THE DROP

An Experimental First-Person Music Shooter

The Drop: Newsletter #13

Promo Videos

Hot off the press we have a 3-Minute Promo and a 30-Second Promo of our unfinished game.  Still have a bunch more details to iron out in the last week or two, but here is a sneak peak at our game.

Enjoy!

The Drop

The Drop: Newsletter #12

menu-screen capturemenu-screen capture3menu-screen capture2result screen-screen captureWrap Up

Quick update:  Time is running out on The Drop and so we are finishing all of the final tasks that still need to be done.  Up above you can see our awesome redesigned menus done by Elizabeth.  We had most of the ETC faculty stop by and check out our progress on Monday, gathering a lot of crucial final feedback to make some last minute changes where we are able.

Some of the most pressing matters that we are addressing are:

1)  Music contrast still not being strong enough.

People that are unfamiliar with electronic music have a hard time differentiating between the pairs of songs, so we are experimenting with ways to make it even more obvious.  One of the ways we can do that is by using vocals for one of the tracks, so even if the players can’t tell the difference between the instrumentation, they might be able to say: “That one has somebody singing, that one doesn’t.”

2)  Clarity.

Some decisions we have made seem clear to us, but when playtesting are not so obvious to our playtesters.  Examples include having our players dance when they are neutralized.  Playtesters can be confused by this, as players being neutralized is contradictory to them moving around happily.  Rather than fighting what people’s expectations are, we are looking at animations that will closer match their expectations.

The name Beastmode is another example of this.  Although there was a decent reason within our team for naming the item Beastmode, it doesn’t communicate what it does well enough, so we simply changed it to Super Push.  Especially when time is running out, fighting things like this becomes counterproductive.

3)  Triangulation.

Triangulation, as taught to us by Jesse Schell, means at any given moment having the ability to choose between a couple different strategies and avoiding one dominant strategy.  In our playtests we have found dominant strategies emerging where for instance at the beginning of the game, both players just rush for the crossfader.  How can we make it so not going for the crossfader at any given moment is a viable strategy.  Some things we are looking at are making Super Push easier to get, temporary invincibility, damage multiplying item, etc.  It might not fix the issue we are having or as is commonly the case, it might fix something while creating a new problem.  But we want to try a couple of them to see if it could make more interesting gameplay and triangulation.

That’s it for this week.  We will have some promo videos coming up soon next week!

The Drop

The Drop: Newsletter #11

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ETC Playtest

We hosted our second formal playtest last Friday at the Entertainment Technology Center.  We began by targeting our classmates that we knew had experience with FPS or Rhythm games then filling out our 14 slots with other people that self-identified as FPS or Rhythm gamers.  It was a huge breath of fresh air to have all players that fit into our demographic as opposed to our previous playtest.

There were a number of hypotheses confirmed by the playtest and we received a lot of great suggestions of ways we can still improve the game.  In between this playtest and the previous playtest, we had added a few different things to provide feedback for the players.  We finally added sound FX for various events, such as when a player takes the lead, somebody has been neutralized, when the crossfader is moving etc.  One thing that is unique about our game is how the music is louder and more heavily featured than in most games, so there is not a lot of sonic room left for the SFX.  Equalizing the SFX can help, but especially during the drop we can’t count on SFX too much to provide feedback.

Due to some of the additions we made, clarity of the game was generally a lot better in this playtest, but remains a critical area that we need to improve.  It was very encouraging to see how many people loved playing the game and expressed interest in playing more.

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Player Focus

One of the things we are constantly battling is the fact that our players are usually focused almost entirely on the notes coming across the screen, making it very hard to notice anything else in the scene.  Players only occasionally have a chance to notice things like:  The score, their health, changes in the arena’s environment, what color they are, etc.

The best place to get the player’s attention is in the center of the screen, where they are already focused on because of the notes.  We had already been leveraging that by adding text to notify the player of events such as when the drop is coming, when a player takes the lead, when players have been neutralized, when beastmode or combobreakers have been used, and also we are using a combo status indicator in the center of the screen.

