As softs for this week are on Monday, we delayed our client meeting until Thursday this week. During softs, much of the faculty feedback highlighted on problems that we already knew about such as issues with the jumping part of the tutorial, but they also raised some issues that we had not considered. Most prominent of these were regarding our end of level scorecard, which according to the faculty did not really convey any information to the player. They did not know what they had won or why they had won it, which is a major problem because we are relying on players wanting to play until they master the core levels. To revise this we are going to look at other racing games and see how they represent this information, then adapt our UI accordingly. Additionally one of the faculty members found that the game was hackable again, after we had reduced the running and jumping threshold. While not particularly great if players figure out that they don’t need to exercise, we do not believe that it is possible to both accommodate older devices and prevent the game from being hackable. We decided that we would rather have a wider playerbase, smoother motion, and hackable, over limiting the game to latest generation phones, jerky motion, and not hackable.
Overall we believe that softs went very well, and that the faculty enjoys playing our game. Consistently the faculty seemed skeptical of our game walking in the room but once they started jogging and jumping, they seemed to love it. Our presentation during softs took significantly less time than we had predicted, and we probably would have had time to present the live event system. We will be sure to keep this in mind the next time that we are going to present the project for an extended period of time.
Week 14 is most importantly our last week to fully prepare the game before softs. We started out the week with a meeting with the clients, in which we updated them on the current progress of the game and asked them for a testimonial that we could show the faculty for softs.
We set out at the start of this week with the intention to refine our game as much as possible with input from faculty. This began by getting input from our faculty advisers who pointed out some areas in the tutorial that were worded ambiguously. This input was further confirmed by meeting with Anthony Daniels, who spent the time to lay out every point in our tutorial that was ambiguous or stated more complexly than necessary. He also noted that several of our UI elements were still not reading well, particularly those on the main menu map. He noted that they were not readily identifiable as levels, and in many cases it appeared as though the user may have already completed the level without actually playing the level. He further noted that the level builder tutorial was detailed, but the restrictions that it put on the player were a little annoying. We also noticed through internal playtesting that the placement of several of the checkpoints put the player in very difficult situations if they failed, so we designed a custom placement system for the checkpoints and redesigned the levels to be less difficult for a player to complete after they have fallen off of the map.
We spent the remainder of the week revising the wording of the tutorial and the map UI elements to improve the clarity of the game, and redesigning our levels. We decided that we would not demo the live event system at softs because it requires a significant amount of time to run through the entire live event, and we would rather have the faculty experience all of the other elements of the game. We plan to use Miracast to show our game at softs, so that any faculty who do not feel like playing the game will still be able to see all of the features in real time.
Our client meeting for week 13 was relatively brief, and mostly revolved around us discussing the development of the live event system and the updates to the athlete uniforms. The clients were happy with the changes to the uniforms, and were excited to see the live event system up and running.
We began building a 3d model of a stadium for use as a background within the game, as our current yellow background felt very bland. We decided to stick with the rounded look that was used for building the models of the game components to create artistic unity within the scene. Additionally we created an audience for the stadium by using randomizing the order of several audience member sprites to give the stadium a feel of variety. When the stadium was introduced into the game however, we saw a 40 fps drop in quality. The stadium needs to be either optimized or replaced with something more efficient. After reducing the number of polygons in the stadium we saw a jump in performance, but it was still not quite at the quality that we were looking for, so we decided to optimize it further. Ultimately we had to scrap the dynamically generated audience, and settled for a static audience instead. This got us back within an acceptable 45-60 fps range.
We continued to refine the live event system, but noticed some serious flaws in its operation, since it was a time based system players who have completed less levels would always be featured at the top of the leader board until they completed more levels. Furthermore this problem was exacerbated by the fact that we had only given players 5 minutes to complete all of the levels in the event, so when the event finished these players who had not completed all of the levels would end up winning the event. We are going to need to redesign the entire scoring mechanism in order for the live event system to work properly.
Week 12 started with our client meeting, in which we presented them with our new athlete images, UI and tutorial. They reached out to all of the athletes and got their approval for our representation of their likeness. They seemed excited to finally see the athletes represented in the game, but they had a few edits to the uniform that they required of us so that we were not infringing on any contracts that they had with Nike, who produces the official uniform. We gave them a more recent testing link to the application and asked them to play through so that they could both get a feel of the game and let us know if there were any readability issues.
After the client meeting we began redesigning the athlete uniforms and working on the live event system. We are developing two sides to the live event system, one that the clients can use to set up the live event, and the player side where they interact with the live event. On the client side, it will include the level builder, so that they can customize the challenges for the live event, the level selector, so that they can pick in which order the players will experience the levels, and the leader board, which shows all of the participants and their score. On the player side, they will also be able to see the leader board, but they will also see a much simpler version of the main menu in which the only levels available will be the ones selected to be part of the live event. We plan to test the live event system extensively as this will be the primary way that the player base is introduced to the game.
The changes that we need to make to the athlete uniforms are primarily to avoid copyright infringement, particularly in the pattern of the jersey and the typeface that “USA” is set in. Additionally the clients had asked us to make the jerseys seem more patriotic, so we are shifting from monochrome jerseys to red white and blue jerseys. We plan to send these out to the clients before our next meeting so that they can review and approve them before the meeting.
