, left us last Friday to go back to Taiwan for his wedding preparations so we lost him until Thursday. Which means we lost one of our programmers. This halted some of our progress in some areas but we continued working on other things; rankings in multiplayer, new videos, and game data. Due to some unforseen bugs (as they always are), we weren't able to finish getting game data from player's but we'll finish it early next week. This is a pretty important thing for the designers and for giving player's feedback about how well they did in the game. We experimented with new videos using trailers from some of EA's games. All trailers don't work well for good gameplay but some of them, like the Sims, were great to use!

 

Multiplayer

Multiplayer is making steady progress. Players can now see their real time ranking during gameplay. As you can see below, we've changed the position of the player icons to be on the right and they change based upon who has the most points.  We believe this is going to help player's keep up with how well they are doing and fuel the competitive nature of the game mode. It still needs some testing and some more layers of feedback. After all, these levels have a lot going on.

multiplayer-screenshot


Making a Cohesive Experience

The team came up with a story for the game this week. It actually didn't take us long. Maybe it's because we understand our experience so well and it lends itself easily to a simple story. Players are going to be "Alien Agents" on a mission to gather information for their home planets. The aliens use transmitters pads to receives messages and send information to home planet through the videos they watch.

transmitter

It's a simple story idea that allows us to expand on levels, have varying types of content, and most importantly guides our Theming! Look forward to some new images as we finish our UI and character via our artist, Bing.

On Thursday, our teams took at little trip to visit some game studios up north. It was really fun to learn more about Toys for Bob and the Skylanders series that they've been working on. Unfortunately, we don't have any pictures because we couldn't take any. 🙁

Next week we'll be focusing on adding result screens for multiplayer, connecting the menu between the phone and the game, testing videos, enhancing player feedback, and adding new systems to the game. Whew, sounds like a fun week ahead!

-Faceless, Prod.

Dev Update #9 – Halves Week

Our halves presentation went really well!  Most of this week had been spent in preparation for halves; fixing small bugs for demos, practicing our presentation, and doing a little work towards future game features.  We had about 18 people show up for our and project GoTan's presentation.  A fairly small crowd, but big enough for us to be busy during the demo half.  After we presented, we demoed our game in a separate room.  There were 2 single player stations and 1 multiplayer station.  Just as we thought, those who played multiplayer cheated off each other by pressing the object button if the other players recently pressed it.  This was very expected considering there had been little changes since our previous playtest.  

The following day, we had some visitors from Intel come to play the two teams games.  They noted how great a game this would be if 10+ people could all play it at once.  Imagine it being in a movie theater!  People would play the game during the commercials using their phones. It would make waiting for the movie a lot more enjoyable.  

The teams went to the Monterrey Aquarium on Friday so we didn't have much of an opportunity to work except for Monday and Thursday.  We're refocusing ourselves next week to improve the multiplayer, do more experimentation, make some more videos, and expand upon what we have now.

-Faceless Prod.

Dev Update #8 – Preparation

This week we conducted our latest playtest about our new updates to multiplayer, new videos, and location controller.  In addition, we also began preparing for our Halves presentation next week.  For the playtest, we had a total of 10 people from EA that came to our space to play the game.  Some of these people even included marketing directors of the Xfinity Games platform.  *Cool!* 

Our goal for the new videos we created were to gain an understanding about how the different mixing & video-cutting styles affect a player's interest and engagement.  We discovered that one style was too intense while the other was more like the interest curve that we wanted.  We'll use this data to find a way to affect a player's engagement by mapping our video levels to interest curves.  Hopefully, we'll be able to develop some standard and guideline for this process to make it simple to do as well.  

playtest_interestCurve

As for multiplayer, we received some very helpful feedback and watched how players interacted during gameplay.  Just as we expected, players had a tendency to "cheat" by pressing the button when someone else had found an object.  We gave those players a lower score but they didn't seem to be extremely concerned about that.  This is an issue that we have to fix in the coming weeks. It was great to see that our positive feedback for when a player found an object was working.  Everyone reported that they could tell when they found an object! 