After the playtest, we decided to utilize the center of the screen even more.  Up above you can see the score closer to the center of the screen.  When a player takes the lead it will move the score from the top to the middle temporarily to show the players and also to reinforce the connection between the text/score and where the score is located.  Also when your health is low you will now get an indicator near the center of the screen that stays until you are neutralized.

You can also see a clearer gun that takes up less percentage of the screen in the bottom right and a new player icon/health indicator in the bottom left that helps reinforce which color you are.  Also the notes for each player now reflect what color you are so you can see what color you are without having to look anywhere else on the screen.

 

 

 

Drop Menu

 

Final ScoreMenus and Endscreen

Before the playtest, we also implemented a simple menu system and end screen.  The menu screens are all placeholder now (Elizabeth is working on prettying them up) but allows for switching options, selecting songs and eventually will have a small how to play video and credits as well.

The end screen clearly shows the winner, your score, kills/deaths, your highest combo, and your rhythmic accuracy.

 

Pushmode

 

Pushing the Crossfader

One large issue that we noticed in both of our playtests was that a majority of players spend nearly all their time standing right next to the crossfader.  While we wanted players to be going for the crossfader as much as possible, it is pretty boring if that is all they do because it creates a lot of stalemates.  A while back we had added the beastmode item which at least provided some motivation to spend time away from the crossfader, but it wasn’t enough.

After the first playtest we experimented with making it so if both players stay inside of the crossfader circle for 3 seconds, then an explosion will knock both of them away from the crossfader.  This partially achieved what we wanted, but still was making quite a few stalemates with players typically just rushing back to the same spot.  Also, great FPS players were more easily able to circle their opponents to control the crossfader.  Intuitively, we felt that you should be taking more of a risk to push the crossfader, so we designed a new system where the crossfader pusher is much more vulnerable.

We are currently testing making it so you cannot shoot while in the crossfader circle.  In the picture above you can see the weapon is on the cyan player’s back because he is pushing the crossfader.  Now there is a little bit more nuance to the strategy rather than just always trying to stand next to the crossfader no matter what.  We have still found some emerging dominant strategies, but by adjusting the re-spawn time, damage dealt, and player speed, we have found it getting closer to the balance we imagine.   We will be testing all of these additions as soon as we can to see how well it is working.

 

Thanks for tuning in!

 

The Drop

 

 

 

The Drop: Newsletter #10

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This past Saturday we had 24 playtesters ranging from teenagers to adults coming in to play and observe The Drop.  It was pretty interesting and fun while also confirming a few things we know we need to improve.  As we expected, the game was difficult for people outside of our demographic (gamers, ideally ones that play FPS or rhythm games.) but for the groups we got that were in our demographic they were able to surprisingly quickly adapt to the game and enjoy themselves.

Two of the biggest and immediate concerns were the visibility of our crossfader and players.  Our playtesters often struggled to find the crossfader and their opponent in the map, so we are working on ways to allow both to stand out more prominently.

Something  players would also just stand next to the crossfader which creates a stalemate (the crossfader won’t move if both players are standing next to it.)  We came up with a few solutions to this, but likely the one we will be going with is making it so if both players are standing next to the crossfader it will begin to shake and create a small explosion, launching both players back and away from the crossfader.  We will be playtesting this to see if it helps change the players’ behavior.

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Items

Another thing playtesters didn’t grasp immediately was the items.  Elizabeth has been working this week to replace the placeholders with more intuitive items.  Through the playtest only a few players went for beastmode and players didn’t generally get high enough combos for the combobreaker to be relevent.  JD theorized that rather than the playtesters’ skill being the limiting factor for combos, it was that they didn’t realize they should be attempting to get combos.

Initially, we had tried creating a combo indicator in the bottom right of the screen, but our playtesters barely noticed that.  JD designed a new system where the notes coming across the screen fill up and change color according to your current combo level.  This way the areas the player needs to focus on are consolidated.  We will be testing the new design to see if players notice it and attempt to get more combos as a result.

UI Notes Redesign

Throughout our game’s development, we have recognized the need to iterate on the design of the notes the players need to press in order to fire.  We had several ideas we were considering throughout the semester and have been testing a few of them this week.  One of the designs we are testing has notes coming from left and right converging at your crosshairs (rather than just the right side.)  Below is a video showing another idea we are testing.