At the end of the week the live event system has been completed with rough UI elements, next week we plan to test and refine the live event system and then show it to the clients in order to get their input.
Week 11 started off with our meeting with our client, and we presented to them our strategy for the remaining weeks of the semester. We explained to them the improvements that we were making in the tutorial and dialog system of the game, and established a meeting with Trixie to discuss viable athletes to include in the game. We proceeded to discuss the live event system that we are planning to implement in a few weeks to the clients. The system calls for the creation of three maps of increasing difficulty, each with a required time to proceed to the next level. We believe that this will encourage friendly competition between the kids at the live events, while still allowing kids that do not play the game well to revisit the levels that they have not finished yet. Overall our clients seemed very happy with our progress since halves last week, and we plan to use this week to keep our momentum going.
After the client meeting we began refining our tutorial system and our level design to get ready for the playtest on Saturday. This playtest is one of the last few playtests that we will have a chance to run, so we want to be sure to present the best version of our game possible so that we can get good feedback to move forward from. In addition to this, we noticed in some peer review testing that some of our UI elements were not reading properly, so we took the time to redesign these elements for clarity.
The playtest itself went quite well, the kids seemed engaged with the game and were actively interacting with their peers while playing. We did run in to some readability issues when it came to the tutorial, and we noticed that we had problems with the way our audio was being instantiated. This lead to multiple audio clips trying to play at once, which would confuse or even startle the kids playing the game. We plan to spend time next week revising our tutorial, polishing art assets, and beginning work on the live event system.
Week 10 was the week of our halves presentation, so the majority of our efforts in the first half of the week were focused on preparing for the presentation. We wanted the presentation to convey our game and process, but also have entertaining moments. To achieve this we made use of multiple gifs of particular moments during the game, such as the victory animation, and videos of us trying to cheat at our own game. We consulted with our faculty mentors to review our presentation, and they gave us some key points to modify; specifically we had far too much text throughout the presentation. After paring down the amount of text, we spent the remainder of our time before halves timing our delivery, and refining the content so that we could be certain we would finish in time. During this time we also considered possible weak points in the presentation that the faculty was likely to ask questions about. The presentation went relatively smoothing with only a couple verbal mistakes, and we were able to answer the faculty questions with direct information from our development process. Our clients seemed to be happy with the presentation, and afterward we gave them a demo of the application in the current and informally toured them around the building.
Following halves, we knew that we had precious time left in the semester, so we took our schedule that we had presented at halves, and broke down the timeline of each task. Our artist is planning to go to a conference next week, so we knew that we had to be especially careful with tasking the development of art assets. We refined the map and updated the UI elements for the map at the end of the week, so that we would be certain that we had the art assets that we needed to move forward before our artist left. We also considered our current input system, and began devising a way to do A/B testing at the upcoming ETC playtest day. Our current plan as of the end of this week is to establish the tutorial and dialog system before playtest day, repair all known bugs, and integrate an A/B testing system for our input.
Week 9 was during the week of the Game Developers Conference, so we were able to accomplish significantly less work. Since half of our team was at GDC, we chose to cancel our meeting with our clients. Our most significant advances during the week came in the form of the challenge system, which allows players to challenge friends to beat their best time on their own personal level. We included functionality to allow players to play another random players level, so that everyone would be able to engage in the multiplayer side of the game regardless of the number of friends that they had playing. This challenge system is linked up to the players friends list which is imported from Facebook, so they player does not need to spend time adding friends. Additionally we were able to get most of the remaining UI required completed and redesigned the in game map so that the progression of the game would be clearer. To do this we segmented the map into 4 sections for the 4 different worlds that the players will need to complete to complete the campaign levels. Each section is to be themed around the world which it represents.
We started out week 8 with a quick meeting with our clients. As we were still in the full swing of development now that our clients were on board with the idea, we showed them our latest improvements in their rough states. We spent most of the time describing to them the functionality of our new features and how they could be used in conjunction with live events.
After the meeting we went straight to working on finalizing the level builder and creating the UI elements that would be needed for users to interact with both the main game and the level builder. The level builder proved to be problematic, as there were many edge cases that we had to consider in order to make it usable. By rigorously testing the level builder internally we were able to identify the existing bugs, and make notes of UI optimizations that needed to be made. By the end of the week the level builder was fully functioning, and we were then able to use the level builder to do level design from within the application itself, storing the serialized levels.
Our UI took a significant step forward during this week, as we were able to have buttons and a temporary map created, making the game much more readable. Apart from the map, we created clean icons for the medals, the level builder, the friends list and the level builder component icons. We will still have to improve upon some of the UI elements, and create more to support all of our functionality, but the game looks far more polished now.
We decided to alter our input method, so that running was used as a short term nitrous boost within the game. We chose to do this to discourage players from physically exhausting themselves while playing the game. Adding in the energy bar, and the upsides to running, we had also included an element of choice in the game, where players had to choose where they were going to run for extra speed.
We concluded the week with a playtest at the Winchester Thurston Upper School, this time as a part of one of the Computer Science classes taught there. Because of this we were able to test with a greater number of students, and the students had an interest in not only the game itself, but how we were making the game. The students reported that they enjoyed the game, and in particular that they enjoyed building levels. The students commented that they wanted the capability to be able to share their levels with friends. The students did seem tired out by playing however, so we will need to consider how to further pace the physical exertion during play.