 

HOG_Multiplayer_ver1

With our Half Presentations next week, we began preparing our slides and topics to discuss.  We already had one practice on Thursday which helped to nail down what we needed to work on.  Hopefully Faceless will do a great job during the presentations and get all of our viewers excited about our progress.

~Faceless Prod.

Dev Update #7

A little late with this update.  Faceless has been preparing for a playtest this coming week and things have been a bit busy.  This has been a pretty good week for us.  Our research into what makes great content for our game has been coming along well and we realized we needed a playtest desperately!   Jake and Tim have been dealing with interest curves and determine how to craft each level to be a fun/engaging experience.  We need a lot of feedback from players about our latest videos that are mapped to interest curves.  

On the programming side, our basic game loop has been created (yay!).  Thanks to Sam, We can now choose which video level to play via a basic "level select" menu.  This is a great addition because we've had to add new videos manually to Unity each time which was a bit tedious.  We've also gotten a basic version of multiplayer finished.  We've only had a few people play it so far so we aren't entirely sure how player's like this mode compared to single player, but we'll find out at the playtest. 

multiplayer_screen

We had a surprise visit Friday, our advisor Heather Kelley stopped by all the way from Pittsburgh.  It was enjoyable having her around for the first time since the semester started.  All of our other meetings had been over Skype, so this was really refreshing.  She's great!

Look forward to our results next week.

-Faceless Prod.

Dev Update #6

Faceless has uncovered some interesting findings during this week!  After our Monday advisor meeting, we have decided to begin our video analysis process.  We've learned that using videos has an interesting effect on gameplay, primarily that the video provides entertainment and the gameplay changes that. Essentially, the video has a separate interest curve than our game itself. It's a weird thing to think about.  So we'll be applying the interest curve to our video levels that we make from now on.  This was we can control our levels better to what we want to player to experience.  Along with that, Jake has also made some new videos to use for testing.  We're focusing on analyzing what makes things fun for the videos.  We made a version of the game using images for the objects instead of text.  Unfortunately, we haven't had the opportunity to test it much yet.  Based upon the amount of work it takes to make the images though, it may not be a feasible thing to do for the game.  But we'll see.

During this week, we updated our UI to show results at the end of a level.  We're going to be adding a result screen to the phone screen as well.  We haven't gotten around to implementing the main menu yet but we'll get there.  Once that happens, things will feel like a more complete experience.  

result_screen

Sam has made some more progress with the video editing tool so now we can specify object locations.  Which is great news because now we can use our location-based controller for gameplay instead of just a button.  This should really affect the experience in a good way.

Lastly, we began working with video streaming.  As of now, we can upload and download videos via server to the game.  It's a start.

For next week, we're looking to implement multiplayer for the first time!  As well as getting further in our video level analysis and more testing.

Look out and find us next week.

Dev Update #5 – Quarters Week!

 

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We're back and this week has been crazy; in many good ways!  

We've mostly been focused on finishing some essential things for our single player mode of the game.  We added some sound & visual feedback for when players find the objects.  Sam made some edits to the video tool so we could add categories to the items.  Meaning that now, we have 3 types of items; sounds, objects, and actions.  We had visitors from EA play this new version on Wednesday and got some great feedback.  About 20 people came by our office to play Gotan's (the other ETC team) game and ours.  Among those people were our OCCO team and Rich Hillerman, the creative director of the OCCO.  It was really exciting to have him come and play the current version of the experience since the original idea for the project was his.  

 

The feedback we received was really helpful. We found out that player's were really curious about their results from the game and that they enjoyed having to look for 3 types of items in the videos.  In addition, we proved some of our findings about the difficulty of the video levels we have made so far.  We're acquiring some good data on what affects the difficulty of different video levels.  

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For next week, we plan to add more visual feedback to the game, try using pictures for the objects instead of words, create the framework for the game (the video selection and player results), and adding location information for the objects using the video tool.

~Faceless