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0ByNjn28myfCZRXI5ODNDOHUwT0U/edit

What you will notice in the video above is the notes have been redesigned from a circular shape to a diamond one.  One of the issues with the previous UI was that when many notes appeared in a row, it was difficult to differentiate them.  The newer design makes it a little bit easier thanks to the points on the top of the diamonds centering where you should be hitting.  In the video you can also see one of the possibilities we are looking at where the notes actually follow your opponent around, rather than always being present.

This makes things a little bit more intuitive, but potentially has some other issues including being more difficult, but we will be playtesting it and a few other options to see what works best.

As always there is a ton more we are working on, but that is all for now.

Until next time,

The Drop

 

 

The Drop: Newsletter #9

 

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Yo Drop Fans,

Quick update.  The 3D model problems we were having before were slayed by the talented Ariel/Tao duo.  Up above you can see our models in scene with the sleek weapons inspired by Akai samplers.  Animations are finally working now including a head nodding motion while a player is neutralized.

The Drop

Last week, we showed off some of what we have been working on to the students and faculty at the ETC.  Up above you can see what we showed to demonstrate what is going on during the drop moment.  A lot of this is placeholder and far from what we eventually want, but can give you a taste of what we are heading towards.  In the video, you will notice the environment starting to change during the buildup before the climactic moment of the walls shattering as the drop hits, revealing the video screens behind the walls.  Eventually, we want the dancing crowds to increase in number and reflect who is playing their music longer throughout the match.

Playtesting and Analytics

Tomorrow, we will be hosting several small groups of high school and college students to perform some formal playtests.  Tao has been working on building a profiler which collects various points of data throughout each match such as health over time, accuracy, combos, movement of the player/camera, etc.  We are going to be using these data points to take a deep look at how players are playing and also specifically comparing people that identify as rhythm players/FPS players.  Some of the other things we will be looking at are how much a player moves versus the accuracy/combos they are able to achieve as well as what discrepancies there are in the drop sections vs. intro/breakdown moments.  Once we make some conclusions from these data points, we can better fine-tune the game’s mechanisms to promote better balance and better align the interest curve of the gameplay and the music.

UI Iteration

One of the critical things we have to improve in the next few weeks is clarity of UI and feedback in the game.  We have added a combo meter to better show the progression of your combos.  We added a glow to the score bar for the player that is winning to make that a little bit more clear.  Also, Ariel is working on some additions such as effects on the crossfader to make it standout in the map and when you are pushing it.  Elizabeth is working on replacing our placeholder icons for Beastmode and our combo breakers so hopefully players can intuitively know what they do just by looking at them.

That’s it for today.  See you next time.

The Drop

The Drop: Newsletter #8

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Yo party people!  Welcome to The Drop with our 8th Newsletter.

Our team is whole again, with three of us returning from an incredible and inspiring Game Developer’s Conference.  This week, while other teams were spring breaking, The Drop was in the office, working hard on iterating our new design.

Musical Tug-of-War

The design we have been iterating on is the one we mentioned in the last newsletter featuring a musical tug-of-war between the two players.  If you stand next to the crossfader, the crossfader will move closer to your side (red or blue) mixing the song so that you can hear more of your track.  The ultimate goal of The Drop is to be playing your music as long as possible throughout the match.  Since the drop is the most crucial part of the music and the game, it is worth twice as much to have your song being played during the drop.  There is an algorithm (under the hood) that Tao has developed to reward each player the closer the crossfader is to their side over time.

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Fan Count

The current vision we have for the game involves two future musical warriors battling over the crowd to try and sway them over to your side by playing your music for as long as possible.  The more that you are playing your music (especially during the drop) the more the crowd will go crazy for you and get converted to become your fans.  You can see the placeholder UI above indicating how well each player is doing.  The more fans you get, the more the blue or red bar will fill up.  Underneath is a placeholder indication of where the crossfader is at any given moment.

One of our next steps is implementing a way to add clear feedback for this in the virtual world as well, with our preffered idea being crowds displayed on video screens on the outside of the arena.  The crowds will increase throughout the game and their color will indicate which player they are rooting for.  Henceforth we will refer to this scoring mechanism in the game as the fan count to make it easier to refer to.

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The Drop 

One of the most crucial design goals of The Drop has always been creating huge contrasts between the intro/breakdown moments of the song and the climactic drop moments.  There were two elements to this we were iterating on: from a visual/experience side as well as from a gameplay one.  For gameplay we had experimented with it using the speaker destruction model we described before and with a few other models, but nothing quite worked without exacerbating the balance problems and confusing for the player.

Visually, we had been doing some experimentation in the past month, but hadn’t created a solid system for the drop until the past few weeks.  While editing the beatmaps we can create markers that indicate when the drop begins and ends as well as having special markers for the buildup.  Then we can use these markers in unity in order to create strong visual contrasts between the different sections.

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One of our initial experiments include making the walls and knobs in the world start to glow and change colors according to the beat only during the drop sections as well as adding different spotlights much like you would see at a concert.  Ariel has also been working on effects that will be triggered during each drop like the walls breaking into pieces and floating away revealing something behind the walls (like the crowd and/or a cool skybox etc.)  JD has also created an audio analyzer (pictured above) so that we can use that as an input for various parameters to be affected during the drop.  It is great to have these systems in place that we can iterate on and to already be able to see/feel the contrast throughout the song.

Another integral piece of visual feedback that we need is to reflect which song is being played.  Ariel and Elizabeth have come up with some cool ideas involving pieces of the floor flipping from blue to red or red to blue each time the crossfader goes from one side to the other.  The visual effect is sort of like a tidal wave moving across the floor.  After putting it into the game, it wasn’t working quite as we imagined it so we are putting it on hold for a few weeks to work on other important features.  In the meantime we are using a previous and simpler idea of the floor’s colors changing from red to blue depending on who is winning.

And although our character/weapon models have been finished, animated and textured for a few weeks, we unfortunately ran into a few animation issues getting them to run properly in Unity.  We will hopefully be solving these issues ASAP so we can show you them in game.

Balance and Health

Balance between the two players is incredibly important and a big key to the success of the game as we finish the prototype.  What we have found through extensive informal playtests, is that one player tends to get the lead and dominate for the rest of the game.  However, the most exciting moments of the game are when the losing player is able to flip the game by moving the crossfader or by passing their opponent’s fan count.  All along we knew we wanted to make more of these moments, but it has been difficult figuring out how to do it naturally.

The first way we addressed this issue this week is to change the way health works.  Originally, when the game’s primary goal was to kill your opponent, health was all that was important so hiding from your opponent and auto-recovering your health was an important strategy.  Upon switching our primary goal to moving the crossfader, we found that auto-recover was disproportionately advantageous to the winning player.

They can neutralize their opponent, then automatically recover their health while the other player waits to “respawn”.  Then, the losing player has no sense of progress in their Sysyphean struggle to neutralize their opponent and move the crossfader.  By removing auto-recover altogether, we have found that even if the losing player can’t neutralize their opponent right away, they can chip away at it and still feel that sense of progress over time.

Beast Mode

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One of the other ways to help with balance and create exciting flippable moments throughout the game is something that we call Beast Mode.  Beast Mode, for those that don’t know, most famously refers to the nickname of Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks, exemplified by his play against the New Orleans Saints where for one play he was unstoppable.  We created an item that can be picked up that will allow you to instantly (it normally moves slowly) push the crossfader to the opposite side.

The placeholder icon above shows that the player has it equipped and can go beastmode on the crossfader the next time he touches it (unless he is neutralized before he gets there.)  We have found this to be an incredibly exciting moment that even allows less experienced players get these flippable moments and make the crowd go crazy just like Marshawn did against the Saints.  We also added Combo Breaker items where if you pick them up you can break your opponent’s combo, also helping level the playing field for less experienced players.

Asynchronous Beatmap Duets

One last thing to tell you about that we are working on this week is asynchronous beatmaps that create more interesting strategy and gameplay.  Because we are only able to use one audio source, at any given time, both players are most likely listening to one of the two songs (unless the crossfader is in the middle.)  In order to make it so that you aren’t playing a beatmap that doesn’t correspond to what you are hearing, the beatmaps dynamically change according to which song is winning at any given moment.  Originally, this meant that most of the time our opportunities to fire were exactly the same.

Something we found interesting with our experiments using networked play and having two audio sources was often having different firing opportunities, making it so that you had to more carefully think about when you are attacking your opponent and when you were hiding.  JD and Mac have been working on a system that allows both players to be hearing the same song, but to be playing different beatmaps for that song.  This involves creatively looking at each song to divide the notes, basically resulting in the two players playing the complete song together as a duet.

Those were a few of the biggest things we are working on now.  Thanks for tuning in!

The Drop

 

 

The Drop: Newsletter #7

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Hey Drop Fans,

Speaker Destruction

This week we have been experimenting with a few new designs.  One of which we described and diagrammed last week.  That idea involved battling over control of the music by destroying your opponent’s speaker.  While it was originally pitched as a simple concept, it had a number of issues including it’s over-complicated nature.  I guess this tells a lot about how complex some of the ideas we have come up with that even our “simple” idea was too complicated.

Often times though you need to actually implement something to see what is good or bad about it.  Pretty soon after we started playing we realized some of the inherent issues with that design.

1)  It was hard to keep track of everything that was going on.  Having two different modes for Drop sections and non-Drop sections convoluted things.  Strategy was not entirely obvious as it was unclear whether you should be attacking the speaker or your opponent.

2)  Shooting at a static speaker isn’t very fun.  We had wanted to limit movement in the game due to the difficulty of moving too much while focusing on the rhythm, but too little movement is incredibly boring.  Having raised speakers that you are shooting at made it very difficult to focus on your opponent, which also made things a lot more boring.

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Slightly frustrated and nearly ready to just focus on a pure death match, Tao brought up an idea he had thought up before about placing a crossfader in the environment.  For those that might not know, crossfaders are a crucial feature in DJ mixers that allow you to mix between two different songs.  If the crossfader is all the way on the left then you can hear all of song A and if it is all the way on the right you can hear all of song B.  There are different configurations depending on what kind of music you are mixing, but in between those two extremes you can hear the two songs mixed together when the crossfader is in the center.

The theme we have been moving towards is two future DJ warriors competing over the control of the music and thereby the control of the crowd.  The crossfader perfectly represents this idea and is a more literal call back to one of the main features that we came up with when pitching the game to the Entertainment Technology Center faculty:  a musical tug-of-war.  The gameplay is similar to the “push the cart” mode in Team Fortress 2.  By standing next to the crossfader (a placeholder box in the picture above) the crossfader will move closer to your side.  The more that it is pushed the more that you can hear your music.

Immediately, this felt kind of fun and exciting when we sat down to play it.  A lot of the issues with the destroy the speaker model were absent in this new prototype.  You need to balance focusing on the crossfader while also focusing on your opponent, otherwise you will be neutralized and the other player can easily move the crossfader to their side.  We need to add some simple clarifications to make the gameplay clearer, but are encouraged by how well this fits together with our theme and desired gameplay moments.

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Art Development

Ariel and Elizabeth have been hard at work modeling, animating, and texturing our characters and weapons.  You can see the work in progress above.  Now that Ariel is done modeling and animating, she has begun art tests to see how we can fit the interest curve of the music to the interest curve of the game.  One of our big goals is to create a huge contrast between intro/breakdown segments and when The Drop comes.

Some of the ideas we have been talking about include having the floor literally dropping out from under you as you fall into a new environment (potentially complicated for the physics in our game), all kinds of lights and colored effects being turned on (like you would see in a dance club when the drop happens), and the walls breaking apart with the pieces floating in the air revealing an exciting skybox in the background like outer space with stars and planets in the sky.  We will be iterating and experimenting with different ideas to accentuate these critical moments going forward.

Musicians Collaborating with The Drop

Even though we are still relatively early in development, it has been amazing how many people are excited about this project and it’s potential, getting on board with their support.  We already have a long list of popular musicians/DJs/Producers who are willing to feature their music in our game and even write original music for the game.

Some of our collaborators now include the record label Boogatti Records and musicians like: Pusher, WBBL, daPlaque, D.end, Basement Freaks, Father Funk, Phibes, C@ in the H@, B-Side, Leygo, JFB and a ton of others.  Of course we won’t be able to feature all of the songs we are getting in the prototype, but we want to thank all of these guys for showing their love/excitement for the project and contributing their incredible music.

There was a lot more going on this week, but those are some of the major things we have been working on.

Next week three of us will be going to the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco so we will see you in a few weeks!

Thanks for tuning in!

The Drop

The Drop: Newsletter #6

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Destroy the Speakers

This week Ariel had a very cool idea about trying to use 3D sound in the game to add a location based mechanic where you try and locate the speaker that is playing your music and the speaker that is playing your opponent’s music.  One of your main goals would be to destroy your opponent’s speaker to shut off their music. Elements of this didn’t work within our current structure as it would require multiple audio sources, but it got us thinking about some much simpler mechanics that would fit with our current system.

Initially, as we talked about last week, one of the ideas we were trying out consisted of needing to “charge” your own speaker with your music by firing on the beat.  That prototype also used control points which decided when you could hear your music and when you were able to fire at your speaker.  We tested that out, but found it was a little bit too complex and chaotic.  Ariel’s idea made us think of a simple system that essentially features a player on offense and one on defense.  You can find some of the details above, but it satisfies many of the conditions we are looking for right now including: emphasizing the moments of The Drop, flippable gameplay, simplicity, and having some alternative goals other than just “killing” the other player.

 

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Playtests and Usability

We had a very interesting and crucial moment late last week where we realized that our prototype was just too difficult.  What was particularly troubling was the fact that even internally within our team, members that have experience with both rhythm games and FPS games were still struggling to play it.

We quickly moved to action by changing the two note system to a one note system.  Now players only have to worry about one type of note and can hit the notes using either of the bumper buttons.  We also made the beatmaps simpler and made the accuracy required to hit notes more forgiving.

We have run at least 10-15 people through our experience in the past few weeks ranging from FPS players to rhythm game players to people without experience playing either.  We got a lot of great positive feedback from people who enjoyed the uniqueness of the experience despite it’s current imperfections.

We also noticed a huge improvement from the playtesters that played the game after we simplified the rhythmic aspects.  The playtesters also provided a lot of ideas to potentially improve the game and to solve certain design dilemmas that we are encountering.  We have implemented a few of them and will test a few more in the next few weeks.

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Weapon and Knob Design

Elizabeth has been working on some badass weapons modeled after Akai MPCs.  MPCS are some of the most iconic samplers ever created and have been instrumental in production of electronic music and a variety of other genres.  Since we have a variety of notes and different timbres of sound being fired by our characters, the sampler fits our goal of making sure that the visuals and audio of the game are integrated in a way that makes sense.

The knobs were originally going to be used for our control points, but now will fit well with the intro/breakdown moments focused around trying to turn on your own music before The Drop.

 

That’s about it for this week.  Thanks for tuning in!

 

The Drop

 

 

 

The Drop: Newsletter #5

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What’s happening!

Week 5 is almost in the books and we are moving forward with testing new game mechanics and other hopeful improvements.  Recently we have been getting a few playtesters and observers checking out the game and gotten quite a bit of useful feedback about what is working and what isn’t working in the game.  Luckily, most of it coincides with things that we already knew and had already planned to address in the game.

Control Points

Merely having one-on-one death matches is kind of boring by itself, so relatively early on we knew we wanted to add some more dimensions to the game.  Basically, we wanted another goal for the player besides just “killing” (we are also working on the theming for the game to make everything more musically oriented) your opponent.  We have a long design document (the “idea vault”) which has various ideas we want to try, but decided to start with the idea of control points.

Rather than health points determining who’s music is being played, whoever controls the majority of the 3 control points will not only have their music being played, but will go on “offense”.  Control points, which are giant knobs, can be controlled for now by simply standing next to one for a few moments.

Speakers!

There will eventually be other benefits to being on offense, but the first experiment we are trying involves having a speaker that you can shoot with your sound waves (only while on offense) in order to get points and eventually convert it to your color/music.  The match will last as long as the song (where the player with the most points will win) or until one player converts the speaker (pictured above and designed by Elizabeth) by firing on beat while aiming at it.  There are many details to be worked out, but the best way for us to test it is to quickly implement a simple prototype.

Multipliers

As you can see from the picture about, we implemented combos (hitting the notes successfully in a row) that result in multiplier rewards.  The multipliers make your projectile strength stronger every 10 notes you hit in a row.  One of our big design goals for the project is to have the game be balanced for FPS players and rhythm game players.  This addition is one that helps the balance swing back towards the rhythm players and has added a nice extra dimension from the playtesting we have done so far.

Visual Feedback

In our previous iteration, it was very unclear who was winning at any given moment and whose music is being played.  The two songs, while somewhat dissimilar, blend together smoothly enough that it is hard to tell which is which for people that don’t know music very well.  To add additional feedback, we now have the world’s color dynamically shifting between red and blue depending on who is winning thanks to the “cross-fader” dynamic created by Ariel.

Tao also changed each of the two placeholder characters to red and blue to make it clear which player is on which side.  We are also taking a long hard look at the music to see what kind of songs can blend together smoothly, while also still being more obviously different.  Visual feedback was also added to when you hit the other player as that was another area of confusion for us and our playtesters.

Dynamic Beatmaps

After deciding that mixing two songs in some fashion was something that we wanted to explore for the game, this created a problem with the beatmaps.  If the two songs are mixed back and forth according to who is winning, then the losing player will have a beatmap that doesn’t match the song that they are hearing.  We considered that this could be one of the disadvantages of losing in the game, but really it just hurts the experience of the losing player.  So JD implemented dynamic beatmaps that will change the beatmap of the losing player to reflect the song that they are hearing.

These were just a few of the big things we have been working on this week.

Thanks for stopping by.

The Drop

The Drop: Newsletter #4

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Yo!

Another fun and intense week at The Drop office. We will keep this quick, but here is what has been going on for us. Up above you can find our project poster made by the incredibly talented Yeongmin Won (Elizabeth.)

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Photo Shoot

We had a great photo shoot on Monday also and learned how incredibly photogenic Tao is. It was hard to pick just one photo of him. Above you can see our final team photo, also edited by Elizabeth. While looking through the hilarious photos, we noticed some potential dance moves from the static photos. We considered making some funny GIFs, but since we are a music game, silence goes against what we are all about. So we threw together a very quick video showcasing JD’s dance moves.

Local Mode

A very hard decision was made this week about local vs. networked play. All along we had been preparing for both with the idea that local was the safer option. While there were a ton of positives with networked play, we decided that focusing on local play is the smart thing to do for now. Some of the biggest challenges that are introduced by committing to local play are using Xbox controllers rather than keyboard and mouse, splitscreen play, and only having one audio output.

We did a lot of research about how to make Xbox controllers feel as manageable as possible. One of the most useful resources was listening to the developers of Halo and how they became one of the first successful FPS games on console: http://podbay.fm/show/399713903/e/1314229383 They start talking about the transition at about 8:45.

After experimenting with a few things and doing some research, we implemented some changes to the gameplay such as adding aim assist and reducing the sensitivity of the camera movement (especially in the vertical axis.) This helped a lot, but we are still playtesting and fine-tuning things.

Musical Experimentation

This week, we also started integrating FMOD Studio and creating exhaustive plans for all of the different things we can do musically using one audio output. Right off the bat, we are having some issues with latency in FMOD Studio, making it so the beatmaps go out of sync which is a very critical issue. Back up plan would be to do everything right in Unity, but FMOD gives a lot of flexibility and added features that can aid in mixing the music better, so we are going to do our best to solve it.

That being said, we were able to deliver on the music mixing dynamically and shifting according to who was winning. Even though the beat maps were out of sync, it was an exciting moment and likely will feature into the core of our experience design the rest of the semester.

That’s it for now.

Thanks for tuning in.

The Drop